Most of the world’s best players have assembled at Bay Hill for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but there’s still a nice collection of guys who will be teeing it up in Malaysia at the Maybank Malaysian Open, co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours.
2013 Malaysian Open Fact Sheet
- Course: Kuala Lumpur G & CC
- Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Yardage: 6,967 yards, par 71
- Defending Champion: Louis Oosthuizen *not in field*
- Five Consensus Favourites: Luke Donald, Charl Schwartzel, Matteo Manassero, Alexander Noren, Rafa Cabrera-Bello
- Thursday – 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Friday – 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Saturday – 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Sunday – 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
Kuala Lumpur G & CC
The course first opened in 1991, but was redesigned and reopened in 2008, and even though the routing and layout remain the same, every blade of grass was replaced on the course with seashore paspalum. This tends to make it a little easier for the pros due to how high the ball sits on it, even in the fairways, which will likely lead to lower scores throughout the week. There are very few trees that will be in play, but water is present on 13 of the 18 holes, including the toughest stretch on the course from 11-14, which played as the 6th, 1st, 2nd and 3rd handicaps last year.
Key Storyline This Week
I touched on it in the opening, but most of the best players in the world aren’t here this week with Bay Hill on the PGA Tour docket. The field here isn’t bad, but two names that clearly stand out are Luke Donald and Charl Schwartzel. They’re far and away better than pretty much everyone playing this week, and the books know it, listing them at 5-1 and 6-1 respectively, with Matteo Manassero being the next closest at roughly 16-1. These are the types of events that guys like Donald and Schwartzel should go out and win with ease, when you consider the lower quality field and easier course that has produced talented winners in each of the last three years in Seung-Yul Noh, Manassero and Louis Oosthuizen.
Suggested Plays (All each-way)
Matteo Manassero (Best Odds 16-1 at Bet 365)
This tournament was the site of Manassero’s second career win, the same week that he turned just 18 years of age. He hasn’t been playing great in 2013, but he also hasn’t done anything disastrous either, with his worst stroke play finish being a tie for 29th a couple of weeks ago at the Honda Classic. In addition to that win, he also finished T-7 last year, so he does seem to like the course.
Alexander Noren (Best Odds 29-1 at You Win)
Noren missed the cut here last year, but did have a T-4 back in 2011 when Manassero took the title. People were surprised to see the relatively unheralded Swede knock Dustin Johnson out of the Match Play a few weeks ago, but they shouldn’t have been. His T-9 finish at the Open Championship last year was one of seven top-10’s in 2012, and while he only has one top-10 to start 2013, he’s pretty much only played in strong field events. He hasn’t been hitting nearly as many fairways this year as he usually does, but that’s less of an issue at this course, so he should be there at the end of it on Sunday.
Padraig Harrington (Best Odds 35-1 at Betfair)
Harrington’s hot start to 2013 has cooled in recent weeks, but his track record in Malaysia is hard to ignore. He’s played ten rounds in the area since 1996, with all of them being in the 60’s, which includes a T-13 in his lone appearance here in 2006. His other finishes include a win and a T-3 at the Johor Open in 2010 and 2011, with that victory in 2010 being his last full-field win.
Victor Dubuisson (Best Odds 51-1 at Betfair)
Dubuisson is an excellent driver of the golf ball, and has both recent and course form working in his favour. His lone appearance at this event last year netted him a T-11, and he’s finished inside the top-10 in two of his last three starts.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Best Odds 56-1 at Betfair)
I’d be lying if I said I knew anything about Aphibarnrat, including the pronunciation of his name, but he’s worth a flyer. He’s finished inside the top-6 in each of his last four events, and even though he’s got a missed cut and a WD here in the last two years, he did finish tied for third in 2010.
Kevin Streelman held off Justin Leonard in the final group, and Boo Weekley who posted a stunning final-round 63, to win the 2013 Tampa Bay Championship at Innisbrook.
Streelman entered Sunday’s final round in a tie for the lead with both Leonard and South Africa’s George Coetzee at 6-under par, and he started out hot, with a pair of birdies in his first three holes. Weekley, coming off of a solid performance last week in Puerto Rico, started the day at even par, but had eight birdies and no bogeys to take the clubhouse lead at 8-under par. While Weekley waited for three-plus hours, Streelman proceeded to reel off par after par before getting to the 13th, where he would make birdie to get to 9-under par. Another birdie came on 17, allowing Streelman to claim his first PGA Tour victory at 10-under par.
- 1. Kevin Streelman -10
- 2. Boo Weekley -8
- 3. Cameron Tringale -7
- T4. Luke Donald -6
- T4. Greg Chalmers -6
- T4. Justin Leonard -6
Shot of the tournament
Streelman’s tee shot into the par-3 13th in the final round was impressive, especially when you consider that prior to his approach, the closest a player had gotten all day was 12 feet, but he cut that in half, leaving himself a six foot putt.
He would go on to sink the birdie putt to get to 9-under par, breaking the tie with Weekley at the top of the leaderboard, which he would never give up.
I’m long past the point of thinking that John Daly will contend in any golf event, but as he showed last year, there is still some quality golf left in his 46-year old body. Unfortunately for him, the ugly side of his game is far more likely to appear than the quality one, and we saw the perfect example of that on Friday. Daly made a ten on the par-4 third hole at Innisbrook in the second round, completely destroying any chance of him making the cut after firing an opening round 72. Jason Sobel has the details:
After hitting his tee shot left of the cart path, Daly tried to punch back toward the fairway, but according to the PGA Tour’s Shotlink program, he could only advance the ball 5 inches. He was then forced to take an unplayable, try again, take another unplayable, and then hit one about a foot before advancing it into the left rough on his seventh shot.
From 155 yards out, he came up about 30 yards short of the green, then pitched to a foot and tapped in for a 10 – with one putt.
The only positive that we can take from this is that at least Daly didn’t walk of the course like he’s been known to do in the past. That’s not saying much, but it’s something, I guess. In case you were wondering, it’s the 15th time that Daly has carded double digits on one hole in a round. The full list from the AP, courtesy the Huffington Post, is listed below:
- 18 – 1998 Bay Hill Invitational (Bay Hill), par-5 sixth hole, fourth round.
- 14 – 2000 U.S. Open (Pebble Beach), par-5 18th hole, first round.
- 13 – 2011 John Deere Classic (TPC John Deere), par-4 fourth hole, second round.
- 12 – 1994 Freeport-McMoRan Classic (English Turn), par-5 15th hole, second round.
- 12 – 1996 BellSouth Classic (TPC Sugarloaf), par-5 eighth hole, second round.
- 11 – 1999 U.S. Open (Pinehurst No. 2), par-4 eighth hole, fourth round.
- 11 – 2002 PGA Championship (Hazeltine), par-4 16th hole, first round.
- 11 – 2005 Bay Hill Invitational (Bay Hill), par-4 18th hole, fourth round.
- 10 – 1995 Nestle Invitational (Bay Hill), par-5 sixth hole, second round.
- 10 – 1998 British Open (Royal Birkdale), par-4 18th hole, second round.
- 10 – 1998 Las Vegas Invitational (TPC Summerlin), par-5 13th hole, fifth round.
- 10 – 1999 Memorial (Muirfield Village), par-4 18th hole, first round
- 10 – 2004 Chrysler Classic of Tucson (Tucson National), par-3 fourth hole, third round.
- 10 – 2009 Buick Open (Warwick Hills), par-5 first hole, second round.
- 10 – 2013 Tampa Bay Championship (Innisbrook), par-4 third hole, second round.
Sometimes you just have to swear
Speaking of guys who blow up occasionally, Sergio Garcia, come on down. I’m a big fan of Garcia, and I still think there’s a major victory in him at some point, but he’s never been able to keep his emotions in check on the course. After missing a short par putt on 13, Garcia felt the need to curse rather loudly in Spanish, which was easily picked up by NBC’s mics.
In case you were wondering, “puta madre” translates roughly to motherfucker in English. In typical Sergio fashion though, he rebounded to hit one of shots of the tournament on the next hole, chipping in for birdie through the very thick Bermuda rough.
Ugly scorecard(s) of the week
Mike Weir looked like he was starting to get it together a few weeks ago, but that went straight to hell this week. The 2003 Masters champ posted a 14-over par score through the first two rounds, missing another cut and finishing ahead of only Rod Perry on the leaderboard. Take a look at his scorecards from the first two rounds, including an absolutely dreadful front-nine 44 on Thursday.
- Notable names missing the cut: Louis Oosthuizen, Gary Woodland, Carl Pettersson, Y.E. Yang, Retief Goosen, Michael Thompson, Martin Kaymer and Zach Johnson.
- How impressive was Weekley’s 63? Tringale ended up with a final-round 66, and that was the closest number to him.
- I still prefer CBS’ coverage of the PGA Tour, but with the absence of Johnny Miller, NBC’s coverage was far-less vomit inducing this week.
- One huge positive for the coverage this week was the addition of Golf Channel’s Frank Nobilo, who roamed the course while Gary Koch manned the booth with Dan Hicks in the absence of Miller.
- Next week, Tiger Woods heads up a loaded field at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The third leg of the Florida swing heads to Innisbrook Resort and the Copperhead course this week for the Tampa Bay Championship. EverBank takes over from Transitions as the title sponsor, and even though the field isn’t as good as the Cadillac last week, many of the world’s best will be teeing it up.
2013 Tampa Bay Championship Fact Sheet
- Course: Innisbrook – Copperhead Course
- Location: Palm Harbor, Florida
- Yardage: 7,340 yards, par 71
- Defending Champion: Luke Donald
- Five Consensus Favourites: Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Luke Donald, Webb Simpson and Matt Kuchar
- Thursday – 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Friday – 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Saturday – 1:30 to 3:00 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (NBC)
- Sunday – 1:00 to 3:00 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (NBC)
Key Storyline This Week
There isn’t anything that immediately jumps out in terms of a storyline this week, but with only four weeks to go until the first major of the year, we’re basically starting the run-up to the Masters. Each player has a different philosophy when it comes to how much they play before a major, and most of the best players in the field this week are guys who have yet to pick up their first major championship, but should always be considered contenders based on their talent. This event has benefited in recent years from being played right after the Cadillac, and with the courses only being a few hours apart, many of the best players stick around despite the slightly lower than average purse. It’s a good field that should produce some entertaining golf over all four days.
The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook is a rarity in that in its par-71 layout, there are five par-3’s and a larger than usual course length at 7,340 yards. After playing through the Bear Trap and the Blue Monster in recent weeks, the players will deal with the Snake Pit, considered as one of the toughest finishing stretches in all of championship golf.
Par-4 16th (460 yards)
The Snake Pit starts with a very intimidating tee shot, as water guards the entire right side of the hole from the start of the fairway until it runs out. Most players will likely take less than driver to avoid the lake, leaving themselves with at least 170 yards into a green that’s well protected by bunkers on both sides. At 460 yards, it may not seem like too much of a challenge for these guys, but it’s been the number one handicap hole on the course in three of the last five years.
Par-3 17th (215 yards)
The distance is troubling enough for a lot of players, but there’s also pretty much no bailout spot on the 17th either. Trees line the entire hole, and bunkers surround both sides of the green, as well as behind it, not to mention the incredibly narrow entry point at the front. Most will happily take par and walk to the 18th tee.
Par-4 18th (445 yards)
The finishing hole at Copperhead is one of my favourites on the PGA Tour. It’s dead uphill, and players will need to find the fairway off the tee if they hope to find the green with their approach. If they hit the fairway, they’ll still have to negotiate the giant bunkers that surround the front and back of the green, which slopes severely from back to front.
Luke Donald (Best Odds 16-1 at Bet365)
If you’re only looking at the end result from last week with Donald, you’re not getting the full story. He finished at 1-over par, but he was +8 for the week on the difficult 18th alone. That won’t happen again this week, and even though you don’t see defending champions repeat very often, I find it hard to believe that he doesn’t finish near the top of the leaderboard at a place where he usually plays well.
Matt Kuchar (Best Odds 23-1 at Betfair)
Kuchar is probably the most consistent player in the world, and pretty much never has a tournament where he’s so bad that he’s out of contention. You have to go back to last year’s PGA Championship in August at Kiawah to find a round higher than 74, and he’s been playing well this year with a win at the Match Play and two other top-10’s. In five events at Innisbrook, he’s been inside the top-20 four times.
Jim Furyk (Best Odds 30-1 at BetVictor)
The few of you who actually read this blog know that I’m not a huge Furyk supporter, but his track record here is too good to ignore. In the last three years, he has won the event once, finished tied for 13th, and was in the playoff last year that Luke Donald ended up winning. Of course, it was one of the four 54-hole leads that Furyk ended up blowing last year, but he should be there at the end.
Louis Oosthuizen (Best Odds 30-1 at BETDAQ)
There are certain players that I will always tip once they get past 20-1, and Oosthuizen is one of those guys. Since winning in January, he hasn’t been playing great, but he’s too good of a player to pass up at 30-1. His lone appearance at Innisbrook last year got him a tie for 20th, and it would have been better if not for an opening round 73, which was his first time ever playing the course. You don’t often get a chance to bet one of the best players in the world at this kind of number, so take advantage.
Retief Goosen (Best Odds 89-1 at Betfair)
Goosen’s prior record at Innisbrook speaks for itself, with two wins, a T-5 and two other top-20’s. He’s rounding back into form a little bit too after having back surgery in the offseason. His last appearance at the Honda a few weeks ago was ruined by a final round 80, but he still hits tons of fairways and he’s still putting really well. His T-9 at Pebble a few weeks ago tells me that the game is still there, and with his success at Innisbrook, 89-1 is a steal.
Steve Stricker lost $620,000 by giving Tiger putting advice. Graeme McDowell lost $100,000 by double bogeying his final hole.
— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) March 11, 2013
I should know better.
I should know not to get frustrated when it comes to reading tweets from Darren Rovell, but that’s exactly what happened yesterday when the above missive was re-tweeted into my timeline. I’ll get the truth out of the way first: technically, Graeme McDowell’s missed putt on 18 cost him $100,000 when he dropped from a solo third finish into a tie for third with Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson. Of course that’s also ignoring his 273 other shots during the week that contributed equally to his final score, including several missed putts on Sunday, but I’ll let Rovell slide on that one.
Where I take issue with him is in his suggesting that Steve Stricker’s putting advice that he gave Tiger Woods on Wednesday, as seen in the above picture, somehow lost him money. The $620,000 he mentions in his tweet is the difference between Woods’ earnings of $1.5 million for winning on Sunday and Stricker’s $880,000 for finishing as the runner-up. I”ll give Rovell credit for punching in the numbers correctly on his iPhone calculator, but as usual, he’s missing the point. Badly.
Stricker’s impromptu lesson was a focal point for many throughout the broadcast, as Woods was having the best putting performance of his career. His 100 putts over the four-day event is his lowest total ever. To put it in perspective, the 25-putt average per round from last week is almost four putts better than his career average of 28.81, so obviously Stricker’s advice was helpful, but to say that Stricker lost money because he gave him some tips is ludicrous.
First off, this type of thing happens all the time amongst the players. Before every tournament, you’ll see players helping each other out, whether it’s on the putting green or the range, and when you consider that Woods and Stricker are good friends, it makes sense that Woods would ask one of the best putters in the world for some advice. Secondly, Rovell’s assertion that Stricker lost out on money by giving advice kinda falls flat when you realize that Woods still had to go out and hit the putts. Stricker’s tips may have been helpful, but without Woods executing, the advice is completely meaningless. If Stricker tells me the exact same thing, or any other player that isn’t Tiger Woods, chances are it doesn’t work out so well. Stricker referenced all of this in his post-tournament interview, courtesy ASAPSports:
Yeah, I guess I do. But it’s just like I’ve said all week, it’s kind of the nature of our game. Older players have done it with me, and I’m now one of those older players I guess, and when somebody asks me for their help, I tend to give it to them.
You know, Tiger and I have always talked about putting, and you know, he had me look at him again this week and you know, some things clicked with him it looked like, and he was really excited about what he was doing there. But he’s got a lot of talent. Like I said, he might have done this without my help. But it’s good to see him. It’s good for us. It’s good for the TOUR, and I’m happy with the way I played.
Of course, listening to Rovell’s opinion on golf is much like taking advice from the guy who just made triple bogey, but swears that he knows how to “get your swing on plane”. However, the story has led many to question Stricker, suggesting that the lesson was in bad form, and that he should have just let Woods figure it out himself. As usual with a good portion of the mainstream media who cover golf, they like to pick whatever side of the argument suits them at the time. John Hawkins of the Golf Channel even admits halfway through the piece linked above that he’s contradicting himself, but proceeds to suggest that Stricker shouldn’t have given Woods the lesson because even though golf is a game of tradition and honour, you still “play to win the game.” Yet, if we had somehow found out that Stricker refused to help him out, this same media would be ripping into Stricker for not upholding the values of the game, the same way that he and Woods were taught how to play in the first place.
Jack Nicklaus has relayed a story in the past of a practice round he played once with Arnold Palmer when he was first starting up on the PGA Tour. Nicklaus was short of the green and decided to chip it on, getting it to about seven or eight feet from the cup. Palmer, eleven years his senior, asked him why he decided to chip that ball instead of putting it, with Nicklaus replying that he always chipped from those spots. Palmer then asked him if he would have been satisfied with a putt that ended up seven or eight feet away from the cup, which Nicklaus obviously said no to, and from then on out, Nicklaus used a putter from just off the green when the situation called for it. Did that make Nicklaus a better player, and save him a few shots every now and then? Maybe it did, but Palmer just wanted to help the kid out, even though he knew that he was going to be his biggest threat down the stretch of his own career.
What happened on Wednesday afternoon was nothing out of the ordinary, but it was made into something big because of the players involved and the end result. If Stricker finishes tied for 20th, we probably don’t hear much about this, but it’s a trivial issue anyway. Stricker doesn’t regret doing it, and clearly Woods wasn’t too proud to ask, with the known friendship between the two making the conversation much more approachable. Stricker helped out a friend who asked and we were treated to some of the finest golf possible by two of the best players of the last fifteen years, and as usual, we’ve got something to complain about. You can’t please everyone, I guess.
Tiger Woods picked up his second win of 2013 on Sunday, going wire-to-wire to win the WGC-Cadillac Championship. It’s the seventh time that Woods has won the event, and his fourth at the Blue Monster course at Doral.
We could go on and on about the stats behind the win for Woods, but here’s what you need to know: even though he’s won five of his last twenty-one starts worldwide, this is the best that I’ve seen Woods play in years. Yes, it came at a course that he’s comfortable at, much like his win earlier this year at the Farmers, but it doesn’t change the fact that just about everything was working for him this week. He asked good friend Steve Stricker for some help with his putting on Wednesday, and it clearly worked, as he led in pretty much every putting stat all week. He only had 100 putts over the four days, which is his lowest total of all-time. His approaches into greens were superb, especially the short irons and wedges, which has been a sore spot for him in recent years. His distance control was precise, he was hitting both cuts and draws into greens, and even the shots that were a little loose didn’t end up costing him because his recoveries were fantastic. He wasn’t as good on Sunday, at least in that there were more subpar shots than the first three days, but it’s a minor complaint. There have been better individual rounds in recent years, but in terms of a four-day event, he hasn’t played this well and this consistently in years.
It’s his 76th career PGA Tour win, putting him six wins behind Sam Snead for the all-time record for most wins on the PGA Tour. He’s now 50-of-54 when carrying a lead into the final round, and couldn’t possibly be in a better spot heading into Bay Hill, where he’ll defend in a couple of weeks.
- 1. Tiger Woods -19
- 2. Steve Stricker -17
- T3. Adam Scott -14
- T3. Sergio Garcia -14
- T3. Graeme McDowell -14
- T3. Phil Mickelson -14
GIFs of the week
It seems like I post GIFs of Phil Mickelson every week, but these are ridiculous. After Mickelson hit his tee shot off the cart path on 17 in Thursday’s opening round, he thought it was better to play his second off of the path instead of taking a drop. The result was pretty good, I’d say:
As fantastic as that was, his explanation to Golf Channel’s Steve Sands was even better. Apparently what he did isn’t overly difficult.
The stupid thing Johnny Miller said this week
It’s a well documented fact that Johnny Miller focuses mostly on American golf, and anyone who watched NBC’s coverage of the Ryder Cup will remember that Miller was the biggest cheerleader for the American side throughout the event. He’s always been dismissive towards European golf, and that was on display once again today. Dan Hicks was bringing up the Twitter conversation between Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell last night, when Poulter suggested that Woods basically had the tournament wrapped up:
RT @ianjamespoulter “Looks like Tiger has this week taken care of…..”>>thanks for giving us all a chance Poults
— Graeme McDowell (@Graeme_McDowell) March 10, 2013
Miller then chimed in this gem:
“Both of them should twitter that they both just won a tournament in the US.” —Johnny Miller being old and stupid
— Lindsay Mills (@lindsaymills) March 10, 2013
Two things: First off, the quote is exactly from the broadcast, and it doesn’t even make sense, but that’s just a case of Miller tripping over his words, as he usually does at least a couple of times during NBC’s weekend coverage. What he meant to reference was Poulter and McDowell’s lack of success in the United States, despite their combined 25 wins worldwide and their status as two of the best players in the world. Granted, the pair have only won three events on the PGA Tour, but they’re all big ones, with Poulter winning a pair of WGC’s and McDowell grabbing his first major at the 2010 U.S. Open. They’d probably both tell you they’ve underachieved, but once again, Miller seems to be ignoring the facts.
Luke Donald isn’t a fan of the 18th
It wasn’t a great week for the former world number one, but it would have been much better if it wasn’t for the 18th, one of the most difficult holes on the PGA Tour every year. Donald finished his tournament at +1, but he was 8-over par on the closing hole alone, making double bogey each day after finding the water off the tee in all four rounds. After he was finished, he made a plea to course owner Donald Trump on Twitter:
— Luke Donald (@LukeDonald) March 10, 2013
Unfortunately for Donald, Trump has already said that the 18th is the only hole that isn’t being touched when Gil Hanse starts his re-design on Monday morning.
- After an opening-round 73, Rory McIlroy played his first three under par rounds of the year at Doral, including a very impressive 65 in the toughest conditions of the week today. We won’t see him for a couple of weeks, as he said he won’t play again until Houston, but those who were sounding the alarms a few weeks ago can stop now.
- We talked about Stricker’s putting tips for Woods at the beginning, but he did pretty well for himself this week, finishing alone in second at 17-under par. With his semi-retirement starting this year, Stricker is barely playing anymore, but that’s not stopping him from having success. He was the runner-up to Dustin Johnson at Kapalua, and was 3-1 at the Match Play, losing only to Poulter. It’s not supposed to be this easy when you don’t play.
- Another good tournament for Sergio Garcia as well, finishing tied for third at 14-under par. He hasn’t had a bad week since missing the cut at the PGA Championship last August, and really is looking like a serious major threat this year.
- On the flip side, Zach Johnson just can’t seem to get it together, finishing at 2-over par this week. He hasn’t landed inside the top-10 since the Open Championship last July, and it’s pretty much because he can’t seem to putt. Over the last three months, he’s actually hitting nearly 75% of his greens in regulation, but he’s averaging over 30 putts per round right now, which should be inconceivable for a player of his ability on the greens.
- Impressed with last week’s winner Michael Thompson as well. As Miller pointed out on the broadcast, it’s difficult to follow up a win on the PGA Tour with another solid performance, especially if you’re not known as one of the better players out there, but he ended up finishing tied for 8th.
- Scott Brown ended up winning the opposite field event in Puerto Rico by one shot over Jordan Spieth and Fabian Gomez after Gomez bogeyed the 18th hole. The victory gets Brown into the Masters next month.
The TPC Blue Monster at Doral is set to play host to a stacked field this week, as sixteen former major winners will be teeing it up at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. It’s one of the more iconic venues on the PGA Tour schedule, but it will be getting a facelift starting on Monday, as Donald Trump has enlisted the help of architect Gil Hanse to make some changes to the layout. Speaking to Tom LaMarre of the Sports Xchange, Hanse said this of the changes, courtesy Yahoo!:
“We are obviously making some significant changes to golf holes, but I think within the spirit of Dick Wilson, we’ll try to recapture some of the stylistic elements,” said Hanse, who also is designing the course that will host golf in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. “We’ll try to recapture some of his exciting green shapes, hole locations.
“We’ll try to create a golf course where angles are relevant again and where it’s important to get to a proper side to score as opposed to just hitting it as far as you possibly can. If we can do some things that can hopefully enhance the interest and character in the course, that’s really our first and foremost goal.”
It’s going to be interesting to see what kind of changes Hanse makes, as many feel that the course has essentially become a bomber’s paradise in recent years, but for the moment, let’s take a look at what we can expect this week.
2013 WGC-Cadillac Championship Fact Sheet
- Course: TPC Blue Monster at Doral
- Location: Miami, Florida
- Yardage: 7,334 yards, par 72
- Defending Champion: Justin Rose
- Five Consensus Favourites: Tiger Woods, Charl Schwartzel, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar and Luke Donald
- Thursday – 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Friday – 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Saturday – 2:00 to 6:00 PM ET (NBC)
- Sunday – 3:00 to 7:00 PM ET (NBC)
Key Storyline This Week
When was the last time that Rory McIlroy wasn’t listed as one of the top-five favourites by Vegas in an event? That’s the situation we’re in this week for the world’s number one player due to a combination of poor play, and if you believe the nonsense spewed by much of the mainstream media, a poor attitude after his withdrawal from the Honda Classic last week. As I said in my recap a few days ago, he could have handled the situation better, and that’s exactly what he did yesterday to SI’s Michael Bamberger, apologizing and admitting that he made a mistake. I think people forget that McIlroy is 23 years old, and he’s going to mess up from time to time. It doesn’t excuse him obviously, but people need to lay off the guy. As it relates to his play, obviously he’d like to be playing better, but those writing him off at this point are nuts. With no cut this week, he’s going to get a guaranteed four rounds in, and any extra time on the course with his new equipment is only going to help. Don’t forget that before he set the world on fire last year, he missed four of five cuts from the Players to the U.S. Open.
Want a secondary story? Brandt Snedeker is the only player in the top-50 in the world who isn’t playing this week. There probably won’t be a better field in any event all year, so enjoy it.
Par-4 3rd (438 yards)
After two good birdie opportunities to open the day, players will run into back-to-back difficult holes starting at the 3rd. Players will need driver off the tee if they want to hit the bigger landing area, but it brings trouble into play on both sides of the fairway, with water on the right and deep rough on the left. There’s also a deep fairway bunker on the left at about the 280-285 yard mark, which will catch a ton of balls throughout the four day event. The players get a break with no greenside bunkers, but those who go left to avoid the water will see tight lies with a green that slopes severely to the right. The 18th gets the most attention, but in the last five years, the 3rd has ranked in at no higher than the 4th handicap hole on the course.
Par-3 4th (236 yards)
As if the 3rd wasn’t difficult enough, the 4th will hit the players again just a few minutes later. At 236 yards, it’s a long enough par-3, but that’s not even the issue. The massive lake on the right side would make you think to go left, but there are two very deep bunkers guarding the left side of the green too. Most players will either try to hit a cut into the green instead of hitting it over the lake, or they can try to run one up.
Par-4 18th (467 yards)
The 18th at the Blue Monster is one of the most recognized holes in all of golf, and is always one of the most difficult par-4’s that the pros play all year. In fact, last year it ranked as the second most difficult hole played on the entire PGA Tour, and has been the number one handicap hole on the course in four of the last five years. The drive is very difficult, especially when the wind is up, which usually comes from across the lake, pushing balls into the right rough. If players land in the right rough, their approach will be nearly impossible into a narrow green, guarded by bunkers up the entire right-hand side and the huge lake on the left. The pin on Sunday will be in the back left-hand corner of the green, right near the water, which usually causes final-round drama.
Tiger Woods (Best Odds 12-1 at Bet365)
I don’t usually recommend taking the favourite in an event, but I do like Woods this week. He’s always played well at Doral, never finishing outside of the top-10, including three victories and has been under par in 30 of his 35 rounds at the course. He actually didn’t play as poorly as his result at the Honda, and you don’t often see him at 12-1, but the quality of the field is bumping the number a little bit.
Luke Donald (Best Odds 22-1 at Paddy Power)
Donald has a good record in this event, finishing inside the top-6 in each of the last two years, but he also hasn’t been outside of the top-10 in the Florida area since the 2011 Honda Classic, a span of seven events. No, he’s not the longest hitter out there, but you’d have a hard time finding a better putter and scrambler on any tour. Any early season rust should be gone now too, and 22-1 is simply too good to pass up.
Keegan Bradley (Best Odds 30-1 at You Win)
Bradley started slow this year, but was solid last week at the Honda finishing tied for 4th, and was in a decent position to win this event last year until a final round 75 derailed those chances. He does everything well, and could be rounding into form. Of everything I’ve seen so far this week, the 30-1 beside Bradley makes the least amount of sense. Bet him with confidence.
Charles Howell III (Best Odds 104-1 at Betfair)
Howell’s my one dartboard pick of the week, and it really depends on the book that you use when it comes to this one. I’ve seen Howell as low as 40-1, and up to 104-1 at Betfair. He doesn’t have a great record at Doral, but he does have a pair of top-20’s, and he’s been very good all year, including having a chance to win last week until he blew up with a 78 on Sunday. He’s putting and scrambling better than usual to go along with his usual superb driving. If you can get him at a good number, he’s a solid each-way bet this week.
The PGA Tour is also playing in Puerto Rico this week, and the field is actually better than most weeks when there are two events. No crazy analysis here about the event, but I do like a few players:
- Kevin Stadler (25-1 at Betfair): Having a really good year on the PGA Tour in 2013, and has a solid record at Trump International with four top-20’s in five events, including a T-7 and a T-4.
- Brendon de Jonge (28-1 at Bet Victor): He’s going to win an event sometime soon, and it might have to be in a weaker field like this one. Almost always in contention no matter where he plays.
- Graham DeLaet (37-1 at Betfair): The Canadian is close to breaking out, and already has a pair of top-10’s this season, including last week at the Honda. One of the best ball strikers on the PGA Tour, he just needs to figure out the putter. Finished tied for 9th here last year.
- Y.E. Yang (47-1 at Betfair): Hard to think that Yang isn’t at the WGC event this week, but he’s seen a bit of tough fall in recent years. He looked solid enough last week at the Honda for me to see some value at 47-1.
On a day in which many people predicted he would fall apart, Michael Thompson hung on to win the Honda Classic. It’s the first victory on the PGA Tour for Thompson, who was best known previously for finishing as the runner-up to Webb Simpson at last year’s U.S. Open.
Coming into Sunday’s final round, Thompson shared the lead with Luke Guthrie at 8-under par, but the final round partners were going to have to fight off a talented leaderboard full of established names. Lee Westwood, Geoff Ogilvy, Rickie Fowler, Keegan Bradley and Y.E. Yang were just five guys within striking distance of the leaders to begin the day, and while Guthrie struggled to maintain his position, Thompson was solid throughout the day, minimizing his mistakes. This was even more important than usual with the conditions as difficult as they were, as Thompson was one of only five players under par in Sunday’s final round. When most of the bigger name players wilted, the 27-year old Thompson flourished en route to his first career PGA Tour win. By virtue of his second place finish last year, Thompson actually already qualified for the Masters this year, but the win does get him into the WGC-Cadillac event next week at Doral.
- Michael Thompson -9
- Geoff Ogilvy -7
- Luke Guthrie -5
The big story of the week was the withdrawal of world number one Rory McIlroy mid-way through Friday’s second round. After being 7-over through eight and putting a pair of balls in the water on his ninth hole, McIlroy shook the hands of his playing partners and walked off the course. Before leaving, he briefly stopped to talk to reporters:
McIroy said before driving away: “I’m not in a great place mentally. I can’t really say much, guys. I’m just in a bad place mentally.”
— Scott Michaux (@ScottMichaux) March 1, 2013
Now, you’re supposed to provide a legitimate medical reason or prove that there was a massive emergency if you’re going to withdraw mid-round. If you don’t, you will be fined by the PGA Tour. I’m not sure if McIlroy was unaware of that when he left the course, but his agent certainly had no idea what was going on with his client:
RT @birdiebailey Rorys agent: “He’s not hurt. He’s not sick. And he won’t answer his phone. I don’t know.”
— Scott Michaux (@ScottMichaux) March 1, 2013
Soon after, McIlroy released a statement about his wisdom tooth causing him incredible pain, which was affecting his concentration. People jumped down his throat pretty quick with that being his excuse, especially when you consider his quote from above about not being in a great place mentally and the fact that his agent appeared to be in the dark. McIlroy is expected to address the situation on Tuesday before he tees off at the Cadillac, and it’s going to be interesting to see how he responds seeing as how he’s always been very forthright and honest when dealing with the media. I’m inclined to believe that McIlroy’s teeth were bothering him, but I don’t think that was the driving factor here. Either way, I’m not going to rip the guy, at least until I hear what he has to say on Tuesday. He probably could have handled it better, but he’ll learn, and yes, he’s struggling with his new Nike gear, but he’s going to be fine once he gets some more rounds under his belt. As usual, people are making far more out of this than they should be.
The recent struggles of 2006 U.S. Open winner Geoff Ogilvy has always puzzled me, but he could be getting himself back on track after a runner-up finish this week. Since his last win at the Australian Open in 2010, Ogilvy has only placed inside the top-10 eight times worldwide, and four of those were on the Australasian Tour, which doesn’t exactly carry the same level of quality as the bigger PGA and European Tours. Ogilvy’s a pretty important player, as there are few in the game who have his intelligence and eloquence, not to mention that assuming he’s healthy, he’s a dangerous player in just about every event he enters. His second place finish this week propels him inside the top-50 in the world again, and if he can stay there until the end of March, he’ll get back to the Masters.
I don’t usually talk much about the technical side of the game because frankly, there are far more qualified people than myself that discuss the subject, but Ogilvy’s chip-in on 16 is the prime example of the perfect swing, and not just because it went in. Look at the below GIF, and you’ll see the exact tempo that you want on a short pitch. Notice how quiet his hands are throughout the entire swing.
The “Sometimes You Get Lucky” GIF Of The Week
David Lynn pitches in on the 7th from the bunker on Sunday. If it doesn’t hit the hole, it’s going right through the green.
— Jeremy Barcola (@jbarc22) March 3, 2013
Later in the broadcast, Miller turned his attention to fan favourite Rickie Fowler with this gem:
— Absurd Johnny Miller (@AbsurdJMiller) March 3, 2013
He may have been joking around about Fowler, but based on the reaction on Twitter, it certainly wasn’t perceived that way. Whatever you think about Fowler and his attire, he’s been undoubtedly positive for the game, especially when it comes to the younger crowd that the sport simply hasn’t been popular with in recent years. When Jack Nicklaus chimed in, Miller changed his tune.
- The tale of two rounds: Camilo Villegas, a former winner of this event in 2010, was the first round leader after a 64, but missed the cut after a 77 on Friday. Ditto for 2010 Open Championship winner Louis Oosthuizen who started with a 69 before firing a second round 76.
- Don’t have much to say about the week for Tiger Woods, who never seemed like he had it going on. He’ll be in the field next week at Doral.
It’s been a few months since the USGA and R&A jointly announced their plans to ban the anchoring of putters, as is their apparent right as the gatekeepers of the Rules of Golf. Ever since the ban was announced, it was assumed that even though the major tours may not agree with the decision, that they didn’t really have much of a choice in the matter. As a quick refresher, this is what is being proposed:
They had to deal with it, right? Well, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem clearly didn’t think that way. On Sunday afternoon, while in the middle of a tournament, Finchem announced that the PGA Tour disagreed with the potential ban, and hoped that the USGA and R&A would reconsider. Finchem then took to the airwaves, joining NBC’s Dan Hicks and Johnny Miller, to discuss the rationale behind his earlier statement. Finchem made it clear that after discussing the situation with the player advisory council, it was agreed that the ruling was not in the best interest of not only the PGA Tour, but the game of golf as a whole. The logic behind the defiant stance by the PGA Tour, according to Finchem, came down to four basic principles:
- The USGA and R&A presented no proof and/or statistical data that showed definitively that anchoring was actually an advantage for those who use it.
- Anchoring has been prevalent for 30 years, so there’s no point in going down that path now.
- Lots of amateurs use an anchored putter, and removing it could deter involvement in the game.
- Many players on the PGA Tour have grown up using and perfecting the method when the USGA had approved it in previous years.
Taking to a national audience on NBC to make his point was an obvious power move by Finchem. He knew that most of the eyes in the golf world were on the WGC-Accenture Match Play, and he decided to take that opportunity to stick it to the USGA and R&A. He wouldn’t tolerate it if one of his players upstaged an event, but hey, I guess one of the perks of being the commissioner is that you can do whatever the hell you want. As for his points:
1. No statistical data
On this point, he’s correct. The USGA and R&A declined to produce any evidence that proved anchoring was a more effective way to putt. They looked at recent major winners in Ernie Els, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson, all of whom use anchored putters, and decided that they needed to do something. If they come back at the PGA Tour with some proof, Finchem may not have a leg to stand on.
2. Prevalent for 30 years
Finchem’s correct that it’s been prevalent for 30 years, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored based on history. When they first became prominent, the only players who used them were the ones who had the yips. Now, while it’s true that players use them today because of the yips, there are two main reasons why most would use an anchored putter. First, they’ve grown up using them, and that’s simply what they’re used to at this point. You’re going to see one example of this at the Masters this year when 14-year old Guan Tianlang will be in the field. The other reason why a player would use one is that they think it makes them a better putter. The PGA Tour like to point out that none of the best putters in the world use these things, but that’s because they don’t need to. Tim Clark, Carl Pettersson and Adam Scott are not known as good putters, but when they use an anchored putter, they go from below-average to average, which makes a huge difference at the pro level.
3. Too many amateurs use the long putter already
Finchem made reference on the broadcast to the fact that 20% of amateur players use an anchored putter. I play a lot of golf, and there’s no shot that one in every five players are using one, but for the sake of argument, let’s take him at his word. I’m in full agreement that we should be doing everything we can to keep as many people as possible on the course, but are there really going to be that many people who quit the game if they can’t buy a putter that they can anchor to their body? I find that hard to believe. This is one of the many reasons why there’s been a lot of talk recently about bifurcation, the idea that there should be two sets of rules for pros and amateurs. Again, based on what I’ve seen, I believe that most people who play golf at your local course have no idea what the rules are anyway, so really that shouldn’t be much of a consideration. I wouldn’t care if I saw someone in my group use an anchored putter, and I doubt that many others would either.
4. Current pros have perfected it when there was no talk of a ban
Finchem’s backing of his players is what was most shocking here. In his nearly 20 years as commissioner of the PGA Tour, he hasn’t exactly been known as player friendly, but it’s obvious that in the time that the proposed ban was announced, Finchem received feedback that he better do something about it, especially from prominent players like Bradley, Simpson and Els. Of course, there are players who say that it should be banned as well, most notably Tiger Woods, Luke Donald and Ian Poulter. After Finchem made his announcement, Bradley made his thoughts clear as well:
Proud to be a @pgatour player today.
— Keegan Bradley (@Keegan_Bradley) February 24, 2013
As for my own opinion on the matter, I’ve mostly been of the mind that the ban doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. We have a bunch of people arguing about what constitutes a proper golf stroke based on what the game was when it was first being competed, instead of focusing on what the game is today. When there are enough issues in the game that should be dealt with, namely slow play and how far the ball travels, those who make the Rules of Golf seem to have their priorities out of order.
Here’s an idea: Next time, how about if the USGA and R&A asks for input BEFORE announcing that a rule change is already in the offing.
— Steve Elling (@EllingYelling) February 24, 2013
Despite Finchem’s best efforts, I don’t think it’s going to matter much. The USGA and R&A will probably do whatever they want, and even though Finchem carries a lot of weight, I can’t envision a scenario in which he stands in their way if they decide to go through with the ban and it’ll be up to the players to adapt, whether they like it or not.
Maybe once the governing bodies are done with this, they can tackle things that actually matter.
After last week’s 64-man match play event, the PGA Tour returns to regular stroke play action this week, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods lead a loaded field heads to PGA National to try and escape the Bear Trap at the Honda Classic.
2013 Honda Classic Sheet
- Course: PGA National
- Location: Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
- Yardage: 7,110 yards, par 70
- Defending Champion: Rory McIlroy
- Five Consensus Favourites: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Charl Schwartzel and Lee Westwood
- Thursday – 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Friday – 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Saturday – 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 3:00 to 6:00 PM ET (NBC)
- Sunday – 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 3:00 to 6:00 PM ET (NBC)
George and Tom Fazio initially built PGA National in 1981, but Jack Nicklaus was given the reigns just nine years later, and outside of the routing, he essentially created an entirely new course. PGA National is typically known for the Bear Trap, holes 14 through 16, but the whole course presents a tougher challenge than most of the tracks the PGA Tour stops at on a yearly basis. In the six years that PGA National has played host to the Honda Classic, the winning score has reached 10-under par just twice. Last year’s average score of 71.19 was the lowest it’s been in the last five years, and it was still more than a stroke over par, with just three of the 18 holes on the course playing under par.
Holes to watch
Par-5 6th (488 yards)
The players will want to come away with a couple of birdies in the first five holes, as that will be the easiest stretch that they will see on the course. The trouble starts on the sixth, which doesn’t look like much when you examine the scorecard as a reachable par-5, but with bunkers guarding the entire right side and a lake going all the way to the green on the left, it is a very difficult hole. When they put the pin in the back left on Sunday, it could be a swing hole.
Par-4 11th (479 yards)
The 11th was the number one handicap hole last year. With trees and water on the left, most players will opt for something less than driver off the tee to avoid the trouble, but their approach into the green will still be difficult. The lake runs all the way up to the green on the left, and another pond pops up on the right side guarding the front of the green. The safest play could be behind the green, but there’s a bunker back there too.
Par-3 15th (179 yards)
The 15th signals the start of the Bear Trap, and even though 179 yards doesn’t seem like much in today’s game, it’s a daunting hole. With the massive body of water on the right side, most players will try to hit a fade into the green. It plays significantly more difficult when the wind is up, which is expected throughout the week, as is some rain for the weekend.
Par-4 16th (434 yards)
The second leg of the Bear Trap is supposed to be one of the toughest holes on the course, but didn’t play like that in 2012 as the 13th handicap. The hole doglegs to the right, and players will most likely have to lay up off the tee, causing a long second shot into the green, over water and likely, into the wind.
Par-3 17th (190 yards)
Nicklaus once described this hole as a simple flick of the wrist, but it’s far from that. The pros will likely play it at around 190 yards, and it’s probably the most exposed hole on the course as it relates to wind. Of course, there’s water guarding the front of the green and the entire right side, as well as a deep bunker behind the left side of the green. You often hear about par being a good score on a hole, and the 17th at PGA National is a perfect example of that.
Par-5 18th (604 yards)
At 604 yards, you’d think that the 18th would be intimidating, but it really isn’t. The only defense the hole will have is if the wind is really gusting, but even then, players have the option of laying up and still making birdie. It’s a great looking finishing hole with the huge lake on the right and bunkers all the way up the left side of the fairway, but players will be upset to walk away with less than birdie. It was here at 18 that Tiger Woods hit one of the shots of the year.
Key Storyline This Week
Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are playing at the Honda, and they will be the focus this week as they are whenever they tee it up. As we talked about after the WGC, there are people who are suggesting that McIlroy shouldn’t have switched over from Titleist to Nike, and he got a little defensive about it in his pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday, suggesting that the media is making too much out of his poor play. The fact is, he’s played three rounds in 2013 with his new gear, and his slated to play in over 20 tournaments this year. From what I saw at the WGC, he was still hitting shots that few could hit, there just wasn’t as many of them as we are used to seeing. It’s going to take some time, but he’ll get there.
For Woods, he’s never played well at Ritz-Carlton GC, so his elimination at the hands of Charles Howell wasn’t that big of a shock. Much like McIlroy, there’s a natural state of overreaction when it comes to his game, but he’s obviously one to watch this week. In his lone appearance at PGA National last year, he finished as the runner-up to McIlroy after a stunning final-round 62.
Suggested Plays (All each-way)
Louis Oosthuizen (Best Odds 28-1 at You Win)
In two prior appearances at the Honda, Oosthuizen withdrew both times due to the flu, and only one of his six rounds were under par. He also hasn’t done much since winning at the Volvo to start his 2013, but there’s no logical reason that he should be sitting at 28-1. He should be at half of this price with his skill level. As usual, his putter concerns me a little bit, but there might not be a better tee to green player in the field.
Graeme McDowell (Best Odds 30-1 at Stan James)
The rust should be off for McDowell after playing well at the Match Play last week, and he has back-to-back top-10 finishes at this event over the last two years. He typically plays well at the tougher, thinking man’s courses, and that’s exactly what this is. Out of all of the guys on this list, I think he has the best chance to win this week.
Rickie Fowler (Best Odds 37-1 at Betfair)
After missing the cut here in 2010 and 2011, he finished tied for sixth last year, and even though he hasn’t been great over the last few weeks, he’s the type of player that should do well here. Driving distance is not a primary factor at PGA National, but he hits tons of greens and his putting has been getting better. 37-1 seems like a nice price for a guy who’s more talented than most in this field.
Chris Kirk (Best Odds 70-1 at You Win)
Kirk’s putting and scrambling have drastically improved this year, and he’s shown an ability to contend, finishing as the runner-up a few weeks ago at Pebble Beach. With how well he’s putting, I’ll take my chances at 70-1 despite a substandard record at PGA National.
Matteo Manassero (Best Odds 143-1 at BETDAQ)
Fact: Manassero has never played at PGA National. Another Fact: This course has had first-time winners in 3 of 6 years, and Camilo Villegas finished as the runner-up in his first time at PGA National in 2007. I can’t believe that you can actually get Manassero at this price in some books, as in a lot of places, he’s around 66-1. He’s a short hitter, but he does everything else well. He’s been in decent form this week, and I actually wouldn’t be shocked to see him get his first PGA Tour win this week, despite the quality field.
Matt Kuchar was able to take down Jason Day and followed that up by defeating defending champion Hunter Mahan in the final on Sunday to claim the 2013 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. The win gives Kuchar an incredible 15-3 record at this event, and improves his overall singles match play record to 15-6 in his professional career.
Kuchar played 32 holes on Sunday against Day and Mahan, and outside of two holes early against Day, he never fell behind in either match. Perhaps even more impressively, on a day when the conditions were tough with cold weather and heavy wind, Kuchar was 1-under par while his opponents combined to shoot 6-over. There were times, against Mahan in particular, when it looked like Kuchar would relinquish control but it never came to fruition. The turning point in the final match came on the 17th hole. With Mahan cutting Kuchar’s lead to just one hole, both players drove their balls into the bunker on the right hand side of the fairway. Mahan’s ball was sitting down in the sand, while Kuchar’s was in pretty much the best spot it could possibly be. After Mahan’s approach landed in the shrubs, Kuchar stepped up and stuck one to a few feet, allowing him to take home the Walter Hagen Cup.
Much like my regular recaps, I’m not going to give you a shot-by-shot breakdown of the five-day event, as there really isn’t much point in that. Below are my general thoughts on the event as a whole, and what we can expect to see going forward.
Ritz-Carlton GC as the host course
Obviously there will be tons of focus on the snow delay that basically wiped out the entire first day, and some of day two. Some are calling for the tournament to be moved from the area seeing as how there has been snow activity in two of the last three years, and there are definitely reasons to support that. First off, the players can’t stand the place. Last year, Golf World polled 81 current players on the PGA Tour, asking them to rank their favourite and least favourite courses, with Dove Mountain ranking in as the second-most hated course, ahead of only Liberty National. Obviously the field didn’t suffer, as only Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker were absent from the top-64 players in the world, but you’d have to think it’d make the players happy if they switched the venue. Secondly, for a “world” match play event, it’s kind of ridiculous that it’s only been held outside of the United States once. Perhaps a trip to a world-renowned course like Royal Melbourne or Royal County Down would give the event a shot in the arm.
Of course, there are things blocking the moving of the event. Ritz-Carlton is slated to host the event next year, and you’d think that even with the weather-related issues, they’re going to want to keep hosting the event. That might be a moot point if Accenture, the title sponsor of the event, decides to get involved, but it is something to think about before suggesting that the event will be moved. Also, you know that the PGA Tour will want to keep the event within the regular broadcast window, so even though it’s a WGC event, the PGA Tour will probably flex their muscle in this regard, making a move to a place like Royal Melbourne or Royal County Down unlikely.
I think what ends up happening is that the event will be moved in 2015, but those hoping that it ventures outside of the U.S. will likely be upset, as the PGA Tour will ultimately get their way.
What’s wrong with Dustin Johnson?
People are going to start asking about Dustin Johnson, and the rumblings have already started about his relationship with Paulina Gretzky being the cause of his struggles since winning at Kapalua. It’s all eerily reminiscent of the nonsense being spouted about Rory McIlroy’s struggles in 2012 and linking them to his relationship with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki. Of course, McIlroy ended up being just fine and while I’m not comparing Johnson to McIlroy in terms of his skill level, people need to be logical about the kind of player Johnson is. He’s always been a streaky player, as evidenced by his record after all of his previous wins:
- After 2008 Turning Stone: T15, MC, MC, T11
- After 2009 Pebble: 10th, 1st round WGC knockout, T35, MC
- After 2010 Pebble: 1st round WGC knockout, T56, MC, T40
- After 2010 BMW: T22, T9, 3rd
- After 2011 Barclays: T42, T65, T23, MC
- After 2012 St. Jude: MC, T44, T33, T9
Yes, he’s struggling. Yes, he’s switched out every club in his bag except his driver in the last two weeks. Yes, he lost to Alex Noren in the first round of the match play this week, but this is something that we’ve seen in the past. It’s difficult to follow up a win on the PGA Tour, especially when you’re as streaky as Dustin Johnson.
Rory and Tiger
Obviously a big part of the tournament was the first round eliminations of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. I don’t have much to say about either player going out early to be honest, but as usual when a top player goes out early at this thing, there’s standard shock and overreaction. Match play, at its core, is a crap shoot. When you get 64 of the best players in the world together and pit them head-to-head in match play, anything can happen. For McIlroy, it’s only the second event he’s played in this year, and the second with his new Nike clubs. He’s a little rusty, but much like last season, he’s going to be just fine. The GIF below pretty much summed up his day on Thursday. After having to play a shot left-handed just to get into the bunker, the world number one flared his next shot into a bed of cacti.
As it relates to Woods, his match with Charles Howell was one of the last to get underway on Thursday, and there was some discussion as to why Woods didn’t push for the match to be stopped when they were given the option on the 16th tee due to darkness. At that point, Howell was 2-up and it was suggested that considering Woods had never lost a single round against Howell that it’d be a good idea to let Howell sleep on the lead and think about closing him out. The problem, as Woods pointed out to Golf Channel’s Steve Sands, was that he was actually playing quite well. The Woods/Howell group was the only first round match-up to go bogey-free, and Woods thought he had a chance to take it with how well he was playing, but Howell simply outplayed him. Much like McIlroy, there isn’t much to worry about here with Woods, but let’s knock it off with the talk about Woods not being a good match play player. With the loss to Howell, Woods’ record in match play events dropped to 44-14-2, which isn’t too bad.
One last note on Woods: his 14 losses in single match play events have come against 13 different players, losing twice to Nick O’Hern. His record against those players while in the same stroke play event? 3005-1142-381, or a 66.3 winning percentage. Full results below:
- vs. Constantino Rocca: 52-11-3
- vs. Mark O’Meara: 313-104-33
- vs. Jeff Maggert: 287-118-53
- vs. Darren Clarke: 244-98-32
- vs. Peter O’Malley: 84-27-17
- vs. Nick O’Hern: 162-37-20
- vs. Retief Goosen: 304-158-38
- vs. Chad Campbell: 252-90-30
- vs. Mike Weir: 383-136-54
- vs. Tim Clark: 239-81-23
- vs. Thomas Bjorn: 227-79-21
- vs. Nick Watney: 174-96-20
- vs. Charles Howell III: 284-107-37
GIFs of the week
First, Graeme McDowell can’t handle the toss from Alex Noren:
Secondly, the GIF probably won’t do it justice, but Ian Poulter’s 39-foot snake putt against Steve Stricker on Saturday was ridiculous. It’s tough to explain the level of difficulty involved in hitting one of these, but suffice to say, it’s high.
Other notes on the event
- With the win by Kuchar, Americans have now won the first eight PGA Tour events of 2013.
- Do you think Mickelson felt bad about pulling out of the event when he saw how much it snowed? Didn’t think so.
- Jason Day ended up defeating Ian Poulter in the consolation round on Sunday, although it was pretty much never shown on TV by the NBC crew.
- Before the Golf Channel switched off of their coverage on Sunday, Kelly Tilghman referred to Kuchar as the “assassin behind the smile”. I know Tilghman takes hyperbole to a new level, but good god, that’s awful. The game of golf would be a lot better off if those who covered it stopped trying to make it seem like more than a bunch of guys whacking a white ball around a field.
- Lastly, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem announced during the broadcast that the PGA Tour doesn’t believe that the anchored putting ban, set to be put in place by the USGA and R&A, is the right path to go down. The fact that he announced this during the event is unbelievable, but I’ll have some more thoughts on that later.