Well folks, another 4 days of hopeful sunshine and relaxing golf turned into a mad scramble by the PGA Tour and its players. After endless rain came down and basically canceled Thursday, the players were forced to finish an astounding 72 holes in a little over 3 days. Luckily, the weather held off enough to allow the tournament to be completed Sunday before dawn, but not before some drama took place: on and off the golf course. When it was all said and done though, Matt Kuchar was 50K lighter and Justin Thomas ran away with th…wait I’m sorry. J.B…J.B. Holmes took it home on Sunday night?! That’s right, J.B. Holmes was our victor this week taking advantage of some sloppy play by JT, as well as some howling wind that made it very difficult for anyone from behind to mount a serious charge. A tournament that looked to be a one man show and potential run away (Thomas held a 5 stroke lead on Sunday) turned into one filled with head scratching 3 putts and a war of attrition. Weather was mostly to blame for this, as players struggled to judge the wind and the greens got a bit bumpier. The final group seemed to have an especially difficult time getting the ball in the hole the last 12 holes or so.
Besides the weather, there were some mutterings all week about things patrons and players wish would be changed. Slow play again took center stage, culminating with eventual champion J.B. taking well over a minute to hit a golf shot on numerous occasions. Where the solution comes from can be debated forever, but if the Tour truly wants to make a change players need to begin getting penalized consistently as Adam Scott eluded to (more on that later). What felt like a marathon only seemed to be slower with Holmes walking around his putts for 95 seconds and holding his club up while standing over it, addressing the ball, backing off, mustering up the courage to hit it, only to shank 3 footers 5 feet past the hole, then miss the comebacker. Who would’ve thought that much thinking could be detrimental. That being said, the tournament had its moments. Tiger, who hit the ball well all week, put on an absolutely electric show Saturday evening when he began his 3rd round -5 thru 4 holes. The atmosphere on TV was one you would see Sunday in a major championship. Ultimately Tiger could never sustain any type of momentum on the greens, costing him a higher finish. Bryson had a memorable Friday, holing out 3 times from difficult pitch shots. And Rory livened the crowd with a Saturday morning charge, finishing his second round with a 63. Jordan played great until a final round 81 that we will not acknowledge. Soon enough, Spieth fans. Let’s take a look at some key takeaways as we head to Mexico for the second WGC this season:
- A flaw in the machine?: While J.B. technically won the tournament, this one felt like a W Justin Thomas let get away. He was in complete control, putting on an absolute clinic with his irons and putter for 55 holes, looking unbeatable. Then it all fell apart. He knows it based on his post round comments, and lamented his inability to putt in the wind. “I feel like I should have won that thing. Hit some great shots the last four holes. But it is what it is and I’ve got to find a way to learn from it,” Thomas said. He continued, “I think it was more I really struggled putting in that wind out there…it’s something that I’ve needed to get better at, and unfortunately just kind of showed a flaw in my game. I really didn’t play that bad.” I have long thought of the wind to be JT’s arch enemy, as evidenced by his struggles at the various British Opens when wind picks up, and further evidenced by yesterday. He just doesn’t seem to be as sure of himself, and that is all it takes for things to go wayward in the game of golf. If he does feel uncomfortable on the greens, that uneasiness will put more pressure on his full shots, leading to inconsistent ball striking. We will see if he can figure out the wind woes as his career progresses. I wouldn’t bet against him.
- Slow Play: Unfortunately for golf, the tournament was only half the story this week. As mentioned above, pace of play was a huge issue. Golf twitter was NOT happy with J.B., and I don’t blame them. It isn’t only Holmes though, plenty of players are slow. However, he was the point of emphasis as his ceremonial like pre-shot routine was shown over and over. Players are beginning to speak out about this, the latest being the mild mannered Adam Scott: “My thing on slow play is it’s never going to change,” said Scott, who earlier this week pleaded for the PGA Tour to make an example of himself and call a slow-play penalty just to send a message. “Just get over it. Until television and sponsors say, ‘No more money,’ slow play ain’t gonna change.” Well said, Scotty.
- ‘El Tucan’ takes Kuch for a ride: In one of the funnier golf stories in recent memory, David ‘el Tucan’ Ortiz came out with the W over notorious good guy Matt Kuchar by TKO in the 5th round. After a series of news story came out with ‘el Tucan’ stating he received 5k after he helped Kuch to a 1.3 million dollar win, there was consistent backlash from the golf world for a slim to none tip from Kuch. Early last week, Kuch hilariously doubled down on his prior comments, saying he paid what was agreed to and this was a non-story. He quickly realized that was not the move, and came out with a statement about how this was not his true character, and he was going to make sure David received the full 50k he requested. Maybe too little, too late, Kuch. This could hurt his reputation for years to come. Good for ‘el Tucan.’
- Scotty…don’t!: Man Adam Scott could not make a putt on Sunday. A week after I proclaimed he would jump into the top 20 of the world rankings, he was making me look really good. Then he missed 6(!!!) consecutive putts inside 10 feet, with 5 being inside 7 feet. This was, of course, after his newfound putting success with the flagstick in was being lauded by commentators. It will be interesting to see if this holds Scotty back when he gets in future contention, as it was a very cringeworthy display when it mattered most.
- Weather: It wouldn’t be right to leave the weather out this week. It feels redundant after last week, but weather absolutely was a huge factor this week. It forced players into long and tedious days, undoubtedly causing lack of focus and poor shots because of fatigue (see Woods, Tiger). Let’s hope we get less of that moving forward, as it not only makes it more enjoyable for the viewer, but keeps everything as fair as possible for the players, and eliminates the Tour’s ability to make boneheaded errors like total restarts (why send them out?), and no regroupings (ended up working out, though). Be sunny, Mexico!
I won’t go in depth on Spieth and McIlroy, but what we saw from them was more of the same. Rory again put himself in contention, but didn’t take the reigns when it was do-or-die time. Jordan, I think, is getting closer but until he has enough confidence in himself to play 4 rounds of solid golf, he won’t do it. Quick mention of Bryson, my OAD pick. The mad scientist had his chances at a Top 5 or 10, but simply didn’t hit the ball well early and couldn’t putt late. We’ll settle for a 15th, and hope to keep the momentum rolling across the border. Onto one of the bigger events of the season, the WGC-Mexico Championship. See you next Monday!