Play of the Week 33

June 19, 2012

This week, I’m afraid I have to give the POTW to the USGA. Typically, I am not a fan of the US Open. When I’ve watched the tournament in years past, I’ve typically found it to be rather boring for a number of reasons. In most cases, it is pointlessly difficult, to where even the best in the world can make nothing of the courses (Oakmont, 2007; Shinnecock, 2004). In many cases, the winner is boring or surprising–as if we were playing the John Deere classic instead of a Major (e.g., Lucas Glover 2009, Angel Cabrera 2007, Michael Campbell 2005, Reteif Goosen 2001/2004). Often, it’s just a war of attrition, where the one player who’s lucky enough to find his ball on every hole manages to sift through the gauntlet and survive the fray (GMac, 2010). Or, the tournament is just boring (McIlroy, 2011).

But every few years, the USGA gets it right. One of the most memorable tournaments I’ve ever watched was the US Open at Torrey Pines in 2008, where Tiger edged Rocco Mediate with a gutsy performance that just outlasted one of the most tenacious players in the game. Or 1999, where the image of Payne Stewart sinking a 20-foot putt to save par on the 72nd hole has become an icon of the game of golf. But in 1999, although the winning score was -1, the course played fairly. It showcased how the greatest in the world (a very young Tiger, a younger than now Phil) could play when the pressure cooker was on, and Payne’s lasting legacy of 1-putting the last 3 holes to hold on was truly a riveting watch.

Like ’08 and ’99, this year, the USGA got it right. The US Open this year wasn’t flashy. It was a simple test–a par 70, even. No water hazards to fly over, no forced carries, not even more than a few fairway bunkers. But Olympic Club was just right. The winning score a nice +1, with Webb Simpson coming out on top over Jim Furyk–trying to hold on–and Graeme McDowell, who charged in at the end but couldn’t seal the deal. Webb posted his second 68 of the weekend hours before GMac and Furyk walked off the course, leaving the scene for great tension and excitement. Olympic was a true test–not just a slaughterhouse. It TESTED the best in the world, but the test could be passed. Players didn’t complain that it was unfair or say that it was too penal. Instead, they went about their business, and the winner played under par both rounds on the weekend. When was the last time you said that about a US Open winner? (well, other than 2011, when Rors was on an absolute tear, but who else?) And, for the second time this year, the winner of a major has come from a pairing other than the final group, which is some welcome excitement that we don’t often see.

I’m not saying this was as exciting as the Masters is every year, or that the US Open is no longer my least favorite of the majors. What the USGA typically does to the players isn’t right, on any level. But this year, the course was what a true test should be. When a player masters that test, he should get the trophy, and Webb did. So, to the USGA, we solute you. And, to Webb Simpson, congrats on passing the test.

us open olympic

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Play of the Week 27

November 28, 2011

This week’s POTW goes to Australian Golf.

I have to admit, I’m not a fan of the Aussies. Like the Brits, they can be a little loud and obnoxious at times. But they got it right this year with the winter series. Maybe it was just dumb luck that Tiger woods decided to return to golf at the Australian Open, but the last few weeks have been wonderful viewing.

Particularly for those of us who work long days (and, some nights), the last few weeks of the Australian Open, President’s Cup, and Australian PGA Championship were tremendous. The time difference is perfect–I just come home from work, flip on the TV, and watch some of the best in the world duke it out…LIVE! No tape delay or DVR here! And when I say the “best in the world,” I mean it. Look at this leaderboard from the Australian Open:

Of the top 15 at the Australian Open, the field included John Senden, Tiger Woods, Geoff Ogilvy, Nick O’Hern, Adam Scott, Jason Day, Nick Watney, Aaron Baddeley, Bubba Watson, and Fred Couples. Quite honestly, I’d rather watch this field than the John Deere. That’s a pretty tremendous crowd–and a number of these guys were in contention at the 2011 Masters.

The next week, we watched as the US manhandled the World in the President’s Cup. And, just this weekend, Greg Chalmers (who no one had heard of before he took down the aforementioned field in Australian Open) put his name on the world stage by winning the Aussie PGA as well.

So thank you, PGA of Australia, for setting yourself up like this. And thank you Tiger Woods for deciding to make winter golf interesting again. And thank you to the President’s Cup for giving the US something to cheer about after that terrible Ryder Cup defeat last year.

I’m looking forward to more from the PGA in 2012.

Play of the Week 24

September 26, 2011

The POTW this week…or maybe for the whole year…is Bill Haas.

The Tour Champion and proud owner of $11.4MM is none other than son of former PGA Tour player Jay Haas. Like Jim Furyk last year, Haas had a 3-shot lead coming down the back 9 Sunday of The Tour Championship. Like Furyk, Haas bogeyed down the stretch. However, Haas’s bogeys gave Hunter Mahan a shot at a win–if Mahan could’ve birdied the extremely difficult 18th hole. Mahan par’d to force a playoff. The first hole was a replay of the 18th hole. Both players hit their shots short and right, Mahan in the sand, Haas in the far more difficult bermuda rough. Haas hit his ball to about 15 feet, Mahan to about 5 feet. Haas stood up and hit the 15-footer with 2 feet of break to the bottom of the cup. Mahan made par.

While Haas’s putt could’ve been enough for the POTW, it was the second playoff hole–the 17th–where Haas showed his metal.

Haas put his drive into the bunker on the right side of the fairway. Now, I’ve hit the drive at 17. It’s tough. Just look below. However, I’ve never hit it in a PGA Tour event, so I can only imagine what it must feel like. I certainly don’t blame the guy for bailing right.

Unfortunately, from the bunker, Haas hit his ball over the left of the green, which has a steep slope leading to water. Mahan put his drive in the fairway and his approach to the center of the green. It looked all but certain–Mahan was the champion.

In a stroke of luck, it hasn’t rained more than 2 inches in the last 2 months here in Atlanta, and the East Lake was a little low. There is a rule that, if you can see more than half of the ball in water, you should be able to hit it out. Haas’s ball found ground under the surface of the East Lake, and he had a shot. That is when Haas took the tournament.

Did you see that? Let’s look again.

No way.

One more time.

The playoff ended on the next hole, when Haas made par and Mahan bogeyed from the front-right bunker. Haas won the tournament without hitting a single green-in-regulation for any of the three playoff holes. A tremendous tournament capped off by an amazing playoff and a heroic shot.

To you, Bill Haas, you have earned this POTW. We salute you. And your enormously bloated bank account.

Play of the Week 13

May 6, 2011

This week’s POTW goes to the Navy SEALs. This week, the SEALs took down Osama bin Laden. 10 years and over a billion dollars after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, we finally got him.

I have had the pleasure of knowing several SEALs. They are, without a doubt, some of the bravest and most important people for our country that you will find. One SEAL I knew was saved from death by another SEAL who jumped onto a grenade to save his fellow SEALs, absorbing the explosion to save their lives. That SEAL later died defending a base Iraq.

For those reading this, never doubt the importance of our bravest and finest solders. They may be the most important part of our continued existence as a nation.

Here’s to you, Navy SEALs. We celebrate you for what you’ve done today, but you are never out of our minds for the many things you do that we will never understand.

Play of the Week 8

January 13, 2011

DJ

This week’s POTW goes to DJ–my man! Dustin Johnson is reportedly dating darling of the LPGA Natalie Gulbis. Gulbis followed DJ at the back nine of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Gulbis, who apparently leaked the news, stated “I’ll let Dustin handle our PR” with a smile.

Johnson has purportedly denied a relationship with Gulbis. The big question: why! Come on dude! You landed the hottie of the LPGA. Brag about it a little. According to About.com (http://golf.about.com/b/2011/01/09/natalie-gulbis-dustin-johnson-a-couple.htm) “The only thing longer than Dustin Johnson’s drives are Natalie Gulbis’s legs.”

While some would say Paula Creamer is #1 hottie for the LPGA (a lot of people: http://thesandtrap.com/forum/thread/5426/paula-creamer-vs-natalie-gulbis) , DJ certainly could have done worse.

So here’s to you DJ! You may not have won the 2010 US Open at Pebble, which you should have. You may not have won the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which you should have. You may not have landed PF favorite Lauren Thompson. But you certainly didn’t disappoint when it came to landing a hottie. Here’s hoping you find the fairway.

And, just for good measure, let’s not forget about the darling of the PF… Lauren Thompson, official hottie of The Power Fade.

Here’s to you too. 8)