Despite apparently being the only player in the field to be distracted by the crowd the entire weekend, Bubba Watson outlasted Dustin Johnson, Brian Harman and others to win for the first time since the 2012 Masters. Our least favorite player wins on our favorite track. Ugh.
Piping Hot Takeaways
1) Riviera got her shine on, per usual. You have to love how confident the tournament organizers are in their track. Opening the proceedings with a 500 yard, downhill par-5 that every player in the field can reach would be borderline reckless anywhere else (and result in a converted 490 yard par-4). Not here. It’s a bird-carcass give-away (and they let you keep the feathers!) from the outset, as they know they’ve got goons that are going to beat you up once you get out of sight from the clubhouse. Our only recommendation to improve matters would be to grow up the rough a bit more (although, the Cali drought conditions may have made this an impossibility and been the reason for the firm, fast track). This would serve two purposes: 1) Cut down on Bubba’s chances of winning with bomb & gouge techniques; and 2) it would go along with the “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” mentality. Riv is dying for a US Open, no? And one would think the USGA would jump at the opportunity to stage a US Open in L.A.
2) The players raved about the track:
Modern day designers could learn a lot from Riveira. Nothing quirky/tricked out. 5 under leading after round 1 and cut line at even…
— Graham DeLaet (@GrahamDeLaet) February 14, 2014
One of my favourite weeks of the year. Riviera and Santa Monica . Northern trust.
— Lee Westwood (@WestwoodLee) February 10, 2014
3) The leaderboard was topsy-turvy for the first few days, with some NLU favorites making cameo appearances (MatsuYOTTO, Luke Guthrie, Spieth, JB Holmes). It was slow and steady until Bubba mounted a weekend insurgency charge, Spieth faded on the back nine Sunday, Schwartzel couldn’t keep it together, and DJ/Harman/Allred came up just short. All-in-all, Bubba shot 64-64 on the weekend (-14 when the winning score for four rounds was -15). Douchey or not, Bubba deserved to win. We’ll put our butt-hurtness aside and acknowledge a virtuoso weekend performance. However, big props to Jim Nantz for finally addressing Bubba’s on-course antics after he went double #TourSauce on his tee shot on #9: “Not Much Bubba misses out here. If you take a little deep breath, he’s gonna call you out on it.”
Somehow Bubba's #TourSauce keeps getting worse. #BubbaComplaints https://t.co/z5RM62Tlpy
— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) February 16, 2014
4) Dirt McGirt has gained inclusion on the forthcoming NLU “All-Lettuce” Team. McGirt’s unkempt mop that sticks out from the back of the hat is a real throwback, but we also really appreciate the all-around apathetic look and girthy physique. We’re picking up what you’re putting down, William.
I can’t tell if it’s Goldilocks or one of the three bears!
5) Brian Harman finally enjoyed his “hello world” moment. While 2014 will be his third full year on tour, his career thus far been a slow-simmer of sorts: never finished outside the top 100 in FedEx Cup/never been in danger of losing his card, has had some solid results (menaces the Wyndham virtually every year, T5 at 2012 Barclays, shot 61 (!!!!) at the Bear Trap in 2012) but hasn’t moved the needle in the Q-rating in a major way. Hopefully that changes, because Harman’s a bonafide stud. Tron Carter relayed an anecdote about playing in a high school event with him down in Vidalia, GA. Tron was a bit-player in high school – a solid #3 player who really wasn’t a threat to go deep but you could count on counting his score. Only issue was him getting intimidated pre-round by dudes who sprinkled a lot of #TourSauce. Anyway here’s Tron:
“So all 5’6” of Harman shows up and he’s wearing these gaudy white shoes with black leather tips (like Billy Horschel wears these days). He’d won the US Junior Championship the year prior (and nabbed runner-up the year before that – peep this junior resume). His 2003 AJGA season was an absolute Tour de Force) and I was somewhat surprised that he even dicked around with high school golf. So I get my first glimpse of him out on the practice green – you could tell he rolled DEEP back from Titleist Fitting Center out in SoCal (which is the best kept secret in “amateur” athletics). He was repping a Scotty Cameron Futura putter on the practice green and then walked over to the range like he had an 18-inch cobra in his pants. After seeing the amount of lag in his swing I almost shit my pants. Needless to say, like three weeks later he played in the Heritage PGA event over at Hilton Head, had a stand-out college career, and then turned pro and basically said “thanks, but no thanks” to the Nationwide Tour, making it through Q School on the first try.”
Need to get Harman bird-hunting more often!
Obviously, we like this guy. He’s real, he doesn’t really give two shits about too much except golf and hunting (he’s part of that Sea Island clique), he’s an absolute bulldog (no pun intended) and his game looks much improved tee-to-green. Expect to see more of him in ’14.
6) Big props to Jason Allred. Dude Monday qualified for one of the most prestigious events of the year and finished top-5 to make it into the Honda Classic in two weeks. We respect the “no-names” that stay on the grind just trying to get into these tour events. It’s insanely hard to Monday qualify for these events, and once you’re in, you’re guaranteed nothing. To parlay that into a huge paycheck and entry into the next tournament (which is a big-boy event) requires some serious stones.
7) CBS needs to make a decision: either cut away from these blow-out college basketball games or start them earlier. Prolonging the awkward 30 minute break in coverage is downright disrespectful. And Big Ten-anything is downright depressing.
How Our Picks Fared
- Dustin Johnson – 2nd
- Charl Schwartzel – 5th
- KJ Choi – T12
- Jimmy Walker – T20
- Bill Haas – T23
- Hideki Matsuyama – T23
- Luke Guthrie – T40
- J. B Holmes – T52
- Graham DeLaet – T70
- Pat Perez – 75th
- Freddie Jacobson – MC
- Jason Kokrak – MC
Above-average week. DJ was an easy pick, and some of our fliers had difficult weekends after hot starts. Anytime you get two in the top-5 you can’t be too disappointed, especially with a value flier like Schwartzel.
Oil Spill of the Week (Presented by BP)
It didn’t take long for us to identify this week’s best oil spill. On his first hole of the tourney, Scott Verplank took an 8 at the diabolical par-4 10th. He played more shots from the sand on this hole (5) than the par of the hole. He wouldn’t make it through the first nine before withdrawing.
We got some footage of it fortunately:
Oil Spill of the Week (Presented by BP) PART 2
We head to East London, Eastern Cape, South Africa for a SPECTACULAR performance from Emiliano Grillo, who opened the day with a two shot lead. To say that lead evaporated quickly would be a slight understatement…
Another missed opportunity for Golf Channel to use the mushroom cloud graphic.
Grillo blew out an engine immediately after lift off, making a sensationally destructive quintuple bogey at the first. Fighting to keep his craft level and altimeter in check, his front-nine 43 was a clear ‘mayday’ call to the tower. But then the incredible happened. As the number of souls on board were being tabulated, Grillo’s training and instincts activated and he incredibly birdied the final five holes coming in for a back-side 30 and top-5 finish. Utter disaster averted. Total carnage avoided. Still wrecked his rig.
This guy approves….
This dude crash-landed a plane w/ no fatalities, too!
NLU Shot Tracker of the Week
We’re not overthinking this one. One of our favs, driving the par 4 10th, and draining the sidewinder for an eagle 2 on Saturday was our highlight of the weekend. (We’re ignoring his subsequent triple bogey 7 on Sunday for the sake of keeping our bias consistent).
Let’s go from one of the best weeks of the year to one of the worst. We head from a national treasure to a crappy piece of desert that Jack Nicklaus didn’t really improve upon (shocking!), and a format that is just awful for TV. No Tiger, no Phil, and no Dreamboat Adam Scott. I’ll watch because I always do–it’s a chance to see a lot of guys up close and personal, especially in the later rounds–but it’ll be more for the exposure than for the event itself. We’ll have some ideas for how to improve the match play in our preview piece this week.