Pat Perez set the pace in the early rounds only to fall off the map on Saturday, and he wasn’t alone. Brutal conditions prevailed and Copperhead played more like a major venue than that of a third or fourth tier (that’s for you Bailey) tour stop. Scott Langley (showed some moxie and impressed a lot of people), Kevin Na, and Will MacKenzie were all there at the end, only to see Senden lock up his second career PGA Tour win with the sort of short-game magic that’s evaded him in so many other pivotal moments (if he could putt I can think of an additional 6-7 various titles he would’ve won easily). Luke Donald’s game again showed signs of life, and Justin Rose had an encouraging week, overall (despite the godawful chunk…further down the page). Robert Garrigus has to be scratching his head after being en fuego the first two and a half days (to the point where people were crowning his ass) he kept it between the mayo and the mustard coming home on Saturday, only to crash into the concrete median early in his final round. Credit to him for a solid 34 on the inward nine to stay right in the mix and a T-4 paycheck.
Above all, Copperhead was as solid as advertised. It’s tough to say enough good things about the 16th hole (a truly great driving hole) and the pin position on the 13th hole on Saturday was awesome – not sure I’ve ever seen a green that narrow. Rough was fair, greens were pure, and conditions were tough. The fact that John Senden won further solidifies Copperhead as a ballstriker’s course.
1) Kevin Na made his appearance well known with his antics, which seemed to be the storyline from the weekend until he got the drop from coverage on Sunday. After being on the clock for most of the day on Saturday,
after the rules official left the grouping and wasn’t timing them, Na’s caddie said “are we being timed still?” Na responded, “No, we’re good”, and then proceeded to take 3 minutes (might be exaggerating) to play his shot. It’s completely unfair to Robert Garrigus, who had to play with Na on both Saturday and Sunday. Guilt by association means that when Na goes on the clock, so does his playing partner, and Garrigus got a bad time when hitting out of some cabbage despite being one of the fastest players on tour. What Na does is disrespectful to his playing partner and to the game.
With that being said, Na’s obviously made huge strides from the 2012 Players Championship Freakshow he foisted upon us. By all accounts he’s sped up his routine (most noticeably on the greens) and really made his pace of play a point of emphasis. Alan Shipnuck tweeted something along the lines of Na being one of the most interesting competitors in the world of golf, if not sports at large. While I bristled at first and chalked it up as hyperbole, when I actually sat back and thought about it I realized that’s not far off. Golf is such an individual game – each guy is out there by himself (albeit with the aid of a caddie) competing against 140-odd other guys, the course, and himself. When you manage to piss off virtually the entire sport and singlehandedly incite rule change discussions, as Na has done repeatedly regarding slow play, the tour circuit must seem like a pretty lonely place (hell, Garrigus’ caddie even said it wasn’t fair that he had to play with him two days in a row). And yet Na doesn’t seem to let it affect him. He’s one of the more forthright, engaging interviews on tour, he’s honest about his struggles, and above all of that, he’s got serious stones. Shit, he almost holed out on the par-3 17th hole this week with everything on the line. After the ball narrowly skated by, he stepped up and buried a 14-footer. Kevin Na’s got demons, but maybe those demons are in the process of building a competitive monster. He’ll win soon.
2) As evidenced by the love we were offering on the tweet machine, Golf Channel is doing good work with the “Spotlight Coverage.” I hadn’t really noticed it until this week, but I honestly watched it in equal proportion to the NBC telecast. If you’re not familiar, basically they pick the three best holes on the course and just show those three holes exclusively. Sprinkle in copious amounts of the pro-tracer (the pro-tracer on the 16th tee was downright orgasmic. Side note: Chesson Hadley’s traj/line on that shot was beyond arrogant #respect). Then, add some on-point analysis from Curt Byrum, Scott McCarron, and others (really it’s a solid team effort, with zero ego involved), and golf stats that would make sabermetricians giddy (plenty of trackman stuff – highest spin rate on tour, lowest apex traj out there, longest distance to reach apex traj, highest percentage of right rough shots, etc.), and you’ve got yourself a potent second screen telecast. The other big plus is seeing nearly the entire field hitting the same shots, which is ripe for analysis and makes for fascinating comparisons (especially on that treacherous 16th tee this week).
If Golf Channel keeps this up, I may have to buy a second tv and throw the Spotlight on with sound and mute the NBC telecast on the other screen (maybe that’s not the best thing to say if we want this to continue). The sky’s the limit for this idea, and you have to give producer Keith Hirshland and the guys at Golf Channel props for green-lighting it. At the very least, it’s a great testing ground for some cool features for the main telecast. First class work.
3) For all the flack we gave Tampa, the hospitality area behind the 17th green got pretty live on Sunday. There were at least some bro’s out there trying to keep it real and give this event some cred, nevermind the smallish galleries. And there was a phenomenal “bababooey!” yell as Senden hit his approach into #17. You know we respect that.
4) Was great to see Graham DeLaet snap out of his mini-funk and nail down a solid result. He fought back from an opening round 75 (really not a bad round considering the conditions) to post 68-71-68 over the last three days. Not surprising to see him finish well considering his all-around game.
5) Not sure I’ve ever seen guys yoyo up and down the leaderboard like what was seen this week. The relatively modest pace set by the leaders kept a huge chunk of the field engaged in the main action and made for a pretty fascinating wire-to-wire race. While this certainly didn’t translate into great cinema down the stretch (largely due to almost everyone pissing down their leg at one point or another), it made for some intense scoreboard watching. It also made for quite a few guys who cost themselves serious money/points this weekend (Goosen especially – that was tough to see Sunday, especially coming off his major medical exemption – he can lock his card up if he plays well his next three events). Some of the young guys faded down the stretch – Spieth and English come to mind. Not bad, just goes to show you this game ain’t easy, even for them.
6) On the YOTTO front, Will MacKenzie’s T-4 should bump him up well inside the top ten on the 2014 index. MacKenzie’s got a really impressive YOTTO going on in the crockpot right now – he’s tallied eight top-15 finishes in the ’13-’14 reach-around season. To be that high on the YOTTO index this far in without a top-3 finish is incredible. Like all things WillyMac, we’re jealous. Dude’s game is tight, his flow is righteous, and his story is as good as it gets. He’s up to $1.2 million on the year and shows no signs of slowing down.
How Our Picks Fared
- Matteo Manassero – T8
- Jason Dufner – T14
- Jordan Spieth – T20
- Pat Perez – T44
- Justin Leonard – T54
- Ricky Barnes – MDF
- David Toms – MC
- Webb Simpson – MC
- Paul Casey – MC
- Peter Uihlein – MC
Let’s hope Patrick Reed responds to his bragging better than we did:
Oil Spill of the Week (Brought to you by BP)
Perhaps the easiest oil spill of the year. JD took a 12 on number 16 on his way to a 90.
Here’s the footage. Burn units were on site immediately and the fiasco was well handled by the Valspar volunteers before the fire spread:
Bonus Oil Spill of the Week
Justin Rose, the 7th ranked player in the world, hit one of the most special chunks you’ll ever see from a tour pro.
Seriously, watch this (courtesy of Adam Sarson aka the GIF Factory):
Get ready for a lot of Tiger this week. Between his ridiculous past success here, and the incredible scrutiny his back is under, and the countdown to Augusta nearing the legal drinking age, the microscope is going to be completely dialed in on his every move. There’s a hoard of people ready to panic if he doesn’t win this event by 4. If he plays poorly, we’re giving the full go ahead to panic.