Three And Counting
Two shot lead to start the day, 2nd World Golf Championship start. Best field of the year to date at your heals. Tiger, DJ, Zach, Hunter, Duff, Kuchar all teeing off within striking distance. Patrick Reed is unfazed. All Reed did to start his round was go out and extend his lead in the early holes to four by making 2 birdies. He kept hitting greens and fairways on the front nine while his competition rinsed balls in the water, twitched over short putts, and ailed with bad back. Should we have expected anything less. He won the Humana 6 weeks ago going wire to wire. Why not do the same here? Patrick isn’t shy on confidence. He told anyone not muting NBC (thanks to Johnny Miller) that he believes he’s a top 5 player in the game. Three wins in about 6 months makes that statement hard to argue.
After a textbook first nine holes Reed’s first true test of nerves came at 11. A flyer from the rough left him over the green facing a long bunker shot. No fucking problem. A decent bunker shot followed by a great putt lead to a par. He looked like he could do no wrong until the 14th. After another phenomenal pitch around the green, Reed looked poised to brush in another par saving putt from about 4 feet. Instead he got stubby with it and missed, which meant we now had a more interesting finish on our hands.
At the devilish par three 15th, Reed short-sided himself and another bogey appeared likely. With Jamie Donaldson closing the gap and Bubba about to post 3 under, Reed looked like he’d have his hands full down the stretch. Instead Reed played the bunker shot of his life nearly holing out. A stress free par was just what the doctor ordered.
Reed’s curious layup into the bunker at 16 opened the door for more drama, but he squashed it quickly by hitting the green and making par. After Donaldson gagged and bogied his 72nd hole to tie Bubba in the clubhouse, Reed knew a bogey was good for the win when he got to 18. He smartly hit an iron, laid up, and wedged to 25 feet and to make an easy two putt bogey that sealed victory for the chubby Georgian.
Winning for a 3rd time in his career (2nd of the year) doesn’t change Reed’s life in ways his other victories might have, but it does make him a serious threat to win any tournament he tees it up in for the rest of the year. How long can he ride this heater that he’s on? How will he do in the majors (he’s never played in one)? What will he bring to the U.S. Ryder Cup team? These are all things we’ll find out in the next 7 months.
Johnson & Johnson
Dustin Johnson looked poised to jump up and catch Reed when he eagled the first hole of the day. Two more birds to go with a bogey had him 3 under through 7 holes. He was playing well. Then things got weird. His short game again let him down, but he also got some really shitty breaks over the last ten holes. Balls staying on the up slopes of traps, balls plugging in bunkers, flyers, etc. You name it and it seemed to happen to him, but not without him being somewhat at fault. With all that, he still cranks out another top 10 on the year and he gets to go home and let Paulina lick his………….ummmm……..wounds.
NBC dropped an interesting anecdote on us today about Johnson. Gary Koch mentioned that Claude Harmon was working with DJ at the Tour Championship last fall when it hit DJ that he’d had a shitty 2013. Not making the Prez Cup team was a wake up call for him and he decided to put in the work to get better. Now look at his 2013/2014 and its obvious his dedication is paying off. No shit? Funny how that happens. I’m sure Johnson has gotten by most of his life on raw/natural ability. Him finally being dedicated to his craft and not chasing pussy could be a scary thought.
Almost every other contender that started Sunday in the top 10 had an absolute shit day to help take pressure off Patrick Reed. Duf and Hunter shot 76s. Tiger a 78, Kuchar a 74, and on and on. However, nobody had the train wreck that was Zach Johnson’s final 9 of the championship. Zach was 2 under for his outward 9 and right in the thick of things when his tee shot at the 10th came up well short of the fairway and dove deep into the H2O like the Red October. His day only got worse from there.
Shooting 66 on Saturday to get himself back into contention at the WGC Cadillac Championship ended up being nothing more than a cock tease for golf fans. This was pretty easy to predict and I tweeted as such. Why? Because TW hasn’t backed up a good round in the 10 months since he won the Players Championship. He’s just too rusty right now to do it. And look at his stats from the first three rounds, those showed that he was first in a bunch of putting categories but fairly pedestrian in almost any stat that involved ball striking. That’s not a recipe for success on Sundays in championship golf.
After he tweaked his back playing from an awkward stance in a fairway bunker at the 7th hole, TW didn’t have a chance. He didn’t want to be there and if he hadn’t walked off last week at the Honda I think he would have WD’d today. The thing is, he actually needed the world ranking points, Fed Ex points, Ryder Cup points, etc. today and I’ll go to my grave thinking he was aware of that issue. He’s got too much pride to not know it.
So how bad was his round today? Wrap your head around this little factoid:
It's official. Tiger Woods' ninth career birdie-free round in 1,128 career PGA Tour rounds.—
Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) March 09, 2014
That’s amazing, and for anyone curious that means 99.993% of the rounds Tiger has played on the tour have included at least one birdie. To put that in perspective you only need to know that the earth being hit by a sizable asteroid in the next 400 years is more likely than Tiger Woods playing a round without a birdie. It is unreal to me that we all watched it happen today, while in contention, at Doral, with the red shirt on, bad back or not.
Supplemental coverage of the WGC provided on the Golf Channel over the weekend was quite well done. If you’re a tech/data guy when it comes to golf, then you probably loved it too. On TGC bonus coverage featured play on holes 15, 16, and 18. Getting to see every pro in the field take a swing at the drive-able 16th was a lot of fun. Even better, they Trackman data for ball speed, carry distance, and club head speed was provided when they showed most of the guys tee off with driver on 18.
I only watched the Saturday coverage because I didn’t watch the final round live, but I can’t say enough good things about it what I saw. I found myself watching this almost as much as the coverage on NBC (depending on commercials). I’ve read that the bonus stuff was pretty weak last week at the Honda, but it appears they ironed out the kinks for this week. My only complaint would be that I waited to see Bubba’s digits from his driver swing at the 18th tee and TGC whiffed. Never showed them. It’s probably not their fault. Trackman might not have been set up to catch a shot hit by a lefty. They didn’t get Phil’s either.
Curt Byrum anchored the coverage and never missed a beat. He did a great job of explaining what the players faced at each hole with the shots they were electing to play. He was also solid explaining what the data from Trackman meant for the home viewers. Byrum compared the numbers spit out to those of the average tour player. With the Trackman stuff becoming more common during coverage now, it might be helpful to show the tour player numbers compared to a 5 handicapper, a 15 handicapper, etc. just to put them in perspective.
GIF Of The Day
There really wasn’t a shot of the day that deserved recognition, so in lieu of that I’ve decided to provide my favorite Sunday moment worthy of a GIF. Miguel Jimenez (aka the Mechanic or the Rapist on this site) was leaking oil most of his round. He didn’t have a chance to win coming down the stretch, but he did still have a crack at making a nice check. At 18, the oldest player in the field at the WGC hit an incredibly short tee shot and was left with 230 yards to the flag. For some reason, either being that he pulled it or went flag hunting, his approach shot flirted with the hazard near the green and eventually bounced in. His reaction was the fun part.
Ahhh….that a boy. That wasn’t Miguel’s only outburst of the day. He chucked a club and did plenty of murmuring throughout the round. Needless to say he doesn’t seem to be fan of Gil Hanse and Donald Trump’s Frankenstein-like monster. The shades, the trucker hat, the shoes, the cigars, the wine, and now this……what’s not to love? The Most Interesting Man In Golf only gets more interesting.