When the PGA Tour announced the birth of the Fed Ex Cup and the playoff that would determine its winner, it made the fall events that are played after the playoffs somewhat insignificant. With the current Fed Ex set up, those events only matter to the players still trying to earn their cards for the following year. With that change the membership of Augusta National stopped inviting winners of the fall events to the Masters as they had traditionally done.
Therefore, when Jonas Blixt won the Frys.com Open last autumn he didn’t receive an invitation to Augusta. As of now, Blixt has never even played in a major. The former Florida State Seminole likely had that on his mind coming down the stretch in the final round of the Greenbrier. As Jimmy Walker and Johnson Wagner struggled a group or so behind him, Blixt kept grinding away to steal his 2nd victory on tour and lock up a trip to Augusta.
Blixt made enough birdies to get to 3 under for his round and catch Walker and Wagner before they each faltered further. Knowing he was ahead two shots on the 18th tee, he mishit his iron shot on the par 3 and left himself a circus-like putt of 50+ feet over the dead elephant buried beneath the putting surface. Blixt lagged his 1st putt to about a foot, stone dead, and there was nothing left for him to do but wait. Once Wagner and Walker failed to hole their final tee shots the big check and trophy belonged to Blixt.
If you’re not at all familiar with Blixt, do yourself a favor and check out this interview he did with Tim Rosaforte on TGC. It aired just before TGC began their early coverage on Sunday. Great timing, and Rosie is one of the best at what he does.
Johnson Wagner has won 3 times on tour, 2 of them when holding a 54 hole lead. Today was set up for him to add to his resume. Wagner’s game had been in the shitter as he’d missed 6 straight cuts before this week. Things got so bad he actually had to shave the pubes off his face (that horrible mustache) that had become his trademark to change his mojo.
Wagner’s personal grooming and swing tweaks lead him to the top of the Greenbrier leaderboard this week through 3 rounds. He completed his warm up on the range and practice green a few minutes before his final round tee time and then the horn blew to suspend play for a weather delay. If you’re scoring at home, that’s 15 of 29 events in 2013 that have been delayed by Mother Nature.
Three hours later Johnson was on the 1st tee hitting his first shot of the day (more on that later). Minus an uber-low round from someone, this was either Jimmy Walker’s, Jonas Blixt’s, or Johnson Wagner’s tournament to win. A final round of level par would have been enough for Wagner to hold on and take the trophy. Instead, his 73 likely caused by the long weather delay was the death blow to his chances at victory.
At some point Jordan Speith is going to figure out how to win a professional tournament on Sunday afternoon. The million dollar question is, when will that be? Speith keeps putting himself in contention week after week but comes up empty on Sunday. He is a phenomenal talent and has already had an amazing year as a 19 year old playing with no official tour member status. He’s won enough money to be exempt the rest of this year and next, but needs a win to become a tour member this year and get into the Fed Ex playoffs and PGA Championship.
He admitted in a pre-round interview on TGC that winning is really all he has to play for at this point. I think that’s the right attitude to have, but it seems to rattle him when he tees it on Sunday. The John Deere tourney is next and Speith is in the field. The Quad Cities might just be enough off the radar to make getting his first win a little less of a mind fuck. In other words, the low profile tournament is a good place to pick one off with less media pressure if he’s in contention.
Open Warm Up
It’s the time of year when we all start thinking about the (British) Open Championship. ‘We all’ being, us American blokes on this side of the pond. Maybe it’s the images of Wimbledon that get us thinking about tea and bad golf weather. Or maybe its the fact that so many regular tour members start making the jump overseas to play in the French and Scottish Opens to prep for the Open Championship. Either way, all eyes are starting to peer towards stately Muirfield and the championship it is hosting two weeks from now.
Graeme McDowell would have been on most of our short lists to win the Open no matter what he’d done this week in France. Then he went out and won the Open de France just to make sure we didn’t forget about the stubby mick. GMac had been a bit down on his game having missed some cuts in his recent tournaments. In fact, Graeme had either won or missed the cut in his last 8 starts. That’s 3 wins, 5 missed cuts.
This week in Froggyland McDowell found something in his ball striking that allowed him to whack the field by four shots. It could have been even more had he made a few putts before Sunday. I haven’t checked, but I’d bet this win moves him from about 20 to 1 odds to win the British to about 12 or 10 to 1. He’s a legit contender and has a good track record in bad weather. GMac isn’t teeing it up in the Scottish Open this coming week, which means his next start will be at Muirfield. I’ll be curious to see if he can hold on to the momentum from France or if we’ll see the McDowell that missed the cut at this year’s first two majors.
CBS got fist-fucked right from the beginning of their broadcast on Sunday when they came on the air. In what sounds like a decision heavily (pun intended) influenced by Greenbrier owner Jim Justice, the PGA Tour elected not to move up their start times on Sunday to avoid the inclement weather that was in the forecast. If Justice did make the decision, he’s a dumb fat fuck, and CBS should be furious.
The tourney was in a weather delay for the first 2 hours of CBS air time. Playing early and tape delaying the action would likely have avoided such an issue. Justice thought he deserved better by not having ‘his’ tournament play out this way. The players weren’t happy about it, and I can’t imagine CBS was either. Several players tweeted that they just wanted to be able to finish and get home, but the decision to stick to the planned times almost made that impossible. Johnson Wagner admitted that playing late and getting delayed likely affected his play and was part of the reason he didn’t win. Johnson clarified that he didn’t want to sound like a crybaby in making such a statement, but that’s exactly what he sounded like. Johnson likely has a point, but what good is making that statement to the media?
CBS lost the delayed conclusion of the tourney to the Golf Channel because of Justice’s narrow minded decision. They pay pretty good money to show each tourney they broadcast and the money shot typically comes Sunday when you find out who wins on the final hole. When the golf is weather delayed and finishes on the Golf Channel they miss out on this opportunity and ratings that come with it. If the action had been pre-recorded they’d lose a few viewers who already knew the winner via Twitter, the internet, etc., but they’d still be the network showing it for those that wanted to see it.
Ten years ago CBS would have dropped the coverage completely and started 60 Minutes on time. The finish of the tournament would have been nothing more than an internet rumor. Lucky for us, things have changed and the PGA Tour’s partnership with TGC gives them a safety net for those occasions when the networks are forced to jump ship. Whew.