From Unrecognizable To Repeat Champ
Remember 4 days ago when I told you the defending champ at Dubai would be the ‘Opie-Looking-Motherfucker’ playing in the company of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy? I suspected Gallacher would go largely unnoticed, place some where in the smack dab middle of the field, and we’d all forget he even won the tournament 365 days ago. Round 1 seemed to make my preconceived notions almost a reality. Rory shot an effortless 63 that could have been much lower. Tiger shot a 68 while hitting the ball everywhere but the fairway. I slept through the shots the Golf Channel showed that added up to Gallacher’s 66 in round 1.
Opie’s 2nd round 71 seemed even more pedestrian and I’d written his chances of repeating off until I woke up Saturday morning in North America to see what he’d just done. Take a look at his back nine, and even more impressive, his last 10 holes.
Yes, you’re reading that right. He went 10 under for his last ten holes. One par, one eagle, 8 fucking birdies. That’s insane. That effort was enough to give him a two shot lead heading in to the final round. Gallacher tried to give it away. He played some shameful golf on the front nine to lose his lead, but found a port in the storm on the back nine and posted a 4 under score to cancel out his 4 over front 9. After his back nine birdies and dodging more bullets fired at him from his competition, the trophy was his.
Congrats to Gallacher for defending, that in itself is a rare accomplishment these days in major professional golf. This is a big deal for him. It would appear to move his OWGR up to a high enough position to get him invited to the Masters this year. Stephen has never played in the Masters. This was also the 25th edition of the Dubai tournament. All other (living) former champs were in the field, and knocking off the likes of Rory, Tiger, Stenson, and other big names of the Euro circuit can’t do anything but help your confidence.
In Your Grillo
Through 15 holes Gallacher was still two over par for the day with what seemed like half the field ready to challenge for the clubhouse lead. Emillo Grillo (image below) came to the 18th tee at 13 under par and was hoping to post a score that would give him a chance at a playoff. He bounced his 2nd shot at the par five off the hospitality suites and on to the green. Of course he promptly drained a 50 footer for eagle and signed for the round of the day, 6 under 66. That left him one ahead of Gallacher, but before Gallacher could even look at a scoreboard he’d pulled even with Grillo by making birdie at 16.
One of my new favorite players to watch was also in the hunt to win in Dubai. Big hitting American Brooks Koepka travels to any tourney he can, no matter the country, no matter the field, just to tee it up and keep trying to make his way to the PGA Tour. Koepka contends far more than he misses cuts and is probably a better player right now than any of his peers (cough, Rickie Fowler, cough) that have exempt status on the big tour. Koepka inched up another international leaderboard this week into contention. He had several chances to make birdies on the back nine that could have vaulted him in to the lead, but he couldn’t convert.
I’m sure he’s disappointed to not close the deal in Dubai today, but he’s playing well and told TGC that he’ll be playing in the states (and Puerto Rico) for the next few weeks. I suspect he’ll contend and use these opportunities to cash in make a home for himself like Jordan Spieth did last year. He’s too good not to.
Another $woosh Queef
For Rory this provides us all of a look at where is game is. His brilliance in round 1 shows us he’s on his way back, that goes without question. His subsequent scores for rounds 2-4 leave you wondering if he’s close but not at the level of consistency we’re used to seeing from him. He also got the trots thanks to some bad take out food and this might have had an impact on his game, however, I don’t think that’s an excuse to make 3 bogies in 4 holes to eliminate any chance you have of winning the tournament.
Tiger on the other hand……well, I think the following tweet says it all.
He doesn’t give a fuck. He admitted this week that he’d hardly touched a club in the time off he had from his World Challenge to the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. Was he busy skiing with Vonn? Was he with his kids? No one knows and he doesn’t want you to know. He’s willing to take whatever game he can find when he gets to the regular events at this point, in my opinion. He’s using all these other schmuck tournies as warm ups and practice for majors. There’s no majors on the schedule for 9 more weeks. Why should he waste his time and wear down his body for golf that hardly counts in his mind? We can judge this all we want right now, but in the end we’ll have to wait and see the results. If he ramps up his schedule in March, plays better, and peaks at Augusta…..no one will be talking about T80 and T41 finishes to start his 2014.