122 Holes Later
Rory McIlroy’s reward for winning his first 2 matches of the week was not a bye or a restful third match while waiting for the round of 16 to begin (like Rickie Fowler). No, instead, Rors had a do or die match against another 2-0 player in his group in Billy Horschel. Billy had McIlroy by the balls through about 15 holes. BH gave one of those away, but in the end it was the play of McIlroy that won the match and outlasted Billy.
Rory came out Saturday hitting on all cylinders and destroying Hideki Matsuyama 6&5, then found himself in a dogfight with Paul Casey late on Saturday. He again battled back to catch Casey until darkness set in and the twosome called their match for the day. The late finish meant he couldn’t fly to Vegas for the big fight, so he watched it in the media room and his agent ordered pizza for everyone.
Back at the golf course the next morning, on the 22nd hole Rory prevailed late in a match again. Furyk was next, and again he had to find his focus late in the match to overcome a deficit. All square on the final hole McIlroy found the green and had 35 feet for eagle after Jim misplayed his pitch shot and had about 15 feet for eagle. And this happened.
Boom! Rory is starting to be clutch on command like another phenom we all used to know.
McIlroy’s 3rd opponent of the day would be Gary Woodland. Watching Gary struggle mean Rory cruised to a 4 up lead after 8 holes in the championship match. His quick start against Woodland in the meant he didn’t have to sweat too much on the back nine. He drove the ball quite well on his way to victory while Woodland was often playing from the trees. The 4 & 2 final wasn’t really even that close even though Woodland could have got it down to a 1 hole lead after 13 where he gooched a short putt.
Don’t kid yourself, this win was big for Rory. He’d never won in California and I think he wanted to send a message after all the post-Masters Spieth talk. Like, “hey, look a me folks, I’m still fucking number 1”. He wanted this one bad which is why he fought so hard in every match when he could have rolled over and gone home. There’s no rest for the weary. His birthday is Monday and the Players Championship starts on the other side of the continent in 4 days.
Gary Woodland had a great week, but running into a force like Rory in the championship match and beating himself on the front nine probably left a bit of a bad taste in his mouth. As Johnny Miller pointed out, Gary was in uncharted waters against McIlroy in the final match. He’s won before, but doing so in Reno and Tampa is a little different than on a stage like a WGC event with the world’s number 1 staring at you from across the fairway. Gary got experience, he didn’t get embarrassed, and he got a big check. That’s a great week no matter how you slice it.
England’s Danny Willett had a great week too in finishing 3rd at the WGC. He beat a fellow countryman in Lee Westwood to get there. That had to be a thrill as I’m sure he’s looked up to Lee for many years. Danny lost to Woodland in the semis, but turned around and beat old man Furyk in the consolation match. Beating Jim meant he can play as a temporary tour member for the rest of 2015 as well. That’s a big deal for a Euro player. Great. Europe’s got another worthy Ryder Cupper that plays well in match play.
Golf Channel and NBC on air talent often discussed the quirks of match play and how a guy can shoot 74 and win while another guy in another match can shoot 66 and lose. Those are the breaks. I wonder what Jordan Spieth would have posted had this week been 4 straight up rounds of stroke play. The kid was 13 under at one point in the week and ended up losing to Lee Westwood in group play on a day when he didn’t have his A game and Lee got a few lucky breaks. Shit happens.
A Hard On For Harding
I remember a few past events being played at Harding Park in San Francisco, but I don’t remember thinking much of the golf course, that is until seeing it again this week. Something about its look, its trees, the framing, hole shapes, etc., really caught my eye from the first moment I saw it on Wednesday. Perhaps its the way the Tour set the course up and rerouted it. I can’t even begin to make notes on how it was routed this week compared to normal everyday play, but the changes were significant and nearly perfect if you ask me. The operators of this municipal golf course might want to adopt these changes permanently.
I think having the par 5s all being reachable certainly helped, and it should be no surprise that two bombers found their way into the final because of it. The holes around Lake Merced are truly special. The set up of the drive-able 16th made for all kinds of excitement. I’m a bit curious as to how the rough got to be so thick and lush in the middle of a horrid California drought, but that’s a whole different story for another time. Unfortunately, we won’t see this event back in San Fran anytime soon. The PGA Championship will visit the venue in a handful of years, but the WGC event announced a move to Austin, Texas for the next 4 years earlier in the week.
Shot Of The Week
Rory McIlroy hit a lot of great shots this week on his way to victory, but none were as good as the shot Ben Martin hit on 17 in his Wednesday round.
Ben’s ace won someone mortgage payments for a year. It also was key in his victory in his match versus Matt Kuchar. Great shot.
Back To Porn Stars
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn broke up today and NBC stopped their broadcast to let Steve Sands talk about it. Are you fucking kidding me? I suppose they have to acknowledge it in someway, but it seems to me this could have waited until Golf Central came on later on the Golf Channel. The press releases from both Vonn and Woods say that this was mutual and that their hectic lives were the reasons for their break up.
I’m sure it had nothing to do with her mooing all night long. They looked so happy a month ago at the Masters. Now this, who could have predicted such a thing? Yeah scroll down mother fuckers. I even called the month. And don’t you dare think that this didn’t have something to with her work in the weight room. Tiger’s game is always under the microscope. Now that Vonn is out of the picture it will be interesting to see if his game gets better immediately. I believe it will.