I had the pleasure of following Patrick Reed during the final round, announcing his shots and victory for PGA Tour Radio. His final round 67 was masterful and nearly flawless, blemished only by a closing bogey that narrowed his margin of victory to one over Bryson DeChambeau. Most will remember his charge on the final few holes as he birdied 15,16, and 17 to move ahead. But there were 3 par saves that were critical to his success. The first came on the 3rd hole. Reed likes to work his golf ball from right to left, hitting a draw into most greens. He pushed his tee shot right and played his chip outside of 40 feet to the 9 feet below the hole. 9 footers are not gimmes on any tour and Reed was able to drop it over the front edge. The second came on the par 5 11th, a hole that is reachable in two shots by most players. He pushed his second shot right, pitched it over the green from the trees, popped a wedge on the service and drained an 11 footer to save par. He fist pumped on that one because it kept him in the race. The third and final big par save come two hole laters on the par 3 13th. He pushed his tee shot (once gain) to the right, but it was on the green, over 60 feet away. 60 footers are not routine on the tournament and his effort ran 8 feet by the hole on the left side. Those 8 feet where downhill and trickle, but once again managed to sink another tester to keep himself in the race. His mental toughness is rivaled by few on the tour, a trait that will serve him well going forward.
I found myself in a strange circumstance during the final round of the Mexico Championship. I was being shuttled up to the green on the second hole when I heard a golf ball rattling in the trees above me. I was on the cart path right of the second green, a good 30 yards right. The area was heavily treed and I saw the ball fall in the hard pan below the trees. The ball then bounced forward onto the cart path that runs up the right side of the 8th hole and proceeded to role down the path. The ball traveled a good 25 yards before making a left turn onto the ground below the trees, 30 yards behind the 2nd green. I was the only one who noticed, and then it dawned on me, that had to be Justin Thomas’ drive. The altitude made the nearly 400 yard hole drivable for many players, and I knew Thomas had the tee box, as he was the leader of the golf tournament at the time. I quickly walked to the location and stood over the golf ball. I felt the need to guard it so it was not taken by a spectator, a really possibility given how far off the beaten path this ball was. Several minutes passed and I was the only one by the golf ball. I feared that everyone was looking right of the green near the back of the driving range, an area where Hidecki Matsuyama had lost his drive the day before and had to take a lost ball penalty and re-tee. However, I couldn’t leave the ball. Thankfully, Justin Thomas appeared with a small army of fans marching behind him, and I waived him over. He would proceed to put the next shot on the green (no small feat), nearly miss a birdie and convert an improbably par. I joked to my producer that if he went on to win, JT would owe me one. That probably jinxed him right there since he ended the day shooting +2 for a total of -13, 5 shots behind winner Patrick Reed.
-PGA Tour players live a great a life, or at least it seems that way. They play golf for a living, and a really good living compared to most of us. The time away from home is the sacrifice, but I was stunned to here one player tell me this while waiting in the customs line in Atlanta following the WGC Mexico Championship; “I’m off the next two weeks. I haven’t been home since Thanksgiving”. What!? The player was Matt Kuchar. He said with the Presidents Cup in Australia and being close to Hawaii he stayed in that part of the world. His family was with him for that, but he was flying solo back home. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given the demands of the early stretch of 2020 and the big tournaments on the schedule, but it was still surprising to hear.
-Brooks Koepka continues to be one of the better quotes in golf even though it seems he doesn’t enjoy speaking to the media. He’s candid and unafraid to say what’s on his mind.
-The Tee 2 Green Radio show starts next week, March 7 on WGR 550 AM in it’s traditional timeslot 7-8 am. Stay tuned for updates on new partners and venues for this season.
-Congratulations to Jon Rahm on his hole in one on the par 3 17th at Chapultapec. And he delivered to the media center!