This edition will not be sectioned off. I’m wrapping them all into one with my notes from covering The Players Championship for PGA Tour Radio.
- I’m happy for Rory Mcllroy. He erased the notion that he couldn’t close out a tournament on the weekend after dominating in the early rounds. The talk was generated from his bad final round last year at Augusta when he was paired with Patrick Reed. Many thought Reed would falter, not Mcllroy. That talk continued after he didn’t close in Mexico or at the API when he was near the top on the weekend. He found himself there again on Saturday, the final group, and shot what seemed like a pedestrian -2, 70 leaving him one shot back of Jon Rahm (-15). The Saturday 70 was actually masterful since he only hit 4 fairways on the day. He had hit 21 of 28 during the first two rounds, but needed to see Bagger Vance before the final round. He actually hit the range right after the round to fix his swing, and regain confidence with the best club in his bag, the driver. He struggled early off the tee, but I think that had more to do with winds than his swing. But he wasn’t as “on” as he was early in the week. He even hit less than driver on 14 to the find the fairway and avoid hitting it long into the bunker, where he was the day before. However, that did not help him avoid bogey as he tugged his approach into the green side bunker and was unable to get up and down. Then he hit the shot on 15, an approach from 177yds in the right waste bunker that landed like a butterfly with sore feet (a borrowed line from colleague Mark Immelman). He proceeded to make a 14 foot slider to return him to -15 and tied for the lead with Jim Furyk (yes, 48 year old Jim Furyk who had a magical week). Rory then bombed a drive 347 yards, leaving 171 to the flag on the par 5 16th hole. Another winged creatures landed softly from the right rough, leaving 19 feet for eagle. The putt missed, but the tap in gave Rory the lead. Two pars on the two tough holes (17 and 18) secured the in for Mcllroy. Following the win, Rory was very gracious in victory and laughed when I commented during our radio interview “you can finish”.
- Rory also said in that interview that he said to himself after the birdie on 16 that all he needed was 3 good swings to win. The tee shot on 17, the tee ball on 18 and the shot into the green. He wasn’t focused on the score or birdie, just quality swings.
- Jim Furyk would have been a popular winner, but Rory’s win has the golf world buzzing that he is ready to take off again. Let’s hope so, and let’s hope Jordan Spieth get’s it going again soon too. Spieth did tell a few reporters that the putter is back and he just needs his ball striking to get back up to speed.
- Tiger Woods changed the way everyone that puts a ball in the water will play the drop zone on 17. Tiger rinsed it on Saturday and put another in the water from the drop zone. He made triple bogey and killed his chances of winning. Upon further examination (after the round) it was discovered that he could have taken a drop on the walkway to the green. I asked Mark McCumber (1988 champion and PGA Radio colleague) how that could happen and he gave a great response. McCumber said it’s easy to say he should have, but as the player you’re steaming from hitting the ball into the water on one of golf’s biggest stages. Furthermore, the drop shot is most often easier than awkward chip from small strip of land. The lesson we can all learn from it is to stop and think of all options after hitting a shot into a penalty area.
- I think it’s fair to say the move of The Players to March was a huge success. The course looked amazing with the overseeded rye grass around the course, and the competition was fantastic. The Sunday finish was thrilling with the Jonathan Vegas, Eddie Pepperill, Jim Furyk, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, and Rory Mcllroy battling it out.
- It was great to run into some familiar WNY faces in the gallery at The Players. If you want to attend a star-studded golf tournament with high stakes on a familiar course, The Players is a great choice.
- It was tough watching Phil Mickelson struggle in the first two rounds. The most shocking was his 4 putt on the third hole in the first round. The first putt was from 25 feet, and he then lipped out two straight 4 footers. He needs to regroup a bit (maybe some rest) to get ready to contend at Augusta.
- One final moment to share: While walking up the hill back of the green on 18 to call Rory’s final putts, I stopped to say hello to PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan. He shook my hand (we had met the day before) and said hello, Kevin. I said “Jay, how great is this?!” His response “Awesome!”. It was genuine excitement from how things had unfolded with all of the fireworks that led to Rory’s victory.