First of all, be sure to check out this week’s PGA Tour Confidential over at Golf.com, along with the first-round pairings for the Match Play — which starts on Wednesday. If anyone wants to organize a pool or some type of bracket contest, let me know. Meanwhile, everyone keeps asking me, “Mexico or Match Play?” Neither! — I’m going home. (Woot!) I know I’ve mentioned it twice now, but hey, it’s been a while. Don’t worry, though, I’ll be back at it in time for the Honda Classic the following week.
Just some anecdotes and random tidbits to wrap things up…
*Stanford’s Andrew Luck was in attendance on Sunday, along with San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers and a man who needs no introduction — wait for it — Tim Tebow!!!
*Julie Haas got a voicemail from John Hopson, Bill’s friend from Wake Forest who was getting married at 6pm ET on Sunday, while he was signing his scorecard. It was about 6:23 ET. Wait, why was he calling? Shouldn’t he be walking down the aisle? Or had he already? It was kinda funny. In Bill’s presser, you could tell he felt bad about missing the wedding, which I felt was nice of him to acknowledge. I mean, I know guys out here who have missed their sister’s weddings to play in a tournament, so yeah…
“He just got married a few hours ago, and I really was meaning to go there, but this is a tournament that I have a hard time skipping. You know, I think that what we do with our profession, we miss a lot of weddings and a lot of birthdays just because we’re playing on weekends, and we travel a lot.
“But I think he understands. I’m sure I’ll talk to him later and hopefully his day is even better than mine. It’s pretty sweet for both of us today.”
*Bill briefly switched from the belly putter after the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions back to the conventional putter at the Humana Challenge, but that didn’t work for him. Instead he made a minor adjustment to the belly in San Diego — he had it cut an inch shorter. Julie says he sees the line better, and Jay Jr. says he’s more comfortable over the ball.
*Another interesting bit or two from Jay Jr. when asked how Bill has dealt with the spotlight or expectations after the Tour Championship last year: “I think — especially the first couple of tournaments this year — he’s put more pressure on himself to play well. We’ll see next week how he’s feeling. Hopefully he’ll relax and be like, ‘I’m a good player. I’ve figured it out.’ Yeah, I think he’s put pressure on himself this year to do as well as he did last year. I think he’ll repeat that.”
*One more from Jay Jr. when asked if Bill was was relaxed coming into the week: “Kind of. I don’t think he feels like he’s hitting it as good as he should be right now. I don’t think he feels real comfortable over a lot of shots. He’s having a hard time cutting it. And it’s make him mad. But you know, golf’s not about perfect shots — it’s about getting away with the bad shots.
*I’ve said this several times before, but Bill Haas is sneaky funny. Like his quote about “Phil sounding a lot like “Bill”…there was also this back-and-forth:
Q. Did you feel a little bit like the guy who told everybody there was no Santa Claus when you made that putt, taking it away from Phil?
BILL HAAS: Well, I don’t know if I took it away from Phil. They both birdied 18 just to be in the situation.
Q. On the last 40-foot putt.
BILL HAAS: That’s what I’m saying. They shouldn’t have been there. (Laughter)
Not really. That’s a hard putt. In my opinion I hit a really good chip just to get it to 40 feet, so I was happy about that. I thought I put myself in the best position to give myself the best case to continue the playoff. It just happened that I won right there.
But Phil hit a heck of a second shot. He got unlucky to roll over and go in the bunker. And then Keegan did the same. He hit a heck of a second shot that stayed on the fringe and gave himself a putt. I think that was a well-played hole. That hole proves it’s a very difficult short par-4, and it made for a good scene there.
I laughed the “That’s what I’m saying…” part because it’s true, they shouldn’t have hit it there. I guess you kinda had to be in the presser to get the full effect, but Bill is really candid without sounding or being a jerk.
*Speaking of No. 10, I chatted with Shack about Phil’s comment on the hole, which confused both of us.
“Well, (No. 10) was very U.S. Open-esque. You could see by 10 where you’re having to play defense, Bill wins it, but he had to play 60 feet away from 30 yards. It was very defensive because the greens were so firm, the pins were tough, and although there was no rough, it had kind of a U.S. Open feel.”
Fair enough — I get what he’s saying with the whole risk-reward component and the U.S. Open and the green plays so fast and firm — but as Shack pointed out, then why are you still hitting driver and going for the green if you’re playing defensive?
*I’m a big fan of No. 10 because of the risk-reward factor. From the feedback I got on Twitter, so are most of you guys. But is it “unfair”?
Q. 10 is a wicked hole… What’s it like to play that in a playoff, and what options are running through your head?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: It’s brutal. I mean, I think that hole can be a little unfair at times. You know, there’s not a really good place you can hit it to that pin unless you hit it on the green. Bill hit a great shot to get to where he was. You know, it’s just a hole that you kind of have to you have to hit really good shots. You’ve got to get a little lucky, too. My ball could have trickled over and then into the bunker and I didn’t have a putt. It’s a good hole for a playoff, that’s for sure.
For a second I thought par could have won that playoff hole when we were walking up, just because of where everybody was, and the shot Bill hit was amazing. He could have hit it in the bunker or done something. It’s a challenging hole.
As Haas would say, you shouldn’t have been there in the first place! Just kidding…I feel like “unfair” wasn’t necessarily the word Keegan meant to use. In his defense, I see where he’s coming from because he did hit a really good shot and I was surprised his ball trickled off, but then again, if he had hit his drive where he meant to (the front part of the green), he wouldn’t have been in the bunker.
*Shack noticed Phil went over to an official on No. 16 and mentioned something about scoreboards — or the lack thereof (which I actually noticed, as well) — so he asked Lefty about it afterward.
“I didn’t see (a scoreboard) for four holes, and then when I did, it never had the lead. It was a bunch of other stuff going on. It’s just frustrating. But it’s no big deal. It didn’t affect the tournament. I was just pointing that out so maybe he could say something for next time.”
Very good point. Even on 18, every time I looked over, it was showing the
irrelevant FedExCup standings or it was on anything but the first page of the leaderboard.
*Had things turned out differently, I think this would have been nearly as big of a win (if not bigger in some regards — yes, I realize the LA Open isn’t a major) as the PGA Championship for Keegan. It was the first time he’d played and contended on Sunday as a frontrunner and in the same group with his idol and mentor Phil. It wasn’t meant to be, but he still showed grit and guts, especially fighting back after a rough start and making that birdie on top of Phil’s on 18 in regulation.
Q. You may have just lost in a playoff, but am I right in assuming you won’t be sulking in your car this time like you were a year ago at Riviera?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: Yeah, I’ve got a lot of really good things to take away from this tournament. I hung tough with Phil Mickelson, one of the best golfers ever to play, in the final group, and when I got off to a pretty bad start, you see a lot of guys kind of crumble away, and I kind of fought back. I’ve got a lot to take away, but I’m also very disappointed. I would have loved to have won this tournament. Riviera is a special place, and I look forward to coming back in years to come.
*How about Sergio? What a great first nine (he teed off 10). I think a lot of us were rooting for him early to hang in there and at least get into a playoff. Garcia had two eagles on the back nine. While he had three birdies on the second nine, unfortunately, he also had two bogeys. He still shot an excellent seven-under 64, the low round of the day by three shots! Yep, Riviera was playing pretty tough on Sunday. Great finish and should give him confidence going into Match Play.
“I hit a great tee shot on 10, and I got quite a bad lie in the bunker, hit a great bunker shot and a good putt, unfortunately it didn’t go in. And then you’re kind of thinking, Jesus, here we go again. I hit a great second shot on 11, which I got a little lucky, it bounced just in the fringe and landed softly and made eagle there.”
Here we go, what? Not those darn golf gods again!? Anyway…
“Match Play is funny, and you guys know that. Match Play, I might go out next week and shoot 5under and get beaten. You know, it’s just the way it is. But obviously taking away the second round, which like I said earlier, I didn’t play that badly. I probably played to shoot maybe 1-over. But other than that, the first round was nice. Yesterday I played good. I messed up a couple of holes and today I obviously played nicely.
“It is good momentum for me, and I’m hoping that I can take it into next week and have a couple nice rounds early on and kind of get going as the tournament goes on.”
*Random, interesting note of the week: Mickelson drops to 21 of 31 when holding the third-round lead/co-lead.
Below shows players’ records when they held or shared the lead going into the final round of a stroke-play event on TOUR (this includes 72-hole and 90-hole events). This is not a “best of” ranking. There may be players who have better numbers than what is listed below. This list does not include the International.
Tiger Woods – 48 of 52 – 92.30 %
Ernie Els – 12 of 16 – 75.00%
Johnny Miller – 15 of 22 – 68.18%
Phil Mickelson – 21 of 31 – 67.74%
Mark O’Meara – 10 of 15 – 66.66%
Arnold Palmer – 32 of 49 – 65.30%
Nick Price – 09 of 14 – 64.28%
Lanny Wadkins – 10 of 16 – 62.50%
Lee Trevino – 15 of 25 – 60.00%
Jack Nicklaus – 38 of 64 – 59.37%
Vijay Singh – 18 of 31 – 58.06%
Curtis Strange – 11 of 19 – 57.89%
Steve Stricker – 08 of 15 – 53.33%
Jim Furyk – 10 of 19 – 52.63%
Hale Irwin – 12 of 23 – 52.17%
Tom Watson – 26 of 44 – 50.09%
Ben Crenshaw – 10 of 19 – 52.63%
Gary Player – 10 of 21 – 47.61%
Raymond Floyd – 12 of 27 – 44.44%
Tom Kite – 08 of 20 – 40.00%
*Finally, thoughts on Dustin Johnson’s short game? Keith from TaylorMade, Dustin’s BFF / life coach / caddie at the Presidents Cup might have a better wedge game. Proof in this video. Just kidding! I mean, that was a sweet pitch from Keith.
On the bright side, DJ didn’t have his best stuff on Sunday, but he still managed to tie for fourth, his second top-five finish in a row. Not too shabby. Most important, though, how do we all feel about the Heart hats? Yay or nay?
(AP Photos/Reed Saxon, Chris Carlson)