May
13
2012
2012 Players Championship open thread: Na and his waggle try to close, Rickie in contention again & spotlight on slow play
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Rickie? Nope.

Wow, has Rickie Fowler shrunk? Nope, it’s not him — it’s one of many fans dressed in Fowler’s traditional Sunday all-orange. The above picture is Ryder Sutcliffe, 12, of Jupiter, Florida, waiting on the second fairway during the final round of the Players Championship.

Things to note:

*Can Kevin Na finish in time to determine the winner of the 5th major? He sure hopes so. In his first three holes, he’s playing surprisingly fast. Like he said, bear with him — it’s more painful for him than it is for us, not to mention embarrassing. Imagine baring your soul to the world about your quirks and problems, and basically, admitting you’re crazy (or you have a slight OCD problem). Not easy. Kudos to Na. Let’s show him some support as he tries to battle his demons, which many of us can relate to — the difference is, we don’t have to do it on national TV.

What’s most amazing is he still manages to stripe the ball after yelling at himself for backing off five times and/or whiffing!

*Here’s a clip of one of Na’s whiffs (which doesn’t count as a stroke because he’s not intending to hit the ball), courtesy of Geoff Shackelford:

*For all the talk about Na’s slow play, he and Johnson got around the course in 4 hours, 5 minutes, according to Ryan Ballengee. Previously, the fastest final twosome he timed was Matt Every and Jeff Maggert, who played in 3 hours, 45 minutes, at the Sony Open.

*Still, there’s a slow play problem that needs to be addressed. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said they’re thinking about actually enforcing a rule for the first time in 21+ years!

I actually think we might want to experiment with penalty shots.  But I don’t think penalty shots make a difference to be honest with you.

I beg to differ. It certainly would make them play faster when every player knows each stroke adds up to a boatload of money.

*A sight you don’t see every day: Rickie wandering into the media center looking for a restroom. It’s “GO TIME,” as he’d say.

*Speaking of Rickie, can he come from behind to become the first player to win back-to-back weeks since Tiger Woods won the Buick Open and the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone invitational in 2009? Well, he was off to a great start, draining a 20-footer for birdie on No. 4, but followed it with a double-bogey on No. 5. His approach shot found the greenside bunker, where he had a horrible lie.

*Tiger shot an ugly 40 on the front nine, but rallied on the back to post three birdies, including on the 16th and 17th, to go out with a three-under 33 and card 73. Not bad considering his start.

*Matt Kuchar trails Na by two shots and looks like he’s in some trouble on No. 5.

*Other players within striking distance: Zach Johnson is nine-under, along with Fowler. World No. 2 Luke Donald has found his stride on the back nine, draining three birdies in a row on Nos. 15-17. He still has to par No. 18, but he’s currently nine-under and at the rate things are going, the field just might come back to him. I think he’ll probably stick around for at least a little bit…

*Then there’s the guy who has gone completely under the radar even though he’s probably the hottest player at the moment: Ben Curtis. Last three starts? Win (San Antonio), T13 (New Orleans), and Charlotte (T5). He’s playing in the second to last group with Fowler.

*So, who you got to win?

(AP Photo/David Goldman)