May
1
2017
First PGA Tour win for Cameron Smith at NOLA team event renders him speechless (*Updated)
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

It took 76 holes, with four extra on Monday morning to determine the winning duo at the weather-delayed Zurich Classic of New Orleans, but it was worth the wait, particularly for Cameron Smith, the only one of the four who had yet to secure a victory on the PGA Tour. And it was even more fitting that he clinched the win, holing a knee-knocker three-footer for birdie.

In the inaugural year of the event’s team format, the duos of Jonas Blixt/Cameron Smith and Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown went into extra holes on Monday morning after Kisner’s thrilling chip-in for eagle on the final hole in regulation on Sunday evening.

I mean, it wasn’t even “nearly dark” for the last group as they played the par-5 18th at TPC Louisiana, it was actually dark, like to the point that Kisner was lucky he was able to use the light reflecting off the water of a leaderboard to see the hole. (Most people know this, but it always looks like there’s more daylight than there is in reality on TV.)

Both teams finished at 27-under in regulation. Blixt and Smith went bogey-free and maintained a clean card in the four playoff holes, as well. Considering the format for two of the rounds was alternate shot, that’s incredibly impressive.

The better-ball, sudden-death playoff started on the par-5 18th Monday morning and all four players had trouble holing makable putts on the rain-soaked greens. After three pars on the first three playoff holes — which were 18-18-9 — the guys headed back to the 18th once again, Blixt, Kisner and Brown all had birdie putts within around 20 feet, which they all missed, but Smith knocked it to just over three feet and drained the putt for birdie to clinch the win. I suppose third time’s the charm!

Pardon the rant: Thank goodness, too. I’m not sure viewers could have handled watching pro golfers play yet another par-5 in multiple-hole playoffs to consecutive days in a row. On Sunday evening at the LPGA’s event in Texas, Cristie Kerr and Haru Nomura went into a playoff and played the same hole, the par-5 18th, six excruciating times before Nomura prevailed. It was especially painful since it only shed more light to the design flaws of the hole, which made it an especially rotten playoff hole. I’m not done with addressing this issue, but we’ll come back to it.

Back to the Monday finish in NOLA.

The 23-year-old Australian was so emotional for securing his maiden PGA Tour victory that he was literally speechless in the interview on the 18th green. No exaggeration. He was unable to speak. Luckily, Jonas has probably never had that problem in his life, as the Swede is known to be affable and chatty.

In both his television interviews, he was too emotional to find any words. However, in one of them, he managed to utter, “Um…I can’t even talk,” and then shook his head. It’s all good, Cameron. Congrats on your first Tour win and kudos to Blixt for his third.


This awkward interview from Sunday was…bizarre. I have no words, but I’m still cringing.

 


Back to the LPGA playoff rant.

Despite strong criticisms in the past for the LPGA’s policy of delegating playoffs to one hole over and over again until a winner is determined, this was a painful reminder of the flawed custom. And it was even worse since Kerr appeared to employ gamesmanship tactics by slow-playing her opponent. Kerr is already a deliberate player, but managed to double down during the playoff and was called out by Golf Twitter.

The combination of these factors were a disservice to Nomura’s fine play and win, as the conversation was solely focused on Kerr’s agonizingly slow play and poor sportsmanship, along with the boring slog of watching the duo play the same less-than-ideal hole six times.

Hope the uproar and criticisms that were aplenty will finally force the LPGA to rethink designating only one hole for playoffs. If a winner is quickly decided — let’s put the cap at needing only two extra holes — then it’s fine, but that’s obviously not a given since this isn’t the first time that the monotony of playing the same hole over and over has created anticlimactic ending. And it sounded like quite a few viewers deemed it unwatchable and either turned it off and/or changed the channel to catch the ending of the PGA Tour event.


 

I have to run to an appointment, so I’ll address it at length when I return, but I found this news a bit disturbing, to say the least.

I get that tournament organizers want to try something different, but I don’t think this is exactly sending the right message and it’s a bit tone-deaf. I mean, it’s basically a popularity contest that will be judged superficially. It feels like we’re back in high school and these ladies are running for homecoming queen.

Stay tuned for full rant later today.


 

*Update*

I forgot that I had multiple appointments this afternoon and evening and somehow didn’t get home until 9pm — and there were no meals and/or drinks involved, sadly. I have other crap to take are of before super early wakeup call Tuesday, as I’m heading on a mini road trip to Connecticut for the Travelers Championship media day (woohoo!). Alas, a longer, thought-out column on this social media competition for a spot in the field at the LPGA Shoprite Classic will have to wait for Wednesday.

I have mixed feelings on the stunt, but hey, it’s effective on some level because it’s creating a discussion that can actually be productive. However, I find it somewhat demeaning toward women pro golfers. I know it’s kind of a byproduct of our superficial culture and the standards by which we judge female athletes, particularly in golf.

I’ll leave you with this (for now): Imagine if a PGA Tour event staged a similar contest with four candidates, like Camilo Villegas, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Morgan Hoffmann and Billy Horschel. That simply wouldn’t happen.

Screenshot of early voting results:

lpga shoprite classic social media popularity contest

To be continued…