It was a much needed calm between two storms this week on the PGA Tour. A week after Dustin Johnson dominated the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the 2020/21 PGA Tour season began in Napa, CA. With the return of football and the NBA playoffs, eyes were off the golf world. That will change next week. Despite the NFL, NBA, college football and more, the US Open at Winged Foot will take center stage this weekend. Okay, that might be wishful thinking, but at the very least it will add to an already packed weekend of sports.
Even a slow golf week had plenty of action, between the Safeway Open and another LPGA Tour major. Here is a look back at the week of golf and a look ahead to one of the most important tournaments of the year.
With the US Open at Winged Foot in New York this year, most big names stayed away from Napa. Longtime veteran Stewart Cink won his seventh PGA Tour tournament at -21. He finished with a strong -7 65 to close out the victory. He had his son Reagan on the bag for the tournament.
Twenty-two-year-old Doc Redman finished three strokes back tied for third in the event. He was eight off the lead after 54 holes, but a strong -10 62 saw him rise to the top of the leaderboard when he finished the final round. Harry Higgs started his season off strong with a -19 week to earn second place.
Phil Mickelson also took part, playing in his first tournament since he won his debut Champions Tour event. He couldn’t match his record-breaking performance at the Charles Schwab Series at Ozarks National, though finishing T-44 at -10.
The Ladies also took to California last week, with the second major of the year, the ANA Inspiration. It took place at Mission Hills CC in Rancho Mirage. Mirim Lee took home the crown after a playoff. The 29-year-old defeated youngsters Nelly Korda and Brooke Henderson.
Realistically, though, it probably never should’ve gone to a playoff. Both Henderson and Lee hit a weirdly placed blue wall on the 18th hole. Without it, both of their balls would have likely gone into the water hazard near the green. It’s unclear what the point of the wall was, but Lee managed to chip-in for eagle after hitting it, and Henderson made birdie. Lee followed it up with a birdie on the playoff hole, and the rest was history.
US Open at Winged Foot
The last time there was a US Open at Winged Foot, the course won. Sure, Geoff Ogilvy gets his name in the history books, but it wasn’t pretty. The cut was +9. The winning score was +5. Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie double-bogeyed the last hole to fall to +6. Jim Furyk bogeyed the last hole to fall out of a playoff. It didn’t feel like there was a real winner, only a man who didn’t lose.
Today, golf is in a completely different place. A 300-yard drive isn’t a commodity, it’s a requirement. The course is listed as over 200-yards longer than it was in 2006, but that shouldn’t matter. Players are longer than ever, and 500-yard par fours are now the norm.
A list of favorites should probably start and end with Dustin Johnson. He’s been the best golfer in the world since the PGA Tour restarted. Despite that, no one can be counted out of this one. John Rahm and Justin Thomas have been solid since the Tour restarted, each getting a win (or two, in Rahm’s case). Colin Morikawa was another multi-time winner on the Tour post-restart, and he will be looking to follow up his PGA Championship win with another major. Bryson DeChambeau has also been electric this year, but can he turn that electricity into his first major?
Of course, most of the golf world will be rooting for Phil Mickelson. His collapse at the last US Open at Winged Foot was monumental. He’s still looking to complete the career grand slam. He has finished second six times at the US Open. While his odds are long, he will be looking to pull out an old school lefty performance, without the choke at the end.
Two big names have withdrawn from the US Open at Winged Foot already. Scottie Scheffler tested positive for that lovely virus we can’t seem to get rid of, and Brooks Koepka is still dealing with lingering injuries. Even though he hasn’t won many “regular” tournaments, Koepka is always a threat in majors. The 30-year-old won the 2017 and 2018 iterations of the tournament, but won’t get the chance for three at Winged Foot. Not Gucci, bruh.
The Fall of Jordan Spieth
This is a bit of a non sequitur, but remember Jordan Spieth? He didn’t do anything special this week (missed the cut at -1); this is literally just asking if anyone remembers him. It’s crazy: he won the first two majors in 2015, added top-five finishes in the other two and was only 22 (21 during the Masters) when he did it. He was on track to be the next Tiger. In fact, he almost broke Tiger’s record for youngest Masters champion in 2014 when he was runner-up. He then won the 2017 Open Championship after a Sunday that featured a shot that took 20 minutes and an eagle putt that produced the iconic “Go get that” line to his caddy. He hasn’t won since.
So now what? Bovada have him at 125/1 odds to win his second US Open. That’s worse than Phil Mickelson, whose most recent win was on the Champions Tour, and the same as Cameron Champ, Si Woo Kim and Joaquin Niemann, who the average sports fan has likely never heard of. The Official World Golf Rankings have him 67th, right in between Rasmus Hojgaard and Sunghoon Kang. No disrespect to them, but they aren’t exactly stars.
The thing is, his career is far from over. He’s nine years younger than Dustin Johnson, who’s been the star of the Tour post-restart. He has plenty of time to return not just to the top, but maybe even to dominance. At the same time, he can completely fade into obscurity. Who knows what will happen. The game’s weird.
Tiger Watch: Winged Foot Edition
There’s really not that much to say. After being eliminated from the FedEx Cup Playoff, Tiger Woods has been on the down low. He played nine holes Sunday and only hit the range Monday. He’ll address the media at 11:30 on Tuesday, and then look to get revenge on the course he missed the cut at 14 years ago. The hunt for history continues.
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