1. A hectic time
Golfers can pick and choose the times they play, but there are some points in the season when they are all but compelled to tee it up. And tee it up often.
We are at the start of one of those stretches right now.
This week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral is the start of a six-week stretch in which there will be three tournaments where virtually of the top players in the world will assemble.
All but three of the top 50 in the world are at Doral and barring any withdrawals the top 64 will convene in three weeks for the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas. Two weeks after that? The Masters.
In between is next week’s Valspar Championship, where Jordan Spieth is the defending champion. The week following is the Arnold Palmer Invitational. And the week before the Masters is the Shell Houston Open, where Spieth is also expected to play.
“It’s a huge stretch of golf coming up,” said Adam Scott, who won the Honda Classic on Sunday. “Seems this year, there are two six-week stretches or so that is just jam-packed with all the biggest tournaments in the world. It’s amazing. Hopefully I haven’t peaked too early.”
Scott is correct in that this is far from the only busy period in 2016. Starting with the U.S. Open in June, there are four big events in an eight-week stretch. The WGC-Bridgestone, The Open and the PGA Championship take place over six weeks. Then two weeks after the PGA, the men’s Olympics begins and two weeks later it’s the FedEx Cup playoffs.
2. Drawing the line
The Waste Management Phoenix Open prides itself on big crowds and a party atmosphere, a concept that has been popular but is also pushing the boundaries of golf decorum. There comes a point when boorishness isn’t so endearing any more.
The same can be said for the Honda Classic, where at the par-3 17th, the grandstands surrounding the green have become a place for over-indulgence and obnoxiousness. And that hole is nowhere near as simple as the 16th in Phoenix, as it measures nearly 200 yards and plays over water.
But that didn’t stop the masses from shouting at Sergio Garcia on Sunday, yelling at him to “go back to the European Tour” or chanting at Scott to put “two more [balls] in the water.”
Garcia endured a heap of abuse last year as well at the Players Championship, where he lost in a sudden-death playoff to Rickie Fowler.
Tournaments find themselves in a predicament: they encourage the behavior and then are stuck when it comes time to ejecting the offenders.
3. No invite
Davis Love III (@Love3d) February 26, 2016
Call it an oversight or a bad move, but Justin Thomas not being invited to Jack Nicklaus’ house for the Ryder Cup dinner last week was an unfortunate outcome. Captain Davis Love III decided to invite potential Ryder Cup players to Nicklaus’ home, and he said 22 attended. Love apparently went 40 players down the Ryder Cup points list, and Thomas was outside, so in that regard it is understandable.
But Thomas, who finished tied for third at Honda, was ranked 40th in the world at the time. His victory in Malaysia last fall brought no Ryder Cup points but had it counted, he’d have been in the top 10. Now he is ranked 31st in the world and clearly a contender for the U.S. team. Thomas took the high road in comments to the media, acknowledging that he was not in the top 40 and hadn’t done much in 2016 before his Honda finish.
4. Fretting about the Ryder Cup
Leave to Jack Nicklaus to put things in perspective as it pertains to the Ryder Cup. The two-time U.S. captain, who also captained four U.S. Presidents Cup teams, played on six teams Ryder Cup teams. Nicklaus suggested that the American side needs to quit worrying about it so much, that the matches are supposed to be about sportsmanship and bragging rights.
“You talk about pressure,” Nicklaus said. “Are you trying to tell me you have more pressure trying to win the Ryder Cup than you do coming down the stretch trying to win the U.S. Open? Crap.”
5. From the interwebs …
Give Rickie Fowler credit for being a good sport and having a sense of humor as he watched SportsCenter on Sunday morning before the final round of the Honda Classic.
Rickie Fowler (@RickieFowler) February 28, 2016
6. Overcoming a quad
Scott had one of his all-time rounds in sight when he made a quadruple-bogey 7 at the par-3 16th hole Saturday. He was 7 under at the time on the par-70 course and still ended up with a 66 — tying for the low round of the day. Had he parred the hole, Scott could have easily shot 62 or perhaps 61.
Nonetheless, he became only the fourth player since 1983 to win a tournament on the PGA Tour after making a quad at some point during the tournament. David Graham did it that year at the Houston Open, and David Toms is the only player to do so in the final round — making a quad at the final hole at Quail Hollow in 2003. Before Scott, Phil Mickelson’s first-round quad at the 2009 Tour Championship he eventually won was the last.
7. Augusta changes
When discussing the possibility of changes to the par-13th hole at Augusta National, Nicklaus was surprised to learn that the hole measures 510 yards from the back tee. He remembered it being 465. It was at one time, but it increased over the years — it was in the 485-yard range when Nicklaus played his last Masters in 2005. It now measures 510 yards, but the hole still played the easiest on the course during last year’s Masters.
Nicklaus said he wouldn’t be opposed to the hole having more length but as a member of Augusta National he quipped: “I just pay my dues and keep my mouth shut. And that’s not one of my strong suits, you know that.”
Here is more on a possible land purchase at Augusta that would allow for such a change.
8. What we do and don’t know about Tiger
Know: he has started hitting shots, maybe even a few driver swings.
Don’t know: when he’s coming back.
Woods only needed to go on social media and say two weeks (“progressing nicely”) along with a 13-second video of one swing to ramp up speculation about a return to golf. Masters? Memorial? U.S. Open?
Progressing nicely. pic.twitter.com/HKnnluR1OW
Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) February 24, 2016
All of those would seem premature, simply based on the lack of activity in the past six months. There is also his tone from the Hero World Challenge in December, where he truly seemed resigned to having to take his time and not rush a comeback.
As much as Woods wants to play at Augusta National or wants to compete in majors, what is the point if he is not fully ready? Remember, he still has a golf swing that’s a work in progress. While others have been practicing and competing, he has been doing neither.
Woods should be in no rush, as there is plenty of golf for him to play when able and ready.
9. Long commute
Louis Oosthuizen finished runner-up in two major championships last year — the U.S. Open and The Open, where he lost in a playoff — but had gone winless since early in 2015. That changed Sunday when he won the European Tour’s Perth International in Australia.
Of course, Oosthuizen was one of only two top-100 players in the world entered. And he then had a long commute to Miami for the WGC-Cadillac.
So did South Africa’s Jaco Van Zyl, but he elected not to make the journey. Van Zyl won a Sunshine Tour event Sunday that earned him enough world ranking points to make the top 50 and qualify.
Van Zyl’s victory was worth approximately $12,100. He’d have earned $42,000 for finishing last at Doral.