British Open recap, PGA week and other thoughts.
Three weeks ago, I watched the British Open in the clubhouse of Leatherstockings Golf Club in Cooperstown, New York. The tournament had all the elements and drama of a classic major championship. However, I don’t see it emerging on the list of all-time great Open Championships, because the winner wasn’t a marquee dominant player. Zach Johnson earned his second major title and showed guts and determination that define major championship winners. There were four other players that also could have won this championship. Each should feel that they deserved the trophy. However, Zach hit the clutch shots and putts when the others couldn’t.
Jordan Spieth continues to impress. He seems to play with the utmost confidence and with a predestined attitude that he will overcome and come out on top. His four putt on the 8th hole would have sunk most players, but he immediately rallied and birdied the next two holes. His unlikely birdie putt on 16 put him tied for the lead. I can only imagine the roars around the country when that putt went in, because in the little clubhouse bar in Cooperstown, we made the walls shake. The missed eight footer on 17 was unexpected and his chance for birdie on 18 was foiled when his wedge hit pin-high and backed up 30 feet. What I liked was that he didn’t blame bad breaks about playing is super windy conditions or very dark conditions. He acted like a champion in the finest Jack Nicklaus tradition.
Louis Oosthuizen is so good, when he is on. I can’t think of a smoother or more rhythmic swing from a first class player even in the most pressured situations. Most of the time, he made it look easy. But ultimately his putting let him down. He had his chances earlier to build a substantial lead, but he couldn’t convert the needed putts. Marc Leishman was this major championship’s surprise contender. Although a fine player, he hasn’t shown major championship quality play up to now. Until he proves otherwise, this tournament probably will be his only major championship chance. Finally, Jason Day has made another run for a major championship. I think he will find a way to win a major. As good as he is, he contends but doesn’t win regularly on either the Europe or US PGA Tour. Maybe, the Canadian Open win will give him the insight and key to closing the deal more often.
This week is the final major championship, the PGA Championship that will be played on a true championship test. Whistling Straits in Wisconsin is a fantastic golf course and should rank at or near the top of all major championship golf courses. The winner this week will have to have all elements of his game working and be a bit lucky to not have to endure possible strong wind conditions. Unlike St. Andrews, Whistling Straits is tough in normal conditions, but the wind makes it even more challenging. I see the winner being a familiar name with my top five being, Jordan Spieth, Louis Oosthuizen, Jason Day, Bubba Watson, and Ricky Fowler. My dark horse pick is Dustin Johnson. He should be my second pick, but he fell apart at the British Open after leading for two rounds and hasn’t put together a good tournament since. Right now, he is a mystery, but Whistling Straits is his type of course. I could be his week for a breakthrough for his first major championship.
No article is complete without a mention of Tiger Woods. St. Andrews is by far the easiest major championship venue. On Thursday the course played with no wind and perfect summer temperatures. It was primed for low scoring and it seemed that 80% of the field shot rounds in the 60’s. However Tiger shot a shaky four over par 76. No player bogied the first two holes, but Tiger did. On the first hole, players laid up from 70 to 100 yards to play their sand wedges over the Swilican Burn, a small 12 foot wide creek in front of the 1st green. Tiger laid up to 135 yards and promptly hit it in the water. On the second hole, which is relatively open and where you can be aggressive, players who drove the ball had between 90 to 120 yards into the pin. Tiger hit an iron off the tee and had 175 yards to the pin. He hit that ball fat and was fifty yards short. That basically sums up Tiger Woods at the Open Championship. You can’t compete by being afraid and not aggressive. He tried to spin it in a positive manner, but his actions spoke volumes.
Tiger competed one other time before this week’s PGA Championship. He put together two solid rounds of 68 and 66 and was in contention after two rounds at the Quicken Loans National Tournament at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Virginia. However, on Saturday he reverted to poor ball striking and except for some brilliant short game play, his round of 74 could have been much higher. He finished the tournament with a nice 68 and a tie for 18th. However, he was 5 under for the first 10 holes and instead of keeping the pressure on and making more birdies, he bogied three of the next four holes to lose all momentum. Yes, there were signs of encouragement, but it also shows that he still has a long way to go. I don’t see this week’s PGA Championship as a breakout tournament for Tiger, but I don’t put anything past him.