by Jeff Skinner
So this is the “New Look Memorial.” The leaderboard is missing all the big names that normally grab all the attention. There is no Tiger Woods in the top ten; he’s ten strokes back and T20. Phil Mickelson fared somewhat better but not much. He’s eight back and T12. In the top ten golfers Jim Furyk is the only major winner and he is tied for sixth and seven behind the young, leader Rickie Fowler.
It looks to be a battle between Rickie Fowler and Ricky Barnes. Fowler still holds a three shot lead on Barnes but Barnes shot an unbelievable round of 62 on Saturday missing the course record by one stroke. Barnes had eight birdies and an eagle to score a magnificent ten under on one of the tougher courses on tour. Yes, they were playing lift, clean and place but a 62 is a great round no matter the circumstances.
Fowler was finding nothing but pars until the ninth when he manufactured a shot that wouldn’t spin off the green and settled six feet from the hole. He converted the birdie and picked up two more on the back nine to shoot a ho-hum 69 and keep his three stroke lead. Fowler not only plays with a gambling style but he has the game to work the ball and invent some shots when the circumstances demand it. He explains how he got his ball to stick on the green at nine. “I was trying to keep the ball down. I was trying to start it left of the hole and hit a little bit of a cut in there. I think I had not exactly sure on the exact number, but adjusted, I think it was around 120 yards because it plays a little bit downhill. Normally, that would be a pitching wedge. And there was a little bit of a breeze into us, but with the greens being as soft as they were, I wasn’t going to throw a pitching wedge and having the ball spinning very much. Basically, it was like a cutoff 9, start the ball left, try to hit it down, and hit a little cut in there.”
He looks like a teenager, he’s 21, but he plays like a composed, crafty veteran. You have to love this kid. He says he’s feeling no pressure and is looking forward to getting out there and winning this thing. “I felt great this week. It’s the best I’ve felt being in contention at a tournament. You know, I felt, for example, at the Waste Management in Phoenix this year, I guess I was a little bit shaky that last round, even though I played bogey free and played well. I feel a lot more comfortable this week, and I think that just goes to show being in contention prior definitely helps. I’m just going to go get a good meal, get some good food in me, and get ready for tomorrow.”
We won’t see Phil or Tiger holding a trophy today but this has the makings of a great finish. If Fowler and Barnes can keep up their red hot play The Memorial will have a new, refreshing first time winner shaking hands with Jack as he walks off the final green. And there’s nothing wrong with adding a new name to the winner’s list.
Jeers to both Phil and Tiger. They both declined to talk to the press after their rounds. Normally only the leaders are interviewed but Phil and Tiger are always big news and for them to pass on a few questions is wrong. It’s especially disappointing since it comes at Jack’s place. There was never a more accommodating player in history that Nicklaus. He gave the media time whether he was in the lead or twenty back. Tiger and Phil should take a lesson from Nicklaus.