Every win on the PGA Tour is certainly earned. Brandt Snedeker certainly played well in his win at Torrey Pines at The Farmers Insurance Open. He shot the low round of the day with a five under par 67 and came from seven strokes back to be there when Kyle Stanley imploded.
Snedeker out lasted Stanley for the win and he got a good break on the second playoff hole when he was given a drop from a CBS television tower. He made a good chip then made his par putt. When the shell shocked Stanley missed his par putt Snedeker earned his third and most unlikely championship.
Snedeker played well indeed but late on Sunday afternoon it seemed that the breaks went his way. I am not saying he wasn’t a deserved winner but his tee ball on the second playoff hole was a poor shot. He overshot the green and his ball was stopped by the tower. Had there been no tower his ball would have traveled much further past the green as it was coming in very hot. As it was, he got the drop and made two good shots for par.
Now let’s rewind to Kyle Stanley as he stood over his third shot in the eighteenth fairway on the 72nd hole. He hit a wedge into the green that landed some ten to fifteen feet past the hole. At first it looked like the tournament was over right there. But the spin on the ball pulled it back, first past the pin and then into the rough. It kept moving and rolling until it passed through tens yards of rough and torturously slipped into the water.
Stanley had hit a good shot but with the rough shaved so closely it gave him no help. Yes, he still had a chance to finish off the tournament but his good shot into the green was met with an undeserved outcome. I understand the breaks of the game but it just seems unjust that a well struck shot could end with such a poor result. The eighteenth at Torrey has seen this before with balls rolling off the green into the pond. Maybe it’s time to rethink that setup. A good shot into the back of that green shouldn’t have a chance of getting wet.
Some will say well, those are the breaks of the game. And I understand that luck has something to do with where a ball ends up on occasion. But in this instance there is a bit of unfairness built into that setup. Anyone who watched Stanley’s shot get wet can see that.
It was supposed to be a walk in the park for Kyle Stanley but it turned into a walk off the plank. It was going to be a victory lap but he stumbled on the home stretch. It was supposed to be a very good walk but it turned into a good walk spoiled. No one, including the Farmers Insurance OpenChampion Brandt Snedeker could have envisioned what happened on the last hole of regulation.
Kyle Stanley was in the driver seat with a three stroke lead with one hole to play. Snedeker finished eighteen with a birdie that put him at sixteen under par and was resigned to a second place finish. Stanley hit two good shots to lay up on the eighteenth and was left with 77 yards to the hole. A wedge in and a simple two putt gives him a par and his first PGA Tour victory. He hit what looked like a good shot: it landed 10-15 feet past the hole and started to spin back. But it spun and spun and rolled through the collar and the closely trimmed rough and slowly rolled into the pond that fronts the eighteenth.
Stanley regrouped and hit his fifth shot well past the pin. Now he was left with 40 feet to the hole and needed two putts for a double bogey which would give him the win. With the pressure wearing him down his left his first putt four feet short of the hole. He slid his seventh shot past and finally dropped his eighth shot in the hole. It couldn’t have been any worse for Stanley, or could it?
Stanley misses on 2nd playoff hole
He went from having the tournament in his pocket with a seven stroke lead during the final round. But even with his back nine collapse (which included two bogeys along with his triple) he still had a chance to win the tournament. He looked to have shaken off his troubles when he matched Snedeker’s birdie on the eighteenth in the first playoff hole but his luck once again turned bad when his par putt on the next hole slid by and Snedeker claimed his third tour win.
It was painful to watch and Stanley was indeed stunned afterwards he was “kind of in shock right now. I don’t really know what to say.”
Snedeker recognized the absurdity of the finish, “It’s just crazy,” Snedeker said. “I was literally in the media tent watching Kyle play 18. It’s hard to get my mind around what happened in the last 30 minutes. My heart goes out to Kyle.”
As Robert Rock stood on the eighteenth tee at The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championshiphe had earned a two stroke lead over Rory McIlroy and three over Tiger Woods. Rock had played steady golf and looked to be as solid as his last name. He had five birdies to go with only two bogeys for the day and had reached 14 under par and gained his cushion going into the last.
But a poor driver off the eighteenth tee put him in the hazard with a difficult shot off the beach that rims the pond with his ball perilously close to a rock and a bush. Rock was biting his lip as his caddie convinced him to take a drop behind the hazard and play down the fairway from there. Rock should kick his caddie a little extra cash as the strategy worked and he beat the greatest player of his generation and claimed the biggest win of his professional life.
Rock knew when he teed off today that he had a huge task ahead of him. When Tiger Woods is in the final group players have a tendency to fold under the pressure. Woods had shown glimpses of his old form all week and Rock had never been in this position in such a big tournament.
Rock was certainly up to the task as he matched Woods with birdies at the second and third holes. But Woods wasn’t as solid off the tee as he needed and with consecutive bogeys at the next two holes Rock had the lead. Tiger had trouble finding the fairways today as he only hit a pair of them and that left him out of position all day. He couldn’t manage any birdies on the back nine when he needed to put the pressure on Rock and ended the day at even par and a tie for third.
Rock stumbled at bit with a bogey on the thirteenth which let Rory McIlroy back in the race but bounced back with birdies on fourteen and sixteen. That looked to give him the cushion he needed but the errant tee ball at eighteen caused Rock to scramble for the win.
After getting on the green in four shots he had two putts to win. As he lagged his first putt to 3 inches the first sign of a smile appeared on his lips. After Tiger tapped in for his par and Rock approached his final tap in both golfers shared a smile at each other as if Tiger was saying “good job” and Rock was saying “finally.”
This is Rock’s most impressive performance to date. He broke into the winners column at last year’s BMW Italian Open. Rock had to feel the pressure of being in the spotlight with a 14 time major winner and U.S. Open Champion Rory McIlroy breathing down his neck. But Rock performed like a champion and other than the misstep at the eighteenth played superb golf.
It wasn’t long ago that a day like today was just a dream for Rock. As a club professional near his hometown he would give lessons at The Swingers Golf Center in Litchfield and dream of playing on The European Tour. Rock recognizes the path he has travelled and remains humble and loyal to his original golfing roots. “I really can’t believe I have done that today.”
“I was just very happy to be playing with Tiger. That’s a special honor in itself.”
This may very well have been the best field of the year for the European Tour. With four of the top ten golfers in the world and Woods playing in the desert it is possible that only the Open Championship will boast as stronger field. But this day wasn’t one for the top ten golfers. It was a day for the 117th ranked golfer in the world to show his mettle and claim victory on the biggest day of his professional life. Robert Rock proved he can go face to face with the most intimidating golfer of this era and still come out smiling.
It looks like the European Tour and the folks at The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championshipmade a smart investment when they decided to pay Tiger Woods a few million dollars to play in the desert. Woods has given them a grand return on their investment as he shares the lead going into the final round.
Woods has improved his score each round and today he managed a bogey free, six under 66 to move up three slots and share the top spot with Robert Rock who matched his 66.
Woods started with a birdie at the first but could only manage one other at the seventh to finish the front nine in 34 strokes. He warmed up on the back nine with four birdies and went out in 32 to have his best round of the tournament.
This third round was reminiscent of his first where he drove the ball well and found the greens. Today he hit 10 of 14 fairways and 16 greens in regulation but his putting still isn’t up to his high standards. He needed 30 putts today and considering that Rock only used 25 it is a case of what might have been if Tiger could figure out the greens.
Tiger and Rock have a two stroke cushion over a quartet of players: Peter Hanson, Francesco Molinari, Paul Lawrie and Rory McIlroy.
It will be an interesting final day as Woods tries to put an exclamation point on the first week of his new season. Woods is actually looking for his second consecutive victory as he won his Chevron World Challenge at the end of 2011. But this isn’t a limited field of 18 golfers. This event has a full field of world class golfers with four of the top ten players in the world. Woods not only would vault back near the top ten in the rankings but a win here would be an extremely bold statement that he is certainly back on top of his game.
While Spencer Levin and Kyle Stanley lit up the north course at the Farmers Insurance Openwith opening 62’s Phil Mickelson had a poor round over the south course that left him confused and 15 strokes off the lead.
Mickelson, who admitted to coming into Torrey Pines with high expectations shot a stupefying 77 on a course that he knows better than anyone. The tally wasn’t good by any measure: six of fourteen fairways, nine of eighteen greens and 32 putts. Mickelson was as puzzled as all of us with his performance.
“I went in and had a good weekend, good final few rounds at the Hope,” Mickelson said. “I had some good days of practice and I was ready to play. I don’t know what happened. I just wasn’t able to focus.
“Obviously, I made some bad swings just in the wrong spots and so forth. But I felt like my game was ready heading in, and I don’t know what to say about the score because it was pathetic.”
The best thing we saw from Phil was the familiar profile of him using a regular putter as he finally has switched back from the belly putter he was experimenting with.
The youngsters had their way with the course at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Friday as the world’s most famous golfers were still trying to find the secret to the desert course. Danish golfer Thorbjorn Olesen, 21 shot a 67 to jump up eight slots and take the lead by a stroke. Nineteen year old Matteo Manassero shot the low score of the tournament with a bogey free, seven under 65 to vault himself into a tie for second with Gareth Maybin.
While the kids were making a move today the featured threesome of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald weren’t as fortunate. Donald had a lackluster round of par which left him six strokes back and T32. McIlroy also carded a 72 but he could have been in a tie for first had he not incurred a two stroke penalty for brushing sand off the ninth green while his ball sat off the green. McIlroy admitted to knowing the rule but just suffered a brain lapse as he surveyed his shot. He did manage to bounce back with three birdies and one bogey over his remaining holes but without that penalty he is sharing the lead.
Tiger Woods saw a bit of a change in his round two game as he putted better, 28 putts, but still needs to improve his short stick if he expects to win here. He sprayed his ball a bit more today only finding six fairways and thirteen greens. But Woods is playing his best golf in a long time and he managed to pair two bogeys with five birdies for a three under 69 and lies only two strokes off the lead. Afterwards, Woods said he hit the ball about the same as the first round but was still struggling with the large greens. He said they were “tough to read” and even though he was better on the greens today he knows that he’ll need to sink more putts. But he has to be happy with two solid rounds of golf and sitting a few strokes back with plenty of golf still left to play.
You have heard it a million times: “drive for show and putt for dough.” That’s the case at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship where Tiger Woods drove the ball well but could not find his putting stroke. He needed 35 putts to get around the course and still shot a very respectable two under par. If he putts like this over the next three days he won’t be putting for much dough on Sunday.
Tiger set himself well all day by hitting 10 of 14 fairways and averaged 300 yards with his driver. And he hit an amazing 17 of 18 greens. But that’s where his game left him. 35 putts left him muttering about how grainy these greens are and how he couldn’t find the speed of the greens.
Conversely, one of his playing partners, Rory McIlroy who shares the lead with Robert Karlsson at -5, only hit six fairways and 12 greens but only used 25 putts. Leader Karlsson used one less at 24. Drive for show, putt for dough, was never more appropriate.
This week the professional golf season starts to heat up as many of the bigger names in the sport get off their couches and get back on the course. Torrey Pines plays host to the PGA Tour at The Farmers Insurance Open and half way around the world The European Tour moves from its South African swing to the United Arab Emirates for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
Tiger Woods has taken some heat for passing up a PGA Tour stop to play the European Tour but appearance fees will do that to a golfer. The European Tour operates differently than the PGA Tour as they pay many players for merely showing up. The PGA Tour only pays those players that make the cut. It is a formula that works for the European Tour as they are able to tap into plenty of cash from all around the world.
And they play literally all around the world. A name change may be in order for the Euro Tour as they crisscross the world touching down on every continent except South America and Antarctica, and if they could find a sponsor they’d tee off at The Penguin Classic.
The European Tour, if they still insist on calling it that, has 46 tournaments on its schedule in 25 different countries. Only 22 of those tournaments are actually in Europe. And the country that hosts the most tournaments in Europe is not, Scotland or England. It is Spain, with four tour stops during the season.
As a matter of fact the United Arab Emirates has as many events as Scotland with three. South Africa has four, England, Italy, France, Portugal, China and South Korea all host two apiece.
Amazingly, the country with the most official events on The European Tour is its biggest rival, the USA and its PGA Tour. Since three of the four major championships and three of the four World Golf Championships take place in the U.S, the U.S. is the country with the biggest piece of the Euro Tour pie. Strange isn’t it.
Maybe it is time to consider jettisoning the name European Tour in favor of something that really reflects the flavor of the tour. Maybe the “All World Golf Tour” or the “European Plus Everywhere Else Tour”. Or maybe just one word would do it: “The European World Tour.” That’s the ticket. I’ll send that off to the boys at the Euro Tour, wherever they are.
I never went into a tournament or round of golf thinking I had to beat a certain player. I had to beat the golf course. If I prepared myself for a major, went in focused, and then beat the golf course, the rest took care of itself. ~ Five time PGA Champion Jack Nicklaus