by G. Rennie
For television watching golf fanatics this weekend was a perfect storm of close competition. Of the five tours that are covered on American TV four were decided in playoffs! I can’t remember that ever occurring before and the overlapping coverage commitments of CBS and Golf Channel had TV execs scrambling to cover the most compelling action.
First up was the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart links otherwise known as Phil’s Show. That loopy lefty gave away the easy victory with a brain freeze 3 putt on 18 green but still managed the win in a single playoff hole against the relative unknown Branden Grace. Maybe it was Phil’s testing of fate that unsettled the karmic forces of global golf that resulted in the onslaught of sudden death golf on three other tours.
Out in the desolate spaces of Utah the Web.com Tour had more excitement than a Mormon can usually handle. A back in the pack player who started his round on the backside pulled off the most rare feat in professional golf- breaking 60. Will Wilcox, a five year pro who notched his lone Web.com Tour win earlier this year, shot a 12 under par 59 on the par 71 track. Ten birds and a lone eagle with zippo bogeys and 7 pars added up to a piece of history for Wilcox but his charge fell one short of the tally needed to get into sudden death. Steve Alker and Ashley Hall finished at -22 for the week. Alker needed only one hole to dispatch his opponent as Hall rinsed his tee ball into the deciding par 3. Actually, he rinsed that ball twice as his shot glanced off the water then jumped up onto the bank fronting the green. But the slope quickly returned that ball to a watery rest. Nearly a miracle shot but not quite. It would probably satisfy the cardinals in today’s Vatican but it didn’t satisfy the golfing gods. All the magic has been used up by Mr. 59.
Up in The great northland of Canada the ladies of the LPGA were doing their best to keep up with boys tours. Low scores were plenty and Hee Young Park’s Sunday 64 was just enough to grab Angela Stanford’s final round 65 and force a showdown. These ladies halved the first two playoff holes with birds. A par, however, was all Park needed to clinch on the third hole. Hallelujah!
The John Deere Classic offered the longest playoff contest of the day and arguably produced the finest shot as well. Jordan Spieth, the teenage Texas phenom who’s been barnstorming the Tour this season, one hopped his bunker shot from above the pin into the hole on 18 for a birdie three to take the clubhouse lead at 19 under. After Leader Zach Johnson squandered his one shot lead at the same hole there were two ties in the house. Along came lean Canadian journeyman David Hearn who’s par at 18 sent him into the playoff.
Five holes later, back on the same 18th , Spieth hit a courageous low punch 5 iron from the right fairway jailhouse, ran it just through the green, got up and down for par. It was a war of attrition with both Johnson and Hearn both missing makeable putts that would have ended it earlier. With that Spieth gets full status on Tour, exemptions galore, entry into the Open, a million samolians, and a place in the record books as the youngest winner in PGA TOUR history since like 1931.
Great stuff at Silvis, Illinois but the performance of the day came from one humble, big hitting Kentucky good ole boy, Kenny Perry. At the hottest, most sweat soaked tourney of the day in lovely Omaha, Kenny was cool as ice as he drained 9 birdie putts and had the field dusted and done by the time he turned on the back side. A string of four birdies that started on the sixth hole all but won the U.S. Senior Open for Perry. His sizzling 63 set the record for low final round score in tournament history and garnered the classy Perry his second consecutive major tournament win on the Champions Tour.
I’ m just glad there wasn’t a playoff.