Six Feet Make It Or Miss It
Especially when a major championship hangs precariously in the balance. Or when the biggest payday on the PGA Tour is at stake.
You can ask Grace Park or Adam Scott. Both faced six-footers Sunday on the 72nd hole. Six feet was all that stood between them and a glorious celebration. But ' six feet is also all that stood between them and instant heartbreak.
Miss, and they would have to go into a playoff ' Scott with Padraig Harrington, Park with Aree Song. Miss, and they have to play on, giving their opponents a clear mental edge going into extra holes. Miss, and you have to somehow, some way find it within yourself to regroup for the playoff. Miss, and you miss the best chance to win your first big title.
Park was honest enough to admit that she was shaking like a stop sign in a windstorm as she stood over the six-footer. Scott was just as honest, but said he thought only about pouring it into the cup. Both ways were successful, Parks bullseye for the Nabisco Championship, Scott for the Players Championship.
My knees, my arms, my whole body was shaking, Park said.
I don't know if anybody else is that way, but I remember every win that I've had. Seriously, I didn't know if I could start the club. And I guess it's good, because every time I'm like that, I do well. And I don't get that nervous very often.
Scott says he always was optimistic. Park was optimistic, too, but that did little to quiet nerves that were screaming inside her. The key for the 23-year-old Scott was thinking of another time, another place, another putt of about the same distance.
Once I knew the putt was pretty straight up there, said Scott, I felt really confident I could make it. I just didn't let myself think about anything else then but making the putt.
I thought of other times, I thought of actually the Match Play tournament, where I went extra holes with Robert Allenby, and he kept making putts in front of me to win the match in extra holes and I made them back on top of him - and that's what I thought over that putt.
Parks putt would have been a simple back-and-through motion if Song hadnt made a 30-footer for eagle just before she was supposed to attempt it. As it was, Parks effort now went from that stroke she had made all her life ' to one that was the ultimate knee-knocker. It wasnt as though she would attempt one from long range and then react with joy if it happened to fall in. This one was imminently makeable. But it was also ' imminently miss-able.
Grace didnt fool around with false bravado ' she had watched closely as Songs bomb went in. And it wasnt exactly what Park wanted to see. No false stiff-upper-lip hoping that your opponent played her best. Song made her 30-footer, and Park immediately felt like shed been stabbed.
I didn't block it out - I knew that I knew exactly what I had to do, Grace said. I watched Aree's putt, actually. I saw it go in the hole and then I knew that I really, really had to make my six footer.
And Aree's putt when your opponent makes a putt, you just have that feeling that she's going to make it. And I had that feeling that she was going to make that putt. And sure enough, right at the heart. And she's pumping her fist, you know. And I just got ready to putt mine and I did it.
For Scott, it was a little bit of dj vu. He could think back on old memories to help him through.
Actually, last year I hit it quite close on the 18th hole on Sunday in similar position, he said. It was a little shorter, it was probably five feet last year, and I kind of remembered that it was pretty straight.
But, you know, I saw a little break, if anything, going to the right. But I thought, This is your chance; let's take the break out in a nice firm putt and knock it straight on the back. And it was just perfect, that putt.
Park, who is 25 now, is steadily gaining experience with this kind of putt. Sundays was to win a major. But regardless, she says, it was a putt to nail down a victory, and such putts are ALWAYS nerve-wracking.
You don't think about what tournament it is, said Grace. It's about making the putt, it's about winning a tournament, it's about becoming a champion. It's like, I'm nervous because I want to win. I want to make that putt. And I want to win a tournament. And this one just happened to be a major championship - and a great one too.
Park made it. And Scott made it. Someday they may get comfortable with having to make six-footers for big wins. But for now, a six-footer is six feet of uneasy moments.
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Day (68) just one back at Australian Open
Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.
Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)
What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.
Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.
Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.
Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.
Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball
Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.
In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.
"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’
Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.
“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.
“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’
Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.
The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving
Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.
The major championships I'm certainly proud of, but Barbara, the kids and my grandkids are the best things to ever happen to me. From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving! pic.twitter.com/wkma1Q9LlK— Jack Nicklaus (@jacknicklaus) November 23, 2017
GC Tiger Tracker:
Mixing Thanksgiving and waiting for a week from today. pic.twitter.com/u9m9WxQNYx— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) November 23, 2017
Happy thanksgiving to everyone! Hope you have a wonderful day with family and friends. #Thankful— Steve Stricker (@stevestricker) November 23, 2017
Was reading about Thanksgiving. Originally they ate waterfowl, venison, ham, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, and squash. Seems a bit tastier than Turkey!— Frank Nobilo (@FrankNobiloGC) November 23, 2017
Literally food for thought.
Tyrone Van Aswegen:
Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017
Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.