Real March Madness

By Mercer BaggsMarch 26, 2006, 5:00 pm
My Lord, hes about to pull a Pampling.
That was the first thing that came to mind while watching Davis Love III collapse like a drunk into bed during the second round of The Players Championship.
Love, of course, went from co-leader to trunk slammer, 65 to 83, quicker than you can say Carnoustie.
Stephen Ames
Stephen Ames survived the madness to be crowned Players champion.
Carnoustie, of course, is where Rod Pampling became the first player in major championship history to lead after the first round and then miss the cut.
Just a little more than a week removed from winning the Bay Hill Invitational, his second career PGA TOUR victory in less than three years, Pampling is still known for his meltdown in the 1999 British Open.
Its his signature moment in this sport, in part because he became the first player in the history of the game to accomplish such a dubious feat, and in part because there is nothing really memorable or remarkable about either of his two victories ' at least not in concern to his actions.
Stephen Ames signature moment prior to this week was getting beaten like a speed bag by Tiger Woods in the opening round of this years WGC-Accenture Match Play.
His nickname on TOUR since then has been 9 and 8. You can now call him, Players champion.
Ames not only handled admirably the abashment of being whitewashed by the worlds No. 1; he handled impressively being No. 1 after 54 holes at Sawgrass.
The certified Canadian, transplanted from Trinidad & Tobago, didnt have much of a challenge in way of actual contenders this Sunday, but he won the battle of nerves and defeated a monstrous, carnivorous course to add to his 2004 Western Open title.
Pulling an Ames could now be a duplicitous phrase, meaning either talking a little smack about your opposition and then getting smacked down by said opponent, or it could mean overcoming extreme embarrassment with extreme brilliance.
So what would you call what Adam Scott did on Saturday?
The evening prior, when he was just one shot off the 36-hole lead, Scott allowed The Golf Channels Kelly Tilghman to cut off a lock of his hair. He had been growing it since last year, a bet he has going with Tim Clark and Sergio Garcia to see who can go the longest without a trim.
Delilah Tilghman couldnt have clipped off more than 50 little strands of hair, but each one seemed to account for every spot he fell in round 3.
Scott, the 2004 champion, shot 10-over 82, dropped from T2 to T51, performed the final Act in 76 swings, and put a maddening weekend behind him.
You certainly cant call what Scott did on Saturday Pulling a Sergio, because Sergio doesnt play himself out of contention until Sunday.
Talk about maddening, Garcias closing numbers are just that. Hes becoming clutch like Sasha Cohen.
Over the past two seasons on TOUR, Garcia has six times entered the final round in the lead or within two strokes of the leader. Only once has he won ' when he came from behind to capture last years Booz Allen Classic.
Among those failures are: a six-stroke waste at the 05 Wachovia and a closing 75 at this years Buick Invitational after holding a share of the 54-hole lead.
It was a 78 this time around. He was only one back of Ames after three rounds on the Stadium Course, but started Sunday par-bogey-bogey-double bogey-bogey to find himself seven in arrears after just five holes.
Garcias final-round scoring average this year is a flat 75.
Vijay Singh hadnt posted a final-round score in the 70s all season on TOUR ' until Sunday, when he shot 41 on the front side en route to a 77.
Remember when Singh used to win more than a cheat playing checkers against a blind man? Well, he hasnt won in his last 16 TOUR events, his longest such streak since 2002.
Think he was in a pleasant mood when he got home, just a short drive ' or a couple of wayward Singh drives ' from Sawgrass?
It was a maddening experience for most of the Big 5, save for Retief Goosen, who finished runner-up. Woods week began with an unwanted trip to California to visit his ill father and ended with a 75 and a tie for 22nd. Ernie Els rallied into contention by playing his first 11 holes Sunday in 5 under, only to play his final five in 4 over in tying for eighth. And Phil Mickelson hit three balls in the water on the dangerous (his adjective) par-3 17th for the week on his way to a tie for 14th.
But who was madder this week than ' surprise! ' Rory Sabbatini? The petulant South African ripped into TOUR officials once again over pace of play.
His wife, meanwhile, decided it was a good idea to mock her husbands playing competitor over the first two days, Nick Faldo, the targeted slow-play offender, by sporting a shirt she made at Walgreens ' hubbys won over $2 million this year and youre shopping at Walgreens? ' which read, KEEP UP!
Faldos response: It is very embarrassing for them to bring their sexual problems to the golf course. Poor fellow, he has enough problems as it is without her announcing to the world.
Faldo may be slower than school-zone traffic on the course, but his wit is as quick as ever.
By the way, did we mention Carnoustie? You recall how the 99 British Open concluded: Jean Van de Velde took a three-stroke lead to the final hole; made a jaw-dropping, triple-bogey 7; and ultimately lost in a playoff to Paul Whats His Name.
Oh, if only he could have just made a double bogey that day. Then he would be Jean Whats His Name, fluke major champion on a ridiculously trumped-up major venue.
But we know his surname, we know it very well. Because infamy has a much longer shelf life some times than does fame.
The Frenchman got a slight measure of redemption this Sunday in Portugal ' in his own mad, mad way.
He won for the first time in 13 years on the European Tour, claiming first prize at the Madeira Island Open. He did so by making double bogey on his final hole, nearly blowing a three-shot lead, but holding on to win by one.
He did so by not ' if only barely so ' pulling a Van de Velde.
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage -The Players Championship
  • Getty Images

    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

    Getty Images

    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

    Getty Images

    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

    Getty Images

    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.