MARANA, Ariz. – Luke Donald’s run through the Match Play with 32 birdies, while never trailing or even making it to the 18th hole, was as complete and impressive as any performance in recent memory.
– Martin Kaymer says he won’t let the headiness of the No. 1 ranking change him as a person. “I think about what Roger Federer said,” Kaymer explained. “It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice.” Refreshing.
– Bubba Watson is sporting an ultra-light white watch as part of a deal with Richard Mille. There were only 38 made, and they’ve all been sold . . . at $525,000 per watch. Bubba conceded with a laugh that, “Bubba’s doin’ pretty good.”
– Kaymer, with a wry smile on his even-keeled demeanor that sees him rarely show emotion, good or bad: “It’s very German, isn’t it?”
– Bubba’s stashing money shots into the confidence vault, to be withdrawn at future big events. I’m thinking about the up-and-down at Torrey Pines, the few he hit in the comeback against J.B. Holmes and the iron he hit into 17 to extend the match with Kaymer. He doesn’t deliver every time – witness the questionable second at Whistling Straits – but he’s at least showing up in those spots, and showing signs he’s figuring it out.
– What did you think of Johnny Miller comparing Tiger to Mike Tyson? Johnny suggested that Tiger’s ‘Buster Douglas’ was life itself.
– Donald, keeping his right elbow closer to his body, putted brilliantly – his stroke sure and smooth. He’s also worked vigorously with coach Pat Goss on creating just a hint of separation between his arms and lower body as he begins the downswing, and it resulted in very crisp iron play. Perhaps he’ll now go from consistent player to consistent winner.
– You can now build marketing campaigns and sell tickets behind Bubba.
– The European rise helps the PGA Tour. Westwood and McIlroy, among others, lift this week’s Honda Classic, which is the most improved tournament of the last five years. Kaymer and Matteo Mannasero give the Transitions Championship in Tampa a boost as well.
– Tiger’s not playing Honda as some had hoped, but might he play Tampa? Just wondering.
– Bubba’s jacked for his Bay Hill week appearance on “The Grey Goose 19th hole.” He says he’s already prepared his “Last Call” commentary. He wouldn’t offer any clues, but said it’ll be a good one.
– Let’s review the staggering 12-month European run: Ian Poulter defeats Paul Casey in an all-England final at last year’s Accenture Match Play; Graeme McDowell wins the U.S. Open; Kaymer the PGA Championship; Europe wins the Ryder Cup; Lee Westwood ascends to No. 1; and again, at this year’s Match Play, we get another all-European final with Donald and Kaymer, with Kaymer becoming the new No. 1, and with three Euros taking up the next three world ranking spots. Thorough.
– Bizarre sight on Sunday at the Match Play: Nick Faldo posing for a picture . . . next to a snowman.
– Donald was, at one point, the best amateur in the world, the best collegiate player, and now he’s among the best professionals. From Donald to Ryan Moore to Matt Kuchar, the great young amateurs seem to figure it out eventually.
– At the recently played Six Nations Rugby finals between England and France, the French team wore the insignia of their country’s 2018 Ryder Cup initiative. With a venue near Versailles and nights in Paris, there’s a lot to like about the French bid. But Portugal, Spain, Holland and Germany are pushing, too.
– At a dinner this week with colleagues, Roger Maltbie told several hilarious Victor Regalado stories that reduced us to tears. Rog is to the well-told, funny golf story what Jack is to winning majors. There’s no one better.
– Watched Virginia Tech topple Duke Saturday night in Blacksburg. There’s no team in sports quite like Duke. Every game they play on the road, and I mean every single game, is a storm-the-court, remember-it-for-a-lifetime moment for the home team should they pull the upset like the Hokies did.
– Richard Hills, Ryder Cup director for Europe, talking about the Euro rise: “I’m a believer in sporting cycles,” he said. “But with that said, think about what we’ve witnessed with Fanny (Sunesson) and Martin (Kaymer). They first met at a coaching session on course management for the German youth team when Martin was a teenager. This is echoed throughout Europe with the federations and home unions of each nation gearing up their coaching and their facilities.”
– Commissioner Tim Finchem believes the Match Play will return to the Tuscon area. Who needs Vail or Killington? Give us the snow-dusted Dove Mountain in Arizona.