THE PLAYER: Sergio Garcia knocked down a clutch par putt on the 72nd hole that enabled him to get into a playoff with Paul Goydos at THE PLAYERS Championship. He then won the event on the first extra hole, after Goydos knocked his tee shot into the drink on the par-3 17th, for the biggest win of his now-not-so-young career.
A deep breath … and where do we start? For Sergio, who had started to become curiously irrelevant in the last half year - despite a runner-up finish in both the 2007 PLAYERS and the 2007 British Open - he completely blew the doors off his critics in this huge victory. With an almost non-stop barrage of putting questions in his interviews, Garcia was able to drain enough important ones on Sunday to come away with an incredibly hard-fought win. Granted this wasn't an actual major, but remember: Phil didn't win his first major until the age of 32 and his first PLAYERS until last year. Sergio is just 28. Kudos to Sergio for making golf A LOT more interesting.
GOY- D'OH!: Paul Goydos came into THE PLAYERS Championship as the 164th player in the world and a virtual unknown amongst most of the general golfing public. Yet he leaves as a fan favorite and a media darling, due mainly to his many forthright comments to the press over the course of the week – and his impressive play.
Here's a small sampling of Goydos-speak: “In a sense, I got to feel what it was like to be Tiger Woods. That’s from a crowd standpoint, not a talent standpoint.” - “You can’t kneecap him (Garcia). You just have to accept the guy beat you and move on.” - “I may have made some mistakes, but the day I don’t make mistakes is the day I’m dead” - "I had already hit it in the water on Thursday, so I already had a good yardage feel for the drop area." - ''The key is to have the lead with no holes to go.'' Good stuff from a new fan favorite.
THE SUPERMODEL: It has been billed as golf's 'fifth major,' and for good reason. But even with so much adulation as one of the best overall events in the world, the unquestioned supermodel of this event is Pete Dye's short par-3 17th - the famous/infamous island green.
Wow, what a week for this beauty! Ian Poulter was the first to play this gem on Thursday - and made birdie! The first player to dump one in the water? Goydos. The last to dump one in the water? Again, agonizingly, Goydos. And then to top it all off? She was the first hole in the playoff. And for all of you scoring at home, the final tally: 64 balls in the water. The beautiful ones always break your heart. Ask Mr. Goydos.
NO-BRAINER: Jack Nicklaus received the PGA TOUR’s lifetime achievement award Wednesday, honored for his extended contributions on and off the golf course and for serving as an “ambassador of the game.”
This was about as tough a decision for the PGA TOUR to make as the one Tiger faces when deciding what color shirt to wear on Sundays. An easy tap-in for Finchem to honor Nicklaus, whose records and accomplishments we quite frankly don’t have the space, or manpower, to list in this space. But to just name a few: 73 TOUR wins, a record 18 professional majors, and a mind-boggling 19 runner-ups in majors.
TAPPING ON A SHOULDER: Annika Sorenstam won the Michelob Ultra Open in a runaway with a tournament-record 19 under, as former world No. 1 beat four others by a record-tying seven strokes. The victory is the second straight for the former No. 1 ranked player in the world and her third overall in 2008 – but her first with Ochoa in the field.
Not only did Annika win this tournament going away, but she ran over Lorena Ochoa in the process, beating her by twelve shots. Sorenstam's thrashing of the competition harkened back to the days when she was the world's best, something not lost on the Swede saying afterwards, “That’s the way I used to play." Lorena, the ball is now in your court.
CLASS DISMISSED: The PGA TOUR held its annual players meeting at Ponte Vedra Beach and stressed the importance of keeping a professional appearance even when not competing in an event. Slow play was also a hot topic – once again.
Just a hunch, but Finchem probably had a shirtless, shoeless John Daly in mind when he urged players to represent the TOUR professionally outside of tournaments. As for the action on the course, players complain and moan all the time about slow play and the TOUR does little or nothing about it. Expect them to slow play the slow play issue once again.
YES, I CAN ACTUALLY PLAY: Unable to qualify for THE PLAYERS Championship for the second straight year, John Daly continued his European Tour at the Italian Open. Daly, who missed the cut last week at the Spanish Open, had a solid week of play, finishing in a tie for 23rd.
Daly not only made the cut, but he did make Commissioner Finchem proud. He wore a shirt and shoes at all times (on the course), managed to complete at least two full rounds, and there were no reports of unsightly behavior on Daly’s part. Maybe the European Tour is the perfect place for Daly to get back on track. One question though? Are there 'Hooters' restaurants in Europe? Let's hope not. And by the way, Hennie Otto won the tournament (in case you were interested).
WIE BIT RUSTY: Michelle Wie made her first start since February at this past week’s Michelob Ultra Open, missing the cut by four strokes. The Stanford freshman opened with a 4-over 75 in the first round and never recovered, failing to make it to the weekend.
Chalk up another MC for Wie, who was in a tough situation this week in Virginia. Even Tiger Woods would be rusty after not playing competitive golf for over two months, and Wie is far from Tiger Woods. But with school letting out for the summer, expect to see Wie more in the coming months, and expect to see some much better finishes as well.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Famed golf architect Pete Dye was selected for the Hall of Fame; Caddie Greg Rita, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor a year ago, stopped by TPC Sawgrass to visit some familiar faces; Colt Knost shot 5-under 65 Sunday to win the Nationwide Tour’s Fort Smith Classic.
Dye, who was selected on a Lifetime Achievement category, has designed more than 120 courses, including TPC Sawgrass and the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island; Rita was a welcomed site to players and caddies who hadn’t seen him since he underwent Chemotherapy and radiation; Knost can now answer questions about his first professional victory instead of why he turned pro instead of competing in this year’s Masters, U.S. Open and British Open as an amateur.
Contributions from writers and editors on the Golf Channel Digital team.
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