What We Learned: Volvo, Byron Nelson


Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the world of golf. In this edition, our writers weigh in on Graeme McDowell's victory in the Volvo World Match Play Championship, Peter Uilein's first win as a pro and the remarkable collegiate performance of the California Golden Bears.

The list of 'best current match-play competitors' doesn't extend very far, for the simple reason that the format is implemented in only a few professional tournaments per year. Tiger Woods and his three WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship titles place him firmly at or near the top of this list. Ian Poulter's one such title and Ryder Cup fire and brimstone act has him there, too. Graeme McDowell is one of the few others who can stake a claim to this placement, as well, with his Volvo World Match Play triumph serving as the latest example. McDowell has shown a tendency to make more clutch putts when the pressure is greatest. It's one reason why he won't be a one-time major champion for too much longer – especially if his next major title hope turns into a match-play type of scenario. – Jason Sobel

Peter Uihlein has never been afraid to leave home. At age 13, he gave up his New England youth for Bradenton, Fla., to attend the IMG Academy golf program. Upon graduation, he chose faraway Stillwater, Okla., to test himself in the college hotbed of Oklahoma State. And when it came time to pursue a professional golf career, Uihlein picked countries like Germany and Spain on the European Tour over a barnstorming life through the minor leagues of American golf.

On Sunday, his vagabond existence paid off in his first professional victory at the Madeira Islands Open in Santo Antonio Da Serra in Portugal. The 2010 U.S. Amateur champion birdied four of his last eight holes in the final round, carding a 68 to win by two shots over Denmark’s Morten Orum and Chile’s Mark Tullo.

Uihlein acknowledged Sunday that he has faced many challenges navigating countries where he doesn’t speak the language. The simple tasks we take for granted – finding a warm bed or a hot meal – hasn’t always come easy. But the life experiences the 23-year-old Uihlein has gained will serve him both inside and outside the ropes. In so many ways, they already have. And once he lands on the PGA Tour, he will feel at home wherever he plays. – Damon Hack

I'm not normally one to follow astrology, but there had to have been something in the stars this week. Sang-Moon Bae pulled a lunar eclipse in topping Keegan Bradley Sunday at the Byron Nelson. Jennifer Johnson switched to a spaceship putter, and then gravitated to the top of the Mobile Bay leaderboard for her debut LPGA victory. A few Blue Moons and some moonwalking seems in order. – Bailey Mosier

Closing is an art form. For the second time in three weeks, an established player took a lead into the final turn on a PGA Tour Sunday and lost. Two weeks ago at the Wells Fargo Championship it was Phil Mickelson and Nick Watney, a shot clear of the field heading into the final turn, who lost to little-known Derek Ernst. This week at the Byron Nelson Championship it was Keegan Bradley pacing the field through 54 who came up short to Sang-Moon Bae. – Rex Hoggard

While the focus remains on Tiger and Rory and Keegan, a remarkable story continues to play out among the college ranks. The top-ranked Cal Golden Bears won their NCAA regional Saturday, their 11th win in 13 tournaments this season – a new single-season NCAA record. The team has no world-beater, yet all five of Cal’s starters – Michael Kim, Max Homa, Brandon Hagy, Michael Weaver and Joel Stalter – have won an individual title this season. Dating to last season, the Golden Bears have won 17 of their past 27 tournaments and finished inside the top five in all 27. The best part? It still doesn’t guarantee an NCAA title, at least not yet. The finals begin in nine days, in Atlanta. Cal has to navigate not just three days of stroke-play qualifying, but then three rounds of match play against the top eight teams. Could even more history await the winningest team in college golf history? – Ryan Lavner