Better Than Most

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 12, 2008, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Backspin, the editorial staff takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf -- with a spin.

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.
Backspin 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.
Backspin Here's a small sampling of Goydos-speak: In a sense, I got to feel what it was like to be Tiger Woods. Thats from a crowd standpoint, not a talent standpoint. - You cant 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 dont make mistakes is the day Im 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.
Backspin 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 TOURs lifetime achievement award Wednesday, honored for his extended contributions on and off the golf course and for serving as an ambassador of the game.
Backspin 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 dont 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.
Backspin 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, Thats 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.
Backspin 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.
Backspin 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 Dalys 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 weeks 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.
Backspin 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 Tours Fort Smith Classic.
Backspin 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 hadnt 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 years Masters, U.S. Open and British Open as an amateur.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - THE PLAYERS Championship
  • Full Coverage - Michelob Ultra Open
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    Not DJ, not Poulter: Kisner most proud to take down Kuchar

    By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 9:34 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – On his way to this week’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Kevin Kisner has beaten world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and the European match play ninja Ian Poulter. But neither match could compare to his duel with Matt Kuchar early Saturday.

    “I was more jacked to beat [Kuchar], really. Kuch is such a good player and our games are so similar,” said Kisner, who defeated Kuchar in the round of 16, 1 up. “We both made eight birdies this morning and I barely snuck out of there. I thought it was a lot of fun.”

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    By comparison, his quarterfinal bout against Poulter wasn’t nearly as electric. Kisner won two of the first four holes when the Englishman made bogey (No. 3) and when he was conceded the fourth hole, hecruised to an 8-and-6 victory for the week’s most lopsided win.

    “I don't know Ian that well, so I don't really have a history with him, other than watching him kill us in the Ryder Cup,” Kisner laughed.

    Things won’t get any easier for Kisner on Sunday when he’ll play Alex Noren in the semifinals. The Swede has been dominant this week and is considered one of Europe’s top players heading into this year’s Ryder Cup.

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    Hahn: 'My fault for not expecting the worst from fans'

    By Grill Room TeamMarch 24, 2018, 8:35 pm

    Fan behavior has made headlines all year long on the PGA Tour, and the topic of conversation doesn't look like it’s going away anytime soon.

    The latest example came on Friday at the WGC-Dell Technologies March Play, when James Hahn took to Twitter to complain that a fan deliberately yelled in his backswing on the 15th hole during his match with Jason Dufner, which he lost 3 and 2.

    “Whether we like it or not, this is where the game is going,” he tweeted. “My fault for not expecting the worst from fans. Just sucks to lose a match that way.”

    The two-time PGA Tour winner followed up his original tweet, clarifying that he can expect bad behavior from all golf fans while still loving and respecting them.

    He also pointed out a major difference in comparing golf to other sports, saying some PGA Tour players go to far greater lengths than the typical NFL star to engage with fans on a daily basis.

    The incident comes on the heels of several recent player run-ins with fans, including Justin Thomas at the Honda Classic, Rory McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Sergio Garcia earlier this week at Austin Country Club.

    On Wednesday, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said that inappropriate fan behavior related to alcohol sales is something his staff is monitoring.

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    Match-by-match: WGC-Dell Technologies, Elite Eight

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 24, 2018, 8:25 pm

    Here is how things played out in the Round of 16 on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. The week began with 64 players taking on Austin Country Club,but the field is dwindling. Click here for Day 3 match results:

    Match 97: Bubba Watson (35) def. Brian Harman (18), 2 and 1. Watson was 1 down going to the eighth hole, but he won four of the next five holes to turn around this battle of lefties. A 12-foot putt for eagle at the 12th dropped, giving him a 3 up lead coming home. It was Watson’s second eagle of the day. He looks as if he’s still riding the confidence from that Genesis Open victory last month. Watson will advance to play Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the quarterfinals.

    Match 98: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28) def. Charles Howell III (59), 1 up. Aphibarnrat won in a late comeback, winning the final two holes. He holed a 9-foot putt for birdie at the 17th to square the match and won with an 8-foot birdie at the last. He had not led all day, not until that last birdie putt dropped. The 28-year-old Thai improved to 4-0 on this world stage after sweeping his group in the round-robin play. A four-time European Tour winner, Aphibarnrat is looking for his first PGA Tour victory. He will meet Bubba Watson in the quarterfinals.

    Match 99: Kyle Stanley (45) def. Sergio Garcia (7), 3 and 1. Stanley birdied the eighth, ninth and 10th holes to go 3 up, and then he held off Garcia’s run at him, eliminating the world No. 10 with birdies at the 16th and 17th holes. With the victory, Stanley has a chance at a nice Texas two-step, a chance to eliminate the two highest ranked players left in the field, the only players left among the top 10 in the world ranking. But, there’s hard work to do in the quarterfinals, where Stanley will meet world No. 2 Justin Thomas.

    Match 100: Justin Thomas (2) def. Si Woo Kim (50), 6 and 5. Thomas remains on fire in this format, steamrolling Kim a day after completing a round-robin sweep of his group by blowing away Francesco Molinari, 7 and 5. The Kim match felt like it was over shortly after it started, with Thomas making the turn 5 up. Thomas will advance to play Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals.

    Match 101: Cameron Smith (46) def. Tyrell Hatton (12), 2 and 1. Smith found himself behind early, falling 2 down after Hatton opened with back-to-back birdies, but Smith quickly rallied to win one of the best matches of the day. He birdied four of the next five holes to go 1 up. Hatton lost despite making seven birdies on the round. He lost despite making birdies at the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to the red-hot Smith, who made eight birdies. Smith will meet Alex Noren in the quarterfinals.

    Match 102: Alex Noren (13) def. Patrick Reed (19), 5 and 3. In this Fire vs. Ice match, Ice won, with Noren making easy work of Reed. Really, though, Reed never got a flame going, and Noren wasn’t going to help him the way Jordan Spieth did a day before. Reed was 2-over on his card before finally making his first and only birdie of the day at the 13th. Somewhere, European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn must have been smiling, watching Noren easily take down the formidable American match-play dynamo. Noren will meet Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

    Match 103: Ian Poulter (58) def. Louis Oosthuizen (25), 2 and 1. Poulter’s match-play mojo is going strong again, with the Englishman summoning the intensity that has made him so formidable in the Ryder Cup over the years. He was on fire Saturday, making eight birdies over the first 15 holes, if you count the concession he received hitting a wedge to 18 inches at the 13th hole. Poulter put a special putter in the bag this week, using the same flat stick that helped him lead the Euros to their historic comeback victory against the Americans at Medinah in 2012. Though Oosthuizen made four birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, he still couldn’t make it close. Poulter will meet Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals.

    Match 104: Kevin Kisner (32) def. Matt Kuchar (16), 1 up. Kuchar applied all kinds of pressure on Kisner on the back nine, but he couldn’t get Kisner to fold in the best match of the day. Kuchar was 2 down with four to go but managed to pull all square going to the last. After missing a 15-footer for birdie at the 18th, Kuchar watched Kisner sink a 12-footer for his birdie to win. Kisner will meet Ian Poulter in the quarterfinals.

    Match 105: Bubba Watson (35) def. Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28), 5 and 3. This was a tight match until Aphibarnrat’s short game failed him on the back nine, with a chunked chip at the 10th, a clumsy pitch at the 12th and a heavy heavy pitch at the 13th helping Watson win four consecutive holes. Watson played his way into the semifinals of this event for the second time in his career. He ended up fourth in 2011. Watson will meet the Justin Thomas in the semifinals.

    Match 106: Justin Thomas (2) def. Kyle Stanley (45), 2 and 1. Thomas moved into position to win more than the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship. He moved into position to take the world No. 1 ranking from Dustin Johnson. All that stands between Thomas and the top ranking now is Bubba Watson. If Thomas beats Watson in the semifinals, he is assured of going to No. 1. Thomas started slowly against Stanley, missing a 3-footer for par to lose the second hole. It marked the first time Thomas trailed in a match all week. All square making the turn, Thomas won the 10th, 11th and 12th holes and then held off Stanley the rest of the way. Thomas will meet Bubba Watson in the semifinals.

    Match 107: Alex Noren (13) def. Cameron Smith (46), 4 and 2. With birdies at three of the first six holes, Noren took an early 3-up lead. Noren, however, made it more interesting than he would have liked the rest of the way. Noren lost the seventh hole with a three-putt bogey and lost the eighth failing to get up and down for par. Smith, though, never pressed Noren after getting that opening. He failed to make a birdie the entire round. Noren, who has won six European Tour events since the summer of 2015, has been knocking on the door to his first PGA Tour title this year. He lost the Farmers Insurance Open in a playoff in January and finished third at the Honda Classic last month. Noren will meet Kisner in the semifinals.

    Match 108: Kevin Kisner (32) def. Ian Poulter (58), 8 and 6. Poulter gift wrapped Kisner an early 2-up lead, and Kisner pounced after that. Poulter, who was on such a torrid run until meeting Kisner, three-putted to lose the third hole with a bogey and then pulled his tee shot deep in a hazard to lose the fourth hole. Kisner birdied the fifth and sixth holes to race to a 4-up lead. Poulter had no answers. After making eight birdies in the morning Round of 16 , Poulter didn’t make a birdie against Kisner, who will face Noren in the semifinals.

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    Garcia bounced in Austin: 'On to Augusta'

    By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 6:55 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – For the 16th time in his career, Sergio Garcia’s week at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play ended earlier then he would have hoped, but this time he has plenty of distractions to ease the sting.

    Garcia lost his Saturday morning match to Kyle Stanley, 3 and 1, marking the 15th time in his Match Play career he’s failed to advance to Sunday, but at least he has plenty to keep him busy with a newborn at home and his return to the Masters looming in two weeks.

    “On to Augusta,” said Garcia, who is not playing next week’s Houston Open. “It's exciting. Obviously when we get there, it's going to be interesting to see how we feel and everything. But it is definitely exciting.”

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    Garcia defeated Justin Rose in a playoff to win last year’s Masters, his first major triumph, so his return to Augusta National will be unlike anything he’s ever experienced.

    His duties as defending champion will include hosting Tuesday’s Champions Dinner. No word on Garcia’s menu for the event, but various sources have confirmed it will be something “Spanish.”