Full Monty This Week
And what do you know, Colin was more than accommodating. I was prepared for the worst, but instead got the best of him. And the best of Colin Montgomerie is actually a very pleasant fellow. I for one have certainly had my doubts, and a run-in as well a few years back. But after this, I'm willing to put the past thoughts aside and move forward - just as he says he's trying to do as far as support in the United States is concerned.
'When you've been at the bottom as far as that's concerned, there's no place to go but up,' said a smiling Montgomerie. 'It's been a good couple of weeks.'
And so with fans in his corner, Monty tries again this week to get a win on U.S. soil. 'I'm here to compete and win the Houston Open,' he said. 'This is not a preparation for the Masters. This is my job, to compete. That's why I'm here.'
True, but there are a few other reasons the trip to Houston made sense. Back in the 1980s, Colin played collegiately at Houston Baptist. At the time HBU was a Division I program with the likes of 2000 PGA Club Professional Champion Tim Thelan there as well. Now, the school has no golf team at all.
But Monty likes the area nonethelesss. He also likes the surroundings he sees on the practice putting green this week. Darren Clarke, Jos Maria Olazabal, Thomas Bjrn and Adam Scott are all here, making this a very strong field along the way to Augusta.
This marks the first time since 1991 that the Shell Houston Open has been on the calendar before Augusta. That's not a problem, according to Tournament Director Steve Timms, who told me that it has provided a reason for players to come when perhaps they'd have bypassed the event in prior years.
Normally, the tournament falls a few weeks after The Masters - a time when players are usually ready for rest before a run toward the United States Open. 'We're excited about the field,' Timms said. 'And we know a thing or two about hospitality, too - which doesn't hurt.'
Greg Norman is part of the reason for the excitement Timms feels. He hasn't been here since 1991, but is back remembering just how good the TPC at the Woodlands is. He's taking the opportunity to visit in-laws and hoping allergies don't blow him off course. As Norman put it, 'I usually load up on medicine at night, and then give it a go in the morning.' The fans are hoping a Sunday run is in the cards.
David Duval is here as well. Vijay Singh too. And David Toms and Fred Couples have made the trip. Point being: The Shell Houston Open is a good tournament that deserves support from the players. And so what if it falls a week after the Players Championship. Craig Perks is here. What other proof does one need?!
Perks made the short drive from Lafayette, La., to The Woodlands and will tee it up just before noon local time Thursday with Robert Allenby, who won here two years ago, and Darren Clarke. By the way, Perks' World Ranking is now a stout 64th, which is a far cry from the 203rd position he held last week.
'I'm playing well, so why not ride it?' he said. I agree. But I'm not picking him this week.
I'm picking rookie Texan Chad Campbell. That's right. You think I'm crazy? Have a look at the year's winners and find a trend other than 'unpredictablility.' A three-time winner last year on the Buy.Com Tour, Campbell is ready because he has no reason to believe he shouldn't be. That's the way things are these days.
And just for the record. I'm picking Australian Rod Pampling next week in Atlanta. But first things first. Let's give the Shell Houston Open its due. Should be a great one. And if Chad Campbell can't make me proud, then how 'bout Monty.
Now THAT would get people talking!
Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish
NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.
Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.
The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.
Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.
The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.
Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him
It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.
Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.
The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:
The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.
For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.
Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter
After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.
But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.
Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":
Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.
Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.
Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.
The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.
“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.
In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.
“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”
Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.
“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.