The Rexy Awards
WikiLeaks Award. To John Daly because, to be honest, there is such a thing as too much information and “Long John’s” incessant tweets about Arkansas football and the health benefits of Diet Coke have become the electronic equivalent of dental care.
The easy answer, of course, is not to follow Daly’s electronic babbling, but he still moves the needle which makes him something of an occupational hazard for golf scribes. Still, considering what passes for insight from Daly, the guy who stole his identity on Twitter and Facebook may have been more entertaining.
LeBron James Chalice. The King broke hearts in Cleveland, while his Nike stable mate Tiger Woods seemed to cover the rest of the country.
The fallout from Woods’ sex scandal cost the world No. 2 his marriage, his spot atop the world ranking, an opportunity to add to his major haul and a victory for the first time as a pro. But his broken public image may be the most difficult piece of his legacy to pick up.
Maybe Charles Barkley was right: athletes really shouldn’t be role models.
Shot of the Year. Jonathan Byrd in Vegas? Phil Mickelson from the Augusta National pine straw? Nope, Lee Westwood courtesy Twitter following news that his mate, Rory McIlroy, had been snubbed for the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year award, viewed in some circles as a jingoistic shot at the Northern Irishman for giving up his Tour membership.
“Is this yet another case of protectionism by the PGA Tour or are they so desperate to win something?” Westwood tweeted.
Honorable mention must go to Tiger Woods at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach: “The greens are just awful.” Weren’t they the same greens Woods won on in 2000 . . . by 15 strokes?
Soccer, Eh Football Award. Nothing captivates American sports fans like a nil-nil draw and the European Tour’s decision to name Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell co-Players of the Year has a zero sum gain feel to it, although both players are clearly deserving.
In fact, the concept got us thinking, was a co-Rookie of the Year option not available for the PGA Tour? Never mind.
Brad Childress Trouble-in-Paradise Award. Like football coaches, Ryder and President Cup captains likely get too much credit when a team wins and far too much blame when they lose, but there’s no escaping the thought that Corey Pavin was not up to the task at Celtic Manor.
From faulty rain suits to a simple lack of creative thinking, Pavin seemed to be playing catch up all week to European captain Colin Montgomerie. Modern Ryder Cups are decided by the thinnest of margins, half points in areas where captains can make a difference. Pavin did not.
Luke Donald Award. Doled out annually to the Tour player who is, for lack of a better term, the best opportunist, posting backdoor top-10s with strong Sunday finishes.
Retief Goosen posted 10 top-10s, the most by a player without a victory, and ranked eighth on Tour with a 69.41 final-round scoring average. Some refer to this as “ATM” playing, and with $3.2 million in earnings the Goose is probably fine with that.
Bristol Palin Award. A new edition to the “Rexies” lineup, which will be awarded to the person who has exceeded their 15-minute expiration date. The inaugural edition goes to John Daly.
Your scribe is all about reclamation projects and the power of pulling one’s self up by their FootJoys, but once again Daly failed to finish inside the top 125 in earnings and once again he took a pass on Q-School.
Some will say Daly is assured all the sponsor exemptions he wants and would accomplish nothing at the fall classic, but Billy Mayfair, a five-time Tour winner who took medalist honors last week at Q-School, would probably not be among that group.
UPS Award. The convoluted math of the European Ryder Cup team selection process that kept Paul Casey, who was ranked eighth in the world at the time, off this year’s team was difficult to stomach, but the FedEx Cup math that made him a contender for the season-long race truly stretched the bounds of reason.
Late into Sunday at the Tour Championship Casey had a chance to collect the $10 million FedEx crown despite not having won on Tour in 2010. The Tour has stressed the volatility of playoffs in other sports when questioned about the current FedEx formula, but even the New Orleans Saints had to win a few games before they lifted the Super Bowl trophy.
Lindsay Lohan Chalice. We like Anthony Kim. Truth is, it’s hard not to, and maybe his Las Vegas run-in was a misunderstanding, but we’ve seen this script before.
Kim said at last week’s Chevron World Challenge that he has rededicated himself to golf, even cancelling an off-season snowboarding trip to prepare for 2011, but there have been too many “misunderstandings” in his short career to completely dismiss the most recent reports.
For Kim the talent has always been there. It’s been the dedication and self-control that has been missing. For his sake, we hope there are no more “misunderstandings.”
Waitie Katie Middleton Award. No, not a new nickname for Tim Herron. The inaugural award goes to Tim Clark for his Players Championship victory because few have had to wait so long for their prince of a victory.
The South African had to wait 216 events for his first Tour title and made his breakthrough a good one. Few have held the title “Best Player without a Tour title” longer than Clark.
“Part of me is a bit disappointed because now no one is going to talk about me anymore. At least you had something to write about before,” he said.
Chilean Miner Award. Underground for months following his high-profile implosion in Memphis, Robert Garrigus resurfaced in style at the season finale at Disney.
But his Memphis miscue was just the most recent detour for Garrigus, who once checked himself into drug rehab. Few, if any, Tour types have emerged from such dark places to hoist a trophy, and few are easier to root for.
After Further Review: Nelson lost in the shuffle?
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the Nelson's future ...
If the goal was “different” by bringing the AT&T Byron Nelson to Trinity Forest, consider it achieved. But bringing a world-class field south of Dallas could still be tricky.
Yes, the tournament can always rely on local resident and AT&T spokesman Jordan Spieth to throw his hat in the ring. But even with Spieth strolling the fairways this week, the field strength was among the worst all season for a full-point event.
The debut of the sprawling, links-like layout likely did little to sway the undecideds, with only the third round offering the challenging conditions that course co-designer Ben Crenshaw had envisioned. And the schedule won’t do them any favors next year, as a revamped itinerary likely puts the Nelson right before the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.
The course will inevitably get better with age, and Spieth expects positive word of mouth to spread. But it might be a while before the stars truly align for an event that, for the moment, feels lost in the shuffle of a hectic schedule. – Will Gray
On Jordan Spieth's putting ...
Jordan Spieth’s putting is plainly bad right now, but it isn’t going to stay this bad forever.
He is the second ranked player on Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green, just like he was last year. This putting slump has lingered, but it’s unfathomable to think this guy just forgot how to putt.
Sooner rather than later he’s going to remember he’s Jordan Spieth and the 40-footers are going to start pouring in. He’ll be telling Greller to go get the ball because he’s too far away and the tee is in the other direction.
Bottom line, the ball striking is for real and the putting slump will pass. He’ll win soon – maybe even as soon as this week. – Nick Menta
On golf and gambling ...
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court over tuned a federal ban on sports betting in most states, a move the PGA Tour and many professional sports leagues embraced as a tool to both build fan interest and grow revenue.
Experts estimate sports betting could become a $150-$200 billion annual industry, and even a small piece of that could be significant for golf, but there will be risks.
Unlike any other sport, golf is played on multiple fields simultaneously, which inherently creates risks when gambling is introduced to the equation. Although the Tour has gone to great pains to head off any potential problems, like all bets gambling comes with great rewards, and great risks. – Rex Hoggard
Wise continues whirlwind ascent with first win
DALLAS – Still shy of his 22nd birthday, Aaron Wise continues to prove himself to be a quick learner.
Wise went from unheralded prospect to NCAA individual champ seemingly in the blink of an eye while at the University of Oregon. After eschewing his final two years of eligibility in Eugene, he won in Canada on the Mackenzie Tour in his third start as a professional.
He continued a quick learning curve with a win last year on the Web.com Tour to propel him to the big leagues, and he didn’t flinch while going toe-to-toe with Jason Day two weeks ago, even though the result didn’t go his way.
Faced with another opportunity to take down a top-ranked Aussie, Wise made sure he got the job done Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson – even though it took until dark.
With mid-day rains turning a firm and fast layout into a birdie barrage, Wise seamlessly switched gears and put his first PGA Tour title on ice in impressive fashion with a bogey-free 65. Deadlocked with Marc Leishman to start the day, Wise made six birdies in his first 10 holes and coasted to a three-shot win as the leaders barely beat the setting sun to avoid an anticlimactic Monday finish at Trinity Forest Golf Club.
As it turned out, the hardest part of the day was enduring the four-hour weather delay alongside his mother, Karla, as his afternoon tee time turned into a twilight affair.
“She was talking to me in the hotel about what a win could mean, what a second could mean, kind of taking me through all that,” Wise said. “I was like, I’ve got to calm down. I can’t just sit here. I said, ‘You’ve got to go.’ I kind of made her leave the room.”
Wise displayed some jitters right out of the gates, with a nervy three-putt par on the opening hole. But with several players going on birdie runs to turn what seemed like a two-man race into a much more wide-open affair, Wise went on a tear of his own with four birdies in a row on Nos. 7-10.
That gave him a window over Leishman and the rest of the chase pack, and he never looked back.
“I talked to myself and kind of made myself trust my putting,” Wise said. “These greens out here are really tricky, and for me to roll those putts in on 8 and 9 really kind of separated things.”
Leishman had held at least a share of the lead after each round, and the 34-year-old veteran was looking for his third win in the last 14 months. But a bogey on No. 10 coincided with a Wise birdie to boost the rookie’s advantage from two shots to four, and Leishman never got closer than three shots the rest of the way.
“He holed putts he needed to hole, and I didn’t,” Leishman said. “Hit a couple loose shots where I could have probably put a bit of pressure on him, and didn’t. And that’s probably the difference in the end.”
Instead of sitting next to a trophy in Dallas, Wise could have been closing out his senior season next week with an NCAA appearance at Karsten Creek. But the roots of his quick climb trace back to the Master of the Amateurs in Australia in December 2015, a tournament he won and one that gave him confidence that he could hold his own against the best in the world. He returned to Eugene and promptly told his coach, Casey Martin, that he planned to turn pro in the spring.
The same dogged confidence that drove that decision has been the guiding force behind a whirlwind ascent through every rung of the professional ladder.
“I just have a lot of belief in myself. I didn’t come from a lot. A lot of people don’t know that. I didn’t get to travel a bunch when I played junior golf,” Wise said. “Kind of all along it’s been very, very few moments to shine and I have had to take advantage of them.”
Despite that belief, even Wise admits that he’s “shocked” to turn only his second real chance to contend at this level into a maiden victory. But fueled by the memories of a close call two weeks ago, he put the lessons learned at Quail Hollow to quick use while taking the next step in an increasingly promising career arc.
“It was awesome, everything I dreamed of,” Wise said. “To walk up 18, knowing I kind of had it locked up, was pretty cool.”
Grace celebrates birthday with final-round 62
DALLAS – Branden Grace celebrated his 30th birthday in style, making the biggest charge of the final round at the AT&T Byron Nelson.
Grace closed out a 9-under 62 as the sun began to set at Trinity Forest Golf Club, moving from outside the top 10 into a share of third place, four shots behind Aaron Wise. It equaled Grace’s career low on the PGA Tour, which he originally set last summer at The Open, and it was one shot off Marc Leishman’s course-record 61 from the opening round.
“Good birthday present. It was fun,” Grace said. “Little bit of imagination, little bit of luck here and there. You get more luck on the links golf course than maybe on a normal golf course.”
Weeks after Grace’s wife gave birth to the couple’s first child, he now has his best result on the PGA Tour since winning the RBC Heritage more than two years ago. As a world traveler and former Presidents Cup participant, the South African embraced an opportunity this week to go off the beaten path on an unconventional layout.
“It feels like a breath of fresh air coming to something different. Really is nice. I really enjoyed the golf course,” he said. “Obviously I think we got really lucky with the weather, and that’s why the scores are so low. It can bite you if it settles in a little bit in the next couple years.”
Scott barely misses qualifying for U.S. Open
DALLAS – A birdie on the 72nd hole gave Adam Scott a glimmer of hope, but in the end even a closing 65 at the AT&T Byron Nelson wasn’t enough to earn an exemption into next month’s U.S. Open.
Scott entered the week ranked No. 65 in the world, and the top 60 in next week’s rankings automatically qualify for Shinnecock Hills. The cutoff was a big reason why the 2008 tournament champ returned for Trinity Forest’s debut, and midway through the final round it seemed like the Aussie had a shot at snagging a bid at the 11th hour.
Scott needed at least a solo ninth-place finish to pass an idle Chesson Hadley at No. 60, and while his 5-footer on the 18th green gave him a share of sixth place when he completed play, he ultimately ended up in a three-way tie for ninth at 15 under – barely short of a spot in the top 60.
“I tried to make the most of really favorable conditions today, and I did a pretty good job of it. Just never really got a hot run going,” Scott said. “I feel like I struggled on the weekend reading the greens well enough to really get it going, but I think everyone but the leaders did that, too. They’re not the easiest greens to read.”
Scott has played each of the last three weeks in an effort to earn a U.S. Open exemption, and he’ll make it four in a row next week when he returns to the Fort Worth Invitational on a course where he won in 2013. Scott still has another chance to avoid sectional qualifying by earning a top-60 spot at the second and final cutoff on June 11 following the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
Scott has played 67 majors in a row, a streak that dates back to 2001 and is second only to Sergio Garcia among active players. While he’s prepared to play each of the next three weeks in a last-ditch effort to make the field, he’s taking his schedule one event at a time with the hope that one more good result might take care of business.
“I’ll play next week and hopefully play really well, and give myself a bit of cushion so I can take a week or so off and try to prepare the best I can for the U.S. Open,” Scott said.