It's the last chance to win big in our Majors Challenge Pick 6 game, as the Tour heads to Kiawah Island's Ocean Course for the PGA Championship this week. Pick any six golfers; whoever's team does the best wins the most. $1,000 to the winner and only $10 to enter. Sign up here.
It was a pretty boring Sunday afternoon in Akron, Ohio, for almost four hours at least. Sure, Tiger got everyone a little excited when he went out in 31 to jump onto the first couple of pages of the leaderboard, but when Jim Furyk opened birdie-birdie-birdie, the WGC-Bridgestone appeared to be over. Fast forward to the 18th green and Keegan Bradley -- who was six shots back of Furyk with 15 holes to play -- was holding the trophy. What happened?
Well, Furyk played nearly flawless golf for 71 holes. Then the golf gods might have turned on him, as the wind switched on No. 18 and didn't bring his approach shot over to the pin (he also had to have pushed the shot), leaving him with an impossible up-and-down. He butchered it from there, and Bradley made a clutch 13-foot par putt to claim the victory. It was Bradley's first victory since the PGA last year, although he has been in contention multiple times since then, including a playoff loss to Bill Haas at Riviera earlier this year. He's proclaimed his love for Firestone CC's layout, but it was his putter than was on fire on Sunday. He led the field in strokes gained-putting (SG-P) at an impossible-to-comprehend 5.53 on Sunday and 3.00 for the week. Kiawah's links-style course doesn't suit his high ball flight, but if the winds settle down he has to be considered a contender if he putts half as well as he did this week. He's now on the Ryder Cup team, too.
For Furyk, that's two straight meltdowns on the final holes of big tournaments. He's still a reliable ATM machine, however; that's now two 2nd's, five top-5's and 10 top-10's on the year. He hasn't won since the Tour Championship in 2010, and that has to weigh on him with the positions he's been in.
Here are some other notes on what we learned this week:
- Tiger Woods didn't have his best event -- but he still finished T8. He hit the ball well tee-to-green, ranking in the top 15 in both GIR% and driving accuracy, but ranked 57th in SG-P. Same story for him. He made more putts on Sunday, especially on the front nine, but the old Tiger would have lapped the field with the way he hit the ball. He's won the event before each US major this year, so maybe this finish will change his karma. With the wide fairways and tough chipping areas at The Ocean Course, he will be a prohibitive favorite at the PGA.
- Charl Schwartzel shot 63, the lowest final round ever at WGC Bridgestone and also his career low round. He also played well on Thursday, and had one good round at Lytham. He's one to consider in South Carolina this week as he seems to have knocked a lot of the rust off after his abdominal injury earlier this summer.
- How good was the action at No. 16 in the final group? Louis Oosthuizen chips in from behind the green to put some pressure on Furyk; Furyk immediately answers with a tough 15-footer; then Keegan rolls one in from nine feet with some emotion. Plenty of fist pumps and Gary McCord's handlebar mustache spontaneously curled six more circles.
- Bradley made 23 birdies on the week, new tourney record.
- Steve Stricker could be a sneaky play at Kiawah -- wide fairways suit his game. He shot 64 to make a charge on Sunday, just too much ground to cover and Keegan made that final putt.
- Oh Rory McIlroy, how you tempt us. He sure looked good in long stretches this week. Has he figured it out, or does he tease us like Tiger does? We'll tackle that tomorrow night.
In the great state of Nevada:
- JJ Henry limped home to a victory in the Reno-Tahoe Open, which used the Modified Stabbleford Scoring System this year. He had a big lead on the back nine and shot at the center of most greens to hold off Alexandre Rocha. I hope this is a permanent change for the tourney; this year wasn't indicative of the kind of excitement the format generates. Since it plays opposite the WGC Bridgestone it needs to get some eyeballs somehow.
- Also of note in Tahoe: John Daly had a good showing (T5) in a format that suits hs go-for-broke style, although he missed a lot of opportunities on the final nine holes. Could have been better. The same could be said for JB Holmes (T12). Seung-Yul Noh had a disappointing Sunday (-4 points) to drop to T31.
- Paddy Harrington, in somewhat of a surprise entry to begin with, never really threatened.
- Very disappointing week for Pat Perez, who missed the cut by a wide margin.
Other notes on the weekend:
- Ben Kohles won for the second straight week on the Web.com Tour -- his first two professional events by the way. The Virginia grad has assured his card on the PGA Tour next year in impressive fashion; not bad for a guy who didn't win during his senior season (albeit he was a two-time All-American).
- Luke Guthrie. Another top finish this week. To recap: in three PGA Tour events, he's gone T19-T5-T18. In two Web.com events, he lost in a playoff and finished T3. If he's in the field for the Wyndam after the PGA, he's a great sleeper. And he will be one to watch in the Fall Finish for sure.
- There will be a lot of talk this week about the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah, but it's a completely different course now. Back then, it was the hardest course in the world -- I played it twice in 1997 and can attest. The fairways are much wider and the chipping areas are much more playable now. If the wind doesn't howl -- and it's not likely to this time of year -- the winner should be in the -5 to -8 range. Someone will go low each day. If the wind blows for two or three days, all bets are off. It will be survival out there, and I think the Euro's have a huge edge this week solely for the short game shots required no matter what the weather is like. A lot more on that late Monday night.
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Photo: US Presswire