As in most things and certainly in golf, if there’s a winner, there will most certainly be a loser. In the crown jewel event for the PGA Tour, The Players, two events took place that I qualify as winners, with another proving how cruel the game can be.
This is where I’m supposed to ask, “Which do you want first the good news or the bad news?” I’ll save the best for last, so first let me share how cruel high stakes golf on the PGA Tour can be.
Jason Dufner, 2013 PGA Champion, played very well the first three days going into Sunday’s final round at nine under par. After 17 holes on the final day, Dufner was 14 under par in a tie for second place.
On the 72nd, a long par four, almost 500 yards with water all down the left side, Dufner played two great shots, leaving himself less than 15 feet for a birdie. He made a good first putt, but just barely missed and had a simple 16-inch tap-in left.
Then, the unthinkable took place. He missed that little tiddler, ended up tied for fifth, made $418,000, not bad for a week’s work, but lost $770,000 by not making birdie. And the lesson is: The next time you “duff” a putt to lose your $2, Nassau, just think of Jason . . . you’re bound to feel better.
Good News #1 . . .
The win for Webb Simpson was a big one and there’s a backstory that’s quite interesting. Simpson’s high school golf team won three North Carolina State Championships while he was on the team.
He then attended Wake Forest on an Arnold Palmer golf scholarship and, in 2012, went on to win the US Open.
Then in 2016, the USGA outlawed the anchor style of putting, which sent Webb into a tailspin as he could no longer putt using his belly-putter style. He went over 100 events without a win and seriously was contemplating leaving the game.
Simpson’s father, who had always had a great influence on his son’s game, had instilled a “never give up” mindset in Webb and he freely admits it’s the best he ever received. He has a strong faith and just refused to not follow his Dad’s words of wisdom.
The victory at The Players, the second biggest win of his career, was a sweet win for a few reasons. Both Webb’s mother-in-law and his mother, plus two of Webb’s four children, celebrated birthdays during Players week. In his winning speech, Webb dedicated this victory to his mother on Mother’s Day, her first without her husband, as he had passed away last fall. Webb’s mom said it was the best Mother’s Day gift ever.
Good News #2 . . .
The golf fans of the East End are the winners in this one — Tiger has committed to the US Open at Shinnecock and his game is showing real signs of recovery. He put on a good show at The Players.
He had his focus, his intensity, and he produced the shots and made the putts. He is happy with the progress, feels encouraged, and I’m saying it right now . . . Tiger will be a big factor at Shinnecock.
In other news, Dustin Johnson’s residence in the World #1 penthouse has ended. The new top dog in the Official World Golf Rankings is last year’s Player of the Year, Justin Thomas. Thomas, whose grandfather and father are both club professionals, is a wonderful ambassador for the game.
He has let it be known that getting to the #1 ranking has always been very important to him. Just being a successful major winner doesn’t necessarily mean being crowned #1 player in the world.
Just ask Phil Mickelson.
Phil is one of only 16 players to have won three of golf’s four majors, is already in the World Golf Hall of Fame, and is certainly regarded as one of golf’s all-time greats but has never been ranked number one in the world. Thomas, just 25 years old, has just added that to his young resumé.
Speaking of Mickelson and the US Open, Mickelson is very excited about Shinnecock and why not? In 2004, he finished second to Retief Goosen, just two strokes off the pace. And, of course, the US Open is the only major trophy not in his impressive trophy case.
NEWS FLASH: The Supreme Court has just announced that sports betting is now legal in the US. You’ll soon be able to bet on professional golf.