Thursday, August 5, 2010

This Week in Golf

Front Nine
Hole #1 – Stuart Appleby won the inaugural Greenbrier Classic with a sensational final round score of 59! The golfer from Down Under is only the fifth professional in PGA Tour history to record a sub-60 score in regulation play. The first was shot in 1979, and the most recent was three weeks ago by Paul Goydos in the John Deere Classic. However, the first ever known 59 was also scored at the Greenbrier by Sam Snead in 1959, but it was during an unofficial event. Appleby’s 59 comes on the Great White Course at the Greenbrier, which played as a par 70 last week. His final round 59 is only the second final round 59 in history. The first was recorded in Las Vegas in 1999 by David Duval, who also won.

Hole #2 – Appleby needed to shoot 59 in order to win. He only took the cake by one stroke over American Jeff Overton. Overton led after 36 and 54 holes. Stuart posted twenty-two under par for the week a few groups ahead of Overton’s. Jeff made birdie 3 on the 16 hole to get to twenty-one under par and only one stroke behind Appleby in the clubhouse. To get one or two more birdies, Overton faced a relatively benign par-5 on 17 and a short par-3 finishing hole. He had about 52 feet for eagle on 17. His first putt came up about four feet short. He went on to lip out his birdie try. Angrily and rather immaturely, he tapped in for his par. His ball appeared to hit a pebble about a foot from the hole on his second putt, and he was exasperated by his misfortune. Nantz and Faldo kept emphasizing that he had to overcome the unlucky break and focus on getting his birdie on the 18th. Overton, however, could not stop sulking. His tee shot was short of the eagle’s ridge running through the middle of the green with the pin beyond. He had another 52-footer for birdie, and he gave it an impressive run. But it was not to be. No playoff was needed, and Appleby stole the show with his calm, steady play.

Hole #3 – Pekin-native and former Illini golfer D.A. Points flirted with another 59 on Saturday. He needed to play the final two holes in one under par to etch his place in history. He made bogey on the 17th and par on 18. The pressure was clearly present during the final few holes. He did not get the score, but I thought he handled himself very well. Stuart Appleby was his playing partner Saturday. Maybe D.A. gave some inspiration for his performance Sunday.

Hole #4 – Bernhard Langer won two senior majors in two weeks eight time zones apart. Langer took the Francis Ouimet trophy Sunday at Sahalee after winning the U.S. Senior Open over Washington-native Fred Couples. The two upper-echelon seniors were tied heading into the final round, but Freddy’s triple-bogey on the par-5 2nd hole set the stage for the chase the rest of the day. The crowds were clearly rooting for their hometown boy, and Couples did make a slight charge on 16. However, Langer’s steady play was too much to overcome. Langer’s 67 on Sunday was his best score during a week in which he shot eight under par.

Hole #5 – Yani Tseng won the Women’s British Open at the age of 21. Her victory at Royal Birkdale was the third of her young career. Tseng came into the final round with a four stroke lead over Katherine Hull. However as the final pair stepped onto the 18th tee, Hull was only one shot back of Tseng. Tseng ended up with par for a 73 while Hull missed a 20-foot birdie putt that would have forced a playoff.

Hole #6 – Ross Fisher of England took his fourth European Tour win at the Irish Open over three-time major winner and Irishman Padraig Harrington. Fisher entered Sunday with a one stroke lead, but his 6-under par 65 final round increased his margin of victory to two over Harrington. The victory vaults Fisher to sixth place on Europe’s Ryder Cup standings. The top nine on the European list automatically qualify for the team.

Hole #7 – K.J. Choi decided to leave the side-saddle putting style to Sam Snead and company a couple weeks ago. Choi employed the interesting technique for the John Deere Classic and Open Championship. However, it was not producing the results he desired apparently. Most instructors I have heard say the whichever grip or approach to putting gives you the most confidence is the best one to use. It is mostly psychological.

Hole #8 – Arnold Palmer was in the gallery at the Greenbrier last week to watch his grandson, Sam Saunders. Sam missed the cut by a few strokes, but the West Virginia course is not far from Arnie’s beloved Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Palmer won his first professional title at the Greenbrier in 1955. Sam Saunders did win the Sam Snead Outdoorsman Challenge prior to the golf tournament. The Challenge featured skeet shooting, fishing, off-road racing, and more.

Hole #9 – Marin Piller shot a final round seven under to take the Cox Classic of the Nationwide Tour in Omaga.

Back Nine
Hole #10 – The WGC Bridgestone Invitational will be competed for at Firestone Country Club in Ohio this week. Only eighty-two players were invited to play the week prior to the season’s final major in Wisconsin. This event traditionally is played the week after the PGA Championship, but it will be interesting to see players fight for a prestigious title and enormous winner’s check instead of just preparing for the next week.

Hole #11 – The Turning Stone Championship is the opposite field event during this WGC week. The Turning Stone Resort of Verona, New York hosts the tournament. It is a full field event.

Hole #12 – The Champions Tour takes on the TPC Twin Cities in Minnesota this week. This tournament typically draws a stronger field. However following back-to-back major on different continents, the 3M Championship did not attract every big name on Tour.

Hole #13 – Tiger, Phil, Ernie, Lee Westwood, Steve Stricker, Padraig Harrington, Jim Furyk, Rory McIlroy, Ryo Ishikawa, and most of the biggest names in the game are battling at Firestone.

Hole #14 – Anthony Kim returns to play this week at Firestone. He has been recovering from thumb surgery the past three months. Earlier this year he won the Shell Houston Open and finished in the top five in the Masters. He is wanting to play his way onto this year’s Ryder Cup team. He is currently in fifth place in the standings.

Hole #15 – Firestone Country Club is an extremely difficult golf course. It has been reported to be in immaculate condition, and I believe it is ideal Midwest golf. Watch for the Monster of a par-5 at 17. Last year, Harrington lost his match with Woods on the 17th.

Hole #16 – Harrington will serve as my favorite for the week. He nearly won last year’s edition, and he came so close to winning his home’s national championship last week.

Hole #17 – Westwood and Mickelson both stand a chance to take over Woods as the official number one player in the world this week.

Hole #18 – CBS televises the Bridgestone Invitational. The Golf Channel will cover everything else.

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