“Last week in golf” is a look back at the biggest stories from around the golf world over the past seven days.
Rickie battles Sunday demons
Good for Rickie Fowler.
Often treated as the PGA Tour’s punching bag and the measuring stick for other players’ success, Fowler battled both self-inflicted and downright unlucky adversity before his fifth career PGA Tour win, with this one coming at the Phoenix Open.
But it wasn’t easy, because it never is for Fowler. He’s squandered five 54-hole leads in his career and also blew a two-shot lead with two holes to play at the 2016 Phoenix Open. Closing is far from his strength, and Sunday was no different.
Fowler lost 5.74 strokes tee to green, a PGA Tour winner’s worst final round in the ShotLink data era (since 2004). He’s also the only player to make triple- and double-bogey in the final round and still win, according to Golf Channel’s Justin Ray.
Despite the drama, he still came out on top, which shows how well Fowler played through the first three rounds.
He didn’t necessarily overcome his Sunday demons, but he certainly battled them and displayed a new-found resiliency – a testament, perhaps, to a more mature outlook on life after turning 30 last month, getting engaged, and experiencing various types of loss, which he alluded to in his post-round press conference.
His first win in his 30s, albeit an interesting one, should be a sign of things to come. The big three-zero used to be the beginning of a golfer’s prime – so let’s give Fowler, say, 15 years to build on his five career PGA Tour wins and numerous worldwide victories.
Remember: Five-time major champion Phil Mickelson didn’t win his first until he was 33 years old.
European Tour drama
Saying it was a rough week for the European Tour is an understatement.
First, the decision to host a tournament in Saudi Arabia was the Tour’s biggest mistake. Players were put in an unenviable position and forced to answer questions about politics instead of golf, all while the Tour said it’s not interested in holding Saudi Arabia accountable over human rights issues.
With massive appearance fees drawing four of the top five golfers in the world to the event, the high-profile players were forced to face the music. But they were never likely to go off script and say something controversial.
Talk about ignorance.
Surprisingly, there were more than just political fireworks in Saudi Arabia.
Sergio Garcia, the face of the European Tour, was disqualified from the tournament for purposely damaging up to five greens, dragging his feet across the putting surfaces and taking a chunk out of one with his putter.
Somehow, Garcia won’t face any further punishment from the Tour, with CEO Keith Pelley saying the Spaniard’s apology and disqualification are enough.
Imagine showing up to work, damaging a bunch of company property, smashing computers, and simply being sent home for the day. Wild.
There’s also no footage of Garcia’s antics from Golf Channel or Sky Sports, and cameras definitely would have been rolling to capture at least one of his infractions. The apparent cover-up is as troubling as Garcia’s actions, if not more.
The video below of Garcia freaking out in a bunker the day prior to his disqualification is out there. The 39-year-old – known for his blowups – seems to have returned to his old ways.
Lastly, for some reason the European Tour gave Patrick Reed an honorary lifetime membership ahead of Tiger Woods and Mickelson, making Reed only the fourth American to receive the honor. It’s simply a baffling decision.
PGA Tour gets it right
During the second round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Denny McCarthy was slapped with a two-stroke penalty for having his caddie line him up, a no-no thanks to a new rule in 2019.
A video surfaced of the incident, causing outrage from fellow PGA Tour pros, including Justin Thomas, who called the infraction “ridiculous” and “mind-blowing.”
On Saturday, the PGA Tour announced it decided to rescind the penalty after discussion with the USGA and The R&A, golf’s two governing bodies. The USGA added it’ll be revising the rule, the same one that caused China’s Hoatong Li to lose out on $100,000 two weeks ago in Dubai.
It’s nice to see some sanity from at least one of the world’s tours.
Saturday’s third round at the Phoenix Open marked the end of an era, as legendary golf broadcaster Johnny Miller – known for his honest and unapologetic approach to calling golf, which often rubbed players the wrong way – stepped out of the booth and into retirement.
Miller once said Rocco Mediate looked “more like a guy who cleans Tiger’s swimming pool” rather than a golfer going toe-to-toe with Woods at the 2008 U.S. Open. He also said Mickelson, a five-time major winner, would “be selling cars in San Diego” if it wasn’t for his short game. And Miller ragged on a players’ inability to close tournaments on countless occasions, often referencing the “choke factor” – one of his favorite intangibles.
Miller also never shied away from bringing up his own Hall of Fame playing career. His record-low 63 at Oakmont Country Club during the 1973 U.S. Open is one of the best rounds ever played, and he made sure to remind everyone of that fact often. When Justin Thomas shot his own 63 at the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, Miller famously commented: “Sixty-three for a par 72 is a heck of a score, even if it was the Milwaukee Open.”
Regardless of your opinions about Miller’s unique broadcasting approach, there’s no debating that his candid style gave golf a zest it so often lacks.
Paul Azinger will fill the void Miller leaves on NBC’s teams, and his outspoken nature should make the transition seamless.
Next on the tee
The PGA Tour heads to Pebble Beach for the AT&T Pro-Am. Internet sensation Ho-sung Choi will make his highly anticipated debut in America, joining the likes of Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, and Jordan Spieth in the field.
The European Tour is in Australia for a co-sanctioned event with the LPGA. Men and women will play the same course and compete for equal prize money.
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