More than a Super Bowl Pre-Game
The 2016 showing of “the biggest party in golf” didn’t disappoint as fans packed TPC Scottsdale, setting a new single day attendance record of 201,003 on Saturday as well as an overall event attendance record of over 600,000 fans this week.
On the course, Hideki Matsuyama was able to come back from 2 shots down with 3 holes to play, forcing a playoff with Rickie Fowler. Matsuyama drained a clutch 17-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to pull one ahead of Fowler momentarily, only to be matched by Fowler who rolled in a 9-foot birdie putt to send the two into extra holes. The pair battled in an epic playoff that lasted 4 playoff holes before Fowler bogeyed the 17th (more on this later), bowing out to Matsuyama’s par. For 23-year-old Matsuyama, it marked his second career PGA Tour victory, one that was coming to him in Scottsdale after finishing T2nd and T4th in his previous two starts here.
Fowler’s foul play?
Rickie Fowler had it going on Sunday, playing flawless golf through 16 holes and sitting at 14 under par with a two shot lead over Matsuyama and Harris English. Fowler hadn’t missed a fairway since the 8th hole or a green since the 10th when he arrived to the short but risky par 4 17th. Fowler played aggressively, opting for a driver which he smoked, hitting it through the green into the water. Fowler failed to get up and down after the penalty to save his par, leading to a two-shot swing after Matsuyama’s birdie.
The final playoff hole took Fowler back to 17 where he once again opted to go for the green, this time with his 3-wood. Fowler’s shot found the water left of the green, leading to a bogey on the hole and Matsuyama’s victory. Unsurprisingly, Fowler’s aggressive play led to criticism from analyst Johnny Miller, who thought Fowler should have laid back with an iron and taken the hazard out of play. Regardless of opinions on whether it was or wasn’t a bad play, Fowler flashed his game, proving he belongs with golf’s elite. The work he has done on his ball-striking with Butch Harmon and his propensity to pour in clutch putts will make him one of the favorites at Augusta.
Some things are better left unsaid. On Wednesday, Gerry Lester Watson Jr. (aka Bubba) insulted the Waste Management Open and Tom Weiskopf’s renovations to the course, suggesting that the only reason he played the event was because of his sponsors. This drew the ire of fans, who let Bubba hear it in and out of the coliseum 16th, leading Gerry to redact his comments and clarify his remarks:
“I used words that I shouldn't have used. I didn't explain myself well. My wife says that too when I go home. I don't communicate very well.”
Unfortunately for Gerry, his reputation continues to crumble. Once beloved by fans as the unconventional long-hitting lefty, whose off-the-course activities included General Lee, hovercrafts and celebrating wins at Waffle House, Watson’s headlines now include yelling at his caddie, being voted “least liked” on tour and now ripping one of golf’s most popular events.
Across the pond in another desert, Englishman Danny Willett was able to prevail at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Willett entered the final round as the leader but needed a birdie on the 18th to beat fellow countryman Andy Sullivan, who had finished at 18-under par. Willett was forced to lay up on the par 5 18th and get up and down for the win.
In the end, he was able to hit a wedge to 12 feet and drain the putt for the W.
It was Willett’s 4th career European Tour win and one likely to move him into the top 15 in the world. Pre-tournament favorites, Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson, finished in a tie for sixth. McIlroy struggled all week on the front nine, playing it at even par versus 15 under on the back.
At the top of every golfer’s bucket list
This week, our golf course photo tour features the Cypress Point Club in Monterrey, CA. Cypress Point was designed by the legendary Alister MacKenzie and regularly ranks in the top 5 courses in the world.