Don’t call me Charlie
“The Snake Pit” at Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course proved treacherous on Sunday when it claimed leader Bill Haas to its list of victims. Haas entered the tough closing stretch (16-18) one shot clear of South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel. A costly bogey on the par 4 16th caused Haas to fall back into a tie with Schwartzel, and pars on 17 and 18 led to a playoff. The two men returned to 18 where Haas found trouble off the tee, and Schwartzel hit an iron into the fairway. Haas’ second shot found the greenside bunker (womp, womp) while Schwartzel struck his approach to 30 feet, resulting in an easy 2-putt par which was good enough when Haas failed to get up and down.
Schwartzel was able to close a 5-shot deficit with Sunday’s best round of 67. The former Masters champion’s round was capped off playing “The Snake Pit” 1-under-par with a clutch birdie on the tough par 3 17th. Charl’s 2016 season has gotten off to quite the start as Sunday’s victory marks his 2nd win in 4 starts, making him one of the hottest players in the world with the Masters right around the corner.
The Great McCoy
Growing up in the Innisbrook neighborhood, University of Georgia star Lee McCoy spent his childhood years sneaking into the Valspar Championship. This year, McCoy received a sponsor exemption and made the most of it, making it to the weekend just under the cut line. McCoy, who estimated he has played the Copperhead course over 1000 times, shot a Saturday low 66 to vault himself into contention and a Sunday pairing with world number 1, Jordan Spieth. McCoy got the best of the pairing, shooting a 2-under-par 70 to finish in 4th place and earn an exemption into next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
Spieth takes to social media
The social media trolls couldn’t wait to critique Spieth’s game following his opening 76 at this week’s Valspar Championship. Jordan finally fired back, angrily tweeting to the Golf Channel about the use of a quote and telling an Instagram commenter to “go do research before hating.”
Jordan was able to rebound from Thursday’s struggles to shoot rounds of 68, 67 and 73, finishing in a tie for 18th. A nice improvement after starting Friday in a tie for 117th.
24 hours later
Keegan Bradley fired an opening round 67 to lead the Valspar after the first round. Bradley looked poised to contend for the championship, but it all came crashing down Friday. The former Ryder Cupper struggled, shooting a 79 which led to a missed cut (his 5th MC in 6 events in 2016). Bradley appears to be the player hurt most by the anchor ban, sitting at 208th in strokes gained putting.
It’s been a rough couple weeks for Aussie, Steven Bowditch, after last week’s record-setting performance of 4 consecutive rounds in the 80’s and a tournament-worst at Valspar with an opening-round 81. Thankfully Bowditch broke 80, shooting a 2nd-round 76 to pull himself into second to last place. The 79th-ranked player in the world is a reminder of how hard this game can be.
Hend holds on
In Thailand, Australia’s Scotty Hend was able to protect his 54-hole lead to win the Thailand Open over Thai native Piya Swangarunporn and young guns Thomas Pieters and Peter Uihlein. Hend was able to rebound after a disappointing week at Doral that saw him finish 2nd to last (ahead of only the aforementioned Steven Bowditch).
For Peter Uihlein, it was the 2nd consecutive tournament where he held the lead after the first round and stayed in contention to the bitter end. His recent strong play could be signaling what’s to come for the once “next big thing.”
Runner-up and former NCAA National Champion Thomas Pieters had another solid week finishing in third place. For Americans unfamiliar with the University of Illinois graduate, Pieters is one of Europe’s bright stars and will be making his PGA Tour debut next week at Bay Hill for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Countdown to Augusta
Contender: Hideki Matsuyama
Odds-to-win: 40 to 1
Recent Master’s record: t5th ('15), MC ('14)
The smooth-swinging Matsuyama has played the Masters 4 times, twice as an amateur and twice as professional, making the cut 3 out of 4 times. His best finish came in last year’s championship where he finished in 5th place after shooting -11 for the championship. Already a winner in 2016 where he bested Rickie Fowler in Phoenix, Matsuyama’s precise ball-striking makes him a favorite for this year’s event.
We at the fried egg did what we do best and headed south for golf and greener pastures this weekend, playing Loblolly in Hobe Sound, Florida, just north of Jupiter. As one of the hardest courses in the world, the immaculately manicured P.B. and Pete Dye design challenges players with their approach shots to heavily-protected greens. Loblolly’s undulation makes you feel like you’re playing anywhere but Florida, but the palms and perfect weather serve as a quick reminder. Click here for the full photo tour.
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