Bradley wins the Bridgestone
For the 23rd time this season, the winner of a PGA Tour event has come from behind to do it. This past Sunday, Keegan Bradley, the reigning Rookie of the Year on Tour and defending PGA Champion, stole the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational trophy from the hands of Jim Furyk – who had led the tournament since Thursday.
Furyk, who made a double-bogey on the final hole of the championship, is still trying to exercise the demons who haunted him at the U.S. Open at Olympic Club where he couldn’t close the deal while leading, standing on the 16th tee. Bradley, to his credit, shot a blistering 64 on Sunday to charge up the leaderboard. But for a grizzled veteran like Furyk, a young (arguably still unproven) player should not have caused this much of a stir in Furyk’s head. Perhaps his age – 43 – is finally getting to him and he is anxiously thinking that each tournament could be his last. Therefore, getting ahead of himself and just trying to hard to win. Or perhaps he should change the time that he takes one of those 5-hour energy drinks (still the oddest sponsorship in golf) because this season they sure haven’t lasted him a whole round when he needs it most. With Bradley’s win, he is all but guaranteed a spot on this year’s Ryder Cup which must feel sweet after getting snubbed from last year’s President’s Cup team. And, although Furyk is on the outside looking in, he should be a lock as a captain’s pick, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Keegan & Furyk paired up as a team.
Henry Holds off Rocha in Reno
It took J.J. Henry 176 tries before he broke through for his maiden Tour victory in 2006 – becoming a first-time Ryder Cup team member that year as well – and then took him another 178 events before winning again this past Sunday. The Reno-Tahoe Open acted as an opposite-field event against the Bridgestone and it’s winner, Henry, now gets an invite to this week’s PGA Championship, the final major of 2012. The Reno-Tahoe Open went to the modified stableford scoring system this year – a format that rewards points based on score, rather than score relative to par – in an attempt to rejuvenate the atmosphere, a tough ask as an opposite field event. However, the addition of Padraig Harrington to the field this year and a very strong performance by fan-favourite John Daly (who finished t-5, his best finish on Tour since 2005) has certainly helped. The only Canadian in the field, Mike Weir, continued his horrid 2012 campaign by finishing tied for second last and missing his 13th cut of the year (out of 13 tournaments). To hear him speak so positively at the Canadian Open last week of his game, and then continue to see him struggle has definitely been tough as a Canadian golf fan.
Big Ben Makes it Two Straight
Despite Mike Weir’s struggles on the PGA Tour this season, Canadians have been well represented not only on the big Tour (thanks to Graham DeLaet and David Hearn), but also on the Web.com Tour, one of golf’s minor leagues. This past weekend at the Cox Classic in Omaha saw both Adam Hadwin and Brad Fritsch, from Abbotsford, B.C. and Ottawa, Ontario respectively, finish in the top 15 (Hadwin t-3 and Frictsh t-13). Both Fritsch and Hadwin have some ground to make up if they’d like to finish in the Top 25 on the Web.com Tour’s money list and make it to the PGA Tour before the end of the season, but a couple of good finishes should see them make it happen. One person who will definitely not have to worry about that is 22-year-old Ben Kohles. Kohles, who won in his debut tournament two weeks ago in Ohio, repeated this week at the Cox Classic to make it 2-for-2. In just two weeks Kohles has moved up to second on the Web.com Tour’s money list, all but securing himself a PGA Tour card for next year. If he can win again before the end of the season, he’ll gain a battlefield promotion and finish up the remainder of 2012 as a member of the PGA Tour.
Glory’s Last Shot
This week is the final major of 2012 – hard to believe where the time has gone this summer – and for it, the PGA Championship returns to KiawahIsland in South Carolina. The Pete Dye beast will be stretched to nearly 7,700 yards for the championship, and is measured as the longest golf course in major championship history. The Tour returns for the first time in any capacity to Kiawah since the 1991 Ryder Cup. Back then, Kiawah was dubbed the hardest course in the world and although many will argue that there are tougher courses out there, the combination of the wind, the length, and the South Carolina summer heat will all add up to an extremely difficult test for the world’s best golfers. The PGA Championship has shown through the years that anyone could win – from Tiger Woods to Shaun Micheel and Rich Beem – but with the depth and parity of the PGA Tour these days, virtually nobody is a ‘nobody.’ I’ve said since the beginning of the year that I felt that Tiger Woods would win the PGA, and I stand by that. However, other big contenders this week include Dustin Johnson (a winner in Memphis earlier this season), Graeme MacDowell (has played in the final group in the last two majors), and Steve Stricker (looking for his first ever major, but finished t-2 last week and won earlier this season). With the challenge ahead, and the fact that there are so many story lines, it should be a great week.