Heroes & Zeros: The Match Play's New Look, Jason Day's Sunday Fade
The two months between the Masters and U.S. Open used to be one of the more boring slogs on the PGA Tour schedule, which is saying something. But thanks to a rejiggered schedule that has moved the Match Play from February, suddenly we get to enjoy a blockbuster three weeks that go Match Play-Players-Quail Hollow, with the Memorial on the horizon. So don’t fill out your U.S. Open pools just yet -- there is, deliciously, a ton of big-time golf to be played between now and Chambers Bay. Bring it on.
1. Lydia Ko. A must-make putt on the 72nd hole and a near kick-in to win in sudden death. What this teen is doing is almost supernatural. But to paraphrase Paul Pierce, this is just what she does.
2. Justin Rose. Going on two years since his Open breakthrough, this golfing gentleman finally looks ready to add to his legacy. That birdie-birdie finish to steal a win in New Orleans was a clinic in pressure-proof golf.
3. Wu Ashun. This heretofore journeyman became the first Chinese golfer to win a Euro Tour event on his home soil. Englishman David Howell had a chance to win on the 72nd hole, but he rightfully said a billion people were rooting against him.
4. Lee Westwood. Five up going into the final round of the Indonesian Masters, Westy bogeyed the 70th and 71st holes and then blew a final-hole birdie putt that coulda won it outright, but this aging warrior rallied to prevail in sudden death. At this point, he’ll take even ugly wins!
5. The Match Play draw. Ya know, that was kinda fun, and it’s created some nice pre-tourney chatter. (Group 1 is a doozy! Shotmakers galore in group 4! Three sleepers in 8! Great matchups in 11!) The only thing that could have made it better was Steve Sands with a dry-erase board.
1. The Match Play Championship. Better city, better course, better date, a new format ensuring more stars on the weekend, but somehow it’s a lesser tournament, having lost its defining win-or-go-home urgency.
2. Steve Elkington. The master of insensitive tweets took it to a whole new level over the weekend, with some truly offensive usage of ‘there.’ Will he ever learn?
3. Brooke Henderson. This spunky 17-year-old had a chance to secure her playing future, but five bogeys in the first 15 holes on Sunday sent her tumbling down the leaderboard. She’s no Ko, but who is?
4. Li Hao-Tong. The talented 19-year-old from China continued his torrid play, nearly winning in Shanghai. But in today’s golf world, near-misses aren’t enough.
5. Jason Day. A T4 at the Zurich Classic doesn’t sound so bad, but three bogeys on Sunday cost him another shot at victory. Such a talented tease, this guy.