PGA Tour Confidential: Tiger Woods, Barack Obama play golf, John Merrick wins Riviera

John Merrick
Chris Condon / Getty Images
John Merrick won his first career PGA Tour title at Riviera.

MERRICK BREAKS THROUGH AT RIVIERA
Garrity: John Merrick beat Charlie Beljan on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff to win the Northern Trust Open. What one memory will you retain from the week at Riviera?

Ritter: The course looked great in HD.

Godich: For three days that was one impressive leaderboard, and it looked as if we were headed for a fantastic finish. What happened? Merrick is a fabulous story, but I have to say the finish was anti-climactic.

Van Sickle: I'll remember Jim Nantz and the CBS guys gushing over how far these guys hit the ball as Charl Schwartzel delivered a 323-yard drive at the par-5 17th hole Sunday. The CBS graphic showed Schwartzel's drive carried all of 271 yards, not out of the ordinary, but on the firm fairways it rolled another 52 yards. Jimbo and Sir Nick didn't so much as notice that stat.

Lynch: That the 10th hole still stands as one of golf's greatest short par 4s, and evidence that you don't have to add 50 yards to the tee to defend a course against modern pros.

Bamberger: Bill Haas looking like he was going to shoot 80, trying to keep it together. And the course, which never looked better.

Morfit: I'll remember Merrick with his little boy in his arms, tearing up as he did TV interviews. As far as why he won, I'll remember the guy behind the 18th green who shouted as he and Charlie Beljan left: "Lay up on 10!" I'll also remember Freddy Jacobson, who'd just bogeyed 18 to miss the playoff, being told by one of his excited little girls, "Daddy, look at my tattoo!" Kids put it all in perspective.

Reiterman: I'll remember what I always remember about Riviera -- that 10th hole is freakin' awesome.

Wei: I'll remember the wedge that Merrick hit into the tricky par-4 10th, the second playoff hole. He laid up with a 3-iron while Belgian hit driver (which wasn't the best course management with the pin tucked in the back right). So, Merrick's shot landed hard and on a slope and kicked left. Looked like he was going to get screwed with a crappy bounce, but then the ball had a ton of juice on it, and it stayed on the green about 20 feet from the pin. That really put the pressure on Beljan, who was long and left with a tough pitch ... and the rest is history.

Shipnuck: Luke Donald's unbelievable 230-yard approach shot around a tree to three feet on the 14th hole Saturday. He called it the shot of his life. That and Charlie Beljan's lusty fist-pump after his must-make birdie on the 72nd hole. I love to see that kind of emotion.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What's your lasting memory from the week at Riviera?

FLOYD AND DOAK SOUND OFF
Garrity: The past week was notable for the comments of Hall of Famer Ray Floyd and course designer Tom Doak. Floyd, in a Golf Magazine Q&A, said, "Guys get into the Hall of Fame that don't belong"-a shot at his good friend, Fred Couples. Doak, meanwhile, deplored the trend of renovating iconic courses, citing Merion and the Old Course, in advance of majors. "I've spent years of consulting work trying to put back courses to the way they were designed," Doak said. "It's much easier to refrain from messing them up in the first place." Do you side with the iconoclasts or the establishment?

Lynch: Both are basically fighting the same battle here: the lowering of the bar in golf, the watering down of what used to stand as examples of greatness. The Hall of Fame can argue that on-course achievement is not the only criteria for admission, which is fair enough. But the criteria ought to be defined better. Obviously enough voters felt Couples deserves to be there. That's the key. There was at least a vote here. The honchos at the St. Andrews Links Trust sent bulldozers in to churn the greatest course on the planet with no public consultation or review period. That's Hall of Shame conduct, and Doak is right to slam it.

Bamberger: They both nailed it. Doak told me years ago, "Most clubs regret their renovations after the fact." My course is having a big makeover. I have my fingers crossed. Floyd is saying what Mike Schmidt says about Cooperstown: It's become the hall of very good. The first time I went to Cooperstown, there was a special exhibit on Babe Ruth, including a sample of his stationery: "Babe Ruth, New York City." A true star. To be in a Hall of Fame you should be a LEGEND. Like Dan Jenkins, Frank Chirkinian, Deane Beman, Bob Jones. But now the door is open and St. Augustine will become a depository for the very good. Maybe that's a good thing for the Hall itself, but it doesn't set well with those who dug a ton of dirt to get in.

Godich: Where's the rule that says somebody has to be inducted into the Hall every year? Baseball didn't elect anybody last month, and yet, best I can tell, the earth continues to rotate. With all of the parity in golf, we're going to get to the point where a middling player is going to be inducted one year, just for the sake of having a ceremony. And as for the golf-design debate, put me in the traditionalist camp. Why the concern about protecting par? Fans want to see good golf. Plus, at Merion, I'd love to be able to compare how the best players in the world fare against the stars of a generation ago on a comparable course. We might be surprised.

Walker: I'll take the establishment's side. The World Golf Hall of Fame is about celebrating the game. Couples and Montgomerie are part of the story of professional golf. That might not be enough for Cooperstown, but it's enough for Ponte Vedra Beach. And renovating iconic courses in preparation for majors is a necessary evil. If you want to have major championships at these courses-and it's important to do that-then they need to be lengthened and toughened to withstand modern equipment. It would be great if all course adjustments were handled with the care of Augusta National, and not done like a thief in the night, but that's another issue.

Morfit: Floyd is right. Good for Raymundo for speaking his mind. I also agree with Doak. Renovating the old course seems crazy. I'm less familiar with Merion.

Reiterman: I see where Floyd is coming from, but the fact is there won't be a Hall of Fame much longer if the bar isn't lowered a bit. If Rickie Fowler is inducted next year, then we know there's a problem. I agree with Doak. There's nothing wrong with a few nips and tucks but I wish we could leave these great courses alone.

Van Sickle: Iconoclasts rule, although I would've preferred a word that was easier to spell, Garrity. For the sake of producing a TV show and having an awards ceremony, the Hall is sweeping in five or six inductees a year. That's more than 50 every decade. We're fresh out of legit Hall of Famers. Couples is in with one major? Monty is in with zero. Long live Raymundo. As for Doak, it's unusual for him to state something so obvious. He's right on, again. Doak for Czar of Golf. Do I have a second?

Gorant: Agree and agree. The Hall of Fame is belittling itself every year, but as Gary points out, it will continue because they need someone at the ceremony every year.

Shipnuck: This is too easy. Clearly the Hall of Fame has been devalued in recent years, and only a Philistine like Peter Dawson thinks it's a good idea to muck around with the Old Course and other classic venues. Raymundo and Doak speak for us all.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Has the Hall of Fame been diminished? Are too many classic courses being torn apart?

 

 

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