Mid-season awards and report cards for PGA Tour
Two majors down, two to go.
Based on my advanced math skills, and factoring in assorted variables, algorithms and formulas that are simply too complicated to mention here, my research has determined that it's the official halfway point of the golf season. Or close to it. Therefore, it's time for some Mid-Season Awards and Report Cards.
Biggest Noise Increase: Those jets that constantly fly overhead at Doral will pale in comparison to the resort's new owner, Donald Trump. Yes, he'll be the best thing that's ever happened to the place, and we'll know that because Trump will remind us repeatedly. Hey, this otherwise dull World Golf Championship event just got twice as interesting and fun. You can name Doral's new owner. Bet you can't name Doral's new champion. (Hint: Justin Rose.)
Bobblehead of the Year: In one of the strangest baseball promotions in recent times, fans attending the San Francisco Giants game on Irish Heritage Night on the Tuesday of U.S. Open week not only saw Rory McIlroy throw out the ceremonial first pitch, but they also got a free Rory bobblehead doll. "I think maybe it's better-looking than me," McIlroy quipped, "which is a good thing."
Best Shot Heard 'Round the World That Wasn't: If only Louis Oosthuizen had won the Masters, he'd have a Gene Sarazen-like legacy because of his final-round double eagle at the second hole. Instead, he lost in a playoff like Chris DiMarco, Dan Pohl, Chad Campbell and Len Mattiace.
Best Instant Replay: Another ho-hum double eagle in a major -- Nick Watney's opening-round deuce at Olympic Club's par-5 17th hole.
Best Cheat: Oosthuizen's double eagle was not shown live on the CBS telecast. The network cut away from Phil Mickelson, who was about to putt for the Masters lead, when a loud and sustained cheer could be heard in the background. The double eagle was shown plausibly live (TV speak) a full minute after it happened.
The Uneasy Rider Award: The first player to ride a cart in this year's U.S. Open was not Casey Martin, the Oregon golf coach with a leg ailment who won the right to use a cart in competition by drumming the PGA Tour in a Supreme Court case. Nope, it was Phil Mickelson, who lost his opening tee shot Thursday morning to a golf-ball-eating tree on the ninth hole. After he made a walk of shame back to the tee, a rules official in a cart gave Lefty a lift down the fairway to his second tee shot to speed things up. What will Phil do next?
Déjà vu Trophy: Remember when a player named Lee had a ball stick in a tree on the Olympic Club's fifth hole in the final round of the U.S. Open? No, not Lee Janzen in 1998 -- his ball actually fell out. Lee Westwood hit his tee shot into a tree at No. 5 (not Janzen's tree, which was believed to have been cut down) last week at Olympic Club. Westwood's ball didn't fall out, but his chance of winning the Open did.
Déjà vu Trophy Again: Two of the last three U.S. Opens played at Olympic Club have been won by players named Simpson. (Scott, Webb.) D'oh!
Rookie of the Mid-Year: It's Mayakoba Classic champion John Huh. Great name, Huh? John was born in New York to Korean parents, grew up in Chicago and Los Angeles, and is an impressive player. He nearly edged Ben Curtis, the 2003 Open Championship winner, at this year's Valero Texas Open.
The Exhibit A Award: Here's the best reason not to shut down Q-School and turn the PGA Tour into a closed shop -- it's Huh again. If the new system were in effect, he would have been on the Nationwide tour this season.
Best Non-Human Sacrificial Offering to the Golf Gods: In April, Kevin Na returned to the ninth hole at TPC San Antonio, where he made a 16 last year in the Valero Texas Open, pulled out the golf shirt he wore that day, put it on a hanger and left it on a cedar branch in the vicinity of his memorable disaster. For "Inside the PGA Tour," he was also filmed wielding a chain saw to hack off some branches.
Facial Hair of the Mid-Year: Sorry, Rickie Fowler, but the award goes to Johnson Wagner, this season's Sony Open champion who decided to grow a thick mustache. "I was getting a lot of grief for it, and I think it made me a little tougher, just taking some abuse," Wagner said. "It's funny the way it made me more self-confident, not really caring what people think."
Triple Bogey of the Mid-Year: Kyle Stanley dominated the field at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, opening a seven-shot lead on Sunday. After stumbling down the stretch, all he needed was a double bogey on the final hole, a reachable par 5, for the win. He played it safe and laid up, then hit what appeared to be a perfect wedge shot. The ball landed past the pin, spun back hard and trickled down a slope into the pond. After hitting his next shot on the green, Stanley three-putted for a crushing triple that put him in a playoff with Brandt Snedeker, which he lost. Honorable mention: Either of the two triples that kept Phil Mickelson from winning the Masters.
Rebound of the Mid-Year: At the Waste Management Phoenix Open the week after Torrey Pines, Stanley pulled off some clutch shots on the closing holes to erase the memory of that triple bogey and earn his breakthrough first win.
Round of the Mid-Year: There are plenty to pick from here, but Mickelson's closing 64 at Pebble Beach was pretty close to flawless. He was paired with Tiger Woods, whom he beat by 11 shots, and made up a six-shot deficit on Charlie Wi to grab his fourth win at Pebble Beach and the 40th of his career.
Putt of the Mid-Year: Bill Haas has a knack for showmanship. Last year, he got up and down from out of a lake to win the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup. At Riviera this year, he drained an unlikely 43-foot putt in a playoff to beat Mickelson and Keegan Bradley.
Shot of the Mid-Year: Has anything been more remarkable than Bubba Watson's 40-yard hook with a pitching wedge from the pine needles on the first playoff hole at Masters? On top of that, Watson somehow made the ball check up on the green. Given the circumstances and the difficulty level, that shot was one for the ages, and he needed it to beat Oosthuizen.
Live TV Quote of the Mid-Year: Masters champ Bubba Watson, while appearing on "Piers Morgan Tonight," when Morgan rambled on about why Augusta National should have a female member: "I know who's not going to be a member -- you!"
Best O.J. Chase Re-enactment by a Blimp Shot: When Tiger Woods left the course mid-round at Doral, TV cameras followed him for an inexplicably long time as he left the parking lot and drove down the road.
Most Overlooked Two-Time Winner: Can you capture two victories in half a season and be forgotten? Well, does anybody remember that Hunter Mahan won the Accenture World Match Play and the Shell Houston Open?
New Member of the Mid-Year: Still wondering why Peyton Manning picked the Broncos? As part of Manning's deal, Denver General Manager John Elway, an avid golfer, offered Manning memberships at Cherry Hills and Castle Pines, two sweet courses.
Tournament of the Mid-Year: It's hard to beat the Masters for sheer spectacle, and this year's tournament had it all, from a double eagle to triple bogeys. The cast of contenders included some usual suspects -- Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Adam Scott -- and some surprises, like Oosthuizen, Peter Hanson and Matt Kuchar. And the tournament gave birth to a folk hero, Bubba "Awesome" Watson.
The Report Cards
Webb Simpson, A
Good thing he aced the mid-term because until the U.S. Open, Simpson was in the running for Mr. Whatever Happened to …?
Bubba Watson, A
You win a thrilling Masters, and you're set for life. You don't have to win another tournament. Bubba is playing like he may not win again anytime soon, but still, he landed the big one.
Tiger Woods (Dr. Jekyll version), A
He's back, he's back. He won Bay Hill and the Memorial, where he holed that ridiculous flop shot at the 16th. He shot 62 on Sunday at the Honda to almost steal one from Rory McIlroy, and he shared the 36-hole at the U.S. Open while looking as Tigerish as ever.
Rickie Fowler, A-
While you were napping, this kid became the biggest marketing phenom in golf, and the go-to guy for endorsements (sorry Tiger, Phil). He can play, too, and finally scored that first big W in Charlotte.
Phil Mickelson, B-
If you get inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame at 41, you should know how to prep for a major. Playing three tournaments in a row, taking your wife to Italy and Paris and then withdrawing from the Memorial after one lackluster round isn't it. Nice win at Pebble Beach -- we still almost remember it -- and a playoff loss at Riviera. But c'mon, Phil, you should've won the Masters, and you know it. Two triple bogeys? Really?
Luke Donald, B-
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Donald, your son is clearly the biggest overachiever in his class. But he really isn't our choice for valedictorian. Nice wins at Innisbrook and the BMW PGA. Maybe next year he'll show up for the Masters and U.S. Open.
Lee Westwood, B-
The mystery of why he's the best player without a major was answered on Olympic's first hole, where he chipped twice from a collection area and still wasn't on the green. There's no jinx. Golf is short game, short game, short game. But you can still win all you want in B-level Asian events.
Rory McIlroy, C
The curse of talent is that you are measured against your potential, so we've already dismissed that Honda Classic win. Looks like this year is break time for McIlroy. Tennis, anyone?
Charl Schwartzel, Incomplete
He tried playing the U.S. Open with a bad rib, but he tied for 38th and is now taking a month off to heal. He won't play again until the British Open.
Darren Clarke, D-
Is the British Open champion still playing golf?
Tiger Woods (Mr. Hyde version), F
Not a factor at the Masters, missed the cut at Wells Fargo, and he suddenly lost his swing and his confidence on the weekend at Olympic, backing off several shots. This version looks like a Ranger Rick who's never going to get it back.
An earlier version of this article said that Tiger Woods missed the cut at the Players Championship. It was the Wells Fargo Championship.