Slocum, Weekley learn about the longest yard
For most of the sports world, March 11, 2007 was better known as Selection Sunday, as 65 teams were chosen to compete in the annual NCAA Tournament.
For the golf world, it was just another Random Selection Sunday, as Mark Calcavecchia was chosen by the Golf Gods to win the PODS Championship -- another in what is becoming a long line of strange and mysterious ways to be crowned champion at a PGA Tour event.
The Weekly 18 begins by examining another heart-wrenching defeat that defied the odds.
Stick any PGA Tour player three or four feet away from a hole with 100 golf balls at his disposal and 99 of 'em will find the bottom of the cup.
But what about that 100th putt? The one that misses the target. Maybe it gets pulled or pushed, maybe it slides or dips awry. Perhaps it burns the edge or falls agonizingly short.
It's a statistical anomaly, for sure, but one we hardly ever see. These misses are supposed to come on the early-morning dew of the practice green or during a post-round twilight stroke session during which a player is just seeking better feel for the next day.
How often do we see golfers on this level miss such short putts in tournament competition? Almost never. How often do we see golfers on this level miss such short putts in tournament competition ... on the final hole ... with the title on the line ... and from the same high school ... who remain good friends? Well, more often than we'd like.
Just seven days after Boo Weekley missed a yard-long putt to win the Honda Classic, his former Milton (Fla.) High School teammate Heath Slocum suffered the same excruciating fate at the PODS on Sunday, failing to make a 4-foot putt on the final hole to fall one stroke shy of Calcavecchia.
If misery loves company, then Slocum and Weekley should have a grand ol' time the next time they hang out together.
"We went fishing out here on Wednesday after we practiced. He is obviously disappointed," Slocum said after carding a second-round 69 that left him one shot off the lead on Friday. "Anybody in that situation would be a little bit devastated."
Those words now hang in the air, a reminder that abject failure may only be some 40 inches away for any PGA Tour player.
To what can we attribute these similar misses in consecutive events? Well, nerves certainly play a part in it -- "I was shaking. I ain't going to lie about it. I mean, I was shaking like a leaf," Weekly said last week -- but let's look at the putts that led to the short misses in the first place. Each player had a lengthy birdie putt that was lagged to well short of the hole. Those are the ones they'll be thinking about for a long time.
If Weekley and Slocum can take solace in anything, it's that Tiger Woods is also a card-carrying member of the Don't-Call-It-A-Yip Club. Just two weeks ago, the top-ranked player said he failed to fix a spikemark before sliding a 4-foot putt past the hole in his third-round match against Nick O'Hern at the Accenture.
So there you have it, the answer to the trivia question, What do Boo Weekley, Heath Slocum and Tiger Woods have in common? They've each had a recent one-in-100 moment for all to see.
Of course, with each missed shorty comes a beneficiary of such misfortune. Despite recent struggles with his own putter -- make that putters; Calcavecchia had used six different flatsticks in six rounds before settling on a $256.18 model bought at a golf shop -- the PODS champ came out on the winning end. After bogeying the final hole and seeing what Slocum had left for par, Calc figured they were headed for a playoff. "I was just stunned," he said after the round. "I mean, I guess I knew I won, but it didn't feel like it. I just didn't. I was never thinking he was going to miss it. He is a great putter. He is not very old yet, so he doesn't usually shake."
For the second time in three weeks, a player eclipsed the $20-million career earnings mark. At the Mayakoba Golf Classic, Fred Funk passed the milestone and on Sunday, Calcavecchia equaled the achievement. His total money-winnings of $20,619,271 ranks ninth all-time behind Woods, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, David Toms and Justin Leonard. Nick Price, Kenny Perry and Funk.
Talk about winning in different ways. When Calcavecchia last won at the Canadian Open two years ago, he did it by persevering, making only one birdie over the tournament's final 36 holes. By comparison, this past weekend he made 15 total birdies over the final half of the PODS. His 23 birdies for the week were six more than the nearest competitor.
Meanwhile, Calc didn't waste too much time with those pesky pars. He made 38 of them over 72 holes, ranking dead last in total pars of the 76 players who finished the event.
Charles Howell III continued his stellar season at Innisbrook, finishing with a Sunday-best 6-under 65 for a T-6 final result. In seven starts this year, Howell owns five top-10s and -- drum roll, please -- remains in the FedEx Cup points lead through its first 10 weeks.
Speaking of overplayed stories that received too much attention this week, Charley Hoffman, Paul Goydos and Mark Wilson were among those who secured a place in the upcoming WGC-CA Championship in two weeks. Should make for huge news in the Hoffman, Goydos and Wilson households.
Weird week for Vaughn Taylor. The Ryder Cup player entered the week leading the PGA Tour in putting average, but finished second-to-last in that category of those who made the cut. Taylor played the final two rounds in 6 over (71-77), totaling 68 putts over that span, and finished in a share of 48th place.
Note to all the fantasy geeks out there (and we say that with the utmost respect, of course): Keep K.J. Choi in mind for all future PODS Championships. With his T-6 finish this week, Choi now owns three top-10s, including two victories, in seven career starts at the Copperhead course. Choi was still in contention on Sunday until back-to-back bogeys on 14 and 15 sealed his fate.
Time to give John Rollins his due. The two-time PGA Tour champ shot a final-round 69 to finish T-19 at the PODS. In eight starts so far this season, he's missed only one cut and finished 33rd or better in the other seven, including a pair of runner-up results. How's he been doing it? The stats show he does everything well, but nothing spectacular, which proves how he doesn't rank in the top 10 in any individual category, but is fourth overall in the tour's All-Around statistic.
The cuts just keep on coming for Justin Leonard. In six starts so far this season, the PGA Tour's eighth all-time leading money winner has yet to earn a dime. In 15 rounds, he has yet to break 70. The problem? The putter. He ranks 167th in putting average and 151st in total putts. The result has been fewer than three birdies per round, which -- this just in, Justin -- isn't very good.
Better news this week for another guy who's had his share of recent struggles. Mark Hensby finished T-74 at the PODS -- in a share of last place of those who finished the event -- but it was the fourth check he's cashed in seven starts this season. That's already a substantial upgrade from last year. Following two consecutive $1-million seasons, Hensby withstood injuries to both feet in 2006, making eight cuts in only 16 starts, with a best finish of T-22. He was undone by the big number at Innisbrook -- his six double-bogeys led the field -- but it looks like Hensby is back to his old self a bit.
Two of the most frequently asked questions we receive are, 1) Will David Duval ever win again?; and 2) Whatever happened to Ty Tryon? Our usual answers: 1) No idea; and 2) Haven't a clue. (Although last we heard, Tryon was still searching for success on the mini-tours.) Seems you folks love hearing about stars who faded or wunderkinds who never were. Surprisingly, one of the questions we never hear is about David Gossett, the 1999 U.S. Amateur champion who won a PGA Tour event (the 2001 John Deere Classic) as a sponsor's exemption at age 22, but has faded from the PGA Tour scene in recent years. In case you don't remember Gossett, here's some background: In addition to winning the Amateur, he was the youngest member of the 1999 Walker Cup team and ended his pre-professional career as the No. 1-ranked amateur in the country. Last year, he played in seven PGA Tour events and made one cut (finishing T-75 at the John Deere) and reached the weekend in two of 10 Nationwide starts. Gossett has now missed the cut in both events he's played this year, including rounds of 80-80 at the PODS.
While one former U.S. Amateur champ has seen his game diminish, another Am winner is seeing success of his own farther away. Edoardo Molinari, who won the title in 2005, earned his second victory in four Challenge Tour (that's the Euro Tour's version of the Nationwide) starts. The Italian now leads the tour's money list through six events.
One of the criticisms of the Champions Tour over the years has been that the same guys seem to win all the titles. Well, don't look now, but the first half-dozen senior tournaments of '07 have featured six different winners, as Jay Haas became the latest champion with a two-shot victory at the Toshiba Classic.
Here's a prediction worth holding onto: Within 10 years, there will be at least five PGA Tour members from China, despite the fact that only one player from the country had ever won on the European Tour ... until Sunday, that is. Liang Wen-chong, 29, defeated Iain Steel on the first playoff hole at the Singapore Masters to join countryman Zhang Lian-wei as the only Chinese players with victories on the tour. This comes on the heels of a recent announcement that TaylorMade-Adidas Golf signed a deal to supply China's national golf teams. Each is further proof that the game is beginning to catch on in the country. According to a recent Associated Press story, only .0002 percent of the 1.3 billion population currently plays golf (by comparison, that number is 12 percent in the United States), but you can bet it will see an exponential increase -- and incredible growth -- in coming years.
Maybe we're biased because we know him -- and like him -- but Kenny Mayne's forthcoming television ad campaign for Top Flite should be hilarious. Touting the new D-2 ball, Mayne will question the, uh, manhood of fellow golfers during the spots, asking them, "Do you have the balls to go for it?" Consider yourself warned that there's at least one reason not to fast-forward the TiVo through all the commercials for coming events.
"If I don't win again until I leave this tour, I've always liked 13. Dan Marino is my favorite football player of all time. Every time I play roulette, 13 baby."
-- Mark Calcavecchia, who earned his 13th career victory on Sunday.
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com
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