Pars at a premium at Harbour Town
We were really rooting for Geoff Ogilvy at the MCI Heritage Classic.
After all, wouldn't that conquistador helmet he won in Tucson just go perfectly with the tartan plaid jacket awarded to the winner at Harbour Town?
Alas, Ogilvy finished T-32, robbing us of that devilishly delightful dapper double.
Instead, it was Peter Lonard who took the title, then donned the blazer. No, it wasn't pretty -- it referring to both Lonard's final round and the jacket -- but there's nothing wrong with that, as the Weekly 18 reports.
The winner shot a final-round 75. His closest competitor lost a ball after pulling an approach shot on the 72nd hole. The best Sunday score was a 3-under 68.
Wasn't the MCI Heritage Classic a terrific tournament?
That's right, you can save your birdie-fests for places like La Quinta, Doral and, well, Augusta, where last week's winning score was five strokes better than it was at Harbour Town.
It's nice to see an event where eagle putts aren't the norm on par-5 holes, where two sub-70 rounds don't leave players with the weekend off. You know, a course where par is still a pretty fine score.
In fact, Jimmy Walker shot even-par for the tournament to grab 17th place; that's the same finish that four rounds of 72 would have done for players at The Masters, considered a much tougher test of golf.
Perhaps it's unfair to compare the Heritage to the year's first major, where Tiger Woods and Chris DiMarco were making shots down the stretch rather than missing them, for the most part. But there is a sense of schadenfreude in watching leader Darren Clarke almost chip a ball into the water on 14, then play a delicate chip from a wooden plank. Or seeing Clarke hit a wayward second shot on the final hole, failing to find his ball and having to replay a similar shot.
We can all empathize with struggles like those.
Whether you're in a fantasy golf league or just enjoy trying to pick winners each week, pencil in Davis Love III at the Heritage next year. In 20 career starts at Harbour Town, Love has made the cut on 16 occasions. He's won the event a record five times and owns 11 top-10 finishes, including a back-door T-2 on Sunday.
Sometimes the pros make it look so easy ... and then there are times they look like ordinary Sunday hackers on the course. Such was the case for Jose Maria Olazabal on the 13th hole of the final round. With his ball in a greenside bunker and nestled up against some railroad ties, Olazabal put his back leg on top of the wood, took a full swing, hit the railroad tie with his downswing and missed the ball by a good four inches, hitting in front of the ball rather than behind it. (The miss counts as a stroke since there was intent to make contact with the ball.) He then pitched out to the side of the bunker and eventually made triple-bogey.
Looking for a rookie to root for? Try Joey Snyder III. After finally reaching the PGA Tour following 10 straight years in Q School, he's making the most of it. The 31-year-old had four top-20 finishes in his last seven starts entering the MCI, where he fell from T-8 to T-32 with a final-round 79. Not bad for a guy who played in only one previous tour event in his career, the 1996 Texas Open, and missed the cut.
Orange pants. Lime-green shirts. Spiked, frosted hair sticking out of the tops of visors. The Europeans are bringing a little style to the PGA Tour and we just have one thing to say: Thank goodness. Players like Clarke and Ian Poulter have followed in the footsteps of, in descending chronological order, Jesper Parnevik, Payne Stewart, Doug Sanders and Ralph Guldahl by showing a strong fashion sense on the course. We don't care of it's Clarke's plaid pants, Tiger Woods' Sunday red or Mike Weir's recent Gary Player-black trend; as long as players are separating themselves from the pack by losing the standard golfing accoutrements, it's a good thing for the tour.
Drive for show, putt for dough, the saying goes. Then how to explain David Frost's weekend at the Heritage, one which saw him set the PGA Tour record for fewest putts in a four-round event yet finish well down the leaderboard at T-38? Credit the small greens at Harbour Town. After all, Frost only hit 34.7 percent of them in regulation, worst in the field, so it's not like his one-putts were for birdie very often. Still the record is all his, passing Mark Calcavecchia (at the '03 Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic) and Kenny Knox (at the '89 Heritage) by one. If you're keeping score at home, Frost's rounds of 68-75-74-73 contained total putts of 23-26-21-22.
It's been a brutal year so far for two-time tour winner Steve Lowery. Before finishing T-12 at the Players a few weeks ago, Lowery opened the season with eight consecutive missed cuts. But he was back to the same (bad) habits at Harbour Town, shooting 78-84 -- the highest score among all players to complete two rounds -- to miss his ninth cut in 10 starts.
While the Woods/DiMarco battle in the final round of The Masters may have seemed like a David and Goliath type of matchup, that won't be true if it happens again anytime soon. That's because DiMarco, who came back from being down two with two holes to play to force a playoff against Woods, rose from 15th to seventh in the World Ranking with his second-place finish. It's the highest ranking of his career. With the move, he vaulted past the likes of Sergio Garcia, David Toms and Adam Scott.
Not sure if anyone else has brought this up, but Tiger's celebratory reaction with caddie Steve Williams after holing his chip on 16 was reminiscent of another big-time hole-out. Do you remember Paul Azinger's bunker shot at the Belfry on the final hole of the 2002 Ryder Cup? Both Azinger and Woods employed the high-five-wait-no-let's-hug-wait-maybe-high-five method of celebrating with their caddies. The only difference? Tiger wound up winning, while Azinger and the Americans lost the Ryder Cup soon thereafter.
Not to harp too much on last week's Masters, but here's one interesting note that we hadn't thought of earlier. Of the five Augusta-eligible players who left the rainy BellSouth Classic, four made the cut; DiMarco finished in second place, Luke Donald was T-3, Steve Flesch T-29 and Stuart Appleby T-43. Only Ian Woosnam missed the cut.
Maybe they're not teen pop sensations, but the Hanson/Hansen boys of the European Tour are a pretty formidable trio, too. With Peter Hanson winning this week's Spanish Open, players with that surname (or a spelling thereof) now own three wins in the last four seasons. Soren Hansen won the '02 Irish Open and Anders Hansen won the '02 Volvo PGA Championship.
So, you think you play a lot of golf? We're guessing you haven't teed it up nearly as much as England's Roger Chapman, who this week competed in his 600th career event on the European Tour. Chapman finished T-56, but now trails Eamonn Darcy by only 10 starts for second place on the all-time list. Sam Torrance is the Euro Tour's career leader with 690.
He finished T-37 at the Spanish Open, but here's hoping Diego Borrego becomes an international star. Why? Well, simply, wouldn't it be fun to hear the name Diego Borrego over and over for four days at a big event?
If Lorena Ochoa is ever going to be a top player on the LPGA Tour -- and she's not far off right now -- she'll need to do better from the short stuff than she did on the 18th hole of Saturday's final round of the Takefuji Classic. Playing in the group before leader Wendy Ward and trailing by two strokes, Ochoa went for the green on the par-5 in two, leaving her five-wood approach pin-high. Putting from the rough just off the fringe, Ochoa left her ball a few feet short of the hole, then blew the next putt, settling for par. A birdie on that final hole would have forced Ward to work a little harder for her par, but instead she simply played it safe and cruised to the victory.
Sure, organizers of the John Deere Classic may get roundly criticized by players and fans for issuing a sponsor's exemption to amateur Michelle Wie -- some feel these spots should be reserved for fringe players or up-and-coming pros who are trying to earn enough money to keep a tour card -- but in reality, it's a sound business decision. The officials from the Sony Open saw a 10 percent spike in ticket sales when they invited Wie to play her hometown event last season. The job of the tournament is to provide great theater for golf fans and -- here's a crazy thought -- make money. Even if Wie's inclusion in the field only helps raise ticket sales by one percent, it's one percent that any other player granted an exemption would not have garnered.
For those who who were worried that young guns like Paula Creamer and Christina Kim might be applying for AARP cards by the time Wie turns pro, don't fret. It seems Wie could have competition from someone a little closer to her age bracket in coming years, as fellow 16-year-old amateur In-Bee Park took solo fifth place at the Takefuji. Park, a South Korea transplant via Florida who now lives in Las Vegas, shot a bogey-free final-round 67.
Take heart, David Duval. The story of Karrie Webb is one that should give the former British Open champ hope for the future. Like Duval, Webb was a top golfer just a few years ago who often didn't show the same desire as her fellow competitors. Last July, Webb withdrew from the Evian Masters after her clubs failed to make the trip, instead opting to spend time with her parents. Still the second-ranked player on the LPGA's career money list, Webb once again looks to be in proper form. She won the ANZ Ladies Masters earlier this year and has finished in the top 50 in all four LPGA starts, including a T-16 this week.
"Anybody got a beer?"
-- Darren Clarke, in his first comments to the media following Sunday's final-round 76
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com
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