Notes: Woodland can thank Faxon for success

Gary Woodland

Gary Woodland

Here is what happened: Gary Woodland birdied a demanding par-3 71st hole at the Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Fla., to win his first PGA Tour tournament.

Here is another take on that story: Woodland actually planted the seeds to victory at Spyglass Hill Golf Course on the Monterey Peninsula. It was on that sparkling day of warm sunshine that Woodland walked all 18 holes alongside Brad Faxon, and you couldn’t find players at further ends of the golf spectrum – the young man with enormous power but zero experience alongside a guy who has played on Tour for more than 25 years thanks to guile and finesse. Fascinating, the way they collaborated, especially around the greens where Faxon would pick out a spot and tell Woodland to do likewise. Faxon’s caddie, Mark Zyons, would count “1, 2, 3,” and the players would proceed to hit pitch shots. The drill was to study the different trajectories, the way the balls released and rolled, the rhythm one player had as opposed to the other’s. A similar drill was used with putts, as Woodland measured his speed with the putter against Faxon’s. Struggling at the age of 49 to complete with players half his age, Faxon wasn’t some self-absorbed grunt wallowing in any sort of pity; he was enjoying the majestic surroundings and having a blast showing Woodland a thing or two. “This guy,” Faxon said, “is a stud. He’s going to be special.”

Here is the rub: Five weeks later, Woodland won the Transitions Championship and Faxon’s joy was genuine. Woodland’s appreciation was, too, which is why Faxon was part of a dinner celebration Monday in Orlando to honor the grateful champion.

• • •

Here is what caught my eyes: Turn to page 2-18 of the PGA Tour media guide and Michael Bradley looks an awful lot like Keegan Bradley.

Here is why: It is Keegan Bradley, the PGA Tour rookie.

Here is the rub: Perhaps it would have evened things out had Michael’s photo accompanied Keegan’s bio on page 2-244, but no luck. Keegan gets his photo a second time.

• • •

Here is something I read this week on a perusal of various Internet golf offerings: “A guy who finishes second in a FedEx event is almost guaranteed a Masters berth.”

Here is why that is misleading: Contact Brian Davis (second at Hilton Head, second at Colonial, absent from the Masters field) and see if he agrees. Furthermore, here are others who finished second in FedEx tournaments last year but are not presently in possession of Masters berths: David Toms, J.J. Henry, Dean Wilson, Bob Heintz, Marc Leishman, David Duval, Joe Durant, Kris Blanks, Vaughn Taylor, Fredrik Jacobsen, Brian Gay, Blake Adams, Corey Pavin, Scott Verplank and Paul Goydos. That’s 16 in all.

Here is the rub: The Masters field, small that it may be, will feature all the mandatory names from the world stage to make it a brilliant “major” championship. If you deserve a Masters spot, you’re more than likely there.

• • •

Here is the pitch: To make the Nationwide Tour more appealing to a potential sponsor, PGA Tour officials want to change things up. The Nationwide Tour will be the lone provider of graduates onto the PGA Tour; when you pony up for Q-School, you’ll do so knowing you can only get onto the Nationwide Tour.

Here is the shame: You’re a young, collegiate star determined to play in the Walker Cup, so you stay amateur through August, thinking national pride and being primed for the annual Q-School and the possible PGA Tour dream. Luke Donald did it in 2001; J.B. Holmes, Jeff Overton and Nicholas Thompson in 2005; Dustin Johnson in 2007; Rickie Fowler in 2009.

Here is the rub: Talk about inflation. Whereas you could buy a PGA Tour dream for $4,500, that same price (or more) in 2012 will allow you only possible access to the Nationwide Tour.

• • •

Here is boredom: The constant refrain “that the game has changed.”

Here is why: Tell me a game that hasn’t. Did they play basketball 3 feet above the rim in the 1960s? Throw the ball 43 times a game in the NFL of the 1950s? Go in the corners against 6-foot-5-inch, 235-pound defensemen during the NHL of the 1960s? No, no and no. You don’t think things are not going downhill quicker for today’s bobsledder as opposed to those who did it in 1967? Those games have changed, and so has golf – but not for the worse as so many would have you believe.

Here is the rub: The only thing more insufferable are the poor blokes who can’t let go of this “pace of play” nonsense. They usually play $2 Nassaus with dollar sandies, go around in three hours because they’re thirsty for the 19th hole, probably would faint if told their week’s pay was based on what they scored. They bemoan slow play, yet cherish the iconic Jack Nicklaus, a player of unmatched accomplishments, tedious though he may have been.

• • •

Here is a curiosity: Of the 13 PGA Tour tournaments thus far in 2011, six have been won by guys whose last names begin with ‘W’ – Mark Wilson (twice), Bubba Watson, Woodland, Johnson Wagner and Nick Watney.

Here is what is truly bizarre about that: Tiger Woods isn’t included.

Here is the rub: Bodes well for Wedgy Winchester, should he trick-shot his way through a Monday qualifier.

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