Musings, observations and random thoughts:
• Ben Curtis, winner of the recent Valero Texas Open, is figuring it out. When asked at the Zurich Classic about his schedule going forward he just shrugged. Obviously the victory gives him lots of options that he didn’t have before. One thing that will be different this time around is that he will actually get to defend his title next year. When he won twice in 2006 at the Booz Allen and the 84 Lumber, it was the final year of both tournaments. So even though he has won four times on the PGA Tour at this point he has only defended once, the 2003 British Open. Nothing is ever what it seems for Curtis. Next year he will defend a few weeks earlier than his win came this year. The Valero Texas Open will be played the week before the Masters next year, so Curtis potentially could be in the Masters but not be a reigning champion . . . unless of course he wins again between now and then.
• Bubba Watson should be proud of his title defense in New Orleans. There was a time on Friday where it looked like Bubba Golf might have a weekend off. But a late birdie on No. 17 brought the lefty to the cut line, and then he made the most of his weekend. Watson has said that he will likely play the Players, Memorial and the U.S. Open going forward with some much needed rest stacked in between. Watson is a new father, and as any dad can tell you, there is little rest for the weary when it comes to bottles and diapers.
• Phil Blackmar was roving the fairways in New Orleans at the Zurich Classic for Golf Channel last week. “Big” as he is affectionately known among players – he stands 6 feet 7 – has a strong broadcasting background, having worked full-time for USA Network back before Golf Channel had the exclusive rights to Thursday-Friday coverage. As a player, observer of the game and a teacher, Phil brings a wealth of knowledge and an easy style to the broadcast. When he and I were collectively covering the marquee group on Saturday, we may have set a record for tonnage behind the microphone with one group. Our vital statistics would look more appropriate in another sport wearing helmets. One thing is certain: Both of us finished in the top 10 in New Orleans in pounds gained.
• There are those who will see the putt that Ernie Els missed on the first playoff hole with Jason Dufner and suggest that his putting woes continue. However, those would be the observers who didn’t watch the body of work that he put forth all week. Yes, he missed a 7-foot putt that would have won the tournament on the first extra hole. But the truth is that he only had the putt in the playoff because he made virtually everything on Sunday. He rolled in an 8-footer for eagle on 7 and a pair of par putts on the back nine outside of 10 feet. Ernie didn’t lose the tournament – he was beaten by a player who seemed destined to win. Immediately following the playoff Ernie was upbeat and showed a lot of confidence. The Hall of Famer will win again soon.
• Finally, hats off once again to the spirit of New Orleans and the folks who proffer that spirit to all who visit. Food and drink are only a part of the grandeur that is New Orleans. The Zurich Classic has done an amazing job of capturing the mood, the music, the food and the glory of America’s most unique city. Where else can you enjoy the odiferous wonders of chargrilled oysters while a brass band serenades the winner on the 18th green? Only in New Orleans.