Nothing could take away from the magical Sunday at Valhalla with one of the most compelling and entertaining rounds in major-championship golf in decades, and with a leaderboard as strong as any in the game.
But Sunday at Valhalla was also fraught with questions.
Why didn’t the PGA of America go with a two-tee start and begin the final round earlier?
Did they restart too soon after the rain delay and was the course in good enough condition?
How is it that Rory McIlroy and Bernd Wiesberger hit their second shots into the 18th without Ricky Fowler or Phil Mickelson giving them permission?
A lot of questions and very few answers.
“I had to get a canoe to get in,” said Ian Poulter when asked about the weather stoppage. “It was just laughable in the end. Hold position, hold position, hang on a second. We can’t even see anything apart from water.”
For Graeme McDowell, playing it down made little sense, major or not.
“It was unplayable this morning,” McDowell said. “The ball should have been played up, simple. To me it’s fair out there if you can play the ball up. It’s not fair if you can’t play the ball up. It’s casual water everywhere. The ball is picking up mud. You know, no one said anything this morning because you’re 3 and 4 over par, and no one really cares. We called it; we said this is going to get delayed the second guys start stepping on the tee box and it means a lot to them. Sure enough, it did.”
And for Rickie Fowler, he was still wondering what happened on the 18th?
“We were cool with (McIlroy and Wiesberger) hitting the tee shot,” Fowler said. “We weren’t expecting the approach shots. Typically, if it’s getting dark and they are going to blow the horn, you at least get the guys off the tee and it gives them the opportunity to play. We weren’t expecting the approach shots. So however you look at it, it is what it is.”
But in the end, the final round spoke for itself and at least for one day, golf is being talked about.
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YOU HAVE ONE SHOT: After his final-round 71, Welshman Jamie Donaldson saw a familiar face – European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.
McGinley walked up to Donaldson and said, “Let’s have a chat.”
The two walked into the caddie hospitality area and sat down for a talk, which lasted about five minutes.
“(He said), ‘Listen, the team is taken care of with how well you’re playing golf,’ ” Donaldson said. “I’m playing pretty well. I’ve got tournaments to go. It’s under my control. I just need to play well in the tournaments I’m playing in and build up to that moment.”
Donaldson is eighth in World Points and is currently in line for the eighth automatic spot on the European Ryder Cup team, just ahead of Graeme McDowell. But with three weeks left, it’s clear Donaldson can not rely on a captain’s pick, which he seems to have gathered from his talk with McGinley.
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NO QUESTION WHO’S IN CHARGE: Many questions still exist about Tom Watson and his Ryder Cup captaincy.
One overriding question is how he will run the team Will it be a democracy, a monarchy, or one of totalitarianism?
“When I played with Tom in a practice round over there, it was more we were discussing in the if you make the team possibilities,” Furyk said. “Now that I have made the team, I’m interested to see kind of where he’s going, what his ideas are, and he may ask for opinions and he may not. I’m not really quite sure yet.”
Bubba Watson heard a rumor that Tom Watson wasn’t asking what the players think in regards to picks or pairings.
Stricker, who was named assistant captain last week, believes his role will be that of an intermediary.
“So I could communicate with the guys and maybe the guys could feel more comfortable coming to me instead of Raymond (Floyd) or Andy (North),” Stricker said. “So I think that’s kind of my role is just to help out and maybe be a communicator between Tom and some of the guys.”
The Watson captaincy is now in full gear and we will see in short order which type of captain he will be next month at Gleneagles.
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DÉJÀ VU: Kenny Perry stood on the 18th tee Sunday and again pull-hooked his drive left into the hay. It hit a small maple tree and came to rest.
It was after the shot stopped that Perry had flashbacks to the final round at Valhalla in 1996 when again he hit his tee shot left and the ball ended up in a similar place.
“It was eerie,” Perry said. “It looked the same, it felt the same. The ball just kept curving and curving and curving. I remember in ‘96 that ball hit and was bouncing left way over there. It was very similar.”
In 1996, Perry didn’t have a shot to get the ball back in the fairway, but Sunday he did and advanced it far enough to set up a birdie.
If he would have made birdie in 1996 he would’ve won his first major title. Instead, he lost to Mark Brooks in a playoff.