Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Six rounds of golf squeezed into five days and spread out over three courses pretty much guarantees that you’ll be left with some indelible images.
The Memorial Tournament backed up by a U.S. Open qualifier simply makes the Columbus, Ohio, area the place to be this time of year if you enjoy your golf.
No sight was as special as seeing the great Jack Nicklaus signing autographs as a warm Sunday twilight enveloped Muirfield Village Golf Club. The last of the thousands of fans who had watched Tiger Woods’s latest magic may have been disappointed to miss out on his autograph, but in Nicklaus they had the most accommodating of superstars our sports landscape has ever known.
It was after 8 o’clock and a long, tiring week was over, but still, Nicklaus hung in there until these last few fans were satisfied.
And what made the scene even more special was the sight of Barbara Nicklaus sitting nearby in a golf cart, patiently waiting, her smile warmer than the sultry air.
• • •
It isn’t often when Woods wins a tournament from anywhere but in the final group. The Memorial was one of them, as he played in the fourth-from-last pairing.
That made for some tense moments for Steve Williams, who does as most of his colleagues do: Collect the flags off of the 18th flagstick.
“It’s the caddie’s trophy,” Williams said as he waited out in front of the Muirfield Village clubhouse.
He had the car to pack and with six more players to come through after Woods, Williams entrusted the tradition to two PGA Tour rules officials. They handled the job well, delivering not only the flag, but the wrench Williams had provided them for the task.
“I’m superstitious,” Williams said. “It has to be done with that wrench.”
• • •
What’s with Geoff Ogilvy doing the Colin Montgomerie impersonation? Going from boorish to charming, depending on his round, is a bit tiring and he needs to be above that.
When he finished double-bogey, bogey to shoot a second-round 74 and fall nine off the lead at the Memorial, Ogilvy stormed past reporters. Even CBS cameras focused in on the scowls and the utter disgust on his face.
Following a scintillating 63 the next morning, Ogilvy – surprise, surprise – was a new man.
“I thought about it a lot (Friday) night, carrying on like I did at moments,” Ogilvy said. “I must have looked very silly. I didn’t feel very good about myself.”
He did, nor should he, but it was easy to slip him a hall pass. After all, he’s always been one of the game’s most introspective individuals and more times than not he’s provided great cooperation.
That’s why it was disheartening to see him storm past everyone again Sunday. Sure, the quadruple-bogey at the par-4 14th, the bogey at 15, and the bogey at 18 left a bitter taste in his mouth, but, gee, do you think the $150,000 he was given on his way out the door could have bought a few mints to help with that?
Spare me the competitive fire crutch that too many guys fall back on. (Davis Love finished poorly Sunday, too, and he stopped and talked, after cooling down.) Instead, remind Ogilvy of the words he himself uttered Saturday: “Let’s get back to reality here.”
• • •
If there was anyone who should have been given dispensation to flee the Memorial scene and avoid questioning it was Michael Letzig. His first encounter with the furnace that is Sunday with Tiger Woods resulted in a 65-75 whoopin’, but give the second-year PGA Tour member credit – he faced the music.
Matter of fact, he handled it beautifully, dishing out all the accolades that Woods deserved.
“I don’t know what it is that everyone was talking about, how bad he drives it,” Letzig said. “Every drive I saw was perfect.”
When asked if in his first-ever pairing with Woods he said much, Letzig shook his head.
“Not much. Just, ‘Good shot, good shot, good shot.’ ”
• • •
Vincent Johnson, the former Oregon State standout who acquitted himself well in the Northern Trust Open (70-74) as the first-ever Charlie Sifford Exemption, shot 77-73 and failed to make it through U.S. Open qualifying in the Columbus, Ohio, area.
“I’m going to have a light schedule this year and just prepare myself for Q-School,” Johnson said. “But this was good experience, overall.”
• • •
Once you get over the initial shock of seeing PGA Tour guys in shorts during the U.S. Open qualifier, you discover it’s perhaps the only part of that experience they enjoy. But even though he wore shorts – and shot 63-70 to breeze through – don’t suggest to Lucas Glover that it should be part of the PGA Tour landscape.
“Gotta wear long pants,” Glover said. “It looks better.”
• • •
Annually, the pace of play at these U.S. Open qualifiers is painful, but not so this time around.
“We played in just over four hours,” Ryan Moore said. “We had enough time to stop and have lunch (between rounds). Usually we’re running off the 18th hole to make our afternoon tee time.”
Officials put 60 players on each of the two courses and employed the two-tee start. Making things even breezier were the many withdrawals after players realized their 73 or 74 start wasn’t going to cut it.
It’s the one time all year you don’t mind seeing guys quit, in fact.