Well, they call it the greatest show on grass for a reason. The Waste Management Phoenix Open did not disappoint its thousands of colorful (read: drunk) spectators, with a late Sunday surge by Brooks Koepka, who walked away with a one-shot victory, and his first win on the PGA Tour. Maybe they should call it the greatest debauchery on grass, because things like this happen. Seriously though, Francesco Molinari left Scottsdale feeling about as good as a non-winner can feel, and surely he was the big winner to many who never left the 16th all weekend. There really is no tournament like the WMPO. You can even tell by the tone of excitement in the commentators voices, or by the fact that someone (see: Tiger) can be having the most miserable experience of his professional career, and even he gets excited about delivering a long par-save on the 16th. It is a great concept, and a great aberration from the typical PGA atmosphere.
Name to remember: Brooks Koepka. This guy is going to be good – I don’t think there is any question about it. It is not often that a player starting his first year on tour is so highly touted, and then delivers with a win so quickly. Sure, Koepka has been around – he’s played on the European Tour for a while with sponsor exemptions into PGA events here and there. But this is his first spin as a full-time PGA player, and he’s wasting no time in cashing in on the opportunity.
Another name to remember: Hideki Matsuyama. He’s been on the radar for a while now, and really upped his stock in last year’s Memorial Tournament (an impressive tournament to get your first win), but his performance this weekend – including the sensational hole out on the first yesterday – proves that Matsuyama isn’t going anywhere. It was an unfortunate day for Martin Laird; he held a three-stroke lead going into Sunday, and squandered it away while watching two of the potential up-and-coming stars of the game battle it out. The play of Koepka and Matsuyama in the final pairing was honestly like that of the match up between New England and Seattle that would occur moments later… All the while Laird was like the visiting relative who just tries to not get in the way.
There were other highly ranked players who did not disappoint, including Bubba Watson, who fired off a 65 to finish in a runner-up for the second year in a row; Jordan Spieth, who’s Sunday 65 fell just short of putting him in the top 5; and Ryan Palmer, who improved upon last week’s top 10 with a runner-up in Scottsdale. Palmer is definitely someone to keep watching – he’s been itching for a win ever since his top 5 finish at the PGA Championship last year.
Now, let’s take a look at our disappointing results this week:
PGATour.com: Zach Johnson (T10/65 points), Rickie Fowler (T46/22 points), Scott Piercy (Cut/0 points), Brian Harman (T66/4 points). Overall Grade – C
The shining pick here, and in the Golf Channel league, was Zach Johnson. Seemingly overlooked by most, Johnson almost put himself in a position to take the tournament on Sunday, but stalled with an even 71, and just held on to a top 10 finish. Aside from ZJ, everyone was a big disappointment. Nothing else to report.
Golf Channel: Matt Kuchar (T30), Zach Johnson (T10), Brendan Steele (T26), Pat Perez (T26). Total Earnings: $294,713. Overall Grade – B
Here we are not feeling as bad. You of course are more limited with the 4 tier format, so to have no finish worse than T30 is satisfying. We would have liked to see ZJ put up a bigger fight, and Kuchar did in fact disappoint us like we feared, because at this point a T30 is about 20 spots below what you expect out of Kuch whenever he tees it up. Steele and Perez showed their strength on this course, as neither played a single round over par, but it was disappointing that they never had that signature round that would have put them closer to being in contention.