Sunday marked the first playoff of the year, and it was a pretty darn good one. Four men finished at nine under par, thanks to a questionable decision to lay up from one of the league’s biggest hitters. J.B. Holmes played it safe on 18, but could not hit the approach he needed to make a birdie that would have sealed off a victory. And to that, we say thank you J.B. Holmes! I mean, sorry you are only 470K richer instead of a million, but the playoff created a way better ending for us viewers.
Torrey Pines played like a true major-caliber course, nearly as difficult as it played when Tiger won his most recent major, the U.S. Open in 2008 (playing one round on the far-easier South course skews the scores for this tournament, too). Then, Tiger scored just one under par, and outlasted Rocco Mediate in impressive playoff fashion (even in that tournament he struggled through injury). But flash forward 7 years, and we saw another player who has struggled with injury emerge as victor (was that comparison too much of a stretch? Well sorry – deal with it). Jason Day outplayed Scott Stallings and Harris English on 18, who both parred, and then hit a career tee shot on the difficult par 3 16th to outlast J.B. Holmes.
Holmes will be criticized for laying up on 18. If he had walked away with the win he may have been commended, but at the end of the day he didn’t. Still, Holmes played incredible golf. He was steady, and his 68 on Saturday, a tie for the low round of the day, proved why he is a three-time winner on tour and a winner last year at the Wells Fargo (another track known for yielding high-caliber winners). One takeaway from this week is that everyone who climbed up the leader board should be noted, and considered threats in all of the more difficult tournaments this year. There are tournaments that favor the birdie-busters, and tournaments that require a grinder. Torrey Pines is the latter. Obviously the play of Day and Holmes will be noted, but so too should be that of Scott Stallings, Harris English, Charles Howell III, and Martin Laird, who has now done it two weeks in a row (minus Sunday at the WMPO). We are also taking note of the rise of rookie Carlos Ortiz (T11), Zac Blair (T11), Daniel Berger (T24), and Tony Finau (T24); and perhaps the reemergence of Jhonny Vegas (T11) and Spencer Levin (T11). Oh, and remember that guy who is leading the FedEx Cup, Jimmy Walker I think is his name? Yeah, that guy isn’t going anywhere, after logging another top 10.
As for our picks, let’s call it the tale of two leagues. Though we got a donut from Jordan Spieth in both, we actually did significantly better in one league than the other, which seems to happen given the formats. Here’s a look at our weekly grade:
PGATour.com: Jordan Spieth (Cut/0 points), Jason Day (Won/500 points), Marc Leishman (T27/42 points), Nick Watney (T7, 83 points). Overall Grade – B+
Well it’s always good to tack 500 points onto your team by picking the winner. Let’s not understate the difficulty in doing that; however, we do understand that Jason Day happened to be one of the most heavily favored players this week. Overall, aside from the whiff on Jordan Spieth, this was a solid group – the winner, another top 10, and Leishman staying in the top 3o (Leishman could have actually turned this grade into an A- if he hadn’t turned in a 4-over 76 on Sunday). All things considered, we are noticing a trend in “chalk” or “smart” picks paying off this season. Winners have included a defending champ in Jimmy Walker, Bill Haas in a tournament where he was already the third-all-time money earner, and Jason Day, who was the second highest ranked golfer (behind Justin Rose) in the OWGR entering the week. Then, you’ve got defending champ Scott Stallings making it into the playoff on Sunday, and two weeks ago, a bunch of horses for the course contended in Scottsdale – Bubba Watson and Ryan Palmer both with runner-up finishes, and Graham DeLaet and Brandt Snedeker getting back into the top 10. So, what does that mean? Well we still encourage going against the grain with picks from time to time, but make sure you have some chalky picks for safety, too.
Golf Channel: Jordan Spieth (Cut), Brandt Snedeker (T19), Nick Watney (T7), Aaron Baddeley (Cut). Total Earnings: $266,144. Overall Grade – C
Direct quote from our predictions, “In the top tier, it basically came down to doubling up on either Spieth or Day. Based on consistency and momentum, we decided to stick with Spieth.” Whoops. Well, you can’t win ’em all, and the rest of our picks in this league actually followed suit in terms of suckiness. Watney with the top 10 saved the grade, and Sneds with a second-straight top 20 is a good sign for his future use, but 2 missed cuts and only $266,144 is average at best. It didn’t even deserve a +.