For those that enjoyed John McNamara’s first edition of Long-Term 101, Volume One, you’ll be pleased to learn that his next version will publish this Friday, May 5. “Long-Term 101, Volume Two” will include an updated ranking of Johnny Mac’s top 101 fantasy golfers with an eye at the remainder of the PGA TOUR season. You can see how far this week's winner, Jason Dufner, moved up the standings on Friday.
Dufner defeated Ernie Els on the second playoff hole on Sunday to win the Zurich Classic at the TPC Louisiana in Avondale, Louisiana for his first-ever PGA Tour victory. Dufner finished Sunday with 70 to tie Els (67) with 19-under par 269. Luke Donald regained the world no. 1 ranking with his third place finish two shots out of the playoff at 17-under par 271.
Last week Ben Curtis broke his streak of 2045 days without a PGA Tour win and this week Jason Dufner won for the first time in 164 starts on Tour. That’s too many days to count and add up.
Dufner mentioned in his press conference after the third round that this course really didn’t fit his eye. Well, he was 17-under after three rounds and had a two-shot lead heading into Sunday so I guess a visit to the eye doctor is not in the cards anytime soon. Dufner didn’t make a birdie or a bogey in his last eight holes but that’s not to say his round didn’t have any drama involved. He was sixth in strokes gained-putting and that number was padded when he made a 40-foot putt to save par on 16 after dunking his tee shot in the water. With an alligator lurking, Dufner took his medicine and dropped. His iron shot was loose and with Ernie Els saving pars from everywhere, it looked like Dufner would be 0-164 career as he stared down that putt from over 40 feet. Soup. Dead Center. No doubt. After watching his birdie putt to win on 18 slide by the hole, Dufner, who was 0-2 in playoffs (Mark Wilson 2011 WMPO, Keegan Bradley 2011 PGA) was faced with having to knock off Hall-of-Famer Ernie Els in a playoff starting from 18 tee. After both missing birdie putts on the first extra hole, Dufner’s two putt on 18 finally knocked the monkey off his back.
Dufner in his last four starts here has finished WIN, T3, T7 and T9. Dufner is getting married next week. This check should help keep the bar open a few more hours next weekend. Congratulations on your marriage and first-career win on Tour. That’s a busy week!.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
The last 11 of 18 players (Hunter Mahan has won twice)who led after 54 holes on Tour have blown the lead in the final round. Jason Dufner now makes it 11 of the last 19 as he won for the first time in his career. Dufner had a two-shot lead over Graham Delaet heading into Sunday’s final round.
Make it three weeks in a row where we’ve seen the 30-something winner on Tour but this time it was a first-time winner. Jason Dufner had made nine of 10 cuts entering this week but his best finish was only T8 at WMPO. He was better know for not holding leads after the first and second rounds as he shot 64 to open in Phoenix and was leading the masters after two rounds before struggling on the weekends. People will point out that he had a three-shot lead over Keegan Bradley at the PGA Championship last year and couldn’t close the deal. All of that is now filed in the “experience” category that Dufner used on Sunday to defeat Ernie Els.
Dufner has now hit the top 15 five times in 11 starts in 2012.
Since 1990 Dufner joins 11 other Tour players who have made the Zurich Classic their maiden victory. Dufner joins Tim Petrovic (2005), Nick Watney (2007) and Andres Romero as first-time winners at TPC Louisiana.
With this victory, Ben Curtis earns $1,152,000 and 500 FedExCup points. Dufner is now ninth in the FedExCup standings trailing leader Hunter Mahan.
Young Guns versus Old Guns
In 19 tournaments this season the “Young versus Old” argument now stands at 9-8-2 as Jason Dufner scores another point for the “middle”.
For the “young”, Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24) and Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan TWICE (29), Rory McIlroy (22) and Justin Rose (31) lead the way for the Young guys.
Mark Wilson (37) is joined by George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods (36), Bubba Watson (33), Carl Pettersson (34), Ben Curtis (34) and now Jason Dufner (35) in the “middle”.
Steve Stricker (44) and Phil Mickelson (41) are flying the flag for the “old” folks on Tour.
That makes two in a row for the Stars and Stripes with Ben Curtis VTO and Jason Dufner this week as the “middle” guys on Tour are trying to catch the young ‘uns.
Ernie Els: His 17th runner-up finish on Tour was a tough one for Ernie Els on Sunday. He missed a five-footer on 18, which would have won the tournament and given him his first victory since 2010. The tough part for Els recently has been his putting but this week he was fourth in strokes gained-putting after only finding T25 GIR. It’s usually the other way around for Els. Els has been playing, in his own words on pgatour.com, “good stuff” over the last few weeks and was shocked when he was CUT at Hilton Head. The Big Easy in The Big Easy was too good to be true. Els continues his excellent run of play without a victory in his last five starts as he’s posted T5 TC, T4 API, T12 SHO, CUT and P2 this week. I hope you have been enjoying this ride.
Luke Donald: Donald’s solo third this week vaults him back to world No.1 in the OWGR. Donald, who opened with 73, was threatened on Twitter with house chores by his wife if he didn’t make the cut on Friday. It worked. Ask any man with a honey-do list and they will tell you it’s a better motivator than cash! Donald rebounded on the final three days to fire 18-under par and 17-under for the tournament. After assessing last week that his short game might not be up to his lofty standards, Donald righted the ship this week to the delight of fantasy gamers who had to deal with T32 and T37 in his last two starts on Tour. Donald hits the top six for the third time in seven events in 2012.
Ryan Palmer: After tying the course record on Saturday, Palmer looked poised to make a run at his first title since 2010 Sony Open. Bogeys and one and three on Sunday stymied his challenge but he rallied with five birdies on his final 15 holes to post T4 for the week. Palmer’s excellent ball striking (T26 driving accuracy and T6 GIR) was the main reason he carded 24 birdies on the week. His putter, which was great when he hit GIR, struggled to gain strokes as he finished 44th in that category. Coming into this week, Palmer’s best finish on Tour this year was T21 and he was coming off 74-76 last weekend at VTO. Great spot if you had him this week!
Graham Delaet: The Canadian hit the board at T4 to complete his best finish on Tour since his T3 last year at SHO. Delaet is also playing on a major-medical exemption in 2012 and needs to pass over $650,000 over 26 events to keep his exempt status on Tour. This cash helps him get closer to his goal as his back heels and he returns to form. He’s made the cut in eight of 12 events in 2012 and hit the top 10 with T9 at PRO in March. He has no problem getting off the tee and was T11 GIR this week in New Orleans. He’s always been a Rob Bolton favorite so that alone makes him worth watching! To find out what guys we should be watching this week tune in with Rob and Ryan on the LIVE chat at http://rotoworld.com Wednesday at Noon.
Steve Stricker: Removed some doubt this week with his 48th consecutive made cut and a sixth-place finish in New Orleans. The doubt crept in after his T36 SHO and T47 Masters in his last two times on the links. Stricker was steady this week as his worst round was 70 on Sunday. The normally-automatic putter had some struggles down the stretch on Sunday that might have cost him a few bucks, but it looks like he’s comfortable after his two-event break after the Masters. He’s an automatic choice when he’s healthy.
Ken Duke: Leading a PGA Tour event in strokes gained-putting will almost guarantee a finish in the top 10 and Ken Duke did that this week. He finished T7 as he was in the top eight in all three putting categories and made 24 birdies (T2) on the week. Duke only made one bogey in the first two rounds before slowing down on the weekend (71-70). Trying to figure out Duke in 2012 has been an adventure. In his first four events he didn’t finish better than T39. He shot up the leader board at AT&T Pebble Beach before a Sunday 74 saw him finish T7. He backed that top 10 with T59, T62 and 70th in his next three before returning to the top 10 with a T5 at TC. Figure it out yet? Me neither. In his last two starts before Zurich, Duke was CUT at API and T60 at RBC Heritage. I give up.
Cameron Tringale: After being CUT at API, Tringale has now hit the top eight in three consecutive weeks. Tringale was T8 SHO, T8 VTO and T7 this week at Zurich. Tringale has been playing some excellent golf and this week wasn’t any exception as he shot 65 in round one after shooting 65 last week in round two. The next step for Tringale is to challenge to win on Sunday as he faded this week with 71, including bogeys on two of his final four holes. We also learned on Twitter this week that Rickie Fowler and his roommate Cam Tringale have a bet on who’s going to win first on Tour. Tringale is currently leading the top 10 category with his fourth of the season to Fowler’s two.
John Rollins: Another top 10 in 2012 for John Rollins as he finished T7 this week. Rollins had the 15th best final-round scoring average but he couldn’t capitalize on Sunday with even-par 72. Rollins has had a streaky 2012. After hitting the top 10 three times in his first four outings, Rollins was CUT in three consecutive events NTO, Honda and TC. His next four events were T20, CUT, T20 and CUT. That’s pretty streaky.
David Mathis: There is more than one way to skin a cat as the saying goes and David Mathis proved that this week at the Zurich Classic. Mathis finished T62 in GIR yet was fifth in strokes gained-putting to post his second-career top 10 finish. Mathis only made 15 birdies and one eagle against four bogeys. Mathis likes this course as last year he made his only other career top 10 here with T8. Mathis also had his best finish of 2012 last week T18 at VTO. In 13 events in 2012, Mathis has been CUT 10 times but now has T18 and T10 finishes in back-to-back weeks.
Justin Rose: Rose hit the top 10 for the fourth time in seven events in 2012 with his T10 finish this week. The best iron player on Tour according to his coach Sean Foley didn’t disappoint this week as he finished T2 in GIR. His ball striking was excellent as he was T3 in driving accuracy but it was his putter that held him back this week. Over the four rounds Rose only made four bogeys but was T66 in strokes gained-putting yet still finished in the top 10! Rose has been an automatic choice in my Tuesday preview column and he continues to impress as 2012 rolls on.
Rickie Fowler: Welcome back to the Sunday wrap-up column Rickie Fowler! The last time we saw Fowler finishing this high up the leader board was his T7 at Honda back in early March. When guys change equipment it can take a while before they start getting the consistent results that they depend on each round. Fowler had no problem getting off the tee but his putting numbers this week struggled as he was T50 or worse in all three putting categories. His T11 in GIR gave him ample opportunities this week to make the top 10 and his 65 on Friday was his low round of the season. Fowler was coming off a four-event stretch T45, T63, T27 and CUT his last time out. It’s time to put him back on the radar but completely understandable why he didn’t figure coming into this week.
“Hey, whatever happened to…”
Bubba Watson: The 2012 Masters champion and the 2011 Zurich Classic defending champion started 71-71 before jumping into contention with a 65 on Saturday which included a double-bogey. Watson used his same formula for success: bomb it and be a GIR machine. He was first in driving distance and top 10 in GIR. When Watson is successful it’s his putter that does the business. That wasn’t the case this week as Watson slipped to his worse FFSP of 2012 with his T18. That’s an excellent opening four months to 2012!
Carl Pettersson: After finishing WIN and second in his last two outings, Pettersson had to be included as a player to watch this week. Pettersson responded this week by making zero bogeys on Thursday and just four bogeys on Friday. Sadly, he made four doubles which saw him finish CUT for the third time in five events. What? Yes, you read that correctly. He was CUT at TC and API before finishing second at SHO and winning at RBC Heritage. That’s the definition of ALL-OR-NOTHING right there!
Nick Watney: Watney’s putter has not been cooperating lately and the results have reflected this as he hasn’t had a top 10 in a full-field event since JTO last October. This was Watney’s first CUT since the 2011 Open Championship last season. Since his T17 at WGC-CC at Doral Watney has finished T51, T59, T32 and CUT. He’ll need to regain some of his 2011 magic before I’ll put him back in my rotation.
Keegan Bradley: Bradley only made two bogeys in two rounds but still was CUT this week. Making two double-bogeys obviously didn’t help his cause either. Bradley didn’t take advantage of his length as he only made four birdies and an eagle. This is the first time Bradley has been CUT since the first two events of the 2011 FedExCup Playoffs last year. It figures he would do so on the week I projected him to win! This was just a blip on the radar and I wouldn’t be worried at all moving forward.