What I learned from the finishers in the top 10 this week
Matt Kuchar: Ouch. Gamers from coast to coast watched with baited breath for the second week in a row as Kuchar couldn’t close the deal. Last week, he was level heading into the back nine on Sunday with the No. 339 ranked player in the world. He finished T4. This week, he led by four shots heading into Sunday but his splashdown in the water left of the green on the 72nd hole led to a bogey and a playoff. His bunker ball to the right of the green on the playoff hole was also from the middle of the fairway. And they were playing lift, clean and replace. #scartissue Kuchar has now finished T8, T8 and P2 in his last three trips to Houston. He’ll still be one of my favorites next week at Augusta but if he can’t close it out versus two Aussie journeymen…
Sergio Garcia: His red-hot streak of T20 or better worldwide continues again with his solo third and it was his putter that was doing the damage. That’s a great sign heading to Augusta next week. Garcia also avoided bogeys as he just carded five for the tournament and rolled in 16 birdies and an eagle. Not bad for only his second appearance in Houston! His worst finish on TOUR is T16 this season.
Cameron Tringale: After finishing T16 last year and T8 in 2012, Tringale should have been on your radar heading into the week. He opened with 65 last year as well so this course obviously fits his eye. He also had made nine weekends in a row so he’s been on a nice run. His best stretch of the season was T12-T13-T12 to open February but he hadn’t had a round in the 60s in his last three events. His 68-68-69 to open this week saw him four shots behind Kuchar entering Sunday but 71 on Sunday dropped him back to solo fourth and his best finish since his solo third last year in Tampa. He’s the quintessential two-and-done candidate here next year!
Shawn Stefani: Minor Medical Exemption completed! Stefani needed a T34 or better this week and the sponsor’s exemption thrashed that with solo fifth. The hometown hero teed it up for only the second time this season and thanks to a putting lesson from Dave Stockton, Sr., he made EVERYTHING this week. Over 530 feet of putts were holed as he attained his best finish ever in 26 TOUR events. Enjoy the rest of 2014, Shawn!
Rickie Fowler: The Butch Harmon experience is slowly but surely producing results as Fowler finished solo sixth this week. Fowler used to make his money on the greens and off the tee but now he’s longer and is hitting more greens. And holing less putts. This is the first time back inside the top 10 since his solo third at the WGC-Match Play. After his recent results in Florida that produced nothing better than T24 in three events it was surprising to see him post a top 10 on a course where his finishes were T65 and T63. Gamers like consistency more than roller coaster rides but this is what we get when swing changes are going on. I saw what Harmon has done recently for Walker and Woodland so it won’t surprise me when Fowler starts putting it together.
Retief Goosen: Welcome back to The Takeaway for the two-time U.S. Open champion! He would have had some more cash in his pocket if he hadn’t bogeyed the final two holes but this is first top 10 since the 2014 full-field opener at Sony (T8). Like Stefani, he was playing on his final exemption on his major medical exemption but needed a finish of 26th or better to keep his card. He did so we’ll see him the rest of the season as well. He’s 45 so I’m not going out of my way to fit him into my lineups but he could be useful at Pinehurst. Stay tuned!
Rory McIlroy: He remarked earlier in the week that he’s happy to be missing putts THIS week so he gets it out of his system for Augusta. He tied the low round of the week with 65 on Sunday and made everything so he’s peeking at the perfect time. His 65 on Sunday will help the Yahoo! gamers rack up some points that Kuchar didn’t bring home. Look, McIlroy is automatic. Just sign him up and forget it.
Russell Henley: After his win at Honda he went the route he did after his victory last year at Sony: incognito. But it only took him his third event this time to see him jump back into the top 10 (T7). Henley closed with 66 which included only one bogey and was striking the golf ball quite well. He finished T10 in both fairways and greens and if that carries over next week he could surprise.
Brice Garnett: The 2013 Web.com Tour grad has adapted quite well to TOUR life in 2013-14 as he’s cashed in 11 of 13 events including a career-best T7 this week. His finish was in spite of making two doubles on the week but T10 fairways, T5 GIR and 14th in strokes gained-putting helped even things out. He could be my new “regular” in Group 4 of the GolfChannel.com game…
Ryan Palmer: Last week, he literally limped home at Valero with 82 after injuring his hip in the final round. His recovery was quite quick as he was right back in the action with another top 10 (T7) this week in Houston. I wrote him off in group B because the last thing gamers need in a loaded group is damaged goods. Some theory that. He’s now played in nine straight weekends and almost half of those, four, have resulted in top 10s. Bouncing back from that injury that quickly tells me that he’s enjoying his run of form and doesn’t want the heat to cool off!
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
Dustin Johnson: He WD with a slight lower back issue after his 80 on Thursday. His scorecard included 2,3,4,5,6,7 and 8. We had plenty of people on the chat Wednesday trying to play defense around those who were starting Johnson. Well, he played the best defense possible! As he moves to Augusta this week, I bet he has more fuel in his GAS (Give A Shit) tank.
Henrik Stenson: I’ve now been burned by two premium players in the OAD world this year. Rory McIlroy brought me T25 at WGC-Doral and Stenson checks in with T54 this week at SHO. The maddening part was he was T3 in fairways but rubbish in greens and almost dead-last in strokes gained-putting. Whatever. Moving on to Augusta doesn’t look the slam-dunk it did after his break-out at API.
Jordan Spieth: All systems were go after a bogey-free 70 to open on Thursday but the youngster missed the cut by one with his 75 on Friday. Panic factor? No chance! He had two bogeys and a double on Friday with only one birdie.
Keegan Bradley: After his opening round, bogey-free 66, gamers were licking their chops. After two doubles and double hockey sticks on Friday, they were not. Add a triple on Saturday and an eagle and double on Sunday and I have no idea what’s going on. Bradley rotted my lineup in Yahoo! because Johnson WD and #SpiethBoner went limp. He’s already won a major in Georgia. No reason to see why he couldn’t do it again. Form is temporary; class is permanent. T43.
Rory McIlroy: T7, see above.
Matt Kuchar: P2, see above.
Jimmy Walker: Another tournament, another top 25 for the man who leads the FedExCup standings. The only regret about playing him this week in Yahoo! was having Schwartzel and Garcia finishing better but if you had him for his 65 on Friday, you’re not too upset. Walker was Walker this week as he was loose off the tee and into the greens but putted, as usual, lights out. T24.
Sergio Garcia: Solo third, see above.
Bill Haas: The first round co-leader with Charley Hoffman on 65 made six birdies Thursday. He made seven more the rest of the week to finish T37. His double-bogey close on Sunday ruined a three-under round and made it even.
Webb Simpson: On the verge of a Sunday rally, Simpson instead dropped 31 spots with 77 to finish T61. He opened with a bogey-free 68 and only made five birdies the rest of the week. So that’s Hoffman, Bradley, Haas and Simpson who opened well and then went the wrong direction. His T61, MC, T47 is his worst three tournament streak since 2012. #alarmbells
Charl Schwartzel: He continues his fine form as he looks to add another green jacket next week in Augusta. His T19 included 75 in round two so he’s getting close, folks. #legit
Chris Kirk: First we had all the Georgia Bulldogs winning and now it’s the Australians. Wonder what sub-set is next? Maybe that should be the poll question on Wednesday. Kirk joined the club with a great first round (68) but finished 74-75-75 and T65. Sigh.
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