Hadwin’s tackle, one pro’s par-5 shortcut, my U.S. Open pick | Monday Finish
Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where we have no mergers to announce but, on the bright side, we’re also not under Congressional investigation. Yet. Let’s get to it!
FIRST OFF THE TEE
What really matters.
It’s U.S. Open week now, which means that we move on extra-fast from the week that was. But before we do, let’s take a moment to appreciate the way in which the RBC Canadian Open had the perfect ending.
Perfection, Part 1: Nick Taylor‘s walkoff 72-footer for eagle was an awe-inspiring moment. It was emotional, exciting, energizing. It was historic, marking the end to a 69-year drought for Canadians in their national open. It was a thrill for the thousands who had stuck around past the end of regulation, through intermittent rain and four playoff holes, thousands that included pros who’d finished their rounds earlier but emerged from the locker room to form pseudo-teams and watch: Canadians Adam Hadwin, Corey Conners and Mike Weir pulling for Taylor, and Europeans Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton and Justin Rose rooting on Tommy Fleetwood. A cynic might suggest the latter group was waiting for Fleetwood to split a jet to Los Angeles. An optimist would see it as them sticking around to witness something special. Special’s what they got.
Perfection, Part 2: The Adam Hadwin moment. If you spend any time on social media this clip may have already overstayed its welcome — but that’s unlikely, because it’s an incredible moment. And yes, you can watch guilt-free, knowing Hadwin is healthy and happy and plenty amused with the situation, too.
Together, the moments from Taylor and Hadwin combined to remind us that for a sport embroiled in a murky controversy involving hundreds of millions (billions?) of dollars, the stuff that really resonates is a combination of the deeply meaningful (that would be Taylor) and the deeply hilarious (enter Hadwin) and the secret sauce is the spontaneity, the unscripted nature, the sort of storylines you have a hard time finding anywhere else than sports. I would say that combination is priceless, but we’ve learned by now that there isn’t much that fits that description.
Who won the week?
Nick Taylor, Canadian, at the RBC Canadian Open, a hero in real time.
Ashleigh Buhai, winner by one at the ShopRite LPGA Classic thanks to a birdie at the last (if a particularly nonchalant reaction).
Dale Whitnell, 34-year-old at the Volvo Scandanavian Mixed. A year after Linn Grant stole the show in the half-male, half-female field, Whitnell won his first DP World Tour title while Anne van Dam was the low female player at T3.
Tommy Fleetwood has been damn close to winning on the PGA Tour, but it’s tough to be closer than he was on Sunday. The par-5 18th hole (more on that in a moment) was playing to a stroke average of 4.4 in the final round. Fleetwood had made birdie there each of the first three days. But then he missed the fairway with an iron, elected to lay up and then laid up into the rough, a brutal mistake that cost him any real chance at birdie.
In the playoff, he made one big putt to extend things and missed another that would have ended them. But his sign-off was all class. “See you at work.” I liked that.
This week, where do we begin?
If the criteria for this category is basically “people in the golf world who had a bad week,” well, there’s no lack of options. This deserves a column of its own (check back tomorrow) but it’s safe to say there are plenty of people in golf who left last week feeling worse than they began. Whenever words like “hypocrisy” and “betrayal” are getting tossed around, something has probably gone wrong.
A hole we saw again, and again, and again…
The 18th hole receives special focus at every PGA Tour course for a pretty obvious reason: that’s where the battle is won and lost. But this week’s 18th at Oakdale Golf and Country Club was particularly strange. Because a water hazard crossed the fairway just shy of the 300-yard mark, players were forced to lay back off the tee and attempt to squeeze irons and hybrids between bunkers, rough and water. It’s not often that you see Tour pros hit their second shots further than their first, but that was the case here. It was awkward. It was strange.
We were already overexposed to the hole before Taylor and Fleetwood played it three more times in extra time. But as I checked out ShotLink I noticed something interesting: three guys appeared to have opted out of that layup strategy. No. 18 appeared to demand a layup off the tee, but in rounds 1 and 2 one player’s tee shots soared directly over that body of water. Check ’em out:
Those balls belong to Brandon Matthews, the big-hitting American who decided to blow it over everything. On Thursday his 357-yarder left him just 151 yards to the hole. On Friday he outdid himself, pummeling one 367. That left him just 107 yards (!!!) to a front flag. Matthews is No. 2 in driving distance on Tour behind only Rory McIlroy, which makes you wonder if the Northern Irishman could have had a go with driver there, too…
(Sidenote: the blue dot above Matthews’ belongs to the ball of Wesley Bryan, who has never been considered a particularly long hitter. Still a mystery on that one. Cart path? Or just raw aggression?)
The good news for Matthews is that both tee shots led to birdie. The bad news for Matthews? He made a costly triple bogey in the first round and sprinkled around seven bogeys and a double in the second round, posting 74-78 to miss the weekend. Still, I admire his shortcut.
As for that 18th? It delivered the goods for Taylor (and for Hadwin) just a couple days later. It didn’t hurt that there was a little Canadian luck buried underneath the Sunday pin.
It’s U.S. Open week.
Xander Schauffele doesn’t always speak his mind, but when he does there’s typically some intention behind it. Schauffele going out of his way to express his frustration following the Tour’s announcement last week suggests that he’ll be playing this week’s U.S. Open with a little extra chip on his shoulder. That plus the fact that he’s one of the five best golfers in world should give him a fighting chance. He’s the official Monday Finish pick of the week, going off at 20-1. (Sidenote: you should know that I always pick Schauffele. I’m convinced he’s going to win basically every major. It might be the broken clock theory, but one day I’ll be right.)
3 things to watch this week...
1. Will anyone say anything?
More to the point, does anyone know anything? Thus far on Monday, we haven’t heard much. I’m guessing the pros will keep mum; silence seems like the dominant strategy. But if anyone decides to speak out? That’ll prove plenty interesting.
2. Just how punishing is this place gonna get?
The true unifying event that could happen this week is conditions getting completely out of control, rallying the players against the USGA’s course setup like the good ol’ days. Simpler times.
3. Adam Hadwin, NFL Countdown-style
I made this dumb video but hey, I thought it was funny:
We’ll see you here all week!