Memorial Breakdown and Who 'Rose' To the Occasion
The blinding orange clothing of a 21-year old hot-shot.
The firmly concentrated gaze of an overdue Brit.
A slew of the most talented golfers in the world competing on a brutally arduous course.
When was the last time that Sunday on the PGA Tour was this riveting?
The Memorial Tournament did more than just challenge the elite "golf ball whacker" guys in the world, but it revealed the grit and intensity involved in 18 holes of competitive golf.
Ten players under the age of 30 have won in the 2010 PGA Tour season. In line with that statistic, the Memorial also unveiled the marvelous play of youngsters like Rickie Fowler, 21, and the tournament winner Justin Rose, 29.
Though every round will have its blemish, only Justin Rose was able to minimize his mistakes, while hitting dazzling shots, earning him his first PGA Tour victory.
Justin Rose: Simply Solid
On Sunday, Rose was not the young gun contending against veterans. Instead, Fowler's youth highlighted Rose's experience and, like a champion should, Rose, well, rose to the occasion.
It wasn't just one component of Rose's Memorial rounds that launched him to the top of the leaderboard, but a truly rhythmic blend of his pre-shot routine, vision, strategy, and control of the golf ball.
In various interviews Rose explained how as a youngster he had learned the hard way what it was like to have a lead and lose it on Sunday down the stretch, or how to play fabulous golf—but not fully show it.
This week he not only played great golf, but he closed in style.
Sunday, Rose produced a flawless, bogey-free round of six-under, 66, and earned his first, very overdue, victory on the PGA Tour.
If he can bring this kind of incredibly consistent, powerful play to Pebble Beach, he will definitely be contending on Sunday at the U.S. Open.
Rickie Fowler: Fast, Flamboyant and Phenomenal
I don't think Fowler's nerves got to him. I don't think he was over-hyped or over-publicized.
I just think Rose played better Sunday.
Fowler will continue to play with his swift, aggressive attitude and will undoubtedly spend many more Sundays in the final group.
Also, aspiring golfers should emulate the consistent play of Rickie, who was in the top-10 this week in three crucial stats—fairways hit, greens in regulation, and 53 holes without a bogey.
Tiger Woods: Indifferent and Uninspiring
Not once in Tiger's final round did he show even a glimpse of desire to be playing golf.
Though he shot a respectable round of even-par, 72, and finished T17 at -6, Tiger, who emanated indifference, was as uninspiring as ever.
Smiles have always been rare for Tiger when on the golf course. His stern demeanor and unwavering focus are often what he relies on to dig deep within himself in order to recover from poor tee shots, lip out putts, or simply bad luck.
As a fan strolling along the ropes or a viewer on the edge of their seat at home, I think we were all hoping for the miraculous out of Tiger; some semblance of his glory.
Not today, and definitely nowhere throughout this tournament.
His driver was, to be polite, off. His approach shots were affected by poor accuracy off the tee, and consequently, his rounds were littered with par saves, instead of birdie opportunities.
Tiger knows better than anyone—dare I say even the Golden Bear—how to win a golf tournament.
However, this year's Memorial conveyed a Tiger that was nowhere near the motivated, focused battler that redefined the game of golf.
Phil Mickleson: Fearless, but Unlucky
After a gorgeous chip-in on No. 14, it seemed like the momentum was on Lefty's side.
But a wayward drive—and I mean over a plethora of trees, a creek, and probably a hole or two—Mickleson found his ball lying still on a firm, black, cart-path.
In classic Phil fashion, he stood behind the ball, staring at his path over trees and through branches, while discussing the strategy with his caddy.
Then I realized, cart-path or not, he was going to take this shot.
Sure enough, with some kind of wood in hand, Mickleson pounded the ball off the rigid, dark pavement and watched it soar through the air.
Mickleson is a gunner: fearless, imaginative, and out to win.
He's been known to get overly aggressive, which often costs him strokes, but let me be the first to say it's nice to see a player unafraid of making mistakes.
Whereas Tiger looked like he just wanted to get done with his round as fast as possible, often yelling at the ball when it went awry, Mickleson was thinking out shots, giving little kids high-fives and smiling with a tip of the cap every time he putted out.
Phil is absolutely pounding the ball, hitting his 9-iron from 175 yards and pummeling his drives more than 320 yards multiple times throughout the week.
What separated Phil from holding the trophy Sunday was his short game, namely his putting. He had a multitude of chances inside six to 10 feet for birdies, but they would tragically sit on the lip or just roll by, causing a deep, guttural sigh from the throngs of people following the Masters Champion.
He can and hopefully will play exceptional golf in two weeks at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. If he can maintain his length, while tightening the screws on his shorter putts, Lefty will be unbeatable.
Bo Van Pelt: Consistent and a New Threat
Let go of your reservations, cease to doubt, and just give in.
Bo Van Pelt is playing remarkable golf this season.
Check out these stats:
- T3 at Memorial (rounds of 70, 69, 68, 69)
- Ranked 3rd in Greens in Regulation Percentage (70.98%)
- Ranked 5th in Birdies per round (4.14)
- Ranked 10th in Scoring Average (70.16)
- 1st in Top Ten Finishes (5)
Bo has proven he can compete with the best, but now it's just a matter of time before he breaks through and holds the trophy on Sunday.
Ricky Barnes: Talented but Erratic
The talent is there--there's no doubt about it.
His 10-under par, 62, on Saturday, let alone his first two rounds, was brilliant.
However, Barnes will never be the player you want to put your money on until he can officially finish strong down the stretch.
Sunday, Barnes' round was plagued by nothing other than his nerves. His one-over par round of 73 was a valiant effort, but totally ebb and flow. Two double bogeys, one bogey, two birdies, and one eagle—not exactly the blueprint for success.
With the game on the line, Barnes' tendency is to let his upper body lean forward at the top of his swing, ultimately sending his club a bit over the top and producing errant shots.
Overall, he has had a wonderful season, highlighted by five top-10 finishes, representing an overall improvement in his consistency.
Dark Horse U.S. Open Pick: Sean O'Hair
The 2010 Pebble Beach winner will need two characteristics above all others:
First, confidence over every shot from tee to green. Whether standing at the edge of a cliff for a tee shot or hunched over a putt with the sounds of waves crashing in the background, sustained focus is key at Pebble Beach.
Second, this course will present the overwhelming task of being decisive and clever off the tee. Knowing when to pull the driver versus some kind of long iron or hybrid could be the key distinction between 1st and 2nd place at the Open.
I am taking Sean O'Hair in my U.S. Open pool because he doesn't just have a steady head on his shoulders, but his stellar play at the Memorial only strengthened his already sterling reputation as a competitor and template of consistency.
O'Hair not only has the length off the tee to capitalize at Pebble, but also the know-how to choose wisely when to pull the "Big Dog" and when to play it safe. Also, his putting has improved a great deal, which will be a pivotal factor on the lightning fast greens at the U.S. Open.