There are plenty of ups and downs throughout a season of golf, but sometimes it’s simply a matter of playing the best when it matters the most that defines a career. What Zach Johnson accomplished Monday afternoon with his 10th career win at the BMW Championship shouldn’t have come as a surprise to most people who follow the game; the 37-yr-old has proven himself time and time again throughout his solid 9 years on the PGA Tour, but still remains one of the tour’s most underrated players. I’ll finish my stream of thoughts about Zach later, but now, it’s time to move on to my 5 Things from last week’s BMW Championship.
5 – Good First Impression
Despite Jim Furyk’s round of 59 and a few others who managed scores in the low-60′s, Conway Farms more than held its own last week in its’ professional debut. The Tom Fazio design that many felt wouldn’t challenge the players because of the softer conditions and shortish length ended up playing 8 strokes tougher than the very comparable TPC Boston the week prior. Sure – the winds and the weather elevated the challenges last week, but overall I think the layout proved to be a worthy consideration for the future tour playoff rotation down the road. There aren’t many shot-making courses left on the PGA Tour, and Conway Farms could fill that void. The layout there reminds us that it’s not always the longer hitters who have the advantage each and every week.
4 – The End of the Beginning or the Beginning of the End?
Everyone keeps saying that things will indeed get better, but last week was a sobering reminder of just how forgettable this season has been for Rory McIlroy. He entered the week # 41 on the FedEx Cup points list, well within reach of getting inside the top-30 and moving on to the Tour Championship despite a season filled with enormous struggle. But by the end of the second round on Friday he was already 13-over par and just as confused about his game as he was 9 months ago when the season started. Everyone has their own opinions as to the why’s and how’s of his demise, but that “one good month of steady playing” that many felt was all he needed hasn’t materialized, and doesn’t look to be coming anytime soon based on what he revealed last week. Some time away in the off season can help sooth his mind and maybe offer him some perspective, but winning is the only true thing that restores confidence. And at the moment, winning a golf tournament has never seemed more unlikely for Rory.
3. Tiger’s Carelessness
I had a paragraph prepared to better explain my take on Tiger Woods’ latest brush with rules controversies, his third such episode this season. But then I came across a well-written and to-the-point short read by Doug Ferguson over at AP who does a much more thorough job of putting the entire debacle into proper context. The excerpt from his column below has a live link that will enable you to read his article in its entirety.
“Grousing didn’t make Woods’ case any stronger, especially in light of the video evidence. If anything, he allowed his integrity on the golf course to be questioned. That was never (or rarely, anyway) the case as he assembled perhaps the greatest career in PGA Tour history — 79 wins, 14 majors, 10 money titles (including this year). But now he risks losing the locker room. A few players privately mocked him during the final round at Conway Farms. “Oscillation” became a punch line. Was it worth it?”
2. Freddy’s Justification
There’s nothing to not admire about Jim Furyk’s career…16 career wins, 25 runner-ups, a US Open title, and over $55 million in earnings. That’s Hall of Fame stuff. And then we look at how he’s represented the sport all these years, a professional in every sense of the word. Back on Friday when he became the 6th player ever to have carded a round in the 50′s on the PGA Tour, that honor couldn’t have possibly been bestowed upon a more deserving candidate. But three days later with a 2-shot lead heading into the closing 9 holes of the tournament, a pattern that has haunted Furyk over the past three seasons continued. Not to dismiss Zach Johnson’s remarkable charge in the group up ahead, but Furyk had this tournament by the balls on a layout that couldn’t have possibly been more suited for his game. But just like he’d done the last 5 times having the lead heading into the final round, Furyk failed to close the deal. His 1-over 37 coming in is basically the reason why he wasn’t picked to be on the Presidents Cup team, and in an environment where the captain is relying on players who can perform under pressure – Furyk did very little in the final round to make the argument that he deserved Freddy’s loyalty.
1. Mr. Clutch
In this long-balling, cookie-cutter swing era of professional golf, Zach Johnson is a refreshing throwback to an era that used to define the best from the rest. His patented closed-clubface with the hold-off finish swing has carved out quite the career on the PGA Tour, yet despite his impressive win at Augusta back in 2007 and the 8 tournaments he’s won since, he still doesn’t get near as much celebrity and press as do some of his longer-hitting counterparts who’ve yet to accomplish even half of the success he’s earned. If I had to sum up Zach’s career thus far with just a single word, it would be “fearless.” He’s shown us repeatedly throughout his career that he can play well under steady pressure, that he can win on a variety of differing layouts, and that he can be a very reliable teammate in Ryder and Presidents Cup team events. Last Monday at Conway Farms he showed once again how fearless he is with an impressive 6-under 65 to come from behind to earn his 10th tour career win. Well done, Zach Johnson.
This week we move ahead to the Tour Championship, the final leg of the race to $10 million. Click HERE for the updated FedEx Cup points standings, and live televised coverage begins Thursday at 1:00 on the Golf Channel.