K.J. Rules the Day at TPC Sawgrass
Random thoughts after a compelling Players Championship weekend:
• The Tank lived up to his nickname. Players champion K.J. Choi was steady and solid, constantly moving forward, obstacles be damned. Next up for Choi: winning a major. He’s come close, with top 10s at the last two Masters, and if the short putts start dropping with greater frequency, he could win one soon. Watch him at the PGA Championship in August.
• On the other hand, those looking for the Players to serve as a springboard need to study a little history. Several recent winners have pulled disappearing acts. The last three — Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Tim Clark — have combined for zero wins since their Players “breakthroughs.”
• Welcome back, DT. David Toms’ 72nd hole birdie to force a playoff was truly epic. On the hardest hole on the Stadium Course, Toms’ drive found a sand-filled divot, but one of the better iron players of our time coaxed his approach within 20 feet and coolly drained the tying putt. Toms’ anticlimactic bogey in Sudden Death ended the tournament, but the real killer was his bogey at 16, where his hybrid found the water. Still, in getting to the playoff, Toms played some of his best golf since winning the 2001 PGA.
• The 17th hole at the Stadium Course is probably the most divisive hole in golf. It’s great TV, but is it a great golf hole? It’s a little circus-y for my taste, but you can’t deny the drama. All in all, the hole’s a net positive for the PGA Tour’s flagship event, especially when playoffs start and usually end on the island green.
• With all due respect to K.J., the biggest story of the weekend was Tiger’s W/D. Where does Woods go from here? Has his body broken down on him? Is his Achilles injury more serious than he’s letting on? That’s the rumor, anyway. There are also major concerns about his knee. If he wasn’t there already, Woods has reached a point where the only four tournaments that matter are the ones that can get him closer to Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors. Makes you wonder why he even showed up for the Players. Tiger may ultimately catch Jack, but his mystique is gone
• By the way — Sean Foley? Not to be too impolite, but just shut up. Foley injected himself into the Woods-Bubba Watson dustup, in which Watson claimed — rightly, by the way — that Woods was headed in the wrong direction. Since Woods hired Foley as his swing coach, Tiger has regressed. Foley is like a judge on American Idol, essentially irrelevant but interrupting the proceedings to provide an opinion anyway. When Woods wins a major on his watch, then he can speak up. There are few things more grating in sports than an egomaniacal swing coach.
• Reigning U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell isn’t exactly on a roll heading into his title defense. After missing three of his previous four cuts, McDowell climbed into contention, seemingly on the verge of breaking out of his prolonged slump, before spraying balls all over the Stadium Course on his way to a final-round 79. Me? I don’t trust McDowell’s herky-jerky swing.