There are probably worse things than playing 36 holes on a Sunday in Hawaii and getting paid handsomely to do so. Playing 36 holes without a bogey, though, means you’ve earned your paycheck, no matter how big that check might be.
With the final two rounds compressed into one day due to rain, Mark Wilson played 36 blemish-free holes to win the Sony Open in Hawaii, closing his marathon day with a 67 to earn his third career win, and with it an invitation to the Masters.
Wilson made a clutch par save on the 71st hole to maintain a one-shot lead, then birdied 18 to close out a two-shot win over Tim Clark and Steve Marino. His bogey-free Sunday navigation of the short but tricky Waialae course proved that there’s still a place on tour for a traditional, short-hitting course manager who can make critical putts.
“I thought about that on 17 before I hit the putt, I haven’t made a bogey all day, so why start now?” Wilson said afterward. “It entered my mind, but when I was over the putt I didn’t think about it. That’s one of those neat stats to have. I don’t have too many bogey-free rounds in my career, so it’s pretty cool to have two in the same day.”
Wilson, who ranked 150th in driving distance but 26th in accuracy in 2010, was rock-solid down the stretch and credited an offseason workout routine for maintaining his groove during the draining day.
“I worked out pretty hard with my trainer in December and November just the short off-season we had, and I didn’t really feel tired in any way and didn’t make any swings down the stretch that felt like they were tired swings,” he said. “So I guess it helped me. If you’re going to play 36 holes on any golf course, this is a good one to do it on because it’s pretty flat, all the holes are close together. So I think everyone got around okay today.”
With the Sony win comes an invitation to Bobby Jones’ little get-together in Augusta. Like any first-time Masters participant, Wilson is scared and pumped all at once.
“You know, I’m anxious to play,” he said. “Maybe a little scared about the length, though, from what I’ve heard. Some of the shorter hitters talk about how it’s kind of eliminated them from the field, like I hear Tom Watson talk about it. But I’m going to go in there with — I get goosebumps thinking about it to be honest with you. Part of me feels like I don’t belong, so I’m going to have to get over that hurdle and be ready to play that week.”
There’s time for Wilson to build up his confidence going in to the Masters. But there’s also time for the nerves to mount.
The first big-time event of the 2011 season is coming up this weekend, and with all due apologies to the PGA Tour’s Bob Hope Classic, it’s not in the U.S.
While some B-list celebrities and a second-tier field gather for the Hope, many of the world’s best players will be assembling half a world away, in Abu Dhabi, for the European Tour’s HSBC Golf Championship part of that tour’s “desert swing” through the Middle East. All four of 2010’s major winners — Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer — will be on hand, as will Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter and the Molinari brothers. Just the latest example of the globalization of golf.