As I’ve been doing most of the season, we’ll start with a recap of last week’s Players Championship, the richest single tournament purse in golf.
Bad weather had been forecasted, but I don’t think they expected so much rain. Thursday’s opening round had a briefly delayed start, then a 4 hour delay early afternoon due to rain. The course played soft, guys made birdies, but only about half the field completed their round. Friday was a total washout and I believe 4 inches of rain fell on Ponte Vedra. Saturday was clear but windy - sustained over 20 mph and gusts that were constantly in the 30+ range and maxed at 43 mph. Carnage ensued. If you follow golf, and I’m assuming you do, much was made of this. So Saturday had your first round and start of the second round, Sunday had some of the third before being called for darkness, and Monday had the finish of the third and then the final round.
Brendon Todd shot 78-74 and missed the cut by 6. But hey! He beat 4 time major winner Brooks Koepka!
Hudson Swafford shot 73-75 and missed the cut by 2.
Chris Kirk bogeyed 18 in round 2, and that 1 stroke meant he slammed his trunk in the parking lot.
Bubba Watson had a brilliant bogey-free 68 Saturday (Rd. 2) but couldn’t follow it up and finished T68.
Brian Harman opened with 68, but couldn’t recapture the magic and ended T63.
Keith Mitchell had a share of the first round lead, slipped in the 2nd, slipped further in the 3rd, but a final round 69 moved him back to T13 (and like $300k).
Russell Henley had somewhat of a similar story - his first and final rounds also got him a T13.
Sepp Straka basically got better every day - his final round 67 jumped him 26 spots into the top 10 at T9.
And Kevin Kisner weathered the worst of the weather before faltering a smidge, then jumped right back into it with closing rounds of 68-68 to capture solo 4th. Which means a $980k payday.
Since Bulldogs seem cozy in the state of Florida (Straka winning in Palm Beach last month, Josh Brooks poaching Mike White, etc.), the Tour will hit I-4 and cruise over to the Tampa area.
Tournament: Valspar Championship, March 17-20, 2022.
Course: Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead course), par 71, 7,340 yards.
Purse: $7.8 million in total, $1.4 million to the winner.
Defending Champ: Sam Burns. The talented LSU Tiger seemingly was destined to win on Tour with some previous close calls. This time, he took control in the 2nd round and held steady while Keegan Bradley (St. Johns) mounted a charge, only to falter on the final nine holes.
Fun Fact: Is there really anything fun about this tournament? It is only about 20 years old, doesn’t have winners of too much distinction, and is in Tampa. The whole “Snake Pit” thing is a bit contrived (final 3 holes, which honestly are pretty tough). It is still a resort/parkland golf course near the Gulf Coast of Florida. At least it is the end of the Florida Swing, so the Tour won’t be back in FLA until next spring. That’s kinda fun.
TV Times: Thursday-Friday, 2 p.m.-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1 p.m.-3 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3 p.m.-6 p.m. (NBC). Jim Nantz is still busy prepping for March Madness, so the golf stays with NBC until the Masters.
‘Dawgs in the Field: 5. Bubba Watson, Brendon Todd, Greyson Sigg, Kevin Kisner, and Brian Harman.
Henley, Mitchell, and Straka are probably taking the week off to rest, since they just finished the Players Monday. Harris English is recovering from a hip injury. Hudson Swafford might be resting too, since he’s already qualified for the Masters (along with English, Harman, Kisner, Straka, and Bubba).
After a week of, at least I believe, pretty good TV ratings at the Players, the sports world will undoubtedly turn to college basketball. That seems like a novel idea - to watch your college team compete in the NCAA Tournament. Since I don’t have that going for me, I’ll tune in to the golf. But as always...