Week in Review

Monday Qualifier

The performance of 16-year-old Jordan Spieth saved what was otherwise a flat Byron Nelson Championship

Jordan Spieth

Spieth became the sixth-youngest player to ever make the cut at a PGA Tour event.

May 24, 2010

IRVING, Texas -- It was an odd amalgam assembled on the leader board at the HP Byron Nelson Championship last week, a truant mixing with a group that might have put the ancient in royal and ancient.

Jordan Spieth, 16 and a junior at Jesuit High in Dallas, cut class last week, but was unable to do so surreptitiously. He turned up on the front page of the newspapers here for demonstrating skill and maturity that belied his age.

He was joined in contention by a group of graybeards: Tom Pernice and Corey Pavin, each 50, Kenny Perry, 49, and Steve Elkington, 47.

"It's the type of course where if you control the ball, length is not the hugest issue and everybody has an opportunity and it's good," Pernice said Saturday, explaining the Methuselah infusion into the festivities. "Age is only what you feel like and what you make it to be."

This group must have felt a hundred in the company of Spieth and another wunderkind, Jason Day, 22, who won the tournament to become the youngest Australian ever to win a PGA Tour event. Spieth tied for 16th.

Spieth, incidentally, played with Pernice on Saturday and Pavin on Sunday. In each case, he said, his biggest challenge was deciding whether to call them Mr. Pernice and Mr. Pavin or Tom and Corey.


At that, Spieth wasn't the only boy among men last week. Matteo Manassero of Italy, a 17-year-old professional, tied for 17th in the BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour. And another 16-year-old, Grayson Murray, a high school sophomore, made the cut and tied for 52nd in the Nationwide Tour's Rex Hospital Open.


Blake Adams is a PGA Tour rookie at 34, and lives in the small town of Nunez, Ga., population 138 (in 2008), according to city-data.com. Nunez's per capita income in 2008 was $15,847.

That number will rise in the aftermath of Adams' T-2 at the Nelson. He earned $485,333, raising his season total to $821,168. Using Nunez' 2008 data and factoring in Adams' 2010 earnings, the people of Nunez should be happy to learn that per capita income is $21,841, a 38 percent raise for each of them.


Vijay Singh's precipitous fall is remarkable when juxtaposed against how consistently well he played for nearly two decades. In 2009, Singh failed to win a tournament for the first time since 2001. His earnings of $1.28 million represented his worst year since 1997. He's now ranked 58th in the world and is out of the top 50 for the first time since 1992.

Singh missed the cut at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, where his 36-hole total of eight-over par 148 bettered only four players. He has now missed the cut in five of 11 starts, including four of the last five. In his last 13 rounds, he has broken 70 only once.

Singh is also 47, which conceivably -- though not necessarily -- is contributing to the decline. Another factor could be back issues that bothered him earlier this year, resulting in his withdrawing from the Transitions Championship. Singh declined to elaborate at the Nelson, but suffice it to say, he doesn't vaguely resemble a player with 34 victories, more than $62 million in earnings and more victories (20) since turning 40 than anyone in the game's history.


This was a show gone wrong, the stage playing a more prominent role than the actors performing across it. From the outset, the focus of the European Tour's showcase event, the BMW PGA Championship, was on the 18th hole at the renovated Wentworth Club in Surrey, England.

It was alternately praised and panned, even before a shot was struck.

From Derek Lawrenson in the Daily Mail:

"A fairly bland par five has been totally transformed into an attention-grabbing, risk-reward long hole, with a stream protecting the front and the left-hand side providing the daring element that the previous design lacked.

"Once it has the benefit of a little history behind it, you can see this being hailed in 10 years as one of the best finishing holes in Britain."

Or not. There was this from Mark Reason in the Telegraph:

"Wentworth's new 18th hole is a nasty piece of Americana. It is a strip of blazing neon jagging across the natural green and russets of the Surrey countryside.

"The result is something that looks flash, but is a golfing nonsense. A perfectly good par five has been turned into a bash, a lay-up and a pitch across water. It might as well be a par three. They spent half a million quid on an aquatic folly -- there goes the winner, not waving, but drowning."

The latter opinion tended to be the majority view -- Lee Westwood was among the most vocal critics -- to the point that Ernie Els, who oversaw the renovation, was forced to defend the reasons behind the par-5 18th hole transformation that generally rendered the risk too great for the potential reward.

"Today I felt very disappointed by everything that's been said and kind of hurt a little bit," Els said. "But you've got to be man enough to stand up and take it on the chin. This golf course is something for the future. Richard Caring didn't want 18-under winning and I think he succeeded in that."

The winner was Simon Khan at six-under par 278.

Caring, Wentworth's owner and the man who commissioned the renovation, accepted blame.

"The 18th was a dream I had," Caring told reporters. "I wanted to give the spectators a bit of excitement, a bit of theatre. We might have gone slightly too far because it's proven to be quite difficult. I think the green could be slightly lower, which is what Ernie Els wanted to do, but I was a bit more theatrical than he was. I liked it a little higher. I thought we should tempt the pros to hit the second shot into the green rather than laying up, (but) I must say Ernie was right and I was wrong."


Khan might have been the least likely winner the BMW Championship could have produced. He wasn't in the field until Monday of tournament week and was ranked 471st in the world. Then he had to overcome a seven-stroke deficit on Sunday, which he did with a final round of 66.

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