Cam Smith wins, a controversial end in Hawaii, a fan favorite course loses its Tour event and Michelle Wie talks pregnancy and retirement: What you missed
Welcome to the Dew Sweeper, your one-stop shop to catch up on the weekend action from the golf world. From the professional tours, trending news, social media headlines and upcoming events, here's every golf-related thing you need to know for the morning of Jan. 13.
Smith outlasts Steele at Waialae
Cam Smith waited five years for this moment. What was another 35 minutes?
Smith overcame a shaky start, the elements and a bizarre 72nd-hole wait to win the Sony Open, defeating Brendan Steele in a playoff.
"That’s been one I’ve wanted to tick off for a long time,” Smith said.
Beginning the tournament with a bogey/triple bogey on Thursday, Smith rallied with a 65 (Friday) and 66 (Saturday) to move into contention, entering Sunday three shots behind Steele. Facing constant rain and saturated conditions on Sunday, Smith brought that deficit to one heading into the final hole then converted a marvelous up-and-down birdie on Waialae's par-5 18th to force a playoff (more on this in a moment). On the first hole of sudden death, Smith recovered from a wayward drive with a spiny approach to 10 feet from under the trees while Steele blew an 87-yard pitch over the green. Steele couldn't save par, giving the tournament to the 26-year-old Australian.
It was a tough end for Steele, with two bogeys in his final three holes and an ugly par at the 18th.
“It hurts a lot,” Steele said. “Kind of everything that could have gone wrong went wrong today. I’m just a California kid who doesn’t like rain, so I was just trying to grind and I worked as hard as I could and it just wasn’t good enough.”
But Smith was. Though he won the 2017 Zurich Classic of New Orleans with Jonas Blixt, it's his first individual Tour victory in 116 starts.
“I’ve been out here four or five years now and to finally say I’ve won an event by myself is quite good," Smith said. "You just had to hang in there. No one seemed to be playing good golf, it seemed. Just hung in there and what do you know?”
Of course, how that victory came about over the final hour or so was both odd and outlandish ...
The Great Wait
Ryan Palmer was in a precarious position. The 43-year-old PGA Tour veteran was one-shot back on the final hole and had sailed his drive right into a fairway bunker. The par-5 18th was the easiest hole of the week; in that moment, he needed birdie, possibly an eagle, to force a playoff.
The dirty truth is a ton of Tour guys would have laid up and taken the check. Instead, Palmer went full-send with a fairway wood from 250 yards out in the pouring rain, trying to win the event.
Unfortunately for Palmer, his approach went righter than Scott Norwood, bouncing off a scoreboard and into the ether:
What transpired next arguably altered the tournament. Rather than hit a provisional, Palmer curiously went ahead, confident someone would find his ball. He came up bupkis, making the ride of shame back to the bunker to play his fourth and inadvertently "freezing" Steele and Smith, who were waiting back in the fairway on the 18th for the groups ahead of them to finish up after hitting perfect tee shots.
After waiting 15 minutes after their drives, and 30 minutes since they putted out on the 17th green, Smith and Steele finally hit their second shots. Smith was well short of the green, with Steele's darn-near leaving the ballpark.
Before tossing blame at Palmer, it's worth noting Steele and Smith faced the same pressures and inconvenience. Conversely, the governing bodies and its officials receive an avalanche of grief when it comes to the rules and their enforcement when they impact a contest, so it's a shame that Palmer's lack of etiquette and consideration for the field—unintentional as it may be—had an effect on the outcome.
Again, credit Palmer for going for the win. But how he reacted after his chances disappeared off a scoreboard leave much to be desired.
Warren Little/Getty Images
Grace's 62 captures SA Open
It wasn't as memorable as his 62 at the 2017 Open Championship. But Branden Grace's 62 on Sunday at Randpark Golf Club delivered something that his record-breaking round at Royal Birkdale didn't: Silverware.
Needing just 22 putts in his final round, Grace overcame a three-shot deficit to win the South African Open.
“That was remarkable,” Grace said. “I played flawless golf, and I can’t remember the last time the putter was that hot.”
After starting par-bogey, Grace reeled off an eagle and eight birdies in his next 12 holes. Though 54-hole leader Louis Oosthuizen made an ace on the eighth hole—and finished with just one bogey on the week—the 2010 Open champ couldn't match Grace's red-figure fireworks, ultimately finishing three strokes behind.
It was the first victory since 2017 for Grace, and delivered a unique milestone: The South African now has a trophy at every major event in his homeland, with Sunday's prize joining his Joburg Open (2012), Alfred Dunhill Championship (2014), Dimension Data Pro-Am (2015) and Nedback Golf Challenge (2017) conquests.
“This is the one I really wanted,” Grace said. “This means so much to any South African, winning on home soil, the guys get so behind you and it's such an emotional feeling.”
More importantly Grace, who had fallen to 126th in the world last year after reaching as high as 10th, earned an invitation to the 2020 Open Championship.
Nelson leaving Trinity Forest
The PGA Tour's AT&T Byron Nelson is leaving Trinity Forest after just three years. The decision, first reported by the Dallas Morning News on Saturday, has been confirmed by Golf Digest, with an official announcement expected to come Sunday.
“As the necessary footprint to grow the event continues to expand, collectively, we will be evaluating other facilities in the Dallas area for 2021 to ensure a premium fan experience and allow the Salesmanship Club to continue to do great things through its support of the Momentous Institute,” Tyler Dennis, chief of operations at PGA Tour, told the Dallas Morning News.
While the move to Trinity Forest—a Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw designed opened in 2014—was welcomed by architecture fans, the tournament has suffered a series of woes the past two years. Bad weather kept attendance low, and the property and tournament infrastructure could not combat soggy conditions. Fans also complained about the lack of relief on the treeless course from the sun on the grounds. Moreover, be it Trinity Forest's unconventional design or its proximity to the PGA Championship last season, the Nelson struggled to attract a healthy field, with just two of the top 20 players in the world playing in 2019's competition.
The upshot was a major financial hit to the tournament and its charities, a source confirmed to Golf Digest, one that could not sustain another two-to-three years of similar results.
The front-runner to host next year's tournament is TPC Four Seasons Resort, which served as home to the Nelson from 1983 to 2017, but that would likely be just a one-year return. One new long-term possibility that's been floated is the PGA of America's new headquarters in Frisco, which is scheduled to host a Ryder Cup and 2027 and 2034 PGA Championship. However, the championship course (designed by Gil Hanse) won't open until 2022, and though a source confirmed to Golf Digest that it is a prospect, it's just "one of many options on our table."
Wie announces pregnancy, but not retirement
Late last week Michelle Wie announced she is expecting her first child, a girl, this summer. But on a conference call Friday, Wie knocked down any notions her pregnancy would result in her retirement from competitive golf.
Citing "unfinished business" with her career, Wie asserted the idea of her daughter watching her play as a catalyst for her return.
“The motivation to come back is even stronger because I’m having a girl,” Wie said. “I really want her to see me play. I want her to see me be a strong woman. That’s really important to me. The motivation to come back and play is definitely there.”
Wie's career is at a crossroads of sorts. She has been plagued by wrist injuries, appearing in just five events in 2019 and making the cut once. In her last start in June's KPMG Women's PGA Championship, Wie broke into tears in front of the media, acknowledging she was unsure her body would allow her to continue competing. Coupled with her recent marriage in August and a foray into television work—Wie did studio work for the Golf Channel during the Solheim Cup and will be part of CBS Sports' multi-platform coverage of the 2020 Masters—there was a growing belief the 30-year-old was transitioning to a new phase of her life.
However, that seems to be far from the case. She likely won't return until after her pregnancy—“I don’t think they should call it morning [sickness], it was 24/7,” Wie said about her first trimester—but Wie, citing the interactions of Tiger Woods and Suzann Pettersen with their children during their respective championship moments in 2019 as inspiration, is not calling it quits yet.
“It’s definitely a dream of mine for my kid to be in the crowd and watch me play,” Wie said. “Did I think that a couple years ago? Not at all.”
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