Dustin Johnson’s rare feat, Paulina Gretzky’s motivational photos, and Tiger Woods' incredible bunker shot
Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we only need to look at the Academy Awards to see just how toothless golf’s new rules have become. Last year, the USGA limited the use of green books and now, just a few months later a movie called “GREEN BOOK” wins the Oscar for Best Picture?! Talk about the Academy just flaunting its power in the face of golf’s governing bodies.
This is all to say the rules were a big topic of conversation once again this week. As was the destruction of actual greens. Sigh. But there was a lot of good going on in the game as well, and all the caddies at a PGA Tour event in Mexico were properly paid this time (we think). Anyway, let’s get to it.
Dustin Johnson: It’s weeks like these that Johnson’s jaw-dropping talents remind us that when he’s on, it’s not a fair fight. DJ shot 21 under par to win the WGC-Mexico Championship for a second time in three years, won his sixth World Golf Championship and became just the fifth player in the past 50 years to win his 20th PGA Tour title before turning 35. It was such a snooze, he almost forgot to celebrate after holing his final putt and gave a lamer fist pump than Lucas Glover at the 2009 U.S. Open:
Quality Sport Images
Martin Trainer: While Johnson was stomping the world’s best players in Mexico City, this PGA Tour rookie was surprising the field at the Puerto Rico Open. After eight starts in his debut campaign had produced five missed cuts and a best finish of T-28, the 27-year-old won his first PGA Tour title, and then had a fun exchange to start his press conference in which he repeatedly told a tour official to “Tell me more” about all the spoils that came with his victory. Pretty cool for a guy who was still having to Monday qualify for Web.com Tour events last year.
"Tiger Hood": This photographer/NYC street golfer is the subject of a new mini-documentary titled Neighborhood Golf Association by filmmaker Nicholas Heller. The man whose real name is Patrick Barr delivers a beautiful message of inclusivity, hoping to unite people through his version of the sport. “I might be out here doing small things," Barr says, "but I’m a big thinker, baby.”
Great stuff, Patrick. And I’m also impressed that in more than a decade of your unusual hobby you’ve never been hit by a taxi or a bus.
Tiger’s shot: Yeah, yeah, Woods faded on the weekend, but the most-played shot of the week and already the year came courtesy of the 14-time major champ during the second round. Let’s all watch it for the 1,287th time, shall we?
Every time I watch it, I think his golf ball is going in. And how about this angle from a fan:
Tiger’s strategy: As repeatedly (and correctly) pointed out by Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee, Woods’ ultra-conservative game plan at the quirky Club de Golf Chapultepec put him at a huge disadvantage. While Woods found most of the fairways with irons off the tee, players like Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy turned many of the par 4s into par 3s, leaving Woods to finish 66th out of 72 players in strokes gained off-the-tee. He led the field in strokes gained approach-the-green, but at scoring-friendly tournaments, he's going to need to be more aggressive to compete.
Backstopping: Regardless of intention or motivation, what Amy Olson or Ariya Jutanugarn did during the second round of the Honda LPGA Thailand wasn't right. Olson wound up banking a difficult pitch shot off Jutanugarn’s golf ball and making an easy birdie. It was a ball that shouldn’t have been there and it wouldn’t have been there if Olson hadn’t stopped Jutanugarn from marking it. Watch the sequence here:
And yes, the bow and fist bump acknowledging the help from her friend only made the situation look worse. Olson claims she went ahead and played her shot to help speed up play and maybe she did. But even so, she should have known better. Also, these rules in which you have to prove intent are getting a bit out of control. It’s getting to the point where each group needs to be accompanied by a rules official and a lawyer. Crazy.
People complaining about people complaining about backstopping: If I hear one more person say, “If she’s so good, why would she aim for a golf ball instead of the hole?” comment, I might smash my laptop with a flagstick. People aren’t trying to hit the other ball! They’re just using it as a (very small) safety net. And to those who still think this doesn’t go on, keep in mind Jimmy Walker ADMITTED to doing it (even worse, Walker said he played favorites with who he tried to help) last year, clearly not realizing there was a rule about it. And the issue was important enough for the USGA to write the word “backstopping” into the new rules. Let’s hope that—and the public shame that comes with these incidents—is enough to put an end to it before it winds up determining a major.
Bryson’s mini meltdowns: For the second time in as many weeks, cameras caught Bryson DeChambeau taking out his frustration on the actual golf course. At Riviera, it was a fairway bunker and at Club de Golf Chapultepec it was a completely innocent practice green.
DeChambeau apologized, but there’s no excuse for stuff like this. OK, let's wrap up the golf course destruction and backstopping talk. Wasn’t it nice last week when we were only complaining about slow play?
The PGA Tour begins its Florida Swing at the Honda Classic, AKA that event that Jack Nicklaus kind of hosts in Tiger Woods’ backyard, but that Woods won’t be playing in this year. Actually, a lot of big names will be absent from this event because of the tour’s new compact schedule and the Honda Classic is not part of the season of CHAMPIONSHIPS. Don’t worry, though. There will still be plenty of BEAR TRAP talk—just not from Johnny anymore. Miss you, Johnny!
Random tournament fact: Looking for someone to root for this week in Tiger’s absence? Try Erik Compton. The two-time heart transplant recipient, who has been playing on the Web.com Tour, Monday qualified for his first PGA Tour start since 2016.
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
— Amy Olson will ask a playing partner to not mark their golf ball again: 1 MILLION-to-1 odds
— Dustin Johnson will win the 2019 Masters: 10-to-1 odds (Actual odds, he’s the new favorite)
— Dustin Johnson is going to hear a lot of Masters rental house jokes the next couple months: LOCK
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
VIRAL VIDEO(S) OF THE WEEK
These videos from Ted Scott, Bubba Watson’s caddie, are fantastic. First, he and Bubba manage to make light of the Bryson meltdown situation with Bryson:
And then there’s this one comparing the gym routines of Bubba and Brooks Koepka:
Keep them coming, guys.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“At the end of yesterday, I just kind of said, ‘Screw it, we’re hitting driver everywhere.'” —Justin Thomas on his mentality during his final-round 62.
THIS WEEK IN PHIL BEING PHIL
Those freaking calves are still drawing attention:
Seriously, even Dustin Johnson is jealous.
THIS WEEK IN CELEBRITY GOLFERS
It’s good to see Gleyber Torres is focused on what’s really important during Spring Training:
THIS WEEK IN VIJAY SINGH JOHN DALY CRAZY WORKOUTS
OK, not really, but this is funny:
THIS WEEK IN DUSTIN JOHNSON-PAULINA GRETZKY PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION
Dustin was sure to give Paulina a shout-out after his latest win:
But before that, Paulina provided her man with a couple, um, motivational photos on Instagram:
Great seeing both of these two totally back on their golf and social media games.
THIS WEEK IN "PROS ARE JUST LIKE US!"
The best part about Club de Golf Chapultepec was watching the best players in the world have to hack it out of the trees like us normal folk. And some did it better than others. Tommy Fleetwood tried to go lefty and hit a shank, and as good as DJ is, apparently pitching out is his Achilles heel:
Guys, if you need pointers on punching out, let me know. I’ve got that part of the game mastered.
THIS AND THAT
Dustin Johnson will reclaim the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking from Justin Rose. Next week. Math is fun! . . . Congrats to Amy Yang for winning the Honda LPGA Thailand. And for doing it without any backstopping. . . . John Smoltz will make his first of three PGA Tour Champions starts as a sponsor exemption at this week’s Cologuard Classic. Smoltz discussed his opportunity, his crazy backyard golf setup and planning a Scottish buddies trip with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine on (plug!) the latest Golf Digest Podcast. . . . And finally, my daughter Julia got to meet all my co-workers at last. Although, she was way (way) more interested in the mini-fridge near my desk.
I taught her well.
RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER
How the heck does Dustin Johnson only have on major?
What did Phil Mickelson think of Green Book?
What year will the inevitable Tiger Woods biopic win Best Picture?