Holmes called out for slow play during win, Kuchar jeered by fans, a promising weekend from Tiger and a golf legend dies: What you missed this weekend
Yong Teck Lim
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 Feb. 18.
Holmes outlasts Thomas at Riviera
It was a marathon at Riviera. Won by a player not known for speed.
Weather delays earlier in the week compelled organizers to jam as much play as possible into the weekend, leading to some gassed golf by the end of Sunday. Not helping matters were heavy winds sweeping the Pacific Palisades in the late afternoon. Yet it was J.B. Holmes who was still breathing as the sun went down, overcoming a final-round four-shot deficit to win the Genesis Open.
Holmes, who played a total of 33 holes on Sunday, navigated the wind without issue (5.395 in strokes gained/approach) and, despite a couple head-shaking misses on the greens, lead the field in putting. It wasn't pretty, which is exactly how Holmes wanted it.
“Always thought that would have been a better chance for me,” Holmes said of the nasty weather. “Usually when the conditions are crappy, I do better.”
Also helping Holmes was the play of Justin Thomas. After a birdie at the first, Thomas, who set a 54-hole tournament scoring record, made three bogeys in the next four holes, and never got comfortable with the flat stick.
“I really struggled putting in that wind out there,” said Thomas. “It’s something that I’ve needed to get better at, and it unfortunately just kind of showed a flaw in my game."
It's the fifth career win for Holmes, and first since 2015. Unfortunately for Holmes, his play was overshadowed by his pace...
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Holmes called out for slow play
Already boasting the reputation as one of the slowest players on tour, the tough scoring conditions transformed Holmes' deliberate tempo into DMV-during-lunchbreak slow on Sunday.
The final group made the turn in two hours and 45 minutes, finishing up just under five-and-a-half hours. Though Holmes, Thomas and Adam Scott were occasionally waiting on holes, it became clear that Holmes was the catalyst for the crawl.
“Well, you play in 25-mile-an-hour gusty winds and see how fast you play when you’re playing for the kind of money and the points and everything that we’re playing for,” Holmes said. “You can’t just get up there and whack it when it’s blowing that hard.”
An answer fans didn't tolerate, making Holmes and his slow play a trending topic on Twitter. A discussion joined by some of Holmes' fellow pros.
You get the idea. Even the CBS crew, congenial to a fault, couldn't hide its disdain, with Peter Kostis and Ian Baker-Finch chiming in. Ian Baker-Finch! For context, IBF has said approximately (checking) zero disparaging words in two decades of broadcasting. If you've lost Ian Baker-Finch, you've lost the sport.
Facetiousness aside, there's an ugly truth to this outrage. An average NFL game runs three hours and 12 minutes. The NBA clocks in at two hours, 20 minutes. For all its time woes, the MLB averaged three hours per game last year. Call it indifference or aloof, but continuing to ask fans for a six-hour investment on Sunday is putting golf down a dangerous path.
Perhaps the most exasperating part of this issue is summed up by Scott, who's been outspoken on the subject. "My thing on slow play is it's never gonna change," he said on Sunday night. "Just get over it. Until television and sponsors say 'No more money,' slow play ain't gonna change."
Spieth's forgettable Sunday
Jordan Spieth went into the weekend near the top of the leader board. His final standing was decidedly lower.
Starting the fourth round in fourth place, the three-time major winner saw his struggles continue, dropping 47 spots after an 11-over 81.
He posted a 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 on his scorecard. This included a three-putt from five feet for a triple, and a quad on the iconic par-4 10th. Spieth left five shots in the bunker, putting his sixth on and two-putting for an eight.
The week wasn't a total loss, and he managed to finish his round with eight straight pars. But through a third of the season, Spieth is outside the top 175 in the FedEx Cup standings. For a player who's a perennial Masters favorite, time's running out to get things right before Augusta.
Kuchar apologies after jeers and boos
Third time’s a charm, we suppose.
In the fall, Matt Kuchar won for the first time in four years with David "El Tucan" Ortiz on the bag, a local caddie at Mayakoba who served as a fill-in loop. “He was definitely my lucky charm,” Kuchar said. “He brought me good luck and certainly some extra crowd support and did a great job as well. He did just what I was hoping for and looking for.” The win was expected to bring financial windfall to Ortiz; caddies usually earn 10 percent of a player's earning for a victory. In this case, $130,000 for Ortiz, a man who worked at the Mayakoba resort, often for $100 a day.
Unfortunately, that did not come to pass. During the Sony Open, a tournament in which Kuchar ultimately won, former PGA Tour player Tom Gillis called out Kuchar for stiffing El Tucan, giving the impression that Kuchar paid Ortiz only $5,000 for his efforts. Kuchar tried to dismiss the matter, but there was no getting that horse back in the barn. Worse, Kuchar doubled-down on his stance at the Genesis Open in interviews with Golf.com and Golf Channel, saying that “for a guy who makes $200 a day, a $5,000 week is a really big week” and that he’s not losing sleep on it.
The same could not be said after Kuchar’s first round at Riviera, as the 40-year-old was openly mocked by fans. “Go low, Kuch...just not on the gratuity!” yelled one spectator off the sixth tee. Fans cheered a missed putt on the 12th, and chants of “Mooch” could be heard throughout the day.
A display equal parts painful and awkward, forcing Kuchar to offer a mea culpa.
“This week, I made comments that were out of touch and insensitive, making a bad situation worse,” a statement from Kuchar read. “They made it seem like I was marginalizing David Ortiz and his financial situation, which was not my intention. I read them again and cringed. That is not who I am and not what I want to represent."
In itself, this covers the appropriate bases, and most importantly, it appears Ortiz will get paid. But Kuchar's comments, both in Maui and Los Angeles, were brazenly obtuse. That the apology emerged only after it was apparent the situation was not going away subtracts some of its bite.
Golf fans are not an antagonistic crowd, yet there's a growing autonomy—and decreasing filter—among galleries, and it only takes one jeer to ring throughout the course. (At this point we should note the PGA Championship is at Bethpage in May.) The statement was the right move from Kuchar. But it might have come too late, to a sin some already deem unforgivable.
The next few months will show if Kuchar's reputation can be saved. First stop on his rehab tour? The WGC-Championship in Mexico, Ortiz's native country.
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A promising weekend for Tiger
Against the tapestry of his career, a T-15 isn't much to write home about for Tiger Woods. Through another scope, one more based in the present than the past, it was a commendable performance.
Making the cut thanks to a birdie on his 36th hole, Woods mounted a charge during his third round (which was broken up over Saturday and Sunday), his 65 tied for best score in the round. Three birdies in his first seven holes in the final frame moved him into the top five.
But the burden of 58 holes over two days proved too much for the 43-year-old, the stresses shown in four bogeys in a six-hole stretch and a putter that wasn't jiving.
“Yeah, I got tired,” Woods said on Sunday. “I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I definitely felt it.”
Nevertheless, given his quick exit at the event last year, it was another march forward in Woods' successful comeback campaign, highlighted by an improvement in driving accuracy (T-13 on the week).
There's not much time for rest: Woods is scheduled to play in this week's WGC, with stops at Bay Hill and TPC Sawgrass likely on the upcoming agenda. This will be Woods first time playing at the Mexican venue.
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A perfect wedding gift
To those attending Ryan Fox's wedding, no need for a present. Fox already got himself the perfect gift.
The 32-year-old New Zealander defeated Adrian Otaegui 3-and-2 to win the World Super 6 Perth, his first career victory on the European Tour.
Fox shot an eight-under 208 to earn a bye into the Round of 16—the Super 6 is part stroke, part match play—but needed a missed three-footer from Jazz Janewattananond to survive an early knockout. From there, Fox hung on for 1-up victories over Kristoffer Reitan in the quarterfinals and Paul Dunne in the semifinals before taking care of Otaegui.
“There was some scrappy stuff in there, but I got out of trouble when I needed to and I played great today in the final,” said Fox, who was making his last start before getting married. “Adrian didn’t quite play to his best this afternoon, but I'm quite happy to take advantage of that.”
Of course, Fox could help out Wade Ormsby, who lost his match after his putter was stolen during the tournament. It's not too late to add a Scotty Cameron to the registry.
The Korda Slam
Going on a limb and saying the Korda clan has more Australian Opens than your family.
Nelly Korda fired a final-round 67 on the West Course at the Grange Golf Club to seal a two-shot victory at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open over defending champion Jin-Young Ko of South Korea. The 20-year-old Nelly joins her sister Jessica (2012) in capturing the event, while her father won the tennis Australian Open (1998) and her brother the Australian Junior Open (2018). That's a lot of silverware for one tribe.
“I think there’s something in the air here in Australia,” Korda said. “I’m just happy to finally be a part of the club. I kind of felt left out. But I was playing all day for my parents, and I’m really proud of that.”
It is Korda’s second LPGA victory, only five months from her first, the 2018 Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship.
U.S. Open winner passes
Gene Littler, winner of the 1961 U.S. Open, passed on Saturday. He was 88.
Littler, whose sweet swing earned him the nickname "the Machine," won 29 times on tour, five of which came after a bout with cancer. He won the U.S. Amateur in 1953 and a year later triumphed at the San Diego Open, also while still an amateur. His major victory came at Oakland Hills Country Club, where he overcame a three-stroke deficit to Doug Sanders by shooting a 68 in the final round.
Besides his swing—Gene Sarazen said Littler had “a perfect swing like Sam Snead’s -- only better"—was known for being a family man, playing a limited schedule in order to spend time with his kids.
"I probably would have performed better and won more tournaments had I not wanted to go home so often,” Littler told the Los Angeles Times in 1988. “But I guess I loved my family so much that that was the most important thing in my life.”