Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we wish Johnny Miller got to spend one more day in the booth. Can you imagine how much fun he would have had calling that Sunday chokefest at TPC Scottsdale? Talk about the perfect retirement gift. Johnny would certainly have gotten a lot more enjoyment out of that than he will from this scooter:
Anyway, even without golf's most famous talking head, there's as much as ever to talk about. Let's (chunk-and-) run through it all.
Rickie Fowler: First off, congrats to Rickie on (finally) picking up PGA Tour title No. 5, which will move the goalposts on all those “so-and-so has as many wins in the past blank weeks as Fowler does in his career” tweets. It’s also his first victory since getting engaged:
However, there’s limping home and then there’s breaking your own legs and limping home, which is what Fowler did with a series of awful shots, decisions, and one of the most bizarre penalties you’ll ever see. Fowler posted the worst strokes gained/tee to green in the final round by a PGA Tour winner since the stat was created in 2004 and it wasn’t even close.
Ironically, Johnny Miller missed calling this Tour de Fold. After the last Fowler victory at the 2017 Honda Classic where it looked like he’d blow another four-shot lead until hanging on, Miller uttered, “Obviously, a win is a win, but you’ve got to learn to finish out Sundays like a true champion. He hasn’t learned how to do that yet.” I’m guessing wherever he was on Sunday, Johnny said the same thing. Speaking of Johnny. . .
Johnny’s send-off: While I wish Miller had stuck around for Sunday’s telecast, at the very least to get more eyeballs for his final broadcast, I loved what NBC did with tributes coming in from players, colleagues, former competitors, and even the President of the United States. And I had the pleasure of getting more Miller thoughts from his longtime booth partner, Dan Hicks, before his round. But nothing topped Roger Maltbie breaking down on camera and ending with the two having a sweet, “I love you, man” moment.
It took Maltbie a few minutes to compose himself after that. And I’m not embarrassed to say, it took me almost the same.
Dustin Johnson: Has a superstar ever won a major tour event and received less attention? I’d argue no following Johnson's triumph at the Saudi International that wound up being completely overshadowed by reaction/criticism over Saudi Arabia hosing a golf tournament and Sergio Garcia’s epic meltdown(s). But DJ did win. By two shots over Haotong Li. And, well, I don’t have any other details to report.
Rickie Fowler with the lead: On the bright side, Fowler won for the first time in nine tries when he’s held a 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour, and he closed out a 54-hole lead for only the second time in seven attempts. However, his 74 was the highest final-round score to ever win the Waste Management Phoenix Open (Including all the years before Waste Management became the title sponsor), and he has still yet to post a sub-par score with a lead on a Sunday. In other words, Rickie orange still isn’t going to intimidate anyone like Tiger red.
Sergio Garcia: Even uglier than Rickie’s win was Sergio’s epic bunker tantrum on Friday at the Saudi International.
And that’s not even what got the 39-year-old Masters champ disqualified for “serious misconduct” the following day. Under new rule 1.2a, Garcia got the boot for violating “the spirit of the game,” which under the rule includes respecting your fellow players and taking care of the course. Purposely damaging up to five greens didn’t comply with either of those guidelines. Garcia accepted his DQ, apologized to his fellow players, and apparently, some how, will receive no further punishment (Perhaps, the European Tour was happy to receive questions about something other than Saudi Arabia). Now we wait to see if there was any other reason for Garcia completely losing his cool.
And if any footage of these infractions will emerge. With conspiracy theories flying, the "Sergio Tapes" could potentially be golf's "Spygate."
Rules confusion: Look, from a content perspective, the new rules of golf have been a goldmine. There’s a new issue to cover seemingly every day. However, some of the interpretations, specifically, the Denny McCarthy two-stroke penalty for his caddie lining him up (before a practice swing!) are ridiculous. Enough so that a mini player revolt helped get the PGA Tour to rescind the penalty.
Still, the current situation has everyone from rookies like McCarthy to vets like Lee Westwood completely confused:
The PGA Tour heads to Monterey Peninsula for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, AKA that tournament where golf fans question Larry Fitzgerald's handicap while seeing way too much of Ray Romano and not enough of, you know, actual golfers playing Pebble Beach.
Random tournament fact(s): Last year Ray Romano nearly killed Jordan Spieth with a skulled bunker shot. True story.
Also, with Johnny Miller signing off we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention his final PGA Tour win, which came at Pebble Beach in 1994 when he was putting with his eyes closed to overcome the yips. It was a win that came out of nowhere.
Talk about a miracle.
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
— Sergio Garcia will pull that stuff at Augusta National: 1 MILLION-to-1 odds
— Someone will win at Pebble this week putting with their eyes closed: 1,000-to-1 odds
— Ray Romano will NOT win the celeb portion of the event: LOCK
PHOTOS OF THE WEEK
Here’s Brooks Koepka watching some fans move a boulder (deemed a loose impediment) for him in Saudi Arabia like Tiger did 20 years before at TPC Scottsdale:
And here’s Brooks meeting Giannis Antempkoup, AKA “The Greek Freak,” a few days later.
Giannis could have probably moved that boulder on his own. Just saying, Brooks.
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Matt Kuchar beautifully trolls Bryson DeChambeau with this scientific-themed shot reaction:
I just hope Kuchar says something like this the next time the two are paired together.
THIS WEEK IN CELEBRITY GOLFERS
Courtesy of Ryan Whitney from Barstool's Spittin’ Chiclets Podcast, listen to this story describing Larry David’s first round at Augusta National:
Amazing. But to be clear, I am NOT endorsing what LD said, especially when he refers to the club as a “little fascist country” and Billy Payne as “a dictator.” I’d like to be allowed back to the Masters.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“That was about as good as the food in Scotland.” — Johnny Miller on a particularly bad putt by Scottish golfer Russell Knox. Miss you already, Johnny.
THIS WEEK IN "PROS ARE JUST LIKE US!"
Nothing to see here, folks. Just a two-time major champ and the most authoritative voice in golf snarfing down Cheez Whiz straight from the bottle:
Also, Dan Hicks told me "Johnny is always grazing" in the booth whether it's Cheez Whiz or cans of tuna with tabasco sauce. While I don't agree with those snack choices, I love knowing Johnny is a fellow grazer.
THIS AND THAT
Oklahoma State Matthew Wolff made his PGA Tour debut and turned heads at TPC Scottsdale with his funky swing and incredible power. . . . Check out my Year 2 update on my investment in English tour pro Dave Coupland. Unfortunately, I blew the money I made on Dave betting against the Patriots in the Super Bowl like an idiot. . . . Real estate broker Don Bell, who missed the cut at the 2001 B.C. Open in his lone PGA Tour start, shot a back-nine 28(!) to Monday qualify for this week’s Oasis Championship on the senior tour. This after having three house closings last week. Amazing. . . . And finally, after 30 days of eating healthy, I returned to my gluttonous ways for the Super Bowl with wings, pulled pork, Costco chocolate-chip cookies, and my wife’s guacamole:
My stomach almost exploded a few hours later. Worth it.
RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER
When will the Patriots go away?
What does Jim Nantz eat in the booth?
Can I buy shares of Matthew Wolff?