Rickie (and Alexis) steal the show at the Players, Amanda Dufner resurfaces, and hanging with Johnny, Rog and the NBC gang
Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we've never been more jazzed up about a non-major. As a golf tournament, the Players may rank a distant fifth in terms of prestige, but when it comes to drama -- especially when you factor in TPC Sawgrass' three finishing holes -- it might be No. 1. We've been fortunate enough to cover the event the past five years and never felt compelled to buy any merchandise, but this time? We returned with a hat, a polo and a T-shirt. Yep, we've officially got Players Fever and the only prescription is . . . well, let's just talk about everything like usual and see if that doesn't help.
Rickie Fowler: How out of the mix had Fowler fallen in the final round? His own mom gave up hope and headed for the airport. But Fowler made one of the PGA Tour's all-time great rallies, becoming the first player to ever shoot five under on the final four holes at the Players. He also became the first player to birdie No. 17 three times in one day. Well, in competition at least. Notorious practice grinder Vijay Singh is a member there after all. Fowler's 2014 of close calls was nice, but this big win really puts him in the conversation among the game's best.
Apparently, Rickie really likes his new champion's locker at TPC Sawgrass.
SI player poll: Despite what Fowler claimed all week, we're not buying that being labeled "overrated" by his peers didn't provide him with extra motivation for claiming the biggest win of his career. On the flip side, Bill Haas nearly won to back up his colleagues' belief that he's the tour's most underrated player. Say what you will about its results, but it certainly got people talking.
Kevin Kisner: My middle name is Kinser, a nod to my mom's maiden name. And after hearing this guy do interviews all week, I've convinced myself that he spells it wrong and we're actually related. Kevin, aka "The Kiz," is that cool. And he's also that good. This was a second playoff loss in three weeks for the Kiz, but it's tough to fault him when his winning opponents have birdied four out of the six extra holes.
NBC/Golf Channel: Once again, the best coverage team in golf shined and this time, I was fortunate enough to see all that goes into the broadcast of a tournament. From being in the booth with Johnny Miller and Dan Hicks to riding around with Roger Maltbie to hanging from a crane 120 feet above the 17th hole, it was quite a week.
Thanks for letting me tag along, guys, and kudos to all the names everyone knows and the 200-or-so ones everyone doesn't who are responsible for putting on such a great show.
The Rory/Jordan rivalry: This past week was the latest example of why rivalries are so hard to find in golf. Tour pros, even great ones, don't usually play well at the same time as evidenced by Spieth missing the cut and McIlroy dusting him by seven shots in the two days they were paired. There's still hope for this to materialize, but for now, it's not there.
Ted Bishop's Twitter skills: The man who was pushed out as PGA of America President for referring to Ian Poulter as a "lil girl" on Twitter in October bashed Poulter again on Twitter on Sunday to draw more criticism. Ted, let's just lay off the Poulter tweets for awhile.
Sergio Garcia's luck: This guy just can't win. Even at a place where he plays better than anyone else. For a third straight year, Garcia seemed to have that crystal trophy within his grasp only to get beat. On the bright side, there was no two-balls-in-the-water-on-17 meltdown this time, but Garcia still lost in a playoff after having a two-shot lead on the back nine.
Bill Haas' putting: The three-man playoff was exciting, but it shouldn't have been necessary. If Haas converts two tap-ins on the front nine on Sunday, he wins the Players instead of leaving with a stinging loss. Haas also missed a nine-footer for eagle on 16 and his long attempt on 17 came up a rotation short of dropping. Bill's son didn't seem thrilled by dad's performance on the greens, either:
The PGA Tour heads to Quail Hollow for the Wells Fargo Championship, aka that event that used to be known as the site of Rickie Fowler's lone PGA Tour title.
Random tournament fact: Anthony Kim still holds the tournament scoring record with a 16-under total of 272 in 2008.
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
-- I'll go up in that crane again: 1 MILLION-to-1 odds
-- Rickie will go another three years in between his next win: 100-to-1 odds
-- Anthony Kim won't win this week at Quail Hollow: LOCK
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Just look at that setting. The Players! Catch the fever!
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Meet Marie Bos, a senior marketing research manager for Golf Digest, who made an ace that was caught on tape at the inaugural U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball Championship. That's pretty Bos!
This is one way to play the 154-yard, par-3 10th @BandonDunesGolf. Congratulations, @MarieAnnBos. #USWFourBall https://t.co/GQ2XHHEC4r
— USGA (@USGA) May 9, 2015
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"If there was any question, I think this right here answers anything you need to know." -- Rickie Fowler.
THIS WEEK IN RICKIE FOWLER-ALEXIS RANDOCK PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION
These two had such a strong showing, it inspired other tour couples to step up their PDA game.
Btw @JimmyWalkerPGA -- we need to work on our post win kisses. ðð’ð Get it @RickieFowlerPGA! #yowza!
— Erin Walker (@tourwifetravels) May 10, 2015
THIS WEEK IN FORMER PGA TOUR WAGS
Amanda Dufner -- make that Amanda Boyd -- has resurfaced! Jason Dufner's ex-wife posted a photo and a video from her dog's Instagram account:
A photo posted by Prince Louie (@louiedufner) on May 6, 2015 at 3:41pm PDT
A video posted by Prince Louie (@louiedufner) on May 10, 2015 at 5:22pm PDT
Apparently, Jason was in charge of the Prince Louie Twitter account. It hasn't been updated since the beginning of February.
THIS WEEK IN FORMER LPGA TOUR PLAYERS WITH MBAs
After a trip to Vegas for the big fight, Anna Rawson went to Puerto Rico. Not a bad post-graduation celebration.
A photo posted by Anna Rawson (@annarawson) on May 11, 2015 at 12:34pm PDT
THIS AND THAT
John Daly's fiancee, Anna Cladakis, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss a lawsuit by his ex-wife that she broke up their marriage. Yeah, this is what our founding fathers had in mind when they set up the Supreme Court. . . . The PGA Tour's Palm Springs stop is switching sponsors and will now be known as the CareerBuilder Challenge. Everyone still just refers to this as the Bob Hope, right? . . . The Players received its third-highest Sunday TV rating in the past decade. Guess we're not the only ones that caught Players Fever. . . . My personal Players/Chili's streak is still intact, reaching a whopping 25 consecutive nights. For good measure, I even went to this Chili's in the Jacksonville airport on Day 6 before flying back. Man, I really outdid myself on this trip.
RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER
Does this mean we're in the Rickie Fowler Era now?
Why aren't there more tournaments with island greens?
Why aren't there any Chili's near where I live?
-- Alex Myers is an Associate Editor for GolfDigest.com. Feel free to email him and please follow him on Twitter since he has self-esteem issues.