The Grind: A Tiger-less Masters, Rickie hangs with Lolo, and the ubiquitous Jim Nantz
By Alex Myers
Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where Tiger Woods' stunning announcement that he'll miss his first Masters as a pro raises several questions. Who will everyone complain about not being able to watch during the tournament's limited TV coverage on Thursday or Friday now? Will more players wear red at Augusta National on Sunday? Who gets his seat at the Champions' Dinner? Will they make less food? All kidding aside, we're sad to see this great champion in such a fragile state, and he will be missed at the year's first major. But as they say, the show must go on.
Steven Bowditch: It wasn't pretty on Sunday, but what a fantastic story. The 30-year-old Aussie who has fought depression his entire career won his first PGA Tour event in 110 tries despite a final-round 76. Golf Channel's John Antonini pointed out that Bowditch is already the fifth player ranked outside the top 100 (Bowditch was No. 339!) to win on tour in the 2013-14. Three others have been ranked above No. 90 and only one (Zach Johnson) was ranked inside the top 10 at the time of his win. And you thought the NCAA Tournament produced a lot of upsets! Also, it was nice of Bowditch to dress like the tournament volunteers on Sunday:
"Don't even think about bringing those boots home."
Will MacKenzie: His runner-up at the Valero gave him five top 10s and nine top 25s this season in just 11 events. Not bad for the 39-year-old who entered the year with 10 career top 10s in 172 starts. On a sadder note, we were sad to read that he and his wife Allie (below), a former FHM Magazine model, are in the process of getting a divorce. "It's kind of freed me up a little bit," Mackenzie told Golf.com in February. "It's got me focused on golf." We guess so. . .
Laura Diaz: Making two holes-in-one? On back-to-back days? In competition? Talk about using up all your good breaks. Diaz is actually the second LPGA player to pull of the feat (Jenny Lidback in 1997), but she's the first LPGA player to follow an ace with an eagle like she did on Sunday. Oh yeah, Anna Nordvist won the event. Kudos to her as well.
Tiger Woods' back: What started as an April Fool's joke Monday night got very serious Tuesday morning when Woods announced he had undergone surgery on his back and would not be playing in the Masters. Last year, I made a $100 bet with Ron Sirak that Woods would still break Jack Nicklaus' mark of 18 majors. I wonder how much Ron would let me buy out of the bet for at this point?
Phil Mickelson's oblique: Apparently, Phil and Tiger are even competitive over the amount of times they withdraw in the middle of a tournament. Mickelson moved ahead of Woods with his second WD, citing a pulled muscle in his right side. This, after he made an all-time Mickelsonian up-and-down from a stream to make the cut on Friday. Oh well. At least, it's not his back, right?
Matt Kuchar: As the surprising winners on the PGA Tour continue to mount, so do the surprising losers. Kuchar joins Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy on the list of big names who have squandered huge opportunities for wins in the past month. Maybe they're just saving up for the majors? On the bright side, none of those guys are injured. Yet.
Andrew Loupe: The latest villain in the PGA Tour's battle against slow play caused Johnny Miller to say, "If everyone on tour played like him, I'd quit announcing." Loupe didn't help his cause with his own quote: "You hurry up and wait if you want, but really -- I don't care." This is surprising for someone who was a stud basketball player in high school. Maybe they don't have a shot clock in Louisiana?
The PGA Tour heads a couple hundred miles east for the Shell Houston Open, aka the absolute final tuneup before the Masters. We hear Kevin Na, Andrew Loupe and Ben Crane will be paired together. . . APRIL FOOL'S!!! Sorry, that was cruel.
Random tournament fact: Steve Stricker is playing this week. No, for real. We thought it was an April Fool's joke at first, too. Obviously, he committed to the event not thinking his beloved Wisconsin Badgers would be in the Final Four.
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
-- Johnny Miller will quit announcing golf because of slow play: 1 million-to-1 odds. Wait, let's not even joke about Johnny Miller quitting.
-- Another Masters favorite will get hurt: Even odds
-- Steve Stricker is happy Wisconsin is playing Kentucky in the late game on Saturday: LOCK
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Apparently, Rickie Fowler and Lolo Jones were hanging out at a pool party:
Or was this a Red Bull commercial? And is that a fanny-pack built into Lolo's bikini? How sensible!
THIS WEEK IN PAULINA GRETZKY-DUSTIN JOHNSON CHARLIE THE DOG PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION
Charlie is one lucky dog.
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Mike Miller didn't make the cut in his PGA Tour debut, but he did make it onto the Golf Channel with this highlight:
He already has that patented tour pro "Aww, shucks, did I just chip in?" look down to perfection.
THIS AND THAT
After 260 years of existence, the Royal & Ancient GC might finally be opening up to women members. April Fool's? No, this is really happening. . . . Asia rallied to tie the inaugural EurAsia Cup. Sadly, that event was probably a lot more exciting than the final round of the Valero Texas Open. . . . Jim Nantz made a cameo in the "How I Met Your Mother" series finale. The guy is literally everywhere these days. . . . Tiger Woods' tournament -- now the Quicken Loans National -- will be held at Congressional CC every other year until 2020. Hey, Tiger's back looks pretty good in that photo! Last chance, Tiger. April Fool's? No? Guess not. . . .
RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER
How depressing was the "How I Met Your Mother" finale?
Why doesn't the PGA Tour hire John Paramour to hand out slow-play penalties?
When did golf become more dangerous than football?