Tiger and Phil set for Sawgrass, Rory's Sunday scaries continue, Wie gets engaged and golf loses a legend: What you missed this weekend
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 March 11.
Molinari's blitzkrieg at Bay Hill
Francesco Molinari is unassuming. Reserved manner, hangdog face, everyman build, doesn't hit the bejeezus out of the ball, at least relatively speaking.
Traits, proved yet again on Sunday, that make Frankie a stone-cold assassin.
The 36-year-old overcame a five-shot deficit to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
"No game plan, I was just trying to hit good shots, give myself chances," Molinari said. "I knew it was not going to be easy the course was firm and fast yesterday and I knew it wasn't going to be easy for the guys in the lead, so I thought there was an outside chance and yeah, just started making putts, one of my best putting rounds ever."
While Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick garnered most of the attention, Molinari quietly went to work on his blitzkrieg of Bay Hill, carding birds at three of the first six holes and adding another at the par-4 eighth with a chip-in to get in the mix. Four more red figures followed on the second nine, capped by this 43-footer on the final hole. A putt incredible in itself, especially so against the symphony of GolfTV's Italian broadcasters:
(Not as great: NBC broadcaster Paul Azinger exclaiming, "I don’t think he’s had a bigger moment in his career than this," which might have caused Martin Slumbers to fall into a coma.)
Molinari's bogey-free 64, fueled by an accurate tee ball and thunderstruck putter, was eight shots better than the field average on Sunday. Coupled with Fitzpatrick and McIlroy failing to surmount charges of their own (more on this in a moment), it was a score good enough for a two-stroke win.
It was Molinari's fourth worldwide victory in the last nine months, to say nothing of the hurtin' he put on the red, white and blue at the Ryder Cup. Output that merits inclusion among the DJs and Koepkas of the golf world. Not that Molinari includes himself in this strata.
"No, I don't think I'm ever going to think that way," he said, "but you know, it's personality, I'm definitely more confident, I'm not scared about going out on the golf course playing against anyone...but it's just really hard for me to picture myself where I am at the moment."
Exactly what an assassin would want us to think.
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Rory's Sunday scaries continue
For the ninth time since last January, Rory McIlroy found himself in the final group. For the ninth time, he came up bupkis.
Entering Sunday one shot behind Fitzpatrick, uninspired iron work and a faulty putter translated to an uneven even-par 72 for McIlroy and a T-6 finish.
"Tough day, tough to get it close to the hole. I feel like I really didn't play that badly," McIlroy said. "I missed a couple of shots but I felt like I was hitting good shots to 30 feet all day and it's hard to sort of shoot a score."
The four-time major winner's not wrong: the field average hovered around par, and the final six groups came out on the business end of the greens firming up. Also true: McIlroy, a man once considered lights-out on the brightest stages, has lost coffee privileges. Though the struggles have been occurring for some time, this year has been particularly cruel: McIlroy ranks 115th in fourth-round scoring, in a season that's already a third of the way finished.
Conversely, the glass does seem half full. McIlroy's historically performed well on Sunday (ninth in the category two years ago, third the campaign before that) and he leads the tour in strokes gained. With all respect to the API, McIlroy's judged by just four events on his calendar, and he continues to trend upwards with that April tournament—the one that has vexed him so—a mere month away.
"I'm playing well," McIlroy said. "I'm getting myself into contention every week, continue to do that, going into next week, that's the great thing about golf, you don't have to wait too long to get back on the horse."
Tiger, Phil appear to be a go for Players
On Sunday morning, the status of two marquee attractions for the Players Championship was ambiguous. By nightfall, not so much. Both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson appear set to tee it up at TPC Sawgrass this week.
Mickelson, who was waffling because...well, because the course might be too hard, arrived at Ponte Vedra Beach on Sunday. Though he told the media on Friday he would ultimately make his decision after a Tuesday practice round, that timetable apparently moved up. And judging by the 48-year-old's response on Twitter, the conditions were to his liking.
As for Woods, whose uncertainty stemmed from a neck strain that kept him out of Bay Hill, the 14-time major winner was listed on the tour's scheduled list of interviews on Tuesday, a move that points in the affirmative to his participation. That Woods was among the published featured groups for Thursday and Friday bestows further credence, as Tiger is paired with Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson.
Both Woods and Mickelson are former Players champs. Last year Woods finished T-11 at the event, while Mickelson missed the cut.
Warren Little/Getty Images
From unknown to Augusta
Justin Hardin was outside the top 700 in the world a little over a year ago. He's now weeks away from a Masters invite.
Hardin, who won four times across Asia and South Africa last year, captured his first European Tour victory at the Qatar Masters thanks to a final-round 66.
The South African, who played his college golf at Lamar, didn't even own a Euro card at the beginning of the week. Bigger dividends could be in his future, as he's up to No. 52 in the world rankings. With a chance to gain points at the upcoming WGC-Match Play, Harding has a realistic shot at getting into the OWGR Top 50, which bestows a spot at Augusta National.
“This feels good,” said Harding, who beat a group of nine players by two shots for the maiden W. “It was nerve wracking, especially coming off a situation I haven’t really been in before. I didn’t enjoy it but I'm glad it happened and now we move on. I get into the events that I’d like to be playing in again. Schedules change, and I will no longer have to wait for last-minute spots to open up. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens going forward and playing in some bigger events.”
Wie gets engaged
Michelle Wie's right hand has been a problem. The left seems to be doing just fine.
On Sunday night the LPGA star revealed she is engaged to boyfriend Jonnie West:
West is the son of former NBA great Jerry West, and currently works as an executive in the front office for the Golden State Warriors. Considering Michelle said "Yes" to the big question, apparently he performs in the clutch just like his old man.
As for Wie, her golf future remains unclear after dropping out of the HSBC Women's World Championship at the end of February. Wie cited a recurring hand injury as the reason for the WD; she underwent surgery at the end of 2018 to treat an avulsion fracture, bone spurs and nerve entrapment in her right hand.
Which stinks, and we do wish her a speedy recovery. Although perhaps not too speedy; woman has a wedding to plan.
Golf loses a legend
Legend is a term thrown around loosely nowadays. But did it ever describe Dan Jenkins.
Jenkins passed away on Thursday at age 90. If he wasn't your favorite golf writer, well, he undoubtedly inspired whoever holds that title.
The tributes have been many, although it's hard to encapsulate Jenkins better than Tom Callahan's ode to his friend, which can be found here.
Only thing I'll add is this. Dan Jenkins was the real deal, the rare celebrity—as much as he’d dismiss that, he was, at least to us—who was exactly who you’d hoped he’d be. He was witty and crass and rebellious and observant...but above all else, Dan was kind. He won't like seeing this, because Dan had no truck for the sentimental. But it didn't matter if you owned a green jacket or were a greenhorn journalist, Dan Jenkins had time for you. And he was kind.