PGA Tour February Recap

    Waste Management Phoenix Open (TPC Scottsdale) February 4-7

    The Phoenix Open lived up to its reputation of huge crowds and spirited patrons, especially on the par 3 16th hole. The tournament continues to attract a quality field and it supplied the fans and television viewers with another exciting tournament.

    That this tournament may be remembered as one Rickie Fowler lost as opposed to Hideki Matsuyama wining is a disservice to both players. The cold, hard fact for Fowler is he took a two-shot lead to the 17th hole in regulation and drove his golf ball through the green on the short par-4 to make bogey when a par there and a par at the last would have been good enough to secure his second win of the 2016 campaign.

    As is it was, Fowler and Matsuyama finished 72 holes at 14 under par, 270. Hideki outlasted Fowler by parring the 4th hole of sudden death. The 4th hole happened to be 17, which clearly wasn’t as kind to Fowler as #17 at TPC Sawgrass.

    That’s the reason why course designers build risk vs. reward holes. The 322 yard hole is guarded by water left and long. A long iron off the tee leaves a player with an easy lob wedge to the pin. Of course, a well-struck drive creates the chance for an eagle, but it also brings 5 or even 6 into play.

    The debate over Fowler’s course management detracts from the wonderful golf Hideki played. He opened with a 65 on Thursday and after a pedestrian 70 in round two he shot 68 – 67 on the weekend and holed a nice birdie putt on the 72nd hole. Harris English finished 3rd, Danny Lee finished 4th and Boo Weekly rounded out the top 5.

    AT&T National Pro-Am (Pebble Beach, Spyglass) February 11 – 14

    The party atmosphere in Phoenix rolled up the road to the always rollicking Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Phil Mickelson tied a PGA record on Saturday by getting up and down from off the green 9 times in 9 chances in his round of 66. It was Lefty’s tournament to lose going into Sunday and he retreated, shooting even par 72. This left the door open for the unlikeliest of suspects, two-time PGA Tour winner Vaughn Taylor, playing without a PGA Tour card.

    Taylor was solid all week, firing rounds of 70, 68, 67 and 65 at Pebble Beach on Sunday. Jonas Blixt finished in 3rd place and Freddie Jacobson tied Hiroshi Iwata for 4th.

    Mickelson’s short putting was spectacular, almost otherworldly all week – except when he needed it most. Mickelson was 22 of 22 on putts under 7 feet until a six-footer for birdie lipped out on the 72nd hole.

    Taylor’s win was certainly appropriate at Pebble Beach, often home to the antics of Bill Murray. As Murray’s character Carl Spackler in Caddyshack would say, “It’s a Cinderella story.”

    Northern Trust Open (Riviera Country Club) February 18 – 21

    Bubba Watson has famously said he would retire from golf if he wins 10 PGA tournaments. Watson took another step towards very early retirement winning his 9th tournament at the Northern Trust Open.

    This tournament marked the season PGA debut for Rory McIlroy who played well and shared the lead after eagling the first hole on Sunday afternoon. The wheels slowly came off for McIlroy after that making six bogeys before his only birdie of the day on 18. Meanwhile, Bubba kept rolling.

    Watson played nicely over the weekend, especially in Sunday’s final round to put the finishing touches on his 9th win on tour, a good sign for Bubba fans that he will be a serious contender for his 3rd Green Jacket at Augusta this April.

    Honda Classic (PGA National Palm Beach Gardens) Feb 26 – 29

    Double and even triple bogeys abound at this difficult track where the wind seems to blow hard almost every year. On Saturday, Adam Scott made quadruple bogey at the par 3 15th hole (did we say this course is hard?), and still shot 66. Scott and Sergio Garcia separated themselves from Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler on moving day and dueled on a Sunday afternoon as the Florida swing began. In the end, Scott was one shot better than Garcia and won his first tournament since 2014. Much has been made about Scott’s forced conversion back to the short putter. The sample size is small, but Scott appears to be having a better year on the greens this year than he did last season with the anchored-broom method.