After Tuesday’s look at January and February, we now turn our attention to the happening of March and April, when the TOUR left the West Coast for the confines of sunny Florida and we watched a guy named Bubba slip on a green jacket.
The Honda Classic – Rory McIlroy jumped into the fray for what would be the first of many times in claiming The Honda on Jack’s Bear Trap. At the time, the golf world was much more abuzz with Tiger Woods’ final-round 62 to claim a share of second than it was with the man who would soon put a stranglehold on the top spot in the world golf rankings. The field also began to establish The Honda as something more than a rank-in-file event, and should continue to draw stronger fields.
Puerto Rico Open – George McNeill quietly claimed his second TOUR win on Trump International opposite the WGC-Cadillac. He birdied his last three holes to stop a surging Ryo Ishikawa, who birdied three of his final four, himself. Boo Weekley tied for third in what would be the start of a comeback that would end with a spot in the top 125.
World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championships – Justin Rose continued his argument for being one of the game’s elite with his WGC win. He’s at the point in his career where he’s done just about everything but win a major. More interesting, Bubba Watson was runner-up and Rory McIlroy was solo third. Add to that, Charl Schwartzel and Peter Hanson tied for fourth. Doral was filled with the same four guys (after Rose) at the top of the leaderboard that were prominently featured in the 2011 and 2012 Masters, with Schwartzel and Watson having won them after McIlroy and Hanson surrendered final-round leads.
Transitions Championship – Luke Donald answered the bell and took down the field on the Copperhead Course. He won in a playoff over Jim Furyk, Sang-moon Bae and Robert Garrigus. Furyk and Garrigus would go on to be the bridesmaid in multiple tournaments, none more famous for his late collapses in 2012 as Furyk. In fact, his later gaffes would be so grand that this runner up is largely forgotten despite playing the closing seven holes in 1-over. Ernie Els bogeyed his last two holes to finish a stroke out of the playoff, eventually failing to earn a Masters berth. He felt the pressure.
Arnold Palmer Invitational – It was Tiger being Tiger. Woods won by five over Graeme McDowell and was seven clear of third-place Ian Poulter. (Too bad he couldn’t replicate that dominance in the Ryder Cup.) It broke a two-year TOUR drought for Woods, and answered what now feel like the ridiculous question of “can he win again.”
Shell Houston Open – Hunter Mahan hoisted his second trophy of the year a week before the year’s first major. Looking destined for a huge year, he would eventually lose his game and miss out on the Ryder Cup after looking like a lock at this point. Ironic is that his nearest challenger was Carl Pettersson, a stroke back, who would win in two weeks at Harbour Town. In third alone was Louis Oosthuizen who lost in a playoff the very next week at the Masters.
Masters Tournament – For three-and-a-half hours, it appeared the defining shot of the 2012 Masters would be Louis Oosthuizen’s albatross at the par-5 second. That was until Bubba happened on the second playoff hole. After yanking his drive on the second playoff hole (par-4 10th), Watson hit the shot of the year from Augusta National’s pine straw. A sweeping hook that only a lefty could try landed in the middle of the green and released to about 15 feet. When it was time for him to hit his birdie putt, he already knew a par would be good enough. He rolled it to gimmie range and tapped in for par and a tear-filled celebration ensued. For the next 30 years or so, Bubba will be at Augusta.
RBC Heritage – Carl Pettersson ran away with his fifth victory by five over Zach Johnson. With the event held on the South Carolina coast, wind was a larger-than-normal factor; especially on Thursday. Other than this being the start of a huge year for Johnson, not much else noteworthy happened.
Valero Texas Open – Playing with limited status, Ben Curtis jumped out and won the event by two over John Huh and Matt Every. The week really solidified each of those three players. It gave Curtis his first win in years, followed up Huh’s opposite-field win with a full-field runner-up, and was one of many nice weeks for Every. Brendan Steele was the defending champ and tied for fourth (hello one-and-doners), and noted putters Brian Gay and Charlie Wi had top 10s.
Zurich Classic of New Orleans – The last week of April saw the birth of Jason Dufner as a PGA TOUR star. Ernie Els was the hard-luck loser in a playoff, but as we all know his season worked out just fine as well. When you scan the top 10 in this event, you see names like Luke Donald, Steve Stricker, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler to go along with Els. This win came after Duf had top 10d the event in his last three trips to the Bayou. Another one-and-done option.
When we check back, we’ll be in Charlotte, NC for the Wells Fargo Championship. We will also see Webb Simpson crowned U.S. Open winner in June.