After four months of golf, the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, NC ushered in May. That brings us to the fifth and six months of our 2012 wrap-up.
Wells Fargo Championship – The long-awaited triumph of Rickie Fowler took place at Quail Hollow, with Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points having front-row seats in a playoff. A stroke behind them was Webb Simpson, who entered the final round in the lead but settled for a final-round 1-over-par to finish the week at 13-under. This would be the second of four consecutive top 10s for Fowler, who would finish runner-up to Matt Kuchar at THE PLAYERS the next week. When that run ended, Fowler would fail to crack a top 20 the rest of the year. McIlroy’s year would only get better.
THE PLAYERS Championship – Kevin Na entered the final round in the lead, despite yips with the driver, but Matt Kuchar would come from a stroke behind, firing a 2-under 70 to win by a stroke over Rickie Fowler, Martin Laird, Zach Johnson and Ben Curtis at 13-under. Kuchar’s win was the biggest of his career, but the lasting memory of that week was the unfortunate battle of mental demons Kevin Na fought. You probably remember how long he stood over each of his drives, especially Saturday, sometimes taking a “practice swing” over the ball after he stood over it. It was an admittedly embarrassing situation for Na, but he took it the best he possibly could.
HP Byron Nelson Championship – Jason Dufner happened again. Just when it looked like Dicky Pride could earn his second TOUR win, and first since 1994, Dufner dropped a bomb from 25’5” on the final hole for birdie to bump Pride (already in the clubhouse) from a playoff. It was a big week for Dufner, in that he quickly backed up his first win, but a bigger week for Pride who earned enough cash to fully-exempt himself for 2013.
Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial – To no one’s surprise, Zach Johnson claimed the trophy by one stroke over man-of-the-month Jason Dufner. Johnson won the event in 2010 and was fourth in 2011; so always consider him for a play in this event. It wasn’t actually as close as the margin indicated, but Johnson failed to replace his mark on the final green. Rather than making a 4’7” putt for what he thought was par; it was actually for a double bogey after the penalty.
The Memorial Tournament – After winning Arnie’s tourney in April, Tiger Woods captured Jack’s by two strokes over Rory Sabbatini and Andres Romero. The shot of the tournament came in the final round when he holed an impossible chip for birdie on the par-3 16th. Everything was running away from him towards the water and he was looking at a likely bogey, but he would sink that for birdie and add another at 18 to lock-up the tournament.
FedEx St. Jude Classic – After an absence from the PGA TOUR due to a freak injury, Dustin Johnson added this event to his schedule to better prepare himself for the U.S. Open. As fate would have it, he won. Maybe the second most notable event of this week was Luke Guthrie’s tie for 19th. He had just turned pro and would wind up eventually winning twice on the Web.com Tour to secure a 2013 TOUR card by virtue of a second-place finish on that money list.
U.S. Open – The beginning of Jim Furyk’s nightmare summer. Webb Simpson captured his first major at Olympic Club, but the story would just as equally be Furyk’s collapse down the stretch, highlighted by a snap-hook drive on the par-5 16th. Simpson went out three groups ahead of the leaders, but posted a 2-under 68 and sat by as the Furyk and Graeme McDowell melted away. For a while, it looked like Michael Thompson’s 3-under 67 would steal the tournament at 2-over, but Simpson played a bogey-free back nine to secure the win. Thompson went out two hours ahead of the leaders.
Travelers Championship – After one of the sternest tests of golf, the TOUR heads to at TPC River Highlands. Marc Leishman would hold off Bubba Watson and Charley Hoffman to win by one at 14-under. For gamers and punters, the story is that Watson is always a prudent play at this venue. It took a final-round 62 to Leishman to hold him off.
AT&T National – He may as well win his own tournament after winning Arnie and Jack’s. And that is just what Tiger Woods did, with his 8-under holding off Bo Van Pelt by two. What we learned at this point of the season, is that Woods is a threat on any course where his past history is solid. Congressional is no exception. The other surprise is that Bo “Mr. 7th place” Van Pelt finished second and not in the 7-10 range that he occupied almost every other week of the season.
In our next go-round, we will cover Ernie Els’ British and Rory McIlroy’s PGA triumphs.