The Bryce is Wrong, Briny! Molder Beats Baird in Frys.Com Playoff

October 10, 2011 in Golf

AP

Bryce Molder, arguably one of the best college golfers of all time, needed 132 professional starts and six playoff holes to capture his first PGA Tour win on Sunday at the Frys.Com Open, defeating journeyman Briny Baird who has now gone 348 starts without win.

“It’s a little surreal right now,” Molder said.

An exceptional field showed up for the second Fall Series event including international stars like Ernie Els, Paul Casey and Angel Cabrera. Oh yeah, and some guy named Tiger. While Els and Casey were jockeying for the lead on the weekend, other notables were notably absent, including Eldrick.

However, Baird was there all along shooting rounds of 67-69-64 to get into the final group on Sunday alongside Els and Casey. While Casey imploded early on Sunday, Els stuck with Baird as did 21-year-old Bud Cauley and Shane Bertsch.

Molder, likewise, charged up to put himself in the conversation, shooting a final-round 64 to put the pressure on Baird. Molder held the lead as he walked up to the 72nd green.

A group ahead of the leaders, Molder sat at 16-under with Baird one stroke back playing the entertaining, drivable par-4 17th. With the ball in the air on 17 tee, Baird watched anxiously as his drive hit into the slope short of the green, but the ball sat where it landed, not rolling back into the water hazard that guards the green.

Meanwhile, Molder lined up a 12-foot birdie putt ahead on 18. Before Molder hit his putt, Baird chipped in from the front of the 17 green to leap-frog Molder, going to 17-under par.

Needing the putt for birdie and knowing it after hearing the roar on 17, Molder slipped his birdie inside the left edge to tie Baird at 17-under.

Talking to the Golf Channel’s Kay Cockerill after he sunk the tying putt, Molder said he liked being able to know the pressure of the moment and still converting. Perhaps a preview of what was to come.

Baird went on to par the 18th hole and force the playoff that would be full of great play and mediocre putting.

Anticipating a close finish, the people at the Frys.Com switched the nines that the members usually play, making the drivable par-4 that would be highlighted in the playoff the 17th hole as opposed the 8th hole, as it is usually played.

The playoff, which would go six holes, would be alternated between the 17th and 18th holes. From the beginning, clear advantages could be seen. With Molder’s smooth driver swing, he would land it in the middle of the 17th green while Baird was in-between driver and three-wood. On the flip side, Baird seemed to have the clear advantage on the 18th hole as he knocked it stiff on multiple occasions only to miss putts while Molder struggled getting his approaches close in the playoff.

While Molder hit his drive on 17 consistently inside 20 feet above the hole, Baird was getting up-and-down to continue the playoff. It should be said as well that Molder missed the same putt for the win on three different occasions, leaving his ball out to the left of the cup. For Baird’s part, he missed numerous chances on 18 to shut out Molder.

The first real advantage came on the fourth playoff hole (the 18th hole) when Molder’s drive found the cross hazard. Baird safely in the fairway had a birdie putt upcoming when it seemed Molder would have to punch out and play for a par. Instead, Molder muscled his shot to the front of the green and two-putt parred the hole. Baird was unable to convert his birdie putt and the pair went back to the 17th hole for another hole.

“I hit it in that hazard the first two rounds,” Molder explained. “And the second round I had a pretty similar lie, pretty similar shot, and I almost hit it in the exact same spot right on the front edge of the green. It wasn’t an easy shot. It certainly wasn’t heroic. I’d love to tell you it was buried a lot more than it was. I knew if I could just get a decent club on it, it would go somewhat where I was looking.”

Another swapping of birdies and it was to 18 for the seventh time that week. A new variant came into play as darkness was threatening to put an end to the day’s festivities. Ironically, it was Molder who held the advantage on the 18th hole. Molder put his approach to within a makeable distance of the back hole location while Baird under-clubbed and was left with nearly the entire green to negotiate.

Deemed to be away after a measurement, Baird knocked in his par putt to put the pressure back on Molder, who had seven feet for birdie and the win. Molder stroked the winning putt center-cut for his first PGA Tour victory.

Speaking candidly in his post-round press conference, Molder talked about how it felt to be in contention and be comfortable being there.

“It’s very gratifying. It’s a lot of fun to be in contention and want to be there,” Molder explained. “And to be honest, that was my biggest hurdle for the last few years is I’ve gotten myself into contention; and to be brutally honest, I didn’t want to be there, and I wasn’t ready for dealing with the nerves yet and the shots, and really the failure yet.

“And all of a sudden once you’re ready to deal with the failure, all of a sudden you can free things up and play, so that’s what I’ve been working on for a little while now. And it’s fun to be out there and hit some shots in those circumstances knowing everything’s on the line, and you really don’t care that much. And it’s a fun way to play golf.”

The silver lining for Baird was that with his $540,000 payday, he will assuredly have his Tour card next season, safely inside the top-125 after entering the week at 148. For Baird, however, the loss still stung.

“Obviously, it’s more than disappointing right now,” Baird said. “I thought I’d be standing where Bryce is. I had my chances. Given a chance, you’ve got to make putts.”

And he didn’t.

For Molder, along with claiming his first PGA Tour win, the 32-year-old cashed a $900,000 winners check and moved up 47 places to 108th in the world rankings. Both Molder and Baird will be in the field at the McGladrey Classic this week.

Wrong Fairway’s 2011 Masters Picks

April 7, 2011 in Golf

The Masters

All that talk about who could put it together for four days around the Augusta National is in the past. Now it’s time to let the best players in the world settle the debate with golf clubs and balls (literally and figuratively).

I’ve told you all the different betting options, who I like and why, but now I have to make my picks and stand by them.

I decided to break it down into three categories, similar to what you see on the Golf Channel with Alex Miceli with his winner, contender and dark horse.

Dark Horse: Miguel Angel Jimenez

I like The Mechanic this week to be right up there, as he always seems to be. I don’t want to hear it about Nick Watney or Luke Donald or even Rory McIlroy as a dark horse or a sleeper to win the tournament. Those guys are not dark horses. Dark horses aren’t talked about in the build-up to the tournament.

Miggy has been around Augusta for the past two-plus decades. He knows the course, he has his game working and he is so easy to like. Plain and simple, he’s around the lead every year, why shouldn’t this be the year he finally breaks through.

Ole.

Contender: Paul Casey

How is that the No. 6 player in the world has not brought up more as a serious contender for the green jacket? He was the chic pick a couple weeks back to win the Match Play, but his friend and countryman Luke Donald stormed through the tournament and became the new hot pick.

Donald continues to be a sexy pick this week, but I love Paul Casey’s game. In his first time to Augusta in 2004, he tied for sixth.

Through six appearances at the Masters, Casey has finished in the top-20 four times.

I like guys flying under the radar and he’s the best player no one’s talking about.

Winner: Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson has the game to win any course he steps foot on. He’s proven that over the past three seasons he has spent on Tour. With four wins on the PGA Tour, including two at Pebble Beach, Johnson has proven that he can win on the toughest golf courses in the world

As the adage goes, the tournament doesn’t start until the back nine on Sunday. A few of the sexy picks to win, Nick Watney and Bubba Watson, have the game to win at Augusta National, but the wild card is will either of those two be able to handle the nerves that come with being in the hunt on Sunday at Augusta?

Sure, anyone could point to last year’s US Open when DJ shot an 82 in the last group, but that was his first taste of major championship pressure. How did he respond? By stepping back up a few months later at the PGA Championship.

Johnson’s laid back attitude is precisely what is needed to handle the pressure on the back nine on Sunday.

I love his length and feel he will be able to manhandle the par-5s. If he can zone in his short game, he’s an easy contender to win on Sunday.

****

You may be wondering why I didn’t pick any of my “Two Buck Bet” guys. It’s simple, actually. What’s the likelihood of me picking the champion? Technically 1 out of 99.

But the way I see it, if I pick DJ right, I win for predicting it, otherwise, I have all my other guys on the board to make a little money. It’s a win/win situation.

Regardless if I’m right with my picks or, more than likely, horribly wrong, it’s the Masters and it’s the best week of the year.

Sit back and enjoy the theatre unfold.

Casey Wins Volvo, Crowds the Top of the World Rankings

February 1, 2011 in Golf

It hasn’t been the best of times recently for Paul Casey, although you would never know it from his demeanor and attitude. After his snub from the Ryder Cup things, Casey said all the right things, wished his side the best of luck and went on a bicycle trip.

All the time, Casey’s form had been in question as he failed to really contend for much of anything. It had been 20 months since his last win and he had began his descent down the world rankings. While the likes of Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood and even Ian Poulter to an extent were winning and moving up, the former world’s No. 3 player seemed to be going in the wrong direction.

All that changed this past weekend as Casey went to Bahrain for the Volvo Golf Championships and won by a shot over Peter Hanson and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

A crazy Sunday in Bahrain saw 23 lead-changes, but Casey finished it off.

Coming down 18 paired with Peter Hanson, the two were tied, with Angel Jimenez in the clubhouse at 19-under, one shot back. Hanson slipped up, bogeying the 72nd hole. Casey had to get up-and-down including holing a six-foot par putt.

“It was just Peter and I coming down the last,” Casey said. “He opened the door slightly and I still had a very difficult up-and-down. I’m just happy I had that opportunity and I took it.”

Sinking the putt gave Casey his first win of 2011 and moved him to sixth in the official world golf rankings.

With Mickelson coming in second at the Farmers, he moved up from No. 6 to No. 4, knocking Graeme McDowell back to No. 5. The top three remained unchanged with Westwood, Kaymer and Woods holding the slots.

All this movement leaves one question and jumbling at the top leaves one wondering if and when Tiger will do something to solidify his placement as one of the top three in the world.

SI Golf Group came out with an idea for the world rankings based on a 10-point system, similar to what college basketball uses. 15 writers were polled, giving the No. 1 player 10 points and the No. 10 player one point. Here’s what they came up with.

Rank (first-place votes) Total points

1. Martin Kaymer (12) 138

2. Graeme McDowell (1) 121

3. Lee Westwood (1) 111

4. Phil Mickelson (1) 102

5. Rory McIlroy 45

6. Paul Casey 43

7. Dustin Johnson 42

8. Jim Furyk 39

9. Steve Stricker 36

10. Matt Kuchar (tie) 29

10. Tiger Woods (tie) 29

They’re top 10 are hard to argue with. I still think they have Tiger sitting there because of reputation alone, but he did have two T4s at the majors last year as well as a solid Ryder Cup.

Maybe taking the Farmers as too much of an indicator is a mistake, but it’s hard to imagine that after working all off season on his new swing, Tiger is close to being Tiger again.

Westwood Will be in Wales, Says Team Westwood

September 16, 2010 in Golf

It’s been a month since Lee Westwood took his definite leave of absence from golf.

The lead man on the European squad took some time away from the game to tend to a blood clot in his right calf that has caused him some serious discomfort during his swing. And while he has been sidelined from competitive golf, fellow countryman Paul Casey has been playing some pretty stellar golf, moving up to number seven in the Official World Golf Rankings.

With questions about Westwood’s form going into the Ryder Cup, Team Westwood went on the offensive this week explaining that not only will their man be there to support his side, but he’s playing and feeling better than before he left.

“I haven’t had a drink in four weeks. I’ve lost 12 pounds since the British Open,” Westwood told Golf Channel’s Rich Lerner.

“I haven’t had any pain for three weeks,” he said. “I’ve made great progress.”

His agent came out with a statement saying not only will Westwood be in Wales to help Europe get the Ryder Cup back, but also he is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation.

After some time off, Westwood began practicing a week  and a half ago at his home and practice facility. Beginning on Monday of this week, Westwood has been able to hit all the way through his bag without any problems.

Swing coach Pete Cowen is impressed with his progress. “He said I’m swinging better than I was before,” said Westwood.

As for Casey, his solid play of late has put him next in the pecking order should something unforeseen happen between now and the Ryder Cup. With strong showings in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, it seems Monty will have no choice but to enter the Arizona resident onto the team.

Peter Kostis Speaks Up For Casey

August 31, 2010 in Golf

Getty Images

European Ryder Cup snub, Paul Casey and his coach, CBS analyst Peter Kostis, still dealing with their disappointment are looking in other directions to understand how Casey was left off the team.

Kostis came to his star pupils defense in trying to understand how Casey, now the 8th ranked player in the world could not be thought of as one of the 12 best players in Europe.

The thought that Casey would not be a good fit inside the Ryder Room seems bogus. The thought is that Casey has abandoned the European Tour and has pledged allegiance to the PGA, making him a kind of outsider with his fellow Europeans. Via Steve Elling.

“When they say he didn’t play enough or isn’t committed enough, look at the numbers,” Kostis said.

Fair enough. Of the two PGA Tour members who were picked ahead of him Sunday, Padraig Harrington, who hasn’t won a tournament in two years and hasn’t won a match in the past two Ryder Cups, played in two European Tour events in 2010. Luke Donald, ranked No. 10 in the world last week, one slot below Casey, played in four European events this year. Casey has played in five.

What’s more is that Casey showed up at Monty’s wedding personally a few years ago and he and the captain share the same agent.

Kostis then got into the logistics of making the team.

Considering that players who already secured positions on the European team were critical of a selection system that could leave out Casey and Rose, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this year, Kostis predicted that an overhaul will be forthcoming. Casey, a member of both tours, is on the European committee that overseas the Ryder system, ironically.

“In my opinion, the real bad thing here is the system,” Kostis said. “It sucks when you can’t manage to get a player with two big PGA Tour wins or a guy ranked No. 9 in the world on the team. Their system is even more convoluted than FedEx Cup points.

“The net result of this whole debacle is that their points system is going to change.”

Kostis went on to disapprove of the timing of Montgomerie’s announcement. He talked about how Harrington got the news in the form of a thumbs-up from Caroline Harrington, Paddy’s wife, whom Casey is friendly with. Kostis said that the system in which the picks are announced needs to be looked at and changed as well.

There is no doubt that Kostis, and by extension, Casey, have a good case for why the number eight player in the world should have been representing Europe on the Ryder Cup team.