Not saying the PGA Tour's world is turned upside down, but the following developments occurred at the Phoenix Open:
• The fans at the 16th hole on Monday morning clocked a shocking and record 0.00 blood-alcohol content, having no time to tailgate for an 8 a.m. re-start.
• A guy named Tommy Two Gloves nearly won the thing, joining Johnny Vegas on the PGA Tour's 2011 All-“GoodFellas” team.
Happened again, this time in Lefty's former home state. With a third-place finish, he could have leapfrogged Tiger and shoved the erstwhile No. 1 player in the world to the Ringo Starr-esque spot of No. 4. Instead, Mickelson posted three bogeys on his back nine, including the last two holes, and settled for a cozy tie-29th, and a firm hold on the world's fourth slot. Must be a Stockholm Syndrome thing for Phil. You spend the better part of 14 years looking up to a guy on the world rankings ladder, maybe you get used to it.
Instead, he better watch out for the world's 51st-ranked player. That's Mark Wilson, all 5-foot-8, and 145 pounds of Cheesehead Packer fan, who turned the low-wattage of his win in Oahu last month into a how-do-you-like-me-now second win in three starts.
I used to call Steve Stricker 'The Cheesehead Assassin' in this column, but Wilson has Stricker beaten on two counts: recent wins on tour, and recent use of a Cheesehead on tour. Wilson wore the foam block of Wisconsin's finest headgear on his walk from the 16th tee box to the 16th green on Super Bowl Sunday, but the fans in the grandstands were so inebriated, they probably just thought it was a cool new visor.
When Wilson won at Oahu, I declared the buzz as gentle as the strum of a ukulele. Wilson is revving towards acoustic guitar territory with the two wins now, and also by flashing some personality in the process. First came the wearing o' the Cheesehead. Next came his drive on the 72nd hole at TPC Scottsdale, which veered dangerously close to getting wet. A dunked tee shot would have handed victory to his eventual victim, winless yet talented Jason Dufner.
How close did it come to water? Try about 36 inches, according to the Golf Channel's on-course reporter, Curt Byrum. Instead of panicking, Wilson laughed at his bit of good fate, mimicked a pitter-pattering heart with his hand, then jokingly flexed his bicep for the TV cameras.
A star is born!
Well, not quite a Johnny Vegas-sized star, but Wilson went from a "who's he again?" guy to a "good 'tude dude" in most golf fans' books. He echoed the same theme he did when he won in Oahu: Don't worry, be happy. If a tee shot darn near gets wet, don't get down, he said, go make your par, and stop fretting. He may soon be sponsored by 'The Lion King' on Broadway, with 'Hakuna Matata' stitched on his bag.
The quick book on his golf game is that it's as unexciting as his name – and that's a good thing in golf. He hits fairways at a clip the erratic Mickelson would weep for, and hits single after single up the middle instead of home runs off the tee. He's a happy father of two young boys, but showed seriously deficient Cheesehead skills when he admitted he missed most of the Super Bowl because he was playing games and putting his kids to bed. Come on, Mark. Plant those li'l guys in front of the TV. Gotta start 'em young in Titletown.
And for a guy on the little side, he unleashed a decent primal roar – "ARRRRRRR!" – when he made birdie on the second playoff hole to vanquish Dufner.
"Does that sum it up?" he asked The Golf Channel's Steve Sands.
In an odd way, yes. It also helps us like you a bit more, Mark. And since you're going to be hanging around on leaderboards like this for the foreseeable future – as you noted, you are now into all the majors, and into the 64-man match play event – and since everything we once knew about the PGA Tour has been incinerated, every little bit helps.
Scorecard of the week
• 69-65-68-66 – 16-under 268, tie-3rd, Vijay Singh, WM Phoenix Open, TPC Scottsdale.
Somebody call the Bureau of Missing Golfers – it's Vijay Singh, for the love of belly putters. If you feel like you haven't seen the three-time major champion in forever, don't worry. It has been forever.
To be more accurate, Singh's tie-3rd is his best finish since winning the BMW Championship in September of 2008 – back when several things were true: George W. Bush was President of the United States, nobody had an iPad and Tiger Woods was still good.
Singh will be 48 later this month, and ran a fade route on the golf landscape so thoroughly the past three years, it was thought his next sighting would be on the Champions Tour in 2013, playing in front of literally dozens of fans.
But a return to a site where he'd won twice before (in 1995 and 2003) stirred something inside the hulking Fijian. He told reporters he feels good again, and will play with a head of steam at Pebble Beach, a place he's won before.
He's easily in the running for 'Comeback Veej of the Year'.
Mulligan of the week
• And now we get to our guy Tommy Two Gloves.
First, some background. Tommy Two Gloves has a birth certificate, and it says his name is Thomas Gainey, but for all intents and purposes, he only needs to be known as Tommy Two Gloves. Hardcore fans know him already for any of the following claims to fame:
1. He finished 2nd at the 2008 Children's Miracle Network Classic, one stroke behind winner Davis Love III.
2. He finished 4th on the Nationwide Tour money list last year.
3. Most famously, he won The Golf Channel's 'Big Break VII'.
Oh, and he wears two gloves at all times.
This is a habit he started as a youth baseball player. Now, he looks like an undertaker, or (in my best gangster, 1940s movie voice), 'a guy who don't need to be leavin' fingerprints nowhere, ya see?' The only thing missing from the whole persona the nickname creates is a guy named 'Fat Andy' on the bag.
To say Tommy Two Gloves has a homemade swing doesn't quite do his swing justice. Let's put it this way: If Tiger Woods' swing, in its prime, was the structural equivalent of a luxurious mansion, with a swimming pool, hot tub, 5,000 square feet of living space, four bedrooms and three baths, Tommy Two Gloves' swing is a studio apartment for a bachelor, with milk crates for shelves, a futon on the floor and a PlayStation 3 as the only furniture in front of the TV.
In a world of over-coached youth on tour, it's refreshing to see Tommy Two Gloves' down-home approach. He comes by his unpolished nature honestly, having worked wrapping insulation around heaters on an assembly line before chasing his dream of a golf career. The only silver spoon he knows is the one he used to eat cereal with as a kid.
Flash forward to the 17th tee at TPC Scottsdale Monday morning. Tommy Two Gloves is one shot off the lead, and staring at a birdie hole. He launches his drive, a heat-seeker headed to the green … until it peels off, hard left, into the water hazard. Not only is Tommy Two Gloves dealt a blow, he later skulls his chip into the water again.
Tommy Two Gloves became Tommy Triple Bogey.
It was an unfortunate turn of drama. The event would have benefitted greatly from Tommy Two Gloves arriving at the 18th tee with a chance for a win. So, in the interest of storylines everywhere, let's march back out to that 17th tee and … give Tommy Two Gloves a mulligan!
Broadcast moment of the week
• "We have to congratulate Tom Weiskopf on a great creation. He makes these guys think. They think about what they'll do off the tee. Do they lay up? Do they go with driver? He makes them think about a pitch shot. Do I play it safe on a chip shot?" – Peter Oosterhuis, The Golf Channel, marveling at the myriad dramas the 17th hole at TPC Scottsdale creates.
As a fan of traditional layouts, tricked-up golf holes can often turn me off. The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, while undeniably famous, comes to mind.
But at Scottsdale, the range of scores No. 17 can create – from eagle to triple bogey – and the options a golfer has at his disposal, makes for a wild roller-coaster ride of a golf hole.
Just ask Tommy Two Gloves.
Where do we go from here?
• Only to the Monterey Peninsula, where Mother Nature was heard to mutter, upon completing her work at Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula Golf Club: "Eat my shorts, Royal County Down."
Dustin Johnson will play the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, aiming for a Lakers-styled three-peat. Philly Mick will play, too, and pending Tiger's travails in Dubai (where Tiger will play this week), he may have another chance to pass him in the world rankings. Adventure awaits!
Plus, Bill ‘No Smiles, Please’ Belichick joins the likes of Bill Murray and Drew Brees in the celebrity field. I hope Belichick gets paired with Tommy Two Gloves, and I hope somebody keeps a boom mic on them at all times for enlightening conversation.
- PGA Tour
- Tiger Woods
- TPC Scottsdale
- Mark Wilson