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Another PGA Tour meltdown overshadowed by Fred Couples' Senior British Open win

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Not to start our weekly missive off on a negative note, but you know it’s a tough week for golf buzz when Scott Piercy’s Canadian Open win stirs the soul less than footage of John Daly hitting a drive off of David Feherty’s face.

No offense, Scott. Daly bombing his driver off a tee clenched between Feherty’s teeth is pretty tough to beat any week, including some majors.

As for what happened in Canada? Cue the script: A player with a late lead wobbles down the stretch, a guy sitting in the clubhouse sits back and wins. Adam Scott has seen that movie. So has Ernie Els. And Webb Simpson. And Jim Furyk. You know what I’m saying.

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William McGirt became the latest golfer to blow a lead down the stretch this year. (Reuters)

 

This time, it was a player named William McGirt, ranked 303rd in the world, clinging to a back-nine lead on a Sunday, then bogeying No. 15, and then compounding everything with a 72nd hole bogey to fritter it all away. McGirt, who bears resemblance to a hybrid of Mark McGwire and HBO’s Kenny Powers of “Eastbound and Down”, would not claim his first PGA Tour win. He would head back to the States, southbound and down.

Third-round leader Robert Garrigus was in the mix, too, and had a birdie try at the last hole to force a playoff with Piercy. Garrigus added the most star power to the scene, with his ability to drive a golf ball farther than most every professional on the planet, and with a relatively lofty world ranking of 70 and one career Tour win. But Garrigus putted awfully down the stretch – he missed everything, and later said he should have won “by seven shots” -- and his birdie try never scared the hole.

Piercy, relaxing in the air-conditioned clubhouse, was crowned.

Say, anybody got footage of that Daly tee shot off of Feherty’s face?

Again, this is not to denigrate Scott Piercy, who also won the Reno-Tahoe Open last year, an event played opposite a World Golf Championship event. He has a nice thing going. At age 33, the San Diego State product is a consistent name in the game, with 11 top-25s in 21 starts. Plus, Piercy gets all the perks of winning – a Masters invite, a spot at Firestone this week, a two-year Tour exemption, and eternal fame in the Great White North. It’s just that sometimes, when Tiger and Phil and Rory and the big boys sit out – only Matt Kuchar represented the world’s top 10 ranked players in Canada, and only six of the world’s top 30 played – we get Piercy-McGirt showdowns, and not many are moved. Coming a week after epic drama at the British Open, and a week before a WGC event which precedes the year’s final major, something’s bound to come up short, and the Canadian Open – a historic event with a lot to offer – deserves a better fate.

Instead, it may be a good time to shine a light on what Fred Couples did over at Turnberry. Finishing birdie-birdie, Couples shot 67 and won the Senior British Open for his first Champions Tour major. Good thing for Bernhard Langer that Couples is such a popular winner, because it’ll take some of the focus off another shattering collapse by the stoic Teuton, who had a back nine lead, then double bogeyed No. 12. He followed that up with a hat trick of bogeys to completely go off the rails, and seal his second consecutive horrifying major championship Sunday. Just two weeks ago, Langer blew a four-shot lead at the U.S. Senior Open. Now, this. What’s German for “Sunday yips”?

Couples, meanwhile, gave golf its highlight of the weekend by doing two things: 1) Playing great down the stretch to win; 2) Being somebody most of us had heard of.

Back to big-name golf the next two weeks at Firestone and the PGA Championship.

SCORECARD OF THE WEEK

72-70-MC – Ernie Els, missed cut, RBC Canadian Open, Hamilton Golf and Country Club, Ancaster, Ontario.

This is the golf equivalent of an “excused absence”, isn’t it?

[Related: Piercy thrilled with Canadian Open championship]

Don’t get me wrong. Els was on the grounds in Canada. But you had to believe that mentally, the big man was anywhere but Hamilton Golf and Country Club.

One of the most significant moments of his career unfolded only days earlier, unlikely in both its heft and its timing. His Open Championship at age 42, at a point in his career where his putting stroke inspired no one, where his confidence appeared shot, and where a new generation of players named ‘Webb’ and ‘Keegan’ and ‘Bubba’ were the ones winning majors, was a mind-blower.

Imagine the whirlwind in his soul, celebrating with family and friends, trying to wrap his brain around his fourth major championship and its historical implications – only to be reminded by his agent that he had to board a plane to Canada to fulfill a sponsor obligation for RBC, which puts on the Canadian Open.

Let’s just say Els – 96 hours removed from being told at Lytham he was “Champion Golfer of the Year” -- wasn’t in position to set the course record.

In fact, he only got five holes of practice in before teeing off Thursday. He insisted in his Wednesday press conference he was “fresh”, but that can be filed under the overstuffed file labeled “meaningless press conference blather”. Heck, the guy proudly displayed the Claret Jug at his Canadian Open press conference, to show you where his mind was. And why not? If I were Els, I’d sleep with the thing, shower with the thing, and seat-belt it into my car and have it ride shotgun.

So, he missed the cut by three strokes. In a weak field, no less. We forgive you, Big Easy. Your victory at Lytham still resonates; your missed cut at the Canadian Open is forgotten already.

BROADCAST MOMENT OF THE WEEK

“Well, when you look back at your career, you look at a putt that maybe got you started in the right direction, got you playing in majors and doing all the things you wanted to do since you were a little kid. . .and this is that putt.” – Gary McCord, CBS, doing a good job drumming up drama for William McGirt’s birdie try at the 17th hole on Sunday at the Canadian Open.

Hats off to McCord for setting the stage so dramatically. Up to that point, most people were either a) wondering who the heck McGirt was; or b) watching the Olympics.

I chose McCord’s moment as the highlight mostly because it’s impossible to synopsize in one sound byte the true Broadcast Moment of the Week – the agonizing 35 minutes Bill Macatee and Ian Baker-Finch had to kill when the Canadian Open ended early.

[Related: Robert Garrigus' poor putting costs him potential title]

Holy bad TV, Batman! Poor CBS was stuck recapping maybe the least memorable tournament of the year, over and over. How many times can you say “Scott Piercy won by making par and sitting in the clubhouse?” without openly apologizing to the viewer? It’s one thing to have 35 minutes to kill after Bubba Watson wins the Masters in a playoff; it’s another to have Peter Kostis almost visibly straining to come up with questions to lengthen his interviews with Piercy and McGirt. Kostis went so long with Piercy, Piercy blasted through the opening and recited a litany of sponsors he wanted to thank.

Amazing, wasn’t it? No, not that Kostis had to interview him so long. More amazing is that Scott Piercy has so many sponsors.

The “Four Corners” offense CBS had to run from 2:25 pm to 3:00 pm Pacific time meant they’d inevitably make some kind of mistake. I know this, because I do live radio five days a week, and step into a pile of it nearly daily. On CBS, their riffing predictably turned to the upcoming PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. In a desperate attempt to keep the conversation going, Macatee asked Baker-Finch how tough Kiawah was at the 1991 Ryder Cup – which is cool and all, except Baker-Finch is Australian and has never played a Ryder Cup.

The “Dark Shark”, unflappable on camera, rolled with it. Thankfully, 3 pm came eventually.

MULLIGAN OF THE WEEK

Since Langer already got his Mully from this column two weeks ago at the U.S. Senior Open, he’s on his own for his Turnberry collapse.

Instead, let’s go back to Canada and lend a helping hand to McGirt. This would have been his first PGA Tour victory, and all he needed was to make that birdie putt on 17 to have a one-shot lead at the last. McCord even set it up for us, noting that it could be one of those putts McGirt would remember forever.

From 15 feet away, it never had a chance.

So, in the interest of getting McGirt his maiden, and in the interest of avoiding mentioning Langer’s Sunday blues, let’s go back out to the 17th hole at Hamilton GC, place that ball 15 feet from the cup, remind McGirt this is the moment champions are made of, remind him that the de facto Emperor of Canada, Wayne Gretzky, was probably watching from his Southern California mansion and . . . give that man a mulligan!

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

Varsity golf, come on down. 

[Related: Is Rory McIlroy's relationship with Caroline Woznicaki hurting his game?]

It’s the World Golf Championship event at Firestone, and you know it’s big if Rory McIlroy is leaving Caroline Woznicaki’s side for more than 15 minutes. The lovestruck and slumping McIlroy will be there, along with Tiger Woods, of course. How could Tiger miss the one-year anniversary of Stevie Williams’ greatest win?

That’s right. You remember a year ago, when Adam Scott won Firestone, and Tiger’s former caddie essentially gave Scott the vaudeville cane to hook him off camera and gobble up the credit. A true highlight of the 2011 year, if your highlights run toward the boorish and creepy.

They’re all coming: Fatigued Phil Mickelson, Claret Jug holdin’ Ernie Els, and, now, Canadian legend Scott Piercy.

And if there’s a rain delay, they can all gather in the clubhouse and YouTube the Daly tee shot off Feherty’s mouth. I would, if I were them.

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