COMMENTARY | Boy was I wrong about Lee Westwood.
In my post on Saturday, I predicted that Westwood's strong showing at the BMW PGA Championship, where he started the final round in the last pairing, would bode well for the future.
Instead, Westwood's game totally fell part with the lead. He hit more drives in the woods than the fairway at Wentworth and an improved short game reverted to its old, mediocre form.
"I'm struggling in my swing a little bit at the moment," Westwood said after a final round 73 that left him three shots out of a playoff won by Matteo Manassero. "You know, when you're in the last round, it just gets found out."
Matt Kuchar couldn't blame a faulty swing for his near miss at the Crowne Plaza Invitational. He was run down by a streaking Boo Weekley, who fired a final round 4-under-par 66 to hold off Kuchar by a stroke.
''It's difficult at the moment coming just one shot short but you can't control what other guys do,'' Kuchar said afterward.
Kuchar and Westwood did share one thing in common: They started in the final pairing on Sunday, which is becoming quite a difficult spot from which to lock down a win.
Only two winners in the last 10 events on the PGA Tour have started the day in the final group. Before Sang-Moon Bae's win last week at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, you have to go back to Tiger Woods at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March to find another last group champion.
And of the last four major winners, only Rory McIlroy has closed the deal from the final pairing. Graeme McDowell couldn't get it done from the final group last summer in both the U.S. Open and British Open.
What makes it so tough to close the deal playing in the final twosome of the day? Besides Woods, no one else on the PGA Tour feels totally comfortable in the driver's seat.
During that latest stretch since Woods' Bay Hill win, the likes of major champions Phil Mickelson, Angel Cabrera, and Webb Simpson as well as veterans Sergio Garcia and Brandt Snedeker have failed to convert from the last pairing.
Billy Horschel broke through for his first win by firing a final round 64 to overtake the leaders at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans after failing to convert from the pole position a month earlier at the Valero Texas Open.
Horschel says he learned from the disappointment in San Antonio not to scoreboard watch during the final round, something that's tough to do when the rest of the field is ahead of you.
"I was finally able to do my thing on the final round and not worry about who I was playing with or what the people in front of me or behind me are dealing with,'' Horschel said after his win. "So that was a big turning point. Knowing that I could go ahead and be focused on what I wanted to do and not be caught up in anything else that's going on the golf course. ''
Mentally, the players in the final pairing may approach their final round trying not to make mistakes while those pursuing them feel less pressure and have nothing to lose by being aggressive. Adam Scott couldn't hold on down the stretch at last year's British Open but he fired a final round 3-under-par 69 to capture the Masters. Scott's win was made possible by an aggressive, clutch birdie putt on the 18th hole to force a playoff with Cabrera.
In Westwood's case, his downfall at the BMW PGA was a faulty swing that he covered up for three days. In Kuchar's case at Colonial, a hot putter simply cooled down at the wrong time.
The pro tours are chock full of talented players who can throw a 64 or 65 on the board early in a final round before the greens get hard and crusty and the nerves start fraying for the leaders. Anyone who plays golf knows how tough the game is under normal conditions. Throw some pressure and high expectations into the mix and nailing down a win gets that much more difficult.
Mark McLaughlin has reported on the PGA Tour for the New York Post, FoxSports.com, Greensboro News & Record, and Burlington (N.C.) Times-News. He is a past member of the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association. Follow him on Twitter @markmacduke.
- Sports & Recreation
- Lee Westwood
- Matt Kuchar
- PGA Tour