Justin Rose defeated Shawn Stefani with a par on the first playoff hole Sunday to win the Quickens Loan National (QLN) at Congressional Country Club (CCC) in Washington, D.C. Rose and Stefani finished on four-under-par, 280 to separate themselves by one shot from Americans Ben Martin and Charley Hoffman, who shared third. It was the first playoff on TOUR for each player and Rose's sixth win.
The real winner this week was CCC. After being torched at the 2011 U.S. Open to the tune of -16 by Rory McIlroy, the last three winners have been -12, -8 and now -4. With dogged rough, narrow landing areas and protected, slick greens, it’s hardly a surprise that only 10 players finished under par. Only four players cracked that on Sunday afternoon.
Standing on the 72nd tee with a one-shot lead, one of the best ball-strikers over the last five years, Justin Rose, pulled his tee shot left into the trees. His second found the pond in front of 18. His third was a drop. His fourth left him 15 feet. His fifth was holed for a bogey to post four-under. It was interesting because usually for Rose, it’s the other way around. Usually, the tee shot finds the middle of the fairway. The second finds the middle of the green. And then the putter doesn’t hold up its end of the deal. In 2014, he’s 61st in total putting. In 2013 he was 99th, including 133rd in strokes gained-putting. In 2014 he is 97th in ball-striking after being third in 2013.
Stefani was never in the playoff as he pulled his tee shot wide on No. 18. He second found the water and that was all she wrote. His P2 is his best finish ever on TOUR but more about him later.
Rose began his week four-over through the first nine holes on Thursday. Undaunted, he played his next 35 without a bogey and rebounded to fire 10-under through that stretch. The heart of that run included a tournament-low, bogey-free 65 on Friday that put him back into the mix. He entered Sunday three shots behind 54-hole leader Patrick Reed. His one-under, 70, was one of just four rounds under par on the day. Rose used his 2013 formula this week, fairways and greens as he was T11 in fairways and T13 GIR.
With the entire field backing up most of the weekend, the 2013 U.S. Open champion kept his nerve and more importantly, his ball in play to win for the fifth year in a row on TOUR. Only Dustin Johnson has a longer ACTIVE streak (8 years). Phil Mickelson has not won this year (10 years). Gamers couldn’t be happier with his rate of return over this period and this year. Rose is not 11 for 13 on the season, exactly what gamers expect and has six top 10s plus nine top 25s in that stretch. That’s what front-line, big-time, A-players do in fantasy land. He’s in the prime of his career. He’s won a major and he’s hardly satisfied. That’s an excellent combination! As he continually keeps proving over and over, he plays really difficult tracks well, another sign of a top, top player. Every week he’s in the field, he must be on a very short list of options to play in lineups of all gamers.
With his victory, Rose collects $1,170,000 and 500 FedExCup points.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 23 of 33 events in 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd, Ben Crane and Kevin Streelman have won for the USA.
Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed five victories. Hideki Matsuyama joined Seung-yul Noh as the Asian representatives and Martin Kaymer now has a play pal as Justin Rose joins the European effort.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd and Matsuyama are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had nine in 33 events so far in 2014. Shawn Stefani (P2), Ben Martin (T3), Billy Hurley III (T8), Ricky Barnes (T11), Hudson Swafford (T11) and Richard Lee (T11) were all sniffing around for their first wins.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14, 17 of 32 leaders have gone on to win as Patrick Reed could not capitalize on his two-shot overnight lead.
No player has defended their QLN title as 2013 champion Bill Haas shot 77 in the final round to drop from T11 to T30. He was two-under when the day began!
Justin Rose joins Tiger Woods as the only two players to win this event. Rose wins the tiebreaker as he won it at Aronimink AND CCC. Who’ll be the first to win at the Robert Trent Jones Club? Stay tuned!
Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer are the multiple winners on TOUR this season.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Since the first major, Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33), Ben Crane (38), Kevin Streelman (35) and Justin Rose, 33, add to the prime-timers trophy case.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer TWICE (29), Brendon Todd (28) and Hideki Matsuyama (22), are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden, 42, won at Tampa Bay for the only W for the “Old Guys” this season. Stewart Cink, 41, continued his steady cut-making ways and horse-for-course form at CCC with T21, the best of the “Old Guys” this week.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10
Shawn Stefani: In only his 10th start of the season, Stefani racked up his first runner-up finish and best-finish ever on TOUR. He was fifth in his second start of the year at SHO and that covered his major medical extension for 2014. His P2 this week in addition to that finish will put him comfortably on TOUR next year. Stefani played excellent golf this week as he was T12 in birdies (14), T3 in bogey avoidance (8), T11 in fairways, T22 in GIR and seventh in putts per GIR. That solid formula helped him build from a first round 74 with rounds of 68-68-70 to close. Gamers, Stefani showed he could be competitive at a birdie-fest and a U.S. Open-style layout. His 20-footer on No. 18 that just slid by the hole would have won him the tournament but it was not to be. He entered the week on a MC last week but he likes Congressional. He now has five of eight rounds here UNDER par. That’s strong.
Charley Hoffman: He’s already eclipsed his 2013 money total in four less events as his T3 this week puts him in the ballpark of $2 million for the year. His best year on TOUR was 2010 when he won just north of $2.5 million and he’s well above that pace. This week makes it 11 weekends out of his last 11 and his best finish on TOUR since 2013 Valero Texas Open (T3). This just reinforces how consistent his play has been on the season even with short hair! #NotSampson
Ben Martin: He began his run of seven cuts made with a T3 at RBC Heritage and he adds his second T3 of the year at QLN. As the numbers told us, Martin’s well-rounded game is one of his biggest assets (28th, all-around). He finished the week T4 in fairways, T11 GIR and 17th in strokes gained-putting (SGP). Martin caught my attention before the week started because of the balance and his game and I’ll ALWAYS take a look at a guy who fired 65 at Muirfield Village and TPC Southwind on a Sunday.
Andres Romero: Coming off MC in four of his last five starts, the Argentine made a ton of birdies and bogeys to finish T5. His 68 on Sunday was the low round of the day and included four birdies of his 15 on the week and only one of his 13 bogeys. He was T68 in fairways and T33 in GIR but his T11 in SGP made his money this week. He’s 175th on TOUR in ball-striking in 2014. This was his first top 10 since T2 at Reno-Tahoe last August. This was his first top 21 or better in 19 starts this season.
Brendan Steele: The new putter debut last week carried right over to this week as his T5 backed up his T5 from last week. He finished the week T22 in putts per GIR. Steele might be kicking himself as his double bogey on the final hole took him from four-under, the number that made the playoff, to two-under and T5. His game fits at CCC as he’s improved each of the last three years (T68, T16 and now T5). He also made 16 birdies this week, good for T2. After MC in four of his last seven he’s now racked up back-to-back T5s. #hot
Brendon Todd: Speaking of hot, Todd continues his torrid play since his win at the HPBNC with another top finish again this week (T5). It was nice to have my OAD pick jump back in the top 10 for the first time since Memorial (Charl Schwartzel, T8) but, for a while, I was thinking bigger and better. Todd opened up with three birdies in his first eight holes to share the lead at five-under. A double bogey on No. 10 plus bogeys at Nos. 13 and 14 wiped out those three birdies but he was still in it. What I love about Todd is success has buoyed him onward. He rallied to birdie two of the last three, including a 26-footer on the final hole to move into T5. He led the field in SGP.
Billy Hurley III: His best finish on TOUR was T4 here in 2012. His T8 this year makes him two-for-two at CCC in his only two starts. He would have made a tasty TOAD this week! He’s now 14 of 20 on the season in making the cut and this was No. 6 in a row. His T16 at HPBNC was his best finish in that streak until this week. His two best finishes this year were at Honda and QLN on two tough courses.
Brendon de Jonge: The former Virginia Tech Hokie made the journey up from his home in Charlotte and continued his solid run on some of his favorite regional courses. His T8 this year pairs nicely with his T11 in 2012 so gamers can safely put him on their horse-for-course lists at CCC. This was his first top 10 since his T6 at his hometown’s Wells Fargo Championship. That’s eight in a row but those are the only two finishes in the top 25. If every event was in North Carolina or Virginia I would be more confident moving forward.
Marc Leishman: The only player from the triumvirate who began the day four-under that survived inside the top 10 as his 74 saw him post T8. With four bogeys in his final 12 holes, Leishman, who once held the lead on five-under after five holes, couldn’t find any birdies coming home. In his last six events, the Aussie has been on fine form with five of those finishes T23 or better. Three of them are T11, T3 and T8. He’s on my list for Hoylake.
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
Jason Day: A victim of the Tiger Woods effect this week, the excellent Aussie played the middle 18 holes of his round three-under but the first nine were four-over and the final nine was two-over. He opened his final nine double-double as he found back-to-back hazards on Nos. 10 and 11. The good news is there are no physical issues with him to be concerned about. 73-73, MC.
Jordan Spieth: Also playing with Woods and Day, Spieth struggled out of the gate with an opening round 74. Unlike his two playing partners, he cranked it up on Friday with 70 to make the cut. Here’s what I love about Spieth. He just keeps grinding. His 69-71 weekend saw him finish T11. In those final three rounds he made all of FOUR bogeys. FOUR. He did that hitting barley 50% of the fairways (T53) and barley 50% of GIR (75TH). #Grinder He now has 15 top 25s in 17 weekends on TOUR. He’s automatic and sadly my last start will come on him at the John Deere Classic.
Brendon Todd: T5, see above.
Keegan Bradley: His last three MC on TOUR have been at the Masters, THE PLAYERS and this week at Congressional. That’s three different kinds of difficult courses so I’ve learned nothing. He was T4 at Pinehurst No. 2. That course is difficult. So is forecasting Keegan Bradley. Sigh. All four nines this week were played over par. 75-75, MC.
Justin Rose: WIN, see above.
Billy Horschel: His hot stretch of golf continues as he joined Spieth on T11 this week. His formula has been lights-out ball-striking and making just enough putts. This week, the bell sounded the same as he was T2 GIR and T18 in fairways. He racked up 54 pars and only made ONE bogey in his first 36 holes. He’s trending in the right direction so I’m staying on board. His horrific 2014 started to turn after T26 at THE PLAYERS and has been steady since. His last four events have seen him rack up T15, T6, T23 and T11 this week.
Brandt Snedeker: After making just two birdies on the weekend, gamers will gladly settle for a top 25 this week. The good news was he played three of four rounds at par or better and his putter was steady again. He’s rounding nicely into form.
Bill Haas: Beginning Sunday at two-under and just four shots off the lead, the 2013 champ’s putter went ice cold and he closed with 77 to finish T30. That’s what six bogeys and a double will do to a guy on a Sunday. Haas continues to strike the ball well T11 fairways and T4 GIR but was 74th of 77 players in SGP for the week. He was also T62 in putts per GIR. He keeps sniffing and he’s doing just enough to keep gamers interested but he’s not having the breakout season that many of us thought he would. It’s not bad but it’s not great. It’s good. With Haas we expect great.
Gary Woodland: Similarly to Haas, Woodland began the day T15 and finished T46 as he needed 78 whacks to get around on Sunday. Woodland is 16 for 17 on the season after opening with a MC at Frys.com. That’s 16 in a row. Woods and Day had their long streaks broken this week so it’s not as easy as it looks! Remember, Woodland was treading water until he busted out last summer with a win at Reno-Tahoe and a T2 at the Barclays.
K.J. Choi: No Country for Old Men. I’m not ageist but I’m close. There’s a reason I have a part in my columns about who is winning/performing and how old they are. Gamers need to remember that guys in their mid-40s don’t show up week in and week out on TOUR. Mickelson doesn’t. Furyk doesn’t. Stricker doesn’t show up. Toms doesn’t. You get the idea. I would suggest chasing quickly but not for an extended period of time. Choi supporters learned that lesson this week.
Ryan Palmer: He shot 77 on Sunday as well. What a foursome I could have had from this group on 77 or better on Sunday! Haas, Woodland, Palmer…
Brendan Steele: T5, see above.
Charley Hoffman: T3, see above.
Webb Simpson: This is how difficult CCC was playing on Sunday: Simpson shot one OVER and moved up 18 spots to T30.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Greenbrier Classic and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.