Steven Is Believin'

Mike Glasscott
Steven Is Believin'
Steven Bowditch picked up his first victory on the PGA TOUR at the Valero Texas Open on Sunday

It took Australian Steven Bowditch, ranked No. 339 in the world, 110 events to win for the first time on the PGATOUR as he claimed top prize at the TPC San Antonio Oaks Course Sunday. Bowditch posted eight-under-par, 280 to hold off Americans Will MacKenzie and Daniel Summerhays by a one shot. Americans Matt Kuchar and Andrew Loupe, playing in the final group, finished T4 on 282.

For the second week in a row, a first-timer hoisted the trophy on Sunday afternoon as Steven Bowditch joined the club that Matt Every entered last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The Australian, who led after 36 and 54 holes, became the first player on TOUR to win an event while firing 76 in the final round since Vijay Singh did so at Whistling Straits in 2004. Unlike Singh, who needed a playoff to defeat Justin Leonard and Chris DiMarco, Bowditch just needed, and took, three putts from 51 feet to claim the title. It wasn’t an easy Sunday as he struggled to find fairways and greens plus his short game which carried him on Saturday was nowhere to be found. After beginning the round three-over after four, the 30-year old Dallas resident found himself all square with Matt Kuchar entering the back nine. He played the inward side even before his meaningless bogey on the final hole saw him sign for 76 and his first title.

Beginning the day ranked No. 339 and ending it with victory, a trip to the Masters, THE PLAYERS, the PGA and the 2015 HTOC on top of a two-year exemption is pretty awesome. Holding off perennial star Matt Kuchar down the stretch should make it even sweeter. Bowditch was on gamer’s radar last summer when his T2 at Greenbrier kicked off a run of three weeks that included T12 the following week at the John Deere Classic and wrapped up with T17 at the Sanderson Farms Classic. That spurt was just enough to keep him inside the top 125 for 2014.

Leading into this week at Valero there weren’t any clear signs that jumped off the page that suggested THIS WEEK would be the week for Bowditch. In 2014, his best, and only, top 25 was T19 at Pebble Beach. He entered the week with MC in three of his last four events with only a T37 in Puerto Rico being the exception. His pedigree includes a world junior runner up in 2000, a T7 at the 2000 Australian Open where he was the low amateur and he won on the Web.com Tour at age 21. His TOUR credentials didn’t have the same luster as this is just his third top 10 in over 100 events.

Moving forward, I always find it interesting to watch how first-timers react to such a life-changing event. Some players embrace the new hurdles and some return to the places where they had come from previously. I think it’s a bit of stretch to say it was “fluked” so I won’t; but this doesn’t elevate Bowditch into my thinking week-in and week-out, especially after 76 of them on Sunday.  If he takes this experience and puts together a consistent run of golf, I’ll start to take notes. Sadly we live in gamer’s world where reward is based on NEXT time, not last week.

With his victory, Bowditch collects $1,116,000 and 500 FedExCup Points.

Déjà vu All Over Again?

After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the first 17 of 20 events of 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, Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley and Matt Every have collected the hardware this year for the stars and stripes. Steven Bowditch now joins John Senden and Jason Day as only Australia is representing the rest of the world with the other three victories. You wouldn’t think it’s a Ryder Cup year with the absence of Euro victories!

Steven Bowditch joins Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler and Chesson Hadley as the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year. As we hit the halfway point of the TOUR season, last year’s number looks safer and safer.

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 10 of 19 leaders have gone on to win on Sunday. Bowditch breaks a two week streak of 54-hole leaders not being able to finish what they started as his three-shot lead held up. Barely.

He joins Adam Scott as Australian winners at TPC San Antonio Oaks Course. Maybe that Greg Norman guy knows what his countrymen like in course design!

He joins Brendan Steele as two of the five winners to procure their first titles on TOUR on this layout.

Entering the week, Bowditch had played 10 rounds here. In six of those rounds he posted 74 or worse.

No player has defended their title as last year’s champ, Martin Laird, fired 72-77 and MC.

For the week, just 25 players ended up under par as TPC San Antonio showed its teeth through bunkers, slick greens and wind. The Oaks Course will probably be in the top 10 of toughest courses again once the 2013-14 season ends.

Only four players had four rounds of par or better. #golfishard

Young Guns VS Prime Time VS 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. For the second week in a row a 30-year old joins the party as Steven Bowditch joins Matt Every in back-to-back weeks for the Prime Timers. This victory levels the ledger with the Young Guns at nine victories apiece.

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) are the twenty-somethings on the board.

The Old Guys fired this week with Jerry Kelly and Jim Furyk finishing at T6. Australian John Senden, 42, has the only victory for the Old Guys. #AustraliaAustraliaAustralia

Hindsight


What I learned from the finishers in the top 10 this week

Will MacKenzie: I violated the first rule in fantasy golf this week: Don’t fade a guy after ONE bad outing. I learned the hard way to remember this. We are always learning. Fundamentals are fundamentals. MacKenzie now has visited the top 10 fives in 13 events this season. This was his third top 10 in his last four events. This was his best finish on TOUR since winning the Viking Classic in 2008. He’s not going anywhere.

Daniel Summerhays: After finishing T29 in 2012 and T7 last year, I’m wondering how he didn’t appear on my radar in the “Horses-for-Courses” section last week. Alas, we move on and Summerhays, as he’s known to do, punished fairways (T10) and greens (T2) and made 17 birdies (T4). He turned 30 in December like Every so he’ll probably win next week! He’ll be in the HFC section next year! #lessonlearnedptII

Matt Kuchar: The knock on him from fantasy gamers is that he just doesn’t win enough. Whether that’s fair or not is not up to me but with nine holes left today he was all-square with Bowditch. He came home in 39 and finished two shots back. Gamers who pick up the paper (they still have those?) on Monday will see T4 and rejoice. Fantasy owners will be grumbling under their collective breath wondering how a player of this caliber couldn’t close out the No. 339 player in the world. Kuchar has won plenty of big tournaments and is playing himself into fine form for Augusta.

Andrew Loupe: The former LSU Tiger held his nerve, albeit slowly, over the final 36 holes to collect the biggest payday of his TOUR career. His eighth event of his TOUR career saw him draw the ire of golf fans everywhere that detest slow play but he played his final 10 holes in one-under to cash T4 money. His T6 at the Web.com Tour finals last season pushed him into limited starts on TOUR this year. He finished T27 at Pebble and T12 at PRO in his last two starts on TOUR.  He’s only played 30 events as a professional so there is plenty of room to breathe. For playing just once a month, that’s an impressive three event streak.

Brendon Todd: Welcome back, Brendo! He returns to The Takeway for the second time in 2014 (T6, Humana) on the heels of leading the tournament in birdies (T1, 19), T2 (GIR), T3 (Fairways) and 11th in strokes gained-putting. That’s pretty comprehensive! He was the only player to play both rounds of the weekend in the 60s (68-68). He was happy to get out of the state of Florida where he racked up finishes of MC, T44 and MC in three of four events. 

Jerry Kelly: The Wisconsin native was inspired this week by his Badgers run to the NCAA Final Four as he finished T6. Similarly to Todd, he also finished T2 in GIR and T3 in fairways yet was eighth in putts per GIR. Wait. They both finished T6. The Cheese Head know has three top 10s in 12 starts, including two of his last three. Not bad for 47! He’s worth a look when the fields are loaded with premium players.

Jim Furyk: He’s an automatic on tough, ball-striking courses and he paid dividends again this week. Sure, he hasn’t won since 2010 but he’s more than serviceable in Yahoo! and as O showed us this week, even in the GolfChannel.com game. He loves to grind and make pars and that’s what he did this week to the delight of those who still believe in the Old Folks.

Zach Johnson: Gamers were excited to see him bounce right back into action after a quiet finish last weekend at API. His T6 this week is hardly surprising given his record in the state of Texas and the state of his game.  His ball-striking was steady but his putter went cold for the week but another top 10 finish makes it four in 10 starts. #premiumplayer

Jordan Spieth: If you are not on the #SpiethBoner train by now, I’m not sure if you can be helped. #FanstasyGolfNerds keep putting him in the lineup and they keep racking up points and bucks. After going out in 42, Spieth played the rest of the week in 10-under. Just read that sentence again. Sure, gamers would love NOT to have the first nine 42 but he just doesn’t give in. Valero gave him an exemption early in his career and he’ll be back each year to repay that honor. He’ll be in my lineup again next year and probably next week in Houston!

Chalk Dust


What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?

Jordan Spieth: 10th; see above.

Matt Kuchar: T4; see above.

Phil Mickelson: He WD with an oblique injury after making the cut on the number from the water on Friday. In 2014, Mickelson has more WDs than top 10s. Sigh. His WD with ANOTHER, new injury doesn’t give me any confidence moving forward next week or at Augusta. The TOUR injury list is one hell of a lineup these days! #waitnsee

Jim Furyk: T6; see above.

Ryan Palmer: He began Sunday T8 but after a hip injury and 82, he dropped to T56. After 71-68 Friday and Saturday, gamers like me inserted him into the lineup to catch bonus points for a top three finish in Yahoo! Yahblew. Palmer was well on his way to another top 10 finish in 2014 and now gamers have to read the tea leaves on ANOTHER injury. At least he didn’t WD and kill all the folks riding him in OAD. #tough

Jimmy Walker: After opening with 76, the San Antonio resident “Spiethed it” the next three days with 71-71-69 to finish T16. His final round moved him up 32 places and added more ammunition to his lead in the FedExCup standings. He was almost last in driving, but T2 in GIR. He also led the field in birdies (T1, 19). In 12 events, he’s made 11 cuts and has 10 top 25s.

Zach Johnson: T6; see above.

Charley Hoffman: At this event he’s finished T13, T2, T13, T3 and now T11.

Jason Kokrak: My biggest fear entering this week was he hadn’t finished inside the top 25 in three consecutive rounds in his young career. His T31 this week continues that streak after his T14 and fourth in his last two events but there is plenty of upside in his game.

Kevin Chappell: Swing and a miss, MC.

Freddie Jacobson: He was primed for another stellar finish at the Oaks Course before his 73-74 pushed him to T16. Gamers, he’s automatic. His finishes are second, T5, T18, T15 and now T16. Gamers, for the FOURTH straight event in a row he’s failed to break par on Sunday. His results in those events have been T12, T20, T10 and now T16. #knockingonthedoor

Martin Laird: The defending champion parlayed his 76-78 weekend at API into 72-77 MC this week.

Brendan Steele: Make it six consecutive rounds he’s failed to break par on a course where he’s won and finished T4 in his first two outings. MC.

 

 

Coming Wednesday


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 Shell Houston Open 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.