A long 4 feet

Brian Murphy

Today, we pay heed to the dirtiest words in golf: The 4-footer for par.

Few words are worse, cause more acid reflux, or hammer home the sudden, profoundly depressing realization that the golf hole is really NOT that big. Or, as David Feherty so poetically put it on Sunday from Firestone, few words can more “make my stomach feel like a bag of frogs."

So, thanks, Vijay Singh. While you celebrate the direct deposit of $1.35 million to your bank account – which should purchase a few new medicine balls for the workout room and plenty of Singha Lite – we’re all glad we don’t have to watch you line up another 4-footer.

Actually, let’s take that back. That sounds mean. Quite frankly, we’d rather watch you line up a 4-footer than watch your rival for glory on Sunday, Phil Mickelson, bogey his way out of bunkers on three of the last four holes – and does anybody know when Tiger’s due back to save this game of golf again? Anytime soon?

On the 71st hole, Veej lined up a 4-footer, and CBS obliged us with the graphic informing us that he was 8 of 18 from 4 to 8 feet during the World Golf Championships – Bridgestone Invitational. I think the CBS tech who threw that graphic up got the yips just calculating it. In other words, a future reality show could pit an alternate-shot competition of Singh stroking 20 putts from 4 to 8 feet versus Shaq getting 20 free tosses from the charity stripe. Let the Nielsen ratings begin.

But here’s the thing: Singh made the putt on 17, then tortured himself and us all by leaving himself another 48 inches on 18 for the win. If you’re the kind of person who bothers to look up this column online, then you probably play the game, and you know there’s nothing worse than 48 inches between you and par on the final green – especially when victory is at stake, whether a $2 Nassau or your first WGC championship at age 45. As far as fortitude checks go, the 4-footer for the win ranks right up there with other gut-testers that should be easy but aren’t: like taking your written DMV exam (what IS the school zone speed limit again?) or hitting a slow-pitched softball with a 2-strike count 15 years since the last time you swung a bat (I’m not going to swing and miss … am I?).

So, yes, the WGC event featured big names who sort of stumbled their way down the stretch – none more so than Lefty, who has yet to take advantage of Tiger’s absence – but when it came time for Veej to put up or shut up, he put, and putted, up. He took a page from Bob Dylan and gave it the old “Don’t think twice/It’s allright” stroke – quick and sure.

He made his two testers, bless his heart, and became the Tour’s most winning all time international player, a first-time winner in ’08, a reminder to Kenny Perry that other guys in their mid-40s can do this stuff, and a name to watch at Oakland Hills this week.

He also reminded those of us who struggle with the simpler things in golf, that sometimes 4 feet for the win just needs a little Bela Karolyi treatment. After all, YOU CAN DO IT!

Just don’t ask us – or Veej – to have to do it again.

Scorecard of the week

66-68-70-66 – Ji-Yai Shin, winner, Women’s British Open.

What a great story for Shin: Just 20 years old, she becomes the youngest Women’s British Open champion, and strikes a blow for the Korean LPGA, where she is the top-ranked player.

Here’s the problem: Nobody stateside knew who she was.

The balance of power is now almost officially complete on the women’s scene, and it tilts toward Asia. Three of the four major champions this year on the women’s tour came from Asia – Yani Tseng, Inbee Park and now Shin – and the question has to be asked: Who cares about a Solheim Cup when the combatants, the U.S. and Europe, are the second- and third-best continents in women’s golf?

The LPGA best hop to it and start marketing the likes of Park and Tseng – and Shin, if she decides to come play in the States. The bottom line is, as cute as it is that Paula Creamer plays with a pink ball, and as feisty as Morgan Pressel is, and as many Maxim spreads as Natalie Gulbis consents to, these women are watching major championship trophies head, by the bushel, to the players from Asia. Granted, Pressel won a major last year, and maybe that exempts her from the conversation, but the ’08 major season should be a wake-up call to the LPGA. Let us know whom these players are, and we can get on board. Otherwise – anybody seen the remote?

Broadcast moment of the week

Three cheers to the cameraman who was Johnny-on-the-spot and caught the frightening yet awesome sight of the black bear careening across the fairways of the U.S. Senior Open on Friday at the Broadmoor in Colorado.

The images were stunning in their many facets: the reminder that Mother Nature’s creatures can still terrorize man, the risk factor of putting a golf course so close to wilderness, and the terrifying thought that the bear had more spring in his step and a better closing kick than any of the 50-and-over combatants who bogeyed their way to infamy on the weekend.

Mulligan of the week

Dare we give the mulligan o’ the week to the person who needs it most: Michelle Wie?

I’d say we can offer her a mulligan before her double-bogey on her 31st hole on Friday at Reno, when she took five shots to get down from roughly 40 feet – as artfully recorded by my Yahoo! compadre, Michael Arkush. Or, we can offer her a mulligan before her unwatchable quintuple-bogey 9 on her 35th hole on Friday at Reno.

Or, we could offer her a mulligan, big-picture style: That if she could go back in time, she would pass entirely on playing a PGA Tour event when she should be putting in practice time on her short game.

But here’s the lesson from this column today: No mulligans in golf. Maybe if Michelle Wie, bless her heart, learns that lesson, she’ll take one tiny step in the right direction.

Where do we go from here?

They call it “Glory’s Last Shot”. I call it: “It’s Only a Major If, During Tiger’s Absence, Greg Norman Plays And Brings Chrissy Evert And Contends On Sunday.”

The PGA Championship wraps up our major championship season, a roster of winners that includes Trevor (Have You Seen Me Since Sunday Night at Augusta?) Immelman, Tiger (I Will Destroy You Upon My Return) Woods, and Padraig (Thank the Good Lord I Had a 53-Year-Old With a History of Choking In My Final Pairing) Harrington.

Since Tiger went on the DL, the roster of PGA Tour winners is: Stewart Cink, Kenny Perry (twice), Anthony Kim, Chez Reavie and Richard Johnson and Parker McLachlin winning lesser-field tournaments.

My money is on one of the first three names: Perry, Cink or Kim. Or Singh – as long as nobody asks him to make a 4-footer.

What to Read Next