At this rate, Justin Rose is on his way to becoming America’s darling.
The Englishman won on our soil at the Memorial, shaking Big Jack’s hand in the winner’s circle. Impressive. Then, on the Fourth of July, this would-be Yankee Doodle Dandy won again, at the AT&T National, at a golf course featuring Old Glory on flagsticks – and Old Glory waving off of David Feherty’s CBS headset, as well. Doubly impressive.
Wait. I thought the whole point of Independence Day was to not let these Austin Powers sound-alikes roll through our country, thinking it was theirs.
Then again, “give us your tired, your poor … “ – Lady Liberty pretty much lays out the ground rules. We’ll take all comers.
And while Rose might have been “tired” after blowing that Sunday back-nine lead the previous week at the Travelers in Connecticut, we’ll have to fudge on the “poor” part. After all, Rose has already banked $3.1 million Stateside this year.
Bottom line: Justin Rose is America’s hottest player. Lord knows there’s an opening for the job, since our erstwhile No. 1 guy isn’t anywhere close to him.
That’s right. Rose now has two more wins on the PGA Tour this year than Tiger Woods. It makes you wonder what the guy would have done if he had found a way to sneak into the Pebble Beach U.S. Open.
Unfortunately for Rose, the national championship still requires guys to play their way in, and even Rose’s win at the Memorial wasn’t enough to pass USGA muster. So, the day after his win at Jack’s Lair, Rose tried to qualify in Ohio – and failed.
At the time, I thought Rose’s stumble was proof that the U.S. Open is the most demanding, rigorous and unassailable of championships, not unlike an uber-hip nightclub that keeps poorly dressed schlubs waiting outside the velvet rope for hours at a time.
But now that Rose has won twice in four weeks – and came within a few shots of making it a hat trick last week in Connecticut – I’m starting to think the happiest guy going is Graeme McDowell. The way Rose is playing, McDowell is pumped he didn’t have to face the fairways-and-greens machine that is Rose. In fact, Rose’s seven consecutive pars to close out the AT&T at Aronimink with Ryan Moore breathing hot and heavy on the leader board were precisely the kind of thing that would have looked quite effective at Pebble.
Maybe most impressive is the bounce-back factor. The Sunday meltdown in Connecticut was enough for snarky columnists – cough, cough – to make snide remarks about Rose blowing a 6-shot lead on the same day his beloved England football team was bounced from the World Cup, drawing parallels.
Days later, I did the Yahoo! video shoot with Raj Matthai, and the topic of late-Sunday chokes was broached. The evidence was piling up: Robert Garrigus with the 3-shot lead on the 72nd hole in Memphis; Dustin Johnson with the 82 at Pebble; and Rose treating the 6-shot advantage the same way England’s goalkeeper Robert Green treated Clint Dempsey’s shot in the U.S. World Cup game.
The only answer I could come up with: It’s hard to lock it down on tour. Pressure mounts. Confidence wavers. Too much time between shots allows for evil thoughts. The late-Sunday gag jobs were more evidence that Tiger’s incredible run of salting away 54-hole leads in majors – 14 for 14 – deserves our awe.
So the idea of Justin Rose, a guy who hadn’t won in America just five weeks ago, holding down a lead the week after he blew one, seemed dicey, at best. And when Moore made his 1-putt charge through the back nine – 8 one-putt greens was rather impressive – all it would take was one Rose bogey on the back nine to allow Moore into a playoff.
It never happened. Rose wouldn’t let it. His heart was too big – just like Rocky Balboa, or the kids from “Hoosiers,” or the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team …
That’s right, Justin. If you’re going to keep winning in America, and be our country’s new darling, it’s time for good old-fashioned Yankee hyperbole, too. Now, cue up some Bruce Springsteen on your iPod, because baby, you were born to run.
Scorecard of the week
73-70-70-71 – 4-over 284, tie-46th, Tiger Woods, AT&T National, Aronimink Golf Club.
It was during the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach that one of my esteemed golf writer colleagues said about Tiger Woods: “He’s just a guy now, right? Just a guy.”
He was speaking with a comic edge, trying to make a point through exaggeration. But as my Dad always used to tell me: Many a truth is oft said in jest, amigos.
I find myself constitutionally incapable of writing off Tiger Woods, but it’s a stand that is beginning to become troublesome. Maybe, just maybe, it is time to start thinking about writing off his 2010 season.
Mind, if you read this column regularly, you know I haven’t picked Tiger to win the Masters, or the U.S. Open. My theory: It was too much pressure, too soon after his world was turned upside down. He’d compete, because he’s Tiger, but somebody else – as it turned out, Phil Mickelson and McDowell – would be a bit sharper.
St. Andrews, I always thought, would be a different story. For starters, he’d be out of the country, far away from the tree in Orlando where he wrapped his Escalade on that fateful night. That had to be a positive: Just to get the heck out of Dodge, you know?
And yes, the British tabloids would be merciless, of course, but the sight of The Old Course would surely stir something in his soul, reminding him of wins in 2000 and 2005. It’s been since 1995 that anybody not named ‘Tiger’ won a British at St. Andrews.
But now, my Tiger-wins-St.-Andrews pick looks shaky. At what point do we start to understand that Tiger Woods’ world is so upside-down, so rattled, so out-of-sorts, that he cannot play golf with any peace of mind?
Factoids are starting to pile up: His four rounds at par or worse at Aronimink mark the first time in 11 years he hasn’t broken par in any round at a regular PGA Tour event. His six starts without a win marks his longest drought to start a year since 1998. His 120 putts around Aronimink were more than a little alarming. He finished tie-46th, alongside legends like Jimmie Walker, Ryuji Imada and Scott McCarron.
I’ll stick with my pick for Tiger to win at the Old Course, but only out of pride. Everything else in his world says no way it happens.
Mulligan of the week
So the LPGA has the U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont this week, which should be great fun. But first, it had the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic in Ohio, site of this week’s Mully o’ the Week.
After 72 holes, a four-way playoff was necessary. The participants: a South Korean named Na Yeon Choi, and three women named Kim – Choi’s countrywomen In-Kyung Kim and Song Hee Kim, and America’s own Christina Kim.
Apparently, actress Kim Basinger, ‘80s singer Kim Carnes and former Miami Dolphins LB Kim Bokamper were unavailable.
At any rate, Choi wound up winning the playoff – after blowing a 5-stroke lead in regulation – with a birdie on the 2nd playoff hole. Congrats, and all that.
Our focus is on the irrepressible Christina Kim, however. Starving for a ‘W’ since 2005, she had a 12-footer on the 72nd hole for victory.
How did it go?
At this point, we turn the column over to Christina’s Twitter feed. She is one of the Tour’s most prolific tweeters, from horoscopes to reviews of her airplane fights. Christina’s two immediate tweets after?
Tweet No. 1: “Thank you to everyone for your support and kind words. F-worrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrd. That is all at the moment.”
And, Tweet No. 2: “Tonight I think I’m staying in and chilling. Have to stay off the roads right now, lest I ram into something.”
In other words, she missed the putt.
So, for a woman’s heart, mind and soul, and for the love of all who feel her Tweeting pain, let’s march out to that 72nd hole, put Christina Kim’s golf ball 12 feet away from the cup and … give that woman a mulligan!
Broadcast moment of the week
“It’s a lonely life out there.” – Nick Faldo, CBS, pondering life as a pro golfer. “Well, you talked to (Feherty) when he got out there, right?” – Jim Nantz, CBS, trying to make a connection between two former Euro Tour players. “No … Nick was watching a movie that only Nick can see.” – David Feherty, CBS, immediately chiming in. “Well … I had front row seats, for a while.” – Faldo, again.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times in the B.M.O.W. – Faldo is a beaut.
I really can’t even add much to the above dialogue, except to laud Feherty for his ability to play the role of the Court Jester – the guy who seems like he’s praising the King, all the while roasting the King at the same time.
Front row seats. You gotta be kidding me.
Where do we go from here?
Most of the boys are winging it over the pond to prep for The Old Course, Tiger included. He has an Irish pro-am on Monday – as does Justin Rose, at Adare Manor in Limerick. You’ll notice Rose at that pro-am: he’ll be the guy reeking of money and jet lag.
The John Deere Classic has a featherweight field, so all eyes are on the U.S. Women’s Open. No Annika. No Lorena. A tweeting Christina Kim. Who will seize the moment?
Somebody, anybody, post on Michelle Wie’s Facebook and let her know this would be a good time to play well.