Not to start everyone's day off with a Grouchy McGrouch thought, but it looks like they threw a PGA Tour stop in New Orleans and a Web.com slugfest broke out.
This is not to totally diminish Seung-Yul Noh's maiden victory at the tender age of 22, a life-changer that earns him entry into the Players Championship, the PGA Championship and next year's Masters, among other things. He's only the fifth Korean-born player to win in the States, and he did so while wearing ribbons on his hat to memorialize the victims in the tragic ferry accident in his home country, and his tender emotions about it were the most redeeming thing about Sunday.
But as far as drama goes, Noh – who most of you, like me, knew nothing about – outdueled the likes of a Robert Streb and an Andrew Svoboda down the stretch. Yes, it was a Noh-Bob Streb-Andy Svoboda showdown, and that means there wasn't much "show" to it.
Even Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo sounded like they were checking their watches halfway through the round, plotting getaway flights, or, better yet, a quick dinner back in the French Quarter to try and make something positive out of their Sunday.
If New Orleans' municipal rallying cry is "Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez," or, "Let the Good Times Roll," the slogan for the Zurich Classic was "Qui Sont Ces Gars?" or "Who Are These Guys?" Then again, the New Orleans stop is used to this: seven of the past 10 winners there have been first-timers, including career-launchers like Jason Dufner, and non-career launchers like Chris Couch and Tim Petrovic.
Obviously, for Noh, it's a great occasion, yes. And the CBS boys were quite adamant that this player, who was ranked 176th in the world coming in, but had made 12 of 14 cuts entering New Orleans, announced himself with his Sunday 71 in the wild winds of the Bayou. He has statistics to make you notice; he's No. 1 on the entire Tour in both sand save percentage and "Bounce Back", too – the ability to rebound after bogeys. And truth is, he played beautifully in difficult conditions, riding a controlled, low stinger off the tee to defeat Mother Nature's wild gusts. He shot 65-68-65 to get himself into position to win, and didn't make a bogey until Sunday. Others weren't so fortunate. Keegan Bradley, the only name on the leaderboard of any stature, was eaten alive by a flurry of lip-outs, and some wayward tee shots to boot, and saw his attempt to defeat these no-names dissolve into a woeful 75, blown out.
Noh's name is actually phonetically pronounced "Soon You'll Know," which would lend nomenclature credence to the youngest winner on Tour this year. He's yet another first-time winner in a year rash with them, joining Matt Every, Steven Bowditch and Matt Jones as the fourth first-time winner in the last six weeks.
Some would say this is a dire thing for golf; that the flush of winners with very little buzz is lending credence to the belief that golf without Tiger Woods is getting further and further from the public's mind. But in reality, Tiger would have only played Bay Hill and the Masters in that six-week stretch, so the door has been open for other veterans, like Bubba Watson at Augusta or Matt Kuchar at Harbour Town.
The positive spin is always that fresh faces are invigorating, that the game rejuvenates itself when youngsters like Noh arrive. And when his lead shrunk to one shot on the 16th hole after a bogey on 15, he reached into that "Bounce Back" bag and answered with a wedge stiffed to two feet. It was really good golf. You also saw him make a lovely up-and-down on the par-3 17th, including a 10-foot par save that drew the most on-course emotion you saw from the stoic Noh: a fist pump.
He was greeted on the green with a beer shower by his countrymen Y.E. Yang and Charlie Wi (born in Korea, raised in America), who lent a little flavor to the scene. And Noh spoke eloquently of his feelings for the ferry victims, creating a sense of importance to the occasion.
But you got the feeling that, at Ponte Vedra HQ, the PGA Tour is looking to Quail Hollow this week to get some sizzle back.
SCORECARD OF THE WEEK
68-71-68-69 – 12-under 276, Lydia Ko, winner, LPGA Swinging Skirts Classic, Lake Merced Golf Club, Daly City, Calif.
She wears the 'Sherman and Mr. Peabody' spectacles, but don't let the librarian look fool you: 17-year-old Lydia Ko will cut your heart out.
Oh, and she just turned 17 last Thursday, too.
Many golf fans have known about Ko for some time now, ever since the Korean-born, New Zealand-raised sensation became the youngest ever to win an LPGA event when she took the Canadian Open as an amateur in 2012, as a 15-year-old. She turned pro last October, and then turned up at the picturesque, old-school track at Lake Merced last week for the oddly named but welcome-in-the-Bay-Area tourney called the 'Swinging Skirts Classic." Swinging Skirts is a Taiwanese company looking to promote women's golf, and for an LPGA tour looking for momentum and cash, the attitude was: Hey, call it whatever you want, just don't bounce the check.
(Side note: I'm biased, as a Bay Area native, but the light/shadows/terrain/urban background/classic course designs make San Francisco golf the best televised golf going. If you don't believe me, go play Olympic, Harding Park, Lake Merced – not to mention San Francisco and California Golf Club – and then get back to me. And if you still don't buy it, well, so be it. Like I said, I'm biased.)
Ko had a heavyweight in her final group on Sunday, the decorated Stacy Lewis, who brought experience (she's 29) and ballast (she's won two majors). But Ko announced herself as a heavyweight, too. She outdueled Lewis, and showed off a monstrously good and poised short game with a darn-near chip-in on the slippery 17th, and a wicked, ice-cold wedge from the thick rough, 63 yards out, on the par-5 18th, to just eight feet. She did this after seeing Lewis stiff her approach to four feet for birdie, too. It was an answer of the highest sort, and when she rolled in her birdie on 18 to nullify Lewis' birdie, it was like she took a page from the NBA playoffs, with a dagger 3-point basket.
Beautiful golf from a charismatic player. Just what the LPGA needs, Swinging Skirts name be damned.
BROADCAST MOMENT OF THE WEEK
"This is not a flash in the pan, this one." – Nick Faldo, CBS, on Seung-Yul Noh's two-shot win at New Orleans.
If I'm Matt Every or Steven Bowditch or Matt Jones, I'd be feeling a little self-conscious. It was as if Faldo and the CBS crew went out of their way to convince us of Noh's legitimacy. Every, Bowditch and Jones are part of the "first-time" crew in the past six weeks, and you got the feeling all the love for Noh was almost a slight at the other guys.
They have some legitimate points, in that Noh's youth indicates he's a comer, and his across-the-board quality in statistics – 43rd in driving distance, 14th in greens in regulation, the aforementioned "Bounce Back" and sand saves – speak to a well-rounded player.
As always, we shall see. Golf's ruthless machine will chew up and spit out Noh if he's not ready. If he is? Well, then, young stars are welcome, especially if they play brassy golf.
MULLIGAN OF THE WEEK
The New Orleans event was lacking some pizzazz, and Keegan Bradley is nothing if not pizzazz. Pizzazz, thy name is Keegan Bradley.
We're coming up on two years since Bradley last won, the August 2012 win at Bridgestone, a WGC event to go with his 2011 PGA Championship and his 2011 Byron Nelson victory. He remains a dynamic player, ranked 21st in the world entering New Orleans. He's a dramatic guy, as evidenced by his 230-yard fairway wood from the fairway bunker at New Orleans on Friday, a shot he darn near jarred for a double-eagle "2." That's Keegan: adrenaline, bug-eyes, kooky stuff.
So why was he so awful on Sunday? The leader board was cluttered with anonymous players, and it seemed like once Bradley tied Noh for the lead early on the front nine Sunday, this shark would gobble up the minnows. But he missed a short putt on No. 5 for a bogey to fall a shot back, then yanked his tee shot on No. 6 into the water, en route to a triple-bogey "7." Good night, Irene.
So, in the interest of revving up that back nine in the Bayou, and getting Bradley's crazed energy on the TV screen more, let's go back out to the 6 tee, remind Bradley that we need his Q-rating and … give that man a mulligan!
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
To the always entertaining Quail Hollow and – look, there's Philly Mick! Last seen missing the cut at the Masters, Phil Mickelson makes a pre-Players Championship appearance at Quail Hollow for the Wells Fargo Championship. He led the thing on the back nine on Sunday last year, but coughed it up and let a guy named Derek Ernst win. Lefty will stand for no such shenanigans this time.
Also, Rory McIlroy will play, and that's basically a wild card at this point. You like him to win again where he won in 2010, for the first time in the States? I'd like to think so, given how much the game needs him. And he's playing much more consistently than he did a year ago. Then again, he's got to look out for these new guys, the ones you've never heard of.