Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Snedeker's toughness stands out as he 

wins at Torrey Pines in cruel weather

Brandt Snedeker waits and wins, Torrey Pines becomes a wind chamber, Jordan Spieth completes his fortnight abroad, Ryan Ruffels cashes in and more in this week's edition of the Monday Scramble:
Sure, Brandt Snedeker needed a lot of help to win the Farmers Insurance Open. 
He needed the cut line to hold at 1 under. He needed treacherous, final-round conditions to keep the leaders in check. He needed a remarkable round to give himself a chance. And then on Monday, when play resumed and the final group had eight holes remaining, he needed the wind to switch directions and limit the number of birdie opportunities coming home. 
“It kind of fell in line perfectly,” he said.
But that doesn’t make this title any less sweet. 
Snedeker isn’t often mentioned as one of the game’s elite players, perhaps because he’s not a basher off the tee, a preeminent ball-striker or a flashy 20-something. 
But one of his greatest (and most surprising) qualities is his toughness, which helps explain why half of his eight PGA Tour titles have come when he trailed by five or more shots heading into the final round.
This victory – after watching and waiting nearly 24 hours, after having everything fall in line – may have been his most impressive.

1. Snedeker was giving an interview outside the scoring area Sunday when the horn sounded for the third and final time. He groaned.   
“I want them to be out there going through the misery that I had to go through,” he said. 
At the time, Snedeker’s point was well-taken. Tour officials would only send out players when the conditions were more favorable, which, in theory, would give them a better opportunity to post a score lower than Snedeker’s 6-under 282.
Turns out it was Sneds who got the lucky break. 
On Monday, the wind wasn’t as fierce but it came out of a different, more difficult direction. The last eight holes played predominantly into the wind; three times K.J. Choi hit driver-3 wood into a par 4 and came up short. On Sunday afternoon, that same stretch played downwind or from the left, allowing Snedeker to hit five drives of 300-plus yards. 
In the end, that was the difference between him winning and coming up just short.  
2. The ultimate measure of a great round is how it compares to the field average that day. 
It's worth noting that Snedeker's closing 69 at Torrey Pines was 9.119 strokes better than field average when play was called for the day Sunday. He described it as "playing a British Open on a U.S. Open setup." 
When all 71 players had finished, his round was nearly nine shots better than the field average (77.903).
Viewed another way: 

  • There were two rounds of par or better
  • There were 23 (!) rounds of 80 or worse
"I couldn't do it again," Snedeker said afterward. "I don't know how I did it."
Scot Martin Laird finished tied eighth with a one-under-par total.
To view all the scores:


3. For the sake of comparison, these were the top five rounds of 2015 in terms of best score versus the field, according to stats guru Mark Broadie: 

  1. J.B. Holmes, 62 in Round 1 at Doral (11.4 strokes better than the field)
  2. Rory McIlroy, 61 in Round 3 at Quail Hollow (10.2)
  3. Hiroshi Iwata, 63 in Round 2 at Whistling Straits (9.9)
  4. Charley Hoffman, 67 in Round 1 at TPC San Antonio (9.7)
  5. Jordan Spieth, 63 in Round 1 at Augusta National (9.4)
4. Just how nasty was it for players? The final-round scoring average (5.9 strokes over par) was the second-most difficult non-major round on Tour in the past 25 years
The only round tougher: The third round of the 1999 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which averaged 7.38 strokes over par. 
Tweeted Shane Lowry, who grew up with plenty of wicked weather playing amateur golf in Ireland:

5. The mission, under normal circumstances, was straightforward: Play the last eight holes in even par to win. 
Except Jimmy Walker soon realized it wouldn’t be quite that simple. 
His first tee shot Monday hooked way left, leading to a bogey, and he dropped three more shots coming home while playing into a penal wind. 
“We got out there and all of a sudden the wind started blowing again,” Walker said. “It would have been nice to play the last couple of holes downwind.” 
6. There is no way to sugarcoat this: The final round at Torrey Pines was an unmitigated disaster for Scott Brown.
Tied for the 54-hole lead with K.J. Choi, Brown shot a career-worst, 15-over 87 and plummeted to a T-49 finish. It’s the highest final-round score by a leader in the last 10 years (by five shots!). 
Brown made 11 bogeys and two doubles. Before his par on the last, he had dropped at least one shot on 11 consecutive holes. 

7. What to make of Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson’s early exit at Torrey Pines? Each case should be examined differently. 
Level of concern: Extremely low 
Day’s caddie Colin Swatton said Day had great practice sessions in Palm Springs as he geared up for his title defense. Then he and his family caught the flu. He made two trips to the hospital on Tuesday and picked up a club for the first time in five days an hour before his Thursday tee time. His only worry now: a lack of competitive reps heading into Augusta.
Level of concern: Extremely low 
Because of his sponsorship deal with Farmers, Fowler flew 17 hours across 12 time zones after an impressive victory in Abu Dhabi. Once play started, he was far from the only player who struggled on the bumpy seaside poa annua greens. He’ll be just fine.
Level of concern: Low
Torrey was his first tournament in two months, and he wasn't particularly sharp from tee to green. Then again, he doesn't have a top-20 finish at Torrey in seven tries. Why doesn't he begin his year elsewhere? 
Level of concern: Medium-Low 
His Friday 76 on the North Course came out of nowhere; in 26 prior rounds, he averaged 68.77 and had only one over-par score (73). It continued the strained relationship between Lefty and his hometown event, which he has won three times but not in the past 15 years. The South Course was renovated in 2003 by Rees Jones, who wanted to beef up the course in advance of the U.S. Open; Phil has seriously contended there only once since. Throw in his failed bid to redo the North Course – he was a victim of head-scratching politics – and you get the sense that all of those warm, fuzzy feelings are gone. 
This week’s Phoenix Open – another event in which Mickelson has enjoyed success – should serve as a more accurate barometer of his uneven game.

8. Jordan Spieth’s first visit to Singapore turned out to be much more extensive than a simple brand-building trip. 
His agent doubled as his caddie. Multiple weather delays led to early mornings and long days. And finally, on Sunday, while lining up a make-or-break 5-footer on the last, the horn blew for the final time. Spieth couldn’t hide his disgust as he walked off the green, knowing that it meant another night in Singapore – and one less night at home, before he continues his busy early-season schedule at Pebble Beach and Riviera. 
Despite earning some extra cash for the trip to Singapore – and it was reported that he received a $1.3 million appearance fee – Spieth admitted that his world tour came at a cost.
"What I've learned," he said, "is that I won't bounce back and forth from the States over here as often as I did. It's just tough." 
At 22, he's already ahead of the learning curve. As usual. 
9. Perhaps, in retrospect, Dustin Johnson’s curious trend of weekend retreats started at the U.S. Open, where he handed the title to Spieth with a three-putt from 12 feet on the 72nd hole.
Is there scar tissue?

  • Because in his next start, at the Open Championship, where he held the halfway lead, he closed with back-to-back rounds of 75.
  • Because in his next start, at the WGC-Bridgestone, where he was tied for second heading into the weekend, he went 75-76 and disappeared.
  • Because at the end of the year, at the World Challenge, where he was four shots behind, he played the weekend in only 1 under and got lapped.
  • And because it happened again last week, at Torrey Pines, where he trailed by one, and then blew up with rounds of 74-80.
DJ’s reputation as a closer is getting even shakier after these bizarre backtracks.



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