The PGA Tour – Monthly Roundup of the Action from May 2018
Just like that, May has come and gone. And what an eventful month it was on the PGA Tour. As electrifying as the action was in May, things are only going to get better in June as the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills looms in the not too distant future.
Before I get you hyped up for what’s on tap for the first month of the summer, I want to recap what has transpired over the past 30 days.
We saw four tournaments, each with $7 million or more in the prize pool. Three of the four events were won by major champions, while the other was taken down by a young gun who is well on his way to building quite the professional resume.
Tiger Woods continued on his upward trend, making the cut at the Wells Fargo Championship and finishing T-11th the following week at The PLAYERS.
All in all, if you were hoping that May would produce thrilling golf and give the best players in the world a chance to get some reps in before the year’s second Major, I’d say that the mission was accomplished.
Let’s take a closer look at what happened.
The Wells Fargo Championship
The anticipation surrounding the 2018 Wells Fargo was massive. I mean, take your pick at which storyline captivated your attention.
Was it the fact that the fans were seeing Quail Hollow Club for the first time since Justin Thomas won the 2017 PGA Championship there last August?
Or how about that it was the first time Tiger was back on the links since we had seen him the month prior at Augusta?
Any way you slice it, all eyes were locked on Tiger and the golf course. While all that was going on, 2018 Farmers Insurance Open winner Jason Day quietly went about his business and was 10-under-par heading into the final round, leading by 2 shots.
Despite making four bogeys the final afternoon, Day countered with 6 birdies, including both on 16 and 17 to help seal the deal. If you are curious if the Aussie was feeling the adrenaline when he stood over his ball on the 17th tee, try this out for size.
How’s a mind-boggling 7-iron from 230 yards that hits the flagstick and comes to rest within 3 feet sound? Does that get your blood pumping? Because it sure as heck got Jason and his caddie riled up.
A par on 18 was enough to hold off Nick Watney and Aaron Wise by 2 for the title and a handsome check for $1,386,000. For Watney, this marked his first top 10 in an individual stroke-play event since the 2015 Byron Nelson Classic.
I’m glad to see the former Fresno State Bulldog is back in good form. For Wise, well, more on him a bit later.
The PLAYERS Championship
The PLAYERS Championship needs no a flamboyant introduction. If you are a fan of the PGA Tour, you already understand the magnitude of the year’s “5th Major.”
If you don’t know much, just know that the 11-million-dollar purse is the second-richest prize pool on the entire schedule behind just the U.S. Open.
The 2018 PLAYERS Championship will be remembered for the dominant exhibition displayed by Webb Simpson. As much as we like seeing a tournament go down to the wire, one can certainly appreciate when one man completely throttles the rest of the field.
Webb opened on Thursday with a delectable 66, good enough for a 6-way tie for the lead. Once he eagled the par-5 second on Friday, he was off to the races.
When Webb got the ball up and down for birdie on 16, he had recorded his 6th consecutive birdie and reached 11 under on his round. Webb was -17 through 35 holes, going absolutely bonkers.
By the time Sunday morning arrived, it was fairly anticlimactic. When a player of Webb’s caliber starts the day with a 7-shot lead and the course is playing tough, the chances of anyone catching Simpson were slim to none.
Webb played “steady Eddy” golf and even had the liberty of making “6” on 18 and still winning by 4 shots. Although the week belonged to the Wake Forest alum, we would be ignorant if we didn’t mention how good Tiger looked over the weekend.
After making the cut on the number, Tiger came out guns blazing on Saturday, making birdie on 12 to reach -8 on the round.
On Sunday, all Tiger did was birdie the 12th to go to 6 under on the day and get as deep as 14-under-par for the tournament.
A water ball on the Island Green kind of spoiled the momentum he had developed, but Tiger left TPC Sawgrass that week feeling extremely positive about his golf game.
If I was another member of the PGA Tour or a fan of the game, I’d have my eyes peeled wide open for the next couple months of the season. We could be in for some vintage Tiger, and it might just be around the corner.
AT&T Byron Nelson
Remember earlier in this article when I alluded to Aaron Wise’s name being brought up again? Well, here you go.
After his runner-up finish at the Wells Fargo and a check for more than $677,000, you could forgive Wise had he returned to his home in Las Vegas during his off week to bask in his glory.
Rather than rest on his laurels, the former Oregon Duck golfer used this as motivation to get even better. Nonetheless, never in a thousand years did he envision getting into the winner’s circle his very next week out at the AT&T Byron Nelson.
The golf tournament had been moved to Trinity Forest Golf Club, a brand new venue created by the dynamic duo of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. While nobody knew what to expect from the golf course, Wise went out and made the place look like a cakewalk.
After opening with an effortless 65, the Callaway staff member blistered the course on Friday, shooting a bogey-free 63. Astonishingly, Wise was at -14 through 2 rounds and trailing Marc Leishman by a stroke!
The 34-year-old Aussie and 3-time PGA Tour winner sizzled on Thursday, logging 6 birdies and a pair of eagles to shoot a course-record 61.
Generally, when you open with 61 and back that up with 66-69-68, it would be good enough to get the job done. In this instance, it came up a full 3 shots short of Wise’s total.
Wise and Leishman had a bit of a “mano-a-mano” going on the last day, and Marc played well, shooting 3 under par. It wasn’t nearly enough to keep pace with Aaron’s clean card (bogey-free 65), and by the time Wise walked up the 18th fairway, he knew the tournament was his.
Perhaps his biggest gaffe of the week came during him and his girlfriend’s “awkward non-kiss” on the 72nd green. Given what had just happened, I am more than happy to let this one slide.
Way to go, Aaron. Great playing!
Fort Worth Invitational
Kind of like The PLAYERS Championship earlier in the month, the Fort Worth Invitational was witness to one golfer running away and hiding from the rest of the field.
Englishman Justin Rose used rounds of 66-64-66-64 to bring home the hardware and elevate all the way up to the number-3 slot in the official world golf rankings (OWGR).
It is worth noting that after shooting 62 and coming up a shot short of tying the course record on Thursday, Kevin Na saved his best for last. His 61 on Sunday did match that course record, and Na had registered his second round of 62 or better on the week.
Unfortunately, it was his rounds of 73-70 on Friday and Saturday that left him well off the mark set by Rose.
Talk about a ball-striking clinic – Rose’s act was about as complete a performance from tee-to-green as I have seen in recent memory.
Not only did Justin lead the field in strokes gained tee-to-green, but he was also first in strokes picked up on approaches to the green. “Rosey” hit more than 79% of the greens in regulation for the week, also topping the field.
His 25 birdies? You guessed it: the most by any player over the four days.
Justin said before the week started that he added this tournament in hopes of getting some extra repetition in before the U.S. Open in a couple of weeks’ time. I think it’s pretty safe to say things went according to plan, and then some.
For more on the U.S. Open and what’s on the horizon for the month of June, that’s how I’ll wrap this thing up!
What’s in Store for June?
I’ve already mentioned the prestigious tournament coming to Shinnecock Hills in a couple weeks. Not only will the winner be walking away with more than 2 million bucks, but he’s going to get his name engraved on the coveted U.S. Open trophy.
But before any of that happens, they still have a couple golf tournaments to play. June kicks off at “Jack’s Place,” and the Memorial is set up to be a wild ride to the finish.
We’ve got Tiger and Phil, we’ve got 8 of the top 10 in the world, and we have a golf course in immaculate shape.
The next week is sometimes forgotten, as the FedEx St. Jude Classic is sandwiched between the Memorial and the U.S. Open, two highly-acclaimed tournaments. Host course TPC at Southwind is scheduled to take over as the new location for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational starting as early as next season.
That means the 2018 FedEx St. Jude Classic will be the final time the tour pros tee it up at TPC Southwind for a regular season event. It also is an opportunity for Daniel Berger to cash in on a three-peat after winning both the 2016 and 2017 editions.
Then, it’s the U.S. Open, starting June 14th. I can’t wait to see what happens, notably if Tiger Woods can get back in the mix on a Sunday in major. Would that be sweet or what?
After the United States Open, it’s off to Cromwell, Connecticut, for the Travelers Championship before closing out the month a TPC Potomac for the Quicken Loans Invitational.
By the time June comes to a close, not only will someone have won the U.S. Open, but we’ll get a good look at how each Ryder Cup roster is shaping up.
There are tons of points up for grabs over the next 4 weeks. Only time will tell which golfers will seize the moment!