The Players Championship starts today, which means it's time to unveil the Sport of Golf Power Rankings, a new feature for The Triangle. If you're new to the game, the Players Championship is often called "the fifth major," and tends to draw one of the strongest fields of the year. The island green on no. 17 at TPC Sawgrass might be the single most famous hole in American golf (even though it's not really an island shhh!), and it's a verified drama magnet that rarely fails to produce an excellent finish.
So who will conquer Sawgrass, rule the island, and hold the Players Championship trophy? These are the 15 best golfers of 2013, judged on wins, earnings, the "hot" factor (recent results, guys! Grow up!), and yes, a little bit of history and reputation. We start with an honorable mention:
One of the reasons I've learned to love the ordinary, mundane events on the PGA Tour — after spending the bulk of my life focused solely on the big ones — is how the drama of a single Sunday can permanently change a person's life.
We're used to thinking of golfers as privileged blue bloods, and it's easy to forget that outside the top 125 in America and Europe, the professional landscape is full of aspirants who grind it out on minor tours, suffer through qualifying school, and generally live week-to-week (often in their own cars) hoping for a shot at the big time. For the overwhelming majority, that shot never comes. Even the ones who get their chance usually fail to capitalize, and the opportunity recedes into the past to become a tortured memory of what might have been.
When Adam Scott rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt to win the Masters on Sunday, I heard The Voice. I hear it a lot when I’m watching sports. The Voice warns me that what’s exciting (a Scott–Angel Cabrera playoff) often obscures what’s morally revolting (a golf club with a lengthy history of racism and sexism). The Voice tells me I ought to cheer less and think more. The funny thing was, on Sunday, The Voice wasn’t coming from Taylor Branch, Dave Zirin, or any of the usual suspects. It was coming from Bob Costas.
What no CBS commentator has ever alluded to, even in passing, even during a rain delay, even when there was time to do so, is Augusta’s history of racism and sexism. Even when people were protesting just outside the grounds — forget about taking a side — never acknowledging it. So not only would I never work the Masters because I’m not at CBS, but I’d have to say something and then I would be ejected.
By now, you’ve seen the Facebook photos of Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn. In the Tiger meta-scandal, the release of these pictures is an important milestone. This is the moment when the narrative of Woods’s love life passed from our hands back into his.
It's by the Golf Boys, a musical supergroup made up of PGA Tour players Ben Crane, Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan, and (world's most interesting man finalist) Bubba Watson.
This video: "2.Oh."
It's named that because their first hit single was titled "Oh Oh Oh." That's why this one's called "2.Oh," because it's like the sequel or something.
The following are the official lyrics of "2.Oh," provided by the Golf Boys camp. And it was sent via Word document, so you know it's official. Interspersed between the lyrics are pictures of Bubba Watson doing a perfect "drunkest girl at the party"/"huge liability if he decides to crash our wedding reception" impression.
Yesterday was the first round of the PGA's Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale, and Phil Mickelson tore the course to pieces. It started with a bang: four straight birdies, two pars, and then three more birdies for a 29 on the front. When he birdied three of the next four holes, he needed just two more to go -12 on the day, which would put him dead on that legendary number ...
In official PGA events, a 59 has happened just five times. The most famous was David Duval's in 1999, when he looked poised to challenge Tiger Woods for control of the golf world and left a trail of scorched earth at the Bob Hope Classic. Most recently, Paul Goydos and Stuart Appleby did it in 2010 (Appleby's was on a par-70 course, making it just slightly less legendary). It's an exclusive club, and if you shoot 59, you're in the history books for good.
After a month of golf, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are tied. For dead last.
Not that you’d know, unless you were watching golf. They've already been paid $4 million between them. Not winnings, appearance fees. Somebody smart once said 80 percent of success is just showing up. Here it’s 100 percent. You know you’re doing very well in life when you think you should be offered $3 million in exchange for your appearance.
“What do you charge?”
“I don’t know. What do you want me to do?”
“Just show up.”
“That’ll cost you!”
It doesn’t count as earnings because nothing about the money is earned. It’s found and given. Rory fell into 200 million unearned dollars from Nike last week. Least that’s what he thought. Turns out those clubs are gonna be very expensive to Rory.
Norm Macdonald made two big New Year's resolutions. One was to start writing pieces for Grantland. The other is going to be revealed on Friday in his second piece for us. Today, he shares his thoughts on the 2013 PGA season.
2012, the golden year of golf, began with Phil.
Lefty beat Tiger by nine strokes on the final day at Pebble, winning his 40th PGA title. Eight weeks later, it was looking to be Phil’s year, as he was in the Ultimate Game on the final day of the Masters. But it all came apart when Phil carded a triple at the par-3 fourth, with the victory eventually going to another southpaw, the guy everybody loves to love, Bubba. Even Billy Payne looked happy to be presenting the green jacket to a man who had just cried like a woman.
At the Open, Ernie Els only led once and it was an hour after his last putt. He felt kinda bad about it. Adam Scott felt kinda worse.
Tiger, reinventing his game yet again, served notice that he was keeping the wolves of irrelevancy at bay by winning a sort of Legends Slam: first Arnie’s tourney, then Jack's and finally his own.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Robert Griffin III threw for 163 yards and ran for 72 more to lead the Redskins to a 17-16 win over the Giants. "At times like these, I really wish I knew some curse words," said Eli Manning. "So I could think them to myself and feel cruel for just a moment."
In honor of ESPN Films' Arnold Palmer documentary, we've done some deep digging and discovered several, perhaps less-popular (or even real) drinks that were discovered by athletes, by happenstance. No, these beverages never took off the way the Arnold Palmer did. Perhaps that's for the best.
The Tiger Woods
Ingredients: Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice and Ambien
It was the summer of 2009 in a soundproof, windowless room, somewhere in the bowels of the Tao Nightclub in Vegas. Unreleased R. Kelly demos played through unattainable Scandinavian sound systems. Maybe someone said, "YO. LET'S GET SLEEPY." Who knows who? Who cares? The next thing you know it's 10 mg of Ambien later and Tiger Woods was praying at Amen Corner. One minute he was stepping in the name of love, the next, it was enter sandman. The next morning, watching Steel Magnolias on Southern Starz, things started to come back into focus for the no. 1 money-earner. Watching the scene in which Sally Field nurses Julia Roberts out of diabetic shock while sitting in a beauty salon, Tiger remembered the faithful words some girl (she said her name was Jocelyn? Was that it?) whispered into his ear. "Shelby, drink your juice." He was floating through the night kitchen all over again. — Chris Ryan
The list of things I love about the Ryder Cup is so long that it could fill a (tedious) novel, and golf fans can probably guess most of them. But if I had to narrow that list down to one abstract thought well, I'd probably say that even though I enjoy competitive pressure and believe that I'd be a total gamer if destiny had made me a pro athlete instead of a human tree trunk, I know — I know — I'd fold like an accordion at the Ryder Cup.
It's just too intense. The innate pressure of golf, the way it punishes even a slight error, is compounded in the Ryder Cup by the responsibility each player has to his team, and country. I've been watching the event since I was young, and I associate those weekends with a feeling of nausea and dread. Disaster waits with every shot. Top players, like Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, find themselves at the mercy of forces beyond their control. The code of politeness between players is shelved for three days, replaced by cruel stare-downs and gamesmanship and cutting remarks. The captains obsess over strategies, broad and minute, then watch helplessly from golf carts as everything spins out of their control. The spectators, usually so staid and proper at golf tournaments, are boisterously singing, vicious, and drunk.
In short, it's the greatest damn event in sports. And the 2012 edition begins today.
"Bill, sign my ball!" the man behind the rope shouted. No, "shouted" is the wrong word — let's say "demanded." We were at the fourth green, and Bill Murray had just missed a birdie putt in the celebrity scramble on course no. 3 at the Medinah Country Club, the site of this year's Ryder Cup. He was playing with Tom Lehman, Dave Stockton, and a second celebrity. After the missed putt, he took some time to chat with the gallery. "I made a couple you guys didn't see," he said in response to a heckler, a drooping smile on his face.
The shout caught his attention. It was the tone, I think; all day we'd heard people shouting his name like desperate followers in the presence of a prophet, or fratty dudes wearing polos (long- and short-sleeved) and khakis (long- and short-legged) yelling movie titles, movie characters, and movie quotes at him in booming voices. But this was different. This particular fan came armed with a sense of entitlement.
Well, if Rory McIlroy was going to end up winning this PGA Championship by tying his eight-shot margin of victory from the 2010 U.S. Open and breaking the PGA Championship margin-of-victory record by one stroke, couldn't he have said something earlier? Because all of the ink spilled over Tiger Woods's likely return to major glory has proven itself to be utter waste once again, as has been the case for each of the final three majors of the year.
But first, let's add a bit more to the waste pile. Woods was finished after his seven-plus holes of constant bogies when Saturday's third round was cut short by the South Carolina lowlands' death clouds. When third-round play resumed Sunday, he was able to get a couple of those strokes back, but not enough to save him from having to assume that aggressive comeback style of play that's never worked in majors — not now or for Golden Age Special Tiger.
It was so, so tempting to churn out this recap of the Open Championship prematurely, on Saturday night, leaving blank spaces where necessary to plug in Adam Scott's winning score for his first major victory, the one everyone had been expecting from him since he was about 19 years old. Why sit around and wait for final-round drama to not materialize, once again?
In the past two years, Sunday finales on the old sod had crescendoed not into gripping finishes so much as yawning culminations of a midsummer lawn party, with the unchallenged leader strolling casually to the 18th green for a polite toast and gentle tonguing of the ancient "jug."
Adam Scott had a four-shot lead going into Sunday's final round. He did not bear the disposition of a man willing to refuse Royal Lytham & St. Anne's his offering of fairways and greens in regulation, either. And if Scott wasn't even going to be paired with Tiger Woods, the man who signed caddie Steve Williams's checks for 13 years, well, why not just sleep in and rejoin the sunning patrons, in spirit, for a post-game ale on the patio later on. It was over.