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Monday, May 16, 2011

The Limerick Summary: 2011 The Players

Winner: K.J. Choi

Around the wider world of golf: Talk about a feel-good story! Darren Clarke got his first win since 2008 at the Iberdrola Open on the ET; Ashleigh Simon won the Portugal Ladies Open on the LET; and Miki Saiki won the Fundokin Ladies on the JLPGA. The Constructivist has details on that event.

K.J. Choi at The Players

Get used to those "Choi's Bois" T-shirts. They're gonna be around for a while.

When Sunday started, we didn't know that. With more than 27 holes to go for the leaders, it looked like The Players could be won by anybody. By the finish of the third round, that list had been cut by nearly half and Graeme McDowell sat on top of the heap. And we all know what McDowell does when he has a chance to win.

Except today. McDowell's swing fixes from last weekend finally stopped working and he followed the lead of almost every third-round major leader since last year at Pebble. His 79 was the worst round of the day but at least he knows that, with a bit more work, his swing is back on track.

Graeme wasn't the only fallen angel of the day. Lucas Glover's 77 sent him spiraling downward with no ground in sight, but even a 72 or 73 looked like a disastrous score as the leaders held their ground. Luke Donald and Nick Watney, winners of the year's first two WGC events, shot 71s and could only finish T4. (Luke's probably not too bummed, however. His beloved Bulls slammed the Heat 103-82 in the first game of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.)

Of course, there were bright spots too. Sergio shot 65 for a T12 and his best final-round score in... well, forever. Perhaps this bodes well for future weekends, since his first two rounds have generally been good this year.

And Paul Goydos brought the Dirtbag Nation to its feet by posting early at -11, but even he expected the two heavyweights of the week to duke it out between themselves. And he was right...

But who would have picked David Toms and K.J. Choi as the last fighters standing?

The real turning point came when Toms stepped up to the par-5 16th with a one-shot lead... and promptly drowned a long approach shot after Choi was forced to lay up. The best he could manage was bogey and Choi narrowly missed birdie, sending the two to the 17th tied at -12. Choi then birdied 17 to take a one-shot lead, and Toms birdied the 18th to send them to a playoff.

The playoff at 17 didn't last long, however. Toms missed a tricky birdie putt, then inexplicably missed the short comeback. Choi made an easy par for the first Asian win at Sawgrass and the biggest win of his career.

Saturday I mused over what The Players could tell us about potential U.S. Open contenders. With only a month to go, I think we've learned quite a bit:
  • McDowell's swing still needs some work, but he'll probably be ready to defend.
  • Watney and Donald both have some work to do. I had Donald as my favorite, but he had to scramble for his T4 at Sawgrass -- not a good sign for Congressional. Still, he adds another Top 5 and moves to #2 in the OWGR, which means he probably isn't far off.
  • Toms and Choi have to be taken seriously at the next major -- especially Choi, who has won at Congressional before.
  • And Jason Day shot all four rounds at par or better, finishing T6. Coupled with his good showing at Augusta, he just might be a good choice for the U.S. Open.
Meanwhile, I have to salute... age. After all the talk about the young guns, it was the 40-somethings who took the top 3 spots at one of the toughest courses the Tour plays all year. I'm sure I can find a Limerick Summary suitable to the occasion:
With vocal support from his bois,
The trophy is now K.J. Choi's.
The young guns keep firing
But can't stop admiring
Those older guys still making noise.
Click the pic to read the FoxSports article about Choi's win.

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