An unforgettable weekend in golf came to a rather forgettable finish today, with Patrick Reed outlasting a rotating cast of challengers at beefy Torrey Pines. A final-round 68 was good for a five-shot win, and the 30-year-old now has nine PGA Tour victories in his career. Here are five takeaways from the Farmers Insurance Open.
Patrick Reed, the player
Say what you want about Patrick Reed. It’s all fair game. And odds are, after he put himself in the centre of yet another rules imbroglio in the third round, you have a lot of things to say – most of which probably wouldn’t be fit for this family website.
Controversy aside, the man knows how to close a golf tournament. He has now won six of the eight times he’s entered the final round with the lead, and he closed the deal in San Diego without his best ball-striking stuff. Reed has one of the very best short games in the world, and he got up and down six of the seven times he missed a green in the final round. Those par saves kept him afloat as player after player popped their head near the lead – first it was Jon Rahm, then Sungjae Im, then Viktor Hovland – only for Torrey Pines to pull each of them back to the pack.
"My biggest takeaway is that mentally I hung in there and stayed to the course." pic.twitter.com/BslVg8ojNz
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 31, 2021
Except Reed, who led the field in strokes gained around the green all week.
We stop short of saying the circumstances surrounding the win make it extra impressive, because that would amount to giving credit in a situation where credit might not be warranted. But there seems to be no one else in the game who is as comfortable as Reed is amid controversy. It calls to mind the 2019 Presidents Cup in Melbourne, where his caddie Kessler Karain’s scuffle with a fan dominated headlines on the Saturday. With Karain suspended and his swing coach on the bag, Reed absolutely dominated his singles match, birdieing five of the first seven holes to bury C.T. Pan. He’d never say it, but you have to think he semi-enjoys, or at least leans into, the villain role.
Hovland comes up short
The 23-year-old Norweigan emerged as the top challenger to Reed today, and he looked poised to tie for the lead after pitching to six feet for a birdie try at the par-5 13th. But he hit one of his worst putts of the week, a shove right off the face, and it went south from there. On 14, his pulled his tee shot into a fairway bunker then smothered his second, eventually needing to get up-and-down for bogey after a penalty shot. His drive on 15 missed right, clipped a tree and finished directly behind said tree’s trunk. A mandatory pitch out from there, and another bogey, and then another cringeworthy bogey at 17 after missing a two-footer. That miss, by the way? Cost him about $350,000.
It wasn’t to be today for Young Hov – which, by the way, is an awesome nickname – but this is yet another positive step, as he’s now posted top-three finishes in three of his past four starts. With Collin Morikawa treading water a bit and Matthew Wolff dealing with an injury, Hovland officially moves to first place in the never-ending Hovland-Morikawa-Wolff power rankings. Yes, we’re still talking about that.
The top-10 king strikes again
Without looking at Google or Justin Ray’s Twitter feed, which player has the most top-10 finishes worldwide since the beginning of last year? Dustin Johnson? Rory McIlroy? Good guesses, but the correct answer is Will Zalatoris.
It started on the Korn Ferry Tour last year, when he emerged by far as the best player on that circuit. His stellar play on that tour earned him a spot in the US Open at Winged Foot, where he finished T-6, which got him into the next week’s Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, where he was the betting favourite before finishing T-8. The 24-year-old American eagled the 18th hole today at Torrey Pines to get in the clubhouse at eight-under, good enough for T-7 and his 14th top-10 since January 1, 2020. The man belongs, and don’t be surprised if he pushes hard for a Ryder Cup spot this year. Yes, he’s that good. He just needs more starts in the biggest events. A good way to get those is keep posting top-10 finishes.
Tony Finau’s driving iron has cost him majorly
Another week that saw Tony Finau enter Sunday with a chance to win, and another week that saw Tony Finau leave with a big cheque but no trophy. It boils down to that. This was Finau’s 36th top-10 finish since his lone PGA Tour win at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open, and he’s made more than $US18 million on tour since then. But man, does the guy play some head-scratching golf down the stretch.
Last week at the American Express tournament, it was a hooked driving iron into the water on the 11th hole that torpedoed his chances. Today in San Diego, it happened at 18. Sitting in the middle of the fairway, Finau was three behind Reed – so he probably needed to make an eagle to have a chance, and even then he’d need some help. But still, not dead at all at a course as hard as Torrey. He grabbed that same driving iron again, flushed it… and came up well short. Splash. Bogey.
“I hit it right at it, hit a really good shot,” he said after the round, “but like I said, my ball was barely in an old divot, a quarter of the ball sitting down just enough to – I hit down on it a little harder to make sure I got it out of there and it kind of ballooned on me.”
That’s tough luck, but you also would think he would know that might happen and would factor that into his distance calculations. Guess not. On to the next event.
An absolutely wild week of golf comes to an end
What a dramatic weekend! First the Reed controversy, then the Twitter-burner controversy, then the Rory controversy – the rules officials even made a few appearances on the back-nine today just for good measure. A reminder that an electric golf tournament can emerge from nowhere. Who needs Tiger Woods?