What a Bridgestone Invitational—Don’t forget the Reno-Tahoe Open—and This Week’s PGA Championship on an Island

That’s quite a title, but we do have a lot to cover, for there were two weekend tournaments—one in Ohio, the other in Nevada—and there is that little thing called the PGA Championship looming (or is that just the salt-water air and ever-changing winds that are looming), so buckle up: This could take a while…

Keegan Bradley’s Victory Via Par Saving

The Bridgestone Invitational had a lot of drama, but like every other golf outing of this season, it seems, this get-together wasn’t won it was lost: By another Jim Furyk collapse.

Furyk had the lead from the get, shooting a 63 out of the gate, and even when Rafael Cabrera Bello pulled within two shots at the close of Day Two, the Spaniard faded quickly on Saturday.

Bello had just two bogeys in the first two days of golf; then, he shot a 77 that included three double bogeys, four regular bogeys and three birdies for good measure, essentially placing himself out of contention for the duration.

So Mr. Furyk was looking good on Saturday out in front, and he even had a four-shot lead making the turn. But his even par 70 didn’t exactly keep the charging dogs at bay.

South African Louis Oosthuizen was within one when the day ended at (-10), and if you’re asking where Keegan Bradley comes into play, he was the first one to post (-7), so he gets to be the first one of them out the following day.

Bridgestone did threesomes all weekend, and they had quite a Sunday group put together for us with Jim Furyk, Louis Oosthuizen and Keegan Bradley as the last group out.

It made for great television from the final group since the first tee. Furyk birdied the first three holes, Oosthuizen birdied two-of-the-three and Bradley kept modest pace with a birdie on the third hole. Yet coming to the turn, Oosthuizen negated his negative numbers with two bogeys, and Furyk, after a bogey on Hole 6, he locked into a nine-hole par streak.

This is where Keegan Bradley pounced on the mediocrity of his partners. Bradley didn’t have a bogey on the front—he didn’t even have one all day—and to follow playing (-2) through the first nine, he sank two birdies on Holes 10 and 11; he was marching toward the front, and Furyk felt the heat.

Hole 16 was the most exciting hole of the day, up to that point, when everyone in the threesome sank a birdie putt on the par 5, and the three of them where locked into a real battle coming to the final two holes: Furyk (-14), Bradley (-13) and Oosthuizen (-11).

Everyone pared Hole 17, yet Bradley had the hardest journey to get there, so his par save added a little more drama in his effort to remain just one shot away from the leader.

Off the tee, Hole 18, Furyk hit a tree, but the ball bounced back onto the fairway; then, he hit the ball near a bunker to the right of the green. Furyk didn’t have to worry, however, because Bradley hit his approach shot into the bunker Furyk was lucky enough to miss, so everything appeared to be set.

This is when things got really interesting. Bradley hit a decent enough shot out of the sand to have a chance to save his par, yet he’d need some help to have a chance—which he got.

Furyk didn’t hit just one shot out of the rough; he shot two. If you’re counting alone at home, that’ll put him on the green for a boogey putt and force a playoff.

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But Bradley went first, and when he sank his putt, let’s just say he was a little more excited for the idea of a playoff than Mr. Furyk.

So Jim Furyk stood over his putt for bogey, then he stepped back, then back over it, then stepped back again. This whole weekend was in his head as being meaningless unless he sank this putt. It was entirely up to him if he would have a shot to win this thing, all he had to do was put the ball in the hole, and proceed back to the tee to play Hole 18 all over again.

Then he missed the putt to the right, and he nearly fell over before the ball even skirted past the cup. It’s sad, but that’s the story of how Keegan Bradley won the Bridgestone Invitational by saving par.

Welcome to Reno—And Scoring of a Different Kind

It’s called Stableford scoring, and it goes a little something like this…

Players get eight points for a double eagle, five points for an eagle, two points for a birdie and nothing for par; however, one loses a point for a bogey and three points are lost for anything worse. The system rewards risk takers more than the conventional scoring, because you gain more for negative numbers than you lose for positive ones. Sounds like fun, huh?

But before you just count this tourney in the northwest as a mere novelty, remember that we’re closing in on the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and most of these guys that were at the Reno-Tahoe Open are the guys scrambling for points to get into that top 125 in scoring so they can keep on playing, so tournaments like this one are important to watch to see who helps themselves get in, and who hurts themselves by staying out.

People hurting themselves right off the bat were players like Camilo Villegas and Chris DiMarco, for they didn’t even make the cut in this event. Ouch.

The winner J.J. Henry was already within the top 100, but he helped himself maybe make a few of the cut lines during the playoffs, jumping up to 50th.

Runner-up Alexandre Rocha climbed fifty-nine spots to 176th to put himself within striking distance of the playoffs. John Daly and Justin Leonard tied for fifth place, and they each saw double-digit raises in their rankings, to 150th and 157th, respectively.

But it was Brendan Steele that made the most waves in regards to the FedEx Cup standings with his eighth place finish last weekend, because he sits on the bubble at 125th now—and Trevor Immelman is now on the outside looking in.

Kiawah Island, South Carolina, The Ocean Course

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Oh, that picture really does put things in perspective for you, doesn’t it?

Kiawah Island looks like a little slice of heaven, and the course is aptly named the Ocean Course, as it lays technically off the coast of South Carolina, the golfer’s paradise of a state in our union.

The course registers 7600 yards in length and plays as a par-72 course with some distance as well as some crazy wind conditions of the ever-changing variety. With the wind being the biggest obstacle for the players, it should play closer to a British Open than the actual Open Championship gave us in July.

It also grants viewers some insanely interesting par 5’s: Holes 2 and 7 on the front nine will be three shot par 5’s for the majority of the field, yet Hole 7 will be subject to eagle chances depending upon the wind. Plus, the par 4 Hole 9 will play around 500 yards for the whole tournament. But the back is even crazier.

Hole 11 is a near-600 yard par 5; Hole 14 is a over-200 yard par 3; Hole 16 is a par 5 with a reachable green in two, but that’s a dangerous second shot; Hole 17 is another over-200 yard par 3, and the green is long and narrow, and you better not miss it; Hole 18 is a 500-yard par 4 that, depending upon the ocean breeze and a player’s length off the tee, contestants could be happy just to hit the green in regulation.

Ernie Els would appear to be the only logical pick here as the victor, because he was the only one that looked remotely good when the wind reared its ugly head on the last day of the British Open, but Tiger Woods most likely wants this one more than anyone else, so you can’t count him out. And to round off my three people picks, I’ll take Steve Stricker, for he’s been playing consistent golf, and he hasn’t won since the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions way back in January, even though he’s been in the hunt in several of these things.


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