I know I should be talking about Trump but I just can’t.
There is some sporting events that are iconic. It has to do with the setting, the players and the history. The Players is one of the sporting events.
Last year, The Players left a sour taste in the mouths of golf lands all over the world. When we sit down to watch one of these events, we want one of the heavyweights, one of the favorites to win. Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler are the titans of the sport. Sure there are other guys but these golfers have set themselves apart. They win two or three times a year and have done so over the past several years. Last year, a guy named Si Woo Kim one the players. Who?
Some folks will say that the unpredictability of sports is what truly makes sports great. The fact that no one could have predicted that Si Woo Kim would have won the Players is disappointing. To me, it is disappointing. To me, as a golf fan, I understand the unpredictability of golf. I also understand that the truly great ones, figure out a way to win. When someone comes out of nowhere, it is unsettling. Especially since we have nearly 100 commentators who continually tell us that this player or that player is the next great one. No one, that I know of, was talking about Si Woo Kim.
This brings me to this year’s Players. Because last year’s tournament was such a… Bummer? I was really looking forward to this year’s contest. Thursday, it was apparent that the course was playing easier than it had in years past. Six guys were tied for the lead at 6 under par. Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar were looking like strong contenders. Alex Noren is one of those players that the pundits continue to tell us how great he is. He has been playing on the European tour for years. He is just recently started playing on the PGA Tour but really has not made a splash.
On Friday, Webb Simpson, who was tied for the lead, separated himself from the field. Webb Simpson. Really? Several years ago Webb Simpson won the U.S. Open. You really had to see the U.S. Open to understand how he won. Jim Furyk appeared to have had the tournament in his hand as he led after three rounds. Webb Simpson was five strokes back after three rounds. As a matter fact, he was tied with Beau Hossler who was an amateur at the time. We, the golfing world, were marveling at how well this amateur was playing on this incredibly difficult course. Down the stretch Webb Simpson posted a one over par score. There was simply no way that this would hold up but it did. Everyone faltered down the stretch including Jim Furyk who hit a wayward tee shot and never recovered.
Yet, since 2012, Webb Simpson really has not done a whole lot. In 2014 he had nine top 10 finishes and won the Shriners Hospital for Children Open. In 2015, he only had five top 10 finishes. In 2016 he only had two top 10 finishes. Many people pointed to the fact that he used an anchored putter which he used and used well. It was banned in January 2016. Yet Webb Simpson began to fall off long before 2016.
To his credit, Webb Simpson has been playing better as of late. He had a second place finish at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He had a third-place finish at the Wyndham Championship. He has already had six top 10 finishes this year. Yet when he bolted to the top of the leaderboard of the Players I was not concerned. I really didn’t think that he could maintain his great play through 4 rounds.
Although Webb Simpson played excellent golf in his first and second rounds, he did not get a whole lot of TV coverage. He was leading to start the third round. He got plenty of coverage. He played some amazing golf. He played the type of golf that we all should yearn to play. His drives were not 350 yards but they were in the fairway. He had fabulous approach shots into the greens avoiding trouble that lurks everywhere at TPC Sawgrass. He then putted out of his mind. He drained putt after putt after putt. By the end of the day, by the end of the third round, he had opened up an astonishing seven stroke lead. Unless he imploded, everyone else was playing for second. Think about that. Webb Simpson dominated the tournament, dominated a major tournament. To me, it is mind-boggling.
Today, Sunday, he played conservative. He continued to hit fairways. He continued to have safe approach shots. He continued to putt fabulously. He never imploded. A few people tried to charge including Tiger Woods, Jason Day but they all faltered down the stretch. Webb Simpson played like he had held the lead and played out front all the time. As a matter fact, I will say it, he played like Tiger Woods of the early 2000. Webb Simpson was on cruise control. He cruised to victory.
Congratulations to Webb Simpson who won the 2018 Players. It really was a fabulous display of near golfing perfection