Franklin Templeton Shootout: A Blazing Finish

At the beginning of Sunday’s final round in the Franklin Templeton Shootout at the Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida, some of the field thought they might have a chance to catch the team of Harris English and Matt Kuchar. After all, there were only four strokes separating them from the second place team of Retief Goosen and Freddie Jacobson.

They just just had no idea how hard that was going to be. English and Kuchar ended up winning by seven, tying a tournament scoring record of 34-under par by shooting 14-under 58. And given how relaxed they were all day long, it wasn’t even close. You know there’s no hope when English and Kuchar were smiling and chatting with each other as they strolled the fairways between shots admittedly talking about anything other than golf. 

For English, his $385,000 share of the purse was an unexpected bonanza. Kuchar’s partner was supposed to be Brandt Snedeker who had to withdraw with a leg injury. Tournament organizer, Greg Norman, called Kuchar and told him to pick anyone he wanted as his new partner. Kuchar immediately thought of English because he had won twice in 2013, had been playing great recently and they both lived at Sea Island, Georgia, and played a lot of golf together.

I knew Harris came off a win in Mexico. We play a lot together. He’s a solid player and I was actually thinking it might be a little bit even more advantageous to have a guy that hits it, you know, another 15 yards past me.

Brandt and I hit it very similar off the tee. You get a few shorter irons in my hand, it makes the game that much easier. In this format getting to play his drive a lot, whether it was the alternate shot or the scramble, getting to play from where he hits it and having him kind of there to back me up was a good feeling and a lot of fun

Goosen and Jacobson managed to hang on to their second place slot, shooting 11-under 61. That 61 sounds pretty strong, but not compared to a 58. And theirs was another circumstance of a replacement player hitting an unexpected jackpot, in this case, $242,500. Jacobson was recruited after Boo Weekley had to withdraw due to deaths of his grandfather and uncle within ten days of each other.

Goosen might have thought that he hit the jackpot too because his “back injury” was more fully described as disk replacement surgery. What a miracle to go through something like that and still be able to play golf at that level.

The “English Team” of Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter really hit their stride with Saturday’s rebound 61. Their finishing 59 boosted them up into 3rd by themselves and salvaged a weak start on Friday. In their post-round television interview, Westwood wore a happy grin and Poulter joked about how he just wound up his “robot” and watched him make putts. Westwood kept smiling.

The prohibitive favorites at the beginning of the week were Jason Dufner and Dustin Johnson. But that didn’t come close to working out. They finished next to last in 11th place, consoled somewhat by their final round 61. But there was a really funny moment in that 61.

Dustin Johnson putted for birdie and left the ball tap-in distance just beyond the hole. He marked his ball while Dufner tried to make the birdie for the team. Perhaps he was too mesmerized by the line Johnson had just shown him, but whatever it was, as he was attempting to address the ball, he inadvertently poked it with the toe of his putter and it rolled a foot sideways. His body immediately slumped into an “are you kidding me?” posture.

Chad Campbell, Mark Calcavecchia’s partner, couldn’t help laughing beneath the brim of his hat. It was a sympathetic laugh; anyone who could play at that level would have known how completely shocked Dufner would have been. Having consumed a stroke, that ball, laying a mere foot away, was so haplessly pathetic, it was funny. Johnson made his remaining putt for par.

The consensus among the players was that this is a great tournament and they would all like to come back. Kuchar summed it up:

I think you talk to guys top to bottom, even the guys that may not perform well have a great time here.

And now that the scores have been posted and the purse disbursed, probably the thing the players are most looking forward to is the two weeks off until the Hyundai Tournament of Champions begins in Maui for those who won last year and the Sony Open on Oahu begins for those who didn’t.

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