The names of the PGA Tour stars at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am last week read like a Who’s Who of Golf: Brian Gay, the best short game on Tour; Geoff Ogilvy, winner of the 2006 WGC Match Play Championship and U.S. Open; Mike Weir, the gritty Canadian and winner of the 2003 Masters; Brandt Snedeker, winner of the 2007 Wyndam Championship; Mark Wilson, winner of this year’s Sony Open and last week’s Phoenix Open; Justin Leonard, 12-time winner and both Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup member; Heath Slocum, 4-time PGA Tour winner; David Toms, 12-time PGA Tour winner including the 2001 PGA Championship and both Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup member; Jim Furyk, the No. 10 player in the World with everything he’s accomplished; Rocco Mediate, the almost-successful Tiger chaser in the 2008 U.S. Open and 6-time Tour winner; and Jonathan Byrd, 5-time winner, most recently with a playoff hole-in-one in Las Vegas.
Geez. You look at all these names and what they’ve accomplished and you go, “Oh, boy! We’re going to have some tournament now!” And we did. It just didn’t involve any of these guys. All these great players missed the cut.
It just goes to show how tenuous your hold on the game can be, even at the elite players’ level. And it shows that the Tour waits for no one. If you don’t show up and play well, the PGA Tour train lumbers down the track with players that will.
We see all these sorts of great names each week on Tour and we lose sight of just how deep the talent is. The problem is that much of it, in terms of staking a claim by winning, is unrealized. There are a lot of guys on Tour lying in wait for their week. Actually, they’re not lying in wait, they’re busting their butts trying to make it happen. But they all know they can’t push too hard; the best golf comes from letting it happen.
There’s that wonderful moment when everything gels; the swing is just there without thinking about it, it’s effortless. You are focused, relaxed and just easily take in everything that matters and ignore everything that doesn’t. You’re almost tempted to make notes it’s such an exceptional experience. But it’s so comprehensive in its simple complexity, where do you begin?
With the help of Bill Murray, that’s what happened to relatively unknown winner, D.A. Points, this week. Not only did Murray’s antics relax Points all week long, they freed him up to engage in some antics of his own. Having made an eagle-3 on the par 5, 14th and an immediately following birdie on the 15th, Points found himself with a 2-shot lead…and nerves that were beginning to burble up.
Murray was about to attempt a 40-foot putt on the 16th for a net birdie when Points suddenly said in a loud voice, “Hey, Bill. The crowd would be really happy if you could make that.” It was right out of Murray’s zany playbook and completely uncharacteristic for Points. But it relaxed him. And maybe Murray too. “I’ll see what I can do,” he deadpanned. And then just missed the putt getting a loud, emotional release from the gallery.
Not only did Points go on to win the tournament, the two of them won the pro-am portion of the tournament too. It was Point’s first win and the first time Murray was able to win the title he’s coveted for twenty years.
Besides Points, there were seven other players who finished in the top 10 this week who are patiently working and waiting for their first wins.
During the Phoenix Open, I wrote about the great story of Tom Gillis putting all the bad times behind him. He slid to T68 making just $12,000 that week, but he finished 3rd this week and made $428,000.
All grown-up child prodigy, Spencer Levin, finished T4. Low amateur in the 2004 U.S. Open at T13, his 2007 Q-School effort got him on the Nationwide Tour for 2008. He finished in the Top 25 to win his PGA Tour card for 2009. But it took him five years to get there.
Steve Marino, T4, as I mentioned a couple of days ago, shot a 59 in a Gateway tournament on one of my home courses and had this week’s in his hands. But he couldn’t make a birdie after the 13th and made a triple bogey on 18 trying to press. He’s been on the Tour since 2007 and made a very comfortable living, earning $7.7 million while he’s been waiting.
Bryce Molder, T6, after a false start on the Tour in 2007, finally matriculated from the Nationwide Tour in 2009 and has won $3.9 million for his efforts so far. He now believes he can play at this level. When will he believe that he can win?
And Steven Bowditch, Jimmy Walker and, my personal favorite, Zack Miller, were all T9 with the great Phil Mickelson. What was so impressive about Miller’s final round is that he was paired with Phil and rising star, Hunter Mahan, and held his own. Aside from winning $164,000, his top 10 finish got him into LA this week.
The point of all this detail about “unknowns” is that the PGA Tour is so deep in talent, it borders on ridiculous. So when somebody we’ve never heard of like D.A. Points finally shuffles all the cards the right way for himself, he deserves to be celebrated every bit as much as the familiar names we pull for. He’s not some piker who suddenly stumbled upon good fortune. He’s been panning for gold in all of the creeks of the mini-tours and PGA Tour for years.
Loving excellence, no matter where we find it, no matter who produces it.