Jambalaya: a dish of Creole origin, consisting of rice cooked with ham, sausage, chicken, or shellfish, herbs, spices, and vegetables, esp. tomatoes, onions, and peppers.
…especially onions and peppers. Spiiicy.
And that’s sort of what we have a the Tour Championship. Aside from the fact that the winner of the FedExCup hauls away $10 million, the other hook for golf fans is that if any of the top-5 ranked players coming into the tournament—Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Charley Hoffman, Steve Stricker and Paul Casey—wins the tournament, they also win the FedExCup and the $10 million. Talk about pressure.
Casey was the only one who managed that pressure on the first day shooting 4-under to end up in a 3-way tie with Geoff Ogilvy and Luke Donald. But even then he tentatively dunked his tee shot on the long, par-3 6th (but managed to save a bogey by getting it up and down from the drop area). The otherwise steady five birdies made his round. With four of them coming after the bogey on the 6th, you can make the case that he recovered well from the drowning.
Matt Kuchar suffered from the pressure of being ranked 1st and playing just fifteen minutes from his Atlanta home. Every time I looked up, he was hitting yet another recovery shot from the rough or behind a tree or a bunker: he only hit half the fairways and eight of the greens. His eagle-3 on the par-5 15th saved his round leaving him at 2-over in 19th place. Hopefully that got his worst fears out of his system: the worst happened and he’s still only 2-over.
I had a sense as soon as I saw Dustin Johnson on the 1st tee that things were not going to go well for him. Johnson is the new “it” guy. With a tall, lean, calm look and breathtaking power, everybody knew it was just a matter of time before he started to become a factor in the big tournaments. And he did, winning the BMW, the last of the qualifying tournaments, to vault himself into second place in the FedExCup standings. But less than a minute before his tee time—his playing partner, Matt Kuchar, was actually being announced on the tee—he was nervously standing there with a fresh cigarette dangling from his mouth. Tour players are not supposed to smoke during their rounds and it takes ten minutes to smoke a cigarette. He was 4-over par by the 6th hole and finished at 3-over after a yoyo, 3-birdie, 2-bogey finish. Surprising. Maybe that’ll get his worst fears out of his system too. He’s that good.
Charley Hoffman had a much cleaner card, finishing at 1-over with 2 bogeys and 1 birdie. Pretty steady given that he missed 10 of 14 fairways. But he still managed to hit 12 of the greens. Nice hold-your-own round; he’s doing well, he’ll be alright.
The surprise was Steady-Eddie, Steve Stricker. He may have come into the tournament in 4th place, but his experience, demeanor and especially his putting, made him the insiders’ favorite. Maybe that’s what spooked him. He finished T22 at 4-over with a checkered card: 4 birdies, 6 bogeys and a double-bogey. Which is odd because he hit 9 of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens. Oh, wait. He had 35 putts meaning that he wasn’t getting it up and down when he missed a green. Steve Stricker having a bad putting day? Go figure.
So that’s the top-5, $10 million overview. The other two leaders with Paul Casey, Geoff Olgivy and Luke Donald both had 6-birdie, 2-bogey days. Very steady, very impressive.
But with the three of them at 4-under, they have 10 players within in those four shots of them. And not just 10 players, ten of the best players. It’s still anybody’s ball game…and very intriguing.
Stir that pot of jambalaya!