It’s not summer until you see a million solstice golf adventure posts. In all seriousness, we hope you all got out and enjoyed the weekend. Special shout-out to the guy who played 252 holes at Sweetens Cove on Saturday. That’s truly impressive.
Soft and crowded
Despite the absence of fans, a three-hour weather delay, and a lack of big-time star power at the top of the leaderboard, Sunday was plenty exciting at the RBC Heritage. Soft conditions throughout the week allowed a lot of players to go low. Dozens were in contention. Thirty-two players started the final day within three shots of the lead, and a baker’s dozen held a share of the lead at some point in the day. But as the sun set over Calibogue Sound, Webb Simpson stood alone. He shot a final-round 64, with five birdies in his final seven holes. RBC Heritage Results
No matter how you slice it, Webb Simpson is one of the best players in the world right now. He is No. 5 in the Official World Golf Ranking, No. 1 in the Sagarin Rankings, and now No. 1 in the FedEx Cup.
What’s especially impressive about Webb’s recent success is that he’s getting it done so differently than most elite players. In driving distance, he’s consistently in the bottom half of the Tour. But even with his limitations off the tee, Webb’s iron game is so good that he’s top 10 in SG: Tee-to-Green. At Harbour Town this week, he relied on his strengths, finishing first in SG: Approach and second in SG: Putting. Webb may not have the speed of Supersoldier Bryson, but he’s great at everything else, and according to Data Golf, he’s in the best stretch of his career.
Not so positive
As fun as Sunday was, the week at Harbour Town didn’t exactly go smoothly. Before the second round at the RBC Heritage on Friday, longtime pro Nick Watney tested positive for COVID-19, forcing him to withdraw from the event. He became aware of his symptoms on Friday morning, but he still went to Harbour Town and spoke with others (including Rory McIlroy) between being tested and receiving the results. So far, however, no one who had contact with Watney has tested positive for coronavirus. Watney has to self-isolate for two weeks before he can compete again. By all accounts, Nick Watney is doing okay. Many players sent him their best wishes; Sergio Garcia went as far to say that other pros “probably deserved” to get COVID-19 “a lot more than” Watney. Okay, then!
There were always going to be positive tests, and the PGA Tour fully expected them. But the events surrounding Watney’s positive test highlighted some flaws in the Tour’s current habits and procedures. It’s striking not only that a symptomatic Watney went to the course on Friday and interacted with others but also that the PGA Tour didn’t readily admit those facts. The Tour’s statement on Friday afternoon seemed to imply—even if it didn’t outright say—that Watney received his test before arriving at the course. Obviously health-related information is sensitive, but in this case, the Tour should have erred on the side of transparency.
The pros themselves also bear some responsibility here. At the Charles Schwab Challenge, multiple sources claimed that many players and caddies were being cavalier with the Tour’s health and safety protocols. This is especially worrisome given that the Tour has been testing only 300-400 of the 1,100 people on site every week. In those circumstances, adhering to social distancing protocols becomes even more important.
Starting at next week’s Travelers Championship, the Tour will ramp up its testing to 700-800 people. Maybe that will help. But the key is whether the Watney affair has served as the wakeup call that everyone apparently needed.
The long road back
Last May, Chris Kirk announced he was stepping away from professional golf to address issues with alcohol abuse and depression. He returned to the PGA Tour last fall but missed the cut in five of the six events he played before the shutdown. One spot out of this week’s RBC Heritage field, Kirk went to the Korn Ferry Tour event at the World Golf Village… and won. The four-time PGA Tour winner shot rounds of 66-65-64-67 and birdied his final hole for the victory. The King & Bear Classic at World Golf Village Results
Kirk clearly went through a rough patch last year, but it seems like he has gotten to a better place. “I can’t wait to get home tonight and give my wife and three boys a hug,” he said after the win. “And that’s what I care more about now. It’s amazing seeing the complete shift in my mentality.” Good on ya, Chris—and happy Father’s Day.
Honest Abe Ancer was one great shot on the 72nd hole away from taking Simpson to a playoff. Ancer is flushing it right now, and his first PGA Tour win can’t be far away.
He came up a little short at Harbour Town, but Tyrrell Hatton is on a tear. In his past nine worldwide events, he has won twice and finished outside the top 20 exactly once.
Brooks Koepka registered his first top 10 since last August with a seventh-place showing at the RBC Heritage. Koepka was first in the field in SG: Off-the-Tee, and Bryson was fifth. We’re sure Bryson is stoked about that.
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Shotgun Start: Webb vs. Boo Stopper, Brooksy train chugging, the Watney test
This Monday episode begins with Webb Simpson shattering the record books. He is the new best player in the world (by some metrics) and also broke Brian Gay’s scoring record at the Heritage. Andy offers a rebuttal and some context for this score compared to the Boo Stopper’s legendary win in spring conditions. Then there is ample appreciation for Webb’s work with even a little HOF discussion. Brooksy’s impressive final round is reviewed, as are his tweets poking at Nick Faldo and Sergio Garcia on Sunday. All aboard the Brooks train again. Then Brendan and Andy get to the pace and beauty of the fans-less late finish on CBS. There’s a victory lap here of sorts, but also some hesitation about the timing of Sunday’s delay as it related to beer consumption decisions. Honest Abe Ancer, Joaquín Niemann, and Daniel Berger are also praised. On topics less positive, a discussion on Nick Watney’s positive COVID test ensues, and Sergio’s idiotic comments are also pilloried. How many positive tests would it take to shut down an event? Lastly in news, they hit on Chris Kirk’s return to the winner’s circle and Rory’s comments about Euro Tour players not coming over to play on the PGA Tour right now. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.
If you missed our release last night, we finally have Shotgun Start t-shirts available in our pro shop. Get yours today!