Is it just us, or was golf the highlight of Super Bowl Sunday? Just us? Okay, fine.

Now go out there and take it!

Golf fans started the day hoping that a superstar would end his title drought at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. It happened, but not in the way we expected.

Third-round leaders Jordan Spieth and Xander Schauffele came back to the field early in the final round at TPC Scottsdale, allowing for a free-for-all down the stretch. Spieth, Schauffele, James Hahn, Scottie Scheffler, Steve Stricker, Carlos Ortiz, and K.H. Lee were all in the mix, but Brooks Koepka seized control at the end. Koepka played his final six holes in five under, with his chip-in eagle on the 71st hole proving the difference-maker. WMPO Results

We wrote about Koepka’s solid form in Friday’s newsletter, but even we were surprised by this result. Not one to waste an opportunity, he clearly sensed blood in TPC Scottsdale’s ponds on Sunday. Speith and Schauffele struggled out of the gate, Koepka’s playing partner James Hahn made four bogeys on the back nine, and suddenly the tournament was Brooksy’s for the taking. He followed his dramatic chip-in on No. 17 with a 359-yard bomb off the final tee, and soon he had secured his first victory since the 2019 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. “I live for those moments,” Brooks said in his press conference. “I just like showing off.”

Much like the desert flora, Koepka’s prickly personality rubs some people the wrong way. Still, most would acknowledge that pro golf is better off when he’s involved. When he was out with hip and knee injuries, the PGA Tour was a bit less colorful and exciting. “I was in some dark places mentally,” Koepka said on Sunday. “I didn’t know if I was ever going to be the same again.” That’s as blunt as he has ever been about his physical issues, which is a good sign.

No one, except maybe Brooks Koepka, thought he’d win this week. But we’re glad he did.

The other superstar

Sunday was supposed to be about another superstar’s comeback. Three-time major champion Jordan Spieth has very publicly struggled for the past few years, sliding to No. 92 in the world. He played well on Thursday and Friday, but it was his Saturday 61 that sent the golf world into a frenzy. Despite spraying the ball off the tee, Spieth made 10 birdies by flagging approaches and holing putts from all over. He vaulted into a tie for the 54-hole lead with Xander Schauffele before coming up two shots short on Sunday.

If you’re a Jordan Spieth fan, there are reasons for optimism. His iron play, the skill that helped him rule the golf world in 2015, was back this weekend. He led the field in SG: Approach by a wide margin and was top 15 in SG: Around-the-Green and SG: Putting. Off the tee, it was a different story. Spieth struggled mightily with his driver and wasn’t much better with his fairway wood or hybrid. He settled for a T-4, his best finish since the 2019 PGA Championship.

If he can stay sharp with his irons, Spieth will be a routine contender again. If he can figure out the big stick, watch out.

More from the USGA

As a supplement to its Distance Insights Report, the USGA conducted an aerial study of how golf courses have changed over the past 100 years. Mapping the Past, Present, and Future of Golf Courses

We highly recommend reading the full report. It offers data on the increasing footprint of modern golf courses; the decreasing acreage of fairways, greens, and bunkers; and the maintenance costs associated with these changes. Turns out distance gains affect more than just 0.1% of golfers and golf courses.

Quick Hooks

The best player in the world won a tournament this weekend, and somehow it doesn’t feel like all that big of a story. Dustin Johnson won the Saudi International by two shots, his second victory at the event in three years. Results

After struggling early on Sunday, Xander Schauffele battled back to give himself a chance at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. A water ball on No. 17 ultimately doomed his chances, and he finished one behind Koepka. Schauffele now has 15 straight top-25 finishes and six top fives in his past eight events. The lack of a victory has sting a little bit, but we aren’t here to criticize a top-five golfer for consistent play. Let’s just say we’ll be less than shocked if Schauffele wins in the near future.

Tony Finau (T-2 at Saudi International) racked up his 41st top 10 since 2017 without a victory. The only other player in the world who has 20 top 10s over that span without a victory is Gunn Charoenkul, who plays mostly in Asia (via Justin Ray).

Ludvig Aberg, a sophomore at Texas Tech, birdied his final hole to win the prestigious Jones Cup. One shot back were Cole Hammer, Alex Fitzgerald, and Davis Thompson. Results

Paul Thomas, grandfather of Justin Thomas, passed away at the age of 89 on Saturday. JT was understandably distracted on Sunday, shooting a 72. Condolences to the Thomas family.

Five thousand fans per day were allowed onto the grounds at TPC Scottsdale, but none made a mark like a certain Borat doppelganger. His star burned brightest when Spieth rolled in a birdie on No. 17 on Saturday. Full Story from Todd Kelly

This volunteer’s signal on No. 15 at TPC Scottsdale gave us a good chuckle/meme.

The Latest from The Fried Egg

Sunday Brunch: Short Courses Might be Golf’s Long Game – Learning to play golf is a long, frustrating process. Guest contributor Connor Laubenstein presents some ideas to make the game more approachable.

The Fried Egg Podcast, Episode 202: Andy’s Carolina Trip, Part 1 – Kiawah

Garrett and Andy sit down to discuss Andy’s recent trip through the Carolinas. In this first part of their conversation, they open with some thoughts on the events and content projects The Fried Egg has on the schedule for 2021. Then they delve deeply into Pete Dye’s Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. They talk about the chaotic origins of the course, its spectacular debut at the 1991 Ryder Cup, and how its architecture holds up today. There are also some digressions into Webb Simpson’s recent comments on course design and Mike Strantz’s place in the lineage of provocative golf architecture, among other topics. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

Shotgun Start: Brooks respect, Spieth pandemonium, Xander flops, and DJ cruises

Even before the final putt fell in Phoenix, Andy and Brendan chatted on Super Bowl Sunday night to recap the weekend that was at TPC Scottsdale. They begin with Brooks Koepka’s victory, his admission that he was in some “dark places,” and the significance, if any,  of this win for his future. They also note the symbolism of how he got lost (by most people, not all) in the shuffle of a weekend that became all about Jordan Spieth. The Golden Child is obviously the next subject of their chat. They review that magical Saturday, the two-way-miss Sunday, and if he’s “back” and what that even means. Xander’s sloppy final round is also scrutinized. DJ’s victory is praised at the Saudi International, an event that lacks both character and any real juice. They close with some comments from JT on gambling concerns and some balance sheet data that might rebut the comments from both JT and Rory on the distance report last week. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

Pro Shop

The weather on Spieth Island has been turbulent to say the least. Make sure you pack your Fried Egg Beanie and lightweight Performance Hat just to be safe!