|Roland Thatcher after seeing his approach go in a bunker on the 18th hole Sunday. (Getty Images)|
CBSSports.com golf writers Steve Elling and Shane Bacon take a global gander at a few of these developments, as well as others, in their weekly Monday tête-à-tête, Alternate Shot.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If a certain contingent of fans thought the end of the U.S. Open was a bit raggedy, and enjoyed the pain and suffering, here's hoping they had their televisions turned on Sunday as well.
The final round of the Travelers Championship featured a series of players walking the plank, one by one, until a player who had finished his rounds two hours earlier had been declared the winner.
Not a single live shot of winner Marc Leishman was shown over the final two hours of the broadcast -- he had already finished and adjourned to the comfy confines of the clubhouse to watch the bloodletting from afar.
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It was hardly the only news of the weekend, however. In fact, there were noteworthy developments on all sorts of tours, including the LPGA, where Brittany Lang became the first player from the talent-laden Duke women's program to win, and the LET, where England's Mel Reid won in her first start since losing her mother a month ago in a fatal car crash. On the European Tour, a two-time winner was disqualified for what has euphemistically been called a serious rules breach.
All this only a few days after the crazy, confusing ending at the U.S. Open in San Francisco had finally been written.
There's plenty of acreage to cover today, boys, so grab a driver and swing away. And please count your clubs first.
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In a news item that didn't draw a lot of eyeballs in the States over the weekend following the game's post-U.S. Open hangover, former world No. 1 Lee Westwood stated that he plans to move his family to South Florida in the offseason to set up shop and make as much noise as possible at age 39. Is it the right call?
Elling: Westwood has proven over and over that he can play with anybody, anywhere, and the PGA Tour will be all the better for his inclusion going forward, just as it was this year when he again elected to become a member. The decision to uproot the whole family, however, was the most surprising element. Westwood said he isn't keeping a home base in his native England -- he lives in a town called Worksop -- and plans to reside in the West Palm Beach area, like so many other top pros of late. Put it this way, it looks like Westy will be a member of the U.S. tour for a few years to come, and the money games at tony courses like the Medalist or the Bear's Club just got a lot more fun. Westwood reasons that at age 39, he needs to maximize his opportunities. Given the ups and downs of star players after they have turned 40 recently -- Els, Goosen, Harrington, Mickelson and Furyk spring immediately to mind -- he got this one dead correct. Westwood wants and deserves to win a major, and prepping and playing in the States would seem to help his chances. It won't exactly hurt his future endorsement chances, either.
Bacon: One of the main reasons he wanted to do this was, like you said, to give himself the best opportunity to win as he nears 40. That means the best golf courses, the best weather, the best events and an easy place to travel from.
If he wants to live in Florida, or South Africa or England, I'm all for it. Westwood is a really solid player who has the opportunity to add more titles to his legacy before he turns 50. Ten years in the United States, playing against the best each week in West Palm probably isn't the worst idea he could come up with.
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In one of the more amazing cases of unbridled cheating in recent tour annals, a European Tour player was disqualified over the weekend when his caddie tried to ditch an extra club that had been mistakenly left in the bag after the round had started. EuroTour officials said they believed the player, Spain's Jose Manual Lara, knew nothing of the caddie's decision to try to hide the club before the breach became known. Sound reasonable?
Elling: Yeah, it sounds reasonable -- but it also sounds suspicious. Granted, we're making this statement from 5,000 miles away and based solely on spotty, overseas print reports, but the caddie admitted to rules officials he noticed a few moments after the round began that there was a 15th club in the bag and wandered into the trees to try to ditch it -- an attempt to save several penalty strokes. Caddies for the other players in the grouping asked what he was doing, saw the club in the bushes, and the caddie came clean. So, while all this was happening, Lara was doing what, exactly? Golf has a great reputation as a sport that polices itself, but there are more shenanigans inside the ropes than most fans grasp -- and whether Lara was complicit or not, the two-time EuroTour winner was ultimately disqualified after the round for the "serious breach" of rules. There needs to be a bit more sunshine shone on this incident.
Bacon: I actually believe Lara if he says he didn't know about the extra club and the plan to ditch it in the woods. Golfers are, and I say this as respectful as possible, pretty clueless creatures when it comes to caddie responsibility. The whole point of a caddie is having someone around who can do all the other tasks that the player shouldn't have to worry about (waters, club count, dry grips, umbrellas, yardage books). I know plenty of professional golfers who would walk off a cliff if their looper told them it was where the next tee box was, so I don't blame Lara at all. The caddie attempted to save his player a few shots, ended up getting caught and came clean. While I don't think I would hire this guy to carry my bag anytime soon, I think the player is, and should remain, innocent.
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Winless Aussie Marc Leishman was the shocking victor at the PGA Tour event in Hartford on Sunday, posting a 62 before the television coverage had kicked into high gear and winning when a series of players drowned, disemboweled themselves with the putter, or just outright gagged. What happened?
Elling: It has been a long, long time since so many gawd-awful gaffes were made by so many leaderboard contenders in such a short, bloody span, and Leishman was the lucky recipient of it. It was hard to detail which player took the biggest header -- Charley Hoffman, Roland Thatcher, Tim Clark or Brian Davis, who each left a series of strokes on the course with some poor execution or shakier tactics. Hoffman, for one, was two strokes up with two to play and all but fell into a lake on the 17th. Be that as it may, it underscores the fact that the last four holes at TPC River Highlands are as compelling as any stretch on tour, with a driveable par-4 and several others that reward good shots under duress. Or punish poor ones, which was repeatedly the case Sunday. What does this mean for Leishman, a former Rookie of the Year? Hard to say, but Hunter Mahan and Bubba Watson won their first tour titles at Hartford and used them as huge springboards.
Bacon: I said it earlier, but it seems when these tour players who don't get a lot of chances to win are actually near the top of the leaderboard late on a Sunday, the nerves are multiplied by a thousand. Charley Hoffman is a good player, but he isn't going to win 10 tour titles in his career. He has two already, and was in a perfect spot to win a third at the Travelers, but his two swings off the tee on Nos. 17 and 18 were 15-handicap worthy.
I think the more parity the PGA Tour has, the harder it is for everyday PGA Tour pros to have a lead and close it out. Leishman did exactly what he had to do on Sunday, by posting that wonderful 62 hours before the leaders walked up the 18th, but it really was an orchestra of collapses on Sunday that allowed him to be the first Australian to claim a PGA Tour win this season. Good on him, bad on the others, and don't think this won't happen again before the season's over.