The biggest blowout in the Match Play Championship was Tiger Woods winning every hole on the front nine and closing out Stephen Ames, 9 and 8, at La Costa in 2006. This was two days after Ames, the No. 64 seed, jokingly said anything can happen in match play, “especially where he’s hitting the ball.”
Mathematically, it could have been worse.
Consider what happened to Phil Mickelson in the Presidents Cup this year. He did not know about the one-ball condition and used a different model on the par-5 seventh hole in a fourballs match. The penalty is a one-hole adjustment, and because Jason Day won the hole (Mickelson mistakenly was not allowed to finish the hole), the International team went from all square to 2 up.
That led to two questions: What other rules and conditions allow for a “hole adjustment?” And what would be the earliest an 18-hole match could end?
Kathryn Belanger, the assistant manager of rules communications for the USGA, provided the answer. It’s a long shot. Odds are it will never happen.
But follow along, because it is possible.
A player carries a non-conforming club (Rule 4-1). He changes the weight of his driver after teeing off, but he does not make a stroke with the club after the adjustment (Rule 4-2). He starts his round with 15 clubs (Rule 4-4a). He has two caddies (Rule 6-4). He violates the one-ball condition on the opening two holes (Appendix I, Part C, Item 1c). He has a parent as a caddie when they are not allowed (Appendix I, Part C, Item 2). He takes an unauthorized ride in a cart on both holes (Appendix I, Part C, Item 8).
If all of these violations are discovered on the second hole, each would carry a two-hole adjustment to the state of the match. That’s 14 holes. Assuming the player also loses the first two holes, he now is 16 down with 16 to play.
His opponent could win the 18-hole match on the third hole by a score of 17 and 15.
Maybe Ames got off easy.
SPEITH’S MULLIGAN: If he could take one mulligan this year, Jordan Spieth knows exactly where it would be — the final round at St. Andrews.
Trying to become the first player to capture the third leg of the modern Grand Slam, he was tied for the lead at the British Open until he missed an 8-foot par putt on the 17th hole and failed to birdie the 18th. Spieth missed a playoff by one shot.
But that’s not where he’d take the mulligan.
“My first putt on No. 8,” Spieth said.
He had a long birdie putt on the par-3 hole that he ran so far by the cup that it stopped just off the green. He took three putts from there for a double bogey.
“I made a mistake, and it cost me at least a shot,” Spieth said. “The wind was sideways and it was into the rain and I was thinking it would be slow. I’d left it short all week and I didn’t want to leave that one short. And, obviously, I didn’t.”
Spieth figures if he had two-putted for par, the 50-foot birdie putt on the 16th “becomes the one that won the tournament.”
That’s a lot of conjecture. Then again, there are no mulligans in the majors.
“You can say maybe the putt on 17,” Spieth said. “But everyone missed that putt — it’s not an easy one. And everyone says the wedge on 18.”
He came up just short of the 18th green instead of making sure he at least had a 25-foot look at birdie, as Zach Johnson did before him.
Still, No. 8 gnaws at him.
“That was an easy fix,” he said.
MAKING THE CUT: Tiger Woods is duly impressed with today’s young stars, with Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth winning two majors in successive years and Jason Day picking up his first major at the PGA Championship and getting to No. 1 in the world.
Only one aspect perplexes him — too many weekends off.
Spieth already has missed the cut 12 times in his three full seasons on the PGA Tour. McIlroy has missed the cut eight times in the last three years. Rickie Fowler has missed the cut 11 times in the last two years.
“In today’s game, you don’t have to make cuts,” Woods said in his Time magazine interview earlier this month. “And I see these guys miss so many cuts when they’re that good. … It doesn’t compute, because I haven’t done it. I think I’ve missed only 15 cuts in my career.”
Woods has missed the cut 16 times, including six in the last two years.
MCILROY AWARD: Rory McIlroy won the Association of Golf Writers trophy, given to those born or living in Europe who made the most outstanding contribution to golf. He joined Seve Ballesteros and Lee Westwood as the only three-time winners of the award.
McIlroy won three times on the European Tour, and once on the PGA Tour. He also captured the Race to Dubai, even though he missed two months with an ankle injury.
He narrowly won over the Walker Cup team that handily beat the Americans at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Third place went to Andy Sullivan of England, who joined McIlroy as a three-time winner on the European Tour.
TALE OF TWO SEASONS: Matt Kuchar already knew what happened to him this year before he was presented with some statistics.
“I felt like the first half of the year I didn’t hit it great but I putted well,” he said. “And the second half, it flip-flopped. I hit it well and struggled with the putter. The beautiful thing about the game is you need everything to work in order to have good tournaments.”
One statistic is all that mattered to Kuchar: This was only the second time in the last seven years that he failed to win on the PGA Tour. Kuchar had two chances early at the Sony Open and Humana Challenge, and Rickie Fowler beat him with birdies down the stretch at the Scottish Open.
“I wasn’t real happy with my year. It’s not what I’m accustomed to, it’s not what I expect out of myself,” Kuchar said. “There was a lot of frustration.”
DIVOTS: Tom Weiskopf has been chosen to renovate the North course at Torrey Pines. Work is to begin immediately after the Farmers Insurance Open. Weiskopf told The San Diego Union-Tribune, “My challenge is to not get caught up in what the best players in the game are going to do here in one round a year.” … Of the top 10 players in the world ranking at the end of the year, Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Jim Furyk are the only ones who lost more points than they gained in 2015. … The 2018 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball is going to El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana, California. … Anirban Lahiri has received a sponsor’s exemption to the Farmers Insurance Open, along with Robert Garrigus, Aaron Baddeley, Jhonattan Vegas, Ollie Schniederjans and Xander Schauffele.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Based on the current Olympic rankings, 14 players in the 60-man field are outside the top 200 in the world ranking.
FINAL WORD: “My bad golf is a little bit better now.” — Anirban Lahiri on how he improved in 2015.