Live from the Wachovia Championship in Charlotte, Captain Golf answers your FAQs.
Q: What was the best finish on the PGA Tour this year?
A: Surprise! It wasn't the Masters. Honestly, aside from a couple of above-average chip shots, was the showdown between Tiger Woods, the best golfer ever, and Chris DiMarco, one of the top bridesmaids in Tour history, all that exciting? Not in ol' Cap's score book. For sheer tension, drama and superlative golf, nothing topped Sunday's Wachovia. If you missed it, Sergio García watched a huge lead evaporate in the final round, and Vijay Singh survived a three-man, four-hole playoff for his third victory of the season.
Q: Exactly what was so great about the Wachovia finish?
A: It had everything--thrills, spills and Phil. Mickelson put up nine birdies in the first 15 holes, and looked as if he might shoot another 62, as he did at Spyglass Hill this year. Then CBS came on the air and Mickelson promptly dumped another seven-iron shot into Lake Lefty (that's what ol' Cap has renamed it) next to the par-3 17th green. Phil had a bogey and three doubles there. Four pars, and he finishes at 13 under, one better than Singh and the other guys in the playoff, García and Jim Furyk. Mickelson said later, "For whatever reason, that hole gave me fits." Duh. He wasn't the only one. García, who lost a six-stroke lead by shooting an even-par 72 on Sunday, also splashed a shot at 17.
Q: Does this make Singh the No. 1 player in the world?
A: It should, but the World Ranking is based on a complicated formula that apparently includes astrological factors. Tiger still holds the top spot even though the victory scoreboard since the start of 2004 reads singh 12, woods 4. "I'm done trying to be Number 1," Singh said on Sunday. "It seems as if I have to win five times to get up there."
Think about it. If Singh doesn't miss a tap-in during the playoff with Padraig Harrington at the Honda Classic, and if a gust of wind doesn't slap down his bold approach on the 72nd hole at Bay Hill, he'd probably be sitting on five victories this year, and there wouldn't be a debate about No. 1. Singh doesn't have the top ranking, but just between us, yeah, he's No. 1.
Q: What's the secret to winning a playoff?
A: The ol' Cap'n won the pressroom Kentucky Derby pool through dumb luck--I drew Giacomo's name out of a hat. Playoffs, though, are all about survival and patience. Singh won in Houston when John Daly snapped a three-wood shot into the water. Same story, different cast at Quail Hollow Club. On the opening hole García three-putted for bogey to make an early exit. On the fourth playoff hole the steely Furyk blinked, pulling his tee shot into the creek off the 18th fairway. That would've been that, except that Furyk, after taking a drop and pitching back into the fairway, nearly jarred his wedge shot on the fly, which would've been an alltime par. Instead, his ball caromed off the flagstick and rolled off the green. Singh wisely bailed right, then stiffed a bunker shot for a tap-in par and the win.
Q: On the green during the first playoff hole, what was everybody laughing about?
A: A little gallows humor. When all three players gassed their putts and came up well short of the cup, Singh quipped, "Good-good-good. Let's go to the next tee." Yes, Vijay cracked a joke.
Q: Is García a choking dog or what?
A: Hardly. You know how many players had more wins than García's five at age 25? Only two that I could find--Tiger with 29, including his Tiger Slam, and Jack Nicklaus with 17, including four majors. And that's not counting García's five W's in Europe, which most Americans conveniently overlook. García is a phenom, and his finish at Quail Hollow was simply part of his learning curve. I agree with Jeff Sluman, who was paired with Sergio in the first two rounds last week. He says, "If a guy we had never heard of came over here from Australia and, at 25, won the Colonial, the Nelson and at Westchester, the way Sergio has, the media would be all over him. What's Phil, 34? If people don't think Sergio is going to have at least one major nine years from now, I'll take some of that action."
Q: When did you join García's fan club?
A: How can you not like the guy? He bounded up the fairway after that famous shot off a tree root at the 1999 PGA. He flipped off some loudmouth New York fans during the 2002 U.S. Open. And, hey, did you see him playing with that tree frog during a backup on the 8th tee last Saturday?
Q: Is García the best player never to have won a major? And what's stopping him?
A: Yes, he is. García and his dad, Victor, deserve credit for revamping Sergio's swing. Remember, García won a couple of Tour events last year while his swing was still a work in progress. García has always driven it well, and now he ranks near the top in greens hit in regulation. His Achilles' heel is his putting. Even though he made eight birdies during a first-round 66 at Quail Hollow, García complained about the way he rolled the ball. "It could've been an unbelievable round," he said. "It could've been magic." It was the same story on Sunday, when Sergio said he played "awesome" for the first eight holes but was only one under par instead of three or four under because of his putting. It's a fact of life out here--you can't be a great player unless you're a great putter.
Q: What was the funniest thing you heard at the Wachovia?
A: Singh's crack at the awards ceremony. He was handed the mike after donning the Ford Pinto blue sports jacket that goes to the Wachovia champion, and he told the crowd, "First of all, happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there." Everyone in the press thought it was a shout-out to us.
Q: Is Quail Hollow strong enough to host a U.S. Open?
A: Absolutely. Only three players made it to double figures in the red, and that was with very little rough. Bring in the USGA, add a foot of jungle and bingo! You have all the misery a man could want.
Q: Did Woods really get a two-shot penalty for moving a temporary fence to play a shot, even though he was allowed to take relief from the fence?
Q: Isn't that a lame rule?
A: I don't know. I'm on the fence.
Q: Captain Golf, don't you ever use your real name?
A: Is that you again, Mom? C'mon, I told you not to e-mail me at work anymore.