Jay Williamson was spent. After missing a putt to win on the last hole last week at the Travelers, he sat down on the side of the green. Elbows on bended knees, he watched as Hunter Mahan made his birdie putt to force the playoff and Williamson, a journeyman playing on a sponsor’s exemption who would have secured a Tour card if he won, dutifully got up and shook hands with his competitor.
Sitting down like that it was as if he was saying, man, I could have just got it all over with if I made that putt and also, go ahead Mahan and make yours, let’s get back to this.
On the playoff hole Williamson put his second shot on the same hole even closer, same line, about seven feet away. Great shot. Huge,actually, after missing the putt to put it away. He knelt down in the fairway, actually knelt down on one knee to watch Mahan’s shot, which of course landed a couple feet away for a tap in. Williamson, as I said, was spent, but he was still game.
He missed his putt, though, on the high side this time, the same line as ten minutes before but a few feet closer in. Mahan tapped in and won.
Warwick Hills Country Club, site of this week’s Buick Open is short and yields birdies. Since 2000, long-hitting Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh have won two times each, but Rocco Mediate (2000) and Jim Furyk (2003) have also won, while other short distance, strong iron players like Fred Funk, Chris DiMarco and Zach Johnson have finished runner-up. Neither Woods nor Singh are playing this week. Furyk is the top-ranked player in a weak field and is the clear favorite after finishing T2 at the U.S. Open and P2 at the Colonial a few weeks before that. Top-10 Jim is in midseason form. Furyk is due in 2007, but I just can’t take him at 5-1. It seems almost as crazy to pick Scott Verplank at 16-1, even though Verplank is a former winner of the Buick Open and is having a great year with five top-10s (three in a row), one of them a win at the Byron Nelson. Those guys are great for any head-to-head in 2007 (and have won in that capacity when I’ve picked them this year), but for the outright I’m looking for a better deal in a shootout.
Take Charles Howell III (40-1), 1/6 unit: Where have you gone Thurston Howell the Third? After a huge start---five top-10s including a win in his first seven tournaments of 2007---he’s finished inside the top-25 once, missed two cuts and withdrew from the Memorial. He’s still in the top-5 in FedEx Cup. He finished T51 at the U.S. Open, took last week off, and should be ready to go. He’s only played the Buick Open once, back in 2003, and he finished T38.
Take John Rollins (66-1), 1/6 unit: Rollins has also slowed after a strong start to ’07, but he averages a very respectable 3.44 birdies per round (T42 on Tour). He’s coming off an MC on a tough course outside of Hartford with all the wind and rain. Warwick Hills should be a nice chance to get back to his consistent form in the middle of the season. This pick, like Thursty the Third above, is about rehabilitation on a kinder, gentler course.
Take Daniel Chopra (80-1), 1/6 unit: Not sure what’s up with Chopra. He shot a 1-under 69 last Thursday on the aforementioned tough course then promptly withdrew after 12 holes at 6-over because of illness. I see him as a Pat Perez type: very talented, very temperamental. But Chopra showed signs of rising to the occasion late last year with some strong finishes. He just needs to get to Sunday within striking distance. What’s weird, given what seems to be an uneven temperament, is that he’s an excellent putter.
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