To paraphrase the late, great Robert F. Kennedy, who may indeed have been a golf fan: Some look at a Ben Curtis-John Huh-Matt Every showdown at the Valero Texas Open, and say, "Why?"
I look at a Curtis-Huh-Every showdown at TPC San Antonio and say, "Why not?"
Not every low-wattage PGA Tour stop is created equal. When Carl Pettersson moon-walked to victory at Hilton Head last week, it counted as a certifiable snoozer. There was no competition, and Pettersson is a guy who already owned four PGA Tour wins, only cementing his status as a winner on tour.
In San Antonio, by contrast, we had three storylines worth our while, even if CBS viewed the event so un-newsworthy that network executives gave Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo a week off.
• Storyline 1: The case of Curtis, author of what is still the most improbable major championship win in the Tiger era. Amazingly, nearly a decade after that miracle at the 2003 British Open, Curtis hasn't faded into oblivion despite the fact that some would say he existed in oblivion even as he won at Sandwich and even after two more wins in 2006. Curtis' win in San Antonio ended a six-year drought, earned him exempt PGA status for the next two years (something he did not own prior) and caused sports fans everywhere to wonder: Ben Curtis? Where have I heard that name before? Did I go to high school with that guy?
• Storyline 2: The case of Huh, the 21-year-old rookie who only got a driver's license this year and already has a win, albeit in the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico, one of those lesser-field events played while the big boys play a World Golf Championship event, in this case it was the Accenture Match Play Championship. Huh is not only a headline-writer/bad pun user's dream for his unusual last name – "Who Won? Huh?" – but also is a talent to watch. He barreled into the back nine on Sunday in the hunt after shooting a shocking 44 on his front nine Thursday. Contending to win after an 8-over start? Huh?
• Storyline 3: The case of Every, the brash 29-year-old former prodigy from the University of Florida, who once won the Ben Hogan Award as the nation's top amateur and later gained fame for a mix-up involving alleged marijuana possession in 2010. Cleared of the charge, Every was suspended 90 days by the tour anyway. Since then, he's carried the mantel of a rebel, enhanced by a tense interview with The Golf Channel back in January when he held the 54-hole lead in Hawaii, and by his combative declaration to the press corps that even though he didn't possess the weed in the arrest, "I know more people who smoke marijuana than don't." Fitting, isn't it, that Every contended to win in a week that contained the date, 4/20? Hey, now.
Every continued his unusual ways with the media by telling The Golf Channel after his Thursday 63 that he is "cool" with missing a cut every now and then, "because it gives me the weekend off." This calls to mind the great Thomas Edison quote: "Genius is 1 percent inspiration, 40 percent perspiration, and 59 percent taking the odd weekend off." If Every won, would he be the PGA Tour's first officially certified slacker winner?
In sum, three good stories. I was riveted, even if you weren't.
Curtis won by two strokes on the strength of a 22-foot, par-saving putt on 17 and a final-hole birdie. He then continued a tradition started by Masters winner Bubba Watson and fought back tears in his CBS interview with David Feherty. While part of me felt touched by Curtis' greeting to his two kids and wife back home in Ohio – and could only imagine the triumph he felt at his first tour win in six years (2045 days to be exact), still relevant after all these years – the other part of me wanted to gather Bubba and Ben and all the other weepers out there and give them the ol' Don Corleone "You can act LIKE A MAN!" speech, delivered sternly to the weepy Johnny Fontaine in "The Godfather."
Curtis' tale of victory in Texas resonates. I was lucky enough to cover that '03 British Open and still remember the shock waves coursing through the press tent when Curtis' final-round 69 stood up. Tiger Woods could have won that Open Championship, but he made three bogeys on the back nine. Thomas Bjorn could have won, but he blew a three-shot lead with four holes to play. Curtis won it while on the practice range, watching the last golfers come in, none of them besting the 396th-ranked player in the world.
It was mind-blowing to consider that a guy who qualified for the British Open only by finishing tied for 13th at the Western Open two weeks prior would hear the words "Champion Golfer of the Year" to describe him. Perhaps just as mind-blowing was hearing the words "Hooters Tour" and "Champion Golfer of the Year" used in the same news dispatches, since that mini-tour was the site of Curtis' only previous wins. Hard to imagine the Royal and Ancient suits knocking back wings and pitchers, indeed.
Still plying his trade in 2012, Curtis carried an unusual status. He was nonexempt on the PGA Tour as a money finisher between 126 and 150, able to play only when a spot opened. Curtis did, however, hold fully exempt status on the European Tour because of his '03 British win. But for a Midwesterner with a wife and two young kids in Ohio, the idea of earning Marriott points in Qatar isn't so romantic.
So, the win in Texas is huge for Curtis. It earns him the two-year exemption in the United States, gives him his fourth career win and keeps the Ben Curtis story alive. And you call him a fluke? Huh?
Scorecard of the week
65-68-65-74 – 16-under 272, Lee Westwood, winner, Asian Tour Indonesian Masters, Royal Jakarta Golf Club, Jakarta, Indonesia
Don't want to diminish Westwood's title defense in steamy Indonesia, but the list of the names pursuing Westwood on the leaderboard might only provide inspiration for false monikers if you're ever on the lam from the law.
What, you're intimately familiar with the Asian Tour legend and Indonesian Masters runner-up Thaworn Wiratchant? Granted, Wiratchant has won 12 times on the Asian Tour and apparently has a legendarily odd swing, but the 45-year-old has played in one major, finishing 31st at Royal Liverpool in the 2006 British Open. He also rocked a world ranking of 202 entering the Indonesian Masters. Even Ben Curtis might say: "Thaworn Who?"
The only name I recognized who made the cut was Thongchai Jaidee, who has at least qualified for 12 majors and made it to the quarterfinals of the 2010 Accenture Match Play Championship. Jaidee finished 29th on Sunday. The highest-finishing American was Berry Henson, a Southern California kid who went to the University of San Diego, notched a win on the Asian Development Tour and another on the Asian Tour. He finished 10th.
Strength of field joking aside, attention must be paid to Westwood for grinding out 32 holes on Sunday – the third round was weather delayed – in that outdoor sauna known as Royal Jakarta. He admitted to feeling the heat of competition and feeling "zapped" by trying to hang on while making three bogeys on his back nine. I didn't see any video to confirm how Westwood handled the sweat factor, but if I'm playing 32 holes in one day in Indonesia, I'm putting the over/under on shirts changed at 32.
It's global win No. 38 for Westwood, who despite his bridesmaid status at so many majors, remains in my mind an intriguing pick for June's U.S. Open at San Francisco's Olympic Club, a golf course that rewards precise iron play, perhaps Westwood's greatest strength.
Mulligan of the week
So, while on the topic …
A win by Every would have been fascinating, if only for the post-round press conference. Who knows what the Charles Barkley of the PGA Tour would have said? And he had a real chance to get it, too. His front-nine 33 pushed him into contention, but two bogeys on the back nine had him wobbling, one shot back of Curtis.
Every's tee shot on 16, however, was true. Struck with purity, it landed inside 5 feet from the flagstick. But when it came time to bury the putt, Every's speed betrayed him. With Feherty noting the lack of a practice stroke or true read, Every shoved that putt past the hole. No birdie, no win.
Let's go back to that 16th green, tell Every to take two more nanoseconds before hitting the putt and … give that man a mulligan!
Where do we go from here?
Next up is New Orleans and the return of globally famous Bubba Watson, the Masters champion fresh off his whirlwind media blitz. He made David Letterman laugh, told Piers Morgan on CNN that Morgan had been a jerk on "America's Got Talent" and wept when he gave Tim Tebow his No. 15 Masters badge. Other than that, it has been a quiet April for Bubba.
It's back to the grind now for Watson, and back to defending titles. He won at New Orleans last year when Webb Simpson endured the agony of a penalty stroke for a wind-blown golf ball after address, a rule that has since been changed. Maybe Simpson, one of the nicest guys on tour, can jack up the intensity by announcing to the press corps that Bubba's win in New Orleans last year should come with an asterisk. Perhaps start calling him, "Asterisk Boy," just to spice things up?
Naw. Probably not.
Consider Watson's career since his first win, the playoff win at the Travelers in Connecticut in June 2010. In 39 starts, including the Travelers, Watson has four wins, including the Masters, and a playoff loss at the 2010 PGA Championship. We are talking about an elite player on a serious run, including a second at Doral this year, a tie for fourth at Bay Hill and a tie for fifth at Torrey Pines, where he also won in 2011. Rightfully, he's the highest-ranked American in the world, at No. 4. Interestingly, two of the three players ahead of him in the rankings – Luke Donald (No. 2) and Westwood (No. 3) – have never won a major.
The boys will be gunning for Bubba. It's a good field, too, including Donald, Justin Rose, Keegan Bradley, Nick Watney and Ernie Els. Still no Tiger, Phil or Rory, and those gentlemen aren't due back until Quail Hollow the first week of May. But as Curtis-Every-Huh proved Sunday, who needs those also-rans anyway?