Sunday, July 8, 2012
Updated: July 9, 12:20 PM ET
N.Y. Choi, Potter impress with wins
Birdies were out of style at the U.S. Women's Open.
At the Greenbrier Classic, they were all the rage.
And for Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, they were few and far between as both missed the cut in West Virginia.
So what does this all mean as we inch closer to the Open Championship? Our experts dive in headfirst in our latest edition of Monday Four-Ball.
1. What most impressed you about Ted Potter's playoff victory at the Greenbrier?
Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: It was his eagle on the 17th -- and his drive, to be specific. It is a very narrow area around the left fairway bunker and the water right. For a guy who hits it more than 300 yards from the tee box, knowing where he stood in the tournament and where he came from (see MCs on the Web.com Tour), I was impressed by the confidence and poise he showed off the tee.
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: How could a guy who had missed his five previous cuts finish eagle-birdie in regulation to get in a playoff? You know he can play because he won twice on the Web.Com Tour last year, but you don't expect him to get a victory against one of the better regular fields of the year. At Greenbrier, the 28-year-old native of Ocala, Fla., who missed the cut in all 24 of his 2004 Web.com Tour events, showed the perseverance of a great champion.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Two things. First, he sat and waited for the playoff, deciding not to hit balls and do any warm-up, even when it appeared a playoff was inevitable. Second, the way he bounced back from the missed 4-footer on the second playoff hole. For a guy who has been through so much to get to this point, that could have been devastating.
Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: The rookie doesn't quit. After missing all 24 Web.com Tour cuts in 2004 after turning pro, Potter easily could have packed it in and never made it as a pro at any level, much less the PGA Tour. Instead, he persevered and showed a resilience that will serve him well in the coming years.
2. Bigger surprise: Na Yeon Choi winning by 5 shots at the U.S. Women's Open or that only two players finished under par?
Michael Collins: The fact that two women finished under par at a course where no one finished even close to under par the last time the U.S. Women's Open was played there is not only a surprise but a testament to how the USGA can set up courses. Choi had an amazing third round. There's a reason she moved up to No. 2 in the world even though this is her first win of the season.
Farrell Evans: I was surprised to see that the USGA would set up Blackwolf Run to embarrass the best women players in the world. It wasn't a fair fight. Still, there have to be more than two women in the world who could have shot under par around the Kohler, Wis., course.
Bob Harig: Winning by five. Typically the closer to par the winning score is, the more bunched up the leaderboard is, making it difficult for separation. It's no shock that only two players finished under par. That's actually a lot. In 1998, 6-over played off for the title.
Kevin Maguire: The 5-shot win. USGA events and birdies go together like oil and water. With only Choi and Sandra Gal in red figures, the 5-shot victory had one of the best LPGA players in the world, Stacy Lewis, tweeting, "I'm glad this week is over! Many congrats to NYC, I think she played a different course!"
3. How do you expect Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to respond at the Open Championship after both missed the cut at the Greenbrier?
Michael Collins: All of these predictions are predicated on weather, but if all is fair and equal ... I expect Tiger to have three good rounds and one bad round based on where he's been trending in majors. I expect Phil's struggles to continue, even though last year, after a tie for 54th at the U.S. Open, he played the week before the Open Championship and it helped him to a second-place finish. This year will be different.
Farrell Evans: These two players live for major championships. They will raise their games for the occasion at Lytham.
Bob Harig: In both cases, the missed cut should have little impact. Players miss cuts and come back and perform quite well. Webb Simpson had missed two in a row -- including by several shots at the Memorial -- before winning the U.S. Open. For Woods, if nothing else, it was a reminder that distance control with his short irons remains a work in progress.
Kevin Maguire: The MCs shouldn't impact either Tiger's or Phil's play at Royal Lytham, but it does give me pause. For Tiger, he admitted that playing on much slower greens at the Greenbrier was difficult to figure out. Unfortunately for Tiger, the greens at the Open Championship will be closer to Greenbrier speed than when he won at Congressional at the AT&T National.
As for Mickelson, the bigger issue has been his recent play overall. He just can't seem to put a full round together, much less four in major championship conditions. No one can flip the switch on quite like Lefty, but his recent woes don't bode well for his clutching the Claret Jug on the night of July 22.
4. Thumbs-up or thumbs-down on Phil Mickelson's decision to play the Scottish Open this week?
Michael Collins: Thumbs up because it worked last year, and even though I don't think it'll work again, just to get used to the weather (last year's Friday was actually dangerous) and the time change is a smart move by Lefty.
Farrell Evans: Phil knows his game better than anyone. He wants to get sharper and the Scottish Open is his last chance to do it before heading to Lytham.
Bob Harig: Thumbs-up. It's tough to argue with a guy for adding a tournament to try to sharpen his game. Mickelson typically likes playing the week prior to a major, and doing so on a links-type course such as Castle Stuart can only help in his preparation for the Open Championship.
Kevin Maguire: Thumbs-up. Clearly Mickelson needs to work on his game, and his last-minute change to enter the European Tour event at Castle Stuart should help him snap out of his recent funk.