Taking stock of lessons learned
And what might we expect in Tiger's return this week?
In what was one of the most bizarre endings to a professional golf tournament in recent memory, Zach Johnson's 3-shot runaway turned into a 1-stroke nail-biter after he was assessed a penalty on the final hole. Johnson failed to replace his ball mark on the 18th green and the result almost cost him his eighth PGA Tour win.
To quote the immortal Yogi Berra: "It's never over till it's over." And then, sometimes not even then.
Our experts analyze all the happenings at Colonial, look ahead to this week's Memorial and more in our latest edition of Monday Four-Ball.
1. What lesson(s) can we learn from Zach Johnson's 72nd hole 2-shot penalty that nearly cost him a win at Colonial?
Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: We learn that even on the biggest stage at the biggest moment golfers can have a brain fart. It proves that thinking ahead even at the moment of triumph could cost you dearly. Imagine if Jason Dufner had made his putt.
Richard Durrett, ESPNDallas.com writer: You have to stay fully engaged mentally on every hole, but I'm actually surprised this doesn't happen more. He knows he's about to win the tournament and he's focused on the putt. But with his caddie in the bunker, Johnson has to be sure he moves that mark. It's a reminder that staying focused all the way to the finish is critical.
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Players need to be extra careful about doing some of the rudimentary things they learned to do as small children when they first picked up the game.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: It's not a lesson as much as it is a reminder that golf's rules can be brutally harsh, and luckily for Johnson, it didn't matter. Another Johnson, Dustin, suffered a far more brutal fate at the 2010 PGA Championship, and didn't have the strokes to play with that Zach had on Sunday at Colonial. Nobody would have wanted to see Zach Johnson blow the tournament over such a technicality.
2. If you can call it a "disappointing" second-place finish for Jason Dufner, what's the ceiling on the newlywed?
Michael Collins: Win, marriage, win, second, oh, and let's just throw a T-68 in there at The Players the week after saying, "I do." I'd say that next "big thing" we're looking for Dufner to take over is the dominant role on the PGA Tour of being a tobacco-chewing, soft-spoken guy from Auburn who is going make the term "I Duffed It" a good thing.
Richard Durrett: How can Jason Dufner not be on the radar for the U.S. Open in a few weeks? He's playing fantastic golf, and when he's on -- and he's been on a lot the past month -- he hits fairways and greens. You need that to win an Open. He's also got the temperament to win majors.
Farrell Evans: Dufner has a game that can travel. He's not bound by one style of course or grass. He can win major championships and have a Vijay Singh or Steve Stricker caliber run in his 40s if he stays healthy. He's just coming into his own as a player. So he's really young in golf years.
Bob Harig: It is very difficult to take a month's work and say that Dufner is going to be the best player in the world or even has no limit. Is this just a hot streak? It's been a great run for a guy who finally found the winning ways at age 35. Can that translate into bigger and better things? Certainly. The U.S. Open ought to be a good indicator.
3. Tiger Woods is likely to play seven tournaments in the next 11 weeks and 12 in the next 17, assuming he qualifies for PGA Tour playoff events and the Ryder Cup. With these added reps, what percent chance do you give to him (A) win a tournament and (B) win a major in that time span?
Michael Collins: Aaaah the Tiger paradox. Now that we haven't seen him in a few weeks (when he finished tied for 40th at The Players Championship) it would be easy to think the time off has gotten him all straight, but he had four weeks off after the crash at the Masters and I'm pretty sure he didn't play the weekend at Wells Fargo. I still believe he's got at least one more win in him somehow this season.
As far as a major zero percent chance. Not the way that putter is behaving. Too bad he's got too much pride to switch to a belly or long putter. Don't feel bad -- I do too!
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Richard Durrett: I give Tiger Woods a 40 percent chance to win a tournament. He's still capable of pulling things together, and playing that often should help. As for a major, I think maybe 30 percent. That might sound high, but I still respect Woods' game and believe he will still win some more majors and challenge Jack's record. If he's in a duel similar to what we saw at Colonial, he's tough to bet against.
Farrell Evans: Tiger is going to win again in 2012, but he's not going to play consistent golf as long as he continues to battle with his swing. We shouldn't be surprised by anything that he does -- good or bad. He's become that unpredictable.
Bob Harig: This schedule really has nothing to do with whether he'll win on tour or win another major. He's adding one tournament -- the Greenbrier -- that he wouldn't have normally played in a year when healthy. The Memorial, U.S. Open, AT&T National, British Open, Bridgestone, PGA Championship, playoff events and the Ryder Cup would have been there, anyway.
It is more a matter of Woods finding confidence in his swing, especially dialing in his short irons. Playing more tournaments in a compact period ought to help, and the feeling here has always been that Royal Lytham & St. Annes sets up as a good place for him to win.
4. Fact or Fiction: Newly minted world No. 1 Luke Donald is the best golfer in the world since the start of the 2012 season.
Michael Collins: Fact. He just won what would be considered the European Tour's PGA Championship (the BMW), and every time Rory McIlroy took the top spot, Luke snatched it right back. As hot as Dufner has been the past month, and as well as Hunter Mahan has been playing this year, in a threesome at any course under 7,600 yards I'll take Luke Donald every time.
Richard Durrett: Fact. There are plenty of options here, but I give Donald credit for battling back right after Rory McIlroy took over the No. 1 ranking earlier this season and Donald's coming off yet another win. The only thing missing from his résumé: a major. That's coming soon.
Farrell Evans: On a worldwide level, Donald has been the best, but in the States, Jason Dufner is the man!
Bob Harig: Fiction. If you go by the world rankings, Rory McIlroy has gained more points than any other player this year -- the only player to earn more than 200 ranking points. Bubba Watson and Luke Donald are not far behind. We're nitpicking here, because Donald has won two tournaments, McIlroy just one.
McIlroy has also missed two cuts, but Donald has played five tournaments in which he didn't finish in the top 30. McIlroy has just three, and has been among the top five in the rest. Based on that, we'll go with Rory.