Webb Simpson rises again in victory
Webb Simpson had 28 birdies on his way to his fourth career win in Las Vegas. Rory McIlroy tried to get his first victory since November, but came up short in South Korea, where there was more talk of rules during a week when Brandel Chamblee chastised Tiger Woods for breaking a few.
No stranger to rules' controversy -- she was disqualified for a bad drop in a 2005 event after a Sports Illustrated reporter brought it to the attention of tournament officials -- Michelle Wie had her best finish of the season with a tie for third in a LPGA event in South Korea.
1. Open tested
When Simpson won the U.S. Open last year at the Olympic Club, it came just a year after he had a breakthrough season on tour with 12 top-10s, including two wins.
The victory at the Olympic Club was validation of the excellent work he had done in 2011.
When a player has the audacity to win a major championship, you hope that it's either the validation of something we already saw in him or the culmination of years of toil and anguish like Phil Mickelson's first major victory at the 2004 Masters.
Simpson's 6-shot win on Sunday in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open was his first victory since winning at the Olympic Club.
There was never much doubt that the 28-year-old former Wake Forest star would go on to have a solid career after that triumph in San Francisco. He is a very confident player with a great caddie in Paul Tesori.
The only question now is, can he get to 10-15 career wins over the next decade?
By 2016, Simpson will have to give up his anchored putter for a more conventional flat stick that could severely impact his game. He has two full seasons to find a putter that meets regulations.
Perhaps a greater challenge than the putter will be the depth in the men's game, which is at an all-time best. Yet Simpson has a chance to be a standout and it's not because he is the most gifted player.
When Tesori first started working for him in 2011, he knew after seeing Simpson's homemade golf swing that there had to be something else about him that made him special.
For a top player, Simpson can on occasion hit shanks during competition. He hit one during the second round of the PGA Championship in August at Oak Hill, where he had a chance to match the all-time lowest score of 63 in a major. He unloaded the vaunted hosel rocket at the Players Championship this year as well as at the 2012 Ryder Cup and BMW Championship.
But in a 24-under finish to tie Ryan Moore's tournament record total from last year, Simpson showed no signs of battling the shanks in rounds of 64-63-67-66.
His future is bright. He will grow as a player and will likely get to double digits in wins before his career is done. In 15 years, his U.S. Open win at the Olympic Club could be a part of a long list of accomplishments and not just the one thing that he is remembered for in the game.
2. Birdie binge
Troy Matteson made seven consecutive birdies on Sunday at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas, en route to a 7-under-par 64 in the final round to tie for fifth in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Matteson, who retained his PGA Tour card for the wraparound season through the Web.com Tour finals, was two birdies short of tying Mark Calcavecchia, who had nine straight during the 2009 RBC Canadian Open.
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Matteson, a 33-year-old former Georgia Tech star, is a two-time winner of the Frys.com Open.
3. More problems
Imagine you are the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world. You can retire your working-class parents to a life of leisure. You wear the same iconic logo as Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and LeBron James. Your girlfriend is a famous tennis player.
This has been the wondrous life of Rory McIlroy.
There are kids at golf academies in Florida and Australia dreaming of this life. There are tour players who envy McIlroy's certain future as one of the biggest stars in the game.
But over the last year, McIlroy has learned that with this level of success and attention come more problems.
At the Kolon Korea Open -- where he finished in a five-way tie for second on Sunday, a shot back of Kang Sung-hoon -- McIlroy dealt with questions about a lawsuit against his former agency, his reported split with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki and his equipment change.
Still, he came close to winning his first tournament since taking the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai last November.
Earlier in the week, the former No. 1 ranked player in the world promised he would have a strong finish to what has been a difficult year on and off the golf course.
"It's the first year I struggled and I didn't live up to the expectation," he said. "This year is a little bit of a disappointment, but I have six tournaments left and will finish the season strongly."
McIlroy will face Tiger Woods in an 18-hole match-play exhibition Oct. 28 in China, and then play the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, his first event in the PGA Tour's new wraparound schedule.
With his performance at the Korea Open, his best since a second in April at the Valero Texas Open, McIlroy might have solved some of the swing issues that have plagued him for most of the year.
For the time being, amid swirling rumors about his personal life and with a possible legal battle with his former agency, Horizon Sports Management, McIlroy's golf swing might be the only aspect of his life that is easily repairable.
4. Perfect score
In a Golf.com story published Tuesday, Brandel Chamblee gave Tiger Woods an F for the 2013 season, insinuating that the 14-time major champion was a cheater, due to a few well-publicized rules infractions during the year.
Since Tiger's infamous bad drop at the 15th hole during the second round of the Masters, I've been thinking a lot about the rules of golf.
How many of us amateurs and pros know all 34 rules and the more than 100 sections and subsections?
How many people do you think would get a perfect score if they were tested on the rules?
There isn't a widely known Rules of Golf prep course like there is for the SAT or the LSAT.
So are we being a little presumptuous to think that when a player breaks a rule that he is knowingly cheating?
There shouldn't be a free pass for ignorance. But perhaps this past year of rules controversies is a call for a new international initiative on rules education.
The ruling bodies have gotten behind agendas to rid the world of slow play. Imagine golf shirt-wearing men and women looking like missionaries, strolling around Times Square handing out the Rules of Golf, asking questions like, "Do you know Rule 26-1-a?"
On Sunday at the Kolon Korea Open, Kim Hyung-tae was assessed a 2-shot penalty after grounding his club in a hazard at the par-3 13th at the Woo Jeong Hill Country Club in Seoul. He didn't knowingly break the rules, but nonetheless he did break it and it cost him the tournament. The penalty dropped him into a tie for second.
He should have known better. But perhaps we should all take responsibility because knowing the rules is the first true lesson of the game.
5. A Wie bit better
Michelle Wie, formerly the future of women's golf and a prospective member of the men's tour, got her best finish of the year with a tie for third on Sunday in the KEB HanaBank Championship in South Korea.
Amy Yang birdied the first playoff hole at the Ocean Course in Incheon to beat Hee Kyung Seo.
With a 66, the 24-year-old Wie had the low score in the final round.
"I feel like my game is finally coming together slowly," Wie said. "I have just been patient with my game and working hard at it. It's just nice to see that it paid off this week, and hopefully I can finish strong next week."
It's too soon to call Wie a bust. She has time to again be the great player she was in her teens when, over a two-year period in 2005 and 2006, she had top-five finishes in five of the eight major championships.
Since then, she has won twice and earned a Stanford degree. As a player, she has become a widely inconsistent ball striker. Her crouched putting stance would terrify a chiropractor.
In a Golf Magazine Q&A back in April, LPGA legend Annika Sorenstam said, "There was a time when the LPGA needed [Wie]. I thought she had a lot to bring to the table. Now she's one of many."
Though Sorenstam later said she was misquoted about Wie, her reported comments must have rang true with many in the golf world.
No matter what you think of Wie's failure to live up to the hype, she will never be "one of many." The talent is there and the opportunity for her to blossom into a regular winner remains realistic. That's a better ending than being another child prodigy who burned out before they reached full maturity.