DAN REARDON: That Was The Week That Was
(KMOX) – I suppose you have to be a somewhat serious fan of golf to have realized that from an interest standpoint the week prior was good on many levels.
On Wednesday, St. Louisan and Curtis Cup Captain Ellen Port returned to her traditional role and created a traditional result. The six time national champion relied on her own clubs to put a fitting end to a very good June.
With little or no playing time and a brush up session with her current teacher, Brian Fogt, Port made it lucky 13 in the Women’s Metropolitan Amateur Championship. For the John Burroughs teacher the win was a measure of revenge, or more appropriately, redemption, in posting a five shot win over Catherine Dolan. A year ago Missouri State’s Dolan topped Port in both the Metropolitan and Women’s Missouri Amateur Championship.
Grouped with Dolan and young Brooke Cusamano at Forest Hills, both young enough to be her daughters, Port schooled them on winning early in the second round. Racing to a four under 32 on the opening nine and cruised to a two under 70 for the win. Dolan and Port will resume the contest in July in Kansas City, Port’s birthplace, for the State Amateur.
On the men’s side the Missouri State Amateur made its fourth visit to Norwood Hills Country Club for the 107th edition of this area’s oldest championship. Only a handful of St. Louis area players made it through the stroke play qualifier including three-time champion Skip Berkemeyer and four-time winner, Don Bliss, believed to be making his farewell visit to the championship.
The week, however, belonged to Ozark, Missouri’s Joey Johnson who became only the seventh player ever to go back-to-back with titles. Johnson took command from day one and his opening nine in the qualifier with four birdies in his first eight holes leading to a seven under 64 and a to day medal best of seven under 135. In match play Johnson was so dominant he only reached the eighteenth hole one time before the 36 hole final, being taken to the limit by former Francis Howell golfer Michael Wooten of Weldon Springs.
In the final Johnson took on Springfield’s Joe Atkisson, a senior player from UMSL. If the Missouri State junior was impressive at the start of medal play, his final match in the State Amateur was even more so. Johnson began birdie, eagle, par, birdie – four under through four. He added three more birdies on the nine to be six up on the turn. After four holes in the afternoon eighteen he stretched his lead to eight up and coasted to a 6-4 win.
Johnson will be trying to become the first after three straight winner of the event in 2015 in Springfield.
On the national scene we saw the return of Tiger Woods, briefly, to the PGA Tour. Coming back after a three and a half month hiatus from back surgery, Woods toured Congressional CC Thursday and Friday before retiring for the weekend, missing the cut by four. More on Woods next week.
Even though the record will show that it was England’s Justin Rose was the winner at Congressional at the Quicken Loan’s National, don’t be misled. While Rose hoisted the trophy and collected the big check, the celebration Sunday night in the nation’s capital came from the members.
With a variety of explanations, Congressional had been diminished as a championship track three year earlier when Rory McIlroy dismantled the course over four days of the US Open. His opening 65-66 was one shy of Martin Kaymer’s twin 65’s this year at Pinehurst, but his eleven total is the all time 36 hole mark. On the weekend McIlroy added two more rounds in the 60’s (68-69) for a record setting sixteen under, a record no course wants in their history.
The following year Friday night storms created so much damage at the course the third round was played without spectators. (A scene only matched by the Boone Valley Classic for its final round in 2000)
This year Congressional restored its honor. Tough for four days, on the final nine on Sunday, it became a question of who would bleed out the least to collect the win. The winning four under total is the highest this year on Tour. Unlike the 2011 US Open, when McIlroy was in the 60’s all four days, Rose was there only once and on Sunday only three players in the field were able to crack 70.
On the Champions Tour Bernhard Langer made it another major win at the Players Championship and 21 wins in his over 50 career.
And finally the ladies flush with the glow of an attention-getting week at Pinehurst and the US Women’s open, offered a compelling encore in Arkansas.
For two days Michelle Wie made it four straight top of the leaderboard performances with a pair of 66’s at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. On Sunday, an elite cadre of players joined her for one of the great final day chases in recent memory.
As Wie wilted, former major winners, Suzanne Peterson, Christie Kerr, So Yeon Ryu, teenage sensation Lydia Ko and five-time LPGA winner Angela Stanford made a run near the top. But playing in state where she enjoyed great collegiate success, it was Stacy Lewis who prevailed.
Lewis, who nearly ran down Wie a week earlier at Pinehurst, is developing a profile as the best closer in the game. In 2013 she won the Women’s British Open with birdies on 17 and 18 at St. Andrews. This past Sunday it was birdies on three of her last four holes for a one shot win over Ko.
Not a bad week for golf stories.