Even without stars playing, golf as a sport stepped up to fill a void last weekend – CBSSports.com
When reviewing last week’s PGA Tour field at the Quicken Loans National to make my picks for the week, I didn’t see much. To be frank, there wasn’t much to see. Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas and a whole lot of nothing. I normally hate weeks like that. Golf is great because its stars are fun and engaging, so a dearth of stars in any given week is a bit of a death knell for that event.
What I wasn’t accounting for at the time, though, was how good golf was going to be outside the PGA Tour.
Here are CBS Sports — and at most places — the PGA Tour is professional golf. They are one and the same. That sounds crass, but the PGA Tour is what we cover because, most weeks, it features the best pros and top quality golf the sport has to offer. It is the best league and has the most enthralling players. To make the case otherwise is a sign that you’re either a sports hipster or uninformed. Sometimes it’s hard to step outside of that and remember: Yeah, there’s some pretty fantastic golf played all over the globe.
On a week where the PGA Tour lacked punch (in names only, because the tournament itself was pretty terrific), other leagues more than made up for it. In fact, the storylines elsewhere are often more intriguing because they’re not shoved down our throats on a weekly basis. Four tournaments unfolded over the course of 12 hours on Sunday, and I watched a little (and in some cases a lot) of all four.
On the other side of the pond, you had a pair of former amateur stars in American Peter Uihlein and Englishman Tommy Fleetwood locking horns in Paris. Fleetwood out-dueled Uihlein and notched his second European Tour win of the season. The first was by a stroke over Dustin Johnson in Abu Dhabi. Fleetwood is a horse, and even if he doesn’t mean to be. The French Open also offered us a little preview of the course in Paris (with a very French-sounding name: Le Golf National) where the Ryder Cup will be played on in 2018. It was a nice little morning appetizer to the three big events in the U.S.
Kenny Perry took the U.S. Senior Open next at Salem Country Club (owners of one of the great logos in golf). His win was probably the least exciting of the four as it was sewn up for most of the day, but his shootout with Kirk Triplett all weekend was tremendous. Those two went deep into the weekend, and nobody could get within even four strokes of second place. Perry eventually emerged with his fourth senior major, but the whole tournament was feeling itself over the final 36. I was hooked on PGA Tour Champions golf! What a world.
The event was also a reminder that shanks are not prejudice to any one tour.
The second major of the day wrapped up next as Danielle Kang beat Brooke Henderson by one for her first LPGA win at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at stunning Olympia Fields. You probably don’t know Kang unless you’re down the rabbit hole of women’s golf, but she’s a former amateur superstar who played her college golf at Pepperdine. She hobnobs with Dustin Johnson and other famous athletes and celebrities in California and makes up 55-step handshakes with Michelle Wie.
“Wayne Gretzky texted me, as well, Caitlyn Jenner, all the players out here, a lot of support, Janet Gretzky, Marcus Allen,” Kang said after her win. “It just keeps going. I’m not sure. I didn’t know I knew this many people. Brody Jenner. He said he’s so f’ing proud of me.”
You don’t get that every week on the PGA Tour.
Finally, Kyle Stanley emerged from a mini-wilderness for his first win since 2012 at Avenel Farm. It was probably the least dramatic final hole of the four even though it came in a playoff over Charles Howell III. Still, his backstory is spectacular. From amateur wunderkind to PGA Tour winner to Web.com Tour and back again.
“I wish I didn’t cry so much, to be honest,” Stanley said of his emotion after winning. “Like I said earlier, I just had a lot of people kind of help me the last few years. It’s been a huge team effort. It just feels good to put the work in and to see the rewards. I think that’s where most of the emotion’s coming from.”
Four tours, four tournaments, four great stories — and exactly zero household names involved. The point here is not that I’m going to start covering every tour on every continent every week (talk about death knells!) but that sometimes it’s good to get outside the little self-imposed PGA Tour bubble we’ve built to remember how golf creates great narratives even if we don’t always know the players.
As good as Jordan Spieth‘s hole-out win was at the Travelers Championship — and it was as good as the PGA Tour gets in a non-major week — this week’s action was just as thrilling to follow. Everyone has long been searching for what will fill the Tiger Woods void when he’s officially retired. Maybe the answer not one golfer or one tour but rather the sport itself.