Advertisement

After that looong golf offseason, opening week didn't disappoint

From ESPN - October 9, 2017

Ninety hours.

Give or take a few ticks of the minute hand, that's how long the PGA Tour offseason lasted, from the final putt of the Presidents Cup to the opening tee shot of the Safeway Open, which kicked off the 2017-18 campaign this past week.

Hope you enjoyed the downtime.

This edition of the Weekly 18 begins with a bit of dj vu.

1. The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and Safeway Open were not played during the same week last year, but you could be excused for feeling as if you had already lived through what happened this past weekend. First, Tyrrell Hatton successfully defended his title at St. Andrews, then Brendan Steele did the same thing in Napa. It's obviously not unheard of for players to win the same event in back-to-back years - Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama and Jhonattan Vegas were among those who accomplished that feat on the PGA Tour this past season. But two in a single week?

2.Two years ago, I spoke with Steele after he parlayed a 54-hole lead at the Safeway Open into a share of 17th place due to a final-round 76. With his mood somewhere between despondent and discouraged, let's just say he was not exactly excited about the prospect of playing more tournaments directly after that. It took a year, but he rebounded. It should enhance the old suggestion that there's no such thing as a negative close call; even the most painful ones become positive experiences at some point.

3. Because of that season-opening win last year, Steele automatically jumped atop the first FedEx Cup points list. He never relinquished a spot in the top-30 -- until the final day of the BMW Championship, where he failed to reach the Tour Championship by falling outside that number. After his latest win, Steele said he's learned from last season. Expect that to serve as another positive close call -- and expect him to be at East Lake next September.

4. Speaking of the Tour Championship, I wrote a lengthy feature on Tony Finau's journey during the tourney last month. One of the things that stuck with me was how comfortable he seemed in unfamiliar surroundings. Finau is on the verge of some very big things in his career -- and his runner-up finish at the Safeway this past week only helped to support that.

5. Phil Mickelson's winless streak now moves to 91 starts (his last victory was the 2013 Open Championship) after a week in which he seriously contended at the Safeway Open, but fell short once again. But it's not all bad news for the lefthander. Mickelson recorded his first top-three since last year's epic duel against Henrik Stenson at Royal Troon. Looking rejuvenated after posting a 3-0-1 record at the Presidents Cup, expect to see Mickelson's name on a decent amount of leaderboards between now and next year's Ryder Cup - one that will mean a lot to him, should he make the team at age 48.

6. Even in the heat of the moment, Mickelson can still have a sense of humor. Running at just under 28 percent for driving accuracy, he hit a drive into the short stuff on the 16th hole during Sunday's final round, then casually said to the gallery, "Let's take a moment to admire the fact that I just hit a fairway."

TFW you have hit 15 of 54 fairways on the week. #QuickHits pic.twitter.com/QU1VqEthvZ

PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 8, 2017

Advertisement

Continue reading at ESPN »