By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
When Bill Haas won the FedExCup and TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola Sunday at East Lake, it was only appropriate given the 2011 season that he did it with a belly putter in the bag.
But it was a wedge, not the putter, that was the story of the day.
Haas’ amazing water shot (watch it again here) was a priceless endorsement for Titleist Vokey wedges. With his 60-degree Vokey Design Spin Milled 60-E wedge (the “E” refers to the type of grind; this one was bent to 59 degrees per his preference, with seven degrees of bounce), Haas pulled off a shot that instantly became part of PGA TOUR lore.
“The full sole of the Vokey 60-E helped Bill pull off the shot," Vokey said on the Titleist Tour blog. "He was able to open up the face and still have enough bounce to play it like a bunker shot. The grooves of the wedge along with a descending blow allowed him to spin the ball, even out of the shallow water.
"It was an amazing shot, one of the best I've seen in all my years of watching TOUR players."
RENEWED: Dustin Johnson is in the market for a new caddie, but won’t be hunting for a new equipment or clothing deal anytime soon. Johnson, most recently a winner at The Barclays, signed a contract extension through the 2015 season with TaylorMade-adidas.
"Dustin tops the charts in terms of talent, potential and charisma," said Bob Maggiore, TaylorMade-adidas vice president of global brand marketing. "He has the ability and determination to win anytime, anywhere, and the way he’s handled both victory and adversity during his first few years on tour has won him a huge fan following, and rightly so. He’s the real deal.”
SWOOSH: If there was an equipment scoreboard in the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup, Titleist would be the big winner with Haas and Webb Simpson (the Deutsche Bank Championship winner and pre-TOUR Championship No. 1 in points), while TaylorMade (Johnson, BMW champion Justin Rose) would come in second.
Nike Golf wouldn’t have been on the board.
None of its staff players qualified for the 30-man TOUR Championship. Charl Schwartzel, Lucas Glover and Jhonattan Vegas played at the BMW but failed to advance to the Playoffs finale.
Nike’s stable of players figure to have an enhanced presence in the Fall Series, however. Justin Leonard is fighting for a spot inside the all-important top 125, and of course Tiger Woods is teeing it up at the Frys.com Open.
RORY’S GIFT: Rory McIlroy’s relationship with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki is clearly healthy and happy – because what says true love like a hand-stamped wedge?
Wozniacki tweeted a picture earlier this week of a custom Titleist wedge McIlroy had made, featuring “WOZZILROY” stamped along the side of the clubhead.
No word on whether McIlroy has a similar wedge stamped “MCNIACKI.”
Ever play in a charity scramble where you get a free throw of your golf ball? Well, that wasn’t exactly on the rules sheet for Monday’s Telus Skins Game in Alberta, Canada, but avid cricket player Paul Casey saw a 132-yard par-3 and could only think of one thing.
“I played a lot of cricket growing up and I am good at throwing balls … it just looked like the perfect yardage and I thought ‘why not,’” Casey told The Canadian Press.
Playing in a group with Jhonattan Vegas, Lucas Glover, Anthony Kim and Canadian Stephen Ames, Casey figured he’d make things interesting with the throw – which sailed over a pond and landed on the green, some 30 feet from the hole. He then hit a wedge which landed closer to the pin, but spun into the rough.
“I was a little disappointed I didn't get the wedge shot closer than my throw,” he said.
He had hoped to get his partners to bet him on whether he could throw the ball on the green – and his partners wisely declined. In the official action, Jhonattan Vegas was the big winner with $55,000 won on the first nine holes of competition.
The event raised $28,000 for charity on the first of two days of play, which concludes Tuesday.
Chris Kirk is one of four rookies now inside the top 30 in the FedExCup standings thanks to his victory at last week’s Viking Classic. The others are Charl Schwartzel, Keegan Bradley and Jhonattan Vegas.
While Kirk became the 10 th winner in his 20s to win on the PGA TOUR last week, though, the RBC Canadian Open has favored the establishment in recent years -- only three winners since 2000 have been under the age of 30 (Tiger Woods in 2000, John Rollins in 2002 and Chez Reavie in 2008).
Speaking of Reavie, who got his first career win at this event, he seems to have re-captured his form after undergoing ACL surgery on his right knee in June 2010. He missed the remainder of last year and has played on a combination of medical extension and past champion status this year. But his recent finishes include a tie for fifth at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and a tie for fifth at the John Deere Classic, where he posted a career-best 62 in the second round. He’s currently 91 st in the FedExCup standings, so another strong finish this week would go a long way.
Chris Kirk's Viking Classic win makes him the fifth rookie to win on the PGA TOUR this year, joining the group of Jhonnatan Vegas, Charl Schwartzel, Brendan Steele and Keegan Bradley.
Kirk's final-round 66 at Annandale included two late birdies on No. 15 and 17 that helped him move a shot past Tom Pernice Jr. and George McNeill, who finished at 21 under.
Kirk earned his TOUR card by finishing second on the Nationwide Tour money list last year. He had the lead entering Round 4, but did not pull away from the field until the final hole. Pernice and McNeill shot 67 and 68 respectively, and held the lead or a share of the lead for a majority of the back nine.
Kirk approached Annandale's finishing par-5 with a one shot lead and played it in winner's fashion -- fairway, layup, green and two putts.
It was a stellar performance that many could see coming from the former University of Georgia standout. Kirk finished second to Phil Mickelson at the Shell Houston Open in April. He also fired a third-round 63 at the AT&T National two weeks ago that eventually led to a tie for eighth.
Kirk earned 250 FedExCup points with the win, and is now No. 25 in the FedExCup Standings.
Jhonattan Vegas put himself in good position for the weekend with rounds of 68-64 at TPC Deere Run. On moving day, however, it’s a different story.
Vegas made double bogey on the par-4 eighth hole, having to take a penalty stroke for a drop after a wayward drive. That left him 2 over for the round, which in the John Deere Classic is no-man’s land. He started the day in the top 5 but has plunged to a tie for 38th.
Also at T38 is Kris Blanks, who opened the week with a 63 but has played even par since.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
At one point in the opening round, Jhonattan Vegas made six straight birdies. Then he closed in 2 over.
Still, his eight birdies in the opening round told Vegas all he needed to know: He could go low at TPC Deere Run. And that’s exactly what he did Friday with a bogey-free 64 to put himself in contention going into the weekend.
“A little [lack of] concentration [Thursday], and that's kind of what I've been struggling the past few weeks,” said Vegas, who at one point this season missed six of seven cuts. “I think just mentally, just a little tired from playing so much this year. It's my first year trying to figure out some of these courses, trying to figure out so many things that you put so much pressure on yourself.
“You just get mentally tired and that's kind of what I've been struggling with, but I think I'm finally getting back feeling more comfortable about things, and my game is coming back.”
It was certainly back Friday with Vegas hitting 71 percent of his fairways and 83 percent of his greens in regulation.
Three of Vegas’ birdies in the second round also came over his final nine holes -- in the opening round, he closed with two birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey.
Given Friday’s turnaround, he had plenty to smile about afterward.
“I'm loving it, man,” Vegas said. “I'm loving every moment, the good and the bad ones. It's a learning process. I feel like I ‑‑ I told myself I can win here, and I just have to keep learning and start to win a little more.”