Five takeaways from the Payne’s Valley Cup
September 23, 2020
By Ben Everill , PGATOUR.COM
- September 23, 2020
Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas squeak out a victory at Payne’s Valley Cup
Bonus golf is always fun. Bonus golf with four former FedExCup champions including Tiger Woods at a course he designed with great charitable causes benefiting – now that’s awesome.
In case you missed the fun at Payne’s Valley Cup – where Woods and Justin Thomas teamed up against Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose to open the first Woods designed public course – here are five takeaways to catch you up.
1. The Tiger Woods / Justin Thomas team won*. The event featured three separate formats with the first team to collect 2.5 points declared the winner. One point was available in team better ball, one point in alternate shot and two points in singles.
In the end it was a 2-2 tie but a clutch Thomas shot on the final hole proved the difference in a tiebreaker scenario.
The first six holes featured a team better ball format with the addition of the second ball counting if the low score was tied. Woods forgot that part of the format early when he snapped his opening drive over a cliff but didn’t continue on the hole. It meant a par, bogey combo for the European’s was enough to grab an early lead. The U.S. won the second but lost the third and fourth holes which helped the Euro’s to a 2&1 win and the first point of the competition. The U.S. did manage to win the Closest to the Pin (Thomas) and Long Drive (Woods) challenges inside those six holes.
Holes 7-12 were alternate shot. After the two teams were tied coming to the drivable 12th hole it was a lovely Woods pitch shot that secured a birdie and left McIlroy with a long putt to try to halve the match. It slipped by meaning a U.S. win and a 1-1 total. Rose picked up the straightest drive challenge while Thomas/Woods secured a drive the green challenge.
Holes 13-19, yes 19, were singles and featured matches between Thomas and McIlroy and Woods and Rose. The 19th was revealed as a par-3 called “The Rock” where $1million for charity was at stake for a hole in one and $500,000 for closet to the pin.
In the Woods/Rose contest Woods went 1 up on Rose with a nice birdie out of the gate but missed a golden opportunity to double the advantage a hole later from just six-feet.
After matching each other on 15 Rose stepped up and nearly made an ace to tie things up on the 16th. He then took the lead when he was able to get up and down from the sand on the 18th, a feat Woods couldn’t match, to take a 1 up lead to The Rock.
In the Thomas/McIlroy match Thomas fell behind immediately with a bogey but then took advantage of a tough McIlroy lip out a hole later to tie things up. Then things really went against the Northern Irishman.
He could only laugh when a chance to win the 15th also did a near 360 degree lip out and he dropped his club and threw his hands on his head in disbelief when a chip to win the 16th stopped hanging over the edge of the hole.
To add insult to injury Thomas then drained a long birdie bomb on the 17th and McIlroy’s effort to match burned the edge leaving Thomas 1 up with two to play. McIlroy was able to make a tester on the 18th to push things to The Rock.
The final hole started with Aaron Stewart, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player afforded a shot for the million. Stewart was just a little wide right whereas the two legends both found the surface, Player a tad closer.
Thomas then threw a dart in to eight-feet, seven-inches forcing McIlroy to take dead aim. He ended 13-feet, eight-inches under the hole. Given that in the event of a tie the match would be decided on who hit it closest to the pin it was a clutch shot from Thomas.
Rose opened the door for Woods when he left it about 20-feet from the hole but the 82-time TOUR winner spun his attempt back to almost the same distance. With a chance to win it Rose slid his putt past giving Woods the stage to win it all. But his putt pulled left and wouldn’t drop.
That left McIlroy with a must make putt to have any chance given Thomas held the tiebreaker but luck certainly wasn’t on his side and it slid past to hand the result to the Woods / Thomas combo despite a 2-2 overall score line.
“I’m just so proud of everyone who came together to make this possible,” Woods said. “It’s awfully special for me.”
2. Woods certainly has a knack for course design.
Payne’s Valley Golf Course
The Payne’s Valley Golf Course is Woods’ first public course and it looks like some serious fun. Named as a tribute to the late Payne Stewart, the course is part of the magnificent Big Cedar Lodge property in Ridgedale, Missouri, which of course is not that far from where Stewart grew up in Springfield.
The course is a par 72 of 7,370 yards with immaculate Meyer Zoysia fairways and Bentgrass greens. Elevation changes, large greens, beautiful mountain views and contours and wildlife sightings make this what appears to be a super fun course.
The par does not include the 19th hole that was revealed in the match. The Big Rock is a fun island par-3 cut into the mountain that can presumably be used to settle any ties.
“It’s great, it is very player friendly which makes it fun. It’s beautiful. It looks like a great place to have a golf trip with friends that’s for sure. Everything is here.” Thomas said.
“The site itself was gorgeous. We had to do a little bit of earthwork, move a few things here and there, but overall this site is part of nature,” Woods said.
The addition to the Big Cedar Lodge complex is a good one and adds to the value of the destination for those looking for a getaway that features golf, but also much more.
“This is a happy day, a very special day in my life,” owner Johnny Morris said. “I grew up here in the Ozarks, I feel so blessed to have grown up here in these hills, in these mountains, fishing the rivers, and loving this land.
“To have someone like Tiger to come and join us and work on this project… I can’t tell you the countless enjoyable hours I’ve had walking around this land with him and to have him here to showcase this and share it with the whole world is great. It makes us extra happy that this is a public course and people can come here from all over and enjoy what Tiger has created.”
3. Players hooked up with microphones really adds value. The telecast featured all four players mic’d up and it provided some great insight. Hearing both the banter between the players and also some great stories was a lot of fun. Of course the stakes here weren’t what they all face on a regular basis. But it did show how the technology could be used. We heard some great lines and learned some things we might not have otherwise. Here are a few snippets:
• Thomas let us know about a huge raccoon head on the wall of his cabin… “It’s staring down and I’m thinking, I am not sleeping in this room,” he laughed. “I’d wake up in the middle of the night and be terrified.” Rose, who was put in the Tiger Woods themed cabin quipped, “Mine is worse, I had pictures of Tiger over my bed.” Thomas had to concede, “That would give me worse nightmares for sure,” he laughed.
• There was some interesting serious chat also. Woods quizzed Rose about playing a longer driver as he thinks about trying to gain more distance and McIlroy and Thomas talked putting lines and a few trade secrets.
• We were given the treat of hearing from legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player about course design. Both also have courses at Big Cedar Lodge and Player used the platform to urge designers to be more environmentally conscious. Thomas also expressed an interest to design later in life.
• We heard about new fatherhood from McIlroy. “It’s probably even better than I imagined. I knew it was going to be a life changer and pretty cool but it's just so nice to get home and leave all this here… I think it's been good for me as well, I spent all my life focusing on myself and then to go home and just have this little girl that relies on you for almost everything… it's a pretty cool feeling. It's a lot of responsibility but we're having a lot of fun and thankfully Poppy is healthy, Erica is healthy… it’s all good.”
• McIlroy is a fan of Domino’s pizza. “We are on this big Domino’s kick at the moment. If you don’t know what the really good local pizza place is, Domino’s is solid,” he said to Thomas.
• Woods is not used to playing in shorts. At one point he instinctively wiped his putter blade on his pant less leg and could only laugh at himself.
• Thomas is not afraid to have fun at Woods’ expense, lightheartedly of course. During alternate shot he was returning the ball to the mark on the green only to say, “I went to go move this over like normal and I forgot dumb dumb has got his name on the ball. I can’t look at that while I’m trying to putt.”
• Woods thinks Rose is the best bunker player of the four.
• Gary Player thinks Tiger and Bobby Locke are the two best putters in history, primarily because they let the toe of the putter move.
4. Tiger had some rust but seemed to be moving well.
Tiger Woods wins long drive contest at Payne's Valley Cup
These days whenever Woods has a hit we all want to make sure his back holds up. With the 82-time PGA TOUR winner playing a limited schedule these days any glimpse of him feels special. Coming off a missed cut at the U.S. Open Woods is hoping to get some form back. He potentially has title defenses at the ZOZO Championship and Masters in the coming months.
Things looked a little worrisome when his first shot was a huge hook into trouble but outside of that he was solid but not spectacular in team play. A few chances on the greens for holes slipped by in the early formats which in his heyday would’ve all dropped. He did pick up the long drive title with a 348-yard bomb.
In singles he showed a little more fire. Woods started with a clutch birdie to get the early advantage over Rose but then was unable to secure the other chances presented his way. Just like in the earlier team play when Woods had a putt of consequence he’d make in his sleep in the glory years, it would slide by. The good news is he has plenty of time to get some practice in now.
5. It is great to see Payne Stewart’s legacy live on. We heard some fun stories about the legendary Stewart who sadly lost his life in a plane crash almost 21 years ago. After Aaron Stewart hit the first ceremonial tee shot the anecdotes came thick and fast.
Paul Azinger spoke of how Stewart met Woods before his first pro start and tried to cheekily convince him to stay in school, knowing the young Woods was going to change the game.
David Feherty recounted a story about a planted groundhog in his hotel room and some glued shoes, reminiscing fondly for Stewart’s prankster style of humor.
Rose recounted being a spectator as a child at the Open Championship. “I was with group of kids hoping to get a golf ball from one of the pros. Payne pointed to me, threw me a ball… from that moment on I was always rooting for Payne.”
And then Johnny Morris, the owner and creator of Big Cedar Lodge, spoke of his pride to add to the legacy.
“It is actually a pretty emotional day today to have his wife Tracey here and her son Aaron who looks just like his dad,” Morris said. “Payne grew up Springfield about half an hour north of here and his father Bill was, as far as I know, his only coach in golf, so to just see that father son experience and see Payne from our hometown go on and compete and win the U.S. Open was incredible.
“And not just what he achieved as an athlete but also what he achieved as an inspirational human being… just a wonderful person, great dad and husband. When we had the opportunity to name this golf course Payne’s Valley in his honor with him being from right here in the Ozarks… it was really special.”
Aaron Stewart added, “It is a huge honor just for us to be involved. What Johnny and Tiger have done to this place is just amazing. I think everyone should come out and see it.”