Date: June 24, 2014
Author: Mike Clayton /

Golf gives with one hand and takes with the other

r before has anyone birdied the final seven holes to win a tournament on the American Tour but this morning Kevin Streelman did it in Hartford.

The Americans will proclaim it a record but it will be to disregard the extraordinary finish to the 1992 Scottish Open at Gleneagles.

Peter O’Malley was on the back of the short par four, 14th green in one when the late Dave Marr, commentating for the BBC, noted the Australian had a history of poor finishes. It was true. He did.

Nonetheless O’Malley ran in the long putt for an eagle, birdied the next three holes and them made a putt all the way across the 72nd green for another eagle to beat Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie. Whether the Australian sent the Scottish spectators away unhappy with the result is unknown.

Aaron Baddeley, as good a putter as O’Malley was poor, finished up in 4th place behind Streelman this week. He drove right and into the rough at the final hole and finishing with a bogey when a birdie would have necessitated a playoff.

Baddeley is now working on his problematic full swing with New Zealander Grant Waite. Waite was a great swinger who won once on the US Tour and lost out to the crazy fairway bunker shot Tiger Woods hit at the end of a Canadian Open years ago. It was a shot all the way across water from a couple of hundred yards that only Woods could have pulled off but Waite was hardly the only bloke who lost out to a piece Woods’ magic.

Baddeley, as he has been for the entirety of his career in America, is somewhere inside the bottom dozen players in both the fairways hit and greens hit statistical categories on the tour. O’Malley in contrast was always in the top dozen on the European Tour.

What golf gives with one hand it takes with the other and Baddeley picks up more strokes relative to the rest of the field with his putter. Despite his Scottish finish, one that did little to calm the critics, O’Malley was the clumsiest of putters who won a lot of money simply because he was relentless accurate with his long clubs.

Those who saw Baddeley play as a kid would never have predicted he would turn into the most erratic player in America yet a decade on it is what the statistics say he is. He survives because he plays the game extraordinarily well and he scores. If he can ever learn to hit more fairways and greens he may finally approach the career everyone thought a certainty when in 1999 he walked off the final green at Royal Sydney as the winner of the Australian Open.

In Pinehurst Michelle Wie finally won something huge when she survived a wild finish in the U.S Women’s Open.

Her eagle at the 10th seemingly put the result beyond doubt but Stacy Lewis finished up with two birdies and Wie playing half an hour behind drove into a fairway bunker at the difficult 16th. Three ahead she went for something she didn’t need to and the shot from the bunker with one of those clubs that is neither wood nor iron finished close to the green but in such a bad spot it took three agonizing minutes to find the ball. Unplayable, she went back to the requisite spot, dropped, pitched on and finished up making a five footer for a six.

One ahead now she came through with a perfect eight iron at the par three 17th and then a twenty footer for a birdie.

The can’t miss kid who almost made the cut in a men’s tour event as a thirteen year old played the final hole like Nicklaus or Hogan and in the end she had three putts to win from five paces. Two was all she needed and finally the most marketable woman golfer in the world had fulfilled her destiny.

Minjee Lee who began the final day not without hope of winning finished up with 76 and a tie for 22nd. It was more than a good week and she all but matched her finish in the first major of the year in Palm Springs.

The careers of Wie and Baddeley show how dangerous it is to predict superstardom for teenage prodigies but Lee and her Victorian rival and friend Su Oh have both shown enough to suggest we can expect much.  They will though have to contend with Wie who looks now as though she could dominate the women’s game for as long as she chooses.