Bryant joins exclusive list at Memorial
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2005 the Memorial Tournament | Wrap | 06 Jun 2005
He may not necessarily fit the normal criteria for a winner of the Memorial tournament but right now that would likely be of little relevance to 42-year-old Bart Bryant who today won only his second USPGA Tour victory since first joining the tour full time back in 1991.
Not only had Bryant won just once before at last year’s Texas Open but he had recorded only five top tens in 204 USPGA Tour starts and no other top three placings in that time so to win over this golf course and against this field could rightfully be described as an upset. For everone other than Bryant that is.
He said after his win that he started the last round with “hopes and aspirations” of something like this but I think even he would have been delighted and surprised with the manner in which he handled the stretch run after he and Couples had broken clear of what was a very tight pack through nine holes of the final round. Something like eleven players were within three of the lead with nine holes to play but both Bryant and Couples slipped into another gear after making the turn and edged their way clear of the chasing pack.
Couples made the first move with birdies at the 11th, 12th, 14th and 15th to move to 16 under and one ahead of Bryant at that time. Couples was perhaps unlucky to not be rewarded for what may well have been his shot of the week at the par five 15th when from a downhill lie and from just over 200 yards, he hit his 4 iron to 6 feet above the hole. It was a difficult fast putt which he missed. As he stood on the 16th tee with a six iron in hand, Couples may well have felt by parring it he could get the job done but when his tee shot there found the bunker he was left with a very difficult bunker shot to save par and didn’t. As this was happening Bryant was playing the 17th and had hit his approach there to six feet and when he made that, there had been a two shot swing and it was he who now led by one.
On the 18th tee Bryant played smart from the tee choosing a five wood to offer more options in terms of the line he chose. In the air it looked perfect but it took a hard bounce to the left and rolled to the very edge of the lateral water hazard. Unable to play it without the possibility of perhaps doing something stupid while standing in the deep water, Bryant chose to take a drop and take his chances. He was still left with more than 170 yards but his approach was to fifteen feet and he then proceeded to hole that for an unlikely par leaving Couples to make birdie at the last to tie.
Couples took an iron from the tee at the 18th and was perfectly placed, some 177 yard from the hole. The choice for his second was between a six and seven iron but no doubt feeling he needed to knock it close if he was to be any chance, he took the longer club and turned it over rather than holding it up against the right to left breeze. The result was a difficult pitch from behind the green and from there just getting it on the green would be a task in itself. He did that but only just and the title was Bryant’s. Couples finished with a flourish by holing his putt from the front of the green for par just one back.
To put it mildly Bryant’s golfing world has changed forever. His win in Texas last October was impressive but that was at an event when most of the leading players were at the Ryder Cup. Here with one or two exceptions this field was as good as it gets and with the self belief that winning over this course and against this field will bring, then the sky’s the limit for him.
Given the quality of this field Bryant will move significantly from his current 80th position in the world ranking and will likely now find himself inside the top fifty. As I said it was a life changing week.
For Couples this was also a performance somewhat out of the blue. He has not played in the US since the Masters but did finish second in Korea a month ago. In the main, his form of late in the US has been nothing special but neither has it been bad. His love of this golf course is such that he finds a way to get up for this event. He will rue the bogey at the 17th and for not giving himself at least a chance at the last, but there was lot to like about the way he played.
Tiger Woods found a way to finish third and he now heads home to Orlando to ready himself for the US Open next week. His game will have benefited from this outing. Having finished third at Pinehurst in 1999 he will be looking to enhance his chances of the Grand Slam in a calendar year on a golf course which is going to require the sort of imagination only he and one or two others possess. A double bogey at the 8th hole, after a pulled tee shot at the par three, brought to a halt what appeared to be possibly winning momentum.
Bo Van Pelt further enhanced his growing reputation when holding on to finish in a share of third with Tiger and Jeff Sluman, who contended all week before stumbling late on the front nine today.
Nick O’Hern was the leading Australian of many who challenged this week. He has shown once again a capacity to manage the tough courses well, minimising mistakes as he goes. While it may be a bit much to expect him to contend late in the piece on Sunday at Pinehurst, especially for someone who has so seldom won, it would not surprise to see him with yet another good showing there.
Yet another Australian left hander, Richard Green, took the outright lead through ten holes today when he reached thirteen under and although he bogeyed the par five 11th, he was back at thirteen under with a birdie at the par three 12th. It was however the second of the par fives on the back nine which would cost him any chance. Perhaps deciding to be more aggressive from the tee after a more defensive approach had led to a bogey at the 11th, he blocked his tee shot left and found the water hazard. He chose to play it out which was perhaps the only option and left himself in the rough and from there he was forced to chip it out onto the fairway. With 220 yards still to go with what was now his 4th, he rolled back off the fringe at the front of the green and eventually made double bogey. He would go on to drop yet another shot at the 17th but while he will be disappointed with his efforts on the par fives late in his round, he can take a lot from this week.
Of the other Australians, Peter Lonard and Geoff Ogilvy let good chances disappear with poor last rounds to finish 17th, Stephen Leaney was 21st, Craig Parry 39th and Adam Scott, after being in contention, produced a shocking last round of 81 to share 52nd with Robert Allenby.
Mark Hensby was 57th, Stuart Appleby 61st, with Euan Walters and Rod Pampling 73rd.
This week after what will be for many, US Open qualifying on Monday or Tuesday, the USPGA Tour heads to the great Congressional Country Club in Maryland for the Booz Allen Classic where Adam Scott will try and lift himself off the floor to defend.