If you can't get up for watching Seung-Yul Noh battle Andrew Svoboda, then something is wrong with ... Zzzzzzzz ... wait, where was I? ... Oh, yeah, and then throw in Jeff Overton and Robert Streb and ... Zzzzzzzzz ... oh, sorry, not sure what's wrong with me. ... I'm just trying to tell you about the action-packed Zzzzzzzzzurich Classic New Orleans! On CBS!
The PGA Tour rolled into N'awlins this week, and it was not to be confused with Bourbon Street at 3 in the morning.
Noh came away with his first Tour victory, by two strokes over the law firm of Svoboda and Streb, and, in the first serious thing I've written so far, he perhaps brought temporary joy to his native South Korea, mourning over all those high school students lost in this month's devastating ferry accident.
K.J. Choi, the patriarch of South Korean golfers in the States, tried to apply that salve last week, but he couldn't hang on to the lead in the RBC Heritage. Noh, a month shy of turning 23, delivered on the promise he showed in a tantalizing 2012 rookie season but couldn't duplicate in a two-steps-backward 2013.
Noh closed with a 1-under 71 in windy conditions, after seizing control Saturday from early front-runner Ben Martin with his second 65 of the week. He never had more than a two-stroke lead on the back nine on Sunday, but he never fully lost it. And thanks to Noh's playing partner in the final group, Keegan Bradley, falling by the wayside early on with a liquidy triple on No. 6, Jim Nantz and friends lost the one big-name player who was contending.
The TPC Louisiana, for better or worse, is becoming a proving ground for the little-knowns. Noh was the seventh first-time winner in the past 10 years there. Last year, Billy Horschel broke through.
In becoming the fifth golfer from his country to win on Tour, joining Choi, Y.E. Yang, Kevin Na and Sang-Moon Bae, Noh gained entry into next month's Players Championship, not to mention next year's Masters. Curiously, he's also the first golfer from outside the United States and Australia to win this year – that's right, no Euros have won. And so many of them now play full-time here that the European Tour is becoming an afterthought. (What, you didn't tune in for Alexander Levy of France winning the Volvo China Open this week? Over Tommy Fleetwood of England? Yes, that Tommy Fleetwood.)
Noh talked of the pressure of playing alongside "a major champion" on Sunday. But the pressure may have equally been on Bradley, who not only is a major winner, in the 2011 PGA Championship, but also a WGC titlist, capturing the 2012 Bridgestone Invitational. Tellingly, that victory is his most recent. Bradley had seven top-10s last season, including two seconds and a third, but it's been some time since he has displayed the cojones he needed to fend off Jason Dufner in that PGA playoff.
The Englishman's T11 showing was his best on Tour in almost three years, since his last top-10 in the 2011 Frys Open. Casey, who's played in fewer than 30 PGA tournaments since then, battling injuries and personal issues, burst into contention with a third-round 64. He has no status on Tour – other than the Past Champions designation. Still, he's worth a pickup, if he's even available.
Martin broke out of the gate with a course-record 62 and still maintained the halfway lead before fading to a tie for 15th. He's surely disappointed with that, but after last week's RBC Heritage gave him his second top-3 of the season, the rookie looks like a keeper.
T15 was the best finish of the season for the 47-year-old – outside of the opposite-field Puerto Rico Open. It moved Toms to 117th in the point standings, after missing the FedEx Cup playoffs last season. At No. 117, there's still a place for Toms in deeper leagues.
The Aussie by way of the University of Minnesota continues to make strides in his rookie season after disastrously missing his first cuts on Tour. La'Cassie's steady 70-69-69-71 was good for T21, his first top-25 finish. Equally important, he's made four straight cuts since his MC streak. He's only 169th in the standings, not quite high enough to put on your radar just yet. But maybe soon.
Duval continues to say he believes he can recapture his game, though this will be the last year he chases sponsor exemptions. He made a small step – or a major stride, depending upon your viewpoint – this week. Duval (T25) not only made a cut, he turned in his first top-25 in more than three years. If not for a disappointing Sunday 73, the week would've been so much better. Stay tuned.
MacKenzie still sits 15th in the point standings. But with a second straight missed cut, perhaps he's starting to lose his luster after the finest stretch of golf in his career featured a string of top-10s, culminating in a second-place finish at last month's Valero Texas Open. MacKenzie is in the field for the upcoming Wells Fargo Championship.
Perhaps the latest example of how hard it is to maintain success after an initial Tour breakthrough, Horschel defended his maiden title with a missed cut. Sitting a disappointing 68th in the FedEx Cup chase, Horschel has only one top-10 this season, and that came in the 30-man Tournament of Champions right after the New Year.
Since winning the WGC-Cadillac Championship last month, Reed finished 52nd at Bay Hill, missed the cut at the Masters, cashed 48th last week at Harbour Town and missed the cut in New Orleans, likely dropping him out of the top five players in the world.