Entering the final round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational, a whopping 49 golfers were within five strokes of the lead. Rarely have so many thought they had a chance when they really didn't, such as at the start of the baseball season or when department stores have those mad-dash Running of the Brides sales for wedding dresses.
Hideki Matsuyama, David Toms, Chad Campbell and Chris Stroud were the overnight leaders at 7-under, but they quickly faded on Sunday. A resurgent Kevin Chappell tied for the top spot, briefly.
In the end, the cream rose, as the newly anointed No. 1 player in the world, Adam Scott, cemented his standing with a playoff win over Jason Dufner. Both of them started the day in a seven-way tie for 11th place in the logjam at Hogan's Alley, just two strokes off the lead. They shot twin 4-under 66s, equaling the best round of the day, to get to extra holes.
Scott, who at the last minute chose to enter the tournament so he could play while ranked No. 1, won on the third playoff hole, the par-4, 441-yrd 18th, sinking a 7-footer for birdie after Dufner missed from long range.
With world No. 2 Henrik Stenson finishing in a five-way tie for seventh at the European Tour's BMW PGA Championship in England, Scott needed a top 13 to maintain the top ranking.
Nicholas Thompson and Freddie Jacobson tied for third, one stroke from the playoff. For Thompson, a non-winner on the PGA Tour, it was his best showing since the 2008 Ginn sur Mer Classic. (What you don't recall this Florida stop? It was played only twice, in October 2007-08.)
As for all the "contenders" who were five shots back at the start of the day? There were 13 tied for 37th. Only one climbed so far as the top 20, and that was Michael Thompson, who shot 66 to end in four-way tie for 10th.
But he was not even a bridesmaid. That, after all, was Dufner.
Dufner sits 37th in the point standings after his runner-up showing, a far cry from the No. 79 position he was in previously. In other words, it hasn't been a great season for The Duf, and you can tell by the expression on his face (just kidding, you can't tell anything by the expression on his face). Then again, Dufner traditionally plays better in the second half of the season, so hold onto him.
Senden recorded his fourth top 10 of the season, as a T5 at Colonial extended his bounce-back season. With an All-Around ranking of eighth, combined with 15th in both Greens in Regulation and Strokes Gained-Putting, the Aussie is a prime candidate to do well at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 next month. Plus, he's fourth in sand saves.
Toms entered Sunday in a four-way tie atop the leaderboard and, while he didn't win, he did finish higher than the other three and his T5 showing was his best since he was runner-up at the 2012 McGladry Classic (technically, Toms did finish T4 earlier this season, but that was in the substandard field of the Puerto Rico Open). It's unlikely this could lead to anything other than perhaps one or two more top 10s the rest of the season, but it's nice to see Toms, now 47, still turn it on once in a while.
Chappell wasn't having a horrible season at the time he missed his last cut at the Heritage in late April; he just wasn't doing anything great. He had made 9-of-13 cuts with two top 25s, and he was 89th in the point standings. His owners probably were expecting more, and at least one of them (who might've been me), released him. Since then, Chappell has made four straight cuts, with his two best finishes of the season, T11 at Wells Fargo and his first top 10 this week at Colonial. He even shared the lead for a bit on Sunday. This is what at least one of his former owners (who might've been me) was expecting. Sigh.
Bo Van Pelt
One of the more perplexing fades on the PGA Tour is now well into its second season. Van Pelt sits 115th in the point standings, dangerously close to being outside of the top 125. And that comes after his top event in 16 starts this season, a T14 at Colonial. While he's made four of his past six cuts, a sharp improvement for him, this week was not enough to foster hope that Van Pelt will turn things around.
Turning 40 in a few days, Campbell doesn't get to play in a lot of tournaments anymore, much less lead them after 54 holes. But he was in the four-way share entering Sunday, eyeing his top finish since a T3 almost 24 months ago in the FedEx St. Jude Classic. But as can be expected of such a player, a closing 74 left him tied for 30th. And if there were any faint ideas about picking up Campbell (because who would have him on his team already?), they dissipated over the final 18 holes.
It's now roughly midway through the season, and Mahan sits 66th in the point standings. That's a concern for his owners. They clearly haven't gotten what they presumably paid handsomely for. While Mahan has made 11-of-13 cuts with four top 10s, the last of those four came almost two months ago. At Colonial, he opened with sterling 66 but by Sunday fizzled to a 75 and a tie for 60th. Sure, Mahan could turn it around. But not many would blame you for trying to trade him at this point.
Here's a sentence you don't see very often: Matt Kuchar missed a cut. For only the second time this season, and the second time since the 2012 PGA Championship, Kuchar trunk-slammed. He shot 72-70 to miss the weekend by a stroke. But it surely is just small bump for the one of the top and most consistent players on tour. He now heads to Memorial as the defending champion.
Combined with his third and final round at The Players Championship two weeks ago, Fowler's gone 78-80-75 in his past three rounds. Ouch. That 155 at Colonial was good for second to last in the entire field, and that coming in the tournament of one of his top sponsors, Crowne Plaza Hotels. Double Ouch. Fowler's game was peaking in April, when he finished T5 at the Masters, but he hasn't had a top 35 in his past four events. Temporary blip? Or worse? It's so hard to tell with Fowler.
Some folks out there will attempt to connect the dots – call off wedding, win tournament – but McIlroy had been close to victory for months. He roared back from seven shots down at the start of Sunday to capture the BMW PGA Championship in England by shot, his first win since December. McIlroy has six top 10s in 2013-14 on the PGA Tour alone, and this only reinforces his position as a favorite for next month's U.S. Open. But first he'll tee it up next week at Jack Nicklaus' Memorial.