This article is part of our DFS PGA series.
Another week, another great golf tournament. The PGA Tour is 2-for-2 since the reboot. We'll get to the remarkable Webb Simpson's victory at the RBC Heritage. But it's important to talk about Nick Watney testing positive for COVID-19.
In this space last week, we praised the Tour for a flawless week at Colonial. As it turns out, the flawless week was just that – one week. We all knew that the Tour's "bubble" was not really a bubble, right?
On one hand, kudos to Watney for coming forward after not feeling well and with his Whoop fitness band indicating an elevated respiratory rate (btw, if you haven't purchased Whoop stock by now, you're too late). On the other hand, if he had a concern, why come to the course? What is the one thing we all have been hearing over and over and over again for months? "If you think you might be sick, stay home." Really, that's Pandemic 101.
Okay, Watney arrived at the course and, curiously, the Tour allowed him onto the grounds. Say again? He went to a mobile clinic in the parking lot to get tested. But while awaiting the results of the test he went back onto the grounds and interacted with others. How can that possibly be allowed?
We know the golfers are independent contractors and it's tough to collectively get them to conform and blah, blah, blah. But if the Tour can't keep someone suspected of having the virus from coming in contact with others …
The Tour issued a voluminous coronavirus manifesto before golf returned. Things broke down, in effect, on Page 1, Paragraph 1.
The Tour said that 11 people who came in contact with Watney tested negative. But it's too soon to know they are fully clear. Vaughn Taylor, who played with Watney (and Luke List) on Thursday, said as much. He wants to get tested again and often. At least some of those 11 will be heading to the Travelers this week.
Hate to be so callous about this, and hope for nothing but the best of Watney, who appears to be fine other than needing to self-quarantine for 10 days, but if this were a big-name golfer, the [blank] would've hit the fan a lot harder than it did.
Hopefully, this is the proverbial wakeup call for golfers and the Tour to do better. Because if not, well, we'll let Brooks Koepka explain what will happen, as reported by Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press: "It's unfortunate Nick got it, but at the same time, hopefully, it stays with just him and doesn't spread. Because I think we'll have a big issue on our hands if it keeps going as the weeks continue.''
Separately, It was also great to see at least a few golfers – Justin Thomas, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Carlos Ortiz – call out the people of South Carolina for their lack of social distancing and mask-wearing. Especially from Thomas, one of the stronger young voices on Tour.
It was clear this was not the same Harbour Town we see in April, when golfers are hard-pressed to get to double digits. It was going to take a lot more this time, and Simpson was able to deliver to win a wild shootout. He birdied five of the last seven holes to come from behind and close with a 64 and win by one.
The win was his second of the season, coming on the heels of his victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February. In his past 13 starts he also has three seconds and one third – that's podium finishes in almost half those starts. He is now back to No. 5 in the world, matching his career best.
We've long talked about Simpson reinventing himself as a putter, going from one of the worst just a few years ago to one of the best today.
One of the misconceptions about Simpson is that he's a short hitter. Yes, he tends to do his best work on shorter courses and is not a bomber. But he is not as short as many people think. Heading into Harbour Town, he was ranked 84th in driving distance at an average of just over 300 yards, roughly in the top-third on Tour. Distance is the weakest part of his game, but it's not very weak at all.
Ancer put on a ball-striking display for the ages, hitting 65 of 72 greens in regulation at the course that annually has the lowest GIR numbers. He was 18 for 18 on Sunday. Ancer was first in the field in driving accuracy, GIR and proximity. He was fifth in scrambling. We'd guess that 98 times out of 100 that wins. But combine Simpson's remarkable putting with Ancer's terrible putting (61st in the field) and that was enough to tip the tide. Still, Ancer is now up to a career-best 24th in the world and, even with that putter, his time is coming.
Hatton couldn't close the deal but there is no shame in not matching what Simpson did. He closed with a 66 to tie for third and now has finished T6-1-T3 in his last three starts since February and is back up to No. 16 in the OWGR. Those three events are Hatton's only starts since undergoing wrist surgery late last year. If you ever need wrist surgery, now you know to call Hatton's doctor.
Before there were young sensations Sungjae Im, Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff, there was Niemann. He's still only 21, younger than all of them but Wolff. He's even younger than Sahith Theegala, the top college player from Pepperdine who will make his Tour pro debut at the Travelers. Niemann briefly had the lead late on Sunday but couldn't hang on, winding up tied for fifth. He actually had had a rough go of things since winning the season-opening Greenbrier, but inconsistency is to be expected of someone so young. He's up to No. 62 OWGR.
A win last week and almost another this week, going 63-65 on the weekend to tie for third. It would've been interesting to see where Berger landed on the DraftKings board for the Travelers, but he withdrew late on Sunday. Maybe upper $9,000s. He's up to 28th in the world rankings.
Welcome back, Brooks Koepka. A brilliant combination of iron play and putting – sixth in GIR and 14th in SG putting – resulted in a solo 7th. Those stats are good enough to win some weeks. This was Koepka's seventh PGA tournament this season and, incredibly, his first top-30. That's THIRTY. For the first time since knee surgery after last season, Koepka looked like his old self.
DeChambeau didn't really figure in the mix. But we wanted to note that while his string of consecutive top-5s ended at four, a tie for eighth is a pretty darn good off week.
Two weeks back with TaylorMade and another very good week for Rose, who tied for 14th. Poor Honma.
Probably nobody thinks Poston is as good as Niemann, but he's No. 61 in the world rankings, his career high and one better than the Chilean. Poston turned in his second top-10 since the reboot with a tie for eighth. He's a really short hitter (averaging 288) but one of the best putters on Tour this season.
Missing The Cut
Fowler is 0-for-2 in cuts since returning. A very small sample size, of course, but Fowler was playing poorly before the break and has fallen out of the top 30 of the OWGR for the first time since 2014. You do the math. Fowler no longer is in the conversation of Best Player to Have Never Won a Major – and not because he's won a major. He will be sitting out the Travelers.
Day has had a far more successful career than Fowler – been No. 1, won a major. But now he has plummeted even further down the world rankings, currently outside the top-50 at No. 56. Heck, that's worse than even Jordan Spieth. Day is also 0-for-2 in cuts since play has started up. Outside of one of his go-to tracks, Pebble Beach, he doesn't have a top-10 since … the Travelers a year ago. Day was T8 then, but this time around proceed with caution.
If you look at Perez's resume, it's curious how he rose to No. 40 in the world. He never has so much as qualified for a major, not even an Open Championship. The Frenchman had a torrid stretch in the second half of 2019 in which he won a Euro event and finished runner-up twice. He also tied for fourth at the WGC-HSBC, which is not to be dismissed. It was strange seeing him in the Colonial field, given that he had never played a PGA Tour event before. Perez missed the cut, then did likewise at Harbour Town. Right now, he hasn't shown he is ready for Prime Time, or the PGA Tour.
It was a great run for Gooch, making 13 straight cuts before falling short last week. There's something to be said for just showing up for work every day and doing your job. The leader now with most consecutive cuts this season is Collin Morikawa with 13. Morikawa also has the most consecutively going beyond this season, at 23, having famously never missed a cut as a pro. Morikawa is within two of tying Tiger Woods' all-time record to start a pro career. Do you know who is currently second on Tour to Morikawa? It's Matthew Fitzpatrick with 20 and nobody else is close.
Korn Ferry Tour
Kirk was away from golf for more than half of 2019 dealing with alcoholism and depression. Now back on a major medical extension, he has missed five cuts in seven PGA starts this season, tying for 60th at Colonial. He could've taken his chances by being an alternate at Harbour Town but instead went to the Korn Ferry Tour's King & Bear Classic and he won it, a monumental achievement. What a great story. Kirk is a four-time winner on the PGA Tour and is now back to No. 265 in the OWGR.
A shout-out for another great week of golf broadcasts from both outlets. There were a number of Tweets noting how simpler has been better. Agreed. It's a shame they probably will go back to doing "more" when the pandemic clears.