A few thoughts now that former N.C. State golfer Tim Clark has finally hoisted a trophy -- and a very nice one -- on the PGA Tour:
-- For Clark, it was a victory that redefines his career. He joked that now he'll be just another guy on tour who's won a golf tournament, given his long history of near misses. He's right in a way. Clark owned the title of best player never to have won a tournament on the PGA Tour.
But the victory brought into sharper focus what a good player Clark has been for many years. He doesn't wow you with distance and he's an understated personality but his game speaks for itself. At The Players, Clark won on a course that turned brutally difficult on Sunday, proving he can handle the stress of winning and the demands of an unforgiving course.
Clark has finished second in the Masters and third in the U.S. Open and PGA. He's played on the International team in three Presidents Cup. Despite all of that, he was known for what he hadn't done. Not anymore.
-- Remember when Tiger Woods was the surest thing in golf?
Seems like a long time ago. Woods' withdrawal during the final round of The Players raises more questions at a time when there are already plenty of questions.
Woods looked like he was hurting Sunday when he left the course and the fitness trailer at The Players, suggesting he may have a bulging disc. If so, what does that mean? How long will he be out? Has it been part of the problem with his game? Will he go on another sabbatical from golf?
Tiger's re-entry into the PGA Tour hasn't been easy. He worked magic in finishing fourth at the Masters, essentially surrendered late in the second round at Quail Hollow when nothing was working and now his withdrawal at Ponte Vedra. There continue to be rumors about what's happening with him away from the golf course and it's made for an extremely difficult time.
Watching Woods play golf the past two weeks is like watching someone else. And, it raises the question of when we'll see the Tiger we're used to seeing again. No one's quite sure.
-- Phil Mickelson missed his chance to officially take over the No. 1 spot in the world golf rankings for the first time -- but it's only a matter of time.
The way Mickelson has played recently, coupled with Woods' struggles, leaves little doubt that Mickelson is the best player in the game right now. You can put Lee Westwood right there, too, but he's been unable to finish tournaments. While Clark was brilliant shooting 66-67 on the weekend, Westwood must be kicking himself for another missed opportunity.
Mickelson has never been No. 1 in the rankings. While no one puts much stock in the rankings, the chance to take over the No. 1 spot is something that be nice to claim, especially in the Woods era.
With The Players now past, the focus turns next to the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in less than six weeks. Mickelson will go in as the favorite there. He has five seconds in the Open. Maybe this is the year he finally gets the trophy.
-- The greens at the Stadium Course didn't look very good on television, due in part to a very tough winter and in part to cutting down for the championship. When the weather doesn't cooperate, there's only so much superintendents can do and the players were understanding of the conditions at Sawgrass.
It looked, however, like the greens were stressed to the max on Sunday. There's a new emphasis in American golf on understanding that everything doesn't have to look like Augusta National in April. Leaders are saying brown is the new green and they're right in promoting the idea that it's not so much how a course looks but how it plays.
I'm not sure that was the idea at the Stadium Course over the weekend, though.