Welcome to the Dew Sweeper, your one-stop shop to catch up on the weekend action from the golf world. From the professional tours, trending news, social media headlines and upcoming events, here’s every golf-related thing you need to know for the morning of Feb. 25.
Dustin dusts the field at Chapultepec
Just call Dustin Johnson Hernán Cortés, because the man owns Mexico City.
Johnson turned in a pair of 66s over the weekend to win the WGC-Mexico Championship, the second time in three years Johnson has won the event. It is Johnson’s second win in 2019 (his first coming at the Saudi International) and his 20th career tour victory.
“It means a lot, to get 20 wins out here is very difficult,” said Johnson. “To do it before I turn 35 is pretty incredible. This is a big win for me, it gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of the year. I feel like the game is in good form right now.”
Johnson began the round with a four-shot over Rory McIlroy, although opened the door for the Ulsterman by stumbling to a one-over start on the first five holes. But McIlroy failed to walk through, playing the relatively-easy stretch of Chapultepec in even par. Johnson proceeded to slam the matter shut with six birdies over the next 11 holes, a performance good enough for a five-shot victory.
Not that we should be surprised by that gap between DJ and McIlroy. In his last four tour wins, Johnson’s margin of victory is 22 strokes. When this cat is on, he is ON.
Johnson reclaims the world No. 1 ranking (although that won’t happen until next week; thanks OWGR idiosyncrasies). He becomes the fifth player to win 20 times before age 35, joining a club that includes Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.
Speaking of Big Cat…
Tiger cracks top 10, but putting struggles continue
Tiger Woods finished T-10 at the WGC-Mexico, his first top 10 of the season. Conversely, Woods was also 13 strokes behind Johnson, and—save for his second-shot prowess—his game was not particularly sharp.
Especially on the greens. While Woods ranked 66th out of 72 players in strokes gained: off-the-tee, that standing was mostly fueled by a shaky Thursday. His putting, however, was consistently inconsistent, losing two strokes on the green to the field on Saturday and another two and a half on Sunday. That’s five rounds out of his last 10 Woods has posted a negative strokes gained figure, and will be something to monitor in his next few events.
For his part, Woods doesn’t seem concerned about the flat stick, chalking it up to Poa surfaces. And he was marvelous again with his irons, leading the field in approach. Moreover, he is trending in the right direction, the T-10 coming off the heels of a T-20 at Torrey Pines and a T-15 at Riviera.
Woods is off this week, eschewing the Honda Classic for rest. He’ll tee it up next at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament he’s won a record eight times.
Casey’s caddie gets wrong pins
Caddies can play an indelible role in a player’s success. But Paul Casey’s strong start on Saturday came in spite of John “Long Socks” McLaren.
Casey went birdie-par-eagle to begin Round 3. Stellar under any conditions. Especially so when your loop has been giving you bad info.
Casey confirmed Westwood’s report on Instagram. “Yes it’s true. We played the first 3 holes to positions on the green so the flag position didn’t matter per se. The first time I asked for a total distance to the flag was the 4th hole of the day and it didn’t match with my calculations. So we didn’t technically make a mistake but it’s still bloody funny!”
The Englishman defended his bag man on Sunday, saying McLaren had been thrown under the bus and clarifying it wasn’t that big of a deal. That didn’t stop him from getting one last jab in at McLaren’s expense. “I texted him the pin sheets from Puerto Rico last night. I was like, ‘Here ya go,’” Casey laughed. “He didn’t respond.”
It’s okay Paul. We’re sure Johnny laughed about it to. Or will. Eventually. We think.
Trainer wins in Puerto Rico
The Puerto Rico Open crowned an unexpected winner. A label that’s become a recurring theme for Martin Trainer.
Trainer’s final-round 67 translated to a three-shot victory at Coco Beach Golf & Country Club over Aaron Baddeley, Johnson Wagner, Daniel Berger and Roger Sloan. The 27-year-old became a winner in just his ninth career start on tour, a feat made all the more surprising given that Trainer had eight missed cuts, a DQ and zero top 25s his previous 13 starts.
Of course, Trainer earned his card this season by winning the Web.com Tour’s El Bosque Mexico Championship, a tournament he entered via Monday qualifier, and he once claimed the illustrious San Francisco City Amateur at 16. Compared to those exploits, this was cream cheese, right?
“I was not composed,” he said. “Inside it was utter turmoil. But I drew on my experience from winning on the Web.com Tour to sort of try to stay calm, and all the work I’ve done to try to stay calm in those moments. It all came together and I was sort of able to keep it together as I was going down the 18th fairway.
“I was just hoping to keep my card. That was my only goal [this year]. It’s very hard. The competition on the PGA Tour is the best in the world. Sometimes I look at the leader board and I’m like, how in the world can I ever finish in the top 10? These guys are so good. You just keep practicing and after awhile you get the hang of it and a few more events under my belt. I was comfortable enough to do it.”
Though Trainer doesn’t get into the Masters due to Puerto Rico’s alternate-event status, he does get invites to the PGA Championship, the Players, and most importantly, a two-year exemption on tour. For a guy who ranked outside the FedEx Cup top 190 to start the week, an unexpected surprise, indeed.
LPGA plagued by backstopping accusations
Amy Yang won the LPGA Honda Thailand, her third career W at the event. Unfortunately for Yang, another story dominated the tournament. A story, according to the principles involved, that’s not a story.
On Friday Ariya Jutanugarn and Amy Olson were involved in arguably the most egregious case of backstopping caught on tape. (“Backstopping” is when pros appear to purposely not mark their golf balls in order to give opponents a potential advantage, a safety net—albeit small—to slow down a shot containing too much pace.) On the 18th hole, Jutanugarn left her ball unmarked on the green while Olson was attempting a chip from a precarious spot. Olson’s shot came out with fire, looking to travel well past the hole, but collided with Jutanugarn’s rock, finishing just feet from the cup.
In itself, not a great look. Further worsened when Olson and Jutanugarn exchanged fist-bumps.
Many, both in the media and on social platforms, were quick to cast aspersions, calling the sequence a breach of Rule 15.3a. Both players professed their innocence, even asserting they had never heard of backstopping before. The LPGA agreed. “”After speaking with Amy Olson and Ariya Jutanugarn, the LPGA Rules Committee determined that there was no breach of Rule 15.3a,” read a statement. “There was no agreement by either player to leave Jutanugarn’s ball in place to help Olson’s next stroke. An LPGA Rules Official was approaching the 18th green at the time and agreed that no breach had occurred.”
Both Olson and Jutanugarn are regarded highly in the game; in that same breath, ignorance of the law—even against the convoluted nature of golf’s rules—is not an excuse. Regrettably, like pace of play, until rules officials start laying the hammer down, this will not be the last time the issue rears its head.