Aug 2 2016

I've never minded a good stat or two when it comes to breaking down an athlete's performance or trying to understand a player's success or lack of the same.

But at the heart of any impressive performance - for me as a fan of sports and someone who tells stories for a living - is the human interest factor.

Numbers are mostly superficial. They don't get beneath the skin and to the heart.

As Jimmy Walker celebrated his win at the PGA Championship on an exhaustive, 36-hole Sunday, standing behind him holding the flag - the traditional victory prize of the caddie - was Andy Sanders, who's been looping for Walker since 2007.

At one point, when they were both coming out of college, Sanders was viewed as the better prospect to do what Walker has done over the last few years. Sanders was a two-time All-American.

But his promising professional career was cut short when he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. He never got his game back to where it was and wound up caddying, hooking up with Walker on the then Nationwide Tour.

Sanders was never going to get to realize his dream of winning a major championship, but Sunday looked like he came as close as he can given his unfortunate limitations.

A nice story.

Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls had another so-so performance on the weekend, finishing in a tie for 50th at the Ricoh Women's British Open.

She's had a full schedule and you can't blame her for wanting to take advantage of the chances to play since the LPGA schedule really slacks off for a while now with only two tournaments in the next while in North America (both of them in Canada; the Canadian Pacific Women's Open in Calgary Aug. 25-28 and the Manulife LPGA Classic in Cambridge, Ont., Sept. 1-4).

I think she's going to benefit from the lighter schedule heading into the Olympics in Rio (the women's tournament is Aug. 17-20. She is off this week and will host her annual charity tournament Friday at the Hunt Club.

Maybe some time off will give her a chance to get refreshed and hit the Olympics on an upswing.

Since defending her championship at the Portland Cambia Classic at the end of June, Henderson has played three tournaments and played 12 rounds, breaking 70 only once (a 68 in the first round of the Marathon Classic). She's slipped to third in the Rolex World Ranking.

Interesting to note that according to SkyBet, an on-line betting service that does a lot of golf wagers, she is tied with American Stacy Lewis with the third-best odds for Rio at 12/1.

The favourite is world No. 1 Lydia Ko (11/4) followed by British Open winner Ariya Jutanugarn (6/1).

Canada's Alena Sharp, who's been playing the best and most consistent golf of her career right now, is going off in a group of seven players at 80/1 right now.

Walker and runner-up Jason Day both shot four rounds in the 60s. That's a pretty good feat at a major even if par was 70 (though that does means there's two fewer par 5s to take advantage of).

The rain really softened things up at Baltusrol so scoring was going to be down and the players were further helped by the fact they played lift, clean and place (or "lift, clean and cheat" as some say).

Interesting to note there were just three other players who managed to shoot four rounds in the 60s as well: Hideki Matsuyama (69-67-67-68, T4); Paul Casey (69-69-68-67, T10) and Gregory Bourdy (69-68-69-69, T18).

You knew that in this summer of a jam-packed schedule because of the Olympics, there was going to be a tournament that was going to get skipped and it might just be the Travelers Championship this week.

There have been two majors and the RBC Canadian Open in the past three weeks (a bunch of players like Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, Ernie Els and the other members of Team RBC were obligated to play in our national open) and now the Travelers shapes up as a likely tournament to skip given the schedule.

The men's Olympic tournament is next week in Rio (with the John Deere Classic as an opposite field event) and then we're down to the last tournament, the Wyndham Championship Aug. 18-21, before the FedEx Cup playoffs start.

If there's a week the big guys are going to take off, it's this week, you would think.

It will be interesting to see how many guys show up for this one.

Canadian Open Round Up





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