Weekend Wrap: Masters Field Gains Two
Kim captures the Sony and a Masters invite. Plus, Fernandez de Oliveira's LAAC win lands him three major invites, Europe takes the Ryder Cup audition, Azinger's PAC comment and Korda signs with Nike.
Like other red-blooded Mericans who enjoy the royal and ancient action from Hawaii, I flipped over from the Giants-Vikings game in time to catch the Sony Open conclusion. The second PGA Tour event of 2023 was a moribund affair for three days after so few stars turned up. But at least Seth Raynor’s crafty Waialae design was cooking up yet another fun finish.
Si Woo Kim holed out for birdie at the 17th to become tied with 54-hole leader Hayden Buckley, who hoped for a last hole birdie and his first PGA Tour title. The winner would earn an invite to the Masters, but we don’t discuss such nefarious matters since such blasphemy can cost jobs!
Upon flipping over, I quickly learned that last week’s common sense progress—when Callaway sponsoring the Sentry Tournament of Champions final hour—would not be replicated. Worse, the bean counters stampeded over any stock of goodwill with a shameless FU to viewers and Sony.
As Kim approached the final green and Buckley teed off at 18, the Golf Channel broadcast left for a break featuring ads for State Farm, Srixon and a PGA Tour house spot reminding us that next week was the American Express Championship. The Sony “show” returned to inform us of Buckley’s odd lie in the rough and what he faced with his second shot into the par-5 18th green. Buckley played short right of the green, where he would need to get up-and-down to force a playoff with Kim who had two-putted for birdie.
Instead of setting up Buckley’s next shot with some Shotlink scatter chart data on recovery rates from his spot or something of substance to invest viewers in the difficulty of Buckley’s shot, we got another break with six ads from Ram, Srixon, T-Mobile, Comcast Business, Golf Galaxy and Golf Now.
When the broadcast returned from this avalanche, viewers were subjected to a recap of the 2023 Sony Open broadcast sponsors. Exactly zero of the names listed had had commercials running during the last two breaks.
In spite of this nonsense, the Golf Channel announce team and producer Tommy Roy did a decent job setting things up in rushed fashion, aware the audience had expanded after the Giants beat the Vikings and knowing that no lucid American citizen had flipped to NBC for its ghastly Sunday night pre-game show.
But just a week after we heard how the Tour was working with network partners to be better, fans, players and the tournament sponsor received the same old lousy treatment.
As for the tournament conclusion, Buckley ended up missing his 13-foot birdie putt to force a playoff. Si Woo Kim was victorious for the first time since 2021, capturing his fourth PGA Tour title.
Ranked No. 84 going into the week, Kim’s win earns him an invitation to The Masters.
There, I said the quiet part out loud.
Here is the key chip-in that will send the 27-year-old back down Magnolia Lane for the seventh time:
Runner-Up No More: Fernandez de Oliveira Wins LAAC
A year after missing out on the spoils of winning the Latin America Amateur Championship, Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira cruised to a tournament record 265 (-23) total and four-stroke victory. The 22-year-old who turns 23 Monday, finished T2 and one stroke back in 2022’s LAAC.
Fernandez De Oliveira is the second Argentinian to win the event co-hosted by Augusta National Golf Club, the USGA and R&A. With the win, Fernandez De Oliveira earns invitations to 2023’s Masters, U.S. Open, The Open, The Amateur and U.S. Amateur. (The U.S. Open invite was announced the morning of Thursday’s first round.)
“I'm still very shocked, I think my life has changed,” said Fernandez de Oliveira. “I'm looking forward to a great year. I'm going to take advantage of the three opportunities that I've been given for winning this event.”
Even with record scoring, pace-of-play concerns led to some back nine intrigue after Fernandez de Oliveira jumped ahead at times to tee off out of turn. But he was stopped from doing so at the 17th tee by the eventual runner-up, Luis Carrera of Mexico.
“I just played thinking it was never done,” added Fernandez de Oliveira. “Even when I was on 17, and he [Carrera] hit his first shot to 25 feet, which I knew was hard to make, probably after that, after my first shot on 17, I thought, well, now I'm in a really good place. But it's kind of late in the round. It's not that it was one shot that changed my mentality or my round today.”
Fernandez de Oliveira is a senior at Arkansas and entered the week ranked 34th in the World Amateur Golf ranking.