Paulson has game beyond his driver, although his 278.9-yard average off the tee last week (he bombed one drive 388 yards), fifth-best in the field, was mighty impressive. He ranked eighth in putting last year, and all you had to see to understand why were two clutch putts he made on Sunday. We already talked about the one he made on top of Duval's birdie during the playoff, but the putt Paulson sank on the 72nd hole was even better. He had botched his chip for eagle, sending it 30 feet past the hole and down a ridge. When he jammed in that putt, he had caught Duval at eight under. Paulson punched the air after his ball disappeared and shouted, "Yeah! That's what I'm talkin' about!"
One other thing about Paulson. He's hungry. "It's great to win one," he said, "and I don't want to take anything away from the guys who have won only one tournament, but that's not getting the job done. There are 50 guys who won once and don't play anymore. I don't want that to be me."
I was beginning to think that the only thing more overtyped than Sergio Garc�a was that TV movie about Paul and Linda McCartney. Then Sergio almost wins at Westchester, coming in third. What's your take on El Ni�o?
The 20-year-old Garc�a is still a work in progress, but impressive nonetheless. Garc�a played the best 18 holes of the week—his last nine on Saturday and his first nine on Sunday added up to 63, which was how he burst into contention after barely making the cut. (On Friday he was three over going to the final hole, where he nearly holed a 73-yard wedge shot. If he hadn't made birdie, he would've been down the road.) Garc�a has struggled with his putting and his swing all year. He hit some sweet shots on Sunday at Westchester, driving two par-4s, the 326-yard 7th hole and the 314-yard 10th. He also showed his immaturity by firing at too many flags, under the conditions. For example, though his approach was six inches from perfection at the 8th hole, where the pin was cut front right, he ended up in a bunker. You've got to know when shooting for the middle of the green is the smart play.
Garc�a let a few remarks by some fans (this is New York, remember) get to him after he had missed an eagle putt at 10. He was still ahead by three, which is not the time to be growing rabbit ears. His ultimate downfall came at the 17th, where he blew a lob wedge over the green—a distance-control boo-boo a pro cannot make—and made bogey. Tuck this number away, though: Garc�a hit almost 77% of the fairways. That's the mark of a ball striker who can compete in the majors.
Who was the biggest surprise at the Buick Classic?
Greg Norman, by a mile. Just when I thought he would be off tending to his vineyard or to his new yacht-building business, he makes a trademark weekend charge. Despite a bogey on the 71st hole, he came in fourth, only two shots out of the playoff. Two stats on Norman: He's 45, and the Buick was his first top 10 finish since last year's British Open.
What was the most memorable shot of the week?
There were two of them, and they were both made by Phil Mickelson. The first came on Friday from the thick rough beside the 7th green. Mickelson tried one of his flop shots, but his ball sailed over the green into an even worse position. That's the first time I've seen him do that. On Saturday, after an ugly double bogey at the par-3 16th, he holed an 88-yard wedge shot from the 17th fairway for eagle to instantly get the two strokes back and remain in contention for his fourth victory of the year. He didn't get it, of course. He hit only 10 greens in regulation on Sunday, shot a 75 and came in 13th.
I thought the U.S. Open wasn't until this week, but I swear I saw ankle-high rough at the Buick, Tour players chopping around the greens like my Saturday-morning foursome and balls bouncing off the greens with what I can only describe as a trampoline effect. Is my schedule wrong, Answer Man?