What a week. On the PGA Tour, a young star blitzes a talent-laden field; on the LPGA Tour, a winner finally gets her redemption; and on the Web.com Tour, an NBA star proves people wrong. I'll get to all of it in this edition of the Weekly 18, but first, a look into the history that could be equaled this week.
1. If the trend continues, Jordan Spieth will either quickly become the sixth player to claim a career Grand Slam or he'll never do it. None of the five in this exclusive club -- Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods -- needed more than three attempts at the final leg before getting it. Not that he knew it at the time, but Sarazen completed his career Grand Slam by winning his first Masters start; Hogan famously prevailed in his only Open Championship appearance; Player won his third U.S. Open as a clincher; Nicklaus won his second Open Championship; and Woods completed the slam with a victory at the 2000 Open, just one month after winning the third leg.
2. Here's the flip side of that: Those who haven't completed the career Grand Slam in a hurry have spent their lifetimes chasing it. Arnold Palmer made 34 starts at the PGA Championship once he'd won the other three; Tom Watson made 24 starts at the same event in the same predicament; Sam Snead played the U.S. Open 23 times as the clincher.
3. How will Spieth deal with the impending pressure of knowing this history? I wouldn't call him unflappable, but he's pretty damn close. Don't expect the chase to affect him this week, even as all the storylines continue to follow his pursuit of a mark that has been accomplished just once in the past half-century. He'll be constantly reminded of this pursuit, and he'll constantly remind the rest of us that he's hardly thinking about it as he's standing over each shot during the tournament.
4. For what it's worth, I don't think Rory McIlroy (who has played three Masters needing the final leg) or Phil Mickelson (three U.S. Opens) have "felt the pressure" of the career Grand Slam or thought it was "too big" for them. Sometimes a player handles the situation perfectly, simultaneously understanding the role it would play in history while also compartmentalizing it, and just doesn't win.
5. Hideki Matsuyama is 25 years old. (He won't turn 26 until February.) For those who make such precarious classifications, that alone places him in sort of a purgatory -- younger and less accomplished than Rory McIlroy and Jason Day; older and more established than Jon Rahm and (to an extent) Justin Thomas. With his win at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational this weekend, thanks to a brilliant final-round 61, Matsuyama now owns 14 career professional titles, including five official PGA Tour wins. He's on the verge of big, big things. If you can't see it coming, well, you're just not watching closely enough.
6. In Akron's WGC era -- since 1999 -- only two players had previously done the Ohio double, winning both the Bridgestone and the Memorial tournaments. One was Tiger Woods, who won eight times in Akron and five in Columbus. The other was Vijay Singh. Matsuyama, who won the Memorial three years ago, now puts his name on this exclusive list in the Buckeye State.
7. For the first time since late last year, McIlroy has now claimed consecutive top-five results. And the latest one -- a share of fifth place at Firestone -- couldn't have come at a better time. He'll go into Quail Hollow with some momentum and some good memories, having won twice at the course in PGA Tour events. Is he the favorite this week? Ask a guy who could also stake a claim to that label. As Spieth said, "Rory is probably the guy to beat."
8. On a Sunday devoid of drama due to Matsuyama's performance, the most entertaining moment might have come when Charley Hoffman was analyzing his second shot into the massive par-5 16th hole with caddie Brett Waldman. "I'm trying to win a golf tournament," Hoffman said, audible to the broadcast microphones. "I'm tired of finishing second." It didn't help him pick up a win, but he did likely gain some fans when he drilled a 3-wood from 282 yards over the back of the green. Speaking afterward, he explained, "I play this game to win, not finish second or third. ... I needed to make eagle and a birdie coming in. I went for it."
9. Dustin Johnson boomed a drive at the 16th on Thursday that measured 439 yards. Before you start drafting a letter to the USGA, remember that the hole is downhill and, if a drive catches that slope in the fairway, it can keep running forever. Mike McAllister of PGATour.com tweeted a Shotlink stat shortly after which showed this was DJ's 18th career drive of 400-plus yards. I decided to add 'em all up. His longest 18 drives total 7,417 yards. That's right -- in those 18 specific swings, he has covered more ground than most PGA Tour venues.
10. Five years ago, In-Kyung Kim lost her best chance at winning a first major. No, she didn't just lose. She missed a 14-inch putt on the final hole of regulation that would have clinched it. In the time since, as she tells it, Kim dealt with a range of emotions, finally leading to these words, which she said after the third round of the Women's British Open, leading by a half-dozen strokes: "If I love myself, I will let it go and I will live today as fully as I could." In what only can be deemed a story of overcoming such painful loss, she was able to hang on for the victory on Sunday, one which deserves to be thoroughly told.
11. Here's more from Kim the night before her win, just because I loved the honesty of it all: "I was quite disappointed at myself after 2012 when I made the mistake. I mean, everybody makes mistakes, but I think it was nobody else's problem. It was my problem. I really kind of criticized myself a lot, and it's not very healthy. So if you have any problems, just let it go. So all I have to say, it's been quite tough but I started to work on myself, not only on the golf course, but off the golf course. Just be nice to myself and able to have some kind of compassion and gentleness with myself. I think it's really helping me to play better I think on the golf course. I give my best but in the same time, I know that sometimes I can't really control the results."
12. I have so much to say about Steph Curry playing in his first Web.com Tour event -- from his impressive performance to his frenzied gallery to his rightful exemption -- that I could've written an entire W18 on it. First things first: If you're one of those point-missers who still doesn't think he should've been allowed to play and weren't fazed by his scores of 74-74, you're in the ever-dwindling minority. This was impressive stuff. A non-competitive amateur golfer playing alongside professionals on their turf and holding his own? That's about as uncommon as a professional golfer stepping into an NBA game and hitting some threes.
13. The Ellie Mae Classic wasn't televised this week, which was a huge airball -- basketball term! -- for the Web folks. Judging just from highlight video and photos, though, Curry's presence in the tournament drew thousands more spectators to the golf course than previous editions of this event. Many of them, I'm guessing, had never attended a tourney before or maybe aren't even golf fans. If just a few of them start playing the game or following the pros because of being there to watch Curry, then it's a win-win for everyone involved.
14. One complaint I heard from the anti-Curry crowd: His play somehow cheapens the performances of the pros, as if he proved that it's easy to simply step in play well. I completely disagree. The fact that Curry held his own, yet still finished two rounds 17 strokes behind the leaders and only beat four players only highlights how difficult the game really is -- and just how good the players on the Web.com Tour really are.
15. Still not sure how making the cut became the ultimate line of demarcation when it comes to factoring success for non-touring professionals. I covered a few of Michelle Wie's starts at the Sony Open when she was a teenager and much of the cut-line commotion back then was the same as it was this past week surrounding Curry. Obviously, reaching the weekend would be a major accomplishment, but success shouldn't be solely measured by the arbitrary mark of finishing top-65, plus ties, through two rounds.
16. For those who've been asking, yes, Curry's performance would've been just as good if he was a full-time teacher or accountant or contractor. And no, it wouldn't have garnered as much attention. The superstar aspect put this on the radar screen, but it wasn't the only reason it was impressive.
17. And one last note for those still grousing about Curry getting an exemption: There aren't 156 deserving players who earn their way into each week's field. There are 154 -- and two unrestricted sponsor exemptions. Curry wasn't taking anybody else's spot; he wasn't keeping an aspirational touring pro from realizing his dream. He was simply fulfilling the sponsor's request, just as two players do every week on the Web.com Tour.
18. Tiger Woods posted this photo Friday morning of him on a boat holding up a lobster he'd just caught. This made me happy. Like he's saying, "You guys go argue about whether I'll win another major, or any title, or even play again. I'll just be over here grabbing some lobster."