Now this is what international golf competition should be all about: Constant one-liners from the captains, playoffs that actually produce winners, and a whipped-cream pie in the face to whoever loses the bet.
The first-ever Tommy Bahama Challenge at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale on Tuesday included all of the above. Unlike the Ryder Cup, it was filled with fun and good-natured ribbing. And with no disrespect to the Presidents Cup, it didn’t end in a draw.
No, this time around an American team of Chad Campbell, Chris Riley, Zach Johnson and Hank Kuehne prevailed in a one-hole, alternate-shot playoff to claim the $400,000 first prize. The International team, which included David Howell, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and Kevin Na, had fought to a 2-2 draw before it all was settled at the 19th hole — or in this case, the 18th on Grayhawk’s Raptor Course.
If that wasn’t enough, Campbell then squared off against Howell to win medalist honors in a closest-to-thepin contest called the "dry heave.’’ The 81-yard shots — each player had two — were struck from the 10th tee over water to the 18th green with music blaring. And when Campbell’s second effort came to rest 3 feet from the cup, he earned an additional $20,000 and a new Mercedes-Benz.
"A real classy event,’’ Campbell noted. "They covered all the angles, and that’s tough to do in the first year.’’
Could the Ryder Cup benefit from a more light-hearted approach, Campbell was asked.
"I don’t know; it’s different,’’ said Campbell, who had a winning record (3-1-1) in the recent Ryder Cup held at Oakland Hills near Detroit.
"The Ryder Cup is so special; not that this isn’t. I guess, maybe, this (approach) could help us win (the Ryder Cup). We haven’t done much in the last 10 years.’’
It was a moment in the sun for Campbell, who just last week was forced to withdraw from the season-ending Tour Championship — a tournament where he was the defending champ — because of his father’s health. But when his father’s problem involving a heart valve was resolved over the weekend, it cleared Campbell’s way to play in the Tommy Bahama.
As golf goes at the highest level, all of these "young guns’’ have had better days. Campbell and Howell each shot 4-under 66s, but Poulter with a 68 was the only other player to break par.
It didn’t matter, as U.S. captain Gary McCord and his International counterpart, David Feherty, kept the quips coming. What was slightly odd at the end of the day was McCord’s strategy actually affected the outcome.
Faced with a menacingly tight, 493-yard par-4 in the playoff, McCord selected Kuehne, one of the PGA Tour’s longest hitters, for the tee shot. The resulting, 352-yard bomb struck by "Hank-zilla,’’ as McCord dubbed him, essentially set up an easy par.
But that wasn’t apparent until Na’s 4-iron from 192 yards — the second shot by the Internationals following Howell’s 300-yard drive — plunged into the lake guarding the 18th. Their losing bogey was conceded — by Feherty.
Which all led to the whipped-cream incident, as McCord smashed the pie squarely into Feherty’s face, holding on and grinding the mess in for added affect to settle a pre-arranged bet.
What viewers will see on Jan. 1, when this made-for-TV event is finally broadcast by CBS, is a completely "creamed’’ Feherty howling: "That’s a cast-iron pie plate! He broke my frickin’ nose!’’
Of course, Feherty was fine, as was the Tommy Bahama Challenge, which seems to have a future when it comes to golf’s "silly season.’’