Friday, January 31, 2014

News Grab-Bag: 1/31/14

- More sad news in the LPGA world, as former player and caddie Danielle Downey was killed in a car accident. Downey has served as the assistant coach of the Auburn women's golf team for the past two years, after previously playing on the LPGA Tour between 2006 and 2010.  My heart goes out to her family and friends at this time.

- In an interesting situation, Seahawks fan Fred Couples purchased tickets for the Super Bowl this Sunday. Only problem is, he is playing in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Couples said he would make the decision over whether or not to fly to New York if he missed the cut. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how you look at it), the decision was made for him, as he made the cut and will stay in Dubai to finish the tournament.

- Phil Mickelson's back ended up being well enough for him to compete. Phil is currently 8 shots back but safely made the cut.

- Matt Jones and Bubba Watson currently have the lead at the Waste Management Phoenix Open by two shots. In Dubai, Rory McIlroy currently has a one shot lead. Tiger Woods shot a second round 73 and is 8 shots back.

RECOMMENDED READING: TonyJ has a brilliant write up about LPGA commissioner Mike Whan and all of the things he has done to improve the tour. With tomorrow marking the last day of NBA commissioner David Stern's tenure, it's a good time to take a look at some of the people who have made a difference in the sports world. Whan is definitely one.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wednesday Preview - Waste Management Phoenix Open

In what is usually the wildest event of the season in terms of crowd interaction, the PGA Tour returns to Phoenix. The 16th hole is where the roars (and boos) will be all week, and while the hole isn't incredibly difficult, the nerves are amplified by the fact that a shot that is not hit onto the green is boo'd. Adds quite a bit of drama.

Course: TPC Scottsdale, one of the most recognizable golf courses on tour, with the desert of Arizona weaving throughout the course. It measures at 7,216 yards, and the difficulty depends on the weather conditions. There are birdie holes available, but you can not get greedy.

Strength Of Field: B-. This ranking drops considerably if Phil Mickelson is unable to tee it up on Thursday. A lot of top name players are missing, but guys like Brandt Snedeker, Keegan Bradley, and Hideki Matsuyama still provide enough high profile names to make this tournament watchable for the casual golf fan.

Extra Tidbits: My bucket list includes attending this event and sitting at the 16th hole, if only for one day. A lot of golf purists hate it, but I find it actually brings excitement to golf, something that lacks a lot of the time...Phil Mickelson almost recorded a 59 in the first round last year...JB Holmes returns to the PGA Tour this week after injuring himself in a rollerblading accident last year. Holmes has won this event twice...Top European Tour pro Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano begins his PGA Tour season this week. Top ranked Asian Tour player Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand also makes his first 2014 start...Last year, Phil Mickelson went wire-to-wire and dominated the event for a third time. Phil has a bad back, and it is questionable whether he will play or not.

Fantasy Four:

Graham Delaet - Had a chance to win at Torrey Pines last week until Scott Stallings birdied the final hole. One of the best players on tour without a victory. Picking up where he left off last season, with three Top 10 finishes already to his name.

Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano - Finished 7th in the Race To Dubai last year, including a victory in their kind of, sort of playoffs. Hits it a mile. Putting can be a question, but the greens in Phoenix shouldn't cause much stress on the Spaniard. Trying to win some Ryder Cup points, and top finishes on the PGA Tour can go a long way to making that possible.

Padraig Harrington - Sleeper Pick. Has struggled quite a bit the last several seasons, but off season interviews suggest that his head is in the right place. Has performed well on this golf course in the past. This pick is based solely on what I think he can do, rather than what I have seen him do recently.
EDIT: After more research, I found that last years event was the first time Padraig played in Phoenix. For whatever reason, I thought he had a few more starts here. Either way, he tied for ninth, and it does not change my feelings.

Hideki Matsuyama - Healthy again after injuring his thumb in Hawaii. Finished one shot out of a Top 10 last week, but performed well on the weekend when everyone else struggled. Should use this event to springboard him into the first WGC event of the year.

(Note: I originally added Justin Leonard to my team, but removed him in favor of Gonzalo. Just recording this for prosperity in case Leonard makes me look like a fool.)

Last Weeks Team:
Tiger Woods: MDF
Phil Mickelson: WD
Jason Day: T2
Lee Westwood: T47

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Lisa Ferrero Diagnosed With Breast Cancer

Today on Instagram, Natalie Gulbis shared the news of Lisa Ferrero's breast cancer diagnosis with the following message:

"Found out my fellow LPGA player Lisa Ferraro has breast cancer at 31!! She had the cancer got over a year before knowing. 31!! My age so today I am getting a mammogram TODAY!! and encouraging young women to get them too. I started getting mamo at 25. please keep Lisa in your hearts, thoughts and prayers during this Time."

I know Instragram is not the best place to go for breaking news, but her messages did get retweeted by several members of the LPGA Tour, including Paula Creamers, so without any other sites reporting it, I am going to take this as factual. After all, Natalie Gulbis would have no reason to lie about such a thing.

My thoughts go out to Ms. Ferrero and her family at this time.  I lost a grandmother to cancer, so I know the devastating effects of it. Hopefully Ms. Ferrero is on track to make a full recovery. After seeing Jarrod Lyle return to golf after being out for over a year with leukemia, I know that anything is possible.

Natalie Gulbis' message showed how much of a shock this is to many players, and if there is one positive that can be taken out of that, it is the awareness of getting tested early. Cancer effects everyone, including the healthiest, most athletic of the world. 

Go get 'em, Lisa! We're all pulling for you!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Pure Silk Qatar Insurance Masters

What an exhausting weekend. Between Setsucon, the Grammys, and other commitments, there was a lot that had my attention. It is a shame, because we had three great tournaments this weekend, all with very compelling final rounds.

- With a birdie putt on the final hole, Jessica Korda entered into a level of elite players on the LPGA Tour. Now, I don't want to overplay this - it IS just her second win on tour - but she has competed at a high level since she joined the tour in 2011. Her talent is good enough to be a major winner and a top player in the world, and sometimes her attitude is what holds her back. That image of her firing her caddy in the middle of the third round at the US Open is still firmly burned in my mind. Hopefully this win will put that behind her.

- Stacy Lewis seems to be losing a lot of tournaments on 72nd hole. The event in China, the event in Mexico, and now the event in the Bahamas all looked like they were going to be won by Lewis until the eventual winner pulled out a great shot or a great putt on the last to pull it away from her. I don't know if she should be encouraged, because she has a chance to win every tournament she's entered, or frustrated.

- Lydia Ko is a future world number one and a likely Hall of Famer. There will come a time when Ko will dominate the LPGA, much like Annika and Lorena did before her. Let's just make sure we give her some time. What she's doing at 16 is absolutely incredible, but she is still a teenager, and she needs to be given the opportunity to fail before she can become the face of the sport.

- I am putting a bounty out on whoever stole Na Yeon Choi's confidence. A couple years ago, if NYC entered the final round with the lead, the tournament was hers. She would step on the gas and make sure no one caught her. I don't know if it is her putting, or if a years worth of non-victories have killed her mental state, but seeing NYC fall down the leaderboard while others are firing at pins is almost painful to watch. Between her and So Yeon Ryu, there are two amazing Korean golfers who have possibly the best golf swings and most talent of anyone on tour, but can't find ways to win.

- I don't really know what to say about Scott Stallings. There were seriously at least a dozen storylines that would have made talking about the Farmers Insurance Open easy - Jason Day finally getting his second win, or Graham DeLeat capitalizing off that Presidents Cup performance he gave last fall, or KJ Choi coming back from the ashes to claim another title - and yet it's Scott Stallings, a man who seems to win once a season and does nothing to capitalize on it, who walks away with the win. I know I'm probably being too hard on Mr. Stallings. He seems like a nice enough person. I just see a man who now has three victories on the PGA Tour and has yet to sniff a major, or make an international team, or even make it to the Tour Championship. Hopefully he can make me look like a fool this year and boost himself into another stratosphere.

- We now have more questions than answers surrounding the state of Tiger Woods' game. A lot of people are over reacting and saying that he's completely lost it, which is unfair since he just won the Player Of The Year Award; however, Tiger owns Torrey Pines, and to miss out on a secondary Saturday cut is just odd to see. We won't truly know where Tiger's game is until Bay Hill, another course he has dominated. Until then, look forward to all the golf writers shoveling dirt on his career.

- Get better, Phil Mickelson. The Tour is a more interesting place when you are competing. Hopefully Lefty's back is just a minor pain, and he will be back soon.

- What I said about Lydia Ko earlier also extends to Jordan Speith - we needs to allow him to fail. We have gotten so used to Jordan (who is younger than I am and I feel weird about that) playing superb golf and coming close to closing the deal that, when he shoots 75-75 on the weekend, we think there is something wrong. There isn't anything wrong. It's golf. Speith will be just fine, will likely win again this year, and be a contender in a major. He just needs time to know what losing feels like.

- Shout out to Ryo Ishikawa. Glad to see that his bad performance in Hawaii was not a sign of things to come for this season. Ryo is starting to look like the golfer we knew as a teenager when he was winning all sorts of tournaments in Japan. Ryo is still young, and if he starts playing golf like he did this past week, we could easily seem him return to that form.

- I'm going to stop short of saying that this is the best stretch of golf in Sergio Garcia's career, but he does look like he has all the confidence back that he lost a few years ago. Two wins in as many months, currently second on the Race To Dubai standings, and a lock for the European Ryder Cup Team. A lot of people have given up on Sergio's major chances. Perhaps this could be the year he finally fulfills his promise.

Friday, January 24, 2014

News Grab-Bag: 1/24/2014

- During my recap of last weekends events, I forgot chose not to discuss Rory McIlroy's and Phil Mickelson's rules dust-ups and disasters. For those unaware of what I am talking about, Stephanie Wei has a wonderful write up. I don't consider it much of a big deal, mainly because of who we're talking about here. In Rory's case, it was a matter of just not seeing the infraction. It wasn't cheating, it wasn't a lapse in judgment, and it wasn't not knowing the rules. He just simply did not see where he was standing, and it cost him. It's a shame, because it didn't help him in the end, and it cost him the tournament, but these things happen in golf. With Phil, well...I've started to get used to Phil Mickelson attempting some crazy shot he has no business trying. Most of the time he pulls it off. In this case, he couldn't. This isn't going to stop Phil from being Phil.

- Augusta National announced that, starting in 2015, the winner of the Latin America Amateur Golf Championship will receive an invite to the Masters. This continues Augusta's attempt at growing the game internationally, following the same benefits they gave to the winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur. The Asia-Pacific gave us Hideki Matsuyama, so I am incredibly excited to see what hidden gems we will get see from the Latin America region.

- The LPGA released their newest videos for their "See Why It's Different" campaign. They are...interesting. For the sake of the LPGA, I hope these commercials generate interest,

- Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Steve Webster lead after three rounds of the European Tour's Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. Sergio Garcia is three back...Stewart Cink leads by one after the opening round of the Farmers Insurance Open. Tiger Woods struggled on the South Course, shooting even par to sit 8 back. Phil is at -3...Lydia Ko is among the leaders at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Wednesday Preview - Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic

The first tournament of the 2014 LPGA season is upon us, and I for one am incredibly excited. 2014 will be the first season where players will be vying for the Race to the CME Globe, the year long points race similar to the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs. Players will be looking to the Bahamas for a jump start in the points race.

Course: Ocean Club Golf Course. This will be the first year the entire course is seen in championship competition. Honestly, if I was playing golf in the Bahamas, I wouldn't care if the course was a long piece of green carpet with a wine glass at the end of it. As it is, the Ocean Club course measures at approximately 6,600 yards. Incredibly scenic.

Strength Of Field: C. Top American players Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, and Lexi Thompson are in the field, but a lot of the internationals are missing. World Number One Inbee Park has decided to skip the tournament, as has So Yeon Ryu. World Number Two Suzann Pettersen withdrew on Monday.

Extra Tidbits: Last year, each round was reduced to 12 holes in an alternate route due to typhoon-like rains that flooded the golf course. The iconic image of last year was Stacy Lewis and Brittany Lincicome fishing in the 18th fairway. Neither caught anything...Ilhee Lee became a Rolex First Time winner last year, holding off Irene Cho to win by one shot...This will be the first year in quite some time that the LPGA schedule begins in January. Hats off to Commissioner Mike Whan for the massive expansion to the LPGA schedule under his leadership.

Fantasy Four:

Lexi Thompson - If she is to take the reigns of the top American player away from Stacy Lewis, he's going to need to start early. Lexi has the length to overtake this course, and has been on a streak through the end of 2013. If her putter is hot, she'll be incredibly difficult to beat.

Stacy Lewis - Top ranked player in the field. Should have no problems contending, as long as she is focused. End of 2013 wasn't great for her, but she's still one of the best players on tour and will win several times in 2014. 

Lydia Ko - Despite my prediction that she will not win in 2014, I still think Lydia will contend in several tournaments throughout the year, especially in relatively weaker fields. Ko is coming off a victory on the JLPGA Tour, so her game should not be rusty. Only question is whether her decision to turn pro and hire a new swing coach will be a distraction the first few weeks of the season.

Pornanong Phatlum - Winner on the TLPGA two weeks ago, as well as on the LET in early December. Has contended numerous times throughout 2013. She has the chops to walk away with a victory sometime soon. I expect her to start hot and remain hot throughout the season.

(SLEEPER) Se Ri Pak - Skipped the final event of the 2013 to rest an injured shoulder that has been giving her problems for several years. Showed signs of life during the Asian swing prior to that. Has a chance to make the Korean team for the International Crown event if she can find a way to win, or at the very least contend in several events. If she is healthy, she should start becoming a contender again.

Wednesday Preview - Farmers Insurance Open

Tiger Woods makes his first start on the PGA Tour at a course where he has won 8 times, including last year. The official name of the tournament is the Farmers Insurance Open, but I like to call it the "Catch-a-Tiger Open", not the be confused with the "Catch-a-Tiger Challenge" at Bay Hill and the "Catch-a-Tiger Invitational" at Firestone.

Course: Torrey Pines, measuring at 7,700 yards along the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful scenery with some tight fairways, which is going to look like a US Open compared to last week.

Strength Of Field: A. One step below a major or a World Golf Championship Event. Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, and Zach Johnson being absent prevent this from being an A+ field. Anytime Tiger and Phil are in the same field together, it's a strong field.

Extra Tidbits: Victor Dubuisson of France plays on a sponsor's exemption this week. Dubuisson won late last year (beginning of the 2013-2014 season) on the European Tour to put himself in position to make the Ryder Cup team...One of the cool features of this event is "University Day". On Saturday, the players have the option to wear the colors of their alma maters. Farmers Insurance will donate $500 to each school represented...One of the first two days of the tournament, the players will play on the Torrey Pines North Course, which is a shorter, easier course than the South Course, which is what they will see for the remaining three days. Expect your leaders on Thursday to all be playing the North Course...Last year, Tiger Woods won by four strokes, which is only due to the fact that he gave up four shots down the stretch. He was leading by eight heading into the back nine.

Fantasy Four:

Tiger Woods - It's Torrey Pines. 

Phil Mickelson - His inconsistency in this event bothers me, especially having to fly across the world, but if anyone can make the trip and still be in top form, it's Lefty. Might be wasting a start, but I'm too chicken not to take him.

Jason Day - Winner of the World Cup in November. Terrific player who has win number 2 coming his way sometime this season. Should be rested and ready to go.

Lee Westwood - Probably my sleeper this week. Not been a great last year and a half for Westy, but this course suits his game. Should avoid enough mistakes to be in contention.

Last Weeks Team:
Brandt Snedeker: T58
Rickie Fowler: T33
Nicolas Colsaerts: MC
Brendon de Jonge: T18

Monday, January 20, 2014

No Challenge At Humana

Had a tough time keeping golf in my mind as I was watching my Seattle Seahawks advance to their second ever Superbowl, but I caught enough to make a few observations.

- Pablo Larrazabal was the man that ruined a good story. Golf news sites would have exploded had Phil Mickelson completed his massive weekend comeback or had Rory McIlroy walked away with his first European Tour win in two years. Still, take nothing away from Pablo, who is a really good, quiet player that has now won three times on the European Tour, all against high quality opponents. With it being a Ryder Cup year, Pablo has picked the right time to get hot.

- People are going to talk about McIlroy and Mickelson together in terms of their performances in Abu Dhabi, but I think what Mickelson did was far more impressive. He struggled mightily the first two days, failing to record a single birdie on Thursday and barely making the cut on Friday. He then turned on the jets, shooting a spectacular 63 on Saturday and almost got himself into a playoff with a 69 on Sunday. Either way, I think it's safe to say that McIlroy is back, and Mickelson isn't going anywhere, though they will both need to win in order to silence some critics.

- Thomas Bjorn has to impress European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley with his performance this week. Bjorn has experience a career revival over the past year and a half, and now looks to be in great shape to make the Ryder Cup team after serving as an assistant captain in 2012. It would be a great story if Bjorn is able to make the team on his own merit.

- No joke, I originally had Patrick Reed on my fantasy team, but I removed him after I remembered he didn't have his wife, Justine, on the bag. I figured Justine served as a calming influence that helped Reed win his first PGA Tour event last year, and by not having her serve as his caddie during her pregnancy was going to cause a bit of a downturn in his game. Clearly, this was not the case, as Reed seized control of the Humana Challenge from the beginning and never let go. Reed is now one of only three players under the age of 25 to have two or more victories, an incredible stat the more I think about it.

- The term "hottest golfer on the planet" is the most commonly used expression in golf these days, but Zach Johnson is making it hard not to consider him for that (prestigious?) distinction. A win at the World Challenge, a win at the Tournament of Champions, a Top 10 at the Sony, and now a third place finish at Humana. Zach fired a -10 round of 62 (or, as they call it at PGA West, "a relatively decent day") to surge himself up the leader board. For a few holes, when it looked like Reed was beginning to fall apart a bit, it seemed like Zach might actually have found a way to get into a playoff. Still, another incredible performance by an incredible golfer, who can now take a bit of a breather.

- I can't help but me turned off by these birdie-fest tournaments that we see at some of these stops. I don't think it's a true test of a golfers strengths when every hole is easily a birdie hole. Seriously, -9 as the cut line? -28 as the winning score? Patrick Reed has the opportunity to break every scoring record on the PGA Tour, which would have been impressive, were there not other players giving chase. If you shoot -20 in a golf tournament, you should be in great position to win, if not walking home with the trophy. At Humana, it didn't even get you into the top 10.

Next week, the PGA Tour travels to Torrey Pines at the Farmers Insurance Open, or as I like to call it, the "Catch-a-Tiger Challenge." Phil Mickelson is in the field, despite some talk earlier last week that he may drop the event from his schedule. It's also the 2014 debut of Tiger Woods.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A News Grab-Bag: 1/17/2014

- There have been a surprising number of golfers giving up their LPGA cards in order to focus more on the Asian tours - more specifically, the tour in Japan. First it was Momoko Ueda, who announced weeks after the final event of 2013 that she would be returning to Japan. Next it was Teresa Lu, whose victory at the Mizuno Classic granted her the opportunity to rejoin the LPGA after a relinquishing her card in 2010, but she deferred. Now, it's JiYai Shin, whose name has been removed from the LPGA's priority list. Shin said before that she would try to focus more on the JLPGA this season, but everyone expected her to play the minimum required number of LPGA starts. For Ueda and Lu, these decisions do not come as much of a surprise, as they achieved most of their success on the JLPGA and, at least in Ueda's case, struggled in America. Shin, however, is a former Rolex Number One, and had won on the LPGA Tour as recently as last year, so to hear that she is completely passing over the American tour has come as a shock to many. Many speculate her reasoning behind doing so, but no one will know for sure until JiYai herself says something.

It is worth noting a New York Times article written last year about Chie Arimura's struggle to adapt to the LPGA. Chie a golfer with tremendous talent and who has won multiple times in Japan, but has not lived up to her potential yet on the LPGA (though she has only played one full season). It is wrong to speculate on JiYai's mental state, or to compare her situations with Chie Arimura, but we do often forget the sacrifices some of these young ladies make when they travel to a foreign country to try and make a living.

- John Daly got a hole in one during the pro-am for the Humana Challenge, but was unable to claim the prize (a new car). Seeing as this is only really a story because it is John Daly, I can't find it in myself to really care. Don't get me wrong, I LIKE Daly, but if Will Wilcox hit a hole in one, I doubt this would have been on the front page of Golf Channel's web site for three days.

- Sergio Garcia was cleared of any wrongdoing during an incident in Abu Dhabi in which he was fixing a pitch mark on the green, but that does not make up for how lame the idea of viewer call ins actually are. Golfers pride themselves on being the most honest sportsmen, and that they tend to police the sport themselves. Why take it out of the hands of the professionals and into the 10 handicappers sitting on their couches at home? It's even more unfair when you consider that the top players are constantly on television. Yes, the system worked here, and Sergio did not get penalized, but there has to be an end to this. Viewers aren't allowed to call in for missed pass interference calls in football. There are three players, three caddies, and a rules official following each group. Let them all do their jobs.

Following the cut, Scotland's Craig Lee and Spain's Rafa Cabrera-Bello lead in Dubai. Rory McIlroy and Thomas Bjorn are among the four within two shots. Phil Mickelson made the cut at -1. At the Humana Birdie Spectacular, Patrick Reed leads by two at -18.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wednesday Preview - Humana Challenge

The PGA Tour returns to the mainland for the first time in 2014. The full name of the event is the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, which is similar to the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl in the fact that neither could fit on a polo shirt.

Course: Three courses, none of which extend beyond 7,060 yards. They aren't the tightest of courses either, so expect a birdiefest.

Strength Of Field: C-. Most of the top players are either playing in Abu Dhabi or are taking the week off. Brandt Snedeker and Zach Johnson prevent this field from being downgraded to a D.

Extra Tidbits: They changed the pro-am portion of the event in order to speed up play, though pro-am tournaments are always going to have a slow pace... Greg Norman was originally scheduled to play, but had to withdraw with an injury... The host course, Palmer Private, yielded a 59 in 1999 to David Duval... Last year, Brian Gay won by shooting a 25 under par score. He had to win in a playoff against David Lingmerth and Charles Howell III.

Fantasy Four:

Brandt Snedeker - One of the top players in the world. No reason to think he can't absolutely devour this tournament. Seems rested and healthy, which may be the only concern. 

Rickie Fowler - Local product. Too young and too talented not to return to the form we saw when he was a rookie. Generally don't like Rickie on birdie-or-bust courses, but worth the risk in a weaker field. 

Nicolas Colsaerts - Taking a flyer here. I'm not sure why Colsaerts' game hasn't translated in the US, but the 2012 Ryder Cup member has skills. We've seen it. Perhaps being in another Ryder Cup year will fuel Colsaerts to perform well. Neither way, a shorter course should prove valuable to the bomber, and I believe he will get his short game figured out and have a good tournament this week.

Brendon de Jonge - Perhaps the best player to have yet win a PGA Tour event. Results as of late have not been to his typical form, but off weeks happen for someone who plays a ton. A slower pace, coupled with some easier courses should be a better fit for Brendon.

Last Weeks Team:
Charles Howell III: T8
Jordan Speith: MC
Tim Clark: WD
Ryo Ishikawa: MC

Personal Note: We are officially one week away from the start of the LPGA season, and I can not wait. I think I enjoy the LPGA more than I enjoy the PGA. Also, I will be keeping more than one eye on the event in Abu Dhabi, as I'm sure the entire golf world will be, as well. Tom Watson is playing in the Champions Tour opener this week. I love to watch Mr. Watson play. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Aloha, Hawaii!

The PGA Tour may try and tell me that the two events in Hawaii to start the year are no longer the start of the official golf season, but as far as I’m concerned it still is. Sure, there are a few events at the end of 2013 that offer official FedEx Cup points, which is nice for those events to give them some recognition, but there is only a certain level of excitement I can provide for the Open. The holiday season is behind us, and a new year has begun, and while we’re all freezing our hind parts off in most of the country, the best of the PGA Tour gave themselves a week in paradise. Here are some things the first two PGA Tour events of 2014 have taught us:

- Zach Johnson isn’t a good player. He isn’t even a great player. He is an absolutely fantastic player, with all the skills to contend in every event he tees it up for, and the confidence to win in battles against the best the tour has to offer. Zach also proved that length is not what is going to win a multitude of events, even at long courses like Kapalua. I will trade a 350 yard drive for a masterful short game any day of the week.

- I don’t take much out of Jordan Speith’s missed cut at the Sony Open. We’re still witnessing a superstar in the world of professional golf. Speith isn’t a “great player waiting in the wings.” The future is now. Speith will be contending in more Sundays than he will going home on Fridays.

- Almost every professional golfer will tell you that they have confidence, but it is one thing to be saying it every week and quite another to truly realize it. Jimmy Walker finally broke through at the Open last (though technically this) year. The field was weak, sure, but holding up a trophy for someone who has been on Tour for a long time and has been in contention is enough to send a career soaring to new heights. After going 0-for-187 on Tour previously, Jimmy Walker is now 2-for-his-last-6. A few more good weeks, and who knows? Ryder Cup?

- It’s ok to take a break now, Adam Scott. I understand that many in the golf media have questioned your decision to take the next six weeks away from golf, but seeing as you just played at the highest level at a time when most golfers were home gnawing on turkey, I believe your break is well earned. Bravo to you.

- The Sony Open has always been good to Asian players, particularly those playing on the Japan Tour or Japanese pros on the PGA Tour. The big benefactors this year were Ryuji Imada and Hideto Tanihara. Honestly, the only thing I knew about Tanihara prior to this event was that he is married to former Coconuts Musume singer Ayaka Kimura. He notched a top 10 finish in this event, however, and has an exemption into the Humana Challenge, if he decides to use it. Ryuji, on the other hand, is a former winner on Tour who has struggled the last several years and has had a hard time getting into tournaments. He finished one shot out of a top 10 finish, but his top 25 finish should get him into a couple more events. I hope so, at least.

- On the flip side, Ryo Ishikawa (my favorite member of the Tour) had a pretty rough 2013, especially if you consider the promise he brought in when he was dominating events as a teenager on the Japan Tour. After regaining his Tour card through the Web.Com playoffs, though, it seemed like Ryo regained his confidence; however, Sony was a disaster for him. Hopefully this is just a one week blip, and Ryo gets back to contending.

- Someday, in some future that can be seen, Charles Howell III will win a Sony Open. How he’s contended here this many years and has yet to hoist the trophy has completely baffled me, as well as the majority of the golf media. You would think Hawaii owes him one by now.

- Big applause to Retief Goosen for notching a top 10 this week. Goosen has been plagued by injuries the last several seasons, and has not gotten much of an opportunity to return to the form where he was a top 10 player in the world. Hopefully this week is a sign of things to come for the two time US Open Champion.

Next week is the Humana Challenge from La Quinta, California. It’s a relatively weak field, so it’s a perfect opportunity for someone to sneak up the leader board and grab some much needed FedEx Cup points and, more importantly, put themselves in a good position for the next category reshuffle. I like the Belgian Bomber Nicolas Colsaerts to have a big week.

Onward We Go!

5 Bold LPGA Predictions Sure To Go Wrong

I'm a bit of a sage when it comes to predicting tournaments and LPGA seasons (and by that, I mean I like to think I know what I'm talking about). There are a lot of things that people are predicting about next year, and while some things seem a certainty, what we do know about golf is how incredibly UNCERTAIN it actually is. Here, then, are my Top 5 incredibly bold predictions that will likely not happen.

Before I get to my list, here are a couple of bold predictions I did not add to my top five:
- Se Ri Pak will win the HanaBank Championship
- Lydia Ko won't win on the LPGA Tour, but will still be Rookie Of The Year
- The five majors will have five different champions
- Eun-Hee Ji will win before Yani Tseng

With those out of the way, let's get to the true list!

5) Lexi Thompson will win a major.

Probably not the boldest prediction in the world, given Lexi's performance at the end of the 2013 season. When Lexi turned pro in 2011 and immediately won an LPGA event, it looked like the flood gates were about to open for the then 16 year old. 2012, however, would be relatively uneventful for the teenager. As the US golf media began to overlook Lexi, she rattled off two victories at the end of the 2013 season, including one in a duel with Stacy Lewis. While Stacy Lewis may be the top American at the moment, everyone seems to be pointing at Lexi as the next face of women's golf in America, and 2014 could be the year she establishes herself as the new queen.

4) Beatriz Recari will win the most tournaments by a European player. 

Recari had a breakout year in 2013, winning twice and helping the Europeans shock the Americans in the Solheim Cup. In my opinions, the best has yet to show itself for Recari, who is poised for a year like we've seen from Suzann Pettersen last season. Sure, Suzann isn't going to collapse and fall down the rankings, but I have a tough time seeing her repeating the same performances in 2014. I see Recari winning four times, including the Evian Masters, and emerging as the new European power.

3) The Player Of The Year will NOT come from The Big Three.

The 2013 LPGA season was dominated by three players - Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis, and Suzann Pettersen. That dominance ends in 2014, as I foresee all three of these players having a relatively disappointing season, especially by their standards. What the likes of Yani Tseng and Ai Miyazato taught us last year is that it is incredibly difficult to transfer success across multiple seasons, especially when the entire field is chasing you down in order to make a statement. Even at the end of the season, you could tell that Inbee and Stacy were getting rather worn out, as Stacy couldn't close out several tournaments where she was in contention, and Inbee fell off after an absolutely spectacular start to 2013. The one that will likely make me look a fool is Suzann Pettersen, who looked stronger than ever at the end of 2013 and looks poised to take the number one spot on the Rolex Rankings.

Speaking of falling off...

2) So Yeon Ryu will be the top ranked Korean.

For one half of 2013, it looked like the LPGA was headed into a era of dominance by Inbee Park much like we've seen Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa dominate the tour. For the second half of the year, we saw Inbee struggle, and not find herself in contention for most of the tournament she played down the stretch. It's hard to maintain strong performances, but it's even harder when you have media requests and sponsorship requirements sending you all over the world, especially when you're an introvert like Inbee appears to be. Inbee Park will still be a solid competitor, and will likely win a couple times this year, but So Yeon Ryu has way too much talent not to start cashing in on the opportunities she has. Ryu seems to be lacking the confidence to close out a tournament - the moment she's able to get that next win, the flood gates are likely to open. Ryu is my early pick for Player Of The Year.

And finally, the boldest prediction I could possibly screw up...

1) Michelle Wie will win in 2014.

It's easy to stick a fork in Michelle Wie's career on the LPGA and write her off as an advent failure if you did not pay attention to the LPGA post-Solheim Cup last year. There was something about Meg Mallon picking Wie with one of her captain's picks that brought the game of golf back into Michelle's mindset. For a few years, it seemed as if Michelle was content on resting on her endorsements and her promise, and that eventually things would work out and she would start winning tournaments just based on her talent. After she fell - hard - from the top of the rankings, her confidence seemed to be completely shot. After being in the Solheim Cup, Michelle seems to be working hard on her game again, which is all that is needed with the amount of talent she has. Michelle Wie will silence her critics - at least for a few weeks - and win an event on the LPGA Tour in 2014.