Monday, March 31, 2014

Parity Reaches Max Level On Tour

- Sunday had to be the weirdest final round so far this season. It was almost as if no one wanted to actually win the Valero Texas Open. Steven Bowditch was lucky that he played so well the first three days and built himself a comfortable lead, because shooting a 76 should normally cost you the tournament. Still, you have to feel good for someone like Bowditch, whose personal and professional life have seen the bottom and have risen back up again. It is too early to tell what we should expect from Bowditch now that he's a winner on Tour, but no one will ever take away the fact that he is a PGA Tour winner.

- If you are somebody looking for your first PGA Tour victory, or perhaps someone who hasn't won in a rather long time, now is the time to cash in. With all of the top players currently struggling, the parity on Tour has reached a level we haven't seen in years. Bowditch, Matt Every, John Senden, Kevin Stadler - none of these guys were on anyone's radar entering this season, but thanks to the playing field becoming level, they are now all heading to the Masters with trophies under their arms.

- You can add Matt Kuchar to the list of world class players who couldn't close the deal on Sunday. After Bowditch started giving away shots, I thought the tournament was Kuchar's for the taking, but a dismal back 9 ended those chances. A lot of people like Kuchar entering the Masters, and perhaps this was just a bad round for Kuchar, but right now we are looking at the most wide open Masters in recent history.

- Some point very soon I am going to be writing about Will MacKenzie as a winner once again on Tour. Entering this season, MacKenzie only had 10 top 10's in his career, and so far this season he's already notched 5. He is having a career year, and with parity being what it is on Tour right now, I would suspect MacKenzie will be a champion very soon.

- Can someone please find Zach Johnson's putting game? Since the West Coast Swing, Johnson's putting has become rather dismal, which is incredibly sad when you consider just how well he's striking the ball. If Johnson would have converted several of those birdie putts within 10 feet, he would have easily won this tournament. I really hope he figures it out soon, because he is one of the best players to watch on Tour. Get the putting stroke better, and he could easily contend for another green jacket.

- I hate seeing golfers penalized for slow play, but at some point, you have to do what you can in order to get everyone moving. Andrew Loupe endured several problems on the front 9, including a slow play penalty, and still managed to end tied for forth, which is by far his best finish on Tour. Hopefully this will also encourage him to pick up the pace in future tournament - the fact that the final group took 3 hours to finish the front 9 is just unacceptable.
EDIT: I was misinformed - Loupe did NOT received a slow play penalty on the front nine. He sure should have, though.

- They say it is hard to win on the PGA Tour, but it seems even harder to win on the LPGA Tour these days. There have been six winners of LPGA Tour events, and Karrie Webb and Anna Nordqvist make up four of them. In fact, there have been 0 first time winners this season, and none of the champions have been outside the top 30 in the Rolex Rankings at the time of their victory. While parity rules on the PGA Tour, it is the status quo that rules on the LPGA.

- None of us should be surprised by Nordqvist's recent great play, especially considering what we saw at the Ryder Cup, but I don't think anyone saw this kind of season from her. With Suzann Pettersen struggling, Nordqvist could easily take over the role of the top European on Tour. She's clearly the top European this year, but it is way early, and we have five majors to battle for. Still, Nordqvist has given Europe something Asia surprisingly has not gotten in 2014 - victories.

- I would say Lizette Salas is overdue for a victory, but I need to see more consistency out of her before declaring that. She has game, no doubt about it, but her appearances on the leaderboard are too infrequent. In order to be considered a top player on Tour, you have to be near the top of the leaderboard almost every week. These ladies are not going to give anyone anything - you have to earn every position. Salas will be back up there again, though I hope it's sooner rather than later.

- When Lexi Thompson started her charge on the back 9, I thought she was going to catch Nordqvist and take this tournament. Alas, Nordqvist was just too good and Thompson ran out of holes, but she did remind everyone that she hasn't gone anywhere, and just in time for the first major of the season.

- I think everyone expected Dori Carter to fall back from the lead, but it was a great story while it lasted. It would have been the ultimate underdog story - Carter, fighting back the likes of Cristie Kerr, Inbee Park, and Stacy Lewis. Alas, it was not meant to be. Players who have not won see the top players in the world chasing them, and their nerves get the best of them. They can deny it all they want, but there is no other explanation for it. Too many great players surrounded Carter for her to succeed on the weekend.

- Eun-Hee Ji has put together a wonderful season, especially considering where her game was two years ago. There was a time when I would look at leaderboards just to see if Eun-Hee made the cut. Now, we are seeing her frequently near the top and contending once again. She is truly a comeback story, and it would be wonderful if she found a way to cap that off with a win somewhere this season.

- Speaking of comebacks, Se Ri Pak is having her best season in years, making every cut this season, with three top 25's and her first top 10 this season at the Kia Classic. Pak has really struggled with a shoulder injury the past two season, but it looks like she may have turned a corner and is trying to find her form once again. If she is healthy and she gets her game back, we know what she can do. All she has to do is look to Karrie Webb for an example of what a Hall of Fame player can accomplish in her later years.

- A huge round of applause to Thongchai Jaidee and the rest of Team Asia for battling back and forcing a draw in the inaugural EurAsia Cup. Not only was Team Asia outclassed in terms of overall talent, major champions, and World Golf Ranking points, but they got off to a horrendous start, being down 5-0 after the first session. By all means, Europe should have put their foot down and destroyed this team, but Asia showed a lot of heart and determination, and won the singles session easily in order to force a draw. The cup may be shared, but I think most people will think of this as a victory for the underdog Asian team.

Friday, March 28, 2014

News Grab-Bag: 3/28/14

- The golfing world has another sad goodbye this week as Frank Hannigan, the former director of the USGA, passed away at the age of 82. Hannigan also was a commentator for ABC, and never shied away from his opinion. Hannigan was both the USGA's biggest critic and its biggest supporter, and he will certainly be missed.

- The LPGA announced another new golf tournament with the launch of the Blue Bay LPGA tournament in Hainan Island, China. The event will mark two tournaments in China (though the Chinese will tell you it's three, counting Taiwan), and eight on the full season schedule in Asia. While many will criticize the LPGA and the Asian players in particular as harmful to the game, you can not deny that Asia has been a huge money grab for the once struggling LPGA Tour. While growth of the tour domestically should remain a top priority for Commissioner Mike Whan, he has to be proud of the growth he has overseen and the market that is being built in Asia.

- 2014 has gone from bad to worse for Rolex #2 Suzann Pettersen, who withdrew from the start of the Kia Classic with back pain. This, coupled with her withdraw earlier this year with an elbow injury, and relatively poor performances this season, has caused Pettersen to move further away from Inbee Park and her pursuit of number one. This was supposed to be Pettersen's season to finally move to the top spot, but the beginning of this season has not helped her cause.

- R&A chief executive and IGF president Peter Dawson seemed rather unimpressed with the state of the course building in Rio, where golf will be held in the Olympics for the first time since 1906. While Dawson stopped short of saying that the course would not be ready in time, he did mention that the construction is behind schedule. This is somewhat predictable, as Rio is building everything from scratch (as opposed to Tokyo, which has much of its infrastructure in place), so let's hope they pick up the pace and present a pristine golf course. I, for one, am incredibly excited about the return of golf to the Olympics, and I'd hate to see that get off to a rocky start.

- Peter Dawson also suggested that the R&A will vote to allow female members among their ranks for the first time. On the backs of that announcement, Muirfield, which received a lot of criticism last summer when it hosted the Open Championship, will vote among its members over whether or not to allow female members. It seems rather odd that we are having this conversation in 2014, but when it comes to an old sport like golf, old ideas remain. I fully support the R&A's decision, as it is about time women start holding places of power within the sport of golf. I would like to see Muirfield allow female members, but honestly, they have the right to decide whatever they choose. They're a club, and as a club, they have the right to accept or refuse any membership on any basis. I just hope they understand that the rest of the world has the right to criticize them, as well.

- Would you like to buy Ben Hogan's golf clubs from the 1953 season? They are currently on the auction block, with the most recent bid being $7, 320. The reserve had yet to be met. Expect these to easily go beyond $10,000

LATE NIGHT EDIT: Congratulations to Hideki Matsuyama, who graduated from Tohoku Fukushi University earlier this week.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wednesday Preview - LPGA Kia Classic

The final event before the Kraft-Nabisco Championship, the Kia Classic will provide players to get one last workout of their game before entering the first major of the season. The Kia Classic has been a staple of the schedule for seven years, and usually always attracts first class fields.

Course: Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club, measuring about 6,500 yards. Depending on the weather conditions, this course can have some bite to it. Well placed tee shots are key - anything off the mark will be absolutely dead. Take your lumps when you get them and take advantage of the par 5s.

Strength Of Field: A. Yep, pretty much everyone is still here. I'm going to assume all the players who played last week just hopped on a bus together and showed up here.

Extra Tidbits: Beatriz Recari is your defending champion, though she is coming off a brief hiatus and poor performances as of late. She beat I.K. Kim in a two hole playoff after both she and Kim three putted the 18th hole in regulation...Eighteen of the top 20 players in the world are playing this week. The other two (Ha Na Jang and JiYai Shin) are playing in Asia this week...Last week's victory tied Karrie Webb with Babe Zaharias for 10th all time.

Fantasy Four:

Karrie Webb - Until she cools down, I am going to continue to ride this train. The only player with two victories this season. Entering at the peak of her game, right before the first major of the season. Look out.

Stacy Lewis - Tied for second last week to start a new top 10 streak. Continues to rack up top finishes without a victory. 

Inbee Park - Back doored a top 10 finish last week, but with Suzann Pettersen struggling, it has helped give Park a bit of a cushion at the top. Looking to get a boost in her confidence to lead into the Kraft-Nabisco, where she is the defending champion.

Lydia Ko - Struggling down the stretch last week does not give me any reason to caution, as she has performed incredibly well this season regardless. Mentally tough, and too young to allow a misstep to ruin her. Should contend again, and may contend in every event this season.

(SLEEPER) Amy Yang - Quietly put together a top 10 last week. Has been a consistently good golfer on tour, especially since the Asian swing last year. Is a bit of a feast or famine player - will either give you an incredibly solid week, or you won't hear from her at all. 

Personal Note: All of my picks for the PGA Tour are entered into the PGA Tour Fantasy Game. My picks for the LPGA Tour are entered into the Seoul Sisters "PakPicker" game. Last week, my team placed number one (a rarity). If you would like to enter the game yourself, or interact with me in a more real time setting, you can do so here.

Wednesday Preview - Valero Texas Open

After being held the week before the Masters last year, the Valero Texas Open returns to its original spot on the schedule, which is the week prior to the Shell Houston Open. Players who don't like to play the week prior to the Masters will get one final tune-up. It is also the final opportunity for players outside the top 50 in the world to qualify for Augusta.

Course: TPC San Antonio, which measures a little less than 7,500 yards. Expect something similar to Bay Hill last week - around ten under par as the champion. If you find the fairways, you can take the course apart, but sand saves will be incredibly difficult and anything off line will be swallowed by the rough.

Strength Of Field: C-. I was originally going to give it the same strength as the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but after reviewing it further, I just couldn't do it. Phil Mickelson is a nice addition, but the tournament is lacking star power. That hasn't stopped this event from producing its fair share of drama, though.

Extra Tidbits: Phil Mickelson was a last minute addition to the tournament, and will be playing the event for the first time in 22 years. Last year, Rory McIlroy picked up the tournament at the last minute, and finished second...Sergio Garcia helped design this course, but will not be teeing it up this week...Last year, Martin Laird won his third PGA Tour title by shooting a final round 63 and beat Rory McIlroy by two shots.

Fantasy Four:

Jason Kokrak - Coming off fourth place finish at Bay Hill. Fits the mold of recent champions - been on tour a few years with strong results entering the event. Big hitter. If he is accurate, he could really shorten this course.

Freddie Jacobson - Three straight top 25 finishes. Has played every Texas Open held at TPC San Antonio, never finishing outside the top 25. Perfect example of someone whose game is trending up.

Ryan Palmer - Sleeper pick. Near victory at the Honda Classic coupled with his strong finish here last year. The Texan should feel confident about his chances. Needs a strong finish to make the Masters.

Jordan Speith - Cooled off since his hot start to the season, but has experience here, and is a native Texan. He enters rested, and the course should fit his eye.

Last Weeks Team:
Patrick Reed: T52
Bubba Watson: WD
Sang-Moon Bae: CUT
Justin Rose: CUT

Monday, March 24, 2014

It's Hard To Be The Best - Weekend Review

- Matt Every cried in his post-round interview after winning for the first time on Tour, and rightfully so. Until today, Every was known as the man who was arrested and suspended in 2010, and who was considered brash and cocky to many while never actually cashing in on his talent. Every not only deserved to win, but he deserved to win at Bay Hill, where he used to watch golf as a child. This was the ultimate fairy tale for Every, and now he can finally enjoy being called a PGA Tour Champion. Matt Every at the Masters. What a sight that's going to be.

- With all do respect to Mr. Every, but the ultimate headline from this event will not be who won it, but rather who did not. By all rights, Adam Scott had this tournament won. If you are trying to be the number one player in the world, how do you give up a seven shot lead going into the weekend? What we are seeing on Tour right now is an evening out of sorts, with the top players struggling to close the deal and players further down the world ranking lists cashing in on their mistakes. From Rory McIlroy at the Honda to Adam Scott at Bay Hill, it is amazing to me the number of top players who can't seem to cash in on golden opportunities.

- I will be honest, I tend to forget about Keegan Bradley. I don't know why, it's not like he's a quiet guy devoid of personality. I just think he tends to slip my mind when I think about the top players. Not after this week, however, as a double bogey stood between him and his fourth PGA Tour title. Difference between he and Adam Scott, however, is that Keegan rallied late, not allowing a bad start to derail him. With the top players currently struggling, Keegan is in perfect position heading into the Masters.

- A top 10 could be a flash in the pan, or it could lead to bigger and better things. That is what we're waiting for see from Erik Compton and Ryo Ishikawa. For Ishikawa, his good week seems to resemble a return to form, as his 2013-2014 season has been his bet yet on the PGA Tour. Each week, he seems to improve, which is great for Ishikawa fans (such as myself). For Compton, it is too soon to tell. It's not like Compton was playing terrible heading into this week, but he wasn't playing remarkably well, either. Perhaps all he needed was some confidence.

- We have an early candidate for LPGA Player Of The Year, and it is a woman who is no stranger to performing at the highest level. Karrie Webb's 2014 season has got off to a tremendous start, becoming the first player to win twice this season, both times with massive charges in the final round. It's weird how we discuss Webb's performances as if we are shocked she is doing so at "such an age". Webb is only 39, an age where, is a male pro were performing at the same level, we would have expected as much. Perhaps it is just far more shocking on the LPGA Tour, considering we have 18 and 19 year olds winning tournaments at a frequent rate. Either way, Webb has shown this season that while youth is nice, nothing can beat experience when you're trying to win a tournament.

- It is a tale of two rookies coming out of the Founders Cup. On one side, you have Mirim Lee, who has to feel encouraged coming in second surrounded by all those world class players. Lee couldn't seal the deal, but she didn't completely collapse, either, and that has to be an incredibly positive sign for her going forward. On the other side, you have Lydia Ko, who looked to be in complete control of this tournament until she struggled coming down the stretch. Ko is going to receive all the headlines because she's won twice on tour and is supposed to be the be-all, end-all when it comes to Tour rookies, but everyone needs to calm down. She is still a rookie, after all, and she is only 16 years old. Lexi Thompson struggled in putting away golf tournaments when she first turned pro, and now we look at her as the next great American golfer. These things take time, and Ko needs to have her opportunities to fail before she can be truly great.

- What is it going to take for Stacy Lewis to win again? Every week, Lewis has a chance coming home, and every week she is unable to do so, either because she can't secure that final birdie, or someone else passes her with a remarkable putt or shot that takes her out of it. Lewis is publicly saying she's encouraged by her performance, but she also has to be slightly frustrated, as well. No one is playing better golf tee to green right now, and she just hasn't been rewarded for it.

- It's great to see Azahara Munoz bounce back from her playoff loss in Singapore to finish tied for second at the Founders Cup. Munoz has officially turned a corner and now looks to be the player we thought she would be after the 2011 season. Her revival couldn't have come at a better time for Team Spain going into the International Cup, as both Beatriz Recari and Carlota Ciganda has struggled this season. Munoz may need to put that entire team on her back if they are to be successful.

- Nice to see Hee-Won Han and Laura Davies have good weeks. Han was one of the players I followed all the time back in 2006, and the world of women's golf is better when Davies is performing well. This may have just been a one week flash for these two, but it was still great to see, and hopefully we get some more good performances from them.

Friday, March 21, 2014

News Grab-Bag: 3/21/14

- One of my favorite golfers of all time, Grace Park, has been appointed the Athlete Role Model for golf at the Youth Olympic Games. Golf will make its first appearance in the games, and they could not have appointed a better ambassador for kids to look up to. The Youth Olympic Games will take place in China between August 16th and August 28th.

- Bubba Watson has withdrawn from the Arnold Palmer Invitational after one round, citing allergy problems. Bubba opened with an 83 before withdrawing. I wonder if this puts Bubba's chances of playing the Players Championship in jeopardy. Other players have, in the past, skipped the prestigious event, citing allergies.

- A recent report suggests that Tiger Woods has a bulging disk in his back. If this is the case, his status for the Masters is seriously in doubt.

- No matter what her results are, Cristie Kerr will walk out Phoenix feeling like a champion this week. This is because the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation announced that they will match Kerr's winnings this season in a donation for the Semper Fi Fund, which helps injured and critically ill military service members and their family. Last season, Kerr earned over $700,000. Kerr also announced the expansion of her wine label, Curvature Wine. Not even getting nailed with a golf ball by Stacy Lewis in a practice round can put a damper on her week.

- USGA President Mike Davis was on hand for a players meeting at the Founders Cup, and one player was outspoken with their issues. Ryann O'Toole voiced her concern with holding the US Women's Open the week following the men's tournament at the same golf course, citing that it feels like they are being given the "leftovers" and that the course would not be ready for the ladies to play.

- Today is a sad day in the golf world as we morn the loss of former US Open Champion Jack Fleck who won the 1955 US Open Championship by beating the legend Ben Hogan. Fleck was only on the PGA Tour six months when he walked away with what what then the most prestigious title in golf, rallying late to catch Hogan and then beating him in a playoff to stop Hogan from winning his 5th title. His nine shot deficit after the first round is the largest rally in US Open history still to this day. When Hogan putted out on the 18th hole, the commentators declared him the winner and NBC went off the air, but Fleck never wavered and ended up forcing the playoff, which he won by one stroke. It was, and may still be, considered the biggest upset in golf history. Fleck would go on to win two more times on the PGA Tour, but his victory over Hogan remains iconic. He was 92, and the oldest US Open champion at the time of his passing. A great era of golf is sadly passing with him.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wednesday Preview - JTBC Founders Cup

The LPGA plays in the United States for the first time this season as the top players on Tour head to Phoenix in what was formally known as the RR Donnelley Founders Cup until this season. The tournament is designed to honor the founders of the LPGA Tour and those who blazed a trial, with this years honorees being Kathy Whitworth and Renee Powell.

Course: JW Marriott Desert Ridge. It's course. Expect birdies in bunches.

Strength Of Field: A. With the exception of some of the players who play primarily on the Asian tours, the top players in the world are here. With there being less opportunities for the ladies to play as there is on the men's tour, most of the players play as many events as they can.

Extra Tidbits: The very first edition of this event was played without a purse, as the winner received an official win and a donation in their name. After many of the players complained, the purse is now given to the players. It is customary now for the winner to donate a portion of the check to charity...Cheyenne Woods is given a special exemption into the field this week. While I am normally opposed to special exemptions to players who may not have earned them, the fact that they are honoring Renee Powell this week makes it feel poetic in a way...Stacy Lewis is the defending champion. She received a two shot penalty on Saturday and looked as if she had handed the tournament to Ai Miyazato, but a terrific final round coupled with a Miyazato collapse gave Lewis the victory and vaulted her to number one in the world at that time.

Fantasy Four

Paula Creamer - The question was how long it would take for her to win again. Now that that question has been answered, we can now go back to referring to her as one of the top players in the game. Should content every week, and may knock out a few more victories this season.

Stacy Lewis - Defending champion. I pay not attention to her top 10 streak going down in the last tournament. She is still the most consistent player in tour, even if she doesn't win as often as she should.

Inbee Park - Winner last week in China. Jet leg is my only concern with Inbee, who seems to be hitting the stride she found around this same time last year.

Lydia Ko - Has notched a Top 25 in every event she has played this season, and is entering the tournament well rested. Has a stranglehold on the Rookie Of The Year race, and will likely increase that lead as the season goes on. Wants to play well heading into the Kraft Nabisco, where she will be considered among the favorites.

(SLEEPER) Azahara Munoz - How will she rebound following her loss in the playoff in Singapore? Struggled leading into Singapore, but may have turned a corner. Seems to have all the intangibles of a player who should win in bunches, but has not performed to those expectations.  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Wednesday Preview - Arnold Palmer Invitational

The final event of the Florida swing is this week with the annual stop at Bay Hill for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Palmer has had an influence on the event since the event went to Bay Hill in 1979, but has only been called the Arnold Palmer Invitational since 2007. The event is considered a favorite by players and fans alike, who consider Palmer to be the complete professional in his hosting duties.

Course: Bay Hill, 7,400 yards of the most scenic landscape you won't find anywhere else in Florida. Like the previous stops on the Florida swing, birdies will be hard fought, and ball striking is absolutely key. Miss hit shots will end up wet.

Strength Of Field: C+. A very weak field compared to previous installments of this event. You still have Rory, Henrik, and Adam Scott playing, but Phil skipping the event, as well as the early withdraws by Tiger Woods and Jason Day brings the score down. This is still likely to be the best field you'll see between now and The Masters.

Extra Tidbits: Tiger Woods has won this event eight times, but will be missing the event for the second time in four years...only one European, and four International players in total, have won the event at Bay Hill. The plus side for the Internationals - all of those wins have come since 1998...With Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Ernie Els all skipping the event this year, only four winners since 1997 are teeing it up this year (Martin Laird, Chad Campbell, Vijay Singh, and Rod Pampling)...Arnold Palmer's grandson, Sam Saunders, receives another exemption into the event. Palmer did not invite him last year because Palmer believed he had not earned himself a spot in the field.

Fantasy Four:

Patrick Reed - If he's going to declare himself as one of the top 5 players on Tour, he is going to need to back it up with some more solid finishes. Confidence is ridiculously, and won two weeks ago at a much tougher golf course with a much deeper field.

Bubba Watson - Having a career year (sans 2011) with five top 10 finishes this season, including a win. Has contended in each of the last three events he has played. 

Sang-Moon Bae - Sleeper Pick. Good final round last week gave Bae his second consecutive Top 25 finish. After hitting a slump following his victory last year, he has regained form this season. With the top players either struggling or missing from the field, this could be a perfect spot for Bae to improve his confidence heading into The Masters.

Justin Rose - Finally seems healthy after shoulder and elbow injuries plagued the end of last season and the beginning of this one. A top 10 last week at an incredibly difficult golf course shows the state of Rose's game. If he is 100% heading into The Masters, he may be a favorite to take the green jacket. 

Last Weeks Team
Will MacKenzie: T4
Harris English: T38
KJ Choi: T44
Luke Donald: T4 

Juli Inkster named Solheim Cup Captain

The LPGA has announced that Juli Inkster will be named the next captain of the United States Solheim Cup team, which will take place in 2015 in Germany. The announcement is not much of a shock, as it was a matter of if, not when, Inkster was going to receive her shot at the captaincy. Inkster is considered a shot in the arm of an American team that got absolutely smoked on home soil last year.

A lot of the speculation was that they would wait to make Inkster the captain until the matches returned to the United States, but Team USA probably felt as if there was no longer a time to wait. Inkster is the most prolific American Solheim Cup player of all time, and provides knowledge and excitement to a team that desperately needs it. Team USA will enter the Solheim Cup as underdogs for the first time when the matches are played in Germany.

Inkster has wasted no time in naming her first assistant captain, Pat Hurst, and has said that she may not add another, claiming she trusts Hurst so much that another voice may be a distraction. Clearly this is a job that Inkster has been thinking about for quite some time.

Inkster will preside over a completely different Solheim Cup team - perhaps not in personnel, but in attitude and approach. While Meg Mallon had a more hands off approach and allowed the ladies to do as they wished, Inkster will be far more gritty. I would doubt that you would see the painted faces and fingernails like you saw last year, as Inkster will try to steer the direction away from "having fun" to "must win". After the utter failure that was the 2013 Solheim Cup, this will be a welcome approach.

There has been no announcement from the other side as to who will take over for Liselotte Neumann, provided she decides not to take up captaincy for another year. Laura Davies is the front runner, the "Juli Inkster of Europe", if you will, but I don't know if Europe will use that card just yet. They are playing with house money, and it may be a better idea to save Davies for when they truly need her, like when the Cup returns to the USA. Helen Alfredsson will get a look, though I bet that would be a complete disaster, as Alfredsson has never been a personable person, and will likely turn a lot of people off and won't give the players anyone to play for. She also has a tendency to say really dumb stuff. Iben Tinning deserves a shot at captaincy after playing in four events, though she may need a turn as vice captain before they trust her with the reigns. A dark horse, and one I think Team Europe should really consider, is Patricia Meunier-Lebouc, the former major winner who is now a golf coach and coached Team France at The Spirit International in 2013. She has a very similar attitude to Neumann, which is a calming presence and a "stay focused" attitude, which can be perfect to offset Inkster's git and fire.

From an American perspective, the Inkster announcement couldn't have come at a better time, with the United States being lousy in almost every Cup event we've played in the past two years (Solheim, Ryder, Curtis, though we have won the Walker and Presidents in 2013). A lot of golf bloggers are comparing Inkster to US Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson. If Team USA wins the Ryder Cup, then perhaps the sky is the limit the Captain Inkster.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Senden A Message

- It is incredibly difficult to win on the PGA Tour. People have said that before, but never was it more evident than seeing John Senden knock on the door several times since his first win in 2006. It is amazing to me that Senden has only won twice on tour with how consistently good he has been, especially in the last three years. When Senden dropped to -5, I thought for sure he would find a way to let this one slip away, as well (especially with Scott Langley looking strong), but with a chip in at 16 and a long birdie putt at 17, Senden slammed the door and finally picked up his second win.

- What a great tournament for Kevin Na, who seems to be too far into his own head at times during tournaments. Seeing him a couple years at the Players Championship, where he couldn't hit the golf ball because he was over thinking every shot, made me really worry about the future of Na's game. This week proved to me that Na can still be a top class player, and another win may not be far away.

- I am tired of hearing about the "problems with slow play." Every time Kevin Na or Ben Crane or one of the slow players are in contention, I hear the commentators and the players complain about how slow play is the biggest problem on Tour. Really? The BIGGEST problem? Slow play is bad, I know, and as a fan of the game, it is no fun to watch a player idle over a ball for far longer than they should, but let's not overplay this. Kevin Na and Ben Crane have as much of a right to try and make money the way they can as do the fast players.

- Another week, another top 10 for Will MacKenzie, who is on his way to a career year. He has had several of them this year, but this was the first time when it looked like MacKenzie looked like he had a chance to actually win the tournament. He is getting closer each week he plays, which means a victory should be right around the corner.

- Best wishes to Mark Calcavecchia, who withdrew from the Valspar Championship in the final round and needed medical attention for an undisclosed illness. Hopefully it is a minor thing and he can get right back to it.

- It is encouraging to see Luke Donald contend this week after remaining silent in 2014. He needs a few more good tournaments, because he is no longer a lock for the Ryder Cup this year, and with guys like Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell currently not on the team, those final spots are going to be incredibly competitive.

- It's weird to say "it's about time" when it comes to a 17 year old, but it's the way I felt when Charley Hull won the Ladies European Tour event in Morocco this week. When people discuss the youth movement in women's golf, they are usually referring to Lydia Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn. Hull started out her season last year incredibly strong, and lead the European Solheim Cup team to victory with an absolute thrashing of Paula Creamer on singles Sunday, but she has been relatively quiet since then, with many speculating that she was given too much attention too soon, and it stunted her development. Hull put all of that nonsense to rest, and now looks like a solid contender at the Kraft Nabisco this month.

- We hear a lot about players who would like to peak right before the Masters, and usually that refers to the players on the PGA Tour competing in events like the Valspar or the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but let us not forget about the past champions competing on the Champions Tour. Perfect example is Fred Couples, who always seems to be in the hunt at Augusta on Sunday, who just won the Toshiba Classic with a fury of birdies down the stretch. Another player who will be in the field at Augusta, Bernhard Langer, was in the lead until he struggled in the final round. Don't overlook the old guys, who always seem to have something special waiting for Augusta.

Friday, March 14, 2014

News Grab-Bag: 3/14/2014

Before I go into golf news, I'd love to announce my involvement in a charity fundraiser known as 8-Bit Salute, which is a video game marathon designed to raise money for Operation Supply Drop, which gives video game care packages to soldiers serving overseas and recovering in hospitals. Your support would be appreciated. Onto the golf!

- This year will be the end of an era, as the LPGA has announced that Kraft-Nabisco will no longer sponsor the Kraft-Nabisco Championship after this year. The Kraft-Nabisco has the longest history of any of the majors (except the sponsor-less US Women's Open), so the fact that there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding this event is worrisome. Hopefully the LPGA is able to find another sponsor quickly, and hopefully a sponsor who is going to allow the event to remain at the Dinah Shore course and keep the traditions of this event alive.

- The LPGA, though, does not have to worry about another classic tournament, as ShotRight announced an extension through 2016.

- Blayne Barber, a former Auburn University and current Tour player, was disqualified from this week's Tour event for signing an incorrect scorecard. This is the third disqualification for Barber in 18 months. There are certain news stories that just make you shake your head and wonder "how?"

- Speaking of news stories that make us shake our heads, John Daly carded a 90 in the second round of the Valspar Championship. That's a 90 with a "9". I like John Daly, honestly. He makes golf interesting, he interacts with the crowd in a way very few do, and he doesn't take the sport seriously; however, it's time to move on. He no longer deserves sponsor exemptions. If tournament sponsors need some advise on who to give an exemption to, I encourage them to give me a call. I could give them a few names.

I'm just going to put this can come up with your own commentary

- Florida has been brutal to the golfers so far. High winds blew the top players off the course at the Cadillac Championship, and so far through 2 rounds (second round not complete yet), the leader is sitting at -4, with only 25 players under par. A big difference from what we saw early in the year during the West Coast Swing.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wednesday Preview - Valspar Championship

*Yawn!* After a three week stretch of intense golf, we get to take a bit of a rest this week with the Valspar Championship. Enjoy it while it lasts, because Bay Hill is next week, and we should expect another world class field.

Course: The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook, a 7,300 yard course that is sneaky difficult. It will provide a rest for those who just got their backsides kicked in at Doral, but do not expect a birdie-fest like we saw on the West Coast.  Several of the fairways are tree lined, and the putting surfaces will require the players to pay attention to the slopes.

Strength Of Field: C+. Most of the top players are sitting this one out, but that doesn't mean this will be completely devoid of stars. Matt Kuchar, Luke Donald, and Jordan Speith are the headlining acts in this one.

Extra Tidbits: The two American Abroad players, Peter Uilhein and Brooks Koepka, are playing this event on a Sponsors Exemption. Despite playing the past two years on the European Tour, this will be a virtual home game for these two...This is the same event Jordan Speith officially earned enough money in last year to win Special Temporary Status. He would later parlay that into a victory at the John Deere Classic...Last year, Kevin Streelman held up a final round charge by Boo Weekley to win his first PGA Tour title. There has never been a back to back champion in the 13 year history of the event, and in fact, defending champions have had a pretty poor record the following year.

Fantasy Four:

Will MacKenzie - Has been a top 25 machine this season, including three top 10s to boost him to 23rd on the FedEx Cup standings. Has not had the best history in this event, but I will take recent form over course history. 

Harris English - Has had success on this course, combined with an incredibly solid 2014 season. Players in their 20's have had the most success thus far this season. English had a solid Doral until the winds swept him off the course. Should have more success at a venue he previous competed at.

KJ Choi - Sleeper (?) pick. Two time champion of the event, though the most recent was in 2006. Came close to winning at the end of 2013 (beginning of the current season), and has sprinkled in missed cuts with solid performances thus far this season. A weaker field plus a course he has had success on should mean a good week.

Luke Donald - Completely forgettable season thus far, but has had success on this course, and his ball striking remains high. Could use a high finish to give him more confidence leading into the season's first major. 2012 Champion.

(Personal Note: I was originally going to go with either David Toms or Retief Goosen as my sleeper pick, but I just did not have the courage to do so, so I decided to go with the far steadier hand in Choi. I really hope Goosen or Toms has a great week to make me look like a fool - I deserve it.)

Last Weeks Team:
Thomas Bjorn: T44
Ernie Els: T52
Victor Dubuisson: T62
Rory McIlroy: T24

Puerto Rico:
Ryo Ishikawa: T19
Marcel Siem: CUT
Trevor Immelman: T37
Hudson Swafford: T43

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

PGA Tour 2014 Major Predictions

We can now start counting down to the Masters using the number of weeks rather than months, and anybody who is a golf fan is giddy with excitement over the annual spring major at Augusta. I figured I'd take the time to make a few predictions about the majors that I am absolutely going to mess up. Here, in my opinion, are the four major champions for 2014.

The Masters:
Jason Day
Day fits the bill of someone who should contend at Augusta on a regular basis. Ball striking is up, putting has improved, and that has lead to two victories since November. Day came close a few years ago to winning the Green Jacket, and with Adam Scott winning last year, it takes the pressure off of being the first Australian to win the Masters. As long as Day is healthy, he should be a contender, and I would guess he would walk away with the whole thing.

If Not Him, Then: Tiger Woods
If Tiger is going to win a major in 2014, it needs to be the Masters. The road becomes far more difficult after Augusta, and given how bad he has started the 2014 season, I don't have much confidence in him contending. It is Tiger, however, and it is Augusta. Never say never.

US Open:
Jimmy Walker
Pinehurst is going to beat up on every player that walks that course, and the winner is going to need to be someone with the mental fortitude to withstand the onslaught. Walker has waited an entire career to round into form, and he seems like an unstoppable train now. Walker is also someone who can make a few bogeys and shake them off. If he is in contention on Sunday, look for him to be the crowd favorite, which should give him a boost.

If Not Him, Then: Phil Mickelson
I would love nothing more than to see Phil complete the career Grand Slam, and anything could happen, especially considering Phil's history with the US Open and at Pinehurst, but if you're asking for my opinion right now, I think we're not going to see the ending to the story this year.

The Open Championship:
Thomas Bjorn
The Open has lately been the major that rewards long, hardworking careers, with recent champions being Phil Mickelson and Darren Clarke, as well as championship runs made in their 50's with Greg Norman and Tom Watson. I think the trend continues this year as Bjorn finally makes up for the Open he lost in 2003 and wins a major, completing his career revival.

If Not Him, Then: Sergio Garcia
This could very well be the year Sergio gets that major title we thought he could never win. His confidence has returned, and he is hitting the ball better than we've seen in recent years. What a story that could be.

PGA Championship:
Zach Johnson
Zach Johnson is so good that I forget he's only won one major. If any major sets up for him, it's the PGA Championship. As long as he remains in form all season long, he could easily take this.

If Not Him, Then: Patrick Reed
Winning a major has as much to do with confidence as it does with ball striking, and nobody is filled with more confidence these days than Patrick Reed. PGA Championship has been a good place for first time major winners, including those who haven't had much major experience in the past. It would not be shocking to see Reed win the PGA Championship in his first attempt.

Monday, March 10, 2014

World Golf Championships Living Up To Its Billing

An incredibly interesting week in golf on all front, with some stories coming out of the woodwork in tournaments you may not have been watching. Of course, there are still plenty of stories out of the one you likely were.

- A lot of people are going to be upset with Patrick Reed's assertion that he is one of the top 5 players in the world, but let's review some facts. This victory at Doral was his third in six months. Only Jimmy Walker has that many in the same time frame (on Tour. Adam Scott and Zach Johnson have as many, but those are global titles.) Reed's third victory prior to playing in a major championship for the first time is the most in recorded history. At 23, he is the youngest three time winner currently on Tour. I don't know if I'm ready to declare him better than Adam Scott or Zach Johnson or Phil Mickelson, but he is certainly making a good case for it, and besides, it's good to see a man with a lot of confidence. Only he can believe in himself - no one can do it for him. That is exactly what he's doing.

- Jamie Donaldson looked as if he could possibly steal the tournament away from Reed late in the final round, but a bogey on the last sealed his fate. Still, it is good to see Donaldson on this stage perform so well. Donaldson has always had a tremendous pile of talent, but injuries had taken its toll on him and his consistency suffered because of it. If Donaldson continues this high level of play, he may steal a Ryder Cup spot from one of the veterans who is on the outside looking in (I.E. Ian Poulter)

- Heard a lot yesterday that Bubba Watson was "rounding into form" just in time for the Masters. I don't know if I'm ready to declare him a favorite for his second green jacket, but following up a win with a top finish in an incredibly deep field certainly shows that whatever issues were following Bubba last year appear to be behind him.

- Tough final rounds in big time events can lead to somebody a bit off the radar posting a good round and backdooring their way into a great finish, which is exactly what Thongchai Jaidee did with a final round 68. The veteran from Thailand has been in a lot of these events, and could have been a household name in the US had he ever decided to take his game to the PGA Tour, but Jaidee decided a long time ago that he was going to focus on the Asian Tour, and it has paid off for him.

- I think a top 10 here was good enough to put Scotland's Stephen Gallacher on the Ryder Cup team, but he will have to continue to be consistent and may need a good performance in at least one major. Right now, though, it is looking great for him.

- The big story on all the news sites is going to be Tiger Woods' final round 78, which was so awful that there isn't any silver lining to be taken from it. When Tiger shot up the leaderboard on Saturday, I would have put all my money on him closing the deal at a tournament he won seven times previous. Instead, his back flared up again and his game was complete out of sync, leading to his worst finish at Doral ever. Not only do I not think Tiger can be considered a favorite for the Masters, but I would worry about his ability to make the cut at this point in time.

- I said in my mini-preview for the Puerto Rico Open that alternate field events are good to rookies, and that came true again as Chesson Hadley played four incredibly solid rounds and walked away with his first PGA Tour win. A lot of people have praised Hadley's skills entering his rookie year, so we will see now if this is the springboard into a big year.

- Two of my favorite players were in a duel at the Tour's Chile Classic as Adam Hadwin held off Alistair Presnell for his first victory. Hadwin came close to winning the Canadian Open a few years ago, and qualified for the US Open a couple of times, and Presnell won a few tournaments in Australia and got himself into some WGC events a few years ago. They both have tremendous talent, and hopefully this event is enough to give these two some confidence. I would love to see them play on Tour next season.

- The downside of women's golf is also the beauty of it in some ways. There are not a lot of opportunities for these ladies to play, so when a big event pops up anywhere on the schedule, the top players are sure to flock to the tournament. The World Ladies Championship on the LET Tour in China was the benefactor this week, as several of the top names showed up to the event, and the top two players ended up in a duel on the weekend. In the end, it was Inbee Park who soared past Suzann Pettersen for the victory, which helped Park increase her lead over Pettersen in the Rolex Rankings. I have noticed something about Inbee - she is better when she is being pressured. When Inbee is at the top of the world, and no one is her equal is when she tends to struggle. She loves the competition. Pettersen's chase to get to number one is part of the reason Inbee is now performing back at the level we are used to seeing.

- Another tournament, another missed opportunity for So Yeon Ryu. Granted, she probably didn't have much of a chance against the top 2 players in the world, who were playing at the highest level, but at some point Ryu is going to have to start cashing in on these top 5 finishes that she is racking up. If she doesn't win soon, I'm afraid her confidence will start to slip away.

Friday, March 7, 2014

News Grab-Bag: 3/7/14

Slow news week in the world of golf, with Tiger Woods' "will he, won't he" play speculation taking up a majority of the headlines.

- There will not be a WGC Slam winner this year, as Jason Day withdrew from the WGC-Cadillac Championship prior to the start of the first round with a thumb injury. It does not sound like the injury is too severe, and was taking precautionary measures. Day won the WGC Match Play two weeks ago.

- Golf week has an interview and break down of events regarding Lisa Ferrero's cancer diagnosis and treatment. It is definitely worth the read.

- European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley named two of his assistant captains, Sam Torrance and Des Smyth. One tally mark the US had was that the US captain, Tom Watson, has captained in a Ryder Cup prior, whereas McGinley has not. Both of McGinley's assistant captains have prior experience, with Torrance serving as captain in 2002 and Smyth serving as assistant captain in 2006.

- PGA President Ted Bishop announced earlier this week that they are looking into permanently hosting the Ryder Cup in Valhalla Country Club when the US hosts the event, in what may be the worst decision the PGA could ever consider making. I understand that the PGA needs to have the interests of the US in mind when choosing courses, and Valhalla is one of the only courses where the US has had success in previous years, but that does not mean putting all your eggs in that basket. The US has suffered from terrible course decision making previously, with many of the Ryder Cups played in the US on slightly links style courses. There are plenty of courses out there that can serve to an American advantage (Colonial, Congressional, Marion, etc.) The PGA just needs better decision makers within their organization.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wednesday Preview - WGC-Cadillac Championship

Wasn't it just two weeks ago we were doing a World Golf Championship event? In any case, the PGA Tour heads down to Miami for the annual stop at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

Course: The TPC Blue Monster, though it is not the same golf course we have seen over the past several years. Donald Trump put millions of dollars into renovating the course by lengthening it, adding tees and water, and making it into an incredibly difficult set-up. The course has since been renamed Trump National Doral. The finishing hole, which was difficult to begin with, may have just become the most difficult finishing hole on tour.

Strength Of Field: A+. Normally I don't like giving A+ grades to non-full field events, but all 50 of the Top 50 players are in the field this week. The course and the field set up like a major.

Extra Tidbits: Tiger Woods is at Doral and in the field, but who knows if he is going to play the entire event. Back spasms caused him to withdraw from the Honda Classic in the final round...also hurting is Justin Rose, who is still in the field, but admitted he is not 100%...Victor Dubuisson will make his first start since wowing everyone at the Accenture Match Play. It is yet unclear whether Dubuisson will accept Special Temporary Status on the PGA Tour which was granted to him following his runner up finish...Darren Fichardt will be playing this week. Fichardt was once one of the top players out of South Africa in the early '00s, even going so far as to teaming with Retief Goosen in the World Cup in 2000. Fichardt soon lost his game after that, but gained entry into this field by winning the Africa Open at the end of 2013.

Fantasy Four

Ernie Els - Coming off of a great performance at the Accenture Match Play where only fatigue and long rounds slowed him down. Should feel well rested after sleeping at home for the past week. 

Victor Dubuisson - Runner up finish at Dove Mountain may have been a coming out party, but he still performed well in his other starts on Tour this season. Fantastic short game coupled with high amounts of confidence should give him an advantage on a completely reworked course.

Thomas Bjorn - Sleeper pick. A bad final round stopped Bjorn from having a great week at the Honda. In position to making the Ryder Cup after serving as an assistant captain. 

Rory McIlroy - Really hesitant to place him on the team, but all the experts at have taken him, and I wanted to pick one of the top names. First round will be the key. Could shoot or 63, or could shoot 75. Rory has a history of rebounding after disappointments, which is a huge plus.

Last Weeks Team:
Graeme McDowell: T46
Rory McIlroy: T2
Geoff Ogilvy: CUT
Charl Schwartzel: CUT

Also happening on Tour this week is the Puerto Rico Open, an alternate field event for those who didn't qualify for Doral. A trip to Puerto Rico must be a nice consolation prize for those players. I will not be doing a full run down for the event, but I will give my thoughts on four players I think could succeed in a smaller strength of field event.

Ryo Ishikawa - Started the season strong, but has struggled last couple of weeks. Has had success at this event in the past. 

Marcel Siem - Won in Malaysia last year and almost made the field to The Masters, but has struggled since. Still a good ball striker with talent, and could use this event to help re-install some confidence.  

Trevor Immelman - Appears to be healthy after a few years of injuries plagued his performance. Major championship experience could be a huge advantage in this format.

Hudson Swafford - Rookies thrive in opposite field events. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Dear PyeongChang - Give Se Ri Pak The Torch!

Now that the Winter Olympics have left Sochi (just in time for Russia to push towards World War III), it is time to look towards the next Olympic Games. Rio 2016 is going to be a huge turning point for golf, as it will be the first time in 102 years. I am incredibly excited about that, as both a golf fan and as an Olympics nerd. I will be watching Rio with my eyes wide open.

After Rio,we move to the winter resort town of PyeongChang, South Korea for the Winter Olympics. One tradition of the Opening Ceremony is that several well known athletes of the host country get to carry the Olympic torch into and around the stadium, before lighting the cauldron (an honor usually reserved for an iconic Olympic athlete of that country). The Korean Olympic Committee has four years to figure out who they should put in this torch relay, but I think I can help them on a few fronts.

In terms of lighting the cauldron, that decision is easy - the honor should go to Yuna Kim. It is the Winter Olympics after all, and Yuna won one gold medal in the most prestigious event in the Games, while also being robbed of a second one. She is considered the Queen, a role model for people in the sport as a whole, not just within the Republic Of Korea. While I may be accused of being a prisoner of the moment, I can not think of anyone more worthy of starting off the games than Yuna.

However, there is one athlete that may never get the opportunity to compete at an Olympic Games, and yet deserves to be honored by her home country on the biggest scale, and that is Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak. How influential IS Se Ri, might you ask? Prior to Se Ri's win at the 1998 US Women's Open, there were only two golfers from that country who ever won on a major golf tour - the late Ok-Hee Ku, who did play five years on the LPGA Tour but was far more known for her career on the JLPGA and for governing the KLPGA, and Woo Soon Ko, who won the LPGA Tour stop in Japan two years in a row but never took up membership on the tour. Following Se Ri's victory and break out season, 29 women have won on the LPGA Tour, and another three have won on the men's tour, including 15 majors on the ladies tour and one on the mens. We have also seen two Koreans reach number one in the Rolex Rankings, and last year we saw the first Korean, Inbee Park, win the Player Of The Year Award. Simply put, one woman changed the world, especially the world of golf.

This is Korea's opportunity to thank Se Ri publicly for all she has done for sports in their country. I will say, truthfully, Korea has done a great job in recognizing Se Ri within their country; however, the rest of the world has struggled in giving her the same recognition. This is the biggest sporting event in the world, which will be watched by people all over the world, and is Korea's opportunity to show the world who their heroes are.

Do the right thing, Korea, and give Se Ri the torch!

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Best Week Of Golf In 2014 (So Far)

Wow, what a weekend it was. There are so many stories that need covered, I'm almost afraid I'm not going to cover it all. Let's try the best I can.

- Everyone is going to be speculating about Tiger Woods' withdrawal from the Honda Classic after going +5 through 9 holes on Sunday. Is it a legitimate injury?  Only Tiger himself knows. What I DO know is that it doesn't sound good on either end - either Tiger faked an injury to get out of a tournament he was struggling in, or his back is actually injured, the same injury he had before, and his health is an actual problem. Honestly, I'd rather he be dishonest.

- Rory, Rory, Rory. After Rory McIlroy took the third round lead, I thought the tournament was over. There was no way Rory would have blown a lead like that at a golf course he's won before. Well, this is why no one hires me to make predictions. Rory's back 9 on Sunday was the most hideous in a sea of horrible back 9's. Several times Rory had this event won, and he made mistake after mistake to choke away the tournament. Not good.

- At the end of the day, it was Russell Henley who survived after Ryan Palmer and Rory McIlroy missed putts to win the tournament on the 72nd hole. Henley is a golfer we're going to be talking about for years to come, and is now one of only four golfers under the age of 25 to have multiple wins on the PGA Tour. Henley hit a few shots down the stretch that made me worried, but he executed when he needed to and didn't allow the tournament to get away from him. He has the talent and the mental toughness to be a major contender.

- Will MacKenzie's career year continues after another top 10 finish. MacKenzie now sits 21st in the FedEx Cup standings after losing his status on Tour last year. Talk about a turn around.

- I always like seeing nice guys perform well, especially when those nice guys have gotten some bad breaks in their life. Stuart Appleby having a big rebound season so far is heartwarming to me. Stuart has always been one of my favorite golfers, and to see him back in contention is great, not only for me, but for golf in general.

- Hey, did you know Paula Creamer made a 75 foot putt to win the HSBC Women's Championship? If not, you can see it on, Golf Channel, Twitter, and probably the Washington Post. The media around it is pretty intense, but it doesn't take away from the accomplishment. Paula has been waiting for that next win since 2010. In fact, the entire golf world has been waiting for that next win since 2010. No one had been more consistent, yet winless, in that stretch. Incredible win with an incredible putt. Let's see now if this will lead to more victories for Paula, whose status as the top American on tour was passed over by Stacy Lewis, and was on track to being passed by Lexi Thompson.

- It was hard finding someone to root for in the playoff, because while it's great to see Paula win again, I do really like Azahara Munoz. Aza has had an interesting past couple of years, where she would go from being on the verge of being a break out star to struggling to make cuts and back again. She would put up a performance like she did at the Solheim Cup where she seemed like a world class player, and then turn around and not be in the conversation at the Canadian Open. I really hope this is the beginning of a big year for Aza, and that her next win comes incredibly soon.

- I'm sure Karrie Webb isn't in the mood to take any positives out of this week, but I will say that winning in Australia, then turning around and almost winning in Singapore, after being asked repeatedly last season whether or not she was considering retiring is a great sign. Yes, she choked away this tournament on the final few holes, but it's Karrie Webb. I'm pretty sure she has the mentality and the talent to not let that prevent her from challenging again.

- While we're on the topic of Hall Of Famers, it's good to see Se Ri Pak back in the conversation. Se Ri has battled a shoulder injury that seems to just keep nagging her, but it seems as if she has turned a corner on the injury, as she's played in three of the first four events of the season, made the cut in all three, and finished in the top 25 the last two weeks. With JiYai Shin now golfing in Japan, I.K. Kim being nowhere to be seen, and Hee Young Park struggling with consistency issues, Se Ri may be a victory away from putting herself on the Korean team for the International Crown.

- It's officially over - Stacy Lewis' streak of consecutive top 10's ends at 13, as she finished in a disappointing 40th place this week.

- On the other side of the "Big Three", Suzann Pettersen found her groove again, finishing three shots back of the playoff. So, too, did World Number One Inbee Park. Also finishing in the top 5 was So Yeon Ryu, who may be the new Paula Creamer with how talented she is and how overdue she is for a victory. The leaderboard all week was stacked from top to bottom with well known, high quality players. I'm sure HSBC and the people of Singapore are happy with the show they've gotten.

- She can make whatever decision she's comfortable with, but I'm really sad Teresa Lu didn't accept her invitation to join the LPGA Tour. Her win in Japan was a turning point for her, and I would not be surprised if she won the JLPGA Player Of The Year award this season. She has tremendous talent, and it's glad to see her succeeding after struggling on the Tour several years ago.