Monday, June 30, 2014

Big Names Complete Big Sunday Charges

- Stacy Lewis is the best. Period. End of story. There are some players that are really good, but none of them are as good as Lewis. She has won three times this year, and has finished second four other times this season. She has only finished outside the top 10 once this year. People won't remember Lewis' season compared to Inbee Park's season last year because she hasn't won as frequently, but it is among the best seasons we've seen, and she has the perfect opportunity to take it to a whole new level at the Women's British Open the next time we see the ladies tee it up.

- I feel as if Michelle Wie should have taken this week off. She was clearly out of gas on Sunday, which is understandable, but when you enter the weekend with a two shot lead and you can't cash it in because your exhausted, then perhaps you should have rested. Still, is Lewis is the clear number one on the LPGA, Wie may very well be number two.

- Sunday in Mobile turned into a Who's Who of great LPGA players. Lydia Ko, So Yeon Ryu, and Suzann Pettersen all had a chance to win on Sunday. With the top players playing almost every week, it shouldn't be weird to see big name players on the leaderboard each week, but now it's becoming harder and harder for players further down the money list to notch a top 10 with the big time players playing at a high level each and every week. I guess, to that point, props should go to Jennifer Rosales, who notched her first top 10 of the season this week.

- Who is Korean golfer who is next poised for a victory this season? Some may say it's Ryu, who always finds her way onto the leaderboard but doesn't seem to walk out with trophies. Others think it's Chella Choi, who has 21 career top 10's, but has yet to win on the LPGA Tour. I would argue that it's Meena Lee, who chased her fifth place finish at the US Open with a top 10 in Arkansas. Meena hasn't won since 2006, but is in the middle of one of the best stretches of her career. The only thing holding Meena back right now is her putting, as her driving accuracy and ball striking rank among the best on Tour.

- Lexi Thompson finally ran out of gas as she missed the cut this week for her second missed cut of the season but first since her major triumph. Combined with her 66th place finish at the Shoprite, I think it's safe to say that Lexi doesn't care much for three round tournaments.

- I think a lot of us forgot about Justin Rose. Not that he wasn't a great player - we all knew that. He's just been quiet all season. He hasn't been playing poorly, making us all wonder "what happened to Rose?" He also hasn't been playing lights out golf, either. He's steady and consistent, which makes him rather boring to some, but also makes him incredibly dangerous, especially in sometimes unpredictable majors. He has the kind of game to compete at the Open Championship, and he's entering hot.

- How are you feeling today if you're Brendan Steele? On one hand, you played well enough to qualify for the Open Championship. On the other, you would be in the playoff if it weren't for your double bogey on the 72nd hole. Honestly, you have to put it behind you, and start getting excited that you're going to play in your first ever Open Championship. Steele is riding a wave of two straight fifth place finishes. A performance like that at the Open can be life changing for him.

- You can't look at Shawn Stefani's FedEx Cup ranking as an indicator over whether it's shocking that he was in contention at the Quicken Loans National. Stefani only really got his career started in April, and immediately finished fifth place to secure status for the rest of the season. Since then, he's only missed two cuts. He has played almost every week since he returned in order to fight for a spot in the FedEx Cup playoffs, so it's nice to see that rewarded. Here's hoping Stefani has a passport.

- The media is going to bury Patrick Reed this week after completely falling apart on Sunday, and maybe rightfully so. Reed put all the pressure on himself when he declared himself one of the top five players in the world. I know that was a long time ago, but if you're going to use that moniker, you need to play like it. One of the top five players in the world probably would have cashed in on that victory, or at least held on to notch a top 10. Reed completely blew up to where he wasn't even a factor coming down the stretch. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

News Grab-Bag: 6/28/2014

- Best wishes go out to three time PGA Tour champion Robert Gamez, who had a quadruple bypass surgery earlier this week. The surgery appears to have gone well for the 45 year old Gamez, who hasn't played regularly on Tour since 2008. Here's hoping he makes a full recovery.

- Michelle Wie may have had the greatest victory celebration in the history of golf. After winning the US Open, Wie held a party that included beer chugging, what looks like an impromptu game of quarters, and twerking. "Turn Down For What", indeed. Wie has always been one of my favorite players, but this may have made her jump to the top.

- We may have seen the last of Joe Ogilvie on the PGA Tour. Ogilvie announce that, after the Greenbrier Classic, he will be stepping away from professional golf at the age of 40. Ogilvie only made three cuts on Tour this season, but did qualify for the US Open through sectional qualifying. I hope Ogilvie goes on to have a great career in whatever he chooses to pursue.

- Reigning PGA Champion Jason Dufner announced he "may have five years left", referring to his professional golf game. Dufner seems to be interested in outside interests, and doesn't want to play on the Champion's Tour or be one of those older competitors that always plays but doesn't perform very well. If Dufner is still playing at a high level in five years, I doubt we'll see him just walk away, but he isn't a guy I see playing on Past Champion status.

- Congratulations Team Europe, who routed Team USA in singles competition to win the Palmer Cup.

- Go get yourself one of these sweet new LPGA wallpapers. LPGA has been coming out with wallpapers for years, but these may be the best looking ones yet.

- There are a lot of people up in arms about the news that Tiger Woods did not get drug tested at the Quicken Loans National. I personally think this is a non story, as drug testing in golf is kind of useless to begin with, but it is a little bit interesting that the biggest name on Tour wasn't tested upon his return.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wednesday Preview - Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

The ladies of the LPGA get to wrap and heal their wounds as they move on from Pinehurst and head to Arkansas for the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G. It is the only event between the US Women's Open and the British Open.

Course: Pinnacle Country Club, which measures at 6,400 yards. Seeing as this event is sandwiched between two majors, it is the only opportunity for players to make birdies in bunches. Expect the winning score to be well under par.

Strength Of Field: A. It is surprising to me that so many players are here this week, with majors book ending the event. Perhaps the players think it is better to play than it is to rest. 19 of the top 20 in the world are playing this week.

Extra Tidbits: Michelle Wie will play this week despite the media tour she has been on since winning the US Women's Open...This is the second three round tournament of the year. The event will begin on Friday...The two sponsor's exemptions this week goes to two player who play for the University of Arkansas - Emily Tubert and Gabby Lopez. They both played in last years event, with Tubert finishing T48, and Lopez missing the cut. Meanwhile, Ariya Jutaguarn Monday qualified for the 5th time this season.

Fantasy Four:

So Yeon Ryu - Was out-dueled by Inbee Park last year in the midst of Park's historic month. Finish T5 last week despite not really being in contention until the very end. The perfect event, course, and set up for Ryu to finally notch her third win on Tour.

Stacy Lewis - A relative home game for Lewis, who went to school at the University of Arkansas. Is perfect in birdie or bust courses. Won the previous 54 hole tournament this season. Has a history of rebounding from near misses and translating them into victories.

Shanshan Feng - First round last week was what stopped Feng from being a contender last week. Still finished solidly. Has been trending upwards. Has the ability to go incredibly low on birdie or bust courses. 

Lexi Thompson - I wonder about Lexi's ability to perform at 54 hole tournaments, but is still among the best when on her game. Found a way to notch a top 10 despite playing poorly by her standards. The first round will determine her success - if she can get off to a good start, she'll be in contention the entire week.

(SLEEPER) Xi Yu Lin - Made the cut in two of the last three tournaments, including a top 25 in her most recent tournament. Seems to be getting more comfortable competing on the LPGA Tour. Three round tournaments can be great for contenders that are not among the best in the world. Did not compete in the US Open, so should be rested.

Wednesday Preview - Quicken Loans National

I feel like there is something surrounding this weeks Quicken Loans National. Some big news story that makes this event far more interesting than regular events on Tour. Perhaps a big name returning to action or something like that...
...oh yeah, it's the return of Arjun Atwal! I know, I'm excited, too.

Course: Congressional Country Club, 7,600 yards that rewards power hitters. It's been a generally easy track, as evident by Rory McIlroy's run away victory at the US Open here in 2011.  Congressional was founded by Warren G. Harding, the most corrupt president in US history, so...there's that.

Strength Of Field: C-. Yes, Tiger Woods is returning to action, but a lot of players are missing the event, including Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, and Martin Kaymer. This event used to attract the big names, but now they all seem to be skipping.

Extra Tidbits: There is an opportunity for players who haven't qualified for the Open Championship to do so here. The top 4 inside the top 12 who have yet to be exempt will get in.

Fantasy Four:

Jordan Spieth
Jason Day
- Don't really need to explain these picks at this point. Both are having incredible seasons. Both are looking for another victory to put themselves into the elite class of players. 

Peter Hanson - I was originally going to go without a sleeper pick, but then I realized that most of the points I have acquired this season have come from sleepers. Hanson has had an incredibly up and down season, but has shown he still has some firepower within him, and he's looking for a big finish to get himself in the Open Championship. 

K.J. Choi - Finished second last week. It's time for Choi to start competing at the highest level again, because his opportunities may start running out. Congressional fits his game perfectly.

Last Weeks Team:

Bubba Watson: T31
Erik Compton: CUT
Ryo Ishikawa: CUT
Aaron Baddeley: 4

Monday, June 23, 2014

Michelle Wie Is Finally A Major Champion

One of the biggest weeks in golf, and I was in Philadelphia. Of course.

- It almost seems scripted in a way. Michelle Wie, the one time prodigy who has seen her game fall to pieces and a mountain of people write her off as a failure, has a come back season where she wins in her home state, comes to the US Open with all the attention on her, and walks away with the trophy as the number one player in the world tries to chase her down. Oh, and it also happens to be the week the next "child prodigy", Lucy Li, steals the headlines the first two days. I want to buy the rights to this movie.

- I can't help but thing back to Meg Mallon's decision to select Wie for the Solheim Cup team last year. Mallon likened herself to Greg Norman, who selected Adam Scott to his Presidents Cup team while Scott was in the worst slump of his career. Scott went on to find his confidence after that, and is now the number one player in the world. Perhaps all Wie needed was to be reassured that someone still believed in her.

- Wie had every opportunity to choke away this tournament. After a double bogey on the 16th, followed by Stacy Lewis' charge down the stretch, it was in the cards for Wie to hand the trophy over to Lewis. It was Wie's mental toughness, the thing she has improved on the most in the past year, that kept her calm enough to birdie the 17th and win the tournament. A lot of other players would have folded in that moment. Kudos to Wie for keeping it together and pulling off the shots she needed.

- A lot of people are asking "how many majors will Wie win now?" It's impossible to forecast how many she will end up in her career, but I think it's a legitimate question to ask how many she'll end up with by the end of this YEAR. She finished runner up to Lexi Thompson at the Kraft Nabisco and just won the US Open. She is performing in the majors better than any other golfer on Tour. Is it completely inconceivable that she could go into the LPGA Championship or the Evian Masters and walk out the winner?

- Some runner up finishes are better than others, and Stacy Lewis' this week was one of the best I have ever seen. For one, Lewis has always struggled on US Open layouts. Her game is just not suited to grind out pars. She didn't really prove me wrong this week, either, as her rounds showed the strengths and weaknesses of her game. In her opening round, she was able to make Pinehurst look like a walk in the park as she was firing at flags, but as the middle two rounds got incredibly tough, Lewis' "peddle to the metal" mentality backfired on her. To be able to rebound in the final round and shoot a 66 with birdies on some of the hardest holes on the course shows Lewis' incredible ability. I'm sure Lewis would have loved to win the tournament, but she can't be incredibly disappointed with this week.

- How about that for a pro debut? Stephanie Meadow's first check as a professional golfer is a 3rd place finish in the biggest event on the LPGA schedule. I am not sure where this will lead Meadow - if she'll try out for the European Tour or if she'll stay in the states - but I am now highly interested in this young lady. She didn't let the stage get to her.

- Take away Lydia Ko and ShanShan Feng's bad opening rounds, and they are right there at the end of the week fighting for the tournament. They always say that you can't win a tournament on the first day, but you can lose it, and that's exactly what happened to Ko and Feng, who shot 76 and 77, respectively. For Feng, this is another tournament where one round derailed her, but I said the same thing about Michelle Wie a couple weeks ago. Feng's rise as a superstar is coming. As for Ko, it seems sooner rather than later that we will be talking about her as a major champion. She may just have to wait for her 18th birthday, like Lexi Thompson.

- Speaking of Ms. Thompson, I was expecting another Wie/Thompson weekend shoot out like we got at the Kraft Nabisco. It surprised me to not see Thompson give a real run for the championship. I figured being in contention would have given Thompson a push. Some weeks you have it and some weeks you don't, and it's telling that Lexi, despite having a lackluster weekend, was still able to pull out a top 10.

- Speaking of not having it, is any result more surprising than Inbee Park's T43 finish? This seemed like the kind of course Park would have been able to succeed at, and yet she just seemed lost the entire week. It's even more surprising considering Park's victory two weeks ago. Riding in as defending champion with a win immediately behind her and yet she still finishes towards the bottom? It's baffling to me. Park is never a player to write off considering the kind of game she possesses, but she seems like the odd lady out with Wie and Lewis having pronominal seasons.

- Please come to the US, Sakura Yokomine! Even if it's just for one season!

- Seven straight birdies to win a tournament? Not a fine day at the office. I don't know much about Kevin Streelman except that he always seems to find a way to pop up a few times a year in different tournaments. The fact that he not only broke the records for most consecutive birdies to win a tournament, but that he also did so by chasing down some of the best in the game shows what can happen if you don't give up on a round. Anything is possible on the back 9.

- Sergio Garcia is going to be fine. He may have gotten clipped down the stretch from winning this tournament, but his runner up finish shows that Garcia is at least back to contending again. Given how he's finished in the two majors this season, it's at least a positive result. I think Sergio will win once this season, though it would have been great if it were a major.

- I wonder how many more opportunities KJ Choi is going to have to win a tournament. At 44 years old, Choi clearly isn't the golfer that was near the top of the leaderboards in all the events he played in. If KJ gets himself in these positions, he needs to start closing the deal, because before too long, he won't have this opportunities anymore.

- Buy stock on Aaron Baddeley. Now is the time. Seeing him perform at the US Open, followed by his near miss at the Travelers makes me think Baddeley is in for a career resurgence. He will have a couple more high finishes before breaking through before the end of the year. Though, now I'm nervous, because if I predicted it to happen, it probably won't.

- Tiger Woods returns to action next week. I'll do a complete break down of what this means later this week.

- The KLPGA and JLPGA both had some big time winners this week as the rest of the world was focusing on the US Women's Open. On the KLPGA, Hyo Joo Kim, whom I think is going to be the next great Korean to take the women's game by storm, won her first event of the season, and former world number one JiYai Shin won her first JLPGA event since fore fitting her LPGA membership.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Predicting the US Women's Open (Poorly)

(Personal Note: I will be at Philly Comic Con this weekend, so I will be unable to put up a News Grab-Bag on Friday. Sorry guys!)

As the men leave town, it is now time for the women to take center stage at Pinehurst No. 2 for the US Women's Open. You already know the course and the players, so I don't need to break all that down for you. Instead, I'm going to just predict the players I think will have a chance to win and, ultimately, my champion. Prior to that, however, I think it's important to narrow down the field, and to do that, I have to eliminate some players. So, below, are a grouping of players that I think have no shot to win the US Open.

- Only one amateur has ever won the US Women's Open, and that was Catherine Lacoste in 1967. While Jenny Chausiriporn almost knocked off Se Ri Pak in 1998, I don't see this trend breaking anytime soon. As much as Lucy Li is an incredible story, no amateur is going to hoist the trophy at the end of the week.
Notables Eliminated: Lucy Li, Emma Talley, Minjee Lee.

Anyone Looking For Their First Tour Victory:
- Yes, I know. There have been many players who have banked the US Open for their first victory, going back as early as 2011 when So Yeon Ryu did it. On any other golf course, I would consider it a possibility, but not at Pinehurst. This course is going to require everything you have mentally and physically, and there are going to be a lot of players who are in it on Sunday. You need to have the knowledge of what it is like to close the deal if you're going to conquer this course. If you haven't won yet, I don't see you being able to win at Pinehurst.
Notables Eliminated: Ha Na Jang, Chella Choi, Jodi Ewert Shadoff, Caroline Hedwall, Charley Hull, Ariya Jutanugarn

Anyone Outside The Top 60:
- This has become a top heavy Tour, with the best players playing at the highest level and suffocating the field every time they tee it up. No one outside the top 60 in the world has won this year. If you're going to win on the LPGA Tour, you're going to be at the very top of your game. The winner of the US Women's Open is going to come from the top 25 in the world, but I don't want to count out some of the players just outside that. Top 60 seems reasonable.
Notables Eliminated: Brittany Lincicome, Eun-Hee Ji, Brittany Lang

If you are a fan of any of the players that fit the above categories, congratulations! I just doomed them to winning the US Women's Open (based on my history of predicting things). With that out of the way, here are my contenders for the second major of the year:

(SLEEPER) Shanshan Feng - A very savvy player with a major to her resume. Has the mental strength to not let the course bother her. Entering on the back of a solid year while also under the radar, allowing her to avoid the distractions.

(5) So Yeon Ryu - It was between her and Lydia Ko in this spot, and I just don't see Ko breaking the record for youngest US Open champion. Ryu has struggled closing the deal, but should still be part of the conversation, as her game is perfect for Pinehurst.

(4) Lexi Thompson - The waste areas at Pinehurst aren't as penalizing as a typical Open set-up, so hitting shots off line won't doom her. The question is going to be her putting. Her great iron play and approach shots won't mean much on greens where you can not attack pins. If she is putting well, she will be part of the conversation on Sunday.

(3) Michelle Wie - I do not like all the media surrounding her entering this week, but her game is still at the highest level it's ever been in her career. Again, like Lexi, she won't be penalized for hitting shots off line. Her putting has massively improved this season.

(2) Stacy Lewis - Best player in the field, but the US Open set up has never been her strong suit. Only top 10 finish came all the way back in 2008. Either she isn't a US Open style of player, or her game has now hit a point where she can contend anywhere at any time. I have learned to never count her out, but she could easily win or miss the cut. It's hard to tell.

(1) Inbee Park - Defending champion entering off the heels of a victory. Has proven her worth on Open set-ups. Is mentally tough enough to handle bogies, which will occur. Could honestly pull a Kaymer and run away with this tournament if her putting is on.

Champion: Inbee Park
Winning Score: +2
Winning Margin: 3 strokes

Wednesday Preview - Travelers Championship

Alright, everyone take a deep breath. The PGA Tour players have survived Pinehurst with some of their sanity remaining, and now they travel to Connecticut for the annual post-US Open stop at the Travelers Championship. Now would be a good time for the players to grab a cup of coffee, perhaps a doughnut, and relax a little.

Course: TPC River Highlands, a 6,800 yard course along the Connecticut River. It's one of the increasingly fewer sub-7,000 yard courses played on Tour, and can yield a lot of birdies depending on the weather. It is a stark comparison to Pinehurst - the two courses could not be any more different.

Strength Of Field: C+. There are more bigger name players in this field than I originally thought. Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, and Jason Day are among the top players in the field. Still, none of the foreign based players stuck around after the US Open to play, and it's not really deep as several players playing on Past Champions status got into the field.

Other Tidbits: Ken Duke became the oldest first time winner on the PGA in over a decade last year when he beat Chris Stroud in a playoff. Duke needed two great weekend rounds and a lucky bounce on the 10th hole in order to do it...If you're looking for your first victory on Tour, this is a great place to get it done. The last four winners of this event have notched their maiden victory at the Travelers Championship...Four players are making their professional debut this week after great amateur careers - Patrick Rodgers, Bobby Wyatt, Cameron Wilson, and Oliver Goss.

Fantasy Four:

Bubba Watson - A missed cut at the US Open typically doesn't hurt anyone going into Connecticut, especially not Bubba, who has played well here. Owns a win along with three other top 10 finishes. Has typically not played well in US Open competition, so that result aside, he has played really well all season.

Erik Compton - Travelers has been great to people looking for their first win. Compton is coming in on the emotional high of his top finish at the US Open, and as long as he can avoid the distractions around him and keep his emotions in check, he should perform well here.

Ryo Ishikawa - Alright, follow me on this one. Not only can you not ignore the stats about first time winners in Cromwell, but it's also the first event Ishikawa has played since his countryman, Hideki Matsuyama, won at the Memorial. Seeing his victory should give Ishikawa a kick in the pants to start performing at a higher level.

Aaron Baddeley - Had an up and down US Open, but showed flashes of the player we thought he would become early in his career. Has actually had a decent season, quietly making it to 104 on the FedEx Cup standings. 

Results From Two Weeks Ago:
Ryan Palmer: T32
David Toms: MC
Ryuji Imada: T50
Lee Westwood: MC

Monday, June 16, 2014

No Drama At Pinehurst As Kaymer Laps Fiels

- The outcome was in doubt before the third round tee'd off, but no one really wanted to admit it. Martin Kaymer played a completely different golf tournament then everyone else. While they were struggling to make pars, Kaymer was all systems go, attacking pins and making putts in bunches. This wasn't a man playing a US Open. This was someone who picked up his golf clubs for a nice, friendly round of golf with his buddies at the local golf course. Wire-to-wire dominating performances at majors are nothing new, but this isn't the number one player in the world. Kaymer is someone who went through struggles up until this season. Whatever he did between last year and this year, he needs to keep doing...and never tell anyone else.

- Kaymer's lapping of the field, along with the lack of any real big names in contention left for yet another lackluster major in 2014. I'm not saying either Kaymer or Bubba Watson owe us an apology, but it's hard to watch a tournament when the end result is already determined. The Masters saw some of its lowest Sunday ratings ever, and I would not be surprised if the ratings are low again for this event, as well...though it won't be because of Donald Trump's idiotic assertion that the golf course caused low ratings.

- I'm pretty sure everyone who watched the US Open this weekend instantly became an Erik Compton fan. How can you not? Not only does he have a remarkable story, but he seems like one of the most genuine guys out there. Compton was already impressive, but this finish was on a whole new level. Now there is just one thing remaining...a victory.

- Only one person has a top 5 finishes in both majors contested in 2014 - Rickie Fowler. Let that sink in for a moment. The most consistent man in the major fields has been one of the most inconsistent golfers this season. In fact, take away the majors and the third place finish at the match play, and Fowler has only one other top 10 this season. I honestly have no idea what to make of this man. Hopefully we start seeing some consistency from him and he turns into the golfer we all thought he would be after his victory in 2012. A Fowler who is rattling off wins is good for the sport. It just needs to happen.

- We're going to be seeing a lot of Brooks Koepka on the PGA Tour this season. He already had unlimited sponsor exemptions thanks to becoming a Special Temporary Member, but with his T4 finish at the US Open, there are going to be a lot of tournaments who are going to want him in their field. He can already book a couple of events - the Open Championship, the PGA Championship, and next years Masters. When we talk about the youth movement on the PGA Tour, we have to make room for Koepka, who is going to impress a lot of people.

- Another major, another top finish for Jason Day. Since 2011, Day has finished in the top 10 six times in majors, including five times inside the top five. I have to wonder, if Day was completely healthy this season, if he wouldn't have walked away with this tournament. Day shows up in a big way for the biggest tournaments, and the only thing missing from his resume is a major trophy.

- Here's an interesting stat: For the first time since 2002 (when Tiger Woods was tearing up the world) the first two majors of the season have been won my two players who had already won majors. There is still a lot of parity on Tour, but there are a handful of golfers who are starting to step up in a big way in the face of the void at the top.

- Is anyone more under the radar than Jimmy Walker? FedEx Cup leader who has finished in the top 10 in both majors as well as the Players, and yet I don't hear a whole lot about him. It is like most people think his position at the top of the Cup standings is a fluke. I don't think it is. Walker is an impressive player, and when he walks away this season as the PGA Champion and heads to Gleneagles for his first Ryder Cup he will start being on the lips of more people.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

News Grab-Bag: 6/14/2014

- Are you ready for the World Cup? Mika Miyazato is. In fact, I'm not much of a soccer/football fan, but I try to watch as much of the World Cup as I possibly can (and with the US Open being a run away at the moment, it might be more than I originally planned). International competitions are awesome, and I encourage you to watch!

- A huge congratulations to Laura Davies...or should I say, Dame Laura Davies. Davies made a Dame in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. I'll be honest, my simple American brain doesn't quite understand the process of becoming a Dame or a Sir, but I do know that it's a huge deal, not just got Davies herself, but for all of women's golf. Davies has certainly earned this title. I wonder if that means the players will be forced to go easier on her during their annual football match at the Evian.

- There was a strange incident at the US Open where Hunter Mahan and Jamie Donaldson hit the wrong ball while playing together. Hunter Mahan's caddie explains the situation in full detail, but I must say I have never heard of such a thing...outside of a weekend round of golf with my grandfather. Because of Mahan's two stroke penalty, he missed the cut, which ended up being at +5. I'm sure this is something they'll sit back and laugh about at a later time, but right now, Mahan's caddie has to feel absolutely awful.

- Phil Mickelson has been cleared by federal investigators in any wrongdoing in regards to insider trading, which is exactly what I expected in the first place. If Phil truly did anything wrong, they would have figured it out sooner than two years. Being cleared hasn't helped Phil's performance at Pinehurst, but at least we can move on from that topic now.

- Congratulations to Inbee Park, who was named by Business Insider as one of the "30 Women Who Are Changing The World." Inbee Park came in at number 10, above several other athletes, including Serena Williams and Brittney Griner. Even more impressive? She ranked above the president of her own country.

- The LPGA has a fantastic article about Chinese golfers Shanshan Feng and Xi Yu Lin. The story about how these two intertwine in a country of over two billion people is absolutely amazing. Check it out! If you're a casual golf observer, you may want to read up a bit on Shanshan Feng, because I have the feeling you're going to hear quite a bit about her in the next couple of months.

- One of three things is going to happen at the US Open this weekend. 1) Martin Kaymer is going to take his large lead and absolutely destroy the field. 2) Kaymer will start playing it safe, it will look closer than it is in the end, but Kaymer still walks away with the trophy. 3) Kaymer completely collapses and is talked about in the same light as Greg Norman and Dustin Johnson. Honestly, I have no idea which way to lean. He seems like the kind that will run away with it, but Kaymer almost gave away his large lead at the Players, and this course should harden up and make things more difficult. If he had this same lead going into Sunday, it would b far easier to predict.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Predicting The US Open Headlines

The US Open, probably more than any other tournament, is dominated less by the names who are teeing it up and more about the storylines that occur. While The Masters is known more for the highest quality of golfers playing in the tournament and the Open Championship is known for the history of the game of golf, the US Open's identity is carved by the headlines that are written. In lieu of a traditional Wednesday Preview, I have decided to predict some of the headlines from each round.


Who?! - No names at or near the top of the leaderboard get people scrambling towards Google to figure out who these players are. Several people will ask "can they actually win this?" No. The answer is no, but for one day these players will be known by the entire golfing world.

No Tiger - At least in the morning, the conversation will be dominated by the lack of Tiger Woods in the field. It's honestly not fair, because there are a lot of great players in a fantastic championship, but Tiger will always be the topic of conversation until someone else like him comes along.

Phil In Position - Phil Mickelson won't be on the first page of the leaderboard at the end of Thursday, but he won't completely implode, either. With all eyes on Phil for the week, wherever he is at any given time will be news.


Who?! Part 2 - A few no names remain near the top of the leaderboard, but now they are, at least, a little higher up in the World Golf Rankings. Names like Steve Alker, who won on the Tour last week, and Hyung Sung Kim of Korea, or Thongchai Jaidee, the veteran from Thailand, sit near the top. Not exactly names that slip off the tongue, but not complete no names, either.

Phil Makes Cut: Needs To Rally - Lefty neither does anything poorly nor anything well in the first two days, and he makes the cut by two strokes. That will put him about 6 shots behind the leaders, meaning he needs to have a big Saturday round in order to put himself into position on Sunday.

Big Names Miss Cut - Number one player in the world, Adam Scott, will pack his bags and head home early. So, too, will Ryder Cup veterans Zach Johnson and Ian Poulter, past US Open Champion Graeme McDowell, and Stanford golfer Cameron Wilson.


No Grand Slam - Phil Mickelson finds himself too many shots back on Saturday to make a conceivable run for the championship. The plus side is that Lefty won't be picking up a seventh runner up. Also part of the grand slam conversation, Bubba Watson finds himself too make shots back, meaning we will go 84 years without a Grand Slam Champion.

Older Players Looking For Glory - Jim Furyk, Thongchai Jaidee, and Miguel Angel Jimenez are among the players over 40 who find themselves withing shouting distance of the leader heading into Sunday. All three have great stories - Jaidee looking for Thailand's first major, Jimenez looking to be the oldest champion ever, and Furyk looking for a major 11 years after his lone major triumph.

Can Japan Win A Major? - Hideki Matsuyama finds himself in the final group, trying to bring home the first major championship for the country of Japan. Matsuyama contending causes Japan to stay awake in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday, hoping to finally watch one of their own raise the trophy.

Kooch In Control - Matt Kuchar has a one shot lead heading into Sunday, where he finally looks to win his elusive major championship.


Kuchar Collapses - Matt Kuchar heads to the back 9 on Sunday with the lead, but late bogeys sink his chances as he finishes two shots back of the champion.

Finally! Japan Has A Major! - Hideki Matsuyama makes a few key birdies and avoids the big numbers and wins the US Open, the first major for the country of Japan and second major for Asia as a whole. Matsuyama wins the US Open at the age of 22, causing many to predict wins in bunches for the young gun.

Champion: Hideki Matsuyama
Winning Margin: 2 Strokes
Winning Score: One Under Par

Monday, June 9, 2014

Queen Bee Returns To The Winner's Circle

- It has been stated numerous times that, perhaps, there is a burden to be number one. You've achieved a goal you were after your entire life, and now no longer have anyone to go after. Meanwhile, every other player in the world is chasing after you and looking to beat you. I'm not saying Inbee Park wasn't motivated prior to this week, but she seemed like a completely different golfer this week as opposed to the rest of the season. With the rest of the world looking at the young Americans to carry the LPGA, Inbee can now fly under the radar and take a lot of people by surprise. It's a rather amazing situation to be in for someone who just won three majors a season ago.

- By the way, just how brilliant was that final round 61? It was so brilliant that some people are criticizing it for not being a 59. Inbee destroyed that course yesterday.

- It is June, and Asia can finally celebrate their first LPGA champion of the season. A few years ago, the LPGA would be filled with champions from South Korea that no one in America has ever heard of. Over the last two years, however, despite one or two other tournaments, it has really been Inbee Park carrying the Korean contingent. It reminds me a lot of Se Ri Pak's greatness in the early 2000's. Inbee has a little bit to go before she can be compared with the greatest Asian golfer of all time, but if she can win a couple more majors, the comparisons will be close. I'm sure Korea would love a few more champions, but they'll take Inbee's greatness.

- Shanshan Feng may be the most forgotten great player on the LPGA Tour right now. Part of the reason is because she is Chinese, part is because she plays a half season in Asia, and part is because she doesn't win as often as she should for how often she is in contention. She faltered during the birdiefest on Sunday, but that shouldn't take away from her play as of late. The US Open is in two weeks, on a course that suits Shanshan's game. She would make a perfect sleeper pick.

- It is rather fitting that both Stacy Lewis and Michelle Wie finished T6. These two have been the two most consistent players on Tour this season, and their strong finishes this week set them up perfectly for the US Open. The knock against Wie right now is that she isn't able to rake in the birdies like some of the other players on Tour, which is preventing her from filling a storage unit with trophies, but she shot four rounds in the 60's this week, and she was able to shrug off a disappointing week last week. Lewis, meanwhile, is showing why she's the best player on Tour, and is easily the favorite going into the US Open.

- Hee Young Park's nickname is "The Rocket". It was supposed to be a compliment for the way she "rockets" up the leaderboard, but it could also be a way to describe her play in general. In several tournaments this season, Park looked like she could win the golf tournament...on Thursday. She then follows it up with a terrible round to put herself out of contention. She was able to notch a top 10 this week, but you have to wonder how great she could be is she could avoid those horrible stretches of golf.

- Ben Crane has made a career out of coming back from career slumps. It was five years between his wins in 2005 and 2010, and it's been three years between his two most recent victories. Crane has really struggled this season after a back injury, and looked like he was going to miss the FedEx Cup playoffs this season until his win in Memphis. Is surprises me, though, that Crane has only won 5 times on Tour. Unfortunately, back injuries have prevented Crane from becoming an elite player.

- The FedEx St. Jude Classic this year seemed to be a calm before the storm. It was relatively anti-climatic, with Crane having too large of a lead entering Sunday to be over taken. There were rain delays, which caused the event to not be live on a major network. The only big name in contention was Phil Mickelson, and his rounds were so up and down that it was hard to get excited by it. It's unfortunate that this tournament, which does great work for a wonderful charity, is going to be brushed under the rug, but that tends to happen the week before a major.

- Speaking of Lefty, there is a part of me that thinks there is no possible way he wins the US Open this year, and yet there is another part of me that thinks he is saving his magic for next week. I think we will know on Thursday - Phil needs a great first round to have a chance. He's not going to do like he did at the Open last year, where he shot a great final round and everyone collapsed around him. He needs to be in contention all week to have a chance, and seeing how he plays round to round this week, I don't really like his chances.

- I feel really bad for Koumei Oda, who would have gotten in to the US Open with a win in Japan this week. He finished one shot back of the eventual champion, leaving him at 62 in the World Golf Rankings. Anyone in the top 60 is exempt into the US Open. Conversely, it's great to see Bernd Weisberger make it on the number after losing in a playoff on the European Tour. Many thought Bernd would be on the outside looking in after finishing in second place, but he made it, and needs to now start making travel plans. Even though I feel bad for Oda, I can't help but also feel great for the man who gets in because of Oda - Craig Barlow. Barlow lost his Tour card a few years ago, and is best known as one of the players who played with Annika Sorenstam when she played in the Colonial in 2005. He has never won on Tour, hasn't made a cut in any PGA sponsored event since 2012, and will be a forgotten player entering the event, but he will start on the first tee with as much of a chance to win as anyone.

Friday, June 6, 2014

President Cup Captains Announced

This week, the announcement of the 2015 President Cup captains took place. For the International Team, they will be lead once again by Nick Price, who captained the team last year. Captain Price did as good of a job as he possibly could under the circumstances - he just didn't have the firepower on his team to stack up against the American squad. With the Internationals having home course advantage next year, Price is given a second opportunity to see if he can will his team to victory. The Internationals will also be calling on KJ Choi as a vice captain. The event will take place in South Korea, so Choi's presence in some capacity was expected. Many, including myself, expected Choi to be named captain for the event, for Price returning for another shot also makes a lot of sense.

Team USA will be captained by Jay Haas. Haas played on three Ryder Cup teams and two President Cup teams, and has 9 PGA Tour wins to his name. The announcement was a little bit of a surprise, as Haas has flown under the radar the past couple of years, but the announcement was also accepted as a positive one, as many people think Haas has the personality to lead the team into a hostile environment. Haas's vice-captain will be Fred Couples, who went 3-for-3 as a captain of the Presidents Cup, so Haas will have plenty of experience behind him.

Personally, both of these announcements make sense to me. The only person besides KJ Choi who should have gotten an opportunity to captain this team is Nick Price, and so seeing them give Price another chance in what may be much more favorable conditions is the right thing to do. The Internationals need someone who is going to come at this process with a lot of passion, and Price showed that he has exactly that. He is going to be thinking about these matches for the next year and a half, and whoever he is able to get on his team, he is going to expect nothing but the best from them. The Internationals need to win in order to make these matches mean something again, and I'm sure Nick Price knows this.

For the Americans, they are playing with house money entering enemy territory. If they give someone the team to someone like Haas, who has vice captain experience, and it doesn't work it, then there is no real harm in it. They get to know right away if Haas is the kind of captain they need long term, or if he is going to be a one and done disappointment. Either way, Team USA is under zero pressure entering these matches, so they didn't need some huge name that is known as being a tough, cerebral guy.

The only odd announcement was Fred Couples being a vice captain. I figured he would want to just sit back and relax, not having to worry about these kinds of events anymore. Apparently, once you get a taste of it, you want to savor it. Just ask Tom Watson.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Wednesday Preview - 6/4/2014

Sorry folks, it's been an incredibly busy week for me this week, so I haven't had the time to really sit down and preview the two events this week. I apologize. I will be sure to put in extra work the next two weeks for the two US Opens that are about to be upon us. For now, though, you're just going to get my fantasy picks for this week.

FedEx St. Jude Classic:

Ryan Palmer - Tied for fifth in his last start, which was at Colonial. Finished forth here last year. Sometimes, two and two actually DO make four, though Palmer has burned me in the past and plays much better under the radar than he does as a favorite.

David Toms - Two time winner of this event. Having strong vibes after a tie for fifth at Colonial and qualifying for the US Open on Monday. Hasn't missed a cut since the Texas Open in March, a stretch of five tournaments.

Ryuji Imada - Rolling the dice with Imada as my sleeper pick once again. Played a lot in May, including the Tour, the Byron Nelson, and the US Open qualifier on Monday. He didn't make it to the Open, but he should still have a drive to play well this week. Weak field should make is less difficult on him.

Lee Westwood - Only going with him because he is a former winner of this event. Has been a mixed bag, with top 10s at the Masters and the Players, but three missed cuts and weak performances otherwise. Needs some solid outings to put himself back in the mix for the Ryder Cup - he's currently on the outside looking in.

Manulife Financial LPGA Classic:

Stacy Lewis - Picking against her would not be a wise move at this point. Playing better than anyone right now, heading into the biggest tournament of the year.

Lydia Ko - Could take the number one spot right out from under Lewis with a win this week. Weak results last week, but looking ahead to Pinehurst should give her some extra motivation. Haven't seen Ko have two bad weeks in a row her entire career.

Michelle Wie - Worst performance of the year last week, but it was still a top 25. Last week yielded some odd results for a lot of players, so I chalk it up to the three round format. This week will be the test over whether Wie should be considered a favorite for the US Open.

Shanshan Feng - One of the most consistent players on Tour, but doesn't play enough in the US to see that translate into CME Globe numbers. Always been a under the radar player, and comes in this week with all eyes on the Americans. Could easily sneak into contention without anyone noticing.

(SLEEPER) Dori Carter - Seen her name crop up on leaderboards a few times this season. Two top 10's with only one missed cut. Was in contention last week until a lackluster final round.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Five Sectional Qualifiers That Could Contend At Pinehurst

Yesterday was sectional qualifying in the United States for the US Open, which consisted of 10 separate golf tournaments taking place at the same time for the right to compete in one of the biggest tournaments in the world. It is one of the coolest and most chaotic days in golf, and many who survive are players no one has ever heard of who will be playing in their first ever PGA Tour event. For these players, just getting a spot in the tournament is an accomplishment...but for other qualifiers, they have bigger goals in mind. Here, now, in my opinion, are five sectional qualifiers who could contend for the US Open trophy.

Honorable Mention - J.B. Holmes
- I was originally going to have Holmes on this list, but his style of play isn't rewarded at US Open settings. There is talk that the rough won't be as bad this year, and if that is true, then Holmes could be part of the conversation. As it stands now, though, with what we know about US Open golf, I don't see Holmes being a factor at the end of the week.

5) Brian Stuard
- Stuard, who dominated the Springfield qualifier, is having an up and down season on the PGA Tour, but ranks 29th in the FedEx Cup and has four top 10 finishes this season. Stuard qualified for the US Open last year and missed the cut. While I do not expect Stuard to hoist the trophy on Sunday, he fits the bill of the typical lower name player who is at or near the top of the leaderboard going into the weekend. He will need to hit a few more greens in regulation, but is a pretty decent putter.

4) Brooks Koepka
- Usually, the international qualifying sites provide a few big names that could sneak into the the picture at the US Open. This year seems devoid of those names, as players such as Matteo Manassero and Padraig Harrington missed out on qualifying, and instead the names of those who did include Shane Lowry, Marth Mulroy, and Tom Lewis. Koepka might have the most firepower of anyone at the European qualifier, and has played a majority of his golf in the States this year. He also made the cut in the last major he played in, the 2013 PGA Championship.

3) Hyung Sung Kim
- Kim skipped out on the qualifier in Japan to play in the Memorial and the qualifier in Ohio. He made the right decision, as he easily qualified in one of the hardest qualifying fields. Kim played on the Japan Tour and hasn't missed a cut all season. He also played three times in the US this year, and while the results weren't spectacular, he hasn't missed any of those cuts, either. Kim won one of the biggest golf tournaments in Japan, the Crowns, this season. Other winners of the Crowns include Ryo Iskikawa, Darren Clarke, Justin Rose, and Seve Ballesteros.

2) Paul Casey
- I sure would have liked this pick more had Casey not crumbled on the weekend at Memorial, but I can not ignore what he has done with the limited playing opportunities he has gotten this season. Four of the last five tournaments he has entered have results in top 25s, and would have been a real threat to win some of them had one round not gotten away from him. The US Open is the kind of tournament that can forgive a bad round if you play well enough the rest of the week. Casey has played in 9 US Opens, including the last time it was held at Pinehurst, but he withdrew from that tournament after the first round. He made the cut at Marion last year.

1) David Toms
- David Toms hasn't missed a cut on the PGA Tour since March, and his most recent event was a tie for fifth at Colonial. He easily qualified in Memphis, where he opened with a round of 66 and never once was in trouble of missing the qualifying. Toms tied for forth at the US Open two years ago, and finished 7th at the PGA Championship last year. Toms is trending in the right direction, and I can easily see him being part of the conversation once Sunday comes.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Very Memorial Memorial

- Everyone who followed golf over the past two years knew it was a matter of time before Hideki Matsuyama won on the PGA Tour and began to make a name for himself in the US, but I'm not sure how many expected it to happen so quickly. After an incredible 2013 where he didn't even play in the United States full time and yet still notched six top 25 finishes, Hideki has has an up and down season, chasing high finishes with missed cuts and battling injuries. The last two tournaments, however, have been fantastic, and he is now peaking right before the US Open, where he managed a top 10 last year. Hideki will win a major someday, and who knows...perhaps that time is sooner rather than later.

- Kevin Na might not be going home incredibly happy after hitting his tee shot in the water during the playoff, but he can at least take some solace in the fact that he was able to rally on the final day, shoot an eight under par round, and get himself into position to win hours before the leaders had to start making shots. At this time last year, Na was worried about a back injury which kept him from playing, and which put his future on Tour in doubt. He now has two runner up finishes this season.

- I could have sworn that Bubba Watson had this tournament in the bag after he birdied the fourth hole. Alas, he failed to birdie the two par 5's on the front, and a bogey-double on the back erased his chances. Bubba can add his name to the list of top players this season who had a lead on Sunday and failed to convert, a list that includes Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, and Rory McIlroy. Some comfort for Bubba - all three of these men ended up winning later in the year.

- Speaking of Adam Scott, the world number one is certainly playing like the title he was given two weeks ago. He followed up a win at Colonial with a forth place finish at Memorial where he certainly had a chance to win until some stumbles on the back nine. Scott is certainly someone who is going to have a lot of confidence as he enters Pinehurst.

- We have a Ben Curtis sighting! Coming off of four straight missed cuts, Curtis returns close to home and notches his first top 10 since 2012. It still amazes me that it's been 11 years since Curtis' Open Championship victory, and that we never got to see Curtis really become a top name player. One plus side is that he is only 37 years old - he still has some time to start climbing back.

- Why haven't we seen more of Thorbjorn Olesen this season? I would have bet money on the fact that Olesen would make the jump to the US and instantly translate his game into immediate success. It's shocking to me that this is his first top 10 of the season. Also collecting his first top 10 of the season is Steve Stricker, but to his defense, this was only his sixth start of the season.

- I'm not going to write anything on this Phil Mickelson/insider trading stuff until I learn more about it. Phil maintains his innocence and no charges have been filed yet, so I'm going to hold off on passing judgment. It is an incredibly odd story, however.

- Congratulations to Thongchai Jaidee on his first victory in two years. For some reason, I've had a thought in my head that Jaidee would be part of the conversation entering the weekend at the US Open, and his victory this week at least allows me to think I'm not completely crazy.

- We have a new number one on the LPGA Tour, as Stacy Lewis won her second event of the season to pass Inbee Park in the Rolex Rankings. It is probably fitting, as Lewis has played better than anyone the past several months. Lewis is no doubt the queen right now, and it is up to the others to win and win often if they wish to overthrow her.

- The tournament was actually closer than it was, and big congratulations to Christina Kim for hanging in there until the 18th hole. This is Kim's second top 10 in four tournaments, and her best finish in several years. One good tournament is a fluke, but two is a trend, and right now, I would start buying some stock in Christina Kim if there are any available.

- I think it's safe to say that, no only is the Asian domination of the LPGA Tour over, but Asian golf is in pretty rough shape on Tour. Na Yeon Choi looked like she was poised for a great week, but two weekend rounds in the 70's ended that. The big name Korean stars are having a tough time even getting top 10's, and they've had to rely on mid level players like Haeji Kang and Meena Lee to carry the torch for them. Shanshan Feng has split her time between the LPGA Tour and the JLPGA Tour, which has prevented her from really lighting it up this season. And while Japan can celebrate Hideki Matsuyama's victory at Memorial, they also have to be wondering where ANY of their ladies are, as Japan as a whole has struggled mightily this season.

- Here are some notable players who finished outside the top 10 for the first time in what seems like forever:
Michelle Wie: T23
Lydia Ko: T46
Lexi Thompson: T66
These three round tournaments, I'll tell ya...