Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wednesday Preview - WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

We are in the middle of the longest stretch of golf for the world's best players, as we head to Akron, Ohio for the annual stop at the Bridgestone Invitational. The World Golf Championship event comes two weeks after the Open Championship and one week prior to the PGA Championship. Oh, and the PGA Tour playoffs begin two weeks after the year's final major. It's a sprint to the finish!

Course: Firestone Country Club, a classic golf course that measures at a mere 7,100 yards but provides plenty of problems for players. The winner score is consistently double digits under par, but scoring rarely gets out of control. That being said, it is a course that awards aggressive play.

Strength Of Field: A+. Dustin Johnson is the only player inside the top 50 in the world that is sitting this event out. Bridgestone always attracts the best.

Extra Tidbits: Jason Dufner will play this week, despite announcing that he is suffering from two bulging disks in his next. The defending PGA Champion said there were weeks where he got little to no sleep. He still plans to play next week...Tiger Woods will tee it up for the third time since recovering from back surgery. He has won this tournament 8 times...Weather may be a problem this week, as rain is a possibility until Sunday. The wind will determine whether it effects scores.

Fantasy Four:

Rory McIlroy - I hate taking a player immediately after a major victory, especially one that was a rout, as a player ultimately has a let down following that success. Rory's performance at the Open, however, baited me into this pick. I would feel like a fool if I didn't pick him the next two weeks.

Adam Scott - The most under the radar world number one in some time. Rory's run away win in Liverpool has put the pressure on Scott to succeed in order to keep his ranking, and I believe he will do just that. This course should set up for his style of play.

Tiger Woods - I can't really label one of the greatest golfers of all time as a "sleeper" pick, but given his recent performances, that's exactly what this is. If he is healthy, as he appears to be, and he has the rust shaken off, then there is no one in the field who can touch Tiger at Firestone. Where he finishes this week will determine where is game is going forward. If he finishes towards the bottom of the field, expect him to not be named to the Ryder Cup team.

Victor Dubuisson - Cooled down following his runner up finish at the match play, but notched a top 10 at the Open Championship to renew my confidence in him. He is a lock to make the Ryder Cup team, but something tells me he's going to want to make more of an impression heading into the matches. Aggressive golfer who will have no trouble firing at pins. 

There is also an alternate field event taking place this week - the Barracuda Championship, which is the coolest sounding golf tournament on the schedule. As usual, I will not provide a full rundown, but I will give the four players I think will succeed.

Retief Goosen - Best year he's had in years. Hasn't missed a cut since March, and finished T12 in Canada last week. Goosen will break back into the winner circle again soon, and this is the perfect week to do it.

Chad Campbell - Hit or miss, with two top 25s and two missed cuts in the last four starts. Needs a big week if he wants any shot at regaining his card for next season. 

Ben Curtis - Finished T12 last week after missing the cut at the Open Championship. This is good news, seeing as he would string together a run of missed cuts throughout the season. Is currently 128th in the FedEx Cup points, and since he is not exempt into the PGA Championship, he will have two weeks to crack the top 125. 

Oliver Goss - These are the kinds of events young rookies/non members play well at. Goss just turned pro a few months ago, and is looking to join the PGA Tour next season. This is the perfect event to show his stuff. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Spain Rules The World Of Women's Golf

- The story of the year in golf may be Jarrod Lyle's US comeback. Not only did he beat leukemia and get healthy enough to return to a golf course, but in his first event in the United States since that fight, he finishes T-11. People would have been understanding if he shot two rounds in the 80's and went home on Friday. Lyle had visions of actually winning the golf tournament. No one has a heart bigger than Lyle.

- The International Crown ended up being awesome. Every team in the tournament thought they had a shot to win the tournament each day of the event. The roller coaster nature of the event lead to some fantastic television. While I still don't care for the format of the final day, it's obvious that the LPGA is sitting on a fantastic tournament, and with one or two tweeks, it might be the premier event on the LPGA Tour.

- I like the players on Team Spain, but I can honestly say that I was rooting for an Asian team the entire tournament. The Spanish players already have the Solheim Cup. I would have loved to see a team win it that didn't have the opportunity to play in that event. Still, you can't deny that there is something about team events that gets the Spanish players excited. Carlota Ciganda, Azahara Munoz, and Beatriz Recari all were strong performers for the European team last year, and combined with Belen Mozo they swept singles this year to take home the International Crown. I have a feeling Spain will consistently be a contender in this event, no matter what their seasons are like heading into it.

- It remains a mystery to me why Americans struggle with match play. I know that it isn't as common in this country to play that particular style of golf, but it's also not a hard thing to grasp. With all the talent the Americans have, the fact that they were bounced from the tournament, where they came in loaded with talent and with all the momentum behind them, before the finals is truly an incredibly disappointing result.

- Also disappointed today has to be Korea. If someone told the Koreans that Team USA would be eliminated from the tournament prior to the singles matches, they probably would have felt like they were almost guaranteed the tournament at that point. A combination of bad breaks and shaky play in the group stage all but sunk their chances going into Sunday, and Na Yeon Choi's thrashing at the hands of Carlota Ciganda sealed their fate early. They will get better, and they will be one of the favorites again in 2016, but they have to feel some stinging today.

- Did you know Tim Clark recorded only his second PGA Tour victory yesterday? This fact shocked me. With how good and consistent he was in majors in the mid-2000's, I would have assumed he'd have a few wins under his belt. He did win three times in Europe, but it's surprising to me that he didn't win more often. Of course, injuries and loss of form sent him from being a top, consistent players to being left behind, so it was nice to see Clark win once again. I'm sure being left off the International's President Cup last year gave him a little motivation. The only question mark is, will he be able to win once the anchored putter gets banned?

- Another 54 hole lead, and another runner up finish for Jim Furyk. This one is probably the worst of the bunch, as he had a 3 shot lead early in the final round, only to make one birdie through the entire back nine of an easy golf course. Furyk absolutely should have won this one, and it makes me wonder if it's now in his head. Great player, but unable to cash in when the pressure is on.

- If you thought the majors were boring this year, you should have watched the Senior Open Championship, where Bernhard Langer won by 13 strokes. This tournament was over on Friday. I'm really interested in seeing those ratings.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Would You Rather?

I get bored at work and think about stuff, which is usually detrimental to myself and those around me, but in this particular case, it gave me something to write about. Golfers love to spin their performances and their seasons in a way to make themselves look great, and it got me comparing certain golfers to others, whether it be their seasons or their futures. Let's play a little "Would You Rather?"

Whose Season Would You Rather Have?
Paula Creamer (1 win, but only two top 10's) or So Yeon Ryu (nine top 10's but 0 victories)

Normally, I would take take trophies over anything, but this is a very interesting case. No one has been more consistent without closing the door on a win than So Yeon Ryu, while Paula Creamer finally broke her four year winless streak and did absolutely nothing since then. Creamer has fallen to 12th in the Rolex Rankings, where she was the top American for a number of years until Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, and Lexi Thompson all passed her. Ryu, meanwhile, has the longest winless streak of anyone in the top 10, having not won since 2012. While Ryu's winless streak frustrates me, I think I'd rather have her season, where she's always part of the conversation, than Creamer's, who is taking on water and sinking fast.

Whose Season Would You Rather Have?
Mo Martin (1 major victory) or Rickie Fowler (3 top 5's in majors)

Give me the major. Rickie's season has been great, something very few people saw coming entering this year, and it will go a long way to giving Rickie the confidence to become a top player in the game and win a few more tournaments, but no one can ever take away Mo Martin's major. If neither makes a cut on their respective tours, who will be remembered at the end? Always side with the major victory.

Whose Season Would You Rather Have?
Michelle Wie (2 victories, with 1 major) or Stacy Lewis (3 victories, but no majors)

Again, give me the major, though the last two weeks doesn't give me a lot of hope that Wie will be able to continue her incredibly hot season. I felt better about this question until last week, when Wie missed the cut. Ask me again after the LPGA Championship, where Lewis may win her third major title.

Who Will Be Better Over The Course Of The Next FIVE Years?
Michelle Wie or Inbee Park

This is probably the toughest question I posed for myself, and I honestly don't know. Part of me wants to go with Wie because of the season she's had, but then I had to sit back and just ask who the best player of the two is, and there is no question that it's Inbee. Sure, Inbee has had a down season, compared to Wie's extraordinary season, but you can't convince me that Inbee is going to be a one win a season type player of the next five years, and you also can't convince me that Wie is going to be one of the best players on Tour over the course of the next five years. Will she be great? Sure. Will she win a few more tournaments? Absolutely. But Inbee is going to start winning majors again.

Who Will Be Better Over The Course Of The Next TEN Years?
Lydia Ko or Jordan Speith

The argument for Lydia Ko is that it's "easier to win on the LPGA Tour." I don't agree with that statement. I see the players who have been winning on the LPGA Tour, and they have all been the top players on Tour. To me, that makes Lydia's season that much more special. If the competition to her was the same as the competition facing Jordan Speith, Ko would have 8 wins so far. We don't know how good Speith is going to eventually be as he develops on Tour, but we DO know that Ko is one of the best players on the LPGA Tour, and therefore you HAVE to give the edge to Lydia.

Who Will Get Their Next Victory First?
Tiger Woods or Yani Tseng

I posed this question on the Seoul Sisters site, and almost everyone there thought Yani would win before Tiger. I couldn't disagree more. Will Tiger ever win another major? Maybe not. But you can't convince me he's not going to win ANYTHING for the rest of his career. I don't know with Yani. I understand that she's still young, but something happened with her. She's lost her confidence or something. If I'm putting money on either of them, I'll take Tiger.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wednesday Preview - LPGA International Crown

Things are a little bit different this week, as the LPGA unveils the first ever International Crown, an 8 team match play event that was designed to show off the international nature of the LPGA and allow countries, such as Korea and Japan, who are not represented in any other team format to show off their skills. For my preview, I will break down each pairing individually, and give the five teams I see moving on to stoke play. It's going to be an interesting event, one that I'm sure will have a few kinks in it (for example, five out of eight teams make it to the finals).

Group A:

Team Thailand (Ariya Jutanugarn, Moriya Jutanugarn, Pornanong Phatlum, Onnarin Sattayabanphot)
Team Spain (Azahara Munoz, Beatriz Recari, Carlota Ciganda, Belen Mozo)

Team USA (Paula Creamer, Stacy Lewis, Lexi Thompson, Cristie Kerr)
Team Taiwan (Yani Tseng, Teresa Lu, Candie Kung, Phoebe Yao)

Team USA is the number one seed in the whole tournament and are a strong favorite to win the event, and they get drawn into the easier group. They should have no problem sweeping their first opponents, Team Taiwan (or Chinese Taipei, depending on how politically correct you'd like to be). Up until this year, I would have told you that Team Spain was the US's biggest obstacle in the early stage, but all four players in Team Spain have struggled this year, to a point where I don't even like their chances to get out of the early stage. Team Thailand is young and has talent, though the Jutanugarn Sisters have cooled down since the strong 2013 campaign they put on. Team USA may very well sweep each all three teams, but they won't - they'll give a few points away because match play is weird like that. In the end, USA should have no problem moving on, and I think Thailand will be the other team that makes it out of this group. Team Spain and Team Taiwan will be eliminated.

Group B:

Team Japan (Mika Miyazato, Ai Miyazato, Sakura Yokomine, Mamiko Higa)
Team Sweden (Anna Nordqvist, Caroline Hedwall, Pernilla Lindberg, Mikaela Parmlid)

Team Korea (Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu, Na Yeon Choi, IK Kim)
Team Australia (Karrie Webb, Minjee Lee, Katherine Kirk, Lindsey Wright)

Up until this year, Team Korea was above and away the favorites to win this event, but a season where Choi and Kim have struggled, followed by an explosion of American golf has put the Americans in an easy spot to advance and put the Koreans in the much tougher group. Korea has the talent - the question is whether or not they perform at that level. IK Kim struggled mightily all season, then won on the LET Tour, and then missed the cut at the Women's British Open. Na Yeon Choi hasn't recorded a top 10 in seven starts, but has won the US Women's Open and was close to being the number one player in the world. Perhaps the team aspect of this event will cause the Koreans to rally around each other, and if that happens, they could very well be the team to beat again. They'll have to get out of the tough Group B first, though, and may have drawn one of the biggest question mark teams in the tournament for the first day. Team Australia is the seventh ranked team in the tournament, but may also be the dark horse, as Katherine Kirk and Lindsey Wright have shown this season that they can play some great rounds of golf, Webb has won twice, and Minjee Lee is the top amateur in the world. Team Japan, unfortunately, is coming in leaking all kinds of oil, as the only player who has played well on their team is Sakura Yokomine, who spends all her time on the JLPGA Tour. Team Sweden, who has two Solheim Cup heroes in Nordqvist and Hedwall, as well as two fairly decent players in Lindberg and Parmlid, should be the second team coming out of this group, and may sweep Team Japan. At the end of the day, I see Team Korea winning the group, with Team Sweden and Team Australia both making it out, as well. Team Japan will be eliminated.

So, heading into the finals, I have Team USA, Team Korea, Team Thailand, Team Sweden, and Team Australia. After the group stages, all the players from the teams that qualify play a stroke play round, and the winning team will be determined by the best combined score. Teams Thailand, Sweden, and Australia will be happy to be there and won't be much of a concern for the two teams at the top, as they just don't have the depth to rely on all four players to play well in this format. As long as the US makes it out of the group stage, they should have no problem taking home the title once they reach the finals. Match play has been what does the US in - if all four players get to go out there and just play a round of golf, worrying more about posting a score than beating an opponent, then you're in their wheelhouse. There is, however, cause for concern for Team USA supporters - Paula Creamer has not played will since her win in Singapore, and Cristie Kerr, for as consistent as she is on a weekly basis, is also capable of putting up some not so great rounds. Team Korea, on the other hand, has So Yeon Ryu, who seems allergic to championship trophies lately but has the ability to make birdies in bunches. Ryu and Park could easily put up a round of 63 each and put a lot of pressure on Team USA. In the end, however, I think Team USA is way too deep, and will walk away with the championship.

EDIT: I found out today that the finals for this event is NOT a stoke play event, as is listed on the LPGA web site, and rather 10 singles matches, in which members of each team play a member from another team, determined by the outcome of the group stage. This means someone from, say, Team Thailand could be standing over a putt to determine whether Team USA or Team Korea walks away with the Crown. From a personal standpoint, it is completely twisted, and I don't understand that format at all. From an ""expert"" (I can't put enough quotes around that word) standpoint, it completely changes the way I think about the outcome of this event. While Team USA still has the stronger, deeper team, they are staring down the barrel of the very thing they struggled with in recent Solheim Cups, with players who have had varying results. Stacy Lewis hasn't won a singles match in her Solheim Cup career, Paula Creamer, who used to be an anchor for the team, has two blowout losses in a row to her resume, and Cristie Kerr hasn't won a singles match in three events. My prediction here is now simple - Team USA comes into the finals looking like a lock, and then proceed to completely blow it on the final day. There is something about match play that just gets into the heads of these players. They clam up. So, that means that Team Korea walks away with the victory, right? It's not that simple. This format is so screwy that I don't see either of the super heavyweights walking out as the winner because that's what happens in events like these. It should be cut and dry, and yet it is far more complicated then that. My new prediction is that Team Sweden shocks the world. I don't know if you're allowed to choose which players play against each team, but if you are, you can easily match Hedwall and Nordqvist up against the members of Team USA and Team Korea, and allow Parmlid and Lindberg to face off against the remaining teams. Of course, if I'm right, then expect a LOT of people to complain about the format of these event, and a complete overhall in the future.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rory Ascends To A New Level

- It may have been a two shot victory, but it was honestly never that close. Rory McIlroy did what he has down twice before in his career - outclassed a field in a major. He didn't put his foot on the pedal like he did at the 2011 US Open or the 2012 PGA Championship, but when he wins majors, he dominates them.

- Rory McIlroy is now among the group who have won three of the four majors in their career. He's 25 years old, making him the third youngest player to do so. We don't have a replacement for Tiger Woods, considering he was at a record breaking, historic level when he was in his prime, but Rory may be as close as we're going to get.

- Rickie Fowler has finished in the top 5 in three consecutive majors. Let that sink in a little bit. The most consistent performer in a major in 2014 is Rickie Fowler. It reminds me of Jason Day's performances last year, where he finished in the top 10 in three major but couldn't come close in any other event. That usually means A) you're next victory is around the corner, and B) you're putting so much energy and focus in the majors that the other events don't mean as much to you. Look for Fowler to pick up a win in the playoffs, when the major season is over and he can focus on winning the FedEx Cup.

- Will Sergio Garcia ever win a major? This week convinced me that he will, sometime soon, get that monkey off his back. There were a couple of mistakes that he made throughout the week that prevented him from winning the tournament, but he was able to hang in there on Sunday and make things somewhat exciting, and I think that will go a long way towards giving Sergio come confidence to put him over the top.

- This year broke a streak of 40-somethings who won the Open Championship, but Jim Furyk gave it his all to continue that streak. Furyk's last victory was the 2010 Tour Championship, which is a shame considering how close he has been in the four years since. If he could have cashed in on just one of those top 10 he has had in majors, he would be a sure fire Hall of Fame inductee.

- What is the bigger story coming from the Open Championship - Tiger Woods' bad weekend to send him towards the bottom of the field, or Tom Watson making yet another cut at the age of 64? In my opinion, it's obviously Watson. Tiger was coming in with very little expectations. His first round where he shot three under was almost a detriment to him - it got people remembering the kind of player Tiger was and could still be. Tiger finished four rounds, which is a plus, and now we know he's healthy and just needs to play more rounds. Tom Watson, meanwhile, continues to roll back the clock. Next year is supposedly his last at the Open Championship. On one end, it's going to be incredibly sad to see him go, especially if he keeps making cuts. On another, I'd rather see him walk away when he's playing well then see him as a ceremonial golfer.

- You think winning three majors at 25 is amazing? How about winning four times on the LPGA Tour at the age of 17? That's what Lydia Ko accomplished yesterday by firing a final round 65 that was brilliant on all fronts. From here on out, I have no reason to ever doubt Ko. She's the second best player out tour (next to Stacy Lewis), she has consistency, she's able to win when the pressure is on - she has it all. This isn't a matter of potential anymore. This is a matter of just being great.

- I'm done writing about So Yeon Ryu. Until she wins again, I'm going to refrain from putting her on my Fantasy Four team, from mentioning her in my recap; from here on out, this is a Ryu-free blog. Hopefully I was jinxing her, and removing her from my blog will get her that long awaited third win.

- The knock on Mo Martin after winning the Women's British Open was that it came out of the blue. She never contended before, and she only had one other top 10 prior to her victory. She can eliminate that criticism now,  as she was able to notch a top 10 finish despite the whirlwind week she went through. A lot of people are saying that Martin is going to falter away and never be heard from again. Maybe her major championship was what Martin needed to start becoming a consistent contender.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Previewing The 2014 Open Championship

I am going to be honest with everyone...the Open Championship if my favorite tournament of the year. Links golf, bad weather, waking up to golf on TV, the history of the game - to me, there is nothing better. The Masters is great because it symbolizes the start of spring and it has the tradition behind it, but to me, it doesn't get any better than the Open.

Just like I have down for other majors, I will be breaking down my predictions into a few categories. Also like the other majors, I will probably be completely wrong in these, and not even mention the eventual champion (which has happened twice this year).

The Open Championship has delivered three straight champions over the age of 40, with two players over the age of 50 challenging in the years prior to that. That streak will end sooner rather than later, but until it does, I will only pick players over the age of 40 in my final team. That being said, there has to be some kind of form entering the tournament. I also take into consideration a player's history with links golf, though Phil Mickelson last year proved past history is not an indicator of future success. Also, my dark horse and sleeper picks do not have to follow my over 40 rule.

Ready to laugh at me? Let's do it!

Dark Horse:
Ryo Ishikawa - This is probably a matter of my heart speaking before my head, but seeing Ishikawa win two weeks ago in Japan gave me hope that Ishikawa is finally ready to break out and become that player we thought he would be. This is Ishikawa's first PGA Tour start since the Travelers Championship, and his first major of the season. He could miss the cut, or he could contend - it really depends on the state of his game and how quickly he can adapt to Open style play.

Justin Rose - If I didn't have a rule of only picking players over 40 to win the Open, Rose would have been my choice. Winner on the PGA Tour in his last start there, and won the Scotland Open last week. Rose is the hottest golfer entering the tournament. The only question mark is his history in the tournament, as he hasn't notched a top 10 in the Open Championship since he was a 17 year old amateur.

Keep An Eye On:
Tom Watson - Next year will be his last Open Championship...unless he finds a way to contend once again. Watson seems to think his game is well suited for Hoylake, and I'm not going to argue with a man who just made the cut on the PGA Tour at the age of 64. I don't think he's going to turn back the clock again like he did in 2009, but if the weather picks up a bit, you never know where Watson will end up on the leaderboard.

Alright, with those out of the way, here are my top 5 for the 2014 Open Championship:

5) Ernie Els - Only play whose recent form doesn't matter when the Open Championship comes around. While he had a pretty rough week in Scotland, he was able to fire a final round 66, proving he's still capable of shooting low rounds. He only has one top 10 this season, but did finish T19 at the Memorial and he made the cut at the US Open.

4) Angel Cabrera - 44 years old and coming off a win in the states. His Open Championship record has been incredibly spotty - he missed the cut eight times, but finished tied for 11th last year, and he finished in the top 10 in 2006, which happened to be played at this very golf course.

3) Thongchai Jaidee - Having one of the best seasons of his long career, notching a win and two other top 10 finishes in his last five starts on the European Tour. The only thing that appears to be missing from his impressive resume is major success - he has zero top 10's in majors throughout his career. I think that changes this week.

Runner Up:
Jim Furyk - Zero missed cuts this season, with two runner up finishes and a T12 at the US Open. Went with captain Tom Watson on a scouting trip to the site of this years Ryder Cup, which he is all but assured a spot on at this point. Finished forth at Hoylake in 2006.

Thomas Bjorn - I had him as my Open Champion at the beginning of the year and I am not wavering now, despite two lackluster performances on the European Tour and an injury that kept him out of the US Open. Four top 10's in Open Championships, including two runner up finishes. Also had a top 10 in the Masters this year. Bjorn reminds me so much of Darren Clarke, who won the Open Championship unexpectedly in 2011.

Champion: Thomas Bjorn
Winning Score: -5
Winning Margin: One Stroke

Wednesday Preview - LPGA Marathon Classic

Shake off that jet lag, because there is no break for the players of the LPGA who travel from England to Ohio for the Marathon Classic presented by Owens Corning and O-I.

Course: Highland Meadows Golf Club, which is going to look like a putt-putt track compared to the conditions these ladies faced last week. Expect low scores - only one time since 2000 has the winning score not been at least ten under par.

Strength Of Field: D. A lot of players decided not to take the trip over from the isles, including Suzann Pettersen, Shanshan Feng, and Inbee Park, who were very much a part of the conversation on Sunday. Mo Martin is here, along with Stacy Lewis and Lydia Ko, but Lewis plays almost every week, so her inclusion should not be a sign of the field strength.

Extra Tidbits: This was the tournament that Se Ri Pak once dominated, winning the event five times, including a record performance in 1998 which still stands. Pak is not in the field this week. In fact, only four former champions of this event tee it up this week...Marissa Steen and Rachel Rohanna are your Monday qualifiers this week...Since 2000, seven times this tournament was won by either one stroke or in a playoff....Last year, Beatriz Recari joined Annika Sorenstam, Kathryn Marshall, and Laura Davies as the only European winners of this event. By comparison, South Korea has won 9, with 5 being won by Pak herself. No Asian country outside of Korea has won this event.

Fantasy Four:

Eun-Hee Ji - Going all in with her this week. Three top 10's this season, including a T5 last week. Consistency is her issue, but last week showed she's ready for another run of great performances. Given the Korean success in this tournament, Mo Martin's victory last week, and a generally weak field, I really like Ji's chances to take this one.

Stacy Lewis - Returns home (how many homes does she have?!) to Ohio where she was born. Is coming in mad after a poor performance at the British Open, and has performed exceptionally well when playing mad. She's the only player I don't have any concerns about in regards to being burnt out. 

Lexi Thompson - I almost didn't, as she has cooled down since her major victory, but this event sets up nicely for a return to form. 

Lydia Ko - Her low finish at the British Open may actually have helped Lydia for this week, as it takes all pressure off of her. Ko has performed her best when under the radar, and with all eyes on Martin, Lewis, and Wie this week, Ko should be able to just perform and not worry about distractions. Her youth has me concerned in regards to jet lag, but Ko has flown all over the world and won tournaments, so it shouldn't be much of a concern.

(SLEEPER) Julieta Granada - Quietly putting together one of the best seasons of her career. Fifth place finish last week was her third top 10 in six weeks. Her missed cut at the Kraft Nabisco remains her only missed cut of the season. Crawled back inside the top 50 in the world after some poor form the last two seasons. Joins the likes of Meena Lee and Michelle Wie as players who have experienced resurgences this year. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mo Money, Mo Majors

- Wow, what a shot, huh? With the entire field engaging in a train wreck and Royal Birkdale acting as one of the toughest courses to date, Mo Martin nearly holed out her second shot on the par 5 to walk off a major champion. Among those in contention, Martin was the underdog of underdogs. She had never won before, and only had one top 10 in her career. Perhaps this was a complete anomaly, and Martin is going to go back to being obscure, but they will never take away the fact that she is a major champion.

- The two top ranked Koreans on Tour, Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu were a combined +12 in the final round. For Ryu, it's business as usual - a tournament where she has the opportunity to win, but can't perform well enough on the final day to grab the championship. For Inbee, however, the fact that she folded down the stretch was a complete shock. She had a two shot lead going into the back 9. Inbee has never before lost when holding the 54 hole lead. Everyone was set up for her to complete the career grand slam, but she was unable to do so. I'm starting to wonder if the British will be for Inbee what the Kraft Nabisco was for Se Ri Pak - a lot of "close, but no cigar" weeks.

- Is it just me, or did Shanshan Feng look like she wasn't expecting to be in the position to win the tournament? Watching her demeanor and the way she was swiftly walking between holes, it looked like Feng was caught off guard by the fact that she was in contention, and it made her nervous. If there is a knock on Feng, who I still believe will win another major and put herself in that category of elite players, it's that she doesn't have ice water in her veins like Inbee, or Stacy Lewis, or even Lydia Ko seem to have.

- Is Suzann Pettersen back? This week seemed to suggest so. In fact, there were several times throughout this tournament where Pettersen looked like the best player in the field. If she can turn the corner and become the player she was last year, it will provide some exciting tournaments down the stretch.

- How about Dame Laura Davies notching a top 10 finish in her 30th British Open? Her final round 73 was one of the best rounds of the day, and moved her from 28th to a tie for ninth. In tough conditions, experience trumps all, and no one had more experience in this field than Davies.

- Brian Harman won the John Deere Classic and, in doing so, a trip to the Open Championship. No offense to Harman, who had four top 10's this season, but I'm finding it harder to write about these lesser known players who grab their first wins. There is only so many things you can say. Yes, he played the best golf of his career in a four day stretch. Yes, it's up to the "superstars" to win when the pressure is on. When the tournament was on the line, Harman was able to seal the deal. What do you want from me, it's been a long season!

- Thanks for showing up, Zach Johnson! As a Zach Johnson fan, the last couple of months have been difficult. I don't know why Zach was struggling, but familiar territory was what the doctor ordered, as now he enters the Open Championship feeling much better about himself and his game.

- Is this week the start of a career resurgence for Jhonattan Vegas? Who knows. This was Vegas' first top 10 since his injury last year, so this could be a flash in the pan, or the signs that Vegas has turned a corner. Vegas was a fun and exciting player three years ago when he had a strong stretch that included a win and a third place finish in two events.

- Who is feeling better than Justin Rose entering the Open Championship? A win at the Quicken Loans and a win in Scotland heading into one of the most wide open majors in recent history. I think Rose may have propelled himself into the role of favorite.

- Colin Mongomerie is now bringing in senior majors in bunches, it seems. Mongomerie may never win the major he's been seeking, but he now has two more chances (2014 PGA, 2015 US), and with the way the Tour is now, you never know. One way or another, it's great to see Monty excelling on the senior circuit.

Friday, July 11, 2014

News Grab-Bag: 7/11/2014

- There is a very interesting interview with Sun-Ju Ahn discussing her lack of Korean sponsors and the decision behind playing golf in Japan instead of in her native Korea. Sun-Ju Ahn stated that some potential Korean sponsors demanded Ahn get plastic surgery before signing with them. The whole process frustrated her, as she refused to get plastic surgery for the purpose of getting sponsors, so she went to Japan where she has since won 16 times, climbed inside the top 30 on the Rolex Rankings, and became the first non-Japanese woman to win the money title two years in a row.

On a personal level, I can't say I'm incredibly shocked by Ahn's story. I don't want to characterize Korea as a whole, but I do know that there are large segments of the Korean culture that are obsessed with beauty, especially within corporate circles. Several Korean pop and movie stars have gotten plastic surgery, and several others, including popular rapper and K-Pop star CL, have come out publicly stating that they were pressured but turned it down. I'm glad Ahn went on to her own success on the JLPGA Tour and refused the demands of some corporate suits who think looks are more important than performance on the course. (By the way, at the time of this writing, Ahn is T5 at the Women's British Open).

- You can't have a week without Tiger Woods popping up in the news somewhere. New reports say that Tiger paid controversial doctor Anthony Galea $76K over the course of 14 visits between January and August of 2009. This would have been immediately after his knee surgery and subsequent recovery, and prior to the infidelity scandal. Woods has previous admitted to seeing Galea in the past, but this is more fuel to the fire. Galea, for those who don't know, was the doctor who gave several high profile athletes performance enhancing drugs.

- The Open Championship will be the start of the ranking process for the 2016 Olympics. Several critics have come out and slammed the process, as only four players from each country can be eligible for the Olympics if they are ranked inside the top 15. This means a couple of players from the United States may not make it, even though they are ranked inside the top 15, and yet a player like Nicholas Fung from Malyasia, who is ranked 290th in the world, would get in. Personally, I do not have a problem with it - it's the Olympics, not a major championship. Anyone who knows anything about the Olympic qualifying process knows that there are several competitors who make the field that are ranked well down in their respective rankings. In the end, the best players will be the ones competing for the gold medal, and I for one can not wait for golf to be in the Olympics...provided, of course, that Brazil is able to build a golf course in time.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wednesday Preview - Ricoh Women's British Open

The third majors of the year for the LPGA is upon us, as the Women's British Open has been moved up this year to allow for better weather. It was only two tournaments ago that the ladies were playing the US Women's Open, so there is no rest for the weary. Who will get her shot at glory?

Course: Royal Birkdale, one of the easiest courses on the Open Championship rotation. The ladies will have par 5s on three of the last four holes, meaning there will be tons of birdies to be had out there. Jeong Jang won the championship in 2005 with a score of 16 under par.

Strength Of Field: B+. Can't give it an A based on the lack of some of the big name players from the Asian tours. For a tournament outside of the US, it seems to be the least global major on the schedule, as the field is made up primarily of players from the US and European Tours.

Extra Tidbits: Despite Stacy Lewis' fantastic season, her hold of the number one position is not secure. If she finishes fourth or worse, Lydia Ko could take over the Rolex Rankings with a victory...Michelle Wie has stated that she will hit stinger 5 woods off the tee instead of the usual driver due to the high levels of rough. Wie supposedly has one of the best stinger shots on Tour, but is rarely used in the states...Three players in the field have won a major at Royal Birkdale - Jeong Jang, Dame Laura Davies, and Yani Tseng.

Fantasy Four:

Stacy Lewis - Repeating as champion is difficult to do in golf, but I don't see any reason to think Stacy Lewis can't do it. She's the top player on Tour, she's coming in on a hot streak, and she's playing at a golf course that rewards risk taking and allows for plenty of birdies. This seems tailored for a Lewis defense.

Michelle Wie - Hasn't finished outside of second place in the first two majors of the season. Almost won two weeks ago until her long schedule caught up to her. Has figured out a strategy to compete on this golf course. This course is set up more for her style than Pinehurst was. 

Lydia Ko - I still can't envision a 17 year old winning a major, but this course with Ko's style of play could put that at risk. If the fairways dry out, Ko will be able to run the ball low. 

Karrie Webb - Has cooled off since her start where she won twice, but her driving distance will not put her at a disadvantage this week. Has nerves of steel, which will be required to putt on these surfaces. I never count Webb out as a possible contender. 

(SLEEPER) Stephanie Meadow - Followed up her third place finish at the US Open with a top 10 last week on the LET Tour. Turned around and got into the field via sectional qualifying on Monday. I know very little about her, but I'm interested in seeing if she can keep up the pace. 

Wednesday Preview - John Deere Classic

Next week is the Open Championship, so if you're not exempt for the tournament, this is your last opportunity to do so. The top finisher inside the top 5 who is yet to be exempt will be in the Open Championship next week. For those who are exempt, it's about building momentum and getting some good vibes entering the third major of the year. 

Course: TPC Deere Run, a 7,300 yard birdie or bust course. This course yield a 59 to Paul Goydos in 2010, and was followed up by a 60 by Steve Stricker. Make birdies, or go home.

Strength Of Field: D. Jordan Speith is the biggest name in the field. A majority of the big names are playing in Scotland this week to prepare for the Open Championship.

Extra Tidbits: Jordan Speith became the first teenager to win on the PGA Tour since 1911 when he holed out a bunker shot in the playoff against Zach Johnson last year. This came on the heels of three straight victories by Steve Stricker from 2009 to 2011...In order to get bigger names to commit to the tournament, John Deere provides a charter flight from Wisconsin to England for those who are qualified for the Open Championship. 19 players in the field are qualified for the Open, and that number could increase to 20 at the end of the tournament. 

Fantasy Four:

Jordan Speith - Highest ranked player in the field and the defending champion. 

Steve Stricker - Won this tournament three times. I wonder about the state of his game, especially considering his very limited schedule. Has stated he may not play the Open Championship next week, so this will be his major. 

Eric Axley - Sleeper pick. Has performed decently well in his limited starts this season. In a weak field, he's worth a flier. 

Zach Johnson - Has played horribly lately, but has shot 20 consecutive rounds in the 60's here. Something has to give. If he wants any chance to turn this season around, he will have to perform well here. I have hope that he will. 

Last Weeks Team:
Jimmy Walker: CUT
Brendon Todd: T4
Stuart Appleby: CUT
Brendan Steele: MDF

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

2014 Mid-Season (Kind Of) Awards

Covering both the PGA and the LPGA Tours can get your calender a big messed up. For the PGA Tour, we are close to the end of the season. The PGA Tour, however, is back loaded, with two majors, a WGC event, and four playoff tournaments still remaining in the season. The LPGA, however, still has three majors remaining, plus several events in Asia that take place long after the PGA Tour season has concluded.

Despite these schedule differences, the circumstances behind the two seasons could not be any more stark. With nine events left in the season, the PGA Tour still has several questions surrounding it. There is no clear player of the year, the world number one is not fully secure (though Adam Scott is playing well), and each week seems to produce a different champion. The LPGA, meanwhile, has a bunch of events left, but the top players have been established. There are very few "surprise winners" on the LPGA, especially this year. 

These "awards" are based on nothing more than my own observations, and are no predictor of the future. 

Player Of The Year
PGA: Martin Kaymer - He won two of the biggest events on Tour. Honestly, you can make a big case for Bubba Watson and I don't think I would argue too much. Fact is, there isn't someone who has taken the Tour by storm this year. All of the big name players have had disappointing seasons - including world number 1 Adam Scott, who has a victory this season. I know it's hard to win on Tour, but if someone with two wins ends up winning the Player Of The Year award at the end of the season, it will show just how much the Tour misses Tiger.
Other Considerations: Bubba Watson, Jimmy Walker

LPGA: Michelle Wie - Yes, I know. Statistically, Stacy Lewis has had the better season. It's hard to not give the award to someone who only finished outside the top 10 once this season...but it's also hard to not give the award to someone who won twice, including a major, finished runner up in the other major, and whose worse finish is T23. The question is, which is more impressive - three wins, or two wins including a major? Give me the major, especially the biggest golf tournament in the women's game.
Other Considerations: Stacy Lewis

Rookie Of The Year
PGA: Brooks Koepka - The only rookie to really "move the needle", if you will. The PGA Tour isn't going to take into account his performance on the European Tour, but I can't completely ignore it. He qualified for both major Opens, and would be 89th in the FedEx Cup standings if he were eligible while playing two tours. Chesson Hadley has a win, but it was in an alternate field event. 
Other Considerations: Chesson Hadley, Brice Garnett

LPGA: Line Vedel - Lydia Ko is going to win this award without any troubles, but I refuse to accept the fact that someone who won twice on Tour can be considered a "rookie". With Ko out of the consideration, Vedel has been the most consistent rookie this year. Mirim Lee is ahead of Vedel in the standings, but won a majority of her points months ago and has been quiet since. Vedel has made four of five cuts, with three of those being top 25 finishes. Vedel has only missed two cuts this season. 
Other Considerations: Mirim Lee, Amy Anderson

Comeback Player Of The Year:
PGA: J.B. Holmes - A lot of players to consider for this one, but I decided to go with the one who played the best this season. Holmes came back from elbow injuries and brain surgery to win the Wells Fargo Championship, finish T17 in the US Open, and currently sits at 30th on the FedEx Cup standings. Holmes is in the midst of his best season as a pro, and at only 32 years old, we could be seeing a lot of Holmes in the future.
Other Considerations: Retief Goosen, Angel Cabrera, Erik Compton, Martin Kaymer

LPGA: Michelle Wie - This one is a no-brainer. Wie wasn't just an afterthought - she was a joke. She was the warning sign of what happens when you try to turn a prodigy into a professional too quickly. She had commentators in golf and in other sports circles ridiculing her, and now she's one of the top players on Tour. Her year would be remarkable if it was anyone, but the fact that it's Wie makes it stunning. What a huge difference a year makes.
Other Considerations: Se Ri Pak 

Biggest Disappointment:
PGA: Phil Mickelson - Tiger Woods has had a horrible year because of injury. Phil Mickelson's horrible year is far less easy to explain. Coming into this season, all the talk was on Lefty completing the career grand slam, and how he was going to perform leading up to that moment. Phil hasn't has a single top 10 this season. He hasn't been a factor in any of the big events on the schedule. This isn't a drop off or a decline for Lefty. It's a complete disappearing act.
Other Considerations: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Zach Johnson

LPGA: Japan - Yes, the entire country of Japan. If you asked me two years ago, I would have told you Japan is the second best country on the LPGA in terms of talent, behind South Korea. This year, I don't know if they even top China, who only really has one player. Ai Miyazato is no longer a top 10 player. Mika Miyazato, who I thought was poised for a breakout, has completely disappeared. I don't even know if Chie Arimura is still on Tour. The player who has performed the best on Tour this season has been Sakura Yokomine, and she isn't even an LPGA player. Incredibly disappointing for such a collection of talent.
Other Considerations: The Jutanugarn Sisters, Na Yeon Choi, Beatriz Recari, Carlota Ciganda, Suzann Pettersen, Brittany Lang, Inbee Park

Monday, July 7, 2014

El Pato Stands Mighty On Sunday

- I could have sworn that Angel Cabrera's career highlights were over. I would have bet that, in the end, we would be talking about how Cabrera performed in the big events, but could never be a consistently great player outside of the majors. Cabrera put that all to rest Sunday, as two great weekend rounds gave him his first non-major victory and first victory since the 2009 Masters. I don't know if Angel turned a page and is ready to have a career revival, or if this was just a one great week by the Duck, but what I do know is that Angel is one of the most interesting men in golf, and it's great to see him hold a trophy.

- Right now, George McNeill is thinking about far more than golf. Our thoughts go to him and his family as he mourns the loss of his sister, who was diagnosed with cancer four years ago. He will play in the Open Championship in two weeks after qualifying at the Greenbrier, but I'm sure that is far from McNeill's mind right now.

- Somehow, Billy Hurley III held on to qualify for the Open Championship despite his terrible, no good, very bad Sunday. Hurley looked like he was heading for his first victory on Tour, but a final round 73 on a course where others were raining in birdies sent him plummeting down the leaderboard. He was able to hold on for a top 10, which gave him a spot in the Open Championship. Others qualifying were McNeill, Bud Cauley, and Cameron Tringale.

- Tom Watson is timeless. After shooting one over par in the first round, the 64 year old shot three rounds in the 60's to finish T35. Watson says he could possibly contend at the Open Championship in two weeks, and after this performance, I have learned to never doubt him.

- Ryo Ishikawa shot a final round 67 to win on the Japan Tour, his first win in two years. A lot of people have given up on Ryo, especially with countryman Hideki Matsuyama playing well. I think we're just now starting to see Ishikawa's potential, and he will be a champion on Tour sooner rather than later.

- I wasn't able to watch the French Open, so I have no idea how conditions truly were on Sunday, but seeing the scores, Graeme McDowell's final round 67 looks like one of the rounds of the year. Sure, Kevin Stadler helped him win the title, but the real focus is on McDowell's brilliant final round, which may have secured his position on the European Ryder Cup team.

- Three more players punched tickets to the Open Championship via the French Open. Two of them (Robert Karlsson and Michael Hoey) have strong, championship resumes under their belts. Karlsson was actually one of the best players in the world until injuries and a loss of form hampered him. The third is a complete unknown with no major championship experience. If you were Victor Riu on Thursday, do you even consider the chance that you might be going to the Open Championship? He had a rough day on Sunday, but he still did enough to sneak into the Open Championship field. Not a bad day for the 416th player in the world.

Friday, July 4, 2014

News Grab-Bag: 7/4/2014

Happy Independence Day to all my American readers, and for those outside the US...hey, have a splendid weekend anyway.

- Steve Stricker is leaning towards skipping the Open Championship. Stricker has cut down his schedule considerably the last couple of years, and doesn't seem to be bothered by which events his misses and which he plays in. He is playing this week in West Virginia and will be playing next week at the John Deere Classic in his home state of Wisconsin. Stricker said he will make a "last minute decision" on whether or not he is going.

- The Match Play has been saved! The PGA Tour has announced that the WGC Match Play will be played at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco next year, with a few changes. It will become a round robin style event, much like the World Match Play event in Europe, where each player gets to play at least three matches. Harding Park was also awarded the 2020 PGA Championship and the 2025 Presidents Cup, because we have to look that far ahead for an event that is struggling for relevance.

- Charles Howell III has turned down an invitation to play in the Open Championship. No official word has been given for his decision, but a source via claims that is is family related. Howell got in this year based on his solid 2014 campaign. He is being replaced by Thorbjorn Olesen.

- The caddies on the PGA Tour, who have now formed a pseudo-union to represent themselves in certain matters, have been in a strong disagreement with the PGA Tour over several issues. has the full write up here. It's an incredibly fascinating situation, and one that could cause some severe problems if the PGA doesn't at least listen to the demands of the caddies.

- Is 2015 going to be the end of an era? The R&A has announced that they have given Tom Watson an exemption into the Open Championship at St. Andrews, which will be the final year of his eligibility. This means next year could be the last year we see the incredible Tom Watson play at the Open Championship. Then again, Captain Watson recently came out and said he feels he can contend at the Open this year, so who knows? I have learned to never doubt Mr. Watson.

- R.I.P Errie Ball, who was the last surviving participant in the first ever Masters Tournament in 1933. Ball was 103. Can you imagine the stories Ball could tell from the people he met over the years? Even more incredible is that Ball has been a member of PGA of America for 82 years. His life has seen 18 US Presidents and two World Wars. As PGA of America president Tim Bishop put it, his career has spanned "from Harry Vardon to Tiger Woods."

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Wednesday Preview - The Greenbrier Classic

Did last week upset you? Did the sight of professional golfers struggling to make pars make you cry a little on the inside. Well, never fear, because this week we head to the Greenbrier Classic!

Course: The Old White TPC, a 7,300 yard course that yields more birdies than bogeys. Stuart Appleby famously won the first installment of the Greenbrier Classic by shooting a 59 on Sunday in 2010.

Strength Of Field: D. Unless you're a big Bubba Watson fan, there really isn't anyone in this field that's going to really excite you. But hey, it's events like these that usually create the stars you root for!

Extra Tidbits: 64 year old Tom Watson will play this event for the fourth time. Last year, Watson made the cut and finished T38 on the strength of a three under par 67 on Sunday...Sir Nick Faldo will make his second start of the year, and first at Greenbrier this week. Faldo will also be playing the Scottish Open next week as well as the Open Championship. Perhaps we will also see Sir Nick tee it up once again at Augusta next year?...There is no Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson this year, which is a different sight from a year ago. Michelson played despite admitting that the course wasn't set up for his game. Many speculate that the owner of Greenbrier, Jim Justice, gave may top players special accommodations to lure them into playing the event. It's interesting to note that many big name players are skipping the event this year.

Fantasy Four:

Jimmy Walker - FedEx Cup leader has a stellar career record here, with the only badge missing being a victory. Has rested since the US Open, where he tied for ninth. One of only two players to finish in the top 10 in both majors this season.

Brendan Todd - Has played amazing golf since his victory at the Byron Nelson. Finished outside the top 10 only once, and that was a 17th place finish at the US Open. Until he cools off, he is someone you should have on your team.

Stuart Appleby - Most people are sleeping on Appleby this week, who shot a 59 here in 2010. He has played decent golf this season, and has a good history on this course. 

Brendan Steele - Two straight top five finishes is enough for me to believe in Steele. Will be competing in his first ever Open Championship in a few weeks, and will be looking for all the positive vibes he can get. 

Last Weeks Team:
Jordan Speith: T11
Jason Day: CUT
Peter Hanson: T46
K.J. Choi: T64