Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Who Should Be The Next Ryder Cup Captain?

The dust is starting to settle on the Ryder Cup, and while the European team continues to celebrate in Scotland (this week's European Tour event is in Scotland), the US looks ahead to 2016. We all know that Tom Watson will not be returning as captain, so the PGA of America has a decision to make. There are several players who could fill the role, but who should it be?

Right now, I am just discussing the US team. The European Team is much deeper with several players in their 40's who have an opportunity to run that squad. Team Europe also doesn't have the strange guidelines like the US does, namely the requirement that the captain has to be a major winner.

Below are five names that are (or at least should be) in consideration for the next Ryder Cup captain. Let's look at them one at a time and see who could be a good fit.

David Toms:
- I heard this name for the first time on Monday, and it would be a surprise, I think, if they went to Toms, who was a part of three Ryder Cups and never won one. He seems like a nice enough guy, and he's still playing regularly on Tour, so he may have the connection to the players that seems vital in this day and age. I just think there might be a longer list behind him, and Toms will, unfortunately, get left behind.

Fred Couples:
- I think it's an obvious choice to make Couples the next captain, but the PGA of America seems hesitant to do so. Couples will be 56 by the time the next Ryder Cup comes along, which may make him too old, but the players love him, and he never lost as captain of the President's Cup. He's already slated to be a vice-captain for the President's Cup next year, but if the PGA of America came calling, I'm sure (at least I hope) he would put more of a priority on the Ryder Cup.

Phil Mickelson:
- There is a possibility that the PGA will say "ok, tough guy, if you think you can do better, then go for it." I'm sure the PGA of America would LOVE to have Phil as captain, but I wonder if the players would go for it, and I don't know if Phil would even accept it, seeing as he thinks he can still make the team in two years (I don't know if he can, but that's another story). The possibility exists that he could be a playing captain, but the last playing captain was Arnold Palmer in 1963, so I doubt anyone wants to go in that direction.

Paul Azinger:
- I think it just makes sense that Azinger, who was the only winning US captain since the turn of the new millennium, gets another opportunity. Phil kept referring to Azinger's system, and a lot of golf scholars seem to suggest that it was his "pods" system that lead to a victory in 2008. The Ryder Cup will be held in US in 2016, so Azinger doesn't have to worry about traveling, and while he's been out of the game for a while, he has been an analyst, and I'm sure he keeps his connections with all the players.

David Duval:
- A real dark horse that I'm sure no one has discussed yet, but if there was ever a time to pull a rabbit out of the hat, this is it. While Duval's days of contenting on Tour are over, a lot of players still hold him in very high regard, and if his Twitter page is any indication, he still has a lot of passion for the Ryder Cup and has a lot of positive thoughts from his time playing in those events. He only played twice, but one of them was the 1999 event, which the US won. You want a captain that is going to get his players involved? Call up Duval.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Europe Retains Again, And The Blame Game Begins

- Team Europe once again retained the Ryder Cup, which is become a biannual tradition. Going into the event, many American fans thought that, perhaps, this could finally be the year the streak is broken, but in fact Team Europe assembled a much stronger team at home. They didn't even need the heroics of their top players. Rory McIlroy didn't play particularly well, Sergio Garcia struggled, and Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter was left without a victory for the first time in his career. Team Europe was just way too stacked and had too many players that were able to contribute, which meant Team USA never really had a chance.

- Immediately following the event, the blame game began, as Phil Mickelson claimed that Captain Tom Watson strayed from a winning formula and never allowed any input from his players, which helped contribute to the loss. Mickelson was benched for the duration of Saturday's play after running out of gas in the Friday foursomes, much to the displeasure of Mickelson. Was Tom Watson a great Ryder Cup coach? No, he made a couple of mistakes. Was that the reason Team USA lost? No. The reason Team USA lost (and continues to lose) is their inability to play foursome matches and close out valuable singles matches. The blame for this loss does not lie on the shoulders of Tom Watson, but rather on the shoulders of Mickelson, who was completely gassed Friday afternoon, and on Hunter Mahan, who let an incredibly valuable singles match get away from him after being 4 UP at the turn and 1 UP on the 18th, and on Bubba Watson, who went winless and played as poorly as you can in a Ryder Cup setting, and on Jim Furyk who once again leaves a Ryder Cup without a losing record and without a victory in singles. The US now has a culture of losing the Ryder Cup, and if you want it to change, you have to change the personal involved. The reason Patrick Reed did so well and was so pumped up is because he doesn't have the memory of losing constantly in his mind. These other guys do, and instead of asking how they could have better contributed, we have to ask if Tom Watson is to blame for the US loss. Give me a break.

- Victor Dubuisson is the next great European superstar. He has the personality to handle any pressure situation and the game to win multiple tournaments. Look for him to have an even better year next season than he had this year. This may have been his first Ryder Cup, but it certainly will not be his last.

- Good for Jamie Donaldson to get the final point of the Ryder Cup. Donaldson barely made his way on to the team, and many (including myself) thought he would be the weak link for the Euros. In fact, Donaldson, who was a Ryder Cup rookie at the ripe age of 38, played incredibly well all weekend, going 3-1. I don't know if Donaldson will ever play on another Ryder Cup team, but if he doesn't, he'll always have this glory to look back on and celebrate.

-  Who was the MVP for Team Europe? Most people are going to say Justin Rose, who was unbeatable, but I think I would cast my vote for Graeme McDowell, who avenged his poor showing in 2012 by not only going undefeated, but being a mentor for Ryder Cup rookie Victor Dubuisson. McDowell struggled in 2014, and could have easily been forgotten about in this event, but he put on the cap of a mentor and wore it incredibly well. He's going to make a great captain some day.

- Some more medals were awarded in Olympic competition in golf, as the Asian Games, currently being contested in Icheon, South Korea, held their golf competition over the weekend. For the men, it was Pan Cheng-tsung of Taiwan that took the gold, followed by Kim Nam Hun of Korea and Yu Chan-ah of Taiwan. Pan is a golfer at the University of Washington and qualified for the Open Championship earlier this year. In the team event, Taiwan walked away with the golf, with Korea winning the silver and Thailand winning the bronze. Of note, Tianlang Guan of China, who made the cut at the Masters last year, was in contention after the first round of the tournament, but slipped after that and was never able to make up any ground. His China team finished fourth. On the women's side, Park Gyeol of Korea walked away with the gold, followed by Budsabakorn Sukapan and Supamas Sangchan, both of Thailand, winning the silver and bronze. In the team event, Thailand won the gold, followed by Korea and China. Soyoung Lee of Korea, who won the gold at the Youth Olympic Games, turned pro after helping her Korean team win silver. Sangchan, who won bronze, also won the bronze at the Youth Olympic Games.

- A big tournament that involved players from both the Japan Tour and Asian Tour took place this weekend, and it was 45 year old Hiroyuki Fujita who came out on top of the Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup. Fujita beat a field that included Kirdech Aphibarnrat, who finished in second, Ryo Ishikawa, who never got anything going and finished 36th, Shingo Katayama, who has struggled lately but had a good tournament, finishing tied for ninth, and major winner YE Yang, who missed the cut. This was Fujita's third win on the season, and puts him in the drivers seat for his second Money List title.

Friday, September 26, 2014

News Grab-Bag: 9/26/2014

Before I get into news, I need everyone's help. This year, I am taking part in an event called Extra Life, which is a 24 hour gaming marathon to benefit the Children's Miracle Network. Any and all donations would be greatly appreciated. For The Kids!

- Best wishes go out to Carlota Ciganda, who lost her coach a couple months ago prior to the start of the LPGA Championship. Her coach, Rogelio Echeverria, was like a second father to her and introduced Carlota to the game 20 years ago. LPGA.com has a great write-up about the change in Carlota's perspective following her coaches death.

- The European team is currently leading in the Ryder Cup after they almost swept the Americans in the afternoon session on Friday, but that hasn't stopped the controversy from swirling. During the broadcast, Hall of Famer and 2008 European captain Sir Nick Faldo referred to Sergio Garcia as "useless" and having a "bad attitude" when Sergio was playing for Faldo's 2008 squad. Garcia, who was ranked 5th in the world at the time, went 0-2-2 while the US was on track for their only victory this century. Garcia's team mate both in 2008 and this week, Graeme McDowell, responded by saying that Garcia was only useless in 2008 because Faldo refused to play him Saturday morning. The rest of Garcia's current team mates had Garcia's back during the press conference, and dismissed Faldo's comments.

- Entering the Asian swing on the LPGA Tour, six players all have a chance to win the Player Of The Year Award, though three look like real contenders. Stacy Lewis is in the lead with 200 points, followed by Inbee Park at 169, Michelle Wie (whose health is a serious question mark at this time) at 151, and Lydia Ko at 128. If Wie only played a limited schedule coming down the stretch, that leaves only Park and Ko to really challenge Lewis, and one of those two players will have to win at least one more tournament to have a shot. Still, Lewis' lead is not insurmountable, which makes these Asian events crucial.

- LPGA.com has a great article on the rise of South Korean golfers in 2014 after a sluggish start. It's certainly worth a read as the LPGA takes time off.

- Congratulations to former European Tour golfer Mark Brown who shot a 59 on the New Zealand Tour this week. Brown won the Johnnie Walker Classic in 2008 for his only European Tour victory, which came just a week after his first Asian Tour victory at the SAIL Open Golf Championship in India. He also played in the HSBC Champions event in China last year.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Previewing The 2014 Ryder Cup

As you will hear constantly throughout the course of this week, golf is an individual sport. You are alone on the course, and you are the only person who can effect the outcome of an event (barring the weather, course conditions, incompetent caddy, crowd screaming through your back swing, etc.) It is because of this individual nature that the Ryder Cup is held in such regard. It is one of the only times in professional golf where your performance effects other people around you.

For a lot of people, the Ryder Cup is the most prestigious event on the calender. I wouldn't go so far as agreeing with these people, but it is the most exciting, as it is the only event where the crowd gets to root for a particular team and could actually effect the outcome. For a long time, the Ryder Cup was hotly contested, especially throughout the 80's and 90's, when players like Watson, Crenshaw, Floyd, Irwin, Stewart and Couples would face players like Seve, Faldo, Woosnam, Monty, Langer and Lyle. These would be hotly contested, back and forth contested that were heated, sometimes nasty, and would sway by a single point depending on which team had the home course advantage.

Since the start of the new millennium, however, the United States has only won one Ryder Cup, in 2008. In fact, there have been more Cups won by the Europeans by more than three points (3) than there have been matches where the Europeans won by less than three points (2). That being said, the last two Ryder Cup matches have been one point contests, so the gap has been closing since those days in the mid-2000's where these would be huge blowouts. 

So, what should we expect this week? It is still the Ryder Cup, so anything could happen, but given what I have seen over the past year, here are a couple of predictions I have for the matches:

5) Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler will be their respective team's MVPs:
- Everyone is expecting Rory McIlroy to bull rush this competition and go 5-0, defeating every opponent without seeing the 18th green. Those people don't pay much attention to the Ryder Cup, where the top players in the world rarely dominate the event. Rory will get everyone's attention, and whoever plays him will be trying their hardest to take down the top player in the world. I expect Rory to go something like 1-1-2. Not bad, but not spectacular. Look at someone like Sergio, who has a lot of experience in these events and who revels in the Ryder Cup atmosphere to break out for Team Europe. For Team USA, it's easy to see Rickie, who has been playing well and who gets to excel in a rock star environment, to be the anchor for this team. 

4) Jamie Donaldson and Patrick Reed will be hidden:
- Because there are only four matches in each team session, and there are 12 players per team, it is very possible for certain players to play only once during the team portion of the event, as was the case with Martin Kaymer in 2012. Because of Donaldson's inexperience on the big stages and Reed's polarizing personality, I expect these two players to perhaps only play once during the team portion of the event, meaning all their Ryder Cup glory will have to wait until Sunday.

3) Team USA will go as Phil Mickelson goes:
- Lefty will be, without a doubt, the leader of Team USA, and his performance in the early matches will dictate whether or not the Americans have a shot going into Sunday. If Phil wins in an early match on Friday, that should pump up Team USA and give them some motivation for the rest of the week. If Phil plays poorly and isn't able to make anything happen in his early matches, it could be over relatively quickly.

2) The outcome will not be indicative of the coaching:
- Of course, when one of these teams lose a Ryder Cup, the first person that is blamed is usually the coach, either for his terrible captain's picks or for his strategy. In this case, however, I do not believe coaching will mean anything for either side. Europeans have the talent, Americans have the motivation, and both of these factors will mean more than the captain. Both Team USA and Team Europe made a great choice in selecting Tom Watson and Paul McGinley, respectively. 

1) Europe wins by at least two points:
- I know I'm supposed to put on my Uncle Sam hat and root hard for Team USA. Hey, I would love nothing more than to see the Americans pull off this victory, and not just because I'm an American. For the good of the game and for the strength of the Ryder Cup, there should be parity, and right now, there isn't any. Coming down the stretch Sunday morning, I will be pulling hard for every American that steps on the course to try and bring the Ryder Cup home...but all that rooting won't stop the inevitable. Europe is top to bottom the far better team, and having the advantage of being in Scotland isn't even fair. If Team USA can keep this within two points, it will be a moral victory. There is a possibility that this represents the Ryder Cup matches of the mid-2000s, and Team Europe could completely steam roll the Americans.

Hey, strange things happen in these matches, though, so none of this should be taken in stone. All we know is that there are 24 guys who are experiencing massive pressure right now, and the guys who can focus that energy the best will be the ones who thrive. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

MJ Hur Cashes In

- Mi Jung Hur had a terrible 2013, and was on her way to another terrible year when she posted her first top 10 of the season in Portland. That opened the flood gates, as she posted her best finish ever in a major at the Evian and now she walks away with her second career victory in Prattville. Hur didn't just pick up the trophy, either. She went out and won it, shooting a final round 66 with the top player in the world chasing her. A clutch performance from someone who has seen the highs and lows of golf.

- Stacy Lewis has won three times this season. She has also finished runner-up a pronominal five times. Lewis needed a big week before heading to Asia, and she got it. The next six weeks is going to be a sprint to the finish between Lewis and Inbee Park, who is hot on her heels for both Player Of The Year and Rolex Number One.

- I'm sure Yokohama Tires would have loved to see the top players in the world compete in their event, but as a fan of the LPGA, it was great to see some of the players who don't get the opportunity to contend on a weekly basis towards the top of the leaderboard on Sunday. Paula Reto? Kris Tamulis? Cydney Clanton? These three had a combined five CAREER top 10's, and yet there they are on Sunday chasing a title. It was great to see.

- If you blinked, you probably missed Moriya Jutanugarn notching her second straight top 10. The reigning Rookie Of The Year has struggled this season, but was able to find something at the Evian Championship to finish T10, and was incredibly consistent this week on her way to a T5 finish (along with Jodi Ewart Shadoff, another name I haven't heard in a little while.) Moriya struggled on the Asian swing last year, so I'm sure she's going to have extra motivation coming down the stretch.

- The Web.com Tour Finals ended this week, and 50 PGA Tour cards were handed out. You can find the list of players here. I will do a full breakdown of these players in a blog post later this week.

- The Symetra Tour also wrapped this week as the LPGA handed our 10 cards to their graduates. These graduates can be found here. What is interesting is that there is a mix of rookies as well as past LPGA players, but none of them are older than 27. The one that will attract the most media attention will be Sadena Parks, who was the first African-American to win twice on the Symetra Tour. My eyes, however, will be on 18 year old Cindy Feng, who will be a rookie next year despite playing in five LPGA events this season. Feng tied for 13th at the US Women's Open and made the cut last week at the Yokohama Tires Classic.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Recommended Reading: Fairways And Forehands

Back in March, I made a post begging PyeongChang to let Se Ri Pak be part of the opening ceremonies for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Friday, the opening ceremonies for the 2014 Asian Games took place in Icheon, South Korea, and not only was Se Ri Pak part of the ceremony, but so was Inbee Park. For a full write up of the event, check out BangkokBobby and his blog, "Fairways And Forehands". The full write up of the event can be found here.

Friday, September 19, 2014

News Grab-Bag: 9/19/2014

- The R&A voted this week to allow female members at St. Andrews Golf Club, putting an end to the historic venue's "male's only" policy. I understand that clubs should have the right to allow whomever they choose, but they were on the wrong side of history for a long time. It's about time we got some ladies playing at the home of golf.

- The awards for Rory McIlroy have already started pouring in, as he has won the PGA Player Of The Year and Vardon Trophy. The PGA Tour has yet to vote for their POY, but I doubt it will be any different than the PGA's decision.

- Legendary caddy Stevie Williams has parted ways with Adam Scott...wait, I meant for that to be in reverse. The decision seems to be based on Stevie's desire for a part time schedule next season. Scott didn't play that often this year, and it appears as if he is going to add some tournaments next season, so he is going to go with a caddy he can have with him for every tournament. This may mean that Stevie is going to head into retirement.

- The ridiculous notion that Davis Love III might become Tiger Woods' next golf coach got shot down this week, as Love stated he has no interest in doing so. Tiger, in a recent statement, hinted that he may go without a coach, and that he will build a new swing on his own. Might be for the best, as only Tiger knows how to handle Tiger's body.

- Lexi Thompson did a photo shoot for GolfPunk Magazine. You can find the photos and the interview on their web site...just don't be creepy about it. Yes, Lexi is in a bikini. Yes, she looks stunning. Several men in the golf news industry have no idea how to handle that information, it seems. (Looking at you, Golf Channel).

- Golf.com has a really interesting article on Anthony Kim, who seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth. Apparently, if Kim decides to hang up the clubs due to injury, he is set to make $10 million. What was a sad story has now just gotten weird.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

2013-2014 PGA Tour Year End Awards

Looking back on the review I wrote up on Monday, I realize I didn't put nearly as much into the Tour Championship as the rest of the golf writers. It's not that I wasn't interested in the Tour Championship - I absolutely was, until Sunday, when it looked obvious that Horschel was walking away with it. The problem was two fold - one, the tournament fell the same week as the Evian Championship, which was captivating and saw the birth of a superstar, and two, it came at the end of what seemed like a never ending playoffs where the same players seemed to contend each week. Horschel, McIlroy, Kirk, Furyk...it seemed like I was watching the same tournament three weeks in a row. I understand that a lot was on the line, but there's only so much I could take before I got burnt out.

Either way, the season is now over, and the finalists for the various awards have been announced. I am not the kind of person that stays within the confines of predetermined nominees, so I am here to give you the TRUE winners of various awards. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you:

The First Annual PGA Tour LLLLet's Win Awards!
My PGA Tour Year End Awards

Player Of The Year: Rory McIlroy 
- This is a no brainer. If a player won four tournaments this season, I would have considered them, but not only did Rory win the most tournaments this season, but he also won two majors. He also happened to be the most consistent player this year, notching 12 top 10 finishes in 17 events. 

Rookie Of The Year: Brooks Koepka
- Secured his 2015 Tour card based on his finishes this season, which included a T4 finish at the US Open, while playing both in the US and in Europe. A few writers actually advocated for Koepka to be picked for the Ryder Cup. I don't know if I agree with that sentiment, but with the lack of any real break out performer among this year's rookie class, Koepka was the most note worthy, so they should just give it to him.

Comeback Player Of The Year: J.B. Holmes
- A lot of players have back and knee surgeries that they never recover from. Holmes had BRAIN surgery. That's surgery...of the BRAIN! And he comes back to win the Wells Fargo Championship and make it all the way to the BMW Championship in the FedEx Cup playoffs. Martin Kaymer may have won a major and the Players after struggling, but that was someone who was on the Ryder Cup team two years ago, and had no notable injuries to think of. Holmes' career could have been over, and yet he comes back to win again.

Biggest Disappointment: Phil Mickelson
- I know Tiger Woods had a lost season, but he was injured. Lefty won a major last year. This was supposed to be the year he completes the Grand Slam, and yet he only notches one top 10 the entire year. We went from wondering if Phil could win 60 tournaments to wondering if he'll ever win again. Do I think Phil is completely done being a top player on Tour? No. But, as Rory pointed out, he is on his last few holes, so he will need a big year next year. 

Tournament Of The Year (Non-Major): Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial
- Adam Scott, fresh off of taking over as world number one, takes on PGA Champion Jason Dufner with a host of other players within a few shots all looking to be a part of the playoff. Historic course with some great golfers. A lot of great tournaments happened this year, but this one really sticks in my mind. 

PGA Tour Specific Post Of The Year: This One

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wednesday Preview - Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic

The majors are over and the LPGA now prepares for their final domestic full field event of the season as the LPGA returns to Prattville, Alabama after a year hiatus. Any player looking to play in the limited field events for the rest of the season will need to perform well enough here to make their way up the money list and secure some exemptions.

Course: Capitol Hill Golf Club. It's a wide open course that is far easier than what the players saw at the Evian, so expect a bunch of birdies. Several players, including Lexi Thompson and Stacy Lewis, have already commented on the course conditions, saying that they didn't want to grind for pars, and that this "should be a lot of fun". Expect winning score to be somewhere around -20.

Strength Of Field: D-. A strong majority of players didn't want to fly from France to Arkansas to play in this event. Most of the Asian players returned home to prepare for the Asian swing in a few weeks, while your top European and American pros stayed in Europe. Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson are the only real notable names in the field.

Extra Tidbits: Five former University of Alabama players and two former University of Auburn players are in the field this week. Northern Ireland's Stephanie Meadow attended the University of Alabama, and received a sponsor's exemption into this week's event. She finished third at the US Women's Open, and is looking to win enough money to stay inside the top 40 and earn an automatic 2015 LPGA card...Meadow and former Auburn player Karlin Beck are the two sponsor exemptions this week. Hannah Collier and Carmen Bandea are the Monday qualifiers.

Fantasy Four:

Mi Jung Hur - I am, perhaps, looking much more into her back to back top 10 finishes, which includes a third place finish at the Evian Championship. After all, she has had a horrible 2014 leading up to these tournaments, and this recent form seems to come out of nowhere. Weird things happen in events where the field strength may not be great, however. If Hur truly has returned to form, this could be a perfect spot for her to pick up her first victory since 2009. 

Lexi Thompson - Past winner in Prattville, and while she hasn't been incredibly impressive since her victory at the Kraft-Nabisco, she likes it in Arkansas and is competing at a course that is perfect for her strengths. She is also coming off a top 10 in France, so it's not like she's playing poorly. 

Stacy Lewis - Officially struggling. Gets the benefit of the doubt because she is the most recent champion in Prattville and is the top ranked player in the world, but her form is a far cry from where it was earlier in the season. She needs a huge performance here, because Inbee Park will be looking to overtake her when the Tour heads to Asia.

Brittany Lincicome - Three straight top 10 finishes, two of which were in majors. You can take these finishes two different ways - either she gets herself in a position to win and does not convert, or she's playing far better now than she was earlier in the season and is racking up top 10's with consistency. I choose the latter, and as is the case with Thompson, this is the kind of course that can be rewarding for Lincicome. 

(SLEEPER) Ai Miyazato - Former world number one has fallen all the way to 74th in the Rolex Rankings and hasn't notched a single top 10 all season, so I have no basis for this other than my own belief that Miyazato will take advantage of the weak field and get something going before the Asian swing. Miyazato will either start turning it around soon, or we'll never hear from her again. Her game is too good for her to completely disappear, so I believe she will turn it around. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Next Great Korean Superstar Has Arrived

- You can argue whether or not the Evian Championship should be a major, but what can not be argued is that Hyo Joo Kim delivered a major performance. Coming out of the gate on Thursday and shooting a 61 showed Hyo Joo's talent and shot making ability, and her birdie on the final hole on Sunday showed her performance under pressure. The question now is whether or not Hyo Joo joins the LPGA. I don't see any reason why she would stay on the KLPGA, as she no longer has anything to prove on that tour, but she is only 19 years old, so anything is possible.

- After struggling at the early part of the season and watching the Americans dominate the Tour, Koreans have won four of the last five events, including the final two majors.

- When Brittany Lincicome bogied the 18th hole at the LPGA Championship, it showed how much nerves play a factor going down the stretch, and the players who have won majors can swallow those nerves more than players who haven't. The exact opposite was true on Sunday, when Hall Of Famer Karrie Webb fell victim to the nerves on the 72nd hole. At this point, I no longer feel confident in any player that has a lead on Sunday, especially if someone with the resume as Webb can't cash in on a golden opportunity. All that being said, Webb isn't done winning, and she showed this week that she will remain a major factor for some time.

- So Yeon Ryu finally won a few weeks ago after putting together a string of near misses, so I wonder if Na Yeon Choi's drought is close to an end. After being silent all season, she has put together several tournaments where she was a factor on Sunday. It's still amazing that she hasn't won in close to two years, but I think that streak is about to end.

- Ha Na Jang has gotten use to finishing behind Hyo Joo Kim. Jang is currently number 2 on the KLPGA Tour money list, though Hyo Joo has separated herself from Jang on that list. If it weren't for Hyo Joo, not only would Jang be the clear favorite for Player Of The Year on that Tour, but we would be talking about Jang's performance on the major stage in the face of competition from the top players from all over the world. Jang is a great player, and if she ever decides to come over to the US, she'll be a contender for a lot of tournaments, but unfortunately, she's not as explosive as Hyo Joo is.

-Lydia Ko will win a major in 2015. I've seen enough to know that she's set to take over this Tour, and very, very soon.

- The PGA Tour has tried to make the FedEx Cup as lucrative as the major championship. Most players don't see it that way, but Billy Horschel did, as he made sure he prepped himself for the long haul in order to win the FedEx Cup. It paid off, as Horschel won the final two playoff events and walked away with the ten million dollar grand prize. Unfortunately, Horschel is not on the US Ryder Cup team, which hurts to have someone playing that hot sitting at home.

- I honestly think Rory McIlroy should have skipped one of the playoff events if he wanted a chance to win the Cup. He has a tremendous summer, but he also played a lot during the summer, so for him to play four straight tournaments after that was just too much to overcome. That being said, Horschel may have won the FedEx Cup, and he may have out-dueled Rory in two tournaments, but Rory is still the best player in the world.

- Best wishes to Greg Norman, who was involved in a chainsaw accident and almost lost his hand this weekend.

Friday, September 12, 2014

News Grab-Bag: 9/12/2014

- Happy Belated 85 Birthday to the King, Arnold Palmer!

- There is a weird controversy surrounding Rory McIlroy this week. In an interview, McIlroy indicated that Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods were in "the last few holes of their career". A firestorm surrounded McIlroy, almost unfairly, as McIlroy didn't really say anything that derogatory. The point of McIlroy's statement was that Tiger and Phil were getting older and that they are going to have to cash in on the opportunities they have, or else they are going to run out of time. Seeing as Phil is in his mid-40's and Tiger has been struggling with injuries, I'm not sure how this is shocking to anyone. McIlroy did say that he expects Tiger to make it back to East Lake for the FedEx Cup finale again, and soon.

- PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem suggested this week that no big changes are likely to occur regarding the FedEx Cup playoff format. The format came under fire when Dustin Johnson, who did not play in the first three playoff events, still managed to qualify for the Tour Championship. Finchem concluded that they are looking into evaluating that particular scenario, but the system will remain relatively the same.

- Best wishes go out to Fabrizino Zanotti, who was struck in the head with a wayward drive at the European Tour's KLM Open and was knocked to the ground. Zanotti was rushed to a local hospital, where all test came back negative. Zanotti is currently recovering.

- Minjee Lee is playing for money! The Australian amateur turned pro prior to the start of her first round at the Evian Championship. Lee was the number one ranked amateur in the world and was the only amateur that competed in the International Crown.

- There were two notable early exits from the Evian Championship this week. The first was Michelle Wie, who withdrew after 12 holes and admitted that she rushed back to the course too early. Wie has been battling a finger injury that has kept her sidelined for the past month. Also going home early is So Yeon Ryu, who was disqualified after she bent her putter in frustration during Friday's round. Rules state that a player can not use a club that has been damaged, and Ryu made her comeback putt with the putter. She would have been unable to replace the club anyway, because she bent the club in anger instead of during the natural course of play. For Ryu, I'm sure this is just going to be one of those "laugh it off" experiences and she'll get back to it when the Asian swing starts. The more concerning story is Wie, whose season seems to mirror that of Jason Day, who won early, then battled thumb injuries the rest of the year.

- Speaking of Wie, she was recently on the cover of Golf Digest. She now has something in common with Paulina Gretsky. Let's hope that's the ONLY thing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Predicting The Evian Championship (Poorly)

While the PGA Tour ends their season this week, the LPGA still has several high quality events on their schedule, including the final major of the season, the Evian Championship. It is the second major that takes place outside of the United States, with the ladies of the LPGA Tour descending on France to compete for one of the richest purses in the sport. This is the second year the event is a major, but prior to that is played as a pseudo-major, as all the top players would circle this event as a much win based on the purse.

In the first part of the year, the LPGA season was pretty predictable, with the top names in the world all picking up victories and battling for supremacy. Since Mo Martin's victory at the Women's British Open, however, the season as been anything but predictable, with Mirim Lee and Austin Ernst picking up their first LPGA victories, and So Yeon Ryu winning for the first time since 2012. Now, we head to France for what may be the most wide open major of the year, with several players all coming in feeling as if they have a chance to win.

I have done these predictions a variety of different ways. I have split them up into groups, I have eliminated players I don't think have a chance, I have set aside my criteria for success, and yet none of that seems to do any good as I eventually end up failing anyway. So, instead of doing any sort of gimmicks, I'm just going to give you my top 10 players that I think can win the Evian Championship.

10) Anna Nordqvist - European players have typically performed well at this event, and Norqvist has had the kind of season that is usually rewarded by winning a major. Norqvist has two victories and seven top 10's this season, and has performed well in the last two majors. She has set herself up as the second best player in Europe, behind another Scandinavian that is also on this list.

9) Sakura Yokomine - Veteran JLPGA member is skipping the JLPGA major this week to compete here, which may be a signal that she's looking for a change of scenery. She won four times on that tour last year, but hasn't won this season. Yokomine did record a top 10 as the Women's US Open, and was the star of the Japanese International Crown team that made it much further than many suspected. A player with that talent feeds off great competitive environments, and will be looking for a win, perhaps, to secure an LPGA card.

8) Lexi Thompson - Seven top 10's this season is a little misleading, as most of her success was early. Still, she's the kind of player you don't discount in a major, and if on this list particularly because of her major success at the Kraft Nabisco earlier this year. Also shouldn't be penalized much for wayward shots, which is crucial to her game.

7) Hyo Joo Kim - Leader of the KLPGA money list by a wide margin. Should be the next great Korean star to break through and have success on the LPGA Tour, and could do so the same way many of her counterparts have - by winning a major. Kim is deadly accurate and has nerves of steel, so she won't be rattled by the situation she's in.

6) So Yeon Ryu - Mixed bag with Ryu, as she won a few weeks ago to finally get the monkey off the back, but let a golden opportunity slip away on Sunday two weeks ago. Regardless, Ryu has now become a fixture on leaderboards and should contend all the way up to Sunday. Whether she cashes in and wins her second major remains to be seen.

5) Azahara Munoz - Eight top 10's this season symbolizes a huge turn around for Munoz, who struggled throughout 2013. Munoz could have easily won a few times this season, had she not been outplayed on Sunday by several different competitors. With this event in Europe, Munoz should have extra motivation.

4) Stacy Lewis - This is a major that I'm not sure really suits her, but you never count Stacy Lewis out of any event. Has only one top 10 in her last five events, which means, despite her brilliant season up until now, her number one ranking and her Player Of The Year Award are both in jeopardy if she does not perform well down the stretch.

3) Inbee Park - Has finished 3-1-2-4 in her last four events, with her victory being at the LPGA Championship. Former winner of this event. Only reaches number three because I have more confidence in the top two players, but an Inbee Park victory would not be surprising to me.

2) Suzann Pettersen - Defending champion is finally 100% healthy and rolling in with confidence. May be the most under the radar player in the top 5, seeing as she's the only one of that group that has lost rankings points this season. Positive environment and course familiarity should give Pettersen a real shot to repeat.

1) Lydia Ko - Has followed up good tournaments with bad ones, and vice versa all season. Her most recent event was the Canadian Open, where she finished T55, so a good tournament should be upcoming. Poised and confidence well beyond her years. Given how well she has played this year, she should be the next in line to win a major.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

FedEx Cup Reset

It has been four weeks since I wrote my preview for the FedEx Cup where I pretty much got everything wrong that I could have possibly gotten wrong. What I keep forgetting, year after year, is that the rest of the schedule doesn't really matter when the FedEx Cup rolls around. In the end, it's what you do in these last four weeks that will determine the FedEx Cup champion, and just because you've had a good year, doesn't mean you're going to play well when the lights are brightest.

So, now we head to East Lake to put a ribbon on the 2013-2014 season, which was literally the longest season in PGA Tour history. The grind has already worn players down, including Phil Mickelson, who withdrew last week after the second round, siting "mental fatigue", which kept him out of the Tour Championship for the first time since the FedEx Cup was instituted. After three weeks of the Playoffs, I have officially learn nothing except that only the mentally tough survive the long hall. With that in mind, here are my top 5 picks The Tour Championship.

5) Hideki Matsuyama - Why not? I've ran with him all season, and while he has struggled as of late, his youth and his confidence should mean he isn't completely worn out by the brutal Playoff schedule.

4) Sergio Garcia - I just wonder if he's going to be able to close the deal on Sunday if he is within striking distance of the lead. We've seen it time and time again with Garcia where he makes a charge and comes close only to lose it on one hole coming down the stretch. His top 5 finish last week gives me reason to believe he can contend at East Lake, but I don't think he can win with the pressure on him.

3) Rickie Fowler - This is his last opportunity to grab a victory and cap off his impressive 2014 with a win. Fowler seems to contend in every event he's in these days but still only has one PGA Tour victory to his name, which is a shame considering his talent and his personality. He's going to go all out for this one, which means he'll be there at the end.

2) Billy Horschel - Finished top 5 in two straight events, including a victory last week. I worry if he'll slump after breaking through a second time, but Horschel was able to put the disappointment of coming up short two weeks ago behind him, so I think he'll be able to put last week behind him, as well. May be the best American not selected to the Ryder Cup team. If he win the FedEx Cup, I wonder if Tom Watson gets a mulligan.

1) Rory McIlroy - Has one bad round or one bad hole that has kept him from winning the last two Playoff events, but Rory knew going into these events that all he needed was to be top 5 entering East Lake in order to have a chance. He's in the top 5 with only 28 other players in the field. Rory should come out on top.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ryder Cup Teams Set

It's been a long week for me, as I've been laid up in bed, sicker than a dog. That's why you haven't heard much from me this week. That, and there hasn't been a whole lot going on in the golf world. The LPGA is off, the PGA Tour enters the third of what seems to be an endless FedEx Cup Playoffs. The only real notable news is the fact that both Ryder Cup captains made their wild card selections.

The first to announce his picks was European Captain Paul McGinley, who wasted no time and was straight forward with his picks, which were Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, and Stephen Gallacher. With those picks, here is how the team now looks:

Rory McIlroy
Henrik Stenson
Victor Dubuisson
Jamie Donaldson
Sergio Garcia
Justin Rose
Martin Kaymer
Thomas Bjorn
Graeme McDowell
Lee Westwood
Ian Poulter
Stephen Gallacher

Later that evening, American captain Tom Watson spent a half hour beating around the bush before finally announcing that Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan, and Webb Simpson would be joining his team. With the announcement of the three Ryder Cup veterans, here is how Team USA looks:

Bubba Watson
Rickie Fowler
Jim Furyk
Jimmy Walker
Phil Mickelson
Matt Kuchar
Jordan Speith
Patrick Reed
Zach Johnson
Keegan Bradley
Hunter Mahan
Webb Simpson

The obvious advantage lies with Team Europe, who has home field advantage, who won the last three Ryder Cup matches, and who has the better team, at least on paper. Rory McIlroy should be a work horse, and he will play in all five matches. With the way he has been playing, he could easily win them all. Stenson won the FedEx Cup and European Order Of Merit last year, Sergio played well in the majors this season, and Martin Kaymer won the US Open going away. There is a lot of fire power there...but  am not as convinced that this will be a blow out as I originally expected. McGinley was almost forced into taking Poulter and Westwood because of their experience, but they are not going in with any kind of form. Jamie Donaldson has played well in Europe, but looked weak in big events this season, same as Gallacher. Dubuisson is brand new to these proceedings, and Bjorn is an inconsistent player.

That's not to say the US isn't without their problems. In fact, they are riddled with issues, as Phil Mickelson has only one top 10 this season, Furyk has had serious problems with Sundays, Zach Johnson can't find his putter, and Bubba Watson has been quiet since he won the Masters. Perhaps that is more of the issue. It is less about the firepower that Team Europe has, and more about the firepower that is missing from Team USA. None of these players jump out at you as someone who has had a terrific season, and will shake the cages and get his team fired up.

Here is what can be said about the Ryder Cup, though - expect the unexpected. These events rarely go as you expect them. Every player starts from scratch, and someone like Patrick Reed, who has struggled since his hot start, could be a vocal, fiery personality that gets his team pumped up. You never know. As it stands right now, however, it is safe to say Team Europe are the favorites. Still, I can not wait for these matches to start!