Sunday, November 30, 2014

Lu Wins Two Straight Majors

- Apparently all Teresa Lu needed was a little confidence boost. After not winning a single professional tournament in her career, Lu has now won four tournaments in two years. These tournaments include the Mizuno Classic, a joint LPGA/JLPGA tournament, and three tournaments this year, including the last two majors. After joining the LPGA Tour eight years ago and not being able to do much in her four years in the states, it's easy to forget that Lu is only 27 years old. She entering the prime of her career, and now knows how to seal the deal. It will be interesting to see if Lu has any eyes on the LPGA Tour once more.

- Shingo Katayama is still the man. After captivating American audiences with his cowboy hats and his strong finishes in majors, it seemed like Katayama was done as a big figure in Japanese golf. His final round 65 at the Casio World Open showed otherwise. It was Katayama's 28th Japan Tour victory, and his first in 2014. He has been playing a lot better lately, and I'm sure he'd like to qualify for those majors once again.

- A couple of players did not help their major chances this week. The strong surging Hiroshi Iwata missed the cut by a stroke, meaning he will need a really big week this week to jump into the top 3. Koumei Oda finished T14, which doesn't help him and means he may need a victory next week to jump into the top 50 in the world and get an invite to the Masters (though he appears to be a lock for the Open Championship). Ryo Ishikawa once again had a mediocre tournament, the fourth Japan Tour tournament he's played this season where he has made the cut but has not contended. The pressure appears to be on for these players, as they continue to play meaningful tournaments in 2014.

- I don't know what planet Jordan Speith was playing on this weekend, but it certainly wasn't Earth. On a tough golf course in difficult scoring conditions, Speith shot a final round 63 for a seven shot victory at the Emirates Australian Open. Speith's 63 was five shots better than the next best score on Sunday. This wasn't an easy field, either - Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott were among the players that headlined this event. Something clicked in Speith this week, and if he keeps that same energy going into next year, watch out.

Friday, November 28, 2014

News Grab-Bag: 11/28/2014

- In honor of Black Friday and Cyber Monday (which I don't know is still a thing or not), the PGA Tour store has a bunch of different deals. If you're looking for some golf goods over the off season, now would be a good time to grab them. You can also find some end of the season deals at the LPGA Pro Shop, though that seems unrelated to Black Friday.

- Tiger Woods found his newest swing coach, and that is Chris Como. Up until recently, it was thought that Tiger would go without a swing coach, but he shocked the world this week when he announced the relatively unknown Como as his newest swing coach. It is unknown what kind of work Como will do with Tiger and whether or not he plans on retooling his swing as other coaches in the past have done.

- European Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter says he looks forward to the day when he gets asked to captain the squad, but said he has another ten years before getting asked. Poulter also confirmed that Darren Clarke is the favorite to be the captain in two year's time, and that Clarke has a great relationship with the players, which has helped his candidacy.

- The idea of a "world tour", which was suggested in the past, received new light as PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem suggested that the PGA Tour satellite tours, which includes minor tours in Canada, China, and Latin America, may be part of a "bigger picture". While the idea of growing the game globally excites me, perhaps the Tour should first look at making the World Golf Championships more global, instead of having three fixed locations in the United States every year.

- When Adam Scott played in Australia last year, he was playing as the new number one player in the world and recent Masters champion. This week, he comes in at world number three as Henrik Stenson passed him following Stenson's victory in Dubai last week. If Scott can win this week, he will retake the number two position. While Rory McIlroy seems to have the number one spot locked down, the spots behind him will likely remain fluid all season. After Adam Scott, the rest of the top five are Bubba Watson and Sergio Garcia. Hideki Matsuyama, who won the Dunlop Phoenix last week, moved up to 16th in the world.

- After the great season she had, it would be understandable if Michelle Wie felt content after winning twice, including a major. Instead, Wie seemed to suggest that she was frustrated that she got injured and was unable to capitalize on her strong play in the summer. Wie said her goal for next year is to become number one in the world. She is currently ranked 6th in the world, and among the players she would need to pass to achieve that goal if phenom Lydia Ko, who won three times and took home $1.5 million in one week, as well as Stacy Lewis and Inbee Park, who are among the most consistent players we have ever seen on Tour. It would be an incredible task if Wie is able to pass these players, as she would likely need to win about four times next season.

- Brooks Koepka was among the finalists for the PGA Tour Rookie Of The Year award, despite not playing a full season on that Tour and being ineligible for the playoffs. He got some redemption this week as Koepka won the European Tour Rookie Of The Year award. Koepka finished 8th in the Race to Dubai standings and is going to be playing a full time schedule on the PGA Tour this season.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wednesday Preview - Casio World Open

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! The PGA, LPGA, and European Tours are all done for the season. The big stars head down under for the Australian Open, as Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott will be among the players in Sydney. On the Japan Tour, however, there is an exciting race for the Order Of Merit, and with two weeks left in the season, Japan's next superstar is still waiting to be born.

Course: Kochi Kuroshio Country Club. I am having a tough time finding out the exact length of this course or how difficult it is, but the pictures of the course and the resort it sits on look absolutely stunning. They moved this event to Kochi Kuroshio in 2005, and scores have ranged between -11 and -21. Expect middle teens under par again this week.

Strength Of Field: N/A. Unlike last week, this is strictly a Japan Tour event, with no outside golfers. For that reason, I have decided not to give this event a field strength. If you're looking for the big name players, however, head to Sydney.

Extra Tidbits: The final two weeks of this season is huge for many players in the field. The top 50 in the world ranking on December 31th gets an invitation to The Masters. Also, the top 2 money winners after next week's event get an invite into the Open Championship...The defending champion would be Hideki Matsuyama, who won last week; however, Hideki is not in the final field for some unknown reason...the top ranked player in the field is Koumei Oda at 54th in the world. Hiroshi Iwata is right behind him at 63...Ryo Ishikawa tees it up this week for his forth straight Japan Tour start, Last week's T31 was his best finish in that stretch...Sung-Joon Park, rookie on the PGA Tour this season, will be playing this week, as will former PGA Tour winner Ryuji Imada...former winners of this event include Bernhard Langer, Lee Trevino, and Sandy Lyle.

Fantasy Four:

Hiroshi Iwata - Final round 63 put Iwata in the playoff last week and gave him his 12th top 10 of the season. Currently sitting at 63rd in the world and 4th on the Order of Merit, so he needs a couple of big weeks to get some invites into some big tournaments. Should be well motivated.

Koumei Oda - Two time winner of this event and the leader in the Order of Merit. A win could secure an invite to the Masters. Two wins this season, and has been incredibly close to two others. Missed a top 10 last week by one shot.

Shingo Katayama - Five top 10's to balance out only one missed cut in 2014 shows a resurgence for the iconic Katayama. Finished T9 last week, but could have been much better had it not been for a third round 73. This week will be a test to see if he can string together two good weeks.

Ryo Ishikawa - At some point, something has to click with him. Played better in his two events on the US Tour this season than he had on the Japan Tour since. Perhaps fatigue is getting to him, but he is too good to not find a way to play well in a limited field towards the end of the season.

Last Weeks Team:
Jordan Speith: T3
Hideki Matsuyama: WINNER
Hideto Tanihara: T31
Hiroshi Iwata: 2nd

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How Did I Do? Looking Back On My Predictions

At the beginning of the year, I made a few LPGA predictions, most of which were incredibly bold at the time. An entire season has gone by since then, so let's see how much of a physic I was.

- Se Ri Pak will win the HanaBank Championship: FAILURE
It was another injury plagued season for Se Ri, who only made one start on the Asian Swing, and that happened to be the HanaBank, where she withdrew after three rounds. She started the season strong and almost completed the career grand slam at the Kraft Nabisco, but it ended like too many seasons have ended for Pak lately - on the IR.

- Lydia Ko won't win on the LPGA Tour, but will still be Rookie Of The Year: FAILURE
Probably my worst prediction. Ko won three times this season, including the CME Tour Championship, and won the season long CME Globe title. If Ko had not won, then South Korea's Mirim Lee would have taken the title, as she won twice on Tour this season. It was a fantastic rookie class that was ready to win right away, and my doubts of Ko have been completely eliminated. Note to self: never doubt Ko again.

- The five majors will have five different champions: SUCCESS
Lexi Thompson, Michelle Wie, Mo Martin, Inbee Park, and Hyo Joo Kim were the five winners of the majors this season. There wasn't a lot of parity on the LPGA Tour this season, but there certainly was in the biggest events.

- Eun-Hee Ji will win before Yani Tseng: ???
Neither won on Tour this season, so this is an incomplete score.

5) Lexi Thompson will win a major: SUCCESS
Lexi made her leap into the pond and into superstar status when she won the Kraft Nabisco Championship in the first major of the season. Lexi's season took a bit of a tumble following that moment, but it does not change the fact that Lexi is no longer looked at as a young up and coming star. She is a superstar, one of the biggest names on Tour, and is now expected to deliver on the biggest stages.

4) Beatriz Recari will win the most tournaments by a European player: FAILURE
Recari will look back on 2014 as the year she won the International Crown with her fellow Spanish players, but that will be the only good memory she takes away from this season. In fact, all of Europe will likely try to forget this season, as only one player, Anna Nordqvist, won on Tour this season. Off the heels of a successful defense of the Solheim Cup last season, it was expected that the European players would begin to step up, and yet they have all taken a step back. Currently, there is only one European player in the top 10 of the Rolex Rankings, and that is Suzann Pettersen, whose world ranking fell from 2nd to 4th this season. Beatriz Recari has fallen all the way to 58th.

3) The Player Of The Year will NOT come from The Big Three: FAILURE
It came down to Inbee Park and Stacy Lewis, who battled it out with Suzann Pettersen last year. Pettersen has been replaced in The Big Three by Lydia Ko, but Park and Lewis continue to play at a different level.

2) So Yeon Ryu will be the top ranked Korean: FAILURE
I expected a drop off by Inbee Park following her record breaking 2013, and that did not happen. Even if she wasn't playing at her best, she still won three times, including a major. Ryu did win once and had another dozen top 10's, but she will likely look at 2014 for the events she didn't win rather than the one she did. Park will likely be the top Korean for a little while longer, while Ryu remains t great player, but has to look behind her for Hyo Joo Kim, who is now ranked 9th in the world and exploded on the scene in a big way. Kim will play a part time schedule on the LPGA Tour next season.

1) Michelle Wie will win in 2014: SUCCESS
It's amazing to think that this was a really insane prediction to make 11 months ago, but it truly was. The world had given up on Michelle Wie ever attaining a level of success on the LPGA Tour, and yet she exploded with a renewed confidence in 2014, with two wins, including the US Women's Open, and 13 top 10's to her credit. If she wasn't injured for part of the season, Wie might have been part of the conversation for Player Of The Year, and will try and be even better next season now that the expectations have risen for her once again.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Lydia Ko's Really Big Payday

- Lydia Ko is used to breaking records, usually for her age. This week, however, she broke a completely different record that has nothing to do with how young she is. Lydia Ko won the CME Tour Championship, and in doing so, also won the CME Globe race. That means Ko won a grand total of $1.5 million, a record for one player on the LPGA in one day. Ko did it in style, too, firing a bogey free 68 in tough conditions and out dueling Carlota Ciganda and Julieta Granada in the playoff. An incredible year topped off with an incredibly finish, and for the LPGA, they have to be feeling really good knowing that Lydia Ko is their future (as well as their present.)

- Between Lydia Ko and Lorde, it has been a great year for teenagers from New Zealand.

- While Lydia Ko was putting the finishing touches on the CME Globe race, Stacy Lewis was being informed that she won every other major LPGA award. After Lewis' strong weekend and Inbee Park's struggles all weekend, Lewis locked up the Player Of The Year award and the Vare Trophy. The race became much closer at the end of the year than expected, and all credit in the world goes to Inbee for putting on the pressure, but Lewis was so consistent throughout the middle part of the year that she was almost a lock for a top 10 every week. I have a feeling, however, that this won't be the last time we see these two duel it out for these prestigious awards.

- It seems like a long time ago since we've seen Morgan Pressel at the top of the leaderboard on a consistent basis. The last three tournaments she has played, however, she has finished T4, T11, and solo 4th. If the season was just a little bit longer, Pressel looked like she may be on track for her first victory since 2008. This new confidence, which she contributes to Taylor Swift's album "1989", should translate over into next year. And yes, I mentioned both Lorde and Taylor Swift. Find another golf blog that's willing to go deep into pop culture.

- Not all top 10's are created equal. For So Yeon Ryu, her T7 finish should feel somewhat disappointing. At one point on Sunday she was one shot back of the leaders, but three bogies in four holes to end the front nine derailed her chances to win the tournament. For I.K. Kim, her T9 finish should feel like a massive success. Kim has struggled all season. In fact, this was only her second top 10 of the season. To end a frustrating season on a high note should be a relief for Kim, who can now put 2014 behind her.

- Since returning from injury, Michelle Wie notched 3 top 10 finishes in five tournaments, ending with two victories and 13 top 10's this season, easily the best season of her career. With added confidence and a few months to be completely healthy, it will be interesting to see how Wie performs next season for an encore performance,

- I fell like Henrik Stenson is the forgotten man when talking about the best players in the world. Perhaps it is because his major record isn't as good as some of the others, but there is no doubt that Henrik can beat anyone anywhere given the chance. This week, he successfully defended his title in Dubai against the best the European Tour had to offer. His Sunday round of 70 was the first time in twelve rounds that he shot 70 or worse. The man is one fire, and the only thing missing from his resume is a major.

- After not playing for a month and after already capturing the Race To Dubai title, the world would have forgiven Rory McIlroy if he played poorly last week. Instead, he came within two shots of Stenson, and this after he already admitted he was not playing his best golf. If this is Rory's C game, I feel sorry for everyone else.

- There are a lot of people, myself included, who are waiting to see how good Victor Dubuisson really is. He has played primarily on the European Tour so we only get to see him in majors and other big tournaments. Still, he always seems to show up when people forget about him. His final round 68 was good enough to tie him with McIlroy and Justin Rose, which is really good company, and at only 24, we have yet to see Dubuisson's best.

- When people talk about Hideki Matsuyama, they say how good he can be, mostly in comparison to other great Asian golfers. I think we are seeing history in the making - Hideki is likely to become the greatest Asian golfer of all time, and one of the top players in the world. He already has two top 10's on the PGA Tour this year, and just won a big event on the Japan Tour. Is it impossible to think that Hideki could win a major next year? Absolutely not. I for one am excited about the possibility of one of the top players in the world being from Asia. That will truly show how the globalization of golf.

- Hiroshi Iwata did not make it easy on Hideki, as he fired a final round 63 to get into a playoff. Iwata is fresh off his top five performance at the WGC-HSBC Champions event, and has been one of the best players on the Japan Tour this season. I am curious as to whether or not we will be seeing him a few times on the PGA Tour next season. The Sony Open in Hawaii always offers exemptions for the best Japanese players, and with a top finish there, you never know what may happen.

- I am encouraged by Jordan Spieth's T3 finish at the Dunlop Phoenix event. In a completely different country and completely different atmosphere, Speith was still able to make his way into contention and nearly walk away with the tournament. To me, that is an encouraging sign going forward.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Suzy Whaley Elected PGA Secretary

The votes are in and it is now official - Suzy Whaley will become the next secretary of the PGA of America, and in doing so, becomes the first female elected officer in PGA's 100 year history. In what was supposed to be a close battle, Whaley won on the first ballot with 52% of the vote.

The Secretary of the PGA of America typically takes over when the president becomes term limited, which means Whaley will become president of the PGA of America when new president Derek Sprague exits office. Whaley will not only be the first female president of the PGA of America, but will also be the first female president of any of the major non-LPGA specific golf organizations around the world, including the USGA, PGA Tour, and R&A.

This isn't just historic for the PGA of America, it's historic for golf in general. A big knock against golf is that it is a game for white, affluent males, and yet here comes Whaley, a hard working woman from Connecticut to break through that glass ceiling that has been covering the game of golf.

Whaley played a few years on the LPGA Tour, but left to start a family and to become a golf instructor. She married her husband, fellow PGA instructor Bill Whaley, in 1991. She became the Director of Instruction at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut. In 2003, she became the first woman in 58 years to qualify for a PGA Tour event when she won the Connecticut PGA Championship, which qualified her for the Hartford Open. Her achievement inspired many young women to take up the game and accept training from a PGA professional.

It is rather fitting that, one month removed from the PGA of America being embroiled in controversy for Ted Bishop's "little girl" comments towards Ian Poulter, that they are now praised for electing the first female head of a major organization. Still, this is a huge crowning achievement for the PGA of America, for Suzy Whaley, and for the sport of golf. The future of the game now looks incredibly bright, and hopefully Whaley's election opens the door to other fine women to take leading roles in golf.

Friday, November 21, 2014

News Grab-Bag: 11/21/2014

- The 2015 LPGA schedule was released this week. There will be 33 events, as well as a new sponsor for the first major of the season. TonyJ over at Tony's LPGA Report did an amazing write up about the ins and outs of the new schedule, so go check that out.

- For any fans of Rory McIlroy who were concerned about his upcoming court case, Rory insists that the upcoming trial will not effect his golf. Rory said that the trial, which starts in February, will not distract him from his quest for the career grand slam when he tee's it up at the Masters in April.

- There's going low in a tournament, and then there is what John Hahn did. During the forth round of the six round European Tour Q-School, Hahn shot a 58, which would have been the record if the Q-School were considered an official round on the European Tour. This didn't seem to help Hahn, though - he shot a 78 the next round and ended up missing out on a Tour card by several shots.

- Looks like we may finally have a timeline for Dustin Johnson's return from suspension voluntary leave of absence. His fiance, Paulina, is set to give birth in January, and rumor has it that Johnson will return to the Tour at the Farmers Insurance Open in February. None of this has been confirmed, however, and the CEO of TaylorMade, Johnson's primary sponsor, hasn't heard from Johnson since he took his leave. One thing that is for sure, however, is that whenever Johnson returns, the golf media will be surrounding him.

Back in September, Park Gyeol won the gold medal in the Asian Games in golf for South Korea. It looks like Park's career was just getting started, as she was the medalist in the KLPGA Q-School this week. Park won the Q-School by one stroke with a final round 67. I don't expect to see Park on the LPGA for a little while, but she is only 18 years old and immensely talented, so I have a feeling she's going to have quite the career in front of her.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday Preview - Dunlop Phoenix (Japan Tour)

I do not normally do previews of events from Tours outside of the United States, but with the PGA Tour done for the season, and with every golf writer in the world descending upon Dubai for the European Tour's season ending tournament, I decided to take a look at the Dunlop Phoenix event on the Japan Tour, which historically has attracted some big name players.

Course: Phoenix Country Club. Historically ranked one of the top 100 courses in the world and perhaps the best course in Japan, Phoenix has a similar look and play style as Augusta National, which is why many big name players make room in their schedule for this event. 

Strength Of Field: For a PGA Tour Event, it would be a C. For a Japan Tour event, it's an A. Jordan Speith and Webb Simpson join Ryo Ishikawa and Hideki Matsuyama for in a limited field events that also features the best players on the Japan Tour.

Extra Tidbits: For watchers of the PGA Tour, seeing a legend in their 50's playing an event is a big deal, and the tournament usually does something special for that player. On the Japan Tour, it is no big deal, as 67 year old Hall of Famer Masashi "Jumbo" Ozaki plays regularly on the Japan Tour. He is in the field this week, as is his brother Naomichi "Joe" Ozaki...former PGA Tour winner Shigeki Maruyama returns to action this week. Shigeki only plays part time in Japan these days. He was last seen by PGA Tour audiences mentoring Hideki Matsuyama as a vice-captain of the 2013 International Presidents Cup team...Webb Simpson, Jordan Speith, Chris Stroud, Zach Sucher, and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are the PGA Tour players visiting this week. Ryo Ishikawa and Hideki Matsuyama are also PGA Tour members, but they still hold membership on the Japan Tour.

Fantasy Four:

Jordan Speith - Top ranked player in the field at 14th. Cooled off since his near miss at The Masters, but hasn't played terrible, either. Had more top 10's (6) then missed cuts (3) throughout 2014. 

Hideki Matsuyama - Top 10 finishes in his first two events on the PGA Tour this season, though he had a disappointing WGC event in China. Has climbed all the way to number 20 in the World Golf Rankings. This is more of a celebration event for Hideki, who won his first PGA Tour event last season, and will be looking to be come the first Japanese player to win a major next year. Still, don't be fooled - he will be looking to put on a show in front of his home crowd.

Hideto Tanihara - Three second place finished in the last eight events for Tanihara, who is inside the top 100 in the world but is in need of a win for an invitation to some big events. Has knocked on the door numerous times, but is without a win in 2014. Has made the cut the last two times he has played in the Sony Open in Hawaii, with the most recent being a T8 finish in 2014.

Hiroshi Iwata - Followed up his T3 at the WGC-HSBC Champions with a T19 last week. Was ranked 461st in the world at the end of last year, and is now inside the top 100 after a year that included one win and seven top 10s compared to three missed cuts (two of which came in a three week stretch this past summer). Is playing out of his mind golf right now, and may be looking looking to steal a trophy in Hawaii in January. That's a long way away for Iwata, who is currently fourth on the Order Of Merit and could inch closer to the number one spot with a win this week. 

Last Weeks Team:
Chris Stroud: T23
Angel Cabrera: CUT
Carlos Ortiz: T9
Will MacKenzie: T9

Wednesday Preview - CME Group Tour Championship

This is it, folks. The last event of the season for the LPGA Tour. It has been one of the greatest seasons ever for the Tour, and this week hopes to keep up the tradition of fantastic tournaments with stacked leaderboards. It has been an absolute joy to watch these ladies compete this year, and I'm sure this week will be no exception.

Course: Tiburon Golf Course at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort, which can measure 7,300 yards from the back. Shanshan Feng won last year with a score of -15, so expect scores to be about the same this year.

Strength Of Field: A. The only thing knocking it is the fact that this is a LPGA Tour only event, so top ranked players from other Tours aren't competing. Also, Hyo Joo Kim, who was eligible to play, decided not to make the trip. The best players on the LPGA Tour are here, though, and all eyes will be on the top 9.

Extra Tidbits: For Inbee Park and Stacy Lewis, it is simple - play well and beat the other player, and you walk out as the Player Of The Year. Lewis has the lead over Park by a mere 3 points, so both will have to give it everything they have if they want their second Player Of The Year trophy. For Park, Lewis, and Lydia Ko, a win would mean a $1.5 million paycheck, as they would win both the $500,000 for the tournament and the $1 million for the Race For The CME Globe championship prize. The rest of the players in the top 9 can win both trophies, as well, but they would need Park and Lewis to struggle this week. The Vare Trophy is also in play - a lead that once looked insurmountable for Lewis is down to .095. Lewis or Park could walk out with every major trophy on the LPGA Tour this week. Ko already locked up the Rookie Of The Year award....entering this week, there are four players with a sub-70 scoring average on the LPGA Tour this season - Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, and So Yeon Ryu. Lydia Ko is on the edge, and could break 70 if she has a low scoring week this week. There have never been five players to have a sub-70 scoring average at the end of a season...The LPGA will end this year with 31 tournaments in 14 countries, making it the most global of the major US Tours and one of the most successful seasons in LPGA history.

Fantasy Four:

Inbee Park - Win, and take home all the marbles. It's incredibly simple for Inbee Park, who rebounded from a slow start to the season to put her in a position to win back to back POY Awards. Many wondered what Park would do as an encore to her historic year last year, and we are seeing it now. Had a top 10 in every Asian event she played, including winning in Taiwan, and has not finished outside the top 10 since before the Women's British Open. Hottest player in the world.

Shanshan Feng - Almost caught Christina Kim last week for her second victory of the season. If Park and Lewis weren't on the LPGA Tour right now, Feng would be tearing up this Tour. Defending champion. 12 top 10's this year, and it was actually considered a relatively disappointing season for the 25 year old. 

So Yeon Ryu - 14 top 10's this season with only one victory. Always pencil her in for a top 10. If only she would start converting on opportunities, she would have a season that rivals Park's. Two straight top 10's entering this week. 

Lydia Ko - Ninth place finish last week was her third top 10 in a row and 14th overall this season. Finished outside the top 10 just once in six starts. One of the three players that holds their own destiny in regards to winning both the tournament and the CME Globe prize. 

(SLEEPER) Chella Choi - 10 top 10's this season, but has never won on the LPGA Tour. Finished T4 in her most recent start, which was in Japan. Hee Young Park won this tournament in 2011 for her first LPGA Tour victory, so Chella will be looking to follow in her footsteps. Another player you can always pencil in to have a top 10.

My projections based on very complicated science (i.e. just sitting around and watching golf), I have it is my belief that Inbee Park will better Stacy Lewis and walk out with the Race For The CME Globe title, as well as Player Of The Year and Vare Trophies. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Xtina Returns To The Winner's Circle, And Inbee Almost Catches Stacy

- It has been nine years since Christina Kim has won an LPGA event. In those nine years, Kim went from being a bright young star, to a Solheim Cup superstar, to nearly losing her card. She has opened up about her battle with depression, had to ask for sponsor exemptions into tournaments, and had to watch from the announcers booth as the US Solheim Cup team lost without her. Christina Kim has gone through several iterations of her career, but now she's back in the winner's circle once again. I don't think it's a coincidence that Kim's first win in almost a decade came the same year that good friend Michelle Wie broke her winless streak, or that it took place as another good friend, Lorena Ochoa, hosted the event. Perhaps a more relaxed, happier Christina result in her being towards the top of more leaderboards.

- It is impressive when you dominate a tournament from start to finish, but it shows more of your character when you have to rebound from a rough day and still walk away with the tournament. Several times, Kim looked like she was going to fold and hand the tournament to Shanshan Feng, but she steadied herself, both on the 16th hole and again in the playoff to be able to win. It wasn't like she was playing against a nobody, either - Shanshan is one of the top 5 players in the world. Kim may have been rattled, but she hung in there and finished the job, which is an incredible accomplishment. How fitting that a woman who has had to overcome so many obstacles in her life had to overcome a tough day in order to win?

- It all comes down to this - Inbee Park Vs Stacy Lewis for Player Of The Year. Park got off to a slow start to her week, but had a great rally on the weekend to finish solo third. Meanwhile, Lewis backed up her poor performance in Japan with another one in Mexico, so now Lewis leads Park by only three points in the Player Of The Year race. The math is somewhat simple - if Lewis gets a top 10 next week, then Park would have to win in order to take POY. If Lewis finishes outside the top 10, then Park would need to finish 8th or better. Park is a top 10 machine, so it is really hard to imagine her finishing outside the top 10. It will be up to Lewis to turn things around if she wants to prevent Inbee from winning her second straight Player Of The Year award.

- It may not have been nine years, but Charley Hoffman broke his own winless drought, winning the OHL Classic after not hoisting a trophy in four years. Hoffman has been incredibly close on numerous occasions over the past four years, most recently with a tie for third finish last year. Hoffman didn't enter this tournament playing particularly well - he only had one made cut in three events this season - but sometimes it doesn't matter how you're playing entering a tournament. It only matters how you're playing that week.

- Danny Lee looked like he was on his way to breaking some records and soaring to his first win on the PGA Tour after seven birdies in a row got him the solo lead. A birdie free back nine 38 ended those chances, and Lee, who has played all over the world and has worked hard to for his first victory, will have to way two months to try again. Still, Lee shot four rounds in the 60's and played well all week until that back nine on Sunday, so perhaps this is a sign that Lee has things turned around. He's made four of six cuts this season, including a T13 in Malaysia. Lee is a global player who has wins in New Zealand, Asia, and the Tour, and is only 24 years old, so the best may be yet to come.

- There were several players in their 40's who contended this week in Mexico, but perhaps the most impressive was 58 year old Fred Funk, whose second round 65 lead him to a top 10 finish. Funk became one of the oldest winners in PGA Tour history when he won this event at the age of 50, but after injuries and poor play kept him primarily on the Champions Tour, it is rather impressive that he was able to still play with the big boys this week. I don't know how much we'll see Fred Funk on the PGA Tour this year, but he has always been an interesting personality and great to watch, so hopefully he isn't done playing in the big leagues yet.

- Two players from Mexico finished in the top 10 this week, and they also happen to be Mexico's brightest young stars. Carlos Ortiz was unafraid of the attention he received entering this week, and Oscar Fraustro slipped past everyone's radar to finish T9. Both of these players are rookies on the PGA Tour this year, and both represent the best opportunity Mexico has had for a PGA Tour champion in a decade.

- If Brooks Koepka doesn't qualify for the President's Cup on his own, then Jay Hass better make sure he saves a spot for him. If the PGA of America want to point to someone who could help with their Ryder Cup woes, look no further than Koepka, who won the Turkish Airlines Open this week on the European Tour. Koepka plans on playing full time on the PGA Tour next year, but he may still have a part time schedule in Europe, as well. Koepka plays all over the world and now has a trophy to show for it. Many other American players don't play a global schedule, as opposed to the European players, who travel constantly. I want to make sure, as long as Koepka keeps playing well, that he is on this US Team for years to come. Though, if he plays to his potential, he may secure himself a spot regardless.

- What is it with 50 year olds notching top 10's this week? First it was Fred Funk in Mexico, and then it was Miguel Angel Jimenez in Turkey, who opened with a 63 and held on for a T4 finish. There has been talk of Jimenez being the next European Ryder Cup captain, but I wonder if he doesn't have one last event in him. He seems to be playing at a high level, and shows no signs of slowing down. As long as he continues contending, who knows?

- Congratulations to Rory McIlroy, who locked up the Race For Dubai despite not playing in the first three events of the playoff. It is hard to argue against McIlroy for the award, as he won two majors, plus a European Tour exclusive major, and a World Golf Championship event all in the same year. Still, after a third round 66, it looked like Marcel Siem was going to put some pressure on McIlroy, but a final round 71 ended those chances. McIlroy will be playing in Dubai this week, so perhaps he can cap off his season with another victory.

Friday, November 14, 2014

News Grab-Bag: 11/14/2014

- Congratulations to Charlie Sifford for receiving the Presidential Medal Of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the country. 53 years ago, Sifford became the first black player to receive a PGA Tour card, paving the way for desegregation within the PGA of America. Sifford won twice on the PGA Tour and was the first black player to be elected into the World Golf Hall Of Fame. Sifford joins Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus as the only golfers to ever receive the medal, though Sifford's award has less to do about his play and more about the profound effect he had on the entire game of golf.

- Congratulations to Lydia Ko, who wrapped up the LPGA Rookie Of The Year race this week. Ko was never seriously challenged for the award, though Mirim Lee did have a great second half to her season that may have made Ko sweat had Lee had a better beginning to her season. Ko was the overwhelming favorite to win the award entering this season after two victories as an amateur, so this does not come as a surprise. At 17, Ko becomes the youngest winner of the award.

- Anyone tired of Ryder Cup talk? I sure am, but there was a few more items of note this week. First, Sergio Garcia discussed the possibility of fellow Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez being named captain for the 2016 event, and Sergio said that Jimenez's poor English may effect his chances. It is worth noting that every captain of the Ryder Cup has spoken fluent English, but I think Darren Clarke's candidacy is more of a hindrance to Jimenez than his English.

- Also on the Ryder Cup front, there is a man who claims to have the answer to all of Team USA's troubles - John Daly. Daly said this week that making either Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods the playing captain would be beneficial to the team, as these two have played on the team in recent years and know a lot about what it takes to win in that setting. Daly also touted himself as a possible assistant captain, saying he would keep the players loose and get them back to having fun. While I'm sure Daly's heart is in the right place, I'm going to assume that the PGA of America is not fielding Daly's calls at the moment.

- Speaking of Mickelson, it was announced early this week that Lefty has taken a job as interim assistant coach of the Arizona State Sun Devils, Mickelson's alma mater. The position is expected to be a short term one, but is a huge pick up for Arizona State, who can now use Mickelson in an official capacity to try and recruit players into the program. Mickelson won three NCAA titles at Arizona State, and his brother, Tim, is currently the head coach of the program. Tim played on Arizona State's 1996 NCAA championship team, which was the last time Arizona State won a national title in golf, though Alejandro Canizares of Spain won the individual title in 2003 for Arizona State.

- Augusta National will be welcome its third female member, as IBM CEO Virginia Rometty has been rumored to be given a membership. This isn't much of a surprise, as Augusta historically offered the CEO of IBM a membership (IBM sponsors the Masters), and women were offered their first memberships in 2012. Don't expect to see Rometty taking weekend trips to Augusta for tee times, however - she's only an "occasional" golfer whose handicap is over 35.

- We have another Ballesteros among the professional ranks, as Javier Ballestaros announced he would be turning pro and beginning his journey to the top on the Alps Tour next year. Javier is the 24 and is the oldest son of Seve, the iconic Spaniard who won five major championships. Javier will have incredibly large shoes to fill, but I wish him the best of luck.

- Six countries are in the running for the 2022 Ryder Cup which will be hosted by Europe - Austria, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey. The biggest news surrounds Turkey, who appears to be out of the mix after environmental concerns surrounding the building of a golf course which would have cut down some 15,000 trees to accommodate grand stands for the event. After initially pulling out, Turkey reentered the discussion, but with all these problems, I do not expect Turkey to be a part of the conversation. In fact, I expect the bid to go to Italy, who has never hosted a major golf tournament but is rising as a golf power.

- While we are on the subject of golf globalization, one of the most beautiful and most scenic golf courses in the world opened this Vietnam. The Greg Norman design looks like something straight out of the Highlands of Scotland. You can see the photos here.

- This past weekend, the USGA held a conference on slow play. They revealed new technology to try and speed up the game on a recreational level. I do not know much about the technological side of golf, but Stephanie Wei has a first hand write up.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wednesday Preview - Lorena Ochoa Invitational

There are two remaining events on the LPGA schedule, and for some of the big name players, it will be a sprint to the finish. The LPGA heads to Mexico with a little help from one of their all time greats for the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.

Course: Club de Golf Mexico. This is a beautiful course, but unlike the Mayakoba, which takes place in a beautiful resort town in Mexico, this event takes place just outside of Mexico City. Winning scores have consistently been mid-teens under par, but this will be the first time this event has taken place on this course. Do not expect the shoot outs we saw during the Asian swing - single digits under par may be what we are looking at.

Strength Of Field: C. The top ranked players in the world are here, but there is only so much love I can give a tournament with 36 golfers competing. The plus side is, with so few competitors, expect the cream to rise to the top.

Extra Tidbits: Lorena Ochoa has, in the past, given herself an exemption into the event, but is only going to be playing in the pro-am this year. She has discussed the possibility of playing the event next year, along with one or two other events, but a full time return to the Tour is not in the works...Three Mexican players - Gaby Lopez, Alejandra Llaneza and Margarita Ramos - all received sponsor exemptions this week. Natalie Gulbis and Hall of Famer Juli Inkster were also given exemptions...Stacy Lewis has all but locked up the Vare Trophy, but the race for the Player of the Year is far more interesting. Stacy Lewis can lock it up with top 10's in the last two events, but if she misses out, then two top 5 finishes by Inbee would give the award to Inbee. A win Lewis, of course, locks it up, and a win by Inbee gives her a path to overtake Lewis regardless of Lewis' final finishes. Lewis and Inbee remain the last two standing.

Fantasy Four:

Inbee Park - She sees the Player Of The Year trophy in her sights, but she will need to play lights out golf the last two weeks to overtake Lewis. Won in her most recent start on the LPGA Tour, overtook Lewis in the Rolex Rankings, and finished one shot out of the playoff in her native Korea. Is the best player out there right now.

Lydia Ko - Wrapped up the Rookie Of The Year rankings, and is out of the running for the Player Of The Year, so she only has herself to worry about. Can't pass Inbee in the Rolex Rankings, but can make herself part of the conversation if she plays well down the stretch.

Michelle Wie - Top 10's in both of her starts since her return from thumb injury. Lexi Thompson gave the blueprint last year on how to win this tournament by overpowering the course, so Wie should be able to implement her game plan. Still mathematically alive for the Vare Trophy, but a lot would need to happen for her to have a shot. Despite missing several events and not playing her best in the summer due to injury, still had a career year.

Stacy Lewis - Followed up her runner up finish in Taiwan with a disappearing act in Japan. Jet leg could be a factor. That consistency that helped her dominate the LPGA this past summer appears to be gone. Is looking to just hold on to win the Player of the Year and the Vare Trophy, which she currently leads. 

(SLEEPER) Morgan Pressel - T4 finish last week was her third top 10 of the season. Finished tied for third here in 2009, which must seem like a lifetime ago for Pressel. Hasn't won on Tour since 2008, but has had her best year in three seasons, so the trend is pointing upward. Hasn't missed a cut since the LPGA Championship, with five top 25 finishes in eight starts. 

Wednesday Preview - OHL Classic At Mayakoba

The final PGA Tour event of 2014 is upon us as the PGA Tour players get to put their clubs away for a season and await the marathon that is the 2014-2015 PGA Tour season. For those who may have gotten off to a rough start, this represents the last chance for a player to kickstart this season before the Tour resumes in Hawaii in January. We head to Mexico for the OHL Classic At Mayakoba!

Course: El Camaleon Golf Club, 7,000 yards. Short course, so it depends on the weather. If the wind is down, expect somewhere just below twenty under par to be the winning score. Shouldn't be as wet as it was last year, so the ball strikers should be better suited than the long hitters were last year.

Strength Of Field: D-. Perfect opportunity for someone to earn some much needed FedEx points and bank themselves a trip to Augusta. All the majors players either started their off season after the WGC event in China, or they're battling for the Race For Dubai on the European Tour.

Extra Tidbits: This is the first year where the Mayakoba will be awarding full FedEx Cup Points. It played opposite the WGC event in China for several years...This is one of two major Tour events held in Mexico this week. The Lorena Ochoa Invitational will also be taking place on the LPGA Tour this week.

Fantasy Four:

Chris Stroud - Finished T3 last year. He has a great history in this event and is a good ball striker, though his recent results have not been great. Still, expect him to get it back into full gear this week.

Angel Cabrera - Is incredibly frustrating from a fantasy perspective, as he is wildly inconsistent and doesn't notch a lot of top 10's, but can have stretches of great golf. Had two top 25's in the playoffs, and missed the weekend only twice since his third PGA Tour victory last season. Is a fan favorite in Mexico, so could bank off the strong vibe from the crowd.

Carlos Ortiz - Sleeper pick. I am a believer now in Ortiz, who didn't miss a cut in three appearance so far this season. All eyes will be on the rookie as he plays in his native Mexico, so nerves may be a factor. If he is to become a superstar, he could make a case for it this week. 

Will MacKenzie - Finished in a playoff at the McGladrey Classic. Showed signs of jet leg in Malaysia, but his finish at the McGladrey is enough to believe in him. Tour win number three may be around the corner.

Last Weeks Team(s):
WGC-HSBC Champions:
Jamie Donaldson: T24
Sergio Garcia: T28
Hiroshi Iwata: T3
Justin Rose: T48

Sanderson Farms:
Tony Finau: MC
Sung Joon Park: T66
Peter Uihlein: T4
Scott Piercy: MC

Monday, November 10, 2014

Bubba Wins Another Big One In Exciting Fashion

- Bubba Watson isn't just a golfer anymore. He is an entertainer. Whenever Bubba wins, he wins in spectacular fashion, and when he loses, he completely explodes. It provides for great television whenever Bubba is near the lead on a Sunday. It also shows that he should never be counted out. A lot of people (myself included) expected Bubba to have a down year after his poor performance down the stretch and in the Ryder Cup. Instead, he comes out of the gate and wins the first big tournament of the new season. Bubba may get on a lot of people's nerves, but no matter what, when he is in contention, you're going to watch.

- I am happy to see the career revitalization of Tim Clark. Two years ago, the question was asked whether or not we had seen the last of Clark as a contender on the PGA Tour. Not only did he win last season, but he then makes it to the playoff of a World Golf Championship event. Two years ago, Clark was left off the International team for the Ryder Cup, so I know he is going to try desperately hard to make it this time around.

- Can Rickie Fowler buy a win? With all the money he's making from these top 10 finishes, you'd think he'd be able to. Once again, Fowler finds himself coming up incredibly short of a win in a big time golf tournament. At some point, his next victory is going to come, and soon, and when that day comes you should expect a sea of trophies washing up on Fowler's doorstep.

- The golfer who can take the most away from the WGC-HSBC Champions? Hiroshi Iwata. Not only did he play well enough to get into the final group on Sunday, but following a two over par front side, Iwata was able to bounce back and came within a shot of being in the playoff. Iwata was on no one's radar this week (except mine - he was my sleeper pick), so to play against such a stacked field and be able to finish tied for third should give him a ton of confidence moving forward. He will likely be in the field at the Sony Open in Hawaii. If he does well there, who knows - perhaps he could make enough to take up Special Temporary Membership? I would love to see Iwata's fiery temperament on the PGA Tour this season.

- If I am Graeme McDowell, I would have started drinking immediately following the final putt on Sunday. For a player of that caliber to give up that tournament is shocking, but it also shows that no player, no matter how good they are, are a sure thing to win when they have a lead entering the final round.

- Was there a tournament more entertaining down the stretch on the LPGA Tour than the Mizuno Classic this year? Too bad very few in the states actually got to watch it, because it seemed like everyone who tee'd it up this week had a birdie putt in the last to get into a playoff. Sakura Yokomine's may have been the most heartbreaking, as it appeared to be going in. I would have loved to see Yokomine jump to the LPGA Tour, but after years of championing that cause, I believe my words are falling on deaf ears.

- Speaking of heart breaking, how great would it have been to see Dame Laura Davies become the oldest winner in LPGA history by closing the deal on Sunday. It would have capped off a great year where Davies was made a dame and elected into the World Golf Hall Of Fame. Unfortunately, she wasn't able to keep up the pace, but it was great seeing her turn back the clock.

- Mi Hyang Lee's victory was terrific, especially the way she was able to seal the deal, but her win will be relatively forgotten about when it's all said and done. Still, that is not Lee's fault - if anything, this week should give her a lot of confidence moving forward. Not only does she now know how to win on the LPGA Tour, but there aren't a lot of people talking about this victory, which gives Lee something to prove in the final two starts of the season.

- With no big name players in contention on Sunday, you would think Stacy Lewis would have had a field day with this tournament. Instead, she finished T31, a full six shots back, and behind players such as Pernilla Lindberg and Junko Omote. The end of the season can't come soon enough for Lewis, who is not playing nearly as well now as she was in the middle of the season, Lewis needs a time out and a restful off season.

- Prior to the start of the season, many Canadians within the sport of golf, whether they be writers or golfers themselves, were incredibly optimistic about the wave of young Canadian golfers joining the PGA Tour. There now appears to be a reason for that optimism, as Nick Taylor walked out of the Sanderson Farms Championship with Canada's first victory since 2010. With Adam Hadwin showing a lot of promise and Graham DeLaet a season removed from his President's Cup success, I think it's safe to say that Canada is hitting a bright spot on the PGA Tour.

- Peter Uihlein was on everyone's radar a year ago, but after a tough 2014 season on the European Tour, it seemed like everyone gave up on Uihlein. It was rather uplifting to see him have a great weekend at the Sanderson Farms Championship and remind people of the talent that he has. He will be on the PGA Tour soon, and then we will see how his talent blossoms when he is closer to home.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Patrick Reed Uses Gay Slur And Blows Up Twtter

He may be thousands of miles away, but Patrick Reed's recent outburst on the course caught the attention of everyone at home. For those who did not hear or read what Reed had said, check out Stephanie Wei's post on the subject. She also makes some pretty solid points, as she had during the Ted Bishop scandal.

Golf is known as a "gentlemen's game", and has since it's very beginnings. Part of that is based on the fact that the game was run and dominated by older, white, straight men from affluent backgrounds. That perception is starting to change as the game becomes more diversified, but that diversity isn't taking place in as rapid of a fashion as all other major sports. It stands to reason that many within the game are not nearly as adapt to the environment of the world.

Ted Bishop's rant wasn't made by a sexist - it was made by a person who doesn't realize what sexist comments are. This does not excuse Bishop's comments, but rather it shows that the game of golf do not have enough women in the higher up of the governing bodies to inform people that referring to a professional golfer as a female in a derogatory way is a horrible thing for someone trying to grow the game of golf to do. Similarly, I do not know Patrick Reed personally, but I do not think referring to himself as a homosexual in a derogatory way in a time of anger does not make him a homophobe, even if it was a homophobic thing to say.

What has been proven over these incidents, however, is that those who enjoy golf are becoming more diverse, and no longer tolerate the types of things that would have flied ten years ago. The outrage is actually good for the sport, because it makes people within golf learn from these mistakes, and it lets them know that they are not immune to the way the world is changing. PGA golfers already had to watch what they say on a golf course as hundreds of microphones and thousands of camera are within feet of wherever you are standing, and the PGA Tour would fine golfers for using profanity on the course (though, that never stopped Tiger Woods).

As far as what Reed's punishment should be, he should and will definitely be fined for his behavior. He may be suspended, though at this point in the PGA season, what are you really suspending him from? You're going to force him to miss the tournaments in Hawaii in January? That would hurt those tournaments more than it would hurt Reed, honestly. While I hate the kind of slurs that Reed used, I really hope this isn't something that follows him throughout his career. He said something dumb when he was angry. He shouldn't have said it. He'll be punished for it. Let us be honest, though - is Reed really the only person who has used this kind of speech on the golf course? Or is he just the first to get caught? Unless I know for sure that Reed is a homophobic person, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

What I do not like is the fact that the PGA Tour is going to punish Reed and not tell anyone what the punishment is, because the PGA Tour is incredibly secretive about their punishments for some unknown reason. The only way to get rid of this issue is to be in front of it. The PGA of America quickly canned Ted Bishop following his comments. The fact Reed will have some kind of punishment and it will never be made known means that this thing will hover around the Tour for weeks.
“The PGA Tour Conduct Unbecoming regulations prohibit the use of obscene language on the golf course. The PGA Tour will deal with this matter internally in accordance with its regulations.” - See more at:
“The PGA Tour Conduct Unbecoming regulations prohibit the use of obscene language on the golf course. The PGA Tour will deal with this matter internally in accordance with its regulations.” - See more at:
“The PGA Tour Conduct Unbecoming regulations prohibit the use of obscene language on the golf course. The PGA Tour will deal with this matter internally in accordance with its regulations.” - See more at:

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wednesday Preview - Mizuno Classic

The final event of the Asian swing on the LPGA Tour takes place this week as the players head to Japan for the Mizuno Classic.

CourseKintestsu Kashikojima Country Club, and I absolutely had to use copy and paste for that. Can measure around 6,500 yards. Another birdie or bust course, so expect scores to be very good.

Strength Of Field: D-. This is essentially a really good JLPGA event. Almost all your big name Korean stars are taking the week off, Stacy Lewis is the only American, and several European stand outs are missing. The JLPGA tie-in does provide some interesting names, however.

Extra Tidbits: This is one of the few remaining 54 hole events left on the LPGA schedule, and the last on the Asian swing...This event is the oldest of those on the Asian swing, having been played every year since 1973. Prior to being played at Kashikojima, the event was held at the Seta Golf Course, where Annika Sorenstam would dominate fields five years in a row and break scoring records in the process...This is the truest of the co-sanctioned events, as 35 players from the JLPGA will tee it up this week. A JLPGA player has won this event three times since moving to Kashikojima, including last year...Unfortunately, this event seems immune to the rise in popularity of the LPGA Tour. The purse was reduced by $200,000 in 2010, and hasn't risen since.

Fantasy Four:

Stacy Lewis - With Inbee Park taking the week off, Lewis has the opportunity to slam the door on the Player Of The Year race. Only player in the top 5 on the Rolex Rankings playing this week. Former winner. Everything points to Lewis having a big week.

Teresa Lu - Last year, her victory was a huge surprise, as she had no success on either the LPGA or JLPGA Tours. She has won twice on the JLPGA Tour this season, including a major, so she is entering with added confidence. Currently 38th in the Rolex Rankings.

Na Yeon Choi - Quietly notched six top 10's this season. Hasn't has the best Asian swing, but enters the Mizuno Classic as one of the top ranked players in the field. Should be able to contend here.

Sun-Ju Ahn - Has won five times on the JLPGA Tour, including two weeks in a row back in October. Finished tied for ninth in the Women's British Open. Big hitter should be able to take advantage of a course that won't be too penalizing for wayward shots. Won a major on the JLPGA Tour two years ago by beating Inbee Park in a playoff.

(SLEEPER) Momoko Ueda - Returned to the JLPGA after a less than stellar outing on the LPGA Tour. Win last week should mean a return to confidence for the two time winner of this event. She, along with Jiyai Shin, should be able to show their former LPGA comrades what they learned from their time away. 

Wednesday Preview - WGC-HSBC Champions

Yes! After a slow start to the 2014-2015 PGA Tour season, we finally get a star studded tournament worth getting excited for. The fact that the tournament is held in China shows how that country is emerging as a golfing power.

Course: Sheshan International GC, an incredibly scenic 7,300 yard layout. You are unlikely to find a better golf course throughout Asia. It is not terribly difficult, however, so expect the winning score to be in the high teens, perhaps low 20's under par.

Strength Of Field: A-. 40 of the world's top 50 are in this event. It is missing Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson, but everyone else is here. Perhaps this won't get casual fans on board, but if you are a golf fan (and you're reading a golf blog, so it's reasonable to assume you are), you should be excited about this field.

Extra Tidbits: While this is one of the early events in the PGA Tour season, it is incredibly important for the European Tour pros, as it is the second of four tournaments in the Race To Dubai year end playoffs. It stands to reason that the European Tour pros will have extra motivation this week...The WGC-HSBC Championship is the second highest-ranked golf tournament in terms of world ranking points outside the United States. The Open Championship is first...The winner of this events earned a three year exemption onto the PGA Tour, so non-members will also have that as a motivating factor...Six golfers from China will be in the event, including Lian-Wei Zhang, the first Chinese pro to play at the Masters. Also playing is Hao Tong Li, who is currently second on the Chinese PGA Tour Order Of Merit, so we'll probably be seeing him on the Tour next year.

Fantasy Four:

NOTE: Before I get into this, I should tell everyone that I originally had Victor Dubuisson as one of my picks, but I was talked out of him. If Dubuisson goes on to win this tournament, I will kick myself right in the jeans.

Jamie Donaldson - Currently second on the European Tour Order Of Merit. Fell a few inches short of the playoff last week at the BMW Masters. Only finish outside the top 10 in his last 5 starts was the World Match Play. Had the winning point for the Europeans at the Ryder Cup. Everything is coming up roses for Donaldson right now. 

Sergio Garcia - His T2 finish in Malaysia proves he can play just about anywhere. His finish last week is his sixth top 10 in nine events, including an astonishing four runner up finishes. Has won somewhere in the world each of the last four years. 

Hiroshi Iwata - Sleeper pick. This is the deepest of sleeper picks, especially in this field, but his recent results warrant a look. Seven top 10's compared to three missed cuts on the Japan Tour this season, including a win. Third on the Japan Tour Order Of Merit. One of his top 10s was at The Crowns, a premier event on the Japan Tour. In these events, there is always a player that rises on the final day and few have heard of, and Iwata fits that mold.

Justin Rose - Finished tied with Donaldson outside that playoff in China. Also finished T4 at the Tour Championship. A brilliant Ryder Cup, where he went 3-0-2, rounds out a great three tournament stretch for the Englishman. Has become a top 10 machine. 

Also taking place this week is the Sanderson Farms Championship. Since it is an alternate field event, I will not be doing a complete breakdown of the event, but I will give my four picks.

Tony Finau - Best rookie in the early going of the season. Opposite field events are great for rookies.
Sung Joon Park - Winner on the Japan Tour made the cut in his only event this season.
Peter Uilhlein - Plays all over the world. Had a down season last year, but seems to be turning it around
Scott Piercy - Has played well in the early going of the season. Appears due to cash in.

Last Week's Team:
Ryo Ishikawa: T26
Hideki Matsuyama: T21
Lee Westwood: T13
Sergio Garcia: T2

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

News Grab-Bag: 11/4/2014

It's the incredibly rare Tuesday grab-bag, but so much happened yesterday that the iron should be struck while it's hot.

- Dustin Johnson has filed a lawsuit against former advisers, claiming that they embezzled $3 million from him. All of the details are sketchy and involve a lot of legal jargon. You can read it all here. Dustin Johnson has had the absolute worst year ever. First, he takes a leave of absence/is suspended for cocaine use, then he had to battle against previous accusations that he slept with the wives of PGA pros, and now he's being taken for his money and is in the middle of a lawsuit. DJ is engaged to Paulina Gretzky and has a child on the way, so I'm sure he would love nothing more than to turn the page on 2014 and start fresh.

- Adam Scott is doing something rather different to find his next caddie - he's accepting application. Scott said he received hundreds of applications for the position, and he is going to try out a few before making the move to a full time caddie. Unless there is one that really impressed Scott, expect a carousel of caddies for the 2014-2015 season.

- There is a huge election taking place within the PGA of America for secretary, which is the fast track to the presidency. Suzy Whaley is the favorite and is on track to become the first female PGA President, but now she has hit a bit of a road block. Independent director of the PGA and ESPN commentator Dottie Pepper threw her support behind Whaley's opponent Russ Libby. While Pepper's statement cites Libby's leadership and credentials, it's hard not to see this as a swipe at Whaley, who seems just as qualified as anyone to lead this organization. Pepper has always been a free thinker and someone who didn't necessarily conform to the norm, so Whaley should never have counted on Pepper's endorsement as an automatic. Still, it is hard to see Whaley not get the job because of this.

- The leading money winner on PGA Tour China, Xin-Jun Zhang, has been suspended six months for signing incorrect scorecards. That is cards, plural. There are very few details about this story right now, so everything is speculative. What I will say is that, while I always thought being disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard was nuts, if this is something that was persistent throughout the year, then it was more than just a slight mistake. The fact that this is coming from the leading money winner of that tour is an even bigger red flag. The top five on PGA Tour China's Order Of Merit will receive Tour cards, so Zhang was well on his way to a trip to the US, but that seems to be completely off the table now.

- If the players had a vote, Fred Couples would be the next Ryder Cup captain. Earlier on a radio show, Keegan Bradley begged Fred Couples to take the job. Couples responded, saying that every member of the 2014 Ryder Cup has asked him to be the next captain. Couples has already said he would take the job if asked. The only people that need to be convinced now are the PGA of America and that newly formed, completely unnecessary task force.

- South Korean president Park Geun-hye has accepted the role of honorary chairperson for the 2015 Presidents Cup. The United States presidents have had a history of accepting this role when the event is held in the US, but this is news as Park will be the first Asian head of state serving in this capacity. She is also the second woman to serve as honorary chairperson, after Julia Gillard of Australia did so in 2011. The honorary chairperson actually has no real duties - this is just a symbolic position.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Inbee Holds Of Stacy In In A Battle Of The Best

- After jumping out to a monster lead, Inbee Park held on to win the Fubon LPGA Championship the same week she took over the top spot in the Rolex Rankings. Heading into Sunday, I was wondering if Inbee was going to break the LPGA scoring record, but the conditions became more difficult and was not nearly as comfortable as she was the rest of the week. Still, Inbee showed that she can close the door when she needs to, and now she has her third victory on the season and has suddenly made the Player of the Year race a lot more interesting.

- The golf writers wanted a rivalry, and now we have one. When Stacy Lewis got within one of Inbee on Sunday, a part of me thought Lewis was going to leap past Inbee and take this tournament from her. This was incredibly entertaining to watch, and the LPGA is better when these two are competing against each other on a week to week basis. Is this the greatest LPGA rivalry in recent memory? It's certainly the best we've seen since Annika Sorenstam and Se Ri Pak of the late 90's and early 2000's.

- It wasn't just the top two in the Rolex Rankings that performed well in Taiwan. Lydia Ko had the round of the day Sunday, shooting a 66 in the worst conditions of the week to vault her up the leaderboard and finish third. That means the top three players in the Rolex Rankings finishes 1-2-3 on the leaderboard. I can not remember another time when the top three players in the Rolex Rankings finished on the leaderboard in the same order they were placed in the Rankings.

- There is something about Malaysia that agrees with Ryan Moore. After struggling down the stretch last year and missing the cut in his first event this season, Moore returned to Malaysia and put on an absolute clinic, defending the title by three shots after hitting some absolutely beautiful shots. Moore has always been the kind of player that can pull out victories the moment you forget about him, but next time the Tour returns to Malaysia, I'm sure he will be on everyone's short list of contenders.

- I hope Kevin Na remains healthy, because if he does, he will start winning a bunch of tournaments. He has the talent to be one of the best players on Tour, but his physical issues have held him back in recent years.

- Davis Love III said recently that he was rededicating himself to playing golf in an effort to get back into the field at the Masters and the Players. Love is 50 years old and two years removed from major neck surgery, but he has no interest in limping around the Champions Tour for a few years. He wants to win on the PGA Tour again, and you can see how this new dedication has lead to improvements in his game. After making the cut at the McGladrey Classic, he flew around to world to Malaysia and notched a top 10. Love will be a story to watch all season.

- After finishing T5 in Malaysia, Sang-Moon Bae has retaken the number one spot in the FedEx Cup. Is he this year's Jimmy Walker? He is certainly better than he was last season, but we will need to see how he performs in China and in Hawaii in January to really know what his season projections should be.

- Three Asian tour players finished in the top 10, granting them a spot in a PGA Tour event (I believe they are pushing it back to the Mayakoba due to travel, but I am not sure.) Congratulations to Cameron Smith, Prom Meesawat, and Angelo Que for making the most out of their invitation into this event. Smith was by far the most consistent and he finished bogey free on Sunday in his first PGA Tour event.