Friday, January 30, 2015

Kel Nagle Passes Away

Another great of a bygone area has passed away, as Australian Kel Nagle, 94, died yesterday. While Greg Norman is generally regarded as the greatest Australian golfer of all time, no one was as proficient in winning golf tournaments in Australia than Nagle.

Nagle began his career when he turned professional in 1946. His first victory was the Australian PGA in 1949. He would go on to win 61 times in Australia and New Zealand in event that would later make up the Australasian Tour. Though the Tour would only be officially formed in 1973, all of Nagle's wins were grandfathered in, making him the all time winner of events on that Tour by a massive margin. He won at least one tournament from 1949 to 1975, which is insane.

Nagle's biggest victory came in 1960, when he beat Arnold Palmer by one stroke to win the Open Championship. He bested Palmer again in 1964 at the Canadian Open for his only other PGA Tour victory. Still, the Open Championship was kind to Nagle. Prior to his victory in 1960, he had never recorded a top 10 finish in a major. After 1960, he would finish in the top 10 six times between 1961-1969. He also came close to winning the 1965 US Open, when he shot a final round 69 to catch Gary Player on Sunday, only for player to hold on in the 18 hole playoff the next day. It was the closest Nagle ever got to winning another major championship, and spent a majority of the rest of his career in Australia. Nagle pretty much retired from professional golf in 1978, though he did play on the Senior's Tour in the 80's. His final start in a major was the 1984 Open Championship, where he and countryman Peter Thompson, who won the Claret Jug five times, waved goodbye at the championship that treated them so well over the years at the home of golf, St. Andrews.

Nagle was given the Order of Australia in 1980 for the service to the sport of golf. Nagle was elected to the Sport Australia Hall Of Fame in 1986, awarded the Australian Sports Medal in 2001, and in 2005, the Australasian Tour created the Kel Nagle Plate, which is annually rewarded to the best performing rookie at the Australian PGA. In 2007, Nagle was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame. Nagle was too sick to attend the ceremony in person, but Greg Norman accepted on his behalf and personally flew the Hall of Fame blazer to Nagle's home in Sydney.

Sam Snead once said of Nagle "I've never seen him hit a bad putt." I wish we could all have such luck. Rest In Piece, Mr. Nagle.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wednesday Preview - Waste Management Phoenix Open

Do you like golf but think the fans are a little boring? Well, this is the week for you! The PGA Tour heads to Phoenix for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, home of the craziest gallery on Tour. The addition of Tiger Woods and the Superbowl being in town should significantly increase the gallery size.

Course: TPC Scottsdale, measuring at 7,200 yards. If you can get past the cheers and the boos of the crowd throughout the week, you should be able to make a bunch of birdie on this course. Winning score won't be as low as it was last week, but expect it to be upper teens. If someone gets really hot, they could break -20.

Strength Of Field: B+. European Tour pros are still waiting to make their PGA Tour debut, but all of the top American players are here. The only notable missing from the tournament is Jimmy Walker. This is the first high profile tournament of 2015.

Extra Tidbits: The story will be Tiger Woods, who is playing this event for the first time in 14 years. He is making his 2015 debut. Also making their 2015 debut are Rickie Fowler and Jordan Speith...While the crowd will be bigger this year than it ever was, don't expect the shenanigans you have seen in recent years. The PGA Tour has banned caddie races, as well as giving away free merchandise to the crowd on the 16th...Last year's champion Kevin Stadler will not be defending this year after suffering an injury...Robert Allenby will be competing for the first time since his incident in Hawaii...Phil Mickelson attended school at Arizona State, so he is the crowd favorite at this event. A win will make Lefty the all time leader of wins in Phoenix with four.

Fantasy Four:

(NOTE: No sleepers this week. My tradition of taking sleepers will pick back up next week.)

Hideki Matsuyama - Finished T4 last year in his first appearance in the event. Has top 25s in four out of six events in the PGA Tour season. Took a week off after his worst finish of the year in Sony. Still think he will be a multiple time winner this season, and this is a perfect spot to sneak away a victory.
Charley Hoffman - On an absolute tear lately. T2 last week was his third straight top 25, including a victory in Mexico at the end of 2014. Playing the best golf of his career. Finished 2nd in this event in 2009.

Rickie Fowler - First event of the year. Ended up with ten top 10 finishes last year, which is an incredibly insane number. His only start this season is a T3 finish in China. Fowler needs to start collecting trophies in order to follow up on his fantastic 2014 season, and this is his first opportunity to do so.

Patrick Reed - Winner of the Tournament of Champions. Every time the world wants to crown Reed, he seems to go into a slump, and whenever people start laughing at him, he starts to win again. Most seem to expect Reed to have a big year, even bigger than last year, but I want to see him string together a few good tournaments now that he is in the spotlight once again. Still, a top 25 last year in his only appearance in this event, and a crazy crowd seems to be the kind of environment Reed loves to compete in. 

Last Weeks Team:
Patrick Reed: T24
Scott Piercy: T30
Jason Bohn: T30
Justin Thomas: T7

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Wednesday Preview - Coates Golf Championship

The LPGA Tour is back! For the first time in several years, the LPGA schedule begins in January, as the players shake off that winter rust and head to Florida for the first ever Coates Golf Championship.

Course: Golden Ocala Golf and Equastrian Club. Measures at 6,500 yards, so long hitters should have a slight advantage. This is the first time seeing this course, so the winning score is yet to be determined, but I would doubt that they would make it difficult out of the gate, so expect mid-teens under par.

Strength Of Field: C-. I am deducting points based off the announcement that "49 of the top 50 players" are playing this week, and yet the players on the Asian tours who fall within that category are not participating. What they meant to say was 49 of the top 50 MONEY WINNERS from 2014 will be competing. Also, Hyo Joo Kim, a favorite to win the Rookie of the Year Award, is not teeing it up this week. Still, the big name players are here. I am just bitter.

Extra Tidbits: 16 rookies begin their LPGA Tour seasons, including Sandena Parks and Cheyenne Woods, marking the first time a duo of African American women are on the LPGA Tour at the same time...This is event number one of a 33 week schedule for the LPGA Tour. Five years ago, the LPGA only had 23 events on the schedule...rookie Ha Na Jang and relative unknown Jing Yang are the Monday qualifiers...this even will begin on Wednesday in order to avoid running up against the Superbowl on Sunday.

Fantasy Four:

Lydia Ko - The expectations on Lydia will only continue to grow. Won the inaugural Race For The CME Globe and won the final event on the LPGA schedule in 2014. When she is playing her best golf, she is the best player in the world, and she's both mentally and physically ready to take over the Rolex Rankings.

Inbee Park
Stacy Lewis - If you ask me right now who is better between the two, I would say Inbee by the slimmest of margins. I fully expect both players to rack up a bunch of top 10's again this season, starting with this week in Florida. They will both have to look over their shoulder for Lydia Ko all season, however. 

Michelle Wie - Is rested and fully healthy following the most successful year of her career. Michelle Wie is a roller coaster, and we never know what to expect from each week, but this is the kind of golf course that should fit her game. Is saying all the right things this week it make it sound like she's ready for another big year.

(SLEEPER) Ha Na Jang - With Hyo Joo Kim sitting this event out, this is the perfect opportunity for Ha Na Jang, who finished second to Kim a lot last season on the KLPGA Tour, to jump out to an early lead in the Rookie Of The Year standings. She's a big hitter, so this course should suit her. Jang will be hovering around a bunch of leaderboards this season.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Bill Haas Outlasts Field In Birdie Sprint

- If there was any doubt in your mind whether or not Presidents Cup captain Jay Haas would have his son Bill on the team this year, Bill just eased those doubts this week. After firing a second round 63, Haas was able to out duel the rest of the field and make enough birdies to win the Humana Challenge. I think Bill Haas was a lock to be on Team USA this fall - if he wouldn't have automatically selected him, his father would have used a pick on him - but this likely seals the deal for a man who has been incredibly consistent over the last 10 years but has always missed out on playing in the Ryder Cup (he has played on the last two Presidents Cup teams, however.)

- If Matt Kuchar could just convert half of his top 10's into wins, he'd be the number one player in the world. For some reason, Kuchar has one or two holes every tournament that prevents him from winning. Fans of Matt Kuchar are still lucky that they get to see their favorite player performing well every week, but they also have to be rather frustrated that he is unable to win more trophies.

- During the fall series and again at the beginning of this year, I made a crazy claim that rookie Sung Joon Park was going to surprise a lot of people with his talent this year. My prediction isn't looking as crazy anymore as Park's final round 65 gave him a share of second place and his best finish in a PGA Tour event. Park is loaded with talent, as he has shown on the Japan Tour, but is also wildly inconsistent. As is reminded any time a Korean player does well this season, the Presidents Cup will be held in South Korea this year, so perhaps Park has some extra motivation. More likely, however, Park is motivated by the idea of keeping his PGA Tour card and making money.

- Charley Hoffman's last three PGA Tour finishes: 1-T14-T2 for a grand total of $1.5 million, which has boosted him to 3rd in the FedEx Cup race. Not only is this clearly Hoffman's best stretch of his career, but he is in perfect position to make his first appearance in a team event representing the United States. In order to do that, however, he will have to perform better in majors - he has never finished inside the top 10 in one of the big events. If he keeps up this pace, however, he will be sure to break that curse.

- You have to feel good for Steve Wheatcroft. After bouncing around different Tours his entire career, he was able to regain his card this year, only to start the season off struggling. His T2 finish at the Humana will go a long way towards securing his card for a second year, which may lighten him up a bit and allow him to put less pressure on himself. Still, even if he doesn't compete well the rest of the year, if was great to see him towards the top of the leaderboard.

- Justin Thomas is going to be an amazing player. He now has top 10 finishes in three of his last four starts on the PGA Tour. Once Thomas gets a little more experience and gets used to playing in high pressure situations, we are going to see an incredible player.

- Boo Weekley can't decide if he wants to be a contender or if his career is on the downswing. It seems like every other month, a story is written about how Weekley is no longer competing at a high level and that it appears his days of contending are over, only to turn around and have a big week. Humana doesn't seem like Weekley's kind of event, but he was able to notch a top 10, his second of the season. Perhaps Weekley still has more magic left in him.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wednesday Preview - Humana Challenge

Hawaii is nice, but you unfortunately can not stay there forever. This week, the PGA Tour returns to the continental United States for the Humana Challenge In Partnership With The Clinton Foundation Presented By Coca-Cola In Conjunction With AT&T And The National Football League...or, just the Humana Challenge, if you'd like.

Course: The event will be played over three courses, but the main one that everyone will see twice is the PGA West Palmer Course. None of the three courses are any longer than 7,000 yards, and all three are among the easiest courses these players will see all year. If you like birdies in bunches, this is the event for you.

Field Strength: B-. Actually somewhat surprising that the event has any many big names in the field as it does. Phil Mickelson is the biggest name, but Matt Kuchar, Keegan Bradley, and Jason Dufner are among the bigger names in the field. Luke Donald has decided to skip the desert swing on the European Tour in order to play some events on the West Coast Swing.

Extra Tidbits: This is also a pro-am event, so players will only be cut after Saturday's round. The field of amateurs, however, are typically not as big of names as you will see in at Pebble Beach...Former president Bill Clinton is the honorary host of the event, and has, in the past, played 9 holes during Saturday's play. No word yet on whether or not he will do it again...This used to be a 90 hole event called the Bob Hope Classic. Former winners of the Bob Hope Classic receive an invite into the tournament, so Mark Brooks will be making an appearance on the PGA Tour this week. Also, the Humana Challenge has a strange invitational criteria that allows winners of the Players Championship prior to 1996 into the event, so Lee Janzen will be teeing it up this week.

Fantasy Four:

Patrick Reed - Defending champion. Won the Tournament Of Champions. Leaving him off your team right now would be a foolish move. I don't know about Reed's status long term and whether he will perform well at the majors, but in birdie or bust events, he's gold.

Scott Piercy - Finished second last week and his best golf is ahead of him. Appears to be over the injury that plagued him last season. Only concern is his past results at this tournament, but some times course history means nothing, especially if you're playing well.

Jason Bohn - Sleeper pick. Most recent finishes in the Fall were both top 10's. Has a good history in this event. Won in 2005 and 2010, so based on trends, he should be set up for a win this season. He's 41 years old, so he needs to make the most of his opportunities while he can.

Justin Thomas - After missing the cut in his first two PGA Tour events and finishing 70th in his third, Thomas seems to have settled in as a touring professional. Shot a 61 on Friday at the Sony Open, and nerves probably contributed to his two straight rounds of 70. Still, that's two top 10 finishes this season for the rookie who is just getting his feet wet. 

Last Weeks Team:
Zach Johnson: T64
Charles Howell III: T26
Ryuji Imada: CUT
Jimmy Walker: WINNER

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Jimmy Walker Devours Sony Open Field In Title Defense

- Soft landing, indeed! A week after blowing the final round lead at the Hyundai Tournament Of Champions, Jimmy Walker runs wild on Waialae and wins the Sony Open by 9 strokes. This is the second straight Sony Open title for Walker, but this may be the most satisfying of all his trophies. Not only did he prove that 2014 wasn't a fluke, but he also showed a lot of mental toughness to rebound from last week. Anyone who thought Jimmy Walker was going to go away was wrong - Walker has a lot to prove this season, and he's off to a great start.

- Scott Piercy's third PGA Tour win is somewhere right around the corner. He already has four top 25 finishes this season, and his second place finish at the Sony Open moves him to 9th in the FedEx Cup race. His 2014 season was cut short due to injury, but Piercy looks healthy now and is playing some of the best golf of his career.

- I am trying to figure out what is more of a shock - Matt Kuchar shooting a final round 71 when he has the opportunity to win the golf tournament, or Hideki Matsuyama never getting it going and missing the secondary cut on Saturday. Both results show that even the best players have bad rounds and bad tournaments.

- I can not believe Jerry Kelly has only won three times in his career. Kelly has been one of the most consistent players on the PGA Tour, and always seems to be close to the top of the leaderboard. The fact that his career may end with only three wins will be a complete shame, and the record book will not show just how good Kelly has been. Hopefully he can pick up another win or two before he heads over to the Champions Tour. If he is to do so, however, he better do it quick - he turned 48 in November.

- Stuart Appleby made the cut and finished T17, but that will not be the news surrounding his week. Appeby took to Twitter to complain about how the PGA Tour measures pins and yardage. Appleby claims that it is an issue with consistency, and that pacing off yardage is not the right way to go when there is other technology available. Appleby makes a great point, and if yardages are different week to week, then something should be done to address the issue.

- Kyle Suppa, 16, made the 36 hole cut on Friday. So, too, did Kenny Perry, 54. Perry's first PGA Tour win was the 1991 Memorial Classic, eight years before Suppa was born. Golf is a great sport, and one that doesn't discriminate based on age.

- This one is going to sting for a while. After entering the final round with a six shot lead, Martin Kaymer shot a final round 75 to lose the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. He had his lead up to 8 at one point with birdies on three of his first four holes, but a double bogey on nine and a triple on thirteen caused all the oil to come rushing out. It is a shocking result for someone as talented as Kaymer, and one that might haunt him throughout the year.

- The man who was the recipient of Kaymer's bad fortune? That would be Gary Stal, the 357th ranked player in the world from France. Stal is only 22 years old and made 22 of his 25 cuts on the European Tour last year, so he has plenty of time to turn this improbable victory into something special. It has to be a huge confidence boost knowing that he was able to play so well in a tournament filled with big name players.

- Rory McIlroy ended up finishing second in the Abu Dhabi Championship. In his last six European Tour starts, he has finished 1st three times, and 2nd three times. It's great to be consistent, but it's even better to be consistently great.

Once again, best wishes go out to Robert Allenby. It's great to hear that the injuries were minor, and he's still considering playing next week. I hope Mr. Allenby takes as much time as needed, but it's good news that he's even considering it.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Robert Allenby Attacked In Hawaii

Robert Allenby was kidnapped, attacked, robbed, and dumped in a local park this weekend outside of Honolulu. For an in depth look at the full story, go check out Stephanie Wei's write up. This is a horrific attack, and my best wishes go to Robert at this time. Here's to a speedy recovery.

Friday, January 16, 2015

News Grab-Bag: 1/16/2015

- Suspensions in professional sports are not a new phenomenon, but when they happen in golf, they raise a lot of eyebrows. This week, Tour player Bhavik Patel was suspended for violating the PGA Tour's PED abuse policy. In a statement, Patel said “In an effort to overcome an injury, I made a lapse of judgment. I regret my decision but have learned from the experience and look forward to returning to competition.” Players in other sports have been suspended for using substances such as Human Growth Hormone to overcome an injury, but this is the first known case in professional golf. Patel wasn't a big name player on Tour - he finished 114th on the money list last year and never played an event on the PGA Tour. This certainly does not help his chances, but the PGA Tour did announce that Patel, who would have been playing on a medical exemption this year, will not lose his status upon return to the Tour.

- Happy 75th birthday Jack Nicklaus! In a recent interview, Nicklaus admitted that he missed playing at a high competitive level, and that playing weekend rounds with his friends does not satisfy the desire to play in majors and be competitive. That is certainly understandable, though I doubt any of us are going to quite understand what it is like to retire from golf after winning 18 majors and being considered the greatest golfer of all time. 

- Jack isn't the only member of the Nicklaus family to be celebrating this week, as his wife Barbara was announced as this year's Bob Jones Award winner. The Bob Jones Award is the highest honor bestowed by the USGA, and it goes to someone who positively influences the game of golf and represents themselves in a positive manor. The First Lady of Golf has worked hand in hand with her husband to run the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation, as well as be the host for the Honda Classic. 

- Tiger Woods will begin his 2015 in Phoenix, but it looks like the atmosphere of the event will be starting to change. Two years after banning caddie races, the PGA Tour announced that players will no longer be able to hand out free items off the 16th tees, as was tradition in the past. Next year, they will likely ban alcohol and booing, and the year after they will ban clapping. By 2020, no spectators will be allowed at the event. 

- The Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is one of the most unique events on the PGA Tour schedule, but it will be without one of its regular players. Phil Mickelson announced this week that he will be skipping Pebble in an effort to spend more time with his kids. Lefty is scheduled to tee it up over the next three weeks, however, so fans of Phil will still get the opportunity to see him on the West Coast.

- Something does not add up. In a recent article, the Coats Golf Championship is boasting that they will have 49 of the world's top 50, and 96 of the top 100 in the Rolex Rankings attending their event - however, players such as Hyo Joo Kim, In Gee Chun, and Sun Ju Ahn are currently not scheduled to participate in the event. If Coats somehow convinces the top players from the KLPGA and JLPGA Tours to participate in their event, I will be highly impressed, but this is most likely either a miss step by their media team or a flat out lie to get people more interested in their event. The event, however, will feature Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis, and Lydia Ko, so there are plenty of top names in the field that will make the event interesting.

- Speaking of Lydia Ko, she's not wearing glasses anymore. Neat. 

- When Korean players come to the States, they sometimes adopt a nickname that is easier on American audiences to pronounce. Some just shorten their name, like Mi Jung Hur, who now goes by MJ Hur, while others adopt a nickname, like Ji-eun Park who decided to go as Grace Park. Now, however, we may have the greatest name in the history of professional golf, as rookie Kyu-Jung Baek will be competing in the United States as Q Baek. On the weekends, she works as a radio DJ under the name DJ Q Baek. She also secretly supplies James Bond with equipment to use in the field. In all seriousness, Baek is competing as a rookie after winning the KEB-HanaBank Championship as a member of the KLPGA Tour last year. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wednesday Preview - Sony Open In Hawaii

The PGA Tour golfers get to leave the warm, wonder confines of Maui and head to very similar warm and wonder conditions on the island of Oahu for the Sony Open in Hawaii. It was -5 degrees her in Northern Pennsylvania today, but I'm not bitter in the least.

Course: Waialae County Club, measuring at just over 7,000 yards. Waialae is celebrating it's 50th year as host of this tournament, and it still looks as stunning as ever. Wayward tee shots are not as penalized as they were in Kapalua, but that does not make this an automatic lock for the bombers, either. Short game and putting will be the make or break here. Still, expect low scores, somewhere around twenty under par once again.

Strength Of Field: C+.  Six of the top 25 in the world doesn't sound incredibly impressive, but the field is bunched up. Players like Matt Kuchar, Hideki Matsuyama and Jason Day make up the top of the field, but a bunch of rookies, several Japan Tour pros, and aged veterans make this an interesting field to watch. Waialae marks the perfect spot for someone to earn some much needed FedEx Cup points before the field strengths start to pick up.

Extra Tidbits: Sony Open has always been great to Asian players, as they invite several players from the Japan and Asian Tours to participate. This year, 6 players from Japan, 5 from South Korea, and 2 from China tee it up. Two notables missing? Ryo Ishikawa, who is exempt on the PGA Tour, and Koumei Oda, leading money winner on the Japan Tour...Curtis Thompson, Trey Mullinax, Roger Sloan, and Tom Johnson are your Monday qualifiers...This used to be the first full field event of the season, but with the new wrap around schedule, several rookies have already gotten a taste of the PGA Tour...Of the last 15 Sony Open champions, 10 of them played in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions the week before, though Ernie Els is the only man to sweep both events...Hawaii is a great trip for everyone, whether you're a rookie playing in their second or third tournament, or a veteran who has been on Tour for years. Five players in the field are over the age of 50 - Davis Love III, Vijay Singh, Fred Funk, Kenny Perry, and Paul Goydos. Singh and Love are life members, Perry is using a lifetime money exemption to play a full season on Tour, Goydos is in the field as a past champion, and Funk had a top 10 in Mayakoba.

Fantasy Four:

(NOTE: These are based off my selections for the fantasy game, which does not allow you to pick non-members in any events outside the WGCs or majors. If it did, Hiroshi Iwata would find a place on my team. A big week could put him on the path towards special temporary membership.)

Zach Johnson - This is one of the places where Johnson is an automatic start no matter how he's playing, and his game last week showed me that he has the potential to win here once again. Putting was off in round 2, which was the only thing that kept him from possibly challenging for the championship. Winner in 2007 and a top 10 last year.

Charles Howell III - You have to think he will win this tournament some day. Eight top 10's in thirteen starts. His window in this tournament may be closing, so he will be pressing for a victory.

Ryuji Imada - Sleeper pick. Playing this season on a past champion's status like he has last couple of seasons. Never notched a top 10 in this event, but was one stoke off from breaking that streak last year. Has made a surprising nine cuts in his eleven starts in this event. Course familiarity coupled with a need to have a good week should translate into success.

Jimmy Walker - Really wish he hasn't blown that lead last week, or else this would be an automatic pick. Winner last year, coming off a big season, and a second place finish last week. It should be a soft landing onto familiar grounds, but where his head is at will determine his performance this week.

Last Week's Team:
Bubba Watson: 10
Jason Day: T3
Geoff Ogilvy: T27
Angel Cabrera: T29

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Patrick Reed Survives Kapalua

- He may not be a top 5 player, but Patrick Reed showed that last season was no fluke as he fired a final round 67 and made a clutch birdie putt in the playoff to win the Hyundai Tournament of Championships. Any player can have a good season, but it shows more about their character if they're able to bounce back from struggling and win. After his famous "top 5" comment, Reed missed several cuts and started to plummet down the rankings. Winning this tournament is huge for Reed, and shows that he has the mental toughness to win in just about any environment. The only thing he has left to prove is his skills in a major.

- Even winners on the PGA Tour have a hard time winning on the PGA Tour. Three players all had the opportunity to put this tournament away, and were unable to do so. First it was Reed, who looked like he was ready to run away with the tournament until he missed a three foot putt on the 17th hole. Then it was Hideki Matsuyama, who hit the ball better than anyone all week but could not make the putts he needed to, including a relatively short one on the final hole to get into the playoff. Finally it was Jimmy Walker, who lead most of the final round but shot a back nine 73 and completely airmailed his approach shot on the playoff hole to end his chances. For Matsuyama, he will rebound and win a few times this season. He is a top 5 player in the making, and he almost won in Kapalua in his first time seeing the course, which is incredibly rare. For Walker, it may be harder to rebound from this loss, but he has the Sony Open next week, an event he won last year, so he will at least be landing onto softer ground.

- Jason Day's final round 62 was an announcement to the rest of the rest of the PGA Tour that this is going to be his year. Day has the explosive talent to make birdies in bunches and go on a huge run, but he needs to put four rounds together. If he is able to do that, Day could take home a bunch of trophies this year.

- I had Sang-Moon Bae in my Fantasy Four until the very end. The news of Bae's legal battle with the South Korean military scared me, as I figured he would be too distracted to play well. Now, I am wondering if his legal battles are actually fueling him to perform well and prove to the government that he deserves an extended stay. I am not in Bae's mind, but I do know his talent, and he if the kind of player that can contend in several tournaments.

- Ten under par was good enough for a T22 finish at the event. JB Holmes finished in last place at three under. I am ok with this kind of scoring at Kapalua, but we're in the early part of the Tour season, and these are going to be the kinds of scores we see for several tournaments. No thank you.

Friday, January 9, 2015

News Grab-Bag: 1/9/2015

- We now know when and where Tiger Woods will begin his 2015 season - the Waste Management Phoenix Open on January 29th. It will be the first time in 14 years that Tiger will be playing in the craziest atmosphere in golf. Part of the reason why Tiger has selected this particular tournament appears to be the fact that he has tickets for the Superbowl, which will begin after the final round in Phoenix. He will also be playing the following week in Torrey Pines, which is not as much of a surprise. The addition of Tiger Woods, coupled with the Superbowl being in town, has made some question whether or not the Waste Management Phoenix Open could sell out. The tournament has never sold out in its history, but they do get close to 200,000 spectators on the weekends. There is currently no known cap for the event, but the tournament is doing all it can to provide for the influx of attention it will receive.

- It appears as if we may have our European Ryder Cup captain. In a recent interview, Padraig Harrington suggested that Darren Clarke was a "shoo-in" to be the captain for the Euro Squad in 2016. He has been a heavy favorite since the matches ended last year, so if an announcement were soon to come, it will not be much of a surprise.

- Congratulations to Inbee Park, who was named to Forbes' 30 Under 30 for 2015 In Sports. The entire article can be seen here. It is interesting that Forbes chose Inbee and not American stars Stacy Lewis and Michelle Wie, but it is a huge honor for Inbee, whose accomplishments have not been applauded as much in the States.

Please go away, Ted Bishop.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Wednesday Preview - Hyundai Tournament Of Champions

We're back! After a a month away, we finally have some honest to goodness golf to be played this week. It's still incredibly cold and snowy in my part of the world, but for the PGA Tour winners in 2014, they get to start their season in beautiful Maui. Tough job.

Course: Plantation Course at Kapalua, measuring close to 7,500 yards. The length is very misleading, however, as elevation changes causes the course to play a lot shorter. A mixture of big hitters and accurate shooters have contended over the years, so the fact that it is a long course serves no advantage. The players with the hot putter will be the ones who contend. As long as the winds stay down, the winner could be close to 20 under par.

Strength Of Field: D. While the event features winners from the 2014 calender year, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer are skipping the event. There were a lot of great players last year that did not win on the PGA Tour who won't be a part of the event. Bubba Watson and Jason Day are your big names. Not really a superstar field, but hey, it's golf, so I'll be tuning in anyway.

Extra Tidbits: Kapalua has become a mainstay on the PGA Tour, as this is the 17th straight year the course will host the winner's only event...The first round will begin on Monday, a rare occurrence on the PGA Tour. This is to avoid the NFL playoffs and the College Football Championship, which should begin an hour after the final round ends...Prior to the beginning of the wrap around schedule last year, the PGA Tour rookies began their season at the Sony Open in Hawaii. This year, we have one rookie in the field - Nick Taylor, who won in the fall series.

Fantasy Four:

Bubba Watson - Top ranked player in the field. While the course doesn't play as long as its posted yardage, Bubba should be able to overpower a few holes and hit a few drives over 400 yards. His putter can be streaky, so whether or not he wins will depend on how he's rolling the ball.

Jason Day - Is set for a break out season as long as he remains healthy. Expectations are high, and everyone will be looking at his performances in Hawaii to see how ready he is for the 2015 season. Every facet of the game is good enough to contend at Kapalua.

Geoff Ogilvy - Two time winner of this event. Won last year for the first time since 2010 after struggling mightily on Tour. Expectations should be low for the rest of the year, but his experience on this course should give him an added advantage over several of the first timers.

Angel Cabrera - Has not really played well since his victory last season, but seeing as this is a limited field event, he's worth a look. Big hitter, so he will be able to shorten several of these holes significantly. Form means nothing for Cabrera, as he can get hot quickly. Wants some good performances to make another Presidents Cup.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Five Bold Predictions From Around The World For 2015

While I spend a majority of my time talking about the PGA and LPGA Tours, it would be unfair to the other Tours around the world to not get a little bit of attention, especially since their players are seen in majors and other competitions throughout the course of the year. It is only fair that, if I were to screw up predictions for the American Tours, I might as well do it for the other Tours, as well. Here are my five bold predictions for the Tours that I did not discuss.

5) Rory McIlroy will NOT win the Race For Dubai.

- Rory's massive season last year catapulted him to not only win the PGA Tour Player Of The Year Award, but the European Tour's Race For Dubai, as well. While I have already predicted Rory to win the FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour this season, I do not think Rory will go back to back on the European Tour, primarily because I do not expect Rory to win a major this season, and that accounted for a majority of his points on that Tour. It's not to say Rory won't be a part of the conversation - he will still have a great year with wins on both sides of the pond, but another European player is going to rise up and win a major to propel him the European Tour's highest award.

4) Teresa Lu will reign on the JLPGA Tour.

- Last year, Sun-Ju Ahn had a fantastic JLPGA season that propelled her to win that Tour's Order Of Merit, but the end of the season belonged to Teresa Lu, who won two straight majors. Lu was too far back of Ahn to really put the heat on her, but I think Lu is just now starting to hit her stride, and she will be battling Ahn, as well as JiYai Shin, all the way until the end, where Lu will sneak through and win the JLPGA Order Of Merit for the first time in her career.

3) Hiroshi Iwata earns invitations to the Open Championship and PGA Championship.

- In order for this to happen, Iwata will have to be in the Top 2 in the Order Of Merit on the Japan Tour by the end of May, and not only do I think he will accomplish that, but I think Iwata is heading towards a season where he walks away with the title. Iwata came on incredibly strong at the end of 2014, highlighted by his third place finish at the WGC-HSBC Champions and a playoff loss to Hideki Matsuyama at the Dunlop Phoenix. I think this is the year where Iwata shines on the Japan Tour and gains the attention of the worldwide media as he plays in his third Open Championship and first PGA Championship.

2) In Gee Chun wins the KLPGA Money Title, but the world says "hello" to Gyeol Park.

- With Ha Na Jang taking up membership on the LPGA Tour and Hyo Joo Kim splitting her time between Korea and the United States, In Gee Chun has the perfect opportunity to follow up her great 2014 season with the KLPGA Money List title. That will be impressive, but it will be rookie Gyeol Park, who won the gold medal in the Asian Games for South Korea, that will receive a majority of the attention. Not only will Gyeol Park win Rookie Of The Year by a wide margin, but she will win a few times in Korea and come close to winning the Hana Bank Championship, as well as contending at the Evian Championship. It will not be long before Gyeol Park is winning tournaments in the United States.

1) David Lipsky contends in a majors - joins PGA Tour.

- Who is David Lipsky? He is a 26 year old from Los Angeles who won the Omega European Masters last year on his way to winning the Asian Tour Order Of Merit. Lipsky has been playing on the Asian Tour for a few years, but last year was by far the best of his career. This year, I expect greater things from Lipsky, who will have exemption into the Open Championship and PGA Championship, as well as several of the World Golf Championship events based on his Order Of Merit crown. I think Lipsky comes close to winning one of these events, and turns that into an exemption on the PGA Tour. Lipsky is a great talents that just needs the opportunity to shine, and I think he gets that opportunity this year.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Five Bold 2015 LPGA Predictions

If the PGA Tour is the crust of the pie that is the LLLLet's Golf Blog, then the LPGA is the gooey goodness on the inside. I follow the PGA Tour ever week, but not nearly in as much depth as I follow the LPGA Tour. Last year, one of my first blog posts was my bold predictions for the 2014 season and I did relatively decently, so let's see if I can build on that success.

If I were a betting man, I wouldn't bet on it. Here are my five bold predictions for the 2015 LPGA season.

5) Lydia Ko Will Win A Major.

- I predicted Lexi Thompson would win a major last year, and she came through for me, so I'm going to go ahead and say that the trend of young major winners will continue and Lydia Ko walks away with one of the big ones next year. Yes, I know that predicting the third ranked player in the world who won three times last year to win a major isn't necessarily "bold", but in doing so, I am also predicting that the record for youngest major winner will be broken in the process. Predicting record breaking performances, no matter what the record may be, is difficult. Still, this is likely the easiest pick I make in this entire post.

4) Morgan Pressel Will Win In 2015.

- This is similar to my prediction last year of Michelle Wie winning. Every year, we seem to have a comeback from a player who hasn't won in a while, and given how Pressel seemed to have started to turn her game around at the end of the season, I think she will be the next to break out of her winless slump and hoist a trophy. Do I think Pressel will have a Michelle Wie-esque season where she wins a major and becomes one of the best players in the world. No, but I do expect the Solheim Cup to motivate her to get back to the winner's circle and begin a run of consistent play. Speaking of the Solheim Cup...

3) The United States Will Win The Solheim Cup.

- After getting absolutely crushed two years ago on home soil, Team USA turned to Juli Inkster to lead the Solheim Cup squad, which has lost the last two matches, into hostile territory. Fortunately for Team USA, they are entering with a much better team, and they will be playing against a European squad that has struggled mightily. Anna Nordqvist was the only European player to win on the LPGA Tour last season. Stalwarts like Caroline Hedwall, Beatriz Recari, and Carlota Ciganda, all who played great in the event two years ago, may not even make the team this year. Meanwhile, on Team USA, you have players like Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson coming off of big years. I understand that the Solheim Cup is a different animal, and that Team Europe has won as underdogs in the past, but this is not a case of Team USA looking back the Europeans and not taking them seriously. They are going to enter this match hungry and angry, and they will take down the Euros 15.5-12.5

2) Michelle Wie Will Be The Top Ranked American.

- Judging by what I saw last year, if Michelle Wie is healthy all season, there is no reason to think she can't win three or four times in a season. On the flipside, while Stacy Lewis looked to be the best golfer ever for a stretch of time last season, she began to tail off as the Asian Swing began. I don't think Lewis starts pulling a Yani Tseng and begins to completely fade, but I think we're starting to see the end of the Stacy Lewis era on the LPGA Tour, while Michelle Wie is entering her prime. If Lewis wins twice next season, it will not be enough for her to maintain her position in the top three in the world. There are too many great players and not enough tournaments, and if players are going to start to rise, then somebody has to fall. Lewis will have to make some room.

1) The Player Of The Year And Rookie Of The Year Will Be The Same Person.

- The last time a rookie was named the LPGA Player Of The Year was Nancy Lopez in 1978. That streak ends this year, as Hyo Joo Kim joins the LPGA Tour and takes it by storm, winning her second major title along with two other tournaments to walk away with the incredibly rare double. To be fair, Lydia Ko did come close last year, and was only eliminated from contention two weeks before the season ended. Kim is as poised of a rookie as we've ever seen on the LPGA Tour, and the average golf audience will soon begin to see Kim's talent as she shows off in the US.