Friday, February 27, 2015

News Grab-Bag: 2/27/2015

- No surprises here: Davis Love III was named captain of the US Ryder Cup team a week after the announcement was leaked to the press. Love will have four vice-captains, and the first, Tom Lehman, was named this week. The task force will be selecting the vice-captains with the idea of grooming former captains.

- Looks like there has been a change in schedule for Rory McIlroy. Rory has typically played in the events in Texas to fine tune his game, but this week he announced he would be playing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the first time in his career. Rory said he owed it to tournament host Arnold Palmer to finally play in his event. Rory's addition to the tournament turns an already deep field into one of the best events on Tour.

- Speaking of commitments, the Valero Texas Open announced this week that Phil Mickelson has committed to their tournament. This is the second year in a row that Phil will be playing in San Antonio, but he withdrew in the middle of the third round last year with pulled muscles. The Valero Texas Open was often a forgotten tournament, but with the likes of Lefty, Jordan Speith, and Martin Kaymer all playing, the field has quickly improved.

- Chalk this up to "never going to happen" - swing coach Butch Harmon reached out this week and said he was willing to offer advice to his former pupil Tiger Woods, if Woods were to ask. I highly doubt Tiger is going to be picking up the phone.

- So, did you know that you have to register prior to playing in a golf tournament. Of course, everyone knew this, but apparently it slipped the mind of Mark Hubbard, who has been disqualified from The Honda Classic for failing to register for the tournament. Hubbard got into the tournament as an alternate after Louis Oosthuizen withdrew on Monday, so Hubbard was likely scrambling to get ready to play and just forgot about the paperwork that was required. Many times, a player can face disciplinary actions, like fines, if they do not register for a tournament, but no further sanctions are expected  to be levied against Hubbard.

- An advice to Tour professionals - if you start to struggle and you feel the grind of the professional life, just take some time off. That is what Amy Yang did in the off season. Yang, who has two top 5 finishes this year and is currently in solo second as of this writing in Thailand, said that she credits her renewed performance to an extended break that she took at the end of 2014. She shut down her season with a few tournaments left in the season and didn't touch a golf club for most of the off season, and Yang said that it helped get her back to wanting to play the game instead of seeing it as a job. It has certainly worked for her, as she's inside the top 10 in the Race For The CME Globe standings early in 2015.

- This week, the LPGA is playing in Thailand, and Thai superstar Ariya Jutanugarn took that opportunity to host a junior golf clinic in her home country. Ariya said that she got her love of the game from attending a golf clinic with Cristie Kerr, so she wanted to give back to the kids in Thailand. Ariya is quickly rising on the LPGA Tour, and will some day become a huge name on the international stage, so many of these young juniors are going look up to her.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wednesday Preview - The Honda Classic

The PGA Tour leaves the West Coast behind and heads to Florida for The Honda Classic. This is the first event in the Florida Swing, as the PGA Tour will park itself in the Sunshine State for the next month (with the exception of the alternate field Puerto Rico Open).

Course: PGA National, measuring at 7,100 yards. Players who played Riveria last week won't get much of a reprieve this week, as PGA National plays almost as difficult. Single digit under par will be the winner once again. The "Bear Trap", holes 15-17, will ruin a bunch of people's tournaments.

Strength Of Field: B+. The best field we have seen, and one of the best fields of any non-major. Jason Day, Adam Scott, and Henrik Stenson are among the notable misses, but Rory McIlroy makes his 2015 debut, and all eyes will be on the number one player in the world.

Extra Tidbits: Tim Petrovic, Roberto Castro, Wes Homan, and Jhared Hack are the Monday Qualifiers. Petrovic, 48, has been in and out of the PGA Tour for years...This event was massively rejuvenated when Jack Nicklaus redesigned the PGA National. The event was having a tough time attracting big name players until Nicklaus made the course tougher and a truer test of skills...Six players within the top 35 in the world rankings have a home within 45 minutes of PGA National.

Fantasy Four:

Rory McIlroy - Past winner. Finished second last year. World number one coming off a win on the European Tour. Absolutely dominate right now, and begins his PGA Tour season at a golf course he loves. Look out.

Sergio Garcia - Said he wasn't playing good golf last week, and still finished one shot out of the playoff. Seems to be mentally tougher, and is the kind of player who can contend several weeks in a row. Needs to eliminate the head scratching bad shots we saw last week.

Victor Dubuisson - As close to a sleeper pick as I can find, though no one would be shocked if he won. Pulled out of his last two commitments, which is concerning, but has finished T4 and T2 in his last two European Tour events. 

Sang-Moon Bae - Playing so well this season that he deserves a look. He is a little too inconsistent for my liking, but he seems ready to take the next step, though the impending legal battle against the South Korean government is a concern. It doesn't appear to be bothering him, however.

Last Weeks Team:
Bubba Watson: T14
JB Holmes: T22
Colt Knost: CUT
Nick Watney: T22

Wednesday Preview - Honda LPGA Thailand

The second of three events on the early season Pacific Swing takes place this week in Thailand. You can consider this Honda week, as both events on the LPGA and PGA Tours are sponsored by Honda.

Course: Siam Country Club, Pattaya Old Course. Not an overly difficult course that won't get you into too much trouble. There will be many ways to get to the hole, but you're going to need to putt in order to win. Expect the winning score to be in the mid to upper teens under par.

Strength Of Field: B-. It's a good field, but it's missing Lydia Ko, and she's the one everyone is clamoring for. She's the only big name player missing from this event, but it's the biggest name.

Extra Tidbits: This is going to be a slight rant, but there is a strange LPGA rule that is shown off at this tournament. Since Hyo Joo Kim, winner of the Evian Masters, is in a lower category than the top 80 finishers of last season, she had to rely on a sponsor exemption to get into the field. Since it is a limited field event, Kim will not earn any official money for her finish, despite being a full LPGA member. It's incredibly odd, and appears to be exclusive to the LPGA...A player from Thailand has never won on the LPGA Tour, despite Ariya Jutanugarn and Pornanong Phatlum coming close in the last couple of years...The average age of winners on the LPGA Tour this season is 22. The oldest was Na Yeon Choi at 27...only one player has ever won the LPGA Thailand twice. Yani Tseng won back to back in 2011 and 2012...Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak makes her season debut this week.

Fantasy Four:

Ariya Juranugarn - Came close two years ago but a triple bogey on the final hole made her lose the tournament by one shot. Leads the LPGA in driving distance. Unlike other tournaments, she has knowledge of this golf course. Playing in front of a home crowd could give her a boost. Only thing missing from her rookie resume is a win.

Inbee Park - The player who beat Jutanugarn two years ago. While I expect a long reign for Lydia Ko as number one, I don't expect Inbee to just fade away. The best player in the field, she notches a lot of top 10s.

Hyo Joo Kim - Makes her debut as an LPGA member (well, kind of, see above). Finished in the top 10 in every LPGA event she played in last year, including a victory at the Evian. Has to make up ground on her fellow rookies, who have gotten off to a great start this season.

Amy Yang - Two top 10's in three starts this season. Win number 2 is right around the corner, and just needs a bit more confidence down the stretch to get her over the edge. Always seems to be a forgotten player, but finds a way to contend.

(SLEEPER) Mika Miyazato - Cautiously optimistic that Miyazato has gotten things turned around. After missing the cut in her first event, she has finished in the top 25 the last two weeks. Of the Japanese players who have struggled, she seems the best candidate for a resurgence. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Lydia Puts A Stamp On World Number One

- In her first tournament at the top of the Rolex Rankings, Lydia Ko outlasted the field at a tough golf course to win the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open. She was the heavy favorite going into the tournament and ended up being the player to make the fewest mistakes at the end of the tournament.

- I am going to make another bold prediction right here - I think Rory McIlroy loses the number one position in the world before Lydia does. Some people seem to forget that Lydia is still only 17 years old and is still improving, and even as she's improving she's still the best player in the world. We are about to enter the Era Of Ko, and people are going to need to form a line behind her.

- This is going to be a good year for Amy Yang. Her two top 10 finishes already have her inside the top 10 in the Race For The CME Globe, and her steady play will help her at some tough events throughout the course of the year. Yang only has one win in her career, but that will change before the end of 2015.

- I don't know if Ariya Jutanugarn will get better with experience or not. She always finds herself in contention, but her erratic play takes her out of it come Sunday. If she can figure it out, she will win a bunch of tournaments, but she won't be able to win at the big stage if she continues to hit the golf ball in places where it doesn't belong.

- The greatest rookie class of all time had four players in the top 10 this week. Jutanugarn, Ha Na Jang, Charley Hull, and Minjee Lee all had a good week this week. Jutanugarn and Jang continue to lead this rookie class, as they have been solid all season. For Minjee, it was her first top 10, but she's only going to get better as the season goes on. The biggest beneficiary has to be Charley Hull, who is playing on limited status. Every dollar counts for Hull, who will be looking to earn her card for next season despite not playing a full schedule.

- It was a tough field and tough conditions at Riveria, and yet it was relative unknown James Hahn who walked out as the champion. For those of us who follow golf a little more closely, Hahn's first win isn't that surprising. For the past two years, Hahn looked to be on the brink of something great, but inconsistencies in his results prevented him from taking that next big leap. He's now in the field at the World Gold Championships and the Masters, so Hahn career has officially been kickstarted. I think Hahn could very easily contend at a major.

- What rust? For the second straight week, Dustin Johnson was in contention to win after spending six months away from the game. To be fair, Johnson's good finishes happened at Pebble Beach and Riveria, two golf courses that perfectly suit his game, but another golf course that fits his game is Augusta National. He is starting to play some great golf at the right time.

- Paul Casey's second victory will happen this year. This one may have gotten away from him, but he is playing some solid golf, so I have no doubt that Casey will leave 2015 with a trophy.

- If you are Retief Goosen, you should keep this week into prospective. Sure, you had the opportunity to win on Sunday and ended up shooting a 75 to take yourself out of it, but you also managed to finish in the top 10 after playing really well for three days. Retief will be upset for a day, but should take this event as a springboard. He is on the verge of winning again, and could have pulled it off this week had Riveria not been a bear of a course.

- Golf tournaments, take note. Riveria was incredibly difficult and the winner won at six under par, and the drama on Sunday was among the best television we have seen on Tour this year. You don't need a golf course where twenty under par wins - make the rough a little higher, put in some tough pins, and you'll get a great golf tournament with some Sunday drama.

- There is a great story brewing across the pond. Anirban Lahiri just won his second event of the season on the European Tour, outlasting the field at the Hero Indian Open. He has risen to 34th in the World Rankings, has booked a trip to Augusta National, and has all but wrapped up a spot on the Presidents Cup team. Lahiri is already the best Indian golfer in history, and he has the opportunity to show the entire golf world his talent as he drives down Magnolia Lane. All of this success comes a year after winning twice on the Asian Tour. The sky is the limit for Lahiri.

Friday, February 20, 2015

News Grab-Bag: 2/20/2015

- For anyone who purchased tickets to the Honda Classic expecting to see a Rory McIlroy/Tiger Woods duel, you may want to ask for a refund. Woods announced this week that he will not be playing in next week's Honda Classic, and therefore he will also not eligible to play in the World Golf Championship event at Doral. While he is eligible to play at The Masters, there is a real concern that he may not be physically and mentally ready for the first major of the year.

- Davis Love III may have gotten the nod to be the next US Ryder Cup captain thanks to an endorsement from a man who was thought to be a favorite to take over the team. Paul Azinger, who captained the United States to victory in 2008, said this week that he had no interest in captaining the team once again, and that he gave his endorsement of Love to the task force. Azinger seems to think that Love is the perfect man for the job, and that he just needs more than one opportunity to prove it.

- The week just seems to be getting better for Davis Love III, who was elected as the president of the Players Advisory Council. The PAC consults with the PGA Tour on issues that affect players. Essentially, it is the closest thing to a union that the PGA Tour players have.

- When Darren Clarke takes the reigns as captain of the Ryder Cup, he not have Paul McGinley on the sidelines during the matches. McGinley announced this week that he does "not have the personality" to ever return from captaining a team to being a vice-captain. McGinley's vice-captains in 2014 included Jose Maria Olazabal and Sam Torrance, both of whom were Ryder Cup captains.

- Miguel Angel Jimenez is disappointed that he will not be the Ryder Cup captain in 2016, but that does not mean he won't be trying to be a part of the matches. Jimenez said earlier this week that, now that he is no longer a candidate to be captain, he will be attempting to actually make the team. Jimenez will be 52 next year, so the chances of him making the team are slim, but he has been playing solid golf lately. It would be a great story if he were able to do it.

- Could Lydia Ko be hanging up the clubs at age 30? Ko, who enrolled in Korea University this year, said that she sees herself retiring from competitive golf at the age of 30 and moving on to a career in psychology. We will see when the time comes, but Ko wouldn't be the first player who stepped away when they were at the top of the game, as Lorena Ochoa can attest.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wednesday Preview - Northern Trust Open

From one classic golf course to another, players leave Pebble Beach and head to Rivera for the old LA Open, now called the Northern Trust Open.

Course: Rivera Country Club, measuring at close to 7,400 yards. It is one of those in between golf courses that big hitters love - not so short that everyone is in contention, but not so long that they're laying up on par 5's. Big hitters will rule this tournament, but don't expect the same scoring as last weekend. Winning score will be in the teens under par.

Strength Of Field: C. It's a better field than last week, but the meat and potatoes of the PGA Tour won't be playing until the Honda Classic. Still, there are enough good players in this field that it makes it intriguing.

Extra Tidbits: This was the site of Ben Hogan's first golf tournament following a horrific car accident in 1949. Hogan almost won the tournament, but lost in an 18 hole playoff. Still, the event was good to Hogan, as he won three LA Opens. He also won the 1948 US Open that was played at Rivera. His successes at this event earned Rivera the nickname "Hogan's Alley"...This was also the site of Tiger Woods' first PGA Tour event, as he played in 1992 as an amateur. Strangely, Tiger never won at Rivera...The Monday qualifiers for this event were Jason Gore, Jin Park, Jonathan Randolph, and Drew Scott. This is the second time Park has Monday qualified this season. This will be Drew Scott's second ever PGA Tour event, his first being the Northern Trust Open in 2008...This is the last chance for players to enter the top 50 in the world and tee it up in Doral. JB Holmes and Luke Donald are the notable bubble players looking to secure a birth.

Fantasy Four:

Bubba Watson - Defending champion. The way he plays golf means he will be a contender every time he tees it up at Rivera. Has only played three times this season, but has finished 1st, 10th, and T2 in those three tournaments.

JB Holmes - Classic power hitter that should contend at Rivera. Shook off a loss in the playoff with a top 10 performance last week. Game is trending upward, and needs a big week to secure a spot at Doral. 

Colt Knost - Sleeper pick. Has made the cut in five straight tournaments, with three of them being top 25 finishes. Does not seem intimidated by the stage he is on. Could be a sneaky winner on the PGA Tour this year. 

Nick Watney - Has shaken off his struggled with two straight top 10 finishes, including a second place finish last week. Does not have the best record in this tournament, but he hasn't played in two years, which is a lifetime in professional sports. This is a vital week for Watney to show whether or not he's back to being one of the top players on Tour.

Last Weeks Team:
Ryan Palmer: CUT
Jimmy Walker: T21
Ernie Els: CUT
Jason Day: T4

Wednesday Preview - ISPS Handa Australian Women's Open

The first leg of the pacific tournaments on the LPGA Tour begins this week as the ladies head to Melbourne, Australia for the ISPS Handa Australian Women's Open.

Course: Royal Melbourne Golf Club. The golf course changes every year, and this is clearly the toughest course in the rotation. Expect single digits under par as the winning score. Pars are good on most holes.

Strength Of Field: C-. A lot of players have decided to sit this one out, but it doesn't get a lower ratings for two reasons. 1) Lydia Ko is playing, and 2) players from the LET and AGT get to tee it up. Still waiting for Hyo Joo Kim's LPGA debut.

Extra Tidbits: Defending champion Karrie Webb won this tournament five times, but never on this golf course...Royal Melbourne has hosted the Australian Open, the World Cup, and the Presidents Cup...With Inbee Park and Stacy Lewis both sitting this week out, Lydia Ko will have the opportunity to extend her lead in the Rolex Rankings.

Fantasy Four:

Lydia Ko - There hasn't been a tournament Lydia has played in as a professional where she was more of a favorite to win than this one. Being the favorite doesn't necessarily mean you will win, but it would be foolish to leave Ko off the team. 

Karrie Webb - Five time and defending champion. If anyone has the experience to conquer Royal Melbourne, it's Webb. She has not played great golf lately, but her recent results should be thrown out the window when the Australian Open is played.

Ariya Jutanugarn - Proved two weeks ago that she has the game to contend in tournaments on the LPGA Tour. Should perform well during the Pacific Swing. If she can get some of her shots under control, she has the touch around the greens to not be intimidated by this course.

So Yeon Ryu - Perhaps the best player in the field not named Lydia. Has been under the radar lately despite being a top 10 machine. Should be part of the conversation on Sunday, but the question will be whether she can walk away with the trophy.

(SLEEPER) Su-Hyun Oh - Won last week in Australia in only her second start as a professional. Finished second the week prior. Has played her amateur golf in Australia, and will have plenty of fans cheering her on. 

Darren Clarke Named European Ryder Cup Captain

One day after Davis Love III was named the captain of the US squad, Team Europe went with the obvious choice and selected Darren Clarke as their next Ryder Cup captain. Clarke was considered the overwhelming favorite since the matches ended in 2014.

Clarke was one of the biggest figures in the Ryder Cup, playing in five consecutive matches from 1997 to 2006. accumulating a 10-7-3 record. The most notable appearance was in 2006, when he played just weeks after the death of his wife Heather. He played in three matches and won them all. He was embraced by members of both the European and US teams in a very emotional display.

Clarke also has experience in a captains role, as he was an assistant to Colin Montgomerie in 2010 and Jose Maria Olazabal in 2012. Clarke is considered a personable guy and a favorite among the players. In fact, it was Rory McIlroy, among other players, who advocated for Clarke's captaincy. The European players love Clarke, and will have no problem rallying around him.

Personally, this selection makes the most sense. Padraig Harrington and Miguel Angel Jimenez will have their opportunities in the captain's chair. Team Europe wanted Clarke now, and he will get his opportunity in 2016.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Davis Love III Named Ryder Cup Captain

In what can be classified as a bit of a surprised, the Ryder Cup task force has tapped Davis Love III as the captain of the Ryder Cup team for the 2016 matches. Love has been given the opportunity to avenge the loss that the US suffered in 2012, as he was the losing captain to Europe's "Miracle At Medinah".

Many seemed to think that the job was going to go to either Fred Couples, who captained the United States to three straight Presidents Cup victories, or Paul Azinger, who successfully captained the Ryder Cup team to a victory in 2008 for their only victory this millennium. In fact, many golf writers were reporting that Couples was the favorite for the job, and that Couples was willing to take the captaincy if it was offered to him.

Personally, I like Love. He seems like a great guy and an incredibly under rated golfer who will likely not receive much Hall of Fame consideration even though he had all the talent in the world. I also do not believe that the loss in 2012 was his fault, and rather was the fault of the players, who didn't have the personality to close out their matches on Sunday, and a motivated European Team who was looking to make history in honor of Seve Ballesteros, who passed away the year prior. Love was a good captain who saw his moment slip away from him.

That being said, I do not believe this is the right call for Team USA. They formed this new task force to try and change things and turn around the fortunes of the Ryder Cup team, and instead of taking a proven winner in Couples, or taking a huge risk in someone like Phil Mickelson, they decided to make the ultra safe call, which is the same strategy that got them in this position in the first place. Wasn't the big criticism that they decided to go back to Tom Watson in the first place? Weren't they looking for something new and fresh to revitalize this team? Why form the task force at all if this was the move you were going to make?

I hope I am wrong in my criticisms, as I would love nothing more than to see Team USA finally win another Cup and Love to receive the redemption he deserves for the team's loss in 2012. At this moment, however, I am waiting to be impressed.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Snedeker Books Flight To Augusta

- It is safe to say that Brandt Snedeker's injury problems are behind him. After shooting three straight rounds of 67 after an opening round 64, Snedeker has moved himself back inside the top 40 in the World Golf Rankings and has booked himself a trip to Augusta National. Snedeker was once the most promising prospect for American golf, and if he plays up to his potential, his first major may be right around the corner.

- Speaking of majors being right around the corner, the fact that Jason Day can rally from an opening round 72 to finish inside the top 5 a week after his third victory on Tour speaks volumes of the kind of player he is. I don't know if Day is the biggest challenger to Rory McIlroy, but if he continues to play like he has been, he will make an incredibly good case.

- There are things that just go together - spaghetti and meatballs, Abbot and Costello, Dustin Johnson and Pebble Beach. I foolishly thought Johnson would struggle this week as it was only his second start since his hiatus, but he couldn't have found a better golf tournament than this one to shake the rust off. Johnson has always been a curious figure - he has all the talent in the world and looks like someone who should be contending for majors frequently, but one too many mental mistakes seems to hold him back. Perhaps his six month leave and parenthood will focus Johnson and allow him to become the top player we think he can be.

- Another 54 hole lead lost for Jim Furyk, and this time, he has no one to blame but himself. While the rest of the field was taking advantage of the easy conditions at Pebble Beach, Furyk kept hitting bad shot after bad shot in route to a final round 74 that dropped him from solo leader to T7. I hope we didn't see Furyk win his last golf tournament, but each event seems to be getting harder and harder for him.

- In events where the top ranked pros don't wish to tee it up, it gives a great opportunity to a player who, perhaps, hasn't gotten many opportunities to play lately. The biggest example of that is Vaughn Taylor, playing out of past champions status. Taylor won the Reno-Tahoe Open two years in a row, and was once inside the top 40 in the world, but he lost his form after the 2010 season and lost his PGA Tour card. His top 10 this week gave a glimpse of the talent he has, and a top 10 gets him into the field next week. In fact, Taylor has played twice on the PGA Tour this season, and has finished in the top 25 both weeks. Perhaps this is the sign that Taylor is getting it turned around.

- It was a good week for Australia in Thailand, as Australian golfers went 1-2 in the True Thailand Classic. For the winner, Andrew Dodt, it was his first win in five years. Dodt plays primarily on the Asian Tour and has never played in a major or a World Golf Championship event, so you can be forgiven if you don't recognize him. For the runner up, Scott Hend, it was further proof of a rise in form. Hend won three Asian Tour events in 2013 and the co-sanctioned Hong Kong Open last year. This runner up finish puts Hend inside the top 100 in the world, so he will be eyeing a birth in a couple of majors this year.

- The man Hend shared second place with, Thongchai Jaidee, may be disappointed that he was unable to win in front of his home crowd in Thailand, but he has to feel confident in his recent results. Jaidee is currently 36th in the world and is firmly inside the line for the President's Cup team. Strangely, Jaidee has never finished inside the top 10 in a major tournament, and at age 45, he may not have many of them left, but with the way he is playing right now, he may change his luck this season.

Remember last week when I talked about Canadian Richard T. Lee playing on the Asian Tour and making the most of his opportunities? He was able to follow up his big week with a second straight top 10 in a co-sanctioned event. A few more of these, and Lee will be finding himself in tournaments with some really big names.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

News Grab-Bag: 2/12/2015

- As I'm sure you have heard by now, Tiger Woods is taking a leave of absence from the PGA Tour until he starts playing well at his local golf course. I understand the idea of being "Tour ready", but I wonder if he may be better off just playing more and getting reps. Either way, things are dire for one of the greatest professional athletes of all time.

- The first female members of the R&A were announced this week, and among them were Dame Laura Davies and Annika Sorenstam. You can find the full list here. No one is going to argue with any of these selections, and it's good to see the R&A finally get with the times.

- The USGA has another event that they are sponsoring - the US Women's Senior Open. The event will be open to women 50 years of age and older and will begin in 2018. It's a great opportunity for women older than 50 who currently don't have a big tournament to participate in, but I wonder what kind of field we will get by the time 2018 comes around. A lot of ladies are already retiring at 40. I wonder if this new Senior Open will encourage players to continue to play.

- There has been a change in qualifying for the United States President Cup team. Instead of basing the qualification points off of money won, they are now basing it off of FedEx Cup points. This is an attempt to put more weight on the FedEx Cup playoffs, which is admirable, but it also means players like Peter Uihlein and David Lipsky, who are currently making there living on foreign Tours, will not be part of the conversation.

- Paul McGinley rarely plays in the US, so when he does, he expects to have a pretty easy time. Instead, he got his clubs stolen from his rental car this week. McGinley was able to get a second set and play at Pebble Beach, but it has to be disheartening to McGinley for this to happen.

- A few tournaments on the PGA Tour are going to be weighted a little stronger - the winners of the Memorial Tournament and the Arnold Palmer Invitational will be offered three year exemptions on Tour.

- The LPGA has been doing incredibly well lately, but that isn't stopping them from losing tournaments. The event in Mobile Bay, Alabama, has been cancelled after Airbus pulled out as sponsor. It's never a good thing to lose tournaments, but the Mobile Bay wasn't a particularly big tournament for the LPGA Tour and they're still celebrating massive growth, so I think they will get over it fairly quickly.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Wednesday Preview - AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

The PGA Tour heads to one of the most iconic golf courses in the world for one of the most unusual events on the PGA Tour schedule. It's time for the old Crosby Clam Bake at Pebble Beach!

Course: Three courses are utilized at this event, the main one being Pebble Beach, and they all measure around 6,800 yards. The courses are relatively easy. Bombers will be rewarded, but that doesn't mean small hitters are out of it, either. Expect winning score to reach twenty under par.

Strength Of Field: D-. The biggest name in the field is probably Bill Murray. In all honestly, you do have last week's winner Jason Day, as well as Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed, but almost all of the big names hate the pro-am portion of this event and don't play. It's the perfect opportunity for someone to make up FedEx Cup points or get a well placed top 10 and jump start their years.

Extra Tidbits: While the storyline for this event will focus around the amateurs, the list of celebrities have dwindled over the years. With NFL stars Tom Brady and Peyton Manning sitting this out, the event is mainly made up of television stars and musicians that haven't released a hit since 1992...The better story to follow might be the older players. Six players over the age of 50 are playing this week, including Tom Lehman, who rarely plays on the regular Tour these days...Jim Furyk is making is 2015 debut this week...European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley makes a rare start on US soil this week.

Fantasy Four:

Ryan Palmer - Has been playing great golf lately, and his next win appears to be around the corner. Three top 20's in three events in 2015. His recent history at this event may be suspect, but his play lately cancels that out.

Jimmy Walker - Defending champion is firing on all cylinders right now. Was in position to win last week, but a less than stellar final round prevented him from winning for the second time this season. Already defended one title in Hawaii. May be on track for an even better season this year.

Ernie Els - Sleeper pick. Hasn't played this event in a very long time. It's hard to call a Hall of Famer a "sleeper", but recent form on the PGA Tour would warrant that title. Hasn't missed a cut since the Open Championship, and has played decently on the European Tour this year. Relative weakness of the field should give Els a shot.

Jason Day - Would not be a surprise if he won three or four tournaments in a row. No finishes outside the top 20 this season. Has finished solo 6th in this tournament twice, most recently two years ago. I will continue to endorse Day until he gives me a reason not to.

Last Weeks Team:
Jordan Speith: CUT
Jason Day: WINNER
K.J. Choi: T53
Justin Thomas: CUT

Monday, February 9, 2015

PGA Tour Sees The Light Of Day

- It was four years between victories for Jason Day. During that time, he was contending a bunch of majors, and everyone knew that, if he could just win his second tournament, the trophies would start piling up. Well, less than a year later, Day wins tournament number three after surviving the difficult conditions at Torrey Pines and beating three men in a playoff. Jason Day was a lot like Rickie Fowler - we all know he's a good golfer, but he just needed to start winning. This could be a monster year for Day now that he's healthy and has the confidence back.

- If you want to talk about "horses for courses", look no further than Scott Stallings at Torrey Pines. A year after making an improbable run on Sunday to shockingly win last year, he shoots a final round 69 in tough conditions to make the playoff. Stallings is a strange case - he rarely contends and he struggles at majors, but he always seems to win one golf tournament a year. Don't expect to hear from Stallings for another month or two, until he suddenly pops up in another tournament sometime in the summer.

- I'm sure Harris English would love to have that playoff hole back, but he has to feel good contending for the win a second time this year. English looked to take this Tour by storm after winning twice in 2013, but lost a bit of form last year. He's now looking like he's getting back to form, and at only 25 years of age, he has plenty of time to settle in and start winning tournaments.

- It seems like every year, there is a big hitter that gets into position on the 72nd hole to win, and instead of going for the green in two, they lay up. This time, it was J.B. Holmes, and while his decision to lay up will be what's criticized the most, in the end it was the putter that let Holmes down. Holmes didn't make a putt over 7 feet all day. It was good to see Holmes back in contention, but of the three players in the playoff who fell short, this one will likely sting the most for Holmes.

- Sei Young Kim's victory is proving what I stated earlier - that this rookie class will be the best in LPGA history. Kim was a big player on the KLPGA Tour and won a major on that Tour last year. She also finished a shot out of the playoff at the KEB Hana-Bank Championship as a non member. Still, I don't know what the expectations were for Kim, especially after really struggling at the first event of the season. Kim's victory was nothing short of clutch - she birdied the 72nd hole to get into the playoff, and birdied the playoff hole to walk away with the tournament. I don't know if this means we're seeing the next big thing in women's golf, but it does prove that the Korean invasion of the LPGA Tour has been jump started in a big way.

- I have to feel bad for Ariya Jutanugarn. She is a rookie and she will have plenty of opportunities to win in the future, but after coming so close two years ago in Thailand only to lose it on the 72nd hole, this would have been the perfect medicine to eliminate that tournament from her memory. Jutanugarn is a great player who can be a bit erratic at times, and if she can find just a little bit of control with her swing, she could be a huge force in women's golf.

- Mark my words - this was the start of a comeback for Sun Young Yoo. After being the benefactor of IK Kim's short miss at the Kraft Nabisco in 2012, Yoo has been quiet on Tour since. She had this tournament won, but a bogey on the 16th hole brought Jutanugarn and Kim back into the tournament. Still, I think this was the confidence booster Yoo needed. Much like MJ Hur last year, all Yoo needed was to know how to contend again, and she will be back in the winner's circle in 2015.

- Inbee Park was moon walking her way back into the number one position. A combination of a tough final round for Park and a huge Sunday for Lydia Ko prevented Park from retaking the Rolex Rankings. These two are going to do battle all season, but you have to wonder if Park will be able to retake the position from a very motivated Ko.

- Looks like we might be seeing Aniban Lahiri at the Masters. The Asian Tour player won the Maybank Malaysian Open on the European Tour after a brilliant weekend, shooting 62-68 the final two days. Lahiri is within the top 60 in the world, and unless we see him really struggle over the next month, he will be teeing it up at at Augusta. Good on you, Lahiri. And good luck.

- Apparently, playing foreign Tours is the path to success for struggling North American golfers. After Brooks Koepka and Peter Uihlein's successes on the European Tour, and David Lipsky's success on the Asian Tour, it looks like two others are set for a career jump start as American Paul Peterson and Canadian Richard T. Lee both finished in the top 5 in Malaysia. How great of a story would it be if both of these players started winning golf tournaments and climbing up the world rankings? I will be keeping a close eye on both players as they play on the Asian Tour this season.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Billy Casper Passes Away

The world of golf lost another great today as Hall of Famer Billy Casper died at the age of 83.

Casper did not have much of an amateur career. He spent one year on the golf team at Notre Dame before returning to his home in San Diego to marry his wife Shirley in 1952. For the next two years, he competed in San Diego amateur tournaments, most notably against Gene Littler, one of the best amateur golfers of the 1950's and a future Hall of Famer in his own right. Casper turned professional in 1954.

Casper was one of the most prolific winners on the PGA Tour. In fact, only six men won more than Casper, who was able to accumulate 51 victories in his career. The first of his victories came two years into his career at the 1956 Labatt Open. He would win two events in 1957, and three in 1958. Casper's ascension to super stardom, however, would occur in 1959 with his first major triumph, a one stroke victory over Bob Rosburg at the US Open at Winged Foot. Over the next several seasons, Casper would be one of the biggest names on Tour, winning seven times in two seasons and a whopping 32 times throughout the 60's; however, with Arnold Palmer at the top of his game, Jack Nicklaus joining the Tour and beginning his career, and Gary Player coming to the United States, the majors would be come more difficult for Casper. It would be seven years before Casper would be able to win his second major, this time prevailing in a playoff against Palmer after Palmer gave away a three shot lead going into Sunday. Casper wouldn't have to wait nearly as long for his third and final major, as he was able to claim a green jacket at the 1970 Masters with a playoff victory over his boyhood rival Gene Littler. While Littler was able to win a US Open in the 60's, this would be the closest he ever got to a green jacket. His final win on the PGA Tour would occur in 1975. When the dust settled, Casper was able to pick up a win for 16 consecutive seasons, from 1956 to 1971, one short of the record held by Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

While Casper's win total is impressive, he is best known for his skills in the Ryder Cup. Casper played on eight Ryder Cup teams, from 1961 to 1975. To this day, he still holds the record for most points scored by an American at the Ryder Cup. Casper was also the captain of the 1979 team. All in all, Casper was involved in nine Ryder Cups, and was never part of a losing team.

After 1975, Casper started to see a downturn in his career, and was never able to pick up another PGA Tour victory, though he was able to win the 1977 Mexican Open. Casper would end up joining the Senior Tour and win nine events from 1982 to 1989, including two senior majors. Casper's final golf tournament was the 2005 Masters Tournament. He hadn't played in a PGA Tour event in over five years at that point, but he wanted to return to play in the final event of Jack Nicklaus' career, which was also coming to an end at that same tournament.

Casper was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1978. After his induction and as his playing time on the main tour started to dwindle, Casper spent a majority of his time designing golf courses and involving himself in charity. He founded the charity "Billy's Kids", which works for children in the San Diego area. At the end of it all, he won 69 professional tournaments worldwide, including three majors, was a two time player of the year, lead the money list twice, and won the Vardon Trophy five times. Billy Casper was among the greatest players to ever play the sport of golf, and we salute his accomplishments.

Rest in peace, Mr. Casper.

Friday, February 6, 2015

News Grab-Bag: 2/6/2015

- I have no idea what to make of this Patrick Reed cheating story. For those unaware of the story, you can get the general idea here. Most people have already sided against Reed, but I have a tough time thinking that all of a sudden at the height of Reed's career these allegations are coming to light. This sounds like a money grab to me, but we have yet to see the end of this story.

- It looks like the lawsuit that was following Rory McIlroy has been settled. McIlroy is set to pay his former management company, Horizon Sports Management, more than $20 million. Still, this has to be a huge weight off of McIlroy's shoulders, who is already off to a big start to 2015. Now that there is nothing distracting McIlroy, the rest of the world should be absolutely frightened right now.

- Looks like the caddies are fighting for some just compensation. This week, a group of PGA Tour caddies filed a $50 million lawsuit against the PGA Tour for being made to wear bibs of corporate sponsors, but not being allowed to wear advertisements of their own. While PGA Tour players are allowed to wear the logos of any corporate sponsor they want, caddies are required to wear only the bibs of the sponsors of that particular tournament and no other logos that would allow them to profit. The PGA Tour is not happy about this lawsuit and has said in a recent statement that the purses of tournaments and pensions for players would be threatened if the caddies get their way. The attorney for the caddies denies these allegations and claims they're not coming after PGA Tour money at all. Stephanie Wei has more on this. I hope the caddies get paid real well for this, because this has been a long time coming.

- Could Tiger Woods miss Doral? Currently, Tiger is 53rd in the Official World Golf Rankings. Only the top 50 get an exemption into the WGC-Cadillac Championships, so Tiger could be missing the event that he won seven times in his career.
(EDIT: After less than one round, Tiger has withdrawn from the Farmers Insurance Open with soreness in his back. It is almost certain at this point that Tiger will not be at Doral, and the rest of his career may be in doubt right now.)

- What does being the number one player in the world get you? Well, it could get you into any golf tournament you like, endless endorsements, and a spot on almost every Golf Channel broadcast. For Lydia Ko, however, the coolest perk might have been a tweet from fellow New Zealand teenager Lorde. And yes, this is the second time that Lorde has been mentioned on this blog. Sue me.

- If you're a professional golfer from Korea who doesn't have a good grasp of the English language, and you're trying to relocate to the United States, where better for you to go then...Columbia, South Carolina? Check out this story from The Slate about LPGA player Mi. Hyang Lee.

- The golf world lost a true inspiration this week, as Charlie Sifford passed away at the age of 92. Sifford was the first African American to play on the PGA Tour, is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, and last year, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Sifford was the Jackie Robinson of golf, and so many, from Tiger Woods to Samuel L. Jackson have reached out since his passing to share their appreciation for what he was able to accomplish. Charlie Sifford broke down several barriers and made the game of golf a better place for it, and we should all thank him for his contributions to the game we love.

- This is a personal note and has nothing to do with golf, but the world lost a great creative mind this week, as Monty Oum died Sunday at the age of 33. Monty worked on many projects, such as Dead Fantasy, Haloid, and most recently he worked for Rooster Teeth and created the animated series RWBY. More than that, he was known for his incredible work ethic and his obsession with creativity. Monty was an inspiration to many people my age who were looking for a creative outlet and pushed on, even when things got tough. Monty left us too soon, but he left behind a beacon of light that will shine incredibly bright.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wednesday Preview - Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA

If you thought the men had it easy when they started their year in Hawaii, it was nothing compared to the ladies of the LPGA, who play their second event of the season in the Bahamas. Sunshine, swimsuits, and a little bit of golf is on tap for the weekend.

Course: Ocean Club Golf Course, measuring at 6,600 yards. It's pretty wide open and the greens are pretty forgiving, so a variety of bombers and great ball strikers will be able to contend this week. Expect the winning score to push twenty under par.

Strength Of Field: B-. Pretty much the same field as last week, only it is an expanded field, so more Q-school qualifiers are in the field. Still missing Hyo Joo Kim, who may be playing the Tour minimum this year.

Extra Tidbits: Two years ago, this tournament was almost cancelled due to intense flooding. Players ended up playing 12 holes each round...A couple of Canadians, Brooke Henderson and Rebecca Lee-Bentham, are your Monday qualifiers...While many expect Lydia Ko to be the number one player for a long time, she could just as easily lose it this week, as both Inbee Park and Stacy Lewis could retake the position with a victory...There are no amateurs in the field this week.

Fantasy Four:

Lydia Ko - Her double bogey on the 71st hole would discourage others, but it will only fuel the fire of the new world number one. Picked up where she left off last season. Has finished in the top 10 23 of her 43 career starts.

Jessica Korda - Finished T2 last week, and enters this week as the defending champion. Is a streaky player, and has a tendency to vanish for parts of the season, but the early season is where Korda makes most of her money. All three of her career wins have occurred in the winter/spring.

Stacy Lewis - A very quiet top 10 last week, like most weeks for Lewis. Is now third on the Rolex Rankings despite winning three times and finishing as the Player of the Year last year. Finished second in the Bahamas last year.

Ha Na Jang - Has game, will travel. My only concern about Jang is her inability to close, as she seems to get ahead of herself and doesn't stay in the moment down the stretch. This will come in time. For now, expect her to contend in a lot of tournaments.

(SLEEPER) Sakura Yokomine - First start as an LPGA rookie after winning 23 times on the JLPGA Tour. I am cautiously optimistic about her chances all season. There will be some tournaments where she will not have the length to compete, but that will not be a problem this week. How she plays in her first couple of events could determine her long term success.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Wednesday Preview - Farmers Insurance Open

After the party that was the Phoenix Open, the PGA Tour heads to Torrey Pines, where players will go from elation to devastation. Essentially what the city of Seattle went through last Sunday.

Course: Torrey Pines South Course, measuring an incredibly lengthy 7,800 yards. It isn't just a long course, but the rough is thick. This is the toughest course the players have played so far this season. Players will also get a shot at the much easier North Course for one round in this tournament. Winning score may hit ten under par, but single digits will be a top 10.

Strength Of Field: A-. Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy are the only big players missing from this event. Justin Rose will begin his 2015 PGA Tour season this week. Tiger Wood and Phil Mickelson, fresh off missed cuts in Phoenix, will tee it up. Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, and last week's winner Brooks Koepka are all here. Very good field.

Extra Tidbits: Dustin Johnson returns to the PGA Tour after a six month leave of absence...Tiger Woods has won on this course nine times - eight in this event and the US Open in 2008. If Tiger was playing even decently right now, he would be a threat...Jin Park, Kyle Thompson, Daniel Miernicki, and Jake Knapp are the Monday qualifiers this week. Park and Thompson are former PGA Tour members. Miernicki is a member of the PGA Tour of Canada. Knapp is a junior at UCLA...Five players teeing it up this week are looking for their second victory of the season. FedEx Cup leader Jimmy Walker is the highest ranked of those players...Phil Mickelson has won this event three times, but his most recent came 14 years ago.

Fantasy Four:

Jordan Spieth - His first start on the PGA Tour in 2015 ended in a top 10 after his domination in Australia at the end of 2014. Has the game from tee to green to compete at the hardest courses. Won't be intimidated by the length of this course. Is desperate for win number 2.

Jason Day - Finished tied for second here last year. Finished T3 at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. Day might make this feature every week as long as I can start him, but this is the perfect place for him to get back into the winner's circle.

KJ Choi - Sleeper pick. Top 25 finish last week could have been better had it not been for a mediocre weekend. Finished tied for second here last year. Choi's best days are behind him, but he still competes at a high level every so often, and he has plenty of good vibes surrounding this tournament.

Justin Thomas - This is one of the only events that the rookie has already played, and he has some good vibes - he finished T10 last year as an amateur. Has finished in the top 25 for five straight tournaments, and is currently inside the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings, all for a 21 year old rookie. 

Last Weeks Team:
Hideki Matsuyama: T2
Charley Hoffman: T53
Rickie Fowler: T46
Patrick Reed: T40

Monday, February 2, 2015

Koepka Wins His First In The US, And Lydia Rules The World

- It's a Lydia Ko world, people - we just happen to live in it. Despite not being able to win the Coates Golf Championship, Ko jumped Inbee Park and took over the top spot in the Rolex Rankings. At 17, Ko is the youngest person, man or woman, to become number one in the world. You have to image that Ko's best years are ahead of her, which is a scary proposition for the rest of the field. Don't be concerned about the double bogey on the 17th - she'll be fine. No one can rebound like Ko. I wouldn't be surprised if she won by 20 in the Bahamas.

- What a better way to brush off a disappointing season then to walk out there and win the very first event of the next season? Na Yeon Choi, who looked poised to become the number one player in the world a few years ago, hadn't won in two years. She had a few tournaments where she looked good, but generally she had to be disappointed. Choi took that disappointment and frustration and channeled it in an effort to improve. If Choi is back to her old self, there is another great player for the rest of the field to try and catch.

- Ha Na Jang is going to be a great player on the LPGA Tour, but she has to stop getting ahead of herself. After taking a dominating lead at the Q-School, she shot a final round 80. She retained her card, but others passed her in priority. This week, after having a three shot lead heading into Saturday, she shoots rounds of 71-70 to fall to second. It's still a good finish for the rookie, but she needs to settle herself before she starts hoisting trophies.

- It didn't take long to see Brooks Koepka translate his game to the United States. Koepka's weekend rounds of 64-66 were a thing of beauty. The thing I have noticed about Koepka is that the stage doesn't seem too big for him. Koepka knows he belongs out here and that his game is as good as anyone's, so trying to win down the stretch doesn't seem to be too big of a task for him. Koepka is going to win a lot of tournaments. This is just the beginning.

- I don't know if I should be encouraged or discouraged by Hideki Matsuyama's performances. On one hand, it is impressive to constantly be in contention on Sunday. You have to be an incredibly good player in order to continue to pull that off. On the other hand, Hideki has now seen two golden opportunities this year fall by the wayside because his putter failed him down the stretch. For someone who has won so much all over the world, you would think nerves wouldn't be a problem for him, but they still clearly are. I will feel much better about Hideki moving forward once I see him win trophy number two.

- I wonder if Bubba Watson will consider removing Phoenix from his yearly calender. For the second year in a row, Watson saw an opportunity to win this tournament slide by. This year wasn't nearly as bad as the last, but he has to be kicking himself for not being able to birdie the par 5 15th on Sunday.

- I don't think I have given enough attention to Ryan Palmer, and that is my mistake. He has played in four tournaments this season, and has finished in the top 25 in all four. Incredibly impressive. Win number four is right around the corner for Ryan.

- How cool is it for Jon Rahm to not only make the cut and compete against the best pros on Tour, but to also finish inside the top 5 in front of a crowd going nuts for you? I don't know a lot about Rahm, other then that he is a golfer at Arizona State and that he's, apparently, really good. Perhaps we just saw the coming out party of a future superstar.

- Rory McIlroy is not human. He was built in a factory somewhere by scientists trying to create the perfect golfer. After a string of incredibly disappointing tournaments, where he finished all the way down the leaderboard at a measly second place, Rory was finally able to not only win his first event of the season, but do it in pretty remarkable fashion. In fact, his Sunday round of 70 was pretty weak over all, but he had such a cushion that he still won by three strokes despite second place finisher Alex Noran shooting a 65. I didn't think, going into this season, that Rory would dominate like everyone expects him to. Perhaps I should rethink that.

- Remember when Gary Stal won a few weeks ago and everyone was questioning who he was? Stal shot four rounds in the 60's this week in Dubai to finish tied for fourth. Perhaps Stal is going to be a great player after all.