Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wednesday Preview - North Texas Shootout

While the Match Play is happening on the men's side, a less than spectacular event is taking place on the LPGA Tour, as the ladies head to Irving, Texas for the North Texas Shootout. Hey, they can't all be home runs.

Course: Las Colinas Country Club, a 6,400 yard course. This is not a difficult course, and the length is the only thing that could cause some issue. Expecting the winning score to push twenty under.

Strength Of Field: C-. There is no depth to this field. A lot of middle of the rankings players are skipping out in favor of better events elsewhere. The top names are still here, but they hardly ever skip a tournament.

Extra Tidbits: Coming off her third place finish last week, Brooke Henderson received a spot in the field through the Monday qualifier. Veteran Heather Bowie Young is the other Monday qualifier...This is the last event before the first reshuffle of the season, so players looking to play a full time schedule on Tour need to have a big week this week.

Fantasy Four:

Stacy Lewis - Defending champion that plays better in certain areas. While she may contend all over the world, she will always be the player to beat in Texas and Arkansas. Still looking for her first win in 2015.

Lydia Ko - Just keeps winning.

Sei Young Kim - Six top 10's in nine starts this season, and does not appear to be slowing down. Almost all of these courses she will be seeing for the first time, but Las Colinas does not require a lot of past experience to navigate. 

Na Yeon Choi - The model of inconsistency, as she has a win and one other top 10 to go with two missed cuts and a lot of finished in between. Her T11 last week showed she's entering the right direction, however, and her skills should be great for this course.

(SLEEPER) Ai Miyazato - Has made every cut this season, and appears to be clawing her way back to being a contender on the LPGA Tour. 
EDIT: It's been a Hell of a week. Ai Miyazato isn't in the field. My sleeper this week will be Sakura Yokomine.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

WGC-Match Play Breakdown

One of the most exciting and different events on the schedule, the Match Play, takes place in San Francisco this week. This is not the usual Match Play tournament - instead of a one and done format like normal, players are put into different groups, and everyone plays three matches before the eliminations take place. The bracket can be seen here. Follow along as I predict each bracket, the final match, and the eventual champion.

Group 1:
Rory McIlroy
Billy Horschel
Brandt Snedeker
Jason Dufner

During the Golf Channel reveal of the groups, there was a lot of talk of the "Group Of Death". We will get to that later, but this could easily be a contender. The draw did no favors for the World Number One, as he has to face last year's FedEx Cup champion Horschel, a PGA Champion in Dufner, and a multiple PGA Tour winner in Snedeker. All three of McIlroy's opponents have been struggling as of late, but their talent could keep them in there. I still think McIlroy wins the bracket, but I think every match is a fight for him. McIlroy

Group 2:
Jordan Spieth
Lee Westwood
Matt Every
Mikko Ilonen

Whether or not Spieth's game translates well into Match Play will get an immediate test, as he faces the man who won the European Tour's version of this event, Mikko Ilonen, in his first match. Lee Westwood brings in a bunch of experience in both this event and the Ryder Cup. Every will be a little out of his comfort zone. Spieth should still win group, but I'm sure he would have liked to have it a little easier. Spieth

Group 3:

Henrik Stenson
Bill Haas
Brendan Todd
John Senden

A lot of people are saying Stenson could be in trouble here, but I don't see it. Haas and Senden are both very talented, but they've also been struggling as of late. Todd is going to be thrown into the fire here, and I have a tough time thinking he could go toe to toe with someone of the caliber of Stenson. He should walk through this group. Stenson

Group 4:

Bubba Watson
Louis Oosthuizen
Keegan Bradley
Miguel Angel Jimenez

Watson flat out does not have the game for match play, so this is the perfect opportunity for an upset. Oosthuizen has been playing incredibly well as of late. Bradley is always a danger whenever he plays. And Jimenez won't be intimidated by anyone. That Watson/Jimenez match Wednesday will be very interesting. If Jimenez can beat Watson, he has the opportunity to win this bracket. I'm going with a flyer here. Jimenez

Group 5:

Jim Furyk
Martin Kaymer
Thongchai Jaidee
George Coetzee

Furyk is up against three talented players, but none of them should strike fear in his heart. Coetzee is consistent, but hasn't proven anything on the biggest stage. Jaidee has played a ton of match play, but hasn't played well in this tournament lately, nor has he been a contender in any of his US starts. Kaymer is wickedly talented, but has really struggled this season. Furyk lucked out, as he is getting three really good players who aren't coming in with a lot of confidence. Furyk

Group 6:

Justin Rose
Ryan Palmer
Anirban Lahiri
Marc Leishman

Lahiri and Leishman are happy to be here, and are currently thinking of ways to spend their checks for just showing up. Rose's only competition is Palmer. Palmer has played well this season, but he's untested in this environment, and against a man as red hot as Rose, I don't have much faith in him. Rose easily moves on. Rose

Group 7:

Jason Day
Zach Johnson
Brenden Grace
Charley Hoffman

Zach Johnson could make some noise, but his putter has betrayed him for the past season and a half. Grace and Hoffman are good, but they're not to the quality of Day, who should have no problems winning this group, and could be in a good position to defend his title. Day

Group 8:

Dustin Johnson
Victor Dubuisson
Charl Schwartzel
Matt Jones

DJ got lucky that Matt Jones was drawn into this group, because that should get him a victory and some early confidence. The rest of his path is brutal, as he has to go through last year's runner up Dubuisson and former Masters champion Schwartzel, who is inconsistent but can be on fire when his game is on. I know Dubuisson has not played well lately, but I think this format will serve him well and he will get back to the caliber of player he can be. The DJ/Dubuisson match on Friday will determine the winner, and Dubuisson will pull the upset. Dubuisson

Group 9:

Adam Scott
Chris Kirk
Paul Casey
Francisco Molinari

None of the top seeds wanted to see Paul Casey in their group, as he has been playing very well lately and has a ton of match play experience. The top seed that drew him is Adam Scott, who is already wishing 2015 could just pass him by, as he has struggled finding a putter and can not gain any traction. Kirk is a good player, but may be a little overwhelmed in this environment. Molinari was the last man in the field, and should be excited to be receiving a paycheck this week. Casey will look like a world beater as he walks out of this group with relative ease. Casey

Group 10:

Sergio Garcia
Jamie Donaldson
Bernd Weisberger
Tommy Fleetwood

An all European group. Fleetwood will be a little out of his element, and should just take in the experience. Weisberger is a good player that could be trouble, and Donaldson has the talent to scare Garcia, but Garcia should be able to win this group. Honestly, though, none of these players should be intimidated with each other, and an upset is possible. I just think it's unlikely. Garcia

Group 11:

Jimmy Walker
Ian Poulter
Webb Simpson
Gary Woodland

This has been what Golf Channel dubbed the "Group of Death". In golf, any of these groups could be the group of death depending on how each player is playing, but this is clearly the most wide open group on the board. The favorite is Ian Poulter, as he is a match play specialist, but Jimmy Walker has been on fire this season, and both Simpson and Woodland are talented enough to not be overlooked. I'm still going with Poulter, though. I consider him the favorite in every match play event he's in. Poulter

Group 12: 
J.B. Holmes
Brooks Koepka
Russell Henley
Marc Warren

Not a whole lot of fireworks in this group, as it is missing a big name. J.B. Holmes has had a great career resurgence in the past two years, but he is untested in this environment. Brooks Koepka won in Phoenix but hasn't played well since. Russell Henley is struggling with consistency. Marc Warren is a complete unknown to most. This is a crap shoot, but I like Henley's upside, and I think he can sneak out of this group. Henley

Group 13: 
Rickie Fowler
Graeme McDowell
Shane Lowry
Harris English

This is a rare instance when the top seed actually looks outmatched compared to the rest of his group. Fowler has really struggled this season, and he goes against McDowell, with a ton of Ryder Cup experience behind him, Lowry, who knocked off McIlroy in the first round last year, and English, a tough competitor and one of the best young Americans in golf. I think the McDowell/Lowry match on Wednesday will ultimately be the deciding factor, and I just don't see McDowell losing. McDowell

Group 14: 
Matt Kuchar
Hunter Mahan
Stephen Gallacher
Ben Martin

Kuchar is in a rough spot here, as he has a match play specialist in Mahan and a former Ryder Cupper in Gallacher in his group. He gets a lucky draw with Ben Martin, an up and coming player, but probably won't be able to hang in there with the rest of his group. Mahan has not played well lately, but there is something about this format that brings the spark of life back in him. I think he pulls off the upset here. Mahan

Group 15: 
Patrick Reed
Ryan Moore
Danny Willett
Andy Sullivan

Reed loves match play, and he's going to revel in the opportunity to show off in front of the San Francisco crowd. He also got lucky with the draw, as he has three opponents that he should easily defeat. Ryan Moore is a good player, but his consistency is an issue, and he doesn't have the firepower that Reed has. Willett and Sullivan are lambs being lead to slaughter. Reed coasts in this group. Reed

Group 16:
Hideki Matsuyama
Kevin Na
Joost Luiten
Alexander Levy

The last top seed in the tournament got a heck of a draw. Kevin Na has played well, but Hideki has beaten him before. Joost Luiten and Alexander Levy are just now starting to come into their own as top golfers. Matsuyama is the kind of player who should love match play, and he has been playing extraordinary golf this season. He should walk handily in this group. Matsuyama

Semifinal Number One:
Paul Casey Vs Graeme McDowell

Due to some upsets, Casey should have an easier time in the elimination round then he will in the group stage. Matsuyama will give him a battle, but Casey should move on to face McDowell, who will need all he has to topple Furyk. McDowell will be slightly gassed, and Casey will be on a tear, and Casey moves on. Casey 3&2

Semifinal Number Two: 
Jason Day Vs Ian Poulter

The match everyone will be watching as the defending champion takes on the match play expert. Poulter will have an inspired run throughout the tournament, coming back in several of his matches and demoralizing his opponents on the final hole. He will attempt the same against Day, but Day will be too much, and Day will move on to the finals for the second year in a row. Day 1 Up

Championship Match:
Paul Casey Vs Jason Day

Paul Casey will come out inspired, looking for his first PGA Tour victory in six years. A lot of birdies will fall in this group, but after falling behind quickly, Day is unable to recover as his birdies are matched by Casey's tremendous play. Day makes a match of it late, but it's too little, too late.

Champion: Paul Casey
Winning Margin: 2&1

Monday, April 27, 2015

Rose And Ko Both Win Their 7th

- How long will it be before Lydia Ko has more victories than she does years on Earth. On the weekend of her 18th birthday, Ko won her 7th LPGA title, firing a seven under 70 in difficult conditions to defend her Swinging Skirts title. It's almost impossible to talk about Ko at this point without repeating myself, so I will save any more adjectives for when she finally wins that first major title.

- Morgan Pressel had plenty of opportunities to win to win her first title since 2008, but she has to be encouraged by her recent good play. Pressel hasn't missed a cut all season, and has finished inside the top 25 in her last four starts, including a T3 and a runner up finish. This is very similar to how Michelle Wie began her come back last year, so Pressel has to be thinking that her time is coming.

- The final round pressure may have gotten to her, but I am impressed by how Brooke Henderson played this week. She played against some of the best female golfers in the world, and she was still able to finish in solo third and cash a pretty sizable check in one of her first tournaments as a professional. She is marching her way towards Tour status, and the more she plays in front of big crowds on Sunday, the more that pressure will start to ease off her shoulders.

- She got off to a tough start, but it's starting to look like Sakura Yokomine is going to be a rather fine LPGA professional. After missing her first three cuts by a mile, she has cashed four straight checks, with one top 10 and a T11 this week. Yokomine needed some time to adjust to the new courses, the language barrier, and living in America, but it appears as if she's putting those learning curves behind her. I would love to see a victory by Yokomine on the LPGA Tour.

- If I didn't care about the Zurich Classic before, this week sent me over the edge. Not only were there weather issues all week, but when ten under par is only good for T48, I tend to not take your tournament seriously. Birdie fests are boring.

- Luckily for the Zurich Classic, they got a great champion, as Justin Rose rode his momentum from Augusta National into his seventh PGA Tour victory. Rose really struggled out of the gates this season, but now he looks to be back to where he was last year when we considered Rose to be a favorite for his second major title.

- You would be forgiven if you didn't know who Ashun Wu was prior to the Volvo China Open. Wu, who plays on the Japan Tour, has not played well this season - in fact, this was only his second start, and he missed the cut in Japan in his only previous start in 2015. Still, Wu's victory in front of his home country on the European Tour is a life changing moment. It will be interesting to see if Wu takes this as a boost in his career, of it this is going to he the highlight of his professional life. Time will tell.

- Hao-Tong Li is going to have an interesting decision to make. After two top 10 finishes on the European Tour, he could continue to play in Europe, and rack up some more World Golf Ranking, or he could go back to playing on the Tour, where he has full playing privileges and could win a PGA Tour card at the end of the season. Li may just end up playing on both Tours, as long as he has the ability to do so, but picking up a PGA Tour card will be harder if he doesn't focus full time on the Tour. Either way, the future is incredibly bright for Li, who is starting to make China proud.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Should There Be A Women's Masters?

The past couple of weeks, Paula Creamer has talked about her desire to see a "Women's Masters" at Augusta National, claiming that the patrons would love to have two weeks at Augusta and that it would be good for the game of golf. I don't necessarily agree with Creamer's sentiment, and I have five big questions that prevent me from getting on board with the idea of a Women's Masters.

1) Does Augusta National Care About The LPGA Tour?

Whether or not Paula Creamer or the rest of the LPGA wants a Women's Masters is irrelevant if Billy Payne and the members of Augusta National doesn't want it. Payne has been more progressive than his predecessors in his role of chairman - he has allowed female members for the first time in history, and he helped create and host the Drive, Chip, and Putt contest at Augusta National. Still, Augusta National is a "good ole boys" club that takes themselves very seriously. I can't imagine any of the Augusta brass sitting down and watching the LPGA at any level, and if they don't care about the product, I doubt they would put the time and energy into hosting a tournament for them.

2) Could The Ladies Play The Course Well?

There are a lot of words I would use to describe Augusta National - iconic, legendary, beautiful - but "difficult" would not be at the top of that list; however, it seems that Augusta's attempt to strengthen their course just means they will add more length. For the PGA Tour, that means nothing - they are hitting it father than ever, so lengthening the course will only help the big hitters and eliminate anyone who can't average over 300 yards a drive. For the LPGA players, however, lengthening the course means the entire field is laying up on par 5's and hitting woods into the par 4's. Of course, they probably wouldn't be playing from the sticks, but I doubt they would play from the member's tees, either. It would be rough to watch the ladies play the same course as the men, only to see the men play it in -12 and the ladies play it in +6. That would be harmful to the LPGA Tour product.

3) Does The LPGA Need To Copy The PGA?

Let's call a Women's Masters what it actually would be - piggybacking off the success of the men. The only reason this event would exist is because a similar event exists on the men's tour. To me, that goes against what we have heard so often from the LPGA - that they are different. In fact, their slogan is "See Why It's Different Out Here." They already have a women's version of the Open Championship and a women's version of the US Open, which they even played on the same course as the men last year. This year, the PGA of America will take over the LPGA Championship, so by adding a Women's Masters, you have a copycat of all four men's majors. The new slogan should be "See Why It's Kind Of The Same Out Here." I understand that the PGA Tour is more popular than the LPGA Tour, but the LPGA should be trying to find an identity of their own, not trying to be a female version of the PGA Tour. There is so much more that this Tour could offer.

4) Shouldn't The LPGA Strengthen The Majors They Have?

The LPGA Tour already has five majors. Adding a sixth would be laughable, and no one would take the majors seriously if you had six opportunities to win one. Instead of adding one onto the schedule, perhaps the LPGA should work on strengthen the five majors they already have. The ANA Inspiration used to be the flagship event on the LPGA Tour, but their attendance has plummeted and the event is no longer suited for Rancho Mirage. Commissioner Mike Whan has talked about creating a major in Asia now that the sport has grown in that area of the world and Asian players make up a majority of champions on the LPGA Tour. ANA, or All Nippon Airlines, is based out of Japan. Now is the perfect time to move the ANA Inspiration to Asia to test the idea of an Asian major. Asia supports women's golf more than the US does, and putting a major in Asia would be a great way to reward that support. The Evian Masters became a major two years ago, and very few currently see it as one of the majors. With the right marketing, Evian could become the new flagship event. The grass always looks greener on the other side, but the LPGA Tour has five very good events that they could easily strengthen to prove that they don't need a Women's Masters.

5) Would The Patrons Truly Support A Women's Masters?

Let's say everything works the way Paula Creamer wants it to. Billy Payne gets on board, the ladies can play the course under par, the LPGA dumps one of their other majors, and they are able to secure a Women's Masters at Augusta National sometime in the peak season in Georgia. Would the patrons show up at the event like they do at The Masters? Sure, you will have some show up because it's Augusta National, and any opportunity you have to see that course, you would take, but I also doubt the patrons would be as lined up as they are when The Masters tees off. Of all the hypothetical scenarios, the one that would hurt the LPGA the most is if they play in front of a weak crowd only weeks after they came out in waves for the men's tournament. It would show the lack of support for the LPGA compared to their male counterparts. The LPGA has made several huge strides in the past couple of years, and the last thing they need is to be reminded that they're not as supported as the PGA Tour.

Friday, April 24, 2015

News Grab-Bag: 4/24/2015

- When is the next time we will see Tiger Woods? We still don't know, but we do know for sure that he will be playing in The Memorial. Jack Nicklaus this week said that he had "a long, long talk" with Tiger, and Woods told him that he will be playing the Memorial at the end of May. Everyone is still looking to see if Tiger will commit to The Players, but the Memorial is a good spot for Tiger, as he has won that event five times. He did not play last year as he was recovering from back surgery. On the flip side, however, Rory McIlroy will not be teeing it up at Jack's tournament.

- While we don't know when Tiger will play next, we do know that his travel schedule is not getting lighter anytime soon. This weekend, Tiger will be visiting China and Japan to try and boost local interest in the game of golf. I'm not sure if that involves playing a round, or if he's just doing autograph signings and personal appearances.

[EDIT: 9:35 A.M] - Tiger Woods just announced on Twitter that he will be playing in The Players Championship. Mystery over.

- Lexi Thompson had a bit of a busy week this week. Prior to teeing it up at the Swinging Skirts, Thompson played in the pro-am for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, playing alongside her brothers Nicholas and Curtis. Lexi is signed to an endorsement deal with Zurich, so playing alongside her brothers had to be an added bonus. This outing didn't help any of the Thompson siblings, however, as none of them broke par in the opening round of their respective tournament.

- Speaking of not breaking par, the wheels have seriously come off Paula Creamer as she shot her worst round ever as a professional (82) in the first round of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic. Already sitting on her worst Rolex Ranking ever, Creamer said that the issue is "99 percent mental", as she is going through a swing change, equipment change, and adjusting to life as a newly wed. Her worst round as a professional came days after saying she wants a "women's Masters", which I will expand on in a later post.

- Ian Poulter will not be playing one of the flagship events on the European Tour, and he wants everyone to know why. In a series of tweets, Poulter defended himself against a Daily Mail writer, saying that he isn't playing the BMW PGA Championship because of his poor history at Wentworth. Poulter was involved in revitalizing the British Masters, and will be playing in that event. I find it rare when I defend Ian Poulter, but I stand by him in this case. Media types shouldn't be the ones to tell players where they should and should not play. A player shouldn't be forced to play in an event that doesn't suit their game.

- SFGate in San Francisco had a small write up about Sei Young Kim's victory last week. Give it a read.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Extra Life 2015

Taking a quick break from golf for a second to tell you all about Extra Life. Last year, I played video games for 24 straight hours to raise money for the Children's Miracle Network, and I plan to do the same thing on November 7th of this year.

This year, I will be raising money for the Janet Weis Children's Hospital in Danville, Pennsylvania. Any donations made to my fundraising page will go directly towards helping the kids. They need any and all help you can provide for them.

You can view my fundraising page here.

Last year, with the help and support from people all over the world, I was able to meet my goal of $250. This year, I have the same goal, but I hope we far exceed it. If you can not donate, then sharing my page with others would be a huge positive for the Janet Weis Children's Hospital. Any help that can be provided is greatly appreciated.

The golf world has been known to be one of these most charitable communities out there, and I hope we can continue those positive descriptions.

Thank you all for donating, sharing, and supporting me and Extra Life!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wednesday Preview - Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic

Put away your Dancing Pants, because this week is all about the Swinging Skirts. This week is one of the most bizarre weeks on the schedule, with colorful statues and traditions brought over straight from Taiwan. 

Course: Lake Merced Golf Club, a 6,400 yard layout. It is not overly challenging, but the length can be difficult to some of the short hitters, and winds off the Pacific Ocean can cause the scores to creep a little higher. Expect low teens under par to be the winning score.

Strength Of Field: B-. All the big names are back, but the field lacks depth. It is a limited field event, and several Taiwanese players received an exemption into the field. This meant several Q-School graduates got left out of the event.

Extra Tidbits: Swinging Skirts is an organization out of Taiwan that promotes the game of golf for women. They used to have their own event on the TLPGA Tour, but that was scrapped as this event became an official TLPGA event...Last year, Lydia Ko won her first event as an LPGA professional (her third LPGA victory overall)...Sakura Yokomine and Sue Kim are the Monday qualifiers this week...As this is an official TLPGA event, 17 players from the TLPGA Tour received invited into the event. Also receiving an invite are Haley Moore, the young amateur who made the cut at the ANA Inspiration, and Brooke Henderson, who recently turned professional...Friday will mark Lydia Ko's 18th birthday.

Fantasy Four:

Lydia Ko - The number one player returns as the defending champion, which is a huge advantage. Giving someone who already has all the confidence in the world an extra boost of confidence is a recipe for a great week. Hasn't played since the ANA Inspiration, where she played below expectations, but should be rested and ready to go.

Inbee Park - Top 10 machine. Will find a way to contend nearly every week, so she will find herself in this feature nearly every week.

Sei Young Kim - It will be interesting to see how she performs after her remarkable victory in Hawaii. That was her second victory of the season, so she could either be content with her performances or she will be hungry for more. If she's focused, she will be right back near the top once again.

Hyo Joo Kim - I was back and forth between Kim and Stacy Lewis for this spot, but Kim gets the slight edge because of her final round in Hawaii that got her close to being in contention down the stretch had her putter not abandoned her. She could win on any course during any week.

(SLEEPER) Mika Miyazato - I am cautiously optimistic about Mika-chan's chances this week after seeing her slowly improve every week. While last week was her first top 10, it was her fourth top 25 of the season, and she has only one missed cut, which took place the very first week of the season. She has some momentum now, and could translate that into a big finish this week.

Wednesday Preview - Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Honestly, ladies and gentlemen...this is a bit of an off week for the PGA Tour. No disrespect to New Orleans or the field playing this week, but we are two weeks removed from The Masters, and we have the Match Play and the Players Championship in back to back weeks following this event, so the Zurich Classic will be somewhat buried.

Course: TPC Louisiana, a 7,400 yard track. It is one of the easiest courses on Tour as long as there aren't any gale force winds like we saw on Sunday last year. Expect winning score to be above twenty under par.

Strength Of Field: B. I'm honestly surprised with how good the field is considering where it lies on the schedule. Justin Rose, Jason Day, and Dustin Johnson are the main headliners.

Extra Tidbits: Two years ago, Billy Horschel won his first PGA Tour event at this very tournament. He won the FedEx Cup last year, but enters this event slightly struggling...Monday qualifiers are Wes Homan, Chris Naegel, Zechariah Potter, and Michael Smith. Jonathan Byrd, Trevor Immelman, Tommy Gainey and Andrew Loupe received sponsor exemptions this week...The last player to win back to back New Orleans titles was Carlos Franco, who did it back in 1999 and 2000...David Toms will play this event for the 22nd time in his career. He won here in 2001.

Fantasy Four:

Sean O'Hair - Proved that he was back to being a contender after notching another top 10 last week. His missed cut at the Texas Open appears to be a case of O'Hair putting too much pressure on himself, as it was his only missed cut since the Sony Open. Currently 36th in the FedEx Cup. A win will be the ultimate ending of this come back story.

Dustin Johnson - Has never played on this course, but his form dictates a look regardless of where he plays. He got the start over Jason Day, who is likely more focused on the match play next week. Johnson has proven he can go low, which is a huge plus on this course.

Jason Bohn - Sleeper pick, but would have made my top four regardless. Former winner that hasn't missed a cut in 2015. Two of his last four events have resulted in a top 25. Familiarity may push him over the edge.

Justin Rose - This is the week to prove if his performance at Augusta National was more than just a player playing well at a course that suits his game. Top 10's in two of his last three starts in New Orleans, so there should be no excuses this week.

Last Weeks Team:
Jordan Spieth: T11
Charl Schwartzel: T55
Mark Wilson: CUT
Russell Henley: CUT

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Furyk Finally Wins Number 17, And Sei Young Electrifies

- I love being wrong, especially when it's about players I like exceeding expectations. Last year, I said that we have seen the last of Jim Furyk winning on the PGA Tour. He made me look like a fool, firing a final round 63 to win his first title in five years. Was this Furyk's swan song, or is this victory what he needed to get over a mental barrier and start winning on a more consistent basis. We will only know as the season goes along, but it was still wonderful to see Furyk winning once again.

- Speaking of clutch moments from older players, how about Tom Watson making a birdie on the 18th hole on Friday to make the cut? He continues to amaze me.

- Jordan Spieth was completely wiped out following his media tour of New York. He has had to answer every media request thrown his way, and he has played so much golf that I'm sure he doesn't want to sing a club right now. He still managed to finish T11 in Harbour Town, a week that included a second round 62. Superstar.

- Sean O'Hair will win in 2015. Mark it down. He's gotten rid of all the negative influences in his life and he's learned how to compete against the biggest names in the game. He's ready to return to the highest level of the sport. He is playing in a pretty weak field next week in New Orleans. A perfect fit for him.

- Sei Young Kim's finish in Hawaii was among the most incredible victories I have ever witnessed. After surviving tough winds and a strong field nipping her her heels, Sei Young hit a perfect drive down the fairway on the 18th, only for the fairway to be completely baked out. The ball rolled at least 50 yards down the fairway, through the rough, and into the water, and looked to have given away the tournament. After Inbee Park secured the par on the hole, Sei Young chipped it into the hole from off the green to force a playoff, and holed it out from the middle of the fairway for eagle in the playoff to win her second LPGA event of the season. It was an amazing finish, and the perfect way to end a great event for the LPGA Tour.

- Lydia Ko set the bar for what a rookie can accomplish on the LPGA Tour, but Sei Young Kim has the opportunity to blaze right past her. Kim now has two victories this season, which is one shy of Ko's three from last season, and has a runner up finish at the first major championship of the season. She's currently second in the Race For The CME Globe, all while competing in the greatest LPGA rookie class of all time against players with a lot more experience on Tour. Even the most dialed in Korean golf fans could not have predicted this kind of season from Kim.

- Now Inbee Park knows what it's like to run into an unmovable object. Inbee played as well as she could on Sunday, but Sei Young Kim refused to budge. Talking about Inbee is a lot like talking about Stacy Lewis - we know they are going to play well. It's just a matter of how many wins they will have by the end of the season.

- I can't help but feel gutted for I.K. Kim, who appears to have too much scar tissue built up to be able to win again when the pressure is on. She has the perfect opportunity to walk away with this event, but a three putt bogey on the 17th when she was in close for a birdie ended her chances. Kim still strikes the ball well, but watching her putt can be painful at times. I hope Kim proves me wrong, but I don't think we will be seeing I.K. winning again on Tour.

- Sandra Gal did not play on the European Solheim Cup team in 2013, and she seems to be motivated to make the team this year. After struggling the past couple of seasons, Gal has finished inside the top 25 five times this season, and has moved up to 14th in the Race For The CME Globe. Gal has been known for her fashion and her personality more than her golf in recent years, but she appears to be changing that narrative this year.

- I am cautiously optimistic about Mika Miyazato's top 10 finish in Hawaii this week. It is a positive sign and she appears to be moving in the right direction, but I need to see more before I proclaim her as being "back". If Mika-chan can figure out what made her struggle last season, she has the talent to be one of the top players on the LPGA Tour.

- I was waiting for Kiradech Aphibarnrat to start taking advantage of the skills he has as a golfer, and it looks like that is finally happening. After finishing in the top 10 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Kiradech goes to China and wins the European Tour's Shenzhen International to get himself back inside the top 100 in the world. Kiradech has been as high as 59th in the world, and I'm sure he would love to get himself back into the biggest events on the schedule. He is close to doing so.

- Remember the name Hao-Tong Li. Last year's Chinese PGA Order Of Merit winner is currently the top ranked Chinese player in the world, has finished inside the top 25 on the Tour three times in six starts, is currently 31st in the Tour money list, and just finished in second place in front of several thousand Chinese fans. Li will be playing on the PGA Tour next year (another one of my guarantees), and could be the great Chinese men's golfer that we have been waiting for.

- Golf has not been kind to Y.E. Yang in recent years, but that may be changing. Entering this week, Yang has made two of three cuts on the European Tour and two of two cuts on the PGA Tour. This week, he finished T4 and two shots out of a playoff in China. Yang is a long way off from being the major winner he was in 2009, but it would be great if he can get some consistency in his game and see him back contending in golf tournaments.

Friday, April 17, 2015

News Grab-Bag: 4/17/2015

- Some good news to start off our Grab-Bag. Marc Leishman's wife Audrey is recovering well after spending some time in a medically induced coma. Leishman withdrew from the Masters to be with his wife, and now it appears she will be fine. Best wishes to the Leishman's as she continues to recover.

- It was a whirlwind week for Jordan Spieth, who went to New York City to engage in a media tour as the new Masters Champion. Congratulations have some in from all over the world, including Jordan's former University of Texas team mates and Texas celebrities. The best of the bunch? Probably Matthew McConaughey. Alright alright!

- A lot of people were freaking out when Tiger Woods hit a root in the final round of The Masters, but his agent spoke this week and said that his wrist is "fine". There is still no word when Tiger will return to competition, but all speculation seems to suggest The Players Championship.

- Those of you who were a fan of Monday golf to start the PGA Tour calender year will be disappointed to hear that the Hyundai Tournament Of Champions is returning to a traditional Thursday-Monday schedule. I, for one, am incredibly pleased, because I always felt like the Monday finish was foolish, especially considering the unpredictable weather in Hawaii in January that could push the event to a Tuesday or even Wednesday finish, which pushes it up against the Sony Open. The right call is being made here.

- Good news, selfie fans! The USGA is lifting their ban on cell phones, so you will be allowed to take as many pictures as you would like at the US Open...within the designated cell phone areas. Tablets are still a no-no.

- Looks like Vicky Hurst's comeback has gone from bad to worse. After struggling with injuries the last two seasons, Hurst was attempting to re-establish herself on the LPGA Tour. She has struggled to make cuts this season, and has withdrawn this week with a wrist injury. Hurst looked to be one of the best young American players on Tour, but now her Tour card is in serious jeopardy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wednesday Preview - RBC Heritage

The PGA Tour players get a little bit of a break as they leave Augusta National behind and head to South Carolina for the RBC Heritage. Instead of playing for a green jacket, they are going after a plaid jacket which, not as great, but I'm sure any of these players would still take it.

Course: Harbour Town Golf Links, which stretches out to 7,100 yards, but some days it will play less than 7,000 yards, which is rare in this game. Still, it is not an easy course, and the wind can make it almost unplayable. Right around ten under par will be the winner.

Strength Of Field: B. This event used to suffer from a weak field as players wouldn't play it after playing The Masters, but that has changed over the years. Now, players who were exempt into The Masters are taking the trip to South Carolina the week after. The most recent list of past champions boasts several major champions.

Extra Tidbits: No player has won the Heritage the week after winning The Masters since Bernhard Langer in 1985. Jordan Spieth has the opportunity to end that drought...Tom Watson will play the Heritage for the second straight year. He has won here twice and became the oldest man to break par at The Masters with a 71 on Thursday...US Amateur runner up Corey Connors turns professional this week after barely missing the cut at The Masters...Making a very rare start in a non-major in the United States is Thongchai Jaidee, who made the cut at The Masters but finished dead last on Sunday. Anirban Lahiri and Joost Luiten will make their third consecutive starts on the PGA Tour...while the fields and the list of champions have improved, four of the past ten champions have won without playing The Masters the week defending champion has missed the cut since 1993.

Fantasy Four:

Jordan Spieth - The media obligations will scare a lot of people away this week, but if anyone can handle the busy schedule and still perform at a high level, it's Spieth. Two wins, seven top 10 finishes, number one in the FedEx Cup standings, and a sub-70 scoring average. Has a great shot at winning two jackets in two weeks.

Charl Schwartzel - Makes a bunch of cuts but hasn't been contending lately. Still, a shorter course that relies on a strong short game and precision driving should work well into his game. Finished T12 here last year.

Mark Wilson - Sleeper pick. Sandwiched a missed cut with two top 25 finishes. Finished T9 here two years ago. He is a shorter hitter, but since this is a shorter golf course, he should not feel intimidated by the course.

Russell Henley - Hasn't missed a cut all season. Finished solo fourth in Houston two weeks ago, and notched a top 25 in The Masters. Mixed bag for Henley at Harbour Town, as his missed cut last year came off a T6 in his first appearance two years ago. Playing well, and should be able to contend here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tuesday Preview - LOTTE Championship

The LPGA returns from its week long absence following their first major of the season as the players head to beautiful Hawaii for the LOTTE Championship presented by Hershey. This preview is done a little early as the event begins on Wednesday and ends on Saturday. Why? Who knows, just don't argue with it.

Course: Ko Olina Golf Club, a 6,300 yard course that is fairly easy to navigate, but can become more difficult if those Hawaii winds pick up. Somewhere in the mid teens under par will be the winner. 

Strength Of Field: C-. A lot of big name players decided to pass on this one, including Stacy Lewis and Lydia Ko. This is the perfect opportunity for one of those players who have been knocking on the door to finally pick up their first win.

Extra Tidbits: Jing Yang and Pat Hurst are your Sunday qualifiers...Through eight events this season, there have been eight different champions...Last year, Michelle Wie returned to the winner's circle for the first time in four years as she won in front of a home crowd. She enters this week lacking form but feeling good vibes from this course...Christina Kim had planned on playing this event, but was unable to commit for the field on time. She played in the qualifier, but did not make the field...Brittany Lincicome is in the field fresh off her major triumph at the ANA Inspiration.

Fantasy Four:

Sei Young Kim - Fell apart on the final day of the ANA Inspiration, but should take playing in the field pairing as a learning experience. Four top 10's this season, including a victory. Since missing the cut at the beginning of the season, she has not finished worse than T29th.

Hyo Joo Kim - Playing this event a second time after playing on a sponsor's exemption last year. A shorter course, so it should set up perfectly for Kim's game. Her T11 in the ANA Inspiration barely broke her streak of three straight top 10 finishes. Currently trails Sei Young Kim in the Rookie Of The Year standings.

Inbee Park - Top ranked player in the field. Has the opportunity to gain ground on Stacy Lewis and Lydia Ko, neither of whom are playing this week. Hasn't finished worse than T13 all season.

Moriya Juranugarn - With all the spotlight on her sister Ariya, Moriya has quietly been putting together three great weeks, finishing T17, T8, and T11 in the past three events. Not as big of a hitter as her sister but has better control off the tee. Has yet to win on Tour, and this may be the perfect opportunity for her to change that.

(SLEEPER) Sakura Yokomine - After missing the cut in her first three events, she finished T8 at the Kia and made the cut at the ANA Inspiration. This is a shorter course, so her lack of length off the tee should not hinder her as much as it has. If she has the skills to compete on the LPGA Tour, this is the kind of event where she needs to step up and prove it.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Hello, World - Spieth Arrives In A Very Familiar Fashion

- Jordan Spieth won the green jacket Friday afternoon and played two weekend practice rounds as he absolutely dominated the field, becoming the first player since Raymond Floyd to go wire-to-wire at Augusta National and tying The Masters scoring record. Spieth was one of the favorites entering the week and played like it, as no one really had a chance to catch him after firing an opening round 64. His ball striking was unmatched and he sunk nearly every putt he looked at.

- Spieth looks unbeatable at the moment after winning The Masters in his second appearance as a 21 year old. Sound familiar? It is almost the exact path Tiger Woods took nearly twenty years ago, as he dominated the field as a 21 year old in his first Masters as a professional. It is way too early in his career to start calling him the "next Tiger Woods", but Spieth as a 21 year old looks very similar to Tiger Woods as a 21 year old. It should be noted that, after that record setting performance at The Masters, it took Tiger ten majors before winning his second one. There is no hurry for Spieth to succeed immediately. He has some time to start racking up majors.

- It was foolish of me and the rest of the golfing world to count out Phil Mickelson at The Masters. Sure, Phil has not played well the past two seasons, but his performance prior to the majors means absolutely nothing to Lefty, who has a way of turning on the switch when he needs to. I don't know if this means Phil is "back", per say, but it does mean that Phil's career isn't as dead and buried as people originally thought. In the end, it all leads back to the US Open. None of the results in events this season means nothing if he is able to complete the Career Grand Slam.

- Speaking of great golfers not caring about current form, Justin Rose's top finish seemed to come out of nowhere as his form was in very rough shape entering Augusta. Rose always seems to play well at The Masters, and a green jacket is in his future, but he couldn't have been on anyone short list entering the week. Sometimes, these players just know when to play well.

- A lot of people will be saying that Rory McIlroy is "disappointed" that he was unable to win the final leg of his Career Grand Slam, but that is not what I took out of this week for the World Number One. Rory has never really played well at Augusta - his back door top 10 last year was his first top 10 finish at The Masters, and who can forget him shooting 80 in the final round in 2011. The fact that he was able to put himself into contention should give him a huge boost of confidence. Not everyone is Tiger or Jordan - it takes a little time to learn how to play this golf course. Rory has plenty of opportunities to win his first green jacket, and each year he he gets better and better. Rory isn't going anywhere.

- There will be a lot of talk about the "future of golf" especially now that the top players in the world are a couple of twenty-somethings. I think there is a legitimate chance that Hideki Matsuyama will be part of that conversation by the end of the year. Hideki, who is older than Jordan Spieth by a little over a year, finished in the top 5 at Augusta National for the first time, and this was always a golf course I thought he wouldn't be able to compete at. This is Hideki's sixth top 10 finish this season, mixed in with only one missed cut. If Hideki can put himself in the conversation as one of the best players in the world, you would have every corner of the world represented in golf, which would be amazing for the game of golf.

- Tiger Woods should play in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. I know he won't, as he very rarely strays from his schedule, but he needs to play more tournaments as he's healthy and he's not qualified for the World Golf Championship events. His missed cut was nice, but he's not going to win if he doesn't play more.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Poorly Predicting The 2015 Masters

I do not believe there is a golf tournament in the world that is more iconic than The Masters. Sure, there are tournaments with a greater history (Open Championship) and that are a much better test of a perfect golfer (US Open), but the sights and sounds of The Masters are unmatched anywhere in the world. From iconic golfers hitting the first tee shots, to the event being played at the same course every year, to past champions and green jackets, The Masters is the tournament all golfers dream of winning.

Now let's butcher it with some dope pretending to know things about golf!

Like every major, I will give a few names - a true dark horse, a sleeper, and five players I think can conceivably win the tournament. Since it's The Masters, however, I will give a few other names of players I am watching, even if I don't think they will be slipping on the green jacket on Sunday.

Watch List:

Tiger Woods - Tiger is a true mystery in terms of what the state of his game true is in. The last time we saw him, he was among the worst golfers on Tour, unable to chip a ball onto the green and playing so erratically that he was finishing in last place at a golf course he has dominated. Tiger is saying all the right things heading into this tournament, and reports say he shot a front nine 30 in his practice round on Monday. Who knows if any of that is true, but if I were to make a prediction on Tiger, I say he makes the cut but isn't really in contention to win. It's easy to make the cut at The Masters since there are only 96 players in the field. He should be able to do enough to play on Sunday.

Hideki Matsuyama - At the beginning of the year, I predicted that Hideki Matsuyama will be the first player from Japan to win a major title, and this is his first opportunity to do so. It might be the worst place for him, however, as he failed to break 80 twice in his last two trips to Augusta National. He is more suited for open style golf courses.

Ben Crenshaw - Thanks for the memories, Gentle Ben.

Dark Horse:

Jose Maria Olazabal - Every year, an older past champion seems to find his way into contention late into the weekend. For a few years it was Fred Couples. Last year it was Bernhard Langer. Olazabal has not played well on the European Tour the last two season, but he was able to finish in the top 10 two weeks ago, his first top 10 finish in years, and he has made the cut in his last two Masters appearances. I think Olazabal has one last run left in him, and this might be the year he turns the clock back.


J.B. Holmes - I know calling someone who won just three days ago a "sleeper" is kind of foolish, but it would still be a bit of a surprise if Holmes were to win The Masters. Holmes has never finished inside the top 10 in a major, but this course seems to set up perfectly for his game. Holmes needs to contend in a major before he will be considered as one of the best players on Tour, and this is the perfect spot for him to do so. He is entering with a ton of confidence. Don't be surprised if he is on the first page of the leaderboard on Sunday.

The Contenders:

5) Jimmy Walker - Barely took the edge over Dustin Johnson in this spot, and it's simply because Walker has less question marks surrounding him. The biggest knock against Walker is that he has been unable to win a big tournament. That is the only thing missing from his resume in the last year and a half, as Walker has been nothing short of sensational in almost every category. He's not the most exciting player, but you don't have to be exciting to win The Masters (see Schwartzel, Charl).

4) Bubba Watson - I'm just playing the law of averages here in saying that he won't win the green jacket for a third time in four years. Even Arnold Palmer needed a year in between victories. Still, he is a proven winner here and his game is perfect for this track, plus he has been playing great golf this season, so there is no reason to think Bubba won't be at least part of the conversation on Sunday.

3) Jason Day - Has come close to taking home this tournament on a few occasions, and is entering with a renewed confidence. Appears to be healthy after being sidelined most of 2014 with an injury. The criticism against Day was that he didn't win enough, and now he's entering after winning twice in the past 12 months. Day will be a major winner someday, and August National seems to be the best place for him to accomplish that victory.

2) Rory McIlroy - The best player in the world, even if he hasn't played as such in his last couple of tournaments. All eyes will be on Rory on Saturday (once it's known that Tiger won't be part of the conversation) to see if he is able to win the career grand slam. He will...some day, but not this weekend. He certainly COULD, and I think he will come close, but he needs to learn how to play well at Augusta before he can win it. There is a reason he hasn't won the career grand slam and that is because he has yet to figure out how to play Augusta.

The Champion:

Jordan Speith - I am not being very creative with this pick, but to pick anyone else, quite frankly, would be foolish. Playing better than anyone in the world right now. Came close last year, but inexperience cost him down the stretch. He has had a full year to learn from the mistakes he made, and is playing better now than he was entering this event a year ago. Jordan Speith, all 21 years old of him, will be slipping on the green jacket on Sunday.

Champion: Jordan Speith
Winning Score: -14
Margin Of Victory: Three strokes

Monday, April 6, 2015

Brittany Lincicome Takes A Second Leap Into Poppie's Pond

- It only took three majors for Brittany Lincicome to get over her disappointment of last year's LPGA Championship, as she fired a final round 69, including an eagle on the 72nd hole to win the ANA Inspiration for the second time. Lincicome is a roller coaster, who struggles with consistency issues and has given away tournaments down the stretch in the past, but this week, it was Lincicome that was the chaser. She flat out overpowered this golf course, and her short game was as good as I have seen from her. It's been almost four years since Lincicome last won on Tour, but now she's back in a huge way.

- Of all the tournaments that Stacy Lewis has come close to winning, this one has to sting the most. Not only is this a major, but Lewis gave this tournament away at several points on Sunday. After birdieing three in a row and looking like she was cruising to a victory, she bogeyed two of the next three and failed the birdie the par 5 18th. This tournament was hers to win, and she failed to do so. This has become a recurring trend - Lewis coming close and not being able to win. This needs to end, but I'm not sure yet how it ends.

- The nerves got to Sei Young Kim, which is unfortunate because she would have made a fantastic champion, but she will be back in this position again, and likely soon. Of all the fantastic rookies this season, Kim may be the most impressive, as she was entering with less expectations than some of her classmates. She's already won on Tour and now has the experience of playing in the final group in a major. This is the beginning chapter of Sei Young Kim's future great career.

- I predicted prior to the start of the season that Morgan Pressel would win this season on the LPGA Tour, and she seems to be getting closer each week. Pressel looked done two years ago. She was performing so poorly that it appeared we had seen the last of Pressel as a top player on Tour. Pressel is starting to rewrite that script, and is now getting closer to getting back on the Solheim Cup team.

- Here comes Lexi Thompson! After being relatively quiet following her major victory last season, she now has two straight top 10's under her belt. Thompson is way too interesting to not be a top player on Tour, and she needs to win another tournament soon. She's good for the Tour and her game is too good to stay down.

I hope whoever harassed Danielle Kang gets caught and publicly shamed.

- I hate to say it, but I think this tournament needs to leave Rancho Mirage. This was an incredibly exciting major tournament, and it was poorly attended. These ladies deserve better. If the crowds don't want to come to this event, then the event needs to go somewhere that the crowd will show up. Traditions be damned. You would never see The Masters with a hundred people following the final group.

- J.B. Holmes is hell bent on making his first President's Cup team. After finishing runner up twice this season, Holmes shot a final round 64, waited in Houston for two hours, and finished off the tournament in the playoff for his fourth PGA Tour victory, second in less than a year. Holmes has never finished in the top 10 in a major, and that is a streak that needs to (and should) end this year. It's a great and fascinating story to see Holmes come back as an elite player.

- There are some striking similarities between the two winners this week. They are both big hitters that can overpower a golf course. They both have a tendency to be shaky down the stretch when the pressure is applied to them. You wonder how both of them haven't won more than they had. Lincicome has the much better major record than Holmes does, but you get the sense that we're not done talking about either of them this season.

- If Jordan Spieth isn't on your incredibly short list of players who could win The Masters, you haven't been watching golf.

- A part of me is gutted for Johnson Wagner, who had the opportunity to play in The Masters next week with a victory, and another part of me is happy that he even contended at all. Wagner only managed one top 10 last season, and is playing on past champion status and sponsor exemptions. The fact that he was able to hang in there for four rounds and nearly pull off an improbable victory is a story in itself. Wagner said he wanted to ride this wave and continue to use his good play to propel him for the rest of the year. It will be interesting to watch moving forward. I'm sure Wagner will get a few more chances to play this season based on this finish.

- Speaking of having a few opportunities to play, I wonder if Austin Cook will get a few sponsor exemptions this season after his solid play in Houston this week. The Monday qualifier was in contention all week until a final round 75 doomed him, but it is still an incredibly story that someone who was ranked 993rd in the world could play that well in the tournament. He's only 24 years old and he's just beginning his career, so who knows what will come of Austin Cook.

- It's Masters week, everybody! GET HYPE!!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

News Grab-Bag: 4/2/2015

It's the week prior to The Masters, so naturally, we are filled with Masters news.

- Tiger Woods' airplane was spotted at the Augusta airport, fueling speculation that Tiger is going to be play at The Masters. No official confirmation has been made yet, but it seems unlikely that Tiger skips The Masters at this point.

- One of the traditions of The Masters takes a hit this year, as it was announced that Arnold Palmer will not be playing in the Par 3 Contest on Wednesday of The Masters. In recent years, Palmer has played with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player in the exhibition event, but Palmer suffered a separated shoulder back in December and doctors have advised him not to play. Palmer is still planning on hitting the ceremonial tee shot Thursday morning.

- Adam Scott's switch to a conventional putter has been halted, as he will be playing The Masters with his signature long putter. The anchoring ban goes into effect next year, so Scott has been trying to adapt to a smaller putter, but that has been a failed experiment thus far.

- Best wishes to Jason and Amanda Dufner, who are currently going through a divorce.

- Best wishes to Australian golfer Brett Rumford, who will be missing approximately six weeks after undergoing surgery for an intestinal blockage. Rumford is exempt into the 2015 Open Championship, so the hope is that he recovers by then.

- LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan, who has been praised for his revitalization of the LPGA Tour, just received a "long term" contract extension. The length of the new term is unknown, but given all the work Whan has done and the strides the Tour has taken since he took over, I expect he will have the job until he no longer wants it.

- A lot of sports leagues have come out in strong opposition to Indiana's incredibly homophobic "religious freedom" bill, including the NCAA and the NFL, who look to be removing significant events from the state while the law remains in effect. The PGA of America and PGA Tour? They punted the issue. The PGA was in a tough position, as a majority of their fans and players are conservative, but they would receive a lot of public backlash if they supported the bill. Still, "we support inclusion" is the weakest statement I have seen, especially from the PGA of America, whose most recent president once referred to a professional golfer as "a little girl."

- The May fitness edition of Golf Digest is out, and Lexi Thompson is the cover girl. You can find her pictures here. Lexi is the first female golfer to be on the cover of the fitness issue. I know Golf Channel are likely to droll all over the pictures, but there is no denying that Lexi is a striking woman, and very physically fit. Knock 'em dead, girl! The issue also features Michelle Wie, Cheyenne Woods, and Stacy Lewis.
Naturally, the Twitterverse has a real issue with the cover, saying that Golf Digest is "sexualizing" both golf and Lexi Thompson in particular. It is important to note, however, that Thompson seems incredibly pleased with the way the photos came out. I have had my issues with Golf Digest in the past, especially when they put non-golfers on the cover, but Lexi is a true athlete, and the photos show just how athletic she is. Let's pick our battles, people. If you want to be upset about sexism in golf, maybe be upset over the fact that female golfers make a fraction of what male golfers do in earnings and endorsements.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Wednesday Preview - Shell Houston Open

One week remains until we're at The Masters, so you can forgive the golfing world if we're looking ahead a little bit. No offense, Houston Golf Club, but you're no Augusta National.

Course: The Golf Club of Houston, a 7,500 yard course. You will hear a lot this week about the similarities of Houston compared to Augusta National, but it is drastically overstated. The only thing similar are the greens, which are pretty quick. Winning score may flirt with twenty under par.

Strength Of Field: B-. The field took a hit when Jimmy Walter and Henrik Stenson withdrew, but there is still a really nice field gearing up for The Masters. A lot of these players, however, may be using Houston as a warm up, so don't be surprised to see a leaderboard with some lower ranked players.

Extra Tidbits: Since Houston is the last event prior to The Masters, a lot of foreign players that are teeing it up next week are playing this week. Mikko Ilonen, Anirban Lahiri, Joost Luiten, and Danny Willett, all European Tour professionals, will be playing on the PGA Tour this week...Austin Cook, Kelvin Day, Andrew Landry, and Smylie Kaufman are the Monday qualifiers. Cook tied for 13th last year at the FedEx St. Jude Classic after he Monday qualified for that event. Day is playing his rookie season on the Tour. Landry won on the Tour in 2009 a month after turning professional. Kaufman played in the 2014 U.S. Open, but missed the cut...Last year, Matt Kuchar looked poised to win the tournament until Matt Jones hit a 40 foot putt on the 18th and chipped in on the first playoff hole to secure a spot in The Masters...While players can no longer qualify for The Masters based on the World Golf Rankings, the winner of this event who is not otherwise qualified will receive a last minute invitation to Augusta.

Fantasy Four:

Jordan Speith - He is making a case for being the favorite for The Masters. Would have won last week if Jimmy Walker wasn't playing on an island by himself. Speith has become one of the best scramblers on Tour, and his putting is incredibly sound. Still looking for his first victory in his native Texas.

Lee Westwood - Good record in this event and has finished in the top 25 in every event he has played in 2015. His best opportunity to win a major is as Augusta National, where he has several top 10's, so he will be looking to built some momentum entering The Masters.

Danny Willett - A true sleeper in the sense that he can finish anywhere. Missed the cut at the Valspar, but almost notched a top 10 at the Honda Classic. He has lead the Race To Dubai standings pretty much the entire season, and is exempt into The Masters next week. I don't know what truly to expect from Willett, but given his talent and his ball striking, he should be able to contend.

Victor Dubuisson - A real roller coaster. He's had a very poor PGA Tour season, but his form can change at the drop of a hat. He needs good vibes entering Augusta National, where he missed the cut last week. He's too good to continue to struggle, and he still has a good short game, which is a premium this week.

Last Week's Team:
Jimmy Walker: WINNER
Zach Johnson: T20
Daniel Berger: CUT
Ryan Palmer: T6

Previewing And Predicting The ANA Inspiration

New name, same tournament as the Kraft-Nabisco Championship becomes the ANA Inspiration. It took me a little bit to get used to the new name, but now I kind of like it. It sounds more prestigious. I hope players who win this tournament get to yell "I am an Inspiration!" as they jump into the pond. The LPGA always seems to fancy this tournament as their own version of The Masters, with a white robe replacing the green jacket. It is probably the most interesting major of the LPGA schedule and has the most prestigious list of past champions, at least in recent years.

Course: The Dinah Shore Course at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California. If you ask me, I think this tournament has outgrown this course. It's not difficult for these players anymore. I understand this history surrounding the Dinah Shore Course, so perhaps a redesign is in order.

Alright, we got the boring stuff out of the way. Below are my picks of players who could possibly win this tournament, with a couple of players you may not expect who could content.

True Dark Horse:

Teresa Lu - Her win in Japan two years ago set off a firestorm for Lu, who has gone on to win four times on the JLPGA Tour, including two majors last season. She has regressed slightly, but we have seen that with big players on foreign tours - sometimes they win all they can and get bored. I expect Lu to have a very successful ANA Inspiration and couple, perhaps, look into joining the LPGA Tour next season.


Mirim Lee - Almost came up with a victory last week, and has shown that she is not intimidated by anyone. It would not be a surprise to those who watch the LPGA regularly if she contends, but casual fans would be taken back a bit by it. Mirim is ready to really break out, and a big finish in a major would go a long way towards doing that.

The Contenders:

Stacy Lewis - You know she's going to be a part of the conversation in some capacity. Former winner of this event once notched a top 10 while still competing as an amateur, so this course fits her game. Had a disappointing Kia Classic by her standards, but Lewis has always been a player who played up to the biggest events on the schedule.

Inbee Park - Much like Lewis, Inbee will always be a part of the conversation in every tournament she plays in. Park made the leap into the pond two years ago as part of the crazy run that saw her win the first three majors of the LPGA season. Has finished in the top 10 in her last four events on Tour, so she's peaking at the right time.

Hyo Joo Kim - Followed up her victory with a top 10 at the Kia Classic. Here is the strangest stat you will hear all year - Kim has won 100% of the majors she has played in. To be fair, the only major she has actually competed in was last years Evian, but if she can win that event with those big name players, then you know she's up for any challenge. The Dinah Shore Course appears to be the kind of course that fits Kim's style.

Se Ri Pak - Sometimes, the stars align and the golfing world gives up the perfect story, and that perfect story this week would be if Se Ri Pak were able to complete the Career Grand Slam by winning the ANA Inspiration. Had an out of nowhere top 10 last week, and seems to be getting better each time she tee's it up. She circled this event for almost a year. This may be her last best opportunity to win this tournament, and I think she has a great shot.

My Champion:

Lydia Ko - It's not a matter of whether or not Ko will win a major this year. It's a matter of how many majors she walks away with. She hasn't posted a single round over par on the LPGA Tour this season, and hasn't finished outside the top 10 in her last ten events. She appears to be the best player on the LPGA Tour at this moment, and a major victory would validate that opinion.

Champion: Lydia Ko
Final Score: -14
Margin Of Victory: 3 strokes