Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thursday Preview - Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

There is only one tournament that separates the Women's PGA Championship with the Women's US Open. That tournament is the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented By P&G With Association With The Dunmore Foundation And Viewers Like You...or something like that.

Course: Pinnacle Country Club, measuring at about 6,300 yards. The winning score has been twelve under par for the past four editions of this tournament, and I am not about to go against the grain on that one.

Strength Of Field: A. Another packed field. Pretty much everyone is trying to get some warm up in for the US Women's Open.

Extra Tidbits: This is another three day event, starting on Friday and ending on Sunday...This was the site of Stacy Lewis' first LPGA victory in 2007. She was an amateur at the time and the tournament was reduced to one round thanks to terrible weather...Lewis also returns as the defending champion at a place where a majority of the crowd will be pulling for her. Lewis attended the University of Arkansas...This will be the first event in Inbee Park's new reign as world number one. It is also the first event since Lydia Ko missed her first cut on the LPGA Tour. She will be attempting to start a new streak after her previous was broken at 53 starts.

Fantasy Four: 

Inbee Park - Only player with three victories in 2015. Hasn't finished worse than T18 all season. Inbee is the best player on Tour, and it might not be that close right now.

Sei Young Kim - Incredibly impressive, having finished in the top 5 in her first two majors of her career. Struggles sometimes with consistency, but she hasn't missed a cut since the first event of the season, so even her lows aren't that bad.  

Morgan Pressel - Four straight top 5 finishes. Her next victory seems incredibly close, but when that will happen is a big question mark at this point. This tournament could be a great place for that breakout.

Stacy Lewis - Two time champion of this event, defending champion, and coming off a strong performance at the Women's PGA Championship. There are certain tournaments where Lewis is an automatic contender, and this is one of them.

(SLEEPER) Wei-Ling Hsu - Finished in 21st place at the Women's PGA Championship. Has been making cuts frequently, and creeping up the leaderboard early. Is searching for that breakout week, and I think it comes here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wednesday Preview - Travelers Championship

Alright, everyone exhale. The US Open is over, and while we are still reeling from Jordan Spieth winning the first two majors, Dustin Johnson's heartbreak, and the mixed reviews of Chambers Bay, the show much go on.

Course: TPC River Highlands, a 6,800 yard track. This will be a soft landing for any players who played the US Open last week. One of the shortest courses on Tour with some of the nicest greens. Expect high teens under par as the winner.

Strength Of Field: B+. It is surprising how good this field is, coming off the marathon that was the US Open. Jason Day withdrew from the tournament, or else this might have been an A field.

Extra Tidbits: A lot of fresh faces in this field. Cameron Smith, fresh off his T4 finish at the US Open, will be playing, as will recently turned professional Cheng Tsung Pan, who also made the cut at the US Open. Amateur John Rahm, the number one amateur who finished in the top 5 at the Phoenix Open, will also be playing. Relatively unknown Montreal golfer Jean-Phillip Cornellier is one of the Monday qualifiers...returning to competition are Ryan Armour and Stuart Appleby, who have been out with injuries since the early part of the season...Former US Amateur champion and European Tour pro Peter Uihlein will be teeing it up...Four of the last five winners of the Travelers did not play on Sunday at the Open prior. Three of the five weren't even in the field.

Fantasy Four:

Bubba Watson - Former winner who contends here every year. His length is a huge asset on such a short course. Did not perform well at the US Open, but certain courses do not fit his style. This one does.

Sergio Garcia - Finished T2 last year. Seems due for a win, but this is golf, and "due" rarely ever works out. 

Vijay Singh - Sleeper pick. Three top 25s this season. Is in the middle of a career revitalization, and his lack of length won't be a concern at this course. 

Louis Oosthuizen - Oh, Louis. Injuries are always a concern, as he has a ton of withdraws this season, but he also came within a stoke of a playoff at the US Open. If he is healthy, he should be able to content. An ultimate question mark, though.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Jordan Spieth's Ride Into History

- In a couple of months, Jordan Spieth has gone from being the future of the game to possible to doing something that has never been done before. Spieth is the youngest player to win two majors in a season and the first since Tiger Woods in 2002 to win the first two majors in a season. Spieth now has the opportunity to win all four majors in a calendar year, something that hasn't been done since Bobby Jones in 1930 and hasn't been done ever since the founding of The Masters. This is now the story of the PGA season without a doubt. St. Andrews can't come here soon enough.

- In full disclosure, I am not really a Dustin Johnson. I don't hate the man, but he just doesn't do anything for me. Down the stretch, I was rooting for Spieth to win the tournament. Still, I am absolutely devastated for how this tournament ended. While what Spieth did was historic, you don't want to win a golf tournament by having an opponent miss a three foot putt. DJ is no stranger to disappointments in majors, but this is completely different. I hope he can rebound.

- This golf course was terrible. I am not going to brush this issue under the rug just because we ended up having a great tournament. The spectators were an afterthought, the greens were made of two completely different greens, and the course itself had no character. People are going to forget about the issues Chambers Bay had because Jordan Spieth won in such a spectacular fashion, but I will not. I hope the USGA returns to the Seattle area, but they find a much better course to do so.

- I get frustrated with Louis Oosthuizen. He seems like someone who should win a bunch of golf tournaments, and yet he only has that Open Championship to his name. Perhaps he is our generations Angel Cabrera - only showing up when the spotlight is on him.

- Apparently hiring Stevie Williams was exactly what the doctor ordered for Adam Scott. After a season of struggling and being left behind by this new generation of golfers, Scott found something on Sunday, firing a record tying final round 64 to finish T4. The issue with the putter is still looming over the horizon, but for now, it's good to see Scott back into contention again. Let's see if that translates into other tournaments this season.

- The most surprising name in the Top 10? That would be 21 year old Cameron Smith, the Australian who was playing in his very first major. A lot of people have been touting the skills of Smith, but to show up in a big way on this stage takes something special. His finish gets him special temporary membership, allowing him unlimited sponsor exemptions in 2015 (which is handy, since he just used up all he was allocated this season). He also gets a tee time at Augusta National next year, and an invite back to the US Open next year. Great playing, Cameron!

- Will Phil Mickelson ever win the career grand slam? At this point, I seriously have my doubts. It's hard to say, but I think Lefty blew the best chances he had. These courses are only getting longer and harder, and Phil isn't getting any younger.

- Speaking of never winning again, what does the future hold for Tiger Woods? I gave him the benefit of the doubt before, but it's hard to see him coming back after watching him be completely baffled by Chambers Bay. Tiger only beat three players this week. I have a hard time seeing him holding another trophy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Previewing And Predicting The 2015 US Open

The most anticipated US Open in a long time is finally upon us as the players descend upon Chambers Bay in the Pacific Northwest for the second major of the year. Chambers Bay, in comparison to other golf courses around the world, is brand new, and this will be the first time most of these players will be seeing this course.

The course is officially listed at a record 7,900 yards, but there is no way they will be playing from the tips all week long. Most of these holes will fluctuate in length throughout the week. The bookend holes will play as both a par 4 and a par 5 at various points throughout the week. With how baked out as this course is, there will be a ton of roll in the fairway, meaning the smaller hitters will still be able to get the ball out there a decent way. This won't be like a typical US Open, in that driving accuracy isn't going to sink somebody. It's the short game that will be tested, as the greens have a ton of slope and will run off into the back of greens and into bunkers.

Before I get into who will win the tournament, I'm going to list a few players I will be watching and some storylines that will be prevalent.

Jordan Spieth - Spieth is going for the calendar year grand slam, something that has not been done since Bobby Jones in 1930. With so many players who can win this tournament, I had to leave someone out of my list, and Spieth got cut. This isn't to say Spieth CAN'T win - in fact, he has to be among the favorites, but I don't see it happening. The list of players who have won the US Open after winning the Masters is incredibly short - in fact, that number is five (Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Craig Wood, and Ben Hogan, who did it twice.) You're asking me to predict something historic, and I'm not willing to do that.

Tiger Woods - I predicted that he would make the cut at The Masters, and he did. I'm not willing to make that same prediction at the US Open. There are just too many places to get in trouble at Chambers Bay, and bad shots can be punished with a double or worse. Tiger can turn it on in majors, but that's usually at Augusta or another golf course that he has had success on. This is too new to him, and I don't expect to see him on Saturday.

Martin Kaymer - Has there ever been a defending champion that has been talked about less than Kaymer? It's with good reason, however - Kaymer has not followed up on that success he experienced last season. A victory by Kaymer would make him the first player since Curtis Strange in 1988-89 to defend the US Open. I don't see it happening, but Kaymer has shocked us before.

Ok, with that out of the way, I will go into my list of contenders. I'll give you one dark horse player, four contenders, and the ultimate champion.

Dark Horse:

Wen-Chong Liang - I've been teasing it all week, and here I am, putting my words where my mouth is (?). I believe Chambers Bay will be good for the Asian players, as most of them had a weeks worth of practice at the grounds. The Seattle area will be a lot easier to get acclimated to, both in terms of the culture of the area and the time zone differences. The course is baked out, which will allow for a lot of roll, and the rough is not as thick as it could be. The course sets up a bit like Whistling Straits, where Liang finished T8 in 2010. He is also peaking, as he won his most previous start. Experience in majors, coupled with form and the set up of the golf course gives me the inclination that Liang will be one of those "unknown" players who crash the party by weeks end.


5) Byeong-Hun An - Many will argue that he is as unknown as Liang and should be considered a dark horse, but I actually think An could be in this to win it. An won the BMW Championship, the flagship on the European Tour, going away. He has been having a great season, seemingly notching top 10s every week, and has experience in majors already - former US Amateur that played in a US Open and finished in the top 25 at the Open Championship. This will be the world's introduction to An, who will be an excellent player going forward.

4) Phil Mickelson - Yes, I'm getting wrapped up in it again, but this is less about sentimental value than it is current form. Lefty has finished T2 in his last two majors, which were pretty much warm ups for this event. The fairways are wider, so Phil doesn't have to worry about getting into too much trouble. He will likely be using less than driver on most holes and let the ball run out. His short game is still superb. It would be a little bit of a surprise if he won, but don't completely count him out.

3) Justin Rose - He's peaking, and he's entering the tournament where he has had the most success. This course couldn't be any more different than Merion, but Rose's game translates to almost any course. He is another player who seems to show up at majors despite his form, but his form is good right now. Excellent around the green.

2) Rory McIlroy - People are taking too much stock in his two missed cuts on the European Tour. This was a player that was mentally and physically gassed. He's a big hitter, so he will shorten these holes considerably. More than that, he's the best player in the world, and it doesn't really matter what course he is playing on. He has won on both links style and US Open style courses. He's the man to beat, but I know who is going to beat him.


Hideki Matsuyama - Yes, I picked Matsuyama at Pinehurst and that didn't pan out, but I feel like everything is setting up for Matsuyama to win this week. Great ball striker that will stay out of trouble. Notched a whopping ten top 10s this season, including at The Masters, where he didn't have the greatest success going in. No expectations for him going in means he's under the radar, and he has seen this course the same amount of times as everyone else, so his inexperience is cancelled out. His weakness is his putting, which will be neutralized this week. Matsuyama wins Japan's first major this week.

Winner: Hideki Matsuyama
Winning Score: -5
Margin Of Victory: One Stroke

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Queen Bee Returns To Her Throne

- There have been other contenders that have challenged her over the past couple of seasons, but make no mistake about it - Inbee Park is the best ladies golfer in the world, and it might not even be close. Her success is almost boring in a way, as it has become incredibly predictable and she wins without a lot of flair. She is incredibly consistent and wins majors while all others struggle to close on the weekend. This is Inbee's Tour. Good luck to anyone trying to chase her.

- A birdie on the 18th stood between me and an almost perfect prediction. I expect a written apology, Inbee.

- With this victory, Inbee now has six LPGA major championships, which is one more than Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak. It may now be time to start wondering if Inbee is the best Korean golfer of all time. The argument against her would be that Pak was able to stretch out her career and win for a longer period of time. On the flip side, Pak was never as dominant of a player as Inbee is right now. The argument can go either way, but the one thing Inbee has on her side is time. As long as she keeps playing well, she could surpass Pak's number of victories and end the conversation herself.

- When Lydia Ko took over as the number one player in the Rolex Rankings, I predicted that she would hold that position for a very long time, and that Ko would begin to dominate the Tour. I was wrong, and it was foolish of me to expect such a dominance at such a young age. The reality is, Ko has never dealt with the hardships of struggling, as she dominated the amateur ranks pretty quickly and took over the LPGA Tour at the age of 17. Inbee, on the other hand, quickly won the US Open, but then struggled for several years before emerging as Queen Bee. Lydia will have her struggles, but anyone who writes her off would be insane. After all, this was only her first missed cut...ever.

- People will look at Sei Young Kim as someone who missed an opportunity to win two majors, but not all second place finishes are alike. At the ANA Inspiration, Kim could not handle the pressure and folded on Sunday, while at the Women's PGA Championship, Kim had a front row seat to Inbee's victory lap. Sure, there were a few shaky moments for Kim, but there were shaky moments on Sunday for everyone not named Inbee, and yet she held her ground and finished in second place. She will be a major champion very soon. Her skills are off the charts good.

- Lexi Thompson and Brittany Lincicome are incredibly similar. Both are big hitters from the United States that only show up during major championships. Since winning the ANA Inspiration, both players have been pretty quiet, only showing up with the brights of lights are shining on them. That's impressive, but I would like to see both of them win a couple more regular events.

- All of the conversation this week will likely be about Brooke Henderson, and I can't say I blame her. A young kid with no status on Tour playing incredibly well with the exemptions they are given to eventually earn a spot on Tour and be declared the future of the sport? Sounds like a certain Texan who put on a green jacket back in April.

- Fabian Gomez may have just now accepted the mantle of the most anonymous winner on the PGA Tour this season. At 288 in the world, Gomez isn't the highest ranked of all the winners, but there is very little knowledge about the man from Argentina. Even writing about him his difficult. He isn't a player that has been around for a long time and was finally able to notch his first victory, nor is he a young up and coming superstar in his early 20's looking to take over the Tour. Gomez is just kind of around, though now he'll just kind of be around the ground of Augusta National next year, and he doesn't have to apologize to anyone for that.

- Phil Mickelson's final round 65 and T3 finish in Memphis is just enough to get all the attention turned back onto Lefty heading into the US Open as he tries to complete the career grand slam. Personally, I don't think he has much of a chance to win, but he is Phil - the moment you think he's out, he surprises you.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"Slaying The Tiger", And Transparency On Tour

A book came out this week that will likely be the most important book detailing this generation of professional golfers. It is called "Slaying The Tiger", written by Shane Ryan, and it details Ryan's life covering the PGA Tour and some of his experiences and opinions on the big names on the PGA Tour.

In full disclosure, it will be some time before I get my hands on the book, so I may or may not do a full review of the actual contents Many others who know more about golf (and writing) have given their opinions, which you should seek out at your own leisure. For the most part, golf writers seem to love it, and golfers seem to hate it, mainly for the content.

What I am discussing is a recent discussion about Ryan's book, mainly by former LPGA golfer and current Golf Channel analyst Paige MacKenzie. MacKenzie says that she is "disgusted" by the book and says that no one should come to the conclusions Ryan does just based on inside the ropes experiences. You can find her full argument on Morning Drive in this video.

MacKenzie is speaking from the eyes of a former touring professional, and I can respect her opinion; however, it speaks to a terrible trend in professional golf, and that is protecting the golfers from the "evil media" and outside criticism. In all professional sports, we demand transparency among all athletes. It is why most sports have mandatory press conferences and fine players if they do not speak. If a player does not wish to open up, as is the case for Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, he is usually made the topic of a joke. Right or wrong, the NFL, NBA, and all other major professional sports leagues require a certain amount of insight into a player. It's what makes them marketable, and what keeps them in check - things like domestic violence or drug use are put out to the public and a player loses their job, as they should.

This is not the case with the PGA Tour. It is shrouded in secrecy, where players only have to give up as much of their lives as they wish, suspensions are not made public, and players are not required to speak to the media (except for very specific occasions). This means we get a side of the golfer that they WISH to portray, and perhaps not the honest truth about them.

Golfers like to look as if they are just like "the rest of us", and that they are above all this criticism and the tabloid era that has become professional sports. Here is a little secret, however - they're NOT like the rest of us. The rest of us do not receive million dollar endorsements and play for million dollar purses every week. They may be human, yes, but their lives and their experiences are drastically different than those who struggle each and every day. This does not make them bad people, nor does it make them ungrateful. I'm sure most professional golfers will tell you how thrilled they are to live the life they do. After all, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to make it to the highest level. So many never get that opportunity; however, there are so many others who will pay for a ticket for a golf tournament, or will purchase golf equipment based on the endorsement of a particular golfer, and it would be nice to know the kind of person we are supporting. After all, no fans, no ratings, no revenue, no endorsement.

I'm not saying we should have camera inside the homes of every professional golfer, but I do think books like these are important to get to know those who play the game of golf. Not everyone is an angel. In fact, some pro golfers are down right jerks. If this book requires golfers to be just a little more hospitable to those at PGA Tour events, then it would have done a positive deed for the sport.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Predicting The KPMG Women's PGA Championship (Poorly)

The second major of the LPGA season takes place this week, and much like the first major of the year, there are plenty of chances this year. Not only is it a brand new name (The PGA of America have taken over the tournament), but we're at a new course. It's going to be interesting to see if this leads to more or less interest in this tournament.

I will do as I normally do - pick some dark horse candidates, some contenders, and ultimately a champion, but I feel as if it is important to list a few big name players and talk about their chances to win the Women's PGA Championship.

Stacy Lewis - Has gotten progressively worse since her second place finish at the ANA Inspiration, including a T51 a couple weeks ago and a missed cut last week.  Everyone goes through rough patches, including the current number one in the world, but I have a suspicion that all those near misses took a toll on Lewis. Besides, this is not a place to drive it erratically, and that has been Lewis' issue lately. She'll get back to her winning ways, but she's going to go through a bit of a slump before that happens.

Lydia Ko - Speaking of the World Number One, she's finished outside the top 10 in four of the last five events, with two of them being very low finishes. The fifth event, however, was a victory at the Swinging Skirts. This isn't to say that Lydia has NO shot, but I feel her best shot to win her first major isn't going to be coming in with consistency issues. She'll get back on track very soon, but for right now, I don't like her chances this week.

Michelle Wie - Looked to be on track to be the next best American, but injuries and a fade from form have made her US Open victory look like a distant memory. She needs to start stringing four rounds together before she can be considered a contender again.

Alright, with those out of the way, let's take a look at who I'm looking out for this week.

Dark Horse:
Charley Hull - Just seems to arrive in clutch moments, and seeing as she's currently on the outside looking in on the Solheim Cup team, this would be a perfect moment for her to show up. She is coming off a T11 last week, so it's not like she has been performing terribly this season. She isn't lengthy off the tee, but she can make up for it with her short game, and won't be intimidated by the stage.

5) Minjee Lee - Starting to turn over great results on a week to week basis, much as we expected from the former top amateur. T4 two tournaments after picking up her maiden victory on the LPGA Tour. Seeing as this is the first time anyone is seeing this course, she doesn't have to worry about being taken over by more experienced players. Her talent should put her in contention coming down the stretch.

4) Suzann Pettersen - Gets the number four spot only because she could finish anywhere on the leaderboard. If she plays like the Suzann of most of 2015, she won't be a factor. If she plays like she did last week, she could very well win this. Long and straight off the tee will be a huge benefit, so if Pettersen keeps the ball in play this week, she will be one of the players to chase.

3) Anna Nordqvist - Made me a believer two weeks ago and made me even more of a believer when I found out her birthday is this week. Extra motivation seems to suit Nordqvist, who has a major already on her resume. She can hit it out there a ways, so her test will be keeping it in play. She does that, and her name will be near to top of the leaderboard on Sunday.

2) Hyo-Joo Kim - The only knock I have on HJK is her inability to close on Sunday. Were she to gain just a little more confidence coming down the stretch, she may be unstoppable. From a purely statistically standpoint, she doesn't seem to have many weaknesses, and if she doesn't finish in the top 10, she's a shot or two outside that number each and every week. May be the most under rated superstar on the LPGA Tour right now, and that could change if she starts raking in majors.

Inbee Park - Lydia Ko may be number one in the rankings, but Inbee Park is the best women's golfer on the planet right now. Two wins this season, contends every week, and has back to back LPGA Championships entering into this week. Somehow, despite this pedigree, the spotlight remains off of Inbee, so she doesn't not have to worry about pressure. This is a perfect position for Inbee, and not only do I think she walks away with this tournament, I don't think there's much drama coming down the stretch.

Winner: Inbee Park
Final Score: -8
Margin Of Victory: Four Strokes

Wednesday Preview - FedEx St. Jude Classic

We are one week away from the US Open, so you're going to have to forgive me (and the rest of the golfing world) if we don't sound too excited about this week's PGA Tour event. The event benefits the St. Jude Hospital, an incredibly worthy cause, and has been going strong for many years despite being put in a terrible part of the schedule. I'll still be watching, even if my thoughts are elsewhere.

Course: TPC Southwind, measuring at 7,200 yards. This is not an easy golf course, and if the wind picks up, it can be a complete bear. If someone cracks ten under, they will likely win.

Strength Of Field: D-. Sorry, Lefty, but you're not enough to keep this from being a pretty weak field. Can't be too surprised - most are gearing up for the US Open next week or are gassed from playing in a qualifier on Monday.

Extra Tidbits: Among those playing this week who also completed 36 holes and qualified for the US Open on Monday are Luke Donald and Retief Goosen...No player has ever won the week before the US Open and gone on to win the major the following week. Phil Mickelson, however, has won the week prior to The Masters and The Open Championship and gone on to win those majors...only six of the first 22 winners in 2015 have come from outside the top 70 in the OWGR. This includes Alex Cejka, who won an opposite field event, and Padraig Harrington, a former major champion...Last year, Ben Crane held on to win despite not carding a birdie in the final round...In the last 10 years, only one player was younger than 27 when they won the FedEx St. Jude Classic (Harris English). Dustin Johnson was the only other 20-something to win.

Fantasy Four:

Phil Mickelson - Weak field, the week before a major, on a track he's played before. Anyone who knows the game of golf will tell you that recent form means nothing to Lefty, as he will contend seemingly out of nowhere. I expect this to be one of those weeks.

Jason Bohn - Having a great season but is desperately looking for career win number 3. Has played well at this event before, and the course sets up to his skill sets. Last week broke a string of top 10's for Bohn, and he's only missed four cuts all season.

Rod Pampling - Sleeper pick. I felt better about this before he blew a chance to play in the US Open by fading down the stretch. Regardless, he has played well all over the world, including a T22 at the Byron Nelson a couple weeks ago. 

Retief Goosen - Really hit and miss with Goosen this season, but he is playing at an event and a course where he has had success. Qualified for the US Open on Monday, so he may be a combination of tired and excited. This course rewards experience.

Last Weeks Team:
Kevin Na: T13
Rickie Fowler: CUT
Tiger Woods: 71
Matt Kuchar: T26

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Top Five Open Qualifiers Who Could Contend At Chambers Bay

Sectional qualifying for the US Open wrapped up yesterday, and the field is now complete, baring a late exemption by the USGA. Sometimes, the sectional qualifiers for the US Open are filled with complete nobodies who are just happy to be participating, and sometimes they are filled with big names who can make a run at the tournament. Below, I have listed to top 5 players I think could make a run at the tournament come the end of the week.

5) Alex Noren:
- Was probably not going to make this list had it not been for his victory last week. There are a few guys I am keeping an eye out for from that England qualifier, but Noren is peeking at the moment. He hasn't missed a cut all season, and his victory last week was his third straight top 25 finish. He is also one of the most experienced in the field having played in majors before, and even finishing in the top 10 at the Open Championship three years ago. He's healthy and playing well, so don't be surprised to see his name pop up on the leaderboard.

4) Danny Lee:
- The Columbus sectional is filled with players that could play well into the weekend, but I don't think any of them will be as prepared as Danny Lee, who has played an enormous amount of golf this season. Luckily, he is taking the week off in Memphis to rest up for the US Open, but he will be ready to go. Last week's missed cut was his first since The Players Championship, and he has seven top 25 finishes this season, including two top 10's in the past four weeks. Danny will be looking to excite people in his first US Open, and I think he'll do it.

3) Retief Goosen:
- Hit and miss season for Goosen, but he is arguably the most experienced player to qualify for this event. He won the US Open twice, and is healthy again after a few seasons battling injuries. Unlike a lot of qualifiers, Goosen won't just be happy being in the field - his goal is to contend.

2) Wen Chong Liang:
- SPOILER ALERT: He may make my complete rundown of the event next week. Liang won the qualifier in Japan and proceeded to win on the Japan Tour two weeks later. I think Chambers Bay is going to be good for the Asian participants, and Liang will not be intimidated by the stage, as he has competed in majors before. He is one of the biggest hitters in Asia, so the course should set up for his game. I am really bullish on Liang's chances.

1) Luke Donald:
- Has to be. While Donald has not performed well in the past two seasons, he is the biggest name of those who qualified. The concern will be the length of the course, as Donald is not a big hitter, but his ball striking should more than make up for it. Never count out Luke Donald, even if he isn't having a good season.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Pettersen Returns To Her Winning Ways

- It's been almost two years, but Suzann Pettersen is back as a champion on the LPGA Tour. This was one that Pettersen was really pushing for, as she was once a member of a "Big Three" before injuries dropped her all the way to 10th in the world. Pettersen is the first European not named Anna Nordqvist to win on the LPGA Tour in two years, and is just in time for the season's second major and, perhaps most importantly for her, the Solheim Cup.

- Dear LPGA - find harder courses. When ten under par is only good enough for a tie for 27th place, the course is too easy. Birdie or bust tournaments take me right out of it, because I feel as if there is no drama. The leader will likely birdie the 18th. If you want a great ending, make it so someone has to scramble for par.

- The Manulife LPGA Classic was an interesting event, but honestly, it's going to get lost in the shuffle as the Women's PGA Championship is this week. Some players, such as Minjee Lee and Hyo Joo Kim, have established themselves as great rookies that could be major contenders, while Brittany Lang and So Yeon Ryu are among some veterans that popped back up this week that we can not forget about entering the major. So, we move on.

- This has been one of the best PGA Tour seasons in a long time, thanks to the finishes to tournaments and the champions that have been crowned. The Memorial was a great tournament with a fantastic ending, but the champion is a complete unknown. The only thing I knew about David Lingmerth was that he came in second place to Tiger Woods a couple years ago at The Players as a rookie. Other than that, he is an unknown to me and most people in the world. Perhaps this was the first of many victories he notches on his way to a great career, or perhaps he will be forgotten about as a one victory golfer. Only time will tell.

- I'm sure Justin Rose is disappointed he did not win, but he also has to feel good that his game is back to a level where he is competing on an almost weekly basis. Entering this season, Rose was completely lost. Now he seems to be peaking right in time for the US Open. He'll bounce back, and probably in a huge way.

- Jordan Spieth continues to be Jordan Spieth. Consider him among the list of favorites to win his second consecutive major. The player that I really want to see win soon is Hideki Matsuyama. The man is notching top 10's almost every week, but he seems stuck on one victory. It has only been a year, and he is really young, but I hope he doesn't have a drought where his second win is harder and harder to notch. He is such a great player who could be one of the best if he finds a way to close.

- I honestly can't add anything more to the Tiger Woods discussion. His third round 85 was atrocious, but I don't know if that means his career is over or not. I don't think anyone truly knows that answer. It looks REALLY bad, though.

- Two weeks, two invitations into major championships. One week after being a medalist for the US Open qualifier in Japan, Wen-Chong Liang won the JGT Championship Shishido Hills by five strokes. His victory, coupled with a top 10 last week, boosted him into first place on the Japan Golf Tour and earned him an invitation to the Open Championship. His win at this event also earned him an invitation to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron. He is absolutely peaking right now, and he is one of the few players on this Tour that has experience playing in majors, so perhaps he could be a dark horse candidate for one of the two majors. If he holds on to his position on the money list, he will also receive an invite into the PGA Championship. Not a bad two weeks of golf.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Wednesday Preview - Manulife LPGA Classic

Canada, eh? The LPGA heads north of the border to participate in the Manulife LPGA Classic for the final event before the second major of the season.

Course: Whistle Bear Golf Club. This is a brand new track, and so who knows what the winning score will be. Grey Silo, the previous host, was among the easiest courses on Tour, and the winning score exceeded twenty under par. This year, it should be a lot more difficult.

Strength Of Field: A. Everyone's here, all getting a tune up before the Women's LPGA Championship.

Extra Tidbits: This is one of the newer events on the LPGA schedule, as this is only the fourth time this event has been played...In the last two years, the eventual champion shot 61 in one of the weekend rounds. That was at the much easier Grey Silo course, however...10 Canadian players have received an exemption into this event. All eyes will be on teenager Brooke Henderson...this week, we should expect to see some of the best crowds of the year. Canada really supports their athletes.

Fantasy Four:

Brooke Henderson - I'm calling it now! The teenager dazzles in front of her home crowd and becomes a superstar by winning her first LPGA tournament. She has played incredibly well since turning professional, and playing in front of a home crowd can either add too much pressure or energize you. I think it will energize Brooke.

Inbee Park - Has the opportunity to pass Lydia Ko this week if she has another high finish. Inbee already has seven top 10's this season with two victories, so it appears as if she remains to be the player to beat most weeks.

Minjee Lee - Backed up her victory a few weeks ago with a top 10 last week, so consider me a complete believer. The hardest thing for someone to do is to back up their first victory with a top finish, so with that out of the way, Minjee should be on her way to being a top player.

Lydia Ko - Gets this spot just based on her success in Canada in the past, but to be honest, I am not feeling great about Ko's game right now. Since her victory in San Francisco, she has finished T41 and T16. Still has the game to win on any course she plays, but is not playing like the best player on Tour at the moment.

(SLEEPER) Maria McBride - The 41 year old is enjoying a career revitalization, with a T4, T20, and T10 in her last three starts. She has been named a co-captain of the European Solheim Cup team, so I doubt she's playing to make the team, but I'm sure she'd like another victory.

Wednesday Preview - The Memorial Tournament

There are some tournaments that you want to win because of who hosts them, and this is one of those tournaments. Jack Nicklaus presides over The Memorial as the PGA Tour players head to Ohio.

Course: Muirfield Village, some of the best 7,400 yards on Earth. Weather conditions drastically change the way this course plays - the winning score can be anywhere from eight to nineteen under par.

Strength Of Field: B+. It hurts not to have Rory McIlroy in the field, but there are no complaints about those who are here. This is likely the best field we will see until the US Open.

Extra Tidbits: Tiger Woods tees it up this week. This is one of his final two tuneups prior to Chambers Bay...The Memorial honors someone who has contributed to the game of golf every year. This year, the award will go to Sir Nick Faldo...Tiger Woods has won this event five times, which is the record. Kenny Perry has three victories...Ernie Els will make his 22nd consecutive start at The Memorial...Hideki Matsuyama became the first player since the inaugural tournament to win in his first start at The Memorial. It was his first victory outside of Japan.

Fantasy Four:

Kevin Na - Came incredibly close last year, losing in a playoff to Matsuyama. Has had a great season so far. Seems to have overcome insecurity issues that plagued him a few seasons ago. His next victory should be around the corner.

Rickie Fowler - Fowler is hit and miss, but can put together several good tournaments in a row. This is his first start since The Players, so if he's going to go on a run, it only makes sense that he will have a good tournament this week.

Tiger Woods - Sleeper pick. I have been burned by players with a far less pedigree, and this may be my only opportunity to take Tiger as a sleeper, so I'm doing it. Could contend, could miss the cut. We really have no idea where his game is at the moment. He does have a great record at this event.

Matt Kuchar - Great player that hasn't lived up to his potential this season. Has a good record at this event. This would be the perfect place for him to turn it around.

Last Weeks Team:
Brendon Todd: CUT
Charley Hoffman: T2
Danny Lee: T34
Keegan Bradley: T22

Monday, June 1, 2015

Former Champions Return To Their Winning Ways

- It was a weekend of victories by former champions all over the world. On the LPGA Tour, former LPGA Champion Anna Nordqvist was the last woman standing following a final round 69 in New Jersey. Nordqvist, who won twice last year after going through a five year winless stretch, didn't look great at times, but she seemed to be the most at ease of all the contenders down the stretch. Her victory all but locks up a spot in the Solheim Cup for Nordqvist. In what may be the strangest stat of them all, this win, coupled with Nordqvist's two victories last season, are the only three victories by a European in the last two seasons.

- I don't know what the take away will be from Christel Boeljon's performance this weekend. I would like to believe that Boeljon will take this week and begin a string of strong tournaments, but it is way too early to predict what kind of success she will have. Keep in mind, Boeljon won three times on the Ladies European Tour, so she is no stranger to winning.

- Players looking for their first victories seem to be calmer coming down the stretch than players who have won in the past, but haven't won in a while. The perfect example this week is Kelly Shon and Morgan Pressel. Shon seemed to be playing with nothing to lose, and was able to notch her best finish as an LPGA pro despite playing in the final group with the eventual champion. Meanwhile, Pressel, who hasn't won in seven years, seems to be chasing it too much, and her short game suffered because of it. I still think Pressel will win this year, but that prediction is looking a little shakier after she gave away the best opportunity she's had in a long time. Hopefully her final round was a splash of cold water on the face and she's able to turn right around and finish the deal next time.

- You could be forgiven if you though Steven Bowditch's victory last season was a fluke. After all, he played terrible the rest of the season, and has missed 10 cuts this season. Bowditch, however, played better than everyone in Irving by a pretty wide margin, walking away with a four stroke victory and his second PGA Tour win. I always hear that the second victory may be harder to get than the first, so perhaps this is the beginning of good things for Bowditch.

- You have to think Charley Hoffman's next victory will occur really soon. He has been so close in so many events this season that it would be a shame if he didn't walk away with another victory. Keep in mind, he did win in Mexico at the end of 2014, which counts for this season, but he has been playing better golf now than he was when he won. Another win should be right around the corner.

- Jimmy Walker's performance is going to end up being lost in the storylines this week, mainly because his top finishes in PGA Tour events are no longer a surprise. He has reached that same level of golfer that I discussed in the same regards as Chris Kirk - yes, you're really good, now go win a major.

- I am once again a believer in Zach Johnson. His putting was difficult to watch at times, but he seems to have gotten that turned around. If he is running all cylinders, he can win a bunch of tournaments. He is one of the best ball strikers on Tour, so if the putter is working, watch out.

- What a great time to pick up your first victory in six years. Once one of the sneaky good players in Europe who seemed destined for great things, Soren Kjeldsen started struggling with his game. He was once ranked as high as 35th in the world back in 2009, but fell all the way to 353rd. Despite struggling in the final round, however, Soren was able to do enough in Ireland to pick up his first victory since 2009, and in doing so, he punched a ticket to St. Andrews and the Open Championship. The other players who grabbed invitations to St. Andrews were Eddie Pepperell, whose final round 69 was almost good enough to pick up his first European Tour victory, and Tyrrell Hatton, who has played in the Open Championship the last two years but is still seeking his first victory.

- 46 is the new 26, or at least that's what Taichi Teshima might tell you. Teshima was once one of the best players on the Japan Tour, having won six times between 1999 and 2007. He found his way inside the top 100 in the World Rankings, and earned his European Tour card. That didn't last, as he lost his card and returned to Japan. He didn't win again for seven years, until last year's Japan PGA Championship. He didn't wait that long this time, as he played brilliant golf all week on his way to a victory at the Mizuno Open and a spot in the Open Championship. Teshima played in the Open Championship twice, but never made a cut and hasn't been back since 2002. Now that he is playing much better golf, however, perhaps he can pick up his first ever major paycheck. Joining Teshima at St. Andrews are Scott Strange, the Australian who was once a member of the European Tour and won twice on that Tour and played in the Open Championship in 2008, Tadahiro Takayama, who played in the Open Championship at St. Andrews in 2005 and finished inside the top 25, and Shinji Tomimura, a complete unknown who only has conditional status on the Japan Tour and has played only three times this season, missing two cuts. Tomimura's third place finish shot him from 1382nd in the world up to 722nd, but I wonder if he will be the highest ranked player in the field once the tournament begins in July.

- It was a heavyweight battle on the JLPGA Tour, as Teresa Lu, former LPGA player who has been raking in victories on the JLPGA lately, defeated former World Number One Jiyai Shin. Both of these players are in great form, and both will be playing in the US Women's Open, so perhaps we might see them spoil the leaderboard.