Tuesday, January 19, 2010

This Week in Golf

European Tour – The best field in golf this week is in the United Arab Emirates for the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Rory McIlroy, Geoff Ogilvy, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson, Anthony Kim, Camilo Villegas, and more top notch golfers will play the Abu Dhabi Golf Club. The event only began in 2006 with Chris DiMarco serving as its inaugural champion. Since then, though, Marin Kaymer won in 2008, and Paul Casey was the victor in 2007 and 2009. The prize fund is smaller than most PGA Tour purses, but top players, even from the U.S., have decided the Middle East is the place to be this week. I’ll take U.A.E. resident Henrik Stenson. He is going for the Middle East hat trick after already defeating fields in Qatar in ’06 and Dubai in ’07. The PLAYERS champion is unflappable, and I smell another solid season from the Swede. For my sleeper pick in Abu Dhabi, Darren Clarke is coming off a strong runner-up finish in South Africa last week. The Irishman chipped in for eagle on the 72nd hole, but he was not really in contention since Charl Schwartzal finished six strokes ahead of everyone else. I have not seen an update on Clarke’s family situation since his wife died of breast cancer a few year ago, but I hope his children have support at home without their mother and their dad traveling internationally on a regular basis. The Golf Channel will broadcast all four rounds.

PGA Tour – Back in the States, the PGA Tour plays the five-round Bob Hope Classic this week in sunny Southern California. This year’s honorary host is Yankee great Yogi Berra. The 90-hole tournament is played at four various courses Wednesday through Saturday. The cut takes place following the first 72 holes. Then Sunday’s play is completed at the Palmer Course at PGA West. A pro-am compliments the professional tournament during the first four rounds. Celebrities competing this week include Greg Maddux, Emmitt Smith, Dr. Phil, Ron White, Alice Cooper, Bo Jackson, Bruce Smith, and others. For multiple decades the comedian Bob Hope brought together Tour pros, political friends, and Hollywood stars for an extravaganza centered around golf. Over the years it grew in popularity until the host passed away. Since then, efforts have been made to keep the event running. Arnold Palmer served as host for the 50th anniversary, and this year, Berra is trying to pull his strings to get the top stars to attend. However, the long week, the lack of the man himself, and its position on the schedule immediately following two events in Hawaii have made for lackluster fields in the recent past. This year’s field is no exception, especially playing opposite the Abu Dhabi tournament. My pick for the Bob Hope, though, is Chad Campbell. The UNLV Rebel knows how to play in the desert. I like this quiet giant even though he has not lived up to expectations in the last couple years. He is coming off a top ten finish at the Sony, where he could have been a much more serious contender had it not been for a third round of 73. For my sleeper pick, Carl Pettersson may not be someone you picture being able to survive in desert conditions, but he tied for fifth last week in Hawaii. And he can go low. Some years twenty-five under par is what it takes to win this tournament. So watch for Pettersson on the Golf Channel all five rounds from the Hope.

Champions Tour – The 2010 Champions Tour season kicks off this week in Hawaii with the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. This tournament is the red carpet event for the seniors. Only winners of tournaments in the previous year qualify for the field, and the title sponsor is allowed eight other exemptions. So two major champions will be making their Champions Tour debuts. The 2009 President’s Cup captain, Fred Couples, and the 2010 Ryder Cup captain, Corey Pavin, both accepted invites to the event. They turned 50 this past fall. Tom Lehman is my horse for this run, though. My boy finished tied for 16th on the regular Tour last week and won the Argentine Masters against top South American youngsters in early December. He is in top shape for his second Champions Tour victory. Also watch for the biggest man in the field. Phil Blackmar surprised fans last season with a strong rookie showing. I have an inkling that he may play well again this week on the Big Island. The Golf Channel will carry all three rounds of the Champions Tour opener as well.

Last Week Recap – The Sony Open in Hawaii had another exciting final round to watch. Ryan Palmer and Robert Allenby were paired in the final group, and they were tied for the lead walking up the par-5 18th hole. Palmer nearly chipped in for eagle with Allenby waiting to putt for birdie from 11 feet away. Palmer’s chip ricocheted off the pin but came to rest only inches from the cup for a sure birdie. Allenby’s right-to-left breaking putt missed high for yet another runner-up finish.

One rant I’ve been on the last two weeks is the media’s coverage of these events. ESPN.com, SportsCenter, and newspapers all used to publicize PGA Tour tournament winners, but I have seen very little coverage of the events in 2010. They have been exciting too. I believe this phenomenon is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Since the Woods debacle began in November, all non-golf sports media has written and talked about the mediocrity and boredom of golf. They reported that the game could not survive without Tiger. The truth is it has and will survive and continue to provide attention-keeping entertainment for golf fans. If major sports media sources refuse to report on Tiger-free golf tournaments, though, the game will not grow or be able to keep those spectators on the fringe that Tiger originally brought into golf. For sports fans who know a little about the game, golf can, believe it or not, be entertaining, even exciting. Well, maybe "exciting" is pushing it, but I believe the game can maintain popularity without Woods. And with help from the media, it can be even bigger. However, my conspiracy theory hypothesizes that they will not write or talk about golf again until Tiger returns. Even then, reports will be more about gallery reactions to Woods and his ongoing saga than about the actual tournament. Hopefully for the good of the game, Woods chooses to return sooner rather than later.

No comments:

Post a Comment

[Valid Atom 1.0]