Tuesday, February 23, 2010

This Week in Golf

PGA Tour – The Waste Management Phoenix Open will be held this week at the TPC of Scottsdale. The loudest hole in golf is Scottdale’s famed par-3 16th where some very raucous crowds will be cheering on a very competitive field. Most of the top young player contingency is showing up this week along with many successful veterans. Rickie Fowler, Martin Kaymer, Kevin Na, Michael Sim, Webb Simpson, Alvaro Quiros, and Brandt Snedeker will all be vying for a solid win on short Tour resumes while Tom Lehman, Davis Love III, Fred Couples, Kenny Perry (defending champ), and Rocco Mediate are all looking to cap off their regular Tour careers with yet another glorious Sunday run. Two-time Phoenix Open champions Phil Mickelson and J.B. Holmes, last week’s winner, Ian Poulter, and major champions Geoff Ogilvy and Zach Johnson are also in the field. My pick to win in the desert this week is Camilo Villegas. The Match Play was a great set-up for him. He could be his natural aggressive self and not get penalized for it. He played very well in Tucson, and I believe it will carry over to Phoenix. He did not get a W last year, and a victory early on in 2010 would bode well for this young Columbian’s confidence. On Sunday, look for Villegas to have a good shot at eagle on the par-5 15th, feed off the gallery’s energy on 16, and drive the green on the short par-4 17th. Watch my boy, Tom Lehman, as a sleeper pick. He played solid golf for 50 straight holes last week at the ACE Group Classic. His double bogey on 15 while tied for the lead took him out of the running, but he has lived in Scottsdale for quite some time now. Tom will have a large local following that he will aim to please just as he did during his win in 2000. CBS typically covers the Phoenix Open, but I am not seeing anything online that says it will this year. So to my knowledge, the Golf Channel will broadcast all four rounds in an unusually suspicious case.

LPGA Tour – The ladies stay in southeast Asia this week to play the third annual HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore. Another star-studded field will play Tanah Merah Country Club. 54 of the top 55 women players in the world are scheduled to tee off. The men hardly ever get that kind of strength in their fields outside the major championships. Cristie Kerr is my pick to win in Singapore. She shot thirteen under par last week in Thailand which I am taking as a sign her game is put together. Momoko Ueda is a young player that won the Japanese ladies tour money list in 2007, and her iron play looked very impressive the little I saw of her on Saturday. Ueda is my sleeper to watch in Singapore. The Golf Channel will bring all the action from the LPGA Tour.

Last Week’s Recap – I enjoyed the Accenture Match Play Championship more this year than in years past for some reason. I believe the event is a strong testament to golf’s talent and depth that virtually anyone in the field of 64 could win the tournament. The four one seeds were all knocked out by the third round for a second consecutive year. However, Woods and Mickelson were not in the field. I predicted quite a few Englishmen would advance to the final four, and two of them even advanced to the finals. Ian Poulter had a spectacular week, and his stock definitely went up in my book. I hate his clothes (boy, I sound more like a fashion critic every week), but his game was stellar this week. He hit a great putt to put Paul Casey away on the 16th. Despite Casey’s loss in the championship match, I thought he also proved he is back from his injury of late last summer. They called him Mr. 5&4 on the weekend since his first three matches ended with that result. Congrats to Poulter!

The Mayakoba Golf Classic brought back some mediocre player names from a few years ago. Joe Durant, who won twice in 2001, led the tournament in Mexico for the first three rounds. He faltered a little on Sunday as he shot a 72, and Minnesotan Cam Beckman came from behind with a final round 67 to beat the likes of J.P. Hayes, Briny Baird, and Skip Kendall. Surprisingly, the Mayakoba was Cameron’s third PGA Tour victory.

The Champions Tour hosted a great event this week in Boca Raton, Florida. Most of the big names showed up, and they played a compelling tournament. My boys, Tom Lehman and Tommy Armour III, both finished in the top ten, but disappointingly, neither won. Bernhard Langer held the lead most of the final round. However, his missed five-foot par putt on 17 in association with John Cook’s birdie on 18 shortly thereafter allowed Cook to take a one stroke lead as the final group teed off on the par-5 18th. Langer drove his tee shot into a seashell waste area to the right. With immature pines blocking his approach, Langer played a big hook around the trees to about 25 feet from the hole on the fringe. Bernhard two putted to force the playoff. In sudden-death, Langer and Cook replayed 18. Langer found trouble again as his second shot plugged into the bunker in front of the green while Cook’s second gave him a 30+ foot eagle try. Cook looked to be in charge. Langer's ball was buried, but he was able to land his shot halfway between him and the pin. The ball rolled calmly into the hole for an eagle 3 that sent the little German bounding out of the bunker celebrating with straight up and down leaps of joy. Cook proceeded to miss his eagle putt, and Langer, seemingly embarrassed by his premature celebration, humbly congratulated his fellow competitor on a good week. About six other guys were right there down the stretch with strong chances to win. If the Golf Channel’s coverage was better, I think more people would thoroughly enjoy watching the Champions Tour. The events are always fun.

The LPGA Tour’s 72-hole kickoff had a surprise ending. Swedish golfing star Suzann Pettersen was near or holding the lead the entire tournament, but her final round of 70 concluding with a 23-foot missed eagle putt that would have forced a playoff allowed Ai Miyazato to capture her second LPGA title. Miyazato shot a 9-under par 63 on Sunday with a final hole chip-in for her one stroke victory in Thailand.

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