Tuesday, March 9, 2010

This Week in Golf

PGA Tour – The CA Championship at Doral is being played this weekend near Miami with the strongest field we have seen this young season. All nine of the top ten active players in the world rankings are in the field to play the challenge that is known as the Blue Monster at Doral. The top ten players on this year’s money list will also be competing for the $1.4 million grand prize. My pick to win is Englishman Paul Casey. He has finished in the top ten in the three events he has entered this year. His history at Doral is not extraordinary with only one top ten in four attempts, but his strong iron play and demonstration last week of being able to putt on Florida greens in March makes him my favorite. Another international player will serve as my darkhorse this week. Charl Schwartzel from South Africa was on fire earlier in 2010 winning on the European Tour early and often. Schwartzel also manufactured a solid showing at the Accenture Match Play during one of his few, but increasing, visits to American soil. The Golf Channel’s Kelly Tilghman predicted back in the desert that Schwartzel is a name Americans will learn quickly. NBC will carry the weekend’s coverage from south Florida.

During each of the World Golf Championships, like the CA Championship, the PGA Tour offers players who do not make it into the limited fields an alternative. This week’s opposite event is the Puerto Rico Open. The young tournament is hosted by Trump International Golf Club in Rio Grande. The field is considerably weaker since all the top players will be at Doral. However, some intriguing names are making an appearance. Senior tour player Tom Kite, John Daly, Rocco Mediate, Mark Calcavecchia, Rory Sabbatini, Boo Weekley, and Camilo’s brother, Manuel, will all be teeing it up. I forecast the winner will be Chris DiMarco. His game has faltered lately, but he usually peaks around the Masters. And believe it or not that hallowed gathering is only four weeks away. DiMarco has been a bulldog on a few President’s Cup teams for the U.S., and I would love to see his golf game resurrected enough for him to earn a spot on this season’s Ryder Cup team. My sleeper pick will be Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket Matt Weibring. Matt is D.A.’s son, and as a contributor to Illinois State University, I follow both Weibrings with a hopeful eye. Matt tied for eleventh in his last outing at the Mayakoba. The Golf Channel will broadcast the Puerto Rico Open.

Last Week’s Recap – The Honda Classic broke its previous attendance record. However, I was not that captivated by Camilo Villegas’s runaway victory. Villegas played fantastic golf at a bear of a course, but no one was standing up to the young Columbian. He was hitting aggressive shots, managing his game, and making some sweet putts all week. Nobody else was able to handle the pressure of the Bear Trap from hole 15 to 17. So Camilo ran away with it. I also enjoyed seeing Vijay Singh finish strong. Jack Nicklaus and the families at the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation were the real winners this week, though. Jack proved once again that his legend can be utilized to help hundreds of people in need. He stepped it up big time last week to raise money and support for his hospital, and while he was at it, he vastly improved the Honda Classic. This event has been floundering all over Florida for years, but with its new home at Jack’s PGA National course and its new unofficial host, the Honda was a testimony to what the PGA Tour can accomplish for charities.

Freddy Couples won yet again on the Champions Tour. In his three senior tour starts, he finished one shot beyond Tom Watson, won in Naples, and won again in Newport Beach. Couples has always thrived in low-pressure situations as exemplified by his record earnings in the silly season events. But no one predicted he would begin his Champions Tour career this incredibly. He is loaded with confidence now, and I bet he plays more senior events than he said he would back in January. Last week, Boom Boom led the field in driving distance with an average of 295 yards. He also hit 77% of the greens in regulation and averaged merely 1.6 putts per GIR for the week. His game is running on all cylinders. The four-stroke victory over victory over the likes of Ronnie Black, Tom Lehman, Tom Watson, and Loren Roberts should be another boost to his confidence. With a season scoring average of just under 65 and a half strokes, I think we will be seeing Freddy in the winner’s circle a lot more.

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