Wednesday, March 17, 2010

This Week in Golf

PGA Tour – The Florida Swing switches coasts to the Transitions Championship near Tampa this week. The Transitions is played at the beautifully wooded Innisbrook Copperhead course. Since Innisbrook is more of a shotmaker track, I will go with the world no. 2 in Steve Stricker. This Illini product is as good as it gets from 100 yards and in. He had a weak showing at Doral after winning the Northern Trust Open, but no one is better at bouncing back than this two-time Comeback Player of the Year. Stricker tied for fourth here last season. A darkhorse to keep an eye on is definitely rookie Matt Every. Every has been playing quite well for his first year on Tour. He tied for 8th in Phoenix, and he was in the hunt at the Honda before a final round 77. Other big names in the field include Padraig Harrington, Serigo Garcia, Ian Poulter, Vijay Singh, Tom Lehman, Jim Furyk, Retief Goosen, Stewart Cink, and Geoff Ogilvy. NBC will broadcast the weekend from Innisbrook.

Last Week’s Recap – The CA Championship at Doral was won by the Big Easy, Ernie Els. The three-time major champion had not won in the U.S. since the 2008 Honda Classic. At 40 years old, Els was becoming a little uneasy. He has seemed frustrated and uncertain the last few years. Last week, though, he defeated a very strong field at very difficult course. The wind was not blowing as strongly as it sometimes does. However, Els played good to great golf all week, and he beat out a streaking, young Charl Schwartzl who grew up idolizing Ernie back in their homeland of South Africa. Schwartzl had even been staying with Els and his family in Florida for the past two weeks. They entered Sunday tied for the lead, but Els won by three in the end. Every golf fan appreciates the large, smooth swing and laid back attitude Els possesses on the golf course, and I am sure that many are rejoicing that he is back in the winner’s circle with a game that was more reminiscent of the late ‘90’s and early ‘00’s when Els won with such frequency.

Another admirable aspect of this past weekend was that Els spearheaded a pro-am fundraiser of his own the very next day. On Monday March 15, the Els for Autism Pro-Am debuted at PGA National with the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd, and Ian Baker-Finch appearing to raise money and awareness for organizations helping families with autistic children. Ernie’s son Ben has autism, and the Els family has become spokesmen for a charity called Autism Speaks. The event entertained golf fans as well as many autistic children.

The Puerto Rico Open was plagued by cloudy, soggy weather. The event did not hardly start until late Friday, and it concluded on Monday. The victor, though, was PGA Tour rookie Derek Lamely. Lamely was born in Belleville, Illinois. He shot a course record nineteen under par for the week on a track that measures over 7,500 yards. The opposite-field event is a great opportunity for a young player to gain a Tour win and secure a few years of eligibility.

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