Something was missing
Sunday in Ohio was a day the PGA TOUR surely wishes had been left on the cutting room floor.
It was such a short time ago that we were all singing the praises of golf at its highest level because the Open Championship at Birkdale gave us Greg Norman, Padraig Harrington, a pinch of David Duval and more Rocco Mediate. It gave us a challenging and fixating backdrop of weather you wouldnt put your cat out in.
And we realized our game was safe even from the absence of Tiger Woods.
Sunday at the WGC-Bridgestone we realized that maybe it isnt.
The winner, Vijay Singh, limped to victory and showed once again that he cant be trusted with a putter in his hands no matter what its size or grip. Singh is NOT the favorite for this weeks PGA Championship at Oakland Hills.
Bridgestone also showed us that Phil Mickelson, who bogeyed three of his last four holes Sunday to drop into fourth place, isnt to be trusted with a driver in his hands down the stretch in the final round.
He, too, is NOT the favorite at Oakland Hills.
So who is?
The answer is
Thats right. There is not a clear-cut pre-championship favorite for the years final major.
Which, actually, will make for a pretty good story line.
Meanwhile, last week was one of those embarrassment-of-riches weeks in golf. Its that time of year when the schedule is chock full. Everywhere you wanted to look there were compelling angles.
Here was Michelle Wie tantalizing all her fans Thursday in Lake Tahoe with a first round, 1-over par 73 in the PGA TOUR event there. Unfortunately for the rapidly dwindling group of people who still believe she should be trying her luck on the mens side, Wie skied to a Friday 80 low-lighted by another quintuple-bogey 9 that matched the number she carded at the par-4 ninth at the U.S. Womens Open in late June.
There was Singh making a mile of putts Friday in Akron and finding himself in the last group Saturday at the WGC-Bridgestone with his old foe Mickelson.
Think Woods was watching that with interest from home back in Florida?
There was Annika Sorenstam having to hustle to make the cut at the Womens British Open at storied Sunningdale in England. Laura Diaz startled everybody with three eagles in her second round. And Lorena Ochoa, who would tie for seventh, struggled to regain the dominant momentum she had built early in the year when, after capturing the Kraft Nabisco, she had generated talk about a womens Grand Slam.
Finally, there was Fred Funk fighting off neck problems at the U.S. Senior Open where the most watched golfer was Norman. Norman had reminded us just last month that almost anything is possible when, with nine holes remaining Sunday, he led the Open Championship by a shot over eventual winner Harrington.
Norman didnt factor in the Sunday mix at the Broadmoor in Colorado, but wound up fourth. Funk was runner-up to winner Eduardo Romero.
As for Annika, well, she fired a final-round 68 and tied for 24th in what will probably be her last major championship for a long time. She is engaged to be married next year and starting a family, she says, is a high priority.
But Sorenstam left the big stage in style in England. She hit all 18 greens in her final round and she was a bigger story than the winner, Ji-Yai Shin, who had managed to keep it a pretty good secret that shes the No. 10 ranked player in the world.
I wish I had the hunger in me to stay motivated, Sorenstam said after her round. Because I can still play.
She birdied her last hole and called it my last putt.
Ive dedicated my life to golf, she added.
Quietly, Asian women won three of four majors in 2008.
And over in Tahoe another Hawaiian, Parker McLachlin, won on a Wie-less weekend.
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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.