Weir and Others Come Out Swinging
So much for the surfeit of first time winners we had last year on Tour when 18 players broke through. This year only Ben Crane, at the BellSouth Classic has won for the first time.
I, for one, am just fine with this. We are not even into April yet and we have a rousing four way race for Player of the Year. There is, as they say, a lot of golf left. And if I had to vote today, I would choose Mike Weir, the left handed Canadian who beat Len Mattiace in a playoff for the Masters.
Majors are always the tiebreaker when the voting for Player of the Year commences. Remember 1998? David Duval finished first on the money list and won four times. Mark O'Meara, by comparison, won just twice and finished seventh on the money list. But his victories came at Augusta and Royal Birkdale. He won two majors. His peers voted him PGA Tour Player of the year because of that. It was a no brainer.
But what I like about this year is the case you can make for all four of this year's multiple winners (not just Weir).
Yes, Ernie Els finished double-bogey, bogey, bogey Sunday at Hilton Head to give away a golf tournament that would have been his with three closing pars. But let's not forget Els ran the table in Hawaii the first two weeks of the season including a 31 under par 72 hole total at the Mercedes Championships that included, amazingly, two double bogeys. Moreover, Els also has won twice already this year on the European Tour and has a huge leads in the Order of Merit Standings.
For his part, Woods came back from knee surgery and won his first tournament out of the box the Buick Invitational. Two weeks later he won an endurance contest at soggy La Costa in the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship. A month after that he spread eagled the field at Bay Hill.
Love actually could have maybe should have four wins by now. His triumphs came at Pebble Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach and Harbour Town. The Honda Classic, as well, would have been his but for a dodgy final round that allowed good friend Justin Leonard to sneak past him.
Leonard, actually, is one fifth of the answer to a pretty good trivia question: Name the five players, other than Weir, Woods, Love and Els, to cash the big check on Sunday this year. The answer: Vijay Singh (Phoenix), Frank Lickliter (Tucson), Scott Hoch (Doral) and Ben Crane (BellSouth).
At this rate, the field for next year's Mercedes Championship will have less than 20 players. While I wish nothing bad on that tournament, and as a matter a fact, a field that small could make for a very elite, boutique tournament. I'm kind of liking the shootout that's going on between Els, Woods, Weir and Love III.
My prediction for the Player of the Year at the end of the season? The easy answer is Woods. But he will have to win one of the three remaining majors to muscle into the lead. The dark horse is Love III, fitter than ever now at 39. Weir would be the most fun and, arguably, the best for golf. Els might be the most popular. Down the road, I think he is the player most capable of providing a challenge to Woods year in and year out.
What's in the bag: API winner McIlroy
Rory McIlroy closed in 64 to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here's a look inside the winners' bag.
Driver: TaylorMade M3 (8.5 degrees), with Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 70X shaft
Fairway woods: TaylorMade M3 (15 degrees) with Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White 80TX, (19 degrees) with Fujikura Rombax P95X shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P-750 (4), P-730 RORS prototype (5-9), with Project X 7.0 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (48, 52, 56 degrees), Hi-Toe(60 degrees), with Project X Rifle 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade TP Black Copper Soto prototype
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
API purse payout: What Rory, Tiger, field made
Rory McIlroy won the Arnold Palmer Invitational and collected one of the biggest non-major paychecks of the year. Here's a look at how the purse was paid out at Bay Hill.
|T14||Charles Howell III||-6||$137,950|
|T14||Byeong Hun An||-6||$137,950|
After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...
Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner
On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...
Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.
After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.
Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.
A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray
Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call
PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.
At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.
“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”
Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.
Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.
Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.
“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.