Press Pass Els Celebs and Playoffs

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 7, 2007, 5:00 pm
Press PassEach week, Golf Channel experts and analysts will offer their thoughts and opinions on hot topics in the world of golf with the Press Pass. You can also give your take on our questions. Just click on the link and e-mail your responses to us. We'll publish select answers each Friday.
 
Hot Topic
Ernie Els has a three-year plan to be No. 1 in the world. Can he get there ' or get close?
 
Kraig Kann Kraig Kann - Host, Golf Channel:
Youre assuming I understand the World Ranking points system. He can get close. But for him to get there it appears that Woods would have to decide to revamp his swing again, change coaches and change his shirt color on Sunday. Not to say Ernies not capable, but he needs a lot of help in addition to completely ramping up his dedication to the game and then playing the best golf of his life. By the way, he also needs to double his total of majors during that time, which means three over the next three years at minimum. Bottom line, I dont think he gets there but if he gets close it will give us a lot to talk about.
 
Brian Hewitt Brian Hewitt - Senior Writer, GolfChannel.com:
Els can get there, which is not to say I think he will. I admire his pluck in efforting the top spot. It's just that he is living, as the Irish say, 'in a time of inconvenience' because of Woods' presence and the giant, long shadow Woods casts over all his contemporaries.
 
Mercer Baggs Mercer Baggs - Senior Producer, GolfChannel.com:
He might get to second in the world again, but being No. 2 doesn't mean he'll be anywhere close to No. 1. Unless Tiger decides to be a stay-at-home dad or decides to play left-handed just for giggles, then I don't see anyone coming close in the foreseeable future.
 
Hot Topic
Swedens Henrik Stenson won this past week in Dubai. Who is the best European player at the moment and who has the best chance of winning a major this season?
 
Kann:
This is a flavor of the month question. That said, to me, its Paul Casey. Stensons not far behind. He was 14th in the world ranks coming into Dubai and his win will do him a world of good. But theres something about Casey. I think Paul has a few majors in him and I think he has a great chance to get one before the likes of Stenson, Donald, Harrington and even Garcia.
 
Hewitt:
I still think Paul Casey is the top Euro at the moment but Stenson isn't far behind. The oddest part about this is that means Sergio Garcia is, at best, the third best player in Europe. And with Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington in the mix, Sergio might be No. 5 in this category.
 
Baggs:
I think Paul Casey is the man at the moment in Europe. But while Casey may win the Order of Merit, I think Padraig Harrington has the best chance to win a major. Also, keep an eye out for Sergio this season in the majors. If he stays under the radar and keeps the pressure off, he may actually be able to contend on the back nine on Sunday.
 
Hot Topic
Celebrities and pros will once again tee it up together this week in Pebble Beach. What one pro and two celebrities, of all time, would comprise your ultimate foursome?
 
Kann:
Arnold Palmer in his prime would be a treat. As for the celebrities, thats a tough one. Ill take David Letterman and Chris Rock and hope the laughs never stop - or take the pro off all together and give me Demi Moore, Sandra Bullock and Elisabeth Shue.
 
Hewitt:
My ultimate Pebble Beach Pro-Am foursome would be Tiger Woods, Cheryl Ladd and Michael Jordan. And if Kann, who somehow has the notion that Sandra Bullock would ever play golf with him, approves, Bullock can be my caddie.
 
Baggs:
Gotta go with Tiger as the pro. Don't know how entertaining he would be, but I'd love to play alongside the best ever to play the game. As for the celebrities, I'll take Charles Barkley (who I said a few weeks ago I'd like to see as a tournament host) for one. He's quite funny and quite awful. He also has a gambling problem, so I'd like to play against him - with Tiger as my financial backer. My other celebrity could be anyone NOT named Ray Ramano or Kevin James.
 
Hot Topic
The USGA announced that the U.S. Womens Open will now go to a three-hole cumulative playoff. Should the mens Open be changed as well from an 18-hole Monday playoff?
 
Kann:
Yes. No question about it. The most disappointing thing about going to the U.S. Open is the thought of an anti-climactic finish. Fans dont want to leave without a winner. The media doesnt want to leave without a winner or stay to wait for a winner. And a 3- or 4-hole playoff continues the drama. A Monday 18-hole playoff has little drama. Trust me, everyone there on Sunday dreads the thought of a Monday playoff.
 
Hewitt:
Not yet. But if the three-hole playoff works well after several tries at the U.S. Women's Open, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the USGA adopt the same procedure for the men. People love to bash the USGA as being hidebound. But it's an organization that's a lot more progressive than the golf world understands.
 
Baggs:
Without question. Having a Monday playoff is a total hassel for all involved -- the players, the tournament staff, the vounteers, the media, even the fans. A tournament, barring inclement weather or darkness, should come to a conclusion on Sunday. And due to the significance of a major championship, a playoff should be a 3- or 4-hole cumulative session instead of sudden death.
 
Click here to e-mail us your take on the above questions. We'll publish select reader responses on Friday.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
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    Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

    By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

    Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

    That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

    Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

    From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

    Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

    She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

    She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

    “Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

    Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

    With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

    The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

    She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

    The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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    One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

    Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

    Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

    Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

    Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

    Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

    Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

    Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

    David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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    DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

    By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

    The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

    ''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

    In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

    ''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

    The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

    ''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

    The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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    Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

    Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

    Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

    As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

    Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.