Feverish, shaky and drenched in cold sweat . . .
No, that isn’t how PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has been waking mornings since Tiger Woods drove into a neighbor’s fire hydrant three months ago. It’s how Phil Mickelson felt sleeping on the 54-hole lead the last time the WGC-CA Championship was staged at Doral.
Mickelson is back to defend his title at what’s now being called the TPC Blue Monster at Doral, and there’s something ailing him again. He’s been sluggish, out-of-sorts and just not himself so far this season. This time he appears to be suffering from a bout of ordinary golf, a malady far more difficult to win with than food poisoning.
Longtime fans of Doral’s PGA Tour stop are fighting a sickening feel, too. The event begins with CA having yet to announce it will renew title sponsorship after its contract runs out at the end of this week.
Stance: If you stuck a thermometer in Lefty’s mouth, you might detect some frost. Mickelson’s gone cold. In fact, you can argue this is the coldest he’s been in a decade upon his arrival for the Florida Swing. That’s more a testament to Mickelson’s past success on the West Coast Swing than an indictment of his uninspired form this season. In four starts, Mickelson’s logged one top-10 finish. We know Mickelson can get off to slow starts, but this is his slowest since 2000, when he didn’t have a top 10 in his first five starts. With Woods on the shelf, Mickelson’s failed to capitalize on an opportunity to gain ground on the world’s No. 1. Of course, it’s all about the majors for Lefty, and he’s still got a month to heat up for the Masters.
Takeaway: Hurry up, fellas. It looks like the money grab in World Golf Championship events is winding down with news that Woods is intensifying his work at Isleworth for a possible return. You could argue that Woods skipping the CA Championship is akin to tournament officials announcing they’re adding $1,530,000 to the purse. That’s the first-place check Woods would be eyeing if he were in the field. Woods is far more a sure thing in WGC events than he is in majors. Throw out the two-man team World Cups that were staged as WGC events, and 33 WGC tournaments have been played since they were initiated in 1999. Woods has won more than half of them. He’s won as many WGC titles (17) as Curtis Strange won PGA Tour titles. He has more WGC titles than Tom Weiskopf (16), Ernie Els (16) and Mark O’Meara (16) have PGA Tour titles.
Bunker shot: Best player never to win a WGC title? Mickelson took his name out of that mix last year winning the CA Championship and the HSBC Champions. Who does that leave? Sergio Garcia isn’t just in the running for best player never to win a major, he’s also never won a WGC title. Neither have Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and Jim Furyk.
Puerto Rico Open
Breakthroughs and comebacks.
That’s the theme that has quickly developed in this third-year event at Trump International Golf Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.
That makes it a perfect place for John Daly, 43, to show he’s got one last meaningful run in him.
Greg Kraft, whose career was nearly derailed by “Valley Fever,” won the inaugural event two years ago. Michael Bradley, who struggled with back injuries and other physical woes for almost a decade, won last year for his third PGA Tour title, his first in 11 years.
Stance: Daly’s determination and perseverance continue to impress. Within 24 hours after a published report revealed contents of his PGA Tour personnel file detailing his bad-boy antics, Daly set out to add to the 456-page file. He tweeted the cell phone number of the sportswriter who filed the story, calling him a jerk while encouraging his fans to “call and flood his line.” Daly, who has been cited 21 times in his career for failing to give his best effort, never seems to tire hitting shots out of bounds.
Takeaway: The twentysomethings have mounted a nice run on the PGA Tour this season with Camilo Villegas, Dustin Johnson, Hunter Mahan and Bill Haas winning events. While this tournament has belonged exclusively to fortysomethings – Kraft was 43 when he won it, Bradley 42 – there’s one Young Gun who seems poised to keep the twentysomething run going. Alex Prugh (25) has three top 10s in his first six starts this season.
Bunker shot: Boo Weekley might want to abandon his camouflage clothing. It’s working too well. The likeable fifth-year PGA Tour pro hasn’t been seen on a leaderboard in a long spell. He hasn’t recorded a top 10 in more than a year. A two-time PGA Tour winner, Weekley last cracked the top 10 at the Sony Open last year. Weekley, who memorably rode his driver like it was a Derby contender down the first fairway at Valhalla during the last Ryder Cup, struggled with a bad shoulder last year and has slipped to 72nd on the U.S. Ryder Cup standings. Weekley’s missed on golf’s biggest stages but has a chance to right his game on a smaller stage this week.