Par 5 Major Questions for Men and Women

By Randall MellMarch 29, 2011, 5:38 pm
Setting the agenda for the week ahead with five questions for the majors and one major precursor ...

Just how wide open are the first majors for the men and women in 2011?

Yani Tseng
Yani Tseng is seeking her second consecutive major and second consecutive Kraft victory. (Getty Images)
Yani Tseng arrives at the Kraft Nabisco Championship holding the No. 1 ranking for a seventh consecutive week, but she’s the fourth player to hold the top spot over the last year.

It feels as if anyone in the top 10 right now has a legitimate chance to become No. 1.

That’s a sea change for the women’s game when you consider that just two players (Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa) held the top spot the first four years of the Rolex World Rankings.

The men’s game is even more wide open.

Sandra Gal’s breakthrough victory at the Kia Classic last week was notable because you don’t get a lot of unexpected winners in the women’s game. But among the men? Unexpected is this year’s theme.

You could pick 20 players before an LPGA event and feel fairly certain the winner’s going to come within that group. You could pick 50 men before a PGA Tour event and not be certain you’ve got the winner.

Nine players outside the top 100 have won PGA Tour events in the first three months of this season alone, including four players ranked 200 or higher.

Just one woman outside the top 100 in the world rankings won an LPGA event all of last year. Beatriz Recari was No. 172 when she captured the CVS/pharmacy in 2010.
Will Yani Tseng win back-to-back Kraft Nabisco Championships?

Tseng’s not the overwhelming favorite you would think with the No. 1 ranking, four worldwide victories already this season and the confidence that comes as the defending champion.

That’s because No. 2 Jiyai Shin showed she’s rounding into form with her runner-up finish at the Kia Classic on Sunday, Karrie Webb’s got some confidence going with a pair of LPGA titles this season, and Suzann Pettersen and Cristie Kerr look like such good fits at Mission Hills’ Dinah Shore Course.

Here’s how Par 5 makes the odds this week for the top five favorites:

  • Tseng 3/1 – Though she’s just 22, Tseng’s already shown the ability to summon her best in the largest events. She’s won three of the last 11 major championships. Tseng looks ready to join her idol as the only players to win back-to-back titles since the Kraft Nabisco became a major 28 years ago. Annika Sorenstam won in 2001-02.
  • Pettersen 5/1 – In three of her last four starts at Kraft, Pettersen’s finished second or tied for second.
  • Webb 6/1 – A two-time winner at Kraft (2000, ’06), Webb’s finished fifth or better seven times in the event.
  • Kerr 6/1 – In her last nine starts on the Dinah Shore Course, Kerr’s finished fifth or better five times, including a tie for second when Brittany Lincicome won two years ago.
  • Shin 10/1 – In her fourth start at Kraft last year, Shin turned a corner. She tied for fifth while finishing the championship under par for the first time.

Anyone have a dart to pick this week’s winner at the Shell Houston Open?

Choosing a PGA Tour winner is maddening work these days, with the average ranking  this year being 167th.

So watch out for Jamie Lovemark and J.J. Henry, the closest to the average winner’s ranking in this week’s field at No. 170 and 173, respectively.

Here are the rankings of this year’s winners:

  • Jonathan Byrd (Hyundai Tournament of Champions), No. 121
  • Mark Wilson (Sony Open), No. 237
  • Jhonattan Vegas (Bob Hope Classic), No. 187
  • Bubba Watson (Farmer’s Insurance Open), No. 33
  • Mark Wilson (Waste Management Phoenix Open), No. 91.
  • D.A. Points (AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am), No. 167
  • Aaron Baddeley (Northern Trust Open), No. 224
  • Johnson Wagner (Mayakoba Golf Classic), No. 377
  • Luke Donald (WGC-Accenture Match Play), No. 9
  • Rory Sabbatini (Honda Classic), No. 102
  • Michael Bradley (Puerto Rico Open), No. 562
  • Nick Watney (WGC-Cadillac Championship), No. 31
  • Gary Woodland (Transitions Championship), No. 153
  • Martin Laird (Arnold Palmer Invitational), No. 40

Can you peak too early for the Masters?

In 74 Masters tournaments, only four players have won the PGA Tour event the week before and gone on to win at Augusta National.

Phil Mickelson’s the last to do so.

Mickelson won the BellSouth Classic in Atlanta in 2006 and a week later claimed the second of his three green jackets.

The only other players to do so were Sandy Lyle in 1988, Art Wall in ’59 and Ralph Guldahl in ’39.
Any room left for a late Masters’ invite?

The beauty of the Masters bringing back the practice of inviting PGA Tour winners looms as a potential bonus at the Shell Houston Open this week.

The field list grows by one if the winner in Houston hasn’t already earned a Masters’ invite.

Since Masters chairman Billy Payne announced four years ago that Augusta National was re-instituting invitations for PGA Tour winners, Johnson Wagner’s the only player to win the week before the Masters to gain a late invite. Wagner won the Shell Houston Open in 2008.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.