Par 5 Moving Up in the World

By Randall MellFebruary 1, 2011, 8:16 pm
Setting the week’s agenda with five questions for the world of professional golf at large . . .

Is Martin Kaymer ready to ascend to the top of the world rankings?

Talk about precision German engineering.

Kaymer must have looked like a birdie machine to world No. 1 Lee Westwood when Kaymer won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship two weeks ago in the last start for both players.

Martin Kaymer
Martin Kaymer won this year's Abu Dhabi Championship. (Getty Images)
After finishing 26 shots ahead of Westwood and leaping over Tiger Woods to No. 2 in the world rankings, Kaymer is in position to make the biggest world-ranking move of his career. While he can only move up one spot at the European Tour’s Commercialbank Qatar Masters this week, it’s one giant spot. Kaymer can become the 14th player to gain the No. 1 spot since the Official World Golf Ranking was created in 1986.

Kaymer will end Westwood’s 14-week run at the top if he wins the Qatar Masters and Westwood finishes lower than second. Kaymer can also ascend to No. 1 if he finishes second and Westwood finishes outside the top 22.

The fact that Westwood and Kaymer are both in the field marks the first time Europeans ranked Nos. 1-2 in the world have met in a tournament since No. 1 Nick Faldo squared off against No. 2 Bernhard Langer at the Irish Open in 1993.

Kaymer’s seeking his sixth European Tour victory in 13 months, Westwood his first in that same span, but it won’t be as easy for Kaymer as it was at Abu Dhabi, where he’s so comfortable. Westwood favors this week’s Doha Golf Club layout

“It’s a golf course that suits me down to the ground,” Westwood says in a story on the European Tour’s website. “When you get rough like you do in Doha, it is a good driver's golf course, so I would expect it to suit me. It's almost like a major championship setup with firm greens and thick rough. With its firm greens, you can get close to the flags – but you need to be mentally strong, as it is a thinking man's golf course.”

The Qatar field also features world No. 6 Paul Casey, No. 7 Steve Stricker, No. 12 Ian Poulter, No. 15 Retief Goosen, No. 16 Robert Karlsson and No. 19 Louis Oosthuizen. John Daly and Sergio Garcia are also scheduled to play.
Is Phil Mickelson about to see Tiger Woods in his rear-view mirror?

There’s an old saying, something like, “If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes.”

In that regard, Phil Mickelson’s view hasn’t been so good for awhile, as it relates to the world rankings.

Mickelson, like all his colleagues, has been looking at Woods’ backside for a long, long time, but nobody’s been closer than Mickelson. Last year, Mickelson spent 29 weeks at No. 2 directly behind Woods. The year before that, he spent 39 weeks at No. 2 behind Woods. With Mickelson’s strong finish at Sunday’s Farmers Insurance Open on Sunday, he jumped two spots to No. 4, back into a familiar spot directly behind Woods, of course.

It’s been nearly 14 years since Mickelson’s ranked ahead of Woods.

Going to the Masters in 1997, Mickelson ranked No. 9 in the world and Woods No. 13. That’s the last time Mickelson’s ranked ahead of Woods. A week later, with his ’97 Masters’ victory, Woods climbed over Mickelson to No. 3.

This is the week Mickelson could finally change his world ranking scenery.

With a strong finish at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Mickelson can move his ranking ahead of Woods for the first time since April 6, 1997. Mickelson can move ahead of Woods with a first-, second- or third-place finish, depending on what happens at Qatar.
Can Bubba, Lefty and Jhonny re-enact their Torrey Pines drama?

Bubba Watson, Mickelson and Jhonattan Vegas are all in the field at the Waste Management Phoenix Open after finishing 1-2-T3, respectively, last weekend.

Mickelson’s won twice at TPC Scottsdale and finished second another time. Watson has one top-10 finish there in four tries, but he’s a birdie machine who ought to do well with all the confidence percolating from last week’s victory at the Farmers Insurance Open. Watson handled his cauldron of emotions beautifully coming down the stretch, making you think this guy’s seriously moved to another level. Vegas won a birdie blitz in the desert at the Bob Hope Classic two weeks ago and showed he’s got the game for nearly any kind of track with his finish at Torrey Pines. All three of these guys look like they could have huge springs if not huge years.
Who are the animals around TPC Scottsdale’s 16th hole going to devour?

Ian Poulter got a full dose of the lunacy that reigns around the wildest hole in golf last year.

After carving his tee shot to 7 feet in the final round, he was lustily cheered. After missing the birdie putt, he was just as lustily jeered and booed.

Walking off the green, Poulter scratched his nose with his middle finger fully extended. Poulter tweeted that he was merely getting something off his face, but a message was delivered. The animals can be amusing and insulting and quite creative in managing both at the same time. Poulter, by the way, isn’t in this week’s field. He’s almost as far away as you can get at the Qatar Masters.
Does the Australian Women’s Open mark the start of the women’s season?

The LPGA season doesn’t start for another two weeks at the Honda LPGA Thailand, but there are a lot of LPGA pros getting their years started at the Australian Women’s Open this week.

Yani Tseng, the 2010 LPGA Rolex Player of the Year, is teeing it up as defending champ at Commonwealth Golf Club outside Melbourne. So is Rolex No. 1 Jiyai Shin. Four-time Australian Women’s Open champ Karrie Webb is in a marquee pairing with Stacy Lewis and 15-year-old American phenom Alexis Thompson. Laura Davies, a two-time winner of this event, is also in the field along with American Christina Kim and major championship winners Karen Stupples and Eun Hee Ji.

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.