Par 5 Questions for the Sony Open

By Randall MellJanuary 11, 2011, 8:15 pm
Five questions setting the agenda for the Sony Open ...

Does this week’s first full-field PGA Tour event mark the real start of 2011?

Golf never actually begins when the schedule says it begins.

It’s confusing and subjective, really, but it seems it’s always been that way.

Ryan Palmer
Ryan Palmer is the defending champion of the Sony Open. (Getty Images)
For some tour pros of the not-so-distant past, the Florida Swing traditionally marked the real start of the year, the time when the rust was off and the heavyweight competition that mattered most was fully underway.

When Tiger Woods came along and settled into his schedule, it began feeling like the season began in San Diego at Torrey Pines in Woods’ traditional season opener.

For others, even today, the real start of the real competition that really matters comes with the drive down Magnolia Lane at the Masters in April.

Now, for the first time, it’s feeling like the season won’t truly begin in the United States at all, that the real start of the tournament golf season is moving with the power shift to Europe and it’s growing star power. It feels like 2011 tournament golf will get its big-bang start next week with the opening of the European Tour’s Middle East Swing. In fact, if Europe’s rise continues, we may one day hear an entirely new saying:  “The real season begins in Abu Dhabi.”

The Sony Open could see some strong storylines develop this week, just as the Hyundai Tournament of Champions did last weekend, but it won’t compare to the anticipation building in Abu Dhabi, where four of the top five players in the world rankings are scheduled to play.

Lee Westwood, the new world No. 1, will make his 2011 start in Abu Dhabi. So will Phil Mickelson. All four reigning major championship winners are committed to teeing it up together next week. Graeme McDowell, who’s strong start at Hyundai is making some folks wonder if he will rise to No. 1 before the year is over, will join rising star Martin Kaymer and Louis Oosthuizen. Rory McIlroy’s is on the entry list. Paul Casey and Padraig Harrington also are expected to be in that field’s All-Star contingent.

The Sony Open may deliver a script as good as the Hyundai Tournament of Champions did, but tournament golf is a lot like Broadway. Like it or not, the stars trump the script, and Abu Dhabi’s marquee will feature the year’s first star-studded cast.

And if the world rankings remain as they are, the first showdown of the No. 1 (Westwood) vs. No. 2 (Woods) players in the world will also come in Europe at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic Feb. 10-13.
What proven winner steps up this week?

A swarm of rookies is eager to make a start at the Sony Open, but these rookies will soon learn Waialae Country Club’s no place for breakthroughs.

It’s a puzzle that won’t easily be solved by rookies or winless veterans.

The Honolulu event’s crowned a first-time winner just twice in the last 20 years. Jerry Kelly’s the last to break through there, earning his maiden victory in ’02. John Morse earned his first and only PGA Tour title there in ’95.

Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk are the highest ranked players in the field at Nos. 6 and 7 in the world rankings, respectively. They’re also good fits at Waialae.

Stricker’s yet to win at Sony, but he’s finished T-4 or better there three of the last four seasons. He had four rounds in the 60s while finishing third last year. Furyk won at Waialae in ’96 and has five finishes of T-7 or better there. Ryan Palmer returns as the defending champ in search of his fourth PGA Tour title.
Who’s the most touted rookie to watch?

Jamie Lovemark is among two dozen rookies in the season opener, and he comes with the best pedigree.

Lovemark finished atop the Nationwide Tour’s money list last year even though he was its youngest player. He won the NCAA individual title as a freshman at USC and also claimed the Jack Nicklaus Award as national Player of the Year in his first collegiate season. In his first season as a pro late in ’09, he nearly won the Open, losing out to Troy Matteson in a three-way playoff that included Rickie Fowler.
Who’s the best new story?

That’s easily Joseph Bramlett, who last month became the first player of African-American descent to make it through Q-School in 25 years.

Bramlett, 22, will be tested by more than the PGA Tour’s tough course setups and fierce competition. He’ll be tested by the nature of the spotlight that will come with telling his story at most every tour stop.

“The Next Tiger?” That was the headline on a Philadelphia Inquirer story after Bramlett earned his PGA Tour card.

Like Tiger Woods, Bramlett’s a big hitter who followed in Woods’ footsteps to Stanford, where Bramlett graduated last summer with a degree in communications. But even beyond the obvious angles, Bramlett’s a good story in what he’s overcome. He missed 20 months over a two-year period after his sophomore year with right wrist injuries.

Bramlett’s rookie year is larger than most rookies. That’s because there is more than golf playing out. There’s a special story.
Who will get DQ’d or hurt this week?

Strange rules snafus among elite players seem to be a growing epidemic with the phenomenon spilling into 2011 and last week’s disqualification of Camilo Villegas at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Who’s next? Hold onto your DVR, because somebody’s bound to see something and call in an allegation.

Strange injuries were also a theme last week. First, we learned Zach Johnson would be playing with a hole cut into the right toe of his golf shoes to alleviate the pain from an infected toe. He hurt himself scrambling to put out a small fire during a family vacation in the Grand Caymans before going to Hawaiii. Then we learned Hyundai defending champ Geoff Ogilvy would be withdrawing after he gashed his right index finger on a reef while swimming and needed 12 stitches. And then there was the Robert Garrigus’ scare. He reported hurting his shoulder in Hyundai’s third round while pumping his fist in an overly excited celebration, though he played through it well in forcing a Sunday playoff that he ended up losing to Jonathan Byrd.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Getty Images

Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

Getty Images

Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

Playing with the pros

Tiger, DJ and Faxon

Article: Video, images from Tiger, DJ's round with Trump

Article: After DJ and Tiger, Trump plays golf with Jack

Rory faces criticism

Article: Rory: Round with Trump about respect for presidency

Article: Rory: Round with Trump not a 'political statement'

President at the Presidents Cup

Video: President Trump makes the rounds at Liberty National

Article: President Trump presents trophy to U.S. team

Article: Stricker: 'Great thrill' to get trophy from Trump

Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham

Article: Senator tweets Trump shot 73 in windy, wet conditions

Article: Graham offers details on Trump's round of 73

Cart on the green

Article: Trump appears to drive cart on Bedminster green

Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open

Article: Trump makes presidential history at Women's Open

Article: Trump supporters, protesters clash near Women's Open

Article: UltraViolet takes protest inside Trump National

Photo gallery: President Trump at the U.S. Women's Open

Trump golf properties


Article: Environmental group vandalizes Trump golf course

Article: Man accused of vandalizing four Trump courses


Article: Two Trump courses in Scotland losing millions

Article: Eric Trump denies Russia helped fund golf courses

Article: Trump company ordered to pay $5.77M in dues dispute

Reportedly fake TIME covers

Article: Trump clubs display fake Time magazine cover

Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story

Report: Trump's voter fraud claim tied to Langer

Langer: Trump 'apologized' for story mix-up

Pros comment on the president

Article: Players defend Trump at Senior PGA Championship

Article: Trump congratulates Daly; Daly congratulates Trump