Par 5: Ruthless or Clueless?

By Randall MellJuly 26, 2011, 2:48 pm

Setting the week’s agenda with five questions for tournament golf at large …

Is this new college breed more clueless than ruthless?

These college kids on a hot summer run are raising speculation there may be a new breed of American player poised to take the PGA Tour by storm.

The bravado spilling out of NCAA champion John Peterson’s mouth Sunday at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational is evidence there’s no lack of determination or cocksureness in these young ones.

After the University of Georgia’s Harris English won the Nationwide Tour event and Peterson placed second in a 1-2 amateur finish, Peterson confidently crowed to Golf World that the top 20 or 30 players in college could beat the top 20 or 30 pros today, with a few minor exceptions.

“I knew I could beat all those guys,” said Peterson, an LSU standout. “I didn’t win the tournament, but I beat all those pros.”

English was just as bold.

“We’re ruthless,” English said. “All college events are very competitive, and you learn how to go out there and win.”

The fact that English’s teammate at Georgia, Russell Henley, also won a Nationwide Tour event as an amateur this summer, and that UCLA’s Patrick Cantlay is on a roll as an amateur in Tour events, makes you wonder if something super is heating in the collegiate game.

Are these guys an exception to an old rule? Or are they the new rule?

English and Peterson know what it’s like to freewheel as amateurs in professional events. They’ve yet to learn what it’s like to play for money, to play when there’s so much more to agonize over, to choke over. They’ve yet to know the sting of missing a putt that costs them $100,000 or even a paycheck for the week.

Those hard lessons aren’t taught in college.

“We’re ruthless.” Those are words we can excuse as youthful exuberance. Still, they were uttered on a pro stage, and that also makes them words that promise to define someone, for better or worse.

Will they be staging a party or a tournament at Killarney this week?

The Irish Open will feature just three players among the top 50 in the world at Killarney this week, but it couldn’t pick three better.

Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell will turn the event into a celebration of what’s right with Irish golf. The trio from Northern Ireland, winners of three of the last six major championships, are teeing it up there this week. Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, the three-time major championship winner, is also in the field. Even Wednesday’s pro-am is expected to draw enormous crowds.

Clarke is making his first start since winning the British Open the week before last. He played the Irish Open in his first European Tour start as an amateur in 1990.

“It would be a hell of an achievement – a dream come true – to have the (British) Open and Irish Open trophies on display back at home,” Clarke told the European Tour’s website. “It has already been an amazing month for me and to do the double would be unbelievable.”

Can Phil Mickelson be re-energized in the summer time?

With his front-nine Sunday charge at the British Open, and then his back-nine fade at Royal St. George’s, we got a glimpse of the old Phil Mickelson, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He was, after all, younger back then.

At 41, Mickelson’s biggest problem at the Greenbrier this week isn’t his age. It isn’t that he’s moving toward the autumn of his career. It’s that this is summer time, and even in his prime he’s never played well in the middle of summer.

Of Mickelson’s 39 PGA Tour titles, just one has come in the month of July, and barely in that month. He won the Greater Hartford Open in 2001, when the first three rounds were played in June and the final round on July 1. He’s also won just once in June.

Actually, Mickelson hasn’t been much of a second-half player through his career. Thirty of his Tour victories have come in the first five months of the year, 17 during the West Coast swing months of January and February.

Here’s a breakdown of Mickelson’s PGA victories by month:

January: 8

February: 9

March: 2

April: 7

May: 4

June: 1

July: 1

August: 4

September: 2

October: 0

November: 1

December: 0

Will Yani Tseng join Armour, Hogan, Player and Watson as Carnoustie winners?

With the Ricoh Women’s British Open continuing to visit historic venues for the first time, Tseng gets a chance to defend her title on a course that’s been host to seven British Opens.

Carnoustie promises to offer a difficult test. It is, after all, where Jean Van de Velde infamously collapsed to lose to Paul Lawrie in the British Open finish of ‘99. It’s also where Harrington defeated Sergio Garcia in a playoff in ’07 and where Tommy Armour (‘31), Henry Cotton (’37), Ben Hogan (’53), Gary Player (’68) and Tom Watson (’75) won.

Tseng, 22, is going for her fifth major championship title, her third in the last five played and her fourth in the last two seasons.

Who will win the Watson-less U.S. Senior Open?

The buildup to the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness includes focus on who is not there.

Watson, who has yet to win this major, is skipping the U.S. Senior Open to play his first regular PGA Tour event since the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in 2007. He’s playing the Greenbrier Classic. Watson is the pro emeritus at Greenbrier and said he’s playing there to live up to a commitment he made to Greenbrier owner Jim Justice after missing the inaugural event last year.

At 61, Watson, winner of the Senior PGA earlier this year, would have been one of the favorites at Inverness. Count Bernhard Langer, the defending U.S. Senior Open champ, among the favorites as he continues to make his way back after undergoing left thumb surgery in March. After winning the Senior British Open last week, Russ Cochran looks like the man to beat. Count Tom Lehman and John Cook as the hottest players on the senior circuit this year.

Getty Images

Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

Getty Images

McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

Getty Images

What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x