Taking Stock of 2010

By Rich LernerJuly 28, 2010, 10:57 pm
I choked my guts out on a 4-footer on the last hole to lose 1 down to my 12-year-old son in mini golf Monday. It’s 107 degrees in the sun, I’m sluggish and there seems to be no end in sight to the 2010 season. If these are summer’s dog days, the pup’s pantin’ with his tongue hangin’.  

Fret not, though, because we’re about to turn the corner for home with some bounce in our step. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson return at Firestone in two weeks to share the stage with Louis Oosthuizen, then it’s the season’s final major followed by the playoffs and then the Ryder Cup.  

With the finish looming, it’s a good time to address a few topics starting with Player of the Year. Barring a late run, it won’t be Tiger for a change. Instead, it’s wide open.

Eight guys could jump to the front with a win at the PGA Championship: Ernie Els, Steve Stricker, Justin Rose, Jim Furyk, Tim Clark, Mickelson, Graeme McDowell and Oosthuizen.

Mickelson, McDowell and Oosthuizen all have the chance to become double major winners in 2010, and that usually seals a Player of the Year honor.

Els, Stricker, Rose and Furyk could be three-time winners, perhaps even four-time winners, depending on what happens at the Bridgestone, with a major included. Clark could come out of the fray with more meaningful victories than anyone else were he to win the PGA Championship on top of his Players title.

The top choices for Most Improved appear to be Ricky Barnes and Jeff Overton. Barnes’ only top-10 or top-25, for that matter, a year ago was his improbable runner-up at the U.S. Open. This year he’s posted six top-10s and nine top-25s. Barnes attributes the better play to patience.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has his work cut out for him to win his 11th PGA Tour Player of the Year award. (Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Overton’s racked up two second-place finishes and two thirds, jumping from 67th in the FedEx standings to 12th. Both Barnes and Overton are threats to make the Ryder Cup team.

There’s no award for most disappointing, but there are plenty of candidates. Woods is glaring. And Sergio Garcia hasn’t put up a single top-3 finish in 29 starts over the last two years. That’s unacceptable given his talent level.  

Geoff Ogilvy owns a win in 2010, but hasn’t done a thing since that season opener at Kapalua. He missed cuts at The Players, U.S. Open and British Open and his best finish since the SBS in early January is a T-13 at Colonial.

Sean O’Hair recorded a win and nine top-10s in 2009. This year he’s without a top-3 and owns just two top-10s. He continues to struggle with his putting and as a result he’s dropped from 21st to 105th in birdie average.

Y.E. Yang hasn’t backed up his big 2009, nor has Lucas Glover.

Padraig Harrington, Mike Weir, Henrik Stenson and Michael Sim have all fallen short of reasonable expectations as well.

The shot of the year belongs to Mickelson. His 6-iron from the pine straw on 13 at Augusta on Sunday qualifies to be at least discussed in the “25 best shots ever” debate.

McIlroy’s 5-iron to set up eagle on the 15th at Quail Hollow on his way to a Sunday, game-winning 62 still lingers, as does Tiger’s ocean-bending bullet on the 18th at Pebble in Round 3 of the U.S. Open.

There have been memorable rounds, too, like Mickelson's Sunday 67 at the Masters, Tom Watson’s opening 67 that same week, Anthony Kim’s final-round 65 at Augusta, McIlroy going 5 under the last five holes to shoot 62 in Charlotte, Els' last-round 66 at Doral, Clark’s final-round 67 at The Players, Rose’s Sunday 66 at the Memorial, and Paul Goydos’ 59 at the John Deere Classic.

In 32 events, including those opposite the majors, we’ve seen 17 American winners, six from Great Britain and Ireland, four South Africans, three Aussies, a Colombian and a Swede.

Of course, it’s not over.  And that reminds me. I have a rematch with my kid this afternoon. It’s only 102 degrees.
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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.