Predictions for Upcoming 2004 Season
2004...HERE WE COME
Next week is the opening of the 2004 golf season with the Mercedes Championships, an event reserved for the winners from the 2003 PGA Tour season. With the next campaign on the horizon, I thought I would take some time to make some bold predictions for the upcoming year:
Tiger Woods will not go majorless in 2004. In fact, he'll win two (Masters and PGA Championship) to join Jim Furyk (back-to-back U.S. Opens) and Darren Clarke (British at Royal Troon where he took second in '97) as the season's major winners.
The LPGA Tour's majors will go like this: Sorenstam, Sorenstam, Sorenstam, Pak, Sorenstam. All Annika by the way. Sorry Charlotta.
Tom Watson will not have the same year. Bruce Edwards will not be on the bag and Watson, justifiably, will be preoccupied.
Big year on the Champions Tour next season for Des Smyth. I said last year and I'll say it every year until he has one. It's called hedging your bet. Or looking foolish.
Phil Mickelson will return to the winner's circle but not in a meaningful event. Never criticize the man for sticking with his family, but that doesn't excuse him from not exercising.
Darren Clarke, already mentioned and someone who lost a lot of weight already, will win the Order of Merit on the European Tour in a big way.
Some names you will not hear anything about in 2004: Ty Tryon, Ricky Barnes, Bryce Molder, Ben Crenshaw, Hilary Lunke and Dottie Pepper.
Some names you will hear a lot in 2004 (other than the obvious ones): Aree Song, Chad Campbell, Lorena Ochoa and Bob Estes.
The U.S. will win the Ryder Cup and it won't be easy. For whatever reason the Europeans will paste the Americans the first two days but captain Hal Sutton will have the boys and the crowd ready on Sunday.
Karrie Webb's career will keep swirling down the bowl while Koreans, you know Jan, the ones killing the tour, will pose the greatest threat to Sorenstam. Hee-Won Han in particular.
More women will play in more events with men and unless one of the ladies beats an entire field of men, I'll still yawn. It will be out of control in 2004 and chap my fanny because it will diminish what Sorenstam did at the Colonial.
Michelle Wie's father and Danielle Ammaccapane's father will duke out the night before the start of the U.S. Women's Open. My money's on Mr. Ammaccapane. If B.J. Wie was smart, he would keep that 14-year-old kid out of the spotlight. This of course is after she plays with the men at the Sony Open in Hawaii at the request of the governor.
David Duval will slide further than Arnold Palmer on the Official World Golf Rankings. I don't want to joke but I don't see how Duval can turn this thing around.
Lee Westwood will keep winning, thanks in part to his drinking buddy Darren Clarke's ascension up the ladder. Westwood won't win huge events like majors but pencil him in for a win in one of Europe's bigger championships.
Big things for the young guns from Europe. Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Justin Rose, John E. Morgan and Fredrik Jacobson will all try hard for Ryder Cup berths but I see Poulter and Jacobson as the only guys making the trip to Michigan.
Suzann Pettersen will earn victory No. 1 on the LPGA Tour in 2004. Her golf will be the story this year as opposed to two years ago when her claim to fame was dropping an 'f-bomb' in an interview with NBC after the Solheim Cup.
That's all. Have a happy and healthy New Year.
Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.
Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.
“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”
The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.
“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”
Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.
Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder
LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.
Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.
''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''
It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.
''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''
Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.
''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''
After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.
''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''
He's making his first start in the event.
''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.
Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.
''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''
Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.
''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.
The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.
''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''
Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.
''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.
Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.
Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.
Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.
John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.
Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years
Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.
He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.
How rare is his missing the cut there?
The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.
The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.
The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.
Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.
Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.
Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur
Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.
The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.
They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.
It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.
“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”
The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.
The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.