The Golf Stars Are Aligning


This is, I think, going to be good. Very good. The tumblers are clicking into place. The stars are aligning. And collective mojos of the best players in the world are on collision course.
Davis Love III birdies six of eight holes during a victorious stretch of the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. It is a statement. And it says, 'Remember me?'
Some had forgotten. And part of that was Love's fault. He hadn't won in two years. He will turn 40 next year. But he remains in the top 10 of the world rankings. And the 4-iron he punched into the par-5 18th green on Sunday served as a reminder.
Nobody has forgotten Tiger Woods. But the massive media machine that always manages to crank up whenever he enters a tournament will be working overtime this week at the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines. It will be Woods' first event since knee surgery late last year. And the scrutiny will be intense.
Last week, playing with his father, Tiger Woods reportedly shot a 66. Earl Woods carded a 70. This tells us two things: Tiger Woods still knows how to get the ball in the hole and, if Earl Woods shot 70, they probably weren't playing the TPC at Sawgrass.
Tiger Woods will downplay how much his 2003 debut means. But don't think he hasn't been watching Ernie Els nearly run the table here and abroad so far this season. Don't think he didn't see Vijay Singh look better than ever while cruising to victory at the Phoenix Open. Don't think he doesn't know the younger ones are coming up behind him faster than ever. The latest hot names are South African Trevor Immelman and England's Paul Casey, who won a modified Stableford in Australia Sunday against a strong field.
This is going to be good just chasing down the vibes between Woods and Phil Mickelson. Mickelson, too, will be in the field at Torrey Pines this week where he ended Woods' six-tournament winning streak in 2000.
Mickelson is many things to many people. He is a massive talent. He is loose cannon. He is an underachiever in the majors. He is a great guy. He is a foolish risk-taker on the course. He is the tour's most fan-friendly player off of it. It all depends on what you want to believe about Phil.
I believe Mickelson didn't want everybody to take him as seriously as they did recently when Golf Magazine circulated an interview in which Mickelson suggested Woods' Nike equipment was 'inferior.' Bob Wood, who runs Nike Golf, took him quite seriously.
Meanwhile on Sunday at Pebble, Beach Mickelson shot 45-35--80. Which Phil Mickelson will show up at Torrey Pines? The one who has won this event two of the last three years? Or the one whose most recent round was 10 shots worse than Earl Woods' most recent round?
The most delicious possibility of all, of course, would be a Thursday-Friday pairing at the Buick Invitational that placed Woods and Mickelson in the same group.
I double-checked with tour official Ben Nelson Sunday and he reminded me the only way that can happen is if the computer spits out their names together. No devious local tournament promoter should be able to toy with this in an effort to pump up the volume and the gate.
It's almost too bad. Wouldn't we all like to see it as soon as possible? Wouldn't we all like to read the tour's 'Shotlink' printouts of how far they hit it on every hole?
Mickelson may have broken an unwritten rule when he dissed an equipment company. But he is good for the buzz of the game. And that buzz will become a din at Augusta in early April when Mickelson and Woods and Els and Singh show up inside the gates while a lot of politically-motivated people park their agendas on the outside.
Golf never bores me. But certain times in the continuum of the game are more interesting than others. This is one of the latter.