Golfs Stars Back in Alignment


When dark storms clear, the sun comes out and clouds disappear. Everything looks brighter and cleaner. The air is fresher.
Sounds almost biblical, doesnt it?
Well, all of a sudden, golf feels that way.
Wed been down so long it was beginning to look like up. Part of it was because we had been spoiled by a long bull market in the game. Actually, things really werent as bad as they seemed. They just werent as spectacular as they had been for such a sustained period.
Then we got the Thursday news that Tiger Woods had decided to end an enforced eight-month layoff due to knee surgery and would return next week for the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.
Hallelujahs echoed across the fairways and hosannas rang out from the corner offices of every power precinct in the golf world.
One female fan sent an e-mail to Golf Channel announcing she was throwing a party at her home Wednesday and was inviting friends to come over and watch Woods play golf for the first time publicly since last Junes U.S. Open where Tiger power-limped his way past Rocco Mediate in an 18-hole playoff.
Other golf followers, all over the world, made plans to be in front of their precious plasma HDs to watch Woods first round match against Australias Brendan Jones.
Then on Saturday Phil Mickelson, the closest thing Woods has to a perennial rival, went out and shredded the back nine at Riviera with four straight birdies and an inward 30. His third round 62 was one off the competitive course record and boosted his lead going into the final round of the Northern Trust Open to four shots.
Meanwhile, the ever-popular Fred Couples, a former winner at Riviera like Mickelson, played his way into Sundays final group at the Northern Trust with a spiffy Saturday 65. And suddenly there was star power everywhere you wanted to look.
I figured coming here this would be a big week, said Couples late Saturday, sounding like a guy who knew something nobody else did.
Then Couples went out and eagled the par 5 first Sunday and watched Mickelson do the same. For Lefty, it was his third three in as many days on Rivieras gettable opening hole.
Almost on script ' after all the Academy Awards would take place Sunday evening ' there was Doubt. Mickelson bogeyed the second, third, seventh, 12th and 14th holes, and trailed surging Steve Stricker by two shots with three to play.
Quicker than you can say Slumdog Millionaire, Stricker bogeyed the 18th while Mickelson birdied 16 and 17. The result was Mickelsons 35th PGA Tour victory and more excitement moving forward into this week.
Obviously I didnt want it to be that close, said Mickelson. But to fight through, means a lot.
Meanwhile, way down under in Perth, Australia, an 18-year-old amateur named Danny Lee became the youngest player in European Tour history to win one of its events when he captured the Johnnie Walker Classic by a shot.
It still feels like I am in dreamland, Lee said moments after his victory. Hopefully, no one wakes me up.
Lee is the reigning U.S. Open Amateur champion and will be at Augusta in less than two months for the Masters along with a couple of other precocious teenagers ' Japans Ryo Ishikawa and Northern Irelands Rory McIlroy.
Meanwhile back at Riviera, Couples wound up tied for third. He, too, will be at Augusta because he is a past champion.
And for now at least, there is a definite sense that golfs stars are back in their proper alignment and the planets returned to their proper places.
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