The Heart of the Season

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It's that time of year in the golf season when the PGA Tour can have an exciting finish--Padraig Harrington makes two Sunday eagles to edge Jim Furyk at the Barclays Classic--and Harrington's win can, arguably, be the fifth most compelling story of the weekend.

In fact that's exactly what happened Sunday.

And its exactly why this is the most fun time of the year to follow golf. There is so much going on every week. With all due respect to Harrington's second Tour victory of the year, there were better stories last week.

Birdie Kim
Birdie Kim reacts after holing out on the 72nd hole to win the U.S. Women's Open.
Lead among them was the startling emergence of Korea's Birdie Kim, with her shocking bunker hole-out at Cherry Hills on the 72nd hole that won the U.S. Women's Open just when it looked like 17-year-old Morgan Perssel was about to steal 15-year-old Michelle's Wie's thunder after it became apparent that Wie wasn't going to steal 34-year-old Annika Sorenstam's Grand Slam thunder despite the fact that Wie was tied for the lead after 54 holes.

Kim now gets the last spot in the HSBC World Match Play this week. And Wie gets to ponder exactly what it was that caused her to shoot a closing 82. And, oh-by-the-way, she's got the John Deere Classic waiting for her next week after the men get finished with the Cialis Western Open Sunday.

Speaking of which, one of the players in the field at Cog Hill will be Illinois golf coach Mike Small. Small won the PGA Club Professional Championship in brutal conditions at the Ocean Course at Kiawah where designer Pete Dye says the course plays different every single day of the year. 'It's a moving golf course,' Dye says, referring to all the wind and sand that blows about at Kiawah.

Not bad for Small, a guy required to spend more time recruiting and coaching than working on his game. 'I was a little bit rusty starting out,' said Small, a two-time winner on the Nationwide Tour. But he worked out the kinks against some very good players.

Then there was more French farce from Jean Van de Velde, who led the field late in the Open de France Sunday near Paris before reminding us all over again what a tragicomic figure he is in golf. Van de Velde, you will remember, is the guy who made a triple bogey on the 72nd hole of The Open Championship at Carnoustie in 1999 before losing in a playoff to Paul Lawrie.

Van de Velde started dunking balls in the water again this time while handing the keys to victory over to Jean Paul Remesy.

Meanwhile, Mark McNulty, one of the best putters never to have gotten credit for it, captured a playoff on the Champions Tour by, guess what, making a crucial putt.

Morgan Pressel
Morgan Pressel wore her emotions on her sleeve Sunday at Cherry Hills.
And there you have it, a good case for ranking Harrington's victory No. 5 in golf's box office. Speaking of which, the TV ratings for Kim's victory were the highest on the LPGA Tour since 1997.

Wie, Pressel, Sorenstam, Paula Creamer (who triple bogeyed the 71st hole) and Lorena Ochoa (who quadruple-bogeyed the 72nd) will all be spending private moments wondering what went wrong at Cherry Hills. But they will all be back.

Until then there will be a major championship on one tour or another, almost non-stop, through the end of August.

This is the heart of the season in golf. A time during which you can work a full day, come home for dinner and go out for nine holes before darkness falls.

Its that time of the year in golf--the best time of the year.
 
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