Interesting Times for Players


These were interesting times over the weekend for Adam Scott. And Sergio Garcia. And Darren Clarke. And Annika Sorenstam.
Lets start with Scott, Garcia and Clarke.
Scott hustled back from Australia, a week earlier than planned, to play in, and win, the EDS Byron Nelson Championship, on the third playoff hole over Ryan Moore.
Garcia shot the low round of the week Saturday in Dallas, making all the kinds of putts that have kept him out of the top-5 in the world rankings because they havent been going in for several years now. Clarke jarred a 30-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole in China to win the Asian Open. It was his first victory since the passing of his wife, Heather, two years ago.
Heres the one-word common denominator for all three of these resurgences: Immelman.
Anybody who doesnt think Trevor Immelmans victory at the Masters earlier this month didnt light a fire under Scott, Garcia and Clarke hasnt been paying attention.
The scriptwriters never told us Immelman would get a major before Scott; and certainly not before Garcia, who lost so heartbreakingly in that playoff to Padraig Harrington at the Open Championship last year.
Scott is reminded on a regular basis by the media that he hasnt won a major championship yet. He is also reminded on a regular basis by his instructor, Butch Harmon, that he has underachieved in the majors.
Remember: Harmon continues to reserve the top spot on the totem pole of his students for Scott. And that totem pole now includes the faces of Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, the Nos. 2 and 3 ranked players in the world respectively.
And for some reason there is a horde of critics who think Scott is soft in the clinches. Those critics will be quieter, at least for a while, now that Scott holed a cross-country putt to beat Moore.
Scott is 28 years old. Garcia, also 28, and exactly 24 days younger than Immelman, is also majorless and now lodged behind him the world rankings. Scott was ranked 10th at the beginning of the week; Immelman 15th; Garcia 17th. Immelman and Garcia and still in the same spot this Monday, while Scott is up to No. 5.
Clarke has had significant endorsement ties to South Africa, Immelmans home country. He has played a lot of golf in South Africa. And, oh-by-the-way, he hasnt won a major yet either.
I have been working harder than I have ever worked on all aspects of my game, putting in nine, 10, 11 hours a day, Clarke said. It was nice to see it pay off.
Northern Irelands Clarke has been a stalwart in the last four Ryder Cups for Europe. He is especially close to Englands Lee Westwood, who has also enjoyed a recent return to form. If Clarke keeps his momentum, it will be difficult for European captain Nick Faldo to leave him off the team in September.
That, Clarke said of gaining a Ryder berth, is back within realistic goals now. His world ranking, prior to Shangai last week, had plummeted to No. 236. Hes now 112th.
Scott took a three-shot lead into the gusty final round at the Nelson and promptly played his first three holes Sunday in 3 over par. Garcia was four back through 54 holes but lurking after his Saturday 65. But, like his close friend Scott, he lurched to a horrid Sunday start, playing his first five holes in a gruesome 6 over par.
Garcia had made a statement on Saturday. And then, like Scott, appeared to feel the pressure, part of which had to have its roots in Immelmans procurement of a green jacket two weeks ago.
Sorenstam found herself in a battle Sunday in South Florida with Paula Creamer and a late-charging Karrie Webb. All three of these players are increasingly anxious and just short of desperate to challenge the ascendant Lorena Ochoa who has distanced herself from them as the No. 1 female player in the world.
Both Creamer and Sorenstam had already one once prior to Sunday. But on both occasions Ochoa was absent from the field. She also took a break this past week.
What we have now that Sorenstam took Creamer down on the first playoff hole is even more to look forward to when Ochoa returns. Sorenstam has two wins and five top-5s in seven starts. Ochoa has five wins, including her last four starts. Lets not give that Grand Slam to Ochoa quite just yet.
Meanwhile, different players in the limelight this week on the top two tours in mens and womens golf. Different responses to different kinds of pressures.
Interesting times for interesting players.
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