Tigerless Golf

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Another weekend without Tiger and another weekend with more than one event that was must see if you consider yourself a serious golf fan:
 
Actually there will be two more weeks without Tiger now that he has announced he wont be back until the U.S. Open. Maybe there are a few players who hope Tiger wont be ready for Torrey Pines. And the U.S. Open is our national championship, an event that doesnt need Woods presence to prop up its credibility.
 
That said, there is no good reason to wish Woods wont be in San Diego in two weeks. Unless
 
Unless it turns out Woods recently surgically-repaired knee isnt ready for the rigors of a USGA set-up. If thats the case'and Tiger will make the final determination'the best thing for all parties involved should be for Tiger to protect his future at the expense of playing in the present.
 
The problem is Woods might not really know how his knee is going to react until he gets to Torrey Pines. And he might not REALLY know until the championship begins.
 
Bad knees are like bad backs and bad wrists and most other injured areas. When there is contact, the weakest area feels the pain. If and when Tiger feels the need to gouge a ball out of U.S. Open rough, theres no way his left knee, if it isnt fully healed, isnt going to experience the shock.
 
One teaching pro, who works with several top-ranked TOUR pros, recently told me he thinks Woods is the smartest player in the history of the game and maybe the smartest athlete of all time. Hard to argue with that. Thats why I think Woods will make the right decision. And when he does, I will not second guess him.
 
I, for one, am hoping the knee is ready.
 
Meanwhile, back at the BMW PGA Championship, the Crowne Plaza Invitational, the LPGA Corning Classic and Senior PGA Championship:
 
  • Phil Mickelson is now the presumptive favorite for Torrey Pines. He has won there before and he was pretty much hitting on all cylinders when he won (again) at Colonial Sunday. Phil can be maddening this way. Just when you think hes at his best, he often shows us his worst. But he has now won the Hogans Alley double this year (Riviera and Colonial). And only Hogan (1947), Snead (1950) previously achieved this feat. So, you go, Phil. Your next U.S. Open victory will be your first. What better opportunity to exorcise the demons of Winged Foot and 2006?
     
  • Luke Donald fired a final-round 65 Sunday at Wentworth at the BMW PGA Championship to climb all the way up to a tie for third. This is the same Luke Donald who lost in a playoff at the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines four years ago. Add his name to the short list of players to watch at the U.S. Open. You can also add the name of two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen. Goosens world rank has plummeted in the last 18 months. But he carded a stylish 66 Sunday at Wentworth to finish tied for sixth.
     
  • And while were on the subject of Euro golf, why is it that Miguel Angel Jimenez can fluff a chip on the 72nd hole and need his putter three times on the 73rd hole at Wentworth, yet never seem to miss anything in Ryder Cup play? Jimenez birdied the second playoff hole to defeat Oliver Wilson and virtually assure himself a spot on Nick Faldos European squad for Septembers Ryder Cup matches.
     
  • Heres why I liked the Senior PGA so much this time around despite the fact that tough weather and tough course set-up made par a rumor: There were lots of interesting names'Langer, Haas, Sluman, Norman, OMeara, Sindelar, Simpson et. al.'on the leader board all week long. And anytime Oak Hill gets showcased on a big stage it makes me think of Stranges U.S. Open win there in 1989, Americas galling Ryder Cup defeat there in 1995, Hank Kuehnes win at the U.S. Amateur in 1998 (the field included Sergio Garcia, Charles Howell, Aaron Baddeley and defending champion Matt Kuchar, just to name a few), and, of course, Shaun Micheels winning 7-iron on the 72nd hole at the PGA Championship in 2003. Oak Hill is a great routing with highly-challenging green complexes.
     
  • Watching Justin Leonard hustle his way to a closing 67 at Colonial Sunday to sneak up on a T33 reminded me of his final round there in 2003. If Leonard had birdied the 72nd hole, he would have signed for a Sunday 59 which would have made Kenny Perrys victory the third biggest story of the week behind No. 2 Leonards 59 and No. 1 Annika Sorenstams brave showing against the men.
     
  • Finally there was Leta Lindley defeating Jeong Jang in a one-hole playoff at Corning. The knock on Lindley has always been that she cant drive her way out of a paper bag. Well take this critics: Lindley is now a winner on the LPGA for the first time in her 295th career start and has the check of $225,000 to show for it. The race isnt always to the longest.
     
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