Well, that was a fun WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, wasnt it? The PGA TOUR has had two big tournaments since Tiger left with his knee injury in June and both did pretty well without him. Greg Norman did a masterful job stealing all the storylines at Royal Birkdale and I really wish he had been able to pull off the victory. But yes, it is Greg Norman and once again, he wasnt able to finish off a 54-hole lead at a major.
And then Sunday in Akron, we got some really good theater (if not great golf) between Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson with a late run from Stuart Appleby. If were not going to have the best player in the world able to compete, at least we can get some big names stepping into the breach. Lets hope the same thing happens this week at Oakland Hills and the 90th PGA Championship. Im sure CBS would like nothing better than to have the top 5 names on my odds board battling it out for the Wanamaker Trophy. And, of course, it would make our Live From coverage that much better, too.
Now, in honor of a comment I received about the British Open odds, I genuflect before the altar of the golfing gods at the sacred ground that is Oakland Hills Country Club. It could be a born-again moment for one lucky golfer.
Phil Mickelson (3-1): When last we saw Lefty at this golf course, he was trying to apologize to Tiger for having put him up against the fence with a drive during the alternate-shot portion of their team match at the 2004 Ryder Cup. Im going to check out the spot to see if they put one of those granite markers to commemorate the shot. But at least hes been living up to his nickname. It seems like every time Phil gets into a crucial spot late in the game, he pushes the drive left (evidence: 06 US Open; 07 Northern Trust; 08 Colonial; 08 Bridgestone).
Anthony Kim (5-1): If you take a look at the two golf courses that Kim has won on this year (Congressional and Quail Hollow), you can tell that he really likes the long, classic-type courses. Glen Abbey falls into that category, but he couldnt get it done in Canada. I think Oakland Hills also falls into that category. BUT, the greens at Oakland Hills will take down any player not on his putting game and if you saw A-K at the British Open, picking him might make you cringe (first in GIR, third-to-last in putting).
Lee Westwood (8-1): Hes so close at this point. He left a putt short that would have gotten him into the playoff at the U.S. Open. And Sunday, he never gave the putt to tie at the Bridgestone any respect on the break. But from tee to green, hes been playing at a really high level. Its about time that he gets it all put together into a championship effort.
Vijay Singh (12-1): Back in January, a GOLF CHANNEL producer (not me) predicted that Vijay would never win again. Sunday, Vijays putter tried its best to keep that prediction alive. Despite the foibles with the long stick, Vijay broke his winless string at 34 tournaments. He has won two PGA Championships. He did have a top-10 finish at the 1996 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills. But he did also win last week and trying to make it back-to-back weeks with the second one being a major championship is waaaay too much to ask.
Padraig Harrington (15-1): The two-time Champion Golfer of the Year went a sizzling 4-1 in his Ryder Cup matches here in 2004, including a singles victory over Jay Haas. If he can put the John Smiths Smooth Bitter (the first drink out of the claret jug each of the last two years) down long enough to play this week, he might be able to re-create that magic. If he does, we might have our Player of the Year. My guess is hell put down that drink because he called it pretty awful the first time he had to drink it last year. Just how awful? Im hearing that it makes Milwaukees Best taste like the champagne of beers.
Jim Furyk (20-1): Like Anthony Kim and Retief Goosen, Furyk has trotted the globe in the search for golf glory these last four weeks. From Birkdale to Toronto to Akron and now to Detroit, thats one heck of an itinerary. It also makes for a tired golfer and this golf course at 7,395 yards is not one to be sleepwalking through. But even though he hasnt won a major since that breakthrough at Olympia Fields in 2003, he still cant be discounted on this classic layout.
Kenny Perry (25-1): Welcome to your first major of 2008, Kenny. Unfortunately, there isnt an opposite event this week so youre stuck with this one. But at least you didnt have to go anywhere to qualify for it. You just had to play like you have this year and earn your way in. I might have rated you a bit higher but Im not sure how you might do in a Grade-1 stakes race at this distance. But then again, Im sure youre looking forward to that press conference on Monday announcing that you officially reached your goal for the year.
Ernie Els (25-1): The Big Easy still hasnt put it all together since his win at The Honda but he did show glimpses at Birkdale. At this point, he might want to channel Roy McAvoy when he gets on the range on Thursday. He should turn his hat around, put his tees in his left pocket and maybe leave his back pocket hanging out. I just dont think Ricci has it in him to be like Romeo and demand that of him.
Sergio Garcia (25-1): Well, Sergio, I want to thank you for backing up my support at the British Open with that stirring performance. I havent seen that many missed putts from inside 18 inches since watching a fellow co-worker yak a couple of easy tap-ins. Despite his putting mastery at THE PLAYERS, he still couldnt get it to drop on the biggest stage. Sergio, you have one more chance before Anthony Kim zooms by you as the next best thing.
Robert Karlsson (25-1): If there was any way that my Webmasters could make the words VALUE PICK blink, Id have them do it for this selection. Karlsson has finished in the top 10 in every major this year. Yes, read that again: EVERY MAJOR. Thats something that no one did last year and no one else has done this year. If youre in a golf pool and youre looking for that under-the-radar pick, here ya go. You can thank me lateror curse me when he shoots 77-80 and slams the trunk on Friday.
Trevor Immelman (30-1): Its been 10 years since a man not named Tiger Woods has won two majors in a season (Mark OMeara). Trevor hasnt exactly burned up the fairways since donning the green jacket in April ' his only dent on the leaderboard was a playoff loss to Justin Leonard in Memphis. But should he connect here, hell lock up the Player of the Year title and will get closer to realizing that dream he had in the bathroom with Vijay Singh in last years FedExCup commercials.
Woody Austin (45-1): If I was taking odds on who would choke like a dog, Woodys odds would likely be as short as Big Browns at the Belmont Stakes. And like Big Brown at the Belmont, Woody has pulled up lame in the stretch of two tournaments that he could have easily won (Buick Open, Zurich). But if he does put himself in that situation again and he does choke again, itll be fun to hear him tell it like it is and maybe hell even tell us how he outplayed Tiger again. Of course, its easy to outplay a guy who just had ACL surgery in June.
Angel Cabrera (50-1): The Duck could be working in a parallel universe this week. He won at OAKmont last year and were playing at OAKland Hills this week. His fellow countryman, Eduardo Romero nabbed his second career major last week in Colorado and now the Argentinian looks to snag his second major this week. But short of hiring Patricia Arquette to make sense of this psychic mumbo-jumbo, its not likely to happen for Cabrera.
John Daly (1,000-1): 17 years ago, a mullet-sportin ninth alternate came out of further-than-nowhere to capture the seasons final major. If Big John was to pull off the same stunt this year, you could say that hes come even further-than-further-from-nowhere. And I can hear his victory speech now ' Id like to thank Butch Harmonfor believing in me. Stay tuned for Dalys prop at Oakland Hills.
OFF THE BOARD:
Tiger Woods: PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem was quoted over the weekend that Tiger has lost 10-15 pounds after seeing him at Congressional Country Club last week. That led Rory Sabbatini to comment that Tiger is as thin as ever and that he likes the new Tiger Woods. Upon hearing the news, Fuzzy Zoeller sent him a care package to help him bulk up. And a special gift basket arrived from someone who signed simply Aquaman ' it was a book titled How to Outplay the Best Player in the World and Still Lose by 7 Shots.
Quick hitters and theyre all over-unders:
WINNING SCORE ' 271 (-8 -- PAR 70)
HIGHEST SCORE ' 84
LOWEST SCORE ' 64
DALYS HIGHEST SCORE ON A HOLE ' 8 (it worked so well at the British, lets try that number again)
NUMBER OF CLUB PROS TO MAKE THE CUT (theres 20 of them): 3
NUMBER OF TIMES PAUL AZINGER IS SHOWN ON CBS COVERAGE AND NICK FALDO COMMENTS ON THEIR BATTLE IN 6 WEEKS AT VALHALLA (must make cut for action): 4
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