Big Four Head for Collision


Oh no ' now Vijays smack-dab in the mix, too. Tiger, Phil and Ernie have all had periods of brilliance in this young season. With all four on the verge of heading to The Players Championship in two weeks, then the Masters in less than a month, something has just got to give.
Singh lost a playoff to Padraig Harrington at Honda when he blew a putt of 2 feet. But he looks like he finally has gotten adjusted to the shafts he put into his clubs just this season. He won the Sony, remember, and then when the tour got to his adopted state of Florida, he promptly put together a tie for third at Doral to go with his almost at Honda. He looks awfully scary heading into this week at Bay Hill.
Woods? All he has done is win twice, at the Buick Invitational and at Doral. He at last put graphite in his driver to get a little extra distance ' he now clubs it 306 yards per measured drive, third on the rankings. But equally as important, he is putting the ball brilliantly. Hes cut his average per-hole strokes down to 1.68, while last year he was at 1.724.
Mickelson might have had the most impressive season over-all. His wins at Phoenix (FBR), Pebble Beach (AT&T) and his battle down to the wire against Woods at Doral would seem to indicate as much. Mickelson also has taken a giant step in his putting, standing second on tour this year, as compared to 43rd last year.
However, Woods still seems to have Mickelsons number. Mickelson had some untimely short-putt misses against Tiger in the closing holes at Doral. And he did likewise in the final holes at the U.S. Open last year against Reteif Goosen. He won a close one over Els last year at the Masters, but until he can do it consistently in the big tournaments, he still cant be considered Woods equal yet.
Incidentally, its worth taking a second look at Els. He finished second to Singh at Sony, remember, and the last two weeks has notched wins in the Middle East (Dubai and Qatar). Qatar was against a weak field and he had to come from a five-stroke deficit the final day. But Dubai was against some fairly strong competition. He now comes to Bay Hill and his American home of Orlando. Is he getting ready for something big?
David Toms has shown flashes of brilliance this year, also. He won the Match Play and was fifth at both Doral and Honda. A sure, steady player, he bears watching closely. The Masters would appear to be a little too long for him, but if Mike Weir can do it, then Toms can, too.
Adam Scott won the Nissan, but his victory was derided by just about everyone because it was rain-delayed and just over 36 holes. But come on, people, he played the best of anyone who showed up. And just to prove that he is worthy of some consideration, he came back the next week and went all the way to the quarterfinals of the Match Play before he ran into a sizzling Toms.
Geoff Ogilvy won the alternate event in Tucson while the Match Play was going on. Ogilvy is an interesting character. An Australian, he is now in his fifth year on the American tour. He is now 27, just about to enter the prime years of a golfers career, and he battled tenaciously at Honda. He was tied for the lead on the back nine at Honda and shot a 64 and 67 in the second and third rounds, respectively. Hmmm
Justin Leonard won the Bob Hope, but what to make of him he has missed three cuts this year. He, too, probably doesnt have enough length to seriously contend at most venues. But every year he will pull a real surprise ' dont forget hes won nine times and got into playoffs another four.
Oh yes ' Harrington. Hes already proven hes the best player on the European Tour. Hes playing a full PGA Tour schedule this year for the first time, and it really came as no surprise that hes won for the first time in America now. Harrington always takes an extended time off around New Years and usually takes awhile to get tuned up. This year, he served notice that he is jumping out of to an early start, in only his third start.
They head to Bay Hill now, the Big Four minus Mickelson, all on a collision course with the victory circle. And in two weeks, all four will be at The Players. Is this the year and the big guns will all be on top of their games at the same time?
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