THE PLAYER: Leading up to THE PLAYERS, both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were sharing headlines: Tiger for his win at Quail Hollow a week prior and Phil for his change to Butch Harmon as his swing coach. But once they teed it up at TPC Sawgrass, it was all Phil. As Tiger quickly faded, Mickelson grabbed the first-round lead as well as the 36-hole lead, much on the strength of his short game and putting. Come Sunday, Lefty was in complete control of his ball striking, missing only four fairways and two greens en route to his first PLAYERS title.
DE LA HOYA/MAYWEATHER PART II: One week after what was billed as the fight of this young century in Las Vegas, THE PLAYERS offered up its version of a boxing match, albeit in the form of verbal sparing. Following up his brash comments about wanting to go head-to-head with Tiger at Wachovia, Rory Sabbatini was at it again in Ponte Vedra Beach. And while Tiger let his clubs do the talking at Quail Hollow, an off-form Tiger responded this week with actual words. If I remember the quote correctly, he said he likes the new Tiger, said Woods. I figure Ive won nine out of 12 and Ive won three times this year, the same amount hes won in his career. So I like the new Tiger as well. Rory, Rory, Rory.
A TIP OF THE CAP: It was announced last week that former PGA TOUR commissioner Deane R. Beman was named as the seventh recipient of the TOUR's Lifetime Achievement Award. Beman was the TOURs second-ever commissioner, starting his reign in 1974 then handing it over to Tim Finchem upon his retirement in 1994. One of his many highlights as commissioner was the blueprint of the THE PLAYERS Championship itself, as well as the development of the Champions Tour and the Nationwide Tour.
REDEMPTION IS SWEET: Playing in the shadow of THE PLAYERS was the LPGA Tours Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill, where Norways Suzann Pettersen finally found her first tour title along with a little bit of sweet redemption. Pettersen, whos been a fiery team member for the Europeans at the Solheim Cup the last six years, had twice this season failed to hold leads and had to settle for second. The most painful was her loss at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, where she was three shots up with four holes left. However, she said that experience helped her down the stretch at Kingsmill.
THAT WAS RARE - OR WAS IT?: Never in THE PLAYERS Championship's history had any player recorded a double eagle. Until Friday that is, when Hunter Mahan holed his 227-yard approach at the par-5 11th with a 5-iron. A rare feat for certain. Well, at least it was for about 24 hours, until Aussie Peter Lonard also used a 5-iron to hole out from 230 yards for an albatross at the par-5 second.
MOVING DAY INDEED: Saturday at THE PLAYERS was absolutely electric with players going low and shots dropping from all over the place. In addition to the aforementioned double-eagle, the day also produced 11 eagles and 298 birdies, many coming from players holing out from the fairways and around the greens. NBC broadcaster Johnny Miller later summed it up quite nicely, The most amazing day.
YOU KNOW YOU HAVE ARRIVED WHEN...: ...You are invited to have a sit down chat with Oprah. And that's just what Masters champ Zach Johnson did, when his appearance on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' aired on Monday, replete with surprise visits on the show from his sister and former NFL MVP and fellow Iowan Kurt Warner. Said Warner, 'A new baby boy, a green jacket, Oprah - not a bad year, kid.' And that's not including the well-done Top-10 List he performed on Letterman.
HAS IT REALLY BEEN THAT LONG?: While the world's best had gathered in Ponte Vedra Beach, the European Tour played out in Marbella, Spain, at the Aloha Golf Club. And aloha was what Lee Westwood was saying to the trophy he had not handled in nearly four years. The European Tour Order of Merit winner in 2000, Westwood had a David Duval-like fall from the game and with this win he's hoping this could be the start of his rise back into a premiere world player.
GOOD ISLAND GREEN: Despite Tiger calling it gimmicky at the beginning of the week, there is just no denying that the par-3 17th is THE best hole to watch in all of golf. With each shot the fans stationed in and around the green hold their collective breath as they follow the tee shots over the water, letting out cheers when the ball lands safely on the green. On the other hand...
EVIL ISLAND GREEN: ... If a players ball doesnt find land, that same crowd also lets out one of the loudest united groans youll hear in all of sports. A record 50 groans were recorded on Thursdays windy opening round, but the 17th saved its cruelest intentions for late Sunday afternoon when the final group stepped up to the plate.
GONE FISHIN: After going toe-to-toe against Mickelson all day and impressively holding his own, Sean OHair reached the 17th alone in second place and two back of Lefty. His next two shots found a watery grave as did his hopes for victory, as he walked to the 18th now six shots behind the eventual champion. Second place at THE PLAYERS paid $972,000, but OHair dropped all the way down to 11th and instead walked away with $225,000 ' a difference of $747,000, an amount that would have vaulted him from 66th on the money list to 16th.
JOAKIM, P.E.T.A. IS ON THE PHONE : Sweden's Joakim Haeggman was strolling up the 18th fairway ' two shots off the lead ' Thursday at the Andalucia Open when he reached his ball. He then noticed that a wild goose also had made its way to his ball. An apparent misunderstanding between the two resulted in Haeggman hauling off and slapping the goose across the face, later claiming, I had no choice. The goose gods with help possibly from the golfing gods, made sure karma came into to play as Haeggman drifted from contention the rest of the week.
OK, HE IS HUMAN: Coming into THE PLAYERS, it was, as usual, hard not to think Tiger Woods would be sitting in the winner's circle come Sunday. But a rough start on Thursday - a round in which for only the fifth time in his entire career he failed to produce a single birdie - left him struggling to even make the cut. Even with a Sunday rally that left him in a tie for 37th, it was Tigers worst finish since the 2005 Deutsche Bank Championship where he placed T-40.
RORY MEET STEPHEN AMES: Rory Sabbatini keeps talking about Tiger. And he keeps finishing behind him. Sabbatini wanted a piece of Woods at Wachovia and was paired with him in the final group in the final round. Woods shot 69 and won. Sabbatini, who led Tiger by one, shot 74 and tied for third. At THE PLAYERS, Rory kept on yapping after his opening 67 had him in a share of first place, eight shots clear of Woods. He then went 79-71-72 to fall into a tie for 44th ' one shot back of Tiger, who closed in 67.
CAN I START OVER?: Clichs are boring. Often times, however, they are true. It is said that you cant win a tournament on Thursday, but you can lose it. Sometimes, it doesnt even take the whole round to let a tournament slip away. In fact, Charley Hoffman did it on the very first hole of THE PLAYERS. This years Bob Hope champion began his first-ever PLAYERS with a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 10th. He managed to claw back to 1 under late in the second round, but tied for 75th at 7 over.
LEE ON LPGA: Of all the Lees who had a chance to win this past weeks Michelob Ultra Open, none were in better position to do so than Jee Young Lee. The second-year player, who shot 63 Saturday to take a one-shot lead into the final round, found herself in a playoff with Suzann Pettersen. After both players parred the first two extra holes, Lee had a 12-footer for birdie and the win on the 75th hole. Not only did she miss that one, but she rushed the 2-foot comebacker and missed that one as well. Sarah Lee, who was one back of Jee Young Lee to start Sunday, shot 3-over 74 to finish third. Seon Hwa Lee had a 73 and dropped into a tie for seventh.
DOUBLE TROUBLE: Every time a player comes close to winning he can point to something he did wrong that cost him the tournament ' like the double-bogey Sergio Garcia made on the 18th hole Saturday (he ultimately lost by two strokes). Or he can point his finger at someone else. Garcia felt that the caddie of his Sunday playing competitor, Cliff Kresge, accused him of cheating, which definitely, according to Garcia, cost him a stroke. Kresges caddie felt that Garcia didnt take full relief on a drop on the second hole. Garcia birdied the hole, and the fourth, before a bogey at No. 5. He did manage to make five birdies on the back nine to storm into second place, but was quite upset about the accusation.
UGA-LY STORY The Associated Press has reported that Todd McCorkle, the women's golf coach at the University of Georgia, has resigned in the wake of complaints from players about inappropriate sexual comments and jokes. McCorkle, who coached the Lady Bulldogs to the 2001 NCAA championship, also reportedly shared the sexually explicit Paris Hilton video from the Internet with the team.