High Altitude High Scores at International


2005 The INTERNATIONALOne week before the PGA Championship, the PGA TOUR travels just south of the Mile High City to Castle Rock, Co., for the 21st edition of The International.
Though scheduled just prior to the year's final major, a world-class field will be on hand at Castle Pines Golf Club, headlined by world No. 2 and two-time champion Phil Mickelson.
Camilo Villegas
Camilo Villegas is quickly becoming one of the PGA TOUR's most recognizable stars.
With the high altitude and the rarely used modified Stableford scoring system in effect, this is perhaps not the ideal event to prep for a major championship. But the list of top players in the field may suggest otherwise.
Along with Mickelson, those gathering in Castle Rock include defending champion Retief Goosen, fellow South African Ernie Els, British Open contenders Sergio Garcia and Chris DiMarco and a pair of former International winners Davis Love III and David Toms.
The scoring system awards 8 points for double eagle, 5 for eagle, 2 for birdie, zero for par, minus-1 for bogey and minus-3 for double bogey or worse. Mickelson and Els share the tournament scoring record with 48 points.
Another big story that will be played out this week is the battle to make Tom Lehman's Ryder Cup squad this fall at the K Club in Dublin, Ireland.
The top-6 currently on the points list are virtually a lock to make the team - Tiger, Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Chad Campbell and DiMarco. But starting at Vaughn Taylor's spot at No. 7, many scenarios could play out over the next two weeks. The top 10 players after the PGA Championship will get automatic berths.
Taylor, who jumped from 11th to seventh with his fourth-place finish at the Buick Open, will not be in the field, choosing to instead to get ready for Medinah. Both J.J. Henry and Zach Johnson, currently in the 8th and 9th positions will be in Castle Rock but Brett Wetterich, No. 10 on the list, will not.
Of the players sitting in the 11-15 spots - John Rollins, Jerry Kelly, Lucas Glover, Love and Fred Couples - only Kelly will not be teeing it up.
Love, who has been on six straight Ryder Cup teams dating back to the U.S. victory at the Belfry in 1993, will need good finishes this week and next or hope that captain Lehman will make him a captain's selection due to his vast Ryder Cup experience.
With all the subplots going on, here are five players to look for to win the title:
Phil Mickelson
As mentioned above, Mickelson is one of only two players - along with Love - to have twice won this tournament and also shares the scoring record. In 13 starts, Lefty has finished in the top-10 over half those times and along with his two wins he has a pair of runner-ups. And dont forget what he did in another major tune up earlier in the year - a blowout 13-shot victory at the BellSouth Classic. Add in the fact that he is second only to Tiger in birdie average and is in the top-12 in eagles per hole played and Lefty and the modified Stableford scoring system make quite a nice fit.
Retief Goosen
Much like last season, the quiet South African comes into this event with nary a win on either the PGA TOUR or European Tour. He quickly took care of that winless problem last year with a solid, if not spectacular, four rounds in Colorado. Not that he has been off that much this year as seen by his runner-up bid at The Players Championship followed with his tie for third at the Masters. The last two times he has entered this event he finished second and first.
Lucas Glover
With the up and coming Glover it has been a simple case of the good, the bad and the ugly. The good: his breakout victory at last year's Funai Classic at Disney where he made a 40-foot putt from the fringe at 17 and then holed a 35-foot bunker shot on the last hole for the win. He has since racked up six top-10 finishes in '06 to vault into Ryder Cup consideration. The bad: he has missed the cut in eight of his 21 starts this year including five of the last eight. The ugly: the former Clemson All-American has failed to make it to the weekend in all three majors this season.
Steve Lowery
A two-time winner on TOUR, the 45-year-old Lowery has had success at this event as seen by his playoff win over Rick Fehr back in 1994. But it was his performance in the 2001 edition, however, that might be best remembered. Trailing eventually winner Rich Beem coming down the stretch, Lowery twice holed out from the fairway - for eagle on the par-4 15th and then for a mind-blowing double-eagle at the par-5 17th. Alas, his birdie putt on 18 hung on the lip, leaving a clearly shaken Beem with the victory.
Camilo Villegas
The stylish rookie from Columbia, who is quickly becoming one of the most recognizable stars on the PGA TOUR, is having a terrific season thus far with three top-3 finishes including a pair of runner-ups. Currently 31st on the PGA TOUR's money list he sits in a good position to qualify for the season-ending TOUR Championship. He is ranked in the top-15 in both total birdies and total eagles on the tour, which bodes well for this event.
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