NO SHOW(DOWN): Despite the pre-tournament build-up, the Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson showdown never materialized at the Memorial Tournament. Mickelson was forced to withdraw 11 holes into his opening round due to a wrist injury, which he believes he originally incurred while trying to hack out of waist-high fescue in a practice round at U.S. Open host course Oakmont. Woods, meanwhile, played all four rounds but even a closing 67 couldn't get him any higher than T15. And, in case you missed it, Korea's K.J. Choi actually won the tournament.
In the words of Chuck D: Don’t believe the hype. No matter what you might read, hear and see over the next two weeks, don’t get too excited about the possibility of a Woods-Mickelson duel at the U.S. Open. No matter how much we (read: fans) want it to happen and how much we (read: media) try to promote it, heavyweight showdowns are a rarity on a weekly basis, much less at a major championship. Plus, there are plenty of Choi-type players ready to put up a fight.
FLARE UP: An MRI showed there was no break in Mickelson’s left wrist, but doctor’s did place him on anti-inflamatories and requested therapy.
Hopefully, Lefty will be physically fit for the Open. He’ll certainly be questioned about his mental state in wake of last year’s meltdown at Winged Foot.
THROWING IN THE TOWEL: Michelle Wie, playing for the first time since January due to a wrist injury, was 14 over through 16 holes of her first round when she withdrew from the Ginn Tribute. The LPGA has a rule that if any non-member shoots 88 or higher that she will not be allowed to compete on tour for the remainder of the year. Wie was walking to the eighth, her 17th hole of the day, when one of her agents, Greg Nared, pulled her aside. She then opted to pull out. Two more dropped shots would have given her the dreaded double 8.
One of Wie’s playing competitors, Alena Sharp, said she felt Wie quit to avoid the possibility of shooting 88. And the timing of the matter, her agent talking to her just before she withdrew, didn’t help Wie’s claim that injury was the culprit. Regardless of the reason, Wie potentially saved herself millions of dollars. She could have seen her LPGA schedule limited for the year to the U.S. Women’s Open and Women’s British, which are co-sponsored events. That would not have pleased her well-paying sponsors.
QUIET, PLEASE: While Wie managed to keep from shooting 88, her father may have been in violation of Rule 8-1. According to ESPN.com, Wie's other playing competitor, Janice Moodie, cautioned B.J. Wie on giving Michelle on-course advice. After declaring an unplayable lie after an errant tee shot on the par-3 14th, Michelle was considering her options when several reporters heard her father say, “What about the tee?” Wie then re-teed on her way to a triple bogey. Rule 8-1 prohibits players from asking for "anyone other than his (or her) partner or either of their caddies." It was noted that Michelle didn’t solicit the advice, but had the rule been enforced, the penalty for such a violation is … two strokes.
Wherever Wie plays, controversy always seems to follow -- but not birdies. Including her 16 holes Thursday, Wie is a combined 68 over par in her last 14+ rounds on the LPGA, PGA and European tours. She said that she expects to compete in this week’s McDonald's LPGA Championship, the LPGA's second major of the season. She may, however, want to give serious re-consideration as to whether or not she wants to do the same in the PGA TOUR’s John Deere Classic in July.
ANNIKA IN ACTION: Annika Sorenstam, host of the inaugural Ginn Tribute, also returned from a back injury to compete in her own event. Sorenstam ran out of steam over the weekend, shooting 72-71-74-77 to finish tied for 36th, 14 shots behind the winner. This was her first start since withdrawing from the Ginn Open in April.
A lot happened in Annika’s absence on tour; most notably, she lost her No. 1 ranking to Lorena Ochoa. Sorenstam is trying to “be patient,” but that patience -- and her stamina -- will be severely tested as two of the next three events are major championships, including the U.S. Women’s Open, in which Annika is the defending champion.
HOSTED BY ANNIKA; WON BY NICOLE: Nicole Castrale defeated world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa on the first hole of sudden death to claim the inaugural Ginn Tribute. Castrale trailed by as many as four in the final round, but birdied the 17th and watched as Ochoa bogeyed 16, 17, and the first playoff hole. The win was the 28-year-old Castrale's first on tour.
With all of the hoopla surrounding Sorenstam and Wie, Ochoa was positioned to reassert the fact that she is the best in the women's game. Instead, she proved that there are still holes in her game. Ochoa once again struggled to close a tournament and is now a career 0-4 in playoffs. If she can win this week's McDonald's, though, it will make everyone forget about this slip up.
THE MIGHTY OAK: As mentioned, Mickelson got an early look at this year’s U.S. Open host site, Oakmont Country Club. He did some chipping and putting the Sunday before the Memorial and played extended practice rounds on Monday and Tuesday.
Woods and Jim Furyk are two others who have gotten a sneak peek of the horror show that will take place June 14-17. Oakmont has already left an indelible mark on Mickelson. Good thing the USGA doesn’t have a Rule 88.
WHAT ELS CAN I TRY?: Mired in a year-long slump, and winless on the PGA TOUR since 2004, Ernie Els employed a cross-handed putting style for the first time in his career. It seemed to work in the first round as Els shot 6-under 66. He followed that up, however, with a 75 and ultimately finished tied for 15th.
Els is a “feel” player who hasn’t yet regained his touch since undergoing knee surgery in late 2005. Physical and technical issues aside, Els’ primary concern may well be his state of mind. Confidence, it would seem, is tougher to regain than form.
BIG MAC: Fifteen-year-old MacKinzie "Mac" Kline was given a sponsor’s exemption for the Ginn Tribute. She was also granted the use of a golf cart and oxygen. Kline suffers from a heart defect that makes it almost impossible for her to walk 18 holes. The teen shot 86-89 to miss the cut.
Kline might not be able to play an LPGA event for the remainder of the year, but she was hardly distraught. “It was really, really fun,” she cheerfully said afterwards. Kline’s appearance wasn’t just about adding “buzz” to the tournament or furthering her career. It was a chance for her to create awareness for the Children’s Heart Foundation. Kline, who makes national appearances on behalf of CHF, has a goal to raise more than $1 million for research. “(Because of this), I think the money is going to pour in from all over the world,” her father, John, told the Union-Tribune.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Masters champion Zach Johnson and Natalie Gulbis also withdrew from their tournaments due to illness and injury, respectively. Loren Roberts won for the first time this season on the Champions Tour. Forty-three-year-old John Riegger won for the first time ever on the Nationwide Tour. Costantino Rocca captured his first win on the European Seniors Tour. Bradley Dredge failed to become the first native winner of the Wales Open when he missed a 5-footer on the 72nd hole. Ryan Moore, who got into the Memorial as the sixth alternate, birdied five straight holes on the back nine Sunday to jump into solo second and more than double his earnings for the year.
Johnson just needs rest, worn out from his Masters Tour of Victory. Gulbis could miss the McDonald's. Riegger, you may recall, was the guy who called out Sorenstam a few years ago, saying he'd play her "anywhere, anytime" for $1 million. He is officially now only 83 professional wins behind Annika.
Contributions from writers and editors on the Golf Channel Digital team.
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