SCHOOL'S OUT FOR MCNEILL: George McNeill, the 2006 Q-school medalist, earned his first PGA TOUR win, capturing the Frys.com Open in Las Vegas by four shots. McNeill shot no worse than 5-under 67 all week in reaching 23 under par.
Until this past week, only proven TOUR winners had claimed Fall Series titles: Steve Flesch (Turning Stone); Chad Campbell (Viking Classic); and Justin Leonard (Texas Open). McNeiil became the first player to earn more than a moral victory (moving from 122nd to 59th on the money list); he earned his first TOUR title and won't have to worry about Q-school for at least two more years.
PARTING GIFTS: There were, however, a few moral victories claimed in Vegas. D.J. Trahan finished runner-up to McNeill, and in the process went from 126th in earnings to 81st. Cameron Beckman finished third, going from 147th to 128th. Kent Jones jumped up 11 spots to 141st, but it could have been much better for a guy who annually languishes around the financial cut line. Jones, who at one point in the final round was in third place, triple-bogeyed the par-5 16th to finish tied for 10th.
The Fall Series doesn't have the star power of the FedExCup, but compelling stories -- for the hard-core golf fan -- are far more plentiful. For a number of players, it's like Q-school every week, so that they can avoid the real deal next month.
NO SHOCK; PLENTY OF AWE: One week after losing to Suzann Pettersen in a playoff, Lorena Ochoa defeated her rival -- and 18 other elite players -- in the Samsung World Championship. Ochoa was tied with Pettersen entering the final round, but shot 66 to the Norwegian's 72, to earn a repeat victory in the event.
Few players can handle the pressure of being No. 1. Ochoa is one of them. This was her seventh win of the season and her ninth consecutive top-3 finish on the LPGA. Thanks to past performances by Tiger and Annika, these numbers don't seem shocking, but they should inspire awe.
MORE WOE FOR WIE: Meanwhile, down near the bottom of the leaderboard was Michelle Wie. Playing on her final sponsor's exemption of the year, Wie opened in 79 -- on her 18th birthday -- and concluded with rounds of 79-77-71 to finish one shot out of last place in the field of 20.
Wie said at the beginning of the week that she wished she hadn't played at all this year. Actually, she could have gotten her wish had she not withdrawn late in first round at the Ginn Tribute, where she was on the verge of posting 88 and being banned from LPGA events for the remainder of the season. But play she did, 21 official rounds on the PGA and LPGA tours, with a stroke average of 76.7. If this golf thing doesn't work out, at least she should have a degree from Stanford, in a few years, to fall back on.
RYDERS ON A STORM OF CONTROVERSY: Bernard Gallacher, a former victorious European Ryder Cup captain, called out Nick Faldo, saying the current European skipper should not have gone public with his recent criticism of Colin Montgomerie. Faldo, who captained the winning Great Britain and Ireland squad at the Seve Trophy, said in an interview with The Times that he was disappointed in Monty for only going to two of the five team meetings and not sufficiently rooting on his teammates at the end of the competition.
Basically, Gallacher called Faldo a hypocrite, saying in various European newspaper reports, "I never felt Nick was a real team player but I accepted that as a captain because he gave you points." The Ryder Cup is now like the Super Bowl, in that the lead-up to the event is far more entertaining than the competition itself.
FUN AND GAMES?: U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger told GOLF CHANNEL's Rich Lerner in a phone interview last week that the laid back attitude that the Americans present at the Presidents Cup doesn't translate to the other biennial competition. “It doesn’t work that way at the Ryder Cup," Azinger said. "If you win you won and broke the drought. Lose and you didn’t just lose, you lost AGAIN and you #@%*#!”
Did we mention that the lead-up to the Ryder Cup is better than the event itself? With Azinger and Faldo as the captains, the 2008 edition could be the most compelling ever -- at least until they actually play.
THE KING OF WETWORTH: Ernie Els won his seventh career title at the HSBC World Match Play Championship, defeating reigning U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera, 6 and 4, in the finals at Wentworth Club.
Cabrera called Els "The king of Wentworth," and well he is. But where does he go from here? Els has long dominated, not only this event, but competition outside of the U.S. We won't know if there is any significance to this victory until he plays again on the PGA TOUR -- which isn't expected to be until the TOUR nears Florida in 2008.
HEY, ROOKIE: John Cook made his Champions Tour debut this past week in the Administaff Small Business Classic, modestly tying for 39th. It was a good week for several past TOUR notables, as the top 20 included the names of O'Meara, Kite, Haas, Crenshaw, Bean, Sluman, Beck, Funk and Zoeller.
But it was a great week for Bernhard Langer. Playing at Augusta Pines Golf Club, no less, the two-time Masters champion opened in 10-under 62. He cruised from there to an eight-shot victory in just his fourth start on the senior circuit.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: The Associated Press reported that Tiger Woods' caddie Steve Williams has donated more than $1 million to a New Zealand hospital to help fund the rebuilding and expansion of its oncology and hematology wards; Greg Norman, who was last Thursday inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, will pay for World Golf Hall of Fame chief executive Jack Peter to travel to Sydney to perform compatriot Kel Nagle's induction on Dec.15; David Duval plans to play in the Del Webb Father-Son Challenge with his wife's son, Deano, a senior in high school.
Nice to see someone as financially fortunate as Williams giving back; Same can be said for Norman, as the 87-year-old Nagle is unable to travel to the U.S. for the official induction ceremony in November; Getting to play in the Father-Son is one of the little-known perks to being a major champion.
Contributions from writers and editors on the Golf Channel Digital team.
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