Efficiency and Controversy


Greg Norman and Fred Couples

BEING PICKED ON: Presidents Cup captains Greg Norman and Fred Couples announced their wildcard selections last week. U.S. captain Couples picked Hunter Mahan and Lucas Glover, while International captain Norman went with Ryo Ishikawa of Japan and fellow Aussie Adam Scott.
Backspin Couples had long said that Mahan and Glover were his men, which means only Steve Stricker was happier to see Scott Verplank fail to win the Deutsche Bank Championship. Norman, however, never tipped his hand. Many saw Ishikawa as an option, if only because no one else really stood out and he does have five wins this year on the Japanese Tour - plus broad international appeal. Scott, though, was a major surprise since he's had such a horrible season. Norman's picks further showcased the Presidents Cup as entertainment over serious competition.
Rory Sabbatini

MOUTH RUNS EFFICIENTLY: Rory Sabbatini took exception to Greg Norman's Presidents Cup captain's selections, or at least over the fact that he failed to receive a courtesy call to say he would not be chosen. Sabbatini voiced his displeasure to the media after shooting 5-under 66 to take the first-round lead in the BMW Championship. He then shot 70-72-74 to tie for 18th.
Backspin Sabbatini is a very talented player, unfortunately he tends to go blah, blah, blah, then we go pffft, and he goes thppp. He had reason to be upset that he wasn't selected or didn't get a phone call or whatever, but, as is usually the case, he failed to handle the situation appropriately. Good thing he doesn't care what anyone else thinks.
Tiger Woods

MY HOUSE(S): Tiger Woods won the BMW Championship by eight strokes. Woods was aided greatly by a course-record 9-under 62 Saturday, which gave him a seven-shot advantage entering the final round. The victory was Woods' sixth of the season and first of the '09 playoffs. He regained the No. 1 spot on the FedEx Cup points standings with one event, the Tour Championship, remaining.
Backspin Woods has re-established his dominance on his favorite tracks. He won at Bay Hill [victory No. 6 on that course], Muirfield Village [No. 4], Firestone [No. 7] and now Cog Hill [No. 5]. Surprisingly, it's the first time in his career that he's won on all four courses in the same year. The only other regular PGA Tour venue he likes as much or more than these is Torrey Pines, and he was sidelined for this year's Buick Invitational. Nick Watney thanks him for that.

Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods

30 ROCK: The BMW pared the FedEx Cup playoffs down to the final 30 participants. These 30 will have their points restructured, meaning anyone who is currently inside the top five still has a chance to win the $10 million bonus with a victory at the Tour Championship.
Backspin The top five are, in order: Tiger Woods, Stever Stricker, Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson and Heath Slocum. Among those failing to qualify fo the Tour Championship include: Ian Poulter (No. 31), Rory Sabbatini (34), Anthony Kim (35), Sergio Garcia (38), defending champion Camilo Villegas (42), and Davis Love III (51).
Arnold Palmer

80 ROCK: Arnold Palmer celebrated his 80th birthday Thursday Sept. 10, the same day the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children marked its 20th anniversary. Palmer spent the week leading up to his birthday being honored at the hospital, attending a few celebratory dinners and throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at a Pittsburgh Pirates game.
Backspin You have to travel far and wide to find anyone who has anything negative to say about Palmer [assuming you don't talk to Ken Venturi]. Eighty years. That's 29,220 days, including leap years. And we wish him many, many more.

Jiyai Shin and Angela Stanford

JI, I'M GOOD: Ji Yai Shin won the P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship in a playoff over Angela Stanford and Sun Young Yoo. The win was Shin's third of the season. She took over the No. 1 spot on the money list, the No. 1 spot on the Player of the Year ranking and the No. 1 spot on the Rookie of the Year ranking.
Backspin Congratulations to Shin, but it was a bummer to see Stanford lose. She got off to a great start this season but then struggled upon learning that her mother, Nan, had breast cancer. Since the Solheim Cup, however, she has gone T-8, T-2, T-2. Her mom was on hand this week and was able to witness Angela eagle the par-5 18th to join the three-way playoff. Shin proved to be too much, though, as she was the only player to birdie the second extra hole.

Lorena Ochoa

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR US LATELY?: Lorena Ochoa was met with some critical questions during a trip last week to her native Mexico while promoting a charity event. Local media queried Ochoa on her lack of wins this season (two) and the dramatic decrease in her lead atop of the world golf rankings. Ochoa was defensive in her remarks, saying 'I’m not going to answer any questions about my results.'

Backspin Americans can't imagine the scrutiny that successful foreign players endure. They're not just sports figures, they're national icons. The hopes of a country are saddled on their shoulders. As Ochoa or someone like Ai Miyazato can tell you, this is not hyperbole. Their success is their homeland's success. It is understandable to wonder why Ochoa is not producing the results she has in the last few years. It is not, however, acceptable to be disappointed in her for one less-than-stellar season.

Sandra Gal

BODY OF WORK: Sandra Gal made some news both on and off the course this past week. First, it was announced that she, Christina Kim and Anna Grzebien were going to appear semi-nude in the Oct. 19 'Bodies' edition of 'ESPN The Magazine.' Gal then opened in 7-under 64 to lead after the first round of the P&G event.
Backspin Gal closed in 76-70 to tie for 15th. Kim finished T-54, while Grzebien was T-65. People will debate whether or not this kind of exposure [pun intended] is good for the tour. It is. The LPGA needs publicity surrounding its players, not involving its commissioner, its sponsors or its schedule. It doesn't have the luxury of marketing players based solely on their performances; it needs other avenues. And sexuality promotes well. It should be noted, however, that the decision to pose for the magazine was made by the individuals, not the tour. And it's up to the players, more so than the tour, to prove there is substance behind the style.
U.S. Walker Cup team

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: The Americans defeated Great Britain and Ireland, 16 1/2 - 9 1/2, in the 42nd Walker Cup at Merion Golf Club. ... Josh Teater won for the first time on the Nationwide Tour at the Utah Championship. ... James Kingston defeated Anders Hansen in a playoff to win the European Tour's Mercedes-Benz Championship.
Backspin That's three wins in a row for the Yanks, who have a 34-7-1 record in the event. It might be time to invite continental Europe into the fray. ... Teater earned $99K and moved from 21st to eighth on the money list. ... Kingston's opening round of 5-under 67 included an eagle and a triple bogey.