TALE OF TWO RETURNS: Two of the game's biggest names returned to the PGA Tour at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis ' with very different reasons for their layoffs. Phil Mickelson teed it up for the first time since revealing that his wife, Amy, had breast cancer. John Daly competed for the first time in the U.S. since being suspended by the Tour for six months.
Ultimately, both players tied for 59th. And both players received a srong showing of support from the gallery. The biggest difference, however, was that Daly dressed like he should have been at Bulle Rock as the back up Ronald McDonald.
BETHPAGE, HERE I COME: Brian Gay earned his second win of the season, and a spot in the U.S. Open field, by blowing away the competition at the St. Jude Classic. Gay won by five shots to go along with his 10-stroke romp earlier in the year at Hilton Head.
Many of us at Golf Channel have followed Gay's career and leading up to this season one thing was most evident ' he was less productive over the weekends than a union man. And then something happened. Maybe he got bit by a radioactive spider or hit by a meteorite, but now he's got super powers. Give this guys some coffee, Alec Baldwin, he's a closer.
CHAMPAGNE DREAMS: Anna Nordqvist made her first LPGA victory a major championship, capturing the McDonald's LPGA Championship. The 22-year-old Swedish rookie, who grew up idolizing Annika Sorenstam, pulled away late from her lone challenger Sunday, Australian Lindsey Wright.
How's this for a week: Birthday on Wednesday; shoot 66 on Thursday; take lead in a major on Friday; win a major on Sunday. No one is suggesting Nordqvist will become the next Sorenstam, but she did make her first LPGA victory a major ' as did Sorenstam ' and she did so at 22, two years younger than Annika. Only 71 more LPGA wins and nine more majors to go.
TRAGIC NEWS: Champions Tour player Ken Green was severly injured in an automobile accident, which killed his brother and girlfriend.
Green survived the crash, but, according to his agent, he will have to have his lower right leg amputated. Green was a one-of-a-kind player while on the PGA Tour, riling up officials and peers alike, while winning five times on Tour and making the 1989 U.S. Ryder Cup team. He long suffered with myriad personal problems, ranging from depression to gambling. One can only wonder how he'll be able to battle through this incomprehensible time.
WHO'S IN: Thirteen sectional qualifiers were held last Monday across the U.S. to help finalize the field for the 109th U.S. Open. Among those who secured a tee time at Bethpage included: David Duval, J.B. Holmes, Tom Lehman, Matt Kuchar, Drew Weaver and Fred Funk.
Of all the players who punched their ticket to the season's second major none will receive more attention than Duval. Aside from the obivous ' Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, John Daly ' no player on the PGA Tour captures the fans' imagination more so than Duval. It's part sympathy, part support, and part Trainwreck Syndrome. He shot 66-69 in Columbus, Ohio to earn his spot in the field. We'll see if the train stays on the tracks at Bethpage.
WHO'S OUT: For all the players who qualified for the U.S. Open via the sectionals, hundreds more missed out. Among those who failed to make the cut: John Daly; Charles Howell; Davis Love III; Danny Lee; Jose Maria Olazabal; two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen; and many, many, many more.
Did Daly really want to play in the U.S. Open? Let's review his history: 12 starts, three missed cuts, two withdrawals and one finish inside the top 40; in 1997 he withdrew after nine holes of the second round citing exhaustion; in 1999 he made an 11 on the par-4 eighth hole at Pinehurst and later said, 'I don't consider the U.S. Open a major any more;' the following year, he made a 14 at Pebble Beach's par-5 18th and promptly quit after a first-round 83; he's since played in only two of the last nine Opens. It's probably a good thing you're sitting this one out again, John.
BLACK OUT: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson each got a sneak peak at Bethpage Black, site of this week's U.S. Open and Tiger's 2002 victory. Woods played the venerable course Monday, following his Memorial victory, while Mickelson played it Tuesday, prior to the St. Jude Classic.
Not much is known about either practice session, aside from the fact that Woods came and went without saying a word to anyone, while Mickelson chatted with course officials and fans during his seven-hours on the Black Course. As a heads up for this week: There are more than just two players in this year's field. But for the next few days it sure will feel like that's all there is.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Nick Faldo was given a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to golf. ... McDonald's is no longer the sponsor of the LPGA Championship, bringing an end to its 16-year relationship upon the conclusion of this past week's event. Bulle Rock will also no longer host the tournament after this year. ... Trevor Immelman and Robert Karlsson withdrew from the U.S. Open.
Sir Faldo? It's a good thing he's not a real knight. We're not sure his head would fit into the helmet. ... No sponsor, no course, plenty of anxiety. ... Immelman pulled out because of tendinitis in his left wrist and elbow; Karlsson because of an eye infection.