Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the week. This week, our writers weigh in on the difficulty of watching late-night golf; the underrated talent of Bo Van Pelt; the unsatisfactory nature of exhibition golf; the continued improvement of Tiger Woods and the loneliness of being Stacy Lewis.
You really want to know what I learned this week? Fine. I'm old. That's what I learned. Overnight golf – well, at least overnight in my time zone – used to be an excuse to sit around with a big bag of pretzels and a few cold ones. (As opposed to most other nights, when I had no excuse.) This week, I was the viewing equivalent of Nick Watney before the final round. That's right – a sleeper. Either somebody spiked my pretzels or I don't have what it takes to stay up anymore. Which is a shame for a few reasons. One is that it promoted random dreams about random PGA Tour players. That's not a good thing. Another is that in between snores I was able to catch only a few glimpses of really good players playing really good golf half a world away. I don't think Watney will win a major next season because of his victory in Malaysia, but I do think those who were able to stay awake Saturday night received a look into why he'll win one. As aloof as he is off the course, Watney is calm, confident and in control when he’s in contention. I wasn’t one of those who was able to watch his entire final-round 61, but there is some good news: Coverage of the WGC-HSBC Champions begins at 11 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Pass the pretzels – and a wake-up call. – Jason Sobel
Bo Van Pelt may be the most underrated player in golf. For those who are less than impressed with Van Pelt’s win-place combo the last two weeks at the Perth International and CIMB Classic, consider that he finished inside the top 25 more times than not (16 times out of 24 starts) in 2012, has finished inside the top 30 in FedEx Cup points the last three seasons and is 49th on the career money list. Not bad for a one-win (official) afterthought. – Rex Hoggard
Like sweet potato soufflé on Thanksgiving, I’ve had my fill of exhibition golf. A pair of Rory McIlroy comments this week pinned my needle. First, McIlroy said of his Turkish boondoggle that it was a nice, relaxing week with his girlfriend and that he didn’t “take it too seriously.” He then said of his impending one-on-one against Tiger Woods in China, “it will be hard to get myself up” for the match. Meanwhile, he’s making millions of dollars off both events he’s deemed meaningless. This isn’t a mini-McIlroy rant. I don’t blame him for taking the cash and appreciate him not blowing smoke up our keisters. I just prefer competitive golf or no golf at all. – Mercer Baggs
Time was, a 63 by Tiger Woods on a Sunday meant curtains for everybody else. The other players would hear those Tiger roars and start hitting shots into trees and tributaries. That is no longer the case, as Tiger’s closing kick at the CIMB Classic (similar to his 62 on Sunday atwhile chasing Rory McIlroy) left him short of victory. Nick Watney was the man in Malaysia. He shot 61 on Sunday.
Tiger is still one of the two best players in the game, an awesome force who remains a heavy favorite to break Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins and may find a way to catch Jack’s record of 18 majors, too. But his biggest haymakers don’t leave scars like they used to. His opponents have learned to parry them. Tiger, no doubt, will keep on punching. – Damon Hack
Any quest to return American women's golf to prominence is beginning to look like a lonely proposition for Stacy Lewis. Lewis still holds the lead in the Rolex Player of the Year standings in her bid to become the first American to win the honor since Beth Daniel in 1994, but her fellow Americans have quietly continued to slip way down in the world rankings.
Lewis leads the Player of the Year race with 184 points, though Inbee Park moved within striking distance of seizing the honor with her second-place finish Sunday at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. Park is second to Lewis, trailing by 28 points with three events left in the season. A win is worth 30 points.
While Lewis leads the POY race, the next best American is Angela Stanford at 13th in points. Lewis is No. 2 in the Rolex world rankings, but no other American ranks among the top 10 anymore. One year ago, four Americans ranked among the top 10 in the world. The 2012 money list also has a similar look of diminishing returns for Americans. Lewis is second on the money list. You have to go all the way down to No. 14 to find the next American (Paula Creamer). Just last year, five Americans ranked among the top 10 on the final money list. – Randall Mell