I was asked this week on a radio show to summarize the year as it currently stands. A very good question, which put me on the spot but also left me with two quick replies to that topic. Ill get to that in just a minute. But first, think along with me.
Was 2006 the best it could have been? Are we left searching for more as the PGA TOUR season winds down? Is the LPGA Rolex Player of the Year honor enough of a race to keep us enthused? Is the Frys.com Open compelling enough to keep us motivated for the TOUR Championship?
If you are like me, youve been left to ponder what was and think about what might be as we look ahead to 2007.
So with that, here are five questions to think about:
1. What was the PGA TOUR story of the year?
To which I answered on that radio interview that there were actually two. It started as the year for Phil Mickelson. No question ' he was the story leading into the Masters and heading out of the Masters. Mickelson had won the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol and arrived at the Masters with a blowout victory under his belt at the Bellsouth Classic. Mickelson won at Augusta, but blew it at the U.S. Open and was never heard from again in the same conversation. Mickelson was definitely a huge story this year.
Tiger Woods is the other story. Obviously hes reaffirmed our belief in him as the worlds best player. After losing at Augusta and missing the cut at Winged Foot, people tied his misfortune to the health of his father. After Earl passed, Tiger mourned and regrouped to play arguably the best golf of his career. Woods is back on top with an exclamation point. And we are left ' regardless of what happens the rest of the year ' thinking about Tiger and his dominance as the most important memory of 2006.
2. Is the LPGA at its highest point in history?
You could argue the point, thats for sure. Annika Sorenstams the best and that hasnt changed. But with Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak back in the mix, Michelle Wie closing in the rearview mirror, and a group of talented youngsters really making their presence felt, things are as good as the LPGA could hope for. Sure, we could question Paula Creamer and Natalie Gulbis as non-winners this year (thus far) and ask what happened to Grace Park (health issues), but that would be to nit-pick. Cristie Kerr is playing terrific and that Ochoa girl is a star. Bottom line ' the These Girls Rock campaign is legit. The LPGA is as good as it could possibly be and given that, the Solheim Cup cant come soon enough.
3. Was the 2005 Presidents Cup the exception?
Wow! What happened to Woods-Furyk and Mickelson-DiMarco? What happened to the United States turning things around in team competition? We all watched it together. And a few weeks back, I submitted a team of 12 that might actually have as good a chance. Guess who you all seemed to feel had been left off my team and Tom Lehmans team? John Daly, thats who. John Daly didnt even have a decent year in 2006 and youre putting him in the mix for a Ryder Cup? My how the USA has fallen. I like Daly, too, but at least pick him when hes on a roll. Next years Presidents Cup is in Montreal. Perhaps we should annex Canada before then and use the Presidents Cup as a building block for Valhalla in 2008.
4. Are the PGA TOUR stars really going to buy into the FedEx Cup?
That question has been asked a time or two of late as well. My hunch is that they will. But youd have to believe theres a chance that Woods could win the thing without playing them all. And given that, Mickelsons gone and not coming back until January or February ' theres no proof that the PGA TOURs second best draw will be there for the payoff. My gut says theyll both play the last three and the TOUR Championship next year, too. (Mickelson isnt scheduled to play this years TOUR Championship). Id hope they would. After all, Tim Finchems new plan is exactly what the big stars hoped for. Remember? A shorter season with a big show at the end. Well see.
5. Has Nick Faldo lost his mind?
Hell have more air-time next year than Regis and Kelly. Hes great in the booth and will be a huge asset to The Golf Channel and CBS in 2007. Overexposure is always a concern for any good act. I know hell be good. Im excited hes on our team at TGC. But if he thought his playing schedule was busy then wait until this train gets rolling.
And by the way, just who will Faldo be talking about most in 2007? Can Ernie Els come back? Can Vijay Singh find his winning consistency again? Can Phil rebound and get us hyped for a third Masters title? Or will it be all Tiger all the time.
Those are my questions. Im sure you have yours. And I always appreciate hearing them. I do read them all.
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann