Blasting into the week ahead, from Tiger's title defense to Lorena Ochoa's return to the LPGA . . .
Children’s Miracle Network Classic
Disney presents golf’s version of a steel-cage match this week.
It’s a free-for-all for job security with the final Fall Series event focusing on players trying to lock up fully exempt status with a finish among the top 125 on the money list or trying to gain conditional status with a finish among the top 150.
Every player ranked from 117th to 137th on the money list is in this week’s field except for Henrik Stenson, who’s exempt next year by virtue of having won The Players Championship last year.
Bunker shot: Troy Matteson is 125th on the money list, but he doesn’t qualify as a true bubble boy. Matteson is fully exempt next year, a benefit from having won a two-year exemption with his victory at the Frys.com Open last year. Nicholas Thompson is a bubble boy at No. 150, the lowest spot a player can finish to secure conditional status for next year.
Mell’s picks: Winner – Justin Leonard. Contender – Jeff Overton. Dark horse – George McNeill.
Course: Disney’s Magnolia (Par 72, 7,516 yards) and Palms (Par 72, 6,957 yards) courses, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Purse: $4.7 million (winner’s share, $846,000).
TV times: Golf Channel – Thursday-Sunday, 1-4 p.m. (ET).
Last year: Stephen Ames defeated George McNeill and Justin Leonard in a playoff.
PGA OF AUSTRALASIA
Tiger Woods is teeing it up in defense of his title, his last victory anywhere.
Who has he got to beat?
Woods is one of four players in the field among the top 50 in the world rankings. No. 21 Robert Allenby, No. 30 Camilo Villegas and No. 38 Geoff Ogilvy join No. 2 Woods. Sergio Garcia is also in the field. So is Stuart Appleby, the man who shot 59 winning the Greenbrier Classic this summer.
Bunker shot: So much of this season has been about endings for Woods, from his divorce to his streak of winning PGA Tour events and his latest run at No. 1. While Woods says he believes he’s making progress with his new swing, a victory could mark another ending, the end of the mounting bad stuff and the start of a new run as he prepares for the 2011 season. On a short, tight course, Woods stiffest competition may be Victoria Golf Club. It’s the case with every player in this field. It’s a significantly different test from what Woods faced when he won at Kingston Heath last year.
Mell’s picks: Winner – Robert Allenby. Contender – Tiger Woods. Dark horse – Greg Chalmers.
Course: Victoria Golf Club, Cheltenham, Victoria, Australia. Par 72, 6,865 yards.
Purse: $1.52 million (winner’s share, $273,000).
TV times: Golf Channel – Wednesday, 8:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. (ET); Thursday-Saturday, 10 p.m.-1:30 a.m. (ET).
Last year: Tiger Woods won, finishing two shots ahead of Greg Chalmers at the Kingston Heath Course.
Lorena Ochoa Invitational by Banamex and Corona Light
Can Michelle Wie defend her title?
Will Lorena Ochoa be more than a polite host and show she’s still got serious game?
Wie’s return to the home of her first LPGA title and Ochoa’s return to her home in Guadalajara make for good storylines this week. There are multiple subplots with so much up for grabs with two events left in the season. The weekly battle for No. 1, Rolex Player of the Year, the Vare Trophy and the LPGA money title are all tightly contested.
Bunker shot: Ochoa says she’s been practicing three to four hours a day in “retirement.” She just won the Mission Hills Star Trophy celebrity pro-am in China. She’s relaxed and refreshed with nothing to lose. Sounds like a formula that could put her in the mix more than six months since she announced she was stepping away as a full-time player. Ochoa’s the story of the year in women’s golf no matter what happens this week, but her story grows more like a Hollywood script with a victory in her hometown this week.
Mell’s picks: Winner – Paula Creamer. Contender – Michelle Wie. Dark horse – Lorena Ochoa.
Course: Guadalajara Country Club, Guadalajara, Mexico.
Purse: $1.1 million (winner’s share, $165,000).
TV times: Golf Channel, Thursday-Sunday, 4-6:30 p.m. (ET).
Last year: Michelle Wie broke through to win her first LPGA title, finishing two shots ahead of Paula Creamer.
Barclay’s Singapore Open
With all four reigning major championship winners in the field, maybe this is the week we should crown the real winner of the PGA Grand Slam.
Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer join defending champion Ian Poulter in the strongest field in golf this week.
Count Francesco Molinari, red hot off his WGC-HSBC Champions victory last weekend, as the player to beat. Matteo Manassero, Italy’s other hot commodity, is making a start three weeks after his breakthrough victory at the Castello Masters. Padraig Harrington, Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel and Y.E. Yang also are in the field.
Bunker shot: Mickelson gets a good look at the future of golf this week as he’s paired in the first two rounds with Manassero, who at 17 is the youngest winner in the history of a European Tour event. If turning 40 in June didn’t make Mickelson feel the advance of age, two days with Manassero might.
Mell’s picks: Winner – Francesco Molinari. Contender – Ian Poulter. Dark horse – Arjun Atwal.
Course: Sentosa Golf Club’s Serapong (par 71, 7,300 yards) and Tanjong (par 71, 6,625 yards) courses, Sentosa, Singapore.
Purse: $6 million (winner’s share, $994,000).
TV times: Golf Channel – Wednesday-Saturday, 1:30-4:30 a.m. (ET) with replays 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (ET).
Last year: Ian Poulter won wire-to-wire.