Bunker Shots Slumps and Swoons


Blasting into the week ahead, from the search for meaning beyond Tiger’s swoon to Fred Couples’ “slump' ...


The Tour Championship

PGA Tour (75x100)

Down to the FedEx Cup’s final event, we’re still trying to make sense of this season.

Through 40 events, it’s a year that remains out of focus.

We head to Atlanta this week looking for more than somebody to step up and claim the $10 million FedEx Cup jackpot and possibly PGA Tour Player of the Year honors. We go to East Lake looking for someone to step through the fog and give this season some meaningful definition with a final statement. There are possibilities. Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson could make prominent marks on 2010 with closing victories.

Of course, we may not get a theme that ties this crazy season together at all. This may be destined to be remembered primarily as the Year of Tiger’s Swoon, a year that the Woods’ story towered over, even as he failed to win a single event. It may be destined to be remembered as a year that nobody moved with authority into Tiger’s winless void.

Bunker shot: Win a major, it’s a good year. Win a major while also claiming the Tour Championship, the FedEx Cup, PGA Tour Player of the Year honors and the No. 1 world ranking, and all of a sudden it feels like a fabulous year. All of that’s still possible for Mickelson to claim despite the disappointments wedged into his season. Two big weeks in his year could trump everything.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Steve Stricker. Contender – Phil Mickelson. Darkhorse – Adam Scott.

  • Course: East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta, Ga. Par 70, 7,154 yards.
  • Purse: $7.5 million (winner’s share, $1,350,000).
  • TV times: Thursday-Friday – Golf Channel, 1-6 p.m. Saturday – Golf Channel, 10 a.m.-noon; NBC, noon-3:30 p.m. Sunday – Golf Channel, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; NBC, 1:30-6 p.m.
  • Last year: Phil Mickelson closed with a 65, beating runner up Tiger Woods by three shots. Woods, though, claimed the FedEx Cup.


Champions Tour
SAS Championship

Fred Couples will be looking to snap his “slump” this week.

Couples is enjoying a terrific rookie season on the Champions Tour. He’s finished third or better in seven of his 12 starts. He has won three times, but he’s looking for his first victory in nearly six months.

Bunker shot: With five victories and two major championships, Bernhard Langer is looking like he’s the best player in the over-50 circuit yet again in his third season on Tour. He takes on Couples and all challengers once more this week as he seeks to build on his lead in the Charles Schwab Cup.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Fred Couples. Contender – Tom Pernice Jr. Darkhorse – Olin Browne.

  • Course: Prestonwood Country Club, Cary, N.C. Par 72, 7,137 yards.
  • Purse: $2.1 million (Winner’s share, $315,000).
  • TV times: Golf Channel – Friday, 6:30-8:30 p.m.; Saturday – 6:30-9:30 p.m.; Sunday – 7-9:30 p.m.
  • Last year: Tom Pernice Jr. won his debut on the Champions Tour, making birdie at the final hole to defeat Nick Price and David Frost by a shot.


WNB Golf Classic

Nationwide Tour

Just six events remain for players to crack the final top-25 money list and earn PGA Tour cards for the 2011 season.

Jamie Lovemark is the leading money winner with $416,669 in earnings, less than $10,000 ahead of Chris Kirk.

Bunker shot: It’s that time of the year. It’s Bubble Boy Season. Brian Smock is this week’s Bubble Boy at No. 25 on the money list, $3,859 ahead of Dicky Pride. But with Nationwide Tour money weighted heavily toward the top finishers, players can make large leaps with victories this week. In fact, players all the way down to No. 92 Josh Broadaway can leap into the top 25 with victories this week, though Broadaway can’t actually do it. He isn’t listed among players in this week’s field.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Hunter Haas. Contender – Martin Piller. Darkhorse – J.J. Killeen.

  • Course: Midland Country Club, Midland/Odessa, Texas. Par 72, 7,354 yards.
  • Purse: $525,000 (Winner’s share, $94,500).
  • TV times: No TV.
  • Last year: Garrett Willis had to rally in the final round with Chad Collins closing with a 62, but Willis did just that, winning by a shot.