Hot Seat: Feeling the Masters glare


You might want to get yourself something cold to drink. The heat never abates in this column.

With players taking their places on golf’s Hot Seat again this week, here is our special heat index for the PGA Tour’s Transitions Championship and the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup.

Klieg light heat – Tiger Woods’ medical team.

Woods may need some more help from his medical team if he’s going to reach the finish line he envisions for his career. If Woods is going to scale past Jack Nicklaus to reach golf’s mountaintop, he will need his body to hold up for the rigorous remaining climb. There appears to be good news following his withdrawal Sunday at Doral, and we’ll know how good if he makes it to the Arnold Palmer Invitational next week.

With his new swing, there is more work for Woods to do to get his game back to the level required to win the five more majors it will take to pass Nicklaus. Woods relished being healthy enough to finally be able to do the “reps” it takes to hone his new swing. That’s the thing about a swing overhaul. It takes more work than maintaining a swing you already own. Woods worked his way through all the other swing changes he made in his career, but what kind of a work regimen will his body be able to endure the rest of his career? Sunday’s WD raises the question anew.

Even if this Achilles’ injury is a minor setback, we’re left to wonder how hard Woods can continue to push himself to get the required reps. His Masters’ prep was cut seven holes short at Doral. How much more prep time will be lost or limited?

Then again, Ben Hogan showed us less can be more. He won three majors in 1953 on legs made wobbly after a head-on bus crash. He won them in just six overall starts that year. He won six of his nine majors after the crash.

Ben Gay burn – Paul Casey

Casey has some work to do to make up for lost ground in the European Ryder Cup standings. After missing the first two months of the season with a dislocated shoulder from a snowboarding accident, he knocked some rust off tying for 51st in a field of 74 players at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Casey is back in action at the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Fla.

With the Ryder Cup scheduled Sept. 28-30 at Medinah, Casey has about five months to make the team on points. He is 19th on Europe’s World Ryder Cup points list (based on world-ranking points) and 37th on the European points list (based on European Tour money). He must crack the top 5 on at least one of those lists to automatically qualify for the team. Casey doesn’t want to rely on one of Jose Maria Olazabal’s two captain’s picks. That didn’t work out so well last time with Colin Montgomerie leaving Casey off the team in Wales two years ago.

Walking on hot coals – Padraig Harrington

Move over, Mr. Casey, make some room for Paddy. You’re walking the same path.

Harrington also has some work to do if he’s going to avoid being left off his first European Ryder Cup team since 1997. Harrington has played in six consecutive Ryder Cups, dating back to his first in 1999. Harrington is No. 43 on this week’s European points list, six spots behind Casey. Harrington is 39th on the Euro World points list. Harrington is also in this week’s field at the Transitions. He has shown flashes this year, tying for 10th at the Volvo Champions on the European Tour and tying for seventh at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in his best PGA Tour finish since tying for fifth at the Travelers Championship 21 months ago.

Florida spring sizzle – Ernie Els

Big Easy fans want to see their man in another Masters. Els craves a return, too. That’s why he has been so busy this spring. The Transitions marks his fourth PGA Tour start in five weeks. It might have been his fifth in a row if he had been eligible for the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral last week. To make it to the Masters, Els has to win one of the next three PGA Tour events, or jump into the top 50 in the world rankings the Monday after next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. Els has played in every Masters since 1994, finishing second twice.

Sonoran sunburn – Karrie Webb

Webb has nothing to prove. She is already a Hall of Famer with a career beyond what even she dreamed, but she is the defending champ, and there is always pressure to defend. Webb is doing just that this week at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup. She was the perfect winner for last year’s inaugural event. As a Hall of Famer, with great respect for the game’s traditions, Webb eloquently honored LPGA pioneers winning at Marriott’s Wildfire Golf Club in Phoenix.

This event, the risky brainchild of LPGA commissioner Mike Whan, is evolving even better than Whan could have hoped. It was risky in that Whan created the event asking players to donate all their winnings to charities. In hard times for the LPGA, that was a big ask, but the tour’s sacrifice is paying quick dividends. While the charity component is still in place, the inaugural event was such a hit, RR Donnelley upped the ante. This year, there is real prize money, too. Give Whan credit; it was a bold vision.