Par 5: Ruthless or Clueless?


Setting the week’s agenda with five questions for tournament golf at large …

Is this new college breed more clueless than ruthless?

These college kids on a hot summer run are raising speculation there may be a new breed of American player poised to take the PGA Tour by storm.

The bravado spilling out of NCAA champion John Peterson’s mouth Sunday at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational is evidence there’s no lack of determination or cocksureness in these young ones.

After the University of Georgia’s Harris English won the Nationwide Tour event and Peterson placed second in a 1-2 amateur finish, Peterson confidently crowed to Golf World that the top 20 or 30 players in college could beat the top 20 or 30 pros today, with a few minor exceptions.

“I knew I could beat all those guys,” said Peterson, an LSU standout. “I didn’t win the tournament, but I beat all those pros.”

English was just as bold.

“We’re ruthless,” English said. “All college events are very competitive, and you learn how to go out there and win.”

The fact that English’s teammate at Georgia, Russell Henley, also won a Nationwide Tour event as an amateur this summer, and that UCLA’s Patrick Cantlay is on a roll as an amateur in Tour events, makes you wonder if something super is heating in the collegiate game.

Are these guys an exception to an old rule? Or are they the new rule?

English and Peterson know what it’s like to freewheel as amateurs in professional events. They’ve yet to learn what it’s like to play for money, to play when there’s so much more to agonize over, to choke over. They’ve yet to know the sting of missing a putt that costs them $100,000 or even a paycheck for the week.

Those hard lessons aren’t taught in college.

“We’re ruthless.” Those are words we can excuse as youthful exuberance. Still, they were uttered on a pro stage, and that also makes them words that promise to define someone, for better or worse.

Will they be staging a party or a tournament at Killarney this week?

The Irish Open will feature just three players among the top 50 in the world at Killarney this week, but it couldn’t pick three better.

Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell will turn the event into a celebration of what’s right with Irish golf. The trio from Northern Ireland, winners of three of the last six major championships, are teeing it up there this week. Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, the three-time major championship winner, is also in the field. Even Wednesday’s pro-am is expected to draw enormous crowds.

Clarke is making his first start since winning the British Open the week before last. He played the Irish Open in his first European Tour start as an amateur in 1990.

“It would be a hell of an achievement – a dream come true – to have the (British) Open and Irish Open trophies on display back at home,” Clarke told the European Tour’s website. “It has already been an amazing month for me and to do the double would be unbelievable.”

Can Phil Mickelson be re-energized in the summer time?

With his front-nine Sunday charge at the British Open, and then his back-nine fade at Royal St. George’s, we got a glimpse of the old Phil Mickelson, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He was, after all, younger back then.

At 41, Mickelson’s biggest problem at the Greenbrier this week isn’t his age. It isn’t that he’s moving toward the autumn of his career. It’s that this is summer time, and even in his prime he’s never played well in the middle of summer.

Of Mickelson’s 39 PGA Tour titles, just one has come in the month of July, and barely in that month. He won the Greater Hartford Open in 2001, when the first three rounds were played in June and the final round on July 1. He’s also won just once in June.

Actually, Mickelson hasn’t been much of a second-half player through his career. Thirty of his Tour victories have come in the first five months of the year, 17 during the West Coast swing months of January and February.

Here’s a breakdown of Mickelson’s PGA victories by month:

January: 8

February: 9

March: 2

April: 7

May: 4

June: 1

July: 1

August: 4

September: 2

October: 0

November: 1

December: 0

Will Yani Tseng join Armour, Hogan, Player and Watson as Carnoustie winners?

With the Ricoh Women’s British Open continuing to visit historic venues for the first time, Tseng gets a chance to defend her title on a course that’s been host to seven British Opens.

Carnoustie promises to offer a difficult test. It is, after all, where Jean Van de Velde infamously collapsed to lose to Paul Lawrie in the British Open finish of ‘99. It’s also where Harrington defeated Sergio Garcia in a playoff in ’07 and where Tommy Armour (‘31), Henry Cotton (’37), Ben Hogan (’53), Gary Player (’68) and Tom Watson (’75) won.

Tseng, 22, is going for her fifth major championship title, her third in the last five played and her fourth in the last two seasons.

Who will win the Watson-less U.S. Senior Open?

The buildup to the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness includes focus on who is not there.

Watson, who has yet to win this major, is skipping the U.S. Senior Open to play his first regular PGA Tour event since the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in 2007. He’s playing the Greenbrier Classic. Watson is the pro emeritus at Greenbrier and said he’s playing there to live up to a commitment he made to Greenbrier owner Jim Justice after missing the inaugural event last year.

At 61, Watson, winner of the Senior PGA earlier this year, would have been one of the favorites at Inverness. Count Bernhard Langer, the defending U.S. Senior Open champ, among the favorites as he continues to make his way back after undergoing left thumb surgery in March. After winning the Senior British Open last week, Russ Cochran looks like the man to beat. Count Tom Lehman and John Cook as the hottest players on the senior circuit this year.