This week’s edition celebrates a triumphant threesome that scored a variety of victories, from the meaningful to the metaphorical, and questions professional golf’s new mantra that less is more.
Lindsey Wright. The Australian is one stroke back at an event that still has that new car smell and features the game’s undisputed alpha female, Yani Tseng, looming another shot back. But if nothing has been accomplished at the Kraft Nabisco Championship then why does it feel like Wright should be taking a victory lap through Poppie’s Pond?
In what is arguably the young season’s most forthright and revealing interview, Wright detailed her struggles with depression and anxiety and the feeling that she’s swimming with weights on.
“I could have shot 80 today, and I’d be happy,” Wright said on Thursday from the year’s first major. “I’m sleeping better, I’m happier. I’m very lucky to be feeling that way.”
Far too many valleys and not enough peaks forced Wright to take four months off last year and she even conceded that she may well be done with professional golf for good this fall regardless of her opening 67 at the Kraft.
She may not take the “Champion’s Leap” into Poppie’s Pond on Sunday, but a life swimming without weights seems just as rewarding.
Tiger Woods. On Sunday at Bay Hill he refused to assign any added significance to his 72nd PGA Tour victory other than figuring his five-stroke triumph was “pure joy.”
Perhaps his seventh Bay Hill tilt was little more than another stopover on his way to history, but when it comes time to tally the resume in his golden years, the 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational will be worth more than the sum of its parts.
After 30 months of controversy and questions Woods did what he does best, change the conversation.
Phil Mickelson. Lefty has become the Masters whisperer, a mentor to the next generation on all things Augusta National, much like he has done at recent Ryder and Presidents Cups and somehow golf is better for it.
Following a scouting trip to Augusta National with Masters rookie Keegan Bradley during the week of the WGC-Cadillac Championship, Mickelson added Brendan Steele to the rotation for this week’s Augusta National looksie.
“Phil is a huge help,” Steele told Golf Channel. “He probably knows the course better than anyone and really showed us a lot.”
That the three-time Masters champion would take the time to show the newcomers the ropes is cool. That the rookies embraced the opportunity is even cooler.
Tweet of the week: @SamSaunders87 “For all concerned my granddad is doing fine and will be good to go on (Monday). Thank you for all of your nice comments and concerns.”
Saunders’ “granddad” is 82-year-old Arnold Palmer who was hospitalized on Sunday because of high blood pressure during the final round at Bay Hill and was released on Monday.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
The Big Miss. Hank Haney’s revelations are nothing short of insightful and co-author Jaime Diaz is at his creative best in the most anticipated golf book since Ben Hogan released “Five Lessons.” But “Miss” lands in MDF territory because of the few occasions when it crosses the fine line between what is professional and what is private.
Haney’s arm-chair psychologist take on Woods’ doomed marriage, for example, seems to violate the unspoken code between swing coach and student.
“Within the realm of coaching there are a number of things that are said in confidence. There are things that players discuss with you that are very confidential, how they are thinking, their life outside of golf that should not be written about,” said Dale Lynch, the swing coach for Geoff Ogilvy, Aaron Baddeley and Matt Goggin.
“If it was just about the golf game that would be OK. The golf swing is on public display and I have no problem commenting on that, but nothing that would be personal.”
Haney largely stayed within those widely accepted boundaries, but as the swing coach learned during his six-year tenure it is the extremes that count when it comes to Woods.
Tweet of the week II: @HankDHaney “No human being is born with thick skin, it thickens with experience. Mine is getting thicker every day.”
European Solheim Cup. Liselotte Neumann is certainly deserving of being a European captain and news this week that the Swede would lead the Europeans next year was widely applauded, but it still feels as if the Ladies European Tour continues to ignore the elephant in the team room.
On Thursday’s “Morning Drive” Annika Sorenstam cringed at the idea that the European captain’s hat should be hers for as long as she wants it, modestly dismissing the idea and hoping that someday she would get her turn to lead.
No one has meant more to the European side than Sorenstam and Fred Couples has proven that a respected and winning captain never outstays his welcome.
Less is more. Barring the type of breakthrough moment that has eluded him for weeks, Ernie Els will not be in the Masters field for the first time since former president Bill Clinton was in the White House.
For the record, the Big Easy has eschewed the blame game, keeping with a familiar Tour player adage that if he’d played better this wouldn’t be an issue, but that doesn’t alter the nagging feeling that perhaps this is “the big miss.”
“Ryo Ishikawa had (an invitation) from outside the world’s top 50,” Graeme McDowell said. “Surely the green jackets have discussed (Els) at length and decided that for whatever reason, he doesn’t deserve an invitation. But I think if you took a poll among the players as to guys who deserve the invite, he would be top of the list for sure. Disappointing, obviously a blow to the field.”
But this is not an Augusta National problem. Somewhere along the way limited-fields became synonymous with special, and yet somehow the PGA Championship, U.S. and British Opens survive with fields that average 156 players. Weird.