First, a confession: I’ve never had a hole-in-one.
Once, I hit the flag. Another time, the ball apparently burned the edge. But for this 7 handicap, it didn’t matter whether it was a long hole or short, whether there was a 4-iron or a lob wedge in my hand, whether there was a car or bragging rights on the line, whether I was playing well or like a dog, whether it was a mulligan or my first attempt … my tee shot on a par 3 has never found its way into the bottom of a cup. Heck, I’ve only holed out from the fairway twice.
Which makes this week’s news all the more disheartening.
By now you’ve probably seen it: In the Humana Challenge pro-am, John Daly, golf’s most erratic entertainer, made an ace with a brand-new club. On his second hole of the day. With distractingly loud pants. Without even watching the ball go in.
Yes, he needed to be told about the ace, like it just sort of happened, an insignificant detail in a pro-am full of them, no big deal.
Us ace-less golfers? We simply hope for a fortuitous bounce, or for a strange gust of wind, or maybe for a better swing. We watch intently as our tee shots settle 25 feet from the cup, or more likely, miss the green altogether.
This scribe’s ace may never come, thus extending years and years of hole-in-one futility. But that’s OK – I’ll take Daly’s unclaimed luxury sedan instead.
Now: This week’s mailbag:
It appears someone already is stricken with FedEx Cup fever! But since you asked … Jimmy Walker leads with 1,233 points. That would have put him at No. 16 in last year’s standings, but because the 2013-14 has six more events (those formerly comprising the Fall Series) he’d actually fall lower than that. Of course, it’s way too early to declare that J-Walk is a lock for East Lake, but another high finish or two could seal that spot before spring. Rest assured, there’s still plenty of time for those who didn’t play in the fall to make up ground.
Man, you must have been listening in to our Golf Channel meeting; we talked for more than an hour about college golf Wednesday. Anyway, this is an answer best reserved for May, when we have more than just the fall schedule to go on, but on Jan. 15, here’s how I think the top 8 will shake out (subject to change in, like, two weeks):
Alabama: Defending champ is the clear-cut No. 1. California: Even without 2013 POY Michael Kim, the Golden Bears have more than enough firepower to reach the finals. Georgia Tech: Deep, experienced team, and boast one of college’s rising stars in Ollie Schniederjans. Illinois: Mike Small is arguably the best coach in the game, and this is close to the same team that advanced to last year’s finals. Texas: Way more talent than their 0-for-fall record indicates. Stanford: From Patrick Rodgers to Cameron Wilson to Jim Liu, there’s a lot to like about the Cardinal this year. Oklahoma State: Great mix of youth and experience has the Cowboys trending upward again. UCF: The Knights have virtually the same team that should have advanced to match play last year. They’re dangerous.
Who will go low in round 1? Holly Sonders John Daly or Jesper Parnevik? #AskLav— Denis (@gc_denis) January 15, 2014
Slurred speech. Weak knees. Sweaty palms. Playing with Holly will be the most nerve-wracking five hours these Tour pros experience all season.
That’s a massive leap, mind you, to unseat some of those world-class players who have been entrenched in the top 20 for years. The best bet is Gary Woodland, currently ranked No. 54. It’s possible that he could have had three wins since August – the opposite-field event in Reno, then second-place finishes at the Barclays (where he held the 54-hole lead) and Malaysia (where he lost in a playoff). He has made massive strides in the past few months. Less likely are No. 63 Peter Uihlein and No. 71 Nicolas Colsaerts. If Uihlein can crack the top 50 and get into some of the WGCs and majors, he’ll have a chance to contend and make a big move. If Colsaerts could ever match his prodigious length with his putting – he was ranked 172nd in that category in 2013 – he could be a world-beater.
Zach Johnson has been the hottest player on tour since the second half of 2013. Will he be a candidate for 2014 Player of the Year? #Asklav— Aaron Paulk (@Nemo0694) January 9, 2014
A candidate? Sure. He’s playing better than he ever has, and he already has a leg up on the competition. But, as usual, it’ll come down to how Zach fares in the majors. In his last 12 appearances he has just three top 10s, two of which came last summer. His one and only top 10 at the Masters was his surprise victory in extreme conditions in 2007. He missed the cut in his only appearance at Pinehurst (2005). The Open is his best chance to win a major this year, especially if it plays firm and fast, but he MC’d when the event was last held at Hoylake (2006). He’s never played at Valhalla. Pick off one of those majors, and he’ll appear on his first POY ballot.
This is the final year the Match Play will be held at Dove Mountain, which is good news for everyone; it’s annually ranked as one of the most disliked Tour venues. The suggestion here would be to put the world back in World Golf Championships … within reason, of course. After all, just one (HSBC Champions) of four is played outside the lower 48. How about Brazil? Mexico? Caribbean? Anywhere, really, but that snowy hill in Arizona.