Going Through the Alphabet in 2007

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We're looking back at 2007, and also looking forward to 2008, with an alphabetical rundown of the biggest stories in golf. Enjoy.
 
A is for ... Australians. There are seven Aussies inside the top 50 in the world rankings, second only to 15 Americans. They won five tournaments on the PGA and European Tours' 2007 schedules, and they have probably the most promising newcomer in golf: Nationwide Tour grad Nick Flanagan.
 
B is for ... Balls. The most important part of a golfer's equipment, according to Phil Mickelson's latest commercial, because 'we need them to do so many different things.' (Hey, not every letter is going to be a home run.)
 
C is for ... Commissioners. They're becoming more recognizable, outspoken and important on a yearly basis. Consider the PGA's Tim Finchem and the LPGA's Carolyn Bivens and their involvement in the soon-to-be implemented drug- testing policies for golfers.
 
D is for ... Dubai. Already a player in the golfing world, this emirate in the Middle East is where Tiger Woods has chosen to build his first golf course. It will also be the site of the world's richest golf tournament, the $10 million Dubai World Championship, on the European Tour's 2009 schedule. The European Tour's Order of Merit will be renamed The Race to Dubai, an overseas answer to the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup.
 
E is for ... Europeans. They finally won another major championship -- Padraig Harrington at the British Open -- and will be going for another win at the Ryder Cup in 2008.
 
F is for ... FedEx Cup. The PGA Tour's Policy Board voted to make several changes to the FedEx Cup beginning in 2008, including the addition of an off- week following the third playoff event, the BMW Championship. The winner will no longer have to wait until his 40s to collect the $10 million payout (a maximum of $1 million will be deferred).
 
G is for ... Golf Channel. 2007 marked the first season of the Golf Channel's 15-year commitment as the PGA Tour's home on cable television. Rocky at the beginning, the coverage grew steadier by the week.
 
H is for ... Hybrids. The clubs are affecting decisions golfers make on the course in every round, professionals and amateurs alike. More than half of the pros now carry at least one in their bag.
 
I is for ... Inside. It is becoming more and more important to be 'inside' certain designations in golf, especially when they pertain to money lists and rankings. Inside the top 144 on the FedEx Cup points list will get you a mathematical shot at winning $10 million, the biggest prize on the PGA Tour. Making the 32-player field at the ADT Championship will give you a chance to win the biggest paycheck on the LPGA Tour, $1 million. Inside a certain number on the money list means you don't have to grind your way through Q-school.
 
J is for ... Jack Nicklaus. Relevant as ever in the world of golf, Nicklaus led the United States to another win at the Presidents Cup while keeping a team full of American stars looser than John Daly at a wedding reception. Even Woody Austin. His name is still mentioned every time Tiger Woods wins another major, and then there's this: He should be the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain. That's a fact.
 
K is for ... Koreans. There are 32 players from South Korea inside the top 100 on the women's world rankings, including 15 in the top 50 and six in the top 20. Their relevance in the women's game can be traced to the impact of Se Ri Pak, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame this year as a 30-year- old. Pak joined the LPGA Tour full-time in 1998 and won two majors in her first season. When she claimed her 24th title at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic in July, there were around 50 more Korean players competing on the LPGA Tour than there were during her rookie season.
 
L is for ... LPGA Tour. Dominated for so many years by Annika Sorenstam, the tour now has a new No. 1 in Lorena Ochoa and a host of burgeoning stars like Suzann Pettersen, Morgan Pressel, Paula Creamer and Natalie Gulbis who are helping to drive prize purses up. Women's golf is alive and well, and you should be paying attention.
 
M is for ... Majors. Before Tiger Woods won the PGA Championship in August, each of the seven major winners on the PGA and LPGA Tours had been first- timers: Morgan Pressel, Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr and Lorena Ochoa on the LPGA Tour; and Zach Johnson, Angel Cabrera and Padraig Harrington on the PGA Tour. Among them, the wins for Kerr, Ochoa and Harrington stood out as long- overdue.
 
N is for ... Nationwide Tour. The graduating class of 2006 produced mixed results on the PGA Tour this season. Two players claimed their first PGA Tour wins: Boo Weekley and Brandt Snedeker, who both finished in the top 25 on the money list. Eighteen Nationwide Tour grads posted top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour in '07, but they combined for only 39 of them. Twenty-one came from Weekley, Snedeker, Ken Duke and Jeff Quinney.
 
O is for ... Ochoa, Lorena. The new force in women's golf, Ochoa grabbed the No. 1 ranking from Annika Sorenstam early in the season, then vindicated her position with an eight-win season that included her first major championship at the Women's British Open. On the way, the Mexican star became the first player in LPGA Tour history to pass the $3 million plateau in single-season earnings. Then she broke the $4 million barrier. She has won 14 times since April 2006.
 
P is for ... Performance-enhancing drugs. Every major golf tour in the world will implement a drug-testing policy in 2008 with the hopes of proving that their sport is clean. And it probably is -- for the most part. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't demand assurance that the players we watch on a weekly basis are competing fairly, which is why the drug-testing policies are a good thing for the sport. (Don't be surprised, however, if a positive test comes from someplace like one of the many developmental tours. Those are the players who would be looking for an edge.)
 
Q is for ... Q-school. The last two winners at PGA Tour Q-school -- George McNeill and J.B. Holmes -- both won the next season on tour. The 2004 champion, Brian Davis, joined McNeill in winning more than $1 million this season.
 
R is for ... Ryder Cup. The U.S. team has lost each of the last three Ryder Cups by a combined 21 points, including the last two by nine points apiece. The Europeans, while mostly absent from the winner's circle in major championships over the last eight years, play better as a team than the Americans (see the 'J' entry for our proposed solution). This year's Ryder Cup will be played on American soil at Valhalla in Louisville, Kentucky, where Tiger Woods won the 2000 PGA Championship.
 
S is for ... Sorenstam, Annika. When Sorenstam lost a three-way playoff for the last two spots in the second-round cut at the season-ending ADT Championship, her streak of 12 consecutive years with at least one win on the LPGA Tour came to an end. Next season will be one of the most critical of her career: Either she bounces back and challenges Lorena Ochoa for her old No. 1 ranking, or she recedes a little more into the shadows. Competitive as she is, that latter possibility may not be the worst thing for the recently engaged- again Sorenstam, who could be nearing a point in her career when she decides to concentrate on starting a family of her own. Although if there is one female athlete who could have kids and win golf tournaments at the same time, wouldn't that be Sorenstam?
 
T is for ... Time off. It became increasingly rarer to see stars like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson play tournaments near the end of the season, which is one of the reasons the PGA Tour created the FedEx Cup. A funny thing happened when they got their time off anyway. After many players -- especially Mickelson -- went public with their disdain for playing four weeks in a row during this year's playoffs, the PGA Tour's Policy Board inserted a week off into the schedule for next year. It's good to be one of the kings.
 
U is for ... Universality. The top of the men's world rankings, while dominated by Americans, also features players from South Africa, Australia, Ireland, England, Fiji, Korea, Spain, Argentina, Sweden, Canada, Japan, Denmark, Wales, etc. Asians and Americans feature prominently in the women's rankings, but the No. 1 player is from Mexico, and there are also top-50 players from Australia, Sweden, Norway, Scotland, Brazil and Paraguay.
 
V is for ... Vibe-Hastrup, Mads. A European Tour staple from Denmark with our favorite name in golf. (Sports Network golf office joke: 'Who's your favorite Vibe-Hastrup?' Maybe you have to be here to appreciate it.)
 
W is for ... Woods, Tiger. My friend was on Jupiter Island for Thanksgiving, staying at a house down the street from the property Woods purchased for $38 million last year. The compound doesn't have an address. It has something like 12 addresses. In one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the country, Woods is the top dog. Sound familiar?
 
X is for ... X factor. The biggest X factor in golf? Physical fitness. When Tiger Woods hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy at the PGA Championship in August, it was early evening in Tulsa and still more than 100 degrees. Woods was sweating along with the rest of them, but it was clear that his tip-top shape gave him an advantage during a sultry four days at Southern Hills. Lorena Ochoa climbs mountains in her free time, and is one of the fittest golfers of either gender.
 
Y is for ... Youth. As in: where are the good, young American players?
 
Z is for ... Shane Zywiec. The last golfer in our alphabetical player database here at the Sports Network, Zywiec played two rounds on the Nationwide Tour last year. We're guessing he's played caboose in every yearbook he's ever appeared in, so he should be used to this by now.