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Withdrawal Pains

In a week where the winners in professional golf drew less attention than the players who couldnt make it to the house, K. J. Chois hard-charging victory at the Memorial Tournament presented by Morgan Stanley, was memorable for several reasons.
For starters, Choi fired a closing 65 to defeat equally hard-charging Ryan Moore by a shot. It was Chois fifth win on the PGA TOUR. And it stamped him as another player you cant ignore in the first round of your U.S. Open fantasy drafts.
Meanwhile, a lot of people are scratching their heads and trying to figure out how a quartet of players who began the final round in better position all wilted in one way or another. Their names: Rod Pampling, who held a three shot lead after 54 holes; Adam Scott, who bogeyed the 71st and 72nd hole; Sean OHair, who didnt birdie either of the par-5s on the back nine; and Stewart Cink, who made no birdies at all on the inward half.
And while were at it, what was up with all the withdrawals last week in mens and womens golf? It was a veritable epidemic, starting Thursday at the Memorial when Phil Mickelson tweaked his left wrist and withdrew after 11 holes.
I couldnt grab the club and I couldnt swing, Mickelson said about a condition that left him no alternative but to stop playing.
This was Mickelsons first event since winning THE PLAYERS last month. And it took a little of the air out of the balloon that was to be his showdown with Woods in two weeks in the U.S. Open at Oakmont.
Mickelson jetted home to California to meet with specialists. And his status for this weeks Stanford St. Jude Championship was uncertain. Before he left Ohio he sounded like a man who wasnt concerned about being ready for Oakmont. But the long roughs for which U.S. Opens are notorious are no place to be trying to win a major championship with a tender wrist.
Woods, for his part, was able to fight through an early week throat infection. By the end of the Memorial, especially Sunday when he eagled seven and birdied eight and nine and carded a tidy 67, he looked very much like a player peaking at the right time. He finished tied for 15th, eight shots behind Choi.
Masters champion Zach Johnson wasnt so lucky. A strep throat forced him to withdraw after 15 holes Thursday at the Memorial. Sorry guys, the normally-accommodating Johnson told reporters after he pulled out. I cant talk.
After 36 holes of Nicklaus event, Jason Bohn (pronounced bone) withdrew with a rib injury. Last I checked a rib IS a bone. If Woody Allen were a golf writer, you can be sure hed come up with a suitable one-liner here. Also, Charles Howell III withdrew because of illness after the third round.
Then there was all the attention that surrounded Michelle Wies withdrawal at the Ginn Tribute hosted by Annika in South Carolina.
Wie hadnt played tournament golf in four months because of injuries to both wrists and she got off to a dreadful start Thursday. After 16 holes she was 14 over par. Two more bogeys would have produced an 88 and, because of a little-known LPGA rule that bans any non-member shooting 88 or worse for the rest of the calendar year, she was on very thin ice.
She withdrew.
The critics cried foul, saying Wie stopped playing to avoid an 88 or worse. Wies camp staunchly defended the decision, citing a recurrence of wrist pain. The second major championship on the womens side is next week in Maryland at the McDonalds LPGA. As of Sunday, there had been no announcement from Wies people on whether she will be able to play.
Natalie Gulbis drew less attention in South Carolina after withdrawing following an opening 80. Gulbis, too, cited injury. Still looking for her first LPGA victory, the 24-year-old Gulbis has just one top-10 and three missed cuts in 10 2007 starts. The problem is her back and it may cause her to miss the McDonalds LPGA.
Finally, there was the warm story of 15-year-old amateur MacKinzie Kline. Born with just one ventricle in her heart, Kline underwent two open heart surgeries before her second birthday. She has survived and can play in tournaments with the help of a respirator and permission to ride a cart. Sorenstam, the tournaments host, extended an exemption to Kline, who shot 86-89 but said she learned a lot.
Kline would not have made the 36-hole cut at the Ginn Tribute. But LPGA policy stipulates that any non-member on the wrong side of the 88 rule is officially deemed to have withdrawn. Nevertheless, it was a feel good story just to watch the wide-eyed Kline play the game. She may have less heart, anatomically, than anybody else in golf. But she has more heart, spiritually, than just about everybody in the game.
All in all, there has never been a week in golf with more withdrawal pains for so many well-known players.
Choi, who stormed into contention early Sunday with a sizzling front-nine 30 and retained his position with a clutch par-saving putt on 17, should not be lost in the shuffle. Nor should we ignore the quiet emergence of Nicole Castrale, who defeated Lorena Ochoa in a one-hole playoff in South Carolina.
A quick word on the charming and talented Ochoa: She is clearly the best player in the world at the moment. But she did bogey two of her last three holes Sunday. Until she learns to close more consistently, and until she starts winning majors in bunches, she wont soon make any forget Sorenstams brilliance over the last decade.
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Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Memorial Tournament
  • Full Coverage - Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika