Blasting into the week ahead, from a new PGA Tour venue to a pair of majors and a proud Irish test ...
It’s hard to believe, but we’re creeping up on the end of this most unusual and amorphous PGA Tour FedEx Cup season.
It’s almost over, and we’re still trying to get a handle on what this year’s all about beyond Tiger Woods’ swoon.
Catch your breath this week – most of the PGA Tour stars are – because six of the next seven weeks are elite events that will feature loaded fields.
With the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship following the Greenbrier Classic, there’s just the Wyndham Championship to go before the start of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. It’s why Jim Furyk’s the only top-20 player in the field at the Greenbrier Classic. There’s a lot of resting going on.
Bunker shot: Break out the pannkakor and lingonberry jelly, the Swedes are coming. Carl Pettersson and Richard Johnson are coming off victories last week, Pettersson at the RBC Canadian Open and Johnson at the Nordea Scandinavian Masters. They’re both in this week’s field with the glow of their victories still lighting up Sweden.
Mell’s picks: Winner – Ricky Barnes. Contender – Jim Furyk. Darkhorse – Charley Wi.
- Course: Greenbrier’s Old White Course, White Sulphur Springs, WV. Par 70, 7,020 (Originally designed by Charles Blair MacDonald and Seth Raynor and opened in 1913, restored by Lester George in 2006).
- Purse: $6 million (winner’s share, $1,090,000).
- TV times: Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel, 3-6 p.m. (ET), replay 8:30-11:30 p.m. on Friday, (ET); Saturday-Sunday, Golf Channel, 1-2:30 p.m. (ET), CBS, 3-6 p.m., (ET), Golf Channel replay 9:30-11:30 p.m (ET).
- Last year: This year is the inaugural event.
Ricoh Women’s British Open
Royal Birkdale is home to the final major championship of the women’s season. Americans are on a major championship roll, having won back-to-back majors in the same season for the first time in 11 years. Can they make it three in a row? That also last happened in 1999, when Dottie Pepper won the Kraft Nabisco and Juli Inkster won the LPGA Championship and U.S. Women’s Open.
Bunker shot: Four different players have held the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings already this year. Anybody game to make it five? Suzann Pettersen looks like she is despite an ailing hip. Pettersen’s No. 4 in the world but can catapult to No. 1 with a victory this week. She’s done everything but win this year. She has four runner-up finishes and eight top-10 finishes in her 11 starts. She knocked hard at the door again last week, closing with a bogey-free 66 at the Evian Masters to finish fifth, two shots behind the champ, Jiyai Shin. Pettersen, despite worsening tendinitis in a hip, looks determined to break through before fixing this hip.
Mell’s picks: Winner – Suzann Pettersen. Contender – Jiyai Shin. Darkhorse – Karen Stupples.
- Course: Royal Birkdale Golf Club, Southport, England. Par 72, 6,465 yards (Designed by three generations of the Hawtree Family, opened at current site in 1894).
- Purse: $2.5 million (winner’s share, TBA).
- TV times: ESPN, Thursday-Friday, 9 a.m. to noon (ET); Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (ET).
- Last year: Catriona Matthew won at 3-under 285, finishing three shots ahead of runner-up Karrie Webb at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
U.S. Senior Open
The third leg of the five-legged Champions Tour major championship schedule lands at Sahalee Country Club outside Seattle this week.
Tom Lehman won the first major of the year, the Senior PGA Championship at Colorado Golf Club, Bernhard Langer the second, last weekend’s Senior British Open at Carnoustie.
Bunker shot: Langer wrestled away the Charles Schwab Cup points lead from Fred Couples with his victory at Carnoustie on Sunday. Couples had a vice grip on the top spot for five months, and he just might be inspired to take it back this week. Couples is from Seattle. Though he hasn’t lived there since leaving for the University of Houston 33 years ago, he still takes pride in calling it home. There should be lots of magic and motivation working for Couples this week.
Mell’s picks: Winner – Fred Couples. Contender – Mark Calcavecchia. Darkhorse – Peter Jacobsen.
- Course: Sahalee Country Club, Sammamish, Wash. Par 70, 6,866 yards (Designed by Ted Robinson and opened in 1969, renovated by Rees Jones in 1996).
- Purse: $2.6 million (winner’s share, $470,000).
- TV times: Thursday-Friday, ESPN2, 5-9 p.m. (ET); Saturday-Sunday, NBC, 4-7 p.m. (ET).
- Last year: Fred Funk closed with a 7-under-par 65 to run away in a six-shot romp at Crooked Stick. His 20-under 268 total was a championship record for 72 holes.
3 Irish Open
Shane Lowry scripted a wildly popular finish to this championship in Ireland a year ago, with the Irish lad becoming just the third amateur to win a European Tour event.
Lowry’s back as a professional to defend his title, and he’s faring respectably this season, ranking 46th in the Race to Dubai standings with a pair of top-10 European Tour finishes.
Bunker shot: It’s a special time in Irish golf with the European Tour’s website touting this week as a welcome home to a “golden generation.” Ireland’s Padraig Harrington and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell have made that part of the world proud. Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy gives this championship a trio of world-ranked stars to follow in Killarney.
Mell’s picks: Winner – Padraig Harrington. Contender – Rory McIlroy. Darkhorse – Darren Clarke.
- Course: Killarney Golf & Fishing Club, Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland.
- Purse: 3 million euros (winner’s share, 500,000 euros).
- TV times: Golf Channel, Thursday-Friday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (ET); Saturday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (ET).
- Last year: Amateur Shane Lowry defeated Robert Rock on the third playoff hole.
Jamie Lovemark bumped Tommy Gainey from the top of the money list last week, making Lovemark the fifth different player to hold the top spot this season.
Bunker shot: D.J. Brigman rocketed from No. 47 to No. 6 on the Nationwide Tour money list with his victory at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational last weekend. That’s the delightfully volatile nature of this tour. Who’s going to blast off this week? A season can go from sour to sweet in a heartbeat on this circuit with the top-25 money winners at season’s end winning promotions to the PGA Tour next year.
Mell’s picks: Winner – Tag Ridings. Contender – Jamie Lovemark. Darkhorse – J.J. Killeen.
- Course: Champions Run, Omaha, Neb. Par 71, 7,145 yards (Designed by Jeff Brauer and opened in 1992).
- Purse: $725,000 (winner’s share, $130,500).
- TV times: Golf Channel, Thursday-Friday, 6:30-8:30 p.m. (ET); Saturday, 6:30-9:30 p.m. (ET); Sunday, 7-9:30 p.m. (ET).
- Last year: Rich Barcelo’s final-round 6-under-par 65 gave him a one-shot margin of victory over runner-up Tom Gillis.