Blasting into the week ahead, from Lefty’s quasi-title defense to the start of major championship season for the senior circuit ...
Crowne Plaza Colonial Invitational
The Nos. 2, 4 and 5 players in the world lead a strong field that includes five of the top 10 on the Official World Golf Ranking.
No. 2 Phil Mickelson tees it up at Colonial, where he won in 2008 but did not defend last year with his wife, Amy, being treated for breast cancer. No. 4 Steve Stricker is the defending champ, who hopes his inflamed joint, where his right clavicle meets his sternum, is healed enough to make another run at a title. No. 5 Jim Furyk will be seeking his third title this season.
Bunker Shot: With a victory, Mickelson can move to No. 1 in the world rankings, becoming just the 13th player to hold the top spot since the Official World Golf Ranking was created in 1986. There are those who believe the next No. 1 should have an asterisk by his name because of the circumstances that will surround the new No. 1’s ascent. Tiger Woods, after all, has been inactive due to injury or self-imposed exile for almost 15 months of the last two-year rolling period that constitute the rankings. The thinking was that the new No. 1 would be holding the spot temporarily, until Woods gained enough starts to win back his spot. Now, there’s growing sentiment Woods may never gets his No. 1 spot back, not with all that’s gone wrong in his life and his swing. There’s sentiment he may never catch Jack Nicklaus and his record 18 professional major championship titles. Yeah, Woods appears to be a physical, emotional and mental mess right now, but he’ll be back with a vengeance. Unless something goes haywire with that remarkable putting stroke of his, Woods finds his way back to the top and passes Nicklaus.
Mell’s picks: Winner – Jim Furyk. Contender – Phil Mickelson. Darkhorse – Steve Marino.
- Course: Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth, Texas. Par 70, 7,204 yards (Designed by Perry Maxwell and John Bredemus and opened in 1943, redesign by Keith Porter in 1999).
- Purse: $6.2 million (winner’s share, $1,116,000).
- TV times: Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel’s Golf Central pre-game, 2:30 p.m., Golf Channel tournament coverage, 3-6 p.m.; replay, 9:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m.; Saturday-Sunday, Golf Channel’s pre-game, 12:30 p.m., Golf channel tournament coverage 1-2:30 p.m., Golf Channel pre-game, 2:30 p.m.; CBS tournament coverage, 3-6 p.m. with Golf Channel replay 9:30-11:30 p.m.
- Last year: Steve Stricker defeated Tim Clark and Steve Marino in a playoff.
Senior PGA Championship
The major Championship season begins on the Champions Tour.
Fred Couples, Tom Watson, Jay Haas and Loren Roberts are among the usual suspects teeing it up in the first of the senior circuit’s five majors.
Bunker shot: If the winds stay up at Colorado Golf Club this week, count Watson’s chances as enhanced. He’s going for his sixth Champions Tour major title, his second Senior PGA title. Couples, of course, is THE favorite in his first major in the over-50 circuit. Couples has brought a jolt of new excitement to the Champions Tour with three victories already this season.
Mell’s picks: Winner – Tom Watson. Contender – Fred Couples. Darkhorse – Tom Pernice Jr.
- Course: Colorado Golf Club, Parker, Colo. Par 72, 7, 604 yards (Designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and opened in 2007).
- Purse: TBA ($2 million in ’09 with a winner’s share of $360,000).
- TV times: Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel, 6-9 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, NBC, 3-6 p.m.
- Last year: Michael Allen became the 14th player in Champions Tour history to win his first start on the Tour.
HSBC Brasil Cup
With golf becoming part of the Olympics when the Games are played in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, the LPGA helps the city warm up to the game in an unofficial event.
Brazil’s own Angela Park is in the field of 27 players. It’s just a 36-hole event with play scheduled Saturday and Sunday.
Bunker Shot: Asians have dominated the LPGA this season with Sun Young Yoo’s victory at the Sybase Match Play Championship last weekend extending the Far East’s unbeaten mark to 7-0 in LPGA events. Michelle Wie is the only American to win an LPGA event in the last 12 months. While it wouldn’t be official, it would be encouraging to American fans for an American to win. Morgan Pressel won a Japanese LPGA event three weeks ago. Angela Stanford, Kristy McPherson, Stacy Lewis and Vicky Hurst are among Americans in the field.
Mell’s picks: Winner – Angela Stanford. Contender – Catriona Matthew. Darkhorse – Stacy Prammanasudh.
- Course: Itanhanga Golf Club, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Par 72, 6,447 yards.
- Purse: $700,000 (winner’s share, $105,000).
- TV times: No TV.
- Last year: Catriona Matthew defeated Kristy McPherson by five shots.
Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer and Luke Donald aren’t just the biggest names in the field. They’ll be paired together in the first two rounds.
Spaniards Alvaro Quiros and Miguel Angel Jimenez also will draw large galleries in their homeland.
Bunker shot: Garcia could use a boost to his 2010 season, and there’s nothing like a little home cooking to help him do it. Garcia is going for his fourth European Tour title on Spanish soil. Garcia has yet to log a top-10 finish this season in the 11-stroke play events he’s played on the PGA Tour and European Tour. His best finish in nine PGA Tour starts this year is a tie for 37th at the CA Championship. He did finish fourth at the Accenture Match Play Championship. Garcia’s putter continues to be a problem. He ranks 133rd on the PGA Tour in putts per green in regulation. His ball striking hasn’t been much better in 2010. He’s 118th in greens in regulation. That combo ranks him 132nd on Tour in scoring average (71.20). Just two years ago, he led the PGA Tour in scoring.
Mell’s picks: Winner – Luke Donald. Contender – Sergio Garcia. Darkhorse – Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
- Course: Real Sociedad Hipica Espanola Club de Campo, Madrid, Spain. Par 72, 7,162 yards (Designed by Robert Von Hagge and opened in 1997).
- Purse: $1.5 million euros (winner’s share, $250,000 euros).
- TV times: Golf Channel, Thursday-Friday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-noon.
- Last year: Ross McGowan won his first European Tour title, shooting 60 in the Saturday round to build a seven-shot lead.