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Hooks and Cuts From the Tour Championship

2006 The TOUR Championship presented by Coca-ColaUnseating No. 1 in any sport should be done emphatically. Think George Foreman destroying Smokin’ Joe Frazier. Phil Mickelson could finish second this week and overtake Tiger Woods. Would you be convinced? Hardly. So, the way to do this is to win the Tour Championship, win Player of the Year for the first time in his career and become No. 1. Now that would be a big Sunday.

  • If they voted guys into the Hall of Fame just based on media accessibility Ernie Els waltzes in. That said, the “Easy” moniker doesn’t fully describe him. He could be tough on those around him and on himself, particularly over these last eight, majorless seasons. Still, to be acknowledged as one of the best of your era has to be gratifying in ways most of us will never know. Well done, Ernie.
  • Difficult to find a guy who enjoyed greater stature with fewer victories than Tom Lehman. He only won five, but was No. 1 for a brief period in the mid-90s and always projected great humility to go with 1950s values. Tom won the Payne Stewart Award, but he was always more Jimmy Stewart than Payne Stewart.
  • Player of the Year is dominating discussions, but I always thought the Vardon Trophy for low scoring average was a great distinction because it speaks to season-long consistency. Heading into the Tour Championship Matt Kuchar leads by a thread over Steve Stricker.
  • Laura Davies isn’t in the Hall, but she is a legend. Davies’ victory last week in Europe was her 76th worldwide. And even if Davies doesn’t earn the requisite points, she’ll be enshrined someday by the veteran’s committee. She still plays the game like a 14-year-old who doesn’t know how hard it really is.
  • Partner Frank Nobilo believes the U.S. is the favorite in Wales unless the weather turns nasty. He thinks the European team is diluted without Paul Casey, Justin Rose and Robert Karlsson. That point might be driven home with a sledgehammer if Casey’s holding the trophy and a $10 million check Sunday at East Lake.
  • President George H.W. Bush being inducted to the Hall has sparked some backlash. Is it enough for a President to love the game, to have supported its various causes like First Tee? Does President Clinton then deserve consideration? Difficult to say, but maybe a Presidential wing of the Hall of Fame might be a suitable manner in which to honor them.
  • First he said he’d like a crack at a slumping Tiger, now Rory McIlroy says that winning a major or even a world championship event would be bigger than the Ryder Cup. If that’s how he feels, fine, but I figured he was heady enough to play to the base in Europe, and that base is rabid for the Ryder Cup. Now, he’ll have to deal with a full court press from the press. I’ll be curious to see if his opinion changes after he experiences the cup for the first time. Just about every player’s blown away by the hyper-charged atmosphere.
  • Masters adding another hour of television is like Sports Illustrated adding five more pages to its swimsuit issue. Who’s going to argue with it?
  • I like the idea of clearing the slate for a Sunday shootout for the $10 million. Simplify and amplify.
  • If Phil does win this week, it would make the Americans considerably more imposing next week.
  • For pure entertainment value, Monty will hammer Pavin 6-and-4 in the captains’ press conferences.
  • On a golf trip last week with some childhood pals, I disappeared on my partner one day on the 14th hole. I was right of right playing a game of oak tree Ping Pong and with another group coming down the adjacent 15th I had to wait. Eventually I landed in a greenside bunker. My partner was left of the green and needed a club. After blasting from the sand, I jumped in the cart to hustle over and get him a club. He took a 58 degree, and stubbed it 5 feet. I zoomed away in the cart to go back to rake the trap. He barked, “Hey I need another club.” I fired back, “What the hell do you need another club for? Your ball went 5 feet.” I gave him his 52 degree. He hit a perfect scoop-chunk-lift and of course it went smack in the hole for a par. The game we play is so much funnier than the game the pros play.