Who’s the bigger draw this week at the "Ginn Tribute Hosted By Annika" - Annika Sorenstam or Michelle Wie?
It’s too close to call right now.
Sorenstam and Wie are the two most compelling figures in women’s golf, though obviously not the two best players.
Lorena Ochoa, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lincicome and others have had better years, but Sorenstam and Wie are bigger stars and both are using this week to return to competition.
Sorenstam doesn’t expect much in her first tournament in six weeks. She’s still recovering from disc problems and isn’t 100 percent. But she had to dive back into playing eventually and this is the week to resume the process. If she never wins another tournament, her place in history is secure.
Wie’s place is still to be determined, but then she’s only 17.
Is she the next great women’s player? I’m not sure. I don’t know that anyone is sure.
Wie is obviously a spectacular talent whose willingness to challenge men has captured the attention of a culture, not just a sport. She’s the player everyone at RiverTowne Country Club in Mount Pleasant, S.C., wants to see this week, to see how tall she is, how pretty she is, how far she hits the ball.
I want to see her win. It probably won’t happen this week – she said her game isn’t razor sharp after her forced time off because of wrist problems. But Wie needs to win.
That’s asking a lot, considering she can only play seven LPGA Tour events a year until she joins the tour full time (whenever she decides to do that). But Wie has positioned herself so that much is expected of her.
Winning an LPGA Tour event would be far more impressive than making the cut in the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic. Playing against the men has lost its allure.
She’s flirted with winning major championships, which shows us how good she can be. Now that high school is behind her, Wie can concentrate on golf this summer.
Everyone is watching to see how good she can be.
Ron Green Jr.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Who’s the bigger draw this week at the "Ginn Tribute Hosted By Annika" - Annika Sorenstam or Michelle Wie?
Friday, May 25, 2007
With The Players and the Wachovia Champioship behind us and The Memorial and U.S. Open on the horizon, the PGA Tour is in the midst of one of the meatiest portions of its schedule - last week and this week notwithstanding.
Golf is built on big events. That’s why the majors define careers.
So what are the 10 biggest events on the PGA Tour?
Here’s one man’s ranking:
1. The Masters
It’s the best for so many reasons - the course, the history, Amen Corner, green jackets, Hogan shooting 66 near the end of his career, Arnie making double at the last to lose, Gene Sarazen’s double eagle, Jack in ’86 ... shall I go on?
2. The Open Championship
The case can be made that it’s the biggest tournament to the rest of the world and that’s probably true. It has had some quirky winners recently (Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton come to mind) but it’s played on fantastic courses and has a feel unlike anything else. Golf in the Open is played on the ground as well as through the air, something missing in American golf. Plus the Claret Jug is really cool.
3. The U.S Open
It’s as charming as a set of brass knuckles to the teeth but it’s the American national championship. The USGA’s obsession with par has taken much of the fun from the Open but it’s usually a captivating struggle to watch as Phil Mickelson demonstrated last June.
4. The PGA Championship
This one gets almost everything right. The course set-up is demanding but not sadistic. It’s played on terrific layouts that produce action more than reaction. And it almost always has a compelling storyline.
5. The Players
No, it’s not the fifth major. It’s The Players, an event unique unto itself. The course is largely responsible for making it what it is - memorable. Yeah, the 17th hole may be gimmicky but so what? It’s one of the reasons we pay so much attention. Plus, with the new giant clubhouse there, if they get a rain delay, there’s enough room to let everyone come inside.
6. Wachovia Championship
In five years, it’s become a model for PGA Tour events. When you put together a great old-style course, a perfect date, leadership that understands golf and has a commitment to being the best, you get the Wachovia Championship. There’s a reason 27 of the top 30 in the world played here this year.
7. The Memorial
Jack’s tournament is one of those special events that jump out on the schedule. It has a Masters feel to it in spots and it’s played on a fantastic golf course. It also has Jack, who did everything right.
8. The Nissan
It’s played at Riviera Country Club, which immediately makes it special. It’s also played when most of us back east are still caught in winter and our golf season still hasn’t come to life. The par-4 10th hole is one of the best short par-4s in the world and it’s in L.A., baby.
9. WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship
Match-play golf doesn’t always produce a made-for-TV showdown of the stars but it’s a great window into the mental side of competitive golf. Every match is a different story. Plus, if Nick O’Hern can take down Tiger Woods twice, there’s something unique about it.
10. Verizon Heritage
It’s the perfect after-Masters decompression chamber. Hilton Head. The beach. Bike paths. Alligators. No pressure. A good field. An extraordinary golf course, Mid-April. Seafood. The Calibogue Sound. Maybe it should be rated higher.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to actually die to go to heaven.
Golfers can buy a month there for just $29,500.
That’s the cost of what Pinehurst Resort is calling its Golf Sabbatical, a suitably stylish name for what might feel more like a golf orgy.
Sure, you have to get past the sticker shock but, given the price of a gallon of gas these days, we’re all getting numb to what things cost.
Here’s the Pinehurst deal:
For one fat fee you get a 30-day stay in a Pinehurst suite, which means you stay in great digs and your laundry (even your stinky little golf socks) is done for you.
You also get an Acura to drive in case the resort’s shuttle service doesn’t suffice.
You get breakfast, lunch and dinner every day and a personal therapist to work those extra pounds off you, plus two spa treatments a week.
You get a private session with sports psychologist Dr. Dick Coop, who can bleach the spider webs from your psyche.
You get 12 hours of private golf instruction with professionals who know how to fix your game, not your buddy who explains everything by saying, “You looked up.”
You get to spend time with the course superintendents who’ll teach you how to cut a hole and how to mow those cool-looking patterns in the fairway.
You get a 30-day supply of Titleist Pro V1s.
You get a custom-fitting session for a new set of clubs.
You get $1,000 to go shopping with.
You get to fly a friend or your spouse (in some rare cases they’re the same thing) in for a weekend.
And, oh yeah, you get to play as much golf as you can squeeze in on Pinehurst’s eight courses, including No. 2.
You even have the option - if time is an issue - to do the 10-day sabbatical for just $11,500.
But those fortunate enough to consider spending a month at Pinehurst where they will be pampered and polished, it’s not about the expense.
It’s about the experience.
There’s a word for that.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
What does the PGA Tour have in common with Florida football?
Beyond Chris DiMarco, of course.
The new tour schedule is a lot like the Gators’ football schedule.
There are huge weeks – like when the Gators play Georgia and when they play Tennessee.
Those weeks translate into the Wachovia Championship and The Players on the tour schedule.
Then there are those weeks made for the second and third-teamers to get some action – Saturdays against the Florida Atlantics and Western Kentuckys of the world.
Like the AT&T Classic in Atlanta this week. Or the Colonial in Fort Worth, Tex., next week. Oops, sorry, it’s officially the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial now.
Only one player in the top 10 of the world rankings – Henrik Stenson – is playing Atlanta this week.
Only one top 10 player – Jim Fuyrk – is committed to playing at Colonial next week. Most the top players are headed to Europe for the BMW PGA Championship, one of the biggest events of the season across the pond.
It’s become, increasingly, a fact of life on the PGA Tour.
There are high spots – the past two weeks have been exceptionally entertaining – and then there are flat spots like the two-week lull happening now.
That doesn’t mean the weekend in Atlanta won’t be compelling – tournaments take on their own personality once the scoreboard comes to life – but it’s like a cloudy night. You can’t see the stars.
At Colonial, once a prominent event on the tour, they’ve added little touches like a buffet breakfast for caddies and a giant television in the players’ locker room but the tournament is stuck in a bad spot on the schedule.
Location, location, location.
After the Wachovia and Players, most of the top players are going to take some time off then return for The Memorial, bypass Memphis then arrive at the U.S. Open.
It’s why Jack Vickers pulled the plug on The International earlier this year. He didn’t love his date and he hated the idea that he couldn’t always get the top players, specifically Tiger Woods. Ultimately, Vickers chose to surrender the fight.
There is no easy solution. Forcing players to play isn’t going to happen.
Will other tournaments disappear? It’s possible but not likely right now.
Will we flip the television on this weekend to watch anyway?
Of course we will. It’s not football season yet.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
The seemingly instant success of the Phil Mickelson-Butch Harmon pairing brought to mind the idea of other great golf pairings. Such as:
-- Tiger Woods and Steve Williams
-- Gin and tonic
-- Green jackets and azaleas
-- Bill Murray and Pebble Beach
-- Lee Trevino and an audience
-- Arnie and Jack
-- Hogan and Snead
-- Up and down
-- Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight
-- Pine Needles and the U.S. Women’s Open
-- Francis Ouimet and Eddie Lowery
-- Myrtle Beach and a three-day weekend
-- Member and guest
-- 18 in the morning and 18 more after lunch
-- David Feherty and a microphone
-- A short par-5 and the wind at your back
-- A cold beer and one for your partner
-- A tee time and a caddie
Feel free to add your own.
Friday, May 11, 2007
One question as race weeks bear down on the city where Tiger won:
Who has it right, pro golfers who pick and choose where they play, or NASCAR drivers who show up at tracks every week whether they want to be there or not?
When this PGA Tour season ends, Tiger Woods will have played about 18 events, roughly half of the shortened schedule. Others, like Vijay Singh, will play 25 to 30 events, because they choose to.
Either way, no one on the PGA Tour plays every week. It’s the way golf is. Unless your name is Dana Quigley, it’s not an every week sport.
But the case has been made – and it has merit – that tour players should be required to play every event on the schedule at least once every four or five years. It’s a good idea, one that should be on the books, but it’s not going to happen. It’s not even going to be brought up for discussion.
Greensboro, for example, works very hard at hosting the Wyndham Championship but it has no shot of Woods playing there. Ditto for Phil Mickelson.
Other tournaments are in similar situations. Pro golfers work when they choose. Like drivers, they have big-money sponsorship deals but, unlike drivers, those deals don’t require them to show up every week.
One of these days, a big-time driver is going to structure his contract so that he doesn’t have to race every week. If that means not competing for the season-long points championship, so be it.
Do you think Tiger Woods really cares about winning the FedEx Cup this year?
I know there are drivers who don’t want to race every week. But the way the sport is structured, they’re beholden to their sponsors to put their cars on the track every weekend, whether it’s in Phoenix or Watkins Glen or Martinsville.
Mark Martin may never win a points championship but he’s figured out the schedule thing, picking and choosing when and where he wants to race.
I think he’s on to something.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
In case you couldn’t tell, the PGA Tour is very proud of its showcase event - The Players.
And why not?
It’s one of the best events in golf, so good it’s shortened its name. Now it’s just The Players, not The Players Championship. Sorta like Shaq and Michael and the Masters.
This year, there’s a spectacular new clubhouse in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., a reworked golf course and a new date.
Along with all of those things is a renewed discussion as to whether The Players is golf’s fifth major. It’s not a new discussion, just framed slightly differently this year because of all the changes.
Professional golf has four major championships and that’s enough.
What The Players has become is an event that stands alone, as good or better in some ways than the majors. It doesn’t count in Grand Slam discussions nor in Tiger Woods’ major championship tally but that isn’t necessary.
The Players is unique.
It’s special because of what it is and where it is. It has its own history and its own image.
It has the 17th hole.
It’s on every player’s schedule and it will keep golf fans on their couches this weekend watching how it unfolds.
There’s a reason why people talk about The Players as much as they do.
It’s worth talking about.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
One of the last things Tiger Woods did before leaving the Quail Hollow Club after winning the Wachovia Championship Sunday was to drop in on a champagne toast in his honor held by the tournament organizers.
Woods was wearing his new blue champion’s blazer and joined tournament organizers Mac Everett, Johnny Harris and Ken Thompson, among others, to celebrate his victory.
The champion thanked everyone for their support and efforts, offering high praise in the process. He smiled and said he’d be back as defending champion next year, prompting someone to suggest putting 2008 tournament tickets on sale immediately.
It is the wish of every tournament organizer to have Woods play in their event, a wish denied more often than it’s granted.
To have Woods win is a double bonus.
It was a storybook week for the Wachovia Championship, which keeps finding ways to top itself.
Topping this week will be tough.
The Woods-Michael Jordan pro-am pairing was a brilliant stroke of fortune and marketing savvy. It captured international attention not to mention the imagination of the city.
Then the tournament unfolded beautifully. There has never been a better day of golf in the Wachovia’s five-year history than Saturday. It was spellbinding with players holing shots from the fairway then one disaster after another piling up at the end.
Woods took command midway through Sunday afternoon and, though he had a couple of hiccups, he brought it home.
In the locker room early Sunday evening, shortly before he left town, Woods was talking with a couple of tournament officials who asked about the crowd noise. Woods said it was uncommonly loud, unlike what he hears at most other events. He loved it.
There was a lot to love about it.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
How good was that?
It’s hard to think how the third round of the Wachovia Championship could have been any better.
Three of the central characters - Rory Sabbatini, Vijay Singh and Arron Oberholser - holed out for eagle on par-4 holes.
Tiger Woods made four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine to take the outright lead.
Phil Mickelson moved within a stroke of the lead for a time until a double-bogey at the 18th sucker-punched him.
OK, so it took longer than it should have - Woods using a racing analogy saying it was golf under a yellow flag - but it was great theater.
And it very nearly wasn’t seen by anyone not on the Quail Hollow property.
There was a very real chance that when CBS went off the air at 6 p.m.
Saturday - about the time Woods and Singh were making the turn - that television coverage would end.
But Wachovia executives got on the phone early Saturday and began brokering a deal to move the coverage to The Golf Channel after 6 p.m.
It wasn’t automatic nor easy. And it wasn’t what many title sponsors could pull off, but Wachovia executives took an aggressive approach - and perhaps an expensive one - to keep their event on the air.
If it cost some CBS talent dinner at a local steakhouse, it was worth it for golf fans everywhere. The Golf Channel had to be ecstatic, getting two-plus hours of Tiger, Phil, Rory and Vijay when they were scheduled to be showing Leonard Thompson and Scott Hoch at a Champions Tour event.
The luxury of just clicking the remote was a great bonus and a show of the commitment to making the tournament special.
Now comes the final round when the wind is expected to kick up and the day begins with Sabbatini one stroke ahead of Woods.
Sabbatini was recently voted the player others on tour least like to play in a Sports Illustrated poll because he’s brash and cocky. He’s taken a strong stand against slow play, but he hasn’t always been gentle about it.
The final pairing with Woods should be an interesting study in personalities. Woods starts a stroke behind, but he will be the name everyone is watching on the leader board.
Arron Oberholser and Singh can’t be overlooked. Mickelson, though, may be too far behind.
It has been a terrific week. One more day to go.
What's it like on Saturday afternoon at the Wachovia Championship when rain is threatening and the Tiger Woods-Vijay Singh pairing is still two hours from teeing off?
It's like this:
• The CBS Sports team is meeting inside its trailer, plotting its strategy for its afternoon telecast. Jim Nantz, Nick Faldo, David Feherty, Peter Oosterhuis, Peter Kostis and Gary McCord are crowded into a little room talking about who's going to do what.
When Nantz steps out of the meeting, we spend a few minutes catching up. He was born in Charlotte and still has family here. Jim has an uncommon grace about him that carries over to his television work. On any list of good people, he's near the top.
• Mark Russell, one of the PGA Tour officials in charge of the tournament, takes a moment to explain why players weren't paired in threesomes and sent off the first and 10th tees today in anticipation of bad weather.
The forecast late Friday was for the best chance of rain on Saturday afternoon, not in the morning. Had it just been rain, play would not have been suspended for two hours but radar showed a storm cell moving toward Quail Hollow with lightning associated.
Rather than send a few groups out on the course - and all the volunteers with them - the decision was made to wait an hour. Then another hour. When the storm dissipated, play began.
Putting almost 30 threesomes on the course at one time, Russell said, wouldn't have necessarily helped the pace of play. There is no promise, however, the third round will be completed today.
Rain isn't expected to be an issue on Sunday. But winds gusting to nearly 30 miles an hour are expected.
• Saturday is always the most popular day at the Wachovia, at least based on ticket sales. It's the first day to sell out.
But the damp, gray day may put a damper on the atmosphere. That doesn't mean beer tents will be empty but it means the party may be more subdued than normal.
Friday, May 04, 2007
The question has been asked more than once - and it's a fair question - whether all the nice things the PGA Tour players say about Quail Hollow and the Wachovia Championship are genuine or just a good public relations job.
And I've heard them say it in private.
Standing in the locker room this afternoon, a prominent tour player - someone whose face you've seen many, many times - stopped to talk to tournament director Kym Hougham.
The player made it a point to praise the little tweaks made for the players this year, small things that fans don't notice but things that are big to players. The scoring area was moved to the Quail Hollow pro shop. The pathways from the practice range to the locker room have been positioned in just the right spots. And all the other things that are done just right.
If players want to stop and sign autographs, there are plenty of spots to do so. If they prefer not to sign, it's easy to do without having to ignore the fans.
There's a reason, the player went on to say, why the Wachovia is a model for other events. And the attention to detail and the emphasis on quality without being heavy-handed has earned the loyalty of tour players.
It was a glowing endorsement of the tournament, not done in front of any cameras, just done to let Hougham know the players appreciate the effort.
Oh great, it hasn't rained enough here in the past few weeks to dampen the dust and now that the Wachovia Championship is here, it feels like Seattle all of a sudden.
This morning's cloudy, cool conditions are a more comfortable than the July-like temperatures earlier in the week but the threat of rain is never a particularly good thing at a golf tournament.
Players don't mind a little rain. They have all the best bad weather gear anyway and a caddie to hold the umbrella over their heads. One player forgot his umbrella and, this being the Wachovia Championship, asked a locker room attendant if they had a spare parasol.
Seconds later, the player was given a new umbrella, still in the plastic case. He promised to return it after the round.
No need, he was told. It's the Wachovia Championship.
A little rain makes scoring easier, especially on a course like Quail Hollow that's playing firmer than a gymnast's abs. In golf terms, it slows the course down, giving players more control.
Too much rain just makes a mess of things. It's a pain for spectators who have to look through umbrellas and it tends to dampen beer sales.
Hopefully, there won't be enough rain to mess up the tournament, which has a certain Mr. Woods climbing the leader board this morning. After the squishy, soggy mess in the final round last year, the Wachovia deserves better weekend weather this year.
Wonder if the Wachovia powers that be can make a call to someone about the weather?
Thursday, May 03, 2007
It's easy to forget that pro golfers are just regular people when they're not doing their jobs.
They are usually very well compensated, nicely tanned and accustomed to being pampered people, but otherwise they're vulnerable to the same curveballs life throws at everyone else.
Take Trevor Immelman, who looked almost flawless shooting a 68 in the first round of the Wachovia Championship. He's spent most of the past month, um, in or near a restroom, having contracted what doctors believe was a parasite that turned his system into something he'd prefer we didn't go into too much detail about.
Immelman spent three years building himself up to 178 pounds, doing all the right training to build muscle to a frame that includes one of those disgustingly slender waists.
And in the space of about two weeks, Immelman was down to 156 pounds, eating toast, rice and drinking water because that's all that worked. The problem seems to have past and Immelman has packed on two pounds recently but it shows how regular tour players really are.
Then there's Padraig Harrington, whose 66 was the best round of the morning, sporting a two-inch scar above his right eye where he had a sun spot removed. It wasn't the most serious form of skin cancer but it was worrisome enough that he had it taken off during the first week of a three-week break.
Harrington spent his downtime at home in Dublin, Ireland, where the weather was good enough for him to hang out in shorts and T-shirts. Now, Paddy's back, feeling good and holing putts.
Brad Faxon is coming back from a battle with Lyme disease. Brett Quigley is still adjusting to being a new dad. Tiger Woods is getting closer to being a dad for the first time.
In other words, it's not all 9-irons and birdie putts on the PGA Tour.
But most days, it ain't bad.
It feels quiet at Quail Hollow this morning but, honestly, how could it not?
Michael Jordan isn’t here, Tiger doesn’t tee off until after 1 p.m.. Neither does Phil.
Robert Garrigus is playing well. So, see what I mean?
So I figured it was a good time to prowl through the Quail Hollow clubhouse. The locker room was virtually deserted, the morning wave of players on the course and the afternoon guys still not here.
It’s a beautiful locker room but it looks a little cluttered this week because seemingly every player has stashed his big travel (the one he puts his clubs in) on top of the lockers. There must be close to a hundred of them on top of the lockers.
In the main hallway inside the clubhouse, there’s a 5-foot-high wooden butler serving as decoration. The butler is holding a silver tray and a snifter of brandy to go with a hand-written sign that says ‘Pub’ and points the way.
Every so often, the butler starts shaking, an amusing little touch.
The members call him ‘X’ and if you know Charlotte golf, you get the inside joke.
Outside, there’s a new Starbucks and a stand selling crepes. You don’t get that at Greensboro.
The crepe stand was suggested by John Sergi, who handles the food service at the Wachovia and he convinced Christian Jouault to give it a go here this week. It works at the U.S. Open in tennis and at other events.
And as the word gets out, it’s going to work at the Wachovia, especially with cooler weather coming.
You can get breakfast crepes with ham and eggs. I can personally vouch for the chicken, spinach, cheese and mushroom crepe. It’s outstanding.
And if you have a sweet tooth, you can get a strawberry and chocolate crepe with whipped cream.
OK, enough of that. It’s time for golf again.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
That was pretty cool.
Seeing Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan playing together Wednesday at Quail Hollow was indeed a rare treat.
It didn't exactly feel like a golf tournament, more like a parade in a really pretty park.
Jordan, a big stogie in his mouth, played to the crowd, chatting all the way around. He smiled, he laughed, he kidded Woods and playing partner Skipper Beck.
He did everything but sign autographs.
Woods played along, though he's not naturally extroverted. He did his best to get some golf work in, practicing pitch shots and putts to imaginery hole locations for the Wachovia Championship, which is he's here, after all.
And Beck was outstanding. He pretended to go to his knees after hitting his opening tee shot and some club members had arranged to have an oxygen tank waiting for Beck at the first tee, just for fun.
He played well, too, prompting Tiger to call him "the greatest 14-handicap ever."
Fans began arriving at Quail Hollow at 4:30 a..m, riding the first shuttle bus into the property, a bus normally just for volunteer workers.
They lined every hole two and three deep. They did their best to chat with Woods and Jordan when they came near the ropes.
Woods and Jordan had a wager working but neither would specify the stakes. Woods won.
There was a great photo op on the 18th green when Woods, Michael Jordan and Bobcats owner Bob Johnson posed together.
Beck may have said it best after the round over.
"It all happened too fast," he said.
Yes, it did.
They were out early, riding shuttle buses into Quail Hollow or walking from well outside the perimeter of the golf course where Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan were playing in the Wachovia Championship Wednesday morning.
Thousands, not hundreds, of people picked a perfect spring morning to get out and watch Woods and Jordan and Charlotte car dealer Skipper Beck play golf.
If they weren’t talking about the sudden release of Panthers wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson - a hot topic in the gallery - they were oohing and ahhing and trying to get in the best spot to see Jordan and Woods spending time together.
The golf wasn’t bad. Woods shot 1-under par on the front nine though he never actually finished the ninth hole. Jordan was a few more over par and Beck was hanging in there.
By the time the group reached the 10th tee, they had played the front nine so fast they had to wait for Trevor Immelman’s group to tee off. Woods chatted with Immelman while Jordan stood near the amateur tees while a clatch of photographers encircled him. Jordan chatted, smiled, swung his driver back and forth.
The 10th hole is nearly 600 yards long and was lined two and three deep from tee to green watching the Woods-Jordan group. Two hours earlier when Adam Scott teed off followed by Phil Mickelson, there were no more than 50 fans around the same tee.
Sergio Garcia and Peyton Manning were on the course, too, a pretty good one-two punch of star power. But even the sun was having trouble matching the glow coming off the Woods-Jordan group.