Tuesday, December 16, 2008

De Jonge is Nationwide Tour POY

Charlotte resident Brendon de Jonge capped a big year by being named Nationwide Tour player of the year in a vote of his fellow tour members.

De Jonge, a native of Zimbabwe who has lived in Charlotte for more than three years, had one victory, one second-place finish and three thirds in a season in which he finished second on the money list.

A graduate of Virginia Tech, de Jonge will return to the PGA Tour in 2009. He played the tour in 2007.

In other awards announced by the PGA Tour:

-- Padraig Harrington has been selected player of the year after winning two major championships. Harrington is the first European player to win the award;

-- Bernhard Langer is the Champions Tour player of the year and rookie of the year after winning three events;

-- Andres Romero captured the PGA Tour rookie of the year award;

-- And, Dudley Hart was named comeback player of the year after posting six top-10 finishes while playing on a major medical extension in 2008.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Wie, LPGA tour need each other -- badly

At 19, Michelle Wie has been through the full circle of stardom, and it's only now that she should be starting her LPGA career.

In reading through various stories from Daytona Beach, Fla., where Michelle Wie earned full status on the LPGA Tour Sunday, I was struck by a comment made by her instructor, David Leadbetter.

He said Michelle Wie needs the LPGA and the LPGA needs her.

Spot on.

It's funny how Wie seems to have been around forever and she's only 19. In fact, she's only now getting ready to start her career.

She will arrive on the 2009 LPGA tour having already lived the full circle of stardom. As a 14-year-old, Wie nearly won an LPGA major and threatened several more times before her career came unhinged two years ago.

A wrist injury started the downward spiral and it got ugly. Her game went away and so did a measure of her charm. She pulled out of a PGA Tour event with heat-related problems and walked off the course at the Ginn Tribute near Charleston, S.C., last year to avoid shooting a score so high it would have made her ineligible to play the tour the rest of the season.

Her game, which looked so great when she had the world watching her attempt to qualify for the men's U.S. Open, crumbled, taking her confidence with it.

Gradually, though, she has built back her game and when she hits the tour full time next year, the timing couldn't be better.

The LPGA Tour, which plays approximately one-third of its events outside the U.S. is feeling the effects of the economy coupled with the loss of Annika Sorenstam. Sure, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel and Lorena Ochoa are stars but they haven't shown the ability to pull the casual fan to them.

Michelle Wie can do that.

She has enormous star power. While the guidance she has received to this point is questionable -- she pushed the playing against the men thing way too far -- this is a fresh start for her.

When Wie tees it up in February at the SBS Open in Hawaii, it will be a new day for her and the tour.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Tiger Woods is POY -- in 6 starts

Padraig Harrington is a very nice man. If niceness were handicapped, he'd be about a plus-6.

He also won two major championships this year, which secured his eventual spot in the Hall of Fame and reconfirmed his place among the handful of best players in the world even if he did fizzle at the Ryder Cup.

The point of this is to exorcise a wee bit of guilt I feel about not voting for Harrington as the PGA Tour's player of the year.

But Tiger Woods wins again.

I know he played just six PGA Tour events but that was enough.

Tiger won four times, finished second once and fifth in the other event.

Remember the bomb he made on the 72nd hole to win Bay Hill?

And how about the way he came back to beat J.B. Holmes in the Match Play Championship?

Those are career memories for most guys but for Tiger they amounted to window dressing this year when compared to his victory in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

Years from now, decades from now, in fact, people will talk about how Woods won the Open while essentially playing on one leg. He did it on guts and will and with whatever that special thing is he possesses that makes him different from everyone else.

He called it his most meaningful major championship victory and Tiger isn't one to brag.
Harrington may win player of the year and it will be justified.

Vijay Singh locked down the FedEx Cup playoffs to end a good year and Camilo Villegas finally broke through. They had special seasons but, as they've heard before, they weren't Tiger.

There's only one Tiger.

When you can beat the best in the world in the U.S. Open on one leg, you've answered all the questions.