Wednesday, March 09, 2011

When The Stars Align -- By Coincidence Or Intentionally

   The fact that Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell are paired together this week in the first two rounds of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral is due to their order in the latest world rankings.

  It explains why Nos. 1-3 -- Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald -- are grouped together as are the other top 25 players in the world.  Scroll down the list of groups and you can pick out any number of attractive pairings, including one with Rickie Fowler, Ryo Ishikawa and Jhonatton Vegas.

   While these groupings are based on rankings, the PGA Tour has made the wise move this year of putting together a handful of powerhouse pairings at each event. Rather than let the computer scatter the top players across the tee sheet based on a formula of who's won, who hasn't and other things, the tour seeds a few groups for maximum impact.

   It's a good idea. Play to your strengths. Granted, not every event gets all the top-ranked players in the field but make it easy on fans who want to watch the best but don't want to spend part of their day trekking back and forth between groups.

   The U.S. Open annually has fun (okay fun may be a stretch) with its pairings the first two days and the Masters gets it right, too. Now it can happen at regular tour events.

   That means when the Wells Fargo Championship rolls into Charlotte in May, you can expect a couple of must-follow pairings. That's not to suggest Mickelson and Woods will play together (that's assuming both play here as they typically do) but it won't happen like a couple of years back when all the big names were placed on the same side of the draw, meaning they all played early one day and late the next.

   In the often inflexible world of golf, adding some flexibility to the pairings is a good idea.