Love misses cut at Greensboro
It was a good week to be a big name in the world of golf.
There was a big name at the top of the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro leaderboard, too, although the surname Geiberger is more known for Brent's dad Al than himself.
Even Tiger Woods had a good week despite not playing in a tournament. On Sunday it was announced that he would not be fined for failing to notify authorities that his yacht was coming into port.
So he's got that going for him. Which is nice.
Another guy who has a lot going for him is Davis Love III. Eighteen career PGA Tour titles. Six-time Ryder Cupper. Fourth on the all-time money list. The Weekly 18 starts, however, with why Davis hasn't been feeling the love on tour this season.
If you were an architect who drafted plans on a house, you'd probably know your way around that building.
If you were an auto mechanic, you'd probably know how to change a vehicle's oil.
So doesn't it stand to reason that if you were a professional golfer who redesigned an already existing golf course, you'd know how to shoot a pretty good score there? Maybe not.
Such is the case of Love, who, prior to last year's Chrysler Classic of Greensboro, made changes to the layout of Forest Oaks Country Club. One by one, players commented on how much they liked Love's resdesign of the course, which still plays tough but yields a winning score in the low- to mid-teens.
Love should be excited at this new role in golf, one which led to a second career in the game for the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. It's a job he can maintain long after his playing days are over.
Those days are still a long way off, but it's been a rough season for Love, topped off by his missed cut (after rounds of 75-69) in Greensboro. After a career-best four victories in 2003, Love has yet to claim a win this season. He started hot, with two second-place finishes and a third in his first five tournaments of the year, but has cooled with the weather, notching only three top 10s in his last 14 events.
For 98 percent of all PGA Tour players, Love's 2004 season of 18 made cuts in 22 events, with over $3 million in earnings, would be a career year. But for Love, who should still be considered one of the game's elite golfers, wins are the thing. He's currently No. 6 in the World Ranking; the five players above him -- Vijay Singh (eight worldwide wins this season), Els (five), Woods (one), Phil Mickelson (two) and Retief Goosen (two) -- have each held trophies in the winner's circle this year.
There is no disputing the fact that Love is one of the greatest golfers of his generation. The question remains -- is he still one of the best golfers in the world right now?
Wasn't it just recently that Woods tried to convince us that it was his career record in majors and consecutive made-cuts streak that really mattered to him, not his World Ranking? Interesting then that earlier this week Tiger was lobbying for players in his Target World Challenge, a 16-man invite-only tournament every December, to receive World Ranking points. His request comes on the heels of another 16-man, invite-only event, this week's World Match Play, being credited for ranking points for the first time this year. Woods has a good point -- these are similar events and should count equally as far as how much they benefit players' ranking positions. Still, it's a provocative statement from a man who has repeatedly said he doesn't care about his place in the World Ranking but now finds himself No. 3.
The PGA Tour is fighting an uphill battle if it requests/demands that Els play more of its events. With his win at the Match Play, Els is even closer to capturing the top spot in the World Ranking, meaning the tour needs him more than he needs the tour. With the four majors and three WGC events (all PGA Tour-sanctioned tournaments) along with assorted sponsor's exemptions, Els can, in a sense, remain a viable force in the world of golf without maintaining a PGA Tour card. And don't think Els' will be an isolated case. As more players own private jets and don't need the riches of the PGA Tour, the words independent contractor take on even more meaning. Players like Els have the option of picking and choosing their spots, and just because Ernie doesn't play as many tour events as Tim Finchem's gang would like, they should simply let it go or risk losing him -- and others in the future -- for good.
After rain delayed the beginning of the first round of the Match Play on Thursday, Els' match with Scott Drummond was suspended with Els 2-up through 34 holes, meaning the pair were on the 16th green when play finished. According to reports, Els turned to the referee and said, "OK, that's it. I'm off home," and walked into his house just off that green.
|Coming up this week|
Funai Classic at Disney
Charles Schwab Cup Championship
Els wasn't the only one at "home" this week. Sorenstam is a member at Bighorn Golf Club, site of the Samsung. It wasn't her first taste of prefessional-level golf at her home club. Three years ago, Annika teamed with Woods to defeat David Duval and Karrie Webb in the prime-time Battle at Bighorn event.
Late in Sunday's final round of the Samsung, it looked like Grace Park was poised to claim a wire-to-wire victory for her first win since the Nabisco back in March. At one point, Park was 17-under with five holes to play while Sorenstam was 15-under with four to play. Annika finished eagle-par-birdie-par; Park went par-par-bogey-bogey. And all of a sudden, Sorenstam was a three-stroke winner after trailing for the first 68 holes of the tournament.
Michelle Wie's return to the LPGA Tour as the only amateur in the 20-woman field at the Samsung got off to a rocky start with opening rounds of 74-72, but she settled down on the weekend, shooting a third round-best 67 on Saturday and 69 on Sunday to finish T-13. Of particular interest was Wie's pairing with Laura Davies during the third round. The annual leader in driving distance, Davies (who once drove a ball 376 yards on an airport runway) reported that her tee shots were level distance with Wie's for much of the round and, on the occasions she really got into one, the 15-year-old actually outdrove her veteran counterpart by a few yards.
More bad PR for the PGA Tour: For the second straight week, the European Tour (with last week's Dunhill Links Championship and then the World Match Play) has stolen the headlines from its U.S.-based counterpart. It's becoming painfully obvious that the PGA Tour needs to liven up this part of the schedule to compete not only with the Euros but also the NFL, MLB playoffs, college football and NBA preseason. One suggestion by Golf World's Ron Sirak is to move the Accenture Match Play to September. Another could be for the tour to place a higher premium on winning its autumn events (perhaps a greater discrepency between first- and second-place prize money or three- or four-year exemptions rather than the regular two-year exemption). Whatever the case, it won't happen in 2005. The tour's schedule for next season was released this week and doesn't include any major changes, especially for the late-season part of the schedule.
Talk about playing golf like your life depended on it -- the top three finishers in Greensboro were all ranked outside the top 125 on the money list entering this week. Brent Geiberger (ranked 144th on the money list), Michael Allen (153rd) and Chris Smith (152nd) were each looking at Q-School if they didn't make a large chunk of money in the tour's final few weeks, but they finished 1-2-3 to secure cards for 2005. In Allen's case, his second-place finish is especially sweet -- he's been to Q-School 11 times in his career, successfully gaining a tour card on six of those occasions.
We've said it before and we'll say it again -- Ryan Moore is for real. The UNLV senior -- who won this year's U.S. Amateur, NCAA men's championship and just about every other amateur event there is -- received a sponsor's exemption to play Greensboro and shot 68-69-73-71 for a T-24 finish. A year from now -- after he plays another full collegiate season and aims for a second straight U.S. Amateur title -- expect Moore to earn his 2006 PGA Tour card by finishing high enough in sponsor's exemptions throughout the summer and fall, just like Bill Haas and Casey Wittenberg attempted this year.
Need someone to root for at this year's PGA Tour Q-School? Look no further than Victor Schwamkrug. The bio for the long-hitting Nationwide Tour veteran should read like the back of Blockbuster movie -- If you like John Daly, you'll love Victor Schwamkrug! He is the undisputed home run king of the PGA Tour's minor league. Entering the Nationwide's Permian Golf Classic (where he missed the cut for the 10th time in 16 events this season), Schwamkrug led the tour with a 330.7 average driving distance and his longest tee shot traveled 404 yards (remarkably, that only ranks fourth this season). The bad news? As you could probably guess, he's not very accurate, having hit only 50.7 percent of the fairways. The result is that Schwamkrug has earned only $23,884 this year, ranking him 133rd on the Nationwide money list. If you see his name during Q-School week, stay ahead of the curve and cheer for him. He'll be a fan favorite if he ever makes it to the PGA Tour.
Tom Kite ranks right up there with Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Jimmy Demaret and Ben Crenshaw on the list of legendary Texas golfers, but his record in the state is almost unimaginable. With a T-4 finish at the SBC Championship, Kite is now 0-for-104 as a professional in Texas-based events.
At 6,671 yards, Oak Hills CC -- host of the SBC -- isn't an unnaturally long course. That is, except for the 5th hole. The par-5 measures 640 yards, unreachable in two for any Daly/Hank Kuehne types, let alone those on the senior circuit. That didn't seem to faze McNulty, however. After a bogey on the 5th in the first round, McNulty made birdie there on Saturday and Sunday, helping him cruise to a eight-stroke win over Gary McCord.
Champions Tour president Rick George will be barking up the wrong tree if he insists that carts be banned on the senior circuit. It's rumored that this rule may be introduced as early as next season, although legal battles could prevent it from happening so soon. Most players are against the ruling, as it would severely cut down on the careers of some tour members. If the players feel strongly enough, they could go NHL over this issue and simply not compete at the beginning of '05. As George is overtly aware, the Champions Tour doesn't get much ink; surely he'd hate for all of it to be negative.
You're not going to like this, USA golf fans, but here goes anyway -- Europe was shorthanded when it beat the Americans, 18½-9½, at this year's Ryder Cup. Sure, they had Garcia and Padraig Harrington and Colin Montgomerie, but the Euros were missing perhaps their best match play competitor of the last 25 years. He was busy captaining the team. If there's any doubt Bernhard Langer could have competed -- and succeeded -- against the likes of Tiger and Phil, just take a look at what he accomplished at the Match Play. Langer defeated world No. 1 Singh on the first extra hole of the first round before falling to Miguel Angel Jimenez on Friday. Now that he's done as captain of the Euros, don't be surprised to see Langer, who can once again concentrate on his own golf, make a run at tying Nick Faldo's record by playing on his 11th Ryder Cup team in 2006.
Garcia skipped the Match Play to compete in the Mallorca Classic, played in the Balearic Islands just off the coast of Spain. Say what you want about the sometimes whiny Spaniard, but he's fiercely loyal to his homeland. Garcia will again play in front of the home folks at the World Cup next month, teaming with Jimenez in the 24-nation event. Don't be surprised to see another win.
Here's further proof that fellow European golfers should stay out of Ian Poulter's closet when choosing their outfit for the day. Christopher Hanell, a 31-year-old journeyman from Sweden, showed up to the Mallorca on Thursday dressed in a dreadful matching orange shirt/pants combination. Not sure if the duds were as stylish as they were simply outlandish, but they sure didn't help his golf game. Hanell shot a 2-over 72 in the first round, en route to a T-36 finish.
"He just told me to keep my head still. ... That's a pretty easy one to go for. I mean, my wife can give me that one."
--Ernie Els, on the putting advice he received from his 96-year-old grandfather the night before his match against Lee Westwood in the final of the World Match Play.
Information from ESPN.com's wire services is included.
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.
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