Sunday, August 8, 2004
Love needs another major win
By Jason Sobel
So, you wanted to win a golf tournament this past weekend? Hope you didn't have a lead entering Sunday.
That's right, the only way to win was that of the come-from-behind variety this weekend, as Saturday's leaders became Sunday's losers. From the Champions Tour (where Tom Kite came back to beat third-round leader Tom Purtzer) to the European Tour (where David Lynn passed Richard Green), the LPGA (Meg Mallon defeating Karen Stupples) to the Ladies European Tour (Annika Sorenstam overcoming both Carin Koch and Becky Morgan), climbing the leaderboard was all the rage.
Everywhere, that is, except Castle Rock, Colo., where third-round co-leader Rod Pampling earned his first career PGA Tour win on Sunday. But it was the defending champion at The International who caught the attention of the Weekly 18, simply for not garnering any attention at all.
What's Love got to do with it?
Davis Love III has had a very good career. He holds 18 PGA Tour titles. He's ranked No. 5 in the world. And with more than $28 million, he's fourth on the all-time money list.
But Love's career can't be considered great. Not yet, at least. One major victory is not enough for a player of such caliber. His 1997 win at Winged Foot was the stuff legends are made of, and it seemed then that future major championships were right around the corner.
While he locked up wins everywhere from Harbour Town to Pebble Beach, Love's second major remains as elusive as his first. Through highly publicized personal issues, Love has soldiered on, his always steady, sometimes spectacular play landing him in the top 15 on the money list every year since 1995 except 2002 (when he finished 21st).
Now Love's career seems to be in its downswing. His four tour victories a year ago were replaced by an MC, T33, T32 and T15 in those same tournaments this season. Two second-place finishes and a third in his first five starts of 2004 have buoyed Love's current seventh place position on the money list, but he's in danger of his fourth season without a title in the last six years.
Then again, Love's got plenty of titles. What he needs is another major win to be considered among the greats of the game.
|Sure, Love's seventh on the current money list, but he's on track for his fourth winless season in the last six years.|
The Daly news
It's interesting that Daly, who continually said how important it was for him to make the Ryder Cup team, would compete in a made-for-TV event on Monday but skip The International. With only two tournaments remaining to earn Ryder points -- and Daly lingering in 20th place on the points list -- he opted to pass on the Colorado-based event, where surely his mammoth drives would fly even farther in the thin air. Granted, Daly has three MCs and a WD in his only four starts in the last 10 years of The International, but you have to wonder how much he really wants to collect those points, as opposed to having Hal Sutton just hand him a spot on the team.
Quite a Ryde
Fred Funk's injured, Jeff Maggert's at home with his pregnant wife and Jerry Kelly stayed at home this past week. That opened the door for 50-year-old Jay Haas (fifth-place finish), as well as Stewart Cink (eagle-birdie finish on Sunday to place T6) and Chris DiMarco (third-round co-leader also shared sixth place). Each earned valuable Ryder Cup points -- Haas knocked Kelly from the top 10 -- and made the race for the final three automatic berths a tight one entering the PGA Championship.
|Coming up this week
According to all reports, Whistling Straits is going to be a monster. Everyone is saying the winner is going to have to be someone extremely long off the tee, with a very controlled iron game, who is a fantastic putter. Hmmm... if someone were that good, there wouldn't be much point in playing the tournament, would there? Expect the following players to be in contention throughout: Jerry Kelly (winning in front of the home folks and clinching a Ryder Cup berth in one fell swoop would make his career), John Daly (he's red-hot, but is he still thinking about that putt on the 72nd hole at Warwick Hills?), Paul Casey (he learned what it's like to lead at a major in the first round of the British) and Phil Mickelson (because, well, just because he's Phil Mickelson). But the choice here is Mike Weir, the little man with the big game who can bang the ball a long way and is obviously battle-tested in majors.
Steady and ready
Perhaps there is something to be said for having steady players on the Ryder Cup team, not just streaky ones, even though the format for choosing the squad rewards streakiness more than steadiness. Daly, with a first and a second this year, and Todd Hamilton, with two wins, are examples of the latter, while Kelly and Scott Verplank have been models of consistency. Neither player has missed a cut this year; Kelly has played in 19 events, Verplank 17. Don't think Hal Sutton hasn't taken notice. If they don't climb their way into the top 10 at Whistling Straits, Kelly (currently 11th in the points standings) and Verplank (14th) quite possibly could be captain's picks.
On second thought
You have to wonder whether Maggert knows something the rest of us don't. The three-time Ryder participant seems awfully comfortable with his decision to skip the PGA to be with his wife, who's having twins later this month. While you certainly can't criticize Maggert for his decision -- after all, as Kelly said, "Other than my family, making that team is pretty much the most important thing in my life" -- perhaps a little birdie has whispered in his ear about his chances of making fellow Texan Sutton's Ryder squad.
Oh captain, my captain
There was a lack of potential U.S. Ryder Cup participants at the The International, but there were enough of them that Sutton, who played in the event himself, got a good look at some prospects. But with a dearth of Euro players in the event, what was Bernhard Langer doing at Castle Pines? Just collecting a T9 finish is all. Sutton finished with minus-1 point and missed the cut by seven points. His Cup counterpart, meanwhile, collected his fourth top 10 in only 11 PGA Tour events this season. Langer repeatedly has said he will not name himself as a captain's pick, but the Euro squad could do a lot worse than the 46-year-old German who may still be on top of his game.
Too much risk, not enough reward
Playing the Modified Stableford system is like seeing that weird uncle every Thanksgiving; once a year is manageable, but any more than that becomes awkward and uncomfortable. Protagonists like to note that the Modified Stableford is the ultimate risk-reward system, encouraging players to attempt shots they normally wouldn't try. However, the system showed its ugly side this weekend; rather than eagles and birdies, The International became fraught with bogeys and double bogeys throughout the weekend.
International man of mystery
In every preview story of The International this week, it was mentioned that Davis Love III recorded 19 points in last year's first round, just one off the record pace set by Greg Whisman in 1992. Which brings up one question: Who the heck is Greg Whisman? Turns out, he was a two-year PGA Tour pro (1991-92), who made just over $140,000 before heading back to the Nike Tour for a few years and then getting out of touring golf altogether (he's now a club pro in the Seattle area). And how did Whisman finish in that historic '92 International? He finished 16th after being paired with legends Greg Norman and Tom Watson later in the tournament.
Unlike Anna Nicole Smith, John Daly hasn't shown a sustained weight loss under his Trim Spa sponsorship. Perhaps that has something to do with one of his other sponsors. At the Battle at the Bridges, Daly's shirt sleeve was covered by a large Dunkin' Donuts logo. Said Daly: "That's like having Miller Lite and AA."
Mallon gets closer at Farr
Meg Mallon's win at the U.S. Women's Open was the feel-good story of the summer on the LPGA Tour. Her win the next week at the Canadian Women's Open bolstered her popularity with her peers and the fans. But in earning her third win of the summer, a come-from-behind effort at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic, Mallon went from a story to the story on the tour this season. Sure, Annika Sorenstam still leads the money list, but if the Rolex Player of the Year award were an elected position (as on the PGA Tour) rather than a computed number (much like Ryder or Solheim Cup points), you can bet that Mallon would make a run at the trophy.
Back to work
It may not be as popular as its men's counterpart, but the LPGA does have some fan-friendly benefits that are missing on the PGA Tour. For example, one week after winning her first career major at the Women's British Open, Karen Stupples went right back to work -- in Sylvania, Ohio, of all places -- finishing in a share of second place at the Jamie Farr. By comparison, after Todd Hamilton won the British, he, too, quickly flew back to the U.S., but for appearances on Letterman, throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game and seemingly anywhere else the previous unknown would be instantly recognized. It took until this week at The International for Hamilton to return to his actual workplace -- the golf course.
Sweet in Sweden
It's probably no consolation for failing to defend her Women's British Open title, but Annika Sorenstam rode a final-round 64 to claim the course record and a fourth career win at the HP Open.
Party of five
It has been a season of haves and have-nots on the Nationwide Tour. With his win in the Cox Classic on Sunday, Charles Warren joined D.A. Points, Daniel Chopra, Kevin Stadler and Jimmy Walker as multiple winners, meaning those five had accounted for precisely half of the wins after 20 events on tour this season. Warren's win came in his second straight start, but it's still not as impressive as the feat accomplished by Chopra, who won titles in his only two Nationwide starts this year.
Points and Brendan Jones have a pretty good battle going at the top of the Nationwide money list. Points' $292,636 puts him just $2,078 ahead of Jones, and both are all but assured of PGA Tour cards next season. Don't think there's much of a difference between the money on the two tours? Points and Jones would be 142nd and 144th, respectively, if their winnings counted against those of the PGA Tour members.
Hale of a player
So at 59, Hale Irwin might not be shooting his age just yet, but the Champions Tour stalwart may still be getting better. His T22 finish at the 3M Championship added to his No. 1 status on the tour money list. He'll be eligible for the Grand Champions points race next year at age 60, but you get the feeling he'll still be competing with all of the 50-plus youngsters.
Riding the Bench
A close check of the 3M Championship scores -- all the way at the bottom, mind you -- will find Hall of Fame baseball catcher Johnny Bench, who carded rounds of 89, 91 and 81 for a 45-over 261 three-day total. For his troubles, Bench earned $945, roughly the equivalent of 19 authentic Johnny Bench-signed baseballs.
King of the Castle
If he didn't have some business to take care of in Canton, Ohio, it's a good bet John Elway would have been watching the touring pros at The International, waiting for them to clear off his home course. Elway is a two-time club champion at Castle Pines GC, though it's unknown whether Elway is much of a Modified Stableford player himself.
Quote of the week
"I use it every day before I go out and play golf, like on Thursday through Sunday. Actually, in my case now, it's Thursday and Friday."
--Rich Beem on The Golf Channel, in reference to his use of Pepto Bismol and his recent habit of missing cuts. Beem finished T70 after failing to make the Saturday cut this week.
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.