This Week in Golf - May 24th through May 27th

This Week in Golf - May 24th through May 27th

This Week in Golf - May 24th through May 27th
May 21st, 2007

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - CHAMPIONS TOUR - SENIOR PGA CHAMPIONSHIP, Kiawah Island Golf Resort (The Ocean Course), Kiawah Island, South Carolina - Famous for hosting the "War by the Shore" (aka the 1991 Ryder Cup) the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island will host the Champions Tour's first major this week, the Senior PGA Championship.

Ten people who took part in the War will tee it up this week on the Ocean Course. Dave Stockton captained the U.S. squad to victory in 1991 and will make his 14th appearance in this event.

Also teeing it up this week from the American team are Chip Beck, Raymond Floyd, Hale Irwin, Wayne Levi, Mark O'Meara and Lanny Wadkins, while the European squad will be represented by Seve Ballesteros, Mark James and Sam Torrance.

There are 11 former Ryder Cup captains participating this week -- Ballesteros, Ben Crenshaw, Floyd, Tony Jacklin, James, Tom Kite, Stockton, Curtis Strange, Torrance, Wadkins and Tom Watson.

Last year, Jay Haas needed three playoff holes to best Brad Bryant at Oak Tree and claim his first major championship crown. Haas closed with a three-under 68 to join Bryant at five-under 279.

The duo returned to the 18th, where Bryant got up and down for par while Haas two-putted for his par. At the second extra hole, No. 1, Bryant had 12 feet for birdie and the win, but missed and the two headed back to the 18th for the third extra hole, where Haas earned the win.

Started in 1937, this is the oldest championship in senior golf. The field this week includes 23 players who have won major championships.

USA Network will have two hours of coverage on Thursday and Friday, then NBC will have three hours of action each weekend day. Next week, the Champions Tour heads to Florida for the Boeing Championship at Sandestin, where Bobby Wadkins won last year.

PGA TOUR

CROWNE PLAZA INVITATIONAL AT COLONIAL, Colonial Country Club, Ft. Worth, Texas - There may be a new name this week, the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, but everyone knows this week's event as the Colonial.

Once again the event will have an invitational-sized field, but just one of the top 13 players in the world will be in the field this week, No. 3 Jim Furyk.

Furyk has been a regular at Colonial, where he will make his 12th straight appearance. In his first 11 trips, he has two top-five finishes and four top-10s.

Five more players ranked between 14 and 20 in the world -- Trevor Immelman, Rory Sabbatini, Stewart Cink, Steve Sticker and Nick O'Hern -- will join Furyk and defending champion Tim Herron at Colonial Country Club.

Richard S. Johnson birdied the final two holes last year to force a playoff with Herron. In the playoff, Herron birdied the second extra hole for his fourth tour win. The victory snapped a 204-event winless streak for the player affectionately known as "Lumpy."

Colonial is nicknamed Hogan's Alley for the legendary Ben Hogan's five wins between 1946 and 1959. Hogan won back-to-back titles twice during that time, including the first two playings of the event in 1946 and '47.

In that '46 season, Hogan also captured the title at the Byron Nelson Championship, making him the only player to win both titles in the same year.

In the past the two events were played back-to-back, but because of the new PGA schedule Scott Verplank won the Nelson four weeks ago. He could join Hogan as the only players to win both titles in the same year.

The Golf Channel will broadcast action on the first two days before CBS takes over for the weekend. Next week, the PGA Tour heads to Jack's place for the Memorial Tournament, where Carl Pettersson won last year.

EUROPEAN TOUR

BMW PGA CHAMPIONSHIP, Wentworth Club, Surrey, England - If you're looking for star power this week, check out the BMW PGA Championship, one of the flagship events on the European Tour.

Five of the top 10, and 11 of the top 30, players in the world will be at Wentworth this week.

World No. 5 Ernie Els is the top-ranked player in the field, but has never won this event, although he has finished second three times. Els has won a record six times at Wentworth at the HSBC World Match Play Championships.

In fact, of the 11 players ranked in the world top 30 playing this week, only Jose Maria Olazabal has won this event.

Last year, David Howell fired four rounds in the 60s to cruise to a five- stroke win over Simon Khan. The win moved Howell into the world top 10 at the time. However, he has since dropped to 32nd.

Since Colin Montgomerie won three straight from 1998 to 2000, no player has won more than once. In fact, if form holds, a first-time winner will be crowned this weekend. Every other winner since 2002 has been a first-time champion: Anders Hansen in '02 and Scott Drummond in '04.

Jose Maria Olazabal owns the record for most consecutive cuts made at this event with 19 and counting, while Montgomerie is right behind him at 17 and counting.

The Golf Channel will cover all four rounds beginning at 10:00 a.m. (et) Thursday and Friday, while 9:30 a.m. is the start time the final two days. The European Tour shifts to Wales next week for the Celtic Manor Wales Open, where Robert Karlsson won last year.

LPGA TOUR

LPGA CORNING CLASSIC, Corning Country Club, Corning, New York - The LPGA returns to New York this week for the LPGA Corning Classic, where last year the event had its fourth playoff in tournament history.

Hee-Won Han and Meena Lee each posted a pair of late birdies in regulation to force the extra session. They finished at 15-under par, one stroke ahead of Brandie Burton.

In the playoff, Lee had a chance to win on the first extra hole and Han had a chance on the second hole, but neither could close out the win. Lee extended the playoff to a fourth extra hole by sinking a tough 15-foot par putt.

The players shifted back to No. 8 for the fourth extra hole. Han only needed to two-putt for par from 15 feet for the victory as Lee knocked her second over the green and could not save par from 18 feet.

The win was Han's fifth on the LPGA Tour and second in the New York, where she claimed her first tour win at the Sybase Big Apple Classic in 2003.

The Golf Channel will have tape-delayed coverage of all four rounds this week. Next week, the LPGA moves to South Carolina for a new event, the Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika. Tournament host Annika Sorenstam, recovering from back surgery, is not expected to play.

NATIONWIDE TOUR

MELWOOD PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY OPEN, The Country Club at Woodmore, Mitchellville, Maryland - A new event on the Nationwide Tour takes place this week with the Melwood Prince George's County Open.

The top 10 on the money list and the first 10 winners of the season are all scheduled to be on hand this week.

Nick Flanagan, who has won two of the last three events and tops the money list, will attempt to claim the battlefield promotion to the PGA Tour with his third win of the season.

There will be no television coverage this week. Next up for the Nationwide Tour is the Lasalle Bank Open, where Jason Dufner won last year.

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Michelle Wie to return to PGA Tour event
May 22, 2007

EAST MOLINE, Ill. (AP) -Michelle Wie accepted a sponsor's exemption Tuesday to play in the John Deere Classic for the third straight year, continuing her effort to make the cut in a men's event.

Wie, who is to graduate from high school next week, has not made the cut in six starts on the PGA Tour. A year ago at the John Deere Classic, she opened with a 77 and withdrew in the middle of the second round with heat exhaustion.

The John Deere Classic will be played July 12-15 at TPC Deere Run.

``She is a wonderful talent who attracts a tremendous amount of interest among traditional and nontraditional golf fans, which helps broaden the game's appeal, especially among young people,'' tournament director Clair Peterson said.

Wie has not played since missing the cut by 14 shots at the Sony Open in January. She played that week with an injured right wrist, then injured her left wrist a short time later when she fell while running.

She is to play her first LPGA Tour event of the year next week at the Ginn Tribute in South Carolina.

Skepticism about Wie's scheduling increased late last year when she finished last in consecutive weeks on the European Tour and the PGA Tour, and was next to last at the Casio World Open in Japan. She has failed to break 70 in her last 16 rounds, including two LPGA Tour events.

The John Deere Classic is where she had her best chance to make the cut on the PGA Tour. Two years ago, she was one shot above the cut line until making a double bogey on her 15th hole and a bogey on the 16th to miss the cut by two shots.

``I am really happy to be returning to the John Deere Classic,'' Wie said. ``The people of the Quad Cities have supported me and rooted for me like no other.''

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Michelle Wie to return to PGA Tour event


She needs to forget about trying to beat the men.  tongue

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The Daly show remains a big favorite on tour
May 22, 2007

John Daly withdrew from five tournaments and missed the cut in eight others on the PGA Tour. His best finish was third place at the Skins Game, which had only four players. And that didn't really count because it was after the 2006 season, the worst of his career.

As a result, Daly lost his card.

But not his appeal.

How else to explain why tournaments would trip over themselves to give sponsor exemptions to someone who has missed the cut, withdrawn or been disqualified from 45 percent of his PGA Tour events since his rookie season in 1991?

``I always get three questions,'' Kym Hougham, tournament director of the prestigious Wachovia Championship, said Tuesday. ``Is Tiger coming? Is Fred Couples coming? Is John Daly coming? As strong a field as we had, people still thought it was important to have him.''

Wachovia certain didn't need any help selling tickets. It had 27 of the top 30 players in the world, the fifth-strongest field this year behind The Players Championship, two World Golf Championships and the Masters.

What did Daly bring to Quail Hollow?

Those who joined his circus in the second round could say they watched him hit a milestone with his 50th career round in the 80s on the PGA Tour. He was 1 under par through seven holes and still managed to shoot 87.

Give him credit. He counted every shot and signed for the correct score. There ought to be FedEx Cup bonus points for that.

``I know he had a tough day here,'' Hougham said. ``I didn't see any of the shots. But I was still glad to have him in the field. John is loved by the people. And we all have a responsibility to put people on the golf course that the paying public wants to see. Does his star remain bright? He's good for the gate, good for the crowd, good for concessions.''

There shouldn't be a question whether Daly deserves so many sponsor exemptions.

Even though it seems like a fading memory, he did capture two major championships in unforgettable style. One was the 1991 PGA Championship, when he drove through the night to Crooked Stick as the ninth alternate and introduced golf to his ``grip-it-and-rip-it'' ways. The other was the British Open, always special when a claret jug is hoisted at St. Andrews.

His other three PGA Tour titles don't stand out nearly as much as the three divorces, two trips to alcohol rehab, outrageous tales of gambling losses, trashed hotel rooms and suspensions.

No doubt, he brings flavor to a vanilla sport.

And that's not all.

``One thing I know he'll bring - fans,'' said Larry Peck, golf marketing manager for Buick, after announcing that Daly would get an exemption to the Buick Open at the end of June.

``John Daly has been so good to the Buick Open,'' Peck said. ``He's done clinics. He comes to the skyboxes to shake hands with our clients. We feel like we owe it to John to let him in. And it's self-serving. Fans love him. They come out to watch. He asked for an exemption, and we didn't even flinch. Yes, of course.''

Daly is not missing the cut on purpose, best anyone can tell.

He has been dealing with injuries, most recently a shoulder problem that first surfaced at the Honda Classic when Daly tried to stop his warp-speed swing upon noticing a fan trying to take his picture. He tried to play the next week in Tampa, only to withdraw in the second round when he couldn't keep two hands on the club.

But with a history of so many MCs, WDs and DQs, Daly needs an MRI to convince people he's really hurt.

It was the same story last year. A sciatic nerve problem forced him to withdraw after the first round of three straight tournaments in the summer. A broken pinky kept him from playing the last two weeks of the year. Thankfully, he healed in time for the silly season.

Most players in Daly's position write letters asking for an exemption, then hope for the best.

Daly already had 20 offers by Christmas.

He even received an exemption late last year to the Target World Challenge, which takes top players available from the world ranking and extends four invitations. How did Daly merit an invitation at No. 147 in the world and winless since 2004?

``Anywhere he goes, he brings one of the biggest galleries,'' tournament host Tiger Woods said. ``We're running a business, and we're trying to make as much money as we possibly can to put everything to our learning center.''

The exemptions continue to pour in, even as Daly continues to pull out.

Still uncertain was whether his ailing shoulder would allow him to take another exemption next week at the Memorial, where in 14 trips to Muirfield Village he has seven rounds in the 80s, two WDs, four MCs and his best finish was a tie for 11th.

``Our captain's committee pays a lot of attention to all the players out there,'' tournament director Dan Sullivan said in explaining the invitation to Daly. ``Two things come to mind. He's always supported the Memorial well, and he's a fan favorite.''

And one of the great appeals of Daly is you never know what will happen next.

He wrote in his autobiography about the dismal state of his life and his game a dozen years ago. He was missing the cut every third tournament. He got married, became a father, got divorced, got remarried, became a father again, tried to stop drinking and built nearly $4 million in gambling debts.

``Going into the 1995 British Open, I was a train wreck,'' he wrote. ``And yet somehow, I felt pretty good about my chances.''

That's the thing with Daly. He keeps everyone guessing.

And maybe that's why they keep watching.

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``Going into the 1995 British Open, I was a train wreck,'' he wrote. ``And yet somehow, I felt pretty good about my chances.''


big_smile

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The Colonial-Tee Time   
by: Brian Gabrielle

I’ve had so many close calls this year that I no longer think about how I might celebrate in this space if an outright pick wins. I did, though, until pretty recently. When Bob Estes had a great chance to win a few weeks ago I’d started to write in my mind: Bob (T)Estes, you are the man! Bob Estes’s balls are so big he has to cart them around in a wheel barrow, he needs a second caddie for his nuts! And so on. There would have been a lot of Bob Estes and exclamation points.

Esticles was long odds and would have gotten me back on track in a big way, so you can understand how stoked I would have been if he won. If you’ve been following this space or following golf, you know he didn’t win. He finished in the top-10, which is kissing your sister in golf handicapping.

Estes finished T6 last week, his third top-10 this year, which was six spots behind Zach Johnson, who won the AT&T Classic in a playoff with Ryuji Imada. I picked ZJ in the head-to-head and outright.

It wasn’t an easy win. Beaf stew in the undies (sorry, but it’s tough to get away from the toilet humor and testicle talk once you start) when I watched Imada get up and down from the sand for birdie on No. 18 to tie Johnson, who’d made his birdie in the group before for the outright lead. Then on the playoff hole, also 18, Imada went slightly left, just in the rough, and after an inconclusive session on the therapist’s couch in his head, chose the ballsy approach and realized the Mickelsonian consequences of such a move. Splash.

Johnson, way down in the fairway from Imada, saw this but stuck with his game plan---going for the green in two after his perfect drive. He didn’t let Imada’s misfortunes change his approach after the great drive. That’s why the dude won the Masters: he makes up his mind and hits the ball. It’s strategic, never about big brass balls for the sake of it, but he’s going to be a poster boy nonetheless for those who don’t have brain size to match ball size. The difference is,Johnson has a plan. We saw that at Augusta. We saw it in Liverpool last year with Tiger. We see it a lot, in fact, in sports and life. Tiger and Johnson won conservatively, not bombastically. They won because they had smart plans and executed them.

So last week was a big double win, though at 10-1 in the outright and 1/6 unit, Johnson’s win only paid at 1.7 units. In the head-to-head, taking Johnson over Stewart Cink at 10-11, 1 unit, I netted .9 units. That’s a total of 2.6 for the week.

This week: Who’s going to steal the towel at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club? It won’t be Tiger. He doesn’t need any towels and he’s not playing. Only four players in the top 20 world rankings are. It’s anyone’s guess. Here are my predictions:

In the outright, take David Toms (33-1), 1/6 unit: It’s really only a matter of when, and a 7,000-yard layout, not a bomber’s paradise, might get him back in the winning circle. See below for his recent run at Colonial.

Take Scott Verplank (40-1), 1/6 unit: Misgivings picking Verplank in recent years because he hadn’t won since 2001 despite being a guy who was consistently good over those years and had a lot of close calls. But he won the EDS Byron Nelson Classic last month and he’s managed well at Colonial over the years. Crafty player.

Take Nick O’Hern (50-1), 1/6 unit: Mediocre year despite two top-10s in WGC events (including knocking off Tiger in match play). Similar in style to Verplank and Toms---short and straight, good iron player---he needs to get the straight back. He’s struggling with driving accuracy. Last year he finished T12.

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Crown Plaza Invitational Preview    
       
Once again the PGA Tour moves to Texas for the venerable Colonial Invitational Championship (ignoring the bulky sponsor name). The FedEx Cup race has made the end of the year more exciting, but kills smaller events like the Colonial (that used to benefit from the synergy of having the Byron Nelson Classic played the prior week). This event was already struggling in not having Tiger Woods and the other big hitters involved, and now this once-proud event has slipped dramatically from even mid-1990s levels. Look for players like Scott Verplank and even minor guys playing well like Anthony Kim to do well here. Colonial is one of the few true shotmaker courses left on the PGA tour, scaring away most of the big hitters. Keep this in mind when making your selections this week.



-- Favorites --

Rory Sabatini


Sabatini is definitely in the upper echelon of this weak field. Sabatini has both booming power and deft shotmaking, so he should be able to take advantage of the course layout. He is also from the Dallas/Fort Worth area, so he is hoping to have some “home-field” advantage.

Scott Verplank

Another Dallas resident, Verplank is fresh off of his victory at the 2007 Byron Nelson Invitational a month ago. Although the Nelson is the event he was dying to win, he would love to have a “North Texas Slam” this year if he could win the Colonial. Verplank is a short hitter off the tee, which actually helps him this week, as the Colonial course setup takes driver out of the big hitters hands on several holes.

Ben Crane

Crane would be a sleeper in a higher-profile field, but is poised to secure a top-ten placing this week at the Colonial by default. Crane is a multiple winner on tour, including the British Open back when he was a rookie, and that pedigree vaults him to the favorites category.

-- Sleepers --


Ken Duke


Duke has come back to earth the past few weeks (Players, AT&T Classic), but with that in mind it’s important to note that he still made both of those cuts (rather than raking in top-ten money). This is another course setup that favors Duke, as he has proven over the past month. The only factor to consider as the season progresses is a burnout factor – Duke is a mainstay in tournaments week-to-week, and that is a major contributor to injury or burnout.


Tim Clark


A sleeper in name only, Clark has been a major player over the past five years at major events due to his accuracy off the tee. The short South African has been a bridesmaid several times on tour, but the tight, tree-lined fairways of Colonial will be tailor made for Clark to break through this week, and his cost benefit will be huge.

Anthony Kim

The confident rookie has already had several top-tens this year, and has been killing the field with low rounds on Sunday. Kim will have not played a course as demanding as Colonial on the PGA tour yet, but based on past results rest assured that Kim is licking his lips this week as he looks for his first PGA tour win.

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