For What it’s Worth
The top golf rankings in the world seem to be a revolving door these days as Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy have been going around-and-around for the last six weeks with no one landing a deciding blow and truly claiming number one. However, this past weekend at Wentworth Golf Club just outside of London, Luke Donald may have taken an important step forward with a strong victory over a world-class European Tour field at the BMW PGA Championship. The BMW, the European Tour’s flagship event – save of course, for the British Open – has been won by Donald the past two seasons. McIlroy was a non-factor, missing the cut by a mile for his second early exit in a row (including the Player’s Championship two weeks ago). Donald now sits atop the world rankings again, but for how long? McIlroy is back in action this week and a solid finish would leap-frog him again to number one. A topic I’ve touched upon the last few weeks is how much parity there is in the game of golf right now, and the world rankings show no exempt from that claim. For years, there was really one name that was the best in the world – no one came even close. However, since Tiger Woods has lost some of his magic, there are probably ten guys in the world who could, at any point, be claimed the best. It is a great time to be a fan of the game.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Jason Dufner was in contention late on Sunday to win a PGA Tour event. It took him nearly 200 tries, but since his maiden victory four weeks ago in New Orleans, Dufner had been on a tear. However, many are saying he just ran out of gas this past weekend at Colonial, after he fell to gritty veteran and former Masters champion Zach Johnson by one stroke. Johnson won his second Crowne Plaza Invitational in three years on Sunday but it was not without controversy. After draining his short putt to put the finishing touches on his victory, his caddy whispered to him “did you replace your marker?” Turns out, he did not. After moving his marker on the green to get out of the way of his playing partner, Dufner, Johnson forgot to move it back to its original place and was charged a two-stroke penalty. His comfortable three-stroke victory had turned into a one-stroke win, but a win all the same. It would have been a shame for Johnson to have lost the tournament on such a technicality, but that’s golf.
Chapman melts the field at the Senior PGA Championship
Relatively unknown Englishman Roger Chapman sealed a two-stroke victory over John Cook, and three strokes over the ageless Hale Irwin (seriously, he is 67 and still competing. So impressive!) to win for the first time on the Senior circuit. Chapman carried a nine-stroke lead through the early stages of his round but did end up falling back slightly to the field before the day was done. Week to week, some familiar names will pop up on the Champion’s Tour leaderboard – names like Kenny Perry, Tom Watson, Tom Lehman, and Fred Couples come to mind – but there are also the handful of guys like Chapman who literally come out of nowhere for a win. It’s unfortunate for the tour there isn’t the financial draw for guys to want to play after 50 years of age, because they’ve already made their millions. Hard to see the Champions Tour change its marketing angle to reflect anything other than an opportunity to see some legends one more time, and unfortunately (with no disrespect to Chapman), a victory by an unknown journeyman is not what the tour needs.
This week, the Tour returns to Ohio for one of the more anticipated stops of the year: The Memorial Tournament, hosted by Jack Nicklaus. The tournament is played on a Nicklaus-designed golf course just outside ofColumbus,Ohio, — Nicklaus’ hometown. It’s one of only five tournaments that have been granted ‘invitational’ status on the Tour (including last week’s tournament at Colonial) meaning the field is reduced from a normal size of about 150 golfers, to 120. Past winners include Tiger Woods (back in the field this week looking for his fifth Memorial title), Tom Watson, Steve Stricker, Greg Norman, and the host himself, Jack Nicklaus. Any number of the top golfers in the world would be a fantastic pick this week, but I’m going to go with Webb Simpson. After his magical season in 2011, he just has too much game not to turn it around soon in 2012. He tied for seventh last year, and a win here would do wonders for his confidence heading into the summer.