The Swing's the Thing
Champs and chumps from a lively eight weeks on the West Coast
AUSSIES Aaron Baddeley pushed Ernie Els to the brink in Hawaii,
while Adam Scott was mostly dazzling at the Match Play. If only
Scott had Baddeley's putting stroke....
MIKE WEIR The little lefty is proof that a game built on control
and course management can still be successful in the go-go 21st
JAY HAAS At 49 he is playing some of the most inspired golf of
his long career, and with the success of his two sons at the
college level he has become the patriarch of one of golf's
ANNIKA SORENSTAM She finally figured out how to make the front
page--not in Sports, but A1. The Colonial, two months hence, is
suddenly must-see TV.
OLD-SCHOOL COURSES The scoring onslaught was slowed by Pebble
Beach and Riviera, classic designs with tough little greens and
subtle challenges. Maybe Merion is ready for another U.S. Open.
VIJAY SINGH'S PUTTING STROKE One of golf's most underrated player
was dazzling on and off the greens while winning in Phoenix, and
he will be a favorite at Augusta as long as his nagging rib
TIGER WOODS Milking that knee injury for an extra-long vacation
was a brilliant move--he looks refreshed and utterly
MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP In its fifth year the event finally got
what it needed to confer the prestige it lacked--Woods as
SPANIARDS Sergio Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal are playing like
Seve--of recent vintage. With Ollie rendered obsolete by
Augusta's redesign, expect little ole at the Masters.
PHIL MICKELSON Could his year be off to a worse start? An 80 at
Pebble, a Sunday smackdown by Tiger Woods in San Diego and reams
of bad press.
THE CHAMPIONS TOUR The most exciting old guy in the game, Haas,
isn't even on tour, and this year's winners have been a who's not
who of golf. Even with Jack back, the senior tour is ready to be
THE LPGA TOUR Still in the midst of its endless off-season, the
tour finally winds up in the news, but for the wrong reason: Its
top player is straying.
NEW-SCHOOL Despite their considerable length, neither the
target-style, desert design of the TPC of Scottsdale nor the
modish, grand scope of Kapalua offered any resistance to the
world's best golfers.
CHARLES HOWELL'S PUTTING STROKE Until this long-knocking
23year-old learns to get the ball in the hole a little faster, he
will remain just a tantalizing prospect.
ERNIE ELS Sure, he was sizzling for six weeks, but what have you
done for me lately? Els now trails Woods on the PGA Tour money
MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP With the exception of Saturday's action,
the week was defined by a sloppy course, ugly golf and bad
"THAT'S MATCH PLAY" has gone from a cliche to a copout, used by
the vanquished at the end of every match play tussle. The
vagaries of the format are overrated. Those who play well usually
win, and those who play poorly usually lose--and those who lose
usually offer this old chestnut as an excuse.
PGA Tour players are so used to a familiar set of chummy TV
interviewers that pugnacious Jim Gray, working for ABC, seemed
way out of his element at the Match Play Championship, while the
pros were unusually prickly. In a week full of awkward
interviews, one was particularly memorable. Following Tiger
Woods's 5and-4 dismantling of Scott Hoch on Saturday morning,
Gray started by offering congratulations to both players, which
led Hoch to snap, "Congratulations? How about commiseration?"
Gray's first question to Hoch: "What can you say when you run
into a display of golf like that?" Hoch, at his sardonic best,
shot back, "Nice shot, nice shot, nice shot." Gray then turned
his attention to Woods, describing his upcoming opponent, Adam
Scott, as "a kid who's modeled his whole life after yours, to the
extent that's possible." As Woods was leaving the greenside
interview, another reporter asked, "What did you think of those
questions?" To which Tiger replied, "Dumb."
Woods was a little more hospitable to ABC's color man, Curtis
Strange, who lately has been making noises about playing more
events on the PGA Tour. Strange, 48, spent his downtime between
telecasts pounding balls on the La Costa driving range, and on
Thursday he spent half an hour side by side with Woods. From
the look of their animated conversation, they were talking
about maximizing width in the backswing. Afterward, we asked
Woods who was giving whom the lesson. "I was just helping him
out a little bit," he said with a smile. (Woods was less chummy
on Saturday afternoon, however, when he stiffed Strange's
request for a between-rounds interview.)
Three down after five holes in his second-round match versus
Mike Weir, Jerry Kelly found some inspiration in his caddie,
Tom Janis. "I punched my caddie really hard on the arm," said
Kelly, by way of explaining how he rallied to win 2 and 1. "He
hates it when I do that. He's definitely the most underpaid
caddie out here. He's taken some really good shots." Asked how
often he punches his caddie, Kelly said, "Oh, daily. He gets two
shots for flinching, too, if I throw a fake at him."
Who says PGA Tour pros aren't interested in geopolitics? Before
his third-round match, David Toms was asked what he knew about
his upcoming opponent, Alex Cejka. "He's German, right?" Toms
said. He's a German citizen but lives in Prague, Toms was told.
"So is he on our side or is he not on our side?" Toms asked.
Informed that the Czechs are on our side, Toms said, "O.K.,
then we'll be all right."
VOTE AT GOLFONLINE.COM
THIS WEEK: Who was the real king of the West Coast swing: Ernie
Els, Mike Weir or Tiger Woods?
LAST POLL: In SI's second annual PGA Tour player survey, Dana
Byrum was a repeat winner as the best-looking Tour
wife/girlfriend. Of the top three, who gets your vote?
--Based on 3,582 responses to our informal survey
COLOR PHOTO: BOB MARTIN SENIOR MOMENTS The ageless Haas reemerged, but on the wrong tour.
COLOR PHOTO: AL MESSERSCHMIDT/ICON SMI AND YOU ARE? Dave Barr is the kind of Champion who creates little buzz.
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK NEW TRICKS Strange got a lesson from Woods at La Costa.