And the Awards Go to...
Player of the Half Year
Mike Weir, who doubled his career victory total in only four
months with wins at the Hope, the Nissan and, oh, yeah, the
Masters. The 155-pound Weir is currently the toughest player on
Tour who isn't named after a wild animal.
BREAKOUT PERFORMER Not a player but a tournament--the Wachovia
Championship, in Charlotte, which offered over-the-top comforts
and, more important, Quail Hollow Golf Club. This neoclassic was
a shotmaker's delight and is already being discussed as a
potential U.S. Open site.
BIGGEST FLOP Dude, where's my game? For David Duval the numbers
say it all: 182rd in driving accuracy; 179th in money; and,
during a recent streak of seven missed cuts in a row, more rounds
in the 80s (two) than in the 60s. Dishonorable mention to Sergio
Garcia, who hasn't had a top 20 finish in the U.S. this year.
It might have been Davis Love III's 319-yard Sunday drive on the
par-5 18th hole at Pebble Beach, were it not for the gorgeous
224-yard four-iron that followed. That awesome approach led to a
decisive birdie and propelled Love to a monster first half.
Alltime Division: Jeff Maggert's thinned wedge shot that
ricocheted off the lip of a fairway bunker on Augusta National's
3rd hole and doinked him in the chest was not only humiliating,
but it also dropped him from the final-round lead at the Masters.
Mags earns bonus points for later skulling a sand shot and
chunking an ensuing pitch into Rae's Creek.
CLUTCH PUTT Weir's six-footer for par on the 72nd hole at Augusta
to join Len Mattiace in a playoff or, viewed another way, to not
blow the Masters. "I wouldn't wish that last putt on 18 on
anybody," Weir said.
Phil Mickelson's fighting words, which touched off a juicy
"Tiger has a faster swing speed than I do, but he has inferior
equipment. He is the only player good enough to overcome the
equipment he's stuck with."
In the News
WARLOCKS VERSUS WITCHES Sorry, make that men versus women. The
gentleman's game has been an unlikely battlefield in the gender
wars, and it hasn't been pretty, as golf has been forced to--once
again--confront its prejudices.
EXTREME MAKEOVER It's not the guns on Aaron Baddeley (right),
it's the clothes. His thick upper arms scream weight-room
regular, while his retro outfits (lime-green slacks, white belt,
white shoes) whisper 1970s dork. Ah, but when you're a young,
blond hunk, you can pull off any look.
HEAVE-HO Tiger Woods swept to victory in San Diego in his return
from knee surgery and later took the Match Play Championship, the
only important title that had eluded him, but his gutsiest
performance was at Bay Hill. Dehydrated from food poisoning,
Woods dry-heaved his way through the final round, yet only two
players bettered his 68, which gave him an 11-shot margin of
victory. If you couldn't beat him on this day, boys....
Since Woods hasn't won any of the last three majors, it won't be
long before pressroom hacks dust off Tiger's least-favorite s
word, slump, which always gets him motivated. Look for a big
summer from Woods as he tries to seize player of the year honors
from this year's other multiple winners: Weir, Love, Vijay Singh,
a surging Kenny Perry and a fading Ernie Els.
COLOR PHOTO: FRED VUICH WRONG NUMBER Woods closed the Memorial with a dazzling 65 tosurge to a tie for fourth, but his front-nine 42 last Saturdayhad already ended his chances of winning. Looking ahead todefending his U.S. Open title, Woods says, "Things are starting to show some real positive signs."
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID WALBERG (WEIR)
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK (MICKELSON)
COLOR PHOTO: FRED VUICH (BADDELEY)