Let's spice it up, Camilo
Contrary to popular belief among golfers, it was Mark Twain -- not John Feinstein -- who first referred to the game as "a good walk spoiled."
It's another Twain quote, however -- one ironically about himself, not golf -- that summarizes the current PGA Tour season quite nicely: "Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated."
Ian Poulter Chat
Ian Poulter quieted the naysayers with his WGC-Match Play win. The No. 5-ranked Poulter joined ESPN.com for a chat Monday prior to the WGC-CA Championship.
Read the transcript.
With Tiger Woods on a self-imposed leave of absence and Phil Mickelson largely absent from leaderboards so far, it was believed the game itself would remain absent from any radar screens of the sporting landscape. Instead, we have been treated to a month's worth of tourneys featuring both entertainment and drama.
In chronological order, we have witnessed a 25-year-old power player earn his third career win over a former No. 1 at Pebble Beach; two of the world's top six players dueling at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship; a final-round battle in Phoenix that included two of the game's better 20-somethings; and a Honda Classic that gave us a trio of household names at the top, with Camilo Villegas defeating Vijay Singh and Anthony Kim.
The Weekly 18 begins with the idea that the latest champion might not be the game's most distinctive personality, but considering recent events, that isn't such a terrible thing.
1. It takes a Villegas
On the surface, Camilo Villegas is everything we should want in a next-gen superstar. He's young, talented, athletic and good-looking -- or so the ladies tell me. He has a cool nickname: Spiderman. He does that fancy lotus position thing when reading greens.
He's conscientious of his place in the game, too. With his native country of Colombia hosting a Nationwide Tour event for the first time this past week, Villegas flew down there to support the tournament and attend its pro-am, then returned to Florida to compete in the Honda Classic.
And most importantly, he wins. Can't be a next-level superstar without the hardware, and Camilo now owns three titles in his last 26 PGA Tour starts.
All of which is part of the blueprint, but hardly the entire story. I can't watch Villegas without getting the feeling that he is some sort of video game creation whose personality points were sacrificed in exchange for a better short game. Sure, he wears yellow pants and flashy belt buckles, but they seem to only be hiding an undercarriage that is pure vanilla.
This is a guy who wins an event and instantly goes NASCAR on us, thanking his many sponsors -- as if they helped get that little white ball into the hole any quicker.
When questioned about his recently shorn locks, he discloses, "She wouldn't stop cutting it, I guess."
When just off the course after shooting a 67, he reveals, "Yeah, it was tough out there."
When asked what it will take to extend a 54-hole lead into victory, he intimates, "Just got to keep doing what I'm doing."
Let's compare him with a few of his peers. Sergio Garcia, a buddy of Villegas, might act petulant and crude at times, but at least that's true to his character. Same goes for Anthony Kim, who was born brash and cocky and rarely veers from showcasing those traits.
This week's tournaments
So where are the world's best golfers teeing it up this week?
• PGA Tour: WGC-CA Championship; Mar. 11-14; TPC Blue Monster at Doral; Doral, Fla.
• PGA Tour: Puerto Rico Open; Mar. 11-14; Trump International Golf Club; Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
• Open Championship international qualifier; March 10-11 in Malaysia.
Camilo, though? He's just ... boring.
The real head-scratching part of this is the fact that his personality is a complete antithesis to his golf game. Villegas will play anything from a chicken-wing swing to the driver stinger that he often employed at PGA National. And the guy is a veritable birdie machine, often dotting his card with plenty of red numbers while eschewing consistency.
Then again, considering all of the off-course controversies that have permeated the game in recent months, perhaps Villegas is the perfect superstar for current times after all. He plays very impressive golf and never utters a contentious word. In fact, he should be the role model for those who wish to reach such elevated status; he could serve as the beacon for the new PGA Tour motto: Look flashy, act flatly.
So yes, underneath those vibrant wardrobes and beyond the muscles on top of muscles, Camilo Villegas is just another boring golfer. But he also happens to be one who is extremely proficient at the game, too.
Welcome to the next generation.
2. Ai Miyazato
OK, so she failed to make it three in a row, finishing T-7 on Sunday at the Daikin Orchid Ladies on the JLPGA Tour. That should hardly be enough to wipe the smile off Miyazato's face, though, as two weeks into the LPGA season, she remains the only player to claim some hardware.
Last week, the Japanese star backed up her season-opening win at the LPGA Thailand with a triumph at the HSBC Women's Champions, tripling her career win total on the circuit within a span of eight days.
"This is obviously a great start for me," Miyazato said. "I try to stay in the present in what I do and that's really helping my game at the moment."
She became the first player to win the opening two LPGA tourneys since Marilynn Smith in 1966. The only others? Mickey Wright (1963), Louise Suggs (1952) and Babe Zaharias (1951). For those who aren't proficient in their ladies' golf history, that's like a young PGA Tour golfer sharing a mark with Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson.
After posting 11 total wins on the JLPGA in 2004 and '05, Miyazato came to the LPGA full-time in 2006, but wasn't an instant sensation. She battled swing problems and, as a result, incurred confidence issues, too. Not that she was performing poorly, really, but her final money list ranks of 22nd, 17th and 46th over her first three seasons served as unexpected disappointments.
Last year, she finally broke through for her first LPGA victory at the Evian Masters in late July and from there, something clicked. She finished T-3, T-4, T-2, T-10 and solo second in her next five starts and has used that momentum to carry into this season, as well.
Now 24, Miyazato has taken a more circuitous and deliberate journey up the Rolex Rankings than she would have liked, but at No. 3 in the world, she has firmly entrenched herself as one of the game's best players. Don't expect the wins to stop here, either.
3. Noh Seung-yul
First things first: The kid needs a nickname and I'll be disappointed if it's not Dr. Noh. Too easy? Maybe, but pretty damn cool, too.
On Sunday, the good doctor proved that Rory McIlroy is old news, Rickie Fowler is over the hill and Anthony Kim is just plain ancient. With a birdie on the final hole of the Malaysian Open, he became the youngest professional winner in European Tour history at the age of 18.
It didn't come without challenge from a strong contender and some final-hole drama. Right after Noh hooked his tee shot off the par-5 18th in the final round at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club and followed with a second shot to near the practice green, K.J. Choi applied the pressure by making birdie to tie things up. Noh then hit a deft chip to 18 inches and completed an unlikely up-and-down to win by a stroke.
"Coincidentally, when I was playing a practice round with K.J. earlier in the week, he asked me when my last win was," said Noh, who triumphed on the Asian Tour two years ago. "When I told him it was in 2008, he said, 'Isn't it about time you won?' For it to happen this week, I couldn't think of a better situation."
Unlike youngsters Pablo Martin, Danny Lee and Shane Lowry -- each of whom won on the circuit as an amateur in recent years -- Noh is already a play-for-pay guy, but that doesn't make his victory any less impressive. He was ranked a modest 266th in the world prior to this week and wasn't too well known internationally.
That all changes now, but he's hardly the first young player to make his mark this year.
Noh's win continues an eye-opening trend on the European Tour in 2010. Each of the first five titles were claimed by players 26 or younger. Since then, Andrew Dodt, 24, joined the youth movement, while Miguel Angel Jimenez, 46, and Robert Karlsson, 40, served as outliers.
Perhaps the biggest surprise? Through 10 events so far, Ian Poulter is the only player in his 30s to win -- and that happened in the U.S. at a co-sanctioned tournament.
One thing is for sure: When keeping an eye on the most talented young players in the world, Dr. Noh has now placed himself very much on the radar.
4. PGA Tour rookies
It's no secret that last year's rookie crop failed to excite and impress. No first-year tour member won a tournament and ROY winner Marc Leishman earned the award based on the strength of just three top-10 results.
Ranking The Rookies
|Year||Rookies||Starts||Cuts||Made cut %|
These guys aren't just passing the eyeball test, though; the numbers back up their success so far. Let's compare the 2010 rookies with those of 2009 in the charts to the left.
As you can see, this year's rookies are reaching the weekend at nearly the same percentage as their predecessors, but their rate of top results is more than double.
Ranking The Rookies (Part II)
|Year||Top-10s||Top-10 %||Top-5s||Top-5 %|
To what can we credit the better collective performance? There could be something to say about young players being more prepared for the pressure of final rounds or less nervy in such situations. Or they're simply better players. But really the differential can be traced to two names, as Prugh and Fowler have combined for five of the 10 early top-10s and four of the six top-fives.
Last year, only Jeff Klauk and Leishman had multiple top-five finishes among rookies, but Prugh and Fowler have matched them already this season.
With preseason ROY favorite and world top-10 player Rory McIlroy yet to really make his mark, this year's class could easily surpass that of a year ago. Then again, based on the mediocre results of those players, that wouldn't be too hefty of an accomplishment.
5. John Daly
What's the difference between John Daly and Ray Romano? Well, neither is exempt on the PGA Tour and each stars in his own Golf Channel show, but only one of 'em is funny.
Harig: Reverse Course?
In a rare glimpse inside the PGA Tour, the expanse of John Daly's tales are now known. Might the punitive effect of public revelations have helped him? We'll likely never know, writes ESPN.com's Bob Harig. Column
Once again this past week, Daly proved just how seriously unfunny he could be. After a Florida Times-Union report revealed a 456-page file that detailed every one of his indiscretions and the resulting disciplinary action by the PGA Tour, the two-time major champion countered by posting the writer's personal phone number to his Twitter account, instructing his nearly 50,000 followers to "FLOOD" the line of the "JERK who writes NON-NEWS."
Two things JD should understand in the aftermath of this childish behavior: 1. Actually, the on- and off-course behavior of a professional golfer -- and the resulting punitive measures -- is very much news; and 2. Posting a writer's phone number to a public Twitter account is both classless and immature.
Daly was instructed by the PGA Tour to delete the posts -- yes, there were multiple posts -- but not until they had been public for some 12 hours. When asked about it later that day, well, he was less than forthcoming in this "SportsCenter" interview with Brian Kenny.
Since Daly enjoys posting numbers, though, allow me to post a few of his own.
Like 26. That's the number of cuts he's made in 72 starts over the past five seasons, meaning he's stuck around for the weekend just 36 percent of the time.
And 572,775. That's the amount, in dollars, that Daly has earned over the same period of time. Even if it all came in one season, it would still fall way below the number needed to maintain full-time playing privileges.
The point of this exercise isn't to stoop to his level, but simply to prove that Daly is irrelevant in the game right now -- and has been for much of the past half-decade. Sure, he can still make news with his mouth -- or in this case, his thumbs -- but until his game improves he should be treated like the kid in grade school who's pining for attention.
Make no mistake: The golf world is a better place when Daly is on leaderboards and giving his mammoth galleries something to cheer. Let's hope he gets back to that place soon, but let's also hope he grows up a little in the meantime.
6. Paula Creamer
After a first-round 3-under 69 at the season-opening Honda PTT LPGA Thailand a few weeks ago, Creamer was forced to withdraw with recurring pain in her left thumb. She returned to the U.S. and, well, if you listen to her, the short-term prognosis doesn't sound very bright.
Cream Of The Crop
In a series of recent tweets, she wrote, "Many of you have been wondering what the latest is with my thumb. I have been diagnosed as having a stretched ligament in my left thumb. This leads to [hyperextension] of my MCP joint. I've learned more in the last 2 weeks about orthopedic sports medicine than I ever thought I would. Anyway, I'm working with an occupational therapist now to determine if I can wear a support brace while playing. It's too early right now to say when I'll be able to return to play. Thanks everyone for your concern, support, and all the get well wishes you have sent."
While it may sound like a minor injury, an injured left thumb will affect everything from a player's grip to takeaway to impact. Don't be surprised if this hampers her game even upon returning at some point.
The sad part is, this isn't the first physical problem for Creamer recently. Last year, she battled stomach ailments throughout the season, limiting her appearances and success. (See the chart on the left for more.) For just the second time in her five-year LPGA career, she failed to capture a victory.
Creamer remains one of the world's most talented players, but until she's fully healthy again, she might struggle to retain her current status. When the Rolex Rankings were first released in 2006, she was No. 2 behind only Annika Sorenstam. Now? Creamer's eighth -- and an extended absence will almost assuredly see her drop out of the top 10 for the first time.
7. The "Bear Trap"
I'm getting a little verklempt after that victory by Villegas. Talk among yourselves. I'll give you a topic: The notorious "Bear Trap" at PGA National includes neither bears nor traps.
My apologies, but after four rounds at PGA National, if I hear this phrase one more time, I'm gonna wish a grizzly had chomped down on my inner ear canals.
Yes, it's got a cool name, especially since it plays off Jack Nicklaus' iconic nickname. And sure, it's got dramatic montage music, as displayed by NBC while showing video of wayward shots over the years.
It's just that the whole thing seems a little too ... contrived.
Whether it's the television personalities constantly bombarding us with this phrasing or the fact that it conjures images of a Myrtle Beach putt-putt course, I just have a tough time buying into the notion that the 15th, 16th and 17th holes of this course truly deserve a nickname of Amen Corner-like proportions.
Granted, they're difficult holes, as evidenced during Sunday's final round. Vijay Singh bogeyed every single one of 'em. J.B. Holmes made a double at 16 that took so long his beard grew two inches by the time he walked off the green. Nathan Green might still be playing his shot from the hazard on 17, the front of his pants looking as if he had an unfortunate accident before reaching the porta-john.
Maybe I'd get a little more excited for the "Bear Trap" if it actually consisted of bears. And traps. (Other than bunkers, that is.) Until then, I'm just fine going another 51 weeks before being inundated with talk of the nickname once again.
8. I wish we could rethink the idea of which tournaments are important during Tiger Woods' absence.
It's no secret that for years the PGA Tour has ostensibly been divided into two separate circuits: Tiger tourneys and non-Tiger tourneys.
Due to Woods' predictable annual schedule, the PGA Tour calendar usually boasts a certain ebb and flow throughout the season, peaking during weeks in which he tees it up. Whether his return is imminent or this self-imposed exile remains intact all year, for the time being we should reexamine which tourneys really carry more weight than others.
And the winner is
It takes a big bomber to tame the Blue Monster, as evidenced by Phil Mickelson's win over Nick Watney last year.
Solid options include Camilo Villegas, Sean O'Hair, Alvaro Quiros, Dustin Johnson, Angel Cabrera and Watney once again, after he finished a single stroke off the pace in '09.
Instead, I'll go with Paul Casey, who has finished in the top-four in each of his last two starts and appears determined to get back into the winner's circle -- and soon.
Don't worry; I'm not calling for a complete upheaval. Without a doubt, the majors are still the four most, well, major events of the year -- Tiger or no Tiger. On the next tier are the WGC tournaments and the Players Championship, followed by the FedEx Cup playoffs.
No argument so far, right?
Well, then we start getting to those events which rise to the top of our consciousness because of Woods' usual presence. These include the Farmers Insurance Open, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Quail Hollow Championship, the Memorial Tournament and the AT&T National. Without the game's top-ranked player, though, these no longer own the same cachet.
Instead, others should see their rank among the rank-and-file increased to a new and improved level. For example, the Shell Houston Open -- being played one week prior to the Masters -- might now top this list, with such international top-10 players as Lee Westwood, Paul Casey and Rory McIlroy already committed, along with reigning major champs Angel Cabrera and Lucas Glover, plus a likely appearance from Phil Mickelson, who has made the tourney a regular on his schedule.
Of course, all of this simply leads to a larger statement about the PGA Tour in general without Woods in the mix. On any given Sunday, we can be treated to an entertaining battle between emerging young stars (Waste Management Phoenix Open) or subjected to an eventual winner who is a household name only in his own household -- not that there's anything wrong with that.
It would be difficult to argue that the game is more compelling without its most compelling figure, but one aftereffect of the Woods shockwave is that every tournament more or less has an equal chance of providing drama on the weekend. Unlike in the past, events are garnering interest because of what actually takes place rather than who is playing that week.
9. I wish more tournaments would try to replicate the 16th hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
If you caught any part of my live coverage from the famed party hole at TPC Scottsdale, you might have read my idea that other events should attempt to recreate this atmosphere within the confines of their own courses.
It's pure logic, really. With attendance figures sagging at most regular-season PGA Tour venues, a singular hole that can house up to 20,000 spectators should serve as an eye-opener to events that need more eyeballs. While others have elected to make their tourneys more family-friendly or simply let the golf speak for itself, Phoenix is one of very few which preys on what so many consumers most enjoy while spending hours at a time outside in warm weather: Drinking beer and ogling members of the opposite sex.
It is a formula so simple that it's difficult to understand why other tournaments haven't followed suit. I'm not necessarily saying that every course should feature one hole with stadium seating and a few hundred skyboxes, but if we learned anything from "Field of Dreams" -- you know, that movie starring the guy from "Tin Cup" -- it's that, "If you build it, they will come."
A designated party hole -- preferably a par-3 on the back nine -- would allow for a certain brand of consumer to, well, consume while watching golf. Players contend they enjoy the atmosphere -- which features cheering for good shots and, yes, booing for poor ones -- at one event per year, but money talks; if these other events could draw bigger numbers by replicating this process, they should try it. And really, as long as a modicum of respectfulness is observed (no yelling during a player's backswing, no dumping beverages on the competitors, etc.), a little more energy and excitement wouldn't be the worst thing on a week-to-week basis.
Don't like it? No problem. Purists of the game, families and those who just don't enjoy the scene would have 17 other holes on which to enjoy the action, while those at the party hole wouldn't even be limited to golf fans.
While walking past one of the many beer gardens at the WMPO after the second round was complete, I overheard one tournament attendee say to another, "Dude, we didn't even see one golf shot today!" Those words should be music to Tim Finchem's ears. During an economic crisis and without the game's top-ranked player competing, people pay to get into TPC Scottsdale whether they want to watch the golf or not.
There is room for all kinds at PGA Tour events. Those who enjoy a party, though, should get treated to one at any given tournament site.
10. I wish more fans understood the importance of a strong start for those involved in the reshuffle.
It's difficult to recognize that which you didn't know existed, so here's a primer on how the PGA Tour's reshuffle works:
All players who are exempt via Q-school, Nationwide Tour and medical extensions are grouped together, originally ordered by their finish in those respective places. Every two months or so during the season, there is a reshuffle, during which these players are reordered based on their current placement on the money list. Why is this so important? Because the higher a player's number, the better chance he has of getting into the field at more events.
I bring this up now, because the year's first reshuffle took place after the West Coast Swing and before this past week's Honda Classic -- and it included plenty of turnover.
A few examples: Troy Merritt, who was medalist at Q-school, entered the season as No. 1 on this list; after a start that's included three made cuts in six starts, he is now 13th. Conversely, Rickie Fowler started the year in 33rd position; thanks to a pair of top-5 results, he's now in the pole position.
The entire list consists of 56 players and since there's very rarely a week in which that many spots are open into an event, the amount of times a guy tees it up becomes dependent on that number.
Of course, this is where it becomes a Catch-22. A player can't move up on this list unless he plays, but he can't play unless he's high enough on this list. What often winds up happening is that those who get off to a strong start wind up parlaying that into a successful season, while others are left playing catch-up all year.
It's hardly impossible for a player involved in the reshuffle to come back after a poor start, but it's not likely, either. And that's why those first two months of the season are so important for the guys with status from Q-school, Nationwide Tour and medical extensions.
11. Swing thoughts
• Tiger Woods is reportedly getting himself into "golf shape." Round and white with lots of dimples? That'll keep the women away, at least.
• Wasn't it obvious? Tiger's return to practice was clearly an attempt to steal the spotlight from rival and Honda Classic defending champion Y.E. Yang.
• Love this headline: "Sabbatini curious how fans will handle Tiger's return." Couldn't we substitute Sabo's name for, well, anyone else, too?
• European bookmaker Paddy Power reported that it was "in negotiations" to sponsor Woods. One day later, its offer was rejected. No, it was never going to happen, but smart move on Paddy's part. This is the epitome of free advertising.
• According to a recent ESPN poll, 29 percent of respondents believe Tiger's wife should forgive him. And 100 percent aren't married to him.
• Where have I been? Just found out there was an old pro wrestler named Tiger Jeet Singh. That sounds like the lovechild of ... ah, never mind.
• First @ianjamespoulter and @HunterMahan -- now @CamiloVillegasR makes it three straight on the PGA Tour. It's official: Great golf is buoyed by day-glo colors and Twitter.
• According to my English-to-Spanish dictionary, there is no translation for "stinger." Maybe Villegas should refer to it as "The Cami-LOW."
• Vijay Singh continues to break down stereotypes. Five 3-jacks this past week? Huh, I always thought old dudes could putt.
• People Magazine crossword clue, 32 across: "Golf __ Ryan Palmer." The answer? "PRO." Duh. Now if I could just figure out who "Actor __ Penn" is ...
• An official from Augusta National told me that special Masters invitations can be offered anytime, but are usually done by now. That means there likely won't be any doled out this year.
• ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, while wearing Bob Knight's old-style hat during halftime of the North Carolina/Duke game on Saturday: "I'm ready for the back nine at Carnoustie." Makes sense, considering the Tar Heels resembled Jean Van de Velde circa 1999.
Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.
12. Age Just A Number
13. Road To Augusta
In the least shocking news of the week, Masters defending champion Angel Cabrera announced that his champions' dinner feast will consist of ... Argentinean beef.
Allow me to advance this story with an unsurprising prediction: El Pato will consume more of the tasty entrée than anyone else in the room, perhaps even tripling or quadrupling the intake of some of the real old-timers.
Cabrera spoke to the media via teleconference prior to a T-40 finish at the Honda Classic. That result followed a T-10 at the limited-field SBS Championship, T-25 at the Sony Open, T-61 at the Northern Trust Open and an opening-round loss at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
It might not sound like his game is rounding into form for his title defense at Augusta, but for Cabrera, that's never been much of an issue. Before winning the green jacket last year, he hadn't finished better than T-13 in six U.S. starts, including a pair of missed cuts in his final two appearances leading into the Masters.
So how will he ready himself for this year's edition of the event?
"You have to prepare mentally, physically," Cabrera said. "You can't just get to the tournament thinking you have to play. You have to know really exactly how your game is and what you want and the way you want to challenge the course."
He maintained that his preparation and strategy at the majors differs from that of regular tournament weeks.
"There's no question, the majors is where there's more pressure over you," he added, "but you have to play the most naturally you can, and that's something that is very important, to maintain your concentration at all times during majors."
One thing you can be sure about: When that beef is served in the Augusta National clubhouse, Cabrera will be on his game and that concentration level might be at an all-time high.
14. Quote of the Week
"Kenny Perry had a great season last year, and he's almost 50. ... I'm a lot healthier and fitter than Kenny Perry, so I think I can go a long ways."
You want a politically correct response? Ask someone else. You want the truth? Ask Vijay.
Say what you will about Singh, but he never pulls any punches. "I don't know where I'm at now," the world's 35th-ranked player said during the Honda Classic, "but I know I'm not supposed to be there."
Even at the ripe old age of 47 -- that's sarcasm, kids -- the Big Fijian still has the swing that once made him the No. 1 player in the world. It's the putter that is still holding him back, though.
In contention for much of the weekend, Singh finished in a share of fourth place after 3-putting two late holes -- which were just two of the five 3-jacks that he carded during the tournament.
That doesn't mean he won't return to where he's "supposed" to be soon, though. No one works harder at his game than Vijay. If he remains fully healthy in coming months, he can at least duplicate Perry's two-win season of a year ago.
15. On the hot seat
As far as job titles go, Jay Williamson has a pretty cool one: PGA Tour golfer.
For a guy who's gone to Q-school each of the past two years, though, success is fleeting and future prospects are tenuous -- which is why Williamson decided he needed to devise an insurance policy.
A mainstay on tour for most of the past 15 years, Williamson has made 354 career starts without a victory and has never finished inside the top 100 on the money list. He is still competing in events -- or trying to, at least. As an alternate for the Honda Classic, he only secured his place in the field on Wednesday afternoon, then shot 73-75 to miss the cut.
As if those numbers aren't enough to separate him from the game's superstars, there's the fact Williamson has a job lined up if and when the results don't improve, planning to work in the insurance business for St. Louis-based Huntleigh McGehee at some point in the future.
Prior to reaching the field at PGA National, Williamson sat down on the Hot Seat to discuss this plan.
Q: Tell me about the insurance job. How did this come about?
A: Bottom line is, I just turned 43 a couple of weeks ago, which I guess beats the alternative of not turning 43. I tell you, just the last couple of years, my game is good and if the weather is good and I feel good, I'm a pretty good player. But I need some way to ensure myself that I'm not going to be broke in 4-5 years.
I'm really in no-man's land as a golfer. This week is a perfect example of why I'm trying to do other things, because I've played my heart [out] to get back out here through Q-school and here I am, basically in the same position I was in last year. When golfers aren't in tournaments and not making cuts and not making any money, there ain't that many ways otherwise for us to make any money right now.
I've got three kids in private school and life is a lot more complicated today than it was 10 years ago and I'm just trying to do anything I can to extend my golf career. I think actually the insurance thing really helped me get through Q-school this year, to be honest with you; it took some of the pressure off me to get through. I just know that the PGA Tour isn't getting any less competitive. I really don't have a desire to play the senior tour. My kids are going to be at an age where I'm going to want to be home. I've got a good education, I've got really good contacts and it's just a way for me to kind of transition into something else at some point in my life.
Q: Why insurance? Is this something that you've done before? Did you know people in the business?
A: You know, for the last couple of years, I've thought about what I could do. I represent Stifel Financial, which is kind of a regional financial brokerage out of St. Louis, but it's too late for me to get into that business. And quite honestly, if someone wanted to give me 100 grand to invest for them, I don't know if I'd be the one they should trust to do that; I don't have enough expertise.
The thing about insurance is that it's really all about relationships. I feel like I have a lot of good relationships and I feel like I can get in the door and if I can learn about it, I can build my book and at least make some money when golf ends for me -- and it is going to end. When you think about how many guys who play golf for a living never have to get a job, the number is very few.
My career hasn't been good enough, to be honest with you, to be in that camp. I was a hockey player and a baseball player, so for me to be doing this still and making close to 200 cuts is something that I'm really proud of. But like I said, my career hasn't been good enough for me to think that I can go right onto the senior tour and keep playing golf for a living. I'm just trying to be as realistic with the situation as I can. At some point, the buzzer is going to go off and it's going to be time to do something else.
Q: So is this job sort of on hold for you? Are you doing it part-time during non-tournament weeks? What's the deal, exactly?
A: That's a good question. I'm working for a guy in St. Louis who bought this insurance company about five years ago. He was a buddy of mine growing up and he's a golfer, he understands what I'm doing. He understands my -- I don't want to say predicament, because I still feel like I'm pretty fortunate to have the opportunity that I have almost every week, but he understands how I feel and that I don't really want to be on the road anymore.
When a professional golfer doesn't want to be on the road, that's a tough thing. And it really is a double-edged sword for me, because when I go on the road, I miss my kids, but the only way for me to make any money these days is to go on the road. You know, I live in St. Louis, which isn't a golf mecca. I've tried for the last couple of years to relocate, but I feel like I'm at an age where that's really difficult and I can't guarantee my wife that if we move to West Palm Beach, Fla., or Scottsdale, Ariz., that I'm going to be a better player.
So I've been studying for my test; I'm going to get into the property casualty and health benefits arena at some point. I look forward to the day where I can use my brain a little bit more than just depending on getting that white ball to disappear. I mean, I still feel like I can play golf, though. Obviously, I wouldn't have gone to Q-school last year and I wouldn't have played as well as I did if I didn't think I could still play.
It's just that when you catch me on a day like today, when I'm first alternate and I've only made a couple of cuts and it's been a tough year so far, this is one of the reasons why I'm trying to figure out something else to do with my life at some point.
Q: You had playoff losses at the John Deere Classic in 2008 and the Travelers Championship in '07. Would life be different if you had prevailed in either of those?
A: Oh, my life would be a lot different, yeah. First of all, I'd think differently about myself; I think people would think differently about my golf. And I would have made some more money, basically. I've really had my chances out here, especially those two tournaments, but again, from where I came from as a hockey and baseball player in college, for me to be out here still playing golf at 43, I mean, at some point I'm going to step back and say, 'Wow, what a fabulous career I've had, even though I haven't won -- yet.'
But for me to even be out here for however many years, I take a lot of pride in that, just because I started as low on the ladder as I guarantee you anyone out here has ever started. I'm proud of the fact that I've been out here a long time, but I'll be very disappointed if I'm not able to win a tour event.
Q: As you mentioned, you've been on plenty of alternate lists this year. What is it like having to travel to an event knowing you may not get into the field? Do you actually find yourself rooting for a few guys to get the flu or something? Or do you just have to take a wait-and-see approach?
A: Well, it really is a wait-and-see thing. Unfortunately, when I look at that field list, it just makes my skin crawl to see two foreign exemptions, guys who didn't get through Q-school when I did -- people just don't realize how difficult it is to get into these fields.
Golf really is like the economic situation that we're in right now. There are just so few spots available. I guarantee you there are 60-70 foreign guys here this week. There just aren't as many spots as there used to be. And the young players coming up now are just so much better than they ever used to be. It's just a very, very competitive situation and so being an alternate, I don't know if I can really describe it other than it's just like sitting on a wall. I mean, you can go one way or the other.
The problem that I have with it is my destiny is not in my hands; I can't do anything about it. Now, I did have an opportunity these last however many events to take advantage of this and to have a better reshuffle number, but I missed the cut by a shot last week. If I would have made the cut last week, I wouldn't be in this situation. I can just go back and I'll drive myself nuts if I really thought too hard about it. So I'm kind of taking it hour by hour; I'm still optimistic that I'm going to get in, but obviously as the tide slips away, you start losing some of those good feelings.
Q: What's your timetable? Are you going to try to play as much as possible this year? If you don't keep your card, will you return to Q-school? At what point will you take the insurance job as a full-time position?
A: You know, that's a really good question. I don't know. I haven't really thought about it yet this year; it's still so early. But I've got to tell you, after Q-school at Bear Lakes last year, I just remember coming off that golf course that last day and it was just one of the most painful rounds that I have ever played. I just don't know how much of that I have left in me, to be honest with you.
I've fought so hard to stay out here and survive. At some point, you've got to look in the mirror and you've got to realize that there's more to life than playing golf for a living. I know that might sound crazy. My wife always says to me, 'You just don't know how lucky you are,' and I do understand that, but I've got three young kids, I don't see them very often and it crushes me. At some point, I've got to grow up and realize that there's got to be another way for me to make a living, if this is as difficult as it has been these last few years.
16. The list
With Brad Faxon now lending his voice to NBC telecasts and fellow Ocean State native Billy Andrade working for Golf Channel, it got me thinking about which other current players will make for good announcers in the future.
This week's edition of The List offers five who have the chops to get it done on TV -- whenever their playing days are over.
5. Scott McCarron. Not too long ago in this column, I speculated that some of his recent outlandish remarks might have been made in hopes of landing a post-career gig. One thing is true, though: He wouldn't be afraid to speak his mind.
4. Arron Oberholser. Sort of an off-the-board pick, considering he's still fairly young and injuries have derailed an up-and-coming career, but the broadcast journalism major from San Jose State speaks as if he learned plenty in those classes.
3. Stewart Cink. With the right blend of analytical acumen and good-natured likability, the reigning Open champion would be a natural with a microphone in his hands. Hey, a bazillion Twitter followers can't be wrong.
2. Rocco Mediate. The most loquacious dude on the PGA Tour has already done some TV work -- and not just on "CSI," either. Perhaps the only tough part would be getting him to stop talking so that others could speak, too.
1. Paul Goydos. The driest wit in golf commentary belongs to David Feherty, but Goydos could give the funnyman a run for his money someday with his off-the-cuff one-liners and laugh-out-loud storytelling abilities.
17. From the inbox
@BlairWhitt You think there's any chance we see Rickie Fowler on the Ryder Cup team?
In a word, absolutely.
When I spoke with Fowler prior to his rookie season debut at the Sony Open, I asked him about his goals for the 2010 campaign.
"The main goal is to keep the card. I think a lot of guys coming out of school, that's one of their main goals," he said. "Other than that, short-term goal is to get off to a decent start, get a good reshuffle number, get going and cruise through the season."
Done and done. While earning $875,431 on the West Coast Swing, Fowler locked up his playing privileges for next season and secured the No. 1 spot on the reshuffle order prior to the Honda Classic, meaning he should be able to enter most, if not all, non-major or WGC events for the remainder of the season.
With those goals out of the way before the year's third month, the 21-year-old can now refocus his energy toward bigger and better goals -- and he's already proclaimed that the Ryder Cup may be foremost on that list.
Prior to the Honda Classic, Fowler ranked 16th on the United States points list, with the top eight clinching berths. Considering those above him include the likes of Ben Crane, Ryan Palmer, Matt Kuchar and Bill Haas -- none of whom have ever played in the biennial competition, either -- it's certainly not inconceivable that the kid could race his way up the standings in coming months.
Even if Fowler doesn't automatically qualify, he might find himself as one of captain Corey Pavin's four wild-card selections. In two stints as a Walker Cup team member, Fowler owned a 7-1-0 career record, including a perfect 4-0-0 last year at Merion. He's obviously comfortable with the format and a strong singles player, which might give him an advantage over those who haven't played such competitions in recent years.
And if he does make the team? Well, the blind draw before Sunday's matches means the pairings are random, but I'd pay good money to watch Fowler as the elder statesman against Rory McIlroy in a match featuring two players who may very well be competing in the Ryder Cup for the next two decades.
18. Stat of the week
Bad news for Dustin Johnson: He led the FedEx Cup points list following the West Coast Swing.
I know what you're thinking. That only sounds like bad news if, like most fans, Johnson couldn't care less about the PGA Tour playoffs. There's more to it than that, though. No player who has led through the opening two months has ever finished better than 13th in the final standings during the first three years of the this format.
In 2007, Charles Howell III led entering Florida based on the strength of a win and two runner-up finishes in the early going, but had just one more top-10 in 20 starts the rest of the way and finished in 18th place.
The next season, Tiger Woods was the leader, but his season-ending knee surgery following the U.S. Open left him in 70th place after the Tour Championship.
And last year, Geoff Ogilvy was in the top spot going into March, thanks to a pair of West Coast victories, but didn't have another top-five result and wound up 13th at season's end.
What does it mean for Johnson? Maybe nothing. Or maybe it means he shouldn't be thinking about how to spend that $10 million first-place prize just yet.