Klauk playing a home game this week at TPC Sawgrass
Sean O'Hair's song of redemption? It's coming up.
Tiger Woods' roller-coaster week? I'll analyze it.
Phil Mickelson's white-belt foibles? The swine flu epidemic's effect on golf? Ex-jocks in the U.S. Open? All of it is included in this week's edition of the Weekly 18.
Before examining the week that was, though, allow me to look ahead to this week's Players Championship, where the likes of O'Hair, Woods and Mickelson are all worthy stories going in ... but not as intriguing as that of one PGA Tour rookie who will make his initial start on a course he knows all too well.
Ask Jeff Klauk how many times he has played TPC Sawgrass, site of this week's Players Championship, and he'll need to do some quick math.
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Jeff Klauk wasn't entirely sure he'd make it into the field at TPC Sawgrass this week. But after a few players withdrew, he'll be teeing it up in his first Players Championship on Thursday.
"I mean, been playing since I was, like, 15 years old -- that's when I really started playing there all the time," Klauk told me in advance of the Quail Hollow Championship, where he finished T-32. "Now I'm 31, so let's say, I don't know, over 1,000 rounds."
That's a lot of tee times, sure, but it doesn't even account for the majority of his time spent on the course. The son of longtime course superintendent Fred Klauk, Jeff and his brother Jason spent years working on the course under their father's tutelage -- and it paid off in plenty of course knowledge.
"Having played it, mowed the fairways, filling divots, mowing greens -- started doing that when I was in sixth grade -- I've seen the course in every possible condition you can see it in," said Klauk. "I think I know where every sprinkler head is. I know the fairways, I know the greens, I know where every shot is going. I definitely know every inch of the whole place."
The only thing he hasn't known is playing the course in competition. That will happen this week, when the PGA Tour rookie competes in the Players for the first time.
Not that it wasn't without a little drama. Ranked 42nd on the FedEx Cup list entering Quail Hollow, Klauk was originally the third alternate in the field. He moved up a spot when Alvaro Quiros bowed out, then got in when Shingo Katayama and Miguel Angel Jimenez withdrew their names. When Lee Westwood also said he wouldn't play, that assured Klauk wouldn't lose his spot even if a noncommitted player won in Charlotte.
"Having gone there for so many years, I've definitely visualized myself playing in the tournament," confided Klauk, who says his best score at the course is a 6-under 66. "I've seen my friends play, seen myself in their shoes. And now to have the opportunity to do this -- and hopefully many more times, as well -- it's definitely going to be a fun week."
Making it even more fun is the fact that Dad will be able to watch Jeff play every hole -- something he wouldn't have been able to do prior to retiring after last year's Players following 23 years on the job at Sawgrass.
"It's quite exciting, actually," said Fred Klauk, who is still doing some consulting for the course. "I'm glad that I did make the decision to retire because now I can really enjoy him playing in the golf tournament whereas if I were still superintendent it would probably be a lot different. This way I can really enjoy it."
Sobel's blogging from TPC SawgrassStuck at the office or can't watch the opening rounds of The Players Championship this week from TPC Sawgrass? ESPN.com blogger Jason Sobel will share constant updates from the course throughout each day's play. Blog
"I know that deep down inside it's going to be a special week for him," Jeff Klauk said. "We've always talked about it and dreamed about it. It's not just playing in it, though. I mean, I've always dreamed of winning the tournament. He's seen the ups and downs of my career and now to see me where I am on the tour, playing well and playing in the Players Championship, it definitely makes him proud."
All of which begs the question: Can the son learn a few things about the course from the father? Jeff, who has played "a few holes" after the Players on Monday and Tuesday in the past and many rounds on Wednesday with the track still in tournament condition, contends there's nothing more he can be taught. Fred begs to differ.
"The golf course plays significantly different for the amateurs 50 weeks a year," said Fred Klauk. "I think I can give him a little bit better of an idea of how firm everything is going to be out there, because he's never really played it under those conditions."
And Jeff understands that this tourney won't exactly mimic any others he's played this year. Despite making the cut in 11 of 13 appearances in his debut PGA Tour season, he knows there will be a little more pressure to perform.
"I'm sure it's going to feel totally different," said Klauk, who still lists his residence as nearby St. Augustine, Fla. "I'm going to try to make it feel like any other round, but I'm sure it's going to be a totally different feel. I was out there last week; it's just so big now. It's a totally different feel than when you're just out there goofing off."
2 Sean O'Hair.Redemption songs / All I ever had
Gotta bust out the Bob Marley lyrics for O'Hair, who was hailed as the goat to Tiger Woods' hero five weeks ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
At Bay Hill, O'Hair entered the final round with a 5-stroke advantage over Woods, only to shoot 1-over 73 and lose by a single stroke. While he already owned two career victories at the age of 26, the critics took their shots at the kid, who seemed to quiver in Tiger's shadow in playing the final nine holes in 2-over without a single birdie.
Harig: O'Hair Draws High PraiseSome players take weeks, if not months, to recover from a heartbreaking defeat. Not Sean O'Hair. With his third PGA Tour win Sunday at Quail Hollow, the 26-year-old was showered with accolades by Tiger Woods. Bob Harig
Sunday at Quail Hollow was an entirely different situation, but featured the same main characters. O'Hair entered the final round in a share of fifth place -- 3 shots off the lead and 1 behind Woods -- and still had thoughts of that fateful day at Arnie's place rattling around in his head beforehand.
"You know, I was thinking about it going into the day," he admitted after the round. "I thought about it this morning, just wanted to be ready. I wanted to be ready to play and I knew I was going to play well enough to have a chance today. I just wanted to give it a good shot and be in it mentally and hang tough all day."
During the 12-hole stretch from Nos. 5 through 16, O'Hair carded six birdies and no bogeys. It was enough that when he finished bogey-bogey on the course's final -- and toughest -- holes, he was still able to claim a 1-stroke victory when Lucas Glover failed to chip in to force a playoff on No. 18.
"I played really well striking the ball all week," said O'Hair, who ranked T-3 in greens in regulation. "You know, obviously it was disappointing to bogey those last few holes, but ... it's just a tough golf course. It's one of those courses where it's never over. You've got to be in it every single shot."
He did just that, netting not only a title but some much-needed atonement for that loss at Bay Hill.
Redemption song, indeed.
3 Hangin' with Tiger.
O'Hair wasn't the only player to keep pace with Woods on Sunday -- and it's become a recurring theme so far this season.
I can't tell you how many e-mails I've received over the years echoing the following sentiments:
How come nobody can ever step up to Tiger Woods? How come when he's on the leaderboard everyone lies down and plays dead? Why are they all so intimidated? Why do they always back down when his name is on the leaderboard?
To these contrarians, I say ... check your leaderboards. At the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Woods was defeated in the second round by Tim Clark; at Doral, his ascent on the weekend didn't have much of an adverse effect on the other contenders; at the Masters, he was bested by Phil Mickelson in their final-round pairing; and at Quail Hollow, Tiger's name in front on Thursday didn't exactly lead to everyone else in the field lying down and playing dead.
Perhaps the most telling stat is this one: On Sunday, of the players who finished in the eventual top 10, Woods' even-par 72 was the highest score of 'em all.
Whether it's a lack of intimidation coming from the dude in the red shirt or -- as I've contended for years -- Tiger's presence on the leaderboard simply has little or no bearing on the actions of others, so far this season several players have been able to hang with him, save for the final day at the API.
Just like the theory that no one can keep pace with the guy down the stretch.
4 Shun Yat "Jason" Hak.
If the name sounds familiar, it's likely because Hak became the youngest player to make a cut on the European Tour, doing so in November 2008 in the Hong Kong Open at the age of 14 years, 305 days.
He's also proving he can pick on players his own age, too.
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Following an opening-day 76 at last weekend's two-round AJGA Cliffs Championship in Arden, N.C., Hak teed off in the third group at 8:18 a.m. Sunday, 90 minutes before the leaders and 9 strokes off the pace. Without any pressure or expectations, he hit an approach on the opening hole to 3 feet. Birdie. And sank a 50-footer on the second hole. Birdie. And drilled another one to 3 feet on the third. Birdie. Hak made the turn in 31 en route to a sublime 64 -- the best score he's ever posted in a competitive round.
As for making a run at the title, though, the thought hardly crossed his mind.
"I wanted to be around the top, but I really didn't think about anything," said Hak, who is originally from Hong Kong, but moved to Lake Mary, Fla., with his family four years ago. "I knew I was playing well, just wanted to keep doing that."
Upon completion of his round, and with the later tee times still on the course, the Hak family packed up and began the eight-hour journey home. All was going well until about two hours into the trip, when Hak received a call from the tournament director informing him that he may be part of a playoff.
"I was really surprised," he told me via phone this week. "I said, 'I can't go back, because we'd have to drive really far.' So that would have meant automatic second place."
That is, until he received a second phone call from the tourney director in which he was informed that no others in the 54-player field had been able to match his two-day total of 140, meaning that Hak had won the title while a few hours down the road from the venue.
Ask him about what went through his mind upon learning of the victory and Hak remains understated. "I think I played pretty good," he said of his second AJGA win in four starts this season. "Learned a lot. I was just glad to win."
He gets a little more excited, though, when discussing the family's celebratory dinner on the ride home.
"Stopped at a pretty good restaurant," he said wistfully. "I got the steak."
5 Tiger Woods.
When Woods claimed a 2-stroke opening-round lead thanks to a 7-under 65 on Thursday, it looked like game, set and match early at Quail Hollow with the only question left unanswered being, "By how many strokes will he win?"
And the winner is ...
I'm not gonna tell you. Well, not yet, at least.
The PGA Tour travels southward to TPC Sawgrass for the Players Championship this week, where Sergio Garcia will defend his title. I'll post my annual ranking of the top 25 in the field on Tuesday, so let's keep it a little suspenseful until that time.
I will, however, leave you with a few hints: The 2007 champion will be very much in the mix, a certain guy in a red shirt will continue his struggles on the course and a trio of twenty-something Americans just may battle it out on the back nine on Sunday afternoon. Stay tuned ...
After all, on 23 previous occasions on the PGA Tour in which he held or shared the 18-hole lead, Woods won 13 times. That's more than half -- for the math-impaired -- and better than most others, for the statistically challenged.
When he languished to a second-round 72, it still only felt like a matter of time. And when he posted 70 in the third round to trail by 2 going into the final day, the smart money still said Tiger will prevail despite an impressive leaderboard littered with solid players.
Instead, Woods found only half the fairways -- actually increasing his percentage for the week in that category to 44.6 -- and needed 31 putts, nearly four more than his average over the first three rounds.
"It was just one of those weird weeks, you know?" he asked rhetorically afterward. "I didn't really feel comfortable with my swing, especially today. I hit it good yesterday on the back nine. Unfortunately, I didn't do very good today."
That's become a familiar refrain for Woods, who now owns just one victory in five starts since returning from knee surgery -- well below his winning percentage of 29.3 for his pro career entering this season -- and has been heard lamenting his swing troubles more often than not.
"Didn't hit the ball all that well today," said Woods, who still found two-thirds of the greens in regulation in the final round. "You know, in this wind you have to flush it to keep it going through that wind and I wasn't doing a very good job of it today. I wasn't able to keep the ball penetrating through the wind, so the wind had a little bit more of an effect on my ball than it should have.
"I've had plenty of time to come back. I've had a few tournaments now, I've had a lot of practice sessions -- it's just a matter of getting out there and trusting what you've been doing. In windy conditions like this today, it's sometimes just a little difficult to do it."
It's a testament to something -- his inner fortitude? his never-say-die-attitude? his competitiveness? all of the above? -- that Tiger still finished solo fourth while playing, well, so un-Tiger-like. From a wayward tee shot on the opening hole that led to bogey to a 3-putt for par on the par-4 14th after driving the green -- one of 10 straight pars to close out his round -- Woods never made his patented Sunday charge, never started fist-pumping his way around Quail Hollow.
In fact, the only time he smiled all day came when CBS announcer David Feherty posed a post-round question that only he could ask: "Do you feel like a loser?"
Woods finally showed off those pearly whites and without hesitation responded, "I wasn't even first loser, either."
Then again, after the start Tiger enjoyed at Quail Hollow, even first loser wouldn't have been much consolation.
6 Vijay Singh.
Entering the Quail Hollow Championship, the reigning FedEx Cup champion was mired at No. 125 on the current points list, which would have had him qualifying as the last player into the playoffs had the regular season ended today. After rounds of 76-74 that included just a pair of birdies and left him 6 strokes shy of the cut line, he's now on the outside looking in.
Rumors persist that Singh's surgically repaired right knee is still bothering him -- and it shows in the results.
Here's the timeline: Three days after finishing T-27 in the season-opening 33-player Mercedes-Benz Championship, he underwent the surgery, which was deemed successful. He returned three weeks later, missing the cut in his title defense at Pebble Beach, then MC'd again the following week at Riviera. From there, he lost in the second round of the Match Play, then was a late withdrawal at the Transitions Championship, citing a sore knee, before a T-53 at Doral, T-59 at Bay Hill and another MC in Houston.
Singh appeared to turn a corner at Augusta National, firing under-par scores in each of his first two rounds, but struggled on the weekend and finished in a share of 30th place.
That momentum didn't carry over to Quail Hollow, where his ball-striking was decidedly off, hitting just 39.3 percent of fairways and 52.8 percent of greens in regulation.
Then again, perhaps there's another reason for the poor results: Call it The Curse of Allen Stanford.
As my friend Darren Rovell of CNBC observed, Singh's downfall has mirrored that of his friend, the ousted head of Stanford Financial. As Rovell writes: "Despite the fact that Stanford has defaulted on endorsement payments to Singh, the 46-year-old golfer from Fiji has stood by his sponsor. Funny thing is, if Stanford were paying Singh, he wouldn't be getting his money's worth."
That's right -- Singh is still adorned in Stanford logos on his hat and shirt. That isn't exactly making for a winning combination these days.
7 Swine flu.
Last week's LPGA tournament, the Corona Championship, was played in Morelia, Mexico, just as the swine flu epidemic was beginning to sweep across that country. There were apparently no reported instances of the virus from that event, but it's already affected some other tourneys -- with perhaps more to come.
On Wednesday, the Nationwide Tour announced that the Mexico Open, scheduled May 21-24, would be postponed until later in the season.
"Given the serious circumstances surrounding the swine flu outbreak, the Nationwide Tour has decided it is in everyone's best interests to reschedule the Mexico Open presented by Corona Light and play the tournament later in the season," said Nationwide Tour president Bill Calfee. "A significant number of lives have been lost in Mexico, which is tragic. There are more important things for people to focus on at the moment."
Meanwhile, the Canadian Tour is planning to reschedule the final three events of its Mexico Swing, the first of which -- the San Luis Potosi Open -- was scheduled to be contested this past week, only to be postponed the day before the tourney was to begin.
On the PGA Tour, I've heard rumors that officials for next week's Texas Open are monitoring the situation closely, although one fellow scribe I spoke with who had discussed the situation with tournament director Tony Piazzi relayed that he shot down any speculation of possible issues relating to swine flu, including any kind of postponement.
So far only one previously committed player has withdrawn from the tourney, but fear of swine flu was not listed as the reason.
8 I wish Sergio Garcia would start playing like the No. 3-ranked player in the world.
Without naming names, if I told you a player had lost in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, then followed with a T-13 at the Honda Classic, T-31 at the CA Championship, T-77 at the Shell Houston Open and T-38 at the Masters before missing the cut at the Quail Hollow Championship, you'd likely guess said player was ranked at least a few dozen notches down on the depth chart that is the Official World Golf Ranking.
Instead, Garcia remains ranked above everyone not named Tiger or Phil, holding steady at No. 3 on the OWGR despite an entirely mediocre season to date. Even the stats say Sergio isn't among the elite right now. He currently ranks outside the top 100 in total driving, putting average, birdie percentage, scoring average and -- not surprisingly -- the money list.
At Quail Hollow, he finished 5 shots off the cut line, but his quest wasn't without some promise at the beginning. In fact, Garcia was on the leaderboard through 17 holes in Round 1, at 4 under heading to the treacherous 18th. There he tried to hit a shot from the water hazard, failed once, then got it out, and 3-putted for a triple-bogey 7. The next day, Sergio followed with a 6-over 78 that included a stretch during which he bogeyed six of eight holes.
If there's a silver lining, it's that Garcia's productivity -- or lack thereof -- mirrors his 2008 campaign to this point, as he failed to finish higher than T-15 in any of eight PGA Tour starts prior to winning the Players Championship title.
Could a repeat performance at TPC Sawgrass be in the cards this week? Considering Garcia owns a win and a solo second at the Players in the past two years, the course obviously fits his eye. And hey, we can't really ever count the world's third-ranked player out -- no matter his recent results.
9 I wish the PGA Tour would broadcast select non-tournament pro-ams.
Last week in this space, I lamented the fact that some LPGA events, including the recent Corona Championship that featured Lorena Ochoa holding off Suzann Pettersen down the stretch, don't have any television coverage, leaving fans in the dark when it comes to following live action. This is hardly the case on the PGA Tour, where every competitive tournament round is shown on TV.
But what about pro-ams?
Granted, 95 percent of these rounds would have very little entertainment value, as pros kibbutz and schmooze with titans of industry. Hey, if I wanted to see an 18-handicapper that I didn't know struggle his way around the course, I'd show up at my local track as a single.
And then there are pro-am rounds like Wednesday's at Quail Hollow, where Tiger Woods paired with Indianapolis Colts superstar Peyton Manning. (The reigning NFL MVP teamed with Kenny Perry the week before in New Orleans.) I once wrote that an in-house camera of Tiger rehabbing his knee injury, playing with his daughter, eating lunch, taking a nap, etc., might get better ratings than a real, live golf tournament on a competing network.
With that in mind, might as well put a few hours of coverage of his round with Manning on the air; it could even be supplemented by others in the field, including NBA Hall of Famer Julius Erving and NASCAR drivers Jimmie Johnson and Michael Waltrip.
Like you had something better to do with your Wednesday afternoon?
While such a move may be unprecedented in golf, it's hardly unique. In an age when not only preseason NFL contests and spring training baseball games are broadcast to the world, but spring college football practice and summer league basketball, too, this would be a logical step for the PGA Tour. After all, there's been a lengthy campaign to emphasize players' personalities; no better way to achieve that than show 'em goofing around in a pro-am.
During in-tourney pro-am rounds like those at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the Bob Hope Classic, we're constantly being force-fed live coverage of celebs while there's actual professional golf being played. If the tour thinks its fan base enjoys watching this on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, why not offer it up on select Wednesdays, as well?
On these occasions, such "action" wouldn't be getting in the way of an actual tourney, so there wouldn't be much to miss. Other than the 18-handicap CEOs, that is. I don't mind "missing" that every Wednesday.
I would have watched Tiger-Peyton. And you know what? I'm guessing I'm not alone in that assessment.
10I wish I knew what to make of the HSBC Champions becoming a WGC event.
In case you missed the news this week, it was officially announced that the HSBC Champions would become an official WGC event with an official spot in next year's Mercedes-Benz Championship at stake, but unofficial money and an unofficial PGA Tour title.
Make sense? Of course not.
The new baby of the WGC empire has arrived, but the PGA Tour is treating this situation as if it's only a little bit pregnant. While the other three WGCs -- Accenture Match Play Championship, CA Championship and Bridgestone Invitational -- each come with all the rewards lavished on any other PGA Tour winner, the HSBC is ... different.
The guy who prevails in Shanghai -- which has served as host for this tourney since 2006 -- will earn a spot in next year's season-opening event at Kapalua and will take home a hefty seven-figure paycheck. But that money won't go toward the money list, no two-year exemption onto the PGA Tour will be offered (if needed) and he won't be able to count the win toward his overall total.
Personally, I don't get it. Why should the HSBC not carry the same merit as any other WGC event? Is it because it's in November? So are Fall Finish tourneys. Because it's held outside the U.S.? So are the British Open, Canadian Open, Mayakoba Classic and Puerto Rico Open (technically a U.S. territory, but not a state), all of which award full credit. It leaves me stumped. I mean, this is akin to the PGA Tour having its cake and eating only one slice, then throwing away the rest of it. Or something like that ...
In any case, let's give credit where credit is due. For years, the International Federation of PGA Tours, which includes not only the U.S.-based branch but all major tours around the world, has been criticized for taking the "World" out of "World Golf Championships" by contesting the three regular-season tourneys in Arizona, Florida and Ohio. Now there will be an international WGC event (I'm excluding the two-man World Cup here) for the first time since the American Express Championship was last hosted in England three years ago.
"This is one of the most significant steps ever taken in the globalization of golf, and one of the most logical. HSBC and IMG have built the HSBC Champions to a point where it was obviously the tournament outside golf's traditional heartlands that was tailor-made to be included as a World Golf Championships event," PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said through a statement released this week. "World-class golf has arrived on this continent and the map of the golf world may never look the same."
Pretty hefty words from the commish. So why doesn't the tourney come with a heftier reward, too?
Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.
The USGA announced this week that it has received a record 9,086 entries for this year's U.S. Open, breaking the previous high of 9,048 in 2005.
As mentioned in last week's W18, one of those 9,086 is Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. An amateur with a listed handicap index of 0.0, this will be his fourth try at reaching the tournament; he's been unsuccessful in the previous three. Romo will compete in the May 11 qualifier at Dallas National.
Romo is the only current professional athlete -- other than, you know, actual golfers -- who is trying to make it to Bethpage this year. But there are a half-dozen ex-jocks who will make the attempt, too. Here is the list:
• Former NFL quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver is listed as a professional. He plays on May 13 at Squire Creek C.C. in Choudrant, La.
• Ex-NHL goalie Grant Fuhr is also a pro. He'll compete on May 18 at the Golf Club of Scottsdale.
• Same goes for another ex-NHLer, Dan Quinn. He will play at Lost Tree Club in North Palm Beach, Fla., on May 11.
• Hoping to return to the neighborhood where he played most of his pro days, former NHL goalie Mike Dunham is playing at TPC Boston on May 12. An amateur with a plus-1.2 handicap, he qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2007.
• Former MLB third baseman Chris Sabo is an amateur with a plus-0.2 index, who qualified for the U.S. Mid-Am in 1998. He is playing at Maketewah C.C. in Cincinnati on May 18.
• Erik Hanson pitched in parts of 11 seasons in the majors with the Mariners, Reds, Red Sox and Blue Jays. Listed as a plus-2.7, he has also qualified for the U.S. Mid-Am in the past. His qualifier is at The Home Course in Dupont, Wash., on May 13.
Jerry Kelly should play the British Open instead of his hometown U.S. Bank Championship.
On the heels of his third career victory at last week's Zurich Classic, Kelly hasn't exactly endeared himself to U.K. golf fans by stating that he will eschew this year's Open in favor of competing in the Milwaukee-based event the very same week.
I've been critical of Kenny Perry and Woody Austin for similar decisions in recent years, so I can't give Kelly a free pass on this one -- even though I know where he's coming from.
Quite literally, he comes from Wisconsin, site of the U.S. Bank, a tourney he has referred to as his own personal "fifth major" in the past. His inclusion in the opposite-field event will serve as a terrific boost to the community and should help to increase ticket sales for the tournament.
In a time when players are being asked to do all they can to help grow interest in PGA Tour events, Kelly is doing his part and should be commended for that. Add in the fact that this event still doesn't have a sponsor to follow U.S. Bank after this season and it's apparent Kelly's heart is in the right place.
The majors are referred to as such because, simply put, they're more important than other regular season events. Just as I wrote when Perry skipped out last year and Austin did so before him, these players should feel the desire to compete if qualified. With a modest record of five made cuts in nine British Open appearances (and MCs in each of the last two years), I understand if Kelly feels his best chance to win that week comes in Milwaukee. But he owes it to the game to partake in a tourney that's been contested since 1860 now that he's in the field.
I have yet to hear Kelly's reasoning for staying in cheese-land -- whether he just wants to give back to the home folks or, like Perry, is hoping to use a strong result as a springboard onto the Presidents Cup team, into the Tour Championship and other things -- but it's difficult for me to side with him here.
Based on the debate that surrounded KP last season, I'm guessing there will be a mixed public reaction to this one, though allow me to leave you with one final thought on the subject: Kelly will likely be able to play in the Milwaukee-based event until he's 60, if he so chooses, but those British Open exemptions won't last forever. He should take advantage of it while he can.
I say the above statement is FACT.
• David Duval has shown some glimpses of past brilliance in recent times -- remember, he played in the second-to-last pairing during Round 3 of last year's British Open -- but it ain't happening for him right now. The 13-time PGA Tour champ has made the cut in just two of 10 starts, with a season-best T-55 at Pebble Beach. He's now failed to reach the weekend in six straight attempts, following scores of 76-73 at Quail Hollow.
If you don't enjoy horror movies, hide your eyes. Here are Duval's rankings among his tour brethren entering Quail Hollow: Total driving: 150th. Greens in regulation: 187th. All-around: 124th. Scoring average: 186th. Money list: 207th.
If there is a bright side to Duval's season, it's that the flat stick is working well. He ranked fourth in putts per round (27.77) and 17th in putting average (1.732) entering this past week.
Because putting is so important to playing good golf, I'm not ready to call Duval's career a knockout just yet. Then again, he might be nearing the end of his standing-eight count.
• Considering the lefty's finish when hitting a big cut off the tee, is it only a matter of time before PGA Tour clubhouses start offering the "Bubba Watson chicken wings" on the menu?
• Try to figure this one out: In the hunt on Sunday afternoon, Ian Poulter made bogey on each of the birdie holes down the stretch (Nos. 14 and 15), then sank a lengthy birdie putt on the ultra-difficult 18th.
• Shot of the week? It very well may have come on Friday afternoon. Needing to make par on the final hole in order to reach the weekend, John Rollins drove into a water hazard, then was left with an 80-foot putt to remain inside the cut line. Gives new meaning to the term "money putt." He shot 76-71 on the weekend to finish T-62 and earn a paycheck.
• Here are Brad Faxon's results in his first 11 starts this season: MC, MC, MC, MC, MC, MC, MC, T-52, MC, MC, MC. That lone made cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was his first since July 2007 -- prior to reconstructive knee surgery.
It won't go down as a very impressive finish, but Faxon's T-68 at Quail Hollow should at least serve as another stepping-stone on the comeback trail.
• I'll go out on a limb: Danny Lee wins another tourney before the season is over.
If the victory doesn't come on the PGA Tour for Lee, it will be a second Euro win or one on the Nationwide Tour.
• Sergio Garcia, Vijay Singh, Anthony Kim and Stuart Appleby were among the players who committed to the Travelers Championship this week. It will be Kim's first appearance at the event and Garcia's first since 2002.
Expect more players to follow suit in coming weeks. For the third straight year, the Hartford tourney comes directly after the U.S. Open, but instead of traveling to the Travelers from Pittsburgh or San Diego, the 150-mile excursion from Long Island will be much more palatable for some of the game's big names.
• A non-golf fan informed me that President Obama was seen playing St. Andrews this past week. Turns out it was actually Andrews Air Force Base. Uh, slight difference.
Roughly 100 or so players will take the one hour, 13 minute flight from Charlotte, N.C., to Jacksonville, Fla., this week, traveling from the Quail Hollow Championship to the Players Championship -- one of the better back-to-back offerings on the PGA Tour calendar.
But what is the best two-week stretch on the schedule? This week's edition of "The List" examines five candidates:
5. Northern Trust Open/WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship: From a cool course (Riviera) to a cool format (match play), these are a couple of must-see events.
4. U.S. Open/Travelers Championship: With only a 150-mile drive separating Bethpage and TPC-River Highlands, expect more elite players to compete in the underrated Hartford-based tourney.
3. Quail Hollow Championship/Players Championship: The Players traditionally boasts the year's best field and, honestly, the QHC isn't too far behind.
2. WGC-Bridgestone Invitational/PGA Championship: All the big guns get together for two weeks before the sport is pushed off the radar screen by regular-season football and pennant-race baseball.
1. Shell Houston Open/Masters: Could have gone the other way, with the Verizon Heritage on the back end of the year's first major, but the SHO has generated one of the top non-major fields of the year, while the Masters is, well, the Masters.
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In case you don't recognize John Daly after losing 40 to 50 pounds due to lap band surgery, just look for the guy in the brash pants.
Still serving a suspension on the PGA Tour, JD returned to the European circuit this week in fine fashion, so to speak, making a guy like Ian Poulter look plain and conservative by comparison.
Playing the Open de Espana, Daly made the cut for the second time in three Euro Tour appearances this season, shooting a final-round 69 to vault 20 places on the leaderboard and finish in a share of 31st. It should come as no surprise that his driving distance of 318.2 ranked second in the field (5 yards behind long-bombing Alvaro Quiros), but the man ranked 788th in the world also showed a deft stroke on the greens, ranking second in putts per round and 17th in putting average.
This week, Daly will head to Torino for the BMW Italian Open, the second leg of a four-tourney stretch overseas. While his U.S. season debut has yet to be officially announced, the two-time major champ has hinted that it will likely take place at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis from June 11-14.
If he shows, there's no chance you'll miss him. After years of being known as the big guy with the booming drives, Daly has a new label: The dude in the bright-colored pants.
"Tweet tweet" to most golfers signifies a birdie. To serial Twitter user and five-time PGA Tour winner Stewart Cink, the phrase owns a second -- and completely different -- meaning.
ESPN.com's Jason Sobel sat down this week at the Travelers Championship media day with Cink, where he will defend his title starting June 25.
Q: So I just Tweeted that I'm going to be interviewing serial Twitter user Stewart Cink. Crazy world, huh?
A: Yeah, but I take that as a compliment, actually. I like being the guy who's out in front over the rest of the players. So many of the followers tell me, "You've gotta get Phil Mickelson; you've gotta get Tiger Woods." I'm like, "Why would I want them?" You know, I like being the guy who's sort of cornered the Twitter market on the PGA Tour and being able to interface with fans out there who I never, ever would have otherwise been able to communicate with, answering a couple of questions here and there. It's been fun.
In last week's edition of the W18, I relayed an e-mail from David Axelson of Atlanta, who broke down Phil Mickelson's scoring average while wearing a white belt versus rounds when he did not.
You can click this link and scroll down to No. 18 for the entire e-mail (and I've since confirmed that the two previously undetermined rounds did not include white belts), but here's the gist of it: In rounds during which Mickelson used a white belt, his scoring average was 4.5 strokes higher than rounds with a dark-colored belt.
This trend only continued at Quail Hollow. After rounds of 67-71 -- both while wearing a dark-colored belt -- that left him in a share of seventh place entering the weekend, Lefty donned the white belt for Saturday's third round and promptly plummeted to T-30, thanks to a 3-over 75 that included a double-bogey, three bogeys and just two birdies.
So what happened on Sunday? Back to a basic black belt, Mickelson fired another 5-under 67 to finish in a share of fifth place, 3 strokes behind the eventual winner.
Might be time for Phil to realize that white is wrong when it comes to scoring.
Wanna be considered for future W18 columns? Hit me at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.