Tour and News

New generation of tour stars should focus more on instincts and less on video

Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino and Seve Ballesteros all won majors in their 20s. You could argue that they were golf geniuses, and that's true, but what's more important is that their genius was nurtured, not squelched. All five had unique swings, the first three overseen by teachers who allowed them to retain their individuality, while the latter two were self-taught, letting the flight of the ball instruct them.

Imagine if these great champs had been told to swing on a prescribed plane and grew up looking for evidence of their success or failure in that regard by watching video. Imagine if they had jumped from instructor to instructor looking for a system that would give them complete control of the golf ball and how never finding that secret would kill their confidence.

Not one current player under 30 has won a major. Why? Some of the blame goes to Tiger Woods, a genius himself who has taken a large portion of recent majors and intimidated many contenders. But mostly I think it is the teachers who rely on video in an effort to bring order out of the chaos of golf. There are a lot of great teachers out there, but too many have their players caught up in a never-ending quest to perfect what can't be perfected, and in the process those players lose their instincts and confidence. Throw the camera away! Stick to fundamentals.

To me, Camilo Villegas appears to be on the right track, as does Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Charl Schwartzel (above) and Martin Kaymer. Who will separate himself? It won't take long to find out, and it'll be easy to tell them apart because they all swing differently.

The Next Seve: Alavaro Quiros of Spain

Alvaro Quiros, 2010 CA Championship at Doral
David Walberg/SI
Wild Thing Alvaro Quiros led the field at Doral in driving distance, averaging almost 317 yards, but at 64th he was near the bottom in fairways hit.

He swings from his heels, hits it a mile and displays the same flair as the man he idolized while growing up in Spain, and at 27 Alvaro Quiros is showing that he has the game to be a force on the world stage

Saturday at Doral, high noon, blue skies, palms swaying. Pretty nice, right? There's Phil, on the range, Butch and Bones at his side. Behind them, behind the ropes, the crowd's three deep. Banana Boat sunblock. Cuban cigars. Silicone breasts. Caps signed by Camilo, by Ernie, by Rory, by Hunter. (A Colombian,­ a South African, an Irishman, an American.) And here, bounding down the range, heading straight for Lefty & Co., comes a new man on the scene. Newish, anyway.

Alvaro Quiros of Spain—tall and lanky, 27 years old, four days of stubble on his long, brown face, scorecard pencils for sideburns. White belt. White shoes with old-school metal spikes. (If your swing clocked in at 124 mph, you'd have real nails in your shoes too.) Sky-blue striped shirt. Navy-blue slacks with one back pocket. (The Continental look lives!) AL-vah-row Kee-ROHSS is in the house, flashing his big toothy grin.

"Hell-low Pheel, Bootch, Bones." Long nods from Mickelson, from Harmon, from Jim ­Mackay.

The caddie (Mackay) tells Quiros about the last time he saw him, in early March, in the clubhouse at Whisper Rock, the swanky Scottsdale golf hangout, fast asleep in a big leather chair at lunchtime, the pale glow from a flat screen on his face.

Why would you sleep at night if you're Alvaro Quiros, when you're the life of the party, when you're the guy who was bold enough to hit into Tiger Woods (albeit accidentally) last year at the PGA Championship, on a 606-yard par-5, the second a driver off the deck?

"Yes, yes, yes," the golfer says to Bones, smiling and nodding, remembering his Whisper Rock siesta. He talks with his whole body. His shoulders go up and down, up and down. The head tilts from side to side. His voice is a song. "Yes, yes."

Quiros grew up with his parents and kid brother in a house about the size of your ordinary suburban American living room, near the gates of the Valderrama Golf Club, on Costa del Sol. His father was—still is—a gardener and his mother a housekeeper. Look where golf has taken Martin and Rosa Quiros's first-born son. To the leader board at the CA Championship in Miami on a postcard Saturday. To a secluded corner of the cathedral, chatting up the trinity of Butch and Phil and Bones. To the epicenter of the game.

Jim McLean, the golf instructor and Hogan­phile, approaches the range. He could watch Quiros make swings all day, even if the speed of his move wears out others. "It's homemade," McLean says. "I like that. He's like a big version of Sergio. They both have the Hogan lag. That's where the power comes from. You see the Seve influence all over Alvaro. The slashing swing, the outgoing personality. He's an artist." Maybe apprentice artist would be more accurate. If his pitching and chipping game were as big as his personality and his driving game, you'd already be on a first-name basis with him. He'd be Ollie, and then some.

The Ryder Cup was played at Valderrama in 1997, its first time in continental Europe, a move engineered by Ballesteros, for a team he captained. Young Alvaro won a free ticket by winning the boys' title at his public course, La Canada, where his father taught him the game. Seve mesmerized him, even if he was simply driving a golf cart. Before that Ryder Cup the main impulses in Alvaro's life were to play soccer and golf, in that order. The European win changed everything. That is to say, after the '97 Ryder Cup, Alvaro reversed the order: It became golf first, soccer a close second. When he returns to Cadiz, in the south of Spain, to the apartment he rents there with his girlfriend, he spends weekend afternoons playing pickup soccer games.

Quiros is one of those rare souls—like Seve driving a golf cart or Meryl Streep doing her nails—who makes some ordinary act look entertaining. Quiros is slow over the ball, but you'd pay to watch this guy throw grass and point his long arms into the wind, his face all contorted in confusion, trying to figure out wind direction. Watch him eat an apple. On one long par-5 at Doral he took several man-sized bites of a Granny Smith, put the apple on his towel, played his second and returned to the apple, now nibbling away until the core was about the size of a golf tee. "I don't waste," he would say later. "That's how we grew up."

Quiros finished school at 18, turned pro in 2004 at age 21, won professional events, small and not so small, in '06, '07, '08 and '09, in Spain, in South Africa, in Qatar. He plays around the world and came to Doral ranked 33rd in it, with a goal of making Colin Montgomerie's European Ryder Cup team come September.

His caddie, Alastair McLean of Scotland and Huntersville, N.C. (and not related to Jim), caddied for Montgomerie for years. Some of Monty's pearls have worked their way from Alastair to Alvaro. Example: When playing out of the woods, never hit the first tree. This has particular application to Quiros because he spends a lot of time in the shade. He will sometimes say, in his singsong English, "The driver, she is not behaving well today, you know?"

The caddie and his man have a good time together, McLean speaking Spanish through his soupy Glaswegian accent, Quiros coming back to him in ­Castilian-inflected English. On one hole last Saturday, Quiros drove it a mile but into the right rough, 200 yards from the green, behind a tree.

"Pearfict six," the Scottish caddie said. He laughed.

"Yes, yes—six-iron, perfect," the Spanish player said. He was laughing too.

There was no six-iron in their bag. Not because Doral has no six-iron shots. Oh, no. The shaft on the six-iron had broken, and they could not find a replacement. Quiros plays a triple X stiff Rifle steel shaft, a 7.7 shaft flex, if that means anything to you. A Sequoia of a shaft, played by almost nobody and not even carried in the Tour equipment vans. Quiros slashed at a seven-iron instead. He's not a player with many swing speeds.

His playing partner was Francesco Molinari of Italy, an intense short-knocker with bags under his eyes and a putting game that will not quit. They were teammates last year in the Seve Trophy, a competition on the European tour, which they both call home. They chatted in Spanish all the way around, and the Spaniard gave the Italian a hearty thumbs-up when Molinari played a beauty from the rough. How do you say "people person" in Spanish? Persona de personas? Quiros is one.

He stiffed a shot on a short par-3, and while making the tee-to-green walk, putter in hand, he heard a man call out in Peruvian Spanish, "Gran tiro, gran tiro!"

Quiros turned his head to the man without breaking stride and said, in his Castilian Spanish, "Muchas gracias, muchas gracias!" As he says it, it comes out gra-thee-us.

Repeating words is part of his charm, along with hitting driver. He averages 10 or 11 drivers a round, and shouts about four or five go's at each of his airborne orbs. It's like this: Go. Go-go-go. Go! You're talking about 50 go's per round, give or take. His ball will sometimes listen. One of his Saturday tee shots, in a hook wind, measured 394 yards in McLean's yardage book. Oh, this guy's going to be huge.

On Sunday the large, predominantly ­Spanish-speaking gallery that followed Camilo Villegas got a two-fer. The Colombian poster boy was paired with the pride of Costa del Sol. Quiros went out in 33, and the crowd was responding to his tee shots as if they were watching fireworks. If their words in the warm wind had punctuation marks, there would have been a slew of upside-down exclamation marks. Villegas, enjoying the show too, walked down one fairway with his left arm around Quiros's shoulder. With every drive and every step and every go and every gracias Quiros was making fans. This year he'll most likely play all four majors and the Ryder Cup. If all goes well, by this time next year you'll be on a first-name basis with him.

"I try to remember how good I have it," Quiros said at Doral. "Sometimes I forget, but then I remember there are so many people behind me." He meant that broadly: people in dark coal mines, people gardening in the hot sun, people shooting scores higher than his. Sixty-eight players teed it up at Doral. Only five finished in front of him. Next month he's in line to play a course in Augusta that will be a par-68 for him and very few others. Come April, Seve will be watching Alvaro, you can be sure of that..

PGA Tour Confidential: WGC-CA Championship at Doral

Ernie Els, WGC-CA Championship at Doral
David Walberg/SI
Ernie Els won his second World Golf Championship event on Sunday.

Every week of the 2010 PGA Tour season, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group will conduct an e-mail roundtable. Check in on Mondays for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: This Confidential is going to be like Hemingway prose: all verb, no adjective. Stellar victory by Easy. Not only did he control his ball well in the wind, but he putted like it was 1999. So, in this year of parity, a familiar question: Was this just one nice week by a battle-scarred veteran on the downside of his career, or is this the beginning of one last big run by a player who still possesses supreme talent?

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Must admit I was expecting him to look a little shakier down the stretch than he did. I guess Charl didn't really put too much heat on him, but still very solid for EE.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Ricci Roberts, who now caddies by committee for EE with Dan Quinn, told me last year Ernie was hitting it better than ever but just waiting for the putts to drop. I say he will get them to drop at one of the majors and win one last time. He loves the venues and he's on a roll.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: As I have said before, this might be the year of 40-odd different winners. Els didn't play great in the final round — really. He continues to battle that left shot, and there wasn't much wind at Doral on Sunday. I don't mean to take anything away from the Big Easy, but he's not going to take the Tour by storm after one week of good play.

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: With his putting stroke improved and his globe-trotting schedule cut back, you have to believe Els has one last run in him. He has too much to play for. He needs a Masters and a PGA for the career slam, and he's three victories away from 20 PGA Tour titles. That'd be one heck of a career in the Tiger era.

Morfit: Good pairing for him on Sunday. He had to feel he had an edge, having been Schwartzel's hero.

Shipnuck: Yeah, Els's wife told SI that the playing partner is important to hubby. Not having to look at Tiger helps him, too.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: For a long time, Ernie had a lot on his mind. Between the knee injury taking a long time to completely heal, coming out and talking about Ben's autism, plus moving the family to Florida so Ben could get better care. That's a lot for a professional athlete to live with.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Could be that his son's autism has helped him focus on what's important in life, and that focus has carried over into his golf. He's always struck me as an awesomely talented underachiever.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I think that's partly because he makes everything look so effortless with that swing.

Morfit: He still wants it though, especially at Augusta and Whistling Straits. Desire is big at his stage of the game.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Ernie looks like he's for real. Of course, winners always do. Best part was he didn't gaffe any short ones Sunday and look like he's got the 40-year-old yips. Ernie's run looks legit. Let's hope it is. He's popular with the public, the media and the fans. When Ernie wins, we all win. He's just what golf needs.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I think the biggest factor in Ernie's malaise was the scar tissue from those runner-up finishes to Tiger at the turn of the century. But the biggest blow was Lefty's birdie at 18 at the '04 Masters. Ernie was lost for a long time after that defeat. He looked and sounded a lot like Sergio does now. Good seeing Ernie win again.

Herre: Nice win by Els, but I am not reading too much into it. Don't see him making like Vijay deep into his 40s.

Shipnuck: He looked way more relaxed than in recent years. Despite his nickname, Els was a pretty grumpy dude. A good attitude is key for him.

Dusek: If Els' putter is solid, the rest of his game looks like it is still well suited for Augusta National. Long off the tee, high iron shots and better-than-average scrambling.

Shipnuck: This year's Masters may be the most wide open ever. With all his near-misses there Els has to considered at least a darkhorse.

Morfit: What a gold mine of storylines we can look forward to.

Godich: It's all about how he handles the pressure. He's been so close before, and you know how badly he wants to win there.

Hack: I see no reason why Ernie can't win at Augusta. He'll take a lot of confidence, and he's definitely playing for more than himself. You know that Phil will be in the mix one way or another, but I'm not so sure about Tiger, with the rust, the circus and the course changes.

Van Sickle: Can Ernie's sometimes-shaky short-putting stroke survive the greens at Augusta? That's a question we look forward to Ernie answering. When golfers hit 40, they tend to suddenly realize the finish line is in sight and they have time for one more stretch run if they really work hard. We've seen other golfers do this, notably Steve Stricker and Vijay Singh and Kenny Perry. I think Ernie is going to have a good year. Will that translate into three or four wins and a major or just a lot of high finishes? Either way, it'll be good TV.

Shipnuck: I really hope one of these many under 30 studs wins at Augusta. Otherwise the endless hype gets a little tiresome. (Nevermind that we're part of the problem...)

Herre: Enjoyed watching all the furin'ers this week. Kaymer, Quiros, Schwartzl — their games are all easy on the eyes.

Morfit: Every time I saw Quiros around the resort, he was smiling and looked like he was having the most fun of anyone. That's almost as much fun to see as his huge drives.

Herre: For more on Quiros, check out this week's SI Golf+.

Gorant: Four years ago Schwartzel was touted as one of those can't miss kids, but he never really got chewed up by the hype machine, maybe because he didn't play much over here, but I think it helped him develop his game.

Shipnuck: It's always the media's fault when young players don't develop.

Van Sickle: Charl never got a lot of hype, also, because he's very quiet and about as un-colorful as you can get. Having written a sidebar about him in '07, I can attest to that first-hand. He's a tough write. And we were a couple of years early on the call.

Dusek: I love that Dan Hicks said this is a coming out for Schwartzel, then a minute later mentioned that he won the first two events on the European Tour this season. I guess results outside the United States aren't important or legitimate.

Van Sickle: Yeah, typical American blinders. What he means is, HE doesn't pay attention to results outside the U.S. Like a lot of people.

Shipnuck: We do possess the Ryder and President's Cups, but it seems like all the exciting young talent is from overseas, except Mr. Layup, Rickie Fowler.

Godich: With all due respect, when Matt Kuchar is carrying the flag at Doral...

Van Sickle: Alan's right. It won't be long before the cliche storyline will be the same one taken from the pages of the LPGA — why can't the Americans win? The simple answer is, it's the U.S. against the world now as golf has gone global, and we're badly outnumbered.

Evans:: Don't buy what they tell you on TV. The U.S. has a ton of a great talent. The success of a handful of South Africans and Europeans doesn't mean that America needs to start rebuilding its junior programs. Numbers-wise and consistency, the rest of the world is no match for the U.S. And don't pay attention to the World Rankings, which favor players who play international schedules.

Dusek: So ignore the fact that going into Doral, Europe had six players ranked in the top 10 and 20 players in the top 50?

Van Sickle: Excuse me? Forget the Ryder Cup against Europe. The U.S. could have a pretty tough match just against England. Or Australia. Or South Africa. Probably not Fiji.

Shipnuck: Farrell is correct that some random Asian tourneys get too many points. I think the World Ranking has gotten much more sensitive and accurate. Don't count out our boys. The last few Cups the U.S. has had great chemistry and played better than their individual parts.

Van Sickle: Sorry, Alan. I forgot what a big backer of the U.S. teams you have historically been.

Shipnuck: Well, Mrs. Pavin did ask me to be her Valentine via Twitter!

Herre: Wonder if Captain Corey has spoken with Azinger yet?

Herre: I think Brad Faxon is a nice upgrade for NBC. He isn't bashful and was dissecting the shots before Johnny had a chance to open his mouth.

Dusek: Anyone who gets between Johnny Miller and a microphone is a friend of mine.

Van Sickle: I disagree. Johnny is still better than anybody else out there. I'm in favor of Faxon jumping in instead of Dan Hicks anytime, though.

Evans:: Johnny Miller is the best golf analyst in the world. Period. Not always likeable but he's very good.

Gorant: I thought Faxon was a little shaky, shouting for putts to go in and talking over other people on a lot of putts. Most can be chocked up to rookie mistakes. Sure he'll get better.

Van Sickle: Definitely some nerves. I loved it when he signed off before a break by saying, "Hurry up and get back here to see what's going to happen..." or something like that. Like we were the ones going away. He'll polish his delivery through experience. He delivers a lot of knowledge and unlike the rest of the NBC crew, isn't afraid to offer an opinion before Johnny weighs in.

Shipnuck: No question Fax is an upgrade. Love his insidery knowledge. Now all he needs is a voice coach to lose that nasally accent.

Herre: No way — he's a proud New Englander.

Shipnuck: I love "Raja" Maltbie, and I'm not alone. If you walk near him on the course he get tons of love from the gallery.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: How do you not love a Tour player who won a tournament and then lost the check (when they gave real checks) in a bar, as Maltby once did.

Van Sickle: Would love to see Roger have a bigger role on a regular basis.

Evans:: Roger is a bit player and he loves it. Everybody can't sit in the booth. Once you get a bigger role you lose your connection with the players. Right now Roger is one of the guys when he is off camera.

Van Sickle: Roger should sit in the booth instead of one of the other guys in the booth, was the point.

Shipnuck: OK, we can't avoid Tiger any longer. Let's say he comes back for Bay Hill. Does that make his poetry reading — when golf seemed so insignificant — now seem insincere?

Godich: I think it does. How does a guy who announced last month that he wouldn't rule out missing all of 2010 not make it to the end of March without teeing it up?

Van Sickle: Yes. Especially the part about the urgency of giving his reading Friday during Accenture when it turned out he was a free man and back at Isleworth pounding balls about 10 days later.

Evans:: Not at all. The only person who can judge his sincerity is Elin, who is not naïve to the reality that she is married to a guy who plays golf for a living. He can't stay at home forever looking remorseful and pitiful.

Herre: Seems too soon to me, but who knows what's really going on at home. I could see Tiger dipping a toe in at the Tavistock Cup, skipping Bay Hill and Houston to work on his game, then returning at Augusta.

Dusek: Unless Elin and he have had "the talk" and settled on what their family situation is going to be in the future, it looks really bad for him to return to golf so soon. However, if she's satisfied with where things are — and the army of therapists we can assume he's worked with are satisfied — then going back to work is more acceptable.

Lipsey: I love Tiger the golfer, and never cared about Tiger the person until he gave us reasons, and more reasons, to care about Tiger the person, who comes across as more insincere with every move he makes. I mean, hiring a former presidential spokesman? C'mon. Tiger is a golfer.

Evans:: That's a very cynical take. Hiring Ari Fleischer is only a sign that Tiger understands that he still needs guidance.

Shipnuck: His people have so bungled the public aspects of this scandal I don't think it's a bad move to get more advice. But Ari's handling of McGwire doesn't inspire confidence.

Dusek: Interesting to note that Fleisher's PR company is partially owned by IMG.

Lipsey: Get advice, but why do you have to pay for it? He's got a mom, friends, a wife (well, maybe she's AWOL for advice), etc.

Van Sickle: Rick is right on. Somebody who needs a grade-A spin doctor looks like someone with something to hide, which is how he's looked ever since he stiffed the Florida Highway Patrol. Wonder what's coming next for Tiger?

Herre: Redemption is a common theme in sports. Tiger will get his opportunity.

Hack: With all due respect to the Big Three, do we really know who class acts are in sports? I mean, do we really know? Sometimes it seems like the more majors or titles somebody wins, the classier they get. Gray hair seems to raise the classy level, too.

Shipnuck: Golf is who he is. Playing again has to be therapeutic. But the circus is going to be so intense I think more and more Augusta makes sense. Don't forget how invisible they made Martha Burk during tournament week.

Evans:: You can't compare Martha Burk to Tiger. Martha, as you know, never got inside the gates of the club. Not once.

Shipnuck: My point is that CBS/Augusta has a long history suppressing controversy.

Lipsey: I'm sure CBS is already grooming every staffer on what will and will not come out of their mouths at Augusta, just in case.

Dusek: I asked Paul Casey this week how he'd feel if he were paired with Tiger when he makes his comeback. Casey said that he's always liked playing with Woods, but probably wouldn't be too keen in this case. "The sort of scrutiny will be on a level that we've never witnessed before. But they won't be watching me."

Lipsey: I'd be shocked if any Tour player ever again is excited to be paired with Tiger. Publically, the players will offer quiet praise and support. Privately, I bet they'd rather have Tiger and his antics and self-obsession go away, though the money part is hard to part with.

Herre: Rick, I think mild-mannered Steve Stricker made that clear this week when he said Tiger returning at the Masters would be a huge distraction for the other players. Pretty strong statement.

Evans:: I'm sorry for Stricker. He better get ready for that distraction. It's coming!

Van Sickle: On the plus side, the sooner Tiger returns to golf, the sooner we start writing about what he does on the golf course and cease writing about his previous antics (barring any more revelations). And if he does win a Masters or U.S. Open, the media will jump back on the race to 18 again and quit focusing on the marriage problems ... if he's lucky.

Lipsey: The worst part is Tiger will say little or nothing all week, when he's back, but the rumors will fly like bees in a hive. I hope Augusta grants credentials to TMZ and Radar, who'll surely apply. Indeed, we should ask them if they've applied.

Godich: How long does it take to ask the first non-golf question? Or will every media session start with, "I will only answer questions about my golf game."

Van Sickle: Number two is the correct answer.

Lipsey: It's so darn sad that it's come to this with Mozart, because, gosh, what he does with the golf ball is so damn fun to watch.

Evans:: Why is suppressing controversy a bad thing unless you work in the press? Augusta National is not impartial in this process. The club will protect him throughout this process and spend money to do it. There is something endearingly super-masculine and American about Tiger's marital failings. What we're mad about is how he has handled its aftermath.

Godich: Huh?

Lipsey: Endearing? Now I never imagined that word would be used to describe Tiger's actions. Not even his mistresses say Tiger was endearing.

Van Sickle: There is nothing endearing or American about Tiger's marital failings. You must be joking.

Evans:: He cheated. He got caught. The cover up is worse than the crime. Like Watergate. Tiger has a lot of women. Sounds like a fun story in the locker room, but at the expense of a family. So we shouldn't be so sanctimonious like this doesn't happen and won't happen again on our wonderfully pious golf tour.

Godich: You need to stop.

Evans:: Sorry guys, not endearing. Just reckless.

Round 4 tee times at the WGC-CA Championship at Doral

(All times local)

9:15 am Sim, Michael Wilson, Oliver
9:25 am Marino, Steve Kjeldsen, Soren
9:35 am Leishman, Marc McIlroy, Rory
9:45 am Jimenez, Miguel A. Poulter, Ian
9:55 am Cink, Stewart Karlsson, Robert
10:05 am Hansen, Anders Yang, Y.E.
10:15 am Palmer, Ryan Goosen, Retief
10:25 am Dyson, Simon Ogilvy, Geoff
10:35 am Molinari, Edoardo Jaidee, Thongchai
10:45 am Johnson, Dustin Na, Kevin
10:55 am Gay, Brian Dufner, Jason
11:05 am Garcia, Sergio Johnson, Zach
11:15 am Verplank, Scott McGowan, Ross
11:25 am O'Hair, Sean Westwood, Lee
11:35 am Watney, Nick Toms, David
11:45 am Kelly, Jerry Crane, Ben
11:55 am Glover, Lucas Kim, Anthony
12:05 pm Cabrera, Angel Slocum, Heath
12:15 pm Furyk, Jim Fisher, Ross
12:25 pm Weir, Mike Perry, Kenny
12:35 pm Presnell, Alistair Hanson, Peter
12:45 pm Stenson, Henrik Scott, Adam
12:55 pm Ikeda, Yuta Donald, Luke
1:05 pm Stricker, Steve Clark, Tim
1:15 pm Mickelson, Phil Holmes, J.B.
1:25 pm Liang, Wen-Chong Molinari, Francesco
1:35 pm Fdez-Castano, Gonzalo McDowell, Graeme
1:45 pm Senden, John Mahan, Hunter
1:55 pm Quiros, Alvaro Villegas, Camilo
2:05 pm Singh, Vijay Hansen, Soren
2:15 pm Kuchar, Matt Casey, Paul
2:25 pm Haas, Bill Kaymer, Martin
2:35 pm Harrington, Padraig Allenby, Robert
2:45 pm Schwartzel, Charl Els, Ernie

Round 3 tee times at the WGC-CA Championship

8:25 am Wilson, Oliver Kjeldsen, Soren
8:35 am Poulter, Ian Leishman, Marc
8:45 am Cink, Stewart McIlroy, Rory
8:55 am Verplank, Scott Sim, Michael
9:05 am Karlsson, Robert Jimenez, Miguel A.
9:15 am Goosen, Retief Na, Kevin
9:25 am Perry, Kenny McGowan, Ross
9:35 am Palmer, Ryan Crane, Ben
9:45 am Molinari, Edoardo Furyk, Jim
9:55 am Garcia, Sergio Hansen, Anders
10:05 am Marino, Steve Johnson, Zach
10:15 am Fisher, Ross Cabrera, Angel
10:25 am Yang, Y.E. Watney, Nick
10:35 am Jaidee, Thongchai Dyson, Simon
10:45 am Slocum, Heath Donald, Luke
10:55 am Glover, Lucas Kim, Anthony
11:05 am Stenson, Henrik Toms, David
11:15 am Gay, Brian Scott, Adam
11:25 am McDowell, Graeme Ogilvy, Geoff
11:35 am Kaymer, Martin Kelly, Jerry
11:45 am O'Hair, Sean Westwood, Lee
11:55 am Kuchar, Matt Dufner, Jason
12:05 pm Mahan, Hunter Stricker, Steve
12:15 pm Liang, Wen-Chong Presnell, Alistair
12:25 pm Casey, Paul Johnson, Dustin
12:35 pm Molinari, Francesco Quiros, Alvaro
12:45 pm Mickelson, Phil Villegas, Camilo
12:55 pm Fdez-Castano, Gonzalo Hanson, Peter
1:05 pm Clark, Tim Senden, John
1:15 pm Singh, Vijay Weir, Mike
1:25 pm Ikeda, Yuta Holmes, J.B.
1:35 pm Hansen, Soren Harrington, Padraig
1:45 pm Haas, Bill Schwartzel, Charl
1:55 pm Els, Ernie Allenby, Robert

New generation of stars continue to emerge at Doral

Camilo Villegas, 2010 Honda Classic
David Walberg/SI
Camilo Villegas is one of several young stars on the rise in 2010.

MIAMI—It's true that the absence of Tiger Woods is hovering over the CA Championship at Doral, and golf in general. It feels like the boss is on holiday and we don't know when he'll return.

I'm now hearing Woods will play Augusta, but he'll be disguised as either Jeev Milkha Singh or Sandy Lyle. Pass it on.

But there's another story brewing, a bigger story, and that is that Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh — the guys we've seen carry the game for 15 years — are playing on borrowed time.

Of the 68-man field at the CA, 23 are in their twenties. That's not including perhaps the best 20-something of the bunch, Ryo Ishikawa, 18, who was busy graduating high school this week.

 

The young guys are figuring it out.

A total of seven players in their 20s won PGA Tour events in 2009, but with Camilo Villegas, 28, winning last week's Honda Classic by five shots, four 20-somethings have already won on Tour in 2010.

"It's a process," Villegas said more than once this week, which is true. And we're now at the part of that process where the youth begin to make the old guys look their age, as opposed to vice-versa.

Bill Haas, 27, was a three-time first-team All-American at Wake Forest, but he was a hothead when he first came out on Tour in 2006.

 

Eventually he came to realize he was getting in his own way, and under the tutelage of dad Jay and coach Billy Harmon he changed his set-up before the Bob Hope in January, and won for the first time.

"I didn't change much on my swing but it was something that allowed me to be more aggressive through the ball, and it was working," Haas said. "It was working for five straight days. It was nice."

Haas shot a 6-under 66 at the CA Friday and was 7-under for the tournament, three behind leader Ernie Els (68-66, 10-under).

Haas was tied with Charl Schwartzel, 25, the first-round leader (67) who was 2-under for his first 17 holes Friday when play was suspended for the second time because of thunderstorms.

Schwartzel impressed even himself on Thursday, when in gusts of up to 25 mph he was the only player in the field to avoid a bogey.

"You know, I played a lot of good rounds in my career," he said, "and yeah, this one rates right up there. It could even be at the top. It was difficult."

In today's media-saturated world we hear about future stars, like Jason Day and Michael Sim, both of Australia, before they've won much of anything at the game's highest level. Schwartzel was like that.

Then he won the first two tournaments on the European Tour this year, the Africa Open and the Joburg Open, giving him five Ws overall.

"I've known Charl a very long time," said Els, who turned 40 last October and has just one Tour win, the '08 Honda, since the summer of 2004. "I've played golf with his dad, that's how far back we go. We won a tournament together in 1987, myself and his dad. It was a better-ball tournament in South Africa. I guess [Charl] was born then, just about." (The younger Schwartzel was born in '85.)

"You know, he won everything as a junior," Els continued, "very similar to Trevor Immelman. But he's even more impressive than Immelman because he's longer. He hits the ball a really long way. He's just got so much talent. When he gets a break out here, you know, you're going to see the next superstar out of South Africa, basically."

J.B. Holmes, 27, shot a 70 at Doral on Friday and was 5-under for the tournament, five back.

He was tied with Yuta Ikeda, 24, a four-time winner in Japan last year who has quietly put together scores of 71-68 so far at Doral.

Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Costano, 29, was another shot back after a second-round 68.

Looking solely at the win column, Schwartzel would seem to be well ahead of 20-something stars Holmes (two Tour wins), Dustin Johnson (three), Anthony Kim (two), Hunter Mahan (two), Sean O'Hair (three) and Rory McIlroy (one Euro W).

But next week the landscape may look different, and Schwartzel isn't even the most prolific winner. That would be either Ishikawa, with eight wins in Japan; or Martin Kaymer, 25, who has won seven times already on the European Tour.

Paired with Villegas and Lee Westwood in the first round, Kaymer was consistently outdriven by both, but he's a better putter than both of his playing partners and eventually carded the best score in the group, a 2-under 70. (The three were through 16 holes when play was called for the second time Friday, with Kaymer still at 2-under for the tournament, two behind Villegas and Westwood.)

Then again, the game's next big star might be someone who's not in the smallest circle of our radar right now, like Ikeda. (Love his furniture.)

Who predicted Singh would briefly hold the top ranking? Who had Stricker rising this high, to No. 2?

To be sure, the old guys won't leave without a fight. Robert Allenby, 38, is a shot off the lead after a 67 Friday. Singh, 47, shot 71 and was at 5-under.

Mickelson, who will turn 40 in June, was at 4-under for the tournament through 17 holes Friday. He will be a favorite, if not the favorite, when the Masters tees off at Augusta National next month.

McIlroy, 20, has been paired with Mickelson for the first two rounds at Doral, and at 1-over for the tournament he trails Lefty by five shots. It's a small victory for the oldies, given that McIlroy said he owed Phil one. The two were paired together for the first 36 holes at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai last year, a tournament Mickelson went on to win.

And yet it's only a matter of time for the old guard, because while you can find fault with inexperience, ultimately you can't argue with longer and sharper. Youth will prevail. It always does.

Round 2 tee times at WGC-CA Championship

(All times local)

TPC Blue Monster at Doral Tee #1
8:00 am Marino, Steve Fdez-Castano, Gonzalo
8:10 am Hansen, Soren Johnson, Zach Haas, Bill
8:21 am Ikeda, Yuta Presnell, Alistair Holmes, J.B.
8:31 am Donald, Luke Karlsson, Robert Perry, Kenny
8:42 am Cink, Stewart Casey, Paul Mahan, Hunter
8:52 am Gay, Brian Jimenez, Miguel A. Jaidee, Thongchai
9:03 am McGowan, Ross Kuchar, Matt Hansen, Anders
9:13 am Liang, Wen-Chong Clark, Tim Verplank, Scott
9:24 am Watney, Nick Toms, David Schwartzel, Charl
9:34 am Mickelson, Phil Goosen, Retief McIlroy, Rory
9:45 am Westwood, Lee Villegas, Camilo Kaymer, Martin
9:55 am Kim, Anthony McDowell, Graeme Cabrera, Angel

TPC Blue Monster at Doral Tee #10
8:00 am Slocum, Heath Na, Kevin Leishman, Marc
8:10 am Wilson, Oliver Sim, Michael Palmer, Ryan
8:21 am Quiros, Alvaro Singh, Vijay Crane, Ben
8:31 am Poulter, Ian Ogilvy, Geoff Harrington, Padraig
8:42 am Stricker, Steve Els, Ernie Garcia, Sergio
8:52 am Johnson, Dustin Weir, Mike Scott, Adam
9:03 am Dyson, Simon Dufner, Jason Molinari, Edoardo
9:13 am Yang, Y.E. Senden, John Hanson, Peter
9:24 am Glover, Lucas Allenby, Robert Furyk, Jim
9:34 am O'Hair, Sean Fisher, Ross Stenson, Henrik
9:45 am Kjeldsen, Soren Kelly, Jerry Molinari, Francesco

Phil Mickelson looking to turn his season around at Doral

Phil Mickelson, Torrey Pines
Robert Beck/SI
Phil Mickelson has only one top 10 this season.

MIAMI, Fla. - It is tempting but not correct to say that all eyes are on the newly named TPC Blue Monster at Doral for this week's WGC-CA Championship. There's too much counter-programming.

Howard Stern is hosting a beauty pageant of Tiger babes, and the absence of Woods himself hovers over Doral, where he won in 2005, '06 and '07. College basketball is on the verge of a thrilling three-week stretch, and the Masters rolls in after that.

Doral was so quiet Tuesday, Hunter Mahan said it felt like a Monday. A familiar champion, someone like last year's winner, Phil Mickelson, would change everything come Sunday.

"It's a golf course I've always enjoyed and loved," said Mickelson, who finished second to Woods at the 2005 Ford Championship at Doral before breaking through last year.

It's been a quiet 2010 for the man who was believed to be on the verge of a career revival just four months ago.

After winning the Tour Championship and then the HSBC Champions, the latter while playing with Woods, Phil the Thrill has turned into Phil the Chill, as in ice cold.

He finished 19th (Farmers), T45 (L.A.), T8 (Pebble) and T24 (Phoenix) while Steve Stricker, winner of the Northern Trust in L.A., overtook Mickelson at No. 2 in the World Ranking.

The lefthander has struggled to get the ball in the hole, but he is longer than ever off the tee. The rough at Doral is down after the unusually cold winter in the Southeast, and the course has historically rewarded aggressive driving anyway.

The fairway on the 467-yard, par-4 18th hole, the second hardest hole on Tour in 2009 (4.479 stroke average, behind only the par-4 12th at Hazeltine), is pinched by a water hazard for medium to short hitters, but opens up for bombers.

Mickelson, who was treated for heat exhaustion after the third round last year, was 13th on Tour in driving distance in 2009, averaging just over 300 yards, but was 179th in driving accuracy.

"He's quite aggressive and likes to drive it — yeah, aggressive," said Rory McIlroy, who played with Mickelson for the first two rounds of the HSBC in Shanghai last November. "He goes for shots that some people might not. I think that we play a similar type of game in that way."

ShotLink, the statistical arm of the PGA Tour, last year found that those who tried to cut the corner and drive the green at Doral's 372-yard, par-4 16th hole (about 300 yards as the crow flies from tee to green) did better than those who played it safe, 3.56 to 3.85.

"I think Phil really wants to win bad," Mahan said. "I don't know how he's playing or how he's hitting it or anything like that, but I'm sure he's excited to be here. He's had great success here. I think he's definitely the man to beat."

Camilo Villegas may have something to say about that. He's coming off a five-shot win at last week's Honda Classic (his third Tour win), and his first and second Tour victories, at the end of 2008, came in consecutive weeks. What's more he is almost as popular in Miami as he is in his native Colombia, where fans were so impressed by his tie for second place at the 2006 Ford, a TV network there picked up an additional 30 Tour events.

Villegas, who was third at the first WGC event of the year, the 64-man Accenture Match Play, practiced at the left end of the driving range at Doral on Tuesday, making small talk and laughing with Alvaro Quiros and granting a few interview requests.

"Peaceful," Mahan called the vibe at the course.

When asked if the atmosphere at WGC events feels different than the regular Tour events, he replied, "Not really."

McIlroy, who won the Publix Junior at Doral when he was 9, disagreed, citing the strength of field — the CA had the third best field on Tour in 2009 — and the host city of Miami. But nothing compares to the Masters, and McIlroy was looking forward to a three-day exploratory trip to Augusta National next week.

Meanwhile, it is starting to appear possible that Woods may return at the Bay Hill Invitational in two weeks, or earlier at the Tavistock Cup.

"It's certainly going to be interesting to see not just how he plays but just how he handles the whole situation," McIlroy said.

Using new, more exclusive eligibility requirements, the CA Championship is taking only the top two as opposed to the top three finishers from the season-ending money lists on the Asian Tour, Japan Tour, Australasian Tour and Sunshine Tour.

So the CA will have 68 players instead of last year's 80. (Woods and Ryo Ishikawa are the only two no-shows. Ishikawa was scheduled to graduate high school Monday.)

The smaller field may or may not make it easier to win at Doral this week, but it does put more focus on the Tour's opposite event, the Puerto Rico Open presented by Banco Popular.

Manuel Villegas, Camilo's brother, will play the PRO on a sponsor's exemption. So will John Daly.

Among the stories to follow among the Tour's non-elites is the fate of the 2010 rookies, who are fading after a hot start.

Q school winner Troy Merritt, who opened the season with a 65 at the Sony, has missed the cut in his last four starts. Fellow Boise State alum Graham DeLaet has missed five straight cuts.

Matt Every was DQ'd at the Mayakoba Golf Classic, Martin Flores has missed his last two cuts after making his first four, and Billy Horschel had season-ending wrist surgery.

Rickie Fowler, the runner-up in Phoenix two weeks ago, has missed two cuts in his last four starts (and four of seven overall) and will take this week off, as will Every and Merritt.

At least they'll have plenty of time to watch basketball.

 

Questions for ... Annika Sorenstam

Fred Couples, Michael Jordan, Presidents Cup
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
"He knows a lot about sports and he's talking a lot about sports," Couples said. "His role is, we all respect him."

Since her retirement from professional golf after the 2008 season, Annika Sorenstam has become a mother and an entrepreneur with a course-design business, a golf academy, a clothing line, a fragrance and a winery. She's busier now than she was as a globe-trotting pro who racked up 89 worldwide wins, including 10 majors.

You and your husband, Mike McGee, have a 6-month-old little girl named Ava. How is motherhood?
It's a wonderful thing and 24/7. It's just Mike and I. We have our parents around the corner but we try to do the work ourselves. We take shifts aT night and also in the day with baby duty.

No nanny?
We decided that we wanted to figure out things ourselves. It's something that we're obviously going to look into. But we really want to raise Ava ourselves.

Is Ava sleeping all night yet?
She's pretty close. She sleeps from like 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. We're pretty happy with that.

What's a normal day for you with all your family and business responsibilities?
We get up around 6 a.m. with Ava. Mike and I alternate: one of us goes to the gym while the other feeds the baby. I start checking e-mails around 7 and then have some breakfast. After Mike goes to the office, I try to get some e-mails and phone calls in between Ava's feeding and sleeping schedule. In the afternoons I try to go to the academy [Annika Academy in Orlando] or to a photo shoot, and Mike comes home to watch the baby. We crash around 8:30.

A course-design business is like a rite of passage for a player of your caliber. Tell me about it.
We just started a project in Turkey. I'm heading over soon to begin working on that golf course. I have four ongoing projects in Asia: China, Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.

What is your design philosophy?
My No. 1 goal is to create an inspirational experience. What that means is to create a golf course that any golfer of any skill level can play and enjoy. I grew up playing in what we call open golf, where it wasn't just men playing with men, women playing with women. Everybody played together. So my courses will have as many tees as possible so that everybody can enjoy the same golf course.

You could probably play most courses from the tips.
People always say, "Why don't you take a look at the back tees?" But I always say, "Why do you focus so much on the back tees, where only 2 percent of the people can play?" My goal is to create a golf course that has variety and that the majority of people can play.

How did you get into the wine business?
In all the years of travel around the world I have enjoyed the lifestyle of great restaurants and fine wines. In May of last year I released my first wine through the Wente Vineyards. We created a syrah which is a full-bodied wine that is not as thick and heavy as cabernet. It has a little oak, a little strawberry. It's very flavorful. For the launch of the wine at the Wente Vineyards in the Livermore Valley [Calif.], we played the Greg Norman golf course on the property and had a nice dinner. We called it Wine, Nine and Dine. This spring we will release our first chardonnay.

Do you miss anything about being the best women's golfer in the world?
I've taken my competitive drive into the business world. I can't think of a tougher time to do this than now. I can try to have the best wines, the best golf academy and so on. But coming down the stretch where you have to hit this particular 7-iron or a 20-foot putt to win is something that I do miss. But it's more than that to get there. It's all the grinding and practicing and travel that I don't miss. I've done that and I'm fulfilled and I'm enjoying this new chapter in my life.

Is there a 59 in your game? How much do you play?
I haven't kept score in about 14 months. I really don't play. I do clinics and play nine holes with guests at my academy at the Reunion Resort in Orlando. I play more social golf than anything. If I can't play my best, then I'm not even going to try.

Do you keep up with the golf tours?
We watched the Honda Classic this past weekend. I saw a little bit of the women in Singapore. It's a little bit of here and there. Still I probably watch as much as I did when I was playing, when I was often too busy with other things. But I certainly keep in touch with players and I watch scores on the Internet.

Is there any chance of you playing competitive golf again?
No. Not this year. I didn't close the door because you never know if I get the desire or the motivation to do it. But I have no plans and it really hasn't crossed my mind.

Who excites you right now on the LPGA Tour?
Overall, I think the Tour is in a good state. It's fun to see some of the new players come up. Lorena Ochoa has had a lot of changes in her life with getting married. But she still has a lot of game. It's fun to see Ai Miyazato step up to the plate. I think it's going to be a really exciting year for people to watch.

Who are your role models in the business world?
I just look at golfers. Greg Norman is somebody that I admire for what he has done off the golf course. Obviously, Arnold Palmer.

Where are the women?
You look through all the sports and there are really no women who have tried to take it to another level, if you think about. They've all been very successful in their sport, but they have not broadened outside of that. My question was, why haven't we done that and what can I do? My goal is to build so much more than what I've done on the golf course.

Have you sought out women business leaders?
I have been to a few different meetings of women CEOs, which gave me a chance to network. I have a chance to participate on corporate boards. So I'm looking forward to that.

What are you reading?
I'm reading the Millennium trilogy by the late Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson. All of my friends in the States were talking about him so I'm reading them now in Swedish. I just started The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Where do you want to be in 10 years, when Ava is 10 years old?
I want to continue to build the Annika brand of businesses. I want to be a really good mom to Ava. I want her to be able to enjoy life and explore different things and explore her interests. I also want to be a good wife to my husband.

Do you plan on more children?
We have a handful now, but I wouldn't mind that.

Has Ava started golf?
She has a putter. But right now it goes in her mouth more than anything.

Camilo Villegas capped off eventful week with runaway win at Honda Classic

Camilo Villegas wins 2010 Honda Classic.
David Walberg/SI
Villegas handled the watery Bear Trap, playing the three-hole stretch in even par for the four rounds.

Camilo Villegas had two home games last week. He helped host a Nationwide tour event in Bogota, Colombia, his native country, and was there for the pro-am. Then he flew to his U.S. home, in Jupiter, Fla., and from there he made the 15-minute commute to the Honda Classic, which he won by five shots with a solid two-under Sunday 68, earning himself $1,008,000. Meanwhile his kid brother, Manuel, played in the Colombia event, closed with a 67 and earned $9,900 for his 15th-place finish.

In the annals of weird golfing coincidences, it's up there. (Or maybe, like Freud, you don't believe in coincidences.) No, it doesn't hold a candle to Ben Crenshaw burying his mentor, Harvey Penick, then flying to Augusta and winning the 1995 Masters. But it's probably up there with Bob Duval winning on the senior tour the same week his son David took the Players in 1999.

Camilo, with a body he stole from Sugar Ray Leonard circa 1980, is a tough one to figure out, as a golfer and a person. He has won three Tour events but hasn't contended in a major, and Vijay Singh, for one, isn't ready to say that he's about to. "I don't know," Singh said on Sunday. "We'll have to wait and see."

Villegas speaks English in complete, elaborate sentences, and in victory he spoke with passion about his homeland and his hope that visiting Nationwide players will leave Colombia with a new impression of the country best known to Americans for its drug wars. If you watch him play and listen to him speak, it's clear that he's intelligent and hardworking and driven.

But he can be a prima donna, too. He'll blow off reporters he doesn't have time for. At the 2007 British Open he was railing at his agent in the Carnoustie locker room about one thing or another, concluding with, "And these pants — they suck!" Gary Player and Lee Trevino and other Hall of Famers have had the same move, without being saddled with Golf Digest's designation as the sexiest player on Tour. It must be a burden. Still, Villegas is only 28. He's growing up in front of us. What he did last week was certainly impressive.

The event in Colombia was won by a former Ryder Cupper, Steve Pate. Years ago, as a regular on the big Tour, Pate was nicknamed the Volcano. He had one of golf's greatest tempers. It was a pleasure: You knew what you were going to get with Pate. Alas, he turns 50 next year, and the passing years have calmed him down. There were some long gaps, but Pate grew up in front of us too.

Syndicate content
Forecast
PGA Tour News
Trips
Travel & Courses
Lessons
Tips & Videos
The Shop
Equipment News & Reviews