Shots of the Week: August 21, 2011

Posted: August 23, 2011

Shots of the Week: August 21, 2011

Fred Couples hit a spectacular wedge shot to secure his first senior major, but was it the top shot of the week?

Hot this week? Couples, long putters, 'Big Break.' Not? USGA, FedEx hype

Fred Couples
Stan Badz/Getty Images
Fred Couples won his first career Champions Tour major title.

1. Long wands. Is there anybody on Tour not using a belly putter or broomstick? They're not aesthetically pleasing but apparently they work.

2. "The Big Break." And you thought it was just a cheesy Golf Channel show. Well, it is that, but with the sudden success of Tommy Gainey and Ryann O'Toole and James Nitties, "BB" has become golf's "American Idol," launching the unlikely careers of would-be stars.

3. Freddie. He's still the coolest cat in the game.

4. Suzann Pettersen. One of golf's most flammable players has suddenly won two tourneys in a row with crazy-low Sundays. Don't be surprised if Pettersen wins a handful more tourneys in the coming months.

5. Plainfield Country Club. The host of this week's Barclays is one of the Northeast's overlooked gems. I love the way this tourney rotates among the many strong courses around New York City. Next stop: Bethpage Black.

1. The USGA. Every year golf's ruling body has to play its championships on longer and longer courses, and yet the blue coats still refuse to acknowledge that their lack of oversight has allowed elite players to hit the ball absurd distances. It would be ironic if it wasn't so pathetic.

2. The U.S. Solheim Cup points system. I'm Christina Kim's biggest fan, and expect her to continue her fine play in the Cup, but how can she qualify on points when she's finished in the top 30 only twice this season?

3. Na Yeon Choi. I love her game, and her spunk, but NYC gave away the Safeway Classic by bogeying the final hole to cap a 73 and then laying the sod over a wedge in sudden death, leading to a watery end. Doesn't get much more brutal than that.

4. John Cook. He's spent a lot of his career in Couples's shadow. With a prime chance to stick it to his old rival, Cook instead bogeyed three of his final eight holes at Senior Players and then couldn't get it done in the ensuing playoff.

5. FedEx Cup hype. I actually enjoy the so-called playoffs, which offer big-time golf and a host of compelling storylines. But I'm already burnt-out on the endless discussion of the arcane points system and the relentless promotion of the Cup ... and it hasn't even started yet!

Holmes to have brain surgery, miss 3 months

J.B. Holmes, Saturday, 2011 Match Play
Darren Carroll/SI
J.B. Holmes in February at the WGC-Accenture Match Play.

EDISON, N.J. (AP) — J.B. Holmes withdrew from The Barclays on Monday as he prepares to have brain surgery that will force him to miss the rest of the season.

Holmes has been diagnosed with structural defects in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance. He has been dealing with vertigo-like symptoms since May, and after going to several specialists, recently learned that he has Chiari malformations.

The surgery is Sept. 1 at the Johns Hopkins University Hospital

"I know when people hear 'brain surgery' it conjures up all kinds of images, but this a relatively low-risk surgery and only takes about an hour and a half," Holmes said. "Best of all, there's a very high success rate in fixing the condition. It's just such a relief to know that there's a name for what I've been going through these past few months and that I have a good chance of getting back to golf and to my regular life."

When the indented bony space at the lower rear of the skull is smaller than normal, the cerebellum and brainstem can be pushed downward. The resulting pressure can cause a range of symptoms that include dizziness, muscle weakness, numbness, vision problems, headache, and problems with balance and coordination.

Holmes, a two-time PGA Tour winner who played on the Ryder Cup team that won in his native Kentucky in 2008, was No. 66 in the FedEx Cup standings.

He tied for sixth at The Players Championship when the symptoms began, and has not finished in the top 40 since then. He withdrew from the PGA Championship after one round.

Holmes is hopeful of returning to competition about three months after the surgery.

Pettersen beats Choi in playoff at Safeway Classic

Suzann Pettersen, 2011 Safeway Classic
Rick Bowmer/AP
Suzann Pettersen defeated Na Yeon Choi in a playoff to win the Safeway Classic.

NORTH PLAINS, Ore. (AP) — When Suzann Pettersen started the day nine strokes behind leader Na Yeon Choi at the LPGA Safeway Classic, a victory was the furthest thing from her mind.

She was thinking she'd finish the tournament west of Portland, then jump on the flight for the Canadian Women's Open in Mirabel, Quebec.

But caddie Dave Brooker gave her pause when she was on the driving range Sunday morning.

Brooker suggested she could take the No. 2 spot in the world rankings with a low round.

"Sometimes you just need a few triggers like that to get an extra focus and make you want it, because you're kind of out of the hunt, you feel like," she said.

Pettersen took the hint and rallied to win Sunday, overcoming the big deficit with a 7-under 64 and beating Na Yeon Choi with a par on the first hole of a playoff at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.

In the playoff, Choi's second shot on the par-4 18th went into the water to the right of the green, and she missed a putt for bogey before Pettersen sank the winner.

Pettersen, coming off a victory Aug. 7 in the European tour's Ladies Irish Open at Killeen Castle, won her second LPGA Tour title of the year and eighth overall. The Norwegian star jumped to No. 2 in the world rankings behind Yani Tseng.

"The No. 2 ranking doesn't really mean much to me. I'm trying to chase down Yani," Pettersen said. "To chase her down, you're going to have to win tournaments. I went one step in the right direction."

Choi finished with a 73 to match Pettersen at 6 under on the Ghost Creek Course.

Choi, from South Korea, birdied the par-4 17th to take a one-stroke lead, but dropped a shot after leaving a chip well short on the final hole to force the playoff.

"I just hit it and missed the shot, and it's my fault',' she said about the final hole of the day. "I think I still got great experience. Like if next time I'm in the same situation, I'll be better than the other player, right?"

Christina Kim shot a 78 to finish a dismal 11 over, but it was just enough to keep her in the 10th spot in the points standings for the U.S. Solheim Cup team for the matches against Europe in late in September at Killeen Castle. Rosie Jones then completed the 12-player team by adding Vicky Hurst and Ryann O'Toole as captain's picks.

Pettersen, also the Sybase Match Play winner in May in New Jersey, locked up a spot on the European Solheim Cup team with her victory in Ireland. The European team will be finalized after the world rankings are updated Aug. 29.

Pettersen eagled the par-5 10th hole Sunday to help propel her into the lead.

"It was like 2 inches short," Pettersen joked about her eagle shot - which was nearly a double eagle. "It was as close as you can get, I guess."

But Pettersen's recent success has been bittersweet. Recently she lost a dear family friend in a skydiving accident. And she was still reeling from the July 22 attacks in her homeland that left 77 dead. Anders Behring Breivik has admitted detonating a bomb that killed eight people in central Oslo and fatally shooting 69 others at an island youth camp.

"It makes you realize life's not all about golf," she said. "It makes you put things in perspective."

Pettersen was playing at the Evian Masters when the attack occurred. She rushed home to grieve with her countrymen after the tournament. She played in the Women's British Open before returning home again.

In 2009, Pettersen came close to winning at Pumpkin Ridge, but settled for second after M.J. Hur birdied the second hole of a playoff.

Hee Young Park, still looking for her first tour win, shot a 67 Sunday to finish third at 5 under.

Paula Creamer had a 68 to finish another stroke back. The fan favorite had one of the largest galleries of the day, including a pink-clad admirer who carried a sign reading "Go Paula, Cream the Field."

Choi tied for second last year, two strokes behind Ai Miyazato.

Miyazato had a final round 68 to finish this weekend at 1 under, while Michelle Wie shot a 75 on Sunday to finish the tournament at 9 over.

Pettersen passed Cristie Kerr in the world rankings.

Gary Van Sickle's Mailbag: Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler and more

Rickie Fowler, 2011 Open Championship
Toby Melville/Reuters
Rickie Fowler tied for fifth place at this year's British Open, his best showing in a major.

Have a question for Gary? E-mail editor@golf.com or ask it on Facebook.

Enjoy the inaugural edition of the Van Sickle Mailbag. It may become a regular feature here on Golf.com, if you're not careful.

I am starting to think that Rickie Fowler is the Anna Kournikova of men's golf. He is making a lot of money, has the PR, colorful outfits, and everybody wants to watch him, but he has no individual championships. I know he is young, but hype isn't getting it done. Your thoughts? — Tim Forbes
Actually, the hype is getting it done for Puma. Fowler has almost singlehandedly put them on the marketing map. Meanwhile, drink a bottle of patience, Tim. The reality is, 22-year-olds don't rip through the Tour unless they're phenoms like Tiger and Rory and Sergio. You're spoiled. Fowler was 27th in the World Ranking after the PGA, ahead of Tiger and Ernie Els, among others, and he made a run at the British Open. You might also check out last year's Ryder Cup singles matches. He got it done there. At least give him until he's 25.

Do you think Tiger's phone was hacked when he was in Australia in 2009? And if so, is that why he got caught? — Christian Bora, Philadelphia
Well, it was pretty easy figuring out his password ...er, I mean I don't know anything about his phone being hacked. It was the National Enquirer, not Murdoch's horde, that blew the whistle on Tiger. It wasn't phone hacking as much as it was inevitability, given Tiger's habits.

It's safe to say that Tiger Woods has lost his AAA rating as a golfer. Is it possible that Tiger's biggest problem is denial? These days, the thing that stands out is that he is fooling himself.
He came close to admitting something close to that after the PGA Championship, at least as close as he's going to come to admitting anything. His biggest problem remains his physical health. He's a range rat who needs a lot of reps, and for the last three years, due to physical woes and an international scandal, he hasn't practiced much. That hurts his confidence, which hurts his on-course performance. But he was definitely kidding himself that he was ready to play in Akron.

If Tiger's putting woes continue, can you see him going to the belly butter, or do you think he'll resist for a while longer? — Stuart Williams, U.K.
I don't think the traditionalist Tiger will go to the belly putter or a claw grip until he can't make any four-footers. So check back next July.

Gary, I'm not a Tiger hater, but I wonder where you and other media members get the idea that Tiger is still relevant, such that we care about his new shoes from Nike, his new caddie, how his old caddie is doing, his relationship with his new swing coach, and how his most recent comeback is going? Could golf benefit if the media started treating Tiger like the mediocre golfer he's become? — David J. Hogue, Minot, N.D.
I agree with you, David, but there's one problem with your theory: The public still does care about Tiger. The numbers say so. Check the TV ratings or Web traffic. Anything Tiger-related blows everything else out of the water. So until the rest of the world catches up to your illuminated reasoning, the media will keep writing about Tiger. Until then, we're still living in Tiger's world.

Hey Gary, I didn't think it was possible, but Stevie's big mouth has made me feel just a bit sorry for Tiger. Do you think this squabble could cause more of the public to get behind Tiger? — John Sinclair, Stillwater, Minn.
Stevie's account of learning how he was fired sounded legit to me, or at least more legit than Tiger's account. Tiger's true believers, who are legion, likely dismissed the whole he said-he said dustup, while Tiger's critics aren't going to give him sympathy for any reason. In the end, I don't think it will change people's perception of him one way or the other.

Have a question for Gary? E-mail editor@golf.com or ask it on Facebook.

PGA Tour Confidential: Playoff Storylines

Webb Simspon, final round, 2011 Wyndham Championship
Chuck Burton/AP
Webb Simspon calmly went bogey-free in the final round to capture his first PGA Tour victory.

Every week of the 2011 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.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Hello everyone, and welcome to the final PGA Tour Confidential of the regular PGA Tour season. Next week the FedEx Cup playoffs kick off with the Barclays. I'm really curious to see how the pros fare at one of my favorite courses, Plainfield (N.J.) Country Club, a delightful Donald Ross gem, but I'm also interested to see what the level of interest will be without Tiger Woods in the field. What's your guess? And are there other storylines we should be watching?

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: This is the opportunity for a young gun to separate himself from the field. Maybe Rickie Fowler breaks through. Perhaps Webb Simpson follows up with another victory. Or maybe Keegan Bradley makes a statement for Player of the Year honors.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: We're used to life without Tiger. Interest will be high because all the other players we care about will be there. And a lot is up for grabs, not least player of the year.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: When you say "we," do you mean those of us who cover golf? Because Joe Sports Fan was planning to watch because he wanted to see Tiger, but now he'll enjoy one of the last weekends of summer.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I think it's a tough sell without Tiger. The format was designed to compel the big boys to play more. Even a diminished Tiger is still the biggest selling point in the game. The TV ratings will tell the tale.

Shipnuck: Sure, having Tiger would help. But this season (and last) has helped wean golf fans. There are more guys to root for now than before.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Other than player of the year — which is pretty meaningless because McIlroy's not eligible — it's hard to see many storylines for the FedEx Cup playoffs. But consecutive events with strong fields always build interest and momentum. As Shipnuck said, everyone's gotten used to the Tiger-less Tour.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: It's hard to gauge the interest levels. I've heard from two regular golf fans who said they have zero interest in watching golf the rest of this year. The tournaments are always interesting because they have good fields and appealing courses, but I'm not sure how fired up the average fan will be. Pretty sure the folks in N.J. will be very excited to see the pros tackle Plainfield.

(Read Gary Van Sickle's mailbag and ask him a question.)

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: The interest among golf fans will be high because plenty of good players will be on hand and the pros will love Plainfield, but the FedEx Cup was not created for golf fans. It was concocted by the PGA Tour in order to create buzz among "general sports fans." With pre-season football in the air and Tiger not playing, those fans aren't going to tune in.

Van Sickle: If Phil Mickelson wins or contends in any of the events, TV will be saved.

Dusek: Agreed. When Tiger's controversy broke, Tim Finchem told every person holding a TV camera that the PGA Tour's ratings were always good and that when Tiger played they spiked. The FedEx Cup Playoffs without Tiger will give us a chance to see that theory put to the test.

Wei: I'll be watching to see how many players tinker with a belly putter. First, Adam Scott won the Bridgestone with the broomstick putter. Then Keegan Bradley drained a bunch of clutch putts with a belly putter to capture the PGA Championship as a rookie and become the first player to win a major with a long putter. And now, Webb Simpson takes the Wyndham Championship with a belly, too.

Shipnuck: Yes, the disease is spreading. Seemed like everyone in contention at Greensboro had a long wand.

Godich: I went to a long putter a few months back, and though I have played little since, I absolutely love it. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Herre: You think we'll see more belly putters on the local, amateur level? Personally, I could never get the feel for one, and traveling with the thing was a hassle.

Hack: It's such a bad look, isn't it? I'm waiting for someone to walk onto a practice green with a long putter anchored between his teeth. The USGA missed the boat on the long putters.

Wei: It was already bad after the Masters. When I showed up to the practice green at Hilton Head two weeks later, I couldn't believe how many guys were messing around with a belly. Ernie finally put aside his ego and switched. Bill Haas and Camilo Villegas both used one that week for the first time. I can't wait to see how many there are at Plainfield!

Van Sickle: These are young guys using the belly, not desperate old guys who need a putting crutch. I don't think a groundswell of ams will switch, but the topic is probably worth researching.

Dusek: If weekend players get used to seeing pros winning with belly putters, they'll be more apt to try one. The tough part is getting the right fit for a belly putter because, well, there are a lot of different sized bellies out there.

Van Sickle: The phenomenon is just a sign that the stigma is gone. Damon says it's a bad look, but I think the percentage of traditionalists who would agree with him is shrinking by the year. Now, if we can just get them to quit thinking rangefinders are a bad look, we can make some progress and speed up play.

Dusek: Charles Howell told me in Atlanta that he's never seen someone who used a belly putter and putted poorly, which is one of the reasons he converted.

Godich: Matt Kuchar was one of the top putters on Tour in 2010, and even he switched.

Van Sickle: As a long-time user of The Claw grip, I can vouch for the fact that golfers do what they have to do to make putts. I wonder how many players on the AJGA circuit and junior golf are using belly putters or long putters? That would indicate a possible trend.

Hack: I don't recall seeing a long wand on my trip to the junior circuit last year. Those kids were fearless and played fast, God love 'em.

Godich: They played fast because they knew the rules officials would enforce the slow-play rules.

Dusek: Belly putters are all over the Nationwide Tour, which makes a lot of sense. If they really are beneficial, then the guys who are trying to earn a PGA Tour card would be the most motivated to try one.

Godich: The difference in ball-striking between a PGA Tour player and a Nationwide player ain't much. It's mostly the putting, along with the mental aspect, of course.

Tell us what you think: Is the FedEx Cup going to be interesting despite Tiger's absence? Will you watch?

Herre: Fred Couples won a playoff with John Cook at the Senior Players. Let's have a show of hands: who found themselves sneaking a peek at Fred Couples and the seniors this year?

Van Sickle: I watched the Couples-Cook finish and the playoff.

Wei: I went through a Couples phase last year, but since Freddie's been on the DL so much, I can't say I've tuned in this season.

Shipnuck: I did...but only because it's a job requirement!

Dusek: My hands are remaining down.

Godich: Not so much. The senior majors got my attention, and it was great to see an event back at Westchester. But, sorry, the Champions tour's 54-hole events on ordinary tracks are a tough sell.

Walker: Generally, I think the Champions tour is more for watching in person than on TV, but I got sucked in by the playoff.

Van Sickle: I agree with Mike. The Champions Tour is fun to watch in person, but without a compelling superstar front and center (Greg Norman could've made the Champions Tour relevant), the events lack significance and history.

Herre: I thought the blood-spinning Couples had done in Germany was pretty interesting.

Godich: Saddest development of the week was watching Fred grimace after swings on Sunday, three days after saying how rejuvenated he felt.

Shipnuck: Fred always says the worst thing for his back is flying, so to go all the way to Germany shows how desperate he is.

Herre: Good point. Couples made it clear this week that he is nearing the end of his career because of his back problems. Too bad.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: Interestingly enough, Couples said after the tourney that it was his hip, not back, that was hurting today.

Shipnuck: The hip bone is connected to the...

Van Sickle: No doubt Fred underperformed during his career due to the back problems. Nobody's iron shots sounded better than his, and he always made the flip wedge and the super flop look so easy. He really was the coolest player for the better part of a decade.

Godich: How 'bout the one-handed follow through on bunker shots? Way cool!

Tell us what you think: Does the Champions Tour interest you? Did you watch the Senior Players?

Herre: Couples walked back his original statement that he would definitely make Tiger a captain's pick for the Presidents Cup. Now Fred says he needs to see Woods play before picking him. If you were Couples, would you pick Woods regardless?

Shipnuck: Nope. Tiger has to show some form. He also has to prove he wants to be on the team by listening to his captain and getting in some reps.

Dusek: Fred and Tiger are pals, but there are several young Americans who deserve consideration. Keegan Bradley won the PGA and Webb Simpson won this week in North Carolina. Couples has plenty of choices, and some guys who are hot. Sorry Tiger, hit the pines.

Godich: Nope. He's got to play, and play well. If not, make him an honorary assistant captain, like Sergio was to Monty at last year's Ryder Cup.

Herre: Elegant solution, Mark, but I can't see Tiger going the honorary assistant captain route.

Hack: Guess he could always hang with M.J.

Van Sickle: No way Tiger is showing up if he's not playing. Not without a sponsor's appearance fee or a new design job in Australia.

Hack: If Tiger can get picked for the Presidents Cup ahead of all these kids grinding through August and September, then it really is a goodwill exhibition.

Dusek: The best thing for Tiger would be to do exactly what he said he was going to do — work on his game. Stay 100 percent healthy, commit to the new swing and ingrain it so he can trust it. Oh yeah, he should also work on his putting.

Van Sickle: Tiger has to show he's got his game together. He showed flashes at times in Akron and the PGA, but that's it. Overall, he's a walking red flag right now. It would be quite an insult to pick him over anyone who's had a good year and would be next in line. Besides, since when is Tiger dying to play in one of these team events? If he had his choice, he might prefer to stay home and get his game ready.

Wei: Tiger needs to show better form after the last few performances. There are at least a dozen other players who are more deserving.

Herre: Tiger says he wants to be on the team, which puts Couples on the spot.

Hanger: I don't think he deserves to be on the team for his play, but I think it would be good for the event, which might be reason enough for Couples. The Presidents Cup is already off the radar for most sports fans, and having Tiger there would at least add some much-needed buzz.

Godich: Not if he continues to play like he has been. Plus, being in Australia, it's going be a tough sell regardless.

Van Sickle: Picking Tiger when he clearly doesn't deserve to be on the team would cast a bad light on the event, which is very competitive. It would be like giving Jerry Pate a spot in the PGA Championship when he hasn't been competitive for years ... oops.

Walker: C'mon, the Presidents Cup is an exhibition held to increase interest in the game internationally. The Australians haven't hosted the event in 13 years, and like everyone else, they want to see Tiger. Not to mention, his contribution to the international game over the last 15 years is immeasurable. If he wants to play, you pick him. Which Couples is going to do.

Herre: Good point. What are Australian fans, chopped liver?

Dusek: I'll bet you five push-ups that Tiger is NOT a playing member of the team.

Van Sickle: Using Mike's logic, Greg Norman should definitely play for the International squad. It's more than an exhibition. I completely disagree with that description, and I think most PGA Tour officials and players would, too. This isn't some pro-am outing. It's a serious (but fun) team competition.

Walker: If there was a Presidents Cup in 1990, Greg Norman would have been picked for the International team even if he was in a prolonged slump.

Van Sickle: Norman might've been needed then to put the event on the map. It's firmly established now. No gimmicks needed. The best players only, please.

Dusek: The competition at Harding Park was not as intense as a Ryder Cup, but both teams wanted to win, and I think the Aussies on the International team will want to bring out their best game this time around. Adam Scott will probably be the main attraction, deservedly, but it's been a lost season for Geoff Ogilvy. Doing something positive Down Under would mean a lot to him.

Tell us what you think: Does Tiger Woods deserve a spot on the team? Can he help them win?

Herre: This week's Safeway Classic wrapped up qualifying for the Solheim Cup. I see Michelle Wie made the team. Any surprises or takes?

Dusek: My hands are still down.

Godich: For all of the depth on the PGA Tour, I'd say Wie's making the team speaks to the lack of depth among the American women.

Wei: Right. It's cool to see Juli Inkster, 51, become the oldest player to qualify for a Solheim Cup team. She's an incredible player and person, but what does that say about the state of American women's golf?

Hanger: Wie is still probably the most recognizable LPGA'er for the average sports fan. She brought some much-needed glamour to the event last time, and played well. I think it's great she's on the team.

Van Sickle: Wie should be on the team. Though she's still a part-time pro and full-time student, there aren't three (if any) American players with more talent than she has.

Herre: It's fun to watch the ladies in the Solheim setting. They wear their hearts on their sleeves. It was cool to see Wie, who can appear to be a little detached, get sucked into all the excitement last time.

Godich: I watched a good bit of the Solheim Cup the last time around. There was no shortage of quality golf.

Wei: Who didn't? The Solheim Cup was fantastic two years ago; I loved the energy and excitement. Even my friends who had never watched a second of women's pro golf were captivated.

Shipnuck: Yes, the surprise is that this time around Europe should be the favorite.

Van Sickle: This Solheim Cup is going to put a spotlight on just how many of the world's best players aren't eligible to play in the event. Many of the top players are from Asia or places other than Europe and America. The LPGA needs to figure out a way to work in a third team of some kind, whether it's Korea or Asia or Rest of the World. America vs. Europe feels like the undercard.

Herre: Right. The LPGA is really missing the boat here, and we talk about it every two years. A three-team event could be big for the LPGA, a point of differentiation, as they say on the biz side.

Walker: Agreed. A Presidents Cup of women's golf would be excellent. Should it be Asia vs. the world?

Godich: I'd take Asia and give you a couple of points.

Van Sickle: It would be more than OK if Asia became the dominant Solheim Cup team. That would heighten the underdog American (North and South) or Euro-Aussie-World squads' interest in dethroning them. Much like playing against the Yankees in the World Series. Plus, interest in women's golf is by far the highest in the Asian markets.

Hanger: Asia vs. the world would make sense. I think the U.S. and the Europeans wouldn't stand a chance without combining squads, and probably not even then.

Wei: Australasia vs. the world makes sense.

Van Sickle: Asia vs. the world would mean combining the U.S. and Europe. That would be odd, but a combo like that might be necessary to make the teams competitive. Otherwise Asia might blow everyone else away. I'd like to see an off-year qualifier where two teams square off and the winning team advances to the Solheim Cup the next year to face the defending champion. You'd have to expand the teams to maybe include North and South America on the U.S. team, and give Australia and Africa to the Euros. The drawback to my format is, of course, the possibility that the U.S. doesn't get into the Solheim Cup, but that would build suspense for the next chance. Kind of like the America's Cup.

Shipnuck: The Solheim is the U.S. vs. Europe. Period. Another event is needed to bring in the rest of the world. My guess is that LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan will make it happen.

Hack: I like the U.S. vs. Asia vs. Europe. They could do a round robin. If that doesn't work, maybe they could just play Nassaus or 'Wolf.'

Tell us what you think: Do you think Asians should be involved in the Solheim Cup? Will you watch this year?

Herre: Erin Hills makes its star turn this week at 7,760 freakin' yards! Many of you have played the course. What do you think? Will Erin be the next great major venue?

Shipnuck: It'll look great on TV, with lots of cool holes and interesting terrain. It's a slog to walk because of the distances between greens and tees, but viewers on the couch won't know that.

Herre: Somebody was saying the other day that it'll be the parents of the contestants who will suffer at Erin. They will be exhausted after walking this hilly monster.

Van Sickle: I've played several rounds on the early Erin Hills, but I haven't played the new, revised and polished version. I think the public will be underwhelmed by its look on TV. Erin Hills has almost no water holes, and except for its wonderful rolling moraine terrain, it may not seem spectacular to viewers. It's a demanding track to play, however, and a bear to walk, especially from green to tee. Good luck to the U.S. Am entrants. Fatigue will be a factor on the 36-hole days.

Herre: Mike Davis is certainly high on the course. Maybe because he was so involved from almost the beginning. Lots of room for infrastructure, that's for sure. And those who say it's in the boonies are just wrong; Erin is an easy 45-minute drive from Billy Mitchell Field.

Dusek: The media and the fans get caught up in course yardages. Tournament organizers never set the tees so the course plays that long, but that much space gives you a lot of versatility. I think it could be a hit. It's different from Whistling Straits, but Americans love the idea of wind-swept mounds and rough-edged layouts right here in the United States.

Godich: Good point, Dave. So they'll be playing a course that is about 300 yards longer than Atlanta Athletic Club, the PGA Championship venue. That's about 17 yards a hole. Players will hit eight-irons instead of nine-irons, six-irons instead of seven-irons. And everyone will be amazed at how far they are hitting it.

Van Sickle: Erin Hills has acres of tee boxes. Lots of room for Mike Davis to maneuver and adjust. He could have it play more than 8,000 yards if he wants to, but he won't.

Tell us what you think: Do you think Erin Hills is too long for the U.S. Amateur? Do you think equipment for the pros should be more regulated?

2011 Wyndham Championship Round 4: Webb Simpson Press Conference

Posted: August 21, 2011

2011 Wyndham Championship Round 4: Webb Simpson Press Conference

Webb Simpson talks about his steady three-shot victory at the 2011 Wyndham Championship, his first PGA Tour win.

2011 Wyndham Championship: Final Round Highlights

Posted: August 21, 2011

2011 Wyndham Championship: Final Round Highlights

Highlights of the final round at the 2011 Wyndham Championship, including Webb Simpson's three-under 67 that earned him his first victory.

James Nitties wins Midwest Classic

Ross Fisher, CA Championship
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Australia's James Nitties won the Midwest Classic on Saturday for his first Nationwide Tour title, shooting with a 6-under 65 for a five-stroke victory.

Nitties earned $99,000 to jump from 53rd to 12th on the money list with $150,537, putting him in position to earn a 2012 PGA Tour card as top-25 finisher on the final list.

"I've been waiting for this one for a while," said Nitties, who spent the past two seasons on the PGA Tour. "It seemed like everything went my way this week. It was my day today. There's still a lot of golf left to play this season, but this puts me in good position to get back to the tour."

He opened with rounds of 65, 63 and 65 and finished at 26-under 258 at Nicklaus Golf Club at LionsGate.

"Usually I'm a streaky putter," Nitties said. "I'll putt good for one round and then not hole anything the rest of the week. This week, I actually holed the putts I should hole and then made the most of my opportunities."

Jonas Blixt (66) and Nick Flanagan (68) tied for second, and J.J. Killeen (70), Jason Kokrak (65) and Josh Geary (69) followed at 20 under. Killeen was trying to win for the third time in four weeks.

Couples wins Senior Players Championship playoff

Fred Couples, Sunday, 2011 Senior Players Championship
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Fred Couples birdied the third hole of the sudden-death playoff to defeat John Cook and win his first Champions Tour major.

HARRISON, N.Y (AP) — Fred Couples finished off John Cook with a nifty wedge shot to 3 feet on the third hole of a playoff Sunday in the Seniors Players Championship.

"I knew when it was going, it was a really good shot," Couples said. "I didn't think it was going to be short and trickle down the hill. I just felt like it was going to be right there. It was simple yardage - 76 yards - and it hit soft. That extra rain certainly helped that shot, but I knew it was going to be close."

Couples won his first senior major title, closing with an even-par 71 to match Cook (70) at 11-under on Westchester Country Club's West Course - a longtime PGA Tour venue where Couples estimated he has played about 100 rounds in 30 years. Peter Senior (71) was third at 10 under.

Couples, the 1992 Masters champion, won for the first time this season after winning four times last year in his first season on the 50-and-over tour.

He won after having a non-traditional back procedure six weeks ago in Germany, and had to battle the stiff wind and a sore left hip that began giving him trouble during a nearly two-hour rain delay.

"I wouldn't say I was playing awesome golf before the rain delay but it wasn't bad," Couples said. "After the rain delay, I just didn't feel very good. I hit some good drives but I was not all that great."

Couples joined Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd as the only players to win the Players Championship on the regular and senior tours. He also earned a spot in The Players Championship, an event he won in 1984 and 1996.

"That's great," Couples said. "I get to play with the studs, so that'll be fun."

Cook held a share of the lead for nine holes but bogeyed No. 16 and missed birdie putts on the final two holes, forcing the second straight playoff and fourth overall in the event.

"I thought that putt was going in," Cook said. "My eyes got real big."

Tom Lehman (68) was fourth at 9 under, a stroke ahead of 2010 winner Mark O'Meara (69). First-round leader Jeff Sluman (70) slipped into a five-way tie for sixth.

Cook missed a chance for his first major victory, and dropped to 1-5 in Champions Tour playoffs.

"It's disappointing," Cook said. "It really is. These are our signature tournaments and I've had my chances. I've let the two go. I don't know if I really let this one go, but I certainly let the Senior British (Open) in 2008 and the Tradition in '09, those were mine."

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