This week's heroes? Ernst, Rumford and the LPGA. Zeros? Phil, Rory and Stacy Lewis
1. Cinderfellas. Raise your hand if you picked rookie Derek Ernst to win at Quail Hollow. Or, for that matter, had even heard of Russell Henley or Scott Brown or Michael Thompson before their victories earlier this season. The PGA Tour remains sport's ultimate meritocracy.
2. The Cal golf team. One of the greatest runs in the history of college athletics is happening right now, as the Golden Bears took the Pac-12 Championship for their tenth tournament win this season, tying Oklahoma State's unofficial record from three decades ago. And this is not exactly a program that attracts five-star recruits: no Cal alum has ever won on the PGA Tour. Even in golf, the alchemy of a championship team is a strange and wondrous thing.
3. The LPGA. The tour is enjoying a series of a action-packed finishes, the latest being sudden death between two of the game's great competitors, as Cristie Kerr vanquished Suzann Pettersen. And how refreshing was it that this time around the LPGA wasn't the tourney on tape delay?
4. Brett Rumford. The unheralded veteran had gone more than five years between victories on the Euro tour but has now won in back-to-back weeks, this time snagging the China Open. Suddenly Adam Scott is no longer Australia's hottest golfer.
1. Phil. He looked like a jittery rookie coming down the stretch, not a Hall of Famer seeking win number 42. Of course, it's more entertaining to watch Mickelson blow a tournament than to watch almost anybody else win one.
2. Rory. The nightmare season continues for 2012's player of the year as this time McIlroy booted a chance to win in Charlotte with a ghastly double bogey-bogey stretch early in the back nine. There's still plenty of time to turn it around, but as Yogi Berra once observed, "It's getting late early."
3. Ideological consistency. Both Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington have in the past been shrill critics of anchored putters ... and both are now using them. Apparently when you get to the twilight of your career, making four-footers trumps everything else.
4. Institutional common sense. Vijay Singh took a banned substance and admitted it but received no penalty because, well, no one is really sure why. I hope Doug Barron has Johnny Cochran on speed dial.
5. Stacy Lewis. Since reaching, and then losing, the number one spot she's had four chances to win but hasn't been at her best on any of the Sundays; three bogeys in the first 12 holes doomed her at Kingsmill. Of course, you must be doing something right to be criticized for a string of top-10 finishes.