Hot? The Big Five. Not? Ernie Els.

Tuesday March 24th, 2009
"We've played a bunch of times, and he's gotten better," Woods said of Manning. "You can see he's been playing all summer, actually all winter. Now it's time for him to start focusing on football."
Chuck Burton/AP

Hot

1. The Big Five. You remember them, right, circa 2005? Retief and Phil are surging, Tiger is rounding back into form and Vijay is still going strong. Ernie? Well, four out of five ain't bad.

2. Pat Hurst. One of the nicest women in golf stepped on some big-time necks in Mexico, making birdie on the final two holes to seal a victory from Lorena Ochoa and Yani Tseng. And I'm sure Hurst apologized to them afterward.

3. Alvaro Quiros. A month in the U.S. has turned this titanium-denting Spaniard into a folk hero. But I don't care how far he hits its, I won't be able to respect him til he loses that goofy straw hat.

4. Golf fans everywhere. The Skins Game is dead! Hoo-ray. Funny this is, I wrote the obit back in 1995.

5. The J Golf Phoenix LPGA International. This week's reconstituted event has a monster field — every woman in the top 100 from last year's money list plus all the big-time rookies, including Wiesy — and the new venue, a restored muni named Papago, is getting raves. Nice to see the LPGA get something right.

Not

1. Augusta National. Shark just got his first look in years and, with typical bluntness, has already started shredding the course changes. Just wait until he gets to perform for the international media.

2. Charles Howell. Tied for the lead at Transitions, he promptly bogeyed the 15th and 16th holes for yet another near-miss. But even in defeat CH3 showed some newfound finesse and creativity, which may or may not herald big things down the road.

3. Tom Lehman's putting stroke. The 50-year-old warrior still hits it pure, but that flinchy jab is definitely ready for the Senior tour.

4. The longer off-season. Wasn't that the official reason for truncating the PGA Tour schedule? Now Tiger is taking taxpayer money to tee it up in Oz in November, and the word on the street is that the HSBC Championship, held every November in China, is about to become the fourth WGC. Makes me pine for a Thanksgivingish Tour Championship.

5. Sam and Charlie Woods. They were destined for on-course dominance circa 2032, but now that Annika is preggers, there's definitely going to be some competition.

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