Thursday, January 26, 2012

There is no cut at the 16-player Target World Challenge at Sherwood, in Thousand Oaks, California, and no pressure, since the event is unofficial, and 16th place pays $170,000. First pays $1.35 million, a tidy Christmas bonus for tournament host Tiger Woods, who (yawn) blew away the field with a final-round 66.

The sun goes down behind the mountains that tower over the west end of the driving range at around 4:30 p.m., and there's nothing important to prepare for next week anyway, so most players would just as soon brainstorm a Sudoku rather than practice after their rounds. All of which explains why the Target has eclipsed the Skins Game as the granddaddy of the Silly Season. After a long year, it's time to stop and smell the mistletoe. The mood was so convivial last week you half expected third-round leader Geoff Ogilvy to break out his guitar and lead the press in a rousing rendition of Kumbaya.

There's a stark inevitability to the Preordained Golf Association now: Unless something crazy happens, Tiger's going to win. No one knows it better than the game's top players, none of whom need fight to keep their Tour cards or qualify for limited-field events. (They wouldn't be able to anyway at the unofficial Target.) When ABC's Billy Ray Brown speculated on-air Sunday that Davis Love III might notch a top-10 finish (he did), it was a prospect so irrelevant that even the rest of his announce team had to laugh.

A few players didn't bother to shave early in the week. They shrugged off double-bogeys and chitchatted in the locker-room, where Colin Montgomerie quipped to Fred Couples that his swing coach had recently urged him to take up tennis. Still, a week after losing a sudden-death playoff in the WGC World Cup in Barbados, and storming off the course, Monty opened with a 3-under-par 69 at Sherwood, finished with a 66 and tied for 5th place with Paul Casey.

"Yeah, I mean, we're working it out," said Daly, who suffered from sciatica and a broken pinkie and lost his Tour card this year. (He skipped Q school, but sponsors already have given him enough exemptions to play a full schedule in 2007.) "We love each other very much. We love each other just a little more than we hate each other, just like the book [says]."

Someone asked Daly about his chances of finally making a Ryder Cup team for the first time, and he quipped, "I'm gonna beat [Paul Azinger] up if he doesn't pick me." (Alas, Sherwood beat Daly up on the weekend, as he shot 77-80 to claim the $170,000 booby prize.)

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