3 Questions

January 24, 2012

The PGA Tour moves from the Angus Coast of Scotland to the Angus Glen Golf Club, North Course, a links-style track in Ontario that will play host to this week's Canadian Open. But before we turn our attention to that pressing matter, a few things to clear up about the 136th British Open:

1. Gary Player might need to have his hearing checked. Early in the week he heard a lot of talk about the Barry Burn; Player apparently heard "Barry Bonds," thus the wee Gary's steroids/HGH rant. (Unless he's right, in which case history will view Player as golf's Jose Canseco, without the mullet.)

2. The reason why we still care about Sergio Garcia despite his petulance is that fans still relate to his energy, enthusiasm and emotion.

"I'm sad for Sergio," Matt Kuchar said as he watched the end of the playoff Sunday evening. "He's such a talent, so good for the game. Paddy will be a great champion, but at day's beginning I was really excited to see Sergio seal the deal." So were a lot of other people.

"He beat me 2 and 1 in the U.S. Am in '98, the quarters," Kuchar continued. "It was an awesome match. I was the defending U.S. Amateur champion, he was defending British Amateur champion. We had twice the number of people watching us as I'd had the year before."

OK, so we move on. In addition to the Canadian Open, the docket features the Deutsche Bank Players Championship of Europe, and that field includes a very special talent or a flash in the pan, which leads us to our first question:

1. Is Andres Romero the game's next electrifying superstar?

Romero will be playing the Deutsche Bank at Gut Kaden G.C. in Hamburg, Germany, this week, and he's sure to attract a crowd. His fourth round at the Open on Sunday, when he made 10 birdies, four pars, two double-bogeys and two bogeys, was the most jaw-dropping performance in a major in years.

In retrospect, Romero was 100 times unluckier than anyone else in the Open field, hitting one shot off a marshall and into a gorse bush, another shot off a concrete retaining wall and O.B., and his next-to-last putt into and out of the cup on 18, thus missing the playoff by a shot.

Romero, 26, tied for eighth place at the 2006 British Open, and tied for fourth at last year's Deutsche Bank. He's such a raw talent it's hard to say what will become of him; maybe this week will offer some suggestions. One thing we do know is we want to see more of this daring ex-motorcycle enthusiast.

2. Is it Mike Weir's time to return to the winner's circle?

He's had a dip in form after winning the 2003 Masters, but Weir has shown signs of improvement under new coaches Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer, who in the last 18 months have ushered Eric Axley, Will MacKenzie and Dean Wilson to their maiden Tour victories. Except for Jim Furyk, no one is more single-minded in his devotion to the game than Weir, who has tied for eighth place in his last two starts, at the AT&T National and the Open last week. The Canadian Open, of course, is his fifth major, or something like that. He's done everything but win the thing.

3. Who's the most likely first-time winner this week?

Since the end of June we've seen Joe Ogilvie break through with a victory at the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee, Brian Bateman do the same at the Buick Open, and Hunter Mahan get win No. 1 at the Travelers Championship.

John Rollins won the Canadian Open the last time it was played at Angus Glen, with Neal Lancaster and Justin Leonard sharing second place, but if it's not Weir's time, and Mahan doesn't cop his second W, as it appears he'll do any day now, maybe it's time for Spencer Levin to break through in Ontario.

You remember Levin from the 2004 (Shinnecock) U.S. Open, when he finished 13th as an amateur, but he's more or less stalled since turning pro in '05. He missed the cut at the Open at Carnoustie last week, when he never had much luck adjusting to the time change and the pot bunkers, and he's never found much purchase on the PGA Tour.

But check out Levin's record on the Canadian tour this year: In seven starts, he has two wins and four other top-five finishes. Maybe he likes it up there; a win this week would change everything.