Watching the world of golf last week was a little like watching Wall Street — it was up and down, but even when it was up it was still sort of down.
It started with Seve Ballesteros, the storied shotmaker from Spain who learned that he had a brain tumor. After surgery Ballesteros was said to be doing well, but complications arose and a second surgery followed with a less hopeful prognosis. No sooner had the Seve news settled in when word broke that Ernesto Villegas Zuluaga, the uncle and godfather of Camilo Villegas, was shot and killed when two men tried to rob his coffee trading company in Colombia. Villegas immediately flew home to be with his family, the personal high of his back-to-back wins and second overall in the FedEx Cup playoffs (his first two Tour wins and the first for a Colombian) dissipating with the jet wash.
Back Stateside, Hal Sutton was at the center of another good news/bad news situation. After a self-imposed four-year exile following the 2004 Ryder Cup, the former PGA Championship winner made his Champions tour debut. At the Administaff Small Business Classic, Sutton confirmed that he is getting divorced from his fourth wife, Ashley, with whom he has four children between the ages of five and 11. Although not on the same scale as the Ballesteros and Villegas happenings, the Sutton divorce sounded another down note. But optimists will hang on to this: Sutton shot a 71-70-72-213 at The Woodlands near Houston, finishing a respectable 23rd and signaling some hope for the future.
• Back in the spring it looked as if Annika Sorenstam would go out as a bright burning flame. After all, she started the season on fire, with three wins and eight top 10s in her first 11 events. But since tieing for third at the LPGA Championship in mid-June, Sorenstam has made eight starts with only one top 10 finish, a tie for sixth at the Safeway Classic. Other than that she’s placed no better than 15th. That includes last week at the Kapalua LPGA Classic, where she shot a two-over 290 and came in 25th. Sorenstam is scheduled to tee it up this week at the LPGA’s new event in China, and she’ll probably play the following two events in Korea and Japan, although she hasn’t officially committed to either. After that she’ll come back to the U.S. for her final event, the Nov. 20-23 ADT Championship. Everyone would like to see her win one more time, especially back on U.S. soil, but the way she’s been playing lately, it’s more likely that she’ll simply fade away.
• Comeback player of the year has to be Arjun Atwal. He began 2008 facing the prospect of vehicular manslaughter charges stemming from an ’07 accident in Orlando, only to see the case dropped. Relieved, Atwal regained his focus and won the European tour’s Maybank Malaysian Open last March. Last week he took the Nationwide’s Chattanooga Classic by shooting a 24-under 264 at the Black Creek Club and then defeating Webb Simpson with a birdie on the first playoff hole. The win assured Atwal’s return to the PGA Tour.