1. Aaron Baddeley
He’s always been a great putter, and now he’s swinging like a young, less-churlish Steve Elkington. With a monster weekend in Phoenix, Badds nabbed his second Tour win in the last 10 months and immediately enters the conversation of the brightest young talents in golf.
2. Henrik Stenson
Not too often do you get to scalp Tiger Woods and Ernie Els on the same day, but the long-hitting Swede double-dipped with a tense win in Dubai. If Stenson is not already Europe’s best player, he will be soon.
3. The women of the Phoenix Open
I don’t care how big your high def TV is, it can’t possibly do justice to the spectacular scenery at the TPC of Scottsdale. Forget the Masters, this is the one tournament every male golf fan needs to attend at least once in their lifetime.
4. Karrie Webb
Always invincible on her home soil, she blew away the field at the Women’s Australian Open. The likes of Annika and Lorena should be thankful no majors are played Down Under, because they wouldn’t have a chance.
5. Jeff Quinney
If Tour events were only 63 holes this talented rookie would be a world-beater. Yes, the final-nine fades have been painful to watch, but three chances to win in as many weeks isn’t shabby for a guy who until this year was looking like a Nationwide lifer.
In its much-ballyhooed PGA Tour season debut, the Peacock went off the air on Saturday just as the leaders were stepping to the tee of the TPC of Scottsdale’s short, watery 17th, which is only one of the most exciting holes in golf. I never thought I’d say this, but I miss the Golf Channel.
2. Phil Mickelson
Hey, I love Italy, too, and it sounds like fun to renew your wedding vows in Bora Bora, and who wouldn’t want to hang out in Cabo overseeing the construction of a golf course? But in between all the goofing off and myriad corporate diversions, it would be cool if Mickelson touched a club every once in a during the offseason, thus sparing us having to watch him treat the West Coast swing like spring training for the apathetic.
3. Ernie Els
This is Easy’s version of a Sunday charge, Dubai style: bogey three of the first six holes to tumble out of the lead. Els was hoping to make a statement in his first showdown with Woods since fizzling at the British Open, and boy did he ever.
4. Tiger’s wanderlust
Woods hasn’t been beaten in the U.S. since last July, but in that stretch he’s been nipped twice in Asia, once in England and now in Dubai. Can someone find the guy a course-design project near Pebble Beach, or Riviera?
Golf’s ruling body — and therefore its conscience — elected Walter Driver as president, the second straight Augusta National member to assume that august post. Driver is now supposed to advocate for all of America’s golfers even though half of them are not welcome at his favorite club. Am I the only one who thinks this is inappropriate?
Senior writer Alan Shipnuck has covered golf for Sports Illustrated since 1994 and frequently contributes to SI.com.