1. The Players Championship. Improved date, evermore macho course, non-stop coverage on the Golf Channel … it’s definitely the sixth major. What, you didn’t know Wachovia is the new fifth?
2. Tiger Woods. It seems like he’s hardly played this year, yet he has three Ws and leads the all-important FedEx Cup standings. And now the road through Oakmont and Carnoustie beckons, the same journey Ben Hogan traveled in ’53.
3. Scott Hoch. Golf’s sunniest personality brought his good cheer to the FedEx Kinko’s, getting his his first Senior win. Suggested Hoch-centric ad campaign: These Guys Are Crotchety.
4. Mi Hyun Kim. Pound-for-pound the scrappiest player in golf. After blowing a short putt to win on the final hole of the SemGroup Championship, Kim regrouped to win in overtime against Hall of Famer Juli Inkster. The only thing that would have been sweeter? If Kim had busted out the patented pig-tails.
5. Hale Irwin. He will be giving the commencement speech at his alma mater, Colorado. Suggested theme: How not to act like Scott Hoch.
1. Vijay Singh. In his latest showdown with Tiger, at Wachovia, Vijay led late in the front nine on Sunday only to self-immolate at the finish, bogeying 14 and 16 and taking a sporty triple on the 18th. Cheer up, Veej, you’re still my pick to win the Players.
2. Lorena Ochoa. Another week, another near miss for the star-crossed supernova. If she’s not careful, she’s going to turn into the LPGA’s version of Greg Norman.
3. Ernie Els. Four months into his three-year plan to get to No. 1, Els had yet another setback, tweaking his back at Wachovia during the second round. So Friday night he flew to Ohio and back to get fixed up by his lumbar guru. Does this guy fix psyches, too?
4. Rory Sabbatini. Sitting on the 54-hole lead at Wachovia, he had the temerity to talk trash about Woods. Nothing wrong with that — it worked for Hal Sutton at a long-ago Players — but, alas, Sabbatini played like a chump on Sunday. And now Woods is going to spend the rest of his career taking delight in annihilating the mouthy South African.
5. Nick Dougherty. The talented young Englishman blew another chance at victory, this time at the Italian Open. An even worse omen for his career is that the British press is beginning to smell blood in the water. How long can it be until they start busting out the NEARLY MAN headlines?