1. Tiger Woods
Gee, who do you think is the favorite at the 2008 U.S. Open?
With the rise of Will MacKenzie, Charley Hoffman and now Brandt Snedeker, the PGA Tour has never had a better batch of loopy surfer dudes. Pass the Humboldt County!
3. Retief Goosen
Desperately needing a W after going Oh-fer-2006, the Goose finished birdie-eagle to storm to victory at the Qatar Masters. Maybe it’s a little premature to anoint Trevor Immelman as the top South African.
4. The Nationwide Tour
Yeah, the kids showed their inexperience on the back nine at the Buick, but for 63 holes, the tournament was dominated by three rookies forged on the Nationwide: Snedeker, Andrew Buckle and Jeff Quinney. Don’t tell the European Ryder Cuppers, but around Torrey Pines, there was plenty of loose talk about the Nationwide being the second best tour in the world.
5. Charles Howell III
You can’t say CH3 gave this one away; on Sunday he made six birdies in the span of 10 holes to give Woods all he could handle, and then killed in the press conference with his aw-shucks charm. Anyway, who cares about winning — Howell is now leading the FedEx Cup points race!
1. The World Cup
After limping along over the last five years with so-so fields, the World Cup has been stripped of its World Golf Championship branding, effective two years hence. Which means that for the foreseeable future every “World” event will be played in the U.S.
2. Phil Mickelson
Groping to find some early-season form, Phil put in play three different drivers and two different putters at the Buick, but nothing worked en route to a 51st place finish. Just a thought: maybe it’s the Indian and not the arrow.
3. Roger Federer
That he and his buddy Tiger won tournaments on the same day throws into sharp relief that as good as Federer may be, Woods remains the most dominant athlete of his generation.
4. The concept of ‘earning it’
Michelle Wie was offered yet another special exemption, this time to the Dinah Shore. Wouldn’t it be nice if one of these days Wie actually played her way into the field of an important tournament?
5. The Phoenix (FBR) Open
Yeah, it’s got a fun layout and huge crowds with an excess of beautiful babies, but Woods will be half a world away in Dubai, which means so will the attention of the golf world.
Senior writer Alan Shipnuck has covered golf for Sports Illustrated since 1994 and frequently contributes to SI.com.