So far, 2007 has not resembled golf’s Golden Age. Here are the ten biggest disappointments thus far in golf this year:
10. The FedEx Cup The PGA Tour has tried to force feed us the points standings. The Golf Channel keeps cramming the points list down our throats. Still, no one cares. Nothing seems to be at stake. The race to the FedEx Cup playoffs? Hardly, since 144 players qualify. Which is everybody who is anybody. And why keep track of the points since they’re just going to be reset for the playoffs? There is no drama, no interest and no reason to get interested in the FedEx Cup points standings yet. It’s too early to call it a bust, but it’s not too early to be concerned about its utter lack of buzz.
9. The Presidents Cup Five bucks says you had no idea this was a Presidents Cup year. Another five says that if you’d known, you wouldn’t have actually cared. OK, you owe me $10. Wonder when the suits at the PGA Tour are going to realize that the overhyped focus on the FedEx Cup is not only overshadowing the Presidents Cup, but it’s also going to doom its slate of fall events. If you keep harping about the FedEx Cup playoffs ending the season with a big bang, how do you explain a bunch of no-name events you try to hold a few weeks later?
8. John Daly It was disappointing that he had to rely on sponsor’s exemptions to get into tournaments this year since he lost his card and refused to go to Q-school. His poor play and his penchant for giving up are even more important. His high rate of withdrawals during his career makes him the biggest quitter in modern tour history. In 11 tournaments this year, he has missed five cuts, withdrawn three times and made three cuts. His best finish is 22nd at the Nissan Open. If I was a tournament director, I wouldn’t waste a sponsor’s exemption on him. What’s most disappointing, perhaps, is that the exemptions keep pouring in for Daly.
7. The Champions Tour It’s practically just a rumor these days. No matter what happens, no matter who wins, no matter how well they play, the old guys can’t get any attention. It didn’t help that newbie 50-somethings like Fred Funk and Jay Haas resisted playing the senior shift full time at first — what signal does that send? The tour’s fan-friendly agenda makes it enjoyable for spectators, but its message isn’t getting transmitted to the public via television. It’s disappointing these guys can’t get a little attention.
6. Michelle Wie Frankly, we’re glad to have a break from Michelle Hysteria. She was a media darling when she shot 68 in the first round of U.S. Open qualifying, and heroic when her attempt came up short. But when she kept shooting big numbers in men’s events, the Wie-bashing began. She has been out with a bad wrist and, hopefully, enjoying the life of a real high-schooler. She didn’t break par in her last eight LPGA rounds and has been sidelined since January.
5. The International No golf in Denver, one of the country’s biggest markets? Surely you jest — and stop calling me Shirley. It’s hard to believe, but founder Jack Vickers pulled the plug on his beautiful baby. He tried changing dates to attract Tiger Woods, but when Woods stayed away, so did potential sponsors. What really happened is that the World Golf Championships stole Vickers’ schtick — bringing the best players from around the world together. Vickers started the International because foreign players weren’t playing much in the United States. Now, most of them are PGA Tour members and they all play for big prize money in the WGC events, usurping his niche. Denver is too good a golf town — what with Castle Pines and Cherry Hills, to name a few — to not be on the tour schedule.
4. Annika Sorenstam For starters, she’s not No. 1 anymore. Lorena Ochoa took that away. Will Annika ever get it back? Second, she has played only three tournaments, finished 30th in the only major, and is currently sidelined with a ruptured disk in her neck. It’s disappointing that she isn’t able to play for a while, and who knows what will happen? A golfer is always one back/neck/wrist/elbow injury away from calling it a career. Third, Annika put a lot of effort into opening a golf academy named after her and seems, for once, to be more interested in off-course life than on-course competition. She’s 36, so maybe it’s time to start living and breathing something other than golf. Nothing wrong with that when you own 69 titles, 10 of them major championships.
3. The Masters It was disappointing that what I’ve been writing for the last five years was proven correct, that Augusta National with firm and fast conditions and some wind is the toughest golf course in the world. For three days, conditions were so difficult and greens so firm that nobody could make many birdies. Never have so many good shots turned out not so good. As a result, the best players weren’t able to separate themselves from the pack. Skill was equalized. It wasn’t until Masters officials saw the light and softened the greens for Sunday’s final that we began to see the familiar birdies and eagles and hear the familiar roars from Amen Corner. Former chairman Hootie Johnson was right to lengthen and toughen the course but went a bit too far. It doesn’t need rough — or whatever quaint term they call it — and it doesn’t need all those extra trees planted on 7, 11 and 15. For the first time in recent memory, the Masters came close to being boring for three days.
2. Byron Nelson’s record The stars were aligned, it seemed, for Tiger Woods to make a serious run at what is considered golf’s most unassailable mark, Nelson’s 11 consecutive victories. Woods ran his score up to seven and then went to the Accenture World Match Play Championship. It moved to a new course in Tucson, a wide-open, big-greened bomber’s paradise that should have suited him perfectly. But in round three, the wind came up and Tiger was clearly struggling with his swing. Without the wind, he might’ve gotten away with some errant shots. Instead, he ended up losing to Nick O’Hern in extra holes. Woods hit some remarkable gaffes and generally looked out of sorts while O’Hern, who had knocked out Woods in a previous Match Play, wore him down with steady golf. Had he won, he would’ve gone to Bay Hill with eight in a row, a tournament that he won four straight times starting in 2000.
1. Tiger at the Masters He had a chance to win a third straight major championship, but the Tiger we know didn’t show up on Sunday. We’ll remember it most for that club-breaking shot from behind the tree at 11th (maybe you saw it on the cover of SI. We’ll also remember it for Tiger hitting 3-wood off the tee at No. 8, a par-5 that he could normally reach. It’s nice to know that certain holes spook Tiger, just like the rest of us. And there was his questionable decision to go for the 15th green in two from a poor lie, He hit into the water, then got up and down to save par. He could have laid up and made birdie, then birdied 16 and applied the pressure to eventual winner Zach Johnson. All in all, Sunday at the Masters was a surprising day for Tiger. It ranks as the biggest disappointment of the season … so far.