Resuscitations and reality checks in the Tour's Fall Series

Resuscitations and reality checks in the Tour’s Fall Series

George McNeill spent last year working in a golf shop in Fort Myers, Fla.
Jae C. Hong/AP

In case you missed it, and you probably did, George McNeill won the Open over the weekend.

McNeill is not to be confused with George McFly, although they look like they could be brothers, and the in Las Vegas is not to be confused with this week's Fry's Electronics Open (you want Fry's with that?) in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The most obvious thing about the Fall Series, these seven apres-FedEx Cup tournaments that we're four-sevenths of the way through, is that no one pays much attention except for the players themselves, and maybe their wives.

"I haven't watched a shot of golf in three weeks," one player's agent told me the other day, speaking for sports fans pretty much everywhere.

But if you look at how these tournaments are playing out, there is a theme to the Fall Series: career resuscitation.

McNeill was an assistant pro at Forest Country Club in Fort Myers, Fla., as recently as 2006. He won the Q school last year, but until he hit the jackpot in Vegas last week his results in '07, his rookie year, were unremarkable. He'd missed nine cuts and withdrawn from two tournaments. His best finish was a T3 at the Canadian Open. He'd made just $700,000. For a guy who'd looked so good in getting there, McNeill was a dud on Tour.

And then, presto, the Fall Series changed everything.

We should be used to it. Justin Leonard, 35, hadn't won in two years and missed six straight cuts to start '07. Then he won the Valero Texas Open two weeks ago, earning a trip to Maui for the Mercedes in January (Justin, meet George) and at least an outside shot at making the '08 Ryder Cup team.

The week before, Chad Campbell, in the prime of his career at 33 but with only one top-10 finish in 27 starts in '07, rebooted with a W at the Viking Classic. In winning the only Tour event named after the pirate Norsemen who plundered Europe (or the appliance maker), Campbell, too, got back in the mix to make Paul Azinger's Ryder Cup squad.

These are all nice little comeback stories, but taken as a whole, the Fall Series reminds us that golf is a fragile thing. One day you've got it by the Stratas, the next day it's gone. McNeill, Leonard and Campbell could tell you all about it.

So could Michelle Wie, whose agent, Greg Nared, has decided he's seen enough only a year after he left Nike to take the job with Wie.

"While we are sorry that Greg will no longer be handling the road management of Michelle, we wish to thank him for his work and wish him the best going forward," Jesse Derris of Sunshine, Sachs & Associates, said in a statement Monday on behalf of Wie and the William Morris Agency. "The core group of agents handling Michelle's business relationships remains intact, as it has from day one of her professional career."

One can only hope that "The Big Wiesy" rediscovers her game the way her namesake Ernie Els did in winning his seventh HSBC World Match Play over the weekend in England. It's been a rocky comeback, not to be confused with a Rocky comeback, since Els injured his left knee in the offseason in 2004.

The agonizing low points and long-awaited validations — a la Els or Mike Weir over Tiger Woods at the Presidents Cup, or McNeill, Leonard and Campbell — remind us how hard golf is. They give us one more reason to marvel at Woods and Phil Mickelson (Lefty is in action in Scottsdale this week) for their ability to maintain command of such an elusive game.

The Fall Series? Here's a better name for it: The Reality Check.

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