It feels like I’ve been in a coma for the last few months and just woke up, reinvigorated, and ready to roll! Bubba’s double dip of my two favorite tournaments (Northern Trust and The Masters), all the back nine snooze-fests, the big names going into the witness protection program (looking at you Sneds), Horschel’s putting, JDay’s thumb injury? It was all a bad dream. It feels like I’m back to where we were in November, with the World Cup of Golf going on down under at Royal Melbourne and all the fascinating storylines lurking for the season ahead.
The Big Unit is back!!! He made the cut on the number, make the most of moving day, and earn that card big man!
Speaking of big men, BMOC Adam Scott looks like he was meant to wear the crown. Many have spoken about their reign as world number one in less than exhilarating fashion (Luke Donald springs to mind), and almost all have referenced the pressure and the attention that comes with such a designation. Scott looks the opposite. He looks invigorated, perhaps even relieved that he’s lived up to his outrageous potential, and that this validates everything his game stands for. No doubt last week’s win at Colonial only enhanced that feeling. You can’t help but look forward to what he has in store over the next 2-3 years, assuming his putter holds up in the limelight (not as worried about the move to a non-anchored stroke, as the stats show he’s mediocre with both).
Mickelson: Does Phil really care what he does this week results-wise? Dude’s got tunnel vision for Pinehurst. He’s hitting fairways, he’s rolling the rock, and the ballstriking looks crisp. He’s not closing out rounds, but as a Phil fan I really don’t really care. Hell, it’s almost a positive. I’d be more worried if he was grinding on course management and wearing himself out.
Update: According to some relatively reputable sources (New York Times, WSJ, LOLZ), the Hefty Lefty is now under an FBI and SEC probe!? As if the U.S. Open needed more drama. Renovated Pinehurst. The legacy of Payne Stewart. Does Phil have enough left to avenge his loss there and convert all the pain of the U.S. Open runner-ups into something greater. The return of Michael Campbell (just kidding). And then you add the specter of a federal securities investigation!?!? HOLY. SHIT. You can’t write this any better. The course will be his refuge from the shitstorm going on around him. And how about the timing of this leak? You’re telling me they’ve been investigating him for two years and it just comes out now? Unreal story. Unreal timing.
And for the main event, let’s talk about Paul Casey. I’m not buying this whole “Paul Casey hasn’t been in this spot in forever” narrative, and I’m tired of people feigning surprise when they see his name up there. Sure, he was in the wilderness (both personally and professionally) for a couple years, and he doesn’t have status on the PGA Tour beyond his past-champ exemptions. However, Casey’s game has been trending in the direction for over a year. He won last year’s Irish Open in convincing fashion (OWGR strength of field was 157, which isn’t stout ,but it also ain’t the Puerto Rico Open), and rolled that momentum into the US Tour’s reacharound wraparound season, answering the bell almost every single time his number gets called. Relying on the mercy of exemptions, Casey has entered nine PGA Tour events this season, in which he’s finished top-20 five times. And for those who base everything on stateside results, just remember that he rose to #3 in the OWGR in 2009 with only one PGA Tour victory.
As far as this week goes, I like his chances. Booba’s aggressiveness is going to bite him at some point this weekend, as there’s trouble lurking everywhere at Muirfield and aside from about five holes it’s just not a track you can overpower. And his antics on the 18th alone showed he’s a a powder keg ready to explode at any point.
Looking beyond this week, Casey gives Paul McGinley yet another option in his seemingly endless supply of talent for his Euro team at Gleneagles. Casey’s won twice at Gleneagles and he’s held his own in the three Ryder Cup teams he’s participated in. More impressively, he beat Shaun Micheel 10&8 in the HSBC World Match Play Championship in 2006 and was twice runner-up in the WGC Accenture Match Play. I know you want to make a “but it was Shaun Micheel!” joke, but c’mon, you’re not supposed to beat another professional 10&8, even in a 36 hole match. He’s certainly a bulldog, to the point that in ’04 Bernhard sent him out first vs. Big Cat in Sunday singles matches, as a Ryder Cup rookie (he lost but I think it still speaks volumes). I’ll be shocked if the Euros don’t stage a boat race in September at Gleneagles.
Finally, I’m in AWE of the Clippers selling for $2 billion dollars. IMO they’re the third-most attractive pro basketball franchise in their own state (I’m obviously high on the Warriors) in a league that is the poster-child for some of the problems plaguing professional sports (i.e. crappy attendance, regular season too long, lack of parity). That’s a staggering amount of money. Scary to think about what an NFL franchise in L.A. would go for. I’m making a leap here, but at what point do rich dudes start straight-up BUYING golf tournaments stateside? I’m not talking about someone buying a course, making it sweet, and then a governing body deciding to award an event (i.e. Trump at Doral, Herb Kohl to a certain extent). Instead, I’m talking about individual offering to bankroll an entire tournament, cut out the sponsors, and just say we’re having a PGA Tour event here every year because I want to, and it’s going to have a huge purse and a great field, solely because I want it here. The closest examples I can think of are coal magnate Jim Justice’s Greenbrier Classic and the Abu Dhabi & Dubai events on the Euro Tour. I’d almost rather have an individual owner of a golf tournament than some faceless corporation. Why hasn’t this happened yet? The possibilities are endless.