Tiger, Mickelson too wild
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – The Tiger-and-Stevie soap opera hasn’t run its course. Not yet. Bite your tongue if you want to see Adam Scott and Tiger Woods end up in the same grouping in this PGA Championship, in a spin-off from the sparks at the Bridgestone Invitational last week. But it can’t happen, if at all, until the third or fourth round, if their scores put them together. For the first two rounds, they’re 40 minutes apart. So there’s little chance that Scott’s new caddie, Steve Williams, will come face-to-face with his old boss, Tiger Woods, who fired him in a fit of pique a few weeks ago.
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(It would be interesting, in a soap-opera-ish kind of way, to see whether Williams would snarl at Woods they way he did at fans when he was working for Woods. Or whether Woods would be patient and superior the way he was when Williams was carrying for him.
This by way of saying that someone in the PGA hierarchy missed a chance for good theater by not putting them in the same threesome. The closest they will come will be on the 10th tee Thursday, when Scott goes off at 7:55 a.m., and Woods goes off 40 minutes later, at 8:35 – with three groups of insulation in between.
With the chance of a hissy fit out of the way, it might be time to look at golf, and namely at the season’s final major, the things Tiger Woods lusts for in his quest to break Jack Nicklaus’s career record of 18 of them. Woods has 14 and has been on hold for a while now, with such things as a bad knee and bad directions in his own driveway and a bad choice of nightlife, apart from his then-wife and now ex.
It’s been a while since Woods, the dominator, was favored to win a golf outing, and this time, Ladbrokes, the famed British betting house, lists him at 25-1. This after him hitting 39 percent of the fairways at the Bridgestone. For perspective, a .390 average in baseball is phenomenal. In golf, it’s below the Mendoza line. In fact, it's almost subterranean.
Phil Mickelson hasn’t been much better. He’s also quoted at 25-1. The two of them – their GPS systems would be talking back to them. Neither figures to make a dent in the Atlanta Athletic Club’s Highland Course, which will not be forgiving with its heavy rough and tight fairway.
A better picture of this PGA might have been the preview shown at the Bridgestone last week, in which Scott, 31, lived up to his billing of years ago, but had to turn away the youth of the world to win it.
Accordingly, Ladbrokes has installed Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy as an 11-1 favorite, probably an accurate setting for the 22-year-old who won the U.S. Open last June, shortly after blowing the Masters in the final round.
Luke Donald – Ranked No. 1 in the world, and a good second choice and maybe first, with his solid, controlled game. He has yet to win a major.
England’s Lee Westwood – No. 2 in the world, still seeking his first major and listed at 14-1, but probably over-generous at that. Westwood seems to have two different games. Either he plays well for three rounds, then fades every so slightly. Just enough to lose. Or he plays so-so for three rounds, then finishes strong, but just not quite enough.
Did anyone mention Martin Kaymer? He’s the German, now 26, who won the PGA last year. He started the European Tour season impressively, with a win in the HSBC, then tailed off. He was much less impressive on the PGA Tour. After a second in the Accenture Match Play, he disappeared. He’s 40-1, but the tight Atlanta AC course beckons.
Apart from McIlroy, the Youth Movement has failed to impress Ladbrokes. Rickie Fowler, 22, tied for second at the Bridgestone with a closing 66 and is lumped in at 25-1 with those famous wanderers, Woods and Mickelson. Also there is Australian Jason Day, 23, who’s always finishing second in the big ones. Like a tie for second in the Masters, and solo second in the U.S. Open. He’s had six other top-10s this season. He simply doesn’t know that he shouldn’t be playing this well. If there’s a sleeper in the PGA, Day is it.
Or it could be Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa, 19, who challenged Scott to the end at the Bridgestone, then tied for fourth. He looks like a license to steal at 100-1.
Some bright flashes got the short shrift from Ladbrokes, and earned it. Charl Schwartzel (50-1) won the Masters with four straight closing birdies, but hasn’t done much since, either on the PGA Tour or the European Tour. Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell won the 2010 U.S. Open, then won Tiger Woods’ made-for-TV Chevron frolic in December, then plunged from grace. Hence his 100-1 posting. And it gets even gloomier for the Northern Irish. Darren Clarke won the British Open a month ago, coming pretty much out of nowhere (unless you count the European Tour’s Iberdrola Open) and returned to same soon thereafter, and so has been stunningly tagged as a 150-1 shot.
Well, they had to be listed somewhere.
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