Spring has sprung; now, we wait for TigerWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
Can you believe it! We are in the middle of March Madness, and Major League Baseball teams are getting ready to break spring training camps and head north for opening day. The Mud Hens’ first pitch is only two weeks away!
I have started to gather errant golf balls from my lawn and after 13 events, the PGA Tour regular season is almost 33 percent complete, and no one named Tiger has won a tour event yet. But since golf’s No. 1-ranked player has been taking his sabbatical, patching up things at home and getting in touch with his softer, more gentle side, it has given some of the younger players on tour an opportunity to show their stuff and snatch up some trophies.
Yes, the PGA Tour has survived the loss of its premier draw for the last three months. The tour may not have thrived, but it still has a strong heartbeat and is holding its collective breath as Tiger gets set to make his 2010 debut at the Masters on April 8.
Phil Mickelson has yet to make an appearance in the winner’s circle, but the world’s No. 2-ranked player, Steve Stricker, has continued his consistent solid play with one win and four top ten finishes in just six starts this year.
Ernie Els was able to sneak in a win at the Blue Monster, and veteran Jim Furyk finally broke through with a win after a two-and-a-half year drought at the Transitions Championship. Meanwhile, the other ten events have been won by relatively young players.
Dustin Johnson, Bill Haas, Hunter Mahan, Camilo Villegas and Derek Lamely are all under the tender age of 29 and have collected victories this year. Even Cameron Beckman, who won at Mayakoba in Mexico, just turned 30 in February. These younger guys are taking advantage of Tiger’s absence and are learning how to win on the PGA Tour.
Anthony Kim and Rory McIlroy are a couple of notable young guns who haven’t won yet this year. Anthony Kim does have one top ten finish and three top 25 finishes in only five tournaments thus far. Rory McIlroy has only played in three events on the American Tour, but has four top 10s in just six starts on the European Tour. I expect to see both of these players excel as we approach the Masters and move into the heart of the golfing season.
Ryan Palmer and Englishman Ian Poulter, both 34 years old, round out the list of tournament winners thus far in 2010. Poulter was a questionable selection for captain of the European Ryder Cup Team in 2008, but led the team with a 4-1-0 record and has been especially consistent over the past six months. He is ranked seventh in the official World Golf Rankings.
Palmer’s win at the Sony Open in Hawaii at the start of the season was the second of his career and has boosted him to 12th on the FedEx Cup points list.
Even with all the drama that has surrounded Tiger Woods’ personal problems this year, the PGA Tour has survived and its younger players have been able to pick up the slack.
With all that said, I can’t wait for Tiger to get back into action at the Masters. Fellow golf professionals John Cook and Arjun Atwal have told reporters that they have played with Tiger and are convinced that he is fit and mentally prepared to win at Augusta National. That is exactly what Tiger has in mind. He wants to change the story to winning the Majors, beating Jack Nicklaus’s record and collecting a “grand slam.”
Regardless of the outcome, Amen Corner and the “Back 9” at Augusta National should be something for the ages, and you won’t want to miss it!