Sports Outside the Beltway

The top golf newsmakers of 2006

Golf World magazine has come out with their top 25 list.

1- Tiger Woods. No argument there.

2- Phil Mickelson. I’ve always felt GW’s editors have a secret homosexual crush on Phil. No other reason could account for all the covers he gets even when he wasn’t the biggest golf story of the week. Karrie Webb wins a major, Phil is on the cover. Geoff Ogilvy wins the US Open but Phil is again the subject of GW’s cover.

Mickelson is an excellent choice, but I’d rank a few other golf stories ahead of him.

3- The 72nd hole at Winged Foot. No argument.

4- Fedex Cup I’m no fan of this gimmick but yes its newsworthy.

5- LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens

Excellent choice but not necessarily top 5 material. I strongly disagree with GW’s assertion that she performed better as the year progressed. Bivens’ blunders were spread out the length of 2006. This being the most recent example.

6- Euphoric Euros


7- Damned Yanks

The Ryder Cup gets no argument from me other than I would have made it one newsmaker not two.

8- Michelle Wie

The sad derailment and exploitation of this young lady is definitely newsworthy.

9- Underwhelming Teens.

Here’s where GW starts to lose it. The story of the LPGA’s youth movement was one of the most overdone golf stories of the last few years. It was hyped so much that a let down had to be expected.

An instantly iconic photo from 2005 had 5-foot-5 Morgan Pressel alongside Michelle Wie, who towered seven inches above her. Their eyes were locked and their expressions indicated an exchange of chummy text messages was not likely. Pressel, 17 months older than Wie and possessing a 3-and-2 victory over the Hawaiian in the third round of the 2003 U.S. Girls’ Junior as well as the title from the 2005 U.S. Women’s Amateur, an event Wie skipped, openly resents that her taller adversary gets more attention. Throw in the stunning rookie year Paula Creamer had in 2005 — two LPGA victories and four total — and the anticipation for the three-teen rivalry made the 2006 season the tour’s most eagerly awaited in recent memory.

Reality, however, never matched the hype. While the talented teens (Creamer turned 20 in August) had what most their age would consider successful seasons, none won or even went head-to-head with a tournament on the line. Throw in Natalie Gulbis, 23, whose winless streak in LPGA events ran to 132 in 2006, and the tour clearly failed to deliver the young American star power needed to capture fans. The reality is that a sensational year by Lorena Ochoa and a stirring comeback season by Karrie Webb could not compensate for the fact the top two rookies on tour were Seon-Hwa Lee and Julieta Granada, 20-year-old international 
players who entered the season without the accolades afforded Pressel or Japanese star Ai Miyazato.

1- These same golf writing hacks who hyped Wie, Pressel and Miyazato are still blind to Seon Hwa Lee. Lee didn’t come out of nowhere, she finished first on the the Futures Tour money list in 2005. Its what I call a case of having golf blinders on.

2- Natalie Gulbis is an example of golf writers being driven by their male egos rather than the facts. Ms. Gulbis is a talented golfer, and certainly not the 2000′s version of Jill McGill, but she will never be one of the tour’s top 5 players. Top 10 maybe, but with Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak, Karrie Webb, Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie when she gets her game back together, Christie Kerr to beat, I never see Gulbis as a top 5. That doesn’t even include other South Korean stalwarts like Jeong Jang, Hee Won Han, Mi Hyun Kim and Grace Park if she returns from her back and injury woes. Jang, Han and Grace will always outshine Ms. Gulbis when all of them, Ms. Gulbis included, are playing their best. As for Kim, aka Peanut vs Gulbis, I think her win at the Jamie Farr over Gulbis in a playoff says all that needs being said.

The Golf MSM mistakes physical attractiveness for golfing ability. That’s actually one of the least of its many problems.

c- GW said about Creamer-

“Creamer played solidly, never missing a cut, but may still be adjusting to tour life. She has more than a half dozen endorsement deals — all of which require time commitments — and played three non-LPGA events in Japan, where her Pink Panther persona is enormously popular. Cashing in on her impressive rookie season in 2005 may have created time and travel demands off the course that (coupled with a lingering wrist injury) impacted her performance. The drop-off, however, was not enough to be a concern.”

I think Paula will be better but she needs to take control of her schedule. Travelling halfway around the world to play golf can lead to burnout. Look what happened to Bill Rogers. This isn’t adjusting to tour life as GW says but managing one’s career instead of letting others do it for you.

10- The Bomb n Gouge Squad. Huh? Bubba Watson, J.B. Holmes and Camilo Villegas were all golf stories for a week or two each early in the year. Top 25 newsmaker maybe, but certainly not a top 10.

The rest of GW’s top 25 with a little added commentary.

11- Camilo Villegas. See my #10 comments. Why does this player rank two listings?
12- Defense mechanisms- Overrated
13- Lorena Ochoa- She should be in the top 5 newsmakers for 2006.
14- The new TV pact. Good pick.
15- Nick Faldo. I don’t understand this pick either. Faldo’s playing days are over and he only makes the news through his work as a broadcaster.

As for his selection to be Ryder Cup Captain, that doesn’t pass the muster for a top 25 pick.

16- Byron Nelson. His passing away should have ranked much higher.

17- Dearly departed aka the passing away of Heather Clarke, Earl Woods and Norma DiMarco. An iffy choice for the top 25.

18- John Daly. So what? Daly had a horrendous year on tour, so did about 200-300 other professional golfers. Again a very overrated story.

19- Geoff Ogilvy. His win in the US Open should rank higher than this.

Of the rest of GW’s top 25, only #23 Drug testing, #22 Super Seniors, and maybe #25 China’s growing presence, should be listed among golf’s missing newsmakers.

What dope was GW smoking when they missed these stories?

* The return of Karrie Webb, in particular her win at the Kraft Nabisco
* The return of Se Ri Pak from oblivion with her win at the LPGA Championship. Also the back 9 of that tournament on Sunday may have been the most dramatic of any tournament all year. With Pak, Karrie Webb, Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Michelle Wie, Pat Hurst, Mi Hyun Kim, Ai Miyazato and a few others all having legitimate chances to win the event.
* The passing away of LPGA great Patty Berg
* Arnold Palmer retiring from competitive golf.
* The recordbook rounds of Loren Roberts at the Senior Open and Corey Pavin at the US Bank in Milwaukee.
* The off year had by Annika Sorenstam. Plus her trouble with both ignoring and or breaking of LPGA rules a and therules of golf.
* The off year had by Vijay Singh.

Omitting Webb, Pak, Sorenstam and Palmer just shows you how dumb this golf publication is. Then it shouldn’t have surprised me, GW passed up Webb and Pak for the magazine’s cover the week after their victories. Annika missing the cut one week was noteworthy enough to make the magazine’s cover. Enough said, right?

My choices

1- Tiger
2- The 72nd hole of the US Open
3- Lorena Ochoa
4- Phil Mickelson
5- Carolyn Bivens
6- Fedex Cup
7- Michelle Wie
8- The 2006 Ryder Cup
9- Byron Nelson RIP
10- The return of Karrie Webb
11- Arnold Palmer retires
12- Drug testing
13- The return of Se Ri Pak and the dramatic 2006 LPGA Championship
14- The struggles and rule breaking of Annika Sorenstam
15- Geoff Ogilvy win at the US Open and the the Aussies big year on the PGA Tour
16- The new television deal
17- Patty Berg RIP
18- Record rounds by Corey Pavin and Loren Roberts
19- Where is Vijay?
20- Super Seniors
21- The overrating of youth on the LPGA tour
22- Giving new meaning to the term ‘golf hazard’
23- Dearly departed
24- The growth of golf in China
25- Can anyone in golf do 5th grade math?

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