Posted by: Tom Spencer
Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 11:33 AM
Another West Coast Swing has come and gone with several highlights and a few lowlights to acknowledge. The weather patterns echoed the unpredictable winter around the nation with: perfect conditions all week at Pebble Beach, snow in Arizona and torrential rains in Hawaii. A promising Vegas act named Jhonattan took the Bob Hope and a Byrd called Jonathan soared at Kapalua—different spelling; same result. The opening performances by some of the game’s prominent veterans proved to be less than stellar. Tiger Woods’ game actually regressed since the end of ’10 as he searches for a full swing and short game that feels natural again. Tiger’s dip to #5 in the world rankings is his lowest perch since pre-1997 Masters.
Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and defending Fed Ex Cup champion Jim Furyk all got off to sluggish starts as well. Though Phil did give us a thrill with his Walter Hagen-like move at Torrey Pines where he asked caddie Jim MacKay to tend the flagstick on his final wedge shot from the fairway. Mickelson’s dramatic bid to tie Bubba Watson came up empty and so did his hope of passing Woods in the world rankings and creeping up towards the #1 ranking he’s yet to obtain in his stellar career.
Speaking of #1, Martin Kaymer is the third man to hold that lofty distinction in the last four months—and he looks the part. The German already owns a major championship and has multiple wins across the globe in recent years. His next goal is to make a run at Augusta where he’s surprisingly missed the cut in his three previous trips. May I suggest borrowing fellow countrymen Bernhard Langer’s yardage books from 1985 and 1993?
Kaymer’s ascension to the top spot highlights the continuing youthful movement that threatens to push the seasoned vets off the first pages of the leaderboard. The aforementioned Watson, though not in the 20-something crowd, is still a relatively fresh face and full of unpredictable moments. In the past Bubba has struggled getting comfortable inside the ropes, but now appears to have embraced the spotlight; even to the point of showing off whenever possible.
For the next five to eight years here’s a group of some additional names we will be following closely (listed from young to youngest): Dustin Johnson (26 years old), South African Charl Schwartzel (26), Rickie Fowler (22), Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy (21), Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa (19) and Italy’s Matteo Manessero (17).
Finally an acknowledgement to two Northern California products making big strides during the season’s first two months. Elk Grove’s Spencer Levin finished 2010 with a flurry, has played in every event he could enter and nearly won the Mayakoba Classic losing in a playoff to Johnson Wagner. Levin outplayed Wagner down the stretch and was only undone by a loose tee shot in sudden death.
Stanford’s Zach Miller came out of Q-School and has made as big a splash as any rookie. Miller already fired five rounds of 66 or better (with two 64s), is 37-under in six events and made five straight cuts. His NCAA champion teammate Joe Bramlett didn’t fare quite as well, making two of five cuts, but looks to have the confidence and game to match Miller down the road.
The wild West Coast was a memorable one; however, lots of questions still need to be answered on the Florida Swing as we begin the run up to the Masters.