PGA Rookies to watch in 2013

I like to follow one or two new players each year and this year there are a lot of rookies with very impressive resumes.  All you need to do is look at the top 25 from the 2012 Web.com Tour money list and pick one.  There are three Web.com players that I find interesting:

1)  Casey Whittenberg – He is really not a “rookie” on the PGA tour because he has been playing tournaments on the PGA tour and Web.com tour (formally, Nationwide tour) for a number of years but he earned his 2013 PGA tour card with his excellent play in 2012.

I first became aware of Wittenberg watching the 2004 Masters when he finish 13th as an amateur (the highest finish of an amateur since 1961.)  After the Masters, everyone thought when he turned pro that he would win quickly; but Whittenberg has had his challenges.  However in 2012 it appears he has found his game and was the “2012 player of the year” on the Web.com tour and is one of five Web.com tour players to have won twice in 2012.

2)  Luke Gutherie – Another two-time winner, Gutherie won back-to-back tournaments on the Web.com Tour.  Gutherie played only 10 Web.com tournaments in 2012 and of the ten, seven were top 10 finishes.  His back-to-back wins occurred in September at the Albertsons Boise Open and the WNB Golf Classic.

3)   Ben Kohles – Not only was Kohles a two-time and back-to-back winner on the Web.com tour; but those back-to-back wins were his first two starts on tour.  The tournaments were the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational and Cox Classic.  It is just so impressive to see someone win in the first two tournaments of their professional career.

There are many other rookies to watch but there is only one other that I will be keeping my eye on and that is Patrick Reed also fondly known as “Mr. Monday.”  He got the nickname, “Mr. Monday,” on tour in 2012 because he entered PGA tournaments the “old school” way by playing in Monday qualifiers.  He played in eight PGA Monday qualifiers and made the field in six tournaments.  Of course, as fate would have it, he won his PGA tour card at Q-school on a Monday.

What really makes me a fan of Patrick Reed is his personal story.  His fiancée (now wife), Justine Karain, is his caddie and he gives her plenty of credit as evident in the interview from the Well Fargo.  Apparently she played golf in high school (the couple met in high school) and is very good at reading putts.  I’ve always been impressed with women caddies because I can’t imagine carrying a 50 pound tour bag and living the life of a caddie.  Also, I am impressed with professional golfers who are “evolved enough” to have a women on the bag (i.e. gender doesn’t matter, the best person for the job) and another reason I like Patrick Reed.  The couple married in December 2012 and they plan to continue being a team on the course.  Let’s hope the Reed’s have a very successful 2013.

Jason Dufner wins and gets a monkey off his back

Jason Dufner winning the Zurich Classic of New Orleans this weekend is a great example of finally getting a “monkey of your back.”  Why?  Because since the beginning of the golf season, Dufner had been labeled (by some golf analysts) as  “one of the best golfers who has not won a tournament.”

Dufner became a professional in 2000 and he has come close to winning.  One of the big heartbreaking moments was in August 2011, at the PGA Championship.  It looked like Dufner was going to win his first major because he had a five stroke lead with three holes to play.  Unfortunately for Dufner, Keegan Bradley played magnificently to tie Dufner and force a playoff.  Keegan beat Dufner on the third hole of the sudden-death playoff.

The media also started to focus on the fact that he would often times be leading going into the weekend but not be able to close.  No player wants to be viewed as someone who is not a closer.  This week, in New Orleans, Dufner had the lead on Sunday. The end of the tournament was a nail-biter but Jason won on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff with Ernie Els.  Another “Monkey off his back” — Dufner is a closer.

Now with these type of comments, from the media, you would expect to see some reaction for the player.  But not Jason Dunfer. He is the most laid-back, unemotional guy on tour.  Sure, maybe it would be nice to see a more animated reaction to good shots but his style is actually refreshing.  It is a nice contrast from the players that throw or break their clubs when they are angry or do excessive fist pumping when they make a good shot.

He did smile and raise his arms when he won but no major fist pumping or running around the green for Jason Dufner.  Below is a great cartoon tweeted by Steve Elkington from his website Secret In The Dirt (showing Dufner before and after the win).

Dufner CartoonTo me this is the greatest form of flattery. You can see more great golf cartoons at the Secret in the Dirt Cartoon Vault.

Let’s hope the quite, mild-manner Jason Dufner has many more great wins in the coming years.  And, although I’m a big fan of Keegan Bradley (after all he is from New England), I’ll be cheering for Dufner to win the 2012 PGA Championship.

The great, good, bad, and the ugly at the Masters

Everyone that watched the Masters will have an opinion on moments that were great, good, bad, and ugly. There is no shortage of examples but I’ve picked one player for each category and I also share the player I believe manages to fall into all four categories.

First, the greatest moment had to be Bubba Watson on the second hole of the sudden-death playoff.  His 40-foot hook-draw shot from the trees, off the pine needles, on to the green to put himself in position to win was awesome.  Of course it ended in the most touching moment when he was embraced by his mother (normally, the wife is there to share the moment; but his wife was at home with their new baby son).

My vote for the number one good moment — the run that Matt Kucher was making on Sunday to finish with a 69.  When Kucher made an eagle on the 15th hole (par 5) and went to 4 under par it was just fun to see a player so happy.  There was no arrogance, just joy, in his response.

Unfortunately, the bad moments in professional golf tournaments are not always bad shots but bad behavior.  Tiger woods wins the bad moment award for drop-kicking his putter. Tiger later apologized but I am tired of professional athletes misbehaving and apologizing later.  These are “adults” and need to stop acting like children when something goes wrong.

My favorite player, Phil Mickelson, had the ugliest moment. His effort to try to hack the ball out of the bushes at the 4th hole resulted in a triple-bogey. What was he thinking?  I mean that would be the kind of stupid shot I would try (not because I could make it but because I am an amateur and don’t always make good decisions).  On the other hand, I’m not totally surprised by his choice. I like Phil because he is a risk taker and is exciting to watch.  Unfortunately, this time it turned out ugly.

So what could possibly be great, good, bad, and ugly?  It is the final round score card of the low Amateur, Patrick Cantlay.  Look at the card below — birdies, bogeys, double-bogeys, a quadruple-bogey, and eagles!  Most golfers would have fallen apart after what Cantlay did on the 13th and 14th holes (quadruple-bogey and double-bogey) but he turned it around on 15 with an eagle.  What a great final four holes — eagle, birdie, birdie, par!

Patrick Cantlay Score Card

Cantlay is viewed by many as the best amateur in the game right now and getting the “low amateur” trophy is a good indicator of his future. By the way, other past “low amateur” winners include Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Fantasy Golf Results: Shell Houston Open

Hunter Mahan won the Shell Houston Open.  If you have been reading my posts you know that Mahan is one of the Golf Boys.  This is Mahan’s second win this year so maybe I need to think about him in my fantasy picks more often.  My picks were not horrible this week but I was disappointed that one player missed the cut.

Here are my picks for this week:

(1)  Keegan Bradley — Keegan played well with a tie for 4th.  He shot the same score as the winner on Sunday (71) but his other rounds of 67, 69, and 69 were just not low enough to help him on the last day.

(2)  Kevin Steelman — Steelman missed the cut. This surprised me because I thought he would player better but it was not his week.

(3)  Henrik Stenson — My “what the heck” pick this week had a respectable showing with a tied for 21st place.  I’m happy with this pick.

(4)  James Driscoll — When I picked Driscoll, I stated that I hoped he had learning something from 2011 when he played the Houston Open and missed the cut.  Well, he certainly did learn from his past.  Driscoll played really well in round one and two (67 and 66) but on the weekend he shot 71 and 73.

Fantasy Golf: Shell Houston Open

It is the week before the first and most exciting major of the season — The Masters — but first the players contend at the Shell Houston Open.  A lot of people hope that Ernie Els will win this week because the winner earns a place at The Masters.  I think it would be great if Ernie does win but I’m voting on other guys this week.

Here are my picks for this week:

(1)  Keegan Bradley — Keegan did not play last week and he fell apart during the final round of the Transitions tournament so I’m banking on the fact that he will have a “fire in his belly” to do really well.  He has 2 top 10 finishes and has been in the top 25 in all 8 tournaments he has played in this year.

(2)  Kevin Steelman — Steelman is another player that did not play last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.  He did well at the Transitions (tied for 10th) and he has had two top 10 finishes this year.

(3)  Henrik Stenson — I have not picked Stenson before but he looks like a good bet so he is my “what the heck” pick this week.  In his three PGA tournaments in 2012 he has finished in the top 25 and finished third in Puerto Rico.

(4)  James Driscoll — I have picked Driscoll before and decided to go with him again.  He did not make the cut last year at the Shell Houston Open but I am hoping he learned something in 2011 and will know the course better and make the cut this year.

So, you may have noticed I did not pick Phil Mickelson (the defending champion).  Well, I just don’t want to pick him since I feel like every time I do pick him he doesn’t play well — silly, I know, but this is just for fun so “silly logic” makes sense to me!

Fantasy Golf Results: Arnold Palmer Invitational

The big news from the final Florida event is that Tiger Woods won.  Everyone is saying “He’s back” and I think it is great he has won; but I don’t think he rates the statement “He’s back” until he wins a major (which might happen in two weeks at the Masters.)

(1)  Phil Mickelson — Finished Tied for 24th place at one under par.  Now I had said I would not pick Phil until the Masters but I could not help myself because I am such a fan.  However, It is frustrating that every time I pick him, he plays poorly; and when I do not pick him, he plays well.

(2)  Jason Dufner — He played well on Thursday and Friday (66 and 69).  He did not play well on the weekend (77 and 73).  I still really like Dufner and think that once he figures out how to keep the momentum going on the weekend he will win (and win consistently).

(3)  Sean O’Hair — Finished tied for 29th at even par.  He looked great on Thursday with a 69 but then seemed to fall apart on Sunday with a 77.  Now in fairness to O’Hair the course was very hard on Sunday and only two golfers shot in the 60’s.

(4)  Harris English — My “what the heck pick this week.”  Missed the cut.

Well, the only thing I am pondering today is whether to pick Mickelson for The Masters.  If I really want my favorite player to win, it might be better if I pick someone else for Fantasy Golf.

Fantasy Golf: Transitions Championship

Here we go with the third tournament in the “Florida leg” of the PGA Tour.  The Transitions Championship is being played at Innisbrook Resort – Copperhead · Palm Harbor, Florida.  It is a PAR 71 course and looks more like a course in North Carolina than Florida.

Here are my picks for this week:

(1) Charl Schwartzel  — Schwartzel is from South Africa and won the Masters last year.  He tied for 4th last week at the Cadillac and tied for 5th at the Honda Classic.  I’m hoping he will have a good week and win the Transitions Championship.

(2) John Senden — Senden is from Australia and also playing well this year. In the five events he has played, he has 3 top 10 finishes (including a tie for 6th place last week).

(3) Padraig Harrington — I have been a fan of Harrington for years and I’m hoping that picking a player from Ireland is a good strategy; after all, Saturday is St. Patty’s day!  Yes, I would have picked Rory McIlroy but he is taking the next three weeks off to get his “rest” before the Masters.

(4) J. J. Henry — My “what the heck pick this week.”  Henry has not played well this year but last year he tied for 20th at the Transitions Championship. I am hoping for another top 20 position this year.