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Archive for Thursday, August 7, 2008

Commentary: Predicting a PGA winner perilous

August 7, 2008

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It's the question everyone asks at a major. And as one of the local golf writers covering the PGA Championship, I have been asked the question more often than usual.

"Who's going to win?" radio people, television people, fan people, neighbor people and family people ask with bated breath.

I think my collie puppy, Sam, even gave me a look the other day that seemed to scream out: "Who's going to win?" It was either that or "Do you have food?"

All right, I'll stop stalling. What was the question again?

Oh, yeah. Who's going to win? Right. Um. Well. Let me see.

OK, I have it. Without a question, seriously, no fooling, the winner will be Bo Van Pelt. There you have it. Take it to the bank.

Of course Van Pelt first has to qualify as the ninth alternate. But that's why I'm picking him, because this is the historic 17th anniversary of John Daly winning the 1991 PGA as the ninth alternate.

On second thought, that sounds kind of shaky. How about Jyoti Randhawa? How can you not love a guy with such a cool name? It sounds like he should be a Jedi.

All right, all right. I'm going with Sweden's Robert Karlsson because he's the only player who has finished in the top 10 at all three majors this year. However, I have seen Karlsson hit exactly zero shots this year, so maybe that's not the smartest pick, either.

How about Phil Mickelson? He's the No. 2 player in the world and No. 1 isn't here. It would stand to reason that he should win. Of course, a lot of people like to pick Tiger Woods to win every major, but the truth is that he fails most times. He has won 14 majors in 46 attempts as a pro, which means he's batting .304. You'd be in a lot of trouble with creditors if you bet him to win every time.

The truth is that with a 156-player field and 94 of the top 100 players in the world competing at Oakland Hills Country Club, you might as well pick a name out of a hat. I can think of great arguments for 10 players off the top of my head. But who saw Daly coming in 1991? Or Rich Beem in 2002?

No one knows. No one ever knows. But I do know this much. With Tiger lost for the season while he recovers from knee surgery and the world of golf getting its first look at the bleak future of a Tigerless landscape around the year 2020, the sport needs another story line.

I love watching Tiger do incredible things, but I love watching a lot of other players, too, who too often get pushed to the wayside.

Have you watched Mickelson put on a wedge clinic from the bunker? Have you watched Anthony Kim's spine uncoil like a rattlesnake? Have you watched Bubba Watson hit a drive? Have you watched Darren Clarke use his imagination?

It's the perfect time for someone to step up and grab the spotlight. Mickelson, now 38, could give his season a shot in the arm and make things more interesting with his first major in two years.

Kim, all of 23, could confirm all the speculation about the greatness that awaits him as he tries to inherit Woods' throne.

Ireland's Padraig Harrington could begin to nudge his way into the conversation of golfing greats with a third major.

It goes on and on.

Daly, Kenny Perry, Davis Love III and an endless of array of players who could possibly give us a great story line and something to talk about other than one player's absence.

No question about it.

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