This Week in Golf - May 31st through June 3rd
May 28th, 2007
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - PGA TOUR - THE MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT, Muirfield Village Golf Club, Columbus, Ohio - Jack Nicklaus' tournament always draws one of the best fields of the season. This year, it's getting back the world's best player.
Tiger Woods skipped the Memorial last year in the wake of his father's death, but will return to play this year -- his first start in three weeks.
"Jack always does a wonderful job hosting the tournament and it's a great course," Woods said on his Web site. "Unfortunately, I couldn't play last year and I'm looking forward to returning."
Woods, who hasn't played since he tied for 37th place at the Players Championship, has won three of his seven PGA Tour starts this season.
He is the all-time money leader in the tournament's 30-year history with more than $2.67 million in earnings, boosted by his three consecutive wins from 1999-2001.
Including the top-ranked Woods, 15 of the top 20 players in the world will be at Muirfield. One of the players missing from the field is new No. 14 Rory Sabbatini, who beat Jim Furyk and Bernhard Langer at Colonial on Sunday.
Last year, Carl Pettersson closed with a one-under 71 -- his first round in the 70s all week -- to beat Zach Johnson and Brett Wetterich for his second PGA Tour title.
The win qualified Pettersson for last year's U.S. and British Opens.
For the second year in a row Nicklaus won't be appearing in his own tournament, but to see the rest of the players check out the Golf Channel on Thursday and Friday and CBS on the weekend.
Next week is the St. Jude Classic, the last event before the U.S. Open at Oakmont. Jeff Maggert won last year's St. Jude.
WALES OPEN, The Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, Wales - Two weeks after Padraig Harrington became the first Irishman in 25 years to win the Irish Open, Bradley Dredge will lead a host of Welshman in the home challenge at the Wales Open.
At No. 66, Dredge is the highest-ranked Welsh player in the world. He will be joined in the field by Stephen Dodd, Phillip Price and at least eight other countrymen.
Welsh players have posted good finishes in the first seven years of this event, but none has ever won.
Last year's European Ryder Cup captain, Ian Woosnam, led going into the final round in 2000, but tied for third place (Woosnam is recovering from a viral infection and will not play this week). Price finished fifth that same year, and there have been nearly 10 more top-10 finishes since then.
Last year, Robert Karlsson parlayed an opening-round 61 into European Tour scoring records for 36 holes (124) and 54 holes (189) on the way to a three- shot win over Paul Broadhurst.
Karlsson only needed to shoot even-par in the final round to tie the European Tour's 72-hole scoring record, but he closed with a two-over 71 (Celtic Manor is a par-69 course).
He has a chance this week to become just the third Swede to successfully defend a title in the European Tour's 35 years.
The Golf Channel will have coverage off all four rounds beginning at 10:00 a.m. (et) on the first two days and 9:00 a.m. on the weekend. Next week is the BA-CA Golf Open, where Markus Brier won last year.
GINN TRIBUTE HOSTED BY ANNIKA, RiverTowne Country Club, Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina - A lot has happened since Annika Sorenstam withdrew from the Ginn Open last month because of disk problems in her neck and back.
The biggest change: Lorena Ochoa's ascension to the No. 1 ranking in the world, which was facilitated by Sorenstam's absence since the Kraft Nabisco Championship on April 1.
This week, the former world No. 1 will return ahead of schedule to compete in her new tournament, the Ginn Tribute.
"Annika's rehabilitation has progressed well and she looks forward to resuming competitive play," her agent, Mark Steinberg, said last week.
Also resuming competitive play this week is 17-year-old Michelle Wie, who accepted a sponsor's exemption and will be appearing for the first time since suffering a wrist injury in February.
The field also includes other top players like Ochoa, Karrie Webb, Morgan Pressel, Juli Inkster and Paula Creamer.
The Golf Channel will have coverage of the first two rounds, and NBC will broadcast on the weekend. Next week is the second major of the season, the McDonald's LPGA Championship, where Se Ri Pak beat Webb in a playoff last year.
BOEING CHAMPIONSHIP, Raven Golf Club at Sandestin, Sandestin, Florida - Last year, Bobby Wadkins claimed his first Champions Tour title since 2001 by winning the Boeing Championship in wire-to-wire fashion.
Since then, Wadkins, the younger brother of Lanny, has won two more times: at the Ford Senior Players Championship last July and the ACE Group Classic in February of this season.
The younger Wadkins will be joined in the field this week by usual smattering of Champions Tour stars, including its newest major champion, Denis Watson, who won the Senior PGA Championship on Sunday for his first title of any kind in 23 years.
The Golf Channel will have seven combined hours of coverage this weekend beginning at 6:30 p.m. (et) on each of the three days. Next week's event is the Principal Charity Classic (last year's Allianz Championship) where Gil Morgan is the defending champion.
LASALLE BANK OPEN, The Glen Club, Glenview, Illinois - Jason Dufner claimed last year's LaSalle Bank Open with the highest winning score in relation to par in three years on the Nationwide Tour, closing with a one-under 70 on Sunday to win by one shot at five-under 279.
Dufner's second career Nationwide Tour win, and first since 2001, netted him the largest first-place check to that point on the tour's 2006 domestic schedule ($135,000).
The winner's share this year is the same, but Dufner, as is usually the case on the Nationwide Tour, will not be on hand to defend his title. He is currently struggling on the PGA Tour.
Last week's winner at the Melwood Prince Georges County Open, Paul Claxton, will be looking to become the second two-time winner on the Nationwide Tour in 2006 after Nick Flanagan.
A busy Golf Channel will have coverage of all four rounds. Next week is the Rex Hospital Open, where Brenden Pappas won last year.
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Mickelson drops out of Memorial with wrist injury
DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) - The looming duel between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson at the Memorial Tournament disappeared before Woods even hit his first shot: Mickelson withdrew with an injured left wrist after 11 holes.
Mickelson was intent on challenging Woods, who had yet to tee off, at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
"I don't think it's anything serious but it just got worse. I couldn't grab the club and I couldn't swing," said Mickelson, who was 2 over through 11 holes before returning to the clubhouse. "I hit a wedge on 2 and it got really aggravated."
Earlier this week Mickelson, second on the money list to Woods, played at Oakmont, site of the U.S. Open in two weeks. That is where he apparently injured his wrist, although the couldn't remember precisely when he first hurt it.
"I was hitting a lot of chip shots out of the rough at Oakmont and I think that kind of aggravated it. I hit some drivers today and it started hurting a little bit, but nothing I didn't think I could handle," he said. "When I hit a wedge on 2 (on Thursday), it shot up my arm and it was OK. I kind of half-clubbed it around. The 5 iron on 4 really hurt. It just got worse."
Mickelson said he would ice his wrist, see a doctor and could possibly play as soon as next week's stop in Memphis. But getting ready for the Open takes precedence over that.
"The U.S. Open is more of what we're gearing up for," he said. "As much as I'd love to play here and as excited as I was to play here and get back into the swing of it, I couldn't swing."
The pain got to be too much after he hit his approach to the green on the par-5 11th hole.
"The wedge shot on 11 out of the divot jarred it pretty good," Mickelson said. "I just didn't feel like I could hit a shot on 12."
Mickelson's withdrawal erased one of the major storylines at the Memorial - Mickelson's challenge to Woods.
Woods is No. 1 by acclaim, not even close. But that doesn't stop everybody from trying to speculate about who could sneak up and steal his crown.
"I've had different guys make different runs," Woods said after Wednesday's pro-am at Muirfield Village Golf Club. "It was (David) Duval and then probably Phil and Ernie (Els), Vijay (Singh), Goose (Retief Goosen) - a combination of those guys throughout the years."
With Mickelson coming off a big win at The Players Championship three weeks ago, some were saying he was primed to challenge Woods at the Memorial and then in two weeks at the U.S. Open at Oakmont.
It seems that every time Mickelson gets a big win - the Masters in 2004, the PGA Championship in 2005, the Masters again in 2006 - it gets Woods' attention.
A year ago, for instance, Mickelson won at Augusta and was in position to take his third major in a row before hitting that hideous drive on the final hole that cost him the Open at Winged Foot.
Still grieving the loss of his father, Woods wasn't a factor there, but then turned around and won the last two majors, the British Open and PGA.
With Woods facing impending fatherhood and the changes that can bring, now could be the time for someone to finally challenge for the top spot in the world.
Woods doesn't seem to be conceding anything, though.
"As long as I'm up there in the conversation, I'm doing all right," Woods said. "I keep pushing myself pretty hard, regardless. I always try and get better. You can't stay stagnant in any sport. You've always got to keep getting better because you know the guys are training harder, they're finding their game, they're in the gym, you're getting better athletes playing the game. So you've got to keep getting better."
Even without Mickelson, the field mirrors that of a major. Nine of the top 10 money-winners are on hand, along with former Memorial winners Els, Jim Furyk, Singh, Tom Lehman and Paul Azinger.
Masters champion Zach Johnson, still on a victory lap after winning the Masters in April and the AT&T Classic two weeks ago, burns to remain in such elite company.
"This is one of my favorite places to be," said Johnson, who tied for second at the Memorial a year ago, two shots behind winner Carl Pettersson. "Golfwise, I absolutely love it. If you find a complaint here, it's hard."
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Mickelson withdrew with an injured left wrist after 11 holes.
Tough beat if you bet Mickelson. :-","xx
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