Wednesday, January 6, 2010
The Biggest (golf) Losers (of 2009)
As we enter into a new year and a new golf season it's commonplace to talk about who the big winners were in the past year. Who won for the first time? Who won multiple tournaments? Who won by the biggest margin? I think that this is one year when a major story can be told about who DIDN'T win golf tournaments in the year. There are some fairly substantial names on this list, and I thought I'd go through some of them and discuss whether I think their trend will continue to plummet or whether they'll bounce back. For lack of any other system I'm going down the World Golf Ranking (which has a very interesting and useful site ... http://www.officialworldgolfranking.com/). PADRAIG HARRINGTON, IRL (ranked 6) - Paddy's swing work is very well documented, and his 2009 is truly a tale of two separate and disparate halves. He missed eight cuts before he even got to The Open. A tie for 65:th at Turnberry was no real indication that things were changing, but then somehow his game started to click. After The Open Paddy finished in the top six eight times, but somehow failed to win any of them. Paddy is going to be fine. He has the mindset and now the re-vamped swing to compete for majors against any competitor and any odds. I expect him to have as good a year as anyone on tour. SERGIO GARCIA, SPA (12) - It was only a year ago that we were discussing the mathematical possibility that he would overtake Tiger as the world's number one. Fresh off a couple of victories at the end of 2008, he seemed primed for a great year. 2009 started promising enough with a couple of top-tens, but then he wouldn't reach that plateau again until The Open. By the time the year was done he only had seven top ten finishes to his name, with his best performances a couple of 4:th place finishes. Sergio did not look like a happy camper in 2009. His putting was off, and he's going into the new year injured. Unless he can find a source of peace for his soul he won't be able to do much with the ball, and he won't be a threat again this year. ERNIE ELS, S.AF (17) - 2009 was the first year since 1993 that The Big Easy didn't get a W, and the first time in 18 years that he fell out of the top ten in the world ranking. Eight top ten finishes was all he had to show for his 2009 season. The latter part seemed to be better than the beginning, as he was competitive in the PGA Championship and came close to winning the HSBC Champions tournament in China. Ernie changed swing coaches in 2008, after working with Leadbetter since 1990, and he has not truly regained his edge since. Ernie just turned 40, and one would have to wonder if time is running out on one of the best looking swings in the history of golf. CAMILO VILLEGAS, COL (24) AND ANTHONY KIM, USA (25) - Both are young, flamboyant players who rose to the top with a couple of impressive victories each in 2008. Both were hailed as some of the new faces in golf to challenge the old guard, but for one reason or another they failed to build momentum in 2009. Camilo only had five top ten finishes in the year, with his best being third at the Buick early on. AK had four top tens, the most memorable of which was his dismantling at the hands of Tiger at the AT&T National. Both are young enough and talented enough to bounce back and compete for majors in the next five years. The big question mark with AK is his focus. He constantly gets knocked for lack of work ethic, and for partying too much. Over the course of the year he said several times after a good round that "I've been working really hard this past month", but the end results would indicate differently. VIJAY SINGH, FIJI (26) - Like Ernie, another aging former world number one. Vijay got hurt early in the year, came back too fast, and never really recovered. Coming up on his 47:th birthday, Vijay has been holding off father time in amazing fashion, winning 10 times from 2005 to 2008, but his 2009 included six missed cuts and only three top ten finishes. It's hard enough to maintain form and health at his age, but to repair the body and regain the form is infinitely more challenging. I would be very surprised if Vijay proves to be a consistent factor at the highest level again. SO, in conclusion I guess my prognosis is good for three of these losers and not so good for three of them. Only time will tell. Time, however, is exactly what's working against some of them.