by Aaron "1-iron" Garry - 05/03/2005
"1-iron" must start out this column with a tip of the cap to Pete Dye, Kelly Gibson and Steve Elkington for their impressive work on the TPC of Louisiana. The Zurich Classic has always been a staple of my television diet, largely due to my affection for English Turn Country Club and the drama that always seems to unfold there. The decision to move the tournament from English Turn to the TPC was not one that sat well with me since the time it was announced in the fall of last year. However, after watching the tournament this weekend, "1-iron" is putting his stamp of approval on the new track, with the hopes that it's the beginning of a long and prosperous relationship with the PGA Tour.
The design was creative and interesting, while the landscape will certainly mature into one of grace and beauty. The greens were puzzling and adventurous while peril lurked around every corner for the best in the world - which made for great television. Once again, I salute Dye and Co. for their efforts.
Now, onto the tournament itself. Billing itself as the "Zurich Classic" may have been a bit of an overstatement by the Insurance Wizards at Zurich. "Zurich Open," "Zurich Po-Boy," "Zurich Clam-Bake" or "Zurich Lagasse" might have been more appropriate then naming the tournament a "Classic." If you looked at the headlines on Saturday morning before the start of third round play, you probably noticed the "Atwal drives into Zurich Lead" headlines. If that isn't an effective hook for "Riding the Bus with my Sister" - I don't know what is. Put it this way - you'll never find a movie starring Ryan Reynolds and Geoffrey Owens (See-Elvin Thibideaux from the Cosby Show) billed as a classic. So why would a golf tournament featuring a playoff between Tim Petrovic and James Driscoll take similar naming rights?
With a new course to contend with in the Big Easy, accurate picks were not as plentiful as in weeks past. As correctly predicted by ol' "1-iron," the likes of Chris Dimarco (T3), Bo Van Pelt (T5), Tim Clark (T21), Vijay Singh (T21), and Davis Love III (T31) were effective picks. However, the pick I want to talk most about right now is the David Toms "stay the hell away" special. At 15/1, Toms looked like a lion of a pick this week in his home state of Louisiana.
"1-iron" correctly forecasted disaster from across the Louisiana bayou, and told you to steer clear of Toms and his wayward game. Something hasn't been quite right with Toms this year in the majority of the stroke play events, and a 7,500-yard Pete Dye special was NOT the way to get back on track. 76-75 and a T130 was living proof of that. If the Zurich Classic taught us one thing this week, it's watch out for the new breed of young lions on tour. The likes of Driscoll, Atwal, Glover, Van Pelt, Trahan and O'hair are going to be household names in the near future.This Week - the Wachovia Championship:
The big boys return! After two weeks of watching Vijay Singh carry the superstar banner, we get three of the Big Five in play at the Wachovia Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina. Not only that, but the top five money winners in 2005 (Vijay, Woods, Toms, Funk, and Mickelson) are entered for the first time since the Masters. Last year, Joey Sindelar held off Aaron Oberholser and Tiger Woods (you read that right) to claim the Blue Jacket and the 2004 Wachovia Championship Title. It was Sindelar's first win in 14 years, going all the way back to the epic 1990 Hardees Classic.
"1-iron" gets antsy about Woods in these "minor weeks." You know you are going to get a high finish, but I never have 100 percent confidence that he's going to close out the win for some piece of waterford crystal instead of his typical major hardware. The only sure thing this week is that "1-iron" is dying to see a Woods-Mickelson pairing on Sunday that gives us half of what Doral gave us in March. It should be a great tournament this week at the Wachovia Championship, but my No. 1 pick to click is a lady by the name of Mother Nature. Rain is in the forecast all weekend in Charlotte and there's no question we could be looking at another Monday finish to crown our champion. Quail Hollow GC is long yet fair. The Par 5's are where this tournament is decided, so a rainy forecast could spell trouble for an already lengthy golf course.
18 Shots for the Wachovia Championship:6 Who Will:
1. Phil Mickelson (7/1): He can smell it. He can taste it. Krispy Kreme Doughnut headquarters is only a few short hours away. This is big for Lefty. T5 in 2004 at this tournament and I love his game this year. He can go low - VERY low. Six Top 10s and three wins. This could be his week to tame the Tiger.
2. Tiger Woods (3/1): I know enough not to bet against this guy. Three wins including the Masters in only 8 starts is the stuff of legends. He's long with deft touch around the greens and god knows the man can win. T3 last year at Quail Hollow.
3. Vijay Singh (7/1): The big Fijian cannot be happy with his performance in the Big Easy. He's 82nd in Driving Accuracy and 92nd in Putting on tour. This doesn't qualify him for Elite status in my book. He gets it done week after week, but the only answer is - MORE PRACTICE!
4. Davis Love III (25/1): Something about the Carolinas. Lots of love when you get 'round these here parts. T21 last year at this tournament with a 66 on Friday to vault him up the board.
5. Lucas Glover (50/1): No relation to Savion. Quickly becoming a favorite of "1-iron" this kid has game. Five Top 10s this year and he's all but locked up exempt status for next year. Now it's time to get a win under his belt and what better place to do it then over one of the year's best fields. T10 at the Wachovia Championship last year sets precedent.
6. Mike Weir (30/1): The svelte Lefty in the field. Hasn't played since Augusta. I think he's gotten too big for his britches, as he doesn't have the name that allows him to skip events like Zurich and Houston with little or no ramification. Oh well. T5 at Augusta in 2005 and T21 here last year make him a strong pick.
6 Who Can:
7. Tim Clark (60/1): T21 at Zurich on a tough course has us thinking this little South African can get things done. We could do without the final round 77 though.
8. Arron Oberholser (75/1): What in the name of Esteban Toledo is this guy doing on so many leaderboards? Three T6s at Buick, AT&T, and BellSouth - plus his second last year at the Wachovia Championship warrants strong consideration this week.
9. Bo Van Pelt (75/1): Shhhhh! Can you hear it? It's hunters looking for Bo Van Pelt. The guy that surprisingly cracked the Top 40 last year is getting on a run of sorts. T7 at Houston and T5 at Zurich - What's next? Good things. Good things.
10. Jonathan Kaye (125/1): If you mess with him, he's liable to put his player badge in a place where it don't belong. He's quietly 33rd on the money list and this may just be the week we get a shot of Kaye in the winner's circle.
11. Todd Hamilton (125/1): I'm planning a column on Major Champions who have fallen quickly off the radar screen, and while I'll preview Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel, Hammy will be the main topic of conversation. I see a big week for Ham-Bone in Charlotte, after a T31 in New Orleans. He'll do it stoically of course.
12. Jim Furyk (30/1): He's on here simply because he can throw four nice rounds together with the best of them. You never know where or when - but it'll happen.
6 Who Won't:
13. David Toms (30/1): Until he proves me wrong, this Bengal Tiger stays right here with the five others who wont!
14. J.J. Henry: After posting two straight 67's in New Orleans, J.J. finished 74-71 for a T5. "1-iron" says fluke. If he makes the cut I'll run around Pinehurst No. 2 with a J.J. Henry mask on.
15. Chris DiMarco (20/1): What an emotional roller coaster. Complete choke on 18 to finish T3 in New Orleans, two weeks after the Masters Playoff with Tiger. This has missed cut written all over it.
16. Chad Campbell (50/1): The Big Texan is going to be known as the Big Underachiever. He's one missed cut from taking a job at Radio Shack in Odessa. Supposed to be the next Big American Golfer, he's really disappointing the masses.
17. Charles Howell III (50/1): Speaking of disappointing American youngsters. As Trahan, Glover, and Driscoll start to excel - Howell III does the opposite. "Hello Charles - are you there? Hello?"
18. Scott Verplank (40/1): There are guys who just kind of linger on the leaderboard week in-week out. Verplank is one of those guys. He's there, but you'd hardly know it. I can't see him making much noise this week at the Wachovia Championship.