Old & New Stars Shine on Sunday

by Jeff Skinner

This past weekend showed us just how interesting golf can be even if the most popular players in the world are home on their couches.  There were plenty of appealing and compelling stories from Korea to Alabama to Louisiana this past weekend.  At the Ballantine’s Championship on The European Tour, Lee Westwood continued to play with a huge chip on his shoulder and came from behind to win for the second straight week.  Westwood is making all those that questioned the validity of his world number one ranking, myself included, eat their words.  Even before Westwood took control on Sunday the Ballantine’s had the coolest guy in golf at the top of the leaderboard as Miguel Angel Jimenez tried to win on his 47th birthday.  If you haven’t watched Miguel play you’ve missed a rare treat.  He walks the course with an attitude that exudes confidence and he has more fun than anyone on the course.  Westwood and Jimenez had their own battle of young versus old and made the Ballantine’s interesting, fun and worth watching.

While parts of Alabama were ravaged by tornadoes, The Avnet LPGA Classic was spared but the announcers certainly made sure we knew how terrible the damage was in other parts of the state.  On the course, two of the brightest American stars spent some time in the lead and the spotlight but eventually gave way to winner Maria Hjorth.  Fresh off her LPGA Championship win, Stacy Lewis played well but a disappointing third round ruined her chances.  Sixteen year old Lexi Thompson went into the final round tied for the lead but she may have felt the weight of history in the making and lost her solid swing over the last eighteen holes.  But the two of them gave us some interesting golf and both have huge futures ahead of them.  These women are a good part of the future of American golf and it was wonderful to see them play with the best in the world.

In Louisiana at The Zurich Classic, Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson needed a few extra holes before Simpson succumbed to Watson in the playoff.  Simpson is another of the bright, young, talented golfers that seemed to have taken over the PGA Tour.  He had to settle for his second runner up spot of the year but is learning how to perform under pressure and most certainly will have more chances on tour.  This season with his two wins on the PGA Tour Bubba Watson has blossomed into one of the top American golfers. Yes, he hits it longer than anyone else.  Yes he works it, curves it, bends it and spins it more than anyone else and that makes him a very appealing golfer but there’s more to Bubba.

Watson has transformed himself from an intense, angry golfer on the course to one of the most relaxed, fun loving players out there.  Last year he consciously made an effort to take the game less seriously, yes, that’s right less seriously.  He was letting his bad days ruin his life and after his caddy and his wife set him straight he has become a new and much improved golfer.  His missed shots or poor putts just roll of his back now and he has a lot of fun on the course.  All this and his off course Twittering and crazy videos give us an character that is truly easy to like and really fun to watch.  He has three wins in two seasons and has become a pied piper of sorts on tour.  Everyone wants to see him work his way around the course and there isn’t a more entertaining personality on the PGA Tour.

So while Tiger is rehabbing, in Vegas of all places and Phil is driving the kids to school there is still plenty of reasons to tune in.  These guys and gals are good and really great to watch.


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