Nine Holes with Doug Ford

Does Doug Ford deserve a spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame?

ProfilesLanny Wadkins was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in April 2009 for induction next November. It was about time. Wadkins has been passed over on the list of candidates for most of the last 10 years.

Still, Wadkins election wasn’t without drama. He was the only player elected from the PGA Tour ballot, which requires 65 percent of the vote from Hall of Famers, media, and golf executives. Wadkins got 61 percent of the vote. He made it in because of a provision to the 65 percent rule: if no one receives the minimum vote, the player with the highest percentage (provided it is over 50 percent) is elected. (Vijay Singh got in the same way in 2005.)

Wadkins absolutely deserves to be in the World Golf Hall of Fame. He’s earned it as both a player and a commentator. He should have been in long before this. But I want to talk about Doug Ford.

Nine Holes with Bobby Jones

There has only ever been one true Grand Slam of golf.

ProfilesBobby Jones is one of the truly legendary figures of golf. Among other things, he helped found Augusta National and the Masters, but he will always be best known for the Grand Slam of 1930.

Jones was successful on and off the course, but it was his play that has made him immortal. There are really just three names that come up in a discussion of the greatest golfer of all time: Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and Bobby Jones. While Jones may be trailing in comparisons these days, it’s difficult to dismiss all he did in a short (and amateur) career.

Nine Holes of Hype or Not Hype

Sometimes the golf media gets carried away, but not always.

ProfilesThere’s a lot of hype out there this year, maybe even more than usual. There’s always a lot of pre-major hype this time of year regarding some of the big names in golf, but 2009 also features a number of young faces coming to a major near you.

Here’s the thing about hype. Sometimes there’s truth behind it. Sometimes it’s just hot air. We complain a lot about hype, but I kind of think of it as a USGA index. Events seldom live up to the hype, just like you can’t shoot your index very often (it is based on your best 10 rounds out of your last 20, not an average). But you might shoot your index in your best rounds. Each is about proven or (in the case of hype) perceived potential.

When it comes to sporting events, hype tells us about what is possible. It also boosts ratings and sells advertising, but there has to be a kernel of truth there or we’d never buy it. At its best, it is not about what will happen, but what might. And so, though the hype might drive us nuts from time to time, here’s a look at nine of the most hyped golfers of the 2009 season and an assessment of the truth lying below.

Nine Holes with Boo Weekley

What’s not to like about a guy who wears camo and fights apes?

ProfilesThe odds-on favorite to win this year’s Verizon Heritage is Boo Weekley. He’s won the last two, so why not add one more?

What’s a little more of a mystery is why he hasn’t won anywhere else. In two full seasons on the PGA Tour, he’s had ten top-ten finishes, but has only managed to finish at the top of the leaderboard at Hilton Head. Obviously, the course suits him. It’s a ball-striker’s layout, it’s in the South (where Boo grew up), and with its small greens, putting is less likely to be the determining factor in a tournament.

Nine Holes with Sergio Garcia

The world’s new #2 is also the best golfer never to win a major… for now at least.

ProFilesSergio Garcia became the number two golfer in the Official World Golf Rankings this month with his win at the HSBC Champions tournament. Since Phil Mickelson won his first Masters, Garcia has been among a small group of poor souls that are tagged Best Never to Win a Major. Today, he is the nearly undisputed holder of that title.

All that may be about to change. Every time a major rolls around, one or more media pundit pick him to win. Eventually, one of these folks is going to be right about him. He’s got too much game from tee to green to keep coming up short. His putting has been his Waterloo, but he’s getting better. All he has to do is put together four good putting rounds at the right time. His ball striking is rarely an issue. He just needs to find a way to get the ball in the hole.

Nine Holes with the Forty-Somethings

It happens this year. I turn 45.

ProFilesAs if 40 wasn’t enough, now I’m turning 45. Frankly, I still feel prettty young. Heck, I still sometimes get a little nervous when I buy liquor, worried if they’re going to card me. I drive the ball farther than a lot of people. Maybe not quite as far, quite as often, as ten years ago, but respectably, nonetheless. This getting older thing isn’t all bad. Heck, if I was on the PGA Tour, I might be just coming into my prime.

Over the last several years, a number of 40-year-olds have been playing some pretty good golf on the PGA Tour. Not just once in a while, but consistently. Whether it’s improved fitness (probably), better equipment (maybe), or old-age-and-treachery (undoubtedly), older players are not only competing with guys 10 or even 20 years younger, they’re winning… a lot.

This year was no different, in fact with Tiger on the DL, a 40-something claimed golf’s richest prize (at least until next year). Here are some of the “old” guys who are hanging in there with the flat-bellies. Each played some good golf in 2008, and had at least one notable moment in the spotlight to show for it.

Nine Holes with Camilo Villegas

Tomó unos pocos años para Camilo Villegas para ganar, pero ahora el hombre araña ha ganado dos veces.

ProFilesCamilo Villegas has been one of the most watched players on the PGA Tour for the last three years. He’s charismatic, unbelievably fit, and then there’s that Spiderman thing he does on the green. At 26, Villegas is one of the most promising of the “Young Guns.” He has tons of talent, but until two weeks ago he’d only been close and never sealed the deal. Some of us might have been thinking that he was having too much fun just being Camilo. I mean, beautiful women practically throw themselves in front of his errant drives just to meet him. I thought that he might have been more interested in the post-round activities than the round itself. And, no, I really couldn’t blame him if that was the case.

Villegas has been showing his drive to win this season. He’s made 19 cuts in 22 events, with seven top-ten finishes. He is in sixth place for scoring for the 2008 season. That’s sustaining good play.

So if you thought that Camilo came out of the blue to win the BMW and Tour Championships, here are nine things you may not have known about Spider Man.

Nine Holes with Anthony Kim

Behind the buckle, there’s one heck of a golfer.

ProfilesThe most promising young gun on the PGA Tour these days just might be Anthony Kim. He has, as they say, all the shots, plus some enormous belt buckles. In fact, going into this season, he was perhaps better known for his brash demeanor and flashy belt hardware than for his play. But after winning twice in 2008, people are taking notice of how much talent this 23 year-old has.

Good thing. He seems poised to break out (as if winning twice this year isn’t “breaking out”). He’s among the favorites at the 2008 FedEx Cup, which he enters in 5th place (4th if you eliminate Tiger, who still leads the point race despite missing the last two months of the season following reconstructive knee surgery). Kim’s performance in majors makes me wonder if he’ll win one before Sergio does.

Anthony Kim certainly merits paying attention to. Happily, he’s hard to miss with all the glare coming off that belt buckle.

Nine Holes with Yani Tseng

Should Lorena be looking over her shoulder?

ProfilesAs I write this amid the hype following the U.S. Open, I can’t help but think back to the previous major. No, not the Masters, but the McDonald’s LPGA Championship.

If you missed the Lorena-Annika showdown at the LPGA’s second major, you missed quite a bit. Lorena was riding a two-straight-majors win streak. Annika was making what may well be her final appearance in the McDonald’s. The two most recent world number ones were each in contention down the stretch on Sunday. Everything seemed to be shaping up according to script at the turn, but the show was ultimately stolen by a 19-year old rookie named Yani Tseng.

Like Sunday at the Masters, the final round at Bulle Rock Golf Course in Havre de Grace, Md., was a survival test. Birdies were a rare commodity. Bogey, double, and worse lurked in the deep rough.