Week in ReviewMay 23, 2010

Monday Qualifier

The performance of 16-year-old Jordan Spieth saved what was otherwise a flat Byron Nelson Championship

Spieth became the sixth-youngest player to ever make the cut at a PGA Tour event.

Spieth became the sixth-youngest player to ever make the cut at a PGA Tour event.

IRVING, Texas -- It was an odd amalgam assembled on the leader board at the HP Byron Nelson Championship last week, a truant mixing with a group that might have put the ancient in royal and ancient.

Jordan Spieth, 16 and a junior at Jesuit High in Dallas, cut class last week, but was unable to do so surreptitiously. He turned up on the front page of the newspapers here for demonstrating skill and maturity that belied his age.

He was joined in contention by a group of graybeards: Tom Pernice and Corey Pavin, each 50, Kenny Perry, 49, and Steve Elkington, 47.

"It's the type of course where if you control the ball, length is not the hugest issue and everybody has an opportunity and it's good," Pernice said Saturday, explaining the Methuselah infusion into the festivities. "Age is only what you feel like and what you make it to be."

This group must have felt a hundred in the company of Spieth and another wunderkind, Jason Day, 22, who won the tournament to become the youngest Australian ever to win a PGA Tour event. Spieth tied for 16th.

Spieth, incidentally, played with Pernice on Saturday and Pavin on Sunday. In each case, he said, his biggest challenge was deciding whether to call them Mr. Pernice and Mr. Pavin or Tom and Corey.

A YOUNG MAN'S GAME

At that, Spieth wasn't the only boy among men last week. Matteo Manassero of Italy, a 17-year-old professional, tied for 17th in the BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour. And another 16-year-old, Grayson Murray, a high school sophomore, made the cut and tied for 52nd in the Nationwide Tour's Rex Hospital Open.

SKEWING THE STATS IN NUNEZ

Blake Adams is a PGA Tour rookie at 34, and lives in the small town of Nunez, Ga., population 138 (in 2008), according to city-data.com. Nunez's per capita income in 2008 was $15,847.

That number will rise in the aftermath of Adams' T-2 at the Nelson. He earned $485,333, raising his season total to $821,168. Using Nunez' 2008 data and factoring in Adams' 2010 earnings, the people of Nunez should be happy to learn that per capita income is $21,841, a 38 percent raise for each of them.

SINGH SUNG BLUE

Vijay Singh's precipitous fall is remarkable when juxtaposed against how consistently well he played for nearly two decades. In 2009, Singh failed to win a tournament for the first time since 2001. His earnings of $1.28 million represented his worst year since 1997. He's now ranked 58th in the world and is out of the top 50 for the first time since 1992.

Singh missed the cut at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, where his 36-hole total of eight-over par 148 bettered only four players. He has now missed the cut in five of 11 starts, including four of the last five. In his last 13 rounds, he has broken 70 only once.

Singh is also 47, which conceivably -- though not necessarily -- is contributing to the decline. Another factor could be back issues that bothered him earlier this year, resulting in his withdrawing from the Transitions Championship. Singh declined to elaborate at the Nelson, but suffice it to say, he doesn't vaguely resemble a player with 34 victories, more than $62 million in earnings and more victories (20) since turning 40 than anyone in the game's history.

OFF COURSE IN EUROPE

This was a show gone wrong, the stage playing a more prominent role than the actors performing across it. From the outset, the focus of the European Tour's showcase event, the BMW PGA Championship, was on the 18th hole at the renovated Wentworth Club in Surrey, England.

It was alternately praised and panned, even before a shot was struck.

From Derek Lawrenson in the Daily Mail:

"A fairly bland par five has been totally transformed into an attention-grabbing, risk-reward long hole, with a stream protecting the front and the left-hand side providing the daring element that the previous design lacked.

"Once it has the benefit of a little history behind it, you can see this being hailed in 10 years as one of the best finishing holes in Britain."

Or not. There was this from Mark Reason in the Telegraph:

"Wentworth's new 18th hole is a nasty piece of Americana. It is a strip of blazing neon jagging across the natural green and russets of the Surrey countryside.

"The result is something that looks flash, but is a golfing nonsense. A perfectly good par five has been turned into a bash, a lay-up and a pitch across water. It might as well be a par three. They spent half a million quid on an aquatic folly -- there goes the winner, not waving, but drowning."

The latter opinion tended to be the majority view -- Lee Westwood was among the most vocal critics -- to the point that Ernie Els, who oversaw the renovation, was forced to defend the reasons behind the par-5 18th hole transformation that generally rendered the risk too great for the potential reward.

"Today I felt very disappointed by everything that's been said and kind of hurt a little bit," Els said. "But you've got to be man enough to stand up and take it on the chin. This golf course is something for the future. Richard Caring didn't want 18-under winning and I think he succeeded in that."

The winner was Simon Khan at six-under par 278.

Caring, Wentworth's owner and the man who commissioned the renovation, accepted blame.

"The 18th was a dream I had," Caring told reporters. "I wanted to give the spectators a bit of excitement, a bit of theatre. We might have gone slightly too far because it's proven to be quite difficult. I think the green could be slightly lower, which is what Ernie Els wanted to do, but I was a bit more theatrical than he was. I liked it a little higher. I thought we should tempt the pros to hit the second shot into the green rather than laying up, (but) I must say Ernie was right and I was wrong."

KHAN JOB

Khan might have been the least likely winner the BMW Championship could have produced. He wasn't in the field until Monday of tournament week and was ranked 471st in the world. Then he had to overcome a seven-stroke deficit on Sunday, which he did with a final round of 66.

Khan is now ranked 106th.

MINUTIAE

Korea's Sun Young Yoo won the Sybase Match Play Championship Sunday, defeating Angela Stanford of the U.S. in the final. Yoo is the third Korean to win on the LPGA this year (joining Se Ri Pak and Hee Kyung Seo). No American has won in 2010, and Michelle Wie is the only American winner in the last 12 months...Rory McIlroy tied for 48th at the BMW PGA Championship, another indifferent performance in the wake of his victory in the Quail Hollow Championship. He missed the cut in the Players Championship the week after his victory...Pernice was low senior at the Nelson, tying for seventh...Pavin, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, curiously is forgoing the Senior PGA Championship to which he had previously committed and instead will play at Colonial, where he has won twice. The PGA of America, which conducts the Ryder Cup and the Senior PGA, can't be pleased with that.

ON TWITTER

From Oliver Wilson: "Sorry to Dan who I nearly killed today on the 7th. Landed my tee shot flush on him & ruined his afternoon -saved me a shot though, Thanks!"

ON DECK

PGA Tour: Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. Defending Champion Steve Stricker. Champions Tour: Senior PGA Championship at Colorado Golf Club in Denver. Defending champion Michael Allen. LPGA: HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup 2010 at Itanhanga Golf Club in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Defending champion Catriona Matthew.

Story lines:

• Phil Mickelson, who has won twice at Colonial, can overtake Tiger Woods in the World Ranking with another victory there. Mickelson has never been No. 1.

• The HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup 2010 is an unofficial event (featuring a field of 27 playing 36 holes), but not an unimportant one in a country that will host the Olympics in 2016. Golf will become an Olympic sport at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

QUOTABLE

"I've got underwear older than him." Kenny Perry on 16-year-old Jordan Spieth (from the Dallas Morning News).

PARTING THOUGHT

Tom Pernice admirably gave a spirited defense of the HP Byron Nelson Championship, but ultimately it was one of the few times he misfired last week. Pernice, 50, the oldest player in the field, tied for seventh.

The Nelson once routinely attracted a strong field -- in 2005, it had the top five from the World Ranking, including Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Last week, it had one in the top 20, Hunter Mahan (17th), a local resident.

In his defense of the Nelson, Pernice cited the fact that it still delivered an entertaining show, largely the result of Spieth, a Dallas teen who was in contention on the weekend.

"It proves to me and to the people here at the Salesmanship Club [the group that runs the tournament] and the people at HP that you don't always need the biggest and the best names to have an exciting and a great week," Pernice said. "You don't need Tiger and Phil to have a great event."

The reality is that an element of luck was involved in rescuing the Nelson. Were it not for Spieth's performance, the tournament would have been as flat as the Dallas landscape.

Good for Spieth and Dallas, but one magical week doesn't solve a problem it will face again next year, attracting more of the game's elite.