Golf's young guns overshadowed

Tiger Woods walks off the 17th tee during the first round of the 93rd PGA Championship at the...

Tiger Woods walks off the 17th tee during the first round of the 93rd PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Georgia on August 11, 2011. (REUTERS/Matt Sullivan)

IAN HUTCHINSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:28 PM ET

It’s now official that golf can’t wean off Tiger Woods and still sees itself as a one-trick pony in an era of lively colts, not that there was any doubt that the focus would be on marquee over merit when Fred Couples named his captain’s picks last week.

With Keegan Bradley, the only American to win a major in the last seven tries, relegated to first alternate status at the Presidents Cup, out the window goes the pat line that players with the hottest hands earn captain’s picks.

At this early stage of his career, Bradley can’t possibly be expected to outperform Woods in the hype department, a critical consideration at this time of year when golf backs into the shadows cast by the NFL and baseball’s post-season.

The PGA Tour admitted its afterthought status when it introduced the weak Fall Series that traditionally takes place when the big boys such as Woods are taking a nap after a long, hard season.

That changes, albeit briefly, when Woods uncharacteristically tees it up at this week’s Frys.com Open in the hope of transforming a game that, last we saw, made him a not-ready-for-prime-time player, despite the fishbowl he’ll be in this week.

Not that the Tiger talk has subsided since he missed the cut at the PGA Championship.

Everybody from Luke Donald to Jack Nicklaus to Greg Norman has chimed in on Woods’ future and don’t be surprised if Sarah Palin (“I can see Tiger from my house”), Snooki from Jersey Shore and Charlie Sheen have their say.

Then, there was the buzz about whether Tiger broke protocol when he recently hired caddie Joey LaCava away from Dustin Johnson and how big a role LaCava will play if Woods eventually does beat Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.

It’s so silly, but the heat gets turned up even higher as the road to the Presidents Cup starts this week. Nothing sticks to Couples, a fan favourite who can make such a political decision without much repercussion, but is his call good for Woods?

It remains to be seen, but early this week, we’ll hear from Tiger about productive practice sessions with Sean Foley and how his game is coming around.

It’s then critical that he prove it, unlike when he’s made such statements in the past, then flopped.

He’s in a no-win situation in respect to results because victory against a relatively weak Fall Series field won’t be that big a deal, but anything below a top 10 will be a major disappointment.

The sole purpose this week is to shake off the considerable rust that accumulated over the lengthy layoff from tournament play that makes Woods’ selection so questionable.

The only consequence will be inside his own melon. Whatever happens will have a few weeks to linger, be it a shot of confidence or more failure that festers before Woods tees it up at the Australian Open, a better test of whether he’s Presidents Cup-ready.

Once he gets to the Presidents Cup, a record at least close to the 5-0 mark he compiled at Harding Park two years ago is critical, but four of those matches were played with Steve Stricker, who has been diagnosed with a herniated disc in his neck.

It hasn’t been determined if Stricker will be ready for the Presidents Cup and while his presence would be good for Woods, his absence would bring Bradley back into the picture. Controversy over, right?

Only if you can’t see past Tiger to Brandt Snedeker or Rickie Fowler or others who finished above Woods in the U.S. standings. Whatever the outcome with Woods, it will overshadow the guys who were thrown under the bus to make it possible.

HADWIN WILL JOIN TIGER

With all eyes on Tiger, Adam Hadwin would love a top-five finish similar to the one he enjoyed at this year’s RBC Canadian Open. Hadwin has picked up an exemption into the Frys.com Open and will play this week alongside fellow Canadians Stephen Ames, David Hearn, Matt McQuillan and Chris Baryla. Hadwin, who earned $228,800 for his Canadian Open performance and has more than $300,000 in three PGA Tour events this season, was also top Canadian in International standings for the Presidents Cup, finishing 72nd. Ames was close behind in 76th ... Ernie Els, who will play on the International team, has also elected to play in the Frys.com ... Lexi Thompson, now a member of the LPGA Tour at age 16, stated recently that she has no desire to play against the boys, unlike Canadian Izzy Beisiegel. The Izzy tizzy caused earlier this year when Beisiegel earned non-exempt status on the Canadian Tour resulted in four missed cuts in four events played. This year, Beisiegel led the Futures Tour with a 264.441-yard average driving distance, which wouldn’t get her into the top 185 on the PGA Tour, which she has also said she’d like to play. The ogres are not the people who don’t automatically support Beisiegel in her quest to play against the boys. It’s the ugly numbers that underscore that quest is not based in reality. Just saying.


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