Golf isn't over til we say it's over
The PGA Tour closed up its official ship for the year on Sunday at the Children’s Miracle Network Hopsitals Classic at Disney World. Charlie Beljan struck a blow for all of us anxiety-ridden golfers by winning the trophy despite suffering from severe symptoms of what he called a panic attack for the final three rounds. And Tim "Lumpy" Herron struck a blow for all of us not-so-svelte-anymore golfers by rallying to secure his playing privileges for 2013 by squeaking into the top 125 on the final money list.
Seriously, I cannot imagine how Beljan actually won. If he was feeling anywhere near as shaken-up as he looked on Friday – and judging from his comments afterward, he was – his second-round 64 has to be one of the greatest displays of mental golf I’ve ever seen.
Beljan’s amazing victory would be an appropriate way to close out the year in golf – except that the year is nowhere near being finished. In fact, this is one of the busiest weeks on the global golf calendar.
--On Monday, Justin Rose and Peter Hanson held off their Ryder Cup rivals Dustin Johnson and Keegan Bradley to win the Tyco Golf Skills Challenge at the Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla. That event will be televised Dec. 29-30 on NBC.
--Today, three-member teams from the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour and Champions Tour are battling it out in the Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge at Rio Secco Golf Club out near Las Vegas. That event will be televised Dec. 10 on the Golf Channel.
--Also, today is the beginning of the Champions Tour Q-School finals at TPC Eagle Trace in Coral Springs, Fla. The four-day event concludes Friday, and the field of 78 includes one major champion – 1996 U.S. Open winner Steve Jones – and a bunch of familiar names, including Bobby Clampett, Bruce Vaughan, David Peoples, Esteban Toledo, Anders Forsbrand, Jeff Brehaut and John Inman. Also competing are putting guru Stan Utley and longtime loopers Damon Green (Zach Johnson’s caddie) and Lance Ten Broeck (Jesper Parnevik’s caddie).
PGA Club Professionals are also well-represented in the field, with 2008 PGA Professional Player of the Year Sonny Skinner of Georgia, two-time Senior PGA Professional National Championship winner Kirk Hanefeld of Massachusetts, and three-time PGA Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year Chris Starkjohann of California leading the charge.
Speaking of PGA Club Professionals, Tim Thelen of Texas is carving out quite a career for himself on the European Senior Tour. Last weekend, Thelen won the Fubon Senior Open in Taiwan by five strokes for his third victory of the season. That ensured him a top-four finish on the money list and a spot in the 2013 U.S. Senior Open, and made him the first American to win three times in a season since John Grace in 2000.
Thelen was a college teammate of Colin Montgomerie at Houston Baptist, then spent a couple decades establishing himself among his fellow club professionals. He twice won the PGA Professional National Championship, then qualified for the 2011 European Senior Tour by winning Q-School. He finished 24th on the money list to retain his card for this season. What a tremendous "second career" for a well-deserving guy.
Also on tap this week are:
--The CME Group Titleholders in Naples, Fla., which is the season-ending event on the LPGA Tour. This is the second year for the curtain-dropper, and its first at the TwinEagles Club. Stacy Lewis locked up the Player of the Year award last week at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, but she and Inbee Park are in an almost dead heat for the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. Park has a big lead in the money race, but Lewis could catch her if she wins and Park finishes poorly.
--The UBS Hong Kong Open is the next-to-last event on the European Tour schedule, with only the season-ending DP World Championship in Dubai remaining. Rory McIlroy clinched the money title last week at the Barclays Singapore Open, but the field is still very strong. McIlroy is playing, and will be joined by the likes of Matt Kuchar, John Daly, Padraig Harrington, Y.E. Yang, Paul Lawrie, Paul Casey, Jose Maria Olazabal and last week’s winner, Matteo Manassero.
--The Australian Masters kicks off the southern hemisphere’s summer season at spectacular Kingston Heath in Melbourne. Ian Poulter, Europe’s catalyst at the Ryder Cup and who also recently won the WGC-HSBC Champions, is the defending champion. He’s joined in the field by Graeme McDowell and an Australian contingent that includes Adam Scott, Robert Allenby and Stuart Appleby. Kingston Heath, one of Australia’s great Sandbelt courses, is widely considered among the top 20 or 30 courses in the world.
--The South African Open is the world’s second-oldest national championship, behind only the British Open, and is by far the biggest event on southern Africa’s Sunshine Tour. The 102nd edition will include Charl Schwartzel, Martin Kaymer, Henrik Stenson, Branden Grace and two-time champion Tim Clark, among others. Veteran Hennie Otto is the defending champion, and the event will be staged at Serengeti Golf & Wildlife Estate for the second straight year.
All four of these events will be televised on the Golf Channel, and you can see the TV schedule here. And, of course, PGA.com will provide coverage of all of them as well.
PGA of America Championships
Benton Harbor, Mich.
Sahalee Country Club
Baltusrol Golf Club
Hazeltine National Golf Club