January 28, 2015 - 10:33am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Phil Mickelson
USA Today Sports Images
Phil Mickelson is a three-time winner of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, making him an easy pick for this week.

The wildest party in golf takes place this week at TPC Scottsdale for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where it's sure to be even rowdier than usual with Tiger Woods making his 2014-15 season debut and playing the event for the first time since 2001.

Oh, and as if that wasn't enough, just down the road in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks square off in Super Bowl 49.

RELATED: WMPO tee times | Tiger Woods in season debuts | Tiger's restored smile

Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar are among the other stars teeing it up at TPC Scottsdale this week too. It's going to be a lot of fun.

With that, here are five players to watch this week.

5. Gary Woodland
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T2, CIMB Classic
Reason to watch: In three starts this season, Woodland has two top-3 finishes. He is most certainly a player to keep an eye on throughout 2015. Woodland is one of the most athletic, raw talents on Tour. He's made some noise in his career, but has been mostly thwarted by injuries. If he remains healthy, look out. Woodland tied for fifth at TPC Scottsdale in 2011 -- his best finish in the event where he has never missed the cut. Woodland will be picking up PGA Tour win soon... why not this week?

4. Rickie Fowler
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T3, World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: There are a few players I can't wait to watch in 2015 and Fowler is right near the top of that list. It's well-documented that he finished in the top 5 of all four majors -- without a win -- in 2014. But, he also had six other top-10 finishes. People have viewed Fowler as a potential star for years now. It looks like that star is finally beginning to shine. Fowler is going to have a big 2015.

3. Jordan Spieth
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T35, World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: That stuff I just said about Fowler? Yeah, it applies to this guy too. After the way he ended 2015 with a win in Australia followed by a win seven days later at the Hero World Challenge in Orlando, Spieth showed what's been missing early in his career -- the ability to not only close but absolutely dominate. This will be Spieth's first start in the Phoenix Open. I have the feeling that a young guy like Spieth is going to enjoy -- and thrive -- on the atmosphere.

2. Bubba Watson
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
Winner, World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: Watson is hard to pick against these days, especially after a monster 2014 in which he won twice (including the Masters for a second time); finished second three times (including the Waste Management Phoenix Open); and third once. Every time he tees it up these days, he's a favorite.

1. Phil Mickelson
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T24, Humana Challenge
Reason to watch: For starters, Mickelson is a three-time winner of this event. He's also coming off a season that save for the runner-up finish at the PGA Championship (his only top 10 last season) was one of the worst of his career. Lefty says he's feeling great and I think he'll get back on track this year. The game is just so much more fun to watch when he's the regular contender we've come to expect. He's loved everywhere, but especially in Phoenix, his former home and college town. 

Here's how my five to watch fared at the Humana Challenge:

5. Phil Mickelson -- T24
4. Pat Perez -- T30
3. Bill Haas -- Won
2. Matt Kuchar -- T2
1. Keegan Bradley -- T48 

5 players to watch at Waste Management Phoenix Open
Martin Kaymer
Associated Press
Martin Kaymer could only hang his head after losing a 10-shot lead in Abu Dhabi, but since then he has managed to turn that shocking loss into a positive.
Nine days ago, two-time major champion Martin Kaymer shockingly lost a 10-stroke lead in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. On Tuesday, he said, "I'm very glad that it happened."
 
No, Kaymer isn't a masochist. In an interview at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, he explained how he's managing to turn that kind of unthinkable defeat into something of a positive.
 
"Those things, they are not nice when it happens, but afterwards you are even more motivated because you grow a lot on the golf course, as a golf player and also as a person," Kaymer said. "And therefore, you became more mature. It was almost like a life lesson, not only a golf lesson that I got there. So therefore, I'm very glad that happened."
 
To refresh your memory, Kaymer was 10 shots out front as he stood on the sixth tee of the final round in Abu Dhabi. He'd been breezing all week, and surely couldn't imagine any outcome other than his fourth victory in an event he has won more than any other player. But he dropped six shots in his next seven holes en route to a 75, while unheralded Gary Stal made six birdies in an eight-hole stretch to pull out an unforgettable victory.
 
 
Kaymer – one of the game's best front-runners over the last half decade – said he needed a full 24 hours with his dad and brother to process that shocking sequence of events. And he quickly shot down the notion that he's in Dubai this week to prove a point.
 
"Well, prove a point for who, that's the question," he said. "That was part of the reflection, as well. Who do you do it for? Do you do it for others, to meet their expectations? Do you do it for yourself? 
 
"I didn't come here to Dubai to prove to others that I could win a golf tournament. I don't care about this. I proved many, many times before that I can win," he added. "I've been in many situations that were more difficult, more important, so I know it has nothing to do with my game."
 
Kaymer stressed that he handled the pressure of leading "differently at the U.S. Open [which he won last June], handled it differently at Sawgrass [where he won the Players Championship last spring] at The Ryder Cup and many other occasions where I was leading, where I had wire-to-wire wins or in 2010 when I kept winning golf tournaments [including the PGA Championship, his first major title]. Abu Dhabi was different and I'm glad it was different because I think every athlete needs that. 
 
"I don't want to call it a bad experience, because it's not a bad experience. It would create a bad result on the scorecard, but it creates a lot of truth about yourself; that we are not machines; that maybe the German engineering doesn't always work," he added. "It does work usually, but once in a while it gets stuck too, and for me to learn, that made it, in some ways, a brilliant day for me."
 
Martin Kaymer glad his shocking loss in Abu Dhabi happened – really
January 27, 2015 - 1:41pm
Posted by:
Doug Ferguson
mark.aumann's picture
Tiger Woods
USA Today Images
Tiger Woods was all smiles Tuesday while chatting with the media after his Phoenix Open practice round.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Tiger Woods was all smiles Tuesday -- and with a full set of teeth.

Woods gave a play-by-play account of how his front tooth was knocked out in Italy on Jan. 19 to celebrate girlfriend Lindsey Vonn's record 63rd World Cup victory. He said one tooth was chipped and the other was cracked. Both were replaced before he arrived to start his season at the Phoenix Open.

He said he wore a skeleton-patterned scarf over his face to avoid being recognized, making a crack about how difficult that can be for a man of black heritage at a World Cup ski race in Italy.

TOOTHLESS TIGER: Woods accidentally hit by cameraman in Italy

"Not a lot of brown dudes at ski races, OK?" he said with a laugh, as cameras clicked at his smile.

Woods said when the race was completed, the podium presentation was moved up on a hill for the photographers. He went to the top of the hill, behind the cameras.

"All the camera guys are below me on their knees or moving all around, trying to get a picture because she's hugging people, saying congratulations to the other racers as they are coming down," he said. "Some already finished, some are there already in the changing area. Dude with a video camera on his shoulder right in front me, kneeling, stood up and turned and caught me square on the mouth."

Woods said he tried to keep his mask on "so the blood is not all over the place." He said the videographer hit the tooth on which he had root canal, chipping it. He said the other tooth had to be fixed, too, because it had cracks through it."

The photo of Woods missing a tooth became as big a sensation as Vonn's record victory. There did not appear to be any swelling on Woods' mouth when a photographer captured the image of his mouth slightly open and the scarf lowered.

Nicola Colli, the secretary general of the race organizing committee, told The Associated Press he was among those who escorted Woods from the tent to a snowmobile for him to leave "and there was no such incident."

"When he arrived he asked for more security and we rounded up police to look after both him and Lindsey," Colli had said.

Whether anyone believed the story from a week ago was not his concern.

"Dude, you guys ... it's just the way the media is," he said. "It is what it is."

Woods is playing his first official PGA Tour event since he missed the cut at the PGA Championship in August. But the biggest topic after he played nine holes under a cloudy sky Tuesday morning was the mystery of his missing tooth.

Except that Woods said there was no mystery at all -- except for the attention it received.

"It's a new world," he said. "We need to talk about something. Have to fill up space. The story is about Lindsey breaking the record. That's the story. I mean, geez, every sport you get teeth knocked out, and unfortunately I wasn't actually competing and got my teeth knocked out."

Asked if his tooth was a cap to begin with, Woods said, "These are permanent, yeah."

Woods said the flight home to Florida was the most painful.

"I couldn't eat, couldn't drink until he fixed them, put the temporaries on," Woods said. "I couldn't have anything touch it. Even breathing hurt, because any kind of air over the nerve ... the tooth was still alive, was cracked."

When asked if the photographer realized what he had done, Woods replied, "He didn't care."

 

 

Tiger on his chipped tooth, chipping woes
January 27, 2015 - 11:13am
mark.aumann's picture
Sean Foley
Montana Pritchard/PGA of America
Not everyone can get a golf lesson from Sean Foley, but your local PGA Professional has the tools and expertise to help your game.

So somebody has given you golf lessons as a holiday gift. Now it's time to use that gift wisely.

Rodd Slater, PGA Professional at Two Rivers Golf Course in Dakota Dunes, S.D., suggests a three-step approach to anyone planning on taking golf lessons. In his words, here's how you achieve success:

1. Ascertain your goal

"Every player has different visions of the game and different goals for themselves. Some are purely social. Some are beginners. Some are really competitive players. So that person needs to have a conversation with their PGA Professional, and that Professional needs to ascertain what the goal of the player is -- and coach to that."

GET GOLF LESSONS: Find a PGA Professional near you

2. Manage your expectations

"What I've found with my students, the process is very slow, and there are ups and downs, even to the point where the player won't remember how poorly they struck the ball a year ago. They'll only remember what they did yesterday, or in that round.

"And sometimes you can raise expectations, so you're not holding them back. You might say, 'Hey, you've got a lot of talent. You're far better than what you think you can. And if we do these simple things, you can get there.'"

GET GOLF READY: Learn the basics of the game

3. Plan the process

"If a competitive player has a high goal, one lesson is probably not going to be enough to take them to their goal, so you have to lay out a plan or process to achieve that.

"The beginner or social player might only take one lesson to help them reach their goal of getting the ball in the air. There are a lot of ladies who just want to spend time on the golf course with their friends and family and their main purpose is to see the ball fly. They don't care about the score. So you might schedule one lesson and be done.

"It's basically goal assessment. What do you want to achieve? And go from there."

 

 

How to best use golf lessons as a gift
Ryan Palmer
A young fan named Ryder receives Ryan Palmer's hat Sunday at the Humana Challenge.

Your mother was right. Politeness matters.

A young fan named Ryder was at the Humana Challenge at La Quinta, Calif., on Sunday about the time Ryan Palmer was on his way to the clubhouse. Palmer spotted him -- and gave him the cap off his head after his round.

ONE HAPPY KID: Boy dances after Rory McIlroy hands him a ball

That was a pretty cool gesture, but what happened after that is even more amazing.

Ryder went on Twitter to send a thank you:

 

 

And as you can see, Palmer responded.

 

 

The Real Ryder Lee is probably the envy of his school today. And Ryan Palmer has at least one new fan.

Ryan Palmer responds to young fan's thank you tweet
January 26, 2015 - 3:08pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Pat Perez, Danny Lee
Facebook
Danny Lee was looking for a place to stay this week for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, so Pat Perez hooked him up... sort of.

If you follow Pat Perez on social media, it's pretty easy to see that he's one of those guys that would be a lot of fun to hang out with on and off the course.

That's probably what fellow PGA Tour pro Danny Lee was thinking when trying to sort out his accommodations for this week's Waste Management Open.

RELATED: Woods makes '15 debut at WM Phoenix Open | Woods in debuts

Perez, who lives in Scottsdale, just shared this 15-second video on Facebook, showing Lee's reaction when Perez told him he'd be sleeping on the floor in the family room.

 

Priceless.

Love Perez saying, "It's you. You said you wanted a place to stay, you didn't say you wanted a bed," while pointing at the blankets on the floor.

We're not going to accuse Lee of being spoiled for wanting a bed to sleep in, but let's just say we wouldn't be complaining about sleeping on the floor in Pat Perez's family room. Did you see that practice green and entertainment center?

Fantastic prank... even if Perez only had him going for three minutes.

Pat Perez pranks Danny Lee