1. Cold Arizona felt like the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field this week. And you could even find a faithful contingent of Cheeseheads – a.k.a. Packers fans.
Count Mark Wilson among them at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Temporarily sporting cheesehead hats, Wilson and caddie Chris “Crispy” Jones approached the 16th green during the third round Sunday to both cheers and jeers from the gallery. Ping also supplied Wilson with green and gold visors.
Earlier, Wilson was paired with fellow cheesehead Jerry Kelly and Rocco Mediate, a big Steelers fan.
“Rocco didn’t come back today,” Wilson said Saturday. “He said something in his arm hurt. But I think he was just a little bit worried about the Steelers.
“I think he got a little tired of hearing ‘Go, Pack, go!’ out there from all the fans. He didn’t want to hear it any more today.”
With Green Bay taking the Super Bowl, Wilson turned his attention to TPC Scottsdale. On Monday, he birdied the second hole in sudden death to defeat Jason Dufner for win No. 2 this season (Sony Open)
“The saddest thing is I couldn’t watch the first half of the Super Bowl,” Wilson said Sunday night.
2. Martin Kaymer failed in Qatar to capitalize on a golden chance to become world No. 1.
The German needed to finish first or second in the Commercialbank Qatar Masters to dethrone Lee Westwood from the top of the world order. Westwood missed the cut, but Kaymer never got his game anywhere near the level he reached in Abu Dhabi when he won by eight shots. Kaymer could manage only a 28th-place finish.
Kaymer gets another chance at Westwood’s title in this week’s Dubai Desert Classic. However, world No. 3 Tiger Woods also will be in the mix.
Sergio Garcia showed shades of his old self with a ninth-place finish in Qatar, his best showing since reaching the quarterfinals of last year’s WGC-Accenture World Match Play Championship.
3. At frosty TPC Scottsdale, Phil Mickelson was holding court.
The master tossed out a nugget of wisdom.
Mickelson revealed he is a better wedge player because he is using a different ball this year. He has gone soft, playing the Callaway Tour i(s). He called it “Callaway’s version of a very high-spin golf ball” and added, “It helped me last week at Torrey (the Farmers Insurance Open, held at San Diego’s Torrey Pines, where he finished second), and it’s going to help me this week, as well.”
Indeed. Under frigid conditions, Lefty was in contention until the final round.
Why does he like a soft ball, particularly in cold weather?
“When it gets cold, the ball doesn’t compress as well, and when it hits the face, the face actually moves, and the misses get exaggerated, and this golf ball doesn’t do that. This golf ball compresses very easily, so I hit it a lot straighter in cold conditions,” he said.
4. TaylorMade is betting that consumer acceptance of its R11 white driver will be a big success. How big? Sean Toulon, TaylorMade’s executive vice president of product creation, predicts the company’s market share will climb “well into the 40s” in the woods category.
“I would say we practically know what is going to happen,” Toulon said, noting that the company expects to ship 500,000 metal woods in the first quarter this year. (It already has booked the same number in the first month of 2011 as the company shipped in the entire first quarter last year.)
TaylorMade – with 32.1 percent of dollar sales of the wood category at on- and off-course shops in December 2010, according to research firm Golf Datatech – is the market leader. Still it’s a bold prediction, but Toulon’s confidence has been months in the making.
The white-headed movement began last year with the Ghost putter. Toulon said the Ghost has been a huge success in Japan, and its market share in the U.S. at on- and off-course shops is at its highest ever.
“If we painted it black, we couldn’t have given the thing away,” he said. “But people saw it on TV and we couldn’t keep the thing in stock.”
Toulon declined to reveal how much TaylorMade is spending on its “whiteout” campaign, but he called it the company’s most significant investment ever.
5. Steve Stricker made his first visit to the Middle East with an appearance in the Qatar Masters. However, he didn’t feel totally comfortable, being so far from home.
“I’m not a big traveler,’’ said Stricker, who lives in Madison, Wis. “I don’t enjoy really being away from home that much, let alone getting outside the country.”
“You tend to do stuff that is more comfortable for you, and what’s comfortable for me is playing in the States. So I’ve never really ventured out over here to play.
“I’m also like a fish out of water.”
No doubt the reported $200,000 appearance fee helped Stricker’s homesickness.