Hate to be Rude: A look ahead

• Now that the Texas Swing is over, it’s Sneak Preview Fortnight on the PGA Tour.

Will Tiger Woods hit the ball better on the weekend at this week’s Memorial than he did in his last three tournaments? How will Phil Mickelson fare with a heavy heart next week at Memphis in a U.S. Open prep? And how will John Daly do at Memphis in his first domestic tournament of the year?

Woods and Mickelson, of course, are main events, for their performances will give us a hint on how the U.S. Open might unfold. Daly remains a colorful sideshow for the moment, but a more responsible and dedicated one of late.

• Double good news out of the Mickelson camp in recent days. Indications are Amy Mickelson’s breast cancer was caught early. And her husband’s announcement about playing Memphis is another positive sign about her condition.

Now the hard part for him: Focusing on golf while his bride gets treatment.

That could work one of two ways at the Open: Winning one for her in an inspired way, or being derailed by distraction.

• If you thought Bethpage Black embraced Mickelson in 2002, what with serenading and the wave, wait till this time. Sympathy will ramp up the warmth.

• Give Daly credit for honesty. “I’m not going to be (half-trying) like I’ve done in the past,” he said recently.

Half-trying? We’re seen an eighth and a sixteenth at times, no?

• LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens wants her players to be able to “tweet” their thoughts during rounds on Twitter.com. I’m not sure I’ve heard anything that nuts since I watched the Cuckoo’s Nest movie.

Tweet during rounds?

The competition must be held sacred. And concentration and focus are at the heart of the competition.

And isn’t the pace of play already slow enough?

• A belated word on Bob Rosburg, the former PGA champion and longtime ABC announcer. I’ll remember him as a nice man. But I’ll especially remember him for decades of doomsday calls from the fairway, rough and trees.

Dave Marr: “Rossie, what’s he got from there?”

Rossie: “Dave, he has absolutely no shot! Unless he has a bible, a machete, the determination of Hogan and three nuns in his gallery, he’ll be lucky to advance the ball back into play and make something better than 9.”

• Based on the most compelling storyline from the Texas Swing, it’s pretty clear who the world’s greatest athlete is. No, not Tiger Woods.

Lance Ten Broeck.

You have to be the world’s greatest athlete to do what Last Call Lance did at the Valero Texas Open. Drink 21 alcoholic beverages (by his count) the day before the tournament. Caddie for Jesper Parnevik on opening day, find out he’s in the field after the loop, shoot 71 in the afternoon and have a “few more beers and a few glasses of wine” that night – another 20 or so total, according to one touring pro, embellishing or not. Then shoot 70 the next morning and caddie in the afternoon.

You think Woods can do that?

He’d WD before the competition.

• By the way, Ten Broeck surpasses Daly as the world’s greatest athlete. How else could Daly walk and play 18 holes all those years in his condition if he weren’t the WGA?

• It’s hard to keep up with the equipment in Rory Sabbatini’s bag without a scorecard. He used Ping clubs his first three to four years on Tour, was a Nike man for five years, used Adams sticks last year and now is with TaylorMade.

In a culture where some players use the equipment they want and some chase commas and zeroes, what’s the moral of the story? That it’s the Indian, not the arrow?

“The moral of the story is everyone is making good golf equipment now,” Sabbatini said. “I’m sure you will find that there are people that play the equipment because that’s the biggest buck. And you will find there are guys out there that don’t play equipment just purely based on monetary gain. I spent the first part of the year not agreeing to sign with anybody because I really wanted to weigh my best options and find out what worked best for me.”

• Woods and Jack Nicklaus are doing a skins game together Wednesday at the Memorial. Which raises a common question: Which player has had a better career?

It’s too early to call. Let it play out.

Here’s one thing to consider: Nicklaus was such a good ball-striker that it wouldn’t have been easy for Woods, as great as he is, to beat the Golden Bear in match play or on a tight track in medal.

The PGA Tour started keeping statistics in 1980, the year Nicklaus turned 40. And in the first four years of stat-keeping, Nicklaus led the ball-striking category (combination of total driving and greens in regulation) all four years. Then he finished sixth and fifth the next two seasons.

So you can imagine how good of a ball striker he was between the ages of 20 and 40 before statistics were kept.

• Sometimes you can tell how good a golf course is by the list of its winners. Muirfield Village is one of those. Here are the six players who have won the Memorial more than once: Woods (3), Kenny Perry (3), Nicklaus (2), Hale Irwin (2), Greg Norman (2) and Tom Watson (2).

• The Tour’s ironman? Try Nicholas Thompson. The Memorial will be his 19th start of the season. He has played every week he has been eligible except one.

He took a week off at the end of the West Coast swing. The slacker.

• In his current newsletter, Woods touched on numerous topics, including his recent visit with President Obama at the White House.

This Woods quote stood out: “I also enjoyed talking with the Secret Service agents.”

Yukking it up with the Secret Service? Anyone ever see one of those guys smile?

Had to be one belly laugh after another.

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