|Lexi Thompson may be playing like an adult, but is she ready at 17 for grownup PR stunts? (Getty Images)|
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Each week, CBSSports.com golf writers Steve Elling and Shane Bacon trade shots on hot-button topics of the day, slinging around facts, opinions and projections in pretty much the same fashion they play the game -- with a certain degree of abandon. Except with no mulligans.
As Jason Dufner put it a moment after he won for the first time Sunday night, "The monkey is off my back a little bit." So, then, who is now the best experienced player to not have won on the PGA Tour?
Bacon: I've said it before, so I figure I'll stick with my guns and take Steve Marino. The guy seems to be the type of player who can go lower than just about everyone on tour when his game is clicking, and he has been in contention a number of times but can't close the door. In his career, he has four second-place finishes and two more third-place finishes, but for some reason, Marino has that same tendency Jason Dufner did when the holes were dwindling down, and he struggles to finish. He hasn't played great golf this year, but I still think I'm taking Marino as the most talented player to not win.
Elling: Marino has not played much golf at all, period, because of a knee issue, though he is certainly a valid pick. Many of the top players on our annual winless list have been taking care of business over the past few months, with Kevin Na and Dufner getting off the schneid, which is an ancient golf term that means "winless since they wore kilts." This 0-fer uprising leaves veteran Charlie Wi as the next-best pick. Wi has been in the mix at so many PGA Tour events since earning his card in 2007, the memories blur. He's had at least one second-place finish in all but one season since, including a runner-up finish to Phil Mickelson at Pebble Beach this year, when Wi nervously four-jacked the first hole of the final round after claiming the 54-hole lead. He was also second at cozy Colonial last year, so he can clearly play a variety of venues well. At some point, with five seconds, a Wi win has got to happen soon. Interesting that neither of us picked Rickie Fowler, huh?
• • •
By finishing third over the weekend, Luke Donald climbed back into the top spot in the world ranking, the eighth change at the No. 1 position since the fall of 2010. Rory McIlroy had supplanted Donald, though he was idle. Is it time for an overhaul to the system, first cobbled together in 1986, as two college professors proposed in a GolfWorld story last week?
Bacon: The story is amusing for a number of reasons. First, just the basic summarization of all the problems with the world rankings. (My favorite: "Francesco Molinari won the 2010 WGC-HSBC Champions event and earned 68 points for his victory. The tournament is an otherwise inconsequential, though high-prize-money event held well after the conclusion of the major championships at an undistinguished course in China. The problem: Molinari's point total was worth more than losing the playoff for this year's Masters.") My problem lies a little deeper than just what's wrong with the system. I just don't really get why we focus so much on these standings. Golf is an ever-changing sport, where guys get hot at different times and can jump a number of rankings when their games are clicking -- remember when Martin Kaymer was world No. 1? I think the story shows great examples of just how off the rankings can be at times, but more important, allows us a chance to look back and think, "Maybe these numbers aren't the perfect example of who the best golfer is at this particular moment."
Elling: Amusing? More like incredibly illuminating. Why do we focus on the rankings? You must be kidding. Because they decide who gains access to the elite events in the world. The top-50 mark is a crucial determinant as to gets automatic access to the majors and WGC events, yet the two Ivy League professors proved through unbiased statistical means what I have been bellyaching about for years: The lesser tours, especially in Asia, are given far too many ranking points compared to the PGA and Euro circuits. The current system was rightly characterized as "affirmative action" run amok, and that's a spot-on analogy. Golf is supposed to be the ultimate meritocracy, yet the ranking weights given to the lesser tours to prop them up with regard to faux importance is farcical. Sure, those tours need to matter. But inflating the value of a third-tier victory is depriving better players, especially on the PGA Tour, of the tournament spots they deserve. It's anathema to everything the sport represents. The new data suggests that the average PGA Tour player's position is undervalued by a staggering 36 positions, which is plain jaw-dropping.
• • •
Teen sensation Lexi Thompson finished second in an LPGA event over the weekend, but it didn't create nearly as many raised eyebrows as her plan to hold a contest to select a U.S. military man to take her to her prom. Does this strike you as a good idea?
Bacon: You know what it tells me? Someone's PR team got bored. Honestly, isn't that exactly what happened here? Lexi Thompson's team was sitting around thinking of what they could do to make a splash, then said, "What is the one thing every teenage girl has on her mind? The prom!"
I think it's a cute idea and will get press -- anytime you can support the troops, it's going to be good for your image. But I think it was more a move made out of boredom than anything. Lexi is a very nice young lady who had an incredible weekend (66-65 over the final two rounds), so maybe the karma is heading her way, but I don't think there is anything wrong with her going to prom with a military man. Hey, maybe she'll end up marrying the guy. Now that would be a story.
Elling: What, are Thompson's handlers angling for an Old Navy endorsement deal?
The back story: She's underage at 17, but is looking for a military member around 18-20 to escort her to the prom. While the support for the American military forces is running close to a cultural high-water mark these days, this seems downright creepy and poorly executed, despite its laudable intent. Thompson was home-schooled, has been a working professional for two years and has had anything but a normal childhood. Now they put her prom date up for bid? Will they be inviting the Golf Channel along to film it? High school memories should last a lifetime and should not become a marketing exercise. Every parental instinct is going off like, well, Reveille.