Killing me slowly: Crane’s win sets golf back

Reading Tim McDonald’s recap of Ben Crane’s agonizingly slow win at the US Bank Championship reminded me of my favorite John Wooden quote: “Be quick, but never hurry.”

If we’re lucky, Crane’s win won’t inspire a new wave of golfers to spend more time hovering over every shot. There are already enough slow golfers, and I’m convinced most of them have visited my local muni at some point.

I’m not suggesting everyone needs to race through their next round, but I’m sure there’s a way to enjoy golf without overanalyzing every single bleeping shot. Like the Wizard of Westwood said, you can be efficient without rushing through things. It’s as true in golf as it is in basketball.

Bottom line? Slow play is killing golf. The USGA and everyone else who cares thinks it’s the rising green fees. Yes, it’s a factor. However, I’m convinced slow play keeps more golfers away. Instead, the PGA Tour – and most everyone, for that matter – just pays the issue lip service, giving it the same level of attention John Daly gives his diet.

Don’t know how it is at your course, but the course marshal here always seems much more concerned about the beer stashed at the bottom of my bag than getting people off the course before dark. Priorities, people!

And really, if you want to increase play, you need to target the real decision-maker in the house: The wife. Just a hunch, but I’m thinking the wife would be much more agreeable to your weekly round with the guys if you could promise to be home in four hours instead of five or six.

Annika Rocks

Quote of the week comes from LPGA commish Ty Votaw, commenting on the tour’s new $1 million year-end playoff: “We didn’t talk to any of the other golf tours because we thought it was such a good idea, they would want to take it.”

Yeah…that’s the ticket. Because a year-end playoff is just so unprecedented. I’ve never heard of such a thing. (Well, except for maybe in some minor sports like, say, baseball.) Pity Tim Finchem for not thinking of it first.

Whether or not it’s actually a good idea for the LPGA is still a huge question. Even the players on tour are unsure about the concept, with some (read: Juli Inkster) flat-out criticizing the proposal. And it doesn’t help when the only player who really matters offers only a lukewarm endorsement.

Speaking of Annika, maybe it’s time the LPGA rethinks the new slogan it introduced last week: These Girls Rock.

Instead, let’s be accurate and go with this:

Annika Rocks…And The Rest of ‘Em are Still Better Than You.

Why isn’t Annika Sorenstam a cover girl?

After watching Annika Sorenstam steamroll the competition at last week’s Chick-fil-A, SI.com’s Seth Davis asked his employers to cancel the magazine’s Sportsman of the Year search. So what if it’s mid-May? Davis wants to give Sorenstam the honor right now.

Guess what? He’s absolutely right. At this point, Sorenstam’s lead is larger than her 10-stroke win last Sunday. As Davis correctly points out, Sorenstam should’ve won the award in 2003. This time, you’d think she’d be a shoo-in. You’d be wrong.

Curious to see how many times Sorenstam has been an SI cover girl, I accessed the magazine’s online archives. The search turned up two covers, but on both Sorenstam isn’t the main image; instead, she’s stuck in a small corner, easily overshadowed by the featured picture.

So this week you’d think Sorenstam would finally get her own cover, right? Hardly. Not when week 14 of the 30-week NBA playoff season is in full grind. As a result, we get Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns, who would’ve been a fine choice except for the fact that (a) the Suns’ Amare Stoudemire was on the cover just four weeks ago, and (b) the NBA finals don’t start until mid-June, at the earliest.

Before engraving Sorenstam’s name on this year’s SI award, Davis should first try to get a regular cover devoted to her. Sorenstam may not sell as many magazines as Nash, but her story is just as compelling.

In search of the perfect airport

Because I’m a bit of an airport geek, I just spent the past 30 minutes reviewing the new report from Skytrax that lists the world’s Top 10 Airports for 2005.

(Okay, so maybe I’m a huge airport geek. Sue me. Surely I’m not the only one who actually looks forward to an extended layover so I can see if the airport might have a casino, porn shop, or an outdoor beer garden. As it turns out, Germany’s Frankfurt Airport has all three.)

According to Skytrax – and its 5,584,365 survey respondents – five of the top 10 airports are in Asia, with HongKong International Airport grabbing the top spot.

Scroll down quite a bit and you’ll find the first U.S. airport – Minneapolis-St. Paul International, which ranked 20th overall. Ouch. Somewhere along the way, the U.S. forgot how to build superior airports. Now they don’t even try. (And please don’t write about Denver International, which 10 years later still seems to need some serious tinkering.)

The worst part about the survey is that I wasn’t all that surprised to see the U.S. shutout of the top 10. I can’t remember the last time I was blown away by an airport’s layout/amenities/services. But maybe I just don’t fly enough. Is there a U.S. airport you think deserved a high ranking? Let me know.

Memo to Michelle Wie: Just say no

Like fellow blogger Jennifer Mario, I don’t have a problem with women receiving PGA Tour sponsor exemptions. For as much as these companies are paying, they should be allowed as many exemptions as they want.

And, yes, it certainly won’t hurt the ratings when Michelle Wie plays in the John Deere Classic. And if she does well, she just might earn a spot in the British Open. To some, it’s blasphemy. I won’t go that far, but it all seems like way too much, too soon.

What I’d really like to see is Wie put together a solid run on the LPGA Tour before she receives her next PGA Tour invite. Then I’d like to see her publicly decline the invitation and pass it onto Annika Sorenstam, the only woman deserving of the honor. (Seeing how Annika is busy rewriting the entire LPGA record book, she’d likely decline the offer.)

If Wie is serious about her long-term future, she’ll stop accepting every invitation that comes her way. I realize most 15-year-olds aren’t known for their incredible focus, but it’s not too much to ask for Wie to settle on just one goal this year (besides finishing her sophomore year): Winning an LPGA Tour event.

Masters leftovers

Phil Mickelson was sure the popular choice before the Masters, but that bandwagon is pretty light today. Tiger finally wins again and the Lefty naysayers come storming back in full voice.

Fair enough. Having picked Mickelson to repeat, I’ll be the first to give Tiger all the respect in the world. But the Tour season didn’t end last Sunday. Before we start engraving Tiger’s player of the year trophy, let’s go ahead and play the other three majors, shall we? My hunch is Mickelson – unlike past years – isn’t going to be content this year w/wins at the FBR Open, Pebble Beach, and the BellSouth.

Lastly…can we stop already w/the countless columns from the Masters listing the week’s “winners and losers”? Enough. There was only one winner on Sunday, and it wasn’t Chris DiMarco. Go ahead and praise him all day long – and deservedly so – but let’s stop calling the second-place finisher a “winner.”

New and improved Mickelson primed to repeat

One year after correctly picking Phil Mickelson to win the Masters, I’m ready to do it again. And this year I feel even better about the choice.

While Chris Baldwin waxes poetic – “Mickelson will forever be the romantic pick and seldom the realistic one” – it’s clear our favorite blogger is stuck in 2003. Back then, I would’ve agreed with Baldwin’s argument. Mickelson wasn’t mature enough to take that next step. But after a disastrous 2003 season (for Mickelson, at least), he changed his entire approach to the game. Thanks to his work with Dave Pelz and Rick Smith – plus an intelligent change in equipment – he seems more focused than ever.

And for what it’s worth, I love the fact that Mickelson stuck around to win the BellSouth yesterday. How can this possibly be a bad thing? (“Oh, the horror. Lefty missed a day of practice at Augusta.” Please.) If anything, winning in wet conditions should serve him well this week at Augusta, where the forecast calls for rain starting Thursday.