Philadelphia, PA – Major championships always define seasons regardless of golf tour. With a pair of majors this weekend, there will be lots on the line.
Over the next five weeks, there are five majors on three separate tours. This weekend, the ladies have the LPGA Championship and the Champions Tour offers the Tradition.
Next week, of course, is the U.S. Open.
After a week off, the elder circuit has the Senior Players Championship with the U.S. Women's Open to follow the next week.
Let's break down the favorites.
Entering the LPGA Championship, most followers of the tour would be surprised if Yani Tseng or Stacy Lewis didn't win. Tseng is the youngest player - male or female - to win five major championships, and already has won three times this year.
Meanwhile, Lewis has won two of the last three official LPGA Tour events.
If someone other than those two wins this week, it could be Ai Miyazato or So Yeon Ryu. Those two rank third and fourth, respectively, on tour in top-10 finishes this year. Miyazato is an eight-time tour winner, while Ryu is the reigning U.S. Women's Open champion.
Tom Lehman is the reigning champ at the Tradition, but hasn't won this year. Lehman does have four top 10s in nine starts, but you'd have to count Michael Allen, Bernhard Langer and Jay Haas as the favorites.
Allen is the lone two-time winner this year and has five top-three finishes. Langer tops the tour with eight top-10s in 10 starts. Haas has finished in the top 10 in three of the last four years at the Tradition.
The season's second major for the PGA Tour tees off at The Olympic Club next week. Coming off his second win of the year, it's hard to overlook three-time U.S. Open winner Tiger Woods as the favorite.
Of course, we said the same heading into the Masters after Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but he struggled to a share of 40th at Augusta.
Defending U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy has missed three straight cuts and added this week's PGA Tour event in Memphis, Tenn., to his schedule to get some more game reps in.
The top-two players in the world -- Luke Donald and Lee Westwood -- are both long overdue to win a major. Maybe next week is their week?
Or is it Jason Dufner's turn to win a major? He might be the hottest player this side of Lewis.
After a week off from the majors, the Champions Tour offers the Senior Players Championship. Last year, Fred Couples, who is always a threat in the majors, birdied the third playoff hole to beat John Cook.
Surprisingly, that was Couples' first major championship title since he won the 1992 Masters. It'll be hard to overlook Loren Roberts at the Senior Players, as he has a win and three third-place finishes in the last five years.
The final major in the run might be the most unpredictable, the U.S. Women's Open. Last year, Ryu bested Hee Kyung Seo in a three-hole playoff. That makes it three of the last four, and four of the last seven, in which the winner was unexpected.
Since 2005, Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr and Annika Sorenstam were the only big-name winners. I'll go with someone who had the title stolen from her in the past.
Morgan Pressel tied for third at the Sybase Match Play, but hasn't finished better than tied for 20th anywhere else this year. To me, that makes her the perfect candidate to win her first U.S. Women's Open.
Pressel nearly won that title in 2005, but Birdie Kim holed a bunker shot for birdie on the 72nd hole to beat Pressel and Brittany Lang, who were both amateurs at the time.
Drama, tension, remarkable shots, unanticipated mistakes and pure joy. Those are a few of the things you'll see over the month with five major championships putting players through the grinder.
LEWIS CONTINUES TO IMPRESS
Stacy Lewis has overcome many obstacles in her career. The only one left might be the hardest of them all.
Lewis had spinal fusion surgery in high school to treat her scoliosis. After redshirting her freshman year while recovering for said surgery, Lewis went on to become a four-time All-American at the University of Arkansas.
In 2007 as an amateur, she won an LPGA event that was shortened by inclement weather. Because it only went 18 holes, the win was deemed unofficial.
Shortly after becoming the first player to go 5-0 at the Curtis Cup, Lewis turned pro in the summer of 2008.
She has had a steady climb to the top of the game since. Her two recent wins have jumped her to No. 3 in the women's world rankings, making her the highest-ranked American.
Lewis has made it this far, but will she be able to overcome world No. 1 Yani Tseng? Time will tell, of course, but that battle will be as tough, if not tougher, than her fight with scoliosis.
Knowing the strength it took Lewis to overcome scoliosis, I wouldn't bet against her taking the top spot in the rankings from Tseng.
* I've read in several places that Phil Mickelson withdrew from the Memorial as sort of a silent protest to the relaxed cell phone policy that was implemented at the event. Mickelson reportedly texting tour commissioner Tim Finchem from a fairway in the middle of his one and only round to voice his displeasure is another thing. The tour doesn't announce fines or suspensions, but I'm sure Phil will write a nice check to the tour to pay that fine off.
* What has happened to Mike Weir's game? He has more rounds in the 80s (four) than rounds under par (two) on the PGA Tour this year. The 2003 Masters champion has missed the cut in all nine of his PGA Tour events this season. I know he had elbow surgery last year, but he is heading down the same path as David Duval and Michael Campbell. And that isn't a good path.