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Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Tale of Two Deserts

Ask most people to name the largest desert on the planet and they'll answer "the Sahara." And they will be wrong. The Sahara is the largest hot desert, but only the second-largest desert overall.

Believe it or not, the largest desert in the world is Antarctica. You see, scientists don't define a desert in terms of heat, but by how difficult it is for life to survive there.

Two gloves are warmer than one, and Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey is scorching hot in frozen Scottsdale. His first-round 63, followed by a 33 on the first nine of his second round, tied him at the top with Sony Open winner Mark Wilson, who's also still on the course but with only 4 holes left in his round. These scores may not hold up since several players haven't started their second rounds at all but, if Gainey finishes his second nine strong, I suspect he'll be leading or tied for the lead at the half. The Tour announced a Monday finish for this event, so there'll be a normal cut made sometime today.

Meanwhile, things turned very cold for Lee Westwood out in Doha, Qatar. A 30-footer hanging on the edge of the 18th hole sent him packing after his second round, leaving the way open for Martin Kaymer to take over #1 in the world rankings. Lee probably won't lose much sleep over it though; Kaymer, who rarely plays well in Qatar, barely made the cut and sits 10 shots off the lead of Marcus Brier. As I was writing this, I checked the leaderboard and Kaymer was even for the round after six holes.

Perhaps the biggest question for me this weekend hasn't been mentioned at all -- at least, not that I've heard. Phil Mickelson's only .48 behind Tiger Woods on the OWGR. Could he possibly place high enough this week to catch Tiger?

If he could, a frozen desert would be the perfect place for Phil to slip past Tiger and retake #3 in the world. Not that those folks at the alcohol-warmed 16th even know it's cold... ;-)


  1. I'm on my way to the Phoenix Open right now. Should be warming up a little today. Good for me. After living in Miami for so long, I'm sure my blood has thinned out significantly. I can't take the cold weather any more.

    I think the plan is to hang around the 16th today and then walk the course tomorrow. The 16th is really as crazy as it looks on television.

  2. At least you should be warm. Thousands of drunk bodies crammed tightly into one enclosed area? We may have found the source of global warming! ;-)

  3. Leave it to some clown scientist to come up with something that dumb. Just when did they redefine "desert" that way ? The Sahara has always been the largest desert on the planet. Deserts were always defined by the lack of water - and last time I checked, all that ice in Antarctica is still water in a frozen state.


    Westwood and Kaymer made themselves non-stories with their play in the first two rounds.

    The story I like from Doha is Marcus Brier. I didn't know that he is 42 years old and had to go back to Q-school last year - now he's right back in the mix to win a tournament.

    And who the heck cares about Phil catching Tiger...for 3rd place in the rankings ? If they aren't battling for #1, it's not worth talking about.

  4. According to National Geographic:

    "Antarctica is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent on Earth. Antarctica is a desert. Most of the ice that covers Antarctica has been there for thousands of years."

    As for Phil... well, if you're #4, you gotta pass #3 to get to the top.;-)

  5. National Geographic - great - so it isn't a scientific redefinition of the word - just a magazine. Ice is water - it's not dry - so it's not a desert. (lol)

    Hey - Phil had a dozen chances to be #1 last year and managed to play poorly even when it only took a mediocre effort to take the spot. Moving up to 3 to take Tiger's spot...just not interesting.

  6. Alas, my dear Court, I'm afraid it is a scientific definition. For example, this is from the U.S. Geological Survey website:

    "Polar deserts are areas with annual precipitation less than 250 millimeters and a mean temperature during the warmest month of less than 10° C. Polar deserts on the Earth cover nearly 5 million square kilometers and are mostly bedrock or gravel plains. Sand dunes are not prominent features in these deserts, but snow dunes occur commonly in areas where precipitation is locally more abundant."

    And this from

    "A desert is a landscape or region that receives very little precipitation - less than 250 mm per year (about ten inches). Approximately 1/3 of Earth's land surface is a desert.

    "The largest areas on Earth that fit this definition are the polar regions. Antarctica has a surface area of about 14 million square kilometers (5.5 million square miles), making it the largest desert in the world."

    If you do a Google search on "polar deserts" you'll pull up a lot of scientific stuff on the term. Apparently when the water stays frozen, it's scientifically indistinguishable from rock.

    Unfortunately, Marcus Brier ran into a desert of a different sort in the fourth round. That 73 killed him. I wonder if Bjorn will finally get past that Open he lost years ago...