THE WORLD OF GOLF
AMERICANS RETAIN PRESIDENT'S
CUP IN ENTERTAINING FASHION
The President's Cup that
ended this afternoon in Montreal at the oldest continuous operated
golf club in North America, Royal Montreal, is exactly what international
team competition is supposed to be. For four days many of the greatest
players in all the world came together for some friendly, congenial
golf competition that was a great show of golfing skills and athletic
rivalry. The American team captained by Jack Nicklaus defeated the
International team captained by Jack's good friend, Gary Player,
to retain the cup for the next two years. The International Team
also known as the ROW, for rest-of-world other than Great Britain
and Europe whom the Americans take on in alternate years in the
Ryder Cup Matches, was a talent laden assemblage including the likes
of Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Geoff Ogilvy, Retief Goosen, K. J.Choi,
Angel Cabrera, Adam Scott and many others of equal ability. The
Americans were led by Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, David
Toms, Stewart Cink, Scott Verplank plus some rookies like Woody
Austin and young golfing sensations Lucas Glover and Hunter Mahan.
The course was beautiful with the leaves beginning to turn plus
the weather after some rain showers earlier in the week turned out
to be crisp and near perfect. The greens softened by the rain early
on were holding iron shots so the golfers were shooting darts at
the pins. This all made for a tremendously entertaining weekend
of great golf.
Canadian Mike Weir was
the home grown favorite of the crowd and he kept this enormous throng
of 30,000 per day cheering with magnificent golf and especially
on Sunday when he knocked off the number one player in the world,
Tiger Woods after Tiger conceded on the 18 th green. When you get
right down to what made this event so special it had to be the combination
of great golf and congeniality. All the golfers seemed to be having
a good time, most smiling and enjoying each other's company. As
a result the overall score seemed less important, the individual
matches more important. It was, as if, they all got together in
a large room beforehand and decided to go out and put on a really
good show for the Canadian fans and those watching on TV from around
the world. Woody Austin, a 43 year old American rookie was the star
of the week after he fell into the greenside pond at the 16 th on
Friday attempting to extricate his ball from a submerged lie. As
he swung at his ball he lost his balance and fell backwards into
the water. He quickly was given a nickname by Mickelson and became
“AquaMan”. On Sunday he donned swim goggles as he strolled up the
16 th fairway. He claimed Barbara Nicklaus had put him up to it.
“AquaMan” seemed to define the entertaining environment so prevalent
during the week.
Woody will no doubt become
an attraction on Tour next season as his gutsy style of golf and
his newly found stardom will bring out the fans. Something else
happened during this week for the Americans. Lucas Glover and Hunter
Mahan, two other rookies and captain's picks, acquitted themselves
really well. Lucas might have made more birdies than any of his
teammates. In the Saturday afternoon Four Ball match he was teamed
with Charles Howell III against local crowd favorites Mike Weir
and Ernie Els. Lucas' score was posted on every hole as he ran off
an eagle and five birdies for a six under par 64 on his own ball.
Howell helped him on two holes but they went down to defeat. This
kind of experience in the limelight showed great promise but better
things to come for Mahan and Glover. Glover was particularly impressive.
Also impressive was Phil
Mickelson's play which has not been the case in recent international
team competition for Lefty. He looked much more in charge of his
game. Tiger who also has struggled in team competition played very
well except for his defeat on Sunday at the hands of Weir. So just
maybe the Americans are learning the way to be more competitive
in international team play. Perhaps Captain Nicklaus has shown them
the way. Relax, have some fun and just go out and play golf. One
more thought; it seems that the Europeans in the Ryder Cup display
more attitude and, in fact, tend to wear it on their sleeves whereas
the Internationals are more low key under Captain Gary Player's
leadership. By the way, in case you are interested, the Americans
won 19½ to 14½.
September 16, 2007
- TIGER WINS, THEN WINS AGAIN
Well what did you expect?
Today, Eldrick “Tiger” Woods, a native of California and the World
went out on this gorgeous fall day and polished off the Tour Championship
at East Lake in Atlanta then collected a second trophy as the winner
of the first FedEx Cup. The first title paid just a bit over $1.2
million while the second title was worth $10 million in retirement
annuities. The rich get richer. Tim Finchem of the PGA Tour must
admit the FedEx didn't work this year as a way to excite golf fans
and especially the world's elite golfers. To put it another way,
it was a flop. We knew from day one who would win it and…he did.
So it is back to the drawing board for the top brass at The Tour.
He needs to get acceptance from the players who make it worthwhile.
The victory today was
Tiger's second in two weeks, seventh of the year and 61 st of his
career and he continues to totally dominate worldwide golf. He finished
a whopping eight shots ahead of second place finishers Mark Calcavecchia
and Zach Johnson who signed cards at -15 to Tiger's -23 or 257 total.
As for the FedEx, Steve Stricker finished second and learned he
would have $3 million waiting on him when he retires at age 65 while
Phil Mickelson came in third to put $2 million in his retirement
coffers. Why are these guys playing for retirement money?
Tiger will surely win
Player of the Year and all other year end awards as he usually does.
Hopefully he will have enough interest left to lead the American
contingent against the International team in the upcoming President's
Cup Matches in Montreal . International team competition is an area
where Tiger could improve. He is a great player destined to break
all of the existing records in Tour golf. He dominates, no he crushes
the competition. But, the fans keep coming out, more and more want
to catch a glimpse of this golfing genius. The biggest challenge
for Tiger, now, is to decide how to spend his money. You can only
buy so many beach front estates, planes, helicopters or yachts.
Obviously, more and more will go to charity.
The most interesting competition
in golf this weekend was the Solheim Cup from Sweden . The American
distaff golfers knocked off the Europeans with terrific play in
singles matches on Sunday to bring back the cup. In singles the
Americans took eight matches to pull away. It was pleasing to see
Julie Inkster win 2 ½ points and to get her first Solheim
Cup win in Europe . And how about teenage sensation, Morgan Pressel,
besting Annka Sorenstam in singles. Way to go ladies, that was great
golf in wintry conditions!
September 4, 2007
- LEFTY LEVELS TIGER IN BEANTOWN
Phil Mickelson can finally
exhale; relax a bit in the solace of knowing he can, indeed, stand
his ground in hand-to-hand combat with Tiger Woods. After struggling
against Tiger in previous years when paired with Woods, Lefty traded
punches right down to the final bell and came away with a two shot
margin of victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship in Norton ,
Mass. The win catapults Lefty into the catbird's seat atop the FedEx
Cup standings with two playoff events remaining. Tiger is in the
third spot behind Steve Stricker headed into the BMW at Cog Hill
in Chicagoland. Mickelson built a big lead early after birdies at
2, 4, 5, 7 and 10. He tried to help his pursuers with a double bogey
at 12. Tiger made his patented charge down the stretch with birdies
at 14, 16 and 18 but Lefty, showing resolve against his rival, matched
him with birdies of his own at 16 and 18. After the tournament,
Tiger remained number one in the world while Lefty moved up to second.
Tiger finished in a tie for third with two more Americans, Brett
Wetterich and Arron Oberholser.
For the media and golf
fans around the world, it is somewhat soothing to the golfer's soul
to know that Tiger is not and will not win every event he enters.
For periods of time each year it seems that he gets on these runs
where no one can compete at his level. I fully expect for there
to be many other similar stretches in Tiger's career ahead but when
we have one of those rare shootout, challenge matches, like yesterday,
we know now that the challenger does have a chance. This makes for
great theater, greater and more vocal fan support. Both Tiger and
Lefty have great numbers of loyal, vociferous fans. This is good
for the game just as Smokin' Joe was good for the legend of Muhammad
Ali. One thing more about Tiger, He never seems to get beat in his
own mind. Afterwards, he gave no credit to Mickelson for good play
but instead analyzed how he had lost the tournament with
Lefty speaking to the
media after the tournament suggested he might choose not to play
at the BMW even though he feels an obligation to the Tour to be
there. He has conflicts with family matters at home plus he seems
to be involved in some sort of disagreement with Tour commissioner,
Tim Finchem. If he does show up he will be paired with Tiger and
Steve Stricker for the first two days giving us all an opportunity
to watch more of this rivalry unfold. Only 70 golfers are left now
in the Tour Playoffs. After Cog Hill the number drops to 30 for
the final event in Atlanta the following week. Mickelson is assured
of making the final 30 so should he bypass Chicago he will still
have his shot at the FedEx Cup and the many millions still on the
August 26, 2007
- FEDEX CUP 101
This whole playoff thing
has not taken root in my own golf fanatic mind. Okay, I watch the
tours religiously and love the game…but…I don't want to take the
time to sit down and learn what it is all about. Do you? I suppose
I need a course in FedEx Cup 101 where the basics of this playoff
system are taught. One needs to get excited about all of this, I
suppose, but I am struggling. Honestly, I don't have a clue as to
how this thing is suppose to work.
Okay, Tiger Woods has
100,000 points, right? He has won five times this season and only
four or so others have at least two wins on Tour. So, how can anyone
be close to Tiger? This might explain his absence this weekend from
the first “playoff” tournament at the Barkley held at Westchester
Golf Club in the New York area. By the way a great guy on Tour,
Steve Stricker won for the first time in over a decade as he edged
playing companion K.J Choi. It was a tearful scene at the closing
hole as Stricker closed out the tournament after nailing a birdie
putt. So I would guess now that Stricker is leading the pack for
the $10 million prize at the end of the rainbow in Atlanta at the
Tour Championship. What I do know is that 24 golfers were eliminated
from the field and now we are down to 120 golfers going for the
big money. The remaining contenders now head to Boston for the next
round at something called the “Deutsche Bank Championship” which,
I believe, is named after a German bank.
One thing that is for
sure, I heard it said this afternoon, is the first pairings in Boston
include a threesome with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh.
Now that will be worth watching. Apparently the golfers next weekend
go out in threesomes based on their FedEx point standings. The Woods
group will be the second from last off the tee just ahead of Stricker,
K.J Choi and Rory Sabbatini. I can't remember how many face elimination
next week but we will head into the final round of the “playoffs”
in Atlanta with 30 golfers.
Today's final round was
fun to watch as Choi and Stricker battled to the wire plus other
golfers with familiar names such as Mickelson, Ernie Els, Geoff
Ogilvy, Rich Beem and Hunter Mahan made a run for the lead. You
had better be excited about this “playoff” because the PGA Tour
is counting on it! Personally, I'm looking forward to the Presidents
Cup and the Masters.
12, 2007 - WHAT'S A GOLF FAN TO DO?
In the age of Tiger Woods,
what's a golf fan to do? Do you find yourself rooting on a guy by
the name of Woody Austin hoping he will catch Tiger Woods in the
final round of the PGA Championship? Austin , of course, is the
43 year old vagabond American tourist with a couple of wins under
his belt but a stranger to major championship play. Woody got the
fans excited on the back nine in the final round of the PGA but
to no avail. Today at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Tiger finished off
his thirteenth major victory and took home the Wannamaker Trophy
for the fourth time. So do you cheer on the great champion or root
for the underdog trying to find his day in the sun? Both golfers
were bringing the fans to their feet. Woody Austin finished second
after making a game effort to catch Tiger down the home stretch.
After the 14th where Tiger made bogey, Austin was within a shot
of the lead, but Tiger “powered up like super heroes generally do”
made birdie to re-establish his two shot lead and swat away his
pursuers like annoying flies. Ernie Els was also making a run at
Tiger as he went four under to move within reach, but no, he could
not get the job done. Ernie finished third, three back. Tiger began
the day with a three shot lead but gave his closest competitors
a chance to catch him but no one could pull it off.
So what is a fan to do?
I suppose you do what fans did years ago. You cheer on great golf.
When Bobby Jones and Walter Hagan were winning everything people
turned out to cheer them on. When Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan were
locks to win folks came to see them dominate. The same goes for
Arnie then Jack. So nothing is new! You cheer for the best, the
greats of the game because you love to see perfection in sport.
Tiger represents the dominate champion of his age. Cheer him on
folks and enjoy watching him in action!.
you are a true champion destined for glory and history. Folks will
be talking about you 100 years from now. I do wonder if anyone will
be capable of challenging him in our era.
August 5, 2007
- TIGER TAKES INTERNATIONAL FIELD TO WOODSHED!
What is it about the World
Golf Championship events for Tiger Woods? He just will not let anyone
else win. Today at Firestone Country Club in Akron , Ohio he picked
up his 14 th WGC win in 25 tournaments. Keep in mind that only the
very best in the world qualify to play in the WGC events. Tiger
won at Firestone for the sixth straight time. He not only won today
he simply annihilated the rest of the field. On what was a very
difficult layout at Firestone, long, narrow with large hardwoods,
lightning fast greens and deep rough (I know, I've played it) Tiger
shot a five under 65 to run off and leave the entire field far behind.
Conditions were not good as it rained most of the day making the
deep rough even more formidable. When it was all said and done,
Tiger had come from one shot behind to win by eight over Justin
Rose and Rory Sabbatini who finished at even par.
Sabbatini had made it
known following his defeat at the Wachovia in Charlotte that he
wanted some more of Tiger saying the number one player in the world
was “as beatable as ever”. Tiger had shrugged that comment off by
saying he had three wins in 2007 to Sabbatini's three wins in his
career. Today Sabbatini had his chance to go head-to-head against
Tiger once again but he got taken to the "Woodshed" and
made to look like a fool for running his mouth. Final score, Tiger
five under, Sabbatini four over. Rory learn to keep your mouth shut,
and let your game do the talking!
There is a widening chasm
in golf between Tiger Woods and the best that the rest of the world
has to offer. Jim Furyk ranked second in the world this week had
to withdraw with back problems but third ranked Phil Mickelson played
and finished a whopping 21 shots behind Tiger. There doesn't appear
to be anyone in the world that can compete with this man week after
week, year after year. Oh, in a given week somebody can jump up
and beat the best but look at the WGC results, 14 of 25, wow! Either
Tiger has got to fall back through sheer boredom or some teenage
sensation must arrive on the scene to stop this attack on world
golf records by the great one. By the way, this was Tiger's first
win as a dad. Personally, I don't see anyone who we know about right
now being capable of taking their game to such a higher plateau
that they can compete with Tiger head-to-head on a regular basis
over the next five years. Beyond that it becomes hard to predict
for some young phenom might come along who was brought up similarly
to Tiger. Don't forget, Tiger Woods was hitting 300 balls a day
when he was in grammar school.
So it is on to Southern
Hills in Tulsa this week for the PGA, the last major of the season.
Can anyone stop Tiger? Maybe, but you can rest assured of one thing;
Tiger will be in the hunt.
July 22, 2007
- IT WAS A MIND GAME AT CARNOUSTIE AND HARRINGTON PREVAILED
Can we assume that sometimes
it just comes down to the mind and how it behaves when playing championship
golf? Ask Andres Romero, the unknown golfer from Argentina , who
found himself in the lead at The Open as he played his second shot
on the 17 th today at Carnoustie. This man had been in the ubiquitous
“zone” with six birdies on the inward nine as he was honing in on
a claret jug. At this point the blinders came off, the mind, we
can assume, began to think about what was happening as Romero pondered
his shot from waist deep fescue from well over 200 yards away. His
mind, pumped with adrenalin, said, “Andres, hit a two iron to the
pin”. Andres pulls his two iron, swings, the hay wraps around his
hossel and he promptly hits his ball dead right and out of bounds.
After a double bogey followed by a bogey at 18, he retreated to
the aforementioned, "no name" category.
Padraig Harrington who
was in his own zone playing his heart out found himself at 18 with
a one shot lead over Sergio Garcia, the leader throughout the event,
playing one hole behind. Padraig who had been totally focused to
this point might have let his mind wonder a bit back to the exploits
of one Jean van de Velde, the Frenchman, who had blown a three shot
lead in 1999 on the last hole by hitting into Barry Burn, a tidal
creek that snakes it's way through the course. So what does Padraig
do? He pulls his driver and immediately knocks his drive into Barry
Burn. What does he do next? He drops his ball with penalty then
hits his third shot into Barry Burn (does that qualify for third
degree burns and life suport?). He goes on to double bogey the last
and allow Garcia to catch him with a par at the 72 nd .
Garcia himself had led
throughout the week and was really on his game with his new belly
putter giving him the confidence he had needed to finally win a
major championship. But something happened along the way today.
He missed a putt for par on the fifth hole, one the length that
he had been making all week and suddenly his mind begins to wonder.
He asks himself, perhaps, “have I lost my putting touch; is my belly
putter not working anymore?”
Last week I wrote a column
entitled “Losing is Easy” and wrote about how difficult winning
can be versus throwing in the towel, seeking a quite, dark place
away from the “maddening crowd”… and losing. Garcia made his par
at 18, just missing a birdie on a really good putt to force a four
hole playoff. During the short break before the playoff Harrington
spoke briefly with a sports psychologist then strutted to the first
tee as if he had already won waving his hat to the cheering fans.
The Irish in the stands greeted him with a great ovation. He went
on and birdied the first playoff hole to Garcia's bogey, then goes
on to take his first major and the 2007 claret jug.
It becomes a mind game
in the majors watched by billions around the world. Focus is everything.
Sometimes you must let your body do what it has learned to do in
all those many hours of practice without the help of “thought” then
just go out and act like you're the winner.
One thing for sure, Garcia
and Harrington will both become forces in major golf for years to
come. One other thought, Americans are lagging behind in international
July 20, 2007
- FRIDAY NOTES ON THE OPEN
Carnoustie has calmed
down considerably from the raging fury of the 1999 Open when survival
was the key thought among the players that lived to talk about it.
It seems a bit more green and the rough areas not as quite as thick
or formidable. Sergio Garcia shot par today to maintain his six
under score and the lead after two rounds. KJ Choi now ranked 12
th in the world after his two victories on the PGA Tour this year
is playing very steady and is two back at four under. Canadian Mike
Weir shot the day's low round with a three under 68 and is tied
with Miguel Angel Jimenez for third at three under. Boo Weekley
and Jim Furyk are tied for fourth at -2 to best the American entourage
in quest of this coveted trophy. The cut will come at four over
par with the low 70 and ties qualifying for the final two days at
this magnificent venue hard against the North Sea in Angus , Scotland
Tiger Woods got off to
a rugged start when he pull hooked his three iron tee shot at number
one into the burn left some 50 yards off line. I would imagine it
was the worst shot Tiger has hit in his adult life. He went on to
make a double and spent the balance of his day trying to get back
to even overall but came in at 74, three over and one over for the
tournament. Tiger was last seen pounding balls on the practice tee
with Coach Hank Haney close at hand.
Lefty Mickelson hit into
the burn off the tee on 18 and made a double to finish at six over
for the two days and failing to make the cut. It has gotten to the
point where you expect Mickelson to get into trouble off the tee
at 18 on any golf course. To me it is somewhat paradoxical that
British Open golf which requires imagination and creative shot making
doesn't seem to bring out the best in Mickelson. Just the opposite
is the case here. The problem seems to always be his inability to
keep his ball out of trouble and especially off the tee. He is without
a doubt one of the most daring golfers in the world with incredible
skill with his short game. He is perhaps the most creative shot
maker in American golf. Yet, he can't get it done across the pond.
So much for the world's number two golfer as he wings his way back
Sergio just might have
found the solution to his putting. The belly putter has worked for
two days now. His putt for par on 18 today from ten feet was solid
and straight to the bottom of the hole. He looks confident with
this longer club which might be all he needs to get over the hump
in major golf competition. Many consider his ball striking ability
to be as solid as anyone but he never has had the shot game to win
the big ones. He has six tour wins in America and 10 others internationally
so he can play. Maybe his time has come. To win he will have to
battle the elements with wind and rain in the forecast for the weekend
plus he will have to watch a very systematic type golfer alongside
as he will go off with KJ tomorrow afternoon. Choi is like a machine
when he is on his game seldom making a mistake. He will keep the
ball in play and make putts. Sergio should not be intimidated in
the least by his playing partner. However, if a Tiger comes stalking
tomorrow that could make things much more interesting for the leaders.
July 14, 2007
- LOSING IS EASY!
If you caught the finish
of the Scottish Open this morning from Loch Lomond you watched Phil
Mickelson, third ranked golfer in the world, who had led from day
one, find a way to throw away another title. Coming down the stretch
on the back nine in the final twosome with a Frenchman, Gregory
Havret, Lefty pulled his driver out three too many times. The result,
he let Havret catch him in regulation then beat him in a sudden
death that lasted one hole. Lefty simply could not put his driver
in play. Once he went long right, then big to the left into the
long stuff bordering the loch. The Frenchman, ranked three hundred
and something in the world simply had to keep his ball in play to
win. It is simply amazing to me that Mickelson can't find a coach
or driver that will enable him to hit the ball in the fairway. Personally,
I believe that Lefty is stubborn. He wants to do it his way or nothing
else. There is something in his makeup that will not allow him to
adjust that part of his game. He is ranked third in the world, yet,
there are probably a thousand or more golfers around this world
that hit their driver better than he. Don't you think? Anyway the
Frenchman wins the trophy by making par.
Across the pond in Silvis
, Illinois , at the John Deere, two golfers found a way to lose.
Nathan Green, an Aussie, had led this event from the second round.
Today he couldn't keep up with the crowd behind him, watching Tim
Clark of South Africa overtake him. Clark played superbly early
in his round and was in control. But coming home down the stretch,
he found a way to make two bogies. Along comes the American and
former Clemson All-American, Jonathan Byrd making a couple of birdies
coming home and suddenly Byrd wins for his third time on Tour. As
a result he is now planning his trip to Scotland to play in the
British Open next week. Don't think for a moment that I don't believe
Byrd deserved to win, quite the contrary, as he played four rounds
at 67, 68, 65, 66 to get to 18 under par. Jonathan has now won more
tournaments than any other American under the age of 30, with three,
which isn't many.
So losing is a lot easier
than winning. It can happen so quickly. If I were Lefty, I would
rationalize and say “I really didn't expect to win the week before
The Open; I just wanted to get my game in shape so I will be prepared
to win next week.” If I were Tim Clark or Nathan Green I would probably
say something like, “Well, I had a good run at victory and will
take this as a learning experience which should prepare me to win
more often in the future.” Do those excuses sound okay to you? This
week the golfers move on to Carnoustie and the British Open. It
was at Carnoustie in 1999 that one of the greatest collapses by
a leader occured when Frenchman, Jean van de Velde threw away a
three shot lead on the final hole and then lost in a playoff. You
win some, you lose some!
July 13, 2007
- FINLEY'S BACK!
I write that as if someone
noticed. Okay, my wife and I took a couple of weeks off after the
US Open to just relax and “piddle around”. Is that a word, “piddle”?
I think it means doing as little as possible. We did spend a few
days at the South's great resort in Ashville, The Grove Park Inn
and Spa. We try to go at least once a year to play our annual Backgammon
face-off, eat and “piddle”. So after some wonderful time doing as
little as possible, it's back to golf and writing about my thoughts
on the subject. Aren't you excited?
Probably the largest event
of the summer has been the birth of Tiger's child, Sam. Sam is a
very pretty little girl. She would have to be with those handsome
folks that made her. Tiger says he was called Sam by his dad so
that is from which the name came. Tiger has played once since her
birth, at his own new event at Congressional in D.C., but he couldn't
pull off a win in honor of his new family member. K.J. Choi won
for his second big win of the season. Woods made a terrific charge
on the last day but he fell short. So the real question now is…can
Tiger be distracted? Nicklaus played through the birth of a bunch
of kids and continued to set records, so, we must wonder, if Tiger,
can do the same. For the first time in his career, Tiger is faced
with greater priorities, perhaps. We'll see how he responds. The
Open at Carnoustie might be his first real challenge.
We've had two first time
tour winners this past month or so and both were Americans. How
about that! Hunter Mahan of Orange , California won at the Travelers
in Connecticut and Brian Bateman of Louisiana grabbed the trophy
at the Buick in Michigan . The best player on tour right now might
be the Korean, K.J. Choi. With the AT&T victory coupled with
his victory at Jack's Place in May he is a two time winner this
season. The best player on any tour right now just might be Jay
Haas, the senior is playing fabulous golf on the Champion's Tour.
Phil Mickelson is currently
one shot back in the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond after two rounds.
This is a sign that perhaps his ailing wrist is feeling better which
is timely with The Open next week. So, just maybe, Lefty is getting
back to his level of play he had in May at The Players, but I don't
see how he can control his shotmaking well enough to win on those
hard and fast courses in the British Isles. Carnoustie is probably
the most difficult. Accuracy is required! If he can win across the
pond at an Open venue, he has come a long way, baby!
Michelle Wie chose not
to play at The John Deere or anywhere else, that I can determine.
I suppose she is still recovering from a wrist injury. Hopefully
that is all that is bothering her. She seems fragile right now,
or, perhaps, less interested in golf. We'll see if she can get it
together this summer and put a trophy on the mantel at home. Have
you noticed the onslaught of oriental, mostly Korean, golfers on
the LPGA? At the Owens Corning Classic in Toledo the leader is Se
Ri Pak whom we all know as a leader in women's golf. Others on the
leaderboard include Jin Young Pak, Aram Cho, Christina Kim, Jeong
Jang, Na Ri Kim, J. Yang, Candie Kung, Seon Hwa Lee, Jimin Kang,
Ji-Young Oh, Yu Ping Lin, Jee Young Lee, Aree Song, Irene Cho, In-Kyung
Kim and on and on and on. My spell checker is sounding an alarm.
The LPGA is quickly becoming a Korean or oriental tour. Even Michelle
Wie is of Korean descent and don't forget about K.J. on the men's
side. Good chance this group didn't dine on the chili hotdogs at
Tony Packo's last night in Toledo.
So here we are with two
majors left this summer. The Fed Ex Cup has not excited me nor has
the new tournament line up. It seems we have weeks go by without
a name player in the field. The time I was off was very well timed
as there was a lot of very boring golf being played. I dislike writing
about boring golf. The Champion's Tour might be where the real action
is in the year 2007. Keep it going Jay, it is fun to watch!
June 17, 2007
- "DON'T CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA"
Those are the lyrics from
"Evita" in the Broadway musical and probably the words
of the new US Open champion, Angel Cabrera. It was all about Argentina
and it was again, today, at the US Open. Argentine, Angel Cabrera,
golfed his ball to one under 69 which was enough to pull off the
biggest win of his career, the US Open championship. He won with
a five over score for the 72 holes. Tiger Woods had a chance to
catch him but he couldn't pull it off. Tiger failed to birdie
the 17th and the 18th and finished behind by one shot. Aussie, Aaron
Baddeley, the third round leader, who went out in the final twosome
with Tiger, collapsed, triple bogied the first hole and ended up
shooting a plus ten. This was a week when we had too much cabbage
and too much greens (slick ones) on the side. This was
the most difficult national championship set up perhaps in the history
of American golf.
Personally, I can't get
over an Argentine winning our national championship. I'm bothered
by it. Cabrera is not one of the top players in the world. At best
he is an average European tour player but not much else. The USGA
needs to review where we are with the national championship and
perhaps do some tweaking. This idea of making the Open courses
the most difficult possilble is ridiculous. Let's get away from
that and go for golf at it's best on golfable courses. The USGA
seems, for some reason, to know better than anyone else. This needs
Beating the best golfers
in the world into the ground is not what we want to do with the
Open. Let's start a trend of having fun with The Open. Changes need
to be made. Watching five over win is not my cup of tea. Let' s
put the best in the world back in the mix.
Don't think that I am
trying to down play Cabrera's triumph. I'm not, for he held off
and defeated the number one player in the world in one, Tiger Woods.
What I am saying is that the way the USGA sets up an Open course
it invites marginal golfers to step up and pull off the big upset.
It happens because they get fortuitous bounces and a bunch of luck.
Angel Cabrera is a good example! Let's see how many more majors
he will win in his career.
WOODS MAKES OPEN
After two days of watching
the world's greatest golfers seemingly trying to play a national
championship in a grocery store parking lot next to a wheat field
Tiger Woods finally put on a display of golf at it's best and made
storied Oakmont Country Club, near Pittsburgh, look playable. Thanks
to the USGA officials who decided Friday afternoon that something
needed to be done to make this place more like a golf course than
an airport runway. So they went to work watering the greens and
actually watered them three times before play began on Saturday.
Even with the watered surfaces only two players were able to break
par but we did get to see a few putts made. However when you see
a world class golfer hit a high iron approach to a front pin placement
then see it hit softly next to the hole you don't expect to see
it end up 50 feet away. I saw that several times Saturday. This
is when you realize how little control the golfers have over their
ball and where it ends up when approaching the putting surfaces.
For me it takes the fun out of watching. This is why world class
golfers like two time Open champion, Ernie Els is at +13, defending
champion, Geoff Ogilvy is at +14, Masters champion Zach Johnson
is at +16, former US Open champion, Michael Campbell is at +15 and,
of course, Phil Mickelson who missed the cut at +11.
Thanks to Tiger, Aaron
Baddeley and a couple of others we got to see some really fine golf
displayed in the third round. Tiger was nearly perfect tee to green
missing only the 18 th in regulation as he posted a one under 69.
He had several attempts at birdie but he couldn't find the hole
as these greens are so difficult to read and gauge the pace and
break. Baddeley, the Aussie, with a third round 70, even par, came
in at plus two for the tournament and leads Tiger by two shots.
Paul Casey of England , Stephen Ames of Canada , Justin Rose of
England and Bubba Watson, an American are all tied at five over,
three shots back. American, Jim Furyk has sight of the leaders at
six over, four back. Paul Casey who lives in Arizona , went to college
in America and married an American girl is still remembered as the
golfer who described Americans as “ignorant people”, is not my choice.
Big Bubba, a good old Southern boy whose best friend is fellow golfer
Boo Weekley, had the lead at one over for a short while until he
blew up and made triple bogey on the inward nine. Bubba is the longest
hitter on tour but also has displayed great talent in other parts
of his game including putting.
With Tiger in the last
group with Baddeley you have to believe he will win yet another
major championship. He has never come from behind to win a major
in twenty something tries but this looks like one where it will
happen. I look for former US Open champ, Jim Furyk to go out and
make a run for the lead ahead of Tiger and the others. He has the
kind of game that will allow for that at an open site like this
one at Oakmont. Jim will have some fans in the gallery as he spent
a number of years in Pittsburgh and is a big Steelers fan.
Let's hope they are playing
a golf course today and not an asphalt parking lot. We need to see
birdies possible today if anyone is going to mount a charge from
back in the pack otherwise those who are chasing will need disaster
to strike the leaders. That's not really the way you want to see
June 11, 2007 -
BUSY GOLF WEEKEND COMPLETE AS US OPEN LOOMS
With the US Open coming
up this week at grand old Oakmont, near Pittsburgh, interest in
golf begins to peak worldwide. The word in golfing circles is that
Oakmont will be more difficult to play than ever before which is
what we have come to expect from the United States Golf Association.
As usual the course has been tweaked by USGA officials which will
require participants to have all parts of their game working. Word
here is that the masochistic members like the course exceptionally
tough so the combination should be really scary. The rough will
require accuracy off the tee with the driving clubs of choice, the
iron game will be tested as ball placement on these super fast and
undulating greens is essential. Putting will be critical as there
will be numerous opportunities during play to get the ball up and
down for par from off the greens but they will probably be rolling
at a foreboding 13 on the Stimpmeter. Oakmont is well bunkered so
sand play will definitely come into play. Woody Austin, the winner
at Memphis and one who really likes US Open setups says he would
not be surprised if the winning 72 hole score was as high as three
to four over par. In recent Opens par has been a contending score.
Defending champ Geoff Ogilvy suggested it might be 10 over par after
a practice session.
Back to the busy weekend;
how about Woody Austin's final round 62 to win this third Tour title?
He started the day four back of leader Adam Scott but he finished
the tournament nine shots better than Scott. Is that taking it to
the leader or what? It just shows how much a tournament can turn
in the final round. Scott later said he had been distracted on the
back nine as his mind began to navigate to thoughts of Oakmont and
the Open. Austin on the other hand was trying his best to finish
as high on the leaderboard as possible as he has had a really terrible
year to now. He got his final round rolling with an eagle at the
third and he went on to play a magnificent round of golf. Austin
's last win came in 2004 at Hartford . Now his mind is navigating
forward to Oakmont and the Open with renewed hope and confidence,
as again, he likes Open course setups.
Norwegian Suzann Pettersen
fended off a surging Karrie Webb on Sunday's inward half to capture
her first major and second tour win at the McDonald's LPGA Championship
at Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace, Maryland. Webb finished second
for the second straight year and unknown, 18 year old Na On Min
of South Korea held up to finish third alone. 19 year old American,
Morgan Pressel, who had contended through three rounds failed in
her attempt to win the first two legs of the ladies grand slam with
her final round 73. Pressel had won the Nabisco earlier this spring.
With Michelle Wie finishing last after closing with an 83-79, we
all must wonder what's happening. Is she just rusty from her long
layoff or is she still recovering from her injured wrist or perhaps
she has lost her confidence and desire to be the world's female
golfing prodigy. Should it be the latter then as we have written
many times, Michelle must learn to win with the ladies before anything
else. That should be her only priority this summer; to get a LPGA
trophy to put on her mantel. Surely, she will do it; it must be
just a matter of time.
If you live in the state
of South Carolina and especially in the Upstate around the Greenville
area and you are a golf fan then you had to like the way the weekend
went. Jay Haas captured his third win on the Champion's Tour this
season at West Des Moines , Iowa . He is the only multiple winner
on the senior circuit this year and he has established himself as
the dominant player on this tour. Haas now has won nine times as
a senior. On the Nationwide Tour, Easley , SC native and former
golf star at the University of South Carolina , Kyle Thompson, finally
got his first win after 120 other attempts on the Nationwide. This
payday will put him in the top 15 on this Tour's money list which
could lead to a pass to the “Big Show”. Kyle who comes from a golfing
family has always shown great promise but couldn't get over that
proverbial hump leading to the winner's circle.
Now let's all let our
minds navigate towards thoughts of the Open. Let's hope for a shootout.
June 3, 2007 -
WHAT'S HAPPENING AT JACK'S PLACE? KOREAN K.J.CHOI!
So last week I was really
ticked that the Americans were not to be found at Hogan's Alley
in Fort Worth . I vented my frustrations about how international
players are dominating our PGA Tour in America . I was also upset
that so few of our top golfers had traveled to Fort Worth . Well,
fast forward to a week later and this time the Tour has moved up
to Ohio to Jack's place, Muirfield Village in Dublin . All of America
's and the world's top players showed. What happened? Well, another
International player triumphed as K.J. Choi of Korea shot a seven
under par 65 to make up a five shot deficit to win his most important
This week I'm not pissed.
First, I like K.J. Choi who was the first Korean ever to win a PGA
Tour card plus he is so likable. His smile wins friends and it is
fitting that he wins at Jack's place as he learned to play by watching
Nicklaus videos and reading his books in between hitting countless
balls at the only practice range in his native country. This was
K.J.'s fifth American win to go with six international wins in Asia
and Europe . He played spectacular golf on the front nine then scrambled
beautifully on the way to the house. This was significant for K.J.
and just could propel him into that elite circle of world class
golfers. We will have to see.
I was also pleased to
see some American grit. First, former US Amateur and NCAA champ
Ryan Moore in his second full year on Tour made five straight birdies
on the backside and fired a six under 66 to post a -16 in the clubhouse.
He finished alone at second. Hats off to you Ryan and let's see
more of that kind of play. Kenny Perry of Kentucky fired an almost
unbelievable nine under 63 and moved into contention before finishing
in a tie for third. Stewart Cink and Sean O'Hair played sub par
golf to tie for fifth. Tiger Woods made up some strokes with a five
under 67 to post a -9 good for a tie for 15 th . So Americans showed
they can play which is a good sign as we approach the US Open in
a couple of weeks.
Muirfield Village was
defenseless with the pick, clean and place rule in effect with wet
conditions plus the greens were in immaculate condition. You usually
don't see the pros go as low on this course as they did this week.
I have not heard how serious Phil Mickelson's hand/wrist injury
has been diagnosed. If you didn't know he removed himself from play
in the opening round with an apparent wrist or hand injury. Hopefully
he will heel and be ready to go by Open time. Woods showed signs
today of getting his game ready for that same, special event. We
need everybody firing on all cylinders when they tee it up at the
May 27, 2007 -
I'M PISSED OFF!!
I am sorry for the language
but it seems to describe my emotional state right this moment. Not
too sure what the term means but it seems to work for me. Where
are the American golfers? We are getting our butts whipped by golfers
from all around the world. I'm pissed off.
Here we are playing one
of America 's oldest and most revered tournaments honoring the late
and great Ben Hogan and our top players from the good old USA are
not to be found. The Colonial is played at one of the best tournament
courses anywhere and it honors the great Hogan who was one of the
top three or four greatest golfers in the world, all time, and the
best are not there. Tiger Woods must have been cruising on his million
dollar yacht while Mickelson is probably eating a designer French
dish in Paris . Where is Davis Love, Justin Leonard and Chad Campbell.
Somewhere far down the list of finishers. Where is Zach and Sean?
Where are the top golfers in the world? They should be at Hogan's
Alley. Only Jim Furyk, ranked number three in the world was on hand
and he tried to stand up for America on this Memorial Day weekend
but he lost in a playoff to South African, Rory Sabbatini. I'm embarrassed
What else can I say but
this is one of America 's oldest and most prominent events and yet
the top players in the world are on vacation. Except, of course,
for Furyk. We go into a playoff and one American is trying to fend
off two international players? German, Bernhard Langer, got into
this tournament by asking for a special sponsor's exemption which
was granted. Langer who is 49, shows up the Americans and goes to
a playoff. Did you get that? He is not eligible to play, requests
an exemption, then nearly wins the tournament and at his age. Come
on, where are the Americans?
Where are the young Americans?
Do we not have anyone coming along who can compete? Lucas Glover
was near the top then went belly-up. D.J Trahan was challenging
until he hits into the water at 18. Who are the Tom Watsons and
Lee Trevinos of the future? Come on folks, where are the Americans?
We have Woods, Mickelson and Furyk and then, apparently, not much
else, week in and week out. The youngsters need to step up and make
themselves known as competitors in world golf. International golfers
are dominating on all tours, around the world. Also they need to
honor our greats of past like Hogan, Nelson, Arnie and Jack. Maybe
the Americans will show up at The Memorial.
May 13th, 2007
-LEFTY TAMES TPC AT SAWGRASS
What a difference a few
weeks can make in the golfing life of Phil “The Thrill” Mickelson.
After winning at Pebble Beach early in the year he fell back into
a swing funk that was displayed so prominently at Winged Foot last
summer at the US Open. After a poor showing at the Masters he put
his long time swing coach, Rick Smith, on the bench and sought out
much heralded teaching pro, Butch Harmon to help him find a swing
that would hold up in tough competition on tough golf courses. The
new coach seems to be getting the job done as Lefty went out this
week and won his first Players Championship at the newly renovated
TPC at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach leading almost throughout.
He entered today's last round one shot behind Sean O'Hair with whom
he was paired but wasted little time in catching and then surpassing
O'Hair. He birdied the first hole to pull even and played steady
golf making only one bogey which came at the last hole. Lefty kept
the ball in play off the tee and never really struggled as he had
on Friday when he was all over the course. Lefty posted four rounds
at par or better and finished with back to back 69's on the weekend
which allowed him to reach 277, eleven under par. He actually made
it look easy.
The world's elite, all
gathered at Sawgrass, never really threatened except for Sergio
Garcia who fired a final round 66 to post a nine under 279 to lead
in the clubhouse. He finished two shots behind Mickelson but took
second place money. The other top players were no where in sight
as Tiger Woods finished tied for 37 th , Jim Furyk finished tied
for 28 th spot, Vijay Singh came in tied for 44 th and Ernie Els
was tied for 37 th . Unfortunately for the 24 year old Sean O'Hair,
he dumped two balls into the water at the dreaded 17 th island green
which dropped him to 11 th overall. Those two water balls cost O'Hair
about an unbelievable $750,000. This win for Lefty vaulted him into
the second place ranking in the World and a close second to Tiger
in the FedEx Cup standings.
As the week began with
Mickelson shooting a five under 67 to tie for the lead, he was eight
shots ahead of Tiger Woods who went three over on day one. Tiger
who had won nine of his last 12 PGA events would surely come back
and make a run for the lead down the stretch. It occurred to me
that this was the ultimate test for Tiger. It also occurred to me
that Lefty would probably falter as the week progressed especially
if a Tiger was on the prowl. I was wrong! Tiger never made a run
and, in fact, almost missed the cut and Lefty never faltered. His
short game was incredible and saved him on Friday as he sprayed
the ball off the tee and on approach shots then on the weekend his
long game kicked in after lengthy practice sessions with his new
coach. Perhaps we are seeing a new Mickelson evolving, one that
can play at the top week in and week out. It certainly would be
good for the game in America . Phil is enormously popular with the
golf fans around the country. Golf fans everywhere want to see Tiger
Mickelson told the press later that this win was up there with his
three majors in importance. Lastly how about the job of rebuilding
the TPC course and the clubhouse all in one year. Amazing results
by what had to be a battalion of workers to get this property totally
rebuilt without missing a day of tournament play. Good job PGATour!
April 29, 2007
- VERPLANK WAS DESTINED TO WIN AT BYRON'S TOURNEY
In life, certain things
are meant to happen. In golf, certain things happen because they
were meant to be. That was the story this weekend at The EDS Byron
Nelson Golf Championship played in Las Colinas, Texas near Dallas
Years ago Byron Nelson
befriended a young golfer he had heard about and over time became
his guiding light, his mentor of sorts. That young golfer was Scott
Verplank who grew up in the Dallas area, not too far from Byron's
ranch, and became known for his golfing ability at an early age.
Today, Scott Verplank won the most important tournament he could
possibly imagine winning. He won Byron's tournament at the Four
Seasons Resort at Las Colinas something he had tried but failed
to do in 20 other attempts. This was the first playing of Byron
Nelson's tournament since his passing last year and it was a very
special event this year for most, if not all, of the touring professionals.
Everybody wanted this title but no one wanted it more than Scott
Verplank and…he came from a shot behind today, overtaking third
round leader Luke Donald and won it by a margin on one stroke.
It seemed strange this
weekend at Byron's tournament, without him greeting each golfer
who finished the 18 th and walked to the scorer's tent. Since 1968,
Lord Byron has been there to greet the golfers as they left the
course. Being a big fan of Nelson, it was a weekend mixed with sadness
and joy for me. In my opinion, CBS Television did a very good job
in a presentation with Peggy Nelson, Byron's widow, reminiscing
about Byron and his accomplishments as she played the piano she
so often played for Byron. Byron was a wonderful individual, a man
of great integrity, honor and sportsmanship. He, like Bobby Jones,
before him, represented what the game of golf is all about which
can best be described as being about gentlemanly qualities.
Byron Nelson accomplished
a great deal in his career. He won the 11 straight tournaments in
1945, the same year he won 18 in total. He went 65 straight tournaments
finishing in the top 10, which is unheard of in today's golf world.
He won several majors but he might be best remembered in these parts
as the host of this tournament. The Byron Nelson Golf Classic has
raised more money than any other on tour and represents 10% of all
the charitable donations ever made by the PGA Tour.
Scott Verplank shot a
final round 66, four under par to finish in first at 267. Donald
was second at 268 followed by a quartet tied for third including
Phil Mickelson (65), Jerry Kelly (64), Rory Sabbatini (65) and Ian
April 8, 2007
- A DIFFERENT SORT OF DAY AT AUGUSTA ON SUNDAY
After three days of harrowing
conditions with the fast track, cold weather and wind today Augusta
National Golf Club came back to life. It was still a very difficult
challenge at the 71 st Masters but a few red numbers appeared on
the leaderboard and the crowd finally had a reason to cheer. The
wind subsided somewhat, pin placements were a bit more friendly
plus the thirsty greens had been fed some water prior to play on
Sunday. There were several eagles and birdies being made and the
scores went down. During the day five different golfers had or shared
the lead including Retief Goosen and Tiger Woods who lurked from
the first tee. But in the end a gutsy 31 year old midwesterner from
Cedar Rapids, Iowa , Zach Johnson had the focus, the game plan and
the belief to win.
Johnson fashioned a final
round 69 with clutch birdies on 13, 14 and 16 and a sensational
par saving chip at 18. His one over par 289 tied as the highest
winning score in Master's history but it was a win. This was Zach's
second win on the PGA Tour and his second in the state of Georgia.
His first win came at the Bellsouth Atlanta Golf Classic in 2004.
On Friday, the former Nationwide Tour Player of the Year had a chance
to take the lead at four under with a birdie putt at 16. He proceeded
to three putt then went on to bogey at 17 and 18 to fall back to
even. Many would have folded the tent and gone home. Not this young
man with great determination and nerves of steel. He persevered
as if his collapse never happened and ended Sunday with a major
championship and a green jacket in his locker at Augusta . While
playing 15, Johnson could hear the loud roar from nearby 13 as Tiger
holed an eagle putt to pull to within two. Tiger then hit it close
at 14 but as he missed his birdie putt Zach was starting to close
the door by sinking an eight foot birdie putt on 16 to go even par.
Johnson made bogey at 17 then missed the 18 th green short right.
His cross green chip was struck with the perfect speed and his ball
came to rest next to the hole for a tap-in par and the 289 finish.
Tiger came up short on his approach at 17 and made a bogey that
killed his chances. Tiger was done snapping his opportunity for
a third straight major title.
Tiger finished in a tie
for second with Retief Goosen and Rory Sabbatini. Sabbatini had
excited the gallery early in the day with his lengthy eagle putt
at 8. Justin Rose and Jerry Kelly finished three back at 292 while
the leader going into Sunday, Stuart Appleby, playing with Tiger,
shot a final round 75 and ended the day tied for seventh at 293.
American golf fans now
have a new champion and someone with great promise to be a contender
week after week and in the majors. This was a difficult Masters
to watch the first three days with the fast conditions and cold
weather but our hat is off to Billy Payne and the leadership at
Augusta National for their decisions on watering greens and pin
placements for the final round that put the roar back in the Masters.
Once again, we had great drama on Sunday.
April 8, 2007
- 71 ST MASTERS AKIN TO A TRAIN WRECK
Yesterday as the golfers
left the eighteenth green at Augusta National they each had a similar
look. It was like a dazed look with eyes glossed over and lips pursed.
Some had trouble articulating what had just happened to them. It
was if they each had just witnessed a tragic accident. Some seemed
near tears. One or two might have been diagnosed with post traumatic
syndrone. Augusta, in the history of the Masters, had never played
more difficult with hard, fast greens, swirling wind and bone chilling
temperatures. These players are the best in the world and yet they
had been made to look like rank amateurs. Conditions could even
get worse as they prepare to go back out today in the final round.
The weather will again be cold and blustery. These kind of drying
conditions will certainly have the greens playing like parking lots.
So who will survive this,
the 71 st playing of the Masters? What kind of preparation did these
players make overnight to prepare them for the challenge ahead?
Some must have prayed, others certainly practiced self hypnosis,
others just tried to relax and forget what had happened to them
at least for the few short hours they had over Saturday night. Others
probably decided on a “who cares” approach to try and relieve the
tension, adopting a “I'll just do the best I can and then go home”
There is still a Masters
tournament to be won. Someone will find a way to get it done for
one of them will don a green jacket by days end. The golfer who
perseveres will be a person who has found a way to relax, relieve
the tension and the immense pressure and just play golf one shot
at a time. This will require tremendous mind over matter control
and personal discipline. We all know how well Tiger Woods can control
his emotions and he is in the last group with Aussie Stuart Appleby.Tiger
is going for his fifth Masters title and his third consecutive major
championship. Appleby leads at +2, Tiger is at +3, Justin Rose at
+3 and Padraig Harrington at +4 are the second to last group. Phil
Mickelson and Retief Goosen are within reach at +6. From my vantage
point, Justin Rose seems to have the mental side under control.
We'll see if he can maintain his cool for another day. Today will
be an interesting study of human behavior and psychology, more so
than technique and skill. Dress warmly and buckle up.
April 7, 2007
- SO WHO'S TO BLAME AT AUGUSTA ?
In case you've been on
your way back from the space station and haven't heard, only three
golfers are under par at the Masters after 36 holes. Those surviving
the best and staying in the red numbers were Brett Wetterich, Tim
Clark at two under and Augusta native, Vaughn Taylor at one under.
Two under is the highest leading score in 25 years. This was a day
that saw Tiger Woods spending much of his time in or around Rae's
Creek and Phil Mickelson deep in the woods yet both are still in
contention. Woods came home with a remarkable 74 to put him at three
over and five back while Lefty managed to some how post a one over
73 and finish at five over par and seven back with 36 to play. Sixty
golfers made the cut which was plus eight the highest cut line in
years. The course remained a fortress with the wind and the hard
and fast greens. All the players seemed puzzled and disbelieving
of what their shots were doing or where they were ending up. Let's
examine what happened to Zach Johnson toward the end of his round
as an example of the day's play. Johnson hit a terrific tee shot
at the par three, 16 th that finished a short three or four feet
above the pin. A birdie would put him at four under par and give
him the lead outright. His putt broke sharply, completely missing
the hole, leaving a four footer coming back which he missed. He
walked to the 17 th tee with a bogey and he was back at two under.
Obviously stunned, he proceeded to bogey 17 and 18 to finish even
par and two back. It happened so fast!
As I sit at the keyboard,
sipping on a cup of coffee, I am trying to decide if this kind of
goofy golf is what Master's Chairman, Billy Payne is striving to
achieve. Have all the tweaks and lengthening of Augusta National
made over the past ten years or so finally caught up with the world's
greatest players? Can they no longer go out and shoot a number to
the delight of roaring galleries echoing through the tall pines?
Have the world's greatest golfers gotten to a point where they are
walking to the first tee backwards? After two rounds of this Masters
it looks more like a US Open being played in front of hushed golf
fans who have little or nothing about which to cheer. My first tendency
was to blame Billy Payne, Hootie Johnson and the powers that be
at Augusta . Then you say, no, no, no, they don't control weather
conditions. Oh yes they do! They have their hands on the Irrigation
System Control Box and with one twist of the switch the course could
be made softer and more playable. So, what to think? I am of the
old school who likes to see the eagle chances and great putts for
birdie and especially on Sunday down through Amen Corner and on
into the clubhouse. Those great finishes are some of my favorite
memories of professional golf.
So with two rounds to
go it looks like luck could determine the next Master's champion.
The way the ball is bouncing around and rolling it might come down
to a lucky bounce. Anybody left in the field can win, it appears,
at this moment. There are several big names lurking including Vijay
Singh at even par, two back; Padraig Harrington, Stuart Appleby
and Geoff Ogilvy at one over and Jim Furyk at two over. Of course
Tiger lurks always and he is only five back; Lefty is seven back.
Let's all hope they ran the sprinklers Friday evening.
April 5, 2007
- WHO'S LEADING THE MASTERS? WHAT….?
So how did the world's
leading golfers fare on the first day of play at Augusta National?
Northern Ireland's, Darren Clarke, star of last fall's Ryder Cup
coasted home to a plus 11, 83; the Big Easy, Ernie Els of South
Africa fired a 78; defending champion Phil “Lefty” Mickelson managed
a four over 76 as did Fred Couples, Colin Montgomerie, Retief Goosen
and Sergio Garcia. Adam Scott of Australia shot 74, as did Jose
Maria Olazabal while Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh posted plus one,
73's. Who would have ever thought that the top 10 finishers would
include Justin Rose, Brett Wetterich, David Howell, David Toms,
Tim Clark, Vaughn Taylor and Rich Beem among others? So what happened?
The answer must lie in
the weather conditions. Augusta was extremely dry, almost negligible
humidity plus the wind was blowing creating hard and fast greens.
It appears that the weekend will see a continuation of fast drying
conditions with no rain in sight. So will the scores continue to
go up? Probably to the point that even par for the 72 holes will
be a very good score to post. Of course when you consider how good
these golfers really are, they could adjust to the faster conditions
and catch up with the course. But after day one the course is like
I will try not to make
any further predictions as I picked Ernie Els to win. I don't believe
he can come back from a six over 78. I will state that it appeared
that Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh were playing well enough in round
one to contend over the weekend. Friday will be very important for
some big names as they try to avoid the cut and get back into contention.
Lefty says he is still in contention but another 76 and he flies
home to the west coast. With these fast conditions this year's Masters
could look like another US Open where par is king. Let's at least
hope to see a shootout on Sunday when a few eagles and birdies on
the back nine will determine the winner.
April 4, 2007
- CAN YOU SMELL THE FLOWERS?
It is all about the senses.
At this time of the year you must let them guide you. My goodness,
this time of year is so wonderful. Let me try and paint you a picture.
Close your eyes and imagine. The smell is of freshly mown grass,
the blooms of dogwood, azalea, pine, wisteria; the sound of robins,
cardinals, wrens and an occasional hawk in the distance. Now imagine
the smell of fresh white bread sandwiches of pimento cheese or chicken
salad, perhaps a boiled ham with mayo. Can you smell the weiners
cooking? The sight is of the color green, everywhere, grass so lush,closely
mown and precise; tall, stately pine trees swaying ever so slightly
in the breeze, the majestic magnolias, azaleas a blaze with rich
colors. If you look closely you might see the pollen drifting through
the air. Then comes the sound of a crowd roar echoing through the
tall pines, followed by a hush through the valley beneath you. Folks,
you are at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia . It is
Masters Week! Open your eyes!
Okay here we go again,
the single most important golf tournament to the players of the
world. So when they tee it up tomorrow to get it going who most
likely will win this coveted spring event? Obviously all the writers
are picking Tiger Woods as he is the number one player in the world.
Others believe that Phil Mickelson can win his third title at Augusta
in the past four years. Vijay Singh, a former winner here, is hot
having won two PGA events this season already to put him in the
lead of the new, FedEx Cup. Ernie Els is regaining his form and
should have a run at the title as he is playing very well. Augusta
native, Charles Howell has had a strong start to his new season.
Perhaps all of his work with Ledbetter over the winter has prepared
him for this, his hometown championship. Sergio Garcia has played
well this spring and could get it going if his putter works for
him. Henrik Stenson who has played incredibly well this young season
surely is one who could possibly don the green jacket.
No doubt, whoever walks
up the eighteenth fairway with the lead on Sunday will have to make
a putt to win in front of the world. It is exciting like no other
golf event, and in my opinion, like no other sporting event.
Brett Quigley, who flew
home late yesterday to be at his wife's side as she delivered their
first born, a bouncing baby girl at just past 2:00 AM this morning.
He returned later today from Florida by private jet in time to make
tomorrow's tee time in his first Masters. He will play in his debut
event with the likes of Vijay Singh and Hideto Tanihara.
In my opinion the Australians
are playing very well right now and I will not be surprised to see
an Aussie win another major. Tiger will be in contention, no doubt,
but my pick is Ernie Els. I believe it is his time.
March 26, 2007
- TIGER WINS ANOTHER WGC EVENT, WETTERICH HANGS TOUGH
Once again Tiger Woods
is a winner at a World Golf Championship event, this one the CA
Championship played at Doral. This was Tiger's 13 th WGC triumph
in 24 starts which is simply unbelievable, but true. You would think
playing against the world's greatest players someone else could
challenge and win against Tiger. These stats alone prove Tiger's
dominance of the game. Then you look at 56 tour wins plus all the
majors and, my goodness, he stands alone at the top. You might imagine
that a Henrik Stenson has arrived to challenge Tiger then he goes
four over in three days and is out of sight, out of mind. Tiger
is delighted to have a win under his belt as he travels up to Augusta
to prepare for the Masters in two weeks. He is feeling confident
as the year's first major gets closer. Most of the analysts on the
tube over the weekend seem to think that Tiger is a certain winner
at the Masters.
What's this sycophantic
reporting by NBC's Jimmy Roberts about Tiger Woods friendship with
tennis player, Roger Federer? Jimmy, I don't understand why this
means so much to you. Tiger is entitled to a personal life. Maybe
Roberts needs to try out for Entertainment Tonight or something
similar and report endlessly on Anna Nicole Smith and others. Who
Were you as impressed
with Brett Wetterich as I. He held his own playing in the last pairing
with Tiger and actually bested Tiger, his fellow Ryder Cup teammate,
over the weekend by two shots but still came up two shots short
of catching the world's top player. Wetterich who is only a number
of months beyond the Nationwide Tour is making a name for himself.
He had two very makeable birdie putts on 17 and 18 that could have
gotten him in position to catch or surpass Tiger but he missed each.
We should expect to see this long hitter contend often in the months
and years ahead. He's a player.
Phil Mickelson, who has
won two of the last three Masters, was off the radar screen at Doral.
As all the pundits predicted Tiger to win in Augusta one wonders
what Lefty must be thinking. After a horrendous start at the CA
Championship, posting a five over 77 in round one, he righted the
ship and came home with 72, 70, 69 to get back to even par. On Sunday
he made seven birdies to go along with five bogies. He has to feel
like he is at least headed in the right direction as Augusta grows
One last note from the
weekend, Mexican Lorena Ochoa picked up another win on the LPGA
Tour by winning at the Safeway at Superstition Mountain in Arizona
. She is establishing herself as the one to beat on the distaff
tour. When some people learn to win they just want to keep on winning
and she is definitely proving that she is a winner.
March 18, 2007
- VIJAY WINS IN ORLANDO BUT "WHO'S ON FIRST?"
I don't know about you
but I feel as if I am learning the PGA Tour all over again. It has
been a strange start to the season for me but I'm getting older
and having trouble adjusting to all the changes Tim Finchem has
initiated. This week they played the Arnold Palmer Invitational
which for years we've known it as the Bay Hill Classic by Mastercharge
or something like that. Personally I am pleased that the PGA Tour
is giving Arnie the top billing in his tournament because he has
meant so much to this game, but why do we have to keep changing
the names of each event?
For the past two weeks
I don't know where we've been; places like The Honda in North Palm
Beach and the Pod something at Tampa Bay . Personally, I couldn't
get excited about those spots and especially since the top guns
weren't showing up. It is a new season with lots of changes and
it will take some getting use to. What we need is tournaments that
will draw the top names in golf and we had one this week. Next week
we go to Doral in Miami for another blockbuster event where most
top names in the game will show up. That event is called something
like the CA Classic (isn't that the old Doral tournament) which
makes me ask, “who's on first; what's on second.” Remember the old
Abbot and Costello routine on baseball?
I really like that Vijay
won his 31 st tournament victory this weekend at Arnie's place and
got his name on that trophy finally. He has always coveted a victory
at Bay Hill and he finally got one. He just sort of took things
in his own hands midway through the final round and went on to win
with a final round 67 (-3) and a total of -8. His best challenge
down the wire came from 44 year old Rocco Mediate who shot a three
under 67 to finish at -6 overall and alone in second to Vijay. Vaughn
Taylor, who started the day in first, finished third at -5.
This was the first event
of the season since the match play that the top players in the world
gathered to go against one another. Vijay is the only one who played
well. Tiger Woods, who flirted with the lead at times, fell back
to plus three after a final round six over 76. Phil Mickelson never
really competed as he finished at plus six after a final 74. To
make it all come together and mean something, Vijay now leads the
FedEx Cup with a lot of golf left to play. Sooner or later we will
get to the Masters and make some sense out of this “new” season.
Perhaps we all need a GPS navigation system to tell us where to
By the way, all the big
names were present in Orlando for Arnie's Bash. We didn't hear much
from them and Tiger looked really off his game. It all reminds me
of the new “American Idol” talent show, which isn't showing us much
February 23, 2007
- TIGER LOSES TO O'HERN
The number one seed in
the Accenture World Match Play Championship, Tiger Woods, lost on
the second extra hole today as Aussie Nick O'Hern held his ground
and defeated the world's top ranked golfer ending Tiger's PGA tournament
win streak at seven. Many in the golf media had felt that Tiger
was going to break Byron Nelson's record 11 tournament win streak
of 1945. Other observers, myself included, felt that Tiger's losses
over the winter in the Orient had ended his streak. In any case,
the world was focused on this event being played at the Gallery
Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Arizona . Tiger actually blamed his
defeat on a blemish in the green that deflected his ball off line
as he putted for the win on the 19th hole. He told reporters afterwards
that he should have seen the ball mark and repaired it but his focus
on the line of the putt was so great that he didn't notice the mark.
He called it a mental mistake. Still in the match, O'Hern went on
to close out Tiger on the 20th hole with a par to Tiger's bogey.
Actually Tiger had struggled much of the early part of the round
as he made two double bogies as a result of wayward tee shots. His
driver was “go right happy” and he found himself in some nasty places
out in the Arizona desert. Meanwhile O'Hern was steady and down
the middle on most shots and played really good golf for much of
the round. Tiger was down by four holes in the early part of the
match but fought his way back to level with a birdie on the 18 th
. This was the second time that O'Hern has defeated Tiger in the
Accenture Match Play. He bested Tiger in an early round match in
With Tiger's loss all
of the top seeds have now gone down to defeat. The only American
surviving is Chad Campbell who ousted fellow countryman, David Toms,
one up. O'Hern will play Henrik Stenson of Sweden tomorrow. Other
matches will feature Englishman, Justin Rose against South African,
Trevor Immelman; defending champion, Geoff Ogilvy of Australia versus
Paul Casey of England ; Campbell will take on Canadian, by way of
Trinidad , Stephen Ames. The weekend matches should be exciting
to watch even though the top seeds have left the scene. I am sure
the TV sponsors are saddened by Tiger's departure but there is still
a lot of great golf left to be played. Golf is truly an international
sport in this day and age and those of us from America need to get
use to not seeing an American at the top of each and every tournament.
Tiger can't win them all!
February 18, 2007
- CHARLES HOWELL III MOVES TO A HIGHER ECHELON
A couple of years ago
about this time I projected that Charles Howell III would have his
break out year and have a multiple winning season. Well I was about
two years early in my prognostication. Most American observers of
the game had seen his tremendous potential since he won the NCAA
Championship as a junior at Oklahoma State in 2000. He joined the
tour on sponsors' exemptions in 2001 winning $1.5 million. In 2002
he broke through as a winner at the Michelob Championship at Kingsmill
in Virginia but not much has happened since. He has been a very
competitive member of the PGA Tour having finished second on nine
occasions, always a threat, but not a champion since 2002.
the beginning of this new season he had sought out David Ledbetter,
his long time teacher since childhood who he abandoned for a while
and set himself to get his game ready for the next level. Prior
to this weekend he had placed second at both the Sony and the Buick
and was off to a great start. Today, he might have grown into a
champion as he shot a dazzling six under 65 to catch red hot Phil
Mickelson and win the Nissan Championship at Riviera in Los Angeles
on the third hole of sudden death. CH III made a nerve racking 5
foot putt on the 72 nd hole for par then waited as Lefty finished.
Mickelson, the winner last week at Pebble Beach and leader throughout
this tournament's four days slipped on a banana peel coming home
and made bogey at 18 to fall back into a tie with Howell. Lefty
made bogey again at the third playoff hole against Howell's par
and suddenly Howell is a champion and the new leader of the FedEx
Cup race with Mickelson close behind. (Photo of Charles Howell courtesy
This might be the break
that Howell has needed to jump into the higher stratum of world
class golf. You could see he had the game he just needed to believe
he could do it and perhaps now, having caught and defeated a world
class golfer such as Mickelson he might be convinced in his own
mind that he belongs at the top. We need all the great ones we can
find in this era to Tiger. As for Lefty, he shot rounds of 66-65-69-68
on a tough layout. Ernie Els, Jim Furyk and Robert Allenby tied
for third. Looks like Howell and the world's higher ranked players
are ready for the Accenture World Match Play Championship coming
along this week. Tiger and Lefty have the top two seeds in the 64
February 11, 2007
- LEFTY'S LESSON!
Phil Mickelson taught
all of us a lesson this weekend. The lesson: don't ever consider
him down for the count. Just as he had the media and many of his
fans wondering about his capacity to comeback from his devastating
finish at Winged Foot last summer, he puts on a birdie barrage and
runs away with the AT&T National Pro-Am. He did it at one of
this country's best and most difficult tests of golf, Pebble Beach.
Sharing the lead with Kevin Sutherland at -14 to start the day,
Lefty posted nine birdies to go with a bogey and a double to fashion
a six under 66 to coast in at -20 and a five shot win. Sutherland
birdied the last hole to sneak into second alone at -15. Rookie
John Mallinger, fresh out of Q School and playing impressive golf,
came in third at -14. Jim Furyk, ranked second in the world behind
Tiger and four spots ahead of Lefty, finished nine shots back at
-11 tied for sixth. Mickelson's game has never looked better!
This win was his third
at the "Crosby" Pro-Am. It was also his 30 th career win
putting him in a tie with Vijay Singh and Leo Diegel. Only 15 golfers
are ahead of Phil and Vijay in all time wins. One more win for either
will put that golfer in a tie with Jimmy Demaret at 31 career triumphs.
With the win Lefty is now in seventh place in the FedEx Cup point
standings, one point ahead of Tiger Woods.
Mickelson had become almost
an after thought since last summer's collapse on the final hole
in the US Open. He had appeared tired and uninterested. He took
the last four months of the season off except for the Ryder Cup
where he scored a ½ point in five matches. He was off to
a horrible start to 2007. Suddenly he exorcised the demons from
his mind, found his swing and putting touch and like a stroke of
lightning, he is back on top. We should have known better than to
think of Lefty as finished. No one should lose faith in the ability
of a world class athlete. We should have known his wonderful talent
would return and his desire to win would rebound. Now it will be
interesting to see how his rankings will change. Is he better than
sixth in the world? Thus far this season, the new season of the
FedEx Cup, Tiger has won, Vijay Singh has won and now Mickelson.
Ernie has challenged on the European tour but hasn't won. Adam Scott
has not won nor has Furyk. So does Phil jump over anyone?
We won't know for sure
about his recovery until later in the season, perhaps after Augusta
. Will he be able to carry this talent displayed on the Monterey
Peninsula further into the year? Let's hope so because a competitive
Phil Mickelson is good for the game.
February 9, 2007 - IS
MICKELSON MAKING A COMEBACK?
Since letting the US Open
championship slip away on the last hole last summer at Winged Foot,
Phil Mickelson has been in a golfing funk to say the least. At the
time he was going for his third major in a row but in that final
round he couldn't keep his ball in play and paid the price as Geoff
Ogilvy carried the trophy back home to Australia . In the days gone
by since that debacle Lefty has teed it up in eight tournaments
plus the Ryder Cup. He tied for 65 th in the Cialis Western Open,
tied for 22 nd in the British Open, missed the cut at The International
in Castle Pines, tied for 16 th in the PGA then tied for 54 th in
the World Cup at Firestone. His play at the Ryder Cup was uninspiring.
He then chose to take off the rest of the year. In 2007 he has tied
for 45 th at the Hope, tied for 51 st at the Buick Invitational
near his home while Tiger was winning another then Lefty missed
another cut at the FBR near his former home area of Tucson. So in
about six months his world ranking has dropped like a meteor from
second to sixth in the world. So can he come back from this fall?
Can he regain his winning form? I have wondered if the personal
devastation suffered at the Open had caused incurable damage to
his confidence and desire.
As I write today he is
currently playing Pebble Beach in his second round of the AT&T
National Pro-Am. Through four holes he is two under on his round
and nine under on the tournament and leading. He shot a seven under
65 at Poppy Hills yesterday. I thought it interesting that Doug
Ferguson of the AP left any mention of Mickelson out of his coverage
of the first day. Maybe he was disbelieving. Anyway is Lefty showing
that his funk is over and is ready to be a contender again. We have
been told that he worked hard during the winter layoff to get himself
in better physical condition which was certainly necessary in my
opinion. Supposedly he has converted 25 pounds of fat into muscle.
The first three tournaments didn't show us an improved game so maybe
all the hard work is kicking in and he is ready to go after Tiger,
Furyk, Scott and others ranked ahead of him. For his sake perhaps
he has regained his ability to hit a driver down the middle. Last
year he also had trouble getting the ball close on par 3's. On several
occasions I saw him make a splash on par 3 water holes. When you
think back to last season and two weeks in Georgia when he went
back to back at Atlanta and Augusta you know how good he can be.
Maybe we will see some more of that type of play from him in the
days and months ahead.
This paragraph was written several hours later. Lefty finished his
round at 67, five under at Pebble Beach to put him at -12 overall
and tied with Jim Furyk. Furyk shot a nifty seven under at nearby
Poppy Hills and is also at -12. This sets up what could be a very
interesting shootout over the weekend by two of the games top ranked
players. Furyk is second ranked in the world while Lefty has slipped
to sixth but is obviously trying to move up.
January 29, 2007
- NEW YEAR OFF AND RUNNING: WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
Now that we have gone
from the prime time golf from Hawaii and moved to the mainland the
new season is off and running full speed ahead. What can we learn
from these first few weeks of the new season trumpeted by the PGA
Tour as the beginning of the new FedEx Cup era? Off the top of my
head I'd say not much is new. Vijay Singh won early in the Islands
as he captured the Mercedes. Tiger won his third Buick Invitational
in a row and his seventh straight PGA Tour event. Some say he is
approaching the record of 11 straight held by Byron Nelson in his
great year of 1945 when he won 18 times.
I think what Tiger is
doing is phenomenal but I have a bone to pick with his attempt to
dethrone Byron and his record of 11 straight. We are now in the
era of international play, world golf might better describe it.
Tiger participates in World Cup play and plays all around the globe.
When he did not win at the HSBC in China last fall his streak was
broken, in my opinion. Even Tiger has said his streak was broken.
When Byron played we did not enjoy a “world tour”. The best golf
in the world was played week after week right here in America .
When Byron went 11 straight he did it between March 8 th and August
4 th in 1945. There was a two month break in play in April and May
of that year. In other words, Byron won 11 times in three months.
You do the math. He played every week, no layoffs except for that
mid-season break and no loses elsewhere. During Tiger's streak he
has taken several weeks off and has traveled to play abroad. He
passed up the Tour Championship in Atlanta to play in China . To
make a long story shorter, I'm not as excited about his seven wins
versus Nelson's 11 as other scribes seem to be for the aforementioned
reason. However, we must salute the Great One for his triumph in
San Diego and a rip roaring start to 2007.
Well Lefty Mickelson looks
about like he did following last summer's debacle at Winged Foot.
He is just not competing. He does look somewhat slimmer and in better
condition but his game has not returned as yet. That mistake on
18 at the US Open really had to do major damage to Lefty's psyche.
It could take months for his game to return. It does appear he is
working hard on his game and that he cares so just maybe we will
see him contend again later this season. Retief Goosen looked sharp
as he won on the European Tour at Quatar. Fellow countryman, Ernie
Els also contended.
It's been fun to watch
some of the youngsters on Tour go for the gold. Last week Brandt
Snedeker, Andrew Buckle, Bubba Watson, Jeff Quinney and Bill Haas
all made a run for the top spot until Tiger wrestled control. The
Nationwide Tour keeps on turning out terrific young players. Maybe
at some point one of these young turks will believe that he can
challenge Tiger, then prove it. My guess is that will not happen
anytime soon. Tiger still is, for the most part, unbeatable.
Even with Tiger winning every week I think we will have an
interesting year as everyone seeks that $10 million FedEx Cup payoff
at the end of the rainbow.
January 17, 2007
- HAS MICHELLE WIE PEAKED?
I refuse to come down
hard on Michelle Wie following her failure to make the cut, again,
at the Sony in Honolulu . My first instinct is to not write about
her at all. Actually I am beginning to feel sorry for the 17 year
old despite the fact that she makes $ 20 million a year in endorsements.
My thoughts after the first two rounds at Waialae were more along
the lines of questions about her mental state. I must admit that
I began to wonder if she has peaked while still a teenager. She
appears to have lost some of her ability as her scores have gone
up over the past couple of years as she continues to strive to make
a cut on the male circuits around the world. She has now failed
in seven straight men's tournaments and, again, the scores are going
up. In two rounds last week she went 78-76, 14 over par which was
third from last place. You have to think that the inability to meet
her lofty goals is wearing on her psyche. Now I, well probably all
of us, realize she is still a youngster. We know that she is trying
to achieve something that most women golfers throughout history
have not attempted and especially while still in high school. Having
big sponsors, big contracts along with the big media hype the pressure
she feels must be immense.
Perhaps it is time for
Michelle to relax and concentrate on the LPGA Tour. She can win
there and it will certainly take the pressure off and help to rebuild
her confidence. She will become a winner in time and I think her
first win will come in 2007 unless the damage done to her confidence
has been too great to overcome without more time. We have been afraid
of a shut down for two years now as my columns will attest. Too
much has been expected of her while still a child.
Even though Michelle slipped
the Islanders still had reason to cheer as the 16 year old, Tadd
Fujikawa, of Hawaii, playing as an amateur, was simply amazing with
rounds of 71-66-66-72, five under and only nine shots behind the
winner. This youngster is something at only 5'1” and he looked more
like a 12 year old as he strolled the fairways on Sunday next to
Jim Furyk. It looks like the Islands have begotten another teenage
Lastly it was fun to see
Paul Goydos win his first tournament in 11 years. He has been a
struggling professional for many years now but he still keeps at
it because as he put it afterwards, “this is what I do”. He also
said with a smile that his goal is to win in every decade. Way to
go Paul, you are two for two.
December 30, 2006 - MY
MOST LINGERING THOUGHTS FROM 2006
As I ponder the past year
in professional golf there are some thoughts and memories that are
more vivid recollections than others. Some jump out at me like a
Vegas neon sign ever blinking on and off while others wane like
the setting sun. Here are some that linger on within me.
I will never forget how
impressed I was as Geoff Ogilvy played the World Championship Match
Play with such terrific ball striking and a seemingly laid back
demeanor. He was awesome in this early event in 2006 and I remember
saying to my self this man can be a superstar. Well it was only
a few short months later that he won his first major with his par
at the 72 nd hole at Winged Foot in the US Open while everybody
behind him struggled in with bogies and double bogies. I am calling
Geoff Ogilvy my surprise player of the year as he certainly made
a splash in '06.
My second most glaring
memory of this past season was Mickelson attempt to win his third
major in a row at Winged Foot at the US Open. His collapse will
forever be engrained in my mind especially the way he played the
last hole finishing with a double bogey. The strangest thing about
his game at Winged Foot was a total lack of success with his tee
shots. He couldn't hit the broadside of a barn with a bazooka at
20 feet. Makes you wonder why he continued to get endorsement contracts
for his Callaway driver. Wow!
The way Tiger Woods dominated
world golf from the British Open on through the rest of the season
was simply amazing to watch. No one in the world could keep pace
with him as he was in a league all by himself. Once he got through
the grieving over the loss of his father he came back with a vengeance
as if to show his Dad he could still do it. The way he ran the table
down the last half of the season will linger on in my mind for many
days and years to come.
I was delighted to see
Jay Haas win his first major of his career when he grabbed the Senior
PGA at Oak Tree in Edmunds , Oklahoma . Jay edged out his major
challenger, Brad Bryant in a three hole playoff. Jay went on to
win the player of the year award for the Champions Tour.
Lastly, I remember how
well Darren Clarke played in the Ryder Cup just a few weeks after
the death of his lovely wife. He showed great heart which seemed
to motivate his teammates as they crushed the Americans yet again.
It was very difficult to pull against a man like Clarke with his
great passion for the game and especially international team competition.
As we look ahead to 2007
we must wonder if anyone will ever defeat Tiger Woods again. He
is on a roll and just might win everything in sight. Of course with
a pregnant wife his priorities might need to change a bit. That's
right she is pregnant. We must wonder if Phil Mickelson will ever
be the same after his collapse at the US Open. He finished the last
half of the season as if totally disinterested. Who will be the
next Geoff Ogilvy who will step up and show world class talent?
Will Michelle Wie get her first win in the new year? My best guess
is yes. In fact she should be a multiple winner in 2007.
Happy New Year from FinleyonGolf.com
and keep that little white ball down the middle.
Golf Today - MASTERS STILL MAJESTIC - MICKELSON WINS BACK
TO BACK MAJORS - 4/09/06
Golf Today - THE SINGLE GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT IN AMERICAN
GOLF HISTORY - 12/18/07
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