Column # 159: Operation Don't Suck-Part One
Enough with the worm-burners, wayward divots and weak slices - Operation Don't Suck (ODS) begins this week.
Rather than feel shamed and hide the fact I'm going to take golf lessons for the first time in my life, I'm going to celebrate it. My first lesson is this Tuesday and you can add it to the public record.
Here's the dirty little secret I've been hiding for the past couple years - I'm lousy at golf. I breathe the sport, watch it, love it, care about it, and write about it but in truth, I can't play it.
It wasn't always this way. Growing up in Salamanca, NY I spent much of my high school summers at the golf course. I shot 81 to qualify for the sectional tournament as a high school junior. I have two holes-in-one on the same Par 3 back at Elkdale Country Club. I once went out to play nine holes and came to the seventh tee at (-1), only to make an eight and then two pars to shoot three over.
Then, things changed. College pulled me away from the golf course. Work and a career pulled me away from the golf course. Being young and not having a lot of money pulled me away from the golf course, too. I've played less and less each of the last seven years. As a result, my game's acted like an escaped felon and left the country.
Last summer was the absolute worst. I probably played 12 times and had fun twice. My tee shots had trouble staying in Erie County. I developed a nasty habit of dropping my shoulder and chunking just about every shot I had to hit off the ground. I don't think I made a birdie all year. It was miserable and as a result, so was I.
At the end of last October I put my golf clubs in the back room and happily told them I wouldn't see them for a while. I talked with a few people about how it was probably time for me to stop playing and take a summer off.
But, golf has a funny grip on me. No matter how many bad shots I hit, I eventually come back. Watching the PGA Tour on its California swing the past few months, I've been itching to get out and play. I've even let the clubs out of the back room.
I realized over the winner that I had two options. I could be stubborn and keep playing less and less and worse and worse. Or, I could break down and take lessons. Finally learn how to swing the golf club correctly. If I stick with it and work hard, maybe I'll even play better than I did in those high school years.
Thus, Operation Don't Suck begins Tuesday. I'm excited to actually work to get better this year. The BuffaloGolfer team is already planning a trip down to Bethpage later this summer. I want to be able to at least hold my own.
I'll be bringing you all along for the ride, too. Each week I'll blog about what the pro is teaching me and how it's helping. Maybe you'll enjoy reading about my improvements. Maybe you'll decide it's time for lessons too.
They say the first step in every recovery process is realizing you have a problem. Well, I've realized I suck at golf. Now, finally, I'm going to do something about it.
Column # 158: Meet "The Drama Killer": Alvaro Quiros of Spain
If Alvaro Quiros has a nickname, I don't know it. So, for the time being, let's just call him The Drama Killer.
This past weekend the golfing world tuned into the Omega Dubai Desert Classic for one of three reasons:
1) Rory McIlroy had the first-round lead and was contending.
2) Sergio Garcia was playing well again.
3) Tiger Woods had a real shot to win for the first time since 2009.
In the end, none of these story lines came to fruition. All three players gagged home over the last 27 holes and failed to win. Instead, Quiros emerged from the deep tournament field to win for the first time in 2011.
Quiros is not fool's gold. He's won four times on the European Tour and is currently ranked 21st in the Official World Golf Ranking. He's well-known for his great length off the tee. He finished in second place the week before at Qatar.
Still, he wasn't the main draw for golf fans this week. Even when all was said and done there seemed to be more people talking about how the stars faded rather than how Quiros is quietly growing into one of the world's best players.
It seemed to make no difference to Quiros. After the victory he told reporters, "I am very proud of myself. I think I managed myself well with difficult situations."
I'm not kidding myself. I know The Drama Killer will never stick. Given that Quiros is probably headed for some pretty great stuff - he'll be called much greater things.
Still, it's a good way to capsulate what he did this weekend. He stared some of the most famous golfers in the face and took them down. It was cold, calculated and precise.
It was the working of a champion.
Column # 157: Tim Clark Fantasy Golf Betrayal
Damn you Tim Clark. Damn you.
My apologies to all the golfers I've been cursing out over the first six weeks of this young PGA Tour season. You have to forgive me - I've just started playing fantasy golf.
If it's not too much to ask, can you all start running your injuries and possible WDs through me? It would save me from the anger I felt yesterday when I checked my fantasy scores and learned Clark had pulled out from the tournament with an elbow injury. It would have been Clark's first competition since withdrawing from the Bob Hope Classic due to a blister on the pinky toe of his left foot.
Are you serious?
I know guys who battle bad backs, throbbing knees, angry wives and heavy hangovers to tee it up every Sunday during summer in Buffalo. These guys wouldn't even notice a blister on their pinky toe unless it was infected and there was a chance the toe might fall off.
It's not just Clark I'm angry with -Ricky Barnes did the same thing to me earlier this year.
And, this is all just the anger I feel when guys don't play. Don't even get me talking about how I feel when they don't play well. Dustin Johnson - I thought Pebble was your track? One-over-par simply won't cut it on my team.
I've never been much of a fantasy sports guy, but I'm all in on fantasy golf now. I check the leader boards more often. I'm more in tune with what's going on in the world of golf. I know when Tim Clark's pinky toe is troubling him.
It's turned me into a better golf fan. But, it's also turned me into somewhat of an angry coach. It seems like everybody Friday morning you can find me mumbling something similar to this under my breath.
"Damn Clark (cough) pinky toe blister son of a gun."
"Where's Mahan? Is he even sitting on the bench?"
"Alright Hunter. Show me what you got. You're in."
Column # 156: Talking Golf and Travel with Erin Walker
Erin Walker has decided it's time to tell the story of many women who love golfers - the story of a tour wife. Walker, married to PGA Tour member Jimmy Walker, launched a new blog called www.tourwifetravels.com through which she comments on the travels that come with following your golf pro husband around the country and world. Already she's commented on where to stay and eat if you're ever around Torrey Pines, Honolulu or Scottsdale. Maybe Erin's efforts are sending positive vibes Jimmy's way too - he's three-for-three in cuts made in 2011, was ranked 18th in FEDEX Cup points heading into this week's event, and put together a four-round total of -7 at the Waste Management event.
The Mouth That Roars took time to ask Erin a few questions about her blog, golf and Jimmy.
1) We love what you're trying to do with the blog Erin. It's part behind-the-scenes golf, part travel help, etc. What are your goals with the blog?
Being a journalism major, I have been trying to come up with some way to put my education to use while traveling with Jimmy. I really want to make Tour Wife Travels a site that people follow and look to for advice when they are planning golf-related vacations. Right now, I think it's mostly just our family and friends who follow me. I also really want other players and wives to give me input on THEIR favorite stops. I have some exciting things in the works so you will all have to follow and see!
2) As a PGA Tour wife, you travel all the time. What are your favorite places to visit? Which places do you look forward to every year?
When the weather is good, Pebble Beach can't be beat. Some of my favorites dining spots are located on the Monterey Peninsula. I can't reveal too much yet because that is next weeks blog post!
LA is always fun because my brother lives there and the course is phenomenal. It's a fun place to visit, but I'll take low-key Texas (and lower housing prices!) to live. We are also lucky because we have a tournament in our hometown of San Antonio. Staying at home definitely has its perks and it's so wonderful to have our friends and family out cheering Jimmy on.
3) If Jimmy had to play the same course each week in the same part of the U.S. -- where would you want it to be?
We are biased because we live in Texas. Jimmy is from there originally and we make our home there now. He loves playing his home courses with "his boys" so I would have to say San Antonio.
4) What are the challenges that come with traveling all the time and being a PGA Tour player's wife? There must be a lot of unpredictability in your schedule?
Actually, when you finish inside the 125 number, it's quite easy to set a schedule for the year, and then having a good West Coast Swing sets us up for getting into the "invites" (Bay Hill, Colonial, Memorial etc). Right now, we just want to keep making cuts and trying to stay as high up on the money list as possible because then getting into Majors becomes the goal.
It's pretty hard to set a schedule when you are in the conditional category coming from the Nationwide Tour or Q School. A lot of people assume you can play everything you want as long as you get your PGA TOUR card but that is false. You have to finish high up on the Nationwide Money List or Q School to have a chance to get into the West Coast. Then you have to make money on the West Coast to keep your spot in the reshuffle. It's kind of a mess and I hope we never have to worry about that again! That's why a lot of first time TOUR players don't keep their cards, the stress of HAVING to make money early in the year is a lot to handle.
5) We see golfers Thursday-Sunday -- Are Monday-Wednesday more peaceful days for Jimmy and yourself?
No! It's nuts! Because we travel with our infant son and our dog, we always travel on Monday. Packing, getting to wherever we need to get to and keeping the kid happy can be stressful.
Tuesdays are Jimmy's big practice day, since he isn't in the category that plays the Pro-Am on Wednesdays. He is an early riser so he is usually out the door for his practice round by 6 AM, plays 18 and then practices after. Sometimes he won't get "home" until 3 or 4. I usually try to run errands, drop off dry cleaning and do all the boring stuff no one really wants to hear about!
Occasionally, on Wednesdays, Jimmy will get up early and play 9 holes before the Pro Am guys tee off. It depends on how comfortable he was with his practice round the day before or if conditions have changed dramatically. Luckily for me, TOUR Daycare is open starting on Wednesdays so I can drop the kid off and then participate in PGA Tour Wives Association charity events or do lunch with my friends.
The PGA TOUR Wives Association is a wonderful charity organization that focuses on children's charities in the cities we visit. There are brilliant women on TOUR and everyone works hard to make a difference in the lives of the kids.
6) Jimmy's 3-for-3 with cuts made this year and currently 18th on the FEDEX list -- should we expect big things from Jimmy this year?
What the press didn't really mention much after Greenbrier last year is that Jimmy tore his meniscus during the tournament. He ended up finishing 4th but after the swelling subsided he had a hard time keeping his knee stable during the FedEx Cup tournaments. He had knee surgery at the end of September and a month later was back to practice and played a few Fall Series events to feel comfortable again.
With the knee feeling good he revamped his swing a bit and practiced really hard over the offseason. Last year was the first year we had breathing room at the end of the season and he was able to rest a bit and then get back to work with plenty of time to feel prepared for 2011.
People that know his game well think this is possibly the best he's ever hit it, even better then when he was Player of The Year on the Nationwide Tour in 2004. I'll let you be the judge as to whether you want to pick him for your Fantasy Golf but I wouldn't forget about him anytime soon.
7) You're not from Buffalo, and you've probably never visited -- what's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of our city?
I grew up in Park City, Utah and know a lot of people on the U.S. Ski Team. I was really good friends with former Olympic mogul skier Alex Wilson in college, and he is a Buffalo native. He had a great time growing up there!
Jimmy played a Nationwide tournament at Peek n' Peak in 2007 and I think that is the closest we've been to Buffalo. Is that close??
(Editor's Note - It's 75 minutes away. We were in attendance.)
8) We've got to get one golf-related question in -- Do you know what Jimmy's favorite courses are?
Hands down Riviera Country Club in LA. It's his favorite course to play all year. He really likes old style golf courses like Harbour Town in Hilton Head and with the U.S. Open being played at Congressional this year, the AT&T National was moved to Aronimink outside Philly 2010 and 2011. He had a blast there last year and is really looking forward to playing up there again. The TOUR needs to work on making that a permanent stop as the fans were great!
TPC Sawgrass is another one of his favorites. The atmosphere at The Players is electric, as good as any Major.
The Greenbrier tournament in West Virginia replaced a wonderful tournament in Michigan that Jimmy loved. We really miss playing in Michigan but the Greenbrier has been a fantastic replacement. There are so many "new style" courses on TOUR now, it's great to have some traditional courses added to the rotation.
9) Final one -- you met Jimmy at a 2004 Nationwide event when you were a volunteer. Did you have an interest in golf even before you met Jimmy? Do you play?
I am a huge sports fan, probably more so than my husband and getting a chance to watch the pros up close and personal was something I jumped at.
I do like to play golf but hardly have time to practice. I'm a pretty solid double bogey player and would love to get better but between our son and riding my horses competitively, I get pulled in too many directions to get really good.
The PGA TOUR Wives Association puts on a charity golf tournament where the wives play a scramble and the guys have to caddy for us. We get bibs with our name on them and everything! It's one of my favorite events and being as competitive as I am, I stack my team. There are some wives out here that can stripe it! In my opinion, it's just as entertaining to watch as the real tournament!
Column # 155: Amero-Centric World? Don't Forget Pro Golf In Europe & Asia
Bubba Watson won last week. Phil Mickelson contended. Bones tended the flag for Mickelson on a wedge shot. Jonny Vegas might be for real. Tiger Woods may or may not have mailed it in.
You know these things.
But, what you may not know. What you may have missed it this.. Paul Casey won the first-ever Volvo Golf Champions event to give him his first title in 20 months. Casey is now the sixth ranked player in the world and a week-in/week-out force to be reckoned with in the sport.
American golf fans have a tendency to forget that every week - many of the world's best golfers don't play on American soil. Casey, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer are all ranked in the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings and clearly prefer to play on the other side of the pond.
This isn't necessarily earth-shattering news as golf's always been a global game. But, Westwood and young-star Rory McIlroy's decision to stick with the European Tour as opposed to the PGA speak volumes. They want to be close to home, sure. But they also want to play the best - and right now they think that's in other areas of the world.
Maybe you believe this will hurt the game. I don't. You have two incredibly competitive tours between the PGA and the European Tour. This enriches competition for marquee events like the U.S. Open, the Open Championship and the Ryder Cup. Doesn't it create a bit more of an Us vs. Them mentality? Doesn't the American in you really want to see Rickie Fowler completely outshine Rory McIlroy for the next two decades?
Golf's an individual sport, but you get the sense there's a teaming of sorts taking place. Players probably feel it too.
There's great potential for this too change the game, as well. Prior to Woods' public scandal, I remember reading an article that suggested he should step away from the PGA Tour and create a global tour, where the best events from week-to-week were held in various parts of the world. Players wouldn't care about East Coast and West Coast swings as much as when they'd be traveling to China, Australia, Europe and the United States on a yearly basis.
In a much smaller sense, that's beginning to take shape. American golf fans shouldn't fool themselves - there are several weeks a year when the event featuring the best golfers in the world occurs elsewhere.
So what's a golf fan to do in times like these? Remember to read the full sports section, that's for sure. Winners on the international tours are just as impactful as those here at home. There week to week performance deserves attention.
But mostly, golf fans should celebrate the events that bring them all together - The Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, World Golf Championship events - and cheer for the guys who represent the side they like best.
Column # 154: Early Season Questions
It's week four of the PGA Tour's 2011 season and this is the first tournament that has collected all the big guns - Woods, Mickelson, Westwood, Kaymer - and put them in one place (Torrey Pines). As it appears now, this is one of the most open, "who knows what's going to happen" years we've seen in decades. There are many questions that we're eager to learn the answers too.
Here's a list of some burning questions I have ---
1) Is Tiger Woods the greatest golfer ever? I know he's been through personal hell and a public scandal unlike any other. Still, if he's to leave his legacy as the G.O.A.T - he must overcome and dominate once again. Does he have it in him?
2) Is Dustin Johnson going to get it right this year? DJ could have very easily struck the ball a bit better during the final round of the U.S. Open and not grounded his club in the Unidentifiable Bunker at Whistling Straits. If those things happen - he owns two major championships and we're not talking so much about Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell. Is DJ on the cusp.or was 2011 a fluke?
3) How drastically will Phil Mickelson's decision to forgo the vegetarian diet affect the Champions Dinner at the Masters this year?
4) The last three players to be ranked #1 in the world are David Duval, Vijay Sing and Tiger Woods. They each own major championships. Lee Westwood - are you ever going to join them?
5) Who's the best young player in golf under the age of 28? There are seriously about a half-dozen names that deserve consideration - Martin Kaymer, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Ryo Ishikawa, Rickie Fowler, Anthony Kim. somebody emerge.
6) Are the rules really going to change? There's been a lot of spotlight on some of the bizarre, harsh rules in golf over the past year. Now, there's talk of change. But, how much can you change before you run into more problems.
7) Just how much of a partier is Anthony Kim? I'm not saying it has anything to do with his golf game. But it would be a fun question to explore.
8) How much will players like McIlroy and Westwood deciding to skip out on PGA Tour events hurt the competition? Both have said they won't play TPC. That's sad. Does golf need to adapt to more of a global tour model?
Column # 153: Drafting A Dream Team For The Future
Is it sick of me to want to watch Phil Mickelson run the 40-yard dash
Wouldn't it be something to watch him go all out for eh. (5.7 seconds?) and then turn around gasping and watch as others like Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen tried to best him
It's probably not as appealing as watching these guys hit cut drives and lob wedges, but it would be a sight. Just imagine if there was some sort of combine for golfers that was similar to those that NFL prospects face each year. What skills and athletic challenges would you want to have players tested for? Which PGA golfer would have the highest vertical...something?!
I've taken it a step farther and developed a mock draft for PGA golfers. With the 2011 season just teeing off, what golfers would you want to build a team upon for the next 15 years? Who do you think will have the best career impact from now to 2025
Please note - this is not a list of the top 30 players in the world today. It's a list of who I predict will have the best success in the near and extended future. I'm not just picking guys based on what they'll do in 2011, but what they're capable of for the next 15 years
And, so, with the first pick in the Golfer Draft, I select..
1) Rory McIlroy - McIlroy spurning the PGA tour for the European tour isn't the same as Ricky Rubio spurning the NBA a few years back - McIlroy is still going to be here for the big ones. His 63 in the first round of the 2010 British Open was a precursor for some of the great rounds this guy's going to have in majors. I predict he'll register more major championships than any other golfer between now and 2025. At 5' 10" and 160 lbs - McIlroy is all heart, skin, bones and gobs of talent.
2) Dustin Johnson - Johnson is built tall and equipped with long arms for snapping drives that will tower over fairways for years to come. His mental fortitude is the only thing I question. On one hand he's shown incredible resilience after his blow-up at the 2010 U.S. Open and Bunker Gate at the 2010 PGA Championship. On the other hand, he let both those things happen to him in the first place. If there were other teams drafting and Johnson went first - I'd understand. He seems to have every shot in the bag. He loves Pebble Beach (which means he'll be playing on one of his favorite courses for at least two more majors during his career). And, when you almost win two majors one year, you're bound to find your way into contention again. Who knows, he may have a much more prolific career than McIlroy. But, for me, there are more questions surrounding DJ than Rory.
3) Martin Kaymer - If you drafted him third overall and called him on the phone.would he be excited? This guy is a silent assassin and one very calm, cool customer. He's managed to still fly under the radar despite winning the 2010 PGA Championship and being the #3 player in the world. Nothing blows you away about Kaymer other than the fact that he's really good at everything. He's only the second German to win a major championship (see Bernhard Langer) and it would appear he'll notch a few more over his career. He's not the sexy top five pick, but he's all substance.
4) Paul Casey - Reach alert! Reach alert! This would be the first pick had the announcers up in arms. David Feherty would call it as "peculiar as trying to dial the telephone with an ice pick." Johnny Miller would begin to retort and then just tell a story about how great he used to be. Hopefully, Tom Rinaldi would break in and make sense of it all. Look - I know Casey's already 33. And I know there are other guys still on the board - Woods or McDowell - for starters - but I'm taking Casey here. The guys is really, really good. He's earned 10 global victories and, as of late, has shown up at big times. He's two years younger than Woods - and I think those two years will make a difference. Casey's going to break through at some point. And, when he does, it just might validate the pick. (Or he's not.and this pick goes down as the Sam Bowie instead of Michael Jordan pick in golf because look who's next.)
5) Tiger Woods - Let's be honest, I'd never be able to take Tiger Woods at number 5. He's arguably the greatest golfer ever to breathe, and someone, from somewhere, would have taken him by now. But, if the entire draft were up to me, this is where Woods goes. Work with me here.
a. Woods is 35 years and a month old. Which means 15 years from now he'll be 50 and (probably) not winning majors anymore. The prime of his career may be in the past, and if it isn't.there's not much of it ahead in the future. I understand that what he's capable of in the next 5-7 years could be potentially more impactful than anything these other guys do in the next 30 - but I'm not sure.
b. Woods is still dealing with the results of the largest public scandal in history, a divorce, having two children he can't see on impulse and a new swing coach. I'm not going to bet against him. But I'm also not wagering my house that he returns to anything near his old form.
c. The idea that Woods is going to win the grand slam is dead. His game isn't there anymore and there are too many young challengers. A good year for Woods now is one major and a great year is two. If that's the new standard.is it possible for him to amass more than five or six the rest of the way?
All those reasons and I just don't think he'll have a better 15-years than those I've selected ahead of him.
#6 - Rickie Fowler - The same analysts who were fired up about Paul Casey at #4 would surely wonder incredulously how Rickie Fowler could slip to six. Look, I know the kid's only 22 and seems to have tons of talent, flair and poise - but I'm just not ready to go all in on him. Some people probably would have slotted him at No. 1 or 2. But, not me. I know he's young, but he still doesn't have a PGA Tour win and his best major finish is a T14. None of the guys drafted above him put together an epic birdie run to scare a Molinari at the Ryder Cup - but they each have fewer question marks. Besides, it's not as if a guy that goes sixth can't prove himself the best of the bunch down the road.
#7 - Hunter Mahan - Don't cry for me Mr. Mahan. A short iron shot and a flubbed pitch at the 2010 Ryder Cup don't erase the fact that this guy is blossoming into a young star. The guy's won three times on Tour and twice last year (including the World Golf Championship Bridgestone event). Ever since seeing him get going on tour a few years back - he exudes confidence. He's also a heck of a ball striker. Those tears didn't wash away my excitement for his game, they showed me he cared.deeply. I want guys like that on my team if I'm drafting
#8 - Camillo Villegas - Villegas at #8 just shows you how incredibly deep and young the tour is right now. In Villegas you get a guy with tons of potential (he's 29) and tons of proven success (9 professional wins, 3 PGA wins). Villegas can hit the ball a mile and is all muscle. He's got the strength to blast it out of U.S. Open rough and the touch to sink birdie putts. As I'm registering this pick, I'm wondering how he fell this far.
#9 - Ryo Ishikawa - Some have labeled this kid the second coming, but how much do we really know about him yet? Tons of talent, yes. But that doesn't always translate. I'm a Pacers fans and remember when they drafted Jonathan Bender. Young. Tons of talent. Ended up showing flashes but having injury trouble. All I'm saying is young, talented guys don't always blossom. He's way to unproven at this point. He'd be advised to stay in school one more year.
#10 - Ian Poulter - Remember when it was just going to be Tiger Woods and Poulter? Well, it's just Poulter alone at the #10 spot. Poulter is 35 (which not even we realized) and only has one career win. There's a lot of reasons to think he'll win again and win big, but time isn't on his side like some of the younger guns drafted ahead of him.
#11 - Jeff Overton - Toughness finds a way to win. I've always believed that. And Overton is the definition of toughness. At the end of the 2008 season, Overton was 10 days removed from appendectomy and was ranked 125th, barely hanging on to full-season exemption. He went out and finished 21st and secured a spot on tour. In 2010 he finished 11th at the U.S. Open and was an emotional leader at the Ryder Cup.
#12 - Matteo Manassero - I've been criticized for not drafting youth - forgive me. I'm not passing up on the chance to get Manassero here. He's 17 years old and has won on the European team and placed 13th in last year's open. I had a hard enough time packing everything I needed for an overnight at a friend's house at age 17.
#13 - Anthony Kim - If Anthony Kim is going 13.he can't be that happy. Three PGA Tour wins and a couple eye-opening performances in the majors. He's only 25 and has much more success than many of those taken before him. I don't know how you don't put him in your top 20..
#14 - Justin Rose - He's only 30 and he has top 10 finishes in every major championship. 2010 was a bit of a reawakening for him. Rose is worth every penny at this point in the draft.
#15 - Chris Wood - Let the criticism of my inability to draft youth end. At 23 years of age, Chris Wood is arguably the best young English golfer on the planet. He clearly enjoys playing links style courses (the only made cuts in majors he has are T3 and T5 at the British Open) and he got off to a good start this year with a runner-up finish at the Africa Open.
#16 - Graeme McDowell - I know he had the best year of anyone in 2010 and literally ruined Tiger Woods "I'm Back" party in early December - but I'm not there all the way with this guy yet. I'm probably one of the few guys in the world who wants to see McDowell "do it again" before I consider him an elite talent.
#17 - Matt Kuchar - Love everything about Kuchar - One of the most consistent, hard working golfers of all time. I just feel that with his age (31 years) and relative lack of flash - his upside isn't as great as I wish it would be for him.
#18 - Sergio Garcia - Hate away. He's only 31 and it's not over. I'm telling you - it's not over.
#19 - Ross Fisher - Four European tour wins, strong performances in all the majors. He reminds me of Kuchar a bit in his steadiness. Plus, he's younger.
#20 - Ryan Moore - I hate his hat. I hate that he wore a tie once. But he's good - and that's what really matters.
#21 Jamie Lovemark - At 22 years of age he became the youngest player to ever win the money title on the Nationwide Tour. He'll have similar success on the PGA Tour in years to come.
#22 Bubba Watson - Watson is a steal this late in the draft. He's good in all the big events and really shined at last year's Ryder Cup. If he were a few years younger than 32.he'd be a top 10 pick.
#23 Bill Haas - Won twice on tour last year and has a chance to win his first of 2011 this week. He's really turning into a young star and has great genes.
#24 Nick Watney - Mr. Steady. He made 22 of 24 possible cuts last year and finished in the top 10 in a third of the events he entered. Great numbers for anyone.
#25 Alvaro Quiros - He's young and can absolutely bomb the ball. He's had success on the European Tour and will win when he plays courses that suit his game. It's only a matter of time before he's better known.
#26 Jhonattan Vegas - Vegas wasn't even on the draft board a month ago.but he's had a great two weeks. A PGA Tour win and then coming out and contending the next week later? Impressive.
#27 Andres Romero - Romero didn't start playing until he was 16 but quickly took to the game. He owns a PGA Tour victory and other memorable performances. A major winner at some point, count on it.
#28 Brendon De Jonge - He was in the money 24 or 32 times last year. He seems to always play well.
#29 Colt Knost - Mo Golf took this guy in the top 10. Nothing really impresses me about this guy. He's won on the amateur level and others think highly of him - so I'll squeeze him in here.
#30 Rafael Cabrera - Never heard of him? You will. He has four professional wins and a solid showing at last year's open. He's only 26.
Column # 152: Weekend Mouth-Dateline1/14/2011
It's not all that often you can draw comparisons between Buffalo and Hawaii weather in January, but today, thanks to torrential rain over the Pacific - nobody's playing golf at either location.
It's only been a week since the 2011 season teed off and there's already quite a bit to talk about. Seeing as how there's no golf today, let's take a quick look at news and events from the world of golf.
~ You work your whole life to become a top-tier professional golfer. You're playing a prestigious opening season tournament. You're in a playoff to win the event - and all of a sudden you're in a hurry? I couldn't get past how Robert Garrigus looked like a man with a bus to catch during last Sunday's playoff with Jonathan Byrd. All of a sudden, the thoughtfulness and care he'd utilized to earn a spot in the playoff disappeared. He took next to no time to read putts. He was quick with his swing.and he lost. Nerves have crazy ways of affecting golfers and apparently Garrigus' hit him like caffeine.
~ After blowing a three-shot lead at last year's U.S. Open and then being the central figure of Bunker Gate at the 2010 PGA Championship, Dustin Johnson always stood up and faced it like a man. Last week it was leaked that he was dating LPGA star Natalie Gulbis. Johnson denied the report. Gulbis confirmed it. Next thing you know Johnson has pulled out of this week's Sony event for "personal reasons." Anyone would have understood if Johnson avoided the media and press last year.but who wants to avoid the fact they're dating Gulbis?
~ Sergio Garcia turned 31 this week. Remember when he closed his eyes and swung with all his might at Medinah in 1999. That was a dozen years ago. After that performance we all figured he'd have secured multiple major championships by now. Instead, he's a bit of an afterthought as the 2011 season begins... it's a crazy sport.
~ Camillo Villegas was DQ'd from last week's event after TV viewers phoned in to tell officials he'd broken a rule. After hitting a pitch shot and realizing the ball would be rolling back toward where he'd just struck it from, Villegas swiped at the ground and knocked his divot away. I don't think TV viewers should be able to call in and DQ someone. If Villegas didn't realize it and tour officials didn't realize it - then Villegas should play on. The duty is on the player and the tour.not every fan with a remote.
~ I know things have been phrased like this before, but imagine having to really think about this question 15 months ago - Who will have a better season in 2011 - Tiger Woods or Graeme McDowell? Someone asked me earlier this week and I didn't know what to say.
Column # 151: Mouth Wins Masters!
Come this April, you'll be able to see me wearing the green jacket after winning the Masters.
Wipe that incredulous look off your face. Did you really think me and my 15 to 18 handicap were incapable of winning golf's most illustrious event? Aren't I capable of sneaking through Amen Corner unscathed? Why couldn't I stare down Tiger Woods during the final round of a major?
If you answered, "Because you stink," or "Because when you swing a golf club it reminds me of a kangaroo having a seizure," --- both answers were acceptable. But, none of that matters anymore. Thanks to EA Sports and Tiger Woods, we can all take shots at Augusta National from the confines of our own living room starting this April.
To be blunt, the news that Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters will feature Augusta National is just plain awesome. I have never once purchased a Tiger Woods video game. Nor do I own a video gaming system. But, all that might change this April just because of one incredible golf course.
"For more than a decade, the Masters Tournament has been the most requested and coveted feature for the Tiger Woods PGA Tour franchise among our fans," said Peter Moore, president of EA Sports. "Pairing the number one golf video game franchise with the most prestigious golf tournament in the world is a perfect marriage and we're thrilled to bring our fans this exciting opportunity to experience Augusta National Golf Club like never before."
There's something about Augusta National. Even though we see it every year.it's still a mystery. It's exclusive and pristine. Even TV coverage is limited for The Masters. We know all the yardages and hole nicknames.but not much else.
Now, we'll be able to play the golf course virtually from every angle. We can stand at the 12th tee and try to stick it on the green. We can test our nerves on the famous 18th green. Maybe the game's box cover will smell like azaleas.
Like I said, I'm not much of a video game. But I'm already counting down the days until I can create my own golfer with the video game and tee it up at Augusta. I don't care what the game costs.this is about a different shade of green.
Column # 150: Reflection on 2010 & Anticipation for 2011
Golf leaves us very little time for reflection. In early December we're watching Tiger Woods and more than a dozen of the world's best players battle at the Chevron World Challenge. Just three weeks later, we're on to 2011.
It seems that as soon as we're able to write a piece that brings closure to one season, we're forced to write another that offers a light to the year ahead. Golf never stops.
Still, 2010 was an incredibly memorable year. And most of the players who made it so will be back for more in 2011. Here are some holiday wishes for a few of them - with hopes that they'll carry over to 2011.
Dustin Johnson - May you catch a kind bounce of fair break this season. Nobody went through more hardship on the golf course in 2010 than Johnson. He lost control of his driver and tossed away a commanding lead during the final round of the U.S. Open. Then, he went through "Bunker-Gate" at Whistling Straits during the PGA Championship. The U.S. Open struggles were the sign of a young player who wasn't quite ready for his big moment. Bunker Gate was downright cruel and not all Johnson's fault. Come to think of it, so were his Ryder Cup struggles...he responded well in Sunday Singles, but struggled with the partner format the first two days. If anybody deserves a kind bounce off a tree or a skip across a water hazard in 2011 - It's Dustin.
Tiger Woods - May 2011 be all about golf. Dustin Johnson may have lead the field in trouble on the golf course in 2010, but Woods takes home the cake for trouble off of it. Everyone knows how his one-car accident and public scandal tarnished the golfer's image. Many of the headlines, images and text messages are hard to forget. Still, regardless of your stance on Woods' personal life, the guy's been through enough. It appears he's come to some form of resolution with his family and has forged ahead with new swing coach Sean Foley. Maybe he'll win three majors. Maybe he'll go winless. All I hope for is that when we talk Tiger in 2011 - we talk golf.
Matt Kuchar and/or Lee Westwood - I know that we have absolutely no idea what these guys are like in their personal lives - but Westwood and Kuchar just seem like good guys. They also had two of the most respectable 2010 campaigns, but each failed to capture a major championship. Clearly, due to his age, Westwood should get the nod over Kuchar. I just hope we get to see one of these guys raise a big trophy this season.
Hunter Mahan - Wouldn't it be great if there comes a moment in this season where Mahan does something so extraordinary, clutch or thrilling that the sting from his Ryder Cup defeat wears off just a bit? Mahan was anything but the reason the U.S. lost the Ryder Cup (see the third session of play) but he did hold a chance to secure the final point. Everyone watched as Graeme McDowell brought home glory for the Europeans as Mahan flubbed a chip shot. It was a tough moment, and Mahan took it hard. Hopefully he lets it go and great things come his way this season.
Speaking of Graeme McDowell - Here's hoping you have a season 70 percent as successful as your 2010 breakout year. A U.S. Open, Player of the Year honors and a thrilling Ryder Cup finish.how do you back that up in 2011?
Miguel Angel Jimenez - May you find yourself up against rock walls in every tournament you play this season. I wish this for no other reason than golf fans deserve more shots like this one at the British Open...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIKGf0Xl_CA
Column 149: Almost Back To Normal
I woke up Sunday morning and the golf world seemed like it was back in order.
Tiger Woods sat atop the Chevron World Challenge leader board with a four-shot lead. The rest of the world's best - Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, and Paul Casey - were all chasing Tiger once again.
Media covering the event figured they had an easy day. Write up a story about how Woods capped off his tumultuous 2010 campaign with his first win, setting the stage for bigger things in 2011, and just plug in the number of shots he won by later.
Talking with friends and golf fans Sunday, most had already written the event off as a Woods victory. That's what we always used to do. Tiger Woods up four shots going into Sunday? Over. Boom. The rest of the field might as well start thinking about next week.
But, Sunday didn't go as we're used to things going for Woods. Once again we were reminded that Tiger Woods - post public scandal - isn't invincible.
Woods backed up one shot and his closest chaser, Graeme McDowell, picked up three. The scores set the duo in a playoff that McDowell would eventually win. McDowell made similar putts of reasonable length to force a playoff and then to win the tournament. It was reminiscent of when Woods refused to go away and beat Rocco Mediate after 91 holes.
I'll confess, I didn't watch the event Sunday. I too wrote this one off as over. The Buffalo Bills had a better chance of winning Sunday than anyone not named Tiger in the Chevron field. Even when the Bills proved me wrong, there was holiday shopping and errands to run. Didn't that golf tournament end on Saturday?
I was wrong. I imagine millions of others were too. For a final time in 2010, Tiger wasn't good enough to win. He closes 2010 without a single victory. Imagine if you could go back and tell yourself that 14 months ago.it wouldn't seem plausible.
I saw the news that Woods had taken second much in the same fashion I'd read that Woods had been in a car crash last Thanksgiving - scrolling across the bottom of ESPN.
I headed to the web and saw the final leader board. 1. McDowell, 2. Woods.
Then I went to the Official World Golf Rankings. 1. Westwood, 2. Woods.
I've long assumed that eventually, Woods will return to form and finish his quest to obliterate every golf record ever set. But, sitting there, staring at the screen and those respective rankings, I was forced to consider a new kind of normal.
Column 148: The Q-School Symphony
Casual golf fans would never think of the first week of December as one of the toughest stretches of the sport's season, but then they just don't understand Q-school.
The PGA Tour Qualifying School is a six-round tournament where players without a Tour card can get one last chance to be a PGA Tour member the following year. According to many who've gone through Q-school and/or know people who have, it's the equivalent of golf hell. It breaks players down physically and mentally over six days of challenging golf meant to fatigue players. John Feinstein wrote a book about Q-school in which he argues that it is the real fifth major. For the players competing this week, it's much more important than that.
There are interesting stories from Q-school each year. Here are a slew of the names you might recognize competing this week - Paul Stankowski, Billy Mayfair, Dicky Pride, Ty Tryon (remember him?), Lee Janzen and Erik Compton. After day one Kyle Stanley (-7) holds a two-shot lead over Scott Weatherly, Ben Martin and Joseph Bramlett.
One of the better tales from this year's event is the early success of Camilo Villegas' caddie Brett Waldman, who sits at -3 after day one and holed a bunker shot on his first hole for eagle. Wouldn't it be something if Waldman went from carrying Villegas' bag to beating him next year?
I find it ironic that this year's Q-School tournament occurs the same weekend Tiger Woods will host his Chevron World Challenge event. The Chevron event features just 18 of the world's best players. It is a fun, challenging tournament that fans will enjoy watching because they know the names of everyone competing. It is also, in many ways, a cash grab. Even those that play poorly will leave with some financial thank you.
The same can't be said for the brave souls at Q-School this week. The top 25 finishers will take home PGA Tour cards while the next 50 earn a spot on the Nationwide Tour. There's no financial incentives other than a chance to earn and play well in 2011. Guys like Waldman, Stanley and Tryon are worlds away from the Chevron event.
Still, it'll give them something to think about and watch as their knees knock and hands shake this week. Q-School might be tortuous, but it's a chance for a golfer to take his career to new heights. One brutal week in December this year might translate to invitations to bigger events down the road.
Column 147: Happy Thanks(Golf)giving
This isn’t the greatest time of year for golf fans. There’s no Masters, U.S. Open, Ryder Cup or FEDEX Cup to debate, analyze and watch. There aren’t any notable Sunday charges or Tuesday parings announcements. Most of the world’s best are taking vacation, attending to business matters off the course or penning articles for Newsweek.
Still, it’s the holiday season. It’s one of the few times of the year when we can reflect on the year that was in golf and how much we appreciate the sport. Considering Thanksgiving is just 48 hour away, I thought I’d come up with a list of some of the things I’m thankful for in golf right now. I welcome and encourage anyone reading to offer their own suggestions via Twitter
[ http://www.twitter.com/buffalogolfer ]www.twitter.com/buffalogolfer or on our Facebook page. There’s no order to the list below, just a list of things that come to mind.
~ I’m thankful that golf allows its characters to shine. If Rickie Fowler played in the NBA he’d be asked to wear his hat like everyone else or not at all. If John Daly wore his trademark pants in an NFL game, he’d be fined. It’s great that golf and its respective organizing bodies cherish individuality.
~ I’m thankful for Dustin Johnson. Guy blew up at the U.S. Open and suffered one of the unluckiest breaks/rulings ever at the PGA Championship. Still, he seems capable of shrugging it off, moving on and continuing to improve. Heck, it is just golf.
~ I’m thankful for any event that’s an Open. Letting amateurs from around the country and world have a chance to compete against the world’s best is a charming aspect of the sport.
~ I’m thankful for my pitching wedge. It is my favorite and most consistent club to swing.
~ I’m thankful that Tiger Woods still has a chance to write a second act to his incredible career.
~ I’m thankful for match play events. There aren’t enough of them on the professional level.
~ I’m thankful for Phil Mickelson. I know that’s a cliché response and some people think his demeanor is an act, but how can you argue with this.
~ I’m thankful for the growing number of dominant young European players – Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, the Molinaris, Paul Casey – they pose quite a challenge for the U.S. Ryder Cup team for years to come.
~ I’m thankful for rain suits that actually repel rain.
~ I’m thankful that Nick Faldo decided to be a broadcaster after his career.
~ I’m thankful that next time there’s a Ryder Cup, Sergio Garcia will be playing and not serving as a captain. (That’s a prediction that will come true.)
~ I’m thankful for Elkdale Country Club. My first course. My favorite course.
Column 146: Quick Hits and Links
really has an off-season, but it definitely slows down a bit during
the holiday months. The PGA Tour has essentially wrapped up
its action for the year and many of the world's best players are
taking time off and beginning to think about 2011.
No doubt, there
will still be major stories that deserve thoughtful consideration
between now and January, but why not try a new type of
column. Check below for my quick thoughts and some hot links from the
world of golf.
Tiger Woods is
on Twitter. He opened an account and posted three publicity-style
Tweets in 2009, but officially began his Tweeting
this morning when he announced he's "Finally decided to try Twitter."
I wonder if he'll be more forthcoming on Twitter than he is in his
press conferences. How do you give cold stares via Twitter? I'm
kidding, of course, I love TW and am pumped to learn he'll be doing
30-minute interview on Mike and Mike tomorrow a.m.
~ Bob Harig put
together a really interesting read on Stewart Cink today. It touches
on how Cink hasn't won since the British Open
despite heightened expectations. Love Cink's comments on the Ryder Cup
"Finality of every shot."
John Daly now claims that since losing weight his swing has changed
for the worse. I'm sure he's not wrong, but I'd take being a bad
golfer over being the paragon of bad health. Daly's health changes and
strong play at the 2010 British Open was one of my favorite stories
of the season. Hopefully he finds his "slender swing."
~ Pretty soon
you'll be able to
play golf on Facebook thanks to EA Sports. I'm not sure if I want
my Facebook friends being able to poke
and comment while I hack my way around.
~ Years back I
wrote a column saying that I believed
David Duval would win another major championship someday despite
in the Official World Golf Rankings. I'm standing by it and believe
2011 will be the year.
~ Looking for
great golf info from across the pond? Check out
http://www.blog.ispygolf.com. Scroll down a few and you'll see
Cup preview I wrote for them.
~ A doctor
blinded when he was hit by a golf ball is suing the person who
struck the ball for not saying "Fore." Serious case. Did I mention
the guy who hit him was his friend and playing partner?
That's all for
now. More links next week.
Column 145: A Sorrowful Farewell To Our
Turning Stone Championship
You understand, but still
That's how I think most
area golf fans feel after learning the Turning Stone Resort
Championship will exist no longer. Tournament officials elected to
cease their relationship with the PGA Tour after learning that their
event would be the same weekend as the World Golf Championship
Bridgestone Invitational in 2011.
Like I said, I understand.
The WGC events pride themselves on assembling fields of the top
64-100 players in the world. Past Turning Stone Champions like Matt
Kuchar and Dustin Johnson wouldn't be willing to skip out on the
Bridgestone to defend their titles. By accepting this new slot on
the PGA Tour schedule you're essentially guaranteed a watered down
field which translates to fewer tickets sold and less overall buzz.
Turning Stone Resort wanted to build a top-flight championship on
Tour; I don't blame them for refuting a shot at playing second
Undoubtedly, I'm sad too.
There aren't a ton of opportunities for Western and Central New York
golf fans to see the professionals in action without a serious
drive. The Turning Stone event was a welcome weekend in every local
golf fan's schedule. Did you hear who the past champions of this
tournament were - Kuchar and Johnson. Kuchar is the leading
money-winner on tour in 2010. Johnson is an emerging superstar made
famous by the ways he ended up losing both the U.S. Open and the PGA
Championship this year. Both of them were Ryder Cuppers. Even if you
go back to the first Turning Stone Championship ever in 2007 you
find a solid champion in Steve Flesch.
That's why it's sad -
Turning Stone was building something special here. It's a bummer in
so many ways the PGA Tour didn't keep this event on its own weekend.
If you're keeping count,
this area has now lost its annual Nationwide Tour events at Peek N'
Peak and Irondequoit, and now the budding Turning Stone Resort
Championship in the last few years. The chances to see great golfers
visiting our region are disappearing. Thankfully, we can look
forward to the PGA Championship's return to Oak Hill in Rochester in
There's no way to avoid
the mixed emotions, we're all left with sadness and understanding.
Thank you Turning Stone for three exciting years.
Column 144: Pointless
Grand Slam of Golf?
The PGA Grand Slam of Golf must be the most
pointless tournament in professional golf.
It's supposed to be the hardest to get into - it features only the
four major championship winners from a given year - but it rarely can
convince the full quartet to attend. This year only U.S. Open Champion
Graeme McDowell and PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer made the
trip. Both Phil Mickelson and Louis Oosthuizen opted out, allowing
Ernie Els and David Toms to participate.
It's a joke really. How can a tournament designed specifically
for the four major champions allow other players to compete?
And, what is so unappealing about traveling to Hawaii to play golf and
compete for some portion of more than a million dollars? Even if you
finish dead last you receive $200,000. I'd show up for that.
The Grand Slam of Golf is an event that looks great on paper. It's in
a great location - Hawaii. It offers big money. And, it's at the end
of the year when players might be looking to escape for a vacation
with their families.
In real life, the tournament's a real dud. Players don't care. Fans
don't watch. The PGA would be better off pumping the prize money into
a Tour event in hopes of drawing a stronger field during the fall
Better yet, rather than invite the four best players to the Grand Slam
of Golf, invite the first four guys who fell outside the top 125 on
the money list. Give them two days to square off against one another
for one last PGA Tour card. Not only would you always get each of the
four, you'd get people to invest more in the tournament. They'd know
it wasn't an exhibition. They'd understand that winning or losing such
an event really could change a player's life.
Golf fans know the difference between real golf tournaments and
exhibition matches that pad players' pockets. The Grand Slam of Golf
isn't a tournament as much as it is a publicity stunt. The PGA should
either scrap it or restructure it entirely.
Column 143: Ryder Cup
Make no mistake - the U.S. Ryder Cup team did more than raise the bar
for Medinah Country Club in 2012.
The U.S. team headed into the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in South
Wales as a big time underdog and left realizing that if not for a
historically bad third session or a friendly bounce somewhere along
the way, it would have retained the Ryder Cup.
People wondered if Tiger Woods would be able to help this team he went
Some doubted Rickie Fowlers selection he erased a four-hole deficit
with six to play in singles matches and earned a crucial half point.
How did this guy Jeff Overton make the team? I bet nobody wants to
play him in 2012. All Overton did all week was make clutch shot after
The European team was widely considered deeper and more experienced.
In a sense, its true, the Europeans did win. But you have to wonder
what would have happened on U.S. soil. It might have helped a few of
those who struggled Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Jim Furyk. It
might have been worth the extra half-point the U.S. team needed.
In truth, the playing fields are much more even that you may have
originally thought. Rory McIlroy may be the best player on the planet
under the age of 25, or maybe its Fowler. Just because Overton wears
funny hats and doesnt ignite media attention doesn't mean he cant beat
a Molinari or two.
Remember the U.S. team outplayed the European in three of the four
playing sessions. It was only session three, where the U.S. got
clocked 5.5 to .5 that things got away from them. That third session
also featured a suspension of play due to darkness and a seven-hour
rain delay. So, not only was it painful, it was long and tortuous.
Hopefully, it was also a learning experience for the players whod
never been to a Ryder Cup before. It takes strong performances in all
four sessions to capture glory.
I'll make a bold prediction now and suggest the U.S. wins the 2012
Ryder Cup by more than 2 points. The real challenge will come two
years after that though. Can the U.S. win a cup and keep it? It will
have been more than two decades since they last achieved such a feat
when they possibly have the chance in 2014.
There was something about the way this years team fought and surprised
people. Even through the mist and rain that shrouded Celtic Manor for
four days you could see it. They came up a point short this time. But,
they may be building a team that comes out on the winning side for
years to come.
Column 142: So...Jim Furyk
Is Number One According To Whom?
was a good day for Jim Furyk.
Battling rain, wind and 29 of the world’s best golfers, Furyk won both
the Tour Championship and the FEDEX Cup at East Lake yesterday. The
win earned him more than $11 million in prize money and almost
assuredly secured him PGA Player of the Year honors.
won three times on tour this season – the Verizon Heritage, the Tour
Championship and the Transitions Championship – made 18 of 21 cuts and
wrapped up 7 top tens. It is a great season by anyone’s standards.
only thing Furyk’s season really lacked was a dominant performance in
a major championship. Instead, Furyk was cut from both The Masters and
British Open. He finished T16 at the U.S. Open and T24 at the PGA
Championship. Still, despite four lackluster major championship
performances, Furyk received the PGA Tour’s top prize of $10 million
for winning the FEDEX Cup and put himself in prime consideration for
nothing against Furyk, but the fact that someone can underachieve in
major championships and still earn such end-of-year honors bothers me.
For the first time, it makes me wonder if the FEDEX Cup is beginning
to devalue the major championships.
but if you want to be considered the best player on tour for an entire
season, you’ve got to be steady all year and also do something special
in the major championships. I’m more impressed with the years Dustin
Johnson and Rory McIlroy put together than Furyk. Johnson had two top
10s’ and a T14 at the British Open. McIlroy had two top fives to go
with his two major missed cuts.
Maybe that all
adds up to bad logic, but I still believe the major championships are
where golfers cement their legacies. No events bring out stronger
fields than the majors. Players prepare for weeks with major
championships in mind. It is where the best play the best and only the
greats can survive.
Furyk won a major
championship earlier in his career. He is a great player sans doubt.
Still, the PGA Tour handed him $11 million yesterday for essentially –
having the best season on tour.
I’ll say it one
last time, if you can’t secure at least one Top 10 in a major
championship, you shouldn’t be allowed to win POY or FEDEX Cup #1.
championships are where you earn a spot in the record books.
The FEDEX Cup
earns you extra zeroes in your paycheck.
One can only hope
the players are able to see past the millions of dollars in prize
money attached to the FEDEX Cup and remember all that.
FedEx Kup Kloses With Kuchar
The PGA Tour season concludes
next week with the Tour Championship and the final event in the FEDEX
Cup. Only the 30 best players from the year will attend and play.
I doubt many people had Matt
Kuchar pegged as the guy who would be leading the FEDEX Cup with one
event to go, but his consistent play all year has earned him the spot.
Now, he’s four good days of golf away from $10 million.
Kuchar is one of the easier
guys to like on tour. He smiles as often as he breathes and he’s got
an easy-going nature about him. Here’s a few lesser known reasons to
root for him at East Lake next week.
As far as we can tell, he’s a kind
soul –In his online blog he lists the coolest thing
about Augusta as the fact that he’s built relationships with people at
the course. He says, “People who work the event, people in the dining
area, guys in the caddy shed, people in the clubhouse. I still keep in
touch with a few.” Considering how often this guy’s on the road and
how many people he meets…it says something that he makes an effort to
interact with these people.
He’s got great stats –Kuchar
is currently ranked 1st in scoring average, all-around
ranking, FEDEX Cup points and money for the season. Plus he’s 4th
in birdie average, 7th in par breakers and 8th
in putting average. Simply translated – he’s darn good.
He’s 6’4” –He’s taller
than most guys on tour. Good for him.
His family can still whip him –For
all the success Kuchar has had, he still can’t boast too much at home.
His father, Peter, was once ranked the No. 1 doubles tennis player in
the state of Florida. His wife, Sybi, was a standout tennis player at
Georgia Tech, where they met. The couple paired in 2009 to win the
consolation title in the U STA National Husband/Wife Doubles
Championship in the ATP Headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fl.
He’s not a child prodigy –Guy
didn’t start playing golf until he was 12. Maybe there’s hope for the
rest of us.
He knows what it’s like to lose –Kuchar
was one of the most touted amateur players ever. He was the first to
win the U.S. Amateur after Tiger Woods three consecutive wins. In
1998, he finished 21st at The Masters and 14th
at the U.S. Open. His score at The Masters was the best by an amateur
in 20 years. However, it took a long time for things to come together
for him. From 2002 to 2006 the guy just tried to make PGA events and
averaged a Top 10 about once a year. It wasn’t until 2007 that things
started to turn around for him after a year on the Nationwide Tour. If
anything, 2010 has been a break out year for Kuchar. Maybe that’s why
he can’t stop smiling.
Who knows how next week’s
tournament will play out, but I’ll be rooting for Kuchar. The guy’s
got to where he’s at through hard work and perseverance. I’m always up
for cheering that.
Column 140: Ryder Cup=Make
Your Own Menu For USA
Imagine going to
a restaurant where they let you pair any two foods you wanted.
the mac-n-cheese ice cream sundae.”
the filet mignon custard?”
“Might I have
some chicken fingers and whip cream?”
In a sense,
that’s what the Ryder Cup is like for golf fans. We get to watch these
guys who are always playing on their own and for themselves, team up
and try to win a major sporting event. Ryder Cup Captains pick who
will play what matches together and hope they get it right. Sometimes
it works out. Other times it leaves us with a bad taste in our mouths.
This year there
are several different ways Captain Corey Pavin could split his team
into twos. Here are three teams I want to see from the Americans this
and Rickie Fowler – It’s rare for two captain’s picks to get
paired together. Then again, it’s not every year that the world’s No.
1 golfer doesn’t play his way on to the team. I like this pair for
several reasons. First, they both play fearless golf and have lots of
swagger. I don’t think they’ll be worried about hurting each other’s
feelings, they’ll just go out and win. Also, they’d both like to pound
Mr. Rory McIlroy. Fowler wants to prove he’s the best young talent in
the game. Woods wants to get even for those comments McIlroy made
about how he would “fancy” the chance to play Woods. They could make a
Mickelson and Dustin Johnson – The friendship/mentoring
relationship between these two is well publicized. After Johnson lost
the PGA Championship due to the unfortunate bunker ruling, Mickelson
called and left a long, positive voice message for Johnson. They also
play with similar styles – pound the living snot out of the ball and
make it work. Mickelson’s brilliant short game would complement
Johnson’s incredible distance off the tee. They just seem right for
and Zach Johnson – Kuchar is a tour leader in just about every
statistical category that matters --- fairways, greens, putts, etc.
He’s currently playing as well as anyone else on the planet and he’s
the paragon of consistency. I’d pair him with Zach Johnson because I
think ZJ is the least consistent guy on the team. Johnson has great
ability, no doubt. But sometimes he’s there, sometime’s he isn’t. It
would be nice for him to know he was playing with Mr. Consistency.
Column 139: There is
Those were the encouraging words I heard as I watched my well-struck
pitch shot sail toward the 16th green at Brookfield Country Club
Monday morning. It was the fifth of the 100 holes I would play that
day as part of the 6th Annual Chip In For Carly’s Club golf outing.
The event features Buffalo area golfers who agree to play 100 holes in
a day and secure donations from friends and family for Roswell Park
The words of encouragement came from my caddy/driver for the day,
Travelin Duff. He said them with every intention to motivate me, but
his good-humored sarcastic tone also touched on the fact that in my
previous four holes, (double bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey) I hadn’t hit
many good golf shots. In the trajectory and flight of my third shot on
the Par 5, Duff saw an opportunity for better things to come.
Those of you who know me, have played golf with me or have ever ran
for cover after one of my wayward tee shots are probably wondering why
I ever thought I could bite off 100 holes in a day. I can find more
than enough challenges, trees and duck hooks in your standard round of
18 holes. When I tee it up, the backyards that border a golf course
are as much in play as the fairways. I’m capable of shooting anything
from 85 to 100, but it’s never going to be pretty.
Honestly, I never would have signed myself up for such a golfing
challenge. I only got involved when Mo Golf (who worked tirelessly to
raise more than $7500 for Roswell Park and deserves more credit than
he’ll ever get) learned late last week he wouldn’t be able to take
part. Knowing I’d be helping raise money for Carly’s Club and that
Duff would be driving, I agreed to fill in.
Duff can attest the golfing wasn’t always pretty. He drove in, around
and near every tree on the golf course in search of my golf balls. At
one point he even chimed, “well, when you consider you haven’t been
hitting the ball well and your all-over-the-place with your driver,
you’re not playing that poorly.” He quickly added, “I mean that in a
Fortunately, Brookfield Country Club is an immaculate setting for such
an event. I’d never played the course but it’s now one of my favorite
in the area. The fairways and greens were in perfect condition and the
holes present a number of exciting challenges. It’s hard not to have a
great day at such a course.
The company wasn’t that bad either. Duff was a great driver and an
even better source of conversation all day. He made the 100 holes easy
with his humorous anecdotes and well-timed jokes. At one point, we
even had the opportunity to play with a young boy who had been a
patient at Roswell Park and dearly loved golf. It was a touching
experience until he ripped his driver on to the green and outplayed me
on the hole. For the rest of the day, Duff joked the boy would be back
to play me for money.
When all was said and done and I’d made more than 500 swings on 100
holes, Duff and I enjoyed a beer in the clubhouse. For the first time
I learned that he’d survived cancer earlier in his life. He talked
about the doctors who’d changed his life. He vividly described
survivor’s day, when he and countless others who’ve benefitted from
the great work the people at Roswell Park do, come back to share their
stories. He wasn’t unlike the others who’d played golf to support
Roswell Park that day. They all have their own motivations.
In total, the efforts of Mo Golf and the 20 others who raised money
all summer equated to more than $100,000 of donations for Roswell
Park. The organization will no doubt use the money to fund new
research, help new patients and change many more lives. Cancer is a
mean beast that challenges millions of people each year. Everyone
knows someone who has struggled with the disease. Fortunately, thanks
to Roswell Park, those with cancer can at least know this…
“There is hope.”
Column 138: Calling Out
don´t care how you turn, twist or interpret the words - Tiger Woods
going to like what Rory McIlroy said about him last week.
Speaking of the Ryder Cup this fall, McIlroy commented that "(he)
to face (Woods). Unless his game rapidly improves...I think anyone in
European team would fancy their chances against him."
The comments aren´t nearly as bold as they would have been in earlier
when Woods dominated the sport without question, but it´s still a
not disrespectful) shot McIlroy just took at the world´s No. 1 golfer.
were a million and one ways to talk about whether Woods should or
be on the U.S. Ryder Cup team without throwing down a challenge -
chose none of them. Instead, he chose to focus on how poorly Woods has
playing this season.
If this was 2006, McIlroy would be headed for a golfing beat down.
the year Stephen Ames called out Woods and then lost 9-8 in the World
Play event. But, it´s not, it´s 2010 and Woods´ personal and
live has been torn apart by a s*x scandal that emerged last November.
things that used to make sense in professional golf, no longer do.
isn´t a lock to make cuts, make Ryder Cup teams and/or win.
Honestly, I think the Woods as an underdog story is great for golf.
never been as excited as I am for this year´s FedEx Cup, which begins
this week´s Barclay´s. Credit that to the incredibly young, deep field
that´s emerged on the PGA Tour this season and Woods being ranked 112
instead of his standard #1.
Maybe I´m excited because I still don´t fully buy it. Woods has had a
of struggle and strife I wouldn´t wish upon anyone...but he´s still
Even after knee surgeries, scandals and swing changes, Woods is going
take hold of the golfing world again at some point.
McIlroy better hope Woods doesn´t get everything together by the Ryder
this fall. Even with all his struggles, Woods is still the best
statistically ranked player in the world. If my life depended on a
shooting under par on a championship-level course - I´d still pick
tee it up.
One can only hope Woods and McIlroy square off during the singles
the Ryder Cup. McIlroy might be playing better right now, but it´s
if Woods won those 14 majors by accident. Tiger is still Tiger, and
the Ryder Cup will be where he reminds everyone.
Column 137: Concord
All summer long my golf buddies and I have been
"meeting-in-the-middle" to play Concord Crest Golf Course. Having
spent the first 22 years of my life living in Salamanca, NY and the
Southern Tier, (and now three years in Buffalo, NY) many of my
long-time golfing partners live 60+ miles south. Getting together to
play with them on the weekend is often a full-day adventure that
requires more than two hours of driving.
However, earlier this summer, we decided to check out Concord Crest as
it was conveniently located just north of Springville. We were not
Concord Crest offers a bit of everything for golfers and it challenges
you in ways that really make for a fun round. There are several longer
holes that require mid- to full-iron shots into the green. Then, there
are short Par 4s that are riddled with water and Out of Bounds. It is
a golf course that demands accuracy on several holes and rewards good
Each side of the golf course features a signature hole. On the back
the Par 3 14th plays all of 196 yards from the blue tees and is mostly
over water. Even if you land the ball on the putting surface you
may not be able to find the pin as the green is massive. During our
first round at the course, all three of us hit it to the back right of
the green. With the pin on the front
left, we each faced long, long putts.
The front side is full of character but my favorite hole is the
487-yard Par 5 2nd. Standing on the tee you see large trees on either
side of the fairway that force you to drive it through a narrow gap.
For most golfers, striping it between the cloves of trees isn´t
possible. It doesn't look it from the tee, but the trees are at least
250 - 275 yards out. Those that can bomb it
through are rewarded with a downward sloping fairway that will leave
them a short iron into the green. It's the kind of hole that can
create big swings in a match. Hit two good shots and birdies are there
for the taking. Hit it
behind the trees, and you could be looking at a big number.
My father and I have already talked about getting to Concord Crest at
least a few more times this fall. We really enjoy it and the
convenient location is perfect for us. Golfers from the Southern Tier
to the Greater Buffalo region should consider making a trip to the
course. Each time we've been there it´s been $17 to walk 18 holes. The
course is well-maintained and
there are drinks, snacks and sandwiches available at the pro shop.
It's the right combination for a great day of golf.
*Hole by Hole Breakdown*
Hole #1 - This 439-yard Par 4 has played into the wind each time I´ve
been to the course. Be prepared to have a long second shot into a
green that slopes back right to front left. It´s a challenging
starting hole that rewards a strong second shot.
Hole #2 - My favorite hole on the course. Players competing with one
another could make an early move at this downward Par-5. Hit it
straight and you'll have a manageable 2nd shot. However, if you lose
it behind the trees with your tee shot, it could be a long hole.
Hole #3 - This is a short, challenging par 3. At only 113 yards in
length most people will hit wedges or a 9-iron into it. But, the green
is protected with a rock wall in front and it is very narrow. Most
balls that land near the center of the green will run off into thick
rough and/or sand. You need to prove you´re a precision wedge player
Hole #4 - Another short hole that requires strategy. The hole is
essentially shaped like an L. Players can smack a five-iron and leave
themselves 80-100 yards in. Or, they can hit driver over the trees to
the left. In two tries over the trees I cleared it both times (and I´m
not a very long hitter).
Hole #5 - You stand at the tee and you think - I can hit the ball 283
yards or at least close. The problem is water protects the hole down
the left and also in front of the green. Many perfect drives find the
hazard. You´re better to lay back and leave yourself 75-yard wedge
into a long green.
Hole #6 - Another hole where you can hit it out in the fairway or try
to attack down the left over some trees. The 359-yard hole isn´t long
but it features a small green with sand to the right.
Hole #7 - If you´re going to miss on this hole - miss left. There is
water down the right and behind the green. At 140 yards, the hole just
requires a strong mid or short-iron and you´ll have a birdie putt.
But, if you´re going to miss ---- miss left.
Hole #8 - The second par 5 on the front is also a very beautiful,
challenging hole. Players must hit a tee shot over water and weeds
into a wide fairway. From there, the hole goes steeply uphill, which
really makes it a three-shot par-five. Hit a good wedge on your third
and the green will be receptive.
Hole #9 - A straightforward hole with the pro shop background. Players
can attack the Par 4 with a good drive and short-iron. It´s a hole for
low numbers that put you in a good mood before you make the turn.
Hole #10 - Maybe it´s just time for me to admit that I love every Par
5 on the course. This one plays almost 500 yards and it´s straight as
an arrow. The fairway slopes and features numerous bumps that
can knock a ball into the rough. Two good shots might get you an eagle
Hole #11 - On a course full of character and fun shots, this hole
lacks a bit. It plays 200+ from the blue tees but it´s straight with
nothing really to protect the green. Players who struggle with
distance will find it tough to make par.
Hole #12 - This is the first of a great four-hole stretch on the
course. A 360 yard Par 4, the 12th runs all down hill but features a
pond in front of the green that collects well-struck drives. Hit a
high-fade that finds the fairway and plan for another wedge into the
green over the water.
Hole #13 - About just as long as the 12th, 13 goes right back up the
hill with a pond on the right. It clearly plays longer and you´ll only
hit the ball as far as you can carry it in the air. This green
undulates more than most and can be a tough two-putt.
Hole #14 - Another one of my favorite holes on the course. It´s a
180-yard Par 3 with water in front. You´ve got to hit a really good
golf shot to have a chance at par.
Hole #15 - Four for four. The Par 5´s really define this golf course.
Playing right around 500 yards, there is out of bounds down the right
and water to the left. A small creek cuts through the fairway 2/3 of
the way down.
Hole #16 - Another Par 3 with few features. It´s short (140 yards) and
there´s really no trouble. Judge the distance, wind and club - and
you´ll give yourself a chance at birdie.
Hole # 17 - This hole doesn´t seem to play its full 400 yards. Each
time I´ve played it I´ve had around 130 in, (and I really don´t drive
the ball 270). It´s an uphill second shot to a small green that can be
Hole #18 - The final hole on the course protects itself with water
down the right. Be careful with your tee shot and you´ll have a strong
chance to finish your day with a par.
Column 136: Whistling
There are times when I’m watching the PGA
Championship at Whistling Straits when I feel the course stretches
across two very different geographical regions.
Each hole is lined with thick, gnarly grass that looks like it hasn’t
lacked for water this summer. Then, there are stretches just covered
in miles of sand, like beaches along Lake Michigan. The grass and sand
are two very different enemies for golfers – neither of them easy to
It isn’t hard to build a case for Whistling Straits as the toughest
golf course on God’s green Earth. It is long, as in 7,514 yards of
brute force. It is the second longest course to ever host a major
championship. It is also covered in a ridiculous 1,000+ bunkers that
make simply navigating the course a challenge. Toss in the fact that
many of the holes run perilously close to Lake Michigan – and your
average 10 handicapper would be lucky to break 110 out here.
This is not a golf course you are meant to score on. It’s one you’re
meant to survive. Not surprisingly, the PGA has scooped it up for the
2015 PGA Championship and the 2020 Ryder Cup. This is one of the few
venues that can truly challenge the worlds greatest.
What makes it even more impressive is that Whistling Straits is really
a “young” course. Designed by Pete and Alice Dye, the course opened in
1998. The Dyes turned a relatively flat piece of land into a monster
of a golf course. It’s not easy for new golf courses to break into the
major championship rotation – the fact that Whistling Strait’s did so
in such a short time frame speaks to its quality.
This year’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits should give players
all they can handle. After a two-day first round Matt Kuchar has
navigated the course best at (-5). I fully expect Kuchar and the rest
of the field to start backing up as the weekend approaches. If any
rain and wind show up, this course will play nearly a half-dozen shots
People often complain when golfers can’t “go low” and shoot scores
that are well under par. I’m not one of those guys. I like to watch
golfers struggle. I want to see them top balls out of the thick rough
and get friendly with cavernous bunkers. I’d be just fine with this
week’s winner carding a +5 for the tournament. Major Championship golf
isn’t supposed to be easy. Thank God Whistling Straits agrees.
Column 135: Quick Hits--Porter
Another crazy week of golf = another
installment of quick hits.
~ Walking with the leading group’s during
the final round of the Porter Cup Saturday was one of the most
enjoyable few hours of golf I’ve watched all year. The momentum swings
and excitement provided by Russell Henley, David Chung, Peter Uihlein
and Jake Katz were thrilling. You had a back-nine battle between
Henley and Chung and hometown hero Katz jugged an eagle. Even the
ending was bizarre with BuffaloGolfer.com’s Mo Golf getting involved.
Read a better recap at
~ There were moments Friday and Saturday
when I truly envied Jake Katz. He didn’t end up winning the Porter
Cup, but he played one of his best weeks of golf in his hometown.
Katz, who hails from Williamsville, NY, spent the week surrounded by
friends and family who all rooted him on. I know he was disappointed
his Saturday round didn’t turn out better, but it had to be a
~ Lost in all the commotion of the final
round at the Porter Cup was the remarkable fact that 15-year-old Gavin
Hall finished T2. You heard me right, 15-year-old Gavin Hall. As
someone in the gallery commented during the day, “he’s going to be
~ I’d like to ask a serious questions –
does anyone really need there cell phone when they go to a golf event?
Isn’t it okay to spend 8-10 hours disconnected from the world? I bring
this up only because the Wyndham Championship has announced it will
allow fans to use mobile devices on the course, “as long as the
devices are kept in silent mode and calls are made only in designated
areas around the course.” Now, anyone who’s ever been to a movie knows
people don’t always keep there phones on silent when asked.
I just don’t see how having a cell phone on the course enhances the
experience. This will backfire, big time.
~ One of the top stories on ESPN.com this
morning is that Woods has begun making his 2011
playing plans with an event in Dubai. Can I echo a sentiment tweeted
by Jason Sobel last week – dude’s a golfer. He plays golf. When does
this stop becoming news?
~ Sergio Garcia has had two strong
showings with his British Open and Greenbrier performance. He’s got
work to do to earn a spot on this year’s Ryder Cup team. Garcia’s
never been the same player since he missed the putt on 18 at
Carnoustie to win the Open Championship a few years back. As a fan, I
desperately hope he can turn it around.
~ Finally, kudos to the people who work
so hard to execute the Porter Cup each year. It’s a joy having the
tournament in our backyard. Your hard work is appreciated.
Column # 134: Porter Cup Passport Check
If you ask me about this week’s Porter
Cup, the first thing I’ll tell you is there are three players with the
last name Kim.
It shouldn’t surprise you. If you know me
or read my columns, you understand I think you can learn a lot by
someone’s name. I’m fond of rooting for people who have wacky words,
odd spellings and special meanings on their passports.
That’s why when I wanted to break down
the Porter Cup, the special amateur event that visits Niagara Falls
Country Club this week, I went through the list alphabetically.
There are other players with the same
last name. In fact, Mike and Nate McCoy will be the only father-son
tandem teeing it up in this week’s event. Both hail from Des Moines,
IA and have had great amateur success. Nate is currently a junior at
Iowa State University.
I didn’t find Tiger Woods anywhere on the
list, but I did find Lion Kim. This guy easily has the greatest name
of anyone in the field. He recently won the 2010 Public Links
Championship and has four years of strong performances at the
University of Michigan. Rumor has it his birth name is Jun Min, but
his parents switched it so he’d stand out amongst other golfers. I
really hope they etch this name in the Porter Cup this year.
These aren’t just obscure names either.
Most the guys playing this week have the game to compete on the
professional world tours. Take Yeon Jin Jeong, the kid who finished
T14 at this year’s British Open. His score was good enough to beat
guys like Woods, Phil Mickelson, David Duval and hundreds of others.
There’s also Jamison Sindelar, son of
former PGA star Joey Sindelar. Jamison doesn’t quite have the resume
of his father, but he’s local (from Horsehead, NY) and he’s won
tournaments. Other relatives of famous professional golfers include
Tim Mickelson, brother to Phil, an annual Porter Cup competitor.
Are you the engraver who will have to
etch this year’s champion name in plaques or trophies – root for Ben
An. He’s got the shortest name in the field.
Looking for a drinking partner this week?
Maybe you should follow Johan De Beer. His name suggests he’s got good
taste and he just turned 21.
There are other great names in this
field. Watch out for Kevin O’Connell, Russell Henley and 15-year-old
Gavin Hall. Regardless of who wins this field of names suggests it
should be a great week of golf.
Hopefully you’re able to take time to
visit Niagara Falls Country Club and watch the action. Even if you’re
not familiar with the players, just pick up a program and find a funny
name; a unique name or something that rings a bell and just cheer them
on. This is one of those rare moments when the greatest golfers in the
world visit our neck of the woods. They may be a bit unknown now, but
someday these great, zany names will be rewriting history.
Column # 133: British Open Follow Up
You know what the most amazing thing
about the final round of the 2010 British Open at St. Andrews really
was that Louis Oosthuizen (Let’s just call him Louis) managed to stay
awake while kicking the tar out of the field.
Louis won the British Open with a
remarkable score of -16. It was an extraordinary achievement for
anyone, let alone
a relative unknown as of two Sundays ago. It was also a snoozefest.
Saturday morning, golf fans tuned in to
watch Louis come back to the field. It never happened. Nobody really
a charge all weekend. Louis played more than 36 holes with the lead.
In the end, his closest challenger was seven
shots back. The only guy within sniffing distance of Louis on Sunday
was Paul Casey and he lost his ball (and mind)
in a gorse bush half way through the round.
It was disappointing for golf fans. We
look forward to major championships for their drama and intrigue. We
in Sunday only to be put comatose. This was an action movie without
action. This was a stand up comedian with no jokes.
Let’s get one thing clear: it’s not
Louis’ fault. All the guy did was elevate his game and play near
flawless golf. Hang
the blame on rest of the world’s best players – Tiger Woods, Phil
Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Casey, Henrik Stenson. I understand the
weather conditions weren’t ideal, but are you telling me none of these
guys could hang with Louis O?
It’s sad really. The field helped Louis
and hurt him. By applying no pressure all weekend, everyone else in
the tournament made it easier for Louis to hit great shots and play
with the lead. At the same time, the lack of competition made fans
turn off their TVs and fail to appreciate just how well he performed.
Golf media around the world have tried to
put their perspective on this championship, but it isn’t easy to do.
a bizarre, wacky British Open. We’re accustomed to having our finale
make sense. We crave major championships like
this year’s Masters, which basically wrote its own beautiful story
with the Mickelson family.
But this was nothing like that. We
watched 72 holes of brilliance from a golfer we’d never met. Then, we
shook our heads and began asking each other, “What the heck just
Column # 132: Darren Clarke's Smile
Win, lose or MC, Darren Clarke will probably smile
more than anyone else
this week at The British Open. Clarke earned the final spot in this
third major championship after finishing second at last week´s
Anytime Clarke tees it up it´s a feel good story. Remember, Clarke is
guy who lost his wife, Heather, after a long bout with breast cancer
August of 2006. I wrote about the couple and their struggle earlier
During the struggle and in the
months that followed, everyone who watched golf connected with Clarke.
mourned, cried and bled in front of us. He became celebrated for his
devotion as a husband and father during those tough years.
We also loved Clarke because he always had perspective. He knew long
and fast greens were nothing compared the struggles of real life. He
hard. He played to win. But he always had his priorities in order.
Clarke found his best success on the golf course in the late 90s and
this decade. He´s collected 2 PGA Tour wins and 12 wins on the
during his career. Since Heather´s passing. Clarke´s game has
Since the 2006 British Open, he´s only made two major championship
has several DNP (Did Not Play). He failed to qualify for The Masters
U.S. Open earlier this year.
This week´s appearance in the British Open isn´t about Clarke´s game
peaking. It´s more about a celebration. Clarke is one of the game´s
humble, charming figures. Whenever we see him playing we conjure up
emotions we shared with him years ago. He´ll be greeted with roars at
tee box and green this week, regardless of his score.
And, he´ll appreciate and live every second of it. After his second
finish last week he expressed he was disappointed he hadn´t won, but
quickly added it would be an "absolute delight" just to be at St.
"I´m excited to be here," said Clarke during an interview earlier this
"I love this golf course."
At the 2000 British Open at St. Andrews, Clarke finished tied for
and considers the performance a career highlight. Now given the
he might be able to put together another strong showing.
"Darren has always been a great streak player," said Padraig
"When he gets on a roll, he can hit every fairway. He can hit every
and he can really hole the putts."
There´s no telling how this week will turn out for Clarke, but golf
should root for him relentlessly. There are athletes that let us down
making bad decisions, being arrested, leaving town for millions of
elsewhere...and then there are guys like Clarke. He´s a professional
and a regular guy. He works hard. He misses his wife. He raises his
hits long drives.
He´s the kind of player you like to see do well. He´s the kind of
that makes you smile.
Column # 131: Quick Hits On July 8th, 2010
A few news and notes as we near the
British Open at St. Andrews.
~ It’s going to be a very interesting
week for the ladies. The Women’s U.S. Open takes place this weekend at
Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh. I saw a tweet from someone who
follows the women’s tour who thought
someone might shoot in the 90s both days and miss the cut. Oakmont is
crazy long and filled with bunkers. The men’s
U.S. Open was played there in 2007 and Angel Cabrera won with a score
of +5. It should be a fun tournament, but look
for +8 to be the winning score.
~ A few of the last guys in the British
Open have real chances to contend. Rickie Fowler, Ricky Barnes and
Davis Love III
all earned spots in the past 10 days. Fowler is one of the game’s
young hot stars who held the 54-hole lead at The
Memorial in June. Barnes is an up-and-down guy who might miss the cut,
or break the scoring record – it just depends
on which swing shows up. Don’t look past DL III either. Lost in the
carnage of Sunday at Pebble Beach last month was
Love’s solid final round 71 and T6. He’s older than Fowler and Barnes,
but knows how to play links golf.
~ Want to hear a bad idea? Read Peter
Kostis’ article on how the USGA should develop two courses
specifically for the
U.S. Open and other USGA events. One course would be on the East coast
while the other would be out West. I’ve got
no issues with the USGA having its own grounds, but this change would
mean no more trips to Pebble Beach, Pinehurst
No. 2, Winged Foot, Bethpage Black….the list goes on. We already have
a tournament that stays in the same spot each
year – The Masters. Part of the beauty of the U.S. Open is that it
showcases so many courses and designers.
~ At some point, people need to stop
asking Woods about his personal life. Maybe you feel he owes us
never get it. Those probing questions by the foreign media earlier
this week were unnecessary. Woods was cold and brief
in response…but wouldn’t you be?
~ Shout out to @bubbawatson. The guy
always seems to respond when we wish him good luck or congratulate him
via Twitter. We’re still hoping he’ll have time to do an interview for
a piece for the site.
Column # 130:
A Vote For Rose
Justin Rose looks as ready as anyone to
win the British Open in two weeks.
In the past month, Rose has gone from a
player who’d never won on tour to a guy with two wins and a blown
54-hole lead. He’s making birdies at an amazing clip. Even with a
shaky back nine in yesterday’s AT&T National, Rose emerged victorious
and earned a spot in the British Open.
It’s quite the turnaround for the young
star who struggled for years earlier in his career. Rose blew on to
the scene with a miraculous pitch in at the 1998 British Open that
earned him a tie for fourth. A week later, Rose turned professional.
Months later, Rose had disappeared.
Consider for a second that Rose went
through a stretch where he missed 21 straight cuts. After a 36-hole
lead in the 2004 Masters, Rose went 81-71 and fell out of contention.
During 2005-06, Rose played in just one major championship.
Those are tough times for anyone to
swallow. But Rose, who had seemed destined for greatness after the
1998 Open, took it especially hard.
“It felt like every time I had a chance
to make a cut, cameras would appear out of the trees and suddenly I
would feel the heat,” Rose told reporters yesterday. “Playing under
that pressure to make cuts when you’re not playing well, that was
If the last month is any indication, Rose
has essentially beaten away those pressure demons. His win at the
Memorial Tournament was his breakthrough. His win yesterday, suggests
that his game is ready to endure for the long haul.
There’s no real way of knowing how ready
Rose is for major championship golf as he wasn’t in the field for The
Masters or the U.S. Open. Still, anyone watching over the past month
has to like Rose’s chances. When he’s at the top of his game, there’s
no limit to what Rose can accomplish on the golf course.
Column # 129:
USGA Open Preview
There´s still a monkey on Phil
I know he´s three green jackets and a PGA Championship removed from
the "greatest player never to win a major" title he used to own. I
know he´s beloved by fans across the country. I know he can inherit
the No. 1 spot in
the World Golf Rankings this week even if he doesn´t win.
Still, Mickelson needs to win a U.S. Open to cement his legacy.
Mickelson has built a legacy out of coming close in the U.S. Open.
He´s been the runner-up five different times. He´s lost in
spectacular fashion (see 2006 at Winged Foot) and emotional fashion
(see 1999 at Pinehurst No. 2 with Payne Stewart and 2009 at Bethpage
Black with his wife on his mind and a pink ribbon on his hat). He´s
lost to Tiger (see 2002) and he´s beaten
This week, Mickelson needs to finally break through and win the U.S.
Open. There´s never a bad time to do it, but this week would
be extra perfect for Phil. For starters, the Open is at Pebble Beach
Golf Links, a reasonable drive from where Mickelson grew up. Add in
the fact that Woods, the guy who won by 15 shots last time the Open
was at Pebble, still hasn´t pulled his game together and it just
seems like Mickelson´s time.
Golf fans know just because it makes sense doesn´t mean it will
happen with Phil. He´s unconventional and unpredictable. Part of the
reason we love Phil is because he´s capable of anything on a golf
course, both good and bad.
Deep down, I think this is the tournament Phil wants to win more
than any other. Mickelson is a true-blue American boy. It just won´t
be right if he ends his career without a U.S. Open title. He
deserves better than five
If he can stick to the script this week - fairways and greens - he
just might finally get that monkey off his back. Mickelson´s never a
truly safe bet, but this week I´d put money on him. Something about
seeing him hold
that trophy on Sunday just seems good enough to be true.
Column # 128: Notah Begay Throws A Great Party
Regardless of what you think of Notah Begay III, you’ve got to admit he can throw quite the party for golf fans.
A year after bringing Tiger Woods, Mike Weir and Camillo Villegas to Turning Stone Resort’s Atunyote Golf Club in Verona, N.Y., he’s bringing an even larger group of the world’s best players for his annual fundraiser/exhibition match.
This year, golf fans can head to Atunyote August 31, to see Begay, Villegas, Anthony Kim, Hunter Mahan, Vijay Singh, Rickie Fowler and LPGA greats Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr and Morgan Pressel.
It’s an awesome field and a testament to Begay’s presence on tour. Everyone who comes to the exhibition event does so to support Begay’s NB3 Foundation which raises money and funding for the improved health and wellness of Native American youth on Indian reservations nationwide. Last year, Begay, Woods and Weir raised $1.2 million for the cause.
“I am extremely grateful to have some of the world’s top golfers from the men’s and women’s game join me at this year’s event and support the Foundation’s mission of empowering Native youth to sustain active, healthy and productive lives,” said Begay. “Through their involvement and the partnership of the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians and the Oneida Indian Nation, the NB3 Challenge will continue to fuel our commitment to the long-term battle to ensure that Native American youth are given the opportunity to be healthy and be engaged in positive activities that can promote their well-being and success as young adults.”
Golf fans should be grateful too. We get the occasional pro golf tournament in Rochester and Verona, but now, thanks to Begay, we can add another to the annual list.
Column # 127:
Time To Call Golfers...Athletes
Every golfer has heard the argument.
Is golf really a sport? Are these guys in
plaid pants really athletes?
It came up at this year’s Masters
Tournament when some of the older players on tour like Tom Watson
early in the week. Everybody wonders if hitting a golf ball really
comes down to athletic prowess.
Maybe it’s time somebody retorts, “How
could it not be?”
Golf requires strength. Golf requires
hand-eye coordination. Golf requires mental toughness. Golf requires
I’m not suggesting it’s as physically
demanding as being a running back in the NFL. Golfers are never
checked into the boards. But then again, being a pitcher in the MLB
who doesn’t even have to bat isn’t that physically
Sure it’s easy to point at some of the
older guys on the PGA Tour and wonder how they do it. Everybody loves
shout about how John Daly was overweight and still contended. Please
remember, these guys are aberrations. Every
sport has guys who played at high levels despite lacking traditional
athletic bodies…see Babe Ruth, Cecil Fielder, Charles Barkley.
And have you seen the new crop of young
golfers on tour? Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Justin Rose,
Hunter Mahan, etc, -- these guys don’t have 20 percent body fat
Here’s another point to ponder. If golf
isn’t physically demanding, why don’t the world’s greatest athletes
the game? Why don’t they combine their unrivaled strength,
coordination and toughness and learn the game better
than those on tour?
Earlier this year, Jerry Rice, widely
recognized as one of the greatest football players and fastest people
ever to live,
tried to make it on the Nationwide Tour. In his
first event he carded an 83-76 and then missed the cut. The next
week he shot 92-82 and watched at home all weekend. Remember, this guy
is in the NFL Hall of Fame and needed
great hands to catch touchdown passes. Still, throw a wedge in those
same hands and it doesn’t go as well.
It’s also worth noting Rice earned the
fifth best spot in Golf Digest’s 2009 list of Top Athlete Golfers.
many other guys out there who it better than Rice.
If you’re looking for one current/former
athlete who might actually be able to cut it week to week, maybe it’s
to give Tony Romo kudos. The quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, Romo
is a +3.3 handicap. This past weekend he
was one of seven golfers to advance from the U.S. Open Sectional
competition in Dallas to the final qualifying event.
If Romo posts a low score at the 36-hole qualifier June 7, he’ll be
teeing it up with guys like Tiger Woods and
Sergio Garcia at Pebble Beach a few weeks later.
Still, Romo is a rarity. There have been
dozens of other former athletes (see Michael Jordan/John Smoltz)
tried to hit it like the pros after retirement. All of them are decent
sticks, but they don’t have the game to hold up
in the pro circuits.
I’m not saying we should worship golfers.
They’re an odd bunch of guys. They deserve to be called goofy, poor
dressers and a bit demented at times.
But they also deserve to be called
Column # 126:
Experiencing The Players Championship
Anyone who’s ever
attended a professional golf tournament knows there is a strategy to
watching the action.
Who do you follow? Where do you sit? Should
you try and jump a hole ahead to get a great view of the next green?
Where are the beer tents?
Fortunately, The Players Course (TPC) at
Sawgrass answers several of these questions for you. When we attended
The Players Championship at Sawgrass last Friday and Saturday, we
entered the course just south of the famous Island 17th green. Within
minutes of being at the tournament, we saw the hole that makes players
check their club selection three, four and five times before taking a
Me: Well we could sit here and watch for a
Friend: Yeah, that sounds good.
Not only does a seat to the left of the
17th green guarantee you great views of tee balls landing on the green
(or in the water) and access to the players as they walk by, but it also
gives you a great glimpse of the action on the Par-5 16th hole. Plus
video boards keep you updated on all the action around the course. It’s
not hard to sit there for several hours without realizing time flying
All of that added up to the two of us
spending a few hours watching action at the 17th hole each day. To be
fair, we never really saw an incredible shot. Ian Poulter’s birdie on
Friday was pretty solid. Phil Mickelson flirted with the whole both
The rest of the course isn’t too shabby
either, and don’t think we didn’t walk it a few times. We focused on the
back 9 Friday and the front 9 Saturday. I talked my buddy into following
way to much of Sergio Garcia each day. But we did watch him make birdies
on 9, 10 and 11 over the two days.
Did we see Tiger? Of course, we did. But it
wasn’t like the other times I’ve seen him. I think we watched him play
six holes over the two days and saw three bogeys and three pars. Friday
he even had an infamous “other” on his scorecard that we never saw.
It was a remarkable two days at a
remarkable golf course. It’s as beautiful and challenging as it looks on
TV. My only regret is that we never once followed Tim Clark’s group (the
eventual winner). Clark has been playing on tour for years and only hits
his drives slightly farther than most of us. He was a fitting champion
at a course that requires you to hit shots, and not just overpower it.
There’s not much else to say. Great golf
courses and talented golfers usually yield fun weekends. Thankfully, my
two days at TPC Sawgrass did just that.
Column # 125: Golf...The United Way
United Way of the Tonawandas
Annual Golf Tournament
on Monday, June 7, 2010 at Tan Tara Golf Club in North Tonawanda, NY.
BuffaloGolfer.Com and the Travelin' Duff
have supported the
United Way in the past
through donations and playing in the tournament. This year will be no
Each year, the
United Way of the Tonawandas helps thousands of people
Niagara region. Participation as a golfer, sponsor and/or donor,
provides the satisfaction of knowing
that you are making a difference in the many lives touched through the
United Way programs. Also,
participants will join other caring community members for a great day of
Travelin’ Duff will be teamed with 3 members of the Wadosky family:
Duff's son-in-law, Andy, his father, and Kenny, his Uncle. The Wadosky/Duff
team's participation is being
partially funded as Father's Day acknowledgements by Susan Wadosky, the
Duff's daughter who is the
Circulation Manager at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, NY and a
United Way volunteer for many years..
Lynch, the Golf Tournament Chairperson,
has been helping this worthy cause for the past
9 years. The Golf Steering Committee, led by Bob Baumker and Mark
Kielaszek, is working along
with the many volunteers that it takes to host a successful event each
the Four-Person Scramble will begin with a shotgun start at 1:00 P.M.
registration and a buffet lunch at 11:30 A.M. Split Club
and Chinese raffles door prizes will be awarded
at the cocktail hour and dinner following the event. This year
Hole-In-One awards include $10,000 CASH, a
7-Day Caribbean Cruise and Round-Trip Airline Tickets.
If you are
interested in playing as an individual or a team of four or more,
or being a sponsor or prize donor,
please review the information flyers below.
Michael Lynch at 716-609-2799 to donate a gift or tournament
questions, additional information and reservations contact the United
Way office at 716-693-0895 or fax: 693-0906.
The Duff will be
providing a wrap-up and photo essay following the
tournament. Make sure to let the
United Way know that you read the Travelin' Duff's article at
Column # 124: Quick Hits
There’s so much happening in the golf world
right now, I just can’t keep up with it all. Here are some quick hits
with my thoughts for the week.
~ Watching Jason Bohn win the Zurich
Classic Sunday, I honestly thought it was his first victory on tour.
That’s not an indictment of Bohn and his somewhat journeyman-like
career, it’s more of a comment on how happy he seemed. Now before you
tell me to stuff it because everybody’s always happy when they win on
tour – let me tell you that there are different kinds. This wasn’t, “I’m
a millionaire and this is going to look great on my career resume
happy.” This was, “holy crap, this is a dream come true. My life’s
changed forever happy.” It’s great to see Bohn that exuberant. He had
won before on tour, but you’d have never known it.
~ There’s a report out there that’s talking
about how Tiger Woods has yet to sign up for the British Open – so to
speak. Nothing wrong with reporting it, but let’s calm the rumors. If
Woods is playing Quail Hollow and The Players Championship, you can bet
everything he’ll be St. Andrews for the British Open.
~ Lorena Ochoa’s retiring?
Yougottabekiddingme. She’s 28 years old. She’s been the No. 1 player on
the women’s tour for three years, earned two majors and 27 victories.
She’s been named LPGA Tour Player of the Year four times. There’s
leaving on top, and then there’s just leaving to early. Dear Lorena,
take a break, but don’t retire…please.
~ This week’s Quail Hollow Championship
marks Tiger Woods’ return to professional golf not held at Augusta
National Golf Club. Much of the talk during Masters week focused on how
Augusta was the perfect place for Woods to return, because everyone
there is so respectful and courteous. I’m sure it’s true. But it’s an
insult to suggest fans elsewhere aren’t exactly the same. Expect this
week to be a whole lot like Masters week for Woods. Nobody’s going to
taunt him. Mistresses will not flock to the tee box. Everything will be
~ I’m taking Padraig Harrington this week,
too. Not that anybody asked.
~ On a travel note, winds of good fortune
have blown me two tickets to next weeks The Players Championship in
Florida. Look for live tweets and posts about the action.
~ I’m taking Sergio at TPC, not that anyone
Honesty...Is such a lonely word? Not in golf, friend, not in golf.
Imagine Lebron James coming off a
pick-and-roll, driving to the basket for a game-winning dunk and then
stopping, turning to the ref and saying, “excuse me, but I traveled.
Here’s the ball.”
It’s a crazy thought; an athlete giving
away an opportunity to win by calling a foul on themselves. You just
never see offensive lineman stand up and tell the ref they were holding
the defensive end. Hockey players rarely skate right to the penalty box
and tell officials they hooked their competitor.
That said, when Brian Davis penalized
himself during the first playoff hole of the Verizon Heritage event last
Sunday, golf fans weren’t surprised. Golf is the one sport where players
Were golf fans sad for him? Yes. Surprised
he managed to hit a loose impediment on his pitch shot? Absolutely. But
blown away by the fact that he knew he’d broke a rule and informed a
rules official? Not really, there’s an unspoken code of honor in golf.
Consider had Davis said nothing, nobody –
and I mean absolutely nobody – would have stood up and said anything.
The thousands of fans watching the shot in person and the millions
watching on TV couldn’t see it happen in real time. Competitor Jim Furyk
didn’t notice. Even the rules officials thought everything looked clean.
But Davis saw a small reed move during his
backswing. As he took the club away he nicked it. Before he even saw his
ball settle on the far side of the green he called over a rule official
and explained the situation.
Consider also, this wasn’t the third hole
of a Thursday round either. Davis had tied Furyk for the low score after
72 holes and the two were in the midst of their first sudden death
playoff hole. Davis had pitched the ball to the left of the green and
onto a rocky sand slope that ran along the Ocean sound. It was a bad
spot to be, but a playable lie. And, with Furyk missing the green and
leaving himself 8-feet for par, Davis was still so very alive in the
A good pitch might have helped Davis secure
his first win on the PGA Tour, not to mention a $1 million-plus check.
It would have helped his long-term status on tour.
But, the reed moved. Davis saw it even if
nobody else did. He knew it didn’t really help or hinder his shot – but
it moved. And according to the rules of golf, that’s a two-stroke
Golf fans surely ache for Davis. It’s
plausible Furyk had him beat anyway. But, to lose in such gut-wrenching
fashion is brutal. To never know what might have been had the reed not
Several people say Davis’ will have his
good karma repaid to him. That he’s now owed a tournament victory at
some point. I say that’s hogwash. This guy played 72-holes at an elite
level. He took everything Harbour Town and Jim Furyk could throw at him
and he didn’t blink. He’ll win someday on tour, karma or no karma. His
game is too good. My only hope is when it happens, it happens in
dramatic fashion. I hope he’s down a stroke with a devilishly-long eagle
putt ahead of him. I hope Jim Nantz announces there’s no way to make the
putt, and a two-putt is no gimme from there. I hope Davis’ caddy says
that if you play the fault lines just right…there’s a way to make it.
And then, I hope Davis sees the way, even if nobody else does.
Column # 122: Bring Your Z Game On Wednesday?
Think fast, what's the one thing you absolutely
can't do at Augusta National Golf Club if you want to win The Masters?
Hit in the water on the Par-3 No. 12? Please. Hit your second shot close
and tap in for bogey. You can still win.
Putt with your 7-iron? Not even close. The greens at Augusta National
Golf Club are so difficult; you'll probably have to use your 7-iron
after you snap your putter over your knee.
Start trimming the Magnolias to take home to your significant other?
Well...that actually might get you kicked out...but that's not what we
No, the mortal sin of Masters Week is playing well on Wednesday. Each
year players are invited to take part in a Par-3 contest the day before
the tournament. And, each year the player who wins the Par-3 contest
undoubtedly fails to win The Masters.
Now, it's not a lifetime curse. Several players have won the Par-3 event
years before or after they've taken home the green jacket, Ben Crenshaw,
Tom Watson and Vijay Singh - to name a few. But, if you get hot with
your short clubs on Wednesday, you might as well just pack up the bag,
send the caddy on vacation and call it a week.
Amazingly, the curse doesn't even put a damper on the event. It's one
of the shining moments of the week. Players often
bring their wives and children to join them during the Par 3 course.
Everyone laughs. Everyone enjoys it fully.
Then again, maybe players are seeking distraction. Of course Phil
Mickelson is willing to let his daughter putt out on the final hole, if
he sinks this he's doomed for Sunday.
Think of how poor Sandy Lyle must have felt. He won the event in back to
back years 1997 and 1998. He basically took himself out of the
tournament before it began for two straight years. Even the great ones
respect the curse. The two most decorated golfers ever - Jack Nicklaus
and Tiger Woods - have never won the Par-3 contest. They're no fools.
It's got to end at some point though, doesn't it? If you're going to
conquer Augusta National for four days, why not make it five? Why not
let the good vibes of a Wednesday win carry over through the week?
So, here you go. Here's my bold prediction of the week. This year, the
Par-3 curse gets nixed. Come rain, shine or shaky putting, he who wins
Wednesday shall don green this Sunday.
Column # 121: And the first male major champion
of 2010 is...
As Masters Week dawns, perhaps it's time to be
excited for the unexpected. It is the unexpected after all, that truly
charms us in sports. As much as we enjoy trying to predict who will win
a game or who will finish in the top spot,
we cherish sports for its ability to surprise us with great, unexpected
So let's get it out of the way right now. For the next seven days, the
golf media is going to talk about Tiger Woods.
Even if he misses the cut by a mile, viewers will be subjected to
shot-by-shot recaps of his first two rounds on Sunday.
Woods has been embattled in scandal for more than four months now and
this is his reentry into public life. He has
questions to answer. But he also has shots to hit. And hopefully after
everyone sees him do both this week, we can
Here's the thing. For true golf fans, the most delicious story line of
this week is who we'll be talking about Sunday
evening. The Masters, after all, is a major championship. Great players
win major championships. It's how we define
players' careers. It's how we remember them. Someone is going to write a
new, exciting chapter in golf history. We're
all lucky to be able to watch it.
There are several players off to great starts this season, as well.
Anthony Kim won last week's Shell Houston Open.
Camilo Villegas has picked up a win. Both Ernie Els and Jim Furyk seem
to be back on track. Phil Mickelson hasn't played spectacular this year,
but he's always a threat at Augusta.
It all adds up to exciting golf. Some of the guys we expect to win we'll
putt like dirt. Other will have supreme command
over their Titleists. Somehow, someway, every major championship unfolds
as it should.
And, maybe it will be Tiger we track this Sunday. For the better part of
13 years, it's what we've done. Even in scandal,
Woods is an odds-on-favorite to win. The man has proven himself so much
better than others, we expect he can achieve despite any obstacle.
So what do I think will happen?
I've got this funny feeling we just might see Villegas don the green
jacket Sunday evening. I think you have to be fearless
to win at Augusta. I think Villegas fits the bill. I'd look for these
names - Furyk, Hunter Mahan, and Stewart Cink - to
be involved. As for Tiger? I bet you'll have to tune in early Sunday to
watch him wrap up his week.
But here's the kicker. Here's why I love major championships.
All my predictions? Shmadictions. Once they tee it up at Augusta
National, there's no telling what will happen.
Column # 120: Welcome Back, Baldy
It felt good to see Jim Furyk´s beaming smile and bald head back in
winner´s circle this weekend.
Maybe you missed it. There were several other things going on Sunday
- March Madness, healthcare reform, etc. Or, maybe you just couldn´t
with it. The Transitions Championship endured six hours of weather
Sunday. But, in the end, Furyk emerged for his first win in more than
years and the 14th of his career.
Furyk is one of the elite players in the game. He plays darn near every
week. He´s made more than 20 professional cuts each of the past four
And, he wins frequently. This past drought was the longest of his
That´s probably part of the reason he refused to make it easy on
With a two-shot lead on the 18th hole Sunday, Furyk ripped a
down the right side. Then he had a nervous punch out before a 30-foot
putt all but secured the win.
"I have a habit of making it tough on myself," Furyk said later. "Just
nerves got me, to be honest with you."
Over his career, Furyk has done a great job of identifying with fans.
not one of the most marketable guys. He´s not as interested in sports
and golf fashion as other guys. Heck, even his swing isn´t pretty - he´s
a hitch at the top. But, Furyk is a grinder; a blue-collar kind of
who wins by working harder than others, outthinking a golf course and
often, sheer guts.
This won´t go down as the most notable win of his career. That spot
to his 2003 U.S. Open Championship title. But, it must feel good to be
on top. It must feel good for the 39-year-old Furyk to send out a
to the rest of the tour.
He´s still here. He can still win. And, he´s still all guts.
Column # 119: If Tiger Woods wins the Masters in
early April it will be __________.
Go ahead readers, fill in the blank. Amazing, sleazy, wonderful,
But, I´ve got a suggestion. How about...awkward.
Unless you live under a rock that resides under a mountain, you´ve
undoubtedly heard Tiger Woods will be returning to the PGA Tour and
professional golf at The Masters in April. A tradition unlike any other
about to become a spectacle unlike any other. I know Augusta National
Club can control the media and its patrons unlike any other venue on the
planet, but this is still going to be pure crazy. How do you plan for
something that´s unprecedented?
I had hoped Woods would return at the Arnold Palmer Invitational next
I thought it would be best to get the initial "oh wow he´s back"
out of the way before Augusta. I thought Woods would want to do the
increasing his chances for a fifth green jacket at The Masters.
Instead, we´re all going to tune in and watch as golf´s biggest story
collides with golf´s grandest venue. The Masters has a way of drawing
us back to the sport after its winter reprieve. It makes us embrace the
return of spring. Non golf fans often tune in. There´s something about
But, this year, it won´t be all about Amen Corner and Azaleas. Now
added media presence and pressure. There´s pressure on Woods to show up
keep his cool. There´s pressure on the golf club to prepare with enough
security and organization to prevent "incidents." And, there´s a ton of
pressure on every other golfer on the field. What does it say if Woods´
go through all this and step back out and win. Someone - Villegas,
Mickelson, Anthony Kim, Ian Poulter - needs to step up and make Sunday
Honestly, even if you´re a die-hard Woods´ fan, you have to pull for
else to win this major championship. What kind of scene would a Woods´
victory create at 18? Will people roar and applaud? Will they boo? What
people were just silent? Will Mrs. Woods and the kids be there? It would
so awfully awkward.
I understand a Woods´ win would speak to his ability to endure, his
and his strength. But, I won´t be pulling for it. 19 Majors? Go get em
Tiger. Welcome back and everything. But, let´s wait at least one more
for another green jacket. This is going to be awkward enough already.
Column # 118: Names you may not know--Alistair
Just know this: Golf clubs are in good hands with
Alright, that´s a bad joke. Really bad. But here´s the thing, Presnell
really, darn diggity good. And you probably never heard of him before
Presnell fired a brilliant six-under 64 at the World Golf CA
yesterday to finish T6 and help pad his wallet. Presnell knocked in 9
birdies on the last 14 holes, including three straight to close out his
round. Several guys went low at Doral´s Blue Monster yesterday, but
It´s a good thing too. According to Presnell, he couldn´t afford a new
before yesterday. He´s still one of the non mega millionaires who play
tour. Now, with the $214,000 he earned for his work this week, he may be
able to buy a couple of cars.
"Any kind of money is big money for me," said Presnell following the
tournament. "I was having dinner with Geoff Ogilvy and Adam Scott the
night and they´re talking about their Porsche GT3s and I´m thinking
$5,000 car back home. I´m also looking to buy a place
It may not be long before Presnell can match his friends in their
styles. He´s no joke as a player. At just 30 years of age, Presnell won
three amateur titles during 2003 and turned professional a year later.
spent most his time playing the PGA Tour of Australia and Asian Tour.
first professional win came last year at the 2009 PGA Tour of
Moonah Classic. The win gave him exemption for the U.S.´ Nationwide
season of strong showings in 2009 helped him earn a spot at this week´s
So, yes, he´s currently the 373rd best player in the world, but he´s
improving. If his first appearance on the PGA Tour is any indication,
week´s T6 may be a sign of better things to come.
Column # 117: How Do You Like
This is not how I like my Tiger.
I'm not referring to his transgressions and infidelity; those are not
mine to judge. He´s caused me no harm; he´s committed no criminal acts.
This is not an argument to justify him either way.
No, I miss the Tiger who had mojo. I miss his smile of an assassin. I
miss the guy who knocked it in from fairways, bunkers and other halves
of the greens thanks to his dogged will.
For those who believe Woods needs to suffer and suffer good, know that
he has. The man has lost millions upon millions and watched helplessly
as his name has been dragged through the mud. He´s been ripped up by the
than any celebrity or public figure in the history of culture. He´s been
humbled and humiliated on a global stage.
Maybe you believe he deserve such an outrageous public whooping. Again,
that´s not what I´m getting at.
I don´t like to think of Woods taking long breaks to think and reflect.
I don´t like the thought of him hiding in clinics around the country.
The man doesn´t need therapy, zen or anything in between. The man fell
victim to the perils of fame and fortune. He is not the first, nor will
he be the last.
Speaking just about his actions on the golf course, Woods has written a
legacy of kicking ash and taking names. He´s beaten golfers in ways they
didn´t know they could get beat. He´s tamed the toughest courses. He
mental and physical edge over everyone else on the planet when there´s a
golf club in his hands.
That´s always what appealed to me most about Woods. The fire in his
eyes; the ability to be purely excellent. The way he could find it
within himself to be that good, that often, was inspiring.
And now I hear of a changed Woods. A man who needs to rethink his life.
Sure, I understand. And I too have well wishes for his future, family
But make no mistake-- the hatred that has been dumped on Woods may not
be entirely fair. Not every report from an unnamed source rings true.
There are men who´ve committed far worse actions and are still held in
high regard, making millions off their reputation and brand. Again,
Woods is no criminal.
I hope when he returns (and it better be soon) that he remembers that. I
hope he still has his competitive fire.
Be a better man? Sounds great. Best of luck. But when the time comes and
the stakes are high, bring back the golfing beast.
Column # 116: Poulter Primes Public for
It doesn´t feel like the first time. It doesn´t seem
like today´s win at the
WGC Accenture Match Play Championship was in a sense, Ian Poulter´s
as a top-flight player.
Golf fans have known Poulter for more than a decade. People routinely
him to win in their pools or golf fantasy leagues. And, that´s why it
a bit odd to hear CBS´ Nick Faldo talk about how today´s win was
first in America.
Ian Poulter is a super talent, no doubt. But, perhaps Poulter is even
as a self marketer. The man has bucket loads of flair. In his 34-hole
today, he donned a pink sweater, pink pants and pink shoes. It wasn´t
uncommon either; the man wears more pink than Barbie. He´s always
stand out, and it works.
On Twitter, a social-media platform, Poulter has 976,621 fans and tells
about his game, schedule and results frequently. In case you were
he posts his Tweets in pink.
Poulter is also the golfer who famously said, "Don´t get me wrong, I
respect every professional golfer, but I know I haven´t played to my
potential and when that happens, it will be just me and Tiger," a few
back, when things were much better for Woods and the statement seemed
So, in short, Poulter has always been eye-catching. He´s brazen and bold
likes the spotlight. He craves success and isn´t afraid to say things
draw big expectations. He draws big galleries at events and is always on
If you´d have asked most golf fans yesterday if Poulter had ever won in
U.S. they probably would have just assumed the answer was yes. We always
him. He plays frequently. It seemed like a no-brainer.
Those fans would have been incorrect though. Poulter´s greatest win to
and first on American soil, came today in the fashion of a 4-and-2
against Paul Casey. The win gave Casey his second straight loss in the
event´s final match. Last year, Geoff Ogilvy ousted him in similar
But, today was all about Poulter. He has "arrived" as we like to say.
win should usher in a new era of fame and fandom for Poulter, but it
probably won´t. The man already has that, and now he has the hardware to
back it up.
Column # 115: Some quick swings following the
Tiger Woods Media Moment
Let´s start with what surprised me:
~The length. I never thought this thing would go more than two minutes.
had to be the longest 13 minutes of Woods´ life. I don´t know if the
translates to increased remorse, but I didn´t expect Woods to stand
~I was surprised he didn´t talk about his father more. Earl Woods drove
Tiger machine for years. Speaking about his relationship with his father
would have reminded people of that hug after Tiger´s first Masters
I thought it would have helped him. My guess is Woods respects his late
father to much to bring him into this conversation.
~I was surprised Elin wasn´t there. I know her absence was expected, but
thought we´d see her today.
~The whole steroids statement surprised me. I figured that wouldn´t be
addressed here. He was bold and direct in dismissing those rumors. I
with all my golf-fan might that he´s telling the truth on this one. If
ever learn he learned performance enhancement drugs...I hate the thought
thinking his golf excellence was fraudulent.
*Things that didn´t surprise me.*
~Didn´t take long for him to bring up his foundation and charitable
He´s allowed to tout his public contributions, they´re well intentioned.
Woods´ foundation makes differences in several children´s lives. He
to be proud of that.
~That he took it all on himself. You couldn´t blame Woods if he wanted
retort by calling out the irresponsible journalism, over-the-top rumors
offensive jokes. He bit his tongue today, but I don´t doubt his blood is
*What I realized*
~I miss Tiger Woods. I don´t agree with his actions. I wish he was who
all believed him to be. I feel bad for everyone hurt by his actions -
want to see him play golf again soon. When Woods spoke about the media
following his family, he offered up one of those Woods´ glares that´s he
usually reserves for golf balls that hang on the lip of the cup. I miss
~Well, Tiger didn´t really tell us. He said he´ll be back, he´s just not
sure when. I believe him, but I bet he´s got a solid idea. If I was a
gambling man, I´d still bet on seeing him at Augusta this year. But, we
*What it all means.*
~In summation, we have an incredibly talented man who got caught up in
fame and power. He used it to his selfish advantage. He´s done damage,
only time will tell how sorry he is for his actions. But, in the short
it´s a personal matter for the Woods family and hopefully now, they can
begin to move on under less scrutiny.
Tiger never owed us anything. And, he still doesn´t. But, even with this
unprecedented fall from grace, Woods has the star power and ability to
effect great change. Many people do things in their youth that they
acknowledge were uncalled for later in life. Life is constant, but it´s
a series of stages. There was a look in Woods eyes today when he talked
about making a difference and living with integrity. It´s that look he
to get when he imposed his will on the golf course. It offered the hope
Woods will now be as staunch in his pursuit of excellence off the course
he has been on it.
Column # 114: Accenture WGC
Match Play 2nd Round Predictions
I guess it´s better to be busy than foolish.
It rings true when you consider the predictions I would have made for
first round of the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship. I filled out
bracket for the event late Tuesday and started a column that I
(Thankfully....hey, who said that) never was able to finish.
If you´d have read my column you´d have thought I was a fool. You´d have
known that I had Ross Fisher winning the event, not getting bounced in
in the first round by Thongchai Jaidee. You probably would have sent me
snickering e-mails about taking Chad Campbell over Martin Kaymer. Oh,
the laughs you´d have got from me thinking Ryan Moore was going to oust
Fortunately, the world will never know about these early thoughts. I´ll
tell you that I did darn good in the Snead bracket where I picked every
winner but one correctly. But, hey, this thing is ten times tougher than
NCAA basketball brackets. There´s not that much discrepancy between
the 3rdand 63
rd best players in the world. There´s no power conferences in golf, just
Regardless, below are my second round picks. You´ll see how smart I can
just read on.
Mcilroy Def. Wilson - Youth isn´t always served in these events but
players have a way of winning, regardless. Rory McIlroy is simply the
young guy playing the game and he´ll pick up another win right here.
Allenby Def. Donald - I´ve always said you should go with the strong and
steady guys in match-play events. I feel like I know I´m going to get a
solid round from Allenby where I´m less convinced of the same from Luke
Donald. Allenby in a nail-biter.
Casey Def. Weir - One half of my title match is still alive and it´s
Casey. I´ve been in Casey´s corner for a long, long time. He´s a great
player but a strong performance here would help his resume.
Johnson Def. Gay - When you say a match is a "toss-up," always go with
guy who has a green jacket in his closet.
Kuchar Def. Singh - When I looked at the bracket Tuesday night, Kuchar´s
name stood out as a guy who could make a lot of pars and play well this
week. He´ll advance.
Scott Def. Poulter - I´m so torn here. Both of these guys are favorites
mine. I like Poulter´s style and sense of daring, but I think Adam Scott
a chance to win the whole thing this week. He´s never justified his fame
lofty expectations with a win. This would be like when Sergio Garcia won
TPC. He needs it, and for some reason, I think he´ll advance and keep
Yang Def. Crane - Strong and steady wins the race. Yang is rock-steady
nerves of steel. He´s a better player too.
Ogilvy Def. Villegas - Ogilvy dominates in these events. He loves
the WGC where he´s won and always contends. He´s probably the odds on
favorite of those still playing.
Kaymer Def. Clark - If you´d have ready my initial thoughts, you´d have
heard me wonder incredulously, how Martin Kaymer was a one seed. I will
doubt him no longer.
Garcia Def. Hansen - Here´s an interesting take on Garcia this week -
translate great match-play performances in the Ryder Cup to this event?
hasn´t had great success here in the past, but maybe he feels less
than before as he is maturing. He´s my favorite guy to watch and root
but I´m just lost as to whether or not he can consistently win big. Long
story short, Garcia has me confused, and how he plays this week will
figure it out.
Schwartzel Def. Furyk - Both guys love making pars. But, never, never,
against Charl Schwartzel in the second round.
Cink Def. O´Hair - He´s still got some of that British Open glow. He´s
steady and makes few mistakes, and that gives him a chance to have a
Ishikawa def. McGowan - Another example of youth playing beyond its
Ishikawa is going to have a coming out party this year. Call this his
Jaidee Def. Karlsson - Thoncha Jaidee took out my expected champion, you
think I´m going to be against him now?
Watney Def. Westwood - Battle of the W´s. Watney will start hot today,
he tends to do, and keep it going.
Els Def. Goosen - What a great match. Two great players, tactical guys.
hope it goes 27 holes, but I think Els will prevail.
Column # 113: What's In A
Name? Plenty O' Stuff
Sometimes, you just need to know more about someone.
Maybe their looks entice you. Maybe their sense of humor comforts you.
Sometimes it´s raw talent that draws us in. And, for me, I´m usually
intrigued by people with great names.
So, it came as no surprise that while watching this week´s Famers
Open the name Vance Veazey piqued my interest.
Anytime I meet someone with a unique name, I´m flooded with questions.
this man related to Bob Vance, of NBC´s The Office fame? Does this man
carpets? (For some reason, Vance Veazey sounds like a carpet salesman to
me). And, what do the Veazey´s do in their leisure time?
I guess I´m just convinced that people with interesting names live more
So, as soon as I returned home, I Googled Veazey. I quickly learned that
suffers from hypoglycemia, a condition where the body´s glucose level
abnormally low. Due to this, he´s always got a peanut butter and jelly
sandwich with him on the golf course.
Next I learned he graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1989
turned pro in 1990. He´s bounced back and forth between the Nationwide
PGA Tours throughout his career, racking up four Nationwide victories.
best PGA finish was a tie for 10th at the Stanford St. Jude
Do you know where Veazey´s from? I do. He was born in Memphis, TN. Know
else calls Memphis home? Try Morgan Freeman, John Daly, Penny Hardaway,
Tennessee Williams, Reggie White and Johnny Cash to name a few. That´s
pretty good company Veazey´s in.
I also learned that Vance Veazey can be found on
He has his own page and he´s also listed under "Golfers with most
Tour Wins." Once again, good company.
I didn't find a ton more information. I can´t tell you what Veazey does
his spare time. I don´t know who he thinks will win Best Actor at the
Academy Awards. No, my Google searches returned scant information.
Still, it was fun to read about a player I´d never heard of before. We
so much on the top 30 players in the world, we forget there´s hundreds
others making their livings in golf. They each have their own stories
wish we´d get to hear a few more.
Maybe someday Veazey will catch magic and win on the PGA Tour. I imagine
they golf guru´s will claim they´ve been following him for years. But,
I´ll be able to say, hey, I though the guy was interesting and
noteworthy...here´s proof. I´ll root for him to make it happen. I´d get
out of knowing Vance Veazey was sketched on the Claret Jug.
(BONUS INFO - Also, just to clarify, my Google search returned know
confirmation that anyone named Veazey sells carpets.)
Column # 112: Calling All
At its core, BuffaloGolfer.com is a community. It´s a Web site that
golf lovers throughout Western New York and from across the globe to
about and talk golf.
So, as this new year dawns, I´m turning to this great golf community for
Every January I write a list of things I´d like to improve upon or take
over the next 12 months. I think I´m going on my third consecutive year
writing, "Get better at golf," on the sheet of paper.
It´s a resolution and a challenge. Over time, my game has changed. I´m
stronger than when I started playing. I´m smarter and a bit more
as a player. But, I´ve never really mad that jump from an average player
a "which part of the green should I hit it to kind of guy."
I´ll be honest; everything in my game needs work. I tend to slice the
from time to time and I don´t hit my driver as far as I´d like. My
is streaky at best. My iron play is the strongest part of my game...but
could use work.
I´d like a few of those things to change this year. I figure you guys
help me. Every week the columnists on this site write about their
and opinions revolving around golf. Rarely do we get feedback.
But, the readers of this Web site are some of the best golfers in the
Let´s share tips. Let´s talk putting grips. What do you do to hit it
Your thoughts, opinions and advice are always welcome at
Christopher.email@example.com. I hope to hear from many of you.
Another year, a new decade...same old ugly swing. Dear community... help
Column # 111: Happy Holidays, Buffalo!
The holidays are upon us and hopefully
all BuffaloGolfer.com readers are
filled with cheer.
If you´re a golf nut, you may not live the holiday months. Even if the
golf courses didn´t close, the snow would sure make it hard to find your
ball. And, what´s worse than receiving a new club as a gift and not
able to use it for three months.
Still, Buffalo is a great place to live during the holidays. I think our
crew at BuffaloGolfer.com often focuses too much on the latter half of
name, and we forget to talk about our great city.
So, okay, you can´t golf this holiday. Big deal, here´s a bunch of ways
get out and enjoy Buffalo.
~ Winter weather ain´t all that bad you know. People travel from far and
wide to enjoy this region´s skiing offerings. The winter sports aren´t
really something anyone should bash until they´ve tried them. Strap on
or snowboards and head to Holiday Valley or Kissing Bridge. Or, grab a
and head for your favorite hill.
~ The holidays often tout "cups of cheer," so get out there and have
I´m a city guy and love nothing more than hitting an area bar for a good
beer and a Sabres game during the winter. My favorite spots are Gordon´s
Delaware (mug night on Mondays), Pearl Street and Thirsty Buffalo.
~ With or clubs towed away, maybe it´s time to embrace our inner-love of
arts. Buffalo has vibrant museums focusing on art, science, history and
music. Would it kill anyone to take a date to the Buffalo Philharmonic
Albright-Knox art gallery? I think not.
~ You might not "rather be driving a Titleist" if you saw all the
lights that are currently brightening up Buffalo. Take a drive through
of the area neighborhoods and enjoy the ride.
There are millions of reasons to love Buffalo around the holidays, and I
welcome you to send me yours at
Christopher.firstname.lastname@example.org. I just
wanted to remind everyone, golf fan or not, how we live in a great city.
I love Buffalo. I love having a brew at Gordon´s, playing football for
M.I.L.E. Sports, listening to WGR and WYRK, running in Delaware Park,
debating about who has the best wings in the city (again, e-mail me with
your thoughts) and just being a Buffalonian.
I wasn´t born in Buffalo and I grew up in Salamanca. But since moving
Buffalo has given me a lot. And, I´m grateful.
Happy Holidays Buffalo.
Column # 110: Tiger Woods Redux
Walking through Chicago´s O´Hare Airport
this week during a business trip I
saw an Accenture advertisement featuring Tiger Woods.
In the ad, Woods is staring down at a ball sitting precariously on the
near a water hazard. Tiger does not look troubled by the ball´s
The line reads: "It´s what you do next that counts."
I don´t imagine the ad was on display by accident. I´m sure it was
at an earlier date, before the car accident and mistresses. But, it
perfectly for Woods right now. Seeing the ad seemed right.
It isn´t entirely true though. Often, the whole picture counts. Tiger
a saint for the rest of his life; it doesn´t necessarily save his
It doesn´t erase the hurt that people in his family undoubtedly feel. It
won´t make everybody forget what happened.
And that´s something Tiger will have to live with. He´s made mistakes.
kind of mistakes that cost you a squeaky-clean image, reputation and
wife. He´s not a monster, menace or even a bad guy, but he´s now who we
thought he was. He´s essentially, "hit the ball near the water," if you
stick with the theme of the ad.
And yet, he´s 33. There have been men who can´t conquer their personal
failings well into their 40s and 50s that we come to view as great
ambassadors of good will. Woods´ life is not over. His image is
but his fame is very, very real. Despite what the media may be
Woods will still have a great deal of influence once the storm passes.
He owes us nothing, and we must not forget that. He never did and he
will. But, maybe, just maybe, "what he does next" will count in great,
wonderful ways simply because he wants it to. I´m not suggesting he fire
caddy, quit golf and spend every day working at the soup kitchen. He´s a
golfer, a great golfer, and it would be a damn shame if we never see his
awesome skill again.
All I´m saying is that maybe, rather than shut everyone out even more,
will embrace his stardom and influence. Maybe he´ll man up to the
he´s made and make the rest of his life count in new ways.
I remember watching Woods as a collegiate golfer. I remember when he
his father after the Masters win. I don´t believe Woods is
More likely, he´s just a guy who became even more famous than he could
understand. Nobody told him no, ever. He had ultimate power...and
that isn´t a good thing.
So, fine. What´s done is done. Here´s to whatever makes the Woods family
happy. It´s time to move on though. It´s time for Woods to do whatever
"does next" and to see if "it counts." Woods has always said
no place. Good, now make the personal life match the golf talent...do
you´ve always done...never settle for less than your best.
Column # 109: Two-Week Take
It’s been just two weeks since Tiger Woods
backed out of his driveway, drove into a tree and tossed his life into
personal chaos. It feels like it’s been longer.
When fans read about Woods’ accident
they’re thoughts went like this:
Is he okay?
Had he been drinking?
Doesn’t this whole thing
Thankfully, his health is good. But, his
personal image has been tattered. A slew of women from across the
country have emerged as alleged romantic partners of Woods’ over the
past few years. Via his Web site, Woods has acknowledged his
“infidelity” and “transgressions.” Other sites have posted voicemails,
text messages and rumors that all suggest there is a great deal of truth
behind the women’s claims. Several sponsors have dropped Woods from
their marketing approach.
What pieces are true, which pieces are
false? It’s not ours to determine. I doubt Woods will ever go on Oprah
or pen a book that tells all. The only thing we know is that Woods
wasn’t the guy we all thought he was. That doesn’t make him worse,
necessarily. But, it makes him different.
I’ll be honest, I bought the Woods’ image.
I thought Woods was the picture of excellence and focus. I thought he
was the kind of guy who cared only about being the best golfer ever to
live. I thought if he wasn’t playing, he was on the first plane back to
his family. I had no reason to believe this, Woods never stepped up and
told me about it. I guess I, like several million fans, just wanted to
believe it. So I did.
In truth, Woods has done me no wrong. He’s
filled my golf watching with joy. I remember watching him as an amateur.
I remember his first Masters win, and his second, and his third… Woods
has been better at golf over the past 12 years than I’ll ever be at any
thing. I had the good fortune of shaking his hand after he won the 2006
PGA Championship at Medinah Country Club. Even with the events of the
past two weeks, I want him to shatter Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors. I
want to say I watched the greatest golfer ever. I’ll root for him
whenever he returns to tour because he’s wanted to be the best golfer on
Earth way before the fame, fortune and excess arrived. He hasn’t cheated
the sport. He’s worked hard, and he deserves the wins he gets.
His personal life? It’s not mine or any
gossip magazine’s to judge. The damage he may have done to his family is
something he has to live with. His reported behavior isn’t anything I’d
condone, but I’m not going to suggest I know what he and his wife value.
I’m not going to pass moral judgment until the full story is laid on the
table, if it ever will be.
And still, I’m saddened. I’m sad because no
matter what truly happened with Woods, people are no doubt hurt now. I’m
sad because I wish none of this had ever happened. I wish Woods had no
real skeletons to hide. I wish I’d never heard of Jamie Grubbs or Tool
Academy. I wish Woods was who I believed him to be.
In the end, I hope he, his wife and
children all find happiness…be it together or apart. I hope Woods gets
back on the golf course soon and wins more majors than we ever imagined.
I hope he does as much good off the golf course as he possibly can. I’ll
never wish ill things upon him.
This will pass and find an appropriate
resolution. Woods will play golf again, and hopefully wins many more
majors. Fans will still cheer him and be amazed by his talent.
But in some ways, it won’t ever really feel
the same. It’s going to feel different. Not necessarily worse or bad,
just different. I guess that’s what makes me sad. Regardless of what
Woods did or didn’t do, it’s going to be different, and I was head over
heels in love with the way it was.
Column # 108: Quick Thoughts
It has been a busy month for The Mouth that Roars.
I´ve changed jobs, changed phones and changed commutes recently. I spent
last three years of my life employed downtown and now work in Grand
It´s all really not big news to you, but it helps explain why I´ve been
somewhat out of touch. It´s been a while since I last posted and let´s
honest, a lot has happened in the world of golf.
I have two separate columns, one about Tiger Woods and one about this
city of Buffalo, cooking in my brain. But, I´ll need more time to get to
those. So, instead, I thought I´d touch base with some quick hits on
been going on in golf.
*Feel Good Story*
Many golf fans may be reading the tabloids every day, but I loved
more than seeing ESPN.com report that Seve Ballesteros is among 32
British Open champions who have been invited to play four holes at the
Course at St. Andrews the day before next year´s 150th anniversary
tournament. As many of you know, Ballesteros has had a near-fatal battle
with a brain tumor. The reports are that he´ll be able to play next year
that would be an incredible thing to see. The winner of the four-hole
will be able to donate the winnings to a charity of his choice. Here´s
hoping whoever wins turns to Seve, hands him the check and says...give
the guys who helped you.
*We love Lee*
Lee Westwood received the European Tour´s golfer of the year for 2009
week. It´s the third time he´s won the award, but the last one came in
Call it a slump or a drought, but Westwood struggled to win for the
part of this decade. His resurgence has been fun to watch and is great
*Say it ain´t so.*
Nothing is guaranteed in the game of golf and it broke my heart to see
Duval not pass through Q-School. He won´t have his PGA Tour card next
I hope tournament directors remember how great this guy once was (and
almost won last year´s U.S. Open) and let him in on some exemptions.
*Hey, didn´t there used to be more of you.*
John Daly has dropped more than 100 pounds this year and claims to have
new lease on life and golf. Good for him. I´ve been critical of Daly and
way he lived in the past. I´m always for somebody trying to reign in
health and wellness. Maybe he´ll win another PGA event, maybe he won´t.
what he´s doing now for himself is more important.
*Keep in the loop.*
I haven´t written much the past month, but I´ve been Tweeting via
BuffaloGolfer.com´s Twitter account. If you´re not following us, you
Column # 107: A New Kind Of
It might be time for us to imagine a new kind of
Thousands of fans in China came out to watch Tiger Woods, Phil
Ernie Els and several other golfing greats during last week´s HSBC
event. This Monday, thousands of Australians and news helicopters
Woods´ every move as he worked his way around Kingston Heath golf
He´ll play in an event at the course this week.
Golf has always been a global sport. Its best players hail from the
States, Spain, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Australia. But,
have changed in the past few years.
I´m not talking about Y.E. Yang beating Woods at this year´s PGA
Championship. The man was bound to let a major championship lead slip
one day. It´s more about how more and more of the best U.S. players seem
willing to play across seas. Woods has played in Dubai, China and
This wasn´t the first time Mickelson played across seas either.
Still, the most respected golf league, the PGA, remains anchored in the
United States. Three of the four majors take place in the U.S. The
FedEx Cup does as well.
The PGA is American based, and it will fight to keep it in its current
state. But, what happens if players start recognizing events in other
countries as more prestigious than our major championships? What if the
keep growing for international events?
At some point, we may all need to acknowledge a world league. Where the
events happen on several continents and the best players only visit
once a month.
That was always the fear with Woods. That he´d grow the game so big,
lose control. It may now be happening, and it´s definitely great for the
sport. But, it´s worth noting the impact it will have on American golf
We think of the U.S. Open, Masters and PGA Championship as the premiere
global event. It´ll be that way for a while. But, we might now be seeing
shift, where the world´s best players don´t have to agree with our
Column # 106: A Decade
The world has been missing Payne Stewart for 10
Somehow, it´s true. Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of that fateful
when Stewart boarded a plane and said goodbye to everyone he loved. It
tragic and bizarre. It was wholly sad.
Time flies by. We all say it and know it. But, every once in a while,
look back and a small window of time seems like an eternity. Honestly.
feels longer than a decade since Stewart was alive. It seems like it was
scores ago when Stewart won the U.S. Open and grabbed Phil Mickelson´s
It feels like forever since we watched those knickers dance up and down
But it wasn´t. It was 10 years ago. If it had never happened, Stewart
be 52 years old and still playing. He´d no doubt have been a favorite to
a Ryder Cup captain. He´d be coaching younger players. He´d be loving
family. He´d be living.
And, he´d no doubt be doing it all with flair. The man wore knickers.
man played with guts and passion. He was anything but ordinary. And, for
that, we loved him.
It´s been said that in time, all things make sense. But, Stewart´s death
still leaves us searching for answers.
It´s been 10 years since Payne Stewart died. All we´ve really figured
how much we miss him.
Column # 105: Beginning of
something new for USA team golf?
Whoever snapped this photo
of the American golf squad at the President´s Cup
Sunday took one pretty picture.
It´s hard not to like what you see when you look at American golf right
Yes, there´s Tiger Woods. But how about the supporting cast? Wasn´t it
to see Phil Mickelson coaching young players and kicking the tar out of
golf course at the same time? Isn´t it wonderful to have such an influx
young talent - Anthony Kim, Hunter Mahan, Lucas Glover? It must be sweet
know that both the President´s Cup and the Ryder Cup are currently in
U.S. team´s possession.
Things haven´t always been so sweet for U.S. golf. The group lost five
the last six Ryder Cup´s before winning in 2008. There were times when
wondered when the next generation of stars were going to emerge. We may
gotten our answer this weekend.
Look at how these players performed. Woods and Mickelson went undefeated
the week. Kim picked up wins when paired with Mickelson and Furyk and
on his own. Mahan stared down Camillo Villegas yesterday. Sean O´Hair
Ernie Els to the tune of 6 and 4. Everyone kept hitting big shot after
To be fair, this wasn´t the Ryder Cup, which has given the U.S. greater
troubles as of late. But, it was international competition. It was
that the Americans can come together and play as a great team. It was
It will get harder. The last two team events have been held on U.S.
Next year the Ryder Cup is in South Wales. In 2010 the golfing world
descend on Australia for the 2010 President´s Cup.
Still, scroll back to the top of this column and look at that photo
That´s a group of guys who have both big team golf trophies in their
possession. And, for the first time in a while, they look like they
to keep them.
Column # 104: Chris Whitcomb as The Mouth That
Roars hits # 100
Nobody´s ever happy when they start thinking about
the number 100 on the
golf course. It´s a sign that things went way bad; That triple bogeys
attacked your score card with indelible ink; That you took the scenic
around the golf course.
All that aside, I´m finally happy to hit 100 when it comes to golf.
Incredibly, it´s been four years and change since I penned my first
http://buff-golf.com/mouth.htm#may05. (Note: The first
three at the bottom of the page aren´t mine.) This one makes 100.
When I first contacted the site´s director, I was given a chance, a pen
and a challenge to roar. I don´t know if I´ve met every expectation, but
I´ve fully enjoyed trying. These columns have taken me through my time
working at Elkdale Country Club to working for the PGA and now living
working full-time in Buffalo. They remind me of where I´ve been.
I don´t have a favorite column. I don´t care which one got the most Web
hits. I just know none of them would have been possible without some
along the way. So here´s to the people, places, and moments that have
my golfing life so wonderful.
· Brian Pavlock was one of the
best young golfers in Western New
York during his high school and college years. I played with him many
During one of our first rounds together, he asked me where I thought he
should hit the ball. I said, "Put it on the green." He looked at me with
quizzical look and said, "Of course. I mean what part of the green
hit it too." Up until then, I didn´t know people had that kind of
He´s still the best golfer I ever played 18 holes with.
· With all due respect to Y.E.
Yang, *Bob May* battled a tougher
Tiger at the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky.
never forget the mettle he showed in taking Woods to three extra playoff
holes. It was an inspiring and unforgettable performance, even in
· The guys who hit the golf
balls get most the credit, but people
like Brett Sterba and Michael Belot deserve an equal share. As
directors for the PGA of America, Sterba and Belot work countless hours,
dirty their hands and bust their tails so fans can enjoy great golf. I
worked for them at Medinah Country Club in 2006. They were great bosses.
They were great friends.
come up short oh-so-many times, but nobody´s more fun to
watch on the professional level than Phil Mickelson. He seems like a guy
with normal problems and pains. He´s human, and for that we love him.
he won his first major at The Masters, everyone celebrated. It was that
· Elkdale Country Club has
always been and will always be my golfing
North Star. I worked and played there for six years while growing up. No
summer is complete without a couple of rounds at Elkdale. I´ve played it
hundreds of times. I´ll hopefully play it hundreds more. But, I´ll never
· Guy Boros is the only
professional golfer who ever played a hole
with me. He eagled a par-5 at Peek N´ Peak´s upper course. He was on his
cell phone the entire time. It was something to see.
· If he never does anything
else, at least Sergio Garcia closed his
eyes and hit that shot off the tree. More people should run down the
· Dad put my first clubs in
my hands. He signed me up for the golf
team against my will. He helped me get a job at the local golf course.
· Mom let us watch golf on TV
during dinner when it was a big time
tourney. She doesn´t always understand the game´s appeal, but she
understands we do. Thank you.
· Andy Mac, Schultz and
Johnny C - The best foursome a guy could ask
fore. I´ve got a million memories of being on the golf course with these
guys. And, I don´t think any of them involve great golf shots. Sadly,
been a couple years since we all played together. Next summer, that
· Thanks to Ian Poulter for
having guts, and bitching pants. Golf
needs more characters like you.
· My high school golf coach
was Phil Zelazny. He was a heck of a
stick and a kind man. Not many of those who played on our team amounted
great golfers, but "as far as that goes," it was one of the best
of my life.
· 8-irons - Somehow, this
club has battled my awful swing, poor
posture and lack of hip turn to give me two holes-in-one...on the same
Honestly, I have no idea how the club did it. Thank you 8-iron.
· Guys like Jack Nicklaus,
Arnold Palmer and other legends are
mostly just stories for me. I never watched them play. I never grasped
greatness. Tom Watson helped bring them to life for me this year. With
complete respect for Stewart Cink, it would have been nice to see
putt on 18 fall at the British Open.
· Mo Golf, Scrambler,
Travelin Duff - Thanks for giving me a place
to talk golf. We should see each other more often.
· Here´s to Casey Martin. For
being tough as nails and more talented
than most guys with two good legs.
· There´s nothing greater
than the U.S. Open. Anyone can qualify if
they´ve got game. It´s not reserved for the golfing elite. It´s the
toughest, most grueling and wonderful golf tournament in the world.
· Thank you Tiger Woods for
being the biggest golf story of my life.
You play against history. You never relent. You do the impossible and
you top it.
· Here´s to that
indescribable feeling that makes golf so special.
It´s the feeling that brings us back after our worst round. And it´s the
simple joy that comes from hitting a great golf shot. I can´t put it
words, but I´ll keep trying, hopefully for hundreds of columns more.
Column # 103: The Wrong Idea
At The Wrong Time
Last week, Tiger Woods probably didn´t even have a
clue that Malcolm James
existed. This week, he might know who James is, but I doubt he cares one
James announced earlier this week that he is building a private golf
in Scotland that only billionaires will be able to access. In his own
James declared that "Woods will be welcome as a guest." But that even
great Tiger´s bank account isn´t big enough to afford the club.
Early plans call for James´ Highland Perthshire Resort to feature two
courses, a boutique hotel and a series of private homes. James is sure
he´ll only allow billionaires to be members.
Here´s the thing, why would Tiger Woods care?
Woods is on his way to becoming the greatest golfer ever to breathe. The
can play Augusta National anytime he chooses. Pebble Beach is on speed
St. Andrews welcomes him with opening arms. Tiger can play essentially
course on the planet. And, if he did, he´d probably play a thousand
than any of the two James is going to build. Woods is a golfing legend.
James is a golfing nobody.
It´s not really about whether Tiger should care or not though. This
all about how clueless James is proving himself to be. The game of
a good one, but it has its problems. One of the biggest being
Not every person born has enough money or means to play the game. It´s
like basketball; you need more than a ball and a chain-link net down the
That´s why ambassadors of the game are working to get more people
Golfing legend Jack Nicklaus works hand in hand with the First Tee of
America. Woods himself offers discounted tickets to his annual
for children. He also works religiously through his foundation to help
children achieve their dreams, whether they´re related to golf or not.
the good folks at www.BuffaloGolfer.com <http://www.buffalogolfer.com/>
to donate time and clubs to local organizations and charities.
Then there´s guys like James. He´d rather build two golf courses where
billionaire hacks can lose a dozen Titleists each round then do
move the game forward. He´d rather shove his wealth and arrogance down
throats than offer a helping hand. He´s a paragon of what´s wrong with
elitists who think golf is a game for only the privileged.
It´s too bad really. A guy with James´ wealth could have really knocked
barriers and made a difference. He could have told turned Tiger down
he was too busy handing out free tee times to disadvantaged youth. In
the guy could have stopped counting his money and made a difference, but
misread this one by a mile.
Column # 102: Giving Back On
The PGA Tour
Last week´s Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge
featuring Tiger Woods, Mike
Weir, Notah Begay and Camillo Villegas was about much more than birdies
approach shots. The four golf greats came together to focus on their
philanthropy and helping others across the globe.
At the event´s focus was Begay´s foundation that works to promote the
health, wellness and leadership development of Native American youth.
foundation works with Tribal Nations to build the capacity to design,
and sustain effective wellness, sports and youth development programs.
Challenge helped bring in $750,000 for the cause.
However, each of the players (Weir, Woods and Villegas) has their own
charitable efforts to promote. All hailing from different backgrounds,
golfer has certain areas of society they work to strengthen.
For Weir, his passion is helping children. His foundation is dedicated
advancing the physical, emotional and educational welfare of children.
is currently focused on raising $10 million for children´s health
the Mike Weir Miracle Golf Drive. For more information, read about it at
www.mikeweirmiraclegolfdrive.ca Weir also owns his own winery and all
proceeds from the sale of his wine go to his foundation.
Villegas is focusing his efforts on brining more golf attention to his
country of Colombia. His popularity already caused Colombian TV to pick
30 PGA Tour broadcasts each year since 2006. Villegas´ success helps
throughout Colombia learn more about golf, find interest in the sport
dream of following in their hero´s footsteps.
Finally, Tiger´s all about opening doors for children. His Tiger Woods
Foundation works to provide critical developmental programs for young
students around the country. He has built the Tiger Woods Learning
where children can explore their interests and career aspirations in an
inspiring and supportive environment. Tiger and his foundation are
the groundwork for these children´s success in the future. On his
foundation´s Web site, it reads that Tiger is happy to say, "This is
It´s funny, really. Every week these guys bring
different swings and play
in different groups and end up at different places on the leader board.
thanks to Begay, they all get to come together every once in a while and
realize their hearts are in the same great place.
Column # 101: Tiger Gives
Before the 2nd Annual Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge began, a
asked Tiger Woods a simple question.
"Even though this is a charity event, do you still think the competitive
juices will get flowing?"
Woods flashed his million-dollar smile and laughed sternly,
It was an expected response from the world´s No. 1 golfer but it came in
different setting. Woods doesn´t play many charitable skins game for
The man plays major championships and competes with history. The man
down legends and doesn´t blink.
Yet, here he was, visiting Verona, N.Y. (about 25 minutes east of
and playing with Begay, Mike Weir and Camillo Villegas. The event was
designed by Begay to raise money and awareness for developing
and innovative sports and wellness programs to support disadvantaged
native-American youth. Begay, proud of his native-American heritage,
with Woods during college at Stanford and the two remain close friends.
It was that friendship that brought Woods out to support the cause. It
almost surreal watching Woods play in Syracuse. This was new territory
great golf. Woods´ presence did more than raise awareness for Begay´s
charity. It promoted the course, the region and the hundreds of great
courses that litter New York State. It reminded us all that you don´t
to visit places like Augusta National, Pebble Beach or Sawgrass to walk
Fortunately, Woods and Co. didn´t disappoint. Villegas and Woods stole
show and after a birdie on the 14th hole, Villegas had Woods down
to $80,000. Essentially, he had his foot on the Tiger´s throat.
Then Woods did what Woods does. He ran off three straight birdies on 15,
16 and 17 to amass $150,000 in skins and take a lead into the final
Fittingly, Begay won the 18th hole in front of his home fans. He happily
awarded Woods the trophy for an event well-played.
It was a great day for New York State golf made even better when Woods
suggested he would be back next year to defend his title. It made you
to be one of the hundreds of thousands of golfers who call this state´s
courses home; Kudos to Begay for developing the event and fighting for
It was exactly what anyone could have hoped it would be when they
Woods would be taking part in this year´s event. It was exciting. Heck,
was the kind of day that got the competitive juices flowing.
Column # 100: 2009 Major
Championships Review: Not What We Expected
Forgive Y.E. Yang, Stewart Cink, Lucas Glover and
Angel Cabrera if they
don´t forfeit their major championships to appease those in need of more
Everywhere you go you hear people talk about the year that could have
They lament over how close other players were to winning major titles.
wish everything had played out differently.
At the Masters, people remember how Kenny Perry had a chance to become
oldest major champion at age 46. He missed a putt for destiny on the
18thgreen and then had to take on Cabrera and Chad Campbell in a
playoff. In the end, Cabrera donned the green jacket.
The U.S. Open tugged at our hearts. Phil Mickelson, playing just weeks
his wife´s surgery to combat breast cancer, had himself tied for the
with only a few holes to play. America wanted Mickelson to acquire his
national championship so badly. It didn´t happen. Instead, ho-hum Lucas
Glover survived Bethpage Black.
We traveled back in time at the British Open and watched Tom Watson
(59-year-old Tom Watson) lead the way at Turnberry. He too had a putt
destiny on 18 and left in short. Stewart Cink took no prisoners in his
three-hold playoff and proudly claimed the Claret Jug.
And, last week, we watched the impossible happen. Tiger Woods
four-stroke lead with 36-holes to play to Y.E. Yang. That just doesn´t
happen. Tiger loses leads about as often as gravity takes a day off.
somehow, it was Yang holding the trophy as dusk hit Minnesota Sunday.
And, since all this happened, golf fans feel robbed. They shouldn´t. Win
lose, the Watson, Woods, Mickelson and Perry stories still enriched our
golf-watching pleasure. Sundays were equally dramatic, even in their
And for the quartet of winners, how can you cheapen their victories?
are golfers who play every day. Spend hours in sand traps; Weekends
solely on five-foot putts. They dream, work and ache for the opportunity
win a major championship. These were career years for some of them. They
were victories well deserved.
Golf didn´t get what it wanted this year. But it got what four men went
And for Cink, Yang, Glover and Cabrera. It couldn´t be any sweeter.
Column # 99: PGA Championship
The PGA Championship is always a special week for
It´s not just the last major of the year; it´s a link to some of my
memories. Just a few years back, I used to spend my summers working for
PGA of America´s operations crew for the PGA Championship. I spent three
months at both Baltusrol Golf Club (2005) and Medinah Country Club
They were incredible experiences. Yet, for me, my love affair with the
Championship began even earlier.
It was the summer of 2003 when I first watched professional golfers
father and I traveled to Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y. for
the practice round sessions. We arrived early and the first player we
was Tiger Woods. Throughout the rest of the day, we´d follow such
Sergio Garcia, David Duval, Greg Norman and a slew of others.
It was an incredible day that made me see the sport in a brand new
The players´ shots traveled ridiculously far. The sounds their clubs
were different. Every swing was pure. They didn´t just aim for the
they aimed for the right spot on the green. The game I was watching the
play was far different from the game I played at my home course.
The love affair grew from there. As I mentioned, I spent two summers
manual labor for the PGA. I stocked hospitality tents, drove heavy
machinery, painted, laid bike fence, planted flowers, drove stakes,
the course and anything else I was asked to do. There are thousands of
memories I cherish from those summers. To list a few would do injustice
the others. In short, those summers introduced me to some of the
people I´ll ever meet - and I´m not talking about Tiger and Sergio. No,
other members of my crew made those summers incredible.
So, I´ll watch the PGA Championship this week with a smile on my face.
Tiger will make it three wins in a row. Maybe Lucas Glover will win
The players will be great. The shots will be amazing. But all I´ll see
those great memories. The courses change. The players come and go.
But my memories of the PGA Championship remain.
Column # 98: The Latest (Not The Greatest)
Tiger Woods has accomplished a new kind of
Tiger-slam this year by winning
each tournament held two weeks before a major championship.
It´s not as impressive as winning The Masters, British Open, U.S. Open
PGA Championship in the same year, but it´s fair to say Woods probably
couldn´t have accomplished this if he tried. His aim is always the
and along the way, he happens to win other events.
But, this year, Woods has won four times on tour. They include victories
The Arnold Palmer Invitational (two weeks before The Masters), The
Tournament, (two weeks before the U.S. Open) the AT&T National (two
before the British) and now the Buick Open just two weeks before the PGA
Up until the win at the Buick, Woods was still winning impressive
won Arnold Palmer´s, Jack Nicklaus´ and his own tournaments. That´s not
For Woods though, it´s never good enough. And his
year will be deemed an
ultimate failure if he doesn´t win the PGA Championship at Hazeltine
National Golf Club in Minnesota next week. Woods has his sights set on
winning majors and eclipsing Jack Nicklaus´ record 18 victories.
shooting 20-under or so at the Buick Open doesn´t event faze him.
But what´s different this time from any of the other three majors this
During each of Woods´ previous victories he showed the incredible shot
making that has made him legendary. Then, amazingly, two weeks later
come to play with a wayward driver and a struggling putter.
There is one difference this time. Woods has elected to play the week
between. This week he´ll tee it up at the Bridgestone Invitational in
Maybe playing and keeping the good vibes going will better prepare him
major championship. But, maybe not.
When Woods returned to competitive golf this spring after sitting out
of last year with a knee injury, he claimed the Grand Slam was never out
reach. That´s just how Woods´ thinks. There´s never a plan B in his
It´s always win-or-go-home for Tiger.
But, now, he´s completed a slam he didn´t really want. And, he´s down to
last shot to win a major in 2009. Perhaps it will be different this
With the season in its final weeks, maybe we should expect Tiger to win.
wouldn´t be the first time he did his best work on the closing stretch.
Column # 97: Mouse and Elf
Come To Blows At British Open
Golf fans don´t know how to feel right now. It´s as
if they just watched Mickey Mouse outlast Santa Claus in a smiling
contest. How can you be sohappy for one person while literally feeling
pain for the other.
This is what happens when two good guys go at it. This is what happened
when Stewart Cink beat Tom Watson at last weekend´s British Open.
Watson had the sport of golf on a string for four days as he walked the
fairways of Turnberry, stirring images from decades before. Five-under
afterday one, Watson could be credited with a great round. Three days
he played in the final group (and played brilliantly), Watson had a
sixth Claret Jug in his sights.
There are no words to describe what Watson accomplished. He is no longer
considered a threat in the golf world. Watson is an incredible talent
from the past. His name and his records are to be chased, not brought
back to life. It must have been magical for those who watched Watson win
in the 70s and 80s to enjoy this weekend. In the end, Watson missed a
putt on 18 and
did not win. But, he captured hearts and made people realize - there is
no such thing as too old.
And so we ache for him. He was so close to doing the most impressive
thing we´d ever seen in major golf championships. He was so close to
becoming the oldest major champion by more than a decade. So close to
earning his ninth
major and sixth British Open. So close.
But, somehow, through our sadness for Watson we can´t feel but
incredible joy for Cink. Watson´s victory would have been more
unbelievable, but no more meaningful. Cink has played in 50 majors. He
plays nearly every week on
tour. He was considered good, but not major-championship good. This win
solidifies him and his career. It validates hours of work and years of
There was no predicting what would happen at Turnberry last week. Nobody
thought Tiger Woods would miss the cut. Nobody thought Watson would be
relevant after the front 9. Odds makers doubted Cink would prove his
championship grit this week.
And that´s the wicked truth about golf. Sometimes it unfolds in a way
none of us can predict. Sometimes it lets an old hero steal the show for
four days. And, once in a while, it takes it all away in the form of a
putt on 18. Then again, sometimes it lets a man win something he dreamed
off as a boy.
Cink and Watson are both winners this week. Rarely do fans remember the
competitor who finishes second. I feel this time they will. Cink and
Watson will be linked for years. They will be cherished.
And, golf fans, well we´re still sorting it all out. We love this game,
but sometimes it leaves us feeling a peculiar way.
Caught in between sadness and happiness, we can only admit that golf has
once again mystified us.
And for that, we should be all feel lucky.
Column # 96: British Open
That would be Tweet.*
If you´re looking to learn about golf from the game´s greatest in
140-character-or-less messages, you need to get yourself a Twitter
The newest (and coolest) way to connect with the greatest duffs is to
them on Twitter, a social media network that allows people to share
information, pictures and video in short-quick hitting 140-character
messages. It´s catching on around the world and several golfers are
Stuart Appleby has begun "Tweeting" to people about the proper way to
a golf club. He´s building video content to show what does and doesn´t
create a great swing. He´ll also weigh in on the food at a tournament
the thickness of the British Open rough. Follow him
Natalie Gulbis is a frequent "Tweeter" who loves to post her thoughts
several photos of herself (which won´t upset the male readers). Her
posts have included pictures of her at the ESPY´s with Michael Phelps,
photos of her recent Lexus promotion. She provides insight on golf and
photos. Join her conversation
There are others doing it too. Chris Dimarco is on Twitter. So is
Cink. Morgan Pressell loves to Tweet during practice rounds. Everywhere
these golfers are going - they´re Tweeting about it.
However, there´s nobody Tweeting as much as Ian Poulter. He´s willing to
Tweet about anything. His clubs, his clothes, his swing, you name it.
week he gives away prizes to his loyal Twitter followers. Thursday
he Tweeted a picture of the outfit he´d be wearing in Round one of the
British Open. You´ve got to check it out at
Several people are quick to shun Twitter as a pointless stream of
But there are some really interesting things happening at the site.
post photos of courses. They post photos of behind-the-scenes action.
looking for an insider´s perspective can find it on Twitter.
And, as Ian Poulter continues to lead the way in this new social world -
expect others to follow. Ian´s not just helping his fans, he´s building
brand. He´s connecting with millions of fans in ways that others aren´t.
Poulter has occasionally used Twitter during actual rounds on tour.
surprised to see him Tweet something this week like...
*Dang! Should have hit the 5-iron. Now I´m in the Bunker.*
Then again, if he and his million Twitter followers have their wish.
be sending something like this late Sunday.
*Thanks Lads. You can call me Ian James Poulter, British Open Champion
It reads well. Plus, he´ll have 79 characters to spare.
Column # 95: Hosting Your Own
PGA Tour Event
It´s got to feel good to host your own golf tournament. With all
due respect to major championships, birdies, cuts made and pars saved,
there´s no greater sign that you´ve made it in the golfing community
when you begin hosting your own golf tournament. Tiger Woods knows what
feels like this week as he hosts his third-annual AT&T National at
Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, MD.
truly entered rare air when he received the opportunity to
host a PGA event. The honor only belongs to a few guys - Byron Nelson
it. Jack Nicklaus has it. Arnold Palmer might always have it. Tiger´s
only current player who can call a tournament his own. He gets to invite
he wants to play. And, that´s got to feel good.
are they´ll never let me host a PGA event. With a
double-digit handicap and a swing that´s more pukey than pure, I´m not
holding my breath. But, just in case PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem loses
mind and awards me the Christopher Whitcomb Classic, here´s what I'd do
make it fun.
1. *No Out of Bounds* - It´s the stupidest rule in golf. Hit it
left and you´re in. Hit it 92 yards left and you´re out? No. All
matters is how many strokes it takes you to get it from the tee
to the hole.
It doesn´t matter where you go in between. Play it where it
sand, prairie or desert, players always have the option to play
They can claim an unplayable lie for a shot penalty.
2. *Anybody can play - *Local knowledge is invaluable when
you play a
golf course. Talent usually wins. But sometimes, there´s no way
to read a
green but to let it kick your behind a few times. The day before
tournament starts, anyone who lives within 60 miles of the
course is welcome
to tee it up and play 18. Low two-scores for the day are invited
to play in
the pro event. We need more out-of-the-blue stories on tour.**
3. *Shorts - *The ladies are allowed to wear shorts, skirts and
but the men must wear pants? Will the game be any different if
Nike golf shorts? Guys like Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia are
running out of
color combinations. Shorts will give new life to golf fashion.**
4. *Keep the tickets cheap - *It´s rare if Sunday tickets for
championships don´t cost more than $100. How are we going to
next generation of golfers if we don´t let them see their idols?
aside 5,000 tickets for juniors and offer them dirt cheap.**
5. *Finish with 5 - *I won´t consider hosting my tournament at a
that doesn´t finish with a par 5. Too often, we let things get
hole 17. Nothing keeps the tournament alive than a chance at an
finishing hole will offer players the chance to make a big move
at the end.
Column 94: David Duval at
the U.S. Open
It shouldn´t surprise anyone that David Duval showed up early to this
U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.
Duval was one of maybe a dozen players who arrived Sunday (a day before
official practice week began) to play Bethpage and study its beautiful
It´s been three years since Duval was on the tee sheet at an American
championship. Forgive him if he´s eager. It´s been even longer since he
considered a serious threat to win. In has last U.S. major at the 2006
Open at Winged Foot, Duval wound his way into contention on Saturday and
golfing world was shocked.
Duval´s experienced everything in his golfing career. He´s been called a
prodigy, a nutcase, the world´s number 1 golfer, a disappointment, the
British Open champion and a mystery. The guy once recorded a 59 for 18
holes. Then again, he´s the same guy who has played in just 5 of the
What´s really mind-boggling is to think about how Duval will be
in the golfing community. When he was on top of his game, he was one of
most feared golfers ever to live. But, far too many times during his
Duval hasn´t had it. The swing´s been off. His head´s been jumbled.
just weren´t right.
Now, he´s back on the main stage at Bethpage Black. He seems generally
positive about the opportunity.
"It´s wonderful," Duval said Sunday. "(Bethpage) is a big, hard golf
and there´s nothing wrong with that."
Golf analysts and experts have little to no expectations for Duval this
week. He´s a good story. But he´s not a guy you pick to make the cut at
world´s toughest golf championship, much less contend.
Then again, if there´s one thing we know about Duval it´s that we don´t
anything. He´s unpredictable. When everything seemed right for Duval, it
fell apart. Now that it´s seemingly passed him, maybe there´s still time
him to capture that old fire.
Column 93: Amy Mickelson once rendered me
I was sitting in a golf cart with a coworker watching her husband Phil,
Tiger Woods and Geoff Ogilvy play golf in the first round of the 2006
Championship at Medinah Country Club in Chicago when Amy approached me
"Can we stand in your golf cart?"
Their hope was that we´d let them stand in the back of the cart so they
could see over the horde of people watching the group play golf. My
was a simple, "uh huh" and I stood up from my seat. I believe my friend
a more suave line that conveyed the same thought.
It´s not that we were afraid. It´s just not everyday a famous athlete or
wife asks if they can hang out with you. It´s not everyday you have
bodyguards watching your every move.
I still remember the event because of how kind Amy was. She engaged us
conversation. Laughed when my friend joked about liking Tiger more than
Phil. She treated us like people and then asked if we´d be at the next
green. We said yes and offered to let them use our cart again. For about
three holes, they´d get to the green and stand in our golf cart to see
They say everyone who follows golf has a story about the Mickelsons.
This is mine.
Now, news has been released that Amy is battling breast cancer and will
imminent surgery. Cancer of any kind is a horrible disease. It is
and uncaring as to who it affects and how. Phil and Amy now have a
on their hands more daunting than the most testy greenside bunker.
Not surprisingly, Phil has immediately suspended his playing schedule.
he´d love to play at Bethpage next month for the U.S. Open. But it´s
compared to his wife´s health. Mickelson has always put his family first
during his career and this is just another example.
In so many ways, Phil and Amy are recognized as a team. They work
on charitable efforts. Amy´s always in the gallery at tour events. They
often walk together between holes. They appear to have something
And, as a result, they´re cherished by the sport and its fans. There´s
nobody who wasn´t sad upon hearing the news of Amy´s health yesterday.
Mickelsons are good people. You want good things for them. And,
in the next few months, everything goes right for Mr. and Mrs. Lefty.
I´ve always had the sense that Phil and Amy saw themselves as more than
a famous couple. They know their influence and work extends beyond golf
courses and can affect real change - for individuals and groups alike.
and Phil are the kind of people who want to make a difference. Who
they´re in that rare position to truly touch people´s lives everyday.
Even, if it´s simply by asking to stand in a young kid´s golf cart.
*Quick Hits - News and Notes From The World of
It was very odd to watch Tiger Woods play in the last group Sunday and
have a real shot on the back 9. He was an afterthought and he´s never an
afterthought. I hate when people jump on Tiger and claim he´s "slumping"
when he continues to finish in the top 10. However, something´s off with
game. The tournament was his for the taking Sunday and he faltered.
Congrats go to Henrik Stenson who penned a beautiful round of 66 at The
Players Championship Sunday. Stenson hit every shot where it needed to
The broadcasters referred to Stenson´s round as one of the best final
at Sawgrass ever.
Woods´ poor play Sunday coupled with Stenson´s unflappable 66 made for a
boring back 9 Sunday; A far cry from Sergio Garcia and Paul Goydos´
a year ago. It´s sad too, as it´s never the same watching the final
hit their tee shots on the famous Par 3 17th when there´s nothing at
Shouldn´t there be some repercussion for David Feherty´s comments this
weekend? Regardless of political belief, nobody should have to get
with controversial political commentary while enjoying a golf
Feherty´s got every right to public speech but he needs to understand
necessary time and place for some of his comments. If you want to read
he said head to
John Daly secured a second-place finish at last week´s Italian Open -
best finish in four years. Daly, now slimmer, says he´s turning his life
career around. I´m not sure if this is evidence of it working - but
hope it is for Daly´s sake.
Child prodigy Michelle Wie has committed to play in this year´s Women´s
British Open. I´m excited. I´ve always liked Wie and her game. She´s
poorly managed and pushed her whole career. Heck, she´s still just 19.
love to see her in contention on Sunday at Royal Lytham.
Column 91: "So Human It
Hurts": John Daly
Someone once wrote "John Daly was so human it hurts." The writer was no
doubt trying to point out Daly´s regular-guy flaws and his
heart-on-his-sleeve nature. They pointed to his tendencies to drink,
divorce, overeat and smoke as ways in which he wasn´t any better than
Somehow, I´ve never understood the argument. "So human it hurts" sounds
like something befitting of Phil Mickelson - I guy who´s shown up,
hard and learned life isn´t fair countless times. To me, Daly´s behavior
over the past decade hasn´t been all that normal. It´s been a circus;
for Daly and those around him, quite possibly a nightmare.
Make no mistake, over the past few years Daly´s been a paragon of
living. Fans cheer him because he´s the kind of guy the might run into
the bar at Hooters. That´s because he´s always at the bar at Hooters.
months ago Daly ballooned to 280 lbs. He chain smokes and eats with no
regard for his health.
Now comes news that Daly has slimmed to 220 lbs. through dieting and
medical procedures. Fans are talking about how it might enable him to
resurrect his playing career. Step back for a second. Maybe he can
his life. Daly was on a path that most likely was going to end in a
death. Maybe he can avoid that now. He´s 43 years old. Sure, he can
play golf. But, now, maybe he can find some renewed happiness.
Last year, Daly was banned from the tour for six months for brining it
disrepute. Daly says that incident motivated him to make the change.
Hopefully he can maintain his renewed sense of purpose.
People can say what they want, but part of the reason Daly has so many
followers is they like watching the circus that is his life. Bad
sometimes good entertainment. If fans really care, they should support
new approach. Appreciate him for his talents and golf skills. Don´t
much about where he´ll be drinking after the round.
Regardless of whether you like Daly or not, wish him well. He was an
incredible golf talent who picked up two major championships. He has no
apparent ill-will toward others. He was just a guy who got caught up in
unhealthy lifestyle. Here´s hoping he´s finally found his way out.
Column 90: Angel Cabrera and
His Pair of Major Championships
The man now has two PGA Tour victories - the U.S. Open and The Masters.
That ain´t bad.
Then again, the man - Angel Cabrera - doesn´t strike you as your run of
mill golfer. He doesn´t remind you of a fearless four-iron swashbuckler.
looks more like a guy you´d meet at the bowling lanes on Tuesday. He
more like a ripped jeans and un-tucked T shirt guy. Yet, last Sunday, he
donned a green jacket and it seemed to fit him just fine.
He´s nicknamed El Pato (The duck) because famous Argentinean golfer
Romero said he walked like one. It´s not exactly as scary or as
of a nickname as Tiger. But now, twice, Cabrera has withstood a Sunday
charge and lived to talk about it. Sure, Woods wasn´t right on the
heels last Sunday, but would you have wanted him two shots back with
six holes to play?
The truth is, even if his looks, clothes and nickname wouldn´t suggest
Cabrera is one of the best golfers of the past five years. He´s a bit
unknown in America because he prefers to play international events and
home in Argentina. Many fans probably skip right over him when they´re
looking for groups to follow. However, how many guys can claim two major
championships in their career? In the past three years? The latter is a
short list that contains just Woods, Cabrera and Padraig Harrington.
He began his golf journey as a caddy and never really started playing
he was 15 years old. Five years later he turned pro.
He got a lot of help from Romero, who lived just blocks away from
two decades ago. Romero actually helped fund some of Cabrera´s first few
tournaments. It´s a strong return on investment - Cabrera and Romero are
the most accomplished golfers from Argentina. They´re names will almost
always be uttered in the same sentence when golfers think about
Those who haven´t followed the game religiously over the past decade
probably thing Cabrera came out of nowhere in 2007 to win the U.S. Open
Oakmont. Not true. In 1999 the man was a putt away from a three-hole
at the British Open. He´s played on President´s Cup and World Cup teams.
It´s not that you never realized, he just never grabbed your attention.
Here´s the thing, what if he´s not done? What if he wins another major
two? You say the name Angel Cabrera and people don´t think golf hall of
fame, but maybe they should. He´s only 39. There are other majors in his
reach. He´ll have more Sunday strolls.
Regardless, El Pato now has TWO majors. And it seems to suit him just
Column 89: 15th Night--Tiger
Wins 5th Masters
It's almost like Tiger Woods is Shakespeare with a golf club.
He scripted this, you know. Last June when the doctors told him he
shouldn't play the U.S. Open and he retorted,
"I'm going to play and I'm going to win." That was the beginning. I
imagine a few hours later he conceived the
rest of his methodical, cold-hearted script.
Scene 1 - Win U.S. Open on one leg.
Scene 2 - Surgery.
Intermission - Time off.
Scene 3 - Second child.
Scene 4 -Return to golf world.
Scene 5 - Repeat (and I mean repeat) at Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Finale - Win Masters.
That's right folks. Tiger Woods knew he'd win this Masters the second he
decided to miss the rest of 2008 and
have surgery. It doesn't matter who else shows up, what clubs they play,
what course changes are
made - this thing is already his.
You can read some people who've written about Tiger possibly being
human. Maybe this injury will slow him up.
Maybe he'll lose his power. None of it is true.
It took him three tournaments to win after an eight-month layoff. This
is his quest and no knee surgery or Sergio is
going to stop him. There are many young guys capable of winning this
week. Heck, many tried and true picks as
well. It doesn't matter.
It stinks really. We can see Woods in work and we know how the plot will
end. Still, we watch. People say
we're watching because we're amazed at his dominance. It's true to a
point. I think we watch because we want
to see him fail. We want to see the human pieces of him. We want to feel
like we have something in common.
And, in blood, sweat and tears we do. On the golf course, we don't.
Woods is a poet. He is a fortune teller.
He doesn't control the winds and rain. He doesn't need to. He's got
shots to combat those things.
It doesn't matter. I'll sit there for hours Saturday and hours Sunday.
I'll think of all the ways and shots that could
be coming. I'll stress about it. I'll get excited
about it. And, in the end, I'll say, "I knew that would happen."
Mark my words. At this time next week, Tiger will have 15 major
It's written in the script.
Column 88: Tiger Woods
Retires From Professional Golf
You don´t watch 90 minutes of a movie just to skip the ending. Nobody
90 percent of the way to work, pulls over and walks the rest. And,
hardly ever see somebody don shirts and slacks without completing the
ensemble with socks and shoes.
So, why, at this incredible point in his career, is Tiger Woods deciding
hang up his Nike golf shoes and call it quits early. If anything, his
this past week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational showed he had more than
enough enthralling golf left in him. He won for the first time since his
inspiring victory at the 2008 US Open and his nine-month rehabilitation.
sent a message to everyone, everywhere, that the Masters could easily be
in two weeks.
Heck, can you imagine watching this year's Masters Tournament without
No Tiger tracking? No Sunday charge? What will Jim Nantz possibly find
for five hours on Sunday?
It's true golf fans, in a statement posted on the Web, Tiger Woods has
retired. He'll finish his career with 14 majors, four short of Jack
Nicklaus' record 18; five short of immortality. He leaves the sport
dizzying 13 years during which his dominance was nearly always on
Woods cited no real reason for calling it quits. Those close to him know
passions include spear fishing, being a good family man and a handful of
business pursuits. Fans can only imagine he'll continue his pursuits
When the shock wears off, fans will look back on Woods´ incredible
achievements in the sport. There are memories, the chip at No. 16 at
Augusta, the college match play event, his first Masters win. How about
the first victory after the passing
of his father? Pick your favorite, as they number in the hundreds.
And, here's hoping you had a chance to see him. We may never see an
who dominates his sport the way Woods dominated golf over the past
He was more dominant than Jordan, more feared than Ali and more mentally
tough than anyone. Look back on his career fondly. Cherish the memories
store them in your brain. Tell your grandchildren you saw a great one.
And, when you've completely let the shock hit you, when you're so
flabbergasted you can't believe Woods would stop before reaching the
historic marks he set for himself. Well, just remember it's April Fools
Column 87: One Man's Bunkers
For Baghdad Campaign
There aren´t many places in the world where you can find 150,000 golf
and 5,500 spare golf clubs. Outside of severely challenging and
water hazards and golf warehouses, the only other place you could look
find such a plentiful supply of golf equipment would be Joseph Hanna´s
But, Hanna isn´t running a business. He´s changing lives. And, you´ll
to move quick if you want to see all those balls and clubs together.
they´ll be shipped around the world as donations to United States troops
It´s all party of Hanna´s brilliant new Buffalo-based charity, Bunkers
Baghdad that asks area golfers to donate clubs, balls and other golf
supplies that can be donated to America´s military forces for
Hanna came up with the idea after seeing reports that troops were
makeshift driving ranges in Iraq for stress relief. Hanna, a young
and attorney from Amherst, and his team had a booth at this weekend´s
Buffalo Niagara Golf Show.
"This morning we had a lot of people who served in Vietnam," said Kim
one of the members on the Bunkers board, late Saturday night. "A lot of
guys said they wished they had this when the were over there."
If this weekend´s donations were any indication, Bunkers for Baghdad is
growing in force. Local golfers continue to offer up clubs they´re no
using for the troops. Requests continue to pour in from soldiers,
of soldiers and organizations representing military veterans for the
As of this weekend, more than 50,000 balls and 3,000 clubs have been
troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Match Play Special: Recap
Let´s take a moment to celebrate Geoff Ogilvy´s achievement.
By waxing Paul Casey 4-and-3 yesterday to secure the World Golf
Championships Accenture Match Play Championship, Ogilvy made a case that
might be the best player not named Tiger. For Ogilvy, it was his second
at the event in four years, a remarkable achievement.
Ogilvy, however, makes match play events look like practice rounds. The
guy´s 17-2 all time at the Accenture Match Play Event and his .895
percentage is the highest of any player with a minimum of 10 starts.
about as sure a pick as there is in the field.
And, it´s arguable that the WGC match-play event is the toughest of any
win on tour. You´ve got to have your best stuff for possibly 126 holes,
opposed to 72. One off-day, and there´s no chance for a Saturday charge.
Everything is different in match play.
Well, everything is different except for Ogilvy. His play during
match with Casey was like a golf clinic. His ball striking was crisp and
short game was sinister. He never gave Casey a chance to make anything
happen. In fact, to Casey fast learned that one of the few ways to beat
Ogilvy on a hole was to jar it from 200-yards out.
So, here´s to Ogilvy. Let´s not label him Tiger´s new challenger. Let´s
celebrate him for being his extraordinary self.
Match Play Special: Round Three--It´s
time to get serious!
I´d call my picks over the first couple of days a bit over par. Not
but manageable. If it was a real golf tournament, my picks would have
me make the cut, but I wouldn´t be contending. That said, the beauty of
event is you get to start over each day with new picks. So, without
adieu, here is how I think this think shakes out.
Ogilvy def. McIlroy - What McIlroy is doing at age 19 is absolutely
incredible. It would have been great if he´d have been able to battle
yesterday instead of Tim Clark, but I digress. Ogilvy is playing as well
anybody on the planet. I think he´ll win a major this year. And, I think
experience will get him past this kid, but not in blowout fashion.
Els def. Cink - I didn´t think either of these guys would get here but
to each of them. Over his career, Els has proved himself a match play
superstar. He´ll notch another win today.
Casey def. O´Hair - Sean O´Hair´s had probably the second most
week other than McIlroy. Unfortunately, he meets a guy who´s as talented
anyone and as cool as ice. Casey has a title in reach.
Leonard def. Fisher - I´m going to keep betting on Justin. It would be
to see his career revived a bit. I just can´t imagine him dropping this
Ogilvy def. Els - This will go down as one of the greatest matches ever
match play. 21 holes gives Ogilvy just enough time to win.
Casey def. Leonard - Justin´s good week ends here, but honorably. Casey
an incredible force.
Ogilvy def. Casey - Geoff Ogilvy is going to have an incredible year.
won already this season and now this big-time victory gives him more
Match Play Special: Round Three-We
shall hear his roar no more
So, that´s what all the fuss was about? Tiger´s back for two days?
back to lose to Tim Clark? Sure, Woods gets a pass for being rusty, but
sure the television networks want their money back. Sorry, but the idea
Tim Clark vs. Sean O´Hair final pairing isn´t sexy like Woods vs.Garcia.
That´s alright though; here are 8 more fearless predictions.
McIlroy def. Clark - Clark needed everything to take down Tiger. He
have enough gas to keep up with the young McIlroy.
Villegas def. Ogilvy - Of all the guys left, I wish this was the title
match. Too bad it will take place so early. I think Villegas is primed
win the event this week. He wins a tough one.
Donald def. Els - Luke´s playing well. I´m done doubting him. He´ll beat
Mickelson def. Cink - Maybe Lefty will actually capitalize with Woods
this time? Maybe.
Poulter def. O´Hair - If you like great dressers and fearless guys,
got to like Poulter. This tournament needs his character and personality
Casey def. Hanson - I wonder if Casey would feel a bit more comfortable
playing in the states if he won this event.
Furyk def. Fisher - I´ll say it again. Nobody grinds like Furyk, which
him incredibly tough in these events.
Leonard def. Wilson - Apparently Justin Leonard doesn´t think he´s past
Match Play Special: Round Two-16
Sometimes I wonder why I love Sergio Garcia so much. I always pick him
he rarely comes through for me. He lost to a guy named Schwartzel
That´s not good. Other than that, I did pretty well with my picks.
what I think will happen in today´s action.
Woods def. Clark - Well, Tiger sure isn´t rusty. The guy started birdie,
eagle and then looked mildly human before earning a 3 and 2 victory.
him to keep playing Tiger-like today. Woods 3 and 2, again.
Mahan def. McIlroy - A solid match that will be fun to watch. There´s
a 12 seed that sneaks into the sweet 16 and I think it´s Mahan this
Ogilvy def. Katayama - I´ve said never bet against a man in a Nike
hat, but I´m going to break my rule. Ogilvy´s playing great golf right
He´s destined to win this one.
Villegas def. Jimenez - Another interesting pairing featuring two
with drastically different styles. I like Villegas to do great things
week. So, I expect him to pull through in a close one.
Singh def. Donald - Neither of these guys had an easy going in round 1.
think Vijay will fare better today and send Luke packing.
Els def. Stricker - I picked Stricker to bow out yesterday and I just
feel good about him this week. I´ve got to take Els, even though my
starting to tell me Stricker´s going to be around a while.
Mickelson def. Johnson - Lefty´s playing like the Lefty of a few years
There might not be anybody in this bracket that can stop him.
Cink def. Westwood - My first prediction for this group is they´ll be
the clock for slow play. Two very deliberate players will battle in this
one. Expect Cink to win with a birdie in extra holes.
Poulter def. Schwartzel - This was supposed to be Poulter vs. Garcia. It
supposed to be one great dresser against another. Now it´s really
Poulter wins going away.
Weekly def. O´Hair - Are there any limits to how good Boo Weekly might
up being? He might know the rules, but man can he swing a golf club.
Ames def. Hanson - Both guys pulled upsets in the first round. The
higher-seed, Ames, will restore order in round two.
Casey def. Goggin - The Casey vs. Baddeley match did not disappoint.
should keep his strong play going with a win over Goggin.
Perez def. Fisher - This ain´t March Madness. It´s February Madness.
means 16 seeds can do anything and everything. Perez ousted Paidraig
Harrington. Now, he´ll take down Fisher.
Furyk def. Kamer - Nobody grinds like Jim Furyk. He´s got a few more
in him this week.
Love III def. Leonard - Both these guys surprised me. I expected Romero
wipe Leonard and make a big run. I´m okay with it as both these guys are
good guys and great players. DL III showed such grit winning in extra
I´m picking him to win again.
Kim def. Wilson - Kim is quietly becoming the best player on tour not
Tiger. Another 7 and 5 could be in order.
Match Play Special: First
Round Predictions, Upper Half
And, eventually, there will be one.*
Below are the Mouth That Roars match-by-match bold predictions for the
Jones and Ben Hogan brackets in the first-round of the Accenture WGC
Match Play Championship. Dare to disagree? Post about it on
BuffaloGolfer.com's Facebook and/or Twitter page.
*Bobby Jones Bracket*
Tiger def. Jones - Tiger will be rusty, but not that rusty. After a slow
start he'll win 3-and-2.
Goosen def. Clark - It's amazing Clark is seeded higher than Goosen.
is simply the better player and he'll prove it this week.
McIlroy def. Oosthuizen - McIlroy is a strong player most people don't
about but that could all change this week. Expect him to breeze through
the first round.
Mahan def. Weir - Hunter Mahan is one of America's bright young talents.
This is a chance for him to shine. Weir hasn't played well in a while
Ogilvy def. Sutherland - Geoff Ogilvy will win his second major in 2009.
repeat, Ogilvy will win his second major in 2009. Just remember you
heard it here.
Katayama def. Immelman - Has cool, calm Trevor done anything since his
Masters win two years back? He won't do much this week. Plus, who bets
against a guy in a Nike cowboy hat? Not The Mouth.
Villegas def. Pampling - Special week gets kick started with a 5-4 win
Sabbatini def. Jimenez - Sabbatini's got a little more grit and style.
match won't be pretty but Sabbatini will earn the right to get destroyed
Villegas in round two.
*Ben Hogan Bracket*
Singh def. Kjeldsen - Nobody has been as consistent and dangerous this
in their career as Vijay. He's a serious threat to win this week.
Donald def. Curtis - I don't know why, but I'm just never confident when
Curtis stands over the ball. Donald is a young, dynamic force.
Els def. Hansen - Let's be honest, Els vs. Singh in round 3 is what this
bracket is all about.
Stricker def. Johnson - Nice guy Stricker outlasts up-and-coming Johnson
Mickelson def. Cabrera - Lefty vs. the Duck. I'd probably have taken El
until Phil won this past weekend. He's probably got the momentum to
this one out.
McDowell def. Johnson - Graeme McDowell? Don't know the name? You
will after this week.
Westwood def. Marksaeng - Westwood proved he's still a serious performer
last year's PGA Championship. There's strong reason to believe he'll
that going in 2009.
Sterne def. Cink - The Good Ship Cink will be sunk. Call it an upset
Call it February Madness. The Accenture WGC Match Play Championships
gives golf fans a chance to fill out brackets
and go crazy. Below is the Mouth That Roars'
look at the final two brackets.
*Gary Player Bracket*
Garcia def. Schwartzel - No offense, but who is Schwartzel? Garcia is
becoming the mature player he promised to be so many years ago.
Poulter def. Singh - Think about round 2. Poulter vs. Garcia equates to
battle of young skill and ego.
Weekley def. Rose - An interesting match. Justin Rose was a golf
Weekley is an out-of-nowhere guy who´s still learning the rules. I like
Weekley to win in a close one.
Scott def. O´Hair - Here´s hoping Adam Scott is a relevant force on tour
season long. He´s been too inconsistent to this point in his
Hanson def. Karlsson - Has the potential to be an epic match. These guys
have similar styles and are both capable of excellent golf. Expect extra
Ames def. Quiros - Ames shot-making is too much for Quiros. His
and skill will drive him to victory.
Goggin def. Perry - Goggin will use a fast start to get Perry reeling.
could surprise and advance deep into the tournament.
Casey def. Baddeley - This is my favorite match up of the first round.
Perfect foils for one another, Casey and Baddeley will give fans their
worth. Too bad they couldn´t have met later in the event.
*Sam Snead Bracket*
Harrington def. Perez - Paddy´s going to keep playing well. Last
no fluke. He´s not scared of Tiger, either.
Allenby def. Fisher - Both want a shot at Harrington in round two. Only
Allenby will get it.
Furyk def. Hansen - Furyk will have his hands full with Hansen and will
all 18 to get it done. That hard-fought victory will move him in the
direction for a deep run.
Kaymer def. Appleby - Kaymer will raise eyebrows with his strong play
week. They´ll only be able to see him play 14 holes in this one though.
Stenson def. Love III - Remember Henrik Stenson? He´s one of the many
was billed as Tiger´s great rival at one point. He´ll beat DL III before
getting wiped in round two.
Romero def. Leonard - Andres Romero is ready to make a statement. He
let Justin Leonard get in his way.
Kim def. Weng-Tang - If you´re like me, you´re drooling over the idea of
and Romero squaring off in round three. I bet this is a good match, but
pulling for Kim to come through.
Wilson def. Choi - KJ will be one-and-done this year
2009--The Tiger Jigsaw
There is still a big piece of the puzzle that is missing.
Yes, Tiger Woods has finally provided golf fans with the where, when and
of his highly-anticipated return to golf. He's even tossed in a few
of his wife and two children as an added bonus. However, there is still
slight detail that needs to be addressed....how good is he going to
We won't get the full answer this week when Woods tees it up for the
time in eight months at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match
Championship. Surely, there is reason to anticipate Woods being a bit
And, as a result, a little un-Tiger like. But, even in this situation,
months removed from his previous competition and coming off his second
surgery, high expectations lie on Woods.
It begins with himself. He's commented that he doesn't play in an event
doesn't think he can win. So, does that mean we should expect him to win
this week? He's also said he could have returned a few weeks ago
So, is he stronger and more prepared than he lets on?
Regardless, he'll be the man to beat this week. He's the No. 1 seed in
bracket (which will be announced at 7 p.m. EST on Sunday). Other top
include Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington and Vijay Singh, guys who
well in Tiger's absence. They'll challenge him if they get the chance.
Others will too. Mickleson looks like he might secure his first win in a
long time at the Northern Trust Open this week. Andres Romero, Geoff
and Justin Leonard have all carded strong rounds as of late.
Still, the cameras and the expectation will all be on Tiger. He's
the most popular sports figure in the world. His return is an event.
it lasts one or five days, it will be memorable.
And yet, it won't truly give us an answer. Whether Tiger bows out in the
first round or wins the whole thing, we'll still have to wait. Woods
measures himself by major championships won. So, that's how we must do
same. When we last left off, he'd limped his way to his 14th such title.
Jack Nicklaus holds the record with 18.
When we last left off, Woods looked like a lock to win at lease five
majors, giving him the all-time record and possibly enabling him to win
the upward of 20 major championships. However, a second major knee
is not a small thing. Is his swing changed? Is he still as strong? Can
still hit golf balls that travel so far they need passports?
Tiger can say he's as strong as ever, but actions speak louder than
There are no guarantees in this world and this sport. So, Tiger's back.
majors to go for the all-time record.
The tee is yours Mr. Woods.
Column 85--February 2009--When
will HE be back?
When will he come back? Will it be at The Masters? Might he show up at
WGC Match Play Championships? Will we ever see him at this best again?
No, I'm not talking about Tiger Woods.
It seems the only story the golf world is covering right now is when
Woods will return from his 2008 knee surgery. You hear more about Tiger
you do the guys actually playing well right now - Geoff Ogilvy, for
instance. But, more importantly, Tiger's absence from the tour hasn't
been the most dramatic disappearance. No, the guy I worry about much,
more is Phil Mickelson.
You remember him, don't you? Loveable Lefty. The man who won far more
than tournaments with his swashbuckling, I-don't-play-it-safe style. One
the greatest golfers of our generation, Mickelson hasn't been great for
time. Ever since his epic collapse at Winged Foot in 2006, the guy
really sniffed a major victory. He's picked up wins here and there. He's
feasted on a few tournaments with low-level fields. But, the grand stage
not been his for some time. In fact, he carded a second-round 73 at the
Open this weekend and missed the cut.
It's easy to point to a three year drought in major victories and a few
missed cuts as just a bad stretch. But, look deeper and you see an aging
Mickelson whose prime may have passed. Nearing 40, it's not about just
chasing Tiger anymore. Guys like Sergio Garcia, Andres Romero, Ogilvy
Adam Scott have all matured into winners. Mickelson intimidates no one
Some would say that's harsh and that's fine. But, with Tiger out of the
field for the last two majors last year, Mickelson played poorly from
word go at the British Open and came in at seventh at the PGA
never really in the Sunday mix. You'd think a player of his caliber
seize the opportunity a bit more.
This isn't to pick fun at Mickelson. His talent is amazing, his career
hall-of-fame worth. His shot making, is simply legendary. But, it's a
reminder, that we only have so many shots in life, and for Mickelson,
could be one of his last. Only a handful of people have won majors over
age of 40. It gets tougher. The course gets longer. Challengers get
So, here's hoping the missed cut at the FBR is not indicative of what
ahead for Mickelson this year. His last chance to regain his mastery, to
dominate the sport, might be sitting in front of him.
Column 84--January 2009--There
will never be another...
Arguably the greatest female golfer ever to play the sport retired
month ago to very little fanfare. She left with a birdie at the 18th
the Dubai Ladies Masters. She left only a slightly removed from her
It's true, whether you've heard about it or not, Annika Sorenstam is no
longer playing professional golf. She's hung up her golf spikes for new
things and future endeavors. Already, less than a month after retiring,
Sorenstam married longtime flame Mike McGee. It's just the first of many
things Sorenstam plans to do now that she's retired.
In many ways, Sorenstam's exit from the game is bittersweet. She can
play. She can still play really, really freaking good, too. She won 90
tournaments in her 14-career, including 10 majors. She was the first
in 50 years to play in a men's PGA tournament. In 2008, she won three
events. There's no doubt she's still capable of competing and winning.
At the same time, isn't it nice to see an athlete go out in their prime?
Isn't it nice to see someone step away without the Brett-Favre-like
Michael-Jordan-like pointlessness? It's not like Annika doesn't know she
can't still play. She's choosing to pursue other things. She's choosing
have a life bigger than just golf.
"Life goes on. I am very happy about my decision to move on," said
Sorenstam. "I feel very happy. But you close the door and you open
one. I am glad that I have a chance to do that."
Even with Annika no longer walking fairways on tour, her legacy will
on. She was the first woman to ever become a celebrity by playing golf.
helped the league gain popularity and respect with her strong play. She
carded a 59. Her desire to play in men's events and unwillingness to
defeat is a testament to women's golf.
Truth be told, it's not sad to see her leave. Her accomplishments are
impressive, her career anything but incomplete. The women's game is
full of stars and ready to become even more successful.
What's sad is that she walked away and very few seemed to notice.
Tiger Woods retired next season? Remember when Jim Kelly retired from
Buffalo Bills? Annika is absolutely the most important person in her
history. Golf fans were lucky and blessed to live during her career.
should have been out in droves to bid her adieu. There are dozens of
talented female golfers. But, there will never be another Annika.
Column 83--January 2009--Social
Awareness or Socialism in Professional Golf?
Without backing up tees or finding new
cruel pin placements, PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem has asked golfers
worldwide to step up in 2009. Finchem sent a short video to PGA
cardholders asking them to play more
events in 2009 and seek out sponsors.
Hopefully, Finchem's request does not
fall on deaf ears. In the current turbulent economy, it's not easy
for companies to lend droves of cash to fund professional golf events.
Those who do should be appreciated
and celebrated. They deserve big names and the world's top players
making a point to play their event.
Moreover, increased participation may help a few smaller events stay on
the tour circuit in 2010 and beyond.
Players like Justin Leonard, Jim Furyk
and Steve Stricker have already responded to Finchem's request by
pledging support and they expect others to do the same. Leonard grasps
the importance of helping support
struggling events on the tour schedule.
"They've got a list of events that need
help to varying degrees," Leonard said Friday at the Chevron
World Challenge. "I'm sensitive to that. I'm going to play a couple of
events they asked me to play, and I'm
not going to play in a couple they asked me to play in. Bigger than that
is doing more at tournaments."
Leonard speaks to the idea Finchem and
the PGA will ask players to be more active at events when it comes
to appearances, sponsor meet-and-greets and pro-am events. What he fails
to address is that by showing up more at tournaments, players will do
more than help fund low-level tournaments; they'll be paying back fans
for their support.
To make a major understatement, times
are a bit tough for the American people right now. The economy is in
freefall, jobs are disappearing and there's no corporate bailout for
most Americans. The current economic
state resembles other struggles in our country's past. It's not
something we can't overcome, but that doesn't
make it fun to endure.
That said, PGA players and other
athletes owe fans as much as ever. It's their performances on the links,
fields and rinks that help brighten our weeks. Call sports trivial if
you'd like, but there's no denying the
major impacts in can have on the American psyche. Considering our
superstar athletes are able to live lives of
luxury most of us can only dream about, asking them to play a few extra
weekends in 2009 is a small request.
In making the request, Finchem is
suggesting that economic struggles could be ahead for the PGA Tour if
things don't change in 2009. Fewer tournaments, smaller pots and reduced
sponsorship are realities the tour
may have to face moving forward. That's why he's seeking help from the
game's greatest stars – Tiger Woods,
Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson – and others.
In some ways, it's reflective of our
economy as a whole. It's time for everyone to do a little bit more. The
lies with no one group, sports league or industry. The onus is on
everyone to pitch in and help out. And, yes,
that includes Tiger and Co.
Turkey. Check. Stuffing. Check. Pumpkin Pie. Check. Four iron. Check.
Hopefully that's an exaggeration and avid golfers around the world have
their clubs in the closet to spend quality time with friends and family.
But, it's understandable that those who love golf have the sport on
mind. It's been a while since we say major championship golf. It's been
while since that famous Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate duel at the U.S.
It's understandable if we're all craving some good old golf; whether
ourselves, or watching the greats.
Below is a list of five things to be thankful for looking ahead to 2009.
Hopefully it holds you over through the snow and the sleet. Happy
Thanksgiving to all.
1. Tiny Kim - Ladies and gentlemen the next great golfer has
Maybe you noticed last year, maybe you didn't, but Anthony Kim
most consistent golf from start to finish. Kim had high finishes
in each of
the four majors and kicked butt at the Ryder Cup. That said, I
could be called Kim's prelude. The main event will start this
year and in
the years ahead. Nobody should call him the next Tiger Woods,
call him the first Anthony Kim.
1. Back to Bethpage - Remember the 2002 U.S. Open when we all
about the great Bethpage Black? Remember when Sergio Garcia,
and Tiger Woods all dueled on Sunday at a major? Remember the
wind, the rain
and the gnarly grass? Anybody forget those rambunctious New York
fans? Remember the stories about how people could sleep in their
play the course for $25? I do. And, I'm sure you do as well.
coming back for 2009. That okay with everybody? Thought so.
1. More Rocco - He's older than most and he's as honest as the
Yeah, he took Tiger to extra holes but he also took golf fans
a ride last year. The guy deserves all the credit in the world
in there and finding his prime late in his career. It's a crime
didn't make the Ryder Cup team. Let's be thankful for karma, and
paid back in more great golf in 2009.
1. He roars once more - The greatest golfer ever to sneeze
didn't join us
for the last half of the year. It was a shame for everyone
Harrington. Whether you like Tiger Woods or not, do you realize
he won the
U.S. Open with a bad leg? I couldn't win the U.S. Open with two
legs and a
20 stroke handicap. This guy's so good for the sport it's
amazing. You can
find reasons not to like him or you can be thankful to live in
When it's all said and done, we'll have lived through the
ever and his unmatched dominance.
1. The unknown - It's always the stories you don't see coming
the best. For example, the J.P. Hayes story from last week. How
Weekley? These were guys and situations we couldn't predict.
There will be
more of them in 2009 and for that, we should all be very
Column 81--November 2008--Someone
Thank J.P. Hayes For Me!
The young golfer learned a hard lesson last week when he played an
golf ball during the second stage of the PGA Tour qualifying tournament
chose to police himself. A two-shot penalty eventually resulted in
disqualification from a tournament that directly impacted Hayes' chances
playing on the PGA Tour in '09.
Hayes claims its something any other player on tour would do. He said
was never a doubt in his mind about calling the penalty. It was the only
to uphold the integrity of the game.
Think about it. We're talking about one guy. One ball - that he used for
only two shots - and Hayes' is talking about the integrity of the game.
when this guy's wrong he's right.
Was it the right thing to do? Absolutely. He broke the rules, yet he
srengthend the USGA's faith in its players to make the right decisions.
it cost him? Absolutely. There's a good chance J.P. Hayes won't see a
big time golf events next year.
But, you can't step away from what this kid did. Nobody on the planet
have known he'd hit the wrong ball. Truth be told, the ball didn't
any sort of advantage, either. He hit an iron shot and a chip shot
realized. Chances are the guy makes par whether he's playing a Titleist
That said, what Hayes did strikes to the core of what people love about
- there's no referees. No judgement calls. There's right and there's
Think about the NFL season this year and all of its blown officiating
Look at how basketball coaches constantly question refrees' judgement.
other sports, there are times when you can wonder whether the correct
won the game.
In golf, that just doesn't happen. There are lines marking the bounds of
play. There are tees, a green and any number of yards of treachery in
between. The winner is the guy who hits the best shots for 72 holes.
there's millions of people watching each one. There's no judgement calls
when Tiger rolls in a 70-footer. There's no challenge review needed when
Sergio Garcia rips is 340 down the fairway. You hit it. You find it. You
it again. It's beautiful in its simplicity.
That's why people should be proud of Hayes. He gets the wonder of the
and he doesn't want to tarnish it. Someday, when his career is done,
look back and know that every accomplishment came fair and square. There
were no short cuts necessary. That shows character and it build pride.
That said, why not make a positive example out of this guy. Stop handing
exemptions to non-stop chaos like John Daly and get it to Hayes. People
should let him into some PGA event just for good karma. See what he's
of - see if he can qualify for major championships with the correct ball
Or, if nothing else, next time you see him. Slap him five. Give him a
He did us and the sport we love a huge favor.
2008--PGA Tour Has A Heart After All
Well, maybe the PGA Tour does have a heart.
Or, maybe it doesn't. Maybe it gave it to Erik Compton. Either way, it
appears the PGA Tour finally got it right when it comes to golfers using
Compton, a former Georgia All-American,
recently learned tour officials have granted his request to use a cart
during qualifying school to earn his tour card. Compton is only four
months removed from the second heart transplant of his young life. He
still lacks the endurance to walk a full round.
"I feel really
good about the news," Compton said, according to the Sun-Sentinel. "It
takes a lot of stress off me, and it gives me a realistic chance."
will play the first stage of qualifying from Oct. 21-24 at Crandon Golf
at Key Biscayne, Fla. He is a former No. 1 junior golfer who won on the
Canadian and Hooters Tours and played on the Nationwide Tour.
Compton told the newspaper that he has also
been granted a waiver to use a beta blocker, which is on the PGA Tour's
list of banned substances, because he needs it as part of his medication
It's all great news for Compton who will
now have a chance to pursue his dream of competing against the likes of
Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia on the PGA Tour. It's also a good sign
that the PGA Tour higher-ups may finally be learning how to rationalize
and care. Lord knows they weren't half as kind to Casey Martin over a
Martin, if you remember, could make golf
balls dance with wedges and was the kind of guy you'd want your sister
to date. All that said, Martin was hindered by a birth defect in his leg
which prevented him from walking. The PGA Tour never felt comfortable
granting him the right to use a cart. They hid behind claims that it
endangered the integrity of the game. They were stupid claims. But, they
kept Martin from his dream.
Fortunately, the PGA Tour is throwing up no
such obstacles for Compton who had his first heart transplant when he
was 12. Transplanted hearts last an average of 11 years, but his
survived for 16 before almost failing him last October. Now, with a new
heart, he'll head back to the links.
Compton hopes to build up his strength and
eventually be able to walk the course and compete in big time PGA
events. Here's hoping that if he ever gets there he calls up Martin and
offers a thank you. For it was Martin who exposed the ridiculousness of
the PGA when he eventually won his lawsuit and got the chance to
perform. Now, the golf coach at Oregon University, Martin never saw his
dreams become a reality, but he paved the way for guys like Compton. He
refused to take no for an answer. He refused to accept he wasn't good
enough for the PGA Tour. And, as a result, Martin ensured no other
golfer would ever have to face the same struggle.
The American's spectacular, inspiring, down-right
boisterous Ryder Cup win this weekend had nothing to do with those who
weren't there and everything to do with the young, steely newcomers
Paul Azinger chose to invite.
with coaching an American team that had been tormented in
recent events by European dominance, Azinger lucked out by having a
new faces on the team who were simply too young (Anthony Kim) or just
crazy (Boo Weekley) to care. Labeled as major underdogs to the likes of
Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, the American team put
a resounding 16 ½ - 11 ½. It was the kind of win that sets the tone for
next few...the Americans are young, hungry and capable of taking over
There's no one player you can point to as the catalyst for the
American's success. What these guys accomplished was truly a team
It took the hard work of 12 individuals for three days and gosh it was
you see Anthony Kim straight up dismantle Sergio Garcia on
Sunday? Garcia is one of the best Ryder Cup performers ever but he
handle the heat Kim was throwing his way. Kim's quickly becoming one of
best players on the planet and people should take notice. Look at his
stats and you'll be blown away. There's something special about the kid.
you spent time watching and listening to Boo Weekley take
down Valhalla Country Club in Kentucky. The extremely personable
guy shined at the Ryder Cup. The lasting image of his tournament may
be his Happy Gilmore dance but this guy hit clutch, picturesque shots
throughout the event.
credit to Hunter Mahan who hung in there for a half-point
against Paul Casey on Sunday. I pointed to it as the match that would
things. If the Americans could get at least half a point there, they'd
Mahan came up huge against the steely Casey.
were others, so may others, like Justin Leonard, Phil
Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Chad Campbell who hit big shots at big times to
keep the whole thing going. Right from the start of the event it seemed
the Americans had some mojo. They used the next two days to show their
swagger, heart and talent. This win will not soon be forgotten. It won't
have the lasting image of Leonard rolling in a crazy-long putt and the
Americans going nuts on the 18th green like the last American victory...
...but we'll always be able to look back on Weekley's dance moves.
#78-September 2008--Harbour Town
A simple goal. A breathtaking golf course. And, 18
holes in between.
pretty much sums up the position I found myself in last week down in
Hilton Head Island when I took to the first tee of theworld-famous
Harbour Town Golf Course. Golf fans probably recognize it
better as the course that hosts the Verizon Heritage golf tournament
every year. It's the course with the famous 18th hole that runs along
the oceanwith the lighthouse behind the green. It's where Davis Love,
Nick Faldo and
Jack Nicklaus have notched career victories. It's where I and two
life-long friends chose to spend last Tuesday afternoon.
simple goal as I stood on the tee - to break 100 from thetips. It sounds
simple. Shoot less than 27-over and you're all set. But, take one look
at the wicked bunkers and small greens and it gets a lot
harder. Then, remember you're playing from where the pros tee it up.
That makes the holes a lot longer.
help, too. Not only were my best buds along to keep me loose. But,
Jimmy, a certified caddy at the course was spending the day with us. He
was there to help us understand the shape of the holes and how our
putts would break.
was a great guy. But it only took a few holes for him to realize he was
working with three guys who make birdies about as often as you see a
solar eclipse. On the first hole he instructed us to hit it over
the bunker at 235 yards out to the left side but to keep it low to avoid
trees. On the last hole, he said something like, "Eh, just try and aim
for the lighthouse boys."
Things started rough for each of us. While Jimmy had told us to keep it
left, we all went right. I went way right and had to punch out. Then I
flew it over the green. Chipped on and three putted. It was a glorious
all, we each mustered a par a piece. I notched the core on the Par-3
seventh hole. The rest of the holes beat me to smithereens. I was left,
right and everywhere in between.
funny though - play a course like Harbour Town and sixes and sevens
don't hurt so much. You're too busy admiring the ocean, the trees and
the unbelievable architecture to worry that much about your score. Hit
it near a water hazard and you may be to busy watching out for
alligators to take a good swing. It all makes it a surreal place. The
kind of course that makes you fall back in love with golf.
we made the turn I had carded a 52. I felt good about my chances because
I'd started horrible and played pretty well on the last few holes of the
front. I think I finished par, double, bogey. The ball was starting to
fly a bit better and I'd found my swing, so to speak.
However, things kind of got crazy after that. Doubles and triples came
in bunches as water hazard ate my balls like delicious treats. On
the Par-3 14th, I hit the ball so far right I was actually missed the
huge water hazard that ran along the green. A quick boat ride over and I
was hitting over a river full of gators toward the hole.
the end, I fell short of my goal. I carded a 106. Nothing that's going
to get me an invite to next year's tournament. In fact, neither of my
friends were able to break 100 either. It was a day full of shanks,
laughs and incredible memories.
much fun as it is to play our local courses where we can get to pins and
flirt with driving short Par-4's, sometimes it's a good old butt-kicking
from an incredible course that reminds you why you love the game. There
was no frustration last Tuesday. Only admiration for an incredible
course. We lost ourselves in the game of golf and never really
worried about the score.
also got to play a course that few people ever get to see. Every
year we'll be able to watch a famous golf tournament and no we were
there. Sure, Sergio Garcia might hit Driver, 8-iron into the 18th green.
hit driver, five-iron, 8-iron, wedge...big deal. It's not like it was
entirely my fault anyway...Jimmy told me to aim for the lighthouse.
Not Proper Venue For Golf
There have been rumblings lately about how golf
could be an Olympic sport starting in 2012...here's hoping they're soon
quelled. No offense to the Olympics, but golf is doing just fine
with out you. Honestly, in what way could being in the Olympics
strengthen golf? Don't tell me how it would bring together the
world's best players for a week of competition. Please, I get that at
least four time a year with the major championships. Add in The Players
Championship, the FedEx Cup and the Ryder Cup and I actually see it even
more. Don't tell me it'll help me learn about great international
players. Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy are from Australia. Vijay Singh is
from Fiji. Retief Goosen hails from South Africa. Sergio Garcia
claims Spain. Tiger Woods is from America. I see the best in the world
all the time, every year.
It's not that being in the Olympics would hurt golf,
but what's the point? How would you set it up? Would golfers care about
this more than The Masters? I think not. Golf is blessed to
have the best players in the world competing
against each other every week. It's sort of like that in
basketball, but it's not like that in hundreds of other sports. The
economics and logistics of other sports make it impossible. Golf makes
it a reality every week.
It's also better for the rest of the Olympics. How
often does swimming get to take center stage in the sporting world?
Same goes for gymnastics, track and field and anything bobsled related.
This is a chance for so many others to shine. Guys like Tiger, Phil and
Sergio don't need another week of that. They're already
out-of-this-world stars as is. They represent their countries proudly
all the time. They're happy to sit back and watch Michael Phelps get it
done for a few weeks in the pool.
It's not to knock the
Olympics. It's to help it. Keep golf out. Golf's just fine on its
Use the Olympics to celebrate sports and athletes we
#76-July 2008--Paddy Harrington Way Too Non-Hollywood
If Hollywood had its way, Padraig Harrington would
won last week's British Open.
about it, Harrington's plot and story wasn't as
stomach-churning, inspirational or pure amazing as anybody else's within
sniff of the lead.
was 53-year old Greg Norman; one of the biggest names ever
to play golf and a fan favorite world wide. Norman took the 54-hole lead
into Sunday and just couldn't quite hold on. Had he been able to win,
have been the oldest major champion ever. He'd have one the British Open
again, more than 20 years since his first victory in 1986. It would have
connected golf fans worldwide and redefined just when a player's career
truly over. Sadly, a Sunday-clunker of a round left him tied for third.
was David Duval; back from the dead. The guy's hardly
played at all this year and fallen off the face of the planet since
the No. 1 ranked player in the world in 2001. If not for a Saturday
this tournament could have been his for the taking. He'd have won his
major championship, ensured numerous exemptions and all but locked up
Player of the Year honors in a single weekend. It would have given
worldwide a chance to delve into the mysterious man. That said, he too
there was Ian Poulter; everyone's favorite golfer in neon
colors. He put together the best charge Sunday and seemed to have
working. At one point, he looked as if the world's best dresser was
going to start making a claim for world's best golfer. This guy's one of
biggest brands in golf and he'd never even really threatened at a major
until this week. We all know he's good with plaids and pink, but we were
given a glimpse of what he can do with putters and pure passion this
He's evolving into a world-class player. The 2008 British Open could
been the realization of that...it wasn't.
was amateur Chris Wood. Smiling and birdying his way
around Royal Birkdale like a player with far, far more experience. We
have watched the kid win and then not be able to accept the check. We
have seen something we never see, an amateur win a major championship.
watched, we waited, we never saw it.
Instead, we saw Padraig Harrington, the previous year's
champion, hit all the right shots at the right time on Sunday. He didn't
the field by any stretch of the imagination. But, after his second shot
the Par-5 17th, all the suspense was gone. This was Harrington's
This was Claret Jug number two. And, personally, considering all the
guys out there, this was a bit boring.
disrespect to Harrington who seems as nice and warm as fresh
bread. But, he just didn't have the razzle-dazzle story line so many
around him did. I wasn't dying to see him win. What was so special about
him? I asked myself.
in that sense, I got an answer. What's special about
Harrington is he's won back-to-back Open Championships. That's like
the lottery, twice. It's next to impossible, especially in the
era. Harrington isn't flashy. He's talented. He smiles. He cares so much
about the game of golf it oozes out of him. There's nothing wrong with
watching Harrington win, it just wasn't the story line we all dreamed
no, we didn't get our Hollywood ending. We got the right
ending. We got a fitting champion in Harrington. We got four days of
golf. And, we got further evidence that Harrington is a true, unique
in the sport.
I'm taking a
break this week from my usually-exhausting writing schedule. My
buddy, Mo' Golf, has been
squirting some weird foamy stuff on his clubs to clean out the dirt.
He sent me this press release on
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH (June 12, 2008) -
FiZ, the "scientific spit shine" that has quickly gained acclaim as
the preeminent grip and golf club cleaner in the golf industry, has made
a major move in the retail segment by signing with Edwin Watts Golf to
have the revolutionary product carried in 28 Edwin Watts Golf stores in
Edwin Watts Golf will feature FiZ in its Florida stores in Naples,
Orlando (2 locations), Jacksonville Beach, Jacksonville (2 locations),
Sarasota, Fort Walton Beach, Ft. Lauderdale (2 locations), Brandon,
Kissimmee, Tampa, North Miami Beach, Orange Park and Palm Beach Gardens.
Edwin Watts Golf will also sell FiZ at its stores in Marietta, Ga. and
Memphis, TN. Texas golfers will remember to buy FiZ at the Watts
locations in San Antonio and Round Rock. In North Carolina, FiZ will
shine brightly in Concord and Charlotte (2 locations). FiZ will also be
available in Edwin Watts stores in Massachusetts in five cities:
Hanover, Attleboro, Hyannis, Mashpee and Weymouth.
FiZ is also sold on the Edwin Watts web site,
But why has a major retailer like Edwin Watts Golf made such a big
commitment to such a small (5 inches tall, 1 inch in diameter) product?
BECAUSE IT WORKS! And, as has been proven many times, big things come in
"FiZ is the best cleaner in the golf business," says Steve Tillis of the
Edwin Watts Golf store in Jacksonville Beach, FL. "It is a super simple
design that keeps your gear clean, period. With today's economy, an
innovative, exciting, high volume item at $9.99 does great at the
That greatness isn't just at the register, of course. It's primarily on
the golf course and in the hands of the user. That's why FiZ is on track
to do more than $1 million in sales for 2008, its inaugural year. Since
its debut this past January at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, FiZ
has already moved onto the shelves of such leading retailers as
Golfsmith, Haggin Oaks, Golf Etc. and others, in addition to Edwin Watts
Golf. Green grass accounts are flocking to the product daily.
International distributors are as wide ranging as the word
"International" implies, including those in the U.S., Canada, Iceland,
Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, South Korea, Asia and Indonesia.
Future expansion plans are expected to be announced in the near future.
"We are exceptionally pleased that a prestigious retailer such as Edwin
Watts Golf has realized the value, both in performance and price, of FiZ,"
says Aaron Heap, Founder and President of FizGOLF, the parent company of
FiZ. "This is another important step in our rapidly expanding business.
We look forward to a long and prosperous association with Watts Golf,
both with our current product and those products in development that we
expect to introduce later this summer."
All FiZGOLF products are being marketed under the banner "Clean Up Your
Game", which is exactly what Fiz does in delivering maximum results for
a golfer's shots. FiZ, which combines a Co2 cartridge ball, grip and
club cleaner with a revolutionary design, is scientifically formulated
to dissolve dirt and eliminate grass stains.
FiZ, which gets its name from the "fizzing" sound made when its sprayed
on surfaces, employs a solution of 98% water and 2% lifting agent that
is more efficient in its purpose than any wet golf towel or well-known
orally expelled body fluid could ever hope to be. Multiple small
polypropylene bristles at the bottom of the cylinder get between
clubface grooves and ball dimples to create precision contact and ball
FiZ is self-contained with its own bag clip and cleaning bristles. It
lasts for more than 350 sprays or over 100 holes of golf.
FiZ is made from 100% recyclable aluminum and plastic and can easily be
hung from golf bags for convenient access and use. FiZ is designed to
incorporate logos on each side of the cap, making it an ideal gift bag
item or tee prize.
"FiZ will give you a clean ball and a clean club face that will add the
distance and accuracy to your game that dirty golf equipment subtracts,"
says Heap, who invented the patented and revolutionary Seven2 kayak
paddle nearly a decade ago. "Grime in the grooves of a club and grass
stains and dirt on golf balls can add strokes that no golfer wants to
see at the end of a round.
"Golf is a hard enough game, but using FiZ makes it easier," adds Heap.
"Everyone wants pristine conditions on the courses they play and the
same mindset should apply to their golf equipment. FiZ makes equipment
FizGOLF is headquartered in Salt Lake City, UT. To become a FiZGOLF
dealer or to place an order call 801.355.5300 or email the company at
email@example.com. You can also go to its web site at
www.fizgolf.com. For media contact Mary Deatrick at 407 332-5212.
Cup Preview And Predictions
It'll be about as hard as frying eggs on high heat
in a non-stick pan for me
to find some strong rooting interests at this year's Porter Cup at
Falls Country Club. The prestigious amateur tournament will celebrate
th anniversary in style this year when over 100 of the best young
the world visit the fabled golf course.
First, there are the local kids who you've just got to love. Let's start
with Jamie Miller who qualified by winning the 2007 Buffalo District
Championship. I used to play high school golf with this kid and he
the tar out of me time and time again. Nice kid. Great swing. Good
Brian Pavlock, another young golf talent of the time who grew up in my
hometown of Salamanca. And, he always wore something spunky. That's
to get my vote.
Another local guy worth watching is Chris Stoddard. A bit younger than
Stoddard grew up in Jamestown, N.Y. and currently plays for my alma
St. Bonaventure University. I used to play with his brother in high
golf. In fact, Chris' older brother was with me the day I recorded my
hole-in-one at Elkdale Country Club. Hopefully, I can send a bit of good
karma back at the Stoddard family if I get the chance to follow his
a couple weeks.
The other category of golfers worth pulling for this week is the Drew
category. As many golf fans will remember, Weaver is the young talent
currently a senior at Virginia Tech University. Weaver was less than a
wedge away from the awful, violent tragedy that befell Virginia Tech
April and left 32 people dead. Weaver played in last year's British Open
a symbol of the school moving forward. The school's insignia was also
on his bag when he walked Augusta at the 2008 Masters earlier this year.
He's a symbol of the courage and strength of the university and the
befallen by the tragedy. If this guy walked away with the Porter Cup
in a few weeks, I'd be nothing but smiles.
Next, I'd like to point out a few guys who I'll be rooting for just
they fall into my alphabet soup category. Julian Etulain, Rohan Blizard,
Bank Vongvanij? These guys' names are just awesome. Some of them sound
ice cream flavors. Others sound like exotic, extinct flowers. I'd root
walrus with a putter if he had a name like this. And let's be honest, it
doesn't hurt to have an uncommon name if you're a golfer. Last I checked
best one on the planet signs his checks with five letters that
Finally, I think it's worth nothing I'll be pulling for Billy Hosrschel,
senior at the University of Florida and last year's fifth place
yourself a favor and watch this guy play during the week. He's got
mojo and fire in his veins. Every shot for Horschel is an event. If it's
good - he'll be pumped. If it's bad - he'll be distraught. And, he wears
emotions on his sleeve so you'll always know how he feels about his
It's great if you ask me. It's the same reason I love Sergio Garcia.
be afraid to throw it all out there and be yourself. Trust me, this
going to be a name on tour in no time. He's got that kind of game. He's
got enough game to rack up a win at this year's Porter Cup.
And, that my friends, is why they'll be etching Horschel on this year's
Fine Letters For Which We Are Grateful
The site doesn't receive a ton of email. We'd
love to get more, but we understand that you are busy. However, we
do have two recent arrivals that we'd like to share with you, in
gratitude. The first references a Travelin' Duff
column on Tiger Woods,
while the second is a poignant note from
a mother most proud
of her son:
Dear Mr. Duff:
I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your latest column,
and that I totally agree with your portrayal of Tiger Woods as a
So many sports figures these days are sorry role models for our
young, but Tiger's determination and old-fashioned "intestinal
fortitude" were shining examples of the BEST one can aspire to.
I wish him well -- I hope the surgery goes well, and his recovery
is swift and uneventful. This year's U.S. Open will surely be a
tough act to follow!
I liked the points you made about how professional golfers differ
from other athletes, in that they have to constantly qualify, and
don't get paid if they don't do well -- what a concept!!!
Chad is my son and what a beautiful article you wrote. I hadn't
the article or those pictures and while they brought me to tears, I was
so happy to see Chad doing what he loved - golf. My cousin's
Tim Noonan, forwarded the article to my husband who in turn forwarded it
to me. Tears aplenty but I love seeing Chad, reading about him,
his name, anything to keep his memory alive. He touched so many
I hope all who got the chance to experience Chad will live as he did...
loving life and sharing his smile.
To donate in Chad's memory to Carly's Club,
please go here.
Talk About Rocco
The first thing I'd have done if I bumped into Rocco
after he lost the 2008 U.S. Open on the 91st hole of competition is
him a beer. Something cold and delicious, something fitting for a
Look, 5, 10, 27, 100 years from now, they're going to look back
at this as Tiger's greatest feat. The major he won with one knee. The
that he wouldn't let get away despite pain that almost knocked him to
tootsie whenever he hit driver. And that's fine. Tiger deserves it.
However, if I ever have a grandchild who wants to know about the
2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, I'll talk about Rocco Mediate. No, his
isn't etched in the annals of history. He's still never won a major.
did something so few people ever do...he made Tiger Woods sweat.
about it, until Monday, the only guy who ever dared to
truly test Woods when he had the lead going into the final round of a
was Bob May. May took Tiger to three playoff holes before bowing out.
impressive, but Mediate took Tiger to 19 extra holes. Twice, Mediate
Tiger to make testy putts on 18 to stay in it. Twice, Woods did just
be told, there were no losers yesterday. Golf fans won.
The sport of golf won. Torrey Pines won. Tiger Woods won. And, yes,
Mediate won. He won countless golf fans who love his down-to-earth,
go-for-broke attitude. He won a whale of money. And, he won Tiger Woods'
Tiger's all smiles now. But, trust me, he never thought he'd
have to work so hard for this one. He probably figured he'd have Mediate
life support before they made the turn. Sure, Mediate could play well,
not in the eye of the tiger. Now with all the pressure and limelight on.
in the U.S. Open playoff round. No, to Tiger, that's always his time.
as all great underdogs come to do, Mediate reminded us that
there's no rule that says you have to lose. Nowhere is it etched that we
have to bow down to the giants of sport. Tiger Woods may go down as the
greatest golfer ever to breathe, but Mediate didn't have to let him be
greatest golfer today.
he came so close to fulfilling his destiny. After falling
behind by two at the turn, Mediate roared back with back-nine birdies
took a one-shot lead into 18. He made par and needed Tiger simply to
him. Unfortunately, as Woods always does, he did a bit more and forced a
sudden death playoff. A wayward tee shot and poor pitch later, and
finally had to accept his fate.
Still, he did what we've been begging so many greater talents to
do for what feels like ages...challenge Eldrick. Look him in the eyes.
to miss your putts. Will the ball in the hole. Spit back at Tiger's
Mediate didn't win and he won't be remembered as the 2008
U.S. Open Championship. But, he will be remembered, as one guy who
to go quietly. He might be remembered as Tiger's greatest challenger.
one who refused to be a doormat on the way to greatness.
maybe he'll even inspire a few guys by the name of Sergio,
Phil, Adam, Geoff and Jim Furyk to do the same.
you like Tiger's chances?
Absolutely not. No way. Zip, zilch zero. Not in a
million years. Not even if
all the golf Gods shine upon him.
That is exactly how I would respond to anyone who asked me if I expect
Woods to win the U.S. Open this week. Woods may be the greatest golfer
the world but winning the toughest golf tournament in the world after a
two-month lay-off requires even more than that.
Sure, Woods is the people's choice. The guy could not play for two years
show up at the 2010 championship and probably still be the people's
But, those who know golf and know the incredible challenge that is the
Open know it requires more than just being Tiger to win this week.
For starters, this isn't the Torrey Pines Woods has dominated for years
the Buick Open. It's the same course in name, but it's been lengthened,
beefed up, grown out and turned into a monster of a challenge. Whoever
this week is going to have to go through golf's version of hell. The
Open beats people up, slaps them on the head and then spits out a
It's not about grace and beauty this week, it's about pure survival.
Second, there are guys so ready for this tournament it hurts. Think
Garcia's confidence isn't through the roof. Think Mickelson isn't pumped
be playing in front of the hometown fans. Anybody remember how Jim Furyk
always (and I mean always) shows up for U.S. Opens. These guys are
and they know they only get so many tournaments with a wounded Tiger in
field. They're well aware the odds are a bit more in their favor this
Most importantly, Woods just isn't prepared to win. He hasn't played
the Masters. He had his second arthroscopic knee surgery in five years.
a bit rusty. A bit banged up. And, he's not in national championship
There's just no way he's ready to win this event.
He did this before, remember? His father passed away a couple years ago
he didn't play from the Masters to the U.S. Open. No doubt, we can all
understand his need to take off that time....but, he still missed the
Winged Foot. He wasn't 100 percent prepared...and you need to be to win
Will he make the cut this week? I'd bet yes. But, I'm not sure. It's
not that easy. Even the greatest of all-time isn't superhuman. He's the
greatest golfer ever, but a bum knee can still get to him. A challenging
course can still humble him.
This is Tiger's era. It's his time and he's making the most of it.
he's done he'll have upwards of 20 major titles and all the records in
book. However, it's just not his week.
#70-May 2008--On Sergio
May the flood gates open. May putts continue to
fall. May this finally be the beginning of Sergio Garcia
realizing his true potential.
Garcia notched his 2008 Players Championship victory with a par on the
first playoff hole over Paul Goydos Sunday, he may have also turned the
corner in his career. Sure, Garcia's won before. He's contended
countless times. He's had his heartbroken at a similar clip. However, he
finally won the big one. And, while it was merely average the first
three days, his putter was a big reason why on Sunday.
never shied away from my fan-interest in Sergio Garcia. Something
about his swash-buckling, heart-on-the-sleeve game has always intrigued
me. And, as a result, I've always rooted for him.
finally, Garcia and his many followers were rewarded Sunday. Some of you
may remember the Sports Illustrated article some 10 years ago talking
about how then 18-year-old Garcia would be able to contend
with Tiger on a regular basis. That's incredible pressure to put on a
kid. And, due to his inconsistent putter, Garcia's never fully lived up
to the standards set for him. However, maybe that changes now.
the Players isn't a major. No, Woods wasn't in the field. But,
it's still arguably the deepest field in all of golf. Mickelson, Els,
Singh and Goydos...yes, Goydos were all there with a chance to win. And,
outshined them all. This is the kind of win that changes a guy's career.
This is the kind of win that can give Garcia the confidence to go win a
couple Claret Jugs, a green jacket and maybe even an U.S. Open someday.
came at the right time too. Listen to Garcia's post-tournament press
conference. That's not the same Garcia we knew three years ago. There's
a maturity in his voice. An understanding that nothing is going to come
easy...and his hard work can pay off. Heck, for a guy who hadn't won in
three years, Garcia was actually on the cusp of being irrelevant in
the golf world. After Sunday, he can stop worrying about that.
thing about Garcia is that people haven't always felt bad for him. While
he's had to deal with a lot of disappointment, he's also been cocky,
whiny and a bit immature. That's what happens when we ask kids in
their late-teens and early-20s to handle the pressure and expectations
that come with celebrity. That's what happens when everybody tells you
how good you are but the scores don't quite back it up.
I've always loved Garcia. He's the feisty underdog. The flawed hero. He
is not an elite putter. But, he's such an incredible ball-striker that
he can overcome it. He's also a hard worker. You can't snap your fingers
and putt better. Garcia's spent hours working with short game coach Stan
Utley this year. Eight one-putt greens on Sunday would
suggest its paying off.
the end, people will look back on this victory to establish what it
meant to Garcia. If he goes on to win a dozen majors, this will be where
it started. If he returns to winning once every three years, it'll be
remembered as one good week. Here's hoping it's the former. Here's
hoping the kid finally becomes the man. Here's hoping Tiger finally has
willing to look him in the eyes and not blink. Here's hoping it's
finally Sergio's time.
#69-May 2008--Senior PGA Championship at Oak
Hill Gets Mouth a'wishing
There are a number of well wishes I have for Western
New York and a few of my favorite
would rank in the following order...
1. Keep the Buffalo Bills forever and win
Super Bowl from time-to-time
2. Long-term prosperity
3. A golf course venue capable of a PGA
I'm not one to believe any of these are out of reach and I'll knock
who says the Bills are leaving with the nearest four-iron. However, I
understand that at the current time, we don't have a golf course venue
capable of such an event.
That said, there is a golf course about 60 miles to our West with as
golf history and championship caliber as the best of them. Oak Hill
Club, home to this year's Senior PGA Championship, has hosted U.S.
PGA Championships, Ryder Cups and U.S. Amateur Championships. The course
had everyone from Jack Nicklaus to Tiger Woods walk its majestic
Once again it will help anoint a champion when the senior's event takes
place May 19-25. Tickets are still available and great players like Ben
Crenshaw, Raymond Floyd, Bernhard Langer and Gary Player will be in our
It's worth looking into if for no other reason than the course is
spectacular. The first pro-event I ever went to was the 2003 PGA
Championship at Oak Hill. I walked the course for a practice round and
able to see so many of my favorite golfers. Shaun Micheel would go on to
The course is a Par-70 monster with two Par 5's and a Par 3 15th that
requires about as perfect a shot as you can hit to get it near the pin.
There's also a number of holes with undulation, hazards and bunkering
have been around for ages.
It's the perfect mix. Great players and an even greater golf course.
importantly, it takes about as long as some people's morning commute to
check it out. And, even though Buffalo is nowhere near close to being
to stake claim to its own professional golf events, it's nice to know
PGA hasn't forgotten about the golf gems of Central and Western New
2013, the PGA will bring its own championship back to Oak Hill for
at The Masters, or Cuts & Bruises Day
Excuse me while I dust off a few cuts, scrapes and
was painful, wasn't it? Watching the world's greatest
golfers get beat silly by Augusta National Golf Course. As CBS Golf
Nick Faldo said early on Sunday afternoon, "I can't tell you which
going to finish with the lowest score, but I can tell you Augusta is
to win today."
was right. With no disrespect to Trevor Immelman, who won the
Masters fair, square and impressively, Sunday at Augusta was ugly. Guys
Jim Furyk, Vijay Singh and even Tiger Woods walked off the 18th looking
like Rocky Balboa after 12 rounds with Apollo Creed than Jack Nicklaus
18 lovely holes.
in being such a bear, Augusta National ripped out all the
Sunday drama we've come to expect. Patrons at the course and fans
worldwide kept waiting for someone, anyone to make a charge. Nobody did.
They all backed up and made bogeys at will. Most of us knew Immelman
wear the green jacket after about an hour of TV coverage on Sunday.
That's not to say it was all bad. Immelman's a great young
talent who may win more than his fair share of major championships.
kept waiting for him to blink or choke - he never did. He made a few
along the way, but always bounced back with an answer. Take the winds
on Sunday and he might just have become the first player to card four
in the 60's at The Masters.
there was Brandt Snedeker, thank god for Snedeker. America
may not have only discovered its next great young golfer this past
but also the most humble, fun-loving guy on the planet. I never thought
somebody could smile as much as Phil Mickelson does on the golf course.
Snedeker does. He smiles after birdies, bogeys and shark attacks. This
played miserable on Sunday, lost the Masters and still couldn't seem to
that grin off of his face. It's like he still hasn't forgotten hat he
to play golf for a living.
was Tiger Woods. Isn't there always Tiger Woods? Contrary
to what most of the media will tell you, Woods did not lose this golf
tournament, Trevor Immelman won it. The 96 greatest golfers in the world
came to Augusta last weekend. He finished alone in second-place. It was
anything but a disappointing performance. The guy's incredible. The
going to break every record in golf. Let's leave him be when he misses a
couple putts and only musters a second place finish in one of the most
challenging golf tournaments ever.
that said, something was missing from the Masters this year.
This was more like the year Mike Weir won with a playoff-bogey than when
Mickelson made a did-you-just-see-that Sunday charge. This was a Sunday
snooze, not a Sunday roar. This was the U.S. Open, not the Masters.
years, I've said the U.S. Open is my favorite golf
tournament because it makes par a good, and quite possibly, winning
Only at the U.S. Open can you see guys never make a birdie and still
well for the tournament. However, due to the changes at Augusta
The Masters is becoming very resembling of our national championship.
for some reason, it's not as enjoyable.
Masters is supposed to be about mastery. It's supposed to be
about breathtaking shots, back-nine charges and prestige. I'm fine with
underdogs and relative unknowns winning the Masters, but I'm not so fond
these Sunday beat-downs. The past two Masters have been more about
than success. That doesn't take away from what Immelman and Zach Johnson
have accomplished. If anything, it emboldens it. However, it takes
away from the fans, who've come to look at The Masters as the return of
spring. A chance to kick back and watch great golf. We got that this
and we got a deserving champion - but all the guts, glory, drama and
prestige were missing on Sunday. And, it wasn't just the high winds that
took them away.
# 67-April 2008--Saturday at the Masters, or AHMNPTW
The third day of the Masters is called moving day
players. For fans and idiots like me, it's
Coming into this tournament I picked Geoff Ogilvy, Zach
Johnson and Padraig Harrington. All three guys made the cut, but none of
them are in serious contention after two days. I also claimed that Phil
Mickelson and Sergio Garcia would not play well. I was half right;
opening 76 killed him. Mickelson, on the other hand, is playing nearly
flawless golf. He's currently three-off the lead heading into the third
What's my point? None of us can ever truly predict what's
going to happen in major championship golf. Everybody who was talking
vs. the field and/or Tiger and the grand slam looks to be a bit off.
45 holes, Woods needs a flurry of birdies to get back into the picture.
I'm not saying he can't do it...I'm just saying, you never know.
Instead, two rounds at Augusta have given us the names of
Trevor Immelman, Brandt Snedker, Ian Poulter, Phil Mickelson and Paul
Poulter, you may remember, said something along the lines of, 'once I
playing as well as I can, it's just going to be me in the conversation
Tiger Woods' earlier this year. Now, he's backing it up. This is the
major championship he's played in since those comments and he's beating
Woods and keeping himself in contention for the tournament.
I've always been a Poulter fan. He's obviously got a lot of
confidence and he's one of the boldest dressers on tour. Looking at the
current leader board, I'll take Poulter to win it. That's not to say the
other guys can't get it done. Immelman's tough as steel and playing
Snedeker's young, talented and spends such little time over the ball
he's probably to busy to be nervous. Mickelson? Well, his two green
can do the talking.
So yes, we've come to day three - a chance to reevaluate the
field and a chance to rethink who just might win this thing. Many of the
familiar names and faces are around for the weekend, and we've got some
other new names to spice it up as well.
There are really only two certainties we can accept as we
watch the Masters.
1. It's going to a weekend to remember.
2. We have no idea what's going to
Check back tomorrow for The Mouth's end of Masters wrap-up.
# 66-March 2008--Ernie
Els Becomes The Man We Thought Tiger Would Become
In a lot of ways, it is the things we don't plan on
that come to define our lives.
people, the struggles and the challenges life surprises us
with help us discover our true mettle. If that rings true for any golfer
right now, it's got to be Ernie Els who publicly announced his son, Ben,
suffers from a strong form of autism earlier this week.
You've got to imagine Ernie Els never thought he'd have someone
stitch the "Autism Speaks" logo on his golf bag one day. There had to be
days when Els thought the worst thing in life was a bad lie in a
there he was earlier this week, fielding questions about
autism after a day of golf at the PGA Tour's PODS Championship.
Els, his family has kept the diagnosis private of the past few years.
feel comfortable talking about it now," Els told the
Associated Press after he missed the cut Friday in the PODS
"I've got a bit of a profile where it will grab attention. That's what
problem needs. And with that, hopefully, more people will get involved
we can start getting to what causes it and what can be done to help it."
definition, autism is a psychiatric disorder characterized by
marked deficits in communication and social interaction. About one in
150 children is diagnosed with some form of the disease. Els openly
that his five-year-old Ben suffers from a severe form of the disease.
noble and it's expected that Els would now join in the
fight against this disease. However, it's a bit cheap for others to talk
about the value his fame will bring to the cause. Sure, people of fame
influence hold the ability to draw extra support and rally others. But
fathers also have the ability to ache for their sons, and one shouldn't
overlook the difficulties the disease poses for Ben, Ernie and the rest
the Els family.
any family will tell you, it's not easy. And it's a change
of life, a change of priorities. You've got to be ready for it. And it's
happening more often," Els said. "I never knew about it, never thought
it, until it's in your lap."
pain must have drowned out the losses Els was taking on the
course over the past few years. He experienced over a three-year victory
drought on the PGA Tour that he broke at last week's Honda Championship.
He's finished second to Tiger Woods in more majors than he cares to
remember. Publicly, people spoke about how he might be losing his game.
Through it all, Els was privately dealing with Ben's disease.
And, now he's ready to bring that fight into the public eye. Having
in South Africa and having a schedule which takes him around the world,
is no doubt capable of becoming an international spokesperson.
"We've been taking our time and trying to assess what we need to
do, what we want to do," Els said. "We're doing a lot for Ben. But there
a lot of kids like him out there, and worse than him. We're in a
position where money is not a real problem for our family. We can get
the right help. Some people are not in the same position. We'd like to
money for the poor."
Wouldn't it be something if
one of the greatest golfers ever ended
up being remembered for what he did to fight autism? Els might just be
to do it. While still more than capable of winning golf tournaments, his
younger years are behind him. Soon, he'll need challenges that extend
the golf course.
said, there will no doubt come a time this season when Els
bogeys 17 and ends up finishing second in some tournament. Writers
criticize his club selection. Fans will doubt his poise.
Els? Well, he'll simply put it in perspective and head home
to his wife and children. Els has learned the hard way that there's more
life than golf. He's blessed to be a father. And now, he's ready to take
a challenge he never saw coming. One he might just be able to knock out
like nobody before him.
# 65-March 2008--Boo Weekley: Traditional Warrior
for a New World
Somewhere, golf traditionalists who harp on
like 'the purity of the game," and "the way the sport was meant to be
played," have to be missing Casey Martin and his golf cart. Martin, his
leg and the idea of riding around the golf course is probably a heck of
lot easier for golf traditionalists to swallow than the myth, man and
that is becoming Boo Weekley.
Consider for a moment, that in the past year alone, Weekley
tried to board a plane with bullets in his luggage, got Sergio Garcia
disqualified from a major tournament, wore camouflaged clothes on the
and admitted he didn't know a player could concede someone else a putt
that doesn't let you in on it, let's just say, Weekley is not
your average player. According to an inside source who worked at the
Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links where Weekley won his first career
tournament last year, the first thing he wanted to do after the victory
go fishing. There are also numerous public accounts of how the man once
wrestled an orangutan at a state fair. It gets a little murky when
start talking about how actually won the wrestling match.
that said, Weekley sure does know how to swing a golf club.
The guy's gone from a relative unknown to one of the best 50 players on
planet in less than a year. Along with the win at the Heritage, Weekley
performed well at last year's British Open. More recently, he downed
Garcia in the World Match Play Championships 3 and 1. He eventually
in 9th position out of the field of 64. He's got two other top 10's on
sheet this year as well.
all that on your resume, the win over Garcia resonates
unique. Perhaps there's no better foil for Weekley than Garcia. The two
about as different as elevators and inner tubes. Garcia grew up in
student of the game who has been a star since he was 19. He drives fast
and dates celebrities. The only thing missing from his resume is a major
championship. Weekley grew up in rural America, where hunting and
feats garner a lot more respect than knocking it stiff from the rough.
admits he doesn't enjoy watching golf and doesn't really know all the
Still, all their differences, the two seem linked in some odd
way. Last year at the 2007 PGA Championship, Weekley wrote the incorrect
score on Garcia's card. Garcia, failing to check it closely, signed the
and was disqualified. Amazingly, the two were paired together later in
year and it almost happened again but Garcia caught it. Garcia had to be
hoping to enforce his will on Weekley a few weeks ago at the World Match
Play Championship. It didn't happen. Weekley made 6 birdies over the
holes to take the match.
Things like scores and rules just don't seem to faze Weekley. He
tees it up and whacks it and hopes things turn out alright. Come April,
he'll play in the first Masters of his career. Then, he'll head to
Town to defend last year's title which he won by chipping in twice in
last few holes. While there's no guarantee he'll play well at either
fans can be sure he'll leave his mark on the event. Be it with odd
funny sayings, or non-golf traditional conduct, Weekley lives his own
At another match in the World Match Plays, he admitted he didn't know
could let someone pick up a putt in match play.
That's what makes Weekley so fun to watch. He's almost capable
of doing anything with a golf club. And, he's surely capable of anything
of it. He's the kind of guy who gives golf traditionalists
he's probably never even heard of a golf cart.
# 64-February 2008--Outrageous Opening To 2008 Tour
Can we just go ahead and label this season as the
year of outlandish things?
just look at a few of the best quotes from the opening month of the 2008
PGA Tour season.
grand slam is easily within reason this year." - Tiger Woods
"Don't get me wrong, I really respect every professional golfer, but I
know I haven't played to my full potential and when that happens, it
will be just me and Tiger." - Ian Poulter.
this year, at the Masters, let's just play 15 holes each day. How 'bout
it?" - (Alright, I made this one up.)
Still, think about those first two comments. Tiger Woods says it's
'easily within reason' he could win all four majors in 2008. That's
quite a statement for even Woods who hasn't won more than two in a year
since his magical 2000 year. And, let's not forget, that winning a major
championship is about the hardest thing to do in golf. Great golfers
play their entire career and never win one. Woods seems to think winning
four this year might be only a little bit out of reach. Are you kidding
grant Woods this. He's the greatest golfer to live. If anyone can win
the calendar year grand slam, it's him. But, I'm having trouble seeing
him do it. It's just too hard. He's playing a game that can be
controlled by weather, outside competition and luck. The difference
between winning and losing at that level of golf is so slim. It comes
down to one putt, one subtle break, one miss-club. I've got
nothing but love for Tiger Woods, but not even he's immune to that.
probably immune from having his legacy shattered by Ian Poulter. Poulter
respectfully told reporters this week that as soon as he starts playing
well, he'll be as good as Tiger. Hey, I'm with him, as soon as I start
writing better I'll be Shakespeare. But, let's be honest, that's not
going to happen anytime soon.
Poulter's a great talent, a young player and a dashing dresser. He is
not, however, Tiger Woods. Poulter has no PGA wins in America and has
never won a major. He's accomplished and capable of taking Woods down on
any given day, but he'll never be considered the same caliber of player
give Poulter props for steeping up and throwing it out there.
Let's be honest, nobody's challenging Woods on the course so somebody
might as well start doing it in the papers. However, if Poulter wants
Woods' and the rest of the golfing world's respect, he'll start getting
it done on the course. Beat Woods heads up in the final group at Augusta
this April and we
can start talking Ian.
doubtful that will happen anytime soon. After three rounds of golf at
this week's Dubai Classic, Poulter trailed Woods by two shots and the
leader Ernie Els by six. That's not bad for Poulter, but it's far from
being just him and Tiger. In fact, between Woods and Poulter alone,
there are five other golfers tied at seven under with Woods, six golfers
six-under and five golfers tied at five-under with Poulter.
Amazingly, knowing where Poulter and Woods' games are at I've come to
this crazy conclusion. While I doubt either one of them will follow
through on their statements, Woods has a better shot of coming through.
That's right, it's more likely that Woods will win all four majors in
2008 than Poulter will ever elevate his game to consistently match
think either of these things will actually happen? Let's just say me and
my joke of a golf swing have a better chance of breaking 65 this summer.
But, it appears 2008 may be the season of outlandish things, and I'm
happy to be along for the ride.
# 63-January 2008--A Young Guy's Take On The
BuffaloGolfer.Com Annual Summit
Alright, I'll be the first to admit it.
There is truth in Mo Golf's recent column. We did all get together last
weekend to eat, drink, talk golf and be merry. If you're wondering what
lead myself, Duff and Scrambler to be seen in public with Mo and his
overflowing passion for golf just know we haven't all figured it out yet
Perhaps it had something to do with the
setting. This was my third trip to the Frog Hair and I just fall in love
with the place more and more each time. The food is delicious. The
menu's a book. The simulators are jam-packed and yes, there were more
than a fair share of beautiful women milling about.
Then again, maybe it's the company. Knowing
we've all heard his golf jokes and stories three times over, Mo brought
along brilliant golf course designer Scott Witter to share in the
conversation with us. Listening to him was like learning about the game
all over. Looking at the game of golf through Witter's eyes changes your
understanding of the sport. It's refreshing. If Witter follows through
and begins writing a golf-architecture column for the site, I'll be one
of his most avid readers.
And, then again, there's always the great
topic of golf. We throw around tales of past rounds, future rounds and
ideas about the sport. Heck, I'll even admit I enjoy Mo's company more
than I let on. Our writers' summits are beginning to become a Can't-Miss
night in Buffalo.
Then again, there's one thing that's always
missing. See, we talk about golf and we always talk about the same
courses, memories and stories. We've listened to each other's theories
on the sport every time we get together. And, while we more than enjoy
eating and hitting the links together – it's time to acknowledge that
we're missing something. While we don't have the budget to buy all of
our readers dinner, we need to start listening to what they're saying
about the site. Believe it or not, we'd probably value your opinions
We've made attempts to engage our readers.
I recommended the message board go up last year – it struggled and
eventually failed. We were a major presence at last year's Buffalo Golf
Show – that went well. Still, I don't think we've opened a true dialogue
with all of our readers and that bothers me.
If you're reading this site then you've
obviously got an interest in golf. Think about this for a second – if
you could design the best Buffalo/Golf site on the web, what would you
want? What do you want to read? What do you want to see? Do you like
pictures or do you like videos? Would you like more Duff? Are you tired
of my roaring?
See, we've got ideas. We're pumped about
the architecture column. We'd like to add a female perspective to the
site. We want to go play Bethpage Black next summer and take more
pictures and videos than you can imagine. But, maybe that's not what you
want to see.
That's my BuffaloGolfer.com resolution for
2008 – to listen to our readers. I've tried to get people to respond to
me before and it hasn't worked. If this fails, I still won't give up. I
want to know what you all want from us in 2008 and beyond.
Our ears are open and not just because
we're tired of Mo's jokes.
# 62-December 2007--Peek'N Peak Classic Takes a
I hate to be Scroogeish this holiday season but I'm
going to have to be the bearer of bad news in this column. According to
a recent announcement, scheduling conflicts will lead to the
cancellation of the Nationwide Tour's
2008 Peek 'n Peak Classic at Peek 'n Peak Resort and Spa.
That's a real bummer for area golf fans who've come accustomed to seeing
the next generation of golfing elite visit Western New York each July.
Guys like last year's Master Champion Zach Johnson and past tour stars
like David Duval
made their names on the Nationwide Tour before rolling up wins on the
PGA Tour. Sadly, no future greats will visit Findley Lake, N.Y. in 2008.
The press release that came out last week indicates that the tournament
has traditionally been held the week prior to the 4th of July holiday.
Nationwide Tour scheduling required the resort to hold the event on the
4th of July weekend this year and thus Peek 'n Peak decided they
couldn't lose the revenue from that holiday weekend. A joint decision to
year's tournament was then made.
Rather than lament that the championship won't be constested in 2008,
I'd like to begin making the case for it returning in 2009. The Peek 'n
Peak Classic has become a staple in my summer plans. The great golf,
intimate experience with
the golfers and beautiful course make it a must-see for any local golf
fan. And, any year when the PGA isn't visiting Oak Hill in
Rochester, NY, it's the best golf this area gets to see.
It's about more than just me and my summer plans though. The Western New
York area is a strong and proud golf community. It deserves its big-time
tournament. It deserves a chance to let the world's greatest golfers
for a visit. It deserves the Peek 'n Peak Classic.
That's not to discard the resort's worries about losing revenue over the
holiday weekend. In a region where winter takes away so many great golf
days, you've got to make money when you can. The 4th of July weekend is
probably the resort's best revenue weekend of the year. It isn't fair to
expect them to give it up.
So, there's no need to point fingers and doll out blame. It's sad that
the tournament won't be here in 2008 but it isn't tragic. What would be
tragic would be to let this tournament disappear from the Western New
York scene for good. Let's bust out the 2009 calendars right now and
find us a weekend that works for everyone. The Peek 'n Peak
Classic has been a great event
for this area. And, we've seen such N-Tour champions as Roland Thatcher,
Esteban Toledo and Kevin Stadler take home the tournament title.
Here's hoping we get to add more great names to that list of champions
staring in 2009.
# 61-December 2007-This
column is about the 2008 PGA Season...
What led me to write this
column you ask?
1. I've finally recovered from
a few days of turkey-induced laziness.
2 The Buffalo Bills chances at
making the playoffs officially ended
today after Coach Dick Jauron elected not to play Trent Edwards. (I'll
show discipline and refuse from going on about this point - let's get
I know it's early for a preview column. Most golf writers are still
working on there end of season awards columns. Stewart Cink just won
the Skins game and a boat load of money. Even here in Western New
York, there are places you can still get out on the course.
All that said, I know that I'm not going to see Tiger Woods, Sergio
Garcia or Phil Mickelson play again this year and I'm not going to be
too interested in any golf played in December. So, albeit a little
early, I'm unleashing some fearless predictions for the first half of
2008. (I've got to leave myself something to write come next May or
June...so we'll leave the second half of the season until then).
Fearless Prediction No. 1 - Tiger Woods will not win either the
Masters or the U.S. Open next year - That's a bold statement to make
about the greatest golfer alive but I don't think 08 is going to be a
banner year for the guy. He had a dominant 07 and will definitely
eclipse Nicklaus' record of 18 majors. But, I doubt he wins one until
next year's British Open or PGA Championship.
Fearless Prediction No. 2 - Chris Dimarco matters again. - Be honest,
the last time you can remember Dimarco actually competing in a
tournament that mattered is the 06 British when his steely play pushed
Woods to play his best. Dimarco, playing days after his mother had
passed away and a couple groups ahead of Tiger, absolutely willed the
ball in the hole. He's one of the toughest competitors on tour and
while his game wasn't there in 07 - he's not scared to go toe to toe
with Eldrick. Dimarco has no major championships to his credit but
he's going to be a major player in the 2008 season.
Fearless Predication No. 3 - Hunter Mahan comes to play. - This
impressed me more than any other young gun or up and comer on tour
last year. He won once and played well during the second half of the
season. I wouldn't be surprised if the guy became an absolute star
this season. And remember, if he does, you heard it hear first.
Fearless Predication No. 4 - The United States wins the Ryder Cup -
Call it home field advantage but I expect the United States to put
together a spirited run at the Ryder Cup title next year at Valhalla
Golf Club. This time around, there won't be a magical putt from Justin
Leonard but there are more than enough talented American golfers to
win this event. A year ago, the Americans got there butt kicked by
Darren Clarke, Sergio Garcia and co. Something tells me next year's
squad will be eager to respond.
Fearless Predication No. 5 - The Fed-Ex Cup will stink...again. Tiger
Woods hated this event. Phil Mickelson hated it. Other guys hated it.
They all found ways to get out of playing one of the events. Next
year, the Ryder Cup is thrown in there. There's no way this thing
works long term. Personally, I think golf should go away from the
playoff system and let the NFL enjoy it's dominance in the fall. If
the PGA feels a need to have a playoff season...they've got major bugs
to work out.
Fearless Predication No. 6 - David Duval will play well. Yup, I'm the
guy who once proclaimed that Duval would win another major before he
retired. There's no way I'm backing g down from that statement now.
Duval began to reemerge at the end of the 06 season. Then, last year,
he sat out almost the entire year as he stayed home to take care of
his children and wife (she had major implications during pregnancy).
Thankfully, the Duvals welcomed their new daughter Sienna to the world
in early September with no major problems. Duval's already shown signs
of playing well as he carded scores of 70-71-73-71 at the Callaway
Invitational at Pebble Beach earlier this month. Now, a new Family
Crisis exemption should help Double D pick up with his progress in 06.
# 60-November 2007-There
is a season, turn , turn, turn...
Daylight Savings Time might as well be put the golf
for another season day for me. I've always had an internal clock which
me once it starts getting dark before I'm home for work...I've got to
not just the dark. There are other reasons my mind starts
drifting away from golf during the fall months. First, the Buffalo Bills
engrossed in a stirring and inspirational turnaround this season. Second
off, my own flag football team is nearing its own playoff hunt.
Personally, I think life and sports are meant to be treated that
way...in seasons. As much as we love (whatever your favorite sport is)
good to take a break and pick up another game, another hobby and another
of guys like Michael Jordan and Jerome Bettis who used
their off seasons to become superb golfers. Even as dedicated as they
to being excellent in their sport, they made time for the golf course.
got me thinking about what some of the greatest golfers in the world
want to consider taking up as another sport/profession in their off
Phil Mickelson - This guy's got dominant bowler written all over
He's not really in shape to pursue a physically demanding sport but he's
great touch and imagination with his shots. Plus, he's already got the
support of the common man. Let's be honest, it's easy to picture hordes
fans screaming for Lefty as he picks up turkey after turkey.
Chad Campbell - If you've never seen Chad Campbell in person then
probably don't know he's built like a Mack Truck. Somewhat small in
he's strong and solid from head to toe. If he'd spent as much of his
childhood on the football field as he did on the golf course, there's no
reason he couldn't be catching balls from JP Losman in Miami next
John Daly - Remember John Kruk? How about Frank Thomas? Big guys
power can go along way in the major leagues. John Daly is custom-built
a long-ball hitting designated hitter in the American League. He'd
demand big money and a Hooters be built in Fenway Park so he could play
the Boston Red Sox. Then again, he might just be content to kick around
the beer league softball games.
Fred Funk - This guy works crowds as well as anyone in any
Funk is a politician waiting to happen. Watch him stroll from green to
during a practice round and he'll shake more hands and take more
with babies than our current presidential candidates would ever consider
doing. He's good-natured, intelligent and knows how to get people behind
him. Might not be a bad idea to add him to the 08' ticket.
Jose Maria Olazabal - For my money, there's never been a more
shot-maker than Jose Maria. He's got the hands of a god and the touch of
legend. He didn't win those two green jackets by overpowering Augusta
National - he did it with his short game. Something tells me those
might also be the perfect recipe for a great billiards player. I'd never
want to take this guy on in a pool hall.
Ernie Els - They call him the big easy. I'd much rather call him
member of the Indiana Pacers. This guy is tall and has great hands. He'd
a force in the post if you taught him some duck-under and drop-step
I'd put big money on this guy being the best one-on-one player on tour.
Mike Weir - At first I thought Weir would probably make a great
player because he grew up around the game and seems like he'd be a fast
skater. But, he's a bit small and not the most aggressive of guys. This
might be better served as a curler in the next Olympics.
Tiger Woods - Speed skater? World-class badminton player? Croquet
Nope. Sorry, I thought about this one over and over and came to one
conclusion...he was born to be a golfer. You don't' rack up wins and
like Woods does if your meant to be elsewhere. Probably the only thing
does comparable to golf is business. He's got his own course design
his own flavor of Gatorade, Buicks, FlyJet's and Nike Swooshes out the
# 59-October 2007-The 19th Hole: Peek'N Peak's Upper Course Grill
If you ever have the unfortunate opportunity of
being stuck in a
car with the four writers/hacks that make up BuffaloGolfer.com, you're
to hear a story or two come up about how The Scrambler can eat.
car trip starts the same with memories of our past trips
to U.S. Opens, PGA Championships and Nationwide events in the area. At
point or another, Mo Golf will talk about the time he saw The Scrambler
and eat and eat more than he'd ever seen anyone eat before.
past weekend the four of us headed to Peek and Peak for an
end-of-summer golf summit of sorts. While we all played at different
we all sat down for lunch as equals after our round. For the Mouth, this
my first opportunity to see the Legendary Scrambler and his taste buds
to my dismay, the Scrambler went light with cheese sticks
and a salad. While the salad was big, I half expected him to order the
right side of the menu. And, who could have blamed him after looking at
many choices the restaurant at Peek and Peak Upper Course gave its tired
duffs. Each of us ordered something that sounded good and learned that
also tasted good. Travelin' Duff gobbled down a BLT Wrap and needed no
bag for the road. Mo Golf hit up another wrap and was one of the
few of us who actually ate slow enough to chew. Myself, I went with a
Chicken Wrap and would have easily had another if I wasn't so full from
Scrambler enjoyed every last morsel of his salad and I almost
expected him to call for seconds. As legend would have it, often the
is just a warm-up for Scrambler. However, on this wonderful day,
kept it simple and learned that sometimes great, tasty, delicious things
come in one-course servings.
· While none of our taste
buds can comment on the other items on the
menu, it's worth noting that the Peek and Peak Restaurant has four pages
great food choices from full-fledged dinners to salads and even pub fare
(burgers and fries). Beer, wine, coffee and soda are served by the glass
the service is anything but below par. It's a friendly retreat for
after facing the daunting 18 holes that make up the Upper Course.
The Mouth that Roars gives it 4.5 Stars out of 5. The only thing holding
back from a perfect score was the Scrambler and his unwillingness to
upon his legend.
Installment # 58-October 2007-The Burden of Being Mike Weir
About half way through his singles match with Tiger
Woods in this past
weekend's Presidents Cup, Mike Weir was faced with a challenge on par
climbing Mount Everest barefoot.
16 holes, Weir was one down to the greatest golfer ever to
worry about sand saves and had seen Tiger put together some great golf
day. This isn't to suggest Weir isn't a phenomenal golf talent (he is)
that a one-hole deficit with two holes to go is insurmountable (it's
but achievable). It's more to suggest that Woods is the kind of guy who
gives up leads about as often as newborns water-ski. Every time he's won
major championship, he's held the lead after three days as well as four.
However, Weir was more than up for shucking his shoes and
climbing his version of golf's Everest. He birdied 17 and then 18 to
Woods down in front of his home-team Canadian crowd. The roar that
Weir's victory almost drowned out the fact the United States downed the
Internationals 19.5 to 14.5.
I look back on my career," Weir said after the win, "this
may be something, maybe even more special than the Masters, the support
I've gotten here."
doubt, playing in front of his home country and taking down
Tiger Woods is a memory worth cherishing. However, Weir's the kind of
who's winning and making memories every day that are far more valuable
anything he'll ever do with a golf club.
years back, Weir established the Mike Weir Foundation to
raise money for children's education programs and other organizations
toward helping seriously ill children. Just recently, Weir's foundation
out on the Miracle Golf Drive for Kids, which will raise money to ensure
children receive the best medical care, families receive caring support
during a medical crisis and that cutting-edge research will help
Essentially, the Golf Drive for Kids will bring together
individuals, sponsors and golf courses in united nation-wide fundraising
events throughout Canada. The money raised will benefit the 14 hospitals
that make up the Children's Miracle Network in Canada.
parents, contributing to the health and well-being of
children was a natural priority for my wife Bricia and I when we started
Mike Weir Foundation," said Weir. "We wanted to take our time to find
right fundraising program, as well as the right charitable partner, that
allowed the Foundation to have the biggest impact. We are very excited
the Mike Weir Miracle Golf Drive for Kids initiative."
are a lot of sick and injured children throughout
Canada who are also excited about the Golf
Drive for Kids. An estimated 2.5 million children visit the hospitals
is helping raise money for each year. That's 2.5 million children who
receive better help, care and guidance thanks to Weir's efforts.
That's 2.5million Weir fans who no doubt helped cheer on their
favorite golfer as he beat Woods last weekend.
Weir's charitable efforts are commendable, it's almost
easy to expect such work from the golfer. Weir's hands-down one of the
down-to-earth and humble guys on tour. He's a major champion who isn't
caught up in what he has or hasn't accomplished. He's grounded, and well
aware that helping children live fuller lives is more important than any
being said, Weir is also a fierce competitor and tried and
true winner. When he was one-down to Woods with two to play Weir knew
exactly what it would take to get a win. And, two birdies later, he'd
the greatest golfer ever in front of a raucous home crowd. It's
that a few thousand people stood by the green and cheered as Weir picked
his conceded birdie on 18. However, it's fair to assume there were
2.5 million more cheering even louder around the country.
Installment # 57-September 2007-Ambivalence Toward The
Golf movie buffs will remember the scene in The
Legend of Bagger Vance
where the young boy asks Will Smith's character if the great golfer
Junuh is still Rannulph Junuh.
Smith's response..."Well, he is and he ain't."
someone were to ask me if the first ever Fedex Cup worked for
the PGA, I'd probably muster a similar response.
"Well, it did and it didn't."
fact that Tiger Woods won shows the system is effective in
crowning a rightful champion. Woods put on an absolute clinic over the
two weeks of the new PGA Playoff system. Even with not playing in the
of the four events, Woods was a walk-away winner. Such a result shows
FedEx point system does a great job of rewarding those who play the
However, there are other ways to measure the success of the
system. On a positive note, it did get such talents as Woods, Phil
Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Vijay Singh and Geoff Ogilvy to play at least
three-out-of-four weeks in the fall. That's a huge accomplishment and
fans the most fall excitement they'd ever seen outside of a great Ryder
the same time, Woods and Mickelson opted to sit out one of
the events despite being near the top of the points chase. Mickelson
to openly criticize the format and felt it didn't really help the game
that much. Other players skipped events and expressed concern about the
format. Unfortunately for the PGA, such negative comments and no-shows
became a major story line over the past few weeks.
to look at the whole thing another way?
ratings were much, much lower than one would have expected
for such a high-profile big money event. Credit that in part to the fact
fans were confused with the heavily scrutinized point system and also
somewhat to the player discontent. Even with such money at stake and the
likes of Woods and Mickelson playing together, the FedEx Cup just
create the excitement that major championships do. Sorry, Mickelson's
over Tiger in week 2 doesn't qualify as him dispatching Tiger in a
The US Open, British Open, PGA Championship and The Masters will always
top dog in golf because they are the events the players care about more.
It's almost as if fans knew players didn't care all that much about the
FedEx Cup and just followed suit.
Another way to look at the FedEx Cup is what it did for certain
players. Dear Steve Stricker, your career is not only resurrected, it's
alive than ever before. Dear Tiger Woods, we know you didn't need it,
here's an annuity that will be worth about $25 million when you can get
it...give it to your daughter. K.J. Choi -you are now among the best
in the world, officially.
you look at it that way, the FedEx Cup did bring out some
great golf from certain players. It helped to drive a few players to new
levels in their career and new expectations. That's always a positive.
However, when I think about the future of the FedEx Cup, I just
don't get excited. I'm sorry, but the four majors are the definitive
in golf. The FedEx Cup can matter, but don't expect it to supplant these
events. No matter how big the purse gets, a player will always be
how many times they brought home a major title.
considered, the FedEx Cup probably wasn't as big of a hit
as the PGA hoped it would become. It had positive effects on the game of
golf. But, at the end of the day, if you asked the casual golf fan if
cared about the FedEx Cup...you'd probably get this response.
"Well, I do and I don't."
Installment # 56-September 2007-59 Ain't So
Got a call from one of my buddies the other day, he
shot a 59 at
Pebble Beach and then a 62 at the Ocean Course at Kiawah
the wind kicked up at Kiawah and really limited his ability to get it
to the hole.
Here's the crazy part. My buddy has never once picked up a golf
club. If he took a swing he'd probably tie his body into a knot. He'd
over on a five iron. He'd spend all day in the drink. You get the idea.
instead of going out there and learning the game and
actually trying to shoot those numbers, he's simply doing it in his
room while playing EA Sports new Tiger Woods 2008.
a phenomenal game. If you haven't had a chance to play it,
you should. The graphics and course designs are so life-like it's scary.
only unrealistic features of the game are the insanely-low numbers it
you to shoot. I've seen guys drive par-4s, collect two hole-in-ones in a
round and not even blink. Tiger Woods is good but his video game is even
that said, I've got no problem with a golf video game. I
love playing them. I think it's great for guys who love golf to get a
glimpse of some of the most famous courses in the world. I think it's
to virtually take Tiger on in a skins game. I even think it's neat that
let you drive par 4's.
However, it sure does make arguing with my non-golf friends a
heck of a lot harder. They don't think golf is hard at all. They're
to suggest golf isn't a sport. They figure if they can shoot a 59 at
Beach, it can't be that hard, right?
They're right of course. Pretty much everyone who can breathe
can shoot a 59 at Pebble Beach. The bigger question is how many more
you will have ahead of you after that stroke. Sure, if I picked up after
or 13, I might be able to say I took 59 swings at Pebble.
with as great as the graphics are on Tiger Woods new video
game, the great thing for golfers is understanding that no video game
ever truly capture the magic of teeing it up for real. There's very few
golfers in this world who's trade shooting a 94 at Pebble Beach in
for a 59 in their living room. Video games are great, getting out there
hitting the links in person is greater.
that established, I'd still recommend any golf fan runs out
and picks up the video game. Winters can be long in Western New York and
virtual trip around St. Andrews can ease the cold pains. Shoveling is a
distant second to teeing it up on X-Box.
such video games are the only way you'll ever get to utter
the following phrase...
"Yeah, Tiger did make a nice run with six birdies on the back
nine, fortunately I coupled my five birdies with two eagles and well, he
just didn't have enough on that long par five."
Installment # 55-August 2007-PGA equals Parents
Saturday morning, I planned on heading to my company
picnic, going for a run
and watching the third round of the PGA Championship.
the time Saturday evening rolled around, I'd spent only a
short time at my picnic. Instead of the other two plans for the day, I
perched on a chair in Buffalo General Hospital talking to my father
heart attack he suffered early in the day.
say the least, the day didn't quite go as planned.
before anyone sends me well wishes or get well cards, let
me tell you my father's fine. He underwent a few procedures, saw a few
nights go by from a hospital bed and returned home today. The doctors
family are confident he can go on living a long, healthy life for years.
was -check that- is a healthy man who eats well and works out hard. When
first began having trouble Saturday it was in the midst of a 5k. Despite
being short on breath and in slight pain, he finished the race.
the days that follow a heart attack are never 'good' days,
it's funny the things they bring out in people. My father is one of six
children who came from a father who died at age 43 from a heart attack.
Needless to say, genetics aren't exactly stacked in their hearts' favor.
Following my dad's event, all of them are planning on getting extensive
tests in the upcoming days.
also kind of wonderful to find the things you think about
when you're forced to contemplate your father's mortality. I have so
wonderful memories of my time with my father, and so many of them over
past few years have been around a golf course.
dad and I play as often as we can (which isn't often enough)
and we love nothing more than to spend a Sunday together watching major
championships. My dad is a devout Tiger Woods fan who's only concerned
what Woods' shot and how far back he is from the leader. My dad believes
Tiger can, and always will, win. Me, I root for a little more variety,
also love T Woods.
Probably my favorite golf-related memory with my father came at
the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol. After working for two months on
Operations Crew for the tournament, I was able to invite my father down
see the final 2 days of the tournament. He'd seen Tiger Woods at a
round once, but for the first time, my dad followed him for 36 holes and
to see just how unbelievably talented the man can be with a golf club.
me, it was the first time I felt as if I'd given my dad something truly
special. Sure, I'd given him presents and cards and memories, but this
the first thing that he couldn't have just gone out and bought himself.
remember thinking about that over those two days. It truly meant
to me. It was a sign that I was finally becoming the man he'd always
me to be.
That's why it's fitting my dad had his heart attack on the
weekend of this year's PGA Championship. For maybe a few moments on
Saturday, he had to wonder if he was ever going to be able to find out
won the thing on Sunday.
However, once Sunday rolled around, we watched it together. It
wasn't Tiger's prettiest round, but it worked and it gave us both
wonderful to watch. In so many ways, the PGA Championship is becoming a
symbol for my father and me. As important as that 2005 event was, this
year's meant more. Thankfully, we can now still make plans to watch a
dozen more together.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Those of us fortunate enough to
work with Chris, aka The Mouth That Roars, realize that the apple and
the acorn truly do not fall far from the tree. No matter where his
father might be, we know that he is truly proud of the son that he has
brought up. Well, proud perhaps in spite of the gyrations that
Chris calls a golf swing.
Installment # 54-August 2007-PGA Championship
Withdrawal From The Inside Out
It hit me like a wayward Tiger Woods tee shot.
Tuesday, sitting in my office and glancing at my calendar,
I suddenly realized it was advance week for the PGA Championship.
year ago, I'd been covered in paint, mulch and windscreen trying to turn
Medinah Country Club into a championship village worthy of the greatest
golfers on the planet.
documented on this website, I spent the past two summers
working on the Operations Crew for the PGA Championships at Baltusrol
Medinah Country Club. This summer, I'm clad in a shirt and tie and
in downtown Buffalo. I love my current job...but there are many days
wish I could relive those weeks I spent with the PGA.
take that to mean I have regrets. I love my life as it is
right now. I had the chance to continue working for the PGA but I opted
it was my decision. As much as I love golf, I could never get used to a
living life in spurts. Fans don't always realize the amount of travel
goes into anyone's life if they choose to be around the game of golf and
professional tour. You spend one week in Detroit and the next week in
Florida. One summer in New Jersey, the next in Chicago. I just couldn't
excited about a lifetime on the road. I've spent essentially all of my
years in Western New York...I like to have roots.
Still, that doesn't mean you can't miss being at a place in life
which allows you to have such experiences. When people ask me about my
with the PGA I'm quick to tell them it was probably the best four months
my life. The friendships, experiences and laughs I shared were worth
than any picture with Tiger Woods. At the end of each tournament, I
a thank you note from the President of the PGA. I appreciate the
but I should have been the one thanking him.
yeah, it's weird to not be out in Oklahoma right now. I miss
getting up at 4 a.m. and working until 11 at night more than you'd ever
believe. I miss having a chance to bump into Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia
Vijay Singh at the office. I miss spending every day out in the sun.
that aside, I'm excited for the fourth major championship of
the year and the first-ever FecEx Cup Playoffs. It's hard not to pick
to win after he absolutely destroyed the field at the Bridgestone
Invitational last week. I'd love to see Sergio contend again...but one
expect a British Open hang over. If I've got to make a pick to win this
week, I'm taking Geoff Ogilvy.
Regardless of who wins, I'm sure it'll hit me again this Sunday
when I sit down to watch the final round. I mean, I could have been
Last year, I got the chance to have my photo taken with the tournament
champion. Last year, I actually could have been hit by a wayward Tiger
tee shot. I doubt he'll knock one so far right this year it's even in
same area code as my apartment
again, don't take that as the voice of regret. As much I'd
love to be in Oklahoma this weekend, I've got four months of memories
hundreds of pictures to keep me company. In all honesty, two
was enough. I got to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime
I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
Installment # 53-July 2007-Carnoustie Forever!!
British Open Review
With all due respect to St. Andrews and Hoylake,
Open should be played at Carnoustie Golf Links.
That's not to
say Carnoustie is a better golf course. It's got
much more to do with the fact Carnoustie delivers exciting finishes and
heart-wrenching collapses about as often as McDonald's hands out a Big
Eight years ago, the 18 th hole became famous when Jean Van de Velde hit
ball North, East, South and West before finally making a triple bogey
turning a three-shot lead into a three-man playoff. Eventually, Van de
would lose to Paul Lawrie.
This year, even
the eventual champion Padraig Harrington knocked
it in the burn twice on the fabled last hole before being saved by a
Garcia lip out. The four-hole playoff that followed was exciting for
holes and then absolutely riveting on the 18th hole. Harrington laid up
then knocked his third shot way left. Garcia went for it and had 25 feet
birdie and another playoff go-round. Unfortunately, the belly putter
had used all week failed him twice on the 18th and Harrington eventually
hoisted the Claret Jug.
It's hard to not
be happy for Harrington. One of the kindest
gentlemen on tour, Harrington has waited along time for this
Anyone who was surprised by the tears in the Irishmen's eyes after his
hasn't followed him over his career. A man who has come close so many
Harrington finally cashed in after a wild Sunday round.
For Garcia, the
whispers about his ability to close out majors
will get incredibly louder from here on out. He took a 3-stroke lead
Sunday and lead by four early on. Even after a few bogeys and a brief
forfeit of the lead, Garcia came to 18 with a stroke advantage. After a
missed putt in regulation and a missed putt on 18 in the playoff, Garcia
could do nothing but watch Harrington win the major that he's always
Garcia's not the most likeable guy on tour. Still,
it's hard not to feel for the guy. His putt to win in regulation hung on
left lip of the cup before spinning out. A guy can't come closer to
than Sergio did this past Sunday. While it would be great to see him
back and win the PGA Championship this year, it's hard to imagine he
suffer a bit of a hangover from this loss.
Harrington, the real winners this week were the many
fans at Carnoustie and those watching around the world. This thing had
the plotlines of an Oscar-worthy movie. There was the dark horse, Andres
Romero who made 10 birdies and two double-bogeys in the final round. He
a two shot lead on 17 before a wayward second shot ricocheted out of
There was the lovable journeyman, Steve Stricker who found his way into
last group of a major only to have the flat stick betray him. Then there
Harrington, playing as well as he's ever played on a Sunday until that
collapse at 18. When he learned he would have another shot in the
playoff, Harrington must have felt born again.
And then, of
course, there was Garcia. While he didn't win the
Claret Jug, he will be the most memorable figure from this tournament.
walked up 18 on Sunday you could see the Claret Jug just beginning to
ready to have his name stenciled in it. At 27, Garcia has waited a long
for such an opportunity, and now that he's let it slip away, he will no
doubt have a bigger cross to bear. One can only hope he someday musters
talent and confidence to earn his own special place in major
Installment # 52-July 2007-British Open Preview
Picking Tiger Woods is getting to be like picking
the tide to come in.
Yes, I think
he's going to win this week at the British Open.
No, I don't always pick Tiger. But, the guy wins at an amazing clip and
always a safe bet at a major championship.
people ask me who I think is going to win the
British this week and after I tell them Tiger they chide me for taking
easy pick. Okay, I'll take Fred Funk if that will keep everyone happy,
don't think he's going to win. More times than not, I feel Woods is
to earn a victory and I'd have to put my money on him this week.
the fact that he currently owns the British Open.
The last two titles have gone his way in walk-away victories. Last year
dispatched Sergio "I really do look like a banana" Garcia and held off a
charging Chris Dimarco for the victory. A year earlier, Sunday at
British was a coronation for Woods rather than a challenge.
Also, he's due.
He's come up oh-so-short at the last two majors
and they've begun to raise questions about Woods dominance. Now, with
child alive and safe, and critics beginning to reemerge, this week's
Carnoustie is the perfect chance for Eldrick to reassert himself.
But, as so many
of my friends have already conveyed, you don't
want to hear why I'm picking Woods to win the British. Fine, no biggie.
use this space to tell you why four guys won't win the British Open.
Phil Mickelson - If he can't close the Scottish Open with
a lead on Sunday,
I don't think he's going to win at Carnoustie. There are just too many
things going against Lefty this week to expect a victory. He's still
over the wrist injury, he's still dealing with the Scottish Open
and there's the fact he's never played well at the British Open. Maybe
will add this major to his portfolio before he retires, but this won't
Justin Rose - This guy's not a bad pick to win this week.
He's been playing
great. The British Open courses play to his game's strengths. He even
to have the confidence to win one of the majors. Still, it's not quite
time. Carnoustie will allow only the best of the best to emerge late on
Sunday. Rose isn't quite there yet. He will get there if he continues on
current path and he might contend this week...but I'd bet you a double
he's not the winner this year.
Sergio Garcia - I recently read something which talked
about Garcia as a
great home-court golfer. He plays well in the British and the
events, but not so well on American courses. Recent evidence would
this as his best finishes in majors seem to always come at the British
If he can putt worth half-a-lick he'll probably be in the top 10, but
he's not mature enough to win at this stage yet. Garcia is still a young
talent, but one has to wonder if he'll ever win a major with the way his
career is going.
Jean Van de Velde - Yes, we've returned to the site of the
Van de Velde
meltdown. Everyone who knows golf remembers Van de Velde's epic collapse
18 at Carnoustie the last time the British Open was held at the course.
Sadly, Jean won't join the field this year due to injuries. While I'm
nowhere near a Van de Velde fan, I'd have enjoyed seeing him revisit the
infamous hole. I've been fair yet critical of Van de Velde at times but
never wish the collapse he experienced that year on any golfer. The fact
that he still tees it up and can laugh off the event is a testament to
character. It will be odd not having him in the field this year, but
safe to say he wouldn't have won even if he was healthy.
Installment # 51-July 2007-Ryan
Swanson at the Porter Cup
Here's hoping that the next 50 will be as enjoyable
as the first fifty, both to write and to read!
Love, The Mouth.
There are a lot of players worth rooting for at this year's Porter Cup
Championship at Niagara Falls Country Clip.
Kirk, the third best amateur in the world who's golf resume is
Colt Knost who's a great player with an even greater name.
Seriously, Colt Knost sounds more like a famous whiskey than a
world-class golfer. Then again, Knost's accomplishments prove otherwise.
Or, feel free to
root for Kevin Tway (Bob Tway's son) or Tim Mickelson (Phil Mickelson's
However, if you
want to share the day walking the golf course
with me you'll be following Ryan Swanson around the 18 beautiful holes
Niagara Falls CC. Swanson, set to begin his senior year at St.
this fall, is an up-and-coming local star who has proven himself with
Bonnies for three years.
wondering why I'll be pulling for Swanson it's only
because you've never seen my resume. An 07' grad of St. Bonaventure
University, I've got nothing but love for the great golfers who
the Brown and White. Working at the campus newspaper over the past three
years I had the privilege to cover the team. My weekly coverage helped
the story of Swanson's freshman, sophomore and junior seasons.
That's not to
say the story began there for Swanson. He's been
able to work wizardry with a golf ball since long before he joined a
team. He placed eighth at the 2004 New York State High School
and won the 2004 Section VI title. That same year, Swanson added a
place finish in the Buffalo District Golf Association Junior Stroke Play
Ever since then
he's been under the tutelage of St. Bonaventure
golf coach Steve Campbell. Swanson with teammates Josh Anderson, Andy
and a number of others have helped re-energize the Bonaventure golf
In 06-07 the team won four tournaments and finished third at the
Championships. A year earlier they picked up three event wins and
sixth at the A-10 Tourney.
Swanson talk and you can hear how appreciative he is
of the fact he's been able to play for a successful team over his
career. Still, this summer it's been all about him. He qualified for the
Nationwide Tour Event at the Upper Course at Peek N' Peak earlier this
A round of 71 and a playoff win enabled him to get into the Porter Cup.
two weeks from now, he'll do battle with all of the great players
above and so many, many more.
In part, such
events are a learning experience for Swanson and
will enable him to contribute stronger rounds in his senior season. At
same time, these are accomplishments that deserve to be recognized and
appreciated in their own right. Playing in both a Nationwide event and
Porter Cup marks a remarkable summer for Swanson.
doesn't matter if Swanson's not currently ranked
on the amateur list or if neither of his brothers are great touring
professionals - he's the real deal. For three years, Swanson's done
everything but disappoint his coach, school and supporters.
And, one has to
think he'll do little to disappoint any fans who
take time out to watch him in two weeks at the Porter Cup. Ready for a
course with little rough, lotsa wind and slippery greens, Swanson will
And, if the fact
that Swanson is a local kid with googles of
talent isn't enough to get you out to the Porter Cup to watch him,
this...you just might meet the Mouth.
Installment # 50-July 2007-Hawaiian Three-Ring Circus
All of a sudden Michelle Wie is a traveling
The one time
pre-teen golf phenomenon played just 27 holes in
this year's United States Women Open before pulling out due to soreness
her wrist. She played the first round in a score of 82 and was six-over
today before leaving the course.
Sadly, this is
the second time this month Wie has pulled out in
the middle of an event. She pulled out of the Ginn Tribute with two
go in the second round. That withdrawal caused quite a controversy since
was dangerously close to shooting an 88 which would have resulted in her
being banned from LPGA events for the rest of the year.
depressing trend for Wie and her crew. A young star who
had all the talent in the world, Wie is miles away from her goal of
competing on the men's tour. Recent results would suggest she's only
somewhat capable of playing with the greatest women in the world. Anyone
looks at these recent poor performances might be forced to question
Wie will ever fulfill the hype and talent which circles around her.
And, while times
are bleak there are many reasons for Wie to
stay positive. Just 17, Wie is still incredibly young. Also, one could
all the bad swings and pull-outs on the broken wrist she suffered last
Still, there's no doubt Wie stands at a major crossroads in her life and
best course of action for Wie would be to get away
from the game for awhile. Her head, heart and swing are not anywhere
where they need to be. A few years in college golf might be all it takes
Wie to mature and grow into a sports superstar. Then again, a few years
college seems about the last thing Wie has on mind.
She still talks
about playing in men's events; she still talks
as if nothing's gone wrong. She still carries the Nike swoosh on
she wears...unfortunately, the game and the scores aren't backing her
Instead, her family, agents and entourage stand behind her and push her
fulfill their greed and desires.
It's all so sad.
It's the story of a girl who's been pushed to
fast and into circles she simply wasn't ready to take on. At age 13 I
barely muster the confidence to join the high school golf team...forget
on the greatest players in the world. The pressure and expectations
upon this girl thanks to her family's poor decision making are
And now it's
come to this --- Wie can barely break 80, struggles
to make cuts and could be seriously questioned for her odd withdrawals
month. No, there aren't elephants and dancing tigers, but this has all
punch of a great circus show.
it's not over. Wie is seventeen and she and her
golf swing can write the rest of this story into a wonderful ending.
enough talent in Wie's body to win on the LPGA and kick around the idea
competing in PGA events. There's enough time to make all of that happen.
But, there needs to be a change in the decision making that surrounds
Time away from the game might not equate to dollar signs but it might
in to a more confident, healthy player and a brighter future.
When Wie was 13
all anyone had to say about her was that she was
a supreme talent; a star with unlimited potential. At 17, one can still
argue those things are true about Wie. Hopefully, her family members,
supporters and business partners can get out of the way in time for her
find that future.
story of Wie's career doesn't end with 27 holes
of bad golf, a withdrawal and all the makings of a high-flying circus
Installment # 49-June 2007-The
Chink In Tiger's Armor
Make no mistake - there is now a chink in the armor.
For all Tiger Woods has done over his career - twelve major victories,
overall victories and more memorable shots than most guys would hit in
lifetimes - there is now an undeniable something he seems incapable of
Give this guy a
share of the lead heading into Sunday and he's
the surest bet in the history of sports; Tiger's 12-for-12 in majors
has or shares the lead after the third round. However, put him a stroke
two back and you might as well bet on someone else. After failing to
control of this weekend's U.S. Open and earn his 13th title, Woods came
as in second place at his second straight major. That means the guy's
0-28 in majors when he has to come from behind on Sunday.
Usually, it's because he's really not in it on Sunday. However, at this
year's Masters and U.S. Open the guy actually grabbed hold of the lead
one point or another and still came up short. Each time, the eventual
winners, Zach Johnson and now Angel Cabrera, actually were further back
the third-round leader than Tiger.
Does this mean Tiger's less formidable than in years past? That Rory
Sabbatini's correct in his assessment of Woods' vulnerability? Maybe,
The past two finishes do offer evidence Tiger Woods is human. There have
been times during his career when you swore you were watching a movie.
Nobody could be this good. Nobody feels that way right now, though.
who watched this year's Masters and US Open saw Woods have every
in the world to take the tournament...but, he never did.
In truth, Woods lost this U.S. Open on Saturday when a phenomenal
ball-striking round wasn't enough. The guy hit 17-of-18 greens on one of
toughest golf courses in the world but he couldn't one-putt if the hole
as large as Johnny Miller's ego. Time after time he
watched near birdies
sit on the lip or skim the cup. A round that could have been a 64 or 65
in the books as a 69 after a bogey on the 18th hole.
Still, the stage was set for him on Sunday and after Aaron Baddelly
the first hole, Woods had a share of the lead. Everyone tuned in around
America probably figured Woods would have the thing locked up before he
the turn. Instead, Woods added two bogeys to the card and kept grinding
pars. He put together more than a great round on a course that played
brutally tough. But, you kept waiting for him to throw an eagle on the
or string together a few birdies; you kept waiting for Tiger to roar.
Instead, he was forced to learn that his best wasn't good enough on
Tiger's second place finish left the door open for Angel Cabrera to pick
his first major title. Surely, we can't discredit Cabrera's efforts. The
shrugged off a Saturday 76 to shoot 69 on Sunday. The guy fought off
by puffing cigarettes on the back nine. Tiger didn't lose this
much as Cabrera won it. Nobody gets handed a major championship.
As a golf fan, I
couldn't be happier that Tiger Woods seems
stuck in second place this year. I have nothing but respect and
for the guy and am smart enough to understand just how amazing of an
accomplishment it is just to make a cut at one of these events, let
finish second. Still, Tiger plays to win and nothing else. Second place
stings him as much as last place. Finally, he has a challenge which
be capable of bothering him.
He can say what
he wants but having never come from behind on
Sunday to win must be killing him. It's got to eat at him and drive him
get better for upcoming majors.
whole situation comes down to this.
believes there is nothing he can't do with a golf
would suggest he can't come from behind on
Tiger Woods will
do everything in his power to disprove such
evidence as soon as possible.
It should be fun to watch.
Installment # 48-June 2007-The
Mouth Installs Choi As US Open Favorite
Two summers ago, as a young guy working on the operations crew for the
2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol Country Club, I asked one of my
co-workers who he thought was going to win the event.
Jokingly, he told me he was pulling for KJ Choi to win. It became
somewhat of a joke for the week and everyday he'd tell me what Choi had
shot and which holes he birdied. We even took time out that week to
follow Choi for a few holes.
I thought back to that a few days ago as I watched Choi blitz Jack
Nicklaus' Muirfield Village with a final round 65 to win the memorial
event. There was no joking about the shots Choi hit to help him erase a
five-shot deficit and take home the biggest win of his career. There was
also no joking about the field he conquered, which included Tiger Woods,
Geoff Ogilvy and Adam Scott to name a few.
In actuality, there really hasn't been any joking about Choi's game for
quite some time now. The guy's won five times in the United
States since 2002. He's collected six international victories including
two SK Telecom Opens. Even at Baltusrol, the guy made the cut and was in
the mix on the weekend until a poor Sunday round left him out of the
Even with all those successes, Choi hasn't been truly taken seriously by
most golf fans. Even with his wins and his close finishes, we never
really consider him a threat to take home the top prize at a big
tournament. Hopefully that changes after yesterday's win at the
Memorial. Make no mistake; if Choi can win at Muirfield Village against
so many of the greatest players in the world, he could do it a few weeks
from now at the US Open or any other major he tees it up in.
"It's very meaningful. It's hard to describe in words how meaningful it
is," Choi said of yesterday's win. "I just feel very honored and very
happy to be living in the same age, same period of time as Jack is
living and to win his tournament is so meaningful to me. I can only
think this was meant to be."
It may have been meant to be but it didn't appear that way at the start
of Sunday. At that time, Choi trailed Rod Pampling by five strikes and
Adam Scott by three. And, while Choi might want to chalk this up to
fate, the real reason he won Nicklaus' event is because he's a grinder
who refused to go away and turned in one of the most memorable Sunday
rounds of the year.
Add it all up and it's clear Choi is now a recognized threat on the PGA
Tour. Truth be told, he has been for quite sometime, but yesterday's win
made it official for the rest of us. When a guy goes out and fires a
steely final-round 65 on a world-class golf course, people take notice.
Even Nicklaus took notice and as he handed Choi this year's trophy he
offered him a bit of advice Choi could take with him to the US Open.
"K.J.," Jack said, advising the 32nd winner of his event, "this
(indicating a fade shot with his hand) works very well at Oakmont."
Three years ago I might have laughed at the notion of Choi walking away
with the title at Oakmont. After this past Sunday, I can't even muster a
Installment # 47-May 2007-Favorite Foursomes
Here’s a question.
Anybody interested in huffing 18 holes with Tiger Woods and Michael
Jordan? Anybody interested in possibly having the chance to say, “um,
you’re away Mr. Woods and then you Mr. Jordan” to two of the greatest
Most human beings who’ve ever touched a golf club have to think about
this for about oh, .0001 seconds before shouting back…”you bet your
double-bogeying keister I do.”
That’s the response Skipper Beck probably shouted when he found out he’d
be partnered with Woods and Jordan in last Wednesday afternoon’s
Wachovia Championship Pro-Am. In so many ways, it had to be one of the
most memorable rounds of Beck’s life.
And while I spent last Wednesday at work and not walking the golf course
with famous athletes, the whole thing set my brain in motion. I’ve spent
more than a little time the past few days thinking about what my
ultimate foursomes would be.
And, after all my thinking and daydreaming, I’ve come up with the
following four foursomes that would absolutely make my spine tingle.
The Guilty Pleasure Foursome
Mandy Moore, Jennifer Aniston,
Carrie Underwood – Be honest, if you ever saw the four of us walking
down the fairway you wouldn’t even realize I was there. You’d think I
was the beverage guy or the maintenance guy or just absolutely lost.
That being said, I wouldn’t mind if a round with these three women
lasted a lifetime. It’d be the first time in my life I stood on the tee
and just prayed my ball wound up lost in the woods so I could dart off
with Mandy and hopefully never even look for it. Seriously, I could
shoot 372 over and still call this the best day in my golfing life.
The ‘These Guys Are Good”
Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson,
Sergio Garcia – I would never be more nervous than if I had to stand on
the first tee and give it a go with these three looking on. Chance are,
I’d top it 3-feet and then tell a bad joke. But, seriously, could you
play with three more talented and entertaining golfers? Trust me; I have
all the respect in the world for players like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold
Palmer, Byron Nelson and Greg Norman. But, I’m young, and these three
golfers have provided more thrills, chills and big putts for me to watch
than I could ever thank them for. Playing 18 holes with these three
would be four hours extremely well spent.
The Friendly Foursome
Matthew Schultz, Andrew
McMillen, John Chriss – Unlike the other six people I’ve already
mentioned, you’ve probably never heard of these guys. Trust me, that
wouldn’t make this round any less memorable. I grew up with these guys;
graduated from high school with these guys; and while I played hundreds
of after school rounds with them…it doesn’t seem like anything close to
enough. None of us ever became great golfers. But, we became greater
friends. I’ve referenced these guys from time to time in my columns and
even though we don’t live in the same state anymore, it’s rare if a week
goes by when we haven’t checked in with one another. These three
guys are three of the biggest reasons I love my life and if I could only
play one more round ever, I’d walk right by Carrie, Mandy and Jennifer
to tee it up with these three… (Of course we might wait for them on the
second tee to see if they were up for playing a scramble or something).
The Family Foursome
Larry Whitcomb (Father), Dean
Whitcomb (Cousin), Dean Whitcomb (Grandfather) – Sometimes, when the
Whitcombs get together for a few holes…we don’t play the fastest golf.
Not slow players individually, my dad, cousin and I never set the record
for quickest 18 holes if we’re in the same group. Now, if you were to
add my grandfather (who never played golf) into the mix we might
actually be closer to setting the record for slowest round ever. That
being said, I’d gladly play with a four iron, shoe-horn and garden rake
if I could walk a golf course with these three. While I get to play with
my father and cousin on a semi-regular basis, I never had the honor of
meeting my grandfather. He passed away far too early and a good decade
before my father thought about having a son of his own. To have three
generations of Whitcomb men on the same golf course would be unreal.
It’d be four hours of stories, laughs, and love. Seeing as how these
guys are the reasons that family time is time well spent - I’d gladly
set the record for longest round ever if it was with these three gents.
If you’d like to weigh in on
your dream foursome, be it sexy or sentimental, send it along to me at
Christopher.firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post it on the site.
Installment # 46-May 2007-Lord
This year's EDS Byron Nelson
Championship is always going to be
remembered as a special one. It's the first championship held since its
founder, Lord Byron Nelson, passed away last year. It's also a chance
many golfers to pay tribute to a kind and gentle man who paved the way
the success of the PGA Tour, never forgot where he came from and
consideration as the most charitable athlete ever.
That being said,
far too many of the world's greatest players
chose to skip out on this special event and have thus done a disservice
Nelson. This week should have been seven days of loving stories about
Nelson. It should have been about the greatest golfers putting together
great show in a final goodbye to Lord Byron. It should have been
major championship status.
To be sure,
laughs, tears and memories will surround this year's
event. But, it's sad that there will also be whispers about why guys
Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Jim Furyk aren't there. Its
people will look back and say, 'man that was a great event, but it could
have been so much better."
If Lord Byron
was anything, he was a man who always showed up.
He showed up for the tour where he set the game's ultimate record - 11
straight tournament wins. With as good as Tiger Woods is, even he
acknowledges this is a record he couldn't touch in his wildest dreams.
just as important, Nelson showed up for his community. His tournament
helped raise over $94 in charity for local Dallas charities. With the
guidance of Nelson's wife, the tournament will continue to raise money
give back to the people Nelson loved so dearly.
the world's greatest players didn't feel they
should show up for Byron's tournament now that Nelson wasn't around to
celebrate it with them. They can cite scheduling conflicts and issues
travel, but almost everyone of these guys would have made the trip to
Nelson if he were still breathing. It's sad, because you hear so many of
these guys talk about their love and respect for the man. They talk
how much they admire what Nelson has done for them. Still, their actions
this weekend suggest otherwise.
All that aside,
it's better to focus on those who are playing
than those who couldn't make it. At the end of Round 3, Luke Donald held
stroke lead over Scott Verplank. Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh both
a few shots back on the first page of the leadership. One can only hope
these players and others like Brett Wetterich, who is in the mix, can
produce a memorable Sunday finish worthy of Byron's tourney. One can
wish more players would have seen this tournament the way Verplank chose
look at it this weekend...
"Byron did so
much for me and he really took me under his wing
and guided me at times in my career," Verplank told Ian Baker Finch
after he finished his third round. "This year especially, this
like a fifth major to me. I can't tell you how much it would mean to me
have a chance to win this event to pay tribute to Byron."
Installment # 45-May 2007-The Most Coveted Majors Of Them All.
Just like in 2001, both Tiger Woods and David Duval
to have unbelievable, awesome and once-in-a-lifetime summers. You
2001, right? The year Woods won The Masters and Duval won the British
It's the only year these two golf superstars won a major in the same 12
Credit that all
to Duval whose win in 2001 at the British Open
was his only career major championship. Heck. That was the last time the
won anything on tour. Since becoming arguably the greatest player in the
world just after the turn of the millennium, Duval has all but fallen
the golf planet. In that same time span, Woods has continued on his
golf's hall of fame. Now just six shy of Jack Nicklaus' 18 career major
victories, Woods deserves serious consideration as the greatest golfer
So, how, you
ask, are these two going to have unforgettable
summers this year? Isn't Duval's game a good par-6 away from being able
contend for the U.S. or British Open title? Are you really suggesting
two are going to win two of the next three majors?
In response to
these fair questions, let me begin by saying
these two guys memorable summers will have nothing to do with seven
and sand bunkers. Nope, instead, these guys will have unbelievable
because they're both set to become fathers.
For Tiger, the
child he and his wife Elin are expecting will be
his first. David, already the step-father of three children and the
father of a son, is expecting his fifth.
Ask anyone who
has ever fathered a child and they'll be quick to
talk about how it's a life-changing event. The responsibilities and joys
fatherhood force men to evolve and grow as people. So, not surprisingly,
birth of these children will have effects on these two men.
Golf fans and
critics have already begun to wonder if being a
father will limit Woods' ability to chase Nicklaus' record. A vocal
man who experienced firsthand the importance of having a good father-son
relationship, Tiger will no doubt be dedicated to this and any other
he may father. Still, with as hard as he's worked to get this good and
close to Jack's record, it's hard to imagine Tiger not staying
dually-dedicated to his golf career.
Do a complete
180 and you get the ideas behind what people think
another child may do for David Duval's game. An article published last
quoted Duval as talking about how the birth of his first son caused him
re-dedicate himself to the game he'd let slip away in some respects. He
wanted his son to be able to see what he did for a living. He wanted his
children to know why people talked about their father as one of the
The fact that
people think children could have such vastly
different effects on Woods and Duval speaks to just how different of
the two have taken since that spring and summer of 2001. It's been
but steady and excellent progress for Woods. It's been nothing but
cuts, expired exemptions and wayward wedges for Duval.
people look at the span of golf from 1998 to 2005,
they may have to acknowledge that there are not two more intriguing
than those of Duval and Woods. How can Tiger stay so hungry after
such success? How does he win so often?
At the same
time, how can a guy who was so good like Duval, just
disappear? How do you go from a No. 1 ranking in the world and carding a
one day to barely being able to make a cut? How can fortunes change so
drastically and so quickly?
Like so many
other questions in sports, there really are no easy
answers to these questions. We're not supposed to understand Woods'
greatness; we're supposed to admire it. We shouldn't focus on Duval's
finishes at the 84 Lumber Classic, we should focus on the unbelievable
he once played and hope he can find that magical swing again.
these two are linked in so many ways. In the last
eight years only three guys have held the No.1 spot in the world
rankings...Tiger, Vijay Singh and David Duval. In 2001, they both played
enough golf to ensure that whenever people talked about them, they'd
call them major championship winners. Now, in 2007, they're both about
ensure that no matter what happens for either of them from here on out,
they'll always be able to go by another highly respected title...daddy.
Installment # 44-April 2007-Welcome back from another
of the U.S. Open ... Oops, I mean Masters Tournament
If the past four
days of golf weren't sports entertainment at
its best, I don't know what else it could be. The greatest golfers in
world suffered and scraped their way around the Augusta track in search
birdies and eagles that were few and very far between. The cold
and wind made it feel like October in Western New York and the leader
shifted so many times I thought I might even see my name flash across
screen one time.
Many people will
look at the high scores of this year's
tournament and argue the course has been built to tough.
That it's too long.
Too challenging and not as receptive to good shots as it should be.
response...take your four-iron and stuff it.
gentlemen, this is what major golf should be. It's
not supposed to be a walk in the park. You're not supposed to shoot
12-under. Majors are events where par is a great score and birdies are
common as snowstorms in the Bahamas. Too often golfers have taken it low
Augusta, but not this year. This year it seemed like we were watching
U.S. Open and not The Masters.
And, as majors
often do, this tournament yielded a deserving
(albeit unlikely) champion who emerged from the four days of golf to don
green jacket. People may have scratched their heads when Zach Johnson
a spot on last year's American Ryder Cup team. They understand now. This
a kid with the game and the mettle to conquer deep fields, tough courses
the world's greatest. After tallying three birdies in four holes on the
side Johnson took control of a tournament just about everyone else in
field had a chance to win. He did it just months after the birth of his
first child and his own 31st birthday. And, while he referred to the
experience as surreal, it will probably feel a little more commonplace
next time Johnson wins a major. If this guy can do it in these
Augusta, he can do it anywhere.
That being said,
the cold and cruel conditions at Augusta this
week left us with more than a handful of story lines to follow as the
of the season progresses. You
will find a look into a few of those below.
1. Johnson & The Young Guns - While Zach
Johnson, a self-proclaimed
'average guy' was the only one who needed a tailor Sunday afternoon,
were many of his peers in the running for the green wardrobe addition.
Wetterich and Vaughn Taylor who joined Johnson as Ryder Cup rookies last
year were all in this thing with a chance to win at some point.
That's good news for golf and especially American golf. We talk a lot
the influx of young talent and how deep tournament fields are but we
see it. With Taylor, Johnson and Wetterich finding their games, their
ushering in a new era in golf. Golf fans may hate to hear it, but
more big five. Vijay and Ernie are getting a bit old. Phil can't seem to
shake Winged Foot. Retief is streaky. Jim Furyk's a good player but
the last time he really contended at a major? Tiger's still the greatest
golfer ever to sneeze but his competition is changing around him. Don't
your breath for a great Phil / Tiger rivalry. Instead, look forward to
of these younger guys testing Eldrick over the next decade of his career.
2. El Tigre sings the Blues - Technically,
we can point to this and say
Tiger just can't seem to win a major when he doesn't have the lead at
start of Sunday. But, that's not really what happened at Augusta
True, Tiger was down one to Appleby at the start of the
day. But, the eventual champion (and the only guy who finished ahead of
Tiger) came from a shot behind Eldrick. Throw that in with the fact
held the lead outright at one point and you've got to admit Tiger kind
blew this one. A 69 was out there for the world's greatest yesterday
afternoon and he couldn't find it.
I'm as shocked and deserving of criticism as anyone. I
picked Tiger and really thought he was in the midst of something
spectacular. While I'm not worried about him busting Jack's record, I
he'll ever do the career grand slam again. This loss may be the most
of his career thus far. He had it and his poor play let it slip away.
3. Australia's Troubles - Norman came
close three times. Appleby
couldn't turn a final round lead into green suede. Even Geoff Ogilvy
two in the creek on Saturday and helped hammer home the point that
Australians can't seem to win the Masters.
But, in all honesty, what do you want these guys to do? Other than his
monumental collapse, Norman never always gave it his best. Appleby
shy away from Tiger yesterday. Ogilvy could be the most talented of all
them. One's got to wonder if Australia's really letting a few missed
bother them as much as Nick Faldo loves saying they are. If there is a
and place for everything, my bet is Mr. Ogilvy will someday conquer
Australia its first green jacket sooner rather than later.
2007--The Mouth's Masters Prediction
I hate to break this to golf
fans, but this year’s Masters Tournament ended last summer.
I can’t pin-point the actual date the event ended but I can tell you it
came at some point between June 18 and July 23. Those are the dates of:
1. the day Tiger Woods officially missed the cut at last year’s U.S.
Open and 2. the day Tiger Woods officially won last year’s British Open.
See, 2006 was a year unlike any other for ol’ Eldrick. He had to watch
Phil Mickelson win the green jacket and then he had to sit helpless as
his father succumbed to his long battle with Cancer. The personal
struggle of losing his father was hard for Tiger and it led to him
shooting 76-76 and missing the cut at Winged Foot.
However, in the month following that humbling defeat, Woods found the
strength to re-dedicate himself to the game. It lead to a win at the
British Open, which lead to a win at the PGA Championship which lead to
a streak that featured seven straight PGA Tour wins.
Now, in my opinion, Woods stands in the midst of probably the most
impressive stretch of golf in his career. Sadly, for his competitors,
I’m not sure if we’ve even seen half of what this guy’s about to do.
I’ll go ahead and say it right here. After the U.S. Open at Oakmont
later this year, Tiger Woods will have completed his second career grand
slam. Call it Tiger Slam II. Call it unbelievable. Just pay attention
because we will probably never see a guy beat up on his peers like this
again. It’s not that the competition isn’t as good as it was when guys
like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer were at the top of their games,
it’s just Tiger’s that much better.
And, let’s say I’m right and Tiger wins the next two majors. Anybody
want to tell me he’s not the favorite for the British and the PGA?
Anybody really think a single-season grand slam is out of this guy’s
Nothing this guy does can surprise me anymore. Seven straight wins?
Yeah, that’s about right. A second career grand-slam? Yawn. Honestly,
this guy would have to shoot 18 for 18 holes to get people to stop
anymore. We’re so accustomed to seeing him win golf tournaments it’s
more like a TV series than a sporting event.
Wednesday – American Idol.
Thursday – Grey’s Anatomy.
Sunday – Tiger kicks butt.
Even as I watch him rock drivers and three woods and make golf balls
dance on flag poles, I’m more amazed with what he doesn’t carry in the
bag. The most impressive thing for me will always be Tiger Woods’ drive
and motivation. This guy has it all. Wealth, success, a private jet, a
private yacht, a hot Swedish-supermodel wife, his first child on the way
and a million-dollar smile. Still, he doesn’t seem satisfied. He still
feels a need to prove himself. Heck, I’ve seen this guy get mad at
himself for making a mistake and still scrambling for birdie.
I guess the one thing none of us can grasp is it’s really all about
Jack’s record of 18 majors. We heard the stories about how as a boy
Tiger would paste Jack’s records on his wall. How he’d dream of
conquering them. But, until now we haven’t been able to see how solely
focused he is on breaking that record. And, when Tiger looks at his 12
majors he’s proud, but he still sees himself as only 2/3 of the way. He
still doesn’t see himself as measuring up. He doesn’t care about the
money and fame one-tenth as much as he cares about winning 19 major
championships. That’s something to be admired.
And, come August 8 I imagine Woods will cap off an Easter-Sunday Masters
win by three strokes for number 13. It will be a similar scene to last
year’s, an extensive gallery surrounding the 18th at Augusta
with Tiger and Phil showered in applause. Only this time, Phil won’t be
sporting the green jacket. This time and for the fifth time, it’s
2007--VEEJ! Like wine, Singh gets better with age
It's pathetically cliché, but
Vijay Singh is like your favorite
bottle of wine. He was good when he was young, but he can't seem to stop
getting better with time.
Last week Singh
added a win at Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill
Invitational to his list of accomplishments. That win gives him 31
victories and get this...19 since turning 40 years old. That's unheard
American sports culture where everyone's fascinated with the young gun,
potential and hype. An individual's 40's can be the pinnacle of their
success for those in business, education or any of numerous other
However, it's incredibly rare for an athlete to find his or her game
going over the hill.
there is a sport where a guy can emerge late in his
career it is golf. While the constant travel and demands of professional
golf are taxing, it rarely leads to injury or severe physical strain. If
golfer can stay flexible and committed to his swing, it's feasible he
compete late into life. That being said, Vijay Singh is doing more than
compete...he's eating up golf courses like they're his lunch-time
interesting figure in the golf world. Undoubtedly one
of the most successful players of the past two decades, Singh allows few
glimpses into his personal life. He's all business on the golf course.
clear and concise in the press room, but it'd be hard to call him open
accessible. Instead, all we know about Vijay is he came from nothing,
in love with golf, plays nearly every week and spends as much time on
practice range as anyone in the history of the sport. Maybe that's all
need to know, but when we watch this guy win week in and week out, we
sometimes look for more.
That's why last
week's Bay Hill Invitational was a bit of a
different kind of win for Vijay. It was Arnie's tournament. And,
the first guy who really took a chance on Vijay. In 1993, Palmer
invite to Vijay even though nobody in America really knew of him. 12
later, Vijay's accepting PGA Rookie of the Year honors. He's never
Bay Hill Invitational since 1993 and this past weekend, he finally got
take home the trophy. So, this win, offered us a chance to pause, to get
glimpse of just where Vijay came from and who he may truly be.
Since he's so
private, Vijay's been called a lot of things by a
lot of people (myself included). He's stand-offish. He doesn't smile a
lot. He's aloof, quiet, and unpleasant. Maybe those judgments are
No, Vijay doesn't hug fans or slap high-fives around the golf course but
that's not how you measure a man. That doesn't mean he's a bad guy
underneath it all.
Take a second
and look at those 14 straight trips to Arnie's
tournament....that's loyalty. Watch Vijay hit balls on the range hours
his tee time. Then watch him do the same thing for hours after his tee
time...that's hard work. Pull out his resume, tally up those 31 wins,
recall all his magnificent shots....that's excellence.
If actions do
truly speak louder than words, then maybe it's
okay Vijay's so quiet and tight-lipped. Maybe the tall Fijian would
be out on the range. Whichever way you want to look at it, I think it's
to see Vijay's gotten a bad rap for no real reason at times during his
career. Loyalty, hard work and excellence are values to be admired.
They're also the
values that help Vijay get better as he ages.
Think about it for a second. The guy won 1 PGA tournament in his 20's,
his 30's and he's already racked up 19 after four years in his 40's.
Anybody want to
tell him he can't win one in his 50's?
2007--Goodbye lake effect, hello green
Western New York
Golfers had to be struck with jubilee this past
weekend as the weather finally broke, warmed up and started melting the
piles of snow covering area golf courses. Sure, winter and snow probably
aren't done for the year, but local golfers can finally see the light at
end of the tunnel or in Tom Lehman terms - the flag at the end of a long
That being said,
if you haven't already, it's time to gear up
for golf season. Clean your clubs, shine your spikes and unhinge your
swings. Call your favorite foursome and start booking tee times.
For the Mouth,
it's an interesting year of golf ahead. While
I've spent the last two summers surrounded by PGA Championships and
Woods, I actually haven't played all that much. My numbers of rounds
been way down and my game has deteriorated a bit. However, now a full
Buffalonian, I intend to improve as a player this year. I'll still be
and incapable of living at the golf course as I did in my high school
but that shouldn't stop me from improving this year.
To help, I've
decided to set some golf goals for myself because
just about every golf publication under the sun suggests a duff do so.
not ashamed to point to the areas in which I need to improve in such a
public forum. In fact, I'm hoping it motivates me to actually see some
these goals through. If you're interested in posting your goals for golf
season 2007 or just swapping stories about what you're looking forward
the upcoming year head to the BuffaloGolfer.com Message Board and start
posting. You can access it at
Either way, I'll make my golf goals public knowledge. Below is a list of
three things I want to accomplish this year.
1. Break 80 - I've shot nine-hole rounds in the thirties. I've
combined scores which registered in the seventies. However, I've
it up on hole Numero Uno and stepped off 18 some three and a half
later without wacking the ball 80-Plus. One painful memory from
includes the Mouth stepping to the sixth tee at Elkdale at
2-under par only
to implode for the next 12 holes and shoot something like 81 or
2. Hole in One Numero Tres - What you thought all of these were
to make me look bad? How can I not reference the fact I've
hole-in-ones in my career. They each came on the fourth hole at
Country Club with the same 8-iron nearly 365 days apart. That
it's been four years since I jarred one like that and thus, I'm
my third this summer.
3. Not look ahead - I'm a lousy putter. My swing looks like it
made out of recycled body parts. Every once in a while I hit a
Still, all that being said, the biggest problem I face is not
being able to
focus on the shot at hand. Any time I hit something a little
wayward I start
worrying about how it's going to affect my final score. Two or
three times a
round I forget about the shot I have to hit or the hole I have to
start worrying about what the scorecard's going to say 10 holes
That's my biggest problem because it often leads to more bad
shots and more
inconsistency. If I'm going to break 80 this year and actually
grow as a
player...it's got much less to do with my swing as it does my
2007--Tournament Bracket Pools World Golf Series Style!!
Seeing as how the month of
March is only days away and college basketball's annual Madness is right
around the corner, many big-headed bracket busters are probably getting
ready to conquer their office pools.
anyone wants to truly prove their ability to predict how these types of
tourneys play out, they should take a crack at next year's World Golf
Championship Accenture Match Play event. With more
surprises, upsets and zaniness than your favorite soap opera drama, this
event is essentially unpredictable.
Sure, you may
have had third-seeded Henrik Stenson winning it all, but did you also
have 16th seed Shaun Micheel ousting top-seed Adam Scott in 21 holes in
the first round? Last time I checked, such an upset has
NEVER occurred in the NCAA Championships.
didn't stop there either. Tiger Woods, looking for his eighth straight
PGA tournament win, missed a three-footer to lose on Friday. A 3-footer,
you ask? Yes, the guy looked human for half a
second...that's how crazy this event can be.
Justin Rose whopped No. 1 Phil Mickelson in the second round. The only
good thing about this match for Lefty was he didn't have to step to the
18th with a one-up lead. Rose saved him from such a
scenario with a 3 and 1 victory.
Vijay Singh couldn't even get through Stephen Ames as he got knocked out
in the second round after a 19 hole match. In fact, this event's Elite 8
featured three 3-seeds, two 9-seeds, two 4-seeds and a
10 seed. When's that last time that happened in the NCAA's? When's the
last time a single one or two-seed couldn't make it to the Final 4?
By Friday's end,
none of the top 5 players in the world were left standing except for
Henrik Stenson (who miraculously vaulted past Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and
Retief Goosen in world rankings points after this
win...the fact that this could happen should raise major questions about
this system of raking).
reasonable piece of normalcy you could pull from the final two rounds
was Geoff Ogilvy returned to the final group a year after winning this
event and introducing himself to the world. Still, he couldn't
get it done on the second back-nine of the day and eventually fell to
Such stats and
upsets reveal how different of an event this is for these players. Over
four days, I've got to think Henrik Stenson isn't going to be the last
guy standing. But, in match play, you just have to beat one person each
day. He did that. Guys like Woods, Mickelson, Garcia, Dimarco, Els,
Singh, and Furyk all had a bad round and failed to get it done.
In my opinion,
there should be a few more match play events a year. This is a great way
to see golf and to play golf. Plus, it gives other guys a shot to win
who might not be able to grind out a major for four days. I loved
filling out my bracket and watching it get busted as much as I do come
March when I'm watching players on the hardwood.
should also put more doubt into the mind of the American players who may
get selected for the 08 Ryder Cup Team. Only one American (Chad
Campbell) made it to the Final 8. What is it with Americans and this
format of golf? You've got to start to wonder if the rest of the world
isn't light-years ahead of us when it comes to match play golf. They
kick our cans at the Ryder Cup and they dominate such events like this.
should be an argument for adding more match-play events to the Tour
schedule. If they Americans want to win in 08, they've got to start
playing similar events. Match play is vastly different than stroke play
and, as such tournaments have shown us, it yields different champions.
There will be
time to mull such thoughts over in the upcoming months. For now, it's
best to look at our WGC-Accenture Match Play brackets and wonder how we
could have done so poorly. Without a doubt, March brings madness. But,
one has to wonder if it can ever compare to the frantic frenzy of
(Editor's Note: Mo' Golf finished seventh in a national
2007 # 2--The Return Of Phil: How Far Back Is He?
I have to admit, when I saw
Phil Mickelson accept the trophy to go along with his win at the Pebble
Beach Pro-Am on Sunday, he did look a bit skinnier.
I've been hard
on Phil on this site...constantly talking about how I'm more of a Tiger
guy, how Phil doesn't belong in consideration as Tiger's rival, how
Phil's about as mentally tough as Big Bird. Stuff like that.
What's odd about
all of this is I like Phil. He seems like a good guy. His wife is
out-of-the-world gorgeous and his kids have million dollar smiles. I
just think he's a bit over-rated. Yeah he's a super talent, but for as
much attention as he gets you'd think he could win a point in the Ryder
Cup (or make a bogey on the 72nd at Winged Foot).
events of recent weeks have me realizing I and the PGA Tour need Phil to
prove me wrong. You may or may have not noticed, but recent news lends
credibility to the idea the PGA is in a bit of trouble.
Two weeks ago
the International (a staple on the PGA Tour schedule for years)
announced it was folding because it couldn't lock down a corporate
sponsor. The biggest reason being Tiger Woods hasn't played the event in
years. The Nissan Open also expressed similar concerns after learning
Eldrick would be passing on their tournament this year.
It's easy to
skip past this news and read stories about the FedEx Cup and the
upcoming Masters and not think the PGA's in any sort of trouble.
However, if you're smart you realize the Tour's super Tiger starved.
greatness, Tiger has created a situation where people are simply not
interested when he's not playing. It's Tiger or bust - and considering
how little El Tigre's been playing the past year or two...that's a big
problem. There are other events that Tiger passes on every year that may
soon start complaining about finances and sponsors.
That's not to
blame Tiger. I'm not going to knock a guy who may be causing a problem
by being sooooooooo good. You can't ask him to lose on purpose. You can
only hope someone steps up and starts beating him occasionally, calling
him out, dragging him to new events to prove he's still the best player
on the world.
And, while I've
said before that the man for the job won't be Phil Mickelson (and I'm
still not convinced it will be) I'm willing to hope he proves me wrong.
The golf world needs someone to prove that Woods isn't invincible. No
the paunchy left-hander hasn't been able to do it yet but he's got the
biggest fan base of anyone other than Tiger and it would be
great if he found a way to do it this year. Somehow, someway, he needs
to be Tiger's kryptonite.
If he can do it,
then maybe it'll cause a domino effect. Maybe my boy Sergio Garcia will
finely get big enough Titleists to putt on Sunday. Maybe Charles
Howell III will win his first major. Maybe Adam Scott will finally be
somebody other than a young phenom with tons of potential. If Phil
can beat Tiger toe-to-toe and show these guys it can be done, then
maybe the casual golf fan will realize there's so much talent out there
I'm not saying
the golf world would be better if Tiger never came along...that's
stupid. But there'd definitely be more competition on a weekly basis if
he wasn't here. Phil would be a golf God. Vijay and Ernie would have
super-human win totals. Sergio would have one major. There'd be a lot
more guys people paid attention too. Instead, its Tiger wins or Tiger
doesn't play so who cares. That's not good for the PGA.
If the tour
doesn't want to see more tourneys folding because of no-shows by Tiger
they need the slimmed-down Phil to do something he hasn't done yet. He
needs to look Tiger in the eyes and not back down. He needs to beat him
toe-to-toe on Sunday. He needs to reveal a chink in the armor and a way
for other young players to get it done.
2007--Nationwide Tour, Tiger is mediocre, Bye-Bye Cell Phones
Anyone paying close attention
to the leader board after three
rounds at the Buick Invitational this past weekend may have noticed an
interesting theme....Nationwide Tour Players. Three graduates of last
Nationwide Tour (Jeff Quinney, Andrew Buckle and Brandt Snedeker) all
chances to win the Buick Invitational Sunday. Snedeker actually took the
lead into the final round before posting a gaudy score and dropping out
these players can have such an impact only a few
weeks removed from the Nationwide Tour. It makes you realize just how
the field is in the golfing world. Guys on the Nationwide Tour are
only one good weekend away from having the chance to make their presence
felt with the big boys of the PGA. I mention this 1. Because it's
and important and 2. Because I wasted a good hour of my time last
arguing with an old friend about how winning a golf tournament was easy.
According to my bad bunker shot of a friend, there are really only about
five or 10 players who can win a pro golf tournament in the world.
Therefore, he concluded, what Tiger Woods is doing isn't that
embarrassed to admit I have a friend who claims such
things, but I do. However, I use the example of the Nationwide Tour's
instant impact, the fact that two of the first three winners on tour
year were Paul Goydos and Charley Hoffman and the fact that there are
thousands of guys who can shoot 68's in their sleep who can't even sniff
tour to argue my case. The talent pool in golf right now is
These guys are so good and there are so many of them it's just crazy to
think about. It's mind-bending.
What's even more
mind-bending is that every week Tiger Woods
makes beating these guys seem easier than making jokes about Jessica
Simpson. That's seven straight PGA victories after yesterday's Buick
Now, only Mr. Byron Nelson's record of 11 straight lies ahead of him.
doubtful he'll win 11 or 12 straight but right now I'm not going to bet
against him. I can't remember the last time I saw him hit a bad shot. I
remember watching him pick apart Hoylake at the British Open to start
streak and just being blown away. Every shot went where he wanted it to
In a game where a bad fairway divot or a strong gust of wind can change
someone's career, Tiger Woods seems immune to everything. He's
a way we've never understood.
underestimate Tiger's understanding of the
situation. He may claim it's not a true streak but he knows how close he
to Nelson. He knows if he times it right he could win number 11 or 12 at
Augusta National in April. He knows a daring win at the Masters to
the streak might go down as the most goosebumps-inducing moment in golf
There's also a
lot more going on in the golf world than just
Tiger and the Buick. Over the weekend, Greg Norman and Sergio Garcia
announced they'd be working together on course designs in Dubai. That's
formidable twosome and I'm sure they'll build some unbelievable tracks,
I've got an interesting thought for you. Considering Garcia can't putt
beans on Sundays and Norman's known for one of the biggest choke jobs in
Masters history, would you take them as a best ball team or Tiger solo
they squared of on Sunday at Augusta?
Where R U?
Did U C Dat?
on attending this year's British Open can leave
their phones at home this year. Finally, the Royal and Ancient revealed
brain and banned the devices from this year's championship. After all
distractions and stops and starts at last year's open, only a pair of
wouldn't have made this decision. It should speed up play and make for a
better championship all together.
However, it will
disable fans from text messaging such
fascinating sentences to one another like those listed above.
wanted to take a minute to admit I'm getting the itch
for golf. Yesterday, I spent the morning at the Rochester Golf Show and
spent some time in the afternoon watching Tiger dispatch the field. All
does is make me want to play. I've played once since Nov. 1 and that's
there's still a bunch of snow and ice trying to
limit my tee times. Therefore, I'm really looking forward to the Buffalo
Golf show on Feb. 24 and 25. Not only will BuffaloGolfer.com have a
the show, we'll also be helping to ease ours and yours desires to get
out on our favorite Western New York courses.
2007 # 2--Ice Wine?
Try Ice Golf!
There is a small course located
in Chautauqua County that's almost out of a cartoon. It has a hole where
the tee shot is surrounded by trees and thus even though it's a par
four, you've almost got to hit wedge from the tee. It also has a hole
that's quite short but almost directly uphill. Fail to hit it far enough
and the ball will roll right back at you.
It's not a great
course. But I've played there. If I ever ended up in the area with an
itch for golf again, maybe I'd give it another round. However, I
recently discovered a course I wouldn't touch if it was the last course
in the world.
That course is
the Ice Course in Uummannaq, Greenland. It's the home of the World Ice
Golf Championship. However, it's only played during years with good and
safe ice conditions. Players usually battle extreme winds, blinding
sunlight, slippery ice slopes, freakish temperatures and then the rest
of the field. Makes the U.S. Open seem like a cake walk
championship will be held from March 22 - March 27 and needless to say,
The Mouth that Roars won't be there. I love golf but not as much as I
detest sub-zero temperatures and eight layers of wool. I'd
rather play amidst hungry carnivorous dinosaurs then tee it up in
Greenland with these guys.
That being said,
I've got to respect the players who compete in this event. It shows a
love for the game not even I can understand. Annika Ostberg of
Denmark has won the event twice. Jason Cunningham of Australia will get
a chance to defend his title from last year this March. They've all won
an event that tests golfer's endurance like nothing the USGA could
And, even though
they always come to Greenland to compete in this event, the course is
always different. Even with as talented a course designer, say, as Tom
Doak and Donald Ross, no one can compete with Mother Nature. Depending
on the temperature and the ocean currents, the course looks a little
different every year.
even really establish a course pattern for a full 18 holes. As the
championship's website points out, the weather can be very different
from one side of an iceberg to the other. The amount of snow and ice can
change on a dime.
Other than that,
ice golf's pretty similar to the game we play in America. It's a 36-hole
championship, players use clubs not ice picks and the player with the
lowest score wins.
Still, I can't
wrap my mind around the idea of playing ice golf. I love walking
the green fairways and enjoying the beautiful backdrops that make up
golf courses in Western New York. I get depressed when winter comes
and hides such places with snow. I guess, those golf-lovers in Greenland
decided it's better to play golf in snow than not play golf at all.
For that, I'll
always give them credit. However, when I take time to look at all the
stats and numbers from championships past I can't get past a couple of
numbers. -12 and -25. Those numbers represent the Celsius temperature
range from past tournaments. That means it's cold, very cold. One
picture even shows a player with icicles on their face.
That's usually a
situation I try to avoid. When my facial hair becomes capable of cooling
my drink I think about heading inside. Therefore, I'll probably pass on
teeing it up in Greenland this March. But, now when someone sees me
playing on a cold February day in Western New York and yells out about
how crazy I am, I can respond with the following...
"Hey, do you see
icicles on my face?"
2007--All That Matters As A New Season Begins
One week into the 2007 PGA Tour
schedule and everybody wants to talk about
the young guns.
The early story
was how small of a story it was that Michelle
Wie was teeing it up with the men this past weekend. This, her fourth
go-round in the Sony Open, ended as uncelebrated as each earlier
She carded scored of 78 and 76 to finish 146 out of 148 players. Wie's
missed the cut in each of her first seven PGA events and become a
punch line in the world of golf.
supporter of Michelle Wie and her talent, even I
must admit I'm growing tired of watching her try and try again. I
Wie has unlimited potential and could someday compete consistently in
events. However, I feel she's been pushed along to quick by those around
in the name of money and know finds herself in a mental mess.
That being said,
the fat lady has not begun to sing for Wie's
career. She's only 17. Want to compare her to Tiger Woods? Woods also
the first seven cuts of his PGA career. Therefore, there's more than
time for Wie to right the ship and become a revolutionary athlete in the
If I could offer
Ms. Wie a few tidbits of advice I'd say the
1. Go away for a
while - Not because I'm sick of you or you're
not good enough. Just get away from the game. Try to figure out if you
it or not. Listen to your heart and not the words of the many greedy
individuals around you.
2. Win on the
women's tour - Don't play on the men's tour again
this year. Shy away from the criticism. Go develop end eventually
the LPGA circuit before taking on Ernie Els and co. again. Then, you'll
better prepared to succeed when you return.
All of Wie's
struggles make me appreciate Earl Woods even more.
Tiger was also a phenom at a young age. However, Earl never pushed him
fast. He understood it takes time for players to develop (especially on
game that relies so much on someone's mental mettle). As a result, when
Tiger did take on the big boys he was as prepared as possible.
The other story
brewing early in the season about youth is the
success of 16-year old Hawaiian Todd Fujikawa. Playing in his home state
the Sony Open, Fujikawa was tied for eighth place after three rounds.
with playing great, Fujikawa's also about as lovable as a teddy bear.
He's 5-2 with a
smile that's pasted onto his face. He wears his
heart on his sleeve and embraces the warmth fans seem to offer him. A
who's had to battle his whole life, Fujikawa's story is inspiring.
Born 3 months
premature, Fujikawa once weighed 31 ounces total.
Doctors gave him a 50 percent chance of surviving. Sixteen years later
walked and smiled his way around Winged Foot Golf Club at last year's US
Open. He's the ultimate likable guy and judging from his play this week,
might be on the verge of becoming a force in the professional golfing
(Editor's Note: How
inspiring is it that Paul "one win per decade" Goydos nailed this one
down with a 67.
How depressing is it that Donald and Howell, two of the bright young
lights, could not go lower
than 69 to put this one away? Guess it's Tiger or no one in the
2006 #3--12 Thoughts To End The Year
Another Christmas has come and gone. Kris Kringle has been in and out of
every chimney around the globe and Rudolph’s looking forward to a few
months of rest.
However, even though it’s December 26, I’m still in the Christmas
spirit. I’m much more of the 12 days of Christmas mindset. I don’t like
to look at the holiday as a single day but rather a period of time
during which people share gifts, reflect upon what’s important in their
life and slow down a bit.
That’s why I’ve decided to comprise a list of 12 things I’m most
grateful for in the world of golf. The list that follows is in no
particular order. Just 12 things that help make the great sport of golf
a little better.
1. No Referees
– The older I’ve grown the more I’ve come to appreciate the fact that
nobody gets to blow a whistle at professional golfers. You can look back
at the last few playoffs in other professional sports and almost always
find a controversy revolving around the officials and their calls. Sure
golf has rules, but they’re clear-cut. It’s black and white. No instant
replays, cheap fouls or easy outs. That leads to less controversy and
– No other sport defines a single day of the week so much. Every year
(barring weather delays), golf crowns its champions on Sundays. Yeah the
NFL plays on Sundays but now they’ve got games on Thursday, Saturday,
and Monday too. But, in golf, the green jacket, the Wannamaker Trophy,
the Claret Jug…they all get dished out on Sunday.
3. Golf Movies
– When it comes to golf flicks it’s all about quality over quantity.
There haven’t been many but those that have been made are doozies. Tin
Cup lifts my spirits. Caddyshack and Happy Gilmore deliver the laughs.
The Legend of Bagger Vance touches on redemption, greatness and personal
struggle. Seriously, if there’s a movie with a four iron in it, I’ll
4. Foursomes – Three of the most important friends I’ve ever had were the other guys
in my high school foursome. Every day after school we’d get together for
practice and play nine holes. Yeah, we learned the game. But we also
learned a lot about laughing and telling jokes. I’m only four years
removed from high school and I already don’t keep in touch with many
classmates. However, it’s rare if two weeks go by when I don’t talk to
each of those guys. I can only hope any future foursomes I have are
5. Match Play – Hey, you just made a 14 on the fifth hole. Well, guess what? You’re
still only one down because we’re doing match play today. Golf is
golf, but the way people play it changes whether they’re playing stroke
or match play. Match play is used less frequently but it’s just as fun
and allows for a disastrous hole or two.
6. 6 p.m. tee
times – My favorite time to
tee it up is six p.m. on a summer night. The course isn’t all that
crowded. You get to watch the sunset and if you play with a little pace,
you can still get 18 holes in.
7. Handicaps – Sure you just carded a 94 at Pinehurst No. 2. But, subtract your 24
handicap and it’s really a 70. Heck, Tiger Woods has shot rounds higher
than 70 at that place. So, incorporate your handicap and El Tigre really
doesn’t have anything on you. Handicaps enable us to play with guys two
times better than us. They enable a great golfer and a sub-par golfer to
still have something to play for when they walk to the 18th.
8. Tiger Woods – I know it’s cliché to thank the greatest golfer ever to get a
haircut, but I feel a need to do so. I feel utterly blessed to be alive
during Woods’ career. I’ve watched him win each of his 12 majors and saw
the most recent in person. The guy’s changed my understanding of the
game and what it means to be excellent. I’ve heard all about Nicklaus
and Palmer but I wouldn’t have traded my time watching Tiger to see
either of them work through their careers.
shirts and plaid shorts – As
much as I love tuning in to see who wins a golf tournament, I love
taking time to see what the guys are wearing too. You can laugh at that,
but I love seeing what guys like Ian Poulter and Jesper Parnevik decide
to wear on Sundays. From Tiger’s red shirts to Poulter’s pink pants –
fashion and style are staples in golf.
National – Every year the
major championships choose a new course to go to except The Masters. The
first major of the year has decided that only one course is good enough
for the greatest players in the world. Only one place deserves to be
visited every year. That place is Augusta National.
11. U.S. Open
Qualifying – Still the
coolest and toughest thing in sports if you ask me. Trying to qualify
for the U.S. Open is like trying to win the Iditarod in swim trunks and
flip flops. You’ve got to make bogeys less often than neutered pets make
babies. Still, every year, a handful of guys get a chance to tee it up
with the world’s greatest. Pretty neat, huh?
– You can’t beat the stories the game gives us. From stories of triumph
to zany stories of holes-in-one, golf is all about tall tales and
legends. Every player, every hole, every shot and every course has a
story. We keep playing because we can’t get enough of the stories. We
always want to write ours a little better and we’re dying to let the
links tell us a few more.
2006 #2--2006 Holiday Wishes
The 19th Hole, the best site on the web to find out
what's new and what's best in golf equipment.
While the unseasonably warm
weather in Western New York this year might not say so, the holiday
season is upon us.
No doubt, this is a happy time full of gift giving and family parties.
However, local golf fans could be struggling through the December month.
Not because they aren’t loaded full of holiday spirit, but mostly
because there’s really no golf being played. Each tour has completed its
championship and q-school has unleashed its newest graduates to the
pros. Even locally, most greens are roped off and fairways are devoid of
hacks hauling four irons.
That being said, the 2007 season is really only a few weeks away. It
won’t be long before the pros are teeing it up at the Sony Open in
Hawaii to kick off a fresh season of golf. Looking ahead to that time,
I’ve compiled a list of holiday wishes for the 2007 pro season.
1. Nobody mentions Phil
Mickelson’s name in the same breath as Tiger Woods – I like Phil. I
think he’s a good guy with an extraordinary talent. But, if he was ever
going to step up and be Woods’ rival, last year was it. He gave it a go,
but essentially played lousy the whole second half of the year after the
Winged Foot Massacre. I hope the two never square off at a major
championship with nine to go because I know Woods will pick him apart.
I’m sure Phil is going to win another major or two, but not when Woods
is playing his best.
2. We start talking about
somebody else and Woods – I think people have been wishing for a
Tiger rival for about a decade but there’s really no reason for it to
not happen this year. I’ll give you three guys who have the game and
ability to match El Tigre: Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy.
Scott and Garcia are golf prodigies who’ve been disappointing as
professionals. One of them, if not both need to find the gumption to
take a Sunday lead from Tiger. Ogilvy’s developed at a slower pace but
he’s the only of the three with a major championship. Watching the way
this guy played with Phil and Tiger for two rounds at last year’s PGA
Championship, you can see he’s got the whole package.
3. Success for the FedEx Cup
– In my heart of hearts, I really don’t like the idea of the FedEx
Cup. I understand the desire to get the big names to play more often and
later into the season, but I don’t like how it took a $10 million
incentive and an extra month off to get it done. Shouldn’t guys want to
play golf at the greatest courses in the world every week on their own?
That being said, I hope it works. I hope it adds a little more drama to
the fall months. It would be nice to see Lefty at some point after
August. But, don’t be surprised it if doesn’t catch on. Even with the
added money, guys like Phil, Tiger, Sergio and Ernie Els will still care
more about the majors then the FedEx Cup. Don’t be surprised if guys
wiggle their way out of this like they do the Tour Championship.
4. Wie on the weekend –
One of my friends recently referred to Wie’s career as one big circus.
And, looking at her misguided attempts to make men’s cuts and inability
to win on the women’s tour, Wie doesn’t look like the most focused of
players. However, I hope she finds something in her swing this season
and makes a few cuts on the men’s tour. I think she can play and compete
for four days with the guys, but if she doesn’t get it done soon people
aren’t going to have much patience for her.
5. The 72nd at
Winged Foot x 2 – I can’t remember the last time a single hole had
such an impact on the major championships as it did at Winged Foot last
year. Standing at the tee, Mickelson was moments away from winning the
first hall of the grand slam and grabbing hold of the golf world. Woods
had missed the cut and a slew of other guys had already turned the US
Open’s final hole into a mess. However, one double-bogey later and
Mickelson’s dreams were crushed. Geoff Ogilvy emerged from the fracas to
take home the Open Title. Woods mourned the loss of his father before
winning the final two majors of the season in style. Sure, it was utter
chaos, but wasn’t such a season-changing hole a ton of fun?
2006--Trivia Time...Under The Gun
For $30,000 plus change a year and a job at one of the premier golf
magazines in the world, who invented the sand wedge?
Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Tick, tock.
All right relax readers, I’m not in a position where
I could offer any of you such money or such an opportunity. However, The
Mouth recently found himself in such a position when he traveled to
Hilton Head, SC for a job interview with a respectable golf publication.
While I expected a challenge when I made the trip hoping to convince
those in charge I could fill the editorial assistant job they currently
have open, I never expected to realize I don’t know jack squat about the
sport I love.
For the three days I was in Hilton Head, the interview went quite smooth
actually. The plane flew steady and put me back on the ground in one
piece. I was as polite and personable as I could ever be when talking
with the different editors and employees. I even managed to put down a
little sushi when the owners of the publication took me out for dinner
the second night I was in town.
However, at about 11 a.m. eastern standard time last
Thursday, my world fell in around me. I’ll be honest, I’ve always
thought I knew a fair share of golf trivia and information. I can spit
out the last 10 winners of every major championship like nothing. I know
about the careers of guys like Nicklaus, Palmer and Ben Crenshaw.
Working for PGAtour.com I’ve picked up more golf information about guys
from the Nationwide and Champions Tour.
That’s why when one of the editors asked me to take
a ‘golf knowledge’ test, I felt pretty confident. However, after reading
through the 20 questions and realizing I might be able to answer five, I
knew I was about to pull a Van-de-Velde. Even after realizing the test
had me dormie and then some, I put a few good guesses out there. I tried
to rationalize some qustions, put them in time frames and then pick
players from that era for answers. Needless to say, it didn’t work.
The question that kicked off this column was among
those The Mouth didn’t know. Apparently Gene Sarazen is the guy who
first came up with a sand wedge. Among the other questions I couldn’ t
answer were, “Who coined the phrase Amen Corner? and “Who was the first
guy to shoot a 63 in the U.S. Open?”
Now I know these questions aren’t completely out there, but they shook
up my fake sense of confidence in my golf-knowledge abilities. I know
what Amen Corner is, I don’t know who coined the name. I knew 63 was the
low round at the U.S. Open, I don’t know who first shot it.
Upon handing in the test I felt I was sunk. Even if
I got everyone right that I’d answered or guessed at I’d probably only
score a fifty percent. Later, the editor who’d given me the test told me
it was definitely a challenging set of trivia he’d comprised. He said it
with a smirk to let me know that he’d never expected me to do extremely
well on it. Still, I hated being outsmarted when it came to the sport of
golf. I also discovered I did very well in my one-on-one interviews and
nailed the editing test I’d been given. With all these positives, I left
Hilton Head feeling good about my effort. As I’ve told anyone who asked
me about it since then, I did the best I could and now I’ll just wait
and see if I get an offer.
However, as I flew back toward Buffalo last Friday, I couldn’t get my
mind off the golf knowledge test. It wasn’t that I was kicking myself
over it, I knew there was no way for me to have prepared for such a hard
test i didn’t know was coming. Instead, I began to focus on just what a
cool idea it was. So, I’ve now come up with a way of rebounding from my
sub-par performance down south. Instead of taking a test, I want to put
together the most challenging 20 questions of golf trivia I can muster.
However, as my performance proved last week, I need help.
So, I’d like the open the floor to the wonderful
readers of BuffaloGolfer.com. Know something about the 1972 Masters that
you think will stump golf fans? Send it in. Remember something about
Jack Nicklaus’ career even he may have forgot? Shoot me an e-mail. I’m
hoping that with me and the other site staffers doing research and you
offering suggestions, we can put together a test by Christmas time, post
it on the website and then see how readers do.
In closing, let me reiterate what I’m looking for.
Anybody who thinks they’ve got some relevant golf trivia they’d like to
share, send it to
email@example.com and I’ll take it into consideration. I can’t
promise everyone’s question will make the final cut. But, I can promise
that with your help we can put together one of the most challenging sets
of golf trivia ever conceived.
Having said that, now the clock’s ticking for real. With as bummed as I
was over being stumped in South Carolina, I’m ready for more
punishment. Bring it on.
2006--Three things I know I know
The 19th Hole, the best site on the web to find out
what's new and what's best in golf equipment.
Talk about irony. What goes around must come around in the world of
For the past 10 years, Tiger Woods has made a fortune out of destroying
golf courses. Bunkers? He’s blitzed them. Greens? He’s made them look
like putt-putt courses. Ungodly long holes? Woods usually finds a way to
get home in two.
However, according to a statement released by Woods last week, he’ll
soon begin building a handful of courses around the globe. By forming
Tiger Woods Design, El Tigre will try to build the most fun,
challenging golf courses he can imagine.
“I've had the luxury of playing golf around the world, and I've spent a
lot of time evaluating how to play all kinds of courses," said Woods,
chairman of the new company. "I'd like to share my experiences and the
lessons I've learned and hopefully create some amazing, fun courses."
That could be good or bad news for golf enthusiasts around the world. In
one sense, would there be anything cooler than playing courses designed
by the greatest golfer ever? However, if Woods looks to build courses
that could even challenge him we could all be in for trouble. Something
tells me I don’t have the same concept of amazing and fun on a golf
course as Tiger.
Apparently any time a guy under the age or 30 wins a big tournament he’s
expected to step up and be Tiger Woods next rival. After Adam Scott
capped off his most consistent season on tour with a win at the Tour
Championship last weekend people have already begun to talk about how he
must now step up and be Frazier to Woods’ Ali.
First off, it’s time to understand Woods has no rivals. The only guys
who can even be considered his rivals are guys with the last names of
Nelson, Palmer and most assuredly Nicklaus. Tiger Woods doesn’t play
against the field. He play’s against history and the game’s legends.
That being said, Scott is finally starting to live up to the hype that’s
preceded him. The guy’s got great talent and could wrestle a major or
two away from Woods at some point, but not in the next season or two. I
do like Scott and the funny-looking sweaters he always seems to wear,
but don’t paint him as Woods’ rival.
Along with Scott, golf fans have to be pleased by the influx of young
good players on Tour. Guys like Zach Johnson, Brett Wetterich, J.J.
Henry and Camilo Villegas are really starting to make their presences
felt and find an identity on tour. That bodes well for a sport that
really lacks personality after you get past Woods and Mickelson.
Finally, I’d like to second Tim Rosaforte’s assertion that the Masters
should extend a special invitation to Tom Lehman for next year’s
As Rosaforte recently pointed out in his GolfDigest.com column, Lehman
essentially gave up an automatic bid to the Masters when he elected
Byron Nelson’s funeral over the WGC American Express Championship.
Placing anywhere in the top 56 would have put Lehman in the automatic
bid category for next year’s first major.
Instead, Lehman chose to honor a golf legend. For a game that prides
itself on its tradition and heritage, Lehman should be rewarded for
taking time to honor Nelson with an invite to the tournament.
It’s not as if Lehman is a slouch either. This year’s Ryder Cup captain,
Lehman contemplated playing on the team himself before finally electing
to let younger guys give it a go. Lehman was up there on the Ryder Cup
points though and he’ll make more than a couple birdies at Augusta next
2006--Michelle Wie: The best of
times, the worst of times?
These aren’t the best days for young Michelle Wie.
Having gone just one-for-11 in her first few years of trying to compete
in men’s events, Wie has fallen under staunch criticism for her
relentless pursuit of acceptance on the men’s tour. There’s also
been quite a bit of unrest within the Wie camp over the past few months
as well. Having recently changed agents and caddies, it seems Wie is
beginning to feel the heat and looking for a way to make things better.
Throw all of that in with the staggering pressures that come from simply
being a 17-year-celebrity and one would have to think long and hard
before volunteering to wear her Nike golf shoes for a week.
However, with all that being said, I’m becoming a bigger fan of Wie
with every cut she misses. I love watching her struggle her way around
golf courses not because I want her to fail, but because I understand
I’m watching the early stages of something utterly amazing.
People love to criticize every wayward tee shot Wie
hits. People should shut up. When I was 17-years-old I could barely
overcome my nerves to hit a solid tee shot in high school matches. You
want to criticize Wie because she’s made just one cut in 11 tries? I’m
not buying it. First off, even in defeat, there’s a lot to like
about Michelle. To start, she’s got guts. She doesn’t have to come back
time and time again to face criticism and miss cuts, but she does. She’s
also got character. How many times has Michelle Wie stepped to the
interview room with a bag full of excuses? She doesn’t point to her age
or her inexperience, she simply talks about how she needs to play
better, work on her game and continue on her pursuit.
It’s a pursuit I hope she more than succeeds with as
she moves forward. I’ve always had a tendency to root for the underdogs.
To pull for the people who have a growing list of doubters and critics.
It’s kind of how I first started to become a Tiger Woods guy. Remember
when Woods was struggling to win every single tournament for a few years
in the middle of his career and everyone started talking about the Tiger
Slump? Now, a few years later we can see how much of a crock such slump
talk turned out to be.
I’m hopeful we can do the same type of thing when we
look back at the criticism Wie faced early in her career. Obviously, the
one glaring difference between Woods and Wie is that Tiger had
long-before proven himself when he began to feel the heat. Wie doesn’t
have a whole lot to fall back on, and I guess, in a lot of ways that
lends some credibility to the criticism.
However, along with guts and character, this girl’s got a lot of game
and a lot of years ahead of her. I’m not joking when I say I could
definitely see her in the PGA Tour’s winner’s circle at some point. It
may sound crazy, but pretend Wie had never played a men’s event and you
simply saw her play for the first time tomorrow. All of a sudden, you
don’t see the criticism and they hype. Instead, you see the game and
you’re forced to respect it.
I’ve no doubt Wie’s got the game. I just hope she
has enough drive and persistence to stick with it. She’s probably going
to face much more criticism before she reaches her goals. Still, I
don’t think it’s to far out there to say Wie will someday walk down the
fairways of Augusta alongside other competitors in the Masters. And,
should that happen, I’ve got to think it will be hard to find anyone
doubting her then.
Toms: The reincarnation of Payne Stewart?
Underneath his famous knickers and sometimes odd-looking hats, Payne
Stewart was really just your average guy. What separated him from other
guys on tour was his flair, passion and exuberance for the sport. What
distinguished him as an American sports icon was his ability to win
three major golf tournaments with the grace and humility of a champion.
Since Stewart’s tragic passing in a 1999 plane crash, the PGA Tour has
been handing out The Payne Stewart Award to a player who embodies the
values by which Stewart lived. Already such players as Jack Nicklaus,
Byron Nelson and Brad Faxon have been recognized as winners. It’s a
special honor for guys on tour since so many players played with and
were friends of the late, great Stewart. And, as the Tour readies to
hand out the eighth Stewart Award, it should take a hard look at giving
the honor to David Toms.
It’s not hard to understand why Toms would be a fitting recipient when
you look at his statistics. Currently ranked number 10 in the world,
Toms has amassed 12 Tour victories including the 2001 PGA Championship.
He’s also been a member on three Ryder Cup and two President’s Cup
teams. He’s shown the toughness and mettle to contend week in and week
out with the best golfers in the world.
However, to truly understand why Toms deserves this honor you’ve got to
look at him when he’s not wearing his golf spikes. You’ve got to follow
him around the country as he puts in countless hours raising money and
awareness for the David Toms Foundation.
According to Toms, his foundation creates hope for children in need by
finding ways for them to get help. He works with abused, abandoned
and/or underprivileged children in hopes of helping the over one-million
children who are currently homeless in the United States.
While Toms’ efforts will never be able to help every child in need
around the country, he’s hopeful it will make a difference and inspire
others to do the same. On his website www.davidtomsfoundation.com,
visitors can find a list of every different charity that has received
money from the foundation. With over 40 charities listed ranging from
the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to Hurricane Katrina Relief
Funding, Toms and his people have donated over $2,488,900 to those in
Those are the kind of efforts and numbers the PGA Tour should consider
when shifting through the different candidates for this year. Toms is an
accomplished player, a dedicated charity worker and the kind of player
who treats the game, his competitors and the golf course with a simple
respect. He may not draw the kinds of crowds Tiger Woods and Phil
Mickelson do, but at the end of the day he’s probably got more of a
following when you consider all the young boys and girls who’ve received
help from his foundation.
Sure, he doesn’t wear the knickers or the caps Steward did, but aside
from their wardrobes these guys are a lot alike. You’ve got to think if
Stewart could offer his vote in this year’s award selection, he’d
probably give long consideration to Toms. Through his career and
foundation, Toms has done a lot for himself and a lot for others. Even
though he’ll never ask for it, Toms deserves some recognition from the
Tour for all his hard work. That’s why; a month from now, the PGA Tour
should do the right thing and give this guy possibly the greatest
acknowledgement of his career by handing him the 2006 Payne Stewart
Bonus--Ryder Cup Review...Are You Listening, USA?
While the United States team's performance in the
Ryder Cup this past weekend at the K Club may leave many American golf
fans speechless, the few words others can come up with are very
are just a few of the negative words you can throw around when talking
about the 18 ½ - 9 ½ trouncing the Americans took at the hands of Darren
Clarke, Sergio Garcia and the other 10 European team members. For three
days, the Europeans put on a golf clinic as they dispatched some of the
greatest players in the world.
be hard to swallow getting beat like this no matter who was playing, but
when you consider guys like Phil Mickelson, David Toms and Chris Dimarco
combined to win zero matches; you've just got to shake your head.
does this happen?"
it's been happening for some time now. Two years ago, the Americans were
whitewashed by the same score. They've now lost three straight Ryder
Cups and eight of the past 11. One or two more events like this one and
the Cup itself may apply for permanent European citizenship.
a day after the massive walloping the United States took and already
tons of golf writers are beginning to try to figure out what is wrong.
Shift through some columns about the Ryder Cup and you'll find people
questioning the way the U.S. picks their players, they importance of
having captain's picks and a great debate about who should next captain
easy to understand why people are evaluating such things. They're
looking for answers to a question they can't understand. However, if we
really want to find the reason for such a defeat we have to look at the
players themselves and nothing else.
Watching the competition this past week, it became clear that the only
thing the Americans were missing (other than Woods' nine iron for part
of Sunday) was heart. Getting beat by the Europeans is understandable.
Getting pounded and doubled up in points is gutless.
the Americans think their past accomplishments and world rankings can
carry them through such events but they're obviously not putting in the
same kind of work they would for a major championship. Maybe the
Americans can't seem to muster enough emotion to care about the event
Regardless, at some point or another, you have to think pride would
factor in to this equation. How many times do we have to get beat before
we decide to make a stand?
Still, there is reason for hope. The Americans are undoubtedly talented.
When you can put guys like Woods, Mickelson and Furyk on the same team
you don't have to worry about not having the necessary skill. However,
if the Americans are going to reverse this trend at Valhalla in 2008,
they'll have to look within themselves. It doesn't really matter who's
on that team if they don't each bring a little bit of heart and pride.
of that matters right now though. For the next few days and weeks we'll
hear about how much camaraderie and talent the Europeans have. They
deserve all the praise of course. The emotion and game they showed in
defending their title and winning for Darren Clarke is admirable.
However, the Americans would be wise not to get caught up in listening
too much of the press. It's best to move on from this debacle as soon as
possible. Two years from now they'll get another chance. And,
hopefully, by then they'll find the necessary heart and passion to
reverse this trend.
2006--Ryder Cup Preview...Are You Listening, Europe?
It is time to send a message.
been seven years since the United States last won a Ryder Cup and took
hold of the golfing world. It's been seven years since Justin Leonard
rolled in that putt from another time zone on the 17th hole at Brookline
to give the United States an emphatic come from behind victory. It's
been seven years since the US team got the chance to pop the champagne
and act all giddy as they hoisted the Ryder Cup toward the heavens.
been seven years to long.
then, the European team has put together two straight Ryder Cup
victories and looked like the dominant golfing force in the world.
They've won four of the last five cups and looked impressive doing it.
Even heading into this week's Ryder Cup at the K Club, all the talk
seems to be focused on how young and inexperienced the American team is.
How they probably don't have enough firepower and passion to take back
low expectations probably don't sit well with an American team that
currently has the top three players in the world on its roster. Guys
like Jim Furyk, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson don't take well to being
called underdogs. But, amazingly, that's what they'll be as they tee it
up this weekend.
some reason, whenever the greatest golfers in the world have to put away
their sponsor shirts and dress like teams, the Europeans make the
Americans look like a bunch of guys who don't know how to play together.
Seriously, watch the tapes from two years ago and you'll see the
Europeans running around, celebrating and embracing one another after
every match. The camaraderie these guys share outshines that of the
American team time and time again.
time for that to change.
the two teams meet at the K Club in Ireland next weekend, I have no
doubt that the more talented, deeper team will be wearing the American
colors. There's no reason for these guys to get pushed around and lose
this thing. It's not that the European guys aren't good or that I don't
respect them, it's just that I'm tired of seeing the Americans get
destroyed. Honestly, if you had to choose between Woods or Sergio
Garcia, Phil Mickelson or Darren Clarke, Jim Furyk or Luke Donald you'd
probably take the American in each pairing.
each team has 12 players and names like Brett Wetterich and Zach Johnson
aren't going to put the fear of God in the Europeans. But, still, from
top to bottom the American team is more accomplished and more capable of
bringing home the Ryder Cup this weekend.
Therefore, it's time for the American team to do what they should have
done each of the last two times the Ryder Cup was held - Win. No more
excuses. No more getting pushed around. No more walking away in disgust
with a bunch of shoulda, woulda, couldas.
this time they need to recapture that emotion they showed on the 17th
green at Brookline. It's time to act like the best golfers in the world.
It's time to surround that Ryder Cup in good ol' Red White and Blue.
time to send a message.
Files: Installment The Fifth (& final!)
It's only been two weeks, but I'm already going through withdrawal.
miss Medinah Country Club. I miss hanging around the greatest golfers in
the world. I miss the guys I worked with. I miss Chicago.
Nothing against school and Western New York, but it's not the PGA
Championship. Sitting through lectures about Romantic literature can't
quite compare to following Tiger as he made his Saturday charge at
Medinah No. 3.
all honesty, the fact that I miss being at Medinah so much is a credit
to the PGA staff and the great guys I worked with. I've done two of
these now and my experience at Medinah blew Baltusrol out of the water.
actually hard to pick out my favorite experience from my two months
stint in Illinois. Standing next to Tiger as he accepted the Wannamaker
Trophy is up there. So is the time Amy Mickelson and her friend asked if
they could watch golf with us from our golf cart. Then again, can
anything beat getting a chance to play the course two days after the
pro's finished up?
truth is, as fun and awesome as my summer job turned out to be, it all
just went to fast. I think about how two weeks ago I woke up in Chicago
and it feels like just yesterday when I began my drive out there.
to help me remember the past two summers I put together a brief
checklist of my favorite things about the past two summers. Below is a
comparison of such things.
Best Champion Tiger or Phil? I'm more of a Tiger guy.
Tougher course? 4-under won at Baltusrol. 18-under won at Medinah. That's
an easy one.
Prettier Course? Lake Kudijah runs through Medinah and makes it look
beautiful. It beats Baltusrol by a tap-in.
Coolest shot? During the second round at Baltusrol, Mickelson drove it
off the six tee and way left into the 17th fairway. Rather than punch
out, Lefty hit the ball down 17 to a point where he thought he could get
to the green. From there, he hit it over the trees, landed it 10 feet
from the pin and spun it back. Then, he ran around the green slapping
Worst Moment? Having a piece of metal give out from underneath me at
Medinah and splitting my right leg open. Nine stitches later the Mouth
was once again roaring.
If I could play only one of the courses ever again? Baltusrol. I
wouldn't call it prettier, but there is something about the place that
speaks to me a bit more than Medinah.
Files: Installment The Fourth
This column should be about everything I experienced over the past two
months as a member of the 2006 PGA Championship Operations Crew.
should spend the next few paragraphs telling you about all the time I
spent following guys like Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald and David Love III
as they worked their way around Medinah No. 3.
I should probably take the time to gloat about how Amy Mickelson, her
friend and her mother spent the majority of Friday afternoon standing in
my golf cart so they could see over the masses that followed Tiger
Woods, Mr. Mickelson and Geoff Ogilvy.
are probably a hundred stories I would love to tell all of you about
Medinah that would pique your golfing interests. However, to take
the time to tell those stories would be to ignore a much larger story
which has taken the golf world by storm. Maybe you've heard of it or him
for that matter. He goes by Tiger.
That's right; Woods' victory at the Bridgestone Invitational yesterday
marked the 10 year anniversary of Tiger turning pro. It also gave Woods
his fourth win in as many tournaments. Only a week removed from winning
the PGA Championship to earn his 12th major title, Tiger now stands
posed to take over the golf world in even more impressive fashion than
Earlier in his career, between late 1999 and 2001, Tiger went on a
stretch during which he won seven of 11 major tournaments. However,
after that impressive stretch, Woods went through a few seasons of swing
alterations, injuries and personal changes. While he remained a steady
force on tour, often picking up a major title a year, many began to
question if he could ever truly live up to his hype and talent. Willing
to admit he wants to break Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major
championships, Woods faces a stiff pressure to perform at an almost
super-human level every time he tees it up.
judging from his recent victories and dominance, Woods seems ready to
finally fulfill his golf prophecy. Some believe (myself included) that
he's now posed to do something even more magical than his stretch
between 1999 and 2001. Another Tiger slam? The real grand slam? Nothing
seems out of reach for this guy right now.
you seen this guy play recently? He put on a clinic at the British Open.
He blew away the field at Medinah. With his driver seemingly back in
check, Woods can annihilate golf courses in a number of different ways.
proving it too. Four wins in four-tournaments? That's like batting 1.000
in baseball, only harder. In a game where even the slightest gust of
wind or the smallest bounce can alter competitors' fates, Woods seems
immune to any problems a golf course throws at him.
Forget talking about birdies and bogies, this guy's going to restructure
golf's record books forever. It's not that far fetched to talk about
Woods winning 120+ tournaments and 30 majors before he retires. He's
single handedly kept so many others from achieving golf immortality.
about it? Take Tiger out of the picture and Mickelson's probably the
greatest golfer of our era. Sergio would probably have a major or two.
We'd finally understand just how tough and talented Chris Dimarco can
play. Els, Singh and so many other guys would be putting together their
own runs at the record books.
instead it is Tiger Woods who has completely revolutionized the sport we
love to play and watch. Even as the doubters piled up during his down
years, Woods never wavered from his commitment to change his swing. He
never stopped believing that he would someday return to take over the
golf world again. And, now that it appears that time has come, all we
can do is sit back and be awed. It's scary when you reflect on the first
10 years of Tiger's career. The numbers and the memories are mind
boggling. But, what's even scarier than that is the possibility of the
future. If Tiger's recent success is any indication, the best of Woods
may still be yet to come.
Files: Installment The Third
The British Open is over. The grandstands are
amazing how the conclusion of the third major of the year has
immediately shifted the golf world's attention toward the fourth. Even
with the British Open having ended just yesterday, the intensity at
Medinah has already picked up.
Today, National Rent-A-Fence showed up to begin laying out all of the
fencing around the corporate villages and driving range. Crews have
begun setting up all of the different grandstands around the course. The
first CBS trailers are expected to arrive later this week.
Consequently, the amount of work we have to do has also increased. While
there were a few slow moments in the opening weeks, we're now always
running around to pain, windscreen, make deliveries or rope and stake
the increased work might bum some people out, it gets the Mouth's juices
flowing. Rumor around Medinah is that both Tiger Woods and Phil
Mickelson will be playing some time this week. We're also expecting to
see Michael Jordan playing sometime soon.
funny, but I thought that after last year at Baltusrol, I might be a
little less excited about the job. Fortunately, I was wrong. I love
counting down the days until the greatest golfers ever to breathe will
then though, I'll continue to put in the necessary work to turn this
place into a golfer's dream. Even the most mundane tasks seem exciting
when you consider you're doing it for the PGA Championship.
However, I must take time to admit that not everything we do is mundane.
Just last week I had the chance to do something only the greatest guys
ever to pick up a five iron ever have. Heading by the PGA Championship
office, I was beckoned over by one of my superiors and asked to help
move something into the Medinah clubhouse. Looking at the size of the
box I had to transport, I asked what was inside.
Dubiously, my superior looked at me and said, "The Wannamaker."
That's right, for about five minutes one of the most prized trophies in
golf was in my possession. After unloading it inside the clubhouse, I
took a moment to raise it above my head and pretend I was the
tournament's champion. Sure, my name may never be carved into the thing,
but for a moment it made me forget that I was a 14 handicap.
before I depart I wanted to weigh in on the British. While my Sergio
pick wasn't that far off, I take no shame in being showed up by Tiger. I
don't know if I've ever seen a better final round than Tiger's closer at
Hoylake. Every shot he hit was pure and precise. Other than one misread
birdie putt, I can't think of a shot he hit that wasn't great.
was a reminder that when he's at the top of his game, Tiger Woods can't
be beat. His invincibility may have fallen under question over the past
year, but this win should remind us all of how great Tiger can be.
also while I'm picking Tiger to win at Medinah. I think he's as focused
as he's ever been. Plus, I think he has a great desire to win the final
two majors as a tribute to his late father. While he showed a great deal
of emotion this past Sunday at Hoylake, Tiger still has a lot more to
accomplish this season.
Files: Installment The Second
Even if you happen to be strolling through Medinah Country Club at some
point during the next four weeks you'll probably be hard pressed to find
Considering I've already spent most of my time buried in mulch or
windscreening areas of the course even the most wayward tee-shot would
struggle to find, I'm not always the most visible guy.
fact, that's one of the biggest differences I've noticed between this
year's set-up and the way things were designed last year at Baltusrol.
While many of the corporate villages at Baltusrol ran along the course,
this year's set-up keeps everything close to the clubhouse.
than that, thing's have progressed at about the same rate through the
first two weeks of set-up. The corporate villages are still being set-up
and designed. Not a single grandstand or fan entrance has been set-up
yet. Medinah and the PGA haven't even broken ground on the main entrance
there's still a lot to be done before August 14. This week, we'll
continue to mulch areas of the course and corporate villages. We'll also
continue to windscreen any new sections of fence which get put up over
the next few days. Pretty soon we'll begin setting up bike fence and
then even think about roping and staking the course.
Considering how much we've got left to do, my free time in Chicago has
all but disappeared. I've already been able to visit the city twice and
catch a Cubs game. Around our PGA-provided housing is just about any
store, restuaurant or activity you could possibly imagine. And, while
I've used the early part of my trip to Chicago to enjoy such things, I
probably won't see another day off until August 26 when I take the nine
hour drive home.
that you'll hear me complain. The reason I came here was to be around
one of the greatest golf courses in the world and be up and close to the
PGA Championship. Over the next five weeks, I'll get more than my fair
chance to experience such things. Every now and then when I get a little
tired or frustrated with the long hours, I'm tempted to moan and groan
about the job. However, it only takes a quick look around to remember
how awesome of an opportunity I'm currently enjoying.
goal is to touch base with my Mouth fans once a week over the next six
weeks but please forgive me if I'm a little late during the week before
the tournament. I promise I'll offer as much insight into my experience
as I can.
Finally, I'd like to weigh in on the British Open this week. I'm
frustrated because once again I don't have a clear cut favorite. At the
Masters, I had a feeling about Mickelson. For the Open, I was very
unsure and now I feel that way again with the British. While I'm willing
to guarantee a Tiger victory here at Medinah, I'm shaky about the
Still, I am not a timid soul. And, considering my love for his game and
my belief that the first major he wins will be a British, I'm taking
Files: Installment The First
There are some things in this world that take your breath away.
me, the clubhouse at Medinah Country Club is one of those things. Inside
and out, the clubhouse is sheer beauty. Stroll through the main entrance
and you're instantly transported into a celestial palace. Walk down the
hall of champions and you'll see images from some of the many major
tournaments which have taken place at Medinah's famed No. 3 course.
Stroll outside and you can admire the building's beautiful brickwork
while you knock putts around its humongous putting green.
that the courses that surround the building are anything to sneeze at
either. The No. 1 course, (which has been partially demolished to make
room for the upcoming major) is one of Illinois' top 15. The No. 3
course which will hold the PGA Championship is one of the top 15 in
America. While less distinguished, the No. 2 course is full of
challenging holes and shots.
surprisingly, such a golf paradise has convinced such Chicago
celebrities as Michael Jordan and Oprah Winfrey to pick up membership
cards. Maybe even less surprising, the PGA has chosen to bring the final
major of the year back to this golf haven.
week ago, as I made the long trip from Salamanca, NY to Schaumburg, IL,
I had great expectations for Medinah Country Club. Having seen both Oak
Hill in Rochester and Baltusrol Golf Club last summer in New Jersey, I
thought I had a grasp of what a great golf facility looked like.
However, Medinah has surpassed all my expectations. It's design. Its
architecture. It's natural beauty. All of these things make it by far
the greatest golf course I've ever seen. These things have also made me
even more excited to be working on the Operations Crew for the
Outside of taking in the beauty of Medinah Country Club, I've also been
hard at work. In our first two days, we've already unloaded most of the
PGA trailers, begun painting and installing windscreen along with dozens
of other odd jobs. While technically operations crew members, we're
referred to as swampers. It's a term the PGA has coined to
refer to us as their jack-of-all-trades type characters. We will
essentially do anything and everything the PGA needs us to do to make
sure this place is ready for the PGA Championship come August 14.
Having worked the same job at Baltusrol in 2005, I've taken on much more
of a leader-type role. I know what will be expected of us over the next
five weeks and the PGA expects me to convey this to the other
swampers around me. I'll also be working hard to convey to you just
exactly what it takes to be a swamper and how our duties progress
as we get closer to the tournament. So, keep checking back for my
updates and I'll keep working hard to ensure Medinah Country Club
delivers a major championship for the ages.
Phil Mickelson is not the only guy who feels like
an idiot after this past weekend's US Open. Just read last week's column
and you'll see that I more than managed to prove my lack of golf
with picking the wrong champion (I took Davis Love III), I also was way
off on the winning score and really misjudged how Tiger, Mickelson and
Sergio Garcia would all perform. The only thing I can feel good about is
that David Duval continues to get better as he made his first cut in a
major since 2002.
again, it's tough for me to feel foolish after watching how Winged Foot
Golf Club made the greatest golfers in the world look stupid. Easily the
most challenging US Open setup in recent memory, The Foot (as locals
call the place) gave golf fans four zany, wonderful days of golf. It
wasn't until after the 72nd hole had been played that Geoff Ogilvy was
able to stand confidently as the newest owner of a major championship.
with as great of a champion as Ogilvy is, the main story from this past
weekend is Phil Mickelson and just how close he came to adding his third
straight major and reaching the half way point in his chase for the
grand slam. Standing on the 18th tee late Sunday afternoon, Mickelson
looked as if he was only moments away from his first United States Open
However, fast forward through a wayward tee shot, an ugly lie in a
bunker and countless bad decisions by Lefty and you get to an infamous
collapse and Ogilvy's ticket to the title. Of all Mickelson's
oh-so-close finishes, this one has to be the most painful. Not only did
his embarrassing finish lose him a major, it also cost him a chance at
the "Mickelslam" and maybe even a shot at the official Grand Slam.
Watching Lefty over the past few days it almost seemed as if his recent
success had given him the confidence to revert back to his old style of
play. Hitting driver on 18 wasn't the only risky decision he made during
the tournament. He also tried an array of dangerous shots earlier in the
week which occasionally cost him a shot or two. And, in the end, it was
such decisions which led to him coming up one stroke short.
doubt, Mickelson will recover from this and move on to win more major
championships in the future. But, it's doubtful he'll ever get another
shot at holding all four major titles at the same time. Understandably,
even if he'd made par on 18 and won at Winged Foot he'd still have had
to take the British Open title in July. But, with as hard as it is to
win one major in golf, it's even harder to win two and nearly impossible
to be in the lead at the last hole of the third. In actuality for Lefty,
it's an opportunity that he will almost definitely never see again.
of these musings over Mickelson are intended to take anything away from
the actual champion of the tournament, Geoff Ogilvy. Super-talented in
his own right, Ogilvy is a budding superstar in the game of golf.
Already having picked up the World Match Play Championship, Ogilvy now
holds two titles in 2006. Only in his late-20s, he's more than capable
of becoming a weekly contender on the tour. Sure, guys like Mickelson
and Colin Montgomery made mistakes to lose the Open, but Ogilvy didn't
win this thing by accident. There is a reason he made the fewest
mistakes over the four day event...he's that darn good.
while we can talk about Mickelson's mistake and the many missed shots at
Winged Foot last weekend, the biggest story is Ogilvy. The US Open has
always been the most complete test in golf. Often, the winner is not the
man who dominates the course but he who manages to survive. Ogilvy
managed to survive with one less shot than any other competitor and
because of that, he's the deserving champion of the 2006 US Open.