Monday, March 28, 2011

Great Ben Hogan Golf Swing Video

I wanted to share this great Ben Hogan YouTube video that I found thanks to a tweet from Paul Azinger. 


As you all know by now, I love Hogan.  Watching this video really made me want to get up from my desk at work, walk out the door and hit the range.  True, I always feel like this, but this video REALLY made me want to go hit balls. 

I was struck by a couple of things in Hogan's swing.  First, it was so simple; there were not a lot of moving parts.  Second, he had great leg action that allowed him to make a strong turn through the ball which was the source of his power, but he did not overdo the leg movement.  Remember, power comes from your turn, not trying to swing harder with your arms.  Finally, the rhythm of his swing was so fantastic and incredibly consistent over all of the different swings shown in the video, which were taped over a period of decades.  Watching this makes me think if we are in an era where people are really overthinking the golf swing too much.  Hogan never really had formal lessons.  There are stories out there that maybe a couple of times (seriously, like 1 or 2) the Hawk asked someone a question on the range about his swing.  But Hogan really found his swing through trial and error and feeling what worked and what didn't.  This swing is a thing of beauty, right?  But alas, so hard to replicate. 

There are lots of ways to swing a golf club, and perhaps going back to basics and trying to simplify your motion will work for you.  Try it out!  You have nothing to lose -- except shots off your score!

New Tip of the Week - Putt to Make it!

I read something from Arnold Palmer last week where he said if you look at his missed putts back in his prime, you will notice they were always past the hole.  His point was that a putt that doesn't get to the hole has a 0% chance of going on.  Be aggressive with your putts and give yourself a shot to make them.  Being short does you no good.  If you do miss the putt long, pay close attention to how the ball breaks after the hole -- it will tell you the break of the next putt and will allow you to make those comebackers more often.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Possible Changes To End Of PGA Tour Season Could End Q-School As We Know It


One of the most unique and interesting golf rituals that takes place every year is the Tour's Qualifying school, where aspiring Tour pros grind out grueling round after round through multiple stages to try and gain their Tour card in the most gut-wrenching, make-or-break pressure that can be conjured up on a golf course.  If the changes approved this week by the PGA Tour's policy board are put into effect, golf's version of the Fall Classic will be fundamentally changed.

The new proposal would have the top 125 players at the end of the regular season advance to the FedEx playoffs, just like what happens now.  The wrinkle comes in for the next batch of players.  The policy board's preliminarily approved plan is to have the next 50 or 75 PGA Tour players play a new fall series of tournaments against 50 or 75 Nationwide players, with the top 50 or so players getting their Tour cards at the end of this second round of "playoffs."  All of these numbers are subject to change, but the concept has been under discussion for some time.

Q-School will continue, but the brass ring for surviving will not be a PGA Tour card, but a Nationwide Tour card (or whatever the minor league tour is called after Nationwide's sponsorship ends in 2012 - they have said they will not renew).

From the Tour's perspective, this change makes sense because statistics show that spending a year on the Nationwide Tour is a much better prep for making it on the "Big Tour" than qualifying through Q-School.  From the purist's perspective, Q-School is an annual rite of passage that is one of golf's most interesting spectacles and should not be fundamentally altered.

I am a big fan of Q-School, especially after reading John Feinstein's fantastic book, "Tales from Q-School."  The idea that a virtual unknown can make it through Q-School to get his card and play with the best golfers in the world is one of the coolest things in sports, and it is unique to golf.  It's not like I can go out and practice for a long time then go and show up to get a shot to play second base for the Phillies (though sadly right now the job is available, but I digress).  I understand the Tour's rationale, but I side with the dreamers out there who see Q-School as their shot to make it on Tour.  I am not a fan of this proposed change.  Keep Q-School the way it is, or at least compromise and maybe offer a smaller number of PGA Tour cards out of Q-School.  But to make it only a feeder for the Nationwide Tour is wrong.  For the people that play well enough to make it through the most grueling of golf tests, they deserve their shot on golf's grandest stage.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Plea to Stop Slow Play!

Image courtesy of myphilly.golf
One of the biggest problems -- if not the biggest problem -- facing the game today as far as the casual golfer is concerned is the pace of play.  In far too many places, rounds become all day events.  When  you can't play a round in less than 6 hours (and trust me, that is a reality if you play golf in the New York metropolitan area), people will simply stop playing, and the growth of the game will become stagnant.  In fact, there is some information out there to suggest that this is exactly what is happening now.  So please, make it a point this year to speed up the pace of play.  This is a problem that we actually can solve if we band together and do what we can to pick up the pace.  No more slowpokes!  Here are a few tips to keep in mind that will help your foursome play more quickly.

-Play ready golf!  At the start of the round, talk about it on the first tee and have everyone agree -- when they are ready they should hit and not worry about who has honors or who is away.

-When you have to hop out of your car to look for a ball, whether because it is cart path only or you let your partner take the cart to get their ball, bring a couple of clubs with you based on what you guess the yardage is, and have an extra ball in your pocket in case you can't find yours.

-When you get to your ball, start your pre-shot routine while other people are hitting.  This way, when they are done you will be fully ready to hit your shot.

-Drop your partner off to play their shot, go to hit your ball and then go back and pick them up.  If you drive to your partner's ball, wait for them to hit, then get back in the cart and then drive to your ball, you are adding unnecessary time onto your round.  Be efficient with your cart management!

-If you hit it in a water or other hazard, use the drop area.  Please don't go all Tin Cup on us and hit 5 shots from the fairway because you are convinced you can make it over the water.  You are not Roy McAvoy in the fake 72nd hole of the fake U.S. Open.

-When you are on the green of a par 3, waive people on to play their tee shots and then finish out on the green when they are done.  I feel like this move has gone out of style and I am not sure why.  But par 3s create the biggest logjams on golf courses.  This is a simple, yet all too often forgotten piece of etiquette that could help everyone finish their round faster. And who knows, maybe you will be rewarded with seeing an ace!

Those are just a few thoughts that I wanted to share so that I could do my part to help speed up the pace of play.  Nobody enjoys a six hour round unless you are in the last group on Sunday in a major...and you win.  Let's all help each other out this year!

Monday, March 21, 2011

New Tip of the Week - Avoiding "The Shanks"

Even though even muttering the "S" word is a dicey proposition (see the classic driving range scene from Tin Cup), I have personally struggled with this problem enough times that I wanted to share some fixes with you.  A shank means you are hitting the ball off the hosel. One drill suggested by Hank Haney via Twitter is to line up a row of tees outside the ball, and when you swing be sure to miss all of the tees.  It is a great drill that works.  My swing thought for avoiding the shanks has always been to focus on turning all the way through the ball.  I shank  wedges when instead of turning my hips I move them laterally and I end up throwing my hands at the ball and hit it off the hosel.  Focus on making a full turn of your hips to avoid a case of this most unpleasant visitor!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Top 5 Golf Shots in the History of the Majors

With spring finally, well, springing (thank God), and the NCAA tournament tipping off, we finally come to what I have always considered the greatest time of the year for a sports fan.  In a span of just a few weeks, you have all of the fun of March Madness, the first pitch of the baseball season and finally, the best of the bunch, the Masters.  Part of the fun of watching hours and hours of college basketball on CBS is all of the promos where you hear the iconic music and Jim Nantz's melodic voice reminding us that it is "A tradition unlike any other."  Here is a cool clip I found that has that awesome Masters melody that I need to figure out how to make my cell phone ring:


With the Masters right around the corner, I wanted to dash off another "Top 5" list -- this time, the five best shots ever in the majors.  Let the debate begin!

5)  Tiger Woods chips in on 16 at 2005 Masters:  On Sunday afternoon in 2005 at Augusta, Tiger Woods was locked in a battle with Chris DiMarco when the two reached the always pivotal 16th hole.  The devilish par-3 over water features a severely sloped green, which, come Sunday afternoon, is not unlike putting on your kitchen floor.  In fact, to prepare for the Masters when he started going to Augusta, Tiger did just that to acclimate himself to the speed of the greens.  Dimarco safely played his tee shot to 18 feet while Woods ended up a little long and left, with his ball nestled up against the second cut of rough.  On tv, Lanny Wadkins remarked that it was "the toughest pitch on the course" and speculated that Tiger might not even be able to stop it inside of Dimarco's ball.  What ensued was one of the greatest shots in the history of the Masters, and the single greatest marketing boon Nike golf could ever hope for.  Woods played the pitch out to a spot about 20 feet above the hole, and as the ball slowly trickled down the slope toward the cup, the excitement in Verne Lundquist's voice reached a fever pitch as the ball reached the cusp of the hole, seemingly frozen in time, and then with one final slow motion rotation, with the camera zoomed in on the Nike logo on Tiger's ball, tumbled into immortality. Here is a clip of CBS' coverage of the shot:


 
4) Bob Tway holes out to win 1986 PGA Championship:  Tway was battling Greg Norman on the back nine Sunday to win the final major of the year, and had erased Norman's four shot lead as the two men stood on the final tee in a dead heat.  The Great White Shark was a force that year -- he actually led all four majors after three rounds.  Norman's approach to 18 landed 25 feet from the pin, just into the fringe, while Tway's ball found the front bunker.  But all that did was add to the drama, as Tway holed the bunker shot for the birdie and the win.  A stunned Norman missed his chip shot, and Tway was the 1986 PGA champion.

3) Watson's miraculous chip-in on 17 at the 1982 U.S. Open:  Tom Watson wanted to win the U.S. Open from the time he was a little kid.  That was the tournament he always wanted -- the major he coveted.  By 1982 Watson was on top of the golf world, and a multiple-time major champion.  But the U.S. Open kept eluding him despite being in contention late a few times before.  Watson stepped to the 17th tee at Pebble Beach in a tie with Jack Nicklaus, who was already finished his round.  When Watson pulled his tee shot on the 209 yard hole left into the deep rough surrounding the green, people were congratulating Nicklaus on winning his 5th U.S. Open because Watson's ball was that dead.  In what has now become part of golfing lore, Watson's caddy, Bruce Edwards, told his boss to knock it close and Watson replied, "Get it close?  I'm gonna make it."  And make it he did!  He famously dashed onto the green pointing at Edwards and saying, "I told you!"  What many people don't know is that this was the first major that Edwards was on the bag for -- Edwards did not caddy for Watson in any of his British Open wins and private caddies were still not allowed at Augusta.

2) Larry Mize chips in to win playoff in 1987 Masters:  Larry Mize, a 28 year old kid who had only won one professional tournament before the Masters, found himself in a playoff with two of the best golfers in the world -- Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman.  Seve uncharacteristically three putted on the first playoff hole to knock himself out, leaving Mize and Norman to play the 11th with the greatest title in golf on the line.  Norman, who had just lost the PGA Championship in crushing fashion at the hands of Bob Tway, was about the become snakebitten once again.  Mize was 140 feet away from the pin, short of the green.  Mize's chip bounced its way up the hill fronting the 11th and then landed on the green tracking for the pin -- and then incredibly, the ball found the bottom of the cup, breaking Norman's heart once again.  Norman later said, "I didn't think Larry would get down in two and I was right.  He got down in one."

1) Ben Hogan's one iron on the final hole in the 1950 U.S. Open:  As Ben Hogan stood on the 18th tee of Merion's grueling 458 yard par 4 finishing hole tied for the lead in the U.S. Open, he was spent.  Hogan was only a little more than a year removed from the car accident that nearly took his life, and to even be able to walk again -- let alone play professional golf -- was a miracle.  Just to play, Hogan would go through a pre-round ritual that took hours and included soaking in a bath and meticulously wrapping his aching legs.  What made this shot even more remarkable was that back in those days, the final day of the U.S. Open was 36 holes, and there was more than one time on that afternoon where the pain was so intense that Hogan considered quitting.  But he pressed on, and he hit the best shot in the history of major championship golf, captured so brilliantly in Hy Peskin's iconic photo, which hangs in my living room.  Hogan had a little over 200 yards to a small and well bunkered green.  Opting for the one iron instead of a four wood so that he could be sure not to be over the green, Hogan striped it, landing safely on the green to set-up a two putt par that would put him in a playoff which he would win the next day.  Ironically, that famous one iron was stolen after the tournament (along with his shoes), but it eventually made its way back to Hogan years later.        

Monday, March 14, 2011

New Tip of the Week!

Since it is Monday, it is time for a new tip of the week.  This week I am including it in a regular post (as well as the normal place on the side of the site for easy reading) just so that you can always go back through the archive of old tips if you want.  Enjoy the tips and get better!  I am also including at the bottom of this post the first week's tip so that the site archive will have all of them.

This week's tip comes courtesy of Hank Haney, one of the best coaches around.  I asked him via Twitter how to stay sharp when you can't get to the range or get out on the course.  He said that it was important to take 100 practice swings a day.  Mix it up between regular swings and slow motion ones and focus on developing the feel for where your body is and should be during each phase of the swing.  Golf is a feel game, so the more you do this drill, you will find that when you are able to get out on the course you will not struggle as much to get the feel of your golf swing back, especially when there is a good chunk of time when you can't go out and hit balls.  You will also be surprised how much you can learn about the swing when you are not focused on hitting the ball.

Last week's tip:  When practicing at the range, make sure to practice your pre-shot routine as well! A good pre-shot routine is critical to building a swing that you can trust under pressure. Step back, think about the shot you are going to hit, visualize yourself hitting the perfect shot, take a swing or two to get the right feel, and then go out and do it! A consistent routine will help to steady your nerves and allow you to make a repeatable swing that will be there for you when you need it most. An added bonus is that practicing your routine on the range will allow you to take a break from hitting ball after ball the same way and allow you to get more out of your practice sessions. 


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tavistock Cup Preview


Are you ready for some competitive golf on Monday and Tuesday of this week?  Well you better be, because some of the best players in the world will be playing in the Tavistock Cup, the annual match-up of the elite country clubs in the world that boast some of the game's top pros in a team competition for ultimate bragging rights.  Think of it like your average country club vs. country club match, except that instead of going up against Joe, that programmer who works at IBM, you would be playing against the likes of Tiger Woods, Ian Poulter or Graeme McDowell.  In order to be eligible for a team, the player must be a member of that country club.

The tournament started in 2004 and traditionally has pitted Central Florida powerhouses Isleworth Golf & Country Club and Lake Nona Golf and Country Club, against each other.  This year the tournament has a new format and has added two other super-exclusive clubs, Albany, a Bahamas club where the course was designed by Tiger Woods and Ernie Els and Queenwood, a private club set in Surrey, England.  The matches are a fun golf exhibition, with the guys really getting into it, talking trash and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere.  On the Golf Channel this week Frank Nobilo has made his Lake Nona allegiances crystal clear!

The Teams


Lake Nona (2-time defending champs):  Ross Fisher, Retief Goosen, Peter Hanson, Graeme McDowell, Henrik Stenson and Oliver Wislon.

Isleworth:  Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby, Brian Davis, J.B. Holmes, Lee Janzen, and Sean O'Hair.

Albany:  Arjun Atwal, Ernie Els, Trevor Immelman, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Tiger Woods.  Its notably awesome that Tiger and Poulter will be on the same team.

Queenwood:  Thomas Bjorn, Darren Clarke, David Howell, Soren Kjeldsen, Paul McGinely and Adam Scott.

The Format

In this two-day event, the format on the first day is better ball and each team will count three 18-hole better ball scores.  On day two, the individual scores of all six team members will count.  The team with the aggregate low score over the two days will take home the hardware.

The pairings for the round one better ball competition:  Woods/Atwal and Bjorn/Scott (Woods is playing with Bjorn two straight days, as he is playing with him at Doral today), Allenby/Appleby and Hanson/Stenson, Poulter/Rose and Goosen/McDowell, Davis/Holmes and Kjeldsen/McGinley, Janzen/O'Hair and Fisher/Wilson, and Els/Immelman and Clarke/Howell.

Fan Dress Code?

This is not a typo, there really is an encouraged fan dress code based on the club you are affiliated with or rooting for.  Fans are encouraged to wear pink to support Albany (remember, real men wear pink), red for Isleworth, blue for Lake Nona and green for Queenwood.

TV Coverage

The Golf Channel has you covered if you can play hookey from work to watch the action.  Coverage starts on Monday at noon with a re-air at 7 p.m.  Same schedule for Tuesday.

Predictions?

Conventional wisdom is saying that Lake Nona is the favorite to take home the Tavistock Cup once again.  The all international Nona squad is no doubt strong, anchored by G-Mac, who is coming off of an inconsistent week at Doral.  But my pick for the winner is Team Albany.  I think Tiger is playing better, and despite all the talk, not all that far off from being a perennial contender once again.  Els is playing very well right now, Poulter gets up for team competitions like nobody else in the world and Rose has played well this year despite not lighting it up this past weekend at Doral.  I think it is the strongest team top to bottom and will be hoisting the Cup come Tuesday afternoon.  Given my prediction, I will look in my closet for a pink tie to wear to work tomorrow to make sure I am properly in the spirit of the event.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Want to Improve Your Golf Game? Get On Twitter!

Any list of the best golf instructors in the world has Hank Haney either at or near the top.  His resume is as good as it gets, and of course he is perhaps best known for his amazing success as Tiger Woods' coach once upon a time.  While Haney is no longer working with Tiger, he is spending his time these days with "The Haney Project" on the Golf Channel, teaching other top pros and working at his golf academies.  How incredible would it be to get advice on your game from one of the best minds in golf?  I can tell you from personal experience, the answer is "really, really incredible."  Haney has answered my game improvement question to him, along with hundreds and hundreds of others on Twitter.  Haney (you can follow him at @HankDHaney) has been fielding tons of questions and dispensing tips on an almost daily basis from his Twitter account, providing insight into curing what ails the game of his followers.  From staying on plane, curing "the shanks" or dealing with that dreaded snap hook, Haney has a tip for you to try and solve the problem.  Haney has quickly become the most responsive golf pro on Twitter when it comes to interacting with his followers.

I have been on Twitter for a couple of months now (you can follow me at @rtbgolfer) and I am definitely hooked!  I joined in the first place thinking I would just sign-up to follow some of the golf pros on Twitter because "the Twitter craze" was getting so much hype on the Golf Channel and in other golf media outlets.  One of my first blog posts was on some of the best golfers to follow, and these guys keep things interesting and provide some great reading.  But I soon discovered that there is a really fantastic golf twitter community out there with tons of PGA pros, teaching pros, other golf bloggers, and golf enthusiasts which makes for some engaging discussion.  I have gotten the chance to interact directly with Haney, Annika Sorenstam and Paul Azinger through Twitter, and you really don't get that opportunity anywhere else.  If you love golf, join in the conversation and get on Twitter -- you won't be disappointed and you even might end up saving a few shots!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Torrey Pines - North Course Doesn't Disappoint!


Last Thursday I got to head out to one of the top municipal golf facilities in the country, taking a spin around the North Course at Torrey Pines.  I had the chance to play the South Course a couple of years ago, and since the South greens were being aerated last week, I was happy to get the chance to play Torrey's "other" course.  If it is good enough for the pros during the Farmer's Insurance Open, it is certainly good enough for me!

Course Conditions

Let me tell you, it is a great place to play, and at only $100 for an out-of-stater like me (far cheaper for California residents), you simply cannot beat the bang you get for your buck.  The course was in fantastic shape, especially when you consider how much play it gets on a regular basis.  It is like a golf factory out there, but it is a smoothly run operation to be sure.  The greens were like putting on carpet and the fairways and rough were in great shape.  The only knock I possibly have on the shape of the course is that the tee boxes seemed to be a little uneven.  For someone who has been battling snap hooks with the driver so far this season, having to play tee shots with the ball above my feet was not what the doctor ordered! 

Layout

The course is cut into the cliffs overlooking the Pacific, and on the front nine, almost every hole is either on the Ocean or has a sweet Ocean view.  It is true that the North Course is more picturesque than the South (more Ocean views and more dramatic holes), which is surprising because it is the South Course that gets all they hype (deservedly so, since it did host the 2008 U.S. Open).  The holes on the course are fairly straightforward.  Generally speaking, what you see is what you get.  There are a couple of blind approach shots, but that is definitely the exception and not the rule.  Some changes in elevation off the tee box or approaching the green make for some tricky shots, but by and large the course is there for the taking.  The North is WIDE open, with little trouble to get into if your driver is not being cooperative that day (trust me, I know).  The fairways are quite narrow, but missing them won't kill you on a hole, as you likely will still have a clear shot into the green.  However, a missed fairway will leave you to contend with some thick rough.  It is not terribly deep, but does have a tendency to grab the club and turn it over which sends shots scooting out to the left (since I am a righty).  The greens are small, but fair.  They hold approach shots reasonably well and putting on them is a dream.  Take your pictures on the front nine though; the back nine is farther inland and provides far fewer photo opportunities.  We played from the whites, which play to 6,327 yards.  There is also a blue set of tees that play to 6,644 and the tips play to just under 7,000 yards.

Facilities


As you drive into the Torrey Pines facility, you are greeted by what has to be one of the most understated and simple clubhouses in all of championship golf.  This makes sense, after all, as it is a municipal golf facility, but certainly far from the little muni I grew up playing in Philadelphia!  However, the driving range does remind you that it is a city-run public facility.  While it's not much to look at, there is a neat little chipping green to use, which is a nice touch.  The lack of additional space on the course and the small range really makes me wonder what they do when the pros are there and they are using both courses.  If you know, please drop me a line, as I really am curious.  The food at the turn was also not great -- when we got through the front nine, we were really looking forward to some hot dogs.  The girl working at the food cart told us that our yearning for some delicious dogs would go unrequited, however, as, "Since the South Course is closed, that is where they make the hot dogs, so we don't have any hot dogs."  Huh?  I mean, where do they make the hot dogs -- on the third green?  Didn't make much sense to me.  Yet, we pressed on.  Luckily, the course more than makes up for this little setback. 

Finally, my favorite pare of Torrey Pines?  The pro shop!  Me and my MasterCard did some serious damage there (though far less than what I did last time I visited).  It has a great selection of gear at reasonable prices.  I walked away with a sweet pullover, a nice golf shirt, a hat and a visor for my mom.  Well worth it!

Overall Experience and Value

$100 for a place where the pros play?  Worth it every single time if for no other reason than you can watch this course on TV every year and say to yourself, "I got up and down from that bunker" after Tiger doesn't do it.  It is tough to beat Torrey Pines from a value perspective, and what makes it really fun is that it is an extremely playable golf course -- as evidenced by the fact that I didn't strike the ball very well but putted my way out if it and managed a very respectable 83.  You can score on this course, and let's be honest, golf is alot more fun when you can play well!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Guest Blog Post on MyPhillyGolf.com!

I just wrote a Guest Commentary post on a great website called MyPhillyGolf.com about the five things I am focusing on this golfing season.  I wanted to stimulate some thinking for all of you about what you should be focusing on in your game as the new season approaches.  Have goals that you want to accomplish this year, and go out and do it!  Here is the link to the article, I hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Introducing HGO's Tip of the Week!

I wanted to let all of you know about a new feature added to the blog today.  It is called HGO's "Tip of the Week" and, as you can see, it will appear on the top of the new left-hand column of the page.  The idea is pretty self-explanatory but I will be putting out some tips once or twice a week based on my own trials and errors with my own golf swing or helpful stuff that I have mined from all of my golf reading!  Hope that the tips will help you take your game to the next level! 

Golf Channel / NBC Bobble Coverage of The Honda Classic

The NBC golf telecast presented by the Golf Channel (or whatever they are calling it now) got off to a rocky start today due to some bad weather in Florida at The Honda Classic.

I tuned in at 12:30 p.m. on the Golf Channel to watch some of the pregame show that led into the Golf Channel's coverage of the Honda Classic, which started at 1:00 p.m.  The "live" coverage began with the starter announcing the final trio's arrival on the first tee, and then he promptly said that the final group had the "10:55 a.m. tee time."  I looked at my watch, thoroughly confused, and had to confirm that yes, PGA National is still in Florida, which, last time I checked, was on East Coast time, just like me.  With no explanation by the Golf Channel at the outset of the telecast, I was trying to figure out what was going on until finally someone from the network explained that they were running a tape-delayed broadcast of the final round because forecasted late-afternoon storms bumped up the tee times by a couple of hours.  NBC followed suit at 3:00 p.m. (or actually, sometime after 3:00 p.m. because the network decided it was important to continue to televise the last few minutes of the 7-0 beating of a lifetime that the Rangers gave to my Flyers this afternoon at the Garden) with a tape-delay as well.

It is hard enough to generate interest in the final round of a tournament when the leader is 5 shots clear of the field, and the leader is a notoriously prickly and unlikeable character named Rory Sabbatini.  But to run the tournament on tape-delay a few hours behind the live happenings on the course makes for an especially brutal Sunday afternoon golf telecast.

The better way to proceed would have been for NBC to pick-up the coverage live at 3:00 p.m. so that people who care about the end of the tournament could at least see the live results of the final round, and then loop back to earlier coverage after that concludes for people that just want to watch golf on a Sunday afternoon.  As it was, after multiple media outlets (and the entire Twitter community) were reporting that Sabbatini had actually won the golf tournament, what little enjoyment one could have watching the telecast was thoroughly destroyed.

NBC and the Golf Channel get a mulligan next week as  they cover the World Golf Championships Cadillac Championship at Doral that tees off on Thursday.  One funny note -- the promo that NBC ran right after the coverage ended tonight was that this coming week the PGA Tour pros "will be taking their talents to South Beach."  Nice!

Friday, March 4, 2011

The PGA Tour Should Bring Back The 2-Man Team Tournament Format

Ben Hogan and parter Jimmy Demaret were one of the toughest four ball teams ever paired together

Golf is unquestionably a uniquely individual pursuit.  For the most part, it is you and your sticks out there all alone on an island trying to best a course that is as stubborn as a mule.  If you are having a bad day, there is nobody else to pick you up and carry you until you can pull it together.  After a bad round, you hit the locker room and look in the mirror and know that the only person you have to blame is the person looking right back at you.  The flip side of that is the awesome feeling that comes every once in a while, after a great round or a perfect shot, where you know that you did something truly great, and you did it all on your own.

But successful events like the Ryder Cup show us that team golf can actually be fun in its own right.  Of course, not all team events can be as exciting as the Ryder Cup, as that is a one of a kind spectacle.  But during Ben Hogan's time on Tour, team events were a staple of the schedule and made for some great golf.  Hogan won 8 Tour two-man team competitions, most with his preferred partner, Jimmy Demaret.

It is time that the PGA Tour take a walk down memory lane and consider changing one of the formats of their current tournaments to a two-man team format, like the old days.  The players could alternate between a four ball and foursomes format each day.  It would bring an interesting new twist to golf during the regular season (there are some exhibition type team events late in the year after the season has ended and people aren't paying as much attention) and I think it could be a great way to resurrect interest (and revenue) for some of the events on Tour that are struggling right now.  For instance, many of you have heard by now of the struggles that the iconic Heritage tournament, held at Harbour Town, is experiencing trying to find a new title sponsor to replace Verizon.  Wouldn't a struggling tournament like the Heritage be aided in its sponsor search for survival by being able to offer fans and tv viewers something unique?  I think the answer to that is clearly yes.

What makes team events so compelling is the added layer of strategy that comes into play.  Long hitters look to be paired with great short game guys.  Great iron players want to be paired with the best putters.  Teams look to maximize each player's strength while trying to compensate for any relative weakness.  If you are having an off day, you aren't buried early if your partner can keep you in the match until you can right the ship.  In a foursome format, the players have to scope out the holes to see which tee shots favor them, and then split the even and odd holes accordingly.  Golf is the ultimate strategic game, and a team format takes that strategy to another level, and that makes a tournament a compelling "must watch" event for golf fans.

How to pick the teams?  The old-fashioned way (and perhaps the most entertaining) is to allow the players to pick their own partners.  Seeing a GMAC-Rory team going up against other teams like Poulter-Westwood or Fowler-Watson would certainly be entertaining (and imagine all of the Twitter smack-talking that would occur!).  It would also be great to see one of the top tier players pairing up with a relative unknown or a guy that is just starting out who will be in a fight for his tour card and give him a nice boost on the way to the top 125.  There are some great possibilities out there that would lead to a fun and memorable week, and with a different format, there would be no shortage of storylines for a golfing media that would be thrilled to have a new angle to cover.

Another intriguing idea is to have a random selection of pairings after the field has been finalized.  You know Golf Channel would televise that!  They might even set-up a "Live From" stage for the festivities!  There could be a big draft-type board where the names are picked at random and then the teams and the match-ups are revealed one at a time.  It would be a fun hour of tv and could lead to some epic pairings...perhaps with a little luck even a reprise of the disastrous Tiger-Phil pairing that did not go over so well at the 2004 Ryder Cup. 

Sometimes change is good, even for a game that is steeped in such a long and and rich tradition.  A change in format could infuse a tournament with new life and give golf fans a different and intriguing experience at the height of the PGA Tour season.