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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Seven Days In Utopia Premieres This Weekend!

This Friday (September 2), golf fans can look forward to the release of what promises to be a great golf movie -- Seven Days in Utopia.  The book is based on the truly fantastic novel, "Golf's Sacred Journey" which was written by David L. Cook -- a book I had the pleasure of reading a couple of months ago.  The book is well worth your time.  It is a fast, thought provoking read which will give you some new insight into how to approach the game we all love so well.  For more information on the book, check out the Links of Utopia website.

Seven Days in Utopia chronicles the story of pro golfer Luke Chisolm, a man whose career has imploded in an instant and who is in search of his game -- and himself.  At his darkest hour, Luke stumbles upon an old golf teacher who, despite all outward appearances and the run down facility he is working in, has secrets to share that will have a serious impact not just on Luke's game, but on Luke himself.

The trailer, included below, looks fantastic, and the film stars the timeless Robert Duvall and Lucas Black (the QB from Friday Night Lights).  So, hopefully you can find some time this weekend to not only hit the links yourself, but catch this film (or read the book).  You will surely find some lessons in there that will help you the next time you tee it up with your friends. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Golf Bucket List

What is on your bucket list?  Some want to climb Kilimanjaro or run with the bulls in Spain.  Others want to skydive or go on a safari.  Yet others may yearn for something more off the beaten path, like seeing David Hasselhoff live in concert (Don't Hassle the Hoff!) or take a spin on So You Think You Can Dance (good luck with alllllll that...)

But this got me thinking -- what would be on my golf bucket list?  What do I want to do in the golfing world before I head up to play on the lush rolling fairways in the sky?  So, without further ado...

1) Get a hole in one
2) Attend the Masters
3) Play Pebble Beach
4) Play 9 holes under par
5) See The Ryder Cup in person
6) Win a tournament at my golf club
7) Play in a USGA championship (qualifiers count!)
8) Teach my child to play golf
9) Play golf in Ireland
10) Play St. Andrew's
11) Play in a Pro-Am for a PGA Tour event

What am I missing?  What is on your golf bucket list?  Let's hear it!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The PGA Tour Playoffs - Exciting or a Non-Event?

So the PGA Tour Playoffs kick off this week with the Barclay's out in New Jersey.  The Playoffs will culminate in the awarding of the FedEx Cup champion at the end of the Tour Championship, and the fields will be progressively cut down after each event based on FedEx Cup standings.

The big question heading into the event may not be who will be crowned FedEx Cup champion, but rather, do the fans care?  Especially when Tiger is not among the participants?

In my opinion, the addition of the Playoffs was a neat concept that has worked well and done a great job generating interest in golf (and attracting good fields) after the PGA Championship, which previously had tolled the death knell for the PGA Tour season (especially in a non-Ryder Cup year).  I am a golf fan, and I love watching great golf from great players in tournaments that matter.  The Playoffs have now made three tournaments legitimate big time events (the fourth event, the Tour Championship, was already a big time event though its stature and popularity have benefited from the Playoffs).  You now have top quality fields at these events and people are really playing for something in August and September.  It's sorta like waking up Christmas morning, opening all of your gifts, and then your mom tells you there is one more gift that she has for you that wasn't under the tree.  Bonus time.

As for those that say all of this is a non-event this year because there is no Tiger, I say, "Have you followed golf for the last two years?"  Tiger has not been relevant between the ropes since he came back, save for his showdown with G-MAC late last year at The Chevron and a couple hours of Sunday at Augusta.  Tiger not being involved is no longer the exception, it is the rule.

This year, the race for FedEx Cup and Player of the Year honors is wide open, and there is a multitude of great young talent on the PGA Tour whose time has arrived.  They will be on full display in the coming weeks, and I am looking forward to watching.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cool September Ryder Cup Event in Chicago

I wanted to let all of you know -- especially those of you who are in the Chicago area or have some frequent flyer miles burning a hole in your pocket -- about a great Ryder Cup event that will take place at The Chicago Theatre at 8:00 pm on Monday September 26, 2011.

The event is called, "Countdown to the Ryder Cup:  An Evening with the Captains."  Here are the details from The PGA of America:

"It's a unique "Year Out" celebration every avid Ryder Cup fan won't want to miss. A very special evening highlighted by Ryder Cup Captains Davis Love III and Jose Maria Olazabal providing their "in-the-know, behind the scenes" perspective of what really goes on during the most exclusive and compelling event in all of golf. Hosted by NBC's Jimmy Roberts, the event also features surprise special guest appearances guaranteed to make it an evening to remember."

Tickets cost $55 and you can purchase them here or by calling 1-800-745-3000.  I for one am already very pumped for The Ryder Cup, and it is still a year away!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Webb's Winning Ways

For those of you who are regular readers of HGO, you know that Webb Simpson's victory yesterday was a popular one for me!  I have pointed out on more than a few occassions that Webb Simpson is, in my opinion, the best young American golfer that most people have never heard of.  He now has done something that, for instance, young phenom Rickie Fowler -- who gets a lion's share of the attention when it comes to America's "Young Guns" -- has yet to do:  actually win a golf tournament.  Oh yes, my friends, this has developed into a full on man-crush (defined by to mean "when a straight man has a 'crush' on another man, not sexual but kind of idolozing him.").

Simpson has put together a fantastic year that looks like it will now end with securing a spot on the President's Cup team.  He has made 17 of 20 cuts, has a win and two second place finishes, is third in the FedEx Cup standings, ranks fifth on the money list, and is fourth in scoring average.  His consistency this year has been fun to watch.  A 2008 Wake Forest grad, Simpson is cool under pressure, seems like a genuinely nice guy and is easy to root for.  Now that he has learned how to close, I expect the winning ways to continue.  Keep any eye on him as the Playoffs get under way, as I think he may well take home the top prize.

So when you are compiling your list of the top young American players, Webb deserves a spot right along with Kuchar, Fowler, Johnson and Watney.  Keep on winning, Webb!   

New Tip of the Week! When in Between Clubs, Go With the Longer One!

If you are in between clubs, go with the longer club that will allow you to put a smooth, easy swing on the ball and reach your target as opposed to taking the shorter club and trying to really muscle it up there.  With the shorter club, you will have a tendency to overswing and end up with a bad result.  Take the longer club, choke down on the grip a little bit, and make a fluid swing to get it home! 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Be Back Next Week!

Sorry for the silence over the last few days, but I have found myself in Paris for work.  I wish it was to scope out the site of the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, but alas, it is for far more mundane work related purposes.  I have a tight schedule so I will not have time to post this week, but will be back with a vengeance next week when I return to the U.S.

Au Revoir!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Live Online PGA Championship Coverage!

Watch the PGA Championship on your computer!  They started broadcasting at 8:30 this morning, in time to track Tiger as he is out on the course!  Here is the link.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Are Major Venues Getting Too Long?

One of the major themes running through media day at the PGA Championship yesterday was whether how the lengthening of the course would affect the championship.  Two holes in particular are worth mentioning:  the 15th, which is a par 3 that will play up to 260 yards, and the par 4 18th, which will is listed on the card at 507 yards, and oh yeah, demands a second shot over a significant water hazard fronting the green.

Bubba Watson, for one, had some insightful comments on this issue this afternoon, noting that he thought that golf courses were going in the wrong direction with all of this lengthening, mentioning that golf was the only sport where the size of the field is constantly changing.  Luke Donald also questioned the wisdom of a par 3 of that absurd length, saying that some guys were having to hit 3 woods to get to the green.

These guys are dead on.  First off, a 260 yard par 3 is just plain stupid.  What is the point of that?  225 or 235 is a very stern test on a par 3 under major championship conditions.  But 260?  Forcing many pros to hit 3 or 5 woods into a green that will be running at major speed?  How is it a fair test of golf to ask guys to hold a 3 wood on a slick green?  It makes the game just a contest in brute force, not a contest of skill and creativity. 

We have all seen the limits continually pushed on how far is too far for a hole in a major.  But the problem with the set-up at Atlanta Athletic Club is you have the craziness of the 15th, and then, for good measure, one of the longest par 4s in major championship history comes at the closing hole, the 507 yard 18th (it can play up to 528 yards).  The kicker is that the second shot is all carry.  So you have two of the longest, most demanding holes in the game in the last 4 -- but they are borderline unfair because you force shorter, more accurate hitters (like Luke Donald, for instance) into a position where they are at a severe disadvantage.

We need to get past the mentality that the only way to toughen golf courses is to make them brutally long to the point of borderline unplayable.  These guys are long, but wouldn't you rather see a finish where if a guy needs a birdie to win on 18, the hole actually allows him the chance to hit a reasonable second shot to make a 3?  If you hit a 280 yard drive right down the middle of the fairway on 18, and the hole is playing 507, you have a 227 yard carry over the water to try and get it close to a green that -- with the heat down there and the new greens -- will be firm and fast, virtually impossible to hold at that distance without some incredible luck.  I would rather see skill decide majors, not a lucky bounce.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

PGA Championship Moments: Jim Barnes Wins First Ever PGA Championship

"Long" Jim Barnes, given the nickname because of his height (he was 6'4''), was one of the leading lights in early 20th century golf and one of the winningest tour pros in the early days of the PGA Tour.  Barnes, originally from Cornwall, England, came over to the US and became a pro back in 1906. 

The first PGA Championship was held in 1916 at the Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, NY.  Back then, the PGA Championship was a match play event, and there were 32 players in the field.  The tournament wasn't changed to a stroke play event until 1958.  Barnes bested Jock Hutchinson in the 36 hole finale, 1 up.  The winner's share that year? $500. 

In total, Barnes won three other majors in his career, the 1919 PGA Championship, the 1921 U.S. Open and the 1925 Open Championship.  He won 21 tournaments on the fledgling PGA Tour.  Barnes was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1989.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ladbroke's Odds for PGA Championship

It is PGA Championship week!  A bittersweet time of year, because on the one hand it is very exciting that it is another major championship week, but on the other hand it is also a little sad because it is the last major of the year.

Wanted to pass along -- for informational purposes only, of course -- some of the interesting odds to win the PGA Championship as posted by famed UK betting house Ladbrokes.  If you want the full list, you can find it here.

And the favorite is:

-Rory McIlroy at 12/1 -- no shock here.  The boy wonder's domination at Congressional is still fresh in everyone's mind, and I think if you have to pick a favorite, Rors is still it.

The second best choice (tie):

-Luke Donald and Lee Westwood at 14/1.  The world's number 1 and 2 are both coming off an embarrassing missed cut at the Open Championship last month.  Looking to rebound as the questions / criticisms continue to mount.  Not playing a major in England will likely help both of these guys.

Other notables:

-Tiger Woods is the fourth best choice at 20/1.  Can you say people betting with their hearts and not with their heads?

-Phil is 25/1.  If he is going to win more majors, it will likely be this one or The Masters, so Phil should be considered a threat to contend.

-Dustin Johnson is also at 25/1.  You can be sure he will be scrutinizing any local rules sheet distributed by the PGA this week.

-Rickie Fowler goes off at 33/1.  Fowler is going to win soon, and I think he will be one of those guys that once he wins for the first time, the dam will break and he will win a bunch.  He keeps knocking on the door, and while he came up short this past weekend at Firestone, he has to be pleased with being in contention on Sunday and putting a good final round together.

-Bubba Watson is at 50/1.  I hope he contends, because he is just plain fun to watch.

-Webb Simpson at 66/1.  I have said it before in this space, but this guy can flat out play and is the best American golfer most people have never heard of.  He should get some more credit, but of course that will only come with some Ws.  Simpson is currently 9th in the FedEx Cup standings.

-G-Mac at 80/1.  Last year's U.S. Open champion is suffering from a bit of a hangover after his stellar 2010, and there doesn't seem to be much hope that he will snap out of it this week.  But I am still pulling for him!

New Tip of the Week: Struggling With Your Woods? Use an Iron Off the Tee

Struggling with your accuracy off the tee with your driver or fairway woods? Try using an iron that you are comfortable with and confident that you can keep in play. Far more often than not, you will find that you are better off being in play and sacrificing some distance than being longer but off target. Think of it like this: if you hit your 7 iron 160 yards, on a 320 yard par 4, you will be better off hitting a 7 iron off the tee and another 7 iron into the green from the middle of the fairway, as opposed to using your driver and hitting it OB or hitting your second shot from the trees.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Review of "The Swinger"

Taking a page out of Law and Order's "Ripped From The Headlines" approach to entertainment, Michael Bamberger and Alan Shipnuck brilliantly weave a tale of a golf prodigy's stunning achievements on the golf course coupled with equally stunning off-course antics.  Sound familiar?  It should, as lead character Tree Tremont's exploits sound an awful lot like a former world number one whose first name also begins with a T...

This is a great book that is wonderfully written, captures your attention right away and is pure unadulterated fun from start to finish.  Bamberger and Shipnuck give you a first-hand account of the good, the bad, the ugly, and the downright perplexing foibles of Tree Tremont as told through the eyes of media outsider turned PR guru insider Josh Dutra, who is invited into the inner circle by Tree and his super-agent.  This fanciful world of imagination will likely be as close as you can get to surmising what really happened with Tiger's trysts, short of The Golf Channel finding a way to get Stevie Williams drunk and talking about his old boss on Grey Goose's The 19th Hole.

What is sinfully enjoyable about this book is that it allows your mind to wander about what was really going on with Tiger off the course, and why on earth he would put himself in the position he is now.  But The Swinger is also a great story about redemption, and the unassailable fact that people really do love a good comeback story.  The book leaves you with some hope for the possibility of Tiger finding a path back to some semblance of the glory he once held.  In fact, Tiger should pick up a copy, he might learn something about how to do a comeback the right way.

The Swinger is great summer reading, and I think you will enjoy this romp through golf's wild side and back again.       

Monday, August 1, 2011

Tip of the Week: Have a Swing Thought, But Only One!

Having a swing thought is a useful way to keep your mind focused on what you are supposed to be doing in the golf swing.  Many of the best players in the world, including Tiger Woods, have held on to a swing thought during their swing in order to execute under pressure.  It can work for you too, but it is important to only have one single swing thought.  You don't want to have too many things going through your mind because it will be far harder for you to concentrate on the task at hand - hitting the ball square on the clubface.  So a swing thought is good, but keep it to one!
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