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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Matches to Watch on Day Two of Match Play Championship

With a wave of upsets yesterday (almost half of the lower seeds lost on day one), round two presents us with some matchups we did not expect.  Notably absent are Ian Poulter, Rickie Fowler and world #1 Luke Donald.

But that is not to say there are not some compelling matches to be played at Dove Mountain today.  Here are a few worth following closely:

1) Woods vs. Watney:  Tiger did not look great yesterday, and Watney did.  So Tiger needs to really bring it today if he wants to stick around for more golf.  But as we have seen with Tiger so far this season, his game can vary widely from day to day, so a nice rebound is certainly not out of the question.

2) Keegan Bradley vs. Miguel Angel Jimenez:  Keegan Bradley absolutely throttled Geoff Ogilvy yesterday.  Bradley has continued to show that his PGA Championship victory was no fluke.  He is a likeable guy and incredibly talented, and he is one of the main reasons the future of American golf is so bright.  Today he takes on The Mechanic, who is certainly one of the coolest men in the world.

3) Kyle Stanley vs. Brandt Snedeker:  A rematch from their tussle at Torrey Pines, where Stanley's 8 on 18 led to Snedeker taking the title in a playoff.  Stanley is playing really well right now, and is in good shape to exact a small measure of revenge today.

4) Matt Kuchar vs. Bubba Watson:  A match-up of two fun guys who will likely be perennial Ryder Cuppers for the US side.  There are few things more fun than watching Bubba play golf, where he can hit a 60 yard slice off the tee to find a fairway on one hole and then a 40 yard hook to get it to the green.  Kuchar has his work cut out for him.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Watch Live Coverage of Match Play Championship on the Internet!

For those of you, like me, who are sadly stuck in the office today and daydreaming about the Match Play Championship, the PGA Tour is going to be broadcasting live coverage on the Internet (and also on its PGA Tour mobile apps).  Coverage starts at 1 today and tomorrow and at 2 on Friday!  Here is the link.  Enjoy! 

The coverage will be from the par 3 6th and the par 3 12th.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Top Matches on Day One of Match Play Championship

It is one of the greatest single days of the golfing year - 32 matches involving the best golfers in the world.  The course is flooded with great match after great match and things change faster than a Tiger stinger.

Here are eight matches to watch as the Match Play championship gets underway!

1) Ian Poulter (#6) vs. Sang-moon Bae (#1):  If all golf tournaments were match play, Poulter would be considered one of the best players in the history of the game.  I love watching the intensity Poulter brings to match play and always wonder why it doesn't translate to all of the other events he plays.

2) Webb Simpson (#2) vs. Matteo Manaserro (#15):  One of America's best young players vs. one of Europe's best young players.  This is a match that you could very well see replayed in Ryder Cups for years to come.

3) Bubba Watson (#5) vs. Ben Crane (#12):  Two of the four Golf Boys square off against each other in day one.  Who will be singing the right tune at the end of the day?  In March Madness, the 5 seed is always the worst draw because the 12 is always the highest seed that is actually a team that can reliably win a big game, but Bubba should be able to dispatch his bandmate Crane in round one.

4) Tiger Woods (#5) vs. Gonzalo Fdez-Castano (#12):  I write a golf blog, and if Tiger loses on day one to a guy even I have never heard of, it should be panic time in Tiger Town.  You think Ryan Moore is sitting around thinking, I can't believe I couldn't get i to this tournament and this Gonzalo guy made it?

5) Sergio Garcia (#4) vs. Miguel Angel Jimenez (#13):  It is the battle for Spain! Sergio is on a roll and is coming off a closing round 64 at Riviera, after I dropped him for the weekend on my fantasy team because he barely made the cut - thanks, Sergio.

6) Lee Westwood (#1) vs. Nicolas Colsarts (#16):  Westwood has a fairly awful track record in this event, never getting past the second round in 11 starts.  Can he buck the trend and get off on the right foot?

7) Luke Donald (#1) vs. Ernie Els (#16):  Ernie got in courtesy of Phil not playing, and Donald is the most underrated and least talked about #1 player in the world since the inception of the rankings.  Oh yeah, and Donald is the defending champ, beating Martin Kaymer and his bizarre neck scarf last year.

8) Rory McIlroy (#1) vs. George Coetzee (#16):  I know that on any given day, any tour pro can beat any other tour pro, but I am betting Coetzee has already booked his return flight out of Phoenix for Wednesday night.       

In Praise of the Short Par 4

Photos courtesy of
With the exciting finish to the Northern Trust Open atthe short par 4 10th hole, it made me realize thatthe short par 4 can be oneof the most fun and interesting holes in golf.

Jack Nicklaus famously called the 10th at Riviera, a driveable par 4, one of the best shortholes in all ofgolf. Thereis nothing quite like the excitement of a par 4 that the pros can drive - it is always a highlight of tv coverage on courses where the possibility exists.For the averagegolfer, a well-designed short par 4 can give you the opportunity to make a birdie - or if you are really striping it- an eagle -making youfeel likeyou can play with thepros!

Take that finish on Sunday. Three players - Mickelson, Haas and Bradley all stepped to the 315 yard 10th looking to secure the title on the second playoff hole. All three players had the length to get to the green, but the decision was fraught with peril. Witha slick, thin green that was well protected by traps - there was little margin for error. A miss right was potentially deadly because you would short-side yourself for your next shot, but tree trouble lurked to the left. Mickelson and Bradley missed right, and neither could hold the green in regulation. Haas missed greenside left and literally played away from the hole to leave himself a bomb of a putt because he didnt think he could hold the green by going for the pin. So you had three of the best pros in the world, on one of the shortest par 4s they will ever see, and only one of them could hit the green in regulation after trying to drive it, and that was only because heplayed toforty feet away from the hole. How cool is that?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Reports Of Tiger's Inability To Close Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Photo: Jeff Gross / Getty Images
The Golf world is still reeling from the stunning turn of events that transpired at golf's most hallowed track (at least in the U.S.) last Sunday.  Phil's epic, come from behind closing round 64 to capture his 40th PGA Tour title would be enough to dominate the headlines, but when you add the fact that he did it while blowing the doors off of his playing partner, Tiger Woods - well, that was more than enough to send the story into orbit.  You can see the story from space, along with The Great Wall of China and Terrell Owen's ego.

Enough ink has been spilled lamenting Tiger's inability to close to fill all of the bunkers at Whistling Straits.  Tiger began taking heat when he lost to Robert Rock on a Sunday in Abu Dhabi, and has been getting pilloried after getting the beating of a lifetime from Phil on Sunday.

But is all of the doom and gloom reporting about Tiger's failure to close deserved?  It is not.

Here is what everyone needs to keep in mind.  Winning a big time golf tournament on Sunday, under pressure, is an acquired skill.  You have to learn how to close.  You know who knows that?  Kyle Stanley, Spencer Levin, and now Charlie Wi, PGA Tour pros who blew big Sunday leads in the last three weeks.  Yes, Tiger was at one time the best closer ever.  But he has spent the last couple of years rebuilding his life and then rebuilding his golf swing.  Is his confidence shaken?  Unquestionably.  Do negative thoughts creep into his psyche on Sunday afternoon far more often than they did five years ago?  Sure.  Does this mean he is done as being a dominant golfing force?  Not so fast, my friend.

Tiger needs to be in those pressure-packed Sunday afternoons in order to learn again how to close out a big win.  This ability is not like riding a bike.  You need to be back in the pressure cooker to remember how to deal with the nerves and the pressure that are part and parcel of championship caliber golf.  A couple stumbles out of the gate are not that big a cause for concern. Let's not forget that Tiger finished birdie-birdie and sunk a clutch putt to win the Chevron in December.  And he didn't beat some Nationwide Tour rookie to do it - he beat a major champion (Zach Johnson).  The swing is coming around, finally.  I expect the closing in the clutch to return soon, as he continues to get used to being back under that particular spotlight - perhaps just in time for Tiger's favorite stomping ground, Augusta National.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Interesting AT&T; Pebble Beach Pro-Celebrity Pairings

This is one of the most fun weeks on the PGA Tour (for the fans anyway; there are some pros who do not love the event and the additional hoopla, and slow play, that comes with the addition of the amateurs).  The pros pair up with amateurs, many of whom are well-known stars in the world of sports and entertainment.  Bill Murray making snow angles in bunkers and Ray Romano cracking jokes while putting makes for some good television, and is something that may make the casual fan tune in when they otherwise would not.  Plus, seeing Don Cheadle shank a wedge on national television tends to make us feel better about the shortcomings in our own games.

With that backdrop, here are some of the All-Star pairings for the tournament that will be fun to watch:

-Tiger Woods and Tony Romo (Romo is playing at a scratch handicap, by the way)
-Defending Champs DA Points and Carl Spackler (wait - I mean Bill Murray)
-Ricky Barnes and Bill Belichick
-Bud Cauley and Nick Saban
-Aaron Baddeley and Kenny G
-Rickie Fowler and Lucas Black (also scratch)
-DJ Trahan and Aaron Rodgers
-Ryan Moore and Jim Harbaugh
-Trevor Immelman and George Lopez
-Tommy Gainey and Chris O'Donnell 

Review of the TaylorMade Rocketballz 3 Wood and R11S Driver

I have a newborn at home. She is wonderful, but as all of you parents out there know, she is a handful. So suffice it to say, Abbys mother and I havent gotten out much since she was born. Gone are the days of the two hours of pre-gaming in my Manhattan apartment before hitting the bars around 11, followed by private room karaoke until the sun comes up.

This is by way of introduction to saying that last Thursday night, the latest night out for me since Abby arrived last November, was not to meet friends at a bar, but instead, to attend the midnight launch party for the new TaylorMade R11S and the Rocketballz line. Yes, thats how I roll.

It was a blast. Got in line around 11:30 pm at my local Golf Galaxy, where there were already about forty equally obsessed souls freezing their hindquarters off on a cold February night. When I got in the store, I made a beeline to check out the new Rocketballz clubs. Since I recently purchased a Titleist 910 D2 driver, I was not in the market to buy a new driver, but I am looking for a new 3 wood and a new hybrid and was really intrigued by the rave reviews for the Rocketballz. The name for the club actually came from tests that were done by Dustin Johnson, who after hitting a few with the protoype said that the ball was taking off from the face like a rocket.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Importance Of Tempo Under Pressure

This just in - it is really, really hard to get your first PGA Tour win. If you dont believe me, just ask Kyle Stanley and Spencer Levin.

Capping a wild week of blown Sunday leads on the PGA Tour, Kyle Stanley had a dramatic reversal of fortune when he came from eight shots behind to win the Phoenix Open yesterday, just a week after he blew his own seven shot lead in the final round.

From the beginning of the final round yesterday, it was clear thatSpencer Levin, the man who dominated the tournament to that point,was in trouble. His demise yesterday can serve as a great example to all golfers about the importance of tempo in the golf swing, especially under pressure.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Don't Be A Golf Jerk

Golf is a gentleman's (or gentlelady's) game.  Oh there are peaks and valleys to be sure, frustrations over pulled shots or missed putts that boil over from time to time.  But at the end of the day, it is incredibly important to remember that for the 99.9% of us that don't play golf for living (though desperately want to), this game is supposed to be fun.  Even though some rounds feel like you are spending four hours with a doberman attached to your hindquarters, this is recreation - it is what we are supposed to do to escape from the doldrums and stresses of our daily lives, like those that come from the office.

But at one time or another, we have all caught a round with the golf jerk.  You know, the guy that shows up with a popped collar, blades, and an attitude like calling it a birdie was his idea.  They look the part up until they tee off, at which point all wildlife on the course, no matter how far removed from the tee or the green, need to seek shelter from wayward projectiles.  But it is not the bad golf that causes me reflux - it is the barely on the edge of consciousness rage that the shot provokes in the golf jerk.  It is like being on the bag with Steve Pate (aptly nicknamed The Volcano).  There are thrown clubs, profanity-laced tirades with words you didn't even know existed, and grumbling and moaning that makes Grumpy from Snow White look like all sunshine and rainbows.

I don't mind bad golf - if I did, I would be the world's largest hypocrite, having practiced it myself on more occasions than I would care to count.  But what I do mind - and all of us should mind - is people who take the fun out of a round.  Newsflash, golf jerk - you aren't putting for the Green Jacket.  This approach shot will not secure your spot on the Ryder Cup.  Its Sunday - a weekend day where we are all just out here to have fun, get better, and enjoy the game that occupies our waking hours far more than we will ever admit to ourselves, or more importantly, to our significant others.

So please, golf jerk, I beg you, as my California friends would say, to please just "Chillax."  I enter this plea on behalf of myself, as a lover of the game, and on behalf of the countless victims you will randomly be paired with in the future.
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