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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Love Names Two Ryder Cup Assistant Captains

Today, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III named two of his assistant captains for this year's team:  Fred Couples and Mike Hulbert.  No big surprises - Couples and Hulbert are both great friends of Love.  Couples is fresh off a second successful stint as the captain of the U.S. squad in the President's Cup, so he made a lot of sense.  Hulbert, a three time winner on Tour, was also a Ryder Cup assistant captain back in 2002 (the Europeans prevailed at The Belfry), and has been a friend of Love for many years, and even caddied for him a few times later in his career.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mid-Season Look at U.S. Ryder Cup Standings

With less than two months to go until the top eight points spot for the Ryder Cup are set, here is an update on where things stand for the U.S. squad.

To quickly recap the qualification process for the U.S. side:  The top eight point leaders automatically make the team.  The automatic qualifiers are set at the end of the PGA Championship in August.  Players get 1 point for every $1,000 in prize money earned in the 2011 majors, and 1 point for every $1,000 in prize money earned in 2012 "Official" events that are not majors.  2012 majors are worth 2 points for every $1,000 in prize money earned.  2012 events opposite the majors and the World Golf Championships are worth 1/2 point for every $1,000 in prize money earned.

In September, captain Davis Love III will get to select four players to round out the American team.

Points through 06/19/2012
1Jason Dufner5,289.254
2Bubba Watson4,798.395
3Webb Simpson4,421.465
4Phil Mickelson4,107.108
5Matt Kuchar3,869.426
6Hunter Mahan3,537.370
7Tiger Woods3,499.413
8Zach Johnson3,313.258
9Keegan Bradley3,247.543
10Rickie Fowler3,174.590
11Dustin Johnson2,618.942
12Steve Stricker2,544.621
13Jim Furyk2,540.443
14Bill Haas2,187.274
15Brandt Snedeker2,145.857

Dufner, Bubba, Webb, Phil and Tiger are locks to make the team, and they will all likely do so on points, which would be a great thing for Captain Davis Love, as it will give him maximum flexibility for his four Captain's picks.  I can't imagine Fowler will be left off the team - he is playing really well in 2012 and he has a W under his belt.  Ditto for Hunter Mahan who has already won twice.  Dustin Johnson's back makes him a question mark.  Stricker and Furyk - perennial team members, are on the bubble.  The guy outside the top 15 with the best chance to make the team?  David Toms.

Can't wait for Medinah!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Don't Talk Yourself Out Of A Good Round Before It Starts (Like Bubba Did)

We all know that so much of success in golf is based on confidence, and the belief that you can go out and execute the shot that you want to hit under pressure.  That is why it is so critical to do your best to keep negative thoughts from creeping into your head before and during the round.  You don't want to psyche yourself out so badly before the round begins that you have no chance to shoot a good score.

The funny this is that Bubba Watson, reigning Masters champion, did just that in the days leading up to the start of the US Open at Olympic.  Here are some excerpts from his press conference on Tuesday:

Any special shots required?

"Not that I know this in my head, but 13, what is that, the par3, 13, the par 3 they shaved all the grass on the left side of the hole.So if you hit it you could actually hit the ball on the green and end up in the hazard. I don't understand why they did that. But they did it.  Next hole, 14, they moved the fairway over.  I hit it in the middle of the fairway, but had to slice a 9iron about 40 yards just to hit the green.  It just doesn't make sense."

"You know you're going to make mistakes, you know you're going to make bogeys. You have to keep going. Par what is par, 70? It's not really 70. It's over par.  5over at the end of the week, just like at Oakmont, probably has a great shot at winning. Unless something changes dramatically with the weather or something like that."

Do you like the course?

"Do I like it? I'll tell you in a few days. I think we all the way it's set up, it's going to be [tough].  I don't want to come out here and shoot 80. As of right now I don't like it.  There's an 80 lurking.  After four days of golf if there's not an 80, then I like it all right."

It seemed very much like Bubba was already making excuses for the impending bad round before he ever teed it up.  When he got out there today, he played like the course had already beaten him, and as a result he shot 78.

Take a lesson from Bubba's woes today - don't give up on yourself before you even have a chance to succeed!

US Open Moments: Hogan Wins 1950 Open at Merion

Photo by Hy Peskin
It is the most famous picture in all of golf - Hogan's legendary one iron into the 18th green at Merion.  Hogan was at the top of his game as the decade of 1940 came to a close.  He won 10 times in 1948, including his first U.S. Open title at Riviera - dubbed "Hogan's Alley."  But in 1949, the legend's life was almost cut tragically short.  While driving home to Texas with his wife, Valerie, Hogan's car collided head on with a bus.  Hogan threw his own body across Valerie's to protect her - a courageous act which also saved his own life, as the steering wheel was driven back into the car with such force it would have killed him had he remained in his seat.  The damage to Hogan was catastophic - and doctors were not sure he would ever walk again, let along play in the pressure cooker of tournament golf.

But a year and a half later, Hogan teed it up at Merion to try and win his 4th major.  With the pain beyond bearable, and his legs tightly wrapped, Hogan walked 72 grueling holes in the summer heat.  He would soak his body every day in epsom salt to help his legs withstand the physical toll of walking so much.  Coming to the difficult closing hole at Merion, he hit the famous 1 iron shot to 40 feet, and managed a tough two putt to finish in a three way tie for first with George Fazio and Lloyd Mangrum.  While an 18 hole playoff was the last thing his weary legs needed, he went out the next day to shoot a brilliant 69 to take home the title.

If you want to learn more about this epic championship, you can read David Barrett's excellent book, Miracle at Merion, which won the USGA's 2010 Herbert Warren Wind Book Award.   

The U.S. Open returns to Merion next year - where I can't wait to be a volunteer!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Review of Chambers Bay Golf Course: Site of 2015 US Open

In honor of the U.S. Open starting this week, I wanted to get my review up of a future U.S. Open site. On May 10, I had the chance to play a round at Chambers Bay, the site of the 2015 U.S. Open. I was inSeattle (great city by the way) for a wedding, and a couple of my college buddies and Itook the one hour drive south to experience the course that will give the pros fits in a couple of years.

I was so excited to play, I had trouble sleeping the night before (although a few Jack and Cokes with my college roommates certainly helped). Chambers Bay is the 3rd U.S. Open track I have gotten to play - I previously played Torrey Pines and Bethpage Black.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tiger, Bubba and Phil Headline The U.S. Open Groupings For Days 1 & 2

One of the things you have to love about the USGA is the fun that they like to have with the groups in the opening rounds at the U.S. Open.  There is no question that the big story heading into the start of our nation's national championship is that three of the game's biggest draws, Tiger, Phil and Bubba (three guys who can be properly introduced with just their first names) - will be playing together for the first two rounds.

This is beyond an epic pairing.  This is a fake sick to stay home from school, call out of work, dust off an old high school injury to avoid having to do yardwork type of pairing.  The best place to be is on the couch, with an unobstructed view of all of the action, to watch these heavyweights slug it out for one of the most coveted trophies in all of golf.  And can you imagine how electric the atmosphere will be on the course?  People will be stacked 15-20 deep on every hole.  The good news for the folks showing up in person is that the rest of the course should be fairly empty when the big boys are out there.  So if you are a fan of the Tim Clark, Toru Taniguchi, Rod Pampling group, you can basically talk to these guys all the way up the fairway, because there won't be anyone else around to watch them.

So, to borrow a phrase from Tony Kornheiser - "Who ya got?"  All three have won so far on Tour this year, and Bubba nabbed the Green Jacket in dramatic style.  But Bubba has not played much since Augusta, and the U.S. Open isn't the kind of place where you want to be shaking off the rust.  And given all of the crowds and potential distractions for Bubba with this group, I don't like his chances of winning the mini-tournament that will be going on during Thursday and Friday.  And while Phil has had a solid year, his WD at The Memorial haves him going into the Open with less momentum than he would like.  Tiger is coming off of a big win at The Memorial, and he is my pick to go the lowest of the three on the first two days.  

To succeed at the U.S. Open, you need to drive the ball accurately and putt well.  Tiger is ranked 22nd in driving accuracy, compared to Bubba at 99 and Phil at 140.  Phil takes home the strokes gained putting stat, ranking 14th, but Tiger is not too far behind at #25, while Bubba comes in at 166.  I would love nothing more than to see all three guys there in the end on Sunday, but for the first couple of days, I would put my money on Tiger.

Don't forget to vote in the poll on the site to get your opinion counted! 

Is it Thursday yet?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Limited Edition U.S. Open Adidas Samba Golf Shoes Available

Adidas is selling a limited edition Samba golf shoe in honor of this year's U.S. Open.  The Samba is one of Adidas' most popular lines.  In my mind, they will always be connected to soccer, but they have rolled out a line of Samba golf shoes to help golfers in search for a more comfortable golfing shoe.  Comfortable shoes are important, because while golf may be a good walk spoiled, it is an even crappier walk if your feet are killing you at the end of the round.

These beauties are individually numbered on the heel, with only 1,950 being made in each color (1950 was the year Adidas brought the Samba to the market).  If you are interested in owning a pair to commemorate the U.S. Open, they will cost you $120, and you can purchase them here.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Einstein on Golf

I was in my car driving to the train station this morning listening, as I often do, to Matt Adams' excellent morning show, Fairways of Life, on the PGA Tour Network on SiriusXM Radio.  This morning Matt was interviewing golf writer John Derr, who had some truly fantastic stories  about covering the legends of the game in his more than six decades of reporting.  But my favorite yarn was a brief encounter he had with Albert Einstein, and it was so awesome that I had to pass along to all of you.

Derr said he was over at Princeton University covering a Princeton-Dartmouth game, and went out to play golf.  When he got to the 14th hole, there was a guy wandering up the opposite fairway in a long coat (it was November).  Derr's playing partner said to him, "Do you know who that is?"  Derr responded that he did not, and was informed that it was none other than Albert Einstein.  Derr's companinon then asked Derr if he would like to meet him, and of course Derr readily agreed.  The pair went over to chat with Einstein, and after a couple minutes of banter about the weather, Derr asked if Einstein played golf.  Einstein responded, with a growl, "No no no.  It was too complicated, so I quit."

That defines the word "Classic."  So remember this next time you are berating yourself on the 7th tee for that pull hook into the woods - golf was too complicated for Einstein to figure out!   

Friday, June 1, 2012

Incorporating Proper Body Rotation During Your Swing

I had another lesson with my golf pro recently, and as always, I want to share what I learned with all of you, in the hopes that my golf flaws can help lead you to your own golf fortune!

I sought his learned counsel because my ballstriking was far too inconsistent, and I was struggling through some rounds with the dreaded two way miss. There are few things more terrifying in golf than standing on a tee and not knowing which way your miss will be. The only scarier shots that immediately come to mind are: 1) the first shot after you hit a shank, and 2) afourfooter to win a match.

After a couple swings, Jons diagnosis was fairly simple - I was not incorporating much body rotation in either my backswing or follow-through, which meant that my swing was almost entirely dependant on timing - in other words, I was relying solely on my hands to square the club at impact. Because my swing was so reliant on timing, there would be rounds or even weeks where my timing was good, and I could play consistently well. But there were alsotoo many times, he supposed, where I would just lose my swing in the middle of a round and then not get it back for a while.He was spot on.

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