Saturday, February 2, 2013

Caddy Races at the Phoenix Waste Management Open

It's one of the most fun tournaments of the year, with the most fun hole in all of golf, the 16th.  Without a doubt, the Phoenix Waste Management Open is a highlight of the PGA Tour schedule.  It is fun, loud and irreverent, and if you can't handle it, then you can take your deer antler spray and go home.

Adding to the fun at the 16th this year?  Caddy races.  The game is simple.  The caddies race to the green from the tee, and the first to touch the green wins.  Keep an eye out for it on the TV coverage this weekend, and you will see some epic dashes to the finish.  This video is pretty funny (especially toward the end) - Kevin Na's caddy really goes all out for the win.  Gotta love it.  You won't see this at Augusta, but it is part of what makes this tournament one of the highlights of the golfing year.  No doubt some cash will exchange hands in the frat party-like stands as a result of the guys in the bibs doing their mad scramble to the green!

   

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Phil Mickelson is on 59 Watch!

If you are near a TV, tune into the Golf Channel, because Phil Mickelson is 10 under through 15 holes at TPC Scottsdale.  It's a par 71, so 2 birdies on his final 3 holes will post the magical 59!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Does What the Pros Play/Wear Influence You?

So now that the calendar has rolled over to 2013 - it is time to get rolling on the blog again!  Work really beat my brains in during the last few months of 2012, so the blogging sadly took a backseat.  But it's time to get back on the blogging bandwagon!

Of course the news of the day is that the worst kept secret in golf became official today in Abu Dhabi when Nike Golf announced that Rory McIlroy has signed a multi-year endorsement deal.  Rors is all in with the new sponsor, going with Nike products in his entire bag and literally from head to toe.  Rory joins Tiger as the face of Nike Golf.  In case you missed it, here is the new Nike Golf commercial - and here's hoping that there is more where this came from, because it is fantastic:


This got me thinking - does the equipment the pros play (and the clothes that they wear) influence your own personal golf purchases?  I must admit, being quite a golf equipment/clothes whore myself, it really does matter to me.  I see the equipment these guys play, and when I go to get clubs, I am more likely to ask to try a club because I saw one of my favorite Tour guys playing it on the weekend.  I needed new golf shoes but waited for the TW13 shoes to come out after seeing Tiger wearing them because they looked so cool and I read the buzz online about how comfortable they were (and they are incredibly comfortable).

I was previously an exclusively Adidas guy (my loyalty going back to my time at Notre Dame, where they made all incoming freshman get Adidas tattoos), but over the last couple years, I found myself letting some Nike and Travis Mathew apparel getting into the rotation.  I love the Nike 20XI ball, and now with Rors in the Nike fold, I can honestly see myself taking Nike equipment more seriously for my next purchase.  I am undoubtedly and unashamedly a huge fan of both Rory and Tiger, and if it is good enough for them, it obviously is good enough for me! 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Don't Hold Your Breath For A Woods-Mickelson Ryder Cup Pairing

Source: BBC
We are a few hours away from Davis Love III announcing the opening pairings for tomorrow morning's foursomes matches at Medinah.  And the partner derby, which has been running fast and furious all week, is reaching a fever pitch.

Who will play with who?  Looking at the media this week, these guys have had more partners than Wilt Chamberlain.  But with all of the speculation about the pairings, one you will almost certainly not see is Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Why not?  Well, for starters, the two have spent the better part of their careers as each other's main rival, so that relationship has not led to the two having the warm fuzzies for each other (although that has seemingly thawed as of late, and rumor has it that they have been spotted as ping pong teammates in the team room this week).  Second, previous history shows they may be better off finding Ryder Cup marital bliss in the arms of another.  When Hal Sutton tried to pair the dynamic duo in 2004, it was an unmitigated disaster.  The pair lost twice on Day 1, helping to pave the way for America's pasting at the hands of the visiting European squad (18.5-9.5).  The two clearly were uncomfortable playing together and Woods' facial expressions and body language on that day were pretty easy to read.  He was sending Phil a mental message, and it was not one that you can repeat on TV.

Good Ryder Cup pairings generally rest on two things: 1) team chemistry and 2) having games that complement each other.  Unfortunately, Woods and Phil don't really click on either account.

For an example of greatness in the first category, see Seve's perennial pairing with current European Captain Jose Maria Olazabal.  They had a connection that was on another level - Olazabal's caddie recently said that during the Ryder Cup the caddies had nothing to do because Seve and Jose would figure everything out themselves.  The Spaniards could will each other to victory.

For a great pairing in the second category, see Tiger's comfortable and frequent pairing with Steve Stricker - Tiger can bomb it off of the tee but is wild and at times loses his feel with the putter.  Stricker is a solid and consistent ballstriker (though not terribly long) and is one of the best 5 putters on the planet.  The pairing just works.

But as for Tiger and Phil, on many days neither of them could find the fairway with a GPS device.

But we can all dream, right?  It would be a huge stunner, but a Tiger-Phil pairing, if successful, could really energize the U.S. team and absolutely ignite the crowds at Medinah.  It would lead to some of the loudest golf roars of all time if they got it going.  I have this dream scenario running through my head where Tiger and Phil go to Davis Love on Friday night and say to him - "We want to play together tomorrow and we will deliver" - and then they go out and paste two European teams.  It would be one of the coolest golf stories of the year!



  

Overview of Ryder Cup Rules and Format

With the biggest and best spectacle in golf starting tomorrow, I thought it would be helpful to go over some of the ground rules for the event for those of you who may not have followed it closely before.  Think of this like how right before the season premiere of the best shows on TV, there is the one hour recap episode that gets you ready for the big event.  Can't wait to tackle that very episode of Revenge shortly in my DVR, but that is a story for another day...

-Each of the European and U.S. teams have 12 people each.

-There are 28 total points up for grabs.  Since the European team won the last Ryder Cup, they only need to get 14 points, or halve the matches, to retain the Cup.  The U.S. will need 14.5 points to win back the Cup.

-The matches begin on Friday morning at 8:20 a.m. Eastern.  ESPN will have the TV coverage on Friday from 8 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.  On Saturday, NBC will air the matches from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.  On Sunday, NBC will be back on the air from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

-The format consists of 8 matches on both Friday and Saturday followed by 12 matches on Sunday.  The morning matches will be 4 foursomes matches, meaning each two man team will play an alternate shot format.  The afternoon matches will be four ball matches, meaning the teams will take their best score from the twosome in each match on each hole. Sunday's 12 singles matches will cap the event.

-There will also be live coverage on www.rydercup.com.

-Ladbrokes has installed the U.S. team as a slight favorite, putting their odds of winning at 4/6; the odds on a European victory are 6/5.

Counting down the minutes - less than 24 hours to go!


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Swing Thought Paralysis

So I am finally ready to emerge from my two month work-induced blogging hibernation to get back to writing about our favorite topic.  It was like the work groundhog came out of his cave in July and predicted two more months of all-nighters.  Work is but a distraction from enjoying the finer things in life, like the feel of a well-struck golf ball.  Or sleep.  But I digress...

Before I get into some Ryder Cup posts later this week (I am so pumped for the event I can't stand it!), I wanted to talk about swing thoughts and my own recent experience with them.

I know that many of you, like me, spend alot of time thinking about mechanics and how you can tweak your swing in a way to get more consistent results.  The amount of time I spend thinking about my golf game could stun a team of oxen.

But when you are standing over the ball, too much thinking can get you into trouble.  I have had some problems focusing over the ball during the last couple months because I had too many swing thoughts going through me head.  Think of swing thoughts like a fine glass of single malt scotch - one or two are great, but anything more than that and you are going to feel like crap and hate yourself in the morning.

My head was too cluttered over the ball - I was thinking about taking the club away on the right plane, bracing my right leg and coiling around it, starting my downswing with my hips and not my arms, and staying in a balanced finish through impact.  It is hard enough to hit the ball as it is - with all of this running through my head it was damn near impossible.

I knew I needed to simplify this. But the big question was what swing thought should I have?  The answer came in a recent Golf Digest article I read that highlighted Jason Dufner.   He said he focused on his right shoulder - moving it away from the ball on the takeaway and then at the start of the downswing moving it directly toward the ball.  I took this sole swing thought onto the course with me a couple times and played two of the best rounds I have had all summer.

So the moral of this story is this:  if you are one of those people who have a zillion things running through your head over the ball, try finding one single swing thought that you can focus on and committing to it.  Simplicity begets scoring!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Love Makes Ryder Cup Selections

Ending months of speculation and jockeying for position, U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III made his four Captain's Picks this morning to round out the rest of the U.S. Ryder Cup team.  Love chose Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker to complete his squad, which will take on their European foes later this month.

While Love would have gotten criticized no matter who he picked (and this is a far more meritorious debate than who is the first team left out of the NCAA tournament), I think that he found the right balance with these guys and the U.S. team will head into the Ryder Cup as slight favorites.  Stricker and Furyk are veterans who have been there before and know how to perform in the pressure cooker of the heated international competition.  Johnson, who played in the last Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, is playing very well right now despite missing much of the PGA Tour season with a back injury.  And Snedeker has been rock solid all year long, and is one of the best putters on Tour.

So let the countdown to the Cup officially begin!  I can't wait for it to get started!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Top 5 Scariest Shots In Golf

We all have been in situations on the golf course when disaster strikes.  Be it a bad lie in a bunker, a complete and total swing breakdown, or a well struck ball that ends up in the drink, it is tough to get those bad shots out of your head.  We may be tough on the outside, but let's be honest - too often when it comes to the mental side of the game, we come up awfully small.  This got me thinking - what are the toughest shots we might face in a round?  The ones that are truly cringeworthy?  For me, these are the five shots that make me think that even in smelly, oft-worn by strangers multi-colored shoes, bowling might have been a better pick for a hobby.

5)  The 50 yard bunker shot:  Regular shots out of the bunker are hard enough.  And for many people, so is the type of flip wedge required to knock a 50 yard shot close enough to have a reasonable chance to sink the putt.  But combine to two, and it is knee-knocker time.  Do you try the super long blast (hello fat city!)?  Do you try to hit only the ball and no sand (hello skull city!)?  And whatever you do, you do not want to be in the same position for your next shot.

4) The fried egg in the bunker:  It is bad enough to have a shot end up in the bunker.  You are mad, but it is not the worst thing in the world.  Aside from your friends making the old, "You spend more time in the sand than David Hasselhoff" joke, you generally won't find anything in the bunker you can't handle.  Except for when you walk into the trap, rake and wedge in hand prepared for battle, and discover that you can only see a piece of your ball peeking out at you - mocking you, really - with the rest submerged below sand level.  That hurts.  Thanks for the stomach punch, sand.

3) The forced carry:  Golf is generally won or lost on 1 square foot of real estate - the space between your ears.  That is what makes this shot so difficult.  It can be a tee shot that requires a 150 yard carry to safely reach the other side of a valley, or a 175 yard shot over water to the green, visually, this shot is a knee knocker of the highest order.  It is a shot that just messes with your head, even if you have plenty of club to carry the trouble.  You know you have the distance to make it safely to the other side, but staring out at the abyss in front of you, it looks like trying to carry the Atlantic.

2) The 4 footer to win a match (or a 5 dollar nassau, or just to beat your friend Doug - yeah, you know who you are):  I am not breaking any news when I say that most of us are not going to have a 4 footer to win the Masters, but that doesn't mean that a short putt to beat your buddy on 18 doesn't inspire the same type of pressure the pros face on Sunday.  You know how bad you want to win, and how good the beer will taste afterwards when it is on your friend's check.

1) The shot after a shank:  It is the dirtiest word in golf.  And some would argue that the scariest shot in golf is the shank.  But I disagree.  The scariest shot is not the shank itself - after all, most of the time the shank comes out of nowhere, so you don't see it coming until you are standing there after the shot in stunned silence while your partners are looking around trying in vain to beat that image out of their heads for all of eternity.  No no, friends - the scariest shot in golf is the next one after the shank.  Because the shanks are a disease.  They are a virus that are a living, breathing organism that get in your head.  One shank thought meets another shank thought between your ears and they make little shank thought babies.  I fell disgusting just writing about this, but the truth must be told. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Carl Petterson: A Man Without A Ryder Cup Team

Associated Press/Stephen Morton
Few golfers have garnered as much attention over the last couple of weeks as has Swede Carl Petterson.  He is playing some of the best golf of his life right now, and for much of this past weekend was in the hunt for his first major at Kiawah Island.  His final round was derailed early with a brutal 2 shot penalty for nipping a leaf on his backswing in a hazard, but he responded with three straight birdies and garnered loads of fan support for how he handled the truly silly (but technically correct) ruling.

A five-time winner on the PGA Tour, Petterson has been playing well all season (he is 9th in the FedEx Cup race and won the RBC Heritage) and all he did today to rebound from his T-3 finish at the PGA Championship was shoot 62 in the opening round of the Wyndham Championship.

So a player this hot would seem to be a lock for the Ryder Cup team, right?  Well, not so much.  Petterson, who was born in Sweden (and thus seemingly eligible for the European team) but has become a United States citizen (wait, maybe he can play for the US), is a man without a homeland, as far as the Ryder Cup goes.  To be eligible for the European squad, he has to be a member of the European Tour (which he is not).  To be eligible for the US squad, he would have had to become a US citizen before his 18th birthday (which he did not).  So sadly for Carl, he is out of luck.

Logically, going by place of birth, he would seem to fit in with the European squad.  He is theoretically eligible for a Captain's Pick by Jose Maria Olazabal, but that seems unlikely.  First, Olazabal would have to convince the European Tour brass to grant an exemption and make Petterson a member of the European Tour to validate his selection - to describe that as a longshot is probably being generous, since Petterson is a member of the PGA Tour, lives in the US and is now a citizen.  Translation:  as far as the European Tour is concerned, Petterson has an American flag tattoo, loves apple pie and thinks soccer is stupid.  Second, with only two Captain's Picks (as opposed to US Captain Davis Love's four picks), the competition for those spots is truly fierce, and includes European Ryder Cup stalwarts like Ian Poulter and Sergio  Garcia.

It is a shame that the rules will block a guy like Petterson from playing, although the way he is making birdies right now, the US team may be better off with Petterson watching the matches from his couch.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Understanding "Sandy Areas" At The PGA Championship

Two words that you will hear ad nauseum this week at The PGA Championship:  sandy areas.  The PGA has (wisely) decided to play all of the bunkers as "sandy areas" instead of hazards this week.  Meaning?  None of the sand on the course will be considered a bunker within the meaning of the rules, so the players can take practice swings, remove loose impediments and ground their club.  The reason is because of the unique design of Pete Dye's masterpiece - sand, sand, everywhere.  The PGA did not want to have the players trying to figure out on their own which sandy areas were actually bunkers and which were not.

Many have incorrectly said that this is a reaction to Dustin Johnson's 18th hole debacle at Whistling Straits, when he grounded his club in a "bunker" that before his ball landed there, spectators were actually standing in.  But in fact, this is the same local rule that the PGA has put in place in its other major events held at Kiawah Island, including the 1991 Ryder Cup (famously dubbed as "The War by the Shore").

So when you see DJ ground his club in a bunker this week, don't rush to your phone to call the PGA and tattle tale - he is allowed this time.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Feherty Lets John Daly Tee Off On A Ball In His Mouth!

This one falls squarely into the "You have to see this to believe it category."  This also seems to be the kind of thing that the admonition "Do not try this at home" was made for.  In the season finale of Golf Channel's Feherty, the show's colorful and slightly off (in a positive way) host David Feherty let John Daly tee off from a ball that was teed up in Feherty's mouth.  Below is the link to the video - it is a must see!  It is terrifying just to watch!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Loving The Bunkers At The Open Championship


One of my favorite things about watching the Open Championship is seeing the bunkers over there, and the havoc it wreaks on the pro's games when they unfortunately find themselves on the business end of one of these harrowing holes.  Bunkers are supposed to be hazards - they are supposed to serve as a penalty for a wayward shot.  But with the generally shallow and well-manicured bunkers in the United States (especially on the courses that host PGA Tour events), the bunkers are oftentimes a better place to be than the rough, because you know you can spin the ball and be confident the lie will almost always be pretty good.  I was talking recently with a PGA Tour caddie who told me there were some holes where his player would actually aim at the bunker (when trying to reach a par 5 in two, for instance) because he knew he could easily get up and down without a problem if he missed the green.

But on the Open Championship courses, you enter one of these traps at your own peril.  You are lucky if you can emerge from them with your dignity (let alone your scorecard) still intact.  I love that at least for one week, we get to see bunkers that have some real teeth!  And with 205 of them at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, they will be a big part of the story this week. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

It's The Short Game, Stupid

When I was in high school, I was really struggling through a geometry class, and I went to get tutored by my fifth grade teacher, a wonderful nun named Sr. Teresa.  When I explained my troubles, she went to the board and wrote "KISS" in big block letters and asked me what it stood for.  I said, "Keep it Simple, Stupid."  She replied that I was close, but in her mind, the last "S" stood for sweetheart - after all, she was a nun.

I thought of this story as I had my latest revelation about where to find the shots I needed to take my 9 handicap closer to a 5.  It's the short game, stupid, I said to myself.  It may have taken me a long time to get there, but now I am convinced that is the answer.

I have spent the last 15 months working very hard on my full swing, trying to get it close to a repeatable motion that I can count on under pressure.  After qualifying for my club's Presidents Cup and Club Championship, I feel like I am finally in a good place with my swing - or at least a playable place.  But the problem with spending so much time on my full swing is that I neglected practicing my short game, which is where the strokes are.  So almost every time I am out on the course, I shoot between 80-84, but i do it with 36 putts and only hitting about 1/3 of the greens in regulation.  Not good.  That means I am essentially throwing away 8-10 shots a round through three putts and not getting up and down around the greens very often.

I have finally gotten it through my thick Irish skull that I need to rededicate my practice time to focus probably 60-70% on chipping and putting.  This is even the kind of stuff I can practice in my living room.  The mechanics are easier to master than the full swing, and success is all about touch, so the more you practice, you really will see the results on your scorecard.

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
PosNamePoints
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!