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Home of Woods vs. Nicklaus – Golf's Greatest Rivalry

Rickie Fowler to join Nicklaus and Woods at the PGA?

July 25th, 2014 · No Comments

Rickie Fowler has finished 5t, 2t, and 2t in the first three majors, setting himself up for the calendar year Top 5 Slam.

So what, you say? No W? What is the big deal?

Well, if Fowler finishes in the top five at the PGA, he will become only the third player to record a Top 5 Slam since the Modern Era began in 1958. And the others? Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods!

So, a Top 5 Slam would be super cool for the super popular Fowler – the Fans Favorite.

And, if he were to achieve it with a W at the PGA, he would become the odds on choice for Player of the Year, and he would complete one of the best years in golf history!

While Tiger’s comeback is a nice story, and McIlroy’s bid for his first double major winning season is of interest, to me, nothing tops Fowler’s bid for a 2014 for the record books.

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Mickelson’s last shot

June 11th, 2014 · No Comments

Here is your preview for the 2014 U.S. Open:

Phil Mickelson.

Seriously, is there any other story that comes even close to Phil’s bid to win the Open, and to capture the Career Grand Slam?

Okay, this is Johnny Miller’s final U.S. Open (we think) because Fox will take over broadcasting it next year. And then there is Pinehurst #2. At the U.S. Open, the course always plays a starring role, and the super long #2 is no exception. At 7,562, it will be playing about 350 yards longer than in 2005. Pinehurst is also famous for its saucer like greens that repel well hit shots that hit the sides of the putting surfaces – in effect it has false fronts, false sides, and false backs!

Now, back to Phil. As you all no doubt know, he finished second here to Payne Stewart in 1999, but was consoled by the birth of his first child the next day. Fast forward to 2013 and Mickelson notched his sixth runnerup finish in the US Open at Merion. A month later he pulled himself together to win the Open, the third leg of the Slam, and the one most figured he’d never win.

Mickelson is five days shy of his 44th birthday, so he is, essentially, 44 – and players at this age seldom win majors, much less the U.S. Open, the most demanding of the four. Mickelson seems to be feeling his age on the course as well, as the  best he has managed are a pair of ties for eleventh on the PGA Tour after opening the season with a 2t Abu Dhabi.

To make matters worse, Mickelson just adopted the claw grip in an attempt to cure his problems on the greens. This smacks of desperation and a lack of confidence – just at a time when he needs all facets of his game to reach a peak.

I do not expect big things from Mickelson this week, nor do the oddsmakers at Ladbrokes, who have him at 16-1. But then again, they don’t like anyone that much as they have installed Rory McIlroy as the favorite at 12-1.

Every Open is special, and this one more than most as it gives every appearance of being Mickelson’s last shot at the Slam. He looks like he is anything but ready, but he has surprised us before – and there is scarcely a person in golf who would not love to see him beat the odds and time, and join golf’s most elite club.

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Let youth be served at the Masters

April 12th, 2014 · No Comments

Last weekend Lexi Thompson became the second youngest player to ever win a women’s major, capturing the Kraft-Nabisco at the ripe old age of 19 years and 55 days. Thompson’s win came on the heels of a third place showing at the 2013 Evian, the LPGA Tour’s fifth major.

This weekend, PGA Tour winner Jordan Spieth, aged 20 years and 8 and a half months, could become the youngest Masters champion in history, and the first to win on his first attempt at Augusta since Fuzzy Zoeller won a three way playoff in 1979.

Going into the weekend, Spieth is in a four way tie for third, three back of 2012 champion Bubba Watson. In second is Australia’s John Senden, one ahead of Spieth, Adam Scott, Jonas Blixt, and Thomas Bjorn.

I, for one, will be rooting for Spieth to capture the Green Jacket because it could serve as the springboard to a spirited run of major titles, given his youth and talent. A Spieth victory could also set the stage for the next great rivalry in golf – Spieth vs. McIlroy – as these two become the Nicklaus-Palmer of their generation.

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The Masters: who are you rooting for – and against?

April 11th, 2014 · No Comments

Like any fan, I suppose that you have those players who you root for – and possibly against!

I know that I do and, as each round is completed, my list of potential heroes and villains becomes clearer still.

My cliffs notes version for who I root for, and against, is as follows: For – players who have paid their dues by contending a few times in majors (Garcia, Day, Westwood), those who have already won a major (the game needs multiple major winning superstars), and those who’s wins would carry a great deal of historical significance (like McIlroy winning the third leg of the Career Slam).

Who do I root against? Easy – anyone who uses a long putter – and even more so now that the USGA said that using them is against the spirit of the game. I also cheer against those who’s wins would likely be a fluke.

With this criteria in mind, after round 1, my list of Friends and Foes among those who broke par is as follows:
Bill Haas – against – not paid dues
Adam Scott – against, long putter
Louis Oosthuizen – for – great swing – won the Open, second here in 2012
Kevin Stadler – against, long putter
Rickie Fowler – for – contended at Open – good guy – breakout player
Jordan Spieth – for – the young phenom exemption
Matteo Manassero – same as above
Rory McIlroy – got to root for a two time major winner
Fred Couples – against – long putter
K.J. Choi – good guy, has a 3 and a 4t in the Masters

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Nothing but Long Shots at the Masters

April 8th, 2014 · No Comments

When Tiger Woods is playing, he is always the favorite, and usually at ridiculously low odds, such as in a range from 3/1 to 5/1.

But, as the whole golfing world knows, Woods is at home recuperating from surgery on his back last week. In his absence, we have nothing but longer shots (over 10/1), longer shots (say, about 33/1 to 40/1), and super long shots (everyone else).

In Category 1, I like Rory McIlroy, who would love to win his third different major, and atone for his meltdown on Masters Sunday (an 80) three years ago. McIlroy served notice that he is peaking for Augusta with his closing 65 last week in Houston, which lead to a 7t.

I also like Jason Day, who has accumulated more Contender Finish Points (18)  than any other non-major winner among the active players except for perennial bridesmaids Sergio Garcia (who has 27), and Lee Westwood (29). For more on CFP, see my book, Woods vs. Nicklaus. In the last three Masters, Day has tied for second and finished third.

Phil Mickelson will be gunning for his fourth Masters title, but he has yet to record a top 10 this season, and his health has been an issue. Besides, if he were to win a major this season, the US Open at Pinehurst would be his obvious first choice, and that of his fans as well. As for Scott, I cannot root for the chances of anyone who still uses a long putter – not after the USGA said that they violated the spirit of the game!

Ladbrokes Favorites – as of 10am, 4/8/14
Rory McIlroy  12/1
Adam Scott  12/1
Phil Mickelson  14/1
Jason Day  16/1
Sergio Garcia  20/1
Dustin Johnson  25/1
Matt Kuchar  25/1
Bubba Watson  25/1
Henrik Stenson  25/1
Keegan Bradley  33/1
Charl Schwartzel  33/1
Zach Johnson  33/1

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Is Tiger Woods already feeling the pressure?

February 28th, 2014 · No Comments

Tiger Woods opened with a 71, 8 back of Rory McIlroy, and in a tie for 84th at the Honda Classic. The Honda is being played on PGA National, which is NOT one of his pet courses that he routinely wins at, and his lackluster performance comes on the heels of an 80t (at Torrey Pines!) and a 41t in Dubai.

Woods’ play makes me wonder if he is already feeling the pressure in a year that he, and the entire golf world, knows is the most important one of his career?

Last year he won twice on the Florida swing leading up to a 4t at the Masters. So, it will be interesting to see if an excuse free Woods, who has no apparent health issues, and who should have mastered the Foley Swing by now (they’ve been together for 3.5 years now) can come even close to matching his record last year in events that he recently admitted are really only tune ups for the season’s first major.

 

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Tiger Woods’ disaster at Torrey

January 26th, 2014 · No Comments

Woods said Torrey Pines was like a US Open with the rough up and the lack of rain causing the greens to be hard and fast. These conditions should have been right up his alley considering that won the 2008 U.S. Open in similar conditions that led to a winning score of 283, one under.

The first two rounds Woods was paired with 20 year old Jordan Speith, who is looking more and more like the future of golf. In their 36 hole match up over the South and North courses, Speith administered an ass kicking, shooting rounds of 71-63=134 to Woods’ 72-71=143, beating the 14 time major winner by nine big shots.

On Saturday, otherwise known on the PGA tour as moving day, Woods moved to the next to last spot among the 82 players who made the 36 hole cut with a big fat 79, the third worst score of the day. As a reward, Woods gets to leave town early having recorded a MDF (which means he made the cut but did not finish). Woods’ streak of cuts made will grow 24 as a result of his three round disaster, but if any stat every deserved an asterisk, it is this one.

So, what are we to make of Tiger’s trashing of Torrey Pines, a place at which he’d won nine PGA Tour events? Well, a quick glance at the numbers shows that his 79 was at bad as it looks. He hit only seven greens in regulation, played the par fives in three OVER, played holes 18-6 (he started on the front nine) in nine over par without one par or birdie! And his tee shots found only six of 14 fairways.

I would sure like to have been in on his post round call to Sean Foley, assuming that he is still his coach, to hear Tiger as he likely unleased an f-bomb laden tirade at his guru (something the old Tiger would have done, but perhaps not this milder mannered version).

In any case, Woods’ game is a disaster, his confidence has to be shaken, and this is no way to start what has to be the most important year of his career – not with the Masters looming only 12 weeks from now.

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Tiger Woods’ Last Stand

January 16th, 2014 · No Comments

Tiger Woods is running out of time.

Sure, he may have 48 more starts in the majors before he turns 50, but only eight of those will be when he is in his thirties. Once he turns 40, the hill gets steeper – heck, it already has as evidenced by his five year long drought in the majors. And, as if that were not bad enough, in his 16 majors since winning the 2008 U.S. Open, he’s only finished within three shots of the winner two times – at the 2009 PGA and the 2010 U.S. Open.

There is really no reason why he can’t win a major in 2014, not after his five win season in 2013, a year he called “great” despite not finishing close to the winner in a single major. So, if he fails to win a major this year, the only rationale conclusion is that he simply can no longer handle major’s pressure any longer – pressure that is mounting with each failure.

So, will Woods win again? And can he equal or pass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18? Evidently his peers think so. In a recent poll of 50 pros by Golf Magazine, only three though he would never win another major, and 46 of the voters believe that he will win two or more. And, amazingly, 13 still believe that he will break the record.

Golf Magazine Poll – How Many More Major Titles for Woods
W # of players
0 —3
1 — 1
2 — 14
3 — 9
4 — 10
5+ —13

In my opinion, if he is to tie or break Nicklaus’record, as 23 of the players still think he can, he’s simply got to win a major this year.

In another poll by Golf Magazine, the players choose the game’s top caddies. Joe LaCava (1), Steve Williams (4), and Mike Cowan (5) were among the top five. Besides being top caddies they have all have caddied for Tiger Woods. Williams, my choice for the best caddy of all time, was on Woods’ bag for 13 of his 14 wins, and Cowan for one. It remains to be seen if LaCava can help guide Woods to any major titles, something that you would expect from the game’s supposed best caddy.

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Tiger Woods just kills me!

December 11th, 2013 · No Comments

The quotable Tiger Woods is a real hoot.

In a post round interview following his shocking loss to Zach Johnson at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge (complete with WGR points), Tiger was asked to assess his year. His response:

“Pretty damn good year.”

For any other player it was just that. Five PGA Tour wins, including a W at The PLAYERS on a course that usually gives him fits would qualify as a great year – heck, it could be a great career for some. But everyone knows that the bar Tiger has set for himself is way higher than collecting a few tour wins each season.

In short, it is all about the majors, and a season without winning one is an abject failure. To make matters worse, he never even contended for one late on Sunday.

At the Masters he finished 4t, four back of Adam Scott. Woods was never a factor on the weekend at either the U.S. Open, or the PGA. And, while I suppose he can make a case that he was a contender at the Open, he ended up with a 6t, five big shots back of Phil Mickelson, two shots back of Henrik Stenson, and a shot back of Adam Scott, Ian Poulter, and Lee Westwood.

Woods knows that to win the majors you first have to contend for them deep into Sunday’s play, and he has failed to do that over the last five years as shown by his almost total lack of Contender Finishes (see menu item #4 on the PAGES for details). Only twice since winning at Torrey Pines has he finished within three shots of the winner in 16 tries – the last one coming at the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

So, Tiger is not winning majors, and he has not even been a consistent contender for half a decade, and yet 2013 was “a pretty damn good year.” I suppose it was if he has given up on becoming the Best Ever and will be content with beating Sam Snead’s highly questionable record of 82 PGA Tour wins. He may also be motivated to put the rosy spin on 2013 because that’s the kind of talk that Nike and his other sponsors like to hear. And, painting a positive picture could be a tactic for reducing the pressure from the media.

However, if Woods’ eyes are still on the big prize, then 2013 was nothing but a big zero – for not only did he fail to win a major, but he earned zero Contender Finish Points and, at age 37.95, still trails in this key metric with “only” 197 points to Nicklaus’ 332!

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Ryder Cup records should carry ZERO weight in the new HOF criteria

October 14th, 2013 · 1 Comment

Who knows exactly why the golf’s Hall of Fame cancelled the 2014 ceremony, but many would point to Ray Floyd as the driving force behind the time out. According to golf.com, Floyd said “the bar has been lowered”, and “it’s not fair to the people who went in early” in reference to some recent inductees, including Fred Couples (1 major), Colin Montgomerie (0 majors) and, I suspect, a whole bunch more.

Since the HOF committee is taking some time to review the criteria, I thought I would give them a hand. My first homework assignment was to read Sunday’s Golf.com Confidential to see what the “experts” had to say, knowing that if they had an argument to make, the opposite was most likely true.

Gary Van Sickle led off by saying he favors “a points system factoring in wins, majors, and Ryder Cup appearances.” Majors, of course. Wins – he needs to be far more specific. Appearances in Ryder Cup? Does that mean just making it onto the team, or your record in the matches? Either way, it doesn’t matter because the Ryder Cup is an overhyped exhibition that does not belong in the criteria for the HOF for the simple reason that the Americans and Europeans are the only ones that get to pad their resumes with the cup.

The Internationals get to play in the Presidents Cup – but it has about 10% of the pizazz and spirit of the Ryder Cup. Besides, if we count these cups, the Americans, who are eligible to play in one every year, have twice the number of chances to pull off some history making moment as do the Euros and the Internationals.

And one other thing – in a regular tournament there is a level playing field (more or less, depending on weather and the draw) on which to compete. In the Ryder Cup, your record is subject to your playing partners’ games’, and to the players you draw in both team and singles matches. The verdict: no way should the Ryder Cup, or any other cups, figure in selecting players for the HOF.

Commentator #2 was Michael Bamberger who said, “Fred Couples’ senior career is making him a more legitimate Hall of Famer.” Excuse me, but what has senior golf got to so with the real McCoy! If a player couldn’t establish their credentials for the HOF during their days in the big leagues, which last more than 20 years, then they certainly shouldn’t get second chance on a minor league tour for has beens that few even care about.

Joe Paaov incorrectly seconded Bamberger’s motion, saying “Champions Tour records should be included, where relevant.” The trouble is that on the senior tour is a 2, at best, on the 1-10 relevancy scale. Want proof? List this year’s five senior majors in order, and who won them? You can’t, and neither can I, because all the old guys are doing is making money, not history.

I can go on and on about the criteria for the HOF but, at least for today, I hopefully have settled the matter on Cup records and Champions Tour performances: they should carry zero weight when determining if a player should become a member of golf’s HOF.

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