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.
Tags: Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Masters, Rory McIlroy
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
Tags: Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Masters, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy
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
Tags: Masters, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods
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.
Tags: Honda Classic, Masters, Tiger Woods
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.
Tags: Jordan Speith, Tiger Woods, Torrey Pines
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
1 — 1
2 — 14
3 — 9
4 — 10
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.
Tags: Golf Magazine, Jack Nicklaus, Joe LaCava, Mike Cowan, Steve Williams, The Majors, Tiger Woods
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!
Tags: 2013 season, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, San Snead, The Majors, Tiger Woods
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.
Tags: Colin Montgomerie, Fred Couples, Golf Hall of Fame, President Cup, Ray Floyd, Ryder Cup
September 28th, 2013 · 8 Comments
There are, or should be, two Player of the Year Awards.
The standard award goes to the PGA Tour Player of the Year. Notice the modifier. This year, Tiger Woods won it again on the strength of his five win season, which included victories at his usual haunts – Torrey Pines, Doral, Bay Hill, and Firestone, and a W at The Players, which was arguably his most impressive win because he has struggled on TPC Sawgrass (he was 1 win in 15 starts prior to 2013).
So, Woods is the PGA Tour’s POY, but would he be simply the Player of the Year if the award was based on a player’s complete season, and if it gave due credit to wins and close finishes in the majors? I think not.
If you asked Woods whose season he would rather have had, his or Phil Mickelson’s, it would take him a quarter second to utter Phil’s name. The reason: a major title, and a strong second in another, which counts among those sensible analysts who believe that second it better than 32t, which is where Tiger finished at the U.S. Open, the one that Phil lost by two shots to Justin Rose.
On the PGA Tour, Woods won five times and was second once in 16 starts, and finished in the top 10 eight times. In his lone appearance overseas (other than the British Open) he missed the cut at Abu Dhabi.
Mickelson won twice on the PGA Tour, including a major, and won his only other start overseas at the Scottish Open, which preceded his win at the Open. This gave him wins in consecutive weeks, something that Tiger did not accomplish. Mickelson registered six top threes (not counting the Scottish Open) to Woods’ six.
Tiger vs. Phil in the Majors
Woods – Mickelson
M—-4t —- 54t
Again, the big point in Woods’ favor was that he won five times on THE PGA TOUR. Still, but he would take Mickelson’s year in a heartbeat because 1) he would have ended his five year drought in the majors, 2) pulled to within three majors of Nicklaus, 3) passed Nicklaus in career British Open titles with four, 4) added a second in the U.S. Open to his resume, 4) come to within a U.S. Open title of winning a fourth Career Grand Slam, and 5) been able to tell the writers “I told you so,” something he relishes more than just about anything else.
So, who really is the Player of the Year? If you put Woods on truth serum, his answer would be Phil Mickelson!
Tags: Jack Nicklaus, PGA Tour, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods
Adam Scott seems to many like the nicest guy, but to me he is a scoundrel who will go to any lengths to win.
A few years ago Steve Williams, his caddy, made racially insensitive remarks about Tiger Woods, his former employer. Many felt that Williams comments were so bad that Scott should definitely fire him. Instead, Scott, whose response was essentially no response, kept Williams because he knew his chances of ever winning a major depended largely on retaining the world’s best caddy.
Then, when he couldn’t regain his lost putting touch, he opted for the most grotesque looking putting stance in pro golf, firmly anchoring his putter to his chest while sticking his left arm out in front of him. It was obviously within the rules, so the majority of fans (based on numerous polls) who hate anchoring, had to grin and bear it while Scott prevailed in a playoff at this year’s Masters.
A few weeks later Glen Nager of the USGA issued their ruling on anchoring – it would become illegal at the beginning of 2016. To Scott, that meant that he (and his henchman) had 11 majors to add to his legacy before he would have to abandon his long wand. Or would he? Here is Scott’s view on the change he plans to make:
“I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and deal with it then,” he said. “I don’t think there will be anything much for me to change. If I have to separate the putter a millimeter from my chest, then I’ll do that. … My hand will be slightly off my chest, probably.”
While Scott’s anchoring is still legal, it is now, officially, against the spirit and tradition of the game as voiced by Nager in his address on the ban:
“Rule 14-1b protects one of the important challenges in the game – the free swing of the entire club. The traditional stroke involves swinging the club with both the club and gripping hands held away from the body, requiring the player to direct and control the movement of the entire club. Anchoring is different: Intentionally securing one end of the club against the body, and creating a point of physical attachment around which the club is swung, is a substantial departure from that traditional free swing.”
So, any player who continues to anchor after the ban is violating the spirit of the game, something which Scott cares nothing about as he continues his all out quest for Ws in the majors. And he may get them as he is currently leading the PGA deep into his second round as this is being written.
Should he win, however, in the history book that I plan to write, his entry will contain an asterisk, as it should.
2013 PGA – Adam Scott*
*Used an anchored putter in opposition to the tradition of the game as expressed by the USGA and R&A
Tags: 2013 PGA, Adam Scott, R&A, USGA