Forget about all of the other young guns you have been reading about.
Jason Day, 25, is unquestionably the second best player in the majors under the age of 30 – and that makes him second best in the world among the younger set as well.
In his last nine starts in the majors, Day’s earned three seconds and a third. Go back one more major and he’s got another top 10, giving him five in his last 10 big ones. The rest of his brief 11 event career in the majors includes a 30t, 59t, 60t, two MCs, and one WD. That’s 8 cuts made in 11 appearances right out of the gate.
That is also some resume for a 25 year old, and it points towards him either being the next Sergio Garcia, or the next Mickelson, Els, Floyd, or even better – and my money is on the later.
For the record, Day closed out the 2011 Masters with 5 birdies and 6 pars on the last 11 holes to lose by two to Charl Schwartzel, but only because the South African somehow managed to birdie the final four.
At this year’s Masters, Day missed the playoff by a couple of shots because he followed birdies at 13, 14, and 15 with bogeys at 16 and 17. And, at the just completed U.S. Open, he tied Phil Mickelson for second, two back of Justin Rose. After playing the first 10 holes of the final round in three under, he played the last eight in three over.
All it seems that is missing is to improve on his closing skills – and that seems inevitable given his experience, talent, love of the game, steely resolve under pressure (the man can grind out those pars, which reminds me of a certain player with the initials TW), and that certain something that he seems to have that so many of the other young players do not.
Given Day’s third and second in the first two majors, if he does win a major and a Top 3 Slam, he would be my choice for the Player of the Year providing Adam Scott does not win another asterisk adorned major.
Tags: 2013 U.S. Open, Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel, Jason Day, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Tiger Woods
Overall, I love Merion Golf Club. Strategically and visually this is a U.S. Open site of the highest caliber, one that rewards precision golf, and that eliminates the bomb and gougers of this world. Still, it has two major flaws, and these flaws cost leader Phil Mickelson two shots in the closing five holes, and may cost him the Open as well.
The first are the pins, which are really thick chested logs. I guess the folks at Merion think that they are necessary to hold up the wicker baskets, that good old fiber glass ones won’t do. I don’t know – but what I do know is that these steel rods reject balls that should be dropping in the hole, and that would on any other course that uses “regular” pins – like Augusta National, Pebble Beach, Oakmont, etc.
On the 14th Mickelson missed the green to the left, but played one of those deft little pitches he is known for, the ball landing softly and checking up before it started its slow motion roll to the hole. The ball hit the pin 98-99% squarely, the kind of contact that would have assured a birdie on any other course. But not at Merion, where his ball clanked off the posts and stopped 18 inches from the cup.
After barely missing birdies at 15 and 16, Mickelson made a deuce at the impossibility difficult 254 yard par 3.45 17th after drilling a 4-iron to within 12 feet. On to #18.
Number eighteen at Merion is only considered to be such a hard hole because the USGA insists on calling it a par 4. At 520 yards, uphill, and with an overall average score of 4.71 (and 4.74 on Saturday by those who made the cut), however, rational minds know that 18 is really a par 5. But closing with a reachable par 5 without a lake in front of it (for that risk/reward effect) is unthinkable, so it’s a 4, and course par is 70, not 71 as it should be. (Actually, for the record, par should be 72 because the average on the 510 yard 5th hole is 4.68 for the week. If it was a par five, however, that would make for three par fives in a four hole stretch from 2-5)
As for Mickelson, he got the shaft on 18 thanks to the USGA’s horrific set up. Here’s why: After an accurate tee shot, he blistered a fairway wood that hit short of the green, and then rolled on – but his ball kept on rolling until it trickled into some deep hay not 4 feet over the back edge. His chip understandably came up 15 feet short – you could see is club come to an abrupt stop at impact – and he two putted for a par-bogey.
Mickelson’s ball ran forever because the green slopes away from the player even though the hole requires a super long approach that will be running along the ground after it touches down. Thanks to this design flaw, the USGA should have extended the ribbon of rough behind the green so that two well struck shots, like Mickelson’s, would reward the player with a reasonable chance to recover for apar, while the bogeys are made by those who miss the fairway off the tee, or who strike errant second shots.
Going into the final round, Mickelson has a one shot lead over Charl Schwartzel, Hunter Mahan, and Steve Stricker. Another shot back are Justin Rose, Luke Donald, and Billy Horschel, who backed up his 18GIR 67 with 72. Jason Day trails by three after shooting a 68 on moving day and Rickie Fowler is four behind Phil after his Saturday 67. Because Merion is so resistant to low scoring – the low rounds are the three 67s by Fowler, Horschel, and Mickelson – it is unlikely that the winner will come from past this tightly bunched pack of nine players.
Here are Ladbroke’s odds:
-1 Phil Mickelson - 9/4 – With 4 majors and 5 US Open seconds, he should win
E Charl Schwartzel - 9/2 – closed with 4 birdies to win the 2011 Masters by two
E Hunter Mahan – 7/1 - He has posted low final round in many wins
E Steve Stricker – 7/1 – at 46, this would cap off a fine career
+1 Justin Rose – 8/1
+1 Luke Donald – 8/1
+1 Billy Horschel – 14/1
+2 Jason Day – 14/1
+3 Rickie Fowler – 33/1
I like the chances of those who are hitting the ball well. That points towards Mickelson, Stricker, Horschel, and Rose.
Phil Mickelson - 72.2% – 6t
Charl Schwartzel - 66.7%
Hunter Mahan – 61.1% - 42t
Steve Stricker – 77.8 – 2t
Justin Rose – 72.2% - 6t
Luke Donald – 64.8% - 29t
Billy Horschel – 77.8% - 2t
Jason Day – 70.4% - 10t
Rickie Fowler – 74.1% - 5th
Tags: 2013 U.S. Open, Billy Horschel, Charl Schwartzel, Hunter Mahan, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Ladbrokes Steve Stricker, Luke Donald, Merion Golf Club, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler
Merion Golf Club is stepped in history, it being the site of the final leg of Bobby Jones’ Grand Slam, Ben Hogan’s comeback win in the 1951 U.S. Open, and Lee Trevino’s playoff victory over Jack Nicklaus in the 1971 U.S. Open, among others.
It is therefore fitting that a number of players will be seeking to make some history of their own this weekend, and add to the course’s and the Open’s legacy. I am not talking about “the field” who have hopes of snagging their first major, but rather those players who’s resume will boost them further up the list of all time, and potentially all time greats.
Let’s start with Tiger Woods, the heavy favorite. Ladbrokes has him at 6/1, odds that would seem fitting given his four wins this season, his seven majors in wet conditions, and another at Hoylake when he did not have to use his driver. The one big negative could be his mental game, specifically the one that he brings to the majors. He arguably choked away the 2009 PGA, and has been anything but clutch in any of the others since winning the 2008 U.S. Open five long years ago. Woods has made it clear that he is on a mission to win 19+, but he could be getting in his own way by trying just a little too hard.
Should Woods win, he will win #15, pull to within three of tying Nicklaus, and establish his career momentum in the majors. His fourth Open would also put him in a tie with Nicklaus, Jones, and Willie Anderson for the record for most Open titles. And a win would give him his 10th season with at least one major, pulling him to within three of Nicklaus.
Phil Mickelson (20/1) is so confident in his game, or is, as he once said, “an idiot” because he flew back to California to attend daughter Amanda’s eight grade graduation. What is the big deal with that? High school, maybe. College, yes. But eighth grade? In any case, should Mickelson win, he would move past Ernie Els (and Ray Floyd) with his fifth major and become indisputably the second best player of the Woods Era. He would also tie Seve Ballesteros with five, but he wins that comparison with three different majors and so many more near misses. Mickelson would also join Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, and Lee Trevino with wins in three of the four Grand Slam events.
Rory McIlroy’s (25/1) season has been one long slump, interrupted only by a second at the Valero Texas Open nine weeks ago. While he might claim otherwise, most experts agree that his switch to Nike clubs and balls is to blame. Still, this super talented player’s game could click into place in a moment – it’s certainly been known to happen. Should he win, he would extend his major-a-year streak to three years, keep on the one-a-year pace that’s needed to catch Nicklaus, join a small circle of multiple winners of the U.S. Open and, at age 24, lock up his spot in the Hall of Fame.
Ernie Els (80/1), the winner of last year’s British Open, is suffering through an abysmal season, having yet to crack the top 10 on the PGA Tour. Should he win, then he, like Mickelson, would become the second best of the Woods Era, at least for now. He could also tie Ballesteros with five majors, and both would have records of three and two – Els with three U.S. Opens and two British Opens, Seve with three British Opens and two Masters. Els would also take the lead with most majors won with an anchored putter, a dubious distinction that deserves an asterisk.
Jim Furyk (40/1) was teetering on the brink of his second U.S. Open and a spot in the Hall of Fame at last year’s Open at Olympic when he collapsed down the stretch, handing the crown to Webb Simpson. The stakes are the same this year – Furyk, now 43, could once again secure his place in the club with a win at Merion.
Masters champion Adam Scott (20/1) is the only player in the field who can win the Grand Slam this year. Even if he fell short, but did win the U.S. Open, he would join Palmer, Nicklaus, and Woods as the only players in the Modern Era (1958 on) that has won the first two legs. He would also take the lead in career wins while anchoring his putter.
Finally, Webb Simpson (50/1) has a chance to match Curtis Strange as the only two players in the Modern Era to defend his title in the U.S. Open. And, like Scott and Els, he would take the lead in majors with an anchored putter.
Tags: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Tom Watson
Now that the anchoring dragon has been slayed, what’s next?
At Geoff Shackelford’s blog he asked readers to choose between 1) distance, 2) caddies lining up players, 3) simplifying the rule book, 4) all of the above, and 5) nothing.
Of the 692 ballots cast, I sided with the 127 (16%) who chose #4. In my opinion, all are important, and we’ve got two and a half years remaining in the current period for changing the rules, so let’s get to it.
Now, if I had to put one of the three on the back burner, it would be simplifying the rules, because that’s going to take a while, and I see a greater urgency for rolling back the ball (the choice of 49% of all voters) and eliminating the caddy line up (which drew a paltry 11%).
Distance first. This is a no brainer. You’ve probably read all of the economic arguments for shortening courses such as the upkeep and the time it takes to play today’s super long tracks. From an aesthetic point of view, the pro game would also be so much more enjoyable if they has to hit something besides a wedge or 9-iron to every par 4, and if it took two mighty blows, the second with a long iron or fairway wood, to reach the par 5s in two.
While the announcers marvel at 350-380 drives, the thought of them sickens me – I would much rather watch the way Nicklaus and Company played a 440 par 4, busting a drive and purring a 4-iron.
Now for the caddy-line-up. In many ways, this is a far more sickening development that the anchored putter. For one, it takes more time for a player to go through their routine at a time when slow play is a plague on the pro game. It has a direct impact on a player’s results for 18 tee shots and at least another 14-16 from the fairway. And, if their caddy helps a player to line up their putts, the total, excluding tap ins, could rise to 50 or more. While watching the player from behind the tee, the caddy blocks our view of much of the player’s preshot routine.
Worst of all, the caddy-line-up gives the player direct assistance in playing the shot, something that should never happen. Nicklaus, among others, has said that aiming is one of the big skills in golf. If the caddy-line-up is allowed, a player does not even have to master one of the most essential elements of the game. I think caddy-line-ups, or using the traditional club on the ground are fine – for the practice tee. But not on the course!
So, eliminating the caddy-line-up should go first because it is the easiest to fix – one stroke of the legislative pen – and no one except those few pros who employ it will even have reason to complain as probably less that 1% of all amateurs use a caddy, and most of them for just toting the bag.
Tags: anchoring, ball distance, caddy-line-up, Jack Nicklaus, R&A, slow play, USGA
Today is a day for rejoicing, for dancing in the streets and singing “Anchoring is dead.”
Glen Nager of the USGA delivered a near perfect statement early this morning on why his organization and the R&A decided to ban anchoring. The only improvement would have been to make Rule 14-1B effective immediately, or by the beginning of 2014.
Sure, we have to put it with it for 11 more majors, but if those who anchor have one whit of sense, they will immediately stop the practice.
I will have much more to say about the ban, but for the moment, here are some excerpts from my coverage on the majors in which the winner was assisted by anchoring his putter.
“Throughout my years as a fan, which come close to matching (Dan) Jenkins’, I have always rooted for my favorites, but have not openly rooted against the others who are in contention – perhaps because that is not in the tradition of the game.
But now, thanks to the long putter, I openly cheer for certain players to miss putts – and to hit it in the trees, traps, and water, of which there is plenty at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
And so, as the leaders play today, I will be rooting against the Long Putters, and it will make me smile if/when these turncoats choke because the great Dan Jenkins will be similarly applauding their assorted disasters.
Won’t you join us?”
2012 U.S. Open
“According to 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, Arnold Palmer has “…meant the world to me. I’ve always been such a big fan of the King and what he represents.
Well, if he really believed in Palmer’s values, he would not use the belly putter because, according to the King, ‘It isn’t golf.’ ”
Ben Hogan, who is one of the three greatest ball strikers in history, and who lost his bid for a fifth U.S. Open at Olympic in 1955, felt that putting was a different game. Ironically, belly putting has created a different game – those who use them, and those who don’t.
2012 British Open
“Players using the anchored putter have now had a direct impact on Tiger Woods’ quest to become the Best Ever, and to break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors. Woods finished 3t with Brandt Snedeker, four shots behind Els and three back of Scott. It is no stretch to say that their scores would have been higher than Woods’ and Snedeker’s without the anchored putter.”
“Given his (Adam Scott’s) appearance, swing and physique, his chicken wing stance with the long putter looks all the more ridiculous – and it is far more unsightly than the stances used by Els, Simpson, and Bradley.”
“When his career is over, Scott may have a half dozen majors – a few with the anchored putter, and a few without. We will never know, however, if he would have won any majors with the short putter if he hadn’t first gotten that surge of confidence that came from winning with the long one.”
Tags: Adam Scott, anchoring ban, Jack Nicklaus, R&A, Rule 14-1b, Tiger Woods, USGA
May 13th, 2013 · Comments Off
After capturing The PLAYERS, Tiger Woods has now done everything on his comeback BUT win a major.
His other three wins this year were impressive – any win is – but they came on his pet tracks in regular PGA Tour events at Torrey Pines, Doral, and Bay Hill, courses that are perfectly suited to his game.
The TPC at Sawgrass is different. After winning here in 2001, he failed to contend for a dozen years before this year’s victory. Now, armed with his Sean Foley swing, Woods dissected the course like course management wizard Jack Nicklaus would have in his prime. Indeed, it was like watching a master play pool – don’t try to impress the onlookers with big draw shots or banks (tee shots). Instead, he controlled his golf ball like Willie Mosconi controlled his cue ball, always placing it in the ideal position for the next shot.
His stats confirmed his excellent strategy and ballstriking as he was 3t in GIR at 77.4% and he ranked 19t in fairways hit with 67.9%. He putted very well, something that the new stat, Stroke Gained, failed to show (Tiger ranked 38th in this bogus stat which penalizes those who ranked high in GIR).
More importantly, Woods played superbly down the stretch, playing the last four in one under par with clutch play on each hole: 15 – he made a key 5 foot par saver; 16 – he stiffed a long sand shot for a tap in birdie; 17 – he rolled a long lag putt over a big slope and down a steep hill to within a foot; 18 – he save his best for last, curving the ball long and straight from right to left with water on the left, setting up an easy 9-iron to the green!
In winning, Woods captured the fifth most important tournament of the year with a solid game and clutch play on a course that is not well suited to his game – well, perhaps not to previous models.
Indeed, by winning at TPC Sawgrass, Woods showed that he now has the game and the heart to win anywhere. And, given that he has won three of his last four starts, and might have won all four if not for that bank shot off the flag at the Masters, you would have to consider it a fluke if he doesn’t win at least one of the final three majors and resume his chase for Nicklaus’ record.
If he doesn’t capture at least one of the three, then Woods will have to question his ability to win the big ones, and his quest could very well be over.
Tags: Jack Nicklaus, The PLAYERS, Tiger Woods, TPC Sawgrass
May 1st, 2013 · Comments Off
Ted Bishop of the PGA keeps whining about the anchoring ban, and how bad it will be for the game. And, oddly enough, 13 of the PGA Tour’s 15 member players committee also voted again the ban.
Are these guys totally clueless or what?
Bishop thinks the ban will hurt the game’s growth. Never mind the fact that the real culprits in growing the game are the time it takes to play it, and the cost.
Bishop seems to think that a horde of amateurs will leave the game if they can’t anchor, but the huge majority of these players weren’t anchoring before the recent uptick in its usage, so it is unlikely that many players would leave the game if they can’t anchor their broomsticks.
He and his club pros are also ignoring the long term impact that selling broomsticks could have on the overall sales of putters. An amateur is far more likely to switch short putters (just ask Arnold Palmer!) than he is to go from one long wand to the next because each long wand must be carefully fitted to the player’s stance and physique. Besides, the broomstick is supposed to be the solution to their putting problem, so if it doesn’t work, they would be more likely to go back to a short putter.
Now let’s turn to the ill-considered voting by the tour’s players’ committee. By voting against the ban, they are voting against us, their base of viewers who make those huge purses and their cushy lifestyle possible.
In a recent poll on Geoffshackleford.com, 63% of the over 1,100 voters were for the ban while 37% were against it. His readers are serious viewers – that huge faction of the audience that creates the ratings that drive those huge TV deals. His readers are not those casual fans who only show up when Tiger Woods is playing.
So, I think it is fair to assume that his sample is representative, give or take a few percent, of the opinions of the mass of serious fans who watch PGA Tour events week in, week out. Folks, this is about 70% of the audience that watches when Woods plays.
Now, why would Tim Finchem and his pros go against the wishes of the nearly two thirds of the nearly 100% of their weekly viewers that make the $280 million big money tour possible?
Bishop’s stance and that of the PGA Tour’s committee makes as much sense as a politician trying to be elected governor in a red state on a platform that would include the ban of all guns and religions!
The lesson: Don’t go against your base. We (the 63% of your core audience) hate anchoring, and we might stop watching if it continues. Mr. Finchem, how would you like that when you go to sign your next contract?
Tags: anchoring ban, Ted Bishop, Tiger Woods, Tim Finchem
April 19th, 2013 · 1 Comment
“He (Woods) is maybe trying a little too hard.” Mark O’Meara, GC, 4/19/13
Tiger Woods won majors because he tried so hard to win them. This was his greatest strength. He our practiced, out tried and, as a result, outplayed his rivals, willing in those crucial putts that make the difference between a W and a 4t.
Tiger Woods now loses majors because he tries so hard to win them.
After racing out to a super-fast start by winning 8 majors in his first six seasons, he underwent a two year slump, part of it brought on by his time out to learn the Hank Haney swing. Then he won six more from the 2005-2008, a stretch that led many to believe that he was a cinch to break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18.
The crowing example of his I-will-beat-them-by-out-trying-them philosophy was his victory at the 2008 U.S. Open as he soldiered on despite a severely injured left leg. After missing the last two majors of that season to recover from surgery on his knee, he came back strong, winning five events in 2009 prior to the PGA, and finishing 6t, 6t, and MC in the first three majors. One of his wins was at the Bridgestone, the week before the PGA, which made his performance in the Open more of a curiosity than anything else.
So, Tiger was primed to win the PGA, and he was leading going into the back nine on Sunday when the Yang (pun not intended) side of his mental game made its appearance – Tiger tried so hard to make the putts he needed to beat YE Yang, but fell short, losing by three to the South Korean.
This was not the first time that Tiger had lost a major because of overtrying – just recently he reminded us that he tried too hard to make the key putts on the back nine of the 2006 Masters and, as a result, lost to Phil Mickelson. That time his excuse was that he wanted it too bad for Pops, who was watching his last major. In recent years, Tiger has made a habit of giving away majors that he could have easily – the 2010 U.S. Open, the 2012 Open, and last week’s Masters among others.
When we look back on Tiger’s career, should he fail to win many (or any) more majors, it could be because his greatest strength became his biggest weakness. And while it looked to many like he was a shoo-in to set the record after winning that 2008 U.S. Open, they failed to recognize the negative side of Woods’ greatest strength – that perhaps he wants it too much – is also his greatest weakness.
Tiger says that he is all about the process, about improving his game. And that is not hard to believe given the huge effort that he puts forth. But he is also about The W, the end result. When competing for golf’s biggest prizes, his process is often being short circuited by his all-consuming desire for the end result.
This is the Yin and Yang of Tiger Woods – and it could keep him attaining from that which he wants the most - #19.
Tags: Jack Nicklaus, majors record, Tiger Woods
I hate it when the announcers at Golf Channel say stuff like “Everyone in golf is so happy that Adam Scott won the Masters.”
Such a proclamation is beyond presumptuous, and it completely misses how those of us who hate anchoring really felt about his victory.
I, for one, was rooting hard for Jason Day and Angel Cabrera to beat Adam “Mr. Chicken Wing” Scott – and I doubt that I was alone after perusing a poll at Geoffschackleford.com yesterday, a site that’s must reading for serious golf fans.
Shackleford asked his readers this question: “Does Adam Scott’s win alter your view of the proposed anchoring ban.” Two of their possible choices basically asked the same thing: are you in favor of the ban. As of this writing, 304 voted Yes. The other two choices, which were in support of anchoring, attracted 154 votes.
So, after 458 votes have been cast, 66.4% (2 out of 3) of the participants are in favor of the ban despite Scott’s supposedly popular victory.
I pray the USGA and R&A stick to their guns and go ahead with the ban – actually I hope they find a way to move up the date to the beginning of the 2014 season. Then I will also pray that no player wins one of the last three majors this season using the AP because one asterisk for each of the big four is way more than enough for golf’s major’s record book.
Tags: Adam Scott, anchoring, Geoff Shackleford, Golf Channel, R&A, USGA
I discovered a story on Golf.com by the AP which featured this headline:
“Woods leaves Masters empty-handed one more time.”
I disagree, and I think Woods does to. Consider this from Woods: “I thought I really played well. … So overall it was a pretty good week.” So, while he didn’t win, Woods probably learned this week that he still can win majors, and that he believes he would have won this one were it not for the three or four shots that he lost on the 15th hole on Friday when his ball hit the pin and rebounded back into the lake.
Sure, Woods has won 14 majors, and common wisdom has it that he can draw on those experiences to win again. Yes he can, but he’s never won a major with the Sean Foley swing, and he’s got to have lost some of his major’s winning magic considering that it’s been 58 months since he’s won one. Still, it feels like he can draw on this disaster much like Adam Scott did in recovering from his meltdown at the 2012 Open to win the Green Jacket.
Now for my reason why Woods did not leave the Masters “empty-handed:” Woods kept on trucking after the triple on 15 while so many pretenders fired and fell back and, as a result, scored a hard earned 4t, which is another strong addition to his body of work in the majors. While not the W he was after, this high-on-the-leaderboard finishes do count when his record is compared to the Jack Nicklaus, the man he is chasing.
For the record, Woods still trails Nicklaus in wins (18-14), seconds (19-6), and thirds (9-4). But he has closed to within two in fourths as he now trails Nicklaus, 8-6. Woods’ 2013 Masters also contributed to his record of consistently finishing in the top four in the majors with 30 in 61 starts as a pro, a gaudy 49.2%!
Nicklaus, in comparison, recorded 36 top fours in his first 61 starts as a pro, an average of 59.0%!! And he continued to consistently win and contend through age 40 while racking up eight more top fours in his next 15 starts. This gave him 44 of 76 from 1962-1980, an average of 57.9% - a record of consistency that Woods will be hard pressed to match despite leaving Augusta with a 4t tucked under his belt.
Tags: Adam Scott, Jack Nicklaus, Masters, Tiger Woods