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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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Woods vs. Mickelson for Player of the Year

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
US—-32t—-2t
BO—-6t—-W
PGA—-40t—-72t

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!

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Adam Scott will do anything to win majors

August 9th, 2013 · 2 Comments

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

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Time for Tiger Woods to change his stripes

August 5th, 2013 · 10 Comments

Tiger Woods has gone and done it.

He couldn’t be content to simply win the Bridgestone for the eighth time – he had to lap the field by seven shots, raising expectations to such lofty heights, at least amongst the media and the bettors, that Ladbrokes now has him at 3-1 for the PGA this week at Oak Hill in Rochester!

Those are the kind of odds that Woods drew back in the days when he actually won majors, not just gave some indication that he was ready to do so.

So, while an increasingly large percentage of golf fans believe that Woods is primed to win his record tying fifth PGA, and to prevent another shut out in the majors, as he did in 1999 and 2007 when he won Glory’s Last Shot, I wonder what the man himself thinks.

Woods’ big problem is that the major’s version of Woods can’t putt like the PGA Tour player can because the pressure of winning them has gotten to him. While he putts like a demon during those easy-for-him-to-now-win regular tour events, he just can’t “get the speed right” at the majors.

And so, despite his many tour wins (five in just this season) he is like a player trying to get the monkey off his back, one that is gaining weight, and one that has been resting on his shoulders for the last 17 big four competitions.

Since winning his last major in 2008, the closest Woods has come to winning (as measured by his position at the finish line) is three big shots – at the 2009 PGA and at the 2010 US Open – both of which he threw away on the back nine on Sunday. So, despite his claims that he’s “been in the mix” in half of the majors since Torrey in ’08, he actually has not.

The disconnect between Major Championship Woods and PGA Tour Woods really stands out when his record in each category is put side by side. He is, of course, that well documented 0 for 17 in the majors. At the same time, he is 14 for 51 in regular PGA Tour events. Now you would think that a player who has already shown the mental strength and the game to win 14 majors would have sprinkled in, say, at least 2-3 more within those 14 tour wins.

But not this Tiger, for this one has changed his stripes for a brand of choking that leads to collapses at the majors well before the finish line is in sight. He knows it, we all know it, and he knows that we are watching to see what he does about it. Can this Tiger regain his bite, or has he lost his Sunday growl?

My advice is simple – dump that Sunday outfit (the red shirt and black pants) for something that signals the birth of a new Tiger, one armed with his Foley Swing, a Zen like approach to putting, and the belief that the majors are his birthright, and that no one is going to deny him, least of all himself.

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Mickelson earns a “major” upgrade

July 22nd, 2013 · 4 Comments

Phil Mickelson’s closing 66, with four birdies on the last six holes, propelled him to his fifth major, and to a major upgrading by the entire golf community.

Before the Open Mickelson was a great player and a member of the HOF. Even though he was tied with Ernie Els with four majors, he was the media’s choice for the second best player of the Woods’ era. With his win he is now undisputedly second best over the last 17 years, a position I expect him to retain as I don’t see putting troubled Els winning another major. But, far more importantly, Mickelson is now being called an ALL TIME GREAT!

So, who are the legitimate All Time Greats he’s now joined?

All Time Greats of the Modern Era (1958-now)
Jack Nicklaus
Tiger Woods
Gary Player
Tom Watson
Arnold Palmer
Phil Mickelson
Lee Trevino
Nick Faldo
Seve Ballesteros

All Time Greats of the Pre Modern Era (before 1958)
Harry Vardon
Gene Sarazen
Walter Hagen
Bobby Jones
Ben Hogan
Sam Snead
Byron Nelson

That is some pretty stout company, 16 players who won no less than five majors. In the Modern Era he is the sixth best of the nine all-time greats. On the list 16 he is probably about 12th based on his overall record, including those six seconds in the U.S. Open, not just his Ws in the majors.

At one time the media tried to make Tiger vs. Phil into debate when there was none. But if we now look at their stats in the majors from 2004 to now, there appears to be one.
Wins in the majors: Tiger 6, Phil 5
Seconds in the majors: Tiger 5, Phil 5
Thirds in the majors: Tiger2, Phil 2.

That is 13 to 12 in Tiger’s favor in top threes in the majors!

With his win, Mickelson has also accomplished the following:
He jumped from fifth to second in the World Golf Rankings
His major titles now span 10 seasons, a measure of longevity that’s only two years short of Woods’ record
He joined Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, and Lee Trevino as Modern Era players who have won 3 legs of the Career Grand Slam
Won a major in his 40s at age 43
Orchestrated a great bounceback win after his collapse at Merion
Won from behind in the final round (with a round that rivals Nicklaus
65 in 1986), something Woods has never done
Tied Seve Ballesteros with five majors, but he passed him based on his overall record in the majors
Passed Els and Ray Floyd, who have won four majors

When Darren Clarke won the British Open two years ago at age 42, you got the feeling that the portly fun loving Clarke had won his one and only major. With Mickelson, the feeling is entirely different.

At 43, the slim and trim Mickelson appears to be at his peak!! He said he putted the best of his life to win the Open, he is ultra-confident off the tee with his new super 3-wood, he’s got that great short game, and he says that his irons have always been the strong part of his game. Best of all, he is also employing Nicklaus’ secret weapon: course management.

So, with this confidence building victory, Mickelson’s got the total package and a heavy dose of career momentum! As a result, it is not hard to imagine him challenging Nicklaus for most majors in their 40s. Right now Nicklaus leads Mickelson 3-1, but I think Phil has at least a couple more in him.

Let’s do a little star gazing and imagine that Phil wins the U.S. Open at Pinehurst next year where he finished a shot back of Payne Stewart in 1999, and one other major. He would own the Career Grand Slam and seven majors. That would, in my opinion, make him the fourth best of the Modern Era, and a member of the All Time Top 10.

Given the current state of his game, the glittering resume that awaits him, and that he “loves golf and loves to compete,” I fully expect that we have not seen the last of Mickelson at the top of the leaderboards in golf’s biggest championships.

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Woods and Mickelson on the brink of the British Open

July 17th, 2013 · No Comments

Tiger Woods Continues to be in Denial

I wonder who Tiger Woods thinks he is fooling.

At the pre British Open press conference he was asked what has kept him from winning majors over the last five years. Woods said “I think it’s just a shot here and there.” Actually he needs to add another here and there because the closest he’s come to a playoff since winning the 2008 U.S. Open was at the 2009 PGA, in which he shot a final round 75 to lose by three shots to Y.E. Yang, and at the 2010 U.S. Open where he ended up three back of Graeme McDowell after again closing with a 75.

Woods furthermore said that winning was about “getting a good bounce here,” and “capitalizing on an opportunity here and there.” Well, yes, those happenings can make the difference when you are in the hunt and are breathing down the leaders necks, but in every other of the last 16 majors, Woods has failed to even put himself into position where good fortune could propel to victory.

Woods was primed for a run at the Masters when his approach shot to the 15th in the second round rebounded off the pin and into the lake and he eventually took an 8. If that had not happened, however, I think that the New Woods (the one who seems to have lost his special powers in the majors) would have found another way to lose. As the U.S. Open I guess we can give him a pass for his poor showing due to his injured elbow, which he now says will be fine providing he can steer clear of Muirfield’s hay fields.

Woods, now 37, is down to his last two majors of the year – two chances to avoid his fifth straight season without a major title. If he fails to win the Open or the PGA, he will have only eight starts in the majors remaining in his 30s to add to his 14 titles, and his chances of passing Jack Nicklaus’ record will appear to be all but over.

So, you think he isn’t feeling the pressure?

Mickelson’s big consolation prize
Phil Mickelson brought his family over to Scotland for a vacation on the eve of the British Open, yet still managed time to win a playoff for the Scottish Open, boosting him to the fifth spot in the World Golf Rankings. And, despite his heartbreaking collapse at Merion, where he posted his sixth second in our nation’s national championship, he is definitely one of the hottest players on the planet, having finished 3, MC, 2t, 2t, MC, W in his last five starts.

If Mickelson was asked if he could own one of the two Opens, he would surely pick ours. Still, a win at this week’s British Open would do just as much, if not more, for his position in golf’s pecking order of all-time greats. A win would give him three legs of the Career Grand Slam, pull him into a tie with Seve Ballesteros at five majors, and a win at St. Andrews would give him majors on two continents, bolstering his reputation as an international player. It would also put him in the company of Nicklaus and Woods, who both won at golf’s home.

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Inbee Park is 3/4 of her way to The Real Grand Slam

July 2nd, 2013 · No Comments

O.B. Keeler, Bobby Jones’s close friend and biographer, had a knack for coining phrases and catchy slogans that would glorify Jones’s achievements, but none was more grandiose and false than the Grand Slam. Prior to Jones winning the two Opens and two Amateurs in 1930 there was no such thing.  So Keeler put 2 and 2 together, mixing pro and amateur majors, to come up with the Grand Sham, thus providing a memorable moniker for Jones’s supposed sweep of the majors that year.

Fast forward to 1960 and we have Arnold Palmer and HIS writer pal, Bob Drum, in route to the British Open. While on the plane they hatched a modern day version of the Grand Slam, one that would include the four professional majors. Their Slam has stuck for over 50 years even though no one has won it yet, and likely never will. If wiser heads had had the foresight to conceive of such a thing when the PGA Championship was born in 1916, the real Grand Slam would have been comprised of the two Open, the PGA, and the Western Open (later to be replaced by the Masters). Four pro majors for the best golfers in the world – no mixing of oil and water to fabricate the phony Jones Slam.

The point of all of this is that, even to this day, a Grand Slam is whatever we fans and the media want it to be. Why as recently as 2001 some, including Tiger Woods, felt that he had won the Grand Slam at the 2001 Masters, but it was later revised to the Tiger Slam. As for the ladies version, a rather vocal majority have strongly suggested that the first four majors are plenty. The Evian Championship, the recently coined fifth major, has no more business in the Grand Slam than a prostitute at a President’s Ball.

Let’s assume that the ladies Grand Slam through last season consisted of the Kraft-Nabisco, LPGA Championship, US Women’s Open, and Women’s British Open – all recognized as majors by everyone in golf. Then The Evian was designated a major by Michael “Mr. No-Sense-of-History” Whan. Does that mean, as part of its upgrade, that it automatically becomes a member of the Grand Slam? I don’t think so, and neither do these expert observers:

From Golf Channel:
“If she wins at St. Andrews that is a Grand Slam.”  – Amad Rashad
“If she wins at the Old Course, that is a Grand Slam.” – Matt Ginella
“It (winning the first four) would be a Grand Slam.” – Judy Rankin

Golf.com asked this question to their Golf Confidential panel: If Park gets to four, is that enough for you to call it a Grand Slam?
“Win at St. Andrews and give her the Grand Slam. I don’t think anyone will much care how she fares at the Evian — win or lose.” – Mark Godich
“She wins the British, she has the Grand Slam.”  –  Michael Bamberger
“You can’t just dub something a major. The Evian isn’t a real major and won’t be until it stands the test of time. If Park wins the other four, that’s a slam.” – Gary Van Sickle
“And if she wins the Women’s British Open, I’d consider it winning the Grand Slam. What fifth major? It’s so contrived.” – Stephanie Wei
“If she wins the British Open that’s four in a row, and that’s a Grand Slam. End of story.” – Jeff Ritter

In addition to expert opinion, there are more arguments for excluding The Evian from the party:
It mercifully comes last on the major’s calendar, so it is easy to lop it off. Imagine if Park won the four real majors, but failed to win The Evian and it was second or third on the calendar?
St. Andrews, the home of golf, could be the site of the crowning of not only the British Open champion, but also the winner of the Grand Slam. Anything that takes place at The Evian would be anticlimactic.
The Grand Slam is tough enough to win as it is – there is no need to make it geometrically more difficult by requiring a fifth major.
And speaking of the fifth major, the ladies already have one same-course major, the Kraft Nabisco – so they certainly do no need another.

I am rooting for Inbee Park to win the Women’s British Open, and what my fellow traditionalists consider to be the Grand Slam. I will not be rooting for her to win the supposed Super Slam, which would consist of the four real majors and the phony fifth major. If she won The Evian, it would create an argument in favor of it being a part of the Grand Slam, and a win would be too much of a good thing for Park as it would foster the belief that she faced too little competition.

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