Friday, May 30, 2008

Goggin, Perry Tied for Memorial Lead. - Big Names Tumble.

Australian Matthew Goggin woke up with the lead at the 2008 Memorial this morning and he'll go to bed tied for it. His even par 72 left him level with Kenny Perry, who carded a one under 71 today. Both players enter the third round at -7. Hot on their tails are Jerry Kelly, -6, Luke Donald, -5, Matt Kuchar, Geoff Ogilvy, Steve Lowery and Nick O'Hern, all at -4. Jack wanted an major-like feel to his tournament and he got one. Despite some of the widest fairways on tour, Muirfield Village yielded a first round scoring average of 73.73, with today's second round expected to come in just over 75. 5-6 inch seed- bearing rough and a reported green speed of 14 on the Stimpmeter has this course looking like a major. Keep it in play, take what's there, stay below the hole, make the putts, and that's the recipe for victory. Sounds easy, but it's not for 72 holes. Throw in some wind like today and par's a great score.

Big names that faltered or just tread water, Ernie Els, +7, missed cut. K.J. Choi, +6, probable missed cut as of this writing. Hunter Mahan, +8, missed cut. Sergio Garcia, +5, lots of wood to cut. Phil Mickelson, 75 today, +3 overall. Average Golfer's pick, Jim Furyk, +1. Jim's still there, but better get going. Fred Couples, -1. Fred's playing well, always seems to on tough courses. All you need to know regarding how tough this course is that today's conditions produced 21 rounds in the 80s! Nick Watney's two rounds......68-80. Dang, that's how I play, only 15 strokes higher on both ends.

All you need to know about playing winning golf on any level is that putting is where it's at. After two rounds Goggin is T55 in driving distance, T67 in greens in regulation, and 1st in putts/greens in regulation. He's averaged an astonishing 22.5 putts per round so far.

More wind will have Jack smiling and pros struggling. Between the rough, the fast greens, the furrowed bunkers, and Mother Nature, the 2nd half of this baby could be a blast to watch.

Til' next,

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

2008 Memorial - Winner Predicted - Best of the Rest

Jack's tournament, the 2008 Memorial at Muirfield Village may be more conspicuous this year for who's not playing. Widely considered one of the best tourneys outside the majors, the withdrawals are stacking up at an unheard of rate. Tiger Woods, knee. Vijay Singh, rib injury. Steve Stricker, elbow. Elbow or ego? Strick's having some trouble making cuts of late. Adam Scott, fatigue. Fatigue? Carrying his own clubs? Hair too heavy? Lie and say food poisoning, not fatigue for cryin' out loud! I'm 51 years old and work in a construction related business. Today I handled 80 pieces of sheet rock and 50 bags of cement, not to mention how many hundreds of pieces of lumber. I'M FATIGUED! How are you going to topple Tiger with that namby- pamby outlook? Enough. The word is that this golf course is the best conditioned course these guys will play all year, including the majors. I'm sure that's how Jack wanted it to be.

As is Average Golfer's custom, we'll dissect the favorites as considered such by Ladbrokes, the British odds house. Here we go.........

Phil Mickelson, 7/1 --- Can't bet against him after last week. By far the best player here.

Geoff Ogilvy, 14/1 --- On the strength of his Florida swing. Legit chance.

Stewart Cink, 14/1 --- Rap on Stew, great tournaments, lots of 2nds, can't win.

Jim Furyk, 16/1 --- Uncharacteristic balky putter. Tee to green, one of the best.

Sergio Garcia, 16/1 --- Expected better odds after The Players. Guess they're waiting to see if his putter implodes.

Kenny Perry, 20/1 --- Bit of a hot head on Sundays. See Stewart Cink.

Ernie Els, 25/1 --- Missed the cut last week at Wentworth, his home course. Was in this tournament, withdrew, got back in. Ernie's a mess. Avoid him like the plague.

K.J. Choi, 33/1 --- M.I.A. since Hawaii, California swing. Was steady, now a bit shaky. Defending champ though.

Luke Donald, 33/1 --- Brits and Scots have a tough time in the states. Ask Monty and Justin Rose.

Rod Pampling, 33/1 --- Gritty and competitive. Wouldn't count him out.

Sleeper picks from down the odds board. Aaron Baddeley, 40/1. Consistent enough to win anywhere. Hunter Mahan, 100/1. Great player. At these odds, worth a look. Daniel Chopra, 150/1. Already won this year, why not? David Duval and Larry Mize at 300/1. Feel bad for David. Larry got in due to the high number of dropouts. Any action on David vs Larry head to head?

As an aside, at about halfway through the professional golf season, the 100th money ranked player is Alex Cejka with $475,848.00. The 1st millionaire to appear on the list is Pat Perez, ranked 43rd on the money list with $1,018,735.00. So, is there any surprise that tournaments are having trouble attracting great fields on a regular basis? All you have to do now is play to keep your card. That's money in the bank.

Almost forgot, Average Golfer's winner prediction for the 2008 Memorial is..................Jim Furyk. Jimbo sheds the "Furyk Funk" and makes the putts he has to make.

Til' next,

Monday, May 26, 2008

Favorite Ben Hogan Quotes

With last week's tournament being held at Colonial Country Club, Ben Hogan's home course, I thought I'd resurrect some of my favorite quotes from the master who is frequently considered the greatest ball striker the game has ever seen. The enigma of Hogan was his public persona, or seeming lack thereof. While considered distant and brooding, I wonder if the man had a shy side or just wasn't comfortable being in the company of other people. That would certainly explain his delight in practicing alone, long and hard, well after his contemporaries had packed it in. This leads to the public perception of one of the game's true legends, of which in my opinion, there are very few.

This is no biography of Hogan. Too much has been written that exceeds my knowledge or capabilities. I'd just like to share a few of my favorite Hogan quotes with a couple of quotes by others for perspective....

"The secret is in the dirt" -Common answer Hogan gave when asked how he played so well.

"All I know is, I've seen Nicklaus watch Hogan practice. I've never seen Hogan watch Nicklaus practice." -Tommy Bolt

"If you can't outplay them, outwork them."

"There's no reason a man can't birdie every hole."

"There's no such thing as a natural golf swing."

"There is no similarity between golf and putting, one is played in the air, and the other on the ground."

"I hate a hook. It nauseates me. I could vomit when I see one. It's like a rattlesnake in your pocket."

"The ultimate judge of your swing is the flight of the ball."

"The more I practice, the luckier I get."

"Ben Hogan is the most merciless of all the modern golfers." -Gene Sarazen

While waiting on the 1st tee, Hogan walked up to the player he'd been paired with the day before. "I'm sorry I didn't speak to you yesterday", he said. "But just so you're not surprised, I won't be saying anything today either."

"About all Ben ever said in a tournament was "Good luck" on the 1st tee, and "You're away" after that." -Sam Snead

"I always had an idea that some people didn't like me...that the majority of the people didn't like me. Then, after the accident, when I received all those wonderful telegrams, letters, and flowers from people, I realized I was wrong about the people. That's when I changed. My frame of mind became different."

And finally, one of the top Hogan quotes, although I can only offer it anecdotally. When Peter Jacobsen won Colonial he received the customary, rather loud, plaid winner's jacket. As was the tradition he was wearing it at the champion's dinner. In a loud voice he said to the group he was mingling with, "How long do I have to wear this &%^#$*@ jacket?" From close behind him, but out of direct sight, Mr. Hogan replied, "Until I say you can take it off son."

Til, next,

"Lest We Forget"

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Time to Remember

As you head out to the links this weekend you can feel the freedom a golf course provides. Freedom from the daily grind, phone calls, minor crises at home, etc. Freedom to be where you want to be, when you want to be there. These freedoms come with a price. Memorial Day honors the ultimate price paid by our military men and women around the globe who laid down their lives in defense of the freedoms we often take for granted. I don't intend to pontificate of the respective merits of any of our leader's decisions or actions over time, just merely reminding us, average golfer included, that we are where we are because of the sacrifices of our military and their families.

When you see a veteran or active member of the military in public, try and take the opportunity to thank them for their service. The response you get will be heartfelt and honest. A smile instantly appears on their face. That little bit goes a long way in reminding them their efforts aren't unnoticed.

Til' next,

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

There's a Golf Major This Weekend, Anyone Care?

The Champions Tour kicks off it's major season this week with the Senior P.G.A. Championship. It's being held at venerable Oak Hill in Rochester, NY. Strangely, the seniors have five major championships. Why do the younger tours only have the energy for four? Also, why doesn't this tour make up their minds. Do they want to be seniors or champions? Marketing 101, pick a name and stick with it. That's part of the problem with the Champions Tour right now, a lack of recognizable names. In fact, if you visit The Golf Channel's website the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial has top billing. You have to scour the web page to find much mention of the Champions event. Ahem, even the P.G.A. Tour's website leads with regular tour event and they're the internet home to the Champions Tour. Denis Watson defends. Denis Watson? I thought that was my mailman's name, only spelled wrong. Langer, Haas, Roberts, and Tom Watson are considered the favorites. With the exception of Watson these guys were journeymen on the P.G.A. Tour. Well, Langer, maybe not with his Euro wins. Regardless, watching Langer qualifies as an FDA approved sleep aid. Don't operate heavy machinery if he's in the lead and you're watching. I congratulate them for continuing to compete, but this weekend they're competing for average golfer's attention with beers, sunshine and meat on the grill.

Arnie's gone., Jack's gone. Seve lost it. With a few exceptions, the mega stars on the big tour turn 50 and have made enough money and claimed enough fame for five lifetimes. Their incentive to play and grind for chump money is lacking. Conversely, the mediocre guys see it as an opportunity and relish the attention they couldn't earn on the big tour. I guess the question is, "Would Senior Major League Baseball do very well?" Correct me if I'm wrong, and I don't have the viewing figures to back me up, but I'd say this major championship will go by largely unnoticed.

If I'm wrong and you do watch , this is one doozy of a golf course. After his 12 over par 292 at the 2003 P.G.A. Championship, Tiger Woods said it was "the best, fairest, and toughest championship golf course I've ever played." Jeff Sluman, a Rochester native, has played the course over 500 times. Early line favorite? Since being at it's current site in 1926, Oak Hill has hosted 2 P.G.A. Championships, 3 US Opens, and a Ryder Cup. Combining the 5 majors, only ten players have finished under par. So, if you do watch, at least it will be a chance to see players challenged by a terrific and historic venue.

Til' next,

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ochoa Again! - Imada Nabs 1st P.G.A. Win in AT&T Playoff

Lorena Ochoa didn't let a balky putter prevent her from capturing her 6th L.P.G.A. win in 2008. Her final round 71 netted a one stroke victory over five players and gave her three straight Sybase Classic victories. She wins them in routs. She wins them in playoffs. She wins them like she did today, grinding to the finish. She just wins them. The $300,000 she collected today launched her over the $12,000,000 mark for her career. Gee, wish my Spanish was better. The tie for second was made up of Sophie Gustafson, whose 12 ft. birdie would have forced a playoff, Morgan Pressel, who rocketed up the board with a 66, Catriona Matthew, Brittany Lang, and this year's leading rookie, Na Yeon Choi. Annika began the day five back and a 71 today didn't exactly enhance her position.

Ochoa's showing no signs of being catchable on this tour. Sure, she won't win them all, but she may win half or more, Annika notwithstanding. That kind of domination in a large field event like golf is like a major league baseball player hitting .750. The conundrum is there doesn't seem to be any young players with the ability to challenge her. Perhaps Creamer or Pettersen, but after that any reasonable contender isn't on the tour yet. So, enjoy the history in the making. One woman record smasher is retiring and another is just reaching her stride.

Imada Wins AT&T in Bizarre Playoff.

The stage was set. Ryuji Imada and Kenny Perry stepped up to the 18th tee at TPC Sugarloaf. To say Imada had been there before would be the mother of all understatements. Last year he'd lost in a playoff with Zach Johnson on the very same hole, knocking his 2nd shot into the drink. It's was Kenny Perry's 2nd shot that swam this time though. His 5 wood from 230 yds. was pushed right, but not terribly so. Not terribly so until it nuked a green side pine tree, barreled straight across the green at about 80 mph, blew past the flag stick within 8 feet and deposited itself in the pond. After a drop Perry needed a 12 footer for par to put some pressure back on Imada. Not to be and Imada calmly two putted for his 1st P.G.A. Tour win. On the strength of the win and earlier high finishes Imada now stands 3rd in Fedex Cup point standings. Good for him! He seems like a decent guy.

3rd round leader Charles Howell III spit the bit with a final round 74. Up and comer Parker McLachlin got a taste of P.G.A. Tour pressure. His eagle on 13 gave him a three stroke lead. He then bogeyed three of his last five. Still, good effort, nice pay day, and valuable experience. For a "B" tournament this one had some sizzle at the end and watching was worth the electricity.

*Average Golfer Question ..... Who was the other announcer with Ian Baker Finch for the AT&T? The reason I ask is because I caught another inane "golf-type commentator" quote. While observing Imada line up the winning 4 foot putt he commented he'd noticed how steady Imada is with flat stick. He mentioned that a flat left wrist and "maintaining steady grip pressure" were the keys. Perhaps correct, but how did he measure his grip pressure from the booth?

Til' next,

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Ochoa Leads, Annika Slips at Sybase Classic

Starting the day one stroke off the lead, Lorena Ochoa claimed the lead after the 2nd, (3rd), round of the Sybase Classic. She had the day's best score of -5, 67, to manage a two stroke advantage over Sophie Gustafson and Teresa Lu. Sorenstam's double bogey on 18, her 9th hole of the day, set the stage for a +1, 73 and left her five shots out of the lead going into the final round on Sunday. The four round tourney was reduced to three rounds following yesterday's wash out.

Ochoa will be tough to catch with a two stroke lead starting tomorrow's play. She won last year shooting all four rounds in the sixties. Technically she's bidding to win her 3rd Sybase in a row, although the 2006 version was played in New Rochelle. It wouldn't be tough to call her the prohibitive favorite. Come to think of it, she's the prohibitive favorite every time she chooses to tee it up. Let's hope it's a horse race, unlike Big Brown in the Preakness.

Chucky 3 Sticks Leads AT&T Classic

Charles Howell III's 67 gave him a one shot lead over Kenny Perry after the 3rd round of the AT&T Classic at TPC Sugarloaf. Charles is one of the nicest guys on tour , but has struggled of late achieving the results that have been expected of him. He's seeking his 1st win since the 2007 Nissan Open. He absolutely nukes the golf ball, which is even more impressive after you observe his slight build. Average Golfer wishes him well and hope he wins the damn thing. Two strokes behind is the trio of David Toms, Ryan Palmer, and Jonathan Byrd. Thurston Howell III had a disappointing 74 today that left him 6 strokes off the pace. A top three finish would let him off the island.

Til' next,

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Annika Leads Sybase Classic, Surprised?

Aiming for her 73rd L.P.G.A. title, Annika Sorenstam leads the Sybase Classic at Upper Montclair Country Club, tied with Song-Hee Kim and Rachel Hetherington. All had matching 67s with Annika's being a five birdie, bogey free round. Guess who was in 2nd, one shot back? Aww, you peeked. Yup, Lorena Ochoa. Ochoa must be starting to feel a little like Larry Holmes. A great heavyweight fighter who never had anyone good to fight in the prime of his career. Battering a old and defenseless Ali never helped Holmes' reputation. Like it was his fault.

Treat these match ups like precious jewels because there won't be that many more of them. Sorenstam's retirement announcement has added even more to her duels with Ochoa. A now apparently healthy Sorenstam/Ochoa match up should make for instant classics. Do you think Ochoa is feeling a bit cheated right now by losing her main rival and the standard she has been measuring herself against for some time?

Annika threw out the 1st pitch at a NY Mets game and then appeared on David Letterman. She's evidently at peace with her career decision. She's always seemed shy and reticent. If the retirement call makes her calmer and more relaxed her golf game may improve as a result. It''ll sure be fun to watch unfold. Too bad this show has an expiration date.

Til' next,

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Annika Shock - Will End Career at End of the Year.

Annika Sorenstam, winner of 72 L.P.G.A. titles, including last week, announced her retirement from competitive golf effective at the end of this season. Remaining composed and speaking for twenty five minutes at the Sybase Classic, the reigning grande dame of women's golf coolly and professionally announced the shocking news to the throng of press. Cool and professional. Does that ever describe her remarkable career.

I'm sure they'll be lots of speculation regarding her decision. Does she want to start a family? Does she want to go out on top of her game? It doesn't matter. She's treated us to wonderful golf in a wonderful manner for 15 years. She owes us nothing. This news reminded me of when Barry Sanders retired from the Detroit Lions. Top of their professions, always professional, and filled with class. You can't teach class.

This should boost the L.P.G.A.'s TV ratings a tad. You think?

Til' next,

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Garcia Edges Goydos in Playoff at THE PLAYERS Championship.

Sergio Garcia stiffed his tee shot on the par 3 17th on the 1st and only playoff hole to edge Paul Goydos and capture the 35th THE PLAYERS Championship. Goydos' tee ball had ballooned to a water logged landing enabling Sergio three putts to win from four feet. He only used two. Garcia is only the 2nd European to win the title.

Confounding wind wreaked massive havoc all day with pretenders and contenders. Defending champ Phil Mickelson shot 78 to slip from 7th to 21st. Kenny Perry, tied for 3rd when he woke up this morning posted an 81 to land in 15th place. Jeff Quinney's -2, 70 put him in contention with three holes to go. On 18 Garcia's par acted like a birdie since Goydos and Quinney both bogeyed the hole from hell that averaged 4.85 strokes on the final day of play. That set up the Goydos/Garcia finale.

Great win for Garcia. It was his 1st P.G.A. victory in 53 events spanning three years. His putter didn't fail him down the stretch, evidenced by the pressure 7 footer on 18 he had to make to create the playoff. This should be a real confidence builder leading into the US Open. It was introduction to the world week for Paul Goydos. We got to take a liking to his game and his humor. I for one hope he gets more face time. He was a delight to watch and even more so to listen to. Don't feel too bad for Goydos. He pocketed $1,026,000.00 for his efforts. Garcia gets to figure out how to budget his pay day of $1,710,000.00. Average Golfer gets to decide if he wants fries with that.

Annika Nukes Field at Michelob Ultra Open

Annika Sorenstam's -5, (66), left her at -19 for the tournament and an overwhelming victory at The Michelob Ultra Open. Seven full shots back was a logjam for runner up consisting of Allison Fouch, Jeong Jang, Christina Kim, and Karen Stupples. Lorena Ochoa landed 12 back of Annika. Sorenstam's victory, her 3rd of the year, but 1st with Ochoa in the field, is a great stage setter for the rest of the L.P.G.A.'s season. This could get interesting. Rivalries are a blast to watch unfold.

Til' next,

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Goydos, Yes Goydos Leads THE PLAYERS - Annika By 3 At Michelob.

As we mentioned, anyone can win here at THE PLAYERS Championship. It's a crapshoot. Great golf course, lots of drama, everyone has a shot. What else is there to ask? On the strength of 11 one putt greens Paul Goydos grabbed a one shot lead over Kenny Perry and three over a late fading Sergio Garcia. Averaging 265 yds. off the tee so far this year didn't hold back Goydos' mastery over the wicked fast putting surfaces at the TPC Sawgrass. His two under 70 today left him as the only entrant to be under par for the first three rounds at -7. Forty seven year old Kenny Perry hung tough with an even par 72 to be sniffing Goydos' heels, just one back at -6. Sergio Garcia's at -4 after bogeys on the final two holes. El Nino three putted on 17 from just over ten feet and a wayward tee shot cost him on 18. Yesterday's best player, Bernhard Langer, swelled to a 75 today that left him in a three way tie for 4th with Phil Mickelson and Jeff Quinney, all at -2 both very much in the hunt.

Expect the best putter to be in position tomorrow. Expect the unexpected as well with swirling winds being a huge factor, especially on 17 and the dastardly brutal 18th hole.

*Quote of the day......Bob Costas, interviewing Goydos after his round asked him if he'd ever won having the 54 hole lead. Goydos deadpanned, "No, but I've only been on the tour for 16 years."

*Average Golfer Feel Good Story......After Monday qualifying for the Nationwide Tour's Fort Smith Classic, Ty Tryon, former wunderkind, stands in 41st place after rounds of 67, 69, 72. Tryon's now married and has a child. Let's hope this is a springboard to bigger and better. Listening Michelle Wie?

Michelob Ultra Open

Annika Sorenstam maintained a three shot lead over Jeong Jang with a two under 69. Jang matched her 69 to force a repeat in the final group tomorrow. Lorena Ochoa must have been slipped some kryptonite as her 74 left her 10 back. Looks like the old Annika may be healthy again and out of hibernation.

Til' next,

Friday, May 9, 2008

Kenny Perry Leads THE PLAYERS After Day 2, Annika's Back at Michelob.

Kenny Perry forged a one stroke lead after day 2 of THE PLAYERS Championship. His 70 gave him a single stroke lead over first day leader Sergio Garcia and Paul Goydos, both tied together at -5. Perry stroked only 25 putts on the slick TPC Sawgrass greens whereas Garcia needed 31 whacks with the flat stick for his round. It's always about the putting, isn't it? The round of the day belonged to Bernhard Langer, whose 67 propelled him into a three way tie for second. Anthony Kim, showing no signs of youngster nerves, and previous champion Stephen Ames were locked at -4.

This tournament had the reputation for being unpredictable. Evidence the fact that there's never been a defending champion winner. Solid ball striking and great putting on bath tub greens, for four days, is all it takes to win this baby. All? Proof that anyone can win is seen in the list of highly ranked player's performances so far.

After day 2...........Fred Couples, -2, four shots back, still in it. Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, -1, still in it. Average Golfer's pick, Adam Scott, +2, technically in, realistically out. Last year's 2nd, Sean O'Hair, +4, MC. Vijay Singh, Brandt Snedeker, +4, MC. Padraig Harrington, +6, MC. Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, +7, MC. Geoff Ogilvy, +8, Paul Casey, Steve Stricker, and Chucky Three Sticks, +9, MC. Lastly, K.J. Choi, +13, MC.

That's a burial ground for great golfers. There must be something about this tournament that affected the Brits in the field. They came apart like a $30.00 suit. Perhaps the food's too good.


I must confess I was wondering about Annika's game. Was it age or fatigue after all these years of excellence? All perfectly understandable when you consider her body of accomplishments for such a long period of time. Well, wonder no more! Brilliant rounds of 64 and 66 gave her a three stroke lead over Jeong Jang and Lorena Ochoa at The Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill. With the ladies going low this could be the best contest of the weekend. With Lorena in the mix it has the makings of a real showdown. I may have to reprogram my remote for Sunday.

Til' next,

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sergio Garcia Surges to THE PLAYERS Championship Lead After Round #1.

Sergio Garcia's putter didn't desert him in the first round of THE PLAYERS Championship today. He maintained his reputation for being one of the, if not the best, ball strikers on tour by nailing 71% of the fairways and hitting 89% of the greens in regulation. Put that together with 29 putts and you have a 66 and a two shot lead over Paul Goydos and Kenny Perry, both at -4. One more shot back is a five way tie for 3rd with resurgent Steve Elkington, Niclas Fasth, former Open Championship winner Todd Hamilton, peacock imitator Ian Poulter, and Heath, "Not the Candy Bar", Slocum. One round doesn't a championship make, but I'm sure Sergio must feel some relief to be able to capitalize on his tee to green play. Too early here to make assumptions and see trends, so tomorrow will separate some wheat from chaff.

Some notables and scores from favorites we mentioned yesterday. Fred Couples and Phil Mickelson locked at -2. Both are in great shape. Also at -2 are Anthony Kim and Jose Maria Olazabal. Nice to see Ollie coming around after a spate of injuries. Padraig Harrington and Ernie Els are glued together at even par. Jim Furyk's at +2. Average Golfer's pick Adam Scott and and course regular Vijay Singh are knotted at +3 needing 31 and 32 putts respectively to complete their rounds. Both those boys at nine shots off the lead need to go low on Friday to hang around for the weekend.

In the "What the hell happened to my golf game" category are Justin Rose at +6, K.J. Choi at +7 and Chucky Three Sticks at +7.

Tomorrow divides the pretenders from the contenders. Should at least be interesting.

Til' next,

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

THE PLAYERS Championship - Winner Predicted.

Let's get one thing straight. Average golfer in no way supports or encourages illegal wagering of any type or form. The comments here are for amusement purposes only! Average golfer has never "knowingly" placed a wager on any type of sporting event, although he's been known to randomly profit from wagers he made after the fact or had no knowledge of before the event took place. There was certainly no alcohol involved in any of the aforementioned wagers.

That being said, here's the top players listed at the 2008 PLAYERS Championship with their current Ladbrokes odds listed. Armed with only that information we'll ferret out a winner. We're due, we had Geoff Ogilvy winning the Masters. Here we go.....

Phil Mickelson, 10/1....Defending champ. Playing well. Hard to go against. Recent putter change may tell all. Sprayed a lot of shots last week.

Adam Scott, 12/1....Won here in '04. No real weaknesses. Strong contender at least.

Jim Furyk, 16/1....Fairway hitting machine. Great irons. Comes down to the putter which has been uncharacteristically uneven of late.

Padraig Harrington, 20/1....Playing well. Won't be intimidated. 6/6 cuts this year. 69.78 scoring average.

Vijay Singh, 20/1....Home course advantage along with Furyk. Ball striking has been great after swing changes settled in. At 20/1 I see great value here.

Geoff Ogilvy, 25/1....Consistent all year. Stared down Woods earlier. Real shot here to validate US Open win.

Stewart Cink, 25/1....Seemingly 2nd to Woods all year. Great putting keeps him in any tournament.

Anthony Kim, 33/1....Riding high after last week. Possible, he's a great player, but two in a row's asking a lot from a youngster.

Ernie Els, 33/1....Playing on rep alone. Don't know what's distracting Ernie. Don't see him winning this.

Retief Goosen, 33/....Expected much more this year from Goose. Who knows? We'll see.

Sergio Garcia, 33/1....If the game was just tee to green he'd be undefeated. If he pretends it's the Ryder Cup, he'll win. Putter makes or breaks him.

After disseminating all the available data Average Golfer predicts the winner of the 2008 PLAYERS Championship is............Adam Scott. He's played beautifully all year and has the complete game to conquer a tough course and a strong field.

Others with a chance................Vijay, Furyk, Harrington, Cink.

There you go! THE PLAYERS Championship winner on the house, courtesy of me. You're welcome in advance.

Til' next,

*Average Golfer not responsible for reader's loss of home, wife, kids, car(s), pets, reputation, disposable income, or any other financial loss associated with trusting this column.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

THE PLAYERS Championship - Is It The 5th Major?

The TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL hosts the 2008 Players Championship this week. Even without wounded Tiger Woods and Will Mackenzie it's the strongest field of the year. It typically is a strong field and the question of whether the tournament has "Major cred" has become a common theme. Let's reexamine it's credentials to be placed in such lofty company.

144 players will tee off this week giving it a major field size as opposed to the choosy Masters. 24 of the top 25 players in the world are entered with Woods being the foil to perfect attendance. 45 of the top 50 are in. An amazing 101 of the competitors have combined for 414 P.G.A. Tour victories. That's cred. 25 Major champions are playing. If that doesn't give it a Major feel, what does?

The TPC Sawgrass plays to a par 72 over 7,215 yards. Major length, but not stupid length for length's sake. It was rated the 12th most difficult of the 55 courses played on Tour last year. The controversial par three 17th gives the course it's signature hole, like it or hate. The 18th is no picnic and serves as a potential tournament maker or breaker. This average golfer loves tough finishing holes. The networks love 'em as well. It keeps people watching for the "just in case".

Only one European has won The Players, Sandy Lyle in 1987. No one has ever successfully defended their crown in the tournament. Newly minted President's Cup captain Fred Couples is entered as a replacement for the aforementioned Mackenzie. Couples has won the event in 1984 and 1996. In 1999, playing the island green 17th, Couples hit his first ball in the water, teed it up again, and knocked his 3rd in the cup for a routine par. Tiger Woods has just one win here in 2001. Fourteen Players rookies will tee it up on Thursday. Last week's Tour winner Anthony Kim will be the youngest player at 22, Fred Funk, winner in 2005, the oldest at 51.

Last year Sean O'Hair, trailing Phil Mickelson by two strokes, drowned two balls in the water on 17 to dash any hopes of catching Phil. Dramatic and gutsy. I love to see a golfer playing for 1st. Phil defends and will be a strong pick. A number of players call Ponte Vedra Beach home though and claim Sawgrass as their home course. Chief among them Vijay Singh.

Tomorrow we'll doff the thinking cap and make some picks.

Til' next,

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Creamer Nips Inkster In SemGroup Playoff - Anthony Kim Runs Away With Wachovia.

SemGroup Championship

Julie Inkster had chalked up 8 L.P.G.A. victories before Paula Creamer was born. Had she won today she would have been the oldest L.P.G.A. winner at 47. She just missed. Creamer holed a about a 10 footer for birdie on the 2nd playoff hole to rack up her 6th career victory in the SemGroup Championship.

There were multiple ironies at work here. Inkster lost here last year in a playoff to Mi Hyun Kim. Creamer lost last week in a playoff with Annika Sorenstam. She evidently learned a little about playoff golf in a week. The final round was really a match play tournament as the rest of the field was so far behind they were playing for 3rd place. By rights, a balky putter most of the day prevented a Creamer victory in regulation. She'd missed a couple of three footers in regulation and a ten footer on the 18th hole of regulation that forced the playoff.

It was a great finish to watch. Inkster and Creamer are great friends. The empathetic look on Inkster's face when Creamer missed the potential winning putt on the 18th hole was wonderful to see. As much as she felt for Creamer though, there was no mistaking Inkster's desire to dispatch her. Interesting dynamics from two intense competitors. As an aside, Lorena Ochoa's win streak ended at four.

Wachovia Championship

Anthony Kim became the youngest winner on the P.G.A. Tour in 6 years by running away with the Wachovia Championship. He was never seriously threatened by posting a final round 69. His 272 total beat the tournament record held by Tiger Woods by 3 strokes. Ben Curtis had the day's best 65 and still finished 5 behind Kim. Kim became the youngest winner since Sergio Garcia and proved he made the right decision by turning pro after having been named the freshman of the year at Oklahoma.

Next week the boys move to The Players Championship, considered by many to be the 5th major. The women are at Kingsmill for the Michelob ULTRA Open.

*Average Golfer pet peeve.....When will ESPN2 remove the insidious trailers and score updates that reduce the usable size of my TV screen to 7 inches. I have to work to see the player's heads for crying out loud! Seriously, this would prevent me from watching a less riveting tournament.

Til' next,

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Free P.G.A. Professional Golf Lesson.

Who's the best person to get a golf lesson from? Your neighbor? Your brother-in-law? Not the neighbor. He slices more than a slasher flick. Not your brother-in-law. His method of gaining distance off the tee is to get a running start. Nope, neither, it's a P.G.A. Professional instructor, a person whose business is golf.

May is P.G.A. free lesson month. Contact a P.G.A. Professional instructor and you'll receive a free ten minute lesson. Ten minutes with them is better than ten days with your brother-in-law. Whether your a beginner looking for the basics to get the ball in the air, or a seasoned player tweaking an already good game, you can't beat this opportunity. So, hoist yourself out of that La-Z-Boy Leather Furniture and march to your free lesson. Here's the link to find the closest instructor to you. (P.G.A. Free Lesson) Good luck and get going!

Til' next,

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Daly, Harmon.......Bad Marriage, Worse Divorce.

The gift that keeps on giving if you're a golf nut like this average golfer. The Daly/Harmon kabuki dance continues from across the great Atlantic. Big John's in Seville knocking it around at the Spanish Open. His 75 today left him 10 shots off the lead. Daly claims he spoke with Harmon and Harmon apologized for the abrupt and very public manner with which he severed their relationship. Harmon was evidently taken aback by the comments and responded with, “John Daly called me on Thursday and said he had lost all of his endorsement contracts because of me and my statements and asked if I could print a retraction. I said, ‘John, you lost your contracts because of you and not anyone else….you need to quit blaming everyone else….I wish you well and I hope you play well. ”

This saga began at the beginning. Daly needed help in a lot of areas and hooked up with Harmon to help with the most obvious, his golf game. Harmon didn't see the commitment he required from Daly and unceremoniously dumped him in the press after the PODS Championship. Daly was reported to have been drinking at the Hooters hospitality tent and grabbed John Gruden, coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to fill in as his caddie. Getting rid of him in that fashion was at the least unprofessional and beyond rude. A noted press hog, Harmon should have at least found some of his precious time to dump Daly in person and in private. You didn't hear Tiger Woods go into detail regarding why he fired Harmon. Harmon's obviously a great teacher or Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson wouldn't bother to cut him checks. His decision to quit working with Daly can't really be questioned based on Daly's lackadaisical efforts in most of his life. It's not what was done, but how it was done that says a lot about the players in this melodrama.

Big John's in Europe trying to get what's left of the mojo back. Harmon's in Las Vegas planning his next video or book. Big John has always been Big John, warts and all. From when he first hit the scene, what you see is what you get. That's the basis for his appeal. We all know a guy like Big John, and we love him. Butch Harmon is what he has to be to suit the moment and place himself in a favorable light. That explains hitting a guy while he's down, but doesn't justify it.

Big John........Get your life and golf game back.
Butch............Don't piss off Phil or Adam.

Til' next,