Sunday, August 31, 2008

Weir Regains Deutsche Bank Lead - Faldo Taps Poulter, Casey.

Deutsche Bank Championship - Third Round
Too bad Mike Weir didn't lead the Deutsche Bank Championship after yesterday. That way a victory tomorrow would have given him a "Weir to Weir" win. Weir's 67 gave him a one stroke lead over hard charging Camilo Villegas. Villegas' masterful 63 brought him to this juncture on a day, unlike the first two, where going low finally had to be earned. Swirling winds and a drier layout fattened scores throughout the field. Weir's opening day 62 had been matched by Tim Clark yesterday. Clark added 11 strokes to his score today to balloon to a 73 and a fall to T8. The current "in group" of Vijay and Sergio are joined at the hip at -14. It seems these guys are always on the same screen lately. Sharing a room? Four off the lead is the triumverate of Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, and Ben Crane, who turned in a stellar 63 today, especially considering the tougher conditions.

Due to the PGA Tour's new, almost indecipherable cut rules, 14 players played the 3rd round, but won't be here tomorrow due to the "2nd, or day 3 cut", the pupose of which is to limit the day 4 field to 70 or fewer players. Notableds included Kenny Perry, Aaron Baddeley, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, and the weirdest of all Eric Axley. Axley threatened the lead for two days opening with 65, 69. Today's 80 however left him high and dry.

Expect a close finish tomorrow with plenty of big names to pique your interest.

Faldo Selects Poulter and Casey.

Captain Nick Faldo picked Ian Poulter and Paul Casey to fill out his Ryder Cup roster. The picks came with plenty of controversy, especially with the passing over of Darren Clarke. Clarke won in Holland last week for his 2nd victory of the year, compared to no wins for Casey/Poulter combined. Clarke was the emotional leader as well for the Euros in 2004, playing after the recent death of his wife and winning all three of his matches. Colin Montgomerie had hoped to have been chosen on the strength of his impressive Ryder Cup record alone, since his play of recent hasn't distinguished him in any way whatsoever. Still, it will be strange to see a Euro team without Monty, a fixture since 1988. This will mark the 1st time since 1937 that no Scotsman has been on the European squad. As an American I'm glad Clarke was dissed. It makes our chances better. As a golf fan I wanted to see him. Poulter should be able to turn his whining tears of recent into tears of joy, or at least fake it.

Til' next,

*Average Golfer added feature...Check out the British Press' slant on Captain Faldo's picks.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Don't Cry For Me Ian Poulter.

“It’s been a very long week, and I think a lot of misspent energy has been taken up by obvious press – media, players, everybody. It’s just so mentally draining to be in this position, to listen, to read, to hear all the B.S. this week. I’m spent. I’m exhausted. I didn’t want to finish the last two tournaments like this.” Ian Poulter after a 2nd round 74 and missed cut at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Better fire up an extra large box of Depends. Would Ian Poulter rather have been well out of contention for a Ryder Cup spot and struggling to keep his Hooters Tour card? It sounds like we finally have a worthy successor to Monty. It's always appeared that Poulter had a tendency to engage his mouth before his brain kicked in, but this is a new level. Hopefully some porridge and a good night's rest will work wonders on that attitude. Poulter should have taken some interview advice from compatriot Paul Casey, who is in pretty much the same spot as Poulter regarding his Ryder Cup chances. When asked about those chances, “I have no clue,” Casey said. “I’d say right now, I’m annoyed at not figuring out this golf course very well.” Take heed Ian.

The lead belonged to Tim Clark with a 62 to match Mike Weir's of yesterday and add to the list of holders of the course record. Two bogeys in the last three denied Clark infamy and a 59. Weir stayed close at one back after a 68. Ben Curtis and Vijay were one behind Weir and Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia, and upstart rookie Kevin Streelman were one behind them at -11.

I think Poulter's reaction was more of the frustration of not playing well on a course that was giving up birdies faster than France gave up Paris. Relax Ian. You're still young, rich, and hip. Nobody died.

Til' next,

Friday, August 29, 2008

Weir Drops Beard and Strokes at Deutsche Bank.

Mike Weir reverse-Sampsoned his way to a course record tying, career low 61 at the Deutsche Bank Championship earlier today. Birdies on the 1st four holes and all one-putts on the back nine will have that effect. Weir shaved his Wayne Gretzsky inspired "playoff beard" and probably wished he'd done it last week. No time like the present however and Weir took quick advantage. A 21 putt round will do that for you.

Three back on his heels were Vijay Singh, who stuck it close all day, Briny Baird, John Merrick, and Heath Slocum. Ben Curtis and Eric Axley pulled in at -6 and a plethora of pros penciled -5. Go low or be slow was the mantra of the day which left Phil Mickelson's -2, 69 a rear dragger. No concern over US Open-like conditions here at TPC Boston.

If you like birdies this is your spot to watch. Keep an eye out for late blooming Ryder Cuppers for captain Azinger's squad. His criteria has been reduced to "What have you done for me today?". Can we bestow honorary citizenship on Weir and Singh for about a month or so?

Til' next,

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hey Phil! Here's How to Win the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Enough already Phil. You're the #1 player in the world that can walk under his own power. The competition you face this week in the Deutsche Bank Championship should be playing for 2nd place. You're one of the longest hitters out there, have arguably the best short game, and have before ruled the putting greens like Michelangelo owned the canvas. What gives? Lately it looks like you've had your head up your a$$ and are just going through the motions. We're counting on you to return to form, so next year Tiger will have a legitimate foil. I know, I know, you've been trying for years and frankly you aren't getting any younger, but Vijay's 45 and cashing winner's checks. You're 38, you've got 7 years on him. Sure, you're making tons of money on the strength of two wins in wimpy events this year and a slew of high finishes, but the majors should be your stage. Well, maybe not the British. Still, look on this contrived FedExCup thing as the only major left this year. Win the damn thing, kick some Euro butt in the Ryder Cup and go into 2009 with some attitude. Here's Average Golfer's map for you to do just that......

  • Get mad. You're the consummate nice guy, at least on the surface. If you can't get mad, fake it. Or try sullen, petulant, and standoffish.
  • Dump Pelz. Pelz is great, just not for you. He's left brain, you're right. The only worse marriage might have been Michael Jackson's. You had the best short game on the planet. Go find it. By Friday.
  • Get rid of the hat. No one knows or cares what KPMG is or means. Plus, it's a stupid looking hat. Looks like a car grill. Get a visor. Steal Freddie's.
  • Hit the 3 wood off the tee. You're a smart guy. If the fairway looks like a landing site for the space shuttle, hit driver. If it has more than one tree between you and the green, hit 3 wood. I know, you're welcome.
  • As I've said before, lose the watch. You have no course cred with wearing a watch outside the LPGA. Anyone else out there wearing a watch? Nuff said.
  • Assume you're going to make any putt. Look unbelievably surprised when it doesn't go in. You know, like Tiger. Get your old putter back. It's in the garage. Callaway putters aren't doing you any favors.
  • On the subject of Callaway, have them supply different duds. You and Annika look like fast food workers out there. Get some IZOD shirts and sew Callaway logos on them. You feel as you look.
OK big fella? Thought so. Now go win yourself a tournament.

Til' next,

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sergio's Rodent Relief - Rule 25.

For those of you that sat perplexed watching Sergio Garcia passionately plead his case during yesterday's final round of The Barclays, let's try and shed some light. From what I could decipher over hand gestures and partial audio, Sergio was asking for relief from an abnormal ground condition from PGA official Slugger White. The fact that a huge tree was between him and the green played a large part in the request. On TV it appeared there were lumps in the dirt that were the work of a burrowing mammalian. Be it a mole, chipmunk, or wildebeest was irrelevant. Sergio even tracked the little bastard to larger hole of some type that was evidently the foyer to the beast's domicile. He rudely pounded down the front door to emphasize his point. What I couldn't determine from TV was whether the critter's construction actually hampered Senor Garcia's stance or lie. I assume the relevant ruling was Rule 25 of the Rules of Golf, demonstrated here.....

25-1. Abnormal Ground Conditions
• a. Interference
Interference by an abnormal ground conditions occurs when a ball lies in or touches the condition or when the condition interferes with the player’s stance or the area of his intended swing. If the player’s ball lies on the putting green, interference also occurs if an abnormal ground condition on the putting green intervenes on his line of putt. Otherwise, intervention on the line of play is not, of itself, interference under this Rule.

Note: The Committee may make a Local Rule stating that interference by an abnormal ground condition with a player’s stance is deemed not to be, of itself, interference under this Rule.

• b. Relief
Except when the ball is in a water hazard or a lateral water hazard, a player may take relief from interference by an abnormal ground condition as follows:

(i) Through the Green: If the ball lies through the green, the player must lift the ball and drop it without penalty within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief. The nearest point of relief must not be in a hazard or on a putting green. When the ball is dropped within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, the ball must first strike a part of the course at a spot that avoids interference by the condition and is not in a hazard and not on a putting green.
(ii) In a Bunker: If the ball is in a bunker, the player must lift the ball and drop it either:
(a) Without penalty, in accordance with Clause (i) above, except that the nearest point of relief must be in the bunker and the ball must be dropped in the bunker, or if complete relief is impossible, as near as possible to the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole, on a part of the course in the bunker that affords maximum available relief from the condition; or
(b) Under penalty of one stroke, outside the bunker, keeping the point where the ball lay directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the bunker the ball may be dropped.
(iii) On the Putting Green: If the ball lies on the putting green, the player must lift the ball and place it without penalty at the nearest point of relief that is not in a hazard, or if complete relief is impossible, at the nearest position to where it lay that affords maximum available relief from the condition, but not nearer the hole and not in a hazard. The nearest point of relief or maximum available relief may be off the putting green.
(iv) On the Teeing Ground: If the ball lies on the teeing ground, the player must lift the ball and drop it without penalty in accordance with Clause (i) above.

The ball may be cleaned when lifted under Rule 25-1b.

(Ball rolling to a position where there is interference by the condition from which relief was taken — see Rule 20-2c(v).)

Exception: A player may not take relief under this Rule if (a) it is clearly unreasonable for him to make a stroke because of interference by anything other than an abnormal ground condition or (b) interference by an abnormal ground condition would occur only through use of an unnecessarily abnormal stance, swing or direction of play.

Note 1: If a ball is in a water hazard (including a lateral water hazard), the player is not entitled to relief without penalty from interference by an abnormal ground condition. The player must play the ball as it lies (unless prohibited by Local Rule) or proceed under Rule 26-1.

Note 2: If a ball to be dropped or placed under this Rule is not immediately recoverable, another ball may be substituted.

There, aren't golf rules fun! My Philadelphia lawyer is no match for the Rules of Golf. Thought I'd share in case you cared. BTW, Sergio's subsequent shot ended up short of the green and resulted in a missed chip just before Vijay two putted for the win.

Til, next,

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sergio Coughs Up The Barclays - Vijay Says Gracias.

The Barclays - Final Round
After a nearly perfect tee ball and an even better approach on the par five 17th hole, Vijay Singh stood and watched, for quite some time, Sergio Garcia hand him The Barclays title, first of the FedExCup playoff events. Sergio's tee shot on the same hole hooked when it shouldn't and his second from trouble refused to hook when it needed to. His hooked tee ball left him precariously close to the left side marked hazard. He intended to hook his second, but it failed to cooperate and ended up stymied behind a red oak on the right side of the fairway. In a strange sequence of events Sergio then called for a ruling from PGA rules official extraordinaire Slugger White. After a lenghthy discussion on the merits of burrowing animal condos, Garcia was allowed a drop. The time taken interfered with my viewing of Hawaii winning the Little League World Series, and I plan to file a formal protest. Sergio's gift drop gave him a clear shot at the green, but he came up short. He needed to hole a chip for birdie, but not to be. Singh's second shot was a beauty and left him a makeable eagle putt for the second time in a row on 17. He calmly lagged and tapped in for the win. Good thing too, as his putter has been as predictable as a single throw at the roulette wheel.

The real drama was the 1st hole of the playoff, 18. Kevin Sutherland, Singh, and Garcia had all finished at -8. Sutherland committed hara-kiri and that left Garcia and Singh with twenty foot or so birdie putts on the hole that had ceded precious few. When an elated Garcia holed his first it seemed the win was his based on Singh's putting woes. Nope, Singh's putt looked to be a tad off line, but fell in off the edge to send them to 17 and the final result. High drama. So, Singh leads the playoff points race and the field narrows to 120 for next week's Deutsche Bank Championship, 2nd of four stops in the playoff schedule.

Average Golfer question....After Hunter Mahan's opening round 62 put him at -9, who whoulda bet that -8 would get you into a playoff? Mahan sunk to T31. Not exactly the way to stay on Azinger's radar. 3rd round leader Kevin Streelman kept the overnight leader jinx intact with a 72 today to end up T4.

Til' next,

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Leaders Play "Hot Potato" at The Barclays.

The Barclays - Third Round
Little did Steve Stricker know that the lead is the worst thing to have at The Barclays. After grabbing the 2nd round lead, Stricker coughed it up with emphasis after a 3rd round, back nine 43 derailed his chances. A triple bogey 7 on the par four 11th hole just made the hole in his boat much larger. He ended up in a tie for 11th place. Aiming for a Ryder Cup bid from Paul Azinger, Stricker became the 2nd man in a row to spit the leader's bit. Similarly, Hunter Mahan, following a 1st round 62, ballooned with a 73, 74 to drop him into a tie for 11th with fellow plunger Stricker. Kevin Streelman inherited the 3rd round lead with a superb 68 today and sits overnight at 205.

Four players took advantage of moving day with excellent rounds to form a logjam for 2nd place at 206. They were Paul Casey, 69, Sergio, 69, Vijay, 66, and Mike Weir, 67. All were prudent to play well enough to be right there in contention, but without assuming the jinxed position of being in the lead. I sure hope that nothing unfortunate happens to the winner of this event on Monday. Two more strokes back at 205 was the foursome of Robert Allenby, Angel Cabrera, Jason Day, and Kevin Sutherland.

It'll be fun to see how tour rookie Sutherland handles the lead. A win here might lock up rookie of the year honors for him. The paycheck and exemption wouldn't hurt either. He's made impressions with his play this year coming out of nowhere to be paired with Woods at Torrey Pines in January and holding the first round lead at the US Open. Gut check time now. Average Golfer says he better double team Sergio and Vijay.

Til' next,

Friday, August 22, 2008

Stricker Hunts Down Mahan at Barclays.

Count Steve Stricker among those that love the FedExCup. Hearkening back to his performance of last year, Stricker fired a nifty 64 to overtake 1st round leader Hunter Mahan at The Barclays. Stricker punched out after his day's work at -10, while Mahan slipped precipitously with a 2nd round 73 that left him three in arrears at -7. A hole out eagle on the 3rd hole, coupled with a birdie on the 2nd jump started Stricker's day. Four more birdies and nary a bogey finished his clean card. Five bogeys today prevented Mahan from hanging on to the advantage he'd earned with his 1st round 62. "Sybil golf", just like my game.
The Barclays - Second Round

Behind the two leaders saw a knot for 3rd featuring Angel Cabrera, 67, Dudley "Dooright" Hart, 69, and Kenny Perry, 67, doing his best Hume Croyn impression that we've seen all year. Hey Kenny! You've already made Azinger's squad. A quad at -5 included Paul Casey, 71, Sergio, 67, Anthony Kim, 67, and Kevin Streelman, 70, who is highly regarding in my rookie of the year debate. Barclays sign wearer, Phil Mickelson, paired rounds of 70,70, to end up tied for 21st.

Bombers and Crashers.....

Players missing the cut at +1, with the Americans in the group failing to impress captain Azinger include, Woody, Baddeley, Els, O'Hair, Villegas, Harrington, Ogilvy, Zach Johnson, Goosen, Couples, DiMarco, and Pat Perez.

Most players are commenting on the superb conditions at Ridegewood Country Club. It favors positioning and placement. The greens are immaculate and no one seems to miss Westchester. Moves are made tomorrow. Tune in.

Til, next,

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hunter Mahan Blitzes Barclays - Reluctant Ryder Cupper?

“And from what I’ve heard, the whole week is extremely long,” Mahan said in the interview. “You’ve got dinners every night – not little dinners, but huge, massive dinners. I know as players, that’s the last thing we want to do. We want to prepare ourselves. That’s part of the whole thing: You’re just a slave that week.”

Ah, portions of the youthful expressions from Hunter Mahan quoted in Golf Magazine in an interview originally conducted in the spring, but printed during the PGA Championship week. To his credit he apologized quickly to both Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger and the PGA. A straight apology for once. No nonsensical double talk or Clintonesque musings about what "is" really "is".

Mahan's 62 today at The Barclays, the 1st of four FedExCup playoff events, would make you think he possessed with earning Azinger's favor. Four shots better than Paul Casey, five ahead of Bo Van Pelt, (Lucy's cousin), Kevin Streelman, Mathew Goggin, Charly Hoffman, and Dudley Hart. The resurgent Rich Beem was one more back with a 68. Mahan spun a 98 yd. wedge into the hole for an eagle 2 on the 1st hole. That's the way to get out of the gate. That couples with 8 birdies will get you well on your way to a 62. Tons of golf left. It'll be interesting to see how he holds up for the coming rounds. Just make your your butt can cash the checks that your mouth writes.

Azinger is expected to make his 4 captain's picks on September 2nd. That leaves 7 more rounds for the hopefuls to impress the boss. Mahan certainly got out of the gate better than could be expected. If he makes the team, pair him with Furyk or Woods. Then there will be no doubt in his mind about the meaning of the Ryder Cup.

Other Tours....

LPGA - Safeway Classic, 54 holer, Lorena Ochoa defends.

Champion's Tour - The Boeing Classic, Denis Watson defends.

European Tour - KLM Open, Ross Fisher defending.

Nationwide Tour - Northeast Pennsylvania Classic, Justin Bolli won last year.

Til' next,

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tiger Woods Can't Win the FedExCup.

Yes, that's how they want it spelled, FedExCup. Some marketing genius justified his existence in coming up with it. It doesn't translate well to the established tournaments though. TheUSOpen doesn't quite carry the same panache.

I wanted to see if Tiger Woods could win the darn thing without playing in an event. Turns out he can't. The brainiacs adjusted the point totals just so to prevent that from happening. Tiger won the regular season points total, so when they're reset for the "playoffs", he starts with 100,000 points. Lee Janzen is the 144th and last ranked player in the playoffs. He starts with 92,070 points. If he wins the Barclays Classic at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J, the playoffs first event, he'll add 9,000 points to his total, giving him 101,070 and placing him ahead of Woods. So, Tiger can't win, but after the 4th and final event, The Tour Championship, he could still finish well up the leaderboard. Not a bad way to make a living. Flick the remote, play with the kid, catch up on your sleep, and watch your bankroll grow. If you're interested, here's the FedExCup point standings as we go into the Barclay's, the 1st event on the schedule. Mickelson, Harrington, and Garcia are listed as the early favorites and rightly so I reckon. Phil and Sergio always plays well in non-majors.

I've really tried to get the least bit excited about this FedExCup deal. Sorry, I can't. To me it smells like regular tour events with a pot of gold for the lucky winner. Woods victory in last year's inaugural Cup netted him a annuity that he can't touch until he reaches the age of 45. This year, the winner gets $9,000,000 immediately and a $1,000,000 annuity. That's pretty much the formula for the top ten finishers. If you finish outside the top ten, your dough is all annuity. What kind of ridiculous arrangement is that? I realize a new event needs time to find it's balance, but this FedEx deal is downright goofy. The idea was to extend golf's TV ratings into the time historically dominated by the NFL and MLB playoffs, but I don't see that happening with Woods on the sidelines. If most people are like me, they'll watch football and check tourney results on a website. Not having Woods as a draw is like trying to pee up a rope. Oh, I almost forgot. If Kenny Perry gets any winnings in annuity form, can he cash in now since he's over 45?

I've developed great interest in the LPGA Tour and women's golf in general. As a result I've spent a lot of time and space on this site promoting women's golf with great enthusiasm and abysmal results. The traffic on this site when covering women's events is about 25% of what it would be if I commented on and covered a men's tournament. If you fans of women's golf are out there, now's a good time to let me know!

Til' next,

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Azinger's Ryder Cup Dilemma

How about Paul Azinger's conundrum, huh? Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to escape from a 5 out of 6 losing streak, including 18 1/2 to 9 1/2 thrashings in the last two. Once at home, once on the road. Oh, did I mention that you have to do it without your best player?

From that standpoint I suppose Zinger has nowhere to go but up. The way I see it the Euros have just been way overdue in squaring up what had historically been a tremendous mismatch. From 1927 to 1983 the United States' Ryder Cup record was 21-3-1. Those were the years you wanted to be a captain. Since 1983 the Euros are 7-3-1. They could win 14 straight times and the series would be even. The prevailing chatter would lead you to believe we have no business playing in this thing. Reality says we still own it, 24-10-2. The fact is golf always has been, and will be, an unpredictable endeavor. That's how guys can shoot 64 one day and 74 the next. Throw the team out there, wish them some luck, and sit back and see what unfolds. I don't buy the "closeness" as a team theory. Nobody marveled at our closeness as a team for the first 25 matches. I don't buy the "good" or "bad" pairings theory either. The example of this being the infamous Mickelson/Woods pairing. You put Mickelson and Woods together 100 times and they beat your guys 75% of the time. The fact that they didn't then is irrelevant. It's still an individual sport. Each guy hits his own shot. Sergio doesn't pass his ball to Monty. Woods can't get an assist if Furyk makes a putt. I also don't buy the Ryder Cup "pressure" theory. Tell me how players that stood up to the rigors of major championships suddenly get weak kneed in a team event? Doesn't happen. It's only a justification if they lose.

Only 8 things are certain about the 2008 US Ryder Cup squad. Mickelson, Cink, Perry, Furyk, Kim, Leonard, Curtis, and Weekly will be suiting up. In the coming two weeks we'll observe and comment on captain Zinger's four remaining picks. We'll scour the Euros as well and see if we can make sense of this year's rendition of this storied event. Then we'll throw it all against the wall and enjoy greatly seeing what sticks.

Til' next,

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mickelson vs Harrington - The Case for #2.

Assuming the obvious, that Tiger Woods is firmly entrenched as the world's number one golfer, who is second best? Who deserves the title as most likely to challenge El Tigre when it matters, in a big tournament? The majors, the WGC events and the handful of other contests with packed fields and high drama.

After Sunday's PGA Championship victory and especially being his second consecutive major it would be easy to proclaim Padraig Harrington as number two in the world, a spot perennially occupied by Phil Mickelson. You'd be wrong. As of week 32, ending 08/10/2008 Phil has compiled 9.87 Official World Golf Ranking points compared to Padraig's 7.85. At the beginning of 2008, week 1, Phil held his customary #2 position with 8.555 points versus Padraig's 5.472, which at the time was good enough for 6th place in the world standings. So, despite his two major victories Harrington has only climbed to #3. Of course rankings aren't based on major performance alone, or the current year by itself. Keep in mind though that 3 of the last 6 major trophies are in Padraig's living room.

Digging a little deeper we'll see that this year Harrington has played in 12 events with 2 wins, (both majors), 1 3rd place, 6 top tens, and 9 top 25s. Mickelson has played in 17 events with 2 wins, 1 2nd, 6 top tens, and 16 top 25s. Mickelson has amassed 18,241 Fedex Cup points and Harrington 15,555. The Fedex Cup point differential is due to the additional 5 events for Phil. For 2007 and 2008 Phil has 5 victories to Padraig's 3. The question is would you trade 3 major wins for 5 regular tour wins? I know what my answer would be. On the heels of his PGA Championship win Harrington leads the European Tour Order of Merit standings. Phil obviously isn't on the radar in Europe.

I would submit to you that the #2 player in the world is Harrington. I believe the rankings are too weighted toward past performance and are without enough emphasis on major tournaments and quality fields. 3 of the last 6 majors over two years is good enough for me. How about you?

Til' next,

Sunday, August 10, 2008

90th PGA Championship, Harrington.

PGA Championship - Final Round

Crucial late round putting gave Padraig Harrington his second major trophy in as many starts. His victory in the 90th PGA Championship placed him halfway to the coveted "Paddy Slam". Harrington's second consecutive 66 gave him a two shot victory over a game Sergio Garcia and early 4th round leader Ben Curtis. Harrington became the 1st European winner of the PGA since Tommy Armour in 1930. Camilo Villegas finished strong and tied for 4th with a faltering Henrik Stenson. Steve Flesch's 69 gave him solo 6th. Phil Mickelson wilted to a tie for 7th with Andres Romero. Only 3 players finished under par at the notoriously tough Oakland Hills. Harrington at -3 and Garcia and Curtis at -1.

It was a three way battle most of the day in cool and blustery conditions. Garcia had the lead at the turn with Curtis and Harrington in close pursuit. With Garcia's water logged bogey on the 16th hole, Harrington nailed his birdie putt to start a streak of three straight pressure putts that ultimately sealed it for him. A birdie on the par three 17th gave him the lead when Garcia missed from about 4 feet. A cool, calm 15 footer on 18 cemented his win. Curtis hung around on the back nine , but never found the crucial birdie needed to share the lead. Strangely Harrington, in the view from the TV camera, appeared not to blink , even once, on the back nine. That steely determination is precisely what been lacking from competitors in the Tiger era. Maybe a challenge has been raised for next April in Augusta. Padraig will enter that tournament with a two major winning streak. Stay tuned.

Congratulations on hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy Padraig. He's now won 3 of the last 6 majors. I'll go out on a limb and predict the pints will be flowing in Dublin tonight.

Til' next,

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Romero, Villegas Shoot Back Into 90th PGA Championship Picture.

Andres Romero's sterling, early 65 and Camilo Villegas' -4 through 14 holes rocketed them both back onto the 90th PGA Championship leader board. Round 3 was KO'd by persistent rain and the PGA will attempt to finish rounds three and four tomorrow. The final three pairings never hit a shot. Hence, the only notable change on the leader board was the appearance of Romero and Villegas. Better scoring conditions and more favorable pin placements were leading to improved rounds based on the partial sample of Saturday players. Romero must feel fairly good sitting in the clubhouse, having completed his round, at +2. He has just 18 more to play on a course that apparently won't succumb to an under par winner.

The plan is for play to begin at 7:15 AM tomorrow. Mother Nature willing, that would provide enough time for the 4th round to be completed in the afternoon. The leaders will be playing 36 holes. Not ideal, but I'm sure CBS prefers it to a Monday finish. Today's rain may have softened the course enough to see movement across the field. I wouldn't be surprised to see at least one other 65 in what would be the 3rd round.

Scheduled Air Times for Sunday: 11:00 AM-2:00 PM, TNT, 2:00 PM-7:00 PM, CBS.

Weather Report for Sunday, Bloomfield Hills, MI.....

Some clouds with the chance of a couple showers developing in the afternoon. High 74F. Winds NW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 30%.

Til' next,

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Monster Piles Up Victims Like Cordwood at 90th PGA Championship.

Super power hitter J.B. Holmes stood alone as the only player under par after two rounds of the 90th PGA Championship. His mind boggling bomb strategy paid off today because, by his own admission, he was hitting his driver straight. Some of his tee balls were reportedly in the 400 yard range. His 68 today gave him a 139 total and a one stroke advantage over over the trio of Charlie Wi, Ben Curtis, and Justin Rose. Curtis and Rose turned in 67s, good enough for rounds of the day. David Toms and Henrik Stenson were tied at 141, two strokes back. Toms proved that you don't have to be a beast off tee to contend here. Seven players were at 142 including Sergio, Aaron Baddely, and Jeev Milkha Singh. The other Singh and one of Average Golfer's sleeper picks. Did I mention the other Singh was one of my sleeper picks? Phil Mickelson was one more stroke back at 143, tied with a host of players. It's a tight leaderboard with 24 players within 5 shots of the lead.

Sent Packing.....

At press time, with a few players still on the course, the projected cut was a startling +8. This left a veritable all star team with a short weekend. Notable victims include Daly, Couples, Zach Johnson, Scott, O'Hern, Clarke, Choi, Cink, Jimenez, Vijay Singh, Ames, Campbell, Love III, Immelman, Kaymer, Verplank, Westwood, Byrd, Imada, Woody, Montgomerie, and Mahan. Wow, that's a lot of quality carnage. I hope they can field a foursome for tomorrow! Saturday, moving day. Should be at least interesting.

Til' next,

*Average Golfer Comment of the Day belongs to Rees Jones, course designer, whose fingerprints are all over the current Oakland Hills setup. Responding to complaints about the difficulty of the course by many players, Jones said, "The winner never complains."

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Monster Takes Prisoners in 1st Round of 90th PGA Championship.

Red numbers were as precious Pro V1s in a hacker's league at the 90th PGA Championship. Oakland Hills lived up to it's name and left a large share of the field mumbling to themselves. A 90 minute rain delay prevented completion of the 1st round, so results are partial.

Robert Karlsson, only golfer to finish in the top 10 at the first three majors, shared the lead with Andrews Romero, (on the 14th hole when play stopped), and one of Average Golfer's sleeper picks, Jeev Milkha Singh. They were all at -2, 68. Singh's doctors advised him to take a month off from golf to heal an injured ankle. In keeping with Woods' knee and Harrington's wrist injuries, it's only fitting he decided to play. It probably guarantees his win. Ken Duke, Sergio Garcia, Billy Mayfair, Sean O'Hair, and J.B. Holmes, (16th hole), were locked at -1, 69. Ten players were at even par.

Perhaps more telling than the leaderboard were the players that most likely shot themselves out of the championship on the 1st day. They need to go low on day #2 and the course is showing no signs of allowing any low scores. They would include the Ryder Cup dissenter, Hunter Mahan, +11, Ryuji Imada, +10, Woody Austin, +9, Jerry Kelly, +9, recent winner Chez Reavie, +8, KJ Choi, +8, Adam Scott, +7, Lee Westwood, +7, Davis Love III, +7. The course claimed victims on the 1st day and there's no reason to believe that will change any time soon. Many players described the course as more like a US Open setup than the US Open. Despite the late rain, course officials were watering at least three greens during play, an ominous sign on day #1. Let's hope they find a healthy balance. I don't mind seeing the world's best severely tested, I just don't want to see luck, or bad luck, play a part in determining the winner. They may be precipitously close to that fine line.

Average Golfer was more than a little disappointed to read comments attributed to his pick to win, Lee Westwood, regarding the course setup. Here's an excerpt from his post-round interview after his 77....

“The course is 7,500 yards long, the greens are firm and the pins are tucked away,” “They are sucking the fun out of the major championships when you set it up like that.

“I sound as if I’m moaning—which I am—but it’s a great shame,” he said. “It’s a fantastic golf course. They are great greens and they are playable. But there is no need to play it as it is.”

Boy, since he's my pick I surely hope he has a nice dinner and a good night's sleep so he can wake up tomorrow with a tad better attitude.

Til' next,

* Late note......Kenny Perry withdrew after his 1st round 78 with an eye injury.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

90th PGA Championship - Odds and Insight.

Boy I sure wish some golfer would jump out and proclaim themselves as the clear cut favorite for the 90th PGA Championship. It's like trying to pick the best dog from a litter of 156. You almost have the feeling that a club pro could break through. Almost. Will Phil come apart again like a $30.00 suit? Will Sergio choose the wrong putter from his extensive collection? Will Vijay continue to miss the cup from inside five feet? Will Kenny Perry manage to stay white hot? Average Golfer breaks down their chances and predicts a winner. Here's the top odds favorites from Ladbrokes' oddsmakers.......

Mickelson, 10/1 ..... Odds based on talent, not shot selection or execution under pressure. Can win, won't win. Still shaken from WGC.

Harrington, 20/1 ..... Has major experience obviously. Can close the deal. Short game helps here. Can win.

Garcia, 20/1 ..... Same old story. You know the tune. If he builds a lead by Saturday, could win.

Singh, 20/1 ..... Gee, I wonder what he's been practicing in his hotel room. Although, he made the putt that mattered last week. Could win.

A. Kim, 25/1 ..... Boy, hard to figure. Game's not in question, his youth is. Could win, tough to pick him though.

Els, 25/1 ..... Should win based on his talent vs theirs. Long running story with Ernie. Have to wait and see. Too risky to pick.

Furyk, 25/1 ..... Ideal set up for the straight, but long enough, hitter. Can win, may pick him.

Westwood, 25/1 ..... Hottest player not to win in the last month. Hard to not pick him. Obviously capable.

Goosen, 25/1 ..... Nasty greens and areas surrounding greens are his specialty. Can win with a hot putter, which is true of a lot of the field.

Scott, 33/1 ..... Get the feeling he's happy with top 10s. May be wrong, but lacks the killer instinct to finish guys off. Can win, won't win.

Ogilvy, 40/1 ..... Mediocre lately for a US Open winner. Regardless though, have to consider him a threat every time he tees it up. Can win.

Mahan, 40/1 ..... Dissed the Ryder Cup without ever having played in it. Bad Karma. Won't win.

Stenson, 40/1 ..... RoboGolfer. Has the tools, seemingly lacks the passion. Could win, probably won't.

KJ Choi, 40/1 ..... Hot earlier in the year. Can't question his tools. Tough guy to figure out. Capable of winning. No call here. Wouldn't be surprised to see him 1st or 61st.

Perry, 40/1 ..... Should be the fan's choice. Achieved his goal, but I'm sure he'd love to win a major to shut up the naysayers. Could win.

Cink, 40,1 ..... Another enigma. Wicked hot six weeks ago. Now, who the &#$* knows? Could win I reckon, long and straight enough. Best with the wacky putter.

Sleeper Picks....

A little tough to call these "sleepers", but for lack of a better name..... Ames, Appleby, Chad Campbell, Cejka, Tim Clark, Leonard, O'Hair, and Jeev Milkha Singh.

Without further ado, the winner of the 2008 PGA Championship is.....

1st - Lee Westwood, He's due, overdue.

2nd - Retief Goosen

3rd - Robert Allenby

There you have it again. Now all you have to do is watch!

Til' next,

*Average Golfer noteworthy pick. We picked Ya-Ni Tseng to win last week's Women's British Open. She finished 2nd. We're due.

Monday, August 4, 2008

90th PGA Championship - Oakland Hills, The Monster.

No less an authority than Ben Hogan placed the moniker of "The Monster" on Oakland Hills. He commented after the 1951 US Open in response to his final round 67, "I'm glad that I brought this course, this monster, to it's knees." You see the great ones always play the course. Who they're playing is of little consequence. The entrants in this year's PGA Championship would do well to emulate Mr. Hogan, as this course could well make the Blue Monster look like a goldfish.

The South course it is, designed by Donald Ross, tweaked by Robert Trent Jones, and tweaked again by his son Rees. This year it can play to 7,395 yards, as opposed to the 6,974 it played at for the 1996 US Open. Additional bunkers lay in wait for errant shots. The fairways are cut leading right into most of them, so don't expect a ball through the fairway will be slowed by rough to keep it out of harms way. Fine line there. A couple of inches could spell the difference between a great fairway lie or a desperate one in a sunken beach. Both water hazards have been made larger and feature extended rock edges. That should make for a few camera-fooling, super ball type bounces that will dominate the evening highlight reels. Can't wait!

Kerry Haigh, senior director of tournaments for the PGA of America is in charge of the setup. He's claimed that he doesn't anticipate many changes after Rees Jones' redo. Expect to see 4" rough and greens running 12.5 on the Stimpmeter. That's wicked fast on these saucer-like, hideously difficult greens. Tee placements will be determined by weather conditions and the available variety. Keep an eye on the 387 par 4, 6th hole. At least one day it will play as a 305 yd. drivable par 4. The dogleg 16th, sided by a lake and the 238 yd. par 3 17th will almost assuredly create some late round action. Most folks with half a clue in such matters expect the winning score to be around five over par. Me, being clueless, have no idea.

It's not your father's PGA anymore. Countless trips to bland, wide open golf courses that seemed like the local muni, with better players. They've done a great job of spicing up the mix. From the novelty and world-class test of Whistling Straits to returning to a venerable classic like Oakland Hills. Damn, this is starting to feel like a major again.

Tomorrow........the combatants.

Til' next,

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Ji-Yai Shin Wins 2008 Women's British Open.

If the 10th ranked player in the world could sneak in under the radar in a major championship, mission accomplished for Ji-Yai Shin at the RICOH Women's British Open. Her -6, 66 today gave her a comfortable 3 shot win over Ya-Ni Tseng, who also closed with a 66. The rather bookish looking Shin, (it's the glasses), drove it straight, hit greens, and made putts. Six birdies and no bogeys in the final round of a major is almost always the recipe for victory. She was the picture of control, even as she got up and down from an 18th hole greenside bunker to seal the inevitable. Truth be told, she'd taken the starch out of her pursuers with a tremendous 45 ft. birdie putt on the 13th. That putt provided the final cushion.

Tseng's 66 launched her to solo 2nd. That, coupled with her earlier victory in the McDonald's LPGA Championship, should have sealed "rookie of the year" honors for her. Yuri Fudoh, who had entered the round with a one shot advantage shot 71 to finish T3 with Eun Hee Ji, 67. Ai Miayazato's final round 70 gave her solo 5th. A costly double bogey on 18 cost her some serious cash. Cristie Kerr finished 6th with a final round 70. Lorena Ochoa ended up T7 with a 69, tied with Momoko Ueda. Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis, Karrie Webb, In-Kyung Kim, and Hee-Won Han all shared 9th place. The Japanese players made a great showing with 3 in the top 10. Four Korean players were in the top 10, 2 Americans, and Tseng, from Taiwan, rounded out the international flavor. In a post round interview Shin indicated she'd planned to play in Japan next year, but this win qualifies her for the LPGA and she may rethink her plans. If so, watch out, she's a very steady, accomplished player and I've no doubt she be near the top in any statistical category. Congratulations to Ji-Yai on her break out victory.

In great fashion Annika Sorenstam made a 10 ft. birdie putt on the 18th hole to finish, at least for now, her major career. Her final round 68 gave her a tie for 24th. I do have an Average Golfer observation though, regarding Annika. Why do her sponsors this year insist on providing her with golf attire that makes her look like a fast food clerk? Am I the only one?

Coming tomorrow, PGA Championship Preview.

Til' next,

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Fudoh Clings to One Shot Lead After 3rd Round of Women's British Open.

Yuri Fudoh and Ji-Yai Shin had identical rounds and scores after two rounds of the RICOH Women's British Open. Shin's 18th hole bogey was all that stood in the way of it happening again. Fudoh's -3, 69 gave her a whiff of breathing room in the form of a one shot lead over Shin. They'll both be in the final pairing again tomorrow. Ai Miyazato's excellent 68 gave her 3rd place alone, one in front of two Americans, Juli Inkster and Cristie Kerr. One more back was Mi Hyun Kim. The tiny one shot the round of the day, a 67. This left her T6 with Eun-Hee Ji, Natalie Gulbis, and Average Golfer's pick to win, Ya-Ni Tseng, all at -9. There was a three way tie at -8 featuring Na Yeon Choi, Momoko Ueda, and defending champion, Lorena Ochoa.

Inkster began the day eagle, birdie, but was derailed some by a back nine 38. Kerr had 6 birdies in her round, but 4 bogeys as well to bring her back down to earth. It appears it would take a 66 or so to challenge from 4 or 5 spots back on Sunday. Not that many strokes to overcome, but a host of other players. If conditions remain the same as today, there's birdies to be had.

Notables included Karrie Webb, 69, T15, Paula Creamer, 70, T19, Suzann Pettersen, 71, T19, and Annika, 70, T38. I'm sure it's not the way Annika wanted her "last" major to go.

It's a horse race on Sunday, down to the wire. Tune in.

Til' next,

Average Golfer Observation......With the surge of excellent Korean players, my spellcheck is crying "Uncle!".

Friday, August 1, 2008

Fudoh, Shin Lead Women's British Open After 2nd Round - Inkster Lurks.

Yuri Fudoh of Japan and Ji-Yai Shin from Korea mirrored each others scores to share the lead at the halfway mark of the RICOH Women's British Open. Both penciled 66, 68, 134 totals to split a one shot lead over resurgent Juli Inkster. Inkster's 65, 70, 135 left her one shot clear of Bo Bae Song and Cristie Kerr. At -7 was the three way tie of Natalie Gulbis, Ai Miyazato, and ever- favorite Lorena Ochoa. An additional ten players were within 5 shots of the lead, well within striking distance. Among them was Laura Diaz, owner of the bizarre round of the day. Diaz carded 3 eagles on the day on the 1st, 10th, and 11th holes. She missed a 30 ft. eagle putt on the 14th for what would have been a record four eagles in one round. Still, she finished with a 72 that left her at -6, four shots back. Five bogeys and a double bogey added to the roller coaster appearance of Diaz' card. Kerr had the round of the day propelled by six birdies and an eagle for a 65 that put her right in the thick of the race.

Notables include Ya-Ni Tseng at -5, Suzann Pettersen at -4, Paula Creamer, -3, Annika making the cut at even par, and Laura Davies, playing on the weekend at +1. Jeong Jang, one of the pre-tournament favorites withdrew and Morgan Pressel missed the cut.

78 players will tee it up for the weekend, which is the top 65 and ties. $2,100,000.00 is at stake. Rainy outbursts peppered today's round and I'd expect nothing less for the final two rounds. Saturday's results should lend some shape to the final round. Expect it to be tight at the end. Can't wait.

Til' next,