Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tiger, No....Ochoa, Yes....Annika, No....Darren Clarke, Yes....John Daly, Bizarre.

It's a mixed bag in the golf world this week. Even with Tiger Woods on the bench there's plenty of buzz to keep the average golfer interested. So, head to the trough and try some of this fodder....

Wachovia Championship......On the heels of his victory in the EDS Byron Nelson, Adam Scott is pushing hard to cement a position as one of the elite players. He'll be going for two in a row having beaten Ryan Moore last week on the 3rd playoff hole. Three former Wachovia champs are in the field. Jim Furyk, (2006), Vijay Singh, (2005), and David Toms, (2003), head a stacked field as the PGA Tour players line up for The Player's Championship and the two majors to follow. Professional golf season is heating up even with the absence of a wounded Woods. Off crutches and now in a knee brace, it's looking more and more that Woods won't be seen before the Memorial Tournament or perhaps even the US Open.

The SemGroup Championship......Lorena Ochoa's back playing for her 5th consecutive victory. I can only imagine how tough she'll be to beat after a week of rest. Mi Hyun Kim defends. Julie Inkster, 2nd last year, and Cristie Kerr are headliners. Annika's not in the 144 woman field. It would have been nice to see her in action against Ochoa having come off a win in last week's event.

Asian Open Won by Darren Clarke......In the "Feel Good" competition for 2008 Darren Clarke iced the crown. It's over. This is the feel good list. Clarke sunk a 30 ft. putt on the 72nd hole to hoist his first victory flag since the passing two years ago of his wife Heather. Clarke's one the most entertaining and seemingly genuine players on anyone's tour. He's the one guy I don't mind us getting tarred by in the Ryder Cup. Great golfer, better person.

R&A Delays Drug Testing 1 Year......Expected to begin testing by the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, The R&A has pussyfooted around the issue for another year. Perhaps the wait and see posture is to observe how the other tours drug testing plans play out. If the other tour catch any scofflaws then there won't be much to do one year later.

John Daly, Media Legend.....If you haven't seen this I'm directing you to Bob Smiley's site, Fore Right, which is where I tripped over it. No hints or setup from me, just proof positive that truth is always stranger than fiction.

There's the recap from me. Your mission, should you choose to accept it.........Get out and play, come in and watch.

Til' next,

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

10 Average Golfer Myths Debunked !

If you're like me you're an average golfer. You're handicap is probably 16-20, but in fact it's closer to 20-25. You see, we average golfers are generally fairly honest about the game. If we break a rule it's because we weren't aware of it. When we turn in scores to calculate our handicaps we drift on the side of reverse sandbagging to insure that whoever we're matched against is playing against our "best" game. We're avid players and devour golf magazines and record lessons on The Golf Channel. We enjoy playing with better players because we realize we might observe something to raise the levels of our own games. Consequently we're inundated with too much, and frequently conflicting information and advice. I'm here help you sort through that maze of advice that screws up our games. Let's do it.

1. You need the latest high tech driver. No you don't. What you need is an acceptable 450cc driver with 10.5, or preferably 11.5 degrees of loft. Your swing speed isn't high enough for less loft and the ball will launch better. There's great deals on last year's or used drivers. You also don't need a $150.00 Katsumatsu or whatever shaft. Whatever they do, you can't notice.

2. My average drive is 265 yds. No it's not and thinking that way affects how you play a hole. There was a survey done in real time at a Florida golf course. At the tee of a wide open fairway the players were asked to hit their drives and then guess the distance. Almost all of them overestimated by 30-40 yards. That error affects how you might play a par five by positioning your 3rd shot, the one that really counts. It also causes you to find hazards that are closer than you think you hit it. Fairways are always better than non-fairways.

3. I need to spin the ball. You can't spin the ball, on purpose. You don't have the precision to strike the ball first on every swing. You don't have the necessary club head speed and you're not playing on pro fairways. Their fairways are tighter than your greens. Even if you could back up a golf ball it's unpredictable. Better to hit to a distance you know and then calculate how much the ball will release to the hole.

4. I need a great swing. You'll never have a great swing. You started the game as an adult and you have a job. Players with great swings have that as their job. You do need a good swing. Good basic fundamentals like set up, grip, and ball position are key to any golfer. Weight transfer is often misunderstood. Work on those. You can have Tiger Wood's set up and grip. You can't have his swing. He's still using it.

5. I need to line up putts with surgical precision. No you don't. You need a general idea of how the putt breaks and how much swing to take based on distance. Find a spot on the break line mid way between you and the hole and let her go. Let the size of the swing dictate the speed. Other than that all swings with the putter should look the same. Miss, and you will, on the "high" side of the hole. Occasionally you'll get lucky and it'll drop in. Throw the other crap away. It clutters your mind and creates tension, the killer of golf swings.

6. I need $300.00 golf shoes. No you don't. The alligators don't think you do either. You don't create the torque to require shoes that cost more than my first car. $80.00 shoes are just fine and just as waterproof. I don't think any golf shoes are waterproof. Or, last year's $160.00 golf shoes for $80.00 works too.

7. I need to be a better wind player. Well, you may, but not by swinging harder. If it's pretty windy and will be for most of the day you have to approach the game with a different mind set. Take less back swing. Try a 50% back swing. It'll become a 75% back swing when you take the club back. All average golfers take a bigger swing than they realize. So, take the 50% and two extra clubs. Be smooth and pretend there's no wind. Be prepared for more roll because of the less lofted clubs. See, easy.

8. I need $45.00 per dozen golf balls. Throw your money away in the pond if you like, but here's the balls you need. 10-16 handicap, any $30.00 golf ball. 17-24 handicap, any mid $20.00 golf ball. 25+ handicap, any $16.00-$19.00 golf ball. Balls $15.00 and under are rocks. No one should play them. Balls are basically the same in their price categories. If I blindfold you, you won't know the difference.

9. I need a flop shot. No you don't. It creates more trouble than you started with. First of all you won't recognize when to hit one. Second, your municipal course rarely provides the lie for you to pull one off. Third, you never practice it. The idea around the greens is to get up and down. Your best chance at this is a chip or a pitch, shots you've already been hitting all day.

10. I just shot 84, here comes 79! Easy there. The lower your handicap gets the harder it is to lower it further. I don't mean to discourage, just be aware of that so frustration doesn't rear it's ugly head when your 84 is followed by a 92. Relish in your improvements and make then part of your everyday game. Be less concerned with score than with a sound, smooth swing and making good decisions while you play. Today's 84 can become a 79, but probably not tomorrow.

*These are the opinions of the author alone gleaned from thousands of swings and crazy rounds. They do not reflect necessarily the golfing community at large and are to be interpreted as such. The author is to be held harmless from any bodily injury or public embarrassment resulting from same.

Til' next,

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

No Tiger Woods, No Lorena Ochoa - Will You Watch ?

I'll go out on a limb and assume you're a more than avid golf fan or you wouldn't be reading this now. Tepid fans turn on The Golf Channel. Rabid ones Google websites.

The men head to Texas this week for the EDS Byron Nelson Championship. Damn these tournament names are getting way too long. Adam Scott and brand spankin' new Masters champ Trevor Immelman lead the way. Last year was the first event since Lord Byron's passing and it was way more than fitting that Nelson disciple Scott Verplank won. Kind of mystical actually.

The women tee it up at the Stanford International Pro-Am. They claim a star studded field. How's that possible without Ochoa? Annika, Creamer, and Pettersen are all there, but it takes some luster from the star without Lorena. Kinda like putting lipstick on a pig. The pig doesn't look any better and it hates it.

With a wounded Woods until at least The Memorial, the men's tour's TV ratings should take a huge hit. Fortunately for the women, Ochoa's only resting for a week. Without the superstars will you watch? I won't. Sure, I'll check in online to see who's ahead and eventually who won, but the interest level for this average golfer is too low to dedicate hours of my weekend to watching the bench players. It's finally spring here in the woolly north. Spring here is about six days. It's too precious a commodity to waste on sub par, (pun intended), viewing. A double edged sword for network television when two super dominate players head both tours. The highs are high, but the lows can be extremely low. It's not their fault, but their eggs are firmly entrenched in just two baskets. Imagine a Patriots/Colts game with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning on the sidelines. Outside of Boston and Indianapolis, who would watch?

Til' next,

Sunday, April 20, 2008

It's Ochoa at Ginn & Tonic Open, Naturally.

A rather mundane 69, by her standards, was all it took for Lorena Ochoa to wrap up the 2008 Ginn Open. It was her 4th consecutive LPGA victory and moved her from being in a class by herself to creating a new class. Unbeatable. Yani Tseng finished 2nd, a very impressive showing for a tour rookie playing with the Universe's #1. There's really not much else to write about when one player is so dominant. When Annika and Julie Inkster finish 16 and 15 shots out of the lead respectively, something other worldly is happening. This has been repeated enough that it must be tough for the other ladies in the field to think they're playing for anything other than 2nd place.

Five birdies today for Ochoa, twenty two for the tournament. Yikes! 60% of the fairways hit, low by her standards. A whopping 82% of greens in regulation and and average of 29 putts per round. If she stays even remotely on her game, she will win 75% of the time she tees it up.

Observe the future of women's golf. She has arrived.

Oh by the way, Boo Weekly captured the Verizon Heritage. It's tough to follow a tournament with rapt interest when the top two players on the men's and women's tours are so far ahead of the rest of the field.

Til' next,

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Ochoa Leads Ginn Open......Shocker.

What took her so long? Lorena Ochoa waited until the 3rd round of the Ginn Open to fire a 65 and take her anointed place as the tournament leader. What's left to say about this woman? Tiger's next streak will be described as Lorenaesque. She's averaging 279 yds. per drive. That's leaving her 30 yards ahead of most of her competitors. That translates into at least a two club advantage for her approach shots. Even with a lukewarm putter, which she's shown lately, she's uncatchable. Her putting misses are for eagles and birdies, everyone else's for pars.

Rookie Yani Tseng will start tomorrow one behind Ochoa. Her feet will be in the fire and it will be interesting to see how the first-timer responds. I have a touch of ADD, so since no one else is within four shots of Ochoa's lead, I'm not going to list them. Annika's had a tough week. Why, I'm not sure.

Tune in tomorrow. Maybe not for a tantalizing close finish, but for another peek at history.

Til' next,

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ginn Open - Tseng Leads, Ochoa 3 Back.

Let's face it, talk of Tiger Woods winning all three majors was a huge stretch. Not that it wasn't possible, but the odds were better that at 51 this average golfer has a better chance at still being able to dunk a basketball. There's only two persons left with a grand slam chance, Trevor Immelman and Lorena Ochoa. Who's your money on?

Midway through the Ginn Open in Reunion, FL Lorena stands three shots behind the leader Yani Tseng. Good Lord I hope there's no other "Yanni" connection to this. Yanni and Kenny G are two of the reasons my site has no audio and I avoid elevators. Athough, Kenny G fancies himself to be at the top of the "pro sniffing celebrity golfer's set". I digress. Tseng moved to -12 after a sizzling, course record 64. Suzann Pettersen's 66 left her in 2nd place, two off the lead and one in front of Ochoa and Minea Blomqvist. There should be a rule that all golfing Petersons spell their name the same way, you know, like the South Korean Kims do. Much easier on tortured typists like moi.

Having a three stroke lead on Ochoa with two rounds left to play is like having a three step lead on Cujo and 50 yds. to the fence. Expect her to charge and charge hard tomorrow. Tseng, a rookie, earned her card at qualifying school and has 5 top 25 finishes in 5 starts this year. Spending tomorrow with Lorena on her tail will test her rookie experience level.

Notables in the field include Julie Inkster, -6, Cristie Kerr, -5, Morgan Pressel, -3, Annika Sorenstam, -1, and Laura Davies, at level par. That's how the British say even par. Gotta figure something's amiss with Se Ri Pak after missing the cut at +9. I've enjoyed following her resurgence. Stay tuned.

Til' next,

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Oh By The Way, John Daly Had Surgery Too.

At the 2007 Honda Classic John Daly's back swing was interrupted by the click of a fan's camera. Daly has claimed that the resultant injury has been the primary reason he's withdrawn eight times and missed the cut 14 times in 33 events. Dr. Steve Whitelaw, who works with the Arkansas Razorbacks, says that in the process of stopping his swing Big John had torn his rotator cuff and dislocated two rib joints. He added further that all that was rehabbed, but while living with the dislocated ribs he tore the ligaments surrounding them.

Whitelaw says that when Daly still complained of pain, a full body scan was performed and a stomach muscle tear was revealed. He said, "When he swings, he uses that area with his stomach and core strength. He could only go on so long without hurting. He was in a cycle he could not get out of." Surgery to repair the tear was performed during Masters weekend.

I know what you're thinking, stomach jokes. Nope, too easy. Plus, Big John's had quite a rough patch and even I won't push him down further. Whitelaw said Daly could begin hitting small shots this week and he expects a quick recovery. Daly is scheduled to play the Spanish Open in Seville in two weeks. He says he's contemplating the Irish Open and Italian Open, and possibly the BMW Championship at Wentworth. This may be a good plan for John. Perhaps some renewed success in Europe, more out of the spotlight, can start to save his sagging career.

Til' next,

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tiger Woods Has Knee Surgery, Out 4-6 Weeks.

Tiger Woods had arthroscopic knee surgery today on his left knee to repair cartilage damage. This is the second surgery in five years on the same knee. It was performed in Park City, Utah by Dr. Thomas Rosenberg, the same surgeon that operated on the knee in 2002. In 2003, after recovering from the previous surgery, Woods won three of the first four events he entered. One was the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines, the site of this year's US Open.

With a four to six week rehab time it's unlikely Woods will defend his Wachovia Championship or participate in The Players Championship. It would seem that he would return for The Memorial, Jack's event, which is held two weeks before the US Open. Being at Torrey Pines, that means he'll be giving the field two a side instead of his customary four.

Til' Next,

Monday, April 14, 2008

2008 Masters Autopsy

"It's the end of the world as we know it."(REM) Looks like the Greenjackets got what they wanted. A track that could embarrass any player on the planet, past, present, or future. Sunday's display of impossibility didn't make for riveting sports television. I'll bet CBS sure was grateful that Tiger was "sort of" in the tournament and they could give him plenty of face time. Don't get me wrong, I congratulate Trevor Immelman on the victory and he'll be a great champion for life. That's how long Master's sentences are for, with no parole.

The Masters used to begin on the back nine on Sunday. Amen corner, two reachable par fives, and a whole bunch of risk/reward meant that the leader board changed constantly. Scores in the low thirties were attainable. Would could forget Jack's 30 on the back nine in 1986 to win by one? Breathtaking. Tiger can't shoot 30 at today's Augusta National. At 7,445 yards, with diabolical greens, throw in some wind like yesterday, and the course is almost unplayable. None of the top fifteen finishers broke par yesterday. Is that fun to watch? I'm not in favor of a 6,900 yard birdie factory, but there has to be a middle ground. Keep in mind also that this place is almost devoid of rough. Oops, I meant 2nd cut. What if there had been some rain thrown in? Would breaking 80 have been a good score?

The Greenjackets own the franchise. I understand a lot of the changes they made. They all make some kind of sense individually, but collectively they fashioned an entirely different golf course. One that's not nearly as much fun to watch on Sunday.

Til' next,

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Immelman Snatches 2008 Masters - Contenders Fall by the Wayside.

Trevor Immelman survived a vicious Augusta National to remain the last man standing in the 2008 Masters. The South African carved a tough 75 today to finish three clear of Tiger Woods. Wood's putter failed him on the back nine and prevented a patented charge. Truth be told, his putter was missing all week. The other two realistic challengers when the day began, Brandt Snedeker and Steve Flesch, ballooned to 77 and 78 respectively. Snedeker finished tied for 3rd with Stewart Cink who shot even par and Flesch finished T5 with Padraig Harrington and Phil Mickelson, both of whom shot level par for the final round.

The wind wreaked havoc with everyone, but truth be told, it was missed putts that doomed the challengers. Woods missed a five footer on 15 for birdie and made no other putts of consequence other than one bomb on the back nine. Immelman had the luxury of a six shot cushion that allowed him to handle a double bogey five on the 16th hole.

Though I've never met him, Trevor seems like a fine young man and very worthy of a green jacket. He does have a great swing and it'll be fun to see if this victory launches his career.

At some 7,500 yards, Augusta National is the real winner. Especially when you throw in some wind, ice the greens, and have the typically treacherous Sunday pin placements. It's a wonderful tournament to watch. I just wish they had a bigger, better field.

Average Golfer observation.........Jim Nantz and Ian Baker-Finch had syrup falling out of their mouths today. The suck ups were tough to handle. Nantz for Augusta National and Baker-Finch for Nick Faldo. Here's a sample from Baker-Finch;

"That putt breaks both ways, uphill and downhill twice, just like the one you had in '89, right Nick?"
or........"He needs to hit a little held off cut-hook and land it exactly 3.5 paces on the green and let it feed back to the hole off that small mound like you did in '86, right Nick?"
More Feherty, More Feherty !

Til' next,

Saturday, April 12, 2008

2008 Masters, Day #3, Immelman's To Seize.

Trevor Immelman survived a Master's oddity to maintain the lead for the second straight day. Playing his 3rd shot on the par five 15th, Immelman's 3rd shot backed up on the green and incredibly failed to roll all the way down the steep bank fronting the hole. What held it there was golf glue. He managed to get up and down for his par, when he normally would have been faced with a double bogey or worse. When he finally reached his fortunate ball, he gingerly peered at it from a safe distance to check his lie. The look on his face was the one of someone that had just run over a cat and stopped to see it's condition. He posted a 69 on the day to stand at -11 for the tourney. Brandt Snedeker salvaged a brave 70 after bogeying all of Amen Corner. That left him two back at -9. Steve Flesch and Paul Casey penciled 69s to leave them three and four shots behind respectively. Tiger Woods finished the day with a 68, leaving him six behind the leader.

If you're a Woods fan tomorrow, he may need some help. Six shots is a lot to make up. Even if he shot 65, he'd need Immelman to shoot no less than 71 to force a playoff. It's never wise to bet against Tiger though. This average golfer thinks if he loses, it was in the first two rounds. Not enough birdies. Brilliant, huh?

The unknown factor may be the weather. 63 deg. and winds 25-35 mph. The wind may have a big hand in this.

Enjoy the last day of the Masters until next year!

Til' next,

Average Golfer observation........Couldn't adidas have spent a little extra money so that their sponsored players had different shirts? They looked like a bowling team out there. A stripe on the back of the shirt for no apparent reason. Different colors though.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Halftime at The Masters, Trevor Immelman in Front.

Trevor Immelman fired his 2nd consecutive 68 to take a one stroke lead over Brandt Snedeker at the 2008 Masters. It's a remarkable feat for Immelman who recovered from surgery in December, 2007 to remove a benign growth from his rib cage. To be leading the season's first major is stupendous for the South African. Snedeker continued his brilliant play with a 68 following yesterday's 69. Tied at -5 are Steve Flesch, Phil Mickelson, and Ian Poulter. Perhaps Poulter has recovered from the misunderstanding regarding him being the world's best along with Tiger. Paul Casey and Stephen Ames are locked at -4. Major Champions Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, and Jim Furyk are knotted at -1, seven off the pace. Tomorrow's moving day and those three better get moving.

Missing the cut, which was at +3 were Fred Couples, Sergio, Aaron Baddeley, Ernie Els, Luke Donald, Rory Sabbitini, and Woody Austin. Freddy's streak of making Master's cuts came to an end. The cut was +3, Fred was at +4. Fred had never before missed the cut in his 24 year career. Opening round co-leader Justin Rose shot a 78 today and plummeted down the leader board. He stands at +2.

Weather may factor into the weekend as a cold front plows through Augusta. A chance of thunderstorms tomorrow with increasing winds and dropping temperatures. Winds may gust to 30mph later in the day. Should be interesting.

Til' next,

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rose, Immelman Lead 2008 Masters at 1st Turn.

It's a tightly bunched field heading through the first turn of the 2008 Masters. Tied with 68s are Brit Justin Rose and South African Trevor Immelman. Rose is leading the tournament after the 1st round for the third consecutive year. Brian Bateman, Brandt Snedecker, and Lee Westwood are in hot pursuit with 69s. Westwood, it was reported, has fired his entire coaching conglomerate. Seems to have helped. The five way traffic jam of Stephen Ames, Ian Poulter, Robert Karlsson, Jim Furyk, and defending champion Zach Johnson all carded -2, 70s. Poulter snatched the highlight reel with an ace on the 16th hole.

Of note...51 year old Mark O'Meara is three back with a 71. Phil Mickelson is locked with O'Meara. Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods penciled even par 72s. Average golfer's pick, Geoff Ogilvy was at +3, 75. If he doesn't get it in gear tomorrow I may have to fly down there and talk to him by hand. Fred Couples and Sergio Garcia fired disappointing 76s. I'm really pulling for Freddy. My usual sentimental pick, Woody Austin, let me down with a +7, 79. Perhaps the cream cheese and pimento sandwiches didn't sit too well with the Woodman.

Finally, the low amateur was Michael Thompson with a 73. He's right in the thick of things. Tomorrow settles the field though. Proof that this is a weak field is Gary Player's 83, taking up a spot for a young up and comer, or a resurgent veteran under the age of 70. Selfish move Gary. He's always been a shameless self-promoter.

In the switching paddles in mid stream category....Ernie Els jettisoned David Leadbetter after eighteen years in favor of Butch, "Where's the microphone", Harmon. Harmon gets results, but just started with Ernie recently. Tough to make changes just before a major. Ernie was quoted as saying he hopes to tighten up his swing. It didn't effect him too badly today, Ernie posted a +1, 73.

Tomorrow tells a lot of story in the Masters. It's too early to speculate.

Til' next,

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

2008 Masters Winner Revealed !

Let's leave out the obvious. Tiger Woods is the prohibitive favorite to win the 2008 Masters. There, I said it. Our goal here is to pick the winner from the rest of the field. It's not all that far fetched. The amazing thing about Woods' huge number of victories is his huge number of victories. It's not easy to win a professional golf tournament. Even one like this with a small, watered down field. Over four days it takes, skill, luck, good health, and the absence of another player(s) having a career performance. Tiger won't win this one and I'll explain why. Better yet, I'll tell you who will.

Here's a list of this average golfer's 2008 Masters favorites complete with their odds of winning as of press time.........

Tiger Woods, 5/4, Ridiculous odds on a golfer. Wheel him in the trifecta.

Phil Mickelson, 10/1, Prohibitive 2nd choice. Won here twice. Putter's been shaky lately.

Geoff Ogilvy, 20/1, Hot lately. Won the WGC-CA, 2nd in Houston.

Vijay Singh, 20/1, Still a force. Struggles with green speed this year.

Ernie Els, 25/1, Depends which Ernie we get. Tiger tamer or passive Ernie.

Padraig Harrington, 25/1, Joined the majors club at British. Should be in it.

Retief Goosen, 25/1, Has the nerve and putter for Augusta. Strong choice.

Adam Scott, 30/1, Maturing. Can't get tempted here to be too bold. Disaster awaits.

Justin Rose, 33/1, Thought it would be his break out year. Would be with a win.

K.J. Choi, 33/1, Physically, mentally tough. 3rd in 2004. Could do it.

Jim Furyk, 40/1, Tough time if it's wet. Has the iron game to hit it close.

Luke Donald, 50/1, See Jim Furyk. Missing Furyk's toughness though.

I'd like to pay tribute to Zach Johnson's 2007 win. It was a wonderful and well planned victory. Last year's course was dry though and lengthened Zach's tee shots. His winning score of 289, +1, was tied for the highest winning score ever at the Masters. I don't see lightning striking twice, but by no means take anything away from his victory.

Without further ado, Average Golfer's winner of the 2008 Masters will be........Geoff Ogilvy. He's demonstrated that he can handle the "Tiger effect". He's a wizard around the greens, which is so important at Augusta. He's won a major before, the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot. He's peaking at the right time based on recent performances. And........if he doesn't win it was rigged. Enjoy the tournament!

Til' next,

PS- The winning score for Geoff will be 282.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

2008 Masters Dark Horses

Forget Tiger, Phil, Vijay, Adam Scott and any other front runner picks to win the 2008 Masters. The real science and intrigue is in picking a dark horse to win it all. Besides, there's no money in favorites. Betting on Secretariat won't get you rich. In keeping with that theme here's this average golfer's inside picks from mid pack.........

Steve Lowery- Not afraid to go low. Question is can he do it for four rounds at Augusta.

Fred Couples- Plenty long. If the back hangs in and the putter's working, who knows?

Bubba Watson- Has all the shots, needs the self control.

Aaron Baddeley- Consistent. Mentally tough. Could be there on Sunday.

Sergio- Nope, he's not a favorite. As the putter turns, especially here.

Paul Casey- Strong player, should have more success than he's shown.

Steve Stricker- Sneaky long. Helpful if track is wet. Would have to play to his ranking.

Hunter Mahan- Coming into his own. Played great so far this year.

Nick O'Hern- Needs a dry golf course. Not very long, otherwise great player.

Stephen Ames- Match play vs Tiger aside, plays well in big events. Won the Players Championship.

Woody Austin- Underrated. If he can avoid any blow up holes, he could contend. Another not afraid to shoot for pins.

Mark Calcavecchia- Great competitor. Tons of experience and a great game overall.

Stewart Cink- Possible. Plenty of length. Needs a hot putter. (like everyone here)

Lee Westwood- Newly sculpted physique. Excellent game. What else is there?

J.B. Holmes- Stared down Phil this year. All kinds of length. Nerves and putting.

K.J. Choi- Not really a dark horse. Loves the course. Very steady, especially the putter.

If anyone's in enough of a sporting mood to reach for their wallet, here's a link to Ladbrokes, the British betting house, with current player odds.

Tomorrow I'll have the 2008 Masters winner for you.

Til' next,

*Correction from yesterday's post. Camilo Villegas IS entered in this year's tournament. And no, he won't win.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Masters........Best or Worst Major Championship?

Now it's beginning to feel like golf. Half of the snow is gone in my yard and darned if it didn't hit the fifty degree mark today. We'll be playing here in another month or two. All's well. Oh, did I mention, it's Masters week?

Here's the pitch for the Masters being the best major. It's the first one of the year and reignites the golf fires after a cold hiatus. It has tradition coming out the ying-yang. The course is spectacularly beautiful. The flowers, the conditions, the ponds and bridges. The wickedly fast, perfect greens. The lack of knee deep rough that doesn't penalize a player for being two feet off the fairway. Watching the Masters is almost like when Dorothy lands on Oz in her battered house, opens the door and the movie switches from black and white to color. The first time I watched the movie I thought I was having a flash back. The broadcast is even wonderful. The lack of commercials, the music, the lack of Johnny Miller. The history of the place. Bobby Jones, Hogan, Arnie, Nicklaus, Sarazen, Martha Burke. The stories and remembrances of individual great shots is unparalleled. The fact that it's held in the same spot for all those years creates a tradition that's unmatched. I do love the Masters for all those reasons and more. It's the emerald jewel in the Major's crown. Period.

Here's why it's the worst golf tournament of the four majors. The field stinks. 94 men will tee it up on Thursday morning. The 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines will field 156. The 2008 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale starts 156. The PGA Championship at Oakland Hills will be about the same. The Players Championship has the largest purse, $9,000,000.00 in 2007. About fifty percent more world class golfers will populate the fields of the other majors.

Out of the 94 players in the Masters field, let's do some searching. Former winners can conceivably play in it for life. Rumor has it that when he retired from playing in the Masters, it was a back room conversation that got Arnie to hang up the spikes. This year we have playing as former champions, Gary Player, Larry Mize, Craig Stadler, Raymond Floyd, Ben Crenshaw, and Fuzzy Zoeller. Does any average golfer think they have a chance? Trip Kuehne and Drew Weaver qualified as amateurs. I think that's a nice tradition as well, but do they have a snowball's chance? Colt Knost passed on his amateur exemption to join the Tour. Think he'd like that call back? Notables not qualified this year.....Carl Pettersson, 61st in the world, Kenny Perry, Camilo Villegas, Rod Pampling, 57th in the world, Lucas Glover, Pat Perez, 60 th in the world, Davis Love III, injury riddled for last year, Colin Montgomerie. Now, would you trade the eight players that are playing with the eight I mentioned that aren't? Thought so.

The Masters is unique. It's the only major that's an invitational field. That and too many other things to mention make it what it is. Watch it for what it is, a beautiful, beloved spectacle. Watch the others to see the best golfers.

Til' next,

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Lorena Ochoa es Fantastico !! Seizes Kraft Nabisco.

Starting the day with a one stroke lead, Lorena Ochoa birdied her first two holes to say to the field, "Not today". She had the only bogey free round and captured her 2nd career major by winning the 2008 Kraft Nabisco Championship. Her five under 67 left her at 277 for the championship, five strokes clear of Annika Sorenstam and Suzann Petersen. The only race was for 2nd place on down. Bowing to tradition, Ochoa leaped into Poppy's Pond setting a new world women's long jump record in the process. That tradition was started 20 years ago by Amy Alcott, winner of three Kraft Nabiscos, formerly Dinah Shores. Alcott touchingly made this her last Kraft Nabisco.

I wish there was more to say, but it legitimately was all Ochoa. This marks her third win in four starts in 2008. She's money. She's so far ahead of the field it's difficult finding a contender. Perhaps Annika, who was terribly ill in the third round, but rallied with a closing 68 today. Nevertheless, had they started today even, Ochoa would have bested her with her 67. Neither defending champion Morgan Pressel, nor any other American threatened to finish in the top ten. If she keeps this up Tiger will be calling her for advice.


Johnson Wagner punched his own ticket to the Masters by holding off Chad Campbell and Geoff Ogilvy for a two shot victory in the Shell Houston Open. His 71 today left him at -16 for the week. In what appears to be a Masters tune up, Fred Couples carded a velvety 66 to finish three back. Billy Mayfair tied Couples finish with a 66 of his own. Being Shell's tournament, Wagner was given the choice between his share of the 5.6 million dollar purse or 100 barrels of crude. He wisely took the oil.

Next week is Masters week. Stay with this average golfer for a look at the Masters you won't find anywhere else.

Til' next,

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Ochoa Has Finish Line in Sight at Kraft Nabisco Championship

Though not at her best, Lorena Ochoa leads the 2008 Kraft Nabisco Championship heading into the final round. Her one under 71 today was enough for a one shot lead over Hee-Won Han. Hee-Wan's two under 70 left her a stroke ahead the trifecta of Maria Hjorth, Seon Hwa Lee, and the only American with a chance, Cristie Kerr. Kerr penciled a spectacular 66 today to lift herself back in contention. Ochoa again inexplicably missed a number of putts inside of ten feet and sprayed a few drives. Thanks to that, it's a filly race on Sunday. Annika had a difficult day. She had been sick all night and displayed symptoms during the round. She laid down in the shade when possible, and was bending over in extreme discomfort. Still, she's at -2 for the tournament and has a chance. She displayed the kind of guts and fortitude that makes her the champion she is. Do you think John Daly would have finished under those circumstances? Heck, he's DQ or WD when he's feeling great.
I can't wait to see the finale tomorrow.


Yawn. Johnson Wagner still leads at -15. Chad Campbell, Texas native, -14. Tied for 3rd, Bob " Blast from the past" Estes and Charley Hoffman at -12. Wake me when it's over. 5 days til' the Masters.

Average golfer observation of the day..... While watching the Kraft Nabisco on ESPN 2, I was more than annoyed by the sports scores crawler on the bottom of the screen and the tournament leaders complete with distracting stat info dominating the top of the screen. I found it beyond aggravating. Then I said to myself, "Self, isn't ESPN going to be covering the first two rounds of the Masters?" Yup, that and the virgin coverage of the par three contest on Wednesday.
If I have to suffer through that garbage on my screen for the Masters I'm going to drive to Bristol, CT, find the person(s) responsible and threaten them within an inch of their life. Unless of course they're bigger than me.

Til' next,

Friday, April 4, 2008

Ochoa, Young Lead at Tightly Bunched Kraft Nabisco.

It's anyone's tournament to be had at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Lorena Ochoa shares the lead after a 2nd round 71 to stand at -5 overall. Tied with her is Heather Young, -2 today, -5 overall. Ochoa's putter was a little wobbly, especially on the front nine where she missed crucial putts inside of ten feet. Still, it's a testament to her whole game to have an off day putting and still be under par. Ochoa's strength is off the tee. She was routinely out driving Morgan Pressel by thirty yards. That's a two club advantage for the next shot. If you're wondering where the little squirt gets her power watch her backswing. At the top she's waaaaaaay past parallel, ala Daly. Coming down she has the fastest hip rotation by far, perhaps on any tour. That's how at 5'6", weighing about a hundred and nuthin', you can hit a golf ball 290 yds.

Heather Young survived a glitch on the back nine, consecutive bogey, double bogey, to scratch out a tie for the lead with Ochoa. Maria Hjorth, (go ahead, you pronounce it), and Mi Hyun Kim, (one of 19 Kim sisters on tour), were tied for second at -4. Hee Won Han, Annika, and first round leader Karen Stupples were tied at -3 for the tourney. Give Stupples credit. At one point in her round she was back to even par. The wheels had left the wagon. She climbed back in though and is still in position to win the thing.

Truth is anyone can win this thing. That's why it's the "must see" golf telecast of the week. Stay tuned.


Ho Hum. Johnson Wagner still leads, -12. Matt Goggin and Charley Hoffman are in 2nd, -9. Adam Scott doesn't lead any more. Phil, T11. Davis Love III, T25. Feel bad for Davis. He'll miss the Masters and break his consecutive majors string. John Daly, WD, as predicted yesterday. Returned his empties for plane ticket home.

Til' next,

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Stupples Leads, Ochoa 1 Back at Kraft Nabisco - Scott, Wagner Tied at Shell Houston Open

Brit Karen Stupples, -5, 67, leads the Kraft Nabisco Championship after Round #1 today. Who else but Lorena Ochoa lurks at one behind along with Ai Miyazato. There's a two way tie for 3rd between Heather Young and Natalie Gulbis. Mission Hills Country Club is the long time location for the event.

This is the first major championship of the year for the ladies and carries it's own special tradition. The winner ceremoniously leaps into the pond at the 18th hole to culminate her victory. I'd like to see something similar on the P.G.A. Tour. Won't hold my breath though. I reckon Woody Austin is as close as we'll get.

Notables finishing include Annika, Morgan Pressel, and Paula Creamer all in at -1. I have no favorites here, but in the interest of a riveting telecast, let's hope Lorena doesn't win by ten strokes.


Adam Scott and Johnson Wagner lead the Shell Houston Open with a pair of spectacular 63s or nine under par. The closest pursuers are Steve Stricker at -6 and a foursome at -5 to include Briny "The Hat" Baird, Steve Elkington, Geoff Ogilvy, and Dean Wilson. All four have played well of late with Ogilvy winning at Doral.

The players think of this event as a Masters tune up. Tournament officials have gone out of their way to mimic the set up at Augusta National. 1st cut only for the rough and bikini waxed greens have attracted a number of players specifically for that reason. The suits at Augusta National can't fire me for the comment, unlike Gary McCord.

Luminaries' scores include Phil Mickelson at even par and Jose Maria Olazabal at -3. I gotta figure Phil's a little ticked with his round since he's definitely using this as a Masters prelude. Olazabal's score is noteworthy because he's coming off a long hiatus due to rheumatism. He loves Augusta National and should always be considered a contender there.

Is it just me, or should the winner's share in a tournament sponsored by an oil company be a bazillion dollars?

Average Golfer's proof that the end of the world is upon us. John Daly's 78, T133, 15 shots out of the lead. And people are still offering him exemptions. What are the odds for tomorrow on a JD WD?

Til' next,

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ochoa Wins Kraft Nabisco Championship, Field Withdraws En Masse.

Citing the futility involved in beating Lorena Ochoa in a four day event, the remaining 110 players qualified for the 2008 Kraft Nabisco Championship withdrew after a closed ballot vote. The vote was 109-1, with the dissenter being a long time Kraft endorser. The unnamed Kraft golfer had offered to play Ochoa heads up if she agreed to giving her two strokes per side. Another prominent player said she'd come to the conclusion that Ochoa was just too darned good and playing with her was no fun at all. After getting wind of the offer, L.P.G.A. officials acted swiftly to squash any tournament outside of their rules. One L.P.G.A. official was suspended for placing a sizable wager on Ochoa after hearing of the two stroke offer. Ochoa then offered, in an effort to save the event, to play a match against herself. By playing two balls simultaneously, marked Ball A and Ball B, she could keep separate scores and a winner could be determined.

Tournament officials face more than one conundrum with this unprecedented news. First, where to put the nearly 25,000 spectators that showed up for the event. Acting swiftly, the front nine at Mission Hills Country Club was turned into a tent city. The only concern was for the lack of porta potties. The back nine has been reserved for players wishing to practice for upcoming events they won't be playing in. Second, was the problem of what to do with the tons of Kraft Nabisco products shipped in for the event. There was over two tons of Ritz crackers and Velveeta alone. Fortunately, with a shelf life of 10-12 years, there's plenty of time to solve the dilemma. At the trophy ceremony Ochoa was her usual gracious self. She credited her parents, the immigrant course workers, and the 110 other players who made this victory possible. She said she's looking forward to the rest of the season and what a relief it will be to not have to lug her clubs through airports.

The remaining players clamored for Ochoa's schedule to find tournaments they could play in. That of course ruled out the majors and any other prominent tournament. The dates in Buzzard's Breath, Wyoming, and Puking Mule, Texas are getting the most interest.

So, there you have it. Unprecedented in golf history. A full field withdrawal.


Til' next,