19 year old Inbee Park, who began golfing two days after watching Se Ri Pak win the 1998 U.S. Women's Open, got one of her own ten years later. Her cool, smooth, -2, 71 was more than enough to fend off what started the day as a tightly bunched field. Helen Alfredsson finished in solo second, four strokes back. It was a great tournament for her other than the lack of a dependable putter. In a three way tie for 3rd were American Stacy Lewis, 75 today, -4 overall. She was tied with In-Kyung Kim and sweet swinging Angela Park. Nicole Castrale with an excellent -2 today, one of the few under par rounds other than Inbee's, snuck into a tie with Paula Creamer, Mi Hyun Kim, and Giulia Sergas.
Today's final pairing, Creamer and Lewis each got off to inauspicious starts. Both double bogeyed the 2nd hole. Creamer doubled the 9th. They finished the front nine in 41, and 40 respectively. Inbee birdied her 1st two holes and made the turn in 35. Thus, the field moved backward and the leader moved forward. The back nine was essentially an Inbee coronation.
Park became the youngest winner in the history of the U.S. Women's Open. She proved again that golf is a world sport, no longer dominated by the US and Europe. The field is wide open and I sense we'll be seeing more newly minted stars in women's golf. Right now they're at the colleges, golf academies, and high schools all over the world. Exciting times!
Average Golfer Open observations.....
1. Putting still wins golf tournaments. Anywhere, anytime.
2. Annika Sorenstam's 18th hole eagle, a 199 yard six iron, was karma and a fitting end to her Open career. Coolest shot of the tourney. No 2nd place.
3. Watch out for Maria Jose Uribe. The Colombian was low amateur and under par as well, finishing at -2.
4. Michelle Wie has a looong way to go, but still is a great ball striker. She's the closest thing to a male pro out there in terms of how she hits the ball.
5. Pressure identifies champions. It was a wide open tournament when they teed off this morning. Inbee Park handled the pressure of a major championship better than the rest, hence she won.
6. Don't worry too much about Lorena. She's had a ton of personal burdens in the last few weeks and it must have been impossible to focus. She's still the world #1, by a long shot.
7. Other than an bit of an anti-climactic back nine, anyone that didn't enjoy this event isn't a real golf fan.
8. Stay tuned. The Annika farewell tour continues and the Women's British Open isn't far away.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Saturday, June 28, 2008
The pressure of a first pro golf tournament wasn't enough for Stacy Lewis. She chose to make it the U.S. Women's Open. The rookie of rookies had a -6, six under par today to claim a one stroke lead over Paula Creamer heading into the final round. Lewis needed just 23 putts in her round which is truly remarkable on an Open set up. The Arkansas All-American played like a seasoned vet which is understandable based on what she's been through. Playing major championship golf is a piece of cake. Stacy plays with a metal rod placed in her back to correct what was debilitating scoliosis. The surgery actually made her 1 1/2 inches taller! She spent eight weeks in bed post surgery and has endured excruciating pain. There's a great possibility that her practice time and number of events played on the L.P.G.A. tour will be curtailed due to her condition.
Creamer's had a championship type tournament so far, playing with consistency and aggressiveness when allowed. She missed two makeable putts on 17 and 18 today that could have made her the day three leader. Still, she's exuding the confidence of a veteran that will be fun to watch unfold with the rookie Lewis in the final pairing tomorrow. Helen Alfredsson's more than holding her own with the bevy of young stars. Her -2 today placed her tied with Inbee Park in third place, both only two strokes out of the lead. A pair of Kims were next. In-Young at -6, and too cute Mi Hyun at -5. Amateur Maria Jose Uribe lost position with her -1, ending in a tie with Angela Park at -4. Jeong Jang back pedaled as well with a one over 74 to leave her tied with three other players at -3, six shots back.
Cristie Kerr and Annika Sorenstam were at -2, both in need of a career round tomorrow and some help from the leaders. Seven strokes is too much ground to recover over that many players in front of you. Morgan Pressel's at +1. Average Golfer's pick to win, Suzann Peterssen is at +2. Average Golfer should stick to picking breakfast cereals, no more, no less. And lastly, Lorena Ochoa skidded to +4 for the tournament. Hey, no one wins them all.
Congrats to Michelle Wie for getting up early and playing a meaningless 9th hole to complete her round. I'm not sure she'd have done that as early as a year ago.
Three rounds in the books, still no indication of who's going to take home the silver trophy. It's must see TV tomorrow. Let it rain.
Average Golfer observation........Kudos to NBC for handing over extended coverage to ESPN2. For those of you old enough to remember the NFL "Heidi" game, it's well appreciated. Secondly, whether by design or not, ESPN2 removed the annoying scoring graphics from the top of the screen so I could actually use over half of my TV's viewing area. Now, about that score scroll on the bottom.....
Friday, June 27, 2008
It's gettin' a little cozy atop the leader board at the 2008 U.S. Women's Open. Angela Park's superb six under round early today gave her the lead. Nothing like five birdies and an eagle to jump start your tournament. The pack at -5 includes Minea Blomqvist, Inbee Park, and three players that didn't complete their rounds as of this writing. Defender Cristie Kerr, Helen Alfredsson, and Candie Kung. It sure is nice to see Alfredsson on the board in a meaningful tournament. Paula Creamer, -1 today, was at -4 total, tied with Jeong Jang. Five more players were tied at -3 and six more were linked at -2, some done for the day, some not. Storms rolled in during the afternoon session pushing play backwards for about 2 1/2 hours. Players like Park, in the morning rounds, had more benign conditions to deal with.
Some notables.......First round co-leader Pat Hurst shot 78 to drop her to -1 total. Annika's also at -1 after a three under 70 today. Lorena Ochoa's at +1 total and still had two holes to finish. Morgan Pressel and Suzann Peterssen were at +2. Karrie Webb was +5. Thirteen year old Alexis Thompson is at +6 after a 77 today. Julie Inkster, after a respectable 74 on day #1, plummeted with an 81 today to wipe out her chances. And lastly, Michelle Wie was +1 after 14 holes today, leaving her at +9 overall. It looks like she's salvaging a decent round after yesterday's debacle. Good for her. Builds character to continue to fight through adversity.
They say Saturday's moving day in a golf tournament. We should see a ton of moving tomorrow with so many players so evenly positioned. There's really no clue as to how this will play out. And that folks, is the fun of it!
*Average Golfer observation. It would be nice if the networks had allotted more air time for arguably the biggest women's golf event of the year. Granted they couldn't forecast a delay in play, but 6 and 7 PM, EST sign- offs doesn't leave room for much golf with premiere players in both early and later rounds. Besides, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune are on other channels. I'd like to see the weekend coverage expand an hour as well.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Oh, what a round! Ji Young Oh was tied with American veteran Pat Hurst after the 1st day of the Women's U.S. Open. Both shot 6 under 67s at the par 73 Interlachen Country Club. The course was rather forgiving for an Open set up with moist greens and no real wind to speak of. Song-Hee Kim had sole possession of 2nd place and was the 1st Kim. Seven of the eleven Kims on the tour are playing this week. At -4 were Colombian amateur and U.C.L.A. sophomore Maria Jose Uribe and Louise Friberg. Six players were tied at -3 including Paula Creamer and Laura Davies. Davies had a great round and was quoted as saying this tournament is probably her last best shot at a major championship. She's just two points shy of being in the Hall of Fame and a win here would clinch it for her.
Some big names finished down the board and as we say in Average Golferland, "They have a lot of wood to cut." Defending champ, Cristie Kerr, sits at -1, which is well within reach of the leaders. Lorena Ochoa carded an even par 73. Julie Inskster and Morgan Pressel came in at +1. Karrie Webb and Annika Sorenstam are at +2, both tied with 13 year old amateur Alexis Thompson. One of the pre-tourney favorites and Average Golfer's pick to win, Suzann Pettersen, finished with a disappointing +4, 77. Lastly, Michelle Wie stumbled to an 81 including a round killing quintuple bogey 9 on the par 4 ninth hole. Even had she parred the hole though, she'd still be nine shots behind. Wish her the best and a good comeback round tomorrow. Perhaps not to make the cut, but at least a confidence builder.
The scoring conditions tomorrow may determine the fates of a lot of big names. They can't afford to have too much of a gap between them and the front runners if they make the weekend. With today's low numbers I'd expect the U.S.G.A. may counter with what they can control. Namely pin positions and green speeds. They don't really enjoy seeing 6 unders turned in at their premiere tournament.
Should be fun! Back tomorrow.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Interlachen Country Club in Edina, MN hosts this year's U.S. Women's Open. Cristie Kerr defends. Interlachen is an old history laden course having been the site of Bobby Jones' 1930 U.S. Open victory as well as the site of the 2002 Solheim Cup. It will play to 6,789 yards, rather long in women's golf. It's a par 73 with five par fives, four considered reachable. That in itself should make for good action and movement of the field. Fairways will be 25-28 yards wide. That coupled with a generous amount of surrounding trees will allow this event to play out in true U.S. Open fashion. Length, but with necessary accuracy, will identify a true champion. And of course the most important requirement, putting, will decide the last woman standing on Sunday. Or Monday, as we've seen lately.
Here's the top players as established by Ladbrokes, our constant assistant here at Average Golfer. As usual, AG will add a little useful commentary to shake out the field. Here we go........
Lorena Ochoa, 7/4 ..... What's to say? She's long, accurate, and the world #1. Putter gets a little dicey from time to time, especially on short ones. Should win.
Annika Sorenstam, 9/1 ..... Swan song. If she wins it'll be her 4th Open, tying her all-time for the most. She'll be down the middle. Needs to hit her approaches closer than of late and putter better get back to the old Annika. Can win.
Suzann Petersen, 16/1 ..... Gave it away last week. Solid bounce back ability though. Long enough for the course. Excellent chance.
Jeong Jang, 20/1 ..... Solid all-around. Doesn't panic. Two 2nds, two 3rds, in her last six. Could win.
Ji-Yai Shin, 20/1 ..... Plays on the Korean LPGA tour. Finished 6th last year in the U.S. Open. Could make a splash.
Paula Creamer, 20/1 ..... Length off tee might hurt some. Great iron player, maybe the best out here. If she stays out of trouble, who knows? Has a winner's attitude.
Cristie Kerr, 25/1 ..... Never count her out. Dogged determination. As defender I like her with these odds. Hangs in the top ten almost every time she plays.
Karrie Webb, 25/1 ..... Always a threat, especially in the big ones. Another great iron player. Needs a hot putter. Could win.
Yani Tseng, 25/1 ..... Won a major this year, McDonald's L.P.G.A. Championship. Ice water in her veins. I like her here a lot. Could win.
Hee-Won Han, 40/1 ..... Coming off a 3rd at Wegman's last week. 6th at Kraft Nabisco. Long shot.
Morgan Pressel, 40/1 ..... Won't lose for lack of effort or emotion. Seriously, too short off the tee to contend.
Seon Hwa Lee, 40/1 ..... Won the Ginn Tribute earlier this month. Undervalued at 40/1. Has a good shot this week.
Julie Inkster, 50/1 ..... Always surprises. Gritty. I'd love to see her win. Hasn't played much recently. Don't count her out though. Slim chance.
Jee Young Lee, 50/1 ..... Long hitter. That will help. 2nd at Safeway. Missed the cut last week. Don't really have an opinion about her chances.
Maria Hjorth, 50/1 ..... Surprised at the long odds. Has the power for the course. 2nd at McDonald's, so can play on the big stage. I like her as a sleeper pick. Could win.
Mi Hyun Kim, 50/1 ..... 1st Kim on the board. Recent 3rd at L.P.G.A. Corning Classic. Only 239 yds. off the tee will hurt here. Tremendous putter. Long shot due to length.
There's 156 women teeing off on Thursday. Unfortunately I can't highlight them all. Suprises from the field are a foregone conclusion.
AG's long shots to watch for.........
Michelle Wie ..... Got here the right way. 36 holes of qualifying. Starting to show signs of the player she was two years ago. Hey, you never know.
Brittany Lincicome ..... Huge game. It's just disappeared a little lately. OK, a lot.
Nicole Castrale ..... I expected her higher on the tote board. I think you're going to hear her name a lot in the future.
Angela Stanford ..... May just surprise a lot of folks. Has big time experience.
Birdie Kim ..... Has a U.S. Open under her belt. That proves she can do it. Never count out a previous winner, unless it's the Masters.
AG personal favorite.........Laura Davies, 59 consecutive majors, longest active streak. Still hits it a long way. Let's hope they're straight this week.
With all that out of the way, Average Golfer's pick to win the 2008 U.S. Women's Open is Suzann Pettersen. Girl's got all kinds of game. I think blowing the win last week has her seriously mad. She'll channel the anger into a solid major victory this week.
Enjoy what should be a can't miss golf weekend! ESPN covers the 1st two days, NBC picks up for the weekend.
*Keep a eye on 13 year old Alexis Thompson. This is her 2nd US Open! (Little twerp). She qualified last year as a 12 year old. That's enough for me to put my clubs on E Bay. Alexis say she's grown five inches since last year and is hitting it much longer. I'll bet she is!
Sunday, June 22, 2008
On a regular basis I peruse the site monitoring features I have set up for Average Golfer. Many people that find my site are looking for amateur golfer averages, be it score, handicap, club distances and the like. I compiled and averaged some information from a lot of different sources to boil it down into something useful. Everyone wants to know how their stats compare to the "norm". Keep in mind there is no norm, especially in regard to how far you hit a particular club. The only thing that matters is that YOU know far YOU hit each club. I'll take a hole in one with a 6 iron over a playing partner's errant 9 iron any day. There's too many variables that can't be accounted for between individuals. Age, height, weight, athletic ability, how long you've been playing, all make up your swing and affinity for the game, and as a result, your scores. It's almost worthless to compare your game to anyone's. The shape of your game is determined by how well you score and what course you're playing. It really is you against the course and it's condition when you played it. Nevertheless, here's some "rough" numbers because so many of you have been asking.
The average handicap for men and women is coincidentally 15.2 for both.**(Please see comments for a correction to this statistic). Weird irony I suppose. The average score for all amateur golfers is over 100. Why the difference? People that maintain a legitimate handicap are much more avid golfers, hence they play more and are more successful at the game. Keep in mind that your handicap is not an indicator of what you usually score. It's an indication of what you're CAPABLE of scoring. Think of it as what you may score on one of your better days.
Average distances for amateur golfers that maintain handicaps.........
Average driver distance, men......200-260 yards.
Average driver distance, women......150-200 yards.
Average 6 iron, men......130-160 yards.
Average 6-iron, women......70-130 yards.
Average pitching wedge, men......80-120 yards.
Average pitching wedge, women......50-80 yards.
I know everyone plays with or knows someone that doesn't fall into these numbers. They're averages, properly measured and reported. When asked on the tee box how far our drive went, most of us overestimate by 20-40 yards. Yes, it's true!
Some useful playing stats....................
A scratch golfer hits an average of 12 greens in regulation, 81% of the fairways, has 29.0 putts, 3.2 birdies per round and 11.8 pars per round.
A golfer that averages a score of 85 hits 5 greens in regulation, 46% of fairways, has 33.7 total putts, 0.8 birdies per round, and 6.6 pars.
A golfer that averages a score of 100 hits 0 greens in regulation, 11% of fairways, has 38.3 putts, 0 birdies, and 1.3 pars.
So the biggest differences are greens in regulation, fairways and putts. In other words, everything! The easiest shots to shave off your score are found in the short game. Chipping, pitching, and putting don't require tremendous swing speed or physical ability. Plus, they can be practiced in your back yard or living room. Having a reliable tee shot that lands in the fairway is important as well. Finding the short grass off the tee is much more important than distance, especially for high handicappers.
I hope this satisfies the average golfer's need for numbers. Hit the range or the course and improve yours!
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Do you think Tim Finchem is saying quietly to himself, "He played with what?". Yup, the franchise played 91 holes at full speed and walked 21 miles with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a double stress fracture of the tibia. Is that considered brave? Nope, it means he has a high tolerance for pain. With that threshold, might as well finish the year. Why stop now? Have the surgery after the Fedex Cup.
There's no question Mr. Woods ignored the good advice of some of the top doctors in their field. I'll bet that his doctors are so good they have to treat themselves. There's none better. If Woods was an NFL quarterback the diagnosis would have shut him down for the year. Because the team would care for his well being? No, to protect the franchise. Because he has another 10 to 12 years or more to rack up major trophies. If Woods was a superstar in a team sport he'd have been shelved and operated on last summer when he tore the ACL. And no, they wouldn't have asked his opinion. Which begs the question, why didn't he have the ACL fixed right after last years Fedex Cup? He might have rehabbed and made the US Open. Golf's an individual sport and he owes us no answers. He can play or not play whenever he chooses. Still, the timing of all this fails to make sense.
It can't be about money. Even if Tiger pulled a Daly and started getting his mail at a Vegas casino, money wouldn't be an issue. No, its about ego. A large ego is somewhat necessary to achieve unknown heights in a solitary sport. Big ego convinces you that you can defy the laws of physics and biology by willing them away. Don't confuse self confidence with ego though. Too much ego is what allows us to make short term decisions that are in our interests alone. My guess is that Woods wanted to play in this year's Masters and that mind set carried over to the US Open in a ridiculous manner. Watching all of this unfold is like when I was a kid and watched Evel Knievel jump 20 school buses or some other death defying stunt. Were they great achievements? Well, yes, they were Herculean. Was it a dumb thing to do? Well, of course. Tiger just jumped 20 school buses. Fun to watch. Really dumb thing to do.
Can't you just see Tim Finchem at the operating room door saying, "Are you sure you went to the Duke University Medical School?"
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Do you remember the advice that says if you write a scathing letter, or one with a necessary negative tone, that you should avoid mailing it for twenty four hours, read it again, and see how you might rewrite it having slept on your first thoughts? That's the best way to assess what was just a remarkable U.S. Open. Drama everywhere from different sources, on and off the course. I was going to say it was compelling, but I've read the word compelling about four thousand times in the last five days from other scribes interpreting what happened at Torrey Pines. Many think I'm not capable of original thoughts, and perhaps they're right. I'll try regardless.
1. If Tiger Woods was truly going against the advice of his medical team and was seriously endangering the long term health of his knee, then he's a moron. Tiger Woods is no moron. Let's assume he has the best medical team possible. That's not much of a stretch. Phil Knight himself would change the bandages. I can't believe he'd trade one major title for a shot at many more major titles. The only plausible explanation, if his knee was that bad, is that the crack staff told him he had one, and just one, more tournament left in the knee. If that were the case, he'd suck it up and win his last chance for a major, and then retire. Last I checked he hasn't pulled an Annika. I think it hurt like hell, but the chances of creating more or permanent damage were small. Tiger's too smart to jeopardize what should be another 10-12 years on tour. I think the vague answers to the questions regarding the knee was just Tiger being Tiger. He doesn't want anyone to know exactly what condition he's in, especially the competition. He's also a bit of a drama queen. I take nothing from his victory. He was obviously in a great deal of pain and came through when it mattered. Like usual.
2. Rocco stepped up big time. I've nothing but respect and admiration for how he played and how he handled himself. The #158 ranked player on the planet came the closest to bagging a Tiger in a major. All I want to know is, where were the other 153 guys? Lee Westwood notwithstanding. Lee played great and just missed creating a three way playoff. I mean the BIG names. Els, +5, Goosen, +5, Garcia, +6, Mickelson, +6, Adam Scott, +7, Baddeley, +8, Stricker, +8, Furyk, +9, Harrington, +9, Rory, +12, Vijay, +14. Need I go on? Don't tell me the record course length eliminated a lot of the great players. Rocco's not exactly an animal off the tee. I'll tell you why these "great" players can't challenge Woods in most majors. They choke. Flat out choke. Dr. Pressure comes a callin'. They all have the shots that Woods has. Some are longer than him. Some are statistically better putters or have better up and down percentages. They just can't do it as often when the pressure's on. Particularly under the spotlight of a major championship. Nicklaus had Arnie, Watson, Trevino etc. to contend with. He beat them more than they beat him, but pressure wasn't going to be the determining factor with any of them. They won their share of majors. No one today seems capable of stepping up and going toe to toe with Woods. When that 12 footer is there to decide who goes home with a trophy, he makes his, they miss theirs. Period.
3. Television coverage. First, I wish the P.G.A. Tour would only allow one network to cover a tournament. I don't want the first 4 1/2 innings of a ball game to be handled by Fox and the last 4 1/2 covered by ESPN. It's silly. I had another word for it, but can't print it. Speaking of ESPN, they should be banned from covering golf forever. I won't even get into on air personalities, because it's too subjective. One person might love Johnny Miller, another detest him. I mean what I see on my freakin' screen! In the ESPN broadcast half of my screen was blocked by their incessant crawl and ignorant graphics. I've mentioned this before, but I just can't tell you how amateurish and annoying it was. I wrote their ombudsman a while back with this complaint after watching an L.P.G.A. event. I got the formula email in return stating how my complaint was being forwarded to the appropriate individuals. Sure it was. And monkeys fly out of my butt. Nuff' said.
4. I like the 18 hole playoff format. Not just because this one was exciting and close. I've always thought it made sense. After 72 holes it would be a shame to lose the tournament based on one bad shot or an unlucky bounce. Yes, I know this essentially came down to a sudden death playoff. Coincidence. Yes, I know the sportswriters and tournament officials and network television would prefer it get wrapped up on Sunday. For the record, Sunday's prime time 4th round of the U.S. Open beat the NBA finals in total viewership. Does that say more about the popularity of golf or the decline of the NBA?
5. All in all the 2008 U.S. Open was a wonderful spectacle. Great course, great play, and great memories. What else is there?
Monday, June 16, 2008
91 holes, David vs Goliath, and a single stroke separated them after 91 holes. They were deadlocked after the 18 hole playoff, so it took a 19th playoff hole to decide what has to have been one of the most compelling major tournaments in quite some time. Tiger Woods parred the 7th hole, the 1st sudden death hole, to claim his 14th major championship and 3rd U.S. Open. A more than game Rocco Mediate forced him to use every last ounce of his formidable skill to pull it off. Woods was three strokes up through ten holes of the playoff when Mediate went on a three hole birdie tear of his own. He was one up getting to the 18th hole. Woods' birdie and Mediate's par forced sudden death. It was a little unfortunate that the sudden death playoff began on the 7th hole. It's a longish dogleg right par 4 that doesn't necessarily set up well for Rocco's natural draw. Sure enough, his tee ball was in a fairway bunker left. Woods hit the fairway and had an easy approach shot. Two putts later, after a little more Rocco trouble, Woods had a par and the trophy.
24,000+ fans showed up for the playoff. Woods' knee didn't appear to be much of a factor in today's round. He did mention in the post round interview though that he'd be taking some extended time off. Rocco gained a legion of fans for the quality of his play and his wonderful personality and attitude. Finally healthy after quite some time, he hung with and pressured the world's best over five days. Not many people can say that. I'm a Rocco fan now. How could you not be?
Sunday, June 15, 2008
At high noon tomorrow, Eastern Standard time, the unlikeliest of duos will play 18 holes of golf for the 2008 U.S. Open championship. Rocco Mediate, 156th in the world rankings will tee it up mano y mano against Tiger Woods, world #1. Rocco's 71 made up the two stroke deficit he started the day with. Wood's 73, with a need birdie on the 18th, left him alone tied with Mediate.
Rocco's steady play, hitting fairways and greens, elevated him to the high echelon of golf for the last four days. Wood's erratic play, especially off the tee, has been countered with spectacular short game and white hot putter when he needs it. With Rocco in the clubhouse with a one stroke lead, Woods and Lee Westwood were tied for 2nd, a single stroke back, both needing birdie on the easiest hole on the golf course. Both hit their drive into fairway bunkers. Both laid up, Woods in the 1st cut of rough, Westwood in the fairway. Both hit the green with their 3rd shots. Westwood missed a downhill slider to get into a playoff, Woods drained his to play tomorrow.
A study in contrast awaits. We all know Woods. We'll all think Rocco's part of the family when this is settled. Superstar vs 45 year old tour grinder. Long hitter vs short hitter. Mr. Serious vs Mr. Affable. The knee that's been talked about so much didn't seem to be as much of a factor other than the first two holes when Woods started double bogey, bogey. Rocco seems in fine shape having evidently licked the chronic back problems that have dogged him for a good share of his career.
Other than Westwood, no one really challenged Woods or Mediate all day long. Some got within three or four shots of the leaders and then hit a wall that prevented them from contending. Tomorrow's round begins at 12:00 PM EST on ESPN, then switches to NBC at 2:00 PM. This has been one of the best U.S. Opens ever. Great tough, but fair golf course. Compelling action and lead changes. Couldn't ask for anything more. May the best man win.
Average Golfer observation..........Rocco Mediate has a career playoff record of 2-0.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
A "see it to believe it" back nine gave Tiger Woods a one stroke lead over Lee Westwood at the 2008 U.S. Open. Woods stands at -3 with Westwood one back. Rocco Mediate was the only other player under par at -1. At +1 were D.J. Trahan and Geoff Ogilvy. Five players were tied at +2.
Woods was languishing on the front , but jump started his round with an eagle on 13. A 65 foot bomb brought his round back from the dead even without finding many fairways. On 17 he popped a chip shot from green side rough that one-hopped into the hole for birdie. The smirk on his face told everyone the shot was pure luck. Still, a bird's a bird. 18 was a surreal hole from the get go. With obvious pain from his recently repaired knee he found the fairway with a huge cut shot, ostensibly to be easier on the knee. His second on the par 54 was the same shot with a five wood. He found the green with it and of course drained a lengthy snake that broke about four feet. Four thousand people in the stands roared and set the stage for tomorrow's finale.
Woods and Westwood play last tomorrow. Anybody within five shots probably has a chance, especially with an injured Woods. He admitted in a post round interview that the pain was increasing every day he played with it. I'm sure he was headed straight to an ice machine.
Phil Mickelson shot himself in the foot on 13 when he carded a nine. He kind of tin cupped it from about 65 yards and that effectively ended his tournament. Rocco's a story. From tee to green he been better than anyone, even being a short hitter. Just goes to show that with a U.S. Open course set up, staying out of the deep stuff is paramount. Average Golfer would love to see Rocco do well. He's one of the nicest guys out there. Westwood was very steady and will be tough to beat. Ogilvy's won this before so nerves won't be a problem and he's got a great game. Can't wait for it to start.
Full Scoreboard here.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Round 1 of the U.S. Open frequently leaves some relative unknowns in the lead. No different this year. Justin Hicks and Kevin Streelman each had 3 under 68s to share a one stroke lead over Stuart Appleby, Eric Axley, Rocco Mediate, and Geoff Ogilvy. Streelman made some noise earlier this year at the Buick Invitational when he was paired with Tiger Woods. The best info I could get on Hicks is that he finished 80th on the Nationwide Tour money list last year. Congrats to both leaders. It'll be fun to see how they handle the second round.
Dream pairing Woods, Mickelson, Scott was rather mundane. Mickelson was even par, which was pretty good after a 38 on the front. Woods was +1, 72 after a 38 on the back. Scott finished +2, 73. Woods grimaced after his tee shot on 18, leading us to believe the knee is a bother. That was an Average Golfer prediction and I can't imagine it's going to get any better over the next three days. The same three will play together tomorrow afternoon.
Rounds of note from big names include Ernie Els, -1. Could have been -3 or -4 other than some sloppy play in the end of his round. Lee Westwood, -1. Trying to disprove the "Brits stink here" theory. Luke Donald and Vijay, even par.
Notables that most likely played themselves out of the tournament on day1 include, defending champ Angel Cabrera, +8. He was eight over after his first eight holes. Justin Rose and Paul Casey, +8. Both proving the "Brits stink here" theory. Monty, +7. Oh dear! Henrik Stenson, Padraig Harrington, Ian Poulter, and previous champion Michael Campbell, all at +7.
If the weather stays dry this golf course will continue to get more difficult. I watched many seemingly perfect approach shots land on greens and bound to the back and tumble off. The greens are hard and fast. The back side of greens is not the place to be at this venue. All in all the course is in remarkable condition. Not many players were complaining. The most commonly heard comment was that it was "tough, but fair". there's a lot of tee box options and I'm anxious to see how the U.S.G.A. deals with them in the coming days.
I've mentioned it before, but now I'm convinced. ESPN should never be allowed to broadcast a golf tournament, any tournament, much less a U.S. Open. Their annoying on- screen graphics reduced the size of my visible screen by 40%. I'd rather watch a test pattern. Listening to Chris Berman as a lead golf announcer at a major is like listening to "Fred Flintstone Sings Pavarotti".
This time tomorrow will reveal the field when the real tournament starts on Saturday. It'll be fun to watch these guys scramble for position. Sometimes the high drama is on Friday.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Sounds like a dumb question. Perhaps it is. Regardless, they still play all 72 holes. Who would have picked Angel Cabrera last year? I didn't, and if you say you did, and you're not from Argentina, you're lying. Angel's mother didn't pick him. Let's search for an Angel this year or wimp out and take a favorite. As is the tradition in Average Golfer we'll post the Ladbrokes odds for the top twenty players and throw in a long shot or two. Here we go........
Tiger Woods, 3/1 ........ Probably would have been 8/5 without the knee injury. I think he's going to have trouble with full shots out of US Open rough due to that knee. He'll be in some rough. His driving accuracy is only 59%. OK on the regular tour, trouble here. He won't win.
Phil Mickelson, 8/1 ........ Hasn't won a major since the disaster at Winged Foot. Wants this badly. Has the length and strength for the course. Played high school matches at Torrey Pines. Can win. Probably the safest bet on the board.
Sergio Garcia, 20/1 ........ Has the game for the course. Long and straight. 294 yds. and 65% of fairways. Magical around the greens. Won The Players to build confidence in big events. Has a great chance to win this if his head stays glued on.
Padraig Harrington, 25/1 ........ Playing well, but not major championship well. Still, a good enough player to always be a threat. Handles pressure well, i.e. last year's Open Championship. Could win, but doubtful.
Geoff Ogilvy, 33/1 ........ Previous winner. Good driver. Hits a lot of greens. Could win. Seems to play up to the importance of the tournament.
Jim Furyk, 33/1 ........ Another previous winner. 72% fairways hit which really helps here. Sneaky long off the tee when needed. As his putter goes, so go his chances. I like him. Average Golfer's pick to win.
Luke Donald, 33/1 ........ Can't win here. The Brits don't hold up to pressure on American soil for some reason, unless it's the Ryder Cup. Course is too long and nasty for Luke.
Vijay Singh, 33/1 ........ Hard to figure Vijay this year. Good finishes, good stats, no wins. Made some swing changes, although it looks the same to me. Strong player, can win.
Adam Scott, 40/1 ........ Broken pinky made him tumble down the odds board. Tough to grip a club with a broken finger, to say nothing of a 100+ mph hack out of 4 inch rough. Not this year for Adam.
Ernie Els, 40/1 ........ What's to say? Ernie's a mess until he shows me otherwise. Can't win. I love Ernie and will point out that he's a two time winner. Seems like a million years ago.
Justin Rose, 40/1 ........ See Luke Donald. I was on the Rose bandwagon early in the year, jumped off and got hit by a bus. 72.00 scoring average won't get it done here.
Retief Goosen, 40/1 ........ Goose is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum. Obviously having won this tournament he's capable. Not the way he's played this year though. Can't win.
Stewart Cink, 40/ ........ Hung tough here earlier this year. Different scenario now. 6 top tens this year. Making lots of money. Can't hang with Phil and Tiger on a Sunday. Can't win.
Trevor Immelman, 40/1 ........ Last man with a shot at a grand slam. Lost to Leonard last week in a playoff. Gorgeous swing and a money putter. Can win.
Justin Leonard, 50/1 ........ Guess the bookmaker's weren't all that impressed with last week's win. Accurate driver, hits a ton of greens. Not probable, but certainly possible.
Mike Weir, 50/1 ........ Resurrected his game after a tough few years. Like Mike, but this is too much acreage for him. Can't win.
Stephen Ames, 50/1 ........ Another guy that rises in big situations. Other than match play with Woods. Solid game, good head. Could win.
Anthony Kim, 66/1, ...... At 66/1 this kid's worth throwing down a few bucks. Kills it off the tee. Great all around skills. Little experience in a pressure cooker like this. Who knows? Could win.
Boo Weekley, 66/1 ........ I'd have expected J.B. Holmes to have shorter odds than Boo. Guess that's why I'm not a professional gambler. "Aw Shucks" attitude may be just right for this event. Has the tools. Could win.
Henrik Stenson, 66/1 ........ Regarded much higher earlier in the season. Underachieved so far. Great player, not his year. Slimmest of chances out of respect for his talent.
Here's 3 Sleeper Picks for the more adventurous of you..........
Angel Cabrera, 80/1 ........ Defending champ 80/1? He's long and strong.
Martin Kaymer, 125/1 ........ Euro sensation just coming into his own.
Pat Perez, 150/1 ........ SoCal native. Has played this course over 250 times. Volatile temper's held him back since day #1. Maybe it's screwed on straight for four days.
If I missed anyone let me know. Tough to cover all 156.
Monday, June 9, 2008
Year in and year out, the most difficult test in golf is upon us. Torrey Pines in La Jolla, CA is the host for the 2008 U.S. Open. Make no mistake though, this isn't even close to being the golf course that hosted the Buick Invitational in January. Longer, harder, faster are the keywords. Today we'll highlight the course, tomorrow the combatants.
7,643 yards, yes, Seven Thousand, Six Hundred, Forty Three yards. Longer than a Fellini flick. You would expect this favors the huge hitters. Perhaps, perhaps not. One thing for sure though, the weak hitters have no chance here. Mike Davis, the U.S.G.A.'s senior director of rules and competitions is responsible for the course set up. It's probably his influence that "softened" the set up for U.S. Open courses lately. Graduated rough will be used again with the 1st cut set at 1 3/4 inches. That's not too tough of a penalty for missing a fairway by a bit. It allows the player to make a solid strike on the ball, but diminishes his ability to produce green holding spin. 1st primary cut, or the "Crap, not there", cut is set at 2 1/2 inches. That's enough rough to make for some serious farming or balloon balls. The "real" rough, or the primary cut will be set at 3 1/2 inches. That's the kind of grass that says, "Get it back in play", no more, no less. Don't be surprised either if the 3 1/2 inches is measured today and by Thursday it's "find it with your foot" long.
All a player has to do to take the rough out of the equation is hit fairways. The 24-33 yard wide fairways. Oh, and be long as well. This baby is 7,643 yards long. Landing in the fairway doesn't mean you hit the fairway. Much drier conditions in June means a hard and fast golf course. Run outs in the rough are just as nasty as airing it there. If they survive all that, the greens are no picnic. Undulating and sloped and dry. It's been reported that they're running in the low 13s on the Stimpmeter for the practice sessions. I would expect that sometime, particularly this weekend, that number will start with a 14. Dry and sunny conditions are in order through the rest of the week. One condition that might favor early round players is that it's fog season in San Diego. Morning fog is a regular occurrence and dampens the course until it's burned off by the sun. Hey, any edge you can get in a U.S. Open.
Holes to Watch
Well, all of them of course, but of note......
#6 Converted par 5. Can play 515 yds. Has the green design to accept 3rd shots, ahving been a par 5. You may see 2nd shot lay ups and up and downs for par.
#9 612 yd. par 5. Only the longest guys, under the right conditions, can reach this monster in two.
#12 505 yd. par four. Tough as a $5.00 steak. ha options though. Their approach shots can be run up. Expect many different strategies here.
#16 225 yd. par 3. Tee boxes can be on either side of this hole giving it distinctive looks. The wind is a large factor on this one.
#18 Great finisher at the discretion of the U.S.G.A. they have the ability to move the tee box up and make it a reachable par five for most of the field. Eagle chances on 18 on Sunday in a U.S. Open? That's must see TV.
So, we've learned that the golfer that wins this has to be long off the tee, but accurate. He has to be strong enough to muscle the ball out of the rough when he misses a fairway. He has to generate spin to hold slick, undulating greens. But most of all, like almost every other golf tournament, he has to have hot putter for four days. Sound like anyone you know? If so, then let me know, because right now I'm clueless on this one.
Tomorrow we'll try to separate the wheat from the chaff and see if we can figure out who has the best chance of winning this dang thing.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Nineteen year old Tour rookie Yani Tseng made her first L.P.G.A. win a huge one as her 18th hole birdie bested Maria Hjorth on the 4th playoff hole at the McDonald's L.P.G.A. Championship. Tseng's 68 in regulation and Hjorth's 71 placed them one shot in front of Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa. This was Annika's farewell to the McDonald's and I'm sure falling one stroke short had to hurt. Truth be told, if Lorena or Annika could have putted on the back nine, they may have been the playoff. Putt after makeable putt missed their marks, with many coming up short. I was surprised to see the top two players in the world fall short on meaningful putts in a major. As wet as it's been at Bulle Rock, the players in the last groups have to contend with the mounds around the holes where earlier players have stepped. It puts the hole on a crown and forces the player to "firm" it in. I know they know that. They just didn't execute.
It was a seesaw battle on the back nine. Hjorth called on the golf gods on 15 when her second shot launched out of a hazard, caromed across the green to just on the fringe, from where she made birdie. She then proceeded to chip in for birdie on 16 which gave her the cushion to bogey 17 by missing a three footer that in hindsight would have won her the tournament. All this while Sorenstam and Ochoa were choking putts that would have rendered the rest of the action moot.
Tseng had nerves of titanium in the playoff. If she was nervous, she hid it well. Her lasered approach from the right rough on 18, the 4th and final playoff, to 5'9", and that was the putt that ended it. It was reminiscent of Se Ri Pak's dart to two feet on the same hole in a playoff two years ago to best Karrie Webb. Yani Tseng has a bright future. Previous to this break out win, the rookie had two seconds this year. She becomes at 19, the 2nd youngest major winner on tour, second to Morgan Pressel at 18.
The young US contingent of Pressel, Gulbis, Creamer, Kerr, and Lang played OK, but none were really in contention on the day that matters. Laura Diaz was in the hunt midway through the back nine and finished in solo 3rd at -10.
Pay attention to the future of women's golf. It's become a world game. New names and faces are, and will continue to be, the new fabric of the game. As it should be.
Average Golfer astute observation of the day....."Trevor Immelman is now the only player left with a shot at the Grand Slam".
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Lorena Ochoa with the lead at the halfway mark of a golf tournament is almost a foregone conclusion. Almost. The rest of the field showed up today at the 2008 McDonald's L.P.G.A. Championship. Jee Young Lee's spectacular 65 put her in front by a single stroke over Maria Hjorth, who had a no less spectacular 65. Annika Sorenstam's 68 put her deadlocked with Ochoa, owner of an even par 72 today. They're tied at -10. There's a four way tie at -8, all within striking distance.
Oppressive heat, touching 100 degrees F, made this a war of attrition as well. Umbrellas were spotted all day in an effort to escape the furnace. That aside, the golf course was for the taking. Immaculate conditions and receptive greens made low scores possible. Expect more of the same tomorrow that will make for a lot of possible movement on the leader board.
Supporting my long held theory that putting wins championships, here's a little fodder. Putts taken through 54 holes, Lee, 81, Hjorth, 84, Sorenstam, 88, Ochoa, 92. Darn if that's not the exact order on the leader board. Dottie Pepper, Golf Channel announcer, smartly pointed out excessive head movement in Ochoa's putting stroke. In slow motion replay you could see her head moving 6 inches or so in the middle of her stroke. Good call Dottie. That's what I like out of my golf announcers. I don't need to know how rainy and windy it was at Carnoustie a million years ago. Faldo.
Sunday should be a great race to the finish. Just the way a major championship should be. Has to be better than Big Brown's, huh?
Friday, June 6, 2008
Watching Lorena Ochoa play in golf tournaments is like watching the movie Groundhog Day. Bill Murray repeats the sequences of his life over and over with perfect precision. His goal, earn the love of Andie MacDowell. Lorena does the same. She wins golf tournaments over and over while earning the respect of golf fans and her peers, even though she's beating the crap out of the latter.
Ochoa's near perfect 65 vaulted her into a one stroke lead over Linsdey Wright, 10 and 9 under par respectively. By near perfect I mean 13 out of 14 fairways hit and 17 of 18 greens in regulation. Day #1 co-leader, Lorie Kane, is alone in 3rd at -8. Annika at -6, defending champ Suzann Pettersen at -5, Karrie Webb at -2 are some of the bigger names that better make a move tomorrow or face playing Sunday for skin money. Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel are too far down the list to consider having a legit shot, especially the way Ochoa's playing. That's the difference in her during this barrage of wins. She flat out doesn't give up her position once she's gained it. Remind you of a certain someone?
Consider that Lorena's made 11 birdies in 36 holes, has no bogeys, and one devilish double bogey to her credit. Can anyone else here do that over the next two days? Need more? She's averaging 272 yds. off the tee on a soggy golf course with almost no roll. The course is wet as a fish. Pettersen averaged 264 yds. and Annika 242. Is it just me or was Annika a lot longer off the tee a couple of years ago?
I'm watching this tomorrow because I have the day off and I'll get to see if the field can make it worth watching on Sunday. Hope so.
Posted by Average Golfer at 7:59 PM
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Seasoned vet Lorie Kane and relative unknown Emily Bastel each fired bogey-free 66s to pace the 2008 McDonald's L.P.G.A. Championship today. Canadian Kane hit 11 fairways, had 12/18 greens in regulation, but needed only 24 putts to secure her 66. Ohioan Bastel, last year's Duramed Futures Tour money winner, hit 14 fairways, nailed 15/18 greens, and required 26 putts to accomplish the same feat as Kane. Different paths, same results. Lindsey Wright took possession of solo 2nd with a 67. Five players were tied at -4 and ten at -3. It's a tightly bunched field after day #1.
A wet golf course forced officials to move many tee boxes forward. With virtually no roll, what you got is what you got. It remains to be seen if the weather cooperates and turns this into an entirely different track by the weekend.
Defending champion Suzann Petersen checked in at -1. Lorena Ochoa stayed at sniffing distance at -3 despite a double bogey. Annika's positioned at -2. At -1 with Pettersen are Paula Creamer and Karrie Webb, both genuine threats to win this. Morgan Pressel came in with a +1, 73 and one of my favorite lady golfers, Laura Davies, registered a +3, 75. I'd love for Laura to make the cut and then make a move. She's still a big hitter, but erratic of late.
The 1st day of a golf tournament is like the 1st turn in a horse race. Positioning, bumping, settling into a pace. If we learn anything tomorrow it may very well be who's not going to win. The tension builds.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Before you write off the week in golf knowing that half of the men's tour is "resting" in anticipation of the US Open, the women are teeing it up for their 2nd major of the year. Ronald is again hosting the McDonald's L.P.G.A. Championship at it's now familiar site at Bulle Rock Country Club in Havre de Grace, MD. Par 72, 6,596 yards. That gives you enough info for Mapquest. If you leave now you'll make the opening tee ball from most areas of the country.
Suzann Pettersen, she of Nordic beauty, returns to defend. All the big names are here. Lorena, Paula, Morgan, Annika, Karrie, and 7 of the 11 Kims. The spotlight will be on Lorena, winner in 6 of the 9 events she's played this year. Those are better than Tiger numbers. She understandably bowed out of Annika's Ginn Tribute last week due to the death of her uncle. Let's hope it doesn't affect her too badly. It may spark her as a memorial to him. Who knows? Ochoa's the only one left with a shot at the Grand Slam. Oops, Trevor Immelman does as well. The others in the field will have to step it up for four days under major pressure to topple Ochoa. That's how dominate she's been. It's hers to lose. Would you take Ochoa against the field? Would you take Ochoa against all the Kims? $300,000.00 to the winner. Televised all four days, June 5th-8th on The Golf Channel. The winner also receives an automatic berth in the ADT Championship and a spiffy trophy.
June's a big month on the links. After the McDonald's is next week's men's US Open followed by the women's 3rd major, the US Women's Open at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, MN. Everywhere you look it's raining majors.
Monday, June 2, 2008
Hogwash you say? Who's the favorite then? Tiger? Home course advantage I'll give you. Two month layoff won't help. Sure, he's Tiger Woods. Still, two weeks before a major he's still not playing 18 holes on his backyard course that looks nothing like Torrey Pines in mid-summer. Four days of walking in microwave heat, combined with some understandable ring rust, I don't see him as a favorite. Contender and possible winner? Of course. Just like everyone else. Well, almost everyone. His last U.S. Open win was six years ago at Bethpage. The Open isn't his favorite major I'd say.
Phil? #2 in the world Phil? He's never won the U.S. Open. He had won at Winged Foot in '06, but gave it back like a fisherman losing his grip on a trophy bass. You'd have to say that Geoff Ogilvy is as much a favorite as Phil, considering he can legally hold an Open trophy. Same as Angel Cabrera. Why wouldn't he be the favorite? He's the last guy to do it. Or Retief Goosen. He's the latest guy to win two Opens, '01, '04. Wouldn't that make him the favorite? Oops, where's Retief been this year? Ernie Els? Multiple Open winner. I guess the fact that Ernie's game's in disarray doesn't make him the favorite. Did I mention he's won two Opens?
Are you a current stats person? Go with who's hot? That would be Kenny Perry. Hot as a pistol. Just coming off a victory on a tough course in Jack's Memorial. Crap, he's not in the Open. He didn't want to go through 36 hole qualifying, so he'll be mowing the lawn and watching the Open like you and me. Sergio's pretty hot. Is he the Open favorite? Well, could be, but never won a major. Until he does I don't see him as a favorite in any of them. Tell him it's the Ryder Cup and he's my prohibitive favorite. Vijay? Contender, not the clear cut favorite. Stewart Cink has more top ten finishes than anyone, (6), in '08. Open Favorite? Nope. Corey Pavin leads in scrambling. Why? Because he has to. Heath Slocumb leads in proximity to the hole, (31' 3"), not the Open favorite. Driving distance is Bubba Watson, no surprise, (312.3 yds.). Unfortunately Bubba's not the Open favorite. Olin Browne leads in driving accuracy, (78.71). I'm not even sure if he's in the Open. (Sorry Mrs. Browne) If so, I wish him all the luck in the world, but he's not the favorite.
Stumped? That should make for a great tournament. However, Average Golfer indeed does have a favorite. If she'd agree to a fake mustache for a few days I'd pick Lorena Ochoa. Go ahead, bet against me. Thought so.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
Only two men have won three Memorial tournaments. Tiger Woods, and now Kenny Perry. Perry's big mistake free round of 69, (280), granted him a two stroke victory over the quad of Jerry Kelly, Justin Rose, Mike Weir, and Matthew Goggin.
Bowling alley greens, dastardly winds, and rough longer than 9th grade math made the final round an arduous test of accuracy and focus. One small slip was all it took to slide down the board. Matt Goggin gained valuable experience in playing near the top of a prestigious golf tournament. He went out in 38 though and effectively heaved his lead. Give him credit though for hanging in and taking some 2nd place money. Weir, Rose, and Kelly all shot 71 today to end up where they started, tied together. None gave Perry a serious challenge, but were close enough for Average Golfer to watch some coverage, (with the sound off). I live near some woods and Ian Baker Finch's voice annoys the wildlife.
Hats off to Perry. His goal this year is to make the Ryder Cup team. This win put him in the 8th spot for selection, which is the last automatic berth now. Curiously, Perry's not playing in the US Open at Torrey Pines. He said his '08 focus was on the vents he plays well in order to make the Cup squad. Perry said that Torrey Pines wasn't one of those venues.
Next week's scheduled event, the Stanford St. Jude Championship, may look like a Nationwide Tour tournament. I can't imagine too many of the big names will play, choosing to practice and rest for the following week's US Open. Darned if I still don't the idea of golfers having to rest. Do Major League Baseball players play for four consecutive days? Yes. Do they then need a week off? Nope.
Get ready in the coming days for Average Golfer's intense 2008 US Open coverage. Something in the air says they'll be lots of story lines.