Monday, September 29, 2008

Your Golf Clubs Are Hurting Your Game.

The Right Sticks, Equipment Myths That Could Wreck Your Golf Game.
By: Tom Wishon, with Tom Grundner

Average Golfer Book Review

Golf can be a frustrating game. Regardless of what level we play at there's too many days when we don't or can't play up to our potential. Most frustrating is consistency. How does anyone feel when they flub a shot they know they can hit, just not often enough? We typically blame it on anything from our state of mind to our ever developing swing. Rarely do we consider that our equipment is ill suited to us and our games. After all, we're playing the latest and greatest driver, irons made out of something that helped put a man on the moon, and a putter that practically holes it on it's own.

Few of us would spend $100.00 on a pair of sneakers without trying them on, probably multiple pairs, but we think nothing of sauntering into a big box sporting goods store and plunking down as much as $1,500.00 or more on a set of golf clubs where fitting to our unique body shapes and types is of paramount importance. The Right Sticks addresses this apparent contradiction in direct terms and down to earth style. Could it be that our expectations for this great game are being throttled by equipment that not only doesn't help us, but most likely hurts our chances at finding golf nirvana? You bet, in spades.

Tom Wishon, author of The Right Sticks has been a leading club designer in the industry for over 33 years. His designs have won tournaments on the PGA Tour, the Champions Tour, and the Ryder Cup. He has over 50 design "firsts" on his enviable resume. Need I say more? That aside, his real gift is making the game more enjoyable to the average golfer, you and me. There's a ton of assumptions that are ingrained in the fabric of golf that we've come to take as gospel. Tell me if you've heard any of these.......

  • Your new driver has a larger sweet spot.
  • You are using stiff shafts, (or any other flex), in your clubs. It says so right on them.
  • The more expensive the club or shaft, the better it will perform.
  • Women's clubs are designed for women.
  • The bigger the head, (or the stranger the shape), the better a driver will perform.
  • My clubs are just like the ones the pros use.
Tom doesn't stop there. He explains and debunks dozens of golf "trusims" and "rumors" in The Right Sticks. It's an easy read, not a scientific journal. Tom has the enviable ability to translate complex principles and ideas and allow average golfers, like you and me, to understand them and how they affect our games. I've been a part time club builder and fitter for 10 years and still found a number of forehead slapping sections in Tom's book. I'm a golfer first and I'm excited about taking what I learned about golf club performance, and especially custom fitting, to the course.

I frequently tell people that are just taking up the game to make their next investment a lesson from a PGA teaching professional. It will go a long way towards enhancing their enjoyment of the game. Too many beginners quit out of frustration with the game's difficulty. Now I'm going to tell them to read The Right Sticks before the lesson and BEFORE buying clubs. Even an excellent pro can't teach you the game if your equipment doesn't fit. Having clubs that fit the "unique you" doesn't guarantee you'll have success in this wonderful game, but having the wrong clubs guarantees you won't. Why paddle upstream?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Villegas Slams the Door on Sergio at THE TOUR Championship.

I guess all it took was his 1st Tour victory to get the Villegas express rolling. Three weeks after winning his first tournament, the BMW Championship, Villegas defeated Sergio Garcia on the first playoff hole to make THE Tour Championship his 2nd consecutive win. Villegas carded a 66 to gain back the five stroke advantage Garcia had when the day's play started. Garcia's missed putt on 18 for a win in regulation set up the playoff on the 233 yd., par three 18th hole. Garcia's tee shot went right rough, his chip didn't make the putting surface and another chip to stay alive missed as well. Villegas calmly two putted fron 45 ft. to seal the victory. He caught Garcia with a birdie on the 17th hole which made it 6 birdies in his last 11 holes. En fuego indeed!

The other two big names in the mix were Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim. Kim played steadily most of the day, but missed a 30 footer for birdie on 18 that would have put him in the playoff. Mickelson's putter eluded him all day as he missed a number of putts inside of 12 feet. His 20 footer on 18 for a share of the playoff missed as well. All four players were in the final two groups making for a topsy- turvy final round and an especially exciting back nine. The FedExCup may have been a foregone conclusion, but this tournament was a gem and a superb way to end the regular season.

Average Golfer finally picked a winner! A win's a win, even if it took until the last hole of the last event. Vijay finished 22nd out of a 30 man field, but finished, period, to lock up the 10 million. Villegas' driving accuracy was 79% in the final round. That went a long way in helping him make up 5 strokes. As a consolation prize, it appears that Sergio won the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average at 69.40, just edging Mickelson's 69.42. Tiger Woods didn't complete enough rounds to be eligible.

Now's the hard part. Coming up with compelling article ideas after the end of the regular season. Silly Season here I come!

Til' next,

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Kim Misses Fairways, Nails Forehead in 3rd Round of THE TOUR Championship.

48 year old David Whitfield of Atlanta picked up a golf souvenir the hard way at THE TOUR Championship. His forehead caught an errant Anthony Kim drive on the 9th hole and a 2" gash was opened, spilling blood on the East Lake greenery. He was taken to a hospital, but he never lost consciousness and apparently will be just fine. His wife received a Kim golf ball signed "Sorry". Look for the ball on Ebay this weekend.

Wayward drives were the culprit in Kim's game allowing Sergio Garcia to claim the 3rd round lead with a -3, 68, leaving him at -8. Kim's 72 left him tied with Phil Mickelson, who carded a 69 today. Both golfers are at -5 for the tourney. Average Golfer's pick to win, Camilo Villegas, was next at 5 off the lead, -3. At -2 was the twosome of Robert Allenby and Ben Curtis.

Phil plays with Sergio tomorrow in the final pairing. You almost have to give Sergio the nod based on his better overall play in the 2nd half of the season. Three shots is a decent cushion. If Phil plans on making a move, I'd say the sooner the better. If Kim can rally and repair his wildness from the tee box, then he's in the mix. He'll have to improve on today's 29% driving accuracy. He certainly isn't afraid of pin seeking and going low. Villegas could post a score and let the other big boys beat each other up. A 65 might do the trick, although a 65 on the redesigned East Lake is a tough row to hoe.

Turn on and tune in to find out.

Til' next,

*I case you were wondering............Vijay Singh is at +9 for the tournament. That's good for 24th place in the 30 man field. It's also worth 10 million dollars.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ryder Redux at THE TOUR Championship - Kim, Garcia Tangled.

THE TOUR Championship - Round One
It's Groundhog Day all over again. Less than a week after Anthony Kim drilled Sergio Garcia in their Ryder Cup singles match, they will again be paired in the 3rd round of THE TOUR Championship. This time Kim starts with a two stroke advantage. Truth is, it's about the only storyline that could bring interest in this massive boondoggle, called the FedExCup, that was won by Vijay Singh almost two weeks ago. Last Average Golfer looked, Vijay had a pulse, which was more than enough required to enhance his wealth by the GNP of Albania.

Kim's pedestrian -1, 69 left him at -7, 133, for the tourney. The flawless -5, 65 of Garcia's brought him back into the chase in an event where under par is coveted. Only six players were under par at the conclusion of today's play. Don't count out Mickelson. After all, it's not the Ryder Cup, or a major with Tiger in it. He's at -4, three back of the lead. Average Golfer's pick, Camilo Villegas is at -2. The red numbers are finished with Mike Weir and K.J. Choi knotted at -1. For the record, Singh is plodding along at +7, a mere 14 shots off the pace. A round in the 50s tomorrow will bring him right back into the thick of things.

It looks like I'm going to have to tune into this sucker. My interest level had been the same that the World Golf Hall of Fame had in John Daly, but with this brewing twenty- something rivalry I'll have to check it out. The future of golf could be unfolding in our presence. It better be good.

Til' next,

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

THE TOUR Championship - Race For 2nd Place.

Deutsche Bank Championship
"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men....." -Robert Burns. Ah, Burnsie, the velvet tongued Scot. And a connection to the game. What Scot wouldn't have one? The scheme was to have the FedExCup playoffs build to a crescendo and crown a victor from among the remaining 30 warriors here at East Lake for THE TOUR Championship. Oops. Vijay Singh preempted the plan and scored the ten million dollar crown nigh on two weeks ago. If he stays vertical and plays four rounds of golf, he goes home in a Brinks truck. If I were Vijay I'd seriously consider a golf helmet. Nasty falls, or more likely, errant shots wouldn't get between me and 10 million dead presidents. The mouse? Well, commissioner Finchem of course. In the first two years of existence his plan got skewered by someone winning two of the four events. I'm sure he'll figure it out eventually regarding the awarding of points. I think he should have anticipated though that any championship held the immediate week after the Ryder Cup would suffer from prestige lag. This event , with it's weakened field and poor positioning, is now relegated to 2nd class status. We still have the men though. Let's have a look at the men.

The men. No Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy, or Padraig Harrington. No European Ryder Cupper except Sergio. No Tiger obviously. He's ranked 70th in points and missed the field anyway. Worst of all, no Boo Weekly! Wait, no J.B. Holmes either. NFL here I come. On the bright side, we do get Mickelson, Els, Stricker, Furyk, and Anthony Kim. Weekly and Holmes are the only two American Cuppers that failed to qualify.

I'm jumping on the Camilo Villegas band wagon for this one. I think his is the only bandwagon I haven't been on this year. Motivation shouldn't be a problem. The total purse for THE TOUR Championship is 7 million dollars with 1.26 million going to the winner. Walking around money for Vijay. All told, 16.5 million will be paid to the top ten FedExCup finishers. For the record, another mind boggling number, the PGA Tour will pay out 278 million dollars in prize money this year spread over 48 official events. That's a good down payment to bail out Wall Street. It also makes this average golfer question my dad's idea of sticking a baseball bat in my hands when I was four.

Til' next,

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ryder Cup Returns to U.S. After 9 Year Hiatus.

The Americans brought home the Ryder Cup after 9 years of frustration. Anthony Kim set the pace for today's determining singles matches with a 5 and 4 drubbing of Euro standout Sergio Garcia. Jim Furyk ended it on the 17th hole closing out Miguel Angel Jiminez 2 and 1 for the Cup clinching points. Just about an hour or so before Furyk's win the winner was still very much in doubt. Despite the Americans starting the day with a two point advantage, enough matches were close enough to leave the winner very much in doubt. Consecutive victories by Kenny Perry, J.B. Holmes, and Boo Weekley pretty much sealed the competition though, paving the way for Furyk's clincher. Expect native Kentuckians Perry and Holmes to be crowing the loudest in tonight's celebrations. 16 1/2 - 11 1/2 was the final tally. The lone bright star for the Euros was Ian Poulter who continued his stellar Cup play by beating Steve Stricker 3 and 2. Overlooked until today, Ben Curtis defeated Lee Westwood 2 and1 and Chad Campbell took down Padraig Harrington by the same score in frosting on the cake wins.

Kim set the tone however, perhaps with this exchange, reaching the first green in his match with Garcia, Kim saw both of their approach shots lying perhaps two feet from the cup. Garcia asked, "Good, good?" Kim retorted, "Let's putt them." A small, but important indication that anything won out here today was going to be earned. In fact the rookies on both teams carried more than their fair share of the weight. Westwood, Harrington, and Garcia didn't win a match for the Euros. Mickelson was dead weight for the US, Tiger was watching on TV. Poulter, Kim, Weekley, McDowell, Mahan, and Holmes were the standouts.

Captain Faldo may have some splainin' to do. 5 points qualifies as a beat down in the Ryder Cup. Poulter worked out for him, but his lack of coverage of ongoing matches due to having only one co-captain and his questionable player placements probably means this is his last captain's attempt. On the U.S. side however, expect a significant lobby to bring Azinger back as captain in 2010. Any odds on Clarke and Monty playing in 2010?

All in all it was an exciting three days. Sportsmanship was held in high regard, at least as far as Average Golfer could tell. What happens in Louisville stays in Louisville. As it should be.

Final Singles Results

Kim 5 and 4 Garcia
Mahan halved Casey
Karlsson 5 and 3 Leonard
Rose 3 and 2 Mickelson
Perry 3 and 2 Stenson
Weekley 4 and 2 Wilson
Holmes 2 and 1 Hansen
Furyk 2 and 1 Jimenez
McDowell 2 and 1 Cink
Poulter 3 and 2 Stricker
Curtis 2 and 1 Westwood
Campbell 2 and 1 Harrington

Next up, the anti-climactic TOUR Championship. The final event of the FedExCup. Ahem, it's already been won by Vijay Singh, so try not to fall off the edge of your seat.

Til' next,

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Not Your Father's Ryder Cup - Sunday Singles to Decide 37th Winner.

2008 Ryder Cup - Day 2
The Cup remains the same, the faces change. An injection of new blood from both squads has staged a drama to be decided tomorrow in singles play at the 37th Ryder Cup at Valhalla. Europe gained a point in the morning foursomes despite sitting Cup heroes Garcia and Westwood. That kept captain Faldo from being disdained for one of the most surprising moves in Cup history. Owen Wilson and Henrik Stenson dropped Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim in the foursomes in a key match with the Americans coming in as heavy favorites. Wilson's 30 ft. birdie putt on the 17th hole was the sealer. The Euros had been down three after seven holes. Forget everything you've heard, there's absolutely no truth to the rumor that Wilson and Stenson had hidden doughnuts around the back nine to distract Phil.

The afternoon fourball matches were filled with drama and highlighted the new blood. J.B. Holmes and Boo Weekley ended Lee Westwood's 12 match unbeaten string when they defeated him and Soren Hansen 2 and 1. Holmes and Weekley never trailed in the match. Rookie and controversial captain's choice Ian Poulter, with Graeme McDowell got one back for the Euros besting Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk. Garcia/Casey halved with Ben Curtis and Steve Stricker with Stricker holing a pressure packed putt on the 18th hole to salvage an extremely important 1/2 point. Mickelson/ Mahan halved with Stenson/Karlsson to give the US a 9-7 advantage leading into singles play on Sunday.

The youth on both teams played very, very well. Mahan, Holmes, Weekley, Kim, Poulter, Wilson, McDowell, all acquitted themselves well on the big stage. They are the faces of future Cups. Better get used to them.

If the first two days signaled a changing of the guard, then Sunday should be a blast. The Euros need to win 7 of the 12 matches to retain the Cup. The match ups will be fascinating, especially with so many new faces. It's great to see the Ryder Cup boil down to singles with both teams having a legitimate chance. Tee it up, get the balls in the air!

Til' next,

*Just Announced from Captains Faldo and Azinger, Sunday Pairings link.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Faldo's Gone Daft - Garcia, Westwood Sit in Day #2 Ryder Cup Foursomes.

Imagine sitting Kobe Bryant down in game #2 of the NBA finals when your team's down 1-0. If I were the coach I wouldn't wait to be fired, I'd just gather my gear and sidle out the back door. Well, that's equal to the goofiest move I've ever heard of in Ryder Cup annals. Perhaps captain Nick is just setting up his huge ego to be able to say, "I came back from being down on day #1, I sat my two best Cuppers in the day #2 foursomes, and still won the friggin' Cup!

Now this is a completely different team from the one that's been routinely collecting cups. No Monty, no Clarke, no Olazabal, and now no Garcia or Westwood for half of day #2. Goodbye Sergio, hello Owen Wilson. Mr. Wilson, in addition to being a fine golfer, is the unknown Beach Boy.

Perhaps Westwood's still feeling the effects of extreme tonsillitis, but benching Sergio? Sheer lunacy, prosecutable in my mind, and good for us.

Til' next,

U.S. Takes 1st Day Lead at 37th Ryder Cup - Must Be a Misprint.

If the 37th Ryder Cup ended after just one day the Cup would be miraculously returning to American terra firma. The end of day 1 gave the Americans a 5-2 advantage in formats that typically aren't their strong suit. Morning foursomes gave the US a 3-1 advantage and they'll finish the afternoon fourballs with no less than a 2-2 point split. For individual match scores from both sessions, here's a link to to fill in the details.

The US squad has an obvious spring in their step. Raucous home town throngs yelling USA!, USA!, will do that for you. Six rookies, without the stain of Ryder Cup defeat may be just what the doctor ordered. If what you've been doin' ain't workin', do something else. Led by head cheerleader Boo Weekly, the injection of youth may have just resurrected the American phoenix. Conversely, the European with the most to lose, Ian Poulter, seemed to show obvious signs of pressure to justify his existence. It's too early to pop champagne, but a trend is a trend. Don't expect the Euros to lie down, but expect some wonderment in their camp about how they lost day #1. The Brit press must be chomping at their respective bits analyzing captain Faldo's strategy, or lack thereof. He's surely glad he's on this side of the pond after a day 1 thumping.

Day 2 will reveal a lot. Will the Euros rally? Was day 1 for the US a cosmic aberration to settle a score that has been lopsided at best? Tune in and find out.

Til' next,

*Average Golfer late scoring note. The final match of the day, Holmes/Weekly vs Westwood/Hansen was halved leaving the sore at the end of day 1, US 5 1/2 - Europe 2 1/2.

Michelle Wie Easily Jumps 1st Q-School Hurdle.

LPGA Q-School Sectional Qualifying
Michelle Wie cruised through the 1st stage of LPGA qualifying school today at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, CA. Her 4th round-1, 71 left her in 4th place, eight shots behind the winner, Sun-Ju Ahn, of South Korea. Stacy Lewis' 69 tied her with Wie in the 4th spot.

The top 30 advanced to final qualifying school in Florida this December. Wie, as promised spoke to the press after her final round. “When I came the first time (this week), I didn’t know where anything was because I was so used to everything being here by the grandstands,” she said. “Sometimes you play in big crowd and sometimes you don’t. The game’s the same, the goal’s still the same, the opportunity still’s the same. I just try to play my game.”

Sounds like young Michelle is on the right path, letting her prodigious skills do the talking.

Til' next,

Thursday, September 18, 2008

3 Ryder Cup Wishes.

On the eve of the hype fest called the 37th Ryder Cup Average Golfer is only asking for three things to happen. Three lousy little cotton pickin' things. Is that too much to ask? Well, Judge for yourself....

That the Sunday singles matches be worth something.

Although I have a rooting interest in the good ole' US of A, I still want to see the better team win. I just don't want to see it won on Saturday. I want the leading team to have no more than a two point advantage going into the last day. I want the early finishers from both teams to join the gallery and cheer for their compadres down the stretch. I want each succeeding putt to mean more than the last. I want "whomever" from our squad to whip Sergio's butt on the final hole for a return to glory. If Sergio makes the winning putt, I'll doff my cap to him.

That ESPN will remove the extraneous, annoying crap from my TV screen.

Every lick of golf I've watched on ESPN this year has been torture. They've insisted on cramming the screen with useless info and and a running sports ticker at the bottom of the screen. You have to look hard to find the golfer in that mess. It makes me feel like I have ADD X 3. If I want to check college football scores I'll figure it out with the remote during commercials. Please, please, since you have so much coverage of the Ryder Cup this year, just put golf on my screen. Is that too much to ask?

I want Boo Weekly to be "Man of the Match".

Of course that implies a US win, which would be a great outcome IMHO. Boo being the star would go a long way toward removing the real or perceived "elitist" tag from golf. Imagine the future crop of American golf stars getting the nudge to greatness from emulating Boo at the Ryder Cup. His appeal would increase the base of little golfers all around the country. Boo on Ryder Cup history....
.... "I think Justin Leonard made a putt or something. That's about the only thing I remember of the Ryder Cup stuff." That's the kind of "out of the box", or "without a box" thinking that'll bring the cup back stateside. I don't think any of Europe's recent drubbings of our team will affect Boo.

Morning pairings for Friday, Sept. 19.

8:05 a.m. ET:
Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim (USA) vs. Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson (European)

8:20 a.m. ET:
Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan (USA) vs. Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey (European)

8:35 a.m. ET:
Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell (USA) vs. Justin Rose and Ian Poulter (European)

8:50 a.m. ET:
Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk (USA) vs. Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia (European)

TV air times for Ryder Cup Weekend.

Friday 9/19, 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM, ESPN

Saturday 9/20, 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM, ESPN

Sunday 9/21, 12:00 PM - 6:00 PM, NBC

All times EST.

May the games begin.

Til' next,

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

37th Ryder Cup Odds - Bet Big, Bet Often.

Do you want to pull the remnants of what's left of your 401K out of the crapshoot called mutual funds and place it somewhere safe? Have we got an investment for you. All upside, providing you pick the right team. Bet with your head, not your heart. If you're a USA fan check the red, white, and blue at the door of the casino.

Our usual friends at Ladbrokes have the latest fractional odds for your consideration. They are....

USA - 5/4......A $100.00 bet will return you $125.00.

Europe - 4/5.....That same $100.00 bet will return $80.00.

Tie - .....If the match ends in a tie Europe retains the Cup, but you would retain $900.00 after a $100.00 bet.

If you'd rather just bet on the performance of your favorite player you can do that as well. Most major sports books will handle your action. Here's a link to to give you some odds. Shop around though when betting. The odds vary from house to house. Make sure you maximize your return!

Average Golfer likes the Euros for one reason and one reason only. I think past performances are a great indicator of how someone will perform in the present. I also believe that in any pro sport the superstars on the team are who you depend on to win for you. Paul Pierce, Manny Ramirez, and Eli Manning in the recent year. Granted Manning isn't the league's best quarterback, but he was the best quarterback and star on the Giants. They needed him to play big to win the Superbowl and he did. Our big guns of Mickelson, Furyk, and Cink don't play Ryder Cups well. There's a well documented history to attest to that fact. Garcia, Westwood, and company do play well and have the records to back that up. Rookies are important, but not deciders in my opinion. It's important for Anthony Kim to get his feet wet in the competition, he may play very well, but it probably won't overcome the overall differences between the two teams. You can't win the Ryder Cup by yourself.

Not having Tiger Woods won't hurt the USA's chances. His record is under .500. Under .500 doesn't win Cups either. However, if healthy you would always want him on the squad because he's the best player on the planet and is the favorite in any match you throw at him. So, I'm not in the corner that says Woods' absence will help. It can't. That's ridiculous.

Nothing's absolute. I'm hoping for a close exciting match that will keep me away from weekend chores. Let's just hope it's not "Whoopi Goldberg ugly" in either direction. I'd feel too guilty watching a blow-out. Average Golfer's prediction.......Europe 15 1/2 - USA 12 1/2.

Til' next,

Monday, September 15, 2008

The 37th Ryder Cup - Just Play Already !

Just another sign that it's the end of the world as we know it, but I feel fine. Ryder Cup media coverage is reaching fever pitch. I hardly can tell if I'm reading a golf website or People Magazine. Faldo snubs Clarke, Azinger picks guys outside the top 50. Woods may or may not visit Valhalla to rally the troops. Faldo rips Azinger's assistant captain selections. And the list goes on and on....

Perhaps it's all fallout from a lackluster late summer golf season. TV ratings are plunging and the casual golf/Tiger Woods fan couldn't really care any less. Even $10,000,000.00 can't get their remotes to hit on a tournament or get Vijay to offer up a sentence or two. I always wondered if guys like Vijay and Ernie Els watch the Ryder Cup. Which leads to a stroke of average golfer brilliance. Why not form a third Ryder Cup team from the nations that can't play in the current format? Australia, Fiji, Asia, and South Africa could field a representative squad. Every two years the previous winner gets a bye. The other two play to see who challenges the defending champs. Theoretically you could play in every Ryder Cup, or none. More world class players get to be seen and winning actually means something. Won't happen, makes too much sense.

Ryder Cup buzz can be interesting. Much more discussion and time is involved in the run-up than the event. It's half the fun. Still, the speculation is meaningless once the first ball is in the air. Players have good days and bad. A lot of the deciding in a three day event depends on who's hot during that tiny stretch. Stats are useless. World ranking is yesterday's news. What you're doing for me today rules. Let's hope for a competitive match that renders the final day's singles matches as important. I have a feeling we'll get one. These guys are all great golfers. It's just a question of how many are how great for three days and on which team. Enough with the jaw flapping already. Let's see some golf.

Til' next,

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Transitions® Lenses - Average Golfer Product Review

I wear sunglasses all the time. I don't wear sunglasses on the golf course. I know I need the protection, but I find it distracting to have something hanging on my face while playing. So, my expectations were rather low when a pair of Transitions lenses arrived at my door. I opened the box to find the recommended lenses affixed to an Oakley Flak Jacket XLJ frame. Damn stylish. So stylish that when we hit the golf course my 28 year old son was praying I wouldn't like them and they'd be an early inheritance for him.

Transitions says their lenses automatically adjust to changing light conditions, graduating from full blown sunglasses in sunlight to clear indoors. They also block 100% of the sun's harmful UVA and UVB rays, which is the best reason to wear them. They're available in just about any frame you can imagine. Mine were non-prescription, but your prescription and bi-focals are available. So, you want them, they'll build them. They're the official eye wear of the PGA Tour, so, if they're good enough for the pros, I'll give them a shot.

We teed off at 9:00 AM in hazy sort of fog. I promised myself I'd wear the Transitions all day regardless of my initial impressions. In the beginning I kept flipping them up to see how much of a difference they made. In the fog there wasn't much. I stopped the flipping when I realized it was pointless. On or off everything looked the same in the overcast conditions. Within an hour the sun burned off the foggy layer and we spent the next four hours in bright sunshine with intermittent high clouds. That's when I remembered why I wear sunglasses to begin with. Having previously hated them on the course, I literally forgot the Transitions were there. They were so light and effective I finally was able to wear glasses on the golf course without being annoyed and distracted by them. The landscape was clear and reading greens was no different than without them. Undulations on the greens were discernible and any putts I missed, and there were some, had nothing to do with the shades. Being we were playing in a tournament, I walked into the clubhouse after the round for the obligatory buffet. Halfway through the feast my son reminded me I was still wearing the glasses. That was the clincher for me. For me sunglasses are like good umpires in baseball. If they're doing their job well, you don't know they're there. I typically have some eye strain from all the squinting after a round. I've kind of gotten used to it and consider it part of golf. No squinting this day after four sunny hours. My eyes were fresh and ready to read small print.

I highly recommend Transitions lenses. If you're like me, they may be the first pair you can live with in all conditions. Sorry son, you'll have to get your own.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Average Golfer at Craig Wood Country Club, Lake Placid, NY.

I typically don't write about my personal rounds of golf because I've found that usually no one cares. Did you ever run into a golf buddy that insists on replaying his last round for you shot by shot? I don't want to be that guy. Regardless, today I enjoyed an unusual outing in Lake Placid, NY, about 40 miles from my home. The occasion was the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery annual tournament at Craig Wood Golf & Country Club, and my birthday, in that order of importance.

I'm fortunate that my oldest son Bryan has for a good friend a member of the family that owns Lake Placid Pub & Brewery, a small, but highly acclaimed boutique brewery located in it's namesake village. My favorite is their UBU ale, but it's high alcohol content makes my golf scores soar, so today I chose a lighter offering, the Moose Island Ale. Think of it more as swing oil. If you're ever in the northeast and like beer, I insist you ask around for any Lake Placid Pub & Brewery offering, or better yet, make the trip to Lake Placid and sample it there, as fresh as it can be. Lake Placid was the site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic games and is a quaint little village with much to offer year round. It's tough to describe it, but I promise it will leave a unique impression. As one example, try visiting the arena where the "Miracle on Ice" took place without getting a tingle. Tons of history. A tiny little town nestled in the ancient Adirondack mountains, but with international panache and bragging rights.

Today we played a two man scramble and I thought our 71 was a decent score. That was until the 62s and 63s started popping up on the scoreboard. I settled for a T-shirt won in the obligatory raffle. We had the pleasure though of using our 71 whacks at the venerable Craig Wood Golf & Country Club. It was officially named after it's native son in 1954. Craig Wood is infamously noted as the victim of Gene Sarazen's famous double eagle in the 1935 Augusta National Invitational, (later renamed the Masters). That left the players tied at the end of regulation and Sarazen captured the title the next day in a 36 hole playoff. Wood had a notorious string of 2nd place finishes in majors until winning the 1941 Masters and then validated it by winning the 45th US Open at Colonial. He was inducted to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2008. Strolling through the clubhouse it's obvious that Lake Placid is quite proud of Mr. Wood.

Living here I've probably been guilty of taking my surroundings for granted. Today I was blessed to have a birthday celebrated with world class beer, in a world class village, with my world class son. Tell me how that could be better. It can't!

*If you look closely in the middle of the bottom photo you can spot the Olympic ski jump towers from the 1980 Olympic Games.

Til' next,

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Michelle Wie Does the Right Thing - In Queue for Q-School.

Whether by design or default, the end justifies the means. After a turbulent start to her professional golf career, Michelle Wie has entered LPGA Tour Qualifying School. The truth is she had virtually exhausted her other options to gain tour status. Sometimes fate has the ability to steer us back to where we should have been in the first place. Damn, for Average Golfer that was pretty deep! The 1st stage is scheduled for Sept. 9-16 at Mission Hills Country Club, curiously the site of Wie's near win in the 2006 Kraft Nabisco Championship. That was a high. The lows were missed cuts in men's events, a barely explainable DQ, and a host of other odd career moves that seemed to defy logic and exist to satisfy the overblown egos of her handlers/parents. Q-school is a mulligan for Michelle, a luxury many of us aren't granted when making career decisions. Should she get through this stage, and I fully expect she will, the final rounds will be held Dec. 3-7 at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, FL.

I'm of the opinion that Wie is the only female golfer capable of competing on the men's tour, if competing is defined by making a cut. She's the only player with the length and strength to challenge a PGA tour setup. Armed with that knowledge, she barrelled ahead but lacked the experience and "golf savvy" to prove it. I by no means am suggesting that a men's event should be on her schedule in the near future, but am merely commenting on the size of her game.

If things happen for a reason Q-school for Michelle could be a boon for the LPGA. Having obtained her card the traditional way should remove some of the animus that's been directed at her. The LPGA would have a potential 20 year star at just the time they could use one. Everyone matures at a different rate. Maybe Michelle, on the cusp of real adulthood, will find herself steering her own ship. Regardless of the results, that would be a good thing. Are you listening Mr.& Mrs. Wie?

Til' next,

Monday, September 8, 2008

Vijay Trips Over $10,000,000.00, Hurts Feeling.

BMW Championship - Round One
As if finishing T44 in the BMW Championship wasn't catastrophic enough, Vijay Singh has to figure out what to do with the 10 million dollars in FedExCup prize money he earned on Sunday. Nine million in cash and one million in annuity should have been the salve to cushion the blow of not winning his 3rd FedExCup event in a row. His points lead is insurmountable. If Singh simply shows up at the TOUR Championship and completes four rounds, the loot is his. Singh reportedly ignored NBC Sports and whizzed past the remaining media. Evidently Mr. Singh isn't motivated by money.

There's many possible takes on the puzzle wrapped in a conundrum that is Vijay. Perhaps he chose not to dilute the spotlight from Camilo Villegas' 1st tour victory. The hole in that argument is that he finished well in advance of Villegas and could have at least offered the standard, "I'm going to Disneyland!", heartfelt or not. The would have taken 5, maybe 6 seconds. Maybe he didn't feel well. Happens to all of us. A simple, "Not feeling very well guys, catch you in Atlanta", would have sufficed. Yet, we're left floundering, speculating on the mood of the contrarian.

I haven't always been a Vijay fan. He's been an acquired taste for me. It's impossible not to respect his talent and work ethic toward the game. He was and is to practice what Tiger Woods is now, only he predated Tiger by almost a generation. Hard work and fitness have produced a career, after his 40th birthday, most pro golfers would willingly trade for, straight up. My original rejection of Singh was the matter of his cheating incident on the Asian tour in 1985. He chipped away at my disdain however with excellent play over time. No small factor as well was the philanthropic Vijay, often unpublicized and underrated. After Notah Begay's inaugural tournament to benefit Native American youth, Singh generously devoted his time and $80,000.00 to the cause. Begay made that part known and I'm sure Singh would have been just as pleased if the donation had remained silent. After 20+ years of excellence, on and off the course, I believe Singh's entitled to some slack. He earned his way back, which is what makes Sunday's dissing of the press all the more confounding. How does Vijay think these purses got so doggoned big?

Let's face it, golf without Tiger Woods isn't as interesting. It's great, yes, but not as interesting. Love him or not, Woods paddles the boat. That makes it all the more important for the winners and contenders that are left to become more of the story. To most of us 10 million dollars is a lottery dream. We'd love to hear what a guy that earned it on a golf course has to say. There's no better time to hear it than the instance it occurs. We're left with "maybe next year" in whatever permutation the FedExCup appears.

Til' next,

Friday, September 5, 2008

Bivens Backtracks, (and not a moment too soon).

ADT Championship-Previews
This worked out great for me. I get to address a controversial topic after the fire was doused. No flames licking at my feet. I used one of my Dad's adages, "When in doubt, don't." Worked here. I really did see the impetus behind the LPGA's desire to force feed English down the throats of, and let's be real here, their Korean contingent. Let's not pretend that Hispanic and European players were part of the discussion. The LPGA, hearing the sucking sound of tournament money running away in a bad economy, figured they'd take zero chances and circle the wagons around a Anglo-centric tour and not let any more horses out of the barn. The problem is that the remaining horses don't finish first often enough.

To start, who were the legal counsels that ever allowed this Titanic-like decree to see the light of day to begin with? Where did they go to law school, Kmart? I'd hope they all have user names by now. My dog could have won this case for the Koreans on any planet in the universe, and he hates court rooms. Ms Bivens and the LPGA deserve a top shelf PR firm to polish their wounded image. May I suggest mine, Laybach & Whackit. I'm certain the bulk of the rule reversal was due to it's indefensible position where it counts, lawsuits and money.

Perhaps an odd comparison, but I like it. The NBA is an African-American dominated league. Why pray tell? Because African-Americans play more competitive basketball, practice more, and devote themselves to that craft more than their Caucasian brethren. If the collective Caucasian community wanted more players on NBA rosters I would suggest the answer is simple, play better. Professional golf tours are merit based at it's purest. Play better, keep your card, make more money. If not, lose your playing privileges. The Korean's meteoric rise is because of this alone.

Let's get a little realistic. In the best of times the LPGA tour is a pimple on major sport's rear ends. TV ratings, dollars generated, and the associated trappings of big time sports will never be the LPGA's strong suit. Losing Annika is just a harbinger of what a "Woodless" PGA may face some day. It's a wonderful venue to showcase the world's best female golfers and have a nice little business to boot. Golf viewers, men, want to watch men. They want to see the people that hit it the farthest and score the lowest. That's men. Sorry Ms Steinem, that's the facts. I love women's golf, but if I could only watch one tour......well, you know.

I submit to the LPGA that they focus on what they do well. Showcase women's golf, but don't let PGA envy and huge dollars be your goal. Be realistic in your projections and grow the game internationally. Play year round. It's always warm somewhere. Make some money overseas. For crying out loud, the rest of the world is doing it to us. Try to buy a piece of clothing or electronics made in the good 'ole USA. Go with the inevitable flow and market your product where the fans and advertisers live. In the meantime, search yourselves and ask why more home grown talent isn't making it into the ranks. It sounds like the recent controversy has given the LPGA an opportunity to reexamine, albeit through the back door. Let's hope they make some lemonade out of those lemons.

Til' next,

Thursday, September 4, 2008

1st Round Results - 2008 BMW Championship - FedExCup

BMW Championship - Round One

Paddy went home. Tournament resumes tomorrow Thursday, 9/5/2008, Gustav providing. 18 tomorrow, 36 on Saturday.

Til' next,

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Azinger Draws Straws, Makes Ryder Cup Picks.

Choosing from a sea of mediocrity, American captain Paul Azinger made public his 2008 Ryder Cup captain's picks today. Cleverly changing the selection format from two to four captain's picks, Azinger had hoped to be able to ride the coattails of four recently hot golfers. He had to settle for tepid.

Steve Stricker, J.B. Holmes, Hunter Mahan, and Chad Campbell received the fortunate phone calls for their clothes sizes. Let's speculate a tad on each.......

  • Steve Stricker.....Most solid of the bunch. Ranked #8 in the world. Ranking achieved mostly from last year's success. Still, shouldn't hurt us.
  • J.B. Holmes..... Ranked #55. Kentucky native. Has played Valhalla a million times. Big bomber, birdie maker. At least that's the plan. Expect very little rough to be in the way of his cannon.
  • Hunter Mahan..... Ranked #37. Repentant Ryder Cup disser. Sincere though. Playing well, but not consistently well. Opened the Barclays with a 61, finished T31.
  • Chad Campbell..... Ranked #53. Always referred to as "great ball striker". Would prefer " low scorer". Can't really tell if Chad gets rattled. He appears the same all the time.
The top of the list of guys that weren't picked that could possibly be deemed surprises would be Scott Verplank. He owns a 4-1 Ryder Cup record, is a magnificent putter and ranked #45. Great putters are at a premium in match play and none of Zinger's picks would be confused with Ben Crenshaw. Still, expect Azinger to set the course up fast with little discernible rough to favor our advantage with bombers, Mickelson, Kim, Perry and the aforementioned Mr. Holmes. Horses for courses.

Average golfer will take a little time to digest the squad and comment liberally in the coming days. Maybe after getting scorched repeatedly with an "A" squad, coming in under the radar with a "B" squad may not be all that bad. Sneak attack anyone?

Til' next,

Monday, September 1, 2008

Singh Cashes In At Deutsche Bank.

Deutsche Bank Championship - Final Round
When was the last time he lived in Fiji? There must be some sort of common law, based on the amount of time he's lived here, that would allow him American citizenship, at least for one Ryder Cup.

Singh shot a blistering 63 and finished the tourney at -22 to threaten throwing the FedExCup, regardless of the new points system, into a done deal. The Deutsche Bank Championship was his in a walk. He's won three out of the last five including last week's Barclays. He literally destroyed the field with birdie putts of 35, 60, and 35 feet on the back nine. Nothing but net. Depending on how everyone finishes at this week's BMW Championship Singh could wrap up the FedExCup title before the season ending THE TOUR Championship. If that happens, look for the suits to reevaluate again to cut the abnormalities from the playoff scoring system.

Mike Weir settled with a final round 71 to finish 5 back at -17. Ernie Els, 70, Camilo Villegas, 72, tied for 3rd at -14. Sergio Garcia slumped to a 72, -13 to tie with Tim Herron. Herron's superb 65 today jumped him from 99th spot in the FedExCup standings to 48th, allowing him to continue playing.

If Vijay plays well enough this week, the Ryder Cup will be the only show in town. A great one yes, but a reminder that golf season, for another year, is on the wane.

Til' next,