Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Montgomerie Named 2010 Euro Ryder Cup Captain.

......and Obama was elected president. This is really just a confirmation of a foregone conclusion. The PGA European Tour had already let it be known that they felt 51 years old was a wee bit out of touch with the modern player to be in viable Ryder Cup consideration. Hmm, let's do some math. Monty will be 47 when the 2010 event begins at Celtic Manor in Wales. He'd be 49 when the affair returns to the states in 2012. He obviously can't captain in the US of A due to the torture he'd receive from our rowdy and uncultured fans. That would be like Rush Limbaugh heading the Democratic National Committee. In 2014 when the Cup returns to Europe, he'd be 51 and beyond that age line of demarcation. So, it's 2010 or bust.

No one can tarnish Monty's Ryder Cup record, second to Faldo with 20 wins. I'd hazard a guess though that Faldo proved that great players don't always make great captains. It's an ego thing. I must admit that Monty has one of the most intriguing egos in recent memory. It's either cocksure or eggshell fragile. The man definitely uses all the bounds of emotion. How that translates to his players will be fascinating to observe. If anything, Monty should be good for more than a couple of good headlines between now and crack of the first balls in the air. Stay tuned for the unpredictable.

Til' next,

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Pat Perez Captures 1st PGA Win - Stricker Implodes

Formerly volcanic Pat Perez maintained long enough to win the Bob Hope Classic for his first PGA victory. His 3 foot eagle putt at the 18th hole sealed the win over charging John Merrick, who had moved in front for a bit on the back nine. Perez finished at -33 after a 3 under 69 today. Merrick's 2nd place finish was his best yet on tour. His final round was a 67 to end at -30. For the first time all week wind was a factor and coupled with tougher pin placements the assault on par was quelled somewhat.

Stricker, at 16th, was the highest ranked player in the event. He led after yesterday's 4th round and set the consecutive round PGA scoring record having gone 61-62 in rounds 3 and 4. Today he came apart like a fifty dollar suit. A triple bogey at 7 and a quad at 10 sealed his fate. He had gone OB on 10 and found the drink on both holes. He made the request for a new pencil at 11. His request was immediately granted. All this after birdieing the 6th hole and taking a three stroke lead over Perez. He finished in a tie for 3rd with Mike Weir at -28. Full field scores.

Perez won $918,000 for his efforts. Call me silly, but I'd have shaved some prize money further down the line to have the winner collect a cool $1,000,000. Seems like better marketing to allow the tournament to advertise a million dollar first prize.

FYI, the amateur team #107 took their portion of the event at -71. Sounds like some of the sandbagger tournaments I've played in.

And............Mr. Hope, Shanks for the memories.

Til' next,

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Par Rendered Obsolete at Bob Hope Classic

Stricker, 65, 67, 61, 62, -33. Perez, 61, 63, 67, 67, -30. Robert Garrigus, Vaughn Taylor, and Bubba Watson all tied at -26. Imagine being at -26 and finding yourself 7 shots behind the leader. That's the situation at the Bob Hope Classic, where making pars will find you falling behind. Stricker has 36 pars and 34 birdies. The way he's played the last two days, his birdie total could beat his pars. A pair of 67s saw Perez lose 11 strokes to Stricker in the last two rounds. Ridiculous.

A combination of benign weather, perfect greens, and pin placements set up for the large amateur field has led to a golf tournament where par has been vaporized. It's just a number, albeit not a very influential one. One can argue that it's made a travesty of this vaunted game, or one could say it's like having 8 foot baskets in the NBA. No matter, the number of strokes will still decide the victor. Regardless, it gives a nudge to the front runners for the Vardon trophy.

Watch if you love a birdie parade. Don't watch if you're a purist. All I would ask is, at the end of January, when it's a million below zero in much of the nation, with the Super Bowl a week away, what else is the Average Golfer going to watch?

Til' next,

*PS - I wonder where the scores would be if the world's best played in this event?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Not Your Father's Bob Hope Classic.

Our TV in the 60s and 70s wasn't tuned into golf tournaments very often. The NFL reigned supreme in the sports arena with a smattering of baseball. My Dad ruled the television as an occasional benevolent dictator and questioning his choices wasn't an option. The one event where golf saw some screen time though was the Bob Hope Desert Classic. The attendance of the great stars of the day was the draw for Dad, the golf was secondary. It gave us a peek Bing Crosby, Kirk Douglas, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jack Benny, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jackie Gleason, Desi Arnaz, and countless other stars. It was the one occasion you could view these icons in the day light. Most photos of them were in nightclubs and their TV shows were spectacularly lit. It was a rare chance to see them as regular folk, bad swings and all.

The players at the Hope in it's heyday were the creme de la creme as well. Nicklaus, Palmer, Casper, Miller, and Trevino dot the list as previous winners. Arnie's the new "host". George Lopez was unceremoniously dumped by the tournament in a phone call. Lopez had worked his tail off in promoting and hosting. He brought some of the old flavor to the tournament. It's their right to change horses, but the way they did it was classless. Besides, Arnie has his own tournament already. I love Arnie as much as the next person, but fun and frivolity don't exactly come to mind the way hosts were regarded in the old days. I suppose the passing of Bob Hope has made the host's role near impossible.

Even the politicos have been downgraded. The likes of former presidents Eisenhower and Ford used to grace the fairways of the Hope. This year presents Dan Quayle. Boggles the mind. Bo Jackson, Yogi Berra, and celebrity golf mainstays Alice Cooper and Huey Lewis head the pack. I wonder if I'd have bought as many Alice Cooper albums at the time if I knew he'd end up as a celebrity golf junkie?

My intention isn't to demean today's players or celebrities, it's just that this tournament doesn't have the allure of yesteryear. None of the world's top players are involved. Anthony Kim withdrew due to injury, so the leaderboard reads like a Nationwide event from a few years ago. Pat Perez leads after the 2nd round at -20. Briny Baird is two back at -18, and David Berganio Jr. owns 3rd at -17. Evidently you'll have to go lower than Jimmy Hoffa to win this thing. Get out the calculators.

This is the 50th anniversary of the Hope. If there's a clubhouse in heaven I'm sure there would be the unmistakable sound of glasses clinking. Nothing stays the same forever. Too bad.

Til' next,

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tadd Fujikawa Fires a 62 at Sony Open

The young man with a big heart brought his big game to the Sony Open's 3rd round, firing an 8 under 62 for a piece of the lead. He finished the round tied with Nathan Green and Tom Pernice Jr., all knotted at -8. Pernice and Green were just starting their 3rd rounds as of Average Golfer time. Also just beginning their rounds were the next four golfers on the board, Shigeki Maruyama and Brian Gay at -7 and Zach Johnson and Webb Simpson at -6.

Fujikawa carded his 62 the old fashioned way, 9 birdies and 1 bogey. The 18 year old, who begins his last semester of high school on Monday, has played in this event for the last two years. Once by winning a special qualifying tournament for local amateurs and once with a sponsor's exemption. This year he toughed it out and Monday qualified, bringing with it more of a sense that he belonged out here. His 69 yesterday in the 2nd round got him under the cut number at even par. His local course knowledge is an advantage, kind of like Woods at Torrey Pines. This makes Sunday worth watching, even with the NFL playoffs. How do you not root for this kid? The prevailing wisdom was that he turned pro too soon and didn't have the game or golf savvy to make it on tour, any tour. The only one who didn't listen to the rumblings was him. He overcame serious family problems and the distraction of having to travel from the middle of the Pacific to whatever continent would have him. I'd love to see him win this thing.

Notable scores include Pernice's 2nd round 63. Zach Johnson's 2nd round 65. Azinger makes the cut. Els, 7 back after round three. Players having an early Hawaiian vacation sans golf include JB Holmes, Bubba Watson, DL III, DiMarco, MacKenzie, Faxon, Pettersson, and Pavin.

Live scoring.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Nathan Green Leads Sony Open - Campbell Forgets to Enter

Subject to immediate change without notice, Nathan Green leads the Sony Open by a single stroke over yesterday's leader Shigeki Maruyama. Green was at -7 on the 17th hole as of this posting and Maruyama -6. In the clubhouse were Steve Marino, 67, -5, and David Toms, a previous winner, at -4 today, -4 overall. Due to the time delay in Hawaii many players have yet to begin their rounds, so expect a lot of movement on the leader board. Geoff Ogilvy, -4, and Boo Weekly, -4, were among those.

Although it's way too early to predict who will win this thing, it's not hard to say who won't. Among those with disastrous 2009 starts to their campaigns were Will MacKenzie, +4, Ryder Captain Corey Pavin, +5, Carl Pettersson, +5, Rich Beem, +6, J.B. Holmes, +8, and Notah Begay III, also +8. If this were a horse race the leaders would just be exiting turn two, with the trailers off your TV screen. You always know you're in trouble with the horse you bet on when you can't find the glue bag in the TV shot.

Chad Campbell Forgets to Enter Sony Open

Chad Campbell hopped on a plane in Texas for the arduous 8 hour flight to Hawaii hoping to pad his wallet and world ranking. The only thing he padded were his frequent flier miles. In a major blooper he'd neglected to enter the event leading to the shortest Hawaiian vacation on record. "Not good" he was quoted as saying. "I had actually thought about it on the plane." Before de plane boss, before de plane. Campbell is trying to protect his 64th position in the world rankings that would get him into the Accenture Match Play. He played a round with friends on Sunday at a different course, then red-eyed his way back to Dallas. Campbell claimed he usually received reminders from his agent or caddie. Sounds to Average Golfer like a Day Planner is in order.

Til' next,

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

'09 Sony Open Preview - Average Golfer Boycotts U.A.E. Events

The PGA island hops this week to Oahu for the Sony Open. Waialae Country Club is the host in Honolulu, Hawaii. KJ Choi is the defender. He'll have to contend with the likes of last week's winner Geoff Ogilvy, Zach Johnson, and the resurgent Ernie Els. 26 of last weeks 33 starters are playing this week. Notable exceptions include Anthony Kim and Vijay Singh. Hometown hero Yadd Fujikawa is in the field after shooting a Monday qualifying 68. One player not here that has been a regular is Michelle Wie. Ms Wie chose not to play, therefore removing herself from the list of potential sponsor's exemptions. A wise move I'd say as she plans to increase her stock on the LPGA Tour.

Last week and this are like day and night regarding the golf course. Last week's Plantation Course was long, downhill, and wide as a mall parking lot. At 7,068 yards it places a premium on accuracy, evidenced by the fact that in last year's tourney only a tad over 50% of the fairways were hit. There are only two par fives, one on each nine, to further protect par. Els is the only two time winner having captured the event in 2003, 2004. Previous winners include David Toms, Brad Faxon, Paul Azinger, and Jeff Sluman. Those names are enough to prove this as a shot maker's course.

Tune in tomorrow for a glimpse of abundant sunshine and bone warming temps. Based on where I am, (seems like Siberia), it will be a refreshing change.

Average Golfer To Boycott Golf Tournaments in the U.A.E.

It's peeing in the wind, but this Average Golfer can longer support the idea of golf tournaments being held in countries that treat women like it's the Middle Ages, have Draconian laws with no regard for human rights, and abuse foreign workers to build their palaces and international attractions. Covering or mentioning these events is supporting the idea that the hallowed game of golf can be used to gain prestige and tenure in the international community. It's a version of "Pay no attention to my left hand, it's not doing anything." That concept and the nations that harbor it won't be promoted on the site. For more specifics I refer you to an earlier Average Golfer post.

I'll preempt the naysayers that will undoubtedly point out that we don't live in a perfect country and have our own skeletons in the closet. Yes, that's true to a degree, but women can vote, alcohol can be consumed by people other than tourists, an African-American man can become president, and homosexuality isn't regarded as "impossible to exist". Please call me wrong, I'm just scratching the surface here. On another front, I considered boycotting Tiger Woods due to his involvement with golf course development in Dubai. I don't write this to make money, so I'd certainly survive with or without Mr. Woods. Upon further review, in this global economy, I would have had to boycott virtually every aspect of professional golf using much less than six degrees of separation. Rightly or wrongly, I chose to make my stand on the direct connection route. I elected this week to pontificate due to the location of the European Tour event.

Til' next,

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sleeping Through the Final Round of the Mercedes-Benz Championship.

It looks like Geoff Ogilvy is going to win the 2009 Mercedes-Benz Championship without me. I suppose he'll survive. I was fortunate to receive a nice promotion at work, but more money means more hours. They expect me there at 6:00 AM tomorrow, so I'm going into coma mode right after posting this. The five hour time difference from here to Hawaii precludes the rare prime time viewing opportunity. That's different, but what's really odd is while on Maui, some years ago, I was watching an NFL game at 9:00 AM. The beer was still fine!

As of right this very minute Ogilvy enjoys a five stroke advantage over Anthony Kim through 13 holes. He sits at -22. Kim is one in front of a surging Sean O'Hair, who is 7 under through 14 holes. DL III continues his quest to earn a spot in the Masters and is tied with O'Hair at -16 along with Justin Leonard. Looks like Geoff earns the tour's 1st victory of 2009 and a spot here next year. Tune in the Golf Channel to watch or follow scores online.

Be sure to hit my comments section if someone overtakes Ogilvy.

Til' next,

Friday, January 9, 2009

Time Warp Watching Mercedes-Benz Championship

I feel like calling Mr. Peabody to use the Wayback Machine. If anyone gets that reference, they're at least as old as me. Advantage; You can watch the Mercedes-Benz Championship from Maui in prime time here in the east. Disadvantage; When posting any news on a site like this from Hawaii, it becomes relevant in the middle of the night. Five hours difference makes it afternoon there, typical for a golf outing I reckon.

For the record, Geoff Ogilvy currently has the lead at -8 thru 5 holes of the 2nd round. Boo Weekly, Ryuji Imada, and Ernie Els are tangled at -6. The look of consternation on Ernie's face makes it look like he's receiving an on-course colonoscopy. I think Els would be helped if he was reminded he's playing a game, and a well paid one at that. D.J. Trahan and potential Comeback Player of the Year, DL III, are locked at -5. All scores of course subject to change without notice, primarily based on the length of the commercial breaks.

The Golf Channel presents this gem with the dulcet tones of Nick Faldo, no worse for Ryder Cup wear, Kelly Tilghman, straining not to make another error, and Hawaii resident Mark Rolfing and serious minded Frank Nobilo. I would rate the coverage thus far as tepid. Kind of like an Els interview.

Average Golfer did take note of some players remarking how difficult the wind in Kapalua was making their day. Excuse me if I take exception. It's 12 deg.F here with a 20 MPH wind making it -148F with the wind chill factor. I don't recall seeing any players, caddies, or spectators wearing long sleeves in Maui, so stop bitching. If you thought that sounded a tad jaded, you'd be a tad correct.

Til' next,

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Balls in the Air - '09 Mercedes-Benz Championship - Picks and Pans

Gentleman, start your drivers. The '09 PGA season launches with a tiny field, missing superstars, but a decent purse and an indescribable setting. Yup, that would be the 2009 Mercedes-Benz Championship at the Plantation Course, Kapalua, Maui. So, with our usual assistance from international odds makers, Ladbrokes, let's handicap the top of the field.....

Vijay Singh, 5/1 - Rumor has Vijay getting knee surgery soon. Still, he's at home here. Should win.

Anthony Kim, 7/1 - Kim's no veteran on these diabolical greens. Won't win.

Ernie Els, 8/1 - Els loves this place and is regaining his form. No Tiger or Phil to spook him. Could win.

Camilo Villegas, 10/1 - Hot player at the end of '08. Might win.

Adam Scott, 12/1 - Injury rumors are exaggerated. Still no assassin closer. Could win.

Geoff Ogilvy, 14/1 - Threat to win every time out. Like him here.

Kenny Perry, 16/1 - Plays his best in the heartland. This is a trip. Won't win.

K.J. Choi, 20/1 - Loves the early season in Hawaii and California. Could win.

Trevor Immelman, 20/1 - Still riding Masters win regarding odds. Can't win. Not that good.

The Field, ?/1 - Field won't win here. Too much local knowledge about wind and greens required.

So, the top three ????

1. Vijay
2. Els
3. Choi

Average Golfer Dark Horse, Daniel Chopra. Obviously he can win here. He defends.

As usual, thank me in advance. Watch the tourney and enjoy the paradise that is Hawaii.

Til' next,

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Maui Wowee - '09 PGA Season Begins

Sorry, not that Maui Wowee. I've been to Maui. It's truly paradise on earth. You're in your own country, the landscape is stunning, you can drink the water, and they take American currency. That's the list. When staring at the overtly verdant mountains dropping into the Pacific you expect to see a dinosaur patrolling the slopes. Truly beyond description. I'd encourage anyone, if possible, to spend at least one vacation in this jewel. Enough travelogue.

The previous year's winners have the pleasure of beginning their new year in a very limited field event at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, held at The Plantation Course, a Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw design at Kapalua Resort. As a "2008 winners only" event it may be marked more than by who isn't playing rather than who is. Woods obviously, and Mickelson, who never plays this tournament, will be joined by non-winners Furyk, Mahan, Stricker and Luke Donald as spectators. Limited then to 33 starters, expect Vijay Singh to be a prohibitive favorite. The greens at Kapalua are notoriously funky and Singh's played here enough to have at least familiarized himself. Besides, he never really took a break from the 2008 season and should have the least rust. Stuart Appleby won here for three consecutive years, '04-'06, but didn't win in '08 to make this field. Keep an eye on last year's defender, Daniel Chopra, as well as Anthony Kim, Ernie Els , Davis Love III, and JB Holmes. Don't discount Camilo Villegas, who has played recently and Boo Weekly, who may have some vacation possum hunting withdrawals.

All in all the ones playing have to love this. Golf in paradise with a 4-5 times better chance to win due to the small field. The course is a unique beaut with huge descents, unpredictable winds, and the aforementioned quirky greens. While I'm watching from my winter wonderland, the contrast should be surreal. Let the season begin....

Til' next,

* Average Golfer Bonus - You have to check out Golfgal's recent posts about her up close and personal experiences with Maui golf.