Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Original Rules of Golf - Average Golfer Book Review

The Original Rules of Golf

By: Dale Concannon
Foreword by: Tony Jacklin

Only, if only, today's modern golf rules numbered just thirteen, the original amount deemed necessary to regulate the game. They could be memorized and there would be no need to consult a Philadelphia lawyer when searching for a mid-round ruling. Why the game's arbiters have found it required to expound on simple concepts seems only a crutch to justify their existence.

1744 was the year that the ancient game of golf tied it's loosely held rules into a framework that forms the basis for today's modern rules. Naturally, a competition was the spark that drove the bus. Penned in Leith, Scotland by a local surgeon, John Rattray, the rules were assembled to regulate the chase for the Silver Club, one of the first recognized golf tournaments. The "Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers" sponsored an open competition seeking participants from all over Great Britain and Scotland. A compilation of the heretofore loose rules was needed to guarantee fairness in pursuit of the Silver Club. Hence the original thirteen tenets, ancestors to the R&A and USGA volumes that now govern the game.

The book is short, but precise in it's explanation of how golf rules evolved. It's an ideal mid-summer afternoon's escape. Reading the original thirteen demonstrates a direct link to our modern game. Most of them are still applicable with one of my favorites being #10, "If a Ball be stopp'd by any person, Horse, Dog, or anything else, the Ball so stop'd must be played, where it lyes." Still applicable if you replace the horse with a modern golf cart.

If you want an interesting read with proof that good things come in small packages then The Original Rules of Golf is a must get. Appreciating where we're at is many times just a matter of knowing where we came from.

The Original Rules of Golf, Bodleian Library, Available on Amazon.

Til' next,

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tiger Woods Needs a Lesson From Tom Watson

Impetuous, childlike, immature, sullen, testy. These words describe my two now adult boys between the ages of thirteen and sixteen or so. They also describe Tiger Woods at the recent Open Championship. The display of club pounding into the ground and lip read expletives was more than I, an admitted Woods fan, could bear. His early exit was a fitting end to an ugly display of non-sportsmanship. He obviously didn't bring his A, B, or maybe even C game to Turnberry. It was painfully evident to all of us watching. The retching, pained- face looks of incredulity from Tiger had me shouting at the TV, "Yes, we already know you just skyed it 200 yards dead right, you moron."

No one would ever question Tiger Woods dedication to excellence or mastery of his craft. His competitive drive and legendary focus is well journalled and one of the pillars of his game. Still, is he any more competitive than Tom Watson? Watson plays in a local tourney in his home state of Missouri with small time legends and crack shooters. It's a testament to his character that he bothers to thrill the locals by attending. He's been quoted as saying he's as dedicated to burying them as he is his foes on the pro tours. Still, he can vanquish his opponents, as he has many times while collecting eight majors, without embarrassing you or himself. Dignity and grace are his fabric, win or lose. No tantrums or displays to the degree that if you just tuned in at the end of a Tom Watson event it would be tough to tell if he was winning or losing. The grace he showed after losing the Open on Sunday should be playing on Woods' flat screen in a continuous loop. For any naysayers, tell me at 59 years old, with five Claret Jugs to his name, Watson wasn't competitive, or didn't dearly wish to add a sixth. Who would have blamed the man, after a lifetime of class, if he tossed a club from his gorse infested lie in the playoff? From a man that dented Jack Nicklaus' armor more than anyone, competitive? Kidding me? Or the reverse......Nicklaus, 19 second place major finishes, throw a club? Smash the tee box? Never, too much respect for the game, his playing partners, and himself, in that order. Or Arnie, Trevino, Cink on Sunday, ad nauseum.

A couple of years after I'd joined my club my game was finally showing signs of real progress. I could birdie any hole on the course, I just couldn't string them together in one round. My scores were dropping at a noticeable rate and all was right with the universe. One day I was paired with one of the older members, a very good stick who threatened to shoot his age any time out. I was anxious to prove my mettle and was thrilled that I was beginning to be asked into better player's groups. I came out hot and was one over after five holes facing a long narrow par five. The group was impressed with my progress and it felt great to hear their compliments. Naturally I then blocked my tee shot off of the property. I teed again, declared a provisional, I couldn't have found the first with GPS, but it seemed like the correct pronouncement. My second, shot three, was the largest, highest, slowest moving banana in the history of fruit. "Captain Kirked, gone where no ball's gone before." I helicoptered my driver about 30 feet down the fairway, never in danger of hitting anyone or thing, then raised my best look of surprised disgust. You know, like you'd never, ever, hit two bad shots in a row. My experienced new partner said, "First of all you're hitting five off the tee, secondly son, if you haven't guessed already, you'll never be good enough to throw a club, so if you wish to finish with us, that will be the last ." It was.

I'm not discounting Mr. Woods accomplishments or his contributions to the game and society at large. His learning centers are remarkably impressive and for all I know may just scratch the surface of his generosity. He comports himself gracefully at all times, except when plying his trade on the golf course, the place he gets the most face time. Just two overdue words of advice for Tiger. Grow up.

Til' next,

Friday, July 17, 2009

Watson Leads, Woods Misses Cut at '09 British Open - Whoulda Thunk?

With Tiger Woods an incredible prohibitive favorite to win the 2009 British Open, betting houses were scrambling to come up with parlay bets to fill the void and attract some action. I doubt if any of them came up with the scenario of Tom Watson leading the thing at the halfway mark and Tiger Woods reading Golf Magazine on his private jet home, looking for swing tips. Legendary Old Tom Morris was 46 when he won the the last of his Open Championships. What does that make Watson at 59? Fill in adjective here _____. Then again, Watson has five claret jugs, which aside from making him an expert in links golf, affords him more jugs than my first strip club encounter. That would make his chances better than any 59 year old on the planet.

Woods' would have spent the day in the woods at my course. Be that as it may, he struggled mightily off the tee, which sealed a fate no one could rally from. His tee ball on the 8th hole was a 200 yard balloon right followed by a tee shot on the 9th that went righter than Reagan. That ball was was ultimately not found and just added to the calamity of errors that described his round today. I kind of enjoyed the fact that even the world's best player has days when he can't, for the life of him, hit it even remotely straight. Don't feel too bad though. He's still a kabillionaire with two babies and a Swedish model waiting for him with open arms. The only one that should be worried might be Hank Haney. I jest. The only problem with Woods' swing is consistent execution. I'm no teaching pro, but I noticed that he seemed to take a pronounced dip on his downswing, especially with the longer clubs. Unfortunately, I don't expect Tiger to be reading this article.

Watson survived five front nine bogeys to post an even par 70. After a reported pep talk by playing partner Sergio Garcia, he proceeded to blow up the back nine, playing the final 10 holes in 4 under par. The exclamation points came when he netted a 75 ft. bomb of a putt on the 16th hole, then verified it on 18 with a 45 footer. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could win,” Watson said. Nuff' said I reckon. That left him tied with Steve Marino, whose superb 68 in blustery conditions, was overshadowed by Watson's effort. Don't look now Tom, a host of players are within striking distance going into moving day. Mark Calcavecchia is one back at -4 and the group of Fisher, Goosen, Jiminez, Vijay Singh, and Kenichi Kuboya are knotted at -3.

Unfortunately this Average Golfer will be moving tomorrow as well. I'll be driving to a wedding in Connecticut during the telecast of round three. As luck would have it, I'll be returning at a similar time for round four. You'd think my family would have at least a modicum of consideration when planning their events. It's not like the schedule for the Open Championship was announced last week!

Enjoy the rest of the Open Championship where I cannot. I'll live vicariously through y'all and pretend to have a good time.

Til' next,

Monday, July 13, 2009

2009 British Open Odds and Picks

I prefer to call this event "The Open Championship", as it rightly is dubbed, but I've discovered that more people perform a web search for the British Open. So I'm a slave to web traffic, sue me.

This year's rendering of the classic event is to be held at Turnberry, not the most frequent venue in the rota, but one that's produced some notable winners, namely Watson, Norman, and Price. Playing at just over 7,200 yards to a par 70, the course has undergone some changes since last held here in 1994. Most evident are some added bunkers and green enhancement will serve to increase the challenge that is links golf, a unique challenge, especially when Mother Nature rears her head, a distinct possibility in these parts of the world. Weather, (read rain), and wind can change the character of this contest and turn it into an exercise in survival rather than a comparison of perfect golf shots. Turnberry is one of the few where errant shots can land in the sea. Pebblesque you might say.

That all said, let's boil down the field and pick some possible winners. I'll handicap the top 17 with current odds supplied by Ladbrokes, noted betting house, with more than a vested interest in this event, the quintessential European contest. Ready? Let's get going......

Tiger Woods, 3:1 - What can you say? World's best, smallest odds. Only negative, never played here. Practice rounds this week will have to suffice. Game transitions to links rather well. Should win.

Sergio Garcia, 21:1 - Don't understand the 2nd least odds. Not exactly peaking. Could win I suppose. Probably won't.

Ian Poulter, 26:1 - Like him better than Garcia. That makes him a could win without the "I suppose."

Lee Westwood, 26:1 - Overdue for a major. Bit of a home field advantage with no name Scots in the mix. Might win.

Padraig Harrington, 26:1 - Going for 3rd consecutive British. Too bad he's slumped of late. Great time to break out. Won't however.

Rory McIlroy, 26:1 - Extreme talent. If in contention will have to deal with pressure cooker. Will win plenty, just not this one.

Anthony Kim, 34:1 - Not sure he can adjust his ball flight downward in expected wind. Better on target courses. Won't win.

Hunter Mahan, 34:1 - Last round was a 62. Coming into his own. May very well win.

Henrik Stenson, 34:1 - I figure him as a contender whenever/wherever he tees it. Needs to overcome major hump. Split on Henrik, not sure.

Jim Furyk, 34:1 - Can't ever overlook him. Don't think he can, but wouldn't surprise.

Martin Kaymer, 34:1 - Coming off a win last week. Brilliant at times. It's possible.

Paul Casey, 34:1 - Should be one of the favorites in my opinion. Could win.

Ernie Els, 41:1 - Maybe the Ernie of years ago. Not this Ernie. Won't win.

Geoff Ogilvy, 41:1 - Rather pedestrian year so far for Geoff. Still, if you can win one major....... Could win.

Ross Fisher, 41:1 - Nice player. As close to a home game as he'll get. Can't win, but wish he could.

Retief Goosen, 41:1 - Surprised to see him this far down the list. Game's coming around. Major wins in his resume. Could win.

Steve Stricker, 41:1 - Strick just won. Coming in hot, but a couple days late to see the course. Possible, but doubt it.

2009 Open Championship Full Field.

Average Golfer makes his selections.........

Sentimental Picks

1. David Duval
2. John Daly
3. Paul Goydos

Dark Horse Picks

1. Graeme McDowell
2. Angel Cabrera
3. Thongchai Jaidee

*** Winning Picks, Top Three ***

1. Tiger Woods
2. Lee Westwood
3. Hunter Mahan

There you have 'em. As usual, free, gratis. Consider them a part of my repaying a debt to society.

Bet early and often.

Til' next,

*Average Golfer aside.......Make a bundle! Nick Faldo goes off at 2001:1

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Eun Hee Ji Nails 20 Foot Birdie Putt on 72nd Hole to Claim '09 US Women's Open.

Now that's how to win a golf major. Roll in a 20 foot birdie to prevent a playoff. Over, done. Responding to the pressure cooker that is a major championship, Eun Hee Ji had her butterflies flying in formation. The 20 yr. old South Korean launched her career forward by calmly stroking the winning putt to edge hard-charging Candie Kung and become 64th US Women's Open champion. Ji captured the prize in just her 2nd try having finished T42 in last year's Open. She survived a tenuous early start by birdieing 3 of her last 6 holes, including the 72nd and most crucial. Ji ended her round at even par 284, the aforementioned one stroke better than Kung. Ji's playing partner, third round leader Cristie Kerr, carded a final round +4, 75, and tied for 3rd with In-Kyung Kim. Suzann Petersen, Ai Miyazato, and Paula Creamer were locked together in 4th place. Brittany Lincicome's -1, 70, was good enough to land her solo 5th. Upstart crowd favorite and Futures Tour player Jean Reynolds wilted in the final round heat to a +6, 77, but impressed with her ability on a long, tough golf course. Final Full Field Scores.

The truth is that starting the day it was Kerr's tournament to win or lose. Saucon Valley Country Club was softened somewhat by overnight rains, but the diabolical greens regained their bite as the day progressed and they dried. The fact that the winning score was even par is testament to the course and the layout as dictated by the USGA. The 6,740 yard, par 71 behemoth was a true test marked by +400 yard par fours and a 210 yard par three. Chipping on in three and one putting for par was the nom du jour. Survival of the fittest. That's pretty much exactly what you'd want your national champion to claim. A 20 foot birdie putt on the last hole for all the marbles. How do you beat that? You don't. Congratulations to Eun Hee Ji!

Til' next,

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Gut Check for Anthony Kim in AT&T's Final Round

Center stage, albeit not at a major, is there for the taking by Anthony Kim during tomorrow's final round of the AT&T National. Locked at -10 with Tiger Woods, Kim faces either a daunting task or a huge opportunity. The host and the defending champion will be the last to tee off on Sunday. Kim's 68 today made up the two shot deficit he faced at the beginning of today's 3rd round. Woods' rather pedestrian 70 set up the final round pairing with Kim. Woods' ridiculous numbers after having or sharing the 54 lead would ordinarily be intimidating, but I'm not so sure young Kim is aware of just how much. Kim has enough gunslinger mentality to go for every pin, which may not be a bad idea. After all, Kim set a Masters single round record earlier this year by recording 11 birdies. An "on" Kim and a slightly "off" Woods could result in a win that would catapult Kim's confidence and make him a legit Woods' challenger. A win by Woods would make for the unusual trifecta of having won the three player named tournaments in one year, Arnie's, Jack's, and his own.

Before I begin to make this out as a two man match play round, keep in mind that a host of golfers are within four stokes of the leaders. Michael Allen and Cameron Beckman are at -9, just one back. Jim Furyk and Rod Pampling, both of whom play extremely well here, are knotted at -8. Recent US Open champ Lucas Glover sits at -7 and a gaggle of five other players are at -6. Should the leaders falter there's more than enough players willing to take their places.

It stands to be a good one. Salute our nation's magnificent military, stretch your July 4th celebration another day and catch some great golf.

Til' next,

Happy July 4th

Despite reports to the contrary, still the best country on God's green earth.