Two neighbors and buddies at Whisper Rock decided to make the 90 mile trek to the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain, AZ, and play a practice round in advance of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. That little trip appears to have paid off in spades. Geoff Ogilvy and Paul Casey, the two friends mentioned, have a date in the 36 hole final tomorrow. They took decidedly different routes in the semifinals with the same result. Ogilvy took care of the last American in the field, Stewart Cink, 4 and 2, in a match that was never really close. Casey, on the other hand, dismissed fellow Brit Ross Fisher, 2 and 1, in an interminable match that both players seemed hell bent on throwing away. They combined for 23 strokes on holes 15 and 16 where combined par was 14. Casey ended the marathon on 17 with a conservatively played par on a 463 yard hole where he hit an iron off the tee. The slates are wiped clean however for tomorrow's final. Full tournament scoring.
Based on his winning this event before, Ogilvy would have to be considered the favorite. He has a major championship under his belt as well. Nevertheless, Casey is a bothersome opponent. He has a solid game in all aspects and is used to being in the winner's circle, just not in the US. Expect a solid match with Ogilvy's experience proving out in the end. Phew, last prediction for the week and probably for some time.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Friday, February 27, 2009
With Tiger Woods' comeback relegated to yesterday's news and top seeds dropping like Newton's apple, 19 year old Irishman Rory McIlroy's march through the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship field is as fresh as a prom date. Just off his victory in a to be unnamed Mideast tournament, (Average Golfer policy), young Rory is blasting through his more experienced brethren like it's his birthright. Today's victim was yesterday's Tiger-slayer Tim Clark. Rory dispatched him 4 and 3 in convincing fashion. He had 5 birdies in his abbreviated 15 holes and was 4 up through six. Next up, previous champ Geoff Ogilvy, who doused the previously red hot Camilo Villegas, 2 and 1. Villegas made a hint of a comeback after being down three after 13. Bogeys by Villegas on the 16th and 17th however brought his rally to a sputtering stop. That sets up tomorrow's most interesting tangle. The experienced former champ Ogilvy and the upstart McIlroy.
ROUND #4 MATCHUPS AND PICKS.
Stewart Cink vs Ernie Els - Cink just survives. Won't survive Els.
Rory McIlroy vs Geoff Ogilvy - Oh, what the hell, Rory.
Justin Leonard vs Ross Fisher - Fisher showed he can play. Leonard wins.
Paul Casey vs Sean O'Hair - O'Hair impresses. Casey wins this one.
Tune in early tomorrow morning as the quarterfinal matches begin at 10:00 AM, EST on the Golf Channel. NBC picks up the semifinals at 2:00 PM EST.
Average Golfer was a pitiful 3 for 8 with yesterday's picks. Sincere apologies to anyone that was foolish enough to place credence in my picks. My sympathy for anyone that's crazy enough to bet on match play.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
At #2 Phil Mickelson is the highest remaining seed left at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Tiger Woods was thoroughly dispatched by Tim Clark 4 and 2. Clark was 6 under through his required 15 holes and took control on the back nine. Woods' drive on 15 went OB off the cart path ending any hope of a miracle comeback. The remaining #1 today, Vijay Singh, was sent home by Luke Donald on the 19th hole of their match. Peter Hanson at #15 was the lowest seed remaining, having beaten Stephen Ames 2 and 1.
All that sets up tomorrow's Day #3 action with the following match-ups and Average Golfer predictions. Round #2 full field final scores. I was a blase 8-8 on Day #2 picks making me 24-24 overall.
ROUND #3 PICKS
Clark, 8 vs McIlroy, 4 - Clark was flawless. Like him in a close one.
Ogilvy, 2 vs Villegas, 3 - Camilo romped in his first two. I like Ogilvy.
Donald, 9 vs Els, 4 - Els here, although Luke wouldn't surprise.
Mickelson, 2 vs Cink, 6 - Cink extended both matches. Phil wins.
Poulter, 8 vs O'Hair, 12 - O'Hair's tricky. Poulter here.
Hanson, 15 vs Casey, 6 - Keep the 15 dream alive. Hanson.
Fisher, 9 vs Furyk, 4 - Furyk, of course.
Leonard, 7 vs Wilson, 11 - Leonard too much.
Maybe as the field narrows I can increase my pick percentage. Maybe not. Now we'll see how the weekend shapes up. You know the networks are pulling for Phil and.........probably Furyk for the final.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Average Golfer was a big loser today as he went an abysmal 16 out of 32 in his Day #1 picks. In my humble opinion, the day's biggest winners were Oliver Wilson, Davis Love III, Ross Fisher, Matthew Goggin, Peter Hanson, Boo Weekley, Charl Schwartzel, and Hunter Mahan. All were underdogs in their respective contests. Biggest losers were Sergio Garcia, and anyone that lost to the biggest winners. So, we'll have to make a quick turn around and ace the 2nd round. Can't be any worse than the coin flip results I had today. Day #1 Full final match results. Here we go.......
DAY #2 PICKS
Woods vs Clark - Woods emphatically.
McIlvoy vs Mahan - McIlvoy in a squeaker.
Ogilvy vs Katayama - Ogilvy's experience here.
Villegas vs Jimenez - Taking the wily Mechanic.
Singh vs Donald - Singh rounding into form.
Els vs Stricker - Stricker in a close one.
Mickelson vs Johnson - Mickelson, but not confident about it.
Westwood vs Cink - Hunch, Cink.
Schwartzel vs Poulter - Hmm...Poulter
Weekley vs O'Hair - Weekley, but barely.
Hanson vs Ames - Ames in this one.
Goggin vs Casey - Casey.
Perez vs Fisher - Unlikely duo. Perez
Furyk vs Kaymer - USA, USA! Furyk.
Love III vs Johnson - Battle of buddies. Leonard.
Kim vs Wilson - Kim, I didn't think he'd be sharp. I was wrong.
Plenty of upsets just proves the fragility of match play. A player could lose as many as 4 or 5 shots to an opponent and still lose just a hole or two. The cream usually rises to the top over the course of a four day stroke play tournament, but today a ton of cream sank to the bottom of the cup.
Stay tuned. Should be fascinating to watch this thing unfold further.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Now for the 2nd half of the field prognostications for the WGC-Accenture World Match Play Championship. If you're wondering where the 1st half is, here's the link. Let's get to it......
Sergio Garcia, 1 vs Charles Schwartzel, 16 - Sergio wins at least one. Start with this one.
Ian Poulter, 8 vs Jeev Mikha Singh, 9 - I'm going with the lesser of the two Singhs.
Justin Rose, 4 vs Boo Weekley, 13 - Rose plays terribly on US soil. Weekley here.
Adam Scott, 5 vs Sean O'Hair, 12 - May be closer than expected. Scott.
Robert Karlsson, 2 vs Peter Hanson, 15 - Karlsson overrated here, but still wins this one.
Alvaro Quiros, 7 vs Stephen Ames, 10 - Quiros. Don't ask why.
Kenny Perry, 3 vs Matthew Goggin, 14 - For Perry the fairytale continues.
Paul Casey, 6 vs Aaron Baddeley, 11 - Upset here. Badds beats Brit.
Padraig Harrington, 1 vs Pat Perez, 16 - Perez rounding into form, but Paddy's too much.
Robert Allenby, 8 vs Ross Fisher, 9 - Allenby. Could go deep into this event.
Jim Furyk, 4 vs Anders Hansen, 13 - Furyk....tough, gritty, irrepressible.
Martin Kaymer, 5 vs Stuart Appleby, 12 - Should be a good match. Appleby in the upset.
Henrik Stenson, 2 vs Davis Love III, 15 - Want Love, pick Stenson.
Justin Leonard, 7 vs Andres Romero, 10 - Leonard's experience tops the young upstart.
Anthony Kim, 3 vs Wen-Tang Lin, 14 - Kim, if his heads screwed on straight.
K.J. Choi, 6 vs Oliver Wilson, 11 - Choi prevails.
There you have 'em. Free expert picks considering all possibilities and the vagaries of match play. A couple of bad holes and it could be all over for any of them. The broadcasters are praying it's not a Kieldson/Quiros finale on Sunday.
And remember.....it's more exciting to bet with money you can't afford to lose. Better yet, bet with borrowed money. Then it will really feel like a win.
*Don't touch this dial throughout the tournament. Average Golfer will be posting updates and changed picks based on my success or lack thereof.
Monday, February 23, 2009
And you were expecting expert picks. Self proclaimed expert that is. Now it's time to handicap the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Be there or be square.
You should begin by printing your own brackets, available here in pdf. form. Now give this a little thought. Resist the temptation to pencil in Tiger Woods as the winner and working your brackets backwards. Consult the current odds at Ladbrokes, one of the world's foremost bookmakers. Tiger Woods going off at 1/5 should tell you something about how he's been missed in the arena. Use every available tool at your disposal.
Here's Average Golfer's accurate take on the Jones and Hogan divisions. Snead and Player divisions to follow tomorrow. I will reveal the winner.......
Tiger Woods, 1 vs Brendan Jones, 16 - No brainer, Woods.
Tim Clark, 8 vs Retief Goosen, 9 - Close, but it's Goosen.
Rory McIlvoy, 4 vs Louis Oosthuizen, 13 - McIlroy because I don't want to type Louis' name again.
Mike Weir, 5 vs Hunter Mahan, 12 - Weir, steady in match play.
Geoff Ogilvy, 2 vs Kevin Sutherland, 15 - Ogilvy of course.
Trevor Immelman, 7 vs Shingo Katayama, 10 - Shingo in mild upset.
Camilo Villegas, 3 vs Rod Pampling, 14 - Pampling in a major upset.
Miguel Angel Jimenez, 6 vs Rory Sabbatini, 11 - The Mechanic in a close one.
Vijay Singh, 1 vs Soren Kielsen, 16 - Singh here, but he's still hurt.
Ben Curtis, 8 vs Luke Donald, 9 - Tough one. Donald.
Ernie Els, 4 vs Soren Hansen, 13 - Els naturally.
Steve Stricker, 5 vs Dustin Johnson, 12 - Johnson in an upset. Big hitter, lotsa birdies.
Phil Mickelson, 2 vs Angel Cabrera, 15 - Phil, I think.....
Zach Johnson, 7 vs Graeme McDowell, 10 - Zach, but iffy.
Lee Westwood, 3 vs Pravad Marksaeng, 14 - Westwood. Must admit, never heard of Marksaeng.
Stewart Cink, 6 vs Richard Sterne, 11 - Cink. 2nd last year.
Thank me in advance, and remember....only bet with money you can't afford to lose, otherwise it's meaningless!
Sunday, February 22, 2009
He had a four stroke lead at the start of today's play. He was two down with three to play. He birdied two of the last three and made a par saving 6 footer on 18 to disappoint Steve Stricker and claim his 35th PGA Tour victory. Phil Mickelson did all of that in one Sunday afternoon to roller coaster his was to consecutive wins at Riviera in the Northern Trust Open.
Phil waltzed on the precipice of a huge defeat only to snatch it away from Stricker's slick 67. Stricker waited as Mickelson drained that winning 6 footer and the crowd's roar said it all. 72 was enough. Barely. Fred Couples felt the theft as well. He was a single shot behind when he fanned his 2nd shot on 18 and looked in pain as it rocketed into a eucalyptus tree, effectively ending his run at one of his favorite courses. His final round 69 placed him in a tie for 3rd with KJ Choi and Andres Romero.
So, the stage is set for this week's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Phil heads in on the wings of a victory and Tiger Woods returns from a long hiatus. All is beginning to be well in the pro golf world.
Be there this week as Average Golfer breaks down the brackets and tells you early who your money should be behind. Should be a blast.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Guess we have to watch to see which Phil shows up tomorrow. After an early morning fly-in session with swing coach Butch Harmon, Phil's 62, one off the course record, left him four shots clear of Andres Romero after the third round of the Northern Trust Open at Riviera. His 63, 72, 62 had him at 197, -16 going to the final day. There was a tight foursome at -11 including Fred Couples, who at 49 is attempting to win once more on one of his favorite courses.
If we get today's Phil tomorrow, the race is for 2nd. If we get Friday's Phil, it's a horse race. I wonder if Butch spent the night?
Friday, February 20, 2009
Former UCLA player Scott McCarron found his old stomping grounds just to his liking as he carved a smooth-3, 68, out of Riviera Country Club for a two shot lead after the Northern Trust Open's second round. On a day where par was a mere suggestion, first round leader Phil Mickelson shot one of the few over par rounds, a +1, 72. That backed him up to -7 overall and in the middle of a logjam for 3rd place. Tommy Armour II, -4, -8 was tied with a surging Steve Stricker for 2nd. Stricker carded an impressive 66 to punctuate his move up the board. The rest of the pack tied at -7 included KJ Choi, Luke Donald, Geoff Ogilvy, Pat Perez, and Rory Sabbatini, who until today was thought to have entered the federal witness protection program. Welcome back Rory. Anything to say about Tiger's return?
Vincent Johnson, recipient of the Charlie Sifford Exemption was cruising to make the cut at -1 when he was victimized by one of my least favorite rules in golf. While addressing a chip shot on the 5th hole his ball was deemed to have moved resulting in a triple bogey. He missed the cut by those same two penalty strokes. Average Golfer says if an addressed ball is moved by the equivalent of a butterfly fart then, no harm, no foul. Heralded Japanese rookie Ryo Ishikawa also missed the cut by two strokes with 70, 74.
Poor Phil. Yesterday's 63 got scorched in the golf headlines by the return of Tiger Woods and today he was one of a select few to back up to par.
If the benign conditions hold through the weekend then it's go low or go home. Take in the birdie fest.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
The wait is over. Tiger Woods announced today on his website that he will return to competitive golf next week at the WGC- Accenture Match Play Championship. Woods will play world #64 Brendan Jones in his first competitive round since year ending knee surgery after last year's US Open. The event has a new home this year, The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain, in Marana, Ariz.. Naturally, Woods defends.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Little did Dustin Johnson realize that his -5, 67 on Saturday would earn him the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am title on Monday. Relentless rain and high winds forced the event to be determined after three rounds. Johnson's 54 hole victory earned him a spot in the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship later this month. Mike Weir finished 2nd and Retief Goosen claimed solo 3rd. The tournament cancelling weather front dumped up to 1 1/2 inches of rain and wind gusts up to 60 mph. One such gust toppled a 40 foot pine tree on the course. Playing Pebble is dicey at this time of the year. It's character changes drastically in the summer with firmer fairways and slicker, drier greens.
Next up for the men is the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club where rusty Phil Mickelson defends. Perhaps Northern Trust is the rare financial institution that didn't succumb to sub-prime mortgage greed.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
High winds and rain forced a "possible " Monday finish at the 2009 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am. "Possible" because more rain was predicted overnight and into Monday. The last Monday finish at this event was in 2000 when Tiger Woods came back from 7 down with 7 holes to play to capture the victory. Dustin Johnson has the prohibitive lead this year at -15, four in front of Mike Weir. Mark Russell, the PGA TOUR tournament director at Pebble, said if half of the field completes the fourth round on Monday, the tour is required to complete all 72 holes no matter how long it takes. Full field scores.
Nary a shot was struck today as winds toppled a 40 foot tree and water pooled on the greens. A victory by the long hitting Johnson would give him a spot in the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship at the end of this month as well as a seat in the year's first two majors. Strong rumor has it that Tiger Woods will make his return in the WGC event.
Tomorrow's action, if the tournament can be played, will be broadcast on the Golf Channel. Still, it's starting to evoke memories of the 1998 tourney that was completed in August after weather prevented the finish.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
If you enjoy Nature on PBS, then you could watch the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am and not notice that golf had broken out. Between the crashing breakers, whales, seals, and sundry other natural delights, the place is truly mesmerizing. I can't imagine a more picturesque setting for a golf course, period. I'd watch a beginner's foursome play Pebble to get a shot of the background. Enough gushing.
Low scores were hung on day one of this venerable event. Being off today I caught most of the telecast, but had trouble getting interested. Tim Finchem, playing with Davis Love III was the only "celebrity" that was shown with any regularity. I saw enough of him to discern that he favors a low slinging hook. Great for fairway roll, but a bastard to hold greens with. Upon further review though, I guess I've seen enough of Ray Romano in years past to satisfy me for a while. Bill Murray's lost his luster with me as well. His golf antics are predictable and tired. Strangely the Golf Channel only showed a handful of shots hit from the other two venues, Spyglass and Poppy Hills. Maybe one of their production trucks broke down. Adding to the conundrum was the fact that four of the top ten played those courses.
First round leaders are inconsequential, but tradition dictates I tell you that Robert Garrigus and Dustin Johnson were tied for the top spot at -7. One back of them was the triumvirate of Rich Beem, Charley Hoffman, and Vaughn Taylor. Eight more gladiators were locked at -5, too many to list this early in the tournament. Full field scores.
Tune in. You might catch some great golf. If not, you'll certainly catch some great vistas.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Grand theft, based on the purse size. Nick Watney's 18th hole birdie gave him the victory at the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines. Watney squeezed out his win over 3rd round leader John Rollins. Rollins had a three shot advantage heading into today's final round play, but he ballooned to a final round 74. Watney's 68 left him at -11 for the tourney, followed by Rollins at -10, and Camilo Villegas, who despite being tied for the lead early in today's round, ended tied for third place with Lucas Glover at -9. Villegas carded a 72 for his final round. Young Australian Matt Jones fired a 64 today to leap from 36th to a tie for 5th place. For the record, Phil Mickelson finished in a tie for 42nd. An inauspicious start to Mickelson's year, especially at a course he favors.
Torrey Pines has been in the spotlight three times in the last year between the usual Buick tour stops and last year's US Open. It seems like I know the course as well as my local dog track. John Rollins yanked his 2nd shot on the par 5 18th into the left bunker and a nasty downhill lie with the green sloping to the water. That allowed Watney's birdie for the win. I found my eyes wandering to the front right of the green where Tiger Woods sunk his 72nd hole, playoff forcing putt against Rocco in last year's US Open.
With Buick dropping Tiger Woods and all of the automakers in the throes of a dramatic sales slide, it would appear that auto manufacturer sponsorship bucks will be tough to come by. Nevertheless, it seems that Hyundai alone was able to boast a sales increase in January. Woods in a Hyundai Accent? If that happens will things have really hit bottom?
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Upon winning the 1997 Masters Tiger Woods declared, "I am the first minority to win here, but I wasn't the first to play. That was Lee Elder, and my hat's off to him and Charlie Sifford and Ted Rhodes, who made this possible for me." One day after Rhodes' death in 1969, Lee Elder was even more lavish in his praise. "Whatever had happened to me in big time golf, and whatever success I attain eventually, I owe to Ted Rhodes."
Rhodes emerged from the starkest of beginnings. He worked as a caddie at Nashville's Belle Meade Country Club where he wasn't allowed to play golf. His nickname, "Rags", grew from his penchant for flashy clothes and neat appearance. Whenever he found the chance he'd sneak on the course to play, or hit balls at a local baseball stadium with the other caddies.
Rhodes was discharged from the Navy after serving in WWII and found himself landing in Chicago. He made friends with boxer Joe Louis and entertainer Billy Eckstein. They in turn sponsored Rhodes in the LA Open and Canadian Open. He taught Louis the game of golf and hung with Charlie Sifford. He and Sifford became two of the first African American members of the PGA. Rhodes is remembered as being the rough equal of the time's white players, and would have competed well on the pro tour, if given the chance.
In 1948 Rhodes was forced into an epic battle with the PGA for the right to participate in it's tournaments. He finished 21st in the field of 66 at the LA Open, held at Riviera Country Club. That qualified him for the Richmond, (Calif.), Open later in January. Rhodes entry into the tourney was denied by the PGA citing their "Caucasians only" clause. Rhodes and two other black golfers sued the PGA for $315,000 on the grounds that they were denied an opportunity to make a living in their profession. While waiting for the court date Rhodes had his entry into the US Open at Riviera accepted by the USGA. He opened with a -1, 7o, but gradually faded in the tournament won by Ben Hogan.
The following September, as the case was ready to be heard, the PGA reversed field and said they would stop banning black golfers. They were allowed to play in PGA events if they were invited by the tournament sponsors. This led to 1949, where after a great year on the United Golf Association tour, a tour for blacks, he entered the PGA event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. PGA secretary George Schneiter informed him that his invitation had been sent by mistake, therefore reinstating the racist policies that the tour never really dropped. The PGA screwed him again by turning down his entry into the San Diego Open. The resulting controversy was so widespread that Joe Louis was invited to play.
In 1961 the PGA finally dropped it's "Caucasian only" clause for good. Rhodes was 48 and his best golf was behind him. He became a teaching pro and mentored the likes of Lee Elder, Althea Gibson and Ann Gregory. He died in Nashville in 1969 at 53 years of age.
Truly a pioneer. Professional golf's African American presence is still tiny, but the ones that have made it are standing on Ted Rhodes' shoulders.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Kenny Perry finally dispatched Charlie Hoffman on the 3rd playoff hole to win the FBR Open. It was Perry's 13th career PGA victory. Perry announced earlier this year that his goal was to win 20 PGA events, which would gain him a lifetime exemption. Perry's been great at goal setting of late. His 2008 goal was to make the US Ryder Cup squad.
Perry had bogeyed the 18th in regulation to set up the playoff. Neither player seemed to want the win as they both bogeyed 18 to open the extra holes. That followed with both of them parring the 2nd playoff hole, the 10th, setting the stage for Perry's victorious 22 foot putt on 17. Kevin Na finished in solo 3rd after missing an 8 foot putt on 18 in regulation that would have added him to the playoff.
Early on the back nine there was a four way tie for the lead at -13. One by one the pretenders fell off with the exception of Hoffman. He and Perry finished regulation at -14, followed by Na at -13, then David Toms and James Nitties knotted at -12. There was a four way tie for 6th at -11 consisting of Ryan Moore, Matt Kuchar, Brian Gay, and Scott Piercy. Full field scores.
I like the 16th hole and the animal fans. It wouldn't work anywhere else, but here it fits. The crowd a crazies was decidedly smaller today as the Super Bowl stole some fans. It characterizes this tournament and the flavor spills out all over the venue. Too bad they can't attract a better field, and too bad Phil missed the cut.
*Average Golfer aside....Just started watching Springsteen's halftime show at the Super Bowl. I've never been a huge Springsteen fan, but why the sell out? Ain't he got enough money? By the way, I think he left his voice on the bus.