Three over on Sunday doesn't get it done on the PGA Tour. Especially with Tiger Woods hot on your rear bumper. Woods played great, making the crucial putt when he needed it. His 15 footer for birdie on the 18th crowned it and gave him his 6th Arnold Palmer Invitational title. Let's face it though, Sean O'Hair crumpled under the weight of the setting. Starting the day 5 shots up he gave three of them back on the front nine, bogeying 3, and 7. Conversely Woods birdied 2, 3, and 7. The 16th became a pivotal hole as O'Hair shorted his approach and drowned his ball. That gave Woods a one stroke lead that he quickly gave back after a buried bunker bogey on 17. That set the stage for his winning birdie putt on 18 that was eerily reminiscent on his victory here last year.
Don't misunderstand me, Sean O'Hair is a fine young player and only 26 years old. He has a lot of great golf in front of him and shouldn't have to worry about getting his bills paid. Still, a 5 shot lead on Sunday is not something you absolutely can't give up, even against Woods. And....in the pantheon of players Woods has beaten on Sunday, O'Hair is just at the end of a long line.
This should answer any question about Woods and ring rust. Woods claims that after Doral he revisited the putting theories passed to him by his father and reincorporated his putting drills into his practice regimen. He finsished the week #1 in putting, and that my friends is what nearly always wins golf tournaments. Final full field scores.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Just like your regular Sunday foursome Sean O'Hair has a 2.5 stroke advantage per side as he tries to capture the 2009 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. As most of the field fell backwards on Saturday due to heavy winds, Woods snuck himself into the final group with O'Hair by matching him in the 3rd round with a 71. That left O'Hair the same 5 shot cushion he began the day with. Six behind O'Hair at -1 were Ryuji Imada, Jason Gore and Zach Johnson. Johnson was one of the few players to advance on par Saturday firing an admirable 68 in windy conditions. The next group at even par included Robert Allenby, Pat Perez, and Brandt Snedeker.
The greater Orlando area is currently experiencing heavy thunderstorms. That's pushed final round tee times back almost two hours. The delay means it's doubtful the final round will be completed before dark. Looks like the boys may be grabbing some OT for their efforts. The afternoon's forecast, after the rains clear, calls for partly cloudy skies, 76 degrees, and 20 mph winds. Expect softer conditions with players firing darts at the Sunday pin placements.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Retief Goosen ended his longish PGA Tour victory drought with a one shot victory over Charles Howell III and Brett Quigley today at the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook Golf Course. Goosen finished with a -1, 70 to claim his first paycheck in nearly four years on the American tour. Howell, who needs a victory in the next two weeks to earn a Masters invite, bogeyed 15 and 16 to effectively end his chances. Quigley, by virtue of his tie for 2nd, landed his second runner up finish in as many weeks. Third round leader Tom Lehman struggled to a 75 and a share of eighth place.
The tour moves to Bay Hill next week for the Arnold Palmer Invitational where a strong field makes their Masters prep. Tiger Woods defends. Click here for Arnie's field. Conspicuous in their absence are Sergio and Phil.
Don't get me wrong, Tom Lehman is leading the Transitions Championship after the third round with a nifty -8 with restrictive fairways and slick greens. The 50 year old being on top makes for a nice story, just not a great one. I tried to watch some yesterday, but must admit that March Madness won the battle for my remote. The big guns are sitting this one out. No Woods, Mickelson, Garcia, et al, makes for an opportunity for the 2nd tier pros, but dampens interest in the run up to the Masters.
Lehman's putter put him where he is as he ranks 6th for the three rounds in putting. If he could putt, Charles Howell III would be leading this thing. Chuck is hitting 84% of his fairways. With his length that should put all the course records at Innisbrook in jeopardy. Charles is dead with the putter in his hands though and as far as I know they haven't removed putting from the rules. Retief Goosen is a hair behind Lehman at -7. The recently turned 40 South African is trying to regain his world-class form and seems to be on the right path. the aforementioned Howell is knotted at -5, three back with Trevor Immelman, Jonathan Byrd, and Stuart Appleby. Immelman is attempting to land just his 2nd top ten finish since his jaw dropping Masters win last year. Peaking at the right time I reckon. Eight players then fall in line at -4 including David Toms, another player searching for past glory.
Next week the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill represents the real tune up for the overblown, (more on this theory in the weeks to come), Masters. A better field will mean more interest. The fact that it's Arnie's shindig carries a lot of weight with players. The Shell Houston Open leads into the Augusta hype fest with a cadre of 2nd level players trying to pad their wallets and maintain their Tour status. Those journeyman will have to beat Phil and Sergio however, as both are committed to play in this year's event. Greg Norman's in the field as well and that alone may pump up the interest.
*Average Golfer aside..... For my previously published review of Transitions lenses fitted in an Oakley frame, click this link.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Four shots clear of the rest of the field, Phil Mickelson and Nick Watney hope for a match play type final round at the WGC-CA Championship at Doral. Watney's smooth 67 today, combined with Phil's 69 allowed Watney, the Buick Invitational winner, to make up the two shot deficit he had at today's start. Phil's grip and rip philosophy has turned out rather well so far, other than a few Captain Kirks, (Gone where no ball's gone before). Strangely Phil didn't chip in today which ended a streak running back to 1994. Birdies and eagles rendered the Blue Monster relatively defenseless, the leaders finishing at a hefty -16 under par. Mickelson overcame the lack of noticeable rough by bombing and wedging on just about any hole with length. Watney hit fairways and didn't make any huge errors. His putter responded and hence, a tie. Uber-coach, Butch Harmon, joined the NBC booth near the end of the round to point out that both leaders were from his stable. He never hesitated in mentioning that he thought Phil had many more shots in his arsenal than Tiger. At least Butch is consistent. He insists that any thought that pops into his head must dribble out of his mouth. Johnny Miller should have asked him if he thought Tiger would trade his trophy case for Phil's variety of shots.
Outsiders staring at taillights that have a shot if they post of great round then wait in the clubhouse include Jeev Milka Singh and Camilo Villegas at -12, four back, and a flock of five players knotted at -11. Young stalwart Rory McIlroy backed up to -10, six back, with his 72 today. Plenty of time for the young Irishman. It's a tribute to his skill that he's where he is at 19 years old.
What's with all the fuss over Bermuda greens? The announcers make it sound like you have to make a pact with the devil to understand their grain and subtle nuances. Haven't most of these guys played Bermuda many, many times? Is this the Tour's first year with a Florida swing? These guys in the booth have to realize that sometimes just saying nothing is the best move you can make. A little silence in a four hour telecast never killed anyone.
Friday, March 13, 2009
It's ring rust, no more, no less. Mickelson by two, -13, over Watney, -11, at the WGC-CA Championship. Tiger 10 back. Probably too much to overcome given Mickelson's renewed gunslinger persona. The real story lurks a couple of more strokes back at -10 where oldster Kenny Perry and youngster Rory McIlroy are locked. Now that's the definition of contrast.
An errant drive here, a wayward iron or two there and some missed putts for good measure leave Woods in his 10 shot hole. Still, my untrained eye says he's striking the ball well and apparently is pain free. It takes a little time to get back to Tour competitiveness after an eight month hiatus. You worry about Woods' game and I'll spend my time worrying about Woody Austin's. Nevertheless, I truly hope the others have used Woods' down time to catch up. That only means more exciting results as the season progresses.
There's a lot to pay attention to over the weekend. Will Phil choke? Does Rory make a move? And....don't tell me you won't check Tiger's spot on the board tomorrow to see if he's gaining. Enjoy.
*Average Golfer question of the day. - With these scores, what the hell do we call the Blue Monster now?
Posted by Average Golfer at 9:20 PM
Sunday, March 8, 2009
A work assignment takes me out of town for the next five weeks. My posting will be limited to once or twice a week when I'm home on weekends. Hey, stop that applause in the back!
When all of this is over you can expect my usual drivel at it's usual frequency. Just in time for the Masters! In the meantime.......
Swing hard, look up!
Friday, March 6, 2009
Pro golf stars are fading like five dollar beach towels at The Honda Classic at PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, FL. So, either "all these guys are good" or the big boys are a little off their game. I suppose it's a mildly good sign that Honda kept their sponsorship given the current state of the auto industry.
Household name, Y.E. Yang was the leader after today's 2nd round at 68, 65, 133. Yang's roller coaster career has included the highlight of beating Tiger Woods at the HSBC Champions in 2006 and the low light of being disqualified in defending his title in Shanghai for having an incorrect scorecard. A recognizable name, Robert Allenby was one back at 134. The rest of the top of the leader board was filled with journeymen players including Will MacKenzie, 134, Jeff Overton, 134, Ben Crane, 135, David Mathis, 136, etc., etc. With all due respect to Mrs. and Mrs. Klauk, I haven't heard of their son Jeff, who was settled into a six way tie for 7th. 19 year old Rory McIlroy, along with Stewart Cink were bigger names that were within pistol range, five behind Yang.
To find the big names you had to scroll farther down the list. Sergio, 6 back, Rocco, 7 back, Calcavecchia, 8 back, Darren Clarke, 8 back, Davis Love III, 9 back, Woody, 10 back, defender Ernie Els, 10 back, Leonard, 10 back, Lowery, 10 back. Evidently 10 back is a popular spot to make a move on Saturday from.
Missed cuts, (+3), featured Appleby, Faxon, Romero, JB Holmes, Villegas, Snedeker, and Justin Rose.
The "feel great" story is undoubtedly Erik Compton. His pair of 69s put the double heart transplant recipient, with the last being in 2008, at within five shots of the leader. 2nd place "feel good" story was Tadd Fujikawa, 18 year old Hawaiian, whose 20 foot birdie on his final hole put him one shot within the cut line, 9 shots off the pace. Fujikawa had the dubious distinction of finishing dead last through two rounds of this tournament last year.
Stay tuned to see if a relative no-name breaks from the pack, earns a two year tour exemption, and places his name on your watch list.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Who is the best match play golfer in the world right now? If you answer anyone but Geoff Ogilvy, you're just not paying attention. Ogilvy won his 2nd WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in four years, to go along with a 2nd, by besting Paul Casey 4 and 3 in the 36 hole finale. So dominating was Ogilvy he shot 31 on today's front nine. He converted 70 of 74 putts. He never trailed in the last 62 holes of the tournament, and he carded no bogeys in the last 57. Any questions?
Ogilvy pocketed a cool 1.4 million dollars for his efforts. His world golf ranking improved from 8th to 4th. He has Sergio and Phil hearing footsteps that are getting louder with every passing week. As we head into the meat of the PGA season Ogilvy stands to raise his status to "who knows" levels if he maintains his excellence. Hey, it's not his fault that Tiger got knocked out in the 2nd round.
*Stewart Cink's holed bunker shot on the 18th hole got him 3rd place by besting Ross Fisher, 1 up.