Monday, April 27, 2009

Quail Hollow Championship - Minor Major?

How's this for a field? Cabrera, Harrington, Kim, Mickelson, Ogilvy, Scott, Furyk, Garcia, V. Singh, Villegas, Woods. The best field this side of that sleepy town in Georgia. Anthony Kim defends at the Quail Hollow Championship, appropriately held at Quail Hollow. Wachovia must regret having to let go of this one as the field and the golf course have made it a "be there or be square" event that pushes the "other than the majors" stops on the Tour. If you question the upcoming Players Championship due to the restrictive venue, then this one's for you. TPC Sawgrass could generously be described as quirky, whereas Quail Hollow, ten year home to the Kemper Open, has flourished after a Fazio tweaking in 2003. The fact that Woods and Mickelson continue to show up regardless of title sponsor speaks volumes about the layout.

Will post- surgery Woods regain his form? Will Mickelson continue his spray and play policy? Does Cabrera have the consistency to continue on a post Augusta roll? Will any of the B+ players have the cajones to step up and snag one from the big boys? Stay tuned and find out at the first "must see" tournament since the Masters.

Til' next,

Monday, April 20, 2009

PGA Tour Doldrums

Excuse me if I'm the only one that hasn't paid rapt attention to the latest PGA Tour offerings. I respectfully submit that I didn't catch a stroke of Brian Gay's 10 shot victory at the Verizon Heritage last weekend. The 10 shot cushion in my mind was either Mr. Gay catching lightning in a bottle, or a commentary on the weakness of the field. The upcoming Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Andres Romero defends, promises to be more of the same. To be fair, these "B" events present a great opportunity for a rising star to put the 1st notch on his win belt. Nick Watney won the New Orleans tournament in 2007 and he's certainly a bright light in the circle of new breed golfers. Boo Weekley's back to back at the Verizon put his mug and country style in front of a lens. All good. Still, not enough to get me to devour hours of couch time watching. I can't get too worked up viewing what's obviously a second rate professional sporting event. These matches are like Triple A baseball. Play well and gain an entrance on the stage of the majors and pseudo-majors where the big boys make their hay. Sort of like year round Q school.

The next round of must-sees starts with the Quail Hollow Championship, (formerly The Wachovia), on 4/30 - 5/3, followed by The Players Championship, 5/7 - 5/10. The Quail Hollow tourney typically attracts one of the strongest fields of the tour's "regular" events. Players evidently love the course and treatment they receive. Woods, Mickelson and entourage should take control of the remote in Average Golfer's living room. Playing or watching golf is a time consuming proposition. With the hint of spring finally in the air my attention is being turned from watching to playing. Sure, I can play a round on a Sunday morning and be firmly entrenched in my recliner for the final day's round on tour, but my modest Protestant leanings lay a serious guilt trip on me for seemingly wasting a day.

You make the call. Watch or play, but do something.

Average Golfer opinion poll..... Of Brian Gay's Verizon Heritage booty, which is goofier, the blazer or the trophy?

Til' next,

Sunday, April 12, 2009

2009 Masters - It's Cabrera !

Argentine Angel Cabrera outlasted Kenny Perry on the 2nd playoff hole to snag the 2009 Masters. Cabrera stuck his approach on the 10th hole, the 2nd playoff hole, to routinely two putt for a par. On one of his few loose shots of the tournament, Perry had yanked his approach and short sided himself with a left pin placement. His subsequent pitch couldn't defy physics and left him with a lengthy par putt that he missed. Chad Campbell had earlier missed a putt on 18, the 1st playoff hole, that finished his day. So, the day's final pairing were the last men standing with Cabrera being the 1st Argentine to wear the green jacket. It was also Cabrera's 2nd major championship following his US Open victory. Perry was extremely gracious in defeat, giving due credit to Cabrera for his Houdini-like escapes throughout the final round. None was more crucial than the 1st playoff hole where Cabrera's errant tee shot gave him almost no look at the green. His necessary blast through some trees ricocheted back into the fairway where he stuck his 3rd and calmly sunk the resulting par putt to extend the playoff. Campbell and Perry were both in the fairway when Perry shorted and pushed his 2nd shot and Campbell right bunkered his from 154 yards. Perry neatly pitched to gimme range while Campbell's bunker shot rolled to about six feet. Campbell had shown a lot of spunk by shooting himself back into the fray with a 69. That missed six footer however ended his chances.

Average Golfer accurately predicted that starting the day at -4 was a no win proposition. But, not without a couple of runs at it. Phil Mickelson shot a front nine 30 to get to -10 and it appeared a miracle comeback was starting to form. His tee ball at the par three 12th walked the plank however and he carded a round killing double bogey. Tiger Woods got it to -10 after a 16th hole birdie, but bogeyed 17 and 18 to end his quest for a 5th green jacket. 18 was a Woods nemesis all week. The final results after regulation were Cabrera, Perry, and Campbell at -12. Shingo Katayama's superb 68 earned him solo 4th at -10. Mickelson was alone in 5th at -9 and there was a four way tie for 6th consisting of Woods, Steve Flesch, Steve Stricker, and John Merrick with a sterling final round 66. Full field scores.

The course was more than fair with superb weather, receptive greens and scoring opportunities aplenty. The leaders were fairly conservative in their play through the first nine while the trailers hurried to make birdies before they ran out of holes. That made for must see television golf as it seemed at mid point in the day anyone could have walked away the winner. Great and enjoyable spectacle.

So, congratulate Angel Cabrera on a hard fought and well earned victory. Somewhere Roberto DeVincenzo is smiling.

Til' next,

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Perry, Cabrera Lead Into Round 4 of Masters.

It's a pair of bulldogs duking it out in the final round of the 2009 Masters. Tenacious Kenny Perry and fearless Angel Cabrera share the round 3 lead, each at -11, two shots clear of 3rd round co-leader Chad Campbell. Cabrera's 69 today got him even with Perry. Cabrera is in position to be the 1st man in Masters' history to shoot all four rounds in the sixties. Perry was steady, if unspectacular and seemingly took what the course gave him. Campbell's back nine 38 cost him his portion of lead, lowlighted by a double bogey on the par three 16th hole. Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker posted excellent 68s to land at -8 and -7 respectively. Todd Hamilton, still playing in the 5th and final year of his Open Championship exemption was hanging tough at -6, tied with Shingo Katayama and Rory Sabbatini. Tim Clark was alone at -5. Full field scores.

Who's Still In It?

There's a pack at -4 consisting of Ames, Kim, Mahan, Mickelson, O'Hair, Poulter, Watney, Westwood, and Woods. The only shot they have is to break up into teams and play the final round as a scramble. 7 shots is too many to overcome on a relatively compliant Augusta and 9 players ahead of them is too many to climb over. If the leaders shoot par tomorrow a 65 from this group would earn them a tie and a playoff. Technically possible, just not going to happen. I'd call Furyk my sleeper pick if the leaders falter.

See you tomorrow on 18.

Til, next,

Friday, April 10, 2009

Campbell, Perry Locked After Masters 2nd Round

Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry shared the 2nd round lead at the 2009 Masters tournament. Campbell's laser irons and Perry's sky- high approaches left them both at -9. Campbell fired a 70, after yesterday's opening 65. Perry's -5, 67 was mated with yesterday's 68. Perry's attempting to become the oldest major champion at 49 years young. Campbell's trying to shake the "can't finish" moniker under the brightest of lights.

Angel Cabrera held solo 3rd after his pair of 68s. A resurgent Todd Hamilton was in sole 4th at -6. Tim Clark, who always seems to play well here, was alone in 5th at -5. There were herds of players at -4, -3, and especially at -2.

News and Notes From Round #2

Movers. Sergio's 67 placed him at -4. Phil's 68 landed him at -3. Stephen Ames' -4 today and -3 overall landed him right back in the tournament. Anyone in the pack at -2, including Tiger Woods, had better make their move tomorrow and plan on having to be 5 or 6 under in Saturday's round in order to have a legit shot on Sunday. Woods' continued balky putter kept him from moving up today's board.

Bag Packing. Sent home with the cut at +1 were Greg Norman with an unfortunate 77 today, Adam Scott, Retief Goosen, Ernie Els (again), Stewart Cink, Justin Leonard, Boo Weekley, and Fred Couples. I'd love to see Boo win one of the things just to see what he serves for the champion's dinner.

Screwed. Padraig Harrington got screwed by one of the stupidest of golf rules. On the 15th hole, in high wind, he addressed his putt and the ball was moved by the wind. That cost him a penalty stroke. If they rely on players' integrity to call their own penalties, even when out of TV camera view, then why can't they rely on a player's integrity to say that the ball moved at address, but not because they touched it? If Harrington loses by a stroke it would be a huge injustice. This rule is way overdue for a revisit.

Most birdies. Anthony Kim set a new Masters' record with 11 birdies today in his round of 65. He'd have been staring at 61 if the rest had been pars. Incredible.

Surprises. Larry Mize made the cut safely, ending at -1. Guy can still play I reckon. Rory McIlroy made the cut on the number despite giving back 5 strokes in just 3 holes. Ryuji Imada also made it on the button with a "must make" putt on 18. Zach Johnson and Bernhard Langer followed their opening round 70s with matching 80s today. Their champion's lockers will be cleaned out a couple of days early.

The weekend. Tomorrow is obviously pivotal. Can Campbell continue to play out of his mind even after being placed in the last group? Can Kenny Perry defy age for two more days? Can the superstars sitting 5, 6, or 7 shots back, namely Woods, Singh, Garcia, and Mickelson, rally and get within striking distance for Sunday? How will the course play? Some wind this afternoon had players guessing and reclubbing.

I don't think the Masters is anywhere near the best test of golf since the field is so restricted, but there's no arguing it's probably golf's biggest spectacle. Stay tuned.

Til' next,

Saturday, April 4, 2009

NBC Golf Announcers on 1st Name Basis

Let me say I generally like the NBC golf announcing crew. Johnny Miller is black or white. You like him or you don't. I like him and my only gripe is when he dips into in depth swing analysis from the booth which is probably a quarter mile away from the swing he's dissecting. Roger Maltbie has nice presence and a pro golf background. Bob Murphy is akin to listening to golf stories from your favorite uncle. Dottie Pepper is a well informed reporter with great on-the-ground insight. Gary Koch is a warm personality with an obvious insider knowledge of the pro game.

There, that all said, I finally realized while watching the Shell Houston Open today what that nagging "something " was that's unique to an NBC golf broadcast. Perhaps I could demonstrate better than explain the nuance. Here's an Average Golfer rendition of the usual banter between the announcing crew.....

JM: "That looks like an uphill/downhill double breaker, huh Rog?"

RM: "Yes Johnny, that's exactly what is is."

JM: "Can you see how his lie is from where you are Dottie?"

DP: "Yes Johnny, and it's not any prettier from down here."

JM: "Hey Gary, is it as windy down there as it is up here?"

GK: "Oh yeah Johnny, maybe even windier."

JM: "Bob, is that Bermuda grass giving them any problems?"

BM: "All except the Bermudans in the field Johnny."

JM: "Hey Rog, is Dottie still with us?"

RM: "Hey Dottie, are you still with us?"

DP: "Of course, that Golf Channel promo only took about 5 minutes Rog, and Johnny."

JM: "Hey Rog, Dottie, Gary, and Bob, same place for dinner?"

RM, DP, BM, GK (in unison), "Yeah Johnny, but this time don't tell Hicks."

Dan Hicks: "Hey Johnny, Rog, Dottie, Bob, and Gary, Did I hear my name?"

Til' next,