This Average Golfer would like to thank the many folks that have decided that reading what I spew is a good idea. Special thanks to the masochists claiming multiple visits.
I still enjoy pontificating, so expect more of the same and don't claim you weren't warned. One thing I've discovered is how much easier it is to write about golf than actually play the game.
Special thanks are reserved for the many cyber-friends I've been fortunate to encounter during the journey. Most of them are listed here as my favorite golf writers. Their assistance is genuine and forthcoming. That's the best of the internet community. People doing the same thing you are aren't considered a threat, but rather a addition to the fold. The mainstream media would do well to pay attention. The tables are turning and media icons are finding themselves left behind.
"Swing hard, look up."
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
If you haven't suffered a slump in your golf game, it only means you started playing yesterday. Slumps are a guarantee. I know it, you know it, and the American people know it. Slumps are frequently taboo topics. Suddenly you can't keep it on the property, but your regular playing partners hesitate to comment for fear that the obvious "slumpitis" will transfer to them. Shunned like lepers, the slumping golfer had no one to relate to, until now. NBC golf announcer Jimmy Roberts has parlayed his backstage pass with golf professionals into a compelling and rare insight to what we thought never existed, slumps by the greatest golfers in the world.
From well known slumpers like Scott Verplank, David Duval, and Johnny Miller, Roberts reveals icons we figured as slump-proof. A collective sigh of relief will be heard when read what Nicklaus and Palmer have to relate about their respective downturns in their golf games. I found the chapter with George H.W. Bush particularly poignant, since he's a routine duffer with more than 70 years of playing the game on his stat sheet. His love for the game after all that time is reason enough for me plow forward, despite my obvious shortcomings.
The crux of bootstrapping out of a golf slump that I gained from the book is that the fix is almost always within ourselves. Some swing thought, drill, or previous lesson is the key to discovery. When our golf is going great it seems effortless and without thought. When it dives into the abyss even the easiest of motions seems impossible. The fact is we've deviated from whatever we did well that kept us hooked on this Rubik's Cube of a pastime. Rediscovering it is the tough part. Roberts by chapter interviews with stars of the sport give us a lifeline to realize that if we've done something once, we can do it again.
A sample of the books innards would have to include Dotttie Pepper, whose thoughts on slumps include, "Forget the stuff that's bad. Go do a little something of what you're good at." And, "Play by feel, not by theory." Great advice, but it's up to us to incorporate Dottie's wisdom into our individual games.
Roberts manages to place us in the third chair at his interviews. His comfortable style weaves us into the web early on. The book reads itself and you'll find yourself turning pages without realizing it. Roberts' book best presents us with knowledge that slumps aren't our sole provision. The world's greatest have suffered them, worked through them, and emerged on the other side with their games intact. Why should we be any different? Truth is we shouldn't.
Breaking The Slump, by Jimmy Roberts. Published byHarper Collins. Available on Amazon.com.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
They're still going to play The HP Byron Nelson Championship this week, but without one of it's more recognizable figures. A figure that's perhaps never played a round of golf. Phil Mickelson's sunlit wife Amy has been diagnosed with breast cancer. I've never met the Mickelsons and am quite certain I never will. Nevertheless, being a long time golf fan it's more than obvious that Amy is one of those perennially happy people that increases the wattage of any scene they enter. Truth is I'm not even a Phil fan. Fan, after all, is short for "fanatic", and I'm entrenched in the Tiger camp. Still, it's not personal and the Mickelson family, a convivial scene repeated at the 18th hole of many of his victories, is as wholesome as any of your favorite pies. That only speaks to the equality of this insidious disease. It harbors no favorites.
The plus side is I'd assume the Mickelsons are fortunate enough to receive top notch care. Amy's bright outlook and family support will be a large part of her recovery. Please join me and extend your thoughts, prayers, or whatever you communicate to the well being of Amy and the entire Mickelson clan. Two of my lifelong friends, married high school sweethearts, lost their 21 year old daughter last year to an epic battle with pancreatic cancer. The word "fair" is not in this disease's vocabulary.
Please consider a visit to this wonderful site........Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
James Driscoll waited two hours to see if his stellar 62 in the final round of the Valero Texas Open would hold up. It didn't, quite. Instead Zach Johnson eked himself into a playoff with a pedestrian even par on a day when par was merely a suggestion. His twelve foot birdie putt on the first extra hole earned Johnson his second victory in this tournament in seven months. The event was moved from October to May resulting in the unusual fete. Johnson and Driscoll had finished at -15.
Everyman's man Paul Goydos had held a one stroke advantage, but coughed it up on the last two holes with consecutive bogeys. The deservedly popular Goydos flubbed a chip shot near the 18th green with what could only be described as a "duff". He shared 3rd place, at -14, with with a hard charging Bill Haas, who carded a 65 in the final round. Frederik Jacobson, Marc Leishman, and Justin Leonard faded over the last holes and settled into a tie for 5th place at 13 under. Full field final scores.
While Driscoll waited on the 18th tee for the just finished Johnson to arrive for the playoff, I wondered if the catbird seat was to have walked off the course mere minutes ago, or have the benefit of a long rest like Driscoll. I suppose the point was labeled moot when both players striped their drives down the 18th fairway, each landing within blanket distance from where they'd been in regulation. One good approach shot, Driscoll, and one very good approach shot, Johnson, set the stage for the final putt, proving once again that drivers rarely win tournaments, though they can lose them.
Zach will have a touch of sentimentality next year when the tournament moves to the TPC San Antonio. Repeat wins must have earned this place a soft spot on Johnson's schedule. Johnson's victory is also a reminder of the difference between two recent Masters winners, himself and Trevor Immelman.
This week the men travel upstate for the HP Byron Nelson Championship. Adam Scott defends.
Posted by Average Golfer at 7:24 PM
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
So much has been scribed about the complexities of the golf swing, from such icons as Jones, Hogan, Nicklaus and assorted underlings, that not much new ground can be trod. Every good golf swing has certain fundamental characteristics that can't be bent with a miracle cure or Newtonian discovery. Often the worth of a golf instructional book is in the presentation and ease that the average golfer can apply the information directly to their game. Haney's new tome translates well to providing usable help and results based on how hard the reader chooses to work on their respective games.
Haney starts with the basics, set up, posture, grip, etc. Rightfully so, since these are the few areas you can perform as well as Haney's stalwart pupil, Tiger Woods. Haney advocates a neutral grip, a concept I find refreshing in light of the movement toward increasingly strong grips to correct the game's most common malady, the banana ball. A neutral grip also provides a better benchmark when trying to diagnose ball flight problems that we all are trying to correct in the first place. Haney then dives into swing plane theory and rightly describes it as the #1 idea to be implanted into our feeble little golf brains. Off plane swings have no chance of producing good shots. Haney does a particularly good job of deciphering in layman's terms what is often portrayed as a mystery in other golf tutorials. Haney's a fan of checking your swing from well established positions. This idea works well. Speaking from my parochial, visually stimulated viewpoint, I find it easy to assess my plane and progress from a reference point. Numerous photos defining the proper swing positions only help a hacker like me.
Haney further delves into practice routines, much borrowed from Woods' legendary regimen, on- the- course tidbits, and shaping shots. I found the "shaping shots" advice to be accurate, but perhaps reserved for the intermediate to accomplished player. After all, the shape most sought after by average golfers is straight. Overall though, Haney's book is a valuable resource for the the basics of the full golf swing for all of us other than the blessed few carrying 2 handicaps.
Essentials of the Swings doesn't break new ground, but then again there isn't any undiscovered ground to be broken in an athletic move that's been under the microscope for hundreds of years. What it does do is provide sound, accurate advice in an easily digested format. Perhaps it's best attribute is the ability to provide us with sound swing technique and knowledge that will permit us to repair our own mistakes, if not mid-round, than at least between rounds. Besides, if the world's best player trusts his swing to Haney's watchful eye, who am I to disagree?
Hank Haney's Essentials of the Swing, Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Available on Amazon.com
Posted by Average Golfer at 9:44 AM
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Henrik Stenson was the only player to reach out and grab the prize today at the 2009 THE PLAYERS Championship. Stenson's pressure cooker 66 vaulted him past 3rd round leader Alex Cejka with a 13 shot swing. He finished, at -12, a full four shots ahead of solo 2nd place finisher Ian Poulter. Tied for 3rd were Kevin Na and John Mallinger at -7. A passel of players were at -6 and -5 including Tiger Woods. Woods couldn't keep his tee shots on the property and struggled to a 73. His playing partner Cejka, who began the day with a five stroke advantage, came apart like a thirty dollar suit, squandering his lead and effectively being out of the running by the turn. Full field scores.
Stenson's secret victory formula was the old tried and true. He hit 26 of 28 fairways over his final two rounds and didn't miss a putt under five feet on Sunday when it matters most. Known as a perfectionist, Stenson managed his game to near perfection on a rock hard course with tough final round pin placements. Conversely Woods hit just 6 of 14 fairways when it mattered and was cursed with what he referred to in his post round interview as a case of the "right spinners". I reckon that's pro-speak for a slice.
I suppose you'd have to place Stenson in the running for the US Open after today's performance. Not that you wouldn't anyway. The man has numerous international victories and is generally known as being long and straight. Long and straight are good qualities to have as a golfer.
Commissioner Finchem Can't Remember Stenson's Name.
During the post round trophy presentation PGA commissioner Tim Finchem referred to Henrik as Heinrich. So convinced was he that this was the correct pronunciation he repeated it. Long "I" vs. short "e". Close, but not really. This of course was while he was stating that this is the "players" championship. Ah, so many players, so much to remember.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Alex Cejka must have destroyed about six packs of chewing gum while greedily hanging on to his lead at THE PLAYERS Championship. Spotted a four stroke lead heading into today's action, Cejka managed to add a shot to the cushion by carding even par 72, -11. A mob followed at -6 including Tiger Woods whose otherwise pedestrian -2, 70, actually gained him a stroke on a TPC Sawgrass course that dried and hardened, wreaking havoc on what had been a birdie fest for the better part of two rounds. Or maybe it was the 90+ degree heat that had contenders and pretenders wilting like convenience store flowers. Among the throng with Woods at -6 were Jonathan Byrd, 71, Ben Crane, E, Retief Goosen, -1, Ian Poulter, 75, and Henrik Stenson, 73. Stenson managed to remain fully clothed for the round to the delight of the PGA hosts.
The good news for Cejka tomorrow is that he has a five stroke head start. The bad is he's paired with Woods, who was the first in the clubhouse to post -6. More and tougher gum may be in order for Alex as he prepares to hang on to his advantage in the pressure cooker that is a round with Tiger. Average Golfer is of the opinion that the front nine will set the tone for the final. If Woods were to make up 2-3 strokes in the first six holes or so, then the vise on Cejka's mettle will tighten. Then again, if Cejka maintains the cushion over the front nine, and Woods continues to spray his tee shots, then Cejka should emerge with the biggest win of his substantial career. Don't discount Goosen, Stenson, or even Ben Crane. A misstep by Cejka would open a large door to these battle tested players. Poulter's 75 today put him in a death spiral that I don't believe he can pull out of. Other contenders this morning that shot themselves out of the tourney with 77s are David Toms, Angel Cabrera, and Jason Dufner. Trailing within shouting distance at -5 are Brian Davis, John Mallinger, and Kevin Na. Full field round 3 scores.
You can play your normal Sunday round tomorrow and be home for the turn, which by then should tell whether it's worth watching the rest of the tournament.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
See the PGA's best talent for the last time before the US Open. In what's considered a fifth major in many golfing conversations, THE PLAYERS Championship begins on Thursday at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, FL. The 7,215 yd. Pete Dye layout with it's signature, gimmicky 17th hole is perennial host to the Tour's gem event. The onus is getting your tee shot in the bowling alley fairways in order to score. That's led to winners and straight hitters like Fred Funk, or the previously unrecognized Stephen Ames. What it means is an everyman's tournament in line with our current socialist leanings. Should be a horse race. $1.71 million to the victor. Complete field.
Without further ado, let's handicap the field with odds courtesy of Bodog.com. Bet early and often, but use Average Golfer's suggestions at your own peril. Here we go.......
Tiger Woods, 7/2 - Of course he's the favorite, but still not Tiger sharp. The course let's in too many others. Can win, won't. Odds are lightened to spread the betting.
Phil Mickelson, 10/1 - This course isn't for him in his present state. Hitting too many "Captain Kirks". Won't win.
Sean O'Hair, 25/1 - I'd pick him if he hadn't won last week. Might win.
Geoff Ogilvy, 28/1 - Like him if he's plays like he did in match play. Could win.
Sergio Garcia, 33/1 - Long odds for a defending champ. I have no clue about Sergio. Nor does he. Could win.
Kenny Perry, 33/1 - Straight enough, Long enough. Why not?
Steve Stricker, 40/1 - Starting to look like the Stricker of '07. Possible.
Paul Casey, 40/1 - Tasted victory this year. Has the goods. Needs to stay straight. Could win.
Ernie Els, 40/1 - I'm sorry, but Ernie's lost the fire in his belly. About 4 years ago. Won't win.
Jim Furyk, 33/1 - All comes down to the putter. I'd try not backing off the first look on putts. Couldn't hurt. Can win.
Luke Donald, 40/1 - Injury magnet has all the tools to win this thing. Fragile body and psyche. Might win.
Hunter Mahan, 40/1 - Popular semi dark horse. Reason for all that. Could win.
Camilo Villegas, 40/1 - Love him on this course. Underrated putter. If his irons are hot could very well win.
Retief Goosen, 40/1 - Depends on which Goose we get. Major winner or cut- misser at Quail Hollow. Too unpredictable of late. Wouldn't take him.
Padraig Harrington, 40/1 - Pressure's off after end of major streak. One to watch. How did Paddy get to 40/1?
Anthony Kim, 40/1 - Recent success questions work ethic. Prodigious talent, but sprays too much for this course. Won't win.
There you have it. Brilliance in handicapping this illustrious field. For no extra charge I submit Average Golfer's picks to win and a few dark horses thrown in for good measure. May the Schwartz be with you.
Average Golfer's Picks
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Tiger Woods returned the favor to Sean O'Hair at the Quail Hollow Championship. After O'Hair imploded at Arnie's Bay Hill event to hand Woods the title, Woods reciprocated by refusing to make birdies. Lucas Glover joined in the giving spirit as well when he bogeyed the tough par three 17th when temporarily tied for the lead. O'Hair finished at -11, one better than Glover and Bubba Watson. Truth be told, O'Hair snatched the trophy with a smooth 69 despite bogeys on his final two holes. Woods' even par final round gave him solo fourth place. The highlight of the day for me was when in the post round interview David Feherty asked Woods if he felt like a loser. Woods quipped, "Yes, and not even the 1st loser."
When I tuned in at 2:30 PM there were 18 players within two shots of the lead. In the end it was Watson in the clubhouse with his -10, then O'Hair waiting on Glover's finish. Everyone else shot themselves in their respective feet. For a fleeting moment even Phil Mickelson had a share of the lead in the house at -8. Yesterday's 75 had already sealed hid fate though. Lefty's 67 today, in full multiple personality mode, was the 2nd best round of the day to Jonathan Byrd's 66.
The Quail Hollow course had a major-like feel to it with narrow fairways and lightning greens. Had they grown the rough to more than the published two inches, it would have been a survival contest out there. All of which is a great lead-in to next week's Players Championship, a dart board course that places everyone on equal footing. Be there for the last relatively full field event before the US Open.