Monday, January 25, 2010

Bill Haas Destroys Par, Wins 1st at Bob Hope Classic

-30 was the number for Bill Haas' first PGA Tour victory. An 18th hole birdie sealed the deal at the defenseless Bob Hope Classic. He joined his father Jay becoming a rare father-son duo to win the same event. Wide fairways, easy pins, and an apparent ban on rough made par a ridiculous suggestion for a field that really consisted of "B" level players. The top end of the field evidently can't be pushed into a five day event. That would cut their per diem earnings. Matt Kuchar, Tim Clark, and Bubba Watson finished in a tie for 2nd at -29. The top five completed the five rounds at a combined 145 under par. Watson and Clark had some questionable decisions down the stretch that aided Hass' cause. Watson laid up from 231 yds. on the par five 14th hole and Clark did the same on 18. In a tournament with seemingly more birdies than pars, those choices were at best unusual. Final Full Field Scores.

The Official World Golf Rankings made their typical Monday statement as usual, albeit with a caveat....."The delay to the finish of the Bob Hope Classic means that the full Official World Golf Ranking cannot be published yet, but we have been able to issue the new world top 25 as this cannot be affected by the Bob Hope result." That left a mark. True, the Hope has lost it's luster although I'll admit it was nice to watch Monday golf in the middle of a January torrential downpour here in the frozen North.

Kudos to young Haas. Maybe this is his springboard to greater accomplishments. To learn how to win you first have to win. Gee, that was profound.

Til' next, 


Watson's Magic Spoils Couples' Champions Tour Debut

Score one for the "over 60" set. Ageless Tom Watson birdied the last two holes to scratch out a one shot win over Champions Tour rookie Fred Couples in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship held at Hualalai Resort Golf Club in Kaupulehu-Kona, Hawaii.

In what was essentially match play on the back nine, Watson stuck his tee shot to six feet on the tricky par three 17th hole and erased Couples' tenuous one shot advantage by making the birdie putt. On the closing 18th he hit a remarkable approach shot to four feet from the right rough and calmly sank the birdie to seal the victory. The rest of the field notwithstanding, Watson beat a man in Couples who is fully capable of winning on the regular tour. Despite being outdriven by an average of 50 yards or so, Watson proved the adage that "It's not how, but how many". Superb iron and hybrid play put Watson close for birdies and his earlier in the tourney shaky putting came around and clinched the win.

With the win Watson proved his near win in last year's Open Championship was no fluke. He and Couples ripped up the course with Watson finishing at -22 for the three rounds. Couples was one back and remarked that he didn't finish often at 21 under and lose. Michael Allen was four back in solo third at -18. 64 year old Hale Irwin closed in 5th at -14. It just shows that these old guys, given a short course with just a hint of rough and smooth greens, can still put the ball in the hole in short order. Couples averaged over 320 yards per drive for the event, showing he still has a few starts left on the big tour. Watson proved he's worth watching whenever he plays and will gain this Average Golfer's attention in the 2010 Open Championship. Nice to still be able to watch a legend perform at the highest levels.

I haven't exactly been keen on the Champions Tour of late, but the injection of new blood, ala Couples, Pavin, Lehman, and possibly Kenny Perry may sway my opinion.

Til' next,

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Global Cooling KOs 2nd Round of Bob Hope Classic

For the first time in 30 years an entire round of the Bob Hope Classic was canceled due to rain and cold temperatures. Evidently just the thought of concrete action at the recent global warming summit in Copenhagen was enough to scare the skirt off Mother Nature and cause a 180 degree turn of events that left LaQuinta with 48 degree temperatures in the high desert and Biblical rains. It was just a few locusts short of a calamity. Unfortunately, due to the paucity of name golfers at the once renowned tournament, only a few diehards noticed. The Hope, thanks to the over exposure of the PGA Tour cash cow, is a shell of it's former self, relying on the quintessential golf icon, Yogi Berra, as it's primary drawing card. What the hell? Was Bob Uecker booked?

With the good fortune of being a five day event, there shouldn't be a problem getting in the remaining rounds. I'm just wondering if that's considered a plus. With next week's tee times in San Diego it's just a hop for players even if a Monday finish is in the cards. Regardless of the outcome it's sad to witness the decline of a fan friendly Hope into a "B tier" tournament. Sigh.

For those still awake,  Shane Bertsch leads with a sterling round #1 -10, 62. Two back at -8 are Alex Prugh and Jeff Quinney. Mr. and Mrs. Prugh must be very proud of their progeny. Could be the 25 year old's coming out party on the semi-big stage.

Til' next,

Saturday, January 16, 2010

John Daly, Britches, Miss Cut at Sony Open

To paraphrase Boo Weekley at the Sony Open,  Waialae Country Club, in his post-round Golf Channel interview, "John's gotta do sumpin' about them britches." Yes, and sumpin' about his driving accuracy and short game too while he's at it. While recognizing Big John's apparent need for cash, I was furiously wondering if he couldn't have sold his soul to some other purveyor of golf ensembles. John's britches indeed made my eyes bleed.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a rejuvenated Ryan Palmer leads the event at -9 after two rounds. The triumvirate of Robert Allenby, Chad Campbell, and Zach Johnson holds down second at -8. John Merrick, Jeff Quinney, and Steve Stricker are two back at -7. All told, there are 25 players within 5 strokes of the lead heading into today's third round. Anybody's guess, but I'd lean toward the straight hitters here with narrow fairways and winds from God knows where. The Sony's a last look at paradise before the California swing.

I'm not sure whether I was pulling for Big John to make the cut or not. On one hand I'd love to see him do well and have some success to polish his worn image. On the other, I'm not sure I could stomach the trousers for another two days.

Til' next,

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2010 SBS Championship - Odds and Picks - Play Anyway

And they're off....

Crap, TW and Mickelson never play here anyway, so what's the big deal? 28 of the world's better players tee it up in the 2010 opening event, the SBS Championship, Kapalua Golf Club, Papalua, Hawaii. So what if the miniscule field gets a jump on Tour money? So what if 80% of the world's best can't attend?It's the home of the potential 600 yard drive and the 1st televised tournament of the year held in paradise. I'll check it out and so will you.

Saving further BS, let's scope the odds and the field. Odds courtesy of Ladbrokes, the venerable British betting house.

Here you have em..........

Steve Stricker, 8:1 - Hard to bet against Strick, especially since I'm sure he's been pounding balls in Wisconsin between hunting expeditions. So solid, could win.

Geoff Ogilvy, 9:1 - Defends here. Should rebound from a less than illustrious '09. Certainly could win.

Sean O'Hair, 10:1 - Toughened up in '09. Another could win.

Kenny Perry, 12:1 - Sporting new specs and old putter given to him by a pro-am partner. Expect more from Kenny, just not here. Won't win.

Retief Goosen, 12:1 - Dr. Kool. Can win anywhere. Not this week though. Nothing to base it on, just a hunch.

Zach Johnson, 14:1 - They say he's a tireless winter worker. Wind and hills here will add 75 yards to his tee shots. 75 yards to everyone else's as well. Fashionable pick here. AG says no, not this week.

Dustin Johnson, 16:1 - Could launch the 1st 600 yard drive this week. AG likes him for more reasons. Whole game is coming along. May the best Johnson win. I like DJ here.

Nick Watney, 16:1 - On the verge. Love the entire package. Confidence boost off last year's win. Could win.

Stephen Ames, 16:1 - Other than 9-8 shellacking from TW in match play, always finishes well. Steady player. Could win here.

Angel Cabrera, 20:1 - Won't win here. Not a major.

Paul Casey, 20:1 - About as far from Britain as you can get without a spaceship. Maybe later, not this week.

Ryan Moore, 20:1 - "Logoless" no more. Complete game. It's possible. Seems to be maturing into an elite player.

Stewart Cink, 20:1 - Whenever I pick Cink he loses. When I pan him he wins. I'll pick him to lose. He'll win.

There's 13 other players, all possible winners in the abbreviated field. Plus, this is a winner's event. they all handled the pressure of closing a first victory. In others words, it's a crapshoot.

Average Golfer's Expert Picks

1. D. Johnson
2. Stricker
3. Ames

Sleeper Pick - Pat Perez 

Bet early and often!

Til' next,

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Golf 2010 - Your Game

With all the attention paid to the TW debacle and how it will shape pro golf in 2010, let's refocus and ask how the average golfer's game will play out in the coming year. I'd imagine the only consequence TW will have on our personal games might be a noticeable decline in Nike clubs, TW gear, and Dri-Fit apparel. Since I use none of the above, I'll have to change nothing.
The major factor in most average golfer's games may be economic. It would be reasonable to expect that the current recession and elevated unemployment rates would reduce the number of rounds played. Higher end "private" clubs may suffer as a result of cost cutting measures in corporate America. With Wall Street bonuses being targeted, it may be tough for a CEO to justify to "club membership" in his expense projection. The PC police can be expected to have golf in their sights, using it as an example of an elitist and wasteful pursuit. This all without considering the millions of course workers and club pros that are a real part of our shaky economy. Still, things tend to work in cycles, golf certainly isn't a necessity to life, and I'd count on it surviving, albeit in a trimmed down form for a while.

Discounting private clubs, the muni is where most  golf business tales place. Daily fee courses could head in either direction. A reasonably priced muni, with a sound marketing strategy, might very well excel in this climate. Many golfers, unwilling to put their games on hiatus, will be seeking lower cost alternatives to continue playing at the rate they've become accustomed. My local course, where I've been a member, had an outstanding 2009 as far as I could tell. With a $25.00 daily fee it presented a low cost option and usually appeared to be well attended. Where I am, in the Northeast, weather, due to the short season, is a larger factor in a course's success than any other one element. I don't see that changing any time soon. Undoubtedly certain areas of the country have been harder hit by the economy and the effects will be varied. You may be able to weather the storm with a golf course right now, but I'm not so sure I'd want to be opening one.

I see opportunity for you equipment junkies. Deep discounts on equipment have been and should continue to be available. January is a perfect time to grab deals on last year's gear with new models being introduced for spring. Retailers and etailers, on the back of a lousy 2009, are poised to discount deeply. Take advantage. It won't last forever. I love to compare the fire sale prices to the "original retail" and try to imagine being the pigeon that paid full price just a short while ago. A small percentage of us have enough money not to care, but we average golfers don't have that luxury.

Play golf this year. Adjust your games as required and find the opportunities that pop up based on a changed economy. When one door closes another opens.

'Til next,