Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bubba Watson Cashes 1st Winner's Check at Travelers Championship

PALM HARBOR, FL - MARCH 18: Bubba Watson watches his drive during the first round of the Transitions Championship at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club held on March 18, 2010 in Palm Harbor, Florida. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)
Up until now Bubba Watson had to be one the biggest surprises in not having won a PGA Tour event. One of the longer hitters the game has ever seen and possessing a deft touch around and on the greens, Watson had been pegged as an up and comer since day one. Today the "potential" moniker was removed when he captured the Travelers Championship, besting Scott Verplank on the 2nd playoff hole.

Watson, Verplank and Ryder Cup skipper Corey Pavin began the playoff on the 18th hole. Pavin dumped his 2nd from 219 into the front bunker. Verplank stiffed it to 8 ft., but Bubba nearly holed his 2nd for an eagle to gas up the always lively Connecticut crowd. After Pavin's 25 yd. sand shot came admirably close, Verplank calmly eased his putt in to match Bubba's tap-in. After depositing Pavin in the clubhouse, Watson and Verplank played the par three 16th. Verplank missed the green long and Watson left himself a tough two-putt from long distance. Watson cozied his effort close while Verplank's putt from off the green struck an invisible something and scooted directly left, leaving him an 8 footer, not unlike the one he just holed on 18. Not to be for Scott though as he slid his putt just left and Bubba  sank a three footer for the win. An emotional Watson, acknowledging his father's cancer struggle, hugged his wife and created one of the more emotional scenes on Tour in some time. Final Full Field Scores.

Assisting Watson in his quest was 3rd round leader Justin Rose, whose grease fire +5, 75 collapse was necessary to put the playoff into motion. Six of the top seven finishers had all four rounds in the sixties. Quite a contrast coming off a US Open. The playoff featured Watson and Pavin, a study in contrast with the Tour's longest and shortest hitters playing 72 holes and ending in a tie at -14. One has to wonder as well about the opportunity presented to American players by playing with this year's Ryder Cup captain. Perhaps Verplank and Watson increased their standing in the captain's pick area.

Up next for the big boys is the AT&T National at Aronimink Golf Club, Newton Square, PA. Tiger Woods defends.

Til' next,

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dustin Johnson 3 Up at 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach

Dustin Johnson of the U.S. waves to the crowd after sinking an eagle putt on the fourth hole during the third round of the U.S. Open Golf Championship in Pebble Beach, California June 19, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT GOLF)
Tiger Woods emerged from his funk and shot 66 in the 3rd round at the US Open today. Dustin Johnson matched his 66 and kept the 5 shot cushion over Woods he began the day with. Graeme McDowell watched his 3rd round lead wilt by tossing an even par 71 and will play with Johnson again tomorrow, albeit with a 3 stroke deficit.

Woods appeared to be the Woods of old firing a blistering back nine 31 after having bogeyed 2 of his first 3 holes to fall 9 shots off the pace. He jumped from 25th to 3rd with the effort. He'll be paired tomorrow with Gregory Harvet of France who crafted a nifty 69 of his own. Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson will be playing partners for the final round. Phil's 73 today was marked by some wildness off the tee and Ernie had a rather unremarkable 73. 3rd Round Full Field Scores.

It will be intriguing to see if Johnson can hold up under final round pressure in a major. He obviously is well suited to Pebble having won the last two Pro-Ams held here. He destroyed the 305 yd. par 4 fourth hole, hitting 3 iron to 5 feet before nailing the eagle putt. If he keeps it in front of him he'll be tough to catch, even by Woods. As fate would have it I'll have to miss the finale. I'm scheduled to work 12-11 PM. Perhaps I'll have to reinvent my World Series Catholic school days trick and sneak in a TV.

Til' next,

Halfway at 2010 US Open - McDowell Leads, Mickelson Closes In, Woods Mediocre

Graeme McDowell of Ireland hits his approach shot on the ninth hole during the second round of the U.S. Open Golf Championship in Pebble Beach, California, June 18, 2010. Carmel Beach is seen in the background. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT GOLF IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Genius that I am, I removed Phil Mickelson from my fantasy team roster for day #2 of the 2010 US Open. You see Phil is the definition of a streaky player. The key is to time his streaks. If anyone should have realized that Phil would go low after a lackluster 75 in round #1 it should have been me, astute golf fan. His 66 today was the best round of the day by two full strokes and landed him in a knot for 2nd place at -1 overall. Irishman Graeme McDowell's 68 left him with the lead at -3. Joining Mickelson were Ryo Ishikawa, Dustin Johnson, and Ernie Els. Els' 68 was one of the better rounds today. Locked at even par after two rounds were Paul Casey, Alex Cejka, Brendon DeJonge, and Jerry Kelly. All said there were 14 golfers within 5 strokes of the leader. Full Field Scores After Two Rounds.

Notables after two rounds were Lee Westwood, +3. Tiger Woods, Padraig Harrington, Vijay Singh, David Toms, and Angel Cabrera at +4. The cut line was at a healthy +7. Those going home for weekend included Geoff Ogilvy, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Adam Scott, Ben Crane, Hunter Mahan, Rory McIlroy, Rocco Mediate, YE Yang, and sadly Erik Compton.

With Pebble not easily surrendering birdies, Saturday is pivotal. Moving day will prove worthy of it's tag as players jockey for position for Sunday's stretch run. The likes of Woods, 7 off the lead, need to take it low tomorrow. Something in the order of a 66 would do nicely. Nothing in Woods' game however has indicated he's capable of such a score. The Tiger of ten years ago, who won on this course in blow-out fashion, never would have complained about course conditions, a la bumpy greens, etc. This however is the new rudderless Tiger with complaints and excuses for his pedestrian efforts. In retrospect, perhaps he should have taken a year off to right his off course ship. Troubled minds and golf is a disaster recipe. 

Nothing indicates that Pebble will be getting easier in the next two days. Pars are like birdies, some bogeys are OK. Stay out of doubles and worse and you just might find yourself with a chance. The US Open purports to identify the best golfer. This year so far it's well on it's way to mission accomplished.

Til' next,

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

2010 US Open at Pebble Beach - Odds and Expert Picks

PEBBLE BEACH, CA - JUNE 14: The entrance is seen during a practice round prior to the start of the 110th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links on June 14, 2010 in Pebble Beach, California. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
The 110th version of our National Golf Championship gets under way Thursday at historic Pebble Beach Golf Links. As per usual Average Golfer's here to handicap the top part of the field with an assist from Ladbrokes, the British betting house, providing current player odds. Keep in mind that odds are determined by the betting public's interest in a player and have no bearing on their actual chances of winning. In other terms, plunk down your money and cross your fingers.

Odds aside, there's a couple of sentimental favorites teeing off this week. Ageless Tom Watson, on special exemption, tees it up for perhaps his last US Open. Tom's legacy is carved in granite at Pebble thanks to his 1982 17th hole chip-in that sealed his Open win over Jack Nicklaus. The other remarkable story is the tale of Erik Compton, a two time heart transplant recipient, who survived the grueling 36 qualifier just to get here. 

With all formalities out of the way and without further ado, let's find a winner.......

Tiger Woods, 8/1 - Short odds due to his resume, especially here at Pebble. Will have to hit it straight off the tees. Don't see it with the state of his game. Won't win.

Phil Mickelson, 8/1 - Odds make more sense here. 5 runner-ups at Pebble, 3 wins. Major mojo. Should win.

Lee Westwood, 12/1 - Coming in off a victory. Perhaps should be the favorite. Has all the tools with new found confidence. Could certainly win.

Padraig Harrington, 25/1 - Has pedigree and talent required. Constant fiddling with his game may hurt. Still, could win.

Rory McIlroy, 25/1 - Maturity beyond his 21 years. Knows how to win. Will be awesome tee to green. Putter will be the decider. Could win.

Dustin Johnson, 25/1 - US version of McIlroy. Defended Pebble Pro-Am here this year. Entirely different course for the Open, but Johnson has the all-around game. Putter will tell. Could win.

Ernie Els, 33/1 - The Big Enigma. Having a solid year for a change. If he's straight off the tees will have a short iron in his hands a lot. It's possible, but doubt it. Can play down to the occasion.

Jim Furyk, 33/1 - Laser-like irons will help with small greens. No need to strong arm this course. As goes the putter, goes Furyk. Possible.

Luke Donald, 33/1 - Great game for this course. See Furyk regarding iron play. Could win this thing.

Nick Watney, 40/1 - In the D. Johnson mold. Sort of a local boy. Will have tons of short irons. Could win, but doubtful.

Steve Stricker, 40/1 - Would have been a pick at the beginning of the season. Game isn't as sharp as usual. A major is no time to figure things out. Won't win.

Camilo Villegas, 50/1 - Not afraid to go low. Risk/reward choices make for some big numbers however. Female gallery fave. Won't win here though.

Retief Goosen, 50/1 - Should be in any major conversation. Short game and putting ideal for this tourney. Not exactly peaking, but should at least contend.

Geoff Ogilvy, 50/1 - Uncharacteristically blase season thus far.  Obviously knows how to win an Open. May surprise, but I don't think so.

Paul Casey, 50/1 - Long, fairly straight. Prone to putting lapses. At 50/1 I like him. Possible.

Adam Scott, 50/1 - Appears to be rounding back into Scott of old form. Rather large question mark left though. I don't see him contending.

Bo Van Pelt, 50/1 - Van who? Not Lucy from Peanuts brother. Lots of top tens this year put him here. Nice year so far. Should wilt under the major microscope.

Best of the Rest  

Hunter Mahan, KJ Choi, Tim Clark, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, and Stewart Cink all go off at 66/1. Of the bunch I see value in Mahan and Kuchar. And.... never, ever underestimate Tim Clark in a major. All he does is get the ball in the hole. Ian Poulter at 80/1 seems a bit out of whack as does Ben Crane with the same odds. Graeme McDowell at  80/1 odds is a possible dark horse. Who would have predicted Sergio going off at 100/1? Young Ryo Ishikawa pays at 200/1 if you're so inclined. That's a commentary on the importance of shooting 58 on a 6,500 yard course in Japan I suppose. With this strong of a field there's tons of potential dark horses. The trick is identifying them. Let's take our best shot..........

Average Golfer's 2010 US Open Picks

1. Mickelson,  (Yeah, I know. easy to go with chalk)
2. Dustin Johnson 
3. Tim Clark,  (Could easily be considered a dark horse)

Dark Horse Picks

Ty Tryon at 1000/1  (Now that's what I call a dark horse)
Lucas Glover and Henrik Stenson  (The defender and great player at 125/1, worth a shot)

As always, bet early and often.

Til' next,

Monday, June 14, 2010

2010 US Open - Prelude

PEBBLE BEACH, CA - JUNE 14: The first hole flag blows in the breeze during a practice round prior to the start of the 110th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links on June 14, 2010 in Pebble Beach, California. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
It's 2010 National Championship eve as the US Open returns to Pebble Beach after a 10 year hiatus. The last version saw Tiger Woods win by a record 15 strokes while decimating the field. It's not exactly the same Woods you'll see this week. Traditionally unpredictable Monterrey Peninsula weather is expected to be rather mundane with abundant sunshine and low winds. Still, Pebble can tax golfers without prodigious length. Postage stamp greens, moved fairways, and umpteen more possible tee placements than in 2000 will allow the old girl to escape the embarrassment of a -20 winning score.

We'll preview the combatants and their chances in tomorrow's post regarding odds and picks. Geoff Shackelford's Twitter feed sheds some light on the $6.00 hot dogs and bargain basement $34.00 golf caps here. Definitely worth a look. As per usual we'll examine the betting scene via Ladbrokes and try to decipher the pretenders from the contenders. Will it be an old Pebble ace like Mickelson or Furyk or a young budding star like McIlroy or Rocco Mediate who just gained last minute inclusion as the 1st alternate? Waiting's half the fun.

Stick with Average Golfer for week long coverage and irreverent commentary.  With the strength of field and venues the US version of an Open Championship is generally considered the truest test to identify the year's best golfer. St. Andrew's being the Open Championship site this year may mitigate that claim somewhat, but I think Pebble Beach compares favorably in every category except age. Watch and catch a little piece of history.

Til' next,

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Rose Finally Blossoms at Memorial

Justin Rose of Britain watches his drive from the 10th tee during the final round of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio June 6, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Munden (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT GOLF)
It's tough to feel too badly for a guy who has won 10.6 million dollars, albeit without a PGA Tour win. Still, it was nice to see a nice guy, Justin Rose, punch his first stateside winner's ticket in the 2010 Memorial. His 66 today was the round of the day by two strokes and blew him past 3rd round leader Rickie Fowler who's 73 left him at -15, three off Rose's pace. The battle of the Rickys(ies) was a dead heat with Ricky Barnes carding the same 73 as Fowler. That gave him a tie for 3rd at -12 with Bo Van Pelt, who shot 69. Trailing at -11 was the trio of Phil Mickelson, Tim Petrovic, 74, and Ryan Moore with a nice final round 68. Final Full Field Scores.

Rose began his charge by birdieing  4 of 5 holes on the front nine to catch Fowler. Fowler contributed to Rose's rise by bogeying 10 and doubling 12. Barnes paid his homage as well with a double on 12 and a bogey on 13. After that it was basically fairways and greens for Rose who answered the pressure and came home with a comfortable cushion. Rose seems on the brink of a stretch of winning golf with a revamped swing and posture. His swing appears effortless with few moving parts. He's obviously improved his conditioning and has the elements to compete on the biggest stages. For a guy that's just 29 it seems he's been around for much longer, having caught our attention in the Open Championship as a precocious 17 year old. He's certainly paid his dues since, having risen from the depths of despair, at one point missing 21 consecutive cuts at the start of his pro career. You have to learn how to win at this level and pay your dues in failed attempts. Rose got his just reward today and Fowler contributed to his experience bank. That's generally how it works.

Most of the top players used The Memorial as their US Open at Pebble Beach tune-up. Expect next week's St. Jude Classic to be a glorified Nationwide Tour event.  A number a today's participants will turn around and have to play tomorrow in a 36 hole US Open qualifier. Hard to feel too bad for them however as I spend my 11 hour day running a big box retail store. Hey, where I went to school there was no golf team.

Til' next,

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Barnes Burner at The Memorial

10 under 62. Besting the world #1 playing in your group by 7. Vaporizing a ten stroke lead by the 2nd round leader. Yes, it was very good to be Ricky Barnes today. His round was proof positive of why Saturday on tour is called moving day. Ricky and Rickie Fowler will tee it up in the final group tomorrow for bragging rights and a win at one of the more important non-majors, Jack's Memorial. Could we please vote on one common spelling for Ricky(ie)? Barnes at -13 will spot young Fowler at -16, three strokes when the first ball is airborne. It will be fun to see who blinks first. Ah, youth.

Barnes isn't alone in chasing Fowler. Tim Petrovic is tied with him at -13. Justin Rose stands at -12 and Brendon DeJonge's stellar 65 left him 5 back at -11. Six players are barely within sniffing distance at -9, barring a Barnes-like score tomorrow. Phil Mickelson at -8 and Woods at -6 are playing for walking around money. Full Field 3rd Round Scores.

If the question was who was going to lead the PGA charge in the wake of the post-Woods scandal, the answer may lie in tomorrow's final group. Youthful, seemingly fearless, do either of them have the stuff to finish the deal, or will they wilt in the spotlight? That's why we watch. Gee, this golf thing could get interesting again.

*Average Golfer interesting little sidebar........ On the official website of the Memorial Tournament fans are referred to as patrons. That could catch on.

Til' next,