Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Tried To Watch The Kraft Nabisco On TV, But Golf Channel Wouldn't Let Me.

The first major of the year. The world's best female golfers. Nothing on my schedule. Golf Channel was showing the Kraft Nabisco Championship 1st round, live, in prime time from 6:30 - 9:30 PM, EST.  Tseng, Wie, Creamer, Shin, Kerr, etc. I was grateful for the unusual scheduling and geared for three hours of enjoying the LPGA at it's best, something that's not that easy to come by in these lean times for that circuit. Instead what I got was seemingly 2 1/2 hours of commercials, player post-round interviews, and stranger than strange, long stares at the on-screen scoreboard. The scoreboard shots were so pervasive that it was almost like TGC expected us to watch and wait for scores to change before our very bored eyes.  

Believe me, having been in some form of retail business for my adult life, I understand the impact and importance of advertising. But the interminable blank space and filler spots while a major championship was being played around them made TGC's presentation almost laughable. I said almost. It was if they had a specified number of actual golf shots they could show and had used them up during the morning telecast. I doubt I'll give it a second try. If I won't attempt it again, how do you think the casual fan tuning in for the first time would feel?   

Better get right NBC/Golf Channel. With the LPGA you don't have that many at-bats.  

Swing hard, look up,

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Timeless Swing, by Tom Watson - Average Golfer Book Review

The Timeless Swing  
by: TomWatson
with: Nick Seitz

Photographs by: Dom Furore

I've read a hundred golf instructional books. Literally. I will admit that I've quit reading instructional articles in golf magazines though when I found conflicting advice in the same issue(s). Hogan's Five Lessons... is frequently mentioned as the holy grail of tutorials. I read it at least five times and found it to be a confounding mix of biology and physics, neither of which were ever a strong point for me. So, due to my instructional overload I opened Tom Watson's The Timeless Swing with a large dose of skepticism, Mr. Watson's stellar reputation notwithstanding. 

What I found was golf instruction I could see and understand. For the most part there's no new "a-ha!" discoveries left in the golfosphere.  Watson doesn't pretend to present any, rather he builds on sound principles and has a touch for presenting them in simple fashion. That's probably the best concept I took from the book. Golf is really much easier than I've been making it. As you would expect, the fundamentals are given great weight and are well represented. Grip, posture, aim, etc. are described in suitable detail. Takeaway, backswing, and downswing are dissected, but not overly analyzed. Watson shares his ideas on shotmaking, maintaining your swing as you age, (hit a chord with me), and includes his favorite drills gleaned over his long career. Mr. Watson is quick to give credit where credit is due by mentioning the effect others have had on his game, including Nicklaus, Nelson, Snead, and particularly his longtime coach Stan Thirsk.

Aside from the advice I could glean from an eight time major championship winner, there's another feature of the book that made it really stand out among the crowd of instructionals. Dom Furore's superb photography is evident from page one. The photos are numerous and complement Watson's instruction perfectly. I found myself reading a section, moving to the accompanying photos, and seeing the concept I just digested. Being a visual sort, this was just the type of instruction I should be able to translate to my own game. The photos alone make the book a great read.

Consider lessons from a guy that's collected eight majors, been Player Of The Year six times, and recently, at almost sixty years young, contended for the 2009 Open Championship, fully twenty one years after being elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame. The Timeless Swing is the perfect descriptive for one of the most timeless of golfers. Allow him to lend his timeless philosophy to your game.    

The Timeless Swing, Atria Books, Available at 

* The review copy was provided to Average Golfer by the publisher.
** My review is being submitted in the Simon & Schuster sweepstakes.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Martin Laird Attempts To Give Away Arnold Palmer Invitational, Finds No Takers.

Martin Laird, last man standing at Arnie's place.
Scotsman Martin Laird began the day with a two stroke advantage in the 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational. He dropped five shots over the first eleven holes, but re-awoke at just the right time to hold off perennial bridesmaid Steve Marino and finish at eight under. Birdies at 12, 15, and 16 turned around Laird's fortunes as did a clutch 86 foot two-putt on the 18th hole. Marino began the day four behind Laird, but had taken the lead after 11 due to Laird's inefficiencies. A bogey on 15 and a disastrous double on 17 however cost him his 1st PGA Tour win. Marino's rare birdie on 18 had made things interesting until Laird's par on the same hole made it moot. Justin Rose's superb 68, under the conditions, made him wait as leader in the clubhouse until Marino finished. He shared a T3 at -6 with Marc Leishman and 44 year old David Toms. Nice showing by Toms, who has been injury stricken in the last couple of years. Full Field Final Scores

Mr. Palmer always said he'd love to host a US Open at his beloved Bay Hill. Well, he may never get his Open, but today he had US Open conditions. Dry fairways, wind, and rock-hard, fast greens made many shots a virtual coin flip regarding their results. Case in point the par three 17th. 19 of 73 players hit the green in regulation. That's a 24 handicapper rate of 26%. Balls couldn't land softly enough to hold the pool table surface and bumbled into the back bunker. Combine these conditions with some masochistic pin placements on the back nine and the result was professional golfers struggling to make par. One victim was my pick to win, Rickie Fowler. He began the round three back, shot 78, and finished T30.

Two weeks until Augusta, the world's best major with the weakest field.     

Swing hard, look up,

Friday, March 25, 2011

Pack Tightens at Arnold Palmer Invitational

Martin Laird, Round 2 leader, belly putter user.
Scotsman Martin Laird, on the strength of a 2nd round 65, assumed the lead at the halfway mark of the 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational. I have no bone to pick with Mr. Laird, other than the fact he uses the ridiculous long putter that should be banned along with Nitro balls. Round one leader Spencer Levin hung tough with a -2, 70, to lay one back. Tied with Levin was KJ Choi after a spectacular 64. No beef from this Average Golfer with Choi even though his putter grip is thicker than mud.    

With the wind abating, the 2nd round was noticeably more benign, resulting in more scores in the 60s and a closing in of the field. There's four way tie for third at -6 between Steve Marino, Vaughn Taylor, Hunter Mahan, and highlighted by Chucky-Three-Sticks superb 65. Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia both carded 73, 68s in the 1st two rounds to set up a third round pairing that should hold all the charm of dental appointment. Not Facebook buddies I'm guessin'. 

The first round wind and toughness of the course produced a cut line of +4. Notables failing to meet the minimum included Appleby, Manassero, O'Hair, Villegas, Vijay Singh, Dustin Johnson, and last week's winner Gary Woodland. 2nd Round Full Field Scores

Should be an interesting weekend with an intriguing cast of characters. The difficulty of the layout and potential for wind makes this one a must watch.

Swing hard, look up,

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational - Odds and Expert Picks

Arnie's place. Well, his winter place before Latrobe warms up. At any rate, the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge is always a first rate field with a first rate host. Most of the world's top ranked players show up to use it as a Masters prep and out of due respect for Mr. Palmer. Graeme McDowell, Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson, four through six in the world rankings are here, as is Gary Woodland, the bomber who won last week. Would have been nice if Mr. Kaymer, Westwood, or Donald had entered, if for nothing more than respect for Arnie. Can't play them all, but I'd think you'd make an exception for this one.

Let's consult with Ladbrokes and get a handle on the rest of the field, then make some particularly astute prognostications regarding who will win this thing. Ready......

Tiger Woods, 8/1 - Bettors still love him. Must figure he'll win eventually. 6 wins here, but hasn't played here since the greens were redone. Gotta be long and straight. Missing the straight until he proves otherwise. Won't win.

Dustin Johnson, 14/1 - Final round 78 cost him the trophy here last year. If anything, Johnson is devoid of memory. Should win.

Phil Mickelson, 14/1 - Won here in '97.  Hell, I didn't even play golf in '97. Masters prep for Phil. Too much rough, waiting for Augusta. Won't win.

Graeme McDowell, 16/1 - Capable of going ridiculously low. Four tool player. Could win. 

Hunter Mahan, 20/1 - Good pick at these odds. Sometimes drops a round in big events. Possible, but I doubt it.

Rickie Fowler, 33/1 - Great pick at these odds. Hey, the kid's going to win sometime, why not this time?

Justin Rose, 33/1 - Thought he had it lst week. Weak final round barbecued him. Possible this week. Like him at least in tip 5.

Vijay Singh, 33/1 - Like him a lot in this position. Won it in '07. The big guy is rallying. Could win.

Jim Furyk, 33/1 - What about Jim? Not the closer he once was. Maybe the lack of distance is finally catching up. Could win, doubt it.

Ernie Els, 33/1 - Could win it in his sleep. Hard to tell when he's not sleeping. I think his chances here are much better than the odds.

Zach Johnson, 40/1 - Sorry, as much as I like Z, he's in the same boat as Furyk. Won't win.

Brandt Snedeker, 40/1 - Showing signs of return to form. Needs more than signs though. Won't win.  

Bubba Watson, 40/1 - 5th on the money list. 6th in FedUp Cup. Odds out of whack. Take a flyer on Bubba and get paid. Could win.  

Sergio Garcia, 40/1 - Surprised me last week. Game was solid. Out of the limelight for a while may help. I see him as a "Who knows?"

Martin Laird, 40/1 - Another sleeper. Take him with these odds and ride the Scotsman to the bank. Could win.

Charl Schwartzel, 40/1 - Hmm... Always impressive, but my best memory of him is finishing 2nd to pal Ernie last year at Doral. Don't believe he can do it.

Chris Couch, 40/1 - Heir apparent to Calc. Odds distorted on his finish last week. Stay away.

Now Average Golfer is here to provide value and a reasonable return on your investment. Any dope can bet chalk and win his gas money for the next week. Here's the picks to generate some serious coin. Remember, the size of a tournament field makes it one of the most difficult sports bets you can make, so bet early and often.

Average Golfer Arnold Palmer Invitational Picks

1. Rickie Fowler
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Justin Rose

Dark Horse - Allenby
Darker Horse - JB Holmes
Even Darker Horse - Ryan Moore        

Swing hard, look up,

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Make Your Tee Time Tavistock Style

You didn't tip the guy?
Ever been late for or missed a tee time? Tell the truth now. The "away" players for the Tavistock Cup have no such worry. Before you think I'm about to bash them for their opulence, think again. The annual country club knife fight has benefited local charities to the tune of millions of dollars. The exact amount donated from this year's Cup is listed on their website as "coming". The tournament finished about three hours ago. It takes some time to count that much loot.   

Want to join them in what would amount to the pinnacle of club championships? Easy. Get your handicap down to about a +7 and buy a ten million dollar house in one of their neighborhoods. FYI Oliver Wilson won today's individual honors. I honestly thought he'd given up the game. Nice work Ollie. I haven't a clue who took the team title. They all sound like made-up names to me.

Swing hard, look up,

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Watney Snatches WGC Cadillac Championship.

Nick Watney had played the 18th hole at Doral, generally accepted as one of the toughest finishing holes anywhere, 17 times before today without carding a birdie. Despite having yanked his 3rd round drive on this hole into the drink, he laced today's drive dead center, stuck his approach to 12 feet and calmly nailed the putt, center cut. His 1st career birdie on 18 at Doral forced Dustin Johnson to hole out from the fairway to force a playoff. No such luck.   

Eight players were within two strokes of the lead today, but Watney was the one that didn't crack, hitting clutch shot after clutch shot. It wasn't just his 18th hole heroics that mattered. Back to back par saves on 14 and 15 of the 25 foot variety held off Johnson. Watney finished at -15 for the tourney with Johnson one behind. Full Field Final Scores.

The young guys blew away the old guard and showed the natural progression of things by placing Watney, Johnson, Francesco Molinari, Matt Kuchar, Luke Donald, Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler, and Hunter Mahan inside the top ten. Rory McIlroy ballooned to a 74 today, good for tenth, tied with Tiger Woods, whose 66 today tied for best round of the day. I'd place more credence in it's significance if he shot it while in contention. Of more concern might be Phil Mickelson's 76, knocking him down to 55th of 66 golfers. Something, or a combination of things, is up with Phil.

I'm starting to smell Masters' grass.  

Swing hard, look up,

Thursday, March 10, 2011

WGC Cadillac Championship, Round 1, Go Low or Go Home

Not a tower day.
Today at the WGC Cadillac Championship it was the "calm after the storm". After a possible mini-hurricane knocked down TV towers at holes 8 and 9 and a two and a half hour delay as a result, moist conditions and benign winds prevailed making for perfect scoring conditions. It was a fortunate result that no one was injured during the tempest. 52 of 66 starters were at even par or better led by Hunter Mahan at -7 through just 11 holes. Seven golfers were at -5 with an additional eight at -4 in a round that will be completed tomorrow morning because of the weather delay.   

In one of the predetermined marquee grouping Phil Mickelson was -2, Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell both -1 through fifteen holes. Woods hit some Captain Kirk shots, his inability to make a putt inside of fifteen feet was what prevented him from threatening the leaders. In the premier pairing of the world's top three players #1 Martin Kaymer was at -5, #2 Lee Westwood -4, and #3 Luke Donald was 5 under, all through 10 holes.  Full Field Partial Round 1 Scores

The course was there for the taking with greens stimping at about 11. That's Doral's only real defense other than wind. Greens at 11 have pros chomping at the bit with no fear of running by the hole and having to make a longish comebacker.  

If the course grows any teeth at all it will tough to make up having passed on the gift scores given today. With so many guys under par it's not just a question of going low later in the tourney, it's the herculean task of climbing over so many players. You can't rely on 30 pros puking on their FootJoys.Word to Mr, Woods, Mickelson, and McDowell..... Start making birdies when you climb out of bed tomorrow.

Swing hard, look up,

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

WGC Cadillac Championship - Expert Picks

The WGC-Cadillac Championship being held this week at Doral should be renamed the Peoples' Championship. Por que? Because your tax dollars bailed out General Motors and allowed them back into the golf tournament sponsorship game after their incongruous wedding of Tiger Woods and Buick.Tiger Woods really drove a Buick. And Dolly Parton sleeps on her stomach.

There's a lot going on this week in what may prove to be the most compelling event so far this year. The top ten in all categories are signed up, specifically OWGR, PGA Tour money list, and the FedUp Cup. The first two day pairings feature Woods/Mickelson and Bubba Watson/Dustin Johnson. FYI, Johnson leads the Tour in driving distance at 308.8, Bubba's second at 308.4. Just those two pairings alone are enough to catch my interest. Full Field. Fully 45 players in the field are from countries other than the ole' US of A. Anyone still questioning the international game? In the last four years that this event has been held at Doral the winners have been Els, Mickelson, Ogilvy and Woods. None of their games are in any way approaching hot as they head into this week. Kaymer, McDowell, Westwood and Kuchar are playing better and as a result demand more consideration.   

What to look for....    

Expect Woods' game to be improved, but still not seamless enough to win here. Phil's lack of consistency off the tee rules him out. Els may very well contend with the putter telling the story, as with everyone to be frank. Ogilvy's getting back to where he was, but not quite there. Now that I've identified who's not going to win it begs the question.... 

Average Golfer Picks

1. Graeme McDowell - Coming off a final round 66 last week on a ridiculously difficult track.
2. Matt Kuchar - 4 top 10s in his last 5.
3. Martin Kaymer - Deadly, just deadly.

Others to watch...   

Ryan Moore, Ian Poulter, Vijay Singh, Jeff Overton.   

Bet early and often.

Swing hard, look up,




Monday, March 7, 2011

Not a Golf Day

Not going anywhere soon.

I live in one of the most scenic areas in the country. The spectacular Adirondack mountains but 20 miles away. Lake Champlain, the largest fresh water lake in the country after the Great Lakes. Lake Placid, the pristine Olympic village is but 50 miles. An hour from Montreal, which is as close to Europe you can get without a plane ticket. Still, everything in this world has a price. Mine, a short golf season.

Gotta love 4WD.

Swing hard, look up,

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pros Blown Away at Honda Classic

As my great friend Patty would say, "It's very blowy out today". Such were the conditions that greeted the professionals at the Honda Classic at PGA National. The field average was an astounding 3.7 strokes over the designated par 70. Spencer Levin grabbed the 1st round lead with a -3, 67. Five golfers were at -2, two at -1, those eight being the only ones under par. Notables that fell victim to the 30 mph winds were led by defending champ Camilo Villegas' +9, 79. Mike Weir, 77, Adam Scott, 77, Rickie Fowler, 76, Ernie Els, 75, and Ian Poulter, 74, all felt the fulls effects of Mother Nature. Els particularly experienced the gale as a ball on the green rolled away with the wind, making his putt about 12 feet longer. Fortunately he hadn't addressed it or he's have added an additional stroke due to the idiotic and archaic rule governing moving balls. Nick Price, who happens to be my age, shot a beautiful 70 to hang a score for the older set. Thanks for the ray of hope Nick. Full First Round Scores  

The 15th hole, the entrance to the three hole gauntlet called The Bear Trap, was the focus of attention by The Golf Channel.  179 yards with a three club headwind saw everything thrown at it from 5 irons to hybrids with varying degrees of loft. Lots of splashes with none louder than Heath Slocum's dead shank into the drink. It wasn't that they couldn't get there, but rather the wind in their faces and the threat of water in their heads increased the pressure. See, pros have pressure too. 

It's supposed to be similar weather tomorrow for round two. The cut line may very well be at +4 or +5ish. More fun.       

Swing hard, look up,