Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tiger Pulls Smoke and Mirrors Act at Chevron World Challenge (aka Sherwood 18 Open)

I know we're at the "end" of pro golf season. To be fair, the pro golf season never really ends. They crank the 2012 PGA season up again on January 6, 2012. It's omnipresent. This week's fare is the Chevron World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, CA. Still, Tiger's tourney raises a considerable amount of moolah that benefits his foundation and the Tiger Woods Learning Center, both good causes.

Eighteen players will tee it up on Thursday. That's right, eighteen. We have more on Sunday mornings at my muni for a $5.00 blind draw. These boys are divvying up $5 million. Gotta like like your odds if you scored an invite.  The field typically consists of the four current major champions, the next eleven in the Official World Golf Rankings, and sponsor picks. Evidently not everyone got the email. This year's field has Keegan Bradley as a major winner, Bill Haas, the FedUp Cup champion and a heavily American weighted field with 9 of the world's top 25. In the top ten are Steve Stricker (6), Webb Simpson (9), and Nick Watney (10). Woods himself dodged a bullet just to qualify for his own shindig. He crept into the top 50 at 49 at qualifying time, but has slipped to 52nd in the interim. At least he didn't have to use an exemption. Unfortunately, defending champ, Graeme McDowell is playing in the Nedbank Challenge in Sun City, South Africa along with stalwarts Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, and Martin Kaymer. In related news, someone has seen fit to give John Daly a spot in the USB Hong Kong Open. Bring extra balls.

How things change. Twas a time when everyone checked their mailboxes for a Woods' invite. I'm not sure if it's the global aspect of golf or Woods' declining influence that's turned his tourney into a buddy match. Probably some of both. I'll take a peek at the telly because I'm a golf nut. My trigger finger will be on the NFL though. If Woods intends to break his losing streak, this is his best opportunity in two years.

*Average Golfer aside.....  Quite a coup to have the results from the Sherwood 18 rack up World Ranking Points.

Swing hard, then swing harder.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Why The US Won The Presidents Cup.

Outside of the obvious, "We won more matches", "We scored more points",  there's one real forehead slapping reason the US squad won this year's and most year's Presidents Cup competitions. We have better players.

According to the Official World Golf Ranking points system as of 11/18/2011 the average ranking of the 12 US players was 18.5. The Internationals 34.6. The 19th ranked player in the world would typically beat the 35th ranked player over a series of matches.

So sorry Uncle Albert.
Ain't math great?

Go ahead, they'll make more.

2011 Presidents Cup - Post Mortem

Captain Couples, undefeated.
Final score 19-15 in favor of the US squad vs the Internationals in the 2011 Presidents Cup from Melbourne, AU. This was a bit closer in final day singles matches than it appears. Still, the Internationals were faced with an unprecedented task of coming from four points behind on the last day, considering no team has ever overcome a deficit in singles. Four early wins gave the Internationals some false hope. The back loaded US squad prevailed when Cup veterans Furyk, Toms, Woods, and Stricker sealed the deal. Not exactly compelling on the last day, but at least interesting.

Some observations gleaned by this Average Golfer's astute eye....

The Presidents Cup isn't the Ryder Cup by any stretch. Drawing from a global pool the Prez Cup participants don't have the team chemistry of a Euro Ryder team. Language barriers and infrequent contact contribute. History's on the Ryder side as well. The difference in intensity and seriousness is palpable.

Robert Allenby had a tough week. Coming off a missed cut in the previous week's Australian Open, Robert Allenby hoped to validate captain Norman's faith in him and his familiarity with Royal Melbourne by turning in a good performance. Didn't happen. 0-4-0 record made Norman's comments regarding the Tiger Woods captain's pick ring hollow. Allenby putted like he was drunk for two weeks.

Home field advantage wasn't there. Five Aussies made Norman's roster. RM was supposed to be their own private Idaho. Combined 7-14-3 record for the quintet dispelled that notion.

Royal Melbourne was on the edge. Yes. Bath tub slick greens, harder than 10th grade math, coupled with some howling wind, made certain holes ridiculously difficult to play. All in all in one of the most spectacular venues in the world. I just hate to see some of the world's best win or lose a hole in match play on what's essentially luck.

Tiger Woods made a statement here. Yes and no. Yes, his full swing appears to be rounding into form, proven by the return of the patented stinger. Yes, he made putts in the singles round to trounce Aaron Baddeley. No, his 2-3-0 record for the tourney didn't win it for the US.

Jim Furyk was MVP. 5-0-0. Nuff' said. Furyk's missing putting stroke magically reappeared and he became just the 4th player in Cup history to win five matches.

No substitute for experience. Example, Mickelson 3-1-0, Mahan 4-1-0. Having been there means a lot. Much was made of International rookies KT Kim and Ryo Ishikawa having breakout tourneys. Fact is they were a combined 4-4-0. Not embarrassing, but .500 doesn't win Cups.

Jason Day had a tough week too. It sure seemed like he was nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. The wind wreaked havoc with his high ball flight and sent him all over the property. Day's a better player than he showed, but better learn to hit the ball lower when needed.

Norman's suggestions worth a look. In a post-round interview Greg Norman suggested that in the interest of a more competitive tournament the captains should be allowed four picks with eight qualifiers. Makes some sense given the vast pool the International team has to draw from. He also postulated that the home team have the ability to counter with their picks in the pairings rather than the defending team as it is now. Again, worth consideration. Seemingly small changes might have some impact. As it's been, this Cup is a mismatch every two years.

To sum, interesting, not history making. Face it, between the Ryder and the Prez Cup the US squad plays in one of these every year. We should win. I was about to suggest a biennial US v. The World event until I remembered the tarring we took in the last Ryder.

*Swing extra hard, they'll make more.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mid-Way Through 2011 Presidents Cup - If It Was a Fight, They'd Stop It.

The US squad routed the Internationals in Saturday, (Friday here), foursome matches by a 4 -1 margin to take a commanding 11 - 6 overall lead in the 2011 Presidents Cup, held at Royal Melbourne, Melbourne, AU. Despite having five Aussies on their team and home course advantage, the Intl's are being thoroughly outclassed by an obviously more talented US team.   Even if the US only wins just two of the afternoon fourball contests, they'd only need 4 1/2 points out of twelve possible in the Sunday singles. Based on OWGR and money lists the Internationals were in over their heads before the first ball was in the air. The team matches were their hope since the US typically dominates singles.

The Watson/Simpson and Mickelson/Furyk pairings have decimated the opposition and remained undefeated after the morning rounds. So complete is the rout that even Tiger won his match with Dustin Johnson as sidekick. It may prove to be an announcer's nightmare to try to maintain viewer interest in such a lopsided affair.

Conditions at Royal Melbourne are 180 deg. from yesterday. Overnight and continual rain, coupled with dropping temperatures has reformed the scorched earth appearance from yesterday. Balls are actually holding on approach shots and putts, for the most part, seem to be staying on the greens.

Perhaps these biennial contests should evolve into a US against The World setup. One could argue against based on last year's Ryder Cup result, and that's a point well taken. Still, this permutation hasn't been very compelling from a competition standpoint. Nevertheless, Royal Melbourne has been a delight and proof that golf courses don't have to be 8,000 yards to challenge the world's best.

*Keep watching, something might happen.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Woods/Scott Pairing Highlights 1st Day of Presidents Cup

No problems here.
Get it out of the way. Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker will face Adam Scott and KJ Choi in the first round of foursomes matches in the 2011 Presidents Cup. Much ado about nothing this Average Golfer says as the firestorm created by caddy Williams' comments last week have largely died out, save perhaps for the Brit and Aussie tabloid rags. Let's examine the pairings on their own merit...

Woods/Stricker v Scott/Choi - Hard to argue with the US combo's success in the past. Should be a US win.

Watson/Simpson v Ishikawa/Els - Interesting International squad pairing of young and old. Els may be the determining factor with his experience. Watson the birdie maker here. Should be close, Pick - Draw.

Haas/Watney v Ogilvy/Schwartzel - Watney's tough as nails, but so are both International players. Rookie Simpson should decide. International win.

D. Johnson/Kuchar v Baddeley/Day - Go with the hottest sticks, which would be the International squad.

Mickelson/Furyk v Goosen/Allenby - Allenby forgot how to putt and Goosen's not having a career year. Phil's not a great team player and Furyk hasn't been his best. US win, but close.

Mahan/Toms v KT Kim/YE Yang - Toss up in my opinion. Mahan might be the difference. He's probably the best player here. Kim could surprise. Internationals in a mild upset.

By my reckoning Day 1 should end Internationals 3.5 - US 2.5.

*Bet early and often.

Monday, November 14, 2011

2011 Presidents Cup - Odds and Expert Picks

Psychological duel or match fixing? You make the call.

The biennial contest is upon us. Commonly regarded as the weak sister of the Ryder Cup, this Presidents Cup, held at venerable Royal Melburne, (pronounced Mel-buhn) promises to be  a spirited competition, with a little more emphasis on competition as opposed to the exhibition it's been in the past. That's perhaps because International captain Greg Norman is known for his fiery spirit. The fact that this is the venue the Internationals last prevailed on, as well as being Norman's home course, as well as his being the losing captain two years ago, makes this personal. Norman and US captain Fred Couples have sparred in the media during the run up on subjects including the saneness of each other captain's picks for their respective squads. Throw in the verbal gaffe by ex-Woods caddy Steve Williams and we should at least have a little passion displayed over the week. 

Ladbrokes' betting house lists the odds for both teams at even money for a win, with a 10/1 pay for a tie. Here's the odds of some top players on landing the top scorer spot.....


Tiger Woods - 6/1
Nick Watney 8/1
Webb Simpson - 8/1
Phil Mickelson - 8/1
Dustin Johnson - 8/1
Matt Kuchar - 9/1
Steve Stricker - 9/1


Jason Day - 5/1
Adam Scott - 6/1
Geoff Ogilvy - 7/1
Charl Schwartzel - 7/1
KJ Choi - 8/1

This Average Golfer expects a close match to be decided by Sunday singles matches. The pairings will tell all, but unfortunately in hindsight that the best captain's choices are revealed. Expect a Woods/Stricker, Mickelson/Watney show for the US. Players for Captain Couples to hide might include Simpson, due to lack of experience, or David Toms and Jim Furyk since neither are having career years.

On the International side look for Aussie pairings. Some combination of Day, Scott, Ogilvy, Baddeley, or Allenby. Allenby will need the boost coming off poor play at last weeks Australian Open. Captain Norman may try to hide Retief Goosen or Ernie Els based on recent play. Korean KT Kim will be an unknown. Expect him paired with countryman KJ Choi. If Choi's hot, like he can be, this could be a crucial duo.

As close as I think this event will be, I predict an International victory, largely due to the large Aussie contingent making for a strong home course advantage. I see a 17 1/2 - 16 1/2 winning margin.



Wednesday, November 16 9 p.m.-2 a.m. (GOLF / live coverage)

Thursday, November 17 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (GOLF / tape-delayed)

7:30 p.m.-2 a.m. (GOLF / live coverage)

Friday, November 18 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (GOLF / tape-delayed)

3 p.m.-2 a.m. (GOLF / live coverage)

Saturday, November 19 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (NBC / tape-delayed)

6:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (GOLF / live coverage)

Sunday, November 20 12-6 p.m. (NBC / tape-delayed)
*Remember, bet early and often.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tiger Woods Pours Water on Williams Fire At Australian Open Presser

In his press conference before the beginning of the Australian Open Tiger Woods said he'd recently met in person with ex-caddy Steve Williams, whose fresh, racially tinged comments had taken over golf coverage of late. Woods referenced the comments as "hurtful", but clearly stated that he felt Williams was "no racist".  That alone should finally put to rest, or at least return commentary back to golf action. If Woods was angry he hid it well, although usually there's not much deep insight to be gleaned from a Woods question and answer session. Still, this Average Golfer thought he was sincere and I'd expect no fireworks in the small chance that Woods and Adam Scott find themselves in the same group this week.

Of more interest may be the inclusion of upcoming President's Cup captains Fred Couples and Greg Norman. Norman of late has been particularly loquacious with comments of the wisdom of Couples picking Woods for the US squad and his opinions on the Steve Williams mess. I'd have to give Couples the nod this week though in a head to head match on the golf course.

I've been quick to criticize Woods in the past when I felt he deserved it, but I'll be equally quick to say I think he took the high road, whatever his motivations, in the Williams matter and helped bring focus back to the tournament.

Swing extra hard, they'll make more.