Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Seve snorts about Ryder Cup competition .. or lack there of

He comes around every two years and makes his bi-annual attempt to draw attention to himself. Even in retirement Seve Ballesteros just can’t avoid putting his two Euro cents in when it comes to the Ryder Cup. It seems Seve finds the competition (or lack of same) boring.

“They need to win badly,” Seve said of the American team. “I hope the Americans win this year in all seriousness.”

I think Seve has been into the sangria a little too much lately. Here’s the guy who traded cheating accusations with this year’s U.S. captain Paul Azinger wanting the U.S. to win. Huh?

“I see the Ryder Cup getting very boring because we are beating them so badly,” said Seve. “Everybody is losing interest. I think it will be good if they win the next one. It would give the Ryder Cup a lift.”

The irony of this kills me. The same things were being said 25 years ago … in the other direction. Those were the days when this competition was between the U.S. and Great Britain & Ireland. Then a pain-in-the-butt Spaniard whined and whined about he being one of the greatest players in the world and he couldn’t play. He couldn’t get it through his skull or massive ego, or both that he was neither a Brit nor a Harp. Finally, to shut him up more than appease him, the rules were changed to all the GB & I boys to recruit throughout all of Europe. Today, he’s complaining about something that was his fault. Way to go Seve!

In all fairness, he has made some valid points. Since 1985, the U.S. has shown up once and won the Ryder Cup. The last three have been record setting defeats. The golf fans seem to be more interested than the players. I guess the old “it’s not important until we get beat” theory is out the window.

To his credit, Azinger pushed for some changes in the team selection process and received them. The principal change is the U.S. captain now has four picks instead of two. This has to help unless he drafts his team worse than the Miami Dolphins of the past few years.

I think it’s incumbent upon us to suggest more changes that might put the U.S. over the top, or at least rekindle some interest.
1. Give the Americans strokes. The amount will be negotiated on the first tee by the players. I will offer up the services of Doc O’Keefe an old golf buddy to teach the Americans the fine art of first tee gamesmanship. He’s the best I’ve ever seen at negotiating a match only he could win.

2. Two-down automatic presses. This gives the Americans a chance to add points, or save some during the match. It may throw the point totals out of whack, but it will retain interest as the “magic number” has been eliminated.

3. The U.S. team plays from the front markers, the Euros from the tips. The edge is obvious—particularly is Azinger has any say in the course set up crossing hazards? No problem. Front markers are placed on the other side while the tips are 150-yards behind.

4. Make one day medal match play. The Americans beat these guys like a drum in individual stroke play events. What’s home course advantage if you can’t make your own rules.

5. Enlist some help. Make it Europe against North America. I know, you don’t think Stephen Ames and Mike Weir will add much to the American effort—but think about Lorena Ochoa!

Bartender pour Seve a cup of your strongest espresso, I think he really needs to sober up.

See you on the first tee,


Thursday, May 15, 2008

One Man’s Opinion -- Will big win spur Sergio to Major win?

For years, PGA Tour Commissioner Timmie Finchem has looked at NASCAR as a marketing model for his band of gypsies.
Last week, his annual clambake at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, The Players Championship, had more wrecks than 10 NASCAR races combined. Once a golf ball was airborne, it no longer belonged to the golfer who launched it. It belonged to the wind and the ground where bounces described as peculiar at best broke the hearts of many.

This combination of pain and chaos produced a champion who has caused all of the above for his fans and detractors alike during his 10-year career, SeƱor Sergio Garcia. He arose from the ashes to defeat the overwhelming fan favorite, unheralded and previously unknown to the casual observer, Paul Goydos. The record would have it that Serge defeated Goydos on the first hole the sudden death playoff with a par following Goydos dunking his tee shot just short of the 17th hole’s island green.

There are many who would suggest (and I being one of them obviously) that Serge won in spite of himself. He won because he gave himself the most chances to win—not because he seized it. That’s just not his style. History tells us that not only will he not seize the moment, he will find a way to lose and will be jackrabbit quick to tell you it wasn’t his fault. He has more excuses than Halliburton has lawyers.

The clinic Garcia gave for four days was as impressive as any you’ll ever see. No one, absolutely no one came close to striking the ball as well as Serge. He was first in driving accuracy (on Saturday, he hit the fairway on all driving holes in steady 25 mile an hour wind). He was first in Greens in Regulation by a mile. It seemed that everytime you looked in, Serge was standing over a makeable birdie—and then tapping them in for par a stroke later.

With ball striking statistics such as these coupled with the weather conditions, he should have blown away the field by double figures and he finished in a playoff? The reason is, he finished T39 in Putts per Green in Regulation and T69 in Total Putts Per Round. This is becoming known as the Garcia Gap where hands turn to cast iron when feet reach the shortest grass.
Now, this is the most amazing thing. Time after time when asked about his putting, Serge was quick to say that he putted well, but didn’t make anything. At least he was half right.
I think he’s living in the world of denial and has renewed the lease a few times. Think back to last year when he had a six-foot putt to win the British Open and missed. Not only did he miss, but the putt broke the opposite way than he thought. Come to think about it, there was quite a bit of that at The Players Championship as well. Serge, just a thought here, Helen Keller had Anne Sullivan to teach her to read. Can’t you find someone to teach you?
To his credit, on the final nine, Serge did make some crucial putts. The biggest, of course was the 12-15 footer on 18 to get into the playoff. With the guys I was watching with, you couldn’t get a bet that he’d make it. Of course, we all had to laugh on the playoff hole. With absolutely no pressure on him, he couldn’t hit the hole from four feet for what would have been a classy birdie.
One might think this could propel him to vacate the top of the List of the Best Golfers to Not Have Won a Major. In a fashion, I hope so. Then the golf world won’t have to listen to him whine about how unfairly he’s treated and that he leads a “Me against the world” existence. However, I don’t think it will.

They say that Tiger Woods owns a condo inside Ernie Els’ head. Tiger must also own a two-bedroom loft in Serge’s. The first thing out of Serge’s mouth at his trophy reception was, “I want to thank Tiger Woods for not being here this week.”

Here’s a guy who just won the biggest tournament of his life and he wants to thank a player for not being there? Huh? In Sergio’s seven PGA Tour wins, Tiger has been in the field three times. Of course Sergio has been there for a lot of Tiger’s wins as well and frankly, that’s been a more common scenario, but every player can say that. Also, in spite of his 2001 win, Tiger hasn’t been a force around the Stadium Course very often. I think that rather than search out putting guru Stan Utley, Serge would be best served looking up Dr. Phil. It appears that Serge lead the field in another statistic last week—neurosis.

This should make the rest of the season very interesting. My advice to you is stock up on a lot of cheese, because you know Serge will be serving copious magnums of whine this summer when he’s not leading the field in ball striking and has to rely on his flat stick.

Bartender, let’s get the party started. Stow Serge’s Michelob Ultra Light beer from his TV commercials and stir up a pitcher of cold, homemade Spanish Sangria. I think I’ll pass on the flamingo dancing this time around though. I’ll leave that to Serge.

See you on the first tee,


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Players the 5th Major ... Not a chance

It officially started on May 6th, but in truth it’s carried out at least subliminally every day of the year. It’s Timmie Finchem’s campaign to have The Players Championship declared a Major Championship.

Timmie, I hate to be the bearer of bad news (not really), but 2008 will be like every year before it. It ain’t gonna happen now and it ain’t gonna happen in the future. Let me put it this way. When baseball changes it’s rules to having five bases and someone hits a bases loaded home run and a grand slam scores five runs; we’ll consider it. Remember Timmie, it was the media who wrote in 1969 that the major focus of Jack Nicklaus’ schedule was the Masters, US and British Opens and the PGA Championship that the word Major was used.

When The Players Championship first appeared on the schedule in 1974, Nicklaus had ample opportunity to anoint it as being worthy of his major focus. Maybe because it was first played on that combination hell hole and wind tunnel, Sawgrass CC that forced he and others to regard it as a survival mission rather than a golf tournament. Then when they moved to the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, the design was so weird for the day that for awhile few took the tournament seriously.

There were a few other things that tarnished the image as well. For instance, they had a Pro Am—a definite no-no for Major status. The tournament primarily was a vehicle for the Tournament Players Clubs, a network of golf real estate developments owned by the PGA Tour. The success they had with the then Tournament Players Championship successfully branded the network. As a result, the players’ pension fund will make more money for the retired players than they made on the PGA Tour. Name me a current Major that was used to sell house lots. Both of things are history now, but that’s just it. It’s part of The Players Championship’s history.

Don’t get me wrong. The Players Championship is a nice tournament, perhaps a great tournament, but not a major. Justin Leonard put it in perspective. “The Majors are the apples and The Players Championship is an orange—a big orange maybe, but it’s still an orange,” he said.

Having said that and believing it, full disclosure demands that I admit that I am in a pool where you draft in order to pick your team for The Players Championship. Four of eight players have to make the cut and the low four-player team after 72 holes wins. This is the first year The Players Championship has been accorded this status. It now joins the, ahem, four Majors

Hey Timmie, it may only be a local sports bar in Central Florida, but it’s a start. Why don’t you stop by some weekend afternoon? They’ll have your golf tournament on at least one of their hi-def TVs. Buy, a round of dollar draughts and you’ll have a public groundswell on your hands. That my friend is the only chance you have to have an opportunity for The Players Championship considered a Major by anyone.

Bartender, please pour a draught beer for the Commish. It’s an acquired taste and I’m sure he’ll find it different from the fine wines and scotches in his wet bar. Timmie, if you’re going to be a man of the people, this is where we live.

See you on the first tee,


Monday, May 5, 2008

Another day in the life of John Daly

From the Department of You Can’t Make That Up, comes the incredible linkage of John Daly and Roger Clemens. It seems that Clemens, who is suing his former personal trainer Brian McNamee for defamation of character. In response McNamee’s legal team is trying to show that Clemens has little character to defame.

This brings us to the fact that the once first ballot lock for the Baseball Hall of Fame has been romantically linked with Paulette Dean Daly, number two on the list of Daly’s ex wives.

This woman must have a rather eclectic taste in men. While both Clemens and Daly are golf enthusiasts, that’s about where the comparison stops. Clemens is married. Currently Daly is not. Clemens is known for his rigorous physical training regimen (possibly steroid-enhanced). The most rigorous workout Daly does is a series of one 12 ounce curls. Repeat curls weigh less than the first one because Daly is draining Miller Lite by more than an ounce every curl. Clemens has a history of shattering the English language (his “misremember” to the House Committee investigating major league baseball was tame. When he pitched in Boston, one daily paper ran a feature called The World According to Roger that highlighted his malapropisms following every pitching performance.) Daly has as well, particularly during and following a particularly long workout, but remains comparatively coherent when not working out.

You would have thought the second Mrs. D would have been perfect for JD. She organizes lavish parties for the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and parties are what Daly is about. Evidently, the hotel wrecking binge in Ponte Vedra Beach in 1997 wasn’t the type of party Paulette favored. She allegedly, however, favors the type where a guest (Clemens) dances the night away with an eight-foot boa constrictor around his neck. What some guys will do to impress a woman.

If the Daly linkage in l’affaire Clemens, is odd, it’s hard to follow Daly’s appearance at the Murder Rock GC a Daly-design under construction in Branson, Mo. A local FOX-TV station sent a crew to the site to talk with John and perhaps play a hole with him.

Always accommodating, Daly did just that—sans shirt and footwear. The things you see when you don’t have a harpoon! If you think Daly looks hefty when covered by a golf shirt, it’s Jabba the Hut time when he takes it off. Shoeless? Okay. Bare-chested? Not in this lifetime.

Later in the past week, it was learned that Daly and his former instructor Butch Harmon spoke by for the first time by phone since Daly learned Harmon had dumped him by reading it in the newspaper. Daly reportedly asked Harmon to go on the Golf Channel and retract the things Harmon had said about him publicly when he dumped Daly.

Even though Harmon has since learned that the reason Daly was in the Hooters tent during Saturday’s third round of the PODS Championship to help a charity by appearing and socializing with the guests, he refused to retract a word. The reason Daly had requested the retraction was the damage Harmon had done to his bank account by lost endorsements. Harmon refused, but offered help for Daly if he attempts to get on the straight and narrow.

Let’s face it, Daly is the type of guy who when he tries to do something right, it invariably turns out wrong.

Maybe a change of venue might help. Proclaiming to be fit following rib surgery and able to swing the club better, Daly, the 595th ranked player in the world will be entertaining European Tour fans the next two weeks with appearances in both Spain and Italy. Let’s hope it’s his golf that makes the news over the next fortnight.

Bartender, please pour a pitcher of Sangria for Mr. Daly and give him a bottle of Chianti to go, so he can practice for his two week European adventure. Maybe he can find some peace and his golf game and return with a future--not just a past.

See you on the first tee,