Friday, June 27, 2008

Week 2 PT (post Tiger)

Welcome to Week 2 PT (post Tiger). Thus far, Timmy Finchem et all who ride roughshod over the PGA Tour have been firing smokescreens about the fact that the Tour will have to survive without Woods for nine months.

This means that their Fed Ex Cup tournament run for millions in cash will have TV ratings analogous to a softball tournament on ESPN. Attendance will be down at each Tour stop until he returns. Sponsors will be apoplectic and will threaten to withdraw their sponsorship even if they have to break a contract.

I have one question about all of this, WHY?

Look at Woods’ playing schedule when he’s healthy. He never plays 20 times in this country, so the chances of him being on the field at a tournament are negligible at best. If you’re not in San Diego, Augusta, Georgia, Ponte Vedra, Florida, Miami, Akron, Ohio, the site du jour of the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, Washington, D.C. for the tournament he stole from Colorado, you’re not going to see him anyway. Just by his attitude, you can tell he really doesn’t care a whole lot about the PGA Tour. It’s time he’s treated in like kind.

Oh yeah, the Ryder Cup, I almost forgot about that. Right, it’s like they don’t already have enough guys with losing records like his to take his place. Sorry for the lack of tears.

It’s time people realize that the PGA Tour isn’t a one man band. Tiger may win a heavy percentage of the tournaments he enters, but he doesn’t win them all. In fact, he doesn’t win half of them, but he gets all the credit.

This year heroes were made of Paul Goydos and Rocco Mediate and they lost. Honest folks, there are a lot of guys out there just as worthy of your attention. Anthony Kim should blossom into a great player. Boo Weekley, the Tour’s version of Larry the Cable Guy is a great story and he plays almost every week. You can actually follow him and not wait around until he shows up. Camilo Villegas is about to bloom as a wonderful player. I guess if you don’t like a bit of a swagger and a lot of charisma, he may not be for you.

Then, there’s the rest of the Top 20. Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and company are great players in their own right. I think it high time we all realize there’s more than one player on the Tour and Timmie and the boys would be well served to address that fact.


There’s one thing for sure, very few people if any are on the fence when they think about NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller. I’ve almost always been in the former camp, although a recent apology he issued has caused some misgivings.

During the US Open coverage, Miller referred to Rocco Mediate as “Tiger’s pool boy” and that “guys named Rocco don’t get their names on the trophy.” It seems that a couple of Italian anti-defamation groups thought those remarks were aimed at Mediate’s heritage.

I don’t know about you, but I have never heard of any stigma attached to being a “pool boy.” Come to think of it, I used to play golf with a guy that owned a pool maintenance business. He wasn’t Italian, but I would have loved to swap paychecks with him. Also, for the record, no one named Rocco has ever won the U.S. Open, ergo the name Rocco isn’t on the trophy. He didn’t win the playoff so there still isn’t.

What is the big deal here? Even Rocco said he wasn’t the slightest bit offended by what Miller said. The thing that bothers me is that he had to apologize and sadly he apologized on the day the world learned of the death of George Carlin, a brilliant comedian who personified free speech. The irony is just dreadful.

Bartender, just a draught beer please. Make it a Miller Lite, because that’s what Johnny’s words are when the network makes him apologize for them.

See you on the first tee,


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Was Tiger's bid for another Major too costly?

Was it ego, stupidity or heroism? Regardless of the answer (and it’s most likely a combination of all three), Tiger Woods put his historic career on the line for the sake of one championship.

IMG, his management company issued a statement that Tiger has shut it down for the rest of the year and will have reconstructive surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and will spend the rest of the year rehabilitating his left leg. Oh, they also added that he played on a double stress fracture of his left tibia. The latter was discovered during the week of the Memorial Tournament.

During the week, Tiger alluded to the fact that he went against doctor’s advice when he teed it up at Torrey Pines. Let’s see, do I jeopardize my billion dollar career for one Major? Do I risk permanent damage for one more try for the brass ring? Evidently, he thought it was and played. He overcame the pain and persevered for not 72, but 91 holes. This speaks volumes for his tolerance of pain, but not a whole lot for his common sense. At the age of 32, he has a lot of Major championship appearances left and the odds of him winning six more to become the all time leader aren’t significantly less than winning five.

One thing that will certainly happen is that Tiger’s swing guru, Hank Haney, will be charged with developing a less violent swing that will reduce the torque on the knee. Perhaps this will call for a strategy that relies less on overpowering a golf course and more on shot making and use of his tremendous short game. He certainly has the talent to dominate using those attributes.

I think we can look for a change in Tiger’s future schedules. It might look like the four Majors, three WGC events, a couple with Buick in the title, his tournament in Washington, D.C. and two or three FedEx final events. He’ll probably add a couple overseas like Dubai where he’s designing a course and another where he picks up a design job. He can spend the rest of the year pursuing other trivial challenges like bringing peace to the Middle East and stopping global warming.

Hopefully, Tiger will realize that he’s not bulletproof and that he’s susceptible to the frailties of the human body. With any luck, over the next six or seven months, Tiger’s body will totally heal and that his thought process will include tomorrow and not just today. If it does, he may come back better than ever.

While trying to recover from the sheer excitement of the U.S. Open, some random thoughts crept into my cranium. Now they’ve worked themselves down my arms and are pouring out of my fingers. Here we go.

The professional golf season is now half over and the two most endearing characters from this unfolding tale are two guys who lost in playoffs, Paul Goydos in The Players Championship and Rocco Mediate in the U.S. Open. They were the ultimate underdogs and wore their emotions on their sleeves. America always has a soft spot for the underdog and if that underdog has a bit of personality (in the case of professional golfers, this means the ability to say a simple hello), they become instant heroes. The fact that in the end both came up short didn’t tarnish their luster.

Having the U.S. Open in prime time certainly gave golf a much needed shot in the arm. The ratings were the highest since the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach when Tiger won by double figures. Even the playoff numbers were through the roof for a Monday afternoon and this didn’t count all those who watched it on their computers while at work. One would hope the USGA would consider returning to the left coast more frequently. Who knows maybe the industry will get off their collective butts and seize the opportunity to use these occasions to grow the game? Probably not. They haven’t done before, why change now?

When people think of Callaway, they usually think of drivers. Having said that, they must have been apoplectic during the Open when their premiere poster boy, Phil Mickelson, made a big deal about taking his driver out of the bag because he wanted to hit more fairways. He then took down Callaway’s fairway wood program when he couldn’t find the fairway with his 3-wood. He also didn’t shed a positive light on the company’s wedge program when it took four tries to get his ball on the green from 40-yards in the middle of the fairway on the 13th hole on Saturday effectively knocking him out of contention. Callaway gets all this for a paltry $8 to $12 million a year. They recouped some of their reputation on Monday every time Rocco’s bag flashed on the screen, but the Mickelson travesty had to be embarrassing particularly in their own back yard. The least he could have done is carry the driver and not use it.

Being a cynical curmudgeon, I have a couple of questions. If the USGA is so puritanical and steadfast about an 18-hole playoff, why did the Open end in sudden death? For the first time in history, sudden death didn’t start on the first hole. Instead they created a three hole loop with hole 7, 8 and 18. Couldn’t they have used this loop on Sunday as a playoff site? Better yet, instead of sudden death, they could have had the players play the three holes with low aggregate score winning the title. In a championship of this magnitude, sudden death in any form sucks.

In closing, a final reflection on the Open—the right guy won. I get the feeling that if Rocco made an extra good shot, Tiger would have made an extra great one. If Rocco made one more putt, Tiger would have made two. Rocco was a worthy competitor. Tiger was and is destined.

Bartender, please break out a bottle of 2003 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino Cru Montosoli and pour a glass for my paisans Rocco and Paul and leave the bottle. We’re going to toast battles hard fought and victories found in the ashes of defeat.

See you on the first tee,


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What is with the pairings for the U.S. Open?

It looks like the boys at the USGA may have gotten a little too deep into their tonics and gin just before they made the pairings for this week’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego.

On the surface, the pairing of the top three ranked players in the world, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott for the first two rounds seems inspired. A little deeper look into it and you have to wonder what they were thinking about.

First, these guys are as serious competitors as you can find. In addition, there’s also the personal rub between Phil and Tiger that just won’t go away. Over 36 holes they just might be so focused on beating the other that the Championship becomes secondary. Given Scott’s ineptitude in Majors, he’ll be little more than an observer and the residual effect won’t be as harsh.

However the fall out on the group ahead, Mark Calcavecchia, Oliver Nelson and Joe Ogilvie and the group behind of Lee Janzen, Steve Flesch and Rich Beem could be catastrophic, given that 80 percent of the people on the course will be crowding into watch the group between them. You can bet the overflow will be uncontrollable. Count those six out of the tournament.

Back in the days when Frank Hennigan was the executive director and P.J. Boatwright and Tom Meeks were his henchmen. Great care was given to the pairings at the U.S. Open. Nicklaus, Palmer, Player and Watson had to earn the right to be paired with each other and it was on the weekend when the title was on the line.

This wasn’t to say that they didn’t have some fun doing the pairings. If Lee Chill a journeyman tour player at the time qualified for the US Open, you could count on him being paired with South African David Frost. Hennigan also had a “Mystery Pairing” every year. He would find some obscure commonality two or three players had and paired them together. Then he would challenge the media to find the commonality. Sometimes, even the players weren’t aware of it.

This year, the pairings are as subtle as a brick wall. Miguel Ángel Jiménez is paired with Boo Weekley and Shingo Katayama. I figure that Boo doesn’t speak a lot of Spanish or Japanese and they might not be versed in Red Neck. Boo will probably have a few stories to tell about the conversations during lulls in the action.

The pairing of Trevor Immelman, Zach Johnson and Mike Weir contains the last three Masters champions not named Tiger or Phil. The Craig Parry, Tim Clark, Robert Karlsson trio contains the tallest player in the field, Karlsson with the two shortest.

The scoring might not be great, but the fireworks generated by Bubba Watson, JB Holmes and Brett Wetterich, three of the longest hitters in professional golf should be interesting even if their best ball score each day is 76.

Mild mannered Frenchman Thomas Levet could be headed for a nervous breakdown should playing partners Woody Austin and Pat Perez go into meltdown. The same could be said for David Toms. If he keeps the peace between Rory Sabbatini and Colin Montgomerie, there’s a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in his future.

Of course the all-England grouping of Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and Luke Donald could back up the course should they stop at four o’clock for a spot of tea. This also is possible if Swedes Carl Peterson and Daniel Chopra along with Dane Soren Hansen representing Scandinavia break for a sauna.

In closing, I can honestly say I don’t have the foggiest idea who will win the U.S. Open. But I can say it won’t be Tiger, Phil or Adam. They’ll punch themselves out before Saturday morning. Of course, I could be wrong. I know that’s hard to believe, but they are the three best players in the world and well…. All I know is, I wish I was at this pairing party. I wondered if they had a giggle the next morning when the hangover cleared.

Bartender, set me up a Harvey Wallbanger, a Rob Roy and a Tom Collins and you have to tell me what those three have in common.

See you on the first tee,