Wednesday, July 30, 2008

LPGA stars slam Wie, Norman takes a break

I hate to repeat subjects, but sometimes they just won’t go away. This week instead of Greg and Michelle it’s going to be Michelle and Greg.

Until this week, LPGA stars have been mum when discussing Michelle Wie. You know, it’s the old deals that if you can’t say something nice about someone, say nothing at all. This week at the Women’s British Open the gloves came off with a vengeance. Perhaps if it was a Jong, Lee, or any of the non-English speaking golfers who have won this season, it might have been dismissed, but that’s not the case.

Stepping into the ring this week was Annika Sorenstam, Helen Alfredsson and Paula Creamer.

A composite of their reaction includes, “This is a major for us and she should have been here qualifying instead of accepting an invitation to play against the men.”

“She’s got to concentrate on playing on the LPGA Tour. She has the talent, but she’s not going to develop it playing on the PGA Tour.”

“This sounds like her parents meddling again. She has to find someone to rely on and who is looking out for her best interests.”

The remarks aren’t just damning on their own, but are magnified by who is saying them. These three represent a powerful cross section of the LPGA. Let’s just say that when the day comes that Wie decides, or is allowed to sample reality and try to be the best player on the LPGA, she won’t be welcomed with open arms. No one needs the animosity. She may be strong, but no one’s that strong. It’s a tough job out there and team Wie has just made it tougher.

By the way, in the article that we’ve randomly quoted here, it was mentioned that Michelle’s parents are managing her career. First, when they decided to get her an agent, they went to the Morris Agency and because they wanted to earn an entrée into golf, were willing to give the Wies a heavily discounted representation deal. They first tried IMG, but they wanted to actually be paid. The elder Wies thought that just having the honor of handling Michelle’s career was payment enough. Yeah, right.

As a result, the first person assigned to the Wies resigned out of frustration in dealing with the elders. As did the second, etc. Realizing that no one was going to fit the pro forma they’re looking for have taken the reigns themselves. Unfortunately, watching a career plummet to the depths of hell isn’t attractive.

At age 13, Michelle is wonderful story as she tried to make the cut at the Sony Open. At age 18 trying to make the cut at the Reno Tahoe Open is a stale story. It’s not a big deal anymore as Michelle is on the border of irrelevance. Someone whose expertise is resurrecting careers could reverse this. Instead, she’d being guided by people whose only expertise shown thus far is ruining them.

Greg Norman refused an invitation to play in the PGA Championship. Good for him. Norman is a part-time senior golfer. He knows what he can and can’t do. His remarkable run at the Open Championship and strong finish at the British Senior Open are enough for a while.

Norman says he’s tired and also has a lot of business situations that have to be tended to. You’ve got to believe him on all counts. He says he’ll play in the U.S. Senior Open. He hasn’t ruled out a return to the Masters next year and who could blame him if accepts the invitation.

Although the added length to Augusta National might not work in Greg’s favor, no one has had as much heartbreak at any one tournament. Although premature, we’re wondering which would be the least tasteful scenario. Greg miraculously is given three doses of water from the fountain of youth. As in the past he needed four and shoots 76 on Sunday to finish second by two shots. Of course he bogeyed 17 and 18 on Sunday.

The other is that he plays to his age and shoots a pair of 78s and vows never to return the former nursery.

In truth, it would be great just to see him roam the fairways with his swashbuckling swagger again. Like Greg or not, no one in the history of golf can buckle his swash as he does.

Hopefully, this is the last we’ll hear from Michelle and Greg for awhile.

Bartender, pour three tumblers of Red Bull please. The two for Greg and I should be self-explaining. We’re old. As for Michelle, hopefully it will give her the energy to put her foot down and make her own decisions before her career ends up in an abyss.

See you on the first tee,


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Two sides of Greg Norman

For three days we were amazed. Greg Norman was leading the British Open. No sir! This was certainly not the old Greg Norman. It was just a Greg Norman who was older and it appeared wiser as well. The 35 mile per hour winds weren’t gnawing away at his psyche as it appeared was happening to his younger competitors.

Norman’s ball striking was superb. The distance control of his iron shots to greens defied the laws of nature. To say he was putting on a clinic was like saying Van Gogh could draw. The closest a word came to describing his first 54 holes was brilliant. Moreover, the simmering intensity over every shot, long a Norman trademark was gone. He appeared to be a man at peace with himself and the world.

Broadcasters credited his new wife, Chris Evert, for being the calming influence in his life. All the while Norman kept saying he had extremely low expectations of himself. After all, he kept reminding us, he is a part time golfer now. We didn’t want to hear that, never mind believe it. We wanted just one more round. We wanted him to hold it together for just 18 more holes. We wanted him to remember that pars were his best friends. Mistakes were for the younger, less experienced players. Greg just had to grind for 18 holes and then present Chrissie with the Claret Jug.

We forgot who were talking about here. After all it was a Sunday and it was a Major Championship. We forgot that this was a man who in 1986 led all four Majors after the third round and won just The Open Championship. We forgot that this is a man who extracted greatness from his opponents in these situations ala Larry Mize, Bob Tway and Raymond Floyd and if the field wasn’t equal to the task, Norman would melt down on his own.

For some unknown reason, that Greg Norman appeared on the first tee at Royal Birkdale on Sunday. On a day, when par was his best friend, Norman courted birdies and was rebuffed. When a long iron from the tee was the play; out came the driver followed shortly by a bogey. Maybe it’s the Sunday thing. The Bible says, “On the seventh day, God rested.” Evidently so does Norman’s head. At least this time, you can’t say he choked again because there aren’t any other 53-year old men who could have gotten in the position.

In the end, the right player won. Padraig Harrington outplayed and out thought all the rest to become the 13th player to win back-to-back Open Championships and the first European since James Braid in 1905-06.


Unfortunately, another all too familiar story unraveled this past week when Michelle Wie was disqualified for not signing her scorecard before leaving the scoring area after her second round. I know that it’s ultimately the responsibility of the player, but in this instance I’m not going to hang it on her.

This one hangs around the collective neck of those little cutups from Daytona, Fla.—the LPGA. What were they thinking? On the PGA Tour they ask players not to leave until the scorer checks the card for two signatures. It’s a common courtesy that the LPGA probably has never heard. Then to top it off, they don’t tell Wie until after the third round when she had played her way to second place! I ask again, what were they thinking?

All it cost her was a chance to make enough money to avoid tour school in the Fall. If she maintained her position in the final round, she would have made it.

Evidently, her parents aka The Parents from Hell took the financial loss to heart because it was announced at the start of the week that Michelle is playing in another PGA Tour event at the Reno – Tahoe Open. When will they ever learn?

Bartender, please look in the wine cellar for a decent wine of a 1986 vintage for Greg and please pour two glasses of water for TPfH to wash down their stupid pills.

See you on the first tee!


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The British Open - "Champion Golfer of the Year"

This Week we’ll find out if there really is “Life Without Tiger” as the British Open, or the Open Championship as the Brits haughtily call it becomes the first Major Championship sans Tiger since Woods started his professional career.

Trust me on this, the tournament will be played. It will last a minimum of 72 holes and the player with the lowest score will be declared the “Champion Golfer of the Year.” The only difference there is that it’s guaranteed the winner won’t be Tiger.

There has been some bollix (a British term roughly translated as BS) about putting an asterisk beside the winner’s name because Woods is in absentia. That is truly bollix. The winner is the winner—period. His accomplishment is no less than if Tiger was in the field.

A quick visit to, the official bookie of the PGA European Tour has installed Sergio Garcia as a 12/1 favorite followed by Ernie Els at 16/1. Personally, I’d put a bob or two on Ernie way before I’d think about Sergio. The Spaniard’s melt down at last year’s Open is too fresh in my mind to even think about him. Rounding out the Top 10 and ties, Lee Westwood and Phil Mickelson are 20/1 Geoff Ogilvy, Jim Furyk and defending champion Padraig Harrington are installed at 25/1. Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Stewart Cink and Vijay Singh at 33/1 round it out.

Westwood is making a nice comeback, but his putting might get shaky in the clutch. Mickelson hits the ball too high for a true links course. There’s just too much wind. Out of the rest of the Top 10 the names that stand out are Ogilvy and Rose. Ogilvy can usually be found hanging around the lead in a Major and Rose has matured into a fine player in his own right. Also, as a teenager Rose exploded on the world golf scene in the Open on Royal Birkdale 10 years ago finishing fourth.

There were some interesting odds posted. Greg Norman and John Daly are 500/1 which is better than Mark O’Meara’s 1,000/1. Rocco Mediate the hero of the U.S. Open is a 200/1 pick. Watch for Miguel Angel Jimenez at 40/1. The Tour’s new glory guy Anthony Kim at 50/1 is a bit over valued. He may have the game, but he doesn’t have the experience. Boo Weekley and Camilo Villegas are teeing off at 100/1.

Regardless of who wins, he deserves it whether Tiger is there or not.


The New York Times ran a story this week about how much cheating goes on in golf. It didn’t focus on professional golf, but by the rank and file average golfers. They said that most of it is changing the lie from bad to good. They’re probably right. The USGA and the R&A could alleviate this problem with just one rule. DON’T TOUCH THE BALL. Think about it if the only times you touch the ball are to tee it up and clean it on the green, everything else is simple. If you do touch the ball, it’s a two stroke penalty. It eliminates any misunderstandings.

While they’re at it, there are a couple of other changes that should be made. Stroke and distance is double jeopardy. When a ball is hit out of bounds the golfer should be able to drop a ball within two club lengths from the spot the ball crossed the out of bounds marker and penalized one stroke. The same goes for a lost ball. Once it is agreed by all players in the group where the general area a ball was lost, the player who lost the ball should be able to drop a ball with a one stroke penalty. I think this is fair and I know it would cut down the time it takes to play a round.

I would like to think that most golfers follow the rules. In truth, the rules help the golfer more than they hurt him. Follow the rules and maintain your integrity. Bend them and lose it.

Bartender a pint of Watneys if you please, it’s British Open week and one must have a pint of British ale to get in the mood for the proceedings.


See you on the first tee.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The wonderful world of drug testing

Welcome to the wonderful world of drug testing. In knee jerk reaction to the misconduct of athletes in other sports, the ruling class of the PGA Tour, the European Tour and the LPGA Tour decided that golf needed to show the world just how clean professional golf is.

What they produced was a bad joke. If any of these guys or ladies walks the aisles of Walgreens and CVS they’re liable to be suspended. It appears that if a professional golfer takes ANYTHING that relieves in any measure an ache or a pain, they’re going to get some time out.

If you’re wondering if the U.S. Open had been played this weekend instead of Father’s Day weekend, would Tiger Woods have been disqualified? If it was his week to be randomly tested, he would. Realistically, they wouldn’t even think of testing him on a week like that—no matter how obvious it was that he was taking something. Remember, there are rules for the rank and file of the PGA Tour and then there are rules for Tiger and they’re not very similar. Before you raise your indignity level, it’s called self preservation.

As we are seeing now, the PGA Tour is paying the price the NBA did when they built the league around Michael Jordan and he retired. The league floundered for a few years and is just now on the road to recovery, but did they learn from their mistake? I give you LeBron James.

Just a couple of weeks of the World Without Tiger and the PGA Tour is churning the PR mill and the world has been presented with 22-year old Anthony Kim as the heir apparent. Don’t get me wrong, Kim is a nice player with a tremendous upside, but he’s just 22. At 22, young adults are still making poor decisions. For instance, I got married at 22 and that was at least 30 years too soon. You still have to file Kim and his two wins this year under “potential.”

There are other players who could carry the load until Tiger returns, but unfortunately, they’re on the shelf as well and as of July 1st that was the Tour’s fault. Wouldn’t you think that Vijay Singh might want to take some anti-inflammatory medicine for his myriad of muscular ailments? Adam Scott might want to take the edge off the discomfort he has in the slight break in his right hand, but he can’t even think about it. There are others who are hobbled and could have helped themselves, but will have to weather the storm cold turkey costing them money and quality golf.

I know that part of golf is focus and stamina, but somewhere common sense has to be acknowledged. The people at the Titleist Performance Institute regarded as the best golf fitness group in the business thinks this policy to be ridiculous citing that there are no steroids or human growth hormones that could help a golfer. In fact, any effect would probably be counterproductive.

This is just a façade for the real purpose of the drug test. By “joining” the other sports in keeping their game clean, Timmie Finchem and the boys can go to the International Olympic Committee with a proposal to put golf into the summer Olympics in four years.

Me? I go along with the European Tour executive who said, “We really only have to test one player, don’t we? If he’s not using anything, what difference will it make with the rest.”

Bartender, please pour me a whiskey and water and hold the whiskey. I don’t want to chance Timmie taking my laptop away for violating any of his foolish tests.

See you on the first tee.


Monday, July 7, 2008

Take a trip around the golf world ...

Let’s take a little tour around the world of golf while we await the British Open Championship or The Open Championship as the Brits refer to it. I wonder if we can withstand a Tigerless major. Trust me, all is not lost. Golf will survive even if the golfer formally known as Eldrick doesn’t return until the 2009 Masters.

News item. Chris Evert and Greg Norman swap I do’s on a beach in the Bahamas. Cost of the Saturday night wedding was reportedly in the $2 million range. It was the third for the tennis great who has been known to the public as Chris Evert-Lloyd and Chris Evert-Mills and the second for the swashbuckling Norman. I’m thinking this time it’s not going to be Chris Evert-Norman. In a battle of egos, I’m always picking the Aussie.

However, in a report on the nuptials, it was reported that the two combined for 20 major titles. That was 18 for Chris and a scant pair for Greg. That’s always a boost in confidence for a guy over 50 on his wedding night. I can just imagine the pillow talk.

“Gee Greg, I remember all those final round matches at the U.S. Open and Wimbledon where I felt the pressure of the whole world of tennis on me and how great it felt to not only survive that pressure but prevail!” Chrissie might have said. “Yeah Chris, I certainly remember my Open Championships. It was great; here I was a guy from a country they regard as a prison colony winning their Claret Jug … not once but twice dear … very nice.”

Then Chris comes back with, “so Greg dear, I always heard that the Masters should have been your playground, er what happened there? Wasn’t there something about a meltdown against Nick Faldo? Then there was the 1986 PGA at Inverness when Bob Tway. That was his name wasn’t it? Oh, that Robert Gamez thing at Bay Hill, holing out for an eagle to rob you of another title, but that wasn’t a major, honey.”

I’m thinking Greg wins the battle of the names. When it comes to success on Sunday afternoon, ah not so much. I hope Saturday night was better mate. You don’t have the best track record on Sundays.


Inbee Park, at the age of 19 becomes the youngest winner in history of the Women’s U.S. Open. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? It’s a great story, a 19-year-old winning and all. It sucks for women’s golf in the U.S. Now this kid might be charming and all, but her victory is injurious to the LPGA Tour.

South Korea is developing these female golf automatons and shipping them here by the boxcar loads. They now have dominated the LPGA Tour by sheer numbers. It’s easier when your country recognizes athletic ability and has the funding to prepare it for the world stage. The Orient isn’t the only player. The Aussies are culpable as well. Then again maybe we should stop bitching and develop programs of our own.

By the way, I have two personal standards for major champions. If you putt with a long putter and win, that event is no longer considered a major. If you win a major championship and cannot utter the appropriate thank you in English … even if in broken English; you’re taken off the board like in a horse race and placed at the back of the pack. This also goes for Americans who win in other countries as well.


No Tiger, huh? I’ll visit Ladbrokes (official bookie of the European PGA Tour … isn’t that a wonderful concept?) and place a nice wager on Justin Rose. He’s ready and he’s had success here finishing T4 as an amateur. I always have liked Ernie Els and Retief Goosen in this championship. Ernie has won before and now that Woods isn’t playing may be the favorite. Goosen has had monumental struggles. I’ve never worked my way through Retief’s being struck by lightning as a junior and having Ernie, who is certainly no slouch in this department, saying that Goosen had been the party animal. It has to have had a profound effect on his life and way of thinking. Maybe we should be glad having witnessed his surgical precision in winning two U.S. Opens and be happy with that.


For all of you who favor the “plan your work, work your plan” philosophy, rejoice with Kenny Perry this month. Kenny had a plan to play the golf courses he plays best. His goal was to win a spot on the Ryder Cup team for the competition to be played this September at Valhalla in his native Kentucky.

Perry passed on the U.S. Open even though he was playing well at the time having won the Memorial, a couple of weeks prior to the major. The truth be known, there’s more than a little extra incentive to make this year’s Ryder Cup team.

In 2000, Perry appeared to have the PGA Championship won at Valhalla and after signing his scorecard, headed directly to the network TV booth at 18. He extolled the virtues of Kentucky and Kentucky golf with great largesse. When Mark Brooks birdies the 72nd hole, Kenny’s in a playoff. The only things he had prepared were his vocal chords. Mark Brooks is the 2000 PGA Champion.

Kenny, it’s time to get it back. At 48, go get ‘em. The Ryder Cup will be a fitting crown for a fine career of a true gentleman.

Bartender, pour a dram of your finest Kentucky Bourbon for the states favorite son and one for myself while you’re at it.

See you on the first tee.