Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pick 4 not a safe bet!

You’re Paul Azinger and you weren’t careful about what you wished for, were you? You accepted the post of Ryder Cup captain only after the PGA of America acquiesced to your demands. You wanted four captain’s picks instead of two. Well, now you’ve got them, what are you going to do with them?

You’ve already had Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Kenny Perry, Jim Furyk, Anthony Kim, Justin Leonard, Ben Curtis and Boo Weekley make the team on points. Some might say that with three Ryder Cup rookies in Kim, Curtis and Weekley and one with only one appearance (Perry) that you’re a little thin in experience. Given the recent success of the “veterans,” how could that be a bad thing?

Besides, bringing the newbies to Valhalla will be a good attitude adjustment. They’ll be so excited that they won’t notice how unpleasant this track situated in the rolling hills outside of Louisville, Ky. really is. The fact that the PGA of America is part owner of the course explains why this strange selection and why it’s been the stage of two PGA Championships. Other than that, you wouldn’t have a dog race there.

To date, you haven’t been holding your cards too close to the vest, oh captain, my captain. You’ve openly waxed poetic about the power and intimidation power hitters such as J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson bring to the table. The problem is, they’re ranked 17th and 26th respectively. Also, you’d have to pass by players like Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan, Brandt Snedeker and crowd favorite Rocco Mediate. I don’t know about that.

Granted, Holmes also meets your criteria of having won this year (Phoenix), but he has a few other assets as well. Imagine sending out your first match with a team of Perry and Holmes, a pair of Kentuckians to rile up the crowd. Add in a mint julep or four in the crowd and there will be some real excitement.

In addition, Holmes will serve another purpose. His lava-esque pace of play may just destroy opponent’s concentration and hopefully not his partner’s. I think Holmes should be the power pick as Watson seems to be blossoming into the Earl of Surl on the PGA Tour and his attitude wouldn’t be a major contribution to the overall chemistry of the squad.

If you go strictly by the numbers, Stricker, Woody Austin, D. J. Trahan and Mahan will be on the team. But why would you do that, when you lobbied for four picks.

You’ve said that you’re open to pick a player who is playing well at decision time. I defy you to find one. Leader boards have been saturated with names of players either ineligible to play in the event due to birth place, or worse yet, players on the other side. Let’s face it, even the players you’ve been stuck...er who have made the team aren’t lighting it up.

You’ll have the distinct opportunity to enter the matches as a betting underdog, an honor rarely accorded to American captains. As you will find, it’s a well deserved distinction. Unfortunately, instead of studying the on course chemistry of the team during practice rounds, you may have to be teaching a course on the vagaries of match play. That is, unless Weekley has been taking tutelage on his own. In the Accenture Match Play Championship this year, Boo didn’t understand the concept of a conceded putt and had to be taught by his opponent during a match.

Zinger, you’ve won a major championship, you’ve successfully represented the U.S. in this wonderful event. The question begs to be asked, why did get yourself in this position?

Bartender, pour me a dram of Kentucky’s finest brown liquor and leave the bottle for Captain Azinger. He’s going to need it. By the way, P.A.—Stricker, Mahan, Holmes and O’Hair isn’t the name of a Louisville accounting firm, but they are four golfers who can give a good account of themselves at Valhalla.

See you on the first tee.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Angry Golfer says *** NO *** asterisks

I’ve got to admit that I’m getting pretty damned tired of hearing all this talk about putting asterisk next to Padraig Harrington’s name when listing his British Open and PGA Championship titles this year because those majors were Tigerless. Please show me the written guarantee that Woods would have won, or that he would have been in the mix in the final round. It was never etched in stone.

Having said that, would you ever imagine putting an asterisk next to Tiger’s name in a Major where Harrington wasn’t in the field? Of course not, both scenarios are ludicrous.

One thing that isn’t ludicrous is wondering how much of a factor Woods will be when he returns. Last reports are that he won’t even consider swinging a club until 2009. He’s planning his return at the 2009 Masters. Will he be a factor then? If anyone could be under those circumstances, it would be Tiger, but common sense today says bet on the Irish kid to be wearin’ of the green…jacket that is next April.

The golf world, most notably TV and the PGA Tour must consider the unthinkable. Tiger Woods may return as a mortal golfer. Knees aren’t constructed to withstand the pressure he puts on BOTH of knees in his current swing. The swing has to change. Sure he’s changed his swing before, but the changes were always to add power, not protect his body.

Tiger will always be a great golfer. He has the credentials already that have already cemented his place in golf history. Hopefully, we won’t look back at the 2008 U.S. Open and wonder what he could have been if it hadn’t have been for that knee.


In the past this corner has been somewhat critical of Sergio Garcia and his attitude. He has placed blame for his shortcomings in Majors on everyone but the locker room attendant. Following his runner up finish in the PGA Championship to the aforementioned Harrington, Sergio took full responsibility for his failings.
Normally, we could have counted on him blaming the terrible second shot he hit on the 16th in the final round that crossed the hazard then backed up into the water on any number of things, i.e. poor course setup, a sudden gale in his face, or the ever popular the gallery was against me. Instead, he admitted that he hit a poor shot.
That’s a start. He’s now closer than ever to having a winning attitude needed to succeed in Major championships. Unfortunately, he still can’t putt well enough to win a Major. By the way, I have a long standing rule. If a Major is won by a player using either a long putter or a belly putter, that tournament is no longer considered a Major. Both those style putters are a form of cheating. The only thing that should touch a club is the player’s hands and those hands shouldn’t be anchored by the torso.


Pardon me while I legend drop. I happened to bump into Jack Nicklaus at a function earlier this week and an old subject that we were polarized on was recalled. A decade ago, Jack spoke fervently about the need for the golf ball to be rolled back so that it wouldn’t go as far.

I was adamant that the longer ball was good for the overall game because the longer ball made the game more fun and would help keep people in the game. Ten years ago, I wasn’t totally wrong. Today, ah, mea culpa greatest golfer of all time.
“I could see where it was going and today we’re almost there,” Nicklaus said. “Yesterday, my son Michael, who doesn’t play very much, but hits it nine miles, told me he played a 537-yard par 4 and hated the fact he had to hit a 7-iron for his second shot. That’s not golf.

“The new ball of today doesn’t help the average golfer,” he continued. “If you have a swing speed of 110 miles an hour, you become a better player than you really are. If you don’t have that swing, the ball hurts your chances.”

He’s right. The super balls are for super swing speeds only. The rest of us are left to live with our shortcomings. The moral of the story is, never argue with the greatest golfer of all time (although it was fun being a little burr under his saddle for a little while even if he really didn’t notice).

Bartender, throw some crow into the blender, puree it and I’ll have it on the rocks with water on the side.

See you on the first tee,


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Giving Norman his props

At the risk of sounding hypocritical because I have taken the occasional cheap shot at Greg Norman for all his opulence and sometimes gaudy display of his wealth as well as his proclivity for finding disaster at the most inopportune times, I have to be fair.

Fairness dictates that we tip our tam to the man from down under for one of the most amazing feats in golf since maybe ever. In the space of three continuous weeks, Norman finished T3 in the British Open, T5 in the British Senior Open and a solo 4th in the U.S. senior Open.

For you naysayers out there and I know who you are (you’re people like me), who will criticize the now Great Gray Shark for not winning when he obviously had three chances, there were a lot of factors at work out there.

First, Norman is 53-years old and even if he was more than an occasional part time player, he should never venture onto the PGA Tour. He proved that in the three Tour events he played earlier in the year when he failed to make the cut at Pebble Beach, Atlanta and the Mexican event which was a minor tournament played opposite a WGC event.

Second, until the three aforementioned events, Norman hadn’t competed at all for almost to years. He’d spent more time on the operating table repaying the physical debt with surgery to his shoulder and hip. He also was very far removed from giving anymore than cursory attention to the playing of golf. He had morphed into the undoubtedly most successful professional golfer-turned businessman in history. He has the responsibility of running MacGregor, The Greg Norman apparel line, Greg Norman Estates winery, Greg Norman Golf Course Design and a few other companies as well. With all of this, when would he play golf?

Given the above schedule and let’s throw in an unpleasant divorce that was more public than he wanted and a recent wedding to Chris Evert, he somehow returned from total golf inactivity to have the mental strength and concentration to deal with three Majors in three weeks and compete so well.

The TV commentators, practicing amateur psychology as they usually do, credited Mrs. Norman, nee Evert for Norman’s calmer demeanor without sacrifice of concentration. If that’s the case, ladies I’m available. Maybe then I could tone it down to a Type B personality and people would marvel at my confidant stride instead of referring to my gait as a controlled stumble. Watch out golf world, Jack is coming back.

The truth is, for a wonderful three week stretch we were reminded of what a great player Greg Norman was. We were reminded that he is still one of the most charismatic golfers we’ve ever seen. We also were given a chance to wonder, could he? And we know that we haven’t received an answer. The best of all is we get to see him at the Masters again, the stage where he suffered so many tragedies. Could he? Can he? Would he? We’ll have the chance to find out and let’s face it, we can’t wait.


Let’s take a quick look at the PGA Championship. Phil Mickelson has spent a lot of time working on keeping his driver in play. Last week, he kept it in check until he needed it and blew it out of play on the last two holes. Perhaps a better strategy like using a 3-wood might have made a difference. Unfortunately, he’s let work on his short game suffer. However that will come back.
I like Lefty this week without the shadow of Tiger. His mistakes won’t be so damaging.

Vijay Singh won last week. The record shows he’s never won a Major using his belly putter. The greens at Oakland Hills are a lot more severe than at Firestone. I don’t like the Fijian this week. To be honest, I never like him any week.

Kenny Perry is the anti-Major man having refused to play both the US and British Opens. Some guys win championships, some win tournaments. He did come close to winning the PGA Championship when he lost the PGA Championship in a playoff to Mark Brooks. He’ll hang in, but win? I doubt it.

Lee Westwood has found his game again and has been a factor in majors this year. If gets over the hump and makes the big putt at the big time, the Wannamaker Trophy could be heading across the Atlantic.

Jim Furyk is always hanging around the top of the leader board in Majors. However, he has had an uncharacteristically poor putting year. If he can find the magic wand, he will be a threat.

Bartender, please poor me a large tumbler of whatever will get the taste of the milk of human kindness out of my mouth. I will then raise the glass and toast Greg for reminding me what a great golfer he has been for so long. Yecch, can we get to next week—fast.

See you on the first tee.