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Archive for April, 2009

Tiger and Manning and Hank

April 30th, 2009 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

There was plenty of excitement at the Quail Hollow Pro-Am yesterday. Peyton Manning was playing with his buddy Tiger Woods and Manning was busy signing autographs all day. The two of them had the largest gallery and Manning was doing his best Arnold Palmer imitation signing autographs and chatting with the fans throughout the round. Woods even stopped to sign a few and we all know that’s the toughest signature to get in golf. Maybe a little bit of the showman in Manning rubbed off on his playing partner. The biggest rumor floating around is that Tiger may be getting ready to make a coaching change. After Tiger’s third round at the Masters he was heard cursing and complaining about his swing and his inability to finish off his rounds with good holes instead of stumbling over the last few holes. The level of noise created by the rumor has prompted Woods to come out and say that he is not looking to change and the rumor is “…complete speculation.” “It has nothing to do with Henry” he said. Woods went on to say that his public outburst was his way of venting and dealing with his less than stellar round. Tiger’s temper is well documented and so is his willingness to change. He has changed his swing and coach before, so it would not be something new.

If Tiger thinks leaving Haney will improve his game he will do it in a flash. Woods is his own man like no other on tour; however, leaving Haney might be a mistake. Any time a player is having difficulty many like to point to their coach. Haney’s contemporaries are not immune to criticism and players leaving them. David Leadbetter, Rick Smith and Butch Harmon have had players leave for other coaches. That’s the nature of the business. Haney is a self-effacing, soft spoken man that has definite theories on the golf swing. Haney has said that Tiger knows more about the golf swing than most players on tour. “I have learned more from Tiger than he will ever learn from me,” Haney has said. Haney must be easy to get along with, we watch him try to correct the worst swing in golf each week when he works with Charles Barkley on the Golf Channel’s “The Haney Project.” Haney is a Golf Channel veteran, last year he had the “The School of Golf” and this year “The Haney Project” is one of the Golf Channel’s most watched programs. It appears the Woods/Haney relationship has been good for both of them.

I saw Haney at a golf show recently and was struck by his candidness and matter of fact style. He was open and forthcoming with all the questions about Tiger and their relationship. His was able to communicate his ideas and theories in plain and simple terms. Haney said he always gets a kick from the amateurs that are upset when they can’t master the swing when they take one or two lessons and rarely practice. “This is the best golfer in the world and I spend about 100 days a year with him. And you guys expect to get it in a few lessons.”

If Tiger wants to make a change Haney will be the first to know it. I think Tiger is right, it is all a bunch of speculation and only a rumor. Haney is a good coach and a better guy. It would be Tiger’s loss. Where else is he going to find a coach that is willing to coach the best player in the world and the worst player at the same time? A win this week and all this “speculation” is long gone.

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Quail Hollow Championship (not the Wachovia)

April 29th, 2009 No comments

Who do you like this week at The Quail Hollow Championship? (I love that “non-corporate” name.) There is a great field this week on a course many of the pros really like. Outside of the Masters and The World Golf Championships, this is the best field of the year. Ten of the top fourteen players in the world are in the field. Many prominent names are on the past champions list from Quail Hollow: Woods, Furyk, Singh, Toms and defending champ Anthony Kim.

For all those people that like to take a shot at the tour and don’t understand what this tour does, consider this fact. Since 2003 when this tournament started, Wachovia has raised more than $9.4 million for charity. Golf has donated over $1.4 billion to charity over the years. In 2008 the Tour gave $124 million to charity. That is serious money and more than any other sport.

This is a great warm up for the Players Championship next week. Here’s our take on the boys that should contend, or at least be fun to watch this week. A word of warning, Tiger and Phil are playing, so you know what that means, All Tiger and Phil All the Time! CBS and the Golf Channel will show all their shots and we’ll get to see other players only when Tiger is in the Porta-Potty and Phil is looking for his ball.

· It’s time Sergio stopped talking (whining) and started playing. Step up and shut up, and maybe “the breaks will go your way.”

· Tiger and Phil have to be two favorites; they are only the best in the world. Could a rematch of the final round at the Masters be in the cards? It would be great, but that only happens about once every ten tears.

· Defending champ Anthony Kim‘s best finish on the PGA Tour this year is T2 at The Mercedes seems like last year. Injuries and globe-trotting around the world has kept Kim from playing his best. He loves this place and this could be his breakout start.

· David Toms won here in 2003 and has played great all year. The pressure of winning at home for New Orleans last week is off his back and he should play more relaxed this week.

· Ian Poulter is ready to capture his first PGA Tour win. 4/5 cuts made and 4 top twenty five finishes.

· Nick Watney is still one of the hottest golfers in the world.

· John Merrick is on the verge of his first win and has been very consistent all year.

· Three young kids that are fun to watch: James Nitties, from The Big Break, has been playing well and is an interesting kid, Webb Simpson started the season on fire but has cooled recently, a little bit of home cooking in North Carolina might be just what he needs. Danny Lee will try to make his first cut on the tour. He’s fun to watch and listen to.

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The “New” Quail Hollow Championship

April 28th, 2009 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

This is a special week on the PGA tour. It’s not because Tiger and Phil are in the field again. It’s not because of the $1.1 million check for the winner. It is because of the “new” name for this week’s tournament. It is simply called The Quail Hollow Championship. It has no sponsor’s name attached to it. The tournament has a corporate sponsor, Wells Fargo & Co, but they have elected to withdraw their name from the tournament. Wells Fargo bought Wachovia last year and originally had plans to leave the name attached to the tournament. However, after the firestorm that raged on about corporate America spending money “foolishly” during this time of bailouts and stimulus packages, Wells Fargo decided to remove any corporate title and leave the event simply called The Quail Hollow Championship. These sponsorships are not cheap; it costs Wells Fargo around $7 million per year to sponsor the tournament.

Whatever the reason, I am all for it. I know the tour can’t survive without the millions of big business dollars, but it is so nice to see an unencumbered tournament name. There are 37 regular full field tournaments from January to the end of September on the PGA Tour. The only ones without corporate names are The Bob Hope Classic, Quail Hollow, The Players, The Memorial and the four majors. There was a time when the Shell Houston Open was the Houston Open and the Buick Open was the Western Open and so on. Back in the day, the tour stops were called by the city that they were in or by the celebrity that hosted them. There was the Crosby, Andy Williams, Jackie Gleason and Sammy Davis Jr. to name a few. Those days are gone; the tour needs the bucks, the buck come from sponsors, the sponsors get to name their tournament. I get it, but you’ll excuse me if I take this chance to enjoy this week’s tournament as simply The Quail Hollow Championship. I’m sure by next year it will be the Wells Fargo Wachovia Bank National Pro-Am Presented by Wells Fargo & Wachovia Bank at Quail Hollow. The Quail Hollow Championship was short lived but it was a grand old tournament.

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Coronas, Oysters and Legends

April 27th, 2009 No comments

“Hooks and Slices” will bring you our view on whats happening in the golf world.

So Lorena and Suzann Pettersen go head to head in the final round of the Corona Championship and we don’t get to see any of it. Lorena outlasts Suzann in what looked like a compelling final round. Come on LPGA, get your act together and find someone to get your tournaments on television. Check out the video from the Golf Channel, it’s all we’ve got.

Jerry Kelly found a way to win at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans. He came back after he lost the lead to win his first tournament since 2002. Kelly has had course management problems in the past but has overcome them. Not bad for a Wisconsin boy who has banked over $13 million in his career.

Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer beat Craig Stadler and Jeff Sluman in a playoff to win the LibertyMutual Legends of Golf. Langer and Stadler traded long bomb putts to send it to the second hole playoff. These guys still have game. The real highlight was the failed attempt at a chest bump between Lehman and Langer after Langer dropped his putt. Stick to a high five or a fist pump guys.

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Tiger’s Niece Making Her Mark

April 27th, 2009 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Welcome to Links Life Golf.  If this is your first visit take a minute to check out some of our interesting and timeless pieces under the Great Articles section.

If it is Monday, then it’s the start of a new week of a new golf tournament on the PGA Tour. If that tournament happens to have Tiger Woods in the field, you can expect an onslaught of “Tiger Woods” stories. If that tournament has both Woods and Phil Mickelson in the field you can expect nothing but “Tiger and Phil” coverage. That’s the case this week as Tiger and Phil are both in the field at the Quail Hollow Championship. It’s great to see the top two players in the world play together again, but there is another person named Woods making some noise in the golf world lately. It is Cheyenne Woods, Tiger’s niece. Cheyenne Woods is a freshman golfer for the Wake Forest Women’s golf team. Ms. Woods has just helped the Demon Deacons win the ACC Women’s Golf Title. They stopped Duke’s thirteen year run as champions and gave second place North Carolina a whipping as they won by 24 strokes. Woods isn’t the star of the team but she played well in the tournament. The star for Wake Forest was Natalie Sheary as she defeated three time ACC Champion, Amanda Blumenherst in a playoff for individual honors. The team is powered by sophomore Sheary, and seniors Nanette Hill and Jean Chua.

Cheyenne learned the game from her grandfather, Earl Woods, and the similarities to Tiger are evident. She has a wonderful swing and carries herself with poise and maturity beyond her years. It’s only a matter of time before she has her day on top of the leader boards. For now, she is content to be a student athlete and help her team while learning the game. Check out the video from the Today Show. You’ll see a personable and confident young lady that’s a dead ringer for her famous uncle.

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Shivas Irons and the Kingdom at Bandon Dunes

April 24th, 2009 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Shivas Irons is coming to the big screen. After years of unsuccessful attempts to make Michael Murphy’s book, “Golf in the Kingdom” into a movie, filming has finally begun. In 1972 Michael Murphy wrote “Golf in the Kingdom” and it became recognized as the classic book on the spirituality of golf. The novel takes place in a heavenly setting called the “Kingdom” on a course called Burningbush and any resemblance to the Kingdom of Fife or St. Andrews is purely coincidence. Murphy tells the story of his meeting and friendship with Shivas Irons. Shivas Irons is a golfing mystic who is part psychologist, part Old Tom Morris and part Bagger Vance. The book is enlightening and entertaining and if you are a real golfer, you must read it. There are only two kinds of golfers in the world; those that have read “Golf in the Kingdom’ and those that need to.

Anyway, the filming has started at Bandon Dunes. Bandon was chosen for its true, natural links surroundings. Murphy has said that the courses at Bandon Dunes are even more beautiful than the Scottish links they are meant to represent. This is a labor of love for Murphy and the entire creative team. Even the best golf movies have a tough time appealing to a mass audience. “Kingdom” will need a special touch if it is to do the novel justice.

David O’Hara is playing Shivas Irons, he was in Braveheart. He played the crazy Irishman that befriended and guarded William Wallace (Mel Gibson).

Check out the “old” movie trailer from 2007 and the links below to see more of “The Kingdom” and learn more about the production.

Movie News Link. Bandon Western World, Lisa Hull Link.

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Plenty of Golf This Week

April 23rd, 2009 No comments

“Hooks and Slices” will bring you our view on whats happening in the golf world.

There is plenty of golf this week as all the major tours have tournaments scheduled.

The PGA Tour is back in New Orleans for the Zurich Classic. New Orleans is still feeling the effects of Katrina, and this tournament has a significant impact on New Orleans. The tournament brings $30 million into the area and donates $1 million to charity. Zurich’s chief executive is Jim Schiro and he has a special relationship with this tournament. His company took extraordinary measures to settle claims with its policyholders after Katrina. Larry Dorman, in the New York Times, offers an insightful look at the commitment of Zurich and the effect this tournament has on the people of New Orleans.

Some of these guys might be holding the trophy come Sunday: Nick Watney won here in 2007 and has one win already this year. John Merrick is continuing his hot season; he’s going to win somewhere this year. It’s welcome back to Kenny Perry, the most popular loser on tour this week. Danny Lee with his new deal with IMG makes his pro debut. Louisiana’s own David Toms would love a win here. He has three top tens and has found his game again after a sub-par ’08.

The Champions Tour offers up the “team format” of The Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf. Tom Watson and Andy North defend their title. Tom Lehman is making his Champions debut and is paired with Bernhard Langer. Many Champion favorites are in the field and these guys love the team format. Norman, Haas, Trevino, Crenshaw and first time winner Nick Price look to cash another check at Savannah. Price recalls his first professional victory thirty years ago.

The LPGA starts up again, they seem to play as much as Tiger does. At least they play three of the next four weeks. The girls get a jump on “Cinco de Mayo” with the Corona Championship in Mexico. Lorena Ochoa is defending and seven of the top ten players are there including a pair of hot Americans, Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr. Stacy Lewis and Vicky Hurst are two of the American rookies in the field.

The European Tour is in South Korea for the Ballantine’s Championship and Ernie Els is doing his best imitation of Gary Player as he travels the world to play golf.

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Tiger vs Phil, Rivalry or Not?

April 22nd, 2009 1 comment

by Jeff Skinner

With Tiger and Phil sitting atop the World Golf Rankings, the debate continues as to whether there is a real on course rivalry between the two of them (John Strege In Golf Digest). Many think that any rivalry is a product of the media. I tend to think it is a little of both. If you saw them when they were paired together at the 2004 Ryder Cup it was obvious that they are not close. At the Masters this year, paired together in the final round, there was reportedly plenty of “nice shots” between the two, but it appeared that Woods grew more annoyed with each birdie by Mickelson. Phil Mickelson is usually more open and accessible with the press and fans than Woods is (John Huggan In The Scotsman). Tiger’s behavior during the Masters final round and afterward has caused many to comment how unsportsmanlike it was (Lawrence Donegan in The Guardian). With Woods’ winning so many more majors than Mickelson it would appear that it is a one way rivalry. It is a shame that they play head to head so infrequently. The Tiger versus Phil competition will rage on for years, but the Woods image may be in need of some repair. The press in America seems much less critical of Woods than the European press. The European press has been critical of Tiger’s recent behavior and many claim that the American press “kiss Tiger’s ass.” That thought certainly has been mentioned before. Many think Tiger gets a free pass in the press. Tiger will never be Phil and Phil will never be Tiger. Phil could use some of Tiger’s majors. Tiger could use a little of Phil’s smiles.

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Sergio at a Crossroads

April 21st, 2009 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Sergio Garcia is approaching a critical crossroads in his career. Garcia will defend the biggest win of his career at the Players Championship next month and the questions will start again. Is Garcia ever going to win a major?

In 1999 a young pro from Spain came to the PGA Championship at Vallaha and literally jumped into the hearts of golf fans everywhere. A nineteen year old Sergio Garcia faced off with Tiger Woods in the final round of the PGA Championship. When he hit an approach shot off the trunk of a tree and ran down the fairway and jumped up to see where his shot was going to land, he had arrived. With that scissors kick, that leap, that bounce off the fairway he landed on the front page and was marked as the next Ballesteros. Here was the next young phenom on tour, a kid with a ton of skill that showed his emotions on every stroke. Since then, Garcia has had a very good career. He has seven PGA Tour victories and twelve European Tour wins, but he has failed to capture any major championships.

Garcia has failed to win in forty-four majors, but has been close to a victory in recent tries. In the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie he entered the final round tied for the lead and shot 73 to Padraig Harrington’s 67 and then lost in a playoff to Harrington. Afterward Garcia said, “It’s funny how some guys hit the pin and go to a foot. Mine hits the pin and goes twenty feet away.” He continued, “You know what’s the saddest thing about it? It’s not the first time. It’s not the first time unfortunately. So, I don’t know, I’m playing against a lot of guys out there, more than the field.” At the 2008 PGA Championship he had his share of bad breaks. On the fifteenth hole his shot hit the pin and rolled away from the pin. At the sixteenth his ball rolled into the water, and his putt on seventeen lipped out of the hole. He lost to Harrington again by two strokes. After the PGA he griped about his poor luck. “There’s guys that get a little bit fortunate. They get in contention and manage to get things going their way. And unfortunately it hasn’t happened to me.” His complaining was taken as the whining of a poor loser.

After this year’s Masters, Garcia whined again about Augusta National. “I don’t like it.” Garcia was the only one complaining. Most of the players raved about the course and the setup. “I don’t think it’s fair,” he said. “It’s too tricky. Even when it’s dry you still get mud balls in the middle of the fairway. It’s too much of a guessing game.” He later apologized, but the damage was already done. Garcia has come off looking like a whining, complaining sore loser. He needs to get past these “why me” crying spells. At twenty-nine he should be able to display more self control and maturity.

Sergio Garcia is recognized as one of the better ball strikers on both tours. His tee to green game is one of the best in professional golf. He has struggled with putting but recently has found a more reliable stroke. Until last year’s match, Garcia was a stalwart in the Ryder Cup. He had an excellent record and was the teams’ emotional leader. He took the role of Ryder Cup cheerleader as his own and was the spark that always ignited the European team. His career is very similar to that of Colin Mongomerie. Montgomerie has an extraordinary record on the European Tour and was a Ryder Cup hero for years. He won the Order of Merit a record eight times, but never was able to capture a major. Mongomerie’s best chance was done in by a weak seven iron at the 2006 US Open. Could Garcia be destined to repeat Montgomerie’s career?

Garcia is only twenty-nine and to think he will not compete in more majors would be foolish. However, as Mongomerie demonstrates it is possible to play at the highest level and still be shut out of the majors. Garcia will be back at the TPC Sawgrass to defend his title and he’ll be in the hunt for many more majors. If he wins a few of them then he will have realized the potential displayed at the 1999 PGA. Win or lose he needs to handle the results more diplomatically. There is no conspiracy, or golfing gods that are holding him back. All golfers professional or amateur, have their share of luck, be it good or bad. Hopefully Sergio will handle his future losses with more maturity and dignity. It would be sad for Sergio to go his entire career without a major win. It would be worse to have to have him remembered as the loudest cry baby in golf.

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Nice Guys Finish First

April 20th, 2009 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

One of the nicest guys in golf finally got what he deserved. Nick Price had an up and down final round on the TPC Tampa course, but he rallied to win his first Champions Tour title. His Outback Pro-Am final round of 71 included three double bogeys, one bogey and seven birdies. Price had gone thirty-eight Champion Tour starts without a win. It certainly was too long a streak for a player of Price’s ability. The fact that it took Price this long to win proves that the Champions tour is no walk in the park and shows that this game can be quite fickle. Price definitely has the talent to be a multiple winner but sometimes the breaks don’t fall your way.

Nick Price is one of the good guys on tour. He is one of the really good guys. Price is a three time major winner. He won the 1992 PGA Championship and in 1994 won consecutive majors, the Open Championship and then the PGA. Price worked his way up to the number one player in the word in 1994 and had that ranking for 44 weeks. Price was voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2003 and has received many prestigious awards.

Price’s skill on the course is well recognized, but it is his demeanor off the course that sets him apart from most golfers. His contemporaries acknowledge that Price is one of the most likable and respected players in the game. He was voted inaugural ASAP Sports/Jim Murray Award, given to the player that cooperates and accommodates the media the most. Once a reporter that Price did not know too well asked him if he had time for a short interview. Priced asked him what he was doing for dinner and gave him the interview during the meal. He received the Payne Stewart Award that honors the player that displays respect for the traditions of the game and he is one of the most liked players on any tour.

Price attributes his accommodating nature to his family. “More of it comes from your family and your parents. That’s probably the biggest thing. My mom used to always say to me ‘Treat other people the way you want to be treated.’ It’s not that easy to do, but if you can adopt that attitude it certainly makes life a lot more pleasant.”

When Price was elected into the Hall of Fame, Davis Love III said,” I think players recognize what a great guy he is. People always ask who the nicest guy in golf is and Nick’s name always comes up in the top two or three.” He goes on to say,” Nick Price is the same every day. He says hello to everyone, he speaks to the locker room attendant, and he speaks to every marshal on every tee. He’s just a genuinely nice friendly guy who goes out of his way. It’s natural for him to be nice to them.”

Now that Nick has broken through for his first Champions win, let’s hope that more will follow. He’s too good a golfer for him not to win again, and it’s always good to see a nice guy finish first.

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