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Michelle Wie & Greg Norman: Major Implications

July 31st, 2009 2 comments

by Jeff Skinner

A glance at the leader boards of the two major championships this week shows two of the biggest names in golf hovering near the lead. Greg Norman and Michelle Wie are both in contention in their respective majors and a win by either would be significant.  These two players are huge attractions in golf and attract an inordinate amount of attention.  Whose victory would have a bigger impact on the game?  Norman has admittedly been a “part time player” since he left the PGA Tour and moved to the Champions Tour.  He spends more time in board meetings than on the practice range and it is only recently that he has concentrated on playing more tournament golf.  Norman’s competitive interest has been reignited by his wife, Chris Evert.  A win by Norman would be his first as a Senior and would certainly help bring some publicity the Senior golf.  Norman’s persona is still as big as ever and he still has a large following.  He is still the “Shark” and plays a booming, aggressive game.  A Norman win here would mean some added “buzz” to the Senior Tour.  If Norman won and continued to be an active tournament golfer, the Senior Tour and golf in general would reap the rewards.
Say what you will about Michelle Wie and how she got here, you still have to recognize that she is one of the biggest names in golf.  Wie certainly lacks the pedigree of Norman, but none the less is one of the biggest names in golf.  In a sense Wie and Norman are alike.  They are both searching for their first win on their tours, they both play an aggressive, long driving game and they attract rock star attention wherever they go.  After years of unfulfilled potential, maybe being pushed a little too hard and placed in bad situations, Michelle Wie is where she should be.  It is hard to believe she is only a rookie on tour since she has been part of the golfing landscape for so long.  She finally earned her LPGA Tour card this year and is playing her best golf of her career.  A win here for Wie would be absolutely huge for Wie and for women’s golf.  At a time when the LPGA Tour is struggling to retain sponsors and tournaments, a victory by Wie would be just the right medicine for the ailing LPGA.  Wie is like Tiger Woods.  She draws the casual fan and the non-fan.  Millions of people that don’t know a putter from a driver follow Michelle Wie.  She is a superstar that transcends the golfing world.  A victory for Wie would mean a Solheim Cup spot for her and thereby getting more attention for the Solheim Cup in a few weeks.  Having Michelle Wie win here and playing at the Solheim Cup would probably mean millions of dollars in sponsorship dollars for the LPGA Tour.  At the very least, it would make the marketing of the tour much easier for the new interim commissioner.
There is plenty of golf left to play for both Wie and Norman.  A win by Greg Norman would be great for him and senior golf.  A win by Michelle Wie would change the way Wie is perceived, but more significantly, a win could very well rescue the LPGA Tour from the predicament it is in now.

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Tiger, Daly, Michelle, Watson and More This Week

July 30th, 2009 No comments

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

This week gives us a bounty of great golf and exciting stories. Tiger is back and so is John Daly, Tom Watson and the boys are at The US Senior Open and the ladies are in England for the Women’s British Open. Get your clickers and the DVR’s ready; you’ll need them to catch all the action.

***** Tiger Woods was a late entry into the Buick Open and there is speculation as to why Tiger decided to play this week. After his dismal missed cut at The Open Championship he probably wants to get some tournament rounds under his belt. If Tiger had won or played well at Turnberry he’d still be home in Florida. He knows this course well, having won in 2002 and 2006 and eats this course up. He holds the course record of 61. Some even speculate that Tiger is giving a little bit back to Buick and General Motors by playing this week. That may be the case and both Tiger and Buick should get something out of this. Woods can tweak his swing to include hitting some fairways and Buick can count on some extra cash from all the extra Tiger watchers. Anytime Woods plays well it’s exciting and leading into the World Golf Championships and The PGA Championship Woods will be looking to get his game razor sharp.

***** You remember Crooked Stick Golf Club in Indiana; it was the scene of John Daly’s amazing win at the 1991 PGA Championship. JD, mullet and all, crashed the party as an alternate and “Grip it and Rip it “was born. Well Daly won’t be here this week and hopefully we’ve seen our last mullet, but there will be some great golf this week at Crooked Stick. The best senior golfers in the world will be teeing it up for the third major of the Senior season at The US Senior Open. Watson, Norman, Roberts and defending champ Eduardo Romero will be looking to add another major trophy to their collection. Some of these players, like Watson and Norman are competing in their third consecutive major championship. They started with Watson’s heartbreak at The Open Championship and were there for Roberts win at The Senior Open Championship. Now just a few days after a flight across the pond they face one of the toughest setups of the year. Isn’t it a little strange to have two Senior majors on consecutive weeks? I have to wonder what is going on here. The USGA and the R & A need to work out a better schedule than this. Consecutive majors are a tough enough task, but consecutive majors on two different continents is torture. There has to be a better way to showcase these legends.

***** The Women’s British Open takes on a little extra significance this week as it is the last chance for players to earn points for The Solheim Cup. The ladies will be trying for a career changing win and many will be working to get enough points to make their respective squads. Forty-seven of the top fifty in the Rolex Rankings will be playing this week at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Michelle Wie will be trying for her first win as a pro and at the same time hoping to impress Captain Beth Daniel enough to make her a captain’s pick if she falls short. This should be an exciting tournament with great golfers on an historic course that could give women’s some much needed positive publicity. Women’s golf is in a tenuous state of affairs right now and needs some positive juice. Devil Ball Golf has a slant on how golf hottie Anna Rawson would revolutionize women’s golf.

Here’s the television lineup for tomorrow. The Women’s British Open is first at 10:00am on TNT. The US Senior Open starts at 1:00pm on ESPN and The Buick Open is on The Golf Channel at 3:00pm. Happy Viewing!

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Phil’s Back!

July 29th, 2009 No comments

Great news for golf as Phil Mickelson announced that he will be playing in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational next week. The fact that Phil feels comfortable enough to leave his wife and mom as they are treated for breast cancer is a good sign. The good news here is that Phil is back. The great news is that Amy and Mary Mickelson must be doing well. It makes sense that Phil will also compete in the PGA Championship the following week and that sets up some exciting golf. Phil and Tiger should both be in the WGC and The PGA, giving us two weeks of the biggest players in the game. These past months golf hasn’t been a high priority for Phil. Hopefully, this is a sign that his and Amy’s life are getting back to some sense of normalcy. Amy and Phil have always tried to give back to their community and are very active with their foundation. Check out the video on their foundation. Phil and Amy are the highest profile couple on the PGA Tour and it is easy to see why there are loved so much.

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Tiger, Seniors and a Strange Year on Tour

July 28th, 2009 No comments

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

The Seniors (or Champions if you like) keep it going this week at the US Senior Open. What a wild ride these experienced golfers have given us. Tom Watson, Loren Roberts, Fred Funk, Mark McNulty and Greg Norman are all in the field again this week at Crooked Stick in Indiana. Let’s hope they can keep the excitement coming. These guys have given us two amazing weeks of golf.
Nathan Green finally won the excruciatingly long, rain delayed Canadian Open. The week at Glen Abbey was another weird week in a strange season. John Maginnes asks, “Has there ever been a stranger season on Tour?” It gets even stranger as Tiger Woods tees it up at The Buick Open this week. Woods is scheduled to play this week at the Buick, he always plays in the World Golf Championships at Firestone next week (he has until Friday to commit) and the following week is The PGA Championship. That is two consecutive tournaments right before a major and three weeks in a row of playing, a rarity for Tiger. That sound you hear is the executives at CBS television jumping for joy. If Woods does play for three straight weeks it would just add to the peculiarity of this season. Woods may be changing it up a little to try and shake off his missed cut at The Open. The PGA is his last chance to claim a major this year. Tiger hasn’t been shut out of the majors since 2004. It would indeed be an even stranger year if Woods were to end the major season with no major wins.
This is a huge week for women’s golf. They move to Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in England for The Women’s British Open. It’s a historic venue having hosted ten Open Championships and two Ryder Cups. This is the fourth time the Women’s Open has been held there. This major championship is the last chance for the players to collect Solheim Cup points, as the teams will be announced on Sunday evening. Let’s try and figure this one out: Michelle Wie and Natalie Gulbis qualified for the British Open but failed to qualify for the US Women’s Open. Something strange going on there that the USGA needs to fix. Congratulations to Jill McGill and Reilley Rankin for Monday qualifying for the Open. After the Open, McGill will be leaving on a trip to visit the troops in Iraq, that’s just another instance of how these players keep giving back. If you watched any of the Golf Channel’s coverage of the Evian Masters you got to see a beautiful course but the coverage was terrible. The golf Channel was using the French television feed and it looked like a bunch of amateurs were running the show. Poor coverage, missed shots and a general substandard feel plagued the telecast. However, we did get to see one of the better commercials I’ve seen in a long time. The Evian Roller Babies are hysterical every time you watch them. Check them out.

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Michelle Wie is the Solheim Cup Pick

July 27th, 2009 6 comments

by Jeff Skinner

The LPGA Tour is in the middle of a critical stretch of tournaments that could very well decide the future of the tour. The US Women’s Open, The Evian Masters, The Women’s British Open and The Solheim Cup in August comprise a group of tournaments that are the most important and highly publicized events of the year. The Solheim Cup is a chance for women’s golf to get some much needed positive exposure. The Solheim Cup is the women’s version of the Ryder Cup where teams from Europe and The United States compete in a team format. It is a showcase event for women’s golf and a chance for the LPGA to recover from the black eye caused by the Bivens situation. The US captain, Beth Daniel will field a team of twelve players, ten of which earn their way on through a points system and two more players that she will pick as “captain’s picks.”
The top ten players in the points system represent some of the best and most popular golfers in the game. Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr and Angela Stanford have set themselves apart from the rest of the players based on their play over the last two years. Popular players like Natalie Gulbis, Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lincicome and Christina Kim are in the top ten as well as solid players Nicole Castrale, Kristy McPherson and Brittany Lang. Captain Daniel is faced with a tough decision as to which players should be named as captain picks. All captains agonize over such decisions. They want to select the players that they think will give the team the best chance of winning. One of Daniel’s pick is obvious and a little controversial. She should select Michelle Wie as one of her captain’s picks. True, Wie is only in sixteenth place in the points standings, but she is the one to pick. Players have one more tournament to gather points but Wie should be the pick regardless of her finish in the Women’s British Open.
Wie is by far the hottest player of the 11-16 players in the points standing. She has finished 23rd, 3rd,19th and 23rd in her last four tournaments, much higher than any of the others in contention. Wie has accumulated five top tens this year, again, more than her competition. Only Pat Hurst has a win among the top six players not in the top ten. Wie is having the best year of these players and since she is a rookie this year she was only able to gather points this current season, while the other players had two years to accumulate points. Daniel has said that she wants her players to earn their way on the team. Wie might not have piled up enough points, but she has earned her way on the team based on her play. In addition to her play there is the “Michelle” factor. There are only a few players that “move the needle” in golf, those players that can get television ratings and plenty of press just by showing up. We all know that Tiger is the player when it comes to inflating ratings. Michelle Wie is one of those players. At a time when the LPGA needs all the positive press it can use, Michelle Wie on the team is a slam dunk. The Solheim Cup and the LPGA Tour would reap the benefits of having the most famous female golfer in the world front and center for the entire week. Wie’s selection may cause some controversy, but she is the pick Daniel needs to make.
The team as it stands now is a very young team. To offer some valued experience to the youngsters, Daniel should select Juli Inkster and her seven years of Solheim Cup experience to add a little Cup knowledge to the team. This pick may cause more controversy than the Wie selection as Inkster has no top tens this year, but her experience and attitude would be invaluable to the team. Wie and Inkster, they are the picks Captain Daniel should make and hope the US team pumps some excitement into women’s golf.

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Playoff Winners in Europe

July 26th, 2009 No comments

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

Congratulations to Loren Roberts for being the last man standing after the three man playoff at The Senior Open Championship. Roberts won his second Senior Open when he parred the third playoff hole after Mark McNulty drove into the bushes off the tee. Roberts and Fred Funk both shot 67 to tie McNulty at -12 who shot a blistering 64 and was already in the club house. Greg Norman was only one back of the leaders when he teed off on the seventeenth, looking to make some birdies coming in and get in the playoff. Unfortunately, he doubled seventeen and finished at nine under. That’s the second consecutive week we watched a big name legend squander a chance on the last few holes. Tom Watson lost The Open last week on the eighteenth and Norman this week on the seventeenth. Two legends, two holes, two major trophies slipping through their fingers. It doesn’t get any easier for the Seniors like Watson and Norman, they tee it up this week at The US Senior Open, that’s one tough schedule.
On what looks to be a beautiful but quirky course in the foothills of the Alps, Ai Miyazato won her first LPGA tournament when she birdied the first playoff hole at the Evian Masters. Miyazato has been on the LPGA tour for four years and it shocked many that she had not won already. Cristie Kerr finished one stroke back of the playoff and was the highest placing American. Paula Creamer finished tied for fifth. The Americans will be looking for a better finish this week at the Women’s British Open.

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Hit Ball Win Car!

July 26th, 2009 No comments

Jason Dufner has a one stroke lead at the Canadian Open and had the best round of the day with a nine under 63. But the shot of the day goes to Leif Olsen and the record of the day goes to Mark Calcavecchia. Olsen played a carom off his partner’s ball to ace the 15th and gets a new BMW Z4 Roadster. They handed him the keys on the spot, he should have taken that baby for a spin right there. Calcavecchia broke the PGA Tour record for consecutive birdies when he strung nine straight birds together. Calc is my kind of golfer, or should I say our kind of golfer. We all look more like Calc but we all think we look like Tiger. I’ll take Calc’s gut and his laid back attitude any day, and he has his fifteen year old son on the bag. How cool is that!

Check out the videos.

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Saturday Hooks and Slices

July 25th, 2009 No comments

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

Believe it or not there is plenty of great golf going on this week, even without Tiger and Phil. For those poor uninformed fans that only tune in for Tiger or only at a major, they really don’t get it. This game is so much more than one player or one tournament or one tour. But, that’s a lecture I’ll save for later. Here’s an update on all the tours. There is a major going on this week!
*** At the Senior Open Championship Fred Funk has a three shot lead after holing a 174 yard eight iron for eagle on the 18th. He set a new 36 hole record for the Senior Open at 11 under. Here are great stories from three guys in the top ten. Funk, always personable and funny, could be the comeback player of the year. He was out with a knee infection that was serious enough that there was concern not only about his golf game, but about his life. It looks like he came back from that fine. Michael Allen is tied for fourth, six back of Funk. He is the guy that won the Senior PGA Championship after playing so long on the PGA tour and never won there. His first win was in 1989 at the Scottish Open and then on the “Nike Tour” in 1998. How’s that for perseverance. Of course I have to mention the story of the year so far, Tom Watson. He is tied for 6th at four under and continues his fine play. Oh, by the way, for those uniformed souls, Watson had his left hip replaced less than a year ago. Simply amazing.

*** The Evian Masters is a top tournament with a purse equal to that of the US Women’s Open. It has everything: a unique course, a picturesque setting in the foothills of the Alps, a great field, a celebrity/player soccer match, a fire at a hotel…yes, a fire. A fire broke out at one of the hotels the players stay at. Amy Yang had to jump out of a second floor window onto the mattresses that her father threw out the window. That is crazy. There were some injuries, but none serious. Ai Miyazato, Becky Brewerton and Na Yeon Choi share the lead at -9. I don’t want to play the nationalism card here, but the Americans need to play some better golf if they want to re-establish the LPGA Tour in the US. Paula Creamer is the top American at T5 with Stacy Lewis and Cristie Kerr one stroke back and T10.

*** Jerry Kelly has a one stroke lead at the Canadian Open. There are four guys one stroke behind him at the rain soaked Glen Abbey Golf Course. They are going to have trouble finishing on Sunday; half the guys haven’t started the second round yet. Sounds just like the US Open. The Canadian Open is the third oldest national championship behind only the Open Championship and the US Open.
*** Here is one of the best promotions on any tour. At the Nationwide Tour’s Cox Classic if a player makes an eagle on number nine they start selling beer for a buck. That’s right, a buck. Alex Prugh must have made a bunch of new fans when he rolled his eagle putt in on nine. For the next forty five minutes after the eagle, fans can treat themselves to dollar beers. God Bless America.

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This Hat Is No Sweat

July 24th, 2009 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Every now and then a new gadget or innovation comes along in golf that really makes a difference in golf. The Big Bertha Driver changed the face of drivers, both figuratively and literally. The Pro V1 changed the entire golf ball market. Hybrid clubs started an entire new market for club companies. I usually take awhile to change to something new in the market. I’m an old dog and new tricks don’t come so easy. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t realize when something is good or may have real value.
I was given a new hat the other day that may be worth a try. It is from the people at Ahead Inc. and it is called the Dri-Look Cap. It’s advertised as “…the first breathable, cotton cap to hide sweat.” It is endorsed by PGA Tour pro Jason Gore and designed to “…block perspiration so you don’t have that unsightly sweat patch on your cap!” If Jason Gore and I have anything in common it’s that we both give our hats and shirts a real test when it comes to sweating. Two things I am guaranteed to do on a golf course: shoot over par and sweat like Secretariat running the Kentucky Derby. That’s the way it is, bogeys and sweat soaked hats. I tried the new Dri-Look Cap and it worked very well. After eighteen holes on a warm day and a few really good sweats, the outside of the hat showed no signs of sweat. The inside of the hat was soaked but the outside looked dry as can be. This hat works as advertised. Any of my other hats would have been soaked through and stained. I was very impressed and have made this hat my regular golfing hat. Now if the guys at Ahead could make a hat that guarantees some birdies, I’d be all set.

Hat after 18 holes

Hat after 18 holes

Inside is soaked after 18 holes

Inside is soaked after 18 holes

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LPGA Stars Need to Step Up

July 23rd, 2009 No comments

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

This week marks the debut of the PBLPGA Tour at the Evian Masters. That’s the “Post Bivens Ladies Professional Golf Association”. The ladies start the rest of their season with an interim commissioner after the highest profile players on tour forced the beleaguered commissioner out. Carolyn Bivens was hired to move the LPGA out of the minor leagues and into the big leagues of sport. Some of her initiatives worked, others didn’t and Bivens developed a reputation as a heavy handed manager and an abrasive negotiator. The LPGA has lost seven different tournaments since 2007 and there are six tournaments that are without sponsors. With their tour’s future seemingly in trouble, the players took action to take control of their tour.
Now the LPGA starts a critical stretch in their season. With the US Open in the books, they open up today in France at the Evian Masters. The Evian Masters is a high profile tournament with one of the biggest purses of the year. Next week the tour moves to England for its third major of the season at the Women’s British Open. After these two important tournaments, the ladies take a break before starting The Solheim Cup in late August. If the LPGA is to recover from its current dilemma there needs to be some positive buzz coming from these big tournaments. The interim commissioner, Marsha Evans, is trying to piece together the 2010 season and needs to sign some new sponsors to keep the 2010 season viable. The economy is one of the reasons for the LPGA’s situation, but at the same time Bivens burned plenty of bridges in the tournament sponsorship world. If Evans is to land new sponsorship money she certainly could use some big name excitement to use as a selling point. So it’s time for the big names on tour to do their share now. They need Lorena, Paula, Christie, Natalie and most of all they need Michelle Wie to step up and add some excitement to this tour. Michelle moves the needle like no other player on the LPGA and now would be the perfect time for the tour for her to break through with a win.
The ladies have a great product. The play on the LPGA is excellent and the players are accessible and very fan friendly at their tournaments. If the stars of the tour can give the commissioner a little something to sell over the next few weeks, it could go a long way in getting some sponsorship support for year’s schedule.

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