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Character(s) Leads the Open

July 17th, 2009 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

It seems the fresh air off the west coast of Scotland has energized some of the more “seasoned” golfers at The Open Championship.  Forty five year old Miguel Angel Jimenez has a one stroke lead over five time Open Champion, fifty nine year old Tom Watson.  Watson is joined on the leader board by his fellow Champions Tour member, Mark O’Meara and a pair of forty-something’s in Mark Calcavecchia and Vijay Singh. The intricacies and demands of links golf has allowed the more experienced golfers to get the better of the Ailsa Course on opening day.  Watson’s bogey free round of 65 was inspiring.  Few golfers are as beloved in Scotland as Watson.  He has a deep appreciation for links golf and respects the history of the game.  The Scots recognize the character of this man and truly treat him as one of their own heroes.   Watson said, “There’s something slightly spiritual about today.  Just the serenity of it was pretty neat.”  Watson possesses the most important element for winning a golf tournament.  He thinks he can win.  “I feel inspired playing here. A lot has to do with being in the presence here at Turnberry again, just the culmination of a lot of things that have gone on already.  I feel that I am playing well enough to win the golf tournament.  It doesn’t feel a whole lot out of the ordinary from thirty two years ago except that I don’t have the confidence in my putting as I had thirty two years ago.  But, again, a few of them might go in.”  Tom won’t be the only one trying to will those putts in the hole all week.  Thousands of Scots will be right alongside their Tom, cheering him and praying to those Golf Gods that his putts fall and give him another chance at being their Champion Golfer.
Miguel Angel Jimenez recognized how special it is to have Watson on the top of the leader board.  “He was a legend before, he was a legend today and he will be a legend tomorrow” Jimenez said in plain terms.  “It’s nice to see Tom Watson there. It’s great to have a player with that charisma on top of the leader board.” It’s strange that Jimenez thinks Watson is the one with charisma, when many think that Jimenez is one of the most charismatic players in the world.  Some even go so far as to call him the Coolest Guy in Golf.  He was pleased with his round and said of the benign conditions, “It was a perfect day for golf and I played almost perfect golf.”  Watch Miguel’s interview. Jimenez’s forty five foot, birdie putt on eighteen gave him the lead for the day. The forty second ranked player in the world is known as a true gentlemen on tour but also as one of the most interesting characters.  He loves his fast cars, good food, great wine and fine cigars.  He spoke afterward of how he would cherish a major trophy and how golf has given him everything.  His two sons, both good golfers, and his wife are with him at Turnberry and as he smoked his post-round cigar he said he was looking forward to a little dinner with his family. “I was thinking that it would be nice to have a little whisky.”  If Miguel can keep it in the fairway and drop a few more bombs on the greens he could be drinking his favorite wine out of the Claret Jug on Sunday.  What a party that would be.

Check out our chats with Miguel Angel Jimenez. The Coolest Guy in Golf and The Coolest Guy Hits the Coolest Course. You’ll agree that Miguel is cool.

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Tom Watson is Home Again

July 16th, 2009 2 comments

By G. Rennie

Watson 1977

Watson 1977

The Open Championship kicked off this morning with an unexpected twist- no wind. The Ayershire coast at Turnberry was calm and sun splashed, at times. But it wasn’t quiet as appreciative fans joined in the thunder that rolled across the Ailsa Course seemingly from years past as Tom Watson delighted the golfing world with a brilliant exhibition of ball striking. The history of this tournament has no rival in golf and Watson, a true student of the game, has a unique position in the pantheon of living golf legends.
The gap-toothed Mid-westerner is the only man to be named Champion Golfer of the year 5 times during the last 50 year span. He’s a bridge across the distant past to the not so distant past up to the present day as he is linked with James Braid and Harry Vardon, and Peter Thompson, along with Jack and now Tiger.

Jack Nicklaus was as much a model to Tom Watson as he was to Tiger Woods but Watson is involved with the legend of Jack in an intimate way, very different and more real than Tiger can ever be. Jack’s greatness, to some degree, was tied to Watson’s emergence as an elite player, capable not only of winning multiple majors but doing so in head to head battle with the greatest golfer of the day (or any day in the opinion of some, this writer included). The many contests these two gentlemen engaged in are the stuff of legend with the Duel in the Sun of ’77, much revisited in recent days in the run up to the Open, as the ultimate drama of major championship golf. And today we were transported, at least for this day, back in time, with the modest, workmanlike Watson doing his hardest to peel back the years and rediscover the magic that he wrought so often on Open links, none more spellbinding nor enduring than his Turnberry run in ’77. Most noticeable in his absence is Jack Nicklaus, but we can’t really complain, since asking for more than one Major Magic act would be getting a bit too greedy.

Tom Watson embraced the challenge of a different type of golf than Americans usually play and excelled. He also cherished the chance to test himself against the finest sportsman and golfer of all time. He prevailed in those contests on a number of occasions and in so doing, he exhibited qualities of humility, perseverance, grace under pressure, and graciousness in both winning and losing. He brought a joy to the game that was infectious, genuine and endearing and that, in large measure, is a reason that his place on the leader board is such a cause for celebration among us older folks. We’re living vicariously (all sports fans do this, of course) and hoping that one day of magic can unfold into a weekend of unparalleled accomplishment. To win the Claret Jug once more, a sixth time, is almost a mythical quest and, I would think, a huge burden to bear for our Tom. I’m sure he has his ways of dealing with that. But regardless of the outcome, we are truly lucky and blessed to have one more chance to marvel at this champion, who appreciates this unique game as few can, as he wends his way across the links and into history.

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Tiger’s the Best Bet

July 16th, 2009 No comments

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

Finally, The Open Championship is under way today.  Turnberry looks ready to offer a strong test to the world’s best golfers.  The British press is not much different from the US press when it comes to covering Tiger Woods.  There are plenty of stories on how Tiger is the favorite and how he can win this Open using driver or not using driver.  Personally, I think the putter will determine this Open’s champion.  If Tiger’s putter is on, he’ll be kissing the jug, if not he’ll be counting the days to the PGA Championship.  Woods is the favorite according to the British betting parlors at 5-2 with his closest challengers at 33-1.  The Telegraph takes Woods to task for stumbling when he was asked to name a Brit that could win The Open.  As they say, they can dream of a home grown winner.  Here are some players that will give us some interesting moments this week.  They may not win, but these guys all will be worth following over the next four rounds.
David Duval continues his comeback, as does Adam Scott…..Greg Norman and Tom Watson are the cream of the Senior circuit…..Monty and Sandy Lyle, two Scotsmen ready to go at it after a week of going at each other….Westwood, Casey, Donald, Poulter and Ross Fischer, if an Englishmen wins, it will be one of these guys….Camillo, Anthony Kim and Rory McIlroy are young studs that could threaten but need a little more seasoning….Steve Stricker can win here….Will Sergio win here?…..We always overlook Angel Cabrera…..Nick Watney,  Sean O’Hair, Hunter Mahan are the crop of young, American studs that can get it done…If a Scotsman is going to win watch Gary Orr, highest ranked Scot at 124 or Martin Laird, a  home town Scot that is playing in the US….Paddy will need a miracle to three-peat…Can Lucas Glover keep it going, he is still playing well…Mr. Reliable, Jim Furyk should be around the lead…Ernie Els  and Retief Goosen  just might have something left…Can John Daly really contend?….the coolest guy in golf, Miguel Angel Jimenez will be chillin on the links….Oh yea, Tiger will be there too, looking for number fifteen.

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No Great Scots at this Open Championship

July 15th, 2009 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Nothing says Open Championship golf like a Scottish venue hosting the Open. Visions of St Andrews, links golf, Old Tom Morris, the wind and weather, the passionate fans and the “Champion Golfer of the Year” holding the Claret Jug on the eighteenth green are just some of the sights and memories that make this championship special. However there is one glaring omission that the native Scots have been missing for years; a home grown Scot holding the Jug in a victory celebration. The last Scot to win the Open was Paul Lawrie in 1999 and that Open was remembered more for Frenchmen Jean Van de Velde’s meltdown than it was for Lawrie’s comeback from ten strokes back to win. Since then, Lawrie has managed only two European Tour wins. Before Lawrie it was 1985 and Sandy Lyle that captured the Open Championship and prior to that you have to go back to 1920 and winner George Duncan.
For decades it seems, the hopes of Scots rested on the sloped shoulders of Colin Montgomerie. Monty has had a distinguished career on the European Tour and the Ryder Cup, but he has gone 0-forever in majors. He certainly has contended in many, but always has been a stroke or two short. In the past 20 Open Championships Monty was the highest finishing Scot on eight occasions, including a second to Tiger Woods in 2005. Currently Lawrie is ranked 178th in the world and Monty is at 199, hardly a threat at the Open. The highest ranked Scot is….kudos if you know this one, is Gary Orr. Yes, Gary Orr is the highest ranked Scot at 124. Orr has two minor wins in Europe back in 2000 and sits at 65th place on the European Order of Merit. Where are all the Scots of merit? Who knows, there are only eight Scots in the top 300 World Golf Rankings.
It seems absurd that “The Home of Golf “could field such a weak field of golfers when the nation is an entire country of golfers. Alistair Tate tries to explain the issues with Scotland’s professional golfers in Golf Week. It is true now more than ever that golf is a very international game, but somehow Scotland has been left behind in the explosion of international golf. The country that gave birth to the game has watched their professionals flounder in their major championship for too long. Unfortunately, there seems to be no help in sight.

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Enough of Norman and Evert

July 15th, 2009 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The Golf Channel’s new magazine show “Golf in America” is pretty watchable. The host, Anthony Anderson is an avid golfer and he has a pair of good gigs. He is the kick ass cop on “Law and Order” and to satisfy his golfing passion he hosts “Golf in America.” On this week’s show Rich Lerner did a piece on Greg Norman and his wife Chris Evert. Last year at the Open Championship Norman shocked everyone and played great to finish tied for third. Let me say that I have been a Norman fan for years. He was christened the “next Nicklaus.” He was the golfer that would supplant Jack as the world’s best. He was destined to win dozens of major championships. With his powerful frame and shocking white hair he captivated golf fans all over the world. Men wanted to be him and women wanted to be with him. In a phrase he was “the man.” I was one of those ardent fans. I played hooky to go watch him at the US Open in 1984 in his playoff with Fuzzy Zoeller. He and Jack were my favorites and Norman had a swagger that Jack did not. Funny how things happen in life, but on his way to being the next Nicklaus fate intervened. We all watched him become the most “snake-bitten “golfer in history. You know the stories of how Norman lost so many majors he appeared to have won. There is the blown six shot lead at The Masters, Bob Tway, Larry Mize, the 89 Open, the 89 Masters and the Saturday Slam, where Norman led all for majors on Saturday and only won the 86 Open. Through all that we all remained loyal fans to Norman.

Lately though, I have had enough of Greg Norman. The networks coverage of Norman’s play at the Open last year seemed like a reality show on MTV. You couldn’t watch any golf without seeing a piece on Norman and Evert and they were usually kissing or holding hands or professing their deep love for each other. Give me a break Greg. Act like an adult. Get a room or go make out in the back of a car like the sixteen year old kid you are acting like. Sure, I understand you feel revitalized and have a new passion for golf and tennis and everything else but give it a rest. Norman and his previous wife Laura and Evert and her ex-husband Andy Mill were very close friends and spent plenty of time together as couples. Mill considered Norman his best friend at the time. Norman and Evert married shortly after they both divorced their spouses. The personal lives of sports figures are their own business and I wish they could live their lives in private. Tiger Woods takes great care to protect his privacy. Since Norman and Evert continue to do interviews where they focus on nothing but their relationship they are fair game to be called on it. During the Golf in America piece the usually astute Rich Lerner, asked Norman if Chris was around him twenty years ago would he have won some of those majors he lost. Are you kidding me Rich? What kind of question is that? Isn’t that a little insulting to Laura Norman?

I am looking forward to The Open this week and I hope Norman plays well. But I really hope the networks lighten up on the Norman /Evert “soul mate” angle. It has gotten a little old and insulting. If I want to watch people with huge egos talk about themselves and make out I’ll put on the”E-Network or MTV”. I don’t want to see it on my golf telecasts. Raise your hand if you had enough of Greg Norman. I have.

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Turnberry in 1994: Price Wins, Parnevik Blow’s It

July 14th, 2009 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Another great week for golf is upon us as The Open Championship starts on Thursday at Turnberry in Scotland. The last time Turnberry hosted The Open was in 1994 when Nick Price strode to victory and marched to number one in the world. Price was in his prime then and had already won his first major in 1992, The PGA Championship. Price and Greg Norman were the best golfers in the world at the time. Price was aching to win an Open Championship after two near misses. At Troon in 1982 he squandered a three shot lead with six holes to play and lost to Tom Watson as Watson won his fourth Open Championship. At Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s he led by two at the start of the final round but lost to Seve Ballesteros.
With the weather at The Open Championship being so unpredictable and likely to change quickly, the Open can sometimes be a victim of the elements. That was the case at Turnberry. It was extremely dry at Turnberry for weeks prior to The Open. But once the Open started it rained off and on each day. The players took their advantage and bombarded the course with many rounds in the sixties. Price was able to shoot three rounds in the sixties to put himself in good position but still needed help from an unlikely source.
Jesper Parnevik was chasing his first major and was in great shape on the final day. However, he had made a conscious decision to not look at any leader boards on the back nine. He wanted to play his own game and was fairly sure he knew where he stood. It was a strategic error that probably cost him the title. Price was three strokes behind with three holes to play. He knew he needed to make something happen and he started with a birdie on sixteen. On the next hole, a par five he reached the green in two and was faced with a fifty foot putt for eagle. He stood over the putt two strokes back of Parnevik. Price said to his caddy, “We haven’t made a long putt all week. We’ve got to hope Parnevik bogeys eighteen.” With that in mind he stroked his putt and watched it go up over a ridge, break to the left and die in the hole. Price ran and jumped into the air like a kid at Christmas. An eagle on the next to last hole of a major usually pays a big dividend, and it did for Price.
Not realizing where he stood, Parnevik hit driver off the eighteenth tee. A choice he would later regret. He thought he needed to make birdie. His ball found the right rough a difficult lie. He tried to reach the green but came up short. After a mediocre chip he two putted for bogey. Price now led by one stroke and only needed to par eighteen for the championship he so dearly wanted. Price watched the leader boards and knew where he stood. Parnevik didn’t and he stood on the outside looking in. Price played a three iron to the fairway and a seven iron to the middle of the green. After a routine two putt, Price was the 1994 Champion Golfer and Parnevik was left wondering “what if?” If Parnevik knew he had a one stroke lead he said he would have played eighteen differently. If had only looked at a leader board or two.

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Open Week All Over Again

July 13th, 2009 No comments

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

Drama and tragedy seemed to rule the day for the American players at the US Women’s Open. On Saturday we watched fan favorite Paula Creamer implode on the tenth with a triple bogey that lost her the tournament. On Sunday Cristie Kerr entered the final round with a two stroke lead and a resume that included a US Open Championship. On Saturday evening Kerr spoke of loving the challenge and how she performs well on tough courses. Unfortunately, the Saucon Valley course got the better of Cristie on Sunday as she ballooned to a 75 which included 35 putts. Kerr had her worst day of the week, only hitting eight of fourteen fairways and averaging close to two putts per hole. Kerr’s stumble allowed Eun Hee Ji and Candie Kung to stage a shootout over the last few holes. Kung had a chance to win but a bogey at seventeen doomed her. The eventual champion, Eun Hee Ji, had struggles of her own. A double bogey on the tenth could have been her downfall as it was for Creamer. Instead, Ji calmed herself and went on to birdie thirteen and fourteen and stood on the eighteen green tied for the lead. Kung parred eighteen and Ji had a twenty foot putt with plenty of break to win the US Open. She didn’t look like a player with only one win; she looked like a pro that knew what she was doing when she bombed in the birdie putt and won her first major. Ji is one of the many golfers on tour from Korea that was inspired by Se Ri Pak’s illustrious career. Through an interpreter Ji said, “It was a dream come true.” The week will go down as a huge disappointment for the Americans. Creamer and Kerr looked as if they would be there at the end to have a chance to win. Instead they will have a year to think about their two blown opportunities.

Congrats to Steve Stricker for his win at the John Deere. It is Stricker second win this season and should give him some momentum going into the Open Championship.
We move from The US Women’s Open to The Open Championship at Turnberry. Turnberry has a short but impressive history at the Open. Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus staged the “Duel in the Sun” there in 1977. Greg Norman won his first major there in 1986 and Nick Price was number on in the world when he won there in 1994. We’ll have Open stuff all week.

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Kerr Leads, Paula Stumbles, Cinderella Stays Around

July 12th, 2009 No comments

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

This week’s US Women’s Open had plenty of drama on Saturday. Cristie Kerr battled the course at Saucon Valley and was able to scratch out a one over par 71 to give her a two stroke lead going into the final round. Kerr has a 2007 US Open trophy on her mantle and is ready to add another to make a fine set of bookends. She told Mike Ritz that she is ready for the challenge of Sunday’s final eighteen and faces her final round with a positive and aggressive attitude. Kerr is a fighter, a tough competitor when she gets near the lead.

The heartbreak of the tournament took place at the tenth green when Paula Creamer tripled bogeyed her way right out of the tournament. Her seven on the par four led to a seventy nine and her hopes for her first major win was gone. Creamer knew it was over while it was crashing down around her and was visibly overcome with her emotions. It was not easy to watch, you had to feel for her.

There is usually a “Cinderella Story” at The Open that fades from the leader board after the first round or two. This year’s Cinderella is Jean Reynolds and she hasn’t disappeared. She was one stroke back until bogeys on three of her last four holes dropped her out of the final group on Sunday. Reynolds is a Duramed Futures Tour player that won her last two starts. This is a girl that gave up competitive golf in college only to return to it after she graduated. “I’m having a blast here,” Reynolds said. “I just don’t feel like I have anything to lose. I’ve hung in there all week, so I’m just going to go out there and see what happens.”

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Kerr Looks for Another US Open

July 11th, 2009 No comments

The USGA tightened up Saucon Valley on Friday and made the course play as tough as they can get it. Well almost as tough, they could still speed up the greens to hyper speed if they wanted. Pars were to be cherished in the third round as only six players recorded sub-par rounds and there are only three ladies under par for the tournament. They tucked the pins and moved back the tees so the ladies were challenged and par was protected on many holes. Cristie Kerr leads an American contingent that dominates the first three places and eight of the top eighteen players are American. Kerr leads at -3, Paula Creamer is at -2 and Duramed Futures Tour player, Jean Reynolds is at -1. Even fourteen year old amateur, Alexis Thompson got in the act and is five back of Kerr. Kerr has an Open trophy already and would dearly love to win another.   Watch the Video.

It appears that LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens will be out as soon as next week. The LPGA Board will have to get its act together quickly to keep the Tour from further problems. Hopefully the Tour can revisit some of the tournaments it lost and “negotiate” some new deals.

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Honest Golfers and Tiger Takes a Shot

July 10th, 2009 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Golf is one of the few sports that expect its players to police themselves when it comes to following the rules. The rules and etiquette of the game supposed to be self enforced with players expected to call penalties on themselves. Honesty and integrity are as much a part of the game as chips and putts. Any self respecting golfer plays by the rules all the time, not just when it is convenient. Most golfers follow the rules and are content to pay their greens fees, but there are those few that will cheat at both. Real golfers have no tolerance for these immoral thieves of the game. Carol Wallace, in The New York Times, has an article on a golf course in Scotland that collects its greens fee strictly on the honor system. There is no clubhouse attendant to take your cash or starter to check your receipt, only an “honesty box” where you place your greens fees. Oh, the joys of living in an honest, trustworthy village. According to the tourism agency, VisitScotland, eighteen percent of the courses in Scotland run on the honesty box. I wonder how an honesty box would work at my local Muni course. Somehow I think that there would be more golfers playing for nothing and few golfers paying their way. That’s disappointing, realistic but disappointing. To me it makes golfing and living in Scotland even more appealing. It’s time to search the web for a rental in Strathay and pack my clubs.
Speaking of paying your way, The Sunday Times had a small blurb on Tiger Woods and his ticket policy to the AT&T National last weekend. I can’t believe that the media outlets didn’t pick it up and scream “Controversy.” There were $25 tickets available for the first two rounds and military personnel and children were allowed in for free all week. Woods said, “We don’t want to have what happened at Yankee Stadium; tickets are so over priced you can’t bring the family. We want to have everyone come out and enjoy being in a family atmosphere, walk around, have a good time and not have it cost an arm and a leg.” I think it’s great for Woods to make the tournament accessible to more fans. But, how did he get away with taking a shot at the Yankees and not getting banged for it? Anyway, during the telecast Peter Kostis suggested, and Jim Nantz agreed, that Tim Finchem and the PGA Tour do the same every week. Letting kids and service people in for free says two things: Thanks for your service and let’s grow this game.

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