Archive for March, 2010

Ernie & Schwartzel Showdown; Stacy Lewis Tunes Up Down Under

March 14th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Even though the LPGA’s first tournament on US soil is still two weeks away, many American players have travelled the world to get their season started.  This past week saw a bunch of American’s put their games on display in Australia at the Women’s Australian Open.  The pros were joined by the hottest American amateur, Alexis Thompson as she made the trip to Melbourne worthwhile with a tie for sixteenth finish.

The honor of low American went to former Arkansas All-American, Stacy Lewis with her seventh place finish.  Lewis played solid golf all week and if not for an inconsistent putter could have contended for the win.  It has been a very successful early season swing for Lewis as she finished in well in all four tournaments and cashed some healthy checks.  She has finished T22, T38, T8 and seventh so far this year and has earned over $45,000.  More importantly she has been finding her game and has been getting much later final round tee times and been teamed with some of the world’s best.  Lewis is surely looking to break through this year for a win and looks to be off to a good start.

Excuse me if I don’t join the ranks of the millions of golf fans that are lamenting the absence of  Tiger Woods on the PGA Tour.  Excuse me if I’m not one of the fans looking for more Americans at the top of the CA Championship leaderboard.  The leaderboard looks fine to me.  It has plenty of star power and enough interesting stories to please a real golf fan.  A tourney doesn’t need Tiger or Phil winning to be interesting.  How’s this for a good story: Charl Schwartzel is playing in the final pairing with his countrymen and hero Ernie Els.  Schwartzel is a good Euro Tour player that was tabbed as “the next great South African golfer” by none other than Ernie Els.  But, Els isn’t about to step aside for Chartzel, Els has been reborn this season and had rededicated himself to this season and says his game is working in all areas. Els will be doing his best to hold off the changing of the guard of South African golf for at least one more round.

Paddy Harrington sits in second place and is looking to jumpstart his 2010 season.  Harrington is such an anomaly on the course.  He looks to be very focused over each shot, to the point of being a fairly slow player.  But at the same time he is loose, relaxed and smiling all the time.  His mental coach, Dr. Bob Rotella says Harrington is so relaxed he gets distracted by his own thoughts: he spends time on the course thinking of what he will tell the media after his round.

Robert Allenby is two strokes back and could put pressure on the leaders and if you’re looking for an American to claim the title how about Bill Haas.  Haas is only three strokes back and playing his best golf ever.   Don’t tell me this doesn’t have the makings of a great final round on The Blue Monster, it does.  If you can’t see that you must not be a real golf fan and you can spend your Sunday afternoon searching the web for Tiger sightings.


Great Leaderboard at The CA Championship

March 13th, 2010 1 comment

If you ask me this is what a PGA leaderboard should look like.  It has some superstars, major winners, young guns and some up and comers.  Els, Harrington, Singh, Weir are superstar major winners.  Haas and Holmes are the young guns.  Hansen, Schwartzel and Ikeda are the up and comers.  That leaves Robert Allenby who isn’t any of the above.  He’s just are really good player that hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since 2001.  But he did win twice around the world last year and might be playing his best golf right now, if he can manage to stop blowing up over the last few holes,  he may very well be the winner this week.  It should be an interesting final two rounds.


Tiger Can Be Different This Time

March 12th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

So my favorite writer from the New York Post, Mark Cannizzaro (covers my NY Jets too), has reported that Tiger Woods will return to the PGA Tour at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.  Soon after that The Associated Press counters that report with a story that contends that Woods will stay dormant until The Masters.  The Woods Camp made headlines by hiring public relations specialist Ari Fleischer and his fledgling “sports communication” company.  Fleischer is the former press secretary for former President Bush and lord knows he must have earned his money playing for “W’s” team.  The word among some in the sports business is that Fleischer’s firm hasn’t quite made the splash he was envisioning and the only reason is got this gig is due to some ties with Tiger’s agency, IMG.

In my book that is part of the problem.  Tiger’s public relation problem right now isn’t the fact that he’s a serial cheater with the low moral standards of a sports agent, we all know that.  His problem is that he is still surrounded by sports agents and handlers that are more concerned with image over substance.  IMG and the rest of the crew blew this fiasco from the start.  IMG has had Tiger from the start of his career and they have served him well financially.  Woods has earned more money than anyone could imagine and IMG had a big hand in all of that.  But they have failed him in handling this personal situation.  True, Tiger is at fault here but he was able to carry out this episode on IMG’s watch.  Where I come from that’s grounds for dismissal and IMG should be gone for letting Tiger spin out of control.  Now they bring Fleischer on board, a professional “Spin Doctor.”  Here is what Fleischer’s website looks like.  The last line says it all,”Ari Fleischer Sports Communications can help you handle the bad news and take advantage of the good.”

Yes, we have to “handle the bad news.”  Is this what Tiger needs now, more handling?  Tiger has always done everything different from the norm.  He has accomplished much and his unusual methods and goals have served him well, up to now.  Now it’s time for Tiger to do something really different, something Woods has never done before.  This time calls for Tiger to be his own man and not the phony, fabrication of a bunch of image consultants.

I don’t care where or when Tiger returns but this is what I’d like to see.  Take note Ari and IMG and try a little honesty for a change. Tiger, and only Tiger, walk into his pre-tournament press conference.  Let Woods stand there by himself without agents, publicists or spin doctors by his side.  Then Tiger can be different, as he likes to be, he can answer the questions without a script or rehearsed answers.  He shouldn’t even entertain questions concerning his wife and family and all those mistresses, those are out of bounds. Those questions he can give the “It’s personal, I’m not answering” response. But a question that asks him about himself, his feelings, his rehab, his self-image and of course his game should be answered.  Here’s something new for you Tiger: sit there and answer all the questions.  Take a page from Paddy Harrington, Phil Mickelson, Kenny Perry, Steve Stricker and Ernie Els.  They are huge stars that take the time to answer each question the press can ask and they do it honestly.  You don’t have to make a habit of it, but this one time a long, honest question and answer session will do more for you than anything else the “handlers” can come up with.

I find it comical that at a time when Tiger should be jettisoning some of “his people” he is hiring more.  Tiger has to realize that he isn’t the “all powerful Tiger” right now.  He’s a guy on the comeback trail and a little dose of honesty and humility would go a long way in putting this episode behind him.


Top Ten Golf Innovations of the Past 20 Years

March 11th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Check out Golf World’s Senior Editor Mike Johnson as he breaks down his top ten golf innovations of the past twenty years.  In my opinion the most obvious is the big 460cc driver.  Everyone plays the biggest of the Big Dogs now.  But the innovation with the most impact has probably been the ball.  300 yard drives are the norm even for double digit hackers.  If Nicklaus played with these balls he would have never lost.


Tiger, Solheim, Rory & Jack, Daly and a Skankapotamus

March 10th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Chip Shots…

The Tiger watch has heated up in the last few days.  Reports have Tiger and Hank Haney working together at Isleworth and the speculation is that Woods will return sooner rather than later.  Tiger watcher and insider, John Hawkins thinks this is a sure sign Woods will play The Tavistock Cup then Bay Hill on his way to Augusta.

Ping Chairman and CEO John Solheim has once again shown the same class and dignity that made his father one of the most respected men in golf.  Solheim has agreed to waive his right to keep the Ping Eye 2 clubs from being banned from tour play.  The Pings created a firestorm of controversy when Phil Mickelson played them earlier this year.  Solheim made life easy for the PGA Tour and really took them off the hook.  He took the high road in allowing his clubs to be classified as illegal even though his company had won a lawsuit in 1990 to keep them legal forever.  Solheim didn’t want his clubs to be a distraction to the game of golf.

Some kids grow up and mature faster than others.  A 20 year old on the professional golf tours has no choice to grow up faster than most kids or he’ll be in trouble for sure.  Rory McIlroy showed he is wise beyond his youthful years when he sat down for lunch with Jack Nicklaus last week.  McIlroy wanted to “pick his brain” and glean any tip The Golden Bear could give him about closing the deal on a win.  Nicklaus told him what many parents preach to their eager children that want everything right away, patience.  “Learn to wait and bide your time and know that if you believe in yourself, that it will happen,” he said. “It will happen one of these days, so it’s just a matter of waiting and staying patient,” Nicklaus told him.  Pretty solid advice from a guy that knows what it takes to be the best.

Okay, so this is only remotely golf related but I have to vent about this one.  One of the funniest and most unique advertising campaigns is “The E-Trade Baby.”  You know the ad where the baby calls his buddy “Shankapotamus.” Well, in one of the most recent ads the kid looks to be having girl issues, yea, even at that age, and his female friend accuses him of two-timing her with “that milkaholic Lindsay.”  So in this world of narcissistic, self-important morons another one shows her colors.  Lindsay Lohan is suing E-Trade for $100 million for using her name without permission.  Are you kidding me?  Lohan actually thinks that was a reference to her?  Get real Lindsay. You’re not Elvis or Madonna.  Maybe if they called her “Skankapotamus” I might have made the connection.

It’s impossible not to be worn out by the John Daly saga.  I have run the whole gamut when it comes to John from cheering for him to dismissing him as an accident that is about to happen, to pulling for him during his many comebacks, especially during this most recent one.  But with the overkill by The Golf Channel promoting his show and his Twitter attack of a golf writer, I am just plain fed up with Daly.  I’m not the only one.  John Feinstein calls John out for his lack of effort on the golf course.  It seems Daly has been fined 21 times by the PGA Tour for “failing to give his best efforts on the golf course.”  Feinstein goes on to suggest that Daly could take a lesson from veteran Steve Flesch on how to do his job like a professional.


Tiger Woods & Rory McIlroy Share Cover on Video Game

March 9th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

EA Sports has released their new Tiger Woods PGA ’11 video game cover and for the first time ever Tiger Woods shares the cover with young phenom Rory McIlroy.  It could be construed that EA Sports is protecting itself and preparing for a future when Woods would not be their preferred endorser.  For years Tiger was the only PGA Tour player on the best selling golf video game.  According to EA Sports management the change has nothing to do with Tiger’s scandal and everything to do with marketing world wide.  The new game has a 12 man team, Ryder Cup option and they figure McIlroy will reach out to video game fans in Europe and throughout the world.  Even if they are hedging their bets, it’s still good business sense to try and broaden the appeal worldwide.  At this point Woods is probably happy to share the cover, at least EA Sports is still committed to him.  As long as he doesn’t have to share the royalty checks he’ll be fine with it.


Caddyshack 101, A New Classic

March 9th, 2010 3 comments

by Jeff Skinner

I’ll be the first to admit that I, like many golf fanatics, probably spend a little bit too much time focusing on golf.  I am a golf junkie. I’m usually just a second away from a “golf thought” no matter what I am doing.  I am always practicing the swing, thinking about playing, talking golf, thinking golf, playing golf, writing golf or getting ready to do any or all of the above.  Yes, I’m a fanatic, I’ll admit it.  I have golf bags standing in my living room, soft balls strewn about for chipping, regular balls all over for putting, swing aides all about and ready for a quick swing or two, the Caddyshack DVD is always at the ready, and of course at least one of my TV’s is always turned to The Golf Channel. (Yes, I have two TV’s so I can have golf and another sport on simultaneously.)

I don’t need rehab, I just need a quick “golf fix” every few seconds and I have learned to live with my addiction.  My family accepts my addiction and even takes advantage of my ad-hoc golf training facility that is my home.  They enjoy the game as well.

I will admit that at times I have thought “maybe I spend too much time on golf” but the thought quickly passes as I practice my grip on the imaginary club that I always carry.  Now, I feel a bit of vindication for my obsession.  There are many colleges and schools that have degrees and programs in sports management and many golf related disciplines.  In fact one school in Florida is currently offering a class on the movie Caddyshack.  Yes, “Caddyshack 101: Lessons from the Coolest Sports Movie Ever Made” is offered as part of their Sports Management Program.

Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida lists Caddyshack 101 as a mini-term seminar to discuss issues like social-class stereotyping, gambling in sports, language, civility, etiquette, animal rights and environmental conservation.  And I thought it was a comedy.  Little did I know I was being educated each time I watched it. “We use this hilarious, crude, wonderful film as a way to get into some very serious discussions,” says Ted Curtis, assistant professor of sports management, and a lifelong fan of the 1980 movie. “As university faculty, we always are trying to find new ways to engage and enlighten our students. With this class, we are doing that through one of the most-popular sports comedies ever made.”

I feel vindicated.  My obsession is no longer a detriment.  It is higher education.  It is a learning experience.  It is me growing as a person and bettering myself.  Each time we say “Cinderella story, Porterhouse, Noonan, Spaulding” or my favorite, “Now I know why tigers eat their young” we aren’t quoting a sophomoric classic we are educating ourselves.  God Bless Caddyshack and higher education.


Villegas & Freddy Win but Arnie Is Still The King

March 8th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Sunday brought us some wonderful golf on the PGA and Champions Tours. I feel for those that think Tiger and Phil are the only reason to follow the tours.  Camilo Villegas topped a youthful leader board at The Honda which was studded with familiar names that could dominate the tours this season and even take home a few major championships.  Villegas, the Columbian heartthrob, took home his first trophy since 2008 and second place finisher; Anthony Kim looked as fit as ever and ready to reclaim his 2008 form when he and Villegas both won twice.  Justin Rose, Paul Casey and Lee Westwood continued the resurgence of English golf with top ten finishes for all and a renewed Vijay Singh showed there is still life in those old 47 year old bones.  Any of those players could win a major or two this year and it would be surprising if they don’t.

Fred Couples wins his second title on The Champions Tour in his third start.  His other start was a second place finish, so it’s easy to see he feels comfortable playing on the senior circuit.  But then, Freddy looks comfortable anywhere.  If he was any more laid back he’d fall over.  You have to admire a guy that can stroll on to the course, laugh, smile and carry on with his partners and fans and then shoot lights out…bad back and all.  Freddy is one of a kind.

I found some of the back story at the Honda interesting.  With Jack and Barbara Nicklaus heavily involved in the tournament since their charity is the beneficiary, we got to see and hear from The Golden Bear and his wife Barbara.  When Jack speaks, we all listen and it’s a joy to hear him go on about the game.  It was interesting to hear that Arnold Palmer had given his old friends Jack and Barbara a call campaigning for a sponsor’s exemption for his grandson Sam Saunders.  Deservedly so, Saunders was granted an exemption and he didn’t disappoint himself or his grandfather.

Saunders had a wonderful week shooting three 69’s before slipping to a 73 on Sunday but he certainly showed a bit of his Grandpa’s style on the final hole.  Hoping to reach the 18th in two and displaying the same bravado that endeared his grandfather to millions of fans, he hit his driver from the fairway on his second shot.  A bold move indeed, who cares that it didn’t work out and he took bogey at least he’s willing to go for it.

Saunders finished tied for seventeenth in his fourth start on the PGA Tour this year. He has had mixed results with two missed cuts and a seventieth place finish in addition to The Honda.  He’ll use his last exemption at Bay Hill in a few weeks when he plays in Arnie’s Bay Hill Invitational.  Talk about a home field advantage: Arnie owns the Bay Hill, his parents manage the resort and Sam grew up on it.

Saunders left Clemson a year early to turn professional and his game looks to be improving to the point that even Nicklaus said he has the skills to be a good player. Saunders is an intriguing story but his game can certainly stand on its own.  Still, it has to be nice having Arnold Palmer calling his friends asking for exemptions for his boy.  There is nothing wrong with that, but can you imagine if any of those tournament directors could possibly say no to Arnie.  How can anyone possibly refuse a request from The King?  If it wasn’t for Arnie there would be no PGA Tour as we know it today.  All those pros would be selling shirts in a pro shop and giving lessons to guys who shoots 120.  Arnie didn’t invent the tour or golf; he just dragged it along with him as he took it out of the country clubs and placed it smack dab in front of  everyday Americans.  Arnie is the reason there is popular golf in America.

If Arnie calls and asks for an exemption for his dog they should sign him up.  Arnie deserves anything he asks for after all, he’s still The King.


Karrie Webb and The Americans Win Down Under

March 8th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Patience all you LPGA fans, the season continues in two weeks, but a bunch of the American ladies spent the past week playing down under in The ANZ Ladies Masters on the Gold Coast in Australia.  Ten American LPGA players played and played well, with all but two making the cut.

They had the chance to witness a great tournament as Karrie Webb shot a blazing 61 to win by six strokes.  Webb said she briefly thought about the magic number 59 but she had to settle for a course record.  Webb will try and keep it going in a few weeks as she takes on all comers when the LPGA Tour starts up again.

As for the Americans, they fared well as rookie Amanda Blumenherst and sophomore Stacy Lewis tied for eighth place and long hitting Brittany Lincicome and second year player Vicky Hurst shared fourteenth place with three other players.  The American players need to take advantage of each and every playing opportunity.  Most of the players will be staying in Australia to play in the Australia Women’s Open.  They’ll be joined by American amateur sensation Alexis Thompson.

While these tournaments are sponsored by the Ladies European Tour and the prize money the LPGA players win will not be counted with their LPGA winnings it still pays the bills.  With the LPGA tour season going dark for weeks at a time it is a prudent move to get as many starts in as possible.  This could very well be the face of the New International LPGA Tour. We could be seeing more international partnerships between the LPGA and other international tours.  It’s a natural fit; they both could use each other.  The LPGA needs more tournaments and the LET can always use more high profile players in their fields.  The LPGA already has five tournaments in Asia and three in Mexico.  The opportunities for expansion into Asia and tournaments co-sponsored with other tours can give the LPGA a needed injection of cash and the players more playing venues.

It seems to be working for this group of adventurous, globetrotting Americans as they play well overseas and keep racking up the frequent flier miles.


Camilo and Freddy Lead on Sunday

March 7th, 2010 No comments

Camilo Villegas takes a three stroke lead into today’s final round of the Honda Classic. Villegas has a third place finish and a tie for eighth in his two previous starts this season. Can he hold on to win? Nathan Green and Vijay Singh are only two strokes back.

Freddy Couples shoots a lights out 64 and leads by two shots at The Champions Tour Toshiba Classic. Freddy has a win and a second place so far on the Senior Circuit this year.