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Archive for April, 2010

Phil’s Sick and So Is Tiger’s Game

April 30th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Sometimes it’s impossible to figure this game out.  Phil Mickelson shows up at Quail Hollow fresh off of two bags of intravenous fluids and really had it going for awhile and Tiger Woods brought his finely tuned temple of a body on the course and proceeded to spray it all over the place.

Mickelson had it to four under on the 15th but fatigue caught up with him and he bogeyed the last two holes for a two under 70.  Phil is battling a bug that has him dehydrated and weak.  He’s not too concerned about it and has a history of playing well when he is less than one hundred per cent.  He won at Torrey Pines in 2001 when he was sick. “The last two times I’ve fainted and woken up in a pool of vomit, I’ve won,” Mickelson said. “Laying there on the floor wondering where I am, a good omen came over me… I may have run out of a little bit of energy there toward the end, but I did hit some good shots and was able to shoot a decent round for the first round,” Mickelson said.

Tiger had no such excuse for his poor showing.  He was all over the course all day and his Army golf left him with a two over 74 which could easily been a 76 or worse.  “I didn’t hit the ball very good at all today,” said Woods. “I had a two-way miss with everything. Two balls in the water. Pretty much struggled all day.” He hit only four fairways and spent time in the trees again.  He was so frustrated by his game he didn’t even go to the practice range afterward.  “Sometimes when I shoot a high round, I put the clubs away — or break a few, I’m just going to let it go today. I’m not going to the range. Hell with it.”

Bo Van Pelt shot a bogey free, seven birdie round of 65 on the tough Quail Hollow course to lead Kenny Perry by one.

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Big Week for Tiger, Phil & Lorena

April 29th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

This is a big week in golf.  Tiger and Phil make their first appearance since The Masters with a world class field at the Quail Hollow Championship.  In the soap opera that has become Tiger’s season he’ll try and keep his world number one ranking as Phil tries to take him down.  Despite what Woods says about his schedule not being set it appears he is back to being a full time golfer.  There was no mention of “therapy” at his press conference and with his wife spending time in Sweden it looks like Tiger can focus his attention on golf.  Phil looks to continue his run he started at Augusta and a win this week or next week at The Players could make him number one in the world.  Can we start thinking “Grand Slam” yet?  All the pros love this course and there is talk that The PGA of America is contemplating holding a PGA Championship here.  The Golf Channel  carries the action at 2:00 pm EST.

The number one female player in the world is saying goodbye this week at The Tres Marias Championship in Mexico and we won’t even get to see it.  Lorena Ochoa is making her last planned start on the LPGA Tour and there is no television coverage in the United States.  That is one of the problems that new commissioner Michael Whan is dealing with this year: inconsistent television coverage.  This weekend instead of seeing an emotional Ochoa say farewell to the tour in her home country where she is worshiped we will be shown The Mojo 6 tournament that took place two weeks ago.  Can anyone figure out why the LPGA signed up for that deal?  The Mojo 6 looked like an interesting gig, with its “Raceway Golf” format but who cares when it is two weeks old.

The fact that Ochoa is walking away from golf in her prime is a body blow for the LPGA Tour.  Having no television coverage is rubbing salt in the wound.  Ochoa is a special player.  She had the skills to be the best at her craft.  She had the approachable manner that made her a world ambassador for women’s golf.  And she had the humility to never think she was bigger than the game, a tournament or any other player for that matter.  Ochoa is not just a special player, she’s a special person and there won’t be many dry eyes on Sunday as she walks up the eighteenth to finish her professional career.  She’ll be missed on tour, but she’s ready for a new phase in her life and is doing so on her own terms.  That’s rarely seen for such an accomplished athlete.

Check out Phil’s press conference or Tiger’s press conference and Lorena’s interview.

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Rotella Can Get Your Head Right

April 28th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

My golf season is well under way and even though the weather in the Northeast can still play havoc with our tee times, we all have had enough opportunities to find our game.  Unfortunately, not all of my game was there to be found.  I’ve spent plenty of time on the practice range to get my old muscles back in the swing of things.  Unlike most golfers I won’t spend hours pumping drivers out on the range.  I’ll spend more time with my wedge on the chipping green trying to hole out a few.  When you’re a short hitter like I am, you need to depend on your scoring clubs like the wedge and the putter.  That’s been my game for a long time.  I’ll hit a few fairways now and then but not too many greens so I’ll always need to rely on my wedges to chip it close to have a chance at par.  On a good day my scorecard will be filled with some pars but not too many GIR’s (greens in regulation) but I’ll always have a bunch of one putts.  Miss the green, chip it close and sink the putt, that’s my game.  It’s not pretty but I’ll take it.

But this season my trusty old short stick has been slow to come around.  I’ve been the victim of more lip outs, woefully short putts, bad reads and three putts to fill an entire season or two.  My putting has been uncharacteristically poor.   When my putter is off I am in big trouble and even though a bad round of golf is better than your best day at work, poor putting can really be depressing.

Then it hit me.  While I was driving somewhere and going over my last round in my head, I realized I hadn’t completed all of my pre-season preparations.  Each year when the snow starts to melt and we are watching the pros play in the warm weather I start my preparation by re-reading my putting bible: Dr. Bob Rotella’s “Putting Out of Your Mind.”  For me that book is a much a critical part of my game as my Cobras and Footjoys.  For me to get my putter working I need to get my head in the right place and nobody works for me like Rotella.  Rotella has a magical effect on me and my game.  His simple strategies work wonders for me and the dozens of professionals that he works with.

Two old axioms say it all: Drive for show and putt for dough; and Golf is a game played on a five inch course, the distance between your ears.  Rotella uses simple, positive reinforcement techniques to get his players thinking in the right frame of mind, once your mind is right your game will follow.

Rotella tells the story of Jack Nicklaus stating that he never three putted on the last hole of a tournament or missed a putt from inside five feet on the last hole of a tournament.  When Nicklaus is asked about it and given a time and date that he indeed had missed one of those putts, he refuses to recognize it and still insists that he had not missed from five feet or three putted on the last hole.  Rotella finishes the story after the questioner asked Rotella why Nicklaus wouldn’t admit it:

“I asked the man if he played golf.  ‘Yes’ he said.

‘What’s your handicap?’ I asked.

‘About sixteen’ he said.

‘And if you missed a short putt on the last hole of a tournament, you’d remember it and admit it, ‘I observed.

‘Of course,’ he confirmed.

‘So let me get this straight,’ I said. ‘You’re a sixteen handicap, and Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer ever, and you want Jack to think like you?’

The man had no answer.”

It’s simple.  Convince yourself that you’re a great putter and the putts will fall.   Excuse me while I get back to my reading.  I still have a few chapters left before my game tomorrow.

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Phil & Tiger Are Back: Forget the Blog Tiger, Just Play Golf

April 27th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

With Tiger and Phil joining the mere mortals of The PGA Tour this week at The Quail Hollow Championship the golf season is back in high gear.  Things always run a little hotter with Phil and Tiger in the field and since this is their first face off since The Masters all eyes will be focused on the two of them.

Last we saw Phil he was cruising through the Krispy Kreme with the kids wearing the green jacket.  That was a classic moment in “Phil History.” He’s been laying low spending time with family and probably trying out a few dozen drivers.

Last we heard from Tiger he was writing on his blog.  Yes, Tiger was writing on his blog. I didn’t even know he had a blog and I find it a little odd that Tiger would use one.  From the small number of  entries it looks like he posts very infrequently and this last post looks to be from the “new fan friendly” Tiger Woods.  From Tiger’s Blog:

I tried and wanted to interact with as many fans as I could. One little girl gave me a letter on the third tee, which was awfully sweet. I knew a few people in the gallery, including my mom, which was nice.

I received some criticism for bad language, which I apologized for immediately after Saturday’s round. It’s tough when you’re in a competitive environment and in the flow of a tournament. I’m not perfect. All I can say is I’m trying to do everything I can without losing my fire and competitive spirit.

It also felt great to be in the hunt again, but unfortunately, I didn’t have my game. I knew I needed to make a run, but I just didn’t have one in me. I had a terrible warm-up session Sunday, and it carried over to the first tee.

I find it all laughable.  For the most part the old Tiger wasn’t fan friendly, but he did have some moments.  He used the fans when it was convenient for him and most of the time they were an afterthought.  Now, since he is trying to rebuild his brand he feels the need to blog his little heart out.  Sorry Tiger…it rings hollow.  It sounds too forced, so forget trying to be all things to all the fans.  Here’s what you need to do:  Play golf, forget blogging, sign more autographs and treat the fans and the media like you are all partners in this thing, because you really are.  The days of Tiger making the rules are over, at least for awhile.

The PGA Tour needs the fans and for the first time in Tiger’s life he needs them too.  He needs them to cheer for him and to be there screaming for autographs.  He needs the average Joe to buy his hats and he needs the CEO’s to want a piece of Tiger again.  Tiger will never get to his second billion if he reverts back to his old ways of treating the fans and the media like they are second class citizens.  Forget the blogging and the excuses for your wayward shots.  Shut up and play golf.  Treat everyone like they are humans and maybe a little recognition for your fellow competitors would a nice touch.  There’s an easy way to win the fans back, just be human.  But Tiger has always had a hard time being human.

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Ken Green Wins This Weekend

April 26th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Jason Bohn may have won the Zurich Classic and Mark O’ Meara and Nick Price took home the first place trophy on The Champions Tour but the real winner this week was Ken Green.  No, he and partner Mike Reid didn’t win The Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf but the fact that Ken Green was able to play once again was the biggest victory in golf this weekend.

Green has fought back from a year of physical rehabilitation and emotional heartbreak.  He had doubts that he could play this week and told his partner Reid to play with someone else but Reid would not.  He said that Green would be his partner or he wouldn’t play.  Green showed up and fought off first tee jitters to settle down and play some decent golf over the weekend.  He was welcomed back by his fellow Champion’s Tour members and greeted by cheers from the galleries all weekend.

He feels good enough to enter next week’s tournament in Mississippi and thinks he’ll only get better with some more rounds under his belt.  He has spent some time with swing coach Peter Kostis and knows it will take some time to refine his new swing.  Afterward he talked to PGA Tour Radio and he sounded like a golfer, not just a golfer making a comeback from a tragic accident.  He spoke of his schedule, his play and his swing.  It’s like he was just a normal golfer again.  I’m sure that’s what he wants but with what he has been through the past year, normal still seems a long way off.

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Tom Watson Prepares For The US Open

April 25th, 2010 1 comment

by Jeff Skinner

With only 53 days left to the start of the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach Tom Watson figured he should start getting ready now.  It what was reminiscent of his miracle chip in at the 1982 Open when he beat Jack Nicklaus, he chipped in for eagle on the thirteenth hole at The Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf.  Okay, so that’s a bit of a stretch but I can’t wait for Watson and the boys to tee it up at Pebble again.

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Green’s First Step A Success

April 24th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Ken Green was as nervous as ever was when he teed off at The Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf on Friday.  He was worried he would embarrass himself and his partner, Mike Reid as he struggled to come back to professional golf after his life shattering accident last June.  Green took a few holes to shake off the jitters but then warmed up to display some crisp shots and even tally a few birdies for his team.

After the first round his team sits five strokes back of the leaders with a score of five under par.  The score isn’t what really matters this weekend for Green and Reid, it’s the fact that Ken Green is there and is back and is able to play golf with his friends on tour once again.  Birdies are nice, finishing near the top would be great but just being back on the course is enough for Green.  To be playing again with a prosthetic right leg less than a year after his accident can only be called miraculous.

Green said himself that this is a chance for him to do more than just play golf.  He is the first professional to try and compete with an artificial leg. “I haven’t been known for inspiring people throughout my career,” he said. “But I’ve got a chance to do something good for people, something important in golf, and for people who are disabled, and people who have had accidents.”

He carries with him the memory of his brother, girlfriend and pet dog that were killed in the crash and also the memory of his son who died last January.  That’s a heavy burden to bear but Green has fought through the anguish to try and regain some sense of normalcy in his life, that of playing golf again.

With the support of his family, his fellow professionals and the cheering fans he was able to make his first day back a success.  It’s the first step of a long journey that green is determined to complete.

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Lorena’s Teary Farewell

April 23rd, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

We all can ask ourselves why someone like Lorena Ochoa would call it quits at the absolute pinnacle of her career.  A 28 year old golfer is just hitting their prime and to see one step away from the game causes you to stop and ask why?  All you need to do is to read any of the quotes from Ochoa’s press conference to see that she couldn’t be at a better place in her life right now.  She has accomplished her goals in golf and eagerly wants to move on to the next phase of her life: that of being a wife, mother and benefactor.

Quotes from Lorena’s press conference and interview with the LPGA:

“This is a very special day, full of happiness,” Ochoa said. “There are so many things that I will miss and this has not been an easy decision to make. But this is my moment and I dreamed of it this way.

“I am leaving the LPGA Tour as the top player, No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings, so I am proud of myself and satisfied. I would like to thank so many people who have been by my side all these years, most of all my LPGA partners who welcomed me from my very first day on the Tour. When I started to play golf 23 years ago, I had the dream to become the best player in the world, to win many tournaments and this is why now is the best time to leave, full of great memories that I am going to share with my family for the rest of my life.”

I’m making this decision because all the elements are together. You know, to start, I always said that I wanted to play for some years, around ten years. And what I wanted to do is achieve my goals and to be the No. 1 player in the world. Retiring today or being at the top, you know, today is my anniversary for three years of being at the top in the Rolex World Rankings.

The second thing I always dreamed and I always wanted to finish here in Mexico. To be able to play my last tournament in front of my crowd, and in the moment of seeing them every day, and together to watch me playing my last tournament over here.

And third, well, finally, I just am ready to start a new life. You know, I just want to be a normal person. I just want to live like everyday things and be home, and be back with my family all the time that we lost in the last few years.

I’m ready to move on. You know, once you achieve your goals and you are at the top, it was good to me. But there are so many other things that I’d like to do. I’m really happy today, and I’m pleased. I’m 100% complete. It’s great news and I’m super happy.

I’m thanking everyone for their support and all the fans and for the LPGA, and people that have been watching my golf and following my career.

“I want to tell you I am very happy and I am feeling very peaceful,” she said. “The best present from God has been my foundation. My commitment to Mexican society is strong. Now, I am going to have more time with you.”

We don’t have to look too far to find the last leading golfer to retire near their prime. Annika Sorestam retired two years ago at age 37 while she was still contending for the top spot on tour. She also wanted to start her family.  Jim Brown and Barry Sanders, both NFL running backs, left in the prime of their careers.  Bryon Nelson at 34 called it quits to go home to live on his ranch only one year removed from his eleven straight wins.

The retirement that may compare closest to Ochoa’s could be that of Bobby Jones.  Jones left competitive golf when he was also 28 and had just completed his grand slam.  He was no doubt the best in the game at the time but realized that his personal life demanded more of his time.  Jones left golf to raise his family and earn a living as a lawyer.  Being the greatest amateur golfer brought fame but no fortune for Jones.  He was a man who was comfortable with his choices, much like Ochoa is.

Ochoa said it right, “This is a day full of happiness.”  Isn’t that what it should be all about?  Money and titles and fame can all be good things but being happy is really what it is all about.  To see Ochoa at a place in her life where she can leave the pressures of tour and travel is a wonder.  Few people at such a young age can say they are truly happy.  That’s the best gift a parent can give their child: knowing what makes them happy.  Hopefully Ochoa will be able to pass it on to her children.

The tour will miss her kind ways and gentle smile and she was as good an ambassador to the game as anyone.  Here’s hoping her new life will bring her all the health and happiness she deserves.

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Ken Green Comes Back Today

April 23rd, 2010 1 comment

by Jeff Skinner

The entire world watched as Tiger Woods made his comeback to golf at The Masters last month.  Millions cheer for and watch John Daly’s umpteenth try at a comeback on his Golf Channel reality show.  Each week we all pull for David Duval as he attempts to regain his prior world number one form. But the real comeback of the year starts today on The Champions Tour at The Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf.

Ken Green will play for the first time since his horrific accident that took his girlfriend, brother and dog along with his right leg.  Green has sworn to himself that he’ll play on the tour again and he knows this week will be an emotional start to his return.  He’ll be teamed with friend Mike Reid and more importantly be surrounded by all his contemporaries and you can’t help but think they’ll all be pulling for him.

Fred Couples and Jay Haas may be the tournament favorites but Ken Green is certainly the sentimental one.  Check out David Marr’s story on Green on The Golf Channel here. Green says it really doesn’t matter how well he plays this week and that just being back is a huge step in his return to normalcy.  Green faces emotional and physical challenges each day he wakes up and this weekend will be an emotional time for him.  The mere fact that he is alive is a miracle, playing golf is a bonus. His story isn’t like Tiger where he has to recover from a self inflicted fall from grace.  Green’s return to golf will be an emotional ride for him and his family and is definitely worth watching this week and the rest of Green’s season.

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Paddy Harrington Talks Tiger and More

April 22nd, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The May issue of Golf Magazine is a great read this month.  Eamon Lynch has The Golf Magazine Interview with Padraig Harrington and he is his usual candid self.  Few golfers offer such honest opinions on any and all subjects.  His candor has made him one of the best interviews in golf and he doesn’t disappoint in this chat with Lynch.

He’s focused on winning more majors.

After your first Open win, at Carnoustie, you told me your goal was multiple majors. Now that you have three, what’s the goal?

It hasn’t changed. Four of us have three majors, and then you’ve got Tiger, so it’s a big step to get to four. The focus is to win the two that I haven’t got. It’s a question of setting myself apart. At the end of your career you’ll always be judged on winning majors.

Amazingly Paddy brings two different sets of clubs to each tournament.

You use different clubs for majors than for regular Tour events?

I’ve carried two sets of irons to every tournament for eight years. Out of two-inch rough, there’s a 40-yard difference between how far my 7-iron with sharp grooves and my 7-iron with normal grooves will go. I’ve gone to every tournament for the past eight years, had a look at the rough, and decided which set of grooves were going to be most effective that week.

He had thought Tiger and he were friends but realized that’s not the case.

Do you consider him a friend?

Tiger would often say “Paddy’s a friend,” and I’d say, “Tiger’s a friend,” but this is surely not the case if I didn’t know what was going on. He’s very personable and he’s one of the guys I look forward to playing with. But I could be going to a game or to a nice restaurant and would often say to another player, “Do you want to go?” But you’d never say it to Tiger — you’d assume there’s too much hassle in it for him. Because of the demands on him he’s alienated from the rest of the players.

He says Tiger will have to live with his choices he made.

You said you have no sympathy for him.

It’s a very personal matter, but it’s right for it to be in the public domain. If you want everything that goes with being a professional sportsman, well, that’s what goes with it. That’s part of our life. I don’t have sympathy for the fact that he made his choices and he has to live with that and take responsibility for it.

Paddy pulls no punches and he talks, Monty, Faldo, grooves and more and in his own modest way says he’s not the greatest Irish athlete.

You were just voted Ireland’s greatest-ever sportsman. Would you have voted for yourself in that poll?

I’m delighted to receive it but I wouldn’t get hung up about not winning. My sport is high profile and I’m in peoples’ minds. Let’s face it, the greatest Irish athlete is probably a Special Olympian. Is it a popularity contest or an achievement contest?

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