Archive for May, 2010

Remember the Fallen on Memorial Day

May 31st, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Congratulations to the winning golfers over the weekend.  Zach Johnson bettered the boys on the PGA Tour at Colonial.  Tom Lehman won The Senior PGA Championship in a playoff and Luke Donald broke back into the winner’s column for the first time in four years on at The Madrid Masters.

More importantly its Memorial Day and we all should take a second to reflect on the meaning of today.  Before you fire up the grill or pop open a cold one, take a moment to remember all those that have given their lives in service of our nation.  It is only because of their service and sacrifice that we are able to live the lives we do.  God bless them and their families.

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A Great Sunday for Golf

May 30th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

What a difference a day makes.  We saw major changes on both the PGA Tour and The Champions Tour on Saturday.  At The Colonial, Brian Davis and Bryce Molder jumped up the leaderboard with great rounds to share the lead going into the final day.  You remember Davis; he’s the guy that called a penalty on himself at The Verizon Heritage that probably cost him the tournament.  Well he’s back in contention after three missed cuts and he looking for his first PGA Tour win.  I’m hoping he pulls it off.

Talk about a blast from the past, Jay Don Blake, yes Jay Don Blake shares the lead with Tom Lehman at The Senior PGA Championship. Blake had one PGA Tour win way back in 1991 and has had back problems that have kept him from competing over the years.  If you are looking for the epitome of the “journeymen” golfer it is Blake. Blake only has played in two Champions events this year but he finished top ten in both outings.

He said he wasn’t just battling the field and the wind out there he had a tough time controlling his emotions too.  What would a win mean to him? “I know it would bring a lot of tears.  It would mean quite a bit.”

Two different guys on two different stages, both are trying to make a comeback of sorts.  It looks to be another wonderful Sunday of golf.


Freddy Couples Leads Senior PGA Championship

May 29th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Fred Couples is making the most of his rookie season on The Champions Tour as he leads The Senior PGA Championship and is looking to win his first senior major in his first appearance in one.  Couples has taken the Champions Tour by storm with three victories this year already.

Couples sashayed his way around the Colorado Golf Club in four under par for the second round to take a one stroke lead over Tom Kite.  Couples used his length off the tee to fashion a round of seven birdies and three bogeys.  He also displayed that relaxed attitude of his that all the fans love.

Freddy has been one of the legendary free spirits of the tours for a long time.  One of his closest friends and college roommate, Jim Nantz of CBS Sports recounts a story about his buddy in Don Wade’s book Talking on Tour.

Couples had taken six weeks off in 1996 to rest his back.  In the course of their conversation, Nantz asked couples if the time off had been really boring.

“No, not really,” said Couples. “I’ve almost finished my book.”

“I didn’t know you were writing a book,” Nantz said.

“I’m not,” Couples said. “I’m reading one.”

You’ve got to love Freddy.


The “New Look” Golf Shoe

May 28th, 2010 No comments

We have all seen Freddy Couples sporting the low profile ecco’s this season, and it seems like the golf shoe will be taking on a much different look in the near future. Almost-Sponsor-Free Ryan Moore just signed an endorsement contract with TRUE linkswear golf shoes, and we are now seeing new brands like kikkor and even veteran brands like NIKE are introducing this “new look” to the golf shoe. 

For those of you who were hoping to get some of these modern kicks, it seems that most of these shoes won’t be available to the public until end of this season. Ecco has just released “Golf Street Premiere” and NIKE has the “Air Anthem” incorporating the young, almost skater shoe. Ryan Moore has been seen wearing vans and puma c-hoopers, both similar to the new-to-golf brand kikkor, which has taken the skater/golf shoe to another level.

Over the next few years the golf shoe looks to be headed for significant changes, very far away from the two-tone saddles that most of us seem to enjoy.


Tiger Commits But Pavin Doesn’t

May 27th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Chip Shots…

It wouldn’t be a normal week in the golf world if there weren’t two or three Tiger Woods stories.  This week is no different as Woods was in the news for what he did this week and for what he has yet to do.

Tiger committed to play in Jack’s Memorial Tournament next week. It will be Tiger’s first appearance since he withdrew from The Players with that pain in his neck. It seems like Woods has had a huge pain in the neck for awhile.  Tiger announced that he’ll play even though he is not 100% healthy.  Isn’t that contrary to what he always told us?  He has always said that he’ll not come back until he is healthy and ready to win.  “The doctors advised me to take a week off and rest, which I did,” Woods said. “They prescribed physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication and soft-tissue massages, which I’m continuing with. Although I’m not 100 percent, I feel much better and look forward to competing next week.” If he can win the US Open on a busted leg I guess he can use Jack’s tournament as a warm up for the Open.

Tiger also committed to play in The Open Champions Challenge the week of this year’s Open Championship at St. Andrews.  He’ll be playing with Seve Ballesteros and 27 former Open Champions in a four hole challenge event.  One word I haven’t heard from Woods lately is therapy.  What happened to all that talk about becoming a better man and taking care of his issues?  Maybe Tiger is recovered already or maybe he’s just the same old Tiger again.

What Tiger hasn’t done yet is lock up a spot on the Ryder Cup Team, well no one has yet but Woods is out of the top ten in Ryder Cup points and needs to play a little better to make the team, at least in the eyes of his captain, Corey Pavin.  Pavin said Tiger, like everyone else has to earn a spot on the team or at least play well enough to warrant a captain’s pick. “I’m not going to treat Tiger any different – he’s certainly not going to be an automatic pick,” said Pavin. “I’d love to have him on the team but I want him to be playing well.” Is that a surprise?  Pavin will use his four picks to take the players he thinks will be the best for his team.  If Woods is playing well, and he has only missed the Ryder Cup because of injury previously, he’ll get picked it’s simple.  What would you expect him to say?

I’m glad to see that Steve Stricker is back to defend his title at The Colonial this week.  He has been dealing with an injury since The Masters and has been home with the wife and kids.  He says the time home was great for the family but he was anxious to get back to playing. Stricker has had an injury in a joint in his chest.  I didn’t even know we had joints in our chest.  He had an inflammation in his sternoclavicular (SC) joint, a connection from the breastbone to the collarbone.  The things we learn while reading about golf.  I like Stricker.  He is one of the good guys.  I like the fact that he still lives up north and that he had the guts to stick to his game when it left him years ago.  I also like it when he breaks down and cries when he wins.

I have to tip my hat to The Golf Channel and their series The Story of Golf.  In a refreshing break from their toxic shows with burnouts (John Daly) and media blowhards (Donald Trump) The Golf Channel has a winner with this one.  Rich Lerner hosts the show, he’s great, and each show is devoted to a different piece of golf history.  So far it has been an excellent watch and light years better than anything Trump can give us.  It’s time they fired The Donald and let Lerner carry the load.


Fred Couples Leads The Champions at The Senior PGA Championship

May 26th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The Champions Tour starts its major season at The Senior PGA Championship on Thursday at The Colorado Golf Club just outside of Denver.  It will be played on the longest course in Champions Tour history at 7604 yards.  The players have raved about the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw designed course and with a “major setup” of deep rough and narrow fairways it will offer a sturdy test for the seniors.  Even with the altitude helping the ball fly a little longer it’s still a lengthy layout.

That should suit the longest hitter on the Champions tour well as Fred Couples averages close to three hundred yards off the tee.  With three wins this season Couples is the hottest thing on The Champions Tour and let’s not forget his sixth place finish at The Masters.  Freddy has had an extraordinary season and he has to be considered a favorite this week.

Another favorite has to be Tom Watson.  He already has two wins this year (1 solo, 1 team) and knows how to play a major championship course.  His great showing at Augusta and his start this year shows that he still has what it takes to compete on any tour.

Bernhard Langer has two wins and six top ten finishes in nine starts this year.  He is second to Couples in The Charles Schawb Cup points and is looking for his first Senior major.  This could be his week.

Nick Price finally broke through to win on The Champions Tour last year and captured the trophy at the Legends of Golf team event this year but he would love to add a major to his collection.  He has five top tens and has a great history at PGA Championships; he has two PGA Championship trophies already in his trophy case.

Dan Forsman won two weeks ago and looks to in great form with five top tens and some very solid play this year.

A dark horse that has been playing well this year but still not able to close the deal is Joey Sindelar.  He has five top tens including a second and third place finish and is playing his best golf in a long time.  He has seven PGA Tour wins but has yet to cash the big check on The Champions Tour.  This could be the week he claims his first and what a first it would be.


Ben Hogan and The Colonial

May 25th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

It really doesn’t matter what the PGA Tour calls the tournament in Fort Worth Texas this week, it’s still The Colonial.  The title sponsor may like to hear “The Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial” but we all know it as “The Colonial” and that means one thing: Ben Hogan.  Most of the older players still refer to it as “The Hogan.”  Last week it was The Nelson, this week it’s The Hogan. Sorry Crowne Plaza, to me it’s the Hogan.

Hogan’s legacy carries on at Colonial Country Club and his legendary stories are still passed on from those older players that had the chance to spend some time with him.  Jeff Rude has an excellent article on Hogan in this week’s Golf Week, the magazine only; it’s not on the website yet. Call me old fashioned but I still love getting the print magazine.  Anyway, Rude quotes D.A. Weibring in the article and here’s a link to his “Hate to be Rude” segment where he talked to Weibring.  He recalls both Nelson and Hogan and says that it was “Byron” for Mr. Nelson but Hogan was always addressed as “Mr. Hogan.”  Nelson was a little more approachable than The Hawk.  He got to know Hogan because he played his clubs and he was very helpful to anyone that played the Hogan Brand.

Weibring recounts how Hogan would address all his staff players each year and be moved to tears when he spoke of the effort and dedication that his company put into his products.  He also tells the story of how Hogan borrowed Nelson’s backup driver and liked it so much he kept it and even had “Ben Hogan” painted on it.

Hogan was serious about his equipment.  When a young Gary Player called Hogan to seek some advice on the art of the swing Hogan asked him what clubs he played.  When Player said he played Dunlop, Hogan told him to call Mr. Dunlop and hung up.  That’s was vintage Hogan: short and to the point.

The video below has some classic moments at The Colonial.  Nicklaus calls Hogan the best ball striker he has ever seen, that’s good enough for me.  Ian Baker Finch gets down to his boxers long before Henrik Stenson ever thought of dropping his pants.  Tom Watson wins it with a shot from the bunker.  Sergio’s first win and Phil’s shot through the trees on eighteen that we still can’t figure out how he pulled that one off.

It’s The Colonial, it’s The Hogan, and it’s a classic.


Youth Reigns at The Nelson and The Sybase

May 23rd, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Golf has been called an “old man’s game” by many of its detractors over the years. Well, that certainly wasn’t the case Sunday afternoon as a pair of young “twenty-somethings” won their first big league tournaments and a sixteen year old amateur showed that he could play with the big boys.

“Youth will be served” and it was served well at The Byron Nelson Championship and The Sybase Match Play Championship. Twenty two year old Jason Day battled through a midweek illness and a bunch of bogies on Sunday to finish with a two stroke victory and claim his first PGA Tour win.  Day made it a little too interesting at the end when he hit his approach into eighteen in the water.  Fortunately for Day his nearest competitor, Blake Adams, did the same.  Day’s bogey was enough for the win, a check for $1,170,000 and a two year exemption on the PGA Tour.

The story of the week at The Nelson was the play of U.S. Junior Amateur, Jordan Spieth.  The sixteen year old high school junior played well enough to be within three shots of the lead on his back nine, but a few missteps cost him his chance.  Spieth had some of the biggest galleries of the week and his go for broke style of play had won over many fans and press.  He impressed the tour players with his maturity as well as his golf game.

Asked afterwards about how he kept things in balance he said,” I just tried to learn from them, look at what they were doing. I tried to emulate them, and it was really cool to play about a couple of veterans, Tom yesterday and Corey today. It’s all business out there. They remain neutral, they know that they can’t get too excited or too down on themselves, and I did today, I got way too down on myself early, and then I got way too excited at some point in the round, too, and it messed me up a little bit.

But that’s how I went about the week. I tried to do exactly what they were doing and tried to be one of them for the week, and to be able to play with a couple of guys like I did on the weekend, it was cool.

Proving that he is mature beyond his years he said his parents had given him the best advice of the week. “Best advice was probably from my parents right there, and they just told me, “You need to enjoy it, no matter how you play. Everyone is out here to support you; you don’t have any expectations going in, you know, you’re just playing your game and taking it shot by shot. Just enjoy the experience,” and that’s what I did.

The best pure golf performance of the week has got to be that of twenty three year old Sun Young Soo at the LPGA’s Sybase Match Play Championship.  Her 3 & 1 defeat of Angela Stanford doesn’t even begin to tell the story.  Yoo started out as the 28th seed in the field of 64.  In the first round she beat 34th seed Karen Stupples.  In round two she dealt the American hopes a death blow when she knocked out the fifth seed Cristie Kerr.  Round three wasn’t much easier as she bested the 12th seed in Song-Hee Kim and later that day polished off the 4th seed Yani Tseng.  On Sunday she had the huge task of facing the world’s number one and top seed Jiyai Shin in the semifinals.  Yoo topped her 2 & 1 to land in the finals against Stanford (10).  So in her quest for the win Soo beat five of the top twelve players in the world.  That’s one for the record books.

After taking an early 1 up lead in the finals she found herself 1 down but was able to better Stanford by hitting more greens and staying out of the greenside rough which Stanford couldn’t seem to manage.  Her 3 & 1 win over Stanford gave her first LPGA win and got her a shower from fellow South Koreans Jiyai Shin and Amy Yang.

It was a great day for the youngsters on the course and we will probably be hearing more from many of the young guns that populate both tours this season.


Michelle Wie Faces Tough Test in Quarterfinals

May 22nd, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The magical comeback ride is over for Morgan Pressel as she fell to Amy Yang 4 & 3 in the third round of play at The Sybase Match Play Championship.  After two straight days of miraculous comebacks from two down with two to play, Pressel couldn’t survive the steady play of Yang.

Number four seed, long hitter Yani Tseng dispatched Inbee Park rather easily with a 5 & 3 victory.

In a big upset, 67th seeded Haeji Kang bested her fellow South Korean, 27th seed Jee Young Lee 1 up.  Kang was one down going into the seventeenth hole and managed to win the last two holes for her victory.  In another matchup of South Koreans, Sun Young Yoo (28) upset Song-Hee Kim (12) one up to advance.

Match play can be unpredictable but that wasn’t the case for top seed Jiyai Shin this morning.  She beat rookie Beatriz Recari, the 62nd seed, 4 & 3.  Recari had played excellent golf to advance this far but Shin’s experience was too much for the rookie to handle.

The pride of Scotland and British Open Champion, Catriona Matthew (15) needed one extra hole to beat M.J. Hur (31).  Matthew faltered on eighteen losing the hole to let Hur get the match to all square but used a birdie on the first playoff hole to move on to the quarterfinals.

LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan can breathe easy, at least for another round, as Michelle Wie continued her march to the finals with a 3 & 2 win over 57th seed Karine Icher.  Wie has played consistent golf this week, hitting fairways and greens and using her length off the tee to her advantage.  For the LPGA to make a splash they need Wie to be playing well and so far this week she has been excellent.

In the match of the day, rookie Amanda Blumenherst (55) and fellow American Angela Stanford (10) battled into extra holes to determine the winner.  Stanford took an early 1 up lead only to lose it at the ninth and then watched Blumenherst go two up after the fourteenth.  The rookie then lost her lead by losing two of the last four holes as the veteran Stanford scratched back to all square and sent it into overtime.  Her rookie luck ran out on the second playoff hole as she made only her second six of the tournament.  Stanford’s win puts her in the quarterfinals against Matthew.

Wie and Stanford are the only two Americans remaining and Wie has a huge task ahead of her as she faces the number one seed and number one player in the world, Jiyai Shin.

Here’s the pairings for the quarterfinals.


Byron Nelson’s Unbeatable Streak

May 22nd, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

While the boys of The PGA Tour toil down in Dallas Texas at The Byron Nelson Championship it’s time to remember the most unbeatable record in all of sport.  Few golf fans and journalist will debate the fact that Byron Nelson was a true gentleman.  He was revered as few men in golf were for his manner off the course as well as his historic accomplishments on the course.

Nelson’s 1945 season will never be duplicated, or even threatened for that matter.  He won eleven consecutive starts on the PGA Tour and had eighteen total victories for the year.  No modern day golfer will ever come close to that; heck some of the big names don’t even play eighteen time s in a season.

Nelson’s swing was so repeatable and smooth he was used as the model for the first mechanical swing machine and it was called appropriately, Iron Byron.

As prolific as his accomplishments on the tour were, his legacy is one of mentoring and advising generations of golfers.  His counsel, advice and friendship aided golfers from Ken Venturi to Tom Watson to Scott Verplanck and many more in between.  It’s a shame that the tournament honoring Byron doesn’t get the field it used to.  Not too long ago this was a premier tour stop but as Jeff Rude writes, many factors have contributed to it falling from its upper echelon status.

It’s a shame that “The Nelson” is an afterthought to many tour pros but that’s what happens, all things change.  Almost all things, Nelson’s streak of eleven consecutive wins is safe.  That will never change.