Jeff Overton takes a four stroke lead into Saturday’s third round at The Greenbrier Classic. That’s right , Jeff Overton, get used to hearing that name. He is quietly having a great year on The PGA Tour. He has four top tens including two second place finishes and has earned close to two and a half million dollars. He is also number ten on the Ryder Cup points list.
by Jeff Skinner
It’s a busy week on all golfing fronts this week. Freddy Couples is hosting the old guys at the U.S. Senior Championship in his hometown of Seattle. The women are trying their hand at links golf at The Ricoh Women’s British Open over the links of Royal Birkdale in England and the European Tour is playing this week in Ireland. The PGA Tour is breaking new ground at The Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia and it’s an historic week already.
You won’t see Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson at The Greenbrier but the field doesn’t lack for heroes. In fact one of the co-leaders is the biggest hero on any golf tour this year. Erik Compton has a share of the lead after shooting a personal best 63. Compton is the double heart transplant recipient that has been trying to make it on the PGA Tour. This year he has played in six PGA Tournaments with his best finish a tie for thirtieth at The Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Compton has been getting by on sponsor’s exemptions and he qualified for the U.S. Open. With only $65,785 in earnings it hasn’t been an easy year. But that hasn’t deterred Compton. He realizes that each day is precious and not just on the golf course. When you have a health history like Compton has you learn to appreciate life a little differently from most. He knows he is a walking advertisement for organ donation and he’ll always be known for his heart issues but he tries to carry on a normal life.
How normal can a man with three different hearts be? Pretty normal. He spent last week home with his wife and daughter fixing up his yard at his new house. He takes plenty of medication each day and works out to stay in shape and build his stamina. When he plays he gets a little tired after a few days of play but has been able to pace himself over four rounds of play.
For each golfer on tour there is a story. Many have interesting and compelling stories. None of them can match Erik Compton and his road to the tour. To be where he is now after living what he has been through is a miracle. It’s a testament to modern medicine and a victory of the human spirit, his human spirit.
In a sports landscape that is populated with selfish, greedy, obnoxious, self-promoting fools Erik Compton is a man by himself. Looking for a good guy with a great story that isn’t one of the “me first generation”? Take a look at Erik Compton. He’s more than a golfer, he’s a hero.
by Jeff Skinner
The PGA Tour stops in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia this week and while the course is interesting and the resort is first rate there is much more than meets the eye at The Greenbrier Resort. During the Cold War the federal government built a huge bunker underneath the Greenbrier. It was built to house all of Congress in the event of a national emergency and the entire country could be run from the safety of the self-sufficient bunker.
The bunker was maintained for over thirty years until The Washington Post printed a story on the top secret bunker. It is now one of the many attractions at The Greenbrier. Take a look at the videos. They give you a view of one really big bunker.
by Jeff Skinner
It’s a “Double Major Week” as the USGA welcomes the Senior golfers to Sahalle Country Club in Seattle for the U.S. Senior Open and the women converge on Royal Birkdale in England for the Women’s British Open.
Fred Funk is the defending U.S. Senior Open Champion and he’s back to defend but the focus this week will be on the Rock Star of the Champions Tour, Fred Couples. Couples is a Seattle native and his return home to try and win his first Senior Major will be a major story this week.
At The Women’s British Open the American women will be trying to keep their streak of two consecutive majors alive. Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr are the standard bearers for the Americans right now and if Creamer can continue to deal with her sore thumb the way she did at Oakmont she might be going back to back with a pair of majors. Newly crowned world number one, Jiyai Shin and four time winner Ai Miyazato will offer a strong challenge to the Americans. There is even some live television coverage of the ladies on ESPN. That beats the delayed coverage we get on The Golf Channel.
by Jeff Skinner
I know we are all quick to christen the next big thing in golf. Over the years many gifted young golfers were burdened with the “he’s the next Nicklaus” and now it’s “the next Tiger” although that one may be a bit tainted now. Still, when a young phenom lights up the competition and does things that older golfers struggle with it is easy to think that this one is the one, the next big thing.
Alexis Thompson is without a doubt the next big thing, or at least deserving of that title. Whether or not she fulfills her massive potential remains to be played out over the next few years but for right now, this young woman is the real deal and she is only fifteen years old.
Yes, she had an impressive amateur career with a slew of wins and set the record for the youngest golfer to ever qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open at 12 years and 4 months. But that was then and this is now and right now she is lighting it up. As a professional this season she missed her first cut but bounced back at The U.S. Women’s Open and tied for tenth. At the Evian Masters she birdied the last two holes to tie for the lead in the clubhouse and finished with a share of second place and a huge paycheck.
We’ve seen this before (see Wie, Michelle) where a tall, strong, lithe young girl has been tutored in golf for most of her life and attempts to become the dominant player on tour. Wie’s career has been tragically mismanaged and marred by injuries and missteps. It is only now as a twenty year old college student that Wie has began to play consistent golf.
Thompson and Wie’s lives do have similarities but Thompson has an advantage that Wie had not. Thompson’s brother, Nicholas has played on the PGA Tour since 2006. Having a sibling that has gone through the rigors of the tour and professional golf has to be a help to Alexis and her family.
Thompson also has another advantage: she has out driven all the long hitters on the LPGA Tour, including Wie and Brittany Lincicome. She plays a game well beyond her young years and in two finishes has earned enough money to put her in 18th place on the LPGA Tour’s Money List, if she was a member. This season she is playing on sponsor’s exemptions and will play some international events in Asia and the Ladies European Tour. Supposedly, the Thompson camp is not considering asking the LPGA to waive their 18 year old age requirement for admission to the tour this year.
I can’t imagine Thompson not seeking a tour card next year. She doesn’t seem to be concerned with attending college and this past week Paula Creamer proved once again that bypassing college was the right formula for her.
At a time when the LPGA needs new, exciting, appealing stars to carry it forward, Alexis Thompson could be just what the tour needs. She’s the next big thing and she’s here right now.
by Jeff Skinner
What a week for Carl Pettersson. He was lucky to be playing this weekend as he made the cut on the number at The RBC Canadian Open. So what does he do on Saturday? He goes out and blisters the course with a course record score of 60. On Sunday with a little help from Dean Wilson’s two over par round Pettersson is left holding the trophy and a check for $918,000. He also is this week’s poster boy for the GWG Club. That’s “Guys With Guts”. Go Carl!
Talk about clutch; then talk about Richard S Johnson on the eighteenth green at The Nordea Scandinavian Masters. Tied with Rafa Echenique at ten under, Johnson sank a 30 foot putt to win in his homeland an take home his second European Tour win.
At Carnoustie an excited Bernhard Langer celebrated his Senior British Open win over Ryder Cup Captain Corey Pavin. “I have always wanted to win the British Open,” Langer said. “I didn’t. Now this (Senior British Open) is the next best thing.” I think Pavin is trying to keep busy before he has to deal with the difficult task of making his Captain’s Picks for the Ryder Cup Team.
Seven weeks ago Jiyai Shin had an emergency appendectomy. She’s a quick healer as she was playing two weeks later and yesterday she came from two strokes back to beat Morgan Pressel at The Evian Masters. When Pressel missed a birdie putt at the 17th she let a great chance to pull ahead slip by. Shin was able to sink her birdie at eighteen while Pressel’s slid by the left side of the hole. Shin also claimed the number one spot in The Rolex Rankings. Pressel had to settle for a share of second place.
by Jeff Skinner
Take a look at what could be the future of American Ladies Golf: Alexis Thompson. She’s fifteen and she is more than holding her own with the big girls. So far this year on the LPGA Tour she finished T24 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship as an amateur, missed the cut at The ShopRite LPGA in her pro debut then placed tied for tenth at the U.S. Women’s Open and cashed her first professional paycheck. She was able to place tenth at Oakmont, the toughest course these ladies had ever faced.
This week she is in the hunt at The Evian Masters and currently sits tied for fourth place and three strokes back. She is only fifteen years old but plays like a cunning veteran. The talk is that she’ll petition for early entry into the LPGA. There’s no way they can say no to a talent like this.
The St. Andrews Open Championship hangover continues. Take a look Bobby Jones and his relationship with the people of St. Andrews and the Old Course. After a rough start at St. Andrews he grew to love The Old Course and St. Andrews like no other. Jones was crippled by the time he returned to St. Andrews to accept the honor of “Freeman of The City.” He said it was one of his greatest honors in his life. He loved St. Andrews and the Scots loved Bobby Jones like one of their own.
by Jeff Skinner
Here’s a crazy question: Who would you rather be right now, Louis Oosthuizen or Tiger Woods? Ask that question a year ago or even a week ago and most likely you would have gotten this response: Who is Louis Oosthuizen? Immediately after that the answer would have been “Tiger Woods of course.”
What a difference some time, an Escalade and a Claret Jug make. Before Tiger’s life imploded on the front pages of the tabloids he was the “Golden Child.” He was the absolute best in his profession. He had earned enough money to take care of a few dozen generations of his family and everything he touched turned to gold. He was an endorsers dream and admired by millions both in and out of golf. His biggest problem was making room for all his trophies in his trophy room. Since he has been exposed as a sham and a philanderer he has fallen into the darkest period of his life.
Louis Oosthuizen on the other hand has burst on to the public scene with no fanfare. With Oosthuizen’s Open Championship win he has exactly one more major than Tiger this year. Add in his European win and Louie’s total is two more than Tiger has.
So here are the vitals on these two. Tiger is 34 years old and has 71 professional victories including his 14 majors. He has about a half a billion in the bank, two young children and a costly divorce in his near future. He still has some sponsors but nowhere near the amount he had pre-scandal.
Louie is 27 years old and has two professional victories including his Open Championship. He just earned over a million Euros at The Open and is playing this week at The Nordea Scandinavian Masters. He splurged and traveled there by private jet for a change. He has a wife and a young daughter. His only sponsor right now is Ping but rumor has it his phone hasn’t stopped ringing since he kissed the Claret Jug.
I’m sure many wouldn’t mind trading lives with Tiger with the thought that all that money can ease the pain of many problems. If and when Tiger can get his life together his golf game will probably follow but he’ll never be what he once was. He has already reached the pinnacle of his career. He will still try to hunt down Jack’s major record but even if he does pass it and wins nineteen majors he will still be the Tiger that had is life stained and tainted by his indiscretion. Sadly, Tiger’s best days are behind him. It may sound strange but they are. He’ll never be the “old” Tiger Woods.
Trading places with Louie right now might be a better deal. He’ll be reveling in his major win for a year and new sponsors will be flocking to him. If he can somehow win another major in the next year or two he’ll be ordained as the next Ernie Els. His personal life is stable and he looks to be ready to take the next step in his career. So he doesn’t have a billion dollars but he has a pretty good upside. He is at the start of his career; Tiger is stuck in a slump both personally and professionally.
At the start of the Open Championship Tiger was the favorite and no one knew who Louie was. Things have changed now. At The start of the PGA next month I bet Tiger will still be the favorite and Louie will have a few new sponsors. But we’ll all know who Louie is. He’s the one with his whole life right out in front of him.