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Archive for August, 2010

Monty’s Tough Ryder Cup Picks

August 31st, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Say what you will about Colin Mongomerie’s wild card selections for The Ryder Cup but the fact is he couldn’t please everyone.  The European players are so strong that no matter which player he left off the team there was bound to be some grumbling and plenty of second guessing.  Monty hasn’t exactly been a fan favorite in the states or Europe for that matter but you have to feel a bit for the guy.  He was faced with tough choices and only one thing was for sure: he was going to disappoint two very talented players.

His picks, Luke Donald, Edoardo Molinari and Paddy Harrington, certainly deserved a berth on The Ryder Cup Team.  But how can you keep Paul Casey, ninth in The World Rankings and Justin Rose, arguably the hottest European golfer off the team.  Monty was paying homage to Paddy’s three majors, and well he should, but to what extent.  Casey and Rose have had far better seasons than Paddy but Paddy’s reputation and resume trumped their results.  Molinari showed grit and guts as he birdied the last three holes to win on The Euro Tour on Sunday.  He and his brother will make an amazing and formidable team for Monty.  Luke Donald has five top tens on The PGA Tour and finished ahead of Rose and Casey on The World Points list but he has no wins this year.  Justin Rose has two wins in The U.S. this year, including The Memorial one of the biggest of the non-majors tournaments.

It was an embarrassment of riches for Monty and he choose who he thought would give his team the best chance to win.  However, you have to scratch your head when you think that Rose and Casey will be sitting at home come October when the Ryder Cuppers tee it up at Celtic Manor.  Maybe the European PGA needs to revisit their selection process.  Or better yet, maybe The U.S. PGA could pass a quick bylaw or two and allow all PGA Tour members, not selected by their original team to play for the U.S Ryder Cup team.  After all, these guys live here and work here.  It’s only fitting that we let them play here.  Pick away Captain Pavin, Justin and Paul would make two great Captain’s Picks.  Just don’t tell Monty right now.

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Matt Kuchar Smiles His Way To Victory

August 30th, 2010 1 comment

by Jeff Skinner

Playing golf as a professional on the PGA Tour can be a tough job.  Sure, the pros are playing for millions of dollars on the finest courses in the world and are catered to like prized thoroughbreds. But believe it or not life on the tour can wear you down over the course of the season.  To keep your spirits up week in and week out can be a difficult task for some.  For Matt Kuchar it’s never a problem.

Kuchar is having a career year.  He not only leads the PGA Tour in scoring average, all-around ranking and top tens, he leads the tour in smiles per hole.  You can’t watch Kuchar play a hole without two or three smiles.  Some pros will go a season without cracking a smile.  Kuchar doesn’t wait long to get it going.  He starts when he gets out of the courtesy car and doesn’t stop until…well, I don’t think he does stop.

There isn’t a more humble or content guy on the PGA Tour.  He was going to call it a season if he didn’t win here and spend time with his family but his win at The Barclays will keep him busy for a few more weeks.  Kuchar’s come from behind win has not only put him atop the FedEx Cup points list it has vaulted him into discussion for The Player of The Year.

Kuchar looks to be the same happy kid that had a great year back in 1998 when he tied for 21st at The Masters and Tied for 14th at The U.S. Open.  He qualified for those by winning the 1997 U.S. Amateur Championship so he has had some game for a little while.  It may have taken Kuchar a few years to hit his stride, he first won in 2002 and then again last year but this season has seen him soar to new heights.  He’s earned his first Ryder Cup berth and is easily the most consistent player on the team this year.

More than his professional success Kuchar revels in his life as a family man.  He and his wife Sybi play a lot of serious tennis together and they have two young boys that make them look like the All-American family.  It’s a picture Kucher cherishes.  “I love playing golf,” Kuchar said. “I love practicing. I love everything about it. I love having chances. And even when the chances don’t go your way, I think it makes you tougher, makes you stronger. If you don’t get beaten up by it, if you keep on stepping forward, all those close calls, they’re going to make you better for opportunities in the future.

“It’s fun. I have a great time out here. … I’ve got a great family. I enjoy life as a professional golfer. … It’s a great way to make a living. And I feel awfully fortunate.”

After the next few weeks Kuchar may be riding a higher wave.  With The Playoffs and FedEx Cup winding up and his Ryder Cup debut in October we could see Kuchar move to an even higher plateau.  Somehow I think he’ll still be smiling no matter what happens.

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Michelle Wie Takes The Canadian Women’s Open

August 29th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

On Thursday after their first rounds both Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie were leading their respective golf tournaments.  Wie had the outright lead at The Canadian Women’s Open and Tiger was tied for the lead after a stellar 65.  While Tiger played well this week compared to his fortunes of late, it is Michelle Wie that performed like the champion she was supposed to become.

Her two under par 70 gave her a three stroke margin in her wire to wire victory.  Wie’s tournament started with an ace on the eleventh hole in round one and she continued her solid play through the week.  A string of three birdies on 13, 14 and 15 gave her a cushion that couldn’t be overcome.

This is Wie’s second professional win on The LPGA Tour but she has yet to win in America.  He first win came last season at The Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico and today’s win took place in Winnipeg Canada.  Now that she has north and south of the border covered she’ll be looking for her first win in the states the next tees it up.

This win can only mean good things for the LPGA.  With a depleted schedule and the perceived lack of a dominant American the tour needed Wie to show her stuff. Wie is turning into a force on tour and maybe she is more capable of dealing with the enormous pressure of the unfulfilled expectations as she matures as a young woman.

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The Classic 17th at The Barclays

August 29th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

I spent a few hours roaming the grounds of The Barclays on Saturday and got to see some splendid golf.  I can understand why the players like Ridgewood Country Club.  It’s a healthy challenge with tree lined fairways, strategic bunkering and severely sloped greens.  It’s a Tillinghast classic.

Matt Kuchar should hire me as his good luck charm. I watched him play four holes over two days and he birdied every one of them.  By the time Tiger had come to the tough 17th on Saturday he was three over par for the day and out of contention but that didn’t stop him from a few twirls of the chub as he birdied the uphill monster.  Dustin Johnson has birdied 17 twice in three days.  The 626 par five is playing slightly below par for the week (4.8) and could be a turning point for the leaders today.  Few golfers will play it any better than young Rickie Fowler did during his third round.  Fowler hit the wide fairway with a 306 yard drive.  With 274 yards left to the hole he hit a miraculous approach that stopped five feet from the hole.  His five foot putt gave him a text book eagle.  It’s a beautiful thing to watch.

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Phil Mickelson Misses His Chance

August 28th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The Golf Gods give and the Golf Gods take.  Unfortunately for us, the Gods were in a taking mood this week when it came to Phil Mickelson.  Philly Mick missed the cut at The Barclays after two mediocre wounds of 72 and 74.  It wasn’t pretty for Phil as he couldn’t hit a fairway (8/14) or a green (9/18).  His short stick was miserable also as he averaged 31 putts per round over his two rounds.

This is Phil’s first missed cut of the season and it comes at an inopportune time. This time of year players should be hitting their stride, not searching for their swing as the tour counts down to the Tour Championship.  Phil made the cut in all four Playoff tournaments last year culminating with his win at The Tour Championship.  He’ll need to turn it around in a hurry if he wants to earn his first FedEx Cup Championship.

Phil also lost another chance at taking over the top spot in the World Rankings.  This is the ninth consecutive week that Mickelson had a chance at supplanting Tiger Woods as the world’s top golfer.  The good news is that Phil is in no danger of missing any of the playoff events.  He’ll still be somewhere near tenth in FedEx Cup points and will probably qualify for the Tour Championship even if he skips The Deutsche Bank.  He just has to find his game and soon if he wants another win this year.

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Wie & Woods Lead, The Way It Was Supposed To Be

August 27th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

This is how leaderboards were supposed to look.  Way back in 2002 when Michelle Wie started playing in professional golf tournaments she was touted as the female Tiger Woods.  Wie was going to dominate the ladies game.  She had so much athletic talent and hit the ball a mile she was a sure bet to win everything.  Tiger was Tiger and winning titles by the dozen and tracking down Jack’s 18 major record.  It’s funny how life gets in the way while you’re busy making plans.  We all know how those expectations worked out.

This week is different.  Wie shot an amazing seven under 65, including an ace, to lead The Canadian’s Women Open.  An unmarried Tiger, relieved of the burden of his divorce negotiations, has come to life with an opening round six under 65 to share the lead at The Barclays.  Amazingly, Tiger hit 13 of 14 fairways.  His secret…he only hit driver twice.  It is performances like these that we all expected years ago.  We’ll see how the rest of the tournament plays out.  For now Woods and Wie lead and that’s something we all thought we would have been saying for years.

Check out Michelle’s ace.

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Jim Furyk Gets Screwed

August 26th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Over the past few weeks we have all seen some strange dealings with the rules of golf.  Dustin Johnson’s poor play in the bunker at The PGA, Juli Inkster’s donut and Sarah Brown getting pulled off the course for her grooves made us shake our heads and ask ”What the heck is going on here?”  Now The PGA Tour gets in the act with the “rules violation of the year.”

Jim Furyk gets disqualified for missing his Pro-Am tee time and is out of The Barclays.  Talk about killing a mosquito with a bazooka!  The rule is the rule, but the penalty is way out of line.  We all understand how important the Pro-Ams are to the tour, the sponsors and the charities.  It’s a chore that some of the pro’s hate while others embrace but they all tolerate it.  To be removed from the tournament is much too severe a penalty.

The difference with this rule is that it isn’t a USGA, written in cement, passed on through the years rule.  This is a rule made by the PGA Tour and who is the PGA Tour? It’s the Players themselves of course.  How these guys ever let this rule take effect is bewildering.  Fine the guy, make him play in the next three Pro-Ams, put Vaseline in his Foot Joys, anything, but don’t disqualify him.  As Phil Mickelson points out who does this help? The sponsors want the players to play in the tournament.  The amateurs in the Pro-Am want the players to play.  The fans pay to see the players and the players are there to play.  “If you’re going to have a rule that does not apply to everybody because not everybody played the pro-am, you cannot have it affect the competition,” Mickelson said. “…It applies to only half the field and yet it affects the integrity of the competition.”

The disqualification definitely effects the competition and to be penalized for something that essentially took place off the course is just wrong.  The players better get control of the tour and make a change.  It’s too late for Furyk who handled it well and is a true gentleman but for the next poor soul that hits the tee five minutes late there needs to be a different penalty.

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The Playoffs Start At The Barclays

August 25th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Last year at Liberty National the FedEx Cup Playoffs got off to rousing start with Heath Slocum taking down the likes of Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Paddy Harrington and Steve Stricker.  Slocum entered the 2009 Barclays at 124thplace in The FedEx Cup points list and stole the show from the big name golfers.  All he did was sink a twenty foot par putt on the eighteenth hole to win the first tournament of the playoffs.  It was a true Cinderella story and it kicked off a great string of tournaments.  The next three weeks saw Stricker, Woods and Mickelson win in succession.  If Tim Finchem could sign up for a replay of last year he would do it in a hurry.

That was then and this is now.  The Barclays has moved to a different course and Slocum is now 50th in points.  Who will be this years’ Cinderella story?  Maybe #124, Robert Garrigus will be.  Maybe David Duval at #120 will be the story.  There are 125 players trying to move on to next week and this should be an interesting week.

Phil hits balls off the aircraft carrier Intrepid in NYC

Tiger will be getting into action a little earlier than he is used to.  The start times for The Barclays are based on the FedEx Cup rankings and since Tiger is 112th he gets to be in the first group off at 7:10 am.  That’s usually a good time for his practice round but Woods is used to sleeping in a little bit longer.  There are still some that like Tiger’s chances to win but he’ll need some magic to pull himself out of the deepest funk he has ever seen.  With his divorce now final maybe Woods can find some peace of mind and put four rounds together.

If Dustin Johnson doesn’t win another tournament this season it will be a sin.  Johnson had two majors within his reach only to throw up on himself at The U.S. Open and be bunkered at The PGA Championship.  OK, so he has a win at The A.T. & T. Pebble Beach, but this guy was there for two majors on Sunday.  How about a little love for a real hot golfer, Johnson could win the whole darn thing.

Ernie Els is number one in Cup points and has two wins.  He wanted a major really bad this year and had a shot at The U.S. Open but missed his chance.  A win in the playoffs and The FedEx Cup would be a nice substitute for his missed major.

Phil Mickelson returns to the New York Metropolitan area as a “local” favorite.  No player is as loved in the New York area as Phil is.  He’ll feed off the energy of the fans and try to get all parts of his game working in sync for a change.  Phil’s season is already a success with his Masters win but he has been off his game recently.

Rory McIlroy would be a welcome champ at The Barclays.  The “young stud” could breathe some very young life into the playoffs and give Finchem the buzz that he wants.  Rory already has a win this year and has three top tens in his last three starts including third place finishes at The PGA and The Open Championship.

Quick one: Who leads the tour in actual scoring average and top ten finishes? Surprise… Matt Kuchar, that’s right, Kuchar.  Heck he has earned $2.9 million and hasn’t won this year yet.  This could be his time.  He is one of the hottest players on tour.

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Tiger & Elin Woods Divorce

August 24th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Tiger Woods and his wife, Elin Nordegren have announced through their attorneys that their divorce is final.  After ten months of scandal, speculation and rumors the two finally have a bit of closure to an utterly distasteful period of their lives.  Tiger and Elin have been separated for months and this will allow the two of them to attempt to move on and get their respective lives together.  Their statement emphasizes their commitment to their children and their desire to concentrate on their well being.

Unfortunately children are the innocent victims anytime two parents have difficulty with their relationship.  Elin will be taking her maiden name back as she enters the next chapter in her life.  Few wives have had to endure the humiliation and drama that she has had the past year.  It’s time she started her new life.

While we haven’t seen much of Elin the past months we have seen more than enough of Tiger.  He has tried to get his game back on track but his performance this year has been dismal.  Tiger finished 112th in FedEx Cup points to get him into the playoffs but he’ll need to pick it up to advance.  He’ll need to finish somewhere between 50th to 57thplace to move on the The Deutsche Bank Championship.  He’ll be trying his hardest as the DeutscheBank benefits his Tiger Woods Foundation.  If Tiger fails to play well again and misses the rest of the playoffs it may be a blessing in disguise.  He obviously has felt the effects of his personal troubles on the course.  He may be better served taking some time off and settling his life.  A few months off could be the best medicine for an ailing Tiger. He could spend some time with his children and regroup his personal life.  The 2011 season should be the start of Tiger’s new professional life and his journey towards Jack’s eighteen majors.

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Cheers to the Winners

August 23rd, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Cheers to Arjun Atwal as he parred the last to win The Wyndam Championship. He came into the tournament with nothing to lose as he had no chance at getting into the FedEx Cup playoffs.  He went out and qualified on Monday and ended up cashing the winner’s check.  He said he was playing to win and not worrying about anything else.  That certainly worked for him.  “I told my caddie, ‘We’ve got nothing to lose this week. Just go out there and try and win it,”’ Atwal said. “Guys are going to be out there trying to secure their FedEx Cup spots or whatever. We’ve got nothing. I don’t have a card. I don’t have anything. Just go out there and freewheel it, and that’s what I did this week.”

Cheers to Ai Miyazato for winning The Safeway Classic on Sunday and claiming her fifth victory of the 2010 season.  The Japanese golfer also stepped back into the top spot in The Rolex Rankings as the number one women’s golfer in the world. Cristie Kerr was gaining on her but rinsed her ball on the 18th and settled for a tie for second.  Miyazato has owned the LPGA this year.

Cheers to Fred Funk for winning The Jeld-Wen Tradition and completing his come back from severe knee problems. This is Funks second victory there in three years and a fitting climax to his season.  He has battled knee issues for two years and to see the Funkmaster take home the trophy is really great.  “I really like this golf course, and I really like this area. Obviously, it’s been good to me,” said Funk.

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