by Jeff Skinner
The LPGA is finally back in action this week as the ladies are in Oregon at beautiful Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club for the Safeway Classic. After a three week layoff the tour could use a little shot in the arm to get back in the America’s sports consciousness. Unfortunately the ladies look to have a dud on their hands.
America’s golfing sweetheart, Paula Creamer missed the cut as she is still feeling the effects of thumb surgery. The very popular Cristina Kim and Morgan Pressel miss the cut also and Michelle Wie is back in the pack. To top it off fan favorite and Hall of Famer Juli Inkster gets disqualified. That’s right Juli Inkster gets DQ’d for using a training aid during the round. Of all people to get fouled up by such a simple rule, Inkster has been on tour for 27 years and should know better. To make matters worse she was in contention and tied for second place in the tournament.
During a lengthy wait at the tenth tee she put a weighted donut on her club to help her stay loose. It was clear violation of the rules but no one caught it until an e-mail was sent to the LPGA by a television viewer. I am sure Inkster wasn’t thrilled but I bet Commissioner Michael Whan was a little peeved too. Here is a chance to get the tour rolling again and it falls flat. Well, I guess every week can’t be a Paula Creamer win.
by Jeff Skinner
You have to give President Obama some credit. Not just because he is The President and the most powerful man on earth but because he really never backs away from a challenge. Such was the case on Friday when he decided to hit the links again while on vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.
The First Golfer played a round of golf on what many call the toughest golf course on the island, Vineyard Golf Club. This is a President that loves to play. He always plays a few times while on vacation and makes it a point to find a way to get a round or two in while he is in Washington.
He has some game too; this isn’t some ceremonial, recreational hacker. He plays a good game. Some of the pros on the Vineyard said he has good distance off the tee and is an accurate iron player. His downfall is his putter. The short stick has no political allegiance. It frustrates Democrats and Republicans alike.
by Jeff Skinner
So the PGA Tour kicks back into gear today at The Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina. The boys will be trying to earn enough FedEx Cup points to qualify for next week’s Barclays.
Fred Couples has made a strange decision. He has opted out of the Champions Tour Jeld-Wen Tradition in Oregon, a senior major, to play in North Carolina. At 164th on the FedEx Cup list he would need a really great finish to qualify for the playoffs. But, Freddy being Freddy offered his explanation to The Golf Channel last night. He said he has been spending time with his girlfriend in Charlotte so he decided to stay local instead of making the cross country flight (even though next week he’s playing in Seattle). Ah, the power of love. Fred has always walked to his own beat and this week is no different. It must be love for Freddy in North Carolina.
by Jeff Skinner
Lost in all the commotion surrounding Dustin Johnson’s bunker-gate on Sunday at The PGA Championship was an exceptional round of golf played by Jeff Overton. The Ryder Cup rookie went out first, as a single when Ian Poulter withdrew and proceeded to set a PGA Championship record. His 79 will never qualify as a scoring record but Overton was able to get around the hills and dunes of Whistling Straights in 2 hours and 9 minutes. The PGA says he broke the old record of 2 hours and 10 minutes held by Phil Blackmaar. That’s moving pretty fast, granted, he wasn’t really concerned about going low after going three over par after four holes but that is one quick round.
Most hackers can’t get through nine holes in 2 Hours and 9 minutes much less 18. He had to be running around that course. 129 minutes with 79 shots, that’s one swing every 1.6 minutes or a shot every 98 seconds. That’s absolutely amazing. We all should take a lesson from Overton. Play fast and enjoy.
by Jeff Skinner
The dust has settled at Whistling Straights, or should I say the sand has settled, and we are left with another first time major winner in the very deserving Martin Kaymer. We also have the bulk of the 2010 Ryder Cup Team complete as The PGA Championship was the last opportunity to earn points. Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan, Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Jeff Overton and Matt Kuchar all earned enough points to earn an their way onto the team.
Now the fun starts for Captain Corey Pavin. He gets four Captain’s Picks and he may have a difficult time in selecting his remaining four players. With Tiger Woods declaring that he would play if selected as a pick Pavin has to pick him. I know he is playing like dog crap but he still is the world number one and he has a lot of support on that team. The other choices could give Pavin some pause. Anthony Kim is just back playing and his thumb may present a problem. Pavin has said he’ll announce his picks on September 7th so that gives Kim some more time to shake off the rust and heal. He is a Ryder Cup stud and his enthusiasm would be a great asset for the team. If Lucas Glover doesn’t miss the cut at The PGA he’s on the team. He still warrants a pick. Zach Johnson has been one of the most consistent players on tour and would be a fine choice. Other players worth considering are Bo van Pelt and Stewart Cink. Both have played well and would require that Pavin go off the board, below the twelve top point earners.
Maybe Pavin has a wild card pick like adding Rickie Fowler to get the “skater” crowd to follow The Ryder Cup. If he wants to annoy the Europeans he could pick the slow playing Ben Crane to get the Euros off their game. All that talk about Tom Watson or Fred Couples being selected for the team is just that: talk. That’s not happening.
From my perspective if Pavin just took the top twelve point earners he would have a solid team and few could argue with that. He could also follow Paul Azinger’s method for picking the lucky four. Zinger let the players that earned their way on select the four Captain’s Picks. That’s such a great way to do it. I am shocked it took this long for a captain to do it that way. It worked out pretty good for Zinger and his boys didn’t it.
by Jeff Skinner
The closing holes of The PGA Championship were some of the most exciting of the entire major season. It looked like the 2010 major season would end with a bang. Unfortunately, the day ended with resounding thud as Dustin Johnson’s mishap in a “bunker” deflated what was to be a spectacular finish.
The day started strangely. It looked like the U.S. Open with the leader stumbling out of the gate. When leader Nick Watney opened with a double bogey and went three over par after just four holes he was done for the day. As play wound down to the conclusion it looked to be one of the most exciting finishes in major championship history. Sure, there was no Tiger or Phil in the hunt but there were a half dozen players in position to take the 92nd PGA Championship.
Bubba Watson had birdied 13, 14 and 16 to get to five under for the day and get back in the race. Martin Kaymer had played flawless golf and was as solid as any player on the course until a bogey on 15. Zach Johnson had a birdie putt on 18 to get to 11 under and join the playoff. Rory McIlroy could have been around for the playoff if he had birdied one of his last two holes. Dustin Johnson looked like he was ready to claim the major that he squandered at Pebble Beach. Even Steve Elkington was making noise until consecutive bogeys on 17 and 18 left him two strokes short of the playoff. The stage was set for a wild finish and it looked like the young guns were going to claim another major.
Johnson had a one stroke lead when his tee ball at 18 went horribly right. His iron from the sandy lie went short and left of the green into deep rough. With Watson and Kaymer in the house at 11 under Johnson needed to get up and down from the thick rough to win his first major championship. Johnson’s short game gets overlooked because of his tremendous length but he has a great touch and landed the ball about eight feet from the hole. When he addressed the putt he and all of us thought he was putting for the title. When he missed he was ready to go to the play off with Kaymer and Watson. That’s when he was told of his rules violation in the “bunker” during his second shot on eighteen.
As Johnson and the PGA officials sorted things out the air seeped out of the PGA Championship’s balloon. When Kaymer and Watson teed off to start the three hole playoff the focus was on Johnson and his unlucky break in that so called bunker. To say the playoff was anti-climatic is an understatement. It almost seemed like an afterthought. This isn’t to take anything away from Kaymer. He is a very good player and a class guy. With five European tour wins and a major at 25 years old he will be a force to be reckoned with on all the tours. Kaymer played well and was the last man standing on a grueling day over a difficult course. He beat the strongest field of the year and we’ll see him on the European Ryder Cup Team.
Martin Kaymer’s win continued the trend of first time, young golfers capturing major championship. The youth movement is alive and well in golf.
Kaymer may well be the games next superstar but his first major will forever be remembered as the one where Dustin Johnson got screwed when he grounded his club on a patch of sand that was surrounded by fans and The PGA called a bunker.
Does this look like a bunker?
by Jeff Skinner
I know a rule is a rule but how the heck can you tell if you’re in a bunker when thousands of people are standing in it. Dustin Johnson gets penalized on the final hole of the PGA Championship for grounding his club in what could best be described as the “remnants of a bunker” to the right of the 18th fairway. We all know the rule, no grounding your club in a bunker, but come on. No one could tell that was a bunker, not Johnson, not his caddy, not David Feherty or Jim Nantz and Sir Talks-a lot Faldo had no idea either and they were looking at it from the overhead shot. All you saw was a splash of sand and a path ten feet wide that the fans had cleared to allow Johnson to play. The “bunker” in question was so far out of play it was behind the gallery and bore no resemblance to a real bunker.
The PGA rules committee broke the news to Johnson that he would be assessed a two stroke penalty and his 71 that tied for a three man playoff was now 73 and he would finish tied for fifth. Give Johnson some credit, he handled it with class. David Feherty tracked him down in the locker room and he said “It never crossed my mind that it was a bunker…I thought it was a piece of dirt that the crowd trampled down.” This episode is especially tragic when you consider that Johnson blew his lead at The U.S Open and now had his chance at redemption taken from him. He showed plenty of class when he said, “I just have to deal with it.”
by Jeff Skinner
Sergio Garcia has started his “break from golf” since he missed the cut at The PGA Championship and has said he’ll not play for two months. Actually, he started his break a long time ago even though he has been on the course he hasn’t been playing for a long time. With Sergio at home in Spain he should reach out to his friends for help in getting through this difficult time. I know another golfer that could use a break and really hasn’t been playing golf for a few months either. Sergio should give his old buddy Tiger Woods a call.
Who needs a break more than Tiger? Nobody, not even Sergio. The two of them could hang out and help each other through these difficult times. Sergio could teach Tiger the subtleties of soccer and maybe knock back a few Michelob Lights. Tiger is a big hoops fan so he could work on Sergio’s three point shot and maybe bring over some of his old “Tiger-Ade” since we can’t get it in the stores any longer.
They say Sergio has been in his slump since he broke up with his girlfriend, Morgan Norman. Well, we all know that Tiger knows plenty of women and with one phone call he could hook Sergio up. The two of them are young, good looking, single (well practically single) and they could be having a ball. Who needs golf? They both have millions and plenty of other diversions.
This could be where Sergio actually fulfills his potential that we all saw when he challenged Tiger at the 1999 PGA Championship. When he literally chased Tiger down the fairway there he was labeled as Tiger’s next challenger. We all know how that went. Tiger 14 majors, Sergio zip. But it all doesn’t have to be about wins, it can be about fun too.
Imagine how much fun those two could have together. Forget swinging the clubs and go out and party in the clubs. They could exchange tips on how to handle the media and finally ignite the rivalry that for so long has been missing. Tiger and Sergio are two guys looking for their game in different places. Maybe they could use each other’s company to find it.
by Jeff Skinner
After two days of a stuttering start The PGA Championship finally started to look like a real golf tournament on Saturday. With some golfers finishing their second round early Saturday morning the sky cleared to give the players a clear and fogless view of Whistling Straights. While the tournament may now look like a major, the leaderboard looks like anything but a major championship. Five of the top six names on the leaderboard are under thirty and the only one that isn’t is from China, that’s right, China.
Twenty nine year old Nick Watney shot an impressive 66 to take a three stroke lead over Dustin Johnson (26) and Rory McIlroy (21) who both shot 67. Thirty two year old Wenchong Liang from China shot a new course record 64 to vault up the leaderboard and land in a tie for fourth with Jason Day and Martin Kaymer.
None of these golfers have won a major and leaderboards like this may well be the future of golf. Watney has been playing well with two top tens in his last three starts including a tie for seventh at The Open Championship. Dustin Johnson once again will be in the final group at a major as he was when he blew his lead at The U.S. Open. Rory McIlroy is trying to become the youngest major winner in fifty years at twenty one and would a win for him put a much younger face on major championship golf.
If these young guns are to falter there is some major winners lurking. At five strokes back are PGA Champion Steve Elkington, Masters Champ Zach Johnson and U.S. Open Champion Jim Furyk. With Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson still off their form and out of contention a showdown between these “youngsters” could be a blessing. There are many good, young golfers on tour that are vying to be the next major champion. Sunday’s final round at Whistling Straights will give these guys their chance at making history.