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Q & A, 2011 Golf Season

December 31st, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The guys over at Golf.com have ended this year by answering 11 Questions for ’11: Who, What, Why in 2011.” Michael Bamberger, Alan Shipnuck, and Gary Van Sickle give their answers and predictions for some intriguing questions for the 2011 golf season.  Their opinions are certainly interesting and worth a read but here is what we all really want to know: my perspective on their 2011 questions.  Read on my friends and enjoy this New Year’s Weekend.  Our 2011 golf season is just around the cold, wintry corner.

  1. Have we seen the end of the Tiger Woods era? Absolutely not.  Right now Tiger and Sean Foley are in their laboratory cooking up that new swing formula.  Woods is too good a golfer and athlete not to be a major force in golf.  While we may never see the dominance Woods displayed in 2000 he will surely win again.  He’ll have more issues with his mental side of the game than with his physical.  Regardless of his play he’ll still be the tours’ and the networks’ biggest draw as long as he wants to play.
  2. 2. If not Tiger, who will be No.1? I think we will have multiple number ones in 2001.  Westwood for sure and Martin Kaymer will very likely have some weeks in the top spot.  Will Phil take a turn?  I am not too sure about Philly Mick claiming number one.  He’ll need to win The Masters again and maybe another major.  He just does not play as much as a guy like Kaymer so he’ll have to finish high in each start.
  3. 3. With the schedule shrinking, a new TV contract looming and the European Tour gaining strength, what’s the prognosis for long term-health of the PGA Tour? Considering the economic environment the PGA Tour is doing fairly well.  Some creative thinking involving expansion in Asia and maybe some negotiations with the European Tour are in order.  The Euro’s are stronger and more visible than ever and it would be advantageous to have as many of the “world’s best” playing tour events.
  4. 4. Is Phil Mickelson the new King of Augusta? Absolutely.  With three wins at Bobby’s place he owns that course.  Forget that he knows each inch of that course as well as anyone who ever played there, including Nicklaus, Phil owns Augusta and its fans, excuse me, patrons.  Phil is the fan favorite wherever he tees it up but Augusta is extra special for him.  The support he get there is unrivaled and worth a few shots per round.  Watch for him to get his fourth green jacket in 2011.
  5. 5. Can Americans take back the LPGA Tour? That’s not happening.  The US has many interesting players but the sheer number of top Asia players is overwhelming.  Unfortunately, the US golf fans are color blind.  They only see red, white and blue and that is regrettable.  There are many interesting foreign players on the LPGA but U.S. fans refuse to embrace them.  However, there is a simple answer to this question: Michelle Wie.  Wie is the only woman playing that moves the needle in the states.  When she plays people watch.  When she wins a lot of people watch.  There is still plenty of time for her to win, she’s only 21.
  6. 6. Now that they’re 30, can Sergio Garcia or Adam Scott be relevant again? Scott showed sign of regaining his old form, especially with his putter so yes; he can compete with the big boys.  Is there is a player more in need of an effective mental coach than Sergio?  He needs help with those five inches between his ears.  Without it he is done.
  7. 7. With the U.S. Open heading to Congressional Country Club, and hard-core golfers running the executive and legislative branches and taxpayer-owned GM reentering the sponsorship biz, will Washington finally embrace golf again? If they don’t it’s their own fault.  Congressional is a great place and with Obama playing more than any president since Ike, Washington is ripe for golf resurgence.  Here’s a thought: get Obama to play in the Golf Digest US Open Challenge.  Have Barrack put his game to the test on the Open layout with Justin Timberlake, Michael Jordan and say, Halle Berry.  He would be more effective there then he is with Congress.
  8. 8. Do aging multiple champions Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Padriag Harrington and Vijay Singh have one last hurray in them? I think all of them could win a regular event somewhere in the world again.  But a major win is a different story.  Ernie played well last year and is capable of another major and Paddy could compete also if he would stick with one swing.  Goose needs to find that putter again before he’ll get another and Vijay may be toast.  He’s hit more balls than anybody and it may be catching up with him.
  9. Does Fred Couples care enough to usurp Bernhard Langer as the dominant player on the Champions Tour? In a word, no. Freddy plays golf because that is what he does.  He wins some and loses some and cares about them equally.  Langer plays because he wants to win.  He’s motivated.  Freddy gets plenty of press for his laid back, fan friendly style.  Langer gets trophies.
  10. Will the Olympic golf movement gain momentum? In other parts of the world that have yet to have a deeply rooted golf culture there may be some interest. As far as the U.S. goes there isn’t much that can happen.  As we have seen if it isn’t Tiger or Phil, it is just the hard-core golf fans that are interested.  I don’t see the Olympics doing much for golf in the U.S. in 2011.
  11. Now that Martin Kaymer is old news, who is the next big thing? If 2010 showed anything it showed us that we have a great crop of golfers under 30.  Dustin Johnson may be the best of the Americans and with Rory, Ryo, AK and Rickie there is no shortage of possible superstars ready to break out.  But my two best bets for a fascinating year in 2011 are Matteo Manassero and Alexis Thompson.  Manassero won on the Euro Tour at 17 and plays like a veteran but with the enthusiasm of a teenager. I hope he’ll bring his game over to the US so we can all get a view of him up close.  Alexis Thompson will turn 16 in February and has already asked the LPGA for six more sponsor exemptions so she can play more on the tour.  If Commissioner Michael Whan wants a big shot in the arm for his tour, he’ll figure out a way to get Thompson playing while not offending his current members.  She’ll be playing somewhere in the world so it may as well be the LPGA.  She is a much fun to watch as any golfer out there and it would be bad for the LPGA to lose her to another foreign tour.

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App State Trick Golf

December 30th, 2010 No comments

Check out the kids at Appalachian State.  Thank god they golf better than they dance.

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College Bowls Gives Us More Golf

December 29th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Although the golf season may be over for some it is just beginning for others.  For high profile division one college football coaches playing any golf during the season is rarely possible.  But with the long break between their last game and the bowl games they can sneak in a few holes.  Such is the case with the Chick-Fil-A Bowl Challenge Charity Golf Tournament.

It is a charity tournament that matches coaches and famous alumni in two man teams against their rivals trying to win scholarship money for their colleges.  It’s just what a golf fanatic like South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier needs about now.   Teams from twelve ACC and SEC schools teed it up against each other.  It will be on ESPN 2 today at 5:00 pm.

If you want to watch it without knowing the winners stop reading here, as I have posted the winners below the ad.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher teamed with alum Terrell Buckley for a 7 under par 65 to win the tournament.  They bested Georgia Tech by one stroke and South Carolina by two.

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Perfect Weather for Daydream Golf

December 28th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

This is the time of year when golf and golf news is sparse and playing golf is nothing but a dream.  The pro tours are quiet and if you live in the Northeast, as I do, the only golfing you’ll be able to do is in your daydreams.  This is the time when you are sure that every swing you make will be perfect, each drive will split the fairway and every putt will roll dead center into the cup.  This is “Daydream Golf.”

There are no double bogeys in Daydream Golf.  The ball flies straight as each swing sends it screaming off the clubhead with that professional sounding “thwack.” It draws on command and always settles on a level lie.  Your wedges have the accuracy of a surgeon, always flying to the green and never failing to spin back towards the hole.

Hazards and bunkers never come into play in Daydream Golf.  The course is perfect and the sun is warm and inviting.  Plays moves quickly as you and your buddies are the only ones on the course with no back up at par threes or foursome of dawdlers ahead of you.

There is never any doubt as to which club to hit and you prove each selection correct with a machine like result.  This is when you shoot the round of the century.  This is where the “Vision 54” followers reign supreme.  You know you can birdie each hole, a 54 is well within your reach.  Heck, with an eagle or two you’ll threaten a 52.  This is Daydream Golf and anything isn’t just possible it’s probable.

It is twenty degrees here and we all just finished digging out from a foot of snow.  The forecast is for cold and more cold and two more months of winter.  You’ll have to excuse me, I am playing 36 today.  The Old Course and Pebble Beach await.  It’s perfect weather for Daydream Golf.

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Merry Christmas From LinksLifeGolf

December 25th, 2010 No comments

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Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night!

December 24th, 2010 No comments

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Two Words for the 2010 Golf Season: Tiger Woods

December 23rd, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

If you were asked to use only two words to describe the 2010 PGA season they would have to be “Tiger Woods.”  The entire season was one Tiger Soap Opera after another.  It actually started in 2009 with the fire hydrant that brought down a champion.

The “Tiger watch” started on that Friday following Thanksgiving and hit high gear at his “apology press conference” then catapulted into hyper-drive upon his return at The Masters.  It wasn’t a pretty sight, on the course as well as off.  Woods tried his best to act like his game was not affected by his off course escapades but it obviously was.  Throughout his year it was plain to see that the great one was taken down a notch or two.

Tiger’s mediocre play allowed others to shine and we ended up with a most unique mixture of major champions.  Phil did his best to jumpstart the year at Augusta.  Graeme McDowell started his “Stud of the Year” campaign at Pebble Beach.  Louis Oosthuizen shocked the world at The Open Championship and Martin Kaymer hung on to win The PGA Championship.  If Tiger is, well, Tiger he probably wins at least one of those but as we all witnessed he wasn’t Tiger at all.

Last year everyone from Jack Nicklaus to this writer thought Woods would take a few more steps towards Jack’s major record.  With his shutout in 2010 holding him at 14 majors, 2011 has become an even more significant year for Woods.  If Woods can’t find his game and manage a major championship win in 2011 he’ll have gone over two full years without a major.  He’s 36 and in a desperate search for his swing.  It’s not a position where Woods ever thought he would be.

Tiger is busy with swing coach Sean Foley rebuilding a swing that can give Tiger the type of game he used to play.  Every time he stepped on the tee he was brimming with confidence.  Now, he has no idea where his ball his going.  They used to say about Jack Nicklaus that when he teed off he knew he was going to beat you.  You knew he was going to beat you and he knew that you knew he was going to beat you.  That’s how it was for Tiger, but not any longer.

2011 will be a bigger test for Woods than 2010.  With his divorces from Elin and Hank Haney settled he has no personal excuses and he is now free to play golf.  We’ll see if Woods and Foley can rebuild his swing and allow him to contend with the best in the world.  He’s at a crossroads in his professional life.  He can only hope that there are no more fire hydrants in his way.

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Norman & Couples Talk Presidents Cup

December 22nd, 2010 No comments

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Manual De Los Santos Finds Peace On The Course

December 21st, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Every now and then we come across a story that isn’t just about golf, it’s really about life.  We ran a piece on Manual De Los Santos earlier this season and Golf Digest has provided another video on this amazing young man.  He lost his leg in a motorcycle accident and found golf when he watched “The Legend of Bagger Vance.”  Like many of us he finds peace on the golf course,” When I feel bad, I go to the golf course, I find my second leg. I forget my problems.” You can’t say it any better than that.

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A Little Love at the 2012 Ryder Cup

December 20th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

It looks like we can start the count to Medinah and the 2012 Ryder Cup.  Word has hit the street that Davis Love III will be asked to captain the Americans when they try to get that elusive trophy back from those pesky Europeans.  The U.S. has only managed two wins in the last eight tries at The Cup.  Love was hoping to play himself onto another Ryder Cup Team but he’ll be more than willing to accept the captaincy when The PGA of America asks.

Love fits all the criteria The PGA looks for when selecting a captain.  He is a very successful PGA Tour player with 20 career wins.  He has plenty of Ryder Cup experience as he played in six matches and accumulated a 9-12-5 overall record and he served as an assistant captain to Corey Pavin this year.  He is an adamant supporter of the Ryder Cup and he even has the major championship that the folks at The PGA of America regard as the most significant.  Love won The PGA Championship in 1997.

The Ryder Cup has grown into one of the biggest, if not the biggest, event in professional golf.  Love will need a steady hand, some thick skin and a wee bit of good fortune if he is to reclaim what has become the most coveted trophy in golf.

The Winning 1999 Ryder Cup Team

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