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Archive for January, 2011

Nicklaus & Watson Win Again

January 31st, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Old major champions don’t fade away; they just go on to The Skins Game and keep on winning.  Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson teamed up to edge Bernhard Langer and Mark O’Meara by ten thousand dollars in The Champions Skins Game in Hawaii.

With five skins on the line the greatest player of all time stiffed a six iron to ten feet on the par three seventeenth.  Nicklaus’ partner, Tom Watson stroked in the birdie putt to give them the win and a successful defense of their 2010 title.

It was Jack’s fifth win at The Champions Skins Game and the fourth for Tom. It never gets old watching Nicklaus and Watson.

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Hits & Misses From Torrey Pines

January 31st, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Hits….

Bubba Watson validated his Travelers win with a big win over a very good field on a very large stage.  He is a feel player that can really hang with the big guys.

Phil Mickelson is Phil Mickelson; he teases us every time he tees it up.  A lip out putt was all that separated him from Bubba but he put on quite a show and is happy for a great start to his season.

Jhonattan Vegas proved he has a bit of staying power.  With all that comes with a first win it wouldn’t have been surprising to see him fade or even miss a cut but he proved he can play with the big boys.

Dustin Johnson had a great final round at six under and moved to a T3 finish.

The round of the day went to Nick Watney with an opening nine holes at eight under par (he started on the back nine).  He went on to shoot a 63 which ties the course record since it was redone for the 2001 US Open.  Watney vaulted up fifty places to finish T60.

Misses…

Tiger Woods opened the 2011 season with his worst debut in his career.  He had never finished out of the top ten as a pro at Torrey Pines.  He had won his last five times there but his last two rounds totaled five over par and left him T44.  Woods showed no consistency in any facet of his game and realizes he is still a work in progress.  “I have some work to do,” Woods said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Bill Haas who started tied for the lead bogeyed two of the first four holes and never had a chance after that.  Even with his poor showing on Sunday he has opened the season with three top tens, that’s still pretty darn good.

Anthony Kim had a chance to get in the mix but his round of 72 was not good enough to be in it at the end.

Hunter Mahan opened with a double bogey and never had a chance after that.

The biggest miss of the day was by CBS Sports.  We had to wait until the Duke/St. Johns game finished until they switched to coverage from Torrey Pines.  You have to be kidding me.  Who made that call?  Maybe the execs at CBS had a few bills on the game.

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Bubba Wins as Phil’s Magic Fails

January 30th, 2011 1 comment

by Jeff Skinner

The Farmers Insurance Open proved to be just what we all wanted it to be.  It went right down to the last hole with Phil Mickelson making the last putt.  However, that last putt was just one shot too many as Phil had to settle for second place while Bubba Watson claimed his second PGA Tour win in seven months.

Bubba brought the Torrey Pines par fives to their knees as he birdied all four of them today on his way to a five under par 67.  His only missed the fairway on one par five but his prodigious length off the tee allowed him to get the ball close enough to the greens to make birdies seem like a given.  He had birdie putts of four feet, two feet, two inches and the most pressure packed putt of all at eighteen was a twelve footer that sealed the tournament.  Watson had a simple formula for winning in Phil’s backyard.  He led the tournament in driving distance and greens in regulation.   If your putter is anywhere near average, and Bubba’s was better than average, that combination will put plenty of hardware in your trophy case.

Phil made an admirable charge with a key birdie at seventeen to bring him to one behind Watson.  He came to eighteen realistically needing an eagle to win and hope that Watson did no better than par.  When Phil’s drive sailed wide left he felt he had no shot at keeping his three wood on the green so he elected to lay up.  Then Watson made an incredible up and down from the left greenside bunker for his birdie to go two up on Phil as he watched from the fairway.  Phil now stood 73 yards away and needed to hole this shot for an eagle to tie.  Phil wasn’t about to give up.  After walking to the green to survey the situation he had Bones tend the flag.  He’s a showman for sure and he was about to give his hometown crowd a little bit more theater.  Bones pulled the stick as Phil’s ball flew towards the green and for a second it looked as if he may have pulled it off.  He almost jarred it as the ball hit about eight inches left of the hole, pitched forward but as we waited for it to spin in the hole it stopped four feet away.  Phil the magician had failed to pull off his final trick but the crowd left satisfied with a very thrilling show.  Leave it to Phil for such dramatics but the truth is he almost holed his wedge for the tie.  (See Phil’s near miss here.)

Bubba Watson played the best of any of the leaders on the final day.  Anthony Kim, Bill Haas and Hunter Mahan had poor rounds and slipped down the leaderboard but Phil and Jhonattan Vegas gave Watson all he could handle.  Playing with Watson, Vegas had a chance until he put his ball in the pond at eighteen and his hopes were drowned as his ball sank to the bottom.

Watson was emotional afterward as he spoke of his dad who he lost last year and his mom who is his biggest fan.  He played championship golf and beat a championship field and the way he feels they’ll be many more championships to come.

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Emotional Watson Wins at Torrey Pines

January 30th, 2011 No comments

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Phil Headlines a Great Final at The Farmers

January 30th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

I don’t know who is more thrilled right now: Phil Mickelson, his fans or the executives at CBS Sports.  Having Phil tied for the lead and headlining the last group off the tee is the just what CBS wanted.  The only thing missing from a TV exec’s wish list is Tiger Woods.  Woods failed to live up to his end of the bargain with an inconsistent round of 74 on Saturday and is tied for 24th.

With Phil in the lead the fans and CBS are sure to be pressed up against those HD TV’s as Phil makes a run at his first PGA Tour win of 2011 and his 39th overall.  Phil is in the middle of one of his patented magic acts: he is tied for 72nd in Driving Accuracy (of 79 players) but amazingly he is tied for second in Greens in Regulation. It does not matter that he can’t hit a fairway because no matter where his tee ball lands he the finds the green.

With the exception of Woods, we can’t ask for a more exciting group of players that will threaten Phil today.  In the final group along with Phil are Bill Haas and Hunter Mahan.  Haas is one of the hottest PGA Tour golfers of late with an eighth place finish and a second after losing in a playoff last week.  He won twice last season and has quietly become one of the best “twentysomethings” on tour.  Hunter Mahan has the game to win anywhere and is also coming off a year with two victories.  He is another of the younger players that is expected to take over the reins from Phil and Tiger.

In the penultimate grouping is a trio of exciting and interesting young studs that easily could keep the “twitter generation” texting and twittering about golf for years to come.  “King of Twitter” himself, Bubba Watson sits one stroke off the lead and he hopes to put a Twitpic on Twitter of himself holding the trophy sometime this evening.  Watson has a strong following among younger fans but plays an old school game as he has become a premier shaper of the golf ball. If he hits it straight, it’s a mistake.  Anthony Kim is the second member of this group and according to Kim he has rededicated himself to golf.  Kim was one of the new generation that was supposed to take over the tour from Tiger but until Kim won again last season the thought was that he liked the nightlife too much to contend.  Kim says he is more focused and here is a perfect opportunity to prove it.  The third member of the next to last group may be the most interesting of them all.  Rookie Jhonattan Vegas is still basking in the glow of his win at The Bob Hope Classic last week.  Vegas burst onto The PGA Tour with a game that belies his years and a name that transcends golf, Johnny Vegas.  Like it or not, he’ll be called Johnny Vegas forever and he has created so much excitement on tour he’s the latest and greatest story out there.  His ability to focus this week and still be in contention shows that Vegas, at least for the moment, has what it takes to mix it up with the big boys.

Today has the potential to be a wonder day for the PGA Tour and its latest champion.  Any of the aforementioned players would be a great champion but no doubt the heart of America is pulling for Phil Mickelson.  The Arnold Palmer of this generation of golfers, Phil is the most beloved player on the course.  He’ll be the favorite today by both his golf ranking and emotionally.  Many fans and CBS for that matter are hoping for another Philly Mick win and another emotional moment for Phil and his family behind the eighteenth green.

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Casey Rules in Kingdom of Bahrain

January 30th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

With a six foot putt on the final green Paul Casey hung on to win The Volvo Champions in Bahrain.  Peter Hanson and Casey were tied going into the eighteenth but Hanson failed to make par from a greenside bunker and all Casey needed was a par for the victory.  Hanson finished tied for second with forty six year old Miguel Angel Jimenez.  Jimenez continues to prove that he is still a force on the European Tour despite being twice as old as many of the players he competes against.

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Kingdom of Bahrain: The European Tours Latest Sandbox

January 29th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The European Tour isn’t afraid to take its tournaments to new locations.  They’ll go anywhere that promises to pay the purse.  This week they are in The Kingdom of Bahrain, another of the wealthy little countries that builds golf courses in the middle of their desert.  You know where it is…it’s right up the road Abu Dhabi and a short hop from Qatar.

On the course today at The Volvo Champions, Paul Casey shot 67 to move up four slots and tie Peter Hanson for the lead at 16 under.  The Coolest Guy in Golf, Miguel Angel Jimenez, was back playing with a new putter after finishing yesterdays round putting with his sand wedge after he “accidentally” broke his putter.  He only managed three birdies and has fallen two shots of the lead which he shared yesterday.  Maybe he should go back to his sand wedge and start dropping some more putts. Stay thirsty my friends.

Area: 665 sq km
Population: 698,585 (including over 230,000 expatriates)
Capital City: Manama (Al Manamah)
People: Arab, Muslim majority, of whom some 33% are Sunni and 66% are Shia
Languages: Arabic is the official language; English is widely spoken and is the main commercial language
Religion(s): Islam is the state religion; places of worship for other faiths exist
Currency: Bahraini Dinar (BD); 1 Bahraini Dinar = 1,000 fils (tied to the US dollar)
Major political parties: Political Parties are officially banned but Political Associations have been allowed to expand. These include Islamic groupings (Sunni and Shi’a), as well as secular and liberal associations.
Government: Monarchy with appointed upper and elected lower chambers of Parliament
Head of State: His Majesty Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa
Crown Prince: His Highness Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa
Prime Minister: His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa
Deputy Prime Ministers: His Excellency Shaikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa, His Excellency Jawad Al-Arrayed, His Excellency Shaikh Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa
Foreign Minister: His Excellency Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa
Membership of international groups/organisations: Arab League, Gulf Co-operation Council, Organisation of the Islamic Conference, United Nations

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Friday Afternoon Nine

January 28th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

No mattter where he goes he’s a star. The Coolest Guy in Golf, Miguel Angel Jimenez shares the lead at The Volvo Golf Champions and he does it with a flourish.  It seems the 46 year old was a little upset at his putter and slammed it enough to break the darn thing. He finished his last five holes putting with a lob wedge, and managed to birdie 3 of his last 4 holes.  What a character.  Stay thirsty my friends.

The US PGA and The European PGA have come up with a new, shared logo.  It looks pretty cool and will be used by both teams in addition to their own logos.  It’s a great idea that is long overdue.

You have to love the pairings at Torrey Pines.  Putting Tiger with Rocco was brilliant and throwing Tiger’s homeboy, Anthony Kim in with them made for a nice group.  Phil got the same treatment when they put his buddy Dustin Johnson alongside him and Justin Rose.  Great idea for all the fans!

Nothing like a youth movement on the PGA tour as 24 year old Sunghoon Kang leads at Torrey. The rookie from South Korea hopes to give Rickie Fowler and the other young studs a run for their money.

Speaking of Fowler, how about his deal with Golf Digest.  He signed on as a playing editor.  With Tiger’s departure Golf Digest must have needed another stud to fill out its lineup.

Ryan Ballangee of Pro Golf talk is walking the aisles of The PGA Merchandise show, and asking what we all want to see. Check it out and tell him, Natalie Gulbis of course.

John Daly’s pants, what can I say?

Golf Week has a great page on The PGA Merchandise Show. Click here and your in Orlando.

Saving the best for last, Amy Mickelson walked 18 holes with her hubby on Thursday. It was the first time since her diagnosis that she was able to follow Phil for the day. “This is huge for me,” she said. “It’s just so fun to be out here. Of course, I watched all of Phil’s rounds on TV, but it’s not the same as being here.”  It’s wonderful to see Amy back on the course.  All the best to her and all her family.

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Tiger, Phil & Big John Daly, Back at Torrey Pines

January 28th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

It was a picture perfect, postcard, chamber of commerce day in San Diego yesterday as the PGA Tour roamed the courses of Torrey Pines.  The Farmers insurance Open usually gets a lot of buzz because it marks the season debut of the two most popular players in the world.  Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson played their much anticipated first PGA Tour rounds of the year and neither disappointed.  Tiger posted a respectable three under 69 on the North Course and was happy with the way he played.  Phil shot a five under 67 on the more difficult South Course for the low score of the day on the South.

Phil and Tiger are not only the most popular golfers in the world but they are also storylines 1 and 1A in the golf world.  Pick which is more compelling: Tiger coming back from the most embarrassing, self destructive year in sport or Phil, looking to add to his major title count after a year full of emotional trials as his wife and mom deal with breast cancer and he was diagnosed with arthritis.  Both are significant back stories in golf this season and having them play well here is great for the tour.  We’ll see if they can keep it up and make some new memories on a course they both love so much.

To me the most intriguing score of the day was posted by Big John Daly.  Daly tied for low round of the day on the South Course, which plays two shots tougher than the north, when he shot five under 67.  Daly in the mix can only mean a bit more excitement at The Farmers; hopefully it will be on the course.  Last year Daly had an emotional meltdown while playing here and actually told his “Being John Daly” Golf Channel producers that he was done, quitting the game.  His 2010 season was full of ups and downs and left him frustrated and still looking for a way to get into tournaments.

As usual Daly can’t go anywhere without shooting himself in the foot and then shoving that foot in his mouth.  After his round yesterday he lit into two tournaments that denied him exemptions.

“I’ll tell you this: I’ll never go back to the Hope and I’ll never go back to Phoenix, no matter what happens.”

“I won’t even send letters anymore [asking for an exemption]. I’m not saying that to diss the tournaments. I’m just saying that if you look at my past, everything the Thunderbirds [who put on the Phoenix event] have ever wanted me to do for 20 – well, 17, 16 years I’m sure I did it for them.

“I helped get celebrities go to the Hope. I helped them out. I went to their parties and did everything for them. That is the kind of stuff that we all want our young players to do out here to help the tournaments, and I felt like I did my part. It hurt me for those two tournaments not to give me spots. So I’ll go to Europe on those weeks.”

If Daly can learn to keep his mouth shut and find a bit of consistency and put four solid rounds together he could once again threaten the leaders.  Torrey Pines was the scene of Daly’s last win in 2004.  The two time major champion has been a walking reality show (literally) but still thinks he has some game left.  After yesterday’s round, he may just be right.

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Phil Mickelson Loves Torrey Pines

January 27th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Here’s Phil’s entertaining press conference from The Farmers Insurance Open.  He says that he expects Tiger to be back to the Tiger that we have known for the last decade, “unfortunately” he added with a chuckle.  He’s not a vegetarian any longer and feels fine and expects no adverse effects on his game from his illness.  He was disappointed that The Masters was his only win last season and he ready to make 2011 the year he wanted 2010 to be.  Phil is a big Torrey Pines fan and has been coming here as a fan or a pro for twenty five years.  He can’t wait to tee it up and is planning on playing the entire west coast swing.  Towards the end of the interview Phil brings a fellow lefty up on the stage with him and introduces Kyle Lagrasso as the next lefty to win The Masters.  Kyle is an eight year old golf fanatic that lost an eye to cancer.  He’s an amazing kid and leave it to Phil to make his day.  (See Kyle’s website here.) Shockingly, he says he isn’t working on any changes on his swing and is finally comfortable with his routine.  Phil not working on his swing? Is he for real?

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