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Archive for March, 2011

Ryo Ishikawa Is Playing for Japan

March 31st, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

You know the old saying, “Put your money where your mouth is.”  Well, Ryo Ishikawa is doing more than that: he is putting his money where his heart is.  Ryo has pledged all his 2011 earnings to the relief efforts in Japan.  With the devastation in his homeland and estimates of a three hundred billion cost of recovery Ishikawa has made an unusually gracious effort to help his country.

TOKYO (AP) —Golf sensation Ryo Ishikawa says he is giving all of his tournament earnings this year to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in his native Japan.

Kyodo News reported Wednesday that the 19-year-old Ishikawa also is pledging money for every birdie he makes. If he plays similar to last year, Ishikawa could wind up giving more than $2 million toward relief efforts.

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Haney Says Phil’s The Masters Favorite, Not Tiger

March 30th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Sometime breakups work out, sometimes they don’t.  The Tiger Woods/Hank Haney relationship ended poorly and even though both sides tried to gloss it over with the “time to move on” and “needed a change” story it wasn’t a pretty ending.  Hank has done himself a disservice the past months with his critique of Tiger and his new coach, Sean Foley. Before the breakup, Haney rarely spoke out of turn and never offered any inside info on Tiger.  Since they’ve parted he has been quick to talk about anything Tiger on every opportunity.

Haney takes another shot at Woods in April’s Golf Digest.  He names Phil Mickelson as the favorite at The Masters this year.  Maybe he’s right, maybe Phil should be the favorite.  But the people who make money on those things, Ladbrokes the worldwide sportsbook, has Phil and Tiger both listed as 8-1 to win at Augusta.  Maybe Hank thinks Tiger has no chance, could be, but I think it’s just another petty, cheap shot at his old boss.

Here’s Haney’s take on what it takes to win The Masters now.

THE NEW MASTERS PROTOTYPE

I used to think the prototypical Masters champion was a long-driving, right-to-left player who could hit the ball high. But with all the changes to the course — and to equipment — I now think there’s a new model. The left-hander.

Lefties have won four of the last eight Masters (Mike Weir in 2003 and Phil Mickelson in 2004, ’06 and ’10). Augusta is actually a very tight golf course now, and all the extra length and control-killing rough makes it hard for even the biggest hitters to automatically reach the par 5s in two. New drivers have made it much easier to cut the ball and still hit it a long way. A high, hard cut is the ideal tee shot on Nos. 2, 5, 9 and 13 — if you’re left-handed.

Because of this advantage for lefties — and because shots near the green are so important — it’s no surprise that Mickelson is the favorite again this year.

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Masters=Green Jacket, Kraft Nabisco Championship=The Leap

March 30th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Contrary to popular belief, golf’s major season doesn’t begin next week at The Masters.  It begins tomorrow at the LPGA’s Kraft Nabisco Championship. The start and stop LPGA season kicks into high gear at one of their highest profile events of the year.  It does not get bigger than the Kraft for ladies golf.

The Kraft Nabisco has all the requirements of a worthy major championship.  It’s played on an excellent course at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California.  It has plenty of history as this was a tournament started in 1972 with Dinah Shore as the host.  The list of past champions is impressive: Amy Alcott, Betsy King, Annika Sorestam, Juli Inkster, Dottie Pepper and Karrie Webb.  The past four winners are some of the biggest names in women’s golf, Morgan Pressel, Lorena Ochoa, Brittany Lincicome and 2010’s defending champ Yani Tseng.  The Kraft doesn’t lack for tradition either.  It’s not the Green Jacket but that leap into the pond is pretty cool.

World number one, Yani Tseng will defend against every top player in the world.  And they all will have to bring their best games if they want to beat Tseng.  Tseng has already won four times this year and has won three majors in the past two seasons.  No player on any tour, man or women can come close to that.  If Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or any other male golfer had that resume they’d be talking “domination.”  But since it is Tseng there’s little talk about her being the best player in the world.  All she does is win trophies and bring them back to her new house and huge trophy room.  She bought the house from Annika Sorestam last year and says she’s doing her best to fill all those spaces on the shelves.

Tseng will have to deal a with very deep field if she wants to repeat.  Jiya Shin is playing well and looking to take back her number one spot.  Cristie Kerr, number three in the world, would love to win this elusive major and continue her climb to number one.  The player that may have the biggest grudge with the Kraft is Suzzann Pettersen.  She has three second place finishes in the last four years and that can’t sit well with the emotional Pettersen.

Michele Wie will be looking to capture her first major and this would be a great place for her to win and it would do wonders for the LPGA.  If Wie could win on such a big stage, with all the hype surrounding The Masters right now the LPGA would finally get a much needed break.  Behind Tiger and Phil, Wie is the most recognizable face in golf.  A Sunday afternoon with Wie in contention would give the LPGA a much needed shot in the arm.

Finally, the LPGA will get some live television coverage as The Golf Channel will show it live as opposed to those delayed telecasts that are absolutely kill any interest in the LPGA.

Who needs the Green Jacket?  The LPGA has “The Leap.”

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Phil Mickelson’s Big Picture

March 29th, 2011 2 comments

by Jeff Skinner

For years Phil Mickelson played in the shadow of Tiger Woods.  Tiger won more majors, more tournaments, got bigger endorsements checks and everyone from the PGA Tour to the media to the fans generally kissed his butt.  Phil Mickelson was the “Anti-Tiger.”  Tiger frowned, Phil smiled.  Tiger strode around the course like he owned it.  Phil moseyed round the course like it’s his first time there.  Tiger won majors by the truckload.  Phil took his time, twelve years, before he landed his first.

They are two different men forever linked together by their chosen professions.  But they couldn’t be more different.  The fire hydrant that brought Tiger down certainly showed that the two are very different, at least what we all can see about them.  Devil Ball Golf features this past week’s cover story on Phil in Parade Magazine. It portrays Phil as the ultimate family man and there really isn’t much evidence to show otherwise.

I have followed them both around the course and one of the main differences I see is that Phil is able to let go of the poor shots much quicker that Tiger.  Tiger will let a poor shot stay with him.  Phil lets it pass quickly.  Phil has more fun on the course than Tiger and that was true long before Tiger-Gate.  Maybe it’s that Phil is a bit more content with his life and while he feels the need to play world class golf and pocket a few more majors, it isn’t the end of the world when he falls short.

With all Phil and his wife have dealt with in the past year he knows what’s important.  But it didn’t take cancer or a career threatening illness to give Phil that perspective.  He knew of it long before that.  From the Parade story:

Golf can be a cruel game, but Mickelson has proven his resilience. Case in point: the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, when he stood on the final tee with a one-shot lead and proceeded to unleash a series of cringeworthy shots that resulted in a double bogey and cost him the tournament. Sheer agony, but here’s Mickelson’s story of what happened after: “My daughter Amanda and I [found a quiet] corner to snuggle, and she said, ‘Are you okay, Dad?’ and I said, ‘Well, I’m a little disappointed. This was a tournament I dreamt of winning as a kid, and I haven’t yet.’ And she said, ‘Well, second is pretty good, Dad. Can I get you a piece of pizza?’

“It was kind of a bigger-picture perspective,” he says.

Phil gets the big picture.  He’ll bust his chops to do all he can to win at Augusta and Congressional and anywhere else but if he falls short that’s all right.  He always has that family to go home to.  And that’s all that really matters.

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Next Up, The Shell Houston Open

March 29th, 2011 No comments

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Countdown To The Masters

March 28th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

All right guys, with all due respect to The Shell Houston Open, it’s a great tournament with a very good field, but today starts the countdown to The Masters. April 7th can’t come fast enough for me, millions of golf fans or Phil Mickelson.  Will Phil be able to repeat and continue his love affair with Augusta National?  I don’t know but here’s a brief sampling of “Masters Appetizers” to whet your appetite.

Phil Mickelson focuses on The Masters like no other tournament.  He’ll play Augusta today and tomorrow before he heads to Houston.  He thinks his game is in better shape than last year.  Click here.

Jerry Tarde of Golf Digest, talks about his “Knights of the Round Table” and how he picked Jack Nicklaus in the 86’ Masters.  Click here.

The much anticipated new video game, Tiger Woods 12: The Masters, by EA Sports hits the shelves on Tuesday.  I don’t normally play video games but I’ll be trying to best to navigate my way around Amen Corner and beat my son at the same time.  Click here.

Speaking of Tiger, can he win another Masters?  Absolutely he says.  Click here.

Take a look at some Major Champions over thirty five.  Click here.

Two things you have to do to enhance your Masters experience, that is if you’re watching it from home, is to spend some time on Masters.com and go out and get The Masters Journal.  The website is the best of any in golf and The Journal, which is the official program of The Masters, is packed with even more great stuff.  I grabbed mine at Barnes and Noble, nine bucks and worth every penny.  Click here.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Jack’s historic sixth win at Augusta.  Take a look at this video.  It never gets old.

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Great Scots! Scots Martin Laird & Paul Lawrie Win

March 27th, 2011 1 comment

by Jeff Skinner

It was a great day for Scotland today as two of its own claimed titles on two different continents.  Glasgow born Martin Laird hung on to win on the PGA Tour in Florida while Aberdeen native Paul Lawrie won in Spain for his first title since 2002.  Laird finished one stroke ahead of Steve Marino after a wild day of golf at The Arnold Palmer Invitational and Lawrie, the 1999 Open Champion won by a stroke over Johan Edfors at The Open de Andalucia.  It took Lawrie 232 starts and six second place finishes to finally win his sixth European Tour title.

It was a crazy day at Bay Hill that saw nuclear meltdowns causing the leaders fall back and allowed the other players in the field a chance at the win.  The best score among the last six players to tee off even par carded by Steve Marino and David Toms.  Spencer Levin started two back of leader Laird but imploded with bogeys on four of his first five holes.  Rickie Fowler, five back at the start ballooned to an 78 as did his partner in crime, Bubba Watson who started four back of Laird.  Those players may have had little hope of challenging the leaders at the start but after Levin’s disastrous start and Laird stumbling to five over for his round after ten holes, this title was up for grabs.

With the winds blowing, firm greens and pin placements that rivaled a U.S. Open setup, no  one could make a charge except for Justin Rose who had a spectacular 31 on the back nine but still fell short by two strokes.  Marino, Marc Leishman and K.J. Choi all fell victim to Bay Hill and its bunkers and lakes.

Marino offered the best challenge to Laird but he stumbled with a double bogey on the par three seventeenth.  He did put the pressure on Laird when he birdied eighteen which left Laird with only a one stroke lead coming down the last.  It was a miracle that Laird was still in the tournament at that point.

After opening with a three over 39 on the front nine he promptly double bogeyed eleven to put him five over for the day and little chance at claiming his second PGA Tour win.  Then the Scotsman finally caught a break.  With his tee ball in the fairway bunker on the par five twelfth hole he went for broke with a three wood from the sand.  His shot actually clipped the top of the bunker and that’s where he got a bit of good fortune.  Usually there’s no telling where a shot like that could end up but it wasn’t a problem for Laird as his ball rolled through the green and settled eighteen feet from the hole.  He converted for a birdie on a hole that could have ended his chances.  He gave that shot back with a bogey at fourteen but with consecutive birds on fifteen and sixteen he got to three over for the day and eight under for the tournament.  He still needed help from Marino and he got it when Marino doubled seventeen.

Laird must have been pumped because he killed his drive on eighteen which traveled 330 yards and rolled into the rough.  After a safe, smart play away from the pin he two putted from over eighty feet to finally end his roller coaster of a round and claim Arnie’s tournament.

Laird, who played college golf at Colorado State, became the first European player to win at Arnold’s Bay Hill Invitational.  It was a storybook win considering his start and the fact that he was three strokes off the lead with four holes to play.  He’ll get to continue his fairytale in two weeks when he tees it up at The Masters.

 

 

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Scotland’s Martin Laird Leads at Arnie’s Place

March 27th, 2011 No comments

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A Twelve Year Old’s Dream

March 26th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Every once and awhile I’ll come across a story that has nothing to do with golf but effects me greatly.  This is one of those stories.

This story isn’t about golf.  It’s about a young girl who loves basketball.  It’s about a young girl that is faced with a challenge and forced to make choices that no twelve year old should have to make.

Alyssia Crook is like many other girls her age, she likes to have fun and she loves to play basketball.  Unfortunately, Alyssia was born with a condition in her legs that affects her nerves, arteries, veins and cartilage.  She has had many surgeries to improve the circulation issues and reduce the pain in her legs and even has treatments to try and straighten her legs.

All the while Alyssia had the dream to play basketball with her middle school team.  To be one of the girls, have some fun and maybe score a few points.  She tried out for the team but was one of the cuts that Coach Steve Roth had to make.  But that didn’t stop Alyssia from being part of the team.  She would travel with the team and keep their scorebook.

In February the doctors gave Alyssia’s parents a difficult choice.  They recommended that either her legs be shortened or amputate her left leg which is more seriously affected. How do you tell your twelve year old that?  Most twelve year olds are deciding which sneakers to wear, or what movie to watch or who they like on American Idol.  Alyssia had an unimaginable decision to make.

Alyssia isn’t like most middle school students.  She’s not like most adults either.  After the initial shock she made her choice.  “…she saw a vision of a boy and girl playing soccer, then basketball, then softball, then playing catch with a Frisbee. Eventually, she saw herself in the vision, a young mother with a prosthetic leg, and the kids were her own.

She shared the vision with her parents, and they started to speak, but she held her hand out.

“This is my body, my leg, my life, and I know God told me it’s my decision,” she said. “I choose to be a mom that can play with her children.”

And then the seventh-grader implored her mother to call the doctors and tell them she wouldn’t be hobbling around on legs half their size, “because (the doctors are) going to be cutting off my leg.”

Mature beyond her years she made her decision.  She wanted to be able to be a mom and live a normal life.  Seems like such a simple wish but such an important one for this twelve year old.

When her coach heard of her fate he knew she had another wish.  On March ninth Alyssia suited up and ran onto the court with her team to the surprise of her parents and everyone else.  In her next game she scored a point and then two days later she started in her last game before her surgery to remove her leg.  With the energy that only a spirited twelve year old could muster she played her heart out.  She had two steals, scrambled to the floor a few times and scored two points.  She had her dream come true.

I wanted to play with the real team.  I wanted to be part of something. And when I grow up, I want to be playing with my kids, not a spectator.”

Alyssia may have been born with some physical imperfections but she is growing into an amazing young woman.  I am sure her parents are proud of the young woman they have raised and they should be.  It appears that with their guidance and love Alyssia will be able to handle most things that come her way.

She already has fulfilled one dream and soon enough she’ll be on to another.

Link to Prep Rally Blog.

Link to Tom Rademacher’s story in The Grand Rapids Press.

 

 

 

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Saturday Swing Tip: Acceleration in the Bunker

March 26th, 2011 No comments

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