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Archive for June, 2011

Smokin’ on Tour, Watson, Free Shoes and Tiger’s New Deal

June 30th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Robert Garrigus is coming off a great U.S. Open where he tied for third place.  In an in depth interview with Dave Shedloski in Golf World he gives us a perspective on his life and the depths from where he came.  Too much drinking, partying and even some pot smoking while playing on The Nationwide Tour was how he spent his early years.  He’s come a long way. (Thanks to Ryan Ballengee at Pro Golf Talk.)

We at Links Life Golf love all things “Watson” as in Bubba or Tom.  Jay Busbee at Devil Ball Golf has a sneak peek at David Feherty’s next show which features Tom Watson.  Anytime Watson talks we listen.

Rory McIlroy and Yani Tseng are two golfers that are leading the charge of young golfers rewriting history in professional golf.  The Armchair Golfer has compiled an interesting list of the youngest major winners and their major totals.

Thanks to the cool of Fred Couples the hottest shoe on the market is the Ecco Golf Street.  Freddy has made those little nubs looks so cool and comfortable.  The Aussie Golfer is running a contest where you can win a $250 voucher from Ecco to buy yourself some new, cutting edge footwear.  Check it out, “you gotta be in to win it.”

And finally, there is some good news for Tiger Woods.  He has signed his first new endorsement deal since Tiger-Gate hit the fan.  Stephanie Wei at Wei Under Par takes a tongue in cheek look at his new deal for a Japan based heat rub. She and even has a picture.  Good time, good times.

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The Season Without Tiger…Doing Just Fine

June 29th, 2011 3 comments

by Jeff Skinner

Believe it or not this is my first post on Tiger Woods in three full weeks.  My last “Tiger Post” was on June 8th.  Taking that long between Tiger stories is borderline blasphemy in the golf blogging world and most editors would probably fire someone if that was the case at a magazine or newspaper.  But the truth is I haven’t missed him.

I am probably in the minority when I say that but I think this golf season has had plenty of excitement and enough personalities to keep real golf fans interested.  So the television ratings are lower and web traffic slows down without Tiger in the mix but that doesn’t concern me.  Interesting people playing exciting golf is what I want to see and so far 2011 has done the job.

The season started with great stories like Mark Wilson and rookie Johnny Vegas and Phil and Bubba battling it out at Torrey Pines.  We had interesting winners like D.A. Points, Aaron Baddeley, Rory Sabbatini, Nick Watney, Gary Woodland and Philly Mick even got us excited the week before The Masters.

Rory may have had a meltdown at The Masters (we know how that story played out) but Charl Schwartzel was a deserving winner.  After Augusta, Brendan Steele broke through for a win and Bubba made it two for 2011.  Lucas Glover taught us to Fear the Beard and K.J. Choi showed us that he is a real Player, as in The Players Champion.

It was at the Players that Tiger withdrew after nine holes when he aggravated his knee but since then the 2011 season has been just fine.  The battle for World Number One is now a week to week proposition and the top ten changes more often than Ian Poulter’s trousers. Tiger isn’t the only golfer that we recognize by a single name.  Now we have Rory, Luke, Westy, Compton, Cantlay, Bubba, G-Mac and Matteo.  Since Tiger left us we’ve had some oldies but goodies make their stand against the onslaught of youth that has taken the tour on.  David Toms, Steve Stricker and Harrison Frazar showed us that maybe 40 is the new 20.  And how can we forget The Golf Boys.

Now the PGA Tour moves to Philly and the A.T.&T. National hosted by Tiger. At Tiger’s press conference he said he won’t return until he is 100% healthy and maybe that is what he should have done all along.  But while he does bring plenty of excitement to the game, it only works when he can play and play well.  Other than that he has been reduced to an annoying side show attraction.  Hopefully he can get healthy and return to the tour with a new perspective.

If he’s been watching he got to see winners and losers that handle themselves with class on and off the course.  He was witness to many a champion that was humble, thankful and grateful.  He saw a U.S. Open Champion that played mind-boggling golf and was smiling the entire time.  He also got to see him answer questions thoughtfully and honestly and treat the press like they were equals.  Heck, Rory even signed autographs afterwards and had a few pints out of the trophy.

All in all, the 2011 golf season has been fine without Tiger Woods.  Tiger may need golf more than golf needs Tiger right now.  His absence has allowed many talented players to show the world there is more to golf than just one self-absorbed player.  Could it be that men’s golf is more interesting and volatile without Tiger? Hmmm…interesting concept, isn’t it.

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Erik Compton Is More Than a Golfer

June 28th, 2011 4 comments

by Jeff Skinner

Recently we have had several interesting stories in the world of golf.  Rory McIlroy’s amazing win at The U.S. Open, Yani Tseng’s historic victory, Patrick Cantlay’s wild ride through big time golf, Sergio Garcia’s recent resurgence, Harrison Frazar’s win and The Golf Boys crazy video even caught our interest for a bit.  But this week we got to witness an emotional story that involves much more than golf.

Erik Compton’s victory on The Nationwide Tour isn’t just your ordinary story of a golf pro breaking through.  Yes, a win on any professional tour is reason to celebrate but Compton’s win represents so much more.

Compton is a walking miracle on the golf course, or anywhere else for that matter.  He is walking around with his third heart.  After his heart began to fail he was given his first transplant in 1992 and started playing golf as part of his rehabilitation.  He was good enough to play at the University of Georgia and earned his way onto a Walker Cup team and also played in a Palmer Cup.

With his first transplanted heart failing he had another transplant in 2008 and amazingly he played in a PGA Tour event five months later. Professional golf was going to be the way he earned a living; it was this sports fanatic’s calling.  But it’s an everyday battle for Compton just to survive no less play and win at professional golf.  He needs to take medication daily that affects him, walking four rounds saps his strength and his “normal” day is anything but normal.

For me, it is stories like Compton that make this game so compelling.  Yes, winning majors and shooting record scores is great.  Watching history happen before our eyes and following the players on all the tours is interesting, but it is the people that make this game what it is.

From the historic figure of Old Tom Morris to the trials of Bobby Jones to the flamboyance of Walter Hagen to today’s players and everyone in between it’s the people in this game, their stories that draw us in and touch us.  Compton is one of those people.

As much as he would like to be known as just Erik Compton the golfer, he realizes that he’s more than that.  He is active in the transplant community and an active proponent of charities that support transplant activities.

He says he has been a bit unlucky with his health but so very lucky in his family life, “I’m 31 years old and have had a rich life.” After his win he reflected on where he has come from, “This tournament has kind of summed up my life.  There was a lot of adversity to overcome in this tournament, just like what I’ve dealt with personally. To win this is everything to me. I never thought I’d play golf again, at least not at this level, and I proved to myself I’m more than just a guy with two heart transplants.”

With his win he probably has earned his PGA Tour card for next season and we’ll get to see him on the big tour as much as his body will allow.  It is his story and his undeniable spirit that makes Compton a gripping personality.  He is living an unbelievable life and next season we’ll get to see a lot more of him.  That will be great for us, for golf and for Erik Compton.  But he needs to know this: he’ll never be just Erik Compton the golfer, he’s so much more than that.

Erik Compton’s Bio.

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Yani Tseng: Young Superstar

June 27th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

It isn’t that often that history is made on the golf course.  Thanks to Tiger Woods, today’s golf fans are a generation that has come to expect historic performances at every turn.  We saw it last week at the U.S. Open as Rory McIlroy set or tied twelve Open records.  And we had watched Tiger shatter record after record for a dozen years.  Maybe we have become a bit jaded when it comes to the golf records.

Yesterday, at the Wegman’s LPGA Championship Yani Tseng took another turn at making history.  Tseng won the LPGA Championship with a closing 66 to dust the field by ten strokes.  A ten stroke win in a major is unheard of unless your name is Tiger.  Her score tied the LPGA’s record at a major but this win is much more than that.

Tseng became the youngest player ever to win four majors.  That’s just not on the LPGA, that’s in all of golf.  At 22 years old she beats all comers.  Patty Berg was the LPGA’s youngest to four majors at 23.  Tiger Woods is the PGA Tour’s youngest and he was 24 when he won his fourth in 2000. (Disclaimer: in 1872 Young Tom Morris, 21, won his fourth British Opens, we’re talking modern golf here.)

If this occurred on the PGA Tour that player would be heralded as the greatest player ever.  But for Tseng and the other ladies that toil in relative obscurity of the LPGA, most of the sports world will hardly take notice.  That’s a shame because this is a remarkable accomplishment and Tseng is a very likable player.

Tseng broke her own record as she was the first to three major wins last year.  She just missed her fourth earlier this season when she let Stacy Lewis come from behind at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.  Tseng is dominating like few golfers have in recent memory.  This title gives her three of the last six majors and brings her LPGA total to eight wins.

She was asked how she tried to deal with the pressure of trying to close out the win. “Yes, I feel very excited.  I’ve been very patient all day.  I had bogey on the first hole, but I tell myself it’s only first hole I can get more birdies, get it back.  I feel very appreciative of all of the fans here.  I walk on 18 hole, I almost cry because so emotional and all of the fans were crying so bad.  I’m from Taiwan.  It’s a little country and the people here are very, very supportive of me.  I feel really good about that.”

For my money Tseng is the best player in golf right now.  Rory, also 22, wins his first major and they compare him to Jack and Tiger.  That’s a joke.  Yani Tseng is the most dominating player in golf today.  It’s sad that she won’t get the accolades she deserves.  Maybe she’ll get some press when she wins the U.S. Women’s Open next month and completes the career grand slam.  She’ll still be only 22.  She’s the youngest superstar nobody knows.

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Plenty of Sunday Golf

June 26th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

At The Wegman’s LPGA Championship Yani Tseng is on the verge of rewriting history, again.  Last season she became the youngest player to win three major championships at 22 years of age.  She’ll become the youngest to four majors if she holds onto her lead at Locust Hill Country Club.  With a five stroke lead over Cindy Lacrosse and Morgan Pressel, Tseng looks to have a great chance at winning her fourth major.  Let’s face it: she is just playing better than anyone else, period.

The most surprising thing at The Travelers Championship isn’t that Fredrik Jacobson shot a 63 to take a one stroke lead.  It really isn’t surprising that amateur sensation Patrick Cantlay hit a few speed bumps on his wild summer road trip and came down to earth with an two over par 72 to fall off the pace.  The real shock is that they were able to complete the third round by Saturday evening.  With almost a total washout on Thursday and a course saturated with heavy rains the folks at the Travelers worked a miracle to get this thing back on track.

Mark Weibe is ready to get on a roll as he looks to win in back to back starts at The Dick’s Sporting Goods Open on the Champions Tour.  Weibe backed up his first round 65 with a 68 to take a one stroke lead over John Huston.  A host of golfers are within striking distance including big names, Nick Price and Hal Sutton. Tom Watson is six strokes back at -5.

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Saturday Swing Tip: Drive It Like Bubba

June 25th, 2011 No comments

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Patrick Cantlay’s Wild Summer Vacation

June 24th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

When  amateur Patrick Cantlay gets back to UCLA in the fall he’ll have some stories to tell when he’s asked how he spent his summer vacation.

After finishing second at the NCAA Championship the nineteen year old won the Jack Nicklaus Award as College Player of the Year.  He also was named Freshman of the Year (Phil Mickelson Award) and he was named Golf Week’s Player of the Year.  Quite a first year at college for the kid from Los Alamitos CA, but that was just the start of a magical ride that Cantlay is really enjoying.

He finished as the low amateur at The U.S. Open and tied for 21st.  He was that smiling kid standing next to Rory McIlroy at the awards ceremony, pretty cool for sure.  If he was a professional he would have earned over $97,000 for his finish.  But he says he’s staying in school, for now.

So Cantlay’s magic carpet ride doesn’t stop there.  Playing at the Travelers Championship on a sponsor’s exemption the kid just ate up the TPC River Highlands with an amazing 10 under par 60 in the second round and leads the field of professionals by four strokes.

Can it get any better for this kid?  Well maybe a little if he is able to hang on and win this thing.  The last amateur to win a PGA Tour event was Phil Mickelson in 1991.  He had eight birdies and an eagle to set the tournament record.

Afterward he sounded like any kid that is having the time of his life, “It was a lot of fun.”

Asked if Rory McIlroy’s win gave him any inspiration he said yes, “No matter how old you are you can compete.”  And he was just awarded another exemption into next week’s A.T.& T. National.

What a wild summer vacation.

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The Wegman’s LPGA Championship Live on The Golf Channel, Sort Of

June 23rd, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The LPGA Tour has entered a significant part of its season.  The second major of the season, The Wegman’s LPGA Championship is underway and two of the next three tournaments are the remaining two majors (U.S. Open & British Open) along with their “fifth major” the Evian Masters.

So it was with great anticipation I sat down this afternoon to get a glimpse of the best female golfers in the world.  Only it was a disappointing “watch” if you will.

This is one of the few tournaments that The Golf Channel is covering live, thanks to the lousy contract worked out by the worst commissioner in the history of sports, Carolyn Bivens and golf shots were few and far between on The Golf Channel.

In the last 26 minutes of the broadcast we saw eleven live shots.  Eleven shots…are you kidding me…and three of them were tap ins!

I like Rich Lerner, he is great, but enough of the interviews and taped segments.  We see these women so infrequently it’s like a part time sport.  We finally have some live TV time (only a 2 hour slot) and we get to see one shot every two minutes.  That’s just awful.

To add insult to injury they leave the LPGA, a major now less, to go to a “pre-game” for the Travelers, which by the way is suspended because of the deluge the Northeast has been under all day.

Let me play Golf Channel executive for one minute.  Try this: leave the Wegman’s for two minutes for an update on the Travelers (wet, wet and more wet) then head back to the Wegmam’s (your team is still in place) for another hour or so.  Is that too complicated?

It’s just another instance of the LPGA getting second class treatment and they deserve better.

I’m just glad I recorded the Morning Drive so I could get my golf fix.

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Ken Green: Playing Golf & Living a Nightmare

June 23rd, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Lee Trevino called the Champions Tour the “Ultimate Mulligan.”  And for most of the Seniors Champions it truly is.  They get to play golf with their friends for a ton of money and live the life they always wanted without the pressures of the PGA Tour.  They all admit it’s a great deal.

Ken Green is back playing on the Champions Tour this week but his life is anything but ideal.  Still dealing with the physical and emotional scars of the accident that took his girlfriend, his brother, his dog and his right leg, Green is living a nightmare.  Eric Adelson details Green’s problems in a disturbing account of a life torn apart after his horrific RV crash.  Green lives with agonizing pain as a result of his amputated right leg.  He is barely surviving mentally and he has thoughts of suicide often.

All this makes playing golf sound insignificant but to Green playing golf is everything.  He feels it’s is only way back to normalcy, if anyone can ever be normal after such an experience.

He is playing in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open on a sponsor’s exemption and trying to piece his life back together.  He is caught in a catch 22 of sorts.  He needs to play more golf to get better so he can compete in more tournaments but the more he plays the more his leg hurts him.

He was very appreciative of the exemption for this week but realizes it’s only a matter of time before they dry up unless he plays better and brings something to the tournament.

Here’s a real chance for the Champions Tour and the individual tournaments to make a difference in one man’s life.  The tours like to broadest all they do for charity, and rightly so.  Each week local charities reap huge rewards from all the professional golf tours.  Now it’s time for them to take care of one of their own.  Give Ken Green all the exemptions he needs.  Let him play as often as he can so he can get his life back on track.  I understand that there are restrictions on the amount of sponsor’s exemptions a player can have but they can come up with something for Green.  It’s an extraordinary case.

In the article Green says he doesn’t have a lot of friends on tour and that may be from his reputation as a rebel but he at least deserves a chance to start over.  Doesn’t charity begin at home?

Link to Eric Adelson’s article.

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Tom Watson Loves Beating the Competition

June 22nd, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Tom Watson is in the midst of a career renewal thanks to his desire to show his son that he still has what it takes and thanks to a little tournament called the Open Championship at Turnberry.  He not only captivated the golf and sports world as he tried to win a major at 59 years old, he had half the world tuned to their TV sets as he tried to make history in a most amazing way.  Watson is a Hall of Fame golfer that is known to the younger generation of golfers as the old guy that almost won The Open.

He’s a bit more than that.  Watson won seven major championships including five Open Championships.  He talked about that win and a little more at the Dicks’s Sporting Goods Open today.

He is making his first visit in 35 years to upstate New York at the En-Joie Golf Course in Endicott which previously hosted the PGA Tour’s BC Open.  He is fresh off a win at The Senior PGA Championship.  Watson says he stays on tour because he stills “just loves the competition.”

I asked him about the differences between today’s tour and how it was when he broke in on tour back in the early 70’s.  He thinks the tour players of today have it a bit easier than he and his contemporaries did when he was making his way on to the tour.

“The difference is, first of all, qualifying to get on the Tour is different.  We had two qualifications to get on the Tour, now there are three and they may even change that and I hope they don’t.  We had to play under the old top 60 rule, which if you were in the top 60 money winners, you were exempt for the next year.  If not, you had to qualify Mondays.  It’s changed to an all exempt Tour for the top 125.  That’s the big difference right there from a competitive standpoint.

The other difference is course conditioning is so much better today, more consistent.  We’re playing the same speed greens, we’re playing the same types of bunkers, so we go week in and week out, we play very similar golf courses, whether it’s good or bad, you want some variety.

We’re playing for an enormous amount of money, which is a lot difference than when I started, which was thanks to Arnold Palmer at that time, it was a lot different before Arnold Palmer.  You saw the Arnold Palmer effect and the Tiger Woods effect.

And the other thing that’s different is we’re given so much more now than we ever were given before.  We had to fend for ourselves when we first came on the Tour.  Now they spoil us, the Tour and sponsors spoil us.  It’s appreciated by this person.  Dick’s and the way this tournament spoils us.  Before, there were things that you never had before.  You had to either bring your practice balls and hit your own practice balls or pay for practice balls.  Now they’re free practice balls.  Food, you went in the clubhouse and if you’re lucky the tournament would give you half off on your chits, but you would eat the food at the clubhouse and there would be no private place to go to eat.  You wouldn’t have a private dining room for the players, you had to eat with everybody else, and that’s okay.

Transportation, cars, big difference.  This week a car is provided for our use for the week.  Before you had to rent your own car or take your own car out, which a lot of guys did.  Airplane travel is ‑‑ well, let’s put it this way:  Airplane travel was easier back then than it is now because you could go to the airport a half hour in advance and walk on the plane, and now it’s an hour and a half advance to walk on the plane.  There’s more time spent in airports now thanks to Osama bin Laden, Those are some of the changes that have happened and we’ve got it really good, let’s put it that way, we’ve got it really good.”

Of course you can’t talk to Tom Watson and not mention the 2009 Open.  He was asked how his life changed after that miraculous near miss.

“Well, I’m more recognizable, that’s for sure, and the topic of conversation almost exclusively is about the 2009 British Open tournament.  This all for a guy who finished second, that’s the way I look at it.  I’m humbled by the response, still am.  I was trying to win a golf tournament just like I did all my life.  I came close to beating the kids, I scared a few of them, and it was an opportunity lost.  The ball was in the air at 18 and I had a flashback to ’77 to Turnberry at the 18th hole and the ball was in the air there, that was perfect”

I asked him about his meeting with Open Champion Stewart Cink (alias The Man Who Killed Santa Claus) later that night after Cink had claimed the win.

“Yeah, my wife and I, after the tournament was over, I was disappointed but we had eaten at a little restaurant called Wylde’s  which was at a little town near Turnberry and we ate there.  It was pretty emotional experience going there with people and it ended up there was some joy at the end and we get back to the hotel and we’re walking up the stairs and there’s Stewart and his family and he’s clutching the Open trophy right there, just walking around, and I said to him, I said, ‘Pretty good feeling, isn’t it’ and he just smiled.  Didn’t have to say anything.”

Watson is a class act and has grown into today’s “Playing Elder Statesman.”  And as long as he still feels the thrill of the competition he’ll continue to play. And that’s good news for us.

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