by Jeff Skinner
To say that Hank Haney has been making the rounds promoting The Big Miss is an understatement. He’s been everywhere but he ran into pair of New York talk show hosts that were laying low for him. Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton host a sports talk show on WFAN in the big apple. Boomer is watchable when he is doing the NFL on CBS but when he is paired with former shock jock Carton the two of them are unbearable. Haney felt the wrath of the two of them in a phone interview on Friday. Pick your spots Hank, these two know zero about golf and less about civility. Hank finally had enough and hung up. It was his best move in awhile.
Michelle Wie still struggled with her putter in the second round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Randall Mell saw her anguish up close and personal.
Phil Mickelson is up to his old tricks as he gets primed for The Masters next week. Nothing gets Philly Mick pumped like Augusta and he always uses this week to get his game in shape. He’s only two off the lead and is happy with his game. Click here for his post round interview.
Paula Creamer is happy to be back playing golf and going after her second major at the Kraft Nabisco. The past few weeks haven’t been easy for Creamer as she had to deal with the death of her beloved grandfather earlier this month. He was a special guy and had an enormous effect on Paula’s life. He was another of The Greatest Generation that shaped this country. We are losing them all too fast. Click her for Beth Ann Baldry’s article.
by Jeff Skinner
With the PGA Tour’s Shell Houston Open being rained out yesterday we got to focus on the first major of the season with the LPGA’s inaugural major The Kraft Nabisco Championship.
There’s a lot of good golf being played on the LPGA Tour and don’t tell me that Yani Tseng couldn’t hold her own with the big boys of the PGA Tour. Yani can out drive plenty of the men and her game could translate to any course.
But if you watched any of the LPGA on the Golf Channel you had to notice the lack of quality putting from two of the tour’s biggest stars. Michelle Wie and Paula Creamer are two of the brightest stars of the LPGA but they both have struggled with their putters lately.
When Paula Creamer burst onto the tour by winning before she even graduated high school she was a fearless putter. She thought she could sink every putt and she putted that way. Her putting was a strength but recently she has lost the smoothness and decisiveness in her stroke.
Now, we know she has the talent after all this woman won the 2010 U.S. Open on the treacherous greens of Oakmont Country Club. But last year she fell to 82nd in putting average on tour and this year she is currently 43rd. You don’t win tournaments averaging 30 putts per round.
Creamer has been a good putter before and she’ll need to recapture that stroke if she is to return to the player she once was.
Michelle Wie has had a brilliant tee to green game ever since she started playing on the tour as an amateur at twelve years old. He length has allowed her to play a bombers game but her putter has never caught up to the rest of her game.
Her struggles with the short stick prompted her to switch to a belly putter halfway through last season but frustration with that wand caused her to switch back to her teenage putter for the Kraft this week.
Thursday’s putting showed no improvement over the long putter. Wie used 33 putts on her way to a one over 73 and looked out of synch with her putter.
Wie said she has had discussions with her teacher, David Leadbetter about her putting woes and that he wanted her to be more relaxed over her putts and not to think about it. That’s easier said than done.
First of all Leadbetter has taught Wie forever and he has the reputation for being too technical in his approach. Wie’s technique reflects that and for him to say she needs to be more of a “feel” putter is comical since he has spent a decade taking any sense a feel away from her.
Wie did say afterwards that she tends “to over think things” and that’s the last thing you need to do when you are standing over a putt.
Golf Channel analyst and LPGA Hall of Fame Member, Judy Rankin suggested that Michelle should try removing her sunglasses to better see the line. And that looks like part of the issue for Wei; there are plenty of putts that just look so offline that it was probably a misread of the greens.
Wie’s nemesis has always been the short 3-4 footers that drive us all crazy and she is no different. She misses more than her share of short putts and being the emotional person she is it causes her game to suffer.
What confuses me is why Michelle hasn’t sought some outside help for her putting. Yani Tseng and Suzanne Pettersen are both working with Dave Stockton. Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy are clients of Stockton also. If the best golfers in the world are seeking help then Michelle should do the same.
There are many putting gurus available and Wie needs their help. She has been a poor putter for too long and it is obvious that she is not improving. Maybe the switch back to the regular length putter will help but a phone call to a putting specialist may increase her chances of finding a short game to go with that world class tee to green game.
by Jeff Skinner
Amy Yang has the lead at the Kraft Nabisco Championship after a six under 66 on a perfect day to score in the desert. Yang carded eight birdies and two bogeys to lead Lindsey Wright by a stroke with Yani Tseng only two shots back.
The Golf Channel supplied live coverage during two different sessions yesterday and they should be commended for their coverage. The LPGA is one of the most fan friendly sports organizations anywhere in the world. Each and every player knows that they have to go the extra mile when it comes to fan interaction and they do just that. During the telecast there were plenty of pieces highlighting players and their lives both on and off the course.
The Golf Channel certainly showed a good cross section of all the players and I’d have to say it seems we get to see more golf shots during an LPGA telecast than we do during a CBS telecast of the PGA Tour.
One of the scenes we saw too much of was the players habit of relying on their caddies each time they setup to a shot. I couldn’t keep track of all the women that wait for their caddie to approve their setup each time they approach a shot. Paula Creamer and her man do it and even Yani Tseng was doing it. I know that a player caddie relationship can be special but too many of these players rely on this ritual.
The “caddie check” move, no matter how quick, slows them down but more than that…doesn’t it indicate a lack of confidence and decisiveness by the golfers? I am sure that Paula Creamer knows if she is aligned correctly but she has fallen into this “pre-shot routine” that includes her caddy standing behind her. Paula isn’t the only offender; there are dozens of female golfers that do this.
The LPGA is trying to build its brand and demonstrate that they have a great product in a very crowded sports world. It’s all about getting more fans to the course and to tune in to see their exceptional product. They have an amazing product with many talented, attractive and interesting players but this habit makes the tour look like the minor leagues.
I am a big LPGA follower but this is one of the few problems I see with the tour on the course. If the LPGA wants to carve out a more sizable niche in the sports landscape they should get the ladies to put an end to this annoying habit and go it alone just like every other golfer out there. After all it is the golfers that we want to see not their bagmen.
by Jeff Skinner
So much for the belly putter being the cure all for a golfer’s putting woes. The recent trend of professionals wielding long putters has started a call by many to ban them and even nudged the governing bodies of golf to reexamine the situation.
Even though Ernie Els thinks they should be banned he has used the belly in an effort to regain his putting stroke. Unfortunately for Ernie his putting is exactly what has stopped him from making his twentieth trip back to Augusta this year. Maybe Ernie should switch back to his old putter and give that a try. At this point it couldn’t hurt.
That’s just what Michelle Wie is doing this week. After a failed experiment with a belly putter Wie is going back to her treasured short blade that she used when she was a teen phenom at 15. Wie has used her belly putter since last summer with poor results.
Last season Wie finished 115th in Putting Average with 30.6 putts per round. The leaders in Putting Average used around 26-27 putts per round. No golfer can afford to give away three to four putts per round and expect to compete for championships.
Wie has been coached by David Leadbetter ever since she was a teenage prodigy and he approves of the move saying, “It will help her get more natural again with her putting. She was a very good putter when she was young, but she became more mechanical.”
That sounds like good advice as every putting coach advocates being relaxed with the putter. How many times have we heard “putt like you were when you were a kid” from the putting gurus? I find it odd coming from Leadbetter who has a reputation for being the most technical and mechanical instructor on tour. Wie’s putting stroke has become nothing but mechanical and she obviously has no “feel” with the belly putter.
Wie is looking forward to regaining a more natural stroke and hopes that will enable her to compete for more victories on the LPGA. Having finished her college career at Stanford she is ready for a full time commitment to golf. “I want to win more. That’s a big thing. I feel like it’s been pretty mediocre so far. I want to be the best player I can be. It’s going to be a fun ride from here on out, entering the real world. I’m really excited.”
If the switch back to a regular putter can cut down her strokes on the green Wie can be a significant force on the LPGA Tour.
by Jeff Skinner
If you think Tim Tebow is a polarizing personality think again. Tebow pales when compared to Donald Trump. No one can generate such passionate discussion like The Donald. You either love him or hate him but you do it intensely. There are still plenty of folks in Scotland that are fed up with Trump and his new golf course on the links of some of the most beautiful land in the country.
Here’s the latest video that takes some heavy duty shots at the Master of the Comb-over and the Champion of Self Promotion. It’s freakishly funny and worth a minute to get a few laughs at Donald’s expense.
by Jeff Skinner
Yani Tseng may be looking to keep her winning streak going this week at The Kraft Nabisco Championship but she certainly will change at least one thing she did from last year.
Tseng, a past winner here in 2010 had the lead going into the final round at last year’s Kraft. She was paired with Stacy Lewis in the final group and as she walked to the first tee she playfully grabbed the trophy that was displayed next to the first tee. She hoisted the trophy overhead, turned to the crowd and smiled a winner’s smile. She then went out and shot her highest round of the week and lost as Lewis claimed her first LPGA win.
It wasn’t out of character for Tseng to play around and have fun during a round, that’s what she does. She enjoys herself on and off the course but many think that her pre-round trophy grab may have angered the golf gods and cost Tseng another major. It’s hard to think that Tseng could anger anyone. She is one of the easiest going, relaxed, fun loving players anywhere and her playful moment that day was just that, fun.
Tseng has taken having fun to a new level on the golf course. She has three wins in five events on the LPGA so far and it looks like there is no limit on what she can do. Last season she had 12 worldwide wins and became the youngest player in golf history to win five majors at 22.
But the scary thing is she can get better. Tseng has been in the top ten in driving distance since she established herself on tour. Last season she led the LPGA in many statistics including driving distance at 269.2 yards. According to the stats compiled by the LPGA, Tseng ranks a lowly 17th so far this season. Maybe she’s hitting fewer drivers but if she does start to hit it longer the other players won’t have any chance at all.
Tseng felt the pain when she didn’t close out the 2011 Kraft. Champions don’t let opportunities for majors slip through their fingers like she did last year. To remind her of her failure she placed a stuffed “Angry Bird” in her 2009 Kraft trophy that sits in her crowded trophy case. She’ll be trying to make up for last season against the best field of the year on The Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club.
Defending Champion Stacy Lewis wouldn’t mind being paired with Tseng again on Sunday as she tries to go back to back. All the top golfers in the world will be looking to make that famous leap into Poppie’s Pond on Sunday. The LPGA certainly has put together some star-studded pairings.
Teen phenom Lexi Thompson is paired with 2007 winner Morgan Pressel. Veterans Karrie Webb and Cristie Kerr will do battle as they have for a decade. Sandra Gal and Michelle Wie have to be the tallest pairing on the course. Stacy Lewis and Natalie Gulbis will both be looking for their second LPGA Tour win. Paula Creamer is looking to break her putting slump and will get a close up view of the best in the world as she and Tseng are playing together. And all of the top ten players in the world including Na Yeon Choi (2) and Suzanne Pettersen (3) are hoping to make their first leap into the pond.
The Kraft has a very long and significant history in women’s golf. Previously known as The Colgate Dinah Shore when it started in 1972 it offered a much larger purse than any other tournament and through the dedication of Dinah Shore it became the premier tournament in ladies golf. The “Dinah Shore” as it was known became a major in 1983 and boasts a list of champions that looks like a Hall of Fame registry. All time victory leader Mickey Wright won here as have Judy Rankin, Kathy Whitworth, Nancy Lopez, Amy Alcott, Juli Inkster, Pat Bradley, Betsy King, Dottie Pepper, Karrie Webb, Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa.
Who will make that historic leap on Sunday evening? No one knows yet but the field is set for a wonderful week on the LPGA Tour.
by Jeff Skinner
Golf’s major season starts tomorrow as the ladies of the LPGA tee it up at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Jim Nantz likes to use the tag line “A tradition like no other” when he refers to The Masters and he is right. But The Masters doesn’t have a monopoly on tradition.
The Kraft features one of the most entertaining traditions in sport with the winner leaping into Poppies Pond. It’s exciting and fun and sometimes dangerous. When 2011 champion Stacy Lewis and her family and friends made the leap last year her mom broke her leg. But she didn’t mind a bit. Watching your daughter win a major will ease a lot of pain.
by Jeff Skinner
Let’s start our countdown to The Masters with one of the most exciting shots in the history of the tournament. Augusta native Larry Mize chips in to defeat the best golfer in the world at the time, Greg Norman in 1987. Mize had finished tied after 72 holes with two icons of the game, Norman and Seve Ballesteros. After Seve was eliminated on the first playoff hole and Norman was on the 11th green with a birdie putt, Mize pulled off a one in a million shot with a 140 foot chip in for birdie. A picture, or in this case a video, is worth a thousand words.