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Archive for June, 2012

Storms Hit Congressional Country Club

June 30th, 2012 No comments

The start of the A.T.& T. National was moved back to 1:00pm today as severe storms passed through the area last night.  In an effort to prevent fans from being injured the PGA Tour has banned spectators from the course today.  Saturday’s tickets will be honored on Sunday.  From PGA Tour.com:

Because of a powerful storm that uprooted dozens of trees, including a 75-foot tree that crashed across the 14th fairway, the tournament was closed to spectators and volunteers because of safety concerns.

The third round was delayed six hours. It is scheduled to start at 1 p.m., ET with threesomes going off both tees. (Updated tee times)

The PGA TOUR statement read: “In the interest of safety for our fans and volunteers, the AT&T National is closed to spectators and volunteers for Saturday. The tournament will honor all Saturday tickets on Sunday’s round.”

Mark Russell, the PGA TOUR’s vice president of rules and competition, told the Washington Post that not allowing fans onto the course was a very drastic decision.

“But it’s in their best interests,” Russell said. “… It’s just too dangerous out here. There are a lot of hanging limbs. … We just didn’t think it would be safe to get people out here.”

However, players will not be in any danger, Russell told the newspaper. “Inside the ropes is going to be fine,” Russell said. “The periphery is a mess.”

Television coverage for Saturday’s round will remain as scheduled. The Golf Channel will begin its coverage at 1 p.m. ET, with CBS taking over at 3 p.m.

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Saturday Swing Tip: Hunter Mahan’s 5 Key Moves

June 30th, 2012 No comments

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Rants and Ramblings from the Grill Room

June 28th, 2012 No comments

Each week I spend time debating all things golf with my esteemed colleague G. Rennie.  I thought it was about time we shared our rants with everyone else.  We’ll try and keep it clean.

Which American is the best player right now? 

GR:  The best American male player right this moment is Webb Simpson. Yeah, I picked the chalk and not because he’s the second highest ranked American in the OWGR at #5. He’s the man because he’s the man…the man who took the U.S. Open with back to back 68′s on the weekend.  Webb has no apparent holes in his game, brings an even keeled attitude to the course, stays humble and goes after it.  Will he be the best golfer from the US of A next month? I don’t know but he is now because he’s got that major trophy on top of a two win 2011 season, solid Pres Cup play, and seemingly in contention every week.

Skins:  I hear ya…Webb’s win at Olympic put him in a new class and I probably do have to agree with you, as much as it pains me to, that he has the best all around game among the Yanks now.  But Dufner and Kuch aren’t far behind.

Which one would you bet on?

GR:  Since I like favorable odds I wouldn’t be laying my cash on Webbie to win, the odds are too short. Rickie Fowler is a good play, however, since he’s had a combination of great play and flame outs (Quail Hollow and The Memorial) the past two months. The same goes for Dustin Johnson.  My real dark horse wager is on Michael Thompson. He fires an opening day 66 at Olympic and then closes on Sunday with the day’s low round 67 and sneaks into the clubhouse with the lead. A tie second at the toughest rest in old and still nobody knows who he is. I gotta call my bookie.

Skins:  Yea…laying cash on these guys is a different animal.  But you know there’s always one guy that gets plenty of action…Mr. Woods that is.  After all he is the top ranked American, ahead of Webb, Bubba, Kuch and Duf.  And nobody has a closing percentage like Tiger.  I think Webb would be insulted if he knew I put money on him, Bubba’s ADD is likely to pop up at any moment, I’d bet Kuch to show (he’s a top ten machine) and Duf is the dark horse.  If there was a gun to my head…it’s Tiger…man that hurts.

Which will you watch more of….AT&T, Irish Open…or Wimbledon?

GR:  The sad fact is that my work interferes with both viewing and playing golf. The Irish Open will get less of my eyeball time than the AT&T until Sunday.  Then I’ll be playing rapid remote flipping between golf and tennis.

Skins:  Yea…like you actually work for a living and what have I told you about multiple TV’s.  I want to see Congressional and see if it looks like it did last June as we humped it up and down those hills avoiding the lightning.  But there is so much buzz about the Irish Open and Royal Portrush I’ll make some time to check out those links.  Wimbledon…as long as Maria Sharapova is playing.

Do you think the 2012 Open Champion will come from the field at the AT&T or the Irish Open?

GR:  I don’t have a clue which field offers up the Champion Golfer of the Year at Royal Lytham & Saint Ann’s. But I’ll bet some more money that he is an American. The end of European supremacy is here. If you haven’t noticed the last three majors have been taken by Yanks and all were first time majors for each. Our European brethren have the top three ranked golfer’s but only one major victory amongst them. And that’s the way it will stay at least for a while.

Skins:  You may be right but that was a trick question.  My pick to win the Open Championship isn’t in either field this week and although I wouldn’t mind seeing an American continue the string (as long as is his second major!) it’s not going to happen.  The British Bulldog, Lee Westwood has the week off but he’ll break the American string but keep the first time major winner thing going.  Westwood has played so well in majors for so long this has to be his time.  If there’s any justice…the golf gods…maybe an old English Golf God will show some favor on Lee and give the Limeys someone other than Sir Nick of the Verbose to cheer about.

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Memorable Moments: A.T.& T. National

June 27th, 2012 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

It’s Tiger’s week at The A.T.& T. National once again.  Watch as President Bush starts off the tournament and wins by KJ Choi, Anthony Kim, Tiger and Justin Rose.  Click here for highlights from Tiger’s press conference and here for the entire press conference.

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The Unforeseen Consequence of the Tiger Effect

June 27th, 2012 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The PGA Tour returns to Congressional Country Club this week for the AT & T National with Tiger Woods as the host.  Woods will be looking to win his own tournament for the first time since 2009.  But Tiger will spend plenty of time this week dealing with other issues that requires the “host’s” attention.  Tiger’s foundation is the prime beneficiary of this tournament and it means so much to Woods.  This week you’ll see many tributes to the armed forces as Woods has an affinity for that also.

Say what you will about Woods but we have to recognize that he has had an immense effect on professional golf.  Woods is the biggest draw in golf and has been for fifteen years.  He has a winning percentage of 26 per cent (Nicklaus was around 15%) that none of his contemporaries can even come close to.  He drives up attendance wherever he plays and television ratings skyrocket when he is in contention.  As they say, “he doesn’t move the needle, he is the needle.”

The most fortunate recipients of “The Tiger Effect” weren’t the kids that watched Tiger make golf a cool sport but the very men he was beating like a rug every week on tour.

When Tiger made his first professional start in 1996 at The Greater Milwaukee Open winner Loren Roberts took home $216,000.  As Tiger’s attraction grew, so did the purses on the PGA Tour.  In 2000 that same winner’s check, again paid to Roberts had more than doubled to $450,000.  New money came flooding into the tour and purses exploded.  In 2000 Tiger won nine official tour events and the average winner’s check was over $710,000.  It was in 2001 that most of the bigger tournaments started to pay out a million dollars to the winners.

Tiger has had an amazing effect on the lives of his fellow tour players.  To a man they all say he’s the best thing to happen to them as they all got richer and richer each year.  In 2000 only 45 golfers earned more than a million dollars in winnings on tour.  Last year there were 89 players with over a million in earnings.  Certainly the Woods Effect contributed to the bulk of that.

But recently I think there has been another aspect of the Tiger Effect.  With so much money coming so quickly to so many players there may be an unforeseen consequence of the Tiger Effect.  Could earning so much, so fast have a negative effect on some winners?  Players are coming into the tour younger, more prepared and better than there were years ago.  They earn plenty of money with endorsements and when they breakthrough for a win it is life changing.  And while a win at a major championship is always a life changer it seems lately to have had a different effect on a few of the last major winners.

When Jack Nicklaus won his first major at the 1962 U.S. Open he left in his car with a wife and young son in tow.  Some of today’s major winner’s hop on their private plane for a month of celebration sometimes forgetting what got them there in the first place.

Rory McIlroy is one of the most talented, young golfers in the world.  Wins and majors look to come easy to the smiling, Northern Irishman.  But his fame and fortune may have taken his golf game down bit.   It has to be difficult for a young, twenty-three year old millionaire to not give in to all those distracting temptations.  Rory seems to have a good head on his shoulders but he’s still only twenty-three.  Heck, at twenty-three I was still wondering what I wanted to be when I grew up.

So, Rory can jet around the world to see his famous, rich tennis playing girlfriend.  Or he can hop home to Ireland to play football with his mates or really do anything he wants.  Like take three weeks off before a major championship, now that didn’t work too well for him.  It’s funny but both Rory and his girlfriend were number one in their respective sports but since seeing each other have fallen from the top spot.  Caroline Wozniacki even issued a statement saying that their relationship had no effect on their losing their number one ranking.  Really?

When Bubba Watson won The Masters this year he was declared The New American Folk Hero.  Bubba is entertaining on and off the course.  He appears to enjoy his time away from the game much more than when he is on the course.  After The Masters Watson took some time off to celebrate becoming a father as he and his wife finalized the adoption of their new son.  Certainly, Bubba deserves time with his family to deal with all that changes when you become a parent.

But remember, this is Bubba Watson who admitted that golf is boring, who doesn’t really enjoy practice and who acts like a sixth grader with A.D.D. who lost his Ritalin when he does play golf.  At the U.S. Open Bubba was complaining about Olympic (before play started) and headed home early because he missed the cut.  This week he returned to the Travelers for a tie for second but then announced that he won’t play again until The Open Championship and who knows when he’ll play after that.

The fact that a young golfer can earn so much so fast is a definite consequence of the Tiger Effect.  The effect that all that wealth has on the golfer is another matter all together.  No golfer wins on the PGA Tour without years of hard work and dedication.  However, it is easy to lose sight of the thing that got that golfer there in the first place.  A golfer with the talent and dedication of a Tiger Woods or a Jack Nicklaus come along once in a generation, if we are lucky.  Few golfers can win like Woods and Nicklaus but they all feel the effects that the superstars had on the game.

More and more millionaires are made each year in professional golf.  But that can be a double edged sword.  Can these young men handle the responsibilities that come with being a super rich, superstar?  It’s a difficult task and the unforeseen effect of “The Tiger Effect.”

 

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A Golf Ball Catching Mercedes…See It To Believe It

June 26th, 2012 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

This is what happens when you put a Formula 1 race driver and a professional golfer together.  Obviously they both have too much free time but it made for an amazing video.

Hat tip to Aussie Golfer for this one.

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Take a Tour of Royal Portrush

June 26th, 2012 No comments

Take a tour of Royal Portrush, narrated by Renton Laidlaw.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

Fist bump to Geoff Shackelford for this link.

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Royal Portrush Sold Out for The Irish Open

June 26th, 2012 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

There’s going to be one big party at the Irish Open this week.  The European Tour’s Irish Open returns to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1953 and the most famous faces of Irish golf all will be there to kick off the festivities.

Royal Portrush Golf Club is playing host to the Euro Tour for the first time since 1947 and many are speculating that this week could very well be a test case to see if an Open Championship could ever come back to this highly touted course.  The Open Championship was last held here in 1951.

Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington, the Mount Rushmore of Irish Golf, as they are being billed, are in the field and all are thrilled to see The Irish Open return to Portrush.

McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open Champ and Clarke the 2011 Open Champion are members of Royal Portrush and Clarke had just moved back to the area before he claimed his first major.  Both played on Portrush as children, then teenagers and honed their game across these hallowed links.

McDowell is excited about this week, “When these crowds come in over the next few days it’s going to feel like a major championship,” McDowell said.

“The golf course will certainly be major championship standard and there’s no doubt there will be a little bit of added expectation from the fans looking to see the Irish boys play well.”

“To be one of the three or four guys who helped make this happen through our major successes also gives me a huge sense of pride – it’s great to have played a part and it’s kind of a dream come true.”

McIlroy is one of the most famous and recognizable faces in golf and he continued the Irish run of major wins with his 2011 U.S. Open title.  The Northern Irishmen will be joined by Paddy Harrington who started the ‘luck of the Irish’ with his two Open Championships (’07, ’08) and a PGA Championship (’08).

Royal Portrush is consistently ranked as one of the top course in the world and this week certainly will allow the Irish to showcase these highly regarded links.

The buzz created by this tournament has been huge.  Consider this: for the first time in European Tour history the entire tournament is sold out.

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10 Things I Think

June 25th, 2012 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

1.  Yea, Rory Sabbatini had an ace on Sunday but earlier in the week the Sabbatini family had another big day.  Earlier in the week at Operation Shower, Sabbatini’s wife Amy surprised four military moms-to-be expecting twins whose spouses are deployed members of the U.S. Navy, Naval Submarine School and Connecticut Army National Guard by announcing that she would cover airfare for the moms-to-be to fly their moms in for the birth of the babies.”  Rory may have a rep as a hard ass on the course but he does so much for the troops it is amazing.

2.  Cheers to Brittany Lang for her first LPGA Tour victory.  Her playoff win at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic was a long seven years in the making and so very sweet.

3.  Charley Hoffman once again showed what being a ‘standup guy’ means.  After he threw away his lead at the Travelers Championship he stood in there and answered every question the press had for him.  That’s not an easy task in his frame of mind.

4.  Hats off to U.S. Open Champion Webb Simpson and not for his T29 at the Travelers but for just showing up in Connecticut.  With a major win on Sunday and a cross country commitment many players would have backed out of this tournament.  But that’s not Simpson.  He honors his word and pays back the Travelers for giving him a sponsor’s exemption very early in his career.

5.  The weeks before and after a major championship are normally tough weeks to get good fields but the Travelers has come a long way.  They have a very good business model and it is paying off.  Many good young players are given exemptions into the Travelers and the tournament keeps these players as regulars.  They also have a million activities going on to keep fans and their kids entertained.  The fields are very good and the attendance gets larger every year.  They do it right in Connecticut.

6.  Stacy Lewis continues her great year as the leading American on the LPGA Tour.  In her last five starts she won in Mobile, took fifth at Sybase, won the Shop Rite, tied for second at the Wegmans LPGA Championship and was T5 this week and one shot from the playoff.  She’s the top dog for the red, white and blue.

7.  The TPC River Highlands Course at Travelers will never be mistaken for a U.S. Open setup and thank god for that.  Two consecutive weeks of “defensive golf” might be too much.  But the 6844 yard par 70 doesn’t lack character.  The last four holes offer players equal chances at fame or disaster.  Fifteen is a drivable par four that has danger right and water left.  Sixteen is a par three over water to a potato chip green.  Seventeen forces sweating palms with the lake seemingly starting at the tee and continuing to the flagstick.  And the eighteenth just needs a straight drive and a wedge but sees few birdies.  And there are plenty of good viewing areas for the thousands of fans.  It really makes the finish at the Travelers fun.

8.  Bubba Watson played well after two straight missed cuts and finished T2 but he also said he is done until the British Open.  He still has that Masters hangover.

9.  Toss up another one for the good guys as Mark Calcavecchia took home his second Champions Tour win at the Montreal Championship.

10.  Success sometimes comes in small doses and that was the case for Michelle Wie this weekend.  At least she was around to play this weekend and managed to tie for 68th.  Wie has seen her golf game desert her and missed the cut in five of her last six starts coming into this past week.  She is still taking too many putts and making way too many bogeys and ‘others’ but maybe this week could be the start of something for her.

Bonus.  Mark Leishman’s win was nice, Lang’s was overdue, it’s good to see Calc win another and Danny Willett’s playoff win in Germany seemed like a marathon but the win of the week certainly was Melissa Reid’s.  Playing with a heavy heart a month after losing her mother, Reid’s was a victory of the human spirit.

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Golfers Never Play Alone

June 25th, 2012 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

As I pulled myself to my computer this morning I was accompanied by a massive thunderstorm.  You know the kind where the rain comes down in sheets, thunder shakes the windows and lightning shows you who the real boss is.  It was the kind that puts an end to tee times and knocks down your flower beds.

I thought to myself how a storm like this would affect the cleanup crews at The Travelers Championship as this weather was heading in their direction.  Then I thought of how Mother Nature always plays along with us on the course.  We saw it early in the week at The Travelers when weather warnings sent the players to the safety of the clubhouse and whether it is rain, wind, heat or cold…Mother Nature is always with us.

Then I saw the video of Rory Sabbatini’s ace on the sixteenth yesterday and realized that along with Mother Nature the Golf Gods are always out there with us too.  Amazingly, Rory’s ace was the first of his PGA career and he celebrated accordingly.  And I have to ask: Is there any ace that isn’t touched by the gentle hands of the Golf Gods?

I am still haunted by the meltdown of Charley Hoffman yesterday.  Leading by two with two holes to play, Hoffman’s game which was stellar until the seventeenth tee, suddenly deserted him.  We’ve all been there: hitting it great and then reverting back to our “hacker game” faster than you can say “triple bogey.”  No matter how many Dr. Bob Rotella books we’ve read or swing fix videos we’ve seen or mental exercises we try nothing can help us at that point. It’s gone and only returns when we stop trying.  Those are our inner demons, and they’re always there no matter how we try to suppress them, they are only one poor swing away.

And then I read the story of Melissa Reid and again I realized how we never play alone.  Reid plays most of her golf on the Ladies European Tour and we last saw her at the Solheim Cup as she helped Europe to a victory over the Americans.  But this was a different week for the young Reid.

Five weeks ago while her parents were visiting her in Germany her mother was killed in an automobile accident.  Of course Reid and her family was devastated.  There is no easy remedy for the pain and trauma of losing someone before their time.  This week in Prague marked Reid’s return to play and a short par putt on the last hole gave her the victory.  She had to have played the week with a heavy heart but she certainly wasn’t playing by herself.

 “To be honest, I wasn’t that nervous. I think with something like what’s happened to my family and me the last four weeks, nothing really seems that difficult anymore.

 “I spoke to my coach when I went back a couple of weeks after and he said to me, ‘I don’t know when it’s going to be, but this will make you a stronger person,’ and my best friends have said that as well, and I honestly think it will.

“It will make me fight and nothing will seem as bad as what I’ve been through, so yeah, I actually felt very calm and I knew I was going to hole the putt on 18.”

 “Obviously it’s very special with what the family and stuff has been through the last four weeks, so you know, hopefully, obviously it is good news to the family and will bring a smile on our faces at such a horrible time, so it means a lot,” said Reid.

She’s absolutely right: after you suffer through a tragedy like that, life has a new perspective.  What was so important before suddenly seems insignificant.  You look at life differently and know what actually matters to you and your family.

Reid may have been walking the fairways with her opponent, caddies, rules officials and fans but surely her mom was there as well.

So many days we carry our thoughts and memories of our lost family and friends with us.  But some days they carry us.  Sunday was one of those days for Melissa Reid.

Whenever we’re out there on the course as a single, playing real early in the morning dew or hoofing it in the fading, golden sunlight of summer we have to realize that even though we are by ourselves we never play alone.

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