by Jeff Skinner
Usually December isn’t considered a true golfing month but as we say, “Ya gotta get it while you can.” During early December in the Northeast United States golf is only played by those few dedicated and mentally deficient fanatics. I was one of those knuckleheads who braved forty degree temps yesterday and snuck in another eighteen holes before snow truly ends our season. It isn’t normal golf. Gloves and two or three layers make it challenging as do frozen greens and frosty fairways. But we play…call it our silly season.
And this week marks the pinnacle of the silly season in the professional ranks. Tiger Woods is hosting 17 of his pals at the Northwest Mutual World Challenge and plenty of the world’s best are in South Africa for the Nedbank Challenge. These are the two premier events in what is aptly called the silly season.
November and December traditionally are places for pros to pad their bank accounts with some easy cash but with the new “wrap-around season” on the PGA Tour the silly season opportunities have diminished.
Now, let’s not include those three events down under where Adam Scott was seen parading around in his Masters Green Jacket. The Australian PGA, Masters and Open are all full field, preeminent events on the Australian golf tour. So those that want to include them in the list of “Silly Season” need to rethink their classification.
But now to my point or my rant actually: How do these events get to award world ranking points? The winner of Tiger’s World Challenge will win a million bucks and 44 World Ranking Points. Not a bad payday for beating only seventeen golfers, half of whom haven’t played a competitive round in two months. The winner in South Africa will get 38 World Ranking points along with 1.25 million for topping 29 of his fellow professionals.
For my money, awarding World Ranking Points to winners of such limited, such selective fields is ridiculous. It’s a bit of the “rich getting richer” and taints the Official World Golf Rankings.
Awarding points to so limited fields is counterproductive to identifying the world’s top golfer. I have no issue with Tiger and his buddies or Ernie Els and the Euros at The Nedbank pocketing some cash, heck I’ll be one of the fools glued to the screen watching, but World Ranking Points have no place in these events. It is awarding World Ranking Points in these events that truly puts the silly in the silly season.
by Jeff Skinner
Last year in China Miguel Angel Jimenez became the oldest winner in European Tour history as the Spaniard captured the Hong Kong Open for the third time at the age of 48 years and 318 days. He’ll be defending this week as the European Tour is back in Hong Kong.
The 49 year old wears his “Coolest Guy in Golf” title well and we will have the chance to see Miguel in all his cigar smoking, ponytail wearing glory as The Golf Channel will once again cover it late into the night. Coverage starts at Midnight Wednesday.
Maybe Miguel will grace us with his famous stretching routine.
by Jeff Skinner
Jack Nicklaus has very deep roots in Columbus, Ohio. He was born and bred there and graduated from OSU on his way to becoming the greatest golfer of all time. Ohio State and Jack and his dad go back a very long way. Nicklaus still spends plenty of time in Columbus and hosts the Memorial their each spring. The Jack Nicklaus Museum is located on the campus and he is one of the selected few that were honored with the “Dotting of the I” during half time of an Ohio State game. He hosted the Presidents Cup there this year and is the de facto ambassador for all things Ohio, Columbus and Ohio State.
But as the saying goes, blood is thicker than water. Jack’s grandson, Nick O’Leary plays tight end for Florida State and Grandpa is his number one fan.
Florida State and Ohio State are listed as one, two in the BCS standings and the prospect of the two meeting in the Championship Game is very likely. Florida State needs a win over the surprising but over matched Duke squad in the ACC Championship and Ohio State needs to beat Michigan State in the Big 10 Championship. Both teams are heavy favorites so a Seminole vs. Buckeye matchup looks like a solid bet.
Jack isn’t shy about his allegiance and says he’ll take the Noles over his Buckeyes, “I’m an Ohio State guy, but blood is thicker than anything else.”
by Jeff Skinner
The wait is over for Rory McIlroy. The former world number one put an end to a troubling 2013 with his first win of the year as he beat Adam Scott on the final hole at the Emirates Australian Open.
McIlroy fought back from four shots down at the start of the round and needed a little help from Scott to finally claim his first victory in over a year. It wasn’t easy for McIlroy even with three birdies and an eagle in an error free round going into the final hole.
Scott still managed to hold a one stroke lead over the Northern Irishman but over shot the eighteenth green with his approach and could only manage a bogey five to drop to seventeen under par. That left McIlroy with a ten foot birdie putt for the win. McIlroy rolled it in dead center and with it killed Scott’s hopes of pulling off the Australian Triple.
Scott was trying to become the second player to win all three of Australia’s big events in one season: The Australian Open, Masters and PGA. Robert Allenby hit the triple in 2005 and Scott was hoping to duplicate his feat as he completed his “Welcome Home Tour” at the Open.
McIlroy, showing plenty of class apologized for running Scotty’s quest. “Adam is a phenomenal golfer, a great competitor and probably an even better guy and I feel a bit sorry that I was the one that ruined the Triple Crown for him.”
“I didn’t think it was going to unfold the way it did,” McIlroy said. “It’s hard not to feel some guilt in the way I won it.
“Having a one-shot lead going into the last having it taken away from you right at the very end, it’s tough.”
Bur McIlroy certainly recognized the importance of finally breaking through. “I wanted to get a win and finally I’ve been able to get one. But more satisfying than that is being able to take one of the best players in the world down the stretch and come out on top.”
World number two Scott couldn’t help but feel he let one get away. He missed numerous short putts to let McIlroy back in and despite his wonderful run in Australia, “Nothing was going my way on the greens today,” Scott said. “I could have put this thing away early on if the putter was behaving how it should have, how it did the rest of the week.”
Both players showed their class as they left the green but a bit later Scott acknowledged how tough this one was, “It’s just the way golf is. I’m gutted. I felt like I never had a better chance to win the Aussie Open.”
by Jeff Skinner
Adam Scott continued his amazing Australian Homecoming yesterday with another display of his sizzling golf game. Scott carded a course record 10 under par 62 at the Royal Sydney Golf Club. Starting on the back nine he opened with six birdies then closed with four more.
Scott holds a three shot lead at the Emirates Australian Open and is playing his fourth and final tournament in a swing that has seen him amass two individual wins, a third and a share of a team win. Scotty loves life down under and it certainly is loving him back.
And the scary thing is Scotty says his game wasn’t quite there and it was his putter that bailed him out. That can’t be good news for the rest of the field. What will he shoot if he has his game today…59?
I am loving this Aussie Golf in Prime Time. So after a day of parade watching, cocktails, turkey and football I’ll switch on the Golf Channel to catch some of Scotty and the boys down under. Happy Thanksgiving.
by Jeff Skinner
With winter fast approaching, temperatures near freezing and courses closing their doors faster than a Tom Brady slant pass it seems odd that we were treated to such a smorgasbord of good golf over the weekend.
The European Tour’s 2014 season opened with Morten Ourm Madsen taking the South African Open. The LPGA finished its season in style as Shanshan Feng of China held off a star studded cast to win the CME Group Titleholders Championship and with it the biggest first place check in women’s golf, $700,000.
But the tournament of the week once again took place down under at the ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf. What started as a “Scotty Slam Watch” morphed into a “Great Day”…literally.
The World Cup isn’t just a 72 hole medal play tournament. What makes this event different is the field is made up of two man teams and there is an individual winner and a team winner also. So when Scotty apparently gave the tournament away on day one with a five over par nine on the twelfth hole it looked like the Aussie’s hopes fell onto the very weary shoulders of Jason Day.
Day was dealing with the trauma of losing his grandmother and seven other family members in the Typhoon that devastated the Philippines. He easily could have withdrawn but wanted to honor his country and his commitment. “It would have been the easiest thing for me to just go ahead and pull out of the tournament with what has been going on over the last week,” Day said. “But I really wanted to come down here and play.”
So as Scott clawed his way back into contention Day edged his way up the leaderboard and a third round 66 put him in control of the tournament. He survived some sloppy play on the back nine on Sunday and held off Thomas Bjorn for a two stroke win over the Dane.
Scott was able to finish in third place and paired with Day’s leading total the Aussie’s were able to claim the team portion of the World Cup. So Scott kind of kept his winning streak going but the real winner here was Day.
I am sure it wasn’t an easy decision for him to decide to play. But with his mother in the gallery for support he was able to play through his grief and play amazingly well. “It’s just been an amazing tournament for me,” Day said. “My mother, my family, coming down to support me. I’m just so happy the hard work has paid off, and I’m glad it happened in Melbourne.”
Day’s success under trying circumstances is a heartwarming story and it once again shows, as my brother once told me, even in the worst of times “good things can still happen to good people.”
This week a really good thing happened to Jason Day.