Johnny One Putt Comes to Town: Sergio Garcia

August 1st, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Someone said it last weekend, one of the talking heads covering golf: a happy golfer is a better golfer.

Sergio Garcia has been one happy golfer lately and today he showed just what a happy golfer can do with a happy putter.

Sergio had 11 straight one putts…yes eleven on his way to a record tying 61 at Firestone. He finished with seven straight birdies to set a back nine record of 27 and leads the WGC Bridgestone by three strokes.

That’s one happy golfer.

Share

Dustin Johnson Takes Leave of Absence

August 1st, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Dustin Johnson has announced that he is taking an immediate leave of absence from professional golf. His agent released a statement effectively ending his 2014 golf season.

“I am taking a leave of absence from professional golf, effective immediately. I will use this time to seek professional help for personal challenges I have faced. By committing the time and resources necessary to improve my mental health, physical well-being and emotional foundation, I am confident that I will be better equipped to fulfill my potential and become a consistent champion. 

“I respectfully ask my fans, well-wishers and the media for privacy as I embark upon this mission of self-improvement.” 

Barclays GolfThe eight time PGA Tour winner was in the midst of a very good season. He currently sits at 4th on the FedEx Cup points list and had locked up a Ryder Cup spot.  He also informed the PGA of America that he would not play in the Ryder Cup in September.

Johnson is a very popular player among his peers on the PGA Tour and he and fiancé Paulina Gretsky are very active in social media.

This will lead to much speculation as to the root of his problems. Some speculate that the PGA Tour may have suspended the 30 year old professional. The PGA Tour said it would not add anything to Johnson’s statement.

If it is performance enhancing drugs the PGA Tour would have announced the suspension as it did with Vijay Singh. The Tour has a policy of not publicizing any other suspensions.

From his statement he referenced his “mental health, physical well-being and emotional foundation” and that pretty well covers everything.

Whether it is a substance abuse issue, an emotional problem or whatever Johnson deserves a chance to get his act together in private.

Unfortunately, he probably won’t be able to. Our society insists on knowing the intimate details of any celebrity that has a problem.

I am hoping DJ can conquer his issues and come out a better person. For a young man with his talent and potential for such a grand life to struggle like this is disheartening.

Hopefully he is doing the things needed to help himself out. As far as I am concerned he can do it in peace.

Share

Rory McIlroy Says No to Langer’s Ryder Cup

July 31st, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

With all the talk of Tom Watson’s difficult choice of rounding out his Ryder Cup team with his difficult task of selecting or not selecting Tiger Woods his counterpart is also facing some tough calls.

European Ryder Cup Team Captain, Paul McGinley is also charged with selecting three players who he feels will add some punch to their defense of the cup at Gleneagles.  McGinley Ryder Cup

The team is comprised of the four top players from the European Points List and the five top players from the World Points List who haven’t qualified off the European List. As it stands now Rory McIlroy, Victor Dubuisson, Jamie Donaldson and Henrik Stenson would qualify from the European List.

The five qualifiers from the World List currently are Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Thomas Bjorn and Luke Donald. That’s a fairly intimidating lineup.

And now a monkey wrench has been thrown at Captain McGinley. As if is job was difficult enough, there are those that think 56 year old, Champions Tour stalwart, Bernhard Langer deserves a spot on the team.

Langer has been on fire on the Champions Tour most recently lapping the field at the Senior British Open by thirteen strokes.

One of those who think McGinley should leave Langer on the senior circuit is the European Team’s points leader, Rory McIlroy. McIlroy says Langer is playing great but not against the toughest competition and the team dynamic would be threatened.

“I think the team dynamic is pretty good at the minute with the mix that we’ve got and to bring someone in that hasn’t spent much time around us mightn’t be the best,” he said.

“He (Langer) is not playing against the regular guys week in and week out but he’s playing great golf obviously and what he’s done this year, and Monty as well, has been fantastic. If they were to be involved as vice-captains or something then I’d be all for that, but I don’t think they should be on the team.”

bernhardI am all for a captain thinking outside the box and if selected Lager would bring a serious Ryder Cup history and certainly would be a great teammate. He could serve as part player, part coach and part mentor. But selecting Langer would be a stretch and look at the players that sit just outside of qualifying on both points list.

Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell, Joost Luiton, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Francesco Molinari and Lee Westwood are the group of players that are next in line in points and most likely to be tabbed by McGinley.

Ian Poulter with his vaunted Ryder Cup history and Graeme McDowell who is playing great golf are absolute locks. There is no way McGinley won’t select them.  That leaves one pick left and Luiten, Jimenez, Molinari and even Westwood all deserve a shot and would bring plenty to the team.

If McGinley wants to pick a fifty-something the choice here is Jimenez who has been playing most of the season on the regular circuits trying to earn points to make the team.

When McGinley accepted the job as captain he knew it would require some tough decisions. But leaving Langer off the team isn’t one of them. There are a half dozen players who fought all season to earn points and selecting one of them will be the right call.

Would adding Langer to the team be exciting? Yes. Would it make headlines? Yes. Would Langer be an asset to the team? Yes.  But Langer’s addition wouldn’t be any more advantageous than a Poulter, GMac, Miguel or any of the rest.

Langer on the team would be fascinating but Rory is probably right and I can’t see McGinley making that call.

Share

Ryder Cup for Tiger? Tough Call for Watson and Woods

July 30th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

As the PGA Tour steams into August and heads to the FedEx Cup Playoffs two questions dominate the golf conversation. Will Tiger Woods make the playoffs? And will Tom Watson make Tiger a captain’s pick.

And from Watson’s view the two are definitely related.  tom watson ryder

Tiger hasn’t shown anything this season, either pre or post surgery and currently sits at number 215 on the FedEx Cup Points list well outside the top 150 that qualify for the playoffs. At the same time he is 70th on the Ryder Cup Points list.

Let’s just say Tiger needs to make something happen and quick if he is to tee it up for the playoffs. According to the number crunchers he needs to average a third place finish over this week’s WGC Bridgestone and next week’s PGA Championship to qualify for The Barclays.

He certainly has the track record to do it he’s an eight time WGC Bridgestone winner, four time PGA champ with one of them at this year’s venue, Valhalla Golf Course.

If Tiger doesn’t play well in the next two weeks he still could play at the Wyndham Championship to try and garner more FedEx Cup points but that would be out of character him.

Captain Watson badly needs Woods to “show him something” as he has said. A win at either the WGC or PGA would clinch the playoffs and probably a spot on the Ryder Cup. But he hasn’t shown anything close to a winning golf game all year.So here is the conundrum Watson could face come Sunday at the PGA when the Ryder Cup qualification period ends.

Tiger could qualify for the FedEx Cup and maybe make it into the Deutsche Bank and that might be enough for Watson to tab him.

He could somehow find a way to win and take much of the burden off of Watson. After all, the greatest player of his generation right off a win would be a no-brainer.

tiger woods ryderBut here’s the hard part: Woods doesn’t win, continues his less than mediocre play and is left outside the playoffs.  There Watson would be faced with a difficult choice: leave Woods off the team or go out on a limb for Woods.

No playoffs mean Woods would be idle for six weeks going into the Ryder Cup. How can Watson be expected to select a golfer that had no game all year and then has spent the past month and a half not playing competitive golf? I don’t think he can.

If that happens and Watson goes against many popular and prominent voices that say Tiger is a must pick, he’ll certainly take some flack but that’s the right call.

Here’s an odd and unlikely scenario. If Woods plays poorly the next two weeks and misses the playoffs and shows no sign of capturing that elusive game of his could he actually opt out of the Ryder Cup?

Maybe a private call to the captain to say, “Cap’ for the good of the team don’t pick me. My game isn’t there. Good luck.” Do you think that could ever happen?

I don’t think Woods could ever suppress his ego long enough to dial the phone no less utter those words. But that would be the noble thing to do.

Watson is his own man for sure and he’ll make the tough decision no matter the consequences but Woods needs to do one of two things for the “good of the team.”

Either play better golf, much better golf to give Watson a reason to select him or graciously opt out of the Ryder Cup.

Yea, like that would ever happen.

Share

Coolest Chest Bump Ever? Almost

July 30th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

We at Links Life Golf are unabashed Miguel Angel Jimenez worshippers. The Coolest Guy in Golf, alias The Most Interesting Man in Golf, alias The Mechanic, alias MAJ can do no wrong in our eyes.

Men want to be him, women want to be with him and all want to chest bump with him…well maybe.

Miguel may have missed the perfect bump here but still…chest bumping with The Coolest Guy in Golf…AWESOME!

maj chest bump

Golf clap for Luke Kerr-Dineen and Kyle Porter.

Share

Jason Dufner: More Than Meets the Eye

July 29th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

With the PGA Championship right around the corner we’ll be seeing a bit more of the defending champion Jason Dufner. Dufner seemingly has come out of nowhere to not only be a major champion but also a popular culture icon. After all, “Dufnering” had taken the nation by storm.

Known as much for his laidback demeanor on the course as his world class golf Duf is quite a character. His friends and fellow players will tell you that he is witty and quick to give the needle. He and Keegan Bradley carry on a daily battle of ball busting with each other trying to get the better his pal.

Dufner is featured in Golf Digest and you’ll get a different perspective of Duf who is a lot more old school than he appears.

I’M A KID IN A LOT OF WAYS. I love getting a cool autograph. I have a picture of Bo Jackson with the football pads and baseball bat across his shoulder. I have a signed poster of Michael Jordan taking off from the foul line, which I got at the 2012 Ryder Cup. It’s childlike, but not childish. In a way, I really owe those guys. If it weren’t for the heroes I had as a kid, there’s no way I would have become a pro athlete. It was because of them that I practiced hard. They helped me aspire to have a better life. Those autographed posters are like a tribute to them.dufnering

BEING IN THE PUBLIC EYE is tough for me. It’s been an adjustment. My whole life, I’ve flown under the radar, and to suddenly put everything out there, I admit  makes me uncomfortable. I guess I’m a shy person, at least to people I don’t know well, or who don’t know me. I tweet a lot [@JasonDufner, with more than 388,000 followers], but mostly fun stuff about Auburn, the NBA, what I see on TV, or promotional things for sponsors or the Jason Dufner Foundation. It’s not a close look into my daily activities or personal life. I have to hold some things back that only the people close to me can see. It’s what keeps me sane.

WHEN KEEGAN BRADLEY put the Dufnering thing out there, I just went with the flow. You can’t hide from who you are. I really do sit like that, and it definitely was kind of funny. But I’ll tell you something—and I hope kids who get teased at school are reading this—when somebody says or does something that bothers you, don’t let them know it. Keep your cards close to your chest. Roll with it, and sooner rather than later it’ll stop.

BEN HOGAN is the man. My hero. As a kid, I read his books and later watched every bit of video I could put my eyes on. What’s cool is how he got to be a pretty good pro after coming from nothing, and then deciding he wanted more out of it, and he found another gear. Then, after the car crash, he found still another gear and became a legend. That kind of dedication to become successful about the thing in life he felt passionate about, and actually pulling it off, is amazing.

Here’ s a behind the scenes look at Dufner’s cover shoot.

Share

Astounded, Amazed & Stunned…The Weekend in Golf

July 28th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

What a strange weekend in golf. We saw the ladies of the USA struggle at the inaugural International Crown. Jim Furyk spit the bit again at the RBC Canadian Open and Bernhard Langer give us a dominating performance in senior golf.

It’s hard to say what the biggest shock of the weekend was. Take your pick; I was astounded, amazed and stunned at the outcomes.

Team USA came into Mike Whan’s newest baby, The International Crown as the favorite and the ladies laid a big egg on Thursday losing both their matches. The ladies went into the event as the highest ranked team and couldn’t win a match in the first round. They bounced back on Friday with two wins but a split of their matches on Saturday left them in a sudden death playoff with Korea.

And a sudden death it was with Lexis Thompson and Cristie Kerr losing to Korea. It seems impossible that with a team with Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, Thompson and Kerr that they could not make it to the finals. I’ll label that loss astounding.

On the PGA Tour Jim Furyk went into Sunday at the RBC Canadian Open with another 54 hole lead. Furyk lead Tim Clark by three shots at the start of the day but at day’s end which included a rain delay, Clark topped Furyk by single stroke and took home his second PGA Tour victory.

Clark sizzled on the back nine with birdies on 11,12,14,15 and 17 for a 30 on the closing nine and a five under 65. Clark was thrilled to be back on top after injuries the past two years had crippled his game.

Clark jumps to27th in the FedEx Cup race and is excited about the possibilities. “If I stay in this sort of frame of mind, there’s no reason why I can’t keep it going. The next two events are big for us, and I’d love to keep it going.”

Furyk was left shaking his head…again. “It was a benign day, and 69 is not a bad round by any means, but by only making two birdies I let a couple guys back into the tournament,” he said.
“I’m obviously disappointed,” he said. “I just didn’t putt well enough, and I didn’t convert the opportunities I had.”

I have to call this one stunning. I thought Furyk would finally break the jinx.

Bernhard Langer was busy setting records at the Senior British Open. Langer’s win at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in Wales was Woodsian. His final round 67 gave him a winning margin of 13 strokes over Colin Montgomerie.

It’s the largest margin of victory in any senior major event in history and has some talking about the possibilities of Langer being considered for a spot on this year’s Ryder Cup Team.

He started the day with a five shot lead and pulled away from the field to finish at eighteen under par. Langer was his usual understated self,” The golf course is unbelievably tough. To have this weather for four days is unreal, it’s like playing in Florida with a bit of wind.

“The secret was I didn’t make too many mistakes and my driver was very good and my long putting was excellent, although not quite today as I was lacking a little. Perhaps my lead was too big.”

Winning a major by thirteen strokes? That’s just amazing.

Share

Saturday Swing Tip: Butch Harmon’s Low, Spinning wedge

July 26th, 2014 No comments

Share

Tom Watson…Change Agent?

July 25th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

ryder cup 14 logo troWhen the PGA of America selected Tom Watson as captain for their 2014 Ryder Cup Team they were thinking “outside the box” as we like to say.

Their past history was that of picking players just slightly removed from PGA Tour action. But Watson is decades removed from winning on the PGA Tour so it signaled a bit of a culture change at PGA of America headquarters.

Now, in that same vein Watson himself is faced with the real possibility of a significant change to the Ryder Cup team: that being a team without Tiger Woods.

Woods’ back surgery and less than stellar play has left him well down the Ryder Cup points list. He currently sits at 70th on the Ryder Cup Points list well out of the top nine automatic berths.

The points qualification end with the PGA Championship and Woods only has two events (WGC, PGA) left on his schedule to either win or impress Watson enough to select him with one of his three captain’s picks.

Woods has said he wants to be on the team and says he can contribute to the team. Watson on the other hand has said he needs to step up his game to earn one of his captain’s picks.

Originally Watson had said that a healthy Tiger would be on the team. Then it was a healthy Tiger that is playing well. Then it was a healthy Tiger, playing well with good results. Now it’s a healthy Tiger, playing well, with good results that makes the FedEx Cup Playoffs. It appears that Captain Tom is hedging his bets.

It’s not an unusual request for a captain to want his potential players to play well, to show him something, to give him a reason to just have to select him. But Woods has shown zero to Watson this season and the real possibility exists that a healthy Woods would miss his first Ryder Cup since turning professional. He missed 2008 due to injury.

Captain Tom, a historic choice as captain at 64 years old may just have to make a historic decision and leave Woods off the team. The times are changing in golf and after all isn’t that why the PGA tabbed Watson as captain anyway…to change things.  Tom-Watson-story.jpg

Tiger and Phil Mickelson have been the biggest names in American golf for years but all good things come to an end. Maybe 2014 is the year that truly signals that change.

After all, does the team really need Woods? In seven appearances in the Ryder Cup Woods has been on one winning team, 1999 at Brookline. He missed Paul Azinger’s win in 2008 and has played mediocre golf at best when he is on the team.

He has a 13-17-3 all time record and the USA blew a huge lead last year at Medinah with him going 0-3-1 and earning just half a point for the week. Is that contributing?

I am sure that the PGA, Watson, NBC and most of the fans want Tiger on the team. But in selecting Watson the PGA may have done themselves a huge favor. If they had selected a forty-something, player still with close ties to the tour it may have been more difficult to leave a poor playing Woods off the team. Tom Watson won’t have that problem.

Watson is his own man and big enough to first of all, make such a tough decision and second, handle the fallout. And there will be fallout.

Watson won’t have a problem fielding a team without Woods. After all the USA has one win in the past six events and Tiger was on the couch for that one. They can lose in Gleneagles without him just as easily as they can with him.

Cultural change comes slowly and sometimes painfully. A Tiger-less Ryder Cup Team was only a matter of time. Whether it comes this year or in 2016 or whenever the fact is no one stays on top forever.

Watson may be faced with the toughest decision a captain has had in decades. But isn’t that why he was selected in the first place: to change things up. This may just be the year.

Share

Changes at Golf World & Dick’s Sends PGA Pros Packing

July 24th, 2014 1 comment

by Jeff Skinner

The times there are a changing. Two big announcements in the world of golf reflect the ever changing landscape in the business of golf.

First, after 67 years of print publication Golf World has announced that they are discontinuing their printed magazine and will be going to an all digital format.

gwIt’s no secret that all print media is under tremendous pressure and with less golfers and even less subscribers Golf World has decided to forsake the medium it has used since 1947. Golf World was losing print subscribers and its ad revenue was down over 28% this year.

I can certainly understand how they needed to make a change. I had been complaining for years that by the time my copy showed up in the mailbox the next week’s tournaments were already over. But there was always a special column or piece that we couldn’t get online to make that hard copy issue worthwhile.

From Golf World.com: As part of the new strategic vision for Golf Digest and Golf World that began this spring with the introduction of the Golf Digest video channel, the relaunch of GolfDigest.com and the redesign of Golf Digest magazine, Golf Digest Editor-in-Chief Jerry Tarde and President Peter Hunsinger announce today a news division that combines the best of both Golf Digest and Golf World to expand our collective digital presence. With the sports news cycle demanding immediate access to quality content, we now will offer more of what our audience wants, when they want it and where they want to get it. To that end, beginning July 28, we’ll be making the following enhancements to both our golf brands.

• Golf World will now be available exclusively on digital platforms. Instead of 31 times a year delivered in print, a week after tournaments are completed, Golf World will be delivered 50 times a year on Mondays at 7 a.m. EST, accessible on all digital devices.  

• Readers of Golf World will receive the quality content free of charge, and we will honor the value of their current Golf World print subscription with Golf Digest. 

• Golf World Editor-in-Chief Jaime Diaz will lead the new news-division team that will encompass contributors from both Golf Digest and GolfDigest.com. Video reports will be added to our coverage, including “The Rosaforte Report” in video with chief correspondent and columnist Tim Rosaforte. Golf World content will feature weekly bonus “Long Reads” as well as “10 Things We’re Talking About,” stats packages, and Mike Johnson’s exclusive equipment coverage from the pro tours.  

I understand the move, absolutely but I’ll miss the magazine for sure. But at least we still get the brilliance of Jaime Diaz and the inside connections of Tim Rosaforte.

It’s still a shame to see something that’s been such an intricate part of the fabric of golf journalism succumb to modern day issues.

At the same time we are watching Dick’s Sporting Goods fire 560 PGA Professionals from their golf sections. Dick’s informed their PGA Pros on Tuesday that they were done and gave them a severance package.

Dick’s is the nation’s largest sports retailer and sells more TaylorMade and Callaway than anyone in the United States.

With the poor economy, less golfers playing the game and a flood of products still sitting on the floor Dick’s has missed its revenue targets and felt compelled to ax their pros. Part of this may be their too close relationship with some of their suppliers.

In the past year TaylorMade had four different new drivers and Dick’s stocked them all. And guess what? They didn’t sell. Here’s CEO Ed Stack’s take on the glut of merchandize sitting unsold on the racks in their stores.”We are selling drivers in our stores this spring for $99 that were approximately $299 20 months ago.” dicks sport

To that I say whose fault is that? Certainly not the PGA Professional who had no input into what or how many items their store stocks. I remember talking to the guys at the Dick’s near me this spring and commenting on how many TaylorMade drivers were sitting there all nice and shiny. Well guess what? They are still there.

Did the buyers at Dick’s not realize the economy is in the tank? Are they out of touch with the recent golfing demographics? Or are they in bed with TaylorMade, Callaway and the rest.

These PGA Pros aren’t pulling down big bucks at Dick’s but they did have benefits and some needed the security of a situation like Dick’s. But now they are all out looking for jobs in the middle of the golf season and for no fault of their own.

It’s strange because Dick’s had promoted and used the fact that you would be serviced by a PGA Professional at all their stores. These pros were giving you the expertise you can’t get online. The pros set Dick’s apart. Now, Dick’s is going to be a driving range where customers go and try out their clubs and go home and order it online.

Ted Bishop, President of the PGA of America said in a statement, “The PGA of America is aware of the decision made today by Dick’s Sporting Goods that affects the livelihoods of many PGA professionals who have been employed at Dick’s.”

“We are extremely disappointed by the news, as any time even one PGA member loses a job we are extremely sensitive to such matters. … While we are sincerely disappointed with this news, we continue to support our PGA professionals who are extremely dedicated to share, teach and grow the game of golf.”

It looks like a bit of cutting off the nose routine. I bet they will sell less equipment now without the PGA Professional to help that customer with the sale.

It’s a sad day…in more ways than one.

Share