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The Good, Bad & Ugly at the Open Championship

July 17th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Good things at day one of the Open Championship:

Rory McIlroy’s bogey free 66 was as good as it can get on Thursday. Now comes Freaky Friday. This will be Rory’s toughest mental test.

Tom Watson shows that links golf will always be his golf. The 64 year old shoots one over, 73. That’s great stuff.

Jim Furyk’s four under 68 has him in great position to continue the sting of forty-something winners at the Open. Darren Clarke, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson showed that experience can pay off at The Open. Furyk is hoping it’s his time.

Sergio Garcia is once again in the mix at a major. He has some high finishes at The Open but his worst enemy is that space between his ears. Open-Championship-Flags

The Molinari Brothers, no that’s not a circus act, its Edoardo and Francesco playing the links in matching 68’s today. That would be something if they can keep it up and get a chance to be paired together.

There is plenty of youth on that leaderboard. Rory, 25 of course, but Matteo Manassero playing in his fourth Open is 21 and sits in second. Brooks Koepka (T3) is 24 and Rickie Fowler (T3) is 25.

How about Ashley Chesters, the amateur who shot two under, 70 and is T19. Steve Elling had the Tweet of the day “Amazingly, amateur Ashley Chesters is the lone English player under par. Sounds like a name from an LA escort service.”

Tiger Woods played very well after a poor start had him looking like the Tiger of old.  Not the circa 2000 Tiger but 2013 Tiger where he wins but still sprays the ball.

The weather ay Royal Liverpool looked more like the tropics than England. I bet there are some heavy duty cases of sunburn tonight.

Bad things at day one of the Open Championship:

Bubba Watson once again shows that he can lose focus at anytime. He looked distracted and annoyed and links golf hasn’t sunk in to that hard head of his yet. He still has some maturing to do. His game is too good to be sidetracked by mental mistakes.

Phil Mickelson’s 74 wasn’t pretty but it could have been much worse. But Phil has some heavy duty rose colored glasses on. He says he never has it better. And he thinks he was putting well. I must have been watching another Open I guess. 32 putts Phil…32 putts!

My longshot pick John Singleton was a bit of both good and bad today. He had a solid front nine of 36 but felt the pressure of the moment and ballooned to 42 on the back. He said he loved the entire day but I need him to right the ship so he can make the cut and be the only factory worker playing the weekend at the Open.

Ugly things at day one of the Open Championship:

Poor Ernie Els and the poor bloke that took his opening tee ball in the jaw. Ernie was shaken up after seeing the man being tended to and went on to take a seven on the first hole. He three putted from two feet and missed a backhanded tap in. The injured man was admitted to the hospital and was expected to be released after treatment.   That one hole may have cost Ernie any shot at another Claret Jug.

 

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Michelle Wie: Loving Life…All of It

July 11th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The Michelle Wie Buzz continues this week at the Women’s British Open and while it looks like Michelle is about to miss the cut at Royal Birkdale we still can’t help but appreciate how far this young woman has come.

From a 14 year old phenom to a 22 year old has been to the top of the golf world. Wie is the most recognized female golfer in the world, critical to the success of the LPGA and a young woman who is finally comfortable with being both.

Wie has come a long way in her young life and Gene Wojciechowski profiles the U.S. Open champion in this revealing interview.

You can see the strain in Michelle’s face in the early pictures of her career. But now, even before her victory at Pinehurst, she has been all smiles. They are the smiles of a young woman who has survived the trials of unrealized expectations and now is so very comfortable with her life and herself.

The grace this young woman has displayed this season is simply wonderful. She knows she has seen the lowest of the lows and truly appreciates the high she is on right now.

Click “Autoplay Off” or Pause at the bottom of the video to stop additional ESPN videos.

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USGA Upstages PGA Championship with Move to Fox

August 8th, 2013 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The United States Golf Association and Fox Sports have announced that the USGA will be leaving NBC and ESPN and has signed a twelve year deal to air the U.S. Open and other USGA events.

After nineteen years with NBC the USGA has jumped ship to the Fox Networks in a move that has shocked the industry.

Fox has grown into a big player in televised sports but to date has never televised tournament golf.  But the USGA decided it had enough of Johnny Miller and crew and starting in 2015 miller hicksall the USGA events will be on Fox and Fox Sports 1, which hasn’t even started broadcasting yet.

In my opinion the previous coverage on television and online have been extraordinary, with a few exceptions.  And the only way they can improve on the U.S. Open broadcast is to show fewer commercials.  And I don’t think that’s in the plan.

It’s a surprising move but what is even more surprising is the timing of the announcement.

This is PGA Week and all the focus should be on the PGA Championship.  Prior to this attention grabbing move, the powers that be would never have stolen another’s thunder.  Now the USGA, which has always prided itself as being a dignified and classy organization pulls this “Look at Me” move.  Maybe from the Kardashians…but the United States Golf Association?   Really?

I understand that all this is big business.  Who knows how many millions the USGA will pocket from this deal but this couldn’t wait until Monday…or Tuesday?  It had to be on the eve of the PGA Championship?

Bad timing, poor judgment…classless move, there’s no other way to describe this.

Glen Nager and Mike Davis have done an excellent of transforming the USGA into a forward thinking, proactive organization and they haven’t made many mistakes in their reign.  But this is so out of character I can’t help but think there is something else behind the timing of the announcement.

The USGA has every right to sign contracts with whoever they want to broadcast their tournaments (money talks after all) but the timing of the announcement is a massive misstep.

PGA of America President, Ted Bishop can’t be happy with the USGA and with good reason.  Hopefully it will be a great PGA and that will take some of the sting out of this cheap shot by the USGA.

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Play a Nicklaus Design: The Golf Club at Mansion Ridge

July 5th, 2012 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Living in the Northeast has its advantages and disadvantages if you’re a golfer.  True, we can’t play golf all year but when the weather warms up we have a vast number of great golf courses to choose from in the metropolitan area.

One of those courses that is a must play for anyone in the area is The Golf Club at Mansion Ridge.  Located in the rolling hills of Monroe, New York Mansion Ridge is barely an hours drive from New York City and well worth the trip from anywhere in the tri-state area.

Mansion Ridge has plenty to boast about and rightfully so, it is a Jack Nicklaus Signature Design.  In fact it is the only Nicklaus Signature Design in New York State that is open to the public.  A Nicklaus Signature Design means that the Golden Bear himself walked the grounds and had significant input into the course.

If you have played any Nicklaus course you know he has a reputation for demanding layouts and Mansion Ridge isn’t much different.  Narrow, tree-lined fairways, multiple forced  carries and intricate green complexes make Mansion Ridge a typical Nicklaus design and a very demanding golf course.  But to make the course playable for all golfers they have five different sets of tee markers and a first timer might do well to move up a set to make the day more enjoyable.

The back tees, the Tour Tees, play to 6889 yards and a rating of 73.7 with a slope of 142.  That is a man-sized challenge.  Even the third set of tees, the Players Tees, while only 6134 yards still rate a 70.3 rating and a stern slope of 135.  That should tell you that, much like the way Nicklaus played in his day, this is a thinking man’s course.

Positioning off the tee is critical for success and keeping the ball on the correct side of the green is even more important.  A little local knowledge goes a long way at Mansion Ridge as there are forced carries on half the holes and complicated greens on all of them.

Two standout holes are the extremely challenging ninth and the very picturesque fourteenth.  With no Nicklaus trademark forced carry off the tee you may think you’re home free on this par five but be aware that the dreaded forced carry comes into play on your approach.  The dogleg right fourteenth plays uphill to green seemed to be carved out of a quarry for an amazing setting.

The playing conditions at Mansion Ridge are what we expect at a course with the Nicklaus name attached to it.  The course is wonderfully maintained with manicured fairways, thick rough and brilliantly pure green surfaces.

Mansion Ridge is one of the better courses in the area and it gets an immediate bounce in reputation by having Jack’s name attached to it.  But its reputation is well earned.  It is a fine layout that is wonderfully maintained and a great experience for all levels of golfers.

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Great First Day at The Masters

April 6th, 2012 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Leader Lee Westwood is focused on this major.  His five under 67 matches his best round at Augusta and his driving was superb.  He hit 12 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens.  “I’ve won all there is to win other than a major championship. That’s my primary focus and it’s been a long time coming around since the PGA [Championship] last year.”  The putter Lee…the putter.

Forty eight year old Miguel Angel Jimenez continues to defy the aging process.  Miguel was playing with Tiger and being out driven by him by 30-yards each time.  But Miguel proved that his workout regime of wine and cigars beats Tiger’s Navy Seal Training any day.  A three under 69 has the Spaniard in great shape for a tournament he absolutely loves.

Second place finishers Louie Oosthuizen and Peter Hanson turned it on over the back nine to get to four under.  Oosthuizen birdied three of the last four holes and Hanson went three under over the last three holes.

Bubba Watson’s 69 looks like a good round but it could have been much better.  With his length and ability to work it like no one else he should have scored better.  But his short game was inconsistent and his biggest problem is the “five inches between his ears.” Patience grasshopper, patience.

One of my golf gurus gave me a heads up to a good dark horse bet and he was right.  Vijay Singh looked like the “Old Vijay” and his two under has him right in the hunt for a second green jacket.  The 2000 Masters Champion was showing off for his son who is on his bag this week.

Joining Singh in the hunt are fellow fortysomethings, Jim Furyk, the only bogey free round of the day and Steve Stricker who finally got it going on the back with three birdies.

How about Hideki Matsuyama and Patrick Cantlay, amateurs making their mark on day one at this Masters.  Cantlay had a great summer last year with the low amateur at the U.S. Open and played great on the PGA Tour.  He’s the number one amateur in the world and a sophomore at UCLA.  What’s even more impressive is his composure, maturity and confidence.  And yes, he thinks he can win The Masters.

Rory McIlroy says all the right things but don’t tell me he didn’t have some jitters on the first tee.  After his opening double bogey he settled down but his driver had other ideas.  Wayward tee balls that only found six of fourteen fairways: he was lucky to get to one under with finishing birds on seventeen and eighteen.  Three weeks off Rory…really?

So Tiger Woods has a bad warm-up session, uses a combo swing of Foley/Haney/Harmon techniques, hits only six fairways and still shoots even par.  He’s good, yes but his driver deserted him in the first round and he can’t win without it.

Is Phil Mickelson the biggest tease in golf or what? He hits some of the worse shots ever, and then follows them with the most amazing shots.  His drive in the tenth was so far left the Coast Guard found it.  He described his hunt for the ball through a newly found jungle at Augusta as “Tarzanyish.”  A triple bogey can kill a round real quick at Augusta.  But give Phil credit he bore down and went two under over the last nine holes with a vintage Phil short game and putting stroke.  We all saw him tightening his adjustable driver on the eighteenth tee.  How long was that thing loose and whose head at Callaway is going to roll?   Bad day for Phil but like he said afterwards, he’s only two over.  He thinks he has a six under round in his bag.  But for god’s sake Phil tighten that driver.

 

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Tiger Looks Very Healthy at Tavistock Cup

March 20th, 2012 1 comment

by Jeff Skinner

To the naked eye Tiger Woods and his strained Achilles looked perfectly healthy at The Tavistock Cup yesterday.  Woods showed little effect from a tender Achilles that sidelined him from Doral a little more than a week ago.  He was ripping drives with no sign of favoring his leg.  The fact that he looked so fit has caused some speculation that maybe Tiger wasn’t as hurt as he made out to be when he walked off the Blue Monster.  Tiger has a history of playing through pain but recently he has withdrawn for three tournaments in the last three years but this was by far his quickest return to action.  Tiger also has a longer history of not being forthright with the media.  He says little when asked questions and even less when it’s a subject he rather not discuss.  It’s just a little strange that Woods is still playing golf seven days in a row (if he makes the cut at Bay Hill) on a gimpy wheel.  This is the most golf Tiger has ever played leading up to The Masters.

It is another chapter in the mysterious life of Tiger Woods and how he is the most difficult athlete to try and understand.

 

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Allenby & Ogilvy Tussle Down Under

November 28th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Robert Allenby’s week at The Presidents Cup was about as bad as bad can get.  He went 0-4-0 and was the only player on either team not to score any points.  Considering that Greg Norman went out on a limb to select him when there were other players performing far better than Allenby has to add to his frustration.

Well, it looks like his frustration hit the breaking point on Sunday evening in Australia.  There are reports that Allenby and his teammate and friend Geoff Ogilvy almost went to blows over Allenby’s play and Ogilvy’s tweets.

While he was playing at the Australian PGA, Allenby made comments about his partners at The Presidents Cup saying he didn’t get much support from his partners.  “Everyone’s making me look like I’m playing like shit and then it starts wearing on your mind a little bit, maybe you are,” Allenby said last week. He said Retief Goosen couldn’t convert any putts when, “I hit it inside 10 feet a few times, YE Yang’s form wasn’t great during the Friday fourball matches and Geoff Ogilvy forced him to chip out of the trees on three occasions on Saturday.”

As Allenby climbed the leaderboard at The Australian PGA, Ogilvy tweeted “warms the heart to see Robert playing so well this week.”  Allenby took it as sarcasm, Ogilvy said it was sincere.

Ogilvy said that Allenby has yet to acknowledge that he played poorly at The Presidents Cup.  He can blame his partners if he likes but in his singles loss to David Toms he made six bogeys in 13 holes and was waxed 7 & 6 by Toms.

When the two got together at an after party for the tournament a confrontation occurred with Allenby challenging Ogilvy to step outside to finish this.

It is hard to fathom that these two players, who were friends, could act like this, especially in public.  Maybe the pressure of the Presidents Cup was too much for Allenby but there has to be a better way of handling this.

Check out Aussie Golfer story.

Check Out The Australian story.

 

 

 

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Luke Donald’s a Throwback

July 13th, 2011 No comments

by G. Rennie

The enduring image from Sunday’s round at Castle Stuart was the effortless control exhibited by Luke Donald as he took his first Scottish Open trophy.  They say the great ones make the difficult look easy and Luke made his 63 over the saturated links look routine. Donald doesn’t overpower a course as much as seduce it with fairly straight but short driving, superb wedge play, an unmatched sand game and steely putting. This is all brought together with a game plan and a thinking man’s approach to the game. As Donald walked the back nine of Gil Hanse’s celebrated new links it was like a stroll back in time as the game he played evoked a type of golf largely lost from the modern pro tours.

Golf’s biggest names today are predominantly big bombers and the cohort of young guns who are beginning to make reputations and history all play the long game. From Tiger and Phil through Bubba and Rory, Quiros, Watney, Kaymer and Rickie they all launch it and go find it. Surely, each of these gents has a bag full of other skills and dimensions to their games but the first weapon out of the bag is power. Not so with Donald and it seems that his relative lack of power has led to him concentrate on developing his other strengths.

When Jack Nicklaus roared onto the scene he displayed a combination of long game and course management that none of his contemporaries could imitate. Tiger’s power game was shocking at first, then supplemented by the revolution in club and ball technology. In a strange twist, the technology surge helped to bring Tiger back to the pack, at least in terms of the long game. Tiger dominated his peers not merely by overpowering them but with a combination of course management, short game wizardry and incomparable putting. Despite the comprehensive brilliance that Tiger displayed one of his legacies seems to be that the new prototype for a golf professional is first and foremost to bomb it.

Luke Donald has taken a different road. He’s developed a wonderful all around game and a relaxed manner that hides a compelling drive to compete: World #1, 16 of 18 top tens, Match Play Champ, and local favorite at The Open Championship. Not bad for a short hitter.

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Rickie Fowler Can Help the PGA Tour

January 12th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The PGA Tour is like most businesses in these difficult economic times: it could use some help increasing its bottom line. There are some players that could help The PGA Tour this year deal with fewer dollars, less viewers and a “Tiger-less” season. We’ll take a look at some of the players that could have a positive impact on the tour this year.

Rickie Fowler is one of the young, new breed of golfers that may appeal to golf fans both old and young. After Fowler turned pro last year after his sophomore season at Oklahoma St. he went out and promptly finished tied for seventh at the Timberlake and took second in a playoff at The Frys.com Open. Not only does he have the game and a new PGA Tour Card, he also has the look and charisma that many complain most tour players lack.

Fowler looks like he may be more at home on a skateboard or a dirt bike. The truth is golf is his second love. His first was Motocross and he spent his childhood racing dirt bikes with his dad. He still takes the bike out and flies a few jumps but golf is his main focus now. His motocross ancestry may be a valuable asset in attracting younger viewers to the tour. While television ratings are sure to drop during Tiger’s hiatus, Fowler could be a link to the “younger generation” of fans that are borderline viewers. Fowler has the appeal that works for the “texting, Face Book, YouTube, Twitter” generation.

Don’t think that Fowler is just another pretty, young face. Sure he’ll develop his own gallery of young women that insist on following him on the course a la Camilo Villegas and Adam Scott, but his appeal goes beyond that. This young man has a game beyond his years. He plays an old school game. He is a player that is more concerned with feel rather than his mechanics. He uses an old school coach that has convinced Fowler that he can figure things out on his own. He is as fast a player as there is on tour. His approach is plain: get the number, pull the club and hit the shot. So far he looks to be a go for broke, gambling style player that isn’t afraid to try the high risk shot.

He may sound too good to be true: an attractive, skilled, young player that appeals to many demographics. My personal favorite characteristic about Fowler is that he plays fast. Fowler could be one of the new reasons people tune into the tour. He certainly can’t hurt the numbers and maybe he’ll give Stewart Cink some competition with his Twitter followers. If you don’t know what Twitter is, I have made my point.

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Super Bowl…Super Golf

January 26th, 2009 No comments

By Jeff Skinner

Since the Super Bowl is taking place in Tampa this week we offer this alternative to all the pre-game festivities. After all, how much partying can a golfer take while they are in Tampa for the week? If you need a break from the non-stop parties, promotions and late night festivities, try a nice relaxing round of golf at one of the best courses in the area.

The TPC Tampa Bay has everything you need to get away from the insanity that goes with Super Bowl week. TPC Tampa is a wonderful facility that fulfills all your golf expectations. It is always a thrill to play on a course that the pros use as a regular tour stop. The TPC is home to the Outback Steakhouse Pro Am on the Champions Tour. Past champions include Tom Watson who won the past two years, Hale Irwin and some guy named Nicklaus. One of the unique aspects of the TPC is the elaborate locker room. The management at TPC puts brass plaques on the lockers with the names of all the past champions. I was changing my clothes right at Watson’s locker. Well, being a big fan of Watson, that made my day before I even went on the course.

The course was designed my Bobby Weed in 1991 along with Chi Chi Rodriguez as a PGA consultant. This is a true stadium style layout with many mounds and banks to allow for spectator viewing. Fortunately there are tees that vary from a slope of 119 to 135. This course has received many accolades from all the “Best Lists”. Golf Digest gives it four and a half stars and Golf World lists it as number eighteen on their “Best Public Courses” list. Number nineteen is Bethpage Black home of this year’s U.S. Open. That tells you how good this course is.

You can sense that you are on a quality course right away. The first fairway resembles a jigsaw puzzle piece that doglegs right and needs an accurate drive to the left side. The greens here are rather large and can give you many different hole locations. If this is Florida it must mean water. There is water on many of the holes and that makes shot placement very important.

Weed uses mounds and bunkers throughout the fairways to encourage a round that rewards target golf. Many greens are guarded by collection areas that funnel missed shots away from the green. This places a premium on your chipping game. Such is the case at number nine. Nine is a long dogleg left that needs a long drive to carry a series of mounds in the fairway. There are no greenside bunkers. Collection areas protect the green and keep balls from rolling up to the green.

The par five fifteenth tests your accuracy on your tee shot, your approach and yes, even your lay up. With not one, but two water hazards protecting the entire right side, straight is must on this one. Slicers beware on this one, you’re tempting the Gods if you half any slice on this hole.

The green complexes here disguise their level of difficulty. You’ll stand in the fairway and look to see a green with few or even no bunkers and think there is no danger. Think again. The subtle, rolling terrain surrounding the greens is as unforgiving as any bunker.

All tournaments hope for a dramatic finish on the last hole and TPC Tampa makes that very possible. It is a par four with bunkers that protect the left side and water defends the right all the way up to the green. Lose your drive right and your wet, lose it left and you may find the bunkers. This green has a bunker on the left and a spine that runs through the center of the green. The water is so close on the right side that you could putt into it. You can imagine the crowds that surround the green during the tournaments as you putt out and cherish your round on this course.

When you see the name TPC attached to any course you expect it to be a high quality course and a memorable experience. TPC Tampa is just that. The facilities are excellent. The clubhouse and locker room are great. The substantial pro shop is very well stocked with plenty of logo gear. The practice areas are what you would expect the pros to practice on. The people are courteous and helpful. The course is meticulously maintained with all the qualities of a tour layout. TPC Tampa delivers what you expect, a great day of golf.


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