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Ramblings from the Easy Chair … PGA Championship Edition

August 10th, 2013 No comments

By: G. Rennie

Oak Hill Country Club broke out it’s major championship garb this afternoon as blue skies and swirling winds made play much more difficult at the 95th PGA Championship. Wide fairways and sponge-like greens that had brought on record low scores and red numbers by the truckload on Thursday and Friday but by the time the leaders were teeing off that was just a memory.

68 was the lowest any of the the 36 hole leading cohort could manage but the morning starters were faced with a slightly more benign course and a few of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/a/a5/2013_PGA_Championship_logo.jpgthese managed to to take it to the mid sixties.

One of our pre -tournament favorites, Dustin Johnson, posted 65, the days lowest round and vaulted up the board to a joint 9th place going into the final round. Johnson carded  six birds against one lone bogey on the tough 5th hole. He’ll tee off four groups ahead of the lead pair partnered with Kevin Streelman, another major mover on moving day. Streelman’s 64 tied for the second lowest round of the day.  Johnson could post another low round early and put a little pressure on the leaders but at seven back, that’s a bridge too far.

The three top ranked golfers in the OWGR all seemed well out of reach going off today and #1 and #2 are now most definitely out of this championship. Tiger could manage only one birdie in his round and his 73 will have his head, and maybe Sean Foley’s, spinning for some time. Phil found symmetry  if not birdies, at least as he had matching 39′s.  At 10 over he’ll probably start planning for Pinehurst as he’s finishing the string tomorrow.

Rory broke the trend those two other needle movers were bent on as he fired a three under 67, finishing birdie -birdie on the two toughest holes on the course. His chip in on 18 from rough above the hole was Shot of the Day. At 6 back he’s got a huge load to lift but it’s not without precedent and there are few golfers who can turn from dark to light, from bemused to dazzling, from clueless to masterful but Rory is surely one of them. He toasted the field at last years PGA and maybe he’s found some karmic  magic at this PGA.  Mc is Back!

The top nine spots on the leaderboard are all held by very familiar names, the usual suspects so to speak, with one exception. Jonas Blixt blitzed the venerable Oak Hill track with a four under 64, topped off by birdie on the treacherous 18th. He’s part of the Swedish Invasion that will go off as the next to last pairing. We’ve got the Little Swede and the Big Swede. Blixt is probably six inches, maybe more,  shorter than his partner and fellow countryman Henrik Stenson who holed three birdie putts on his way to a very nice round of 69. Big has held his form over the last month better than any other golfer on the tours. At two back he is in perfect position to capture his first major and break into the top ten in the rankings. 54 hole major leaders have a dreadful record of holding on and closing the deal in recent years and lots of money will wager that neither of the final pairing  will have the chops to hoist the Wanamaker on Sunday evening.

A number of contenders blew up today most notably Justin Rose and Matt Kuchar with  a 77 and a 76 respectively. Webb Simpson, who for a brief time was co-record holder of the Oak Hill record (with a stellar 64 yesterday) also went south with a three over round of 73 and now lies 8 back.

The man who eclipsed that record with his own piece of history yesterday was Jason Dufner. His 63 put him on top of Ben Hogan and Curtis Strange ( as well as Simpson) and he nearly wrote a monumental record for all time major scoring but his putt for 62 fell short. That still left him with a two stroke lead at -9 heading into Saturday’s round. He no longer holds that lead but his sometimes shaky yet, in the end, gritty 71 sees him in the final pairing only one back of leader Jim Furyk. Dufner is a sort of social media folk hero as Dufnering has taken off as some kind of laid back mock version of new age meditation.  But the guy has game, a distinctive style with that throw back waggle, and a demeanor that never varies.  He’d be a great lunch pail type of major champion.

The only remaining current holder of a major title still in the hunt is Aussie Adam Scott. His plus two round today wasn’t what we expected but it could have been much worse. He took a double bogey six on the relatively easy 16th hole but closed with back to back pars that included a great save from the left rough on 17.  He’s four back but can apply some pressure on the guys playing behind him.  I think he’s the man to beat tomorrow.

The 54 hole leader at the PGA Championship is Jim Furyk. We’ve seen this movie before and it typically ends in a car wreck. Well at least it always did in the 2012 season. Furyk lead or co-lead four tourneys last year and failed to close on any. Most notable and wrenching were the US Open at Olympic , where he was utterly gutted,  and the WGC Bridgestone. On top of that he was one of the  many “goats” on the US squad at last years Ryder Cup at Medinah. It was a horror of a season to watch as this major champion winner seemed to be walking into the sunset of his career. But now Jim Furyk is climbing up Redemption Mountain. All those demons will be vanquished, all the the disappointment and heartache will vanish, all that past will be transformed into an honored future. If Jim can pull this off he’ll be strolling into the World Golf Hall of Fame. If he can’t will he ever be able to contend again?
Good luck, Jimmy.

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Feinstein Calls Tiger Out, Begay Still Has His Back

April 9th, 2011 No comments

by G. Rennie

The Golf Channel has an ever expanding stable of expert commentators and they put them to good use at events like The Masters where they don’t get to broadcast any live action. Ensconced in wood paneled, fireplaced sets evoking the finest private clubs GC’s team of talking heads probe and pronounce on just about any issue of interest to golfers. One of the newer additions to the roster, who seems to get air time only when the majors are in play, is Notah Begay. A four tie winner on the PGA Tour, Notah is probably best known as a close friend to Tiger Woods and a former teammate of Tiger’s on the Stanford golf team. I’ve been favorably impressed with Notah’ s thoughtful, sometimes offbeat opinions but he had a bad day yesterday as he got the worst in an exchange with John Feinstein. The subject, of course, was Tiger.  Over the past 18 months, since TigetGate, Fienstein has been a consistent voice noting that Tiger, despite his announced commitment to change his ways, hasn’t changed in any notable way.  Feinstein is one of the most eminent writes/commentators in golf and he doesn’t pull his punches. He said Tigers’ behavior on course, and in the golf world hasn’t changed at all. He hasn’t changed how he relates to fans, with autograph sessions brief and always while he walking and with a photographer in tow. He hasn’t changed his schedule to help out some of the lesser stops on tour that would get a huge gate boost from his attendance.  He hasn’t played in the Par 3 at Augusta which could show his fans the lighter side of Tiger.  On course, he’s still slamming clubs, cursing like a weekend hacker, and spittin’ all over the course.  ”Where’s the change?” Feinstein asks, and he’s right on the mark, in my opinion.

Notah didn’t see it that way, reasoning that Tiger is justified in using the same approach now that brought him success in the past. I suppose it’s predictable that he would be an unabashed apologist for Tiger but it’s disappointing . It’s reasonable to think that Notah landed his Golf Channel spot, in part, due to his friendship with Tiger but that doesn’t mean he must reflexively defend Tiger in every instance. A little more critical judgment will serve Notah better in the future.

 

Here’s a piece from Feinstein on Tiger and Phil.

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Phil Mickelson & Stacy Lewis: A Win for the Good Guys

April 4th, 2011 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

This is the week we wait for all year, Masters Week.  Augusta, Amen Corner, Champions Dinner, Magnolia Lane, Par Three Contest and all the other traditions are great but excuse me if I still have a hangover from this past weekend.

It was a great weekend for golf. We got to watch two players achieve their goals.  Stacy Lewis finally broke through in a big way to win The Kraft Nabisco Championship and Phil Mickelson attained his stated goal also.  It was to get his game ready for Augusta and I guess a three stroke win at the Shell Houston Open qualifies as doing just that.  But this weekend was about more than two champions.  It is about the quality of these champions.

Everyone on the professional tours has their own story but these two are special.  Lewis is an amazing story of will and determination.  Just Goggle her, or search this site, and you’ll soon agree.  Phil Mickelson has gone from “the best player never to win a major” to the world’s favorite golfer.

I was on the Stacy Lewis bandwagon from the start but I was a late comer to Phil’s Fanatics.  Long before titanium drivers and 7,000 yard courses I was a Nicklaus fan.  I then was drawn to the flash and swagger of Greg Norman and fell victim, like millions of others, to the Tiger Woods façade.  But Phil is the kind of person I have to root for.

I watched him bumble and stumble his way to his crushing defeat at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot and it was then that I got an appreciation of the type of man he was.  He handled that day with class and was open and honest with his assessment of himself.  He called himself an idiot and I think there are few professionals that would have been so open.

From that point on I’ve been in Phil’s corner and have come to understand the kind of guy he is and why he chooses to live his life the way he does.  He has been compared to Arnold Palmer on the course.  He always gambles and goes for it and treats the fans like they are his family.  He sign autographs to the very last one just like the King used to.  He’s always the fan favorite, just like Arnie.

But away from the course I see more of a resemblance to Jack Nicklaus than Arnie.  Jack took great pains his entire career to make sure he put as little strain on his family as possible.  He always made time for the kids and their activities. He tried never to be away for long periods of time and travelled with the kids much of the time.  Phil is the same way.  His family comes first and he plans his schedule that way.  That is not to say that other tour players are any less dedicated to their families but since Phil is in the spotlight so much we get to know so much more about him.

Sure, life on the tour is easier now with private planes and millions of dollars to solve any problem.  But being away from your wife and kids is never easy, on the player or the family.  Phil know that and does all he can to remedy that.

That is why I enjoyed this weekend so much.  To see Lewis and Mickelson both win was wonderful. They are two people with high moral values and strong character.  This was a win for the good guys. For me that is what this game is all about.

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PGA Tour Goes To Disney World

November 9th, 2010 No comments

OK, so it has a goofy trophy, literally, but it’s PGA Tour golf and it should be fun.

H/T Yahoo Sports

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Europe Comes Back On Day Two At The Ryder Cup

October 3rd, 2010 No comments
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Brendan Marrocco: A Walking Inspiration

July 4th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

When our visionary forefathers crafted the Declaration of Independence they thought they were forming the framework for an independent nation.  I doubt that they envisioned the nation that the thirteen colonies have evolved into.  The United States of America protects more than just its own citizens within its borders.  It protects people and countries around the world.  Whether we agree or disagree with the policies of this country, one thing is undeniable; our armed forces personnel sacrifice much to preserve our way of life and protect citizens worldwide.

One such soldier is Brendan Marrocco.  Brendan is recovering from horrific wounds he sustained in Iraq.  He lost both arms and both legs and his doctors can’t explain how he survived.  Maybe it is his indomitable spirit.  He is an amazing young man with an outlook that has aided his recovery.

Lizette Alvarez profiles Marrocco in today’s New York Times.  You may remember Brendan from last year’s AT&T National or the articles by David Feherty in Golf Magazine.

Take a few minutes to reflect on the millions of men and women, soldiers and citizens alike, that have banded together over the past two centuries to make The United States of America the nation it is today.

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Rose Leads the AT&T But Tiger Still Runs It

July 3rd, 2010 1 comment

by Jeff Skinner

Justin Rose may be leading The AT&T National but it was Tiger Woods that kept us interested in this tournament.  Wood went out early and shot an even par 70 that left him directly on the cut line.  Is this the same golfer that is chasing Jack’s 18 majors?  I don’t think so.  The only thing that is consistent about Tiger’s game is that he is inconsistent.  One round he can putt and the next he can’t.  His driver is on for a round and then it leaves him.  It was his short game that failed him and prevented him from moving up the leader board.

His wedges were spotty, he chunked a chip and lipped out two short putts.  He has been saying that his game is close to being where he wants it but we are not used to seeing Woods back in the pack with the mere mortals.  He did drive the ball well in the second round but you have to wonder: is it more than just rust that is affecting his game? So far this year he has only 19 full PGA Tours rounds under his belt but this is the guy that could will the ball into the hole.  Woods’ mental strength was one of his main weapons in his golfing arsenal.  If his off course troubles have affected Tiger’s super human power to focus on the course he may be just another skilled golfer.  Has Super Golfer met his kryptonite?  I think we’ll have to wait until the Open Championship to find out.

For those of us naive enough to believe that the removal of Tiger’s name as host of the AT&T National had any effect on the tournament John Feinstein sets the record straight.  On The Golf Channel Feinstein said that Tiger’s people are still running the show at the AT&T.  Nothing has changed from last year and he expects Tiger to be back on the marquee as the host next year.  I noticed two distinct areas that are proof Tiger still claims this tournament as this own.  First he is talking to the press after his rounds.  How many times has Tiger blown off the press when he shoots over par, almost always. Second, take a look at the sponsor’s exemptions.  Of the eight exemptions there are three good friends of Tiger.  His new practice partner Arjun Atwal is playing.  His old college buddy and closest friend on the tour, Notah Begay played.  His 2008 US Open playoff buddy, Rocco Mediate teed it up.  Even a hacker like me can see his finger prints on those selections.

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Four Hackers Take On Bethpage Black

July 2nd, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

This is part two of my adventure at Bethpage Black.  Click here for part one.

We got to Bethpage State Park around noon and checked in.  It is an amazing place with five eighteen holes courses, three designed by Tillinghast.  We hit a bucket on the range, had a little lunch, putted a few and watched as the groups ahead of us tee off.  Oh yea, it was 95 degrees and as humid as a steam bath, but we were playing The Black.

On a course like this you would think that the golfers that play here might be an experienced and passionate group.  Think again.  One of the best things about The Black is that anyone can play it.  One of the worst things about The Black is that anyone can play it.  One of the guys ahead of us teed off in flip flops. That’s right flip flops.  We then watched him and his caddy search for his ball in the tall fescue grass on the left of the first fairway and waited for our turn.

The four of us stood on the tee and no one said it but we all were nervous as hell.  It wasn’t that there were a few groups waiting behind us.  It wasn’t that we feared a shot in the rough.  I think that it might have been the fact that this was a special place and we didn’t want to disrespect The Black.

The course looked so different compared to the last time I saw it.  Gone were the concession stands, the merchandise shops, the port-a-johns, the bleachers and the gallery ropes.  There were no ropes at all, just a great course waiting for the next shots.  There wasn’t a single sign that this was nothing more than a public golf course.  That is until it’s your turn and you tee it up.  I don’t know how I did it but I fought off a near terminal case of first tee jitters and hit it straight down the middle, right next to my brother-in-law Matt.  The old guys had shown up the young guys.  My son, Tyler and my nephew, Bryan were longer but both had hit the rough and Matt and I reveled in the glory of a shot right down the middle.

Of course none of us hit the green but three bogeys and a double were good enough for us and we walked to the second green all finally voicing how nervous we were on the first tee and how glad we were to walk off number one without a major train wreck.

It was our consensus that the fairway was absolutely plush and unlike any we had played on.  The first green rolled very true but wasn’t as fast as we anticipated.  The rough however was as advertised; deep and thick, as thick as we had seen at The Opens at The Black and at Winged Foot.  It was deep and we were in trouble if we spent much of the day in there.

As we stood on the second tee and waited for Flip Flops, in the fescue again, the only thing that I feared could ruin our round rumbled closer.  The forecast was for ninety plus temperatures and thunderstorms, with a chance of hail.  The wind started to blow and the sky darkened, we knew we were in for it.

Bryan, Tyler & Matt on the 2nd tee

By the time we hit our approaches to the second green the wind was at gale force and it had started to rain.  At the green the rain was coming down harder and thunder was crashing and lightning was flashing a little too close for comfort.  Matt, Tyler and Bryan had headed for the safety of the maintenance garage that bordered the second hole but I wanted to get my ball out of the deep, greenside bunker that had swallowed it up.  After my second attempt the ball landed on the fringe and I was off to the garage, running as fast as my old feet could carry me.  A loud clap of thunder hurried my pace.  The last one was really close. As I reached the garage my son had come out to see if I had survived and truth be told, I barely made it.

After I was in the shelter for less than a minute, the group ahead of us ran into the garage and told us that they watched me run for cover and about 150 yards behind me, on the third hole, a huge tree had crashed to the ground.  I was indeed a lucky golfer.

After about ten minutes the rain stopped, replaced by a few minutes of hail.  As we made our way back to the second green, amid the sirens of the surrounding community, we all laughed at the fact that we had survived one heck of the storm.  (The storm caused thousands of homes to lose power for six days and damaged many towns in its path.)  If it was our home course, we would have been out of there, but it was The Black and we were going to finish.  But first we had to do a little housekeeping on the green.  Leaves, branches and hail covered the green so after a quick clean up we were back at it.  Unfortunately, the storm did not cool it off, it was still over ninety.

Now we were all soaked and sweaty, The Black was making us work for our first round.  We hit our tee balls to the third green and as we approached the green we saw the tree that had been felled by the storm.  It had fallen down the hill to the fourth hole and had littered the fourth tee with branches and debris.  We played out the third, the easiest hole on the course, but had only one par in the group.  Matt had back to back pars and was looking pretty comfortable despite the heat and the rain.

Matt kept it up on the fourth hole a tough par five at 461 yards and the second hardest hole on the course.  Bryan got his game going with a par but I had found my third bunker in four holes and struggled to a double.  I realized here that the fairway bunkers were so difficult that a punch out shot was my best option, rarely can you advance the ball down the fairway from these deep bunkers.

It got no easier at the fifth , a tough par four (423 yds) with a fairway that goes right and then back to the left to an elevated green.  The best we could do was bogey and we were happy with that.

Father & Son

We thought we would get a breather at the sixth, with iced teas from the snack shack and only 386 to the green.  We should have known better.  A fairway bunker did me in.  A greenside bunker took Matt out.  Bryan ping ponged his chips across the green and Tyler had been done in by his usual problem: hitting it too far.  He can drive it 300 yards but when it landed in the deep, thick rough of The Black, we could rarely find it.  Our best at the sixth was my bogey.

The par five seventh required a healthy drive over a huge bunker and we all made it.  We were ready to roll now.  Bryan and I held up our end with professional pars: on in three shots and two putts.

The par three eighth was next and it was a hole I remembered well.  We spent an afternoon there during the 2009 Open and watched the pros deal with the long downhill shot, over a pond to a two tiered green.  The golf gods smiled upon Bryan and me and again and we managed a pair of pars.  Back to back pars!  This course was easy.

Our luck ran out on the ninth, as Tyler was the only one to mange a bogey on the tough par four.

By this time we all were on our fifth or sixth real good sweat but we looked worse than we felt as we were buoyed by the spirit of The Black.  We were all struck by the difficulty of the course but on each new tee we welcomed the next challenge.  The bunkers were deep and almost impossible to get out of.  The first cut of rough, a two yard strip was deep enough to cover the top of your ball and as thick as any we had ever seen.  As far as the rough, the deep, thick juicy rough that caused every group to wander back and forth searching in vain for at least one ball on each hole, let’s just say we all appreciate how difficult it is to get your ball back to the fairway, and we gave up on hitting at the greens.

We all realized that a bogey on most of these holes should be heralded as a par, so we were happy to leave the picturesque tenth with a pair of bogeys.

The eleventh is just as pretty as the tenth, another long par four surrounded by tall fescue and a bunch of bunkers.  A wide fairway welcomed our tee balls but a well protected green cost us any chance at par.

On the twelfth, the fourth par four in a row, the fairway bunker isn’t as close as it looks as I found out but my plan of playing for a bogey worked as I carded another one.

We finally got a break from the streak of long par fours with a par five.  The thirteenth is a 480 par five, not much longer than some of the par fours but the third toughest hole on the course.  Unfortunately, the best we could do was Tyler’s bogey and moved on to the par three fourteenth.

The second easiest hole on The Black had to be a piece of cake and it could be if you hit the green somewhere near the pin. Bryan and Tyler managed to do that and had chances for a bird but both had to settle for par.  Matt and I used our ingenuity to extricate ourselves from a bunker and that rough.  We took our medicine and moved on.

The Monster 15th

The fifteenth is a memorable hole.  Just ask Phil, his bogey in 2009 probably cost him the tournament.  A long par four to an extremely elevated, two tiered green, it has beaten better men than us.  I played it as a par five and was on in three and ran my first putt two feet past the hole at the back of the green.  I felt I had won this hole.  It was a par five to me and I was about to reap my reward when I swear the spirit of A.W Tillinghast reached up and swatted my putt away from the hole.  A two foot lip out left me with a humbling, double bogey.  How dare I play Tillie’s fifteenth as a par five.  How dare I think I had a gimmie on one of those greens.  I should have known better, there are no gimmies here.

The climb up fifteen took a toll on us but we had a chance to rest on the sixteenth tee as the flip flop guy was in the rough searching for his ball again.  We sat for a minute and had a chance to appreciate our surroundings.  It is a beautiful spot and the late afternoon sun cast a golden hue across the sixteenth.  We all felt the same and even forgot how overheated we were; it’s a great place.  I said, “Come on let’s par in.”

Tyler took honors for longest drive on the sixteenth and even followed it up with a great approach and a real chance at a birdie.

17th green as seen from the 18th tee

17th green from the 18th tee

Alas, he settled for par and our quest for three straight pars was under way.

As we stood on the par three seventeenth it looked a heck of a lot longer than the hole we watched all day at the 2009 Open. From the bleachers then it looked like a chip shot for the pros.  Standing there it was about 190 yards, uphill to a sloped green surrounded by the nastiest bunkers on the course.  With the sun in our eyes we teed off and promptly lost sight of a few of our shots.  The green was safe as we all came up short with two in the bunker and two in the rough.  My ball had nestled down in the deep rough on a narrow strip of land that divided the bunkers.  My only option was to try and chop and flop it out of there and hope we could still find it when and if it came down.  With a mighty Philly Flop swing I chopped at it and hoped for the best.  Tillinghast gave me one back as it flopped on to the green and settled one foot from the hole.  It was by far my most memorable and luckiest shot of the day.  Par number two on our quest for three was in the bag and we humped it up to the final tee.

On the eighteenth we again had the chance to reflect on our day as Flip Flops was in the rough again.  I swear I think he was looking for his flip flop this time, but we took a moment to look up at the clubhouse and the elevated eighteenth green.  It measured less than 400 yards but a lot of it was uphill and we had been drained of any long, straight drives a few holes ago.  No one could hit the green and the heat had sapped our putting stroke so double bogey was all we could muster.  It didn’t matter.  We had played The Black and none of us could hide our smiles.

The four of us all agreed that The Black was indeed as difficult as advertised.  The fairways were as perfect as they could be and must be hit if you want to score.   The rough was so penal it cost you a shot if you found it.  The only thing tougher than the fairway bunkers are the greenside bunkers.  You need a periscope to see the green and a canon to get the ball out of them.  The greens were not rolling at tour speed, thank god, but still presented a real challenge.  They rolled really true but we all played a bit too much break all day.  The condition of the entire course was immaculate.  It certainly isn’t your typical municipal golf course.

Our day at The Black had a little bit of everything.  We started off in extreme heat and made it through a dangerous storm.  The heat certainly made the day a little bit more difficult but even though each of us had our ups and downs throughout the round we all thoroughly enjoyed the day.  One of the striking things about The Black is that it is all about the golf.  There are no houses or condos.  You won’t find any real estate developments on the course.  There are no tricks, no carts and no beverage cart.  Only golfers.  That’s one of the aspects of the Black that I enjoyed the most. I was impressed with the solitude to be found out there.

All of us were exhausted and elated at the same time.  We came to The Black with high hopes and a lot of apprehension.  It’s a lot of course for hackers like us but we were leaving delighted with the fact that we all survived, made a few pars and had a ball.  Our best ball score was an 83, but you would have thought we had shot ten under.  Our scores didn’t matter, our memories do.  It was great.  It’s big, it’s bad, it’s tough.  It’s The Black.  We can’t wait to go back.

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Tiger Woods & The Lackluster AT&T National

June 29th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

What a difference a year makes.  Last year at The AT&T National Tiger Woods was the official host and played an important part in the entire weeks festivities.  He not only served as host but he went on to win the tournament which at the time was the third win of his six wins in 2009.  All this took place before his life changing fender bender on Thanksgiving weekend.

This year at the AT&T Tiger’s name is only listed as the defending champion and there is no official connection to the tournament other than as a player in the select field of 120 players.  Any official connection ended when AT&T chose to end their sponsorship of Woods after news of his many “transgressions” came to light.  AT&T had been a big sponsor of Woods but removed themselves from the Woods roster which left Tiger’s bank account a little lighter and his golf bag vacant.  Since the crash Woods has put his Tiger Woods Foundation logo on his bag and tried to get his level of play back in championship form but has had little success in finding any level of consistency.

This week may be Tiger’s best chance to win so far this season.  All of his previous five starts have had major championship fields. The Masters, The US Open, The Players, The Memorial and Quail Hollow all had superb fields of players.  The AT&T can’t boast of a field that compares to those tournaments.

Woods and Jim Furyk are the only players from the top ten in the World Golf Rankings in the field.  There is no Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Steve Stricker or Ernie Els and all the big name European players have opted out.  The field looks more like The John Deere than it does The Players.

If Woods can put four decent rounds together he may be able to contend at a course few PGA players have seen before.  The Aronimink Golf Club is hosting the AT&T while Congressional is being refurbished for next year’s US Open.  The par 70 course has only two par fives which may put Woods at a disadvantage, Woods has made his living making birdies on par fives.

With Woods returning to his former tournament there has to be a bit of awkwardness in the air.  Woods was recruited by AT&T and The PGA Tour thought they had another top tour stop when Woods was brought on as host.  In the same mold as Arnie’s Bay Hill Championship and Jack’s Memorial, the AT&T was expected to grow in stature.  After all, the best golfer in the world was the host and the Tour was ready to prop up this tournament all it could.  What a difference a year makes.

Tiger’s star has lost its luster and with it the AT&T has lost its main attraction.  This was supposed to be a premier tournament, with all the top players, hosted by one of the best players in the history of the game.  With Tiger’s personal problems affecting his on course play and his image, this tournament is just another week on the tour.  Maybe Tiger will contend this week or even pull off a win.  Maybe one of the young guns will step up and claim their first PGA title.  Or an older veteran will add another win to their career total.  Whatever happens it won’t be a major win, it’s not The Players or The Memorial or Bay Hill or even Quail Hollow.  It’s another weekly tour stop and the luster of what once could have been grand and special has faded, just like it has for Tiger Woods.

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Father’s Day Is Not Just For Fathers

June 20th, 2010 No comments

I published this story last Father’s Day and it is still relevant today.  Being a father, I cherish my time with my children whether it is on or off the course.  It’s not easy being a good, involved parent.  It takes hard work and dedication and sometimes it takes some help from other role models in your life.  Aunt Vi was one of my role models, she still is.  And she still is out there playing golf.

by Jeff Skinner

Since the USGA began its tradition of finishing the US Open on Father’s Day you can always count on a few stories on the networks about the father/son relationship in golf. Many golfers were introduced to the game by their fathers and the father/son bond in golf is legendary. There is no doubt that fathers and sons that play golf together are certain to develop a special bond with each other. However, the special relationship formed on the course during our early years in the game are not limited to fathers only.

My dad never played golf, so we never had a chance to have that “golf bond.” We were very close and shared many interests but golf was not one of his hobbies. He was a child of the depression years and never really exposed to golf. My dad was an anomaly: a Scotsman that did not play golf. I was left to find the joys of the course on my own and my ancestral urges drew me to the game in my mid-twenties. Although my dad did not play, I was not without a golfing role model in my family. In my rather large family of aunts, uncles and cousins, if you wanted to start to play golf you called my Aunt Vi. You see, Vi played golf for years and was fairly good in her day. She learned the game from her husband and was always willing to play or talk golf and to share all her experience with any one that cared to ask. So, I asked my Aunt Vi if we could play golf some time and before I knew it we were playing together each week.

Aunt Vi is a truly special person. She is my Mom’s sister and she spent plenty of time with me and my brother and two sisters. She has had her share of challenges, but her attitude never changed from anything other than positive. Vi was widowed while her two children were still young and she was left to raise them on her own. She was one of the hardest working people I know. One of my first memories of Vi was watching her pump gas at the service station she and her husband ran. As a kid we would go to her house for parties and celebrations and my brother and I always wound up in her basement. Down there we would shoot darts or play the bowling game that was there, but we always were amazed by the dozens of golf bags filled with clubs that stood against a wall in the basement. There were buckets and buckets of balls and boxes of golf trophies mostly her late husband’s, but I suspect there were a few of her own in there.

Vi worked  hard for years and took great effort in raising her two children. All this took place during the sixties, when most women were not in the work force. Vi was out working her entire life and raising her family as a single mom at the same time. This wasn’t easy and it was long before the time when a woman in the work place was common. She was hard working and dedicated and a role model for all of us.

When Vi and I started playing golf together it was the highlight of my week. You could always count on Vi to be funny, upbeat and interesting. There wasn’t a time we played together that we didn’t laugh, mostly at ourselves, or share a great joke or story. She was teaching me the game and the etiquette of golf, but she was really teaching me much more. Vi was a model of independence and self reliance. She was an independent women decades before it was in vogue. No matter what problems or issues she had to deal with, and there were many, she always chose the high road and acted with class and dignity. It didn’t matter if it was being a widow, or cancer, or a slice into a bunker, she took everything in stride and always had a smile on her face and a joke to share. She has showed all of us in our family what real independence and true integrity is. It was not just golf we learned from Vi, it was life.

I liked to bust her chops about her age, she’s a little north of eighty and a little south of ninety, but she takes it and gives it right back. She’s a tough old broad that loves the game. Awhile ago she was getting ready for her weekly Wednesday foursome when she dropped something on her foot. She knew from the pain that something was not right and she was faced with a choice: go check out the foot now and not play golf, or play her round and care for her foot later. She played her round and then found out she had a broken toe. She didn’t care, she got her golf in. Like I said she’s a tough old broad.

Vi has had a special influence on me and many members of our family. I’ve learned much more than golf from VI. I learned independence, integrity and the inter-locking grip. She has helped all of us to see that no matter what life throws at you, you can always live your life with class and dignity and a good laugh or two. Thanks Vi, Happy Fathers Day.

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