Par for the Course

October 31, 2009 7:12 PM

Allenby reaps his mouth's reward

Shortly after losing to Anthony Kim in their singles match at last month's Presidents Cup, Robert Allenby made some disparaging remarks about Kim having been out drinking late the night before.
It was a classless move by Allenby, and even though the two reportedly had met to clear the air, it seems Kim hasn't forgotten what was said.
The duo met up today during the semifinals of the World Match Play Championships in Casares, Spain and Kim exacted some revenge on Allenby with a 5 & 4 victory to advance to the finals against Angel Cabrera.
But it wasn't the win itself that gave Kim his vengeance, it was how he went about it. During the first half of the 36-hole semifinal, Kim refused to concede any putt to Aleenby, no matter how short the length. Usually in match play a short putt is concede quickly, but Kim was having none of it in the early part of the match and by the time they completed the first round Allenby was displeased.
Having gotten under Allenby's skin, Kim finally pulled away in the latter part of their second 18 holes of the day as Allenby struggled to make any putts.
Getting in your opponent's head is part of the strategy of match play and Kim did that brilliantly on Saturday, but it would not have been possible if Allenby hadn't opened the door with his mouth last month in San Francisco.
It will be interesting to see if Allenby has learned his lesson this time and declines to make any additional disparaging comments about this victory by Kim in the next few days.

October 24, 2009 3:37 AM

Remembering Payne Stewart

This Sunday will mark the 10th anniversary of the tragic death of Payne Stewart and as I will be traveling this weekend I wanted to take a few moments to mark this sad event.
Stewart had capped a great year for his career in 1999 by winning the U.S. Open at Pinehurst and helped spur the U.S. to a Ryder Cup win three months later. Then, just one month later, Stewart left his Florida home to head for a meeting in Dallas, Texas (ironically, the same city where I will be spending this weekend) before heading down to Houston to play in the season-concluding Tour Championship.
As we all know, neither Stewart, his agents Robert Fraley and Van Ardan, the pilots Michael Kling and Stephanie Bellegarrigue, nor Bruce Borland, who was a golf architect with Jack Nicklaus' golf course design firm, made it to Dallas that day.
Many of us watched the events of that flight unfold in disbelief as the jet wandered off course and wildy climbed and dropped through the skies until finally falling to earth in a field outside Mina, South Dakota - nearly a thousand miles away from its intended destination.
Perhaps the saddest memory of that day came with the news that as Air Force jets helplessly tracked the plane across the country Stewart's wife kept calling his cell phone trying to reach him. The thought of that ringing cell phone that would never be answered is too heart-wrenching to contemplate.
There are better memories of Payne, the moments after clinching the '99 Open as he took Phil Mikelson in hand and pointed out Phil was the bigger winner that day because Phil was going to be a dad. The joy he shared with his teammates that day in September at Brookline when they all made Ben Crenshaw look like a prophet.
My own personal memory of Payne Stewart was a one-day Pro-Am at Greentree Country Club in Midland, Texas in the mid-1980s. It was my first-ever writing assignment and Stewart was playing in the event put together that day by Tom Kite.
Payne was immediately noticeable in his signature attire and most of the West Texas spectators spent most of the morning warm-ups trying to figure out, as one older gentleman put it, "why that boy couldn't afford to buy himself longer britches."
Payne was on the practice putting green when the comment was made and I wasn't sure he'd heard the remark. But as he turned, and I could see the smile on his face, I knew he had.
I followed Payne's career from that point on, and while Jack Nicklaus still remains on top of my list of golfing greats, Payne Stewart will always be one of my all-time favorites.

October 11, 2009 1:25 AM

Did Phil just seal the Cup?

Yes Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker are a big part of why the U.S. will go into Sunday's 12 singles matches with a three-point lead, but why the U.S. kept that three-point lead can be placed on the shoulders of Phil Mickelson.
Trailing the International team of Tim Clark and Vijay Singh all round, Mickelson rolled in a 40-foot putt, lasered in a brilliant approach on 16 to stay tied and all while getting little, if any, help from his playing partner, Sean O'Hair.
Michael Jordan's "project" hasn't faired too well and will need to step up tomorrow for his team. If O'Hair can right the ship and at least salvage a half in his match tomorrow, it would go a long way toward redeeming the Cup rookie's dismal performance so far.
Still, the U.S. goes into the singles matches up 12.5-9.5 and holds a winning record overall in singles play in the Presidents Cup's brief history. That, and no team has ever rallied to win after going into Sunday's singles in the previous seven Cups, puts an enormous amount of pressure on the Internationals.
The U.S. needs just five points out of the 12 matches, while the International team will likely need to win seven matches and halve two more to win the Cup.
Impossible no, but unlikely.

October 10, 2009 9:31 PM

U.S. off to good start on Saturday

The U.S. team got out of the gate Saturday about as good as they could have hoped in Saturday morning's matches and have taken a 10-7 lead.
But the International team, as it has all week, is coming on strong in the afternoon and could close back to within one point going into Sunday's final matches.

October 10, 2009 4:40 AM

Of alligators and gold medals

There's always a few things you need to keep an eye out for on the golf course when it comes to personal safety.
The occassional golfer who does not know you are supposed to yell "FORE" when a ball is getting too close to another golfer, thus exposing you to an unexpected golf ball off the noggin. The occasional snake in the rough when you go searching for your wayward shot, especially in Texas and yes I speak from personal experience.
The other day I finished putting at my course's 13th hole, retrieved my ball and turned around to see an adult kit fox sitting on the green about 20 feet away. We spent about 30 seconds staring at each other before he decided to trot off, but it was a long 30 seconds as I was trying to remember if kit foxes liked to munch on humans or not.
Still, that experience was nothing like that of a 77-year-old golfer at Ocean Creek Golf Course in South Carolina. The man, whose name has not been released, was picking up his golf ball when a 10-foot alligator grabbed his arm and dragged him into a pond.
His playing partners managed to pull the victim away, but not before the alligator had severed part of the player's arm. The alligator was quickly hunted down and killed and the arm was retrieved, but last reports did not seem to indicate that it could be reattached.
While the player's condition is still not known, I am sure all of us hope for a speedy recovery. And the incident should serve as a needed reminder for all of us to keep an eye out at all times. Golf is a pastoral game but it hasd its dangers from above and below.
In lighter news, the 2016 Olympic Games of Rio de Janeiro will include golf among its 28 sports. It will mark the first time since 1904 that golf will be a part of the Games and it is nice to see it included.
But I would like to see the Games go back to allowing only true amateur players participate. Otherwise this is just going to be another PGA Tour event with the best pros from all over the world going to the Games.
I understand why the U.S. started sending its pros to the Games as other countries were subsidizing their athletes so they could focus on training while still earning a living a technically remaining "amatuers" but it would be nice to see a return back to the original intent of the 1896 Games in Athens.
But for now, at least golf in back in the Games and that is a step in the right direction.

October 10, 2009 4:17 AM

International team hanging tough

The team of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker appear to be unbeatable, something that needs to kept in mind for next year's Ryders Cup Mr. U.S. Team Captain Corey Pavin. Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson appears to be able to win no matter who he pairs up with.
But, sadly, it also appears just two days into the 2009 Presidents Cup in San Francisco that Sean O'Hair has no business being anywhere near this type of format. After dropping a point in Thursday's matches, O'Hair teamed up with Kenny Perry to suffer the worst loss of the day for the U.S. team on Friday, a 4 & 3 defeat at the hands of Y.E. Yang and Ryo Ishikawa. O'Hair simply hasn't done much during the first two days and isn't showing any sign that he'll turn it around over the weekend.
The goof news for team captain Fred Couples is that his two picks for the team actually fared better today. Lucas Glover teamed up with Stewart Cink and fell 1-up on the 18th hole to Vijay Singh and Tim Clark. But despite the loss, Glover actually had a decent day.
Couples other pick, Hunter Mahan, gave his team an early lead with solid play and his partner Zach Johnson helped close out a 2 & 1 win over Robert Allenby and Camilo Villegas.
But what should concern Couples the most this weekend is the slim one-point lead his team will start Saturday's matches with. The U.S. team has gotten off to strong starts early in nearly all of the matches, but has faded in enough of them to let the International squad hang close.
That is a dangerous position for the Americans to be in and they really need to make a big push on Saturday to build up a nice cushion for Sunday's finale.
International Captain Greg Norman must be ecstatic to be just one point down after two days at Harding Park in San Francisco and he has enough firepower on his roster that knows how to close out matches on Sunday to make Fred Couples a mighty worried leader in the clubhouse.

October 9, 2009 1:32 AM

Day 1 in the books

Day One of the eighth Presidents Cup is in the books and the American team is clinging to a 3.5-2.5 lead going into tomorrow's eight matches.
So what do we know after the first six matches? For one, it wasn't that great of a day for three of the four Captain's picks.
While Adam Scott was part of one of the International's winning matches, Ryo Ishikawa was one-half of the team that suffered the worst loss of the day, while Captain Fred Couples' two picks not only were part of the two losing teams for the Anericans, Lucas Glover cost the U.S. team at least 1/2 of a point with a blown putt late in his match that helped the International team escape with a full point.
Second, Hunter Mahan - the other Couples' pick along with Glover - and Sean O'Hair should have been able to beat Scott and Ernie Els and their 2 & 1 loss in the match wasn't even that close. These two are clearly the weak link for the U.S. team and it will be interesting to see if Couples sits either or both of them in Friday's matches.
We also know that Tiger Woods' struggles in Ryder Cup haven't carried over to this event as he and Steve Stricker rolled to an easy 6 & 4 win over Ishikawa and Geoff Ogilvy.
And we know that Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim make up a really good team that Couples should continue to pair up as the weekend unfolds.
But as far as whether or not the U.S. will improve to 6-1-1 in Presidents Cup play remains to be seen. There are still 26 points up for grabs over the next three days and after the opening day it is clear that it is still anyone's Cup to win.

October 8, 2009 3:03 AM

Double your pleasure

So exactly what was it with the month of September anyway?
No, I am not talking about Tiger Woods rolling to another FedEx Cup championship and another $10 million dollar check (that likely went to the petty cash fund anyway)that Mr. Woods deposited into his account.
What was truly amazing about the recently concluded month was a flurry of holes-in-ones across the globe. Now, I don't know what the exact numbers are on how many times a day someone, somewhere, experiemces the ultimate joy of golf. I'm sure there has to be at least one or two every week if not more.
But what we saw in September was above and beyond the norm for golf. Three people not only carded a hole-in-one in September, they did it twice. In the same round. And that number we do know.
According to Golf Digest the odds of a player recording two aces in the same round are 1 in 67 million. And here, in less than 30 days, we have three players beating the longest of longshots?
Did the poles suddenly shift around our planet? Is Lucifer still wearing his overcoat while trying to figure out where all that ice came from? What in the name of Bobby Jones is going on around here?
As blogged earlier this month, 64-year-old retiree Ruth Day, a 64-year-old retiree who lives in northern England started things off with her first two aces in 10 years of playing.
The very next day, a few thousand miles to the west in Pennsylvania, Steve Blass, a former pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, dropped in two aces 11 holes apart.
Then it was all quiet for about two weeks before Troy Radermacher of Ellendale, N.D. dropped in two aces just eight holes apart. According to the report printed in the Fargo Forum newspaper, Radermacher still can't believe what he did.
Trust me Troy, you are not alone.

October 3, 2009 5:00 AM

Tips from a golf coach

One thing I have wanted to do with this blog was to do more than just comment on the state of professional golf. I have been looking for a golf coach who could provide the kind of useful tips for the every day golfer to help him or her improve their game.
So it was a fortunate set of circumstances that led me to meet up with such a coach while playing behind a tournament at my course here in Colorado.
His name is Robert D. Bates and from time to time, Coach will provide tips to improve your game. I can vouch for him as he dropped one on me as we were playing and I have already reaped the rewards of his tutelage.
So without any further ado, here is Coach Bates' first tip:

Golf’s Rubber Band Syndrome
By: Robert D. Bates

In order to play golf as well as your body will allow you to; one must be limber, especially in the arms and shoulders.
So, what has this to do with a rubber band? As a rubber band gets pulled and stretched, it’s kinetic energy is being stored and wants to be released. If you stretch a rubber band to a point of much resistance and then let it go, it snaps back. This is typical of what happens when a golfer goes to the first tee with out being limber.
When you first head out to the driving range or, if you must, go to the first tee, your arms and shoulders will seem tight and your swing will not be as fluid as it would be if you had done some stretching exercises. A typical first hole swing is to bring the club back in your swing to a point where resistance is felt and then quickly make your forward swing even though the backswing has not been completed. More often than not, it will not be a pretty shot.
Try the following procedure and see if you don’t get a straighter, more favorable shot. Take whatever club you are using and either keep a heavy club head cover or one of those rubber ring weights on it and slowly mimic a golf swing. The purpose of this is to slowly stretch the muscles in your arms and shoulders. It is NOT a practice swing. You take the club back ever so slowly until your left shoulder (for righties) is under your chin. Do this several times.
Then when you take your actual tee shot, take the club back again, low and slow and when you get to the top of the swing, i.e., your left shoulder is under your chin, hesitate for a second, then you may follow through with a forceful swing if you want.
It is a good idea to follow this procedure with each tee shot during the entire round of golf because from the time you finish with your putting, in which you will only be using your small muscles, you will probably be a little stiff and need the stretching exercise again.
Try this procedure the next time you play golf and see if it does not improve your shots and lower your score.

September 27, 2009 1:16 AM

Bittersweet Anniversary

It was 10 years ago today that one of the most remarkable comebacks in golf history occurred at the 33rd Ryder Cup match in Massachusetts. It was dubbed the "Battle of Brookline" and saw the American team rally from four points down on the final day of play.
With Ben Crenshaw telling everyone that he had a feeling about Sunday's finale his team charged out on Sunday and won the first seven matches to take a 13-10 lead. Jim Furyk defeated Sergio Garcia and Justin Leonard halved his match against Jose Maria Olazabal with an incredible putt on 17 to seal the biggest come from behind win in Ryder Cup history.
With the Cup secured with a 14.5-13.5 win, Payne Stewart conceded the final hole to Colin Montgomerie in a sportsmanlike gesture that would be the pinnacle of Stewart's career as Stewart would perish in a plane crash just one month later.
Even now, 10 years and four Cup matches later, the magic of that day carries forward. It will likely be remembered for many years to come and may very well go down as the greatest match in the history of the Ryder Cup.

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