Sunday, 28 February 2016

Golf Must be Wooed

Willie Park Jr, two time Open champion and golf course architect, once said, "Golf is a fickle game, and must be wooed to be won."  Never perhaps was it more true than Saturday at the Honda Classic.

Sergio and Adam Scott went out in the penultimate group and played terrific golf, feeding off one another.  Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker went out in the last group and couldn't buy a putt; or anything else for that matter.  It defies explanation.  At the end of the day, all you can say is, "That's golf."

How, in Rickie's case you can play two rounds of bogey-free golf around the Champion's course, successfully negotiating the Bear Trap, and then suddenly find yourself incapable of making a single birdie, is a mystery.  But it happens.  Golf cannot ever be subjected to your will.  You can't own the game, you can only woo it, and hope it shows you some love in return.

The night before, Rickie was about as confident as he could be about his game.  It was all systems go.  How does it happen?  In less than 24 hours you go from being a hero to a mug.  And, for all we know, he might still go out today and win the damned tournament.  He might, if he doesn't give up.  If he continues to try--if he continues to woo the game.

That's golf--a beautiful, but aloof, maiden.  She might one day smile at you, and let you know her charms.  But the next day she will inexplicably look the other way.  You can't force her.  You can only woo her.

Friday, 26 February 2016

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

PGA National was indeed a bear yesterday at the Honda Classic, with the stroke average for the field at more than two shots over par.  Nevertheless, we were treated to the good, the bad, and the ugly as the players tried to negotiate the wind and avoid the water.

Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler played together and, for the most part, put on a fine exhibition of ball striking.  It was fun to watch, and the two obviously enjoyed being paired together.  Sergio had his ups and downs, holing out for an eagle, making birdies, and throwing in a few bogeys to share the lead with past champion, Michael Thompson, at five under.

Rickie was solid as a rock, playing a bogey-free round and coming in one shot back.  Had he not hit so many edges on the greens, he might have shot a fabulous round instead of just a really good one.  Fowler, of late, looks to be playing the best golf of the Fab Four, who haven't really been exactly all that fabulous for the past month or so.  He seems to be brimming with confidence, and ready to make the next step to Major champion, something much easier said than done with the number of talented players these days vying for the honour.

Rory, on the other hand, was just plain ugly.  Despite majestic driving, his iron game was spotty, his bunker play poor, and his putting atrocious as he carded a two over 72, missing a tiddler on the last hole to add insult to injury.  I have to admit that I agree with Brandel Chamblee.  Rory's infatuation with the gym has him following the same path Tiger took; and it certainly isn't doing much for his short game.  I find it rather telling that the latest Nike commercial with Rory shows him in the gym istead of hitting balls.  Maybe he'll prove us naysayers wrong and have a big year and an injury-free career from here on in, but lately his head just doesn't seem to be in the game.

It's early days, but if the wind keeps blowing, we might just see Sergio and Rickie battling it out for the title on Sunday.  Rickie looks really strong.  Sergio looks happy.  And we should be treated to some exciting golf.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Plane Spotting

Well, I guess it's that time again.  The old, Tiger Woods, will he or won't he, story.  Someone tweets that he's half-crippled, and can't even sit.  Tim Rosaforte and Notah Begay say he's making progress--whatever that means.  And, as usual, Tiger prefers to keep us guessing--if we're inclined to guess.

Tiger comes off his worse season ever.  During that season he came up with several interesting reasons for his poor play; the most notable being his glutes that just refused to fire.  However, during that entire season, he assured us he was fit.  He never once suggested that his back was troubling him.  

Then he undergoes surgery and we are left to wonder just what the truth really is.  The truth is; Tiger either doesn't want to tell us the truth, or he perhaps just wants to keep us guessing--and keep himself in the news in the process.  One thing for certain, openness and honesty is clearly not Tiger's strong suit.

Tiger was a great player.  Maybe he was the best we've ever seen.  But he hasn't won a Major in eight years.  Whether he can win another Major, or maybe another five or six, is anybody's guess.  But either way, he's had a great career.  However, in view of what we've witnessed in the last year or two from Spieth, McIlroy, Day, Bubba, and Fowler, is Tiger really relevant to the the discussion right now?

I can just see it now--Tiger's plane was spotted in Augusta.  Is he going to play the Masters?  I just can't stand the suspense!  Or can I?

Swing Thoughts

There are a number of popular books that teach a sort of Zen-like approach to golf.  You get yourself into a target-oriented zone and just let it happen unconsciously, trusting your brain to control your muscles.  It's a great concept, and occasionally I've even found myself in that lovely cocoon where all I saw was the target and I just swung the club without any conscious control.  Life is good when you get in that zone, and the game is almost easy.  But I've never been able to consciously make myself play unconsciously--if that makes any sense.

You aren't always able to play in the zone.  You aren't always able to just let the swing operate without conscious control--sometimes a great deal of conscious control.  Bobby Jones almost always relied on one or two swing thoughts to keep his swing under control.  They weren't always the same ones, but he relied on them to produce decent results when he might not be at his best.  He advised us not to believe that any of the pros played golf unconsciously.  He assured us that all the top players used swing thoughts.

The sweet-swinging Sam Snead used swing thoughts or triggers to keep his smooth, natural-looking swing in the proper groove.  Jack Nicklaus used them too.  We need them.  We can't just rely on the fact that our swing will stay in the groove.  We need to keep it there consciously by finding key swing thoughts that work.  In his book, Golf My Way, Jack wrote the following under the heading "How Many Swing Thoughts?":

  "The time to focus your mind on key swing thoughts is as you settle into your final address position.
  When my concentration is good I can focus my attention at address on five or six different things I want to do in the swing, and then actually do most of them.  For example, in the 1972 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where I was playing many left-to-right shots, at address on any particular shot I might simultaneously be thinking of making a specific type of forward press; keeping my head in a certain position on the backswing; keeping my hands low going back; making a very slow and deliberate takeaway; keeping the back of my left wrist to the target; making a full backswing; working my legs in a particular manner; keeping my head back during the forward swing.  When I am not concentrating well, however, I find I can focus attention at address on only one or two swing keys.
  How many you can focus on will depend on your levels of skill and concentration.  On average, I'd say that two is about the handicap golfer's limit, and that he'd be better off most of the time with only one key swing thought.
   I must stress, however, that no matter how many things you think about at address, you are, so to speak, merely programming the computer.  Once you throw the switch, the computer must take over.  The golf swing happens far too fast for you to consciously direct your muscles.  Frequently I can make very minor adjustments in midswing, but they are always instinctive, never conscious."

So, there you have it.  When he won at Pebble Beach in '72, Jack had a bunch of swing thoughts.  It's interesting that he felt the better he was concentrating, the more he could have.  Kind of flies in the face of the idea of playing golf subconsciously, doesn't it?  Oh, and notice that one of the key thoughts was keeping the back of his left hand to the target?  That's Top Hand Golf.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Five Minutes

Jackie Burke once said, "What you might learn in six months of practice, your pro can tell you in five minutes."  There is a lot of truth in that.  I mean, it's all well and good to dig it out of the dirt for yourself,  but there's much to be said for an experienced set of eyes.  It might just save you a lot of searching.

Everyone needs to develop a style or a reliable method to play the game well.  I learned to play the game imitating Jack Nicklaus, and my father-- who also tried to swing like Jack.  From an early age, I hit the ball high, and I hit it far.  I virtually never hooked the ball, but did hit some prodigious slices, followed by more than my fair share of pulls.  As I started shooting in the seventies, and occasionally lower, I became more aware of just how costly these big misses were, and started making changes to try to hit the ball more consistently. 

I became straighter, but I also started hitting the ball lower and with, if anything, a right to left flight, instead of the old fade.  My long, upright swing had become shorter, and flatter.  I basically changed my entire approach to the game when, as I look back, five minutes with a pro might have fixed me.  I now know that my problem was alignment, both shoulder and clubface alignment; and perhaps ball position.  If you are a reasonably good player, with a sound grip, chances are it is one of these fundamentals that is being neglected, or something quite minor that has slipped out of whack.  Rather than an overhaul, what I really needed was a tune up.

I miss those days when I hit it high, far, and left to right.  I don't know if I can ever find that old swing again.  Much has changed.  My back is prety much ruined--likely due to adopting that flat, rotary swing. My legs are much weaker since I've stopped playing soccer, rugby, and hockey.  But, if and when the snow melts, I'm going to try to go back for good to that old upright, Golf My Way swing.  I know I play my best when I swing more upright and keep the club in front of me, and make use of my legs.  I still sometimes find a semblance of that old swing, often after simple desperation has driven me to just hit the damned thing without thinking about it.  When this happens I still have some good results.  But I've been a confirmed tinkerer for much too long.  

My first and only golf instructional book was Golf My Way, by Jack Nicklaus.  Then I branched out and read Hogan's Modern Fundamentals of Golf, along with goodness knows how many other books.  Five minutes with a good pro might have saved me a great deal of time, energy, and disappointment.  But the beauty of this game is that, as long as you can still swing a club, there's hope.  But, it's also hard, if not downright impossible, to go back.  In fact, some people say you can never really go back.  So, instead I will have to just try to go forward.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Just How Good is Phil's Short Game?

Phil Mickelson certainly provided us with some drama again on Sunday at Pebble Beach.  After a miserable start to his round that had to have anyone who'd put a few quid on him to win shaking their heads, Phil birdied sixteen and seventeen, and suddenly we were starting to believe again.

All Phil needed was a birdie on eighteen to secure a playoff with Vaughn Taylor.  Did I just say "all Phil needed"?  Of course, a birdie on eighteen at Pebble Beach is no gimmee.  But Phil, after flirting with the tree on the right with his tee shot, played a nice second to the front edge of the green, leaving himself a pitch that the announcers felt he should get up and down about 75 percent of the time.  Gary McCord felt that, given ten tries, Phil should actuually hole the pitch twice.  It was not a tough up and down for someone with Phil's talent.

We all know what happened.  Phil hit a very average pitch, leaving himself about five feet, and missed the putt.  It happens.  It's called golf, because all the other four-letter words were taken.  And really, who could be unhappy to see Vaughn Taylor get the win?  I guess only the folks who lost money betting on Phil.

But this all got me thinking.  Everyone talks about what a fabulous shortgame Phil possesses.  So, just how good, statistically, is Phil's shortgame?  I decided to take a look at the official PGA tour stats for the past five years to see for myself.  In total scrambling from 2010 to 2015, Phil ranked 31st, 17th, 16th, 78th, 20th, and 84th.  In getting it up and down from less than 10 yards, Phil ranked 143rd, 72nd, 47th, 74th, 14th, and 140th.  His numbers from the sand are not particularly impressive either.

Phil does not possess the best shortgame.  He has an impressive repetoire.  He loves to hit fancy, spinning shots.  He loves to use his considerable imagination.  He's fun to watch, and he often hits magnificent shots.  He also manages, more often than he perhaps should, to look like a bum when he tries and fails to pull off a fancy shot when a simple shot would have sufficed.

Phil is the same with his long game.  He loves to hit the perfect shot.  He often hits risky shots.  The payoff is sometimes huge, but the downside is that he is sometimes forced to accept bitter defeat as a result of not playing a little more conservatively.  That is who Phil is.  He's a flashy player.  He loves to gamble.  He isn't called Phil the Thrill for nothing.  He is comfortable playing that way.  He can accept the bad with the good.  He will never change.  And I don't think anyone really wants him to change.  He just wouldn't be Phil. 

He's got himself a new swing instructor.  I'm not sure whether he still works with Dave Peltz on his short game, but I know Harvey Penick would have told Phil, "If you have to pick a flavour for your shots, make it plain, old, reliable vanilla."  Bobby Jones would have said pretty much the same thing.  

It's been a wild ride with Phil.  But, at 45, he's still got some fire in his belly and some swagger.  He may not have the most reliable short, or long, game, but when he's firing on all cylinders, he's still awfully impressive.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Phil's Back

Pebble Beach is a magnificent place.  For five hundred bucks, I'll likely never play it, but do hope to see it some day.  They say there's a muni just down the road that is wonderful to play instead for cheapskates like me.

Watching the Pro Am is, for me at least, a bit of a trying experience.  I really can't imagine that many golfers who really appreciate watching celebreties slash and hack their way around a golf course, even if it is beautiful.  I have it taped and just watched Justin Timberlake take about two minutes to hit a putt from the fringe.  He consulted with his caddie and even performed a squatting plumb bob before leaving the putt eight feet short.  This I don't really need to see. To add insult to injury, I had to listen to Gary McCord provide the narrative.

On the other hand, Phil is looking really good, and it would be great to see him get another win at Pebble.  And, where they are playing golf without the celebrities, on the Champions tour Bernhard Langer looks to add another win to his credit.  And at the Petoria Country Club in South Africa, Charl Schwarzel looks good to win as well on a really tricky course that is giving the pros fits.

I really like Langer, and I think Schwarzel has one of the best swings in the game.  I will be happy to see both of them win if they can finish it off.  As for Bernhard, unless he breaks a leg, it would seem to be almost unthinkable that he'll squander his commanding lead.  He's solid as a rock, and, with that unanchored broomstick putter, he's been absolute magic on the greens this week.

When I turned on the re-airing of the Pebble Beach Pro Am for my old mother to watch, she was also wondering why we had to watch all these celebrities.  

I said, "I know it's painful, but at least you can watch Phil."

As I walked out, I heard her mumble, "Piss on Phil."

She's never been a big fan of Lefty, but she really likes Bernhard Langer.  Oh well, we all have our favourites.  I didn't bother to tell her that Phil, with five Majors, is probably one of the best twenty players ever to play the game.  Her mind's made up, so I won't try to confuse her with facts.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Top Players of All Time

I received an e-mail from a friend suggesting I make a list of the top 50 players of all time.  As I thought about this request, I figured the only way to properly compile that list would be to base it on tournament victories--and especially Major championship victories.  If you look at the list, you realize just how difficult it is to actually win multiple Major championships.

It is immediately apparent that the top three players ever to play the game would have to be Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and Bobby Jones.  To pick who was the greatest among those three is largely subjective.  

Bobby Jones won 13 Majors as an amateur who actually played golf part time.  He also won more than 60 percent of the Majors he entered in an eight year period.  Not only that, he won all four in one year and then retired at the age of 28 at the top of his game.  The fact that two of the Majors he competed in at the time were match play format, namely the US and British amateurs, this makes his record all the more impressive if you consider the vagaries of match play.  For these reasons, I think Bobby Jones was the greatest player of all time.  

Jack won 18 Majors.  However, he did this over a long career.  Tiger, on the other hand has probably won 14 in a shorter time span, especially when you consider that he hasn't won a Major in almost eight years.  It's really a toss up as to who you might pick between these two, and probably depends upon when you took up the game.  For me it will always be Jack.  For many, especially those who grew up watching Tiger, it might be different.

I also can't help but think that Byron Nelson, had he maintained his desire to play, might have been the best of the bunch.  His incredible year of 1945, with eleven wins in a row, and 18 in total, will never be even approached.  It was surely the greatest single season of golf ever.

At the end of the day, discussions about who were the best players are vanity.  All a great player can do is beat the guys he's playing against.  It's also tough to know just how good someone was if you never saw them play.  But, I guess the record books exist for that reason, to help keep an argument or discussion about something that will always be debatable going.

Focussing on Major championships won, the top three are easy.  After that, things get a bit more difficult.  However, the short list would be as follows:  Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Bobby Jones.  Then, you have Walter Hagen with 11 Majors, Ben Hogan and Gary Player with 9, and Tom Watsom with 8 Majors.  With 7 Major championship wins are Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Gene Sarazen, and Harry Vardon. Then you have Lee Trevino and Nick Faldo with six Majors.  

The list of players with five Majors includes Phil Mickelson, Byron Nelson, Seve Ballesteros, James Braid, JH Taylor and Peter Thomson.  Only 19 men have won five Majors or more in their career.  When you get to four, the list includes players like Old and Young Tom Morris, Rory McIlroy, Raymond Floyd, Ernie Els, Jim Barnes, Willie Park, Sr., Willie Anderson and Bobby Locke.

The fact that Rory would seem to be just getting started, you might expect him to climb that list.  I also suspect that Jordan Spieth might be someone who, if he avoids injury, swing-changes, and maintains his desire, might some day be mentioned right along with Jones, Woods, and Nicklaus.  He is undoubtedly a great player in the true sense of the word.

With the crop of fine players teeing it up these days, I think we just might look back some day and say this was a golden age of golf.  It surely doesn't get much better than this.  If you want, however, to be mentioned in the top twenty of all time, you need to win five.  Only 19 men have so far managed to do it.  Perhaps Rory will be the next.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Jack Nicklaus Rates his Game

I was reading Jack's book, Golf My Way, published in 1974.  Jack is still the best player I've ever seen.  His record in Major championships, especially when you consider top three finishes, is one that will likely never be equalled.  However, in golf, you should probably never say never.

In concluding his book, Jack rated his overall game.  At this point, he had 51 official tour victories, 34 second place finishes, and 25 third place finishes.  He had won 12 Majors and two US amateurs.  He wasn't finished of course, winning another six Majors before he was done.  Jack felt he was a better player than he had ever been, finding a way to improve every year, other than one three year stretch.  He was at the height of his powers.  But, he was very candid about the fact that he played anything but perfect golf.  He wrote:

  "My highest rate of failure occurs, of course, in execution.  Maturity and experience have brought me to a point where, when I'm concentrating properly, objective shot analysis presents few major problems.  How much I compromise depends on my confidence level, but when it's high I can be lretty resolute about attempting the proper shot.  In terms of execution, I feel the nearest I've ever got to the goals I've set myself is about 75 percent.  At my worst, I probably do not reach 33 percent.  Over-all, day in and day out, at the present time I'm probably averaging about 60 percent."

Jack then went on to rate his overall game.  He felt his driving was rated at 85 percent.  His fairway woods were rated at no better than 65 percent, in part because he seldom needed to use them, and because he probably didn't practise them enough.  Jack rated his long and mid irons at 90 percent, considering them to be the strongest part of his game.  For short irons, and especially wedges, Jack admitted that he lacked the sort of finesse and total control he felt he should have and said he would be hard-pressed to give himself better than 50 percent.

In terms of short game, Jack admitted that chipping was "still definitely a weak link in my armor."  But felt this was because he didn't miss many greens and wasn't called upon to chip that often under competitive pressure.  He felt he was good out of firm sand, rating himself he at about 80 percent.  Out of powdery, silica sand he felt he was more like 50 percent.

While he is always remembered as a great pressure putter, Jack had the following to say about his putting:

  "Putting has always been an in-and-out game for me, depending a great deal on how well I'm concentrating and, to a lesser extent, on the type of greens I'm playing.  For example, I've never putted as well on slow greens as on fast.  But you have to be realistic about putting, and accept the fact that you're probably never going to putt as well as you think you ought to.  Realistically, I'd rate my putting so ewhere between 70 and 80 percent on an over-all basis, with lows of about 30 percent and occasional highs of about 90 percent."

So, having made it clear that, while he may have been the best player on the planet at the time, his game was far from perfect, Jack summed things up as follows:

  "In my experience, when all is said and done, success at golf boils down to four pretty straightforward factors.  First I would place adherence to a few time-proven mechanical fundamentals and a resistance to the passing gimmick.  Second, I think a vital--and often overlooked --success factor is how effectively a golfer can maximize his greatest natural physical assets in molding and maintaining a playing method.  Third, I would select the ability while playing to define objectives and then concentrate on achieving them to the exclusion of all else.  Fourth, and most important of all, there is the matter of desire.  If you have enough of that it's amazing what you can do at golf, or in any other area of life, for that matter."

Monday, 8 February 2016

I'm a Mess

A winter layoff, for the first time in several years, has given me lots of time--perhaps too much time--to think.  I'm obsessed with golf. 

Unfortunately, golf is the sort of game where, the longer you play it, the harder it gets; especially if you have time to think about swinging, putting, and playing, rather than actually doing it.  In my man cave I have six putters that I am currently experimenting with, putting on the carpet.  I am also experimenting alternately with a cross-handed grip, looking at the hole, gripping the putter with my regular golf grip, hitting putts like I'm bellying a wedge, hitting putts like I'm hammering an imaginary tack into the back of the ball, trying to putt like Jack Nicklaus...  I'm a mess.  

The same goes with my full swing.  I'm not sure whether I should go back to trying to swing like Jack Nicklaus, or maybe try swinging like Stenson, or maybe even Rickie Fowler--no, I could never swing it like Rickie.  I've tried more ways of swinging the club than you could imagine, including Moe Norman's swing.  Then I go back to thinking I'll just stick to the swing that seems to come naturally--the swing I make when I close my eyes and just swing the club.  When I use it, it generally produces a pretty consistent draw.  But that swing makes it difficult to hit a fade.  I just can't seem to settle.

And then there's the equipment issue.  In my cave I've got my old Snake Eyes blades that once served me pretty well.  I've got my Hogan blades that I really like.  I've got a set of Titleist DTR irons--but they're a bit offset.  I've got the Cleveland irons with the regular shafts that Steve loaned me that seem to work quite nicely.  But I've also got a set of Top Flite Tour ladies irons with graphite shafts that feel stiff enough to use and are pleasing to the eye.  I've even thought I might give them a whirl.  Oh, I also have my father's old set of Cobra senior irons.  It's so hard to decide.  And then there's my drivers...

Hopefully, by the time I get back out there, I will have managed to convince myself to just get back to trying to practise what I preach, and what I've learned from reading Bobby Jones.  Hopefully, I will forget my putting stroke and just focus on trying to get the ball in the hole with a solid strike.  Hopefully, I'll get back to just visualizing the strike I need to make to produce the shot I want, and forget about my swing as well.  I'll probably use my favourite BullsEye putter, and stay with the clubs I used for most of last year.   But there are no guarantees when it comes to golf.  Golf is a simple game that guys like me manage to make very complicated.

One Heckuva Show at the Phoenix Open

That was quite a show we were treated to at the Phoenix Open.  It may not have been the result the majority of the fans were looking for--it wasn't the result I was hoping for--but it was one heckuva show.  Rickie Fowler was temporarily gutted by the playoff loss.  Matsuyama learned once again that he has the right stuff.  And we all should be awfully grateful to have such bright new stars in the game.

While Rickie may have nightmares about the seventeenth hole, where he saw his hopes dashed by finding the water twice, he once again put himself in the position to win.  In this game that's all you can do.  Golf is the one game where, as Jack Nicklaus once said, you can win twenty percent of the time and be the best player in the world.  Jack should know, with something like 19 second place finishes in the Majors.

Rickie was gutted, not because he's a sore loser, but because he wanted to win for his friends and family who had made the trip to Phoenix.  I daresay his friends and family could not be more proud of this fine young man.  He's simply a pleasure to watch, win or lose.

As for Matsuyama, he's maybe going to be the first player from Japan to become a bona fide star on the PGA tour.  He's definitely proven that he can handle the heat on one of golf's biggest and craziest stages.  It's great for the game.  

Those boys put on one helluva show.  Both of them will likely come back even stronger.  It's all good.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

A Classic Dubai Desert Classic

The Dubai Desert Classic certainly didn't disappoint.  It was a real nail-biter, with the chasing pack, including Rory and Stenson, making birdies in bunches.  The leaders were forced to scramble and hang on.  You have to love it when it all comes down to one putt--and a putt made, rather than one missed.

Danny Willett was able to dig deep and hole a birdie putt on the final hole for the win.  Cabrera-Bello had an eagle chance that just slipped by on eighteen that would have gotten him into a playoff.  And Andy Sullivan made a great birdie himself on eighteen to give himself a chance.  He could only wait and watch as Willett made the putt that ended his challenge.

All three players will surely feel very good about how hard they fought.  Danny Willett definitely won it.  Nobody lost it.  With back-to-back runner up finishes, you have to believe it will be only a matter of time before Cabrera-Bello breaks through for another win.  You also have to think his strong finish, with birdies on seventeen and eighteen, also starts to make a case for Ryder Cup consideration.

Sullivan and Willett, both twenty-somethings, must be considered to be the future of English golf, perhaps along with young Matthew Fitzpatrick.  And an exciting pair they are to watch.  I suspect they will become Ryder Cup stalwarts.

I think the one thing Andy Sullivan may take away from the past couple of weeks is that he needs to work on developing a reliable draw, especially from the tee.  Under pressure he seems to be prone to pulling his tee shots, unable to execute his preferred fade, and finds himself missing it left.  But, under pressure, he also has proven that he has the heart of a lion.  He promises to only get better.

As for Danny Willett; he is now officially a world class player.  

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Golf is in a Very Good Place

While I picked Cabrera-Bello, Thorbjorn Oleson, or Andy Sullivan to win in Dubai, another up and coming Englishman, Danny Willett, grabbed the lead in Dubai with back-to-back 65's.  Cabrera-Bello and Sullivan didn't exactly fall away, with Cabrera -Bello shooting his third consecutive round of 67, to leave him one shot back.   Andy Sullivan posted another 66 to find himself two shots back heading into the final round.

Unfortunately, Ernie Els lost the feel on the greens and fell away, unlikely to be a factor on Sunday.  One has to think that the winner will likely come from the top three players, all of whom are in great form, and all of whom know how to get it done.

Cabrera-Bello looked a little shaky coming in, and probably feels fortunate to only be a shot back.  Andy Sullivan might just feel he has even better golf to play, given the number of makeable putts he has missed so far.  And Willett looks to be in total command of his game, but must sleep on the lead.  It will be very interesting to see how it plays out.

Whoever wins tomorrow, the Desert Classic has shown us once again that there is a fine crop of players in Europe, and that we may just see some new faces on this year's European Ryder Cup team.  Both Willett and Sullivan look to be solid candidates, as does Cabrera-Bello if he can hold his current form.  

This year is going to be fun watching them battle it out on the European Tour, because it's not just about the Race to Dubai, it's also about making the Ryder Cup team for the Europeans.  The landscape is changing on both sides of the pond as these young guns are making a name for themselves.  Golf is in a very good place.

Meanwhile, in Scottsdale, Rickie Fowler looks like he might just grab another title, and Phil finds himself in with a shot.  If we ever thought the game was in trouble, with 201 thousand fans in attendance at the Waste Management event, I think we need to think again.  I haven't been this excited about the golf in I don't know when.

And that's just the men.  How about that finish by the ladies in Ocala?  While I love to see our little Canadian girl, Brooke Henderson, playing so well, it was wonderful to see Ha Na Jang break through and win her first LPGA title in style, making birdie on the final hole in those miserable conditions.  

It's just a good thing I have a DVR and an understanding wife.  Because, tomorrow, as it's been the past three days, I'm going to be ensconced in the man cave watching the golf.  It promises to be quite a show.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Ernie is Looking Good at the Dubai Desert Classic

Real men do wear pink.  And, in Dubai at the Omega Desert Classic, we saw Cabrera-Bello, in his white trousers and pink shirt, birdie eighteen to take a one shot lead at 10 under.  Having won the Desert Classic in 2012, and finished runner up last week, you might want to put a few dollars on Cabrera-Bello winning again this week. 

Stenson, Oosthuizen, and McIlroy, three of golf's great swingers, played together and were also resplendent in their white trousers and pink shirts in support of breast cancer research.  Rory and Louis weren't, however, all that pretty in pink today, as they struggled mightily on the front nine on a course that Rory, at least, has pretty much owned.  

I like to see the boys in pink, favouring pink shirts myself, but I wouldn't dare try to wear the white trousers which would inevitably be stained with coffee, mustard, or ketchup before I was done.  I did have a nice pair of pink Sansabelt trousers in size 32; long since retired thanks to my middle-aged prosperity.  I loved those trousers.

Golf is indeed an unpredictable game when two thoroughbreds, like Rory and Louis, essentially find themselves, for nine holes atleast, unable to hit their hat.  Stenson, normally a ballstriking machine, spent plenty of time in the rough and waste areas as well, but managed not to get too distracted by his playing partners' woes and ground out a relatively good score of 68, rolling in a lovely putt on eighteen for birdie.  He sits three back at seven under.  

Rory recovered nicely, finishing with three straight birdies to shoot level par.  He definitely remains a potential threat to win with 36 holes to play, but he'll need to go low to do it at six back.  King Louis, on the other hand, is going to be having the weekend off.  Another remarkable player to miss the cut was Martin Kaymer, normally a good desert player.

Meanwhile, Ernie Els sits one back.  You have to love seeing big Ernie in the hunt again on a course that has certainly fit his eye over the years.  Ernie is the only one to have won the tournament three times and holds the course record of 61.  If Ernie can hold it together on the greens on the weekend it could be another great desert win for the big man, who has lots of great memories of the course to bolster his confidence.

It promises to be a great weekend of golf.  While my heart is with Ernie, my picks, if I was a betting man, would be Cabrera-Bello or Oleson, who sits two back, to win based on their runner up finishes last week.  I also like Andy Sullivan, who is nicely placed at two back and looks to be in great form.  He's fast becoming a world class player and will likely be a Ryder Cup player this year.

Go get 'em, Ernie.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Gary McCord in the News

I read where Gary McCord had created a bit of a stir after viewers believed he had made the statement, "raped by the wind."  CBS apparently reviewed the tape and determined that he had, in fact, said, "raked by the wind."  

I was interested to read this article because as I had sat watching the telecast yesterday, I was constantly annoyed listening to McCord's seemingly endless attempts to be clever and witty, instead of saying anything really meaningful about the golf.  In fact, in desperation I had turned off the sound rather than be further irritated by his incessant chatter.

Obviously, Gary must have his supporters, but I'm afraid to say he is an unwelcome guest in my living room when I'm watching golf.  I think the Masters people made a wise, and welcome, move when they banned him from all further broadcasts over his inane " bikini wax" comment.  Gary doesn't seem to have learned the wisdom of the saying, "the less said, the better," or, "if you don't have anything intelligent or meaningful to say, don't say anything."

As I say, Mr. McCord must have his fans.  But, as for me, I'm with the Masters folk on this one.