Patrick Reed was struggling. By the end of April 2013, he’d entered 13 PGA Tour events and had missed the cut eight times. Save for a 7th place finish at Pebble beach in February, his first full season on Tour was horrific. In fact, from mid-march through the end of April, Reed had missed the cut in 5 of 6 tournaments and finished t71st—almost dead last--in the only event in which he’d managed to play the weekend. With the truncated 2013 season half over, Reed made the switch to Callaway in May. Since then, he’s missed only one cut and garnered 4 top ten finishes, including his first ever victory at the Wyndham Championship, and earned over $1.6 million and enough FedEx Cup points to begin the playoffs at number 22 in total points earned. Reed’s change to Callaway in May resulted in stellar play ever since, and in July he added the new FT Optiforce 440 Driver and Mack Daddy 2 Wedges to his bag. Entering the FedEx Cup playoffs, he’s one of the tour’s hottest players with top tens in his last three starts. In winning the Wyndham Championship, Reed was 1st in Greens in Regulation, 5th in putting and 11th in driving distance. We can’t tell you definitively that Reed’s game turned the corner with Callaway, but the stats don’t lie…and they would indicate the equipment change propelled his season in a new—and highly lucrative—direction. Here’s Patrick Reeds Bag; DRIVER: Callaway FT Optiforce 440 (9.5 degree) with an Aldila Rogue shaft IRONS: Callaway X Forged (2-iron bent to 15 degree, 2- and 4-irons) and Callaway Razr X MB (5-PW) with True Temper Dynamic Gold shafts WEDGES: Callaway Mack Daddy 2 (50, 56 and 60 degree) with True Temper Dynamic Gold shafts PUTTER: Odyssey White Hot Pro #3 BALL: Callaway Hex Chrome+ You'll find Patrick Reed's Callaway equipment and much more at DGW.
They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting a different result. By that definition, Ken Duke is quite insane. For the better part of 19 plus years he plied his trade on various professional golf tours without success—without winning--until Sunday when, at age 44, he won his first PGA tournament at the Travelers Championship. I’m fairly certain Ken Duke is not insane, but he has been remarkably persistent—doggedly so-- in his pursuit of a PGA Tour victory at an age beyond which most would have long ago given up and gone to selling sweaters or insurance. Winning golf tournaments among the 40 year old set is commonplace these days, but winning your first tournament at age 44? Nope. By that age most guys have either given up the dream or they are already established winners on Tour. In the Tiger Woods era, winning has become harder, but with purses and endorsement money having skyrocketed, making a very good living without doing so has become commonplace. Ninety-nine PGA Tour players made over $1 million in 2012. So it’s not as if Duke has been scraping by and living out of his car (although that would make for an even cooler story). In fact, Duke has done rather well for himself since undergoing a swing change in 2006, having snared two Web.com wins before finally making it to the PGA Tour where he collected $1.5 million in official money last year. Life has been ok for Ken Duke of late. But still, those who play golf for a living dream of PGA, not Web.com, wins and that remains an elusive dream for all but a small percentage of players. It was, for Ken Duke, just a dream as well…until Sunday. .
The Ryder Cup began today with the first group of foursomes teeing off at 7:20 a.m. In the week or so just ended, the golf press has been filled with speculation about pairings and debate over which team is the stronger of the two. That speculation and debate attempts to divine meaning from statistics, historical Cup performance and course set-up in order to predict the winner. Inevitably too, the lead up to The Cup included the biannually-regurgitated theory that the reason the Euros have won so many of the recent Ryder Cups past is because of their camaraderie and team unity. While all that is of interest to Ryder Cup fans and golf junkies like me, in the end I really don’t care. I don’t care because the Ryder Cup always seems to come down to putting. The team that putts best wins. And why wouldn’t that be the case? The 24 golfers assembled at Medinah Country Club are among the best in the world, featuring 9 of the top 10 and 17 of the top 20. The second worst Official World Ranking among all 24 is Martin Kaymer, a Major champion and former world #1. So you’ll forgive me when I place little credence in speculation about team unity, desire and other nebulous concepts, particularly the stuff about ball-striking. While there’s a difference even among these guys in pure ball-striking ability—give me Tiger or Rory any day versus Ian Poulter in that category—such, as we might note from Tiger’s 13-14-2 Cup record versus Poulter’s of 8-3-0, doesn’t necessarily translate to Ryder Cup success. Poulter is known for his love of this competition, and he seems to elevate his game accordingly. That said, I’d still take Tiger and a 2 up spread to win a Sunday singles match against Ian. There’s only so often a player can drink from the motivational well before it runs dry. Will that be this year for Poulter? Who knows? He may romp to 5 points for all I can tell. And that’s the point. We just don’t know…and it’s why we watch. So instead of contributing to the refuse that is the vast majority of all golf speculation, I thought I’d offer up something a bit different with my pre-Ryder Cup ramblings. In thinking about the makeup of these two teams, I found myself gravitating toward a number of Euros. They seem to have a lot of fun, so I thought it would be entertaining to delve into their backgrounds and dig up a bit of interesting personal information. Once I decided on that direction for this post, I thought I’d include tidbits on the US team, as well. I reviewed the official Ryder Cup web site, player websites, PGA Tour and European PGA Tour sites in an effort to glean whatever interesting factoids might exist regarding these players. While my search was not exhaustive, I really did try to lift the cloak of celebrity and uncover the real men of the Ryder Cup, version 2012. The results were…disappointing. I shouldn’t have been surprised, really. After all, the best golfers in the world are professional athletes, who, having dedicated their lives to becoming the best at that one thing are, apparently, not much interested in other things, except things that can be purchased with wads of cash. I was particularly disheartened by the Euros. As I said, they seem like they’d be fun, and I suppose they are…they’re just not interesting…at all, unless you find a love of video games and “football” interesting. Maybe this is just the celebrity effect—the need not to reveal too much. Nonetheless, it’s a bit disappointing to find that the athletes we revere are pretty ordinary, and even a tad bit uninteresting. I’ve seen Graeme McDowell do a number of interviews and I’ve watched him on Feherty and Golf Channel’s Morning Drive. He seems a thoughtful and interesting guy. Yet his Tour Bio and official website reveal nothing of the man. His own website lists his off course past times as “hanging out with friends.” Wow! Who knew? Strangely, Tiger Woods had the most personal information of anyone on his website. For instance, I learned that Tiger sets his alarm for 5 a.m. He likes to scuba dive, and when he wants to get away, he goes underwater and shoots fish with a spear gun. I said he had the most, not the most interesting personal details. Tiger also has the most unintentionally hilarious bit of personal information. According to his site, his biggest personal challenge is “to become a better person tomorrow.” Today would apparently be out of the question. Phil: Phil Mickelson’s on line Bio is the equivalent length of a novella, but there’s very little personal information of interest beyond the fact that he ran away from home at age 3 ½ to go to the golf course. I believe he was accompanied by Babe, the giant blue ox. Seriously, there is some insight here, that being that Phil’s mom was really inattentive. Phil also has a section entitled “Did You Know” populated by Phil’s many golfing accomplishments. I wanted to reply, “Why, yes. Yes I did know.” Sneds: Brandt Snedeker lists his favorite food as French fries. Not so interesting you say? Well, I applaud a modern day athlete who publicly declares the deliciousness of food that’s bad for you. That takes courage. Michelle Obama and the food police may come knocking…It could happen. Jason Dufner: The only guy for whom I truly found interesting information I didn’t already know. For instance, Duf was an Economics major in college and reads biographies to learn the habits of successful people. He also prepared for the Tour by reading a book about Russian weightlifters. How does that prepare one for the Tour you ask? Who cares? At least it does reveal something beyond a love of SEC football. That’s cool. Bubba: Watson suffers a bit from over exposure in the media, so I’ll admit it’s hard to find stuff we don’t know. On the other hand, his website is full of banalities. The most interesting thing on it is the fact that his wife is 6’4” and he is 6’3” tall. Mat Kuchar: He was an outstanding junior tennis player and married his college sweetheart who was a tennis star for Georgia Tech. He absolutely thrashed Phil in ping pong at previous Ryder and President’s Cups to the extent that Phil will no longer play him at the Ryder cup until Sunday, lest he remember he’s fallible. I bet Kooch’s kids will be really good at video games. Steve Stricker: This year’s Payne Stewart Award winner is widely known as one of the nicest guys on Tour. He’s so nice that he didn’t even complain when the folks in charge of the John Deere Classic created a bobble head for him this year…with brown hair…that looks suspiciously like Rory McIlroy. DJ: Dustin Johnson’s website hasn’t been updated for 2 years and when I went to the “contact us” tab to alert whoever “us” might be, I received an error message. Seems fitting for the guy who lost the PGA Championship by grounding his club in a bunker that he claimed not to know was a bunker after being told it was a bunker. Jim Furyk: I got nothing. Webb Simpson: He was born in Raleigh, NC. His brother’s name is Evander Samuel Simpson IV. His wife’s maiden name was Taylor Dowd Keith. There’s no mention of how he overcame a hardscrabble upbringing, although he was once caught wearing an inappropriate tie to cotillion. Rory: This is his 3rd Ryder Cup, if you count his Junior Ryder Cup appearance in…2004. You are free to feel very old. Not surprisingly, he likes to play video games. There are 89 players, or former players, listed on the European PGA Tour website with a surname beginning with “Mc.” He weighs 11 stone, 6lbs. Ian Poulter: He is, literally, a colorful guy, so I thought his website would be full of provocative stuff. Nope. It features his car collection and his love of fashion. He turned pro while sporting a 5 handicap. His website is, like the man himself, visually appealing but lacking in any discernible substance. Despite this, I really like Poulter. Intending to compliment Poulter’s amazing ability to play lights out when the pressure is greatest, an anonymous pro once said the great thing about Ian is, “he actually thinks he’s good.” I’m fond of overachievers. Paul Lawrie: The official Ryder Cup site refers to him as “a true renaissance man” without further elaboration, leaving us to guess Lawrie’s other skills. I’m assuming they weren’t referring to his love of the Aberdeen Football Club and cars, his listed interests in his official Bio. It also mentions that Lawrie was named the 37th most powerful person in British Golf in 2012. Do you get a plaque for that? Perhaps that honor allows you to jump the line at The Old Course Sunday Buffet. Nicolas Colsaerts: The only Belgian on the team, he was ranked a lowly 1305th in the world as recently as 2009. He admits to being a “lover of house music.” I will admit to having to Google that term in order to discover it refers to dance music characterized by repetitive beats and rhythms centered on drum machines and synthesizers. Another way of describing it is “horrible music.” I’d suggest Nic get a new publicist. Luke Donald: Most everyone knows he’s an artist—like an actual artist with real paint and stuff. But did you know he earned a degree in Art Theory and Practice from Northwestern University? You did? Well, he lives in Evanston, Illinois. Martin Kaymer: Likes go carts. Justin Rose: The European Steve Stricker, he simply appears to be--the proper English gentleman. He broke 70 for the first time at age 11. That’s pretty good. Lee Westwood: I really like Lee Westwood, but he discloses very little about himself anywhere. I know his dad was a math teacher, which leads me to a theory, totally unsubstantiated by anything other than assumption, that his short game suffers because he’s too analytical. In short, he’d be better if he were dumber. Francesco Molinari: He’s widely acknowledged to be the better player between him and his older brother, Edoardo. That can’t be comfortable. Peter Hanson: “Who is Peter Hanson?” is the question to the following Jeopardy answer: Well known among his fellow competitors, this professional golfer and European Ryder Cup team member is known as “the Most Uninteresting Man in the World.” The PGA Tour Media guide has nothing, the European Tour site has nothing, and the Ryder Cup site has nothing. Even Wikipedia has no information of a personal nature on this guy. He’s the Swedish enigma wrapped in a riddle. I love it. He either couldn’t be bothered to list anything under “interests” or he’s on the lamb and living under a false identity. I’m going with the latter. That’s interesting. Ok, kids, that’s it for my Ryder Cup preview. If you found it a bit dull, well, imagine how tedious it was to write. In the end, there is one revealing thing of note. Professional golfers appear to be fairly ordinary guys who do one thing extraordinarily well. Root for them, but don’t idolize them.
Jose Maria Olazabal finalized the European Ryder Cup team Monday by announcing Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts as his two Captain’s picks. In the end, there was no drama regarding these picks, and no real choice to be made, as both Poulter and Colsearts were obvious. It couldn’t have been easier for Olazabal. In contrast, US Captain Davis Love might be feeling a bit confused this week. Thanks to the rule changes made by the PGA at the request of Paul Azinger when he captained the squad in 2008, Love has until September 4, the day after the Deutsche Bank Championship concludes, to select not just two but four Captain’s picks to add to his team of eight already qualified via points. The idea was to give additional picks, and additional time, so the US Captain could load up on hot players going into the Cup. That was a great idea, but it has to be making Love lose just a bit of sleep--at least it should. Not too long ago, it appeared three of those four spots would be filled by three of the top four players who failed to qualify on points. Hunter Mahan was first on that list, followed by Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler. All four had very good years, Cup experience and were close to having made the team on points. Brandt Snedeker, Dustin Johnson, Bo Van Pelt.and Billl Haas were all mentioned as candidates for that 4th spot. Conventional wisdom, or at least conventional thinking, following the end of qualifying was that the first three Captain’s picks were virtual locks for Stricker, Furyk and Mahan. While I don’t know if Davis Love was thinking along those lines--curiously, he hasn’t consulted me--surely he isn’t at this point. That's because those who appeared to be locks have been playing their way to an early vacation. The good news for Love is that each player in contention for a Captain's pick will be teeing it up this week at the Deutsche Bank for one last chance to impress. The bad news is that, golf being golf, the situation may be just as confounding come next Monday when Love will make his picks. A great deal has changed since the PGA. Hunter Mahan, a Cup veteran, is playing like a guy who wants to stay home, something that might be discounted (by me anyway) were it not for the fact that he’s been trending the wrong direction for awhile now. He’s missed the cut in his last 2 events and has been off the leader board since the British Open. It’s hard to understand how he didn’t make the team outright on points in the first place, given his 2 wins, including a WGC event, in a Ryder Cup year, but he didn’t. In one sense, the decision on Mahan is easy. If he plays really well this week (top 20) at the Deutsche Bank Championship, he makes the squad. If not, he stays home where he can contemplate what’s wrong with his game. Jim Furyk also missed the cut last week on a very long Bethpage Black course that seemed, well, a bit much for him. Medinah #3, host of this year’s Ryder Cup is also long, so I don’t think it should be an automatic for Furyk to make the team. True, he’s played well this year and could’ve won the US Open and WGC Bridgestone. But he didn’t win those events. In fact, it seems to me he lost both of those tournaments with bogey at the Open and double bogey at the Bridgesone on the 72 holes. “Yeah, but Furyk’s a gritty competitor,” you say, “and he’s got a great Ryder Cup record.” Well, that’s what I thought, but the truth is, Furyk has a stellar President’s Cup record but his losing Ryder Cup record of 8-15-4 is less than. He hasn’t won since the 2010 Tour Championship, and while he’s been on every Ryder Cup team since 1997, those teams have, with 2 exceptions, lost. Frankly, I think it’s time for some new blood. When Davis calls me later this week, I’ll tell him to leave Furyk behind. Rickie Fowler played in 3 matches for team USA in 2010 and lost 2 but halved a critical singles match by winning the last three holes. He’s a good putter, something much needed by the US in recent years as we’ve watched the Euros out putt our squad time and again. Fowler’s biggest claim to fame of late, since winning early in the year, has been his YouTube video wherein he appears doing back flips from a pillar into the pool of his rented home the day before the PGA. Boys will be boys, I guess, and it wouldn’t matter that he seemed less than serious going in to the PGA…had he performed. But he didn’t and in fact his play, since the win, has been sporadic at best, showing flashes of brilliance sandwiched between some truly awful scores. He’s had just one top 25 since June. Still, he’s in the mix, I think. Remember, his victory this year was in a playoff with none other than Rory McIlroy whom he defeated by jamming a gap wedge into a sucker pin on the first playoff hole. Solid match play stuff, that. Plus, he’s good for the youth movement—out with the old and in with the new. Steve Stricker is probably the most assured of getting a Captain’s pick. He went 3-1 last time out and proved there and at recent President’s cups to be the one guy who partners well with Tiger. If for no other reason, we need him to make putts for Tiger in the alternate shot and better ball formats. Stricker has shown himself to be a consistent performer this time of year, as well. He remains a lock. Complain if you wish. That being said, what really ought to happen here is that Davis Love should disregard any sense that he needs to reward the guys closest to having actually made the team on points and go with the guys who are playing the best. Clearly, two such guys are Brandt Snedeker and Dustin Johnson. Sneds has been nails of late, finishing solo second last week during a critical time in D III’s selections process. He seemed to be on every leader board all year long, including those at the majors. He leads the Tour in putting and his aggressive style is perfect for the Ryder Cup. He was dissed for the President’s Cup last year and Love shouldn’t make the same mistake. It’s “Sneds time,” I say. He should be on the team. Don’t bother telling me I’m wrong on this. I make no secret of my love for Sneds--and the “Sned Head”™ T shirts are already being printed. Dustin Johnson has shown he wants to be on this team. That much is clear by his recent play, including a T3 last week at the Barclays-- and he’s long (so we’ve heard); something that will be of use at Medinah. The knock on Johnson is his sporadic putting and sometimes crazy-bad wedge play—and that’s a big concern. But he has more wins than any US player under thirty, so he should get a look before Furyk. Again, I say let’s try to win with some youth. Let’s put some excitement into the game—and hope DJ has a caddy who keeps him from violating a rule that costs us the Cup. Finally, as if the waters weren’t muddied enough by the lousy play of some of the key candidates in the Captain’s pick contest, we have Nick Watney jumping in at the last minute to kick up a whole bunch of silt. With his win at the Barclays last week, Watney makes the case that he needs to be reckoned with, despite a lackluster season, compared to last year. It seems Watney recently had some putting instruction and then spanked Sergio Garcia by 5 on Sunday. Sergio will be at Medinah and so should Watney…if he plays well this week. Davis Love has yet to call me for my input, but when he does, I will tell him to pick Stricker and Snedeker, regardless of what happens at the Deutsche Bank this week. After that, it’s Johnson, Watney, or Fowler, not necessarily in that order. I’d make it easy on myself among those three by simply picking the two that finish highest come Monday. Science it’s not, but such is life that someone will come up short—and in 2014 maybe they’ll just have to make the team on points. As for Jim Furyk, he gets on the team if he beats two of those three and is in the top ten. Sorry Jim, but I think your time on the team has come and gone. I’d like to see the US win this year. It will be interesting to see what develops this week at the Deutsche Bank. Love’s decision(s) may become much clearer…or much harder.
There was great news this week for fans of the Ryder Cup, scheduled to begin September 25, 2012. Sergio Garcia, with his win at the Wyndham championship, locked up his spot on the European squad. That’s not great news for fans of team USA necessarily, particularly coming on the heels of Ian Poulter’s finish at the PGA. Both Sergio and Poulter will in all likelihood be playing for the European team and both clearly love and excel at that event. Sergio missed making the team in 2010, but such was his desire to be involved that he agreed to serve as an assistant, a position usually reserved for a veteran, past his prime. I don’t know about you, but I missed Garcia at the Ryder Cup. Whether you love him, or love to hate him, it’s always been clear that Sergio cares passionately about the Ryder Cup. So in 2012, a year when he made some curious comments that sounded suspiciously as if he’d given up trying, it’s good to see that the Ryder Cup at least continues to stoke his competitive desire. I think he will be formidable. Two weeks ago Sergio was by no means a guaranteed participant. Today, he’s safely on the team. It’s clear he wants to be on the team, and he’s backed it by great golf in recent weeks. That’s not good for the US squad, given Sergio’s 14-6-4 Ryder Cup record and the fact that the matches will be played at Medinah Country Club where, in 1999 at age 19, he almost took The PGA Championship from Tiger. It is strange to recall that Sergio, the one who ran up the hill on number 16 and scissor-kicked his way into the hearts of teenage girls everywhere, now that he’s grown into a curmudgeonly, snappish old man at age 31 (32 in September). In recent years we’ve grown accustomed to seeing Sergio behave with all the charm of a constipated toddler with an ear infection. I for one hope this win, and the Ryder Cup, bring back the Sergio who once said to Phil Mickelson after he’d made the turn in 4 over par, “Hey, let’s have some fun on this side.” I’m reasonably certain Sergio will do something hideously boorish in the coming weeks that will make me regret what I just wrote…but I can always hope. Ian Poulter may be even more formidable as a member of the Euro squad. Poulter loves match play. He’s won the WGC World Match Play Championship and the Volvo World Match Play title, the only player other than Tiger Woods to have done so. Unlike Tiger, Poulter has a stellar Ryder Cup record. You might recall he went 4-0-1 in 2008 and 3-1 in 2010. Sergio’s recent win bumps Poulter from the top ten of those automatically qualifying for the team, but it’s a dead certainty he’ll be a Captain’s pick. Poulter needed a good showing at the PGA Championship in order to impress Captain Jose Maria Olazabal and he did just that. His final round, featuring 8 birdies were exactly what he needed to impress. Team Europe has to be feeling good about now with the numbers 1, 2, 4 and 7 ranked golfers in the world on their team---and now with Poulter and Garcia playing at top ten levels once again. Davis Love III, the US captain has probably noticed as well, and he might be a bit concerned. It will be interesting to see how the European team rounds out. Europe selects its players from 2 separate point lists. The top 5 from the European Ryder Cup point list, and the top 5 not otherwise qualified from the World Ryder Cup point list make the team automatically, leaving just 2 captain’s picks. The European team, as of today, would be comprised of the following, plus two captain’s picks: Rory McIlroy Justin Rose Graeme McDowell Paul Lawrie Francesco Molinari Luke Donald Lee Westwood Sergio Garcia Peter Hanson Martin Kaymer This week’s Johnnie Walker Championship in Europe is the concluding event at which points can be earned. The only one of the ten in jeopardy of falling from the team is Martin Kaymer, who can get knocked out on points by a Nicolas Colsaerts victory or second place finish. Whoever doesn’t secure that tenth spot will likely be considered, along with Poulter, on the very short list for the two captains picks. Poulter, having been bumped from the top ten by Garcia’s win last week, is playing in the FedExCup at The Barclays this week, rather than trying to earn his way on the team at the Johnnie Walker. What does that mean? It means that Poulter knows he’s a lock for a Captain’s pick. That leaves one pick, in reality, for Olazabal. If I’m Ollie, I’m hoping Colsaerts bumps Kaymer for that final spot, so I can spend my pick elsewhere, say, on Padraig Harrington. If Kaymer doesn’t qualify on points, it’s a sure bet he won’t get picked by Olazabal. Kaymer’s game has fallen off dramatically since he changed his swing following his PGA victory 2 years ago (WHY do they do that?) and he’s had no top tens since April this year. Plus, he’s not playing in the Johnnie Walker this week, an indication of his desire, or lack thereof. Harrington, whose position on the points list left him no chance to play his way on by participating in the Johnnie Walker, is instead playing in the FedExCup at The Barclays. A three-time Major winner and Ryder Cup stalwart over the last decade, and who’s been playing beautifully of late, it’s hard to imagine Harrington not in the selection equation, particularly when others in the running are guys like Rafael Cabrera-Bello and David Lynn. Who are they, you might ask? Exactly. I’m pretty sure were it up to Davis Love III to select for Ollie, he’d toss out Harrington and flip a coin between these other two leader board lurkers. That would seem a no-brainer. So why would Olazabal say recently of Harrington that he would have to do “something extraordinary” to get his serious consideration? Well, it seems there’s a feud going on here, dating back to the 2003 Seve Trophy during which Harrington questioned Olazabal’s repair of a pitch mark. Both players deny it, but they do so in terms that make clear they are lying. It’s hard to believe Ollie would base his decision on personal animosity, but when asked recently to define what Harrington could do that he would consider “extraordianary,” he said, “at least a win.” With the Barclays being the sole tournament remaining before Ollie makes his selections, it’s hard to fathom what Harrington might do beyond winning. What more could it take? A win by 3, 5, 10 shots? A win and a hole in one? A win while putting one handed? A win while going commando and sporting a broken zipper (I think we’d all agree on that one)? What does it mean, this term “at least a win?” I might suggest it means only that Olazabal really, really, really doesn’t want to take Harrington. Thus, he’s left himself some wiggle room by suggesting it could take more than a win. That may sound stupid (and it is) but such is the nature of pride among men. It frequently makes them stupid. The good news for the US team is it would appear unlikely they will have to face a Euro squad with Harrington. If Colsaerts doesn’t finish in the top two at The Johnnie Walker, he’ll get the nod anyway. The bad news for Europe is, without Harrington, they might field a team featuring someone Phil Mickelson can actually beat in a match. As I go to post this, I see that Padraig Harrington shot a 7 under 64 and is leading the Barclays. I wonder if he’s wearing underwear? Coming soon: the inside skinny on the US team. Why Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan shouldn’t be considered locks for a Captain’s pick…and much more. cheap Abilify
Making predictions about who will play well in a golf tournament is such an exercise in nerd-dom that I’m embarrassed to say I now do it before each event. I fear this is the beginning of a very unhealthy addiction that may eventually lead to participation in a fantasy league and calling sports talk radio shows. I may require an intervention.At any rate, here we are just a day in front of the British Open and I’m feeling like rolling the dice with some guesses on who will perform. Incidentally, I know that it’s called “The Open Championship” and that for some strange reason TV announcers and golf writers everywhere have caved in recent years to the R&A’s demand that we refer to it as such. But I grew up calling it the British Open, as did every other American, in order to distinguish it from our national championship. If I should ever go to the tournament, I will call it the Open in deference to my hosts, but not otherwise. As far as I’m concerned, we stopped taking orders from Great Britain when we told King George to pound sand, so I see no reason to erase 230+ years of defiance in deference to a golf tournament. I don’t think it’s disrespectful. The tournament is in Great Britain and it’s open. It’s the British Open. I guess the R&A wants some acknowledgment from the ugly Americans that their event is not only the oldest tournament, but has the international flavor of a truly multinational championship. I’ll give them that, but they really need to quit with the insistence that the winner be proclaimed the "Champion Golfer of the Year.” Inasmuch as that designation implies the winner is the best in the world, the R&A adheres to something that hasn’t been true for quite awhile. I mean, they give exemptions to players from the Japanese, Asian, Australian and Sunshine Tours, for goodness sakes. Nevertheless, I love the British Open. The British is quirky and it’s a lot more fun than any other Major, partly because it exposes us to a host of players we don’t know and it gives me something other than Golf Channel infomercials to watch on TV at 4:00 a.m. Of course, many people love to talk of the vagaries of links-style golf as the reason they like the British. Since we don’t see links golf on the PGA Tour, it’s fun to watch a tournament where frequently there appears to be no discernible difference between fairway, green and even rough. But it takes all of 60 seconds to discuss why links golf is fun to watch—wind, rain, pot bunkers, crazy bounces. That’s pretty much it…I’ve veered slightly from the purpose of this post…my picks. I’ve decided to utilize three categories of guesses for this week’s tournament, mainly as a hedge whereby I can claim some form of meaningless prescience should I get lucky and pick a winner: 1) Favorites; 2) Familiar names but less favored; 3) guys you’ve probably never heard of and why I like them. As anyone who read my piece on the Player’s Championship knows, I typically avoid picking a winner from the “Favorites” lineup because it’s easy and not-at-all amusing. I mean, my 8 year old nephew picks Tiger every week. There’s no art to that, or even the illusion of reason. That’s just fandom. Besides, Tiger burned me at the Open (The United States Open Championship for those of the pompous inclination) by going South of the Equator as soon as I pronounced him the winner after 36 holes. Tiger’s not even the obvious favorite this week, and by “obvious” I mean one of the players being touted by media-types. He's among the favorites, but everyone's leery of Tiger's inconsistency and not at all certain which Tiger will be present for the event. The big media guys are talking Luke Donald, Padraig Herrington, Lee Westwood and Rickie Fowler, for some odd reason. Of those, I like Westwood, then Herrington. That order was reversed until I saw Westwood’s press conference yesterday where for the first time he seemed a bit peeved by the persistent suggestion that he lacks a Major caliber short game. I think he will win out of spite. That’s only if my actual favorite doesn’t win. For that, we have to scratch just below the service of popular opinion. My guess for the winner among lesser-favorites, if you will, is Ernie Els. He’s been hitting the ball great for the last year. Putting has been his bugaboo, and with greens stimping at 10.5, Ernie will make more than his share and go home with the Claret Jug, unless… Justin Rose wins. He’s got 5 top tens on tour this year, including a victory, and 8 top 25s. He’s earned 2.6 million dollars on the PGA Tour in 2012 while playing only 12 events. Currently ranked 12th in FedEx Cup points and 9th in the world, he’s ready for a Major. Plus, Rose is from England, so he grew up playing in weather that requires bundling up as if readying for a winter storm; the kind of weather that makes for exceptional bowlers. He will thrive. So much for favorites…let’s have more fun with Sleeper picks. They are, in order that I think they will contend, if not win: Sergio Garcia. I may be the only guy in America picking him, but here’s why I like his chances. He’s an excellent driver and pure ball striker; qualities favored anywhere, but particularly at Royal Lytham where strategic angles are key. Like Els, his putting holds him back but should be far less a factor this week on slow greens. This pick is risky, given that Sergio is paired with Tiger on Thursday and Friday, historically not a good thing for him. On the plus side, Sergio seems to care less these days and long gone are the expectations of greatness. I sent him my blog on playing better by caring less. Obviously, he read it. In his interview going in to the final round of the US Open a mere 4 shots back of the lead, he basically threw in the towel. I like the attitude. Thomas Bjorn. The Great Dane won thrice last year after spending the better part of this century re-living his nightmarish bunker escapade that cost him the Open in 2003. I didn’t bother with his stats. He just looks tough. David Duval. Pretty weird pick, I’ll acknowledge, given that he’s made just two cuts this year and is ranked like 180th in driving accuracy. But I have this good lucky feeling that he’ll recapture the magic of his win from 2002…or maybe it’s just wishful thinking. Davis Love III. At age 48, he’s hitting it as long as ever, and straighter than ever. He’s been lurking around the first page of the leader board all year. After the Open, he will be stuck in full time Ryder Cup Captain mode, so there’s a sense of urgency to take one more Major that will ensure entrance to the Hall of Fame. Now for the best part, and my real reason for writing this blog--the obscure guys: Robert Rock. Best hair in golf…nobody’s even close to second place. Imagine what a Robert Rock looks like, then Google him. Pretty close, right? Jbe’ Kruger. Tiniest man in professional golf at 5’5’’ and 135 pounds. I’m rooting for him to beat Els in a playoff so the media won’t be challenged to think of headlines. Also, I had to Google his name just to see how to pronounce Jbe’. Turns out, that’s a nickname for James Barry and it’s pronounced “JB.” He’s from South Africa, so I can only assume the spelling is some weird Dutch or Afrikaans thing. Yoshinori Fujimoto. The real life Yoshi! This guy has no shot. I confess to picking him for the name. Justin Hicks. No one appears to know how he got in the tournament. There is zero information about him on the official site of The Open Championship. I smell an imposter. I like imagining that he's some 15 handicapper. If so, I'd give him the Jug for shear chutzpah. Sang Moon Bae. I spent a lovely vacation there in the Bahamas. Thorbjorn Olesen. Changed his first name from Jacob, marking him, clearly, as quite nuts. That’s it. We’ll see how my guesses fare come Sunday.
Dylan Fritelli, recent University of Texas graduate and first team All America, entered the professional ranks last week as the newest addition to the Nike Tour Staff. Fritelli, you may remember, sank a 20 foot birdie putt on the 18th hole of famed Riviera Golf Club earlier this month to win his match and secure the NCAA Divison I Championship for The Longhorns. After signing with Nike last week he immediately justified his professional potential with a tie for 33rd place at the BMW International Open in Cologne, Germany. Fritelli plays a complete set of Nike VR Pro clubs from driver through wedges and trusts a Nike Method putter as his flat stick of choice. On tournament days he tees it up wearing head-to-toe Nike Tour Performance apparel and Nike Lunar Control Golf Shoes. Check out Dylan’s equipment, apparel and other Nike products, all of which are available here at DGW: • Driver: Nike VR Pro Limited Edition 8.5-degree • Fairway Wood: Nike VR Pro Limited Edition 3-wood/15-degree • Hybrid: Nike VR Pro 19-degree • Irons: Nike VR Pro Combo (4-PW) • Wedges: Nike VR Pro 52-, 56- and 58-degree • Putter: Nike Method 004 • Apparel: Nike Golf Tour Performance Collection • Footwear: Nike Lunar Control You might also want to take a look the DGW "What the Pros Play" page to see what Phil, Tiger, Ernie and a host of other PGA Tour stars are featuring in their bags in 2012.
Day one of this year’s US Open is in the books and the only prediction that appears at all prophetic in retrospect was Tiger’s statement from his Tuesday press conference wherein he suggested the conversation between he and Phil would be less than scintillating. I wasn’t there, but I imagine there were the obligatory first tee greetings, followed by 18 holes in which both ignored the other—easy since Tiger played the course and Phil played, well, somewhere in California—then the obligatory 18th green handshake during which Tiger suppressed a smirk and Phil looked, for once, genuinely humble. So, as is typical with hype, the much ballyhooed Tiger/Phil/Bubba grouping didn’t live up to it. The really interesting thing, and what did live up to expectations, was the golf course itself and the fact that this year’s version of the Open resembles those Opens of yesteryear at which par was the goal and disaster threatened on every swing a millisecond before impact. Interesting as well, at least to me, is our first round leader, Michael Thompson, who put three shots between himself and Tiger, et al. with an amazing round of 4 under par 66. Like me, most of you have probably never heard of Michael Thompson. Here’s the skinny: he earned his card for 2011 by placing 16th at Q School. He’s made steady progress, earning just under a million dollars last year with 2 top 10s and 6 top 25s. So far this year, he has 1 top 10 and 4 top 25s in 15 events and he’s made just over $500,000.00. He’s a fairly consistent cut-maker, as well. In short, it seems this guy is steady and reliable—nothing too flashy—just a guy who goes about his business and earns a very nice living playing golf. That’s precisely why we haven’t heard of him. He doesn’t have a signature color that he wears on Sunday, although I suspect it may be Khaki. He’s just one of those “very nice” players that flies under the radar in a world populated in abundance by many such golfers but dominated in our media-driven culture by the so-called really big talent. We might be inclined to dismiss Michael Thompson from further consideration, knowing that historically the US Open often produces the odd “no name” first round leader only to yank him back to reality with a second round number north of 80. Whether that happens today is worth paying attention to, if for no other reason than to see if this kid has the fortitude and game to keep it going, or whether he caught lightening in a bottle via an exceptionally hot putter (22 putts yesterday—crazy good). But consider this: Michael Thompson is currently ranked 107 in the world. Not bad. Also not bad is that before turning pro in 2008 he was the SEC Player of the Year, was runner up at the US Amateur and was ranked number 1 amateur in the world. That goes to the fact that all these guys on Tour are really, really good. Michael Thompson is unknown only because we don’t pay close attention to the players lurking just below the surface of the extremely deep talent pool that is the PGA Tour. He is good enough to win the US Open. It is being held, not coincidentally, at the course where he placed second in the Amateur, by the way. Whether he holds up under the relentless pressure of only his first professional Major just might make for a compelling story come Sunday. Speaking of pressure that brings me to what I am proclaiming right now, after only one day of competition, as the round of the tournament. Fourteen year old Andy Zhang shot 79 on a course that humbled and humiliated some of the best players in the world. I don’t know about you, but in the summer of my fourteenth year I won the US Open at least once a week—in my head. I always beat Jack Nicklaus, too, thus depriving him of an historically insurmountable total of 52 Major Championships. Sorry Jack. And even in my imagination, I still choked on occasion, missing that critical 10 footer as the imaginary crowd, which included my imaginary girlfriend, held their breath. Fortunately, I always had the luxury of a “do-over.” I’d simply erase from my mind the just missed putt and do it again. There were no do-overs for Andy Zhang yesterday. So the fact that this fourteen year old kid managed the rather remarkable feat of breaking 80 is worthy of our praise and admiration. What makes young Andy’s round worthy of the “round of the tournament” is the fact that he began his day by going triple bogey, double bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey. Let me pause while you do the math…that's right, 8 over through his first 5 holes. He then played the last 13 holes at 1 over par. You want to talk about bounce back statistics? That may be the finest 13 holes I’ve ever heard of. Think for a moment how you would’ve reacted. Yeah--just that image makes you get cold sweats, doesn’t it? I’m quite certain that I would’ve wet my pants, and then begun crying, all the while swearing never to do another bad thing in my life if the Good Lord would just please, please…seriously, please, let me break 100. And I’m 52 years old. There will be plenty of discussion today about Tiger and the other contenders. That’s to be expected. What was not to be expected is that the toughest competitor on the course this week might be the kid who only recently graduated—from 8th grade. How cool is that?
DGW congratulates Quincy, Illinois native and University of Illinois golfing standout, Luke Guthrie, on his T 19 finish in his professional debut at the Fed Ex St. Jude Classic. Those of us who watched Luke grow up and have followed his career with interest are not surprised that his entry into the ranks of big time play-for-pay professional golf began with such a stellar performance, as we’ve witnessed him elevate his game at each successive level of development. From the time he was a young junior only just then beginning to wax the older guys at Westview Golf Course, through to the end of an illustrious college career, he excelled. And it’s been fun watching. The talent level in big time amateur and Division I Golf and the nature of limited media attention paid to but a few individuals is such that, unless you’re from Luke’s hometown, or an avid follower of college golf--or maybe an agent, or a manufacturers’ Tour representative--you’ve probably never heard of this kid from Quincy, Illinois. So you might be wondering, “Just who is Luke Guthrie and why should we care?” Well we will try to answer both parts of that query. Let us introduce you to Luke by offering just some of his college credentials. We’d talk more about his amazing junior and high school career, but there’s not enough space. We’ll simply say this: as a junior, Luke represented the United States on a Junior Ryder Cup team; and his obscenely low scoring average for high school was cumulatively so far under par through four years of varsity competition that we think it’ s safe to say no one in his hometown will ever get near breaking it. He won two Illinois State High School Championships and an Illinois State Amateur. And that was just the beginning. For the sake of brevity, we offer this bulleted list of some of Luke’s college highlights: Won 7 tournaments in his college career, including back-to-back Big Ten Championships 2011 first team all America 2012 Big Ten Player of the Year 2012 Big Ten Scoring Average Leader Played on 4 consecutive Big Ten Championship Teams Ranked 11th in the Nation among Division I players #16 in US Amateur rankings #37 in World Amateur rankings Played Number 1 for Illinois in his Junior and Senior Years. And if that very partial list of accomplishments is not enough to impress you, then know that the number 2 player for the Fighting Illini this year, Thomas Pieters, who played behind Luke-- who’s scoring average was not as good--who did not win as many tournaments--just beat the very best college golfers in the land to win the NCAA Championship. In case you need further elucidation—the guy not as accomplished as Luke, just won the NCAA—ergo Luke is very, very, very good. That’s just a few of the highlights, and some of the reasons why you should know that this kid can play. Here’s why you should care. Luke won the 2012 Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor given to just one athlete at each Big Ten School each year who demonstrates proficiency in scholarship and athletics. It is the top athletic honor bestowed at the University. In addition, Luke was awarded the Sportsmanship Award by his teammates. Big deal you say? Well, in our experience, they don’t give that type of award to jerks. They give it to the guy who exhibits, well, sportsmanship. If you’ve been around junior and/or amateur golf, then you’ve been witness to arrogance and shamefully spoiled behavior on the part of both players and parents that would be embarrassing were it not so sad. And in an age where too often we celebrate bad behavior, it’s pretty cool to be able to root for someone who exhibits the very best. Having known Luke and his family since he was about 10 years old, we know that he gets this model citizenship directly from his parents, Dennis and Cindy, who have been there with him, and older brother Zach, literally, every step of the way. Anyone at all observant knows they’ve done well in raising their kids. Likewise, Luke has been blessed with a teacher in Mark Christensen of the Christensen Golf Academy right here in Quincy, Illinois who has shared with Luke from the time he was a little boy both his knowledge of the swing and, perhaps more importantly, the sheer joy of golf. When you’re looking for someone to root for at the John Deere Classic, Luke’s next Professional start, you could do much worse than this young man from Quincy, Illinois. So, to Luke and the Guthrie family, we at DGW say, well done and good luck. We will be rooting for you. Combivent
It seems strange that I was talking with Matt Kuchar on the Wednesday of The Wells Fargo Championship, remarking how he was having a really good year, but kind of flying under the radar just a bit. He said he was playing well, hitting the ball great and felt it was only a mater of time before he won again. Based on his solid performance at the Zurich Classic, I predicted that he would win The Players Championship. He laughed. A week and a half later he does just that. Of course, I’m lying about that conversation. It never took place. But I did have a lengthy chat with someone who is more knowledgeable than anyone, save Kuchar himself, about the state of Matt’s swing and his golf game. I recently spoke with teacher Chris O’Connell, named to the Golf Digest List of Best Young Instructors, about a variety of topics, not the least of which was his star pupil, Matt Kuchar. Chris said, essentially, what I attributed to Kuchar in the opening paragraph. It’s no wonder, then, that I actually predicted Matt Kuchar as the winner of The 2012 Players Championship. Ok, I may not have actually predicted it, but I thought it…and I was rooting for him, so that’s almost as good. Right? Of course, I can’t think of anyone watching who wouldn’t root for Kuchar, with the possible exception of the Puma Sales Division, so it was a gratifying thing to see. Let’s face it, golf fans everywhere, even at Puma, like Matt Kuchar. Seriously, the scene on the 18th green yesterday with Matt and his wife, kids and Mother (on Mother’s Day!!) would’ve been like a particularly odious Hallmark Hall of Fame movie but for the fact that we, as viewers, just knew it was genuine. We like the guy, even though we (you) don’t really know him (not like I do because of my close personal acquaintanceship with his teacher). But he seems to represent everything we like about ourselves—all the good stuff—and since we like ourselves a whole lot, we like him almost as much. So, here’s a toast to my new BFF, Matt Kuchar and his victory that I would’ve predicted had I had the foresight to make a prediction and not just think about who might win. Now, let’s talk about my new series of posts that will occur over the next several weeks. As I said, I spoke with Chris O’Connell at some length not long ago, and from that conversation, I learned…The Secret of Golf. I’m keeping that to myself, of course, but I also learned a great deal of useful information which I will disclose to you; stuff I gleaned from Chris’s knowledge as a guy who coaches one of the top ten players in the world. Cool, huh? You’re welcome. If you’re not quite comprehending this tease, let me break it down: 1. Guy wins the biggest purse on Tour by defeating the deepest field on Tour. 2. That guy’s swing instructor talked to me. 3. I’m going to tell you what that swing instructor said. Check it out.