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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Welcome to Armagedd--er, Q-School Finals

Well, today is the beginning of the end for a lot of dreams... for this year, anyway. It's the final stage of Q-School -- 6 days of relentless pressure and sleepless nights. Many golf fans consider this the most exciting golf tournament of the year.

Not the participants, however. They use stronger words than "exciting" to describe it!

Since TV coverage on GC won't begin until Saturday at 3pm ET, I thought you might like to know where you can keep up with what's going on -- especially those of you who are following a favorite player forced to endure this marathon of stomach aches.

Fortunately for us, PGATOUR.com has created a section on their site just for this purpose:
Over 150 players are scheduled to tee off starting at 8am ET today, all vying for 25 PGA Tour cards. (Well, 25 plus ties.) The next 50 plus ties get Nationwide Tour cards, and everybody else gets conditional status on the Nationwide Tour.

Let the cookie-tossing begin!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: December 2011

The PGA Tour was fairly quiet during November. Other than the World Cup winners, no American player gained any points this past month. Kuchar and Woodland each got 1 point, as their World Cup win counts as an "other win." I should probably explain this more clearly.

I've been using this category since last December, but had forgotten to add it to my points list below. That omission has been rectified with this ranking. It generally only affects events won on tours other than the PGA or ET. You'll remember that Jhonattan Vegas suddenly appeared in the RGWR with 3 wins earlier this year. That was because he had two unofficial wins against good fields in South America. They didn't count until he won on the PGA Tour.

Note that Greg Chalmers is now in the same boat; he has two very nice wins in Australia this month, but neither is an official PGA or ET event. However, the fields at the Australian Open and the Australian PGA were extremely strong due to the Presidents Cup. If Greg also wins the JBWere Masters, starting December 15, he will have successfully captured the Australian Triple Crown in a single year -- a feat only accomplished once, by Robert Allenby -- and I will give him credit for 3 wins, official or not!

Of course, the European Tour is still in full swing with a couple of big tournaments, all to determine the winner of the Race to Dubai.

So (drumroll, please) here are the RGWR criteria:
I focus on the last 12 months of play -- that's long enough to see some consistency but short enough to be current. Every player in the RGWR won at least once on either the PGA or European Tour. The OWGR rates consistency over the last 2 years, so I see no reason to rank that; my RGWR says if you're a top player, you've won somewhere recently. My priority list (based on quality of field) looks like this:
  1. majors, TPC (PGAT), BMW PGA (ET), and WGCs
  2. FedExCup playoffs and prestige events (like Bay Hill and Dubai), the latter often determined by the history and difficulty of the course
  3. other PGA and ET events
I put extra emphasis on recent form, and I make some allowance if you're recovering from injury or serious sickness. Also, remember that I count Top5s as a separate category from wins; if you see a player has 3 Top5s, those are seconds through fifths only.

I assign points to tournaments this way:
  • Majors: 10 points
  • TPC & BMW PGA: 8 points (yes, I'm calling them equals!)
  • WGC: 7 points
  • Prestige events: 5 points
  • Regular wins: 3 points
  • Top 5 finishes: 2 points
  • Other wins: 1 point
I give full credit (not in points, but they carry the same weight as "official" victories) for wins on the "minor" tours like the Nationwide and Australasian Tours provided the winner has a current win on the PGA or European Tour. These wins will count only as "regular" wins and not "prestige" wins, no matter how prestigious they may be for their tour, because they generally don't have the strength of field of a regular PGA or ET event.

I'm not counting the Grand Slam of Golf as a win in my rankings. (I didn't give Ernie points for it last year either.) I've decided that 4 players isn't a large enough field to give it the weight of a win against a larger field. However, I do take that win into consideration in my rankings, much as I do money title or scoring awards.

And because of a strange quirk on the ET site, I've decided I have to specifically state that a tournament win can only count once. Therefore, to avoid possible confusion, I'm just telling you that the RGWR says you can only win a tournament once at a time.

As usual, the point total (and even the number of wins) a player has affects my rankings but doesn't override my personal opinions. I should note that only one player in the RGWR changed from last month, but there has been some jostling for position among them:
  1. Luke Donald: 4 wins (1 WGC, 1 BMW), 9 Top5, 39 points. Luke hasn't played anywhere since the Disney tournament because his wife Diane was expecting their newest little girl, but his play was good enough to win the Arnold Palmer Award (for the PGA money list), both the Vardon and Nelson Awards (for aggregate and adjusted scoring average), and POY. Did I mention he's still #1 on the OWGR by nearly 3 points? Well, after losing his father and welcoming little Sophia Ann within 3 days of each other, I expect him to show up sometime this month to solidify his place in the Race to Dubai.
  2. Lee Westwood: 3 wins (1 prestige), 4 Top5, 19 points. Lee was pretty quiet last month. But after announcing his intention to take up PGA membership again, I don't expect that to last long.
  3. Thomas Bjorn: 3 wins (1 prestige), 1 Top5, 13 points. No change for Thomas this month.
  4. Keegan Bradley: 2 wins (1 major, 1 prestige), 0 Top5, 15 points. Plus Keegan has the Grand Slam of Golf on his resume. Word is that he's bummed over not getting picked for the Presidents Cup team, so I expect a serious push for the Ryder Cup team next year.
  5. Charl Schwartzel: 2 wins (1 major, 1 prestige), 3 Top5, 19 points. Charl moves up on the added strength of his Joberg Open win as Rory took a tumble in his ranking (that's explained later). Charl also picked up another Top5 and played pretty well at both the Presidents Cup and the World Cup. Look for him to win some more soon.
  6. Sergio Garcia: 2 wins (1 prestige), 1 Top5, 10 points. My nominee for World Comeback Player of the Year holds his spot from last month, as no one (other than Greg Chalmers, discussed above) has really shown improved form lately.
  7. Nick Watney: 2 wins (1 WGC, 1 prestige), 3 Top5, 18 points. Another month without change for Watney. What's going on, Nick?
  8. Darren Clark: 2 wins (1 major), 0 Top5, 13 points. No change for Darren either, but he does have that major plus one other official win.
  9. Martin Kaymer: 2 wins (1 WGC, 1 prestige), 4 Top5, 22 points. Kaymer is the sole new entry this month. His November WGC win in China, coupled with his improved play (resulting in more frequent Top5s than most of the other players I considered) indicates that his game may finally be back on track after that disastrous attempt to change his swing for Augusta.
  10. Rory McIlroy: 2 wins (1 major, 1 other), 7 Top5, 25 points. Rory drops because although the limited-field Lake Malaren Shanghai Masters (which wasn't sponsored by any tour) was played against a good field, his play in "official" events since has left me a bit disappointed. I'm giving him credit for beating a good field there and for his major; otherwise Webb Simpson, Simon Dyson, or Alex Noren -- all players who have won multiple official events since Rory won the U.S. Open -- would have taken this spot. Rory's poor performance in the final round of the World Cup didn't help his case either. I understand missing a short putt, but to miss several indicates he's distracted right now. Show me something this week in Hong Kong, Rory!
Players to watch:
  • I am very impressed with the resurgence of Martin Kaymer in the last month or so. He's not listed to play in the UBS Hong Kong Open this week, so I can only assume he plans to make his final run at Luke Donald in the Dubai World Championship.
  • Tiger Woods. What else can I say? After the improved form he showed in his last couple of events, the Chevron World Challenge just got a whole lot more interesting.
  • And I like the way Simon Dyson has been trending. Keep an eye on him.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Limerick Summary: 2011 Omega Mission Hills World Cup

Winner: America (Matt Kuchar & Gary Woodland)

Around the wider world of golf: Hennie Otto picked up his first ET victory at the South Africa Open Championship; Greg Chalmers did the Australian two-step, backing up his Australian Open win a couple of weeks ago with the Australian PGA Championship; and Mi-Jeong Jeon won the Ricoh Cup, the final JLPGA major of the year. (As usual, the Constructivist has the details on that.)

Kuch and Woodland with the big prize

I can think of two guys that Davis Love III may seriously consider as Captain's picks if they don't qualify for the 2012 Ryder Cup team on their own.

The same might be said of several European players who demonstrated some serious team skills in the damp windy conditions of this year's World Cup. Several teams shot 5- and 6-under in the already demanding alternate shot format, including the American team with their own 5-under, and the English team of Ian Poulter and Justin Rose fired an unbelievable 9-under to grab a piece of 2nd place with the German team of Martin Kaymer and Alex Cejka.

The big shock of the day had to be the third-round leaders from Ireland, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, who could only muster a round of even par. I don't want to put all the blame on Rory but he missed several short putts that cost the team dearly. No matter how well you hit the ball, you still have to get it into the hole.

By comparison, Kuch and Woodland came out of the gate firing. Two birdies on the first two holes put them in the lead early on. They shot 4-under on their front nine and put everyone else in catch-up mode for the rest of the round. Given that Woodland had never played one of these pro team golf events before, that was amazing. Kuchar said he thought that Woodland had played the best of anyone at the event... and while Julian Tutt said that might be argued, he agreed that Woodland had been extremely impressive. That seems to have been the consensus among many of the golf analysts this week.

This win ended a drought for America. The last American team to win was Tiger Woods and David Duval back in 2000. And while America has won quite a few of these things, a majority of those players have been multiple winners:
  • Ed Furgol and Chick Harbert (1)
  • Ben Hogan and Sam Snead (1)
  • Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret (1)
  • Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer (2)
  • Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus (4)
  • Orville Moody and Lee Trevino (1)
  • Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino (1)
  • Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller (1)
  • Johnny Miller and Lou Graham (1)
  • John Mahaffey and Andy North (1)
  • John Mahaffey and Hale Irwin (1)
  • Rex Caldwell and John Cook (1)
  • Ben Crenshaw and Mark McCumber (1)
  • Fred Couples and Davis Love III (4)
  • Mark O'Meara and Tiger Woods (1)
  • Tiger Woods and David Duval (1)
That's quite a list to add your names to, don't you think?

Kuchar already has the nickname "the Smiling Assassin," but Gary Woodland is going to need one now. He's way too wild to be "the Woodland Creature," so I'm going to recommend "the Woodland Beast." And that's my intro to this week's Limerick Summary, saluting the newest of the young players to make history at the World Cup:
The Smiling Assassin came walking;
Both he and the Woodland Beast, stalking.
After many a year
Our "new breed" is here
And now they've got everyone talking.
The photo came from this page at the europeantour.com site.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

If You Haven't Seen Any of the World Cup...

Make sure you catch the replay on GC today. I tried to stay up and watch it because it was just some amazing golf!

The last round was foursomes (alternate shot). This is normally a very difficult format to play -- you'll recall that it was the primary reason the US team won the Presidents Cup earlier this month.

But you wouldn't have known that by the play in this final round. Teams were shooting 4- to 6-under on just the front nine! Players were chipping and pitching in from all over the course, and teams that appeared to have no chance -- including England's team of Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, who I meant to mention in yesterday's post -- suddenly found themselves right in the midst of the hunt.

As I said, I tried to stay up and watch it but I'm finally having to call it a night. As I write this, there are 6 teams within 2 shots of the lead. This is a replay that will be worth watching.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

So Much Golf

I realize that Thanksgiving is largely an American holiday, but I'm still surprised at how much golf is being played this weekend. And it's complicated by the fact that it's all on the other side of the world, which makes it hard to watch the live broadcasts. I guess this is how it is for most of the world most of the time and I should just be happy that we can watch it!

Provided we want to stay up all night, that is. I can't, although I tried unsuccessfully during the Presidents Cup.

For those of you who've been busy this weekend and haven't been able to check the scores at all, here are links to the leaderboards:
Many of the "big names" -- at least in American and European golf -- aren't playing, but the ones who are have scattered themselves across the globe. I'm going to try and give you some idea who's where. Think of it as our own little game of "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?"

As I already noted, Kuch and Woodland are in China at the World Cup, currently (that is, as I write this) 3 shots off the lead (that's 4th place) halfway through the third round. But it's also your tourney of choice if you want to see Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, currently leading the event for Ireland. Martin Kaymer is also there -- he and partner Alex Cejka, playing for Germany, are currently tied for the lead, but they're nearly finished while the Irish still have half the round to go.

Other notable teams in the World Cup are:
  • China -- even if you don't recognize Zhang Xin-Jun, you probably know Liang Wen-Chong
  • Colombia -- the brother team of Manuel and Camilo Villegas
  • Italy -- of course, the defending team of Edoardo and Francesco Molinari
  • South Africa -- Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel
  • Spain -- Alvaro Quiros and Miguel Angel Jimenez
  • Sweden -- Robert Karlsson and Alexander Noren
  • Thailand -- Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat
You would probably recognize many of the other names as well, like Martin Laird, Brendon deJonge, and Raphael Jacquelin.

Most of the South Africans are playing the South African Open. That's where you'll find Ernie Els and Retief Goosen. The cut was at -2, which was very low for this tournament. Retief is just a stroke off the lead but hasn't started his third round yet.

And most of the Australians are playing the Australian PGA this week. (Richard Green and Brendon Jones, their World Cup team, are the notable absences. They're in 3rd place, a stroke ahead of the US team.) Not only are Greg Norman, Adam Scott, Aaron Baddeley, Robert Allenby (who seems to have found his game a week late, unfortunately), and Jason Day there, but several other big names:
  • US -- Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler
  • Korea -- Y.E. Yang and Kyung-Tae Kim
  • Ireland -- Darren Clarke
As I'm writing this, Bubba and Kim and tied for the lead, 3 shots ahead of Allenby and Baddeley.

And just to cover all the bases, according to her official website's most recent post, Carmen is in Taiwan.

I think that's got you up-to-date -- at least, as much as I can do at this late hour. GC will be rebroadcasting all of these Saturday if you want to see your favorite players at a normal hour.

That's what I'll have to do. I'm going to bed.

Friday, November 25, 2011

And You Thought Stableford Was Bad

I hadn't watched much golf Thursday. I had been visiting relatives and doing "holiday" stuff, so I thought I'd check out the online leaderboard to get an idea how Kuchar and Woodland were doing over at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup.

My first reaction was "What the...?"

Since Thursday here in North Carolina was Friday in China, I knew they were playing fourballs (or best ball, if you prefer). Ok, that's simple enough. And there's a "Today" column that tells you how many under or over par each team has scored during the round that's being played. But I immediately looked over at the listing by round... and found that the American team had 31. HUH?

After studying the leaderboard for a while, I decided the number in this column was the total number of strokes each team had actually taken so far during play. However, without knowing the number of strokes they would have taken were they at par on that hole, it really wasn't much use.

Clearly somebody's just playing with my mind, such as it is. I guess I should have known that right off but instead I'm left searching for an excuse. I've decided to call it a "brain fart" and move on to more constructive things.

Although the American team is 5 shots behind the lead team from Australia (who are perhaps working off a bit of frustration after the Presidents Cup), they're still in a tie for 3rd. At least, they were when I checked the leaderboard before heading to bed.

So if you decide to check out the scores before a round has finished, your best bet is to check the "Today" column to see how they're doing during that round. Thanksgiving is over, so you don't want to be a turkey like me. ;-)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a quick laugh for you today. Did you know that Charlie Brown used to play golf? Here's an early Peanuts strip from April 28, 1953:

Charlie Brown and Snoopy practice a little golf

Hope you guys have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Some Golf Help from Tim Tebow

Last week I did a post offering some golf advice to the Denver Broncos to help them fix Tim Tebow's passing motion. This week it's Tim's turn to pass on some golf advice.

Tuesday Tebow did a phone interview with Skip Bayless on ESPN2. Some of what Tim said struck me as being good advice for any golfer, but especially for weekend players who don't have a lot of time to practice. Let's face it, Tim is getting lambasted for not having the necessary skills to be a good quarterback... and yet he has a 4-1 record as a starting quarterback! How can this be?

Well, for one thing Tim says he doesn't listen to his critics. I don't believe that since some of his answers indicated that he was well aware of what is being said about him. But in another sense I do believe him. It's very clear that he doesn't let what others say interfere with either his self-confidence or the effort he puts into his game. He's very clear on what he's trying to do -- win ball games -- and those critics can neither help nor hurt his efforts, so he doesn't waste a lot of time on them. He said he just goes out everyday and tries to get a little better at what he does.

Too many of you are worried about what other people think of your swing. You're afraid it doesn't look perfect or that someone is laughing. But what other people think doesn't have anything to do with how well you play!  If someone gives you a constructive tip that you want to use, that's fine, but some people just like to criticize. Ignore them. As someone once said, "the best revenge is living well."

Or in our case, playing well.

The other useful thing Tebow said wasn't really a surprise to me. Skip asked him what he thought made someone a good quarterback. Almost every Tebow critic who has appeared on the show has said "the ability to throw from the pocket." (For you non-football fans out there, that means you get the ball and stay in the small area behind the players in front of you, hoping they can protect you until you find someone ready to catch your pass.)

But Tebow said it was (1) the ability to lead and (2) the ability to make decisions. This isn't surprising from someone who sees his goal very simply -- not to impress people but to win games. His team has strengths and weaknesses, and it's his job to figure out the best way to utilize them -- usually without much time to think. He believes that if he can make decisions that will win games, and if he can convince the team to trust him and act on those decisions, he's a good quarterback.

When you step out on the course, your goal is to shoot the lowest score you can. You may not have to lead a team (unless you're playing in a scramble) but you do need to make decisions. Those decisions, of course, are your playing strategy. You need to accurately access your strengths and weaknesses, then choose and execute shots that will make the best use of your capabilities. Even if your swing isn't the best in the world, you can still score better when you make good decisions.

So there's some good advice from a player who, regardless of his skill level, is considered one of the toughest-minded players in the NFL right now. I don't know exactly how far his mindset will get him as the Broncos playing schedule gets tougher, but I wouldn't bet against him. No one thought he could do as well as he has. If a tough mental game can help him overcome a whole team of heavyweights trying to crush him, I'm sure it can help you get the better of that little white ball!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Quick Review of the LPGA

Since the LPGA is finished for the year I thought I'd take a quick look back and ahead.

First, a quick mention of notable players this year:
  • Yani Tseng won 7 LPGA events in 2011, more than 3 times anybody else. She won two more majors in that total, making her the youngest person ever (male or female) to reach 5 majors.
  • We had several 2-time winners -- Karrie Webb, Suzann Pettersen, and Brittany Lincicome.
  • There were several first-time winners, although the most notable was probably Lexi Thompson. That win at the Navistar LPGA Classic made her the youngest winner in LPGA history. She was nearly 18 months younger than the previous record holder, Marlene Hagge (in an 18-hole event). She was over 2 years younger than Paula Creamer, the 4-round tournament record holder.
  • Some notable players didn't win at all -- Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie, Jiyai Shinn, and I.K. Kim among them. I'd give Kerr an "A" for effort though; she had 2 seconds, 2 thirds, and 3 fourths. This is almost the same problem Suzann had in 2010!
  • And as you know, worldwide Yani won 11 times in total while nabbing the LPGA money title. She won the Player of the Year for the second time in a row. She also won the scoring average (I believe that's the Vare Trophy) and finished at #15 on the career money list. That's the career list, folks... and she's only 22! She's got about half of Lorena (#3) and Karrie's (#2) totals and only about a third of Annika's (#1) total, however, so it may be a while till she catches them.
  • Hee Kyung Seo, "the Supermodel of the Fairways," won the Rookie of the Year award going away.
  • And the European team pulled an upset in the Solheim Cup with a last-minute victory over the US team.
Michael Whan managed to add some new events to the schedule despite the economy. While some were controversial, like the R.R. Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup with its "phantom" purse, the Tour clearly benefited from his creativity. You may have already heard that the Australian Open will be the new first event on the Tour and it will be held at Royal Melbourne, site of last week's Presidents Cup -- definitely a high-profile move by the Tour. Some older events, like the Jamie Farr Classic, will be returning. And Whan has been tantalizing everyone with his announcement that the LPGA will be creating a multi-country team event that will be sort of a cross between the Solheim Cup and the Olympics. Let me take a moment to describe what I understand about this event.

This as-yet-unnamed event will be held in non-Solheim Cup years and the countries that actually participate may change from one event to the next, depending on how countries do in the as-yet-to-be-set-up qualification tournaments. The first few times it will be held in America to eliminate some of the excess travel while the bugs are being worked out. While there have been many jokes made about where Suzann Pettersen's Norwegian team will be coming from (there are no other Norwegians in the Top 1000 of the Rolex world rankings), Whan made a very interesting comment on Monday's Morning Drive. He essentially said, "We won't use the rankings. If all I wanted to do was get the top players there, I could do that in other ways."

I really like Michael Whan. How many commissioners, fighting to build the Tour in a struggling economy, would have the balls to say and do something like that? It's no wonder he's won most of the LPGA over, despite occasionally controversial moves.

While the most controversial move may have been making the Evian Masters into a fifth major effective 2013, I still believe that was a pre-emptive measure in case the Kraft Nabisco has to be downgraded to gain a new sponsor. Even if things go as the Tour hopes and KN re-ups, I expect the LPGA Championship will eventually become a "roving" major to help build their worldwide presence. That would create 2 American majors, 2 European majors (which, I should point out, are the only 2 majors the LET currently recognizes -- I think that played a part in this move as well), and a "rest of the world" major. It makes sense, given Whan's clearly global view of the LPGA.

And the fact that Whan has secured Symetra as the new Futures Tour sponsor for several years (and maintaining the current 16-event schedule) is also good news for the up-and-comers in women's golf.

Although the LPGA hasn't confirmed their entire 2012 schedule yet, Whan has made it clear that they will add about 6 events and they have a couple of announcements yet to make later this year. With that good news and with both a clearly dominant player (Tseng) and a possible new young superstar (Thompson) to launch the 2012 season, the future is definitely looking up for the LPGA.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Limerick Summary: 2011 Presidents Cup

Winner: The US Team

Around the wider world of golf: Yes, there was other golf being played around the globe besides the Presidents Cup. The Euro Tour had 2 events going on: Garth Mulroy got his first ET win at the "official" stop, the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa, and Joost Luiten got his first ET win at the Asian Tour co-sponsored rain-shortened Iskandar Johor Open in Malaysia. And among the women, Ji-Hee Lee won a playoff at the Daio Paper ElleAir Ladies on the JLPGA (the Constructivist has the details) and Hee Young Park got her first LPGA win at the CME Titleholders Championship.

Fred and Co. hoist the trophy

Royal Melbourne once again proved itself to be a great golf venue. The good folks down in Australia once again proved what wonderful hosts they are. And the International team once again proved that the future of golf is in good hands.

But the American team proved once again that it's never a good idea to underestimate the American will to succeed.

May I take a moment to share a personal thought? Back in 2001 I was taking an online writing course with fantasy writer and teacher Holly Lisle. Our class had participants from all over the world, one of whom was from Australia. James and I continued to correspond after the class ended -- until the time difference and life changes made it impractical -- and we shared quite a bit during the 9-11 catastrophe. What I discovered was just how many parallels there are between America and Australia, which may partially explain why Americans and Australians get along so well. Despite literally being a world apart, our histories and cultures make us closer than you might first expect.

Those similarities really showed up in this Presidents Cup. Even the verbal jabs exchanged before the matches sounded more like best friends competing to see who could do the best trash talking than actual animosity. You'd often see players joking with each other as they walked down the fairways during their matches. After each match finished on Sunday you saw Fred and Greg greeting the other team members as much as their own. And yet, neither team showed any hesitation when they had the chance to grind their opponent into the dirt.

In Presidents Cup competition, nobody seems to lose sight of one fact: As much as we each want to win, it's still just a game. And the best games are contested between best friends, when each side knows there's nothing personal and you're free to play your best just for the fun of competing. This time the American team came out on top, but you can trace that to one bad session -- the Saturday morning alternate shot matches. (Everybody talks about the opening session, but Saturday was when the big gap opened. Eliminate that session and Sunday might have turned out differently.)

A few players on both sides deserve some special mention:
  • Jim Furyk went 5-0-0, only the 4th player on either team to have ever done so. He and his partner Phil Mickelson went 3-0-0 in their team play, both on the strength of good driving and putting. If these two have rediscovered their form, as it appears they may have, 2012 could be a good year for both.
  • Ryo Ishikawa finally showed what he's capable of outside of Japan. His play in the Sunday singles was impressive, and may be what he needed to get his international career kickstarted. The same could be said of Kyung-tae Kim. Again, 2012 could be a breakout year for these youngsters.
  • Likewise, the two players they beat in singles, Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson, showed themselves to be a juggernaut in team play. This bodes well for the US going foreward.
  • And I have to mention Adam Scott and Tiger Woods. It wasn't just their play that stood out -- Adam is clearly the new leader of the International team and Tiger made even his critics stand up and take notice as he scored the winning point in a nearly flawless performance. Both of these players (and their teams) could have been derailed with the firestorm Steve Williams ignited a couple of weeks ago, but these two calmly and decisively defused the controversy... and showed a lot of class in the process. Kudos to both of them!
I won't pick on the players who struggled during this competition. No matter how good you are, the desire to prove yourself can make "your fingers feel like sausages," as one announcer put it. (I think it was Gary Koch.)  But I do have one more observation -- this time about the apparent depth of the teams.

A few years ago the American Ryder Cup team always looked good on paper but couldn't seem to match up to the Euro team. That's partly because the rankings didn't fairly gauge how players were improving overseas, but also because the Euros were seeing a new infusion of talent from young players like Kaymer, McIlroy, and the like. They had the chance to develop "under the radar," as it were. The new young American players were still "in the pipeline," on the way but not here yet.

This is where the International team finds themselves now. Their expected "local knowledge" advantage wasn't enough to overcome that. The next American wave -- players like Simpson and Watson, for example -- have finally hit the scene, complete with some high-profile victories under their belts. The International team's "new breed" are just starting to enter the world's spotlight, and it's going to take them a little time to get their footing... but it won't be long. The 2013 Presidents Cup may shake up everybody's expectations once again.

But in the meantime, I'm going to join the American celebration with this week's Limerick Summary:
The first jabs were verbal—some snarky—
But match play cuts through that malarkey.
Greg thought, "Now we've got 'em!"
But viewed top to bottom
Fred's team had the stronger hierarchy.
The original photo came from PGATOUR.com, but I copied it and trimmed it down a bit. The original credit simply says "Rooney/Getty Images."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Yani's Got a Chance

Some of you will be watching the Presidents Cup rerun today, so I'll wait till Monday to write about that. After all, there's another big tournament going on this week -- the CME Group Titleholders, the final LPGA event of the year.

This tournament is played at the Grand Cypress Resort, which is in Disney country. Disney may be the happiest place on earth, but the course isn't. It's a Jack Nicklaus design that really tests the ladies, especially when the wind comes up. And this is a course that Yani Tseng struggles on. Until Saturday I don't think she'd ever broken 70 on it.

As I said, until Saturday. After rounds of 70-76 a 6-under 66 vaulted her up into a tie for 5th place, only 3 shots behind leaders Sandra Gal and Hee Young Park. It was a windy day so most players had trouble going low.

As a result, Sunday is set up to be a race. Suzann Pettersen, Paula Creamer, and Na Yeon Choi round out the list of players ahead of or tied with Yani, all of whom are playing well and certainly know how to win.

If you watched the live Presidents Cup broadcast (as I did) last night, the ladies will be on GC starting at 1:30 pm ET. Let's see if Yani can make it a dozen worldwide wins this season.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tiger's Off the Schneid

As you probably know by now, Tiger finally got a point at the Presidents Cup matches. But it's what the commentators said about it that interests us in today's post.

Yesterday I mentioned how I heard some of the guys on ESPN2 saying there is no chance whatsoever that Tiger will ever get back to where he was. Ironically, the folks at GC and NBC were much more generous than I expected. Everybody from Brandel Chamblee to Johnny Miller has commented on how the score didn't really indicate how Tiger was playing. They said he was hitting the ball pretty well. They pointed out that Tiger's partners hadn't played quite as well as he had, often leaving him in some bad situations, and that he generally played his matches against the International players who were playing the best. To a large degree he was simply one of Royal Melbourne's victims -- the conditions have made just staying on the greens an accomplishment. And they are absolutely amazed at how much he's improved in the last couple of months. Here's what I heard several of them agree on: "He's hitting a lot of quality shots."

I found this very interesting... and not just because I agree with them about most of it. It's because I have a decent memory.

Aren't these the same people who spent the last 12 months complaining that Tiger was on the wrong track? That he needed to go back to Butch Harmon? That he was better off when he was with Hank Haney? (Of course, they complained about Haney until Foley came onto the scene!)

Aren't these the same people who complained that Sean Foley had no idea what Tiger needed to be doing? Who kept dissecting video of Tiger's swing, each time picking out specific positions Foley was teaching and ranting about how these were 100% wrong and would only shipwreck Tiger's hopes of regaining form? Who complained because Tiger was changing his short game motion to incorporate these new moves as well?

Now they're pointing out that he's hitting more fairways than he has in years, that he's playing shots they haven't seen him hit in years (and control them), and that his putting and short game look extremely good. Did you notice that Tiger's stinger is back -- a shot that's been missing from his arsenal for years because he couldn't hit it anymore? And all of this has happened basically since the FedExCup playoffs because Tiger wasn't healthy enough to practice before then.

It certainly seems that Tiger and Foley had some idea what they were doing after all!

Why do I point this out?

Many of you are listening to people critique your swing and tell you that everything you do is wrong. They're telling you that there's only one correct way to swing, and that if you don't do it that way you'll be doomed to shoot 110 for the rest of your life. They say you need a "pretty" swing that mimics the Iron Byron machine, or that no good can come from Stack and Tilt, or that the newest swing gizmo will teach you the secret of the perfect swing. They seem to forget that Tiger has dominated the game with 3 different sets of swing mechanics, and just might be on the verge of doing it with a 4th set.

Online censors prevent me from expressing my unedited opinion of such ridiculous babbling. Let me just say this:

There are fewer fundamentals in the game of golf than most people want you to believe. There are more ways to incorporate them into your swing than they want you to believe. And best of all, you are smart enough to know the difference.

Remember folks, nobody knows your swing and your body better than you do. It takes very little guidance to learn what's right and wrong for your game. And the most important thing you can do to improve is be convinced that you're following the instruction that works for you.

Maybe Tiger hasn't had the last laugh yet, but he's chuckling.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Prisoners of the Moment (repost)

Have you ever heard that term? It means that someone's opinions are based on things that are happening right now without any real regard for what happened before or what may happen after.

I wondered what the media commentary would be like after the first round of the Presidents Cup. This seems to be the best phrase to describe what I'm hearing.

For example, on ESPN2's First and Ten (a show where this phrase gets used a lot!) they wrote off any possibility that "the old Tiger" would ever be back because he and Stricker took a bad beating. (And yes, Tiger and Stricks were the only US team to lose their match. They didn't win a single hole.) I'll grant you that 7&6 is not good.

Of course, those people also say that Tiger and Stricks played very well in the last Ryder Cup... although they got beaten 6&5 by Donald and Westwood in the 3rd session alternate shot match. You can see the scorecard here, in case you've forgotten. The match went only one more hole than Thursday's match, and that's because Stricker and Woods managed to win one hole. Just one. In both cases, Stricker and Woods lost to arguably the best team the other side could field. (Would you want to face Scott and Choi the way they were playing Thursday?)

Folks say this is a big drop-off in play for Tiger from last week. But the speed of the greens certainly had nothing to do with that, did it? After all, Augusta National greens are considered fast when they stimp at 13, but Royal Melbourne was stimping 14 in the first round and Greg Norman said it would get faster as the week went on. I feel safe saying that the Australian Open greens weren't running anywhere near that fast.

And Stricker's physical problems -- you know, the ones that made him questionable to play at all in this event -- wouldn't have had any effect on his play, would they? Just because he's had little or no practice since the FedExCup playoffs and now he's playing an event with greens running faster than a major -- why should that matter? BTW, you realize Stricks has never finished better than T6 at the Masters, don't you? And that both courses were designed by Alister MacKenzie, so they play similarly? Surely none of this has any effect on how he played Thursday.

Here are the facts: Tiger played about as well Thursday as he did last week, but the superfast greens of Royal Melbourne meant he was on the wrong side of the hole too often to capitalize. Stricker was clearly rusty from his layoff. And the team of Adam Scott and K.J. Choi were just incredible!

Plus,whether anybody likes it or not, Steve Williams is beginning to make a case that your caddy really does make a difference. I'm not saying that Adam hits the ball any different now. But watching him interview with Jimmy Roberts after the round, I was struck by just how much straighter he stands and how confident he sounds when he talks -- something that was not the case before Williams came on his bag.

Tiger clearly lacks confidence right now. In his case it's because his ball striking still isn't what it needs to be. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it: We can't assume that Tiger's "gone forever" simply because his bad shots now are actually bad. In the past he was changing a swing that worked to one he hoped would work better, while this time he's been forced to change a swing that didn't work at all. In the past when he reverted to his old swing he still got a decent shot, but no longer. Now he's in the same boat as us. And that means progress takes longer.

It feels strange being in the position of defending Tiger, but that's just the nature of this striped beast. Because when it comes to Tiger, everybody seems to be a prisoner of the moment -- whether that moment is a win from 2000 or a loss from 2011. If we were judged by the same measure we use on Tiger, we'd all cry foul. We'd bemoan the fact that nobody was cutting us any slack. After all, we're only human.

Maybe we should extend Tiger the same courtesy. Let's step out of our cages for once, huh?

Another Missed Post

Well, it's happened again. Another post didn't tweet automatically like it's supposed to. It only seems to be happening on the Blogger posts I schedule to post later, not the "immediate" posts. Is anybody else out there having this problem?

I'm going to re-post the Friday post and see if it comes up like it should.

Prisoners of the Moment

Have you ever heard that term? It means that someone's opinions are based on things that are happening right now without any real regard for what happened before or what may happen after.

I wondered what the media commentary would be like after the first round of the Presidents Cup. This seems to be the best phrase to describe what I'm hearing.

For example, on ESPN2's First and Ten (a show where this phrase gets used a lot!) they wrote off any possibility that "the old Tiger" would ever be back because he and Stricker took a bad beating. (And yes, Tiger and Stricks were the only US team to lose their match. They didn't win a single hole.) I'll grant you that 7&6 is not good.

Of course, those people also say that Tiger and Stricks played very well in the last Ryder Cup... although they got beaten 6&5 by Donald and Westwood in the 3rd session alternate shot match. You can see the scorecard here, in case you've forgotten. The match went only one more hole than Thursday's match, and that's because Stricker and Woods managed to win one hole. Just one. In both cases, Stricker and Woods lost to arguably the best team the other side could field. (Would you want to face Scott and Choi the way they were playing Thursday?)

Folks say this is a big drop-off in play for Tiger from last week. But the speed of the greens certainly had nothing to do with that, did it? After all, Augusta National greens are considered fast when they stimp at 13, but Royal Melbourne was stimping 14 in the first round and Greg Norman said it would get faster as the week went on. I feel safe saying that the Australian Open greens weren't running anywhere near that fast.

And Stricker's physical problems -- you know, the ones that made him questionable to play at all in this event -- wouldn't have had any effect on his play, would they? Just because he's had little or no practice since the FedExCup playoffs and now he's playing an event with greens running faster than a major -- why should that matter? BTW, you realize Stricks has never finished better than T6 at the Masters, don't you? And that both courses were designed by Alister MacKenzie, so they play similarly? Surely none of this has any effect on how he played Thursday.

Here are the facts: Tiger played about as well Thursday as he did last week, but the superfast greens of Royal Melbourne meant he was on the wrong side of the hole too often to capitalize. Stricker was clearly rusty from his layoff. And the team of Adam Scott and K.J. Choi were just incredible!

Plus,whether anybody likes it or not, Steve Williams is beginning to make a case that your caddy really does make a difference. I'm not saying that Adam hits the ball any different now. But watching him interview with Jimmy Roberts after the round, I was struck by just how much straighter he stands and how confident he sounds when he talks -- something that was not the case before Williams came on his bag.

Tiger clearly lacks confidence right now. In his case it's because his ball striking still isn't what it needs to be. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it: We can't assume that Tiger's "gone forever" simply because his bad shots now are actually bad. In the past he was changing a swing that worked to one he hoped would work better, while this time he's been forced to change a swing that didn't work at all. In the past when he reverted to his old swing he still got a decent shot, but no longer. Now he's in the same boat as us. And that means progress takes longer.

It feels strange being in the position of defending Tiger, but that's just the nature of this striped beast. Because when it comes to Tiger, everybody seems to be a prisoner of the moment -- whether that moment is a win from 2000 or a loss from 2011. If we were judged by the same measure we use on Tiger, we'd all cry foul. We'd bemoan the fact that nobody was cutting us any slack. After all, we're only human.

Maybe we should extend Tiger the same courtesy. Let's step out of our cages for once, huh?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Match #6 Ended a Bit Soon

What can I say? Today the media will have a field day because the final Presidents Cup match was the second one to end.

In case you missed it, Tiger and Stricks lost 7&6 to Scott and Choi. As I'm writing this, the US is up 2 to 1 after 3 matches. But this loss will cause some serious debate today, as much because Stricks played poorly as because of Tiger's play.

I'll withhold comment for now. I'd like to see how the debate shapes up and how the point total looks after the first day. But the International team probably won't get blown out the way they usually do in this session, and that bodes well for them going forward.

Ah, controversy! Don't you love it?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Some Golf Advice for the Broncos (repost)

(I had some problems with my auto-Tweeting, so I'm re-posting this in hopes that it will finally show up on Twitter and Facebook. I also added a couple of thoughts I meant to include in the first version but forgot.)

I've heard that the most dramatic breakthroughs in any field happen when an outsider enters that field. That's because the new guy (or gal) brings a new way of thinking with them. The folks who have been there for a long time get stuck in a "this is how it's done" mindset.

With that in mind, I started thinking about how a golf mindset might help the Denver Broncos right now. For those of you who don't keep up with football, there's a firestorm brewing around rookie quarterback Tim Tebow. The current management of the team (and a huge number of commentators) say Tebow doesn't have the necessary skills to be the team's quarterback. But they were forced (by poor play) to put Tebow in... and the team has won 3 of the 4 games Tebow has started.

This has caused, shall we say, a little debate around the NFL.

Tebow plays a little golf, you know. He and Jack Nicklaus teed it up together earlier this year at the Honda Classic pro-am:

Tebow and Nicklaus at the Honda Classic pro-am

So I think Tim would appreciate my thoughts here. And even if you don't follow the NFL, I suspect this post might help your golf as well.

The big problem centers around Tebow's passing skills... or lack thereof, depending on who you ask. Denver has been forced to focus on a running game since Tim doesn't complete a lot of passes. In Sunday's game (which they won, btw) he passed a total of 10 times and completed only 2. (It should be noted that one of those was a touchdown. Tebow also runs the ball quite well and ran for yet another touchdown. And despite his poor completion percentage, he doesn't turn the ball over very often. Better teams are in trouble this season because they lacked that skill.)

The Broncos have improved their play during this time as well. Several skeptics have pooh-poohed the idea that Tebow makes the team better because they say his skills aren't good enough. But I believe he does make them better... and his lack of skills are part of the reason. It's no secret that the team believes in him and rallies around him. I believe that they see him struggling with his passing but still finding a way to win, and they say to themselves, "If Tim can do it, why can't I? If I can make just one more tackle, or one more block, or get a couple more yards on a run..." And they put that little extra bit of effort out and voila! They win when it's not expected.

You golfers should appreciate a player who simply takes what he has and finds a way to make it work. That's something you need to do as well -- focus on your strengths when you're on the course and use them to post a score. Tebow has said repeatedly that he doesn't care if it's pretty or not; he just wants to find a way for his team to win.

Critics say that the college-style offense the Broncos are running is limited. It seems to be confusing the other teams for now -- after all, they don't see it very often -- but they'll figure out soon enough. I'll grant you that... but that's true of any strategy.

Here's what my golf-based approach thinks: Don't worry about it this season. Run the plays that work right now. You have to play with what you have; any golfer worth his stuff can tell you that. Post the scores the best way you can for now and work on the problems back on the practice field.

And that's where I think a golf mind helps most here. See, the complaint is that Tebow's throwing mechanics are flawed. Critics say he'll never become a solid passer. I disagree. That kind of thinking would have kept Bobby Jones, Jim Furyk, and Lee Trevino (among others) out of golf. None of them have the kind of mechanics you'd teach someone taking up the game, but they're all among the best the game has seen.

And as if that weren't enough, Tiger has won majors with 3 different swings built on 3 different mechanical theories... and may be on the verge of adding a 4th successful style to his record. Determination and self-belief both play a part here. Mechanics can definitely be over-emphasized in any sport!

Here's what I see with Tebow: His motion is unorthodox, but he's proven he CAN be very accurate, and that's an important distinction. Things would be different if his motion was incapable of delivering long passes on target. But that's not his problem, so forcing him to learn a completely different passing technique would simply be a waste of time and resources.

Rather, Tim's problem is consistency, a problem most golfers will relate to! In fact, I believe his unorthodox motion is part of the reason he doesn't turn the ball over much. Let me give you a quick golf lesson that you've probably heard before but didn't appreciate. Haven't you ever wondered why some of the best players are also the most unorthodox?

The pros always say they want to eliminate one side of the course, correct? Then they try to learn an orthodox motion, which puts the swing right in the middle of their range of motion. This gives them the most flexibility but also makes it easier to make small mistakes that send the ball left or send it right without ever knowing why. The tours are full of players with orthodox swings that result in army golf (left, right, left, right...)

But many of the best players in history have built their swings on extremes. Here's a way to understand it: If you stand in the middle of a room, you can move your arm in any direction with equal ease, can't you? Now walk over and put that shoulder against a wall. The wall eliminates half of your arm's motion! This is basically what many unorthodox swings do -- they minimize a player's ability to miss the shot to one side by limiting their range of motion.

Trevino's entire motion was built on getting his body in extreme positions. Nicklaus developed a swing that was more upright than anybody else. Hogan developed a swing that was flatter than anybody else. For example, Hogan kept his arms so close to his body that any error he made caused him to swing out to the right, and his weak grip kept him from flipping the club to the left. As a result, he eliminated the left side of the course.

I think Tebow's "flat" throwing motion allows him to do basically the same thing and always throw the ball so he makes the same miss time after time. He can make sure his missed passes don't end up intercepted.

What the Broncos need to do is simple. Rather than trying to change Tim's motion, they should bring in someone to analyze it and figure out what he does differently when he throws accurately. Once they know that, they can develop drills to help him ingrain that proper movement. The problem could be as simple as lifting his elbow a little too high when he throws a bad pass... but if they don't know what he's doing, of course he can't fix it. And given Tebow's work ethic, if he had that knowledge he'd probably improve very quickly and soon be able to complete passes more often. Then the NFL (and Tebow's critics) just might be surprised what Tim Tebow and the Broncos could do.

At least, that's what a smart golfer would do. I wonder if football players are smart enough to do the same?

The photo came from this GolfWeek page

Twitter Problems

I don't know what's happening but for some reason my auto-Tweeting has cut off AGAIN. This is twice in two weeks, so Wednesday's post didn't show up on either Twitter or Facebook. AUGH! Technology is so frustrating sometimes!

Some Golf Advice for the Broncos

I've heard that the most dramatic breakthroughs in any field happen when an outsider enters that field. That's because the new guy (or gal) brings a new way of thinking with them. The folks who have been there for a long time get stuck in a "this is how it's done" mindset.

With that in mind, I started thinking about how a golf mindset might help the Denver Broncos right now. For those of you who don't keep up with football, there's a firestorm brewing around rookie quarterback Tim Tebow. The current management of the team (and a huge number of commentators) say Tebow doesn't have the necessary skills to be the team's quarterback. But they were forced (by poor play) to put Tebow in... and the team has won 3 of the 4 games Tebow has started.

This has caused, shall we say, a little debate around the NFL.

Tebow plays a little golf, you know. He and Jack Nicklaus teed it up together earlier this year at the Honda Classic pro-am:

Tebow and Nicklaus at the Honda Classic pro-am

So I think Tim would appreciate my thoughts here. And even if you don't follow the NFL, I suspect this post might help your golf as well.

The big problem centers around Tebow's passing skills... or lack thereof, depending on who you ask. Denver has been forced to focus on a running game since Tim doesn't complete a lot of passes. In Sunday's game (which they won, btw) he passed a total of 10 times and completed only 2. (It should be noted that one of those was a touchdown. Tebow also runs the ball quite well and ran for yet another touchdown. And despite his poor completion percentage, he doesn't turn the ball over very often. Better teams are in trouble this season because they lacked that skill.)

The Broncos have improved their play during this time as well. Several skeptics have pooh-poohed the idea that Tebow makes the team better because they say his skills aren't good enough. But I believe he does make them better... and his lack of skills are part of the reason. It's no secret that the team believes in him and rallies around him. I believe that they see him struggling with his passing but still finding a way to win, and they say to themselves, "If Tim can do it, why can't I? If I can make just one more tackle, or one more block, or get a couple more yards on a run..." And they put that little extra bit of effort out and voila! They win when it's not expected.

You golfers should appreciate a player who simply takes what he has and finds a way to make it work. That's something you need to do as well -- focus on your strengths when you're on the course and use them to post a score. Tebow has said repeatedly that he doesn't care if it's pretty or not; he just wants to find a way for his team to win.

Critics say that the college-style offense the Broncos are running is limited. It seems to be confusing the other teams for now -- after all, they don't see it very often -- but they'll figure out soon enough.

Here's what my golf-based approach thinks: Don't worry about it. Run the plays that work right now. You have to play with what you have; any golfer worth his stuff can tell you that. Post the scores the best way you can for now and work on the problems back on the practice field.

And that's where I think a golf mind helps most here. See, the complaint is that Tebow's throwing mechanics are flawed. Critics say he'll never become a solid passer. I disagree. That kind of thinking would have kept Bobby Jones, Jim Furyk, and Lee Trevino (among others) out of golf. None of them have the kind of mechanics you'd teach someone taking up the game, but they're all among the best the game has seen.

Here's what I see with Tebow: His motion is unorthodox, but he's proven he can be very accurate. His problem is consistency, a problem most golfers will relate to! In fact, I believe his unorthodox motion is part of the reason he doesn't turn the ball over much. Let me give you a quick golf lesson that you've probably heard before but didn't appreciate. Haven't you ever wondered why some of the best players are also the most unorthodox?

The pros always say they want to eliminate one side of the course, correct? Then they try to learn an orthodox motion, which puts the swing right in the middle of their range of motion. They can make small mistakes that send the ball left or send it right without ever knowing why. The tours are full of players with orthodox swings that result in army golf (left, right, left, right...)

But many of the best players in history have built their swings on extremes. Here's a way to understand it: If you stand in the middle of a room, you can move your arm in any direction with equal ease, can't you? Now walk over and put that shoulder against a wall. The wall eliminates half of your arm's motion! This is basically what many unorthodox swings do -- they minimize a player's ability to miss the shot to one side by limiting their range of motion.

Trevino's entire motion was built on getting his body in extreme positions. Nicklaus developed a swing that was more upright than anybody else. Hogan developed a swing that was flatter than anybody else. For example, Hogan kept his arms so close to his body that any error he made caused him to swing out to the right, and his weak grip kept him from flipping the club to the left. As a result, he eliminated the left side of the course.

I think Tebow's "flat" throwing motion allows him to do basically the same thing and always throw the ball so he makes the same miss time after time. He can make sure his missed passes don't end up intercepted.

What the Broncos need to do is simple. Rather than trying to change his motion, they should bring in someone to analyze it and figure out what he does differently when he throws accurately. Once they know that, they can develop drills to help him ingrain that proper movement. The problem could be as simple as lifting his elbow a little too high when he throws a bad pass... but if they don't know what he's doing, of course he can't fix it. And given Tebow's work ethic, if he had that knowledge he'd probably improve very quickly and soon be able to complete passes more often. Then the NFL (and Tebow's critics) just might be surprised what Tim Tebow and the Broncos could do.

At least, that's what a smart golfer would do. I wonder if football players are smart enough to do the same?

The photo came from this GolfWeek page

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Don't Forget the Ladies

Lest we forget, in the midst of the Presidents Cup this week, the LPGA plays their final event of the year. The CME Group Titleholders is the new "Tour Championship" for the ladies and they've been qualifying for it all year, three at a time. According to the site 66 players qualified, and 23 of them are in the Top 30 from the Rolex Rankings. You can find a complete list of the qualifiers here.

The event will be held at the Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando and televised on GC. Here's the schedule from the website:
  • Nov 17: 1:30 - 4:00 PM ET
  • Nov 18: 12:30 - 3:00 PM ET
  • Nov 19: 1:30 - 4:00 PM ET
  • Nov 20: 1:30 - 4:00 PM ET
Remember, this is probably your last chance to see any women's golf this year. (Except for the Wendy's 3-Tour Challenge, but I think that's already been played. I seem to recall hearing that the Champions Tour won, the LPGA came in second, and the "Big Tour" could only manage dead last.) That will be broadcast in December.

But this week should be very interesting. Can Yani Tseng make it an even dozen wins this year, with 8 LPGA victories? She's a lock for just about everything else this year, including POY, the money title, and the scoring title (Vare Trophy). And in case you're keeping score, here's how Yani's doing in her pursuit of the LPGA Hall of Fame.
  • You have to be a Tour member for 10 years (I think she's finishing her 4th year, so she's got a ways to go yet) and have either a Vare Trophy, a POY award, or a major. (Check, 2 checks, and 5 checks.)
  • 2 points for each major (5) = 10 points.
  • 1 point for each regular Tour win (7) = 7 points.
  • 1 point for each POY award (2) = 2 points.
  • 1 point for each Vare Trophy (1) = 1 point.
That makes 20 points. She'll need 27 to make the point requirement. Only 7 more to go. Can the other LPGA players stop her from nabbing #21? We'll know by the end of the week.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Limerick Summary: 2011 Emirates Australian Open

Winner: Greg Chalmers

Around the wider world of golf: With the PGA Tour officially on hiatus till January (except for the Presidents Cup, of course) the other tours get a chance to shine. Gonzalo "Gonzo" Fernandez-Castaño became the first Spaniard to win the rain-shortened Barclays Singapore Open in a 2-hole playoff against Juvic Pagunsan; and Catriona Matthew won the LPGA's Lorena Ochoa Invitational.

Greg Chalmers kisses the Stonehaven Cup

Everywhere you turned, it was about Tiger Woods. Even after he didn't win, all the articles and posts are about how Tiger didn't win. Very little is being written about how Greg Chalmers stepped up and made crucial putts after crucial shots down the stretch. He shot -2 on the back 9 -- ironically, just the amount he needed to beat 3rd-place Tiger and 2nd-place John Senden.

Another Aussie, in case you're keeping score. But you'd never know it if you didn't see it. Apparently the actual winner is less important than the big-name also-ran who, despite making a tremendous and inspiring showing, still didn't get the job done. Chalmers won't have to question his choices down the stretch, whether he gets credit for his good play or not.

I doubt if Greg Chalmers really cares. As much attention as Tiger got, it was an Australian who won the Emirates Australian Open. And given how choked up he was when he accepted the Stonehaven Cup -- his second victory at this event, btw -- I suspect Tiger Woods is the farthest thing from his mind right now.

Chalmers spent two years on the Nationwide Tour before making it to the PGA Tour in 2009. He doesn't have a win here in the States yet... but I suspect beating Tiger in Australia will do for now. ;-)

Maybe Greg Chalmers won't get much due for his victory down under, but at least I can give him a Limerick Summary. Good on ya, mate!
Though upstaged by one Tiger Woods,
'Twas Greg who came up with the goods.
Despite all the pressure
He grins like a Cheshire
Cat, unplagued by coulds, woulds, or shoulds.
The photo came from the UK Daily Mail Online site.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

He Didn't Win But...

Tiger Woods has clearly turned a corner.

After a poor third round, he came out and shot a clean 3-under on his front nine, then scrambled to chop another two from par. His 5-under 67 had 2 bogeys, 5 birdies, and 1 eagle. With four groups left on the course he posted the low score in the clubhouse, 2 strokes better than anybody else there. I'm writing this before the tournament is quite finished, but it looks like Tiger will finish in solo 3rd, only 2 shots behind winner Greg Chalmers. And he did it on a day when most of the favored players crashed and burned.

No matter where you stand in the Tiger Woods debate, you have to admit that this was probably his best performance in the last two years. (Yes, even better than the Masters. He crumbled down the stretch in Augusta, but he finished strong in Australia.)

In the coming week I'm sure there will be no end to the dissection of his play, his swing, and his mental state. I'll be interested to see what the experts say, since most of their opinions up to this point have been critical of everything. But given what I've seen, both at the Frys.com and this week, I'd have to say that 2012 will probably be a pretty good year for Tiger.

I can't wait to see what he does at the Presidents Cup this week!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

He's Still Got a Ways to Go

Some will say he's trying too hard. Some will say he gets overconfident. Some will say he's just washed up.

But do you know what's happening? Tiger Woods is simply learning to play golf. He's going through the same process each of us goes through. The problem is that he's doing it in front of millions of TV viewers.

Here's the deal: When Tiger was changing his swing with Butch, he already had a swing that worked. People forget that. When you learn (or relearn) to swing, you often revert to your old swing. Tiger's old swing still worked, so his "bad" swings still gave him good results.

When Tiger was changing his swing with Hank, he already had a (second) swing that worked. People forget that. As before, Tiger's old swing still worked so his "bad" swings still gave him good results.

Then Tiger's leg exploded. In his own words, "I couldn't get in those positions anymore." For the first time in his adult life, Tiger was forced to change his swing. And since his "bad" swing really is a bad swing, he gets a bad result when he reverts to it.

Is it any wonder that Tiger wants to work on his swing in private, rather than in a golf tournament? Wouldn't you?

He's actually made some incredible progress, now that he's healthy enough to practice. He seems to be in a good frame of mind, excepting the fact that he's simply not there yet. (I'd also point out that his playing partner scored no better. It can be hard to score well when you're both struggling.) And I suspect he'll play well at the President's Cup next week because one bad hole in match play doesn't throw you several strokes behind.

But those of you struggling to improve your golf swing should take heart. There's nothing wrong with you. Even with all his talent and all his experience, Tiger Woods can't find a shortcut to success. If it takes time for him to come back, even with a well-paid task force to monitor every detail of his diet and exercise, and with hours a day to spend in physical and mental practice sessions, you shouldn't get depressed because your game seems to improve slowly. Just hang in there; it's only a matter of time.

At least you don't have to practice in front of several thousand fans with TV cameras recording every mis-hit shot. Be thankful for small blessings! ;-)

Oh, and one more thing. Perhaps this whole process has been good for Tiger. After his round he stopped to talk to the media. He answered the questions and even smiled during the interview. Can you imagine him doing that even a year ago? And then they showed him working on the range. He was (as usual) surrounded by people watching him practice, and he was actually smiling and chatting with the onlookers between shots! Has he ever done that?

Regardless of what you may think of the Sean Foley method or Tiger's struggles on the course, it appears that Tiger is learning some very important things during this time... and not all of them have to do with swinging a golf club. He may be making much more progress than we ever imagined.

And that's a very good thing indeed.

Friday, November 11, 2011

What? Tiger's Leading?

Ok, the second round isn't over yet... but did anybody expect Tiger to be leading the second round? I would have believed he would be in the mix come Sunday afternoon, but I certainly didn't expect him to get going this quickly.

Granted, the stats at his scorecard page seem to be slightly off. I'm pretty sure Tiger didn't hit 155.56% of his GIR in the second round! But the figure on the leaderboard -- a 77.78% average -- seems to be correct. That would be about 14 greens per round. And the 29 putts per round figure seems plausible as well.

Thus far Tiger has no eagles, but he does have 11 birdies and 2 bogeys. At the time I'm writing this, he leads at -9 after rounds of 68-67. A number of players are still on the course but, as happened Thursday, the wind has come up and most of those near the top after Thursday's round seem to be going backward. Also, players are finding the kikuyugrass to be a tricky putting surface. I heard Fred Couples say that kikuyugrass is the same grass found at Riviera, which he says is why he plays well there and in Australia.

I suspect that players are struggling in part because the greens are so big. I heard a commentator describe one green as being 2/3 the size of a football field! Add the severe slopes on some of them and you can see where poor iron play would seriously affect your putting ability. Based on what I've seen, Tiger has been getting the ball on the correct level most of the time, and the putts he has missed have often just lipped out.

So will Tiger continue to play well this weekend? Will he actually manage to win this thing and really get the rumor mill going? It's too early to tell. But there's one thing I do know...

As a Presidents Cup team captain, Fred Couples is starting to look like a genius.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tiger Down Under

Alas, I confess. As much as I wanted to watch Tiger play, I missed most of his first ten holes. The reason? Mythbusters and Penn and Teller Tell a Lie on the Discovery Channel. (I'm never able to guess which story is the lie, but I love to watch Penn and Teller.) I settled for checking on Tiger during commercials.

But I did get to see him from 11 o'clock on -- at least, as long as the broadcast lasted. For those of you who didn't see him, here's my quick assessment.

The low first round score (at least, as of 1am ET) is -7, held by Jerrod Lyle. The low Americans are Dustin Johnson at -6 and Fred Couples at -5. Most of the low rounds were shot during the morning wave; the wind came up during the afternoon when Tiger was playing.

And Tiger was -4 after 15 holes -- 4 birdies and no bogeys. That puts him T8. The commentators said that Tiger had 3 or 4 putts lip out, but the greens at the Lake Course are very hard to handle. I saw several players misread putts badly.

Tiger looked to be hitting the ball well. His misses weren't bad and they were missed in the correct spots. And I didn't see him miss very many while I was watching. He seemed very relaxed and was talking to the crowds between shots. And while he may have been lipping some putts, overall his short game looked very solid to me.

All-in-all, Tiger looked as good as I've seen him since that last round at the Masters. He's playing very cleanly and not having to struggle for pars. And this was in a very noticeable wind that was affecting a lot of players. If he continues to play this way, he just might be in contention come the final round.

The live leaderboard is at this site. Despite being a "live" leaderboard, you'll probably have to refresh the page manually in order to update the scores. And the individual scorecards often update several minutes before the main leaderboard. But at least it will let you check how things are doing.

And just to follow up on Wednesday's post, Pius Heinz became the first German ever to win the WSOP Main Event. With Martin Kaymer having just won the WGC, the Germans are having a big week.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

On Poker and Golf

I'm watching the final table of the WSOP (World Series of Poker) Main Event as I write this. The game is no-limit hold'em. Over $62 million in prize money was up for grabs. Nine players outlasted nearly 7000 entrants from all over the world back during the summer to make "the November Nine," aka the final table. Now two of the survivors, one German and one Czech, are playing for a WSOP bracelet and around $8.7 million. (Don't feel bad for the loser. He'll only pocket a measley $5.4 million, but he'll be a rock star in his home country.)

There's a lot you can learn about golf by watching poker. Especially this year, as the Nevada gaming commission is allowing the final table to be broadcast with only a 15-minute delay. Usually you only get to watch the highlights of the game; with this setup, you get to watch every hand. That means you get to see a lot more of the strategy.

It also gives you an appreciation for how much mental toughness the game requires. You think it's tough to deal with a few bad shots? There were three players when the final table broadcast started tonight. American Ben Lamb, who was voted Player of the Year, was in second place coming in. He lost around $50 million chips in only four hands. After all that work, after outlasting nearly 7k players, he busted out in the first four hands! Can you imagine that? In fact, the very first hand of the night, the one that did the most damage, has already made it onto YouTube:



The two players who are left have been playing for hours... and the Czech is ahead right now. One wins a huge hand, then the other slowly whittles away until he gets ahead, then it goes back the other way. The blinds and antes (for those of you who don't play, that's money you're required to put in at the start of a hand so there's something to play for) are ridiculously high. Every two hands takes over $3 million from your stack!

Now that's pressure. How can anybody deal with it?

Some don't. They "go on tilt," a phrase you may have heard before. It means they lose perspective and start making stupid plays. As a result, they compound the error and bust out even sooner.

Golfers go on tilt also. They make a bad shot and then, instead of taking their medicine and just chipping back into the fairway or taking a drop, they try to make a heroic shot that puts them in even worse trouble. It's interesting to me that a key concept in championship poker is "playing position." Tonight I have watched players fold what looked like a good hand simply because they would have to play it out of position. That's how important position is to them. The two certainly go hand-in-hand, don't they?

Position is very important in golf as well. Not just your position on the golf course (which means you need a predictable swing) but your position in the match you're playing. Sometimes a shot doesn't offer enough reward for the risk you'll have to take. You have to learn when to take the risk and when to play it safe.

But just like the poker players, there often comes a crucial point where you have to go all-in. You know that this shot can make or break your round. It doesn't happen in every round, but when it does you have to have the confidence to step up and make the shot.

And any poker player will tell you that, no matter how good you are, you've gotta have a little luck. What we often call "the rub of the green" is called "a bad beat" in poker. And every poker player has some bad beat stories. It's just part of life.

I guess the biggest thing a golfer can learn from poker is simply that life happens and you have to deal with it. When you learn that, your golf game will improve considerably. At least a ball in the hazard isn't as traumatic as losing $50 million in four hands.

And now they've been at it for nearly five hours and it's not over yet. Poker also takes a lot of endurance which I don't have tonight. I'll find out who won Wednesday morning. Fortunately I can go to bed and not lose a thing. ;-)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why Tiger Wasn't "Mad"

This will be a short post, and I'm surprised I even have to write it. But Tiger tried to put "Steviegate" to rest Monday and apparently the media isn't satisfied because he wasn't angry enough over what Steve Williams said.

Perhaps none of these people have ever been through a particularly draining ordeal. For those of you who have, you know that emotional energy gets tapped out pretty fast. It's all you can do to keep going... but the hits just keep on comin'. Eventually you simply have to decide where you're going to focus your energy or you have a breakdown.

You ask yourself, "Is this really worth getting worked up over? Will it change anything?" If it will, you try to put out some energy and deal with it. If not... well, you go to bed until you aren't depressed anymore. Then you get up and try to do something to improve your life.

Have you noticed how many times Tiger simply answers questions with "It is what it is" lately? That's not evasion, folks. Tiger is tired. He's been through a lot in the last two years. Some of it he caused himself and some of it other people piled on top of him, but it's all still just plain tiring. Add the struggle of getting his game back in shape and his health problems, and I'm surprised he even gets up most mornings.

And now people want Tiger to lay into Steve Williams for a "racist" remark. Nobody defends what Williams said; in fact, I think Scott Walker at GC made a good point: Shouldn't we be more upset that Williams felt comfortable enough at that dinner to make such a remark at all? But Tiger knows it wasn't a racist remark -- if you think Tiger would have kept Steve around for over a decade if he was a racist, you're just crazy. This was a remark made out of anger and hurt that, unfortunately, came out sounding racist.

But since Tiger says he knows it wasn't meant as a racist remark because he knows Williams isn't a racist -- he made a specific point of that, didn't he? -- then why are we so surprised that he didn't launch into a diatribe against racism? This is just one more thing for Tiger to deal with -- a thing requiring emotional energy he doesn't have. Had he felt otherwise, I suspect the media would have gotten just what they wanted.

So for all the people worked up because Tiger didn't show sufficient anger, I say "get over it." The man is tired, much of it from trying to be all things to all people in order to make up for his failures. I for one am willing to let things drop and hope both men get over what ever went wrong between them.

Racism isn't going away. If we really want to do something about it, perhaps we should start fighting our own battles and stop beating on Tiger because he won't fight our battles for us. I think he's got his hands full fixing his own life right now.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Limerick Summary: 2011 WGC-HSBC Champions

Winner: Martin Kaymer

Around the wider world of golf: There wasn't a whole lot going on this weekend unless you were a Dolphins or Broncos fan. ;-) Jay Don Blake won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship but Tom Lehman won the yearlong race for the actual Cup on the Champions Tour; and Momoko Ueda won the Mizuno Classic in a 3-hole playoff against Shanshan Feng on the JLPGA. Both the Constructivist and BangkokBobby have details. (BB has photos!)

Hey, don't look so down, Freddie. Martin's back!

Question: Where, oh where have you been all year, Martin Kaymer?

Answer: Hanging out in China, along with Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen, waiting for the WGC-China.

When I wrote my Sunday post, I only mentioned Fredrik Jacobson and Paul Casey because they were the players making a move at the time. Martin had posted 2 birdies on his front 9 and parred the 9th when I finally had to give up and go to bed. All he did was shoot 29 (-7) on his final 9, and -9 in his last 12 holes! In fact, if you go back and look, Kaymer was -13 on his last 27 holes. He basically birdied every other hole!

But it was that torrid back 9 that ripped the field apart and officially announced that Martin Kaymer was back and ready to play. The leaders essentially stalled out down the stretch, with the Junkman doing well to snag solo second. Ironically, the challengers turned out to be 2010 major champs who struggled this year. Graeme McDowell did indeed find his game, as he intimated in a tweet earlier in the week, and finished in solo third. Louis Oosthuizen, another lost soul this year, was in it until his putter went cold again, as did Rory McIlroy's.

Of course, Charl Schwartzel posted another of his patented back-9 runs to shoot -7 on the day, but he started out too far back. Once he gets rid of a few of those early bogeys, he'll go from high finishes to winning finishes. The Masters champ is just too good not to win more often. One thing he probably won't be doing is changing his swing...

A lesson Kaymer learned all too well this year. His ill-fated attempt to learn a fade draw for Augusta pretty much trashed his game for the whole year. (It didn't help him at Augusta either.) Now that his game finally seems to be back, that's a mistake he won't be making again!

Kaymer had dropped to 6th in the OWGR but this should bump him back up to at least #5, probably #4 since neither Steve Stricker nor Dustin Johnson played this week. And if the Porsche that was Martin Kaymer is truly back on the autobahn, those higher positions might want to keep a eye on their rear-view mirrors.

So this week's Limerick Summary welcomes the Germinator back to the race:
All year, our best minds were confounded;
His promise had seemed so unbounded!
But Martin's drought ended.
The win he appended
This week proved our fears were unfounded.
The photo was one of the pics on the front page of PGATOUR.com.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Even an Extra Hour Wasn't Enough

We may set our clocks back an hour early Sunday morning, but it's still not enough for me to see the end of the WGC-China. I've tried to stay up and watch, but it's no use...

It certainly looks as if the Junkman is going to get it done, although Paul Casey is making a run. (And he didn't get his Tour card because of that turf toe injury, you know. This would give him a three-year exemption!)

So I guess I'll have to wait until Limerick Summary Monday to see who wins. At least I'll get some sleep. That's probably more than Steve Williams will.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Smooth Move of the Junkman

Fredrik Jacobson (that's Yah-kob-son), aka "the Junkman," aka "Freddie Yak," took over the lead at the WGC-China shortly after I went to bed during the second round. I'm about ready to do the same thing during the third round, and at this point his lead is 2 strokes.

The Junkman has received numerous comments concerning his unorthodox swing. He has a little extra movement at the extremes of his swing, although it's nothing like Jim Furyk. It's just noticeable, that's all.

However, the typical weekend player could learn a lot from Freddie Yak. Here's a look at his swing, both down-the-line and face-on:



I'm too tired to dissect it tonight, but I wanted to put it up where all of you could watch it as much as you want. You see, despite what you may hear, Freddie's swing isn't very unorthodox at all! I love how simple it is. In a lot of ways, it resembles Steve Stricker's swing. He has a good one-piece takeaway and he keeps his hands in front of him.

So why isn't he more accurate? I think it's because he flips his hands a bit too much at impact. When you keep your hands in front of you as well as he does, you're going to have that face square more often than not. Flipping your hands is actually going to twist the clubface off-line.

But given how well he's playing, don't be surprised if the Junkman throws another trophy in the back of his truck this weekend.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Looks Like Keegan Wants POY

I've been watching some of the live WGC-China broadcast. It's the second round and Keegan Bradley is halfway through his round.

He's still leading!

The PGA money list race is over, of course. Luke Donald won that one going away. But Player of the Year may still be up for grabs if Keegan can grab this tournament. Three wins, with one a major and one a WGC -- all by a rookie, mind you -- just might give it to him.

In some ways it doesn't seem quite fair. Luke Donald has made some serious noise this year. But the PGA voting won't take his ET wins into account. They even waited until after everyone thought he had won POY before catching their own mistake for leaving out this WGC. (Understandable, since the PGA Tour doesn't seem to know whether this event is "real" or not. It counts for some players, but not for others? Not cool, PGA Tour, not cool.)

And Golf Magazine didn't give him any props either, voting Rory McIlroy as World Player of the Year because he won a single major immediately after losing one. I won't even dignify that decision with much space here, as Charl Schwartzel won Rory's lost major in amazing fashion and added another event just for good measure. Rory's good, but he wasn't that good in 2011.

Luke really isn't getting his due this year. Four wins, probably two money titles, and #1 in the world when he had to do it the hard way -- hitting fairways and greens -- just might not be enough to get some respect.

Still, it's hard to root against Keegan, isn't it? He got overlooked for the Presidents Cup, after all. At least he'll probably get Rookie of the Year. (Although I suppose Charl is available for that as well.)

So can Keegan do it? Can he upset everybody's apple cart and lock up both ROY and POY? It just might happen. After all, this is the problem with "parity."

I believe it's called excitement.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Yani Gets an Invite

Although Yani hasn't commented as of this writing, she's been offered a chance to play with the men at the Puerto Rico Open next year.

I realize this bit of news will start another debate about women playing with the men, but I think it's a good idea. Here's the deal:
  • As I understand it, Yani played at the course when she was an amateur and did pretty well. Apparently it suits her style of play.
  • The tournament director says she will not only draw extra attention to the tournament, but also to the women's golf program that has gotten underway in Puerto Rico.
  • The event isn't opposite any scheduled LPGA event, so it won't take her away from her own tour.
Annika, who played in the 2003 Colonial, thinks it will be good for Yani -- not to prove anything about women playing against men, but simply to help her improve her game. This is why Annika originally agreed to play Colonial and, if I remember correctly, she said that it helped her raise her game to another level. (She won 3 of the 5 majors immediately following that appearance.)

Apparently Yani has the same goal in mind. She talks to Annika a lot and has made no secret that she want to follow in her steps.

I think Yani will probably accept the offer. It's pretty clear that the LPGA girls have a way to go if they want to really push Yani, and she apparently wants to be pushed. There's nothing wrong with that.

But if I were the rest of the ladies on the LPGA and LET, I'd be a bit worried. Yani's lead in the world rankings is now comparable to the one Tiger held over the PGA -- 18.40 points versus the 10.93 of second-place Suzann Pettersen. If Yani can get the guys to teach her a few new tricks...

I believe the proper Spanish phrase is "¡Ay, caramba!" ;-)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Last WGC of the Year

Admittedly, a lot of the possible drama at the WGC-China has been defused.

Sergio Garcia qualified for the WGC by winning the last two events on the European Tour but decided to sit this week out. I'm a little disappointed but Sergio seems to be making good golf decisions lately, so I'm inclined to think it's a good move.

Neither Luke Donald nor Webb Simpson will be in Shanghai, so neither can improve their chances of winning PGA Player of the Year. Donald's wife is expecting her baby this week, but I don't know why Simpson is skipping.

In fact, according to this PGA.com article from last week, several high-ranked American players are skipping the event this year. The article lists Steve Stricker (understandable, given his well-publicized injury), Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Gary Woodland, and Sean O'Hair. Also missing will be Martin Laird, Jason Day, and Peter Senior. And neither Tiger Woods nor Padraig Harrington qualified to play.

However, there's still plenty of drama to be had. Both Keegan Bradley and Charl Schwartzel are playing, and both could make a play for Player of the Year if either won. The operative word here is "major." Bradley would have 3 wins with a major, while Schwartzel would have 2 wins with a major and no missed cuts. (I don't think that would be enough for Charl to get it, but his name continues to be batted around. Keegan would definitely make a case for himself with a major and a WGC in his 3 wins.)

And then there's the Race to Dubai. The WGC-China is official money on the ET, and Donald's closest pursuers are ready to tee it up. Except for Sergio, who's #7 on the list, the rest of the Top 10 behind Donald are all there. Here are the Top 10 in the Race to Dubai and their winnings in euros:
  1. Luke Donald, €3,856,394
  2. Rory McIlroy, €2,543,571
  3. Charl Schwartzel, €2,084,214
  4. Martin Kaymer, €1,988,047
  5. Lee Westwood, €1,941,315
  6. Anders Hanson, €1,618,037
  7. Sergio Garcia, €1,580,748
  8. Thomas Bjorn, €1,479,011
  9. Simon Dyson, €1,359,865
  10. Darren Clarke, €1,346,160
Of course, more than the Top 10 are there. The winner will pick up $1.2 million, or just over €877384. Rory can't catch Luke this week, but he can sure make a dent in Luke's lead.

And should he manage to pull this one out, Adam Scott could become the only back-to-back WGC winner other than Tiger.

This is a unique chance for those of you who don't typically get to watch the European Tour live. GC will carry live broadcasts of the event tonight from 11pm - 4am ET. I suspect there'll be a Golf Central Pregame Show as well, probably starting at 10:30pm. (Makes you wonder why they couldn't do that for the LPGA, doesn't it?)

So don't forget to tune in. Maybe Ben Crane will shake things up -- he's gonna be there too. Leotard alert !!! ;-)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: November 2011

Although "parity" has been the word of choice this year, I think that's unfair. Quite a few players have distinguished themselves with multiple wins, consistent play, and in some cases continued improvement. Although the PGA Tour is entering the silly season, the European Tour is not. There's still some important stuff to be determined in the world of golf... and perhaps the November RGWR will help you make some sense of it all.

And as usual, here are the RGWG criteria:
I focus on the last 12 months of play -- that's long enough to see some consistency but short enough to be current. Every player in the RGWR won at least once on either the PGA or European Tour. The OWGR rates consistency over the last 2 years, so I see no reason to rank that; my RGWR says if you're a top player, you've won somewhere recently. My priority list (based on quality of field) looks like this:
  1. majors, TPC (PGAT), BMW PGA (ET), and WGCs
  2. FedExCup playoffs and prestige events (like Bay Hill and Dubai), the latter often determined by the history and difficulty of the course
  3. other PGA and ET events
I put extra emphasis on recent form, and I make some allowance if you're recovering from injury or serious sickness. Also, remember that I count Top5s as a separate category from wins; if you see a player has 3 Top5s, those are seconds through fifths only.

I assign points to tournaments this way:
  • Majors: 10 points
  • TPC & BMW PGA: 8 points (yes, I'm calling them equals!)
  • WGC: 7 points
  • Prestige events: 5 points
  • Regular wins: 3 points
  • Top 5 finishes: 2 points
I give full credit for wins on the "minor" tours like the Nationwide and Asian Tours provided the winner has a current win on the PGA or European Tour. These wins will count only as "regular" wins and not "prestige" wins, no matter how prestigious they may be for their tour, because they generally don't have the strength of field of a regular PGA or ET event.

I'm not counting the Grand Slam of Golf as a win in my rankings. (I didn't give Ernie points for it last year either.) I've decided that 4 players isn't a large enough field to give it the weight of a win against a larger field. However, I do take that win into consideration in my rankings, much as I do money title or scoring awards.

And because of a strange quirk on the ET site, I've decided I have to specifically state that a tournament win can only count once. Therefore, to avoid possible confusion, I'm just telling you that the RGWR says you can only win a tournament once at a time.

As usual, the point total (and even the number of wins) a player has affects my rankings but doesn't override my personal opinions:
  1. Luke Donald: 4 wins (1 WGC, 1 BMW), 10 Top5, 41 points. Luke Donald should have put to rest any rumors that he isn't worthy to be #1 on the OWGR. Two wins on each side of the Atlantic (more worldwide wins than anybody not named Yani Tseng), then that amazing show at Disney where he locked up the money list and scoring titles, plus a shot at winning the Race to Dubai as well. That major will be coming soon.
  2. Lee Westwood: 3 wins (1 prestige), 6 Top5, 23 points. Lee still isn't winning the big ones -- Rory beat him again this weekend -- but he's still someone to watch. All he needs is a couple of putts at a crucial time...
  3. Thomas Bjorn: 3 wins (1 prestige), 1 Top5, 13 points. No change for Thomas this month, but he has a win within the last two months and is one of only 3 men with 3 or more wins, so he doesn't lose ground. He also has 4 wins in the last 2 years, which may indicate this is more than just a spurt of good play.
  4. Keegan Bradley: 2 wins (1 major, 1 prestige), 0 Top5, 15 points. Keegan's Top5s all dropped off but he did win the Grand Slam of Golf. I'm giving him some props for that; he might have dropped a place this month otherwise.
  5. Rory McIlroy: 2 wins (1 major), 8 Top5, 29 points. Although Rory lost to Keegan at the Grand Slam of Golf, he did win at the Shanghai Masters. That event may not have been sanctioned by any tour, but it did have a stellar field -- including Lee Westwood, whom he beat again. Welcome to the Top 5, Mr. McIlroy!
  6. Sergio Garcia: 2 wins (1 prestige), 1 Top5, 10 points. Some of you may question this high debut, but Sergio is my nominee for World Comeback Player of the Year. While his 2 wins and 1 Top5 may seem pedestrian compared with the players beneath him in the rankings, he got them all in one month! He won the first going away and the second on a tough course where only 5 players finished under par and he had to fight for the win. Add that to the personal and professional comebacks he's been making this year -- he truly seems to have made personal changes during this time -- and I have to award him this spot. Welcome back, Sergio!
  7. Nick Watney: 2 wins (1 WGC, 1 prestige), 3 Top5, 18 points. No change for Watney this month, but he picked up another Top5 more recently than the players below him.
  8. Charl Schwartzel: 2 wins (1 major, 1 prestige), 2 Top5, 17 points. Another month with no change, although he did make a run at Keegan during the Grand Slam of Golf.
  9. Darren Clark: 2 wins (1 major), 0 Top5, 13 points. No change for Darren either, and a poor showing at the Grand Slam of Golf.
  10. Adam Scott: 2 wins (1 WGC, 1 prestige), 2 Top5, 16 points. And no change for Adam. Most of the multiple winners are in the same boat; the recent winners tend to be getting their first wins of the year.
Players to watch:
  • Given his play during October, Sergio Garcia has to be high on the watch list. The ET's site isn't quite up-to-date so I don't know if he plans to play in the WGC-China this week -- his second win qualified him to play -- but there are other events to be played over the next couple of months.
  • Anthony Kim had a resurgence against Rory in Shanghai last week. Will it last? I don't know, but he's way overdue for some good finishes.
  • And Tom Lewis got his first win in October in only his third appearance as a pro. I'm going to be giving him some special attention at the WGC this week. It's his first pro event against ALL the big names, and I expect him to do well.
Luke Donald bowed out of the WGC-China because he and Diane expect their baby this week. It'll be interesting to see how soon he gets back and how he plays once he does.