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Monday, June 26, 2006

Monty Far From Finished

Lately, I've read a bunch of articles and listened to several announcers say that Colin Montgomerie probably blew his last shot at winning a major. He definitely screwed up his chance at winning the U.S. Open, but I think these people are wrong about him not contending in future major championships.

Monty has been a very good player for a long time, and he just turned 43. However, in the past 18 months, his game has been excellent. Other players have proven to be able to compete on a grand stage well into their forties - Fred Couples and Vijay Singh are two players who come to mind. Monty has risen to number 13 in the world rankings because of his form in Europe and his runner-up finishes in two of the last four majors. I predict that we haven't heard the last from Monty. He might even get his comeuppance at Hoylake in a few weeks.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Fried Egg Solution

My friend Nick Aquilino recently taught me an invaluable shot that every golfer has to attempt. It's a shot that deadens a ball out of a fried egg lie in a bunker so that the ball pops out of the sand but lands softly on the green.

The traditional way of executing this shot is to hood your sand wedge and swing hard through the sand. This might get you out, but you'll be lucky if you can control the ball at all. Nick's method is to take your normal stance and swing, but hit the ball purposely with the hosel of your wedge. It's remarkable how much you can control the ball this way.

I told Nick that he should show Dave Pelz this trick. About 18 months ago, he actually did show Pelz the shot, but Pelz didn't want to listen. If Philly Mick would have known about this shot, he could have gotten up and down on 16 at the Open, and he would have given himself a chance at getting up and down on 18. So, in a way, Mr. Pelz helped Phil lose the Open by not listening to Nick.

California Dreaming: John Talifer's Top 10

We're fortunate to have John Edward Talifer, currently of Minneapolis, MN, as our third-ever Guest Rater. Tali grew up in Westlake Village, CA, starred on Westlake High's golf team and was recruited to play at Purdue. College got in the way of golf, and he never represented the Boilermakers in the Big Ten Championship, but he still bleeds Boiler Black.

John works for Thomson and is the #1 salesman in the Twin Cities, maybe even the world. His list is top-heavy with California and Hawaii courses; it's curious that there aren't any Minnesota tracks in his Top 10. For someone who speaks so proudly of The Land of 10,000 Lakes, it's a glaring omission.

He's played some big names. His #1 was the site of the 1988 NCAA Championship and home course of the USC Trojan golf team. La Quinta is one of the top resorts in the west, and all of his Hawaiian courses are strong. Ojai is a George C. Thomas gem, designer of Riviera and L.A. Country Club. As most of you remember, Crooked Stick played host to John Daly's victory at the 1991 PGA Championship.

1) North Ranch Country Club - Westlake Village, CA
2) Wood Ranch Country Club - Simi Valley, CA
3) La Quinta Resort & Club (Mountain) - La Quinta, CA
4) Kaanapali Golf Course - Lahaina, Maui, HI
5) Wailea Golf Club (Blue) - Wailea, Maui, HI
6) Wailea Golf Club (Gold) - Wailea, Maui, HI
7) Makena Golf Club (North Course) - Makena, Maui, HI
8) Ojai Valley Inn - Ojai, CA
9) Crooked Stick Golf Club - Carmel, IN
10) Sterling Hills Golf Club - Camarillo, CA

Thanks for contributing your Top 10, JET!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

In Hindsight, Was Some of Tiger's Run Smoke and Mirrors?

I have a new theory about Tiger and his dominance at majors. It goes like this: If the Masters wasn't at Augusta, and he had never played the Open Championship at St. Andrews, he would only have four major championships.

His four non-Augusta/St. Andrews majors came at Pebble, Medinah, Valhalla, and Bethpage. Could he have mastered those courses through a combination of peaking at the right time, bowling over other players through intimidation, and a bit of luck?

Obviously, the Masters will always be at Augusta, and the British will always be played at the home of golf every five or ten years. However, imagine if those championships were played at places like Winged Foot, Shinnecock, or Ballybunion. Would his game have held up?

We saw last week how Tiger needs lots of room in order to succeed. If he doesn't drive it straight, he doesn't contend. Cameron Morfit from Golf Magazine takes my theory a step further, hypothesizing that without wide-open, burly layouts, Tiger would win regular Tour events much less often than he does. Consider how many times he's won at Firestone, Bay Hill, Doral, Kapalua, and Torrey Pines. Without those stops, his win total would be impressive, but nothing like it is now.

Tiger's game might simply be in transition. It's been there before, and he's come back and won lots of tournaments after he made the necessary changes to his game. However, with his father passed on, a relatively new wife, a knee that might not be 100%, and a Tour full of players who aren't afraid of him anymore, could this be the dawn of Tigger, and the sunset of Tiger?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Painful Ending at Winged Foot

One of the most tired cliches is about how people love to watch a car crash or a train wreck; they say they don't want to watch, but they can't tear themselves away from it. Some people actually go to NASCAR in hopes of seeing a crash. I don't understand that mentality.

Yesterday's crash and burns by Mickelson, Monty, Furyk, and Harrington were awful to watch. I was in shock, in pain, and nearly ill watching them botch it up down the stretch of the U.S. Open. As an amateur hack, I have done what those guys did many times. Maybe that's why it hurt so much to watch.

However, when I do it, there's little or nothing on the line. For each of those top players, especially Phil and Monty, there was a ton on the line. And the worst part about it was that their errors were more mental than physical.

All Monty had to do was get down in three from the fairway. He seized up and blocked it short and right. It was a bad place to miss. However, he still could have managed a spot in a playoff. His brain got in the way, and he three-putted to put himself out of the playoff. It was a terrible mental gaffe. He looked like he thought he had to one-putt it to have a chance. He was not thinking straight. His U.S. Open experience should have made him think properly, but I guess the pressure got the better of him. I felt really sorry for Colin.

Phil was even worse. His tee shot on 18 could have been OB if they weren't playing a tournament. He slices it off a hospitality tent on the 72nd hole?? C'mon!! Even your worst hacker wouldn't have hit it that far off line. You could argue that it was a bad swing, and thus it was a physical error. But, he should have backed off and hit 4-wood. Mental error #1.

Mental error #2 came when he tried to slice his second shot around a tree instead of pitching it safely onto the fairway. Had he lain up, he most likely would have done no worse than bogey, securing himself a spot in a playoff with Ogilvy. Better yet, he would have given himself a decent shot at par and an outright victory. Instead, he ripped it into the bunker and couldn't get up and down for the tie. It was agonizing.

Collapses happen all the time in sports. But in golf, it's just you against yourself. Phil, Monty, Furyk, and Harrington didn't really lose to Winged Foot or Geoff Ogilvy, they lost to themselves.