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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Woods Earned It

Even though no one but Chris DiMarco gave Tiger any kind of real run on Sunday, Woods certainly played excellent golf and deserved to win the Claret Jug. His strategy of hitting fairways in favor of length off the tee was remarkably successful. It's not a whole lot of fun watching someone hit 2-iron all day, but no one can deny its effectiveness.

Tiger's definitely #1. He has (at least temporarily) taken the title back from Mickelson as the world's best golfer. Though none of the top guys have taken a step backwards, Tiger definitely took at least one step forward at Hoylake. The PGA should be as compelling a major as any in recent memory.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Ernie! Ernie! Ernie!

I woke up this morning, went to my computer eager to check the scores of the tournament, and I almost blew my top. Tiger had already carded a 65 and was three shots ahead of second place Chris DiMarco (who incidentally had a triple bogey in round 1). Thankfully, some good players hadn't teed off yet.

Ernie Els answered my prayers and matched Tiger's 65 to end the day one shot behind, at eleven under. A couple of other players like Retief Goosen, played well, but unless he, DiMarco, "the Mechanic", or Adam Scott go low tomorrow, it's a two-man horserace.

In the press conference following his round, Els sounded VERY confident. He didn't sound afraid of going low and taking down Tiger. I'm hoping he's ready to back up his talk tomorrow and on Sunday. He's played with Tiger many times and knows what to expect. And, unlike some other players, he and Woods get along well, so he will be comfortable playing with him in the final group.

It will be a great weekend if Ernie steps up. I know I'll be rooting hard for him in front of my 21 inch Panasonic.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Where's the Wind at Hoylake?

With the first round of the Open Championship complete, the scores are notably low. If a couple of guys (namely Graeme McDowell) could have made some putts, the leader could have been at eight under. The primary reason for this is that it was a relatively calm day, and the next three days are forecast to be equally sans wind. Playing hard and fast, Hoylake is almost a pitch and putt for pros with such game and such advanced technology. It's only real defense is the weather. I'm hoping to see stronger winds coming out of the southwest to make these guys play some real golf shots. 9 mph isn't going to scare anyone.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Picks for the Open Championship

Though it's nearly impossible to accurately predict a winner of professional golf tournament, I'm going to try.

All of the people "in the know" are saying the winner of this week's British Open at Royal Liverpool could be anyone. The smarties in the press claim that since the Championship has not been held at Hoylake since 1967, no one has enough of a home field advantage to be crowned the favorite. This sort of makes sense, but from what I've seen over the years, unless it's played at St. Andrews (see Tiger Woods), the Open is always up for grabs.

The bookmakers favor Tiger, then Phil, and then Vijay. They try to make money, so of course they won't be going out on a limb. In my fantasy league, I picked all non-Americans, which is totally against the grain, because Americans win this tournament all the time. My fantasy pics are David Howell (England), Sergio Garcia (Spain), Adam Scott (Australia), Michael Campbell (New Zealand), Tim Clark (South Africa), Padraig Harrington (Ireland), and Stuart Appleby (Australia). I probably shouldn't have picked two Aussies, but they're playing so darn well lately, that I couldn't NOT pick them. Plus, I didn't see anyone from Turkey or Romania in the field.

If you have an online bookmaker, you can get very good odds on most players not named Tiger or Phil. If Mickelson wins, it will be a great comeback after his 72nd hold disaster at Winged Foot, but I don't see it happening. Tiger will probably get a top 10, but I don't think it's his year. Who does that leave? Just about everyone else. Aside from Seve Ballesteros and some donk named Ben Bunny, nearly everyone in the field has a legitimate shot at winning.

I asked my wife for her top three picks, and they're pretty solid. She picked Jose-Maria Olazabal, Ernie Els, and Stuart Appleby. In her heart, she's rooting for Sergio Garcia.

My darkhorse pick is England's own, Nick Dougherty. He has a lot of game. Many people aren't familiar with him because he plays in Europe, but he's a young, rising star. And, he's a local Liverpudlian, and he claims to have played Hoylake countless times. Will course knowledge serve him well? I hope so. I have a small wager on him at around 300-1. Go Nick!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Sandwiched Between Woods and Wie

I've had an eye on the John Deere the past couple of days to see how Michelle Wie plays. Last year, she came close to making the cut. This year, it looks as though she'll miss the cut by a mile. Golf fans seem split about whether or not Wie deserves the sponsor exemptions for PGA events like the John Deere and the Sony. After this week's performance, I've concluded that she needs to take a breather from playing with the men. She's definitely not ready, and the more often she tries and fails, the less historical it will be if and when she ever makes the cut in a PGA tournament.

Wie needs to play and win against women. She's obviously still very young and has loads of talent, but it's getting a bit old to see her swing and miss on Tour.

Tiger Woods is still the most hunted game for regular Tour pros. Like Wie, he's a bit of a sideshow in every event he enters. Therefore, the media clings to every move he makes, just like they have done with Wie. All of the other players are sandwiched between them, searching for their place in golf. Is this right? Is it fair?

These two golfers are thought of as "the future of golf". I disagree. Tiger has a big future on Tour, but he is hearing the footsteps of players who have stepped up their games while pursuing him. By the same token, the regular guys also hear Wie's footsteps -- not that they feel threatened by her from a performance standpoint, but they must be constantly thinking where they are on the leaderboard in relation to her. No one wants to lose to her, and they all want to beat Tiger. Still, I maintain my position that her future in golf is with the women, not with the men.

Who will earn their place closer to Tiger or even above him? Mickelson seems logical, but he has his issues. Others have made some noise, but it's not being heard over the din created by Wie and Woods. Developing...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

My Game Is All Over the Map

Every summer, I get frustrated with my golf game -- not enough to stop playing, but enough to make some noise about it.

A week and a half ago, I shot an 80, which is a very good score for me. The next round, I shot a 92. Granted, the 92 was on a more difficult track, but my round was disturbingly inconsistent. Then, this past Saturday I thought I was swinging well, but I turned in the worst round of the year, a 101. The slope was 136, and the greens were slow, but there was no reason to be shooting more than 90. I was hitting drives crooked and couldn't make any putts. After the round, I counted 12 penalty strokes. That's insane!

I was hoping that the 101 was an aberration, but the very next day I shot a 98 that included seven triples. Are you kidding me?

I need help. Here are my ideas:
1) Go to the range and work on the driver.
2) Sign up for a golf camp somewhere warm this fall. Any recommendations by readers would be appreciated (leave suggestions in the comments section).
3) Relax and don't think about the last couple of rounds.
4) See a shrink.

Idea #1 is the most appealing. I never go to the range, and it shows. I'm going to hit balls a bunch before the next time I play, and I'm going to report back my results.