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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Dream Daily Double

My buddies and I have often talked about which two courses we'd like to play in the same day. The courses have to be within short driving distance of each other, so private jets don't come into play for the Daily Double.

One example is Merion and Pine Valley. About 20 years ago, my dad and some of his pals actually pulled this one off. Another obvious Double would be Cypress Point and Pebble Beach.

There are some easy ones where the courses are in the same complex, such as Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes, or Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run. Since those are way too obvious, we're going to disqualify them from the competition. We're looking for some more creative ideas.

My Dream Daily Double would be The National Golf Links of America and Shinnecock. There are plenty of other great Doubles to be had on Long Island, as combinations using Bethpage, Garden City, Maidstone, Friar's Head, etc. are endless.

What would be your Dream Daily Double?

Send us comments with your ideas. One lucky winner will get the satisfaction of being the winner.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Why Doesn't Tiger Bring Out the Best in His Competitors?

The following is a guest article by Jack Hession of Arlington, VA. The views and opinions expressed by Mr. Hession are not necessarily endorsed by the management of Networked Golfer or its affiliates.

Spending much of the past weekend horizontal on the couch watching the 88th PGA, I was blown away with the stats CBS kept posting on the screen chronicling Tiger’s Sunday competitors wilting under the pressure of being paired in the final group with His Eminence. Other than Chris DiMarco and Bob May, nobody had shot better than Tiger on Sunday and of the 11 majors (now 12) only DiMarco and May broke 70! Tigers’ Sunday scoring average in the Majors: 69.25, his challengers: 72.91. If not for DiMarco and May, it would be even worse!

Recently, I read Mark Frost’s Grand Slam: Bobby Jones, America and the Story of Golf, a history of golf during the Bobby Jones era (1923-1930). During this span Jones collected thirteen national titles: five United States amateurs; four United States Opens; three British Opens; and one British Amateur. In the last nine years of his career he competed in twelve national championships and finished first or second in eleven of them, a feat Jones considered to be greater than his winning of the Grand Slam in 1930. Relying heavily on newspapers’ accounts of Jones’s feats and defeats, Frost highlighted more than once comments made by Jones’s coach and companions and sports-writers alike that Jones was losing titles to obviously less talented golfers simply because players elevated their game when paired against him. Even when winning, Jones was competing against challengers that in their own words were having career days.

Let’s jump into the DeLorean and head back to the future – to Thursday’s press conference at the Bridgestone Invitational where we meet up with Jason Gore, who’s known Tiger since their junior days in SoCal, discussing his day’s round paired with Tiger: “I watched him a lot today,” Gore said. “It’s kind of hard not to watch him. He’s amazing. I think it kind of bled a little bit into my game, and I was able to focus on my shots a little bit more and it turned out pretty good.”

“ . . .it kind of bled a little bit into my game . . .” I read that and fell out of my chair! I guarantee Geoff Ogilvy could say the same thing after his Thursday/Friday pairing at the PGA with Phil and Tiger. And the same was probably said from Jones’s competitors. But playing with Tiger on Thursday/Friday is a whole lot different than playing with him on Saturday and most definitely on Sunday. Tiger has been beaten, just not in a Major when he’s last off the tee come Sunday. He’s now 12-0, undefeated, practically unchallenged in the Majors. The differences in Sunday scoring averages say a lot about competitiveness on today’s Tour – it’s non-existent. So the question is: Why doesn’t Tiger bring out the best in his competitors?

Three reasons why I think the Tour can’t compete with Tiger: Tiger’s goals; Tour players’ lack of goals; and today’s tournament purses:

1) Tiger is NOT playing against today’s field. He’s playing to match and then surpass Jack’s Major record of 18 victories. He has said so himself -- he plays to win Majors. The best thing going for Tiger in this regard is that he doesn’t have to compete against Jack; however, the tour has to compete against Tiger.

2) With that said, Tour players have become reactionary to Tiger’s goals. Really, they’re hoping for a stroke of luck to come their way, and maybe they’ll beat him head-to-head in a Major. Nobody else on Tour has a goal as ambitious as Tiger’s, and he has set this goal since childhood. Only one, Vijay Singh, thought outside the box and made it a goal to be the world’s number one ranked golfer, and albeit briefly, he managed to place himself on top.

3) Remember in 1989 when Curtis Strange was the first to break the $1 million mark in earning in a single season? And that was by winning the U.S. Open and the season ending Nabisco Championship at Pebble Beach. By winning the FBR, J.B. Holmes took home $936,000 to put him over the million-dollar-mark after only three events, four weeks into the season. I’m using J.B. as an example because as a rookie he’s won an event and has earned $1,378,720 as of the PGA (and yes, this is pre-tax), but look at his record. Not the most dominant on tour but he’s made a million-plus in 2006. How about Ryan Palmer with three top 10 finishes, second to Holmes at the FBR? He’s banked $1,972,781.

Yes, this goes to show that there is a slew of talent on today’s tour. However, back in the day (1989) you had to win the BIG events to make serious money on Tour. Yes, there have always been jobbers on the tour who make a decent living playing golf, but there weren’t the television contracts, endorsements and corporate outings like today. I personally feel that nobody can compete with Tiger because they’re complacent. Chris Riley has said as much to this effect; golf isn’t as important to him as his family. Same with Phil, until winning his first Major; however, he still plays up how much more important his family is to him than golf. Why is that? How can that be? If it weren’t for golf, in the words of Henry Hill of GoodFellas fame, “Can't even get decent food. Right after I got here, I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce, and I got egg noodles and ketchup. I'm an average nobody . . . get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.”

It’s been said, “All the professionals should say a silent thanks to Walter Hagen each time they stretch a check between their fingers. It was Walter who made professional golf what it is.” The same can be said of Tiger Woods today. He’s taken what Hagen made possible and has made the lucrative contract and endorsement deal the norm for many of today’s professional golfers (i.e. Michelle Wie, who has won only one event, 2003 US Woman’s Amateur Public Links). Unfortunately, all this corporate cash has made the Tour fat and happy. Wie has proven potential alone can net you more money than actually playing well. Heck, lead any Tour in driving distance and you’re set for life.

However, soon there will be a new breed of golfer. The new soon-to-be touring pro will have grown up watching Tiger decimate the field and emulating his game and achievements as Tiger emulated Jack’s career. And where do you think that will leave many of today’s professionals?

Most likely on the outside looking in.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Is It the Equipment Or Pill Popping?

The following is a special opinion piece sent in from Tom "Tub Rock" Gorman in downtown Chicago. The "Master of the Bomb-Diggity" raises questions about performance enhancers in professional golf. His opinions are not necessarily shared by the management of Networked Golfer.

Ever since I began playing golf on a regular basis, especially with my brothers and brother-in-law, "Power Golf" has been a huge part of my golf experience. I can put the ball out there 300 yards when I'm swinging well, but that's about a three-wood on the PGA Tour this year.

I had been talking to a buddy of mine during the British Open about the fact that with all of the doping going on in track, baseball, swimming, biking, etc, how can it not be a possibility in golf? After watching this weekend's tournament (Medinah), I feel this could absolutely be a reality.

Tiger has always been able to hit his drives a mile, but 225 yard 5 irons? Maybe that shot is in the bag of a fitness freak like Woods, but what about the overweight, the scrawny, and the older players on the tour. As Dan Patrick and Rick Reilly so eloquently put it on ESPN Radio today, not all enhancing drugs are anabolic steroids that make you too large to swing a golf club; the new types of drugs are typically for rehab from injuries, for a quick turnaround from a grueling 72 holes in four days then only to turn around and fly coast to coast, shrugging off jet lag to compete the following weekend.

These questions came up today when PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem stated they would not test unless "there was reason to believe that there was a problem." The first step in finding out if drugs are present in a sport is to test, and I feel that the game is getting too long and too powerful. What happened to the 7,000 yard course with postage stamp greens on par 3s? Dogleg par 4s surrounded by traps, and 550 yard par 5s that can be eagled but have tough pin placements?

I truly think that everyone should stop blaming the equipment and the golf balls and dig deeper into those golf bags and look for some pills. Golf -- learn from baseball and "step up to the plate" and take on the problem before it takes your sport down.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Harley Actually Makes Some Sense

Avid NetworkedGolfer reader Chris Harley said during the British Open that the reason Tiger wins so many majors is that he manhandles the par 5s like no one else. Though it's not a completely original statement, it's totally on-target, and I thought it right to give Harley props for this observation. I stated that tight, tree-lined venues are what really give Tiger trouble. This is true to a certain extent, but the par 5 theory holds more water.

After the PGA Championship, Tiger's record in majors goes like this:

70 / 16 / 1
71 / 6 / 1
72 / 17 / 10
Total 40 / 12

Thanks to Chris for showing me the light. Comments?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Stricker Hosed: Totally Lame-an Picks for the Ryder Cup

Not that captain's picks usually make or break a Ryder Cup team, but I think Lehman's wild card choices were a bit too safe. Stewart Cink? Weak.

Cink finished the weekend 12th in the Ryder Cup standings. However, he has a few things going against him, in my book.

1) He doesn't win very often.
2) He has a poor Ryder Cup record.
3) He has no fire and scares no one on the European side.

Cink's record is 2-4-1 in the Ryder Cup. That's not exactly lighting it up. He's won four PGA events, and hasn't won since 2004. He either places high in many events that don't mean much, or he hangs out around the perifery of the leaderboard at big tournaments, but never makes a charge. He's interchangeable with Bob Estes. Thrilling...

Jim Furyk's old nickname was T-4, because he played well but rarely won. Cink should take over the nickname, but it should be T-12 instead. It's not an inspired choice, and it was easy for Tom to do since he and Stewie are such good friends.

Verplank is a better pick for what Lehman was obviously looking for -- a solid veteran. Since Lehman felt compelled to pick a veteran, I would have liked him to choose a young player to complement Verplank. I would have taken Ryan Moore, Lucas Glover, or Arron Oberholser.

Though I can accept Verplank, Lehman missed the boat entirely by not picking Steve Stricker. He's earned his way on the team, and he really WANTS to be there. He can putt like a demon, and he never gives up. Plus, his game is on the upswing this year.

Here are my top 5 best combinations of wild card picks:

1) Stricker and Moore
2) Stricker and Jerry Kelly
3) Stricker and Oberholser
4) Stricker and Glover
5) Stricker and Verplank.

If the U.S. doesn't win this year, there's going to be a lot of second-guessing of Lame-an's safe picks. If they lose, it would be sweet to see Steve Stricker win the Valero Texas Open and begin making his case for 2008.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Adding Length to Golf Courses Doesn't Deter Pros

The biggest joke in professional golf is that the people who run tournaments think golf courses become tougher for pros when they add length. In actuality, it hardly does a thing except waste money and ruin golf courses.

I was listening to the XM feed of the PGA today, and no less than three times in twenty minutes I was informed that Medinah is the longest course in the history of the majors. Evidently, Rees Jones added 160 yards to prep the course for the tournament. It seems recently that every major is "the longest ever".

They just keep stretching courses thinking it will prevent low scoring, but it has virtually no effect because of the golf ball and the driver. How much money gets wasted on these lengthenings and "redesigns"? I don't know, but it's a lot.

A golf course doesn't have to be 7,500 yards to be championship-calibre. All it has to be is strategic and difficult (but fair). However, if they go back to playing shorter courses, they'll have to do something about the ball and driver. Max out the driver head at about 300ccs, reduce the distance of the ball by about 20 yards, and stop messing with the courses! At this rate, we'll be seeing an 8,000 yard U.S. Open, and guys will still win with six under -- because the technology will keep getting better.

The "powers that be" don't have to put the same restrictions on the manufacturers for the non-professional golfer, but something needs to be done at the pro level. Augusta has already been ruined, and it looks like other fine golf courses will suffer the same fate unless someone steps up and puts an end to the madness. If it doesn't stop, in ten years only the posers like Torrey Pines, Valhalla, and Bellerive will offer their courses to the USGA and PGA of America. Wake me up when that's over...

Do you really think designers who undertand how golf should be played, like Tom Doak and Coore/Crenshaw, would put up with someone coming in and wrecking their masterpieces just so an Open could be played at one of their courses? I think not. That's why we'll never see a major at Pacific Dunes or Sand Hills. Their creators have too much integrity from a design standpoint.

For a running commentary on this topic from someone who is REALLY teed off, check out Geoff Shackelford's blog.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Primed and Ready for a Big Weekend

I'm ready to roll. Tomorrow, Jack Hession and I will be driving north to New York City to visit Brother Jimmy. On our way up, we'll take a detour to Elkton, MD. The only thing I've ever done in Elkton is eat at the A&W and the McDonald's. It's not a real happening place, but it is the home of the supposedly-good The Club at Patriots Glen. It's quite a fancy name; we're hoping it lives up to its moniker.

After playing 18 there, we'll make our way to the City, hang out, and mentally prepare for our Saturday round at Bayonne Golf Club, my bro's home course. As I mentioned in the last post, it's supposed to be a bear, but we're ready to bring it to its knees. Jack and I have never backed down from a challenge, and we're not about to start now.

We'll head out on the town on Saturday night, make a cameo at Eugene the Jeep's 30th birthday party, rest up, and zip down to Philly on Sunday to play Whitemarsh with my mom, current ladies club champion. Daddy G (aka Mr. Bones) is on the DL with a back injury, but hopefully he'll ride around with us in a cart.

It has all the makings of a classic golf road trip. I'm sure it won't disappoint. The weather forecast is for sunny skies and 80 degree temperatures, and the golf forecast calls for very low scores. Even if we don't break any course records, I'll be happy that I'll be able to rate two of the courses for Golfweek. Gotta look on the bright side!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Showing Signs of Life

Not that I'm getting any more consistent, but my golf game is showing some signs of life. Since my July 12th post about my summer travails on the links, I've played three times, and I'm going to comment on the last two rounds.

The first round was on the pretty easy Coeur d'Alene Resort Golf Course, and I hosebagged my way to an 80 with college buddy Jack Fenn. The course has virtually no rough, and the fairways are nicer than my carpets. That being said, my driving was as good as it's been all year, and most of my irons were pure. Minus a few lame lob wedges and a couple of three putts, and it would have been a career round. Needless to say, I was pleased and confident after the round.

I attempted to take all of those good feelings with me to Circling Raven Golf Club, which you MUST play if you ever find yourself in Northern Idaho. It's part of an Indian casino resort in Worley, ID, and it opened about three years ago. It's in immaculate shape, and every hole will test your game. Additionally, all of the holes save the long, downhill par 3s, are different. The variety is terrific. I've preliminarily (is that a word?) ranked it #19 out of a total of 174 courses played in my lifetime. However, that was about all that was terrific (other than the company of my player partner, Jack "Caterpillar" Chrysler).

I shot a 97. I won't talk about the wind, my poor long-iron play or the 139 slope. 97 stinks on any course. The positives that I took out of it are that my driving was decent for the most part, and my chipping continues to be solid. Other than that - booooo!!!

Next weekend, a third Jack -- Jack Hession -- and I will be traveling north to play my brother's new home course, Bayonne Golf Club, and my parents' course, Whitemarsh Valley CC. Bayonne is reportedly a bruiser. But, it has no trees. Not one. So, I'm anticipating a good round. Whitemarsh, on the other hand, is my nemesis. This time, the course will not win. I'll be ready, and I hope you'll be back to hear about it.