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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Presenting Your 2008 Ryder Cup Squad

I'm not one for looking to the past. What's done is done, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. I'd rather look to the future and make my predictions for who will be (or maybe should be) on the 2008 Ryder Cup team for the American side.

First, it's going to be a more youthful affair. There are plenty of young guys making some noise who will be in prime position to lead the team to victory at Valhalla. Second, the captain's picks should focus on guys who might be a little inconsistent but who can make amends by going on birdie barrages. In match play, you need guys who can catch fire and put their opponents on their heels.

Here's what the team might look like in 2008:
1) Tiger Woods - maybe he'll do better next time
2) Phil Mickelson - he'd better start caring, or he'll be riding the pine
3) Jim Furyk - he'll still be his solid self
4) Ryan Moore - he's ready to break out and grab a few wins
5) Chad Campbell - he's going to get even better
6) Stewart Cink - I'm not a fan, but I have to admit he's good in the Ryder Cup
7) Lucas Glover - he'll play in five or six Cups before it's all over
8) Arron Oberholser - this guy can go lights out
9) Ben Curtis - his newfound confidence will serve him well in the next two years
10) Kevin Stadler - he can play
11) J.B. Holmes - gotta love his long ball; he can make birdies in a hurry
12) Anthony Kim - he'll be the first Asian-American to make the squad

Others to consider:
1) Will Mackenzie
2) Bubba Watson
3) Bill Haas
4) Zach Johnson
5) Hunter Mahan

The team I'm predicting looks a lot different than the 2006 version. That can only be a good thing.

Does anyone else have some ideas?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Team Sports and Tiger

Much has been made about how Earl Woods raised Tiger to be laser-focused on golf and little else. Because of Tiger's individual success on the course, few people have knocked this myopic approach. Some have suggested that without the intense grooming, both physical and psychological, Tiger would not have the killer instinct or insatiable desire that is required of a golfer to beat Jack Nicklaus' records.

That all may be true, but I can't help but think that Tiger missed out on a lot of things that normal kids do, including playing team sports. Nearly every young red-blooded American plays soccer, football, basketball, and baseball (or some combination of the four) right though grade school. And most play in high school. However, Tiger never experienced being a member of a team, and I think this has really hurt his ability to thrive in the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup.

Team sports build a different set of skills and competitive characteristics not found in individual sports like golf and tennis. Winning and losing as a team, relying on others for your success, and cooperation are all positive attributes of team sports. Other professional golfers, namely the Europeans -- who play soccer, rugby and other team sports throughout their youth -- carry their love of team sports with them into team competition at each of these bi-annual events. Tiger doesn't have this experience and knowledge to fall back on, and it shows up in his record.

For Tiger to get a point or a half-point, the captain of the team shouldn't have to be ultra-careful that he pairs him with a certain type of player/person. The captain shouldn't have to worry that there won't be chemistry in four-ball. Tiger should know what it's all about to have a teammate. Sadly for him, he can't go back in time and insert the positive elements of team sports into his makeup. He may never be able to get over it. He's a one-man wrecking crew when it's him against the field, but when he's on Team USA, he's fair to middling at best.

Chalk it up to Earl's relentless pursuit of living vicariously through his son. Tiger's definitely not "normal" now, but was he ever?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Gorman Brothers Invitational - 6th Annual

It looks like we're horning in on a date for the 2007 edition of the Gorman Brothers Invitational in Ocean City, NJ. The proposed dates are April 27-29, 2007. An invitation will be going out to all prospective participants in January or February. Stay tuned to this blog for further details in the coming months.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Course Review: Maryland National Golf Club

One of my friends recently commented that every state seems to have a "National" course these days. It must be the new trend. Either way, Maryland National does a nice job living up to the grandiose name. It's a very solid layout -- for 17 holes. But I'll get to that in a minute.

I usually get a lukewarm feeling after playing Arthur Hills designs. Though I've only played five of his courses, I like Maryland National the best. It just edges out Blue Mash, which is one of our "go to" courses in the DC area.

Maryland National plays through rolling terrain that must have been farmland in the not-to-distant past. It's quite hilly, but it doesn't seem that way because Old Art used the land very well by creating a downhill par 5 (#2) , several downhill par 3s, and some downhill approaches to greens. The holes that play back up hills don't ascend abruptly; they move up slowly and gain most of their elevation around the greens. It's a pretty nifty trick.

The course is conditioned very well. It was pretty soggy out there, but the greens were firm and rolled very fast. My hands were made of lead on Saturday, so my short game suffered the speeds.

As I said earlier, all of the holes are well-designed except for one, the 16th. It's a par 4 that plays about 284 from the gold tees (second from the back). I usually love short par 4s because of the options one has off the tee. On the 16th, Art overreached.

We all had to hit 8-irons off the tee to put it about 130 from the green in the middle of the fairway. The other options we had were to try to fade either a long iron, a fairway wood or a finessed driver to a narrow strip of fairway that ran along the right side of the hole up to the green. This wouldn't have been so bad if the fairway didn't run along a hill and there weren't trees all over the joint. To the left of this fairway - the middle of the hole - is pure gunge and a creek. The gunge/creek goes all the way to the front of the green, leaving driver just about out of the question. One would have to hit a PERFECT drive with a 275 yard carry to hit the super narrow green. This is hands-down one of the goofiest holes I've ever played. No one should ever be forced to hit 8-iron on a par 4.

Other than that nightmare, Maryland National is worth the half day and 95 bones if you're in the Frederick, MD area. I give it 6 out of 10.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Inside Scoop on Vijay and JD

Last September, my wife and I spent a few days at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, which is an over-the-top resort about 90 minutes southeast of Pittsburgh. It's also where the pros are playing the 84 Lumber Classic this weekend.

There are three separate hotels on the grounds. The newest and fanciest one is called Falling Rock, and it was designed by one of Frank Lloyd Wright's proteges. We had dinner over there one night, and the waiter was eager to give us the skinny on the Tour players who frequent the tournament.

I asked him about John Daly, who is sponsored by 84 Lumber and a good pal of the company's founder, Joe Hardy. Usually you'd expect waiters to be discreet, but not this guy. He told us a story about how JD would get hammered and drive around the grounds in a golf cart with a bottle of booze in one hand and the steering wheel in the other. He took his antics a little too far one night when he drove the cart right through the lobby of the hotel and into the restaurant. He was out of booze and was hoping the bar could hook him up, which they did. Not surprisingly, they took away his cart.

The waiter said that most of the pros are pretty cool, but most of them don't say too much to staff. The one guy who stood out as a "true gentleman" was Vijay Singh. This guy couldn't say enough nice things about him. He said Vij is super polite, always talks to the staff like they're real people, etc. It was good to hear that about Singh, as that's not always the way he's portrayed in the media.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Worst Major Winners

Jack Hession emailed me today about who I think are the worst Major winners. Everyone always rips on Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel, but I think it's too early in their careers to sick the dogs on them.

There are plenty of guys who only won once that can be called the "worst". Paul Lawrie comes to mind. As do Larry Mize and Scott Simpson. People can say Steve Jones was a fluke, but his career has been injury-riddled, so it's hard to say he was or would have been the worst. Wayne Grady and Rich Beem are often mentioned in this conversation, but if Beemer wins two or three more tournaments, then his career will end up being pretty decent. Tommy Aaron and Bob Goalby certainly should be candidates for this list.

I think it's more interesting to think about the players who have won two majors and are still thought of as "flukey" winners. The title belongs to one of two players: Andy North (only one non-Major victory), or John Daly (three non-Major victories). It's sort of unbelievable that they were able to bottle lightning twice.

Another compelling question that I rarely hear posed on this subject is, "Who is the BEST player to have only won one Major?"


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

It's Been a Few Weeks, But I Get to Play Golf on Saturday!

I can't believe the last time I played golf was August 25th. That's about three weeks ago. Thank goodness I'm playing on Saturday at Maryland National with Jack Hession and two players to be named later. I've been getting the shakes...

Anyone want to help fill out our foursome?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Jim Furyk: Meet the World #2

Jim Furyk has quietly put together an unbelievable year. How many of you would have guessed that his victory yesterday would vault him to #2 in the World Rankings?

Early in the season, it looked as though Phil and Tiger would be the only ones to hold onto the top two spots (and at one time Tiger's grip on #1 looked in danger of being taken away by Mickelson). Yet, the unlikely Furyk has risen to the occasion and put himself in position to win virtually every tournament he enters.

Check out his finishes (most recent first) going all the way back to The Players Championship: 1st, 3rd, 4th, 29th, 2nd, 4th, T-4th, T-2nd, T-18th, T-17th, MC, 1st, 2nd, T-22, and 3rd.

He's on a serious tear. He also only plays in the top-tier events. A couple of good bounces here or there (and a few more drained putts at the U.S. Open), and he'd have been #2 earlier. It's not likely that he'll catch Tiger anytime soon (or ever), but it does look like he backdoored his way into the Big Five -- a membership that no one other than he and Tiger seem to want very much.