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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Woods' Knee and Nicklaus' Record

The gist of the articles I've read about Tiger Woods' knee surgery earlier this week is, "Don't worry about it! Tiger will be good as new in no time. It might even make him more unbeatable!" This story is a prime example of how golf writers are not taking the surgery very seriously.

I'm not a doctor, and thankfully I've never had knee surgery. And, I know a scope isn't a complicated procedure anymore. However, this is the third time that Tiger has had surgery to his left knee. Logic tells me that this is not the straightest line to beating Jack Nicklaus' major championship record.

People think that it's a given that Tiger will blow past Fat Jack's record of 18 majors, maybe even in the next two or three years. I think he will break the record eventually, but keep his knee in mind before proclaiming he'll do it very soon. The left knee is very important to the golf swing. If it doesn't repair perfectly, or if he experiences more trouble down the road (this seems likely to a layman like me), he could alter his swing enough to lose some or all of his edge over the competition.

Tiger's too smart to return to the Tour too early or put too much strain on a bum knee, but with the way he swings, a huge injury could be just around the corner. I think the golfing world (and Tiger fans especially) should be concerned about the knee troubles. It's the key to Woods' quest to break the biggest golf record of them all, and Team Woods is going downplay it all they can with the hope that we'll all buy their story. I'm not buying it yet.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sal Johnson Breaks Down Immelman's Victory

For all of you golf stat junkies, this is manna from heaven. Enjoy!

PS - The predictions I made after round two were only so-so. I didn't pick Trevor as the winner, but I was spot-on for some of the other players.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Mid-Masters Crystal Ball

It's the halfway point of the Masters, and I thought it would be appropriate to make some predictions about how those at the top of the leaderboard, as well as other key players, will fare during the weekend. As we all know, Saturday and Sunday in major championships is very different from Thursday and Friday. Here's how I see it shaking out for certain players:
Trevor Immelman: He will not win, but he will not fold. He will have his struggles, especially on Saturday, but he'll end the tournament in the top six with a final score of -7.
Brandt Snedecker: He has a good shot of winning this thing. I like his attitude, and he can make birdies and eagles at an amazing rate.
Ian Poulter: I don't see it happening for Ian, although he appears to be confident. I would like to see him do well, but this isn't his year. It would be more in character for him to win the tartan jacket next week at Hilton Head. Plain green is a little dull for him.
Steve Flesch: I like this guy, and having another left-hander win at Augusta would be quite a story, but he's going to struggle with the bright lights of the Masters over the next two days. I think he'll end up at -2 or -3.
Phil Mickelson: The only way he won't win this tournament is if: a) he blows it himself, which I don't think is going to happen, b) someone behind him like Tiger, Vijay or Goosen goes ballistic, or 3) one of the other leaders hangs in and defies the odds by posting two rounds in the 68 to 70 range.
Paul Casey: Like Phil and Weir, he's one of my picks in my fantasy golf league, so I hope he can pull it off. He's done well at the Masters in the past, but he still has to prove to me that he can go low on the weekend of a major. Being from the U.K, if the weather is crummy, odds are that he won't collapse. Look for him to remain in the top five or six.
Stephen Ames: See Paul Casey.
Mike Weir: I would like to see him do well, but it's going to be tough for him if it rains and gets windy.
Arron Oberholser: He would be a great story (because of his comeback from weird injuries), and I think he has the guts to hang in there, but being five shots off the pace will make it difficult for him. He has to go low both days. I'll go as far as saying he'll remain in the top ten.
Stewart Cink: I don't trust him on the weekends, but maybe I'll be wrong. I think he's pretty vanilla, but he would be a worthy champion. However, it's not going to happen.
Retief Goosen: If anyone is going to come from way behind on the weekend, it's either going to be the Goose, Singh, or Tiger. Watch out for this guy.
Tiger Woods: Had he not converted that tricky par putt on 11 or gotten himself out of a jam on 18 yesterday, I would say he was out of it. Since he got it to -1, he's still in it. I think he'll be close to a 65 today, but it'll end up being a 69 and keep him 4-5 shots off the pace going into Sunday. If the wind kicks up on Sunday, he'll likely do poorly and finish around a T-7.
Vijay Singh: I have a feeling that he's going to go low on Saturday but come up short in the end. Like Tiger, he has too many good golfers in front of him.
Others: Geoff Ogilvy, Padraig Harrington, Justin Rose, and J.B. Holmes will all make strong showings, but they will all fall short.
Winner: Phil Mickelson. If it's not Phil, I think it'll be Snedeker, Ames, Casey, or Goosen.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Intriguing Masters Groupings

The groupings for the Masters were made available today. How they are picked is anyone's guess, but I've always thought the tournament committee must have fun setting the lineups for Thursday and Friday. Here are the groupings that I find most intriguing and why:

Player - Jimenez - Trahan: This is just plain odd. I don't see what any of these guys have in common. I figured they would have put Player with some higher-profile golfers since he'll be playing in his record 51st Masters.

Crenshaw - Thompson - O'Hern: I think this is a great group for the amateur, Thompson. Both of his partners and laid-back, and Crenshaw has a nice touch with people. Playing with Gentle Ben should benefit the young man from Alabama.

Johnson - Donald - Ogilvy: The green jacket could be slipped on anyone in this group. Their styles of play are similar (except Ogilvy is a little longer), and they should all feel comfortable playing together.

Woods - Cabrera - Appleby: Cabrera took down Woods at Oakmont last year, and Appleby played poorly at Augusta with Tiger on Sunday in 2007. I'm not sure what the dynamic will be, but it's going to be interesting to see how they play together.

Clark - Toms - Fasth: This is a sneaky-good group. Toms hasn't done a whole lot in a while, but I imagine there will be lots of birdies between the three of them. I have a feeling at least one player from this group will finish in the top six or seven.

B. Watson - Garcia - Calcavecchia: I never would have thought to put these three together, but it's one group I would follow around if I were at Augusta. You have a bomber, a should-have-been, and a grizzled vet. If Garcia can keep his head on straight, he has a chance to silence his critics. It's a longshot, but you heard it here first.

Scott - Casey - Goosen: This is another group with a lot of firepower. I also like the fact that they're from all over the globe. If Scott can get the putter working, all three of these guys should land in the top ten come Sunday afternoon.

Mickelson - Romero - Choi: This might be my favorite grouping. Mickelson and Romero are both swashbucklers. It will take all the discipline he can muster for Phil to stick to his game plan while paired with Romero. Let's hope he doesn't pull a monkey-see-monkey-do. Finally, Choi is steady as she goes, so he'll stick out like a sore thumb in this threesome.

Which groupings do you like the best? Which ones are the goofiest?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Recommended Golf Books

I recently posted links to golf books that I would recommend all fans of golf and golf course architecture read. It is by no means a comprehensive list, and it will continue to be revised and expanded, but I thought you, the Networked Golfer faithful, would want to be made aware of it. I listed a few books that you have probably never heard of or thought to read. Worst case scenario is that you impress your guests when they scan your shelves.

It's on the sidebar to the right in the section titled, "Recommended Reading."

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Masters Preview

Everywhere you look, people are previewing the Masters. So, I won't get into too many of the regular issues about the tournament, the players, or the course. I'll keep it short and sweet with what I wish would happen at the Masters and what will happen.

What I Wish Would Happen at the 2008 Masters
1) The field would be expanded by approximately 10 players - The current field consists of 94 players, and this is how they qualified. I would like to see about 10 more players given the opportunity to play. Who would I include?
a) The first five players on the current year PGA Tour money list who are not already qualified. This gives more opportunities for younger players or those whose games are hot to make it in.
b) Winners of the US Open and Open Championship from six years ago through ten years ago. I think the five year exemption into the Masters for both of those tournaments is a little light.
c) Two players picked by a committee of past Masters champions (not the Masters committee) who have not otherwise qualified but are so associated with past tournaments that not having them there weakens the allure of the tournament. Some names that come to mind are Greg Norman, Nick Price, Johnny Miller (not that he'd play), Davis Love 3rd, Tom Kite, Chris DiMarco, and Lee Trevino.

2) The Masters committee would eliminate the rough entirely. I don't know how much of a difference this would make with the changes in equipment, but it would be in tune with Bobby Jones' design philosphy.
3) Someone will make a back-nine charge to win on Sunday. Maybe it has happened recently, but it doesn't seem like it has.
4) Someone wins with one of these surnames: Couples, Els, O'Hair, Stricker, Rose, Weekley, or Ogilvy.

What Will Happen at the 2008 Masters
1) Tiger Woods will post a top five, but he'll come up short because his putter will go cold.
2) The winner will either be a repeat champion or a big surprise (most likely a foreigner).
3) People will continue to complain (and rightly so) about the abundance of trees down the right side of the 11th fairway.
4) People will complain (and wrongly so) about why old guys like Gary Player, Ray Floyd, Sandy Lyle, etc. should stay home like Nick Faldo because they have no chance of winning.
5) The winning score will be -8 or better. The weather forecast looks pretty good, so there will be plenty of fireworks, but not too many to make the Masters committee go back to planting more trees.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A Fifth of Scotch - The Final Chapter on the Scotland Trip

It's been more than six months since I posted the fourth chapter on our trip to Scotland -- too long. However, the details are still fresh in my mind, so here's how it wrapped up.

After the Open and our final failed attempt to play the Old Course, we went to dinner at a really good brick-oven pizza/Italian food joint in St. Andrews. One would think that St. Andrews would be all about traditional British food, but there were more than a handful of solid restaurants in town. Dinner was very good, but the service was sub-standard. Our meals took forever. However, the wine and beer went down smoothly, and it set the stage for a fun night on the town.
We headed over to a bar called something like "The Lizard". It wasn't hopping at first, but it got packed pretty quickly. The bottom line is that we ended up hanging out most of the night with some Brits who went to school in St. Andrews and a representative from the Nigeria Golf Federation named Abel Edinomo. No joke. Evidently, Nigeria has over 40 golf courses. Our main man from the NGF wanted to have Tubby and me fly over to play. Even though he said security wouldn't be an issue, I'm going to pass until the political climate changes. Still, I have his card, so I'm toying with the idea of interviewing him for Networked Golfer.
We had a super-early tee time on Saturday morning at The Devlin Course over at the Fairmont. Jimmy, Tubs and I were in a fog from the previous night, and it showed in the way we played. The Devlin is a very tough course, and the winds were up. For most of the round, it was a two or three club wind. We all adjusted pretty well -- by the middle of the back nine. Part of the problem was that the course, though on the sea, is more of an American-style course than the others we'd been playing. The major difference isn't the look of the course (it was links-style), but that it has more forced carries and targets than Lundin Golf Club and Turnberry. And, since it hasn't had a zillion years to grow in, the ball didn't roll very well in the fairways. We'd been playing "hard and fast" for almost a week, and our final round was soft and slow.
The greens were very hard and very fast. This made it even more difficult. On a perfect day, with the right mindset, the Devlin can be had. It just wasn't going to be had by any of us.
After the round, Tubby and I chatted about the course with a couple of Scots who were coming up to #18. Jimmy had walked ahead to the clubhouse. When we reunited with him five minutes later, he pointed out that Loren Roberts' bag was next to the pro shop on a trolley. Roberts had just missed the cut at Carnoustie, but he was sticking around to vacation and to prepare for the British Senior Open that kicked off on the upcoming Thursday.
We went into the clubhouse, and Loren was sitting by himself preparing to dig into a club sandwich. Throwing tact out the window, we decided to chat him up. He stuck out his hand and smiled and proceeded to talk to us for a couple of minutes. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy who was very happy to hear about our exploits on the Devlin. We had seen him play two holes the day before and were actually nearby when he chipped in on #12 (I think). We told him that the Devlin was tough, but that we were sure he could handle it better than we did. The short conversation with him in an empty dining room was one of the highlights of the trip, and now all three of us are much bigger fans of The Boss of the Moss because of his great attitude and his willingness to ask a bunch of nobody Americans about the course and our stay in Scotland. Finally, our time had come to leave St. Andrews. I'm itching to go back, not just to play some of the courses we didn't play (including Elie, Kingsbarns, Crail, and the majority of the St. Andrews Links Trust courses), but also to spend some more time in the charming town. Even if you don't play golf, it's a wonderful destination.
Our flight was leaving from Glasgow the next day, so that night we settled into the Millennium Hotel in a happening part of town. We had a really fun night out at the bars and got a taste of how the locals party at a club called Frankenstein. There were a few incidents that occurred that aren't totally appropriate for this blog, but nothing too outlandish.

The next day, we got to the airport in plenty of time and made the uneventful flight back to Philly. I caught the playoff of the Open on XM Radio in the parking lot of PHL, and it felt strange that only two days earlier we had been at Carnoustie and were now listening to the end of a great tournament from a station wagon thousands of miles away. I guess that's just the way we Gormans roll.