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Monday, June 14, 2010

U.S. Open Picks and Lee Westwood

Way back when, I called the resurgence of Lee Westwood. It's one of the few prognostications I've gotten correct over the life of this blog. Westwood is playing as well as anyone right now, and with a few more wins, it could be said that he's even playing better than Phil Mickelson.

Since the tournament following Bethpage in 2009, Lee Westwood has played in 26 tournaments. Out of those 26, he's top-tenned it 20 times with only one MC. Those are Tigeresque (pre-Thanksgiving) statistics. Look for Westwood to be in the mix at Pebble Beach this week. He's certain to be one of the favorites, and he'll no doubt follow-through. His tee to green game, positive attitude, and confidence after yesterday's playoff victory in Memphis are a lethal combination.

Other than Westwood, my top picks for the Open are, in no particular order:
1) Phil Mickelson
2) Graeme McDowell
3) Tim Clark
4) Jim Furyk
5) Luke Donald

I also could see a bomber like Angel Cabrera or Dustin Johnson hanging in there. People like to talk about Pebble's lack of length and small greens, but those who can rip it will have as good a chance as the tiddlers.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Thoughts on the Tiger Debacle

Since Tiger Woods is stonewalling the press, few concrete details are coming to light about his Thanksgiving night game of Cadillac pinball.

However, here at Networked Golfer, I can give you one thing you've never heard before: Tiger's marital issues were predicted by my friend Jack months ago. Jack first told me this summer that there was trouble in the Woods household. He said it was the only way to explain his erratic behavior on the golf course.

I laughed it off the first couple of times Jack mentioned it (I distinctly remember him bringing it up in early November during the HSBC in China), but on November 17th Jack said it again in response to an email I sent to him and a few others.

The subject of the email was "Tonty on the Rampage," and it had a link to the clip of Tiger throwing his club in Australia (for those of you who don't know what a Tonty is, look up Tiger's middle name). Jack's simple yet prescient response was, "I think he has problems at home."

After that assured reply, we sent a few emails back and forth about what a tight prenup he must have, etc. One of my other friends chimed in with, "What makes (Jack) think there are problems at home? He sure does a good job covering up the rumors if that's the case." Doesn't that statement seem so naive now?

Thanksgiving happened, and Jack looks like The Great Karnak. Remember -- Jack knew nothing about the alleged mistresses that are now coming out of the woodwork. He made an assessment based on his observation of Tiger's increasingly boorish behavior and stuck with the assessment. I give Jack a lot of credit for seeing through all of the muck surrounding the Tiger love fest and calling it like he saw it.

I will now make a prediction about Tiger's future, and it's only partially connected to his "problems at home." He will lose his grip on #1 in the world in the next 18 months, and it's going to be a three-way fight for it. The leading contender to take his crown is Rory McIlroy. Second is Phil Mickelson, and third is Padraig Harrington.

These guys must smell blood in the water. Phil has rarely been able to kick Tiger while he's down, but if he can keep putting the way he did during the fall, expect him to go on the attack. We all know that Harrington has the guts to shine when Tiger's on the mend, and if you haven't noticed, his swing changes are really paying dividends. They will continue to pay off in 2010.

But the guy who really has things rolling is young McIlroy. He's a complete player who doesn't appear to ruffle under the spotlight. 2009 was like an internship to see whether he could be a big-time player. I would submit that he succeeded; he nearly won the European Tour Order of Merit, and he cracked the top 10 in the world rankings. He also made the cut in all of the majors, contending in two of them.

McIlroy is not a phony "young gun." He's the real deal. And, he's probably hearing footsteps. The footsteps of Rickie Fowler. I'm not going to make any predictions about Fowler just yet, but he will play a large role in Tiger's future, whether Tiger sorts out his domestic issues or not. Count on it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Look at the Top 10 at the Masters Midpoint

Through 36 holes, Augusta National has yielded some very good scores. Often, those at or near the top at the midpoint of the tournament are not the same names who are still there on Sunday evening. However, this leaderboard is very strong, so I would imagine that at least a few of the top ten will have staying power.

Here they are with number of PGA Tour and European Tour victories and major championships (unless otherwise noted):

Name / Victories / Majors
Chad Campbell 4 / 0
Kenny Perry 13 / 0
Angel Cabrera 5 / 1
Todd Hamilton 2 / 1
Tim Clark 3 / 0
Anthony Kim 2 / 0
Rory Sabbatini 4 / 0
Shingo Katayama 26 (Japan) / 0
Jim Furyk 13 / 1
Sergio Garcia 15 / 0

Though there are only three majors between these players, all of them save Anthony Kim (who is very young and had only played in five majors before this one), have multiple high finishes in majors. Famously, Sergio has been second in three majors.

Of the players within two shots of Sergio are major champions such as Vijay Singh (3), Geoff Ogilvy (1), Phil Mickelson (3), Tiger Woods (14), Padraig Harrington (3), and Sandy Lyle (2). Though I don't expect Lyle to slip on the green jacket, all of these top golfers are easily within striking distance of the lead.

Even though there are many multiple winners in the history of the Masters, it has become more and more difficult to predict the winner lately. Why? Many experts point to the changes made to the course, particularly the added length. I think that only has a minimal impact on the relative unpredictability of the winners. I would suggest that the worldwide parity in golf (excluding Tiger Woods' dominance) is greater than ever before, so many more players are capable of winning big tournaments.

Though I've rarely made a good golf prediction, if I had to wager money on two players tonight who currently reside in the top ten, I would bet on Tim Clark and Anthony Kim. Campbell and Perry haven't sold me yet, but I liked how they both birdied 18 today. No matter who wins, I just hope it's someone who makes on ton of birdies down the stretch, rather than backing into it while the rest of the leaders blow up around him.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Oliver Ross Fisher Wilson

I've been meaning to write about this topic for months, and since Ross Fisher is leading the Masters Tournament (after only 14 holes), I thought this would be the opportune moment.

I want to set the record straight about three British golfers that cause many people massive confusion. Unless you pay attention to the European Tour like I do, I can understand why people can't sort out these players.

They are:
1) Ross Fisher
2) Oliver Wilson
3) Oliver Fisher

Ross Fisher is the most accomplished player of the three. He's 28 years old, hailing from England. He's won twice on the European Tour and has had several high finishes in big tournaments, including a 4th at the recent WGC Match Play. He's currently ranked 33rd in the world. Somehow he was left off of the 2008 Ryder Cup team. He's a big guy who hits it a ton.

Oliver Wilson is the next best of the three. Also 28 and from England, Wilson has a storied amateur career and recently played very well in the Ryder Cup, going 1-1-0 in a losing effort. Though he has not broken through with his maiden victory, he's come heartbreakingly close on many occasions. I haven't counted, but I think he's been second in close to ten tournaments. It's a matter of time before the 39th ranked player in the world wins something.

Oliver Fisher is the youngest by far (he's only 20), and he may have the brightest future. He played on the 2005 Walker Cup at the age of 16 and has had some solid finishes in Europe, including a 2nd in Spain last year. He's ranked 266th in the world, but being that he's from England and has a name that's a combination of Ross Fisher and Oliver Wilson, he's going to need to play some special golf for casual fans to figure out who he is.

All three of these golfers are currently playing in the shadows of Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, and Justin Rose. However, if you can keep them straight, following their careers can prove to be worthwhile.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Beechtree Is Closing - See Footage Here

Beechtree Golf Club in Aberdeen, MD is closing for good on December 7th. It is one of Tom Doak's early designs, and its conversion into a housing development is going to be a huge loss for the Mid-Atlantic public golfing scene.

I played it last week for the third and final time. We were able to sneak in 27 bittersweet holes before it got too dark to continue. I'm going to post some pictures of the course later, but for now, the following video will have to suffice. It contains footage our our day (as well as a few clips from another course), so for those of you who have never played Beechtree, this is a pretty good look at some of the holes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

One More Video of Me Golfing

This was my third crack at using my new software to edit video. I think it has some nice touches, and it's short enough that you won't be bored.

Anyone who is a student of the game will see that my swing has plenty of "issues." I've been working on not getting stuck at the top, and my game has improved since the time this footage was shot. Enjoy, and be thankful for the swing you possess. Or, be thankful that I haven't caught you on tape!