Friday, April 27, 2007

Column of the Week - Sawgrass can stay on the Island

Every season following our first major, I like to open the PGA Tour schedule and see what is on our plate before our national championship.

Normally, it reads like a Mitch Albom novel – you won’t be mad you paid attention but there is probably more interesting things to occupy your time (namely the NBA playoffs, the Kentucky Derby, and probably anything on TNT after 11 PM). After the Master’s last year, the only victors worth noting were Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk. Some of the other winners (yawn, because this will induce the eye rub)….Brett Wetterich, Stephen Ames, Tim Herron, Carl Pettersson and Jeff Maggert.

What is different about this year that makes the transition between Augusta’s undulations and the U.S. Open’s rough bearable - the ingenious idea to include the PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass. I might be in the minority on this, but I love BIG tournaments played at the same boring golf course. I love when the British Open is in St. Andrews, I love seeing the U.S. Open at Pebble and I’m a complete sucker for the Masters. I rate the PLAYERS on the same scale – traditional, interesting and never boring to watch (but remember, I’m the same guy that believes the PGA Championship should go back to match-play).

Moving the PLAYERS to the middle of May does a ton of good things. First, it alleviates the boredom between the two majors. This is important because fans like seeing the best players in the world actually playing for more than a purse (i.e., guys showing up for any of the WGC events). Golfers like Tiger Woods and Ernie Els legitimately want to win at Sawgrass because it pins them the PLAYERS Champion (what sounds better). Second, the move allows some of the best players in the world some WD-40 time. That is, they can work out the kinks in tournaments leading up to the event, unlike in the past when it used to be THE first tournament everyone played. I like the move because you’ll see better golf by the best golfers, unlike in the past couple of years when big named foreign players came in looking more like they were trying to swat flies than swing irons.

The main reason for this lies with the tanking idea of the Fedex Cup, which is getting as much exposure at this point as the Tiger Tour (I even read an article in a big golf publication last week that referred to a players standing in Money List terms instead of Fedex Cup points…made me laugh).

The bottom line – I thank you PGA Tour for giving us a pallet cleanser in between the two majors. I loved the Masters side salad and I’m excited for the medium-well beef we should be expecting at Oakmont come June.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Steve Dahlby is having a GOOD week

It sure is nice when you can personalize a story that is somewhat big in the sports world my life.

Steve Dahlby, head golf pro at Troon North in Scottsdale, the same place that cuts my checks, couldn’t be happier if he was getting lap-dances from a bombshell blond that sweated 50 dollar bills.

Last week Dahlby’s student Martin Laird captured the Nationwide Tournament in Athens, Georgia while his on and off relationship with Sean O’Hair was back in between the sheets.

Now, at the Byron Nelson, O’Hair is leading the tournament and looking all of 17-years-old while doing it.

I can’t tell you much about golf instruction except that to be a good teacher, you must have the patience of a celibate Monk at a Vivid convention. That is, working with 99 percent of golfers that only see the mid-80’s when watching “Golden Girls” isn’t what I consider an exciting job.

It is, however, exciting when your touring pros have a chance to notch back to back wins.

Congrats Mr. Dahlby, I hope the good fortunes continue to proliferate.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Nick Watney is no Chris Dimarco

In the past two weeks we've had a Tin Cup-esque golfer take down one of the world's best on a Monday finish to make everyone still chewing Copenhagen in the world extremely happy. Boo Weekley chipped in twice for par to totally discredit my website (in case you didn't know, the name of this blog is based on the quote from Lee Trevino that, "two things aren't long for the world, dogs who chase cars and pros that chip for pars").

Now, this week my boy Nick Watney smoked the field with normal golf (no par chip ins). The reason I refer to Watney as "my boy" is because of my interesting FBR Open experience this year. Standing on the 17th tee, a short par-4 that almost all the touring pros try to drive, my buddies and I (absolutely and completely sober) were trying to bet the big boys that they couldn't hit it on the green. Most of the guys just acted like they couldn't hear us, with some of the guys like David Toms and Paul Azinger offering us a smile or chuckle. Chris Dimarco (a Florida Gator if it makes you hate him even more) flipped out, screaming "Do YOU guys wanna try??!!" which I would have loved to do if his ugly Ping driver was left-handed. Anyway, the best sport of the entire afternoon was Watney, who chatted and joked with us, even saying he'd take the bet before he snapped it in the water left of the green. Anyway, we were big fans of the kid and it's good to see karma work in reverse order. (Moral of the story, Dimarco sucks, Watney is awesome).

So, a couple of weeks, a couple of randoms notching their first victories. This is the time of the year when people you've never heard of will be racking up Fedex Points (sorry, they paid me to reference the Fedex Cup).

Some running storylines :

-Will we see Tiger before the U.S. Open?

-Is anybody that used to be good going to win a tournament that hasn't been mentioned in the above bullet point? I feel like this is the golf version of "Space Jams," with aliens taking the powers of Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Vijah Singh and Retief Goosen. Now that I think about it, this would be an extremely interesting movie, especially if we could see Vijah without his shirt on.

-What should we expect from Zach Johnson the rest of the year? I'm pretty sure his top 10 the week after the Masters proves my past two columns.

-WHO WILL WIN THE FEDEX CUP?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Column of the Week : Praising Zach

Opening my mailbox on Wednesday, I was graced with the cover of Sports Illustrated that showed one of my least favorite parts of my professional area – overlooking the 14-ounce steak for the side salad.

Sure, Tiger Woods failing to close out a major is a huge story, but isn’t the whole point of the tournament to find a winner? I mean, aren’t individual sports like golf and tennis manifested on the “which person is going to pull it out” idea? I couldn’t help but stare at the cover of El Tigre snapping his 4-iron in one of the all-time “what the hell is he doing, OH MY GOD HE’S GOING TO DO THIS IS HE CRAZY WHY ISN’T STEVE WILLIAMS TACKLING HIM, oh, he pulled it off” shots in the history of the new age. I mean, that is something I don’t even think Phil Mickelson would have done. Nevertheless, what is the point in celebrating individual’s failures instead of boasting a kid from Iowa that played his ass off for four days in some of the worst conditions the Masters has ever seen? I just don’t understand it.

My take on the Masters, after having a few days to let the food settle, was that the big guns (Stuart Appleby, Woods, Mickelson) couldn’t play around the course like Zach Johnson did. I mean, 11-under on the par 5’s and never going at a single one in two? That means that you have the utmost confidence in your wedge play, your eight to ten foot putting abilities and most importantly, your brain. Seriously, who can stand on a par-5 213 yards from the green and think, “Well, should I lay up with an 7-iron or 8-iron?”

I also think that Johnson’s tee shot on 16 needs to be held just as high at Tiger’s second on 13. They both were solid, both played to the precise position on the green to catch the slope and both were converted exactly at the right time. Amen Corner receives most of the acclaim at Augusta National (SI even had a Patron ad with the question, 11, 12, or 13?), but 16 have been THE HOLE over the past few years. Thinking back, the best shots over the past four years at the Masters are, in no particular order, these: Tiger’s “In your life, have you ever seen anything like this” chip-in to beat Chris Dimarco on 16, Mickelson’s near-hole out on 14 in 2004 from the fairway, Tiger’s fist pump birdie in the playoff in ’05, Mickelson’s birdie on 16 in ’04, Johnson’s shot and birdie putt on 16, the hole in one’s on 16 in ’04 by Kirk Triplett and Padraig Harrington within half an hour or each other, and Mickelson’s putt to clinch his first Masters during the same year. Looking at those shots, a ton have come on the water-guarded par-3. With 12 being one of the most famous par-3’s in all the world, 16 can become its nicer, hotter sister. You know, the one that walks in a la “The Holiday” and surprises just about everybody.

Anyway, I was glad to be watching ESPN News today and seeing Johnson’s name under the Notables during the Verizon Heritage. Make no mistake about it – Johnson will not be the Shaun Micheel or Ben Curtis of 2007. The over/under on PGA Tour victories for him in the next five years has to be 4. I’m taking the over.

On an unrelated note, I would like to say that my prediction of the mini-tour industry having an extremely profitable 2007 is already coming true. Just this week I have had two of my PP’s (past professionals) recommit to the long road to the PGA Tour. I can promise you that in the next month you’ll have someone in your life that decides to try pro golf again. Count on it.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Masters Recap

Where to start? My favorite weekend of the year is done, I'm sitting at home ordering italian in and still watching the highlights on Golf Channel. The best way to do this, in fashion, is to pick the winners and losers of the weekend.


Augusta National - The course didn't get water and finally kicked the asses of all the best golfers in the world. The highest winning score in 51 years, and that was after a heroic final round by my next winner,...

Zach Johnson - Since 2000, probably the third biggest surprise winner in a major behind Todd Hamilton and Ben Curtis. He played hard in the final round and didn't let the back nine pressure get to him. If this isn't a feel good story for golf, nothing really will be.

Jesus I'm pretty sure I heard Johnson thank him somewhere around the 20 times mark. Also, it's the anniversary of when he beat the heck out of death, so that has to give him reason to celebrate.

Any kid playing mini-tour golf - Johnson is exactly the reason that men still grind it out on the Weebox Tour, hoping that they can figure it out and keep moving up in the wonderful world of golf.

Number 12 - I know I already mentioned the golf course itself, but this hole needs solo acclaim. No par three in the WORLD gives people more trouble than this one. Tiger, Appleby, Couples, name it, they struggled.


Long hitters - Johnson averaged 265 yards off the tee, 57th in the field. Umm, isn't long Augusta supposed to eliminate the short hitters?

Tiger Woods - I know, i know, he finished second, and I would never knock anybody (even Tiger) for finishing second in a major. The problem is, the way he finished second. He never did anything special all week (except the eagle on 13 which was about a lucky a break as he could have got off that hill), and the miss birdie on 16 was about as un-Tiger as Mickelson. Also, what was up with him bitching at Steve Williams on 17 after he came up like 30 yards short? Umm, don't try to hit sand wedge from 135 maybe? Just a suggestion...

Par 5's - The most exciting part of Augusta was pretty blah until Sunday. Plus, Johnson never went at a single one in two and still made 11 birdies throughout. Got beef?

Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Chris Dimarco - Did you guys go to church on Easter Sunday? Saturday picnic? How was the stress-free weekend?

Tight clothing-I think that tight clothes should be strictly for women (Somebody please send that sentence to Justin Rose).

The Butler Cabin Jacket Celebration - Is this not the most awkward exchange in sports? Jim Nantz always makes everything creepy, Phil Mickelson with his shit-eating grin (when you know all he's thinking about is, I hope my pilot has already burned the engines), Johnson thanking Jesus and then the awkward 30 seconds after he has already been fitted with the jacket and everyone is standing around looking to hug somebody. Maybe they should just do this outside like they used to?

Ok, that's about it. I'll have more about the Masters this week as we get ready for the lull-pre-U.S. Open. Everyone get ready for that Azalea hangover.

(Rumble, rumble, rumble, rumble)

Do you hear that? Nope, it wasn't the splash on 15 or the roar of a par save on that same hole. It isn't that "this was supposed to happen six holes ago" white noise that everyone is used to. It isn't the ending of a 7-iron landing twelve feet on the 16th hole.

It's that clapping, that head bowing, that knowledge of what you just did. Look out world, I think we might have our first unknown Masters champion in a VERY long time.

Think they have his green jacket measurements?

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Somewhere in Augusta a band is playing "Hail to the Chief"

Like you didn't think the upcoming words were going to be typed - Tiger Woods is making a run.

He's 2-under through nine, and has yet to make a bogey in hurricane-like winds (ok, maybe a little extreme, but trees are blowing and golf balls are a-moving).

If the introduction to CBS's broadcast of the Masters is any indication, I'd say the over/under on Brett Wetterich and Tim Clark sightings if they keep making bogeys has to be around 1.5 (this just in, I'm pretty sure Wetterich just shanked his third shot on 3 and neither of the announcers called him out on it).

Get ready for a lot of grey Swoosh sweater watching the rest of they day if El Tigre continues to hit it solid.

One last note - why is Stuart Appleby wearing an Augusta sweater? He obviously has sponsors, so what you're saying is that Bridestone (or whatever Australian clothing company pays him) forgot to send him a sweater? Why doesn't Jim Nantz call him out on this? Did he have to buy that in the pro shop or do you think Augusta gave it to him?

With the wicked weather comes Saturday

Day two of the Masters was pretty much the same as day one with a five-o-clock shadow.

Everyone struggled, a couple of people had solid rounds (but nobody went low) and the top players continued to tread water, waiting for the other guys to come to them. The one thing that the hard and fast Augusta National has done is to not let anyone get to far away. Guys like Padraig Harrington and Paul Casey shot opening rounds of 77 and 79, but both shot the rounds of the week, 68, to pull themselves within five shots of leaders Tim Clark and Brett Wetterich.

It is supposed to be COLD today (it’s snowing in my hometown, Marshall, Texas), and the accompanying picture, courtesy of, tells all.

A couple of other points:

-Names like Ernie Els, Chris Dimarco, and Sergio Garcia miss the cut and the biggest story of the week is the struggles of Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. You’re telling me that two guys “struggling” to a tie for 15th and 27th place are more than some of the best in the world not even making it to the weekend?

-It is amazing to me that guys are struggling so much from 150 yards in. I understand the conditions are something I can’t even fathom, but as a scratch golfer one has to believe that they are letting it control their thoughts. Just hit a shot 140 yards and let it bounce a couple of times to the hole. No way it is this hard to play a course from 150 yards in.

-The player I’m most impressed with so far is Geoff Ogilvy. The kid triple-bogeyed his second hole of the tournament and instead of tanking, has played his remaining 34 holes 2-under.

-Of the players in the top ten right now (all 13 of them), I’d say that David Howell, Ogilvy, Vijah Singh and Harrington are the only ones to worry about. I think the other names are the ones that will get lost in the shuffle come Saturday afternoon.

-Stuff like number 12 playing the second hardest hole at Augusta National makes me almost demand an invitation to play there. I just DON’T GET that it can play that a short-iron par-3 can play that hard, even with the wind swirling. I’m befuddled.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Column of the Week - Old Augusta vs. New Augusta

I know that something had to be done after Tiger Woods shot 66-65 on Friday and Saturday during that crazy Masters in 1997. I know that as the balls and clubs advanced, Augusta National had to take that step into another generation of length and competitiveness. I know all of these things are true, but I still long for the days of the pre-pubescent Augusta. I loved the 6,900 yards rolling green grass, with no fairway interrupted by a nasty “second cut.” I loved the fact that I was watching the MASTERS, not guys sweating and grinding over a four-foot par putt during a tough U.S. Open. July brings the Shinnecocks and the Winged Foots, the Bethpage Blacks and the tough Pebble Beach. April brought the greenest of green, and we’re not even talking about the jacket.

In 1997 Skinny Tiger shot a four-over 40 on the front nine of his first professional Masters. As the story goes, he followed it up with a 6-under 30 and has still never looked back. Today, Tiger (as he seems to always do) struggled with the front nine during the first round, and followed that up with a quivering even-par 36 that looked more Brick Layer than Beethoven. I know that the U.S. Open is the supposed to be the “toughest test in golf,” but who was the last ho-hum champion in Georgia? Since 1990, Augusta National has produced victories by Ian Woosnam, Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer, Ben Crenshaw, Mark O’Meara, Vijah Singh and Mike Weir. In that time frame, Jose Maria Olazabal, Nick Faldo, Phil Mickelson and Woods have won it multiple times. Compare that to the United States Open champions of the same time frame. You find names on the list like Corey Pavin, Steve Jones and Michael Campbell.

The Masters is the true test of golf. It is what kids spend hours on the putting green thinking about. It is the only golf tournament that every golf fan knows everything about (quick, what holes are Amen Corner?),

Toughening Augusta National hasn’t done anything except eliminate a re-creation of an event like 1986 (the best Masters EVER) and raise the winning score a few shots here and there. People contest that the length has scaled the real winners down to just a baker’s dozen, but isn’t that what it’s always been? No B.C. Open golfer is going to have a chance without his absolute best and that still probably won’t allow you choice at the 2008 Champions Dinner. All the yards have done is take the birdies and eagles out of the equation and added par as a premium. Does nobody else agree that we have enough of that already? Augusta National and the Masters should be about two colors – red numbers leading to green jackets.

The difference in Tiger and Mickey

There might be many things different about Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Tiger went to Stanford, an academic and athletic haven, while Mickelson studied coeds at Arizona State. Tiger enjoys grilled chicken and broccoli while Mickelson is famous for his In-N-Out Burger fetish.

Maybe the biggest golf difference happened today in Augusta. Woods (who is bogeying 17 as i'm typing this) is near the top of the leaderboard while Mickelson shot himself in his Callaway spikes after the first day. Discounting Winged Foot (thinking about his dad, trying way too hard, not really 100 percent in the tournament), Tiger NEVER does that sort of thing.

76? Seriously?

Wednesday, April 4, 2007 there any golf tomorrow?

Just because it is 8:21 PM in Scottsdale and I'm watching "Entourage" doesn't mean I can't be completely excited about what comes tomorrow.

If I was five years old, this would be Christmas Eve and I'd be anticipating my new bike or train set. With that, here are ten things I'm completely giddy about come Masters Thursday.

10.) The first "hello friends" from Nantz (doesn't he know how golf-dorky this sounds?).
9.) The odds on the first person to putt off the green on 13 (i'm voting for Fuzzy even though I think Vijah at 12-5 wouldn't be bad at all).
8.) When Nantz reminds us that we'll have 56 minutes of coverage to the hour.
7.) Any "wind" conversation when the first person throws grass in the air on the 12th tee (don't the announcers know we UNDERSTAND that the wind swirls?).
6.) When Joe Ford introduces us (and his eight necks agree with what he's saying).
5.) "And here is David Howell from the SECOND CUT."
4.) 40-30=70 (if Tiger does this, I think the rest of the field should book flights for Friday).
3.) The Masters music.
2.) Mickelson's anti-Tim Hardaway smile throughout the day, no matter if he's eight under or 12-over.
1.) Butler Cabin, The Eisenhower Pine, the U.S. Amatuer and the Masters Champion, Arnie hitting the first shot, the Sarazan Bridge, Amen Corner, the 44 bunkers, the "random" name at the top of the leaderboard until late Saturday night, the Green Jacket, the Crystal Eagle Goblets, the par-5's, the Tiger chase and remembering stuff like 1986, 1997 and 1960.

I'm excited about everything. Hurry up Thursday, and leave presents under my Cox Communications remote.