Saturday, April 30, 2011

Maybe John Smoltz Should Try the Futures Tour

You've heard me ramble this week about John Smoltz getting a sponsors invite into the Nationwide Tour event, where he posted rounds of 84-87 to miss the cut by, and get ready for this, 27 shots. ALMOST!

It appears that the only thing Smoltz did wrong this week was play on the wrong professional golf tour!

Down in San Antonio, the Futures Tour (Nationwide for the LPGA) hosted the Symetra Classic, and the first round played so tough that 55 of the 142 players in the field failed to break 80! Even worse than that? If you had shot 80 in the first round, you would have only been nine shots back, since the lowest score of the day was a 71!

So, all John Smoltz needed was to be born with a vagina, and be struggling to make ends meet as a professional golfer hoping to one day make it on the LPGA and voila, he would have fit right now.

Obviously the tough scores were caused by some nasty, and peculiar winds that have swept through Texas lately. Players said it was gusty all day at the Dominion Country Club, and scores improved in the second round as the winds died down.

But still, one can dream, John. One can only dream!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Well, That Was a Fun Group

Brandt Snedeker and David Toms were paired together for the first two rounds of the Zurich Classic.

On Friday, they decided putting was boring, and went ahead and both holed out. Here is the video. I love Toms' reaction after he made it. Honestly, I've seen guys more excited when the waiter brought them the wrong food.

Alex Cejka Had to Withdraw from Zurich Open Because He Wedge'd His Toe

I used to get mad on the golf course. Maaaad. I'd slam clubs and yell and talk to myself and walk away from the golf cart. It's a mix of temper and competitiveness and unless you're Matt Kuchar, the frustration is going to come out.

But most of the time, you want to avoid any harm to you or others around you. My uncle always jokes that if you're going to throw your club, make sure you do it in a helicopter type of motion as not to snap your shaft down the fairway. It appears Alex Cejka might want to go to my uncle's school of thought, because he had to withdraw from the Zurich Classic in New Orleans after he broke his own toe with a wedge.

I'll let my buddy Jonathan Wall over at Yahoo! pick it up from here ...

In a moment of frustration during the round, Cejka tried to slam his wedge into the ground, but instead of hitting the turf, caught his toe instead. He not only broke the toe, but took a considerable chunk of leather out of his golf shoe. If only he could take that kind of divot from the fairway.

Yep, dude broke his own damn toe and messed up a pair of perfectly good golf shoes! Now that is a double-bogey *carhorn*!

The only story I've ever heard that rivals this is one of an older gentlemen at my golf course that had a serious temper. Once, after missing a putt on the 18th green in a big money match, the guy broke his putter over his golf cart only to have the broken shaft of the putter lodge into his leg. That pissed him off even more, so the guy went ahead and drove his cart down to the lake and tossed his entire bag of clubs in the middle of the pond. If that wasn't enough, the guy quickly walked into the clubhouse and sold his golf cart to the first guy that took him up on the $1,000 offer.

Golfers are insanely funny sometimes.

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A Fake Hustle Moment

Have you ever heard the term "fake hustle"? Basically it's when a player looks like he's trying really hard, but in essence, isn't. He's just going through the motions, but doing it in a way that looks like he's all over the court. Fake hustle isn't good, because you aren't really busting your butt, you're just making it look like you're busting your butt.

A sister of "fake hustle" is "fake tough." It's the guys that'll get in your face on a basketball court but will never really do anything. They're not tough, but they'll make you think they are. The thing is, if you look them in the eyes, you can see that nothing would ever happen. Like a snake, they're more scared of you then you are of them. Mobb Deep had something like this, when he once said, "there ain't no such things as halfway crooks."

Why am I telling you this on a golf blog? Because that's exactly what I feel when I read the above tweet by Tiger Woods on Friday. He probably was getting 100 questions a minute when he opened up his account to questions, but he went with this one. "I have 14 of them." I mean, come on dude. You are 176th on tour in driving accuracy, so you really think your driver is the equivalent of Tin Cup's 7-iron? You are 121st in putting average, so you're going to compliment Mr. Three Wiggle?

I just don't get this. It was like when he answered the, "Who is the best in the world right now" question with, "When I get my swing together ..." Come on, Tiger, you're not fooling us anymore. We're not idiots.

I don't know why this irks me, but it does. It's like he wants us to think he's tough, or over-confident or something, when he really, really isn't. The real answers are out on that golf course, in the dirt, and for the last two years, you haven't shown us anything.

So maybe stop with the fake hustle. We're not really buying it anymore.

See John Smoltz, Tournament Golf is Hard

I'm not going to waste your time anymore with my rants about ex-professional athletes playing in Nationwide Tour events. You know my stance, hopefully.

All I wanted to say is that if anything proves how hard it is to play actually tournament golf, it's when a scratch golfer goes out and fires a 12-over 84. That's what John Smoltz did in the first round of the latest Nationwide Tour event, and he is currently DFL, with only one other golfer failing to break 80.

I know Smoltz isn't a professional golfer, and I know that as a business, it's a good move because it gets us chatting about the tournament, but all I'm saying is this proves just how hard tournament golf is, and just how good these players are. Go out and acquire a handicap; post on that for a year or two; establish something concrete; and then add about 10 shots to it if you want to start playing tournament golf, because they count all those shots and you have to putt everything out and it just isn't the same as dicking around with your buddies.

I think Smoltz and Jerry Rice can teach us all a lot about the travails of pro golf. It's an extremely humbling experience.

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Tiger Woods Looks Good at Ping-Pong

We've always heard that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have intense battles on the ping-pong table during the Ryder Cup, but we've never really seen his skills until now.

Here is Tiger going up against Chinese Olympic gold-medal hurdler Liu Xiang on his trip to China, and although he loses the point, you can tell that he'd be able to hang at the local pub if you brought him with.

(Sorry the video isn't embeded ... click on the image and it should take you to his page.)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

John Daly Says Tiger Woods Cheated Because He Never Got Any

Well, here is one for the ages; John Daly gaves Tiger Woods marriage advice. Next up, Kevin Na will do a clinic on how to hit golf shots out of trouble!

That is true though. Daly, who was a guest on 790 The Zone, and he talked about his conversations with Tiger after the news broke that he had been cheating on Elin. Seriously, the quotes are too good not to share with you now, so enjoy, and if you have anymore questions for Daly, just tweet him, because he'll be sure to respond.

Yes. And that reason is something I don’t want to talk about. But I told him, ‘if you would have come out that night after the incident and told the world what was going on — not listened to your agents, not listened to anybody else, just what your heart said and thought what you just told me — this story would have ended in one day.’ And he said ‘I know, I know. I just had to listen to everybody.’ I said ‘that’s the thing you’ve got to understand Tiger, you’re the greatest player that’s ever played, you don’t have to listen to anybody, you have to listen to what your heart tells you to do.’ And he says ‘I thought about talking to the media right after it all happened, I really did, and told them the truth and told them what was going on. But I was told not to.’ So, I don’t blame him in that aspect of listening to the bad advice, which I totally think he got throughout the whole situation.

... you’re looking at a guy who all the way through his college days, all there was was golf, golf, golf, golf golf. And then there was more golf. And then there was more golf. The guy never had a chance to live a life, and you know, certain things that people go through they find out they like and don’t like. And as a young man or whatever, there’s certain things you like and certain things you don’t like. He found out late what he really liked because he was never around it. He didn’t have a chance to find out what women were like and what girls were like that much until he was in his late teens, late late, almost 20. I don’t think folks realize that.

... My exes, if you look at my life, they just quit supporting me. Plus, they didn’t want to have sex anymore. And when that happens — and I’ve always been straight up front with every one of them — I said ‘if you’re not going to give it to me, I am going to go get it somewhere else.’ And that’s just the way I’ve been whether there’s a ring on my finger or not. Is that adultery? Maybe so, but from what I understand, when you’re married they’re supposed to give it to you.”

Daly was then asked if Tiger should have gone up to the podium and said, "I'm not getting it anymore, I've had enough," to where Daly answered, "“Exactly. That’s what I did.”

One of my bosses over at Yahoo! put it the best; the wisdom of accepting marriage advice is questionable at best, and I'd probably go a step further. If you're trying to ask Daly for marriage advice, your relationship is about eight exit past fixable. Daly has been married and divorced four times, so asking him how to keep one together would be like asking me how to win a green jacket. Sure, I could give you some pointers on what not to do, but telling you how to successfully pull it off ain't exactly my strong point.

Anyway, the thought of this conversation going down ranks as the highlight of my week. I can see John now, scratching his scruff as he downs a Diet Coke and tells Tiger exactly what he should have done on the podium as a billion people watched every move he made and word he said. It reminds me of that drunk at the bar that tells you exactly how you should lead your life, as he pulls out quarters to pay for his weekly pint.

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Great. Another Former Pro Athlete is Playing a Nationwide Event

You guys knows this Nationwide Tour invitee stuff gets my blood boiling. Probably more than anything else in golf, really. This week, at the Whateversponsorwillstickaroundfortwoyears Open on the Nationwide Tour, John Smoltz is teeing it up in hopes of trying to what Jerry Rice couldn't.

Smoltz, like Rice, is taking a spot from someone more deserving, and while he answered questions to Golfweek that were the right thing to say, he's still taking a spot, and that still bothers me, but I guess this tour is going to keep doing this for years to come (I'm hoping they'll eventually have a Dancing With the Stars Open, where all former DWTS participants get a spot in the event that week no matter their handicap).

But here is the problem - people actually think Smoltz is good enough to compete this week. They think that just because he can break 65 on his home track, or that he is a scratch golfer (whatever that even means anymore), that he has the game to hang with some of the most talented golfers in the world. It's insanity, really. Pure insanity. Here, I'll give you an example of how insane this is - a guy at my gym used to play a lot of basketball with us. We called him "Big Swol" because he was a really muscular guy, and he could shoot the lights out. His measurements were about 6-foot-1, 215, white, and could occasionally dunk it if nobody was around and he had the perfect lane to the basket. One day, I'm shooting around with this guy and he tells me, completely straight-faced, "Man, all I need is 15 days with the Suns and I'd be signed. Fifteen days! That's all I need." This guy really thought that he could make a NBA team. HE REALLY THOUGHT THIS! Never did it cross his mind that 6-foot-1 white guys that aren't quick and shoot well at the local LA Fitness aren't exactly the NBA prototype. Did it ever cross his mind that he would have 6-foot-8 guards that can jump higher than him and are twice as quick coming out him anytime Steve Nash kicked him the ball? Of course not, because he's convinced that he would be an asset to a team just because he can make some three pointers. Well, memo buddy, but EVERY guard in the NBA can shoot well. That's why they're in the NBA.

So, the fact that Smoltz has a career round of 63 shouldn't mean jack to anyone. I've shot lower than that. My buddies have shot lower than that. Hell, every golfer in the field this week at the Nationwide event has probably posted a 63 in the last 30 days or so.

Also, Smoltz has mentioned taking a shot at the Champions Tour, which cracks me up. What is it about guys that turn 50 thinking they can turn their game around and compete with guys that have been doing it since they were 21? I've heard this sob story from about 20 older men, and it is probably one of my favorite things to do. My uncle, who turned 60 recently, has a friend the same age that was the next Nicklaus when they were kids. He's played in some PGA Tour events, and has qualified for some Champions Tour majors, yet he can't even sniff making the Champions Tour, and never will. This is a guy that shot 64 with me the other day. As my uncle tells every older man that thinks they have a shot with the seniors; "Go out and beat this guy for a week straight, and then come talk to me." It isn't going to happen.

But Smoltz has a dream, and some cockiness, and that's perfectly fine; I don't expect him to make the cut here because it will be a whole different beast for him. I don't fault him as much as I fault the tour for trying to land eyeballs for all of this. When Michelle Wie wanted to play on the PGA Tour, I didn't hate the idea; what I hated, was when she went after it a fourth and fifth time. One time is cute; four times is an insult.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Bottom Line With Tiger Woods - He Needs to Play More

One thing we are forgetting about with the word that Tiger Woods is again injured is it takes away from Tiger's time on the golf course. Not so much on the practice range, or the putting green, but from actual time on the golf course, playing for money, playing in tournaments and competing against guys that are as good, if not better than him.

My dad, who tends to toss his opinions of Tiger at me without any reservation, has been saying for the last two years that Tiger isn't playing enough tournaments, and while my argument has always been that he limits his schedule, it sure seems that my father is more and more correct the more and more time Tiger takes off.

Again, we are going to see Woods taking a large, if not substantial, chunk of time away from golf. He won't be hitting balls, he won't be practicing, but more importantly, he won't be in that tournament mode. Take it from someone that has played in big events before in the past; it is nearly impossible to expect a ton out of yourself if you aren't out there weekly or biweekly playing where every shot counts.

Think about it like this - if your goal for 2011 was to get in shape, and tone up your muscles, what would you expect; that it would happen in two weeks and you'd be set, or that it would take an extended period of time, with a full commitment to the gym from yourself, to get it to actually happen? Of course it isn't going to happen overnight. To get good at something, you need to really throw yourself fully into it.

Here is something else to think about - since Tiger won the 2008 U.S. Open, he has taken 259 days off between starts, 154 days between starts, and 56 days between starts. That's a total of 469 days since '08 of breaks between starts, which is INSANE if you think about it. This is a guy that is built for tournament golf, yet he is being forced, for injuries and personal reasons, to take substantial time away from the game and not be mentally prepared for the act of playing in a tournament.

If this injury takes more time off of Tiger actually getting on the course and letting the swing changes and other things get worked out, it'll just be longer until Woods is comfortable in the mode that it takes to win.

He needs more reps, and it just seems his body isn't letting him right now. Hopefully this current injury doesn't last long, but it would be in Tiger's best interest to take the allotted time away so he can come back 100 percent and actually play throughout the summer without anything nagging.

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Donald Trump Keeps Talking, Mostly About Obama (Golf Edition)

This isn't a place for politics. This is a place for golf chatter and cart girls and making fun of Chris DiMarco.

But Donald Trump, a shoe-in for President of the United States, is talking about our current president and it involves golf. Take a guess if you think he's happy that Barack Obama still golfs?!?!!

“It’s a great game, but there’s a time to play and a time not to play,” Trump said. “When the U.S. is invading Libya, [the President] should not be out playing golf.”

Why is it that Donald Trump is quickly sounding like my ex-girlfriend?!? "Sure, the sport is great, but you shouldn't be playing on our two year anniversary!" What, woman, I'm only human!!

So, yes, the Trump is mad that Obama is golfing. To be fair, the only thing I'm mad at is how bad Obama represents the lefties, and I'm not talking about the political side. Man that's an ugly move!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Floating Golf Course Is Going to Be Awesome

We all know the phrase every golfer utters during every round of golf to his buddies - "Man, I sure wish there was more water on this golf course!"

Well, we're in luck, because Troon Golf has announced their plan to build a full 18-hole golf course that floats.

From their press release ...

Troon Golf, the leader in upscale golf course management, development and marketing is delighted to announce its appointment as technical advisors in one of golf’s newest and most exciting projects recently unveiled in the Maldives. Developed by the world-renowned Dutch Docklands company, industry experts in floating technology, the $500 million project is due to be completed in 2015 and will include a world class golf facility that will be interconnected by revolutionary underwater tunnels."

This project will be off the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, and I'm already throwing my hat out there to say I want to be one of the first to play this bad boy, and I'll write/sign/pimp anything you want to make this happen. A floating golf course?!? I think it's brilliant.

Now all they need is a floating cart girl, and this thing will be a perfect project.

Tiger Woods' Injury Proves a Lot

It really has become one of the most interesting sports story of the last two years.

Tiger Woods, golf's lone superstar, continues to falter in his love life and golf game, and the more pressure we seem to put on his comeback, the more he seems to fail. But the one image we can all go back to happened at Torrey Pines, when Woods beat the field, the odds and an aching knee to win a major championship he had no business winning. He limped throughout the week and winced after tee shots but we knew he would make it through the pain and give us something to root for.

Now, things are different. On Tuesday, Tiger's website announced that he hurt his Achilles Heel during his run at Augusta National and won't be around for the Wells Fargo and possibly the Players Championship, meaning more time away from golf and competition and a chance at finding his game. The next time we see him, most likely at the U.S. Open, will be another return to the game, and a lot of questions to answer. "How are you feeling?" "How is the game?" "What are the chances you play well here?" And Tiger will give us the same vanilla comments that he always does, forcing a lot of us to roll our eyes and move on with our days.

But for now, it just means more uncertainty about the future of Tiger Woods, the man we used to always rely on. And while that is scary for golf fans and sponsors and tournament directors, it shouldn't surprise us. This is Tiger now; beaten, frustrated and a little broken, both mentally and physically. It'll be a while before any of that changes.

PGA Tour Plans to Ditch On Q-School Dreams, And It's a Horrible Idea

Maybe I'm partial to the idea that any John Birdiemaker with a lot of game could essentially make it professional in the game of golf with three incredible weeks of play at PGA Tour Q-School, but the idea presented this weekend at the Heritage sure seems like it destroys one of the really special and unique things the PGA Tour hangs its hat on.

Basically, by 2013, Q-School would just get you a Nationwide Tour card, killing the idea of someone playing through three stages and making it on the PGA Tour. Instead of allowing people to qualify for the PGA Tour through Q-School, players on the PGA Tour outside the top 125 on the money list and Nationwide Tour players will be awarded points and then could compete in some complicated three tournament system at the end of the season loosely named the Finals Series (don't worry, by 2013 it'll be the iPad Finals Series or something) which could last into the next season. That is when players will be given tour cards.

If that last paragraph made your brain hurt, it should. It seems that everyone at the PGA Tour Headquarters is hellbent on making things as complicated as possible. First, we were handed the FedEx Cup, which was basically a way to make people interested in the final part of the PGA Tour season while including a big name sponsor to support it. As we've seen continually, the FedEx Cup just doesn't work. Now, we are getting rid of one of the coolest parts of the PGA Tour, and golf in general, by forcing players to qualify for the minor leagues, and then have to play incredibly well the next season if they want a chance at the PGA Tour.

Why does this anger me? Because it devalues what professional golf is all about. An old friend of mine, Greg Hansen, once wrote that U.S. Open qualifying was like trying to catch lightening in a bottle, but that is the beauty of it; one week you might just do something incredible, like Ben Curtis at the 2003 British Open, and nothing else matters. If a guy is on a hot streak, and plays well through the three stages of Q-School, like Kevin Streelman did three years ago, you should be allowed entry into the PGA Tour, not be forced to do what the Skins Game did in 2001 by forcing players to win or tie the next hole to keep their skin from the previous one. Golf is about what you did RIGHT THEN, not what you're going to do in a year from now.

It just seems a little unfair because it gives the advantage to Nationwide Tour players that have been around the circuit for years, and takes away from the younger players that are just starting out on that tour and learning the ropes.

Just think about it like this ... if this new plan was around two years ago, Rickie Fowler might still be strutting his orange Puma outfits on the Nationwide Tour, because he would have qualified there and then had to work his way up the leaderboard the following season. Trust me, the Nationwide Tour has some incredible golfers on it, that can play on that level and that level only, so if these young studs are forced to join the fray it could mean years of failed attempts and diminished careers.

I'm not a fan of this, and I knew it was coming for a long time. It just seems that one of the coolest traditions in golf is on the way out. What next, PGA Tour, a Masters belt buckle instead of a green jacket?

The Craziest Local Rules You'll Ever See

Somehow, someone got their hands on the above local rules for the Richmond Golf Club at a London country club back during World War II times.

Directortoblue clarifies why in the world they had these rules ...

German aircraft from Norway would fly on missions to northern England; because of the icy weather conditions, the barrels of their guns had a small dab of wax to protect them. As they crossed the coast, they would clear their guns by firing a few rounds at the golf courses. Golfers were urged to take cover.

I'd say this would be scarier than any shark or alligator you'll ever find on a golf course.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ben Crane's Latest Video; Dance, Dance, Dance

There isn't much to say right now except that the more the Ben Crane videos come out, the more you can tell they are running out of ideas and that they're now just trying anything to get a good laugh. But, I'll also admit, I still get a good chuckle out of them. This is him showing how to dance, and it almost reminds me of some sort of Paul Rudd YouTube series.

I got a chance to talk to Crane about the videos back at the Waste Management, and he told me about the videos and how they came about. Read it. Enjoy it.

It Seems the Pressel Family is Talented

I had a conversation with my dad this weekend about how crazy it must be to have not just one, but two elite athletes in your family tree. Think the Mannings, or the Sedins or the McKenzies (that would be Paige and Brock) and just think what the heck the parents must have done to get a couple of their kids to make it professionally in the same sport.

I guess the same can be said about Morgan Pressel's family. Her sister, Madison, won the Big 12 Championship for the University of Texas and helped the T-Sippers (Aggie high five!) win the whole thing as a team as well.

I don't really get it, but I guess when you have it in your blood, you just have it. Sadly, I'm not sure my sister and I are going to be winning the Stanley Cup anytime soon.

(Also, side note, but how University of Texas does Madison look? Seriously, doesn't she look like she should be on al their billboards? I think so.)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Have a Happy Easter Weekend ...

Above is a photo of Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia, and some sort of panda bear that I'm sure Sergio will blame for raking the bunker while he's trying to putt.

But, enough about that incredibly awkward photo. It is Easter, and that means family time and eggs and rabbits and Jesus and all that jazz. I'm currently flying over to Texas to play in a scramble with my dad and his best friend, and I might even squeeze in a round or two at my childhood links.

So with that, I say Happy Easter to you all, and I hope that it is as exciting as you expect it to be. We will be back in full force next week, but for now, try not to make any bogeys.

Please, Augusta, Don't Take Away the Winners Invite to the Masters

I don't beg much, mostly because I see where it gets you, but this is one of those times. The Masters, my favorite golf tournament of the year, is trying to find a way to trim their ever-growing field. While it seems that the Masters is always an event that has a petite field perfect for Augusta National, 99 players were in the 2011 field, and some of the green jackets didn't love that.

Why? Because, as Ballengee points out, 10 players who otherwise wouldn't have made it into the Masters field won on the PGA Tour last season, and were given an automatic invite. That's why the idea to toss the automatic invite for winners could happen, and here is why I wish they'd figure out another way.

First, like making it to the finals of the U.S. Amateur, when you win on tour, a lot of things happen, but knowing you'll be flying to Augusta, Georgia in April has to rank among the most exciting. You are going to play the Masters no matter what, and that's a beautiful addition to an already lucrative week for a PGA Tour winner.

Also, it brings in some names that otherwise wouldn't make the field, and they're being honored for actually winning. Here are some names that didn't win a PGA Tour event in 2010; Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel, and Nick Watney, just to name a few. These are top notch golfers, but being able to close out a golf tournament, to play well from the first tee to the last putt, is a tough thing to do. Don't believe me? Look at some of the biggest names in golf and see how many times they've actually won.

Jim Furyk has 16 career PGA Tour victories. Steve Stricker has nine. Anthony Kim has three. Rory McIlroy has one.

It isn't easy to win, and when you do, you should be allowed in this type of field.

It is too beautiful of a tradition to trash. So what if a few more players join the field at Augusta National? As we've seen with the addition of EA Sports and Masters live, the more, the merrier.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rory McIlroy's Short Game Facility Includes a Replica Road Hole Bunker

Before you go feeling extra sorry for young Rory McIlroy, who collapsed at the Masters over the final 18 holes to lose grip of a four-shot lead and his first true attempt at a major championship. remember something; the kid is loaded. Loaded loaded loaded. Loaded like a Charlton Heston bookcase.

An example of this came up on the 21-year-old's Twitter Thursday morning, when he showed off his new practice facility at his home, that includes a replica Road Hole Bunker mimicking, of course, the 17th hole at St. Andrews.

I mean ... this is so awesome. Why he'd need something this deep and short is beyond me, since he plays most of his golf in areas that don't have bunkers like this, but when you can build it, why not? Also, hey Rory, if you ever need someone to house-sit, might I suggest a certain 27-year-old blogger that enjoys chipping for hours on end? Call me!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The r11 Foul Pole is Pretty Sweet

Disclaimer: I love the recent TaylorMade stuff, and have some friends at the company that will occasionally hook me up with stuff to review, use, etc.

Now, with that said, who doesn't love the idea that they had to put one of the new drivers at the San Diego Padres' Petco Park on the right field foul pole as a cool advertising scheme?

I'm a big fan. If you want to watch a video of them putting it up, click here, and enjoy a cool idea. This is why being good at marketing is really helpful. Nobody had to send me an e-mail about this, or ask me to publish anything about it; cool ideas will make any writer want to publish it.

Everybody in the World is Using Belly Putters

I'm not a traditionalist by any means. I love flashy golf clothes and I think white drivers are awesome and I still laugh when someone has one of those golf carts with the big tires and such on it. Maybe I'd never own one, but I get why people would enjoy them.

But I can't get behind the belly putter, or the long putter for that matter. It just ... isn't cool. Nothing about it is cool. You know who I think about when I think of the long putter? Tim Clark. No knock to the guy, but he isn't exactly posing in Lamborghini ads. You know who I think about when I think of the belly putter? Vijay Singh. I think you catch my drift.

None of this, however, is swaying some of the cooler golfers on tour from switching. Adam Scott, infamous for making women perspire even during the Silly Season, has gone to the long putter, and although the switch has been successful, the guy has lost his a bit of his coolness. Watching him at the Masters with those gaudy sunglasses and big putter made me think more Duffy Waldorf and less Denzel Washington.

Now Camilo Villegas and Ernie Els are switching? Camilo is going to use a belly putter? As Rex Hoggard joked on Twitter, it's more of a six-pack putter for Camilo than it is a belly, but is he really going to be able to do that Spiderman pose while toting a 35 41 inch flatsick? And Ernie? I know you're not putting well, but this guy used to make me JEALOUS when he rolled the ball. It was always smooth and effortless. Now he's going belly. Should we now start calling him the Big Cheesy?

I just don't love them. I never have, and I probably never will. Do I think it's cheating, like one of my friends at With Leather said after the Masters? No, I don't think it's cheating or illegal. It, like different shafts or lofts or wedges or whatever, is a way of going about a strategy in golf, but I just don't like it because I think it's goofy and I think it takes away from the swagger that most golfers carry. Maybe I'm being stupid, but that's my thoughts.

(Also, aren't you even annoyed by the cartoon picture above? I bet that guy's never gotten cartoon laid in his life.)

Man Quits Job, Attempts to 'Malcolm Gladwell' the Game of Golf

There are rare people in this world that can just live. They don't care about tonight, or tomorrow, or retirement or even what is going on in the next presidential race, they just spend each day trying to get the most of out, and when it is time to go to sleep, they will enjoy that as well, expecting to wake up in the morning but not hoping to. It's a ability that is both incredible and sometimes scary. I have a friend like this that I envy most of the time. He never stops living, no matter how many times life kicks him in the teeth. He isn't scared of the kick.

It appears I'm going to add a man by the name of Dan McLaughlin to this list. A fellow southpaw, McLaughlin decided a year ago to quit his job as a photojournalist and try to actually live out a theory from a book by Malcolm Gladwell. Dan was going to become a professional golfer in 10,000 hours.

Now, like many people, I read "Outliers" and thought it was really interesting the amount of research that went into that perfect number of 10,000. Never in my right mind did I think to experiment with it.

But that is what the 31-year-old McLaughlin is doing, and you might hate him for it right now, but after you get through the lengthy profile of him that Michael Kruse did for St. Peterburg Times, you'll probably love the guy (seriously, stop what you're doing right now at work and just read it).

This isn't a "Paper Tiger" like experiment - Dan had never played golf before in his life. He's been on this six year experiment for a year, and still hasn't hit a driver. His coach told him that he couldn't start putting 3-footers until he was good from 1-foot away. The amount of commitment by this guy is astounding. He is trying to become a professional in one of the toughest things in the world, and by the end of the story, you actually feel like he could pull it off.

Here's the really interesting thing, and this is coming from someone that has played professional golf and still tries occasionally to catch lightening in a bottle - the older you get in the game of golf, the more the negative thoughts creep in your head. Look at Tiger Woods, for instance. He never thought about missing putts before, but it seems now those thoughts have found time in between his ears and he seems to be missing more and more of the short putts he never did in his younger years.

Dan is getting to be a kid on the greens, and with full shots, that we were when we started the game. He doesn't know about lip-outs or shanks or anything, and he's 31. If he has the right mindset, and sticks to this incredible schedule, who knows?

I love it. I really do. I thought the profile was interesting, and my next stop is to get him on our Devil Ball podcast. I want to hear more about what he's doing. I just hope he has time for us between all those 3-footers.

(If you want to follow his progress, you can on his site right here, or on his Twitter @thedanplan.)


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

John Daly, *Gulp*, Offers Up Some Very Sound Advice

I've never quite got John Daly before. This is a man that has won multiple major championships, is famous across the board, and has been up and down more times than a Vegas corner girl. He has hit rock bottom, he has come back to win events, and now is just treading along at the not-so-young-age of 44. This is a man that has blocked certain golf writers (*clears throat*) on Twitter, and is just waiting on his Champions Tour invite so he can go there, make some good checks, and possibly win again.

But occassionally Daly does things that make you understand that under that Hooters loving, beer-guzzling with Kid Rock drankin', shirt off wearin' wild man is a guy that does want to do some good, and as he gets older and older, I'm sure he will be more inclined to do these things. The action in question is handing out some advice to fellow Razorback Ryan Mallett, who is heading for the NFL.

Mallett has landed in some trouble before, and Daly has talked to him about how to handle the instant fame that comes with becoming a pro. All in all, it is pretty solid advice.

Via PFT ...

"The first thing I wish I would have done was that instead of worrying about how to handle everyone else, how do I handle me? I did a horrible job. I wasn't ready for it," Daly said. "I think the most important thing for Ryan is how he handles himself. Whether it's an interview or whatever, listen to the question before you answer it."

"Some of the things you are going to do off the field, think about the responsibilities," Daly said. "Because I've learned the hard way."

True, true, true and true. Everything Daly says here is sound, and is pretty good stuff to hear if you're 22. You can't teach experience, but if you look at Daly over the years, you see a guy that has done just about everything wrong off the golf course, and still lives to talk about it.

If I was going to talk to one person about how to handle myself, it would probably be Big John. Trust me, it would make more sense than chatting with Corey Pavin about the pains of being a pro.

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How To Show People You're a First-Time PGA Tour Winner

Imagine winning your first PGA Tour title. It probably is pretty strange, huh? You, standing on the 18th green, the final putt dropped, and everything hits you at the same time; "Holy hell, I just WON a PGA TOUR tournament!!!" You've dreamed of this moment since you were a fetus.

But now comes the unfamiliar part. The handshakes, the interviews, the need for your attention, and everything that goes with landing in uncharted waters. What is the best way to show that you're a little nervous, or a bit out of your element?

By cutting your hand on the trophy you just won. That's how!

According to the AP, Brendan Steele did just that on Sunday after taking home the Valero Texas Open title.

The 28-year-old Californian cut his finger on the glass-and-stone trophy as he posed with it for pictures.

As you can see above, the trophy is in the shape of Texas ("Bigger than France!"), so I'm sure a few of the edges are sharp, but come on man, cutting your finger while posing with a trophy? You gotta be more veteran than that!

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Jerry Rice Continues to Steal Spots From Real Golfers

I know what you're thinking. Another rant about something that most people don't care about. You probably thought the word "steal" was a little much here, and that Jerry Rice was invited to play in last week's Fresh Express Classic, a Nationwide Tour event eventually won by Daniel Chopra.

Chopra shot a third round 61, and the final round was canceled by bad weather, but the storyline that I'm focusing on deals with Rice, and his continued shot at professional golf. Rice shot 81-82 to finish dead last in the field, missing the cut by 22 shots. Sometimes the ball hits your fingertips and you drop it. This one sailed into the upper deck of the grandstands.

Rice played in two Nationwide events a year ago, finishing 17-over in one of them and then shooting a first round 92 in the other before being disqualified for using a range finder. My rant last year is right here. I feel the exact same way today.

This isn't the PGA Tour. These people in the events aren't millionaires, and most probably will never be. They're guys that, like Jerry, dreamed as a kid of being a famous athlete with girls and money and cars and sponsors. They're playing in the CFL right now and they're hoping that one day it turns into the NFL, but for most it won't. For most, and to steal a term from Mike McDermott, "it's a fucking grind." It isn't fun. They're out there hoping that this putt makes them a check, or this drive finds the 18th fairway so hopefully they'll be able to pay off a couple of bills. Credit cards are currency out there, and paying them off is a pipe dream, just like winning the Masters.

And now you've got to deal with Jerry Rice, professional football hero and Dancing With the Stars participant, coming out and finishing dead last, and taking spots from players. Even if he isn't taking a spot, he's having to play with two poor saps that are having to watch that go on, and take it from a guy that has been the worse player in a group before, there is nothing you want more than to take away from a good round. It seems Rice keeps doing it, and he probably will the more and more the Nationwide Tour invites him.

One shot was cute. The second shot was stupid. A third invite is just downright disrespectful not just for the Nationwide guys, but for all golfers that have taken their shot at the professional level. Want to give out a sponsors invite? Invite some mini tour guy that is lighting it up right on their respective tours. Give it to Charlie Beljan, who shot a 60 in the first round of the last Gateway Tour event in Arizona. He might have a chance to turn it into something good.

For now, we just get another pitiful performance from Rice and another day of me shaking my head. It isn't fair, and someone in the tour office needs to realize this, and put an end to it.


This Matteo Manassero Kid is Redefining Men's Golf

It has happened in just about every individual sport, but it never seemed to be capable in men's golf. A teenager burst on the scene and immediately dominates, taking over the headlines and the trophies and making every older person think, "How in the world can this kid handle this enormous amount of pressure?!?"

It happened with the Williams sisters. It happened with Michelle Wie. And now, it is happening with Matteo Manassero.

Most golf fans probably noticed Manassero's name from the Accenture Match Play earlier this year, but that is far from his best performance, and he showed once again that teenagers can win at an elite level (consider the European Tour the highest level if you'd like) this weekend. Matteo played the weekend 9-under at the Malaysian Open and won his second European Tour event in less than a year by a shot over Gregory Bourdy.

Don't let that last name take away from Manassero's win. There were guys like Rory McIlroy, Simon Dyson, and Martin Kaymer all chasing the 17-year-old Manassero, but like a veteran, he kept his composure and locked up another win.

It really is incredible. I know we've seen 21-year-olds win big events before, but this kid is four years their junior and is now a two-time winner. He has finished in the top-15 in a major championship as an amateur (he was 16 at the time), and does't seem to by the type of talent to flame out in the near future.

It just really makes me think of how I'd handle such pressure at such a young age. I can barely remember last week, but when I was 17, I'm pretty sure the only stress I had in my life was if a certain girl would go to prom with me, and what weekend the SATs were. This kid is battling the best golfers in the world down the stretch to take home $411,000, and succeeding.

Way more than my constantly sore knee and back, Manassero officially makes me feel old.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rory McIlroy Is Good At Not Remembering

Hey, remember a week ago when Rory McIlroy was leading the Masters by four shots after three rounds and then finished with a soul-sucking 80 in the final round to drop on down the leaderboard and become such a non factor that CBS never showed another shot of his after the 13th hole? Neither does he!!

McIlroy, who was gifted $300,000 in an appearance fee to play in the Malaysian Open and ended up losing his golf clubs on the flight over, is leading his second golf tournament in a row after a second round 64 at the Kuala Lumpar Golf and Country Club, and might just win the whole thing if he isn't careful.

The third round was suspended due to light after McIlroy finished just nine holes, but he's two up on the field and doesn't appear to have Charl Schwartzel chasing him down anytime soon (Mr. Schwartzel is 10 shots back).

I mean, you have to be impressed with McIlroy's ability to just forget everything that happened six days ago. He is playing his butt off this week, and seems to be chasing his second European Tour title of his young career.

It is pretty crazy to think that Rory has only won one European Tour event and one PGA Tour title so far. For all the talk we have about him, he isn't winning at some phenomenal rate, but if he keeps putting himself in these positions, he'll notch a few more this season.

Just a piece of advice for Rory: Beware of the snap-hook.

(Also, during the rain delay, people bowled, thus the photo of Rory above. It made me smile. I hope you enjoy it, and the kid has pretty good form.)

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kevin Na Was One-Under After Eight Holes, 11-over after Nine Holes

Like what you read here? Follow Shane Bacon on Twitter at @shanebacon for golf news, and maybe, MAYBE, an occasionally joke.

That number you see above isn't a typo, or a mistake by the PGA Tour people. Kevin Na, infamous for being one of the slowest players on tour (this tweet by Jay Busbee is one of my favorite ever), took his time on the 9th hole on Thursday at TPC San Antonio, but not because he was worried about the wind or surveying the green; it's because it took him 15 shots to complete the par-4, moving him from one-under on the day to 11-over.

The best part of this whole thing? He was mic'd up by Golf Channel! At one point he was having a conversation with his disgruntled caddie about the score, saying to him that he had no idea how many shots he had taken and what his score was going to be.

So, let's do a rundown of how he made 15 16 -

Lost tee ball, lost tee ball, finds the third one, hits it out of the woods only to have it hit him (penalty), slap shot, punch out, hack, slap, green, putt, putt, add 'em all up! Honestly, there might have been another shot in there that I'm forgetting, but when you make 16, it's easy to lose track.

I once played in an AJGA qualifier in, ironically, San Antonio, and made a birdie on my 9th hole, only to turn to the 10th and make a 10, and then I birdied the 11th. For those scoring at home, birdie-10-birdie still isn't good.

Still, I would have taken six shots off of Na that day. Not all bad!

Update: Now with video!

Here is a Glimpse at an Augusta National Yardage Book

I used to play the Gateway Tour with Kevin Streelman. I remember once playing in a money game during a practice round, and Steelman making a birdie on the a par-3 and taking home all the dough for the skins game for that hole. It was around $200 at the time, and very helpful to struggling golf pros. Now, he's on the PGA Tour, and probably just used two $100 bills to wipe the snot from his nose.

Also, he played in the Masters last week, and was kind enough to show GolfWRX his yardage book, page by page. It's pretty good stuff, so swing over and look at it.

I actually have a yardage book from Augusta National in my little golf cabinet. Needless to say, it has a lot fewer pencil marks on it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Phil Mickelson Will Eat Your Doughnuts, But He Ain't Selling Your Doughnuts

Do you remember a year ago, when Phil MIckelson won the Masters and then was photographed, green jacket and all (above), pulling through the window of a Krispy Kreme doughnuts?

Well, as it turns out, that Krispy Kreme put up a big photo display of the event, harking itself as the "Mickelson Doughnut Shop" in Augusta, and take a wild guess how that flew over with Team Phil.

Via TMZ ...

"According to our doughnut sources, Phil’s camp was PISSED … because no one got the man’s approval before plastering his image all over the display. We’re told one of Phil’s associates even paid a little visit to the KK in question last week to make sure employees removed every last picture — and threatened legal action if they didn’t.

We’re told the doughnut store removed the display. Phil’s rep had no official comment."

I'm shocked, SHOCKED, at this! A famous athlete NOT being happy that a company is using his image to sell things without paying him a cent?!? What, no heart for the doughnut companies, Phil?!?

In all seriousness, I'm glad someone spoke up and yelled at Krispy Kreme. Who thought this was a good idea, and they'd get away with it? If Phil wants doughnuts, let him have doughnuts, and let him be the one paying you.

Great Week Continues for Rory McIlroy, As He Loses Golf Clubs

My good friend and LPGA player Irene Cho asked me to caddie for her a year ago in the Safeway event in Portland. A solid week by any measure, Irene finished her Sunday on a tear, and nearly landed in the top-10 after a three birdie over her last four holes finish helped jump her up the leaderboard. She was feeling confident, and excited, and ready to hit up the next event in Canada with some serious momentum pushing her along, but something terrible happened; the airlines "lost" her golf clubs (I put that in quotation marks because I'm fairly certain golf clubs don't just disappear, but possibly might disappear in the trunk of one of the workers handling the sticks). Irene was stuck playing with a bag of unfamiliar clubs, and while she never got comfortable with them that week, it took months for her to get the bag of clubs together she wanted and felt comfortable with. What's the point? Losing your golf clubs on flights is something that could haunt a professional golfer for a long while.

Cue in Rory McIlroy. After three rounds of the Masters, Rory looked to be the most popular, and soon to be most heralded, golfer of 2011. But a final round 80 gutted the 21-year-old, and he had to leave Augusta, tail between his legs, in hopes of finding his game at his next event in Malaysia. He flew with eventual Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, and although they took a private jet, his golf clubs somehow got lost.

Via The Telegraph ...

"It hasn't happened often, its one of these things you can't help it, going through so many timezones and so many connecting flights your bags are going to get lost sometimes," McIlroy said.

"Hopefully they turn up tonight and I'll be ready to go tomorrow."

Now, I'm not genius here, but if a top professional golfer's clubs went missing after a private flight, the first thing I'd be thinking is someone lifted them. "Oh, these are Rory McIlroy's clubs. Well, now they are my clubs." How in the world are they not thinking this?

Also, talk about a rough couple of days. McIlroy has the entire world watch him completely collapse, and when he gets to an event that he can play in the comfort of the European Tour, he doesn't even have sticks to slap it around with.

Hopefully they find them so he can at least go out on the one place he's probably comfortable right now; the golf course.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

David Letterman's Top-10 List About Charl Schwartzel

Well, this is obligatory, and really, really unfunny, but I figured I'd post it, because we all have that Masters hangover, and we're dying for something.

So, yes, "enjoy" it. Seriously, why do we still have the top-10 list?

Rory McIlroy is a Good Sport

Be honest with me for a second - you're four shots up on the field heading into Sunday at the Masters, you fire one of the worst rounds of your career, for all the world to see, and lose your first real chance at a major championship when you're the most hyped young golfer in the world. Are you smiling for pictures with the guy that beat you, and joking about it after?

I sure wouldn't be. I'm too fickle and too negative to be able to push that aside like Rory McIlroy has been able to do. That's him above, via his Twitter, with Charl Schwartzel, posing with the green jacket ... and Rory is smiling!

Honestly, this kid is 21-years-old on the birth certificate, 35 in between his ears. It's good to see one of the rising stars of our game be able to handle his emotions so well after a gut-wrenching loss. Well played, Rory.

Here Are Your Very, Very Early U.S. Open Odds

I made a joke on Twitter earlier today about who the favorite is at the U.S. Open (I loved Shipnuck's response), but little did I know that sitting in my inbox this morning would be an e-mail with the actual odds for the U.S. Open. Sorry Phil, but look who is the top dog now!

I just thought it was interesting. What are your thoughts on making bets this early?

Tiger Woods 6/1
Phil Mickelson 10/1
Lee Westwood 16/1
Rory McIlroy 16/1
Martin Kaymer 20/1
Luke Donald 20/1
Dustin Johnson 25/1
Nick Watney 25/1
Matt Kuchar 33/1
Charl Schwartzel 33/1
Paul Casey 33/1
Graeme McDowell 33/1
Geoff Ogilvy 33/1
Justin Rose 40/1
Hunter Mahan 40/1
Adam Scott 40/1
Anthony Kim 40/1
Jim Furyk 40/1
Steve Stricker 40/1
Bubba Watson 40/1
Ian Poulter 50/1
Padraig Harrington 50/1
Ernie Els 66/1
Retief Goosen 66/1
K.J. Choi 66/1
Jason Day 66/1
Sergio Garcia 80/1
Aaron Baddeley 80/1
Angel Cabrera 80/1
Rickie Fowler 80/1
Martin Laird 80/1
Trevor Immelman 100/1
YE Yang 100/1
Francesco Molinari 100/1
Ryan Moore 100/1
Ross Fisher 100/1
Gary Woodland 100/1
Alvaro Quiros 100/1
Brandt Snedeker 100/1
Ricky Barnes 100/1
Edoardo Molinari 100/1
Robert Allenby 100/1
Bill Haas 100/1
Vijay Singh 100/1
Zach Johnson 100/1
Camilo Villegas 125/1
Matteo Manassero 125/1
Stewart Cink 125/1
Louis Oosthuizen 125/1
Robert Karlsson 125/1
Rory Sabbatini 125/1
Sean O'Hair 125/1
Tim Clark 125/1
Lucas Glover 125/1
Fred Couples 125/1
Henrik Stenson 125/1
Ben Crane 125/1
Miguel Angel Jimenez 125/1
Jhonattan Vegas 125/1
Jeff Overton 125/1
Bo Van Pelt 125/1
Carl Pettersson 150/1
Jonathan Byrd 150/1

Monday, April 11, 2011

What the 2011 Masters Taught Us

The 2011 Masters are behind us, but there are still a few things to wrap up before we move on to the next event, or the next major, or the next champion. Here are some things the 2011 Masters taught us all, and what we can take from it for upcoming tournaments.

-- Winning a major championship is hard. Really hard. If you don't believe me, give one of the most talented players in the WORLD a four-shot lead and watch it dwindle away like it was you or me out there. As much as we talk about the winner of the Masters coming out of the final group so many times, look at the last five majors and see the winner coming out of the final group just once, at that was the British Open. It's hard to maintain a lead, and it is even harder to maintain your nerves when a few short putts don't drop. Kuddos to Rory McIlroy for the way he handled it after the round ended on Sunday, because he sure could have brushed off the media and nobody would have thought twice about it.

-- Tiger Woods isn't going to win another tournament, much less a major, if he continues to miss short putts. Sorry, but that is the truth.

-- You might not have heard of Charl Schwartzel, but you should have; he was 29th in the world, and had finished in the top-20 in three majors in 2010. Also, he nearly won the CA Championship a year ago, finishing second to Ernie Els. This guy is no flash in the pan, and expect to see his name at the top of big tournaments for years to come, especially with the confidence he has going right now.

-- Also, along the same lines as the last one, why must we jump to conclusions about players right after they win majors? "Is Charl going to be a one-and-done type player?" Hey, if he is, so what! Name players that have won two major championships, and I'll most likely find you their name in the Hall of Fame. Winning one major is tough enough, but to win two? That's serious. Fred Couples, Tom Kite, Craig Stadler, Jim Furyk, David Duval, Davis Love III, Ken Venturi, Justin Leonard, Tom Lehman ... all these guys claimed just one major, so don't think just because you haven't heard of the guy, he isn't going to win another, and even if he doesn't, he still made his career on Sunday at Augusta.

-- Angel Cabrera is a serious player, and if he played in more PGA Tour events, he'd probably be the Player of the Year once every couple of years. The guy seems to play big in big events.

-- We can chat all we want about McIlroy, Fowler, Ishikawa and the likes, but Jason Day might be the best of the young bunch. His close at Augusta on Sunday, with birdies on 17 and 18, is stuff of legends, and if not for Charl two-upping him with the closing birdies, we might be talking about Day right now instead of Schwartzel.

-- The Masters is the best week of the year in the golf world, and it was shown this Sunday. Man, I can't wait until 2012.

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Some Lasting Images from Sunday at Augusta

Here are some lasting images from Sunday at the Masters, courtesy of Getty Images and the Associated Press. I hope you enjoy them, and remember one of the best major championships in a long, long time.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Even Charl Schwartzel Seems Confused at Who Charl Schwartzel Is

I kid, I kid. Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion, deserves all the accolades he is landing this Sunday evening, and rightfully so. The kid played some incredible golf, with four birdies over his last four holes to post 66 and win his first major championship and first PGA Tour event.

Honestly, what more can you say about Charl? His birdies on 16 and 17 were stuff of legends, and then to roll that putt in at 18 after he had all but wrapped it up was really well deserving. What did it show us? That any of these talents can win big events if they get hot. Schwartzel was four-under after the first two days and hardly a part of the conversation heading into the weekend, but a tidy round of 68 on Saturday followed by that masterful (*Nantz moment*) round on Sunday landed him the green jacket and some love from Gary Player.

Congrats, Charl, on winning the Masters and forever becoming the butt of jokes concerning your first name. It was really fun to watch.

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A Tough Road for Rory McIlroy

I hate to pat myself on the back. The reason is, most of the time I'm incredibly wrong about what I say, and I have to eat crow for most of the week following any prediction I make. After Rory McIlroy's round on Saturday, I thought there was little chance he'd tank on Sunday at Augusta. For three rounds, Rory made it seem almost easy to manufacture golf shots on those famed links, and seemed as comfortable with his golf swing as anyone since the old Tiger days when he hardly missed golf shots.

But one thing I've always said about the young players is, it's hard to sleep on that major championship lead. I don't know what it does to you, but it does something. It eats at your brain, and plays ping-pong with your emotions. I'm sure you sit up all night thinking about what it must feel like to lay that green fabric over your shoulders, and when you're 21-years-old, that's probably what you think's going to happen.

There is a reason that kids putt without fear, and if you don't think that, watch a 10-year-old putt the next time you're out at the putting green. They don't remember the bad putts from the past, or what it feels like to push one or pull one. They just see the hole, hit the ball, and hope it goes in. If it doesn't, oh well, we'll get 'em next time.

Rory lives without much fear. I've never seen the kid rattled until Sunday. When he hit that tee shot on the 10th, the game was over. It didn't matter that he went on to make triple, and four-putt the 12th, his day ended when he yanked that tee shot nearly out of bounds. I joked on Twitter that I've watched the Masters for long time and have never seen one of the cabins until Rory hit that tee shot, but it was true; he was in an area that will be visited a lot by the media on Monday during Media Day, but isn't ever visited on Sunday by the professionals.

The fear now is that Rory has to live with this. Dustin Johnson battled with this after his U.S. Open collapse and jumped right back in the game at the PGA Championship, but it still eats away at you. Rory is the next Tiger, no matter what people say about other guys in the game, and he showed it for 54 holes (or 63 as he said after his round), but now he must learn how to close, as most youngsters do.

He has still yet to win a PGA Tour event with the lead after three rounds, and as close as this looked to a breakout performance, it'll just be a learning curve for young McIlroy as he goes about his business in the next three majors, and the other big events. It just seemed almost too easy for him through three rounds, and major championships give us a chance to see what happens to professionals when they really deal with pressure.

Rory stumbled on Sunday, but hopefully that'll change the next time he's in this position. Let's just hope that the next time he's there, the putts drop early, and the doubt never gets in his mind. Doubt is a nasty, nasty beast.

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Can Rory Hold On To Win This Thing?

It seems that just about every major championship has these big storylines; will Tiger Woods finally win another golf tournament, and major, to get back on track to eclipse Jack Nicklaus' record? Will Phil Mickelson win? What young player can breakthrough and take a major?

The problem with the last, as we've seen, is it's incredibly tough for young players to hone in their minds for 72 holes at a major and actually claim one of the big four. I've said it for a while, but I always felt that for a young player to win a major in this day and age, they're going to have to come from the middle of the pack with a dirty low number on Sunday (similar to how Rory McIlroy won at Quail Hollow last year) and let the rest of the players come back to him. It is how Ben Curtis won his British Open, and considering the way young players have done with the lead on Sunday (I'm looking at you Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney), it seems reasonable.

But I never thought we'd get someone as young as McIlroy able to land this big of a lead after 54 holes. He's up four on the field, playing with a former Masters champion, and had to actually sleep last night knowing that he is the favorite on Sunday to win a Masters at the ripe age of 21.

So can he pull it off?

History sure seems like he can. Since 1990 only one player has won the Masters that didn't come out of the final group, and that was Zach Johnson. McIlroy has a four-shot lead over Cabrera and the rest of the 8-under gang, and he is swinging as well as anyone in the field.

The only problem I see would be with the putter. He has had some chances this week to really seal the deal, including a short birdie putt on the 18th green on Saturday, and hasn't been able to convert. If the putter starts giving him trouble early, it could be an interesting final round, especially if Cabrera started rolling in some putts.

But whatever happens, it's going to be interesting. Either we'll get our first major champion from the next generation, or another collapse to talk about for weeks and weeks. I'm excited.

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tiger Woods Again Cries Wolf

Let me ask you something ... have you ever gone to Las Vegas and spent some time in the sports book? Have you ever chatted about a certain game or match with your buddies and convinced one another that this game, this one, was such a lock you had to put a wager on it? And after you put more money on it than you should have, and you're getting killed five minutes into it, having that gut-wrenching moment when you think, "What in the hell was I thinking?"

That, to me, is Tiger Woods at this point. Anytime he does something good I spend time trying to convince myself that he is back and he is ready to contend again. His final round 66 at Doral was a good example of this. We all watched as Tiger recaptured our hope and thought, as he left the golf course, that this was the moment he found his swing. It wasn't. And after his 68 in the second round of Bay Hill, I wrote that I thought he'd win over the weekend, which I was embarrassingly wrong about.

But Friday at Augusta seemed different. He was actually making the putts he used to make and hitting great shots and looking confident and it felt different. But it wasn't. Not even a little bit.

"What in the hell was I thinking?"

Tiger's Saturday 74 was more of the same from Woods. He hit his driver bad, and didn't hit a ton of great iron shots, but when he did, he couldn't convert the putt. He missed short putts, including a par putt on 11 that really derailed any momentum he had heading into the back nine, and a three-putt par on the 15th hole that has played the easiest hole of the week. His missed par on 18, as he stood in perfect position off the tee just cemented the fact that Tiger is far from back, and we need to realize this.

It's easy to get excited, but that isn't the case.

He can't make a putt, he isn't hitting the ball that great, and just because he can go out on Friday and post 66 doesn't mean he's going to win the golf tournament. Fridays are when people like Bo Van Pelt (no offense) go low and then fade away on the weekend. Back in the day, Tiger would have followed that 66 up with a 68 and been off the races for another green jacket.

Now, he just forces me to slap my head, and mutter over and over again, "What in the hell was I thinking?" It's getting old, as I'm sure it is for Tiger Woods.

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Was Friday at Augusta Tiger's Return to Golf?

I don't know. I really, really don't. I have no idea, really, if Tiger Woods will go out on Saturday and post a similar score to his incredible 6-under 66 he shot on Friday at the Masters. I don't know if this is another short comeback that just falls short when the swing goes away. I don't know any of those things. But I know this ...

On Friday, when I watched Tiger hit shots on the back nine at Augusta National, I felt it, and I'm on the other side of the country. His look was different, and his swing was compact and strong, and his putting stroke looked as solid as I can remember.

I was into his round. I felt like he was going to make putts, even the lengthy ones like that eagle attempt on 15. I thought on 18, as he hit a ridiculous 8-iron around the trees to set up his ninth birdie of the day that he was actually going to make that putt, even when he's missed what seems like every memorable putt on the last green over the last two years.

And I feel like, for some reason, we will see the good Tiger again on Saturday. I don't know why I'd say that, because there have been far too many instances in the past that fooled me into thinking he had finally found something, but it just seemed like something was different for Woods.

His walk, his gaze, his swing and his reactions. His fist pumps weren't the "Holy moly, I can't believe that went in" fist pumps, they were the low, confident ones that Tiger does when he is sure the putt is going to disappear before it does.

I don't know what to think about Tiger anymore, but I know for one afternoon at the most famous golf course in the world, he looked like the old guy that never missed a shot and hardly ever missed a putt.

Maybe that guy will return on Saturday. I sure hope so. This tournament is shaping up to be as good a Masters as I can remember. Seems appropriate 25 years after the best one ever wrapped up.

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Friday Early Round Wrap-Up at Augusta

Each day of the Masters, I will be doing a morning round and afternoon round wrap-up of play. This is the first one of Friday.

Fred Couples Turns the Clock Back -- It seems now, once a year, we will all get a chance to experience the Fred Couples express. The 51-year-old is in the hunt for the second straight year after a 68 on Friday that included five birdies, and (and trust me, I can't believe I'm going to type this) some good putting. Gulp. There it is. Next up, complimenting Ricky Barnes on his golf swing!

Hey, Speaking of Barnes -- He had one of those rounds, but he still got around in 71, and is 5-under for the week. Honestly, does this guy hibernate for 48 weeks out of the year?

K.J. Choi Loves Augusta, For Real -- This guy gets to Augusta and just finds his game, doesn't he? A guy that was putting side-saddle a year ago is 7-under in the clubhouse, and most likely will be in the final group on Saturday. That ain't all bad, is it?

Phil Mickelson Continues to Not Care about Thursday and Friday -- Hey, would you if you can go out on the weekend and post 63-65? Lefty failed to get in red figures on Friday, but is still 2-under, and will have a chance on moving day to actually make some noise. That is, if he can hit a fairway and/or make a putt. Both are still yet to be determined ...

These Men Will Not Be Joining Your Coverage on Saturday -- Sean O'Hair close his first round with four birdies over his final seven holes, and it seemed that might vault him up the leaderboard. Well, we thought wrong. He shot 76 on Friday, and will be slamming trunk. Joining him will be Ernie Els, Johnny Vegas, Retief Goosen (2-under through one hole!), and Martin Kaymer. Ouch.

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Who Wore It Better, Boston Celtics Edition

The great thing about the Masters, is for one week, the color green gets its fair due. On Thursday, we saw a few golfers sporting the color, none more than Rickie Fowler and Charley Hoffman.

So, who sported the color better? Honestly, as goofy as Hoffman looks, I kinda liked his getup. You?

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thursday's Late Round Wrap-Up at Augusta

Each day of the Masters, I will be doing a morning round and afternoon round wrap-up of play. This is the second one on Thursday.

The Long Hitters Came to Play (The Back Nine) -- We all knew Alvaro Quiros, Gary Woodland and Johnny Vegas were going to bomb it around Augusta National, but did anyone think they'd also tear it up? On the back nine, the three combined to shoot 11-under, even with a pesky three-putt by Vegas on 18, and really wowed the crowd with all parts of their game. Definitely the highlight of the first round of play.

Phil Mickelson Might Want to Try That Other Driver -- Wow, was that a bad display of driving the golf ball? Lefty hit it all over the golf course, and hardly ever down the middle, but still managed to somehow fire a 2-under 70. Honestly, if you had watched that round live, without scores, you probably would have thought 78 was in the equation.

Love for Immelman -- Listen, Trevor Immelman has been far from a Masters champion the last couple of years, but a 3-under on Thursday was super impressive, and you could tell from his fist pumps that he was feeling it as well. Good to see him back in form.

Fred Couples is "Back" -- Word on the street is Fred Couples back hurts so bad he can hardly walk around, so don't expect him to follow up with another under par round, like he did on Thursday with a 71. Poor Freddy, don't you wish we could get him a back replacement?

Ricky, not Rickie -- The Barnes of the group was my sleeper pick, and boy did he make me look like a smart man. The University of Arizona alum shot a 4-under 68, and sure seems to come out when the majors are played. Does anyone know if he even cares about the other events?

Under the Radar -- People that nobody talked about today, but had good rounds? Geoff Ogilvy (69), Camilo Villegas (70), Ryan Moore (70) and Stewart Cink (71). One of those names will make a run on Friday, just wait.

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Tiger Woods Has a Very Tiger Woods Opening Round

During the Yahoo! live chat we have going, a reader asked, as they normally do, what the deal was with Tiger Woods? Was it his driving? His putting? His overall game? Why was he struggling yet again in a big round?

My answer was simple - "He doesn't seem to be making a lot of putts that he needs to make. He's hitting the ball good, but not great. Landing his irons close, but not close enough. The putts are almost there, but not quite in." Basically, Thursday's round by Tiger Woods was the Tiger we're used to seeing now. Call him the Almost version of Woods. The Just About There Tiger.

It's just funny why the question is always "What's wrong with Tiger" when he goes out and posts a one-under 71. Sure, on a day that was perfect for scoring, a 71 isn't exactly what you want, but it isn't terrible. Popular pick Dustin Johnson shot a 74 during the best part of the day, and nobody talked about it. World number one Martin Kaymer blew up, shooting 78 and basically erasing any chance of competing at this major.

But with Tiger, it's always "What's wrong," and maybe it should be. His expectations were made by him, and now people await his return. I don't see it happening anytime soon, and the reason is simply what I said above. He's sharp but not crisp. He's good but not great. He's close but not quite there.

It's really, really hard to finish in the top-10 at a major championship, and if Tiger continues his play from the first round, he will probably land somewhere in there. But he isn't winning this Masters unless something drastic happens, and that's just the way it is right now.

Tiger is just Tiger, which is the opposite of what it used to mean.

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