The Masters- Wow!

One word: wow. That was honestly one of the more exciting Sunday finishes in recent memory.

Congratulations to Charl Schwartzel.

Thoughts to come later tonight.

 

Wow.

April 11, 2011 at 6:03 pm Leave a comment

Did Somebody Say Masters!!!

Hello loyal and faithful reader (Hey Kevin- thanks for keeping me in your RSS feed)! I am pleased to tell you that the Greenside Bunker is back up and running!

It has been a few months, and while I struggled a post-Ryder Cup hangover to find things to write about, there is nothing that stirs the soul of a golf fan like the annual trip to the Masters at Augusta National.

For us hearty Canadians, the softening of the northern winds and the longer hours of daylight are enough to make us rejoice. Couple that with the best professional golf tournament in the world, and there’s an excellent reason to love April.

And I have a feeling this year’s tournament is going to give us all the more reason to watch golf!

For those who follow the golf season, the one-year anniversary of Tiger’s return will in no way usurp the 25th Anniversary of Jack Nicklaus’ triumphant comeback on this same golf course. However, it would seem perhaps too fitting if Tiger was able to orchestrate something similar in 2011.

The past year has been one of a seemingly endless array of questions:

  • Will Tiger rebound this week?
  • Can he find his swing again?
  • Will a return to Pebble Beach, St. Andrews and Torrey Pines provide the impetus for him to win again?

For all, the answer seemed to be a resounding no. Yet, there are many who still cannot count him out. I for one, find myself constantly picking Tiger to win if he’s in the field. In many cases, the only reason not to would be his play from the previous week. That alone, if you have learned anything from watching Tiger, can mean basically ziltch. We’re all just waiting for the switch to flip.

But is Tiger really the biggest storyline this week? With a new crop of young superstars–including Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson–and the cream of the European crop– such as Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, and Graeme McDowell– do we really have any business watching the Tiger Woods saga?

Unfortunately for some, the answer is yes. When Tiger does well, golf does well. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be fun watching everyone else. Here are just a few of the storylines I think will dominate this week.

- Rickie Fowler’s bold colours and bold play at Augusta- if there is one player without a win in the field who I think can take this tournament, it’s Slick Rickie. He’s shown on more than one occasion that he can step up when the pressure is on. The match play at last year’s Ryder Cup was unbelievable, and Fowler showed he could hang with the best of them. While his orange may look out of place with a Green Jacket, I think Rickie has the shots, and the confidence to be a dark horse this week.

- Can Lefty Continue to Dominate at the Masters- a lot of the talk this week has been about the “Tiger-Proofing” and “Lefty-Favouring” they’ve done at Augusta. And really, when you look at the stats, they might be on to something with so many left-handed golfers winning there in the last 10 years. So can Mickelson repeat? I wouldn’t be surprised if he did, but I’m not counting any right-handers out either.

- Is it Europe’s Turn- One has to wonder, with so many Europeans on top of the World Rankings, if Europe can finally win at the Masters after such a long drought. Lee Westwood came close last year, and Ian Poulter showed that he could play well for at least 3 rounds. GMac might even have something to say about it. And let’s not forget Martin Kaymer, who, although never making the cut at Augusta, will surely want to protect his #1 ranking.

Obviously, as the weekend approaches and play goes on, these storylines are going to change. But these are just a few of what I’ll be watching. How about you?

April 6, 2011 at 7:12 pm Leave a comment

One Shot Short- Well, Two I Suppose

That was quite a weekend of very exciting, star-studded golf.

Not only did the field in the Chevron World Challenge feel like a Major golf tournament, but the golf that was served up was unbelievably fun to watch; especially for December.

The main storyline was undoubtedly Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell, with GMac winning the first playoff hole, but even the secondary story was fun. Paul Casey served up a series of highs and lows, starting the tournament with a 70+ and then carding three scores in the 60s to finish 3rd. He even had a chance at the tournament all the way until the last hole, before a water hazard second shot ruined any shot at a birdie.

In any case, the main story of the tournament should not be overshadowed. In what was arguably the best match play golf in months (yes, I’m aware it was not match play), Tiger and GMac served up close to 4 hours of televised gold. *As a complete aside, imagine if today was a Ryder Cup Sunday? Obviously the result would have been the same as this year’s Ryder Cup, but that was plain exciting.

With that in mind, two thoughts come out of today:

1) What a year for Graeme McDowell. To be perfectly honest, prior to this year I hadn’t paid that much attention to GMac. I had always heard about the Irish Brawler, but paid no mind. I don’t watch the Euro Tour nearly enough, but I’m starting to think I should. After the U.S. Open victory opened many a mind, Graeme’s showing at the 2010 Ryder Cup indicated he is more than a one trick pony. His clutch putts at the 17th in Wales only served as foreshadowing, as his putting today was outstanding. Good on GMac. He has earned a significant amount of respect from golf fans the world over, I’m sure.

2) Did we witness the beginning of something for Tiger Woods. In what was ironically a little more than a year since Tiger’s “incident” (I remember thinking that perhaps Tiger subjected himself to a year of punishment, rather than any other alternatives of mental anguish), Tiger showed such flashes of brilliance that many, I’m sure, felt we had seen the return of golf’s greatest superstar. His play on the 18th hole alone this weekend was enough to make me a believer. And while the outcome may not have been as scripted (certainly from NBC’s perspective after their multitude of voice-over storytelling), Tiger showed something he hadn’t shown all year: Consistency. It’s really too bad we might not see him again until Torrey Pines, but I, for one, think Tiger might be back!

That was exciting!

December 6, 2010 at 1:27 am Leave a comment

Should Tiger Woods Pick Up a Club Sooner Rather Than Later?

So here’s the thing about the World Golf Rankings: It’s a weird system.

You see, according to the rankings system, Lee Westwood will inherit the World #1 spot from Tiger Woods by the end of October. That’s right. He’ll just get it. No title fight. No 7 game series. No wild card. He’ll just get it. Apollo Creed would be rolling in his grave.

At the same time, if Martin Kaymer plays extremely well (which he has been of late- I had a chance to watch the Euro Tour this weekend, and he owned the Sunday field), he will get the World #1. The only difference here is that Kaymer has to play. I know. Weird system.

In any case, I’m not so much here to discuss the merits of the World Golf Rankings, as question whether it’s a fair system for Tiger Woods since he can’t make an effort to defend his title. Tiger isn’t scheduled to play until the World Golf Championship-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, which takes place the first week of November. He is also scheduled the play the Chevron Championship later that month (a tournament he missed last year after an unfortunate, um, driving accident). Either way, Tiger could easily put points up on the board. But his title is still lost.

And this is where I question the logic.

Golf sometimes has trouble attracting high profile names to its smaller tournaments, so why not put the incentive in place to help someone defend their title. You know, keep potential usurpers at bay. As I said, Westwood is already scheduled to inherit the title, but why not offer Tiger a chance to put some distance between the two of them.

With all that said, some people might even question Tiger’s motivation to have the #1 spot. It has been a bit of a red herring of late, and it seems as though nobody really wants it (ahem, Phil). I for one, don’t necessarily believe that. Tiger is as competitive as they come, and losing the World #1 this year would only add to what has been a somewhat disappointing 2010 campaign.

There are those who might think Tiger plays better when he’s chasing the title himself. I might give some merit to this argument, seeing how well he played after Vijay Singh grabbed the #1 spot. But again, I point to my previous comment about the competitiveness of Tiger. I don’t think it’s something he’d be willing to give up, just so he has a title to chase again.

But again I have to address the core issue here: the World Golf Rankings are weird. You see, you don’t just start at zero. Players lose and gain points each year. And since Tiger has the most to lose, he’s going to fall the hardest (sounds familiar, no?). Why not at least offer the chance to hold onto to it for a bit.

Now I know the same could be said for those chasing the title. You wouldn’t want to make it an impossibility for them to achieve golf success. But I still think the incumbent should have more say. At the very minimum, at least I confirmed the World Golf Rankings system is weird.

October 13, 2010 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

Have We Seen the Return of Tiger Woods?

Last Monday, as I settled in at 4 a.m. with a pot of coffee and the 2010 Ryder Cup, I was able to witness some of the most exciting international golf that I’ve ever seen. An improbably close finish in the first Ryder Cup Monday ever was more than enough icing on the cake.

But there were a few more welcome surprises, including my personal favourite: The Return of Tiger.

Not since Thursday at the Masters did Tiger show such a return to form. His singles match play on Monday showed the power, finesse and, perhaps most importantly, the confident enthusiasm for the game that he was missing all year.

While the outcome for the U.S. Team wasn’t quite what fans were looking for, golf fans can take solace in the fact that Tiger might be back to his old form. Now this isn’t the first time that this sort of thing has been suggested, but here are a few reasons why this time things might be different.

The swing is the thing: Say what you will, but anytime a golfer as good as Tiger decides its time for a new swing, then it is time for a new swing. Tiger’s work with Sean Foley has given the golfer a new reason to practise everyday, and his efforts are beginning to pay off. His tempo has improved and so has his ball striking. Ryder Cup Monday was a perfect example.

Golf is a Hole-Out Easier When You Don’t Have to Putt: In less time than it took for Tiger to finish his round, I completely forgot which hole Tiger holed-out from 133 yards. What I won’t forget was the look on his face. It seemed as though the fire is back and that Tiger might actually be enjoying himself again. Coupled with the fact that he was now up in his singles match, it was like watching the Tiger of old.

What the Putt?!?: Not only was Tiger making beautiful Eagle shots from 133-yards, but he was also draining putts that I hadn’t seen from him all year. A 60-footer from the fringe here; a 15-footer there. Either way, Tiger’s Scotty Cameron putter was working for him that Monday. And that, my friends, is a scary thought if he can keep that going.

Now I know that this was just one day, and that it is going to take a season of golf before we exclaim that Tiger is back. But I will say this: there was something different about Tiger on that Ryder Cup Monday. After being carried by Steve Stricker all weekend, it was as though Tiger woke up and reminded himself that he was #1. And this time, I think he might actually be right.

Welcome back Tiger.

October 9, 2010 at 1:56 pm Leave a comment

Should Johnny Miller Apologize to Phil Mickelson?

There’s an almost comical way about Johnny Miller when he speaks on t.v. He does provide some occasional insight, but it’s his brash, almost offensive comments about players and their shots that gets everybody riled up.

This weekend at the Ryder Cup, the Johnny Miller-isms were flowing faster than the kegs of Guinness after the European victory in the 2010 Ryder Cup. A few regular Johnny Miller comments incited me enough to start the somewhat sarcastic #JohnnyMillerKnowsBest hash tag on Twitter.

But it wasn’t until he criticized a skulled-shot from Stewart Cink, or a certain left-handed American hero (to some) that Johnny really started to get into trouble.

You see, Miller started this whole outcry on Saturday when he suggested that Cink’s skulled shot (from a terrible lie in deep rough no less) was so terrible that not even HE could play it that bad. But it was the car salesman dig on Sunday that really did the job.

“If Phil Mickelson couldn’t chip, he’d be selling cars in San Diego.”

Unbelievable. Incomprehensible. How can an American television personality actually get away with saying that. Now I know Phil had a terrible weekend. I openly criticized him here in this very forum. But this seems a little excessive. And not only that, but Phil played his heart out on Monday, and proved to the world that, while he definitely doesn’t want the #1 spot (purely speculative), he’s still got the game when he needs it (outside of just his beautiful chips).

So should Johnny Miller apologize? I, for one, think so. And not privately either. I think it should be a full-blown live event…right after Phil wins a tournament. Unless Johnny is too busy buying a new car.

October 5, 2010 at 1:38 am 9 comments

The Most Exciting Ryder Cup Monday in History- Ryder Cup Day 4

Congratulations to the European squad (Final Score- Europeans- 14 1/2 points, Americans- 13 1/2 points).

Today was easily, undoubtedly, the most exciting Ryder Cup Monday in history. That, my friends, is irrefutable (it actually is- first Monday ever, and I’ve now coined the phrase first).

Right from the get-go, the singles matches had a bit of everything. And what made it most exciting is that, save for a few matches, no one really ran away with it. Neither the Europeans nor the Americans dominated throughout, and the final outcome was up in the air until the final pairing. And how about Rickie Fowler ladies and gentleman. That’s my homeboy Rickie!

I think most of us pulling for the Americans were cautious in our enthusiasm. We all knew that it would be an uphill battle to finish, so it was great to see them make it interesting.

The Europeans, as I’ve said throughout the weekend, had played the most consistent golf of the two teams and deserved to win the Ryder Cup. It was a bit of a surprise to not see them run away with it right away (especially after their starts on Saturday and Sunday), but it was more reflective of the fight left in the American squad than any failure on behalf of the Euros.

There were, of course, a few surprises. However, none of those surprises were huge. As I said, that was incredible all the way up until the end, and I’m glad I got up at 4 every morning just to watch.

Take the jump to read more of my thoughts.

(more…)

October 4, 2010 at 2:25 pm Leave a comment

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