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Bubba Watson Wins at Augusta!

Bubba Watson

PGATour.com

2:23 PM.  It is the final day of The Masters – Sunday – and Phil is in the final group, one behind Peter Hanson.  Hanson is unproven in this position, while each of the three wins Phil has had at The Masters has come as a member of the final twosome on Sunday and in each case he shot no worse than 69.  It is a beautiful day at Augusta today and Phil is on the practice green awaiting his tee-time at 2:40 – seventeen minutes from now.  There are players within reach of the -9 total Hanson currently holds.  Mahan, Harrington, Westwood, Kuchar, Bubba Watson, and Oosthuizen are lurking and trying to make a move…it may take some help from Hansen and Phil.

2:55 PM.  Boy was I wrong that it would take some help from Hanson and Phil…Oosthuizen just double eagled the second hole to go to 10 under!!  It was one of the most perfect shots I have ever seen.  It has changed the complexion of the tournament in a single shot.

3:28 PM.  Phil holds on to 8 under par through the third hole, Hanson drops a second shot to go to 7 under, and Oosthuizen drops a shot on the fourth hole.

3:41 PM.  Watching Phil fall apart on the fourth hole.  He hit his tee shot left off the stands and into the bamboo and finally in with a triple bogey 6 taking him to 5 under par.

7:35 PM.  I couldn’t make any entries until now, I couldn’t pull away from viewing the tournament long enough.  Bubba is in tears after tapping in a 6 inch putt for par and the win on the second playoff hole (number 10) with Louis Oosthuizen.  Louis played near flawless golf, but could not reach the green on the final playoff hole from 235 yards after hitting trees on his drive.  Bubba hit an amazing hooking wedge from the trees right of the fairway from 155 yards to about 15 feet.  The new father of a two week old adopted son, he shed tears even as he was pulling the ball from the hole.  He was met on the green by his mother and his pals, Rickey Fowler and Ben Crane.

I was glued to the television during this final round.  My poor dogs only got a hurried walk because my wife had to get back to watch.  Matt Kuchar made a valiant run, but fell short at 8 under.  Phil made the strokes back he lost on his triple bogey on number four, but it was not enough as he finished at 8 under.  And, Peter Hanson hung in there shooting 1 over par today to also tie at 8 under par for the tournament.

Today Bubba out-“Phil-ed” Phil.  He is a swashbuckler on the course, with Seve-like imagination and the heart of a lion.  It is great to see him win the green jacket.

Darkness and Light

The Masters is magical.  The Augusta National Golf Club always has their course in pristine condition for Mr. Jones’ grand old tournament.  The azaleas and dogwoods are in bloom and are gorgeous against the dark green hues of Georgia pines and freshly leafed deciduous trees and the closely mown fairways and putting greens.  The club membership rules the media with an iron fist, allowing only a certain number of minutes of advertising during each hour of telecasting.  The media adores the venue as they provide grand music on intros and exits and creative graphics and flowery words from color commentators, former players, and past champions.  Fans migrate to this special shining place in Georgia every year, and while it costs a mortgage payment to attend, once there the sites are profound, the food and drink is famously delicious and inexpensive, and the access to golf’s great past and present is awesome for the crowd who gather outside of the ropes.  It is golf’s Mecca.

But, as we stroll through the heavenly gates of this paradise and absorb the intended greatness and beauty we see an occasional dark smoky shadow pass through as profanity and ill-behavior come to the fore.  We watch in awe and wonder as one of the greatest golfers of all time goes to battle with the golf course, then wretch back instantly in revulsion when this same golfer spits a venomous God Damn It or throws his club and kicks it with disgust!  And we wonder, “Was I the only one to hear that? Was I the only one to see that?” as the commentators, former players, and past champions go on as if nothing happened.  Like a rotten seed in a bowl of rice, this warrior’s behavior belies the acts of a knight doing battle.  It is more recognizable as the rants of a frustrated toddler.  How do we cheer for this knight, rising from the depths of personal shame?  How do we enjoy his moments of brilliance when they are tainted with a continuing color of vulgarity and offensiveness?  We want to so badly, but he poisons his own well of greatness.  He is searching, that is clear.  It is not his golf swing that needs repair, but his soul.  The swing coaches of the world cannot help, others watching his motion cannot comment, he must look through his image in the mirror and find the real problems and seek to repair them.

Like King Arthur, we have come to both love and hate this bright knight Lancelot.  We abhor the darkness yet empathize and remain optimistic for his return to greatness and purity.

There are other dark clouds that waft around and through this mecca as well, they are waning, but still present and will be the subject of later discourse.

Matt Adams and Damn Near-isms, etc. etc. etc.

I was listening to Matt Adams this morning on Sirius/XM’s PGA Tour Channel “Fairways of Life” on my way to work and it struck me how many “Damn Near-isms” he managed to lay out there in the span of a couple of minutes. Matt was excited to talk with a caller about Rory McIlroy’s win at The Honda Classic and his becoming the number one ranked golfer in the world.  He was also incorporating the ongoing topic of a single hegemonic player versus player parity on the tour in the discourse.  (You know – was it better when Tiger was the lead dog or is it better now that so many different players can actually win each week? I would personally like to see another “big three!”)  Now, “Damn Near-isms” are nothing new for Matt. I hear them all of the time on the show, in fact there is one enduring “Damn Near-ism” that he just continues to use almost every other sentence.

I suppose it is time I tell you what a “Damn Near-ism” is.

Definition: Damn Near-ism – a word or phrase that when spoken or written elicits an initial or basic understanding of the intended meaning; however, when a quick mental review is made the listener/reader then realizes that the word or phrase was actually not quite right. Example: I love dogs, in fact, I once had a Labrador Repeater (intending Retriever).

So, in addition, Matt is a New York Times best selling author and I think sometimes he overplays the accomplished writer thing in his speech patterns and the language he uses.  For example, how many times do you use the word “thus” in normal conversation?  Play a drinking game during the show sometime and take a shot of tequila every time Matt says “thus.”  (“Thusly” counts…yeah, I know)  You’ll wake up the next day with a serious hangover, walking bowlegged, and sporting a tattoo of a spiked dog collar on your neck that you have no idea where it came from.  (Not my experience, but I hear Feherty spent a lot of money removing that tattoo.)  All this to say that once he gets excited, words just flow and sometimes they fit…and sometimes they don’t.  I’m just saying.

In the dialogue referenced in the first paragraph, Matt was excitedly waxing eloquent that since the “fall” of Tiger there has been great parity amongst the players on tour and that it has been “almost gladatorial” out there. I got the gist, but in my personal Scooby-Doo way I went, “huh?” to myself in the car. I knew there was something wrong and I was right – it is actually gladiatorial. He then pressed on to say that so far this year we have seen a resurgent Tiger, a resurgent Phil, and now Rory’s rise – it will surely be a “season of our content.” Okay, I get that too. And, I suppose one could say that it is a loosely appropriate reapplication of  Shakespeare’s “winter of our discontent” but, I am not so generous and it smacks of that “I am a best selling writer use of language and references thing.”   It is nothing less than a high brow “Damn Near-ism.”  Finally, the pizza resistance (I couldn’t resist). Matt is continuously ending his sentences with ex cetera, ex cetera, ex cetera.  Matt – it’s ET CETERA, ET CETERA, ET CETERA. Axe anyone!  Rent the 1956 movie “The King and I” and Yule Brynner (as the king) will clear it up. In fact and better yet, here’s a sound clip that should help: just click etc.

I love the show. I like listening because in many ways Matt and his call-in guests sound like the guys at the course talking about the week’s events on the PGA tour. Matt is very experienced in golf business and broadcasting and he is always informative.  It is interesting and sometimes funny to hear what people have to say when they call in and the commentary Matt provides as a result. And, if some of those conversations took place near me and we were the guys at the course, I would give the “Damn Near-ism” user no end of grief – on the spot. But, since I am a mere listener, I’m giving grief here.

Love the show, the banter, and the “Damn Near-isms.”  Can’t wait to hear the next one.

Amateur Tournament Play – The Dogwood Invitational

Dogwood InvitationalI received an announcement today regarding The Dogwood Invitational.  I had never heard of the tournament and as I perused the announcement and went to its many links I discovered a world of amateur golf that I was not unaware of.   I knew of international amateur players rankings (my link for scratchplayers.com), but hadn’t seen rankings for amateur tournaments.  Any amateur golfer aspiring to greatness has to become aware of these and plan a schedule accordingly. 

The Dogwood Invitational Announcement 

ATLANTA – February 16, 2012 – The Dogwood Invitational at Druid Hills Golf Club, held since 1941, has been ranked as the 13th amateur golf tournament in the nation, and the 25th in the world.  The tournament moved up three positions in the U.S. and two positions in the world from its 2011 ranking. The listing, compiled annually by the highly-regarded Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings  organization, surveys more than 600 worldwide tournaments in its quest to name the top amateur events.

In 2011, The Dogwood field of 87 players consisted of 58 of the world’s top 200 male amateur golfers in the world.  Those players competed over 72 holes for the coveted Dogwood Invitational trophy, which was won by Iowa State senior Nate McCoy. The Dogwood win propelled McCoy to one of his best amateur seasons, winning the Iowa Masters, the Herman Sani Invitational and the Rees Jones Collegiate.

Traveling from as far as Australia and Argentina, Dogwood competitors have won some of the most prestigious amateur golf championships around the globe, including the US Amateur, British Amateur, Northeast Amateur, Porter Cup, Masters of the Amateurs, Southeastern Amateur and the Jones Cup.

“The Dogwood Invitational has entered a new level of international rapport. Achieving the rank of 25th positions us as the tournament where the future professionals like Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson or Kyle Stanley will play,” said Edward Toledano – tournament chairman, The Dogwood Invitational.  “Our sponsorships are increasing and people from all over Georgia are putting The Dogwood on their calendars for June 25-30, 2012.  For the golf fan, it’s a fun, free event that gets you close to future PGA stars.”

Tournament participation is by invitation only, with selected amateurs receiving their letters of invitation in late February.  There is an open Qualifier held Monday June 25, in which over 100 players are expected to compete for eight open spots in the tournament. The 2012 Dogwood Invitational at Druid Hills Golf Club is scheduled for Monday, June 25 – Saturday, June 30, 2012. 

 About The Dogwood Invitational

The Dogwood Invitational is an elite amateur golf championship established to promote the game of amateur golf and support junior golf organizations. Held at Druid Hills Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia, the tournament is an internationally ranked top amateur golf event that began in 1941. The tournament is run by The Dogwood Foundation, a 501(c)3 non profit, and proceeds from sponsorships are directed to the Atlanta Junior Golf Association  and The Wayne Reynolds Scholarship Foundation . Find out more at thedogwood.com

The Promise of the New Year – 2012

New Year 2012

It’s been a month or so since I posted.  Christmas is past us, we are in the new year…football is coming to and end, March madness is around the corner, and spring is coming soon!  It’s been a little frustrating watching the tour in Hawaii and California.  I just made a trip out west to Miramar, CA just north of Torrey Pines and was about 5 minutes from the Air Station golf course, but alas, I could only find time to visit the pro shop. 

Third Week of the Golfing Year

This week brings the 2012 debut of Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, but in different tournaments.  Phil will play in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines (with Rickie and Bubba and Bill Haas and Keegan).  Also in the mix is JB Holmes!  This is his return to tournament golf since his brain surgery late last year.  He says he’s ready, I’ll cheer for his success with all the vigor I cheer for his (and my) favorite college basketball team – the UK Wildcats.  Tiger begins his season in Abu Dhabi, UAE at the HSBC Championship (with Luke, Lee, and Rory).  Some estimate that Tiger will receive $3 million just for showing up!  Let’s hope Tiger’s game of old also shows up and that his win late last year wasn’t an anomoly born from a short field and tired players.

Promise for the Rest of the Year

Ahhhh… so it begins with great wins in Hawaii and California for Steve Stricker, Johnson Wagner, and Mark Wilson.  Will Rickie finally win one at home?  There better be some wins this year for Watosh (me)!

Thanks Mr. Floyd – Man Behind the Putter

As an update to my recent putting post, I shot a 73 today and it was almost exclusively because of much improved putting.  Thanks to the changes I made described in the “Man Behind the Putter” posting AND a tip Raymond Floyd provided on television.

The Golf Channel’s recent 7 Nights at the Academy series aired this past week and featured tips and instruction by Sir Nick Faldo, Johnny Miller, and Raymond Floyd.  I watched some of the shows and they were very insightful and interesting.  A tip that resonated for me was a very simple one from Mr. Floyd in his putting segment.  He said to pick a very specific spot on the back of the ball when putting and stroke the putt.  How simple is that?!  I birdied the first hole, made 3 more birdies in the round and a bunch of “comeback putts” because of it.  The tip seems to focus your attention at what it should be on and keeps your head down throughout the stroke.

Sure,  I still had a couple of troublesome holes, but birdies sure help make up for some of those mistakes.  Thanks Mr. Floyd!

Why is Stewart Cinking?

I was perusing the World Golf Rankings list (http://www.officialworldgolfranking.com/rankings/default.sps?region=world&PageCount=3) a few moments ago and it struck me, what’s going on with Stewart Cink? He is 134th in the world. As of December 4th he is 101st on the PGA Tour money list (http://www.pgatour.com/r/stats/info/?109). Well inside the top 125, but not where I would have expected to see him as a non-watcher of the money list. Is he having issues or is he just “comfortable?”

Since his win at the Open Championship at Turnberry, bittersweet to most golf fans because he won over the resurgent 59 year old Tom Watson, Cink has been on a “Bear market trend” in world ranking points and earnings (that is not a good thing). For the remainder of 2009 (after his win), he had one top 10 finish. In 2010 he had three top 10 and twelve top 25 finishes on the PGA Tour. And this year he managed only one top 10 and six top 25 finishes. This is a precipitous drop in performance for the 38 year old golfer since his British Open win.

Stewart Cink turned pro in 1995, playing and winning on the Nike Tour then graduating to the PGA Tour in 1997 where he won the Canon Greater Hartford Open that year. He has six career PGA Tour wins and eighty-eight top 10 finishes. A dozen years or so he has been “in the mix,” but win a major and all of a sudden you never hear about him.

I came across a story on PGA.com that may provide some light. As reported in March 2011, he dropped his longtime swing coach Butch Harmon for his putting coach Pat O’Brien who will advise him on all aspects of play. According to the story he did so because of “scheduling conflicts.” Harmon Is based in Las Vegas and Cink lives in Atlanta and Cink decided family time was more important than travelling time to get to Harmon. Understandable, but I wonder if Cink hasn’t lost “the fire” since his win -acquiescing to do the more comfortable thing rather than that which makes him most competitive.

I like what I see in Stewart Cink’s talent and demeanor – a great golfer and seemingly a genuinely nice guy. I was sorry for him that his British Open win came with the pallor of Tom Watson’s loss. I think he has more majors in him. As a fan, I’d like to see him turn this around, but the indications are that he is “surfing.” Did I piss you off Stewart? I hope so! Get your ass in gear!

The Man Behind the Putter

I’ve been toying with my putter grip and changing out putters during the last couple of years. I owned only one putter for many years, a classic Wilson 8802 blade – it has a name, “The Great Santini” – I still have him. I was always an “it’s the man, not the putter” believer. I don’t know when exactly that changed, but now I own several putters (and a PING putter collection to boot) and have switched game putters out about 6 or 7 times in the last 4 years. What’s going on and why did I stray?

I have only started playing real tournament golf the last few years. Before that I basically stayed at my home course and played the same greens throughout a season. They tended to be of average speed, not fast but sometimes slow. It is easy to become accustomed to conditions and comfortable with putt speeds when you play the same course all of the time. As I graduated to tournament golf I found myself putting terribly because routinely I was playing greens much faster than I was used to. Putting stroke faults seem to really amplify on fast greens. I would blow putts by 4 or 5 feet or leave them alternatively well short. My feel for fast greens was not there, so naturally it couldn’t be me…it must be the putter!

I’ve used a PING iN half mallet for awhile, a PING Crazee (my wife calls it Mickey Mouse), a Rife two bar mallet, a Rife Martinique (Anser style), and now a Scotty Cameron Laguna. I have also moved to a course that has fast greens as the norm, and sometimes they are REALLY fast. I am working on my putting faults and I have committed to a single putter – the Rife Martinique. So, how do I fix my faults? Both speed (pace) and direction have been suffering – nice. I have been missing an inordinate number of 3 and 4 footers! It has not been uncommon for me to have 3 or 4 lip outs a round. Man!

I don’t have the yips, I feel comfortable over the ball, but my putting has not been working well. So, I did a little research about putting basics to include the putting grip. Seems there are as many opinions on the grip as there are putter styles. I keep finding that putting is an “individual thing” and that I should improve upon what feels comfortable to me. OK. Not so much help. Then I found an article by Joe Sullivan on GolfLink.com that resonated with me and I am trying it out, so far with pretty good results. The article (http://www.golflink.com/golf-tips/tips/sullivan018.aspx) suggested that one might consider Corey Pavin’s style of gripping the putter. It is simply and essentially to hold the putter in your hands with the palms facing out (away from you). This makes it impossible for your wrists to break down and creates a nice “Y” for you to use your shoulders to move the club head. Combining this with good fundamentals such as eyes over the ball, forearms in line with the putter, and more thoughtful green reading and it is getting better.

I have taken it out on the course a couple of times and find my distance control has improved dramatically. Direction is coming, but I am still making some subtle adjustments to the grip to get it “locked in.” First I had both thumbs down the center of the grip, but now I have my left thumb over my right hand middle fingers and my right thumb down the centerline. Also trying less right index finger trigger, seems to inadvertently steer at times. I need to eliminate that. And finally, for the first time, my putting grip has an interlocking grip.
I am at a stage now where repetition and practice must take over. I am excited about my improved distance control and improved 3-4 foot putt accuracy. My goal is to eliminate three putts – a round killer every time! I will probably not reach the 100% accuracy on 3 foot putts Luke Donald managed to execute the 2011 season, but I think I should make at least 8 or 9 out of 10 anyway.

Interestingly, in light of the long/belly putter these days, it’s not for me. I have toyed with them at golf shops and they never felt “right.” In addition, I am of the opinion that you should not be allowed to affix the putter against your body. Besides, if you believe the data derived by Marius Filmalter (great name) in his article in the Jan 2012 Golf Magazine, the results of a switch from short to long putter wouldn’t make much difference anyway. His “long-standing teaching philosophy” is that “every golfer has a signature stroke pattern that’s so hard-wired it’s impossible to change it with a simple putter switch.”

So, “thumbs up” to the Pavin grip. It is, in fact, the man not the putter. And, Santini, you may be back in the bag someday, but I’m not ready for you yet.

Feinstein on Tiger… or Feinstein on Feinstein on Tiger

I read an article about Tiger Woods and the “Tiger Woods machine” yesterday in the most recent Golf Digest (Jan 12) by John Feinstein. Actually it was an excerpt from his new book One on One: Behind the Scenes with the Greats in the Game (GD gets the title wrong in their attribution of the article to the book) where he apparently writes about his personal encounters with high profile sports figures . Of course, I have not read the book, but only assume the rest of it reads like the GD article. In this article, entitled No One Tells Tiger Woods What to Do, he describes his encounters with Tiger and his “people” from 1994 to present. If the book is anything like the story, you’ll be reading John Feinstein’s thoughts on John Feinstein’s previous thoughts, stories and opinions about sports figures and his impression of how they reacted to these thoughts, stories and opinions.

I gained a little insight into Tiger’s world from the story, but really, is it any surprise that Tiger makes all his own decisions? The story really kind of smacked of Feinstein holding himself up as the victim as he attempted to do the “righteous work” of de-layering the Tiger onion for all of us. Is that what we really want? It is a mildly interesting story, but I don’t really care how hard it is for John to get one on one time with Tiger (or anyone else) in order to delve deeper into their personal lives and reasons behind decisions. These aren’t world leaders we are talking about, but sports figures, entertainers, people who perform ultimately for the entertainment of the rest of us. While I understand that personal lives influence performance – no greater example of that than Tiger’s failed marriage – I want my sports heroes to be viewed primarily in the light of performance.

This kind of reaches into the discussion of sports figures as role models. I am in the Charles Barkley camp on this one. Sure, there are going to be the occasional Tim Tebows that come along who one could hold up as a role model, but generally sports figures are normal human beings with the challenges and foibles all individuals have. They are not role models, but people who happen to have an unusual talent to do something. Why not just enjoy that!? Does it surprise anyone when a news story comes out that a NFL player has been arrested for this or for that? So what? He screwed up…like thousands of other people screw up in the world every day. Why is the sports figure any different than the rest of us except that he has been blessed with a particular talent to perform?

OK. So the story told me that Tiger and his camp is standoffish, that Tiger is smart, that Tiger’s dad was a “challenge,” and that Tiger made decisions and took some actions that Feinstein negatively opined about. What stands out in the article is Feinstein’s ability to tell a story so that he is always right and that , in this case anyway, Tiger would eventually realize that John was right.

Golf Digest screwed up. This wasn’t a story about Tiger, it was a story about Feinstein talking about Tiger and his life in such a way as to hold himself as the protagonist and the Team Tiger the antagonists…they should have had Feinstein caricatured throughout the pages rather than the Woods family.

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