February 19, 2013

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WGC- Accenture Match Play Championship: February Madness

By: Tyler Vespa

The top 64 players in the world of golf will do battle in the only match play event of the season on the PGA Tour; it’s the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Can Steve Stricker become the third player to win this event multiple times?

The tournament format is set up into 4 brackets; The Sam Snead Bracket, The Gary Player Bracket, The Ben Hogan Bracket and The Bobby Jones Bracket. Each bracket contains 16 golfers. That means the top seed in each bracket plays the 16 seed in each bracket. The world’s number one player, Rory McIlroy will play the 64th player in the world and so forth. In other words, this is golf’s version of the NCAA Tournament. Every swing matters because it’s single elimination.

Coming in to play on February 20th at the Golf Club at Dove Mountain, McIlroy will have now been number one in the world for the last 7 months. He regained the top spot with his victory at the 2012 PGA Championship in Kiawah Island. The Northern Irishmen hasn’t teed it up since missing the cut earlier this year in Abu Dhabi.

The world number two, Tiger Woods also missed the cut in Abu Dhabi to start his year. However, he came back with a win a week later in his PGA Tour debut at Torrey Pines.

With the bracket not finalized, I’m a bit hesitant to deliver my predictions. I’ve filled out a bracket for this event for nearly 10 years, and each year it has been increasingly difficult.

So, I’m going to attempt to do it by process of elimination. Here it goes.

  1. The only man to win this event in back to back years is Tiger Woods. Goodbye Hunter Mahan.
  2. Only two men have won this event multiple times; Tiger Woods and Geoff Ogilvy. So sorry Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson, David Toms and Steve Stricker.
  3. A player outside the top 20 in the world has won only once since 2003.
  4. World Number 4 Brandt Snedeker is out with a rib injury. World Number 10 Phil Mickelson is skipping the event.
  5. An American, an Australian, a Swede, an Englishmen and a Northern Irishmen are the only countries to have had a winner.
  6. Since the course was changed from La Costa Resort and Spa in California to the Golf Club at Dover Mountain (as its now called) in 2007 the United States and England are the only countries to have had multiple winners.
  7. Again, since the course made that change, there’s never been an American against an Englishmen in the final match.
  8. Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson are the only Americans left who have already posted a win in 2013.
  9. Final: Tiger Woods 3&2 over Dustin Johnson

Well that was interesting. I guess a little madness goes a long way. With the win, Tiger Woods will have come a long way to dethrone McIlroy as world number 1.

December 14, 2012

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What Advantage Tom Watson brings as 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain

By: Tyler Vespa

On Thursday evening, 63-year-old Tom Watson became the next captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team. The next Ryder Cup will be contested on September 26th-28th, 2014 at Gleneagles in Scotland.

This decision went against the grain for the PGA of America. David Toms was thought to be a lock and fit the blueprint the PGA looks for, age of 45-50, past Ryder Cup experience, and a major champion.

Bottom line, the victory at Valhalla in 2008 wasn’t enough. Neither were the losses by a single point in 2010 at Celtic Manor and 2012 at Medinah, after a historic meltdown on the final day. Something had to change.

Steve Stricker was a part of the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup Team that lost in 2012.

With that I give you 5 reasons the selection of Tom Watson gives the U.S. an advantage in Scotland:

  1. He captained the last win on foreign soil in 1993 at the Belfry.
  2. He is a 5-time British Open Champion. 4 of those victories came in Scotland.
  3. He will have the respect of all his team members. He almost won the 2009 British Open again at Turnberry, but lost in a playoff to Stewart Cink.
  4. Won 3 Ryder Cups as member of Team USA (1977, 1981, 1983)
  5. Boasts a 10-4-1 record in Ryder Cup play. That winning percentage trails only one American; Arnold Palmer was 22-8-2.

The game of golf is built around an unmatchable sense of tradition. However, this was nothing short of “elementary” for the PGA of America. Europe has won 7 of the last 9 Ryder Cups played. Close and competitive doesn’t create results. Watson will accept nothing short of victory. With over 365 days until we arrive at Gleneagles, the face of American golf is in good hands.

July 12, 2011

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British Open Preview

By: Joe Williams

It’s British Open week, which means you’ll need a 4 a.m. wake-up call if you don’t want to miss any of the action. In most of the world, this is the biggest tournament of the year. It is probably even truer this year with European players holding the top four spots in the world rankings and all the major championships. This tournament is historically the most wide-open of the majors so you never know who will win, but here are a few things to keep in mind.

He’s back

No, not Tiger. Rory McIlroy will tee it up for the first time since his dominating performance at the U.S. Open last month. His Tiger-esque victory at Congressional has the golf world crowning him as the next Tiger Woods. If not for an awful Sunday at Augusta, he could be halfway to a Rory-Slam.

No Tiger

Speaking of Tiger, we don’t know when Woods will return. We know it won’t be this week. He announced on his website that he will not play, but made no mention of when he expected to return. He hasn’t played in months so even if his body has healed, his game may not be ready by next month’s PGA Championship.

Not playing

Several other names you may recognize will not be in the field this week. Frenchman, Thomas Levet earned himself a spot in the Open Championship by winning the French Open. He was injured when he jumped into a lake to celebrate his win and will not play. Vijay Singh and David Toms have also had to withdraw because of injuries. Colin Montgomery failed to qualify for the first time since 1989.

The course

Royal St Georges is not easy. Open Championship winners have finished under par at Royal St Georges just three times. It will play as a par 70 at over 7200 yards from the back tees, a bit longer than 2003 when Ben Curtis won with a total score of 283. Then again, 10 years earlier, Greg Norman won with four rounds in the 60s. Many players have ranked it at the bottom of the courses in the British Open rotation. As always, the weather will factor mightily into how the course plays.

If not Rory, then who

McIlroy is the favorite, but who else could be holding the Claret Jug on Sunday? Phil Mickelson is always one to watch despite his poor record in the British Open. He has just one career top 10 finish. Luke Donald is the No. 1 ranked player in the world and looking for his first major championship win. Lee Westwood has five top-three finishes in the last seven majors. Is this his time? Jason Day finished second at the Masters and the U.S. Open. He’d like to improve by one spot this week.

My pick

Once in a while someone comes from out of nowhere to win this championship, so what about Sergio Garcia? Here’s a guy who has been out of the spotlight for a while and has been playing well.

June 14, 2011

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Players to Watch at the U.S. Open

By: Joe Williams

Come Sunday afternoon, thousands of fathers will sit down with their sons and watch someone capture the US Open on Father’s Day. It could be almost anyone in the 156 man field. The 2011 edition looks to be wide open. Tiger Woods is out with an injury. It will be the first time he hasn’t played since 1994. Vijay Singh’s consecutive major streak will come to an end at 67. It’s nearly impossible to predict who will win, but here are a few guys that will be worth watching.

David Toms

The 44-year-old is having a great season. He won the Colonial Invitational and really should have won the Players Championship, but lost in a playoff to K.J. Choi. He is one of the most accurate players on tour, but the length of Congressional could give him some trouble.

Sergio Garcia

He may have gone from ‘best player to never win a major’ to ‘biggest name to never win a major’ over the last year or so. If not for a last-minute change of heart, he would not even be in the field. But he decided to go to sectional qualifying and played his way into the field. Some time away from the spotlight could be just what Garcia needed to claim his first major championship.

Ernie Els

He hasn’t had a lot of success so far in 2011, but the last time the US Open was at Congressional, Els was the last man standing. 1997 was a long time ago, but the Big Easy should get some positive vibes from returning to the site of a major championship victory.

Matt Kuchar

He’s the most consistent player out there. He always seems to be in the top 15, but hasn’t won a lot to this point. If an American is going to win our national championship, Kuchar is at the top of the list.

Dustin Johnson

His unbelievable length will be a big advantage if he keeps it in play. He could easily have two major victories on his resume and would be the defending champion this week if not for a final round implosion at Pebble Beach. He is ranked in the top 10 in the world.

Lee Westwood

Lee Westwood

Westwood has had a Phil Mickelson like series of close calls in recent majors. He has five top three finishes in the last four years. You’ve got to think his time is coming and it could be this week.

 Phil Mickelson

It would be tough to find someone who wants to win our national championship more than Mickelson. He has had close call after close call in this tournament. He hasn’t done much since his win at the 2010 Masters. A win would likely vault him to top spot in the world rankings.

Steve Stricker

Maybe the best putter on tour. He’s playing well (top 13 finishes in his last five events) and coming off of a win at the Memorial. He’s still looking for his first major. His game seems to suit the US Open.

Luke Donald

The new number one ranked player is playing as well as anyone right now. He’s got the accuracy to stay out of trouble and his confidence should be riding high. His pairing with Westwood and Martin Kaymer should be an interesting group.

Graeme McDowell

Curtis Strange is the only back-to-back winner at the US Open in the last 55 years. Can McDowell do it at Congressional? It’s going to be a tall order. He has just one finish in the top 30 in his last five starts.

April 12, 2011

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Surviving the Masters

By: Joe Williams

99 players teed it up at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday to compete for the green jacket. Charl Schwartzel was the last man standing on Sunday afternoon. He survived one of the most wide-open and unpredictable finishes in Masters history. If he is anything like me, he is still wearing that green jacket.

If you missed it, here’s how the field narrowed from 99 players to one Masters Champion:

November 25, 2010 – Tiger Woods will never forget this Thanksgiving Day. As we all know, his life changed in a major way and he hasn’t won since. (Just kidding about his elimination. Tiger could have won this tournament.)

Monday, April 4: No amateur has ever won the Masters. It is too tall an order for a group of guys who are probably just happy to be playing in the Masters. Players eliminated: David Chung, Jin Jeong, Lion Kim, Hideki Matsuyama, Nathan Smith, and Peter Uihlein. 93 players still alive.

Wednesday, April 6: Luke Donald wins the Par 3 Contest. No winner of the Par 3 Contest has won the Masters in the same year. Players eliminated: Luke Donald. 92 players still alive.

Thursday, April 7, 8:51 a.m.: Aaron Baddeley’s tee shot on the first hole ends up in a woman’s lap. When he arrived he marked the ball’s spot underneath her chair with a tee and took a drop. This is not the way you want to begin a major championship. Baddeley goes on to shoot 75. Players eliminated: Aaron Baddeley. 91 Players still alive.

Thursday, April 7, Round 1: You cannot win a tournament in the first round but you can play your way out of it. Just ask Martin Kaymer. He came into the week at the top of the world rankings but shot a 78 in the first round and went on to miss the cut. He was not the only big name to struggle in the first round. Players eliminated: Mark O’Meara 77, Padraig Harrington 77, Martin Kaymer 78, Ben Crenshaw 78, Ian Woosnam 79, Tom Watson, 79, Craig Stadler 80, Arjun Atwal 80, and Henrik Stenson 82. 83 players still alive.

Friday, April 8, 12th hole: Matt Kuchar stood on the 12th tee at 3-under par and within a few shots of the lead. His tee shot vanished as it landed. They finally found the ball but he had to take a drop on the other side of Rae’s Creek and walked away with a double-bogey. Graeme McDowell ran into trouble on 12 as well. He took a triple-bogey and missed the cut by two shots. Players eliminated: Matt Kuchar, Graeme McDowell. 80 players still alive.

Friday, April 8, Round 2: Only the top 44 and ties get to play the weekend at Augusta. Those who miss the cut can only think about what might have been. Players eliminated: Mike Weir, Vijay Singh, Sandy Lyle, Davis Love III, Jonathan Byrd, Larry Mize, Jose Maria Olazabal, Rory Sabatini, Hiroyuki Fujita, Kevin Streelman, Anders Hansen, Louis Oosthuizen, Gregory Havret, Jason Bohn, Yuta Ikeda, Carl Pettersson, D.A. Points, Retief Goosen, Peter Hanson, Jhonattan Vegas, Ben Crane, Heath Slocum, Jerry Kelly, Stuart Appleby, Mark Wilson, Kevin Na, Francesco Molinari, Hunter Mahan, Anthony Kim, Sean O’Hair, Robert Allenby, Zach Johnson, Lucas Glover, Tim Clark, Stewart Cink. 45 players still alive.

Saturday, April 9, Front Nine: It’s moving day. Those who just made the cut have no room for error. They need to go low. Players eliminated: Kyung-Tae Kim, Ernie Els, Nick Watney, Camilo Villegas, Steve Marino, Alex Cejka, and Paul Casey. 38 players still alive.

Saturday, April 9, Round 3: Anything can happen in the final round of a major championship. If you can stay within shouting distance of the lead, you’ve got a shot. Players eliminated: Jeff Overton, Trevor Immelman, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Justin Rose, Bill Haas, Robert Karlsson, Charley Hoffman, Gary Woodland, Dustin Johnson, Ian Poulter, Ryan Moore, David Toms, Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker, Sergio Garcia, Ryo Ishikawa, Ricky Barnes, Ricky Fowler. 20 players still alive.

Sunday, April 10: Rory McIlroy holds a four shot lead at -12. Anybody within range of second at – 8 has a shot to make a run if McIlroy struggles and comes back to the field.
1st hole – Alvaro Quiros and Martin Laird make bogey. Ryan Palmer makes double bogey. 17 players still alive.
3rd hole – Y.E. Yang makes bogey. 16 players still alive.
4th hole – Steve Stricker, Edoardo Molinari and Bubba Watson make bogey. 13 players still alive.
5th hole – Phil Mickelson makes double bogey. 12 players still alive.
3rd hole – Charl Schwartzel holes out from the fairway for an eagle to go -11 and tie for the lead. Fred Couples and Geoff Ogilvy are seven shots behind two players. 10 players still alive.
8th hole – Tiger Woods makes an eagle to get to -10 and a tie for second. Bo Van Pelt and Ross Fisher are five shots behind two players and six shots off the lead. 8 players still alive.
11th hole – Lee Westwood makes bogey and drops to -5 with three players tied for the lead at -10. 7 players still alive.
10th hole – Rory McIlroy makes a disastrous triple-bogey to fall out of the lead. He is just two shots behind but it is too hard to recover from a mess like that. 6 players still alive.
16th hole – Adam Scott nearly makes an ace but settles for birdie to go -12. Angel Cabrera falls four shots off the pace. 5 players still alive.
17th hole – K.J. Choi makes a bogey and drops to -9. 4 players still alive.
17th hole – Charl Schwartzel makes birdie to take the lead at -13. Tiger Woods is in the clubhouse at -10. 3 players still alive.
18th hole – Charl Schwartzel makes birdie to win the Masters by two shots over Jason Day and Adam Scott.
Your winner: Charl Schwartzel

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