June 13, 2013

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2013 U.S. OPEN PREVIEW: Your Grandfather’s Open

By: Tyler Vespa

The winner finishes with even par or worse. The rough as high as 3 ½ inches high just a few feet off the fairway.  Tough, right? Now take away the flags on top of the pins and turn them into red woven baskets. Impossible? Well? No. Probably not, but how will you judge wind direction? Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania has a mission: To bring back the “old school” U.S. Open. Between the rough and keeping the woven baskets on top of the pins, Merion will succeed as “golf’s toughest test”.

Will Ian Poulter contend for the 113th U.S. Open?

The 113th edition of this great championship will see many of the game’s most talented players laying up on par 4’s out of the rough. That’s the U.S. Open. Sure, you’ll make some birdies, but how do you turn a double bogey or triple bogey into a bogey, and how do you turn a double bogey or bogey into a great par save?

Some call it grit, some call it grind, but whatever you choose to call it may not matter without will. So, along with asking yourself “what will you do”? you must also have the will to get the job done against all odds.

Now let’s talk about the contenders. Honestly, I’d love to see an amateur win this championship in my lifetime, but Merion just isn’t “open” enough. The beauty of this year’s field is the “long-bomber” versus the short and accurate. Either type of player could hold the trophy come Father’s Day.

With that here are my top 6 players who have the best chance to win the second major of the season:

1. Tiger Woods- 4 wins in 13’, 3-time U.S. Open champion, last in 2008.

2. Phil Mickelson- 1 win in 13’ (Phoenix Open) Shot 67, 65, 67, to finish T2 this past weekend in Memphis.

3. Matt Kuchar- 2 wins in 13’ (The Memorial) (WGC Match Play) T8 at the Masters, 4 other top 10’s, 14 for 14 on cuts made this year.

4. Sergio Garcia- Worst finish this year was a T17 at the Match Play, which means almost nothing. Sergio Garcia has played solid golf every week. Could this be the week it all comes together?

5. Graeme McDowell- 2010 U.S. Open champion. Runner-up last year at Olympic Club. He definitely has the grit to do it again.

6. Nicolas Colsaerts- Look out for “The Muscles from Brussels”. He was T4 last year at Olympic after 3 rounds before fading with a 6-over 76.

One of these 6 players will outlast the field to win America’s National Championship. I would love to see Phil Mickelson win his first U.S. Open. He’s had so many close calls and heartbreaks at this championship. That ends this week; He’s still good enough to win this tournament.

June 11, 2013

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Players To Watch at the U.S. Open

By: Joe Williams

The field for our golf national championship has been narrowed down from thousands in qualifying to some 150 players. If you are like me you don’t have time to follow them all so here are the players I’m going to be following when the U.S. Open begins on Thursday:

Phil Mickelson
Phil has suffered my Open heartbreak than maybe anyone in history with his five runner-up finishes. He comes in with three straight rounds in the 60s and a second place finish last week in Memphis. Did you see his approach at 18? He nearly holed it which would have tied the lead. Pulling off a pressure shot like that is the perfect way to build momentum for a major championship.

Sergio Garcia makes our list of players to watch during the U.S. Open.

Tiger Woods
He’s got four wins already and is back to No. 1 in the world. How will he bounce back from his round of 79 at the Memorial? He’s had a while to think about it and I believe it will be a little added incentive for him to play well this week. It’s now been a full five years since he won a major. The streak has to end sooner or later right? You’ve got to like his chances when the course won’t require much from the driver.

Webb Simpson
He’s the defending champ. Defending champs rarely contend at the U.S. Open. But he’s got a lot of experience at this course. Will that be an advantage that guides him to contention on Sunday? Maybe. But only four players in the last 100 years have won back-to-back so winning seems like a long shot.

Adam Scott
He’s playing with Tiger Woods in the first two rounds and he’s using Tiger’s old caddie. That’s reason enough to keep your eye on Scott. But he’s the current Masters champion and is the only guy in the field with a shot at the grand slam. He should be full of confidence and hasn’t missed a cut this year.

Rory McIlroy
He’ll be the third man in the group with Woods and Scott. He’s had a disappointing season so far and missed the cut last year but he’s got the talent to beat the best in the world by eight shots as we’ve seen him do twice. He may have to duel with Tiger for four straight days to get it done this week.

Matt Kuchar
If it wasn’t for Woods, he’d be leading the money list and the FedEx Cup Points list. He’s coming off a big win at Muirfield Village and he’s put himself on the short list of best players in the world. He has more top 10s than anyone over the last three years and two wins in 2013. All he needs now is a major championship.

Here’s a few more guys that could be worth watching.
Tim Clark – He hits it straight and is a great iron player.
Graeme McDowell – Leads the tour in driving accuracy and has won the U.S. Open before.
Steve Stricker – Unbelievable putter and short iron player and still looking for that first major.
Sergio Garcia – The rivalry with Tiger just won’t go away.
Lee Westwood – He’s running out of chances to finally win a major.

May 30, 2013

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The 2013 Memorial Tournament

By: Tyler Vespa

It has been 3 weeks since Tiger Woods posted his 4th victory of the season at the Players Championship. During his two-week rest we had another first-time winner in South Korea’s Sang Moon Bae, and 2008 US Ryder Cup fan favorite Boo Weekley, who earned his 3rd career PGA Tour victory at the Crowne Plaza Invitational with a 1 shot victory over Matt Kuchar. It was Weekley’s first win in 5 years. Well played Boo, hope to see you in another Ryder Cup soon.

Can 2011 winner Steve Stricker win another Memorial Tournament?

Atop the world rankings almost nothing has changed. Tiger and Rory McIlroy are still 1 and 2. Adam Scott and Justin Rose are still # 3 and # 4. However, last week on the European Tour was a bit of a shock, as 3 of the top 7 players in the world missed the cut at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Those 3 players were Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, and Graeme McDowell.

The 9th ranked player in the world Matt Kuchar climbed into 3rd place in the FedEx Cup behind Tiger Woods and Brandt Snedeker after his runner-up finish at the Crowne Plaza last week.

With that here are the 5 players who will contend for the trophy on Sunday afternoon:

  1. Tiger Woods: 4 wins in 7 starts in 13’, Defending champion, 5-time winner of this event. 3 other top 5’s at Muirfield Village.
  2. Matt Kuchar: Runner-up at Memorial in 2011, T8 in 2010, T5 in 2009, and T10 in 2008. Runner-up last week at Crowne Plaza.
  3. Justin Rose: 2010 Memorial Champ, 4 other top 15’s in this event. 4th ranked player in the world, was also runner-up here in 2008.
  4. Lee Westwood: T8 at the Players in his last start in the US and a T9 last week at Wentworth. He’s in that form that left him one shot out of a playoff in the 2008 U.S. Open.
  5. Ernie Els: 2004 Memorial Champ, 5 top 15’s in 7 starts in 13’. 10 top 15’s at the Memorial. Solid T6 last week at Wentworth.

I like Justin Rose to take home the hardware on Sunday. I would love to see him and Tiger in a playoff, but I think Rose beats him by a shot.

May 8, 2013

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The 2013 Players Championship: Golf’s Greatest Stadium

By: Tyler Vespa

Coming into the 40th edition of what some call golf’s “5th major”, there have been two golfers on tour in 2013 that have separated themselves from the field. One of them is not a surprise; it’s Tiger Woods. The other put his name on the front page with his victory at the Masters. Adam Scott became the first Australian to win the green jacket. Since then, the tour had two first time winners in Billy Horschel and David Ernst, and Graeme McDowell, whose world class play was again realized with his win at Harbor Town. With the wind howling, McDowell did what he did at the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, outlasted everybody.

Sergio Garcia won the 2008 Players Championship.

Each year, the Players Championship along with maybe only the U.S. Open is an event where the course is the victor almost every year. The TPC Sawgrass (Stadium Course) is home of the famous island hole, the par 3 17th hole, and yes it’s definitely “Better Than Most”.  At just 137 yards, which for a pro is almost always a birdie opportunity, the hole has played to a scoring average of 3.14 since 2003. In case you aren’t convinced, Phil Mickelson has hit 7 balls in the water on the hole since 2003. 11% of the shots hit here since 2003 have found the water. Bob Tway holds the record for most balls in the water since 2003 with 9.

The worst part, your round is not over. You still have to play # 18. The hole is a 447-yard Par 4 dogleg left around a lake. Since 2003, it has ranked as the toughest hole at Sawgrass with a scoring average of 4.34. I liken it to a “horseshoe”, with water in the middle. The problem is the horseshoe is the PGA Tour’s version of Lombard Street.

With that, here are 5 guys who could hold the crystal on Sunday:

  1. Graeme McDowell - The Northern Irishmen is the best wind player on tour. If it plays firm and fast, and the wind blows, McDowell will win another huge event.
  2. Adam Scott - The Aussie won the event back in 2004, and his game is as solid as it’s ever been.
  3. Luke Donald - The 5th-ranked player in the world has Top 10 finishes in the last two years at Sawgrass.
  4. Matt Kuchar - He’s defending a title this week, and has 3 other top 20’s at Sawgrass. The field better watch out if he gets comfortable.
  5. Tiger Woods - He’s not my favorite this week at the Stadium Course, but he’s playing too well this year to leave off the ballot. I would be surprised if this year’s Tiger can’t find a top 5 finish this week.

November 27, 2012

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Five Who Could Win The World Challenge

By: Tyler Vespa

With the end of each golf season comes the World Challenge. Since 2000, Tiger Woods and the Tiger Woods Foundation have hosted and organized the event. The event began awarding world-ranking points in 2009. Luke Donald just overtook Tiger to become No. 2 in the world with his win a week ago in Japan. Donald won the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament by 5 shots. It was Donald’s first win since May, when he won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Golf Club in his native England.

Will Ian Poulter win the World Challenge?

Hopefully that is enough incentive for Tiger, who has an opening to regain the No. 2 spot in the world with a victory. With no Donald playing this week in California, I give you 5 players who can win this Sunday at Sherwood Country Club:

1. Tiger Woods- 5-time winner of this event, 4 runner-ups.

2. Graeme McDowell- 1 win and 1 runner-up two of the past three years.

3. Zach Johnson- 2 runner-ups in this event, lost to Tiger in 2011.

4. Jim Furyk- 1 victory at Sherwood Country Club in 2009. No worse than 11th in past 5 appearances.

5. Ian Poulter- Poulter won the WGC-HSBC Champions event in China on November 4th.

I will expect déjà vu at Sherwood Country Club in the 2012 edition. Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell will go down to the wire, just like in 2010. This time, Tiger Woods will prevail with a birdie on the final hole and win the event back-to-back for the first time since he accomplished the same feat in 2006 and 2007.