May 8, 2013
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.
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:
May 7, 2013
Before Tiger Woods took the golf world by storm with his monstrous drives, it was John Daly and his extra-long backswing that was pounding the ball past everyone else. And before Daly hit the scene, Fred ‘Boom Boom’ Couples was the long-hitter on tour.
Now he’s a new member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
On the course, he was (and still is) such a cool customer that he looked like he didn’t have a care in the world. He never wore a glove and had a slow, but perfectly rhythmic swing that made him appear to be out there just having a good time. But that wasn’t the case.
He was a fierce competitor who was the PGA Tour Player of the Year and Vardon Trophy winner in back-to-back years. (1991-92)
Couples was also the first American to hit No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings and led team USA in several Ryder and Presidents Cups. He’s also got 15 PGA Tour wins (including the Players Championship twice) and eight on the Champions Tour. He’s won more than $27 million in his career.
But he’ll be forever remembered for his 1992 Masters win. And especially for his tee shot on the par 3 12th hole during the final round. His shot came up short of the green and was rolling down the slope towards Rae’s Creek. (A result that likely would have cost him the green jacket) But miraculously the ball hung up on the bank and Couples was able to get up-and-down on his way to a two-shot win over Raymond Floyd.
We’ll always wonder how many more wins he would have if he didn’t struggle with back problems over the years. But to this day, he still pops up from time to time and makes a run at another title. Especially at Augusta. Just last month he was near the lead for most of the Masters and had a shot at winning heading into the final round. He finished in a tie for 13th.
The 1992 Masters champion and 15-time winner on the PGA tour was inducted along with Colin Montgomerie, Ken Venturi, former European Tour Commissioner Ken Schofield and old timer Willie Park Jr.
April 16, 2013
One mistake can dash your hopes of winning a major championship. The margin for error is smaller at Augusta than anywhere and sometimes the man that claims the green jacket is the one that avoids the major mistake. So in case you missed it, here’s how Adam Scott ended up winning the Masters on Sunday.
94 players qualified for the Masters.
Darren Clarke withdrew because of a hamstring injury. 93 players remain in contention.
Ted Potter Jr. defeats Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar to win the Par 3 Contest. Nobody has ever won the Par 3 and the Masters in the same year. 92 players remain in contention.
Nathan Smith makes the first bogey of the tournament and drops into last place.91 players remain in contention.
Craig Stadler makes an 8 on No. 10. and falls to +6.
Robert Garrigus makes a triple-bogey on No. 12 and falls to +6.
Other players who posted high numbers in the first round: Alan Dunbar, Ben Crenshaw, Ian Woosnam, Hiroyuki Fujita, Thaworn Wiratchant, Tom Watson, Michael Weaver, Branden Grace, Nick Watney, Padraig Harrington, Thorbjorn Olesen. 78 players remain in contention.
With the cut looming, several players played themselves out of contention: Louis Oosthuizen, John Merrick, Ben Curtis, Mike Weir, Nicolas Colsaerts, Ian Poulter, T.J. Vogel, Russell Henley, Kevin Streelman, Francesco Molinari, Steven Fox, and Hunter Mahan. 66 players remain in contention.
Mark O’Meara makes a triple-bogey on No. 18 to miss the cut. 65 players remain in contention.
Jason Day makes birdie on 16 to take the lead at -6 and move the cut line to +4. Jamie Donaldson, Martin Laird, George Coetzee, Matteo Manassero, Y.E. Yang, Larry Mize, Webb Simpson and Graeme McDowell are out.57 players remain in contention.
Tiger Woods receives a controversial two-shot penalty after the rules committee reviewed him taking an illegal drop and signing an incorrect scorecard in the second round. The No. 1 player in the world lost his momentum and dropped to -1, five shots off the lead. Many of the analysts and golfing greats called for Woods to disqualify himself from the tournament. Woods played on, but couldn’t overcome everything going against him. 56 players remain in contention.
Saturday is known as moving day and for some players, who barely made the cut, there was a lot of moving to do and some couldn’t get it going on the first nine. Tianlang Guan, Ryo Ishikawa, Keegan Bradley, Peter Hanson, Sandy Lyle, Carl Pettersson, John Peterson, Michael Thompson, Ryan Moore, Trevor Immelman, Kevin Na, Vijay Singh, Richard Sterne, D.A. Points, Henrik Stenson, 41 players remain in contention.
Others waited for the second nine to fall apart. The 11th hole was especially brutal and claimed big-name players Phil Mickelson (double-bogey), Rory McIlroy (triple-bogey) and Bubba Watson (double-bogey). Thomas Bjorn, Scott Piercy, Lucas Glover, Martin Kaymer, Paul Lawrie, David Lynn, Jose Maria Olazabal, Brian Gay, David Toms, Stewart Cink, John Huh, Ernie Els, Luke Donald, K.J. Choi, Fredrik Jacobson, Bill Haas, Dustin Johnson, John Senden and Charl Schwartzel were all unable to get into position going into the final round. 19 players remain in contention.
Fred Couples makes a bogey and Jason Dufner makes a double-bogey on No. 1. 17 players remain in contention.
Rickie Fowler makes a double-bogey on No. 3. 16 players remain in contention.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano makes a double-bogey on No. 4. 15 players remain in contention.
Justin Rose makes a bogey on No. 5. 14 players remain in contention.
Bo Van Pelt makes a double-bogey on No. 7. 13 players remain in contention.
Tim Clark makes a double-bogey on No. 5. 8 players remain in contention.
Angel Cabrera makes a birdie on No. 7, while Bernhard Langer bogeys No. 10. Langer and Matt Kuchar are both seven shots off the lead. 6 players remain in contention.
Lee Westwood makes a bogey on No. 13 and is six shots behind. 5 players remain in contention.
Brandt Snedeker puts it in the water on No. 13. 4 players remain in contention.
Mark Leishman hits it in the water on No. 15 and Jason Day makes a birdie. Leishman is now three shots behind. 3 players remain in contention.
Adam Scott birdies No. 18 to finish at -9. Angel Cabrera is in the 18th fairway at -8 and Jason Day is finished at -7. Day is eliminated. 2 players remain in contention.
Angel Cabrera birdies No. 18 to force a playoff with Adam Scott.
Cabrera and Scott both make par on the first playoff hole.
Adam Scott sinks a birdie putt on the second playoff hole after Cabrera’s putt just misses the cup.
Cabrera is eliminated and Adam Scott is your Masters champion.
April 15, 2013
Adam Scott wins first Masters in dramatic fashion: Golf’s biggest event was front and center this weekend and there were plenty of theatrics. First, there was 14-year old Tianlang Guan taking the world by storm by not only making the cut, but finishing as the youngest low amateur in the history of the tournament. Then, there was Tiger-gate, when Tiger Woods took an illegal drop that caused many to question if he should remain in the event. Finally, Adam Scott walked away with his first ever Masters win after defeating Angel Cabrera in a playoff with a birdie on the second hole. Say what you will about golf, but there are few things in the world of sports that can compare to Sunday at the Masters.
Kobe Bryant tears Achilles tendon – out for season: The Los Angeles Lakers have struggled all season with a star-studded lineup, but they may have been dealt a death blow last week. Star guard Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles tendon and will miss the rest of this season. So how did the Lakers respond to losing their best player? By promptly beating what could be the best team in the Western Conference – the San Antonio Spurs. Los Angeles’ win on Sunday proved there is still life within the team. While the backcourt is in shambles (especially with Steve Nash who has missed several games), the frontcourt can still be one of the best in the league with center Dwight Howard and forwards Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace, and Antawn Jamison. The Lakers may have a more difficult time keeping up with the younger Oklahoma City Thunder, but you’ve got to give them a fighting chance against the Spurs if they meet in the playoffs.
Louisville defeated Michigan for the NCAA championship: A week later and it seems like old news by now, but the Louisville Cardinals won their first title under Rick Pitino with an 82-76 win over the Michigan Wolverines last Monday. Pitino became the first coach to win NCAA championships with two different teams. The Cardinals went on a tear late in the season and became the trendy pick to win the title. Nearly as important as winning the championship was that they allowed folks like me to finish respectably in their bracket pools despite a plethora of other questionable picks.
Jeff Garcia to New York Jets – ditch Tim Tebow: Former NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia had some interesting comments about young quarterback Tim Tebow in a USA Today interview. Speaking about Tebow, Garcia said he just brings distraction and that having him on the Jets doesn’t add anything positive. He then went on to say that starting quarterback Mark Sanchez’ main competition will come from aging veteran David Garrard or little-used Greg McElroy. I won’t totally disagree with Garcia that Tebow is a major distraction, but I’m not so sure he still can’t contribute to the team if used effectively. I’m not of the opinion that he’s an ideal starting quarterback, but there are certain packages where he can be used infrequently and make plays with his legs. Is that more valuable than what Garrard or McElroy can add? Unless one of them unseats Sanchez or plays considerably as a backup, I’d say yes.
Wrigley Field to get updated look: The Chicago Cubs announced that historic Wrigley Field will get some upgrades as part of a $500 million renovation. That will include the Field’s first electronic video board. Typically I hate stuff like this, but sometimes upgrades are needed to remain competitive. And as long as there’s no plan to make sweeping changes to one of the most recognizable stadiums in baseball, it’s hard to complain too loudly.
April 11, 2013
This is what we’ve been waiting eight months for. Golf’s first major championship of the season has begun and there are plenty of storylines happening in Augusta. Of course, the most important one is winning the green jacket come Sunday afternoon. Here are a few guys I’ll be paying attention to this week.
One year ago, Bubba hit one of the greatest shots in Masters history on his way to claiming the green jacket. He’s become one of the biggest stars in golf. Don’t let the hot pink driver fool you…he hits it a ton and he loves to shape his shots. With that combination, he should have as good a shot as anyone this week. Can he defend his championship?
Really this should be a list of players to watch other than Tiger. If Woods is in the field, he’ll be the most watched player by far. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s won three times this year while nobody else has more than one. He back at the top of his game and back at the top of the world rankings. Will his major drought come to an end this week?
Johnson has already won this year and finished T12 and T4 in his last two tournaments. His length will give him an advantage over just about everyone in the field. He will have to get on a hot streak with the putter and if he is in contention on Sunday, we’ll see if he can avoid the major mistake that has already cost him a couple majors in his short career.
He nearly had the tournament won two years ago at the beginning of his rise to No. 1 in the world. He struggled and had confidence issues after making an equipment change but finished second last week, giving him some momentum heading into the season’s first major. Is it enough to handle the course that will penalize you for the slightest mistake?
He could be the best player that hasn’t won a major but he is running out of chances. He’s got three straight high finishes at Augusta and finished in the top 10 in Houston. He’s confident heading into the tournament but will he be able to sink the crucial putt down the stretch that he hasn’t made in all of his close calls?
He says this is his favorite week of the year. He always seems to be in contention at Augusta. He has won three of the last seven Masters tournaments and could have made it four last year if it wasn’t for a couple “Phil the Thrill” moments that turned into two triple-bogeys.
A few others
Tianlang Guan: He’s 14. And he’s playing in the Masters.
Martin Laird: He won last week
Brandt Snedeker: 2nd on the money list and FedEx Cup Points list
T.J. Vogel: An amateur usually shows up on the leaderboard. Why not him?