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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February 2, 2011

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The Fan Effect in Golf: How Spectators Are Influencing the Game

By: Joe Williams

Phil Mickelson had his caddy tend the pin on the 72nd hole at the Farmers Insurance Open and nearly holed out to force a playoff with Bubba Watson. It would have been the third playoff in the first month of the PGA Tour season. Add that to a 36-hole Sunday finish, a rookie winner and Martin Kaymer passing Tiger in the world rankings and it’s been a pretty exciting 2011 so far.

But the biggest story in golf is the disqualifications of Camilo Villegas and Padraig Harrington. Villegas was disqualified from the Hyundai Tournament of Champions for moving some loose grass as his ball rolled down the slope towards him. Harrington was disqualified from the Abu Dhabi Championship after it was determined that he moved his ball and failed to replace it.

Both infractions call for a two-shot penalty. That is, unless they are reported by fans watching at home and scorecards have been signed before the penalties are assessed. Then the players are DQ’d for signing an incorrect scorecard.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has asked golf’s governing bodies to review situations in which players could be disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. That’s a good start. But it’s not enough. Something needs to be done about fans reporting rules violations.

Golf is known as a gentleman’s game. It’s a game of honor. It’s a game where players call penalties on themselves. They consult rules officials if there is a question. They don’t try to fool the officials like Derek Jeter pretending to be hit by a pitch.

Fans watching on TV don’t get to call in balls and strikes and they don’t get to call in holding or pass interference penalties. And they shouldn’t be able to call the PGA Tour get players DQ’d either.

It’s not fair. A fan saw what Villegas did and called it in. Would that fan have called it in if he saw Tiger do it? Maybe. What if it was a guy like Gary Woodland? Or Bill Lunde? (Both are in the top 25 on the money list) They would probably not be shown on TV so they could do the same thing and nobody would call it in.

The same thing goes for Harrington’s case. It took a slow motion replay to see that he inadvertently moved his ball while marking it. Harrington never denied touching the ball, but said he didn’t think the ball had moved. If it takes slow motion replay to see the ball move, it didn’t move enough to necessitate a disqualification.

I’m not the only one that thinks this should not happen. Ian Poulter tweeted, “An armchair official tweeted in to get Camilo DQ’d, what is wrong with people have they got nothing better to do.”

The rules are what make golf what it is. They don’t change every year like the rules in the NFL. If the tours want to take advantage of technology like slow motion replays to uphold the rules, that’s great. Get more rules officials on the course or have somebody in a replay booth like the NFL does.

In one of the many great episodes of Seinfeld, Jerry turns the tables on a heckler by showing up at her office and heckling her while she works. She doesn’t like it very much. She is so upset that she runs into the street and ends up losing her pinky toe.

I don’t think these fans would be too thrilled to have Villegas and Harrington show up to their jobs, monitor their every move and report any mistakes they make. So as fans of the game, let’s just watch and enjoy the game and leave the officiating to the officials. We don’t need to be putting our pinky toes at risk.