April 15, 2014

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Breaking Down Bubba Watson’s Win At The Masters

By: Joe Williams

The 2014 Masters began with 98 players in the field. One by one they dropped out of contention until there was one man left on Sunday afternoon. Bubba Watson won his second green jacket in the last three years. In case you missed it, here’s how golf’s first Major of the year went down:

April 1: This is no April Fools joke…Tiger Woods announces that he had surgery on his back and will not play in the Masters. 97 players left.

April 6: Just four days before the Masters begins, Matt Jones wins the Shell Houston Open to take last spot in field. He’s just happy to be in the field. 96 players left.

April 9: The day before the Masters begins, Ryan Moore wins the Par 3 contest. Nobody ever wins both. 95 players left.

Ian Poulter

Ian Poulter made it into the final 15, but couldn't hang on to beat Bubba Watson.

Round 1
1st hole: Brendon de Jonge makes a double-bogey on his first hole ever played at Augusta. Matthew Fitzpatrick, Keegan Bradley and Derek Ernst also walked off the first hole of the tournament at +2. That’s not how you want to start a major. 91 players left.

Front nine: Luke Donald takes an eight on the par-4 ninth hole for a front-nine 43. Graham DeLaet and Craig Stadler fired 42s. 88 players left.

Back nine: Jason Dufner started with nine straight pars but was derailed with a double-bogey at the tenth. He followed that up with three bogeys and a nine on the second side to shoot an 80. Chang-woo Lee, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Niebrugge, Ben Crenshaw and Branden Grace all failed to break 80. 82 players left.

Round 2
1st hole:
Graeme McDowell makes a double-bogey. Not the way to start your round. 81 players left.

Front nine: Mark Leishman makes a double-bogey on the 9th hole, dropping five shots in the last six holes. He would go from leading the tournament to missing the cut. Michael McCoy, Peter Hanson, Boo Weekley, Garrick Porteous, Trevor Immelman, Matteo Manassero, Patrick Reed, Ian Woosnam also played poorly on the first nine. 72 players left.

Phil Mickelson makes a triple-bogey at the 12th hole. 71 left.

Rory McIlroy’s second shot on the 13th hit a sprinkler and went well past the green, leading to a bogey on a hole that he desperately needed a birdie to climb back in the mix. This isn’t the kind of luck that major winners get. 70 players left.

Back nine: Tom Watson shoots +9 on the back nine. Tim Clark, Matt Every, Scott Stallings, Y.E. Yang, Roberto Castro, Angel Cabrera, David Lynn, Mark O’Meara, John Huh, Dustin Johnson, Ken Duke, Harris English, D.A. Points, Zach Johnson, Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els, Sang-Moon Bae and Victor Dubuisson also struggle. 51 players left.

Sergio Garcia and Webb Simpson both finish bogey-bogey to miss the cut by a shot. 49 players left heading into the weekend.

Round 3
1st hole: Nick Watney, Francesco Molinari, and Oliver Goss make double-bogeys. Not what they had in mind for “moving day.” 46 players left.

Front Nine
Brandt Snedeker drops to +2 after a five-putt, quadruple bogey on the 4th hole. Joost Luiten, Darren Clarke, Jose Maria Olazabal, Sandy Lyle, Billy Horschel, Thongchai Jaidee, Martin Kaymer, Thorbjorn Olesen, Hunter Mahan, Vijay Singh, Larry Mize, K.J. Choi, Mike Weir, Stewart Cink, and Henrik Stenson all struggle on the front side. 30 players left.

Back nine: Stephen Gallacher, Lucas Glover, Steven Bowditch, Bill Haas, Jamie Donaldson, Louis Oosthuizen and Bernhard Langer fail to get into contention with one round left to play. 23 players left.

Final round
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano makes bogey on the 1st hole. 22 players left.

Adam Scott bogeys the 2nd and 3rd holes, Steve Stricker makes double-bogey on the 3rd and Russell Henley makes bogey on the 3rd. 19 players left.

Kevin Streelman bogeys holes 3 and 4. Jason Day makes bogey on 4 and Kris Kirk takes a double-bogey the 4th. 16 players left.

Jimmy Walker cards a bogey on the 7th. 15 players left.

Jordan Speith holes sand on the 4th hole to go -7. Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter and Gary Woodland are all at +1 and eight shots behind. 11 players left.

Jordan Speith birdies the 7th hole to go -8. At -1, John Senden is too far back. So is Jim Furyk, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Kevin Stadler. 7 players left.

Fred Couples knocks his second shot into the water on 11 and makes a double-bogey. 6 players left.

Rickie Fowler is out after back-to-back bogeys to start the back nine. 5 players left.

Thomas Bjorn makes a bogey on 14. He’s -2 and five shots back. 4 players left.

Matt Kuchar fails to birdie 15 or 16 and trails by four with two holes to go. 3 players left.

Jonas Blixt fails to birdie 17. He trails by three with one to play. 2 players left.

Jordan Speith fails to birdie 17 and Bubba Watson sinks his par putt to take a three shot lead to the final hole. It’s safe to say that Watson has another green jacket at this point. 1 player left to claim the Masters.

August 13, 2013

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Tiger Woods: The Last Time?

By: Tyler Vespa

With his T-40 finish this week at the PGA, Tiger Woods has now gone 5 full seasons without a major. This particular drought is the longest of his nearly unmatched career.

However, not much has changed other than that. He is still number 1 in the world by a wide margin. He has won 5 times this year, and leads the FedEx Cup standings, which would normally guarantee him another player of the year crown, save for the man in 2nd in those standings, Phil Mickelson. Phil’s year would better Tiger’s simply based upon his win at Muirfield.

And for all those convinced he will never surpass Jack’s record of 18 professional major titles, you need only look ahead to 2014. The major venues for next year have been set in stone for a while now. We’ll begin in April as we always do with the Masters at Augusta National where Tiger’s collected 4 of his 14 major titles.

A few months later Pinehurst No. 2 will host the U.S. Open. The last time the U.S. Open was played there in 2005, Tiger finished runner-up to New Zealander Michael Campbell, who has slipped all the way down to 306th in the world. Need I say more.

A month later, the British Open will be held at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake. The last time it was hosted there in 2006, Tiger shot 18-under par, 270 to beat fellow American Chris DiMarco by two shots. In case you forgot, Tiger used one driver off the tee all week.

One year from now, the PGA Championship will be staged at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville. The last time the PGA was held there was in 2000. Yeah, 2000. Wasn’t that? Yeah. “The Tiger Slam”. Tiger beat Bob May in a playoff to win his third major of the season.

That’s ironic. Tiger may not win the “Grand Slam” in 2014, but if he doesn’t, I “fully” expect him to be within a few strokes of doing so. No pun intended.

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.

May 7, 2013

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Fred Couples Officially An All-Time Great

By: Joe Williams

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.

Fred Couples was the long-ball hitter before John Daly.

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.