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.

December 31, 2012

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2013 PGA TOUR PREVIEW: 5 Players To Watch

By: Tyler Vespa

With the 2013 PGA Tour season less than a week away, there has finally been a changing of the guard in golf. Rory McIlory has had the number 1 ranking for the last 21 weeks. Tiger Woods has dropped down to No. 3 in the world after Luke Donald’s win in Japan. Will anyone be able to end McIlroy’s reign at the top? That remains to be seen, but I believe there are 5 players who can challenge for the top spot.

The PGA Tour regular season will begin with Steve Stricker defending his Hyundai Tournament of Champions title on January 4th.

So without further ado, here are those 5 players:

1. Tiger Woods- 3 wins in 2012. His short game is back. His scoring average of 68.9 is proof of that. I see two majors for Tiger in 2013, ending a near 5-year drought. He will regain world-number 1 on April 14th after winning his fifth green jacket.

2. Brandt Snedeker- 2 victories in 2012. He was good from start to finish winning in January at the Farmers Insurance Open and in September at the Tour Championship to win the FedEx Cup. He had 7 other top 10’s and led the tour in strokes gained putting.

3. Jason Dufner- 2 wins in 2012 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and the HP Byron Nelson Championship. He was 4th on tour in scoring average and had 8 top 10’s.

4. Zach Johnson- 2 victories in 2012 at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and the John Deere Classic. He also had 6 top 10’s and was 8th in strokes gained-putting.

5. Webb Simpson- His lone victory came at golf’s toughest test, the U.S. Open. He also finished the year with 7 top 10’s and was 2nd on tour in par breakers, or percentage of holes played under par.

September 24, 2012

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2012 Ryder Cup: Why the U.S. can bring the Cup back

By: Tyler Vespa

This weekend is the phenomenon in golf known as the Ryder Cup. The 39th matches will be held at Medinah Country Club just outside of Chicago beginning on Friday, with the conclusion as always on Sunday with the 12 singles matches.

The Americans will be seeking to retain the Cup from the European team, who took back the Cup in 2010 at Celtic Manor in Wales. Since 1985, the Europeans are 9-4 against the Americans. The Americans have won the matches only one other time since the 1999 “Miracle at Brookline”, that was at Valhalla in 2008.

Steve Stricker brings experience to the USA Ryder Cup team.

As we enter this pressure-packed week, the United States team has only one player on its squad raked outside the top 20 in the world, that player being Ryder Cup veteran Jim Furyk, who is ranked, 27th.

The Europeans have 3 of the top 4 players in the world with world number 1 Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald who is 3rd, and Lee Westwood who is 4th. After that their team has only one other player ranked in the top 10, that being Englishman Justin Rose who is raked 8th fresh off of a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship in Atlanta. Six of the final 8 members on the European team are currently ranked outside the top 20.

However, 9 of the 12 members on the European team have a winning record in Ryder Cup play. The European team has only one player making his Ryder Cup debut, that being Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts who won the Volvo World Match Play in Spain earlier this year. So, he does know match play, and has distance off the tee that could key the European side to victory.

The only weakness I see in this gritty American side is the fact that they have 4 Ryder Cup rookies. Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker have never experienced the cauldron that is the Ryder Cup. That being said, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson are now both major champions, and Brandt Snedeker is fresh off his win at the Tour Championship, which also earned him the FedEx Cup.  Jason Dufner, who had two wins in 2012, finished the season 4th in total driving, which is a combination of distance and accuracy and was also 4th in greens in regulation.

The experience of the American team with those 4 rookies in combination with the European team having 9 of their 12 players with a winning record in Ryder Cup play means the 39th edition of these matches should author one of the best finishes in the event’s history.

I’m taking the Americans on their home turf. The crowd at Medinah will help those rookies make a few more putts, and shake up the Europeans into one too many mistakes. The final tally: United States- 15   Europe- 13