Thursday, April 11, 2013

What Makes The Masters The Best Major Of The Year

What is it about Augusta National that makes The Masters THE golf tournament every year?

Perhaps it is the history. Bobby Jones, the greatest amateur ever, conceived and built the place as an enduring monument to the game that he loved.  It is the kind of place that makes the patrons walk those hallowed grounds talking to each other in barely a whisper out of respect for where they are.

Perhaps it is the time of the year - the first major of the year - the real beginning of spring.  We have all waited eight long months to feel the excitement of a major.  We endured a brutal, golfless winter to get to this point, where the sun is finally shining and the fairways are green and our own tee times are days - not months - away.  We turn on our TVs and see the dogwoods and azaleas in full bloom, hear the birds whose chirps seem to be a little bit chirpier at Augusta, and we know that golf season has finally begun.

Perhaps it is the golf course, which is as big a story every year as the players themselves.  The sense of history lingering over each hole is palpable, the winners immortal, and the magical moments timeless.  The fact that the tournament is played on the same course every year breeds a familiarity for players and fans alike, and enhances the viewing experience because everyone watching knows where you can miss, where you are dead, and where the Sunday charge can begin.

Perhaps it is because The Masters connotes a sense of family.  The tournament showcases family during the Par 3 Contest, where players' kids are caddies, and they have their wives or girlfriends taking shots in front of the packed gallery.  For me, some of my fondest memories growing up revolved around The Masters - watching the tournament with my Grandfather, who was the man responsible for teaching me how to play, or all of us sitting around the TV on Easter Sunday in my Uncle Mike's living room watching Phil win that elusive first major.  The Masters is one of those sporting events that is relished as a shared experience.

But really, it is all of these things, and so much more.  It is nothing less than the best golfing week of the year.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Nike Golfers' Gear For The Masters

Nike Golf sent out a cool website earlier today that I thought was worth sharing.  It lists the Nike clubs in the bag for each player and then shows pictures of the gear that each of the players will sport each day at The Masters.  Start with Tiger in the link above and then scroll through the rest of your favorite Nike athletes!

14 Year Old To Play In Masters

Image courtesy of Reuters / Phil Noble
What were you doing when you were 14 years old?  I couldn't drive or drink, and hadn't yet been to the prom (though what an overhyped event that turned out to be for this guy, but hey, this is neither the time nor the place for that rant).  It's an awkward time of life for a young man, typically with more acne than facial hair  and an uneasy sense of self, to put it charitably.

So imagine all of that - and then imagine playing in The Masters.  That is the reality for Tianlang Guan, from China, who will be teeing it up with Tiger, Rory, Phil and all of the rest of golf's greats this week at Augusta.  He scored a spot in the elite field by winning the Asia Pacific Amateur.

Yesterday, he spent the morning playing a practice round with Augusta National information sponge Ben Crenshaw, and then, spotting Tiger Woods, walked right up to him and asked if he could play with him.  Tiger told him sure, I am teeing it up with Dustin Johnson right now, let's go!  How cool is that?  Not a bad Monday.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How Dufnering Happened

If you have not already heard  about this yet, you have to keep reading because this was one of the funniest golf related stories in recent memory - as far as I am concerned, it is right up there with the debut of the Golf Boys.

Deadspin posted an article about Jason Dufner's visit to a local kid's charity, which had an unfortunate shot of the pro golfer:



Not the world's greatest PR moment for the young man, but pictures are like statistics - you can make them say pretty much whatever you want.  So that should have been the end of it.  But enter Keegan Bradley, Dufner's buddy and fellow Twitter addict.  The pair had been having a hilarious Twitter war, but with this episode, it was game-set-match:  Bradley.  He tweeted the photo out to his followers -and Dufnering was born.  It took the Internet by storm.  I was watching the NCAA games last Thursday night when my timeline exploded with Dufnering pics from some of the games' greats.  Here are some of the more epic ones, courtesy of the pros' Twitter feeds:

And of course, who led the charge?  Well none other than Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson:


And they weren't done.


The Pink Panther, Paula Creamer got into the act:


Keegan Bradley, Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker couldn't resist:



And Ian Poulter really explored the studio space with this one:


Viral doesn't even begin to describe this phenomenon.  Thanks, social media!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ben Hogan Swing Video Practicing at The Masters

I wanted to share with all of you a great Ben Hogan swing video that I found on YouTube today.  This is a real gem - taken on the practice range at Augusta in 1960.  This is a fantastic video to focus on the importance of your lower body in the golf swing.  Too many people think that it is the hands and arms that dictate your swing - but the key to consistency is to have great lower body action, and that could not be more clear than in this video.  If you (like me) struggle with the transition from the downswing and the shift of weight from the right side to the left side, this video is a gold mine!  Man what I would give for an hour alone on the range with The Hawk...


Friday, February 15, 2013

Fantastic Ray Floyd Interview by Golf Magazine

Image courtesy of Golf.com
I just read an interview with Raymond Floyd that appears in the March issue of Golf Magazine.  I wanted to share it with all of you because it is one of the best golf interviews I have ever seen.  Take a few minutes to read the full interview - you can access it here.

Floyd's record is impressive:  22 wins on Tour, including 4 majors.  Yet, I don't think he gets as much credit as he deserves for how great of a player he really was.  I think the primary reason is because he was playing against Palmer, Nicklaus, Watson, and Trevino, so his name tends to get lost in the shuffle.

This interview is simply fantastic, mainly because Floyd is so brutally honest with his opinions.  It is refreshing to see a superstar like Floyd actually say what he feels - a far cry from the prepackaged, made for TV quotes you get from today's players.  It is also revealing because alot of the interview talks about the mental aspect of the game, and how important it is to success - a lesson all of us can apply to our own games in order to get better!

Finally, it has one of the greatest Jack Nicklaus stories I have ever heard.  Floyd recounts how in the 1973 Ryder Cup, Jack was playing a better ball match with Tom Weiskopf as his partner.  Weiskopf had 12 feet for birdie, while Nicklaus had a 14 footer for a birdie of his own.  Nicklaus told Weiskopf to pick up his mark because Jack was going to make his putt - and he did!  How awesome is that?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Cool TaylorMade R1 Giveaway

TaylorMade is running a really cool sweepstakes this weekend for the Northern Trust Open.  Each night of the tournament at 8 pm, they are going to pick one winner - the first three nights the winner will get one of the TaylorMade Tour Pros' R1 driver.  Then, on Sunday, the winner wins a trip out to California to The Kingdom for a custom R1 fitting!  You can enter by following this link.   

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Beating the Winter Golf Blues

As the Northeast digs out of the latest blizzard, it is difficult - painful, even - to think about how far we are from being able to tee it up on a warm Saturday afternoon with your favorite golfing buddies.  So while we are stuck in the throws of yet another winter season without golf on the near-term horizon?  How do you cope?  Here are some thoughts.

1) One of the first thoughts that comes to mind is the wise advice Brother Bluto gave to Brother Flounder in Animal House:

Don't forget, as Otter says, "You should pay attention to him, he's pre-med."

2) Curl up with a good golf book on one of those cold winter nights.  It could be anything from a fantastic golf historical book like Mark Frost's The Match (which was so good it reignited my passion for the game and turned my interest into the obsession you can read about now on the blog), or an excellent instructional book to tune up your game like Dave Stockton's Unconscious Putting or Dr. Bob Rotella's Your 15th Club. Either way, getting lost in a great book is a was to fill the golf void until your local fairway thaws out.

3) "Dance like nobody is watching.  Putt like you have never been hurt."  Ok, I made the last part up, but the one part of your game that you absolutely can work on during the offseason in the comfort of your own home is your putting.  You don't need a fancy synthetic green or lots of room.  All you need is your putter, a ball, and a cup.  Don't go to bed until you hit 10 five footers in a row - believe me, it is just what the short game doctor ordered.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Caddy Races at the Phoenix Waste Management Open

It's one of the most fun tournaments of the year, with the most fun hole in all of golf, the 16th.  Without a doubt, the Phoenix Waste Management Open is a highlight of the PGA Tour schedule.  It is fun, loud and irreverent, and if you can't handle it, then you can take your deer antler spray and go home.

Adding to the fun at the 16th this year?  Caddy races.  The game is simple.  The caddies race to the green from the tee, and the first to touch the green wins.  Keep an eye out for it on the TV coverage this weekend, and you will see some epic dashes to the finish.  This video is pretty funny (especially toward the end) - Kevin Na's caddy really goes all out for the win.  Gotta love it.  You won't see this at Augusta, but it is part of what makes this tournament one of the highlights of the golfing year.  No doubt some cash will exchange hands in the frat party-like stands as a result of the guys in the bibs doing their mad scramble to the green!

   

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Phil Mickelson is on 59 Watch!

If you are near a TV, tune into the Golf Channel, because Phil Mickelson is 10 under through 15 holes at TPC Scottsdale.  It's a par 71, so 2 birdies on his final 3 holes will post the magical 59!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Does What the Pros Play/Wear Influence You?

So now that the calendar has rolled over to 2013 - it is time to get rolling on the blog again!  Work really beat my brains in during the last few months of 2012, so the blogging sadly took a backseat.  But it's time to get back on the blogging bandwagon!

Of course the news of the day is that the worst kept secret in golf became official today in Abu Dhabi when Nike Golf announced that Rory McIlroy has signed a multi-year endorsement deal.  Rors is all in with the new sponsor, going with Nike products in his entire bag and literally from head to toe.  Rory joins Tiger as the face of Nike Golf.  In case you missed it, here is the new Nike Golf commercial - and here's hoping that there is more where this came from, because it is fantastic:


This got me thinking - does the equipment the pros play (and the clothes that they wear) influence your own personal golf purchases?  I must admit, being quite a golf equipment/clothes whore myself, it really does matter to me.  I see the equipment these guys play, and when I go to get clubs, I am more likely to ask to try a club because I saw one of my favorite Tour guys playing it on the weekend.  I needed new golf shoes but waited for the TW13 shoes to come out after seeing Tiger wearing them because they looked so cool and I read the buzz online about how comfortable they were (and they are incredibly comfortable).

I was previously an exclusively Adidas guy (my loyalty going back to my time at Notre Dame, where they made all incoming freshman get Adidas tattoos), but over the last couple years, I found myself letting some Nike and Travis Mathew apparel getting into the rotation.  I love the Nike 20XI ball, and now with Rors in the Nike fold, I can honestly see myself taking Nike equipment more seriously for my next purchase.  I am undoubtedly and unashamedly a huge fan of both Rory and Tiger, and if it is good enough for them, it obviously is good enough for me! 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Don't Hold Your Breath For A Woods-Mickelson Ryder Cup Pairing

Source: BBC
We are a few hours away from Davis Love III announcing the opening pairings for tomorrow morning's foursomes matches at Medinah.  And the partner derby, which has been running fast and furious all week, is reaching a fever pitch.

Who will play with who?  Looking at the media this week, these guys have had more partners than Wilt Chamberlain.  But with all of the speculation about the pairings, one you will almost certainly not see is Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Why not?  Well, for starters, the two have spent the better part of their careers as each other's main rival, so that relationship has not led to the two having the warm fuzzies for each other (although that has seemingly thawed as of late, and rumor has it that they have been spotted as ping pong teammates in the team room this week).  Second, previous history shows they may be better off finding Ryder Cup marital bliss in the arms of another.  When Hal Sutton tried to pair the dynamic duo in 2004, it was an unmitigated disaster.  The pair lost twice on Day 1, helping to pave the way for America's pasting at the hands of the visiting European squad (18.5-9.5).  The two clearly were uncomfortable playing together and Woods' facial expressions and body language on that day were pretty easy to read.  He was sending Phil a mental message, and it was not one that you can repeat on TV.

Good Ryder Cup pairings generally rest on two things: 1) team chemistry and 2) having games that complement each other.  Unfortunately, Woods and Phil don't really click on either account.

For an example of greatness in the first category, see Seve's perennial pairing with current European Captain Jose Maria Olazabal.  They had a connection that was on another level - Olazabal's caddie recently said that during the Ryder Cup the caddies had nothing to do because Seve and Jose would figure everything out themselves.  The Spaniards could will each other to victory.

For a great pairing in the second category, see Tiger's comfortable and frequent pairing with Steve Stricker - Tiger can bomb it off of the tee but is wild and at times loses his feel with the putter.  Stricker is a solid and consistent ballstriker (though not terribly long) and is one of the best 5 putters on the planet.  The pairing just works.

But as for Tiger and Phil, on many days neither of them could find the fairway with a GPS device.

But we can all dream, right?  It would be a huge stunner, but a Tiger-Phil pairing, if successful, could really energize the U.S. team and absolutely ignite the crowds at Medinah.  It would lead to some of the loudest golf roars of all time if they got it going.  I have this dream scenario running through my head where Tiger and Phil go to Davis Love on Friday night and say to him - "We want to play together tomorrow and we will deliver" - and then they go out and paste two European teams.  It would be one of the coolest golf stories of the year!



  

Overview of Ryder Cup Rules and Format

With the biggest and best spectacle in golf starting tomorrow, I thought it would be helpful to go over some of the ground rules for the event for those of you who may not have followed it closely before.  Think of this like how right before the season premiere of the best shows on TV, there is the one hour recap episode that gets you ready for the big event.  Can't wait to tackle that very episode of Revenge shortly in my DVR, but that is a story for another day...

-Each of the European and U.S. teams have 12 people each.

-There are 28 total points up for grabs.  Since the European team won the last Ryder Cup, they only need to get 14 points, or halve the matches, to retain the Cup.  The U.S. will need 14.5 points to win back the Cup.

-The matches begin on Friday morning at 8:20 a.m. Eastern.  ESPN will have the TV coverage on Friday from 8 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.  On Saturday, NBC will air the matches from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.  On Sunday, NBC will be back on the air from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

-The format consists of 8 matches on both Friday and Saturday followed by 12 matches on Sunday.  The morning matches will be 4 foursomes matches, meaning each two man team will play an alternate shot format.  The afternoon matches will be four ball matches, meaning the teams will take their best score from the twosome in each match on each hole. Sunday's 12 singles matches will cap the event.

-There will also be live coverage on www.rydercup.com.

-Ladbrokes has installed the U.S. team as a slight favorite, putting their odds of winning at 4/6; the odds on a European victory are 6/5.

Counting down the minutes - less than 24 hours to go!


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Swing Thought Paralysis

So I am finally ready to emerge from my two month work-induced blogging hibernation to get back to writing about our favorite topic.  It was like the work groundhog came out of his cave in July and predicted two more months of all-nighters.  Work is but a distraction from enjoying the finer things in life, like the feel of a well-struck golf ball.  Or sleep.  But I digress...

Before I get into some Ryder Cup posts later this week (I am so pumped for the event I can't stand it!), I wanted to talk about swing thoughts and my own recent experience with them.

I know that many of you, like me, spend alot of time thinking about mechanics and how you can tweak your swing in a way to get more consistent results.  The amount of time I spend thinking about my golf game could stun a team of oxen.

But when you are standing over the ball, too much thinking can get you into trouble.  I have had some problems focusing over the ball during the last couple months because I had too many swing thoughts going through me head.  Think of swing thoughts like a fine glass of single malt scotch - one or two are great, but anything more than that and you are going to feel like crap and hate yourself in the morning.

My head was too cluttered over the ball - I was thinking about taking the club away on the right plane, bracing my right leg and coiling around it, starting my downswing with my hips and not my arms, and staying in a balanced finish through impact.  It is hard enough to hit the ball as it is - with all of this running through my head it was damn near impossible.

I knew I needed to simplify this. But the big question was what swing thought should I have?  The answer came in a recent Golf Digest article I read that highlighted Jason Dufner.   He said he focused on his right shoulder - moving it away from the ball on the takeaway and then at the start of the downswing moving it directly toward the ball.  I took this sole swing thought onto the course with me a couple times and played two of the best rounds I have had all summer.

So the moral of this story is this:  if you are one of those people who have a zillion things running through your head over the ball, try finding one single swing thought that you can focus on and committing to it.  Simplicity begets scoring!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Love Makes Ryder Cup Selections

Ending months of speculation and jockeying for position, U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III made his four Captain's Picks this morning to round out the rest of the U.S. Ryder Cup team.  Love chose Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker to complete his squad, which will take on their European foes later this month.

While Love would have gotten criticized no matter who he picked (and this is a far more meritorious debate than who is the first team left out of the NCAA tournament), I think that he found the right balance with these guys and the U.S. team will head into the Ryder Cup as slight favorites.  Stricker and Furyk are veterans who have been there before and know how to perform in the pressure cooker of the heated international competition.  Johnson, who played in the last Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, is playing very well right now despite missing much of the PGA Tour season with a back injury.  And Snedeker has been rock solid all year long, and is one of the best putters on Tour.

So let the countdown to the Cup officially begin!  I can't wait for it to get started!