Tuesday, July 24, 2007

British Open Notes

Just when it looked like another Carnoustie meltdown (can you say Padrig Van de Velde?), Sergio Garcia’s putting woes resurfaced giving Harrington his first major. Poor Sergio. This was his best chance to win that elusive first major and he couldn’t close the deal, even with the belly putter.

But Open week also was marked by a couple other noteworthy events. First, Seve Ballesteros announced his retirement from competitive golf. Love him or hate him – and I loved him – Seve is one of the outstanding players in the last 20 years. I once followed him years ago at the Kemper Open when it was played at Congressional Country Club. I swear he didn’t hit a fairway on the back nine off the tee. Not only did he miss, but he missed badly. He put on an incredible display of shotmaking and imagination, hitting low hooks and fades from under the trees and shot a remarkable -2. Simply astounding. But in recent years his skills deteriorated and it was sad to watch a great player struggle, reminiscent of seeing Johnny Unitas and Willie Mays at the end of their careers. Farewell to Seve and thanks for the memories.

Meanwhile, Gary Player grabbed headlines with allegations that he knows of professional golfers who are taking performance enhancing drugs. Player is so well-respected in the game that his comments must be given serious consideration. My problem is that he failed to name names, which is not surprising, and failed to offer up any other specifics. His comments put him in the spotlight, which he has never shunned, but did little to convince me that they were based on fact. It’s inevitable that the PGA Tour is going to have to institute a drug testing policy sooner rather than later. But that’s the world we live in today and Tim Finchem needs to make drug testing a priority, just as the LPGA has done.

Finally, former Open champion John Daly made a brief appearance on top of the leaderboard before fading into oblivion. But he did have the best quote of the tournament when he said his diet of “caffeine, plus nicotine equals protein.”

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Richie Karl.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Driving With Mr. Mickelson

It looks like Phil Mickelson is rounding into major tournament form, but not in a good way. I watched him blow the Scottish Open yesterday when held the lead three times on the back nine only to lose in a playoff. Guess what cost him the victory? A wayward driver, just like the U.S. Open a year ago at Winged Foot. Mickelson stood on the 18th tee with a one shot lead over Frenchman Gregory Havret and proceeded to drive it in the heavy rough between two bunkers. He made bogey and went back to the 18th hole for a playoff. Hitting first, Mickelson this time hit his drive into the reeds near the water on the left side of the hole. He gouged the ball back to the fairway, hit his third over the green and made another bogey. Havret got up and down from a greenside bunker for the win. It looks to my untrained eye that all the hype of Butch Harmon tightening Mickelson’s swing, especially with the driver, has taken yet.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Jean Van de Velde.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Fujikawa Turns Pro

Tadd Fujikawa, the 16-year-old who wowed the golf world with his performance at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January (T-20), turned professional yesterday. He will make his professional debut will be at the PGA Tour's Reno-Tahoe Open, Aug. 2 to 5. The pint sized high school student was the second youngest person every to make the cut in a PGA Tour event. Although he qualified for the 2006 U.S. Open, he failed to advance to this year’s tournament at Oakmont. The golf world was all gaga over his performance at the Sony. Nick Faldo gushed that “you have the game to play out here as of right now.” As the Brits would say, “Rubbish.” Those in the Fujikawa camp insist this is about the young man pursuing his dream and being able to pay for instruction. I wonder if he has been hanging around fellow Hawaiian Michelle Wie too long. My view is that this is a mistake.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Ty Tryon.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Boring Inventors

Have you seen the Golf Channel’s latest schlock show, “Fore Invntors Only?” It’s a cross between “American Idol” and “Mr. Wizard.” The premise is that a panel of three judges – aging PGA Tour pro Fulton Allem, golf instructor Bill Harmon and “Golf for Women” senior editor Stina Sternberg judge presentations by inventors of golf items. The judges will critique the 103 inventors competing in the series and pare the finals down to five finalists. Viewers will vote for a winner, who will see his or her invention sold at Golfsmith stores for one year, receive an infomercial and $50,000 of advertising on the Golf Channel.

The judges approved several goofy inventions that I doubt many real golfers would purchase. For example, one guy had a golf bag that included a small, canvas fold out seat attached to it. Another guy had an electronic timer that beeped in one-minute intervals so players could keep track of the time elapsed while searching for lost balls. At least they didn’t approve the guy who came up with a notched tee that broke in half at impact and could be re-used on par three holes. They did approve an innovative golf travel bag with an extra set of fold out wheels as well as a device that allows players to check their stance and ball position. Of course, there are the usual nut jobs but their entertainment value is limited. The other problem with the show is that none of the panelists are very compelling personalities and the unctuous Vince Cellini, host of the “Big Break” shows interviews the contestants back stage.

Hitting range balls while wondering what ever happened to Bob Lunn.

Friday, July 6, 2007

AT&T National

Mr. Fairway attended the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. this week. Here are some random observations:

--Marshals were instructed to make every effort to accommodate children and service personnel. On Friday at the par three 7th, a marshal gave more than a dozen kids in the gallery a special viewing spot at the back of tee so they could watch Tiger close up. The marshal started bringing kids to the spot several groups before Tiger reached the hole.
--The new par three 10th hole is a nice addition that allows the old 17th hole to become a spectacular finishing hole. The 11th is no pushover. One forgettable pro hit his bunker shot into the pond in front of the green and had to go back across to the drop area.
--Two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen continues to struggle, shooting 73-75 to miss the cut. He bladed a shot from heavy rough into the water on No. 6 and made a DB.
--John Daly continues to be a gallery favorite but he doesn’t look like he’s having any fun. Hard to smile when you have a public fight with your wife and you shoot 74-77.
--If you have a chance to attend a PGA event, pay attention to pace the pros putt on their putts. Unless they have a severe downhill putt, the ball almost always is rolling at perfect speed around the hole.
--I also enjoy watching the tempo of their swings and their balance. The ball sounds different coming off the club face when they hit it.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Tom Shaw.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Sands of Time

One of the great annoyances at the golf courses I play, whether they are private clubs or public facilities, are the clods who leave their sandy footprints on the green. You’ve seen them too -- great big Foot Joy prints leading from the bunker to the hole. Nothing looks worse than a long trail of sandy footprints across the green, especially if you have to putt through them. You don’t have to be Kit Carson to figure out where these careless, inconsiderate goofballs have been walking. If you are guilty of leaving tracks on the green, here’s a tip: After you step out of the bunker, take two seconds to know the sand off the bottoms of your shoes. Bang your wedge against the soles of your shoes once or twice and that will do it. If you see someone making tracks, call them on it. It took me a few months but I finally retrained one of my regular playing partners to knock the sand off his shoes when he exits a bunker. Now he’s a convert and points it out to other offenders. I hope you will do the same.

Hitting range balls while wondering what ever happened to Sandy Lyle.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Crisite Kerr Wins U.S. Women's Open

Congratulations to Cristie Kerr on her U.S. Women's Open victory. Kerr fought off Lorena Ochoa in the final round for the victory. Kerr reshaped herself several years ago, losing 60-plus pounds and it's nice to see her in the victory circle. Pictured at the top is Cristie before her weight loss and the new-look champion. Hard to believe it's the same golfer.
Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Jan Stephenson.