Monday, August 27, 2007

Stricker Wins The Barclays

I’m not fully bought in to the hype about the Fed Ex Cup playoffs, but Steve Stricker’s victory in The Barclays this weekend was high drama. Sticker, who had not won a tournament since 2001, birdied four of the last five holes – and the last three in a row – to beat K.J. Choi by two shots. The win caps a fantastic comeback for the Wisconsin golfer who lost his card two years ago and relied on sponsors exemptions to stay on tour. A solid year earned Sticker comeback player of the year honors and he followed it up with a two second-place finishes this year and six top ten finishes before his victory on Sunday. Ironically, Stricker had a chance to win the inaugural AT&T National at Congressional in July until Choi holed a bunker shot on the 17th hole to win. It looked like Choi was going to be his nemesis again after bombing in putts from 46 and 48 feet on the back nine but Stricker responded with birdies of his own to seal the win. Now Stricker sits atop the Fed Ex Cup points list, displacing Tiger Woods who was too tired to play in Westchester. Tiger will be back for next weekend’s tournament in Boston and so will Steve Sticker.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to David Ogrin.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Fed Ex Cup Hype

The hype machine for the PGA Tour’s Fed Ex cup is going full speed in advance of the first tournament in the series this weekend in New York. But there are a few problems. First, Tiger Woods is skipping the Barclays Open event because he is “tired” after his PGA Championship victory. Commissioner Tim Finchem was on the telecast of the Wyndham Championship this weekend expressing his disappointment that Tiger is sitting out the Barclays. The reality is that if Tiger isn’t playing, the tournament is not going to draw TV ratings. The other reality is that Tiger is so far ahead in Fed Ex points that skipping the Barclays will do little to damage his chances of winning. Check out the Fed Ex hype on the tour’s web site…flashy new color scheme, a printable cheat sheet on the formats and formulas, etc. But there is not indication that golf fans care about the Fed Ex Cup and you have to wonder how much the players care. Phil Mickelson pointed out that the $10 million first prize, touted by the tour as the biggest payday in sports, isn’t real money. It’s an annuity that the winner can collect in the future. Mickelson suggested the tour follow the example of the World Series of Poker and put the cash on the first tee of the final tournament. As my old uncle used to say, “You can put lipstick on a pig but you can’t hide the ugly.”

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Rik Massengale.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Nicklaus Picks Youth

Give President’s Cup captain Jack Nicklaus a thumbs up for selecting youngsters Lucas Glover and Hunter Mahan to round out the U.S. team. Nicklaus opted for youth over experience, passing up Chris DiMarco, who clinched the 2005 cup at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va., and Davis Love III. DiMarco spent much of last year battling injuries and frankly has only one top 10 finish this year. Love has only three top 10 finishes in 2007 compared to five for Mahan and three for Glover. But Glover also has nine finishes in the top 25 this year compared to four for Love and five for DiMarco. Gary Player, captain of the international team, selected Canadian Mike Weir and Nick O’Hern of Australia. Weir was a sentimental pick as the President’s Cup will be contested in Montreal.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Bob Brue.

Tiger Tames Tulsa

Ho hum is right. Tiger Woods won the PGA Championship in Tulsa. He survived the summer heat and no one was able to apply any pressure on him in the final round. If there is anyone out there who doubts he will break Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 majors, I have bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you. Tiger put on another dazzling display of his skills to win his 13th major by two strokes over Wood Austin. He also kept his streak of never losing a major when he holds the 54-hole lead in tact. Say goodbye to Stephen “9-8” Ames who once again had visions of challenging Tiger but bogeyed the first hole en route to a 76 and was not heard from again. Austin, the former bank teller who once bent his putter on his own head, tried to mount a charge but he was too far back. Give him credit for finishing second and winning a spot on the President’s Cup team. If only he could find a new haberdasher.

Mr. Fairway would be remiss if he didn’t comment on the Boo Weekley-Sergio Garcia scorecard fiasco. Weekley may have proven that he’s not smarter than a fifth grader when he recorded and incorrect score for his fellow competitor, but the ultimate blames falls on Garcia who overlooked the mistake, signed the incorrect scorecard and got himself DQ’d. Not much sympathy here for either one of them.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Bob May.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

PGA Championship, Ho Hum

I know it's a major, but I’m having a hard time getting excited about the PGA Championship. Among the four majors, the PGA gets the least respect. Everyone looks forward to the Masters because it is the official start of the golf season and most fans are familiar with Augusta National because they see it on television year after the year. The U.S. Open is always fun to watch because the USGA typically makes the course so hard that the best players in the world often struggle to survive. The British Open is played on quaint links courses where the weather can be dicey even in July. After the British Open, the PGA is an after thought. The only thing that distinguishes it from the other majors is the large number of club professionals who make it into the field, thus watering it down. They really have no chance to win the tournament and it’s news when any of them make the cut. Over the years, the PGA has treated fans to exciting finishes, notably Bob Tway and Paul Azinger, and given rise to stars like John Daly. But many times the winners are one hit wonders like Mark Brooks, Steve Elkington, Jeff Sluman, David Toms or Shaun Micheel. One bit of trivia: the PGA is only major that Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson never won.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Wayne Grady.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Sorry Sabbatini

Note to Rory Sabbatini: Shut up, already. The cocky South African who declared that Tiger Woods was “beatable” got his head handed to him at the Bridgestone Invitational this weekend. Let’s see, Tiger shot 65, Rory shot 74. Tiger wins by eight strokes and is the only player in the field not to record a double bogey during the week. Put Rory in the same category as Stephen Ames and Vijay Singh’s caddie. Lesson learned. I doubt Sabbatini learned his lesson but his comments – and the ultimate result – might be instructive to anyone else on the tour thinking about tugging on Superman’s cape.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Hal Sutton.