Sunday, September 30, 2007

U.S. Wins Presidents Cup

Just as Mr. Fairway predicted, the U.S. team won the Presidents Cup 19.5-14.5, marking the first time in 25 years of team golf competition that the Americans have won on foreign soil. The stars of the U.S. team were David Toms, Scott Verplank and Woody Austin, who will forever be immortalized by his “Sea Hunt” performance. For the Internationals, Canadian Mike Weir delivered 3.5 points, including a stunning victory over Tiger Woods in singles play on Sunday. Weir was a sentimental choice by International Captain Gary Player but the former Masters champion delivered. Perhaps fittingly enough, bad boy Rory Sabbatini managed only .5 points.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to George Knudson.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Woody Gets Wet

You have to love Woody Austin at the Presidents Cup. On Thursday, he makes a ton of putts, including one on the 18th hole to halve his match with Phil Mickelson against Vijay Singh and Mike Weir. On Friday, he makes eight birdies, including three in a row at the end of the round to salvage another halve against Trevor Immelman and Rory Sabbatini. Those birdies came after he literally took a dive in the pond next to the 14th hole attempting to hit a ball out of a water hazard. He failed to extricate the ball, lost his balance and plunged face first into the water. The underdog U.S. team leads 7-5 going into the Saturday matches.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Len Mattaice.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Presidents Cup Preview

The Presidents Cup starts today in Montreal. Although the United States team includes the top four players in the world rankings – Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker – the International team includes nine of the next top 15 ranked players.
The International team only has two first-time players, Rory “The Mouth” Sabbatini and former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, compared to four U.S. rookies – Masters champ Zach Johnson, Woody Austin, Hunter Mahan and Lucas Glover. Stricker is playing in his first Presidents Cup since 1996.

Captain Gary Player’s team would appear to have the advantage, especially when you consider the fact that American professionals have not won team competition on foreign soil since the 1993 Ryder Cup at the Belfry in England. The U.S. team lost by nine points in Australia in 1998. But I am going against the odds and will pick the U.S. team in a close match.
One other interesting tidbit. The last time the pros played at Royal Montreal was in the 2001 Canadian Open. Scott Verplank won that tournament and only four other President Cup players finished in the top 25 at the event – K.J. Choi was T-8, Stricker was T-18, Stuart Appleby was T-23, and Woods was T-23.
Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Mason Rudolph.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

David Who?

Guess who’s playing in a PGA Tour event this week? No, not Michelle Wie. It’s golf’s newest mystery man, David Duval, who will tee it up for the first time since he missed the cut at the Nissan Open in February. Duval, once the number one player in the world, has disappeared from the Tour. This year, he’s only played in six events, all in January and February, missing two cuts. His best finish was a T-36 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am where he won $35,345 of his season winnings of $61,067. Duval has spent much of the year at home in Colorado with his family.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to David Duval.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Wiebe, Congressional and Drugs

Catching up on recent developments in the world of golf one at a time.

1. Mark Wiebe becomes the first player to win his inaugural Champions Tour event on a sponsor’s exemption. Several golfers have won tournaments in their first attempt, including brothers Lanny and Bobby Wadkins, but until Sunday, no one had who got into the tournament on a sponsor’s exemption had won on his first try. Wiebe’s win automatically qualifies him for events the rest of this year and next year.

2. Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., announced it will forego the 2009 U.S. Amateur in order to renovate the greens on its Blue Course. Is it a coincidence that the announcement comes a couple months after Tiger Woods complained about the speed of those greens during his inaugural AT&T National played there this summer? I don’t think so. Congressional is due to host the U.S. Open in 2011.

3. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem quietly announced the Tour will implement a drug testing, probably next spring. Details are still being worked out but with other professional sports taking initiatives, golf risked being left behind unless it also started testing.

Finally, the Presidents Cup will be played this weekend in Montreal. On paper, the international team is favored because it has more top players competing. But don’t count out the U.S. too quickly.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Brent Geiberger.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Surprise, Tiger Wins Fed Ex Cup

Here’s a shocker: Tiger Woods wins the Fed Ex Cup. His impressive victory in the Tour Championship only confirmed what we already knew – that he is the best player on earth. He finished the playoffs at an astonishing 75 strokes under par. The real question is who in golf is in a position to challenge his dominance? Someone might get hot in an event here and there but over the course of a year, Tiger is going to dominate. At this point, it looks like a given that he will easily surpass Jack Nicklaus’s 18 majors as well as Sam Snead’s 82 PGA Tour victories (he currently has 61, which is one behind Arnold Palmer and three behind Ben Hogan).

The real story of the Fed Ex Cup has to be Steve Stricker, who held on and finished second despite a middle-of-the-pack finish at the Tour Championship. Has anyone ever come as far back as Stricker has in the past two years? It’s been a remarkable turnaround for the Wisconsin native. By the way, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stricker paired with Woods at the Presidents Cup. They played the first two rounds of the last two tournaments together, appear to be comfortable with each other and they share the same agent.

Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem has some decisions to make about the Fed Ex Cup before next year. Players want to see a change in the schedule, perhaps two weeks on, a week off, and then the final two weeks. The point system may need some adjustments as well. Tiger and Phil each skipped an event and finished in the top five in the overall standings. Overall, I give the inaugural Fed Ex Cup a B-.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Tommy Aaron.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fed Ex Finale

The much ballyhooed FedEx Cup final tees off Thursday at East Lake C.C. in Atlanta with a couple interesting story lines. First, a hot summer apparently fried some of the greens which may be in questionable condition for the tournament. But it’s hard to sympathize with pros competing for a $7 million purse complaining about the greens.

Despite the Tour’s best efforts to hype the inaugural FedEx Cup, the reality is that only five players -- Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Rory Sabbatini and K.J. Choi – have a chance to win the overall title. Woods, the number one player in the world, and Stricker, who has bounced back from near oblivion, control their own destiny. If either Woods or Stricker win, they take the cup. Mickelson can win the tournament but lose the cup if Woods finishes alone in second place. While Choi and Sabbatini are mathematically eligible to win the cup, they need a lot of help such as Woods finishing 14th or 22nd respectively. In other words, don’t look for them in the winner’s circle.

Mr. Fairway is cheering for Stricker, his fellow Badger, to take top honors.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Bobby Nichols.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Finchem Must Fix Fed Ex Cup

Phil Mickelson’s decision not to play in this weeks PGA Tour event in Chicago underscores the problem of the much hyped Fed Ex Cup playoffs. How can tour commissioner Tim Finchem expect fans to get excited about the playoffs when the tour’s best players – Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els -- don’t think twice about sitting out an event? Finchem is living in a fantasy world if he thinks golf fans really care whether or not John Mallinger, Steve Flesch, Bo Van Pelt or Will Mackenzie advance to the next round. Woods was “too tired” to play The Barclays and Els wanted to see his kids off to school in London. Mickelson also complained about the schedule and said he wanted to spend time with his family. He also took a shot at Finchem saying he had made some recommendations, presumably on the schedule, that were ignored. Finchem has some work to do next season if he wants the Fed Ex Cup to be taken seriously. The tour likes to draw comparisons, phony as they are, to NASCAR’s season ending championship. But I don’t see top NASCAR drivers sitting home for a week. If the Fed Ex Cup is going to succeed, Finchem must find a way to tweak the schedule. Why not start the playoffs earlier and put a one week break in the schedule after the first two events? Also, there must be a points penalty for not playing. It’s ludicrous that Mickelson can skip the BMW in Chicago and still go into the Tour Championship as the overall points leader. Finally, the attitude of the top players underscores the fact that they really don’t care about the $10 million annuity for winning the Fed Ex Cup and they really don’t care about the money from each of the events. Face it, they don’t need the money. Viewers this weekend can expect to hear a lot of breathless speculation about whether or not Tim Clark or Arron Oberhosler will make the top 30 and qualify for the final event.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Bob Gilder.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Mickelson Wins, Disses Finchem

Phil Mickelson won the Deutsche Bank Championship and moved to the top of the Fed Ex Cup point standings Sunday. It was pretty impressive victory for Mickelson, who historically does not play well in the late summer or fall. He held off Tiger Woods at the end, in part because he had only 23 putts for his round and did not miss a putt of under five feet the entire week. For a while, it looked like shades of last year’s U.S. Open when Mickelson took a huge gamble going for the green on the 12th hole and hit it in a hazard for a double bogey. But his short game wizardry saved him, especially on the last hole when he hit a great pitch from deep rough behind the green for an easy birdie.

In a post-round interview with NBC-TV, Mickelson hinted that he will not play in next week’s tournament in Chicago, noting that his kids start school on Wednesday and one of his daughters has her first soccer game next weekend. He said he owed it to the tour to play but said he tour commissioner Tim Finchem did not follow through on some suggestions Mickelson had. He did not elaborate. Interestingly enough, it was Tiger who skipped The Barclays event last week. The Tiger-Phil pairing made for great drama on Sunday and after both of them birdied the 17th hole, Johnny Miller said, “If you don’t like this, go watch tennis.”

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Deane Beaman.