Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Norman, Couples to Captain Presidents Cup Teams

The PGA Tour announced yesterday that Greg Norman and Fred Couples will be captains for the 2009 Presidents Cup matches that will be played at Harding Park in San Francisco next year. Their selection ends the reign of Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus.

Norman, who will lead the international team, played on three President Cup teams (1996, 1998, 2000) and compiled a 7-6-1 record. He made the 1994 team but did not play due to an injury.
The easygoing Couples has been a stalwart of the American team with an overall record of 9-5-2 on the 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2005 teams. Couples clinched the very first Presidents Cup for the Americans in 1994 when he made a 35-foot birdie putt after hitting the green from a fairway bunker. Three years ago, Couples drained a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to defeat Vijay Singh.

Couples, who harbored aspirations to be captain of a U.S. Ryder Cup team, is a good fit for the Presidents Cup, which is less formal and stuffy than the Ryder Cup. In fact, Couples recently joked that he would appoint Michael Jordan and Robin Williams as assistant captains because Jordan could tell great stories and Williams could tell great jokes.

Norman’s selection was a surprise and viewed as an attempt by PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem to make peace with the outspoken Aussie. Norman had pressed for a world golf tour similar to what Finchem installed. He also has been critical of the tour’s management. Perhaps all will be forgiven by the time they tee off in San Francisco.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Rex Caldwell.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Woods Sinks Cink

Yawn. Tiger Woods won another tournament beating sacrifical lamb Stewart Cink 8 & 7 in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Sunday. Totally unexpected, right? I did hear one stat Sunday that is pretty amazing. Tiger was not satisified with his three-putt avoidance last year and decided to focus some attention to it in his off season. Through this event, he has only three-putted once this season (during a round in Dubai). He is not human.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Rocky Thompson.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Woods, Woody Advance

Tiger Woods and Woody Austin advanced the quarterfinals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Friday defeated Aaron Baddeley and Boo Weekley respectively. Stewart Cink continued his mastery of Colin Montgomerie and defending U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera dusted Steve Stricker. In other matches, Justin Leonard beat Stuart Appleby, Vijay Singh ousted Rod Pampling, defending champion Henrik Stenson ended Jonathan Byrd’s Cinderella run and K.J. Choi took care of Paul Casey.

Semifinals matchups are: Woods vs. Choi; Leonard vs. Singh; Cabrera vs. Cink; and Stenson vs. Austin.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Terry Diehl.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Stricker Works Overtime Again

Steve Stricker had to work over time for the second consecutive day to keep his hopes alive in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Stricker, who defeated Daniel Chopra in sudden death on the 20th hole Wednesday, found him back on the second hole Wednesday against his Presidents Cup teammate Hunter Mahan. After extending the match to sudden death with a 10 –foot birdie putt on 18, Stricker rapped in a putt of nearly 50 feet for the win.

In other matches, Tiger Woods had little difficulty dispensing with Arron Oberholser while the math challenged Boo Weekley dusted Sergio Garcia. Phil Mickelson will go home after losing to Stuart Appleby and defending champion Henrik took care of Tevor Immelman in extra holes. Stewart Cink continued his dominance of Padraig Harrington, whom he defeated last year. He faces Ryder Cup ace Colin Montgomerie. Giant killer Jonathan Byrd followed up his 6 & 5 win over Ernie Els with a 6 & 4 win over Andres Romero. Woody Austin moved on beating Adam Scott, K.J. Choi eliminated Ian Poulter, who was gunning for a show down with Tiger. David Toms conceded to Aaron Baddeley when his back tightened up and he had trouble getting out of his courtesy car. Vijay Singh will meet Rod Pampling who is back after being missing in action for a couple years. Justin Leonard continued his hot play knocking off Lee Westwood.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Ted Kroll.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Down Goes Tiger -- Almost

Haven’t we seen this before? Tiger Woods loses a bunch of hole early thanks to a drive O.B. and an unplayable lie only to rally for a stunning victory. In the first round of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play, Woods rallied from three down with five to play to score a 1-up victory over J.B. Holmes. Woods won four consecutive holes, including a long eagle putt on No. 17 to advance.

Meanwhile, Ernie Els, the No. 1 seed in the Hogan bracket, couldn’t get anything going against Jonathan Byrd and lost 6 & 5. In other upsets, aging Scot Colin Montgomerie knocked off No. 2 seed Jim Furyk and 15 seed Bradley Dredge beat Rory Sabbatini. Steve Stricker, the top seed in the Snead bracket, extracted a measure of revenge with a 1-up win over Daniel Chopra in 20 holes. Chopra had defeated Stricker on the fourth extra hole of the Mercedes-Benz Championship in Hawaii in January.

The most interesting second round match will be Boo Weekley taking on Sergio Garcia. You will recall that Garcia was DQ’d from an event last year when Weekley marked down the wrong score for him on a hole and the Spaniard signed an incorrect scorecard. Good thing Boo-Boo won’t have to keep the card on Wednesday.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Ron Cerrudo.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Accenture Match Play Opens

The World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship gets underway tomorrow in Tuscon. Among the intriguing first round matches are Tiger Woods vs. J.B. Holmes, winner of the FBR Open in Scottsdale two weeks ago in the Jones bracket. If Woods wins and Mike Weir defeats Arron Oberholser, they would meet in a rematch of the Presidents Cup singles last fall. In the Player bracket, former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy (and former Match Play Championship winner) meets former British Open champ Justin Leonard. In the Snead bracket, two-time comeback player of the year Steve Stricker squares off against Daniel Chopra, who defeated him in a playoff at the Mercedes-Benz Championship to start the 2008 season. Stricker also is a former match play champion. Former U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk takes on Colin Montgomerie and in an all-Irish heritage matchup, defending British Open champion Padraig Harrington meets Jerry Kelly.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Al Balding.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Lowery Wins; Hart Finishes T-3

I have to admit I was pulling for Steve Lowery to defeat Vijay Singh in the playoff at Pebble Beach yesterday. Nice win for the 47-year-old Lowery, who had not been in the winner’s circle since 2000.

The better story was Dudley Hart, the third round leader. Hart is playing on a family crisis medical exemption for this year. He missed the last six months of the 2007 season after doctors found a large tumor in his wife’s lung. Suzanne Hart underwent successful surgery and Dudley stayed home with her and their young triplets while she recovered. He has 15 events to earn $485,931 to keep his full playing status. Hart picked up $312,000 for his T-3 finish.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Brad Fabel.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Questionable Hall of Fame Ballot

Ballots for the World Golf Hall of Fame were mailed to voters recently. For my money, this is the most screwed hall of fame in professional sports. Call me a traditionalist but how can you put active players in a hall of fame? Yet the World Golf Hall of Fame includes Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Hale Irwin, Bernhard Langer, Nick Price and Vijay Singh, all of whom are still competing either on the Champions Tour or the PGA Tour. This year’s ballot also includes current players like David Toms, Davis Love III, Fred Couples, Mark O’Meara, Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal. I’m not suggesting that players have to be dead to be considered for the hall of fame, but I believe they should at least be retired. Can you imagine the criticism if the pro football hall of fame announced it was election Peyton Manning and Brett Favre this year or if Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter showed for induction ceremonies at Cooperstown? Ridiculous. At the same time, Craig Wood, Denny Shute Ken Venturi and Tony Lema are not in the PGA wing of the hall and Peter Allis and Christy O’Connor are still on the outside looking into the International wing. The hall asks voters to select five PGA Tour honoree and three International honorees. My vote, if I have one, would go to: Wood, Shute Tony Lema, Venturi and Bob Charles as well as Allis, O’Connor. Meanwhile, the hall should adopt a rule that no golf is eligible until he or she has stopped playing competitive golf for five years.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Lionel Hebert.