Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tour Championship, Yawn

The first round of the season-ending Tour Championship tees off tomorrow at East Lake in Atlanta. Tim Finchem and the boys at FedEx who paid big bucks to sponsor the culmination of the PGA Tour's playoffs must be apoplectic. Why? First, the tournament is a big yawn. Vijay Singh only has to show up and breathe on a mirror to collect the $10 million first prize. Even with the changes that Finchem made after last year's predictable finish, Singh has a mortal lock on first place. Second, after watching the Ryder Cup -- only the most exciting and compelling golf event since this year's U.S. Open playoff -- last weekend, who is going to tune in to see the rich get richer, especially when the winner in waiting is badly in need of a personality transplant and the best golfer in the world (remember him?) is still recovering from knee surgery? My guess is that college football and pro football will dominate the TV ratings and that the Tour Championship won't come close to drawing the audience that watched the Ryder Cup. Most of Mr. Fairway's golf buddies didn't even know that the event was being played this week. Time for Finchem and company to go back to the drawing board for another round of changes.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Gibby Gilbert.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ryder Cup Grades

Here are Mr. Fairway’s grades for the U.S. Ryder Cup team:

Captain Paul Azinger – A U.S. captain deserves credit for building a solid team, getting them to bond, leading the Thursday night pep rally and sending out a lineup on Sunday designed to putt pressure on the Europeans. Bringing in Payne Stewart’s widow and children was a nice human touch. Is there a precedent for a repeat performance? Yes, actually. Ben Hogan captained the 1947 and 1949 teams.

Anthony Kim – A+ (2-1-1) Not only did he help Mickelson post his only win, he dusted Sergio Garcia in the open match Sunday to set the tone for the victorious U.S. team.

Boo Weekley – A+ (2-0-1) The crowd favorite who impressed with remarkable ball striking and clutch putting, this good ol’ boy can flat play.

Hunter Mahan - A (2-0-3) The brash rookie, a captain’s pick, teamed well with Leonard. He made a huge putt on 17 on Sunday for a 1-up lead and then settled for a halve against Paul Casey when his drive on No. 18 found the water.

J.B. Holmes – A (2-0-1) A controversial captain’s pick, the Kentucky bomber proved up to the task as one of three undefeated Americans.

Jim Furyk – A- ( 2-1-1) Furyk, who never trailed in his singles match against Miguel Angel Jimenez, clinched the U.S. victory.

Justin Leonard – B+ (2-1-1) The U.S. team rode Leonard’s hot putter to first and second day leads. He faltered Sunday against Robert Karlsson.

Kenny Perry – B+ (2-1-1) Built his whole year around qualifying for the team and did not disappoint the home fans. Came up big on Sunday despite taking pain pills for an arm problem.

Chad Campbell – B (2-1-0) Redeemed himself with a singles win over Padraig Harrington on Sunday.

Ben Curtis – C+ (1-1-1) A singles win over Lee Westwood salvaged his Ryder Cup.

Phil Mickelson – C (1-2-2) Poor Phil. He rode Kim to his only victory but couldn’t find another win and lost a singles match on Sunday for an overall record of 2-15. Needs more work with Butch Harmon on the wayward driver.

Stewart Cink – C (1-2-0) Rhymes with stink the first couple days with erratic play and poor putting.

Steve Stricker – C- (0-2-1) His highlight was making a critical putt on No. 18 on Saturday to halve a match for his only half point. Outgunned by Euro star Ian Poulter on Sunday.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Gary Nicklaus.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

U.S. Wins Ryder Cup

The U.S. Ryder Cup team ended nearly a decade of frustration Sunday by defeating Europe 16 ½ to 11 ½ as chants of “USA, USA” reverberated across the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville. U.S. Captain Paul Azinger, who persuaded the PGA give him four captains picks and changed the order of play, gets credit for the win while Nick Faldo, his European counterpart, will get roasted in the British press. The U.S. team was led by unlikely heroes Anthony Kim, who dusted Sergio Garcia in the first singles match on Sunday to set the tone for the Americans, and Boo Weekley, the self-proclaimed good ol’ boy who made seven birdies and an eagle on Sunday after galloping down the first fairway using his driver as a make believe horse. Europe saw its hopes evaporate when the triumvirate of Garcia, Lee Westwood and Pardraig Harrington went a combined 0-7-5 for a measly 2 ½ points. Save for Robert Karlsson and Ian Poulter, the controversial captain’s choice, the Europeans played like girly men. The stirring victory by the Americans over the heavily favored European team, the raucous cheers for Kentucky natives Kenny Perry (2-1-1) and J.B. Holmes (2-0-1), the dramatic shots and the wire-to-wire victory will make this Ryder Cup one for the ages.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Harold Henning.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

U.S. Will Win Ryder Cup

Mr. Fairway is going out on a limb and picking the U.S. team to upset Europe in the Ryder Cup. Yes, he knows that Europe is the favorite and has more top-ranked players than the red, white and blue. Yes, he knows that the U.S. hasn't won the Ryder Cup since 1999. Yes, he knows that the best player in the world a.k.a. Tiger Woods is MIA because of knee surgery. But here some other factors to consider. First, the U.S. has home course advantage with the matches being played at the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. Two members of the U.S. team, Kenny Perry and J.B. Holmes, are Kentuckians and if Captain Paul Azinger pairs them together, the crowd could be really crazy. Speaking of Azinger, he is going to be a better captain than his counterpart, Nick Faldo, who was never well-like by his fellow pros. Faldo already has drawn criticism for not picking Ryder Cup stalwart Colin Montgomerie and Darren Clarke, who has won three times this year on the European tour. Azinger has some young guns on his team who know no fear and can play lights out. Mr. Fairway predicts that Anthony Kim will beat Sergio Garcia in singles on Sunday to give the U.S. team a 14 1/2 - 13 1/2 victory.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Bob Dickson.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ryder Cup Records

Here are the career Ryder Cup records for both teams:

Paul Casey 3-1-2
Sergio Garcia 14-4-2
Soren Hansen 0-0-0
Padraig Harrington 7-8-2
Miguel Angel Jiminez 1-3-0
Robert Karlsson 0-1-2
Graeme McDowell 0-0-0
Ian Poulter 1-1-0
Justin Rose 0-0-0
Henrik Stenson 1-1-0
Lee Westwood 14-8-3
Oliver Wilson 0-0-0

United States
Chad Campbell 1-3-2
Stewark Cink 3-5-4
Ben Curits 0-0-0
Jim Furyk 6-12-2
J.B. Holmes 0-0-0
Anthony Kim 0-0-0
Justin Leonard 0-3-5
Hunter Mahan 0-0-0
Phil Mickelson 9-12-4
Kenny Perry 0-2-0
Steve Stricker 0-0-0
Boo Weekley 0-0-0

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Bobby Gage.

Ryder Cup Formats

I don’t know about you but every time the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup are played, I get confused about the formats. The Ryder Cup, which starts on Friday, will open with four matches of fourball in the morning followed by four matches of foursomes in the afternoon. On Saturday, the order is reversed with four matches of foursomes in the morning and four matches of fourball in the afternoon. Here’s the difference between the two.

Fourball play is a match in which each member of the two-man team plays his own ball so four balls are in play per hole. Each team counts its best ball against the other team’s best ball. The team with the lowest score wins the hole. If the teams tie their best ball score, the hole is halved.

In foursomes, each two man team play against the other two man team, but each team plays only one ball and they alternate hitting shots with that ball until the hole is completed. Team members alternate hitting tee shots with one player teeing off on the odd numbered holes and the other playing hitting tee shots on the even numbered holes. The team with the better score wins the hole and if the two teams tie, the hole is halved.

The third format is singles in which all 12 members of each team play an 18-hole match against an opponent from the other team. The singles matches will be contested on Sunday.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Brian Barnes.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wie to Q School

Michelle Wie finally wised up. After running out of options to play on the LPGA Tour, Wie is entering Q-school in attempt to secure playing privileges on the women’s tour. Unable to earn enough money to obtain her card through sponsor’s exemption, Wie really had not other choice. Her first round of Q-school is next week in Rancho Mirage, California. The top 30 advance to the final stage in Florida in December where the top 20 finishers and ties earn their cards. Wie’s professional career has been rocky to say the least. She abruptly withdrew from Annika Sorenstam’s event, she was DQ’d for failing to sign her scorecard at the State Farm Classic and she had a wrist injury that kept her out of action. She also drew criticism for repeated attempts – unsuccessful – to make the cut in PGA Tour events. Her agent quit and swing coach David Leadbetter criticized her for accepting sponsor’s exemptions to play with the men. Wie turns 19 in early October.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Sandra Post.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Singh Clinches FedEx Cup

Despite a T-44 finish at the BMW Championship in St. Louis this weekend, Vijay Singh locked up the FedEx Cup $10 million first prize. Singh, who won the first two FedEx Cup playoff tournaments, only has to show up at the Tour Championship in Atlanta in two weeks, play four rounds and sign his scorecard. You’d think that would make the mercurial Singh happy, right? Hard to say because the churlish pro refused to talk to the media after his round Sunday. Mr. Fairway understands that the media can be a pain the rear but Singh should at least have the courtesy to answer a few questions and pretend to be excited about cashing a big check. Perhaps the PGA Tour should institute a rule that players have to meet the media following their rounds. The attitude displayed by Singh is one reason he is not a fan favorite. Not that we would ever wish him bad luck, but how sweet it would be to see him DQ’d and miss out on the big prize.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Steve Reid.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

LPGA Reverses Language Rule

It didn’t take long for the LPGA Tour to reverse course on its plans to suspend players who don’t learn to speak English. LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens, who concocted the policy, will present a revised plan at the end of the year. The new plan will not include suspensions, she said, but may include fines for players who can’t speak English. "We have decided to rescind those penalty provisions," Bivens said in a statement. "After hearing the concerns, we believe there are other ways to achieve our shared objective of supporting and enhancing the business opportunities for every tour player." Bivens and the LPGA drew heavy and deserved criticism for the original plan which was viewed as discriminatory against foreign players, especially Asians. The LPGA Tour has more than 120 foreign players representing 26 countries. No major sport has a language requirement in its bylaws. Major league baseball helps foreign players learn English in the minors. She argued that international players who could communicate effectively in English would improve the pro-am experience, sponsor relations and could help land endorsements for the players. However, State Farm, a major sponsor, said it was perplexed by the original policy and the company asked Bivens to review its decision.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Sherri Turner.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tommy Bolt R.I.P.

Tommy Bolt, winner of the 1958 U.S. Open, but better known for his legendary temper, died last weekend in his native Oklahoma. He was 92. “Terrible Tommy” won 15 tournaments in his career which was marked by his propensity for throwing and breaking clubs. Bolt suggested his reputation was a bit overblown but acknowledged that sometimes his temper got the best of him. Bolt often told the story about how he was playing the Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach one year when he had 135 yards left to the 16th hole. He turned to his caddie and asked for a 7-iron, and the caddied replied, "It's either a 3-iron or a 3-wood. Those are the only clubs you have left." Bolt also played on two U.S. Ryder Cup teams and for years was co-owner of the tour scoring record, having shot 60 in 1954 at Wethersfield (Conn.) Country Club in the second round of the Insurance City Open.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Tom Siekman.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tiger's No. 2

Tiger Woods announced on his web site today that he and his wife, Elin, are expecting their second child. Woods, who is recovering from knee surgery, said the baby will arrive later this winter. Their first child, a daughter named Sam, was born the Monday after the 2007 U.S. Open.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Casey Martin.

Azinger Announces Picks

U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Paul Azinger announced this morning that he selected Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan, J.B. Holmes and Chad Campbell to fill out the team that will compete against Europe in the matches that start Sept. 19. (Mr. Fairway correctly predicted Stricker, Mahan and Holmes.) “We’ve rounded off this team with the best possible players at this time,” he said. Azinger would not talk about players he did not choose but noted that Woody Austin and Rocco Mediate would have been good additions to a squad that will not include Tiger Woods. Azinger said he liked Stricker, winner of consecutive comeback players awards, and Holmes, the only captain’s pick to win a tournament this year, all along. Holmes, a long hitter, is from Kentucky and has played Valhalla hundreds of times. Azinger noted that not having Woods, who is still recovering from knee surgery, on the team is a big disappointment. Woods may visit Valhalla and Azinger will have an open phone line to him during the matches. Here is the U.S. lineup with their world rankings. R = rookie:

Phil Mickelson – 2
Stewart Cink – 7
Kenny Perry – 17
Jim Furyk – 13
Anthony Kim (R) – 16
Justin Leonard –24
Ben Curtis (R) – 32
Boo Weekley (R) – 33
Steve Stricker (R) – 10
Hunter Mahan (R) – 38
J.B. Holmes (R) – 52
Chad Campbell – 61

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Buddy Gardner.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Faldo Adds Poulter, Casey

European Ryder Cup captain Nick Faldo announced Ian Poulter and Paul Casey as his choices to fill out his team. Faldo was criticized in some European circles for passing on Darren Clarke, who is rounding back into form following the death of his wife. Here is a look at Team Europe and their world golf ranking. R = rookie. U.S. Captain Paul Azinger will announce his four captain's picks tomorrow.

Padraig Harrington -- 3
Sergio Garcia -- 4
Lee Westwood -- 12
Henrik Stenson -- 6
Robert Karlsson -- 21
Miguel Angel Jimenez -- 18
Graeme McDowell (R) -- 29
Justin Rose (R) -- 14
Soren Hansen (R) -- 45
Oliver Wilson (R) -- 51
Ian Poulter -- 23
Paul Casey – 35

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Bob Zender.