Archive for March, 2011

March 31, 2011

War of the Tours takes to Twitter

There has been a lot of controversy this year stirring around the PGA Tour vs. the European Tour.  That discussion will only be heightened after the article “The War of the Tours” by Cameron Morfit in the latest Golf Magazine.  It is clear that since Westwood has become world number 1 that the European tour has gained momentum, but that is not what I want to talk about.

I want to talk about the war of the tours on twitter.  Pro golfers have taken to twitter this past year and it has let them connect with fans on an entirely new level.  I for one think it is fantastic that these pro athletes have embraced twitter as a way to share life on the tour with their fans.  Ian Poulter recently posted a video of the locker room at Augusta and it was beyond cool.  That is something most of us will never see in real life.  As a golf fan, I appreciated him sharing and saw it as a gesture to all of his fans.  Thanks Ian!

Now let’s look at how the tours are doing on Twitter.  The European Tour’s top ten world ranked players have a combined 1,745,991 followers.  The only two players not using twitter in the top ten are Martin Kaymer and Ernie Els.  The other point of note is that nearly 1 million of Europe’s followers come from Poulter.

The top ten world ranked players for the US have a combined 938,423 followers.  Out of the top ten US players not using twitter are Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney.  Six of the top ten US players are not using twitter and they are right on par with the Europeans if you take out Poulter’s 1 million plus followers.  It is also interesting to note that if you add in Stewart Cink to the American side the US would take the lead with over 2 million followers.

 

You might ask what is the point of all this?  The point is that golf is expanding not only globally with more European players climbing the world rankings, but also expanding out to fans.  Much of the debate around the debate of the PGA vs. European tour is that Finchem is protecting TV ratings here in the states.  It is clear to me that through other avenues (i.e. Twitter) players other than Tiger are increasing the popularity of the game.  People are watching more tournaments this year because they have a reason to root for new players like Bubba, Fowler and McDowell.  They are more connected with fans than ever and it is great for the game.  If you haven’t checked these guys out on Twitter do yourself a favor and follow them.  It is not only entertaining, but you might just get a sneak peak into the world of tour pros rarely seen.

March 30, 2011

Can You Take too Many Practice Swings?

There was a reasonable amount of debate between a few of my friends after we finished a recent nine holes.  One of our playing partners is the newest to golf out of all of us and has yet to perfect his pre shot routine on the tee, on approach shots and on the green.  We keep stressing to him the importance of a consistent pre shot routine so that he can get comfortable before each shot no matter how difficult the shot is or how much pressure is revolving around the shot.  He has not grasped how much a consistent pre shot routine can help calm you down and allow you to forget outside factors and focus on the shot and I am sick of telling him.  Oh well.

Even though he has not headed our comments he seems to take a minimum of four practice swings per shot.  That is a minimum!  If you look at that mathematically it seems like a whole lot of effort exerted on the course not hitting shots.  Let’s say that he shoots in the hundreds when he goes out and plays.  That is 100 swings with all of his clubs, putter included per 18 holes.  Add on a minimum of four practice swings to each and you have 400 swings in the round.  Let’s take out putter strokes.  If he two putts every green that is 36 putting strokes.  Add four practice strokes and that is 144 practice putting strokes.  Practice putting strokes don’t bother me that much.  If we take that 144 away from the 400 we still have 256 extra practice swings per round at a bare minimum.  If you ask me my buddy might be wasting a lot of effort taking practice swings outside of a routine.

I am sure his practice swing total is much more, but I decided to error on the conservative side.  What do you guys think?  Can you over exert yourself taking too many practice swings or is it all about getting comfortable and the number is different for each player?  How effective are practice swings if the player doesn’t use them within his/her routine?

March 29, 2011

Stricker is Your Houston Winner

Just like last week I am going to attempt to pick this weekend’s winner nice and early.  Last week I had the great foresight to pick Graeme McDowell as my fantasy pick for Bay Hill.  As most of you know he shot a first round 80 to dig himself into a hole that proved to be insurmountable to stick around for the weekend.  Needless to say, I am looking for redemption this week and I think I may have found it in Steve Stricker.

Anthony Kim is the defending champ this week and it is always hard to pick against him.  Especially because I think he is a stud on the course and it is only a matter of time before he puts it all together for a multiple win season.  I just don’t think he has played enough this year to really get himself motivated enough to get that first win of the year.  Last year he didn’t drive the ball well and missed most of the greens, but still won.  Hopefully I don’t have to eat my words again this week.

I am going with Stricker for three reasons.  First, he is solid off the tee and hits greens in regulation like they owe him money.  Week in and week out he is a solid pick to hit a lot of fairways and greens.  Second, he is as solid of a putter as you can find and that paired with greens in regulation is always a positive.  Lastly and most importantly, I am going with Stricker because he ranks second in scrambling this year.  If Kim taught us anything last year it is that you can still score in Houston when you miss greens.  Stricker is basically the all around package for a winner this week.  He is a hybrid machine who hits greens and always gets up and down when he doesn’t.  I don’t see how I can go wrong with this pick.
Another guy I think will do well this week is Ben Crane.  If his back has healed at all he will be a contender.  He has played well through the beginning of the year, prior to his bad back and is an excellent putter.  He will find the bottom of the hole often if he is healthy.

Other guys I am keeping an eye on this week are Steve Marino and Jamie Lovemark.  I really believe Marion is due and you could really see the fire in his eyes coming down the stretch on Sunday this past week.  You can tell he wants it bad and he has proved he has the game to get him in contention.  If he isn’t still too crushed by his double bogey on 17 on Sunday I could see him will his way into the winner’s circle.  Lastly, I will be watching Lovemark closely.  This kid has proved his entire career that he is not just a good golfer but a winner.  NCAA champ and Nationwide Tour money leader.  He knows how to win and he will break through.  He has also had some back problems, but eventually he will get healthy and take the next step as a PGA tour winner.

March 29, 2011

Bad Shots Happen…Get Over It!

Golf season is rapidly approaching here in Chicago and I have been desperately trying to shake off the winter rust.  I have been out to play four times so far and each time was miserably cold.  It is difficult to get distance down in the cold because the ball doesn’t fly as far and your body gets stiff in the frigid temperatures.  The local course is not in playing shape yet so the fairway and rough are pretty similar.  With all of these negatives swirling around each of my four rounds I have found that letting the bad shots go has made my rounds more enjoyable.

I am a bit of a perfectionist so I always think I can hit a better shot or I could have done better.  With all of the poor conditions around my game right now I have found it easier to say, “That was a good shot, but the wind really got it”, or “I hit that well and it would have been better if the lie wasn’t so bad.”  As I am saying these things to myself, I have been able to move on to the next shot and really focus on each shot as an individual effort.  Before, if I hit a shot I was unhappy with I had the mentality that my round was ruined and my game was out of whack.

I have finally come to the realization that it really isn’t the conditions that are causing these bad shots.  It is Golf.  They happen and I am finally realizing how to move on and enjoy each round more.  I am going to hit bad drives.  I am going to miss greens.  Three putts are inevitable.  I used to let these things get me upset and make me forget that I am outside and playing the game I love.  Every bad shot I hit presents a challenge to hit a really good shot the next time to redeem myself.  What other game offers such an immediate chance for redemption?  This new approach has made the game much more enjoyable and I highly suggest you embrace it if you have not already.  Just let it go.  Seems simple right?

March 28, 2011

Nothing is More Important than Feel

In case you just glanced over the headline of this post take a second and read it again.  I will repeat it once more.  Nothing is more important that feel!!

Every golfer has a moment of clarity when they hit a good shot, chip or putt.  They can feel the shot was pure in every corner of their body.  As soon as it happens they know the shot was good.  The same is true for bad shots.  We can feel when we are too steep, too quick, chunk a shot, thin a shot, hook or slice a drive.  As golfers we spend countless hours at the driving range trying to develop the right feel to our game.  In the back of our minds we all know what we are working on and the type of shot we want to hit.  It is an essential element to getting better as a player.

It is funny to me that with so much of the game focusing on feel many players sacrifice feel when they buy equipment.  Before I go on I will say that I am guilty of this too.  When I first started playing I was that kid who went into the golf store and bought the first set of irons that the “golf pro” told me I hit well.  It was a set of game improvement irons that worked for me as a beginner, but I am not sure it was the best fit.  The next time I went to buy a set of Irons I told the “golf pro” that I wanted to hit everything.  I wasn’t kidding.  I wanted to hit every set of Irons he had just to see which felt the best.  This was a much better idea and I ended up getting a set of clubs that I was extremely happy with.  Looking back, I fell short again.  I didn’t actually hit everything.  I didn’t hit any of the blade style irons because I was always told that blades are only for seriously good players.  I agree that you have to have a keen ability to hit the sweet spot to play blades, but they are amazing clubs and they can help certain players.  Again, I limited myself in my club selection by not finding out what feels the best.

I was most recently guilty of limiting myself when I bought a Scotty Cameron putter.  The thing was gorgeous and all I have ever heard my whole golfing career was how you can’t have a better putter than a Scotty Cameron.  Guess what?  I sucked with it.  I wasn’t confident and I never had a good feel for the thing.  I finally got fed up and traded it in and got a putter that I can feel much better.  Now I am stroking putts much better and my putting stats are getting better every time I go out and play.  I finally learned to trust myself when it comes to finding what I like and not just buying what is popular at the moment.

The nuts and bolts of my point is figure out what YOU like to hit.  Don’t let the guy at Golf Smith, Dicks or Golf Galaxy tell you that you should be playing Burner Irons if you don’t feel comfortable playing Burner Irons.  If you feel the best hitting Hogan’s, McGreggor or Adams irons then buy them.  It will help your game from a confidence stand point immediately.  Don’t buy the latest gimmick because it looks cool.  Buy the club that you can feel the best.  Trust me, it will help you play better and enjoy the game.

 

March 26, 2011

Golf and Xanax

It was hard not to notice the lack of composure exhibited by a few players today during the coverage of Round 3.  Spencer Levin’s freak out after his wayward tee shot on 16 was hilarious.  He looked like a teenager and not at all like a confident golfer poised to win his first Tournament.  With that being said, he salvaged a bogey and went on to be only 2 back from Laird at the end of the round.  Tiger gets a lot of press for his poor behavior after he hits a shot he doesn’t like, but Levin’s was by far worse and more entertaining all at the same time.  You could see the rage in his eyes.  He looked like he was going to explode.  It was seriously funny and I felt like he could use a good dose of Xanax so he wouldn’t have a real breakdown.  Poor guy just really cares, but there is no need to freak like that.

Levin wasn’t the only one out there who was expressing himself negatively.  Steve Marino almost took his caddy’s hand off when he slammed his club into his bag.  That doesn’t really shock me though.  Marino always looks like he is on the verge of a mental breakdown from frustration.  Sergio looked like he has just been whipped by the game of golf after he missed a putt from 18 inches.  The game can be humbling.

On the flip side there were a few guys who handled themselves with poise and grace.  K.J. Choi never lost his cool out there and I’m not sure if he ever does.  He duffed a bunker shot, left his next short, missed his par putt and went on to bogey three holes in a row, but you would never be able to tell.  He is cool, calm and collected no matter if he is -4 or +4.  The same can be said for guys like Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler.  They seem to just grind it out every round and never freak out like Tiger does.  That to me is a breath of fresh air and I wish more players had that demeanor.

Today’s round wasn’t all that exciting, but the weather is calling for higher winds tomorrow.  If Round 1 showed us anything with 13 guys over 80 Sunday could have an exciting finish and possible a few blow ups.  Either way I am expecting an interesting finish.

March 25, 2011

Love the Leaderboard

I absolutely love the leaderboard at Bay Hill right now.  After a pretty boring day 1 with only a handful of really good rounds, the course gave it up today and guys took advantage.  I keep looking at the leaderboard and I find myself running through scenarios that I would like to watch over the weekend.  Fowler goes low to get in contention, Bubba makes a move, Tiger finds his game, Laird dominates the field, Duffner plays his way into the Masters, Garcia regains his old form, Marino breaks through, Mahan brings it home, Levin hold off the field, KJ wins.  The headlines are endless and I can’t wait to watch.

It seems as though certain tournaments always deliver and Bay Hill is delivering on all fronts right now.  Maybe it is because the King is the host or the Masters is right around the corner.  Either way I don’t care.  It is downright fun to watch and I am going to enjoy every minute of it.  Even Miller won’t ruin this tourney for me this weekend.  I have a full proof plan against his nonsensical commentary.  Nothing but Mute for Mr. Miller.

Quick side note.  There are rumors that the Johnny Miller on twitter is not really him.  If so, I apologize for my comments about his tweets, but he still bothers me as a commentator.  Won’t apologize for that.

March 25, 2011

Bay Hill gives up the Birds

I don’t want to speak too soon like I did when I picked Graeme McDowell as my fantasy winner for Bay Hill or when I said that Jason Duffner was the top story of round 1 at Bay hill.  I still think Duffner could be a good story going through the weekend if he keeps his name close to the top of the leader board.  With that said, Bay Hill seems to have realized that it was a tough SOB yesterday and is happily giving up the birdies today.  Have you looked at the leader board yet?

So far we have Steve Marino (-5), Aaron Baddely (-4), Charles Howell III (-5), Erik Compton (-4) and Dicky Pride (-8) just to name a few.  What a difference a day makes in scoring.  In case you didn’t read that last sentence Dicky Pride is currently -8 through 14 holes after shooting an opening round 77.  I think it is safe to say that conditions are much more forgiving today at Bay Hill.  Oh ya, and Tiger shot a -4 68 to put himself tied T5 going into the weekend.  No big deal.

If the conditions stay this way the scores for round 2 will be nothing but stellar.  Guess who hasn’t even teed off yet?  Mahan, Mickelson, Bubba, Garrigus and Rose.  All guys who we know can go low.  I haven’t been this excited to watch a second round since the last major.  Bay Hill rarely disappoints!!

March 24, 2011

Peaks and Valleys of Round 1

Round 1 at Bay Hill can only be explained as a day of Peaks and Valleys.  High winds and tough playing conditions made it difficult for guys to go really low, except Spencer Levin of course.  I picked Graeme McDowell as my fantasy pick to win Bay Hill earlier this week and he came out and shot an 80!!  The funniest part his 80 is that he wasn’t the only one.  13 other players shot rounds at 80 or above.  Brandt Snedeker, Boo Weekley, Jeff Overton, Jhonatthon Vegas and Ricky Barnes are all notable players who shot 80 or above.

The fact that so many good players failed to shoot good rounds makes Spencer Levin’s round of 66 that much more impressive.  Under the tough playing conditions and the strong field of Bay Hill, I would argue that shooting 66 today would qualify Spencer Levin for possibly shooting the round of the year thus far.  It was beyond impressive and fun to watch.  I hope he keeps the momentum going and slugs it out with guys like Rickie Fowler over the weekend.  Forget all the Tiger swing talk, I want to watch two young guns fight it out just like Webb Simpson and Gary Woodland did last weekend.

The valleys of the round today were the fact that so many players I wanted to see go low and contend failed to make a splash and the fact that Johnny Miller went to twitter to share his thoughts about the round with everyone.  I honestly feel that Miller is the worst golf commentator in golf right now.  He is negative, only talks about Tiger and acts as if he was the best player to ever live.  With Spencer Levin and Rickie Fowler on the top of the leaderboard what did Miller want to tweet about?  Suprise suprise Tiger Woods.  Get over it Miller.  I can’t stand hearing this guy talk about Tiger, Tiger, Tiger all round long.  Golf is not fun when Miller blabs his nonsense about mistakes good players are making and how Tiger needs to go back to Butch.

I’m sure that won’t be my last Miller bash, but that is it for now.

March 24, 2011

5 Things I Hate in Golf

There are a few things I can’t stand when I go out and play.  Let me set the scene a little bit better.  I live in Chicago and play with two buddies regularly with a few other guys thrown in every now and then.  Our golf season is limited so we take full advantage of the summer playing a few times a week (before work if necessary).  When I go out and play I want to enjoy myself as much as possible.  Here is my list of the top 5 things that make my round less enjoyable.

Gimmes – If you think gimmes are either ok or part of the game of golf (besides in match play) then you are crazy and I wouldn’t want to play with you.  One guy I play with thinks that anything inside of 3 feet is a gimme for him.  Guess what?  It is NOT a gimme.  There is a reason they call those putts knee knockers.  They are the scariest putts in golf in my mind and if you want to count your score as legitimate then you have to knock those puppies in.  If you take gimme putts then your scorecard should have a big fat asterisk on it.  Step up and make your putts.

Slow Play – The guys I play with are not nearly good enough to take ten practice swings, step away from the ball, check the wind direction and pretend they are going to land the ball on the right part of the green.  Anywhere on the green is a win for us so why pretend otherwise?  I understand the flip side to the argument that in order to get better you need to take it seriously and “act as if”.  Believe me, I take my golf game seriously, but I don’t take five minutes to hit each shot.  Plus, haven’t the best players in the world said that it is crucial to get a pre-shot routine and stick to it?  No one needs ten practice swings each time.  It is over kill and makes the round not as enjoyable.  Pick it up guys.

Anger – I am all for caring about your score and your game, but if you are smashing clubs and dropping F bombs on the course, knock it off.  Chances are you aren’t breaking the course record so chill out.  I don’t even like it when Tiger pouts and freaks out and he is often trying to break the course record.  If it isn’t ok for Tour Pros to do it then why should the weekend warrior be allowed to.  It is embarrassing, classless and not a good representation of the game.  Take a deep breath and hit a good next shot, because in reality that is your only real option.

Blaming Equipment This might be one of my favorite things to hate in golf.  As much as it is annoying it is also humorous.  Everyone knows the guy I am talking about.  It is your friend who hits a bad shot off the tee and says, “My driver is too long/short/stiff.”  The next round they show up with a brand new driver and hit the same duck hook or slice.  There is no doubt getting fit for the right gear can help your game, but it will not fix your terrible swing.  Save your money and go get some lessons.  It will help you in the long run.  On a side note the only club I support switching up if you are not confident with it is your putter.  If you stand over your putter and don’t feel confident you can hit a good putt you never will.  Go ahead and swap it out for a putter you feel comfortable with.  It is worth it.

Bad Sand – I mentioned earlier that I live in Chicago and the local course by my house is owned by the city so they do not care about the condition of the bunkers as much as a Cog Hill does.  At this time of year they don’t even have rakes out.  Your chances of getting a good lie are zero.  Hitting a bunker is almost certainly a stroke penalty.  To me that isn’t what golf is about.  At any other course hitting a bunker is not a great thing, but you normally have a decent chance to get it out and make a mid range putt.  I can’t stand hitting into poorly maintained bunkers.  I am so used to them that I have a mental block in my head that tells me “well there goes your chance at par”.  Probably not the best mentality, but I am being very realistic.  Don’t believe me?  I will post a picture the next time I go out.  Hopefully tomorrow.

What do you hate about golf?