Thursday, April 17, 2008

Missed It By A Week

Leave it to my guy, Justin Leonard, to come out firing darts a week after he was my pick at Augusta. His 5-under 66 at the Verizon Heritage (hosted by the scenic Harbour Town Golf Links) was highlighted by a birdie 3 at the scenic, but treacherous 18th.

D.J. Trahan has been relatively quiet since his victory at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic back in January. 3 missed cuts in 8 events and his best finish was a T-22nd at the Northern Trust Open. Trahan’s round 1 card may be indicative of his erratic year, 6 birdies on the front nine, 3 bogies on the back for a 3-under 68.

And our old pal Tim ‘Lumpy’ Herron can get rosy cheeked about his T-2nd on the leaderboard. His best finish so far this season is a T-34 at the AT&T. Always a fan favorite, Lumpy last won in 2006 at the Bank of America Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Trevor’s Tear At Augusta

I don’t want to hear anyone say that Trevor Immelman’s 3-over 75 was a result of Tiger Woods and his transcendent aura whispering through the pines at Augusta... not one damn word.

Immelman did the impossible and essentially took a major championship wire-to-wire (he was tied in the 1st round with Justin Rose) and had enough strokes to hold any charge brought upon by Sir Eldrick of Anaheim.

Even after a double-bogey 5 on the par-3 16th, Immelman found the way to keep his composure and play great finishing golf, making par on the final two holes of tournament play. There’s ice water for blood running through Immelman, chilly and swirling course winds aside.

One Final Note of Nomenclature…

On the par-3 6th, Englishman Paul Casey noticed that his ball moved during his address. Remember, a ball is considered “addressed” when a player has taken their stance AND grounded their club. The penalty for this infraction is one (1) stroke and you must place the ball in its original position. If you are unsure of the exact original position, the ball must be dropped.

Casey immediately notified an official and assessed himself the stroke. After placing his ball, he putted in his ball for a bogey 4. A winner of the jacket he wasn't, but he was honest and gentlemanly about it on what was a trying day on the course.

May the golf gods remember and someday reward Casey's patience and rule-abiding ways.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

After 2 rounds…

Okay, so I’m not the Amazing Criswell, but he was even more full of it than I am when it comes to predictions… at least I used a dartboard.

Enough of my glibness.

Justin Leonard made the cut, but he’s +2 (72-74) and well off the lead set by Trevor Immelman. Still, that’s 10 cuts made out of 10 starts for the season. We’ll see how he can finish.

Bernhard Langer also didn’t fulfill my prophecy of ‘Top Previous Champion over 50” and missed the cut. Oh, well. Back to domination on the Champions Tour.

The honor will go to 50-year old, wee-Welshman Ian Woosnam (+2, 75-71). Sandy Lyle (also 50), who had haggis served one year at the champions’ dinner, also made the cut (+5, 72-75).

Fred Couples missed a chance at some Masters history-making. He missed the cut and will stay tied with Gary Player for most cuts made at Augusta with 23. Still impressive for a guy who’s career has been marred by back problems.

There is still a lefty and previous champion out there, but he’s not named Phil Mickelson. 2003 Masters champion Mike Weir fired a bogey-less, 4-under 68 and is currently tied for 8th. Previous Masters champions are always in the hunt, for they are well aware of nuances of the course and the pressure involved.

The more I see Jeev Milka Singh play, the more I believe he’s ready to come stateside and play on the PGA Tour. Granted, he’s 8th on the European PGA’s Order of Merit (equivalent to PGA Money List) with 410,000 Euros won so far in 2008, and the dollar isn’t what it used to be. But there’s no question that the best golf talent is across the pond in North America.

Perhaps Sir Jeev can lock in a good exchange rate with the PGA Tour.

Oh, that guy Tiger? Tied for 13th at 1-under. Right where he wants to be.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Player... A True Professional

At 8:44 EDT, 72-year old Gary Player will be teeing it up for his 51st Masters Tournament.

A 3-time Masters champion, Player was the tournament’s first international winner (South Africa) and had a string of 23 straight cuts made between 1959 and 1982… a record which will be threatened and possibly broken by Fred Couples, should he make it past Friday.

Since Player’s first Masters tee time in 1957, the course at Augusta National has gone through plenty of changes:

The bunkers were changed from beige sand to white feldspar, a by-product of quartz, mined & shipped in from North Carolina.

The greens were changed from bermuda to bent grass, making the greens akin to putting in a bathtub.

The course has been lengthened twice (from 6,925 yds to 7,445 yds), most likely due to the changes in distance-aided equipment over the years, like that ‘toaster on a stick’ driver you carry in your bag.

Whereas the changes to course (notably the total distance from the tips) irked plenty of shorter hitting professionals and the likes Tiger Woods & Jack Nicklaus, Player accepted the changes,

"There have been a lot of criticisms, but I think unjustly so, now I've played it.... The guys are basically having to hit the same second shots that Jack Nicklaus had to hit [in his prime]".

Which is pretty much code-speak for: “Quit your bitching, put a peg under the ball and deal with it.”

Gary Player will tee it up this Thursday and if you ask me, he will most likely not make the cut. But he may be the most professional golfer out of the field for the simple fact that he accepts the challenge without regard to how unfair the course may seem. Much like the mountain climber attempting the peak of Everest, he accepts the challenge because it’s there.

I would love to see him accept the challenge at 80.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Masters Watch (T-minus 96 hours...or so)

Okay, my man-crush on Justin Leonard has to be revealed, once and for all. I’m calling him out as my TOP PICK to WIN the 2008 Masters Championship--PREVIOUS CHAMPIONS EXCLUDED.

After all, it’s too easy is it to put your money on Tiger, Phil, and Vijay.

So why Justin Leonard?

He’s made all 9 cuts in each of his starts this season and is performing where it counts. He’s in the top-10 on the PGA in Putting (8th), Birdie Avg. per Round (5th) and Greens-In-Regulation (6th). His solid driving accuracy (72.41% of all fairways) should help him traverse the narrow confines of Augusta.

Moreover, he has a major victory on his record (1997 British) and knows what it means to play on the big stage.

Here’s another prop bet to chew on. PREVIOUS CHAMPIONS OVER 50 YEARS OF AGE -- Who will finish the best amongst them?

The first concern I would have if were over 50, a bit achier in the lumbar region and playing in the Masters… is Distance of the Tee. Since 1998, the course has been extended twice and now measures roughly 7,450 yards from the tips.

Hence, Bernhard Langer seems like a good choice to make a run towards the top of the Leaderboard. His 284.9-yard average off the tee ranks 7th on the Champions Tour and puts him just above the PGA Tour average of 281 yards. Oh, and he’s won it twice (1985, 1993).

More to come…

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