Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fountain of Youth, Still Unfound?

Korean-born, New Zealand-native Danny Lee, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion and the youngest since Tiger Woods (1994) will be giving up his amateur status and turning pro after he plays in this year's Masters tournament. The 18 year-old Lee will make his professional debut at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans.

IB18 editors have been well aware of the youth movement in 2009 with such notables as Lee, Rory McIlroy and Ryo Ishikawa, who will also be making their Masters debut in a couple of weeks.

However, IB18 editors are also aware that ultimately, the story will still be Tiger Woods and how many strokes by which he either wins or loses the tournament.

In a season where he is still overcoming arthroscopic knee surgery, he successfully and impressively defended his title at the Arnie Invite, coming back from 5 shots down this past Sunday. This, above everything, is what the casual golf fan was clamoring for.

For die-hard golf fans, we appreciated it, respected it and moved on.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Masters Profile: 16th Hole - Redbud

Par: 3
Distance: 170 yards
HDCP on Scorecard: 18
2008 Tournament Stroke Avg.: 3.126
2008 Tournament difficulty: 10th overall

In 1947, a pond was constructed in front of the tee box and the green was moved to the right, making this harder than it's back-nine counterpart, Golden Bell (12th Hole). The hole has seen 11 aces during the Masters tournament, including a hole-in-one by Ian Poulter in 2008. Shot placement has been the key at Redbud, determined mainly by flagstick location. A front-right hole position leaves very little landing area and can force bogey should the ball not hold the green. A left-side pin position is easier, when a player can aim for the slope and use it to guide the ball towards the hole.

The gusty winds at Redbud will dictate club selection, as Bobby Jones (founder of Augusta National & the Masters tournament) claimed in a 1959 Sports Illustrated article, "The tee shot to this hole will be played by the tournament players with a number 2-, 3- or 4-iron, depending upon the wind."

The 16th has also been regarded as somewhat of a 'catalyst' hole come tournament time. In 1975, Jack Nicklaus holed out a 40-foot putt and overtook Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf by one stroke (which ended up being the difference) on the leaderboard en route to his 5th green jacket and 15th Major championship overall. And who could forget Tiger Woods' chip-in from off the green in 2005, as the 'swoosh' on the Nike golf ball slowly rolled over and into the cup as he went on to capture his 4th Masters overall.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Callaway Claws Back

Golf equipment manufacturer Callaway may have found a way to potentially keep its brand going on the PGA Tour for years to come, after becoming the official sponsor and exclusive equipment supplier (sticks, ammo & threads) for the David Leadbetter Golf Academy, a division of sports and entertainment conglomerate IMG. IMG Academies are located in Bradenton, Florida and are the foremost competitive and educational training ground for many young, aspiring athletes who seek a chance at a professional sports career.

What a better way than for Callaway to have a nice ‘in’ with a veritable pick of the litter of talented young athletes. This isn’t to say that every boy/girl coming through IMG will have an endorsement contract waiting for them upon graduation, nor it would be wise to suggest that Callaway is forcing their brand upon anyone.

But when you’re in a dogfight with Titleist over patents (read as: our ball is better than yours), it’s good for Callway to know that they’re still wanted and may still survive.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Masters Profile: Jose Maria Olazabal

On February 5th, 1966, Jose Maria Olazabal was born in Fuenterrabia, Spain and a day later opened the 18-hole course at Real Golf Club de San Sebastian, where his father, Gaspar, apprenticed under his grandfather before becoming Head Greenskeeper. At Real, Jose Maria, or “Chemma” as his mother knew him, was able to learn his craft at a very young age, hitting balls at age 2 and graduating to 18-hole play by age 6.

Despite a career that included 28 Tour victories (22 European, 6 PGA) and 7 Ryder Cup memberships, the Spaniard Olazabal arguably achieved his greatest success at Augusta in 1994 and 1999, joining fellow countryman Seve Ballesteros as a multiple-winner of the Masters (14th overall).

Since winning his last green jacket, it’s been feast or famine for Jose Maria with 3 Top-10s and 3 missed cuts at Augusta. His 2008 season was plagued by rheumatism in his feet, a condition that has beleaguered him even during his victory in 1999.

Vital Masters Stats for Jose Maria Olazabal:

# of Masters Appearances: 21
Best Finish (1st – 1994, 1999)
Top-10 finishes: (7) 1989, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2006

IB18’s Projection at 2009 Masters: Makes Cut, might creep into top-30.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Masters Profile: Ben Crenshaw

‘Gentle’ Ben Crenshaw amassed 19 victories during his career on the PGA Tour, including two (2) green jackets in 1984 & 1995. Only he and Jack Nicklaus share the longest period between victories (11 years) at Augusta National.

Of his two victories at the Masters, none was more emotional than in 1995, when Crenshaw’s longtime instructor, friend and mentor, Harvey Penick, died the previous week. Crenshaw, who’s putting prowess was taught and honed by Penick, utilized his smooth stroke on Augusta’s tricky, fast greens en route to a 14-under 274, three shots better than his first victory in 1984.

After playing 4 rounds of tournament golf with a heavy heart, Crenshaw sank a bogey putt on the 18th green for a victory and a 2nd green jacket. An emotional Crenshaw broke down in tears over the loss of his friend and later claimed, "It was kind of like I felt this hand on my shoulder, guiding me along."

Vital Masters Stats for Ben Crenshaw:

# of Masters Appearances (37)
Best Finish (1st- 1984, 1995)
Top-10 finishes (11) 1976, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1995

IB18’s Projection at 2009 Masters: Missed Cut

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Boxer Briefs, Fashionable and Functional

Tiger Woods once had some fans move a two-ton boulder out of the way of his lie. Bernhard Langer once climbed 8 feet up a tree to hit a chip shot.

But Swedish pro-golfer Henrik Stenson truly thought outside the box and his clothes at the WGC-CA Championship this past weekend.

From the ‘somewhat’ easy to assemble uber-furnishings of IKEA to the mutual safety-luxury principles of Volvo automobiles, the Swedes have been well known for combining creative philosophies with practical wisdom.

On the 3rd hole at Doral, Stenson’s ball found the water. Instead of taking the penalty shot and dropping the ball outside of the hazard, Stenson decided to play the shot (the ball was floating in about a half-inch of water). He removed all of his clothes, keeping only his underwear on and played the shot successfully from inside the hazard, hitting the ball about 30 yards safely back onto the grass.

Even though Stenson bogeyed the hole, shot a final round score of 83 and finished tied for 77th, his clothes stayed dry.

And he provided an indelible image into the minds of golf fans and PGA history forever.

The editors at IB18 are eternally grateful.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Doral Gets Attacked, Owned

Even with its Augusta-like undulating greens, deep rough and water on nearly every hole, lots of low scores were posted at the Doral’s famed Blue Monster on Thursday for the WGC-CA Championship.

The most impressive round certainly belonged to Phil Mickelson, who overcame a double-bogey 6 on the 3rd hole, only to card 8 more birdies (he also birdied hole #1) for a 7-under 65. Joining him at the top of the leaderboard are Retief Goosen, Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand and our perennial favorite/man-crush, Jeev Milkha Singh.

Singh, who was the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit winner for 2008, relied on his smooth swing and trusted his putter en route to his first round score of 65. His 1.53 putts/GIR is tied for a tournament best right now and he will need to maintain that of accuracy once he makes the trip to Augusta for the Masters.

And for those that need their Tiger news (you friggin' brown-noses), he’s at 1-under and tied for 40th. Lucky for him, there’s no cut after 36 holes.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Whose Tour Is This?

Colombian-born Camilo Villegas has every reason to be ticked off when some ‘ignorant, know-nothing about golf’ reporter has to ask him what it will be like playing Tiger Woods again, just as someone did in a weekly interview with a Colombian radio station.

“Guys, I believe it's like 80 players in the field. Again, we just have to take care of what we do, set our goals and accomplish them,” Villegas replied.

To be completely fair, the interviewer wouldn’t know a 3-iron from a bowl of Cheerios unless you had them eat one and gently shove the other up their ass.

And to keep things in perspective, since Woods went on injured reserve after his US Open victory last season, Villegas:

*won 2 events (BMW & Tour Championship in 2008)
*finished 7th on the 2008 money list
*has finished in the top-25 in 3 of 5 starts in 2009
*finished tied for 9th at the WGC-Match Play
*is currently 29th on the 2009 money list

Since his injury, Tiger has bested Villegas in 1 out of those aforementioned categories. He is currently 129th on the PGA Money list after one event (lost in Round 2 at WGC-Match Play… to who?)

Villegas is well aware of his own success and the publicity it has brought him when he also mentions, "I'm going to be known by more people and I'm going to be on more magazines, this and that.”

However, there would be those who would argue that Villegas is popular by virtue of the fact that Woods’ presence on Tour garners more publicity and human interest and thus, owes some of his popularity to Tiger.

To that I say… here’s some Cheerios and a 3-iron.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Swell From The Pacific

Y.E. Yang’s victory at the Honda Classic should be of no surprise to anyone as an increasing number of players from the Pacific Rim continue to invade American soil. Yang became the 2nd Korean-born player (K.J. Choi) to win a PGA Tour event. With his victory this past Sunday, he jumped to 9th on the PGA Money List and will certainly make a bigger jump from #460 on the WGC.

18-year old Danny Lee (from New Zealand, and of Asian descent) receives an automatic bid to Augusta as the reigning 2008 U.S. Amateur champion, his first ever Masters. He recently won the Johnnie Walker Classic, beating out a tough field that included Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Anthony Kim and Ian Poulter.

Japanese phenom Ryo Ishikawa, only 17 years of age, got his first taste of the PGA a couple of weeks ago, even though he missed the cut at Riviera (Northern Trust Open).

What does this all mean? Hardly anything. That is, unless you don’t believe that players from mainland Asia, Indonesia and India won’t influence the game over here… because they will.

So learn how to update a leaderboard with calligraphy and character art. You’re going to need a lot of ink.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

---> Insert ‘Balls’ Joke Here

Rivalries have always spurred the public interest. Hatfield/McCoy, Ali/Frazier, Coca-Cola/Pepsi… you get the picture.

In a saga of intellectual property, Callaway claims that Titleist’s Pro-V line of golf balls violates the patent of the “Rule 35” ball, to which Callaway has the original patent. Fortune Brand’s Acushnet division (manufacturer of Titleist) filed a countersuit against Callaway claims that the Tour-I and Tour-IX models ‘unlawfully incorporated the technology’ that is covered by Titleist’s own patent.

Call the argument whatever you want: “We were first—No, we were first!” “Mine’s bigger—No, mine’s bigger!” “Yo mama – No, yo mama”

This isn’t really about an infringement on the other’s patent. To find out who will really win this battle, all you have to do is follow the money. In our dwindling economy, it will only be a matter of time before vertically integrated billion-dollar revenue giant like Fortune (owner of Footjoy, Cobra, Scotty Cameron and another ball brand, Pinnacle) will gobble up Callaway.

Even the worst of amateur golfers will pay $45/dozen (retail). The idea being that because hundreds of PGA Tour professionals use and win with the “#1 ball in golf”, so will they.

The editors at IB18 believe Callaway may very well win the battle, but they’ll ultimately lose the war.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Noble and Perhaps Unnecessary

Before we write any further, the editors at IB18 have been and currently are clients of Northern Trust, having held a checking account with the bank for nearly 10 years with hardly a complaint.

Nor do we take issue with them, like many politicians and pundits have in recent days, with their expenditures at their sponsored PGA event a couple weeks ago at Riviera Country Club.

Unlike many of their fellow financial institutions, now mired in the woes of having backed sub-prime mortgages, Northern Trust remained shrewd and was profitable in 2008, operating in the black with nearly $800 million in earnings and an EPS of $3.47. Still, the Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP) gave them a piece of the $700 billion-dollar pie, $1.6 billion dollars worth to be exact, even though Northern Trust’s PGA sponsored-event was easily covered by it’s own assets and NOT the Feds.

Northern Trust has nothing to be ashamed of except poor timing. Sure, it would have been more prudent and politically correct to not throw lavish parties for their employees and clients. However, having taken over sponsorship of the event in 2007 (way before the Feds’ bailout on October 3, 2008), Northern Trust was on the hook and knew fully well that it could cover its responsibilities to the event and its attendees.

To it’s credit, Northern Trust realized the negative publicity it was receiving and has made amends by making the first of its quarterly repayments to the Feds in the amount of $19.7 million dollars

But it doesn’t take a genius (as I don’t profess to be one) that this event was done with THEIR dough, which they RIGHTFULLY EARNED.

And the Feds can go screw!!!

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