Butler Cabin, Augusta National (c) Burgh Golfer

Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Professional Golf Year in Review: Transition

2010 was quite a year in professional golf and it certainly had its interesting moments. I thought I would provide a recap of my favorite moments and things that stood out for me as an average fan watching from the outside.

I am calling this year’s recap Transition for several reasons. For the record, I realize that the Kenny Perry, Trevor Immelman Transitions Lenses commercials were on TV quite a bit, but that’s not the reason I chose the word Transition.

Here are some transitional memories from 2010.

• Tiger Woods did not win a single tournament in 2010, which is the first time since he was a small child that he did not win some type of an event in a single season.

• Tiger Woods lost his number one world ranking to Lee Westwood of England.

• Tiger Woods changed coaches from Hank Haney to Sean Foley (or maybe he got fired by Haney - not really sure but either way it is a big deal).

• Rory McIlroy won his first PGA tournament in Charlotte. This is the first of many potential wins. As a side note, my personal prediction is that he will be the dominate player in the world within 5 years.

• The US lost the Ryder Cup to the Europeans. I never thought that Corey Pavin, knick-named The Bulldog would be such a passive captain. He brought new meaning to the phrase California Laidback.

• Dustin Johnson lost not one but two Majors in dramatic fashion.

• The rules officials were quite active this year. Remember Dustin Johnson in the bunker on the 18th hole of the PGA. Or, Ian Poulter dropping his ball mark and losing the playoff in Dubai.

• Who can forget Graham McDowell, quite possibly the Global Player of the Year. He wins the US Open at Pebble, wins the Ryder Cup for Europe, then stares down Tiger to win in a playoff at the Chevron.

• Phil Mickelson won the Masters with quite possibly the greatest shot in Masters history off the pine straw on the par 5 13th. It was absolutely amazing and a career defining shot.

• The 59’s shot by Appleby and Goydos. Who would have ever thought Goydos could shoot a 59? It goes to show how good they ALL are on their best day.

• Who can forget Ryo Ishikawa shooting a 58 in Japan? I don’t care where you are playing, a 58 anywhere is unreal at the age of 18.

• Paula Creamer winning the US Open; great to see an American win our national open.

What were your favorite moments of the 2010 golf season?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Personal Golf Year in Review

2010 was quite a year in professional golf and for me personally on the golf course. I achieved several goals this year and had a great time with friends in and around the game. So, for a year end review I thought I would put up two posts. Today’s post is about my year and tomorrows will be about the Professional game. I had to document some of these highlights as they may never occur again.

• 2010 Club Champion at my home course in the Championship Flight – no doubt the highlight of the year

• Holing out for eagle from 94 yards on the 24th hole of the Championship Match to win 4 and 3

• Winning the LV Team Championship this fall with my buddy Randy

• Meeting The King Arnold Palmer – pretty special

• Finishing second place in a team outing with my uncle at Mountaineer Golf Course

• Winning a team event at WCC with my buddy Sam – a putting display I will not soon forget, great job Sam

• Attended the 2010 Masters, my first time at the event

• Watching Tiger play his first practice round on Monday at Augusta prior to the event for his first public appearance since the scandal.

• Watching Tiger and Fred Couple stroll over the Hogan Bridge on the 12th at Augusta

• Playing three great golf courses in North Carolina; The Ballantyne Private Course, TPC Piper Glen and Pinehurst no. 8

• I had the opportunity to play four different courses at PGA National. The Bear Trap got the better of me on the Championship course.

• Attended the 2010 US Women’s Open at Oakmont and watched the Pink Panther bring home the trophy.

• Being contacted by the Publisher Gotham Books to do a book review on Stan Utley’s book called “The Art of Scoring.” This review will be done in January so keep an eye out for it.

• I even got the wife on the course a few times

• Last but not least starting the Golf Blog and receiving almost 1,000 page views in the first six months. It has been a lot of fun and I am looking forward to adding to and improving the blog in 2011.

How was your golf year? Did anything exciting happen to you?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Where Have All the Characters Gone

Is it me or does Professional Golf seem to get more boring to watch with each passing year. It reminds me of the song by Paula Cole, “Where Have all the Cowboys Gone”? So, this in this weeks blog I ask, Where Have all the Characters Gone?

It is well documented about how much pressure the current players are under, playing for those huge purses. The talking head golf analysts say that because of the purse sizes there is less personality in the game. They claim that the players are playing for so much money and the fields are so much stronger than they used to be. Let’s face it, the players do not interact with the fans as much as they used to. They certainly give few straight answers to the media during interviews.

One of the neat things about the history of Professional Golf is the interesting characters and personalities who have played the game. Players like the Merry Mex- Lee Trevino, The King- Arnold Palmer, The Shark- Greg Norman among others. One of my favorite stories is when Lee Trevino talks about “playing for money”, i.e. betting when he had less money to his name than the bet on the course he was playing for. Trevino always said “now that’s pressure”. I would agree, whether Tiger or Phil win another million dollar check it does not matter to their financial well being. Knowing that they should be smiling from ear to ear knowing they have a net worth upwards of one billion dollars. They should be the happiest guys on the planet.

I have a theory when the shift occurred and point to the Sir Nick Faldo era for the change. Nick made it “acceptable” to be boring, stiff, reserved and unemotional on the course. Somewhere along the line these players forgot who is paying for their big purses, TV rights, endorsements. The fan, spectator or patron does and they want to see a show when they go to a golf tournament. The fans want to see a little character, flair and excitement. Not a bunch of overpaid, pampered athletes without any personality strolling down the fairways on their way to another million dollar payday. Although I have never been a big fan of Sergio Garcia, at least he played with passion, was inspired and showed his emotion on the golf course. Other tour players could learn from that example.

So when I ran across this article on Golf.com about Titanic Thompson I had to draw attention to this personality in Golf from the 30’s and 40’s. Although he was not exactly a model citizen or even a tour player he did bring some personality to the game. In his era he played, hustled and gambled for large sums of money on the golf course. In fact, he probably made far more money playing the game than did the Touring Golf Professionals of that time. So, one could argue that although quite talented it would have cost him too much money to turn professional.

Like most golf fans I knew little about Titanic Thompson prior to this article however, he was an interesting character and his story deserves to be told. As we look back on golf’s history it is worth noting these types of individuals who have a place in the game. Although Titanic may have never won a PGA Tournament or a Major Championship he does have a place in the game. He did interact with the likes of Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Lee Trevino and Ray Floyd as the article suggests. So for that he does deserve a mention with these greats in the game.

Who do you think were some of the most interesting characters in the game? Leave a comment with your thoughts.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Davis Love III to be named Ryder Cup Captain for 2012 team

It has been reported that Davis Love III will be named as the next Captain of the US Ryder Cup Team. It was an expected choice and a deserving one. Davis Love III has been a fixture in Professional Golf and on the PGA Tour for over twenty years. He has played the game with class, grace, and an effortless golf swing that is a beauty to watch.

So, what kind of captain will Davis make? How will he manage his team? How will he select his Captain’s Picks? What will his strategy be to take down the European Team so the US can regain the cup?

As an observer of golf, I have certainly watched Davis play many times. I have seen many interviews over the years and he strikes me as a genuine individual. There does not seem to be any false front, big ego, or devious motives. So, my guess is that his team will play to win for him and the Cup. I can foresee his players rallying together to win one for their captain. You can’t help but play harder, prepare better, or get more fired up to win when you have a captain you admire, respect, and dare I say “Love.”

As far as how he will manage his team, I would venture to say he will be a strategic thinker in how he goes about his business. He will take this approach in selecting the Captain’s Picks, setting up the pairings, laying out the course and probably even picking the team uniforms. Hopefully, there will not be another rain gear malfunction like we had at this year’s Ryder Cup.

I can also foresee Davis speaking to Paul Azinger about his strategy. Paul is a contemporary player and probably a good friend to Davis. Paul also happens to be the last captain to win the Ryder Cup for the US in quite awhile. He may even solicit some advice from Corey Pavin, the most recent US Captain who failed to win. There is much that can be learned in losing and perhaps Davis will glean a little insight from Corey on that so mistakes are not repeated.

Finally, how will he select his Captain’s Picks? Will he simply fall back on the age-old adage of picking the players who are playing great leading up to the Cup? Or, will he pick personalities, guys who can gel as a team -- that play well together, play like a team and play hard for their Captain and country. Prior to this year’s Ryder Cup, many analysts questioned Pavin’s pick of PGA Tour Rookie Rickie Fowler. I loved the pick because I enjoy watching guys who know how to win. Guys who have a little flare and can dig deep down inside and play their best when it matters most. Fowler had an impressive record as an amateur and a good year on the PGA Tour leading up to the Cup. Rickie proved that on the final day single matches when he stormed back to birdie the final four holes to tie his match with Molinari that included a twenty foot putt at 18.

So, let’s hope Davis picks some guys who love the game, know how to win, and are not afraid to show it. Who can forget Boo Weekley at the 08 Cup? I would hate to see another US Team that includes a bunch of Prima Donnas who act like robots and share little passion for the game.

Davis Love III was an assistant captain for the 2010 U.S. Ryder Cup team. (Getty Images)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Silly Season Golf

What happened to the excitement in the Silly Season of Golf? It used to be that after the PGA Tour Championship there was not much noteworthy, televised Golf to watch. The Silly Season really began with the Skins Game, which in the 80’s and 90’s actually meant something. Then came the Shark Shootout, Wendy’s Three Tour Challenge, PGA Grand Slam of Golf and most recently the Tiger Woods Invitational, aka The Chevron World Challenge.

Since the 2001 Skins Game when Greg Norman won all the Skins in the event, I started to lose interest in Silly Season Golf. After all, it really comes down to a bunch of millionaire golfers playing for a few charity dollars, in events that no one watches or records on DVR to watch later, skipping through all the commercials and boring interviews.

So, after bashing the Silly Season, I must say that this year’s Tiger Woods Invitational, the Chevron World Challenge, was actually enjoyable to watch for two reasons. First, I predicted in a previous blog posted November 19th that Tiger may actually win this event. That prediction was very close to coming true. On the 18th hole of the Chevron, Tiger stuffed his approach shot to about three feet. In the past this would have caused his playing partner to fold like a tent. Then Tiger would stroll on to victory, smile for the cameras, answer questions without any meaning, then collect his check and fly home on his private jet. Not so fast this year. Graham McDowell, an Irish sensation, didn’t fold. He stared down Tiger on the 18th hole, hit an okay approach shot, and then drained about a 20 foot putt to force a playoff.

At this point Tiger must have been thinking “how is this possible?” “This never happens to me.” So, Tiger and Graham went to a playoff and once again Graham hit an approach shot on the 18th hole to about 25 feet. I thought to myself, what are the chances of Graham making another putt on the 18th hole to win this thing? On the “Man Couch” I said to myself, there is no way he misses this putt. Graham made every putt this year that counted. He’s made putts at the US Open, the Ryder Cup, and on this very same hole about twenty minutes earlier when it mattered.

Sure enough Graham drained the putt and went on to win the 2010 Chevron World Challenge. You could see the disappointment in Tiger’s eyes when he lost. Tiger didn’t want to finish the 2010 season without a win of any fashion, but he did loose. This is probably the first time since Tiger was a young junior that he did not win an event of a kind in a single year.

For me this event was not your typical “Silly Season” event. It was great golf, by two world class players battling to win a tournament, on a great Jack Nicklaus Golf Course. If this is the type of golf and competition we can come to expect from the Silly Season, count me in.

Now I can’t wait to see what the Shark pulls out at this weekend’s Shark Shootout. Stay tuned.

Getty Images

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gifts Golfers Want Least

It’s the holiday season again and time for golfers to make their lists for Santa. Each year most of us who play the game get at least one golf gift that should be categorized as a gag gift or borderline ridiculous.

We have all opened packages on Christmas morning to find a pair of ugly golf pants, a crazy plaid sweater or a poorly scripted golf video. Why do our loved ones insist on buying us these things? Are they joking, or simply have no clue on what golfers really want?

As much as pretend to be excited and surprised, in the back of our mind we are thinking, “oh no, not another bad golf present”. How am I going to return this? I hope they included a gift receipt.

Here are a few gifts you should NOT buy for your friends and family members this holiday season.

The Golf Tie. Every season has an ugly tie. Spare the golfers!!! No ties displaying golfing Santas, please!

The Exploding Golf Ball. Yep, I got one of these a few years ago and of course, it is still in my garage – unused. I’m thinking about using it on the person who gave it to me one day.

Animal Head Covers. Unless your gift recipient is named; Tiger, The Shark or The Walrus, we do not need any animal head covers, especially Flamingos.

Complicated Swing Aids. Did you see the one that looks like it came from a Chinese Torture Chamber? A better gift idea would be lessons from a qualified local PGA Professional.

Ugly Golf Clothing. Unfortunately, golf has a reputation for plaid sweaters and knickers. Please do not add to this stereotype. Most of us don’t want to look like Ian Poulter.

The Golf Ball Paper Weight. It only encourages more desk clutter.

Motivational Golf Posters. Like “Frustration.” with the tag line "it is a sad fact that, regardless of effort or talent, second place means you are in a long line of losers.

Golf Ball Key Chains. Way to difficult and embarrassing to walk around with an extra ball in your front pocket.

Naked Lady Golf Tees. Need I say more? Too distracting.

Bad Golf Movies. Stick with classics like the original Caddyshack or Tin Cup.

A Golf Net. It will drive your spouse or neighbors nuts depending on whether it is in the basement or backyard

Golf Screen Saver. Way too tempting. Hmmmm…should I work or play golf today?

Looking back, the only ridiculous golf gift that I actually liked was a t-shirt that said I Love My Wife Golf. No need to yell back in an agreement. Instead, I just headed upstairs and put on that shirt. Enough said.

Or, on a positive note if we do receive one of these gifts this year, then we will have something for the gift exchange next year.

Merry Christmas,

Source for head cover; www.gifts.com
Source for tees; www.golfnut.com