Watching the Presidents Cup Singles Matches was an exercise in golf viewing endurance. Going in with the expectation that the Cup would inevitably remain with the U.S. team, an interested viewer had to search for a hook. The Woods v. Weir and Mickelson v. Singh matches proved very watchable and there were boatloads of good shots all day long, but the suspense just wasn’t there.
In fact, the entire tournament seemed weird. It was friendly and sporting, which prompts the question: Is the congenial atmosphere a good thing?
Pro: It’s perfect if the matches are close and the actual golf shots are doing the talking. Not rude fans. Not digs from one team against the other. Not gamesmanship controversy. Golf is a gentleman’s game and the teams were led by two of the games most respected and accomplished players in the history of the game – Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. A congenial atmosphere makes for a great golf tournament if the matches are close.
Con: However, if the matches aren’t close there’s not much to talk about. By definition it’s difficult to remain friendly when controversy invades hitting a golf ball. The players aren’t used to team play, and that often leads to what some might call a robust “competitive spirit.” The thing about golf is that, unlike in hockey or football, trash-talk on the field of play rarely goes unheard. This years Presidents Cup could have used a little more “competitive spirit.”
The Presidents Cup has done what the Ryder Cup has failed to do – it has brought together players from around the world and allowed them play great golf and laugh together afterwards. When the week is done, egos are intact and knees not too bruised from first-tee jitters.
Golf is a game. A great game.
Charles Howell III, a.k.a. Chucky Three Sticks, has not played well the past few days, going 1-2 in his matches. Funny quote from the New York Times:
It was the first United States team meeting at the Deutsche Bank Championship, and Howell was sitting at a table with Zach Johnson, Hunter Mahan and David Toms when Nicklaus walked into the room.
[Nicklaus] went around and said, “Zach, great job winning the Masters, green jacket, that’s fantastic, that’s awesome…David, another solid season, you are another steady, steady player. Hunter, you’ve really come along here lately, this is fantastic.”
Then he looked over at Howell, who has not finished in the top 10 since March.
“Charles, you need a lesson.”(link)
The U.S. team absolutely trounced the International team in foursomes this morning by winning every match to go up 12-5 in the overall Cup point totals. I’m stoked. Go U.S. of A. But, I also hope the Internationals can make a run this afternoon so the singles mean something tomorrow. Technically, the U.S. could win the Cup today by sweeping the afternoon Four-ball. Not likely, considering their play yesterday, but possible.
I’m disappointed that we haven’t seen a Woods v. Sabatini match-up during the first three days of play. Rory has been nipping at Tiger all year, and Tiger has been shutting him up with actual golf results. Still, it would be cool to see the two in the same match. Instead, Captain Player, when presented with the chance of creating such a pairing, choose to sit Sabatini out for the afternoon.
Is it ridiculous to suggest that Tiger Woods be benched for the the afternoon Four-ball? His Four-ball record is an abysmal 2-7 after yesterday’s beating, and while sitting him out would possibly lead to riots by a sold-out crowd who paid to see the best in the world, it could be the smartest move for the U.S. (Note: The pairs are already set for the afternoon, and Woods is playing with Toms.)
The Presidents Cup itself was the biggest winner today thanks to the International team making up a significant amount of ground and preventing the weekend play from becoming a mere formality. Nothing would have been worse than watching the teams go through the motions for the final two days of quality golf of the season.
The U.S. enters the weekend with seven points, two points ahead of the International team. The final total would have been closer but for Woody Austin’s solid play on the final three holes. After falling in the water after trying to hit out of the water on the 14th hole he went par-birdie-birdie-birdie to reduce the match to all-square from two-down and secure a half point.
The Stricker-Verplank combo was the only U.S. pair to win a match outright today, while the usually dependable Woods-Furyk pair got trounced by Singh-Appleby. I thought the Mickelson-Mahan duo would have performed better than they did. Down early, they fought back to all-square only to lose the final hole and the match.
Prediction for Day Three: The International team will put up more of a fight during the morning foursomes matches and takeover the overall Cup lead during the afternoon four-ball matches.
The U.S. team won five matches and halved one match today. That’s a pretty solid showing for a team that is generally perceived to have missed that day in first grade when you’re taught to play well with others.
Both teams’ performances looked unspectacular on TV. Are we seeing the effect of “FedEx Fatigue”? Or is it just first-day jitters? The fact that Tiger Woods popped-up his opening tee shot proves that this Cup still means something to the players. The first tee nerves wouldn’t be here if the players didn’t want to win this thing.
Hopefully the Int’l team will put some points on the board tomorrow and the atmosphere will tighten over the weekend. If not, Royal Montreal may be open for member play on Sunday.
The U.S. team will defeat the International team 19-16, but it will ultimately depend on the Sunday singles matches. The U.S. is notorious for playing slightly less than inspiring golf during four-ball and foursomes. And while the International team doesn’t have the same flare as the GB & I players in Ryder Cup years, they seem to gel better – probably because they have less “big” names, which translate into big egos. Lastly, I think the crowd will be largely neutral considering how close Montreal is to the U.S.
Former University of Michigan quarterback Brian Griese is taking over for the Chicago Bears quarterback, Rex Grossman. This means there will be two U of M quarterbacks starting for NFL teams – the other being Tom Brady for the New England Patriots.
Better yet, the Bears are playing the Detroit Lions in Detroit. Griese will be making his pro debut as a starter only 45 minutes from his alma matter.
What are the chances that the Bears and the Patriots will make it to Super Bowl XLII in Arizona? The Bears were in the Super Bowl last year and the Patriots made it to the AFC Conference Championship.
I’ve come across a lot of interesting golf stories today, so I’m posting them in a links post. Here we go:
Lots of caddies are wearing and being sponsored by Crocs, the hideous floating footwear that is really popular in Boston (personal observation).
In Golf We Trust takes a look at players who credit God for their on-course abilities.
Golf World says to watch the Presidents Cup closely or wait until January. Apparently the Fall Series isn’t that big of a draw. Duh.
ESPN provides the most poorly formatted Presidents Cup first-day line up.
Golf Digest says Nicklaus wants Woods to play Weir, but finding a partner for Woods in team matches is more difficult.
Euro-drama between Nick Faldo and some guy named Paul McGinley. Nick is captain for the GB & I team for the Seve Trophy and he’s also the 2008 Ryder Cup captain. Nick didn’t pick Paul for this years Seve Trophy, so Paul decided to quit as Nick’s assistant in order to “focus on his play for the Ryder Cup.” Uh huh, sure. (Via Waggle Room)
The Trilby Tour sounds like something an English tailor would organize. Designer clothes are supplied to all of the players.
Watching first baseman Cecil Fielder hit home runs in the early 90s is one of my favorite memories as a Detroit Tigers fan. He peaked in 1990 with 51 homers.
Prince, Cecil’s son, now plays for the Milwaukee Brewers and is closing in on his father’s peak year.
Prince Fielder, who passed Willie Mays as the youngest to reach 50 in a season, said he wants to hit 52 home runs this season. That would be one more than his father hit in 1990 for the Detroit Tigers.
Well, good for you Prince, although the article goes on to make Prince look like an asshole and Cecil look like a bigger asshole. Apparently, they’re having some father-son issues and using the national media to work it out.
In other baseball news…
Speaking of home runs, I posted a couple weeks ago about a campaign Marc Ecko was running online to decide what to do with Barry Bonds’ 756 home run baseball. The results are in and the public has voted to iron an asterisk onto the ball and send it to the Hall of Fame. This is rude to Barry Bonds and a sad outcome, however Bonds may have brought it on himself. I think it would be better to wait a few years and gain some perspective on the matter.
I’m a huge golf fan. More good golf on TV should make me happier, but that’s just not the case lately. I’m burned out and I haven’t even left my couch. (Or is that the problem?) I don’t want to feel compelled to watch golf every week for two months straight. There should be some build-up between tournaments to get the golf fan taste buds salivating.
This is why I propose that the Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup and Seve Trophy be combined into one Super Cup. It would be a bigger draw all around and it would allow the Cup anticipation to build up for a full two years. Further, it would give the players, who if you ask me, look cupped-out, a well deserved break from cup competition.
The format I propose would be similar to the current Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup formats except the players were play in sixsomes. Yes, I know. That is unheard of. But that would only make the Super Cup more spectacular. It would be three-way matches with an international pair, a U.S. pair, and a Great Britain & Ireland pair. Or, the event could be turned into a two week golf bananza and a round-robin format would be employed.
There are many possibilities. Any one of them would be better than the current onslaught of Cups we’re dealing with today.
If you need an excuse to watch the Presidents Cup this week, here are a few enticing stories to keep an eye on:
How well does Mike Weir play? – Gary Player overlooked some players with impressive recent performances to go with Canadian Mike Weir as a captain’s choice. Weir hasn’t done anything remarkable lately, so look to see if this lefty’s waggle stands up under pressure.
Does Lucas Glover and Hunter Mahan’s youth win them extra points? – Jack Nicklaus favored youth with his captain’s selections. These guys are 27 and 25, respectively. Toss in the 28-year old Charles Howell, too. Will their youth play out as inexperience or beginner’s luck? Expect these guys to go out early and be paired with more experienced players.
Will Tiger come through? – Tiger doesn’t have a stellar record in team play and matchplay events as a professional. Considering he won six national matchplay events in a row as an amateur, more has been expected of him. Expect him to be business-like in his approach to this event. He’s played more golf than usual lately, and will likely be eager to see the closing ceremonies.
Can the Presidents Cup outshine the FedEx Cup? – To me the Presidents Cup will be much more compelling to watch than the FedEx Cup was. First, the later was spread out over four weeks (really, all year). Second, there is two years worth of anticipation building up to the Presidents Cup. It’s an event played for nation(s), so patriotism plays a role. Guys that normally wouldn’t be rooting for each other will sit in the grass and watch their teammates play in. It is really compelling to watch.
Colt Knost will play his first PGA Tour event as a professional at next week’s Valero Texas Open. He will be playing on a sponsor’s exemption and will have to continue to do so until he either qualifies for the PGA Tour via Q School or earns enough money to make it into the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list.
Why do we care about this guy? He’s one of only six people to win two U.S.G.A. titles in one year. He won the U.S. Publinks and the U.S. Amateur this year. Although he has impressive credentials, his only performance on the PGA Tour in 2007 was at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship where he shot 74-64-74-74 for a six over total of 286. That’s not a very impressive record to go on.
Knost passed on exemptions to the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open. That’s a lot to sacrifice, but playing in those events would require him to remain an amateur for over half of next years PGA Tour season.
His debut comes around the time of year that Tiger Woods said, “Hello, World” in 1996, but the expectations and fanfare aren’t quite the same. It will be interesting to see how he fares in the coming months and if he can make the PGA Tour.
The Presidents Cup begins on Thursday and it will be the biggest golf event Canada has ever experienced. Millions of dollars will be made from the four-day event, which is ironic considering the 24 golfers participating in the event are not compensated (except for clothing, bags, lodging, etc.).
Format – The event is a refreshing break from stroke play. The team aspect as well as the format of the matches makes for exciting viewing. The format includes “foursomes,” “four-ball,” and singles matches.
Foursomes is also known as “alternate shot,” in which two-man teams alternate shots on each hole while alternating who tees off as well. There is a bit of strategy in this game. E.g., If all of the par 5 holes are odd numbers then the player who drives the ball longer may elect to tee off on odd numbered holes.
Four-ball is also known as “best-ball.” Two-man teams play each hole, but only count the lowest score against their opponent’s lowest score. Therefore, if the U.S. players make a birdie and a par, only the birdie is counted.
Singles matches are matchplay. There are 12 matches and they are played on Sunday. This allows for a significant amount of possibility for a swing in the standings on the final day, and can keep a blowout event interesting.
Location – The Cup is being played at the Royal Montreal Golf Club in Ontario, Canada. Although this is technically on international turf and should favor the International team, it is not far from home for the U.S. team. The crowd won’t be a large factor.
The toughest courses on the PGA Tour in 2007:
1. Oakmont Country Club (The U.S. Open)
* Avg strokes over par = 5.705
2. Augusta National Golf Club (The Masters)
* Avg strokes over par = 3.881
3. Southern Hills (The PGA Championship)
* Avg strokes over par = 3.016
4. Firestone South C.C. (WGC – Bridgestone)
* Avg strokes over par = 2.787
5. Carnoustie Golf Links (Open Championship)
* Avg strokes over par = 2.381
Looking at the top five courses with regard to the winning score, it is even more apparent that the U.S. Open and the Masters were the toughest tests of golf. Angel Cabrera’s winning score of +5 at the U.S. Open is just under the average strokes over par. Zach Johnson’s winning score of +1 at the Masters bested the average strokes over par by 2.881 shots.
The bottom three courses were less difficult for their tournament’s winners. Tiger Woods won the the PGA and the WGC with totals of -8 and Padraig Harrington shot -7 at the Open.
It seems clear that the U.S. Open and the Masters did a better job of keeping the entire field together, although there was a playoff at the British Open.
The reality of being a law student is that I don’t play as much golf as I used to. I’ve been hitting a lot of range balls lately, though. And to combat the rather monotonous activity of hitting ball after ball into a wide open field, I visualize holes that I’ve played many times and hit shots accordingly.
E.g., The country club in my home town starts with a par four with a large Oak Tree overhanging the left landing area of the fairway. So, on the range I would be looking to hit a draw with my driver, which would leave me a wedge in.
It is best to be specific when doing this. Take note of the wind, where the pin is on your “imaginary” green, and what type of shot you want to hit. You’ll be switching clubs a lot, but see this is a great approach to hitting range balls that makes your practice count.