Archive for the ‘golf’ Category
I joked on Facebook last evening that I was going to have to pay a visit to my cardiologist after watching the dramatic finish to this year’s Masters.
Sunday at the Masters has become a timeless classic when it comes to drama, and whether or not you’re an avid golf fan like me, if you sit down and pay just a wee bit of attention, there’s something in it for everyone.
This year, especially, there was plenty in it for all my friends down under in Australia, and so I want to first congratulate them, and their first green jacket winner, Adam Scott. After Scott’s majors breakdown in The Open last year, it was great to see Scott finally reach down within himself and come out the victor.
Not to mention what I can only imagine means a huge deal in sporting Australia, where Aussie golfers like Greg Norman who, though never grabbing their own green jacket, inspired a whole generation of young and brilliant golfers like Jason Day and Adam Scott.
As it turned out, there was plenty of drama throughout the weekend. Chinese 14 year-old phenom Guan Tianlang received a one-stroke penalty on Friday for slow play and still went on to win low amateur (we’ll be hearing plenty from Mr. Guan moving forward, I’m sure), and Tiger Woods incurred a two-stroke penalty after an illegal drop on 15 on Friday, after his brilliant approach shot hit the flagstick and bounced backwards into the water.
Give Tiger that birdie and back the two strokes he lost on the bad drop, and yesterday’s outcome might have been very, very different.
But in the end, it was a Masters that more than lived up to its name, and kicks of the year’s golf majors with the kind of compelling golf that simply leaves you wanting more.
Even if it is bad for one’s heart.
That’s it, today’s the day.
The first players have already teed off at the Masters in Augusta.
Yesterday, I discussed the virtual means by which you could experience playing at Augusta National.
Today I’m going to focus on the various means by which you can follow this year’s action on and off the course.
First, and most importantly, the leaderboard.
On the Masters web site, for which IBM is the longtime technology sponsor, you can go to the virtual equivalent of the traditional Masters leaderboard.
You can also find the leaderboard on this year’s revamped iPad app, which I’m quickly leaning on as my 19th hole for following all the action from Augusta.
This year it includes live video from a number of the holes, including Amen Corner, 15, 16, as well as two “featured groups,” a Masters “in-depth” feature channel, and for those warm-ups, the driving range, and over the weekend a live simulcast of CBS’ TV coverage.
You’ll be able to access live radio, news features, and pictures from the grounds (including new 360 panoramic images that I suspect will be suitable for framing!).
As for TV coverage itself, that doesn’t start in the U.S. until 3:00 PM EST ESPN. However, live video coverage begins on Amen Corner starting at 10:45 AM on the Website and via the mobile applications, so if you’re hankering to get out to the action, that’s going to be your fastest way in.
This year, IBM is leaning heavily on its SmartCloud technology to help drive quality and continuous operations, along with the flexibility and scalability required by the Masters.
As players peak on the course, we typically see a resultant workload increase in our technology systems.
This helped lead to have the need to provision a new Presentation Services “instance,” for example, in less than 3 minutes using Tivoli Provisioning Manager, as it helps us get new virtual machine instances up and running quickly.
We are also able to move one workload to another on our POWER systems powering the Masters using our Live LPAR mobility in four minutes without service interruption.
Can you say pressure putt???
So as the tournament begins, who will I be keeping a close eye on?
Tiger, for sure. Phil. Brandt. Rory. Graeme. Garrigus. Schwartzel. Colsaerts. Poulter. Oosthuizen. Guan (the 14 year-old Chinese kid).
It’s just an incredibly talented field, as, of course, it always is. Length and shot shaping are always helpful at Augusta, especially right to left, but as Zach Johnson proved several years ago, shorter hitters can score (and win) if they play the right angles.
As for me, I went back and played another virtual round at Augusta last night in my Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 and shot 2 under.
There’s hope for me yet. That means I would currently be tied with Jim Furyk for second place in my Walter Mitty golf fantasy. But it’s only Thursday…
It’s Masters week, if you hadn’t already figured that from all these golf- and Masters-related golf posts.
I’ve never had the honor of visiting or playing Augusta National myself, but I know people who have.
In fact, I was attending a recent IBM event in Las Vegas when a very senior IBM executive confided to me that he had played Augusta National for the first time recently with several other very senior ex-IBM executive (the gender mix of which I’m not at liberty to reveal.)
I asked him what he shot, and it was a very respectable mid-handicap number, especially for Augusta National — people who don’t know golf can’t really fathom how long 7,435 yards is for a golf course. (That’s why you see so many players who don’t have good distance off the tee hitting long irons and even utility clubs to get onto Augusta’s greens.)
He also explained, as I’ve also heard from others, that TV just doesn’t do the course justice. He explained that the hills and undulations are so much more pronounced when you’re out there walking the grounds.
“Eighteen,” he explained, me nodding my head. “Like walking straight up a hill.” On TV, it obviously looks like it’s uphill, but not nearly the angle at which he was suggesting.
It was at this point that I had to tune out, as he was killing me with this reveal.
So yesterday, after work, I decided I wanted to get to know the course better, and figured why not try and see if there were any golfing games that included Augusta National in their course lineup.
I figure this is the only way I’m going to play some of the world’s great courses, so it’s probably a pretty good investment.
Turns out, Electronic Arts had released a Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2012 edition in that year that included the ability to play Augusta National, and they had a Mac edition, AND Amazon would allow me to download it on the fly and install it.
All for a whopping $20.
I also discovered the 2014 Tiger Woods PGA Tour edition will have a version of Augusta for the Masters in 1934 — so not only can you play with the likes of Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan and all the other greats, but you can play the course the way Bobby Jones and Alister Mackenzie originally designed it.
You just have to have an X-Box 360 or Playstation 3 (neither of which I own!)
The 2012 version will do nicely for now. Once the DMG was downloaded and I had installed the software and got the online presence set up (the game allows you to play a round with others out in cyberspace), I was off to hole number 1, Tea Olive (see pic above).
My score for the round was atrocious, as I was just learning all the controls for shotmaking in the game (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it), but the visualizations and greenery were an excellent way to find your way around the course, and to help you better learn how and why players navigate Augusta National the way they do.
For the record, on number 12, I hit about five balls into Rae’s Creek before finding the green — hopefully not a prophecy of things to come should I ever get to actually play a round at Augusta National.
I also found myself in situations that most Tour players would never find themselves which, for me, is about par for the course.
I haven’t done my brackets yet because I only started paying attention to NCAA men’s basketball oh, say, about five minutes ago.
I was too busy watching Kevin Streelman win his first PGA Tour event ever down in Tampa Bay.
My favorite Bubba golfer, Boo Weekley, had trounced into the clubhouse with a record 63 (that is, in a final round at Copperhead), and had to sit around and wait a couple of hours to see if Streelman could “streel” his resolve and hang on to the lead (when Boo could have gone fishing the rest of the afternoon…Gotta love those Southern boys!).
Well, hold on Streelman did, shooting a total of ten under and striking a brilliant and bold 5-iron draw shot on the par 3 13th some 200 yards, planting it just past the pin and nailing the birdie that took him to 9 under.
It was a long road for Streelman to take his first PGA win: some 400,000+ miles on American highways long.
Streelman went through three cars driving around the country “dead broke” as he chased his golf dream — yesterday, it all paid off, and couldn’t have happened to a nicer, more deserving guy. Here’s to many more, Kevin.
As for my own golf game, I’ve decided to keep my Ben Hogan 1988 “redline” blades in the bag…well, mostly.
Yesterday, down in Wimberley, I shot an atrocious 50 on the front nine, which I’ll blame mostly on some exceptionally bad chipping (not to mention undulating sloped greens).
However, on the back nine, my iron play came alive and it struck me why so many Tour players continue to play with bladed irons.
Assuming you can find the center of the club with the ball, and actually strike the thing, the ball flight is nothing short of gorgeous with blades, and I’m finding the additional height is very helpful in cruising over certain tall objects, namely trees, in search of the green stuff.
Don’t let anyone tell you amateurs don’t have the chops to play with blades! It just takes a lot of work and perseverance, but it can also be very well worth the effort.
I hit several greens in regulation on the back nine by hosting some smooth, high-arc shots with a slight draw, planting them nicely a couple of times in birdie territory, but otherwise still getting close or on the greens.
Now, I’ve just got to go teach myself how to chip again.
So here’s now what’s in my bag: TaylorMade Rocketballz driver (adjusted at 9.5 degrees), a TaylorMade RBZ 3-wood, an old TaylorMade 5-wood, a Nike hybrid (I forget the loft, but I hit it around 200-220 yards), 5-6-7-8-9 Ben Hogan “Redline” blades, 3-4 Mizuno MP-25 irons and PW, Mizuno 56-degree wedge, a Vokey 60 degree wedge, and an Odyssey White Hot “Rossie” putter.
My handicap index is now a flat 12, but I am bound and determined to get into single digits over the next couple of years.
Back to the NCAA brackets: Despite Austin’s hosting the second round South play, there aren’t any Texas teams in the mix, so I’m going this year with my other all time favorite, Duke.
If you want to use some high tech for your own bracket picks, WPTV.com out of West Palm Beach has a list of several smartphone and tablet apps you can use to make your picks.
Okay, golf fans, the Accenture Match Play tournament has finally moved from being one big snowball fight in the parking lot to an actual competitive golf tournament.
I had turned on the TV late yesterday afternoon to check in on the supposed first day’s play that I had recorded on the DVR, only to discover that play was slowed to a halt by a snowstorm…in Tucson. In the desert.
I’m not making this up.
For you golf novices, match play in golf is very different than the traditional stroke play you see on your typical weekend golf tournament.
In match play, think about how the 64 brackets in the NCAA basketball tournament break down, and you’ve got the gist of it.
For the Accenture, sixty four players are grouped into four super brackets, and in each, one player faces off another player in the first round.
Whoever wins the most holes out of the 18, wins that match and, like in college basketball, moves on to the next round.
It’s also an entirely different kind of golf strategy. When your opponent makes a mistake, you work to seize on that mistake by not screwing up yourself, so each match can be akin to watching a dance — the only question is, who will step on who’s golf shoes?
In the finishing of round one that just got underway mid-afternoon Tucson time, there have been a few surprises.
South African Charles Schwartzel, a favorite going in, lost 1 up to rookie Russell Henley.
Spaniard Sergio Garcia almost gave away a commanding lead to Thai golfer Thongchai Jaidee (who, by the way, saw his first snow ever yesterday…also in Tucson!), and they battled it out into extra holes until Garcia took the match 1 up.
Our favorite European Ryder Cup nemesis, evil-eyed Ian Poulter, stepped away from his Twitter account long enough to take out Stephen Gallacher 2-1.
But the matches much of the golf world are holding their breath for are those featuring Tiger Woods v. Charles Howell III, and world ranked number one, Rory McIlroy, matched against fellow Irishman Shane Lowry.
The big question on my mind: Has McIlroy adjusted yet to those new $90 million Nike golf clubs? Rumor was going into the tournament, he had already switched back to his faithful Scotty Cameron putter, but then I’d read Nike had added some weights to his custom “Method” putter so he’d switched back to all Nike, all the time.
Switching clubs is not always a seamless transition, as I recently discovered, and I don’t depend on my clubs to make a living. McIlroy’s first three holes today would suggest they’re good enough (he was 1 up after 3 last I checked).
Tiger…well, Tiger’s just been on, and he probably also just beat the leader of the free world by a good 20 strokes last weekend (President Obama), so his confidence is probably high.
Could it all come down to Woods v. McIlroy in the championship match on Sunday (or, Monday, assuming the snow delay pushes out the finish)?
Methinks the golfing gods won’t be THAT generous to we fans, but I’m certainly willing to send that energy into the universe to try and make it so. CBS will never have seen golf ratings so high so early in a golf season.
Listen up, I’m not going to get all bent out of shape over what we’re apparently now referring to as “Golfgate.”
The background: President Obama hopped a plane (actually, Air Force One, but “hopping a plane” makes it sound a lot more casual, which is what I think he was intending, a casual weekend where he could chill out away from the limelight) down to Florida for a long weekend of golf while Michelle and the kids went out west to go skiing.
The President’s team kept the press away from what was essentially a private golf course, and hence were unable to take any pictures of his swing the entire weekend.
Then, out of nowhere, Golf Channel correspondent Tim Rosaforte Tweets the following: “The President is arriving at The Floridian range. Awaiting is Tiger Woods and club owner Jim Crane. Historic day in golf. Their first round.”
Tiger Woods was in the house, and he was going to play golf with President Obama!
I’m sure the rest of the world yawned, but in the world of golf, this was a pretty big deal.
Looking at the tick tock, this was 7:52 AM EST.
By the time the evening news rolled around, the media were trying to make it a big deal that they hadn’t been invited to the Tiger/Obama foursome, missing the point that that would have turned the foursome into an eightysome, which can be quite disturbing on the golf course.
And still most of the rest of the country yawned.
But in the golf world, we wanted more details. Lots of them. Rosaforte, get your — out on that golf course and tell us what’s going on!
What kind of clubs does the president play with? Did Tiger give any tips to the Prez to improve his game? If so, what??? Did he treat the rules with some casualness, as apparently did President Clinton, or did he play it straight and take no mulligans or without kicking any balls out of the rough?
This is the leader of the free world, man, we want to know what his game is like, how he swings the club, how accurate he is on the approach!
Tiger kept his lips sealed until yesterday when, I guess, he’d already arrived out west for the Accenture Match Play Championship. During an interview, he finally gave it up: The President, he said, has a good short game (chipping and putting), and that if he kept it up (after he left the Presidency) he’d be “a pretty good stick.”
Whoa…well, a good short game, that’s always a good thing, of course. I aspire to a better short game myself, and many of we amateurs do.
But Tiger left out sooo much one can’t help but be distracted by the absence of any commentary about the President’s driving off the tee or his play from the fairways.
Is he long off the tee? Is he a complete disaster with some crazy left hook? What??! And what about his irons? Mid-irons can tell you a lot about one’s game? Both about their ball flight and tolerance for risk, never mind their course management skills. Course management equals strategy equals possible insight into what he might do about Iran’s nuclear situation!
And what about the pace of play? Does he time himself racing around the course like the former Presidents Bush, playing as if on deadline (which I could never understand…isn’t it kind of the point in playing golf to take your time and relax???), or did he play at a pace such that he might get threatened by Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem for hovering too long over his putts??
I suspect Tiger may be holding out more of the details because someday, after finishing the chase after Nicklaus’ record for the most majors, he is going to write a book about his experience playing golf with “Mr. President.”
I guess we’ll just have to hurry up and wait — kind of like the White House press corps.
Well, I could hardly let a near milestone on the PGA Tour go unnoticed from yesterday’s opening round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, now could I?
Golf fans everywhere, Phil Mickelson is back…well, at least he was yesterday, and it was both sporting triumph and heartbreak rolled all into one.
If you remember Phil’s play from last week out in Torrey Pines, which could be hard to do considering how low down on the leaderboard he was…well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.
Phil’s driver seemed at times like it was poised to try and stretch his drives across the Pacific ocean, and playing from the wilds of the South Course is no fun, as those holes are long and difficult to reach when you’re playing from the middle of the fairways, never mind in from near the condos and office buildings sidling up along the course.
But all that changed when Phil A) put a new driver in the bag and B) flew coach Butch Harmon in for a swing tune up.
So yesterday, in Phoenix, where the crowds love to drink beer and act like they’re at a NASCAR race on the par-3 16th (It’s the only PGA stop I know of where fans actually boo the players if they miss the green on their drive!), Phil brought his new driver and swing and attitude to town!
It went a little something like this: Birdie, Par, Birdie, Birdie, Par Par, Birdie, Par Par.
Then, the back nine went like this: Birdie, Birdie, Birdie, Birdie, Par, Par, Birdie, Birdie, Birdie.
Only, it actually went that way in reverse, because Phil shotgunned his start on the 10th tee.
So here’s where the drama comes in: On hole 8, he needed one more birdie and then par to shoot a 59, something only five other golfers have ever done in PGA Tour history in a professional round.
And, if he birdied 9, he would have shot 58, to my knowledge, a first in Tour history.
He gets to 8 in 2 shots, and has, I’m guessing, about a 20 foot downhiller with a slight left to it. He lines up the putt, strikes it, and the thing runs out of gas centimeters from the hole.
So it won’t be his day for a 58, not unless he eagles 9.
On 9, he once again gets it to the green in 2, and voila, now he has about a 25 footer that takes a little bit more left.
He lines up, thousands surrounding the green, most probably clued into the history that might be made here…the putt’s off and on a gorgeous trajectory to the hole…it comes along the right side of the hole and decides to make a U-turn at the very last second, gravity pulling it against the back of the cup and back around the other side and…up and out of the hole, again centimeters away from the hole.
The golfing gods can be so, so incredibly cruel. It was as if you could hear Zeus roaring down with laughter from up the road in La Jolla.
Phil’s longtime caddie, “Bones,” fell to the green on his knees, ready to sacrifice himself to the great “Caddyshack” gods in the sky to make that putt please, please, please roll back into the hole.
After the round, the Golf Channel correspondent interviewed Phil, and you could see the pain in his eyes.
Yes, of course, he shot a 60, something golfers also don’t get to do very often (and which, I can assure you, I’ll never do, unless it’s on the front nine)…but, that special personal victory was oh so close, and yes, Phil answered, he knew within the first few holes on the front nine there was something special in the air, and that he could well be on his way to a record round.
Phil continues his lead today at 14 under as of this writing, and if it keeps this up, nobody can touch him.
But boy, what he wouldn’t do to have one more shot at that putt, and the PGA Tour history books.
I’m guilty. I just have NOT talked enough about sports in this blog yet this year, most particularly, golf.
But golf season’s just really getting underway, and with the PGA set to visit Torrey Pines in San Diego starting tomorrow at The Farmers Insurance Open, I can assure you that will start to change.
Over the Christmas holidays, I mentioned, in fact, that Santa brought me a self-imposed present: Some Ben Hogan “Red Line” irons, circa 1988. I found them from a nice gentleman in Illinois via eBay, and the day they arrived via UPS at my folks’ place, where I was visiting, there was a few inches of snow on the ground.
Finally, later that week, back in Austin, I got to give them a go. I’ll remind you these are the same clubs that Tiger Woods won a U.S. Amateur with back in the day, and a range of pros (including Austin inhabitant Tom Kite) played with these clubs at one point or another.
I’ll also remind you that I’m no Tiger Woods or Tom Kite…I’m a mid-level handicapper working his tail off to drive that handicap down into the single digits.
Since that first round, I’ve played a few more, and I LOVE the clubs. But last weekend, just for grins, I went out and swung my Mizuno MP-25s, my original Mizuno set which are cavity-backed (what Mizuno calls their “Hemi Cog”).
So how did I hit those clubs now that I’d been out flirting with some blades for a few weeks?
Well, suffice it to say, my first five-iron probably sailed close to 180 yards and had this amazing trajectory and ball flight that made my want to cry.
And that happened again. And again. And again.
Ever since golf school last summer, there’s been no doubt my game improved. But, I don’t play enough as an amateur to consistently hit a thin blade in that oh-so-small sweet spot.
So, this weekend, I’m going to take the forged clubs and see what happens at a challenging course out in Blanco (the Texas Hill Country). Assuming my short game doesn’t completely fall apart, I expect to see my score drop back down into the lowish 80s, but we’ll see.
Do I regret the trial experience with those blades? And will I ever play with them again?
No, and abso-frickin’-lutely.
Playing with those blades drives focus on the swing like you’ll never have with a forged club, because they’re not nearly forgiving. For that reason alone, I’ll continue to bring them out, because they force you to find the center of the club.
But when it comes to playing to score, and to have the most fun I can have on the golf course, I realize now more than ever why they make those forged clubs — so we “hacks” can fairly consistently hit those beautiful iron shots that we so admire when Tiger or Ricky or any other pro step up to the ball and make it look so easy.
I can’t wait for my tee time on Saturday.
For true golf fans, this past weekend’s Ryder Cup delivered on its promise as the most exciting event in golf, and maybe in all sports.
I wrote in this blog on Thursday that the Europeans had the advantage going into this year’s tournament, and boy did they prove it.
After a weak start by the Americans on Friday morning, the U.S. team turned the tide on Friday afternoon in the fourballs, with Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson coming to life.
After Saturday’s rounds, both foursomes and fourballs, the U.S. went into Sunday’s singles matches leading 10-6 — that meant they only needed to garner 4 1/2 points on Sunday to take the Cup back from the Euros.
It wasn’t meant to be.
Euro captain Jose Marie Olafabal had other things in mind, including a similar 1999 comeback by the U.S. in Brookline when he was a player on that year’s Ryder Cup team.
Hovering over the entire event was the spirit and memory of great Spanish golfer Seve Ballasteros, who tragically succumbed to brain cancer last year.
Ballastero’s image was imprinted on each Euro player’s golf bag, and the spirit of Seve’s commitment and championing of the Ryder Cup as a great golf event was pervasive on all sides.
Ultimate, I believe it was that spirit that was channeled through and displayed by Olafabal’s European players.
Ian Poulter on Saturday afternoon eked out a single point in a close match played with Rory McIlroy against Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson, demonstrating nerves of steel in his play and especially his putting.
Yesterday, Poulter was at it again, beating U.S. Open Champion Webb Simpson 2 Up in a heated singles match.
Justin Rose demonstrated sheer brilliance on the last three holes yesterday, sinking one unbelievable putt after another, matching Phil Mickelson’s also exemplary play stroke for stroke.
Rose had mentioned in interviews this week that Seve Ballasteros had been a calming influence on him earlier in his career, assuaging him after he’d missed the cuts in a long run of tournaments several years back.
And Martin Kaymer’s six-footer to seal the entire deal was made with a calm and cool demeanor that was German to its core, and perhaps finally reversed the pain of a missed similar putt by Bernhard Langer in 1991’s Ryder Cup, one that would have retained the cup for Europe that year, the so-called “War By The Shore.”
No matter which side you were rooting for, this was definitely one for the ages, and my congratulations to the Euros on their holding on to the Cup — they earned it, and then some.
I watched every moment of the tournament that was aired on TV — some 26 hours worth — and it was nerve rattling sport from the first tee shot to the last putt.
You can refer to it as “Poulter-Geist” or “The Miracle at Medinah” or some other clever moniker.
I’m just going to remember it as another great and dramatic Ryder Cup, and bite my lip while I wait a long two years for the next one.
Well, the 2012 Ryder Cup is only 1 day and 11 hours away, as of this writing, and the first tee-time couldn’t come quickly enough.
After such a stellar 2012 golf season for the PGA Tour, and golf more broadly around the world, the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah in Chicago will be a fitting climax to the golf year, especially considering the caliber of players lined up on both the American and European sides.
I, like all golf fans, would love to see Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy paired against one another in the Sunday’s singles matches, but I, like everyone, including the captains, will have to just wait and see how the tournament plays out Friday and Saturday in the fourballs and foursomes.
As mentioned in a prior post, the Americans will be led by veteran Ryder Cuppers Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Tiger Woods, and Jim Furyk.
Newcomers to watch will include 2012 FedExCup winner Brandt Snedeker, as well as Webb Simpson and Jason Dufner.
On the European side, Rory McIlroy will be the defacto team leader because of his world number one ranking, but experience on the European side will fall to stalwarts like Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, and of course, Sergio Garcia.
As for pairings, we’re still eagerly awaiting those, but based on early readings, we can expect to see Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker playing together through the weekend, along with Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.
Phil Mickelson is expected to take newcomer Keegan Bradley under his wings, and Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia are also likely pairings at some point.
In terms of projections, the Europeans certainly seem to have an advantage, having garnered more points than the Americans the last few Cups, and certainly coming into Medinah holding the Cup they won at Celtic Manor in 2010.
Then again, these are teams with players very fairly matched, and the top players in the world at that. I think it will come down to that side whose players can keep their nerves at bay, and still have nerve enough to go at the long par 3s at Medinah when circumstances warrant.
That, and the putting. Always the putting.
As for the renowned 15th hole at Medinah #3, which has been shortened to a 391-yard par four, we’ll see whether or not Bubba Watson can contain himself and not attempt to drive the green in his matches.
Phil Mickelson commented to Golf Week he thought it was an easy birdie lay-up hole, and one can see in a close match with one team behind why it would be awfully enticing to just go for it!