Posts Tagged ‘u.s. open’
Spoiler Alert: If you don’t want to get an update on The Farmers Insurance golf tournament at storied Torrey Pines in San Diego, stop reading NOW.
As of Monday afternoon, it looks as though professional golfer Tiger Woods is going to begin his golfing year with a big bang, currently at 15 under and five strokes ahead of last year’s victor, Brandt Snedeker.
I happened to be at Torrey Pines exactly six years ago this week, on a business trip, when Tiger also won (at that time the tournament was sponsored by Buick), and that also happens to be the first (and only) time I’d ever seen Tiger play live.
This, of course, was well ahead of the 2008 U.S. Open, which Woods also won in a playoff against veteran player Rocco Mediate, and also a full year and a half ahead of Woods’s “personal” issues.
So what’s different this time around? In 2007, Snedeker was a tour freshman, and Woods pretty much owned professional golf.
In the past six years, however, a lot has changed, including the fabric of the tour. Irish phenom Rory McIlroy since appeared on the scene, and he’s now the one in the Nike spotlight, having just signed a very lucrative deal (and also dealing with the transition to playing with Nike equipment).
Woods, on the other hand, was off in the wilderness, and only last year, after much coaching and a full swing overhaul, did he return even close to looking like the Tiger of old.
What’s old is new again, because these past several days in San Diego, the old Tiger has become the new Tiger, or the new Tiger the old…or something along those lines.
He’s pretty much owned the leaderboard, and despite a fogged out Saturday third round, his patience has been a virtue — not to mention his short game, which has been virtuoso — and never mind, his long drives straight up the middle, and his (typical) laser-lined iron shots.
After his U.S. Open victory in 2008, Tiger revealed he would miss the remainder of that season due to knee surgery, and for those of us who watched the showdown with Mediate, it was pretty clear Woods was in a lot of pain.
This year, Woods seems healthier than ever, his game seems remastered (pardon the pun), and if he keeps it together the last three holes, he will have won once again on the course he played so much of growing up.
Then, more importantly, he strolls into the rest of 2013 — including the first major of the season, The Masters, in April — looking as though he could be a real contender, in the majors, the tournaments he enters, and of course, the now-cherished FedEx Cup.
Despite his ups and downs in recent years, Tiger still demands attention, thankfully more now on the course than off. You need only have watched the coverage these past few days of Woods to see the galleries looking bigger than ever, scaring the Tour freshmen but seeming to bolster Wood’s confidence in all his shotmaking.
Make no mistake, 2012 was a great year for golf, what with Bubba’s curved wedge shot to win out over Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff at Augusta, and McIlroy’s missing the cut at the Olympic Club, and probably most notably, the U.S.’ failure to win back the Ryder Cup.
But Tiger taking Torrey by four or five strokes out of the gate in 2013, with Rory gazing on from off the side of the green, along with a host of new names we’ve never heard looking for a piece of the PGA action.
Well, let’s just say 2013 might be an even bigger year than 2012 for professional golf, and a bigger one than that for Tiger Woods.
Major sporting events like the U.S. Open are not only exciting to watch and follow, but are also a living lab for how “big data” can translate into big business. This year, the USTA is using predictive analytics and cloud computing to improve the experience for everyone: fans, tennis players, event organizers and broadcasters. USTA’s Phil Green and IBM’s Rick Singer explain how.
I mentioned in my post yesterday that in 2005, as Hurricane Katrina was blowing into the Gulf Coast, that I was flying up to NYC to cover IBM’s involvement in facilitating technology solutions for the U.S. Open tennis tournament.
Well, here we are seven years later, and that partnership continues. Today, the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) announced a new round of technologies to help fans become immersed in the 2012 U.S. Open action.
This year, IBM is going to apply predictive analytics, cloud computing, and mobile technology expertise to connect tennis fans, wherever they are, to the action on the courts.
IBM has created a unique digital environment that provides U.S. Open spectators, athletes and media uninterrupted access to data, facts, stats and content via their tablets, smartphones, PCs and other devices.
This enhanced, interactive fan experience uses new technologies that thousands of businesses worldwide are embracing to up their game by uncovering insights from big data.
New iPad App: Streaming Matches
New for this year’s tournament is an iPad app that serves accurate streams of match data, access to live video, highlights and in-depth statistical information.
Enhanced social media features will enable fans to communicate with other fans around the world (but be nice!). The iPad app also delivers an insider’s view of who’s gaining the edge on the court and most likely to win — well before the final score tells the story.
This app complements iPhone and Android apps that mobile fans can access to connect to U.S. Open action in real-time from around the world. Off the court, IBM’s analysis of the U.S. Open action will extend to the social media arena by determining the Twitterverse’s favorite male and female players.
IBM is applying advanced analytics software to millions of public tweets generated throughout the tournament to assess which players are the social fans’ favorites. The IBM Social Sentiment Index will analyze buzz around the U.S. Open, providing a better understanding of fan sentiment.
The analysis will also illustrate how analytics technology can identify important, and otherwise non-obvious trends, to help businesses make better decisions about how to connect with customers.
If you’re on site at the Tennis Center, IBM has built the IBM Game Changer Interactive Wall, which extends many of the USOpen.org and mobile app features, providing greater insight into the U.S. Open, both on- and off-court using the power of analytics.
Fans will be able to interact with the wall to access live scores, match analysis and data visualizations from the IBM Social Sentiment Index analysis, as well as information about local weather and its effect on player nutrition and hydration, and more.
Broader Applications Of Analyzing Action On The Courts
Delivering insights into what’s happening on the courts at the U.S. Open requires an ability to capture and analyze each serve, volley and point. The same kind of analytics technologies that
IBM is using to deliver insights to tennis fans, players, coaches, media and sports event organizers are being used to monitor babies in prenatal wards, help police departments prevent crime and enable financial services firms to improve customer service.
“Big Data is impacting so many aspects of sporting events, that it’s no longer a stretch to say that it is changing the way fans watch and enjoy sports,” said Rick Singer, vice president, Sports Sponsorship Marketing for IBM. “Whether on the court or in the board room, Big Data is being leveraged to achieve similar goals, such as keeping operations up and running seamlessly, having accurate data readily available for quick decision making, and improving productivity.”
A Predictive Slam
One of the most insightful features of USOpen.org is IBM’s SlamTracker. Based on predictive analytics technology, it leverages historical and real-time match data to deliver a better understanding of what’s going on during a match.
SlamTracker’s ‘Momentum’ feature maps player momentum throughout a match in real-time, visualizing key turning points such as aces and winning shots, allowing fans to interact with the data to learn more about why a player is winning. In addition, SlamTracker’s ‘Keys to the Match’ feature analyzes seven years of historical Grand Slam data to determine the top three things a player must do in order to perform well in a specific match.
Serving The U.S. Open Web Traffic Appetite
During the two-week tournament, USOpen.org transforms into a massive, data hungry environment that demands unhindered access to accurate and reliable content to serve the demands of millions of tennis fans. Each year, IBM helps the USTA expand its infrastructure to meet these demands and then scale back to support regular operations following the tournament.
This elasticity is made possible by the IBM SmartCloud, which enables the rapid creation and dynamic allocation of resources while offering transparent and real-time access by a multitude of devices, such as smartphones, tablets and televisions.
This cloud environment — powered by IBM servers and storage in three geographically dispersed locations virtualized as one — ensures continuous availability and scalability required to support such a high profile event. The benefits include reduced costs and reliable operations.
You can go here to learn more about how IBM is helping the U.S. Open tap into Big Data to transform the fan experience.
If you’re an avid golf fan, you’re probably experiencing a combination of elation and depression this particular Monday, following the dramatic finish of the 2012 U.S. Open held at the Olympic Club Lakes Course in San Francisco these past four days.
First, let me send out my hearty congratulations to first time major victor and 2012 U.S. Open Champion, Webb Simpson.
Though Webb has certainly had a strong showing these past couple of years on the PGA, his was not a name widely circulated as being a likely victor for this year’s championship.
And though he wasn’t widely featured on the telecast coverage through the first three days of the tournament, he slowly crawled his way up the leader board and yesterday cemented his +1 victory over fellow golfers, Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell.
McDowell, who won his first U.S. Open at Pebble Beach two years ago, held fast to the bitter end, but his final putt wandered just a little too much to the left to earn a playoff with Simpson.
And Furyk, the grinder’s grinder, played steady and firm until that wayward hooked drive on hole 16 at Olympic, also sending his second U.S. Open Championship hopes into the rough along with his uncooperative Srixon ball.
But boy, what drama. If Shakespeare had the occasion to write about golf, he would have gotten at least a sonnet or two out of these past four days of play.
First, there was Tiger Woods’ return to rare form on day one and two, only to see him fade away into the pack with his early six over par on the first several holes yesterday.
Then there was this year’s Cinderella story, committed University of Texas (the new NCAA men’s golf champions, after a forty-year drought) golf aspiree and 17-year-old wunderkind, Beau Hossler, whose grace-under-pressure and whimsical but lethally accurate iron play left everyone wanting more. Standing ovations abounded for “the kid” by the crowds at Olympic, a kid from whom we will certainly hear a lot more and (I hope), soon.
But for my money, the real victor of this year’s U.S. Open was the Olympic Club course, and, of course, the fans.
Olympic played like a great U.S. Open course should — it seemingly brought the best players in the world to their knees, and forced them to play smart and steady golf in order to arrive on top.
That’s the kind of golf Webb Simpson (and a few others) played, and it’s the kind of golf that keeps golf fans coming back for more.
And, after Rory McIlroy’s pummeling of Congressional at last year’s U.S. Open, it was time for the U.S.G.A. to return to the essence of what makes a great U.S. Open — the matching of the best players in the world with the most challenging, but fair, golf course and playing conditions imaginable.
This year, they delivered in spades, and so did Webb Simpson.
Congrats to them both — it was a victory well deserved!
I promised last week to bring you at least a little of the history behind one of golf’s greatest tests, the U.S. Open, which was first played on October 4, 1895 at the Newport Country Club in Newport, Rhode Island (If you’ve never been to Newport, I highly recommend it. Make sure you take in some of the local seafood!)
That first competition was only 36 holes, and was played in a single day. In that first competition, there were ten pro golfers, and one amateur. The winner was a 21 year-old Englishman named Horace Rawlins, who had arrived in the U.S in January that year to take up a position at the host club.
His winnings: $150 cash and a $50 gold medal…and, the Open Championship Club trophy.
It went on that way for a number of years, with the Brits dominating until John J. McDermott came along to become the first native-born American winner, and soon, the U.S. Open found itself joining the ranks of golf’s majors.
Since 1911, the title has been won almost exclusively by U.S players. Since 1950, players from only six countries other than the U.S. Have taken the Open trophy, most notably South Africa, which has taken it five times since 1965.
Today, the U.S. Open is the second of the four major golf championships, and is staged by the United States Golf Association in mid-June, with the final round typically played on Father’s Day.
The tournament is staged at a variety of courses, often set up in a way that scoring is very difficult with a premium placed on accurate driving. The tournament’s play is typically characterized by tight scoring at or around par by the leaders (with Rory McIlroy’s −16 finish last year a very rare exception!).
A U.S Open course is very rarely beaten by such a margin, and in fact, there have been a number of over-par wins. Often, Open courses are very long in yardage, and have a very high cut of primary rough, undulating greens (making putting and approach placement critical), and tight fairways.
The U.S. Open is the only one of the four majors which does not go immediately to a playoff if two or more players are tied at the end of the four rounds, instead having the players play a fifth 18th-hole round the following day (Monday). After that, if a tie still exists, then a sudden-death playoff is held, much as happened in 2008 when Tiger Woods defeated veteran golfer Rocco Mediate on the first additional playoff hole, a finish rife with drama and much pain incurred by Woods with his weakened knee ligament.
In San Francisco this week, at the Olympic Club, the site of the 2012 U.S. Open, that course’s history exceeds that of the Open itself. It was established in 1860 and enjoys the distinction of being America’s oldest athletic club, wtih some 5,000 members who compete in 19 sports out of its downtown San Francisco clubhouse. Its 45 holes of golf include the Lake Course, originally designed in 1924 by Willie Watson and Sam Whiting, and redesigned by Whiting in 1927 after suffering storm damage.
The Lake Course remains true to its 1927 design, with minimal renovations in the intervening years, save for the creation of a new 8th hole, a 200-yard par 3. The course is hosting its fifth U.S. Open and should provide a substantial challenge with its narrow, tree-lined fairways and small, well-bunkered greens.
It should prove to be a compelling four days (or, pending any ties at the top of the leaderboard, five days) of championship golf!
I committed previously to providing some insights leading into and during the U.S. Open in the Turbo blog, and I’m going to try and stand by that commitment!
Whether or not you’re a golf fan, it makes no difference — it’s my hope you’ll learn something in either case.
The first thing to know about the U.S. Open is that it holds the promise for entry to any qualified golfer. The qualification occurs by offering every year, thousands of golfers both pro and amateur alike, with a U.S. Golf Association Handicap Index not exceeding 1.4 — the opportunity to play in the Open.
The Handicap Index is the great and brilliant equalizer in golf, allowing golfers of all “handicaps” the opportunity to compete with one another in tournaments across the country. The Index takes into account your level of play, then offers you a “handicap” to equalize the competitive landscape when you’re playing someone with, for instance, a much lower handicap.
By way of example, this week at my father’s home course, the Denton Country Club, we’ll be competing in an annual “Member-Guest” tournament (I’m the guest!). My handicap index is 14.2, which will help his country club match my index to the complexity level (or slope) of their course, and that way, when we get flighted for the tournament, we’ll be playing against players of a similar ability.
In the case of the U.S. Open, it’s much more level, because all the players have to have an index of 1.4 or better, which means they have to be darn near scratch golfers.
That’s just to get in to the qualifier. In 2012, there were 109 local qualifiers from April 30 to May 17. Each of those local qualifiers consisted of 18 holes, with a select number of players advancing then to the 36-hole “sectional” qualifiers (again, with the number of available spots determined by the number of players at the local qualifier.)
A very small number of golfers manage to navigate both stages of qualifying to earn a spot in the 156-player U.S. Open. In 1964, Ken Venturi claimed the championship after competing in both the local and sectional qualifying, and Orville Moody did the same in 1969. In no other professional tournament can rank amateurs rise to compete with the best of the best and actually walk away with the Championship trophy!
As former USGA Executive Director David B. Fay referred to it, the U.S. Open is “the most democratic championship” in golf.
In the sectional qualifying, which is the final stage before U.S. Open hopefuls get to the championship proper, the USGA offers 13 sectional sites – 11 in the U.S. and two overseas in Japan and England. Generally, about 750 golfers compete at the sectional qualifying level for about half of the 156 available spots in the U.S. Open.
Sectional qualifying is a grueling 36-hole one-day marathon, with only a handful of available spots at each site. The USGA established two “tour” sites in Columbus, Ohio, and Memphis, Tenn., for members of the PGA Tour who either have just competed at The Memorial (Columbus) or are preparing to play the FedEx St. Jude Classic (Memphis).
In 2005, the USGA established two international qualifiers; one in Japan (Japan, Asia and Australasian tours) and another in England (European Tour). In its first year, Michael Campbell of New Zealand not only qualified in England, but went on to claim the U.S. Open title at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina!
So, that’s the story behind the story for U.S. Open qualifying. It truly is the Everyman golfer’s championship, and is one of the reasons we regular “Joes” get so excited, as even “we” have a chance to win the Open!
In a future post, I’ll share some history behind the U.S. Open.