Archive for the ‘golf’ Category
While everybody else in America was focused on March Madness, I was focused on the Dell Technologies World Golf Championship here in Austin over the weekend.
For rabid golf fans, there’s nothing like watching professional golfers play head to head — you learn a lot watching pro golfers in match play (as opposed to the week in week out stroke play).
What did we learn this weekend? That Dustin Johnson has more than earned his world #1 ranking.
That an obscure 38-year old Japanese golfer named Hideto Tanihara was the only player who really gave Johnson a run for his money in the semifinals, losing only 1 up on the 18th hole.
That Tanihara earned himself a precious spot in the upcoming Masters, and, oh yes, made an ace on the longgg par 3 #7 in his consolation match with Bill Haas.
In the final match, the hard-charging 22 year-old Spaniard Jon Rahm was 5 down through number 8 before Johnson lost the plot for a few holes.
But in the end, he outsmarted and outplayed the rookie, and took home yet another trophy. Johnson keeps playing like this, that #1 ranking could reside aside his name for some time.
And if he does bring that particular game to Augusta National in two weeks…watch out. Although that fade doesn’t lend itself to Augusta, say, the way Phil’s lefty slice does….
Seeing as it’s going to be arctic cold throughout much of the U.S. this weekend, for golf fans frozne out of the course it could be a good time to become situationally aware of a new deal between Twitter and the PGA Tour.
According to VentureBeat, Twitter has signed a deal to broadcast more than 70 hours of live PGA Tour Golf coverage from 31 tournaments throughout the remaining 2016-2017 season.
Twitter will become the exclusive global platform to broadcast golf coverage, which will generally include up to 90 minutes of the early Thursday and Friday morning hours from PGA Tour Live’s “over-the-top”) OTT subscription.
Twitter viewers will be able to access pre-play analysis, interviews, and live competition from the first two holes of each day’s PGA Tour Live Marquee Groups.
This builds on Twitter’s NFL partnership to stream Thursday night NFL games in full this season.
Twitter golf coverage starts at the CareerBuilder Challenge on January 19th, and will continue through the season-ending Tour Championship in September of this year.
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.