Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Posts Tagged ‘pga

The Distance Between Your Ears

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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!

Written by turbotodd

June 18, 2012 at 8:12 pm

The U.S. Open — History In The Making

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This brand-new hole at the Olympic Club Lake Course in San Francisco will play about 60 yards longer than the previous No. 8 at this year’s U.S. Open (which commences on Thursday morning), and the hillside to the player’s right forms a natural viewing amphitheater. The green slopes from right to left, and is set at an angle, with the back left being the most distant hole location. Large cypress trees come into play on tee shots missed to the left.

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!

Written by turbotodd

June 12, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Qualifying For The U.S. Open

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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.

Written by turbotodd

June 4, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Bubba

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Have you ever visited a place where you couldn’t get connected to the Internet, yet you were waiting on a vital piece of information or attempting to monitor an evolving situation?

That was my plight over the weekend.  In my case, it was nothing urgent or critical…well, it was to me…but fortunately no lives were at stake.

I was out in west Texas with some good friends for our annual “gun camp,” whereby we take all our firearms and proceed to shoot at harmless paper targets and clay pigeons. Trust me, no animals are harmed in this particular enclave, unless they happen to get in front of our vehicle on the long drive west.

My cell phone service, which is now provided by Virgin Mobile (who subs from the Sprint network), was mostly useless, both voice and data, due to our extreme location. But every once in awhile some packets would stream through and I would get an email update.

So, I spent all of Friday and Saturday mostly clueless about what was going on in Augusta, which for a rabid golfer and fan like me is pretty much torture.  My non-golfing buddies found my plight quite amusing.

Smoke signals were sounding pretty good by the end of the weekend.

However, once I was back on the road heading back to Austin yesterday afternoon, I had a different plight: I didn’t want to be communicated to.  I didn’t want to go into a restaurant where I might overhear an ESPN update.  I didn’t go into the Stripes convenience store for the same reason, particularly as the drive got us closer to the 5 PM hour.

I had no idea what was going on at the Masters, but I wanted to find out for myself and watch it unfold naturally and in its due time.

That is the beauty of the Masters tournament, golf’s greatest, and that’s precisely what happened — and nobody spoiled it for me.  Partially because I kept my cell phone off, refused to listen to my voicemail until I’d watch the last round in its entirety, and watched that last putt of Bubba Watson’s (hey, another Watson namesake!).

Congratulations, Bubba Watson!

You played a brilliant round, and your twisted pitching wedge out of the woods on 10 on the second playoff hole will go down in Master’s history.  I still can’t believe you made that shot!

I also couldn’t believe Louis Oosthuizen’s double-eagle on the second hole, something that’s never happened on that hole during Masters tournament play in its entire history.  The “albatross,” as some refer to a double eagle three under par hole, is a rarity in golf — more rare than holes in one, I would imagine.

But watching Oosthuizen’s brilliant 250+ yard shot roll onto the green, down the green on a line straight toward the hole, was the kind of drama and pivotal moments that we’ve come to depend on the Masters for.

There were other exciting moments throughout the few days, and some heart-stopping, like Phil Mickelson’s triple-bogey on four yesterday.  Why he didn’t go back to the tee instead of trying to hit out of the bamboo???…Well, those are the kinds of decisions that only golfers can try and rationalize, usually after the fact, and usually too late.  But those three strokes probably cost Mickelson this year’s tournament.

By the time I finished watching the Masters, it was 12:30 AM and I was emotionally exhausted and in tears as I watched Bubba hug his mom on the 10th green.  To lose his father to cancer, then adopt his first child, and now suddenly win the green jacket….it was a storybook Masters.

Well, except for that one small part about my new CEO not being offered up a green jacket.  That one small detail left a bad taste in my mouth this year, and for me allowed an otherwise great and gigantic golf tournament to play out on just that much smaller a stage.

Written by turbotodd

April 9, 2012 at 4:17 pm

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