Turbotodd

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

Posts Tagged ‘the masters

One For Down Under

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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.

Written by turbotodd

April 15, 2013 at 9:12 am

Turbo’s Virtual Round At Augusta

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Turbo tees off at hole number one at Augusta National, where The Masters has been played most every year since 1934. Only in this case, Turbo has gone all Neo and is playing the Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2012 virtual edition of the course on his Macbook Air. He figures its the closest he’ll ever come to playing the real course.

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.

Written by turbotodd

April 10, 2013 at 10:28 am

Golf’s New Gamification

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Anybody watch that little ol’ college basketball game last night between Louisville and Michigan? 

Whoa.  Talk about saving the best for last.  “The end of the road,” indeed.

Hats off to Louisville to reaching and staying number one, especially after the first half of the final, when I thought Michigan might be running away with the show!

Now that the Final Four is over, I can give my undivided attention to my favorite sport, the game of golf.

For the longest time, golf has been a sport that has exalted in its traditions and basked in its conservatism, technological and otherwise. 

But in order to keep the sport vibrant, everyone from golfing bodies to entrepreneurs are finding new ways of introducing, bolstering, and sharing information about the sport.

Yesterday in Augusta, chairman Billy Payne inaugurated a new “Drive, Chip and Putt Championship” for youngsters ages 7-15, which will hold its first finals at Augusta National just prior to next year’s Masters.

And though we’ve seen remarkable technology evolution with regards to playing equipment on the golf course, I think we’re just getting going in terms of using data and analytics to help the amateur golfer.

I’ve been using a product called “GolfshotGPS” for some time now to help me conduct some basic analysis of my golf game, but let’s face it, having to do data entry on the golf course takes time away from playing and enjoying the scenery.

Enter “GAME GOLF,” an outfit that originated in Galway, Ireland and who are working to bring more sophisticated analytics more easily to the game of golf, and doing so in a way where we mere amateurs will be able to “compete with the likes of PGA veterans like Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood (two pros who have done early prototype development of GAME GOLF’s technology.)

The idea is simple: Using GAME GOLF’s small wireless hub and a set of golf club “tags,” one for each club in a golfer’s bag, GAME will analyze all the critical elements of one’s golf game.  Think of it as having RFID tags on every one of your golf clubs.

GAME records every club used, every swing made, every yard covered in each round, WITHOUT pausing play to enter info into your Android device.

Then, GAME calculates key statistics: Scoring, number of putts, greens in regulation, driving accuracy, and so forth.  

But GAME doesn’t just give YOU, the golfer, data.  Golf is at its essence a competitive sport you play against yourself and others, so GAME will also share your performance with friends on social networks, and also help connect you with other golfers on GAME’s network.

I can tell you from having analyzed my own game with the limited data I’ve had access to, I’ve been able to improve my game (although improving my “mechanics” was where I saw my biggest improvement). 

Golf is an iterative game when it comes to improving, but the smallest of tweeks can have relatively big payoffs (Steve Stricker’s recent putting advice for Tiger Woods, by way of example).

If you know you’re 3 putting 60% of the holes you play…well, I hate to tell you, but you probably ought to head out right now and spend some significant time on the putting green.

But it’s the “fantasy” aspect of GAME that serves up the most intrigue for me. What if Tiger and Brent and Bubba and others also started using GAME during their Tour events, and now suddenly I and my fantasy golf friends could start competing directly with the pros in “virtual” matches.

First, yes, me and my amateur friends, we’d lose, and big time.

But, with the proper handicap adjustments, suddenly we find ourselves on the first tee at Augusta the first Thursday of April with Tiger and Phil, shaking in our boots and hoping we don’t kill someone in the fairway with our first drive.

You can learn more about GAME GOLF in the video below.  There’s currently a crowdsourcing fundraiser that has been extended to April 15th.

It’s too early to tell if this will be a golf GAME changer or not, but I think with golf, more information is always better than less.

GAME GOLF seems to provide just enough new information (without hassle in acquiring it) that has the potential to make me a better golfer, and to make the game that much more fun. 

Who can argue with that?

Written by turbotodd

April 9, 2013 at 9:09 am

Ready For The Masters

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Hello Monday, in my favorite week of the year.

Yes, it’s that time again, Masters Week, where the best golfers come together on a classic golf course down in Augusta to test for the best.

The history, the traditions, and such behind The Masters are all well and good, but for true and rabid golf fans like myself, it’s the actual competitive golf from Thursday through Sunday afternoon that we live and breathe for.  

Though all eyes this week are on Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy’s new Nike clubs seemed to be warming up to him down here in the heart of Texas over the weekend.

Rory shot a 66 yesterday at the Valero Texas Open, catching some much needed momentum heading into Augusta and finishing second at -12, just two strokes back from winner Martin Laird.

If I were a handicapping man, I’d also be on the lookout this week for the likes of Brant Snedeker, whose hot putter will likely find lots of love at Augusta National; Freddie Jacobson, whose painter’s cap could very well point him in the right directions on Augusta’s undulating nightmare greens; Nicolas Colsaerts, the “Belgium Bomber” playing his first Masters, still one of the best putters in the world; Matt Kuchar, whose victory at WGC-Accenture showed he can hold up under the pressure and take it into the homestretch.

And let’s not forget last year’s winner, Bubba Watson, who might just be up for a repeat.

It’s a difficult tournament to handicap, which is what makes it so interesting to watch.

Speaking of golf, it’s a crazy game.  I went out and played twice this weekend…on Saturday, I made three birdies and still shot a 90 (but I also had a 10 on one hole, where I had a Kevin Na-like moment as I tried to hack my way out of some woods).

On Sunday, I rediscovered my swing (especially for my driver), hitting a 350-yard drive on one par 4, and overshooting a 290-yard par 4 with a 3-wood (the wind was VERY much at my back on both holes).  Both just gorgeous shots that I couldn’t believe came off of MY club.

I shot an 81, my low for the calendar year, and it was night and day, like I’d been playing two different games from Saturday to Sunday.

Then again, that’s golf!

Written by turbotodd

April 8, 2013 at 9:00 am

Tiger’s New Old Game

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The last time Tiger Woods was the number one ranked golfer in the world was October 2010.  That’s a grand total of 29 months ago.

That all changed this week at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Invitational, which Tiger Woods won running away at -13. That’s Woods’ eighth time to win the same PGA tournament. 

Justin Rose gave Woods his best, but faltered on Saturday before attempting a comeback on Monday’s round (after torrential storms in and around Orlando postponed play on Sunday), and Ricky Fowler tried to match Woods’ performance in the final grouping, but Woods’ irons were too much for Fowler and all the “chasers.”

And then there was Woods’ putting, which was nothing short of masterful.  For the week, he made 19 of 28 putts between 7 and 20 feet.  It was like the Tiger of old — the golf ball seemed to just follow a line from Woods’ putter to the middle of the hole, over and over and over again.

You could hear professional golfers around the globe simply deflate with each stroke of Tiger’s Nike Method putter.

So, Tiger has now won 77 PGA Tour wins, only 5 away from legend Sam Snead’s 82. 

And then there’s The Masters coming up in Augusta in mid-April, the golfing equivalent of the Super Bowl.

You think a few odds makers in Vegas now have Tiger to win this year’s Masters?

Not that I would ever gamble on such a thing, but money does talk, and in this case, online casino Bovada already has Tiger at 11/4 odds to take this year’s green jacket.

But since this is a data driven, technology-oriented blog, let’s look at a few more numbers.

Bleacherreport’s Ryan Rudnansky observes that in 2010, Tiger ranked 109th in putting (strokes gained). 45th in 2011. 36th last year. And this year?

You got it? Numero uno.

At Doral, he recorded just 100 putts for the 72 holes, the lowest putting mark in his career.

Oh, yes, and he’s won three times this year in four stroke-play tournaments (we’ll disregard his nasty bit of business at the Accenture Match Play, where Charles Howell III ousted him in the first match).

Is Tiger’s taking the Master’s in two weeks a done deal? 

Of course not.

Would I pick him over all the other players in the field?

What do you think?

Written by turbotodd

March 26, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Could You Be Loved

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Call me old school, but for me the best part of the Grammy’s last evening was the Bob Marley homage, led by an energetic Bruno Mars and joined by the likes of Sting, Rhianna, and several of Bob Marley’s offspring.

Though there seemed to be some decent enough performances otherwise, I guess my musical tastes are increasingly running old school as well, which I guess just makes me old.

That’s okay, I’ll wear the fabric of time and wisdom if it’s cloaked in a little Led Zeppelin and Eagles and Beatles and Lynyrd Skynyrd and a whole lotta current from AC/DC.

Contemporary music doesn’t seem have much of an edge to it.  For me, much of it seems too apologetic, too timid, certainly too soft.  I much prefer the Motown and doo wop of the 50s, the psychedelia of the 60s, the classic rock of the 70s, the metal edge of the 80s, the grunge of the 90s.

But that’s yesterday’s news. What about today’s?

Well, if you’re a Google Reader user, good luck. TechCrunch informs us this morning that the RSS feed-reading service “has gone completely mad,” heading into a second day of usability issues and the reappearance of thousands of old, unread items.

Maybe old news could be good news, in this case. Maybe we can use Google Reader to travel back to the good ol’ days, when we didn’t have worry about Facebook SPAM and blocked Twitter APIs.

Hey, Google, no big deal I bet my RSS farm on your dawdling feedreading horse.  Maybe throw the old nag a fresh bale of hay at least once in a while?

Not exactly encouraging news in terms of the service life and TLC that geriatric Google apps receive, now is it?

Of course, there’s always new horses coming into the race, and those just reaching their strides.

Golf journeyman Brandt Snedeker, who took the PGA Tour’s FedEx cup last year, is off to a fast start in 2013, making his walks around Pebble Beach this past few days look like a stroll in the park.

I first saw Snedeker play golf in person at Torrey Pines in 2007, and even then I remarked at how fast the guy plays. Considering the lethargic state of pace of play for most golf courses these days, Snedeker’s a breath of fresh air.

Not only does he make putting look simple with his laser-like lines and Ouiji-board green reads, he plays fast!  Like really fast! Like if you want to get a picture of that swing (from a distance, please), you’d better have multiple auto-shots and lightning fast shutter speeds!

In his post-round interview, Snedeker explained to CBS’ David Feherty his next big golf stop is a major. In 2008, when he was a Masters contender he melted down in the homestretch, but this time he may well have the confidence, maturity, and course management to leap ahead of the pack and get himself some new green threads.

And being a good Southern boy, here’s hoping he listens to some good old-fashioned Allman Brothers Band tunes as he prepares to psych himself up for Augusta.

Written by turbotodd

February 11, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Tiger’s New Roar

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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. 

Written by turbotodd

January 28, 2013 at 10:34 pm

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