Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Golf is a game of feel

While performing our daily, sometimes weekly, perusal of golf stories on the Internet, we discovered an interesting conversation at golf.com. These discoveries are a lot like eagles – the golf kind. You know the feeling. You really hope something good will happen, but you're sure as heck not planning on it.

This particular conversation involved several members of the SI/Golf.now golf writing team discussing the golf events of this past weekend. (Go here for the complete transcript.) A couple of their comments provided stimulus for the Eye On Golf staff. The first today, the second in a couple of days.

First is this short exchange:

Hack: You can make the argument that beyond Tiger, Phil, Vijay, Ernie, Retief, Furyk and Paddy, Kenny Perry has been the best player, week to week, over the last five years or so. Not bad for a guy who re-routes his club at the top. Says something for sticking with what you do, and not changing it up.
Bamberger: Some of the best Tour players have been in that tradition of stick-with-what-works swings: Raymond Floyd, Mark McCumber, Bruce Lietzke, Scott Hoch, Craig Stadler — and Perry.

We found it interesting that experienced golf writers missed the point of the game of golf and how that is accomplished. The goal is to get the ball in the hole with limited quantity of effort not quality of effort. The reason that stick-with-what-works swings are so effective is that golf has always been a game that almost totally involves feel. The bottom line is that the more you are able to feel your swing when you are hitting the well, the more consistent you will be in your play. We are sure that no one is under the delusion that Kenny Perry was taught to re-route the club during his swing.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The good, the bad, and the ugly from the U.S. Open

From the remains of the U.S. Open here's the Good, the Bad and the Ugly (in that order) from those scribes still scribbling.

Rex Hoggard, senior writer, at golfchannel.com (isn't everyone nowadays?), has a wonderful piece on friendship and Lucas Glover.

Our friends at Golflink.com headlined their most recent newsletter with this gem … How to Develop a Solid Putting Rhythm: At the U.S. Open this past weekend many leaders missed crucial putts down the stretch. Learn how to develop a better puttting rhythm to drill putts in clutch situations. Bad news is they left out a key factor - a little thing called U.S. Open pressure.

Jim McCabe, GolfWeek, is a little peeved at the USGA for making the finishing hole at Bethpage so weak. He tells us that “the last five pairings came along and made 10 ho-hum pars.” Unfortunately he left out the part that about half of those guys in “the last five pairings” might have had a change to win with a birdie. McCabe then concludes his article with a litany of nondescript stats for your reading boredom.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why Lucas Glover won the U.S. Open

A few final thoughts on the U.S. Open now that it’s finally over.

All the “shout outs” need to go to Glover’s bagman, Don Cooper, for not letting his man pull a Jean van de Velde on the final hole with a major championship in the bag. Yes, we know that the majority of scribes and fans don’t like the fact that Glover could hit 6-iron and 9-iron and secure the championship, but that’s the way the hole was strategically set for that day. It played as a 354-yard par four. When was the last time you witnessed a hole that short on the PGA Tour? Like, never! How many of the wannabe champions – Glover, Woods, Mickelson, Duval, Barnes – made birdie? None, that’s how many. It was a great concept by the USGA. Glover could have hit driver, but he may have hit it anywhere, made double-bogey and sent the championship to a four-way playoff. Nope, Cooper and Glover plotted the perfect strategy.

During the play of the final four holes we got to thinking about the time-worn cliché usually reserved for the Masters: The tournament doesn’t start until the last nine on Sunday (or in this case Monday). This is also completely accurate for the U.S. Open except for 180 degrees in the opposite direction. With the Masters we expect birdies and eagles galore as player after player makes a run at the title. (That just started to return a little this year.) With the U.S. Open it’s totally the opposite. The winner is usually the player who can make pars over the final few holes. Case in point – Glover. Mickelson bogeyed 15 and 17 and Duval bogeyed 17. Glover played the last three in one under. That’s why he’s the U.S. Open champion.

For some good insight into Glover, read his post round interview here.

If you happened to tape, TIVO or DVR the final round, take a look at Glover’s putting routine. It never changed. Good instruction here.

Kudos to NBC for their coverage of the stopping and starting and the coming and going of the five day event. It seemed like they were on the air continually from Saturday morning until it ended on Monday. (You can bet they were hoping for no playoff.) If you wanted to watch the U.S. Open, NBC was there for you. It was great couch potato Father’s Day stuff. Try this piece by Brad Klein of GolfWeek for a little insight into what went on behind the scenes.

Wonder what the weather will be next year at Pebble Beach?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

USGA mucks up their own event

One of the millions of followers of Eye On Golf has “tweeted” us (Gee, I hope that's the correct term. Actually we're getting to be a little afraid of “tweets.) wondering if we have more thoughts on the U.S. Open. You know the one conducted by the USGA who keeps hoping that by squeegeeizing the golf course they can finish before the British Open - the original Open Championship. Yes, we do have some thoughts.

The U.S. Open is all wet and as a result the USGA has screwed up the competition. By trying to squeeze in as much golf as possible between floods regardless of playing conditions, the organization has had a direct effect on who will win the golf tournament. If you were unfortunate enough to have the AM/PM starting times, you were doomed to play a few hole every now and then in mostly adverse conditions, pouring rain, water on the greens, etc. If you drew the PM/AM starting times, you still have to slog it out a bit, but hardly felt a raindrop and never had to wait for five guys to squeegee off a green before you could putt. There is no doubt the the USGA's decisions to play or not play will have an immediate influence on the outcome of the 2009 U.S. Open.

Anyone who plays golf or follows golf realizes that the game itself is not fair. A bit of luck always factors into the determination of a winner and loser. We all know some whiskey-laden European created the game as a form of self masochism. There is no logical reason why he would have built fairness into it. There's a lot a skill and a bit of luck involved in shooting a good score, sometimes vice-versa. But that's in the playing of the game, not in the time you're assigned to play the game. There's a big difference. We want our national championship to be decided on a level playing field – if that's not too cliché. It should be different than the weekly PGA Tour event. That's why the USGA refuses to play lift, clean and place. Just like the USGA, we want every participant to play the course under the same conditions. If that means stopping play when the greens become flooded, so be it.

I now have two squeegee images forever in my mind. One comes from the front page of the sport section of the Arizona Republic dated June 19, 2009. It's a picture of Tiger Woods watching two course workers squeegee the green on the second hole. If you're to the point where it's raining so hard that workers must squeegee, it's time to call a halt.

The second image comes from NBC's television broadcast on Saturday. As the USGA tried to wedge all the golf possible into Saturday, they began the third round at 5:30 PM EST. Inside of ninety minutes the skies opened up and within five minutes the greens were flooded and out came the army of squeegeeizers. But did the USGA tell the players to go home an come back tomorrow? No, or course not! They told them to hold in place because they expected the rain to subside or stop and they might be able to get another hole or two in before darkness. Brilliant. Just brilliant!

So now we're into Sunday. Tee times have been pushed back to 12:00 PM EST in hopes of getting the third round completed. Who knows when the fourth round will be started or completed.

If the USGA had canceled all of Thursday, they could have played round one on Friday, round 2 on Saturday and then round three on Sunday. They would have been right in the same situation they are now. The big difference would be that the playing field would have been level for all participants.

You may condemn this as easy criticism with perfect 20-20 hindsight, but think about it. It involves foresight and common sense.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

U .S. Open pairings are fun stuff

If you're a golf fan and unless you have been practicing your ostrich impersonation you surely know that the U.S. Open begins today. And with this event comes golf writers from parts unknown. They're sort of like WWE guys you see once or twice a year. With this over abundance of scribes naturally comes insight and evaluation beyond any other golf tournament with the possible exception of the Masters. The most absurd and yet always entertaining are the pairings reviews. This is where some essayist who must fill a certain amount of column inches digs through the pairings for Thursday and Friday trying his or her best to provide analytical insight. Some of it's fun, some of it's like a shank with a wedge from 50 yards.

Here's a couple that the staff at Eye On Golf has discovered.

Of course, The Golf Channel has prepared a couple of tasty delights for us. Try this short piece

or this short video with Charlie Rymer.

Go to Examiner.com to get Dave Seanor's take on the excitement for rounds 1 & 2.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Final thoughts on the LPGA Championship

The LPGA Championship is over.

Over is the sense that the 2009 edition has been completed with a most unlikely champion - 22-year old rookie Anna Nordqvist of Sweden who became the first player since Se Ri Pak to win in her first attempt at a professional major. Nordqvist plowed out three birdies on the last four holes over the farm field that is Bulle Rock just when it looked like the wheels may spin off.

Over in the sense that LPGA’s championship will no longer be known as the McDonald LPGA Championship present by … pick your own corporate brand. The LPGA is taking over the whole championship driver, putter and all the bunkers. As of this minute we have no idea where next year’s event will be played or where the purse will come from. The LPGA, as you may know, is in somewhat of a hurt concerning the who, what, where and when part of the tournament schedule.

In light of all that here are a few observations from this year’s version and what’s up for the future. The move from Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace Maryland is probably a good one. Middle-of-Nowhere, Md is just five miles up the street from the golf course. When, during Sunday’s telecast by the Golf Channel we were provided with an overhead shot of the clubhouse and surrounding area and received the comment from Brian Hammonds that the crowds were good just as they always are, I had to restrain myself from immediately calling my optometrist. If they had held the shot for ten more seconds, I believe I could have counted all the fans. And they were not all on the course watching the leaders. There were probably not more than 400 spectators following Nordqvist and Wright (not Mickey) in the final group. Yes, it sure seems like it’s a good idea to move the tournament out of the Maryland farm country. Michael Bamberger at Golf.com has an interesting take on this.

The sparse crowds drew the attention of Kevin Cowherd of the Baltimore Sun, apparently one of the few remaining daily newspapers with a golf writer. Cowherd focuses on one of the LPGA’s problems – a lack of charisma in its top players. This is an interesting read.

In short we’re hoping for the best for the LPGA Championship and the LPGA Tour. It’s a great product and more fun than a barrel full of free putters to watch. We’re just not sure that Commissioner Bivens has figured out how to market it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Father's Day golf gifts

Father's Day is just around the dogleg and poor old Dad is waiting with heightened anticipation for this year's latest and greatest golf gift. If he's the only golfer in the family, each (and every) Father's Day he's subjected to the reception of a myriad of unusual golf gifts from members of his loving family. Of course, their intention is good. They want their golfer to have the latest in low-tech gadgets designed not necessarily to improve his game but to enhance his experience on the golf course. You know the sort we're talking about here: the golf towel with a trite golf adage upon it or the pocket electronic gadget to help him keep track of fairways hit, putts and GIR. These and their golf gift cousins are all admirable, but inevitably repetitive.

So let's suggest a few ideas that might actually help Dad's game, a gift or two that will raise his confidence level just a touch when he next tees it up.

The number one gift on our list that will help Dad with his game is a swing weight. That's right, a simple device that adds weight to the club. The best deal on the market right now is the I Gotcha Ready. It's a combination of swing weight, tempo trainer and release helper. The I Gotcha Ready simply snaps onto you shaft in one of three different positions to give you the desired swing training. It's simple to use and really does work most effectively. It'll probably cost you about $25. If that's not in the budget then go for the time-tested weighted donut for about $4. It'll do the trick to help Dad loosen up before his round.

Number two: a good book. You can go in two different directions when selecting a book: either go for an instructional book or choose a volume that is educational and entertaining. With an instructional book keep it simple. Choose nothing with a lot of technical or mechanical jargon. A couple of favorites are the now classic Little Red Book by Harvey Penick with Bud Shrake. Teach Yourself Visually Golf by Anderson, Crowell and Mackin is also an excellent choice. It covers all aspects of the game and is well illustrated.

Number three: Regrip his clubs. Now realize here that you don't have to kidnap his clubs from the trunk of the car and bring them to the golf course where they originally began their journey. Simply make arrangements with his favorite golf shop or golf retail store for a gift certificate. Or if he likes to tinker with his golf clubs, purchase a gift certificate from an online retailer such as The GolfWorks.

Friday, June 12, 2009

LPGA's second major in full swing

Did you know that there is a major golf championship now underway? Unless you watch the Golf Channel religiously (translation: have a deep seated addiction to infomercials) or subscribe to one of golf's weekly tabloids, or constantly peruse the golf websites on the Internet, you probably might not know that the LPGA's second major of the year started yesterday. Officially it's know as the McDonald's LPGA Championship Presented by Coca-Cola. Unofficially you may know it as the LPGA Championship. Apparently much of the sports media doesn't know it at all. Just try to find some info in your local newspaper or your favorite Internet sports site.

Now don't develop feelings of low self esteem if you as an ardent golf fan were unaware of the major implications of this week's LPGA event. You should feel good that you were aware that there was a tournament being conducted. The fact that it is the LPGA's second major of the year should have no consequence on your dedication to the LPGA. Feel good about yourself and the fact that there will be some exciting golf on television this weekend. Which reminds me, here's the television schedule for the LPGA Championship:

Jun 12 – GC 12:30 – 3:30 PM ET
Jun 13 – GC 4:00 – 7:00 PM ET
Jun 14 – GC 4:00 – 7:00 PM ET

Now it's time to tee it up and forecast the winner. Predictions are difficult in golf, actually damn near impossible. Well, perhaps in men's golf there's two way to bet: you wager on Tiger or you bet on the rest of the field. But the LPGA presents a different dilema. With A.S. Gone and the possible exception of Lorena who has not been totally on her game lately, it is anyone's guess - er, wager. So here's a couple of thoughts to help you predict your winner. There are nine ladies in the field with the last name of Kim so you can place that bet. Then there is the guy's favorites: Natalie Gulbis or Paula Creamer. Of the two I'll take Creamer for her first major. It's time, Paula. And a Creamer victory would do wonders for the LPGA, even more so than a Wie victory.