Fall Golf, Course Set-up’s on TOUR and The 2018 Ryder Cup

It’s a great time of the year. Pumpkin Spice is en vogue (although I get tired of it by the second week of September). Members of golf clubs that I’ve worked at are already thinking of their annual “Snowbird migration”. Meanwhile, the residents of regions affected by the annual influx are also thinking about it…For different reasons.

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Fall golf at Byrncliff in 2014.

With a show of hands.. who loves fall golf? I know that I do and it sucks that stroke recovery is likely going to prevent me from partaking in playing this fall.. The weather is fantastic with the temperatures being near perfection. Gone are the days of oppressive heat. The fairways aren’t nearly as busy and getting in 18-36 holes is a breeze. Of course, there’s the added benefit of fall foliage. Is there a prettier time of the year to go golfing? The reds, oranges and yellows make you feel like you’re golfing amongst a fire. Even the smell in the air is just a little different. Fall is also the time when superintendents are aerating, top-dressing and fertilizing their greens. Yes, it might be a pain in the arse putting on those surfaces but just remember. A little misery now means that your greens will survive the winter and be ready for you in the spring. Thank your superintendent and greens staff today.

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A necessary part of golf.

The 2018 Ryder Cup was just contested this past weekend and a huge congratulations goes out to Team Europe. The European side played some beautiful golf and their victory was convincing to say the least. While I will refrain from using the term “bloodbath” it wasn’t close. The Europeans (Captained by Thomas Bjorn) cruised to a 17.5 to 10.5 victory powered by the likes of Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Alex Noren et al. The European team simply looked like that… a team. Something that the American team failed to achieve especially amid the aftermath of the defeat. Patrick Reed was busy pointing fingers and while I love the fact that he’s not a “spit and polish” kind of guy you never point fingers. Win and lose as a “team” right?! Finger pointing at the Ryder Cup is not unprecedented. Who remembers when Phil Mickelson pointed his finger at Captain Tom Watson in 2014? Wasn’t that also the year when “The Panel” was set up after an embarrassing defeat to ensure that it never happened again? Maybe I’m mistaken. Also, there were reports of an apparent incident between Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson.at the after party where they had to be separated. Either way, there are bigger things to get into a huff over and in the grand scheme of things. Say what you will… the Euros dominated in every facet of the competition. Namely, hitting fairways and greens. Which brings me to my next point.

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Photo Credit: CBS Sports

All over social media I’ve seen it said. The difference was in how the golf course was set up. On the PGA Tour golf courses are generally set up too easy. Everything is lush and pristine. A missed fairway simply isn’t penalized. While the American side was “chock full” of the sort of player referred to as “Bomb and Gouge” the Europeans were not. Accuracy was the name of the game as it always is and should be. The American team was ill-suited to succeed at Le Golf National. Sure there was a ton of talent and “big boppers” on their team. However, if you’re unable to score from the thicker, graduated rough when you miss the narrowed fairway the battle is already lost. Here’s a news flash. If you’re new to my site I have long said that the answer to the insanely low scores on tour is not the golf ball and rolling it back. Protect the integrity of the game by protecting the golf course architect and the golf course itself. Let the superintendents of host venues on TOUR have “fun”. Grow the golf course out! Make the fairways narrow, punish a missed fairway with thicker rough, firm up the greens and by all means water the living Hell out of the fairways to eliminate roll. These guys will torch a “resort course” all day long and that’s how these courses are set-up. Wake up PGA Tour and the USGA. If you truly want to compete and win the Ryder Cup and not be lambasted… make your tournament courses tougher.

Until The Next Tee!!

#seeuonthenexttee #fightandgrind

Open Prognosticating

Alright, I admit it I love The Masters. I look forward to that tournament every year. Of course, this year I received my usual “Dear John” letter stating “We regret to inform you… you’re a loser and you will not be going to the 2019 Masters” yadda yadda. So as is my usual custom I develop a faux dislike of The Masters and everything they stand for. At any rate…

The reality here is that its Open Championship week and this is my favourite week of the golf season. I look at the courses in the rota and think a few things. Golf courses the way that golf was meant to be played. Of course, there’s the obvious. The history. This year, the venue is Carnoustie Golf Links. The grand old gal was designed by Allan Robertson with an assist from Old Tom Morris and consequently opened in 1842. The venue hosted its first Open Championship in 1931 (Tommy Armour won The Claret Jug). Many duels have been won and lost at Carnoustie with one particular championship being synonymous with the course. “The Van de Velde” in 1999. Coming up the 72nd hole of the 1999 Open Championship Jean Van de Velde just needed to card a double bogey to win. He would card a triple bogey instead and would lose the championship. Paul Lawrie would eventually win in a playoff.

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Oh the humanity! (Photo Credit: Golf Digest)

So this year. The field is set and many players from the PGA Tour have been overseas for a week or two. In full preparation mode getting ready for the season’s third Major. I didn’t do any sort of predictions for the U.S. Open and quite frankly I don’t know why. But this time around I will no be denied. So in the same manner that I did for The Masters (where I boldly predicted Patrick Reed’s victory) I will handicap the odd separating my picks by using the odds. So without anything else to say here we go…

Favourites (12-1 to 20-1) – The usual suspects adorn this category. Guys like Dustin Johnson (12-1) and Tiger Woods (20-1). However, sitting at 16-1 is Justin Rose. He’s my pick in this grouping. He’s had a nice season, he’s straight and quite frankly I can see him planting a kiss on The Claret Jug come Sunday. #TeamRose

Not Quite The Favourites (25-1 to 40-1) – Jason Day leads the pack of this grouping. But I don’t like him to win The Claret Jug. I have no real basis for saying this but I do. Yes ,he’s quietly won twice on Tour this season but in this range I’m going with the most underrated golfer in men’s professional golf. Marc Leishman! He’s 40-1 and a bit of a longshot already without being a longshot. Even though Sergio Garcia, Masters Champ Patrick Reed and Hideki Matsuyama are in this pod… Leishman sits lurking in the bushes. Like a stealthy assassin he lies in wait. You don’t even know he’s lurking but then all of a sudden.. there he is!!!

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All of a sudden.. he’s there! (Photo Credit: Golf Digest)

 The Darkhorse (50-1 to 80-1) – These are the interesting picks with some real notable names in the mix. I love Zach Johnson but not this week. Ian Poulter could be a mover and shaker and you never know what ‘The Wizard” Bryson DeChambeau has up his sleeves. However, there is one golfer that has had a great season in 2018. Sitting at 66-1 is Bubba Watson. Yes, he had a rough tourney at The Military Tribute (Greenbrier) but I simply dismiss it. He was really pressing to win at his second home and maybe just maybe he was thinking too far ahead to this week. Imagination, length and a total arsenal of crazy shots that he can. Bubba will be there Sunday… if he doesn’t wound too tightly (like at Greenbrier).

The Longshot (100-1 to 300-1) – If you’re a betting type (I’m not) then someone in this category could win you some money. These guys aren’t in the conversation during your morning coffee or round but there are a few names that would make for an intriguing pick. In this case my eyes just can turn away from Austin Cook. Admittedly, I don’t know much about him and quite frankly I know more about his caddy (Kip Henley of Big Break fame) than I do about the 250/1 man. Cook has serious game and has shown flashes of brilliance thus far in his career.He does hold a PGA Tour victory so he does know how to win. He’s ranked 24th in the FedEx Cup race and also finished Top-5 at Greenbrier.He’s pretty steady with greens and fairways hit (albeit nowhere near the top echelon) but he’s just long and accurate enough to win at Carnoustie.

The Off of the Board (500/1 to 2000/1) – So you want to hold lightning in a bottle and seriously cash in on a $20 wager. These are the guys for you. Using my highly scientific methodology I look at names like 500/1 crowd Bernhard Langer and Ernie Els. But can the old man really win this? Sure he can… anybody in the field can. Heck, even a 2000/1 guy can win this thing. I mean if you’re in the field you have a chance right? SO looking up and down I actually feel really good about a name on the list. At 1000/1 I like Sean Crocker!!! Enough to make him my overall pick? We shall see but not likely. He’s won before granted many others in this category have won. But it’s just a gut instinct and maybe worth a “penny of your thoughts”.

So, I’ve tabulated my picks over the six categories and placed them into my “Magic Eight Ball”. My fearless prediction is…

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Greenbrier was an anomaly and he has loftier goals than winning at his second home. Green Jackets are always nice but Jugs are pretty nice too!! He’ll be focused. Keep him in line Ted Scott!!

**Pulling for Rose

Until The Next Tee!!

Much-Maligned Masters Champion

As always, the brainchild of Bobby Jones is always full of thrills and jam-packed story lines. The 2018 Masters Tournament was no different. So instead of writing a bunch of rhetoric let’s jump right into it.

I think a suitable place to begin is with the story of Doug Whim who finished as the Low Amateur at the 2018 Masters Tournament. Ghim found his way to Augusta by finishing as the runner-up at the 2017 U.S. Amateur Championship. The product of the University of Texas (Senior) has developed quite the playing resume and his finish this weekend was just another feather in the proverbial cap. His play on Thursday alone was impressive as he had Eagle’s on 13 and 18 respectively en route to an even Par 72. Ghim would be the only Amateur to make the cut (+4) and would finish at +8 for the weekend. A weekend which he ended with an exclamation mark as he holed-out for birdie on his 72nd hole. All of this with his dad carrying his golf bag. Well done young man!

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Photo Credit: augusta.com

 

As Sunday mid-day turned to early afternoon leaders of the tournament were set to tee off. All of them were chasing 54-hole leader Patrick Reed. Names like Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy to name a few. The latter engaging in some “fun” gamesmanship between himself and Reed. The pairing was hyped after their wild Ryder Cup match and the golf world was waiting for some fireworks. Rarely however, does such hype happen in the final pairing during Stroke Play or in particular on a Major Championship Sunday. even those fireworks failed to light there was plenty of fireworks elsewhere around Augusta National.

It just seems like the tournament isn’t really played until the 64th hole. This is the point in time where the roars of Augusta are most often heard. Jordan Spieth had some of the loudest roars on the golf course. Entering the final round he started 9 shots back of Reed. In a comfortable pairing with Justin Thomas Sunday would see Spieth go low. Spieth fired a 64 that electrified the patrons on the grounds and television viewers alike. His second shot on Azalea (Par 5) was astounding. Watching the coverage it was interesting hearing the conversation between him and caddie Michael Greller. Spieth was sitting in the pine straw and initially pulled an iron. Calmly, Greller talked him out of the shot and put a hybrid into his hands. The shot was caught a little heavy from 234 yards out but as it just cleared Rae’s Creek it settled onto the green for a great look at Eagle but he’d settle for Birdie which catapulted a string of 5 consecutive Birdie’s,  Spieth was right there until an errant tee shot on 18. As he approached his golf ball he simply exclaimed “Oh my God”. He was on pace to be the first in history to fire a 63 in the final round of The Masters.

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Photo Credit: golfchannel.com

Also of much intrigue in the final round of the 2018 Masters was the play of Paul Casey who carded a -7  and Rickie Fowler who hung around and made things interesting right to the end. Fowler carded a 67 and had the patrons buzzing that were taking in the action as it unfolded. After hitting a scintillating drive down 18 his approach shot was even better as a Birdie found the bottom of the cup that got him to -14. Fowler started the final round 5 strokes back which is a testament to how he played the final round.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

In the end  the day belonged to Patrick Reed. Forever his name will be etched in golf lore and Masters history. Reed won his first Major on this 8th day of April 2018 and that can never be taken away. He posted a total of -15 and his final round 71 was just enough to get the victory. For a while it looked as though he would make more Masters history by being the first in history to post 4 sub-70 rounds in The Masters. As good as Reed played that record remains standing. Reed was very steady and leading up to this Masters Tournament I predicted that he’d win.

So my pick to win The Masters out of the above picks. My pick to win the 2018 Masters Tournament is none other than Patrick Reed. His name is just jumping out at me and his game is trending in the right direction. Patrick, just don’t win the Par 3 Contest.

Reed  may not be the most popular winner to ever have donned a Green Jacket Masters Sunday. As a matter of fact there were far more detractors than supporters all over social media. I imagine there might be a number of reasons why golf fans haven’t warmed up to Reed. People going as far to suggest that he should wear red on Sunday’s (because of Tiger). do golf fans simply not like his swagger or ominpresent confidence? Reed made waves a few years ago when he brashly said he was a Top 5 player without having the resume to back it up. I suppose with his Green Jacket that changes things a little bit. Whether the stories are true or not I have no idea. While attending and playing for the University of Georgia he was dismissed from the golf team after allegations of him stealing and cheating arose. He would later transfer to Augusta State (his hometown) and win a National Championship with the Jaguars. Then there were also the gay slurs and then there was the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational where he was heard and recorded saying “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys” after not being granted free relief. It might have been in jest. At the end of the day only a few things matter. As long as his wife, friends and family loves him that’s all that matters. for the rest of us… what does he care really?

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Photo Credit; The Telegraph

 

Like it or not folks Patrick Reed is your 2018 Master Champion and he will be defending in 2019. Until then see you next year Augusta National (hopefully in the literal sense).

Until The Next Tee!!