The Spirit International – Watch if You Love Amateur Golf

The Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship has been around since 2001 but many people that love golf don’t know about it.  The video below is a nice overview of the championship.

I learned about it because I follow Paige MacKenzie on Twitter and Paige is the captain of the 2013 United States team. Paige is also a former Spirit International competitor.  I watched the last hour of coverage on Thursday and Friday online and really enjoyed it. I wish I could have seen more but it is impossible to watch this type of event during a work week.  You can watch it Saturday (November 2, 2013)  via the live webcast at the Spirit International Website.

There are only four players for each country (20 Countries represented by 2 men and 2 women).  It may be a small field but the golfers are some of the best young players in the world and it is a nice preview of what we can expect to see in the coming years on the professional tours.  Past Spirit International competitors include US stars like Brandt Snedeker and Paula Creamer; as well as international stars such as Jason Day, Charl Schwatzel, Lorena Ochoa, and Ya-Ni Tseng. As they say, the list goes on and on.

The format is interesting because they have multiple competitions which include:

  • International Team- combined best ball of the men’s team and women’s team.
  • Men’s Team- Best ball of two players (four ball stroke play)
  • Women’s Team- Best ball of two players (four ball stroke play)
  • Men’s Individual- Most holes under par.
  • Women’s Individual- Most holes under par.

So you can cheer for your favorite country, men’s team, women’s team, and individuals.  I want the United States and Canada to do well because I have lived in the United States most of my life and feel an allegiance to the US; but I was born in Canada and I have a soft spot for athletes from Canada.  I hope that Brooke Henderson (a young Canadian golfer whose career I follow) does well. I am happy to report that as of the end of the second round Brooke is in first place for the Women’s Individual competition.

The United States is leading the overall competition. Check out the Leaderboard to see the other country standings. And if you can’t watch the live webcast then the next best thing is following the championship updates on twitter @thespiritgolf.

UPDATE (November 3 2013) – USA wins overall and Brooke Henderson wins Women’s Championship.  See all results at the Spirit Website.

Fantasy Golf Results: Transitions Championship

The Transitions Championship ended with a sudden-death playoff which was won by Luke Donald.  The big payoff for Donald was returning to the #1 position in the world golf ranks.  Rory McIlroy sure had a short run at #1 but I’m sure he will be in that position again.  Actually, I think the world number one position will change hands quite a few times this year.  There are just too many outstanding players within reach of number one.

My picks did not do well this week. Here are the results:

(1) Charl Schwartzel  — Schwartzel missed the cut.  I can’t believe he played so poorly (shot a 76 on the Thursday and 73 on Friday)  Just goes to show how difficult it is to maintain a consistent level of golf week after week.

(2) John Senden — Senden finished tied for 38th.  He had a great first round score of 66 but then shot 70,70, and 73. You can’t shoot three rounds in the 70’s and be in contention.

(3) Padraig Harrington — On Thursday, as bad as Schwartzel played, I was thrilled with Patty’s play.  Harrington shot a 61 (10 under par).  He shot a new course record!  Then day two came and the “luck of the Irish” left him — he shot a 73.  When all was said and done on Sunday, Harrington was tied for 20th.

(4) J. J. Henry — My “what the heck pick this week.”  I had hoped for a top 20 finish (because Henry tied for 20th at the Transitions Championship last year); but no such luck. Henry finished with an overall score of 285 (Tied 66th).

So one common theme for all my guys — they all had one round when they shot a 73.  Not a good thing to have in common.

Fantasy Golf: Transitions Championship

Here we go with the third tournament in the “Florida leg” of the PGA Tour.  The Transitions Championship is being played at Innisbrook Resort – Copperhead · Palm Harbor, Florida.  It is a PAR 71 course and looks more like a course in North Carolina than Florida.

Here are my picks for this week:

(1) Charl Schwartzel  — Schwartzel is from South Africa and won the Masters last year.  He tied for 4th last week at the Cadillac and tied for 5th at the Honda Classic.  I’m hoping he will have a good week and win the Transitions Championship.

(2) John Senden — Senden is from Australia and also playing well this year. In the five events he has played, he has 3 top 10 finishes (including a tie for 6th place last week).

(3) Padraig Harrington — I have been a fan of Harrington for years and I’m hoping that picking a player from Ireland is a good strategy; after all, Saturday is St. Patty’s day!  Yes, I would have picked Rory McIlroy but he is taking the next three weeks off to get his “rest” before the Masters.

(4) J. J. Henry — My “what the heck pick this week.”  Henry has not played well this year but last year he tied for 20th at the Transitions Championship. I am hoping for another top 20 position this year.

Fantasy Golf Results: WGC Cadillac at Doral and Puerto Rico Open

This week I decided to show the results for all four rounds for each player because I wanted to point out that one bad (or good) round can really make a difference.

WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral

Image of My Leaderboard for Fantasy Golf

(1)  Rory McIlroy — They say you cannot lose the tournament in the first day but I think Rory McIlroy’s results show you can lose the first day.  He shot a 73 (or one over par) in the first round.  In round one, the leaders shot 66 (or 6 under par).  The overall winner, Justin Rose, did not shoot a 66 in round one but he stayed close to the leaders with a 69 and when the leaders fell apart in round four (R4), Justin Rose was close enough to only needed a 70 (on the final day) to win.

The good news is that McIlroy is still the number one player in the world and the pay for third place is not too shabby (at $516,000.)

(2)  Keegan Bradley — Bradley started round 4 in great shape (with 69, 67, and 66 in the first three rounds) but fell apart on the 17th and 18th holes (bogey and double bogey) for a painful 75 by the end of the day.  This means he started round four in 2nd place and dropped to a tie for 8th place.  His take home pay was $165,000 (compared to the 2nd place payout of $845,000).  Don’t feel too bad for Bradley, he has already won $1,316,642 in the eight tournaments he has played in 2012.

(3) Rickie Fowler — Well, Fowler tied for 45th along with 4 other players and each player took home $52,000.

(4)  Charles Howell III — At least “Chucky Three Sticks” finished with a top 20.  He tied for 17th with three other players and took home $92,000.

Given what my picks earned this week, I wondered what the person in last place won.  The player was Simon Dyson and his check was for $37,500.  Wow, I know a lot of folks that would like that kind of pay for a week of work.

Puerto Rico Open

The prize money was much less for the players at the Puerto Rico Open.  The winner was George McNeil and he won $630,000.  I’m sure he is very happy with the win and the compensation.

Here is the round by round for my fantasy picks this week.

Image of My Leaderboard for Fantasy Picks Puerto Rico Open

(1)  Ryo Ishikawa  — I thought Ishikawa would win but second place was a great showing. His take of the total prize money was $378,000.

(2)  Erik Compton – My sentimental pick did not fair as well.  Compton tied for 42nd which resulted in only $11,900 for his pocket-book.  Did I really just use the word “only” — OMG!

(3)  James Driscoll — He made the cut and that made me happy. He also did better than Compton (which surprised me).  Tied for 32nd (and $17,780.)

(4) Graham Delaet — My Canadian “what the heck” pick came through for me this week.  His tie for 9th and the $94,500 payout he banked certainly helped my fantasy rank.

Final Thoughts

In business you often set a “stretch goal” (something beyond what you really think you can do).  Little did I know how big a stretch goal I set for myself back in January.  I’m still nowhere near my goal to actually win one week of Fantasy golf or be in the top 10; but I am ranked 1,551 this week (after 10 weeks of play).  I’m still an optimist and will consider this a good sign — that I am trending in the right direction.

Fantasy Golf: WGC Cadillac at Doral and Puerto Rico Open

Another week of two PGA tournaments for Fantasy Golf.  The WGC Cadillac Championship at Dural and Puerto Rico Open.

The WGC Cadillac Championship is the one to watch.  All the big names are in the field this week.  It is really hard to pick with everyone shooting so low last Sunday at the Honda.  I’m sticking with players I have picked in previous weeks.

WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral

(1)  Rory McIlroy — He is the number one player in the world so how can I bet against him this week.

(2)  Keegan Bradley — Bradley has been very consistent and he is from New England so I felt it was time to put him on my roster again.

(3) Rickie Fowler — One of the “golf boys.”  Last time I picked a golf boy (Ben Crane) he played horribly.  Let’s hope Fowler does not do the same.

(4)  Charles Howell III — So he hasn’t been in the top ten since his second place finish at the Sony in January but I am hoping for a comeback into the top 10 this week.

Puerto Rico Open

The WGC events are exclusive and so it is nice that the PGA has an alternative event for all the other PGA players during the same week.   This week they are in Puerto Rico!   Here are my picks:

(1)  Ryo Ishikawa  — This player is from Japan and very popular.  He is playing well and just got a sponsors exemption to play The Masters.  He finished tied for 20th at The Masters in 2011.  So, I’m betting on him this week.

(2)  Erik Compton – This is a sentimental pick.  I have to cheer for the man with the amazing off-course story (double heart transplant recipient.)

(3)  James Driscoll — He has played six events and made three cuts so it is a 50/50 chance he will play the weekend.  I picked him based on the fact that last year he had two top ten finishes.  I’m thinking he might do well in a field that does not include the top players in the world.

(4) Graham Delaet — He missed the cut last week but again I’m going with the Canadian.  Hoping my “what the heck pick of the week” will do well in this field.

Fantasy Golf Results: The Honda Classic

The Honda Classic did not disappoint the viewing golf public last weekend.  It was an exciting Sunday!  Tiger Woods played almost flawlessly (shooting a 62), Lee Westwood kept pace with a 63, but no one could catch Rory McIlroy.

I’m a bit late posting my results this week but here are how my picks finished:

(1) Rory McIlroy — Won the tournament and became the #1 Player in the world.

(2) Sang-Moon Bae — Tied for 47th.  Did not play as well as I had expected

(3) Jimmy Walker — Tied for 67th.  Was playing well until Sunday when he shot an 81 (ouch!)

(4) Graham Delaet — Missed the cut but I did not have any expectations for him.  I still think he might do well so I will pick him next week.

Fantasy Golf: The Honda Classic

This week marks the beginning of the “Florida leg” of the PGA tour which most folks get excited about for one reason — it means The Masters is only a few weeks away.

But today is all about The Honda Classic and the famous 3-hole stretch, The Bear Trap.”  The plaque at the 15th hole is engraved with these words from Jack Nicklaus “It should be won or lost right here.”   So let’s hope my picks can make it through the trap unscathed.

(1) Rory McIlroy — This pick is not a surprise if you have been following my blog.  I think Rory will win this week which would make him #1 in the world rankings.

(2) Sang-Moon Bae — I’m very impressed with his performance this year and yes, I love his name.  Bae has played in 5 events and has made every cut.  Last week at the Match Play he had his best showing with a tie for fifth.

(3) Jimmy Walker — Another player that I am impressed with this year.  He has 3 top ten finishes (tied for 4th at Northern Trust, tied for 8th at Farmers, and tied for 9th at the AT&T Pro-am.)

(4) Graham Delaet — My “what the heck pick this week.”  Purely based on the fact he is Canadian.  My favorite Canadian golfer is Mike Weir (he won The Masters in 2003) but he is not playing well. He has not made the cut in the two tournaments played in 2012.  So let’s see how this new Canadian does this week.

If you plan to watch the Honda Classic this week, check out the Golf Channel’s coverage of The Bear Trap on Saturday and Sunday.  The coverage starts at 3pm EST and will be on at the same time NBC is doing the full 18-hole coverage.

Fantasy Golf Results: Match Play and Mayakoba

Most of my players did not do well this week but the one heartbreak was when Rory McIlroy lost in the final round of match play against Hunter Mahan.  Mahan is an excellent golfer, but up until now he is probably better known as one of the “golf boys,” so it was fun to see him win.

WGC Accenture Match Play Championship

(1) Luke Donald — Number one player in the world taken out in the first day by Ernie Els (a player that only got into the tournament because Phil Mickelson went on vacation with his family).

(2) Ben Crane — So much for being the number one putter on tour (based on PGA Stats.)  He was taken out by Bubba Watson on day one.

(3) Rory McIlroy — My favorite European player.  If he had won in the final match he would have been the new number one player in the world but it did not happen.

(4) Tiger Woods –Tiger did not have his “A-game” this weekend and lost in the second round to Nick Watney.

Mayakoba Golf Classic

You have to love the name of the winner of the Mayakoba — John Huh.  Fans are already wearing T-shirts with Huh? on the back.  Not only is his name a good “story” but his year so far is a good story.  He qualified for the tour via Q-School and he has made every cut in the 5 tournaments he has played — culminating with a win this weekend.  It was not an easy win — he won in an eight-hole playoff against Robert Allenby.  My picks, on the other hand, ended the weekend very far down on the leaderboard.

(1) Johnson Wagner  — Tied for 30th with a final of four under par.

(2) Brian Gay – Tied for 54th place with one over par.

(3) Jerrod Lyle — Tied for 37th with two under par.

(4) Cameron Beckman  — Tied for 63rd place shooting a 4 over par.

These are awful scores given the leader was at thirteen under par.   I had good reasons for these picks but you never can tell how players will perform from week to week.

Fantasy Golf: Match Play and Mayakoba

There are two PGA tournaments going on this week.  The Mayakoba Golf Classic in Cancun Mexico and the World Golf Championships (WGC) Accenture Match Play Championship.

This is an interesting week because of the WGC Accenture Match Play.  Basically the top 65 players in the world play in head to head matches.  If a player loses his match, he goes home.  So day one —  65 players in the field, day two — 32 players, etc. Until it is down to the final two players on Sunday.  Match play is exciting to watch because anything can happen but it is really hard to pick for fantasy golf.  But, here it goes.

WGC Accenture Match Play Championship

(1) Luke Donald — He is the number one player in the world.

(2) Ben Crane — He is the number one putter on tour (based on PGA Stats.)  Match play is supposed to be “won or lost” in the putting game so that is why I pick Crane.

(3) Rory McIlroy — My favorite European player.  He did not do that well last year but I think he has what it takes to win it all.

(4) Tiger Woods — He loves match play and did well at the Presidents Cup.

Update on match play — the first round is over and Luke Donald and Ben Crane are out.  I can’t believe the number one player in the world is out.

Mayakoba Golf Classic

So none of the top players in the world are in this tournament so it gives other players a chance to make their name. 

(1) Johnson Wagner  — He is the defending champion and is playing well this year so I am hoping for back to back wins.

(2) Brian Gay – Won Mayakoba in 2008 and was tied for 5th last year.

(3) Jerrod Lyle — Tied for 5th last year at Mayakoba.

(4) Cameron Beckman  — Tied for 12 last year at Mayakoba.  He is my “What the heck” pick this week.

TV viewers help get a golf player disqualified

Well I can’t believe I am writing about the European tour after such an exciting finish to the Northern Trust Open, but I just have to give my “two cents” on the bizarre trend of viewers involving themselves in tournament play.

This weekend Peter Whiteford was playing a shot on the 18th hole of the 3rd round in the Avantha Masters in New Delhi, India.  He thought perhaps his ball might have moved after he addressed it (if this were true he would need to take a one stroke penalty unless the rules official ruled differently).  He asked his caddy, another player, and a TV camera man if they saw it move. They were not able to confirm if the ball had moved so he played on and signed his 3rd round score card.  He went into the final day three shots behind the leader (after shooting rounds of 66, 68, and 72.)

Apparently, overnight, a number of TV viewers emailed the tour and said that Whiteford’s ball had moved.  Then next morning, although they let Whiteford start his round, the rules officials decided to check the video from the previous day.  On the third hole of the final round, the head official walked up to Whiteford (he was only one shot behind the leader) and told him he was disqualified because his ball did move and he signed an incorrect score card.

First of all, every player is responsible for following the rules.  Whiteford’s only real mistake was that once he questioned if his ball moved he should have asked for an official ruling (thus avoiding any ambiguity.)  I don’t believe he was trying to cheat.  He is human and he made a mistake; but it seems unfair that folks sitting at home rewinding their tv’s over and over again can then impact the tournament by calling to tell the officials the ball did move.  Can you imagine in football or baseball, the result of the game being changed the next day because viewers called with their opinion?

But what I really question is the fairness of how the officials handled this the next day.  At some point in time a round should be considered “final.”  If in fact there was any question, then the head rules official should never have let Whitefield start the fourth round.  They should have reviewed the tape and made the judgment before the start of the last round. Basically, I think a precedent should be set that once the next round begins the previous round is considered “final and closed for review.”  Maybe it doesn’t completely address post-round viewer input but at least it would be a start.

This is a complicated situation but in the long-term, I don’t want to see viewers of golf inserting themselves into the rules process of a tournament.  Other sports fans have to accept missed calls, bad calls, or just stupid mistakes (that’s part of what makes the water cooler discussion so much fun the next day).  Why should viewing golf be any different. Anyway, that’s just my “two cents.”