Tiger and Phil – 40 is the new 20

I was working on this blog post and then the unexpected happen — Jack Nicklaus tweeted exactly what I had been thinking.

Jack Nicklaus Tweet

Jack Nicklaus Tweet after the Valspar Championship

I almost decided not to publish this post but then I thought, “great minds think alike” and my take on this is slightly different from Jack’s tweet.

In the last few years, as a golf fan who loved watching Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods for so many years, it was both fun and sad watching the changing of the guard as Jordan Spieth and other young players won majors and began making their mark on the sport I love.  I do enjoy the young guns. Jordan Spieth is my favorite but it seemed odd to me to think of Phil and Tiger as “old” and to hear so many golf analysts write them off.  After all other professionals won in their forties. In fact, Jack Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters at the age of 46.

So as a fan of Phil Mickelson, I was thrilled to see him play so well in February and early March. As you can see from the chart below, he had a great run and won the World Golf Championship in Mexico.

Phil 2018 Record

Phil’s finishes in the last four PGA Tour events

Everyone knows about the turmoil (on and off the course) that Tiger Woods has faced the last few years. I will admit that although I was amazed by Tiger’s talent, I was never a Tiger fan. I was always a Phil fan. I guess it was partly because Phil seemed more approachable and nice to his fans but mostly I loved “Phil the thrill” because you never knew what golf shot Phil would try when he got into trouble.  That being said, I have now become a golf fan that hopes Tiger does achieve success in his comeback because it appears he is a changed man and everyone deserves a second chance. In his 40’s, Tiger appears grateful to be healthy and able to play golf again.

So my hope for the rest of the 2018 golf season is that 40 is the new 20! I hope Phil and Tiger contend at the majors and win. I would love to see Tiger win The Master and Phil Mickelson win The U.S. Open (the one that Phil has yet to win).

And let the summer of 2018 be a reminder to all of us that “age is just a number” and “golf is a game for life!”

 

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Earl Woods gets my vote for founder of “the youth movement” in golf

The Golf Channel Morning Drive Show has a daily poll question and one question was on a topic I have written about often — young golfers.  The question was posed because a 14-year-old amateur golfer from China, Guan Tianlang, won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and a spot in the 2013 Masters.

Here is the Morning Drive poll question tweeted by Lauren Thompson Twitter coversatin with Lauren Thompson on Morning Drive Poll QuestionI was pleased to get a direct message back from Lauren ThompsonImage of Twitter DM from Lauren Thompson

As you can see from my response to Lauren Thompson I did not select any of the four options.  Yes, I think all (coaching, equipment, global exposure and technology) are important factors but that does not speak to the underlying support system that allows kids to pursue a sport with such intensity at such young ages.

The only way a child can achieve such great success at such a young age is because the parents support it.  There will always be the debate as to whether or not the child truly “wanted” to “live and breathe” golf or if the parents really wanted it for the child.  But either way, the steps the parents must take to create the opportunity is the basis for it all.

Tiger Woods is the most famous child prodigy that ever played the game.  Yes, Tiger has proven his place in history as one of the best golfers ever.  However, I truly believe Earl Woods, Tiger’s father, was the mastermind behind the Tiger brand that exists today.  After all, Earl Woods not only taught his son golf at a young age but also was savvy enough to get his son “exposure” at a very young age.  If you have not seen it, below is the video of 2-year-old Tiger on the Mike Douglas show.

After Tiger, the next young phenom to come along was in women’s golf – Michelle Wie.  At the age of eleven Wei was the youngest player to qualify for a USGA amateur championship.  Wie’s career has not been as stellar as predicted; although she has reaped the financial benefit and fame sponsors like Nike deliver.  In recent years Wie’s poor play has been blamed on her focus on college but now that she is out of school she is still struggling to find her game.  Only time will tell if Wie will become a truly great golfer.  If she does not become a champion golfer then Wei’s rise and fall may become a cautionary tale of burnout or peaking too soon.

In 2012, we have seen a flurry of young golfers making news:

  1. Andy Zhang, a 14-year-old amateur golfer (also Chinese but living in Florida) made history as the youngest player in the US Open.
  2. Lydia Ko, a 15-year-old from New Zealand (originally from South Korea) made history winning the Canadian Open.  Ko is the youngest player to win a LPGA event.
  3. Beau Hossler, a 17-year-old Californian, became a sensation at the 2012 US Open when he took the lead (over Tiger) for a short period of time.
  4. Lexi Thompson won the Navistar LPGA Classic in 2011 at age 16 which triggered Mike Whan, LPGA Commissioner, to waive the 18-year-old age requirement for turning pro and gave Thompson (age 17) her PGA tour card for 2012.
  5. Guan Tianlang, 14-year-old amateur golfer from China, made history as the youngest winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and will make history in 2013 as the youngest golfer to ever play in the Masters.

So is this a good thing for the sport or not?  Some will say “yes” because it will bring a younger audience to the game and hopefully grow the game for the future.  Some will say “no” for reasons such as it is not good for the child (i.e. the pressure, the travel, the risk of injuries at a young age).  Whatever your opinion there is one thing that is hard to argue and that is “the cat — or should I say, Tiger — is out of the bag” and there is no turning back now.

 

The great, good, bad, and the ugly at the Masters

Everyone that watched the Masters will have an opinion on moments that were great, good, bad, and ugly. There is no shortage of examples but I’ve picked one player for each category and I also share the player I believe manages to fall into all four categories.

First, the greatest moment had to be Bubba Watson on the second hole of the sudden-death playoff.  His 40-foot hook-draw shot from the trees, off the pine needles, on to the green to put himself in position to win was awesome.  Of course it ended in the most touching moment when he was embraced by his mother (normally, the wife is there to share the moment; but his wife was at home with their new baby son).

My vote for the number one good moment — the run that Matt Kucher was making on Sunday to finish with a 69.  When Kucher made an eagle on the 15th hole (par 5) and went to 4 under par it was just fun to see a player so happy.  There was no arrogance, just joy, in his response.

Unfortunately, the bad moments in professional golf tournaments are not always bad shots but bad behavior.  Tiger woods wins the bad moment award for drop-kicking his putter. Tiger later apologized but I am tired of professional athletes misbehaving and apologizing later.  These are “adults” and need to stop acting like children when something goes wrong.

My favorite player, Phil Mickelson, had the ugliest moment. His effort to try to hack the ball out of the bushes at the 4th hole resulted in a triple-bogey. What was he thinking?  I mean that would be the kind of stupid shot I would try (not because I could make it but because I am an amateur and don’t always make good decisions).  On the other hand, I’m not totally surprised by his choice. I like Phil because he is a risk taker and is exciting to watch.  Unfortunately, this time it turned out ugly.

So what could possibly be great, good, bad, and ugly?  It is the final round score card of the low Amateur, Patrick Cantlay.  Look at the card below — birdies, bogeys, double-bogeys, a quadruple-bogey, and eagles!  Most golfers would have fallen apart after what Cantlay did on the 13th and 14th holes (quadruple-bogey and double-bogey) but he turned it around on 15 with an eagle.  What a great final four holes — eagle, birdie, birdie, par!

Patrick Cantlay Score Card

Cantlay is viewed by many as the best amateur in the game right now and getting the “low amateur” trophy is a good indicator of his future. By the way, other past “low amateur” winners include Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

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.

Why Spit on a Golf Course?

During the playoff at the Northern Trust Open Keegan Bradley spit incessantly.  And it is not just my opinion.  One of the TV commentators said something like, “You wouldn’t think he had any spit left.”  The other commentator was questioning the fact that Bradley must know he has cameras on him so why is he spitting with everyone watching. And then they noted that he will certainly be spoken to when he gets off the course. There was so much buzz about it that Bradley actually tweeted an apology.

Keegan Tweeted Apology for SpittingSo I give Bradley credit for apologizing but it did make me wonder if this was against the rules of golf.  In my research I found that it is not listed in any rules but tournament officials do have discretion (based on code of conduct) to fine a player. To my knowledge Bradley was not fined but I wondered if any player has ever been fined. The answer is yes. Tiger Woods was fined last year, in February at the Dubai Desert Classic.

Tiger spit on the green (of all places) and the commentator was spot on with his analysis. The well-known British golf announcer,  Ewen Murray said “…there are some parts of him (Tiger) that are just arrogant and petulant. Somebody now has to come behind him and maybe putt over his spit. It does not get much lower than that.”  The amount Tiger was fined was not disclosed, and like Keegan Bradley, Tiger apologized  via twitter but it is still disgusting and unprofessional.

Some online comments, at the time, were saying that it was wrong to fine Tiger.  Most of them seemed to feel that spitting is just part of sports.  Yes, many professional athletes spit when playing sports (you see it in football and baseball when the show the players on the sidelines or in the dugout) but is it really necessary or just a bad habit?

I can’t speak for other sports fans.  I can only speak as a golf fan.  For me, golf is supposed to be a “gentleman’s sport” and spitting is not a trait of a gentlemen.  Spitting is just plain gross and incredibly disrespectful of the group coming up behind you on the course.

It is not just the professionals that have this bad habit.  Unfortunately, if you have played golf, you have probably seen a guy spit on the course.  So to all the guys out there that have this “bad habit” — why don’t you try to “conquer it” and give the group behind you some respect.

Fantasy Golf Results: Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Dubai Desert Classic

The big news from the Pebble Beach Pro-Am is that Phil Mickelson, my favorite player, won.  It was a big deal for Mickelson because it marks his 40th win. Only eight other PGA players have won 40 or more times in their careers.  Plus this was the 4th time he won at this tournament.  And he won “in style” with a great come from behind victory (i.e. he was eight shots behind the leader when he started his day.)

Yet, did I have him as a pick this week?  No, because he was playing so poorly.  But I don’t care if my fantasy results suffered because it was so much fun to see Lefty playing great shots.  I’m just hoping he plays as well at the Masters (which is when I planned to consider him again for fantasy golf).  I’m now hoping “four” is Lefty’s lucky number (at least this year) because he has won the Masters three times. If he wins this year, it would be his 4th Masters.

How did my picks do?  Well, Tiger Woods did not have a good Sunday shooting a 75 (which was a shame since he was under par for the rest of the tournament).  It was a double whammy for Tiger because he was playing with Mickelson who shot a 64 (11 shots better than Tiger).   Tiger ended tied for 15th which was better than D. A. Points (tied for 67).  Both Bud Cauley and James Driscoll missed the cut and did not play on the weekend.

My Omega Dubai Desert Classic picks did much better.  Stephen Gallacher tied for 2nd (which surprised me), Rory McIlroy tied for 5th at 14 under par (a disappointment since I was sure he would win), Branden Grace tied for 51st, and Ricardo Gonzalez tied for 66th (at least Grace and Gonzalez made the cut).

Not a great week for my predictions but watching the “Phil and Tiger” show was great!