“Lydia Ko goes Pro” video gets four stars

It has been many months since my last post because I have had a lot of life changes in the past nine months (no, I did not have a child).  I have moved to a new state for a dream job! As we all know with a new job and a big move other things fall to the wayside.  But now I am more settled in my job and new home; and of course fall is here (so less daylight hours to play golf), which makes it a logical time to focus on my blog.

I wanted to start with something light and fun!  And Lydia Ko’s announcement that she is turning pro is just the ticket!  I read that she decided to release a video rather than do a press conference and sure enough she tweeted out to her followers the link to the video on October 22.  Here is the video for your enjoyment:

I give the video four stars because it is entertaining (Lydia speed golfing) and shows her personality (e.g., she laughs a lot); and it certainly beats a boring press conference video.

I have said in a previous post that I am not a fan of the younger and younger players we see in professional events.  And that a player like Michele Wie is a cautionary tale because she is only 23 and struggles to find her game.  But, Lydia Ko seems to be a very poised and talented young women.  Ko has won a number of professional tournaments and made history winning the CN Canadian Women’s Open in 2012 and 2013. As the press has pointed out, Ko has left over $1 Million in money on the table as an amateur.

Now we just have to wait for the LPGA Commissioner, Mike Whan, to approve her request to waive the rule requiring LPGA professionals to be at least 18 years old.  The waiver is a  “fiat accompli” given the popularity of Ko, the fact she has already won multiple professional events as an amateur, and Whan waived the age requirement for Lexi Thompson after she won an LPGA event.

As a professional, Ko will face a new kind of scrutiny because everyone will be watching to see if she falters under the “pressure” of being a pro. Time and time again a young amateur golfer is hailed as the next “Tiger or Annika” and seems to lose their talent (or maybe free spirit) as a professional.  Only time will tell if Ko is able win as much as a professional as she did as an amateur.

Hopefully, she will have a smooth transition from the “darling of the amateur ranks” to a regular pro on tour. Bottom line, I know I will be watching to see how she plays in her first tournament as a professional.

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How to train for a marathon and get in a round of golf

Do you have friends that tell you the game you love is not a sport?  Are the naysayers in your life by any chance, runners?  You do your best to argue with the runners in your life.  You state the facts — walking 18 holes of golf is the equivalent of walking ten miles. You need a strong abdominal core, great eye-hand coordination and flexibility to play golf. The runner in your life just smiles, says golf is boring, and goes for a 10-mile run.  Well, now you can tell all the runners in your life about the golf game made for them —  Speed Golf.

CBS televised the inaugural Speed Golf World Championship from Bandon Dunes.  It was fascinating and exhausting to watch.  First, a 22-year-old won the competition, which was not a big surprise because of the energy a young person has to draw on in a sport that requires you to run between every shot on the golf course.  But what did surprise me is that the man who came in second, Tim Scott (a founder of Speed Golf International) is in his fifties and was diagnosed with eye cancer in 2012.  And, even more impressive (to me) was a woman, Gretchen Johnson, came in eighth place.  I was not surprised she participated because she is a runner and works at Nike, but what was surprising was that the only woman placed eighth in an elite field of fifteen professional male speed golfers.

Screenshot of Results of Speedgolf Championship

The scoring is simple — combine the total number of strokes with the total time.  The rules of golf have been modified, for example, you can leave the flag in the hole when putting out.  They carry a small bag with limited clubs.  Also, when a ball is lost, you are allowed to drop it anywhere along the estimated point from where it was lost back on the line of flight to where the shot was originally played.

Clearly you need to be skilled in golf and a great runner but it appears from the scores above that being fast is more advantageous than shooting a low score in this alternative golf game format.

Will I ever participate in speed golf?  No, I have never enjoyed running. Frankly, I love the social aspect of playing a round of golf and don’t see the enjoyment of running the course alone.  But I appreciate any alternative format of golf that might bring more players to the sport I love.

Weather impacts another PGA tournament

For those of us that live in the Northeast the weather has been snowy and cold this March.  Normally as a golf fan I can get away from the drab cold days of winter by watching golf and day dreaming about the coming summer golf season.  This year even watching golf to escape the cold is not guaranteed.

Today, I was hunkering down to watch the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.  I was anticipating a great afternoon of golf with Tiger Woods (who I had picked for my fantasy team this week) and Rickie Fowler (one of the golf boys) in the final group.  But mother nature had a different plan in mind and the final round has been moved to Monday.  How bad was it?  Watch the video below…

Golf Analyst Mark Rulfing mentions in the video that it reminded him of Kapalua.  He was referencing the first tournament of the 2013 season, the Hyundai tournament of Champions, which was delay due to high winds (gusting 40 to 50 mph).  The Golf Channel has a great photo slide show of the windy tournament.

Another tournament impacted was the Farmers Open at Torrey Pines which was delayed due to Fog.  So rain, wind, fog all seem like expected reasons for golf to be delayed but how about snow?  Yup, the WGC Match Play in Arizona was delayed this year due to snow.  Snow in Arizona.  It was so bizarre that all the players were tweeting photos of it. Bubba Watson even posted a 30 second video of his snowball fight.

I don’t know if any other start to a golf season has had this many delays due to weather.  Certainly there have been memorable delays in previous years. Watch the PGA Tour “Top 10: Weather Interruptions on the PGA Tour” for their list.  One of my favorite golfers, Phil Mickelson, makes an appearance as he chips in the hail (2.35 second mark in video.)

Maybe I should be happy for the weather delay today because my fantasy pick for the Hyundai, tournament, Dustin Johnson, won.  So, if I were at all superstitious I would be thinking the weather delay is “a sign” that Tiger should win tomorrow.

Still I would rather have the final round played on Sunday so I could watch it live.

Michelle Wie’s 2013 season is off to a rough start

Michelle Wie is a very popular LPGA player.  She really made her name as an amateur and was viewed as the golden girl who would help rejuvenate the struggling brand of women’s golf when she turned pro in 2005 (note: her LPGA Rookie year is 2009.)  Fast forward to 2013 and Michelle Wie is still a popular player on the LPGA tour but she has not achieved the “greatness” bestowed on her as an Amateur.

In the press this week Michelle Wie spoke about all the hard work she had done during the off-season — working on every part of her game.  Unfortunately at the Women’s Australian Open this week Wie missed the cut by 2 strokes or 1-over par.  That might not seem bad but it is awful compared to the leader (after two rounds) at 15-under par.  So Wie starts her 2013 year where she ended her 2012 season — missing cuts.

2012 really was a horrible year for Wie. She played 23 tournaments and missed the cut 10 times.  We could state this in a positive way and say she made the cut (or played the weekend and earned money) 13 out of 23 times (or 56% of the time) but that is still awful.

Let’s look at some statistics for the last three years.

Chart of Stats for Wie

Michelle Wie has never been a great putter and in 2012 she had no confidence.  She would stand over a putt for an eternity and still miss it.  Wie has always been long off the tee (she is ranked 4 in overall driving distance) but being long does not matter when you look at Wie’s greens in regulation (GIR) and driving accuracy statistics which are poor.  In general, the statistics I have looked at indicate that many of the top players have GIRs between 72% and 76%. The top players also have putting averages below 30 (the really great putter’s have averages between 25 to 27).  Let’s look at Wei’s statistics against two other American stars.

Stats Comparision ChartOne last comparison (for fun) — Michelle Wie was in the LPGA rookie class of 2009.  Another member of the 2009 class, Jiyai Shin.  Shin won the Women’s Australian Open this week beating Yani Tseng (#1 Ranked women golfer in the world) and Lydia Ko (#1 ranked amateur golfer in the world).  Shin is also the current RICOH Women’s British Open Champion.  In 2012, Shin played 18 LPGA tournaments and made the cut in all 18 events. In 2010, Shin was the #1 player in the world rankings for 16 weeks.  Shin is a serious contender in 2013.

Will Michelle Wie ever achieve the success of, Jiyai Shin, her LPGA rookie year classmate?  Will Wei regain some of the glory of her amateur career?  Will she find the success so many people expected of her since turning pro?  Only time will tell but it crossed my mind today that maybe time is running out for Wie to achieve “greatness.”  Given Wie is only 23 years old that might seem like a ridiculous statement but the LPGA is full of young talented players so it is easy to jump to the conclusion that Wie may have missed her time to dominate.  My hope for Wie is that she finds her game soon.

2013 PGA Merchandise Show – Morning Drive and LPGA News

The ability to follow the PGA Merchandise show from the comfort of your own home is amazing!  I am here in the cold Northeast (seven degrees this morning) and seeing updates on Twitter, Facebook, Ustream and more.

The Golf Channel Morning Drive show and the LPGA both started tweeting early in the morning that big announcements were coming.  Given I am a fan of both, I was curious to see what was “big” to each organization.

Morning Drive Announcement

The Morning Drive show is expanding to seven days a week.  Great!  They are adding to the cast.  Most of co-anchor additions make sense because they have been on the show or are members of the golf channel.  The one odd addition is Ahmad Rashad. He is an NBC broadcast “star” so I get that but what does he know about golf?  I guess we will find out soon.

The other big reveal was the new set of the show.  Below is a photo of the old set.

Morning Drive Set

TV Screen Shot of Holly Sonders on Morning Drive Set. Click image to Enlarge.

Now one thing I always liked about the current set is that it seemed “cozy” and had lots of golf memorabilia and “chotskies” on the set.  I also think the intimate feel of the set added to the relaxed style of the co-anchors.  It never felt like a “formal” news show like the evening recap show, Golf Central.

The Golf Channel provided a photo gallery of the new set.  If you click on the photo below it will take you to a cool time-lapse video of the construction of the new set.

Click on Photo to see a time-lapse video of the construction of the new set.

Click on Photo to see a time-lapse video of the construction of the new set.

The new set and staff is a clear indication of the success of the show.  I will keep an open mind but I hope what I loved most about the show does not get lost in the new high-gloss set.

LPGA Announcement

In a previous post, The LPGA’s Marketing Challenge, I noted some concerns about the tour’s perception in the American market.  Basically, the LPGA is a global tour but the American market needs a new star which I felt was Stacy Lewis.  I am happy to see that the tour is now promoting Stacy Lewis.  Stacy certainly made it easier for them by winning Player of the Year.  I am happy to see the management at the LPGA finally embracing Stacy Lewis as a tour star.

The LPGA also deserves credit for figuring out a way to capitalize on the statement they have been emphasizing all year that they are a “global tour.”  I was thrilled with the announcement of the “International Crown” by the LPGA.  It is a new match play tournament that will debut in 2014.  The tournament will be 8 countries vying for the crown. I also like the promotional video.

And to my point earlier about promoting Stacy Lewis, there is a nice video of Stacy talking about the new tournament.

I like the International Crown for two reasons.  First, the LPGA did not just follow the PGA tour and create a “Presidents Cup” for the ladies.  The Presidents Cup is the USA against the rest of the world (minus Europe).  Second, it ties nicely to the fact that golf will be part of the Olympics in 2016 and what do we all love to do during the Olympics? Cheer for our country.  The fact fans love to cheer for their country should make the International Crown a big hit among golf fans; and hopefully, bring new fans to the LPGA.

PGA Rookies to watch in 2013

I like to follow one or two new players each year and this year there are a lot of rookies with very impressive resumes.  All you need to do is look at the top 25 from the 2012 Web.com Tour money list and pick one.  There are three Web.com players that I find interesting:

1)  Casey Whittenberg – He is really not a “rookie” on the PGA tour because he has been playing tournaments on the PGA tour and Web.com tour (formally, Nationwide tour) for a number of years but he earned his 2013 PGA tour card with his excellent play in 2012.

I first became aware of Wittenberg watching the 2004 Masters when he finish 13th as an amateur (the highest finish of an amateur since 1961.)  After the Masters, everyone thought when he turned pro that he would win quickly; but Whittenberg has had his challenges.  However in 2012 it appears he has found his game and was the “2012 player of the year” on the Web.com tour and is one of five Web.com tour players to have won twice in 2012.

2)  Luke Gutherie – Another two-time winner, Gutherie won back-to-back tournaments on the Web.com Tour.  Gutherie played only 10 Web.com tournaments in 2012 and of the ten, seven were top 10 finishes.  His back-to-back wins occurred in September at the Albertsons Boise Open and the WNB Golf Classic.

3)   Ben Kohles – Not only was Kohles a two-time and back-to-back winner on the Web.com tour; but those back-to-back wins were his first two starts on tour.  The tournaments were the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational and Cox Classic.  It is just so impressive to see someone win in the first two tournaments of their professional career.

There are many other rookies to watch but there is only one other that I will be keeping my eye on and that is Patrick Reed also fondly known as “Mr. Monday.”  He got the nickname, “Mr. Monday,” on tour in 2012 because he entered PGA tournaments the “old school” way by playing in Monday qualifiers.  He played in eight PGA Monday qualifiers and made the field in six tournaments.  Of course, as fate would have it, he won his PGA tour card at Q-school on a Monday.

What really makes me a fan of Patrick Reed is his personal story.  His fiancée (now wife), Justine Karain, is his caddie and he gives her plenty of credit as evident in the interview from the Well Fargo.  Apparently she played golf in high school (the couple met in high school) and is very good at reading putts.  I’ve always been impressed with women caddies because I can’t imagine carrying a 50 pound tour bag and living the life of a caddie.  Also, I am impressed with professional golfers who are “evolved enough” to have a women on the bag (i.e. gender doesn’t matter, the best person for the job) and another reason I like Patrick Reed.  The couple married in December 2012 and they plan to continue being a team on the course.  Let’s hope the Reed’s have a very successful 2013.

2013 Golf fun includes the Golf Channel’s Fantasy Golf Challenge

Last year I participated in a fantasy golf league for the very first time.  I chose the Golf Channel Fantasy Golf Challenge because I am a huge fan of the golf channel (especially the Morning Drive show).  Each week, Winn McMurry, would join the morning show to give her picks.  In the early stages I wrote posts each week about my players but found that to be a bit repetitive and I had other topics I wanted to share with my readers.

In all honesty, I had set goals for 2012 for myself and failed miserably.  I was very optimistic and didn’t realize how hard it would be to win just one week (which I thought was an achievable “stretch” goal).  My best week was when I ranked 1,551  (I finished the year ranked in the mid-5,000 range).  On a bright note, I did beat my friend who was playing but not by much (and she missed a few weeks) so this year I really have to be on my toes.

The one thing that I did not like about the league was that the leader-board only showed the ranks for the top 100 and did not show the total number of players.  So you could compare yourself to the top 100, the people in your own league, and the Golf Channel experts but that was it.  Therefore, knowing my final rank was mid-5,000 really did not mean anything since I had no basis for it expect that I clearly was not in the top 100.  But I would have liked to know where I was against all players. I actually wrote the golf channel fantasy team an email at the end of the season and suggested they add the total number of players.  Now, they may have been planning it all along but the new player profile includes your overall rank against everyone.

Screen shot Fantasty Profile

Click to see a large image of the screen shot of the fantasy profile layout.

This makes it a bit more fun for those of us that may never be in the top 100.  If the number (48,638) in the screen shot is indicative of the number of players last year, then being in the 5,000 range was pretty good for a beginner.  Of course, lots of room for improvement.

The Golf Channel has also added the LPGA majors to the fantasy golf game and that makes me very happy.  I think it promotes the women’s game and hopefully will expand the fan base for the LPGA.

The other new twist is a Mulligan!  You get to drop your lowest score each segment (three segments this year and I’m guessing the segments will be Spring, Summer, Fall).  I’m not sure of the date breaks for the three segments because of the shortened PGA tour schedule.  In 2013 the PGA will play only 40 tournaments between January and September. Then the 2013/2014 season begins in October which is the tour’s new wrap-around season.

Also, in the spirit of social sharing, the Golf Channel has added Twitter, Facebook and other social sharing tools to the site.  I’m not sure it will be meaningful to tweet about my picks but I setup a Pinterest board to follow my fantasy picks.  A Pinterest board will allow me to add images and write recaps. I participated in the CME Titleholders LPGA Pinterest contest last year and I had the winning board.

I have set goals for the 2013 fantasy golf season.  Obviously I want to win because that is the reason we all play games.  I will also be very happy to better my 2012 end of season position and I have set two more goals. First, to win one week (same stretch goal as last year) and second, be in the top 1,000 at the end of the year.

Finally, I never understood the guys at work that did the fantasy football or baseball teams but now I get it.  Fantasy games draw you into the action. I have always loved watching golf but the fantasy game makes watching the tournaments even more fun.  The result of playing the fantasy game that I did not expect is that I discovered new golfers to watch.  Players that may or may not be the next “break out star” but I am now interested in watching them play.