Ryder Cup: My take on the pivotal moment might surprise you

This will be a short post because like most golf fans cheering for the USA, I am still shocked (or amazed) that the European team won the Ryder Cup.  The USA had a great lead going into Sunday (10 to 6).  Heading into the singles matches on Sunday the USA only needed 4 1/2 points to win and Europe needed 8 points to retain the cup.  Who would have thought Europe would get 8 points and win!

There will be many opinions as to what happened.  Some might say it is the fault of Ryder Cup veterans Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker (and Captain’s picks) because neither played their best.  Some might say it was because the pairing of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker did not win.  Others might say it was the fact so few of the American players could deliver in the singles matches.  However, that doesn’t seem fair to players like Jason Dufner (in my opinion, the MVP of the USA team) who did win.  I’m sure the debate will go on for days on the Golf Channel.

Since second-guessing is part of the fun of being a sports fan I decided to give it a shot.  Here is my take on what was the pivotal moment in the 3-day event.  It was not a particular match on the final day but a decision by Captain Davis Love III to sit down the hottest American pair on Saturday — Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson.  The reason I believe this is the pivotal moment is that the momentum changed Saturday afternoon.  Yes, you can give huge credit to the European player Ian Poulter who won a critical match on Saturday; but I think the fact Bradley and Mickelson were not playing was a huge mistake.  It was a mistake because the success of Bradley and Mickelson inspired the USA team and ignited the crowed.

During the TV interview (after winning the Saturday morning match) Mickelson said that “statistically” no golfer that played all 5 matches in the Ryder Cup played well in singles so don’t be surprised if they (Bradley and Mickelson) sit out Saturday afternoon.  In retrospect that would sound wise if Bradley and Mickelson had won their singles matches but they both lost (that’s two points).  If the hot team of Bradley and Michelson had played the 4-ball Saturday afternoon and won a point — that might have kept the momentum on the side of the USA.  You can argue that my view is simplistic but I do believe in momentum.  Not to mention the fact that all the golf pundits said, in post round discussion on Saturday night, that 11 points would have been “insurmountable.”

The MVP of the European team is Ian Poulter because he was the catalyst for the European team’s belief that they could still win.  Poulter’s play during the Saturday afternoon 4-ball match was amazing with five straight birdies to win his match and inspire his team.

Final words — Congratulations to the 2012 European Ryder Cup Team.


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: Arnold Palmer Invitational

The big news from the final Florida event is that Tiger Woods won.  Everyone is saying “He’s back” and I think it is great he has won; but I don’t think he rates the statement “He’s back” until he wins a major (which might happen in two weeks at the Masters.)

(1)  Phil Mickelson — Finished Tied for 24th place at one under par.  Now I had said I would not pick Phil until the Masters but I could not help myself because I am such a fan.  However, It is frustrating that every time I pick him, he plays poorly; and when I do not pick him, he plays well.

(2)  Jason Dufner — He played well on Thursday and Friday (66 and 69).  He did not play well on the weekend (77 and 73).  I still really like Dufner and think that once he figures out how to keep the momentum going on the weekend he will win (and win consistently).

(3)  Sean O’Hair — Finished tied for 29th at even par.  He looked great on Thursday with a 69 but then seemed to fall apart on Sunday with a 77.  Now in fairness to O’Hair the course was very hard on Sunday and only two golfers shot in the 60’s.

(4)  Harris English — My “what the heck pick this week.”  Missed the cut.

Well, the only thing I am pondering today is whether to pick Mickelson for The Masters.  If I really want my favorite player to win, it might be better if I pick someone else for Fantasy Golf.

Fantasy Golf Results: Northern Trust Open

The final round of the Northern Trust Open was so exciting. The leaders going into the final round were Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley.  No one really took control of the round and by the time they hit the 18th hole both of them needed to shoot a birdie to get in a playoff with Bill Hass (who had already finished his round).  It was amazing that both Mickelson and Bradley got their birdies and they went into a sudden-death playoff with Hass.

It was Hass who got a birdie on the 2nd playoff hole to win.  Great drama!  By the way, Bradley had his own drama with criticism of his slow play and spitting on the course.  You can read my opinion in the post “Why Spit on a Golf Course?”

Now on to my results — Each week at least one of my player picks really surprises me (and it is not always a happy surprise.)

This time I was shocked that Jason Day  missed the cut.  Jeff Maggert also missed the cut but it wasn’t as big a surprise to me.  Kevin Na was also a major disappointment with a 6 over par and ranked 76.

My only shining star was Jimmy Walker and he was my “what the heck pick” and he tied for 4th at 5 under par.

Maybe the “golf gods” are teaching me a lesson for not staying with my favorite player, Mickelson, whenever he is playing.  If I had picked Lefty in his last two outings I’d be much higher in my fantasy golf rank.  But he was playing horribly and so I felt I had to bench him.

Of course the thing I like about Mickelson is you never know what he will do.  Actually his risk taking on the course is what makes him exciting to watch but it also makes him inconsistent.  Even if I don’t have him as a pick I will always be happy when he plays well because that means he is “putting on a show” for all of his fans.

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!

Birdies for the Brave – A Joining Forces Community Challenge Finalist

One thing that the golf world does well is charity work via sponsors donating to charities, players supporting charities, and players creating charities.  Birdies for the Brave supports a number of “military outreach programs” providing help to soldiers and their families.

In 2003 Phil Mickelson, and his wife Amy, started Birdies for the Brave. The basic premise was that for every birdie or eagle Phil made during a tournament money would be donated to two charities. Phil was on top of his game in 2003 therefore $100 for every birdie and $500 for every eagle was a great way to raise money for the designated charities (Special Operations Warrior Foundation and Homes For Our Troops.)

In 2006, Birdies for the Brave became an official PGA tour charity.  Today, a number of players participate supporting a variety of military charities; and new fund-raising events have been developed to encourage local golf clubs to support the charity.  According to the PGA, Birdies for the Brave has “raised more than $6.5 million for military-homefront charities.”

On February 2nd, The White House announced the 20 finalists for the Joining Forces Community Challenge. This is the initiative led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to encourage support of our troops.   Birdies for the Brave was one of 20 finalists!  There were hundreds of nominations so I was pleased to see them listed.

The great thing is that you can go and vote for your favorite charity. The “winners” will be announced in March. The website is easy to navigate.  You do have to sign-up to vote (but it takes just a few minutes). And, you can vote daily for your favorite cause.

I voted for Birdies for the Brave but there are a number of other great charities to vote for at the Joining Forces website.

Big Names Miss Big this Week in Golf

The big news this Friday evening is not who the leaders are at the two major golf events going into the weekend but the big names that missed the cut — Martin Kaymer and Phil Mickelson.

Martin Kaymer missed the cut at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Open. This is shocking because he is ranked #4 in the world and has won the Abu Dhabi HSBC three times in the last four years.  Many of the “golf experts” predicted he would win. Boy, am I glad I did not select him as a fantasy golf pick.

The big shock for me was Phil Mickelson.  I knew he was struggling and unfortunately had a sinking feeling when he shot a 77 on Thursday.  In his post round interview, Mickelson called his round on Thursday “pathetic.”  That’s what I like about “Lefty” — not shy about calling it like it is (good or bad).

One thing the pros always talk about is how important it is to be focused on the course. According to a San Diego Union-Tribune one of Mickelson’s daughters had a “health scare” last week.  To his credit, in the interview I watched, he did not say anything about his daughter.  He just said “Yesterday’s round was shocking to me just because my expectations were so high because I knew I was playing well.”

I will always be a big fan of Phil Mickelson and cheer for him. Hopefully he will find his game again because viewing weekend golf coverage just isn’t the same when “Lefty” is not playing.