By Seth Kerr
GolfWRX Staff Writer
With the World Golf Championship-Accenture Match Play Championship marking the official end to the West Coast swing; let’s take a look back at some of the more important stats and what we learned so far.
Americans have won all nine PGA Tour events, with Kyle Stanley and John Huh being the only first-time winners. Huh is the only rookie to win on Tour, finishing off Robert Allenby in a marathon eight-hole playoff at the Mayakoba Golf Classic.
Despite Stanley’s disappointing loss at the Farmers Insurance Open, he is still the current race for the FedExCup point leader over Johnson Wagner and Phil Mickelson thanks to his impressive win at the Waste Management Open.
Phil Mickelson had an up-and-down West Coast Swing, struggling early in the year before dominating Tiger Woods by 11 strokes in the final round to win at Pebble Beach. Tiger made the switch to the Nike Method 001 putter and it hasn’t worked so far, missing a number of makeable putts at Pebble Beach and the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in his loss to Nick Watney.
Mickelson followed up his victory at Pebble Beach with a disappointing finish at the Northern Trust Open. He had the lead for three rounds but could not finish off the tournament, losing to bill Haas in a playoff.
Stanley is the only player in the top-25 of driving distance to win on Tour this year. He is average 303.3 yards off the tee, well behind no. 1 Bubba Watson and his pink PING G20 driver (Watson is averaging 312.7 yards). Gavin Coles has the lowest driving average on tour at just 267.1 yards.
Gary Woodland used his Titleist 910 D3 driver for the longest drive of the year at an outrageous 450 yards on no. 18 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The top-39 drives of the year were all 400 yards or more and all were from the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Using the new Cleveland Classic driver, Jason Kokrak had the longest drive from a tournament other than the Tournament of Champions at 399 yards at the Sony Open.
Paul Goydos leads the Tour in driving accuracy, hitting 73.76 percent of fairways. Hunter Mahan is the highest ranked winner in driving accuracy at no. 4, with an average of 71.26 percent of fairways hit.
Webb Simpson used Titleist 680 irons to hit 75.93 percent of greens in regulation to lead Bubba Watson and his PING S59 irons by just over 1 percent. it is a shocking stat for Watson, who is also the leader in driving distance.
You would expect the leader in driving distance and second in greens in regulation to be in contention each week to win. but Watson is just 21st in FedExCup points with only one top-10 finish. For Watson, it shows just how badly he has putted this year.
Watson and his PING Anser putter rank 170th in total putts with an average of 30.60 putts per round. That is a whopping 3.22 more putts per round than Greg Chalmers, who leads the tour in putts per round at 27.38. Chalmers is one of few players on Tour to use a Bobby Grace putter.
Brian Gay, who now wears TaylorMade gear but still uses Mizuno irons, gets up and down 74.68 percent of the time, making par or better an outstanding 59 out of 79 times. Scott Brown is worst on tour in scrambling only getting up and down a paltry 38.71 percent of the time.
Titleist gamer, Bobby Gates, leads the Tour in eagles with eight, while fellow Titleist pro, Ben Crane, who is not known for prodigious length, is second with seven eagles this year.
Perhaps the most well-known American Titleist player, Steve Stricker, leads the tour in scoring average at 68.13, but has only played eight rounds after taking five weeks off following the Sony Open.
In a sign of how well Stricker has played this year, he leads the Tour in seven total performance stats.
Stricker leads the tour in:
1) Birdie Average 5.13 per round
2) Sand Save Percentage 73.33 percent
3) Par-5 birdie or better 75 percent
4) Scoring Average 68.13
5) Scoring Average before cut 66.50
6) Consecutive Cuts 45
7) back nine Scoring Average 33.13
So what do all these stats tell us entering the Florida swing? Probably not a whole lot. None of the 2011 players who won on the West Coast won again before the Masters. In fact, Bubba Watson and Luke Donald were the only multiple winners who won on the West Coast last year.
Tiger Woods and Gary Woodland are just two players happy to hear that. while Woods has had a few good rounds, he has yet to show he can put together four solid rounds. Woodland has looked lost for most of the year, though he and his new coach, Butch Harmon, promise he will be ready for Augusta. And for pros that is what it’s all about. they would all trade there rankings in every stat for one major, because while no one remembers who finished no. 1 in scoring, putting, or birdies, everyone remembers who won major championships.
Below are a list of the winners and the clubs they played.
Hyundai Tournament of Champions — Steve Stricker
Driver: Titleist 909 D3 (8.5°)
Fairway wood: Titleist 906F2 (13°)
Hybrid: Titleist 909H (19°)
Irons: Titleist 710 AP2 (3-PW)
Wedges Titleist Vokey (54°, 60°)
Putter: Odyssey White Hot #2
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
Sony Open — Johnson Wagner
Driver: TaylorMade R11S (8°)
Fairway Wood: TaylorMade Burner SuperFast 2.0 (13.5°)
Hybrid: Adams Idea Pro a 12 (18°)
Irons: Titleist CB 712 (3-9)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey (48°, 54°, 60°)
Putter: Scotty Cameron proto
Humana Challenge — mark Wilson
Driver: PING I20 (8.5°)
Fairway Wood: Cleveland HiBore XLS (13°)
Hybrid: Ping i15(17°, 20°)
Wedges: Ping Tour (52°, 60°)
Putter: Ping Karsten Anser
Farmers Insurance Open — Brandt Snedeker
Driver: TaylorMade Burner SuperFast (10.5°)
Fairway Wood: TaylorMade Superfast (15°)
Hybrid: Adams Idea a12 Proto (20°)
Irons: Bridgestone J40 Cavity back (4-PW)
Wedges: Bridgestone J40 (52°, 56°), Titleist Vokey (60°)
Putter: Odyssey White Hot XG Rossie
Ball: Bridgestone Tour B330
Waste Management Phoenix Open — Kyle Stanley
Driver: Titleist 910D3 (8.5°)
Fairway Wood: Titleist 910Fd (13.5°)
Hybrid: Titleist 503i (19°)
Irons: Titleist 712MB (4-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey (52°, 56°, 60°)
Putter: Scotty Cameron for Titleist Timeless (GSS) Proto
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am — Phil Mickelson
Driver: Callaway RAZR Fit (9.5°)
Fairway Wood: Callaway Big Bertha Diablo (15°)
Hybrid: Callaway X Proto (19°)
Irons: Callaway X-Forged (4), RAZR X Forged Muscleback (5-PW)
Wedges: Callaway X Series JAWS (52°, 60°, 64°)
Putter: Odyssey White Hot XG Blade Prototype
Ball: Callaway Hex Black Tour
Northern Trust Open — bill Haas
Driver: Titleist 910D2 (8.5°)
Fairway Wood: Titleist 910F (13.5°)
Irons: Titleist 712 CB (2), 710 CB (3-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey (54°, 60°)
Putter: Scotty Cameron for Titleist Studio Select Kombi
Mayakoba Golf Classic — John Huh
Driver: Ping G10 (7.5°)
Fairway Wood: TaylorMade Burner (13°)
Hybrid: Titleist 910H (17°)
Irons: Ping S57 (3-PW)
Wedges: Ping Tour (52°, 58°)
Putter: Ping Scottsdale Wolverine
World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship — Hunter Mahan
Driver: PING G20 (9.5°)
Fairway Wood: PING G20 (15°)
Hybrid: PING i15 (17°)
Irons: PING S56 (3-PW)
Wedges: PING Anser Forged (56°, 60°)
Click here for more discussion in the forums.
Luke Donald took the first step towards the Sunday clash with Lee Westwood that he wants to happen.
Even if it would mean he could not become world number one this week.
“I would love to play Lee,” said second-ranked Donald after beating lone American Ryan Moore 4&3 in the first group game of the Volvo World Match Play Championship at Finca Cortesin in Spain.
“There’s more satisfaction when you can take down the number one player in the world.”
And he speaks from experience there. when he won the WGC-Accenture Match Play in Arizona in February he beat Martin Kaymer in the final – on the very weekend that the German took the top spot in the rankings.
Westwood has since grabbed it back, though, with two wins in Asia and he was even more impressive than Donald today, thrashing Dane Anders Hansen 6&5.
Under the new format neither Westwood nor Donald are certain yet to reach the last 16 knock-out stages, however.
If they lose their second group games – Westwood against Australian Aaron Baddeley and Donald against defending champion Ross Fisher – they could yet find themselves in sudden death play-offs to decide who goes through.
But Northern Irish pair Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy will also fancy their chances of progressing after beating Louis Oosthuizen and Retief Goosen respectively, McIlroy chipping in at the last.
The day’s other three winners were Kaymer, who overcame Korea’s YE Yang 2&1, and Spanish duo Alvaro Quiros and Miguel Angel Jimenez. Quiros beat Paul Casey and Jimenez hammered Masters champion Charl Schwartzel 6&5.
Only one of the eight games was halved. that was between Ryder Cup team-mates Ian Poulter and Francesco Molinari and Poulter did that with a five-foot birdie putt on the last after losing the first three holes.
Westwood rattled off six birdies in eight holes from the fourth to leave Hansen trailing in his wake and on such a physically demanding course – even with some buggy rides provided – was delighted to finish on the 13th.
The 38-year-old had calf trouble from June onwards last year, but has worked really hard on his fitness.
“The less holes you can play are obviously to pay dividends down the road and down the tournament,” he said.
“you get to a point in your career where you look for places that you can gain an advantage or where you can improve.
“I wasn’t as strong as I ought to have been, but now I’m a lot more powerful. I wouldn’t say I’m a svelte marathon runner, but I’m fit for golf – powerful in all the right areas.”
After his victories in Indonesia and Korea he also senses a return to the time when he took most of the chances that came his way.
“I’d like to start finishing off tournaments like I did 10 years ago – that habit of just really being patient and lingering around and sort of sticking your chin out at the right time.
“that obviously works wonders for your confidence and I started to feel it again in Korea.”
McDowell was grateful for the instant chance to move on from his closing 79 at the Players Championship on Sunday.
His match, of course, was a clash between the US Open and the Open champion and McDowell, who defends the former in Washington next month, said after beating Oosthuizen 3&1: “I wouldn’t have liked a week off to think about the way I played.
“I’ve had a couple of days in the gym just trying to get a little bit of life back in the legs because they went dead on me.”
After a bogey, double bogey finish to the front nine he eagled the long 11th and birdied the 13th and short 17th.
McIlroy was two down to Goosen after seven, but after fighting back to level he birdied the 15th to nose in front and matched Goosen’s birdies at the 16th and 18th.
Casey and Schwartzel were the only higher seeds to lose, Casey never getting back on terms against Quiros after bogeying the opening two holes.
Now he has to get something out of his match with Soren Kjeldsen to have a chance of going through.
Tags: last, play, champion, Alvaro Quiros, Luke Donald, Westwood, match Related posts
- VOLVO first day of the World Match Play Championship victory Binchois Zell lost by three (0)
- Westwood sets the pace at Augusta (0)
- UPDATE 2-Golf-Play abandoned in Scottish Open second round (0)
- McIlroy: Money list battle is over (0)
- Golf-Rankings meaningless for Westwood in matchplay format (0)
Hunter Mahan wins his fourth PGA Tour title with Sunday’s Match Play victory.(Getty Images)
MARANA, Ariz. — Even as Hunter Mahan motored his way through the Match Play Championship by beating one tough opponent after another, he had reason to feel he was just along for the ride in the final match Sunday afternoon.
All the chatter was about U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy and his march to no. 1 in the world.
All the chants Mahan heard as he walked down the first two holes at Dove Mountain were for McIlroy.
With a little extra motivation he didn’t need, Mahan won three straight holes on the front nine to seize control and answered McIlroy’s charge with birdies of his own for a 2-and-1 victory.
Accenture Match Play
- MORE: Donald falls, Tiger survives
- RESULTS: Accenture Match Play Championship
“Deep down, you wanted to postpone that crowning of the no. 1 player in the world for Rory,” Mahan said. “He’ll get there. I mean, he’s phenomenal. He’s really talented. He’ll be no. 1 eventually. But yeah, when you’re a player, and I listen to Johnny Miller and Nick Faldo and all those guys, they had him picked to win. and that’s what everybody was talking about.
“There was absolute motivation in that.”
it proved to be too long of a day for McIlroy, the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland, who put so much energy into a high-stakes semifinal match against Lee Westwood earlier Sunday. If either of them won the tournament, they would go to no. 1 in the world.
McIlroy, explosive as ever, ran off seven birdies in a 10-hole stretch to overcome an early deficit and beat Westwood. he looked flat in the championship match, made a series of mistakes to lose back-to-back holes, and fell too far behind to catch Mahan.
“To me, it was like my final in a way,” McIlroy said of his win over Westwood. “That was the one I wanted all week and I got. and that’s what I got myself up for. Yeah, maybe mentally and emotionally it did take a little bit out of me. But it still doesn’t take away from the fact that Hunter played very, very solid golf.”
“Even though I threw a few birdies and an eagle at him in the back nine, he still responded well and held on,” he said. “I think during the course of the week, he had played the best golf and deserved to win.”
Mahan can easily make a case for that.
the six guys he had to beat at Dove Mountain were Zach Johnson, Y.E. Yang, Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar, Mark Wilson and McIlroy. Three of them have won majors. five of them have made Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup teams. the exception was his semifinal match against Wilson, who has won three times on the PGA Tour in the last 14 months.
it required his best golf, and Mahan delivered with 35 birdies in 96 holes over six matches.
“It feels good because you’re going against the game’s best,” Mahan said. “I played well from tee-to-green, putting to chipping to driving, irons, everything was there. I needed everything to win. I’m very proud of how I played. it feels great. it really does.”
Mahan won for the fourth time in his career, two of them World Golf Championships. he also won the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone in 2010. he joins Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Geoff Ogilvy and Darren Clarke as the only players to win multiple WGC titles since these events began in 1999.
and he was the first American to win the Match Play Championship since Woods in 2008. he moves to no. 9 in the world, the first time in his career that Mahan has cracked the top 10.
Luke Donald stays at no. 1, though McIlroy is closing in quickly. McIlroy, who rejoined the PGA Tour this year, plays the Honda Classic next week against a strong field, and then has another WGC at Doral.
he never led in the championship match against Mahan, losing an opportunity on the opening hole when he missed a 4-foot par putt. Mahan took the lead with a 9-iron into 2 feet for a conceded birdie on the par-3 sixth.
on the seventh hole, with Mahan already in trouble in a deep collection area left of the green, McIlroy pulled his short iron and joined him there. But it took McIlroy two chips to get on the green, and he lost the hole with a double bogey.
Then McIlroy’s sand wedge hopped over the green on the par-5 eighth and he lost that hole with a bogey.
Mahan’s big lead was enough to withstand the McIlroy charge. McIlroy played the opening six holes on the back nine in 5-under par, but still picked up only one hole on Mahan.
“I tried to claw myself back, but I left myself too much work,” McIlroy said.
he also got off to a slow start against Westwood, 3 down through four holes, before roaring past him. McIlroy didn’t have the shots, and didn’t appear to have the energy, to do that twice in one day.
That was always his concern. There was so much anticipation about his semifinal match with Westwood.
“Maybe the intensity wasn’t quite as much as it was this morning going out,” McIlroy said. “I think that’s a little understandable after going through a match like that, thinking about it all last night and this morning.”
“I don’t think I’d do anything differently,” he said. “Because if I didn’t play with the same intensity in the morning, I might not have been in the finals.”
the last time Mahan was in a pressure situation against a player from Northern Ireland was in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, when U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell made a 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole of the decisive match.
Even so, the memories of that match are Mahan duffing a chip on the last hole, though McDowell was likely to win the match, anyway. Mahan has worked hard on his chipping, and he feels it carried him this week.
two shots were pivotal.
McIlroy won his first hole by chipping in for eagle from about 60 feet on the par-5 11th. two holes later, McIlroy was safely in for birdie and Mahan had to get up-and-down from a bunker to avoid losing another hole. he blasted out to 6 feet and made the putt.
McIlroy birdied the 14th from 7 feet to cut the lead to 2 up, and on the 315-yard 15th, he hit driver to 30 feet for an eagle attempt. Mahan was short of the green, and elected to use his putter.
Club selection was never in doubt.
“I thought that was the best play,” Mahan said. “My touch with my putting has been pretty awesome this week. and at that time, where Rory is, I felt that gave me the best chance to make it.”
he nearly did, rolling it right on line, just short. McIlroy missed his putt and Mahan stayed 2 up.
McIlroy looked like the world’s best player, but only on Sunday morning.
In the most anticipated match of the week, Westwood birdied two holes and won another when McIlroy missed a 5-footer for par to build a 3-up lead through four holes. As quickly as Westwood took the lead, he lost it.
McIlroy was simply sensational.
With the trophy on the line, however, he didn’t have enough left for Mahan.
BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Aerotech Golf continues to prove itself as golf’s most innovative composite shaft manufacturer, just as the company’s SteelFiber shafts continue to claim top money week after week on the PGA Tour. This week, SteelFibers delivered a T5 finish at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, marking the second straight year SteelFiber shafts have placed among the top Five at the Accenture.
SteelFiber composite shafts combine a high-modulus graphite core with 59 miles of steel fiber lacing the shaft surface and are world-renowned for providing players with the stability of steel and the power of graphite. SteelFiber shafts had a strong finish in 2011, delivering two top three finishes in the 2011 PGA TOUR PlayOffs and being featured by two of the top eight pros in the final FedExCup standings.
“SteelFiber shafts were the No. 1 composite irons shafts on the PGA Tour in 2010 and 2011, and we’re very excited to see their continued success in these early weeks of the 2012 season. The composite technology of the SteelFiber shafts combine the performance characteristics of graphite shafts which produce greater vibration dampening and less fatigue with those of steel shafts which provide more consistency,” said Aerotech Golf President Chris Hilleary.
Unlike any other shaft on the pro tours, SteelFiber shafts combine graphite and steel fiber to seamlessly create a perfect blend of power and stability. The shafts deliver extreme performance through innovative composite engineering that combines a high-modulus graphite core with 59 miles of steel fiber lacing the shaft surface. While the shaft’s graphite core provides vibration dampening, increased clubhead speed and maximum distance, the steel fibers produce optimum weighting for a solid feel at impact and add stability and control for pinpoint accuracy. Originally developed for irons the SteelFiber technology now enhances the performance of hybrids, fairway woods and drivers.
Golf’s most innovative composite shaft manufacturer, Aerotech Golf specializes in uniquely engineered, performance-enhancing golf shafts, and has has supplied shafts to such renowned golf club manufactures as Nike Golf, Cleveland Golf, Adams Golf, Miura, Srixon, Lynx, KZG Golf, Nakashima, Scratch Golf, Zevo and Pure Spin among many others.
For more information on Aerotech Golf and Aerotech shafts, call 888.733.8988 or visit aerotechgolfshafts.com. also check out the Aerotech page on Facebook: facebook.com/AerotechGolf.
MARANA, Ariz. – be afraid of Matteo Manassero.
Even if he is just 18.
The boyish-looking Manassero led a wave of upsets on the first day of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain. last year, the young lad beat Steve Stricker and Charl Schwartzel before losing to eventual champion Luke Donald. on Wednesday, Manassero, a 15th seed, toppled Webb Simpson, a no. 2 seed, 3 and 2, on a clear, sun-drenched day in the foothills 30 miles north of Tucson.
“There is always something really nice here that doesn’t give me that much tension,” said Manassero, who had five consecutive one-putt greens in the middle of his round and made three birdies in his last six holes to close out Simpson. “I had nothing to lose. I wasn’t tense. I was really free and trying to do my best on every shot and it ended up being good.”
Donald couldn’t say the same thing. The defending champion and world no. 1 lost in the biggest upset of the day, falling 5 and 4 to three-time major champion Ernie Els, who was the last player to get into the field. Els pulled away with three birdies on the back nine and never trailed.
“I don’t think it would have mattered who I played today. I just didn’t play well,” Donald said. “I gave away too many holes and made too many mistakes. you can’t do that in match play against anyone, let alone Ernie.”
In all, 15 of the 32 matches were won by players seeded lower than their opponents. Among other big upsets, Robert Rock came back with late birdies to beat Adam Scott, a no. 2 seed, 1 up; Y.E. Yang, a 14th seed, made seven birdies to beat back Graeme McDowell, a three seed; Ryo Ishikawa, also a 14th seed, pulled out a 1-up victory against Bill Haas, who won last week in the Northern Trust Open; and Miguel Angel Jimenez beat fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia in a matchup of no. 4 and no. 13 seeds.
“I have to go pack my bags,” McDowell said. “I ran into a man that played extremely well. That’s the beauty of this tournament. It’s not the beauty. it could be the beast of this tournament, as well. you just run into the wrong guy on the wrong day, and you have got your work cut out. I had my work cut out today, and I didn’t take care of business.”
Dustin Johnson was not an upset victim — finally. Johnson had never won a match in his three previous starts and things weren’t looking good Wednesday, either. he lost three of the first four holes to Jim Furyk and was still down three holes and hitting out of the desert on the 11th hole and thinking about another red-eye flight out of Tucson. then he rallied, but the outcome looked grim when he had to take a penalty drop in the desert on the second extra hole.
“It was an up-and-down day. I had to crawl my way back,” said Johnson, who chipped in for eagle on 13 right after Furyk had chipped in for birdie. he won the match when he made par on the second extra hole after Furyk three-putted for bogey. “It was kind of a crazy match. It’s a funny golf course.
“Anything can happen out there, especially in match play.”
It certainly did in the first round.
Tiger advances: Tiger Woods lost the first two holes, needed to hit one shot left-handed, made just three birdies, and scrambled throughout the back nine in his first-round match Wednesday in the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Woods barely escaped an upset when he pulled out a 1-up win with a par on the final hole to beat Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, who said Monday that Woods “wasn’t at his best,” and that he was “beatable.”
“I don’t think either one of us had our best stuff today, subsequently the match was back and forth. it was the epitome of match play,” said Woods, the only three-time winner of this event. “We both made our share of mistakes; there’s no doubt about that. But somehow I was able to move on.”
Woods moves on to face Nick Watney, a 5-and-4 winner against Geoff Ogilvy, who has won this tournament twice (1:37 p.m. ET on Golf Channel). Woods said he’ll have to take his game up a notch against Watney if he’s to advance to the third round.
“I’ve got to hit the ball a little better than I did. and I’ll certainly do that,” Woods said. “I’ve got to get a better feel for my distances out here. just the numbers we can hit the golf ball out here is just amazing, with the altitude and with the wind and being warm.”
Here are other key second-round matches:
Kyle Stanley vs. Brandt Snedeker (2:01 p.m.): this is a rematch of a playoff at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego earlier this year, when Stanley blew a three-shot, final-hole lead and then lost on the second extra hole of a playoff. Stanley, who won the following week in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, beat K.J. Choi while Snedeker needed 21 holes before defeating Retief Goosen.
Matt Kuchar vs. Bubba Watson (1:13 p.m.): Kuchar’s precision will be matched up against Watson’s power. Kuchar beat good friend Jonathan Byrd, 1 up, while Watson, who finished fourth last year in his debut, beat good friend Ben Crane, 3 and 2.
Martin Kaymer vs. David Toms (1:01 p.m.): Kaymer, who lost in the final last year to Donald, cruised to a 4-and-2 win over Greg Chalmers. Toms, who won this championship in 2005, used his accuracy and putting to hold off Rickie Fowler’s late rally in a 1-up win.
Jason Day vs. John Senden (12:37 p.m.): in a battle of Aussies, Day will match up his aggressive nature against Senden’s impressive ball striking. while Senden won 4-and-3 against Simon Dyson, Day won the last four holes of his match against Rafael Cabrera Bello to win on the first extra hole.
RORY McILROY’S brave bid to become Irish golf’s first world No 1 was snuffed out by Hunter Mahan as the American beat the Ulsterman 2&1 in the Accenture Match Play final.
World rankings may come and go yet the satisfaction Rory McIlroy achieved from yesterday’s semi-final victory over his arch-rival Lee Westwood should glow forever.
It’s astonishing how much 22-year-old McIlroy has grown as a golfer in the 27 months since Westwood “bullied” him at the 2009 Dubai World Championship, the Englishman emerging on that occasion with the Race to Dubai title and the bragging rights.
Well McIlroy showed he ain’t going to be bullied by Westwood no more!
Sadly, however, the youngster expended so much nervous energy in coming from three down after four holes to win his war of attrition with Westwood by 3&1 that he ran out of steam against Mahan in the first Accenture final to be contested by two players in their 20s.
McIlroy’s swing, almost metronomic in the morning, lost its fluidity after lunch.
Three down after playing the opening eight holes in three-over, any prospect of recovery expired as Mahan (29) landed a sweet tap-in birdie at 10.
Mahan, beaten by Graeme McDowell at the climax to the 2010 Ryder Cup, broke the deadlock with a super tee shot to within inches for birdie at six.
Yet McIlroy hit his own prospects of a first World Golf Championship victory for six with uncharacteristically sloppy play at the next two holes.
He made a desperate double-bogey from sand-wedge range in the fairway at the par-four seventh, criminally following Mahan into a deep swale to the left of the green.
McIlroy’s first chip then rolled back to his feet and he missed the 10-foot bogey putt for the half.
After laying up out of a bunker at the long eighth, McIlroy hit his pitch through the back of the green and missed from eight feet for par to fall three behind against Mahan.
However, digging deep inside himself, McIlroy bravely chipped in for eagle at 11, then cut the deficit to two with a winning birdie at 14, one of a splendid hat-trick he would complete on 15, if only for a half.
It was too little, too late and Mahan, five-under for his round, wrapped up a second WGC title to go with the 2010 Bridgestone at 17.
“I had a great back nine, but there was a stretch around five, six, seven, eight which probably cost me,” admitted McIlroy after his loss to Mahan.
“The shot at seven (when the ball rolled back to his feet down the hill) was just a bit of a mental error,” he added.
Defeat meant Mahan denied McIlroy the honour of becoming Ireland’s first world No 1 — the Holywood star needed to win at the Ritz-Carlton to nudge Luke Donald off the top of the heap.
Yet, judging by McIlroy’s morning glory against Westwood, it’s just a matter of time before he confirms his status as Tiger’s successor as the most exciting player in golf by reaching the No 1 spot.
The rivalry between these one-time ISM stablemates is as sharp as the bitter tweets they used exchange before McIlroy pulled the plug on their Twitter relationship soon after last Autumn’s switch to Dublin firm Horizon.
Yet both insist their relationship is ‘good’.
“Rory doesn’t want to spend time with the people who manage me and I don’t want to spend time with the people that manage Rory,” the Englishman said.
“But there’s nothing strained between the two of us. It’s still the same as it was.”
After yesterday, however, it’s clear McIlroy’s on-course relationship with Westwood is not the same.
Since his record-shattering victory at last June’s US Open, McIlroy has shed the youthful uncertainty which dogged him right up to his infamous US Masters meltdown.
He showed the calm resolve of a Major champion after Westwood slammed him with the golfing equivalent of three rib-bending hooks to the body yesterday morning.
When a fighter as formidable as Westwood lands punches that hard and that early, the temptation is to panic. yet to open up and take risks would be courting disaster on a course as capricious as this Jack Nicklaus design.
Instead, McIlroy remained calm, showing enough faith in his game to select his shots carefully, go for safer pins with his wedges and play for the heart of the green when discretion was required.
He won the fifth in par after Westwood’s approach flew through the back of the green. Then he narrowed the lead further at six by sinking a 27-foot putt for birdie.
This was the first of six birdies in nine holes — a glorious purple patch in which he drew level at the par-five eighth, moved one-up at nine and took Westwood and the match by the scruff of the neck on 12 and 13.
It ended with a perfunctory handshake after Westwood’s hopes, lifted by a superb drive and 15-foot putt for eagle on the 321-yard 15th hole, were extinguished by bogey at 17.
- William S Callahan
2011 was quite a year with four first time major winners and an incredible display from Luke Donald winning both the US and European money lists. We can only guess what 2012 will bring and it starts very soon as events get underway for Europe with the opening events of January across South Africa before moving on to the Arabian Swing. US fans have much to look forward to as well and the early season highlight will be the Accenture World Matchplay, where the best in the world will once again fight it out in the desert heat.
Equipment manufacturers are launching their new 2012 ranges and we will be bringing the very best reviews and guides as to what equipment you should be looking at. in these dark economic times we are also adding a special section where we highlight some of the great clubs that can be found second hand to help save you all a few pennies. alongside that will feature our forever Gold gallery, where you can see some of the best irons, drivers and putters from the past few years to help you make your choice.
We will soon be announcing our new in-house PGA Pro and introducing you to him very soon. Online lessons will be available to help you with your game and will cover both swing mechanics and mental aspects of this great but often frustrating game. this exciting facility will allow you to work on your game from the comfort of your armchair and keep in contact with your teaching pro at the click of a button.
We will be expanding our coverage of all the US and European tour events with more commentary, analysis and opinions on the weekly battles across the golfing globe.
Tee times and pairings
In depth previews and course guides
What’s in the bag
So be sure to check bak regularly for your dose of golf medicine from the most dedicated and knowledgeable golfing team around.
If they are to live up to their name then it’s important for the World Golf Championship events to move away from America.
We’ve seen them occasionally go to places like Australia and England, but the Bridgestone, The CA Championship and the Accenture Match Play have consistently been held in the States, so it’s nice to see an event becoming established in Shanghai on a course that the top players are used to.
McIlroy: will he be the man in Shanghai?
Lee Westwood has raised the prospect of holding a fifth major in Asia, but that’s not something I’d like to see. Those events have been set in stone since the 1950′s and I feel it would cheapen them to add another.
But I think the WGC’s should take the game to new territories. China is very keen to get on the map in terms of golf and to have many of the best players go over there to play in the HSBC Champions, as they have for a few years now, is a positive thing. it will inspire their youngsters and I think that’s the point.
For Americans and Europeans, it doesn’t really matter where they are held, but it’s a big thing for the emerging nations. That’s why I think it would make sense to establish a WGC event in India at some point in the future.
Shanghai has given us a great course and I especially like the last few holes, which are very sporty indeed. The 15th is a difficult par four and then the 16th is driveable with a three wood for many players, but with very little latitude if you get things wrong.
The 17th is a straightforward par three and then there’s a risk-and-reward par five 18th over water, which makes the finish very interesting. It’s a hole that can be eagled and you can make up a couple of shots, but you can also drop a couple; I recall the likes of Ernie Els and Ross Fisher struggling there over the years. It’s definitely exciting.
The temperatures can be variable and if it rains then the visibility will be very poor. If you’ve been to Shanghai you’ll know that there’s a hazy cloudy feel to the atmosphere, even on a nice day. however, bad weather won’t take away from what is a really good event with a really good field.
World number one Luke Donald won’t be there as he wants to be with his wife for the birth of their second child. Sometimes you have to tip your hat to life and while some people don’t like to admit it, there is a world beyond golf! You can forget bogeys and birdies, but you can never forget the birth of your child. It’s absolutely the right decision.
Sergio Garcia, arguably the in-form player in world golf, has pulled out for different reasons; I think two wins in two weeks have just taken too much out of him. Those victories will have left him fairly frayed mentally and perhaps a long flight from Valderrama wasn’t so appealing.
If he really needed to go there, I’m sure he would have done so, but he’s back in the top 20 in the world rankings, very high in the Ryder Cup rankings and things are going well. He’s worked hard to get back into that position and I would have loved to have seen him there, but I perfectly understand his need to rest.
The point was made this week that for the first time in golf history, there’s a chance the season will end with all the major titles and World Golf Championships going to first-time winners. Luke Donald, Nick Watney, Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke, Adam Scott and Keegan Bradley hadn’t won a WGC or major before this year, but I think that’s just a statistical quirk and you can’t read too much into it.
I don’t think that statistic particularly means anything, but a caveat to that is the fact that Tiger Woods lost his form during that period; he would often pick up a WGC or a major and would have ruined the run. It’s a shame he’s not in action this week because he always brought something extra to Shanghai, but there are enough top names in the field to make it be a high-quality event.
I think the group to watch will be the one featuring McIlroy, Watney and Schwartzel; three guys who can hit towering iron shots, which come down on the flags like raindrops down a well. That ability should give them all a wonderful chance.
And surely McIlroy must be top dog after winning the Shanghai Masters? That may have been a limited-field event, but I’m sure he classes that as a win in his mind – and what was particularly impressive was that it was different to some of his previous successes.
At Quail Hollow he got on a roll and was unstoppable and it was the same when he won the US Open, but last week he had to get dirty to win and that will be important for his development. he went behind to Anthony Kim with a few holes to play, but fought to get back on terms before winning the play-off.
To be a real world-class winner you have to win in all sorts of ways and that victory should set him up nicely for this week.
Rob’s Sky Bet Tip
I can’t see past Rory McIlroy this week at 5/1 with Sky Bet for all the reasons I have identified above. He’s just won in Shanghai and he has the iron shots to do well on that course. there were plenty of pluses for him last week, he could carry his form over.
Cybergolf’s Jay Flemma recently interviewed Geoff Ogilvy. The 34-year-old Aussie is a seven-time winner on the PGA Tour, including victories in the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot and a pair of WGC-Accenture Match Play Championships. Also joining the discussion is Mike Clayton, a former player on the PGA Tour of Australasia. Ogilvy will be making his third appearance in the biennial Presidents Cup when it’s played November 18-20 at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia. overall, he has a 4-5-0 record. currently 38th in the World Golf Ranking, Ogilvy will be joined on the International squad by fellow Aussies Jason Day, Adam Scott, Robert Allenby and Aaron Baddeley; the latter two are picks of captain Greg Norman. Here’s what Ogilvy and Clayton had to tell Jay during their wide-ranging discussion in October 2011.
The 7th Hole on the West Course at Royal Melbourne
Jay Flemma: tell us about the origins of the courses at Royal Melbourne. When were they designed and by whom? Geoff Ogilvy: It was in the late ’20s, early ’30s. most of the courses that existed were built in the city. But then there was a movement out to the sand belt where there was this incredible terrain, native trees and great sandy soil. It was perfect timing for Alister Mackenzie because he came to Australia just as there was a rush to build courses out there and the area blossomed. Mike Clayton: right. By the time he came, all the new courses had been built, but he then refined many of them with his partner Alex Russell and the Royal Melbourne greenskeeper, Mick Morcom, who built much of his work. GO: It’s such a unique place, just perfect for golf because usually you have to be on the beach to get sandy soil. if you don’t have sandy soil, you have issues with drainage and you can’t get the course to play as fast and firm as you’d like. back then the ground game was still in vogue as well. But Melbourne and Victoria are gifted with great terrain and sandy soil. And then the stars aligned that the great land got a great architect. There was a plan in place for the two courses, but he re-routed them. The West course is especially Mackenzie. Mackenzie was in Australia for three months, and besides working with Royal Melbourne, he also gave advice to Royal Adelaide, Kingston Heath and Victoria, and these all happen to be the best four of five courses in Australia. There is no place in the world like Royal Melbourne, and it has similarities to Augusta National, St. Andrews and Cypress Point. JF: what are those similarities? GO: like most great courses, there’s nothing narrow about it. Then there are 18 astonishingly great greens. The West is the best of the two courses, with large greens that have big slopes, like Augusta. And also like Augusta, if you miss the green on the wrong side even by a little, you’ve got no chance to recover, but you can miss the green by 30 yards on the correct side you have every chance to recover. Then, if you move the pin 15 feet you have to play the hole completely differently. you can have a pin on the left one day, so then you want to be on one side of the fairway to approach, but then move the pin 15 feet and you have to come into the hole form a completely different side of the fairway. It’s creative and interesting and different every time you play it, and every time you play it you find something new, which is really the true sign of a great golf course. JF: How is it like Cypress Point and St. Andrews? MC: for me the great similarities are that nothing is dictated to the player. There is space to play the game and the player must decide for himself or herself where to play – and the right place to play will vary depending upon the strengths and weaknesses of the golfer. JF: since Mackenzie’s day what renovations or restorations have been made since then? GO: not much! They’ve replanted the grasses, but as far as changing the course I can’t remember anything in my lifetime. again, it’s like Cypress Point, I don’t think the members would tolerate change. They’re happy where they’re at. It really didn’t need much. MC: exactly. There are new tees at No. 4 at West, and the fairway was reshaped to accommodate a boundary problem at the adjacent hole, 17 East. I first saw the course in 1972, and it’s pretty much the exact same golf course. The biggest change has come with the ball and how that’s impacted how the course plays. Mackenzie would be apoplectic if he had known how the administrators have failed to protect courses like Royal Melbourne. JF: Then how and why has it been able to deal with advances in technology and distance so well? GO: some say it hasn’t, but most don’t agree. Ernie Els once shot 60, but that was on a perfect day and perfect conditions during the Heineken. But if the wind its blowing 10 mph, like it almost always does, and it’s firm and fast, and the pins are tough, that’s not gonna happen. a couple under par will be great. MC: That’s right. more and more, it’s defense is the wind and the greens, which need to be hard and fast, so no matter how short the club, it still takes a precise shot to get anywhere near the flag. Also, you must be coming in from the right side of the fairway.
GO: It’s a little bit short – just under 7,000 yards. what the “composite” course doesn’t have really is one real par-5, where it’s not a guarantee you’ll reach in two. But par matters much less in match play. You’re not measuring yourself against another group, you’re just trying to beat your opponent. The composite course has three par-5s where we’ll hit mid-irons. But even so, it’s kept up with technology because from the middle of the fairway it’s still a difficult course, even though you’re hitting shorter clubs. When you have pros hitting mid-irons into par-5s that’s where they do their damage, but not at Royal Melbourne. They could make eagle or birdie, but if they miss they may make something much worse. JF: And the reason for that is the terrific contours of the greens and the difficulty of the surrounds and the trouble near the green complexes? GO: exactly. Also, there are some doglegs and short holes where if we drive too far we can drive into trouble. The greens show the genius of the design. Mackenzie wasn’t thinking directly about what technology would bring like we do know, yet the course still defends itself. However, Mackenzie also said in the book “The Spirit of St. Andrews” – a must-read for any golfer, by the way, everyone has to be careful about the golf ball going to far. It may go 400 yards and that’s bad for golf. so perhaps he understood this could happen. The other thing about Royal Melbourne is that the correct place to be isn’t necessarily closer to the hole – driving it further doesn’t help you much at Royal Melbourne. again, it’s like St. Andrews. one set of bunkers is in play one day into the wind and other bunkers appear nowhere near play and you wonder what they’re doing there. But then the next day the hole plays downwind you’re in that bunker! Royal Melbourne has held its own better than probably anywhere else in the world has that hasn’t changed their golf course. JF: what will the routing be for the President’s Cup? GO: this is the first time we’ve had this routing. It’s something Greg Norman and the Tour came up with. The original composite routing was 12 holes of the West course and six of the East, and it started on 1 West and finished on 18 East. That’s a cool routing because it comes back to the clubhouse after six holes (in that case, 6 West), then the next six play out to the furthest point from the clubhouse, then you turn and play the next six home. now they decided that because the majority of match-play matches finish on the 16th hole of the match, the tours wanted to see more matches to finish near the clubhouse to promote excitement. so one change this year is that where the last hole of the composite course is usually 18 East, that hole will be the 16th hole of this year’s composite course. Then they’ll play 1 West and 2 West as 17 and 18. here is the routing for this year’s President’s Cup, with the course playing to a par 71: 1. 3 West 2. 4 West 3. 5 West 4. 6 West 5. 7 West 6. 10 West 7. 11 West 8. 12 West 9. 17 West 10. 18 West 11. 1 East 12. 2 East 13. 3 East 14. 16 East 15. 17 East 16. 18 East 17. 1 West 18. 2 West
The 10th Hole on the West Course at Royal Melbourne
They’ll all be close enough to each other to create a wonderful atmosphere; I think it’s better than the one in 1998. JF: It comes back to the clubhouse three times – at 4, 10 and 16. GO: That’s right. They wanted that so that it would be more exciting and have a larger number of people around the action. There is one different hole from the old composite course. They used 4 East, a long par-3. now we use 16 East, a great little hole, short but much better than the 200-yard downhill hole they used to use. It improves the course. I have one problem with this new routing – 1 West now plays as the 17th hole. if Royal Melbourne has a week hole, it’s 1 West. It’s a really good first hole, wide-open like at St. Andrews’, no trouble, easy par for any handicap. But it’s a horrible 17th hole. in fact, it’s only good as a first hole. Number 1 at St. Andrews wouldn’t be a great 17th would it? MC: I agree totally – great first hole, but uninteresting 17th hole. JF: No, but is it easy enough to be a par-3.5? will it see swings? GO: not really. No one should make bogey, though I’m sure someone will contrive to do it; that always seems to happen. But most guys will hit the fairway, then most guys will hit the green and it’ll be 20-footer vs. 20-footer. you hope for more out of your 17th hole. you want some drama at 17. 17 West, for example, is one of the greatest holes in the world. JF: Then what makes a great match-play golf course and what makes a great match-play hole? GO: good question. The one that has the best matches to watch. JF: And those are? GO: I don’t know – are they ones that change hands and go back and forth? or are they the ones where there’s lots of birdies and bogeys? you don’t want to watch guys just grind out pars. you want guys who risk taking shots at birdies also miss and make bogey, so it’s a course that has holes that can hand out lots of birdies and lots of bogeys. JF: How would a golf course architect build a course that would do that? GO: By designing great golf holes. few of the best holes in the world are really, really hard where everyone grinds to make par, neither are they the really easy ones. The best example is 13 at Augusta. An 18-handicap golfer can bump it up the fairway, bump it up further to get into position around the corner, get to a place to pitch on, and try to get up and down and have a putt for par every time. if you do that, you can almost never make worse than six. But the best golfer in the world will make eagle three or double-bogey seven. The more risk you take off the tee the easier the hole becomes. The more aggressive you are getting around the corner, the easier it is to lay up or you can even go for the green The safer you play the tougher the second and third shot. It’s thousands of shades of gray. The braver you are the more talented you are, directly results in your 2d and 3d shots easier . . . the less brave you are, the tougher your approach and layup will be. But then even a terrible golfer who gets in trouble out of position can still recover and find a way to save a par, yet pros will struggle to make birdie. Those are the architectural principles that stand up.
JF: name a few more great holes like that. GO: 4 at St. Andrews and 9 at Cypress Point – there is a direct relationship with getting easier the more you take the challenge off the tee. Also 17 West at Royal Melbourne . . . JF: That will be the ninth of the composite course. GO: right . . . good! It’s a dogleg left with bunkers on the corner. The closer you are to the bunkers the easier your second shot. you can hit to the right forever, but you’ll never get near a right pin. Also, No. 2 at Talking Stick North is great. anyone can play there for not much money. at that hole the tee and green are against the OB fence. The green has one bunker on the 5 o’clock position, front-right. And that’s all there is – an OB fence and one bunker, but the hole has terrific strategy. The closer you play to the fence the more the green opens up to the approach. The further right you play the more you have to deal with a cavernous bunker. actually six at Carnoustie and six at St. Andrews use OB fences well also, and in a similar way, a way that’s actually good. Drive it near the OB and the hole opens up and is easy, but it takes courage and talent to do it. That’s golf course strategy 101 – at first glance it’s simple, but then you find that you have to get closer and closer to the fence to make the holes easier. Holes that require thinking like that, those make great match-play holes and great match-play golf courses. JF: Let’s discuss more of that in a bit, but first let’s talk some more about Royal Melbourne. Why do they always use a composite course? GO: I think they used to do tournaments in the early days on the West or the East, but not since the ’80s. I remember Watson winning the ’84 Australian Open and it was a composite. I was seven (years old) I think. But in my living memory, I don’t think they’ve exclusively used the West or East alone for a big tournament with galleries. The West is clearly better, with much more Mackenzie influence. I think it’s as good as the composite. But it does cross a road, and maybe that’s the problem . . . and it’s not like at Oakmont where they have that giant bridge and it’s easy. here you actually have to cross a road. It’s one thing for members dragging a cart to cross it, but for thousands of spectators it’s different. JF: How is the composite course as a match-play venue? GO: It’s a wonderful course. It encourages players to play what I call proper golf. you have to think where to hit your tee shot, where to place your second shot, when to be under the hole, all that. And there are a lot of holes out there – and again, Augusta might be similar – where you have an advantage if you can work the ball both ways. you have to work the ball at Melbourne, and you have to know when to be aggressive and when not, and it changes from day to day. It’s so much more interesting to watch pros making decisions and then showing the fruit of their decisions. That’s why the Masters is such a spectacle: you get pros making decisions on every hole that they don’t want to make. JF: so what you’re saying is the best way to inject excitement into a golf tournament is to make a pro think. Mackenzie said the same thing in “Spirit of St. Andrews.” GO: Well, make him do something out of the ordinary – maybe a low draw instead of a high soft shot. you don’t have to play Royal Melbourne like this, but the guys that do score the best.
The 17th on Royal Melbourne’s West Course
JF: so the smartest or most creative golfer will win there? GO: Well, the guys who understand what the course requires. for example, the two captains know it. Freddie lost in a playoff in the Bicentennial Classic in 1988 . . . [Author's Note: That tournament took place on Australia's bicentennial.] MC: That was to Rodger Davis GO: Yeah, and Greg Norman owns three Australian Opens. [Author's Note: 1984, 1985, and 1987] GO: Those two guys are perfect Royal Melbourne players – they move it both ways and they hit it high. a player whose game suits Augusta National will play well at Royal Melbourne. JF: what are the best holes at Royal Melbourne? GO: 7 West (5 composite) – a short par-3, a 9-iron in to a small green, but uphill to the hardest, smallest nastiest little green. Short, yet it will be everything a pro golfer can handle. 10 West (6 composite) – a short par-4 that’s just 300 yards, maybe shorter. from a high tee you play through a valley. It’s astonishing land for a short par-4. It’s a dogleg-left with a monstrous bunker on corner. you can try to drive the green but if you miss you might have an impossible shot with no chance to make a three. so you have choice off the tee: risk driver where if you miss you can’t get up and down, or you could play hybrid and leave 45 yards to the front, or 3-iron and leave 75 yards. It’s one of the best holes in the world and one of the coolest, and again, just because you get closer off the tee doesn’t mean you’re in a better position. if you miss your drive you have every chance to be in a bad place where you might not make a three. It’s great spectacle too – everybody loves par-4s where we try to drive the green. JF: maybe they ought to have more of those in major championships? GO: yes! I’ll pick one more hole. I’d pick every one if you’d let me, but lets do 18 East (16 composite) – a gentle dogleg that plays from right-to-left with a green that sets up for a shot from the left-hand side, especially for a right-hand pin. you have to hit the ball close to the inside of the dogleg in order to have a good chance. Guys will still hit long- to mid-irons in with the Melbourne wind. JF: Should golf’s governing bodies focus a little more on golf course architecture when selecting venues for major championships? MC: The Open Championship rotation is great and they usually get the set-up right. Turnberry in 1986 and Carnoustie were the aberrations. Augusta is Augusta. Pinehurst is the next U.S. Open that has a chance to show golf can be great without the fixation for defending courses with long grass and narrow fairways. Those who pick the championship courses in America need to show there is another way – and if a course of 7,400 yards cannot defend itself without having to resort to long grass and narrow fairways, it shows what a poor job the administration has done with equipment regulation. JF: Well then what did you both think of Atlanta Athletic Club for the recent PGA Championship? GO: Well Atlanta Athletic Club wasn’t my favorite. It’s difficult just to be difficult in a lot of places and frequently it didn’t make a lot of strategic sense.
JF: explain what you mean by “strategic sense.” GO: Well, for example, the green opens up if you take the Tiger line off the tee, but if you take the safer option the second shot is harder. It’s in the way the fairway bunkering and the way greens were set up and working together, like 13 at Augusta. things like when you take the risk, you have a flatter lie or a better angle and/or a shorter shot in. Atlanta Athletic Club didn’t have anything like that. It wasn’t interesting to play, there was very little where you had to make decisions and use thought to approach the course. It just asks you execute great shots, but didn’t ask you to make strategic decisions. I think people were complaining that although it’s difficult because it’s super-narrow and super-long, it doesn’t hold your interest. There were some interesting short holes, but as a general rule, when they had a choice they just made it long and narrow. That’s where some people get architecture wrong. It’s one thing to be hard, but hard doesn’t mean good. look at Oakmont, it’s one of the hardest courses in the world but it’s also one of the greatest courses in the world. JF: is that because of the terrific green contours and fairway undulations? GO: There’s that, but it’s also about the angles and coming in from the correct angle is crucial to playing Oakmont. Also, it’s all about the short grass around the greens, all those great greenside slopes and contours that allow you to play any number of different recovery shots – putt, bump and run, pitch and check, lob. Golf is more interesting with the short-grass hazard – it may be the most strategic element in golf. Everyone fears that ball trickling back to your feet, or down to the bottom of a hill, or slowly rolling into a bunker . . . JF: . . . behind you . . . GO: exactly. Horrifying. a golfer’s worst nightmare. JF: what about the Ryder Cup/President’s Cup venues? does the President’s Cup play better courses than the Ryder Cup? GO: in recent times, the President’s Cup has been played on better courses. Royal Montreal is a great golf course, as was Harding Park. Royal Melbourne will be wonderful. The Ryder Cup lately hasn’t showed the best courses each country has to offer. The Belfry isn’t the best course in the U.K. – a long way from it actually. Celtic Manor? not wonderful. Valderrama is fine, but Europe still hasn’t shown its best. It has the odd good course here or there. in America, Oakland Hills was a great course. The others? not so much. But the Ryder Cup is such a big event the course really isn’t the star. at the U.S. Open or PGA, it’s about the course and how the players will handle it. at the Ryder Cup, it’s about how are they going to deal with the other players and the pressure, but of course it’s always a more interesting event when played on a more interesting golf course. MC: The last Ryder Cup played on a proper course in Europe was 1981 at Walton Heath. was the last great course to host a President’s Cup Royal Melbourne in 1998? JF: what would be some other great courses to host a Ryder Cup or President’s Cup? GO: Well Royal Melbourne was high on my list and I’m thrilled it will be there. How about a Ryder Cup at Augusta National? Playing Amen Corner with a Ryder Cup on the line would be incredible. some of my choices are mere fantasies, but Pine Valley would be great. It demands good players to take on big risks to make birdies and eagles. There would be plenty of birdies and plenty of others, as it encourages aggressive decision-making: “Do you have the heart to take this shot on?” and then “Can you execute?” Pine valley is a fantastic match-play course, and what an atmosphere!
In fact, I’d pretty much list the world’s top-10 courses, if you are looking for interesting golf. Chicago Golf Club is a good choice; they played a Walker Cup there. There are no trees and you can see all across the course and feel the atmosphere from several holes away. Players play great holes and have to play interesting shots. MC: It’s not going to happen, but the best Ryder Cup courses in Europe are the Open rotation courses. The best courses are now too short really – they need a modern European course – assuming they don’t go to an Open venue, but there aren’t many really good ones. Castle Stuart and Renaissance in Britain are great. It would be amazing to play something at National Golf Links of America or Sand Hills – the first truly great American course, and the most recent. JF: are you heartened by the way architecture is moving? GO: It’s amazing to see some of the best golf courses in the world being built right now. The last 15-20 years or so we’ve had Coore and Crenshaw, Tom Doak and Gil Hanse building some golf courses that feel and look like they were built in the Golden Age – rugged and with less earthmoving – places like Sand Hills and Barnbougle Dunes and Old Sandwich and Boston Golf Club. They’re not being built to be difficult or to attract pro tournaments, they’re just concentrating on designing great golf courses. Bandon Dunes is three hours from civilization and you can’t get a tee time, yet back when [Mike Keiser] told people he was going to build out there people laughed at him and said it was crazy. now there’s four courses. this new crop of designers is building modern courses that look like they were built in the ’30s. JF: They also play like the ’30s. GO: yes, they play strategically. They also got great pieces of land. like Sebonack, it’s much better to give that great land to a golf course and not to houses. Also with websites like Golf Club Atlas, Geoff Shackelfor’s sites, and your websites and writing, there’s writers and people getting more and more golfers interested in the subject and they are not only learning about golf course architecture, but getting involved. The Internet really helped. now, it’s not just a friend telling a friend about a great course he played, we can learn so much about so many more great courses at the click of a mouse. Word spreads right away about courses, and we all get brought up to speed almost immediately. And it was you bloggers and Internet writers that led the mainstream on the issue. you guys led the scene from people lamenting in a room that “there is better golf out there” by writing and greatly increasing public interest and awareness, and the word is spreading into the mainstream and getting out there to the general public. MC: Also, right now, the golf-design business is moving to Asia and they need to establish a culture of great courses, not simply copies of what they see on television from America. Bill Coore and Tom Doak are doing courses in China right now and those will hopefully show there is another way and open the doors for others to follow. JF: you raise a great point there. Isn’t television right now a problem for great golf architecture because A) everyone wants to copy what they see on TV, B) TV only seems to show length, water, flat greens and ridiculous green speeds, and C) because TV preconditions us by simply saying what an outstanding course everything is, even if it’s horrible architecture? GO: TV can be the enemy – overproduction and over-commenting can be misleading. look at St. Andrews for example. It looks strange on TV, it looks kind of funny. St. Georges is another where, at least on TV, you don’t see the undulations, and also the brown fairways look motley, but it’s the best grass to play on. Grass is naturally supposed to have every shade between green and brown. All perfectly green grass is unnatural. Additionally, great architecture is about what’s on the ground, and you lose that feel on TV. so people gravitate to courses that show well on TV like Augusta, so everyone wants to emulate it. plus we all love Augusta. Take Riviera, one of the best courses we play all year, but on TV Riviera may not look any better than some courses that are nowhere near as good because you only hear the coverage which invariably says they love it and viewers repeat what they heard. JF: tell us about how the pros and cons of being a major champion. what was the toughest adjustment and were you ready to handle it? GO: I used to be able to go to a golf tournament and generally fly under the radar – practice, not do too much media and just go and play and not have a lot to handle. now there are many more media requests and time management is tougher. That takes you by surprise. I used to get there at nine, play a practice round, hit balls, and be back in the room by two or three. now that doesn’t happen. It’s a longer day because of all the extras and a few more duties. It took me by surprise.
As for handling it, I played my whole life wondering if I’d ever be good enough. When I was a 12 handicap, I wondered “could I be a 6?” even when I was a 1, I wondered “am I really good enough to be scratch?” then “am I good enough to get on Tour?” . . . “stay on Tour?” and then ultimately “can I win a major?” And then when I did it, was quite surprising and surreal at the time. JF: When did it first cross your mind that you could win that tournament? GO: my approach to 18 went off the green, but I chipped to four feet. if I make it, I’m one ahead of Monty, but one behind Phil, but I saw Phil was way left of the fairway and there was some commotion, so I thought there was a fair chance that if I made that putt, there would be a playoff. so then when I made it, I said to myself, okay this should be a playoff and I walked off the green to go sign my scorecard. As I’m signing, there’s a TV in the scorer’s hut, and that’s when I saw Phil hit the tree. It was very strange. JF: so other than golf, what’s your next life goal? GO: to be a good parent. That’s what I do the most and love the best away from golf – the kids and fatherhood – and I love everything about it. The pick-up and drop-offs, the parties, the family get together, all of it, any parent knows that. That’s the greatest part of my life. And occasionally, I mess around on the guitar. JF: what kind? GO: I have multiple, but my favorite is a 1959 Les Paul Reissue. I also have a Martin D28 acoustic. I play them both a lot. I am far over-guitared. in fact, I’m a 20 handicap on guitar, but I have the best guitars money can buy, even though I have no intent of doing anything with it. I just love to play in quieter moments: classic rock, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn. I also love to surf. I live in San Diego and surfing to an Australian is like horseback riding to a Texan.
Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, jayflemma.thegolfspace.com, Jay Flemma ‘s comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. in researching his book on America’s great public golf courses (and whether they’re worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 420 nationally ranked public golf courses in 40 different states, and covered seven U.S. Opens and six PGA Championships, along with one trip to the Masters. a four-time award-winning sportswriter, Jay was called the best sports poet alive by both Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports writers and broadcasters. Jay has played about 3 million yards of golf – or close to 2,000 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer (golfobserver.com), Cybergolf, PGA.com, Golf Magazine and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan. His clients have been nominated for Grammy and Emmy awards, won a Sundance Film Festival Best Director award, performed on stage and screen, and designed pop art for museums and collectors. Jay lives in Forest Hills, N.Y., and is fiercely loyal to his alma maters, Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Trinity College in Connecticut.
Things may be getting a bit desperate in the Tiger Woods camp. After the defection of several key and probably well-paying sponsors, along with poor play and a huge drop in his rankings, Tiger and his people may be worried. TAG-Heuer dropped Woods earlier this year, after he was also dropped by Gatorade, AT&T, and financial firm Accenture. many of the companies ended their relationship with Woods after his cheating scandal, and his poor play since the events hasn't helped to encourage them back. I think the next few months will be key as to whether Tiger can regain some momentum in his play, along with some momentum in his signing of new endorsement deals.
Tiger Woods.Wikimedia Commons
I think an example of this is the announcement of Tiger's signing with Fuse Science, inc. The company announced it had entered into an "exclusive endorsement agreement" with Tiger in both the sports nutrition and energy categories as the company's "primary spokesperson in professional sports." Now that Tiger is "Powered by Fuse" as the company's slogan says, maybe he will actually win a tournament. I feel Tiger needs the revenue from new sponsors and may be willing to take on a company he would have found too small to accept a few years ago.
Tiger's new sponsor is not a Fortune 500 business like a car maker or bank, it's a company that's marketing a new way to take vitamins (or medication or nutrition), through drops under your tongue or with a transdermal skin patch like a nicotine patch. in the press release announcing the deal, Tiger claims the technology is groundbreaking and commented: "we will improve energy, nutrition and medication delivery in several global categories, and we will enhance every athlete's ability to perform at their natural best." it sure sounds interesting to an old guy like me, maybe it will also help my golf game.