Sunday, August 4, 2013

Quick hit - WGC Firestone

Everyone talks about Tiger eclipsing Jack's record in the majors as the standard to which he'll be held as the possible best player of all time. I can't deny that that it is the sole consideration - it is. If Tiger does not win 19 majors, he will not be considered the best player of all time. But, the one number I've really been focused on and interested in other than that ever since Tiger started dominating is 82. Tiger will no doubt surpass Sam Snead's record 82 PGA tour wins, and he could still do it this year. I can't wait for it, and it's going to be a momentous occasion. Tiger will probably scare 100 tour wins by the time he's done (which is just staggering to think about) and while Jack's record is the ultimate milestone, Tiger's owning of the PGA tour win record, and possibly setting a number that NO ONE will ever get close to, is just of incredible importance and a singular historic achievement.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Muirfield Miracle? No, Just Phil Being Phil.

EDIT: These rankings are mostly done so on career victories with weighting on major championships.  The rankings could be a little more fluid based on important/relevance on golf as a whole, but I think as the rankings stand they're fairly solid.

Phil Mickelson's three shot victory at Muirfield is not only a touchstone on the man's career, it is a jumping off point at which the player has cemented himself as one of the ten best golfers of all time.

The question now, is, "How great is Phil Mickelson?"  As far as fan support goes, Phil ranks in the top five and maybe is only outdone by the man himself, Arnold Palmer.

But realistically, where does this win rank Phil?  Statistically, it doesn't rank him that much higher - now standing at 6 major victories Phil is currently tied for all time with Nick Faldo and Lee Trevino.  We're going to dig a little deeper, though, because Phil's legend transcends not only himself, but the actual all time rankings.

To look at this objectively, we have to start at the top.  Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer of all time.  Until Tiger takes over his major victory total, there is no argument.  A concession could be made that Tiger will no doubt surpass Sam Snead's career win total of 82 (that IS a record that will fall without question) but until Tiger gets to 19 majors, Jack's place at number 1 is not at risk.

So that makes Tiger the indubitable number 2.  Here's where things get a LITTLE hairy.  Walter Hagen stands at 11 major championships.  11.  That's pretty freaking crazy.  If Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods did not exist, the entire golfing world would be touting Hagen as the greatest of all time.  Why?  The man also owns 45 worldwide victories.  I've been trying my whole life to say that Hagen is unworthy of being the 3rd greatest golfer of all time - but how can I do that?

The answer is fairly easy - Ben Hogan.  9 major championships, and 68 professional titles.  If any golfer is deserving of being called the third greatest golfer of all time it's Hogan.  Not only did the man have his entire body crushed in a car accident to the point that doctors said he wouldn't walk again, the man went out and won The Open Championship months after getting back in to game shape.  Hogan is virtually the most prolific golfer of all time - Tiger's athleticism and mental fortitude, and Jack's clinical approach and innate talent are the only things that trump the dig it out of the ground work ethic of Hogan.  If Hogan never got hurt, there may be nothing that could have stopped him being number 1.  That's an incredibly bold statement, but not without merit.

So we have our top four - I'll keep Hagen in there.  Here on out LOOKS like it gets even more dicey.  But it doesn't.  Gary Player owns 9 major victories - and 168 worldwide titles!  168.  Let that sink in.  What have you done 165 times that ranks as something resembling victory.  No, that doesn't count.  Palmer and Hogan were touted as the Americans that brought relevance to The Open Chamionship - Player brought golf to the masses, read: the entire world.  I'm not touting golf importance outside of wins in these rankings, but Player transcends all of that.  The man won everywhere he went.

Sixth goes to Tom Watson.  8 major championships and 70 career wins.  A hero's haul if ever there could be.  But man, how many more could he have had?  Answer: A LOT. If the man's putting didn't go south faster than an unladen swallow from the kingdom of Camelot the man could have at least three more majors and countless other wins.  That's not that he's "relegated" to sixth, it's just that his resume is so good that this is just where he lands.  Personally, he's one of my favorite golfers of all time, and as long as his career has lasted, highlighted by his finish at The Open four years ago, there's no doubt that his place is cemented.

The list gets a little more fluid here - we're now talking about those players that won seven major championships, and there are arguments to be had.  I'm going to put Arnold Palmer at number seven on the list, and not just for his importance in the history, nay pantheon of golf.  I haven't spoken of the career grand slam yet, because it hasn't been necessary.  But if Arnold won that one U.S. Open, and gotten to 8 major championships, he'd most likely be sitting at sixth, MAYBE better, but probably not.  Arnold had 95 total wins, and would surpass Gary Player to get to fifth, no doubt, if his importance as the man that brought golf to the masses was the criteria for this list.  Alas, it is not.  Irregardless, the man is an all time legend.

Eighth goes to Sam Snead - the man owns the most PGA tour wins with 82, which will most certainly be surpassed by Tiger, but also owns seven majors, and arguably owns the most athletic and beautiful swing of all time.  Sam Snead played professionally well in to his golden years, winning his last PGA tour title at the Greater Greensboro Open at the age of 52.  The man's longevity and indisputable talent make him a solid eighth of all time.

So we come to Phil - this seems like a tough road to hoe, but it's not.  The man has battled in the new golden age of golf to be second only to Tiger, and to pull himself up to this point on the list.  I hesitate to keep the man after him down as low as he is, but in numbers alone, and sheer talent, Phil is a solid number 9.  I have conspicuously ignored discussing the Career Slam, if only to try to ignore Phil's SIX U.S. Open runner up finishes.  I can not ignore it anymore.  If Phil were to win the U.S. Open, and get major number 6 to go with his 51 career wins, it's most probably that he overtakes Snead and MAYBE even Palmer.  The disparity in talent that Phil has defeated vs. Arnold in his early days and Snead during his career makes that a very compelling argument.

#10 - Bobby Jones - I HATE to downrank him so far - he is the model of a champion, and a man who chose to compete as an amateur when his talent could have made him an all time great.  Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam - even though the modern grand slam is different, Bobby Jones was the first to do it, winning both US and British amateurs and opens in a calendar year.  Bobby Jones CREATED The Masters.  Bobby Jones is a legend, and he would be higher if this was based on influence on the game of golf itself - but, frankly, so would others.

So there it is - a totally unscientific yet mostly subjective ranking of the ten greatest golfers of all-time.  I believe that Phil has a lot of work to do to get in to the top five, but I actually don't doubt that the possibility exists that he could still do so. Oak Hill looms large on the horizon, mostly for Tiger, but now also importantly for Phil, as he claims he's playing some of the best golf of his career.  For those who watch, it's difficult to doubt it, and it's difficult not to root for the man.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Coronation - Part 1

Kyle Stanley's run around Torrey Pines in this year's Farmers Insurance Open is most definitely a coronation - a year after Kyle pocketed more than $1.5 million in his rookie season the sophomore is avoiding the second year slump and staking his claim as one of the best young players in the game.

Stanley was victimized by Steve Striker in last year's John Deere, shooting twenty-one under in the runner up finish, but he finished strong during the Fed-Ex cup run.  He also finished T10 in the Justin Timberlake event during the fall finish before taking a well deserved break a couple of events later.

With a year under his belt, the Clemson grad is staking his claim as one of the top up-and-coming American players in a rapidly growing pool of talent.  The 2012 PGA Tour season is looking to be one of the more exciting in recent years as there are even more players capable of taking down a win week after week.  With Tiger finishing strong albeit not being able to close out the win in Abu Dhabi next week's event at Pebble is even more compelling.  The month and a half long run up to Augusta has become even more compelling.  Buckle-up, folks!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Golden Age?

The New World Order is about to take over in golf - and that NWO has less to do with Tiger and Phil, and more to do with Kyle and Spencer.  The golf landscape is being manicured by new young guns that you've never heard of, evidenced mostly by the out of nowhere year that Webb Simpson had in 2011.

I guess you could go back to Zach Johnson's win at Augusta in 2007 to see the beginning of this renaissance, and coupled with Woods' injuries and scandal the emergence of players you've never heard of winning golf tournaments is a testament to the strength of the game on US soil and overseas.  The emergence of first time major winners has hit an all time high in the last four years, and speaks to the strength of golf as a whole and victories from many players that the layperson has never heard of.

The PGA tour has always been dominated by superstars - Hogan, Snead, Nicklaus, Palmer, Norman, Watson, Couples, Tiger, Phil, Vijay, etc.  But for every Tiger Woods there is a Corey Pavin, a journeyman who won his handful of regular events and one major, and in recent years other journeymen like Steve Striker have taken control of the PGA Tour and actually dominated it, even after falling in to obscurity for a number of years.

In the last few years we've seen players like Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan and others say "we've got game, and we won't back down."  It's one of the greatest traits of the PGA Tour.  Mark Wilson, the journeymen of journeymen, won two tournaments before the end of February in 2011, and the bar was set.  Rickie Fowler is still looking for his first PGA Tour win, and you know it's coming sooner rather than later.  There is now also a corps of rookies led by Bud Cauley that looks to be as promising as anything in the last twenty years.

And through it all people are going to be looking to see if Tiger is truly back; if Phil can find a way to play through what may be a dibilitating arthritis; if Webb Simpson is in fact the next great big thing; if Sergio can win The Open Championship as so many pundits are predicting; or if Rory McIlroy is the next annoited one, if Geoff Ogilvy can take the crown coming in to his prime, or if any of a couple of hundred truly talented players, led by the reigning best player in the world Luke Donald, can stake a claim as the greatest player not only of this moment, but of this generation.

There are no divisions or conferences in golf - as much as people say there is a divide between US golf, European golf and world golf, all the best players find their way to the biggest events.  2012 may prove to be the year that golf took yet another step forward and possibly to a golden age that few had seen coming, but many had hoped for.

Friday, February 27, 2009

ACM - Day 3 Live Update

I wasn't going to do updates today, but I just really saw Phil's white belt for the first time, and it looks terrible.

Leave the fashion endeavors to Poulter and Kim.

Well, I'll be here all afternoon, at least until I need to go in to work.


3:38 White belt sighting number 3? Paul Casey? Well, he's European - he's excused.


3:30 It took an hour, but matches are starting to tighten up. Luke Donald is back to 1DN, and the Phil/Stewie match has closed too, with Stewie only 1UP

Should be a great afternoon of golf.


2:39 Geoff Ogilvy takes the first lead of the day after 4 holes against Camillo. Ernie Els is taking it to Luke Donald, going 3 UP after five holes. Ernie may begin making a believer out of me again. He's making no mistakes


2:37 It looks like Cink has one of those stark white belts on too, but his shirt isn't tucked in so tight that it sticks out like a band of lights in Times Square. Phil, loosen up the shirt a little buddy.


2:35 Is this the new and improved Ian Poulter? It's not his game that needed improvement, but his arrogance.

Now, every professional athlete has a bit of an arrogant attitude - like Bobby Fisher said, you need to have contempt for your opponent.

But to see Poulter with conservative apparel and focusing on golf is actually refreshing. Perhaps we're going to see him ascend to the elite of the golfing world.

ACM - Day 3 Preview

I think I got a little overwhelmed with the full bracket breakdown on Wednesday, so I apologize for not putting up a day two preview.

Now that I've recovered, it's time to break down the sweet sixteen.

Bobby Jones Bracket

Match 53
#8 Tim Clark SAF vs. #4 Rory McIlroy NIR

I don't think Tim Clark will suffer any letdown after beating Tiger. I am also not surprised he pulled out the win. Tim Clark is a solid player who is going to be a major champion someday.
Rory McIlroy is plugging along. The look on his face after beating Hunter Mahan displayed relief and excitement - he wants to win, and he's looking forward to continuing to advance.
As well as Clark is playing I don't know that Rory has enough to beat him, but I still believe Rory's playing on a big stage and trying to make a statement here in his first start on U.S. soil.

I'll take the young gun in a thriller.

Outcome: McIlroy, 19 Holes

Match 54
#2 Geoff Ogilvy AUS vs. #3 Camillo Villegas COL

The left side of the bracket features 4 incredible matchups. And this isn't even the best of them.
It's a great pairing, though, and should be the most competitive of the bunch.
Ogilvy is as steady and unflappable as Villegas is fiery and explosive. Both are playing well, and this is a toss-up.
I'm continuing to make bad choices by taking the player I really like and going against the player I still haven't warmed to.
This will be a barn burner.

Outcome: Ogilvy, 1UP

Ben Hogan Bracket

Match 49
#9 Luke Donald ENG vs. #4 Ernie Els SAF

This decision isn't any easier to make. I don't know if Luke spent a ton of energy in his comeback against Vijay Singh, but it looks like he's playing well and ready to advance. Els' win over Steve Stricker was equally impressive, but I don't know how confident I am that he can continue to win.
Luke Donald is proving to me that he is playing well, and I'll take him in another closely contested match which could go either way. I have no idea.

Outcome: Donald, 1UP

Match 50
#2 Phil Mickelson USA vs. #6 Stewart Cink USA

This is the only match of the four where I really think I have an idea what's going to happen. I'm sure tomorrow the results will prove me wrong.
Phil is playing very good golf right now and he won his first two matches, which is all that matters. In any bracketed tournament, the motto is "survive and advance."
Stewart Cink has been doing the exact same thing, although in a different manner. He has not run out to big leads, but instead battled closely to the end to pull out wins.
I think they're both great match play players, but I'm giving the edge to the player who has an incredible record in both President's Cup and Ryder Cup play.
Oh, he has a runner-up finish in this tourney as well.

Outcome: Cink, 2 AND 1

Gary Player Bracket

Match 55
#8 Ian Poulter ENG vs. #12 Sean O'Hair USA

Ian Poulter is proving to be a capable match play player. Sean O'Hair is showing people why he will someday, sooner rather than later, become a successful President's Cup and Ryder Cup player.
O'Hair took out a very capable Boo Weekley today, and Poulter has been the recipient of a beneficial draw.
Sean O'Hair needs to step up soon. Getting to the Elite Eight here will be a good start.

Outcome: O'Hair, 2 AND 1

Match 56
#15 Peter Hansen SWE vs. #6 Paul Casey ENG

Peter Hansen is one of the few fifteen seeds to make it this far in this event. He's playing very good golf right now. Paul Casey got a bit of a reprieve in facing Matthew Goggin on day two after having to eliminate Aaron Baddeley.
The big upsets tend to stop once the players reach the sweet sixteen. Paul Casey is the one to watch on this side of the bracket and in the Gary Player bracket specifically.

Outcome: Casey, 4 AND 3

Sam Snead Bracket

Match 51
#9 Ross Fisher ENG vs. #4 Jim Furyk USA

Ross Fisher is not a fifteen seed, but with the lack of knowledge I had of him he just as well could have been.
Jim Furyk continues to do what he does best - play good golf, fly under the radar and pick up wins.
He'll continue to do that on day 3 since he has more experience in his earlobe than Ross Fisher has in his golf bag. This won't be a blowout, but I don't see Furyk losing here.

Outcome: Furyk, 2 AND 1

Match 52
#7 Justin Leonard USA vs. #11 Owen Wilson ENG

This will not be the most flashy of matches, even though both of these players can make putts from anywhere. They could be in your backyard right now and put it in the cup on your local muni.
Leonard is solid and experienced in match play. Owen Wilson got indoctrinated at last year's Ryder Cup, and came through in flying colors.
This will be an entertaining match to watch, filled with solid golf. I'm going to take the player I wanted to in the first round and who has convinced me that he's the real deal.

Outcome: Wilson, 2 AND 1

Thursday, February 26, 2009

ACM - Day 2 Live Update

Sorry I don't have a preview for today's matches - I will be updating as I follow coverage on The Golf Channel, though.

Tiger's going to have his hands full with Tim Clark today. Clark is solid, he handled Retief Goosen yesterday, and he's not going to be intimidated.

The right half of my bracket is devastated. My two final four picks, Robert Karlsson and Stuart Appleby are out, and basically all my other picks lost too.

I was perfect in the Ben Hogan bracket, but all the favorites won there, and the 9 seed Luke Donald won. Not too tough to make those picks.


Tiger being Tiger, he calmly sinks a twelve foot birdie putt to square the match with Tim Clark after seven holes.

Zach Johnson hit a beautiful approach to about six feet and converts the birdie to get 1DN against Phil. They're going to the 18th, where Zach must win to stay alive in the match.

I can't get enough of the new Nike commercial - it's fantastic. Carl Petterson's reaction at the end of it is priceless.


Eww, an atrocious approach on the par-3 12th by Phil. He came up short of the bunker that fronts the green - I mean, that's SHORT.


Some incredible matches today: Ernie Els vs. Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson vs. Phil Mickleson, Lee Westwood vs. Stewart Cink, Miguel Angel Jimenez vs. Camillio Villegas...I could almost type them all - really great pairings.


After winning the par-5 second, Tiger hits a beautful approach on the par-3 third hole to about eight feet. Clark missed the green to the right. Advantage Tiger.


There's not a whole lot that's compelling in the coverage so far today - except that Phil just lost a hole, and we get to see if he can close the match out, or just hold on to squeak another one out.

I know that it's the win that counts, and it doesn't matter if it's ugly or not, but convincing wins build more confidence than close nail-biters.


Tim Clark just dropped an absolute BOMB. It actually looked like a mirror image of Tiger's putt on 17 at The Players a few years ago - without the island of course.


Phil misses ANOTHER shortish putt to give another hole back to Zach Johnson. From 4UP to 2UP.

In other action, Anthony Kim is making a comeback against Owen Wilson, draining a huge putt himself.


Phil got a little chippy with Steve Sands in the post round interview yesterday when Sands asked about giving up the 4UP lead and if it was comparable to last week's final round drama. If he gives up ANOTHER 4UP lead today, you don't think Sands is going to talk about it again?

I have no idea what's going on with Phil, but he's having another terribly difficult time closing out another match.


Well, Tiger is 1DOWN for the first time this week. This was going to be a difficult match, Clark is playing well, and how Tiger plays the rest of the way will show how 'back' he really is.


Nice approach by Phil, Zach carried his just a bit too far and he's got an almost unmakeable putt to try and halve the match.


Phil pulls his match out to face Stewart Cink tomorrow - one of the best pairings of the tournament.

Tiger has evened up his match with Tim Clark, and Owen Wilson just took out Anthony Kim. On the surface a big upset, but seeing how Owen Wilson played in last year's Ryder Cup I'm not that surprised. Plus, the guy made eight birdies on his round, so Tony didn't play terrible - he just got beat.


He bleeds!!! Tiger misses a putt to go to 3 down in his match. Sorry for the delay, I needed to go to the market.

And now I need to go to work. :(

See you tomorrow.