Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ten Reasons Why I Absolutely Love the Masters

I can't wait for the Masters to start this year. With Tiger, Rory and Phil playing well, 2013's version should be phenomenal and most likely, as usual, will come down to the back nine on Sunday.

One aspect of the Masters’ appeal is that while many things in America are changing at microwave speed, the tournament and it’s setting remains transfixed in another era. From its Magnolia Lane, a picturesque and darkly shaded boulevard leading up the clubhouse, to the blooming, colorful azaleas, to the green blazer awarded the champion each year, few things seem to change.
To fans, the Masters retains its aura because—except for the first week in April—the public is rarely exposed to the Augusta National golf course. The club has repeatedly refused deals for licensing agreements, and the only place you can get Masters memorabilia such as hats, visors and shirts is at the tournament.
Here are my top 10 reasons why I love the Masters:
Knowledgeable and polite golf fans.
I know it sounds elitist, but keeping drunk, rowdy, golf illiterate fans away from Augusta National is a good thing. I love the fact there are no beered up clowns yelling “In the hole” on par five tee shots or “You da man” to everybody inside the ropes. 
Champions Dinner on Tuesday of Masters Week
What a great tradition? When you win the Masters you become a member of golf’s most exclusive club. One of the perks is the previous year’s winner gets to select the menu (and pick up the tab) for the annual dinner. Some of my favorite selections include Tiger Woods’ cheeseburgers and milkshakes in 1998 when he was 22 years old; Jose Maria Olazabal’s Paella (a Spanish rice dish with seafood) in 1995 and Ben Crenshaw’s Texas barbeque in 1996.
No corporate signage
One of the reasons Augusta National is so pleasing to watch on our television screens is the total lack of corporate signage. It’s one of the few places left in America where you’re not subjected to some sign wanting to sell you something. With pop up ads on the Internet, intrusive advertisements at movie houses and endless signs and corporate tents at your typical PGA Tour event, it’s a welcome reprieve to see Augusta National, a throwback to a simpler time.
Par Three Contest
You can see the joy on the player’s faces as they walk around the course accompanied by their small children, who are wearing mini-sized caddie outfits. The event was first held in 1960. The course designed by George Cobb plays over DeSoto Springs Pond and Ike’s Pond, which is named for President Dwight Eisenhower. One of my favorite bits of Masters trivia is that no winner of the Par 3 Contest has ever gone on to win on the big course. Another great bit of Masters trivia: How many hole-in-ones have been scored on the Par 3 Contest? Give up? 70.
Caddie coveralls
While the green jacket is the most renowned Masters fashion statement, the white coveralls worn by the caddies instantly tell you this tournament is “a tradition like no other” to borrow a Jim Nance phrase. I love watching the golfers walk down the verdant fairways next to their caddies, who wear green caps and the white coveralls with the name of their golfers on the back in green lettering. While PGA Tour caddies have pretty much taken over the caddie duties, the old-time Masters caddies like Stovepipe, Pappy, Iron Man, Cricket and Cemetery will be as much a part of Masters lore as Amen Corner and Magnolia Lane.
Azaleas and magnolias.
I never get tired of seeing the bright azaleas that accent the golf course. Nothing signifies spring better than these brightly colored plants that provide the perfect color contrast for the verdant green surroundings. What I learned recently was that the golf course was built on land that previously served as the first nursery in the South. Through the years, more than 80,000 plants of more than 350 varieties have been added to the grounds.  The 61 magnolia trees that line Magnolia Lane are an awesome sight as well.
Real food and real low prices
Forget about hot dogs and hamburgers at the Masters (the smoke from the grills would presumably damage the garden-like ambiance), the real concession star is the pimento cheese sandwich that sells for $1.50. Yes, $1.50. Masters concession prices are stuck in a time warp. While other major American sports events have introduced price gouging to new levels at their concession stands, the members at Augusta National seem to care less about turning a profit on their concessions. Other $1.50 sandwich selections include egg salad, tuna salad and turkey. Want a brewski? How about two bucks?
Ceremonial honorary starters
I absolutely love the concept of having golf’s great past champions hit the ceremonial first shot. This year Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player will share the honor. The ritual started in 1963 and through the year’s greats like Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead have participated. Sadly, between 2002 and 2007 the tournament didn’t have an honorary starter. In 2007, Palmer accepted the invitation after declining it in the previous years. Now, this year with Arnie and Jack it couldn’t be better. They represent everything that is good and wholesome about the game and its great traditions.
No tickets
People adore and want what they can’t have, right. The Masters definitely falls into that category. It’s the toughest ticket in sports. There is a waiting list but it was closed in 1978. Even if you open up the list, thousands of names are already ahead of you and me. You have a better chance of getting tickets to the Super Bowl, World Series, or NBA Championship than to the Masters.
The Green Jacket and other awards
Even the poor slug who can a barely tell the difference between a tennis ball and a golf ball knows about the green jacket awarded to the winner of the Masters. Most people don’t realize there are a host of other prizes at the Masters. For instance, the winner also receives a gold medal; the runner-up receives a silver medal and silver slaver and each day’s low score is awarded a crystal vase.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Top Five 19th Hole Experiences

Veranda view Sun Valley Resort
My taste in 19th holes is quite eclectic, ranging from sipping a single malt in Wales to chugging a frosty brew in Florida.
Here is my top five:
The bar at Royal Porthcawl
Royal Porthcawl (Porthcawl, Wales, England)—Adorned with black and white pictures of past club presidents, plaques listing club champions and appointed with rich wood tables and leather chairs and sofas, the bar is a phenomenal place to drown your sorrows or celebrate your victories after playing one of the world’s great links courses. A great collection of beers, ales and whiskies, makes this simple bar a spectacular experience.
Duel in the Sun Bar at Turnberry Resort (Ayrshire, Scotland)—More of a sports bar than a traditional Scottish pub, this comfortable room in the heart of the hotel has several big screen televisions, an antique snooker table and bar food like fish and chips with mushy peas, peppered pork hot pot with potatoes and carrots and a Scotch lamb and mint burger.
Flora-Bama Lounge (Perdido Key, Florida)—If you venture to the Gulf Shores, Alabama area to play courses like Kiva Dunes, Craft Farms and Lost Key, by all means conclude your day with a few rounds at the Flora-Bama Lounge. It gets its name from its location on the Florida-Alabama border.  Former Oakland Raiders quarterback and serious partier in his day, Kenny Stabler, once called it “the best watering hole in the country.” A combination oyster bar, juke joint and seafood shack, the Flora-Bama is an authentic American roadhouse. Don’t miss the Mullet Toss Festival staged the last full weekend in April (this year 27, 28 and 29).
Sun Valley Resort (Sun Valley, Idaho)—If you’re looking for pure bliss after a round of golf, this clubhouse has a wrap-around terrace with an outdoor fireplace, postcard beautiful mountain panoramas and an excellent menu of burgers, sandwiches and salads.  Doubling as a Nordic ski center in the winter, the clubhouse has perfected the idea of providing the “good life” for its patrons, whether they’re playing golf or swishing down the slopes.
Windsor Golf Hotel & Country Club (Nairobi, Kenya)—High vaulted ceilings and a long hardwood bar create a comforting ambiance after a round on the 7,277 yard course that weaves its way through coffee farms and indigenous forests. Ice cold brew on tap and a good selection of whiskies and spirits make it a superb experience.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

5 Reasons I love to Play Greg Norman Courses

1. His courses are often in spectacular settings such as Emerald Bay in the Bahamas (see picture), Doonbeg in Ireland and Westin Rio Mar River Course in Puerto Rico.

2. He uses little rough in his designs, which speeds up play and allows escapes after wayward tee shots.

3. Wide open fairways. He typically gives golfers large landing areas.

4. He encourages bump and run shots on most of his courses. by keeping the fronts of the greens open. Beware, though, Norman has a penchant for placing deep bunkers beside greens, which can be difficult to escape for high-handicappers.

5. The shaved collars around the greens give golfers a wide range of options. Oftentimes, you can putt, chip or pitch from over 60 feet. It makes for some exciting times the closer you get to the hole.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tiger Woods Wins at Bay Hill--He's Back

Flapstack floozies, annoying and nosy media types and little kids seeking autographs, beware.

The Tiger is back.

About the only thing that can perhaps slow down Tiger now is
is that Hank Haney tell-all book slated for release tomorrow (March 27).

Woods returned to form in Orlando with a slew of birdies and eagles leaving the likes of Graeme McDowell and Ernie Els struggling to keep pace.

Just like old times, huh?

After two years of wayward drives, missed putts and knee problems, Woods is finally back holding a trophy and making his fellow competitors mumble that familiar line: "Wha happen?"

What a two year plus drought it has been for Tiger?

First the fire hydrant at Isleworth, followed by a loss of all his major sponsors, a stint at a Mississippi sex clinic, a divorce, a move to a mansion in south Florida, a new instructor and swing change, a very public verbal throwdown with ex-caddie Steve Williams, a new caddie and a few tournament withdrawals along the way.

And those are just the highlights of the tumultuous life of Tiger Woods since that fateful night of the escapade in the Escalade.

Love him or despise him, it looks like Tiger is really back this time.

Whether Tiger can continue this magic in the Majors remains to be seen.

Whatever you think of Tiger, he just made the Masters that much more intriguing this year.

Finally, we might see this generation's version of the big three--Tiger, Phil and Rory--battling it out on the slick greens and lush fairways of Augusta National.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

New Links Magazine Top 100 List Ranks High

I’m generally not a big fan of golf course ranking lists. They’re a bit like trying to pick who’s more beautiful—Jessica Alba or Jessica Biel.
Whistling Straits is No. 32 on Links 100 U.S. Rankings
Uh, it really can't be done. Although I like Jessica...
That said, I like the new concept Links Magazine is employing that gives its readers a say in their rankings. While Links’ list, called the Links 100,  still uses the usual suspects for a panel like writers, golf architects, superintendents, club pros and the like, they’re allowing their readers to participate via a web-based system that allows readers to cast a ballot.
Links readers can create their own personal Top 100 list on the magazine’s website, archive it, then return and edit it as they play other courses.
It’s a great idea.

Friday, March 23, 2012

5 Reasons I Can't Wait For Hank Haney's Book on Tiger Woods

The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods will be released March 27.
1. After years of Tiger’s short, curt answers to media questions revealing little about him as a person, it’ll be interesting and compelling to read Haney’s observations.
2. What’s with Woods' fascination with the Navy SEALS? Haney talks about Woods taking parachute drops and undergoing SEALS-like training. Oh yeah, his pops was a Green Beret, so maybe there’s something to this story.
3. For years, everybody disregarded Woods’ treatment of people and kissed his posterior as he was piling up victories and Major championships. Haney supposedly spills the beans on Tiger’s rudeness and cheapness. Hey, he even made Haney pick up the tab for takeout, according to excerpts leaked from the book.
4. I can’t wait for Tiger’s press conference at Augusta National  when some poor slug asks him to comment on the book. The famous Tiger stare and then who knows what follows. Get ready for some fireworks.
5. Despite all the pre-release attention given to Haney’s observations on Woods’ boorish behavior, there’s got to be something in the book about golf instruction and guiding Tiger to unparalleled levels, right?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

5 Reasons Why Arnold Palmer Will Always be King

1. With his “go for broke”, swashbuckling style, he almost singlehandedly is responsible for making golf on television watchable and successful.
2. His record of achievement includes the 1954 U.S. Amateur, four Masters, two British Opens, a U.S. Open, 62 PGA Tour victories and 10 Senior PGA Tour wins, including the PGA Seniors Championship and U.S. Senior Open.
3. He was instrumental in starting the Golf Channel, which has helped elevate the game globally.
4. He set the gold standard for class and how a modern day athlete should interact with fans and media.
5. He created the “Arnold Palmer”, that wonderful, refreshing libation of ice tea and lemonade mixed together.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Golf Channel's David Feherty: He's Just Not That Funny

Is it just me or is David Feherty-- who hosts an interview show on the Golf Channel-- not that funny and a bit of a boor?
In his bio on the Golf Channel website he’s described this way: “Thanks to a sharp wit and colorful personality, David has become golf’s most irrepressible personality and viewer favorite.”
Uh, he’s not really a favorite with this viewer.
While Feherty has an outstanding line-up of guests—everybody from golfers Sergio Garcia and Michelle Wie to instructor extraordinaire Butch Harmon and NBA basketball icon Bill Russell—his constant antics and quips typically fall flat making the show difficult to watch at times.
Feherty tries too hard to make people laugh with an endless series of sight gags, cheesy pratfalls and self-depricating skits. He’s like some desperate lounge act comedian in Las Vegas trying to entertain a bunch of bored, drunken conventioneers.
Apparently, Feherty has watched too many Conan O’Brien and David Letterman shows. His hopelessly unfunny skits such as dressing up like a matador and running from a bull in bullring in Spain while he was there interviewing Garcia and jumping into a fountain on the Stanford University campus during the Wie interview come off like some Letterman wannabe stunts.
I’m not a big fan of Feherty’s interview skills, either, because he attempts too many goofy quips and detracts from his guests.
That said, I’ll continue to watch because his guests are fascinating and Feherty does somehow manage to draw interesting stories and insights from them.
Please Feherty, you’re no Conan or David.
Stop trying to act like them and just do a good solid interview. 
It’ll provide easier viewing for all of us.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

5 Reasons I Love to Play Golf at Mission Hills Resort in China

1. It has the largest golf course menu on earth with 12 layouts designed by a wide range of architects from Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye to Nick Faldo and Annika Sorenstam.
2. It has more than 3,000 caddies-- an army of cheerful, polite young ladies, who make a round of golf joyful and fun.

3. The open-front concrete structures on the courses serve Chinese noodle soup and ice cold Tsingtao, my favorite Chinese beer.
4. The American-style, high quality maintenance standards at all of the courses provide a fantastic golf experience.
5. The 163-yard, par-3 signature hole on the Faldo course, which is reminiscent of the 17th at TPC Sawgrass is spectacular. Faldo’s version offers a tee shot from an elevated tee more than 100 feet above a tiny green.
(MissionHills Resort in southern China is situated less than a 30-minute drive from downtown Shenzhen and a 70-minute drive from Hong Kong.)

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Next Great Seaside Course

Golfers, let me introduce you to Canada’s answer to Pebble beach.
Scheduled to open for play June 29 in Nova Scotia is Cabot Links, a spectacular links layout on the western side of Cape Breton Island in the town of Inverness, a former mining village.
A wonderland of treeless terrain with undulating fairways, deep pot punkers and swales and stunning ocean views, Cabot Links is designed by Rod Whitman, a Canadian, who also fashioned the Sagebrush Golf Club in British Columbia.
A par 70, the course will measure 6,942 yards from the tips and play about 6,500 yards for the average amateur golfer.
It’s a walking only course with traditional caddying. Opening concurrent with Cabot Links is an on-site 48-unit lodge.
Cabot Links is being developed by Mike Keiser, the same gentlemen who brought us the wondrous Bandon Dunes in Oregon.
Getting there is no easy chore. You take a flight to Halifax and then it’s a about a 2 ½ hour drive to the course.
Once you arrive in Inverness, you can celebrate Cabot Links and the proximity of the Glenora single-malt whiskey distillery, which is located only seven minutes from the 18th green.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

5 Reasons I Like to Play Golf at Innisbrook Resort

1. The Copperhead, site of the PGA Tour’s Transitions Championship, is one of Florida’s best courses. Don’t ask me. Paul Azinger once said, “Copperhead is the best course we play on Tour.”
2. With its rolling hills and tall pines, the Copperhead is reminiscent of the Sandhills of North Carolina. If you’re tired of palm laden, flat-as-a-pancake Florida courses, play Copperhead near Tampa.
3. You can see all types of wildlife on the Copperhead, including fox squirrels, bald eagles, alligators and blue herons.
4. It has three other 18-hole courses. My favorite is the Island, which is peppered with water hazards and bunkers.
5. The Fox Squirrel walking course is a 9-hole, par 36, 1,236-yard layout ideal for kids and novices.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Ballybunion's Old Course in County Kerry, Ireland is a true Irish treasure. A picture of this phenomenal course is a great way to celebrate everything Irish on this day.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Blue Monster Makeover

Guess who will be re-designing the TPC Blue Monster at Doral Golf Resort in Miami?
Gil Hanse. 

He's the little known architect, who was recently selected over Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Gary player design groups to design the 2016 Olympics golf course in Rio de Janeiro with LPGA Hall of Famer Amy Alcott.
Hanse will take orders at Doral from Donald Trump, who purchased Doral for $150 million. Trump reportedly plans to spend a whopping $200 million to revamp the Blue Monster.
Trump already owns golf courses in New York, Washington and California.
Hanse’s most notable designs are Castle Stuart Golf Links in Inverness, Scotland, Rustic Canyon in Moorpark, California,  and TPC of Boston.
Based in Malvern, Pennsylvania, Hanse states several of his philosophies on his website. One of the most intriguing is: “We create courses that are simple and elegant in appearance, yet sophisticated in strategy and interest.”
It’ll be interesting to see what he and Trump come up with for 200 mill.
Rest assured, it will be fun to watch and eventually to play. 

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

5 Reasons I Love to Watch Phil Mickelson Play Golf

1. He’s Phil the Thrill. He’ll try unbelievable shots some players won’t even attempt in practice.
2. He’s this generation’s version of Greg Norman, a pedal-to-the-metal player who can crash and burn faster than a NASCAR driver.
3. He has the best short game in the universe. Put a 60-degree wedge in his hands and he’s a Mozart in golf shoes.
4. Whether you think it’s phony or manufactured, Mickelson looks like he enjoys the game and the fans that follow him. He’s the antithesis of a particular surly golfer named after a striped animal.
5. He’s the player to watch at the 2012 Masters. While Rory and Tiger will command most of the pre-tournament hype, Phil has been the best player in the Masters over the last five years. He won twice, had two thirds and averaged 70.40 per round.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Where's John Daly?

With all the media fireworks created by Rory’s ascent to No. 1 in the world, Tiger’s Achilles issues and Phil’s march to the Masters, John Daly has disappeared from the PGA Tour limelight.

The last time we heard much about Daly was at the Australian Open in November when he created a stir by smashing a series of shots into a lake and saying he had run out of balls.

With no PGA Tour card and reliant on sponsor’s exemptions, Daly has been spanning the globe to play in a wide variety of tournaments. In January and February, J.D. teed up in Qatar, Dubai and India. Daly withdrew from the Avantha Masters in New Delhi after injuring his elbow in the first round.

Daly said on “Twitter” that his “elbow snapped”.

Reportedly healthy again, you can see Daly near Tampa this week. He plays in the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook Resort. Daly now resides nearby in the Clearwater area. He played in the Transition’s pro-am on Monday with Rays hurler David Price.

The following week, it’s back overseas again for tournaments in Morocco and Sicily. Daly has more stamps on his passport than an international jewelry salesman.

No matter where he plays these days, the 44-year old Daly hasn’t been doing well. He’s only made one cut in five tournaments in 2012.

Pay close attention when you’re watching the Transitions Championship because you might not even recognize the once rotund golfer. Daly now weighs 187 pounds.

You can see the svelte Daly at the Masters next month. He won’t be on the course, however.

He’ll be in Augusta hawking his merchandise.

Anybody need any Loudmouth pants, “Being John Daly” t-shirt or signed hat ?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

5 Reasons I Love to Play Golf in the Dominican Republic

1. It has three world-class self-contained golf resorts—Casa de Campo, Punta Cana Resort & Club and Cap Cana.

2. It’s home to four of my favorite Caribbean courses—Teeth of the Dog, Roco Ki, Punta Espada and Corales.

3. Top architects like Pete Dye, Tom Fazio, Jack Nicklaus, Gary player and Robert Trent Jones Sr. have fashioned exceptional courses in the D.R.

4. You can enjoy a Dominican cigar, among the best in the world, while cruising the fairways. Fuente, Partagas or Davidoff, anyone?

5. There is diverse terrain with mountainous interior and spectacular beaches framing the country. Off-the-course activities include snorkeling and diving, casino gaming and nightclub dancing.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Hilarious Tiger Woods Television Coverage

Sadly, you can forget Justin Rose’s victory or Bubba Watson’s putt that would’ve sent this weekend's tournament at Doral to a play-off. The highlight of the final day was seeing NBC’s coverage of Tiger withdrawing at the WGC-Cadillac Championship on Sunday.

The television oversaturation of Tiger continued in comical fashion.

After a tee shot on number 12 hole, Woods informed his playing partner Webb Simpson he would withdraw. NBC then used one of its high-rise crane cameras to follow Woods to the parking lot to document his departure.

While it wasn’t exactly helicopters chasing O.J.’s White Bronco or paparazzi hiding behind bushes outside the Viper Room in Hollywood, it did seem a little over-the-top as I watched on television.

The high-rise camera showed Woods getting into what might be the largest black Mercedes-Benz sedan in the world. You know, the kind sheiks and presidents cruise around in. To add drama, a medical vehicle pulled up alongside the Benz to drop off what looked like ice bags for, what we later learned was Wood’s sore and swollen Achilles.

Woods issued a statement about an hour after his Benz split the scene.

“I felt tightness in my left Achilles warming up this morning, and it continued to get progressively worse," said Woods. "After hitting my tee shot at 12, I decided it was necessary to withdraw. In the past, I may have tried to continue to play, but this time, I decided to do what I thought was necessary."

I chuckled at the entire debacle. Woods was more than ten strokes behind the leader at the time of his withdrawal and basically a non-factor on the final day.

I love watching Tiger play, but the preoccupation about his every move borders on the ridiculous.

In the big picture, the PGA Tour and networks need to move on.

Obviously, Woods should be a focus of their coverage, but they must realize at some point that the golfer formerly recognized as Tiger Woods will not be returning anytime soon, if ever.

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

5 Reasons I Love to Watch Rickie Fowler Play Golf

1. His quick swing is the antithesis of the overt mechanical style favored by golf instruction gurus.

2. Fowler is more of a “feel” player and doesn’t resemble most of the robots on the PGA Tour.

3. Fowler plays the game with a unique intensity that most likely was nurtured back in his early teens when he used to race dirt bikes.

4. You can always spot the guy from hundreds of yards away with his in-your-face, brightly colored Puma outfits.

5. He’s unpredictable. You never know when he’ll pop up on a leaderboard and make a run against the best players in the world.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Great Drivers 2012

I spent several days at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando a few weeks ago where I roamed the aisles endlessly at the Orange County Convention Center and visited Demo Day (a place to try out equipment) at Orange County National Golf Club.

There were more than 1,000 companies represented at the annual show and the new product displays can be overwhelming.

Here are The Golf Travel Guru's choices for best 2012 drivers on display at the Show:

TaylorMade Rocketballz-$300

Titleist 910D2/D3-$400

Ping G20-$300

Cleveland Classic-$300

Callaway Razr X Black-$250

Friday, March 9, 2012

5 Reasons I Love Watching Tiger Woods Play Golf

1. How many golfers have changed their swing three times--or is it 4? 5? 6? 7? —and still produces at a world-class level.

2. I like it when Tiger muffs a shot and almost blows a gasket. You gotta love the clubhead smashed in the turf move or the sailor-like (or is it the Navy Seal-like) vulgar language tirade.

3. He’s the only player who elicits genuine excitement with his post great shot antics. With the fist pumps and yelps he looks more like an NBA player after posterizing some poor slug.

4. I want to be watching when the “Old Tiger” finally returns. You know, the Tiger that sunk that unbelievable chip on the par three 16th hole in the 2005 Masters (watch the video).

5. I secretly love seeing him fail and wonder how he’ll ultimately overcome. Tiger has been blowing competitors away since he was 4 years old. Let’s see if he really does have a comeback gene.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tiger, Rory and Phil at the 2012 Masters

Is this the year we get an all-out battle royal at Augusta National between who most people consider the best three golfers on the planet?

I think so.

Tiger is getting his game steadily together, highlighted by his amazing “62” at the Honda Classic. Rory has rebuilt his physique to complement his awesome game and he seems primed to close the deal at the Masters this year. Phil’s scintillating performance at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am when he shot 8-under 63 to comeback from six strokes down signaled he’s hitting all cylinders in 2012.

Is this Arnie, Jack and Gary all over again?

That’s a quantum leap, I agree, but at least we have some anticipation the 2012 Masters will be a memorable one or, as Jim Nance likes to say, “One for the Ages.”

I can’t wait.

First things first, though, the “New Big 3” will tee up today at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship along with former No. 1 Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Keegan Bradley and Hunter Mahan.

In fact, all of the top 50 in the world are in this week’s loaded field tournament at Doral’s TPC Blue Monster in Miami.

If the “New Big 3” provides some fireworks this week, things will really heat up as we head toward Augusta next month.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

5 Reasons I love Bay Hill Golf Club:

One of my favorite PGA Tour courses is Bay Hill Golf Club in Orlando.

Here’s why I love the place:

The course, originally designed by Dick Wilson and Arnold Palmer, is a masterful layout with six doglegs and water in play on 10 of the 18 holes.

The 18
th hole is a blast to play. The par-4, 485-yard (from the tips) hole requires a laser-accurate mid-iron shot over water to a huge, undulating green bordered by deep bunkers on the left side.

Though it’s a private club, you can play there if you stay at the resort’s 70-room lodge.

There’s always a chance you can meet Arnie, who is seen around the property a lot during the winter months.

The service at the course and lodge is attentive but unpretentious.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What Does Tiger's "62" Mean?

When Tiger started posting birdies and eagles in eye-popping fashion on the final day of the Honda Classic, NBC golf broadcaster Dan Hicks and analyst Johnny Miller sounded like a couple of kids who scored X-Boxes on Christmas morning.

Finally, the old Tiger had surfaced on a Sunday with the chance of pulling off a miracle comeback on a difficult course fashioned by Jack Nicklaus, whose record of 18 majors Tiger has been furiously chasing.

If not for the young Irish phenom Rory McIlroy playing steady golf through the Bears Trap holes at PGA National, the entire golf media world would be falling all over themselves celebrating the return of Tiger and his game.

Whether you’re a Tiger hater or supporter, there’s no denying people can’t stop watching this guy play golf. Haters despise Tiger’s arrogance, self-importance and general surliness around fans and the media, yet supporters are willing to forgive off-the-course shenanigans to cheer on once-in-a-generation supreme greatness.

The “62”, I believe, signals Tiger has mastered the swing techniques suggested by his instructor Sean Foley, however, Tiger has still not put together four days of great golf in a long time.

Can Tiger win before the Masters?

No. I think the “62” was an anomaly and that he still has work to regain his consistency over four days.  He has a couple of high-profile tournaments (Doral and Bay Hill) before the Masters to fine-tune his game, though.

Come Augusta time, Woods will be ready to contend for the title against Rory, Phil and all comers providing he has his putting touch for the week.

If you think Hicks and Miller were giddy last Sunday, wait’ll you hear the Tiger-fawning ESPN and CBS announcers during Masters week.

Welcome back Tiger.

What took you so long?


Monday, March 5, 2012

Hail King Rory-Golf's New No. 1

Golf has its new king and he comes in the form of a floppy-haired, Irish, 22-year-old, who can flat out play.

With Rory McIlroy’s victory at the Honda Classic, which pushed him over the top to No. 1 in the World Rankings, golf now has a dynamic poster boy, who can perhaps help our withdrawal from Tigermania.

While Tiger reminded the world of his brilliance with a scintillating 8-under, 62 on the final day, it was Rory who dominated the tournament on every other level.

Hopefully Tiger continues to improve and give Rory a strong rival because it would be great for golf. Rory is taking a somewhat measured view of his number one ranking. At the media conference after the Honda Classic, he was asked, “How long do you think you can stay here?”

He answered: “I don't know, I mean, it depends on how I play.  I mean, hopefully I can stay here but it depends on how others play.  It really is‑‑ you don't‑‑ I'd like to stay there for a while.  I'm not sure how far above Luke I go now or what the point difference is, but as long as I keep playing good golf and have chances to win tournaments, then hopefully I'll stay up there.”

Unless Tiger turns into a Vijay Singh, who won big-time and played fabulous golf in his 40s, it looks like the next ten years will be the “Decade of Rory”. 

Let’s raise a toast to watching some phenomenal golf by this exceptional young Irishmen. If Tiger, Phil and others can give him some serious competition, we’re in for some fantastic golf viewing in the near future.

Friday, March 2, 2012

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