Monday, July 31, 2017

Get Ready for Spieth Slam

Will 24-year-old Jordan Spieth achieve the career Grand Slam by winning the PGA Championship (August 10-13) at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina?


While there will be no shortage of young guns vying for the Wanamaker Trophy such as Rory McIlory, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler to name a few, nobody comes into the last major of the year with more mojo and confidence than Spieth.

His comeback from a crash-and-burn round at the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, was, as Jim Nance would say, "one for the ages". My gosh, after Spieth's disastrous first twelve holes, I thought they might start etching Matt Kuchar's name on to the Claret Jug.

Quite possibly, that one miraculous Spieth swing from the driving range next to a couple of equipment trailers, while playing the 13th hole, might have erased all the negative thoughts from blowing a three stroke lead and maybe allowed him, in the big picture, to finally put the 2016 Masters debacle in his rear view mirror.

Soon after hoisting the Claret Jug, Spieth said, "This is as much of a high as I've ever experienced in my golfing life."

Spieth is rapidly advancing to the rarified air of Nicklaus and Woods. In fact, Spieth and Nicklaus are the only players to win three different majors at the age of 23. The numbers don't lie, either. On the PGA TOUR, Spieth is No. 1 in scoring average (69.080), No. 2 in greens in regulation (70.58), No. 1 on the Official Money List and No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings. He's also tied with his friend Justin Thomas with 8 top ten finishes this season.

Arguably, the most impressive number is that Spieth wins 9% of the time, which is absolutely phenomenal when you consider the best players in the world only win around 5% of the time.

When you consider Spieth's momentum, confidence and statistics, he must be considered the consensus favorite to take home the 2017 PGA Championship. Enhancing his chances is an out-of-this-world, clutch short game, amazing prowess on putts over 15 feet and Michael Greller, who many consider to be the best caddie in the game and very experienced in major championships.

A win for Spieth would be great for golf. After all of the bad news concerning Tiger's troubles on and off-the-course, a victory at the PGA Championship to capture the career Grand Slam will give the golf world a huge headline and further enhance Spieth's status as the face of American golf around the world.

Monday, July 24, 2017

10 Reasons I Love Italy's Friuli Venezia Giulia Region

One of the Guru's favorite places on the planet is Italy. I spend a month there each year. On this visit (June 2017), I took much more time exploring vineyards than golf courses in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. Yet, whether you want to play lots of golf or drink lots of wine, I highly recommend you visit this area about two hours north of Venice.

Here are 10 reasons why:

1. Fantastico Wine--With my humble apologies to all golf lovers, if the Guru had to make the dreadful choice between giving up wine or golf, I'd have to lay my clubs to rest. I enjoy great wines immensely and especially Italian wines. I absolutely love the wonderful, crisp wines in this region like Friulano, Pinot Grigio, Ribolla Gialla and Sauvignon.

2. Great Golf--The golf menu is impressive with seven good courses to choose from, including Golf Club Trieste, Golf Club Udine, Golf Club Lignano, Golf Club Grado, Golf & Country Club Castello Di Spessa, Golf Club Castel D'Aviano and Golf Club Tarviso.

3. City of Trieste--It's one of my favorite cities in the world. It's like a mini San Francisco with its hills and antique trolly to the village of Opicina, which overlooks the city. There's also Barcola beach, the castles of San Giusto and Miramare, Piazza Unita, a beautiful city square overlooking the ocean and a walkable old town with excellent seafood restaurants.

4. Town of Civedale--Founded by Julius Caesar in 50 B.C., this charming little town surrounded by vineyards has cobblestone streets, ancient buildings, a national archeological museum, a picturesque bridge and a city square rimmed by quaint cafes and restaurants.

5. Wine Hotels and Farmhouses--I decided to eschew traditional hotels on my visit and opted for small boutique properties or farmhouse hotels. One of my favorites is Il Roncal, a small estate winery with 50 acres of terraced vineyards and a small hotel. It has a swimming pool, bicycles for rides through the vineyards, exceptional wines and a sunny outdoor patio where you can enjoy breakfast each morning.

6. Foodie Fun--Because the region is in close proximity to the Austrian border, you'll find lots of great fusion cuisine. Some of my favorites include Jota, a bean soup topped with sauerkraut; Frico, a fritatta-like pancake of cheese and potatoes and Strucolo, the region's take on Austrian strudel. Also, don't forget to get a plate of San Danielle ham with a nice glass of local wine and fresh baked bread.

7. Castles--If you love castles, you'll love this region. Some of my favorites are Castlemonte near Civedale and Castle Miramare and Castello di San Guisto in Trieste.

8. Villa Bottacin in Trieste--One of my favorite places to stay in all of Europe is the Villa Bottacin, which was originally built in 1854. About 10 years ago, it was converted into a boutique hotel. It has a beautifully landscaped lawn and garden, outdoor terrace for breakfast dining and a swimming pool where you lounge and sip limoncello. La Dolce Vita, indeed.

9. Venice Airport (Marco Polo)--In my opinion, it's absolutely one of the best and easiest-to- navigate airports in Italy. Flying into Rome or Milan is hectic and a major hassle. Marco Polo was enhanced a few years ago to accommodate cruise travelers and it's really a great entry point to enjoy northern Italy, especially the Friuli Venezia Giulia region.

10. Bicycle Trails and Roads--There are some unbelievable bicycle trails and small roads that weave through the vineyards just outside Civedale in Friuli Venezia Giulia. Several of the wine hotel and farmhouses offer complimentary bicycle rental. You can ride leisurely through the vineyards in quiet isolation most of the time.

Monday, July 10, 2017

10 Amazing Golf Superstitions and Quirky Situations

The Guru has teed it up around the world with all sorts of golfers. There are, of course, differences in golf courses, cultural attitudes and drink choices at the 19th hole. (I love a chilled Vinho Verde wine in Portugal and a frosty Tsingtao in China after a round). 

One thing that seems to be universal, though, are the crazy superstitions and quirky behaviors golfers display no matter where you are in the world.

Here are 10 of my favorite ones:

1.  Never drink a beer on the first hole. It implies you're not serious about golf. The Guru always waits to the second hole for some swing oil.

2. Don't use crappy, cheap balls or range balls when facing a water hazard off the tee--It's just bad karma. Range balls, especially.

3. If you find a person's ball out of bounds while looking for yours, don't use it in that round. It may have a tendency to find out of bounds frequently.

4. Don't yell "it's in the hole" when you see your ball tracking towards the hole for a hole-in-one. Remember, the ball can hear you and it likes to do the opposite of your command.

5. Don't stand with your shadow in someone else's putting line. Shadows somehow make people miss putts. Yeah, sure.

6. Never say out loud, "I hope I don't hit it in the water" because you inevitably will. That phrase creates some sort of magnet effect.

7. Don't carry more than one extra ball in your pocket. It's bad vibes and puts the idea in your head that you EXPECT to lose balls.

8. Always wear a lucky color shirt. They work. Just ask Jack Nicklaus-Yellow, Gary Player-Black, Tiger Woods-Red and Rickie Fowler-Orange.

9. You should always mark your ball consistently with either heads or tails on your coin. Don't go back and forth.

10. Always take your hat off when shaking hands after a round. It's not necessarily bad karma-- you just want to be a gentleman and show sportsmanship and not come off as some sort of rube.