Archive for the ‘GOLF’ Category

WE’RE OPEN! Pack a sand wedge

Posted: July 13, 2011 in GOLF

It’s that time of year POS fans, the Open Championship is upon us and I could not be happier. I find that the Open brings out the best in a golfer as it is a special type of golf (links vs. normal terrain). The challenges are many, including the quality of the fairways, endless thick rough, and bunkers that can feel more like abandoned mine shafts.

Royal St. George’s will be host to this year’s championship, and as usual the grumblings of the Open have already started. Both golfer’s old and new have been asked their opinions and they are not so favourable.

Jack Nicklaus was asked by ESPN about his preferences for the Open, he said he preferred the Scottish courses because “I didn’t have very good finishes at St. George’s. You always seem to rank courses on how you perform, so I like the Scottish venues better.”

Other players were quoted as saying they hated Royal St George’s, or that they would rank it at the very bottom of their lists of favourite Open locations, behind any other.

The last time Royal St. George’s was used for the Open championship was in 2003, where unsuspecting Ben Curtis claimed the Claret Jug, with a score of -1. Yes, one under par was the winning score and he needed to shoot a two under par to win it. Three under par was the lowest round of the day shot by three other players.

The scores are always around even par or better, but it is usually talked about that if you shoot at least one round under par before Sunday and stay around even par you’re always in the hunt. I don’t think the same can be said for any other PGA tour event, especially the majors.

It is surprising that with all the advancements in golf club technology, strategy and the time that can be put into course study, that the Open Championships prove so tough. It was not that long ago that one of my favourite players, Padraig Harrington won two consecutive Opens, including one in his Native country of Ireland.

The courses must take a toll on the body, with the tough terrain and the sloping hills and endless gusts of wind that seem to make Tornadoes look like a cool summer breeze. But there is a mental toll as well that I don’t think everyone understands.

Golf, like any individual sport, preys on the weak minded and those who lack in confidence. Padraig was in danger of becoming another victim of his own mind games suffered from results and challenges faced in his first Open Championship victory.

When talking about his win, he had this to say about the stunning yet deadly 18th hole at Carnoustie golf course: “If I’d lost after what happened on 18 I don’t know what I would have thought about playing golf again.”

For those of you who chose foolishly to not watch this tournament, you missed a spectacular finish to the regulation rounds full of drama, great shots and horrible breaks. The toughest moments came at the end of the day on the 18th hole which has two stretches of ravine, Barry Burn, winding through it with straight vertical banks.

The ravines are placed just so, that if your ball doesn’t completely clear them it’s in the water and that’s a penalty. Also, they are located just at the worst spots that most golfers lay up on the second one meaning they won’t get to the green in fewer than three shots.

To think that a three time major winner would have quit the sport and game he loves over the results of one hole is remarkable. This man had been playing for years and had varying levels of success, but one hole could have changed his life forever, and not in a good way.

Every year the Open produces moments that captivate us, forcing us to put the remote down and not dare change the channel for fear of missing something special.

Many golf fans still remember the heart break caused by Greg Norman in 2009 when he had the lead going into the final round, being the oldest 54-hole leader at an Open Championship. I was really pulling for “The Shark” to pull if off, as I was a big fan through my dad as a child.

Then the next year we had Tom Watson, seemingly out of nowhere coming within strokes of being the oldest major champion in PGA history. He had the win at the end of his putter on the final hole, but missed and was forced to play in a playoff with long time veteran Stewart Cink, who eventually won his first and so far only, major championship.

When asked by ESPN what this win would’ve meant to him, Watson replied “It would have been a hell of a story, wouldn’t it?” A positive reply from yet another victim of the gruelling tournament known as the Open Championship.

I will not go so far as to say that this year’s Open is a must watch event, but to me the weekend rounds certainly will be. The rounds start early as they are on English time, and tomorrow’s first round begins at 4:09EST. Sadly I am not that committed to golf to wake up that early on my Thursday to catch Rory’s opening round.

The weekend rounds however will certainly be must see, as the televised coverage makes it seem as though the tournament has a perfect flow and I never have to see player’s simply walking.

Rory McIlroy is the betting favourite to win it this year, and why shouldn’t he be? He will have many home fans making the short trip from Northern Ireland to cheer him on. He is not even in his prime at the age of 22 and is still fresh off a masterful performance that resulted in his first major and first U.S. Open title.

Am I picking McIlroy to win this weekend? Not a chance, there are just too many unknowns that can happen on a links course, especially in a tournament as storied and haunted as the Open Championship. The courses have no favourites and give no special favours. The winner will have to find grace, patience, and like so many other winners a little luck of the Irish.

A Rory You Can Set Your Watch To

Posted: June 20, 2011 in GOLF

The game of golf always seems to provide the sharpest of champions, they’re clean shaven, polished and masters of confidence. They have a certain aura about them that makes them a slight cut above the rest, and the younger Rory on tour certainly falls into that category.

Some people will be blogging today much like myself about the past four days events, on how this is a new rising star, another new major champion in the past 10 majors. I will do some of that, but I will take no credit for making any calls or knowing something someone else does not. I simply remember what I saw, what I read and what I watched.

Last April was when I first heard of this player, not when he was 12, not when he was 16 but last year when he won the Wells Fargo Championship. This was an impressive tournament because he stormed back after two mediocre rounds of 72 then 73 to open the tournament.

To some this is a pretty decent score, it keeps you somewhat in the mix on most non-major events but you’ve got serious work to do on the weekend, and that’s exactly what he did. McIlroy followed up his OK Thursday/Friday rounds with a masterful 63 then 62, surprising everyone but himself to take the win.

This is when I read the next-big-thing stories, the next Jack Nicklaus remarks and comparison articles. The watch was on for when he would finally win his first major title and place himself in the running for best ever.

The mark however stands clear at 18 majors, like in tennis your career is not marked by the individual wins so much as championships, or majors. Which makes you wonder sometimes why the major? If someone won 100 events but no major would they not be in the discussion as one of the greats? Would they not get any claim to fame?

I looked at the PGA list of all time wins and realized 100 wins would to me, make someone one of the top 5 greatest ever as a) a century mark of wins is incredible no matter what, and b) the most right now is Sam Snead at 82. To surpass that mark by 18 and to have the lead certainly would make you one of the best.

However it is the moment, and coming through in it that puts golfer’s and tennis players in a league of their own in professional sports. In no other sport are you on the stage by yourself taking glory and failure in the same degree, as these are the two most popular individual sports. In team sports a star can be blamed for the loss but it is the team that is credited with the win.

I think that is why the major is such a great measuring tool of ones greatness, because the true great athletes are the ones who relish that moment and opportunity to shine through and prove to the world how great they are. That you are able to harness your talents, your strengths and face your weaknesses head on and conquer them once and for all.

Sunday Rory McIlroy not only confronted his weaknesses, he corned them in a dark ally then made sure they would never bother him again. He made them wish they had never shown their face to him in the first place.

Anyone who has an appreciation for golf watched the Master’s in April and remembers the breath taking pace McIlroy started out with. He shot a 65 to start the tournament, my favourite tournament along with the British Open, which he then followed up with a strong 68 to maintain his lead going into the weekend. However this was the first time he had such a lead on this big of a stage and it showed come Saturday when he needed to be his best.

That was not the case this time around however, McIlroy maintained his swagger and confidence in his step every time he was walking up to the next tee box or strolling down the fairway to hit many of his well placed drives.

One of the great things I was noticing during the weekend play and the highlights was his ability to let his short game help his putting. Rarely did I see him place to ball far from the pin requiring an incredible putt to save par. He played very strategic, with a purpose, as if to say to everyone “Did you see the Master’s? See this and let’s never talk about that day again”, and I don’t plan on it.

The U.S. Open has a history or long fairways, fast greens and insane rough. Last year players were going down almost to the beach to hit balls instead of take penalty strokes. The rough usually requires a team of weed whackers to get through and Rory played the perfect game plan, just keep the ball in the short grass and you’ll be fine, and he was.

There never seemed to be an answer for the record setting Northern Irishman on any of these days, he was in a league of his own. The most notable achievements of this tournament are: lowest score in US Open going into Saturday, lowest score at a US Open for 72 holes, all four rounds under 70, and youngest winner in over 80 years, most importantly he is younger than Nicklaus when he won his first major title.

Now these may be limited records to the US Open but this is just the beginning for this young golfer, as is for many young players on tour. We are seeing young non North American talent scattered all over the top of the leader boards this year, and it’s exactly what golf needs.

With Tiger Woods gone for the foreseeable short term future, the young talent needs to come through and make people watch again, either with their character and passion or their pure golf talent.

McIlroy was not discovered this weekend or delivered to the world, he has been making his mark for years now and is finally reaching the apex of his stardom. Sports sites and news sites are talking about him today, but those who knew him before are not surprised, we are appreciative.

Hopefully golf has found its star for a while now, who will be challenged but ultimately just driven towards even more success. With all the young talent around him, McIlroy will surely keep his eyes in his rear view mirror watching for anyone sneaking up on him.

Once upon a time a young Tiger appeared on the big stage and wowed us year after year as he took the PGA by storm. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got your eye out for hurricane Rory and you can’t wait until he strikes again.