Sunday, July 5, 2015

Partnership With VAVEL

As you all have likely noticed, I have not been updating as regularly as I had in the past. I have a very exciting reason as to why - I have been picked up as a writer for the international news website VAVEL. I am their main golf writer at the moment, and you can find my articles here.

This does not mean I am dropping this blog all together. There will be some down time as I manage my time over at VAVEL, but when things settle down, this blog will contain my opinion on certain topics and some fantasy preview - things I can not write about on a more professional web site. So stay tuned! Thanks to everyone who has supported me to this point. This would not have been possible if it weren't for everyone checking out my blog.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thursday Preview - Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

There is only one tournament that separates the Women's PGA Championship with the Women's US Open. That tournament is the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented By P&G With Association With The Dunmore Foundation And Viewers Like You...or something like that.

Course: Pinnacle Country Club, measuring at about 6,300 yards. The winning score has been twelve under par for the past four editions of this tournament, and I am not about to go against the grain on that one.

Strength Of Field: A. Another packed field. Pretty much everyone is trying to get some warm up in for the US Women's Open.

Extra Tidbits: This is another three day event, starting on Friday and ending on Sunday...This was the site of Stacy Lewis' first LPGA victory in 2007. She was an amateur at the time and the tournament was reduced to one round thanks to terrible weather...Lewis also returns as the defending champion at a place where a majority of the crowd will be pulling for her. Lewis attended the University of Arkansas...This will be the first event in Inbee Park's new reign as world number one. It is also the first event since Lydia Ko missed her first cut on the LPGA Tour. She will be attempting to start a new streak after her previous was broken at 53 starts.

Fantasy Four: 

Inbee Park - Only player with three victories in 2015. Hasn't finished worse than T18 all season. Inbee is the best player on Tour, and it might not be that close right now.

Sei Young Kim - Incredibly impressive, having finished in the top 5 in her first two majors of her career. Struggles sometimes with consistency, but she hasn't missed a cut since the first event of the season, so even her lows aren't that bad.  

Morgan Pressel - Four straight top 5 finishes. Her next victory seems incredibly close, but when that will happen is a big question mark at this point. This tournament could be a great place for that breakout.

Stacy Lewis - Two time champion of this event, defending champion, and coming off a strong performance at the Women's PGA Championship. There are certain tournaments where Lewis is an automatic contender, and this is one of them.

(SLEEPER) Wei-Ling Hsu - Finished in 21st place at the Women's PGA Championship. Has been making cuts frequently, and creeping up the leaderboard early. Is searching for that breakout week, and I think it comes here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wednesday Preview - Travelers Championship

Alright, everyone exhale. The US Open is over, and while we are still reeling from Jordan Spieth winning the first two majors, Dustin Johnson's heartbreak, and the mixed reviews of Chambers Bay, the show much go on.

Course: TPC River Highlands, a 6,800 yard track. This will be a soft landing for any players who played the US Open last week. One of the shortest courses on Tour with some of the nicest greens. Expect high teens under par as the winner.

Strength Of Field: B+. It is surprising how good this field is, coming off the marathon that was the US Open. Jason Day withdrew from the tournament, or else this might have been an A field.

Extra Tidbits: A lot of fresh faces in this field. Cameron Smith, fresh off his T4 finish at the US Open, will be playing, as will recently turned professional Cheng Tsung Pan, who also made the cut at the US Open. Amateur John Rahm, the number one amateur who finished in the top 5 at the Phoenix Open, will also be playing. Relatively unknown Montreal golfer Jean-Phillip Cornellier is one of the Monday qualifiers...returning to competition are Ryan Armour and Stuart Appleby, who have been out with injuries since the early part of the season...Former US Amateur champion and European Tour pro Peter Uihlein will be teeing it up...Four of the last five winners of the Travelers did not play on Sunday at the Open prior. Three of the five weren't even in the field.

Fantasy Four:

Bubba Watson - Former winner who contends here every year. His length is a huge asset on such a short course. Did not perform well at the US Open, but certain courses do not fit his style. This one does.

Sergio Garcia - Finished T2 last year. Seems due for a win, but this is golf, and "due" rarely ever works out. 

Vijay Singh - Sleeper pick. Three top 25s this season. Is in the middle of a career revitalization, and his lack of length won't be a concern at this course. 

Louis Oosthuizen - Oh, Louis. Injuries are always a concern, as he has a ton of withdraws this season, but he also came within a stoke of a playoff at the US Open. If he is healthy, he should be able to content. An ultimate question mark, though.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Jordan Spieth's Ride Into History

- In a couple of months, Jordan Spieth has gone from being the future of the game to possible to doing something that has never been done before. Spieth is the youngest player to win two majors in a season and the first since Tiger Woods in 2002 to win the first two majors in a season. Spieth now has the opportunity to win all four majors in a calendar year, something that hasn't been done since Bobby Jones in 1930 and hasn't been done ever since the founding of The Masters. This is now the story of the PGA season without a doubt. St. Andrews can't come here soon enough.

- In full disclosure, I am not really a Dustin Johnson. I don't hate the man, but he just doesn't do anything for me. Down the stretch, I was rooting for Spieth to win the tournament. Still, I am absolutely devastated for how this tournament ended. While what Spieth did was historic, you don't want to win a golf tournament by having an opponent miss a three foot putt. DJ is no stranger to disappointments in majors, but this is completely different. I hope he can rebound.

- This golf course was terrible. I am not going to brush this issue under the rug just because we ended up having a great tournament. The spectators were an afterthought, the greens were made of two completely different greens, and the course itself had no character. People are going to forget about the issues Chambers Bay had because Jordan Spieth won in such a spectacular fashion, but I will not. I hope the USGA returns to the Seattle area, but they find a much better course to do so.

- I get frustrated with Louis Oosthuizen. He seems like someone who should win a bunch of golf tournaments, and yet he only has that Open Championship to his name. Perhaps he is our generations Angel Cabrera - only showing up when the spotlight is on him.

- Apparently hiring Stevie Williams was exactly what the doctor ordered for Adam Scott. After a season of struggling and being left behind by this new generation of golfers, Scott found something on Sunday, firing a record tying final round 64 to finish T4. The issue with the putter is still looming over the horizon, but for now, it's good to see Scott back into contention again. Let's see if that translates into other tournaments this season.

- The most surprising name in the Top 10? That would be 21 year old Cameron Smith, the Australian who was playing in his very first major. A lot of people have been touting the skills of Smith, but to show up in a big way on this stage takes something special. His finish gets him special temporary membership, allowing him unlimited sponsor exemptions in 2015 (which is handy, since he just used up all he was allocated this season). He also gets a tee time at Augusta National next year, and an invite back to the US Open next year. Great playing, Cameron!

- Will Phil Mickelson ever win the career grand slam? At this point, I seriously have my doubts. It's hard to say, but I think Lefty blew the best chances he had. These courses are only getting longer and harder, and Phil isn't getting any younger.

- Speaking of never winning again, what does the future hold for Tiger Woods? I gave him the benefit of the doubt before, but it's hard to see him coming back after watching him be completely baffled by Chambers Bay. Tiger only beat three players this week. I have a hard time seeing him holding another trophy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Previewing And Predicting The 2015 US Open

The most anticipated US Open in a long time is finally upon us as the players descend upon Chambers Bay in the Pacific Northwest for the second major of the year. Chambers Bay, in comparison to other golf courses around the world, is brand new, and this will be the first time most of these players will be seeing this course.

The course is officially listed at a record 7,900 yards, but there is no way they will be playing from the tips all week long. Most of these holes will fluctuate in length throughout the week. The bookend holes will play as both a par 4 and a par 5 at various points throughout the week. With how baked out as this course is, there will be a ton of roll in the fairway, meaning the smaller hitters will still be able to get the ball out there a decent way. This won't be like a typical US Open, in that driving accuracy isn't going to sink somebody. It's the short game that will be tested, as the greens have a ton of slope and will run off into the back of greens and into bunkers.

Before I get into who will win the tournament, I'm going to list a few players I will be watching and some storylines that will be prevalent.

Jordan Spieth - Spieth is going for the calendar year grand slam, something that has not been done since Bobby Jones in 1930. With so many players who can win this tournament, I had to leave someone out of my list, and Spieth got cut. This isn't to say Spieth CAN'T win - in fact, he has to be among the favorites, but I don't see it happening. The list of players who have won the US Open after winning the Masters is incredibly short - in fact, that number is five (Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Craig Wood, and Ben Hogan, who did it twice.) You're asking me to predict something historic, and I'm not willing to do that.

Tiger Woods - I predicted that he would make the cut at The Masters, and he did. I'm not willing to make that same prediction at the US Open. There are just too many places to get in trouble at Chambers Bay, and bad shots can be punished with a double or worse. Tiger can turn it on in majors, but that's usually at Augusta or another golf course that he has had success on. This is too new to him, and I don't expect to see him on Saturday.

Martin Kaymer - Has there ever been a defending champion that has been talked about less than Kaymer? It's with good reason, however - Kaymer has not followed up on that success he experienced last season. A victory by Kaymer would make him the first player since Curtis Strange in 1988-89 to defend the US Open. I don't see it happening, but Kaymer has shocked us before.

Ok, with that out of the way, I will go into my list of contenders. I'll give you one dark horse player, four contenders, and the ultimate champion.

Dark Horse:

Wen-Chong Liang - I've been teasing it all week, and here I am, putting my words where my mouth is (?). I believe Chambers Bay will be good for the Asian players, as most of them had a weeks worth of practice at the grounds. The Seattle area will be a lot easier to get acclimated to, both in terms of the culture of the area and the time zone differences. The course is baked out, which will allow for a lot of roll, and the rough is not as thick as it could be. The course sets up a bit like Whistling Straits, where Liang finished T8 in 2010. He is also peaking, as he won his most previous start. Experience in majors, coupled with form and the set up of the golf course gives me the inclination that Liang will be one of those "unknown" players who crash the party by weeks end.


5) Byeong-Hun An - Many will argue that he is as unknown as Liang and should be considered a dark horse, but I actually think An could be in this to win it. An won the BMW Championship, the flagship on the European Tour, going away. He has been having a great season, seemingly notching top 10s every week, and has experience in majors already - former US Amateur that played in a US Open and finished in the top 25 at the Open Championship. This will be the world's introduction to An, who will be an excellent player going forward.

4) Phil Mickelson - Yes, I'm getting wrapped up in it again, but this is less about sentimental value than it is current form. Lefty has finished T2 in his last two majors, which were pretty much warm ups for this event. The fairways are wider, so Phil doesn't have to worry about getting into too much trouble. He will likely be using less than driver on most holes and let the ball run out. His short game is still superb. It would be a little bit of a surprise if he won, but don't completely count him out.

3) Justin Rose - He's peaking, and he's entering the tournament where he has had the most success. This course couldn't be any more different than Merion, but Rose's game translates to almost any course. He is another player who seems to show up at majors despite his form, but his form is good right now. Excellent around the green.

2) Rory McIlroy - People are taking too much stock in his two missed cuts on the European Tour. This was a player that was mentally and physically gassed. He's a big hitter, so he will shorten these holes considerably. More than that, he's the best player in the world, and it doesn't really matter what course he is playing on. He has won on both links style and US Open style courses. He's the man to beat, but I know who is going to beat him.


Hideki Matsuyama - Yes, I picked Matsuyama at Pinehurst and that didn't pan out, but I feel like everything is setting up for Matsuyama to win this week. Great ball striker that will stay out of trouble. Notched a whopping ten top 10s this season, including at The Masters, where he didn't have the greatest success going in. No expectations for him going in means he's under the radar, and he has seen this course the same amount of times as everyone else, so his inexperience is cancelled out. His weakness is his putting, which will be neutralized this week. Matsuyama wins Japan's first major this week.

Winner: Hideki Matsuyama
Winning Score: -5
Margin Of Victory: One Stroke

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Queen Bee Returns To Her Throne

- There have been other contenders that have challenged her over the past couple of seasons, but make no mistake about it - Inbee Park is the best ladies golfer in the world, and it might not even be close. Her success is almost boring in a way, as it has become incredibly predictable and she wins without a lot of flair. She is incredibly consistent and wins majors while all others struggle to close on the weekend. This is Inbee's Tour. Good luck to anyone trying to chase her.

- A birdie on the 18th stood between me and an almost perfect prediction. I expect a written apology, Inbee.

- With this victory, Inbee now has six LPGA major championships, which is one more than Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak. It may now be time to start wondering if Inbee is the best Korean golfer of all time. The argument against her would be that Pak was able to stretch out her career and win for a longer period of time. On the flip side, Pak was never as dominant of a player as Inbee is right now. The argument can go either way, but the one thing Inbee has on her side is time. As long as she keeps playing well, she could surpass Pak's number of victories and end the conversation herself.

- When Lydia Ko took over as the number one player in the Rolex Rankings, I predicted that she would hold that position for a very long time, and that Ko would begin to dominate the Tour. I was wrong, and it was foolish of me to expect such a dominance at such a young age. The reality is, Ko has never dealt with the hardships of struggling, as she dominated the amateur ranks pretty quickly and took over the LPGA Tour at the age of 17. Inbee, on the other hand, quickly won the US Open, but then struggled for several years before emerging as Queen Bee. Lydia will have her struggles, but anyone who writes her off would be insane. After all, this was only her first missed cut...ever.

- People will look at Sei Young Kim as someone who missed an opportunity to win two majors, but not all second place finishes are alike. At the ANA Inspiration, Kim could not handle the pressure and folded on Sunday, while at the Women's PGA Championship, Kim had a front row seat to Inbee's victory lap. Sure, there were a few shaky moments for Kim, but there were shaky moments on Sunday for everyone not named Inbee, and yet she held her ground and finished in second place. She will be a major champion very soon. Her skills are off the charts good.

- Lexi Thompson and Brittany Lincicome are incredibly similar. Both are big hitters from the United States that only show up during major championships. Since winning the ANA Inspiration, both players have been pretty quiet, only showing up with the brights of lights are shining on them. That's impressive, but I would like to see both of them win a couple more regular events.

- All of the conversation this week will likely be about Brooke Henderson, and I can't say I blame her. A young kid with no status on Tour playing incredibly well with the exemptions they are given to eventually earn a spot on Tour and be declared the future of the sport? Sounds like a certain Texan who put on a green jacket back in April.

- Fabian Gomez may have just now accepted the mantle of the most anonymous winner on the PGA Tour this season. At 288 in the world, Gomez isn't the highest ranked of all the winners, but there is very little knowledge about the man from Argentina. Even writing about him his difficult. He isn't a player that has been around for a long time and was finally able to notch his first victory, nor is he a young up and coming superstar in his early 20's looking to take over the Tour. Gomez is just kind of around, though now he'll just kind of be around the ground of Augusta National next year, and he doesn't have to apologize to anyone for that.

- Phil Mickelson's final round 65 and T3 finish in Memphis is just enough to get all the attention turned back onto Lefty heading into the US Open as he tries to complete the career grand slam. Personally, I don't think he has much of a chance to win, but he is Phil - the moment you think he's out, he surprises you.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"Slaying The Tiger", And Transparency On Tour

A book came out this week that will likely be the most important book detailing this generation of professional golfers. It is called "Slaying The Tiger", written by Shane Ryan, and it details Ryan's life covering the PGA Tour and some of his experiences and opinions on the big names on the PGA Tour.

In full disclosure, it will be some time before I get my hands on the book, so I may or may not do a full review of the actual contents Many others who know more about golf (and writing) have given their opinions, which you should seek out at your own leisure. For the most part, golf writers seem to love it, and golfers seem to hate it, mainly for the content.

What I am discussing is a recent discussion about Ryan's book, mainly by former LPGA golfer and current Golf Channel analyst Paige MacKenzie. MacKenzie says that she is "disgusted" by the book and says that no one should come to the conclusions Ryan does just based on inside the ropes experiences. You can find her full argument on Morning Drive in this video.

MacKenzie is speaking from the eyes of a former touring professional, and I can respect her opinion; however, it speaks to a terrible trend in professional golf, and that is protecting the golfers from the "evil media" and outside criticism. In all professional sports, we demand transparency among all athletes. It is why most sports have mandatory press conferences and fine players if they do not speak. If a player does not wish to open up, as is the case for Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, he is usually made the topic of a joke. Right or wrong, the NFL, NBA, and all other major professional sports leagues require a certain amount of insight into a player. It's what makes them marketable, and what keeps them in check - things like domestic violence or drug use are put out to the public and a player loses their job, as they should.

This is not the case with the PGA Tour. It is shrouded in secrecy, where players only have to give up as much of their lives as they wish, suspensions are not made public, and players are not required to speak to the media (except for very specific occasions). This means we get a side of the golfer that they WISH to portray, and perhaps not the honest truth about them.

Golfers like to look as if they are just like "the rest of us", and that they are above all this criticism and the tabloid era that has become professional sports. Here is a little secret, however - they're NOT like the rest of us. The rest of us do not receive million dollar endorsements and play for million dollar purses every week. They may be human, yes, but their lives and their experiences are drastically different than those who struggle each and every day. This does not make them bad people, nor does it make them ungrateful. I'm sure most professional golfers will tell you how thrilled they are to live the life they do. After all, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to make it to the highest level. So many never get that opportunity; however, there are so many others who will pay for a ticket for a golf tournament, or will purchase golf equipment based on the endorsement of a particular golfer, and it would be nice to know the kind of person we are supporting. After all, no fans, no ratings, no revenue, no endorsement.

I'm not saying we should have camera inside the homes of every professional golfer, but I do think books like these are important to get to know those who play the game of golf. Not everyone is an angel. In fact, some pro golfers are down right jerks. If this book requires golfers to be just a little more hospitable to those at PGA Tour events, then it would have done a positive deed for the sport.