Friday, February 28, 2014

News Grab-Bag: 2/28/14

- Two time PGA Tour champion Scott Piercy is expected to miss three to four months after undergoing surgery on his elbow. Surgery in the golf world is has two possible outcomes - either the player will return better than ever after being completely healed, or the player will constantly be worried about the injury and never be the same again. Let's hope it's the former for Scott, who has an incredibly large amount of talent.

- Have we finally gotten to the bottom of JiYai Shin's decision to leave the LPGA Tour? An article in the in the Korea Times discusses the issue with a quote from JiYai:
"It's true that I was mentally and physically tired while competing in the U.S. I love golf and want to play golf as long as I can."
It is important to note an error from the article: Players CAN hold multiple memberships between the LPGA and other tours. Many of the European players hold LET memberships, and some of the Asian players, like Shanshan Feng, hold memberships on the JLPGA. Also, other players have taken time away from the tour without completely withdrawing their membership. Still, I take JiYai at her word, and it appears exhaustion was the reason for returning to Asia.

- Some illness or injury is currently plaguing Beatriz Recari. After three incredibly poor this season, Recari withdrew from the HSBC Women's Championship Thursday. Immediately afterwards, she took to Facebook to explain her decision:
"My body is not healthy and I had no choice but to withdraw. Will be back fit and stronger!"
Let's hope so. After the season Recari had last year, it's hard to not see her contending. Her two win season was enough for me to think she was going to pass Suzann Pettersen and be the next top golfer in Europe. In fact, the state of European golf is in a bit of disarray, with Recari and Pettersen both struggling. Only Anna Nordquist has given Europe a reason to smile.

- In case you all want to feel worse about yourself, Zach Johnson began his round at the Honda Classic by carding a quadruple bogey on the second hole. He then turned around an carded seven birdies to post -3. I've heard of taking it one hole at a time, but jeez...

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wednesday Preview - Honda Classic

Due to my work schedule and other commitments, I am unable to give this tournament the rundown it properly needs. has had some wonderful insights on the tournament and the field that you can see. I'm expecting one heck of a show with all these great names in the field this year.

Strength Of Field: A. Best field of the year, and that includes a World Golf Championship event. Tiger, Phil, Adam Scott, Rory, Henrik...all in the field this week. What more could you ask for, honestly?

Other tidbits: Despite living only a few miles away from the golf course, Ernie Els is sitting this tournament out, likely due to fatigue suffered from all the golf he had to play last week. In fact, of the four players who played on Sunday, only Rickie Fowler tees it up this week...Jack Nicklaus, AKA Golf Master Swag, is the charity host and one of the reasons this tournament has gotten back off its feet in recent years. The Honda Classic was on the verge of collapse until 2007, when an upgraded course and the help of Nicklaus brought the tournament back to life...US Open Champion Justin Rose pulled out of the event with an elbow injury. So, too, has Scott Piercy, who is expected to miss significant time after elbow surgery.

Fantasy Four:

Graeme McDowell - Survived three matches he probably should have lost last week. Several aspects of his game have improved this season. Holds a great record at the Honda Classic.

Rory McIlroy - Attempted to keep him off the board, but he is a former champion who was returning to form until a second round loss last week. Isn't trap bait like Tiger or Phil would be. Could use a monster week in the states to bring him back into people's minds.

Geoff Ogilvy - Sleeper pick. Has won the most money in Honda Classic history without actually winning the tournament. True horse for course definition. Could use another huge week like he had last year.

Charl Schwartzel - Top player who has shockingly yet to win since his Masters triumph. Has looked good in previous starts on Tour. Holds a decent record at the Honda.

Last Weeks Team:
Jason Day: WINNER
Hunter Mahan: Round Of 16
Matt Kuchar: Round Of 16
Ian Poulter: First Round

Wednesday Preview - HSBC Women's Champions

The LPGA heads to Singapore for the HSBC Women's Champions this week. HSBC, which I'm assuming is a bank, has become the go-to sponsor for a lot of events on both the men's and women's tours, so applause to them. Actually, this event is one of the more memorable in the early Asian swing, with the usually strong fields and the incredibly scenic golf course.

Course: Sentosa Country Club, a par 72 lay out that always looks like it is in pristine conditions. At 6,600 yards, it provides an equal level of challenges for the bombers and the short game experts. Take birdies when they are available, but try not to get too greedy or you'll end up losing shots on the field. Somewhere around -10 should be the champion.

Strength Of Field: A. First event of the season where all of the main players are here. Only thing stopping this from being an A+ field is that it is a limited field event, and therefore has no cut. Still, the people in Singapore are in for an all star treat.

Other tidbits: Suzann Pettersen has the ability to get to number one in the world this week with a victory, provided Inbee Park finishes outside the Top 3. Suzann has not performed well the past two weeks, but with her skills and her work ethic, it is always possible that she snags a victory, even when you least expect it...Stacy Lewis, the defending champion, is currently on a streak of 13 straight top 10 finishes on the LPGA Tour. Three more, and she will tie the record of 16, currently held by Karrie Webb...The winner of the HSBC Women's Champions receives something called the "Champion of Champions" Title. I think that is similar to the Open Championship "Champion Golfer Of The Year" distinction...JiYai Shin makes her first start on the LPGA Tour since giving up her status.

Fantasy Four:

Stacy Lewis - 13 straight top 10's, as well as the defending champion. There is a formula here that you do not mess with. Until I see Stacy start to struggle, she will always have a spot in this list.

Inbee Park - I initially was going to leave her off of my Fantasy Four due to her history in this event, but her runner up finish last week, coupled with the fact that she could lose her number one ranking this week, convinced me that Inbee should have another solid week.

Michelle Wie - I am going all in with Ms. Wie this week, whose 2014 season has been incredibly solid thus far. I stated in my "5 Predictions" post that I think Michelle will win in 2014, and this week may be as good of a week as any. 

Lydia Ko - Has showed no problems adjusting to the pro lifestyle. She'll start entering the longest stretch of golf in her career soon, but is young enough to not worry about fatigue. Asian swing is playing like a home game for Lydia.

(SLEEPER) JiYai Shin - A sleeper not based on talent, but based on circumstances. Where is JiYai's head at? Has she been playing and practicing while the LPGA pros were in the Bahamas and Australia? Could enter the tournament rusty and clouded, or refreshed and free swinging. Past champion with as much talent as anyone in the field.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Wave Of Match Play

- I was incredibly concerned about the Match Play tournament, especially with the top names missing and the top seeds losing early. I can say, though, that the golf we got on Sunday was absolutely spectacular. All four men did a wonderful job and provided some great entertainment.

- While the rest of my bracket was toast, I DID have the winner of the tournament correct. I can't take too much credit for the outside the box thinking, though, since we all knew Jason Day would get his second victory sooner rather than later. Jason was stuck in an incredibly difficult position of being one of the best players in the world, and yet not producing victories. Now that he has his second under his belt, I would not be surprised to see him win The Masters.

- Many people probably didn't know the name Victor Dubuisson prior to this week, but he certainly shot into people's minds after his performance. From rallying several times in matches, to making unbelievable shots on Sunday, it looked like Victor was destined to win this tournament. Entering this year, people were asking if Victor could hang on to his solid position on the Ryder Cup team, with players like Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter having yet to make it. I think this week proved Victor deserves a shot more than anyone.

- Applause to Ernie Els and Rickie Fowler who had much needed great weeks. Ernie proved that he is still not too old to be an elite player, and Rickie is trying desperately to return to the promise he had a few years ago. Who knows where these top finishes will lead, but it was still great seeing them compete on Sunday.

- Another match play, another disappointing finish by Rory McIlroy. If there was ever an example of a great player who just doesn't perform well in match play, it's Rory.

- It's amazing to me that it's been five years since Anna Nordqvist has won on the LPGA Tour. Someone with her skills and mentality should be winning regularly. Her performance at last year's Solheim Cup showed that Anna was indeed a great player, and now her third victory proves that.

- We're three weeks into the LPGA season, and we have yet to have someone from the Top 3 win a tournament - though, it's been close. Stacy Lewis notched her third top ten in as many starts this season, and Inbee Park made a run for the title this week, eventually finishing in solo second, two shots back. The real disappointment so far this season has been Suzann Pettersen, who did manage a top 10 this week, but was a non factor all week and only managed a top finish with a great final round.

- Don't call it a comeback! Three players returned to form this week with high finishes. We have been seeing signs of improvement from Michelle Wie, but this week may be the most promising one yet. She had some bogies in the final round that eliminated her chances of winning, but the Michelle Wie of a couple years ago would have completely folded. Paraguay's Julieta Granada has failed to return to the form we saw her at in 2006, when she notched her only victory on the LPGA Tour, but after a few seasons of struggling to make cuts, it's promising to see her notch a top 10 this early in the season. The biggest story, though, is probably former world number one Yani Tseng, who is trying desperate to return to the dominating form we saw from her for several season. The door for Yani as the best player in the world may have closed, but the tour is better when she is playing well, so hopefully this is the start of her rising the ranks once again.

- I'm not a hundred percent sure why Carly Booth keeps getting exemptions into LPGA fields. It probably has something to do with her work ethic. I wonder, though, if the near-bottom finishes she's notched means her window has run out.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

News Grab-Bag: 2/24/2014

- Two pieces of health news from the PGA Tour. First, best wishes go out to former PGA Champion Shaun Micheel, who is undergoing procedures to take care of a blockage in his heart. I still remember the iron shot he hit on the 18th in the 2003 PGA Championship to be the most unlikely major champion in history. I hope Shaun gets this whole thing taken care of without any problems.

- Also, we learned that three time major champion Padraig Harrington underwent a procedure to take care of skin cancer on his face. Padraig's is actually an inspiring case, because he works in a profession where is he out in the sun for many hours, and the risk of skin cancer is high. Hopefully Padraig's revelation will get others to take the necessary precautions. 

- I would like to wish a happy 26th birthday to the great golf blogger of all time and the man who has inspired a generation - me.

- I was incredibly concerned about the Match Play, more specifically my interest in the tournament when all the big names passed on the event and the top seeds lost in the first two days. Seeing the remaining names, though - including Ernie Els and Jason Day - has kept me interested. I will say, though - I will be happy when this tournament leaves Dove Mountain. I didn't realize how bad this golf course was until I watched some of this coverage. Now I see why players don't care to play there.

- I was so busy last week that I was unable to do a preview of the LPGA Tour event in Thailand, but I am glad to hear that they are able to participate in this event without having to worry for their safety. It would have been a shame to see the event leave Thailand, but the safety and security of the Tour pros and their guests needs to be the number one priority. The event seems to have gone without a hitch, which is a great sign. Hopefully there is no malaria outbreak like we saw last year. Still think I'd brave revolution and malaria before I'd play at Dove Mountain, though...

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Wednesday Preview - WGC-Accenture Match Play

This week, we hit the first World Golf Championship event of the season, and the only match play tournament on the PGA Tour. It is an incredibly unique tournament, one that I thoroughly enjoy, and one that can provide some incredibly unusual results.

Course: Dove Mountain, one of the worst golf courses on tour, if the Tour players are to be believed. I always thought the course looked good enough, but the criticisms of the course far outweigh the praise, and is part of the reason many of the top name players are missing. This will be the last year for Dove Mountain as the stop's host.

Strength Of Field: B-. It's weird declaring a WGC event as anything other than an "A", but it's the truth in this case. No Tiger, Phil, or Adam Scott, all of whom would have been top seeds in the bracket. The top four seeds now are Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, and Zach Johnson.

Other Tidbits: Last year, Matt Kuchar won by defeating Hunter Mahan in the final...Hunter Mahan has played in the final the last two years...Steve Stricker makes his first start of the 2013-2014 PGA Tour Season this week.

Fantasy Four:

(This weeks Fantasy Four represents the four players I see making out of their respective divisions. Therefor, no sleeper pick this week.)

Jason Day - Has an amazing record in this event for someone who has never played in the final. Coming in with high confidence. My predicted champion.

Hunter Mahan - Reached the final the last two years. Has played well in his starts thus far this season. Looking to make the Ryder Cup team after being left off two years ago. My predicted runner up.

Matt Kuchar - Match play demon. Experience and confidence with the structure is a huge plus. May have the hardest division to get out of.

Ian Poulter - Another match play expert in a far easier division. Should not be really challenged until he reached the Sweet 16. Ryder Cup year should inspire him to put out a strong performance. 

Last Weeks Team:
Jimmy Walker: T20
Graham DeLaet: T70
Will MacKenzie: T52
Jordan Speith: T12

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Northern Trust In Major Champions

- As a general rule, when weather conditions make a course incredibly difficult, look to a veteran to seperate themselves from the field. That is exactly what Karrie Webb did in Australia. When other golfers struggled, Webb relied on her past experience to make shots and putts down the stretch and win her fifth Australian Open. Members of the media have asked Webb in the past if she's thinking about retiring soon. I think the Hall of Famers just proved that she still has the skills and the drive to be one of the top players in the game.

- Lydia Ko's final round 73 was what stood between her and making me look like a fool, but this should not be something that gets to her. Her 73 could easily have been a 77 under the conditions they were playing in, and to be able to grit your teeth and end up with a high finish means that Ko is still in great position.

- If Ko DOES need a confidence boost, she can look at the fact that Suzann Pettersen shot an 80 in the final round. Things happen, even to the best golfers.

- Consider me concerned for Chella Choi, who has knocked on the door so many times, and yet has been unable to cash in. At some point, incredibly soon, she's going to need to win, or I fear that her window of opportunity may be closing on her.

- Bubba Watson won the Northern Trust Open for his first victory since his Master's triumph two years ago.

- The real winner of the weekend, though, has to be career player Jason Allred. Allred has a few high finishes on the lower tour, but never won, and he never notched a top 10 on the PGA Tour. Finishing tie for third is a career week for Allred, who now gets an exemption into the next full field event. This could be a flash in the pan, or it could be the start of something big for Allred.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wednesday Preview - ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open

The second event of the LPGA season is now upon us, as the LPGA heads "DOWN UNDA!" (said in the most stereotypical way) for the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open...and yes, that is quite the mouthful.

Course: The Victoria Golf Club. Doing a slight bit of research on it, the course seems to be absolutely gorgeous, with the accommodations being even better. This is an Australian definition of luxury.

Strength Of Field: B. We're still missing the top Korean professionals, but Stacy Lewis and Suzann Pettersen, as well as many of the top American and European pros are teeing it up, so there is still a rather strong cast for this event.

Extra Tidbits: JiYai Shin won the event last year, but in a rather headscratching move, she has decided not to return to defend her title. Shin gave up her LPGA Tour card this year and decided to focus on playing golf in Japan this season...Ariya Jutanugarn returns to action after missing several months with a shoulder injury. Ariya was in position to win the LET Order Of Merit until suffering a shoulder injury at the LPGA Championship. Her sister, reigning Rookie Of The Year Moriya, is also in the field...Charley Hull, who famously dominated Paula Creamer at the Solheim Cup, will be playing with Creamer for the first two rounds of the tournament.

Fantasy Four:

Jessica Korda - Past champion, coming off a victory in the Bahamas. Should be swinging free and feeling good with an extra boost of confidence.

Karrie Webb - Hall of Famer and native Australian who always seems to come into form when the tour returns to the continent. Had a disappointing week last week, but has the mental strength to put it behind her.

Stacy Lewis - Almost pulled off a victory in the Bahamas and should contend again this week,

Hee Young Park - "Rocket" is rounding into form with a win last season and several top finishes to put herself in position to make the Korean Team for the International Crown event. With Shin gone from the LPGA and Na Yeon Choi slightly struggling, the door is open for Park to become one of the top Koreans.

(SLEEPER) Eun-Hee Ji - Struggled since winning the US Open in 2009, but has rebounded in the past season and a half. Could be a golfer to watch over the next couple of months.

Wednesday Preview - Northern Trust Open

The PGA Tour return to Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles this week for the Northern Trust Open, which was once the LA Open back when Ben Hogan made this event popular. Riviera is also the golf course where Ben Hogan won the 1948 US Open.

Course: Riviera County Club, which measures about 7,400 yards. This is not a birdie-or-bust course, so expect somewhere in the low double digits to win the tournament. Mistakes are punished on several of the holes.

Strength Of Field: D. US Open Champion returns to the PGA Tour after a lengthy rest to recover from an injury, but he doesn't make up for the fact that none of the top players are teeing it up this week. Jason Dufner, Hideki Matsuyama, and Jimmy Walker are your biggest names in the field, as well as former champion Fred Couples. Phil Mickelson, a two time champion of this event, is sitting out.

Extra Tidbits: European Tour player Victor Dubuisson is making his third start of the PGA Tour season this week. Dubuisson is still in position to make the Ryder Cup team after two made cuts in his previous two starts...Darren Clarke makes his first PGA Tour start of the season. Clarke took up membership this season...Last year, John Merrick overtook Bill Haas and beat Charlie Beljian in a playoff to win his first PGA Tour event.

Fantasy Four:

Jimmy Walker: You keep riding the hot hand until they give you a reason not to. 3 wins in 8 starts this season. If he was burnt out, he wouldn't be playing this week. As long as he keeps his focus, he should content again.

Graham Delaet: Weak field equals a great chance for the Canadian to win his first tournament. Currently 11th in the FedEx Cup rankings.

Will Mackenzie: Sleeper pick. After losing his Tour privileges, he regained his Tour card this season and has already notched two top 10s and put himself inside the top 30 in the FedEx Cup rankings. Not the best record at Riviera, but is rounding into form.

Jordan Speith: I am going to eventually use up my maximum 10 starts on the kid, who is coming off another top 10 finish.  

Last Weeks Team:
Jason Day: MDF
Graeme McDowell: T7
Pat Perez: T7
Hunter Mahan: 6

Monday, February 10, 2014

Kicking Up The Pebbles In The Pro-Am

Did not get to catch a lot of golf this past weekend, as I was busy watching the Olympics. I'm a bit of an Olympic nerd, so this is kind of awesome for me. When I did get to watch, the weather at Pebble left a lot to be desired, though I'm sure the golfers would rather have the rain and wind than the several feet of snow I'm currently buried under.

- The term "hottest golfer on the planet" has officially been passed to Jimmy Walker, who has now won three times in eight starts this season. The fields may not have been the greatest, but to win on the PGA Tour is impressive enough. To go on a run like Walker has is outstanding. They say you have to crawl before you can walk. You have to win some lower field events before you can win a major (unless you're Angel Cabrera). Walker has firmly put himself into the majors this year, and likely onto the Ryder Cup. 

- There is a phrase in the fantasy golf world (and yes, that is a thing), which is "horses for courses". Some people are just designed to play well on certain courses. If a tournament is at Pebble Beach, you're going to want to pick Dustin Johnson or Graeme McDowell. The two put down great performances again this week, and Johnson finished one shot back (though it honestly wasn't that close, as Walker gave a few away down the stretch.) 

- Another week, another top 10 for Jordan Speith. His year has been slightly inconsistent, but we do know now that Speith is among those top players in the world that you always gave to watch for. 

- Shout out to David Duval for making the cut this week and even being in contention until faltering on the weekend. Hopefully this leads to seeing Duval compete more and making more cuts. 

- George Coetzee, Jin Jeong, and Justin Walters are heading to the Open Championship. Coetzee is not the biggest surprise, as he's won on the international stage and competed in majors before. Walters and Jeong, though, are going to be relative unknowns when they tee it up at the Open. Overall, though, I thoroughly enjoy the new Open Qualifying series. It gives people who may not have had the opportunity to play in a major a chance to qualify. It also gives more importance to some of these fields that may have been lacking in firepower. Congratulations to Coetzee, Jeong, and Walters!

- Finally, after years of sitting back and wondering what we will see from Tiger Woods' niece, Cheyenne Woods has won a professional tournament on the LET Tour. Unlike a lot of golf commentators, I am not getting too excited about this result. It was a weak field in Australia, so it's not like she won the US Open. As I stated about Jimmy Walker, though, sometimes you have to crawl before you can walk. A win is a win, and if this gives Cheyenne any confidence, than there can only be positives taken out of this. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wednesday Preview - AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

This week is the annual celebrity celebration at the Old Clam Bake, otherwise known as the National Pro-Am. Professionals will be teeing up next to celebrities, athletes, and business executives for the first three days of the tournament. Leads to slow rounds, but also leads to a lot of fun. It's the exact opposite of last week - no booing here.

Course: Three courses, the most notable and famous of which is Pebble Beach. The course is less than 7,000 yards, and the greens are small, but shouldn't play nearly as difficult as it did in 2010 when it was setting up for the US Open. Double digit under par will be the winner once again.

Strength Of Field: D. Jason Day and a limping Phil Mickelson isn't enough to keep the SOF high this week, though in this tournament, that doesn't matter. It's more about the celebrities and the athletes than it is about the professionals. A majority of high name pros avoid the event because of the slow play and the shenanigans surrounding it.

Extra Tidbits: Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was a late entry into the field after losing the Super Bowl Sunday night. Peyton is likely to be the most high profile celebrity in the and Pebble Beach veteran Bill Murray will be missing the event this year, because it coincides with the opening of his new movie "Monuments Men"...two time winner Dustin Johnson will be paired in the celebrity portion of the golf tournament with his future father-in-law, Wayne Gretzky.

Fantasy Four:

Jason Day - Came close to winning for the second time two weeks ago. Is in the middle of one of his hottest stretches of his career, and another victory is eminent. Never missed a cut in any of his trips to Pebble Beach.

Graeme McDowell - Last time McDowell tee'd it up at Pebble, he won the 2010 US Open. Also has a top 10 in this tournament. Needs top finishes to play his way onto the Ryder Cup this year.

Pat Perez - Sleeper pick, though it's a bit of a cop out considering Perez has two consecutive top 10 finishes behind him. Appears to be much calmer than his previous reputation gave him. Playing as good as anyone on tour right now without notching a victory.

Hunter Mahan - Returned to the PGA Tour last week with a chance to force a playoff on the 72nd hole. Appears rested and hungry after the birth of his child last year. Always dangerous in any tournament he plays in.

Last Weeks Team: 
Graham Delaet: T2
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano: MC
Padraig Harrington: MC
Hideki Matsuyama: T4

Monday, February 3, 2014

Doing Some Waste Management In Phoenix


- There are some golfers out there that are really good and contend a lot, but you get the sense that, maybe, the stars will never align for them to hoist a trophy. I once thought that about Kevin Stadler. I'm glad I'm wrong. Stadler has worked hard his entire career, and it has finally paid off.

- Another awesome story from this victory: Kevin will be a part of the first ever father-son duo playing in The Masters. His father, Craig, won the 1982 Masters. Craig Stadler announced after Kevin's victory that he has been waiting for Kevin to join him in the field, as this will be his final Masters.

- You have to wonder about Bubba Watson's mental state right now. The tournament was set up for him to run away with it, and yet several hooked shots and missed short puts later sealed his fate. Bubba's emotions run hot. When he is playing well, it helps him, but when he is playing poorly, he falls apart.

- We are a couple tournaments away from talking about Graham DeLaet and Hideki Matsuyama in the winner's circle. Matsuyama's putter failed him Sunday, or else he would have won in Phoenix. If DeLaet got off to a better start to the week, he would have dominated the event. Both of these men are incredibly close, and it won't be long before they are both holding up trophies.

- Mixed emotions about Rory McIlroy's failure to win the last two tournaments. On one hand, it is a positive sign that he is contending again, but on the other, he should have sealed the deal in one of them if he is to be taken seriously as one of the elite players. Yes, this is a better start to a season than he had last year, but at the same time, we know Rory is a far better player than just notching a few top 10s.

- The Dubai Desert Classic is considered one of the premier events in the world. Tiger Woods plays the tournament every year, the best of the European Tour always show up, and the world ranking points in this tournament outrank the tournament in Phoenix. In the past two years, Stephen Gallacher has walked out of Dubai as the champion. Rather amazing, considering the Dubai Classic makes up two of Gallacher's three wins, and his career is a complete roller coaster of mixed results. Gallacher could take this win and compete at a high level on the European Tour, or he could completely fade for the rest of the season. No one really knows.

- A lot of people will speculate as to why Tiger Woods has struggled in his first two starts to the season. It is, statistically, the worst start of his career, but until we get to Bay Hill, we won't truly know where his game is.