Play of the Week 36

July 13, 2012

This week’s POTW is the John Deere. Normally, we wouldn’t be worried about a “grade B” tournament, but watching the coverage of the first two rounds, I’m brought back to my childhood.

But, not by the John Deere itself–by the players.

When I was young, I was a nerd. Being a nerd, I played golf as a kid (before Tiger Woods–I got cool really fast when he jumped on the scene). I enjoyed watching the tournaments. My favorite player at the time–Nick Price–was doing a great job cleaning up majors and dominating the tour with his Ram Zebra and Goldwin AVDP. Davis Love III was in his prime, and “the greatest player never to win a major.” Phil Mickelson was young…and skinny. Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book was the best seller for golf instruction.

I thought it was odd when I saw some Tour Balata and Professional 90 golf balls on sale earlier this week. But theres something to this nostalgia thing. It helps remind you of your past and gives you a flashback to some great memories. I remember the first time I hit a Tour Balata….pretty awesome.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only person to buy some of those Professional 90s, because the guys on the leaderboard this week at the John Deere sure are the ones who know to use ’em. Let’s look at it this way: If I told you that Jeff Maggert was T-2 going into the weekend after shooting 68-62, that Lee Janzen was T-7 at -10, and that Steve Stricker was going for his 4th win, your first reaction would probably be “where’s Greg Norman on the leaderboard” followed by “hey, did you hear what the president said at the deposition? ‘It depends on what the meaning of the words “is” is.'” Yet that’s the leaderboard at the John Deere classic this year.

Alas, it IS 2012. Davis Love III is all but forgotten on the PGA Tour. Nick Price is on the “Champions Tour” (back when I was growing up, we called it the Senior Tour). Phil Mickelson turned out to be every bit the player everyone thought he would be and more so the eater that no one thought he would be. Goldwin and Ram are no longer companies. And if you ask a playing competitor for his “little red book,” you better be ready for some funny looks and a quiet rest of the round. Still, I love when the Tour shows up at an “easy” course, and the old-timers (short hitters) come out and show these young kids how it’s done. Even Stewart Appleby has shown up at T-23, -7.

I’m sure some of the younger kids in their Puma Monolines and Cobra Amp driver are probably thinking “what is this guy talking about?” The golfers of today just are missing something. I won’t say class, but there’s a way the game used to be played that just doesn’t exist anymore. It’s nice to see a flashback of some of these guys–I wish them all the best.

Thanks, guys, for the trip down memory lane. Now go out there and show the young guns how it’s done.

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Play of the Week 35

June 30, 2012

The letters:

L

G

Probably the play of the month, really. After years in the game, constant obsession, tireless effort, battling work for just enough time to practice….LG finally achieved that milestone, the big one, the ultimate. That’s right: 79. We all knew it would happen one day. The guy is way too into this game not to get better. But the results have been up and down for the last few months, and neither of us have been seeing much consistency.

But LG started showing signs. He shot 83 and 84 in the rounds preceding. We talked about it recently, and determined that LG had shot 84 with only 4 GIR. Not bad when you consider it that way.

I’m sure when LG started out today, he didn’t know it would be the day he broke through. Even playing the front 9, he probably felt he was playing well but not scoring. Then, this:

LOOK AT THAT BACK 9! I don’t think I’ve had a back 9 like that this year, and I’m a 1.5 handicap! An eagle (LG’s first), a two-putt birdie, and a -1 for the 9? Amazing. Plus, this guy shot 79 with 3 double bogeys AND three 3-putts. While it may look like he just passed the line, this is a huge breakthrough: clearly, he’s doing something he wasn’t before.

Way to go LG. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for it, but I’m really glad you finally got the monkey off your back. Enjoy being one of the few who’ve accomplished this feat, and enjoy making it an every day practice.

POTW: Mitch Lowe

June 28, 2012

This week’s POTW goes to Mitch Lowe.  Mitch recently qualified to play in this year’s PGA Championship by way of placing T-7 in the PGA Professional National Championship held this week at Bayonet and Blackhorse.  The top 20 in this incredibly difficult tournament qualify to play in the next PGA Championship.  Mitch shot a strong final round of 70 closing with two birdies in the last three holes.  We always appreciate a strong performance and a particularly solid finish here at the PowerFade, so we solute you, Mitch.  Way to close strong.  We look forward to watching you play at Kiawah Island this August!  

Mitch was the subject of one of our earlier reviews: https://thepowerfade.com/2011/02/22/review-lesson-with-pga-professional-mitch-lowe-and-the-fleming-course-at-harding-park/.  He now teaches at Half Moon Bay Golf Links in Half Moon Bay, CA.  You’d do well to take a lesson from him.  http://www.pga.com/professionals/mitch-lowe-pga.  See our review of Bayonet as well: https://thepowerfade.com/2011/10/05/course-review-bayonet-seaside-ca/.  

Play of the Week 33

June 19, 2012

This week, I’m afraid I have to give the POTW to the USGA. Typically, I am not a fan of the US Open. When I’ve watched the tournament in years past, I’ve typically found it to be rather boring for a number of reasons. In most cases, it is pointlessly difficult, to where even the best in the world can make nothing of the courses (Oakmont, 2007; Shinnecock, 2004). In many cases, the winner is boring or surprising–as if we were playing the John Deere classic instead of a Major (e.g., Lucas Glover 2009, Angel Cabrera 2007, Michael Campbell 2005, Reteif Goosen 2001/2004). Often, it’s just a war of attrition, where the one player who’s lucky enough to find his ball on every hole manages to sift through the gauntlet and survive the fray (GMac, 2010). Or, the tournament is just boring (McIlroy, 2011).

But every few years, the USGA gets it right. One of the most memorable tournaments I’ve ever watched was the US Open at Torrey Pines in 2008, where Tiger edged Rocco Mediate with a gutsy performance that just outlasted one of the most tenacious players in the game. Or 1999, where the image of Payne Stewart sinking a 20-foot putt to save par on the 72nd hole has become an icon of the game of golf. But in 1999, although the winning score was -1, the course played fairly. It showcased how the greatest in the world (a very young Tiger, a younger than now Phil) could play when the pressure cooker was on, and Payne’s lasting legacy of 1-putting the last 3 holes to hold on was truly a riveting watch.

Like ’08 and ’99, this year, the USGA got it right. The US Open this year wasn’t flashy. It was a simple test–a par 70, even. No water hazards to fly over, no forced carries, not even more than a few fairway bunkers. But Olympic Club was just right. The winning score a nice +1, with Webb Simpson coming out on top over Jim Furyk–trying to hold on–and Graeme McDowell, who charged in at the end but couldn’t seal the deal. Webb posted his second 68 of the weekend hours before GMac and Furyk walked off the course, leaving the scene for great tension and excitement. Olympic was a true test–not just a slaughterhouse. It TESTED the best in the world, but the test could be passed. Players didn’t complain that it was unfair or say that it was too penal. Instead, they went about their business, and the winner played under par both rounds on the weekend. When was the last time you said that about a US Open winner? (well, other than 2011, when Rors was on an absolute tear, but who else?) And, for the second time this year, the winner of a major has come from a pairing other than the final group, which is some welcome excitement that we don’t often see.

I’m not saying this was as exciting as the Masters is every year, or that the US Open is no longer my least favorite of the majors. What the USGA typically does to the players isn’t right, on any level. But this year, the course was what a true test should be. When a player masters that test, he should get the trophy, and Webb did. So, to the USGA, we solute you. And, to Webb Simpson, congrats on passing the test.

us open olympic

POTW 32: Magic at 16.

June 4, 2012

Forget that he won.  Forget that he won for the 73rd time.  Forget that he tied Jack AT JACK’S PLACE.  Forget that he came from 4 back to win by two.  Forget that you couldn’t tell if it was 2000 or 2012 when watching the final round at the Memorial.  The play of the week goes to the shot that will likely define Tiger’s comeback.  A shot that Jack called the greatest shot he’s ever seen in the circumstances.

Go ahead.  Watch it again.  We are.

Play of the Week 31

May 7, 2012

This week’s POTW is an obvious choice. Rickie Fowler finally broke through after two years on the PGA Tour, capturing his first victor at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, beating D.A. Points and Rory McIlroy on the first hole of the sudden-death playoff.

I’ve been critical of Rickie in the past….particularly, https://thepowerfade.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/fail-of-the-week-4/. What’s worse, he’s taken his douchy-dressing to a new level.

Can you say “child molester?” I threw up a little in my mouth when I saw the replay of the Saturday round with Jim Nance and Nick Faldo (wearing full suits and ties) interviewing the little punk dresser with his backward cap, molester stache, and bright yellow outfit.

People keep saying “he’s great for the game.” And, while I wish he weren’t SO far to the bright colors and outlandish outfit side, I’m starting to come around. Dude has incredible game. Nothing he does is really over the top or completely polished, but he manages no to make big mistakes and he manages to put it together for great rounds and exciting golf.

What’s more, the tournament yesterday was rivetting. Webb Simpson almost broke through, but came up just short. A 3-man playoff and Fowler nailed a 5-footer for birdie on a 460-yard par 4 to take home the trophy. Dare I say it? Is golf becoming exciting again? Even….without….Tiger?

Even better, for the first time in a long time, a major champion is at the top of the World Golf Rankings: http://www.officialworldgolfranking.com/rankings/default.sps. And even Tiger Woods is now back in the top 10.

LG and I often romanticize the idea that Tiger Woods will come back to make the game exciting again. But we’ve had several nailbiting tournaments this year, and they didn’t rest solely on Tiger’s performance (as the PGA Tour has for so many years). I’m starting to find myself following players that, previously, I had no interest in. If Fowler wants to dress like a d-bag, go ahead; the kid can play the game.

So, to you, Rickie Fowler, we salute you. Many congrats on breaking through for your first win, and thanks for helping keep the US in the winner’s circle.

God that stache is horrid.

Play of the Week 30

April 30, 2012

This week’s POTW goes to none other than Jason Dufner.

Now, I know what you’re saying. Dufner just looks…bleugh. And until this week, I probably would’ve said that there isn’t much to be excited about with this guy. But watching him play yesterday, I found myself rooting his way, and, for what reason, I don’t know. To look at the guy, you wouldn’t think he was an athlete of any kind. To watch him play, he certainly doesn’t inspire confidence in American golfers.

But what Dufner loses with a shy, internalizing personality he makes up for with amazing ballstriking, short game, and a remarkably good overall game. Dufner played his college ball at Auburn, mastering the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. He finished runner-up to Trevor Immelman in the 1998 US Amateur Public Links. And, more recently, he finished second at the PGA Championship to Keegan Bradley, who practically knifed him right there on the golf course. Few people could come back from that.

Even though Dufner hadn’t come through the ranks for a win, his game is clearly tremendous. A guy who can shoot -19 in a tournament while posting a final round 70…that’s pretty amazing. While he might not have that striking and shining personality that we love to see from guys like Phil and Tiger, he also isn’t faking it. This guy is who he is, and who is he is…well, that’s one heck of a golfer.

To you, Jason Dunfer, many congratulations.

Also, a mini-POTW shout out to Ernie Els. Although Big Easy didn’t break through at the Zurich Classic and ended up falling in the playoff to Dufner, this is the first time we’ve seen him in contention in a long, long time. It’s good to see one of the classic swings of the game back in contention. Maybe we’ll harken back to the good ole Tiger/Phil/Vijay/Ernie days, back when golf was really, really exciting.

Here’s to you, Big E.