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Posts Tagged ‘Tiger Woods’

This is the week of the Masters, “a tradition like no other”, as CBS’s Jim Nantz would say.  For the first time in 12 years Tiger Woods is not the odds on favorite to bring home the green jacket.  Phil Mickelson holds that distinction having won 4 of the last 7 stagings of this event, including last year, and winner last week of the Shell Houston Open.  So who do I think will win this year’s edition?  In no particular order my top 5 are:

 

1.  Phil Mickelson – Can’t really argue here.  The guy just came off an impressive win, putting together 2 fine rounds to win in Houston.  The defending Master’s champion showed last year how much he owns the course.  He played with reckless abandon and was rewarded in the end.  His 6 iron from behind the trees in 15 is still the stuff of legends and will forever be part of Master’s lore.  My problem with Phil is that while he won last week, his season before last week was quite pedestrian.  Will we get the champion golfer or the guy who has been complaining about his arthritis.

 

2.  Martin Kaymer – Ok so he has never made the cut in the Master’s.  Ok so he has not won since he became number 1.  Ok  so he has not really contended since the Accenture Match Play.  But the guy is the number 1 player in the world for a reason.  He is steady, composed, long, and accurate.  He has the game for the Master’s and definitely the temperament.  His win in the PGA Championship showed that he can handle the pressure of a Sunday major.  Can he do so, while the cheers are murmuring amongst the trees and azaleas in Augusta?  I think so.

 

3.  Bubbba Watson – It is no secret that long hitters do well in Augusta and Bubba definitely fits the bill.  His game has improved by leaps and bounds and has even given him a win this year while contending in others.  His heartbreak in the PGA only steeled and prepared him for pressure in a Sunday back 9.  More importantly, his short game is pretty good and with the undulating greens in the Masters, that can only serve him well.

 

4.  Lee Westwood – This guy is due.  Has contended in Augusta ending up second last year.  He has contended in the other majors as well just  failing to get over the hump.  This former world number  1 has the game to breakthrough but has to contend with a rather bulky putter lately.  Nonetheless, he has the poise and ability to win.  The golfing gods will do well to reward this gifted golfer.  It’s about time.

 

5.  Matt Kuchar – After his impressive debut in Augusta in 1998, he has kinda fallen off the map.  But last year saw the reemergence of Matt Kuchar, winning once, topping the money, winning the Nelson and Vardon trophies as well.  this year he already has 6 top 10s in 8 events and is 3rd in scoring.  Statistically, he is in a good position to win his first major.  It would indeed be a great story for this Georgia native to win in his hometown.

 

Honorable mentions include Dustin Johnson, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Nick Watney, and sentimental favorite Ernie Els.  For the asians we can only look towards KJ Choi and Ryo Ishikawa.  I hope the latter does well if only for his pledge to Japanese relief efforts.

 

So those are the players to watch out for.  Who will win?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Let’s enjoy this tradition which unfolds tonight.

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Yong-Eun Yang, what a man!!!!

Earlier this year, during the Honda Classic, a relatively unknown former driving range assistant from Jeju Korea, earned his first PGA Tour title, edging ahead by a mere stroke over John Rollins.  He said at the time that his PGA Tour win was his most important triumph as winning on the PGA proves he belongs with the top players in the world.  Earlier today (Manila Time), YE Yang proved not only that he belongs with the top players in the world, he showed that he can slay the top player in the world, Tiger Woods.

Tied after the first nine, Sunday of the PGA Championship, YE Yang and Tiger Woods battled for the year’s last major, in a showdown where both were waiting for the other to blink.  The drivable 14th hole, measuring 301 yards proved to be the venue of high drama.  Yang drove his ball 20 yards away from the hole while Tiger was in the greenside bunker.  Tiger blasted out to 8 feet, with birdie a certainty.  Yang surveyed the green, stood steadily over his ball and clipped it with confidence.  The ball bounced on the surfaced and tracked the hole like a heat seeking missile towards a target.  The ball rolled truthfully and rolled center cut for an eagle 2.  Commenting on history being made, Verne Lundquist gave the following account of the chip, “It’s a good one … it’s a really good one … it’s WONDERFUL!” And indeed it was.  Yang then gave a fist pump and a scream seemingly reserved only for Tiger.  After Tiger birdies, the headed off to 15, with the Korean a stroke ahead.

YE 14

On the really long 15th, measuring all of 642 yards, both were on the fairway.  Yang only hoped to get close enough but Tiger had other plans.  Hitting a driver from the fairway, Yang pushed his shot a little to the right to end up 62 yards form the hole on the first cut.  Tiger then picked out a 5-wood and had plans of hitting the surface from 282 yards away.  He somehow hit the ball heavy and the ball ended up even farther than Yang’s.  No worries for the number 1 player as he then feathered a wedge to within 15 feet from the hole.  Yang was in good position to get even closer but a conservative pitch left him even farther away.  After 2 putts he registered a par.  Tiger had the opportunity to draw level with a makable putt.  Uncharacteristically Tiger though, he missed on the high side.

The 16th is a very difficult hole, what with water defining the entire right side.  After drives left the competitors on the short stuff, Tiger aimed for the flag.  The wind was blowing left to right pushing towards the water.  Tiger, showing a significant degree of indecision, kept throwing up grass into the air trying to get a sense for the direction.  He then decided on how to shape his shot and let ‘er rip.  His ball took off left of the flag, but instead of veering right to the hole with the wind, the ball stayed up and he ended up quite a distance away.  Yang now had a decision to make.  With a one-stroke lead and Tiger not in birdie position, does he play conservatively on this treacherous hole, or does he go for it?  It seems that Yang had more hutzpah than most everyone.  He took aim for the flag, played a fade with a helping wind and his ball barely cleared the water hazzard, ending up in the fringe less than 20 feet from the flag on the short side.  After Tiger lagged his putt close for a tap in Yang had the perfect opportunity to go 2 up.  He missed high.

The 17th proved to be the start of the Tiger death knell.  The par 3 was a brute with the hole resting on a plateau at the back left with heavy rough beyond and on the left side.  Yang took aim first.  His 7 iron traveled on the right line but ended up short in the valley under the level of the hole.  Tiger had a golden chance to take advantage.  He took out a 7 iron as well.  Threw up clumps of grass to find the wind, took aim and swung.  The announcers were clear that the shot was all over the flag. He not only had the right line, he appeared to have the right distance.  Tiger though looked with concern.  He seemingly knew something was amiss.  True enough the ball flew over the flag and landed on the tall grass beyond.  Tiger grimaced and hunched over in frustration.  Yang was on the green, Tiger was in the rough one shot back.  He knew he was running out of holes.  Tiger then chose his wedge and prepared to chip.  Given the lie, he was concerned that the ball would come hot and scoot beyond the level of the hole to where Yang was.  Considering this Tiger chose to nudge the ball forward hoping the ball would come out just right.  It didn’t, the ball did not only come out soft, it stopped well short of the hole.  Yang had all the advantages at this point.  But then there still had to be some drama left.  Yang putted his ball and as any amateur golfer well knows, you do not lift your head almost as soon as you make a putt.  It will end up short.   Yang committed this amateurish mistake.  Even he recognized his mistake with a wry smile after.  The flaw in his technique left him 6 feet from the hole, with a significant break in between.  Tiger then hit his putt and missed for a bogey.  Yang seeing the line Tiger’s putt took knew it was right to left with around 2 to 3 inches of break.  Alas, he left the club a bit open and pushed it for a miss.  Still one up though after his bogey.

Tiger wince

Given what has transpired over the last 5 holes, 18 became the venue of high drama.  The 475 yard par 4 18th was a real challenge.  After more than 70 of the world’s best golfers have played it on that day, the 18th only yielded 2 birdies.  Tiger therefore had his work cut out for him.  But then Tiger is Tiger.  If the impossible was necessary Tiger was there to accommodate.  Remember that 6 iron from the fairway bunker in the Canadian, or that chip on 16th at Augusta, or that birdie on 18th at last year’s US Open to tie for the lead and head to a playoff.  Tiger has a bag-full of past experiences to draw from to pull off another victory.  He has never lost a major where he led after 54 holes (14 out of 14).  He has not lost a tournament where he was leading by 2 strokes at the start of the 4th round (he started 2 strokes up on Yang and Harrington at the start of the last round).  Tiger had what it takes to win and he had one hole to present another moment of Tiger magic.

After driving his ball, Yang found himself in the first cut at the left side of the fairway over 200 yeards away from a pin that was on the left side of the green guarded by a huge bunker.  A tree blocked his view of the green and the wind was all over the place.  He decided on a 3 hybrid.  Hoping for the best, he struck the ball cleanly and it flew high into the air.  Did it have enough juice?  Will is fly through the tree?  Will it get gobbled up by the bunker.  Anything and everything can go wrong with this shot.  But seemingly going against the script followed by many other Tiger victims in the past, Yang’s shot defied the odds and landed a few feet from the hole and rolled a mere 12 feet away.  This was a majestic long iron, reminiscent of Corey Pavin’s five wood in Shinnecock, Nicklaus’s 1 iron to hit the flag stick on the 17th at Pebble Beach, and all the long irons of the fabled Hale Irwin.  This was a champion sticking it into the heart of his remaining challenger.  This was championship golf.  But then Tiger was not done yet.  He was on the right side of the fairway with a great view of the flag.  He needed to draw the ball towards the hole and stick it close to assure himself of a birdie for at least a tie.  Taking dead aim, he again hit the shot with perfection.  Perhaps too perfect.  His five iron from 197 yards had all the hallmarks of a Tiger classic until it flew past the green once again into the rough just a few feet from the surface.  In spite of that, no one has given up on Tiger yet.  Memories of Tom Watson on the 71st in Pebble Beach were being dredged up.  Can he chip in and force Yang to make a 12 footer for a win?  Alas, the magic just was not there today.  His chip bounced almost beside the cup and rested around 10 feet away.  The stage was open for the man from Jeju Island (the land of honeymooners).

Yang had two putts to win the first men’s major championship for an Asian born player.  Sure Tiger is  part Asian but everyone knew he was American first and foremost.  Asians needed a winner from amongst their ranks.  There have been flirtations before.  Mr. Lu in the Open, TC Chen and his two-chip gaffe, Isao Aoki and his record score in the US open, eclipsed only by Jack’s score which happened in the same tournament, KJ Choi in the Masters and others.  YE Yang was hardly the candidate to end the drought for the world’s largest and most populated continent.  Sure he won the HSBS Championship in 2006 holding off a certain Tiger Woods, but this is different, this is a major.  The former driving range assistant who only took up the game 18 years ago as a 19 year old fresh from military service, was in the verge of the biggest victory for all Asian golfers.  He lined up his putt.  Shrugged off the nerves.  Pulled back his putter and put a good stroke on the ball.  The ball rolled perfectly towards the cup and confidently dove in.  YE Yang just won the 91st PGA Championship!!!! He pumped his fist emphatically, in a move, again, only reserved for Tiger and screamed to high heavens.  He then lifted his bag above his head, like a warrior presenting his prey to his adoring followers.  Truly he belongs with the greatest players in the world.  Today he is the greatest player in the world.  After the final tally, Yang won by 3 shots (after Tiger missed his putt for par) shooting a 70 on a treacherous day.  Tiger limped home with a 75, surrendering a 2-shot lead and losing a major for the first time as the 54 hole leader.

Later Yang, 37, said that this may be his last victory (a show of Asian humility?).  What he failed to realize though is that even if he does not win again, his victory will the inspiration for all Asians to finally believe that we have the tools to make it on the big stage.  He underestimates the impact this will have to future generations who now know that the giant Americans, Europeans, Africans, Australians can be slayed and the Asians can win.  Somewhere, in some driving range, perhaps even in the good old Philippines, some lowly buck, working on his swing will view this win as his clarion call to greatness.

Long live YE Yang and Congratulations.

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Pictures from http://www.pga.com and yahoosports

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Bethpage Black, the site of the 109th US Open will be the venue for yet another classic golfing event.  Last time the US Open was held here Tiger Woods, shooting 3 under par, won by 3 over Phil Mickelson.  Last year, Tiger won in a play-off against Rocco Mediate for his 3rd US Open.  With a length of 7,406 yards, softened a bit by rain, Bethpage would be a great challenge for the field.  In 2002, when rains made the rough even more lush the pros would say that hitting from the rough was like hitting into a bag of water.  That can’t be fun for the wrists.

We of course all remember the drama of last year’s win.  Playing off a broken leg and a torn up knee, Tiger summoned up all the courage one can humanly muster and battled over 91 holes to beat a resolute Rocco Mediate.  His leg was so injured that immediately after he underwent surgery on his leg which laid him out for 8 months.  Playing with a good leg, with 2 wins this year, Tiger is poised to defend his title, a feat last done by Curtis Strange in 1989.

Tiger

Looking at the field, there are many ready to challenge Tiger’s march to victory.  Players I will be looking closely at include:

1.   PhilPhil Mickelson:  The poster boy for golf in New York, he will defintely have the crowd rooting for him.  After Bethpage in 2002, his PGA win in Baltustrol in New Jersey, his collapse in Winged Foot in 2006, Phil has so greatly endeared himself to the New York fans that he will feel like he was at home in Arizona.  With the cancer scare Amy is currently facing, Phil will even have more sympathy behind him.  His tepid showing in Memphis though appears to show that his head is not completely in the game.

2.  geoff Geoff Ogilvy:  Having won twice this year and being a former US Open champion, augurs well for this Australian.  He has the game and temperament for US Open golf.  Being tied for 87th in total driving though may result in ventures in the rough, which this year appers to be even higher than in 2002.  (It was up to the thigh of Andy North in a recent clip.)

3.  Zach Zach Johnson:  The leader of the Fedex Cup as of this date may not be too long, nor overpowering, but he has the “boring” fairways and green game to make a splash this year.  Also a 2-time winner this year, Zach, a former Masters Champion, is enjoying a tremendous year.  The lack of stength though may prove to be too much for him given that the course is a brute.

4.  Ian Ian Poulter:  He of the funky clothes and coiffed hair is ready to finally win a major and have a break through win in the US.  His showing in the Open last year, his Ryder Cup Performance and his near win in the Players shows that he is at the cusp of major success.

5.  Paul Paul Casey:  He won in Houston and then won the European PGA, a European Major.  Paul is finally living up to his full potential.  Carrying a really fluid one-piece swing, he is a model of consistency which should be great for  a US Open layout.

6.  Jim Jim Furyk:  He of the funky swing and a US Open under his belt, has his game in great shape headed into this week.  He finished 2nd to Tiger in the Memorial, true, but he separated himself from the other pretenders, showing that he has game.

7.  Padraig Padraig Harrington:  He won the PGA and the Open and therefore has the mettle to win majors.  His wins though did not have Tiger in the field.  His recent form is not too great but champions are championsn and can rise above.

8.  Henrik Henrik Stenson:  His win at the Players was gorgeous.  Talk about taking command on Sunday.  With Tiger in his rear view mirror he put on his blinkers and ran away with a phenomenal bogey free round.   Aside from that he has shown he would strip to his scivvies to save a shot.

Other notables worth watching would be Steve Stricker, Brian Gay, Sergio Garcia, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Rory Sabbatini, Kenny Perry (if he has gotten over the trauma at Augusta), Angel Cabrera and David Toms.  They all have the game and the wherewithal to win at Bethpage.  Sergio is not doing too well this year, but after his break up with Shark-daughter, he supposedly has his head on straight and ready to play.  He did well in Bethpage in 2002 though he faded on the last day.  Brian Gay had two tremendous wins this year and is heading into the US Open with a great feeling having won in St. Jude.  Els will always be my sentimental favorite.  I just love his swing.

The European challenge should start with last years order of merit winner Robert Karlson but he withdrew due to an eye problem.  Carrying the European charge aside from those already mentioned will be Rory McIlroy, Ross Fisher Miguel Angel Jimenez, Luke Donald and Oliver Wilson.  I like Fisher’s game.  He is long and lanky and plays within himself.  McIlroy would be one I would root for though.  He is young and may not know enough yet to be intimidated by the task.  See Sergio in ’99 at the PGA.  Rory may well be that guy now.  Donald is not doing too well but he is again a sentimental favorite of mine as I also love his swing.

For Asia, our hopes rest on Jeev Milka Singh, Ryuji Imada, K.J. Choi, and I want to say Angelo Que.  Shingo Katayama is the perpetual Asian placer in majors but he too withdrew.  Surprisingly Thongchai Jaidee is not in the field.  He is really tearing it up in Europe being number 12 in the Race to Dubai.  I know Angelo Que will be hard pressed to even make the cut much less win but being pinoy, we of course will root for our own.

Everyone though will be chasing Tiger Woods this weekend.  I really cannot see him being a non-factor on Sunday.  I defintely can see him win.  You never know with golf though.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Charl Swartzel and Thomas Levet in the final group if the golf gods so ordain.  In any event I anticipate four fun days of competition for the 109th US Open.  Will Tiger take no. 15, will Phil finally win on father’s day, will Padraig add to his Open and PGA, will Sergio break through, will Ian Poulter comb?  These questions will be answered this weekend.  May the best man win.

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If war is waged and generals are called to battle, I would choose to follow one who would not shrink in the face of long odds, ready to fight, mindless of past failures, focused only on victory.  One such general would be Tiger Woods.  While the poem of Walt Whitman referenced in the title of this blog is ultimately sad, as the captain of the vessel there fell dead before reaching the shores, filled with people trumpeting his successful return, we cannot but sense the greatnes of said captain who gave his life for his quest’s ultimate triumph.  We too cannot deny the greatness that is Tiger Woods.

It would be superfluous to list down his wins as we are all well aware of his 3 US Amateurs, his 14 majors, his 68 career victories in the pga tour, his US$98.0M in career earnings.  Ultimately though, what defines this man is his indefatigable spirit, his will to win, his ability to rise to heights heretobefore unknown.  Jack was correct in saying that Tiger plays a game to which he is not familiar (the same compliment given by Bobby Jones to Jack during his heydays).  To us mere mortals, Tiger is a golfing deity.

Case in point is his recent win at the Memorial Tournament.  He started the day 5 back.  While this did not seem overwhelming, recent form has shown him lose the Masters, Quail Hollow and The Players while in contention on Sunday.  So he won Bay Hill (Arnie’s tournament), therefore quickly setting aside the query as to when he would win again after major surgery.  But that win was really more of a Sean O’Hair collapse.  Don’t get me wrong, Tiger place himself in a position to win.  In spite of Bay Hill though many still harbored doubts.  Then came the Memorial, Jack’s Tournament, the man whose record, Tiger is on a quest to overhaul.  (Just a Note:  The only tournament tied to the names of the legends he has not won is the Colonial of Ben Hogan, having previously won the Byron Nelson.  Problem is he does not pay the Colonial.  He should win it to be the only active player to win the “Legend Slam”).  Many I dare say figured, he was too far back and is not likely to win.  Ok Matt Bettencourt and Mark Wilson will not send shivers down anyone’s spines but Jim Furyk was in place to win.  In the end, he was the one who gave Tiger the only challenge.

After bogeying 16, dropping him into a tie win 3 others, Tiger then showed the world that he is back.  His towering approaches to 17 and 18 were the stuff legends are made of.  Floating a 9-iron to 9 feet on the rock hard green, with the pin tucked on a plateau at the back of the green in 17, he edged ahead of everyone, signaling everyone’s impending doom.  His 183-yard 7-iron on 18 though was even better, landing within 14 inches (on the tournment’s toughest hole to boot), was the final dagger that plunged into the hearts of his competitors.  If the 9-iron in 17 was Voltes V’s ultra-electromagnetic top, the 7-iron on 18 was the laser sword.  Ending the day with a magical 65, spiked with an eagle, 7 birdies and 2 bogeys, his game is back to the lofty heights Tiger himself set in 2000.  What is of further note is that his game is now ready for Bethpage in 2 weeks.  Not only are his irons in tune, he ended up 2nd for the week in fairways hit.  Watch out US Open, your rough will be rendered non-factors.  Even Jack said that major no. 15 is now ineviable.

Like Whitman’s Captain, Tiger is headed home again to triumphant hymns, his legend growing.  Unlike Whitman’s Captain, this general is ready to meet the cheers on his feet, drinking in the accolades but focused still on more wars to conquer.  I follow you to the end, O Tiger my Tiger.

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Any golfing dad would confess that the thought of rearing the next Tiger or Annika is in the back of their  minds.  Looking at my little daughter as she bounces on the bed, singing her songs and wiggling her arms and tush, I can readily imagine her being the next Lorena Ochoa. I mean, why not, right?  Talking to my dad-golfer friends, it is not uncommon for us to project how our sons would battle out for the Green Jacket in the year 2025, that is after they helped each other win the UAAP men’s basketball championship in the year 2018.  We project many of our dreams on our kids, rightly or wrongly, and this would include aspirations for success in golf.

This is, I confess, one of the reaosns why, even when she was only 2 and a half at the time, I enrolled my daughter in Kindergolf.  Under the concept of making the learning of golf a fun exprience for kids, Kindergolf caters to kids from 2 to 7, introducing to them not just the swing, but the fundamentals of golf, including, most importantly the rules on golf etiquette.  I have always believed that what we learn on the course and how we act on it reflects on our everyday lives.  Therefore, learning fair play, respecting the competition, caring for nature, being aware of others can only help in forming the way my daughter conducts herself and as well as her attitude.

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Bringing my daughter to her classes, wearing her cute little golfers outfit, I could not help but gush about the possibilities.  She promptly learned to hold the club, and even putt and chip.  Even at home she would get the back scratcher, make a grip and swing the club, then look at me with glee and say, “Look, I play golf!!”  On those Sunday mornings we would wake her with the promise that she can go to golf school, which would make her perk up.  It was a sacrifice to be up so early on a Sunday, but I was more than willing to do what I can, if only to see if my daughter would take to golf the way I have.

The Kindergolf teachers were great.  They were very patient in helping the kids little hands meld into the club.  They showed how chipping and putting could be fun.  And they quickly rewarded good work with high fives, magnets and stickers.  After the physical session of chipping and putting, the teachers would introduce to the kids golf rules and other golf related matters.  It would tickle me to no end hearing that my daughter would be the first to identify pictures of golf clubs, golf flags, the fairway, the greens and such other golf terms.  Clearly, all the kids, including  mine, enjoyed themselves.  The dad and competitor in me would admittedly note when my daughter would be the first to hole a putt or be the one to execute a proper chip, but I, of course kept all this to myself, lest I be accused of being a stage dad.  Bottom line though is that she loved going to her golf schools on those Sunday mornings and it was a treat for me to see her enjoy the game.

After a Hard Morning's Workout

A few weeks later though I noticed that my little one would be more interested in playing with the toys in Kindergolf as well as the magnets than actually putting and chipping.  She did not concentrate on the drills much and was easily distracted.  It got to the point where she would only play if I was in the room with her.  After discussing with the teachers it was clear that 2 and a half was just a bit too early for her to take to the game with the drive of a little Tiger.  Not everyone can be like the most extolled one and play like a maestro with a driver at the age of 2.  I decided that her Kindergolf experience will have to be postponed for a few more years. I want golf to be fun for her and having her play at this time may be too taxing for her.  I still have my golfing hopes and dreams for her alive and kicking but I too have to exhibit some patience.  If Ji Young Oh took up golf only at the age of 12 and is now a 2 time winner in the LPGA at still a young age, then I have more than enough time to allow my angel to fall in love with the game and find her way to the greens.

And then I look at my son.  He is now 1 and a half.  Maybe he is the next Tiger.  Hmmmm.

Sony Pics 308

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