Sunday, 31 August 2008

Poulter finds his foot stuck in his mouth - Blames the media and their cheeky underhanded practice of reporting of what he said to them.

The wild card race has taken a strangely subdued turn, with none of the big four stamping their authority on it to make themslves bankers for inclusion. The biggest casualty is Ian Poulter, who after not coming to Gleneagles, really did need to show some form at the Deutsche Bank Championship, especially after shooting his mouth off over the past week, playing up his record and playing down others, ignoring the fact he's done very little since his Open runner up placing.

Ian isn't one to play himself down at all though, even if has just missed the cut by four strokes and finished 106h place in conditions where other guys were going very low with their scoring. It's the bloody media's fault.

"It's a joke, it's not the kind of buzz you want to play golf on, trust me. The kind of nonsense that's been in my head for a whole week is not the right kind of pressure."

Yeah, it's not fair what we've done to the lad, why did we force him to go to america to play this week. Not only that, but the blasted media went and printed verbatim all the misguided comments that they tricked him into making, and then made him read it and listen to it, not allowing him to concentrate on his game.

"It's so mentally draining to listen and read all the 'BS' all week. You've read it. You wrote it. Some of you might be guilty or not, I don't know. But boy, what a hell of a week. I'm spent, exhausted. I didn't want to finish the last two tournaments like this (missing cuts), so we'll have to see."

We will have to see. I don't reckon that Faldo could or should pick Poulter now. If he does, the media will rightly not let the story drop. He might have been within his rights to go to america and not play gleneagles, but he should have kept his mouth shut. Instead of trying to use one of the few statisitics which portray his season as being the best of the potential wild cards, his accumulation of Ranking points, the vast majority coming from that Open finish, instead of picking a fight with Monty with some backhanded slagging, he should have done what he planned to do, tried his best, and said nothing. Now, it really would look as though he'd had the nod from Faldo beforehand if he gets picked. And I'm fairly sure those last comments would leave a large number of journalists sharpening their knives. Maybe he'll learn from this, but somehow I doubt it.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Havret still leads - still no one cares

What a crap tournament to be winning. With all the fuss and bother over who's gonna get the last qualifying places and the increasingly spicy wild card shoot out, no one gives a hoot in hell that Gregory Havret is leading the damn thing. Poor Greg, but if everyone in the national media is prepared to overlook how the rest of the field are doing, you can be sure I am too.

I checked the leaderboard at around four o'clock and at that stage it looked like Oliver Wilson was going to be in the twitchy bum position of missing the cut and waiting to see if any of the others could overtake him. Martin Kaymer was looking as though he would just make the cut and have the chance to be the man to nick Wilson's spot. But a reversal of fortunes ensued. Wilson was three over for his round and looking out of it after eight holes. However he kicked into gear ans a birdie on the ninth and the sixteenth and a massively important Eagle on 12 were enough to turn his tournament around and see him make the cut by one shot, on 2 over for the tournament. He now has to make sure he gets up the leaderboard enough to keep his automatic position and stop another blighter grabbing it.

Kaymer on the other hand was looking as though he had recovered from a disastrous double bosgey seven on the par 5 second hole, picking up three shots and on the right side on the cut line. But the demon bogey came on 17 and put him one over the limit and his chances of the Ryder Cup have now gone up in smoke. I guess his time will come.

Ross Fisher is the main concern of Wilson and at one stage he too looked lik missing the cut, three bogeys on his front nine had him on +2 and he looked like he would slip further down, but the got hold of himself to get back to level par for the tournament and stay in the hunt with a birdie on the last. He'll have to get motoring tomorrow though.

Nick Dougherty has left a big ask of himself for the weekend, lying six shots off the lead now but he did manage to pick up one stroke overall today and he's still in with a puncher's chance on -1, in a tie for 23rd.

Justin Rose made sure that he didn't give up his chances in the Fedex cup for nothing and with a decent round of 71 has moved up to 12th on two under par. He made his gains on the back nine, with four birdies taking him into striking distance for the weekend.

Søren Hansen repaid my faith in him again today with another solid 71, where he took bogey- birdie on the first two and the last two holes but he managed to pick up two shots in between and is in a very comfortable 5th place.

That's the automatic qualifying race covered. How are the wild card potentials looking?
Pretty good you'd have to say. Darren Clarke had a bit of a dodgy front nine, over par on three holes, birdying one. Put he picked up two on the way in to be even for the day and in decent nick on -1 under for the tournament.

The man who's been doing all of the talking these past few days, almost suggesting dodgy behind close doors agreements between Poulter and Faldo, must have enjoyed airing his concerns because he had one of his best rounds in competitive play for a long time. Even par at the turn, Monty charged through the back nine, picking up three shots as he went to get to 2 under for the tournament and tied 13th. He's limited what he thought he needed from a win to tenth place (why he thinks that, God alone knows, I'm betting Faldo would be lookng for better) so he's well within reach of his target now. He has been putting in alot of practice at Gleneagles on his weeks off, so he'll be hoping it will show over the weekend.

Another good showing today came from a ghost of Ryder past. David Howell, who was the form European about a year and a half ago, has had a torrid time with injury and has slid from the verge of the top ten to a lowly 20oth in the rankings. But a blistering 67 saw him rise up to joint fifth on the leaderboard today and it's the sort of position a man of his talent deserves. Let's hope he can keep it going.

Monty and Poulter audition for the role of Ryder Cup sledger; The two indulge in some transatlantic bitchin'

You're too you young and inexperienced..... You're too Old and Fat....

Your Ryder record is crap compared to mine.... You're playing crap now....

You can't design clothes... You have Big Tits....

This wild card race is getting personal. At least it is between two of the main participants - Colin Montgomerie and Ian Poulter. I've said before that Monty is a golf interviewer's wet dream and this week, the final chance to impress Nick Faldo before he makes his choosings, has been no different.
After hearing of how Poulter had been chatting to Faldo to inform him of his decision not to go to the Johnnie Walker he said

"Poulter seems to have a hotline to Faldo..."

Cunning Monty, saying more about what he thought about the situation in eight words than you could manage in a book.

Poulter made a stern effort to quash the rumours that his decision to skip the final qualifying event at Gleneagles was in part down to a nod from Faldo that he and perhaps even Paul Casey were already assured a wild card pick, saying

"I know for a fact that I haven't been given the nod. I'm disgusted that people, players, media would think that Nick Faldo would be that unprofessional."

That's classy positioning there, take the moral high ground and slip in a bit of praise for the glorious leader. But if you're going to brown nose, don't do it half heartedly, really kiss ass.

"It's pathetic that people can even think that's the case, Nick's a professional, he's been a professional the last 30 years of his career and he's not going to start changing now. I told him basically that my decision is to stay here and play and I got the best answer I could have possibly got off a captain (which was) 'you've got to do what's right for you'. "

Wow, that's licking up to the guy who holds the power at the highest level, who says Poulter isn't prepared to do what it takes to make the team. But when you're on a roll...

"The fact is, I know Nick, and I've been fairly friendly with Nick since I've come on tour. I shouldn't stop that fact just because he's Ryder Cup captain. "

Yeah, you can't put relationships on hold just cause one of you gets a new job, why should he let a little thing like the Ryder Cup get in the way of their friendship, why cruel world, why can't you understand them and let them be!

"I don't need to get in the discussion of Monty's discussions. He's got enough work to do this week to try to make the side himself. He should just be getting his head down and trying to play good golf."

And there it is, back onto the moral high ground in the first sentence, the perfect place from which to administer a little psychological headbutt to his rival, cause let's face it, The Montster has it all to do. But he still wasn't finished...

"If you look at my statistics over the last 12 months in relation to the other names that have been put in the potential wildcard choice, I'm 70 points in the world rankings ahead of Paul Casey and Darren Clarke"

Oops, no mention of Colin? Is he so far behind that he's irrelevant? Way to piss off a Scotsman there Ian, a masterclass of the verbals that Alex Ferguson would be proud of.

None of this brou-ha-ha washed with Colin though. Like Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Monty can spot a bit of dodgy goings on from a mile off, without binoculars, he can just smell it...

"Is anyone else speaking to Nick? No. Self-praise is no praise."

Bitchy. Yet again Monty says it all in one line. Cutting. But he can't resist another stab

"It's nice to be told what to do by one so young and one so inexperienced"

Yes Colin, that's what you want to do, get stuck in to the little upstart. Who does he think he's playing with, you're Colin Montgomerie, he should fear to speak your name, he should be referring to you as "The Scottish Player". You are his Macbeth.

Monty didn't go into the statistic for this year, as frankly that would be suicide, but he could have brought up their Ryder Records, Monty the Leviathan of so many Ryder Cups, Poulter, scraped onto one side and got one point. Ian wasn't so quick to point our attention to that little stat... Instead he tried to sound like a level headed chap and pander a bit to Nick himself. I'm sure all of this statement was totally sincere...

"It's a very difficult decision (for Faldo) - not as clear-cut as it has been in previous years possibly - but I am sure he will make the right one. I have to show form to have an opportunity and I have to keep performing this weekend. I don't think I necessarily have to win - if you are 10th on the European Tour these days you are performing quite well."

No one's going to buy this 'I respect Faldo' twaddle and where does this chat of tenth being good come from? Monty was saying only last week that a win was probably required, has that gone out the window. You can't lose your nerve now Monty, you got to get out there and show them, show them all, cause remember, they're all against you. That's what you've always believed and it's always seen you right.

What have Darren Clarke and Paul Casey to say on the matter. Nothing juicy, they're being... oh, what's the word, um... Professional, yeah. They're being professional about it. Boring gits. Can't they see that what Faldo really wants is some unsettling influences in his team? They better wake up cause Monty and Poulter have stolen a march on them.

French Bloke tops leaderboard but no one cares- this weekend is a team building exercise, it's not a competition... Frenchy didn't get the memo

Gregory Havret of France holds the lead at the Johnnie Walker at Gleneagles but frankly, who the hell cares. That ain't the story. How goes the dogfight for Ryder Cup Inclusion? That's what we wanna know; Sorry Greg, you're irrelevant

Sitting pretty just now is Soren Hansen, he lies in a tie for sixth after a first round 71, that's two under on the massive Gleneagles course. He's obviously comfortable with this course and is top of the six vying for automatic places and hoping to stay there.

Ross Fisher is well in the hunt, just one shot worse of than Hansen on -1. Thats four off the lead and sees him in a tir for thirteenth, a decent base to build on and he'll be happy to be there. A costly double bogey on the par 3 Fourth hole was followed by bogey on 5 and 7, but four birdies in the next six redressed the balance and with a birdie on the last, he manged to get back under par. If he can cut out the dropped shots tomorrow he could do well.

Both Nick Dougherty and Justin Rose are on even par, tied 22nd. In a topsy-turvy round Dougherty went birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey-bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie, with a few pars in between here and there, but eventually come out owing nothing to par. He needs a big finish here, second the very minimum really, a win probably required so he'll be hoping for a nice smooth round tomorrow and to rack up those birdies again and climb the leaderboard.
Rose had back to back dropped shots on 14 and 15 but a birdie at the first and the last with the rest pars gave him an odd looking scorecard but an even score. He's looking fairly solid to book his place without much fuss now.

The two guys on the borderline of qualification, with less than 27,000 euros between them, Oliver Wilson and Martin Kaymer did not get off to the start they wanted. At three over par and tied 73rd, they are in serious danger of missing the cut. Both Rose and Hansen are well placed, so it looks like the dogfight is over that third spot and they both lost the advantage today. Fisher would need fourth place to overtake them both to make the weekend, an achievable target from where he's at now you would think. They'll need to make life a little tougher for him and make it to the weekend or they're in for a sweaty time of it watching on telly. Both took a double bogey, and had four bogies and three birdies apiece. It seem that little can seperate these too. If one makes the cut and the other doesn't, it could be decisive.

I'll be talking a bit more about the current wild card hoo-ha next post, there's all sorts of hasty comments and hooded jibes being made, mainly by Poulter and Monty, Clarke and Casey are playing it cool, for now... What I will do here is tell you that Clarke got off to a cracking start, getting to three under par on the fourteenth green. But a horrible run of three bogeys threatened to wreck his round completely. A birdie four down the last however took the sharp edge off his disappointing finish and he was in, one shot to the good, tied 13th.

Monty is slightly further off the pace, but is in much better shape than he was in his last two tournaments, which frankly wouldn't be hard. But he's better than just not rock bottom. He got it round just one stroke over par which is a tie for 37th and he can take heart in the fact that he finished his round in better fashion than it started. Still, he's said he thinks he needs to win here and as I will be covering has been shouting his mouth off about dodgy deals between Poulter and Captain Nick. Shut up Monty and get on with your job, you can chat about it afterwards.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Six warriors gather in the highlands. Armed with metal sticks, they go into battle. A battle not all will survive... THERE CAN BE ONLY THREE!!!

"Most people have a full measure of life... and most people just watch it slowly drip away. But if you can summon it all up... at one time... in one place... you can accomplish something... glorious." Ramirez' advice to Nick Dougherty, going into the weekend.

So this is it. Six golfers into three places don't go. The fight for the final three automatic qualifying places will not be a bloody one, but there will be three very unhappy faces come Sunday whatever happens. Justin Rose, Søren Hansen and Oliver Wilson hold the last three automatic places going to Gleneagles, but Martin Kaymer, Ross Fisher and Nick Dougherty all have a chance to pinch their spots. Ian Poulter would have been in the race too but he's taken his chances on winning a wild card spot, which is good news for all six boys listed there. You would imagine that whoever among them that doesn't get in through the front door will not really be in with a chance of a wild card. They ain't there for Rookies, and with wise old head Clarke and the much more experienced Casey currently favourite and Poulter and Monty also vying for a pick, Faldo isn't going to throw a bone to a whippersnapper in front of such illustrious names.

So hows the form coming into here, what will they have to do to get in and how good are their chances?

Nick Dougherty
After gaining a lifeline in coming second at the SAS Masters two weeks ago, Dougherty was livid that he failed to make the weekend in Holland and close the gap further. It'll be as much down to the power of prayer as anything else if he does make it; A win is probably his only chance but another second place finish and some very dodgy results for the rest of the hopefuls could see him sneak it. But it's a long shot. He is best buds with Faldo after coming through his academy though so if he played really well and just missed out, he's the one chance that I can see of Big Nick giving out a really contorversial Wild card. Will have to give him some excuse with a great performance this week though.

Ross Fisher
Fisher has had some very good results this year, his win in the European Open was exemplary and he looks like one of the real stars of the future. But can he make his time now, instead of waiting for the next Ryder to make his debut? Well, since that great win, he hasn't had the best of results, no evidence of the push for qualification. He is in slightly better shape than Dougherty - third place may be enough for him to squeak in, but that's not much better off. Would still need some results to go his way- second, you would think could be good enough. He missed the cut last year though and I wouldn't be too sure he can do it.

Martin Kaymer
He is well within touching distance of Oliver Wilson, if he finishes well and Wilson struggles, then he should get in ahead of the young Englishman. He has been strggling to make an impression since diving into the qualification stakes with his BMW Internatonal win, when many have been touting him to get there easily. Will need to rediscover some of the old spark and get something good this week. He also missed last years cut....

Oliver Wilson
The vulnerable one in the current top ten. He had a lovely run, mid to early season, of very decent results which didn't gain him quite as much as a big win would have recently. He's not completely bereft of form just now, just not flying as he was. He is another of the new breed of great young English players but he too missed the cut here last year... Not overly confident that he's safe.

Søren Hansen
Hansen may be strutting into this like race as the most confident of the lot. He finished in a tie for 3rd at Gleneagles last year and a repeat of that would be more than enough to ensure his place. With so many of the other boys here having either not played here last year or missed the cut, that's a significant mental advantage to hold. I would back him to make it.

Justin Rose
Justin has given up the chance of Fedex Cup glory to be at Gleneagles this week, to ensure he makes the team. He has a good lead over the bottom three and should he get a decent finish in the top ten, it is unlikely that results will combine to see him pushed out. Should he miss the cut or finish poorly he is wide open for taking. But surely Justin is too much of the real deal to be missing out from this commanding position... isn't he?

Here's how the points lie without the stayaway Poulter... Each point is one euro earned in European tournaments this year..
7 Justin ROSE 1437061.35
8 Søren HANSEN 1421745.66
9 Oliver WILSON 1386385.71
10 Martin KAYMER 1369093.82
12 Ross FISHER 1294055.48
13 Nick DOUGHERTY 1208366.34

Monday, 25 August 2008

The Poulter Ultimatum...

You are Gold, gold... always believe in your soul, you've got the power to know, You're indestructible, Always Believing...
...that you'll get a wild card...

Okay, so either Ian Poulter has the biggest balls in the world or he just has the biggest head. It's one of the two. He's already the object of derision for his comments earlier in the year that he was the only golfer out there who will be able to challenge Tiger, being mockingly dubbed World No.2 ever since by his fellow golfers, who were not best pleased to be so cheaply written off in the Tiger chase. He's also commonly an object of fun for his fashion sense (see above, resplendent in gold lamé), or arguably lack-there-of. I think most of his stuff actually looks pretty snazzy, wouldn't wear it myself though.

Now he's gone and set himself up for what could be an almighty fall. He could have played in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles this week and attempted to qualify automatically but has chosen instead to stay in America and play in the Deutsche Bank Championship. It's the final week in the Ryder Cup Qualification Race and Ian's only chance of making the team lies in the European Race. He is too far behind to make it on the World points list, but he is well within striking distance of automatic qualifying. Justin Rose, eighth in the standings has given up his chances in the Fedex Cup to play at Gleneagles and make sure of his place on the team. But renegade Poulter ain't such a kiss-ass and has backed himself by saying to Captain Nick Faldo, either I'm good enough to be there or I'm not, you decide...

On the surface it seems like a very egotistical approach but let's be fair to Ian, he has some valid reasons for taking this stance.
  1. He needs to play in this event to remain in the Fedex Cup Race and have a chance of the big bucks at the end. He is a bit far behind to be thinking that he has a real chance but the next reason is...
  2. If he doesn't go to the Deutsche Bank he is one event short of the required 15 events on the PGA Tour in America to keep his card there, the event will be his last chance to do that -though that's an oversight perhaps he should have been thinking of when he took the week off after the USPGA (Casey played that week, why didn't he?)
  3. He did finish second in the Open this year and is the world Number 23, perhaps he feels he is deserving of a wild card on the back of that.

His only problem is, how do you pick a guy above others who are winning, or have done everything they could to qualify, when he has turned down a chance to qualify automatically? Can you reward that sort of arrogance? I don't know what Faldo's response to Poulter was on hearing the news from him this morning, but it seems to have given him the confidence to go through with it. I guess he has backed himself to do well enough this week to make a wild card choice inevitable - by winning or coming damn close. But it's still a ballsy decision when Clarke won last week, Casey's playing great and he had the opportunity to play at Gleneagles and ensure Faldo could take all three of them. Especially when you consider Poulter has only managed one other top ten outside of the Open this season;TheAbu Dhabi Championship at the start of the year.

Whoever he leaves out now, the team is weaker for it and you have to wonder if Faldo will be angry with Poulter for not thinking ahead and leaving him this situation. Casey said last week he was hoping Poulter could play well enough to qualify automatically and free up a wild card slot for him. I reckon now he'll be hoping that he has a 'mare this week and the cocky bugger doesn't take his spot.

No golf at the games? Let's find a place for Olympic Swingers

Defending Olympic Champ George Lyon from Canada, has resisted calls to defend his title, not after last time. He turned up to defend in 1908, they hadn't told him there would be no golf. Plus, he's dead now, an important factor in the decision not to compete.

You see some damn silly things at the Olympics don’t you. Synchronised swimming, Rhythmic Gymnastics, Power Walking, Hazel Irvine, the list goes on. But one thing notable for its absence is the great game of Golf. Not since 1904, has there been a pitching wedge in evidence at the biggest sporting event in the world. Campaigns are under way to have golf take the place of softball in London 2012 (yes softball is an Olympic “sport”) but is there really a place for it at the games?

What the Olympics are all about is the relentless repetition of one sole action under rigid conditions and being the one to fail least at performing it. Golf is clearly too much of a proper sport, requiring a real tactical nous to succeed. Shooting, archery, that’s the sort of thing is what the people really want to see. Perhaps it’s time that Olympic Organisers looked to the daughter sports which have recently spawned from the game of golf, championed by like-minded individuals who saw Golf as too inventive a game for them. Thus we sidestep all this furore every four years, Tiger Woods doesn’t need to go unpaid at another tournament which will please him no end and we get us the single skill majesty we all crave of the Olympics.

Flat Course Putting – a specially built indoor putting arena with perfectly flat carpet mats as the course. The aim being to putt a ball into a regulation size hole 25 feet away over a billiard table surface; with the focus being the monotonous repetition of one stroke. Based on the scoring systems used in clay pigeon shooting, each competitor would have 100 putts, highest conversion rate winning in what should be a gripping spectacle.

Big Dog Javelin – the aim here is to use a driver to hit a ball as far as they possibly can within the confines of a 30 degree wedge emanating from the tee. Furthest Legal shot wins. It further borrows from the javelin set up, with three qualifying shots, with the top eight getting three more. The Happy Gilmore run up option is available for those willing to sacrifice accuracy for greater length but if competitors step over the line on the tee box it shall be called a foul, so tactics do come into play.

Pitching Wedge Archery – a 5 foot target is drawn 60 yards away from the competitors who must then use a pitching wedge to get as close to the centre of target as possible. Concentric rings on the target mark out points scored from 1 for the outer ring to a possible 10 for the gold centre (it’s not called the bullseye in archery or in it’s pitching wedge brethren). Use of holes in the centre is frowned upon as a poor shot may pitch in it luckily when it would have been ten foot by, this game doesn’t reward jammy play. Any similarities to that game on Tiger Woods on the Xbox are purely coincidental.

Seven Iron Marathon Borrowing from the urban golf game which many are lobbying to get Olympic status (at least in my house they are) players must guide a leather bean bag ball around a Marathon course using only a seven iron. Players take mats with them to tee up on, but must carry them themselves, and shortening of the course by pitching over kerbs etc is prohibited. Players will be accompanied by scorers who will monitor the number of strokes they perform and ensure they hit the apex of each turn and no corners are cut. GPS technology may be employed to stop cheats. A serious endurance event, a change of golf glove will be permitted at halfway, but no club changes are allowed, a good Marathon Man takes care of his seven iron.

Performance Swinging – The Gala event of Golf spin offs. Using the scoring principles of Diving and Gymnastics, competitors perform golf swings without striking a ball and are judged seemingly arbitrarily by an anonymous panel of judges. Male Swingers perform in Vests, shorts and plimsolls to allow judges a fuller view of the competitors movements; Ladies compete in hotpants.

Points are awarded upon the basis of style, grace, form, athleticism and “the judges whims”. The plane angles of the swing are crucial, with harsh penalties for those who are slightly off-line, with particular concern given to evidence of “wristy” swings. Swing exercises on the high beams can go wrong with severe injuries commonplace. Good finishing postures are essential, each with their own difficulty quotient eg. copying of Jack Nicklaus’ signature ‘reverse C’ is seen these days as a lazy option and scores lowly with a DQ of 2.4.

Competitors can enter the Woods class, Long Irons, Short Irons and the hotly contested putting class, where ever more divided classes such as belly putting, broomhandle putting, unconventional grip putting have created massive new interest in the sport. An overall winner is also awarded, with a final team competition, which America have unexpectedly struggled to be competitive in recently, despite a glut of excellent Performance Swingers. A musical exhibition of Performance swinging at the end of competition could be a potential centrepiece for the games in years to come.

The Barclays Play-off


Garcia and Singh again smack perfect drives off the 18th tee, both looking supremely confident. Sutherland repeated his wayward drive though this time, 50 yards short of the other two and even further right. He cracked his second with a four iron to an almost identical position as he’d had in his 72nd hole. Could he repeat his miracle pitch. Garcia drifted left but on the green with a powerful nine iron, Vijay found the heart of the green but both had about 26 feet. Sutherland had a much harder lie this time around though, and found the fringe and is out of the equation now.

Sergio putts first after long deliberations as to who was further away, finally settled by a dude in a green shirt in a tower who does the distances for the PGA Tour Website pointing at Garcia. It’s almost the same as the putt Paul Casey had on 18, the only one that we’d seen holed of any distance all day and the result is exactly the same. He’s blowing kisses to Faldo in the commentary box, sending him into a fit of blushes. The pressure is piled on Vijay but he’s a real big time player- No Ben Curtis. He steps up to the plate and drains what is a remarkably straight 26 footer, dying into the hole. Only six birdies on 18 all day, and two huge ones come along at once.


Off to the 17th then. Sergio doesn’t manage to repeat his amazing drive on this hole an hour before, only a foot or so inside the hazard line, Vijay whacks a beauty, straight down the middle as they say. Garcia needs a low hooky running shot to get near the green but it doesn’t hook at all. He pushes it way right and it finishes dead behind a huge tree.

Vijay hits another fantastic second shot, though from his reaction you could never tell as he claps his hand on top of his head. He maybe just doesn’t believe how sweet he’s hit it. He’s 20 feet away again for eagle.

There’s a bit of consternation as to the ground around where Garcia’s ball landed, it’s adjudged to be abnormal ground – some mole burrows there or something. No one can work it out but the chief official is convinced it's not right. He gets a drop off to the right of the tree and he now has a shot at the green. He chases it out and is just short of the green in three. He’ll need to hole his chip if this is going to a third hole. The chip is good but it stays above ground, rolling by on the left edge. Vijay has two from 20 feet to win and nudges it again to two inches, just as he did in regulation play and he’s won The Barclays. Not only that but he’s sitting pretty at the top of the Fedex Cup standings. Vijay is certainly back on form after a year of so so results by his high standards. He’ll be a tough man to catch now as the play-off go on.

And it’s more heartache for Sergio, already the bridesmaid at the USPGA a few weeks ago, it seems he's never the bride.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

It wouldn't be the Play-offs if we didn't have a play-off

It was a tightly packed star studded leaderboard for the final round of The Barclays; it's funny how the prospect of $10 million dollars can bring the best out in the best of the PGA Tour. They were jockeying for position all day, 11 guys within two shots of the lead halfway through, it was open to anyone. But no-one seemed prepared to make the killer blow.

Steve Stricker saw his lead disappear yesterday in spectacular fashion. Two early birdies gave no indication of the collapse which was to come. He played his last 12 holes in 8 over par. Five bogeys and a shocking triple bogey seven on the par four twelfth. It saw him plummet out of the lead as quickly as he had shot up there on day two, going from the round of the day 64 to a worst of the day 77. It won't have pleased Paul Azinger to see that - Stricker was looking to be one of his strongest picks to make. Especially when there's been so many strong performances from the Europeans. A par round today saw him a good few shots back in the end on four under, having held a four shot lead yesterday on 12 under at one point.

It was Vijay Singh who made the most of yesterday, emerging with a typically strong challenge. His five under par 66 was good enough to move him into a tie for second place.

Kevin Streelman, in his rookie year, had a quality round of 68 to take the lead, only dropping one shot all day. It's an unusual situation for Streelman. The green on the 7th hole, aptly named "The Cemetary Hole" is right next to the graveyard where two of his grandparents are buried. A little morbid perhaps, but as a result, he's been seeing all sorts of relatives this week that he hasn't met for a good few years and it appears the extra support buoyed him up well and he held the lead at the end of the third round.

On to day four and it was a case of who want’s to win it most. The problem was no one seemed to.

Matthew Goggin of Australia got in very early with a flawless round of 67 which moved him to seven under and as the greens dried out and became less predictable he was looking better and better odds to perhaps gain a chance of a play-off.

Paul Casey had a huge putt on the last to get back to six under. Just before his stroke Faldo jokingly said, "If he makes it, he's in the team", perhaps confident he would miss as no one had made a big putt on 18 all day. Casey duly obliged though and had El Capitan Nick scrambling to retract his statement, saying he's picking his team next week, not now. Still that was a good way to stick in his thoughts Paul and a good tie for 7th does him no harm.

Kevin Sutherland made a late move to grab the lead on 8 under and with everyone else drifting back was looking great. A very dodgy second shot which refused to draw back into the green left him way right. His pitch trickled off the green but he managed to make his up and down. His drive on 18 went way right into the trees leaving him unable to cut it enough to get at the green. Out of a tricky steep lie in the left rough however he floated his pitch to four feet, beautifully judged, and took a gutsy par to set the total at eight under

Sergio Garcia, mis-clubbed on 8 to come up way short and a bogey duly followed. But on several other occasions throughout the round, his clutch putting really kept his challenge alive and his iron play was frighteningly good at times.

Sergio stepped on to 17 needing a good drive and unleashed an absolute monster, 331 yards to the right fairway, the longest seen all week. Incredibly pumped, he managed to carry a four iron 250 yards to get just off the back of the green in two, striking the ball just about perfectly he got more of it than even he thought he would. His chip back down the length of the green was immaculate leaving him a two inch tap in for a birdie to get the lead back. Three of the best shots you'll ever see.

Another huge drive followed on 18, ripping another to 316 yards, shouting and pumping his fist. His approach shot was just a wedge for him at a full 150 yards to the pin. "He ripped it" was pretty much the same thing as what Nick faldo had said on his last ten shots, but it was no less true for that. It was only 17 ft short of the hole after the tremendous spin he had generated was done with it. Another birdie opportunity but he narrowly missed to stay on 8 under and await what Vijay could manage on the way in.

Kevin Streelman looked as though he was out of things for a long time after two bogeys on 11 and 12 had him on 5 under but a snaky long putt on 16 got him back on the scent and even though he needed to pop one out back onto the fairway a cracking approach left him a four footer to get back to back birdies. A horrible drive on 18 squeaked out to the right which left everyone thinking he had blew his chance of making a play-off, but a brilliant second saw him 16 feet from the hole. He couldn't make it three in a row, just scraping the edge of the hole with his attempt.

Playing despite a bout of tendonitis Vijay Singh had his forearm heavily strapped. Commentating on CBS, Nick Faldo revealed he had overheard the Fijian screaming and howling in agony as he received massage for it. But Vijay won't let a little thing like an intensely painful injury get in the way of his relentless chase of dollars, I mean glory...

He was one back on the 17th when he hit two majestic blows to set up a rare eagle chance for himself. The strapped arm was certainly not bothering him then. He let the putt dribble right though but it was enough to see him take birdie and tie the lead going up the last. A birdie to win.

He got the perfect drive and his second shot just managed to hold on to the edge of a ridge to give him that birdie chance. His long effort was not good enough and we were back to the tee for a three-way fight to the death, Singh, Garcia and Sutherland which I will describe in detail for your pleasure.

How did the rest fare?

"Big Time" Ben Curtis as he's coming to be known with his habit of keeping his best showing for the big tournaments was at his trick again. They don't come much bigger than the first play-off event for $10 million big ones. Striking late, a birdie on 14 got him into a tie for the lead on eight under but he dropped back with a sloppy bogey on 16 to be in a tie for 4th on –7.

Scot, Martin Laird continued his recent vein of rich form, having only just scraped into the top 144 to make the play-offs, he finished with a fine 67 to get himself way up the leaderboard. A tremendous finish on the back nine saw him snatching four birdies in the last seven holes for a tie of 7th. He’s now in a great position to get further into the Fedex Cup play-offs.

Anthony Kim again put in a solid performance to lie 12th but in an ominous statement claimed that he was struggling with his swing.

"I've not felt comfortable with my swing since the British Open. I know my scores haven't shown that but I'm just not comfortable with it. The goal for the next few weeks is just to get my swing back."

Okay, so if he's playing like that with a dodgy swing then the golfing world, Tiger included, should probably start worrying about what he's gonna do when he is comfortable with it...

Hunter Mahan after his amazing nine under first round, never featured since. His rounds of 73, 74, 73 saw him drift back to 2 under and back to 31st place. Pretty average stuff. The likes of him and Stricker will have got Azinger unduly excited this week and will leave him wondering whether they are worth the picks. Kevin Sutherland has done himself plenty of good.

Darren Clarke sticks his hand up Nick Faldo, he's ready for Valhalla

It brings tears to the eyes...

My apologies, big Typo there, should have stuck a colon in that title...

Darren Clarke sticks his hand up: Nick Faldo, he's ready for Valhalla

Can't change it now...

Darren Clarke put in an imperious display over the weekend to capture his second win of the year at the KLM Open. Coupled with a good showing at the Bridgestone Invitational a few weeks he has put forward a very persuasive argument that he deserves a Ryder Cup nod from El Capitan Faldo. In the same weekend that Ian Poulter disappointingly missed the cut at the Barclays, the big man from the north and Paul Casey now look the hot favourites for those two wild card berths. Poulter can still play his way into the team; the other big contender, Colin Montgomerie, took the week off again and it will take an amazing return to form next week for the big Scot to jump back into contention.

The fact that Monty decided he would skip the KLM rather than attempt to boost his wild card chances like Clarke has, will not have endeared him to Faldo and it is a dangerous game he is playing. His horrible recent form of late has worried even his most ardent supporters and it was in an attempt to rediscover his game that he has taken his little post USPGA sabbatical. The proof will be in the pudding next week when he comes back and it will need to be a tasty one to impress Faldo enough to not opt for the Casey Clarke combo - both in delicious form...

Yesterday Clarke continued to keep his foot down and push on to gain a three shot lead going into the final round. Five birdies and only the one dropped shot on the 8th was enough to see him move out into the lead on his own, three ahead of Henrik Stenson. The Darren Clarke of old was usually guaranteed to have one big score over four rounds and it was my concern that he would do it all over again. The Jekyll and Hyde nature of Clarke's play has been a feature of Clarke's career. At the European Open a few years back he had it in the palm of his hand, an incredible tour record score of 60 in the second round had him way out in front, a hole-in-one the next round made you think his lead was unassailable, not with that luck. It was a different man who limped his way through the final round, watching his close friend Lee Westwood cruise past him to victory. It was this sort of thing that led my friend's Father to christen him "The Big Dump". One of the most outrageously talented players in the world yet he could find a way to lose like no other.

But Clarke is a new player just now. Calmer on the course than ever before, he seems to be more settled and having his kids with him this week may have been a bg factor in how relaxed he stayed throughout. He also has a new swing, totally remodelled in the past year, with things such as subtle changes to his takeaway giving better loft at impact and more reliable results. His puting has been the only thing holding him back all year and that has clicked a bit this week and made all the difference. He's back up where a man of his prodigious talents really should be.

Clarkes only worry today was the blistering start of Henrik Stenson, who bolted out of the traps with three birdies in the first three holes. A disappointing bogey for Clarke on the par Five second, made it seem "The Big Dump" was going to perform his disappearing act once more and hand away a fantastic chance for victory. But the new leader by one shot, Henrik, was not about to get so lucky as that. Clarke set off on his own birdie hunt and three in the next four holes got him right back in the lead, Stenson the one to crumble as he took a bogey on 7 and followed it up with a double bogey on 9.

An attemped come back by Stenson of three birdies in a row from the tenth was matched by Clarke to maintain he lead over the Swede. A bogey on 15 for Clarke was a solitary stumble on the back nine, with world number 6 Stenson capitualating with two late bogey's of his own. They were enough to see him drop into third place behind another Irishman, a charging Paul McGinley, who hit a rampant 64 which included an eagle on 12 to shoot his way to the runner-up cheque. He is another man who may be hoping a strong late showing might find him with a chance at Valhalla but he is quite a bit lower in the pecking order I'm afraid. Still, always nice to see McGinley showing off that cheshire cat grin as he's scooting round the greens like the Duracell bunny.

Four rounds in the sixties, on a course he hadn't seen until this week, to grab what was in the end a comfortable victory is pretty much Mission Accomplished for Darren Clarke this week. Can't stop to smell the roses just now though. It's off to Gleneagles for the Johnnie Walker, where the Ryder Cup race shall be decided; another strong performance there and Clarke should be getting a nice phone call from the Faldo residence come August 31st, to ask if he'd be up for a spot of September Yank bashing.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Defending Champ Strikes Early, Catches Worm.

Defending champ Steve Stricker was quick out of the blocks today, two birdies and an eagle shot him right up the leaderboard early doors, and he pushed right on from there. Another three birdies on the back nine with no dropped shots saw him get to 10 under and in the clubhouse to see if anyone could match his pace. Nobody could.

His eagle came on the par five third, holing his third shot approach from 67 yards. He didn't fail to make the most of that slice of good fortune. Holing out superbly and hitting 78 % of greens in regulation, birdies on 11, 13 and 15 took him to one ahead of Hunter Mahan after his round of 62 yesterday. In his post match interview he responded to Sergio Garcia's early assertion that he thought around -10 would win it. Stricker felt that this week the winning score could be considerably more impressive.

"I think guys are going to learn how to play it every day, and I think the scores could even get a little bit lower, to tell you the truth. The weather is great, the course is in good shape, so I think guys will figure out a way to get it around and play it well"

There were some good rounds but not from the guy in the lead at the start of the day. Hunter Mahan had three birdies and three bogeys in his first ten holes, a very up and down round. It finally decided to go in the down direction however, as he took bogey on holes 5 and 9 to slip back to 7 under and three shots off Stricker.

Sergio, who might take a break from score prediction after Strickers antics, got himself got into the thick of things today, 6 birdies and two bogeys seeing him to 5 under after a 70 yesterday. He was joined on that total by Young Gun, and many peoples tip for the Fedex Cup Jackpot, Anthony Kim, who enjoyed a stretch of five birdies over seven holes in his round. Kenny Perry was also looking to be putting himself right up there going into the weekend, being four under after his front nine. Two successive dropped shots on 12 and 13 dented his challenge somewhat, but a birdie on the 17th got him back to 6 under and tied for third.

Paul Casey meanwhile failed to capitalise on his good first round performance. Finding himself two shots to the good for his round after 16 holes, he conspired to bogey 8 and 9, his closing holes, to post a par round of 71. Not what he would have been looking for but he is still well placed in that esteemed little group on 5 under.

Angel Cabrera could be a big gainer in the Fedex Cup play-off stakes this week if he maintains his form. Only 120 out of the 144 competing this week will go through to next week. Lying 131 in the redistributed points, he had to make the cut, and has done so in style. A clean round with four birdies sees him on 6 under.

Some of those not to fare so well included Ian Poulter, missing the cut by two and leaving himself with much to do to ensure a place on the Ryder Cup team. If he doesn't qualify automatically, he will need to do something good next week to increase his chances of grabbing a wild card over other players such as Darren Clarke and Paul Casey who are in form. DJ Trahan again had a bad week, and is not doing his potential wild card chances any favours.

Then there are the big men who have no Ryder Cup worries but are missing the chance to gain valuable Fedex Cup Points. Heavily fancied Padraig Harrington missed the cut like Poulter by two. South African pairing Ernie Els and Retief Goosen also failed to make it. It leaves them lagging behind those who do well this week and those who are up at the top of the leaderboard will be glad to see they haven't made it.

Clarke Takes Flight at the KLM. British Airways sad to lose his business...

I love it when a plan comes together...

Some might say he's left it late but Darren Clarke is finding form at exactly the right time. He acknowledged earlier in the week that for Nick Faldo to hand him a wild card for the Ryder Cup, he would have to show some form in these last two tournaments. Well, one quarter of the way through those two tournaments and he's done just what he needed to do. After a very good round yesterday, where two of his dropped shots could be attributed to a flare-up in the weather conditions, Clarke had shown he was capable of a good score around the Kennemer course. Today he went out and made that score. A flawless round of 64, containing six birdies sees him atop the leaderboard, alongside England's Robert Rock and Sweden's Alexander Noren.

It's a just reward for Clarke who has overhauled his entire game of late, working hard to make adjustments to his swing which have seen his tee to green game become more impressive than ever. Unfortunately his putting has been in the doldrums and despite giving himself hatfuls of chances, he's been failing to convert them on the greens. Hopefully he will keep his touch from today and go on to really make a great case for Ryder inclusion. His 6th place finish at the Bridgestone Invitational three weeks ago was a promising sign that he was getting somewhere, a win here might prove to Nick Faldo that he's gotten there.

Robert Rock matched Clarke's score of 64 today and he is in an excellent position to give his world ranking of 354th in the world a huge boost this week. The same could be said for 148th ranked Noren who backed up yesterday's 66 with another today.

Looming ominously one shot back though is someone who doesn't need to worry much about ranking points these days. World Number 6, Henrik Stenson, carded a 65 to glide up the leaderboard. His consistency this year has been very impressive though it's taken a wee bit out of him; he's decided to take some Henrik time to recuperate over the next two weeks and be fresh for the Ryder Cup.

Justin Rose only managed a 69 today but is still well in contention in T14 on -4. He sits alongside Rolf Muntz who dropped back today with a 72, so I think I took the only chance I was gonna get to make that terrible Simpsons joke; you do have to grab these opportunities.

A brave effort by Nick Dougherty looks like it was not enough to make the cut this evening, he should miss by one shot after his 68 today. He'll be looking back at his closing hole last night ruefully, as it may have cost him his chance to be at Valhalla. It'll be good motivation for his final chance next week.

At this juncture, I'd like to apologise for any lack of impartiality in my writings about Darren Clarke. I know it's unprofessional but he has been my favourite golfer for some time and this is my blog after all. So with that said...


Simpsons Character Leads the KLM...

Nelson made a seamless transition from wedgies to wedges today

In a strange turn of events, the KLM Open form book has been turned on it's head as The Simpsons resident school bully Nelson Muntz set down his knuckle Duster, picked up a putter and recorded the round of the day, a very impressive 64 from the young trouble maker.

Wait a minute, wrong Muntz...

In a strange turn of events, the KLM Open form book has been turned on it's head as Dutch Pro, ROLF Muntz, recorded the round of the day, a very impressive 64 from the not so young journeyman.

Rolf hasn't won on the European Tour since he captured the 2000 Qatar Masters, that's over eight years ago. But he is obviously liking playing in his home tournament. A professional since 1994, his only other wins coming on the challenge Tour in 94 and 95. He was a fancied prospect in the amateur ranks, winning the Amateur Championship in 1990, the first dutchman to do so, and retained the Dutch Amateur from 1990 -93. He left a career in law to turn pro and indeed his win in Qatar was the first for a Dutchman on the European Tour and the first in a top flight event since Joop Ruhl in 1947 so he can be judged a relative success in his country's terms. Martin Laefeber has since gon on to win and is a past winner of this event in 2003 but it was Rolf who broke the Dutch hoodoo.

Joost Luiten did well here last year and the dutch prospects have generally been strong at their home event, so they will be hoping Rolf can keep it going but surely no one was expecting this from him when the Ryder Cup battle is at it's peak. His starting round was a quality one. A clean scorecard with six birdies on the way round is good enough to see him lead by one from Englishman John Bickerton and Dane Soren Hansen, who could be booking his place if he keeps at the right end of the leaderboard here.

Both shot 5 under today, a double bogey on the par four ninth the only black spot on Hansens card, but he recovered magnificently on the back nine with 4 more birdies to leave himself in great position. He's in good nick at the moment after just missing out on shooting a 59 at a corporate event on Monday. Currently a vulnerable tenth on the Ryder Cup standings he needs points still and this is a fairly good start.
Four birdies on the front nine and one coming home sees Alexander Noren on his own in fourth at four under.

We then have a bunch of seven on 3 under par, including Simon Khan Damien McGrane and Philip Price. Also there though is a man looking to play his way into Valhalla this week, Justin Rose. (That's the Ryder Cup venue I mean, not viking heaven). In good position to make it automatically he will be hoping to cement it this week and perhaps do off to chase another goal acroos the pond. Rose made the admirable decision to come over to Europe and try to confirm him place in the team (he lies eighth in the table now) rather than chase the crazy money of the Fedex Cup.

"Coming back to Europe probably rules me out of winning the Fedex Cup, maybe even rules me out of it altogether, but I couldn't see me sitting in America wishing ill of players here."

It's hard not to like him hearing that. He can spend his time wishing ill of the players in America instead. Justin was 78th in the Fedex standings going into this weeks first playoffs so he does still have a chance of going back to america next week and staying involved in the big money but will have to have a great result or he will get cut out of the final events.

One shot further back is another man striving to make the Ryder Cup, Darren Clarke on -2. He knows now barring miracles his only chance is one of Nick Faldo's wild cards and is determined to show some form.

"I am desperate to make it, but if I do not play well these two weeks I would have no complaints if I did not get picked."

Two under is a decent score which keeps him well in the hunt. Five birdies were tempered by consecutive dropped shots on 7 & 8, closing holes in Clarkes round and another on 18 but his pair of bogeys came in a bad spell of weather which cost him a potentially great start of four under.

"I'd much prefer to be four under, but it got pretty tricky and we were unlucky to be on two of the most difficult holes at the time"

Clarke's tee to green play is in superb shape, his putting leting him down, if he can knock a few in this week it may be enough to convince Faldo that it's worth the chance to re-unite him with his partner in crime Lee Westwood.

Nick Dougherty meanwhile is unhappy with himself as he now lies 3 over, particularly after such strong form last week at the SAS. It leaves him with a lot to do to get back into contention.

A lost ball on the first was costly and managing to come up short after two shots on his last hole, the 418 yard ninth, he then over cooked his pitch, sailing through the green and failing to get up and down, took six and was not a happy bunny on his way to the scoring tent. He will want to get something out of this week as there is only the Johnnie Walker left before the team is decided. Having hauled himself up to 14th last week, a poor performance here may be too much to recover from.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Back in the, Birdie Hunter, Fedex Cup Cash Hunter, I could go on...

I never thought that my blog would come to be dominated by two characters in the game as it seems to have become. Especially not two which I'm not particularly bothered about. But then they've been embroiled in the Ryder Cup race and had two stories of such hilarity I couldn't help myself but write about them. Hunter "Say No To Ryder Slavery" Mahan and Paul "Willie Nelson's Hate Object" Casey are my most written about players thus far, but today it's all for the right reasons, which though slightly less amusing, is much more promising for Ryder Cup Captains, Azinger and Faldo.

The pair have hit form at precisely the right time at "The Barclays", Mahan needing it more than most after his shocking USPGA performance. Hitting a superb nine under 62, it's an incredible return to form for a man who looked like he had not only talked his way out of a wild card a few weeks ago but was playing his way out of it too; finishing dead last of the Tour professionals with massive scores at the USPGA.

"I wanted to get that out of my system and just play golf today -- and I did. It was a pretty tough week, but you learn from your mistakes."

Things got off to a flying start for Hunter. After a great drive, he had a 98-yard wedge left which grabbed and spun back into the hole for an eagle at the first. Three more birdies came in quick succession, the only setback, his solitary bogey on eight. Fired up Mahan wasn't in the mood to let that bother him however as he blitzed the back nine with five birdied to sit four shots clear overnight. Playing near flawless golf, Mahan hit 11 of 14 fairways, 15 greens in regulation and only 23 putts and has shot himself right back to the top of the potential wild card pack.

Paul Casey is another looking for wild card brownie points this week and his round of 66 was just what the doctor ordered. The crucial factor in successful matchplay is making birdies and Casey hit eight today, which will not have gone un-noticed by Mr Faldo in the commentary box. The three birdies he won't be concerned about, that round would be a killer in a fourball, so if he keeps that up Casey will be looking good for selection. He's now hit 66, 67, 66, 66 in his last four rounds and I bet Faldo's licking his lips.

Something which might concern him is the poor showing of Ian Poulter today. In great conditions, he shot a decidedly mediocre 2 over, only one birdie appearing on his card and three dropped shots. Not what Casey was looking for...

"Everybody is talking about the sort of notable players, the guys who have played Ryder Cup before who are not on the team. Ian is one, Monty (Colin Montgomerie) is another and Darren Clarke. They have to be my rivals when it comes to a pick. So all I can do is play exceptionally good golf here, put myself on the radar in terms of what Nick is thinking, and if he doesn't have to pick Ian, then there's more chance that I might get picked. So I hope Ian plays well."

So at least Casey got half of what he wanted today, he'll be praying that Poulter shakes himself off and climbs the leaderboard over the weekend.

This is the first stage of the Fedex Cup play-offs it should be noted and a win here will be a huge step toward that massive final $10 million jackpot pension I was banging on about previously. Is it the money that motivated Hunter this morning? I wouldn't be so cynical as to suggest such a thing...

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

The Fedex Cup - A pension plan for those who need it most....

£393 million in the bank, yet he still shaves his face himself. A man comes in weekends to trim his nipple hair mind..

The Fedex Cup Play-offs begin this week, marking the point where the regular PGA Tour season ends in America and the focus becomes even more about money that it usually is. The regular season ends and we enter a four tournament series of play-offs, remedying the crucial problem Golf had of being the only sport in America not to have a play-off season. A full explanation what exactly this is all about and how it works, might I direct you to here; for those of you who can't be bothered reading all that guff, or did and couldn't comprehend, I'll have a bash at summarising it.

The first 33 weeks of the season have been spent accumulating Fedex Cup points, 4500 awarded for a win, 2700 for a second placing, down a sliding scale to 50 points for 70th. Tiger, having played only little over a quarter or so of the events, still leads this table. Kenny Perry after his mid-season streak of crazy good golf is in second, followed by Big Phil and a tight bunch of Harrington, Kim, Cink and Singh. For those interested the table of actual points earned is here. However rewarding play throughout the year would be a stupid thing to do right? So, making the hard efforts of Perry virtually void, the points are arbitrarily reset for the upcoming play-offs. The table now looks like this. So having held a 10,012 point lead over 10th place Geoff Ogilvy, i.e. earning nearly twice as many points throughout the season, Kenny Perry is now on 99,500 points and Ogilvy on 98,125. This is an advantage of 1375 points. To analyse it mathematically, it's gone from a lead of 47% overnight to a lead of 1.38% in the play-offs. Bet Kenny's glad he put in all that effort now!

I understand the theory behind this, it's to place greater emphasis on good play in the play-offs now but come on, shouldn't the guys who did well all season have a bit more of a head start. Especially when it will be so easy for guys right at the bottom of the rankings to catch up. In it's defense the field is cut progressively through the four tournaments, only 30 will still be competing come the Tour Championship final, but a few good results will rocket those at the bottom now right into the Top 30. Here's how the points will be divvied out.

Playoff Points
Position Barclays, Deutsche Bank, BMW THE TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP
1. 11,000 12,500
2. 7,400 8,500
3. 5,400 6,000
4. 4,400 5,000
5. 4,000 4,500
10. 3,350 3,700
30. 2,340 2,000
70. 2,100 --

144th place in the standings is Lee Janzen, former US Open winner. Were he to win the Barclays this weekend, he would earn 11,000 points for it, and jump from 92,070 points to 103,070. If leader Perry finished 10th at the Barclays, he would be on 102,850 and be behind Janzen. It's a very unlikely scenario but should there be a system in place where one result can make that much difference? That's how skewed these points are. It doesn't seem particularly fair to me.

Especially when you consider what's a stake. Whoever is on top of the table come the end of the Tour championship wins the pot of $10,000,000. That is not a typing error, that is the correct number of zeroes on the end there, 10 MILLION DOLLARS. I guess it had to be that size of a prize to get anyone's attention. The rewards in golf are already so huge that a smaller figure wouldn't have seemed such a big deal. But remember the publicity when Vijay Singh became the first to win 10 million in a season. But why the hell did this have to be done anyway. It was brought in last year and guess who won it. Tiger Woods. The man has so much money already he could probably buy Tescos. It's not a cash prize but is paid out when the players have retired in stages like a pension. So that's one $10,000,000 pension Tiger has, and considering he will very likely win quite a few more of these before he's over he could have something like 100 million dollars waiting on him in retirement. He still feels the need to do those excruciating Gillette Adverts (see above)... It sort of sticks in the throat doesn't it. There was too much money in Golf as it was, now it's got silly.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Big Round Swede battles for the big boys in record showing.

£10,000,000... that's a lot of pies...
Carl Pettersson made it through an up and down closing back nine on Sunday to take a richly deserved win at the Wyndham Championship and thrust his name into an already crowded mix vying for inclusion on the Ryder Cup Team. Bogeys on 10 and 11 saw him drift back into the clutches of the rallying Scott McCarron for a short time, but Petterson didn't panic and a burst of three birdies in four holes saw him back in control and able to afford a bogey on the last to take a two shot victory.

It was an exemplary weeks play from Pettersson, whose statistics made fine reading afterwards. Making 80.6 of his Greens in Regulation, tied 14th for the tournament and a telling stat of 1.612 Putts per green in regulation combined to produce some very low scores through the week. Hitting such a high percentage of greens and then taking so few putts when you're there will do that. 64 and 61(tournament 18 hole record) in the first two rounds was a record for the PGA tour after 36 holes, and he finished with a 66 and 68 for a total of 259, 21 strokes under par. It rises him from nowhere to 13th place in the Fedex Cup standings, a chance to win what amounts to a $10,000,000 pension fund. More on that in an upcoming post, the worlds gone mad stuffing money at golfers!

The Chubby Swede could not be less like his Swedish compatriots, such as the lithe Robert Karlsson, Henrik Stenson or Johan Edfors, the picture of the modern gym trained golfer (a dead ringer for Roger Federer if you ask me), but whatever his weight, he carries it well enough around the golf course. He has made his home in America and considers himself as much a Yank as anything else but stands ready should he recieve the call to play in the Ryder Cup on the Euro side.

"I know I'm Swedish but I really feel American, but my heritage is European and I would love to play on Nick's team. I might be a little different but I'm going to be playing hard for Europe if I make that team."

So that's one more name for the likes of Monty and Clarke to be worrying about. Another is Paul Casey who was playing in the Wyndam too. A relatively weak par round on the thursday was a setback whe the field was scoring well, but too rounds of 66 sandwiching a 67 gained him a decent placing of 26th. Not exactly the placing he was after but such a consistent showing over the weekend will do his cause no harm, two birdies in his last four holes giving him a nice bump up the leaderboard. He is still a lowly 18th on the world list however and will have it all to do to qualify that way now. But more consistent scoring like in his last three rounds at Wyndham will make him hard to ignore against the likes of out of form Monty.

image courtesy of Getty Images

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Bramble pickers beware - thorny issues have arisen at the KLM Open before

The KLM Open begins this week at the Kennemer Golf & Country Club in Holland with a lot at stake for Ryder Cup hopefuls. They would be well advised to stay away from any brambles while they're out there though, and should they encounter one, leave the blighter well alone. Not just because a prick from one could play havoc with their grip. Allow me to explain...

Last year the tournament was won by young English prospect Ross Fisher with a score of 12 under par. In the end he took the title by a single stroke from Joost Luiten, a little known young home player from the Netherlands. It was a particularly nervous win for Fisher as he took his only two bogeys of his final round on holes 16 and 17. It took a birdie on the last to sneak him in front of Luiten and a relieved Fisher would be very glad to see the recorders hut and record his first win.

The officials were not so happy to see him however and Fisher was not finished his tournament just yet. An incident which had occurred on the 12th hole had been reported by a spectator and duly had to be investigated. Fisher had found a bramble runner in the area of his ball and mistaking it for a loose impediment tried to remove it, which would have been quite legal and of no consequence. However the bramble was well and truly rooted at both ends, would count as part of the course; Fisher dropped it and took his shot, moving on with his round.

The officials had to carry out their duties however and took him out to the 12th to see what had transpired, and then studied video footage before accepting he had not improved his stance and had kept within the rules. Only then was he awarded the victory. Here's how Fisher described it-

"It was a thin strand and I went to move it because I thought it was a loose impediment, but when I realised it was attached I literally left it alone.They deemed it didn't improve my stance or my swing. I feel very fortunate."

I don't know who the spectator was but it's probably quite likely he was a Dutchman and wanted to give young Joost every chance of claiming a precious Dutch victory. He may have remembered what had occured in the 1992 Dutch Open when the unfortunate Mike McLean lost the title when it was shown on video evidence that he had uprooted a bramble in the final round, when it looked like the tournament was his. The two-shot penalty which he was given as a result placed him outside of the play-off which Bernhard Langer won over Scot, Gordon Brand Jr. A costly spot of bramble picking, gardeners up and down the country sympathise with him.

Langer has made his share of history at this tournament, he played last year, managing avery respectable tie for third on -8, but it was special for another reason; he and his son were the first father son duo to both enter in the KLM Open in the same year. The Big Langer overshadowed the little Langer I'm afraid, son Stefan missing the cut - shooting 98 and 91, ouch. Big Langer has also won The KLM Open Championship in 1984, 1992 and 2001, meaning he has won the title in three different decades. Pretty good going. We won't see any Langers on show this year it seems, but Bernard'll probably return for a crack in 2010, see if he can make it a win in four consecutive decades, just to show off.

Hanson survives back nine bogeys to win the SAS Masters (which doesn't stand for Super Army Soldiers)

It was a good day for Peter Hanson, even if it was wet, windy and bitterly cold. He became the first Swede in a decade to capture his national title, winning by a single shot from fellow countryman Pelle Edberg and Englishman Nick Dougherty. It was far from plain sailing for Hanson though as a shaky back nine threatened to open the door for the others. Standing four shots in front with eight to play, he was rocked by a double-bogey on 11 and when bogeys followed on 16 and 17 it appeared the wheels might come off the cart; but he hung in to take his narrow victory. It pushes Hanson up from 24th to 17th and he now be heading to Holland to compete in this week's KLM Open, cancelling his planned week off now his Ryder Cup chances have considerably improved.

This was Dougherty's second consecutive runner-up placing at the SAS Masters, and while a win was what he was really after, the €132,000 he picks up have done his qualification hopes a world of good. He will be especially happy with his performance after tweaking his back last night, which he then exacerbated in attempting to warm up in the gym last night.

"What a day. If my chiropractor had been here he might have told me to pull out, so I'm glad he wasn't. After all I've been through I was going to finish no matter what."

€132,000 should cover the old chiropractor bills anyhow. It's nice to see Dougherty get a good performance this weekend, after a hard year in which he's had to deal with the loss of his mother. He can now kick on into the last two tournaments with a bit of confidence again, back problems permitting.

Martin Kaymer had a closing 69 to leave himself only €250 off the tenth placed Soren Hansen who in deciding not to play here has given Kaymer, Dougherty, Peter Hanson and a few others the chance to really close the gap. Let's hope for his sake the rest has done him good.

Chris Wood finished in joint eighteenth, a creditable debut for the young man who even had to contend with a bout of food poisoning this weekend. He has invitations to the KLM and Johnnie Walker, as well as the British Masters in which he can attempt to avoid the qualifying school by racking up £150,000. About €20,000 for this weeks work wasn't a bad way to kick off that attempt.