Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Vijay's $10,000,000 arm needs some timely rest; Singh must now learn to count money one-handed...

Vijay Singh has succumbed to injury one tournament too late for Camillo Villegas. Had his injury taken him down before or during Sunday's Tour Championship, Villegas' win would have been enough for him to snatch the 10,000,000 dollar Fedex Cup jackpot from the Fijian's Hands. But despite having tendinitis in his arm Vijay wasn't about to let his grip on the dough slip, even if he was holding it with his tendinitis arm.

Now the money is in the bank he can put his feet up - he is to miss at least two months of action with his arm injury.

It rules him out of the Iskandar Johor Open, which starts on 30 October, in Malaysia and the Champions Tournament in Shanghai the week after. Questioned on this adjustment to his schedule moneybags Veej said

"I'm very disappointed but it's important I follow my doctor's instructions and do what is best for my long-term health"

You have to wonder what the big Fijian would have said had the doctor instructed him to miss last week, would long term health have taken precedence over long term wealth? A second opinion from his accountant would certainly have given him a clean bill to complete. At 45 though, it's a hell of an achievement for Vijay, you can't take it away from him. Besides, Camillo has twenty years on Singh in which to get himself the big Fedex funded pension.

Has there ever been a year where the old adage "Beware the wounded golfer" has proved so apt. Tiger wins the US Open - on one leg, Harrington has little to no practice after hurting his hand -wins the Open. Vijay gets tendinitis and wins the richest prize in golf. Big Phil will be throwing himself down stairs in the hope to get in on the act.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Sergio Garcia, ever the bridesmaid, in talks with Bob Geldof to release novelty song, "I don't like Sundays"...

Sergio had his sunday face on once more...
How many times can it happen to one man. Yet again Sergio Garcia watches another man lift a trophy that could so easily have been his, while he's left to lick his wounds in the corner. For the fourth time in eight tournaments Sergio takes the bridesmaids cheque. It's becoming a real problem for Garcia, who's garnering a real reputation for not being able to seal the deal. The European Open, The USPGA, The Barclays and The Tour Championship all have gone by the wayside, each were close but no cigar for El Nino. He hasn't had the smoke of a winner since the TPC at Sawgrass for all his chances.

The latest in his run of near misses was on Sunday at the Tour Championship. Camillo Villegas hit a 66 to get to 7 under, having been five shots behind Garcia. Sergio's 71 saw him slip back into the Colombian Spider-web and it went to a play-off. You just knew in your water that the perfect symmetry of Lee Westwood's tournament across the water would continue and so it did - Garcia lost the play-off at the first hole. There was to be no quick redemption for either of the under-performing Ryder stars. Garcia was frustrated that yet again he had let a lead slip.

"I just didn't play well enough, I doubted myself too much early on and it cost me. I just didn't commit to my shots the way I should have, and then I paid the price. I lacked a bit of commitment. The freedom that I've been having with every part of my game, it wasn't there early on."

Sergio can take consolation by looking at the career of another Ryder Cup team mate who failed to perform at Valhalla. Padraig Harrington, the man who has inflicted the most damage in consigning Sergio to second at two of the last five Major Championships didn't have the winners touch for a long time. In fact the most remarkable thing about his early career was the number of times he finished second in European Tour events without ever bettering that position. It got ridiculous at one point, he had four second places in five events in late 1999 and he got slated left, right and centre for his inability to take the win. No one's calling him a choker these days.

The lesson is - take your seconds, your wins will come.

Westwood faces a Spanish Inquisition and can't come up with the answers...

The Golden moments of the British Masters, set to Spandau Ballet

You fancied Lee Westwood to push on and take the British Masters yesterday afternoon. After picking up four more shots to par in the morning he looked in good nick. Michael Campbell was the only man of real note to be up with him, the rest were at least three behind, all minnows to the big Fish Westwood. Yet it was from one of these minnows that the challenge arose. Playing in threes after the fog delays, the 10 under col-leaders Westwood and Campbell were joined by the little known Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez Castano, on seven under. If it was going to go down to the wire, who would have guessed it would be the Kiwi who would be out of the game.

Three birdies and two bogeys on the front nine had Westwood onto 11 under at the turn. Birdies at 4 & 5 got Castano to nine under. Campbell remained on 10 under with one birdie one bogey.

The par four 10th hole again had it's tee pushed forward to let the players have a cut at the green in one. Reachable for Westwood with a 5 wood he duly knocked it onto the back fringe of the green. Castano made it too. Campbell, watched as his ball struck the edge of the green only to take a leftward bounce and plop in the water running in front of the green. That meant he got a drop on the edge of the green for three. Cunningly he dropped right into a sprinkler head, apparently legal as the chief ref John Paramore was standing next to him, from which he was allowed one club lengths free relief. This allowed him to move about a metre to the right, and now the edge of the water hazard was no longer in his way and he had a clear putt. Again this was apparently legal yet it seemed to be very much gaining an advantage in the mot devious of fashions. Karma stepped in though, his dropping shenanigans came to nought as he three putted to drop back to nine under. A chip for Westwood from the edge was decent, but he didn't make the putt - Castano made hay as he dropped his birdie effort, one ahead of Campbell now, one behind Westwood.

It seemed Castano was not going to keep it up however as he was way right with his tee shot on the par three 12th, an awful shot, his dab out second had him into some short rough with water still between him and the green. It looked like it would be a miracle if he got it close, but audaciously the Spaniard went and chipped it right in the hole for his par. Post round Lee Westwood admitted that at that moment he had a feeling things were going to go Castano's way.

Again wide right on 13 Castano hit another beautiful pitch to a few feet for his birdie. Suddenly he was level with Westwood on 11 under. The 14th saw Campbell getting in on things again, holing a long one to draw within one once more. Then it was birdies all round on the par five 15th. Campbell went bogey, birdie on 16 and 17, the others taking pars to leave it Westwood, Castano -12, Campbell -11 as they played the last.

Campbell could found short rough with his tee shot, Castano found the fairway bunker, Westwood, taking a 3 wood blasted it up the middle as usual for him. Castano went for it with a long iron and went way, way left. As he got to the green he apologised to the grey haired lady his ball had smacked on the thigh - she would hear nothing of it, made of strong stuff. If it hadn't struck her it would likely have ended up on the 9th green next to the 18th. Campbell took an almighty lash at his second from the rough, needing to make birdie on an 18th which had yielded only five birdies all day. It landed right at the front of the green, two long tiers below the pin on the massive green. Westwood, in prime position hits the heart of the green on the right level. It looks good for him to take the title now.

Campbell can only get his ball up one of the tiers as he under hits his chip. He eventually takes bogey to grab third on his own on ten under. All eyes turn to Castano, in a sticky lie above the green, it's a horrible shot he faces. His short game had been impeccable all day though, and once more his pitching comes to his rescue, getting it to stop four feet from the hole, He makes par. Westwood has a mid-range putt for the win but it's a little hard and a little wide and it's off back up the 18th for Castano and Westwood for the play-off.

It took three repetitions of the 18th hole to separate them. Despite having much shorter clubs in his hand for his approaches, Westwood kept finding the back edge of the green and could only make par. The second go around, Castano had again hit it way left and hit a member of the crowd but was able to produce another sensational up and down to stay in it.

The third play-off hole saw Castano take Westwood's little spot at the back edge of the green and a fine putt ensured his par four. Westwood, now looking as though the long day had caught up with him couldn't make a 10 footer to match him. The title was Gonzalo Fernadez-Castano's. What a name. What a man. A victory for sublime recovery shots over big booming driving.

Westwood has the consolation that his performance has taken him into second on the Order of merit behind Padraig Harrington, though he still has some 228,000 Euro's to make up on the Irish back to back Major winner.

European Tour Order of Merit After British Masters, in Euros

1 Padraig Harrington (Irl) 2,350,556
2 Lee Westwood (Eng)2,122,239
3 Robert Karlsson (Swe) 1,994,436
4 Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spa) 1,990,609
5 Henrik Stenson (Swe) 1,773,617
6 Graeme McDowell (NIrl) 1,714,882
7 Vijay Singh (Fij) 1,632,384
8 Ross Fisher (Eng) 1,320,740
9 Oliver Wilson (Eng) 1,227,711
10 Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind) 1,138,015

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Early birds catch a few worms this morning, greedy Lee grabs an eagle too.

The leaders were back out early this morning at the Belfry to finish off their third round before the final round of the British Masters. The likes of Westwood had eight holes left, the defending champion starting with a putt on the 2nd green. He made his par then but continued the great little burst of form he showed in his last few holes last night. On the next hole for him, the Par Five 3rd, he recorded his second eagle of the round. Two birdies on 5&6 followed to take him from 3 under after bogeying 1,2 and 3 yesterday afternoon to 10 under going into the final round.

Kiwi Michael Campbell, who has recently gone away from getting his swing analysed to destruction and is now just relying on his own feel for his swing and is reaping the rewards, had four left to play. Lying 7 under overnight, co-leader Campbell birdied 15, 16 and 17 to join Westwood at ten under after three rounds.

This pair are three clear of Gonzalo Fernandez Castano and Jeev Milka Singh. It's gone from being a very open tournament before the morning started to looking like a shoot-out between Westwood and Campbell, both looking very good today. But as Charl Schwartzel showed yesterday with his amazing front nine 29 it's possible to go very low at the Belfry, so it's not beyond the realms of possibility that someone could post a great target for the leaders to chase.

Due to the delays caused by fog all week, they'll be going round in three's today but it will still be a late finish no matter what happens.

PosNameTo par1234Total
T1CAMPBELL, Michael-10697265
T1WESTWOOD, Lee-10687068
T3FDEZ-CASTAÑO, Gonzalo-7717068
T3SINGH, Jeev Milkha-7697169
T5SCHWARTZEL, Charl-6727266
T5LUNDBERG, Mikael-6677568
T5FISHER, Ross-6716871
T8CARLSSON, Magnus A-5737068
T8CAÑIZARES, Alejandro-5716872
10VAN DE VELDE, Jean-4727466
T11JONZON, Michael-3707172
T11NOREN, Alexander-3726675
T13McILROY, Rory-2727369
T13LARRAZABAL, Pablo-2747169
T13LUCQUIN, Jean-François-2717271
T13BJÖRN, Thomas-2697372
T13PRICE, Phillip-2717172
T13LAWRIE, Paul-2697174

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Round Two to Garcia; Kim spills innocent blood as he goes down swinging wildly

Sergio tried to paint it as if it wasn't a rematch of last sunday's Ryder Cup singles. What a load of bull from the young matador. He was well up for a spot of revenge. Lets take a look at it as though it were matchplay.
3. Kim takes an early hole with a birdie; it will be the last he will see all day. Kim +1
6. He hands a hole back on the sixth with his first bogey. All Square
7. Garcia birdies the par four hole 7 to take the lead Garcia +1
9. Birdie four on the par five doubles that lead Garcia +2
13. Bogey from Garcia, the only blot on his card closes the gap once more Garcia +1
14. Kim drops another shot and another hole Garcia +2
15. Garcia takes it to Dormie 3 as he birdies 15, 3 up, 3 to play Garcia +3
16. Kim can't keep the match alive, he bogeys once more Garcia Wins 4&2
17. Playing on Garcia takes 17 too to rub salt in the wound Garcia +5

Europe take the Ryder Cup!!!

Oops, got a little carried away there. Of course this wasn't a matchplay scenario and all that but it must have been pretty sweet for him. What a way to get over such a painful drubbing and so soon.

Looking at how they performed in strokeplay terms, which is what counts this week, Kim was to over for his round. Those 72 strokes drop him back to joint second on 5 under. Garcia's 67 takes him to 8 under, turning a two shot defecit into a three shot lead over Kim.

Kim couldn't control his driver, the crux of his problems today, constantly having to hit his approach from the rough. He found only 29% of fairways today. That's JB Holmes bad. Kim said of it -

"I'm speechless how bad I hit the driver. It was a struggle out there today. Obviously I hit 4 of 14 fairways, and when you do that on a golf course like this, you're going to make a lot of bogeys."

His wayward shot on the par five ninth hit 48-year-old David Whitfield, splitting open his forehead. A bit of extra drama which he could have done without. Mr Whitfield is okay now and got a signed golfball for his troubles as well as a good story for down the pub. "I survived Anthony Kim's worst".

Phil Mickelson joined Kim in second place with a one under 69. One birdie on his front nine and then two dropped shots and two shots gained on the back cancelled each other out.

Vijay is nine over, tied 25th out of 30 and one day closer to them 10,000,000 big ones...

It's looking good for Garcia to bounce back from his Ryder Cup disappointments in quick time and in style- if he'd avoided making triple bogey on the fifth on day one he could have been six clear by now. Lying third in the putting stats this week too, who said he's a weak putter. But then if anyone can blow it in the final round, it's our Sergio...

Short day's work for Westwood, but an eventful one

It was a strange old day for Lee Westwood today. Starting late, about half four or so in the afternoon, due to the fog delays and players having to complete their second rounds, he got off to a cold start. The putter was especially cold, like it had spent the night in the freezer. He was teeing off on the tenth to begin his round, a tricky par four, but with the tee moved forward it was reachable with a five wood. Westwood could only find the wrong side of the burn (Scottish for a wee stream) and his ball bounced into the water. The resultant bogey was followed with two more on the 11th and 12th. Three over after three, a terrible start for the defending champ. He gave himself a few opportunities to get the momentum back, but his frigid putter just wouldn't warm enough to see any birdies drop.

On the par five 17th his second shot approach was off target, finding the right greenside bunker. Not much was going right. Westwood, as if he knew that he had to take his failing putter out of the equation, went and knocked in his bunker shot for an Eagle and from there he was a new man. The first hole aside, his driving was impeccable and with more booming tee shots finding fairways, he was finding his touch and he saw a long birdie putt just kiss the edge on the next and then a long one on the first, his tenth hole of the day, took a bobble and dropped right in the centre. As the warmth of the day faded with the setting sun, he was the only man on the course not to reach for a jumper to shelter form the cold. He hit another massive drive and a decent approach before the light ended his round, he'll have a fifteen footer for birdie when he gets out in the morning. He'll be feeling that the hooter came much too soon for him. It left him even for the day and he is six under overall with eight holes of the third round left to complete.

The round of the day however was a fantastic surge from unheralded South African Charl Schwartzel. Starting on the tenth as well, he was even par at the start of the third round, by the time he had nine holes under his belt he was seven under. Only two pars, on the par three 12th and the par five 15th, the rest all birdies. An incredible run. It had to end and the front nine was not so giving; double bogey on the 4th and one birdie on the 8th leaving him on 6 under par alongside Westwood.

The overnight lead is held by three men - New Zealander Michael Campbell, who was four under today with four left to play, Swede Mikael Lundberg, 5 under today with seven birdies had four to play and Alejandro Canizares, 2 under today with eight to play. It could be any of twenty men leading by the end of tomorrow however. It's a tightly packed leaderboard and with some great scoring but also some holes where big numbers can quickly be racked up (ask Darren Clarke and Nick Dougherty who both had quadruple bogeys this week). And with the leaders having 26 holes to finish tomorrow, anything could happen. Should be cracking.

Garcia v Kim Round two, ding, ding, Seconds out...

After some tasty golf from Sergio Garcia, he's getting an early opportunity to get some revenge on Anthony Kim for the mauling he received at the American's hands in the Ryder Cup singles. A superb 65 which included five front nine birdies gives El Nino his shot at the young gun, which will be one of the most intriguing Saturday pairings the tournament organisers could have hoped for. It's some much needed added interest, as spoil-sport Vijay Singh removed the excitement of a fight for the $10,000,000 Fedex Cup by sewing up the prize with an event to spare - all he has to do is complete the 72 holes of this Tour Championship and he can't be caught...

Kim had a one under 69, a final hole bogey robbing him of a three shot cushion. He's on 7 under, two shots ahead of the charging Spaniard on five under.

Garcia was at pains to play down the situation.

"It's a totally different event. You're not going to win the tournament tomorrow unless you shoot 52. I played solid today, hit some good shots, some good putts and got it going on the front nine with four birdies in five holes."

Don't believe it, this game should be a spicy Meatball...

Hot on the heels of the leading pair is Phil Mickelson. He had to recover from and inauspicious start to his second round - three bogeys from his first 10 holes. Lefty put in a strong finish however, the final seven holes yielding five birdies for Big Phil. Quite a second wind he got there. He's on 4 under.

Camillo Villegas jockeyed into position with a 66 to take him to three under. Four behind with two rounds to go. All he can do is hope that he can do enough over the weekend to get the win and then pray some accident befalls Vijay. Perhaps he could employ to perform Carl Spackler's cunning plan in Caddyshack...

"If he bothers you, I'll take care of him. What you've got to do is cut the hamstring on the back of his leg right at the bottom. He'll never play golf again, because his weight displacement goes back, all his weight is on his right foot, and he'll push everything off to the right. He'll never come through on anything. He'll quit the game."

Villegas should still look elsewhere for advice on tackling gophers...

Second round cleaned up, some big boys head home.

Darren Clarke had to pick up four shots in six holes this morning to make the cut. As I checked the leaderboard this morning, he had made three birdies on 13, 14 and 17. Unfortunately he couldn't complete a miraculous recovery, par on the 18th left him agonisingly one shot short.

Silver lining -He can head off to be at his son Conor's eighth birthday party tonight. (Great name, Conor)

Nick Dougherty had an absolute disaster to crash to 5 over. One under at the 15th hole, he bogeyed 16 and 17 to miss out. He was still on course to make the cut but made a complete hash of the final hole, a quadruple bogey 8 took him two shots outside the cut mark.

Silver lining - He can head off now to Scotland to prepare for his defence of his Dunhill Links title.

Colin Montgomerie also went out at the halfway stage, his 69 was not enough to repair the damage of his first round 81.

Silver Lining - Monty didn't have to come back this morning as he was finished yesterday. Nice lie in for him...

The delays with the fog that have hit the tournament mean the leaders will probably only get half their third round completed today, 27 holes or so for them tomorrow is likely.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Singh leads at the Belfry... No, not that one

There were aces galore at the second round of the British Masters. Everyone was getting in on the act; Three hole-in-ones on a single day at the same event. A Record for the European Tour. Phillip Archer hit his eagle one at the par-three 7th, while Spaniard Alvaro Quiros nabbed his at the 12th. The third came with a certain Mr Singh also at the 7th. No, not Vijay, he's too busy filling his wallet in America, this was India's Jeev Milkha Singh, a player not quite in the league of Vijay but one of the most improved players on the European Tour.

Jeev Milkha Singh joined Lee Westwood at the top of the leaderboard with his 7th hole ace helping him to six under par but he has completed only 12 holes because of a delayed start due to fog. The "Ace" itself was a peach of a shot, which pitched short of the hole and rolled like a dart straight into the middle of the cup. It's a stated aim of Singh, currently ranked 60th in the world, to make the top 50 by the end of the year, and a good finish here will go a long way towards that goal.

Spain's Alejandro Canizares, Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee (an ex-professional footballer, that's proper football, soccer for my American chums) and Scot Marc Warren all finished their rounds are on five under in a tie for third as things stand. Many players will have to return in the morning to complete their rounds because of that fog.

That includes Darren Clarke who has six holes left in which to pull off a minor miracle to make the cut. He hit an 80 yesterday including a woeful quadruple bogey 8 on hole 6, but if he can pick up four shots in those six holes he would make the cut. With two par fives to play, anything's possible, but maybe I'm being a tad optimistic. Make that very optimistic... The pint of Guinness he was seen enjoying after yesterday's horror round clearly did him some good though, back to back birdies on nine and ten have at least left him that slim chance.

What Clarke will probably be more pleased about was the gesture today of all players turning out in Pink clothing to raise awareness of Breast Cancer. Clarke of course lost his wife Heather two years ago to breast cancer and it's been a great feature of how the golfing fraternity are up for continuing to support Clarke and the cause. It wasn't left at the players wearing pink at the Ryder Cup two years ago, they've kept up their efforts. Great to see.

Colin Montgomerie of course had an even worse round than Darren yesterday, but he'd sorted out his problems today, in with a 69. Nowhere near the cut at 6 over, but it shows what he is capable of still when his head's right. I dare any of you to write him off, even if he is going to drop out of the top 100. I certainly won't be.

Clarke's Northern Irish compatriot Graeme McDowell slipped to three over, just inside the projected cut mark and told how he was really feeling the burn after last week's titanic efforts in Louisville.

"I don't know how to deal with this 'comedown' feeling. Lee has learnt how to deal with things better than I have. Physically I'm probably not all there, but mentally definitely - if last week was 11 out of 10 then I'm five out of 10 this week."

He's every right to be feeling that way, he holed a good years worth of stellar putts last week, that must take it out of you.

Westwood went off like a steam train this morning, birdie coming on all three starting holes but it got a little scrappy after that. Four bogey's and three more birdies left him with a 70 and the clubhouse lead on six under. Still a decent performance, but not enough for Lee.

"I would hope to play better tomorrow. I made a big effort and my scrambling was good. I've worked hard on my short game and when I'm feeling a bit lethargic it can get me out of a bit of trouble."

He certainly has worked on it, he's not just a big biffer and a good putter anymore, the subtle art of chipping has been added to his repertoire. It's probably going to require Jeev to produce a few more aces from up his sleeve to stay with him over the weekend...

Friday's best shots at the British Masters

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Westwood and Campbell left staring at their balls at the Belfry

Colin Montgomerie, self-appointed Ryder Captaincy campaign manager for Sandy Lyle, did some thing remarkable today. I was convinced early on that Darren Clarke would be right at the very bottom of the leaderboard as he played an awful round which included a quadruple bogey eight on the sixth hole. The lush rough punished Clarke and a few visits to the water added to his woes. He slumped to an eight over par 80 in the end and I was fairly sure it would be the worst round I would see from a top player. Then Monty swanned out.

A birdie on the first was a misleading start for the Scot. His usual straight driving game was off today. The rough was unusually thick for the Belfry and led to some scrappy shots. At one point Monty found himself in a bunker, trying for the green with a long iron. In the end he was lucky as his shot pinged off the grassy bank in front of him and dribbled onto the fairway in front. It was that kind of day for him, and the hunched shoulders of Montgomerie, were all the more so by the time he was trudging to the recorders hut to post his 81. It is the third time in the last four tournaments that the proud Scotsman has found himself in the bottom five of the leaderboard. Last week he dropped to 98th in the rankings, this could be the week he falls out of the top 100.

There was a long drawn out kerfuffle on the 18th green as Michael Campbell's ball came to rest touching Lee Westwoods ball. It appeared to be a simple case of mark your balls, pick them up, move one marker to the side to give the first player a clean putt and that's that. The players however just stood around staring at their balls for some time... This prompted legendary BBC commentator Peter Alliss, (who incidentally co-designed The Belfry and had an exceptional Ryder Cup record for the dark times he was involved in the matches for Team GB, as it was then) to break into a call for some help from Elvis "A little less conversation, a little more action please".

Their worry, it became apparent was that one of the balls would move when they tried to mark and lift them. Eventually, after reassurances from the ref, they worked up the testicular fortitude to get on with it, no drama ensuing from it and a derisory cheer from the crowd for their faffing about.

Westwood eventually finished with a 68, tied 3rd, a creditable performance after a tiring week at the Ryder Cup for him. Even if he didn't haul the points in, he did play well at Valhalla and is well up for making inroads into the lead Padraig Harrington has over him in the Order of Merit this week. Campbell, seemingly in another of his short bursts of decent form at the moment was three under, tied eighth. Westwood's

The lead is held by two less illustrious names, Swede Mikael Lundberg and Marcus Fraser of Australia. I have a feeling they'll be fighting to stop Westwood at a place where he has much happier Ryder Cup memories, as well as this title to defend...

CountryTo Par
T1 LUNDBERG, Mikael SWE -5
T1 FRASER, Marcus AUS -5
T3 HANSEN, Anders DEN -4
T3 WARREN, Marc SCO -4
T8 BJÖRN, Thomas DEN -3
T8 SINGH, Jeev Milkha IND -3
T8 ILONEN , Mikko FIN -3
T8 OWEN, Greg ENG -3
T8 CAMPBELL, Michael NZL -3
T8 DIXON, David ENG -3
T8 LAWRIE, Paul SCO -3

Monty's got a few more new idea's; I say new, they're Paul Azingers

Further to the comments on Sandy Lyle for the captaincy that Monty made yesterday, I've found he's also been on about the numbers of picks for the European team. Well aware that if there had been four picks available for the team this time around that he probably couldn't have been refused a pick, not without a serous backlash from the media, Monty's putting forward the idea that whoever takes the job this time around, should adopt the system America employed for their Valhalla qualification.

"If it hasn't changed by then, I'll certainly be asking for that change by the time that I possibly do this job. Paul Azinger was very strong to go to the US PGA and demand a change. Having lost five of the last six a change had to be made, and I'm sure that will remain for the next captain. I think eight and four is the way to go."

Praising Azinger and sticking the knife in Faldo, Colin can be a cruel bugger...

I'm loving how Monty is setting the agenda for the Ryder Cup debates in Europe which shall undoubtedly ensue once the dust has settled from the Kentucky defeat. He spelled out hat we did wrong in the singles, told us how he would have done it; he's said how he sees Sandy as the next Captain, then Olazabal then for 2012 at Medinah, then we will get the man we all want for 2014; now he's set out how the team should be picked for us. Expect some choice opinions on the sort of clothing style Colin wants to see in future Ryder Cups and ideas for some Opening Ceremony pageantry in the next couple of days. He'll probably have all weekend to think about these things for us, he's having an awful first round in the British Masters...

Monty tells us what we should have done on Sunday and what we should do now it's over. Faldo wonders who the f*** asked him...

It hasn't taken long. We all knew it was coming. Colin Montgomerie, the man who has never had an opinion that wasn't worthy of media broadcast, took his chance to take a sideways slap at Nick Faldo. He's never got along with the beleaguered defeated Ryder Cup Captain so he was hardly likely to pass up the opportunity to slate him. He informed BBC Radio Five Live what he would have said had he been sat in the team room

"I'd have voiced concerns that Poulter, Westwood and Harrington are probably our top three players and they might not be involved in the Ryder Cup singles, as was the case. Play them earlier and they would have been involved 100%. Only once in the whole history of the Ryder Cup has the number 12 decided the match - Bernhard Langer in 1991."

It's a vintage interview from Monty, just say what the world has been thinking so you look clever, praise Poulter after the wee tiff in the wild card run-off and then right at the end there, stick in that factoid about Ryder history, so you look even more like future Captain material, all the while sticking the boot into Faldo without having to speak his name. Cracking stuff.

Monty as always had more opinions to be proffered. This time he wanted to make the case for Sandy Lyle to get the captaincy for 2010.

"It'd be a shame if it wasn't Sandy. There's no other outstanding candidate."

You and Jose Maria Olazabal not getting on these days either Monty? To be fair to Colin he has a point. Sandy was one of a group of five players to bag majors in the eighties in the first period of European dominance of the game. Seve Ballesteros, Faldo, Langer and Ian Woosnam have all captained the Ryder Cup team, leaving Lyle as the odd one out. Olazabal of course has two Masters titles to his name but he's quite a bit younger than Lyle, who has been not so secretly campaigning to get the post for about ten years now. Jose will get his turn, but you have to feel that Lyle needs to get it this time or he never will. The competition shall be in Wales, which is leading to calls for diminutive Welsh wizard Woosie to return, as Monty admits but still believes its the Scot's turn.

"Ian Woosnam did such a great job in Ireland and who's to say he couldn't do it again in his home country, but Sandy's time is around now and he hasn't done it before so you'd have to put him as favourite."

I think what sandy has in his favour is the Celtic angle, Woosnam was taken as one of their own when he went to Ireland with his team. An Englishman like Nick Faldo, would not have been as popular. It's the same going to Celtic Manor in 2010, the Welsh would really warm to a Scot, a Celtic brother to whom they are united by a hatred of the English.

Montgomerie's name has been put up in the betting for the 2010 captaincy but he's not entertaining the idea. He's long seen the match at Gleneagles in 2014, in his homeland of Scotland as his time. He said that at 45 he was not ready for the captaincy himself "whether offered or not" and besides he's planning to be playing at Celtic Manor anyway, adding "I hopefully haven't played my last shot in the Ryder Cup." Only a cynic would suggest that Monty is so anxious to see Sandy take the reigns in Wales two years from now, to ensure his path is clear, leaving Monty as the Scotsman leading the way in his home country come 2014; only a cynic would suggest that...

Monty voices his Ryder Cup opinions

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

I know what you're asking yourself, if you added up the total number of points that Europe and America have accrued over the years who would win?

Funny you should ask. Just to make you all aware of it, I've now updated The PGA Tourist Stat Bank to include the results of the 2008 Ryder Cup. That includes updating all the individual players records, the team cumulative totals for all matches, the likes of Poulter entering as one of the highest hauls in a single match, Westwood and Garcia, adding a half to their foursomes record.

All the stats I have on the Ryder Cup are now updated - that's quicker than even them lazy sods at the official Ryder Cup website could manage. What are they getting paid for?

So, slide on over to the stat bank, which should begin to fill up over the winter with the Ryder Cup over and the season coming to an end.

Any ideas as to stats you want to see in there, let me know...

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Boo Weekley - not cut out to be a turfgrass scientist, turns out to be not a bad golfer and a potent cheerleader

The most extreme thing we are used to seeing from an American Pro Golfer is a few fist pumps or a scream of celebration from players, who are then said to be really getting the crowd going. Usually the crowd will respond with the standard "USA" chant, stringing three letters together apparently seeming to appear such a good chant that no American has attempted to come up with anything better. The European fans, are hardened by years of watching putrid lower league football where they have to come up with ever more inventive and hilarious chants to keep themselves entertained. The small contingent of European fans were in great voice this weekend, surrounding the first tee and giving each of the players their own little song as they walked out on the final day. Such as these, taken from here...

Ollie Wilson: Ollie, Ollie, Ollie, oi, oi, oi!
Justin Rose: We've got our own JR, we've got our own JR
Graeme McDowell: You've got Big Mac, we've got Gmac
Sergio Garcia: Viva Espana
Robert Karlsson: Karlsson's bigger than Abba, Karlsson's bigger than Abba, la-laa-laa-laa
Paul Casey: Casey loves his spinach, Casey loves his spinach, la-laa-laa-laa
Ian Poulter: Walking in a Poulter wonderland

I don't think then that there were many people on my side of the pond who truly appreciated what a competitor Boo Weekley was going to be at this years' Ryder Cup. Or the potential he had to really get the crowd going. He single-handedly provided a reason to double the repertoire of songs to sing in support for the Americans, one particularly bright spark coming up with "BOOOO-S-A", maintaining the structure of the "USA" chant with BOO replacing U. It's not as sophisticated as any of the European Songs but my god it was effective.

There was no doubt what was going on in Boo's final match on Sunday, as from any given point on the course, a chorus of "BOO-S-A" could be heard as he pulled off another little miracle, of which there were many, on his front nine. Oliver Wilson actually played very well, in the most difficult of partisan atmospheres, not dropping a shot, being around two or three under himself. But Boo, supercharged in that atmosphere, driving them wild with excellent shots, feeding from their energy he got better still, It was a vicious circle which had him and the crowd in a frenzy by the end of a front nine; booming drives, stunning iron shots, massive putts had resulted in six birdies AND a chip-in eagle. That incredible run had to end and did, but the damage was done already, even with Wilson wining a hole to keep the match alive at dormie 5 there was way too much to do, but credit to Wilson, he would have given any other American quite a challenge but not Bo. The amazing reactions he illicited from the galleries had to have had an effect on other groups out on the course - has one player ever got such a reaction at a Ryder cup before?

The popularity of Boo appears to stem purely from the fact that "he's normal". That was the verdict of any fan I saw questioned. This "normal", means he hunts, he shoots, he fishes. He then comes home eats what he hunts and shoots and fishes, all while having a beer and chewin' tobacco, and watchin' other people hunt, shoot and fish on his tv. That's what I gathered anyway. Where he fits in the life of a professional golfer amongst all of that, I don't really know.

Boo, was temporarily educated at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, where he enrolled to study the fabulous discipline of turfgrass science but unfortunately, he failed out of the course. So, after one year at Baldwin, where he was a member of the golf team, Weekley returned home. He was hired as a hydroblaster at the Monsanto chemical plant in Pensacola, Florida. The job involved being lowered into large ammonia tanks to clean them with a high pressure power hose. You don't get much more "redneck normal" than that my friends. To the good ole boys of Kentucky, the ones who know how to hoot and holler, he just is one of them. He's the closest thing around to a real life Happy Gilmore, except he's doing golf for the money, not to save his grandma's house, but so he can keep himself in guns, ammo, rods and tackle...

Can you picture Zach Johnson riding his driver down the tee like a hobby horse , slapping his ass as he went? He would have to check the bible first. You don't have to try to picture Boo, he did it on Sunday. Ride 'em Cowboy! What a man...

Monday, 22 September 2008

Faldo's Ryder Cup Video Highlights, or perhaps that's Lowlights

A lot has been made of Nick Faldo's performances at the Ryder Cup which drew derision and hate-filled rhetoric from pressmen he had ticked off during the years. Some of them were amusing though and worth looking back on.

Faldo was flying off with the European based players for Valhalla with some dude called "Patrick Harrington" apparently. I mean seriously, why do news channels seem to exclusively pick news people who haven't a baldy clue what they're talking about to do these snippets. I know Padraig's name has been a real trouble for commentators since he came on the scene, "Pad-rag" being my favourite attempt at the pronunciation, but this guy decides to just change his name to get through an assignment he clearly wasn't cut out for. Just don't bloody mention him, say he's got the Open Champion with him. As my dear old dad used to say, "Better to say nothing and be thought a fool, than open your mouth and remove all doubt." A bit of sage advice that would have served Faldo well as the week progressed... Faldo was clearly already thinking about resting players here but confident he had the players at his disposal to do the job. We're reminded that Hurricane Ike had just passed through Kentucky causing damage, Faldo himself about to fly into a hurricane of media vitriol, in the British press at least...

Sandwichgate, has there ever been such a furore over something so inconsequential? Was any American player any more likely to win because they knew what a few of the pairings were going to be? I don't reckon so, but then Faldo had to go and turn it into something to really kick him with. Fancying himself as a real comedian, he was cracking jokes all week to a crowd of hacks in no mood to laugh at him, busy as they were sharpening pencils with which to stab him with. His attempt to laugh off the snaps of his team line-up by pretending they were sandwich orders becomes ever more excruciating as it goes on, with not a murmur of a chuckle in response. To review it in the parlance of the comedian "He died on his arse". Eventually he had to snap an admission at the reporters, "They are tomorrow's (Friday) pairings,. OK, I've been caught out. We are going to play foursomes on the front nine. I've learnt a lesson." And they had the cheek to call him the worst captain ever - Bernard Langer never gave them stuff like this to write about.

Faldo was then left looking like the occasion might be getting to him as he got all emotional over the team's meeting with "The Greatest", Muhammad Ali. It fuelled the fire that was circling the Captain that he might just be on the verge of losing it, other more cynical reporters accusing him of crocodile tears. Either way, they used it to pen yet more articles which laid into his fitness to lead. Poor Nick, they hadn't even had that disastrous first day yet.

The there was the Opening Ceremony speech, which appeared to have been co-written by Prince Philip.

I couldn't find clips of the interviews that Faldo gave to the BBC in between the sessions but he didn't really say much in them. His ability to form complete sentences deserted him, they amounted to incoherent babblings. Seemingly very nervous of saying anything on the resting of Westwood, despite the fact Europe had just won the session, he blurted out something of how Sergio asked to be rested after feeling shot after only the first session on Thursday. When pressed on Westwood he point blank refused to say anything on it and started gushing on about how great "Ollie" Olazabal was and how the days of players playing five matches were over (Ian Poulter anyone?) and how he was prepared to take the flak for anything. It was a pattern repeated until the Cup was decided, when the weight of pressure on him was finally lifted.

Apart from that little bit on what he would do with the stock market, Faldo seemed to be back to his old self. At least a bit more assured and with his sentence construction returning to him, he was gracious enough in defeat, still proud of his team, standing behind his decisions but bemoaning the "fractions" which cost them the match. Actually, he wasn't very gracious there at all, he didn't mention the americans good play nor congratulate them but he has since.
A few niggly things, what an understatement...

It's all too easy to say he was a bad captain, but he had a tougher task that any of the guys who won recently. Easy wins came against divided American teams with no backbone or will to win. They had Sergio and Westwood in record breaking form and an imperious Monty leading the way. All Faldo could do was pick them and send them out, he couldn't make them win and that's what it comes down to, the players performing, which Harrington, Garcia and Westwood in particular, failed to do.

In one respect he was awful, the worst PR of any Captain in history, but that doesn't mean he was the worst Captain ever. That's Hal Sutton...

Westwood reveals foul mouthed fans were about at Valhalla, but takes nothing away from the victors.

Lee Westwood has spoken out once more about being unhappy with the conditions he had to play under this week, but this time not complaining of the rabble-rousing antics of (I hope this is safe to presume) the least attractive cheerleader in America, Boo Weekley. What upset him more than that was the personal comments thrown at him from nameless faces in the crowd.

"That's the only negative part of the week for me, I have been abused from start to finish. Some of the stuff that's been said to me this week is shameful."

Not sure it should be the only negative Lee, you had a pretty poor week by your high standards but when he further explained the treatment he received from the fans it became clear that he had a fair point. He compared it to the infamous incidents at Brookline, where things degenerated to the extent that Montgomerie was called the c-word on one of the tees, the fours letter one, not Colin...

"1999 was fine for me. The last day it got a little out of hand but before then it was largely fine."

If it was worse than Brookline, it certainly wasn't reported as such, andI think it would be vastly unfair to make out that this was anything other than a competition that was generally very well supported and played in a good spirit. But why weren't the people abusing Westwood dealt with. There was only one man removed from the course the whole time and that was a particularly stupid photograoher who clicked while Phil Mickelson was mid-way through his putting stroke. Apparently he tried to run off like a rat up the proverbial drainpipe before officials nabbed him; I would have loved to have seen that.

Westwood informed the media that one abusive comment at Valhalla was a "particularly nasty reference to my mother"... nice. That the guy who said it got to stay on and keep watching and probably keep shouting filth which is a sad state of affairs. Why can't prats like him stick too their BOOO-S-A's and "Get in the hole" is beyond me, that's more than annoying enough.

Westwood was able to laugh that the old trick of ringing the team in the middle of the night had been rolled out, but that one group were a little off target, the bumbling troublemakers ringing his parents 4.30am on Sunday.

"They were trying to ring me but called the wrong hotel and got the wrong Westwood, it really upset my dad's preparations for walking around the course!"

He then went on to regale the media with his ghostly encounter, when an american fan attempted to unsettle him by jumping out in front of him between holes 5 and 6, dressed as a ghost with a sheet over his head, complete with a ghostly adaptation of the Booooo chant, clearly that made Westwood's weekend as he was laughing hard about it.

Westwood 'spooked' by fans' behaviour

He was also at pains to praise the performance of the American team and defend his captain Nick Faldo.

"I thought the pairings were pretty well sorted, we rotated well and when I saw the singles draw I quite liked it,

Hats off to the Americans for playing good. Ben (Curtis) certainly played well today, he must have been five under par in winning. And I thought Steve Stricker's putt on 18 last night was crucial (he holed for birdie on the 18th to deny Paul Casey and Garcia victory in the fourballs). We would have been within a point rather than two."

In the end he summed it up best when he said it was the players who play the Golf and hit the shots, taking the blame from Nick Faldo, who the Media are dying to pin it on.

Faldo rolls the dice, comes up with snake eyes. Azinger brings back the Ryder at last for Uncle Sam.

Oh say can you see, this trophy and me,
Faldo you've lost the cup, now please go home and shut up

The American team brought an end to the years of humbling defeats with what ended up as an emphatic victory at Valhalla today. It's been a painful tournament for the US in recent times, as Europe romped to record wins over star studded teams which failed to gel. This time round the Europeans came over as Strong favourites; Tiger Woods out, a record number of rookies in the US team, the men who had played before used to being drubbed convincingly. The Americans however revelled in their underdog status, the new blood proved energetic, fearless and able to win, the men who had failed before were fired up to get the win they craved.

The gamble that Nick Faldo took to send out four of his top names in the last four groups did not work in his favour. The likes of Poulter and McDowell, who would have fancied taking on any opponent the form they were in, were out 9th and 10th, big name anchors Westwood and Harrington out in the final two matches. Poulter and McDowell duly won but as many feared, their wins were irrelevant, the Cup secured by the Americans before their results were in. The two big men at the end succumbed to poor defeats against Curtis and Campbell, two players who had really failed to perform the first two days, but then for all their status, neither had the European pair.

The major disappointment for Europe was the horrible performance of Sergio Garcia in the crucial first match. Garcia, the near invincible talisman of the previous recent victories was woeful against his American counterpart Anthony Kim. The American did play well, but Garcia gifted him several of the holes - plonking it in the water twice on seven, missing what was admittedly a tricky five footer to get one back on eight but one you'd expect him to get, three putting several holes, missing tiddlers. It's no wonder that when Garcia failed to get the win he needed on 14, Anthony Kim marched off towards the next tee box - he simply didn't believe he'd won the match so early. Kim the victor 5&4.

There was hope for the Europeans as they convincingly won the third and fourth matches. Justin Leonard couldn't rediscover the outrageous form he displayed on day one and Robert Karlsson kept going where he left of last night and won his match 5&3. Phil Mickelson is on the winning side once more, but his Ryder Cup record is still a little worse after this week as he went down to Justin Rose 3&2, the English rookie holing an excellent 30 footer to close out in style. Three points out of four for Rose in the end, good shooting cowboy.

One of the matches of the day was the second one out. It was imperative for Europe that Casey got something out of it to keep European hopes alive, and it's significance only grew as the day went on and US players began to take control of the middle order matches. It was a ding dong affair of high quality, as Mahan tried to get away at the turn, 2 up after eight, the dogged Casey pulled him back to all square with some great putting. They were level on the 17th then as Casey hit a bomb of a drive, we're talking JB Holmes length and a decent approach to the back of the green. Mahan's second shot wound up on the front on the putting surface, 40 feet away with a hump in its path. In a moment that was reminiscent of the Leonard putt at Brookline '99
which clinched the last American win, Mahan's putt shot like a heat seeking missile straight over the ridge and dead at the cup, rattling in off the back edge to a soundtrack of Euphoric cheering from the Kentucky masses. Had it missed it would have gone miles past, as it was it left Casey with a tricky 20 footer to stay with him, which was beyond him. It appeared to be the moment that confirmed the Cup would be in Azinger's hands.

That grip on the cup looked a lot more slippery as Mahan struck his drive however. Unbelievably Hunter found the water on the right off the tee, hadn't he been watching Kenny Perry, Boo Weekley and JB Holmes on the first day? If you're one up on the 18th at Valhalla and you're American, aiming a mile left appears to be the best policy... Mahan's second found the bunker, Casey had no such problems and found the green in two and the match was completed with a half point to either team. At that point it was a huge half point for Europe, who still had a chance of pulling off a draw or victory to retain the trophy.

But the middle matches were either in control of the US or about to be. Kenny Perry secured a win which meant the world to him. 48 years old, in what will probably be his final Cup, in front of a home crowd, Perry was in front by 3 after five holes and remained in charge of his match over Henrik Stenson throughout, cheered on by what appeared to be 40,000 of his neighbours and close friends, he recorded a 3&2 win.

Oliver Wilson was given a hard task against the hugely popular Boo Weekley and played well, not dropping ant shots to par, about 3 under for his round. Against another opponent he would have given a great game. Boo, however was in ridiculous form. His front nine included six birdies and a chip-in Eagle. It was testament to Wilson that he took the match as far as he did, at dormie 4 he holed a cracker to keep the match alive, but the BOOO-S-A's were allowed to ring out in victory on the 16th. What a player the Americans now have for the Ryder Cup, Weekley, who has professed to not really being a golf fan himself, absolutely loves it. Claiming European scalps must bring the same joy hunting does for Boo.

That left the US needing only two more points to claim the trophy, the scores 12.5-9.5. It looked like Jim Furyk would set up JB Holmes to make the winning putt as he seemed certain to finish off Jimenez on 16, but he missed a short tweaker to go down 17 with the Spaniard. JB meanwhile had been All Square with Soren Hansen when the leaderboard still had a look that gave Europeans reason to cling to hope. But a birdie on 16 left him one up with two to play and he promptly finished the Dane off on 17 with an exquisite pitch to two feet after his expected booming drive. Hansen nearly worked a miracle with his chip from the back of the green, but it lipped the hole and spun out to hand JB his win.

It was back to Furyk then to seal the victory. A good lag putt by Jim from 40 feet leave Jimenez needing to hole a 17 footer to keep their match and the tournament alive. Cruelly for Mig, the cigar smokin, pony tailed hero, his putt slid by and it will be that moment which will be remembered as how the cup was won. It's unfortunate, as it's always nicer that someone is remembered as the man who sunk the winning putt but that wasn't how it transpired this time, though Furyk will be remembered as the man to seal the deal. I'm really glad for Jim as he found it hard to be the man to lose the final 1/2 point to Paul McGinley at the Belfry, something which reduced him to tears and he was very sympathetic to Jimenez in his post match interview, you gotta love Jim. Even in the bad years, you could never question his commitment and he is well due this success.

It was a good and richly deserved win for the Americans. They played with a great intensity and won without any of the controversy or unsavoury goings on that occurred at Kiawah or Brookline. It was a fair contest, in spite of the hype that this was going to be a nasty one; it was all played in a great spirit. Most of all, they really did have to play great golf to win it as the Europeans did not fail to perform (apart from Sergio today...).

Finally, Good on Ian Poulter, Four points from five and unlucky to lose the first match he was incredible. He proved he was worthy of his place, no question. Whether having Darren Clarke there might have drawn a better performance from Lee Westwood will be debated ad nauseum, but no one can question that Poulter was well worth his pick; the question should have been why was Casey there instead of Clarke... Good man Ian.