Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Cigar Guy is amazed at Tiger's picture perfect shot

Only one man put his hands up whenTiger asked, who thinks I can get that camera man square in the face. Man in Blue was correct.

Above is the photo that everyone should be talking about because of the amazing way in which the ball is captured mid flight, maybe ten yards from tigers blade, seemingly about to strike the lens of the camera - and that's because it did. The ball then bounced off the photographer’s chest and fell to the ground. Wood’s was playing with Steve Stricker against Ross Fisher and Ian Poulter at the Ryder Cup at the time. It's being called the sports photograph of the year, and is tipped to win awards.

But it's become an internet sensation for another reason besides the quality of the photography

The cigar guy.

That dude to the right of Mr Woods
wearing what has been described as a "Groucho Marx style mustache and Rastafarian looking brown-red wig". Clearly he's trying to do a Miguel Angel Jimenez tribute. He just hasn't quite got there. It's the quizzical expression, the fact he looks like he's staring in a slightly different direction to everyone else, the fact that the costume is spectacularly weak. No-one knows who this guy is but I'm guessing he'll get some telly appearances out of this. He's already getting photoshopped into the background of other famous sporting pictures all over the world. A latter day numa numa guy or lolcats.

But he should be ashamed, attempting to pull off the Jimenez look, without equipping himself with a potbelly, absolutely criminal!

Monday, 4 October 2010

The Ryder cup won by an Irishman - though maybe not by the one we all expected....

The Camerman bet Graeme he couldn't do a one inch punch, this was the last photo he took...

The Ryder Cup has long been kind to the sons of Ireland. Many's an unheralded journeyman "mick" (that's our word so I can use it) has drank deep of glory from it's golden rim. Eamon D'Arcy, Christy O'Connor Jr, Philip Walton, Paul McGinley - none of whom got a sniff of a major, all landed that crucial point to secure the biggest prize in Golf for Europe.

Three Irish lads lined up for Europe this week, one grabbed all the headlines for his Tigerish boasting, one grabbed headlines for being included in the team at all, while one took his place without much fanfare, despite being the US Open Champion.

Graeme McDowell, kind of came in under the radar for this Cup, but he outperformed both the precocious talent of Rory McIlroy and Padraig "Three time Major Champion (TM)"Harrington as Europe secured a close fought victory against a resurgent USA. A hard fought point against one of America's toughest competitors was sealed with some of the most gutsy putting you could imagine.

And might I throw in a few massive congratulations to the Mechanic, Miguel Angel Jimenez. He came into this week with a fairly woeful Ryder Cup record, just two points to his name which if we're honest had been largely won by his playing partners. There can be no doubt how crucial he was to this effort however. Putting of the highest order yesterday kept him in and then saw him win with Peter Hanson yesterday, against opposition that were playing some of the best golf out there, Overton and Bubba Watson. And to be lined up against the longest hitter on the US team, Watson again, on a wet course were length was already an issue, I didn't think he could match it. I though the long holes would offer too much to the American. but in his own inimitable style, puffing a cigar as went, Jimenez took him down. That's what it takes to win Ryder Cups - guys to step up. When Westwood couldn't get it done Europe needed someone in the middle order to keep things going and boy did Miguel do it. Heroic effort.

Tad disappointed to see Kaymer struggle these past few days, he doesn't seem comfortable in the atmosphere, doesn't seem to get fired up by it all. It'll take a few more years for him maybe, but he better get into it cause you'd imagine he'll be on more than a few teams to come.

But Luke Donald, what a playist. He's nearly forgotten as he doesn't offer the same wild eyed enthusiasm of Poulter or McDowell but God does he produce it when he's needed. It's a shame he missed out last time around, Faldo could have used him - and he'd have been a candidate to set some records beyond that 6-0 foursomes streak he's got going. I can't wait to get home now and watch the highlights and celebrations again, what a great Ryder Cup. I think the DVD for christmas will be welcome viewing.

Oh, and well done Monty. I don't know what was said in the locker room on Saturday, too rude to print here apparently anyhow. But by **** it worked!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Rory and Tiger - may be cosy on the cover but inside? - they just want to get it on. (Not like that, you know what I mean...)

Tiger didn't appreciate what Rory meant when he said pull my finger - worse still, Rory had been eating cabbage and bacon the night before. You could cut the air with a putter....

It's just round the corner now and if the early exchanges are anything to go by, there might just be a bit of spice in this weeks Ryder Cup. Much is being made of how possibly the most talented (and most marketable) golfers on either side, RoryMc and Tiger have been having an exchange, which if you believe the hype could make for one of the most explosive meetings ever seen in the Ryder Cup.

It was quite a while ago when Rory made his comments, and the way he was playing at the time, it was true, any of the boys would have fancied taking on Tiger. Just off the back of the Bridgestone Invitational, after Woods' hacked it about like a pale shadow of his former self McIlroy said: "I'd love to face him" and to be fair to him he's stuck to his guns after a few more respectable appearances from Woods.

But there is no doubting that Woods has not taken kindly to it. Rumours abound of a locker room meeting where Tiger told the young Irish upstart to "be careful what he wished for". And there are certainly precedents of Woods upping his game should anyone have the cheek to talk up their chances against him before hand.

The clearest example was in the 2006 World Match Play when Stephen Ames told the press before his first round match against Tiger that he fancied his chances, "especially where he's hitting the ball".

The next day Woods won the first nine holes, seven of them with birdies, and had the job done on the 10th, a crushing victory. Asked for a response afterward Woods made no angry comments, simply saying coolly, "9&8", a score which really said it all.

A more cynical man may say it's a marketing ploy to sell more copies of Tiger Woods 11, with it's new Ryder cup feature, allowing you to pit Rory vs Tiger in Ryder style battle. Or an even more cynical old git might point to the fact that Tiger, for the first time since the franchise started, had to share coverspace with McIlroy. He's only just arrived and he's on his bloody cover, no wonder he wants to sort him out.

Really, when it comes to it, I can't see the pair falling out. Rory's just too affable a chap and does Tiger really need to go picking a fight with a young kid in the tournament which is supposed to be step one towards his rehabilitation? But aside from the words exchanged, wouldn't it be a hell of ding dong battle to see those two fighting it out on Sunday.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Tiger Woods to play Masters - theory that he may now trim his schedule down to the four majors to make time for extracurricular activities unconfirmed

Tiger will return at this years Masters. Probably a shrewd move as the galleries around Augusta are lees likely to get filled with drunken haters than at any venue in the world (no ones gonna risk getting thrown out of there for a heckle).

Let's hope the ocassion doesn't get to him (it won't, the mans a machine - or so I've heard) and that he can keep on producing Golden Masters moments like this...

Friday, 12 February 2010

Lee loses out to the Mechanic - eternal conundrum settled - Pot belly really does beat barrel gut.

Miguel had asked for an ashtray, though it proved so cubersome he had begun to regret it...
Okay, I'm playing catch up this week. It was a thrilling finish to the Dubai Desert Classic last weekend. Miguel Angel Jimenez, a player who is probably in everyones top five favourite pro's got back to winning ways after an eventful play off with Europes big hitter Lee Westwood. It took several holes to seperate them, some superb clutch long putts from Jimenez keeping him in it, some nervy pushed makeable ones from Westwood keeping his hands off the prize. In the end it was a stroke of luck for Jimenez that helped him over the line, his ball just managing to stay on dry land, perilously close to the water. A fine chip and a putt and the Classic and it's rather demure and understated trophy, ahem, was his.

Yet another playoff loss for Westwood who's struggled in mano a mano deciders of late. Still, it's another top five finish for him as he continues to prove one of the most consistent performers in World Golf. He was playing at a very high level towards the back end of last season and he's kept that up - don't be surprised to see him take the big step he's so often threatened to this year. My tips - US Open for Lee, Open for Rory. Two of our boys in one year? Wishful thinking perhaps.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Sweet Jesus - low score shattered in Dubai - they've gone so low it's a limbo show!!! Muted response from BBC suggests they know nothing about golf...

Print this out, put it on your wall, make a t-shirt with it, treasure this momentous day in sporting history

In all my years I have never seen a more exciting start to a tournament than the one which the BBC have just reported on at the Dubai Desert Classic. Not only have we got a six way tie for the lead including rising supertar Rory McIlroy, in-form Saffa Charl Scwartzel and um Stephen Dodd amongst others, but they've each gone an broken one of the last great barriers on the European Tour. No one has previously bettered 60 shots in a round before - Darren Clarke one of the holders of that record having hit it twice. But just look at that leaderboard - No fewer than SIX players getting around in 15 UNDER PAR! 57 shots - the lowest round on the PGA is 59!

Which is why I'm posting that screenshot for posterity. I'm sure one or two of the guys must have thought when they got to 15 under par they'd be streets ahead, but nay, such is the competitiveness on tour that there's six of them duelling it out. The standard is incredible.

Unfortunately they have yet to get round to updating their full leaderboard which is still showing them at only four under - repeating the mistake in the main article also - a frankly shocking oversight which has undermines completely the stunning acheivement of these brave lads and is a sad indictment on the level of attention the BBC is paying to it's golf coverage these days. Makes me sick to my craw, it really does.

Paul Casey currently lies joint seventh on three under, in such record breaking conditions, a pitiful score, completely put to shame by McIlroy et al. How will he get to sleep tonight.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Hey Phil, quit swinging your Ping Eye 2 around, it might be legal but it ain't right in front of children.

At a time when Tiger Woods has completely ruined his reputation and Golf is seeking another star to step into the breach as its new leading light, you would think that the big boys would want to do everything possible to make sure there is not a negative word said about them in the press. Which makes the decision of Phil Mickelson to jump so willingly through the bizarre loophole in the new law regarding U-groove clubs so amazing to me.

The ban on U-grooves was meant to have an impact on players scores by punishing wayward tee and approach shots which find the rough. The sharp edges provided by U-grooved clubs cut through grass caught between clubface and ball at impact, allowing players to have much greater control over shots from the rough and even impart spin on the ball too. To put the penalty back into finding the long grass, the decision was made to not allow pros to use these clubs anymore and revert back to V grooves, whose edges have shallower angles and thus do not cut through to the ball as effectively. This reduces the control the player has on the shot and leads to unpredictable flyers over the green and other such hilaritys. But as it was to be the same for all, it was going to bring an emphasis back on accurate iron play.

But a side effect of a 20 year old court ruling has kind of scuppered this brave new dawn. The Ping eye 2 wedge, which has square grooves, is not affected in this new era of V-shaped grooves because of a lawsuit Ping filed against the USGA that was settled 20 years ago, in which the USGA showing an amazing lack of foresight allowed the Ping eye 2 golf club to be sanctioned "approved for play" forever. Having started the ball rolling on the V-groove issue, someone must have realised that this was going to come and bite them on the bum.

And now it has and has sparked a debate among the golfing elite which is becoming quite venomous. And the main target of the venom is Big Phil.

One of the most effective weapons in Mickelson's armoury down the years has been his incredible deployment of the flop shot. High, towering shots, hit with almost a full swing from just off the green which may travel only ten yards forward and land almost dead on the spot. It's of no surprise then that it's the Ping Eye 2 60 degree lob wedge which Phil has begun packing. It's a crucial part of his game and clearly he wants to retain that advantage. But at what cost to his reputation?

He has stoutly defended his decision but I can't agree with his reasoning.

"The only thing that matters is are they approved for play. So I don't feel that there's any problem if I were to play those clubs or if anybody else were. All that matters is that it is OK under the rules of golf."

The thing is, if it wasn't for some daft legal case twenty years ago, presumably undertaken just for a marketing advantage, the clubs would not be legal. That they are allowed for play is down to a legal technicality, not because they have some sort of midway design that is borderline and they just scraped through. The design is illegal under the new laws of the game. If Callaway made a completely identical club to it it would be illegal. If you put any other U-groove club from 1990 in the bag it would be illegal. If you put any other club with a U groove design by Ping from any year, in any condition, it would be deemed illegal. Which means that really, the gentlemanly thing to do would be to agree not to use it.

Do I think that he's gaining an almighty advantage by using it, not really. But if he's not, then why use it. Why put yourself in that position.

Cause you're gonna get your Robert Allenbys who will be less than impressed -
"I just believe that even if they are legal, you still shouldn't be using them. Just because someone has a couple sitting in their garage somewhere or they've got them off eBay or whatever, I just don't think that's the integrity of the game. I think 'cheating' is not the right word to use, but it's definitely an advantage."

And then you'll get your Scott McCarrons who will be a tad more outspoken.

"It's cheating, and I'm appalled Phil has put it in play...all those guys should be ashamed of themselves for doing that. As one of our premier players, (Mickelson) should be one of the guys who steps up and says this is wrong."

Now Phil's response is, surprise surprise, to get all legal on it and accuse McCarron of slander, when all Scott wanted was for Phil to lead the way in saying "Hey guys, this club, it might be legal but lets not use it, right, lets be all that we can be". I think that's a little sad. Because at the end of the day, if Scott McCarron turns up with a 60 degree Taylor Made Lob Wedge from 1990 next week, he'd be breaking the laws of the game, while Phil flops away merrily. Just cause you can get away with it, doesn't mean you should do it. It ain't right Phil, think of the kids.

Rob can see clearly now the fluids gone - It's a bright sun shiny day in Qatar for Karlsson

Robert was very pleases to find that the trophy had been based on the Little Mermaid, a movie he watches "twelve times a year - at least - I love that crab and Ariel's smokin' hot"

It's always surprising to me to find out just how old Robert Karlsson is - he's forty - he doesn't look it. I know Golf has it's fair share of oldie's but still goodies, but they mostly look old. No one would look at Kenny Perry and think hes early thirties now would they. But apart from defeating Old father cronos and defying the aging process, Rob's had a few other issues to contend with this past year. Off the back of becoming the first Swede to claim the Order of Merit in 2008 he was expecting big things in 2009. But a problem with blurred vision caused by fluid behind the retina of his left eye kept him out of the game for four months. Only toward the end of the season did he show signs of the form which had made him European No.1.

But he was back to winning ways at the weekend. His flawless round of 65 saw him safely home, three shots clear on 15 under at the Qatar Masters in Doha. The big man easily fended off the chase from Alvaro Quiros, who finished with a 67. Lee Westwood would likely have been the biggest challenge for Karlsson but a cracked driver head during the third round deprived him of probably his biggest asset forcing him to change the club for the final round.

"It's hard to imagine anything else going wrong this week so 11 under is an unbelievable score," said Westwood. "Long, straight driving is one of my strengths and if you take someone's strengths away from them it is going to very difficult to compete." Still, Lee has now notched up 12 top 10 finishes in his last fifteen outings. Incredible consistency.

This is Karlssons first win since the Order of Merit clinching Dunhill Links he won in 2008 and he was understandably elated to get back in the winners circle after his lay-off.

"It was a tough time coming back. I had a couple of good finishes at the end of last year with Henrik (Stenson) at the World Cup and with a second in Japan, but it is fantastic to be back now.
I am really happy to be back playing well, it is the first time I have played really well for a long time and the way I finished off today was very satisfying."

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Kaymer gets the title, Poulter gets the headlines, they're both probably quite happy with that arrangement.

It was a tight finish to the Abu Dhabi Championship at the weekend with about as stellar a final group as one could wish for. Early leader Ian Poulter, future world No 1 (TM), Rory Mc and the rising power of Germany Martin Kaymer making one of the best final three balls the European tour has had in a long time. It turned into a bit of a two man show as Poulter and Kaymer kept one foot in front of Rory. Kaymer had started the day one shot clear of the English man and it stayed pretty much that way for most of the day, Poulter never quite able to make the most of his opportunities to push Kaymer further.

The field was as good as you get on the European Tour, and it marks a step up in the calibre of tournament that Kaymer has won so far. Only 25, this Kaymers fifth win on tour yet he rarely gets a mention amongst Europeans leading lights - this weeks rankings should change that. Though not completely. For despite the fact that the lanky German has now catapulted himself to number 6 in the world, the headlines on Monday hailed the fact that Ian Poulter had edged his way into the top ten for the first time in his career - just scraping past McIlory into 10th. A tad unfair on Kaymer.

One thing that has come of Poulters great leap forward (or toe dip to be more accurate) is that for the first time in literally oodles of years, make that the first time ever since the rankings were formally introduced, there are three Englishman in the top ten in the world. Ten years ago, Lee Westwood was the only one in the top 100. Europeans now outnumber Americans in the upper echelons too. Maybe, just maybe this is the year that the strength in European Golf translates into Major wins. Rory Mc at St Andrews, that's my tip - even if that randy man is back for it...

A word for another young Irishman, Shane Lowry, a cracking final round from him has gotten him into the top 100 and a fair few quid in his pocket too, two things he didn't get from his Irish Open win last year. Why enter as an amateur, it only hurts if you win...

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Poulter and Bland - not two words you hear together very often - top the strong field at Abu Dhabi

Ian subtly takes the opportunity to sniff his pits - they were as fresh as any in Abu Dhabi but that wasn't saying much...
An awful lot has been made of the fact that an awful lot of the top golfers in the world have decided to rock up at this weeks Abu Dhabi Golf Tournament. 8 of the top 14 have elected to tee up there this week, making it one of the strongest fields you're likely to find on the European tour outside of the Majors and World Golf Championships. An indication of a shift in the pulling power of the PGA tour? An indication of the impact of Tigers absence? Not really, more of a display of just how many of the top Golfers in the world now hail from outside the US, with the top Europeans turning out in force for this event, as well as top Aussie Geoff Ogilvy. The comparison with the PGA Tours Bob Hope Classic is what makes for the headlines - topping the ranks there is Mike Weir at a lowly 39. Ouch. But considering Tiger and Phil are on hiatus for differing reasons it's not quite the horror story that some might be painting it - the European Tour will not be holding on to the big boys throughout the season, not when the pickings across the pond become so much richer.

Then it'll become all the more stark the difference in the respective fields once Rory Mc makes his planned shift to the US tour comes into play. The roles will be very much reversed...

But hey, there's a first round to be talked about and it's been a PGA Tour regular who's made the early running. Ian Poulter and his funky trousers got off to a flier as he got around in an unblemished 65 blows - the final one being a monstrous 70 foot putt for birdie on the last. Richard Horne picked up where he left off in last weeks Joburg Open, an eagle on the second helping him to a share of the lead along with Poulter and the unfortunately named Richard Bland...

One behind and lurking ominously is the illustrious duo Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard hasn't hit a ball in competition since November so he has hit the ground running with his 66.

Not a bad start but not a fantastic one either for Chubby Chandlers chubbier charges - Lee Westwood is on 3 under and Darren Clarke is 2 under after a pretty up and down first trip round the Abu Dhabi Golf club.

Rather more off the pace are two of the higher ranked players, Ogilvy and Casey. Geoff never got started as he plodded his way to an even par 72. Casey did at least pick things up after a 7 on the par five 8th hole to get back to level par.

One of my favourite pieces of commentary from the recent tournament for all last years winners on the PGA Tour came when looking at a list of the recent US Open winners and remarking how well the course was suiting the likes of Cabrera and Glover - they got to Michael Campbell before exclaiming "Where the hell is he now?" - the answer? 459 in the world and rock bottom of the leader board in Abu Dhabi on 83 for the day...

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Two down, the question now is - Can Schwartzel do what Tiger couldn't and go undefeated for the season?

So, the second tournament on the European Tour this season concludes much as the first did. With the redoubtable Charles Schwartzel lifting the trophy. The Tour makes a pretty favourable start for the season for Schwartzel, a lot of European players have found their home tournaments taken off the schedule - even Englishmen will only have the one chance to play on home soil this season (though it's only a wee run up the road to Scotland for them I guess) whereas young Charlie has had the cheering crowds for both the South African and now the Joburg Open. It'd be unfair to make out he wasn't a richly deserving winner of both however. This title is his fifth on Tour now and he looks to be the latest star ready to emerge from the homeland of Player, Els, Goosen and er, what's his face - looks like he wears mascara... Trevor Immelman (he's a major winner too remember!).

Lass Season he put in some strong performances in these early stages too, always featuring in the weaker fields, but tended to get lost in the shadow of the leading lights when they showed up to play. He stands the chance to become the first player since Seve in '86 to win three on the trot - though the field at Abu Dhabi next time out will be a little stronger. Westwood, Casey, Ogilvy, Stenson, McIlroy, Poulter, Garcia and Kaymer will all be rocking up to spoils Schwartzels party so he will have his work cut out.

This fortnight's play however should be enough to get him where he needs to be to make his Masters debut. Much quoted this week was how low the scorign has been these past two weeks, Schwartzel is 52 under par for his last 11 rounds. Remarkable scoring. Some of the putting I saw him produce over the weekend was nothing short of brilliant. Could this be his year to make his mark in the golfing world? Early days to call that yet...

The fields he has vanquished this last fortnight have been shorn of the big guns, mainly journeymen and some young South African comptriots, with the notable exception of Darren Clarke. The big man had announced his intention to get an early win under his belt and put up a decent fist in his attempt this week. Four behind Schwartzel at the start of the day, Clarkes early part of the round failed to make up the ground required. In the end it was a cracking eagle on the last which allowed him to record a 68 and claim joint second along side the low shooter of the day, homeboy Keith Horne, after his 64.

It is the sort of performance Clarke needed though. He needs to get some strong results in early if he hopes to get himself back into the Majors. Ranked 110th coming into the Joburg Open but still blessed with the talent to be much higher he'll need a few more like this to get where he wants to be. Its a positve start to the year though, hopefully he can keep the momentum going.

And worth a mention, young Englishman Danny Willett finished in a creditable tie for fourth with another South African James Kamte. Fantastic to see a young black player from South Africa doing well - lets hope it inspires more.