Tag Archives: Tiger Woods

2020 Goal – Do You Have One?

I have one goal for 2020 and it’s process oriented.  Before detailing, I’ve been drawing a tremendous amount of inspiration from the book:  The Score Takes Care of Itself, by Bill Walsh.   The Hall of Fame football coach details his controversial approach to leadership and building a world class organization, but the underlying takeaway is to get immersed in the details of process and good results will naturally be forthcoming.  While a common theme from most sports psychologists, I needed to read his specifics about not confusing effort with results and found it inspiring.

Last season, I stumbled on a process-oriented adjustment in September and rode that to higher confidence and better performance in the Fall, and over the Winter.  The experience was so positive that I will try to leverage for 2020.  In 2013 I had experimented using the nine-shot drill that Tiger Woods made famous and found that difficult to implement.  The drill requires you to hit low, medium, and high trajectories with straight, draw, and fade shot shapes.  I couldn’t do them all but last Fall, during practice sessions and warm-ups I began hitting low, medium, and high straight shots with each club in the bag (lob wedge through 4-iron).  Suddenly while on the course, I felt comfortable calling on any of these trajectories, which allowed me to play more aggressively and with greater confidence.  To execute, you simply move your ball position from back to middle to front with each club.  I practiced this way and warmed-up this way.  The advantage, especially during warm-ups, is that on some days I’d find only one trajectory was working but I could take that one to the course with confidence.

Granted, this is somewhat of an advanced technique and you should have your swing mechanics in pretty good order.  During a lesson last year, my instructor had me hitting full wedge shots using my lob, sand, and gap from the back position, and we really liked the ball flight.  He recommended that I add the shot to my arsenal, and I did.  I then added the other ball positions after experimenting.

Fast forward to this year.   My goal is to get comfortable working the ball.  Do I need to add all six other trajectories in the nine-shot drill?  No.  I’d just like to be able to control a draw or fade with the most comfortable trajectory.  I know my biggest challenge will be with the fade because I hit a little natural draw and I can’t remember fading a ball on demand, but think I can learn this using the same approach.  First up, some experimentation on the range, then off to my instructor to dialog the plan.  If I can work the ball with the same level of confidence, great things are going to happen!

What are your goals for 2020?

Play well!

Inside the Brilliant Mind of Brooks Koepka

Photo from Golf Digest

What makes him tick?  As we approach the final major of the season, my intrigue continues to grow with his amazing success.  He is extraordinary in the big events but rather ordinary in the regular tour stops.  How does he turn on the mental supercharger for the majors?  Few athletes in history have been able to turn it on in big events to the same extent.  Great golfers like Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods demonstrated fantastic ability to concentrate, but their performance was more evenly distributed across all their events.

Sports fans old enough to remember the Hall of Fame running back John Riggins, recall Riggo hated to practice and almost never did.  He was often in the hospital injured during the week, or out carousing and making trouble, but come game day, he could turn on an amazing level of focus and concentration and performed brilliantly.  Football is a sport where you are very dependent on the performance of others.  Golf is not.  Koepka has no offensive line to run behind which makes his majors performances even more remarkable.

In perhaps his greatest book on sports psychology (How Champions Think), Bob Rotella sites “single-mindedness” as the most important key.  The greats demonstrate it time and again and sometimes at the cost of other important aspects in their lives.  Tiger certainly had single-mindedness and learned it from his dad.  Maybe his personal failings later in life were a cry for help due to the strains of single-mindedness at an early age.  Michele Wie’s parents tried to enforce single-mindedness before she was ready and may have ruined a great golf career.

Koepka doesn’t appear to be single-minded at all.  He doesn’t sweat the majors any more than you or I would going to an important meeting at the office.  He does abide by a corny half-baked idea that it’s easier to win the majors because he has fewer opponents that will be in contention for a variety of reasons.  Does that really work; can you trick yourself into performing better by simply believing you are superior?  For example, could your son or daughter excel in an important event like taking the SAT and expect superlative performance by thinking half the other students in the class will choke under the pressure?  There may be some truth to it.

More importantly, is there something we (the average amateur) can adopt from his approach that will help our games?  Think back to a time when you put on a great performance for a big event.  A couple months back, I presented at a professional conference and was rather nervous at the thought of getting up in front of my peers for an hour.  What if I stumbled or said something stupid?  But, I nailed the presentation.  How?  I practiced the heck out of it until I was so sick of it I could do it forwards and backwards.  On a few occasions, I’ve been able to mentally trick myself into performing better on the golf course by playing without any swing thoughts, but that doesn’t sustain for more than a few holes.  The only tried and true method I’ve found is consistent practice, but it’s important to get feedback from someone other than yourself during the practice.  I did that presentation alone and for family members and got constructive feedback that made it better.

So next time you’re on the practice tee or working short game, ask for feedback.  In the best case, get it from a professional instructor.  Learn the right way and practice.

And yes, Brooks Koepka is my pick for the 2019 British Open.  I’ll ride him until he bucks me off.

Play well.

Does It Pass The Nicklaus Test?

By now, you’ve seen the video of Phil Mickelson’s moving ball violation on #13 of Saturday’s U.S. Open round.

Was this a violation of the spirit of the competition or simply a smart golfer taking advantage of the rules?  You be the judge.  Phil is a very bright articulate guy.  After watching his explanation to Curtis Strange, his reasoning seemed half plausible.

We can recall numerous accounts of questionable behavior on tour from Rory McIlroy throwing a club into a lake after a bad shot, to Arnold Palmer, one of my boyhood idols, sending a putter into orbit after a three-putt (saw this in person at the Kemper Open), to Tiger Woods exhibiting less than stellar behavior with his temper tantrums and bad language, to just about everything John Daly has ever done including playing a moving ball in the 1999 U.S. Open.

These folks are human and are not perfect, and are under a constant microscope.  But the behavior of professional golfers in general has been excellent.  When I see one of these events, it’s tempting to view it through the eyes of  “the children”.  What would “the children”, with young impressionable and malleable minds be thinking of this?  Doesn’t really matter because “the children’s” idols largely reside in team sports where players have far worse behavioral issues than professional golfers.

I view this behavior through the prism of the Jack Nicklaus Integrity Test.  What would Jack do?  I’m sure he’s had his incidents, but I’ve never seen or heard of an integrity problem with the greatest who’s ever played.  How would he have behaved in such a situation?  I believe Jack would have let the putt finish and played it as it lies.  Sometimes Jack weighs in on these matters, as he did with Rory’s behavior.  Would love to hear his take.

I’m a huge Phil fan, but he was wrong to do this.  What really bugged me in his explanation that he’d been “thinking of doing this several times before.”  Really?  This time Phil outsmarted himself.  What do you think?

Forecast – 2018 U.S. Open Championship

Shinnecock Hills.  Photo from triblive.com

Historically, the U.S. Open has been the hardest of the four majors to win.  The USGA has setup their venues to require great thinking, punishing rough, and lightning fast greens.  It is the ultimate test in golf.  The first US Open I recall watching was Jerry Pate’s victory in 1976 at the Atlanta Athletic Club, and every year I’ve looked forward to the penal nature of the competition and how it differs from the weekly birdie-fest on the PGA Tour.  The last two years have been a major buzzkill with the ridiculous assault on double-digit under par at Erin Hills and the carnival bounces at Chambers Bay (2016).  I’m looking for full redemption this year.  Shinnecock Hills has been lengthened by 450 yards, the rough has been grown out, and there’s nary a tree in sight to protect the golfers from the winds that are sure to blow from the Atlantic Ocean and Shinnecock Bay.  The course is a national treasure and will not disappoint.

Who’s going to win?  Beats me.  But since I’m in the recreational handicapping business, let’s give it a go.  Picking from this field is a big problem, but a good problem.  As in this year’s Masters, the best and deepest pool of championship caliber golfers ever are competing.  Of course the U.S. Open field is nearly twice the size of The Masters, making prognostication all that more difficult.  Plus, half the Masters field is past champions with no chance.  Here, qualifying is the ultimate merit based system.

I’m sensing this will be a ball striking contest.  Essentially, who can drive it the best and manage the wind.  Rory’s game is suited for links style golf and he’s a great driver of the golf ball.  But he choked in round four of The Masters and I don’t think he’s hitting on all eight cylinders.  Can’t win the U.S. Open with a four-cylinder engine.  Jason Day is in good form and another great driver, but flights it too high.  Jordan Spieth is the best major player in the field.  Best mind in the game, but not the best driver (not even close).  However, Spieth is always contending in every major and will be a factor.  I loved the way Rickie Fowler finished at The Masters.  Seems like he’s getting over his Sunday foibles, and he will be in the mix here.  Of all the awesomely talented players, who’s the best when playing at his best?  Dustin Johnson.  It looks like he’s gaining that extra gear again and will be in the thick of the battle.  Tiger is a lot of folk’s sexy pick, but Shinnecock accentuates his weakness: driving it consistently.  Not his week.  Nobody believes in Bryson Dechambeau except himself – and now me.  As weird as his theories are, they work.  This guy is more science than art, but is becoming scary good.  Finally, the sneaky good fit for this venue is Tommy Fleetwood.  Love his ball flight and familiarity and comfort with links golf.

So who takes it?  The All About Golf Kiss Of Death goes to the best player in the world in the toughest tournament:  DJ.  Spieth is runner up, and Fowler takes third.  Enjoy the action and happy early Father’s Day!

Your 2018 US Open Champion

2018 Masters Picks

photo from golfweek.com

As of this writing, Tiger Woods is leading the odds at 9:1 to win The Masters.  Can the four-time champion and greatest player of our generation take the green jacket?  You bet he can. All the big names are competing, everyone is healthy, most are in good form, it should be awesome.  Let’s look at Tiger and the rest of the principals to pick a winner.

Tiger.  I have loved watching his resurgence and two recent top-5 finishes.  His presence at Augusta and good form make for the juiciest pre-tournament hype.  He is great for golf and for The Masters. The gleam is back in his eye.  You saw it at Honda, Valspar, and Bay Hill.  You know the one where he squints, slightly fatigued from his powers of universal concentration.  It comes out when he gets in the hunt and he’s so close, but his driving is a bit too suspect and he’s been getting by with those stingers that keep the ball in play.  They worked at the earlier venues and are great for the US Open and PLAYERS but you gotta have the big stick at Augusta.  Prediction:  Top 10.

Phil Mickelson.  Awesome February run of top-10 finishes culminating with a win at WGC Mexico.  Is this really happening at 47 years old?  He’s playing this week in Houston but disregard any results because he’s just staying sharp.  Phil always plays Houston before The Masters as a ritual.  I’ll play the odds here and say Phil is on the wrong side of 46 to win another major, but he contends.  Prediction:  Top 10.

Last year’s champion, Sergio Garcia.  As soon as I see a guy going to the claw grip, I think “putting problems – no chance at The Masters.”  Sergio put that to rest in 2017 and brings all the other claw guys like Phil and Justin Rose into play.  I’ve never liked Garcia in this tournament because of his issues on the greens and my gut is telling me there’s a market correction coming.  Prediction:  No repeat but a top-20 finish.

Dustin Johnson.  We were denied a look at the world’s #1 last year because of a butt-busting slide down the stairs in his rental home.  He’s here, he’s healthy, but he’s in mediocre form.  I was surprised how poorly he played in the Dell Match Play and don’t know why.  I’m assuming he can right the ship and get motivated, although you can never read his desire level.  Prediction:  3rd place.

Rory McIlroy.  Awesome display of power and finesse at Bay Hill.  Has he really found it or is it another Rory streak.  When he’s on, his birdie binges are incredible to watch.  This week, he cools off a bit and plays on the fringes of contention.  Prediction:  Top 20.

Jordan Spieth.  Been in particularly bad form lately but has caught fire through two rounds at Houston.  Spieth can grab a minor tweak and leverage that better and faster than anyone.  Greatest mind in the game among the young players.  When his putter is on, always a threat to win.  Prediction:  Top 10.

Justin Thomas.  Cocky, powerful, streaky, pouty at times.  The Masters requires an even keel more than any other tournament.  When Phil learned to play with steadiness, he started winning green jackets.  Thomas still needs some seasoning.  Prediction:  Makes the cut but not much else.

Paul Casey.  What’s he doing in this list?  He’s got a couple recent top-10s in The Masters, plays a nice right-to-left ball flight, is plenty long, has his putting woes straightened out, and has his mind settled.  Love the combo and this horse for this course.  Prediction:  2nd place.

Justin Rose.  Last year’s runner up.  He’s hungry, is in top form, contends every week, is ready and will not be denied.  He is your 2018 Masters champion.

Who do you like?

photo from skysports.com

Genuflecting In The Temple of Tiger (Four Truths)

Photo of Tiger at Valspar from Golf Digest

Before the believers and the doubters (myself included) overreact to what went down at Valspar, let’s take an objective look at the infallible truths about Tiger’s comeback.

Truth #1:  The smartest thing he did was fire Sean Foley.  Tiger had gone from artist to scientist under Foley’s tutelage and it was just painfully awful watching Tiger twist himself into the proverbial swing pretzel Foley was trying to create.  Tiger is now un-coached.  See any of that at Honda or Valspar?  Nope.  Vision, feel, and imagination are back; watch out!

Truth #2:  Tiger has changed his swing because of his spinal fusion repair and it’s working.  There’s less rotational movement, less torque, a more upright finish, and it’s producing plenty of length.  However, Tiger’s weak point is his surgically repaired legs.  The foundation has crumbled before on several occasions.  Is his lower body strong or a peanut brittle bar ready to snap at any moment?

Truth #3:  Tiger is smart, knows how to compete, and wants to win so badly he’ll do anything it takes, including abandoning equipment that he was previously wedded to.  Also see Truth #1.

Truth #4:  Tiger’s comeback has been brilliant but I still need to see him compete on a course that demands you hit driver consistently.  Genesis at Riviera requires superior driving and he struck it poorly.  He played brilliantly off the tee at Valspar, frequently controlling distance, direction, and trajectory with long iron stingers, but the way you conquer Augusta is to bomb it on the 4s and 5s and get wedges in from the fairways.  Can he win The Masters without consistent performance from the big dog?

I wouldn’t be surprised if he won at Bay Hill this week but The Masters is the 800 pound gorilla in the corner of the room.  You, I, and everyone else are thinking the same thing.  Can he do it?  Well, can he?  Thoughts?

 

Is Tanking Permissible In Golf?

Tiger from nydailynews.com

Unless you live on Pluto, you can’t help but notice the recent trend of professional sports franchises “tanking” one or more consecutive seasons to improve the future prospects for their organization.  Specifically, tanking refers to the deliberate and knowing attempt to lose games or have poor seasons and lower your team’s position in the standings and thereby garner higher draft picks.  It’s commonplace in the four major sports and was most recently on display with the outhouse to penthouse success stories of the 2016 Chicago Cubs and 2017 Houston Astros.   Recently, Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks, was fined $600K for outwardly proposing to his team that they tank games.  Tanking is something you do, but it’s bad form to discuss it.  Personally, I find the practice disturbing.  As a fan, and a paying customer, I’m always looking for my teams to put their best product on the field at all times.

Would tanking be permissible in golf?  Does it happen in unbeknownst ways?  What I love about professional golf is the pure meritocracy.  Nobody better exemplifies this than the greatest player in the 21st century, Tiger Woods.  Whenever asked about his goal for the week or tournament, Tiger responds with the same answer; “Win the tournament.”  I have no doubt given Tiger’s history, he may set winning as a goal every time out, but does he really believe it?  I don’t think so.  Give his recent bout with injuries, he may not think he can win, but that doesn’t mean he’s tanking.  On a few rare occasions, Tiger appears to go through the motions when he’s not playing well, but he’s still trying. He just may not be there mentally.  It’s happened to everyone who’s played the game and is not tanking.

Tanking in golf would be extremely hard because each player is an individual competitor.  You’d have very little to gain and you can’t control the actions of other players.  The most remote example I could conjure up would be a player holding down the final Ryder Cup position on either the US or European team.  If that player wasn’t playing well, and wasn’t injured, they would be expected to play for the team if they secured a spot.  What if that player “took one for the team” and deliberately played poorly enough in the final qualifying events to allow another player to overcome them in the standings.  Would this be a tank?  What would your opinion be of this practice?  I’m a little mixed on this.

For a great article on tanking, check out Dave Sheinin’s piece in the Washington Post.

Play well and no tanking!

What Motivates You to Pursue Excellence?

Photo of the author on the range working with the driver.
Photo of the author on the range working with the driver.

What gets you up in the morning to go work on your golf game?

As human beings, we are motivated either one of two ways; extrinsically (pursuit of money, titles, things, etc.),  or intrinsically (praise for a job well done, solving a tough problem, or the self satisfaction of simply improving at something).  Don’t say “both” because you favor one or the other.  Which is it?

I returned from a session at the driving range today, where I was practicing something new, and started wondering why I keep working at this crazy game.  I see bits of improvement here and there but basically maintain the same level of competence from year to year.  What’s my motivation?  I realized that the simple pursuit of improvement (the journey) was providing me the greatest amount of satisfaction.  It keeps me going and definitely puts me in the intrinsic camp.

I like where I’m sitting after reading Mark Manson’s new article, “The Disease of More” where he details the travails of the 1980 Los Angeles Lakers and of folks in general who experience success too fast.  The “Disease”was originally coined by Pat Riley (Lakers coach) who portended that championship teams are often dethroned not by other better teams but by forces that demotivate within their own organization.  The Lakers reached the pinnacle and weren’t content to be a great basketball team.  They lost their motivation by pursuing more money, cars, women, endorsements, and other objects outside of basketball, which ultimately led to their downfall.  Sound like someone we know in the golf world?

From espn.com
From espn.com

I would love to get inside the head of two individuals and understand their motivation.  The first is Nick Saban, head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team.  Nick has the titles, he has the dollars, he has the legacy, but I hear him speak often in very process oriented terms.  He sometimes seems joyless in victory because his teams failed to execute on some fine detail of his game plan.  Is it possible he is totally intrinsically motivated in his pursuit of perfection, and views all the victories and championships as a simple extrinsic reward that comes naturally with success, but doesn’t particularly excite him?

The second is Bill Belichick, Patriots head coach.  We are all fascinated by his level of achievement and the secrecy that surrounds his thinking and operation.  Does he want to stick it to the world?  Become the greatest coach of all time?  Or does he just enjoy the grind of a head-to-head match-up across the field from a peer on a weekly basis?  What goes on behind those beady eyes and under that hood?  A lot of good secrets for sure.  If he ever writes a book, I’ll be first in line.

photo from durangoherald.com
photo from durangoherald.com

As a full time desk jockey and a part time golfer, I’m thankful for my intrinsic tendencies and my ability to hold the line on the quality of my game.  For me, the joy is in the never ending journey.  What about you?  Play well!

Does Tiger Deserve to keep Playing?

TigerIn 2011, Peyton Manning underwent surgery for a pinched nerve in his neck and missed the entire NFL season.  Many questioned his ability to continue his career.  The Denver Broncos took a chance on him and two years later, at 37, he threw a NFL record 55 touchdown passes.  Two years after that, he threw nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions, and despite winning the Super Bowl, had clearly lost the physical ability to compete.  He rode off into the sunset and now drinks Budweiser and happily pitches Papa Johns pizza.

photo from Getty
photo from Getty

Tiger Woods is one year older than Manning, and their professional careers came of age in roughly the same time period (1997-1998).  Woods is now 41.  Plagued by injuries and psychological foibles he fell from 2nd to 218th in the FedEx standings in 2014 and has done nothing since, except fill his fans with false hope.  Why he continues to play is anyone’s guess, but does he deserve to continue?

If Tiger was in Manning’s shoes, he’d be out.  We often think of golf as the ultimate meritocracy sport but is it?  The answer is still “Yes.”  Tiger earned his place in any field he wants to play in, just as any player with 20 career wins and an active 15-year Tour membership can claim.  Tiger actually still qualifies from his PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP victory in the last five years, but soon he’ll be on the 15-20 list.  Ever wonder why Tom Watson, at 67, occasionally shows up in a PGA Tour event?  He’s on the same exemption list.  Vijay Singh too.  Go here to check out the players that are exempt.  It’s updated daily.

Like it or not, successful PGA Tour events are staged when the tournament sponsor makes money.  Sponsors need those big names to draw crowds and television viewers.  That’s why they are granted exemptions for tournament entrants.  If Tiger is in the field and hacking, people are still watching.  So if better players are shut out of the field, so be it.  The difference is in football, you have a contract, you’re on a team, and you get paid.  If you can no longer perform, you get no contract and are finished.  In golf, you still have a chance.

As long as the current PGA Tour revenue model remains the same, we need that 15-20 exemption list and sponsor’s exemptions to drive attendance and positive viewership.  Guys like David Duval (45) hung on much longer than Tiger.  Duval did absolutely nothing for an entire decade.  Other guys like Ian Baker-Finch knew when they lost it and quit fast.  Tiger Woods should continue to play as long as he likes.  It might get ugly, but shoot, I’ll still be watching.  How about you; think we are good or do we need a change to the exemption rules?

Confident vs. Cocky

tiger-confident-and-cockyWhich camp do you fall in?  When you play your best on the golf course how do you feel, confident or cocky?  Try to align yourself with one of today’s top professionals.  Jason Day is confident.  Henrik Stenson is confident.  Dustin Johnson is surprisingly confident and a little bit humble.  Just look at Rory McIlroy’s gait when he is winning.  Tremendously cocky.  Jordan Speith has transitioned from a cocky youth to confident consummate professional.  When he was at his peak, Tiger Woods was the most cocky AND confident player on the planet.  Now he exhibits neither, which is why I’m skeptical of his comeback attempt.  Phil Mickelson, the ultimate showman, is both.  Bottom line:  To play effectively, you need one or the other.

WARNING ALARM!  I hope this isn’t you.  The last time I played my best, I was neither confident nor cocky but rather surprised.  This is not a good state to be in.  It was probably due to my lower level of preparation and infrequent play.  However, five years ago, I was in an excellent hot streak and exhibited a high level of confidence.  When I play and practice a lot, my confidence rises.  Normally, I’m a 95% confident type, but when the 5% cocky appears, I’ll try some boneheaded shot that I haven’t practiced, which leads to a triple bogey.  Have any of you confident types experienced this?

Our personality leads us to either a confident or cocky on-course persona and it’s best to play to your personality.  Unless your on-course behavior is horrible, when we deviate from our personality is when we screw up.  If you are a gregarious show-off, normally you’ll fall in the cocky camp and need to play as such to be comfortable, but if you’re a more quiet unassuming strategist, you’ll play as a confident type.  This is why it took Phil Mickelson so long to adjust his on course behavior away from taking unnecessary risks that cost him several major championships.  He’s still cocky at heart but has learned to become more of a tactician that always plays with a game plan.   I think fans still love when “Phil The Thrill” comes out, but watch him in the majors and especially at The Masters.  He’ll come out with a confident game plan and rarely deviates.

To be successful, you need one or the other.  To find yours, think back when you were in competition and playing your best (and your worst).  What did you have and what were you missing?  As mentioned earlier, at my best I was supremely confident.  At my worst I had nothing and was completely intimidated.

Confident vs. cocky; what works for you?  Shoot me a comment with your type and a story if you’ve got one.  Play well!

You Can Play Well Without Practice!

This fall, I’ve barely scraped out enough time for a once-per-week round of golf, and have not been practicing much between rounds but have been scoring pretty well.  Can you play effectively without practicing?  The answer is “yes” but it requires a mental adjustment, which we’ll go into shortly.

Before you remove practice, it’s best to understand what you need from it.  I score best when my play is preceded by full game practice.  That means range plus short game the day before a round.  Over the years, I’ve compiled notes for my practice sessions, whether it be ball striking, chipping, putting, or bunker play, and I’ll typically review those to identify what I practiced before successful and unsuccessful rounds of golf.  My data shows I practice short game 70% of the time.  For me, the quality of practice the day before is a good indicator of the score I can expect the next day.  If I struggle to concentrate during practice, or cannot make good contact, it’s inevitably followed by a poor round.  But if I’m focused like a laser, good things are going to happen.  Other folks hit buckets of pure shots in practice but can’t take it from the range to the course, or vise versa.  You need to know your trends and what to compensate for.

So what adjustments can every player make?  First, know that your short game is probably going to be affected the most by lack of practice.  A full swing is an athletic motion that gets repeated dozens of times during a round and with the reps comes consistency.  This is why our first round of the year is often a good ball striking round, but our chipping and putting are usually rusty.  Short shots are unique and require practice.  The subtle adjustments for distance, lie, and the speed of the putting surface demand it.  This brings us to our primary adjustment.  The key to playing without practice is to remove reliance on too much short game by taking a more conservative ball striking approach, i.e. keep the ball out of trouble.  It sounds simple, but it works!  Resist the temptation to go for the big hit, which may mean using a 3-wood instead of driver on some tee shots.  Also try to take more of the fairway on doglegs.  Course architects will tempt you to cut dogleg corners to save distance.  Don’t bite.  When playing in windy or rainy conditions, adjust your personal par to compensate for the increased difficulty and give yourself a mental break.  It’s much easier to play a long par-4 like a short par-5 from the fairway, than constantly pressing to recover from trouble off the tee.  This game is exponentially easier played from the short grass so make it easy on yourself.  Remember Tiger’s 81 in the harsh conditions of the 2002 Open Championship?  You’re not playing for a major; don’t be like Tiger.  tiger-woods-2002-open-ian-hodgson_640

I played yesterday in very heavy wind which was extremely difficult and added five shots to the par-71 scorecard before I started.  I played great and my 81 was only five strokes over my personal par which felt very satisfying.

So there you have it.  Exercise some sound course management, keep the ball in play, and enjoy!

Have you had any success playing without practice or do you got to have your reps?  Please share and play well!

Steve Williams, Out Of The Rough – Book Review

Steve Williams

Steve Williams’ account of life on tour in Out Of The Rough (2015), is a fascinating look inside the experiences of the world’s most successful caddie.  Williams covers his career starting as a youth who got a very early start in the game, and was encouraged by his father to get involved at the expense of finishing school (which he never did).  Throughout the book he returns to this theme and wishes that he’d completed his education, but is thankful that his Dad looked the other way.

Williams’ list of high profile bosses is impressive.  He was on the bag for 150 wins world wide and carried for the likes of Greg Norman (who he classifies as the toughest player he ever worked for), Ray Floyd, Ian Baker-Finch, Tiger Woods, and Adam Scott.  Williams provides many inside the ropes anecdotes, as well as passages from the aforementioned players that detail his contributions to their careers.

Most golf fans got their introduction to Williams as Tiger Woods’ caddie during the 13 years of Tiger’s pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ majors record.  What we learned is that Williams took on and ultimately mirrored Tiger’s psychic mentality and single mindedness during the chase, and he gives the reader the impression that he almost felt dual ownership of the successes and failures with Tiger, even though Woods was ultimately the one hitting the shots.  Williams is a perfectionist and readily admits that some of the boorish behavior TV fans have become familiar with was born out of this single-mindedness attitude but also due to his natural personality.  Williams has always been very business like on the course and protective of his players which has gotten him into trouble.  Like the time he took a camera off a spectator at the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black and threw it in a lake.  Tiger appreciated Williams’ support and picked up the cost of his fine.

Williams notes that he maintains an active friendship with all his ex-bosses except for one; Tiger.  After their falling out at the AT&T National in 2011 the two have rarely spoken and Williams holds a lot of bitterness towards Tiger that he can’t let go of.

Williams details a few regrets.  There’s some poor advice he gave to Norman and Ray Floyd that may have cost them major titles, as well as the interview he gave after the 2011 WGC Bridgestone, after Tiger had sacked him and Adam Scott won with Williams on the bag.   The book also has several excellent passages between Williams and his ex-bosses, like the time Greg Norman confided in him during an all night beer drinking therapy session on the beach after blowing the 1996 Masters to Nick Faldo.  The details around the extraordinary effort by Tiger to win the 2008 U.S. Open on a broken leg were fascinating.

Williams ultimately obtained celebrity status and in the book he sometimes makes this more about himself than the professionals he worked for, but at the end of the day, most of his good fortune was due to being on the bag of Tiger.

Check this book out.  It’s fresh, it’s current, and there’s good content for golf fans at every level.

PGA Major Meltdown!

TigerWinsQuick question:  What’s the measure of greatness in professional golf?  Short answer:  The number of major victories one has accumulated.  We don’t consider money rankings, driving distance, Vardon Trophy (scoring average), or even FedEx Cup championships.  The sole measure of historical excellence is how many Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA Championship victories one has.  This is not dissimilar to the NFL where Super Bowl titles are the standard, or Major League Baseball where World Series victories are king.  Tennis, the other major individual sport, measures its greats by number of Grand Slam titles won.

So why is the PGA Tour compromising the integrity of the major championships with it’s insane scheduling in 2016?  Take a look at the backside of the 2016 PGA Tour schedule and you’ll notice for the first time The Open Championship and PGA Championship are being contested only 11 days apart!  This is simply not enough time for the world’s best to recover physically and mentally, make the journey back across the Atlantic, and for excitement to rebuild in the fan base for the final major.  In a normal year, each event is generally spaced one month apart, with the exception being the two months between golf’s Masters and U.S. Open.

At first glance I attributed this to the presence of the 2016 Olympic golf event which is scheduled for August 11-14 and happens to fall right smack on the PGA Championship’s traditional window (one month from The Open).  But Olympic Golf is not the growth panacea everyone thought it was and The PGA Tour knows it.  At best it’s an inconsequential event with an unfair qualification process (only four players per country are allowed to participate eliminating many of the world’s best).  At worst, it’s a classic example of exceeding the economic law of diminishing returns with too much golf on TV.  I think after a couple tries, it probably will join baseball on the list of dropped Olympic sports.  Think otherwise?  Think Olympic golf will command the TV stage?  Think again.  The suits at PGA headquarters have scheduled the John Deere Classic to be contested simultaneously with the Olympic tournament.  And the USGA put the U.S. Senior Open in the same time slot as well.  When baseball was last played in the Olympics in 2008, Major League Baseball played right through the window and didn’t even give the Olympic tournament a sniff of concern.  I’m hoping golf plays out in a similar fashion.

Olympic golf feels like an attempt to force growth in an incorrect way.  The recent golf market contraction is due to the receding Tiger Woods wave.  As Tiger plays less, fewer folks tune in.  It’s a natural phenomenon that can’t be fought.  But cheapening the integrity around the existing major championships is absolutely the wrong approach and needs to be fixed.  The tour has the ability to shift schedules around and should flip-flop The PGA Championship with The Wyndham Championship, and move the former into the August 18-21 window.

On a global scale, the good news is that golf has a chance of re-entering a golden age with a core of young superstars take the sport by storm.  To allow natural rivalries to form between Jordan, Rory, Jason, and Rikie, the PGA needs to ensure the integrity of its competitions is on the highest level.  It should start with an adjustment to the 2016 schedule.

What do you think they should do?

2015 Season Wrap Up

WrapAlas, it’s supposed to be 72 degrees the day after Christmas in the DMV and no doubt the season could be extended another week, but I’ll be in New England for the holidays.  Let’s call it a wrap on the 2015 golf season and analyze performance.

Usually, not much changes with my game from year to year but 2015 had a notable exception.  This was the year where I made great strides on the greens.  Late in 2014 I had made a change to my pre-shot putting routine that allowed for better speed judgment.  I leveraged that into nearly a full stroke less in putts per round.  The benefit was fully reflected in a lower scoring average and better relation to par stats.  The discovery was exciting and I’ll continue with this in 2016.

My ball striking with the driver also improved as I worked to simplify my mechanics by focusing on making a full shoulder turn.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t parlay better driving into more GIRs and the stats were virtually identical to the previous year.  In fact, every year I’m somewhere between eight and nine greens per round and can’t seem to get over that hump.  No doubt ingrained swing habits and my reluctance to try wholesale changes are playing a part, and while I’d like to ultimately get to an average of 10 GIRs, that’s a stretch goal.

The bad news was short game.  I wasn’t a basket case like Tiger before The Masters, but struggled mentally all year, and played defensively from the fringe and primary rough. TigerChunk Oddly, my sand game was good since I made a technique change early in the season, but I’ve committed to taking short game lessons in the spring to refresh my approach.

On a positive note, last Saturday I spent a couple of hours at the short game area trying to work the problem and think I may have stumbled into an “ah-ha” moment.  It’s been my hypothesis all along that I have the shots but just cannot decide what to execute and then cannot perform them for whatever reason.  In addition to playing defensively, I feel defensive when thinking of what shot to play.  So I stopped and thought about the problem and realized for the first time that my short game pre-shot routine was different from my full swing pre-shot routine.  I can’t believe that it had not occurred to me in all this time, but I started to use my full swing routine around the green and the simplicity and clarity provided immediate positive feedback.  Then I made a minor mechanical change and stood a little closer to the ball for all shots (picture Raymond Floyd) and voila!  Contact and confidence were back.

I was excited to battle test these changes the next day and went out for my final round of the year in a great mental state.  As is sometimes the case, the confidence yielded a very good ball striking day and a round of 3-over par.  I drove the ball better than I had all year and hit 12 greens.  Five of the six misses were on the fringe and every one was close enough to putt, so I never got to try out my new technique, but the change has left me with a positive mindset going into the off season.  I will set up my driving mat on the patio in the winter and will work on some light chipping technique as well as the pre-shot routine to get ready for 2016.

How did you evaluate your performance this year?  Here’s my final metrics from this year vs. last.

 Year Score To Par GIR Putts
 2015 78.83 7.40 8.54 31.26
 2014 79.97 8.47 8.47 32.25

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015 British Open Picks

Boy what I would give for a ticket to this year’s British Open Championship at St. Andrews.  The story lines are compelling, especially Jordan Spieth’s attempt to win the third leg of the Grand Slam.  Early odds have him as an overwhelming favorite now that his main competition, Rory McIlroy is injured.  The board (sans McIlroy) looks eerily similar to the pre-tournament  betting at the U.S. Open.  Spieth is the heavy favorite, and way ahead of Dustin Johnson, who’s at 12:1.  Again, these are not the actual win probabilities, but how the public has elected to wager their money.  Let’s sift through the data and get a smart pick for those who failed to cash in on Spieth at Chambers Bay.

St Andrews from telegraph.co.uk
St Andrews
from telegraph.co.uk

The principals:

Think Jordan Spieth needs more seasoning to win The Open?  This guy handles pressure better than anyone on the planet.  He putts better than anyone on the planet, and has more guts than anyone on the planet.  I’m pulling very hard for him this week but don’t think he closes the deal.  Why?  The Open, more than any other major, is susceptible to the come out of nowhere winners like Darren Clarke, Tod Hamilton, and Ben Curtis.  Also, some ageless contender like Tom Watson or Greg Norman (in their 50s) seems to make a serious run.  It’s clear, the slower greens are the equalizer and don’t require as much nerve to putt, which negates Spieth’s advantage.  I also don’t like that he’s playing John Deere in-lieu of the Scottish Open.  He should have made the trip early to get acclimated.  Make no mistake, he deserves the short odds and is playing the best in the world right now.  I’m hopeful he gets it done but just don’t see it.

Rory McIlroy;  very unfortunate timing on the ankle injury and will not play.  Last time out at St. Andrews, Rory finished 3rd in The Open, eight shots behind in the route perpetuated by Louis Oosthuizen.    Oosthuizen has a beautiful swing but only seems to be in contention in every third or fourth tournament.  Not this week.

Excellent value play is Adam Scott.  Scott has gone back to the long putter, had a solid U.S. Open, shooting 64 in the final round, and seems to have shaken off his early season doldrums by resigning Stevie Williams on the bag.  Williams was with Tiger Woods for both his Open Championship victories at St. Andrews which is a significant intangible.  The stars are aligned, and at 20:1 odds the smart money is backing the Aussie.

What to do with Dustin Johnson.  If anyone can forget the debacle at Chambers Bay it’s D.J.  Nothing seems to phase him, but that three-putt was a bad choke; worse than the grounded club debacle at Whistling Straits in the PGA.  Can he overcome?  He’ll either contend or totally collapse.  I think he contends and puts up a good fight.  If D.J. is going to win a major, it will be The Open on the slower greens.  I’m not feeling the closing power this week, though.

Sneaky long shot is Retief Goosen.  You can get him at 250:1 to win and I don’t see a victory in his future but would not rule out a top 10.  Goose is the perfect horse for this course despite his inconsistent play of late.

Interesting side note:  I’m watching Phil and Tiger head-to-head this week.  They’re both in the 25-30:1 range but trending in opposite directions, Phil is at the age where majors rarely are won.  He still has game but doesn’t seem to put four consecutive rounds together any more.  Tiger had a decent showing at Greenbriar in some very soft conditions.  Links golf with it’s precision ball placement off the tee doesn’t suit Tiger’s rebuild project.  If the wind gets up, it could get ugly.  I’m thinking Lefty takes him down.

So here we go, call your bookmaker.

Claret Jug winner:  Adam Scott

Runner Up:  Jordan Spieth

Third:  Dustin Johnson

Who are your picks at St. Andrews?

Adam Scott from bbc.co.uk
Adam Scott
from bbc.co.uk

 

 

How Tiger’s Masters Helped My Golf Game

The most awesome thing about golf is that it’s the one sport where amateurs can relate to issues their favorite touring pros are suffering from.  Despite the difference in skill level, it’s possible, on occasion, to achieve greatness at the same level as the best players in the world.  For example, a middle-aged round belly like me has no idea what it’s like to try to hit a 95 mph fast ball 400 feet over a wall.  I’ll never know, but I could conceivably birdie the toughest golf hole on a tour track with a couple purely struck shots and a little luck.

from thesun.co.uk
from thesun.co.uk

So, this past week, I eagerly anticipated the return of Tiger Woods to active competition, and was paying particular attention to Tiger’s chipping since both he and I have been suffering from the chip yips for a protracted period.  I’m sure my problems were much worse, but his were more magnified.  Either way, I was paying close attention to see how he handled himself under the pressure of a major.  I heard all the pre-tournament talk from Tiger about how he, “worked his ass off,” during his long layoff, but the true nugget was when I learned he changed out all his wedges.  Ever since I changed my wedges out a couple years ago, I’ve struggled greenside with my chips and pitches using my 58.  The bladed low ball has become an unwanted playing partner and the longer it stayed, the more it started to infect my thinking and other parts of my short game.

Fast forward to Masters Thursday and I was at Whispering Pines in Myrtle Beach practicing for my Friday round at Myrtle Beach National.  The blade ball had reared it’s ugly head again and I was starting to panic with the prospect of hitting low screamers from tight Bermuda lies.  Then I remembered Tiger changing out his wedges and figured what the heck.  I started hitting the same shots with my 54 instead of the 58.  Bingo!  All touch and feel returned, as did the nice little “thump” you get from a purely struck short shot off a tight lie.  After a few adjustments for the lower loft, I was making clean contact every time and getting them close.  I was thinking the blade ball was being caused by too much bounce on the flange of the 58, but still wasn’t sure.

The next day, during my pre-round warm up, I chipped with the 54 and actually made a couple.  Then I went out and shot a tidy little 2-over 74 which was unexpected, but felt natural with the returned boost in confidence.  If you don’t think a little confidence in one small area can take your game a long way, you are highly mistaken!  I didn’t hit the ball that great, but was relaxed and got it up and down out of some trash can lies.

I used to play these shots with a 56, then moved to the 58 with the new clubs, and now it’s down to a 54.  So what’s four degrees of loft here or there?  Has this ever happened to you?  Please share if you have a similar experience.

Thanks Tiger!

 

Why Some Players Don’t Win Majors

photo by dailymail.co.uk
photo by dailymail.co.uk

The Masters is almost here and the non-major winners will be under the microscope again.  Why don’t they win?  Why do some players like John Daly win multiple majors when stellar career guys like Steve Stricker don’t?  How do guys like Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen (one tour win each) manage to make their only tour victory a major?  Of the guys that win, some overcome physical shortcomings, some overcome mental issues, but rarely will someone conquer both.  To be successful, they must have three characteristics:

 

 

Total commitment

-Belief in self

-Ability to avoid distractions for 72 holes

Of the players that win majors, you’ll always find two of the three on any given week, but the guys who lose have a major deficit in at least one. Of the winners, John Daly is the most fascinating and is the least likely multiple major winner in the history of the game.  With the charges of domestic violence, substance abuse, busting up hotel rooms, etc, Daly suffered from the most distractions, but his belief in self and ability to concentrate for the full 72 holes allowed him to prevail in the 1991 PGA and 1995 Open Championship.   Vijay Singh overcame poor putting for his entire career, but his commitment to excellence and belief in self were tremendous, and he won three majors.  Nick Faldo had just nine tour wins but six were majors.  Nick was supreme in all three facets.   Tiger Woods also excelled in each but when the distractions started, so did the current train wreck.

John Daly with the Claret Jug. photo by golfweek.com
John Daly with the Claret Jug.
photo by golfweek.com

Of the primary non-winners with double digit career victories (age/PGA Tour wins) let’s look at why they failed:

  • Steve Stricker (48/12): Lack of total commitment.  Total family man; nothing wrong with that, but 15 tournaments per year was a full schedule.  Sometimes didn’t travel to The Open when eligible to play.
  • Bruce Lietzke (63/13): Lack of total commitment.  Would rather be fishing.  Very similar to Stricker.
  • Kenny Perry (54/14):  Belief in self.  Came close at The Masters but didn’t believe he could win it at the end and choked.  Very humble, almost to a fault.  No killer attitude and has never believed he was a great player.

On the current list of Best Player to Never Win a Major, who’s got what it takes?  Let’s look at three:  Matt Kuchar (36/7); (Dustin Johnson (30/9); Sergio Garcia (35/8).

Matt Kuchar Best finish was T-3 at the 2012 Masters.  Has the belief in his abilities and is a relentless competitor.  Seems to stay in the moment and has an excellent short game.  Tough to judge his level of commitment.  I’m not wild about his recent swing changes with his closed stance and over the top move.  Historically, not a good ball striker in terms of driving length, accuracy, and GIR which is probably what’s held him back.  Best chance to break through would be at The Masters.  I have him at 50-50 odds to get a major.

Dustin Johnson Best finish was T-2 at the 2011 Open Championship but best chance to win was at the 2010 PGA (T-5) where he was assessed a two-stroke penalty on the last hole and missed out on a playoff by two strokes.  Could have the most physical talent on tour.  Obviously distractions were a huge issue in the past.  I love the changes in his pre-shot routine, especially with the putter, and they’ve been on display in recent weeks.  Still has a weak short game that will hurt in tournaments with fast greens like Augusta and the U.S. Open.  Best chance to win is at The Open where his ability to bomb it and the slower greens work in his favor.  Too soon to tell if he’s past the mental foibles but looks good in the short term.  70% chance to win a major because he’s young and oozing talent.

Sergio Garcia:  Best finish was T-2 at the 1999 and 2008 PGA as well as T-2 at the 2007 and 2014 Open Championship.  Clearly the most disappointing of the three.   What’s held Sergio back has been issues with commitment, a bad attitude, and poor putting, especially towards the end of tournaments.  He’s been so close, but the combination of mental and physical shortcomings has derailed him.  With all the second place finishes and late round failures, his major career is slightly reminiscent of Greg Norman’s, except The Shark won his first major at the age of 31 . At 35,  Sergio has improved his putting over the last couple of seasons but still struggles with pressure late in rounds.  His proclivity to choke will get harder to overcome with age and despite all the close calls, I have him at less than 25% to win a major.  Best chance would be at The Open, with the slower greens and home field advantage.

Ricky Fowler and Jordan Spieth are in the next group but are too young to be dinged for not winning.  Both have the talent to prevail, but as we have seen recently, will need to overcome a huge obstacle (Mr. Rory McIlroy) to break through.

Do you think anyone has what it takes to break through in 2015?  Predictions?

 

 

Dangers of Copying a Pro’s Swing

Adam Scott at the top Photo at Youtube.com
Adam Scott at the top
Photo at Youtube.com

Here we are in the dead of winter and I am fighting the irresistible urge to tinker with my golf swing.  Last weekend, it was 60 degrees and I spent two hours on the range and had a real good opening session.  Probably too good, which is why I’m feeling greedy.  If you are like me, the reason we do this is because of the safety factor of winter.  You can make minor tweaks or wholesale changes during periods of inactivity without suffering the consequences of a slump-inducing fix.  I know it’s a bad idea and still do it.  Do you as well?

Two years ago, I became infatuated with Adam Scott’s golf swing and tried to impart his down the line setup and move through the ball.  I loved the way he kept his spine angle rock solid and the way he torqued against his very stable lower body, and modeled it for myself over the winter.  Problem is this 54-year old bag of bones has nothing in common with Adam Scott.  The wholesale changes fell apart with the first ball struck in anger.

The modern day swings of players like Scott, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, and Dustin Johnson, are all modeled off Tiger Woods and are not meant to be copied by desk jockeys.  Each has clearly spent many hours in the gym, and if you watch the follow through with their driver swings, each gets tremendous body rotation and the shaft points towards the target at finish.  Is the human back designed to undergo this much rotational stress over a protracted period?  I’m left to think that it’s not and players with a more upright swing like Phil Mickelson are doing their backs a favor.  Phil has his own physical issues, but I suspect lower back pain is not one of them.  Only one guy on the Senior Tour torques his body even close to these guys and that is Fred Couples.  Most others have more of a classic restricted finish and are still playing into their 50s.  Of course, Freddy’s back issues are well known and I can’t help but wonder, beautiful tempo aside, if the tremendous rotation he gets is responsible.

Adam Scott follow through Photo by ESPN
Adam Scott follow through
Photo by ESPN

So I smartly re-read the Grateful Golfer’s post on The Best Golf Swings Ever, where he reminded us that despite the number of writings and videos available on the swings of the greatest professionals of all time, the swing we should be working on is our own.  This is great advice and would add that you copy the visualization, pre-shot routines, and mental preparation of the top pros, but when it comes to swing mechanics, focus on improving your own technique.

So it’s off to go pump some 12 oz curls old style.  See you in the gym.

When Is It Time To Quit?

On a fall afternoon in 1973, I remember watching my home town Washington Redskins do battle with the San Diego Chargers.  I was only 12 years old at the time, but the image of Johnny Unitas, struggling to stay upright, and fully embarrassing himself at the helm of the Chargers offense will always be etched in my mind.  I was too young to remember Unitas in his glory years, but recall my father telling me how great he was as the leader of the Baltimore Colts.  I was a little sad, and was left to ponder why someone would extend their playing career past their ability to compete.  Thankfully he retired after that season.  Unitas was 40 years old.

For athletes who’ve competed from adolescence through the present day, the hardest thing for them in life is to know when to quit.  Usually the deterioration in capacity is gradual, with the mind remaining sharp as the physical skills slowly atrophy.  Derek Jeter comes to mind, with his retirement feeling timely and right.

Tiger Pulls out of Farmers Photo by ESPN
Tiger Pulls out of Farmers
Photo by ESPN

For the last two years, I’ve been watching the Tiger Woods saga and pontificating about his decline in performance and how his chances of catching Jack Nicklaus were nill, and how maintaining this charade of injury and comeback attempts was no longer continuing to the betterment of the professional game.  We all know that golf is a unique sport in which players can compete at the elite levels for longer because the physical demands are not the same as other professional sports.  However, Tiger’s performance at The Farmers was Johnny U.  He’s clearly done from a physical standpoint and should retire before the embarrassment gets worse.  We can hold on to the greatness of the Tiger memories, but too much time in the gym, too much Navy Seal training, and too much repetitive stress on his back and legs has taken its final toll.  I actually believe he is capable of recovering from his mental foibles, but his body is sending a clear message.  It is time.

Do we continue with the false hope that he’ll somehow recover the old magic, or is it time to take his seat in the booth next to Jim and Sir Nick?  How do you see it?

The U.S. Will Win The 2014 Ryder Cup!

2014 Ryder CupOkay, here me out before making my reservation for a suite at St. Elizabeth’s.  Right now the British bookmakers are sending the European Team off as an overwhelming 1:2 favorite in the 2014 Ryder Cup.  These are the same guys who had Tiger Woods at 16:1 for the 2014 Open Championship, and those were phony odds.  These are phony as well and are simply the reflection of the betting public’s irrational biases.

The miscalculation is being driven by the recent whippings administered by the Euros.  Since 1985 they are sporting a dominating 9-4-1 record but this year will be different.  A quick look at the data yields an interesting revelation.  The secret to Euro success has been their team approach to competition.  No individual is above the team.  They also enjoy terminal underdog status and have leveraged the American’s penchant for individual play over team.  Nobody epitomizes the “me first” mentality on the U.S. side more than Tiger Woods.    Is there a more narcissistic player on the planet?   The American’s have followed the lead of their best player and got caught up in the individual career achievement mentality, so much so that they struggle with the mindset of placing the team ahead of themselves.

Since 1985, the Euro’s hold a 58.5 to 53.5 advantage in points in foursomes (alternate shot) and a dominating 65.5 to 46.5 advantage in four balls – the two team formats.  Even as they have been dominated, the U.S. has still been able to maintain a slight edge in singles play (84.5 points to 83.5).  It’s clear they prefer singles to team.  With Woods off the U.S. team the mindset will change.  Forget about the big names on the Euro side, or lack of on the U.S.  I can’t wait to see who the U.S. version of Ian Poulter is and I don’t think the Euro’s are comfortable in the role of overwhelming favorite.  The huge underdog U.S. squad will get it done.

Throwing Tiger under the bus one more time, I’ll make my Final prediction:  U.S. 14 1/2 – Europe 13 1/2.

How do you think this plays out?