The Pros


Who has three green jackets, a winning smile, and one big thumb? This guy. (Image: debby19/Flickr)

Let’s hop right to it. The 2010 Masters was unforgettable. Here are few thoughts about some of the bigger names:

Phil Mickelson: I like Phil. I’m not as big a Mickelson fan as most golfers, but I generally like him. With the struggles with breast cancer his wife, Amy, has faced in the last year, it was hard not to cheer for Mickelson down the stretch. It seems like just a few years ago when we were wondering if Phil could ever win the big one. On Sunday, he won his third green jacket and fourth major title. If he never does anything else (unlikely), the guy will go down as one of the greatest.

Tiger Woods: I say this in the loosest of terms: Tiger’s game reminded me a bit of anyone who has taken a bit of time off from playing. After a few months off, I’m just as likely to make a birdie as I am a double bogey. Did you see the pop up shots? Wow. After all that, though, he finishes in 4th place. Pretty amazing. I love his post-round answer to the question, “Did you expect to win?”–to which he replied, “Well, I entered the tournament.” It will be interesting to see when Woods plays next and if his extended time off will continue to affect his play. I think he’ll be back for The Players next month.

Fred Couples: What did I tell you? Okay. So I got my facts wrong—Couples is already on the Senior Tour (Thanks Mike). Does anyone really watch the Champions Tour? But watching Freddy play so well out there this week was like a blast from the past. It felt like 1995. If only he could’ve made a few of those short putts, Couples could have been right there at the end.

Lee Westwood: I’ve gone on and on about Lee Westwood on this blog. I love his game. I love his swing. Westwood is in his prime and has to win a major in the next two years or it’s a freaking shame.

Anthony Kim: I think Kim is ready to win a major now. Incredible 65 on Sunday. He definitely has the game, and I think he’s putting everything else together. He’s the kind of player that’s fun to watch.

Next major: U.S. Open on June 17-20 at Pebble Beach. Can Phil go back to back?

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Augusta National is open for business.

The 2010 Masters commences on Thursday—and with TW back in the picture, the event promises to quite a spectacle.

Woods got his first press conference out of the way on Monday. He seemed relaxed—much more so than during his five-minute interviews a few weeks ago.

You’ve no doubt read all the details of the press conference, so I won’t rehash that here. But what should we expect from Tiger in this year’s Masters? Can he really win it after 5 months away from the game?

Could Couples recapture the magic? (Image:scubaeddie32/Flickr)

Yes. To say that Tiger can’t win this tournament just because he’s been off the Tour since November is a bit naïve. This might be one of the few times in my life I would take my chances on the field versus Tiger, but that doesn’t mean he can’t walk out there and capture his fifth Masters crown.

A lot of big names have been playing well recently. Els, Kim, Villegas, Furyk…and what about Freddy Couples? Could the old-timer (he’ll be eligible for the Senior Tour next year. How hard is that to believe?) replicate his 1992 Masters win?

Doubtful. But he’s been playing well, and he’s a name to watch. If Couples somehow manages to be in contention on Sunday, watch out.

My pick it to win it all? Not Woods. But I do think he’ll post a respectable top 20. I’ll take Camilo Villegas. He’s due. That’s my amateur golf prognosticator reasoning. If you want something more in-depth, you’re on the wrong site.

Watch out for Camilo.

Corporate sponsorships and sports have a long history.

But in the last 20 years, at least over the time period that I have been a die-hard sports fan, it seems like corporate sponsorships have gone to a new level. For instance, how many bowl games in college football have ridiculous names because of corporate sponsorships?

The Waste Management Phoenix Open...brought to you buy trash. (Image: helloerica/Flickr)

How about the PapaJohns.com Bowl or the competing Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl? The sponsors take over the bowl and drop the traditional name. I still call Atlanta’s bowl game the Peach Bowl and not the Chick-Fil-A bowl.

Anyway, I say all this because this week’s tournament on the PGA Tour reminded me of this trend. The Waste Management Phoenix Open is underway. Fabulous.

It’s not like the PGA hasn’t had corporate sponsors for years: Buick, AT&T, BMW, Coke. But something about the ridiculousness of this week’s tournament name reminded me of the ridiculousness of college football bowl games. Perhaps the Waste Management Phoenix Open’s slogan is: “Welcome to the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Don’t poop on the players.”

In this down economy, the Tour needs sponsors, so even a company that is full of crappy, stinky poo is fair game. All we need now is a port-a-potty endorsement from John Daly and we are good to go. The advertisement could go something like this:

“Hi. I’m John Daly. When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. That’s why Big John’s Port-a-Johns are here for you. Next time you just can’t wait, take a quick sprint across the 7th fairway, hop in to one of Big John’s Port-a-Johns, and do your business in peace. You’ll be able play the rest of your round with a relaxed stomach and a relaxed swing. With Big John’s Port-a-Johns, you can drop your business while you drop your scores. That’s what we’re all about. Thanks.”

So what do you think? The beauty of corporate sponsorships is that you never really know. As crazy as it sounds, do you really think John Daly wouldn’t endorse a port-a-potty company for a couple of million?

Coming in 2011: The Michael Jordan Hanes Underwear Los Angeles Open.

Things are quiet on the PGA Tour these days. For three weeks straight, the Tour will compete against the Super Bowl, and now The Winter Olympics, for viewers. A tough stretch, no doubt. But you can always think back to better days.

Things are quiet at this year's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. (Image: ashi/Flickr)

Ten years ago, Tiger Woods made an incredible comeback at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Seven shots down with seven holes to go, holing out a wedge shot from the 15th fairway along the way. The Pebble Beach victory was Woods’ sixth straight win on Tour.

Four months later, Woods returned to Pebble Beach for the U.S. Open–also the site of this year’s Open–and casually won by 15 shots. Miguel Angel Jimenez, who tied with Ernie Els at +3, famously said, “I’m trying to win my own tournament.  He’s playing a different tournament. There’s no way you’re going to take that tournament.”

Woods went on to win NINE times in 2000. He was pretty much an automatic victory.

Ten years later, Woods is absent from this year’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am–for reasons we don’t need to rehash. Will he play in the U.S. Open? We’ll have to find out.

Random photo of drug capsules in the shape of the American Flag to visually enhance this post. (Image: pappajohn1969/Flickr)

Back in the fall, I totally missed the story of a little known former Tour player, Doug Barron,  who was given a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour. Barron was the first person to violate the Tour’s anti-doping policy. Barron hasn’t played on the PGA Tour in three years. The ban kept him from participating in Q School last fall.

In response, Barron signed up for the eGolf Professional Tour last week. eGolf is a mini-tour based out of North Carolina. The leading money winner made $140,000 last year.

Barron tested positive for testosterone and propranolol, saying a doctor gave him approval to use the drugs for health reasons. He’s currently appealing the suspension.

The story isn’t that interesting, really. I know…so why post it on my blog? I think it raises a greater question. How prominent are steroids and performance-enhancing drugs in golf?

Look, golfers don’t deal with ongoing injury problems like baseball and football players. But if a quick pill can keep an ailing knee or a painful back from being so bothersome, or speed up the recovery process, then will pro golfers take the bait? And, if so, is the doping policy going to be effective enough to stop them?

I honestly don’t think a lot of golfers are doping. But we’ve got a whole new generation of kids coming up who watched one pro athlete after another get suspended or make the news for using steroids. Let’s hope they haven’t bought in.

pga logoThe PGA Tour’s version of the crappy BCS will not be changing in 2010.

Awesome!

I always have  a blast getting out the calculator during the Tour Championship to find out how many decimal points a missed four-foot putt will cost Phil Mickelson.

This is the first time since 2006 that the Tour hasn’t changed the points system. Apparently, the decision-makers didn’t even discuss changing the system at their board meetings this week.

The point system actually worked in 2009, but it still sucks. It’s an uninteresting way to end the season during a time in which the Tour is competing against the NFL and the MLB for viewers.

I’ll say it for the 9,000th time. The Fed Ex Cup needs a match play format.

Seriously, who won?

Okay, I’ll google it and find out.

laird

This guy is Martin Laird. (Image: rjdudley/Flickr)

Ah, yes, I see that Martin Laird won Justin Timberlake’s tournament, picking up his first victory and earning a two-year exemption to the Tour.

Nicely done.

That’s the cool thing about these fall tournaments. The guys who are struggling have the opportunity to come out of nowhere and pick up a win against usually weaker fields.

How cool must it be to have your life change over the course of four days? Forget about Q School. Forget about Nationwide. Welcome to the big time, Martin Laird.

As you’ve guessed, I did not watch a single shot from this weekend’s tournament. To be honest, I generally struggle with maintaining interest in watching golf on television during this time of the year. Too much football.

Thank you Georgia for a win against Vanderbilt. Thank you Atlanta Falcons for a national television win over Chicago last night. Oh, Atlanta Falcons, how I wish your defensive coordinator, Brian VanGorder, could freelance for his former employer Mark Richt.

But this is a golf blog. So I need to talk golf, even this time of year. Expect Golf Pet Peeve #8 to appear later this week. If we have anything during golf’s off-season, it’s year-round pet peeves.

I have quite a few pet peeves to write during the dead season of golf. Either that or more running stories, and—this being a golf blog and all—I’m sure you don’t want to hear about my upcoming marathon training. Nah.

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