Spy on Golf: The Best (and Worst) of 2011

December 23, 2011 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Entertaining News, Golf Clubs, Golf News, Pro Insider, Spy Blog 

With 2012 nearly upon us, it’s time to bid adieu to 2011 – a topsy-turvy year in golf that managed to entertain, start to finish, with or without Tiger Woods on stage. Here are one blogger’s picks for the year’s best – and best forgotten – people, moments and assorted objects.

Putter of the Year: Long (by a grip handle over Belly)

Putt of the Year: Keegan Bradley, PGA Championship, 17th hole of the final round

Quote of the Year: “As long as it’s legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them.” – Ernie Els on using a belly putter

Prize of the Year: Cured Spanish ham

Headline of the Year: Saltman wins body eight in ham for hole-in-one

Ben Crane

Ham of the Year

Ham of the Year: Ben Crane

Player of the Year, Men: Luke Donald

Player of the Year, Any Gender: Yani Tseng

Youngster of the Year: Lexi Thompson

Streak of the Year: Donald’s 449 holes without a three-putt

Meaningful Meaningless Win of the Year: Tiger Woods, Chevron World Challenge

Performance for the Ages of the Year: Rory McIlroy’s eight-shot victory at the U.S. Open

Cutthroat of the Year: McIlroy, who dumped his girlfriend and his agent in 2011

Gag-Inducing Celebrity Couple Nickname of the Year: Wozzilroy (McIrloy and his new squeeze, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki)

Resurrected Career of the Year: Tie -- Sergio Garcia and Thomas Bjorn

Celebrator of the Year: Open champion Darren Clarke

Guinness Stout

Beverage of the Year

Beverage of the Year: Guinness Stout

#$!*& of the Year: Steve Williams

Innocent Bystander of the Year: Adam Scott

Captain of the Year: Fred Couples (Presidents Cup)

City of the Year: Jupiter, Fla. (aka the “new Orlando”)

Amateur of the Year: Patrick Cantlay

Lowlife of the Year: John Daly (who has officially retired this dubious honor)

Golf Claps & Silent Treatment: Presidents Cup

All together now: USA! USA! USA!

Feels pretty good once every two years, doesn’t it? Put another way, it’s a good thing America has the Presidents Cup to stir up some pride in between Ryder Cup whippings.

Tiger Woods at 2011 Presidents Cup.

Tiger Woods celebrated in style.

The United States once again took the International team to the woodshed, winning the 2011 Presidents Cup by a more-dominating-than-it-sounds 19-15 margin. And this was supposed to be the year the Internationals -- an Aussie-heavy squad playing on home turf -- broke a five-match victory drought.

Instead, the Americans succeeded where they so often fail against Europe’s Ryder Cuppers: on the greens. The U.S. squad made miles of twisting putts across Royal Melbourne’s diabolical, wind-whipped surfaces, continually snuffing any spark of a comeback.

With Uncle Sam’s finest pushing their all-time record to 7-1-1 against the Internationals, a question lingers: Why don’t the Americans play like this in the Ryder Cup? The Europeans have claimed four of the past five and six of eight since 1995.

Who knows? And for now, who cares? America’s golf community should enjoy the moment.

After all, the next Ryder Cup is just 10 months away.

The Presidents Cup produced a bevy of heroes and goats. We singled out these for polite applause and tacit disapproval:

Golf Claps

Royal Melbourne: Talk about living up to the hype. The Alister MacKenzie-designed masterpiece delivered compelling theater each day, the constantly changing conditions only highlighting the layout’s brilliance. And somehow, the setup crew kept things fair despite green speeds in excess of 14 (!) on the Stimpmeter.

Jim Furyk: Coming off his worst season since his rookie year, Furyk didn’t figure to make a big impact. Surprise! By going 5-0, Furyk paced the Americans and became the first player over 40 to win all his Presidents Cup matches.

Fred Couples’ captain’s picks: To the chagrin of many, Freddie followed rule No. 1 in making his captain’s picks: Never, ever pass up Tiger Woods. While Woods’ 2-3 record was nothing special, he played well in team-match defeats and even better in singles. For good measure, Woods clinched the Cup with a 4-and-3 beatdown of Aaron Baddeley on Sunday. Couples’ other choice, Bill Haas, was solid in splitting his five matches.

Ryder Cup

The Ryder Cup: Still golf's best.

While Woods’ and Haas’s combined 4 ½ - 4 ½ record may seem pedestrian, it compared quite favorably with the International captain’s picks. Which leads us to…

Silent Treatment

Greg Norman’s wild-card selections: Baddeley was bad, posting a 1 ½ - 3 ½ record. Robert Allenby was worse, putting up a big, fat doughnut against four defeats. That’s a combined score of 1 ½ - 7 ½, making Norman’s pre-Cup criticism of Couples ring rather hollow.

The Presidents Cup’s standing alongside the Ryder Cup: Sure, it’s fun to win. But until these matches become more competitive, the Ryder Cup will remain golf’s biggest biennial affair. By a longshot.

Golf Claps & Silent Treatment: Another Tiger Tease

November 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Entertaining News, Golf News, Pro Insider, Spy Blog 

In case you missed the Australian Open – which you probably did, considering it took place a gazillion time zones away from the U.S. – Tiger Woods came thisclose to winning his first tournament since 2009.

Tiger Woods Australian Open

Tiger Woods tantalized Down Under.

He didn’t, finishing third thanks to a Saturday 75 that cost him the lead. For most of the event, though, Woods had the Aussie crowds and international golf media buzzing. His drives were straighter than usual, the irons old-Tiger crisp, the putter showing more than occasional flashes of sizzle.

Following his third-round flop, Woods charged back with a final-round 67, falling two shy of Greg Chalmers’ winning score of -13. The display left most everyone impressed, if not quite ready to declare Tiger “back” just yet.

Left high and dry by too many Tiger teases the past couple years, some wags noted that he finished behind two journeyman types (Chalmers and runner-up John Senden). More importantly, though, look at the guys right behind him: Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy, Jason Day and Nick Watney. They’ve played some decent golf lately, haven’t they?

Bottom line: another non-win for Woods – still the only golfer for whom a third-place finish against a world-class field is regarded as a disappointment. But it bodes well for his – and America’s – chances in this week’s Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

We’ll be staying up for that one.

Golf Claps

The Presidents Cup: As if the controversies surrounding Fred Couples using a captain’s pick on Woods and Steve Williams’ foolhardy remarks about Tiger weren’t enough to spark interest… The matches got a further boost from Woods’ performance and that of International team members Scott, Ogilvy, Day et al. The Ryder Cup still reigns supreme when it comes to biennial team competitions, but the Presidents Cup continues to catch up quickly.

Oh, and we can’t wait to see Royal Melbourne, one of golf’s most revered sites. Architecture geeks rejoice!

Silent Treatment

John Daly: After intentionally drowning a half-dozen balls before walking off the course midway through his first round, Daly proved yet again that he’s a complete waste of a sponsor’s exemption. The man needs help.

Golf Claps & Silent Treatment: McGladrey Classic

October 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Entertaining News, Golf News, Pro Insider, Spy Blog 

Ben Crane is a funny guy, but he was all business Sunday at the McGladrey Classic.

Ben Crane

Ben Crane

Perhaps best known for his series of quirky YouTube videos and his role in the laughably bad “Golf Boys” routine, Crane ran down Webb Simpson with a final-round 63, then won on the second playoff hole.

All this while his wife was in Dallas prepping for the birth of the couples’ third child (scheduled to arrive Monday via C-section). For good measure, Crane nearly withdrew from the McGladrey Thursday with an aching hip.

Seriously.

As for Simpson, it wasn’t all bad. He overtook Luke Donald for the PGA Tour money lead with one event remaining. The pair will slug it out for the title this week at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic in Orlando.

Crane, understandably, is skipping the event. Too bad – we were hoping for a duet with Mickey Mouse.

This week’s applause meter goes to 11 -- 12 if you count the 0:

Golf Claps

Bud Cauley: The curly-locked Cauley, a 21-year-old from Alabama, finished T15 to earn $64,000, plenty to put him inside the top 125 on the money list. That gives Cauley PGA Tour exempt status for 2012 – in other words, no Q-School for Bud.

He’s just the sixth player ever to take the express route to the Tour; the others included Tiger Woods.

Tom Lewis: Speaking of Woods, he was one-upped this weekend by Lewis, an English phenom who won in his third professional start. Actually, Lewis two-upped Tiger, who took his sweet time before winning on the fifth try.

Tom Lewis, winner of the Portugal Masters

Tom Lewis

Lewis blew past a bevy of veterans with a final-round 65 at the Portugal Masters. You may have watched the 20-year old in July during the Open Championship, where his Thursday 65 was the lowest round by an amateur in the event’s history.

Silent Treatment

Greg Norman: Maybe the Shark should put a gag order on himself. Then again, his mouth may have already done its damage.

Clearly, Norman believes Woods is washed up. How else to explain his weekend comments stating that Keegan Bradley should’ve gotten the Presidents Cup pick that U.S. captain Fred Couples spent on Tiger.

“I can understand the name of a Tiger Woods and his history of what he’s done on the golf course,” Norman said. “But I pick the guys who I think are ready to get in there and play and have performed to the highest levels leading up to it.”

Psst, Greg: You’re coaching the other team!

It’s not that we disagree with Norman. On the contrary, we’re with him 100 percent. But we’re not coaching against Tiger!

Neither is Couples, who takes a step closer to looking like a genius every time Norman opens his yap.

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