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: 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.

Spy on Golf: Shove It, Stevie

This just in: Steve Williams is an idiot.

Make that a bleeping idiot.

Steve Williams

Steve Williams needs to memorize part three of the caddie mantra.

We already knew Williams possessed a vastly inflated sense of importance. Now Tiger Woods’ former caddie has revealed a stupid streak as big as his ego. Maybe bigger.

In case you missed the latest news, Williams took a stupefying shot at Woods during an annual caddie awards ceremony. First, Williams was roasted by colleagues for his infamous display of self-satisfaction following a victory by his new boss, Adam Scott, at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Taking his turn to speak, Williams explained.

“My aim was to shove it right back up that black (bleep),” he said, referring to Woods and an unprintable part of Tiger’s anatomy.

The remarks set off another roasting, and not the good-natured kind.

Media issued the requisite calls for discipline by the PGA Tour, Scott, and anyone else in position to punish the surly New Zealander. Williams, naturally, issued an apology while Scott stood by his bag man. The Tour claimed its hands were tied and said Williams’ apology would have to suffice.

As if this month’s Presidents Cup – where Woods will play as a controversial U.S. captain’s pick while Scott anchors the Internationals – needed any extra drama.

There’s a well-known mantra regarding a tour caddie’s on-course responsibilities: “Show up, keep up, shut up.” Williams should learn to follow part three, everywhere he goes.

Golfweek: Old is Best New

Once upon a time, Golfweek compiled an annual list of the 50 best courses opened in the U.S. during the previous year. Then that list dwindled to 40 in 2009. Now, it’s down to a mere 25 – which covers a two-year period and includes two renovations.

Such is the slow state of affairs in the course construction business, victimized by the economic downturn but already suffering growing pains earlier in the decade.

The building boom of the 1980s and ’90s, when several hundred new courses came online each year, created a demand-exceeding glut in supply. Things only got worse when the economy went belly-up. Now, more courses are closing than opening each year.

It’s sad, for sure. But that’s the free market at work, and far worse things have happened during the downturn. Besides, we’ve got a new Golfweek list to peruse.

No surprise at the top: Old Macdonald, the fourth course at Bandon Dunes Resort. Conceived by Tom Doak and right-hand man Jim Urbina, it’s a sprawling ode to Charles Blair Macdonald’s seminal design work at National Golf Links (Long Island), Chicago Golf Club and numerous other Golden Age classics.

The Patriot Golf Club

The Patriot Golf Club

The second spot goes to an equally intriguing project, The Patriot GC in Oklahoma. Robert Trent Jones II leaned on the men who helped him make Chambers Bay (Wash.) such a smash, Bruce Charlton and Jay Blasi. The trio hit another home run, carving a compelling course from a rugged, boulder-strewn chunk of northeast Oklahoma.

What makes The Patriot truly special is its purpose. The club is home to the Folds of Honor Foundation, the brainchild of PGA professional and F-16 pilot Major Dan Rooney. Folds of Honor provides scholarships to the kids of service members killed or wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Patriot is a private club, but sets aside three tee times a day for one-time public access. Ten percent of the $150 fee goes to Folds of Honor.

If you’re in the Tulsa area and covet a tee time, or just want to contribute to the cause, visit www.patriotgolfclub.com.

PGA Championship: 5 Spy Picks to Surprise

August 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Entertaining News, Pro Insider, Spy Blog 

Golf may lack a dominant player at the moment, but the favorites for this week’s PGA Championship are pretty obvious. Take the world top 10, add sexy picks like Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler, toss in Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and voila – a solid batch of down-the-middle selections.2011 PGA Championship

We’ll go the less traveled route, veering off the beaten path to find a handful of darkhorses to win the season’s final major. Here are five guys who might surprise at Atlanta Athletic Club starting Thursday:

  • Zach Johnson: Not the darkest of horses, mind you. But the diminutive Iowan flies only one way – below the radar – making him a perennial darkhorse in our eyes. Why this week? For starters, Johnson enters on good form (T16 or better in his last three events) and claimed top-10 finishes in the last two PGA’s. Plus, three of his seven career wins have come in the state of Georgia, including two in Hot-lanta itself.
  • Ricky Barnes: All he does is play well in majors (and other tournaments on tough courses). His recent performances offer little promise, and his swing hasn’t held up so great under the gun. Still, we like him to sneak into the top 10 by week’s end.
  • Stewart Cink: Let’s see, Cink has no momentum to speak of, missed the cut at this year’s Masters and U.S. Open, and placed a distant T59 when the PGA was held at the AAC in 2001. Nope, we’re banking on the hometown vibe and Cink’s history of solid play in the majors to carry him into contention.
  • Y.E. Yang: The 2009 PGA champion is a bulldog, the kind of grinder who can survive the AAC’s length (7,467 yards at par 70) and sweltering ATL heat. He’s had a solid if hardly spectacular year, highlighted by a T3 at the U.S. Open and four top-10’s in 13 events.
  • Steve Williams: Easily the most accomplished player in the field with 145 career wins, Williams is coming off a week he called the best of his life – a resounding four-shot victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Despite all that – and his four career PGA titles – no one is picking Williams. Sounds like a classic darkhorse to us.

What’s that? Williams is just a caddie? But he said... Oh, nevermind. Guess we’ll have to look elsewhere for our final pick. How about:

  • Davis Love III: Another former PGA winner, DLIII has enjoyed a resurgence in 2011. His T11 at the U.S. Open and T9 at the British bode well for his chances in Atlanta, where he contended in 2001 before fading with a final-round 77.

Golf Claps & Silent Treatment: WGC-Bridgestone

August 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Entertaining News, Pro Insider 

Each Monday we’ll recap the weekend’s PGA Tour action, and occasionally big events from other tours, with the Golf Clap/Silent Treatment segment – our version of cheers and jeers, if you will.

It’s simple: Those we deem winners receive a Golf Clap – our oh-so-polite acknowledgment of a job well done. Losers get the Silent Treatment – golf’s version of the Bronx cheer.

Hey, it’s a genteel game, and we’re all about respecting tradition.

Here’s our take on the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational:

Adam Scott/Steve WilliamsGolf Claps

  • Adam Scott: The talented Aussie is coming into his own. Scott’s glorious swing was in fine form at Firestone CC, where he dusted a star-studded field with a 17-under-par performance and four-shot victory. Scott’s opening 62 was impressive as was his closing 65 – especially Scott’s pedal-to-the-medal, back-nine 31 to separate from the pack. Good on ya, mate.
  • Ryo Ishikawa: The Japanese sensation, all of age 19, showed his stuff with a fourth-place finish. Paired with Scott in the Sunday’s final group, he held his own with a 69. Best of all, Ishikawa’s entire check ($332,500) goes to help victims of Japan’s devastating March tsunami – along with every other dime he earns playing golf this year.
  • Jason Day: Another Australian who appears destined for greatness, Day charged to a fourth-place tie in Akron. He’s already finished second at the Masters and U.S. Open this year. Is this week’s PGA Championship the charm?
  • Tiger Woods: A grudging clap, to be sure, but at least he’s back playing. Woods finished with birdies on three of his last four holes Sunday to provide a glimmer of hope for his PGA chances.

Silent Treatment

  • Steve Williams: Too bad we couldn’t administer the silent treatment before Stevie opened his mouth. But there was Tiger’s former caddie – now looping for Scott – soaking up Sunday’s glory as though he’d been the one swinging the sticks. There’s really no good guy in the Tiger-Stevie feud, but any more egotistical blather from Williams will put us squarely in Tiger’s corner.
  • The long putter: Yeah, it’s worked wonders for Scott. We still think it’s an abomination.
  • Darren Clarke: Let’s get one thing straight: We love Darren Clarke. Love the guy. And we don’t begrudge him a single sip of the gallons of Guinness he’s imbibed since winning the Open Championship. But come on, Clarkey, at least make an effort. Paired with Woods for the first two rounds, the big man opened 77-74 before redeeming himself on the weekend with 69-72. Have another pint, Darren. Just hit the practice tee first.

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