Saturday, August 18, 2007

Wyndham Pro-Am

I was lucky enough to play in the pro-am at the Wyndham Championship on Monday. These events allow four amateurs to rub elbows with a pro for a day. One of my amateur partners was a neighbor, and the other two were from Dallas and Chicago. We were paired with PGA TOUR player Jerry Smith of Phoenix.

Although I managed to play some of the worst golf in several years, I enjoyed the day. We had caddies, always a nice touch, and Jerry turned out to be a nice guy who was easy to talk to, even when he got lots of doofus questions about Tiger Woods.

The recent hot and dry weather has made it tough for the greens staff at Forest Oaks. The rough was thick, the fairways were reasonably full, and the greens are clearly on the edge. If the greens went 12 hours without water, they would be lost for months.

Forest Oaks isn't the toughest course around, but the pros are taking advantage of the necessarily soft conditions to shoot low scores. As long as the Wyndham has an August date, you can expect courses to dump water on their course and pros to shoot at pins as a result. That's just another reason to work toward a spring date, when all the grass varieties will flourish without being drenched with irrigation.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thoughts on the Wyndham

"Most top players will have qualified for the four-tournament series and will sit out the Greensboro stop to get rest before playing the next four weeks in a big money shootout."

I wrote over a year and a half ago that the (at that point still to be renamed) Wyndham Championship would struggle to attract big names to Greensboro. It was completely predictable, so I don't understand all the hand-wringing now occurring.

I still think moving from October to August was a great coup by our tournament, despite the challenges of producing a manicured course and good field this time of year. Securing our new date was probably the biggest single surprise in the new PGA TOUR schedule, because most observers had left our tournament for dead months before.

This year's tournament is in the first of a four year deal with the PGA TOUR schedule and primary sponsor Wyndham, so it is critical the tournament pick up momentum over the next two years. If it does, we will be able to lobby for a spring date that will attract better golfers and make our host course easier to maintain. If we don't, the tournament might lose its current spot on the schedule and go away forever.

My money is on tournament foundation chair Bobby Long and tournament director Mark Brazil to make the right moves to improve the tournament and its standing on TOUR. They are off to a good start this year with lots of fan friendly events, less expensive food and beverage concessions, and improved player hospitality.


Elvis and Me

Today marks the 30th anniversary of both Elvis' death and my 11th birthday. Elvis' passing did not make much of an impression on the younger version of me. Come to think of it, I am a little perplexed that he is still such a big deal. Maybe we should focus on cool people with birthdays today instead.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

2007 PGA Championship Picks

The PGA Championship begins today at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, OK.. Southern Hills is a bit of a rarity in that it regularly hosts both US Opens and PGA Championships. Most of our great courses align with one or the other.

It will be over 100 degrees F each day of the tournament. This will have two big effects. The first is course playability, and the second is player conditioning. The ball will fly further and straighter in the heat, and tee shots will get a lot of roll. The greens will have to be watered to withstand the temperatures. The combination of the ball being hot and soft greens may lead to some lower scores. Players' stamina, both physical and mental, will be tested in the brutal heat, too.

Tiger Woods: #1 player in the world with 15 career majors is coming off a dominant win on a tough course last weekend. He is the favorite, but I have a hunch a crooked driver will keep him from winning. Top five finish.

Phil Mickelson: Has had an injured wrist and just switched to new irons a week ago. That does not add up to a great week. Top 30 finish.

Ernie Els: He is too good to go the past five years without a major, but he does not get one this weekend. Top 15 finish.

Vijay Singh: This course should suit one of the best drivers in the game. His putter is probably not good enough right now to win the PGA, but he still gets a top 20 finish.

Henrik Stenson: His stock continues to rise, and I think he will win at least one major in his career, but it probably won't be this week. I give him a good shot at a top 10, and watch out for him in 2008 at the majors.

Sergio Garcia: He had a disappointing playoff loss at the Open Championship. He also revealed an immature attitude after that loss, making me question if he has what it takes to win a professional major. Top 15 finish.

Stewart Cink: It will be a shame if never wins a major. His game is so perfectly suited for the toughest courses. He finished one shot out of a playoff at Southern Hills in the 2001 US Open, and I think he plays well again this week. Top 10 finish.

Retief Goosen: He won the 2001 US Open on this course and has the toughness and poise to win this week. His game has not been in great shape lately, but he gets a top 15 finish.

Angel Cabrera: The current US Open champ can play and is confidence is sky high. I don't think his putter will let him win at this course, but he gets a top 25.

Jim Furyk: I picked Furyk to win the US Open and the Open Championship, and he had good finishes at both. The best player in the world not named for an animal is deadly accurate off the tee and is one of the best putters in the world. He is mentally tough, so I am predicting he hoists the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday.

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