Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Win gets Haas final Presidents Cup spot

   Bill Haas won more than the FedEx Cup and the Tour Championship Sunday.

   The former Wake Forest All-American was named as the final wild-card pick to the U.S. team today by captain Fred Couples, who confirmed his previous announcement by also adding Tiger Woods as a captain's pick.

   International team captain Greg Norman added Australians Robert Allenby and Aaron Baddeley to his team, which will host the Americans in early November at Royal Melbourne Golf Club.

   Couples said he made it clear to Haas prior to the Tour Championship that he needed to win to make the team, on which Jay Haas is an assistant captain along with Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan.
   "Jay and I talked about this scenario and Michael went over this (a few) months ago. The way for us to do this was to let the guys play. In this instance, Bill Haas knew he had to win. I didn't bother him during the tournament. I think he's smart enough to know what had to happen," Couples said on a conference call.

  Couples said he narrowed his final choice to Haas, PGA champion Keegan Bradley and Brandt Snedeker.
   Should Steve Stricker be unable to participate in the Presidents Cup due to herniated disk that has been bothering him, Couples said Bradley will be his replacement.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Will it be Haas or Bradley or...?

   Observations on one of the better golf weekends of the year:

  -- If I were Fred Couples (wow, there's a thought), I"m not sure whether I'd pick Bill Haas or Keegan Bradley with my final captain's pick for the Presidents Cup team.

   Those two seem to be the finalists for Captain Freddie and both have made their cases. Bradley has two wins, including the PGA and Haas just won the FedEx Cup and the Tour Championship, knowing it was probably the only way he could convince Couples to add him to the team.

   The popular sentiment seems to be in Bradley's corner because of his two wins this year and the way Haas struggled to close tournaments, even Sunday when he won on the third extra hole. The good thing for Haas is his victory should have eliminated any notion of favoritism that could have slipped into the debate if he's the guy Couples chooses. Jay Haas said he will stay out of the way and let Couples make his own decision, though it's obvious what it would mean to have a father and son together on the team.

   My guess is Couples will take Haas when he makes the announcement Tuesday.

  -- It seems the Solheim Cup did itself a disservice in requiring the U.S. team to surrender a full point because of Cristie Kerr's injury that prevented her from playing in the singles on Sunday. It played a major role in the American's inability to hold onto the cup.

   It seems fairer to do like the Ryder Cup and agree to a draw if one player is unable to play.

   Still, the finish was compelling, seeing the European team rally as it did to win the cup. Team competitions like the Solheim Cup show us the players in a different light and it's fun to see them showing their emotions as they do. I'm still not a big fan of flags painted on cheeks but I love seeing what it means to the players.

   Seeing Michelle Wie react to the late birdie putt she made, watching Suzanne Petterssen close like a champ and sensing the disappointment in Laura Davies when she bogeyed the finishing hole is the kind of emotion that seems to show only in international team events. It's beautiful to watch.

  -- By adding Joe LaCava as his new caddie, Tiger Woods has one of the best in the business working with him.

   LaCava is a pro's pro and should be perfect working with Tiger. Exactly how the move went down -- did Dustin Johnson know LaCava was among the caddies Woods was considering? -- remains unclear but the new partnership should be a critical next step for Woods as he attempts to recapture his lost magic.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Forest Creek to host 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur

   The 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur championship has been awarded to Forest Creek Golf Club near Pinehurst, an impressive designation for the private club.

   Forest Creek has two Tom Fazio-designed golf courses that have earned plenty of praise since the original South Course layout opened in 1996. The North Course was added in 2005.

   The Mid-Am championship will be played Oct. 5-10, 2013.

  “We are honored and grateful that the USGA has entrusted our golf club with the distinct honor of hosting one of its prestigious national championships,” Forest Creek Golf Club president Terry Brown said in a statement.

  “We proudly consider Forest Creek to be one of the country’s most outstanding communities to live in, and our golf club is committed to amateur golf with a vision of giving back to the game.

   "We have two highly rated golf courses that I am confident will stand up to the high quality and challenges expected by the Mid-Amateur Committee as well as the players. We very much look forward to October 2013.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It's $10 million, but it's only money

   To most of us, the prospect of winning $10 million is the stuff of dreams.

   It's why you buy that lottery ticket -- I've never bought one which may explain why I've never won -- and daydream about what you'd do with all that money if it somehow wound up in your back account via direct deposit.

   For the 30 players at the Tour Championship, which begins Thursday at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, there's the certainty that one of them will walk away with the $10-million prize for winning the FedEx Cup. That will be on top of whatever money they win in the tournament itself, which gives $1.44 million to the winner, which ain't bad for four days' work.

   All 30 of them will happily take the money and tuck it into something that will probably make them more money, like a very nice vacation home or investments or something people with $10 million put their money into.

   But it's only money.

   "I'm not really thinking about the money," Luke Donald said, adding his focus is on winning and being the PGA Tour player of the year.

   "Where I am in my career, I've been fortunate. I don't know where I am on the (career) money list, $25 million or something. It's not like I can't afford to buy things. I have two nice houses. I don't spend a lot on materialistic stuff but the money, it would be nice to kind of keep it away. I haven't really thought if I won it what I would spend the money on."

   Geoff Ogivly put it this way:
   "The money is obviously really nice but it's like beating your friend for $2 on the putting green. It's better to beat him for $2 than it is just to beat him for the fun of it, you know what I mean? There would be something to coming down the last nine holes, this is for $10 million and doing it. Irrelevant of what ends up in your bank account, it just sounds better, don't you think?"

   It's something most of us can only dream about.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Is The Next Great American Player Just 16 Years Old?

   Checking out the golf scene between Cam Newton passes:

  -- Lexi Thompson's victory on the LPGA Tour was a beautiful bonus for a tour that needs all the newsmakers it can get.

    At 16, she became the tour's youngest-ever winner by two years and added more weight to the notion that she'll be the next great American player. She's almost that already.

   There is the pesky problem of not being eligible to play the LPGA Tour full-time because of its age guidelines but I'm guessing tour officials will find a way to work through the issue so that Thompson can get her tour card, given as how she's already better than almost everyone not named Yani Tseng.

   Her win has led to the inevitable comparisons with Michelle Wie, whose performance has not matched her stardom. From a distance, they seem very different. I've never sensed Wie had the burning desire to be the game's best player, something that Thompson seems to have.

   That's not a knock on Wie, only a recognition her world reaches far beyond golf, which explains why she's going the distance at Stanford. It may have impacted her professional career but I'm guessing she's thrilled by her college experience. There's plenty of time for her to play professional golf.

  -- Webb Simpson takes the FedEx Cup lead into the Tour Championship this weekend at East Lake, chasing a $10-million prize and putting a bigger stamp on his arrival as one of the game's best young guns.

   The way Simpson has been playing over the past couple of months, it's hard to argue against him being the player to beat. He's been in contention seemingly every week but finishing it off at East Lake will be a huge challenge.

   Dustin Johnson starts in second place but Luke Donald, the world No. 1, is lurking just behind. Donald is always there and this seems like a moment when he could cap a huge season.

   For Simpson, a good start seems critical.

  -- Fred Couples has one spot remaining on his Presidents Cup team and he will likely choose from Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker or Bill Haas.

   The popular choice is Bradley given his victory in the PGA Championship last month, though he followed it with a pair of missed cuts. Haas didn't help himself by coming apart at the end of the BMW Championship and Fowler hasn't done enough recently to warrant the pick.

   Snedeker has a good case but I'm betting it's Bradley who gets the call from Captain Couples. If it were me, I'd probably call Snedeker.


Thursday, September 01, 2011

Phil Goes Belly; Who's Next?

   Two immediate thoughts about Phil Mickelson using the belly putter in the Deutsche Bank pro-am and, perhaps, beyond:

   1. It was initially surprising, maybe because I hadn't really thought about it, but given a moment to think about it, how can it hurt?

   2. After 35 putts the last time I played -- and having already gone to cross-handed with the previously mentioned results -- maybe I should try it.

   In Mickelson's case, everyone knows he can miss it from anywhere and, too often, has. The case can be made that he's missed enough shortish ones through the years to have cost him a major or two, including the Open Championship in July.

   With seemingly everyone using or at least trying belly putters, it's natural for Phil and his mad scientist side to give it go. He's seen what it's done for his buddy Keegan Bradley and others so it was natural for Phil to try it.

   It could be the final piece of the Mickelson puzzle, the one thing that gets him from age 41 to the Champions Tour or thereabouts. Or maybe it's just a flirtation, somethign to convince him he's still more comfortable with the conventional style.

   If Phil goes to the belly putter full time, it add more fire to the question of whether they should be legal or not. My hunch is they'll stay legal but I can see the case otherwise.
   As for me, I'll wait on the belly putter. Everyone needs a last resort.