Monday, July 12, 2010

This Week in Golf

While scoping out other sports and golf blogs online, I discovered a format I would like to steal. It is called Front Nine-Back Nine. I will try it out beginning this week for the Open Championship. So basically, each week I will select eighteen different topics and write a few sentences about each. The Front Nine will only deal with topics from the previous week’s golf happenings. The Back Nine will look ahead to the coming golf events of the current week. Hopefully, readers will enjoy the shake-up of “This Week in Golf.”

Front Nine
Hole #1 – Paula Creamer won the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont shooting three under par for 72 holes. She was the only competitor under par for the week. Creamer is having some major wrist and thumb issues, and I did not expect her to be the American to step up to the plate for our second women’s major victory in a row. Congrats to Paula on her first major!

Hole #2 – Paul Goydos took aim at Deere Run and bagged a twelve pointer. That is he shot twelve under par during his first round for golf’s golden number, 59! Goydos did not have a bogey on the card. He simply made twelve beautiful birdies for a round he will never forget. Paul became the fourth player in history to shoot the lowest ever score in an official PGA Tour tournament with his feat last Thursday. Goydos went on to finish in second place for the week.

Hole #3 – University of Illinois grad Steve Stricker won his second tournament of the 2010 season at the John Deere Classic. Stricker was the defending champion last week, but he did not let the extra responsibilities and pressure get to him. He followed Goydos’ 59 in the morning with a 60 for himself in the afternoon on Thursday. He finished at twenty-six under par, and he was only one birdie away from tying the Tour record for number of birdies over 72 holes.

Hole #4 – Phil Mickelson took a quintuple bogey, 9, on the 18th hole at Loch Lomond during his second round of the Barclay’s Scottish Open. He drove it in the water twice. Phil missed the cut by one as did another former Scottish Open champion, Ernie Els.

Hole #5 – Michelle Wie missed the cut at Oakmont after a first round of 82. No rules debacles this week, though.

Hole #6 – PGA Tour rookie Matt Every was arrested in Bettendorf, Iowa prior to the start of the John Deere Classic and charged with possession of marijuana. He was released after posting bond and went on to make the cut.

Hole #7 – Tiger Woods shot a 79 in the first round of the JP McManus Invitational Pro-Am last Monday. He went to the press room afterwards only to get asked pointed questions about his personal life to which he of course did not respond.

Hole #8 – U of I golf coach Mike Small missed the cut at the John Deere Classic following his PGA Professional’s Championship victory.

Hole #9 – Rocco Mediate scored a hole-in-one on the 7th hole at Deere Run. He used a 4-iron on the 226-yard par 3. It was his second eagle in a round of 64 on Saturday.

Back Nine

Hole #10 – The Old Course at St. Andrews hosts this week’s Open Championship in Scotland. Widely renowned as the “home of golf,” St. Andrews has been hosting majors since 1873. It serves as headquarters for the governing body of the game throughout most of the world, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club. Earliest verified evidence of the course stems from 1574. However, King James IV was rumored to have brought clubs to St. Andrews back seventy years prior. The last Open to be played on the Old Course was in 2005.

Hole #11 – Stewart Cink is the defending champion of the Open Championship after defeating Tom Watson in a four-hole playoff at Turnberry in 2009.

Hole #12 – Tiger Woods has been victorious the last two Opens staged at St. Andrews (2005, 2000). Prior to him John Daly won in dramatic fashion during the ’95 edition, and Englishman Nick Faldo was crowned in 1990. The list of victors at the Old Course gets more impressive the farther back you go in history. Seve Ballesteros won in ’84. Jack Nicklaus took the Claret Jug in 1978 and ’70. Bobby Locke, the South African, won in ’57. Peter Thompson, a five-time Open winner, was champ in ’55. Slammin’ Sam Snead won the first championship after WWII. Bobby Jones won in 1927. James Braid took it twice in the early 1900’s, and J.H. Taylor also won back-to-back at St. Andrews at the turn of the century. As the saying goes, to be great, you must win at the Old Course. Lorena Ochoa is the only Women’s British Open champion to be donned on the majestic bay.

Hole #13 – The Old Course has been fairly benign the last few appearances. However, the winds this past Sunday reached gusts of over 50 mph. The forecast as of now for the four days of play there is “inclement.” They are expecting a little rain, and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club officials are hoping for more strong winds.

Hole #14 – The 14th hole at St. Andrews is nicknamed “Long.” The 618 yard par-5 is home to the “Hell Bunker,” which awaits the players’ second shots into the wind on this challenging hole. When the wind blows, this is a three-shot par-5.

Hole #15 – My pick to win this week is Englishman Lee Westwood. He does not own a major…yet. He has come very close numerous occasions over the past three years including missing last season’s Open playoff by one stroke. He was in contention again this April at Augusta, but he could not pull out a W. He did earn a recent victory State-side in Memphis, and I expect Westwood to be playing on all cylinders come Thursday.

Hole #16 – ESPN will broadcast the Open from St. Andrews on ABC during the weekend coverage. Tune in early as Scotland is six hours ahead of Illinois time. The final round typically concludes around 1:00 PM CST. It will be nice to hear Nick Faldo, Paul Azinger, Peter Alliss, and Judy Rankin broadcasting golf again.

Hole #17 – The Road Hole at the Old Course is an extremely difficult par-4 at 495 yards. The drive must carry 260 yards to clear some replica railway sheds on the right side. There is a deep, tricky pot bunker guarding approach shots short. David Duval took four shots to escape this bunker in 2000. A road borders the green long, hence the nickname. The green itself is a challenge as well. Players who escape the 17th with a par will count their blessings.

Hole #18 – The 357 yard par-4 closer is a relatively short and simple hole for most pros. Jack drove the green in his playoff with Doug Sanders here in ’78. Many others have driven the green as well. Long is not always best, but some would rather be over than just short of the green on 18. The “Valley of Sin” protects the green in front. It is a large swale that swallows shots that do not quite make it to the green. It is a tough up-and-down from this spot. The R&A clubhouse is the famous backdrop to the 18th green, and the view is especially historic and spectacular from the famous Swilcan Bridge that crosses the Swilcan Burn not too far down the fairway from the tee box. Look for players toward the beginning of the week to pause here for photo opps. Watch the gallery instead choose to jump the burn as the masses walk/run with the final pairing toward the green on Sunday. The Open Championship is always fun, but St. Andrews adds a little extra excitement to the mix.

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