Category Archives: Golf

US OPEN AT PINEHURST: PREVIEW

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“One of the greatest atmospheres in the world for golf” – Arnold Palmer on Pinehurst.

 

Pinehurst’s rich history makes it a perfect place to host the 2014 US Open. Designed by Donald Ross and opened in 1907, the course changed drastically over the years. A lot of people thought it became too commercial, too much like your average country club course. So the board took a massive risk and hired the course design company Coore and Crenshaw, in hopes of restoring some of the classic Pinehurst feel. The 5 year restoration project was completed in anticipation of this US Open. Experts are saying Pinehurst has been restored to its’ most classic era, and will provide a challenging test for the contestants in the biggest golf tournament in the world. Call me a nerd, but golf history gets me fired up. I love the idea that golfers today are walking down the same fairways that some of the legends walked down 50-100 years ago. That is part of what makes the Masters so special, and that is what will make the 2014 US Open special. 

 

Who to watch:  

 

 Adam Scott: The Aussie comes in as the number 1 player in the world, boasting what many experts believe to be the sweetest swing on tour.  Scott is in top form right now having not missed the cut in 9 starts this year, and coming off of a win 2 weeks ago at the Crowne Plaza Invitational. Scott’s distance off the tee gives him an advantage over most at any golf course. It is extremely hard to find weaknesses in his game, as pretty much every aspect is ranked inside the top 25 on tour this year. Scott has a swing that travels well wherever he goes, so there is no reason to believe he can’t play well at Pinehurst. Look for another solid week from the Aussie.

 

Bubba Watson: Bubba, so hot right now. Bubba. He has been absolutely en fuego this year. He has finished in the top 10 an unreal 8 times out of the 11 tournaments he’s played. Everyone knows he crushes the ball farther than anyone on tour which allows him to hit shorter clubs into greens, but he only hits about 60% of his fairways. Luckily for Bubba one of the main goals for the Pinehurst changes was widening the fairways. Bubba has been putting as well as he ever has in his career, and if he can continue rolling the rock like that he is the favorite to take home his second major of the year. 

 

Henrik Stenson: Stenson is ranked second only to Scott, but hasn’t exactly been red hot as of late. He comes in with 1 top 10 finish in his 8 tournaments in 2014. Not known as a bomber, Stenson has been hitting 66% of his fairways. If he wants to have a chance to win the US Open, he has to putt better. He is averaging 30.04 putts per round (ranked 180th), a number that needs to be lower in order to win a major tournament. Stenson has been in contention in a lot of recent majors, and I think he has the ability to win one. We’ll see if this is the one.

 

Matt Kuchar: Kuch is the 5th ranked player in the world right now. Off the tee, Kuchar is the exact opposite of Bubba. He lost a good amount of distance when he recently changed his swing, but is still one of the most accurate drivers on tour. He has played in 15 tour events this year and has 9 top 10 finishes and 1 win. Kuch is dynamite out of the sand, and is one of the best scramblers on tour which will help him at Pinehurst. Can Kuch break through? />

 

Phil Mickelson: There is a very odd buzz following lefty after the allegations regarding his involvement in gambling and insider trading. All of the off the course issues aside, Phil has been having a very lackluster year. He has 0 top 10 finishes in his 14 tournaments and has been cut 3 times. If Phil can get it going and find some magic for any tournament however, its this one. He has never won the US Open, but has been so close several times including last year. He needs this win to finally capture his career grand slam. All of the off the course issues as well as his poor play this year points to him not being in contention, which is exactly why i’m predicting he will be right there in contention late on Sunday…and because of this video.

“Come one baby, DO IT! Ahoooo I misread it!” How can you not root for this guy.

 

Jordan Spieth: The young star is 5th in FedEx points and 10th in the world golf rankings. We saw at Augusta that he has the makeup and the resolve to win a major tournament. He has played in 17 events this year and has 6 top 10 finishes including 2 top 5’s. Spieth is a bit weird to analyze because none of his stats rank that high, yet his scoring average is 7th on tour. This kid has been through a lot in his young career, so the big stage will not phase him. I would love to see him get his first major win at historic Pinehurst. 

 

 

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Sergio Garcia: The man everybody loves to hate. He has played only 8 events in the U.S. and has 5 top 10 finishes including 2 top 5’s. Unless Serg goes on a crazy run winning several majors, it is safe to say his career has been disappointing. He has been a solid player and the in my opinion the disappointment is unwarranted because it comes from the hype that surrounded him when he was a teenager. He is back in the top 10 in the world right now and I think has good a chance as ever to capture his first major this week. His scoring average is 1st on tour, his sand saving score is 2nd on tour, and his greens in regulation is 8th. I would absolutely love for Serg to piss everyone off and go win a major. 

 

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Rory McIlroy: 
A lot has been made of Rory breaking it off with his fiance Caroline Wozniacki, I’m not going to read much into that though. Rory has been off to a much better start in 2014 than last year, as he has 6 top 10’s in the 9 starts he has made in the U.S.  He also has played well in the tournaments he has played overseas. He must be used to his new Nike equipment..finally. For a little guy Rory crushes the ball, and when he putts well he is the most explosive player in the field. He makes more birdies than anyone on tour, but he has to play more consistently if he wants to get back to his winning ways in majors. 

 

Jim Furyk: Furyk is another one of those guys that quietly plugs along all week and always ends up in contention on Sundays. Even though he’s the 12 ranked player in the world, you never hear too much buzz about him. He is an accurate driver and hits a lot of greens in regulation, but never really wows you. He’s pretty opposite to Rory in my opinion. He’s a consistent golfer who seems to play well at all different types of courses. 

 

Whatever your opinion is on Tiger, golf is more entertaining with him. Either you love him and want to see him win, or you hate him and can’t wait to watch him crumble on Sunday. I was hoping he was going to get back for this week, but that’s obviously not happening. That’s all i’ll say on Tiger right now, because that’s all anyone should say about Tiger right now. But i guarantee you will see ESPN and the Golf Channel coverage analyze Tiger’s return, or talk about how his absence effects the field. The attention should be on the players who are actually teeing it up this week. Regardless, i’m super pumped for this thing to finally start. I can’t wait to see how Phil comes out and plays. I think if he can put up a good score on Thursday he can be in contention. 

 

— Steve Butabi

 

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DUFNER BREAKS THROUGH

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I said it in my Open Championship post, Dufner is one of my favorite guys on tour. I joked about the fact that he packs fat lips on the course, but the truth of the matter is I’ve never heard a negative thing about the guy. Everyone on tour loves him and his poised demeanor as well. Always calm, never complains, just goes out and plays. Yesterday he captured his 3rd win on the PGA tour and his first major, overtaking ole Jimmy Furyk in the process. Everyone is Dufnering today:

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Dufner had all of the headlines after he took full advantage of the soft-as-carvel golf course on friday, and shot a competitive course record 63. But it was actually Furyk who had the 54 hole lead after playing 3 days of consistent golf. We’ve seen Furyk do this before recently, and has failed to come through on sunday. Many people will say that by shooting +1 on the day yesterday, Furyk blew another opportunity, but that simply isn’t the case.

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It was Dufner who came out hot early, and spun some unbelievable wedge shots within a couple feet of the hole. Duf Daddy erased that 54 hole Furyk lead early after he birdied 4 and 5, then he also birdied 8. Furyk came out and birdied 6, but then took a bogey on 9, giving Dufner a 2 stroke lead making the turn. Dufner and Furyk were trading par for par until the 16th, when Dufner dropped another wedge less than a foot from the hole. Furyk responded with a very solid medium-ranged birdy putt, to keep his deficit at 2 strokes. Great back and forth action. The 2 hardest holes of the course were up next, so Dufner knew he could probably get away with par bogey and still win it. After they both took bogeys on 17 it was all but over. They also both took bogeys on 18, giving Dufner the win.

Dufner put the pressure on Furyk early, and didn’t let up. I’ve never seen anybody stick some of those approach shots so close, as consistently as Dufner did yesterday. He had 3 tap in birds. Once he was up, he continued his quality tee to green play. Crush the ball in the fairway, pick up the tee, put the approach in the heart of the dance floor, and two putt par. It was like clockwork. On 16 he knew he could really go for the throat and took an aggressive line at the pin, and put it a foot away. Maintaining a 2 stroke lead on the 2 hardest holes, he did what he had to do to finish Furyk off.

ESPN showed Dufner highlights, then talked about him for a good 45 seconds before talking about what Tiger did wrong and what he needs to do for next year in order to win another major. Come on fellas before the tournament you can talk Tiger all day, but sunday was Dufner’s day, Tiger was irrelevant and an absolute non factor.

For now on when Dufner tees off he will be introduced as a major champion winner. Congrats Duf, possibly a Duf dynasty now? Everyday im Dufnering? After all it is extremely Duf to win a major. And boy Tiger was really Dufing his shots all week. Ok i’m done.

PS…wouldn’t expect anything less from Duf Daddy than giving his good looking wife a couple of ass slaps on the 18th green.

– Steve Butabi

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Round 1 at the PGA Championship

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The PGA Championship is back at Oak Hill for the first time since 2003. “It’s one of the best setups I’ve ever seen, the way the PGA has set it up, I just think it’s incredibly well thought out,” said Phil Mickelson. The rain last night in Rochester, New York softened up the course, which made for some optimum scoring conditions this morning. Like Matt Kuchar illustrated after his round, the players with early tee times had the advantage. Some players like Kuchar took advantage of that, while others failed to capitalize. Here is a look at some of the more notable scores so far about three 3 quarters of the way through day 1.

Tiger Woods: Like love or hate him, it always starts with Tiger. Coming off of his dominating performance last week, Vegas had Tiger as a considerable 4 to 1 favorite. Given the fact that there well over 100 players in the field, 4 to 1 is a heavy favorite. Tiger did not justify that on day 1. He started on the back 9 and looked sharp, birdying 13 and 15, but struggled after he made the turn. It seemed like he was scrambling all day. A rare bogey of a par 5 for Tiger on 4, was compounded by his awful double bogey on 9 to finish +1. He had an up and down for par, but shanked it right into the sand, then left his sand shot very short and missed the putt. +1 is not where Tiger wanted to be, but theres plenty of golf to be played.

Rory McIlroy: The defending champ has struggled this year, but was on point early. He came ready to defend his title, birdying 1, 3 and 4. A bogey on the 5th puts him back to -2 but a good start should instill some confidence in the struggling star. Rory is on the 7th hole as I write.

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Jim Furyk: The awkward swing was firing on all cylinders today. Furyk has been quiet this year, missing 2 cuts out of the first 3 majors. But today he sent a message to the rest of the field by posting a score of -5. He was bogey free and 6 under through 17 holes before he bogeyed the difficult 9th hole. Jim put himself in scoring position all day, and his putter took advantage.

Matt Kuchar: Kuch was one of those guys who had an early tee time. He took advantage of the prime conditions posting a bogey free round at -3. Kuchar played all the par 3’s and par  5’s even, and birdied 3 par 4’s. Kuchar hits it pretty straight which should give him a pretty good chance on this unforgiving golf course.

Henrik Stenson: Stenson is having an incredible 2013. He is climbing his way back into the top 10 in the world with consistently solid golf. Today he was consistently inconsistent. He finished with a quality score of -2, but was very up and down all day. 5 birds and 3 bogeys made for an erratic day. He failed to capitalize on some quality opportunities but also made some great scrambles.

Jason Dufner: Dufner continued his solid play this year by ending day 1 of the PGA at -2. Like Stenson, Dufner was pretty erratic in his 5 birdy, 3 bogey day. If Dufner wants to make a run at this thing he is going to have to scramble a little better (easy for me to say…that rough is thicker than Ron Burgundy’s mustache).

PhIl Mickelson: Lefty’s Open Championship hangover seems to be continuing early on. He bogeyed 3 and double bogeyed 4. But he is only on the 5th hole right now, so he has plenty of golf ahead of him.

Brandt Snedeker: Sneds is off to a solid start. He is -1 through 8. A couple nice par saves and some vintage Snedeker putts is the reason he is under par right now. We all know this guy can roll the rock, I think this could be the 1 for Sneeeedeker.

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Other Notables:

Lee Westwood: -2 through 7

Ricky Fowler: Even — F

Adam Scott: -2 though 5

Justin Rose: Even through 5

Luke Donald: +1 through 5

Nicolas Colsaerts: -3 through 8

Steve Stricker: -2 — F

Bill Haas: -2 — F

Hunter Mahan: Even — F

Jason Day: -1 through 8

Graeme McDowell: Even — F

Obviously there is a lot of golf to be played today. But after day 1 to me it looks like Tiger is in his usual post 2008 major form, erratic off the tee but scrambling well. That is not the way to win majors. Phil struggling early but will have chances to claw his way back. The surprise to me is Rory coming in strong. If he can post a solid under par score, it could spark another classic Rory run.

– Steve Butabi

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Legendary Lefty…An Open championship winner.

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Two words: Legen-dary.

He said it himself, “It was probably my best round ever.” Here is Lefty talking about his magical round: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=9496685.

“I didn’t know in my career if i would ever develop the game as a complete player to win this championship.” Love that honesty, Phil is always so real in his interviews.

Mickelson out played Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter, Adam Scott, and Tiger Woods down the stretch to capture the elusive Claret Jug.

Lefty created absolute magic today at Muirfield. To shoot -5 in the final round of a major that he’s never won before is a true demonstration of Skip Bayless’ favorite term: “CLUTCH GENE.” He came up with some of those “out of nowhere” shots that we have come accustomed to seeing from Phil. On 17 he goes 3 wood off the tee, leaves himself with 330 to the pin. I thought no way in the world he smashes this on the green, but then he grips and rips one of the greatest 3 wood shots in major tournament history, and lands it on the front of the green. On 18 he could have played it safe…nahhh instead he draws his approach shot in there with a long iron, and fittingly sinks the putt to close out an unbelievable 6 hole stretch. -4 on the last 6 holes, -5 for the round…wow.

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Phil’s wins are never boring. Sometimes it seems like guys win major tournaments by default, that is never the case with Phil. It seems like every time Phil wins, something special happens. People always marvel at his short game, but i think the most unique part of phil’s game is his bag. US Open he had 2 drivers in his bag, this week he didn’t even bring 1 to the tournament. He uses an assortment of custom wedges that no one else would even think about using. And in an age of the belly putter, Phil switched to the short putter that is actually too light for the PGA Tour, so he weighs it down with tape.  Win or lose, Phil goes for broke every time. Sometimes it hurts him, other times it propels him to victory like his shot from the pine straw in the 2010 Masters.

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After that win Phil gave one of the greatest quotes in golf history, “I mean a great shot is when you pull it off. A smart shot is when you don’t have the guts to try it.”

…Says it all.

No matter what you think about Phil Mickelson, you can’t deny that he is unbelievably fun to watch.

– Steve Butabi

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Round 1 at the Open Championship

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Some noteworthy first rounds at Muirfield today.

– Zach Johnson: An opening round of 66 is a statement, especially coming off his playoff loss at the John Deere Classic. He has been solid but nothing special in 2013 with two top 5 finishes through 15 tournaments. His eagle at the par 5 fifth sparked an impressive first round.

Mark O’Meara: The 56 year old Champions Tour member brought his best stuff today, carding 5 birds and an eagle on 17. His 3 bogeys brought him back down to 4 under, 1 back of ZJ for the lead. Hard for me to believe that he’s going to keep balling like this through the weekend, but O’Meara has been on fire on the Champions Tour this year.

– Brandt Snedeker: It seems like Sneeds is always in contention. The video of him crying after he blew the Master shows that this guy plays to win, i respect that. Today he fired 6 birds, but a double bogey on the 6th was a big blemish. Sneeds consistently rolls the rock as well as anyone on tour, he should be right in the mix after carding an opening round 68.

– Phil Mickelson: Lefty came out firing, birdying 2 out of the first 3 holes. He slowed down after that and finished a par-heavy round at 2 under. Phil has played some great golf this year and has been in contention almost every sunday. He is right where he wants to be after day 1.

– Jordan Spieth: The 19 year old star gained some confidence last week after winning his first PGA Tour event at the John Deere Classic. He continued his solid play at Muirfield today shooting 2 under par. He played consistent golf all day recording only 1 bogey, however if the young stud wants to take home prize he’s going to have to card more birdies.

– Justin Rose: Rose just didn’t bring his best stuff today. An opening round 75 is going to be tough to bounce back from. It’s very possible that Rose is still buzzing off his win at the US Open, he needs to dial back in.

– Tiger Woods: He’s back! His elbow is okay! Spare me Tiger. His little elbow injury was obviously a coverup for his poor play at the US Open. After Tiger’s bogey on 1, i really thought it could be another long day for him. But  a couple holes later he picked up a bird, and got his round together. Tiger definitely left some shots out there, but he ended at 2 under putting him right in the mix.

– Rory McIlroy: Yeeeeeeeesh. 6 bogeys and 2 doubles. We’re pretty deep into the year now, is he still getting used to the nike equipment? Hey Rory, excuses are like assholes, everybody’s got one. This guy was the world number 1, and you’re telling me that 4 months later he is still getting used to this Nike stuff and still hasn’t found his swing? PUH-LEASE! Welp, 8 over after day 1, thanks for playing Rory.

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– Jason Dufner: Could this be the one for Duf? Dufner is one of my favorite guys on tour, he packs gaggers on the course like he just doesn’t care, because well, he really just doesn’t care. He shot a pretty ordinary score of +1 today, but he struck the ball pretty well. If Duf daddy can get it going on the greens this week, he has a shot.

– Ernie Els: The Big Easy shot a disappointing +3 today, low-lighted by his triple bogey on the par 3 16th. It’s going to be an uphill climb for the defending champ to reclaim his crown, but the smooth swinging South African is capable.

– Other notables: Luke Donald +9. Dustin Johnson -3. Angel Cabrera -2. Bubba Watson -1. Hunter Mahan +1. Jason Day +2. Matt Kuchar +3.

We’re off an running at Muirfield. It’s going to be fun to watch it all unfold.

– Steve Butabi

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