Gear up for this week’s U.S. Open with some preview coverage. Doug Ferguson breaks down the story behind the mega-pairing (a full list of pairings is available here) for Thursday-Friday (Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott (pictured)). Ed Sherman gives kudos to the USGA for putting this dream threesome together. In my opinion, golf needs as much Woods-Mickelson as it can get, and maybe this is the kick in the butt Scott needs to remind people (and himself) that he’s allegedly ranked third in the world.
Meanwhile, there’s a bevy of behind the scenes information about the course set-up at Torrey Pines. Pebble Beach may have more history, but in terms of sheer beauty, much if not all of Torrey comes pretty darn close to its more renowned neighbor up north (see hole #3, pictured).
Geoff Shackelford blogs that “not only is the South Course immaculate, [but] it’s much, much more firm than last month when it was pretty swampy, particularly on the bermuda approaches and greens.” That said, Thomas Bonk over at the L.A. Times claims that “inconsistency in the rough is the early word.”
Who would know better than Woods, who finally put his knee to the test by playing a morning practice round earlier this week–his first round at Torrey Pines since winning the Buick earlier in the year (see Shackelford’s linked piece above). Woods’ game plan, according to swing coach Hank Haney, is articulated here. He’s also listed as 7:4, per this sports book. Given his long lay off, I’ll take the field on this one. That said, getting the chance to show up Mickelson may be enough to shake the rust off sooner rather than later and propel him into weekend contention. But I just don’t feel comfortable with picking Tiger given his long absence from competition. A lot of people are worried about his driver, but I think his putting may be the weak link. Tiger is the best putter in the world (by far), but even he is prone to bouts of inconsistency. Had he had a few rounds at the Memorial to work out the kinks in his stroke, I’d pick him in a heartbeat. Because he didn’t, I’ll take the field, and specifically, at 30:1, Justin Rose.
Also, keep an eye out next week for Golfobserver.com’s Sal Johnson’s U.S. Open breakdown, especially if you’re a fantasy or betting rube. No one comes close to breaking down a tournament beforehand like Sal does.
“Torrey Pines is very charming, but lets face it, a lot of money has been poured into the course, not because it’s a hidden gem like Bethpage, but because of its location and the fact that the size of the property makes for a financial bonanza for the USGA.” And he too has played the course beforehand: “After playing the course, I can see what [USGA head oc competition Mike] Davis and the USGA are trying to do. They want to be fair with the length of the fairways with three different lengths of rough, a first and a second cut that are manageable along with a third that — assuming the ball is found — all you will be able to do is advance it back into the fairway, which will make par a near impossibility. As for the greens, they will be very quick and even though they were soft for us on a cool, foggy day during media day, I can see the potential of them getting rock hard. Still, with the speed and firmness, the lack of undulation could mean more putts made at this U.S. Open than any other.”
Interesting story on Greg Nared and the one year anniversary of the infamous Ginn Open “Rule 88” fiasco involving then client Michelle Wie. Nared, you’ll remember, repped Wie back when he was VP of Golf at William Morris Agency. But last October he became the second agent in as many years to part ways with Wie. He resurfaced later after starting his own company, the Greg Nared Agency, and taking on former USC phenom Nicole Castrale (who ironically won the Ginn event) as his first golf client. Nared, by the way, is looking to expand his golf division (his two other clients are freestyle skiers). I’m only a call or email away, Greg…
Peter Webb once mentioned that he’s driven to find the next Tiger Woods. Well, that’s easier said than done. But history has shown us that a great professional golfer tends to emerge once every ten years, meaning that since Tiger’s grand entrance back in ’96-’97, we should have had one by now. Except we don’t. And don’t give me this Adam Scott drivel. I said ‘great golfer,’ not great Burberry spokesman. I’m talking the kind of player whom we can reasonably project will win multiple majors, all while looking the last great one right in the eye while doing it (a la Jack, 1962, or Watson, 1977).
Anthony Kim? Maybe. In fact, SI’s Damon Hack thinks A.K. is “ready for takeoff.” But how about Rickie Fowler? The 19-year old certainly has had a great week so far following a (for him) disappointing finish in the NCAA’s (although his last round was stellar, when everyone else was hacking and limping). Fowler lost in a playoff Monday at sectional qualifying for Torrey Pines, but was named the first alternate and got in the field when former PGA champion Shaun Micheel withdrew. He’s also the favorite at this week’s Sunnehanna (the kickoff to the summer season of elite amateur golf). Fowler was the Golf Coaches Association of America’s Freshman of the Year and a first-team All-American this past season at Oklahoma State. And last month he was awarded the Ben Hogan Award, presented annually to the top men’s NCAA Division I, II or III, NAIA or junior college golfer, taking into account all collegiate and amateur competitions during the last 12 months. Fowler is the first frosh to have won the prestigious award.
Wake Forest standout Webb Simpson made his pro debut this week at the St. Jude, and also signed with former Demon Deacon-player-turned-agent Thomas Parker of the Players Advisory Group. Parker apparently has known Simpson since he was a child, probably played some golf with him over the years, and helped to show him the ropes at Wake. Naturally their relationship has now blossomed into a professional one as well. Simpson is as a polished a player to have come out of the collegiate ranks in quite awhile. Through sponsors exemptions this fall and summer, he’ll be trying to earn enough money so that he can skip out on the fun time at season’s end known as Q School. Is he ready to take the next step? Meanwhile, Parker, who also manages Tim Clark and Charles Howell III, has a nice little stable of clients going.
Props to UCLA senior Kevin Chappell for hanging in there down the stretch, getting his Tom Watson on with that chip-in on 17 for bogey, and then sticking a great approach on 18 to help UCLA win its first national title in a couple of decades by one stroke over arch rivals Stanford and by two over USC. Ryan Herrington wrote a nice piece detailing Chappell’s story, and how the miraculous chip was the emotional culmination of a season wracked with personal grief. Chappell, by the way, turns pro after the Palmer Cup this summer.
Herrington also weighed in on the NCAA’s 72-hours later, and talks about the end of the championship’s stroke-play format. Looks like golf can turn to brackets a bit faster than, say, college football.
If you haven’t been keeping up to date with the LPGA, you’re not alone. That said, now is the time to pay attention, writes Ron Sirak. Beginning with last week’s Ginn, the Tour is in the midst of a nine-tournament stretch that includes three major championships and seven purses of at least $2 million, including the $3.1 million U.S. Women’s Open and the $3 million Evian Masters. Per usual, watch out for world’s number one Lorena Ochoa. The 26-year-old Mexican star withdrew from last week’s Ginn Tribute to visit her ailing uncle in Mexico (who died last Thursday) and has already won $1.8 million this year.
Here’s my unofficial, official Top 10 list of graduating seniors (with their final year scoring average) ready to turn pro (i.e., in need of an agent). Strike Simpson off that list, as he’s already signed. Anyone who knows of the status of the other nine wins a prize. I will say that the two Euros (Sjoholm, Blixt) may indeed have the most upside, IMHO.
1. Kevin Chappell, UCLA – 70.89
2. Joel Sjoholm, Georgia St. – 70.824
3. Troy Merritt, Boise St. – 69.53
4. Michael Thompson, Alabama – 71.39
5. Webb Simpson, Wake Forest – 70.90
6. Jonas Blixt, Florida St. – 71.33
7. Ryan Spears, Wichita St. – 71.26
8. Aaron Goldberg, San Diego St. – 71.66
9. Rob Grube, Stanford – 72.24
10. Chris Baker, Iowa State – 71.66
The world’s top strength and conditioning experts for golf will gather from October 16-19, 2008 in Anaheim, Calif. at the 3rd Annual World Golf Fitness Summit, hosted by Titleist Performance Institute cofounders Dave Phillips and Dr. Greg Rose. The three-day seminar will focus on the growing discipline of golf specific fitness, and will include over 50 speakers from 10 different countries. No word yet on whether Camilo Villegas will demonstrate how to do concentration curls, or if Gary Player will lecture on the differences between HGH and creatine monohydrate.
I’ve never heard of Second Skin, but apparently I should have (it is one of Canada’s top golf apparel and outerwear brands). Moreover, the brand will be well represented at the 2008 U.S. Open Championship at Torrey Pines when play begins June 12. Mike Weir, who wears his own label licensed through Second Skin, and four members of the “Hollas” team (a specific Second Skin collection) including Rory Sabbatini, Dean Wilson, Jon Mills and David Hearn, will all be teeing it up at the Open. Sabbatini, the newest member to the Hollas Team, will be sporting authentic U.S. Military licensed camouflage shirts designed by Hollas especially for the tournament. Wearing the military style shirts is part of Sabbatini’s ongoing effort to bring attention to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and raise much needed money for it’s benefit. The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a non-profit organization, has provided close to $60 million in support of military personnel lost in service to our nation, and for severely wounded military personnel and veterans.