Weekend Wrap

HPBNC_2011_068PGA Tour
Shriners Hospital for Children Open
TPC Summerlin
Las Vegas, Nevada

During this part of the new PGA Tour season, aspiring pros and unknowns have big opportunities to secure victories, FedEx Cup points, and exemptions, as many of the bigger names are taking the time off for fall and winter.

Now is the time to cash in and take advantage.

That’s just what Ben Martin did this past weekend. The young Clemson graduate and 2010 built up a four shot lead by the 10th hole on Sunday. But nerves caused an errant shot U.S. Amateur runner-up on the 11th tee, resulting in a stuck position behind a tree. Combined with Martin’s bogey at #11, Kevin Streelman rattled off five birdies to overtake Martin and capture the lead.

In an “awesome way to finish,” according to Martin, he finished the final four holes in four-under-par to secure a two-shot margin of victory.

Win the win Martin punched his ticket to the Masters for the first time as a professional. He had played in the Masters as an amateur in 2010. Marin also takes the very early FedEx Cup points race lead, but the playoffs will not start for nearly a year from now so much can happen between now and then.

Three players tied for fourth place, four shots back: Brooks Koepka, Jimmy Walker, Webb Simpson.

European Tour
World Match Play Championship
Ash, England

In 2012 Mikko Ilonen was ranked 334th in the world. On Sunday, he defeated the #1 seed and top five player Henrik Stenson in the World Match Play Championship.

Ilonen was one down after four holes, but eventually won the match 3&1 (three up with one to play).

I didn’t make any mistakes this afternoon against Henrik,” said Ilonen. “(I) felt like I had a good chance to beat him and I did.”

Can You Swing Opposite of Your Regular Orientation?

Every so often we are faced with the tough situation where we could get to the ball with a club, but only if we turned around backwards.  For us right-handed players, there is the occasion that only a left-handed shot is the option.  Golf is hard enough with our regular orientation, but having to turn a club upside down and swing backwards?  Even tougher.  Many players hit the shot poorly, or miss the ball entirely.

As a demonstration of the immense talent of PGA Tour players, check out Rory McIlory’s left handed shot from this week’s PGA Grand Slam of Golf:

McIlory’s backswing looked great, but the follow-through was a little off. He did manage to get the ball extracated from the hazard, but not without splashing mud on his white pants. No worries about the pants though. Nike will certainly take care of a new pair.

Martin Kaymer would eventually be crowned champion of the 2014 PGA Grand Slam of Golf.

Weekend Preview – Full Slate on All Tours

HPBNC_2011_068ORLANDO, Fla. (Oct. 15, 2014) – Reigning FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel returns for the first time since earning the $10 million season-long prize for this week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. Along with Horschel, Webb Simpson headlines the field as the defending champion after finishing six shots clear of the field last year. On the European Tour, seven of the 16 players competing in the Volvo World Match Play Championship this week participated in last month’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. The field is divided into four “pods” of four, with each person competing in a match play format against the other three players in their “pod” over the course of the first three days. The top two performers from each pod will advance to the quarterfinal matches on Saturday, and the semifinal and championship matches will be contested on Sunday. The Greater Hickory Kia Classic at Rock Barn is the second-to-last event on the Champions Tour schedule prior to the season-culminating Schwab Cup Championship. This week serves as the penultimate opportunity for players try to position themselves within the top-30 of the Schwab Cup point standings. Michelle Wie and Inbee Park headline the field at the LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship in South Korea, while Miguel Angel Jimenez will attempt to win the Hong Kong Open for a third consecutive year.

PGA TOUR

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
Dates: Oct. 16-19
Venue: TPC Summerlin Course, Las Vegas, Nev.

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday 5-8 p.m. (Live) / 8:30-11:30 p.m. (Replay)
Friday 5-8 p.m. (Live) / 8:30-11:30 p.m. (Replay)
Saturday 5-8 p.m. (Live) / 8:30-11:30 p.m. (Replay)
Sunday 5-8 p.m. (Live) / 8:30-11:30 p.m. (Replay)

Simpson defends: Webb Simpson finished six shots clear of the field in 2013, earning his fourth PGA TOUR victory in the process.
Headlining the field: Billy Horschel, Jimmy Walker, Brandt Snedeker, Webb Simpson, Hideki Matsuyama, Sang-Moon Bae, Erik Compton, Vijay Singh, Nick Watney and Jarrod Lyle.

EUROPEAN TOUR

Volvo World Match Play Championship
Dates: Oct. 15-19
Venue: London Golf Club, Kent, England

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Wednesday 9 a.m.-Noon (Live)
Thursday 6:30-11:30 a.m. (Live)
Friday 6:30-11:30 a.m. (Live)
Saturday 6:30-11:30 a.m. (Live)
Sunday 3-7 a.m. / 7:30-11:30 a.m. (Live)

McDowell defends: Graeme McDowell defeated Thongchai Jaidee 2&1 in the championship match at last year’s event in Bulgaria for his eighth career European Tour win.
Tournament field:Thomas Bjorn, Jonas Blixt, Paul Casey, Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson, Stephen Gallacher, Mikko Ilonen, Thongchai Jaidee, Pablo Larrzazabal, Alexander Levy, Shane Lowry, Joost Luiten, Graeme McDowell, Francesco Molinari, Patrick Reed and Henrik Stenson.

CHAMPIONS TOUR

Greater Hickory Kia Classic at Rock Barn
Dates: Oct. 17-19
Venue: Rock Barn Golf & Spa, Conover, N.C.

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Friday 2:30-5 p.m. (Live) / 3-5:30 a.m. (Saturday replay)
Saturday 2:30-5 p.m. (Live)
Sunday 2:30-5 p.m. (Live) / 2:30-5 a.m. (Monday replay)

Allen defends: Last year, Michael Allen outlasted Olin Browne on the first playoff hole to earn his fifth career Champions Tour win.
Headlining the field: Colin Montgomerie, Kenny Perry, Kirk Triplett, Corey Pavin, John Cook, Rocco Mediate, Mark Calcavecchia, David Frost, Jay Haas, Fred Funk and Lee Janzen.

LPGA TOUR

LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship
Dates: Oct. 15-18
Venue: Sky 72 Golf Club (Ocean Course), Incheon, South Korea

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Wednesday 11 p.m.-3 a.m. (Live)
Thursday 11:30 p.m.-3 a.m. (Live)
Friday 11:30 p.m.-3 a.m. (Live)
Saturday 11:30 p.m.-3 a.m. (Live)

Yang defends: Amy Yang defeated Hee Kyung Seo with a birdie on the first playoff hole for her first LPGA Tour victory in last year’s event.
Headlining the field: Michelle Wie, Inbee Park, Suzann Pettersen, Shanshan Feng, Lydia Ko, Na Yeon Choi, Lexi Thompson, So Yeon Ryu, Paula Creamer, Anna Nordqvist and Amy Yang.

EUROPEAN TOUR / ASIAN TOUR

Hong Kong Open
Dates: Oct. 16-19
Venue: Hong Kong Golf Club, New Territories Fanling, Hong Kong

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (Tape Delay)
Friday 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. (Tape Delay)
Saturday 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. (Tape Delay)
Sunday 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. (Tape Delay)

Headlining the field: Ernie Els, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Nicolas Colsaerts, Rich Beem, Y.E. Yang, Peter Uihlein, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Thomas Levet, David Lipsky and Tom Lewis.

Information courtesy of Golf Channel.

Weekend Wrap – New PGA Tour Season Begins

HPBNC_2011_068PGA Tour
Frys.com Open
Napa, California

The first event of the new PGA Tour season is in the books. No, you didn’t click on the wrong link. The PGA Tour season has begun already. This is the new wrap-around season folks, and we are now in the “2014-2015” schedule.

The first event of the new season was contested in lovely Napa, California. The field had some strong members this past week, with Lee Westwood, Matt Kuchar, Retief Goosen, and hunter Mahan in the mix.

Coming into this past week, Sang-moon Bae’s last (and first) victory on the PGA Tour was at the 2013 Byron Nelson Championship. He had since failed to crack the top 10 in any event. Bae separated himself from the field on Saturday by finishing the last three holes par, eagle, birdie. That -3 stretch opened up a four shot lead going into the final round.

It was Bae’s tournament to lose, and he nearly did. Bae suffered a string of three consecutive three-putt bogeys after building up a six shot lead. Bae held on, eventually holding on for a two shot margin of victory.

PGA Tour rookie Zach Blair made it to the final group on Sunday and a win would have been a great story for Blair’s first event. But the pressure got to him and he carded a final round 74 to finish in a tie for 12th place, five strokes behind Bae.

Don’t Look Now, But the PGA Tour Season Has Begun

TPC Four Seasons 18th Green

Yes, you read the title correctly. The new PGA Tour season has begun. If it seems like the season ended a couple of weeks ago, it did. The new “wrap around” season schedule is in full swing, so to speak. The seasons now cross from year to year. Welcome to the 2014-2015 PGA Tour.

For many years this time on the calendar was the “cash grab” offseason for touring pros, and a time for many to take a break, rest, and spend some needed time at home after being on the road for many weeks or months. Many of the bigger name players still stick to that schedule and will not be seen playing until sometime in 2015. But there is a lot at stake for those up-and-comers on tour, and those new holders of their new Tour cards. Now is the time to rack up dollars on the money list in efforts to retain that thing they worked so hard to attain, playing status on the PGA Tour.

This week’s tournament is the Frys.com Open at Silverado Coutry Club-North. The course is a par-72 with a total yardage of 7,203. The purse for the week is $6,000,000. A win for an up-and-comer this week would be huge. That win would secure playing privileges, punch a ticket to the Masters Tournament, open the door to the Tournament of Champions, and open up all sorts of financial opportunities from sponsors.

If you love watching professional golf and are happy knowing that the bigs like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are not in the field, this is a good week to watch. The Frys.com Open is on Golf Channel Thursday through Sunday 5-8 p.m. eastern time zone.

Weekend Wrap – Dunhill Links Championship

European Tour
Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
Carnoustie Golf Links
Old Course
Kingsbarns
Fife, Scotland

The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is a great event which fell this year between the Ryder Cup and the first week of the 2014-2015 PGA Tour season. Yes, believe it or not, the PGA Tour season starts this week.

The Dunhill is a unique competition centered in the kingdom of Fife, Scotland. Fife is the home of St. Andrews and its famous seven courses. Three of those amazing courses are used in the Dunhill Links Championship: the Old Course, Kingsbarns, and Carnoustie Golf Links. Play is rotated between the courses.

Photo courtesy of Tony Korologos at HookedOnGolfBlog.com

Photo courtesy of Tony Korologos at HookedOnGolfBlog.com

Temperatures were a bit brisk with players needing to wear sweaters and beanies. But that’s what golf in scotland is about. Weather rolled in producing cold temperatures, rain and wind.

Oliver Wilson had played in 227 European Tour events without a victory, prior to the Dunhill Links Championship. 228 was the magic number for Wilson, who hit an incredible shot on the 16th hole at the Old Course in the final round. The ensuing birdie on the 16th would make the difference for Wilson, who finished one stroke ahead of world #1 Rory McIlory, Richie Ramsay, and Tommy Fleetwood.

Said Wilson about the shot on 16, “The shot I hit into 16 was probably the best shot of my life.”

Even more amazing for Wilson was the fact that he was in the field on a sponsor’s invitation. The last sponsor’s invite to win on the European Tour was Henrik Stenson at the 2012 Open Championship. Perhaps this marks a similar springboard. Stenson would win the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai Cup in the same year.

Dunhill Links Preview

Dunhill Links Championship
Fife, Scotland

The PGA Tour season is over. The Ryder Cup is over. Fall is here. It may look bleak, but fear not golf fans. This week on TV is the Dunhill Links Championship coming from the Home of Golf, St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland.

The Dunhill Links Championship is a fantastic tournament for getting the flavor of links golf on three of the absolute best courses in scotland. Let’s take a look at each of the three.

The Old Course

At roughly 1400 years old, the Old Course is the Home of Golf. The Old Course is located in the heart of St. Andrews and is the most famous and popular golf course on the entire planet.

Photo courtesy of Tony Korologos at HookedOnGolfBlog.com

1st Tee at the Old Course with the R&A Club behind.  Photo courtesy of Tony Korologos at HookedOnGolfBlog.com

Par for the Old Course is 72, and the course is fairly short by modern day standards. The course’s defense is primarily the weather and its bunkers. With no wind, today’s pros can go low on the Old Course but if the typical scottish winds kick up, high scores will ensue.

The most famous hole on the Old is the very difficult par-4 17th, known as the “Road Hole.” The Road Hole presents a tough driving challenge over the corner by the Old Course Hotel, and the approach is difficult to a table-top green guarded by the “Road Hole Bunker.”

Carnoustie

About an hour northeast of St. Andrews is Carnoustie Golf links. Carnoustie is known by many as “Carnasty,” and regarded as one of, if not THE toughest golf course in the world.

Carnoustie’s design features thousands of rolling hills and bumps, very hard ground, and some of the most fantastic bunkering found anywhere.

The most famous hole at Carnoustie is called “Hogan’s Alley.” Hogan’s Alley is the par-5 5th hole which is guarded by three daunting bunkers on the right side of the fairway and an out-of-bounds fence on the left. The green features huge undulations which make putting very difficult.

Kingsbarns

Kingsbarns is the newest of the three courses at the Dunhill. Kingsbarns is a “modern links” course with large elevation changes, severely sloping fairways and landing areas, and very difficult bunkering.

Many holes at Kingsbarns parallel the North Sea providing stunning views and backdrops.

One of the most scenic and popular holes at Kingsbarns is the par-3 15th. This medium length par-3 requires an all-carry shot over water to a sliver of green which juts out into the North Sea.

Weekend Wrap – 2014 Ryder Cup

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 10.33.54 AM2014 Ryder Cup
Gleaneagles PGA Centenary Course
Perthshire, Scotland

What a fantastic weekend of golf at the 2014 Ryder Cup. The Ryder Cup is for many the best golf event, even better than any of the four major championships. The atmosphere, the team competition, the format (various forms of match play), and second-guessing the captain’s picks all make for great discussion and entertainment.

For many years now the USA Ryder Cup team has been the underdog. Since the days the european team could pull players from all of europe instead of only the United Kingdom, the europeans have had the advantage. The last victory the USA team had on european soil dates back decades. This Ryder Cup was no different, the USA team coming as heavy underdogs.

Friday

Friday’s rounds consisted of morning fourballs and afternoon foursomes. Fourballs being best ball format and foursomes being alternate shot format. See last week’s Ryder Cup formats post for details.

Early Friday the USA team looked good, and was in a good position having won two of the four matches, tied the 3rd and lost the 4th. By morning’s end the USA team was up 2 ½ to 1 ½ and in good shape. The pairing of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed was solid with a 5&4 drubbing of Stephen Gallacher and Ian Poulter.

The afternoon foursomes however would be a different story. The USA team would only manage ½ point while the european team scored 3 ½ points to take a 5-3 lead.

17th

Saturday

Just the same as Friday, the USA team would once again score 2 ½ points in the morning fourballs to edge back into the competition.

Just the same as Friday, the european team would score 3 ½ points to the USA’s ½ point in the afternoon foursomes.

At day’s end Saturday, the european team had a commanding 10-6 lead. 10-6 leads are not insurmountable, as was proven twice in the past by the USA and the european team in 2010, but the odds of a comeback Sunday for the USA team were slim.

Sunday

Sunday’s format is 12 singles matches. Every player on each team plays an individual match. Europe only needed to record four points to retain the cup, out of 10 matches. Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlory, and Martin Kaymer all scored early points, along with Justin Rose a half point. This setup a great scenario which allowed 38-year-old Ryder Cup rookie Jamie Donaldson the chance to clinch the cup by closing out Keegan Bradley 4&3.

Conclusion

The outcome of the 2014 Ryder Cup was not a big surprise. Most pundits figured the european team would win. Many question USA captain Tom Watson’s captain’s picks and his pairings, but in the end the european team would have likely triumphed regardless of what the USA brought to the table.

Ryder Cup Formats

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 10.33.54 AMThe Ryder Cup is here.  Below is a description of the various formats which are contested in the Ryder Cup.  For reference, each Ryder Cup team has 12 players.  During Friday’s and Saturday’s matches, some players do not play and it is the captain’s choice as to who that would be.

Friday and Saturday Morning Fourball

A “Fourball” match is a golf match which of course, involves four golf balls in the group.  In fourball there are two two-man teams.  Each player plays his own ball the entire match.  On each hole the best score of the two players per team is used as the team’s score.  So if player A makes par and player B makes a birdie, player B’s birdie is the score of the team.  That score is matched against the best score of the opposing team on each hole in match play format.  Winning the match outright gives the team one point while halfing or tying the match results in one half point being awarded to each team.

This format is also referred to as “best ball” or “better ball.”

Friday and Saturday Afternoon Foursomes

“Foursomes” matches are better known in the USA as “alternate shot” matches.  These are very high stress matches where each two player team plays shots alternately.  Player A tees off then player B plays the next shot.  Shots alternate until the hole is completed.  This format is tough and pressure packed because one player who makes bad shots can cause his playing partner, and thus the team, much trouble.

Each match is worth one point for the winner or 1/2 point in the event that the match ends in a tie, or “halved.”

Sunday Singles

Sunday at the Ryder Cup is all about individual match play.  All 12 players on each team play individual matches against opponents on the other team.  Each match is worth one point, or 1/2 point for halved, or tied matches.

Singles matches can be tough to setup by the captains.  They must “load” the matches with their best players in what they perceive to be the most important positions.  For example let us say that one team faces a large deficit going into the Sunday singles matches.  The captain would “front load” his picks with the best players in the hopes that those players would score points quickly, and get their team back in contention.

Weekend Wrap

TPC Four Seasons 18th Green

TPC Four Seasons 18th Green

Champions Tour
Hawaii Championship
Kapolei Golf Club
Kapolei, Hawaii

There’s a popular new player on the Champions Tour, Davis Love III. Davis Love III is a 20-time winner of the PGA Tour and who turned 50 in April, but waited until this past week to participate in his first Champions Tour event. The 50 and older field proved to be tough competition for Love III, who finishes in a tie for 64th in the 81-player, no-cut field.

After two rounds, two players were tied for the lead: Fred Funk and Paul Goydos. Funk fired a final round 69 which included a fantastic hole-in-one on the 16th hole with a 4-hybrid from 200 yards. The ace wasn’t enough.

Paul Goydos rode a four-hole birdie streak to victory for his first Champions Tour victory in his fifth attempt. Goydos birdied holes 14-17 for a two shot lead, but made it interesting by blowing his approach over the 18th and having to get up and down for bogey to secure a one shot win over Funk and Scott Dunlap who fired a fantastic final round of 65.

Web.com Tour
Web.com Tour Finals
TPC Sawgrass
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

This is a huge time of year for up-and-comers in professional golf, and for professionals who have made it to the PGA Tour but didn’t perform well enough to keep their tour cards. The Web.com Tour Championship is the last opportunity for players to secure positions high enough to secure their 2015 tour cards.

Notables who came through and will have 2015 privileges include Sam Saunders, the 27-year-old grandson of Arnold Palmer.

Utahn Tony Finau first appeared on the scene on Golf Channel’s big break series. He secured his tour card by finishing in in the top 25 for the regular season on the Web.com Tour.

“Half Man, Half Amazing” is the slogan for the very popular Andres Gonzales from Olympia, Washington. Gonzales has been close on the Web.com and will finally get to showcase his skills on the big stage. He is sure to be a fan favorite.

Players who once played on the big tour, lost their cards, and gained them back include Alex Cejka, Jason Gore, Bud Cauley, and Sean O’Hair.