Wednesday, September 27

Byron Nelson: Golf, Stew and Decency

Golf great Byron Nelson, who died Tuesday at age 94, once said, “I don’t know very much. I know a little bit about golf. I know how to make a stew. And I know how to be a decent man.”

Obviously, Nelson was also unfailingly modest.

Probably best known in the modern golf era for his 11 consecutive PGA Tour victories, Nelson arguably had the most-consistent golf swing of all time.

When the USGA built a robot in 1975 to test golf clubs and golf balls for conformity to standards, they patterned it after Nelson's swing and named it "Iron Byron." (The original Iron Byron is on display in the USGA museum.)

“I did not ever dream, in my wildest imagination, there would be as much money or that people would hit the ball so far,” Nelson said in recent years. “I only won $182,000 in my whole life."

The Armchair Golfer

Source: Times Online

Tuesday, September 26

Are Americans Sore Losers?

From the American media to anyone with a passing interest in U.S. golf, people are hacked off. Three straight Ryder Cup losses. Unthinkable!

Let's list all the excuses and round up all the possible parties to blame. Let's change the competition somehow, the team selection process, or maybe the venue, so the good ol' USA can win again.

(Remember when this happened in international basketball? If only America could play its NBA stars in the Olympics ...)

Europe, Australia, South Africa and other countries have produced excellent golfers. Many have honed their games at American universities and now compete regularly on the PGA Tour. Golf is a worldwide game and American supremacy (minus Tiger) is a thing of the past.

As some have already said, it will take better American players who are completely dedicated to winning the Ryder Cup. Otherwise it will be more of the same.

Winning is no longer an American birthright -- at least not in golf.

The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, September 24

Why Europe Won

For the American side, the second-guessing about the Ryder Cup will be endless. Tiger Woods can’t lead or win in a team setting. Tom Lehman was too rah-rah. Phil Mickelson didn’t show up. And on and on.

But forget about the U.S. for a minute. Here are a few simple reasons why Europe won the cup for the third consecutive time.

1. Europe fielded a better team.
Their best team ever, many said before the matches began.

2. Europe played well.
When the better team plays well, they usually win. Americans might be disappointed about the results, but they shouldn’t be surprised.

3. Europe is a true team.
The European players do “team” better. Even if they lost they would be at the local pub downing a few pints. They're in it together -- always have been, always will be.

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, September 23

Pillow Fight to Set Tone for Singles Matches

Down 10-6 going into Sunday’s singles matches, U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Lehman remained upbeat. While many were wondering about Lehman’s Sunday lineup, Captain Tom was organizing a pillow fight on the eve of the critical singles matches.

“We’re continuing to bond,” Lehman said. “The pillow fight is another opportunity for us to have some fun and unwind together after a frustrating day at the K Club. We’ll be OK.”

After the pillow fight, the Americans planned to roast marshmallows before turning in for the night.

"I like our chances tomorrow," Lehman added. "This team is really coming together."

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, September 22

Splash Down Instead of Smack Down

Tiger Woods hit it in the water on the first hole. Jim Furyk hit it in the water on the last hole.

In between they played just good enough to break even in their two opening day matches, winning a point and losing a point.

Funny game, golf. You team up the two highest-ranked players in the world. You match up power and consistency. You put together complementary personalities. You think they should be unbeatable and set the tone for the American team.

Ah, but this is the Ryder Cup. An alternate reality where Sergio wins points the way Tiger wins majors.

Go figure.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, September 21

Miller: USA Will Win Ryder Cup

NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller has spoken.

"This might be their weakest team ever, at least on paper," Miller told the Associated Press. "But they've still got enough good players that if they play clutch golf and come together as a team, they can win. And I believe they will."

Part of Miller's rationale is that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are both due to have a good Ryder Cup. And that Tiger wants to wipe away the one big blemish on his career thus far.

Although Johnny predicted a U.S. victory, he didn't give American golf a free pass.

"Seven of the top 30 in the world are Americans. That's unfathomable," Miller said. "I can't believe the state of the game in America. ... It's like you've got 12 guys -- three of them are firing a 50-millimeter cannon and nine guys are BB guns. The bottom line is, the U.S. has got to step it up."

Step up time begins on Friday morning with Mr. Woods and Mr. Furyk.

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, September 19

Captain Camaraderie

They're singing college fight songs. They're playing skins games with rotating partners. They're signing autographs (even though there's a no-autograph policy) -- all in the name of fun.

Is there anything that Tom Lehman -- who I now officially dub "Captain Camaraderie" -- isn't doing to turn the U.S. Ryder Cup team into best buds? I think not.

Will this translate to sinking clutch putts and earning Ryder Cup points? I think so. Or not.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, September 14

Does Coach K Hold the Key to Victory at the K Club?

Tom Lehman is looking outside the golf world for Ryder Cup advice, turning to Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.
.
"Coach K told me, 'Just follow your gut,'" Tom was quoted as saying.

I could have told him that. (No offense, Coach K.)

Lehman has also sought advice from legendary basketball coach John Wooden.

Coach Wooden told Lehman to run a 2-2-1 full-court press from the get-go. Lehman reminded the Wizard of Westwood the Ryder Cup is a golf competition. But the UCLA great didn't budge, noting his record 10 NCAA championships.

(OK, Coach Wooden didn't really say that. But Lehman did seek his advice.)

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, September 8

Woosnam and Bjorn: Poor Communications Skills on Display

Thomas Bjorn issued an apology for blasting European Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam's handling of captain's picks. Bjorn was fined by the European Tour.

"Having had a day to reflect on my comments, I would like to apologize for the hurtful and personal nature of my remarks to European captain Ian Woosnam," Bjorn told the Associated Press.

I'm guessing Bjorn had a legitimate beef with Woosie. Not simply on the merits of Woosie's picks, but on the way the affected players were told.

"He never called me," Bjorn was quoted as saying. "He came into the bar at the hotel and gave me 20 seconds about Lee having won twice at The K Club. In a bar. That kind of sums it up."

A long and powerful ball striker, Captain Woosnam comes up short on communications skills. And Bjorn gets bad marks for his public rant.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, September 7

Newspaper Takes Woods to the Woodshed

I ran across this today at si.com and attributed to the Washington Post:

"At the '04 Ryder Cup, nobody was more responsible for the U.S. rout than Woods in his disastrous partnership with Phil Mickelson. The rivals, ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the world, tried to pretend to be friends, but lost both their matches on the first day, dooming the U.S. team from the start. Their icy non-chemistry, through the fault of neither, soured the team."

Well, there you go, Tiger -- more bulletin board material. Please use it.

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, September 5

The Greenbrier

On the way home from a Labor Day weekend getaway, the family and I stopped off at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

The smell of heavy coin was in the air. What a place!

Take a look.

I saw Tom Watson's parking spot -- Tom is the golf professional emeritus of The Greenbrier. The spot was empty, so no chance of going 18 with Tom. Maybe next time.

The Armchair Golfer