Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Byron Nelson and the Congressional Gold Medal

One of Golf's greatest ever players Byron Nelson was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civillian award that can be bestowed upon an individual by the United States congress. He now joins an elite club of people which includes some of the greatest people the world has ever seen such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa among many others. George Washington was the first recipient of this award way back in 1776.
Byron Nelson became only the fifth athlete to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and the first golfer.

The year 1945 in the game of golf will forever be associated with Byron Nelson. That year "Lord Byron" won 18 tournaments which include 11 tournament wins in a row. A record that still stands the test of time. His 113 consecutive cuts made are second only to Tiger's 142 a streak that was snapped at the U.S.Open in 2006. But Byron Nelson's 113 consecutive cuts is a feat far more impressive than Tiger's achievement. According to the information available "The PGA Tour defines a cut as receiving a paycheck, even if an event has no cut per se. In Nelson's era, only the top 20 in a tournament received a check. In reality, Nelson's "113 consecutive cuts made" are representative of his unequaled 113 consecutive top 20 tournament finishes." Such a feat has never been accomplished by any other player and although in today's time any player who make a cut receives a pay, Nelson's feat is truly unparalleled because of the rule the PGA Tour had back then for cuts made.He was the first golfer after whom a professional event on the tour had been named, the EDS Byron Nelson Championship. This year was the first time the event was played in his absence. He passed away in September 2006.

This recognition by the U.S. congress is the true testament to the impact the great golfer had on the game and his contribution to the society at large after his playing days. A champion and a gentleman, the world of Golf stands to applaud this great man.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Angel " El Pato" Cabrera quacks his way to victory

It was riveting stuff right from the time Aaron Baddeley hooked his first tee shot into deep stuff to the last putt that Tiger had on the last hole to force the U.S. Open into a playoff. In the end it was Angel Cabrera who clinched the trophy despite struggling to finish in a clinical fashion. It wasnt a beauty pageant and it does not matter if you win ugly, as long as you win. Cabrera is the first Argentine golfer to win a U.S. Open and he did it in fine fashion becoming only the second Argentine golfer to win a major. With three holes to go he had a three shot lead but two consecutive bogeys saw him come periliously close to Tiger and Furyk was close by lurking in the shadows. Furyk would have been in a perfect position had it not been for the unfortunate bogey on the 17th hole brought about by a poor shot off the tee.

Most of the week I was fascinated by the difficult greens at Oakmont and had great fun in seeing player after player struggling from tee to green but the final round provided a new perspective to the entire spectacle. Although it was still tough, the course seemed to be playing easier than the earlier rounds and this gave the players far more opportunities to turn in birdies and the roar that went up for every birdie that was sunk brought out a very interesting fact. The crowds are not going to cheer every par that a player makes but the number of birdies they can sink.

The real thrill is in seeing someone make a charge on the final day and give the leaders a fright. The real thrill is in seeing, who manages to steady their already frailed nerves. The real thrill is in anticipation of that pefect iron shot from the middle of the fairway, 3 feet from the flagstick,on the final hole, good enough to knock the winds out of the clubhouse leader. Unfortunately if tournament organisers go out of their way to make the course unplayable the connosieurs of the game will be left wanting for more and the true Joie de Vivre of the game would be forever lost.

Perhaps the time has come for the officials of the game to revisit their approach towards the majors, or else all the leaderbaords will be bereft of the big names and an unwanted Russian Roulette will ensue to determine the winner at each venue. Time for serious thinking. While they are doing some soul searching "El Pato" or The Duck can dig into a plate of Matambre and savour his glorious victory!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Church Pews Bunker

One of the most famous bunkers in all of golf is the Church Pews bunker found at the Oakmont Country Club. Almost as famous as the Road Hole bunker found on the Old Course at St. Andrews. It would perhaps be unfair to say that the Church Pews bunker is the most dreaded part on the Oakmont course because players seem to be getting spooked by almost every available inch of space on the course but one can say with a great deal of certainty that the Church Pews bunker is quite possibly the most graceful looking hazard in all of golf. When the golf course was initially designed it was a set of eight bunkers one after the other. When the golf course was later redesigned and the number of bunkers considerably reduced(at one point the course had over 350 bunkers) the eight bunkers were redesigned to form the beautiful looking Church Pews.
A dictionary definition of a Pew tells us that they are long, fixed, backed benches that are arranged in rows for the seating of a congregation in church. No wonder then that the bunker has been aptly named the church pews bunker. Not much is known as to when members began to use the name but the year when Jack Nicklaus won the U.S. Open in Oakmont the name seems to have gained a lot of prominence with the bunker finiding a lot of print space. Legend has it (ok,slight exaggeration), once when a player could not locate his golf ball in the bunker a spectator is believed to have shouted out to him it is in the seventh aisle!
This bunker is found between the third and the fourth fairway and it becomes impossibly difficult for a player to reach the green once they find the bunker. Just recently during one of his interactions with the press, Tiger was asked why he was not practicing shots out of the church pews bunker like most other players. His response-:"Why should I practice negativity?"

This one will definitely make the top 10 list of the most famous bunkers list but as for the title of the most famous bunker, the Scots will continue to make their case for the Road Hole bunker and wont take lightly to any suggestion to the contrary.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The horror story continues

If you were not petrified by the Exorcist, Oakmont is sure to scare the living daylights out of you. You can be rest assured that Henry Fownes was looking down from his heavenly abode with a great deal of glee, seeing big names being swallowed effortlessly by the beast like course. Those who survived were left nursing their shattered pride for the course spared no one. Phil Mickelson was the biggest name to miss out on the weekend action with a 7 over par round which gave him a total of 11 over par, missing the cut by one stroke. Yes, you heard that right. The cut fell at 10 over par.

At the end of day two Angel Cabrera takes the lead at even par, his final putt for birdie ensuring that Phil missed out on the weekend. The rule for the cut line is the top 60 and ties and anyone within 10 shots of the leaders are saved from the cut line. Had it not been for the amazing birdie by Cabrera on the final hole, Phil would still have been in the competition. I guess that's why the French came up with expression C'est la vie...Such is life!

With the early pace that Dougherty had set it seemed that he would pull away from the field after he found himself 3 under par for the tournament and three shots clear off the field, but Oakmont spewed enough venom to ensure Nick's collapse over the rest of the round. He finished at 5 over par where he accompanies Tiger Woods and some others for tied 13th position. When he tees off on Saturday he will be accompanied by Tiger Woods. Atleast they are fortunate(we will look for a better word) enough to have an excuse to return on Saturday. There will be several notable absentees such as Colin Montgomerie, Henrik Stenson and Richard Beem who are presently looking to get as far away as possible from the Oakmont Country Club.

After good iron shots from the fairway players are often found sizing up their putt for what looks like a likely birdie. If they miss the putt, they end up with a good 5-6 footer coming back for par.That is how difficult the greens are. It is the par's which will determine the champion this year at Oakmont and not birdie's. Nothing sums up the difficulty of the greens than a comment once published by a reporter covering the Open quite a few years back-:

"Putting on the greens at Oakmont is like putting on a marble staircase and trying to hole out on the third hole from the bottom"

Friday, June 15, 2007

Nick Dougherty sets the early pace(er..crawl)

One things for sure, overnight rain at the Oakmont country club made the players' affair with the beastly greens a little bit easier than expected. But if you are harbouring any thoughts of a scoring spectacle at Oakmont, wash that thought away because at the end of the first day only two players managed an under par score. Nick Dougherty with a well crafted 2 uner par 68 was the leader by one stroke over Angel Cabrera. Tiger was lurking in the shadows, just three off the pace and at tied fifth position with a round of 1 over. He is placed perfectly to launch an attack over the weekend. Phil Mickelson returning after the injury layoff turned in a round of 4 over par and would have to play some steady golf to book his place for the weekend. Among other players, the long hitting Bubba Watson turned in a nice round of even par and the Spanish veteran Jose Maria Olazabal also found a spot on the leaderboard with an even par round. Defending champion Ogilvy was right up there with a round of one over par and the previous winner at Oakmont, Els was at 3 over par and in tied 34th position.

The longest par 3 in open history, the 8th hole was the second most difficult hole on the course with most players struggling to make par there. The honour for the most difficult hole though went to the 18th hole as most players struggled to find the fairway there and if you miss the fairway there you might as well kiss your par goodbye. A par is golden and anything better than that should be considered a bonus at Oakmont.

The only thing working in the favour of the players is the weather and it is expected to be cloudy over the course of the tournament. While thats a good thing it would help if the wind stays down or else we could see major upheavals on the leaderboard. The second round promises to be an interesting affair with players jostling for a spot on the leaderboard while other try to hang on and make the cut.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Alexis Thompson-The next big thing in Women's golf?

While most 12 years old try and find a way to grapple with their new found adolescent status(and that also includes their travails with Algebra) not many would expect them to be on the golf course mastering their swing. So if last week someone asked Alexis Thompson what were her plans for the week, not many would have taken her seriously when she would have told them "I intend to qualify for the U.S. Women's open". She may be a good golfer but to qualify for a major on the LPGA tour surely is no child's play. Think again. Alexis Thompson, a 12 year old qualified for the U.S. Women's Open, one of the four majors on the women's tour in a sectional qualifier in Florida.

At the age of 12 years, 4 months and a day she achieved the distinction of the youngest qualifier by pipping the previous record holder Morgan Pressel by nearly 8 months. Is this possibly an indication of the lack of depth in women's golf or is this girl a special talent? While the jury is still out on that one, she may well be a special talent looking at the achievements of the previous record holder Morgan Pressel. Before Alexis Thompson, Morgan Pressel had become the youngest qualifier when she qualified for the U.S. Women's Open in 2001. This year, in the first major on the LPGA Tour, the Kraft Nabisco championship, Morgan created a sensation by becoming the youngest player to win an LPGA major and a cool cheque of 300,000 dollars to boot! It could have been even earlier when she came close to winning the U.S. Women's open in 2005 but had to settle for a tied second place finish.

Now all eyes will be on Alexis Thompson when she tees off at the U.S. Women's Open. There will definitely be great expectations from her in the future and it is left to be seen how she deals with the pressure. This young girl who lists dancing as one of her hobbies can do just that for the time being. Sterner tests lie ahead.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

AsianTour V/s European Tour

What was supposed to be a major boost for golf in India could now be the reason for confrontation between the Asian Tour and the European Tour. Just yesterday it was confirmed that India would be the newest destination on the European Tour with a yet to be disclosed location(most likely New Delhi) to host an event from the 7th to the 10th of February. The event would have a purse of 2.5 million dollars, the highest prize money ever to be offered for a professional Golf event in India. While this news has been welcomed with a great deal of enthusiasm by the golfing community of India, it has struck a discordant note with the Asian Tour officials.

Apparently the Asian Tour was not approached before this announcement had been made. All the new events on the European Tour in Asia have been co sanctioned with the Asian Tour, hence it does come as a surprise that the Asian Tour was not informed of this move. The executive chairman of the Asian Tour Kyi Hla Han has left no leaf unturned to ensure that the message gets across to the European Tour officials that he is revulsed by this move. He has termed it unethical on part of the European Tour for not having bothered to inform the Asian Tour. He further goes on to say "Despite media reports and quotes attributed to the European Tour, there has been no approach or communication to inform the Asian Tour about the event or its intentions".

His statement has been put on the Asian Tour website and it clearly reflects the seriousness with which the Asian Tour officials are approaching this matter. While the European Tour is not bound to inform the Asian Tour, it does seem like a violation of protocol. It would be interesting to see how the European Tour responds to the charges made against them. Would this have any impact on the Indian masters which is a regular part of the Asian Tour? One does not know, but for the sake of Golf in India where the game has grown by leaps and bounds one does hope that this issue is resolved amicably between the two tours. It would be a great pity if this "miscommunication" has any greater ramifications. The young golfers in India would definitely hope that common sense prevails so that they get an opportunity to compete against and watch some of the best golfers from the world in action.

Here is the complete statement of the executive chairman of the Asian Tour.

U.S.O 107 is upon us!

The U.S. Open has always been known to be the toughest of the four majors. To top that this year the U.S. Open is being played at Oakmont which has a reputation for being the most difficult U.S. Open course.

-> The defending Champion Geoff Ogilvy

The last time the event was played at Oakmont was in 1994. It was then that Arnold Palmer played for the last time at the U.S. Open and it was his 32nd appearance at the Open. Ernie Els won the title that year. It was Ernie's first major victory. Although he has won two more after that Ernie's golfing career has been punctuated by near misses more than victories. With one of the most graceful and pleasing swings on the golf course one would have backed Ernie to have won far more tournaments than he has actually won.

Listening to what a lot of players have to say during the practice rounds it clearly seems that everyone is apprehensive about the course and it would not be an understatement to say they are terrified by the prospect of having to face the greens which are bound to be severe, made worse by the dry conditions prevailing in Pennsylvania.

One person the players would turn towads to take advice from is Johnny Miller, the player who shot a 63 in the final round of the U.S. Open when it was hosted in Oakmont in 1973. That was the first time anyone had shot a 63 in any of the major championships. That remarkable closing 63 gave Miller the first of his two major championships. The other one being the 1976 Open championship. It will be fascinating to get inside the players heads and see how they intend to tackle the course, especially the 8th hole, a 288 yard par 3. If the wind aint backing them, most players would struggle to reach the green even with their driver. I think they would be more than happy to settle for a bogey or a par at best on this hole.

During the Augusta Masters a lot of players were complaining about how difficult the conditions were and they were very upset with the changes. It will be interesting to see what they have to say here. Their argument being that people applaud for birdies hit and not for bogeys. Be that as it may, in an era where golf clubs have become insanely good the organisers are trying their best to neutralise the players weapons and only the best will be able to respond to the challenge. Who will come out on top? We will just have to wait and watch!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Lee Sung and the true spirit of the game

"The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work." - Harry Golden

Quite often the best stories in sport are those of a sportsman's conquest over difficulty and victory in the face of adversity. Lee Sung's triumph is a heart warming story.He won the Bangkok Airways open, an event he dominated from start to finish. There are few stories that touch the heart like that of a player fighting against odds to make a name for himself in the game. Lee was born deaf but his disability has not stopped him from reaching the pinnacle of sport with his maiden triumph on the Asian Tour.

He probably did not hear the crowds egging him on when he strode out on to the final green with a comfortable lead or the cheer that went up when he sunk the final putt to clinch his victory but that did not stop him from enjoying every bit of the experience. This victory has reaffirmed his belief that he can compete with the best golfers in the world. He may not be Korea's best golfer nor is he in a position to challenge K.J.Choi's status as the best golfer from South Korea any time soon but Korea has definitely found a new star and his story will definitely ensure that people from across the world will root for him. Not for one moment should you mistake this support for pity. Sport has no place for pity, if you don't have the ability to perform, no one will take notice. People will always stand to applaud those who have it in them to conquer adversity and achieve glory and Lee Sung is one such golfer who will always receive warm accolades from the followers of the game and his contemporaries. Ernie Els after finishing at the same postion as Lee in a recent event in Shanghai had said during a press conference "It must be very difficult for him.what he's doing is unbelievable."

His brother and father have always been with him. His brother caddied for him and had to come up with special signs to explain the kind of shots that needed to be hit. En route to the victory he shot a course record 62 on saturday that gave him a comfortable lead over the others in the field.

The other remarkable story came from across the Atlantic where Woody Austin, an almost out of the game golfer shot the best round of his life to clinch a victory in the St Jude Classic. The PGA Tour website has likened his victory to the "PURSUIT OF golf HAPPINESS" . Just last week Austin had qualified for the U.S. open in a bizarre fashion, playing his last few holes with a sand wedge as his putter because he had broken his putter half way through the round. His proverbial "rise from the ashes" has only instilled more fire in him to pursue the game he loves and the want to continue to chase his dream.

We must salute the efforts of these two great sportsmen who have showed us that more than the victory itself it is the route to victory that teaches us a lesson or two!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Eavesdropping on the golf course

Looks like the media in Japan just cant seem to get enough of their "shy prince" Ryo Ishikawa.
Recently in a tournament, Tokyo Broadcasting System made a request to place microphones on the participants playing in the same group as Ryo. They even wanted to place the microphones on Ryo's bag. The organisers refused to comply and rightly so.
It seems a helicopter was sent over the golf course when the round was in progress to cover the exploits of Ishikawa. This was done without the permission of the organisers. TBS has apologised for this senseless act but one wonders who came up with such a mindnumbingly dumb idea to send a chopper on a round above the course when there were participants playing in a tournament, trying to finish as high up on the leaderboard as possible so that they could secure a spot in the Japan Amateur championship.

Just recently PGA Tour golfer John Daly had suffered serious shoulder and rib injuries when he had to abort his swing midway through because of the distraction posed by an over enthusiastic photographer. In a sport like golf which requires such high levels of mental alertness one is surprised the young golfers from Japan did not lodge a strong protest against the Broadcasting station even though it may have apologised for it's utterly stupid act.
Although Ryo may have made a wonderful start to his golfing career by winning a professional event at the age of 15 , the media in Japan must tread with care and make sure that they do not unnecessarily overhype Ryo's achievements. No doubt he is fantastic player to watch out for in the future but this sort of attempt to track his every move could prove to be detrimental to his cause

Friday, June 8, 2007

Michelle Wie - Whipping up a controversy

The golfing world is abuzz with everyone discussing Michelle Wie's decision to withdraw from the Ginn Tribute, an LPGA tour event hosted by Annika Sorenstam. Wie who was recuperating from a wrist injury withdrew after playing just 16 holes. Wie was 14 over after playing 16 holes and she went to the tournament officials and told them that she had to withdraw. She cited a flare up in the injury to her wrist. You would be compelled to ask what's wrong with that?? Well, nothing really! The controversy really started when it was reported that Wie's agent came and had a word with her after which she went upto the tournament officials and told them that she intends to withdraw from the event. Just a couple of days later it was reported that she was practicing at the venue of the next event on the LPGA tour.

The question that arises is why would Wie just fake an injury and withdraw from an event? The reason to that is being attributed to the fact that there is a rule that says nonmembers of the tour who shoot 88 or higher are disqualified for the year. Therefore some players feel that to avoid being forbidden from appearing in any other tour event, Wie decided to withdraw on the advice of her agent. This act has certainly not gone down well with many players and they havent really made an effort to hide their displeasure.

After being told about Wie practicing at the venue of the next event Annika said " I just feel there's a little bit of lack of respect and class just to kind of leave a tournament like that ". Quite clearly Annika was not thrilled by Wie's act. Annika in fact gave Wie a chance to apologise but Wie was in mood for reconciliation because in her opinion she has done nothing wrong. Wie is not yet a member of the LPGA tour because she is below the minimum age of 18. She will turn 18 later this year in October.

While Wie's act of withdrawing and just a couple of days later turning up for practice at the site of the next event definitely reeks of insincerity, the LPGA officials need to revisit the terribly silly rule which bans a non member from all other events for the rest of the year if they shoot a score over 88. Surely one bad day cannot be the sole basis on which a player is banned from appearing in all other events that year.

As for Wie, she will definitely have to make amends to regain the faith of the tour players. All eyes will be on her when she plays this week at the Mc'Donalds LPGA championship. If she plays well it is likely to whip up a storm and if she does not perform that will definitely not translate into any great press for her.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Ever hit a hole in one?Meet Jackie Gagne

Ok. So you are 46 , bored of business and looking to move away from the monotony of daily life...Fair enough.

You take up golf and get addicted to it and spend most of your time on the golf course working on your game...Fair Enough.

You hit a hole in one.... Wow, but still, Fair enough(there is no dearth of luck on Earth)

Here comes the twist in the tale, since the third week of January she has hit 13 holes in one... yeah that's 13,THIRTEEN, 1+12=thirrrrteeeennnnn.

So, who is this wonderwoman? She is Jackie Gagne. Jackie who? Jackie Gagne a self proclaimed average golfer(YES, we can see that!). When the doubting thomas'(the press) showed up one day on the golf course to grill her on her achievement, she hit another hole in one. That was all the grilling they needed to do to believe her. The word amazing would be an understatement for this feat.
-> This is probably how Jackie sees the hole!

Someone like Tiger Woods, has only hit 18 of them, which one would consider pretty good but quite obviously pales in comparison to Jackie's effort. Of course if she goes at this pace within a year she would surpass the world record for the number of holes in one which stands at 59 right now, held by an amateur American golfer.

But would Jackie like to achieve that feat quickly? You would think yes, right? Well, not necessarily, because each time she hits a hole in one she has to treat everyone to a drink at the bar and while that maybe a feasible option a couple of times, 60 times within 15 months?? I am not so sure!
Here is a link to the article that appeared on

Just a couple of months back Elsie Mclean from California was on the Tonight show with Jay Leno for achieving the distinction of being the oldest golfer to hit a hole in one. She was 102 when she achieved the feat.Jackie may surpass quite a few records in the near future but she will have to wait for another 57 years to take a stab at this particular record!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Golf Quotes that will bring a smile to your face!

My Favourite Golf quotes

"Although Golf was
originally restricted to
wealthy Protestants, today ----------Dave Barry
it's open to anybody who
owns hideous clothing."

"It took me seventeen
years to get 3,000 hits in
baseball. I did it in one -----------Hank Aaron
afternoon on the golf

"The difference in golf and
government is that in golf ---------George Deukmejian
you can't improve your lie."

"Tiger is like John Daly
but with total control. If
that's not a scary prospect -----------Paul Goydos
for the rest of us, I don't
know what is."

“If you are caught on a
golf course during a storm
and are afraid of lightning, -------- Lee Trevino
hold up a 1-iron. Not even
God can hit a 1-iron.”

How did you make a
twelve? I had a long putt -----Clayton Heafner
for eleven!!

"Fifty years ago, 100
white men chasing one
black man across a field -----------Anonymous
was called the Ku Klux
Klan. Today it's called the
PGA Tour."

They call it golf because
all the other four letter -------Raymond Floyd
words were taken.

**The earliest record of the word golf is believed to have been found in the scottish constitution(some 500 years back) which banned the game because it distracted the men from focussing on Archery!**

"The reason the pro tells
you to keep your head ---------------Phyllis Diller
down is so you can't see
him laughing."

"The first time I played
the Masters, I was so
nervous I drank a bottle of --------Chi Chi Rodriguez
rum before I teed off. I shot
the happiest 83 of my life."

Monday, June 4, 2007

Payne Stewart

Payne Stewart had just come back into the limelight. When many thought he was past his best he came back to win a golf Major, the U.S. Open in 1999, no mean achievement considering his last major triumph came 8 years back in 1991. Infact after his triumph in the U.S. Open in 1991 he had only won one other event on the PGATour till 1999. His U.S.Open victory in 1999 was nothing short of inspirational as he made a 15 foot putt on the final hole to clinch the title and edge past Phil Mickelson. That putt is believed to be the longest putt holed to win the championship on the final hole. Incidentally, Tiger Woods came third that year. After Stewart's victory Tiger had said "Payne Stewart's story is an inspiration to anyone who appreciates the spirit of a competitor. Early in his career he kept falling short of victory, but he had more inside than his critics could imagine, and with hard work he proved himself to be a true champion."

Unfortunately fate plays it's own games. Just when Stewart was back at the top of his game and playing some of the best golf of his career, his life was tragically cut short by an accident. While he was on his way to another PGATour event, the learjet that he was travelling on crashed in a field killing everyone on board. The plane seemed to be gradually losing cabin pressure. It was concluded that the people on board died of Hypoxia(lack of Oxygen). This freak accident cut short a career that promised many more victories and a lot more thrill for the lovers of this beautiful game.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Greatest Game ever played

Considering the U.S. Open is round the corner and many of the big names in the game would be competing for the prestigious title it is worth going back in history to relive one of the greatest triumphs in the game of golf.

Here is a story of true grit and determination. Francis Ouimet, an amateur, born into an immigrant family earned a special distinction for himself by becoming the first amateur to win the U.S. Open. He did not belong to the social elite and made his living by caddying for players. What helped his cause was the fact that he had grown up right across the golf course and probably knew the course better than most. Francis had become a caddy at the age of 10. Incidentally when he won the U.S. Open his caddy(Eddie Lowery) was a 10 year old.

His impressive performance in some Amateur events caught the attention of the president of the U.S. Golf Association. It provided Francis with an opportunity to compete against golfing greats like Harry Vardon*(winner of 7 majors) who he had idolised from an early age. His victory also gave Americans a foothold in a game often dominated by the English and the Scots during that time
*Harry Vardon*

When Francis won the 1913 U.S. Open , he spawned a generation of young golfers looking to emulate his feat and follow in his footsteps. What was even more inspiring about the victory was the fact that he had broken the social barrier and made an inroad in a game where the social elite often dominated and others were looked down upon. He dared to dream and his achievement laid the path for many more great talents. In a game confined to the wealthy at that time, his triumph ensured that the number of golfers in America tripled. It was fitting that seven years after his death, he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

In 2005 Disney came out with a movie "The Greatest game ever played" that profiled the story of Francis Ouimet.They said it is a story of courage, passion and of the greatest American sports hero you have probably never heard of. Francis Ouimet IS possibly the Greatest American Sports Hero you have probably never heard of!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Boy oh boy!

At 15 Ryo Ishikawa is the youngest winner on the Japanese Tour


Wow! The real beauty is that he has beaten the previous record held by Seve by a margin of nearly five years. Seve achieved the feat when he was 20. This kid is not even a pro yet(he has to compete in a certain number of events before he can turn pro). A lot of people are making comparisons with Tiger and although that maybe a little premature, the mere fact that he is being compared with one of the legends of our times does suggest something special in the young boy.
Of course we will continue following his every move when he competes with the big boys!

Here is an article that appeared in Golfweek on how Ryo won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

Here is more about Ryo's victory and what he had to say after the victory

Evolution of Golf

Take a glance at the kind of clubs used by greats such as Bobby Jones, and you wonder if it would have been able to cause bodily harm to another person, let alone send the ball soaring away into the distance. No wonder then, it is safely enshrined in some Golf Museum today.

One look at the type of equipment available these days and you are forced to think whether the skill quotient is fading away from the game. The amount of research that goes into trying to develop a new club is mind boggling and the result is for all to see. It is almost like having to play in the auto pilot mode. You just let the club do the talking!

In the first half of the 20th century when the “Benny” Putter was first manufactured it was considered “revolutionary” for the kind of handgrip it provided. Compare that with some of the putters that are produced these days and you wonder whether we are still talking about the same sport! Now factors like Moment of Inertia are taken into account while manufacturing putters. The MoI is used for reducing the twist on off center contact.

When the Scots started playing this game a few centuries back they carved their own clubs from wood! I am not sure if they ever had an inkling that sometime in the future the need for improved performance on the golf course and better hitting would spawn such a huge Industry for making better (understating the point!) golf clubs and balls.


Longnoses made of woods were the norm for driving in the early days and people largely used the wooden clubs and avoided using the irons, fearing damage to the very expensive Featherie balls. This despite the fact that Irons were more effective. Man, those balls must have been expensive! The first real big improvement in the golf clubs came after the onset of Industrialisation in Europe which allowed for metal forging and their mass production in the factories.

Due to convention we may still refer to some of those clubs as woods but they are developed with Titanium heads and Graphite shafts. The material of the shafts changed from wood to hickory wood, a higher quality wood found more widely in the U.S. The trend then shifted to steel shafts, Permisson woods, metal woods and now graphite shafts. Grip it and Rip it that is exactly what these new age clubs seem to be screaming out! The greatest testimony to the power of some of these modern sticks is the fact that the name of one of the most famous clubs used in Golf so far The Big Bertha was actually the name of the Howitzer used to fire shells in the First World War. Talk about the name conveying power! The Big Bertha series started out the trend of using large/oversized club heads to provide the golfer with a greater hitting area and offer more accuracy. While new and improved designs will continue to evolve we may not see any major changes in this field as the ruling bodies of the sport have started imposing certain norms with respect to size of the club heads and other factors that have been introduced in the modern club making technology.

From wooden shafts to clubs with space age material making up the shaft, a lot has changed over the years. With the advancement of the CAD technology or what is known as Computer Aided Design, new factors have been taken into account. Coefficient of restitution or CoR is another keyword that is hotly debated between the club makers and the lawmakers of the game. It deals with the amount of energy that can be transferred from the club to the ball and right now the limit is set at 83%. A law that affects the distance on the drives of players who have a slower swing speed than the others. This game definitely isn’t as straightforward as Miguel Angel Jiminez makes it out to be with that confident stride and the cigar in his mouth.

Clubfitting techniques have managed to keep pace with the changes around them. While a couple of decades back a players choice would have been limited to a few of the clubs he had read about in a golf magazine today a player can custom fit a club for him right from the grip to the shaft and the head. Stores have started using simulators to aid the customers in making the right choice. These simulators pretty much give a fair idea as to how the balls will fly out on the course and they could then choose the club that is likely to give them optimum results. This trend is on the rise and more and more professionals are going in for custom made clubs. Just like in the Harry Potter Series where those wizards went into the wands shop and came out with wands that were unique and made just to suit their needs and it did the trick for them. Literally!

Did anyone say that in the days gone by, the players used to carve their clubs out of Wood? Definitely doesn’t sound plausible.

The convention of numbering the Golf clubs was introduced in the early part of last century to restrict the different type of clubs being used by golfers and also to try and push for and promote skill in the game. This was due to the availability of a wide variety of clubs of different shapes and sizes. The authorities had to do something to ensure only those clubs that had been widely accepted were used. The incident that one can think of in another sport of a sporting equipment used on the playing field which was way different from the norm was the Aluminium bat that Dennis Lillie strode out with, to use against the English in a test match in Perth. It definitely was not a “willow” that everyone was used to seeing and it ensured that Lillie was ticked off by the authorities for his antics. That can be considered an instance of technology ahead of it’s time, although one wonders about it’s efficiency, besides creating a fair amount of noise each time the ball hits the bat!


Since the time of the game’s inception, even the golf ball has undergone a huge change. For close to three centuries golfers used to play with a leather covered ball which was stuffed with chicken feathers. This ball was known as the Feathery cube and it was considered the first major “technological” breakthrough in the production of golf balls. Technological breakthrough? Yes, you heard it right! This was the first innovation which actually allowed the ball to follow a good trajectory in the air. When we use the word good, it must be understood that it is a strictly relative term and that means going back 400 years in time. The stuff used before the Feathery cube was a WOODEN ball!! Oxygen anyone? Of course wanting to practice on your swing with the Feathery cube would have left a big hole in your pocket unless you went out to the fairway, picked up your ball and put it back on the tee each time you wanted another swing. Each Featherie had a huge price attached to it. Even the best in the business could not manufacture more than a handful of balls in a day.

Then came the “Gutta percha” ball, made from a gum found commonly in trees in Malaysia. It was whilst using this ball that the first insight or two was gained into the aerodynamics of the ball. Golfers soon realised that the balls which had more bumps on the surface seemed to offer a greater flight. I think it would be fair to say that was when the “Dimples” found acceptance on the golf ball. Soon these odd dimples were regularised and patterns were evolved. The artistic scarring of the golf ball gave way to a more scientific approach. It was around this time that standardization of the golf ball occurred with the Golf Associations giving a fixed figure for the weight and size of a golf ball. The modern ball as we know it has been around only for the last 70 years or so and even that has undergone change due to the amount of time devoted by major manufacturers to try and develop a ball to suit the needs of the modern Golfer. Today you have multilayered balls with chemical elements with ungodly names forming the core of the ball. Sample this, the hottest material going around these days is apparently polyurethane (used in the Titleist proV1) which is applied over an ionomer mantle. Ionomers, if you “google” it, you will realise, are terpolymers of ethylene, methacrylic or acrylic acid and some other component. THAT is what goes into making golf balls these days. After figuring that out will it not hurt your conscience to hit an errant shot of the tee?

This design apparently added 5-6 yards to the average driving distance of professionals. While that does me no good, it would just mean my driving distance would be 106 yards now, instead of 100 (please someone help me!) it sure does mean a lot to the serious golfers for whom every extra yard on the club is a huge advantage. The next time you go on to the golf course, you could whack the living daylights out of these balls and be assured that there are people working to ensure that the distance on your drives continue to increase.

Last year on the PGA Tour there were 20 different golfers who had a highest driving distance of 400 yards or more. Till five years back there was not a single recorded drive of over 400 yards in a professional event on the tour. Sure does tell you something about where the game is headed.

Such continuous change in technology and the way the game is played has also ensured that there is no scope left for cross generational comparison between golfing greats. The answer to the “who is the greatest of them all” question will always be left unanswered. There is very little common ground to pick and choose between these greats across generations.
Whether it is Tiger or Jack Nicklaus or Byron Nelson or perhaps even Tom Morris (Senior). Old Tom Morris(in picture) holds the record for the greatest margin of victory in the British Open. He won by 13 strokes. Morris Senior played in the 1800’s. I wonder how one of the present day golfer’s would perform if asked to play with Morris’ golfing kit? It would be like asking a modern day NASCAR driver to participate in a championship race in a vintage Rolls Royce! The one thing that we can do is appreciate these great players for their sheer dominance over their competition. They have ensured that their names will forever be ensconced in the pages of History.

There are still some unanswered questions. Questions which require to be seriously mulled over. Are we moving away from a sport where golfers used to enthrall us with an exemplary display of touch and finesse on the course, to a sport where we have to be content with watching players muscle away the ball into outer space? Perhaps not, but the trend is alarming. There are ways to circumvent this problem. Develop courses with longer and narrower fairways, more bunkers and more of the long grass next to the fairway! The likes of Norman, Palmer and others could probably figure out a way to take this factor into account when they work on their course design philosophy. But there is only so much we can do with course design. In a tournament in Japan last year (one of the rare events where Tiger lost after leading into the last round) Tiger drove the ball on to the green while the group ahead of him was still on the Green!

For keen connoisseurs of the game one wonders what provides them with greater joy, watching Bubba Watson (one of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour) hit monstrous shots off the tee or watching someone like a Seve work his magic on the ball from different parts of the course. It’s not just golf that is facing this question; the rampant use of technology has ensured that other sports too face the heat. Even in a game like tennis the question is still the same, would you rather see a Roddick hammer in 200kmph serves, one after the other or those delightful delectable volleys from some of the touch players in the sport. It’s quite clear where my loyalties lie. While Technology offers a big boost when it comes to improving one’s game, something has to be done to ensure that natural skill is not eroded from the game and victories are not determined by the kind of equipment present in your golf bag. The one thing that we can take heart from is that despite the many quantum leaps that have been made in improving the clubs, when a golfer is faced with a 6 foot putt on the final hole to win a championship, those jangling nerves will always continue to play a part and there is no technology to prevent that, YET!

Sridhar Natarajan

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Nick Watney wins Zurich Classic

Nick Watney won his first PGA Tour event by a comfortable three strokes. Daniel Chopra made a strong comeback this time around in the fourth round and finished tied for 15th place. Another decent finish for him, sure to push him up in the Fed Ex cup points race.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Raphael JACQUELIN wins in Asia and Danny slips in the Zurich classic

Raphael JACQUELIN won the BMW Asian open by 2 strokes. It was a disappointing run for Asian golfers with only Lee Sung in the top 10. The only Indian to make the cut Gaurav Ghei played his worst round of the week to finish tied 58th. :-(

It seems that I jinxed Danny and he ended up playing a terrible third round moving out of the top 10 and ending up t36 after the third rounds play!

Go Danny boy!

Daniel Chopra has had a brilliant season so far. After being on the fringes for the last few years on the PGA TOUR, it seems Danny will hold on to his permanent playing card on the PGA Tour with ease and although he is presently ranked 58 in the fedex cup ranking points this season it's been a considerable improvement for him.
Infact his ranking would be much better if he just managed to get the fourth round troubles of his back..His final round scoring average is 71.5 far worse than his average for the other three rounds which stands at 70.2 . If he starts to perform more consistently in the fourth round he will be visible far more often on the final tournament leaderboarD!

Friday, April 20, 2007

The BMW Asian Open and the Zurich Classic

This week we have action from Shanghai with the BMW Asian Open and the Zurich Classic on the PGA Tour.

It's been a disappointing run for the Indians in Shanghai in the BMW Asian Open which is a co sanctioned event with the European Tour. Only Gaurav Ghei has made the cut(he has been stringing together a few decent finishes this season!)... Shiv Kapur unfortunately failed to make the cut and so did a few others. S.S.P. continues to struggle in the co-sanctioned events.

In the Zurich Classic Arjun Atwal plays his first event on the PGA Tour after the car accident incident! Although he will miss out on the cut look out for Daniel Chopra.Another fabulous second round for him pushes him into the top 10 after the second rounds play.

Jeev Milkha Singh has taken a break this week.