Not Just Another Major Golf Tournament

There are four Major Golf Tournaments in professional golf! For various reasons, each event is unique and offers untold excitement. Regardless of your level of play, the Majors are highlights of the golf season that catches our attention.

Recently, I asked the golfing world which was there favorite Major. I was a bit surprised at the results, but given the events of last year I guess I really should not have been all that amazed.

Spieth Record Masters

2015 Masters Golf Tournament Champion – Jordan Spieth (Masters.com)

I have to admit that I am big Masters fan. Last years performance by Jordan Spieth was what legends are made of. Spieth added to the mystique about that The Masters and is considered the most popular Major in professional golf. I have to admit that Spieth’s play was akin to the greats like Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Sam Snead, and Arnold Palmer. However, it will take more that one victory to knock Nicklaus off as the greatest Masters Champion of all time; but, another performance like the one in 2015, he might well be on his way.

I am also a fan of The Open which is the oldest Major and probably the most prestigious. There is something about watching players fight the wind, conquer bunkers as deep as caverns, and greens as subtle as a sledge-hammer that brings out my competitive spirit. There is never a shortage of awesome shots and great recoveries! The Open is special and extremely popular to golfing fans.

Regardless of which Major is your favorite. Most golfing fanatics gather around their TV, watch on-line, or are fortunate enough to be there in person to watch the best players in the world slug it out for the top prizes in golf.

If you had an all expense paid trip any Major, which would you choose?

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

Masters Week!

Former Champion Ben Crenshaw playing in his last Masters!

Former Champion Ben Crenshaw playing in his last Masters!

It is finally here! The news is going crazy, the hype is growing, and the pundits are pontificating. For all golfing fans, the Masters Week is the start of so many things. For those of us living in the Great White North, it means golf season is about to start. For all those others who live in warmer climates, it is an opportunity to enjoy more golf.

The news is full of stories about who is going to win, who is going to exceed expectations, and who is going to struggle! I have already announce my picks for this year, but one topic I have avoided and just cannot anymore.

Yup, you guess it: The Role of Past Masters Champions!

Why would players be given a lifetime exemption for winning the Masters? If you think of the names on the list, only about 7 of the 19 have a chance to win again. Of those, few would be rated as any kind of favorite! Why let these aging players, some were superstars in their day, take a position from a young player who would benefit more from the experience of Amen Corner? Before we go any further here are the past winners playing this year:

  1. Cabrera, Angel
  2. Couples, Fred
  3. Crenshaw, Ben
  4. Immelman, Trevor
  5. Johnson, Zach
  6. Langer, Bernhard
  7. Lyle, Sandy
  8. Mickelson, Phil
  9. Mize, Larry
  10. O’Meara, Mark
  11. Olazabal, Jose Maria
  12. Schwartzel, Charl
  13. Scott, Adam
  14. Singh, Vijay
  15. Watson, Bubba
  16. Watson, Tom
  17. Weir, Mike
  18. Woods, Tiger
  19. Woosnam, Ian

After you have given it some thought, what have you come up with? Why let these aging players into the most elusive tournament in the world? Well, let me tell you.

Because they make the game better! These classy gentlemen, although most are past their prime, educate and mentor the younger superstars of today. They add that “savior faire” to an already awesome golf tournament. Some of these great players, like Ben Crenshaw and Tom Watson, are like that favorite uncle we like to periodically visit just talk about life.

These past champions help keep the rich and historic aspects of the Masters alive. They bring their own flair to the event which helps the fans connect to all the players. They become that underdog, who older players like myself can relate to, the fan favorite and unknown that all golfing fans secretly love to follow!

Ben Crenshaw indicated this will be his last year of competing in the Masters. As all the champions will eventually find out, there is a time to take a bow and exit stage left. Ben Crenshaw is demonstrating yet another lesson to the younger players that eventually everything comes to an end. Crenshaw played with class and leaves with class – Thanks for all the great memories.

As this week unfolds, take time to remember the past champions for they bring more to the game than just golf! As they tee it up on Thursday, listen to how loud the crowd cheers when their name is announce! As we watch them tee it up, there is still a small glimmer of hope and the thought that on any given day, anyone can make history!

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links.

The Fifth Major

Official Logo of The Players Championship

The Players Championship played this weekend is lauded as the Fifth Major.  It is the only significant tournament owned and administered by the PGA Tour.  The majors all have different sponsors.  The Masters is owned by the Augusta National Golf Club; the U.S. Open by the United States Golf Association (USGA); The Open Championship by The R&A, and the PGA Championship by the Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA of America).

This tournament was created in 1974 and Jack Nicklaus won the inaugural tournament.  This tournament has a short history, but gathers an elite field every year.  The tournament runs every year at about the same time with the final round being played on Mother’s Day.  It has a permanent home at TPC Sawgrass since 1982 at the stadium course.

Having the reputation as the Fifth Major is very tough.  The Players Championship is a very young tournament, but has some great highlights.  Tom Alter, PGATOUR.COM, outlines 40 history shots that capture your imagination.  One of the favourites was in “2007 – In the third round, Phil Mickelson’s tee shot at the 10th hole found a fairway bunker. His only shot to the green was through a small gap in the trees. The leader couldn’t win the tournament with this one shot, but he could lose it. So “Phil the Thrill” threaded his approach shot through the trees and onto the green. Climbing out of the bunker, he said to his caddie Jim “Bones” McKay, “I didn’t want to tell you what I was doing.” Mickelson went on to win the first PLAYERS in May by two shots.”  There are many more great stories and are worth a read.

Every tournament has great memories.  If one researched enough, they could find enough great shots to fill a book.  It could be the fact that it has the richest prize money of any tournament.  Or that the winner receives 600 Fed Ex points for winning like the other Majors.  Or that the field is made of the top 30-50 players in the world. Ultimately, this tournament has plenty to offer and continues to be elevated into the top five tournaments of the year.

The greatness of The Players Championship can be supported in the facts on many levels.  However, what is the ultimate driving force that makes it the Fifth Major?  It is RESPECT.  The respect it receives from the players.

In an article by ESPN.COM, on Tuesday Tiger Woods is quoted, “We have our four major championships, and that’s that, …….But if there was going to be another one, this would be it. This is the best field that we have.  We have guys from all over the world playing and, next to the PGA, probably one of the deepest and stiffest fields we’ll face.”

USA Today Sports penned “The Players just gets bigger and bigger,” two-time Players champion Davis Love III said. “The PGA Tour has done a great job in making this our major, the players’ major, and it’s a special tournament.”

The New York Daily News quotes the number 2 in world, “It’s funny,” said Rory McIlroy, who has missed the cut all three times he’s played here.  “It’s a golf course where you look at the field and you’re like, ‘Anyone can win.”

The majority of the golf world respects the Players Championship as an elite tournament.  The players themselves are eager to try their hand at one of the toughest competitions of the year.  As stated by the players, this tournament has proven year in and year out that it is a top tier professional golf tournament.  It is time to give The Players Championship its due and make it the Fifth Major!

I am a grateful Golfer!  See you on the links!

Is a Caddy Important in Golf?

image from:  http://philmickelson.com/photo-gallery/#jp-carousel-1521The influence of the media, referees, and non-athletes in sports is well documented.  They seem able to set the stage for success and failures.  Each year conspiracy theorists examine, dissect, and over-analyze sporting events to determine  if they can find an hints of wrong doing.  I guess this years Masters will be the same!

The penalty for slow play against the Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old, grade 8 player from China, who made the cut anyway, has caught the attention of everyone.  A statement, in The Guardian, by rules officials stated that his age did not matter.  I would have to agree with that statement.  He obviously has the game to play at the Masters, so he must play by all the rules.  Whether the rules are applied equally is the real topic of conversation of most analysts.

At Dimplehead.com, David Duval took a swing a quite a few slow players who never get assessed slow play penalties.  Additionally the article suggests; “in the often chummy relationship between golf announcers and players there is no identifying slow players on broadcasts. Often slow players are termed “deliberate” as if they are more thoughtful because they take their time in playing their shot.”

The Vancouver Sun, The Independent, and Golf.com at Sports Illustrated all have interesting views on the situation.  Ultimately, the one-stroke penalty was assessed and Guan made the cut.  Like it or not, although the commentators will talk about this all weekend, it is in the books and we can move on…..or can we?

Professional golf is a team sport.  Yes, you heard me, a team sport.  Of course the golfer is the focal point, but there is always that guy in the background providing advice, clubs, water, telling the crowd to calm down or just encouraging his player to succeed.  Of course, like a pit crew in auto racing, they are the behind the scene masters who are extremely important to ant pro golfers success.

So where was Guan’s caddie, Brian Tam, during this whole affair?  There is a reason professional caddies are paid well; they are relied upon to bring so much to the game.  It affords the professional, or in this case the amateur, the time to focus on shot making, not worrying about their clubs, trying to figure out distances, helping with the player’s swing, reading the course conditions or worrying about being on the clock!  Is it possible that Guan’s caddie lost track of time as well?  Is it possible that both were so focused on the wind conditions that everything else was irrelevant?  Nonetheless, I would suggest that Guan’s caddie may have to take some responsibility for the slow play penalty.

A professional golf caddie is critical to the success of a professional golfer.  They offer so many facets to the game that are not measurable.  If you think they are not important, ask players like Phil Mickelson who have hand the same caddie since 1992.  I am sure Phil would say he owes much of his success to long time caddie and friend Jim “Bones” Mackay.  The professional caddie is a friend, peer, mentor, swing analyst, body-guard and sometimes butt-kicker.  A importance does enter the spotlight each year at the HSBC Caddie of the Year awards.  It is a fun night every year where caddies place votes to recognize their peers.  Overall, caddies are an integral part of professional golf and should be recognized for their contributions to the game.

I am a grateful golfer!  See you on the links.

A Tradition Like No Other

MastersWhat makes The Masters more than just a golf tournament!  Is it that Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus are the youngest first time and two-time champions respectively!  That Jack Nicklaus has won 6 green jackets.  That in 1935, Gene Sarazen’s double eagle on 15th hole coined “the shot heard ‘round the world”!  There are only four wire-to-wire champions. That the oldest Masters champion is golf’s great Jack Nicklaus at age 46.  Phil Mickelson’s shot from behind a tree on the 13th hole to 5 feet from the pin.  Regardless of the event, it is easy to see why this tournament captures the eye of the golfing world, as millions of viewers will be glued to the TV waiting for history to unfold!

What else makes The Masters great?

Announced on 07 April 2013, the new initiative of the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship that will conclude at Augusta National Golf Club in 2014 will that create excitement for all junior golfers.  This year-long event will provide young men and woman golfers between the ages of 7-15 an opportunity to play at one of the world’s most prestigious course.

How will the spot light shine on the 14-year-old Chinese golfing prodigy  Tianlang Guan?  He is the youngest player ever to qualify for the Masters.  This week he played with Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Ben Crenshaw, and Tom Watson; what a fantastic opportunity for this young man!

The Masters has donated over 18 million dollars to the Augusta, Georgia, area!  A portion of the donation goes to charities selected by Augusta National Golf Club employees.  Talk about giving back.

The Masters Tournament captures the golfing world for 4 days like no other.  It provides hopes, dreams, heartaches, and triumphs in the space of seconds.  Competing in The Masters is a dream for many golfers.  In this year’s Masters, 6 amateurs are fulfilling their hopes and dreams.  Regardless, all players will relish in this rare opportunity and are psyched and ready to claim the green jacket.

So, who are the favorites, the dark horses or the up-and-comers ready to break out. Many websites cover such a topic and if your interested check out some of my favorites:  Lets Talk GolfAdamSarson.comGolf Dweeb, and White Dragon Golf.

Not to be left out, the following are the The Grateful Golfer’s picks for this year’s Masters:

  1. Rory McIlroy – he is the best golfer in the world regardless of the world rankings and is ready for his first Green Jacket.
  2. Phil Mickelson – you can never count out Lefty.  The Masters is a tournament made for his game.
  3. Keegan Bradley – if his putter gets hot – look out!
  4. Brent Snedeker – he has the game to challenge all pros!  A very streaky player.  Good Dark horse pick.
  5. Mike Weir – Because he is Canadian!

“A Tradition Like No Other”, coined by Jim Nantz of CBS Sports, definitely sums up all aspects of The Masters.  It is a tournament rich in tradition and is the most anticipated sporting event in the world!  Enjoy the weekend!