2015 Sony Open Superlatives

The Sony Open is the first full field event of the 2015 PGA Tour season and it’ll be nice to watch so many familiar faces teeing it up in sunny Honolulu as the current temperature in the Northeast hovers defiantly in the teens. I like these Hawaii tournaments because it’s the only time I get to watch live golf without my kids competing for my attention. For those of you without children, it’s very difficult to analyze Russell Henley’s ball flight when you have a 3 year old whacking you in the shins with a wooden piece of train track.

Ahh, kids are the best. Speaking of progeny…

Group Most Likely Related to Arnold Palmer: Sam Saunders, Scott Pinckney and Kyle Suppa

This could be the year that Sam Saunders finally breaks free of his grandfather’s omnipresent shadow and starts to establish his own legacy in golf. After several seasons of slogging through golf’s minor leagues Saunders earned his PGA Tour card with a top 10 finish at the Web.com finals in September. He would also understandably like people to stop talking about the influence his grandfather has had on his golf game, even if being related to the King has had it fair share of perks for Saunders including a standing invite to the Bay Hill Invitational. Regardless, after a while it must get pretty old having people asking you for the proper ratio of iced tea to lemonade.

Group Most Likely To Have Burned A Piece Of Furniture Following The Ohio State’s Victory In The College Football National Championship: Jason Day, Harris English and K.J. Choi

Jason Day lives in OH IO therefore according to the state charter he must root for the Buckeyes, even if he is not a college football fan. And who can blame him really after OSU did every thing short of stuff the Oregon Duck carcass full of fresh herbs and spices on the way to an impressive 42-20 victory in the college football national championship. I’d have a problem with Day jumping on the Buckeye bandwagon if he came from some other part of the country or went to a different college but as a native Aussie all can be forgiven. Now if he ever starts cheering for an American cricket team then we might need to have a few words.

In regards to the celebrations that occurred in Columbus after the game, I for one have never understood the impulse to light furniture on fire. Maybe it’s because I’m older now and my pyromania phase has long since passed or it could be that I would rather choose to sit on a sofa than inhale its noxious pleather fumes. Whatever the case may be, for smart people college kids act real stupid some times.

Last week in my Hyundai Tournament of Champions preview I mentioned how I was picking Jason Day to win the 2015 Masters. According to oddsmakers Day is a 25/1 to win the Masters. Rory is 6/1 while Tiger Woods is second at 15/1. I’m no sharp but those 25/1 odds for Day are right in the gamblers sweet spot. If you’ve got a few extra dollars to spare you might want to plunk a little something down on Day.  Or maybe Bubba to repeat. Matt Kuchar at 30/1 looks good too.

Group Most Likely In Need Of A Bounce Back Season: Luke Donald, Webb Simpson and Matt Kuchar

Luke Donald and Webb Simpson had really disappointing seasons in 2014 culminating with Donald being left off the European Ryder Cup team and Simpson practically begging his way onto the American side. To make matters worse, Simpson’s performance at Gleneagles was less than inspiring, just like all the other Americans save for Spieth/Reed, to the point where one has to wonder if other golfers now resent him for campaigning Tom Watson so hard for that final captain’s pick. Does Chris Kirk carry on a grudge this year to the point where when playing with Simpson he refuses to mark his ball on the putting surface or stop talking during one of Webb’s backswings? Something to watch out for at least.

As for Luke Donald, I’m rooting for him to have a good season if only because he looked so short standing next to Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter. Although, come to think of it, he gets to play golf and hang out with Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter so maybe he doesn’t need our sympathy after all.

Group Most Likely To Have A Successful Second Career As A Radio Broadcaster: John Daly, Kevin Kisner and James Hahn

I haven’t listened to John Daly’s radio show on Sirius/XM but I imagine it is highly entertaining. I wonder if FOX would ever consider putting JD up in a tower to call this year’s U.S. Open from Chambers Bay. Think about, new network to golf, trying to attract an audience hires the ever popular/controversial Daly to describe the action on one of the closing holes of a major championship. He would be honest and refreshing heck, get a few Diet Cokes in him and he may start spinning yarns about that time(s) he played golf without shoes or a shirt. It’s a slam dunk. If you need a press agent Mr. Daly you can always find me hiding behind my keyboard.

Regarding FOX’s coverage of the U.S. Open, I’m not one of those Joe Buck haters who wants to smack that smug grin off his face. In fact, I find his football and baseball schtick to be totally palatable. Golf however is a different story as we have all grown accustomed to the smooth, melancholic monotones of Jim Nantz and Dan Hicks as they serenade our ears with pithy anecdotes. Joe Buck does not have a lot of experience calling golf therefore I worry that there will be times this June when he gets so caught up in the action that he makes a Justin Rose putt for par sound like Dez Bryant’s catch against the Packers. (That was totally a catch by the way!!!) I understand we need to give FOX a chance but if they decide to include Mike Pereira in the booth alongside Buck and Greg Norman then all of Texas might start twitching.

Group Most Likely To Win The 2015 Sony Open: Hideki Matsuyama, Angel Cabrera and Robert Streb

It’s only a matter of time before the 22 year old Matsuyama wins a major, he’s that good. A win at the Sony Open and we might start talking about him like we do Jordan Spieth, and maybe Patrick Reed, as the greatest long term threat to the Reign of Rory.

Stranger & Fiction: PGA Tour Edition

Maybe Dan Jenkins, famed golf columnist and teller of tall tales, was onto something after all with that imaginary conversation with Tiger Woods. It was a refreshing, revealing read and probably much more honest than the majority of canned jargon athletes throw at reporters. (Sorry, but it’s true. You multi-millionaire paragons of performance enhancers do not always provide the best copy.) With that in mind I have decided to do something a little different here which is to recap the biggest moments in sports, one fake quote at a time. What’s the worst that could happen you say, a few strongly worded rebuttals in that transparent public relations rag better known as The Players’ Tribune? If that’s the extent of the damage control then I think we can all look back on this innocent exercise and say that it was intended as nothing more than a little good old natured fun.

With that in mind, I give you Stranger & Fiction: PGA Tour Edition

“Remember last season when I said I was a top 5 player in the world and everyone freaked out? Well, I apologize. I lied. I’m the best player in the world. Suck it McIlroy!”

- Patrick Reed after winning the 2015 Hyundai Tournament of Champions in a playoff over Jimmy Walker.

“I don’t know if it’ll make any change but I figured it’s time for me to start playing ball. But there’s just one thing…I play, Coach stays. He goes, I go.”

-Tiger Woods evoking a classic line from the film Hoosiers during the announcement that he would be playing the Phoenix Open for the first time in 14 years.

“I just felt like in order to further the stereotype of professional golfers as overly entitled, prepped out pampered a-holes a change to my wardrobe was warranted. Plus, I love pink whales. In fact, that was my nickname at Auburn. The Pink Whale. God I miss college.”

-Jason Dufner announcing an apparel partnership with Vineyard Vines.

“Not only have I won the most majors all time but my alma mater Ohio State just won another college football national championship. So how do you like your duck Ben Crane, Robert Garrigus and Peter Jacobsen, roasted or barbecued?. Me and my adopted Ohio son Jason Day are going out to get matching tattoos!!!”

-Jack Nicklaus celebrating the Buckeys 42-20 victory over Oregon.

“Sure, we’ve faced our fair share of environmental and governmental setbacks and will undoubtedly encounter more challenges in the future as we continue to alter the natural ecosystem of the Amazon, not to mention displace thousands of Brazilians from their homes. But, for the first time since I started this project I can safely say that the course will be ready in time for the 2020 Olympics. Wait, what? Did you say 2016? Oh crap, gotta go.”

-Golf course architect Gil Hanse on preparing Rio for the 2016 Olympics.

2015 Hyundai Tournament of Champions Superlatives

Time to go a little old school with a PGA Tour Superlatives column just like back in the day. The 2015 portion of the 2014-15 season kicks off this week in beautiful Kapalua, Hawaii with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions an exclusive event with a select field of golfers comprised solely of last year’s champions. That it unless your last name is McIlroy, Scott, Rose or Kaymer in which case you bypass the event and wait for the tour to hit the lower 48 in a few weeks. And before you scoff at these 4 champion golfers for turning down what is essentially an all expense paid trip to beautiful sunny Hawaii understand that unlike us, they don’t need the extra hassle of a private jet or an exclusive bungalow overlooking the Pacific. To Rory, Adam, Justin and Martin that’s just another day in the life.

Alas, the field is still full of the rich and famous. The hungry up and comers with something to prove and the erstwhile major champions hoping to rekindle that old magical feeling. Therefor without further ado, here are your 2015 Hyundai Tournament of Champions Superlatives.

Group Most Likely To Report For Military Service: Sang-Moon Bae and Scott Stallings

Bae must return to South Korea by the end of the month for two years of mandatory military service because technically, South Korea is still at war with North Korea a little known fact that was not mentioned during any part of the Sony hacking scandal which, with the more time that passes without any credible links to the North Korean gov’t, looks like an inside job perpetuated by a movie studio hungry for a hit. Think I’m crazy? Ok, then answer this, were you more likely to see The Interview starring James Franco and Seth Rogan before Sony pulled it from theaters or after when every one came to their senses and realized that if Kim Jong-un can’t even provide electricity for his people then it’s probably somewhat far-fetched to think that he could launch a couple ICBM’s at the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood?

Either way, Bae is one of the best young players on tour and it would be a shame to lose him. Can’t he pay for a replacement just like Teddy Roosevelt’s father did during the American Civil War? Maybe he should ask John Daly, that guy seems like he’ll do just about anything for money.

Group Most Likely To Avoid Scuba Diving: Geoff Ogilvy and Hideki Matsuyama

Ogilvy makes his return to Kapalua after withdrawing in 2011 after cutting his hand open on a piece of coral. Back then he was the two time defending champion of this event and a bonafide superstar in the making before years of struggle led most of us to wonder what ever happened to that guy? Now Ogilvy is back apparently and in 2015 will compete in all four majors for the first time since his index finger nearly became a hidden treasure.

Group Most Likely To Choose Their Words Wisely: Patrick Reed and Russell Henley

Patrick Reed morphed into something of a fan favorite after his charismatic performance during the 2014 Ryder Cup. He was one of the few Americans, along with his playing partner Jordan Spieth, who went shot for shot with the Europeans. He played with hutzpah and passion and we were ready to embrace him and his giants “cajones”. That was until the WGC-HSBC Champions in November when our collective opinion shifted once again after Reed was caught on camera using a gay slur. To be fair, he was both remorseful and apologetic after the fact and is not the only one spewing vile, repugnant language on a golf course. (see Watson, Bubba) Regardless, only time will tell if the public is ready once again to give Reed a big ol bear hug. He is a top 5 player in the world after all.

Group Most Likely Caught Staring Up At The Stars: Jimmy Walker and Hunter Mahan

Jimmy Walker is a bonafide space nut. Like total star gazing dork. It’s one of the most endearing things about him. Do you think he keeps a telescope in the trunk of his complementary car at all times and wheels it out onto the golf course at night so he can study Cassiopeia? I do. I bet the other players get sick of him asking them if they’d like to lie on the hood of his car. Especially Patrick Reed.

Group Most Likely To Win The Hyundai Tournament of Champions: Jason Day and Matt Kuchar

It’s going to be a big year for the Australian born/Ohio resident Jason Day. First bold prediction of 2015: The Ohio State Buckeyes beat Oregon in the college football national championship on Monday night and Day outlasts Rory McIlroy in a playoff in Augusta for the first major of his career. Take it to the bank.

Enjoy the golf everyone!

 

I’m Dreaming of a Green Jacket

Tis the season for the world’s #1 golfer to be inspired by a Christmas classic.

 “Green Jacket”

Music and Lyrics by Rory McIlroy

I’m dreaming of a Green Jacket

Just like the one worm by Faldo

Where the azaleas glisten

And caddies listen

To hear the galleries call my name

 

I’m dreaming of a Green Jacket

With every autograph I write

May my clubs stay shiny and bright

And may all my golf balls be white

 

I’m dreaming of a Green Jacket

Better than thinking about Caro

Where Rae’s Creek glistens

And Amen Corner listens

To hear Tiger wince in pain

 

I’m dreaming of a Green Jacket

With every lawsuit that I fight

May my court case stay merry and bright

And may all my witnesses be right

Phil Mickelson For 2016 Ryder Cup Captain

When asked if he had a desire to be the next United States Ryder Cup team captain Phil Mickelson should have said yes. Then all of us who disagree with the timing of his vitriol could forgive and forget. But he said no. Actually his exact words were “Oh, no, no — I’ve been on eight losing teams”. This unfortunate mentality leaves the U.S. team with a void at the top where the current American player with the most Ryder Cup experience and influence is unwilling to accept more of leadership role. Yes, Mickelson will be a Ryder Cup captain eventually, (Bethpage 2014???) and yes, his performance at Sunday’s now infamous Ryder Cup press conference was blunt, honest and perhaps accurate. But in order for his opinions to carry significant weight he must be willing to support his words with action otherwise he runs the risk of coming off as shallow, bitter and petulant which, with the current tumultuous state of the entire U.S. Ryder Cup program, is the last thing anyone who professes to love and embrace the competition should desire.

Pods or no pods, the most unsettling and astounding aspect of this press conference was the overall lack of accountability by both the Mickelson and captain Tom Watson which has sadly become indicative of American athletes and athletic programs in general. (see University of Michigan football.) Athletes should be allowed to criticize their leaders. Public or private people in positions of power must be held accountable. Would it have been better for Mickelson to question Watson’s strategy behind closed doors and away from the glare of the cameras? Sure. But maybe he had already voiced his displeasure privately and after nothing changed he felt the need to air his and the other players grievances in a much more public forum. And Watson didn’t exactly take on the responsibility of this latest American failure when at the press conference he said that it takes “12 players” to make for a successful Ryder Cup.

Both Mickelson and Watson are to an extent correct but the real issue for the U.S. Ryder Cup team moving forward is a lack of leadership not just from the captain but from the players as well. The primary job of the coach/captain is to put their players in a position to succeed. Win or lose a leader must be willing to take responsibility for the final outcome. But players too must understand that a coach controls only so much and that ultimately success or failure is determined by their performance. Mickelson and Watson exhibited none of the characteristics of true leadership during that Ryder Cup press conference. It wasn’t Tom Watson’s fault that the U.S. teams three top ranked players Jim Furyk, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar combined for a total of two points during the competition. Conversely, his captain’s picks underperformed and his lineup decisions were curious at best. The blame needs to be shouldered by somebody and that usually means the captain and star player yet both Watson and Mickelson reluctant to accept that responsibility.

The concern is that the pool of future American players and captains doesn’t get it either which means that Sunday will not be the last time we watch a star player and a coach pointing the finger at one another. To bring it full circle, if Phil Mickelson were to accept the challenge of being the next U.S. team Ryder Cup captain/player at Hazeltine in 2016 then win, lose or draw he’ll have no one to blame except himself. Which is the way it should be.