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August 20, 2004
Volume III, Issue 11
 
Fringe Clippings
 
Is Jack Daniels for sale?
 
For some people, four top-10s in the biggest tournaments would be a career. For Ernie Els, it is a major disappointment. He missed a playoff by one stroke at the 2004 PGA Championship after three-putting the final green. That came after a one-stroke loss in a playoff at the British Open to Todd Hamilton. Which followed a final-round 80 at the U.S. Open, where he trailed by just two entering the final round. And that followed a one-shot loss to Phil Mickelson at this year's Masters. Maybe it is no coincidence that Ernie and a business partner recently bought a 95-acre vineyard in his native South Africa to enhance an already burgeoning wine business. After the year Els has had in the major championships, this might be a good retreat for the Big Easy. Come to think of it, Ernie might need more than wine. A couple of stiff drinks may be in order. Or maybe a good cry.
 
What a difference a win makes...
 
Last year's whipping boy would have been ripped again for coming so close and failing. The new Phil Mickelson gets a pass because he won the Masters. That's the way it goes for one of the game's most popular players. Mickelson won the Masters in April, then came within five shots of winning the other three majors. Some would say he blew them. And you could make an argument that he did. But the feel-good story of the year's first major and the way Mickelson adapted his game to compete in the biggest tournaments bought him a lot of good will. But look at what happened. He double-bogeyed the 71st hole at the U.S. Open — three-putting from 5 feet — to lose to Retief Goosen by two strokes. He missed a 4-foot par putt on the 14th hole of the final round of the British Open — his only bogey of the day and one that dropped him out of the lead. He missed a playoff by a shot. And at the PGA Championship, needing only a final-round 72 to get in a playoff, but shot 74. It's a very, very good thing he got the first one, or Mickelson would have been buried under an avalanche of criticism.
 
Hey, didn't they reroute that road in 2002?
 
Tiger Woods's hold on the No. 1 spot in the world ranking is precariously close to coming to an end after five straight years on top. Vijay Singh is breathing down his neck after winning the PGA Championship and can surpass Woods if he finishes in any position ahead of Tiger at the NEC Invitational or in various other scenarios. Woods played his 10th straight major at the PGA without a victory and finished tied for 24th. It was a disappointing year for the majors, where Woods was never really a factor on Sunday in any of them, finishing with his only top 10 at the British Open. The 10 straight matches the longest of Woods' career, from the 1997 Masters to the 1999 PGA Championship. He has not won a major since the 2002 U.S. Open. Woods noted, however, that the situation is similar to the last time he went such a long time without winning. Woods re-tooled his swing following the 1997 season when he won the Masters, then won just once in 1998. But he won the 1999 PGA Championship and went on to win seven of the next 11 majors. "It's not like I haven't traveled down this road before,'' Woods said. "Hopefully it will be the same result.''
 
Talk to me Chris, how'd ya really feel...
 
Chris DiMarco's lack of evident remorse after failing to win the PGA Championship was either the result of numbness or dumbness. How could a guy who has a grand total of three PGA Tour victories not feel a bit more pain after coming so close to winning one of golf's biggest events? DiMarco had a 15-foot birdie putt on the final green that could have won the tournament — and he left it short. Then he acted as if the putt was to win a $5 skin at the club. "I just didn't hit it,'' he said. "It was dead center, too. I putted really good all week. You know, unfortunately, one short. It's nice to be in a major championship with a chance to win, though.'' Yeah, real nice. Like maybe you should have seized the opportunity while you could. One day, DiMarco might wake up and realize how close he came to winning one of golf's ultimate prizes. Such chances don't present themselves too often, especially for a 36-year-old veteran with a rather light resume.
 
 
Paralysis by Analysis
 
Little Help Over Here!
 
Alright everyone, it's high tea time at the links and some of you have no idea how to hold your crumpets. Lets go over a few of golf's dos and don'ts.

The Bag Drop - This is the area where one can generally pull their car into and the valet will check your clubs and place them on your cart. Look for a bag drop at every course. Some will not have this area but many will. This is intended to be a luxury to golfers and a way for a college kid/retiree to make a few extra bones. Remember the static rule for the cart guys: $1 minimum per bag. If you do not take care of him, he will not take care of you.

The Pro Shop - If the person behind the counter does not seem overly talkative, remember they may be frustrated that they are in the clubhouse and not on tour chasing Tiger. Don't try to make their life sunnier, just smile, be polite and don't ask for discounts — unless you have a coupon from www.GolfCpons.com. Then just smile, hand it over, and enjoy.

The Starter - Usually the grumpiest fella on the course. Don't agitate this person or your day will suck!

The Cart Girl - Easy Sparky! This gal works hard and usually has a boyfriend or husband. Besides she's 19 and you're 45. Flirt harmlessly and she will respond in kind. Just remember if you would like the same treatment later in the day to tip at the standard 20% rate. This will ensure that your beverages will be chilly and served often.

Twosomes - If it's not too busy and your group is slow, let those two guys that are standing behind you play through. They will be happy and you can finally relax. Besides, the longer your round takes the more the cart girl comes into play.

Refilling Divots - Just do it! And if your partner forgets, don't yell at him, just do it for him. Trust me, he will be embarrassed enough to remember next time.

Soft Spikes - Typically a golf course does not resemble the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in January so there is no need to wear Ginsu blades on your cleats. Have the cart guy replace your daggers with a less aggressive set of grabbers and throw him a couple extra.

Ready Golf (Tee Box Honor) - Yes, it is true we golfers are ego insane and take the privilege of hitting first when we win a hole. However, in light of the popularity of our beloved sport, we must begin to recognize that ready golf is the best way to economize time in a round.

 
 
Reading the Line
 
And Hal pondered before he proclaimed, "Enie meenie miney moe"...
 
When U.S. Ryder Cup team captain Hal Sutton picked Jay Haas for the Ryder Cup team, you had to wonder if some good ol' boy networking wasn't going on. Haas, 50, became the second-oldest player to be picked for the team, and he's had a resurgence as he approached and surpassed the land of AARP. But Haas is not exactly going to strike fear into those Euros at Oakland Hills. He hasn't won a tournament since 1993, when Sergio Garcia was 13. Although he's had numerous chances to win tournaments in recent years, he's failed to close the deal. He does have seven top-10 finishes this year, but Haas has not even won in his two visits to the Champions Tour. Haas will give the team experience, but he hasn't exactly shined in his two Ryder Cup appearances, losing both his singles matches. We'll see.
 
Go pick on some one your own size, oops, I mean own age...
 
Michelle Wie's forays into professional golf at age 14 are all well and good, but her defeat at the U.S. Women's Amateur is an example of why she needs to play more against people her own age. Wie led In-Bee Park 2-up with three holes to play during the second round of the match play competition and ended up losing the last three holes to blow the match. That included a three-putt green at the final hole. Wie is too good to lose tournaments that way, but really, how often has she been under such pressure? When Wie plays in LPGA Tour events, nobody expects her to win, nobody expects her to finish in the top-10. She isn't playing for money, so her shots do not present the do-or-die nature that the pros endure. But in matches where she is supposed to win, there is pressure. And Wie needs to feel it and embrace and conquer it. That will only help her down the road.
 
Wanamaker, I wanted to makem all ...
 
Face it, Vijay Singh has been easy to dislike. He's been known to shun autograph seekers and sneer at the media. He looked like an idiot when he dissed Annika Sorenstam for playing in the Colonial last year. And there's that long-ago alleged cheating incident that got him booted off the Asian Tour, still a sore spot with Singh that got him banished to the jungles of Borneo, where he gave lessons and honed his game in solitude.

All of that makes his rise to the top of golf even more remarkable. You have to admit he is some player, having won three major championships and 20 PGA Tour events despite not joining the PGA Tour until 1993 at age 30. Singh might have his critics, but there is no denying his skills. With five victories and a major in 2004, he's on his way to player of the year honors and another PGA Tour money title. It's quite an accomplishment for the man from Fiji.
 
Stranger than fiction...
 
Who would have believed that if Vijay Singh shot a final round 75 at The PGA Championship, he would have been victorious. Sounds almost impossible. Instead, he shot a 76, and still won! Gotta love it.
 
 
 

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