Monday, December 24, 2012

Phatboy Sports Sponsorship Colin Montgomerie's World Golf Hall of Fame induction an early Christmas gift

This being Christmas Eve, Colin Montgomerie has jumped the gun and already unwrapped a pretty sweet gift early, that being induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame instead of the lump of coal that many would give him.

Although I’ve never interviewed Monty one on one, I’ve fired questions to him during news conferences and found him to be engaging and witty, not the frumpy grump some have described from their own experiences.
Many fans also don’t like him, particularly those on this side of the Atlantic, where they came up with unflattering nicknames that needn’t be mentioned for reasons of good form.

That type of response to Montgomerie isn’t isolated to the new world. On a trip to Scotland a few years back, I visited a pub in Troon where the locals weren’t exactly kind to a lad who had spent so much time playing at the renowned and nearby Royal Troon.

Those are the ones who will protest Monty’s selection for the Hall of Fame, which belies the theory that hall of fame induction is a popularity contest, which came up when Fred Couples was selected earlier this year.

Freddie had the hair, the easy-going personality and the Boom Boom power to draw in fans of both genders and there’s something to be said for popularity in drawing eyes to the game.

On the golf course, Couples had 15 PGA Tour wins, including a major at the 1992 Masters and two Players Championships, and five international victories, not to mention eight wins on the Champions Tour, including this year’s Senior Open Championship.

Couples’ 15 overall wins is an admirable total, but not enough to warrant Hall of Fame selection in the minds of critics. The same goes for his one major, even if he did win a couple at Sawgrass.

In volume, Monty lowered the boom on Boom Boom, winning 31 European Tour titles, taking that circuit’s Order of Merit in seven consecutive years and eight overall, and 40 international events.

Montgomerie had an incredible Ryder Cup record that included eight consecutive events in which he went undefeated in singles. Continuing that success as a captain, he was at the helm for Europe’s 2010 victory at Celtic Manor.

Those are highlights from a magnificent career, but the points of contention about his induction for many are that he never won on the PGA Tour and never won a major. That last one, in particular, is a real sticking point for many.

Then again, do you deny Dan Marino a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame even though he never won the Super Bowl?

Argue the point all you want about team sport vs. an individual game such as golf, but should an otherwise outstanding career not be recognized? If Luke Donald or Lee Westwood finish their careers without a major, would you deny them solely for that reason?

Some people think so and Montgomerie got in on the International ballot with 51% of the votes in a weird system that usually requires 65% of the votes. If nobody gets 65%, a player with the most votes, as long as it’s more than 50%, is selected.

Couples also squeaked in at 51%, so neither received a ringing endorsement, which has left their selections open to criticism and will continue to do so for future inductees.

Couples’ nomination has opened the door for players with as many or more wins and majors, but majors may not even be an issue anymore now that Monty is going in.

That may stick in the craws of many, but these are precedents and the table has been set for the future. You can’t go back, once a new standard is set.


If it’s the World Golf Hall of Fame, is it really necessary to have an international ballot? Shouldn’t a player be inducted based on merit instead of where he or she is from, whether American or otherwise? The existence of this category gives the impression that those born outside the United States are outsiders. It seems strange with the global nature of the game these days ... Montgomerie isn’t the only Scot going into the hall of fame as former European Tour secretary and executive director Ken Schofield was named in the lifetime achievement category. Two-time British Open champion and course designer Willie Park Jr., and 1964 U.S. Open champ Ken Venturi, who went on to a successful broadcasting career, will also be inducted ... Toronto’s Albin Choi and Jennifer Kirby of Paris, Ont., have been named Golf Canada’s outstanding male and female amateur golfers, based on the 2012 National Order of Merit. Kevin Kwon of Pitt Meadows, B.C., and Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., finished atop the CN Future Links junior boys and junior girls Orders of Merit, respectively ... Former NCAA champion James Lepp of Abbotsford, B.C., says he feels invigorated about competitive golf after making it to the final of the Golf Channel’s Big Break Greenbrier, where he lost a close match to finish as runner-up. Lepp isn’t sure when he would return to competition. For one thing, he runs a golf business, Kikkor Golf, which he started when golf didn’t seem fun anymore ... Former Nationwide Tour player Brennan Webb of Bracebridge, Ont., has accepted an assistant coaching position with Georgia Tech.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Golf roundup: Davis and Dru Love win Father-Son event

Davis Love III had a nice pitch shot on No. 18 and son Dru finished off the birdie to capture the Father-Son Challenge title Sunday in Orlando, Fla. 

With Larry and Josh Nelson already in at 22-under for the two-day scramble format, both Loves misfired in trying to reach the green in two at the par-5 finishing hole. Dru, an Alabama freshman who won five Georgia state titles in high school, went long and right near the grandstand at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes. Davis watched his ball roll onto the bank of a greenside pond.

But the elder Love found the right touch on his pitch from Dru's position and his son made the winning putt.

The Loves teamed for an 11-under 61 in the final round.

Schwartzel romps to 12-shot win at Alfred Dunhill: In Malelane, South Africa, Charl Schwartzel was the runaway winner for the second straight weekend, coasting to a 12-shot victory at the Alfred Dunhill Championship on the European Tour.

The 2011 Masters champion finished with a total score of 24-under 264 - the lowest at Leopard Creek Country Club. He won by 11 strokes in Thailand last weekend. The South African won for the eighth time on the European Tour.

Schwartzel shot a 69 in the final round. The runner-up was Sweden's Kristoffer Broberg, who finished at 12 under.

Garcia wins in Malaysia: In Johor, Malaysia, Sergio Garcia won the rain-shortened Johor Open, closing with an 11-under 61 for a three-stroke victory in the Asian Tour's season-ending event.

The 32-year-old Spanish star finished at 18-under 198 at Horizon Hills for his second victory of the year and 24th international title. He also won the PGA Tour's Wyndham Championship in August.

Garcia had the lowest final round by a winner in Asian Tour history. He birdied seven of the first nine holes to make the turn in 7-under 29, added birdies on 13 and 14 before a long rain delay, then returned to make it four in a row with birdies on 15 and 16.

American Jonathan Moore also shot a 61 to finish second.

Thailand's Thaworn Wiratchant finished fifth and won the Asian Tour money title.

John Daly finished with a 65 to tie for 15th at 8 under. South Africa's Ernie Els closed with a 72 to tie for 48th at 3 under.

Rookie takes Australian PGA: In Coolum, Australia, Australasian Tour rookie Daniel Popovic completed an improbable wire-to-wire victory in the Australian PGA, shooting a 3-under 69 for a four-stroke victory.

The Australian finished at 16-under 272.

Geoff Ogilvy failed to finish in the top three to ensure a top-50 finish in the year-end world ranking and a spot in the Masters. He tied for fourth.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Gut-putt ban a benefit for the world of golf

The golf industry ought to look at the big picture on this "anchoring" ban by the sport's world governing bodies.

In the short term, of course, it hurts the manufacturers who sunk a lot of R&D money and raw materials into designing and building long putters for terminal yips sufferers, head cases and venal young Tour players bereft of consciences.

And it hurts the retailers and club pros who have stocked their displays with the life-changing implements, and won't be able to give them away now because only the foolhardy would try to learn a method that's going to be illegal in 2016.

Long-term, though, the benefits of a mass return to the shorter, more treacherous, thoroughly unreliable instruments of mental torture are certain to be seen in the worldwide sales of new putters to replace those thrown into the pumpkin patch off the 17th green at Richmond Country Club, dragged behind cars, rusted after being placed in toilet bowls overnight to learn their lesson, broken in a dignified manner over a thigh or otherwise rendered hors de combat.

As long as broomstick and belly putters threatened to take all the mystery out of what happened on the greens, the potential for a single putter to last its contented owner several years - even a lifetime - could have led to a crisis in the golf equipment industry.

But Wednesday, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (R&A) and the United States Golf Association fixed that, indirectly, by ruling that beginning on Jan. 1, 2016, it will be illegal to anchor the putter on the chest, chin, belly or in a hand held against any of the above. Golfers will be free to continue to use the longer putters, but what they'd do with them is beyond me.

Attempts at humour aside, this one small rebellion against game-changing elements in golf represents a fairly big step for the R&A and USGA, because it signals the possibility that they may yet rise up for the real battle ahead - against golf ball and driver technology that begets ever-longer courses requiring ever more water and land and time to play.

It still seems far-fetched to imagine either body, or both, standing up to Titleist and insisting it make balls that don't go as far, but for now, there is this ruling, and - though the R&A/USGA axis of purity has allowed for three months of public submissions in case there's an angle they haven't thought of - no amount of complaining is apt to change their minds.

Golf, in this case, is nearly unique. Maybe unique, period. I can think of no other professional sport where the technique by which the ball/puck/object is struck, thrown, kicked or propelled is restricted by the rules, other than in basic definitions of the sports - like soccer must be played with the feet or head or chest but never the hands, or the hockey puck may not be thrown, or the basketball may not be kicked.

The rules don't say you can only kick the soccer ball with the instep, or you can't tuck your elbow against your body while shooting the puck. They don't say a bunt isn't a real swing.

There are, of course, a million rules governing equipment, but the anchoring ban is emphatically not about equipment. It's about what constitutes a golf stroke. The R&A and USGA say that freely swinging the hands - emphasis on freely; i.e. unaided by a fulcrum - is the crux of it.

They say the new rule has nothing to do with the fact that three majors in the space of 12 months period were won by players with anchored putters: Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els. But the professional level is where the fire started.

The growing number of PGA Tour pros adopting the longer instruments, up to 15 per cent this season, higher than 20 per cent at some Tour stops, was alarming. But not nearly as alarming as the 14-year-old Chinese boy, Guan Tianlang, who won the Asian-Pacific amateur title and an invitation to next year's Masters ... using a belly putter.

It meant the governing bodies could no longer shrug off its use as a fad, but had to take it seriously as a coaching tool, for which they had the testimony of noted guru Butch Harmon in Score Magazine a few months back:

"Belly putting is like stealing," Harmon said. "If I was going to start somebody out who never played before I'd start them with a belly putter, no question about it. It takes the hands right out of the stroke."

And therein lies the argument that always made the most sense, when the anchoring ban was floated: that golf is a game which is meant to be influenced, in part, by nerves. And an attack of nerves, in golf, is most apt to rear its ugly head on or near the putting surface.

If modern instructors are saying that anchoring the club reduces or, with enough practice, virtually eliminates the hands factor in putting, is that not circumventing a body part that ought to be involved in the golf swing?
But to me, as a viewer offended when I see a young professional using one of the long putters, it's a rule meant to be applied to elite players - the high-level amateurs playing golf for serious acclaim, or touring pros whose livelihoods are affected by what the other guy, or guys, are doing.

The aspect of the rule that strikes me as wrong-headed is that there seems no good reason to make the 50-60-70-yearold recreational player go back to suffering the agonies that caused him to abandon the conventional putter in the first place, whether it's back pain or poor eyesight or simply lousy putting.