Saturday, September 24, 2011

Course conditions: Mud, muck and mire -- perfect!

NutherDuffer got inspired while watching the Solheim Cup earlier today (and because he's been reading "On Golf" by Bobby Jones...yes, that Bobby Jones -- much more on that later). So instead of staying parked in the recliner for the Tour Championship/FedEx Cup, it was off to Ocean View for a few hours.

For those of you not in southeastern Virginia, here's a bit of local color -- grey. It's been raining, nonstop it seems, for about 10 days now. According to the local National Weather Service office, we got eight inches of rain during Hurricane Irene -- and another eight inches since then, not counting the two or three that fell yesterday and last night. Last weekend's hoped-for trip to Sleepy Hole Golf Course in Suffolk got washed out ... and the rescheduled tee time tomorrow isn't looking promising.

We did get a two-hour break Wednesday afternoon, which included approximately six minutes of sunshine, so ND made his excuse-me's to the boss and Mrs. Duffer and snuck in about eight and a half holes in the mud before the rain returned.

It hasn't stopped yet. But NutherDuffer is not quite ready to declare it Chicken Stick and Tiger Woods Golf season, so off he went.

And here's a report on the current conditions: Squish. Sploosh. Splash. Splat.

But you know what? Yeah, it was raining, but it was a gentle rain, falling straight down, and it was warm and comfortable and the course was all but empty. It was a great time to test drive a few of Bobby Jones' suggestions. It turns out some of them have some merit.

So come on tomorrow, bring all the rain you want to. NutherDuffer's not afraid.

He'll be up at 3 a.m. to check in on the Solheim Cup, the Green Bay-Chicago game doesn't start till 4:30 or so, and he continues to have trouble caring about the FedEx Cup (Aaron Baddeley and Hunter Mahan are the current leaders in the Tour Championship, but who knows anymore who's on top of the FedEx Cup race).

Put it all together and throw in a rain suit and it sounds like perfect conditions for golf.

Solheim Cup question: Who the heck is Ryann O'Toole?

NutherDuffer has to confess: He first heard of Ryann O'Toole when she was named to the American Solheim Cup team as a captain's choice a month ago or so. And to confess further: It wasn't until this morning that he found himself asking, "Who is this O'Toole kid?"

Ryann O'Toole
Cuz along with Paula Creamer, O'Toole -- a rookie on the LPGA who has only played 10 events thus far in her career -- has been providing the biggest sparks in a rather listless American team.

Here are some O'Toole highlights:

She went to UCLA and was on the golf team, but not a regular player.

She appeared on the Golf Channel show "Big Break," but didn't win. In fact, she fell out of the competition, and disappeared from the show, halfway through the season.

In 2009, on the Futures Tour, she earned $6,237.

Nope. She wasn't on the radar. But then came 2010. She won twice on the Futures Tour, which got her conditional status for this year on the pro tour. In her 10 events, she's made six cuts and finished in the top 10 twice.

But she caught US Solheim captain Rosie Jones' eye. Jones liked O'Toole's putting stroke, her attitude and her ability to hit the ball 300 yards.

Seems so far that Jones made the right choice: O'Toole has contributed to one and a half points thus far (one match won, one halved) and at the moment seems to have found a way to fire up Stacy Lewis, who had been walking around with a hangdog look after some poor play. Lewis and O'Toole are 3 up over Sandra Gal and Christel Boeljon after 13 holes.

Team USA could use that point. They're down by 3 points at the moment and don't want to fall any farther behind as they head into tomorrow's singles matches.

O'Toole was a surprise pick by Jones, but NutherDuffer's hunch is that she'll be back on many Solheim teams in the future. "I'm looking pretty smart right now," Jones just said in an interview from Ireland.

Here's a great story about her by Diane Pucin of The Los Angeles times.

America's Solheim Cup team falls farther behind, and the Euros are looking good

When NutherDuffer nodded off last night, the American Solheim Cup team had fallen a point behind the Europeans -- they were down 4 1/2 to 3 1/2.

When FluffyDuffer woke up about 3 a.m. craving food, water and a trip to the backyard, it gave NutherDuffer the opportunity to see where things stood in County Meath, Ireland. And they weren't looking good for Team USA. Morgan Pressel and Ryann O'Toole were the only USA team looking like they had a chance to win in Session 3 -- which they did, over Karen Stupples and Christel Boeljon, 3 and 2.

But the solid team of Christie Kerr and Paula Creamer could only halve their match against Catriona Matthew and Azahara Munoz, and Julie Inkster-Brittany Lang fell 3 and 2 to Maria Hjorth and Anna Nordqvist.

(By the way, in honor of his Norwegian heritage, NutherDuffer would like to be known as NqvutherDuffqver for the balance of the weekend.)

And the Stacy Lewis-Angela Stanford team -- after losing 3 and 2 Friday morning -- went into a 6 and 5 collapse against Sophie Gustafson and Carline Hedwall earlier today. (For those of you who don't regularly follow match play, that score means that the Euros won 6 of the first 13 holes -- at which point there was no reason to continue cuz the Americans were hopelessly behind.)

So where things stand now is that the heavily favored Americans are behind the almost no-name Europeans 7 to 5. The Euros need 14 1/2 points to take the Solheim Cup away from the Americans, who have held it since 2003; the USA team needs 14 to hang onto it.

Afternoon play is just getting under way -- the Euros lead one match, the three others are all square. Stacy Lewis and Angela Lanford are no longer playing together, which is good cuz they were both looking demoralized. Paula Creamer is again teamed with Brittany Lincicome -- so we'll see if they can reclaim the Creamer-fueled magic they found yesterday morning when they took the last three holes for a come-from-behind victory.

(And as I wrote that sentence, Lincicome nailed what looked like a 40-foot putt for birdie to take a 1 up lead over Maria Hjorth and Azahara Munoz.)

Here's a link to the Solheim Cup scoreboard.

Really, as miserable as the weather is around the southeast US today? Grab a cup of coffee, get into the recliner and tune in. It's on the Golf Chanel.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Adam Scott takes the lead; get your long putter now while they last

Here's a video of a great putt by Adam Scott, who has now put together rounds of 67 and 65 to take a one-stroke lead into the weekend at the Tour Championship.

You'll notice that he hasn't given up on his broom-style putter (which, as NutherDuffer has noted previously, is far more aesthetically pleasing in sight and sound than the "belly putter"). If he goes on to win this thing, you can bet there's going to be a run on those putters at every golf shop in America.

And Australia.

Might as well get yours now.

Here's the video:

In the Solheim Cup, the underdog Euros end the day with a 1-point lead

Day one at the Solheim Cup belonged to the underdog Euros after all.

The score was tied at 2-2 after the morning alternating shot matches, but in the afternoon four-ball matches, the European women took 2 1/2 points to USA's 1 1/2. Europe, which hasn't won since 2003, now leads 4 1/2 to 3 1/2.

In the afternoon rounds:
Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel finished 1 up over Brits Laura Davies and Melissa Reid.
Christina Kim and Ryan O'Toole halved their match with Catriona Matthew and Sandra Gal.
Vickie Hurst and Brittany Lincicome got shellacked 5 and 4 by Sophie Gustafson and Caroline Hedwall.
Christie Kerr and Michelle Wie finished 2 down to Scandinavians Suzanne Pettersen and Anna Nordqvist.

In the a.m.:
Michelle Wie and Christie Kerr defeated Maria Hjorth and Anna Nordqvist, 2 and 1.
Paula Creamer carried Brittany Lincicome to a 1 up, come-from-behind victory over Karen Stupples and Melissa Reid.
Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford fell 3 and 2 to Catriona Matthew and Azahara Munoz.
Brittany Lang and Julie Inkster lost on the last putt to Suzanne Pettersen and Sophie Gustafson. What a great match that was.

NutherDuffer predicts a lack of sleep this weekend. First the Solheim Cup starting at 2:30 a.m. Then the Tour Championship, starting somewhere around noon.

And then, on Sunday, it's Green Bay Packers versus Chicago Bears! (OK, so that ain't golf. Shoot me -- I'm a cheesehead.)

Tour Championship update: Bubba's on a run, but it may be Jason's day

Lot of things going right today for Bubba Watson, who has moved up 14 spots into a tie for 8th place in the Tour Championship. He's at 3 under for the tournament -- 4 under through just 13 holes today.

That includes this great wedge shot and birdie putt:

Meanwhile, several other guys are taking the long-putt route to second round birdies. Here's current leader Jason Day:

And T4 Hunter Mahan:

Who's up, who's down at the Tour Championship

Play is under way at the Tour Championship in Atlanta, and there is some shuffling going on. Here's a quick glance at who's moving up and who's falling down at the moment:

On the rise
K.J. Choi is up 8 spots to 2nd place. He's at 4 under total, 2 under after 4 holes today.
Bubba Watson, after a tough Thursday, is up 11 spots and is now tied for 11th place. After shooting 1 over yesterday, he's 3 under through 8 holes today -- for a total of 2 under. That birdie on 18 yesterday may have turned things around for him.
David Toms is up 12 spots, and now in a tie for 16th. He's 4 under through 10 holes, bringing his total to 1 under.

Bad news Steve Stricker fans: He's 2 over through 5 holes today, which takes him down 8 spots. He's at even par, alone in 18th place.
Phil Mickelson is down 6 spots, and now tied for 16th. He's 1 over through 4 holes, taking him to 1 under for the tournament.
Justin Rose, last week's Mr. Everything, has fallen 10 spots, into a tie for 26th. He was 1 under yesterday, but is already 4 over after 6 holes today (3 over for the tournament).

Stay tuned. We'll be on the lookout for interesting video.

When the Solheim Cup broadcast is over, you can still catch the Tour Championship

NutherDuffer is fairly certain, after this morning's Solheim Cup update, that golf fans will be glued to the Solheim Cup for at least the duration of the morning.

But if you're looking for something to do afterward, there is still day two of the Tour Championship/FedEx Cup finale.

NutherDuffer was quite happy to see that fellow cheesehead Steve Stricker is doing fairly well -- amazingly well for a guy two or three days removed from a cortisone shot to the neck. (Yeowch!) Stricks said he was feeling weak before he withdrew from the BMW Championship last weekend -- and said he still felt weak after getting the injection. A quick check of his stats shows that his drives are averaging about 298 yards.

NutherDuffer would love to be that weak. You?

Here's today's tee times:

11:55 am     Senden, John     Singh, Vijay
12:05 pm     Watney, Nick     Toms, David
12:15 pm     Wilson, Mark     Woodland, Gary
12:25 pm     Watson, Bubba     Yang, Y.E.
12:35 pm     Johnson, Dustin     Van Pelt, Bo
12:45 pm     Jacobson, Fredrik     Byrd, Jonathan
12:55 pm     Rose, Justin     Simpson, Webb
1:05 pm     Snedeker, Brandt     Ogilvy, Geoff
1:15 pm     Choi, K.J.     Stricker, Steve
1:25 pm     Haas, Bill     Mickelson, Phil
1:35 pm     Kuchar, Matt     Baddeley, Aaron
1:45 pm     Scott, Adam     Day, Jason
1:55 pm     Howell III, Charles     Mahan, Hunter
2:05 pm     Reavie, Chez     Donald, Luke
2:15 pm     Bradley, Keegan     Dufner, Jason

And here's a link to the Tour Championship leaderboard.

Solheim Cup: Let's hear it for patriotism (USA! USA!) and insomnia

The great thing about insomnia today?

The Solheim Cup started at 2:30 this morning at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Killeen Castle Course in County Meath, Ireland.

The Solheim Cup, for those of you who are not regular LPGA fans, is the women's Ryder Cup. The US versus Europe. Europe last won in 2003 -- and the US is favored to win again this year.

If you look at the rosters, you can see why. The US team has many of the top players in the world -- led by Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, Michelle Wie, Christie Kerr and Julie Inkster.

But don't think the Europeans are slouches -- Norwegian Suzanne Pettersen, No. 2 in the world, is the highest-ranked player in the competition.

And there is a little bit of the rub: Pettersen is No. 2, and Creamer is No. 8, but the remaining six at the top of the list are all Asian women -- who aren't eligible to play. Someday soon, someone will have to organize a US versus Asia tournament -- even if that would leave the Americans in the unfamiliar role of underdog. (Perhaps that level of competition would do some good for American women's golf.)

At the moment, the US does have the lead, thanks to Wie and Kerr, who just finished the first match of the day. The bad news? Three more matches are in progress and the Americans are trailing in all of them.

It might be too early to predict an upset, but this could turn out to be the more exciting golf event to watch this weekend -- and given the time, it won't get in the way of any of your other plans for the weekend.

And finally, a couple of quick notes:

...Michelle Wie, whose career really got jump-started by the last Solheim Cup, is again showing that she can play. She's been nailing her wedges.

...Paula Creamer is (again) showing that despite all the frilly "pink panther" stuff, she has a serious competitive spirit. At the moment, she and Brittany Lincicome are trailing (1 down with 2 to play), but Creamer has been carrying her partner. (That said, Lincicome just hammered a drive on 17.)
UPDATE! How exciting might this event be? After being down 2 with 4 holes to play, Creamer and Lincicome just won 16, 17 and 18 to win the match. USA!

...Julie Inkster may be immortal. She's in her 50s (50s!) and played her way onto this team -- no sentimental captain's choice, this. She and Brittany Lang are down 1 with 4 to play, but they're losing to Pettersen and Sophie Gustafson -- and that's got to be one of Europe's strongest teams.

So go ahead, support the American team -- even if it costs you a few hours of sleep (short of that, you can catch highlights tonight on the Golf Channel). Here's a link to the Solheim Cup scoreboard.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tour Championship update No. 2:
You gotta see this sand shot from Keegan Bradley

Keegan Bradley has pulled into the lead in Atlanta. He's 5 under, which includes a sand-shot birdie on the par 3 second hole.

A loooonnng sand-shot birdie:

Can he hold on to win the FedEx Cup? Here's what would need to happen:

Bradley can win the cup if he wins the Tour Championship
- Webb Simpson (No. 1) finishes in a 3-way tie for 12th or worse
- Dustin Johnson (No. 2) finishes 5th or worse
- Justin Rose (No. 3) finishes in a 3-way tie for 3rd or worse
- Luke Donald (No. 4) finishes 3rd or worse
- Matt Kuchar (No. 5) finishes in a 3-way tie for 2nd or worse
- Brandt Snedeker (No. 6) finishes T-2 or worse.

See how easy it is to follow your favorites?

Here's a link to the Tour Championship leaderboard.

Tour Championship/FedEx Cup afternoon update ... sort of

NutherDuffer has figured out a new way to bring yet more excitement, entertainment and confusion to the Tour Championship/FedEx Cup finale. And here it is....

Following are two lists. One is a list of the top 10 players on the leaderboard at the Tour Championship as of mid-afternoon Thursday. The other is the projected top 10 in the FedEx Cup, if everyone were to finish right where they are now. Can you guess which is which?

Top 10 #1
Webb Simpson
Jason Dufner
Dustin Johnson
Matt Kuchar
Justin Rose
Luke Donald
Nick Watney
Brandt Snedeker
Chez Reavie
Keegan Bradley

Top 10 #2
Jason Dufner
Aaron Baddely
Charles Howell III
Hunter Mahan
Keegan Bradley
Nick Watney
Matt Kuchar
Bill Haas
K.J. Choi
Steve Stricker

Ladies and gentlemen, make your guesses! (And don't let the lack of overlap lower your opinion of the FedEx Cup format!)

The answer is on the jump:

Don't throw that nine (iron) if you can't do the time

Remember, fellow Duffers, that the golf course is really no place for a temper tantrum.

It does nothing for your game, your blood pressure or your reputation.

And club-throwing? Yes, that is an offense that NutherDuffer has occasionally committed -- but he's older, now, and wiser...and weaker. And he offers the following arguments for pausing to think before you throw, two personal club-throwing stories, and one torn from today's headlines:

Personal story #1: NutherDuffer and a buddy, who shall remain nameless, were playing the lovely Bide-A-Wee Golf Course in Portsmouth, which features a devilish par-3 12th hole. If you've played there, you know the hole -- 150 or so yards, with the last 130 of those yards being water. It was an expensive hole for the duffer buddy -- who put three (four?) balls in the pond, then sent his six-iron in to retrieve them.

Personal story #2: Long ago and far away, NutherDuffer was playing with another buddy whose anger got the better of him. He took a full backswing as he prepared to throw his club and so angry was he that he completely overlooked the sapling tree just a few feet away. The club hit the tree almost immediately upon leaving the duffer's hands. Afterward, the rest of the foursome consistently referred to the bent club as our friend's "90 degree wedge," which did nothing to ease his pain.

And torn from today's headlines, a story without a punchline: An angry golfer in Queensland, Australia, mindlessly threw a club back at his golf cart -- and permanently crippled his playing partner. The victim can no longer play, work, read or write.

The club thrower remains in jail.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

If only Phil Mickelson could do with a putter what he can do with a wedge....

NutherDuffer has no earthly idea how Phil Mickelson pulls some of this stuff off. But here are two examples of wedge madgic.

First: The best route from Point A to Point B is not always a straight line:

And if that wasn't bassackwards enough for you, take a look at this (which is, to be clear, an advertisement for Phil's short-game book/DVD):

Book review: 'Golfing with God' is a great read ... if you like this kind of stuff

NutherDuffer has a large stack of golf books lying around the house. Several stacks, in fact, as Mrs. Duffer has occasionally been known to point out. So he is to be forgiven for this very tardy review of "Golfing with God," which was published in 2005 to some very positive reviews, from a wide variety of sources.*

The novel, by Roland Merullo (also the author of "Passion for Golf"), puts NutherDuffer in the awkward position of loving a book but hesitating to recommend it to any and all. Cuz here's the thing: The title of the book is a literal description of the story -- a professional golfer whose career has stumbled dies, goes to heaven (even he is uncertain as to why), and finds himself golfing with God, who, as it turns out, has been having trouble with the yips.

Yes, in order to appreciate this book, you will have to suspend some disbelief. But you'll enjoy the book more if you do actually hold some beliefs. "Golfing with God" isn't a book for golf purists or atheists. It isn't the down-to-earth, real-life story you'll find in a book like "The Greatest Game Ever Played." And when it comes to the mystical/spiritual, it takes a large step beyond "The Legend of Bagger Vance," or even "Golf in the Kingdom."

"Golfing with God" takes place on golf both heavenly and earthbound (including Ford's Colony in Williamsburg, which should be eternally grateful for the glowing fictional depiction), but it isn't exactly a golf book. Golf is the metaphor, but the book is about change, growth, self-discovery, overcoming fear, and locating your "divine purpose."

If you're ready for that kind of ride, you're going to love this book. You'll get a kick out of the several rounds of golf with God, in all of His and Her manifestations. You'll get some laughs -- if you aren't put off by religious humor -- by the cameo appearances of Jesus, Mary, the Buddha and Mohammed.

You may find yourself highlighting a few lines here and there:

I wanted you to have a lesson in course management, which is really only a lesson in humility. Which is actually the primary lesson of earthly life.
You humans spend so little time in mental cultivation--I don't mean learning, cramming your head with facts; I mean prayer, meditation, contemplation, even just the simple effort of changing a thought pattern in a positive direction.
Everything we experience in the external world, good fortune and bad, has its root in the subtle workings of the mind. And it turns out that those subtle workings, those patterns, can be changed. It's exactly like golf.

"Golfing with God" is 277 hardcover pages, about 210 ebook pages, and I have no idea how many paperback pages. It seems much shorter. And if you, like NutherDuffer, do sometimes see golf as having a spiritual connection that few other pastimes can claim, you're going to love this book, too.

Also like NutherDuffer, you may find yourself wishing (maybe even praying?) to learn that golf was also your divine purpose.


The Washington Post.

Peace Corps Writers Group (both the author and the reviewer are Peace Corps veterans).

Julie's Spirit Path, a "spiritual journey" blog.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Which was the BMW Championship lowlight:
the grousing about the course or the course itself?

With the BMW Championship in the rearview mirror, NutherDuffer wanted to offer a quick roundup/wrapup of the week's big controversy -- Rees Jones' $5 million redesign of the Dubsdread Course at Cog Hill.

Rees Jones designed the Hell's Point course
The short form: The redesign was the subject of a lot of grousing, and much of it seemed to be focused as much on Rees Jones as on the course.

Phil Mickelson led the drubbing of Dubsdread, suggesting before play even started that a designer other than Rees Jones -- someone "who knows what they're doing" -- should come in and "just start over."

Geoff Ogilvy and world No. 1 Luke Donald were said to have disliked the redesign, and even the usually diplomatic Steve Stricker said the course owners should get their money back. 
All of which drew a televised rebuke from the irascible Johnny Miller, NBC's golf mouth, who said the critics deserved to play poorly. 

Unlike Miller, columnist Jim Huber, who acknowledges that he's a friend of Rees Jones and who does after all work for the PGA, does suggest that the critics should be given a careful ear.

Rees Jones himself has had little to say -- other than the backhand slap of accusing Mickelson of trying to drum up business for his own design firm. But it was just a couple of weeks ago that the Jones firm proudly announced that Dubsdread had landed on Golf World's list of the top 100 courses in America.

Local duffers who don't want to make the drive to Chicago to play Cog Hill to see what all the fuss is about have three options for testing out Rees Jones-designed courses. There's Greenbrier Country Club, which is private, and two that the rest of us can check out: The Golden Horseshoe Green Course in Williamsburg (here's a link to their tour).  and Hell's Point Golf Course in Virginia Beach, which has long been a NutherDuffer favorite (here's a link to their layout).

What do you think? Justified grumping? Spoiled millionaires whining? Or much ado about nothing?

An honesty test for golfers

Want to find out how honest your are? Go play a round of golf.


It's easy to be honest about your score -- and about your lie -- when you're playing for a few bucks with your buddies. (Right?) But when you're out there alone? And the voices start?

You know the voices I'm talking about. It's Smeagol versus Gollum, if you've seen "Lord of the Rings." It's the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other, each whispering in an ear.

"You would have made that putt if you'd been trying -- that's a par."

"Yes, you did say you'd count every stroke today...but we always play with mulligans...."

"What the heck -- you're not playing for money...."

"Golf is hard enough without trying to hit out of a divot."

And if it isn't the voices, it's rationalizing that you're restoring the fairness and justice that have gone missing from the game of golf: You made three good shots (and just one bad one) on that par 5 -- and that long loopy putt was soooo close to being a great, great shot. Missing the come-backer just wasn't right -- that's a bogey, not a double.

Can you stand up to the voices? Resist the temptation? Can you write down a 7 instead of a 6? And not go back and change it?

You're a good man. Or woman.

The flip side, in NutherDuffer's experience, is just as difficult: You're at the first tee and you tell yourself, "This is a practice round -- I'm just going to experiment, maybe play two balls. No scorekeeping today. I'm not even going to count strokes."

Then you birdie the first hole. I know I've got a scorecard in this bag somewhere.

Then you take a triple on the second hole. Screw it -- it's just a practice round anyway. Then you nail your drive on the third.... OK, I'll just keep track of the shots I like....

You thought a solo round was supposed to be quiet and relaxing, but you've got a bickering foursome in your head. Can you take one side in the argument -- the right side -- and stay there?

When you're done, will your scorecard reflect your actual performance? Or will it be a record of the way you wished you'd played?

If your scorecard says you've played your best round ever, can you tell your friends about it? And still feel good about yourself?