Archive for May, 2009

Memorial Day

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

By Dorin Matney

I wanted to express what Memorial Day means to me. I think it’s great that people want to celebrate, cookout on the grill and enjoy one another’s company however they see fit. Whether that be supporting the big races this weekend, the Indianapolis 500 or the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, participating in or watching a local or professional golf tournament, spending a day out on the lake or simply staying home and tending the garden. As the saying goes, “whatever trips your trigger.” If it makes you happy, I’m ecstatic.

The observance of a Memorial Day is not uniquely American but did begin for Americans shortly after the War Between the States more commonly referred to as the Civil War. Celebrated by both sides the North and South to honor their fallen heroes, it was on May 30, 1870 General John Alexander Logan gave the following oration delivered on the occasion of decorating Union Soldiers graves at Arlington National Cemetery:
Homage to fallen heroes is not an invention of our days. History beams with examples how various nations in various ages have honored their patriot dead. It was a custom established by the laws of Athens that the obsequies of those who had fallen for their country in battle should be performed in the most public and solemn manner. The bones of the slain were gathered on the plains or mountains, and were brought in solemn procession to the city. There, in tents, they were guarded in state, and received the votive offerings of friends and relatives, such as flowers, weapons, and precious ornaments, which were brought as tributes of affection and evidence of the proper appreciation of their services. … Where such a custom existed, it is not to be marveled at that patriotism and love of country burned in every Grecian breast with a flame which a thousand years of oppression and tyranny were unable to crush out. … Can we be surprised that in such hearts the memory of Thermopylae and Marathon was always fresh? And shall we, the freest of all nations, in our paradise of liberty feel less patriotic fire in our breasts … ? Shall we neglect the graves of those who sacrificed their lives to defend the palladium of our liberty, to perpetuate our national unity, and shield our rights forever? … This Memorial Day, on which we decorate their graves with the tokens of love and affection, is no idle ceremony with us, to pass away an hour; but it brings back to our minds in all their vividness the fearful conflicts of that terrible war in which they fell as victims. … Let us , then, all unite in the solemn feelings of the hour, and tender with our flowers the warmest sympathies of our souls! Let us revive our patriotism and love of country by this act, and strengthen our loyalty by the example of the noble dead around us….

There are many cities and towns that lay claim to fame as the birthplace of “Memorial Day”, Petersburg, VA, Waterloo, NY, and Boalsburg, PA to name a few. For whatever reason that may be lost to history and scholars can debate it all they want. As for me, perhaps it is the romantic in me but I kind of like the idea that General Logan’s wife observed the ladies of the South decorating the graves of the fallen from the battle of June 9, 1864 and inspired him to write General order #11 for the Grand Army of the Republic. It works for me. What I hope that everyone takes away from this is that Memorial Day is the day we honor our fallen heroes, to include the military, police and fireman who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us so that we may be the freest of nations as stated by General Logan in his eloquent address.

This poem was written by John McCrae in 1915:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place, and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, Felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe,
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Moina Michael wrote the following poem and conceived the idea to wear a red poppy on Memorial Day:
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

Were I loquacious enough I’d write a poem, unfortunately I’m not. Be that as it may I would ask everyone in their various frivolities over this Memorial Day weekend to take a minute and just thank those that did make the ultimate sacrifice. Because freedom is not free, it comes with a very big price tag.

The Players Championship Final Round

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Henrik Stenson wins the 2009 Players Championship in impressive style shooting 12 under par for the tournament. Starting the day T2 at 6 under par Henrik put on an imposing display today shooting a bogey free 6 under par 66 to win his biggest tournament ever. Alone in second place is Ian Poulter at 8 under par, T3 John Mallinger and Kevin Na, T5 Jim Furyk, Brian Davis and Ben Crane at 6 under, Tiger Woods takes the 8th spot at 5 under par, T9 Aaron Baddely, Vijay Singh, Tim Clark, David Toms and Alex Cejka at 4 under par to round out the top 10.

Alex Cejka bogeyed 1, 5, 6, 8, 12 & 13, had a double on 4 and a birdie on 10. His 7 over and Stenson’s 6 under combined for a 13 shot swing. What made Cejka disintegrate? It couldn’t have been pressure from Tiger since TW had 4 bogeys himself albeit tempered with 3 birdies. It makes little difference now, it’s just that not a soul on this planet had ever enjoyed a 5 stroke lead going into the final round at this tournament, then to throw it away, he took it like a man though. I didn’t see him throw any clubs or swear at nobody in particular throughout the day. How about Aaron Baddely and Vijay Singh coming back from T65 and T55 respectively to bring it in at T9, Bads started dead last alone in the first group off the tee this morning.

Final key stats for the tournament are: Scoring average Henrik Stenson at 69, field average was 72.69, Driving distance Bubba Watson 308.5 yards with the field averaging 286.3, Driving accuracy Jeff Klauk too the honor with 80.36% while the field averaged 63.11%, Brian Davis led in GIR with 72.22% and the field average was 61.2%, Scrambling was led by Ian Poulter at 83.87% with the field averaging 53.66% and Putting was led by Luke Donald with 25.75 and the field average was at 28.87. The toughest hole for the tournament was 14 and the easiest was 16.

Congratulations to Henrik Stenson. This is his second PGA Tour victory and the first in his last 27 starts. His first coming at the WGC Accenture Match Play in 2007, while he hasn’t won many he apparently likes the big ones. This round ranked as the fourth lowest final round by a Players Champion. Eclipsing Calvin Peete who also shot a 66 in the final round back in 1985, but Calvin only won by 3 strokes and Henrik won by four. While I didn’t expect Henrik to win this week, I did have him in my foursome in the fantasy league, the rest of my foursome didn’t fair as well. I can only start TW 7 more times and decided to save him this week, guess I should have used him but hindsight is always 20/20. Again congratulations to Mr. Stenson on a very fine performance indeed.

The Players Championship Round 3

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

Alex Cejka maintains his lead after three rounds of play. Shooting an even par round for a cumulative 11 under for the tournament, Alex enjoys a 5 shot lead heading into the final round Sunday. Six players are T2 at 6 under par, Tiger Woods, Retief Goosen, Jonathon Byrd, Ben Crane, Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter. Brian Davis, John Mallinger and Kevin Na are all 5 under and round out the top ten at T8. Woody Austin and Kenny Perry shared the best rounds of the day with 68’s each moving from T61 to T11, 4 other players are tied in the 11th spot with Perry and Austin. The course played tougher today despite the favorable weather conditions. Angel Cabrera, Jason Dufner and David Toms each shot 5 over and took a considerable drop down the leaderboard. Charley Hoffman, Jeev M. Singh and Aaron Baddely each shot 4 over. Several players were at 3 over and despite his T2 status Ian Poulter has to be disappointed having lost 3 shots to the leader. The following made the cut but did not finish, after the third round they were over 218, my understanding is that it constitutes a cut after the cut; Robert Karlsson, Hunter Mahan, Martin Laird, Nathan Greene, KJ Choi, Stewart Cink, Bob Estes, Fred Funk, Graeme McDowell, Steve Marino, Dustin Johnson and Rod Pampling.

Key stats for the tournament to date are Alex Cejka leading in scoring average with 68.33 the field average is 72.54, Bubba Watson leads in driving distance at 305.5 with the field average at 285.8, Alex Cejka also leads in driving accuracy at 83.33% the field average is 63.08, Brian Davis leads in GIR at 77.78% while the field is averaging 61,32%, Ian Poulter leads in scrambling at 81.82% and the field average is 54.04%, Charley Hoffman leads in putting with 25.33 putts and the field average is 28.78. The toughest hole remains 14 this year and the easiest has been 16. The island green at 17 has played the easiest it has played in 12 years. I noticed the rough caught several balls near the pylons that were headed for the drink, whether that is thicker or taller than in past years I can’t say, but balls that would have surely been wet in the past couple years were getting caught in the rough.

Since Tiger was the first in at 6 under, he will be paired with Cejka in the final group, they will tee off at 2:25, Goosen and Byrd will tee off at 2:14, Crane and Stenson at 2:03, Poulter and Davis at 1:52, Mallinger and Na at 1:41 and the Perry/Austin group will tee off at 1:30. The 1:30 group could be an interesting one to watch. A lot will be made of the intimidation factor with Tiger being in the final group with Cejka during the telecast. If Tiger is to come back and win this thing, he needs to hit his fairways, if he does that he may in fact pressure Cejka into mistakes. If he doesn’t hit his fairways and Cejka does I’d say Cejka has it in the bag. Don’t get me wrong a 5 shot lead is by no means secure and I was a little disappointed in Alex’s play in that I thought he started laying up way too soon. It was like from 13 on he was just playing it safe or playing not to lose but there is still a day left to play. Tiger came back from 5 shots down to defeat Sean O’Hair just a couple weeks back and he can do it again, but he had help from O’Hair in that win whether or not that was the intimidation factor or not is left up to each of us to decide on our own. Just saying, Alex, make him earn it if he is to win, play your game, keep it in the short grass and aim for the pins, if you do that you can win the biggest game of your career.

The Players Championship Round 2

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Alex Cjeka has taken the lead by 2 strokes over his nearest competitor; he sets at 11 under par shooting rounds of 66/67. Ian Poulter is alone in 2nd place at 9 under par with rounds of 67/68. At T3 are Kevin Na, Angel Cabrera, Jason Dufner, John Mallinger, Henrik Stenson and David Toms. Na and Cabrera made significant strides up the leaderboard today shooting 6 and 7 under respectively. Four players round out the top ten at T9, those being Ben Crane, Richard S. Johnson, Tim Petrovic and Jeff Overton.

Key stats are Alex Cejka scoring average 66.5 with the field averaging 72.2, J.B. Holmes driving distance at 305.8 with the field average at 284.9, Michael Allen leads in driving accuracy at 85.71% with the field is averaging 63.83%, Steve Stricker leads in Greens in Regulation with 83.33% while the field average is 63.02%, Ryan Moore in scrambling with 85.71% and the field average a mere 54.3% and lastly Kevin Na led in putting with 24.5 putts and the field averaging 28.81. So far the easiest hole has been 14 while the hardest has been 16.

In the disappointment category is Anthony Kim who shot 10 over par today to end at 11 over for his two rounds of this tournament, astoundingly last years Masters Champion Trevor Immelman matched that feet and his Players Championship run is also over this year. Some of the other players missing the cut include: Rory Sabbatini, Rory McIlroy, Freddy Couples, Y.E. Yang, J.B. Holmes, Sean O’Hair, Charlie Wi, Lucas Glover, Vaughn Taylor, Ross Fisher, Davis Love III, Stuart Appleby, D.J. Trahan, Charles Howell III, Will MacKenzie, Adam Scott and Jerry Kelly. I was somewhat surprised the cut remained at even par. That leaves 83 players with 23 of them tied in 61st position. The tour has made efforts to keep the cut as close to 70 players as possible. They have in the past not let some of the players who technically make the cut play on Saturday and Sunday. Be interesting to see what they do with it.

For the Tiger Woods fans he is setting 7 strokes back at 4 under par T22 and for the Phil Mickelson fans he is T61 at even par 11 strokes off the pace. Some of the players who have been struggling of late that made the cut include Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington, Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia, Jeev M. Singh, KJ Choi and Stewart Cink. It would not be unheard of to make up 11 strokes in two days, but it sure is a long row to hoe.

The Players Championship Round 1

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Ben Crane leads the way shooting a 65, just two shots off the course record. Alex Cjeka, John Mallinger and Richard S. Johnson are T2 with rounds of 66. Nine players are T5 to round out the top 10, those being Camilo Villegas, Brad Adamonis, Ian Poulter, David Toms, Retief Goosen, Scott Verplank, Jonathon Byrd, Jason Dufner and Bubba Watson. Tiger Woods is 1 under with a 71 and Phil Mickelson is 1 over with a 73. The projected cut after round 1 is even par.

The talk amongst the players is to expect to see more low scores today as the winds are supposed to be minimal again. Even with the favorable weather conditions 89 balls found their way into water hazards on day 1. Ben Crane led the way in scoring average and putting (65 with 22 putts), Bubba Watson in driving distance (318), Jason Bohn in driving accuracy (92.86%), Martin Laird in GIR (88.89%) and John Mallinger in scrambling (an impressive 100%). There were 57 players under par and 17 players are T58 at even par.

The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

The stadium course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL would be the third leg of my dream golf excursion, one and two being Augusta and St. Andrews. Some think it should be the fifth major, I won’t go that far myself being somewhat of a tradionalist I like the status quo just the way it is, thank you very much. The fact that it really stands alone makes it unique, the players want to be there, it is their tournament although many are on record as not particularly liking the course and I believe it is because the course outshines the stars.

The course is a Pete Dye design, originally in 1979 and re-designed in 2006. In its current configuration it plays 7,215 yards. The course was ranked 6th in difficulty in 2008 on the PGA Tour. There are 93 sand bunkers, 24 water hazards and the greens run 12 on the stimpmeter. Tees and fairways are 419 bermudgrass, the rough is bermudagrass and the greens are mini-verde bermudagrass. There have been 24 aces recorded 10 at 13, 6 at 17, 5 at 8, and 3 at 3. The course record is 63 shared by Freddy Couples in the 3rd round of 1992 and Greg Norman in the 1st round of 1994. In last years tournament the easiest hole was the 16th a short par 5 that enjoyed 5 eagles, 188 birdies, 195 pars, 35 bogeys, and 4 doubles. The hardest was the 18th a wicked dogleg where accuracy is paramount. It saw 0 eagles, 31 birdies, 202 pars, 146 bogeys, 40 doubles and 8 triples or worse. The most famed hole is the 17th the signature hole at Sawgrass that has had 312 balls dropped into the water around the island green in the past five year’s, it is a wedge for most of the professionals and only plays 137 yards

Televised coverage provided by the Golf Channel Thursday and Friday 9-7 and on NBC Saturday and Sunday from 2-7.

Quail Hollow Championship Final Round 2009

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

It wasn’t Zach Jonson who started the day with the lead, nor was it Tiger Woods who CBS had billed has the biggest threat to Johnson at the beginning of their telecast. But lack of excitement was no problem at Quail Hollow today. At one point 5 players shared the lead, it was a hard charging Sean O’Hair who walked away victorious today 11 under par for the tournament. After a bogey on 2 O’Hair settled down putting together 6 birdies and headed to 17 at 13 under par, bogeys on 17 and 18 wasn’t enough to drop him from the lead and he held on for his second win of the season and vaulted into 3rd place in Fed-Ex cup points. Bubba Watson and Lucas Glover were T2 at 10 under. Tiger Woods was alone in 4th who despite overcoming a couple bad drives on the front and pulling back to even par, never got his putter going today. Rounding out the top 10 at T5 were Phil Mickelson, Jonathan Byrd, Tim Petrovic, Ted Purdy, Ian Poulter and Jason Dufner. Mickelson put together a fine round of 67 today but that wasn’t enough to overcome his poor showing on Saturday. Zach Johnson was 4 over par at 76 today, a triple on 2 hurt him badly followed by a bogey on 3 after which he seemed to calm down and had back to back birdies on 4 and 5 but two more bogeys down the stretch, ending up in a 7 way tie for 11th.

Sean O’Hair was 7th in driving distance at 312.6 yards, T3 in GIR with an even 75% and 31st in putting at 1.778, his scoring average 69.25 the rest of the field averaged 72.42. Bubba Watson led in driving distance falling off some but still averaging 331.6 with the field average at 299.8, he also led the field in greens in regulation at 76.39% while the field average was 64.61%. Will MacKenzie led in driving accuracy at 69.64% with the field average at 46.14%. Lucas Glover led in scrambling at 82.76% with the field averaging 53.94% and he also led in putting with 26.75 and the rest of field at 29.75.

With the pin set back 17 was playing 225 yards today, most of the players seemed to be opting for 4 and 5 irons and bailing to the right but that left them with a near impossible chip to get over the hill and then with the green slanted toward the water it got very fast leaving them a long up hill putt, that is what caused most of the bogeys there today. PGA Tour still listed 18th as the toughest hole but 17 nearly took that dubious honor today.

Congratulations to young Mr. Sean O’Hair on a very fine performance today.

Quail Hollow Championship Round 3 2009

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

With just 4 players left on the course play was suspended due to the approaching storm in Charlotte. The PGA Tour has to play it safe whenever lightning is in the area and at approximately 5:50 PM they blew the horn to suspend play. Johnson and McNeil have pegs in the ground on 18 while Goosen and Watson finished on 17 but have yet to tee off on 18. The lead stands thus at this point, Zach Johnson leading at 11 under par, George McNeil in 2nd at 10 under, Lucas Glover and Tiger Woods are T3 at 9 under, Brendon DeJonge, Sean O’Hair, Retief Goosen and Bubba Watson T5 at 8 under, Y.E. Yang, David Toms, Ross Fisher, Davis Love III and Jason Dufner are T9 at 7 under par.

McNeil has 135 yards with his 3rd having caught his shot fat coming out of the bunker on 18, however even if he bogeys he will still play in the last group with Johnson, if he doubles the last group would most likely be Zach Johnson and Tiger Woods, generally on ties the tour goes by first in first out for pairings. Of course it is possible that Bubba or Retief will birdie 18 in which case one of them would be in the last group if McNeil gets the double. I think he will be fine, probably choke up on a pitching wedge to leave him a little bit below the hole and make his par when play resumes. I suspect the pairings will be Johnson/McNeil, Woods/Glover, Goosen/Watson, and DeJonge/O’Hair.

The lead did change hands a few times throughout the day, starting out with Watson/Goosen, but Woods, McNeil and Zach Johsnon all head the lead alone at times while at one point there was a four way tie at the top with McNeil, Johnson, Woods and Glover all at 10 under. Woods bogeyed 17 and 18 getting bit by the green mile yet again today. Young Danny Lee in only his 2nd tournament as a professional was 5 under on his round, 9 under for the tournament going into 17 but a nasty double bogey on 17 and a bogey on 18 dropped him to 6 under for the tournament standing at T14, pretty good showing regardless in my opinion. It was disappointing for Phil Mickelson and Jeff Maggert today as they dropped from T7 to T30 both shooting rounds of 3 over par 75 today. Very unlike Phil with a wedge in his hand from the bunker at 10, to not get out once but twice then running his putt past the hole and having to settle for a double bogey 7.

Zach Johnson stats are not official until the end of the round, currently Lucas Glover is shown as the leader in scoring average with a 69, once Zach finishes his round that will change unless of course he has a meltdown, stranger things have happened on the PGA Tour, however he is averaging 293.5 yards off the tee (61st), 73.6% greens in regulation (T4) and 1.69 putting (3rd). Bubba Watson continues to lead in driving distance at 337.2 while the field is averaging 299.9. Will MacKenzie leads in driving accuracy at 73.81% with the field at 46.77%. Jason Dufner leads in GIR with 75.93% hit while the field average is 64.43%. Lucas Glover leads in scrambling at 83.36% the field average is at 53.85% and Kent Jones leads in putting needing only 26 putts while the field average is 29.79. The toughest and easiest holes remain 18 and 15 respectively; a change from last year as 17 was the toughest. I believe that 18 has been the hardest hole all weekend.

With the storms in the area and the darkened skies I would take a guess that unless play can resume by 7 PM they will just wait until tomorrow, weather permitting. The rain is still over the metro Charlotte area on radar, tomorrow’s forecast is for scattered thunderstorms.

Quail Hollow Championship Round 2 2009

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Bubba Watson and Retief Goosen share the lead after round at 8 under par. Tiger woods was 9 under going into the final three holes but bogeys on 16 and 18 left him at even par for the day, 1 shot back at 7 under. Zach Johnson, Jim Furyk and George McNeil share the T3 spot with Woods. Zach Johnson and Jim Furyk were both on fire today, Johnson toying with a course record shooting 8 under par heading into the final three holes but bogeys on 16, 17 and 18 brought down to 5 under on the day, Furyk had 6 birdies and an eagle but bogeyed 2 and 17 for 6 under on his round. Furyk may have moved up farthest on the leaderboard as he moved from T43 to T3. Rounding out the top ten were Camilo Villegas, Phil Mickelson, Jason Dufner and Jeff Maggert all 2 shots back at 6 under for the championship. Villegas moved up from T43 to T7 the rest of that group tied for 7th dropped slightly down the leaderboard. The next bunch drop out of the top 10 at T11 with Steve Marino, Lucas Glover, AK, Robert Karlsson, Davis Love III and Ted Purdy all 3 shots back at 5 under for the championship. Marino and Glover dropped down the leaderboard with the other 4 players all moving up from T20 to the tied 11th spot.

Bubba Watson stats were impressive in that he not only led the field in driving distance at 337.5 yards but also led the field in GIR, hitting 80.6% of his greens in regulation and he led the field in scoring average at 68. His putting is at 1.69 where he stands alone at 16th. The rest of the field is averaging 72.47 in scoring, 298.8 off the tee and 64.73% greens in regulation. Martin Kaymer led the field in scrambling at 91.67% with the rest of the field averaging 53.73% and Bo Van Pelt leads in putting at 25.5 with the field averaging 29.86. Scoring wise the toughest hole today was the 18th while the easiest was the 15th.

Some of the players missing the cut were Stewart Cink, Ben Crane, Johnson Wagner, Nick O’Hern, Woody Austin, Kirk Triplett, Angel Cabrera, Rory Sabbatini, Chris DeMarco, Padraig Harrington, Ryuji Imada, Steve Elkington, KJ Choi, Aaron Baddely, David Duval, Vaughn Taylor, Sergio Garcia, Vijay Singh, Jason Gore, Jeev M Singh and Stuart Appleby.

Pairings for the top 10 Saturday are Watson and Goosen at 1:50, Johnson and McNeil at 1:40, Woods and Furyk at 1:30, Villegas and Mickelson at 1:20, with Dufner and Maggert at 1:10.

It is a tight leaderboard so it should be an interesting moving day Saturday. I’m still pulling for a Tiger/Phil showdown on Sunday.