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Opinion & Analysis

Pappas: Ready for memorable moments at the Memorial?

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By Pete Pappas

GolfWRX Staff Writer

The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village is one of my favorite events of the season.  And not just because it’s a stone’s throw down the road from me in Dublin, Ohio, one of just two times the Tour visits the “Buckeye State.”

It’s also because Muirfield is “Jack’s Place.”

You know you’re in for something special at Muirfield immediately when you’re greeted by a larger than life bronze sculpture of the 19-time major winner Jack Nicklaus instructing a young boy on the golf swing.

The child seems to hang on Jack’s every word but also appears mischievously eager to put the ball in play.

Jack points out towards the horizon as if to instruct his mindful pupil “now before you hit the ball you need to pick a spot out there and an intermediate target too …”  (referring to his meticulously famous pre-shot routine in picking primary and intermediate targets to establish aim).

When the “Golden Bear” created the Memorial in 1976 he envisioned an event that would draw the world’s top players to central Ohio. And it has not disappointed.

World No. 1 Luke Donald, World No. 2 Rory McIlroy, World No. 7 Tiger Woods (making his 13th appearance but absent since 2010), and defending champion World No. 8 Steve Stricker will all tee it up Thursday in Dublin for the 37th playing of the Memorial.

Last year Stricker shot a final round 68 but needed a couple of clutch par-saving putts at No. 16 and No. 17 to pull out a one-shot victory and hold off runner-ups Matt Kuchar and Brandt Jobe (both of whom carded final round 65s).

The field this week includes 18 of the 21 winners on Tour in 2012, 17 of the Top-20 in the FedExCup standings, and eight of the Top-10 in the Official World Golf Rankings.

“It’s on everybody’s short list of tournaments they would love to win,” said World No. 10 Justin Rose.  “And that comes down to Jack Nicklaus and what he represents.”

The Memorial is one of just five tournaments given invitational status by the PGA Tour and consequently only 120 players rather than the normal 156 are in the field.  The top-75 players on the previous year’s money list are guaranteed invitees.

Also making the event unique is a yearly induction ceremony and plaque presentation honoring golfers who’ve made significant contributions to the game.  The special plaques are displayed prominently near the clubhouse.  And this year’s inductee is eight-time major champion Tom Watson (who also won the Memorial in 1979 and 1996).

Memorable Memorial Moments

In 1976 Roger Maltbie won the inaugural Memorial Tournament defeating Hale Irwin in a sudden-death playoff, but not without a little luck.  On the third playoff hole Maltbie’s approach sailed left of the green, heading straight for the gallery. But his shot miraculously hit a stake and bounced back onto the green. Maltbie salvaged par and went on to win on the next playoff hole.

In 1977 Nicklaus defeated Hubert Green by two strokes after inclement weather forced the tournament to finish on Monday.

In 1984 Nicklaus became a two-time winner of his own tournament defeating Andy Bean in a sudden-death playoff.  The win turned out to be Jack’s last non-major victory of his illustrious career.

In 1994 Tom Lehman cruised to a five-shot victory over Greg Norman and established the tournament record shooting 278 (20-under).

In 2001 Woods won the Memorial for the third consecutive year dismantling Sergio Garcia and Paul Azinger by a sizable seven-stroke margin.

The House That Jack Built

Muirfield Village Golf Club is ranked as the sixth most popular course on Tour by the players.  It’s also ranked as the 19th most difficult on Tour in 2011.

Muirfield features some of the fastest greens on Tour, and the spectacular par-4 448-yard finishing hole is the toughest on the course.

More than 20,000 spectators gather at No. 18 to witness the tournament’s end and the traditional Nicklaus handshake greeting to the winner walking off the green.

The Greek Syndicate

The beautiful thing about this season is anyone can win any given week.  It’s also the horrendous thing about this season as it makes picking a winner all the more difficult.

Nevetheless, I remain undaunted.

With one week off I’m returning fresh and giddy with anticipation this weeks picks will pan out for me.

Here we go.

Top-25

Phil Mickelson (16/1)

Mickelson bounced back at the HP Byron Nelson Championship two weeks ago finishing in seventh place with a strong final round.  But he’s struggled overall this past month, particularly with inconsistent iron play.

I don’t think he finds consistency this week.  He’ll have a good opening few days, but fall off over the weekend.

Stricker (25/1)

Stricker’s silky smooth putting stroke helped him win here last year.  But he’s never played well at Muirfield before last season.

His victory here last year was driven in large part by a wildly hot streak in the middle rounds that I just don’t see him duplicating.

Top-10

Donald (9/1)

Donald has finished in the top-6 in five of his last seven starts.  And the new World No. 1 has 15 top-10 finishes in his last 17 events.  Sizzle!

Donald is on a roll and I always bet on the hot hand.

Top-5

Justin Rose (18/1)

I love what Rose has done this year.  Four top-10 finishes and a victory.  He won here in 2010 by three shots over Rickie Fowler.

For my money he’s come closer than any player to having three wins this season.  I like him and Fowler to battle it out on Sunday down the stretch.

Outside Top-25

Mcilroy (12/1)

McIlroy has two top-10 finishes at Muirfield the past two years.  But he’s struggled of late.

Even with all his talent I don’t see him turning it around this week.  However another poor finish might be the wake-up call he needs with the U.S. Open approaching.

Woods (16/1)

Woods has never missed a cut at Muirfield.  He has 10 top-10 finishes here.  And he has the best scoring average at Memorial of anyone in the field.

So why pick him to finish outside the top-25?

Because I believe Woods is an absolute wreck.  And he won’t be fixed until he reunites with Butch Harmon.

You heard it here first. Expect a Woods-Harmon reunion next season (I’m invoking my privilege to not reveal my confidential source).

And expect continued inconsistent and mediocre play from Woods the rest of this season (no source on this one, just common sense).

Missed Cut

Bubba Watson (22/1)

Watson’s admittedly rusty.  But he expects to “play good golf.”  I think the spotlight and attention is still a learning experience for him and growing pains are forthcoming.

Watson’s great for the game.  But he won’t be around this weekend.

Winner

Rickie Fowler (20/1)

People have been waiting for Rickie to break out for some time now and now that he finally has he’s a different player.

Fowler was a runner-up here in 2010.

He’s always had the talent.  It was just a matter of when.  Fowler picks up another win and puts himself into contention for “2012 Player of the Year.”

Groups To Watch

Kyle Stanley, Mark Wilson, Jason Day

Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley

Tiger Woods, Bill Haas, Fred Couples

Hunter Mahan, Justin Rose, Steve Sticker

Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson

Tiger Woods, Bill Haas, Freddie Couples

Ryan Moore, Spencer Levin, Greg Owen

Brandt Snedeker, Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott

Charley Hoffman, Ernie Els, Stewart Cink.

The Yellow Shirt

Before Fowler decided “Sing Sing Prison Orange” was a good look for Championship Sunday,  and before Tiger’s “Fire Red” became a reason for competitors to cringe in fear at Woods’ mere presence…

There was Jack’s “Yellow Shirt.”

Jack’s yellow shirt of course commemorates that remarkable day in 1986 when the 46 year-old “Golden Bear” in the twilight of his career won The Masters for his sixth and final time.  And in the process gave the game one of its greatest moments in history.

What Jack’s yellow shirt also symbolizes however is the even greater gift it gave to a young boy in 1968 who was diagnosed with a rare and terminal cancer at the age of 11.

That boy’s name was Craig Smith.

Craig loved golf.  Jack was his idol. And yellow was Craig’s favorite color.

After Jack learned of Craig’s diagnosis he met with Craig and promised him he’d wear yellow every Sunday as his way of saying “Hello Craig.”

“I wanted to bring as much joy into the last part of that boy’s life as I could,” Jack said.  “It was a mutual thing between us.”

It was mutual because Craig also wore yellow on Sundays.

Craig’s mother recalled watching Craig leaping off the sofa with excitement the first time he saw Jack wearing yellow on television, “Craig would say ‘hello to you too Jack’ when he watched Jack,” his mom said.

It was their secret, between Jack and Craig.

Tragically two years later Craig lost his courageous battle with cancer and passed away at age 13.

In 1986 Nicklaus’ game was in decline and his career on its last legs.  He hadn’t won a tournament in two years.  And it had been six years since he last won a major.

But something unbelievable would happen at the 1986 Masters.  And many believe it was because Nicklaus decided to wear the yellow shirt on Sunday one more time.

Yellow is the color of rebirth.  And Jack wore it again to inspire and honor the memory of his brave young friend with an unwavering spirit.

As Jack walked up the 18th fairway on Sunday about to win The Masters for the sixth time, he couldn’t help but believe Craig was watching from above.

“I looked up to sky and said wow, is this really happening?”  Jack said.

Today the Yellow Shirt Fund exists to support pediatric cancer patients nationwide including those in Ohio being treated at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

And Jack’s “yellow shirt” more than ever still inspires us all to continue in the fight against pediatric cancer.

Notes

Tickets for the event are always some of the biggest sellers for any non-major on the PGA Tour.

Purse: $6.2 million; Winner’s share: $1.116 million

Television Coverage

Thursday and Friday: Golf Channel 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. EST

Saturday and Sunday: NBC 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. EST

Radio Coverage

Thursday through Sunday: SiriusXM Satellite Radio 12:00 – 6:00 pm ET

Odds

Odds provided by Las Vegas PGA Tour Golf Betting Odds.

You can follow Pete on Twitter @TheGreekGrind

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

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Pete is a journalist, commentator, and interviewer covering the PGA Tour, new equipment releases, and the latest golf fashions. Pete's also a radio and television personality who's appeared multiple times on ESPN radio, and Fox Sports All Bets Are Off. And when he's not running down a story, he's at the range working on his game. Above all else, Pete's the proud son of a courageous mom who battled pancreatic cancer much longer than anyone expected. You can follow Pete on twitter @PGAPappas

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. cjoel

    Jun 4, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Woods is an absolute wreck?? Ha. Feeling a little foolish over those comments yet?

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Opinion & Analysis

Pick three golfers to build the ultimate scramble team. Who you got?

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It’s officially scramble season. Whether it’s a corporate outing or charity event, surely you’ve either been invited to play in or have already played in a scramble this year.

If you don’t know the rules of the scramble format, here’s how it works: All four golfers hit their drives, then the group elects the best shot. From there, all four golfers hit the shot, and the best of the bunch is chosen once again. The hole continues in this fashion until the golf ball is holed.

The best scramble players are those who hit the ball really far and/or stick it close with the irons and/or hole a lot of putts. The point is to make as many birdies and eagles as possible.

With this in mind, inside GolfWRX Headquarters, we got to discussing who would be on the ultimate scramble team. Obviously, Tiger-Jack-Daly was brought up immediately, so there needed to be a caveat to make it more challenging.

Thus, the following hypothetical was born. We assigned each golfer below a dollar value, and said that we had to build a three player scramble team (plus yourself) for $8 or less.

Here are the answers from the content team here at GolfWRX:

Ben Alberstadt

Tiger Woods ($5): This is obvious. From a scramble standpoint, Tiger gives you everything you want: Long, accurate, and strategic off the tee (in his prime). Woods, sets the team up for optimal approach shots (he was pretty good at those too)…and of course, arguably the greatest pressure putter of all time.

David Duval ($2): I’m thinking of Double D’s machine-like approach play in his prime. Tour-leader in GIR in 1999, and 26th in driving accuracy that year, Duval ought to stick second shots when TW doesn’t and is an asset off the tee.

Corey Pavin ($1): A superb putter and dogged competitor, Pavin’s a great value at $1. Ryder Cup moxy. Plus, he’ll always give you a ball in the fairway off the tee (albeit a short one), much needed in scramble play.

Brian Knudson

Rory McIlroy ($4): I am willing to bet their are only a handful of par 5’s in the world that he can’t hit in in two shots. You need a guy who can flat out overpower a course and put you in short iron situations on every hole. His iron play is a thing of beauty, with a high trajectory that makes going after any sucker pin a possibility.

Jordan Spieth ($3): Was there a guy who putted from mid-range better than him just a couple years ago? If there was, he isn’t on this list. Scrambles need a guy who can drain everything on the green and after watching 3 putts to get the read, he won’t miss. His solid wedge game will also help us get up and down from those short yardages on the Par 4’s.

Corey Pavin ($1): Fear the STACHE!! The former Ryder Cup captain will keep the whole team playing their best and motivated to make birdies and eagles. If we have 228 yards to the flag we know he is pulling that 4 wood out and giving us a short putt for birdie. He will of course be our safety net, hitting the “safe shot,” allowing the rest of us to get aggressive!

Ronald Montesano

Dustin Johnson ($4) – Bombmeister!!!

Lee Trevino ($2) — Funny as hell (and I speak Mexican).

Sergio Garcia ($1) – The greatest iron player (I speak Spanish, too).

Tom Stickney

Dustin Johnson ($4)
Seve Ballesteros ($2)
Lee Trevino ($2)

DJ is longer than I-10, Seve can dig it out of the woods, and Trevino can shape it into any pin.

Andrew Tursky

Dustin Johnson ($4)
Jordan Spieth ($2)
Anthony Kim ($1)

Are all the old timers gonna be mad at me for taking young guys? Doesn’t matter. DJ has to be the best driver ever, as long as he’s hitting that butter cut. With Jordan, it’s hard to tell whether he’s better with his irons or with his putter — remember, we’re talking Jordan in his prime, not the guy who misses putts from 8 inches. Then, Anthony Kim has to be on the team in case the alcohol gets going since, you know, it’s a scramble; remember when he was out all night (allegedly) before the Presidents Cup and still won his match? I need that kind of ability on my squad. Plus AK will get us in the fairway when me, DJ and Spieth each inevitably hit it sideways.

Michael Williams

Tiger Woods ($5)
Seve Ballesteros ($2)
Corey Pavin ($1)

Tiger is a no-brainer. Seve is maybe the most creative player ever and would enjoy playing HORSE with Tiger. Pavin is the only $1 player who wouldn’t be scared stiff to be paired with the first two.

Johnny Wunder

Tiger Woods ($5): His Mind/Overall Game

Seve Ballesteros ($2): His creativity/fire in a team format/inside 100

Anthony Kim ($1): Team swagger/he’s streaky/will hit fairways under the gun.

A scramble requires 3 things: Power, Putting and Momentum. These 3 guys as a team complete the whole package. Tiger is a one man scramble team but will get himself in trouble, which is where Seve comes in. In the case where the momentum is going forward like a freight train, nobody rattles a cage into the zone better than AK. It’s the perfect team and the team I’d want out there if my life was on the line. I’d trust my kids with this team.

Who would you pick on your team, and why? See what GolfWRX Members are saying in the forums.

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Opinion & Analysis

Is equipment really to blame for the distance problem in golf?

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It’s 2018, we’re more than a quarter of the way through Major Season, and there are 58 players on the PGA Tour averaging over 300 yards off the tee. Trey Mullinax is leading the PGA Tour through the Wells Fargo Championship with an average driving distance of 320 yards. Much discussion has been had about the difficulty such averages are placing on the golf courses across the country. Sewn into the fabric of the distance discussion are suggestions by current and past giants of the game to roll back the golf ball.

In a single segment on an episode of Live From The Masters, Brandel Chamblee said, “There’s a correlation from when the ProV1 was introduced and driving distance spiked,” followed a few minutes later by this: “The equipment isn’t the source of the distance, it’s the athletes.”

So which is it? Does it have to be one or the other? Is there a problem at all?

Several things of interest happened on the PGA Tour in the early 2000s, most of which were entirely driven by the single most dominant athlete of the last 30. First, we saw Tiger Woods win four consecutive majors, the first and only person to do that in the modern era of what are now considered the majors. Second, that same athlete drew enough eyeballs so that Tim Finchem could exponentially increase the prize money golfers were playing for each week. Third, but often the most overlooked, Tiger Woods ushered in fitness to the mainstream of golf. Tiger took what Gary Player and Greg Norman had preached their whole careers and amped it up like he did everything else.

In 1980, Dan Pohl was the longest player on the PGA Tour. He averaged 274 yards off the tee with a 5-foot, 11-inch and 175-pound frame. By 2000, the average distance for all players on the PGA Tour was 274 yards. The leader of the pack that year was John Daly, who was the only man to average over 300 yards. Tiger Woods came in right behind him at 298 yards.

Analysis of the driving distance stats on the PGA Tour since 1980 show a few important statistics: Over the last 38 seasons, the average driving distance for all players on the PGA Tour has increased an average of 1.1 yards per year. When depicted on a graph, it looks like this:

The disparity between the shortest and the longest hitter on the PGA Tour has increased 0.53 yards per year, which means the longest hitters are increasing the gap between themselves and the shortest hitters. The disparity chart fluctuates considerably more than the average distance chart, but the increase from 1980 to 2018 is staggering.

In 1980, there was 35.6 yards between Dan Pohl (longest) and Michael Brannan (shortest – driving distance 238.7 yards). In 2018, the difference between Trey Mullinax and Ken Duke is 55.9 yards. Another point to consider is that in 1980, Michael Brannan was 25. Ken Duke is currently 49 years of age.

The question has not been, “Is there a distance problem?” It’s been, “How do we solve the distance problem?” The data is clear that distance has increased — not so much at an exponential rate, but at a consistent clip over the last four decades — and also that equipment is only a fraction of the equation.

Jack Nicklaus was over-the-hill in 1986 when he won the Masters. It came completely out of nowhere. Players in past decades didn’t hit their prime until they were in their early thirties, and then it was gone by their early forties. Today, it’s routine for players to continue playing until they are over 50 on the PGA Tour. In 2017, Steve Stricker joined the PGA Tour Champions. In 2016, he averaged 278 yards off the tee on the PGA Tour. With that number, he’d have topped the charts in 1980 by nearly four yards.

If equipment was the only reason distance had increased, then the disparity between the longest and shortest hitters would have decreased. If it was all equipment, then Ken Duke should be averaging something more like 280 yards instead of 266.

There are several things at play. First and foremost, golfers are simply better athletes these days. That’s not to say that the players of yesteryear weren’t good athletes, but the best athletes on the planet forty years ago didn’t play golf; they played football and basketball and baseball. Equipment definitely helped those super athletes hit the ball straighter, but the power is organic.

The other thing to consider is that the total tournament purse for the 1980 Tour Championship was $440,000 ($1,370,833 in today’s dollars). The winner’s share for an opposite-field event, such as the one played in Puerto Rico this year, is over $1 million. Along with the fitness era, Tiger Woods ushered in the era of huge paydays for golfers. This year, the U.S. Open prize purse will be $12 milion with $2.1 million of that going to the winner. If you’re a super athlete with the skills to be a golfer, it makes good business sense to go into golf these days. That wasn’t the case four decades ago.

Sure, equipment has something to do with the distance boom, but the core of the increase is about the athletes themselves. Let’s start giving credit where credit is due.

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Opinion & Analysis

Golf swing videos: What you absolutely need to know

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Let’s start with a game. Below are 5 different swing videos. I want you to study them and decide which of them is the best swing. Take your time, this is important…

Please, write your answer down. Which one was it?

Now, I am going to tell you a little secret; they are all the exact same swing filmed simultaneously from 5 various positions. JM1 is on the hand line but higher, JM2 is on the hand line but lower, JM3 is on the foot line, JM4 is on the hand line and JM5 is on the target line. Same swing, very different results!

So, what did we learn? Camera angle has an enormous impact on the way the swing looks.

“If you really want to see what is going on with video, it is crucial to have the camera in the right position,” said Bishops Gate Director of Instruction and Top 100 teacher Kevin Smeltz. “As you can see, if it is off just a little it makes a significant difference.”

According to PGA Tour Coach Dan Carraher: “Proper camera angles are extremely important, but almost more important is consistent camera angles. If you’re going to compare swings they need to be shot from the same camera angles to make sure you’re not trying to fix something that isn’t really a problem. Set the camera up at the same height and distance from the target line and player every time. The more exact the better.”

For high school players who are sending golf swing videos to college coaches, the content of the swing video is also very important. You have 5-15 seconds to impress the coach, so make sure you showcase the most impressive part of your game. For example, if you bomb it, show some drivers and make sure the frame is tight to demonstrate your speed/athleticism. Likewise, if you have a great swing but not a whole lot of power, start the video with a 5 or 6 iron swing to showcase your move. Either way, show coaches your strengths, and make sure to intrigue them!

Now that you have something that represents your skills, you need to consider how to format it so coaches are most likely to open it. I would recommend uploading the swings to YouTube and including a link in the email; a link allows the coach to simply click to see the video, rather than having to mess with opening any specific program or unknown file.

When formatting the email, always lead with your best information. For example, if you want a high-end academic school and have 1550 on the SAT lead with that. Likewise, if you have a powerful swing, lead with the YouTube link.

Although these tips do not guarantee responses, they will increase your odds!

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