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Opinion & Analysis

Freezing Arizona: Accenture Match Play ill-fit to current desert setting?

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What is that old saying? “Snow on me once in February in Arizona, shame on you. Snow on me twice in February in Arizona, shame on me?” Close enough.

After snow showers were a bother in 2011 and a full-out squall on Wednesday wiped out the latter half of the first round of matches at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, it is time to think of some new ideas of venues for this event. This is not to speak ill of Tucson or its people, but after four separate times when snow has stopped play in the area’s professional golf history, it is time to take Mother Nature’s hint.

Another big strike against the tournament: The somewhat avant-garde Jack Nicklaus-designed course has always grated against most players’ sensibilities with its extremely undulating and at times infuriating green complexes.

Two strikes, Dove Mountain. You’re out.

So, where to next? Assuming the Accenture’s date will not change any time soon, options as to where to stage it are somewhat limited. But there are some factors in its favor, chief among them being the relatively modest average crowd the tournament tends to attract. That, combined with the fact that tournament operators need not worry about scores relative to par, could make for some interesting alternate venues. Here are three moves that would seem to offer more predictably golf-friendly weather and an equally compelling

Option #1: California

Another tournament in the Golden State means the fifth in the space of six weeks, sending the PGA Tour schedule a little out of balance. Nevertheless, the Accenture’s roots are in the San Diego area at La Costa Resort, whose golf courses received a much-needed renovation recently. A contrarian play might be a return to the Palm Springs area, perhaps to Tom Doak’s wild Stone Eagle Golf Club. Either way, the potential for bothersome weather is minimal.

Option #2: Baja California

If desert golf is a must for this event, the Tour would do well to move it as close to the equator as possible. Furthermore, holding the event outside the United Stated lends some more legitimacy to the “World” part of “World Golf Championships.” Baja California, especially Cabo San Lucas, boasts a wealth of great, tournament-quality golf courses. To appease the Golden Bear, his course at Cabo Del Sol is one of the best on the peninsula and plenty long and challenging enough to entertain both the top 64 players in the world and the viewing public. If not Cabo Del Sol, perhaps Diamante Cabo San Lucas would prove a worthy venue, especially since Tiger Woods is designing its second golf course. Either way, the robust winter vacation and residential population would supply a good crowd for the event.

Option #3: Eastward Ho!

This option would cut short the West Coast Swing and have to extend the Florida Swing section of the Tour schedule. If this is not a problem, then there is a brand-new, ideal location for a small-field, smaller-crowd tournament: the chic Streamsong Resort. With two courses — one by Tom Doak and the other by the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw — the Tour could even throw the field a curveball by alternating courses between rounds. Both courses have received rave reviews from both writers and John Q. Public after in less than three months of availability.

Absent a reshuffling of the Tour schedule, it seems sensible and, frankly inevitable, that the World Golf Championships Accenture Match Play Championship is not long for the surprisingly snowy hills above Tucson. It seems that like Huckleberry Finn, this event is ready to “light out for the Territory.” Which territory that will be, however, is anybody’s guess.

What venues, both American and international, would YOU like to see host this event? Leave your opinions in the comments, if you would be so kind.

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Tim grew up outside of Hartford, Conn., playing most of his formative golf at Hop Meadow Country Club in the town of Simsbury. He played golf for four years at Washington & Lee University (Division-III) and now lives in Pawleys Island, S.C., and works in nearby Myrtle Beach in advertising. He's not too bad on Bermuda greens, for a Yankee. A lifelong golf addict, he cares about all facets of the game of golf, from equipment to course architecture to PGA Tour news to his own streaky short game.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Todd

    Feb 22, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    Why does Arizona need to be out of the loop? As someone who lived in Arizona for 5 years when I was in college at ASU in Phoenix, the weather in Phoenix is not a problem. Sure, the Tradition had snow one year back in ’99, I think, it was trace and did not have a huge impact on the play. Also, there has not been much snow, if any, ever, postponing play at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. In fact, every year I was in college there, snow was not even close to being a factor.

    Tucson is traditionally 3-5 degrees cooler at minimum than Phoenix throughout the year, so snow is more common there. If they found a great course in Phoenix, the tournament would be well-served there. Also, judging by the crowds the WM Phoenix Open draws, it’s safe to say the Match Play would draw significantly more people than in Tucson.

    There is no reason a golf mecca like Phoenix cannot host two events in a year. Plus, instead of the 90-minute drive down to Tucson, many golfers would be able to stay at their own homes in Phoenix, since so many tour pros have homes around the area. Palm Springs would not be bad, but there really is no reason to move it out of Arizona. Moving it out of Tucson? Maybe, but not the entire state.

  2. Craig

    Feb 21, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    Since it’s a, ‘World’ golf championship why not have another event outwith the US?

    Royal Melbourne. One of the best courses in the world and guaranteed decent weather and crowds!

  3. Jud

    Feb 21, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    I agree that a different venue would be nice, but please dont change the format or make it a smaller field event. Oh and if small crowds are the norm bring the tourney to Bandon Dunes in Oregon

  4. James

    Feb 21, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Keep it in the general area. Arizona has a lot of golfers. Why do you think the Waste Management Open has some of the largest crowds in the entire season. Dove Mountain compared to the greater Tucson and even 1.5 hours north in Phoenix is quite a bit higher in altitude. As an Arizonan I feel we deserve at least 2 men’s professinal golf events. Just choose a lower altitude location. I have lived in Arizona for 28 years and have never seen snow in the Phoenix area sit for more then 10 mins.

  5. Mick

    Feb 21, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    I’d like to see the match play at Sherwood CC in Thousand Oaks, CA –the current home of Tiger’s post season event. It looks really good on TV, and is an exciting match-play course. There are 6 par 5s, 6 par 3s and 6 par 4s with tons of variety and unique looks, and holes 15-18 would offer much excitement. Also the playing areas are small enough that players would be breathing down each other’s necks all day.

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“I Love You, Tiger!” At Big Cedar lodge, an outpouring of affection for Tiger Woods

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What a difference a year makes.

About one year ago, Tiger Woods was in Branson, Missouri at Big Cedar Lodge to announce that he was designing a golf course there; Payne’s Valley, his first public course. That day was attended by hundreds of national and local media, the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri and Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops owner and the visionary behind the amazing golf complex that has been established at Big Cedar Lodge.

That day, Woods had not played competitive golf for awhile, and he was recovering from multiple surgeries. Woods took a couple of ceremonial swings, the last of which clearly left him in physical distress. Days later, he was in surgery again and his playing career looked to be all but over. The situation became worse when Woods was arrested for driving under the influence, found with multiple substances in his system. It seemed as though the sad mug shots from that arrest might be as prominent in his legacy as the smiles and fist-pumps that accompanied his 79 wins and 14 major championships.

Fast forward to yesterday, where Woods was back in Missouri to do a Junior Clinic at Big Cedar. An estimated crowd of over 7,000 kids and parents showed up on a school day to catch a glimpse of Woods. The atmosphere was carnival-like, with sky divers, stunt planes making flyovers and rock music blaring from giant speakers. When Woods finally arrived, the reaction was electric. Mothers and their kids were chanting. “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” at the top of their lungs. Photographers battled soccer moms for position to get a picture of his swing. Some of the kids were as young as 6-years-old, which means that they had probably not seen Woods hit a meaningful shot in their life. At one point, when Woods was hitting shots and explaining how to execute them, a woman shouted, “I love you, Tiger!” Not to be out done, a woman on the other side of the crowd, who was their with her husband and kids, shouted “I love you more, Tiger!” Maybe the only people with more affection for Woods would be the people in the golf business. A senior marketing official in the golf industry leaned over at one point in the event and said, “God, we could use just one more from him.”

Woods swing looks completely rehabilitated. He was hitting shots of every shape and trajectory on-demand, and the driver was sending balls well past the end of the makeshift driving range set up for the event. But even more remarkable was the evidence of the recovery of his reputation. Surely there are still women out there that revile Woods for the revelations of infidelity, and no doubt there are those that still reject Woods for his legal and personal struggles. But none of them were in Missouri yesterday. Mothers and children shrieking his name confirmed what we already knew: Tiger Woods is the single most compelling person in American sports, and he belongs to golf.

Unlike a year ago, Woods is swinging well, and seems as healthy and happy as he as ever been as a pro. Add to that the unprecedented outpouring of love from crowds that once produced a combination of awe and respect, but never love. Fowler, McIlroy, Spieth and the rest may get their share of wins and Tweets, but if the game is to really grow it will be on the broad, fragile back of Tiger Woods. It’s amazing to think what can happen in one short year.

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12 reasons serious golfers don’t realize their potential

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What stops serious golfers from realizing their potential? If you are an amateur who wants to get better, a young player trying to achieve more, or a young professional with big dreams, this article is for you.

I’ve made a career out of helping athletes maximize their abilities, golfers in particular. And the things I see young playing professionals doing prior to our work together is often what is holding them back. The reality is that most young players, no matter what their level, have three key problems:

  1. They’re distracted by what’s not important
  2. They have no detailed structure and plan to reach the targets they determine are important to them
  3. They have no formal process to develop mindset and attitude

In the list below, I share what I see working with these young players and some common blind spots.

1. No real plan and steps to achieve targets

Most players do not know how to create a long-term and short-term plan that outlines all steps needed to reach targets. Players should have yearly plans with targets, steps and actions and weekly plans to organize/schedule their time and prioritize key needs.

2. Not focused enough on the object of the game

This goes hand in hand with No. 1. Surprisingly, players seem to forget that the object of the game is get the ball in the hole in the least amount of strokes. Trophies and checks are not issued for the best swing, the best putting stroke or most balls hit.

3. Not enough pressure in practice

Most young players have loose practice. The intensity of feelings between the practice tee and the course are too different. Focus and intensity must be a part of all practice. Add competition and outcomes to sessions so some urgency is created.

4. Too much practice time on full swing

The data is clear — most shots in golf happen from 100 yards and in from the green. If the majority of practice time is not spent on these shorter shots, practice time is wasted.

5. An obsession with the look of the swing

Players are not generally prepared to own their own swings and embrace the differences that make them unique. Obsessing over swing mechanics is a major distraction for many players. Many players convince themselves that if it doesn’t look “good” on their iPhone, their swing won’t get results.

6. No structure with the driver

Since scoring is the main goal, a consistent, reliable shape to each shot is important. My experience has been that if players are trying to go both ways with the driver, that is a sure-fire way to elevate numbers on the card. Pick a shape and eliminate one side of the course. Predictability from the tee increases a player’s confidence to put the ball in the fairway more often, creating more opportunities to score.

7. Expectation that they will hit the ball well everyday

Many players have the unreasonable expectation that they will hit lots of fairways and greens every time they play. This expectation leads to constant disappointment in their game. Knowing that the leading professionals in the game average about 60.6 percent driving accuracy and 11.8 greens in regulation per round should be a good benchmark for the expectations of all players.

8. Trying to be too robotic and precise in putting

Some players get so caught up in the mechanics of putting that their approach becomes too robotic. They become obsessed with precision and being perfect. Feel, flow and instinct have to be a central part of putting. This can get lost in an overly robotic mindset trying to be too precise and perfect.

9. No process for assessment and reflection

Players do not have a formal process for assessing practice or rounds and reflecting on the experience. The right lessons are not consistently taken away to ensure step-by-step improvement. Knowing how to assess practice, play and ask the right questions is key to development.

10. Getting in their own way

The voice inside of most young players’ heads is not helpful for their performance. It’s often a negative, demanding voice that insists on perfection. This voice leads to hesitation, frustration and anger. The voice must be shaped (with practice) into the right “emotional caddie” to support efforts and promote excellence over perfection.

11. A focus on the negative before the positive

A default to the mistakes/flaws in the round before looking at the highlights and what worked. When asked about their round, most players highlight three-putts, penalty shots and any errors before anything else. Emphasis should always be on what went well first. Refection on what needs improvement is second.

12. The blame game

Young players love excuses. Course conditions, weather, coaching and equipment are a few of the areas that are often targets, deflecting responsibility away from the player. Many players do not take full responsibility for their own game and/or careers.

I hope this provides some insights on roadblocks that could get in your way on the path to reaching your targets in the game. Whether it’s lowering your handicap, winning a junior tournament, working toward the PGA Tour — or just general improvement — considering these observations might help you shorten the road to get there.

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