Posted on: February 25, 2012 8:22 am
Edited on: February 25, 2012 11:08 pm

Miller, Chamblee, Faldo take off the gloves

By Steve Elling

MARANA, Ariz. -- They are perhaps the three most pointedly honest guys manning the television towers these days, and for the second straight year, they were placed in a semi-circle and the leashes were removed.

When Johnny Miller, Brandel Chamblee and Nick Faldo get a whiff of blood in their nostrils, it makes for a darned good fireside chat, and that's exactly what transpired at times during the Golf Channel's occasional State of the Game program, staged on the network's Accenture Match Play set on Friday night.

As was the case last year, Tiger Woods was a huge talking point, beginning with Miller's recent magazine proclamation that he thought Woods would win 30-40 more events in his career and make it to 18 major victories, which would tie the record held by Jack Nicklaus.

Boy, did Miller back down quickly from that rosy proclamation. Woods was eliminated in the second round at the Accenture ths week as his putting woes continue to mount.

“That was a best-case scenario," Miller said. "I thought after watching him in Australia at the Presidents Cup, and also seeing him perform the way he did at Sherwood and watching him putt pretty good in both places -– and he hit it unbelievably good, very graceful.  I was thinking, wow, this second career could be really good. He could win 30 or 40 tournaments, and he could win two, three or four majors. 

“The bottom line is, I don’t think he’s going even tie his record, a best-case scenario. So it’s a tough road to hoe.  And like you say, he’s lost his mojo or psyche or power. He had power over everybody and he’s lost that.”

As promised before the session was staged, the trio weighed in on long putters, perhaps the most contentious debate in the game over the past two seasons.

“It’s called a golf swing, not a golf anchor," Faldo said. "The amateurs, for the enjoyment of the game, let them do whatever they like. But for professionals, I think we should start looking at all our rules, or quite a few on the equipment, like the size of the driver face.”

Wow, so Sir Nick wants to back down the horsepower and go for bifurcation -- two sets of rules -- too? Interesting. Suicidal for the game, but interesting.

“I am all for two sets of rules for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is eliminating the long putter in the professional ranks and allows –- to Nick’s point -– to provide a forum which allows you to actually control the motion of the putter without nerves or feel or touch actually affecting the motion," Chamblee said. "So they could make the game simultaneously more interesting at the professional level, more interesting for us to call it and more fun for the recreational golfer if they would do this.”

Chamblee threw caution to the desert wind. If not into a cholla.

"So they could make the game simultaneously more interesting at the professional level, more interesting for us to call it and more fun for the recreational golfer if they would do this," he said. "The average golfer hits the ball 195 yards; they need bigger heads; they need spring effect; they need long putters. You want to grow the game? Let them have fun and do it."

The group was hardly singing praises for the new PGA Tour proposal, seemingly a done deal to be green-lighted next month by the tour Policy Board, to blow up Q-school in its current form, have a wraparound season starting in the fall, and meld the Nationwide Tour and Q-school into a joint qualifying process.

"Frankly I think it's quite sad," Chamblee said. "Every year there's one or two examples of a guy coming out of school or making it through Q-school and having a huge effect. Case in point, Y.E. Yang was the last guy to get his tour card in 2008 and won a PGA Championship in 2009."

Frankly, while the proposal has some merits, the move is being made mostly for financial reasons. Which makes everybody shudder to a degree. It could slow the number of international players coming to the States, because no established player will want to spend a year as a veritable intern/apprentice on the Nationwide Tour first.
"Another case in point, Sang-moon Bae, he's here, he's playing," Chamblee said. "Now, tip your cap to him, he came over and went to Q-school [last fall]. But would he have come over and gone to Q-school if he knew that it would necessitate a year in the minor leagues [Nationwide] before he could get out and play the PGA Tour?

"He won the Japanese money list last year, that's millions of dollars last year and won his national championship in Korea. Is he going to forego all that to come over here and play the Nationwide Tour? He is a big part of golf, now; and a big part of this tournament, now. You're talking about eliminating an opportunity for players that don't even have a vote on the issue. 

"I understand what the PGA Tour is trying to do, acquiesce to the demands of a sponsor, but personally I think it's short-sighted."

Amen and hallelujah, brother Brandel.

They also tossed a few observations around about the LPGA, including some less-than-flattering aspersions about the work ethic of the American players, who have definitely lost their grip on the top rung of the LPGA ladder. At last season's Solheim Cup, the players on the U.S. team had amassed, what, three victories between them over 2011?

South Florida's Lexi Thompson, the latest teen prodigy, might help in that regard. She already has a couple of wins.

"The last United States lady to be player of the year was Beth Daniel, 1994," Chamblee said. "They are getting out-worked by Lorena Ochoa, Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb, they are getting out-worked."

We tend to agree, but I'm not on the panel. So, continue ... 

"If Lexi Thompson can avoid pitfalls, she has all of the talent to be just as good, if not better, than Beth Daniel was, which is saying a lot because that’s a talented woman,” Chamblee said.

Posted on: February 26, 2011 9:17 am

Miller: Tiger's gone from Tucson to Tyson

MARANA, Ariz. -- He was bounced in the first round, sent packing back to Orlando, the driving range across the street from his home, his latest swing coach, with another bruise to his resume and another fallen peg in the world golf ranking.

Tiger Woods will be No. 4 in the world, or worse depending on how the weekend plays out at the Accenture World Match Play Championship, the lowest ranking since before he won his first major at the Masters in 1997, but he remains very much a front-burner topic.

Just ask the analysts.

Friday night, the Golf Channel aired a state-of-the-game roundtable with the game's brightest talking heads: Johnny Miller, Nick Faldo, Roger Maltbie and Brandell Chamblee. The state of Tiger's game essentially superceded any talk of this week's developments at Dove Mountain.

Miller said he feels like he is watching the second installment of an all-time American sporting tragedy. 

"It's a little bit like a Mike Tyson story to be honest with you," Miller said. "Sort of invincible, scared everybody, performed quickly under pressure, and until the Buster Douglas came along, of life, Tiger started to hit that in his life."

Tyson was convicted or rape charges, took an upset beating at the hands of Douglas and was never the same in or outside the ring.

"His life crumbled and it's like Humpty Dumpty," Miller said. "He was on the high wall way above all the other players and had a great fall, and there's pieces all over the place and [he's] trying to put them together.

"It's a tough thing because as my father said the psyche in golf is very delicate, it's very fragile, and when you lose your psyche and your confidence, there's nothing you can do to get that back except for play more tournaments and get put your rounds out there if they're bad, but turn it around and start playing some good rounds and posting some good scores, otherwise you're just doing it on the practice tee."

As he has previously, Chamblee questioned Woods' insistence on making a series of swing changes.

"I think he is the eternal warrior against complacency," Chamblee said. "He's always trying to sharpen the knife. But really what is he trying to do? If you look at the success he had from 2000 to 2002, he won seven of 11 major championships. Let's just say he finally gets all the stuff that he's trying to do with this golf swing, and where does he want to be on the other end of it, in a spot where he can win major championships by wide margins, which was exactly where he was, and all he's done is cost himself a couple years when he'd have been racking up major championships.

"You look at him now and he looks completely lost. He looks like a hunting dog with a bad nose out there; he's on this trail, he's on that trail stuck in between the golf swing that he had in 2000 because he is trying it looks to me to get more upright, but he still has that same lower body action that he had with Hank Haney. It's more rotary, it's more of a flat swing sort of rotation, so he's stuck between these two golf swings. 

"But whether it's with Butch [Harmon] or when he had the perfect golf swing, and here we see him in the playoff when he was just going on and on and making all these practice swings, and that tells you right there that he is playing golf swing, not golf shot."
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