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 24, 2012 7:46 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 7:47 pm
 

Rory glory blocked by unsung Bae?

By Steve Elling

MARANA, Ariz. -- Rory McIlroy's path to the final four, not to mention the world No. 1 position, is blocked by a familiar face ... sort of.

Now the tournament favorite, McIlroy will face largely unheralded rookie Sang-moon Bae on Saturday in the fourth round of the Accenture Match Play Championship, and while Bae is a new face on the PGA Tour, he's been around for a while.

In fact, McIlroy played alongside the powerful South Korean at the 2009 Korean Open in the final round, in the final group, and watched as Bae blew past him with a 4-under 67 to win. McIlroy shot 72 and finished T3 after starting the final day tied for the lead.

Bae, now 25, was one back of the leaders after three rounds, and took control of the tournament when he made three birdies in a row starting on the 11th. Bae earned his PGA Tour card last fall by finishing T8 at Qualifying School after three solid years on the Japan Tour, including topping the money list last year.

McIlroy, 22, is seeing to become the youngest winner at both the Accenture tournament and a World Golf Championships event. He dispatched Miguel Angel Jimenez on Friday, 3 and 1. Bae outlasted John Senden, 1 up, despite the fact that he had never before played in a match-play event.

"It's match play, so I only try to focus on my game, that's it," Bae said.

With a win, McIlroy can supplant Luke Donald as No. 1 in the world. He had little trouble with Jimenez, his former Ryder Cup teammate. McIlroy knocked five approach shots within seven feet of the flag on the front nine and jumped to an early 3-up lead.

Category: Golf
Posted on: February 24, 2012 12:41 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 1:03 pm
 

Even PGA Tour players have passport problems

Mike Weir didn't have a great week in Mexico. (Getty Images)

By Shane Bacon

If you’ve ever traveled out of the country, you know the checklist; passport, wallet, passport, passport. It’s the only thing you are continuously stressed out about. But what if you didn’t have a passport to begin with?

That’s the problem that doomed Mike Weir’s chances this week at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. Weir was waiting on a passport to be sent to his house, but UPS lost it, and he didn’t get it until 2 P.M. on Wednesday. 

The tournament started on Thursday, so the former Masters champion rushed to Cancun, but without a practice round or basically any preparation (or most of all, peace of mind) he shot an opening round 79 and is very much going to the miss the cut as he currently struggles through his Friday round.

Sure, only some of the blame could be put on UPS since it hasn’t seemed Weir has had much of a golf game the last couple of years, but talk about a stressful few days just waiting for something that allowed you access to a practice round. 

The good news for Weir? No PGA Tour tournaments out of the states until the British. 

h/t Ballengee

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow Shane Bacon and Eye On Golf on Twitter.  

 

Category: Golf
Posted on: February 24, 2012 12:09 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 12:21 pm
 

Lee Westwood provides quote of the week

Lee Westwood smiles on his way to a second round win. (Getty Images)

By Shane Bacon

One of the best things Twitter has shown us over the last two or three years is just how much fun a lot of the European PGA Tour players have. They poke fun at just about anyone (themselves included), and will jump on people way earlier than even critics would. 

One of the best at this? Lee Westwood, who has played some of the best golf of his career the last two years but is still haunted by an inability to claim that first major championship. Westwood is playing at the Accenture this week, an event he has never found himself out of the first round until his win on Wednesday, and while still alive heading into Friday, gave the world the golf quote of 2012 so far. 

Westwood had a horse racing in Dubai, and when asked how it finished, dropped this gem.

Via the AP ...

“I had a horse running in Dubai about an hour before I teed off," Westwood said. "Rerouted. It's a good horse, just doesn't win. At least it came in second, which I can sympathize with to a certain extent."

That’s good stuff, Lee. Westwood takes on Nick Watney this Friday at the match play. 

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow Shane Bacon and Eye On Golf on Twitter.  


Category: Golf
Posted on: February 23, 2012 8:26 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 8:40 pm
 

Rory's road to top of mountain looks good

By Steve Elling

MARANA, Ariz. -- Don’t look now, but the week is shaping up rather nicely for world No. 2 Rory McIlroy.

After surviving his second-round match at the Accenture Match Play Championship on Thursday with a 3 and 2 win over Denmark's Anders Hansen, McIlroy will face 48-year-old Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez on Friday.

No knock on Jimenez, the oldest man in the field at age 48, but his magic seems destined to evaporate at some point and there's plenty on the line for McIlroy, who can ascend to world No. 1 with a victory.

More importantly, McIlroy might the lone guy on the property who isn’t grumbling about the greens at the Dove Mountain course, which are a shade on the severe side, in the minds of most.

"The greens are okay," he said. "To be honest, I feel pretty comfortable reading them. I don't feel like  I mean, it's very obvious, the greens. It's not like some of the greens you get where it's very subtle.  It's very obvious."

He might want to tell a few of the 16 players who were dispatched Thursday, including Tiger Woods, who raked balls around on the greens all week.

His bracket is probably the weakest of the four, with Jimenez, John Senden and Sang-moon Bae as the remaining four.

As for achieving the No. 1 ranking at age 22, he's been hearing it non-stop for a couple of days now.

"Everyone keeps telling me, so it's hard to put it out of my mind," he said. "It's a little bit of extra motivation this week knowing that if I can get through four more matches, I could go to the top of the world rankings, which is obviously a huge moment for my career."

Category: Golf
Posted on: February 23, 2012 6:12 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 8:36 pm
 

Tiger Woods out in second round of match play

Tiger reacts after a second shot at the Accenture Match Play. (Getty Images)

By Shane Bacon

There was a stunned silence in the golf world when Tiger Woods, standing over a six-footer on the 18th hole to extend his match to extra holes against Nick Watney slide past the right lip, but it wasn’t as much a shocked silence as it was understandable disappointment. 

A man that used to drop just about every meaningful putt you put in front of him had once again missed a fairly simple putt in a match that was just begging for him to snag it the way Woods used to always do. Watney, for as well as he played on Thursday, was mediocre at best at the Accenture Match Play, allowing Tiger a chance to get back in the match time and time again. 

And when Woods stuffed his 9-iron just below the hole on the final green, sudden death almost seemed inevitable. But a strange thing happened. I actually thought Watney had a better chance of holing his birdie chip from just on the fringe than Tiger did of his short birdie putt on greens that he’s never seemed kosher with. 

Tiger is out at the match play, a result most experts probably guessed would happen when they saw him matched up against the steady Watney on Thursday. Woods hit the ball loose for much of the two days he played in Marana. He powered putt after putt through the break, never seeming comfortable with either his stroke or lines. 

But it goes back to the silence that fell right after his putt slide by, not even catching a lip to give the Tiger fans hope. It seemed ... likely. 

Woods is obviously not the same golfer he once was, and we all need to understand that. He was great at one point and now he’s another guy on tour with a staff bag and great golf swing. He plays well some days and bad others. He hits magnificent golf shots at times and follows it up with a poor putt. These are only shocking because he once was so great and now is so average. 

It was just that this match seemed strange because it was so predictable. Tiger playing a guy that he should lose to, losing to him, and doing it in a fashion that never seemed to be the Woods way. 

Woods has had some great moments this year, both at the start of Abu Dhabi and Pebble Beach. He has failed to close either of those events out for one reason or the other, much like any other professional golfer does at times when the trophy doesn’t end up in their outgoing luggage. And when the putt slipped by the hole at a match play event in the early part of the 2012 PGA Tour season, things seemed eerily normal. For the first time in the history of the Tiger era, a missed putt on his behalf seemed like the only logical conclusion. 

This game is a testy witch at times. Tiger feels that now as much as ever. 

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow Shane Bacon and Eye On Golf on Twitter. 
Posted on: February 23, 2012 2:55 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 3:18 pm
 

Video: LPGA leader hits 'amateur' like shot

By Shane Bacon

There aren’t a lot of times when you are watching a professional golf event and see a shot that gives you flashbacks of your Saturday foursome group, and when you do see terrible shots, they aren’t normally from the leader of an event.

But Angela Stanford, leading the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore did just that on Thursday. Standing over her second shot on the par-5 9th, her final hole of the day, Stanford cold-topped it about 80 yards down the fairway. Don’t believe me? Watch the video.

The craziest part? She went on to make birdie on the hole, finishing at 6 under to take the lead by two shots. Normally when I hit the ball with the bottom of my golf club, I make a number most quarterbacks wouldn’t even wear on their jerseys. 

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow Shane Bacon and Eye On Golf on Twitter.  

Category: Golf
Posted on: February 23, 2012 11:32 am
Edited on: February 23, 2012 1:05 pm
 

McIlroy loaded for Bear this spring

Rory McIlroy hits a shot in his first round win at the Accenture. (Getty Images)

By Steve Elling

MARANA, Ariz. -- Like Jack Nicklaus' home haunt needs more star power.

With a high-end course in West Palm Beach, Fla., that already includes No. 1 Luke Donald and formerly top-ranked Ernie Els as members, the player anointed as a sure future No. 1 is going to be hanging around, too.

World No. 2 Rory McIlroy, 22, has rented a home in the Jupiter area, through the Players Championship in May, and said he will be spending his time in the States working out of the Bear's Club, the place Nicklaus designed a few years back which serves as his Florida home base.

McIlroy said he will play three straight events starting this week at the Accenture Match play, followed by the Honda Classic and Doral, two events within a few miles of his new South Florida abode. He will take the next three weeks off before playing the Masters.

McIlroy is a member of the PGA Tour this year.

With Els and Donald, that's some serious firepower playing out of the increasingly famous Nicklaus club.

"We could do our own Tavistock [Cup]," Donald cracked earlier this week.

Based on a certain prescribed outcome, McIlroy could unseat Donald as No. 1 with a victory this week. After winning his opening match against George Coetzee, McIlroy faces Anders Hansen of Denmark on Thursday.

Dustin Johnson, Keegan Bradley and Camilo Villegas also play out of the Bear's Club. Not bad. Not at all. 

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow Steve Elling and Eye On Golf on Twitter. 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com