Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tiger: When he's bad he's better

Fred Couples said it: “When I’m 100 years old and I tell somebody that I captained two of these, and that Tiger Woods won both cups for me, they’ll look at me and go, ‘Wow.’”

Woods won his singles match for the Presidents Cup-clinching point, which was more a matter of timing than making a clutch putt in the moment.

But he played well, almost Tiger-like, the last two days, and we realized what we miss when we miss him: the “wow.”

He seemed to be having fun, some of the time, so is he the kinder, gentler Tiger? God, I hope not.

The best Tiger is the bad Tiger. He’s not a nice guy, we’ve learned that.

This week, I thought I saw some steel in his eyes, the thousand-yard stare, the glare, the dare.

 World golf wants – needs – that guy in contention on Sundays in major events.

That’s the guy I want to see.

First things last: The Internationals won the Presidents Cup. The black-on-black ensemble on Day Four, with the slash of gold on the right shoulder, capped two strong closing days for the world team, and the Americans had no answer.

Let’s be fair: The Americans’ designer, Peter Millar, was handicapped by the apparent need to stay within a red, white and blue motif. Save for the first day, when the dark navy shirt was complemented by a dash of red, Millar never fired a shot, much less set off bombs bursting in air. He didn’t dare to be daring.

Sun Mountain did the Americans’ outerwear, and the Yanks looked best when it rained, ‘cause it meant they got to wear their windshirts.

The Internationals were dressed from the Greg Norman Collection, and you had to wonder after the first two days whether their captain was pulling from the remainders rack. The blue, white and yellow polo on day two was distressing.

But Norman got bold on Day Three, and went dark on Day Four, and the Internationals emerged the clear winners.

And Norman's still the coolest guy on Golf Planet.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Of argyles and micro-stripes: Presidents Cup too close to call

Let’s talk fashion. Really, except for the odd bunker blast this year and the endlessly fascinating Royal Melbourne torture track, it’s more interesting than the golf.

The Presidents Cup is a bi-yearly late-season curio on the world golf calendar, and it ain’t the Ryder Cup. It could be said the Americans, in both events, are the targeted ones and don’t quite comprehend where all the passion comes from.

In recent years, the Yanks have responded with emotion nearly the equal of the Europeans in the Ryder Cup, partly, maybe, out of annoyance at getting their asses kicked with regularity.

And worse, last year, they lost the fashion competition. It was close, but the bold and edgy Euros got the nod.

Mickelson: The Day Two look
This year, in Melbourne, the Americans are winning, but it’s a tepid performance on both sides.

On Day One, I liked the Americans’ dark navy polos with red at the plackets – very sharp. But the white pants – and yes, I get the patriotic theme – were ghastly, and didn’t hang right on anybody. When you have no ass (Mickelson) and short legs (Toms), you don’t wear white pants. You just don’t.

The Internationals went with sky blue polos, striped across the chest, and gray-blue pants on the first day, the sole virtue of which it was easy to tell them from their opponents. Advantage (slight): USA.

Day Two: I would have preferred a solid deep-red polo to the horizontal white-on-red stripes the Americans trotted out, but at least they got the pants right: navy, which does a better job of draping the least athletic physiques among the team members.

On Day Two, the Internationals got better on the golf course but did not seize the sartorial moment … they went pastel again, this time adding a yellow sash effect to the light-blue-over-white shirts, with gray trousers. Advantage: USA.

Today, when you might have expected the Internationals to step forward with power and primary colors, they did, least in their outerwear: argyle sweaters and vests in green, charcoal and white, the boldest statement of the week by either side. Black slacks were the ideal complement.

The Americans, with all the momentum on their side, came out in curiously uninspiring micro-striped white-on-blue polos that looked better under the white-with-navy-piping  v-neck sweaters than on their own. Advantage: Internationals.

This competition is too close to call. A strong final-day performance could propel the Internationals to the title, as happened with the Europeans last year at the Ryder Cup. The Euros’ dashing white-on-black argyle-check sweaters earned a razor-thin edge over the Americans, who were nearly as debonair with their retro cardigans in lavender.

You might not have known the Blogolfosphere is the official fashion arbiter of the Presidents Cup.

Further, you might ask, why aren’t you writing about the golf?

Well, hell, I’m not qualified to write about golf.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Captains' Cup: Watch it for Norman and Couples

MELBOURNE – Two of the most charismatic people in the world of golf claim the title of “captain” this week, which is just about enough to rescue the Presidents Cup, which will always  be the other and lesser “U.S. versus … “ event, at least to American eyes.

And Tiger is here. That puts butts in the seats, in a manner of speaking.

Norman and Couples
Woods didn't play well on Day One, which layers doubt on the apparent momentum gained by a promising performance at the Australia Open last week. Still, his presence here adds a twist of spice to a week of match-play golf that slides under the radar of the typical U.S. sports fan every two years ...

I mean, if they lose here, it won’t hurt half as much for the Yanks as losing the Ryder Cup.

Greg Norman said it: “It’s early days.”

The Internationals' captain was putting the best face on the Americans' 4-2 advantage after the first day of alternate-shot matches, and he couldn't have liked it when two American duos came back to halve the matches against twosomes who seemed to be in command.

Norman wants to win. Badly, along with the five Aussies on his team.

Fred Couples said it: “This is a ball-striker’s course, and we have some guys who can really hit it.”

With Couples, we usually think we know what we suspect he might mean when he opens his mouth. Every new interview is an adventure. The American captain gets his syntax twisted now and then, but his quote above is straightforward, and true, as far as it goes.

But he couldn't have been more wrong on Day One.

While ball-striking can get you in trouble in the roughs and abundant bunkers, the place where the ball gains speed rather than stopping close ... falls off rather than falls in ... runs and skips and circles back around on itself ... is the green, and there isn't one of the 18 at Royal Melbourne that isn't a royal bitch.

And what separates the winners from the losers, on those greens, is putting. The guys that made their putts, in the clutch, won their matches on the first day.

Tiger Woods said it: “We missed a few putts."

No shit.

The guy who, at his best, is a dead ruthless putter, made nothing of consequence. His partner, Steve Stricker, at the top of the list of the best putters in the game, might have found some confidence if a couple early lip-outs had dropped.

One of their opponents, K.J. Choi, putted once with his back to the hole. He executed the U-turn nearly perfectly, through he didn't make the putt. He didn't need to, nor did partner Adam Scott need any clutch rolls, because they made enough early to win, 7 and 6, the most lopsided defeat Tiger has ever suffered.

Dottie Pepper said it: "He's probably the most decisive putter in the game." The Golf Channel commentator was talking about Aaron Baddeley, just before he sank a crisp 20-footer with barely a look at the hole. Baddeley made everything he saw .... until he missed, late, and it helped Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar halve the match.

Steve Williams said it: Who gives a shit what he said? You almost have to admire the guy, if for no other reason than he doesn’t seem to care that he just might be a thorough jerk.

So that’s your cast of characters, playing golf in interesting formats on a golf course that demands a lead role on the playbill. So who cares who wins? The Americans don’t seem to, which is one reason they just might.