The Golden Bear takes a dump on Captain America’s strategy- claims them Europeans ain’t as good as they were back in his day…. (From The PGA Tourist)

September 6, 2008

That’s just what you’d love to read in the paper in the morning if you’re Paul Azinger, sipping on your coffee with a low fat bagel in your dressing gown. You’ve spent the last six months constantly downplaying your hand, telling everyone how terrifying brilliant the European side are, bemoaning their strength in depth while bemoaning your own lack of it, convincing the world and his wife that this American team are huge underdogs, a win would be a miracle. You’ve staked your entire motivational speak on building up the European side so that your boys will march out there feeling they have nothing to lose, they can just go out and have a bash because no one really expects them to win.

So you’ve done that very successfully thus far, everyone’s convinced you’ve got less chance of winning than an American Relay team, you’ll drop the baton, they’ve all bought it. And out strides THE LEGEND of American Golf, for that matter, WORLD GOLF, the Golden Bear himself, Jack “I’ve got more Major than you” Nicklaus. And what does he do? He takes a big Golden bearshit all over your best laid plans…

“Even without Tiger, they should win easily”.

Azinger chokes a little on his pop-tarts, ‘what the hell is doing, my whole strategy is based on the world seeing us a bunch of crap… win easily, that’s way off message? ‘, he thinks, worriedly reading on.

“I just believe we have better players. I think American golf is better than perceptions based on recent Ryder Cup results. Europe has a lot of good players and a host of very promising young guys. But who among them has a great record?”

‘For Christ’s sake Jack, don’t start looking at Major Records, you always judge everything by Major records, just cause you win all the time if we start into Major wins Top Trumps, doesn’t make it the benchmark for Ryder Cups too!’ Azinger frustratedly thinks as he downs his third espresso entering a minor panic, ‘Our buggers have done nothing in the Ryder Cup, Nothing, don’t feckin’ raise expectations on me now!’ But Jack ain’t finished, he’s pissed off about America not being where he thinks it should be in the eyes of the world. That and losing to when he was captain in ’87, it still cuts deep…

“It isn’t like the 1987 European team that had (Seve) Ballesteros, Faldo, Sandy Lyle, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam and Jose Maria Olazabal. We probably didn’t give them enough credit at the time, but history has proved those guys were great players. It was no accident they won. But there’s no reason the US team should lose.”

‘That’s great Jack, so you reckon that Harrington, Garcia, Westwood, Casey, Karlsson, Poulter and McDowell won’t do what that group did and go on to win a bunch of Major’s, no that’s impossible. Telling American Golfers they should win hasn’t worked for years, we need to tell them they’re rubbish, maybe then they won’t act like such Prima Donna wusses and actually play well together! Why are you doing this to me!’ Azinger cries as his tears collect in his Orange Juice.

What does Azinger do now, come out and say straight off the bat that Big Jack is wrong? You don’t mess with golfing royalty. But then he has just totally undermined the way that Azinger has attempted to position his side in the eyes of the media. Maybe it is time for him to change tack and start telling his boys they ain’t so bad, with all the bigging up of the Europeans he’s been doing, they could probably all do with a hug and a reassuring soothing word from their Captain.

Meanwhile, back in European HQ, El Capitan Faldo laughs ’til his sides are sore, as he finishes his breakfast tea and takes the scissors to his morning paper, carefully trimming out the article which he will pin to the changing room door and hang on the wall beside his team room drum kits. “We’ll beat them easily… Thankyou Jack…” Who needs motivational speaking when you’ve got ammo like that…

Article is taken from The PGA Tourist


Off The Hozzle passes on, The PGA Tourist takes up the mantle.

August 11, 2008

Off the Hozzle has moved residence and is now under a new moniker, The PGA tourist. The same style and remit and all that jazz, just with a better title.

I’ll post some more of the new articles here, just so you can see what’s going on, and encourage you to come have a looksee…

The USPGA – The Runt Strikes Back

August 8, 2008

My oh my, having had the usual week of cruel jibes about it’s status as a Major all through the media, from journalists and players alike, ‘runt of the litter’ a common phrase used to describe it; the USPGA has decided to give two fingers to the lot of them and set a mean test for the very best. There have been some big first day scores out there, with only 15 players managing par or better- isn’t the US Open supposed to be the hard one?
Lee Westwood, after shooting a 7 over par 77 had major complaints about the course, questioning the stealth way in which the tournament officials have spiced up the course, saying

“I am not sure you need rough as long as it is and you certainly don’t need to sweep it back towards the tee the night before the tournament when we have played it as it is in the practice rounds. I can’t recall it happening before and can’t think of a reason why they would do it other than to irritate the players as that is all it does.

“I asked my partners if I was out of order and they said ‘no, if you are slightly off line you are crucified. They are sucking the fun out of the major championships when you set it up like that.”

It does beg the question, if you are going to have punishing rough, where the grass is sweeped back against the players, don’t the guys playing deserve a heads up? Doing that to it, where it will snaffle up running balls and wrap round clubheads even more, will be tough enough, shouldn’t the players have a chance to get used to playing out of it at least? Since when did the set up of the course become susceptible to such stealth tactics, where men must fear the ninja like descension of the greenskeepers with their sweeps, so Lee and the boys don’t know what they’re hitting it into on Thursday morning? (Incidentally I saw them do it at Augusta once, to what they refer to as ‘rough’. They just walked along, wiping the grass with a long rubber pipe in a swishing motion. Ken Brown had a go, he loved it, bless him…)

To my mind this is just the sort of thing this championship needs, a big talking point, tough scoring, a sense that the winner had a tough time doing it. Maybe then it may rise in some peoples estimation. Maybe not Lee’s but you can’t please everyone.

But Lee is by no means out of it. As I write, Andres Romero has two holes to play and is tied with Robert Karlsson and the vastly improved Jeev Milka Singh at two under par. Sergio Garcia, will be delighted to have got in at one under, with my other main tip Anthony Kim also well placed on even Par. My third tip, Kenny Perry has unfortunately withdrawn with an eye injury after coming in 9 over, so at least he can’t embarress me further this week…

Darren Clarke disappointingly took bogey on his closing three holes to lie 5 over. Monty is just just behind on plus six, but as I said, with the scoring as it is, a round of par or better will see these guys right the way up the leaderboard.

Our friend Hunter Mahan had a hard days work, hacking it about in 81 strokes in preparation for the hard week of eating and golf in september… I guess this is him trying to play himself out of Azinger’s Ryder Cup plans since he couldn’t talk his way out of them. The american Captain came out yesterday and blamed his comments on his youth and said he would still pick him. He should have waited a day… He’s one of a few to have played themselves out of it but he’s the only big scalp and it’s not surprising under this attention.

Still, none of the big boys are out of it yet, Mickelson is well poised at evens, alongside the big driving Angel Cabrera who could be a big danger man, while the bulk of the pack is sitting around two, three and four over. All will be glad to see that no one has got a big head start on the field and don’t be surprised to see the front-runners drift back tomorrow, the runt will wanting to give them all a bite this week I bet..

The USPGA- Who wants to fill Tiger’s boots?

August 7, 2008

Poor Tiger isn’t overly happy just now. Resting his poor wee knee, he’ll have to find something to occupy his time this week and take his mind off the fact that he’s missed out on a chance to defend his USPGA title for the second time in a row. It would have been his third opportunity to win a major three year running, though he’d finished fifteenth in 2003 in his attempt at a Masters hat-trick and twelfth at the Open in 2007 when the three-in-a-row was also on. Even for Tiger, chances like that don’t come along too often so I’m sure he’s pretty peeved to miss out this time. This might have been his best chance had he been fit. I suggest he doesn’t dwell on the fact he’s not there and use some of the money he’s made from those God-awful Gillete adverts (which appear to have put a hoodoo on all three of it’s stars) to pop down the bookies and have a wee punt on the boys who are competing, might even make up some of those lost earnings.

The good news for punters is that with Tiger not there and no one really making a play to clean up while he’s away the odds are pretty generous all round. Favourite Phil Mickelson is given odds of around 10-1 which is around the biggest odds given for a favourite in a major that I’ve ever seen. Considering a fit Tiger would be starting at 2-1 or meaner, the bookies don’t seem to have a clue who’s going to come through this week. Lots of money will be going on the European Ryder Cup heroes of four years ago but whether those happy memories count for much remains to be seen.

So who are my tips for this week.

My Hot Hunches

Sergio Garcia – That elusive major is surely just around the corner and what better way would there be to seal his place in the Ryder Cup than coming back to Oakland Hills and cleaning up.

Odds – 25-1 is available, 20-1 most places

Anthony Kim – Did well to challenge the weekend before last when he was obviously exhausted after the Open. If he’s recovered, one of the most exciting young players around might fancy breaking is duck early without a Tiger to worry about.

Odds – 30-1

Kenny Perry – Old Kenny, has clubs, can play, won’t travel. Shocked the golfing world by not coming to the Open despite being the in form player in the world with three recent wins. Something to do with concentrating on getting in the Ryder Cup (His place was secure by then, duh!). This major is much more suited to Perry’s game and if he plays like he has this season, should make a real challenge.

Odds -45-1 is available, 33-1 most places

Good Bets

Ian Poulter has his dander up at the moment and is at 60-1, Westwood should be thinking of changing his name to Hansel he’s so hot right now and is around the 22-1 mark and if Darren Clarke can carry last weeks form through to here then 100-1 looks great to me. Graeme McDowell is getting more used to the big occasion as well and is at 125-1 and Jimenez is in the form of his life so 60-1 is a great price.

Outside Bets – Monty is in dire form but when he needs a big performance 200-1 is a price which could look very foolish on Sunday, he does love to finish second in majors after all and has been written off before. I should warn he is coming off 15 over par at the Bridgestone… Nick Dougherty too is out at 200-1 and will be on a mission this week and is worth a wee look each way.

Other bets worth a peek are no hole one at 4/7. It’s usually a good bet to say yes to this one but the ninth and seventeenth are ridiculous yardages, around 230+ yards. Also, you can get 5-1 on a GB & Ireland winner, which considering the form of the British and Irish players seems a decent gamble.

I’m going for a wee punt on Sergio and a sentimental few pennies on Darren Clarke, the one time I don’t bet on him, you know he’ll win…

You know it’s bad when Willie Nelson’s on your Case…y

August 6, 2008

Have you ever felt really embarressed? Really low? Like the whole world hates you? Well don’t go crying to Paul Casey. I was just reading up on the furore about his anti-American comments, which were wildly mis-quoted, exaggerated and taken out of context in his defence when I found this glorious little nugget and I had to share it.

Here’s the background to what I mentioned in my last post. Casey, speaking of the U.S. Ryder Cup team before the 2005 World Cup, told The Sunday Times, “Oh, we properly hate them. We wanted to beat them as badly as possible.” He also spoke disparagingly of Americans in general, “the vast majority of [whom] simply don’t know what’s going on.” The tabloids simplified Casey’s statement as “Americans are stupid. I hate them” and it snowballed from there. This prompted Titleist to end his sponsorship and despite receiving support from American golfers who saw it had gotten out of hand, anti-Casey sentiment grew across the US and before the end of the year Casey had received over 300 death threats bearing US postmarks.

So, how bad would you feel if you were in the centre of an international PR and media disaster, had been sent over 300 death threats, lost sponsorship, were getting severely heckled at American tournaments and then found out that Willie Nelson of all people had gone up on stage and said this about you –

“This one goes out to that limey buck-toothed golfer, whose overbite extends considerably further than his drive”

Ouch. Willie frickin’ Nelson HATES YOU and he’s telling the world about it. That is a low, right there people. Could you cope with that? Waking up every day, knowing that Willie Nelson hates you? I’m pretty sure Paul Casey has probably spent quite a bit on his teeth (they’re quite white and quite a mouthful, if they charge by the square inch it would add up) which makes it all the worse. If Paul Casey can live with Willie Nelson’s ire, maybe he should be in the Ryder Cup team.

Runners and Ryders

August 6, 2008

Right, there is just under a month left until the European team for the Ryder Cup is finalised. That leaves four tournaments either to get the points require to get in automatically or to stake a claim for a wild card by sufficiently impressing El Capitan Nick Faldo – The USPGA, the SAS Masters in Sweden, the KLM Open in the Netherlands and the Johnnie Walker at Gleneagles. There are some big names that are struggling to make it this time around and it could end up being a very big call on Faldo’s part as to who he should leave out. You can look at the current points standings here. Let’s take a look at who the likely lads to be fighting over the two available wild cards are.

Sergio Garcia – World Points table 6th, European Points table 24th.
Automatic Qualifying Chances – Very Good
Sergio is one of the players who at the start of qualifying everyone thought would qualify fairly easily on world points. It hasn’t panned out that way as some guys with huge seasons on the European tour have outshone the guys over in America. Having played very little of his Golf in Europe this season, world points has turned out to be his only realistic chance of automatic Qualification. He is only a few points behind Robert Karlsson in the World table but he will have to be looking over his shoulder too as players like Ian Poulter and Justin Rose could play their way up there too. You have to back him to get a big result this week in the USPGA and make it, he loves the Ryder cup, has a ridiculous record in it and having won the Players Championship this year I think he’d be very unhappy if he required a wild card. You have to think though if he does need one, he’ll definitely get it. His Ryder Cup record is insanely good.
Wild Card Prospects – A certainty should he need it

Ian Poulter- World Points table 7th, European Points table 11th.
Automatic Qualifying Chances – Possible.
Another to have played very little on the European tour and suffered for it. His second place finish in the Open has shot him right up there in the points tables however. It amused me no end when Harrington joked with him in his Open winning speech that now they knew where they’d be come September. In fact Poulter was still some way from automatic qualification, Padraig mustn’t have realised how far back he was. Oops. Some good results in the closing tournaments now should see him get there through either table and you have to think his second place has given him a real boost in terms of Faldo’s wild card thinking. Whether he would be happy playing in a European uniform rather than his self designed threads could be a factor though…
Wild Card Prospects – Open puts him up there but doubts may remain. Faldo knows he can be a shanker…

Justin Rose- World Points table 8th, European Points table 10th.
Automatic Qualifying Chances – Possible
In a very similar situation to Poulter, he could conceivably qualify through either table still and currently occupies the final berth from the European table but is still far from secure. You’d have to say he had his chances in a number of tournaments this year but has converted few into good results, including the Masters where he broke down horribly with a few childish tantrums to play himself out of it. There’s no doubting his ability and if he qualifies then he’ll be a great addition to the team but I can’t see him getting a wild card in front of more experienced, more level headed players, or even Poulter who showed he can do it in a major, whereas Rose has unfortunately wilted, if you’ll pardon the pun. Would need something big in the coming weeks to get a wild card but if he does that then he’ll have already qualified anyhow!
Wild Card Prospects – Not as great as they should be, major flops and tantrums count against him despite high ranking.

Paul Casey – World Points table 16th, European Points table 15th.
Automatic Qualifying Chances – Very Unlikely
Paul Casey has had a poor year by his standards but a good 8th place finish in last week’s Bridgestone invitational has put him right back up there. Automatic Qualification should still be beyond him, he’d need to get lucky with other guys playing poorly you’d imagine but he can play his way back into the wild card race with a good show of form. Anyone who has heard Faldo rambling on about Casey’s muscular forearms know he’s a player Faldo has a lot of time for, so if any surprise picks are to made I think Casey would be a decent outside bet. He still has an awful lot to do though.
Wild Card Prospects – Would be a controversial choice over perhaps more deserving people unless he does something big in the remaining weeks

Nick Dougherty – World Points table 18th, European Points table 13th.
Automatic Qualifying Chances – Very Unlikely
It’s hard not to like Nick Dougherty, especially in the light of the recent death of his mother, something he has handled admirably. Despite not having the most eye-catching of seasons he is still in a creditable position in the tables and being only 26 is still one for the future, even if it does seem he has been around for donkey’s years. The only concern I have is that he could be another Andrew Coltart if he is picked.

Remember that? When Mark James picked Andrew Coltart to blood him for future competitions despite others having better claims and then never playing him, Jarmo Sandelin or Jean Van de Velde until the singles? Disaster, though they still only lost by one point but still. Coltart never got a sniff of the Ryder Cup after that…

There are too many bigger players out there to justify giving Dougherty a pick and whilst I reckon he’s a far better player than Coltart was, I think it would be a lot of pressure on his shoulders to pick him in front of someone like Monty, Poulter or Clarke and would create a lot of stink in the media no doubt. Dougherty is one of the first big talents to come from Faldo’s academy system; he is very close to him and likes him a lot. Will he pick him on that basis? Would he open himself up to questions of favouritism and the controversy of not picking others? I t would be a huge distraction and may unsettle things. To my mind he should let him sit this one out; he will qualify for later ones I’m sure. Players should qualify at least once before they get a pick to my mind, it’s only fair.
Wild Card Prospects – The best bet for a controversial pick but would have to play very well this month not to cause a real stir in the media.

Colin Montgomerie – World Points table 33rd, European Points table 16th.
Automatic Qualifying Chances – Can’t see it happening at all…
How do you solve a problem like Monty…? It was always going to be the story as soon as Faldo was announced as Captain. Would Faldo pick Monty despite the feud which has played itself out in the media between the two? Faldo criticised Monty on a couple of occasions for never going to America and staying at home in the “comfort zone” of the European tour, mocking his collection of Order of merits as meaningless without a major. The problem for Monty is that on current form, Faldo would look more than justified in not choosing him. 15 over par in the Bridgestone Invitational is not a good omen for the Ryder Cup…

But then this is Monty we are talking about, the man who has exemplified what it means to be a great Ryder Cup player over the last decade. Would you reckon anyone would fancy taking him on if he was picked? No, neither do I. If I was Faldo I probably would pick him, just to stop any stories unsettling the camp and make life easier for everyone, he will get the job done if he plays. Expect an attempt to get him on board as a vice-captain, he might go for it, he’s desperate to be captain some day.
Wild Card prospects – A strong case can be made for either possibility but it makes a lot of sense to me to take Monty with you unless Faldo wants to protect his points record! Prepare for controversy if he’s left out

Darren Clarke – World Points table 20th, European Points table 23rd.
Automatic Qualifying Chances – Would need a minor miracle…
Poor Darren has had an uphill battle. Without the exemptions he received last year because of his wife Heather’s passing, the reality of his low world ranking kicked in. He has yet to play in a major this season, making qualifying incredibly difficult. He did get his first win in a few years early in the season however, and had a very encouraging sixth place at the Bridgestone Invitational this weekend. Another boost is an invite to this week’s USPGA, finally giving him a chance at a major this season, and another good result would make him a strong candidate for the wild card. If anything else, he would be an excellent guy for Faldo to choose over Monty if he is on form, he can point to his experience and his great record with Westwood and Jimenez and it would be a harsh man who would argue he didn’t deserve a break. There’s no doubt he’s still one of the most naturally gifted golfers out there, and if he keeps up the form of last weekend, where he was arguably the pick of the players, he may well be a pick of Faldo’s.
Wild Card Prospects – Probably the only guy this low in the standings with a realistic chance.

The two picks should come from this list of people. That’s assuming that Luke Donald is still unfit with his wrist injury and it sounded as though Faldo would require some convincing of his form even if he was fit. If one of the guys currently in the qualifying mix does drop out of it, I can’t see the wild card going to them. It would be an indication that they are out of form, and the picks are there to get some of the big boys in, you’re not going to choose Martin Kaymer or Oliver Wilson. Their names wouldn’t exactly strike fear into the likes of Jim Furyk and Co. would they…

My money would be on Sergio if he needs it, but I doubt he will, then Poulter would be next, then Clarke or Casey who are both real birdie merchants, perfect for matchplay. Monty will need to play well if he is to get in. If Garcia is there, I personally would like to see Clarke and Poulter make it, not only are they two of my favourites to watch but they are big characters, well known and liked in America and thrive on the big occasion. Paul Casey isn’t quite so popular after that “We properly hate the Americans” comment a few years back, might be best for his health if he waited ‘til its back on home soil, it does get rowdy…

He’s no glory Hunter, a Mahan can only take so many dinners…

August 4, 2008

Oh dear, I guess the saga of Sepp Blatter’s assertion that Cristiano Ronaldo’s situation amounts to modern slavery never reached American shores. How else could you explain a golfer one week later coming out saying this.

You’ve got dinners every night – not little dinners, massive ones. As players, that’s the last thing we want. We want to prepare ourselves. You’re just a slave that week.

This was Hunter Mahan in an interview with Golf Magazine, a 26 year-old up and comer on the PGA Tour, whose diet must be especially important to his game, cause the prospect of a big meal every night for a week seems to really put the wind up him. I’ve never been one to be especially politically correct but for a millionaire golfer to say a weeks golf where you have to attend a few dinners is akin to slavery is pretty hard to listen to. What was he thinking? Granted, these things probably do go on for hours but sorry pal, you’re getting the chance to make your name on the biggest stage in golf, suck it up!

What bothers me more about this, cause plenty of people make misguided comments like that- see good olSepp, is how the Ryder Cup is so low on his list of priorities. I mean in terms of viewing figures, after the World cup and Olympics, the Ryder cup is the third biggest sporting event in the world for crying out loud, how could you not want to be there every single time? Here’s Hunter again to further explain…

From what I’ve heard the whole week is extremely long, from what I’ve heard the Ryder Cup isn’t fun. The fun is sucked right out of it. That’s the word I hear a lot. At some point the players might say, ‘You know what – we’re not doing this anymore, because this is ridiculous’. Don’t be surprised if it (a refusal to play) happens. It’s just not a fun week like it should be. Is it an honour to play? Yes, it is. But (the players’) time is valuable. This is a business. I just feel like the players don’t have much control over it and I don’t think they like that. I wouldn’t like that.

I think Europe really, really takes it seriously. I think the US does too, but not like Europe. For one, every place they hold a Ryder Cup in Europe is a place on the European Tour schedule. That’s really smart because right away they have an advantage. The PGA of America could care less about winning it, honestly. They pick a site where they’re going to have the Senior PGA, the PGA and the Ryder Cup, which means less money they have to pay out to get more money.

I do like the last point, why are the USPGA not picking sites from the main tour, giving the US players the advantage the Europeans enjoy when they host, greater course familiarity? It might not mean much but at least they may build some confidence on the course if they play well on it on the regular tour. Picking a venue to serve three tournaments may be cheaper, but it kind of cheapens the main event too doesn’t it?

But lets back up, who are these dudes crying to Hunter. They’re not having any fun? Well of course they haven’t Hunter, they’ve been pummeled three times in a row, what sort of masochist enjoys that? As for who it is actually saying it, Mickelson, is that you? It’s understandable…

Maybe if the US team got past the fact that they are not getting paid for the event, which a lot of the guys have spoken out about in the past, they would improve. Even the ridiculously rich Tiger Woods has had a moan about it being unpaid, which must raise a few hackles of a guys who played and won in the past for the US and never approached the earnings of these guys. Are the trophy wives spending their money that quickly? If they were then surely they’d be keeping the American economy afloat all by themselves and we’d have nothing to worry about. Maybe if they realised it’s about playing for honour they would get a kick out of it. Isn’t America the home of patriotic fervour? How has this not translated to an American team with a bit of fire in the belly. Perhaps those big dinners Hunter’s moaning about put it out…

Here’s the qualification standings as of this morning, August 4th

#1 Tiger Woods      11,365.627 points
2 Stewart Cink      4,952.065
3 Phil Mickelson    4,880.000
4 Kenny Perry       4,480.950
5 Jim Furyk         4,328.792
6 Anthony Kim       4,003.797
7 Justin Leonard    3,348.523
8 Boo Weekley       2,627.546
9 Steve Stricker    2,603.571
10 Woody Austin      2,422.733
11 Hunter Mahan      2,304.517
12 DJ Trahan         2,294.416
13 Rocco Mediate     2,246.810
* top eight qualify plus four wildcards
# Woods is out injured

Hunter is dangerously close to automatic qualification, but would he have the guts
to be the first man to refuse to play? I think it's highly unlikely that Azinger will think 
he's worth a wild card after all his chat, so maybe a few weeks with your feet up is 
in order Mr Mahan. Finishing 10th at the Bridgestone Invitational did you no 

I'll be returning to topics such as these quite often I'm sure in the next few weeks. 
It does my heart good to laugh at moaning professionals, especially well paid 
American ones.