Recent Comments by JJ

How Good Are the Americans, Really?

From the outside looking in, the big difference between this US team and the previous ones I've seen is that this one looks, with very few minor exceptions, like a team of footballers, whereas the previous ones all looked like teams of athletes playing football. I'd be amazed if some of the world's top clubs are not currently coveting the hell out of some of them, and I think Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Brad Friedel all disprove the notion that the US has never had a player coveted by a top team.

posted by JJ at 09:56 AM on July 03

Michael Bradley Covered Most Ground in World Cup

It's a bit of a depressing thing. Part of me wants to say that what the US team should do is get a bit more cynical. They should go down more often when someone swipes a leg or an arm at them. They should roll around on the floor a bit to try and entice the referee into booking their assailant and to give their team mates a breather for a few seconds. They should learn how to hold onto the ball in the middle of the park and slow everything down a bit when they have a lead.

But most of me wants to stand up, applaud and yell at all the other teams that this is how they should all play; this is how they DID play when they were children and before it became a job. And that for a neutral watching a game, it makes for a much more entertaining spectacle. That 0-0 with Belgium is one of the most entertaining games (never mind being THE most entertaining 0-0) I've ever seen. I saw in that the bones of the meaningless weekly games I play with my friends, but with lots of very talented flesh on top. I hardly ever see that when Spain play, or when Barca play, or when Bayern play (since Pep ruined them).

If the US want to win things, they will have to subdue some of that natural ebullience; but it would be a much better footballing world to live in if they just kept it up and everyone else followed suit.

posted by JJ at 09:42 AM on July 03

Michael Bradley Covered Most Ground in World Cup

Without wishing to denigrate Bradley, who I think played about as well as anyone could have with the limited support the system in which he was playing afforded him, is there a chance that he ran further than anyone else because he was constantly out of position? Messi, for example, spends a lot of the game walking rather than running, but is so acutely aware of where the space is, that he "pops up" in the right place at the right time a lot. Zidane was similar in his day.

I'm reminded of the answer former Liverpool player Michael Robinson gave when asked by the Guardian who was better, Hansen or Lawrenson?

Mark used to fly into slide tackles, everyone would applaud and he'd be a hero. But Hansen would have seen it long before. Lawrensen was never on his feet; Hansen never needed to be on his bum. Lawrensen was brilliant but Hansen was a genius.

Bradley is being (rightly) lauded for his work rate, but there's part of me wants to point out that if he were a little better at football, he wouldn't need to do so much running.

posted by JJ at 05:31 AM on July 03

Luis Suarez Banned 9 Games for Biting Opponent

We did. By the skin of our teeth, one might say.

posted by JJ at 10:06 AM on June 27

Luis Suarez Banned 9 Games for Biting Opponent

I wonder if Liverpool have to continue paying his wages during that time. That would be close to 4 million for him to not even come to the stadium. If they do and that's how the world works, I'm not letting this week end without biting my boss and demanding four months of paid leave.

Chiellini says he thinks the ban is excessive.

posted by JJ at 08:24 AM on June 27

Luis Suarez Bites Opponent at World Cup

Suarez and chicken Chiellini had previous, according to the Independent.

posted by JJ at 11:44 AM on June 25

Luis Suarez Pushes England to Brink of World Cup Elimination

Sport's like life. You don't get what you deserve, or often even what's fair, you get what you get and you carry on the best you can. And many south american footballers have a similar attitude to "cheating", not least Maradonna, who was arguably lauded more in 1986 when they beat England because he scored with his hand than he would have been had he scored "fairly".

posted by JJ at 11:17 AM on June 20

Keeper Guillermo Ochoa Saves Mexico's Tocino

Last time Brazil failed to win their group: 1978 (when Austria beat them into second place on goals scored). I suspect they'll be OK to get out of the group, but on current form, I'd back England to beat them, Italy to thump them, and Germany to destroy them.

posted by JJ at 05:44 AM on June 18

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

@grum Nice. Johnny notoriously can't see where the flag is unless he draws it onto the screen.

posted by JJ at 11:36 AM on May 20

Manchester United Fires David Moyes

Certain skills don't scale. I'm surprised he lasted as long as he did. A decent man, a good football manager, an honest broker - in other words, completely the wrong choice to manage one of the world's uber clubs. I'm sure he's gutted and not a little embarrassed, but in time he'll probably realise he's also a little relieved.

posted by JJ at 11:14 AM on April 22

LPGA players frustrated by Golf Digest cover of Gretzky

"Though if you're a male golfer, you don't have to look hot to be on the cover. Just successful."

His name's Randy. It's still sex being used to sell the magazine.

posted by JJ at 08:51 AM on April 07

Tiger Woods out of Masters after back surgery

Rory has been installed as the pre-tournament favourite with the bookmakers in Europe. This may have something (or indeed, nothing) to do with the fact that the winners of the four previous majors Tiger has missed through injury were all from the island of Ireland:

2008 Open - Harrington,
2008 PGA - Harrington,
2011 US Open - Graeme McDowell,
2011 Open - Darren Clarke.

As Tiger closed out his processional win at Augusta in 1997, there was a lot of "dead air" on the BBC. There was nothing much to say as he hammered the final nails into the coffin of the tournament. I still remember Peter Alliss getting abuse in the British media afterwards for filling time then by saying (I paraphrase): "He'll win a lot of these you know, provided his body holds up. I just don't see how if he continues to swing like that he can have a career that lasts as long as we've come to expect golfers' careers to last for. I'm not trying to be a prophet of doom, what he's doing out there to the golf course is phenomenal, but I've seen a thing or two in my time and I think at some point he'll have to change his swing or spend long periods on the sidelines with injuries."

posted by JJ at 10:43 AM on April 02

Red Sox Write Love Letter to Cardinals

A seriously intense rivalry between teams from the same city? Mets vs Yankees? ManU vs ManCity?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha... good one. That wouldn't happen.

What might be OK is the mayor of said city applauding the spirit in which both teams had contested something, but not the winner saying it about both teams.

posted by JJ at 12:12 PM on November 06

Red Sox Write Love Letter to Cardinals

What a lot of condescending pish. Disregarding the semantically null use of "both" and "most" in the same sentence (he said doing no such thing), this is just cringemakingly horrific. I'm trying to work out if it would have been OK for the losing team to do this, but I'm coming down on the side of it being crass no matter who does it. Winning team does it, sounds condescending; losing team does it, sounds like they don't care. Either way, it's dreadful.

I'm trying to imagine another sport where it might possibly work. In golf, you get people who didn't win saying nice things about people who did all the time; and you get winners saying nice things about guys who nearly won but didn't. But even there, in the one part of the game when it is a real head-to-head like the World Series (i.e., the Ryder Cup), this would not fly.

posted by JJ at 12:56 PM on November 05

Northwestern Football Game Sacks Peanuts

I'm reminded of Loius CK's bit: "Of course!... but maybe."

posted by JJ at 07:33 AM on October 17

The most valuable "brands" in sports

Surprised to see Woods still at the top of that - thought he'd have taken more of hit.

posted by JJ at 10:18 AM on October 16

Ronaldo Speaks Up for Field-Crashing Fan Who Hugged Him

Interesting and unexpected. Looking at the video, Ronaldo looked almost moved by whatever the chap had to say to him. Fair play to him for trying to help. What are the odds his request will have an impact on proceedings?

posted by JJ at 07:26 AM on October 16

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

Sorry if this is a bit old, but it's new to me: Mike Tyson singing the Girl from Ipanema. [spotted in this thread on MetaFilter]

posted by JJ at 08:29 AM on October 15

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

JJ forgot to add that his first time surfing involved a shark...

Of course! I'm also a tennis jinx. I've seen Federer play twice in the flesh, and he lost both times. The first time was at Wimbledon in 2002 when Ancic beat him in straight sets. That was the only game he lost there for the next six years until Safin beat him in 2008, so it was one of only two he lost in an eight year stretch. The second time I saw him was at the season closing thing at the O2 in London, when he got beaten by Davydenko, who went on to win it.

The jumbotron thing at the (University of Michigan) game was very amusing anyway, but added to by the commentary from six drunk guys behind us. At one point, a small but intense pocket of focusing, bespectacled enthusiasts was shown, inspiring a cry of "Check out THOSE mathletes!"

posted by JJ at 09:24 AM on October 08

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

I don't doubt that, yerfatma. I don't think the Giants pay so well.

posted by JJ at 02:16 PM on October 07

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

The guy from the DHS said to me this time:

"You've been here recently." "Yeah, I was here three weeks ago." "Was that business or pleasure?" "That was pleasure. I was playing golf at Bethpage." "Nice. And this time?" "Business. I'm playing golf at Merion." "Where do I get a job like yours?"

Joking aside, he then told me I'd probably be better to leave it a little longer between visits or someone less enlightened than him might start asking the wrong kind of questions and "get the rubber gloves out".

posted by JJ at 02:16 PM on October 07

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

The guy I was with told me a good story about meeting Jack Nicklaus at the Bridgestone one year at a corporate thing. He didn't tell him at first that his dad had been the coach of the Michigan golf team (presumably Nicklaus's big Ohio rival). Instead, he asked him about a story he'd heard a lot growing up about Jack driving a green at a par four in a varsity match... "Well, I did and I didn't. It was late in the season, the ground was forzen solid, we were off a forward tee, so... you know. It wasn't that big a deal. Who'd you hear that story from?"

"Well, my dad was the coach of the University of Michigan golf team for years."

"Oh really? Well, in that case, I drove that green twice that day, from the tips... AND it was into the wind!"

As my pal said: "He was kidding around, but at the same time, there was a glint in his eye that wasn't."

posted by JJ at 12:07 PM on October 07

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

Oh shit - I've made a massive cock of that, have I? I'm fairly sure the guy who took me to the game (a colleague from our US office whose old man used to be the golf coach for the University of Michigan) doesn't read SpoFi. Guess I won't get invited back if he does.

The game, rcade, was tremendous. Ever since the NFL started getting beamed to the UK (in 1984 on the newly created Channel 4) I loved me some "American Football". Glory hunter that I am, I became a Dolphins fan. I had a number 13 shirt and everything. I swore some day I'd go to a game, but as fate would have it, until Saturday, football was the last of the American "big four" that I'd not been to a live game for.

It had something to live up to: my first basketball game saw LeBron ht a 3-pointer at the final buzzer to force overtime for the Cavs against an unbeaten Celtics team featuring Kevin Garnett. LeBron then proceeded to just wipe the floor with everyone in overtime. My first baseball game was a Jonathon Sanchez no-hitter at AT&T Park. And my first hockey game saw the Belfast Giants force an abandonment of a home game when some on-ice monkey business turned into a full scale riot in the crowd that "threatened the fragile peace process" of the entire country.

The football game itself wasn't overly close. Michigan looked comfortable to me throughout, but not so comfortable that they'll be able to do anything more than roll over and get their tummies tickled by Ohio later in the season. My big take away was that even though football seems to take a long time to play, it actually felt like it was all moving quite quickly. It had more ebb and flow to it than I expected. Not having to endure adverts during the advert breaks probably helped! I also love American sports' addiction to "noise" and the making thereof.

posted by JJ at 11:58 AM on October 07

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

In other Michigan State related news, I went to my first ever football game at the weekend, at the Big House. I bought a hat and everything: https://twitter.com/JohnMcClureGolf/media. Apologies for the self-link, but hey, it was exciting to be in a crowd of more than 110,000 people.

posted by JJ at 11:01 AM on October 07

Football as Religion?

Good read, Owly. Thanks for the link. I think in a broader sense most sports are the same. I certainly get from golf what other people seem to get from religion - peace, time to think, inspiration, hope, morality, universality. I imagine that if you're into anything enough it fills that curious vacuum in a human mind.

posted by JJ at 09:23 AM on September 23

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle

Those GIFs were great. I love the ones where you're about three cycles in before you notice what the funniest bit is! I was looking at the second one thinking "aww cool, she got her phone back - that baseball player is nice", and finally I spotted Mr Happy Hands. Brilliant.

posted by JJ at 06:37 AM on September 06

Is Roger Federer Done?

In the last 40 golf majors, there have been 27 different winners. In the last 40 tennis slams, there have been 8 different winners. If you roll that "last 40" rule forward, chances are we'll be down to just 6 different winners by the French next year.

Which has nothing to do with the topic, but I was reminded of that recently worked out phenomenon so thought I'd share. Big Rog is talking some sense there in terms of sports psychology, but naturally the press takes "I'm not thinking about my ranking" to mean "I don't care about my ranking".

posted by JJ at 09:08 AM on August 22

SportsFilter: The Monday Huddle

I have no perspective because I am an Everton fan, so can someone else tell me if a combined bid of 28m for Baines and Fellani seems as low as I think it does?

I have no perspective because I'm a Liverpool fan, but yes. Yes it does. I'd have thought a number like that for Baines on his own would not have been ridiculous.

posted by JJ at 10:57 AM on August 19

EPL Fantasy Football

I'm in. (Stenhouse McClure)

posted by JJ at 08:28 AM on August 16

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle

Ah. Ooops. Lazy posting on my part. Just for a change.

posted by JJ at 12:05 PM on August 09

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle

I imagine you're all seeing this on TV all the time anyway, but this really tickled me: An American Coach in London.

posted by JJ at 08:43 AM on August 08

SportsFilter: The Monday Huddle

I read an interesting thing about Mickelson's cash haul in the UK in July. He won the Scottish Open and the Open Championship, netting a gross revenue of 1.445 million. 45% of that goes to HM Revenue in the UK, the state of California gets 13.3% of it, plus a 2.9% self-employment tax and a 0.9% Medicare surtax. So his net income was just over 560,000. Not terrible, obviously, but not what people think.

Shaun Micheel has done well for himself, but not $9 million in the bank well. Depending on how he's been taxed, he probably got to keep a bit more than half of that $9 million, let's call it $5m. In costs, you're probably looking at about $100K a year to play on tour (flights, hotels, car hire etc.), so call it $4 million after tax over ten years, so $400K a year net. That's doing well for yourself, but it's not buying yourself an island or anything.

posted by JJ at 08:37 AM on August 07

SportsFilter: The Monday Huddle

It's time for the fourth golf major of the year. Remember who won ten years ago when it was last played at Oak Hill? Probably not. He'd never won a tournament. He was ranked 169 in the world. At 17, his nearest rival a playing partner (Chad Campbell) made birdie to reduce his two-shot lead to just a single stroke. At the last, he hit an approach shot with a 7-iron to two inches. If Tiger had hit that shot, you'd have seen it a couple of hundred times by now, but just in case you missed it: Shaun Micheel's approach shot to the last on Sunday in the 2003 USPGA.

posted by JJ at 12:08 PM on August 05

Golfer in Lead Quits Tournament for Wife's Labor

You're a better man than I, yerfatma. I'd have walked out.

Next week, hit the instructor with the old average number of legs conundrum to teach her that caution needs to be used when dealing with averages.

The vast majority of people in the world have two legs. A relatively small number of people have either one or no legs. A smaller number still have an extraneous leg. Ergo, the average number of legs for a human is ever so slightly less than two. Therefore, the vast majority of people in the world have more than the average number of legs!

posted by JJ at 12:37 PM on July 31

SportsFilter: The Wednesday Huddle

I've read a few interesting articles about Mickelson's win at Muirfield last week, but this one is probably the best from the Irish Independent's Dermot Gilleece. It includes some interesting insight into Lee Trevino's approach to the Masters. Super Mex won all three of the other four majors twice each, but never came close at Augusta, having convinced himself early on, seemingly, that his low cut meant he could never win there.

posted by JJ at 08:37 AM on July 31

Golfer in Lead Quits Tournament for Wife's Labor

the logistics of ordering a pizza in situ

Wait now, you're moving the goalposts on me. There's going to be pizza? I might have to reconsider.

posted by JJ at 08:33 AM on July 31

Golfer in Lead Quits Tournament for Wife's Labor

My pal's argument has always been "Yeah, but she got drugs and hormones to get her through it; all I got was a gnawing certainty in my gut that she wasn't going to survive and I was able to do nothing about that but watch."

Seriously, rcade? A million bucks? That's saying something. I guess I'm wired wrongly.

posted by JJ at 02:34 PM on July 30

Golfer in Lead Quits Tournament for Wife's Labor

I neither have kids nor intend to, so I guess my angle is skewed. I do have a friend who attended the birth of his first child and refused to be there for the next one. "Intense" and "unforgettable" are words that he used, but not in a positive way like I took Howard to mean them; more in a post-traumatic stress kind of way.

All of which is irrelevant really. Hunter Mahan used to play golf for a living, but unless he's got a serious drug problem or gambling habit that no one knows about, he'd have done well to not now have more money in the bank than he's likely to ever need. Therefore, he now just plays golf and I'm not in the least surprised that he flew home. Aside from anything else, the birth was a month early, so he was supporting his wife's medical emergency!

As for the guy sponsored by Ramen Noodles and Sofa Surfing... that guy'd have been a mug to attend the birth of his child. The child won't remember whether you were there or not, but it will remember whether or not you could afford to buy it some shoes and send it to school.

posted by JJ at 08:28 AM on July 30

Gary Player to Pose Nude

Isn't he just 100% dick? If he's not, he's 100% asshole. Either way, if they're hiding the "offensive" parts, it's not going to be much of a photo.

posted by JJ at 04:09 AM on June 26

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

Bubba's own fault in two ways - 1) You're the guy pulling the club out and hitting the shots, and 2) You're the guy hired the guy that you're accusing of being no good at his job.

It's an interesting debate for the wee small hours when the wee small drinks have been broken out: how many majors would X have won with someone else on the bag? My favourite hobby horse is Big Phil and his 6 second place finishes in the US Open. In at least three of them, a better caddie would have tackled him to the ground long before he got so excited and blew it.

posted by JJ at 12:40 PM on June 25

England's Rose take U.S. Open

I have a REALLY good story from that weekend that I'm reluctant to put "in the public domain", and it comes with a photograph I will treasure forever, if anyone wants to email me I can share it on condition that you can keep it to yourself! johnrollomcclure@gmail.com

posted by JJ at 05:28 PM on June 21

England's Rose take U.S. Open

Muirfield is the home of ignoring the abstract concept "par". The scorecards, until relatively recently, didn't feature pars for any of the holes - the famous story of the visiting golfer asking the starter why there were no pars listed on the scorecard being told to "hit as few shots as you can and you'll be fine" is almost certainly apocraphyl, but the essence of that thinking certainly lives there.

The other thing I meant to mention that maybe doesn't get enough coverage on the TV during the open at Muirfield is the fact that unlike many traditional links courses, it's not an "out and back", but two loops of nine holes, the first going clockwise, the second anticlockwise. The result is that it's very rare to face two consecutive tee shots with the same wind direction to contend with, and it also means that there is seldom a "safe" big miss that will end up on the fairway of another hole (unlike at St Andrews for example where you can miss big left nearly all day).

And the turf! It's very special. The course sits quite far above sea level - some would argue it's not really a proper links course at all - and the turf is more peaty, producing darker soil from the divots than I'm used to seeing. Somehow, this makes it delicious to hit from. It makes it really easy to shape the ball, and wedges are definitely easier to strike crisply.

posted by JJ at 05:14 AM on June 20

England's Rose take U.S. Open

What I would also add is that if we don't get any "weather" - which of course is unlikely - someone might shoot a silly score. There were some R&A members from the championship committee playing in the match I was playing in and their response to that possibility was basically "so what?", which I found quite pleasing when set against the USGA's continued obsession with defending par.

posted by JJ at 09:14 AM on June 19

England's Rose take U.S. Open

The changes at Muirfield are interesting. Key things I noticed:

Several holes - the 1st, 6th and 15th - have been made into more acute doglegs. Maybe it's just the way things sit to my eye, but this actually makes the holes easier in my view. The first, from the old tee, for example, I have always found difficult because it's not quite a dogleg. The correct shot from the tee is probably a 3 or 4 iron down to the very slight bend to the right, but it's very hard not to really want to haul off with a driver and let it drift right into that bend. From the new tee, it's an obvious choice - you either hit an iron up to the corner, or you take on a definite shaped cut round the corner. I'm not sure I'm explaining that well, but somehow making the driver tee shot more difficult seems to me to make the choice easier, and in doing so removes the subtle trick those tee shots used to be able to play on dummies like me!

The new tee at the ninth is actually similar although there's no change in angle, but by taking it back 50 yards, it somehow makes it less interesting, because you'd have to really muller it to get it all the way up into the nasty trouble. From the old tee, you're faced with a choice of hitting a long iron short of the trouble and leaving yourself a long second shot, or trying to hit driver over the trouble and through a narrow gap to leave yourself a much shorter shot possibly setting up and eagle. It's a slightly unsubtle solution.

The strangest one I found was at 18. From the old tee, I hit 3-iron to stay short of the bunkers on the left, but managed to get into the first one (at about 260). That's links golf for you. But we went back to the new tee and I hit 3-iron again, and to my amazement, hit it into the same bunker (at +300). When you get up to the fairway you discover a very subtle downward slope from the beginning of the fairway for about 40 yards. Had I hit my iron shots further, I'd have landed on a flatter bit of ground and stayed short of the bunkers; as it was, I was catching that downslope and launching forward into them.

My favourite change is one I wouldn't have really noticed unless I'd asked the question. I thought I was just driving badly so was mostly joking on the tenth tee when I said to my playing partner: "Did this hole get narrower?" He informed me that it had. They've moved the three righthand bunkers 15 yards left to make room for a new chipping practice area for the Open. Naturally, I then smashed one straight right into that practice area. It's very nice, but makes the 10th quite long!

posted by JJ at 05:29 AM on June 19

England's Rose take U.S. Open

It's worth a lot, 86 - thanks for the link, I love stuff like that! I played at Muirfield last weekend. That place is just wall to wall awesome...

posted by JJ at 11:07 AM on June 17

England's Rose take U.S. Open

Jimmy White and the World Snooker Championships (6 finals, 0 wins).

Poor old Phil. Seems like it's just not meant to be. He's had some pretty good chances over the years. That one was up there but I don't agree with his own assessment that it was his best yet. I think Winged Foot is still the one that really got away.

The next one that ends on his birthday is Pebble Beach in 2019. The following year, he'll turn fifty two days before the championship starts at Winged Foot. Of the next seven venues for the US Open, Phil has been second at three of them (Pinehurst, Shinnecock, Winged Foot).

It was nice to see Rose close it out so well. He kept his head while those around him were losing theirs. A sign of the times at the last when he drove to the very spot from which Hogan hit "that shot" with a 1-iron in 1950; Rose hit a 4-iron. Hogan's 1-iron had 17 degrees of loft on it. I don't know the specs of what's in Rose's bag, but standard for a 4-iron these days is 23 degrees and I'd guess his probably isn't any stronger than 21 degrees.

posted by JJ at 10:08 AM on June 17

The Special One returns to Chelsea

Don't forget Martin Jol.

posted by JJ at 08:22 AM on June 04

SportsFilter: The Monday Huddle

Joey Dunlop talking us through some of the TT circuit. Never fails to scare and impress me in equal measure.

posted by JJ at 11:10 AM on June 03

Tiger Woods Wins Player's Championship

That was pretty exciting stuff in the end. The more I watch the shot Sergio hit (and, boy, are they hitting replay on the Golf Channel with it this week), the more I reckon he wasn't taking that flag on at all and just came out of the shot a little early. He leaves his hands so far behind the rest of his body on the way down that if he clears his hips even a little early, there's almost no chance that his hands can catch up. The result when he gets out of it seriously early (or when Tiger is picking his nose in the vicinity or whatever) is a massive block like he hit on Saturday; but when he's just fractionally off, possibly because the pressure is on in the final round, the result is just a little bit of a thinned push. If he was playing for the middle of the green, he had to have a club that couldn't go long if he adrenalined it, so as soon as it goes right (and loses distance) you're in big trouble.

So the story he came out with afterwards that he took on the pin and failed might have been disingenuous.

Those last three holes are great for the end of a tournament, especially with the pin at 17 out right like that. If you get a bit quick on it at 16 and leave one out right, you're dead. If you throw your hands over the top to guard against doing that, you're then left with a horrible pitch back towards the water. At 17, everywhere is pretty much dead other than on the green. The joy of it is that it's such a short hole, so the pressure actually increases. Then at 18 you have two choices - pull it into the water or block it into the trees (or, if you're tiger, just rip it like it's a PlayStation with a hard hook round the shape of the hole) and then you've either got to come at that front left pin from a mile away because you dunked the tee shot, or you've got to come across the slope at the front of the green out of the right rough and hope you can somehow get it stopped before it gets wet.

posted by JJ at 04:24 PM on May 15

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

That's golf. That's Sawgrass. That's 17 at Sawgrass. Sergio really only hit one bad shot. Maybe not even that. Looked and sounded a decent strike, so he maybe just got a badly timed gust of wind. That was the ball game. The further capitulation was irrelevant really.

I'm watching the Golf Channel: Tiger's conversion rate of 54-hole leads into wins = 52 out of 56. That's obscene. Nicklaus for his career was 40 of 64, which is also obscene, but not even in the ballpark.

Woods now just 4 short of Sam Snead's record 82 PGA Tour wins. Snead was 46 when he won his 78th title. Woods is 37. Most ominous for the rest of the fields for the rest of the season - this is the fastest he's made it to four wins in a year ever.

posted by JJ at 07:44 PM on May 12

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

If so, can he have a word with Tiger and Sergio? I love it when PGA Tour players behave like actual golfers and not publicity-courting advertising hoardings. Did Tiger pull that club on purpose to distract Sergio? I doubt it. But having done it, did he miss the opportunity to let it get under Sergio's skin? Certainly not! If you're there, rcade, muscle your way into a press conference and ask Sergio how much further right he might have hit it if he hadn't been distracted.

[Speaking of sending emissaries to golf events, I've been invited to play at Muirfield over the weekend of 8th/9th June, so about five weeks before the Open Championship is played there. While I may have to change the names to protect the inebriated (lunch at Muirfield is not for the faint-livered), I will report back on how the course is set up.]

posted by JJ at 09:46 AM on May 12

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

Speaking of rally drivers... in case anyone missed this in the Guardian last week. If you're offended by swearing Irishmen, don't watch it.

posted by JJ at 11:23 AM on May 10

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

I'm sure this probably counts as a self-link, but if anyone's still interested in matters golfing, I just posted a bit of a rambling comment in the Adam Scott thread. Naturally it had nothing to do with Scott (rather, Tiger) and nothing to do with long putters (rather, the rules about where your balls may drop *cough*). I'll check back from time to time if anyone wants to get into it.

posted by JJ at 02:05 PM on April 23

Adam Scott Wins the Masters

Speaking of rulings at the Masters (which no one really was, and certainly I doubt anyone's still hanging around this thread now anyway), the one with Woods on Friday was one I came across years ago and wrote to the R&A about. They replied too, with some helpful clarification.

Playing in an amateur championship in Ireland, I lost a ball with an approach shot. On returning to the original spot from which I hit struck the shot, I read the rule book, specifically Rule 26-1(a), and began to wonder why it was worded so vaguely. All of the other dropping situations in golf are clearly defined ("drop within one club length" for example), but this one uses the rather imprecise term "as near as possible to the point of the original shot".

Dilligent youngster that I was, I found the divot I had taken and dropped my ball as near as possible to it; so near, in fact, that the ball ended up in said divot, sitting on top of the piece of turf I had replaced. I called for a referee and successfully argued that I should be allowed to drop it again because the divot was created (slightly) closer to the hole than the position in which the ball originally sat, so I had unintentionally dropped closer to the hole. The referee agreed, I redropped several feet away from the divot and the ball was back in play.

Later that day, I saw the referee again and over a beer we discussed the rule. I'd spent most of the back nine that day thinking about how many times you'd have to drop a ball until it was realistically "as near as possible" to the original spot. It's a philosophical minefield.

After the tournament, I wrote to the R&A rules committee about the rule, asking why it wasn't stated more clearly, suggesting that "within one clublength of the point from which the original ball was struck" would work well as alternative wording. I allowed myself to get quite excited. If they reworded the rules according to my suggestion, I thought, I could legitimately lay claim to having had a gamechanging influence on my sport.

They wrote back (it was a more civilised time) thanking me for my question and answering it. The problem, they pointed out, is that it's not always easy to identify the exact point from which the original ball was struck. What if no divot was taken? What if one was playing from deep rough? Demanding that players discover the exact location of the original shot would lead potentially to a vast increase in the number of provisional balls being hit. Indeed, in any serious championship or tournament, it would be imprudent not to hit a provisional ball every time your shot finished out of sight.

As a wild and wayward hitter of some renown, I immediately saw how this would worsen the already tardy pace of play. I wrote back and thanked them for taking the time to reply.

All of which of course really has nothing to do with what happened at Augusta. Tiger not only dropped the ball too far away from the (clearly defined in this case) original point, he then decided to brag about doing so afterwards. The resulting furore should go down as a dark moment for golf. The tournament organisers should have had the stones to disqualify him. They didn't, so Tiger himself should have withdrawn, with a bashful smile about his ignorance of the rules, an acknowledgement of the hubris inherent in his comments on the Friday night both about what he did and his glib remark about Guan Tianlang ("rules are rules"), and then a quick reiteration of the line in his "apology" back in 2010: "I don't get to play by different rules."

He could have closed with a word or two about Bobby Jones, the co-creator of the Masters Tournament, and how he was known throughout the sporting world not only as a supremely talented athlete, but also as an upholder of the highest levels of sportsmanship - the very man who, when lauded by the press for calling a penalty on himself that essentially cost him the US Open in 1925, replied merely that one "might as well praise a man for not robbing a bank" - and that in that same spirit, he (Tiger) couldn't possibly continue to participate in the tournament.

His moral rehabilitation would have been complete. His sponsors would have come flooding back. The public would have clutched him ever closer to their bossom. And curiously, almost without noticing, he'd have started to feel better about himself. He'd have started to feel once more what I'm guessing he hasn't genuinely felt for a long time: like he was destined to win, destined to reach and surpass Jack's record. And because he felt it, he might just have done it.

In fact, he copped out. He didn't win the tournament. He won't win at Merion in the US Open in June. He won't catch Jack.

He's a wealthy man, but "poor and content is rich, and rich enough..." as Iago would have put it had he ever watched the Masters.

posted by JJ at 02:02 PM on April 23

Adam Scott Wins the Masters

Oh, and Owlie?
"Come on Aussie!"

posted by JJ at 09:36 AM on April 17

Adam Scott Wins the Masters

I'm a bit late to the party on this and I suspect there won't be much further debate to be had, but just in case anyone's still checking back, I'll throw in my take on the long putters debate.

When they first started getting used on tour (Johnny Miller was one of the first to try one out) in the 80s, they were seen as crutches for golfers with crippling doses of the yips. As such, said golfers were to be pitied - they were terrible putters without a long putter, and at best mediocre with it, but at least the long putter would allow them to continue to play. The rules bodies (the R&A and the USGA) looked at them. They clearly contravened an original and quite explicit rule of the game - that the club should always be swung freely and never "anchored" to the body in any way - but really, they reasoned, what harm would it do to let the floundering putters extend their golfing lives a little by letting them use these remedial devices?

Then, slowly, the nature of the long putter changed as people experimented with other methods of anchoring it to various parts of their body (the arm, the belly, etc.). Increasingly, it became clear that for some players who may have been below average putters (but were far from being "crippled" by their poor putting), using one of these alternative methods improved their performance.

Today, we're in a position that has forced the rules-making bodies to examine again the phenomenon of the anchored putter and decide whether or not it should still be permitted. It would seem that they are going to alter the status quo, although how exactly they're going to do that remains unclear.

One of the primary arguments put forward by the pro-anchoring faction is circular and will not stand. In essence, it says: there is no statistical evidence that anchored putters make putting any easier. If that is true, how can you have an objection to their removal? At the same time, if that is true, how can anyone else have an objection to their continued use?

Statistics can only go so far - they struggle to reflect the importance of the putts being holed (or missed) in the context of a tournament. My own opinion was simply backed up watching a very exciting Sunday at Augusta. I love watching players come down the stretch and facing challenges. I love to see someone faced with a six-foot putt under pressure; I think to myself 'now we'll see what you're made of... how your nerves are.' Scott faced several challenges of that nature during the course of the final round and holed all of them. Nerveless, you might say. Or, if you're me, the anchored putters make it too easy to avoid the little twitchy mistakes all players are prone to on the greens as the heart beats faster and blood thunders in your ears.

I also don't like the argument that has often been put forward about players in general and Scott in particular: "He's a wonderful player, but his putting lets him down." My response tends to be to point out that putting is and always has been part of the game. If you take it away, or reduce its influence of the outcome, why bother walking around a golf course at all? Tournaments could be held at driving ranges, given that they would be reduced to mere hitting contests.

Hogan argued, with his tongue a long way from his cheek, that putts should only count half. Why? Because he hit the ball more consistently well than everyone - possibly ever - and he felt aggrieved that lesser strikers could beat him quite often by virtue of their superior putting. Far be it from me to disagree too stongly with a player I have come to think of as my favourite of all time, but that's simply too narrow a view of the game as a whole.

The rule-makers have arrived at a sticky issue - partly through their own lack of foresight (they gave an inch and now seem surprised that a mile was taken) - but they ought to act, and in my opinion, they ought to outlaw the anchored putting technique. Had the (in my view, entirely predictable) outcome been made clear to the rule-makers when they first considered anchored putters, they would never have permitted their use in the first place. As it is, they let the cat out of the bag and now have the devil's own job herding it back in there.

posted by JJ at 09:35 AM on April 17

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle

I don't know whether one is allowed to drive it on the green or not (given that at many golf courses one is prohibited from doing all manner of seemingly harmless things, such as wearing jeans or being female), but the guy in the video claims it has a "footprint" 30 times lighter than a human footprint so leaves no trace.

I suppose it would be fine to drive it over the green as long as you didn't stop.

posted by JJ at 05:34 AM on April 05

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle

Bubba Watson's bored with golf carts. So he commisioned a hovercraft [YouTube].

posted by JJ at 08:50 AM on April 04

Tiger Woods Climbs Back to No. 1 Ranking

The eighth win of the same tournament is even more incredible in the context of how many times he's played it - he's won it precisely 50% of the times he's entered it. I'm not sure how many times Snead had to play the Greater Greensboro Open to win it eight times, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess it was more than sixteen times in the 27 years between his first win in 1938 and his last in 1965.

Of course, the notion of Tiger's "slump" has been fairly misguided as I've waffled on about here before - yesterday's win was his sixth win in his last 20 PGA Tour starts, which would make his "slump" equate to most people's dream season - but there was a calm assurance about him at Bay Hill and at Doral a few weeks ago, that looked more like vintage Tiger. He had spells with those "lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be livin', until he bites ya..."

He's the favourite to win at Augusta, with no small justification. In his 16 professional starts there he has won four times and finished in the top-8 eleven times. Last year was his worst ever perfomance there when he finished 40th. I suspect the days of him winning it at a stretch have gone, but he will almost certainly be there or thereabouts come Sunday.

Someone who might not is Big Phil. His putting - which had seemed to improve so dramatically with his adoption of the claw grip - seems to have gone to hell overnight.

posted by JJ at 10:29 AM on March 26

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

I'd pay good money to have a two cocktail head start.

End of.

posted by JJ at 11:51 AM on March 06