We're halfway through the 2011 major championship golf season, and already it's proving to be a good one. Even though Tiger Woods was at home on the couch, Rory McIlroy gave us one of the most thrilling weeks of golf in history. Bouncing back from what had been a painful pedigree in past majors, Rory steamrolled the field on Thursday and Friday, and kept up a steady pace over the weekend en route to a eight-stroke victory. This time around there were no meltdowns, no final-round charges, and no broomsticks (though Robert Garrigus did finish T3 with a putter half the size of Adam Scott's), but what we did get was four great days of golf on a rain-soaked course that became vulnerable to low scores. In many respects, this year's U.S. Open was about as different from the Masters as possible, but equally as impressive.
Recent history in majors has been all about the meltdowns and it really got its start a year ago this week when Dustin Johnson handed away what seemed like a massive three-shot lead on the first tee that vanished quickly on his way to a brutal 82. It remains to be seen if this year's U.S. Open venue, Congressional, will offer the risk-reward and downright difficult-yet-memorable holes seen at last year's Pebble Beach.
Length is the defining characteristic of Congressional, made longer by reportedly soft fairways this week. Will that swing the advantage to the big hitters? Or does it play into the hands of a guy who hits it down the middle? With greens heading beyond 14 on the Stimpmeter (if you choose to believe the USGA), will an all-time great putter emerge?
There's no Tiger Woods, no dominant number one player in the world, and certainly no clear-cut favorite this year. In fact, Las Vegas oddsmakers have installed "The Field" as an 8-1 "favorite," with a batch of golfers (Luke Donald, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood) hovering around 12-1.
Our staff offer their predictions:
Thanks to John Feinstein, everyone knows Mark Twain's famous quote. You know, the one where he famously called golf a "good walk spoiled." Sometimes golf is beautiful game between you, nature, and your sandbagging buddies who constantly assure you that inside the leather is inside the leather, even if their belly-putter has a grip that puts Adam Scott's broomstick to shame.
But sometimes golf really sucks. Everybody has those kind of days once in a while. You go to the range beforehand and you're hitting frozen ropes straight out to center field, but the minute you step onto the tee it's like the driver is a foreign object, and the fairway become a mythical place that should never be disturbed. More than maybe any other game, golf can bring any even the more experience players to their knees, at any time.
In this edition of Trap Five, we take a look into those moments on the course when it feels like the golf gods smack you right in the face.
Has the eighth ranked golfer in the world ever been this big a deal? Because no matter how badly Tiger Woods struggles, the embattled superstar continues to gobble up nearly every ounce of golf attention. Few weeks offered as much evidence as this one, with fans and detractors hopping on Woods' relationship with his coach, his fellow competitors and even his equipment.
Chalk it up to the layoff and the fact that Woods has been off the scene for a while, but there was no lack of drama surrounding the great one when he arrived at TPC Sawgrass for this week's Players Championship. The most glaring storyline was borne out of Bubba Watson's recent comment.
"I'll just go ahead and say it. I think Tiger is going the wrong way," said Watson.
A year ago, Tiger Woods' return to competitive golf set the stage for a remarkable Masters week. While Woods had the attention heading in (and played what turned out to be his best tournament of the year), his long-time rival Phil Mickelson stole the show. Consecutive eagles on Saturday. A rousing final round to capture his third green jacket. Little did we know it would be the high point of both golfers' season.
A year later, we enter Augusta with Mickelson fresh off a birdie-fest victory and Tiger still limping along, having fallen to a once-unimaginable seventh in the world. Will this be the first time since 1999 that a European player — five of the top six in the world are from across the pond — emerges? Our experts weigh in.
Last night, Stewart Cink tweeted "The Masters is the SWAG season", and that's probably the understatement of the week. In the past 24 hours, details and pictures of loads of limited edition apparel and accessories have made their way out into the public's eye and it looks like the goods this year is going to dwarf that of last year.
Though most of it is given only to Tour pros participating in the year's inaugural major, some of it is going to be released in limited numbers to the public, but all of it is extremely cool. I thought this would be a great time to wrap a lot of it up in one cohesive (though likely not comprehensive) post for your enjoyment.
I'll give you fair warning that we won't be spending a lot of time on minute details like we normally do, since, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and I've got a lot of pictures.
Before each major, The Sand Trap staff offers up our (supposedly) expert predictions. But when it comes to Augusta National and the Masters, there's so much more to the event than winners and losers.
Today we held a virtual roundtable, weighing in on the history, tradition, and even controversies that make the Masters one of the highlights of the golf season.
Last October, we covered the launch of Mizuno's new JPX brand, which marked the first time they had ever combined all of their R&D teams from around the world. The goal was to produce clubs that contained every possible technology from each of their shops around the world and put it all into one cohesive brand.
Part of that launch was the introduction of their JPX-800 and JPX-800 Pro irons, one of which I had the pleasure of reviewing. Their commitment to this brand continues as they are now adding to that brand all new drivers, fairway woods, and hybrids. So, what all technology and game improvement features can be found in the first woods in the JPX Series? Well, you'll have to read on to find out!