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April 30, 2008
Tell the truth John
John Daly has run out of playing options here in the United States so he's playing overseas the next few weeks. During a pre-tournament press conference, Daly told the media that Butch Harmon had called him to apologize for the things he said when he announced he would not longer be working with Daly.
Harmon basically said that while he like Daly as a person, he could no longer work with him because of his off the course problems, including his excessive drinking. Daly claims he told Harmon that his comments cost him a lot of money because all his sponsors dropped him.
Harmon has denied the story, saying he never apologized.
It's just the latest in the Daly saga that continues to get more and more pathetic every day. Like a lot of people, I've supported Daly in the past, but cannot do so any longer. He needs help and until he gets it, nothing will change.
On a much more positive note, former Westlake High golfer Charlie Wi will get his first crack at the TPC Sawgrass course next week when he plays in his first Players Championship.
I'm hoping to talk with Charlie early next week to see how he feels and get a few thoughts on his season to date. Charlie is a very solid player and I think he will win a PGA Tour event at some point, hopefully soon.
Matt Hoffenberg, another former local standout at Royal who is now playing at San Diego State was named the Western State Conference freshman of the year. Great credit to Matt, who has had a great season for the Aztecs. He was the Star's Prep Player of the Year last season. He will be playing in the NCAA regionals next week.
I hope you are all enjoying the Star's new gold Web site. We have some big plans for it. so we hope you keep coming back. The plans may even include the chance to win some prizes here and there. If you have thoughts, fire me an email and let me know what you think and what you would like to see.
Talk with you all soon
Posted by bbuttitta at 7:29 PM
April 28, 2008
Welcome to the Star's new golf site
Today we launch our new and hopefully improved golf web site which we hope all of you will find useful both to entertain and provide you with information.In the coming weeks, we will continue to add things to the site so we hope you will continue to check back and see what's new. We even plan to offer you the ability to make tee times at some of the local courses directly from the site.
Another part of the new site will be this blog, where I will chat about things going on in golf, both locally and in the county.
Today I was out at the annual Boys and Girls Club of Ventura County's fundraising tournament. It's a great event for a great cause. It was a little different today because for the first time in the tournament's history, Oxnard native and PGA Tour professional Corey Pavin was not there to serve as celebrity host.
Corey is one professional athlete who has never forgotten his roots, so for over 20 years he's returned each year to the county to host a charity tournament. But with his new daughter Alexis less than 6 months old, Corey wants to stay closer to home, so for now he's not involved in the tournament as host.
In his place, the tournament committee landed former Pittsburgh Steelers great Lynn Swann, who has been the national spokesperson for Big Brothers/Big Sisters since 1980.
While today's tournament certainly had a different feel without Corey, Swann did a marvelous job as host. He was wonderful at the sponsor's breakfast, answering questions about everything from USC football to the negative impact of agents on pro sports.
As he talked about his association with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, you could hear the passion in his voice. At this point, he has only agreed to host this year, but he said he would be willing to think about coming back in future years. I think it would be great if he did.
There's another interesting local event taking place next Tuesday. In honor of it's first anniversary, Olivas Links is offering golfers the chance to come out and play and after the round, pay what they think the round was worth, whether that be $1 or $100 or somewhere in between. I know for me, what my round is worth a lot of times is based on how I play. As general manager Lee Harlow told me, there has been a love/hate relationship of late with many golfers and Olivas, so it will be interesting to see how many folks take advantage of the deal and what they offer to pay for it. I'm hoping to get out there and check it out, maybe even play. I'll have a story on the Star's Wednesday golf page and we'll certainly post some info here as well.
As I said before, I hope you will enjoy the new site. It's here for all of you, so let us know what you would like to see
Posted by bbuttitta at 6:15 PM
April 13, 2008
Immelman is rolling
Trevor Immelman is looking like no one is going to stop him from winning his first Masters title. After a shaky start, Immelman has settled down beautifully, starting with an amazing approach shot on the par-4, fifth hole than led to a birdie. From that point on, Immelman's whole demeanor changed and you could see the confidence growing with each shot.
But hold on a second, Immelman just missed a 2-foot birdie putt that could have given him a 5 shot lead. Maybe the tournament isn't over.
Posted by bbuttitta at 1:13 PM
A shaky start
Bot Trevor Immelman and Brandt Snedeker have started the tournament a little shaky. Immelman missed the fairway right, had to chip out and then hit his approach long, The result, a bogey. Snedeker pushed his approach shot right of the green, chipped long and made bogey.
But so far, Tiger Woods isn't taking advantage. He made par at the first and must make a long, downhill putt with 4-feet of break for birdie.
Stewart Cink, with birdies on 1 and 2 has surpassed Woods, now sitting at 6 under.
We're only into it a few holes in, but it seems there is going to be a lot of movement over the next four hours.
Posted by bbuttitta at 11:37 AM
Phil and Vijay
Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh are paired for today's final. Several years ago the two players were involved in "spike gate," where Singh complained to officials about the length of Mickelson's golf spikes. The two have never been close, so there doesn't figure to be a lot of talk today between the teo. Heck, they didn't even shake hands before their rounds started.
Ian Poulter, who starts the day 2 under, had made birdies on his first two holes, but it would appear he;s too far back to make a run.
Tiger is on the tee waiting to take his first swings. The wind continues to pick up so it may be tough for him to shoot the 66 he figure to need to catch the leaders. Something to watch, Tiger has never shot lower than 31 on the front nine at Augusta National and he's never gone lower than 68 in a final round.
On a personal note, my housemate was picked for the media lottery and gets to play tomorrow. Now we have to hopr we have no playoff on Monday.
Posted by bbuttitta at 10:46 AM
The wait is on
One of my housemates, Ed Zieralski from the San Diego Union Tribune is suffering through the long wait of seeing whether he will be picked for the media lottery and get a chance to play Augusta National on Monday morning. It makes me remember my first two years that I came back to cover the Masters and I threw my name in the hat to see if I could make my dream come true and play this marvelous golf course. The first year I suffered the huge disappointment of not getting picked. It was tough because I really wanted to play, plus one of my housemates was picked, so I felt a little guilty being jealous that he was picked and I was not.
The second year I experienced the ultimate high of finding my name on the list of chosen media members, It's a moment I will never forget because it led me to the best golfer experience I have ever had in my life.
I'm pulling hard for Ed. He's not only a great guy, he's also a golf fanatic. And like all of us, he's worked really hard this week, so it would be a great reward for the hard work. Because he's not the paper's golf writer, he won't probably every come back, so this is his one shot. So we're all sitting on pins and needles waiting for the list. For Ed's sake, I hope he's on it.
Posted by bbuttitta at 8:57 AM
Sunday has arrived
The dark clouds and rain that accompanied Saturday's third round have been replaced by bright sunshine and also the anticipated breezy conditions. The winds are starting to blow, and they figure to be a key factor in which golfers ends up slipping on the green jacket at the end of today.
On the surface, you would think that harsher conditions would favor Tiger Woods, since he's played here under all types of weather. However, I would also argue that golfers who are at the top of the leaderboard are playing the best golf, so they may be able to withstand the difficult elements better than a player who has been struggling with his game. We won't know which theory is correct until about 6:30 tonight.
Posted by bbuttitta at 7:48 AM
April 12, 2008
Phil's wild ride
Went out and followed Phil Mickelson for much of his third round. The best way to describe Phil's day was a roller-coaster ride, one where he probably wanted to get off about halfway through the ride. Mickelson started the day with a great chance to grab control of the 72nd Masters if he could post even a moderate score of 2 or 3 under. Instead, Mickelson may have let his chance to win a third Masters title slip away after playing one of the poorest rounds of his Masters career.
Meanwhile, Tiger Woods gave himself a chance to win his fifth Masters title, by coming up with a 4-under 68. Woods rounds could have been much better than it ended up had a few makeable birdie putts fallen. But Woods figures to be within shouting distance of the leaders and if he can get out quick on Sunday, it could put a lot of pressure on.
Posted by bbuttitta at 3:56 PM
Play is back on
Play has resumed after a 40 minute rain delay. It will be very close as to whether or not they finish today. If there is any more delays, there will be no chance.
Tiger got on the course just after play resumed. He's 1 under through 2, having birdied the par-5, second. He really needs to take advantage of the par 5s today and a few other holes as well.
Zach Johnson is stringing together a nice round, 3 under through eight. Boo Weekley is 2 under through seven.
The wet weather and delay have put a slight damper on the mood here, but I'm hoping that changes once the leaders get on the course and the action hopefully heats up.
Posted by bbuttitta at 11:24 AM
Just before 1 p.m. Augusta time, players were called off the course because of heavy rain, thunder and lightening. The thunder and lightening was not expected, so tee times were not adjusted to account for any delays. If the delay lasts for very long, there's a good chance we will not complete the third round today, meaning we will have to play extra holes tomorrow.
As I sit here, the rain is pounding down on the roof of the media center. In 2006, play was suspended at around this same time, and the delay lasted four hours.
I think the situation helps Tiger because of his mental toughness, he is able to "weather the storms" better than most other players.
Posted by bbuttitta at 10:02 AM
The leaders won't hit the course for a few more hours, but a few of the players with early starting times are playing well.
Defending champion Zach Johnson has birdied two of his first three holes to get back to even par. Boo Weekly made a birdie on the very tough first hole.
The rain is falling a bit heavier and is expected to continue, at time even harder until about 2 p.m. here in Augusta. If that holds, the leaders will not have to play in the rain, but will have to deal with the rain-soaked golf course.
There's a kind of uneasiness floating around the media center at the moment. We're all anxious to see what the top players on the board do, yet we all know we have several hours to wait. It;s kind of like a bunch of kids waiting for Christmas Day to arrive.
Posted by bbuttitta at 9:27 AM
Storms are brewing
The first players have just hit the golf course and with the start has come the rain. A light drizzle has begun to fall here at Augusta National, and heavier rain is expected. Of more concern to the players would be the predicted wind gusts of up to 25 miles per hour. If it's windy, look for scores to be way up.
It will be interesting to see how Trevor Immelman and Brandt Snedeker respond to the pressure of being at the top of the leaderboard heading into the weekend. While both players have won PGA Tour events, this is a new level of pressure for both of them.
Conversely, I'm sure that Phil Mickelson slept very soundly last night. I expect Mickelson to go out and shoot at least a few under and put some serious pressure on the guys ahead of him.
If he does post a 68 or 69, it puts some major pressure on Tiger to shoot a low number today so he's not that far behind Phil.
Posted by bbuttitta at 7:57 AM
April 11, 2008
On to the weekend
Two rounds are in the books and it looks like at least 15 players have a legitimate shot at winning the Masters title. Trevor Immelman, Brandt Snedeker, and Ian Poulter are not battled tested when it comes to major championships, but all three are very talented and have the ability to post two more good scores and win.
You have to consider Phil Mickelson the favorite at this point. He's only three back and he knows how to win here. He's not playing perfect golf, but he's getting some breaks and not making any stupid mistakes.
Watch out for Mike Weir. The former Masters champion posted a 4-under 68 on Friday and picked up a lot of momentum in doing so. Like Mickelson, he knows how to win on this golf course.
Although he's 7 back, Tiger is still Tiger. He can make up that deficit, but he'll need to hit it much better and make some putts as well.
Rain is supposedly coming so the course figures to get tougher. It should add to the excitement of the next two days.
Posted by bbuttitta at 6:25 PM
Can Tiger make a move?
After a lethargic first seven holes, Tiger seems to be starting to wake up just a bit. He nearly made an eagle on No. 8, settling for a birdie to get back to even par for the day. On No. 9 he just missed a birdie putt, so we’re all wondering if he has a big back nine in him. As poorly as Tiger has played, if he can shoot 3-4 under on the back nine, he will be right in the hunt. That’s a big if, but if anyone can do it, it’s Tiger.
Ian Poulter just missed his birdie putt on 18, but he’s at 5 under, tied with Phil Mickelson for third place. His 3-under 69 is his best career round at Augusta National. After showing up in pistachio colored pants on Thursday. Poulter is dressed in pink pants, pink and white golf shoes. While it wouldn’t be my choice of colors, I love Poulter’s flair and his willingness to shake things up a bit. Golf needs more players like Poulter. I just hope if he’s in the hunt on Sunday, he chooses a different color than pink to wear. Not sure it would really go with that green jacket you get for winning the tournament.
Posted by bbuttitta at 2:01 PM
Early off has the advantage
Sometimes the luck of the draw has a lot to do with who wins a golf tournament. That could be the case with this year's Masters. The players who had late tee times on Thursday and early times today definitely had the advantage when it came to scoring conditions. It was pretty calm all day on Thursday but it was wet in the morning, making the course play longer. Today, there was no wind until about 2 p.m.The guys currently at the top of the leaderboard all had that situation. Both Brandt Snedeker and Trevor Immelman went out late/early the two days and they are the two best scores. Phil Mickelson got out late morning and had great scoring conditions for the first nine. He was 3 under through nine and finished at 5 under, and is currently tied for third.
Tiger Woods has the opposite draw and so far things are not going well. He is 1 over through seven holes today, and with a poor back nine could even be in danger of missing the cut. Unless Woods puts together some of that Tiger "magic" the Grand Slam run is going to end before it gets started.
Posted by bbuttitta at 1:12 PM
A walk around Amen corner
When Brandt Snedeker got off to a 3 under start through nine, a few of us decided to walk the back nine with him. We picked him up on 10 tee and followed him around Amen Corner. Sitting in the media bleachers at Amen Corner is something I wish every golf fan could experience at least once. Of all the golf courses I've ever walked around, no spot compares to the serenity and beauty of Amen Corner. Adding to the enjoyment was the weather. Rain is supposedly coming, but today it's in the low 80s, sunny and no clouds in the sky. It's perfect.
While it was enjoyable for us, Snedeker struggled a little on back nine, but rallied after we left him, making birdies on 17 and 18 (two very tough holes) leaving him just a stroke behind Trevor Immelman who started the day 4 under and through up another 4-under 68.
A few others made big moves early today. Steve Flesch posted a 5-under 67, and Retief Goosen is 3 under through 13. I would love to see the Goose make another serious run.
After Snedeker come into the press room to speak with us, a few of us are going for a late lunch at the clubhouse. Like Amen Corner, eating in the Augusta clubhouse, right next to the Champions locker room is an amazing experience.
Posted by bbuttitta at 10:54 AM
Immelman and Snedeker off and running
It's another beautiful weather day at Augusta National and both Trevor Immelman and Brandt Snedeker are taking advantage of the conditions. The two young players are tied at the top of the leaderboard at 5 under. Snedeker birdied the very tough par-3 sixth and Augusta's opening hole, leaving him 2 under.
While most of the Day 1 leaders go off early, Tiger goes off late, so he will know what he needs to do before he tees off.
Besides the leaderboard, there are some other interesting stories to follow. Fred Couples has never missed a cut here but he'll need a big effort today to keep that streak intact. There's talk that this could be Fuzzy Zoeller's final round in Masters competition. His 81 on day 1 indicates that might be a good idea.
Players better do their scoring today, because according to the weather reports rain and wind are on the way, meaning scoring is going to get tough.
Posted by bbuttitta at 7:37 AM
April 10, 2008
Crazy first day
It started kind of slowly, but things really heated up during Thursday's first round of the Masters.
Heavy fog caused a near hour delay in the morning, causing tee time to be delayed, As a result, the final groups finished in darkness, but all players did finish their rounds.
Scores early in the morning were higher than we all expected considering there was no wind to contend with, but as the day warmed up, so did the scoring.
Justin Rose and Trevor Immelman own the first round lead at 4 under, 68. It's the third time Rose has been the first round leader.
Other newbies like Brandt Snedeker and Brian Bateman are near the top of the leaderboard after 18 holes.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson both struggled. Woods finished at even par and Mickelson is 1 under. They are still the two favorites, but each must play better.
For much of the afternoon, Sandy Lyle, the 1988 Masters winner, was close to the lead. He ended up at even par, pretty good for a guy who is 50. Mark O'Meara, who is 51, finished atr 1 under, showing experience is a big factor on this golf course.
A streak is on the line tomorrow. Fred Couples has never missed the cut here, but after opening with a 76, he is tied for 65th. He'll need a big second round to keep the streak intact.
Some of the biggest disappointments of day one were Geoff Ogilvy, who I picked to contend, shooting a 75, Padraig Harrington's 74 and Sergio Garcia and Stuart Appleby both shooting 76.
The weather is supposed to get worse as the week goes on, so the scores figure to go up. So much for the roars returning to Augusta.
Posted by bbuttitta at 5:36 PM
A slow start
Conditions for scoring would seem to be perfect, yet with more than half the field now out on the golf course, the best score score is 2 under by Ian Poulter. Poulter agreed that scoring conditions were favorable, but added that the reason for not many low scores is that Augusta National is simply a hard golf course.
At this point in his career, Poulter is more well known for his colorful clothing and his recent comments about his quest to be the World's No. 2 ranked golfer. But Poulter does possess great golf talent, so it would be no fluke if the man who wore light green pants today, somehow ended up wearing a darker green jacket come Sunday night.
At 3 p.m. local time, the top seven players on the leaderboard represent seven different countries. Zach Johnson is through 12 holes and is tied for the lead.
Tiger Woods has yet to have a birdie through 10 holes and Phil Mickelson just made birdie on No. 1 by pitching in from behind the green.
Posted by bbuttitta at 11:52 AM
Off and running
After about a 45 minute fog delay, play is underway. Tiger won't tee off for over an hour, and this far the best score is even par but it's real early. For the second straight year, Arnold Palmer opened the tournament by hitting the ceremonial first tee ball.
It was so foggy when Palmer hit his shot that it was impossible to tell where it went.
After hitting his shot into the dense blanket of fog that was covering Augusta National , Palmer joked, "Hit it out of sight. Palmer then posed for pictures with Masters Tournament and Augusta National chairman Billy Payne. Palmer wished Gary Player well. Player is teeing it up for his 51st Masters today, breaking Palmer's record of 50 Masters. More updates to come as the day rolls along.
Posted by bbuttitta at 6:52 AM
April 9, 2008
A Wonderful Wednesday
It was a near perfect Wednesday afternoon here at Augusta National. It started with an amazing lunch I had with 1970 Masters champion Billy Casper. Two of my housemates and I spent almost two hours with Billy and his family. During our time together he passed along some great stories about his amazing experiences in golf. He was a tremendous player, very overlooked in golf history, and I discovered he is an even better person. Today's athletes could learn a thing or two about the way Casper conducts his life and how he interacts with fans.
I hope you all got a chance to catch some of the par-3 contest. It's always a cool event, but this year's television coverage made it even better. Credit to ESPN and Augusta National for deciding to televise it.
I couldn't help but smile as I watched the images of the kids with their dads. Two of the coolest for me were Jonathan Byrd and his son and defending champion Zach Johnson and his son. Both the little boys are around the age of my son Shaun, so seeing those little guys out on the green with their dads nearly brought a tear to my eye. It was really special.
Earlier in the day Augusta chairman Billy Payne gave his "State of the Masters" address. One of the things he talked about is a new program that the club's continuing efforts to get more kids excited about the game.
One program is asking people to submit ideas on how to grow the game. Ideas can be submitted on masters.org, with links from sites like cbssports.com and espn.com.
Deadline to submit ideas is June 1. Ideas will be shared with golf's governing bodies.
It all added up to a wonderful Wednesday.
Now let's get to some serious golf.
Posted by bbuttitta at 2:51 PM
Lunch with a legend
I just found out that I'm having lunch later today with golf legend Billy Casper, winner of the 1970 Masters. Casper, a San Diego native, had arranged to have lunch with my housemate Tod Leonard, who is the golf writer at the San Diego Union Tribune. When I found out about the lunch, I asked Tod if I might be able to tag along and he said fine.
I always get excited when we go and eat at the clubhouse and I just see a former champion in the same room, so to actually get a chance to sit down with a player who owns a green jacket and gets a chance to attend the Champions Dinner each year, it's a dream come true. Tod had lunch with Casper several years ago here at the Masters and Casper took him into the Champions lockerroom for a look around. I would never ask, but if the chance comes up, I will definitely take advantage of it.
Before that I will be attending the State of the Masters meeting, led by chairman Billy Payne. Payne, who ran the 1988 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, is a very bright man and the perfect person to lead Augusta National into the future. In his two years running the club, he's made some wonderful moves.
The most recent was allowing kids 8-16 on the grounds for free when accompanied by a paying adult. It's a wonderful idea and one that other tournaments should consider making as a way to expose more kids to the game. I'll blog later about the meeting and my lunch.
Posted by bbuttitta at 7:25 AM
April 8, 2008
Phil and Tiger, part 1
It's another year where golf fans around the world are hoping to see a Tiger-Phil on the back nine on Sunday.
I think it's a possibility, if Mickelson can get his putting squared away. During his meeting with us today, Mickelson said he wasn't too concerned about his struggles with rolling the rock in the last few tournaments.
While I admit to being a Tiger guy more than a Phil guy, of the two, Mickelson definitely tends to give us more to work with during his press conferences.
While Tiger is more relaxed than he used to be with the media, he still doesn't say much. It's always fun on the rare moments when he lets more of his personality shine through.
Phil on the other hand does a pretty good job of giving us material to work with. I realize it's not their job to help us come up with story angles, but giving more thought provoking answers to our questions really helps.
While Mickelson usually has a smile on his face, it seems to be a little wider here. He truly loves this tournament and this venue (perhaps that's why he's done so well here in the past).
He and AP golf writer Doug Ferguson had an interesting back and forth exchange today. Ferguson, a Thousand Oaks High graduate, prefaced his final question to Phil by saying, "If you're here for the weekend...."
Phil's told Doug he was glad he was getting back at him in the interview room, rather than in print. It showed how good Mickelson can be with the press when he wants to be.
As for a Phil-Tiger weekend showdown, I think it's pretty possible. I think Phil is one of the few guys who is not afraid of Tiger, especially here.
I look forward to seeing how it unfolds
Posted by bbuttitta at 12:06 PM
Good to be back
My stay at Golf Mecca has begun.
I walked through the gates, or should I say the security folks processed my information at just after 8 a.m. allowing me to once again feast my eyes on golf's most impressive piece of real estate.
It's hard to believe that it's been four years since I came to my first Masters. The excitement I felt this morning rivaled that Tuesday morning four years ago when I entered Augusta National for the first time.
In addition to my normal stories for the Star, I will be blogging each day, several times a day, just about things I see and happenings in general.
I'm still amazed by the massive operation that folks take each year to host the world's greatest golf tournament.
At 8 a.m. the gates were filled with patrons trying to make their way in for today's practice round. The souvenir shop was equally packed with folks who were attempting to gather up as much Augusta National merchandise as possible. Later this afternoon when I get a few spare moments I have some shopping of my own to do. A few friends have asked for the usual hats and shirts and I have to make my now annual purchase of matching Masters shirts for myself and my 2-year-old son Shaun. It's become a fun tradition, one that I would love to continue for many years to come.
Today is interview day, so all the major players will be in to talk, including Tiger and Phil. I'll let you know what they say later
Posted by bbuttitta at 5:26 AM