Carebear Stares Down Golf’s Amateur Status

August 31, 2009
This is what you get, Royal and Ancient!

This is what you get, Royal and Ancient!

Byeong-Hun An took down the Havemeyer Trophy yesterday with a slightly less than brilliant but workmanlike performance at Southern Hills in Oklahoma.  The 17-yr old becomes the youngest US Amateur winner in history, and the second in a row of South Korean descent.

A few recent events got me to thinking about golf’s definition of amateur golfers.  The first was Shane Lowry’s victory at the Irish Open, the second was Ryan Moore’s victory at the Wyndham, and most recently An’s taking of the most prized possession is Amateur golf.

In no sport is amateurism more important or more distinguished than golf.  Amateurism is becoming more and more absent at the Olympics and now golf seems to be the only sport to hold the status dearly.

My issue with Amateur golf now is that it does not make sense, and it pushes the stereotype of golf being a sport for rich kids in polo shirts (the popped collars all over the course at Southern Hills didn’t help the stereotype, either).  Obviously the majority of the players in the tournament were college athletes hoping to someday go pro, and that is fine, but not really the romantic idea intended when Amateur golf was distinguished in 1885.

Jones and Ouimet Chilling at the Course: For Free

Jones and Ouimet Chilling at the Course: For Free

The days of Francis Ouimet and Bobby Jones are long gone, and its hard to imagine a modern golfer trying to recreate their accomplishments.  Amateur golf (way back in the day) was really looked at as the only golf.  Professional golfers were second class citizens.  They were not even allowed in clubhouses until Walter Hagen made a mockery of the R & A at the 1922 Open, and were only allowed around most private clubs to fix people’s clubs and to teach members how to play.

The Amateur was the real golfer, but when golf became profitable this all changed.

The derivation of the word amateur tells us the word really means a “lover of” something.  But, the word has developed into meaning someone who performs a task as a pastime and not as a profession.  Now that golf is extremely profitable, it seems to me that very few people on tour actually “play the game” professionally.  There is so much money in which ball you hit, which clubs you use, and which failing financial institution you put on your hat, that winning tournaments almost takes a back seat to signing deals.

This is what led me to Ryan Moore.  This is a golfer that has no sponsorships.  I do not know all the details.  I am not sure whether he goes to Hollister to buy his silly hats or if he buys his Puma shoes from like the rest of us, but he does not receive money for wearing them.  To me, this is a modern amateur.

Ryan Moore. Not exactly a throwback, but nearly logo-free...(Robert Beck/SI)

Ryan Moore. Not exactly a throwback, but nearly logo-free...(Robert Beck/SI)

I have always seen that the purpose of amateur sport is to play golf for the love of the game, and to really want to win for the sake of winning, but when you are dealing with guys who get paychecks whether they finish first or 25th because they got enough TV time to show off their new PING bucket hat do they really need to win?

I am not questioning the average tour pro’s desire for victory, but I am asking who would strive for victory more?  Who needs it more?  The guy with no sponsors whose check for fifth buys him another year on tour, or the guy who finishes 30th every week, but makes a couple million a year from Rolex and Ralph Lauren.

Shane Lowry won the 3Irish Open earlier this year after a battle with Robert Rock, and proceeded to go pro the next day.  Its a shame, but you cannot blame him.  Cash in while you can.  Get your sponsorship money while you have some fame.

An will most likely follow suit as Danny Lee did, and we just have to know that amateur golf is pretty much a  game for college kids and a few aging ringers.  Maybe these are the true amateur golfers now, the old guys like Tim Jackson playing just to play.

There is so much money in sports these days that it is nice to see someone like Moore, who is capable of making more, but, for now, playing just to win.  I know that playing solely for winnings is pretty much the opposite of amateur, but in this day and age, its pretty admirable, as well.

Solheim Cup…Make it a World Cup

August 25, 2009
Why not this much excitement every week?  Maybe because US players never win anymore, but probably just because the SOlheim Cup was fun for everybody(AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Why arent they this excited every week? Because US players never win anymore? Nah, probably just because the Solheim Cup was actually entertaining(AP Photo/Mike Groll)

The Solheim Cup was the most tweeted, blogged, and overall the most talked about event for the LPGA of the season, and for a sport that is struggling to keep sponsors, it was pretty vital.  LPGA tournaments are dropping like flies these days.  Classic events are going away and new ones are not springing up in the near future.

But last week, the ladies showed that they can be interesting, play well, and even at times, be more entertaining than the men’s game.

So what should the LPGA do to capitalize on last week’s success?

Well, the format of last week’s Solheim Cup is a very popular one.  Everyone loves a good Ryder Cup setup.  You start chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A!,” and Americans who have never seen golf of any kind before automatically are glued to the set and are bigger experts than Dottie Pepper.

And, don’t forget, the power of how the rest of the world likes to root against the US (not necessarily out of hatred for our country, but more of a “I hate the Yankees because they spend so much money,” kind of thing”(I was referring there to the New York Yankees, not Americans as Yankees there)).

I am aware there is already a Women’s World Cup of Golf, but they didn’t have me plan it, so obviously, its all wrong.  The LPGA schedule, unlike the men’s schedule, is full of holes.  Plenty of room to take a shot at another event here or there, and here is my masterplan.

Alright, so you got that US team?  Add Canada in with them, and name them something thing like Northern North America.  We can work on names later.  The European team is fine as is.  Asia can easily put together a team, and probably trounce the rest of the world with very little effort.  South Korea has 47 players on the tour alone, and its a little bigger than Indiana.

Then take Mexico (Lorena Ochoa), South America, Australia, South Africa, and any Antarcticans if they happen to spring up and create a 4th team called, World, or something.  So you got 4 teams so far,and you give them a bit of a golf icon as their captain to spark a little more interest:

The Northern North: Golf Icon Captain guy, Lee Trevino, he seems right for this role, maybe because he was in Happy Gilmore.

Europe: GICG, Seve Ballesteros, hands off the ladies, Seve.

Asia: GICG, YE Yang? Nah, not yet, Vijay Singh maybe.

The Black Knight could motivate anybody.  Hed have the world team doing pushups all day.

The Black Knight could motivate anybody. He'd have the world team doing pushups all day.

And everyone else… World?…yeah. GICG: Gary Player seems like a perfect fit.

So everyone plays eachother once.  That is three weekends right there.  Plus you can have the events either separate, or have all four teams play at the same course.  After the four teams have played, they are seeded based on how badly the Asians beat them, and a playoff situation is set up.  1 plays four and so on.

So say Asia is number one and Europe is number four: They would play in say, Seoul for the right to play in the championship while the US and Mexico played at Brookline to get there, too.

It would set up a cool scenario of not only trying to win to get to the championship, but golfers and fans having to TV-watch like other sports do in the playoffs (obviously the timing would be a bit messed up by the 13 hour difference between Seoul and Massachusetts, but bear with me).

Moving on.  They play the championship at some predetermined location, and the champion of the first year guarantees the championship being played on their turf the next year.  This is key because anyone who has ever missed a 4 ft putt in the Ryder cup will tell you, home soil is a little friendlier.

The champion wins a lot of pride and flag waving, but really that is why sponsors will love this.  You do not need a huge purse, and people will come to these events if they are scheduled right.  People will even watch them on TV.

Also, with golf’s addition to the Olympics this will be a great tuneup.  Who wouldn’t like to hear Nick Faldo say, “Michelle Wie going after her first gold medal, but she has to take on Anna Nordquist, who beat her mercilessly in the World Cup last year.”

It sets up different types of matches and easier to follow TV coverage, and gives LPGA fans and non-fans an easier time trying to find something they haven’t had in the last few years, someone to root for.

I am all for having Jessica Alba golf every week, but Im sure she has better things to do, and Id rathr just see good golf.

I am all for having Jessica Alba golf every week, but I'm sure she has better things to do, and I'd rather just see good golf.

The other alternatives I have seen for the Ladies’ circuit to get their sponsors back are more about wearing tight outfits, and teaching supermodels to golf.  So, I think this is a viable alternative.  Not that I wouldn’t want to see Gisele pout like Sergio after knocking one in the water on 18, or even just grabbing her ball out of the 18th hole, but I would prefer just good golf.

The Solheim Cup brought the best out of the LPGA players, fans, and even perked up the sleeping sponsors.  It was much more interesting than a Tiger-less Wyndham Championship.

There is no reason the LPGA cannot create something similar on a more regular basis.

Just name it after us, The First Annual Blue Duck Ladies World Cup.  Quack.

Michael Vick. Oh Philly, How Soon You Forget…

August 18, 2009
Psycho: Real life Oglethorpe

Psycho: Real life Oglethorpe

As the stories about Mike Vick and Philadelphia Eagles protests have become more numerous I got to thinking back a few years in Philly sports.  I happen to be a Philadelphia Flyers fan (long story, Whalers fan, traded Kevin Dineen, then they stopped existing).  In 2002 though, around the trade deadline the Flyers were having trouble scoring so they went on a hunt for someone to spark the offense.  Bobby Clarke went out and got none other than Billy Tibbetts.

Who the hell is Billy Tibbetts you ask?  Old Billy Boy had maybe the longest rap sheet of any modern American athlete.  It puts Pacman Jones, Nate Newton, even Michael Vick to shame.

In 1994, at the age of 20, Tibbetts plead guilty to raping a 15 year old girl.  He served two and a half years later for an assault and battery charge, and then, after he had come and gone with the Flyers he was arrested in 2007 for leading cops on a high speed chase, crashing his car into a utility pole, and then hiding in the woods.

Obviously Michael Vick is a bigger name, and his trial and conviction took on a huge life of its own once it all got going, but Philly, you have tried to cheer for worse.  Tibbetts didn’t give us much to cheer for fortunately as he literally spent more time in the penalty box than on the ice.

People Hate Him more than Osama these days.

People Hate Him more than Osama these days.

I have grown up having dogs, my dogs were members of my family, but the guy served his time.  I doubt he feels remorse, I think it would be hard for someone who did what he did, to really turn around and feel bad about it later, but he did his time.  If he does it again, he will get banned for life.  So give the man a chance.

There are countless internet petitions and forums bitching and moaning about Mike Vick.  From what I have seen, and from what I know about Philadelphia fans, signing Michael Vick will not cause the Linc to empty out this season.  The man may get booed a little, but as long as he plays okay, and keeps his mouth shut he will be fine.

If anything, all this PETA crap will probably draw more attention to the games, and in turn the sponsors.  They already have record numbers of people who have never seen a football game showing up with puppies and signs to their practices.   They are turning new strange dog lovers onto the sport.

And for the few people that claim to be season ticket holders on these protest sites.  I know you’re not because a real Eagles season ticket holder would do stuff worse than Vick did to keep his tickets, and just know Vick will be gone in a few years, and you’ll sitting in the parking lot drinking Yuengling, trying to find a blueberry under a bottlecap, and looking for scalpers because PETA made you whine about some jackass strangling dogs.

And to PETA people, we know you would like to think that everyone sees dogs like you do.  And most people do, including myself to some extent, but some people treat dogs like dogs.  I rarely blame someone’s upbringing or surrounding crew for their actions, but I doubt Vick treats humans the way he treats dogs.  For him to not think what he was doing was wrong is inherently wrong, but I’m sure he didn’t.

Michael Vick is a dumbass.  He did some extremely cruel things to animals.  It is hard for me to believe he is sorry for these acts, but if you do not believe in giving someone a second chance after they have done their time both in prison and being suspended than you never deserve a second chance either.

Carebear’s Top 5 Modern Pitchers

August 13, 2009

Welcome Back

Pedro Martinez returned to the Major League mound tonight for the first time this season, and for his first start for a legitimate franchise since the Red Sox let him go after the 2004 season.  Pedro’s start got me thinking of the old days when he was all but unhittable.  He showed little glimpses of that briefly tonight, but in his prime, Pedro was something special.

So I started trying to rank him against other modern (guys who have spent the majority of their careers in the 90’s-2000’s) pitchers.  These are my top 5.

Sorry Rocket.

Sorry Rocket.

By the way, to avoid controversy, or a grand jury investigation, I left Roger Clemens off this list.  Probably would’ve been number 3ish anyways, but I never really liked the guy all that much.

Number 5

Johan Santana

2 Cy Youngs, 4 All Star Games, 1 Gold Glove

This guy is very good.  He may have been the big reason the Twins were contenders in the early 2000’s, and if he was part of a better team now, his numbers would be unbelievable.  A career era of 3.10 and a career WHIP at 1.11.  That WHIP is 4th among active players (26th all time), two of the three ahead of him are on this list, the other is Trevor Hoffman.  Not too shabby.

So he doesn’t give up hits, and doesn’t walk anybody, and strikes out a batter every inning.  Tough to hit.  If you looked at his career numbers for era, WHIP, and K/9 you would think he was a closer.  Scariest stat: Born March 13, 1979.

Number 4

Mariano Rivera

Dont let the smile fool you, this man hates baseball bats.

Don't let the smile fool you, this man hates baseball bats.

No Cy Youngs, 10 all star games, 1 WS MVP, 1 ALCS MVP

10 years, and 4 rings Santana’s senior, Rivera has made a career out of one pitch.  I almost put Rivera at number 1 because of that fact.  Everyone knows what is coming and no one has figured him out.  You can argue that he throws a 2 seamer and a little slider from time to time, but you could guess cutter every pitch, get it every pitch, and never hit the thing square.

If Elias sports bureau kept a stat for broken bats it would not even be close.  The fact is, if his cutter moves enough it is virtually swingproof.  There is very little chance of hitting something that moves that drastically from where a hitter last sees it.  It is an angry flat slider (sounds like something off the Chili’s menu).

The stats you ask? Screw saves, Rivera’s WHIP is 3rd all time (1st Active), ERA is first among active players (14th all time), and to give you an idea of guys not being able to square it up, he gives up roughly one homerun every 19 innings (1st among active players).

Number 3

Randy Johnson

Great Pitcher, Fabulous Hairdo

Great Pitcher, Fabulous Hairdo. Looks like someone you'd see on Cops.

5 Cy Youngs, 10 All Star Games, 1 WS MVP

Randy Johnson is a big, ugly, scary, ugly, big lefthander that no one ever liked to face.  In his prime he had the fastball that looked like he was placing in the catcher’s mitt and the slider that a righty could swing through and then get hit in the back leg with.

300 K’s 6 times, 20 wins twice, a ton of innings, and, like Johan, closer numbers when it comes to WHIP (5th active).  He is first all time in K’s per 9 innings at over 10, and for a guy with his power, he has never walked too many guys.  When him and Schilling both pitched for the DBACKs they had two power guys that could go 8 innings everytime out.  Scary.  Too bad he spent so much of his career alone in Seattle.  Poor Randy and Ken Griffey.

His 2002 line:

24 w’s, 5 L’s, 2.32 ERA, 8 CG’s, 4 SHO, 197 H’s in 260 IP, 334 K’s, for a WHIP of 1.03 and 11.6 K’s/9.  All at the young age of 38.  Those are Satchel Paige Numbers if you threw in 9 no hitters, and few good quotes,  “Ain’t no man can avoid being born average, but there ain’t no man got to be common.” -Satch

Satch, best ever?

Satch, best ever?

Number 2

Greg Maddux

4 Cy Youngs, 8 All Star Games, 18 Gold Gloves (just give me one to pawn)

If this was all based on purely statistics, Maddux would probably be a little lower on the list, but as far as pitching goes, Greg was world class.  His Brave’s made a career for Leo Mazzone, who looked like a genius because of him, Smoltzy and Tom Glavine.  Maddux just evolved as he went.  He seemed to know how hitters thought, and always used that against him.  He was the kind of pitcher guys probably saw warm up and got excited then couldn’t understand how they went 0-4 off of him.

3.16 career ERA.  In 1994, he had 16 wins, 1.56 era, and  a WHIP at .896 before the strike.   The next season, 19-2, 1.63 ERA and a nonexistent WHIP of .811.  Mark Lemke and Jeff Blauser probably could’ve left their gloves in the dugout.  He was the best pitcher of the early 90’s and became one of the most consistent pitchers of all time.  He won 15 or more games from 1988 to 2006.  Pretty unbelievable career.

Number 1

Pedro Martinez

3 Cy Youngs, 8 All Star Games

Pedro reminds me of an old school pitcher.  He is almost like the Ken Griffey Jr of pitchers in that he showed us what normal deterioration and aging look like in a non-roided up player.  That says a lot of Randy Johnson, as well who is a freak of nature (an ugly one).

I grew up in the mix in Connecticut.  Its kind of like the baseball Mason-Dixon there.  Yankees and Sox fans get brutal during baseball season because there is no women’s basketball to calm them down.  So when the Yanks-Sox series came on, it got heated.  Pedro was “A #1” douchebag in this period of my life.  He hit everybody on the Yanks, all the time.  He knew he could because he could get anybody out.  So why not drill Jeter in the brain or hit Tino between the numbers?

Speaking of numbers (wow, what a segway), Pedro’s career ERA of 2.91 is 3rd among active pitchers, and has been hurt because of his recent few seasons.  He is first among active pitchers in winning percentage, 3rd all time in k/9 innings, and 6th all time in WHIP (3rd among active behind Hell’s Bells and the Sandman).  Also 3rd among active pitchers in beaning dudes 137 times.

Martinez wanted the ball in big games, and had huge balls in those games.  Too many people will remember Grady Little leaving him in and Hideki Matsui hitting a seed off him, but I think Pedro wouldn’t have it any other way.

Pedro is #1 because he is such a hybrid.  He had the power stuff comparable to a Randy Johnson, about 10 different changeups that Santana will try to live up to, the floaty stuff from time to time that Maddux extended his career with, and the ability to just flat out get guys out that Mo has.

Pedro was, in his prime, the perfect modern pitcher.

I hated this guy for so long.

I hated this guy for so long.

Tiger Undisputed Best Ever…at Firestone.

August 10, 2009

It seems whenever I don’t write a preview and pick Tiger to win, he wins.  So, being a fan of the man, I guess I should only write previews to tournaments he doesn’t participate in.  Or else he may never catch the Golden Bear’s 18 Major milestone.

Tigers Open Championship woes are distant memories now.

Tiger's Open Championship woes are distant memories now.

Tiger showed us yet again, that his better is better than everyone else’s.  He is the only guy on tour that can not be beat if he is playing close to his best.  This was Woods’ 7th victory at Firestone, the most ever by a player at a single course, and really marks his return from injury.  He showed signs of past brilliance in besting Sean O’Hair earlier this season, and at Memorial, but the past few weeks, and especially today’s performance, have really shown the gutty, grinding, dominant Tiger we grew accustomed to.

After his British Open club throwing show people seemed to doubt him, but Woods has since proved there is still a giant discrepancy between the world’s #1 and whoever may be the world’s #2.

This week also marked the return of another Blue Duck favorite in Paddy Harrington, who fell off the face of the earth earlier this season, but (thankfully for Wilson Staff, who live and die by Paddy’s performance, unless Ricky Barnes has another good day) the Irishman came back to form this week.  Harrington was bested as much by a timing official as by Tiger.  And was beaten by the 16th hole, nicknamed “the Monster,” a Monster which Woods slayed with a bomb of an 8 iron from trouble 180 yards away.  Vintage Tiger knocked it inside the leather and tapped in for birdie.  It ended up being a 4 shot swing, and Woods cruised to victory.

I understand the rules, but why be sticklers with the last group on sunday? The officials pulled out their stopwatches as if there was a group of hackers waiting in carts on the sixteenth tee.  Did CBS have to get to 60 minutes?  Does Tim Finchem just like to flex his nuts from time to time?  The timing issues seemed to leave Tiger feeling uneasy and unsatisfied by his victory.  Both players had a blast duking it out for 16 holes and it was a shame it had to end with time being an issue.

Regardless of clocks and all that nonsense, Tiger showed he is the modern king of sport yet again.  And with every victory Woods gets closer to Nicklaus as the all time best.  Tiger’s 70th victory leaves him only three behind Nicklaus (Snead has more I know).  A month ago, a article ranked Tiger a close second to Nicklaus all time.  I can’t say that this victory changes that, but looking at the top 20 you will be quick to notice that Tiger is the only modern player on the list.  Knowing that Nicklaus had to deal with 7 of the rest of the top 20 at some point in his career makes his numbers a bit more impressive.  Tiger did compete against Annika once or twice, though.

Youre like a big f***ing bear man.

"You're like a big f***ing bear, man."

As the article points out, Bobby Jones said of Jack Nicklaus when he first witnessed him play, “he plays a game with which I am not familiar.”  I think the great amateur would have a similar reaction to Mr. Woods, but he might tell him to stop throwing his clubs.