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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Oh Tiger, Where Far Art Thou?

O Tiger, Where Art Thou?

So close, yet so far, seems to be Tiger Woods' motto these days as the golf legend continues to see-saw between success and disappointment on the course.

I suppose it's no fault of Tiger's that people overreacted to his U.S. Open lead after 36 holes. Since when should a halftime lead ever be presumed safe, in any sport? While perhaps tickled with a minor sense of excitement, Tiger knows that Saturday is just the beginning, especially in a Major.

On the other hand, tied for the lead going into the third round at Olympic wasn't a shock either as Woods won the Memorial Tournament heading into the U.S. Open, enhancing his resume with top five finishes in five tournaments played this year.

Just when you think El Tigre has all of the pieces in order for a 15th Major victory, the puzzle falls apart and ends up in a scattered pile on the scorecard. What we witnessed with Tiger's Memorial victory and subsequent U.S. Open misfortune mirrored that of his Arnold Palmer win and Masters meltdown.

Tiger can easily go from unbelievable tee shots and back-to-back birdies to literally scaring the birds in the sky with ugly swings before landing in the trees and taking out their nests. Let's not even discuss his putting issues.

Every golfer experiences days, rounds and even entire tournaments plagued by inconsistent play, but we still can't come to grips with the fact that Woods is now just like "ever golfer," something he never was before.

People love to champion the underdog while hating winners, and now Tiger somehow fits both bills. He's the Yankees and the Mets at the same time.

Love him or hate him, golf is not the same without Tiger in contention. Period. His presence alone creates a unique drama that no other golfer can generate.

The good news for the sport is that Tiger is finally back on his game, as much as any golfer can be after more than three years of professional misery. Rome wasn't built in a day and athletes don't exactly become winners overnight (well, aside from Jeremy Lin). It has taken a long time for Tiger to rebuild his physical game and more importantly, his mental fortitude. He has the tangible tools to win more majors, but his mind seems unable to sustain the top-notch physicality and focus the way it used to, pre-personal life collapse.

Tiger will win another major and he'll do it soon. It might take the rest of this season, getting a few more PGA Tour wins under his belt, before winning a Major next season. That seems like more of a natural progression than winning a Major this year.

Will he ever be the Tiger of old? No, primarily because he lost too many critical years of his professional youth and at age 36, he is now bordering on "old." But Woods has too much talent not to find enough of his former self to win a few more Majors.
View the Final US Open Leaderboard Here.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

“Elimination Saturday”, let the scenarios begin

We can finally begin to reduce the scenario analysis starting today as the “elimination games” begin with group A, which may be the simplest group can certainly get complicated if Russia loses to Greece, which would only be the biggest upset since the Greeks beat Portugal, in Portugal, to win the whole thing in 2004, so it’s still on the table. If that were to happen and the CR lost to host Poland then the Host Nation Poland would actually go in as the group winner, Russia second, and the Czech Republic and Greece out. However back on Earth, you gotta’ figure Russia takes care of business for at least a draw and wins the group with 5 points but then things can get a little crazy. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Poland beats the Czech Republic and jumps over the current 2nd place side, as the host nation has been known to pull those types of heroics in the past. So back to step 1, this is the simplest group because they are all ‘win and you’re in’ scenarios, as opposed to the others which we’ll visit next where if ties occur you’ll see tie-breakers that go 2, 3, and even 4 deep.

Now when we get into the “Group of Death” things get a little more complicated but still we can see the forest through the trees. If Germany wins or ties they’re in, but if they lose and Portugal and Denmark win then you go so far into tie-breakers that you’ll need an MIT grad to sort it out. Portugal needs to win vs. the Dutch and have Germany win or draw, which could/should happen as the Dutch are going to need to be very aggressive in their match making them very susceptible to the counter attack as we will soon see. Denmark, simple on paper, beat the Germans and you’re in. However not so simple on the pitch. Lastly, the Dutch. Beat Portugal by 2 goals and have Germany win. There are so many moving parts in this scenario that if I were a betting man I would have to say for being one of the early favorites the Dutch will have a very disappointing Euro as they will go home early.

In any case get a deep breath because if you enjoy tournament soccer, this is your weekend.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Is the table set for Tiger to make a Major comeback?

We saw the patented Tiger uppercut and fist pump for the first time since he wore his driver on his head a few years ago and now pundits wonder if the striped one is back. Captain Jack said it was the best shot he’s ever seen on his course because of the consequences that would have accompanied failure and that may the shot that marks his return. It will certainly be a historic focal point if that proves to be the case but the real test will be if Tiger can take another step to catch up to Jack on the only stage that matters, the Major stage, and this weekend may be one of the better opportunities to do it IF he brings his ‘A’ game, and his driver. Olympic sets up to be one of the longest courses in PGA history which should suit Tiger’s game just fine. The first six holes go 520, 428, 247 (par 3), 438, 498, and 489 respectively and they are all Par 4s except for one. Add the Boardwalk and Parkplace, back-to-back par-5s at 16 (670 yards the longest in PGA history) and 17, and you’ve got a course that should be Taylor Made (no pun intended) for Tiger seriously start seeing red, numbers that is. Conversely if the Tiger of the past two years shows up and starts hookin’ and a shankin’ then it could be a very long weekend and sadly speak he may even be home in time to catch the end of the Group stage of the World Cup as he won’t make the cut. However I would think that playing so close to his old stomping grounds at Stanford, in good No Cal weather, and a very long course we may see make his first Major move in years and Jack may turn out to be a prophet.View the Complete US Open Leaderboard Here.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Euro 2012 Will the real Group of Death please stand up?

Who is the side to beat in the Euro 2012 competition? Well it depends on who you ask. There are dangerous sides in every group, in fact every group could make a case for the “Group of Death”. Here’s our group by group breakdown and the top 3 sides in each.
Group A – (Poland )Any time you have the host nation in the group you’ve got a problem so what would normally be a tough match on its own becomes one where any result is a considered a victory. (Czech Republic) Based on their performance in the last World Cup they would be one of the sides to beat but they have limped into the tournament after a bad loss to Hungary and may be without Mila Baros for the first and maybe two matches but the return of Tomas Rosicky just in time for the big match with Russia should be enough to push them through. (Russia) A powerhouse that has the experience and comes into the cup playing extremely well coming off a 3-0 drubbing of Italy but do they have the legs to go deep in the tournament? Any of these three can win the group and also be sent home early, oddly, if Greece can pull of an upset in any match that could be the difference. Our Pick: Czech Republic

Group B – Our Pick for the true “Group Of Death” as not only are any the three top sides in this group capable of winning the group whomever comes out of it should be the fav to win the whole thing. (Netherlands) already at 6-1 to win the tournament will be led by RVP the EPL’s leading scorer, and he’ll be flanked by Robben and Sneijder presenting one of the best fronts in the world. (Germany) The consensus pick to win the whole thing, should have the services of Klose and Schweinsteiger to make their roster complete. The matches they face in the group stage may be toughest test they get if they get out of it. (Portugal) Anytime you have Ronoldo you’ve gotta a chance to score and one goal in these games could make all of the difference. Not on the radar as they once were, age promises to factor in but probably won’t catch up with them until the latter stages of the tournament. In other words for the group stage they will be fit and ready. Odd man out…Denmark. Our Pick: Germany

Group C – A very close second to the most competitive group starting off with the defending champion (Spain) who will try to repeat the feat of 08. They will have the services of Cesc Fabregas but not Alvaro Arbeloa who is out at least for the first match with back problems. Their litmus test will come early as they take on Italy in the first game. Speaking of (Italy) they may not be the powerhouse we have seen in previous years but they can still do some damage and we look for them to be one of the two that come out of the group but it need be the side that plays in unison rather than the club team that played so poorly against Russia recently. (Croatia) the side no one wanted to play in the last World Cup needs to bring that kind of intimidation and steal a game early if they are going to rise to the top. Our Pick: Spain Odd man out: Ireland

Group D – Historically this could be a group where every match ended in a draw and tie-breaks decided who move on, but England is in shambles to the combination of suspensions, injuries, and family tragedies, and who knows if the French are due for another meltdown and players going home for other reasons. Because of that we like the host (Ukraine) to make some serious waves and if they pick up a win early it could lead to momentum that could cause an upset not seen since the Greek miracle of 04’. (Sweeden) quietly goes about their business as usual but may run into a buzzsaw in the first match as they take on the host and if it is more than a goal difference it could be costly. (France) well, it was a coin toss between they and the English mash unit, and at the fact that they may be looking to make a statement to make up for their last international appearance which may be just enough extra motivation to push them over the hump. Our Pick: France. Odd man out England.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Jack welcomes Tiger to the Table

As the gracious host of the Memorial Jack Nicklaus must have been thinking he would be dining alone again this evening as at the start of the final round Tiger Woods was four shots back. Now four years ago that was nothin’ but a thang and you be in front of the TV with plenty of beverages ready for an exciting Sunday, but the animal that used to lurk in the tall weeds on weekends was rumored to be extinct. On Sunday not only was there a sighting but an attack as with the exception of a bad second shot on the 10th hole for his second bogey of the round, the big cat sunk seven birds en route to a 5 under 67 to not only make up the deficit but win the tournament by two strokes. With the win Tiger ties Jack for the most PGA wins of all time (73) which culminated with quite the moment as Jack was there to present the trophy and graciously welcome Tiger to a very exclusive club.

So with the Open coming up in two weeks the question remains what Tiger Woods will show up? Similar to the Facebook IPO which has failed to live up to expectations out of the gate but continues to keep the hopes of many that the shooting star still exist as once again Tiger is the favorite ( 5/1) to take the open at the Olympic Club in Frisco just outside of Tiger’s old stomping ground from his college days at Stanford. The Tiger on the prowl on Sunday was the cold blooded killer of old that you knew it things got tight his zen upstairs would keep him sub zero while the other wilted under the mid-day sun, but he has been about as consistent as warm weather in winter over the past few months. That said, for the kudos Rory Sabbatini got for calling Tiger out over the past couple of years he lost a ton of street cred after dropping his one-stroke lead after sinking two consecutive birds on 11 and 12, and watched as TW birdied 3 of the final 4 holes en route to dinner with Jack.

So with the appetizer behind him Tiger Moves on to the main course in No Cal and we’ll know after the first two days if he’s truly back or if we should sell into strength. I’ll tell you this however, if we have seen the return of the bad man, we’ll remember that chip on 16 as the moment he rode back into town.

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