Reciprocal Golf Problog by Peter Baumann

ALLENBY AND HOLMES LEAD AT THE PLAYERS

The first round of The Players Championship was interesting Thursday. I have predicted that Phil Mickelson will move into the World's Number One position this week, and that Tiger Woods will not play well. They both shot 70 yesterday, two under par.

Tiger said he was happy with his 70, because he hit it crooked, but scrambled great. Johnny Miller watched Tiger practice before the tournament , and then said Tiger needs a new swing coach, and needs to take some time off!"

Phil was not happy with his 70, because "I wasted too many shots out there today. I hit six iron on two par-5's for my second shot, and only made pars."

But it is a long time until Sunday afternoon.

Both No. 1 and No. 2 are only four shots behind the leaders. In fact, if they cut to the top 60 players and ties after Thursday's first round, which is what the PGA Tour will do on Friday afternoon, Tiger and Phil would just barely make the cut right on the number!

And no one has pulled ahead of the field. All 60 players in the top 60 are only four shots apart. Which means it is anyone's tournament at this point in time.

According to the weatherman, the weather will be the same the first three days, with mild winds blowing in the same direction. Sunday the wind is supposed to turn in the opposite direction. That might make things interesting if it happens, but since when has any weatherman correctly predicted the weather three days in advance?

Calm weather at The Players makes for a dull tee shot at 17, the island green. Perhaps that is good, because a single last second gust of wind on 17 can make or break a round, or can make or break the winner! I think I watched about two hours of golf on Thursday, and I only saw two tee shots go into the lake on 17.

That is compared to two years ago when Sergio Garcia won, including his one and only tee shot in his sudden death playoff with Paul Goydos, which started on 17. A gust of wind caught Goydos' tee shot at 17, and the playoff was over before it began! I wish the Tour would start any sudden death playoff on either 18 or 16 at The Players, so a single gust of wind doesn't determine the champion.

Most tour events start on the 18th for any sudden death playoff, and they should do so at The Players as well.

It will be interesting to see if anyone pulls away from the field in today's (Friday's) round.
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TIGER FAVORED AT THE PLAYERS? WHY?

I was watching the Golf Channel yesterday (Wednesday) morning, and the tournament commentators were discussing the upcoming Players Championship that starts today. They were talking about the tournament entrants, their recent poll of viewers, and who the viewers favored to win. They chose Tiger Woods to win, with odds of 7/1. WHY?

Phil Mickelson is ranked second right now at the Players, with odds of his winning at 8/1. In my opinion, Phil should be favored to win, and not just slightly over Tiger.

If Mickelson wins this week’s tournament, which starts on Thursday, and Woods finishes outside the top five, Mickelson will become the No. 1 golfer in the world rankings, ending a five year reign for Woods.

The odds are a little closer this week than usual, but Woods is still favored to win the tournament this week. I do not understand why that is.

Woods has been given 7/1 odds to win. Other short odds to win are Mickelson (8/1), Jim Furyk (20/1), Ernie Els (22/1), and Rory McIlroy (22/1), who won last week's Quail Hollow Championship by finishing with a 62, and recording a new course record by two strokes!

Woods won this event in 2001 and finished eighth a year ago, but he finished outside the top 20 the previous two times he competed in the tournament. Woods is coming off one of the worst outings he has had as a pro, as he missed the cut in the Quail Hollow Championship.

If it was up to me, I'd give Woods odds of winning this week closer to 25/1. Like I mentioned a few days ago, I don't think Woods is over his problems with the crowds yet. I think he is still worried about his image at this time, and wants to please the crowds after what he did to his wife, Elin, more than he thinks about winning.

Late yesterday the Golf channel commentators were still talking about Tiger's chances this week. After beating around the bush all day, Nick Faldo finally answered the question about Tiger's chances of winning the Players.

"Tiger is going to have problems this week."

I agree.
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Phil to Pass Tiger as No. One!

Last November, before the world learned about Tiger Woods' extra dozen or so women, I predicted that Phil Mickelson would pass Tiger in 2010 as the world's No. One golfer. With Tiger missing the cut at Quail Hollow last Friday, and Phil's second-place finish, Phil is now close to passing Tiger.

This week's Players' Championship at Ponte Vedra Beach may just do the trick. Neither Tiger nor Phil are hitting a lot of fairways off the tee these days. But Phil has the better short game of the two, recovering from bad tee shots better than Tiger.

And as I pointed out last week, Tiger has to overcome his temper, and his concern about what the crowd thinks of him, and his temper, before he will win again.

I'll make the same comment about tempers on tour as I made last week. The PGA Tour has occasionally fined players money for cursing, or for throwing clubs, but that has never had any effect on such behavior. What is $5,000 to a multimillionaire? But tell a player he just incurred a one-stroke penalty for slamming his driver into the ground and watch his reaction!

I have played golf for 48 years, and have taught golf to kids since they were three years old. I tell them there is no room for temper on the golf course. When I consider doing business with someone new, the first thing I do is play 18 holes with them. I'll learn more about their honesty, integrity, or ability to handle adversity (temper) in thirty minutes than I'd learn in five days over a conference table.

I once entertained a golfer from Cincinnati who wanted to be my PROBE GOLF distributor in Ohio, on the Lake Shastina Golf Resort near Mt. Shasta, CA. On the seventh hole he missed a two-foot putt for par, and he threw his putter that clipped my right ear, and flew another fifty feet into the nearby water hazard! One inch closer and he might have killed me.

I told him to fly back to Ohio, that there was no room at PROBE GOLF for him.

For Tiger to get back in the graces of most attendees at this week's Players Championship. Tiger will have to concentrate on his behavior. If his behavior is on his mind, concentrating on each shot will not be on his mind. And that is all it will take for him to finish far behind the ultimate winner.

Congatulations Phil Mickelson, the Number One golfer in the world.

Tomorrow I am going to show you how to buy the best performing golf equipment you can acquire to best support your own, individual golf swing, and at about 50% off what you would pay anywhere else. I hope you catch the conversation.
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Tiger and Phil in the Limelight Again

After Phil Michelson won The Masters this year, Tiger Woods, who finished fourth, complained about how poorly he had played in his first tournament since leaving the PGA Tour last November. When asked when he would play again, Tiger indicated he was going to take some more time off from the tour.

It was speculated that he might not play again until the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in June. But Tiger has evidently reported that he will play in next week's Quail Hollow Championship, where Phil Michelson is supposed to be playing as well.

The world's number one and number two will once again be favored to win at Quail Hollow. Which one has the better chance to win? I believe it will be the player who has the best attitude about himself at the time of the tournament, since we all know that golf is played in a five inch wide area, the space between the ears.

I commented right after The Masters that I witnessed quite a few spectators whose body language indicated they were not in Tiger's corner. Those viewers probably thought Tiger had returned to competition too early, and that he should have taken care of his marital problems first.

The crowds at Quail Hollow will be more spontaneous than the attendees at The Masters, and may show more animosity toward Tiger than did the usually subdued crowds at The Masters.

Remember how poorly Tiger played at last year's Open Championship, when he didn't even make the cut. I commented to my brother at the time that Tiger must have had some problems on his mind during that poor play, possibly women problems that preceded the public learning about all of his women later on in November.

If Tiger has his marriage on his mind in two weeks, Phil may have an edge in the competition between the two. I suggest we all watch Tiger closely, to see if his head is clear, or if he seems still troubled. I assure you it will make a difference in his performance.
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Phil Mickelson in the News Again

PHIL MICKELSON is in the news again, as he should be when the subject is professional golf. He is opening his 2010 season at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, CA, and with Tiger on the sidelines for who knows how long, Phil is the Number One active player in the world.

Unfortunately, who wins at Torrey Pines this week is second to the controversy surrounding Phil's use of a Pre-1990 PING wedge. As we discussed in December, the rules of golf have made a huge change backwards regarding what golf equipment is legal on the PGA Tour in 2010. Golf equipment has been improved upon over the decades, but this year the USGA decided they were going to eliminate the benefit of square grooves, and go back to what was legal almost twenty years ago!

Phil, as well as several other tour players, is using a PING wedge that has square grooves, and it is legal to do so as far as the Tour is concerned due to a lawsuit brought against the PGA Tour by PING back in the 1990s. But several tour players have publicly slandered Phil for using the wedge, most notably Scott McCarron. McCarron publicly accused Phil of cheating! Those are strong words on the PGA Tour, especially when they are directed at Mickelson. He is not only one of the most squeaky clean players on tour, his entire eighteen-year history has been just that; and at a time when the Tour needs its stars after the Tiger Woods fiasco, it does not need its best player referred to as a cheater!

I for one support Phil's decision to play the PING wedge, and support every player who chooses to do so, as long as the Tour states it is legal. If that governing body decides to change that status, then obviously Phil will go along with that decision.

Let me know what you think.
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Steve Stricker moving to No. 1?

Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly won Greg Norman's Shark Shootout on Sunday, closing with a 13-under 59 in the final-round scramble for a one-stroke victory over three teams.

Stricker made an eagle on the par-5 17th - hitting the second shot and the putt - to give the team the lead. Kenny Perry and J.B. Holmes, three strokes ahead of Kelly and Stricker with five holes to play, both missed birdie putts on No. 18 that would have forced a playoff.

You may recall that a month ago I predicted Phil Mickelson would pass Tiger as the best player in the world in 2010. That was before Tiger took himself out of the race due to his marriage problems. I also predicted that Steve Stricker would give Phil a run for his money for the Number One spot. Steve is not only one of the best putters on tour, his short backswing, with minimal twist break make him one of the most consistent players on tour.

Most amateurs make the mistake of taking a long backswing, which causes them to transfer too much weight onto their left foot at the top. This results in a reverse weight shift. Try keeping your right elbow tight to your right side on the backswing. If your right elbow moves away from your right side, you have gone too far back. You may have heard Johnny Miller comment about Stricker's short backswing with very little wrist break. Try it yourself, and you will be a more consistent, and more accurate player.

What other top golfer do you think will contend in for the top spot on tour in 2010?
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Phil Mickselson has the Upper Hand Now!

I came across this article yesterday, and wanted to share it with you. It was written by Jack McCallum:

When it comes to Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson, it's clear who has the upper hand now.

The world's two best golfers stare out at me from two quite different places. Over here, a tabloid newspaper carries an action shot of Tiger Woods splashed next to a photo of — if I'm not mistaken — Bimbo No. 4, though it could be Bimbo No. 2, unless it's Bimbo No. 7. And over here, from a full-page ad in the New Yorker, Phil Mickelson gazes squarely into the camera with a CEO's self-assuredness, arms folded, hair coiffed, left sleeve casually rolled up to display a Rolex. "The People's Champion" reads the ad copy.

Mickelson is indeed that, though it is an encomium I never quite understood. The fact that Lunch Bucket Larry related to Lefty, a multi-millionaire who seemed a little whiny, a little smug and a lot prone to collapse whenever a Tiger prowled nearby, (and even when he didn't), was, as far as I was concerned, one of the mysteries of sport.

What is easy to understand, though, is that — with the exception of the tabloids, the artificially-enhanced, show-me-the-money mistresses and the phalanx of attorneys — no one stands to gain more from Tiger's fall than Lefty, his eternal foil. Indeed, despite Woods's constancy (we're talking about on the course) and Mickelson's roller-coaster inconsistency over the years, they remain 1 and 1-A, the one rivalry that has outlasted Woods v. Els, Woods v. Garcia, Woods v. Harrington and Mickelson v. his own foolish shot selection. Woods v. Mickelson truly mattered, not just because of their primacy as players but also because they were, like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird once were, the archetypes of record. Woods the steely-eyed master of his domain, Mickelson the gambling, smiling, club-twirling man of the people.

As a fan, you were to some extent either a Phil Guy or a Tiger Guy. If you were the former, you liked that Lefty signed more autographs, made more eye contact and was willing to try more high-risk shots than Tiger. In other words, you liked that a human heart apparently beat under that famously un-sculpted chest. But Phil Guys had to accept the limits of their man. Mickelson has had his moments against Tiger — two of them came last season when he overtook Woods for victories at the Tour Championship and the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, a World Golf Championship event — but you knew which one had the eternal edge, which one was Mozart and which was Salieri.

Tiger never let anyone forget it either. Their feelings toward each other have warmed over the years; witness their bonding at the President's Cup. (Witness, too, that they were not paired together.) But the most enduring snapshot of their relationship remains the dagger look that Eldrick flashed Lefty at the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills in Michigan. Mickelson had just deposited his drive at the 18th hole somewhere near the Canadian border, thereby ensuring that their afternoon alternate-shot pairing would be as disastrous as their morning four-ball pairing had been. I knew this guy would choke, Woods's look seemed to say.

To the extent that I was either, I was a Tiger Guy, solely out of respect for his talent because I don't know the man. My resistance to Mickelson was not based on outside observation, though. I understood the guy's-guy part of him. We tossed around a baseball (he pitched, I caught), did card tricks (they were his), rode around at high speed in his rented sports car (he drove), and thankfully we never reached the point where he took me for everything I was worth in high-stakes NFL bets. But what prevailed, as far as I was concerned, was the I'm-smarter-than-you part of Mickelson's personality, the self-satisfied smugness. This was before he had won a major, too, and his air of bravado rang hollow.

My feelings have evolved over the years, though. Say what you want about him, but Lefty has remained Lefty. He has won majors (three of them), just like he said he would. He might have a plastic smile crazy-glued on his face, but, dammit, he signs every post-round autograph and meets every post-round gaze, just like he said he would. He loves his wife and children and makes sacrifices to his golf game to spend time with them, just like he said he would. Contrast that with what Woods said about himself. Make that, with what Woods seemed to be saying about himself.

Clearly, we have reached a new intersection in golf's most fascinating pas de deux. The contrast in their respective images stands in clear relief, the one a serial womanizer starring in a soap-opera domestic tragedy, the other a dedicated family man helping his wife, Amy, and his mother, Mary, fight brave battles against cancer.

Even before all the Tiger Tales came to light, one of the story lines going into the 2010 season was whether this was the year that Lefty could challenge him for the top spot. Maybe it will happen and maybe it won't, but, to a degree, Mickelson doesn't have to reach No. 1 — there were a lot of Phil Guys even when he was looking up at Woods. We're five years removed from their disastrous Ryder Cup in Michigan, and look whose lie is unplayable now.

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Will the New Equipment Rules affect who Becomes the Number One Golfer in 2010?

About a month ago I mentioned the new rules change for golf equipment in 2010. I have also addressed the question of which player, if any, will overtake Tiger Woods as the number one player in the world. Before Tiger defaulted due to the recent marriage problems, I predicted Phil Mickelson would be number one by the end of 2010.

The rules change and who will excel in 2010 are intertwined topics, because hitting the fairway off the tee will be much more important in 2010. In 2009, big hitters could drive it 300 to 350 yards, into the rough, but still hit it close to the pin out of the rough due to square grooves.

If square grooves can't be used in 2010, it is obvious that hitting the ball close to the pin from out of the rough will be more difficult.

Tournament commentators this year have suggested shorter hitters will be moving up in the tour rankings next year, because they hit more fairways off the tee. I have heard Tim Clark's name mentioned as a likely candidate to move closer to the top of the rankings.

How do you think the rules change will effect who will move up in the world rankings next year?
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Phil Mickelson #1?

When I predicted Phil Mickelson would pass Tiger as the #1 golfer in the world next year, I did not know at the time that Tiger would default! So let's forget Tiger for now. Who will challenge Phil in 2010 for the Number One spot?

The PGA Tour currently lists Steve Stricker as the #3 player in the world. I like Steve. I agree with Johnny Miller that Steve's lack of a wrist break on his back swing keeps his swing simple and consistent.

The PGA lists Lee Westwood as currently the #4 player in the world. I do not agree with this assessment! I have never liked Westwood's swing. Too much jerkiness. And he can't putt under pressure.

Padraig Harington is presently #5, and this is a good pick for 2010 in my opinion. Padraig is like a stubborn bulldog who will not let go when he is contending.

Who do you think will move up in the standings in 2010, and be #1 by the end of the year?
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Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson

Will Tiger Woods maintain his #1 standing in the world in 2010, or will Phil Mickelson overtake Tiger next year?

Many sports writers have commented that Phil is becoming more motivated to become the world's Number One golfer at this time, while they feel Tiger is placing more emphasis on his "outside" interests!

Tiger, the world's first sports "billionnaire", has received more and more requests for appearances recently, taking him away from his long, daily practice sessions! He has tried to get more into a 24 hour day than ever before, and it is showing (believe it or not) in his game.

His driving off the tee is nowhere near as consistent as in previous years, when he was winning almost every time he teed it up in a tournament. One week, he will win, or come close, and the next week he won't finish in the top ten!

Tiger's putting also has been inconsistent in 2009, often his excuse for not winning.
Phil Mickelson, on the other hand, has found a new putting stroke in the last month which, if carried over to 2010, could be the difference in how the two finish at the end of 2010!

I know that many golfers will disagree with my assessment, because they have jumped on the Tiger bandwagon, and think Tiger is not human! But look at Phil's newfound motivation to become Number One, and Tiger's increased distractions, and that may make the difference in 2010.
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