Whiffle: verb – to blow lightly in puffs or gusts; noun – something light or insignificant.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Secretariat Whiffle

I can't wait to see this movie:

I was not quite 10 years old in 1973 when Secretariat captivated the country's imagination. I had no idea, of course, of the historical significance I was witnessing, but how could a not-quite-10-year-old boy who loved sports and animals not be thrilled by seeing a horse win the biggest race of his life by 31 lengths? Secretariat's Triple Crown triumph that year – his amazing Belmont Stakes victory in particular – was one of the most dominating performances in sports history. He remains one of my great sports heroes.
     What could compare -- maybe a 24-year-old golfer winning the U.S. Open by 15 at Pebble Beach?
     By the way, in case you're wondering, the opening lines in the trailer posted above are derived from chapter 39 of the Book of Job, verses 19-25 (I'm just sayin'):
 Do you give the horse his strength
       or clothe his neck with a flowing mane?
 Do you make him leap like a locust,
       striking terror with his proud snorting?
 He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength,
       and charges into the fray.
 He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing;
       he does not shy away from the sword.
 The quiver rattles against his side,
       along with the flashing spear and lance.
 In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground;
       he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.
 At the blast of the trumpet he snorts, 'Aha!'
       He catches the scent of battle from afar,
       the shout of commanders and the battle cry.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Don't Understand ...

... why Steve Stricker is not getting more talk for Player of the Year. For instance, Cameron Moffit, Senior Writer at Golf magazine, writes this today over at golf.com:
A lot of people could make a case for POY with a victory, most notably Barclays winner and FedEx points leader Matt Kuchar; BMW winner Dustin Johnson, who is second in FedEx points; newly minted Hall of Famer Ernie Els and Jim Furyk, who have two Tour victories apiece this season but have been relatively quiet lately.
 No mention of Stricker at all? Really? Yes, yes, I know I'm hopelessly biased. But it's easy to make the case on paper (or in pixels). I agree that if Kuchar or any of the above two-time winners emerges victorious at East Lake in the Tour Championship this weekend, they will likely lay claim to POY honors. But Stricker also has two twins. Granted, one was a second-tier event, the John Deere. But it still counts. And even if you wanted to only call it a "half-victory," adding the Tour Championship would put him at 2.5 wins, best on Tour.
     Much of the talk surrounding Kuchar involves his consistency, as evidenced by all his top-10 finishes. He has 11 in 24 events to lead that category. But Stricker is close behind with 9 – in just 18 events. So Stricker's top-10 "average" is actually a little better: 50% to 45.8% (Stricker played fewer events this year due to a shoulder injury).
     Yes, Kuchar leads the money list, with $4,753,727 to Stricker's $4,062,735 (#4). But again, with 24 events to Stricker's 18. Stricker leads in average money per event with $225,707.50 to Kuchar's $198,071.89. Again, which looks more "consistent" to you? And if Stricker wins (again, my case is all premised on him winning this week) he would certainly jump to #2, and could possibly even pass Kuchar (I think) if he stumbles badly.
     Finally, Kuchar and Stricker are in a virtual dead heat for the Vardon Trophy, which goes to the lowest (adjusted) stroke average. Kuchar sits narrowly on top with a 69.57 average; Stricker is within a grass clipping at 69.58. Whoever beats the other this weekend will almost certainly take the lead in this category.
     (Dustin Johnson probably has the most compelling case after these two, given his two victories, current #2 position on the money list, and two memorable performances in majors. He'd get my vote if Kuchar doesn't win this weekend and no one gets to three victories. And Kuchar I think has a wonderful case for Comeback Player of the Year. In 2007 he finished 115th on the money list. In 2008, 70th. In 2009, 24th. And this year, he currently sits at #1. That's quite a remarkable improvement – perhaps a little too gradual to capture the attention of voters, but I feel it's deserving, nonetheless.)
     There you have it: an iron-clad case for Stricker as the 2010 PGA Tour Player of the Year – IF he wins this week. So why does no one seem to be talking about him in that context? I just don't know. Maybe it's just that no one wants to see him fill the FedEx cup with tears of joy.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


A few hurried, back-handed stabs at items that have caught my attention in the golfing world ...

The Best Swing on Tour. Over at golf.com, Golf magazine's panel of "Top 100 Teachers" have come up with a list of seven of the "best" golf swings on tour, based on different individual components. Who did they decide has the "Best Overall Swing"? You'll never guess. Oh, wait ... you probably already have.

Jack is ... Jack. A really nice, in-depth look at the enduring legacy of Jack Nicklaus by Jaimie Diaz over at golfdigest.com. A brief excerpt:
Nicklaus and Woods have been compared every which way, from driver through putter and beyond, with the sum total long considered almost a wash. But the potential for major life mistakes that seemed moot in two people so driven and organized has suddenly become the most important element of all. Nicklaus' steady conservatism, which on the course might have begun to seem quaint and even limiting in contrast to Woods' bolder style, has become the potential off-the-course difference-maker. As Nicklaus sits in the clubhouse, an early finisher watching the recklessness that has cost Woods the lead, the score Jack posted is looking better.
The Ryder Cup Runneth Over ... with Christians, it seems. A few people have noticed that three of the four captain's picks by Corey Pavin, a born-again Christian, are regulars at the Tour's weekly Bible study – as are a few who earned their way on (not to mention some of Pavin's assistant captains). Is there a holy conspiracy afoot? Probably not, posits Wall Street Journal writer John Paul Newport in his weekly Golf Journal column.

Title Defense – Failed! Last weekend the Whiffler attempted to defend his title at the annual White Lake Classic in Michigan. No blood clots this year, but a lingering hamstring injury – the result of a freak soccer-coaching accident  several weeks ago (it's for the CHILDREN!) – probably helped ... uh, hamstring my efforts to repeat. To prepare (since I hadn't swung a club since the accident), I'd been repeatedly visualizing the 6-iron I hit a few years back to get just inside Steve Stricker's shot at the "beat the pro" par-3 hole at a charity golf outing. (What? I never mentioned that before? Huh. For one brief, shining moment, I bettered the best swing on Tour!)
     Alas, all that visualizing wasn't enough – though I did hit one of the best six-irons of my life, to about five feet, for a birdie on the 18th hole of the warm-up round. The shot helped cap an amazing back-nine comeback by Team Butt Hutt to secure a free dinner that night. Victory never tasted so succulent as the ribeye steak I gorged on by Lake Michigan.
     But congratulations to Mike "Scruffy" "Landfill" "Homer" "Skipper" Neuses (below, with arms crossed) for his impressive victory in the main event the next day.

UPDATE: In response to Chery's comment below, here are Scruffy/Serbo, Zim (the Whiffler), the Glacier, Keith, and Little Tommy.

One more time ...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Stricker On the No-bogey Train

Going into Monday's final round at the Deutsche Bank Championship, defending champ Steve Stricker has gone 72 holes without posting a bogey or worse on his scorecard. This includes 54 holes at the Deutsche Bank and the final round of the Barclay's. The last person to win a PGA tournament without a bogey was Lee Trevino at the 1974 Greater New Orleans Open. (Image: Getty Images via telegraph.co.uk)
     Funny thing is, Steve Stricker isn't leading: he's four strokes off the pace in a tie for fourth, behind leader Jason Day at -17.
     It's tempting to say that Stricker's style of play is too conservative, that's he's not making bogeys, but not making enough birdies, either. But Stricker has shown many times that he's more than capable of going low, especially on a soft course such as the players are seeing at the Deutsche. This is the man who shot 60 at the John Deere this year (to Paul Goydos's 59), and holds the PGA Tour scoring record for 72 holes, at -33 in the 2009 Bob Hope Classic. (Unfortunately for Steve, the Bob Hope is a five-round tournament, and he lost his lead that year in the final round, but the record is still official.)
     Don't be surprised if Steve starts making more putts today and puts some pressure on the leaders. I'd love for Steve to win, of course. But as a fan of "quirky" statistics, I wouldn't be too disappointed if Steve continues is bogey-free streak today but comes up a stroke or two short of victory. Then you could add a "bogey-free runner-up" status to his back-to-back Comeback Player of the Year awards.

UPDATE: Well, there's your jinx. Less than an hour after I posted this, Stricker bogeyed the first hole of the final round – from 124 yards out in the fairway, no less. Hopefully, if he was thinking about it, he's not anymore!