Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Musings from The FedEx Cup Finale

The race for the FedEx Cup is finally over, having culminated in an exciting sudden death finish at THE TOUR Championship at East Lake. I worked the scoring area last week in Atlanta, and as far as work goes, it doesn't get any better for me...ten minutes from my house, a small field and late tee times every day. Compared to the 60+ hours a week I'm used to working, this tournament felt like a vacation!

Congrats to Vijay for not severely injuring himself or botching his scorecard at the Finale. As a result, the Big Fijian collected the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus after cruising around East Lake at 9-over par. Whereas Veej usually doesn't spend an abundance of time scrutinizing his card, last week I made sure we were both excessively thorough in checking his scores. Singh was especially laid-back and friendly in Atlanta...I guess when the pressure's off everyone gets a taste of Vijay's lighter side.

Out of the four guys in the hunt on Sunday afternoon, three (Garcia, Kim and Mickelson) competed in the emotionally draining Ryder Cup the week before. Which player had that week off? Your winner, Camilo "Fresh Legs" Villegas. Several members of the victorious American team admitted to me that their brains were fried, and they couldn't wait to take a break from the game.

I've always known he could flat-out play, but I've become a huge Anthony Kim fan after his Ryder Cup performance and swagger. Other people are adding him to their "new friends" list...after playing together in the third round, Kim and Sergio exchanged cell phone numbers in the scoring area. "I'd better give you my Euro number as well," said Garcia. "I plan on being over there for a while."

Finally, I talked college football with Mickelson and his caddie Bones after play on Saturday afternoon. They were headed over to Athens to take in the Georgia-Alabama game. When I asked Phil what he thought about the Crimson Tide getting seven points, he rolled his eyes. "Absolute tap-in," he offered. The man knows his football.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Ryding High at the Cup

Day One of the 2008 Ryder Cup is in the books, and I must admit how surprised I am about the United States' 5.5 to 2.5 lead. A while ago, I spoke with Paul Azinger immediately after he was selected as team captain, and I asked him if he had any new strategies to motivate the troops.

"These guys don't need a bunch of rah, rah, rah," he told me. "If they aren't excited about winning, there's nothing I can say that will change that. Trust me, they all want to win as badly as the Europeans. I'm just going to stay out of their way and encourage an atmosphere of fun. Oh yeah, and making a few putts is going to help."

So far, mission accomplished. The Americans are high-fiving like crazy, doing dances on the greens, revving up the crowd, staying loose and enjoying the moment...and they are definitely making some putts. Keep it up, boys!

On another note, last week I returned from caddying for my friend Lee Palms at the USGA Mid-Amateur in Milwaukee. Lee played fantastic, but unfortunately our stay in the Badger State was shorter than anticipated. He had a rough three-hole stretch that absolutely demolished his score. Lee hit a couple of poor shots (as everyone does), but also got some horrendous bounces, and the next thing we knew, he had missed the match play cut by one stroke. He was obviously disappointed, but true to his new mindset, he was able to dismiss his bad breaks and focus on the positive: He had played 33 holes at just 2-over par. Lee said he learned a lot from the week, and he's fired up to return to this championship next year at Kiawah. Next on his "to do" list...Win the South Carolina Mid-Am next month.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Jedi Mind-Tricks Triumph Again

Okay, I stand corrected. Maybe Vijay wasn't kidding when he told me last week that "he is the best"! Winning back-to-back FedEx Cup Playoff events is beyond impressive, and his flawless putting has been mind-boggling. Have you heard about Singh's new attitude toward putting? After months (years) of sketchy results on the greens, he recently started convincing himself that he's the "Best Putter in the World". Sounds like a page out of Bob Rotella's Your 15th Club book. The positive self-talk is definitely working for Vijay.

Speaking of Rotella's book, remember my amateur friend Lee Palms who has been on a roll lately, thanks to the concept of self-generated confidence? He tees it up this weekend in Milwaukee for the USGA Mid-Amateur Championship, and I'll be caddying for him. He competed in the U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst last month, and after an opening 76, rallied with a strong 69 to finish tied for 63rd after stroke play. He ended up in a 26-man playoff for the remaining two match play spots. Lee told me he stuck his approach to twelve feet on the first playoff hole, hit his putt right on line, but it just didn't drop (of course that's what he told me...it's all about the inner swagger). He admitted to having a blast, and he's taking it up a notch in Wisconsin. Hello, 2009 Masters! Keep an eye on us via the USGA website.

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