Sunday, May 10, 2009

Walker_66x80 Michael Walker Jr., senior editor for GOLF Magazine, covered the final round of the Players Championship.

7 p.m. That's all from the Players Championship. Thanks to Brian Mogg, Jon Tattersall, Dick Friedman, Connell Barrett and NBC's entertaining coverage. See you all at Bethpage.6:58 p.m. Five hours of live-blogging really fries my brain. I thought I just head Dan Hicks sign off, saying "How Swede it is." Ha! That would never happen.6:55 p.m. NBC's Roger Maltbie interviews Tiger Woods. "I kept hitting spinners up to the right," Woods said. "I thought I was doing a pretty goof job of getting it around. But today was frustrating." Woods looked miserable but was gracious with Maltbie and gave complete answers, unlike his "see you, dude" sign-off at the Masters.6:52 p.m. 2008 champ Sergio Garcia hands Henrik Stenson the Players trophy. (I feel I'm missing an apostrophe somewhere.) Still waiting for the Tiger post-game interview.6:47 p.m. The Tour heads to CBS next week so no more Johnny Miller until the U.S. Open. Can't we do something about this? Miller is the John Madden of golf, but we only get him for a handful of events. I'd like to see Johnny do every major and also American Idol. "Kris Allen just totally choked. How can you pick that song at this time? Is he brain-dead?"6:43 p.m. Woods finishes 5-under, in eighth place after a final round 73. Hicks and Miller note that this will be Tiger's 17th consecutive top 10 finish, not counting the Accenture Match Play. I don't think that's going to cheer him up.6:41 p.m. This product placement is out of control. I want to see the Star Trek movie too, but I don't need to hear Spock recount Henrik Stenson's round. Oh, that is Stenson? Never mind.6:36 p.m. As Alex Cejka takes the 18th tee with his 5-shot lead long-gone, Johnny Miller and Dan Hicks wonder if it's better to have led and choked, than to never have led at all.6:32 p.m. No, the United States did not just surrender to Sweden. The Swedish flag is being raised above TPC Sawgrass in honor of champion Henrik Stenson. 6:29 p.m. Stenson makes an easy par on 18 and wins the Players Championship at 12-under with a final round 66. Of course, we still have Goosen, Woods and Cejka on the course. After missing his birdie putt on 17, Woods looks as miserable as I can remember seeing him on a golf course.6:25 p.m. An upbeat Ian Poulter, who finished at 8-under) talks with Jimmy Roberts. Poulter is an official player to watch at the U.S. Open, the British and the PGA. In fact, the Players was a good tournament for Europeans in general, says Top 100 Teacher and English ex-pat Jon Tattersall."Could the European solid showing at The Players be anything to do with the links like conditions at TPC?" Tattersall asks. "Course changes coming next year...PGA Tour can't have an event where Tiger hasn't won it for seven years! (Being a former Englishman I tend to notice things like this!)"6:22 p.m. More caddie conversation between Stenson and caddie Fanny Sunesson in the fairway on 18. They're speaking Swedish so it's more entertaining than the usual player-caddie exchanges. Stenson finds the green, of course, just like on every other hole. Woods sticks his tee shot tight on 17. If NBC is going to kidnap Stenson to allow Tiger to get back in this, they better hurry up.6:20 p.m. Woods misses an eagle putt on No. 16, but makes his birdie and gets to 5-under. He still out there grinding. You'll see Tiger make good swings and bad swings, but you never see him make an indifferent one. 6:16 p.m. They're calling it, "The greatest final round in Players Championship history," which is somewhere between the greatest final round at the Valero Texas Open and the greatest final round at the PGA Championship. Needless to say, I'm not buying the fifth-major argument. I might have enjoyed it more if Johnny Miller was announcing.6:11 p.m. Stenson stalks his par putt on 17 and drains it. This party is over. 6:05 p.m. Cool as can be, Stenson puts his tee shot on the green at 17. The rest of this course should be as easy for the Swede as assembling a white Formica table.6:01 p.m. Stenson walks to the tee on 17 for what is pretty much the championship. 5:58 p.m. Henrik Stenson appears determined to destroy any chance of drama this afternoon. He has an short birdie on 16, which will get him 12-under. Poulter misses what was a must-make birdie putt on 17. Still 8-under. Glad I told my Poulter story when I did. 5:50 p.m. Great tee shot by Poulter on 17 and he's got a chance at birdie. By Poulter's standards, his white shirt and bright purple pants--my girlfriend says they're "lilac"--are practically conservative. I remember watching Poulter at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot on Sunday. He was wearing matching light peach shirt and pants and a fan yelled, "Hey Poulter, it's Father's Day not Mother's Day." Poulter turned to the guy and flipped him the bird.5:43 p.m. Stenson makes birdie on No. 15 and he's now 11-under. Woods makes birdie on No. 14 but at 3-under he's playing for pride now, which for him is considerable. NBC says it's offering the Players Championship with limited commercial
interruption thanks to tournament sponsors. However, limited commerical interruption could also mean NBC couldn't sell as many ads. I see a lot of magazines and newspapers that are offering limited commerical interruption as well these days.5:38 p.m. Left for dead after a 74 on Satruday, Kevin Na makes eagle on 16 and gets to 7-under. Friend of the Blog and Golf Mag Top 100 Teacher Jon Tattersall has a description of 17 worthy of Johnny Miller: "It's a great hole for fans enjoying adult beverages on a hot Sunday afternoon...not for guys trying to keep their lunch down while playing for $1.7 million."5:31 p.m. Poulter makes birdie on No. 15 and gets to 8-under, alone in second place and two shots off the lead. Poulter-Stenson going head-to-head down the finish will be fun, although not as much fun as if they had a dance-off at a Barcelona nightclub.5:26 p.m. Ben Curtis makes par on 17 and is now 5-under and basically out of the tournament. Curtis did create some excitement today with a charge up the leaderboard, which lead to Sports Illustrated's Dick Friedman making the Live Blog's first ever Ben Curtis-related "I Told You So." On Thursday, my
esteemed (a-hem!) live-blogging colleague Jim Gorant subjected me to a
dissing for bringing up Ben Curtis.  In fact, Gorant delighted in
belittling me—in rubbing my nose in the bermuda grass and pine straw!
Where are you, Gorant, now that Big Ben has moved to within two shots?
I can’t hear you!!
5:23 p.m. Our first comment at the 3 hour, 20 minute mark. And, surprisingly for Internet message boards, it's negative. AOD writes:Read Walker's blog at 2.24...he literally gives the title to Woods. That's the problem with all those pin head media types...they salivate over Woods so much that they lose all sense of reality. Sure he's good but he certainly does not come from behind very often (check the records) but all these talking pinheads on TV wish for him to win, hope that he wins, but when he fades not much is said. Let's see a little more balance in the reporting. It's as sickening as Obamamania.Good stuff, AOD. In fairness to Top 100 Teacher Brian Mogg, he did say that if Woods played inconsistently it would hurt Cejka, which turned out to be right on the money. Keep 'em coming. We pinheads can take it.5:19 p.m. There's been a lot of talk about whether No. 17 is a fair hole for a sudden-death playoff. My take: If you are going to have a sudden-death playoff at Sawgrass, you have to do it at 17. Also, the guys had four days to win the tournament, and we've been watching for five hours. It has to end sometime, right? Right?5:13 p.m. Woods misses another birdie putt on 11. Right now, Jimmy Roberts is being fitted with a helmet and body armor in preparation for his post-round interview with Tiger Woods, who will probably be running as hot as he ever gets. The kinder, gentler Tiger Woods will get his first test. Note to Jimmy or whoever at NBC draws the short straw: Don't call Tiger a loser and avoid mentioning Nancy Pelosi.5:08 p.m. Top 100 Teacher and Friend of the Blog Jon Tattersall says that he was impressed with American Matt Kuchar, who shot 68 today to finish at 3-under. Good finish by Kuchar today," Tattersall says. "Last fall he fell into the typical mindset of most 
golfers 'I need to hit it further, I must get stronger.' To his credit he listened to what we told him and spent most of the fall and winter with the physical therapist getting his hips more flexible. Unfortunately for Matt he has a grass allergy which leads to tightness in the upper body...tough duty, allergic to grass when golf is played on grass!"
Stenson makes birdie No. 13 to go to 10-under while Furyk irritates Johnny by making practice swings after his chip on 18. "Don't do that at home," Miller sighs.5:03 p.m. Cejka starts birdie-birdie on the back nine to get to 7-under, while Johnny Miller basically says you can stick a fork in Tiger at 3-under.4:56 p.m. More from Pete Dye groupie Joel Zuckerman on TPC Sawgrass: "The course was conceived by Pete and former PGA Tour commish Dean Beman
to be as democratic as possible---holes bending both left and right,
reachable and unreachable par 5s, short and long par 3s. The idea was to ID the golfer with the total package--not just the bomber,
wedge artist, etc." 4:55 p.m. Jim Furyk just misses a long birdie putt on 17 and makes his par. Stenson still leads at 9-under through 12.4:50 p.m. Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Jon Tattersall weighs in on Johnny Miller's "Are Tiger's biceps too big?" question."Think of golf strength as matching flexibility with a strong core and lower body strength," Tattersall says. "Baseball and ice hockey are good body types for golf.  Arm and wrist strength helps if you lack strength in other areas. Arms like Tiger's come in handy when you find the deep stuff off the tee as often as he does at the moment!"4:45 p.m. They say the Masters doesn't begin until the back nine on Sunday. Well, the Players doesn't begin until the first player on the leaderboard gets to No. 17. Jim Furyk gets this tournament started by hitting his tee shot on 17 to the center of the green. Based on Furyk's mumbled conversation on the tee with caddie Fluff Coward, I don't think microphones on the caddies is going to make for great television, unless you like grunting and yardage books.4:40 p.m. Jim Furyk has a 60-foot putt for eagle on 16 and leaves it short but makes birdie to get to 6-under. Jim told me how he hits super-long putts for a Golf Magazine story last year:The first thing you should do is walk the length of your putt, noting
with your feet any change in slope. Pay special attention to the second
half of the putt because as the ball loses speed it will be more
affected by slope. Once you have a feel for the pace, walk back to the
ball, take your stance and make the same motion you'd use for a short
putt. Obviously, your stroke should be longer, but it shouldn't be
faster. Since it's easier to hit the ball thin with a longer stroke
(causing it to bounce instead of roll), position the ball one inch
farther back in your stance than normal so you can catch it on your
downstroke.
4:35 p.m. OK, you want bribes? You got bribes. I've got a sweet Golf Magazine shirt for the best "separated at birth" submitted between now and Johnny Miller's final "choking" accusation. Only rule: The player had to play in this year's Players Championship. Here's one to get you started from fellow blogger Connell Barrett.Heritage_hat_crane Ben CranePowder Misunderstood outcast Powder (from the movie)4:27 p.m. NBC has just recapped Woods's and Cejka's front nine. Jeez, it was hard enough to watch it the first time.4:25 p.m. Woods gets his par at No. 9 and Kevin Na is back in the mix at 5-under. BTW, I'm not buying the kinder, gentler Tiger Woods with a smile and an autograph for everyone. I think Tiger does the best he can in dealing with the public under what must be impossible circumstances, but he's turning on the charm this week to make up for his general nastiness at Augusta. He's got to protect the brand.4:20 p.m. Ben Mallinger still malingering around the leaderboard at 5-under. (Sorry.) Tiger rolled off the green on No. 9 and will have to get up-and-down for par. Johnny says he's hitting it better though.4:14 p.m. Woody Austin (6-under), Brian Davis (6-under), Ben Curtis (6-under) and Jim Furyk (5-under) are now back in the mix. Furyk lives here and knows this course as well as anybody. Of course, no one knows the driving range here better than Vijay Singh.4:09 p.m. NBC says it's offering the Players Championship with limited commercial
interruption thanks to tournament sponsors. However, limited commerical interruption could also mean NBC couldn't sell as many ads. I see a lot of magazine and newspapers that are offering limited commerical interruption as well these days.Ceijka bogeys No. 8 and Tiger makes par after a sweet bunker shot that didn't just float out on a cushion of sand but was sipping a margarita as well. Tiger is now 4-under, four off the lead.4:06 p.m. Take me to your leader. Stenson birdies No. 9 and is alone at 8-under. It feels like it's time for Stenson to win a big tournament, but I don't think we'd saying that if Woods was in the final group.4:05 p.m. I bet Alex Cejka could give Tiger a match arm-wrestling. In golf today, Cejka holds the edge. Woods is 4-under after a bogey on 7 and is in the bunker on 8. 4:00 p.m. Goosen, a par-3 master, leaves his second shot in the bunker on No. 8. The long par 3 has not been popular with players this week. Here's Henrik Stenson talking about it on Friday:"I played
a 5-wood today, and I played with J.B. Holmes. When he's hitting a
rescue on a par-3 you know it's a couple of yards too far for -- I
mean, just in general, everybody can see how difficult and tricky a
hole like 17 can be, so I think we just want to have more par-3s which
is between 5- and 7-iron or something like that, and some tricky
bunkers and hazards if need be. It's kind of boring with these 240-yard
par-3s. Pars and bogeys aren't too exciting for anybody."Stenson, Poulter and Crane will be your co-leaders after Goosen finishes this hole.3:55 p.m. The leaderboard's getting bunched enough where we can start imagining a 17th hole playoff. Even Paul Goydos, who lost to Sergio by putting one in the water there last year, thinks it's a fantastic finish."If I were pick one
hole to play in a playoff, I'd pick 17," Goydos said. "That's a hole in my opinion
that's the epitome of sudden death; and two, there's no advantage to
any one player. All TOUR players pretty much are standing on that tee
equal." 3:50 p.m. Ben Crane drops a shot on 8--now Goosen, Crane and Stenson are all tied for the lead at 7-under, which means Woods is just two shots back.3:45 p.m. NBC gives us a wide-angle shot of the blue-dyed lagoon surrounding the 17th hole. Myrtle Beach miniature golf courses look more natural.3:41 p.m. Who's put forth a more ho-hum performance today: Tiger Woods or Johnny Miller? Nothing remarkable so far out of either one. If this was a real major, we'd see more of their A-games.3:39 p.m. Swede Henrik Stenson birdies 7 and is just one shot off the lead. No word on whether Stenson is taking over from Jesper Parnevik in introducing Tour players to Swedish nannies, a.k.a. eHarmony for professional golfers.3:33 p.m. Cool story about Pete Dye's TPC Sawgrass course from Joel Zuckerman, author of Pete Dye Golf Courses: Fifty Years of Visionary Designs, available at petedyebook.com: The Tour bought the 400+ acres for a buck....and some wiseguys thought
they STILL overpaid, the land was so swampy, full of snakes, wild
boars, etc.  Just draining the acreage was a feat..never mind
conceiving and building such a wonderful golf course.
3:30 p.m. Another bogey for Cejka and NBC dumps all its footage of his childhood escape from the Iron Curtain in case he falls off the leaderboard completely.3:23 p.m. Sports Illustrated's Dick Friedman, longtime Friend of the Blog, emails, "Point taken on
Angel’s power...but it’s also worth saying that, unlike Tiger and
others, Cabrera got his strength the old-fashioned way: by being a
carnivore. No fitness trailers or personal trainers for this hombre."
3:21 p.m. Jimmy Roberts sits in front of the palatial clubhouse at the TPC Sawgrass, which was constructed in less than a year, to discuss the PGA Tour's impressive charity efforts. Definitely a case of doing good by doing well.3:16 p.m. Woods misses a birdie putt on No. 4; Cejka makes double and is tied with Crane for the lead. 3:13 p.m. Tiger gives himself a chance on birdie on No. 4 where Cejka has a long putt for bogey. This 5-stroke lead could be gone in five minutes. Somewhere, Greg Norman is nodding in sympathy.3:09 p.m. Ben Crane is now 8-under through No. 5, two shots of the lead. Could be even closer now that Cejka hit a fairway bunker shot into the water on No. 4, earning a "What was he thinking?!?!" from Johnny Miller.3:08 p.m. Boo Weekley withdraws on No. 10 with a sore shoulder. He was 8-over for the tournament. If you're looking to find out more about our leader, Golf Magazine writer and Friend of the Blog Cameron Morfit filed an entertaining piece on Cejka's classically named caddie Ton Janus.It was the beginning of a five-year relationship that's been
up-and-down even by caddie standards. Janus, who lives in Jacksonville,
is such a good caddie Cejka has hired him three times.
"He and
Alex and have been like Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner," said Ron
Levin, one of Janus's friends on Tour. Rumor in the caddie shack is
that the last time Cejka and Janus split it was over a bet.
"We
always worked good together," said Janus, who would not confirm the bet
story. "We just always got in fights. Both [break-ups] were mutual.
We're a couple of hotheads. He's mellowed."
3:04 p.m. Woods and Cejka both make pars on No. 3. Stewart Cink didn't make the cut this week but he's sent an update from the beach on Twitter:I'm leading the field today in waves body surfed and boogie boarded. Anybody know the purse?Later today, Stewart is going to try to solve Rubik's Cube and then check in on his Pet Rock.2:59 p.m. I'm not saying Ian Poulter (6-under through 4) is a headcase but he did blame the scoreboard for missing a shot earlier this week.Q. I watched you on 9. What happened there? IAN POULTER:
You know, these great scoreboards are good at times and they're bad at
others. Before I'm even playing my shot, before I've even pulled a club
out of the bag, a little statistic flashed up on the screen, and I
don't like some of these stats because they're wrong, they're
definitely, definitely wrong.

Q. Distance from the hole? IAN POULTER: It said "Ian Poulter
from within 90 yards of the hole, I'm 184th on the rankings, and my
average is 27.4 feet." So consequently, you know, I get distracted with
what I'm reading on a board and I don't commit to the shot I should be
committing to, and I hit a bad shot.
Those screens are great, but at times I just wish they weren't there.
But that's my fault. I probably shouldn't have read it, and I probably
shouldn't have taken much notice of it, really, to be honest. But
that's frustrating. Par-5s like that where I'm 82 yards out, easy pin
location, want to be making 4 and make 6. I feel like I've given two
shots away there.2:55 p.m. Cejka pars No. 2; Woods bogeys. But it's a nice putt by Tiger that just misses. Hmmmm. 2:52 p.m. Johnny Miller wonders if Tiger's biceps are too big for golf. The old
saying was "A golfer shouldn't lift anything heavier than a martini." However, Angel Cabrera's two recent majors are proof to me that strength in golf is more important than ever. Cabrera is as powerful as a circus strongman.2:50 p.m. Phil Mickelson walks off No. 18 at plus-3 for the tournament. For all the flack he's taken for his Euro-cut clothes, Phil looks pretty cool in a brown shirt and tan pants. I'm just glad he stopped wearing those shirts that excited his nipples. 2:44 p.m. False alarm. Woods finds his ball in the pine needles, but he hits his second shot in the water. Johnny Miller: "He could hit 100 balls on the range and not hit two as bad as those last two shots."2:42 p.m. Tiger sends his tee shot on No. 2 deep into the trees. He may need Google Earth to find that.2:39 p.m. Woods makes par and Cejka barely misses a long par save and makes bogey. Meanwhile, Poulter mis-hits a wedge on No. 3 and looks as angry as a man in hot lavender pants can look. 2:36 p.m. Crane starts birdie-birdie and gets to 8-under, while Goosen misses short birdie putt on No. 1. Top 100 Teacher Brian Mogg has another scenario to consider if Woods doesn't win today."Second, there are so many good players at 6 under that
likely the winner comes from that group as they will be ahead of Tiger
and not have to deal with being paired together and having watch him
showcase his special skills" Mogg says. "Also, Tiger's tee to green game is still
enough inconsistent that he may end up being a distraction for Alex and
lay the foundation for one of the guys at 6 under to shoot a 68 or 69
and post 9 or 10 under and claim the victory."
2:32 p.m. Mickelson hits it into the water on No. 17. Disappointing week for Phil, who'll be lucky to finish at even par. Strange story from the first round: A heckler was ejecting for yelling "Way to go, Figjam" at Phil. The acronym, which stands for "F--- I'm good just ask me," is rumored to be a nickname for Phil among Tour players. I am calling BS on that. What kind of an insult needs a footnote to explain it? Also, the phrase would probably fit half the guys on Tour.2:27 p.m. Final-pair opening tee shots: Woods bombs it down the center of the fairway while Cejka goes right into the gallery. 2:26 p.m. Goosen puts it close on No. 1 as well. This hole plays harder on Tiger Woods' PGA Tour video game.2:24 p.m. Cool-looking Alex Cejka chats with Jimmy Roberts. Here's what Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Brian Mogg expects to see from the final pairing of Cejka and Woods:"The big story here is that Tiger got into the final
pairing with Alex," Mogg says. "Just like at Bay Hill with O'Hair, Tiger should win
as the energy and dynamic will change quickly as he begins to shrink
the lead.  Tiger knows how to use his presence and create this to make
his opponent try harder than he should.  Two predictions, Alex will
start off slow with an early bogey or two while Tiger will make a
birdie. O
nce the lead gets down to 2 or 3 shots, it will be over
as Tiger will keep pushing and Alex will overtry and begin to go
backwards. "
2:20 p.m. NBC's first shot of the island green on No. 17 as Ernie Els (even) knocks it close. Birdie by Pouler on No. 1 takes him to 7-under as well. Here's what Goosen expects of the heat-scorched course: Q. What are your expectations for how the course is going to play tomorrow? RETIEF GOOSEN: A bit like that cart path (laughter). So we'll practice our chipping on a cart path tonight. 2:18 p.m. Ben Crane birdies No. 1 and goes to 7-under. Crane's a notorious slow-player and if he's up to his old tricks today, NBC analyst Johnny Miller's head might explode.2:15 p.m. Looks like a great day at TPC Sawgrass as NBC cameras pan the course. I was there earlier in the week, although today I'm blogging from my New York apartment, which is only a few blocks from The Players media parking lot. Keep in mind that it's sweltering there. Indian player Jeev Milka Singh was reminded of tropical stops on the Asian Tour."I think when we play the Malaysian Open it's this humid, but
Malaysian Open would be another five, six degrees hotter and more humi," Singh said. 2:05 p.m. It's funny how NBC's Jimmy Roberts says that John Daly is serving a six-month
suspension from the PGA Tour, when the Tour has yet to publicly say
when the suspension started. The only reason we know about it at all is
that Daly said something. The PGA Tour is a very weird organization. 2 p.m. Welcome back to Golf.com's Players Championship Live Blog. I've been
warming up for the past 15 minutes by typing "Cejka" over and over again. Five strokes
behind surprise 11-under leader Alez Cejka--who's not even included in
my official program--are big names like Tiger Woods, Ian Poulter,
Henrik Stenson and Retief Goosen. Should be a fun afternoon.

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