BACK ON TRACK

After unmemorable performances in Abu Dhabi Lee Westwood, the third ranked golfer and 4th ranked Martin Kaymer are looking forward to get their new season back on track with some solid performances at the Qatar Masters event.

They have taken one of the most intriguing courses on the European Tour’s desert swing to do it. The Doha Golf Club is quite popular for its windy conditions and this season it is going to be the same. According to forecasts, wind may reach up to twenty miles per hour.

Lee struggled at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and ended in a tie for seventeenth. A painful shoulder didn’t help and, unable to master the greens, the English golfer was even par after 2 rounds. He began to play much better, including a 4-under 68 in the 3rd round, but by then any thoughts of a title challenge were gone. He ended 7 shots behind Robert Rock, the eventual winner.

Lee said that he had a few issues to come to terms with. He had been working on his fitness recently and he has not played much coming into Abu Dhabi. He did not hole as many putts or find the greens there, and also found it quite difficult to read he told the Tony Valentine – Ping Golf website.

A disappointed Westwood admitted that his performance was a nice one and he was not feeling good about his game, even though he finished last season strongly. In December, he grabbed the Thailand Golf Championship and few weeks earlier, the Nedbank Challenge.

Westwood had a 3rd round score of 62 at Nedbank and unfolded Thailand with 60 which is the lowest of his golfing career and after that a 64 to defeat Charl Schwartzel by 7 strokes.

DONALD SLAMS SLOW PLAY

World No. 1 ranked golfer Luke Donald has stated that slow play is killing the game after watching few players playing at a slow pace in Hyundai Tournament of Champions’ final round. Slow play is the biggest concern in golf at the moment. Each week, players competing for purses and they take care of each shot during a round since a wrong shot may make the difference in their check.

Each year, national golf publication releases a list mentioning slow play offenders on tour. The shame of being marked as a slowpoke has not stopped few players as they still take over a minute to hit a shot.

Current No. 1 Luke Donald decided to post his opinion on the social networking site twitter after Jonathan Byrd and Steve Stricker put on the clock in Hyundai Tournament of Champions’ final round.

Luke went on to tweet, “It’s not that hard, be ready when it’s your turn. Slow play is killing our sport”

Luke even offered a suggestion to solve the problem, but later he realized that his battle against slow play is a doomed cause at this point of time.

“I could rant all day long, don’t think anything will ever change as the slow players don’t realize they are slow” tweeted the World No. 1 golfer.

Well, we may agree with Luke as one of the primary reasons the golfing universe has dwindled, in recent times, is because in part to the time it takes to play a round.

Professional golfers should be a model for amateur golfers. If professionals fail to follow the pace of play rules, then armatures may consider this to be the real norm and that could be the worst scenario anyone expects to see in the sport.

The PGA tour must start imposing stern penalties, for repeat offenders to deal with the problem.

TROON TAKE OVER AT BRANSON

Troon Golf, the leader in upscale golf course management, development and marketing is pleased to announce it has been appointed to manage Payne Stewart Golf Club in Branson, Mo.

Designed by course architect Chuck Smith and PGA professional Bobby Clampett, Payne Stewart Golf Club is a tribute to a golf legend and beloved Missouri native – the late Payne Stewart. Each hole on the golf course is accompanied by a unique story from Stewart’s life and career to celebrate what mattered to him the most – golf, family, good times and great friends.

“Payne Stewart Golf Club is a first-rate facility that is unlike any club in the country,” stated John Easterbrook, executive vice president, operations, Troon Golf. “We are very pleased to be involved and are confident that our management services will be a great complement to the facility’s unique character and renowned golf course.”

They also offer a new handicap tracker in golf service, which allows amatuers to log in to find and improve their hanciaps, and download all the site details so that they can play like the professionals.

Clubhouse amenities at Payne Stewart Golf Club include a sports bar called “Many Faces of Payne,” featuring memorabilia of Stewart’s professional and personal life. A glassed display called the Payne Stewart Museum features items loaned by Stewart’s wife, including five Ryder Cup bags, apparel, shoes, clubs used for significant wins, and other personal items.

IS TIGER’S GAME DEAD?

This week, Tiger Woods may have hit rock bottom. During the second round of the Cadillac Championship, Tiger snapped a duck hook on the second hole that went only about 100 yards. Then, on the 14th hole, Tiger skied his drive barely to the fairway.

Playing partner Graeme McDowell said it was hard not to giggle, but added that we’ve all hit bad shots like that. Yesterday, ex-coach Butch Harmon, Johnny Miller, and Dan Hicks all marveled at never seeing Tiger Woods hit as bad tee shots as that. Harmon added that, if Tiger doesn’t hit it well next week during the relaxed atmosphere of his home course during the inter-club championship at the Tavistock Cup, Tiger may be in some real trouble with his swing.

In the past, and not too long ago, we’ve stuck by Tiger Woods and predicted that he will still beat Jack’s record of 18 majors. Click here for the analysis.

But, after 7 months with new coach Sean Foley, Tiger Woods is still in the middle of what may be a massive swing overhaul. Foley himself said about Hank Haney’s instruction of Tiger: “There was nothing about what he was doing in his previous swing that made any sense to me.” That comment suggests that Foley won’t be building on Hank Haney’s instruction. Foley will likely be tearing down Haney’s instruction and will be rebuilding Tiger’s swing in Foley’s mold.

All of this raises a huge question: can Tiger Woods massively overhaul his swing another time? Nick Faldo, six-time major championship, did it only once, with David Leadbetter, to great success.

Tiger Woods has already done it once, switching from Butch Harmon to Hank Haney–a move that many have questioned over the years. Johnny Miller has been one of the most vocal critics, advocating that Tiger Woods should try to go back to his old swing under Butch.

Last year, the Free Bet website were recommending the same thing (click here for analysis), but now we think it’s too late for that. Phil Mickelson is Butch Harmon’s horse, and we all know that Tiger and Phil are like oil and water together–just look at this week!

PAR 3 MAGIC

Masters Wednesday is famous for the Par 3 Tournament and I’d been told by many people before I came over that it was a fantastic spectacle.

They were right. The course is absolutely superb (and by no means easy) and you’re able to get so close to the players around the tight and insanely fast greens.

I followed Tom Watson, Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter for all nine holes. I was amazed by the precision they showed and the number of times they, and others, genuinely threatened the hole from the tee.

And what a noise when they did. It was my first real taste of the Augusta roars and they truly are spine tingling. I can’t wait for the intensity and volume to be ramped up even further when it really matters over the next four days.

I also ventured into the pro shop today to buy myself some official Masters merchandise. If you can think of it, they put a Masters logo on it and sell it here, but I kept things traditional and bought a red shirt and putter headcover for myself and a green shirt and driver headcover for my father.

But fear not, dear reader, for I did not forget you as I browsed. I also bought another two polo shirts, two baseball caps, two yellow flags and a towel. All of which will be signed by players and available to win right here on the TG website over the coming days.

It all kicks off for real tomorrow and I’ll be on the first tee bright and early to see Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus hit the first tee shots at 7.30am, so I’m off to get some beauty sleep. That’s if the excitement subsides for long enough for me to drift off!

TIME TO FORGIVE TIGER?

The reason Americans love sports is that it’s the one spiritual experience you can have with a beer in your hand. We might be about to hack our way through an hour at golf lessons didsbury but we appreciate how the pros do it. We are a fractured, atomistic, self-regarding culture, but we connect through the shared experience of watching humans do superhuman things.

Usain Bolt demolishing his own 100-meter world record by over a tenth of a second. Federer and Nadal smashing miracles at each other for five hours at Wimbledon. Landon Donovan reviving U. S. soccer in extra time against Algeria.

So, as Tiger Woods approaches Augusta — the errant knight returning to hallowed ground — there is going to be one question on the minds of his followers: Will he be able to redeem himself?

The answer reveals far less about Woods than about us and the strange hypocritical puritanism that is infecting our sports religion.

WILL PHIL TAKE TWO

Last week at Doral, Phil Mickelson experimented again with playing 2 drivers in the bag: a Callaway FT-9 Tour Authentic and a Callaway FT-5 Draw. One driver hits it lower, but not as far; the other, higher. (See David Dudek’s report.) Phil could have used 2 drivers today as he cracked his Callaway driver, but couldn’t get a replacement because the rules official said it wasn’t cracked enough. Watch the video below.

Two drivers in the bag seems one too many. But Mickelson did win the 2006 Masters with the 2-driver strategy. So who are we to question it? Lefty’s mulling using it again next week. We’ll have to see what Phil does next.