Monday, 30 June 2014

2014 - Week 27 Predictions/Statistics Online

The predictions and statistics for this week, the Alstom Open de France (European PGA Tour) and the Greenbrier Classic (US PGA Tour), are now available on Golf Predictor. There aren't many big names playing on either side of the pond this week. Unlike the last few years, no big name American* is making the trip to Paris and there aren't that many teeing it up in West Virginia either! With most of the big guns taking the week off in the run off to the Open Championship, it offers a great chance for a lesser light to land a confidence boosting title ahead of the next major.

*There is a big American playing though - Kevin Stadler!!!

2014 - Week 26 Winners

Fabrizio Zanotti (ranked 2nd by Golf Predictor) won the BMW International Open on the European PGA Tour. The 31 year old Paraguayan won his his first tour title in a four man play-off. After seeing off Rafa Cabrera Bello and Gregory Havret, Zanotti prevailed on the fifth extra hole when Henrik Stenson went into the water. In doing so, he became the first Paraguayan to win on the European tour. Local hero Kaymer disappointed on his triumphant return to home soil by missing the cut. Stenson was our top ranked player and we had ten of the top twelve plus ties (10/21) in total

Justin Rose (ranked 4th by Golf Predictor) won the Quicken Loans National on the US PGA Tour. The 33 year old Englishman overcame going into the water on the last to win on the first play-off hole when Shawn Stefani did likewise. Our top ranked player, Jason Day, disappointingly missed the cut and finished in tied 76th. Likewise, a rusty Tiger Woods also failed to make the weekend on his sooner than anticipated return to action at the event that benefits his foundation. Overall, we had nine of the top nineteen plus ties (9/20) in total.  

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Adventures at the 2014 Irish Open

I managed to wrangle a volunteering gig at the recent Irish Open golf championship at Fota Island in County Cork. Even as I arrived at the appointed (early!) hour at the southern venue on Thursday, I still did not know what exactly I would be doing. I had a vague idea that I would be ferrying TV crew around the course in a buggy. The fact that I had never seen the course or driven a golf buggy before made me more than slightly apprehensive as we (my friend and I!) waited anxiously for our assignments.

The TV Compound bear the 10th where we waited for our assignment
After a longish wait, during which time we interrogated the regulars for information, I was eventually assigned to RF2, the designation for the second mobile camera crew. My camera man and his antenna guy picked me up in the buggy and along with the sound guy, all four of us made our way down the steep dusty track from the TV compound to the course. Much to my surprise, about two minutes later, I found myself sharing a fairway with Ross Fisher, Matteo Manassero and Darren Clarke, right in the thick of the action! I couldn't believe it at first, but my disbelief soon turned to anxiousness as I had visions of mowing them down in a runaway buggy! Luckily, it was easy to drive and I got the hang of it straight away. Knowing where to park the buggy and when to move it wasn't as easy, but fortunately my Aussie camera man Mark was very nice and patient while showing me the ropes!

My trusty steed with tripod on the front
All four of us on the buggy and distinct jobs: Mark got the shot and the antenna guy was tethered to him holding the rather heavy device for transmitting the pictures back to mission control. The sound guy's job was to stand in the correct place to capture the sound of the strike, the player/caddy chat and crowd reaction. My main job was to drive the buggy after the camera man jumps out for the shot. He drove the buggy most of the time (to my relief at the start!), but I took over when he was at work on the fairway and around the green. Once finished and when the fixed camera were no longer on the golfer, I picked up the crew and the camera man again took over driving duties. Once we reached the green, I generally moved the buggy to the side of the next tee before the huge crowd that moved with the groups I covered got in position around that tee.

I would then do another big part of my job - looking after the fairly heavy tripod which was generally used for tee shots and around the green. Before leaving the previous green for the next tee, I would usually drop off the tripod and then run back to collect it once I had parked the buggy and the golfers had finished the hole. Sometimes this involved a long run in hot humid conditions (unusually for Ireland!) through a large crowd and the return journey to the next tee carrying the aforementioned tripod. The last part of my job was to look after the batteries for the camera and the antenna. Both used the same large lithium ion batteries which lasted for about an hour and there was a stash of them in the buggy. When given the nod by the camera man or the antenna guy, I'd have to supply them with fresh batteries and  keep the spent ones separate.

Generally, we followed the same group until they finished, but there was a fair bit of jumping around the course on Thursday and Friday to wherever a golfer was doing well. We did this in two sessions that roughly matched the Sky coverage (9.40am-1pm, 2.20pm-6pm). In between, we got a free packed lunch, which we consumed by the par five tenth fairway while watching the action. After the cut on Friday, the task was easier, where we just followed the same two ball from the first hole to the last in one roughly four an a half hour session. After filming Fisher & co. for a hole, we moved on to Paul Lawrie, Matthew Fitzpatrick (on his pro début) and Tommy Fleetwood. After a while with that group, we also covered Romain Wattel, Edoardo Molinari and Gaganjeet Bhullar in the morning. On Thursday afternoon, we covered Paul McGinley, Branden Grace and Pablo Larrazabal before moving on to Robert Karlsson, Mikael Lundberg and Peter Lawrie.

On Friday, I got the marque groups (especially for an Irishman!): GMac, Shane Lowry and Paul Casey in the morning and Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington and Stephen Gallacher in the afternoon. We also spent some time with Simon Khan, Stephen Dodd and Jbe Krugar. Over the weekend, I got GMac both days with the associated huge home support. He was partnered with Wattel on Saturday and Fabrizio Zanotti on Sunday. This made my job pretty difficult while my jammy friend was on RF1, which was on the leading group with a much smaller following! However, I must have done something right because the camera man complimented me on my work on Saturday evening, which led me to assume I was crap on Thursday and Friday! Some observations from the four days:

  1.  Most of the golfers are smaller in real life than they appear to be on TV! Even Robert Karlsson isn't 6'5" as advertised (unless I have grown a few inches recently, unknown to myself!).
  2. They all hit the ball a prodigious distance off the tee and their ball flight with irons also has to be seen to be believed.
  3. They all can putt pretty well also. Once on the dance floor, I rarely saw a three putt. Mind you, I was so busy moving the buggy, I missed a lot of the putting, especially over the weekend!
  4. The area of the game where a lot of them need work is chipping and pitching. I saw a fair few of these that I wouldn't be happy with myself!
  5. Most of the golfers are good with the crowd, kids, marshals, volunteers, TV crew etc. Some however, are not. McIlroy is very standoffish and Casey is renowned for being a jerk on the course (I can personally vouch for that, having seen/heard him in action!). I heard Anders Hansen was very nice and shook hands with everyone working on his group. I saw GMac giving a ball to a kid and high fiving loads of people on the way to the next tee.
  6. I experienced a lot of "third party adoration"! Walking from green to tee either directly in front or behind McIlroy, GMac and Harrington and coming down the eighteenth on Sunday with GMac in particular was amazing. It has to turn their head in some way! Some people were so obsessed with celebrity, they even wanted to high five me!
  7. I witnessed a "full and frank" discussion between GMac and a rules official coming down the last on Sunday. Apparently, his group were put on the clock and suffice it to say that GMac wasn't happy about it!
  8. The marshals varied from completely useless to fanatical about the modicum of power that they had finally managed to acquire! At one stage, I was almost manhandled off the course by some over zealous marshals (despite wearing pretty obvious credentials, as shown below)!
Over the course of the tournament (pun intended!), I managed to get some Golf Predictor advertising in by wearing my branded cap for four days and my branded polo shirts on the first and last days! I also got a close look at what I assume was a replica of the famous claret jug on the first tee on Sunday!
A GP branded me by the claret jug (or replica of same)!
It was great to see the mixture of recent and more distant winners inscribed on the famous trophy, e.g. Walter Hagen and Tiger Woods. Overall, it was a brilliant four days. I never expected to be so close to the action, yet there I was sharing tee boxes, fairways and the odd green with Irish (and international!) golfing stars. While the first couple of days were long and somewhat stressful, once I learned the ropes, the weekend was very enjoyable. I even managed a chat with the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) on Sunday by the final green!

The Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) watches the finish of the tournament right beside me!
Luckily, there was no play-off on Sunday, so I was able to leave quickly! Shortly after Ilonen completed his wire to wire victory, I blasted out of there and got back home at a relatively respectable hour, after a long but enjoyable four days.

Monday, 23 June 2014

2014 - Week 26 Predictions/Statistics Online

The predictions and statistics for this week, the BMW International Open (European PGA Tour) and the Quicken Loans National (US PGA Tour), are now available on Golf Predictor. All excitement this week as Tiger Woods makes an unexpectedly early return to action at Congressional. Let's hope he hasn't rushed back too soon and does further damage to his back. I certainly wouldn't be betting on him this week, even if the bookies hadn't him on the ridiculous price of about 14/1! Although he ranks highly on Golf Predictor too, his injury has not been factored in; that has been left to your own judgement. On the European Tour, the German crowd have the return of all conquering hero Martin Kaymer, fresh from his impressive wire-to-wire US Open victory, to look forward to.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

2014 - Week 25 Winners

Mikko Ilonen (ranked 17th by Golf Predictor) won the Irish Open on the European PGA Tour. The 34 year old Finn won his fourth tour title at sun baked Fota Island with an impressive Kaymeresque wire to wire display! I had the pleasure of being inside the ropes for the four days, mainly with Graeme McDowell and the other Irish major champions, in my capacity as volunteer buggy driver for the TV camera crew. Our top ranked player, Rory McIlroy disappointed the enthusiastic home fans by missing the cut. He wasn't the only one to under perform in the benign conditions as overall, we only had nine of the top twenty one plus ties (9/25). 

Kevin Streelman (ranked 52nd by Golf Predictor) won the Travelers Championship on the US PGA Tour. The 35 year old American won his second tour title with an impressive finishing spurt. Streelman birdied the final seven holes to come home in 28 and win by a single shot. Our top ranked player, Bubba Watson, finished in tied 31st and we had eight of the top eighteen plus ties (8/23) in total.

Monday, 16 June 2014

2014 - Week 25 Predictions/Statistics Online

The predictions and statistics for this week, the Travelers Championship (US PGA Tour) and the Irish Open (European PGA Tour), are now available on Golf Predictor. After the excitement of the first continental European win at the US Open, it's back to the grind! As usual, a lot of the bigger names are taking the post major week off, but the Travelers Championship has four of the top ten in the world in the field. Meanwhile, here in Ireland, our bevy of major champions (and home favourites!) are headlining the field at Fota Island!

2014 - Week 24 Winner

Martin Kaymer (ranked 18th by Golf Predictor) won the US Open on the European/US PGA Tour. The 29 year old German won his second major with a commanding wire to wire victory on the revamped Pinehurst No. 2 layout. After opening impressively with a pair of 65s, Kaymer again proved what a great frontrunner he is by winning by eight shots from Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton. Our top ranked player, Adam Scott, finished in tied 9th and we had ten of the top seventeen plus ties (10/20).

Monday, 9 June 2014

2014 - Week 24 Predictions/Statistics Online

The predictions and statistics for this week, the US Open (European/US PGA Tour) are now available on Golf Predictor. The excitement is mounting for the second major of the season at a revamped Pinehurst no. 2 in North Carolina. While the rough will be low as the course is returned to its former natural glory, the par 70 layout will be very long and the greens will be somewhat tricky! Unfortunately, Tiger Woods has to sit this major out with his back injury, but all the other big guns will be there to battle for glory.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

2014 - Week 23 Winners

Mikael Lundberg (ranked 62nd by Golf Predictor) won the Lyoness Open powered by Greenfinity on the European PGA Tour. The 40 year old Swede overcame a poor day on Saturday to win his third tour title in a play-off with home favourite Bernd Wiesberger. After storming home in 65, which was eleven shots better than his third round, Lundberg ended up in a tie with the Austrian on -12. On the first play-off hole, Lundberg holed a brilliant birdie putt from distance to capture his first title in six years (and his first outside Russia!). Our top ranked player, Miguel Angel Jimenez, also rallied on Sunday and finished in tied 5th. Overall, we had nine of the top seventeen plus ties (9/23) in total.

Ben Crane (ranked 65th by Golf Predictor) won the FedEx St. Jude Classic on the US PGA Tour. The 38 year old American won his fifth tour title with a grind on Sunday to win by a single shot over Troy Merritt. After opening with a 63, Crane led wire to wire and wisely played the last hole conservatively to ensure the win. Our top ranked player, Dustin Johnson, finished in tied 24th. A lot of the bigger names failed to perform in this weather affected event and we only had five of the top nineteen plus ties (5/23).

Monday, 2 June 2014

2014 - Week 23 Predictions/Statistics Online

The predictions and statistics for this week, the Lyoness Open powered by Greenfinity (European PGA Tour) and the FedEx St. Jude Classic (US PGA Tour), are now available on Golf Predictor. Even though it's the last chance for a tune up before the next major of the season, the US Open, there aren't many of the top golfers playing this week. Mickelson, GMac and the Johnsons (Dustin and Zach!) are probably the biggest stars teeing it up in Memphis, while recent winner Miguel Angel Jimenez will be hoping to break his record of oldest champion yet again in Austria!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

2014 - Week 22 Winners

Thongchai Jaidee (ranked 8th by Golf Predictor) won the Nordea Masters on the European PGA Tour. The 44 year old Thai golfer won his sixth tour title in a three way play-off against Victor Dubuisson and Stephen Gallacher. Trailing by four shots after the third round, Jaidee shot 65 to set the clubhouse target of -16. When that was matched by Dubuisson and Gallacher, Jaidee took the title with a birdie on the first extra hole after a fine approach shot to three feet. Our top ranked player, Henrik Stenson, finished in 5th and we had six of the top fifteen plus ties (6/17)

Hideki Matsuyama (ranked 17th by Golf Predictor) won the Memorial Tournament pres. by Nationwide Insurance on the US PGA Tour. The 22 year old Japanese golfer won his first tour title in a play-off against Kevin Na at Muirfield Village. In a strange final day, where no one seemed to want to win, Na almost backed into the title before Matsuyama conjured up an impressive closing birdie to force the play-off. Neither golfer covered himself in glory on the first extra hole, but Matsuyama somehow managed to par it to take the title after Na found water off the tee. Our top ranked player, Adam Scott, finished in tied 4th and we had nine of the top fifteen plus ties (9/18).