April 2009
The SpinDoctor’s “Close Encounter of a Munster Kind” with Ian Poulter

Height: 6-1
Weight: 189
Birthdate: January 10, 1976
Birthplace: Hitchin, England
Turned Pro: 1995

What's In The Bag
Driver: Cobra S9-1 F Speed (9.5°) with Fujikura 6X07, X flex shafts
3 Wood: Cobra Speed Pro Prototype (15°) with Grafalloy Pro
lite 35X shaft
5 Wood: Titleist 906F (18°) with Grafalloy Prolite 35X shaft
Hybrid: Titleist 909H (19°) with Aldila NV Hybrid 85 X shaft
4-7 Iron: Cobra Pro CB with Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
8-PW: Cobra Pro MB (8-pw) with Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design (54° with 12° bounce and 60° with 5° bounce)
Putter: Odyssey DFX 5500

We've managed to get an interview with Ian Poulter. Instead of asking him deep and meaningful questions about golf, we decide the best thing to do is to get the Poultergeist to take part in the Irish Examiner sixty-second Larry Gogan inspired quiz. Ready? Start the clock….

Doc: Dinner with wine or pizza and beer?
Poults: Ahhhh…(5 seconds go by) Champagne.

We have to stop the clock to clearly explain the rules of this quiz to Poults and just how serious it is to the Irish nation. We explain that it took us at least a half an hour to prepare the questions the night before in less than ideal media working conditions (i.e. in the boozer). Larry Gogan would never put up with this kind of messing.

Start the clock….again….

Doc: Daniel Craig or Sean Connery?
Poults: Daniel Craig
Doc: Slacks and shirt or jeans and tee-shirts?
Poults: Slacks and shirts. (Oooh posh!)
Doc: Blondes or brunettes?
Poults: Blondes
Doc: Loads of make-up or just enough to bring out natural beauty?
Poults: Just enough to bring out natural beauty.
Doc: And what about in women?
(Ian realizes we’ve tricked him)…My wife is gorgeous!
Doc: Pat Jennings in 1976 or Pat Jennings in 1978?
(Another tricky little question to test Poults supposed love of Arsenal. Jennings played with Spurs in 1976 and Arsenal in 1978)
Poults: Pat Jennings 1978 Yesss!!! (Damn, he got it right. The Poultergeist knows his Arsenal.)
Doc: The Open or The Masters?
Poults: The Open
Doc: Ryder Cup Captain or a senior major?
Poults: (Long silence……the fashion Guru is stumped. We feel sorry for him and volunteer the answer “Ryder Cup Captain, because you’re going to win an ordinary Major”. Now that’s what you call kissin’ ass!)
Doc: Only Fools and Horses or Fawlty Towers?
Poults: Ah, ooh, both. They’re both great.
Doc: Bergkamp or Henry?
Poults: Bergkamp
Doc: The Beatles or The Stones?
Poults: The Beatles
Doc: Lost or 24?
Poults: 24
Doc: A good gig or a movie?
Poults: A movie
Doc: European Tour or PGA Tour?
Poults: Ah, I can’t answer that. Both
Doc: Tea and scones with Nelson Mandela or Barrack Obama?
Poults: Nelson Mandela.
Doc: England World Cup soccer win or an Arsenal treble?
Poults: Arsenal treble
Doc: Win from the front or come from behind?
Poults: Win from the front.
Doc: Ricky Hatton or Joe Calzaghe?
Poults: Ricky Hatton (though by his expression it’s a close one)
Doc: Georgie Best or Diego Maradonna?
Poults: Georgie Best no question. I don’t like that hand-ball (stuff that Diego specialized in).
Doc: Knight Rider or MacGyver?
Poults: Knight Rider
Doc: Ricky Gervais or Billy Connolly?
Poults: Ricky Gervais
Doc: Shawshank Redemption (deep and meaningful) or Something About Mary (hilarious but shallow)?
Poults: Shawshank Redemption
Doc: Ewen Murray or Peter Alliss?
Poults: Peter Alliss.

Doc: Stop the clock. Ian Poulter, you have successfully completed the Irish Examiner sixty-second Larry Gogan inspired quiz but instead of a gawdy old plaque we’ve brought you a Munster jersey (with thanks to Jimmy Staunton in Elverys). Now be a sport and put it on and lets pack it down like Horan and Hayes!

With thanks to Ian Poulter, Katie Tiarks and Mick Walsh for all their help.

4 Lads In A Classic Car

I’ve had to take a break from playing for the past couple of weeks due to an uncooperative third vertebrae. However, whilst on my back, I’ve been doing some research into the best value golf around and I think I have uncovered two doozies.

The Amendoeira Golf Classic: Ballinrobe Golf Club, May 1st -9th
Maybe I’m getting old but weren’t classic prizes supposed to be four deep fat fryers or some dodgy art? But no, they don’t bother with such tokens as those in Ballinrobe Golf Club where they’ve teamed up with Oceanico Development to lay on the “euromillions” equivalent of classic prizes. The course that Padraig Harrington called “The finest championship golf course in the West of Ireland” are sending the winning mens and ladies teams on golfing trips of a lifetime to the Amendoeira Oceanico resort in Portugal with five star accommodation included. The victorious teams will warm up on the O’Connor and Faldo Oceanico layouts before capping off their week away by taking on the famous Vilamoura Victoria course, home of the Portuguese masters. At €140 per team entry and only €20 re-entry, Ballinrobe have extended the duration of the event to nine days due to the enormous demand. All proceeds go the club development fund and further details can be got online at http://www.ballinrobegolfclub.com/ or by phoning 094-9541118.

The Ryder Cup Experience: K Club, March to September
Imagine the opportunity to play competitive golf for the ultimate reward - to stay at the K Club and relive the Ryder Cup Experience.
The K Club have dreamt up a fantastic event whereby players firstly compete in tournament conditions on the Smurfit Course with the winners qualifying for the final round on the The Palmer Course as per set up from last day of Ryder Cup in a competition. The Qualifying round costs only €75 PP (including K Club snack) and will take place on the Smurfit Course from March to September & the monthly winner’s final will take place on the Palmer course - 25th & 26th September 2009. Full details are on http://www.kclub.com/

Bloggy Underfoot- Slow Play
There’s a “weed” like problem appearing on golf courses up and down the country. When clubs try to dig it out, they can never seem to grab it by its root and so it spreads. This “weed” is slow play. Top courses with great layouts, glassy greens and luxurious facilities that depend on revenue from green fees and societies are starting to lose money hand over fist because they are “getting a name” for dawdling play. The clamour for early tee time booking on a Sunday at most clubs is now akin to getting tickets for Munster versus Leinster at Croke Park, because a dawn start means a three and a half hour round as opposed to a five hour water-boarding torture. So what’s causing the 90 minute delay as the day wears on? Here’s my tuppence worth.

The Traffic Jam Theory: Many people believe one of the main causes of slow play are obstinate players. They are very often of the same genetic code as the guys who hold everyone up on the road, driving in third gear with two wheels over the median line and even then attempt to “resist arrest” when you dare tray to overtake. Many of this demographic will have taken up golf relatively recently, and through no fault of their own, have not received a grounding in the basic rules and etiquette of the game. They subsequently revert to type and treat the golf course like a road. “What we have we hold”, is their philosophy, meaning no one is getting through, lost ball or no lost ball. They’re frequently the same people that leave those pothole size plugmarks on the green, oblivious to the other course users.

The Sabbatini Theory: Remember what caused Rory Sabbatini to throw his toys out of the PGA tour cot a couple of years back? Playing partner Ben Crane’s seemingly endless pre-shot routine, which eventually caused Sabbatini to blow his top and sparked the whole “Keep up” furore with his wife even getting involved. How this filters down to club golf is that players see the pro’s on TV going through their pre-shot checklist and try to emulate them. Worse still, this philosophy is being taught to very young players, leading them to believe that “slow is good”. What they don’t see on TV is that touring pros though deliberate when making a shot, move extremely quickly between shots and start their routine while their partners are playing. The rule on tour is that a player has 50 seconds to play if first to hit while subsequent players in a group get forty. A set hole completion time allocation is assigned on the caddy’s yardage book. Two strikes and the tour referees hit you with a one shot penalty and a £2000 fine. Those of you lucky enough to be going to Baltray in a couple of weeks will be amazed by the pace of play. Contrast that to the ambling down the fairway of the slowest club golfers, who leave their bags the wrong side of every green and insist on marking the card whilst standing beside the flag after the completion of every whole.

The Course Ranger: Often called “Rectum Rangers” because theirs is the dirtiest of jobs. They flit between the first tee and the eighth green desperately trying to keep the conveyor belt moving. Did you ever notice a new ranger starts out very eager, but after a few weeks of being called “insert expletive”, ends up a despised figure on a hiding to nothing, like a politician on the doorstep before and election. Most just give up trying and become like ex-boxers; no fight left in them and are just downright charming. The best ranger I ever encountered was in Enniscrone, a retired guard, with zero interest in the game, who moved the players around the course with all the military precision of a war strategist. He would stand tall atop the dunes like a major general surveying the troops and his mere presence in your eye line made you break into a march.

So where are to go from here? Why not try my solution? If slow play is to be eliminated from our courses, apart from effective rangers, we need all golfers to undergo a basic “induction training” programme if you will. This can be in the form of a small meeting in a clubhouse or even better from tee to green on the course with an experienced member. Topics to cover should be structured well and might include topics such as speed of play, when to let groups through, respect for the course, where to leave your bag around the green and how to pick up your ball if you have played more than seven shots on any hole. Even experienced but slow players could be cajoled into attending by asking them to “help out” on the evening. Now call an EGM and hurry up!

Dr. and The Medic:
You want to hit it longer off the tee.

Work on gaining a balanced finished with your belt buckle pointing towards the target.

Practice hitting your driver at 75% of your normal swing speed. Work on making a smooth tempo at first. Then focus on making a good arm extension at impact and well after it. As you coil to the top of your backswing, make sure your body weight is shifting onto your trailing leg. Remember to keep your smooth tempo with arm extension as you move through the ball with your body weight shifting onto your forward leg. Finally, focus on finishing your swing with your belt buckle pointing towards the target. Once all of these steps feel natural in your swing, increase the swing speed whilst making sure you always have a nice tempo and balanced finish.

I Want One Of Those: Robo Cup
RoboCup, is a new ball return robot that won ‘Best New Product’ at the annual PGA Merchandise Show. From an idea inspired by a mouse trap spring, the RoboCup is a cool plastic disk that sits into any golf hole. When your putt drops in it shoots the ball right back to you up to 14 feet, depending on green speed. A set of batteries last for 15,000 putt returns. Inventor Keith Foley came up with the idea after watching the Fore Inventors Only show on The Golf Channel. Check it out on http://www.finetunegolf.com/. Freddy Funk said of the RoboCup, "I love the RoboCup... it's an old man's dream!" I was thinking more along the lines of Caroline Morahan myself!

Tailored Shorts

Hole In One History
Former University of Georgia all-American Brendan Todd created history on the Nationwide Tour last week carding two hole-in-ones on the same hole on consecutive days. At the Athens Regional Foundation Classic in Georgia, Todd hit a seven iron into the cup on the par three 17th on Thursday, then repeated the feat with an eight iron on Friday.

Ochoa Wins But LPGA Tour Slumps
World number one Lorena Ochoa shot a 5-under par 68 on Sunday to edge out Norway's Suzann Pettersen by one stroke in a dramatic final round of Corona Championship in Mexico. Ochoa birdied the 15th and 16th holes to finish one ahead of Pettersen on 25-under. Ochoa’s played without regular caddie Dave Booker, who got hurt playing a soccer match on Saturday and had to call on her childhood coach Rafael Alarcon to caddie for her. However dramatic Ochoa’s win, the decline in popularity of the LPGA tour of late has been startling. The retiring of Annika Sorenstam, falling attendances, poor TV figures and the withdrawal of long time sponsors have plunged the ladies tour into crisis.

Lehman and Langer Together?
There are three givens in life, time, tide and a Champions Tour debutant winning on his first time out! This time it was Tom Lehman’s turn, who, on his first start, emerged victorious in a two man team event alongside Bernhard Langer. Lehman made a par putt on the second playoff hole to defeat Craig Stadler and Jeff Sluman and land the pair The Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf title. In winning Lehman became the 13th Champions Tour debutant to win.

Bet Your Balls- odds from paddypower
Open de España
PGA Golf de Catalunya
Girona, Spain
30 Apr 2009 - 03 May 2009

Ignacio 40/1
There is a very strong Spanish contingent playing at their home open week including Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez. It looks like form boy Ganzalo Castano is going to take a weel earned rest this week so we’re plumping for long odds chance Ignacio Garrido. Struggled for form for the past couple of seasons but our formbook shows a lifecycle similar to the Mayfly. Second behind absent defending champion Peter Lawrie last year.

Peter Lawrie 40/1
Though not to be seen on the official entry list, word has it that the Castleknock touring pro will defend his title this week. Sent out a warning shot in the final round of the Ballintines with a blistering 66 in tough conditions to climb from 38th spot to finish joint eighth. Last years event was staged in Seville but as the thousands of Irish holidaying golfers who have played at PGA de Catalunya there will attest to, this track is right up Lawrie’s street with equally difficult greens. Stands a decent chance if jet lag doesn’t intervene.

Søren Hansen 20/1
It’s that time of the year again folks. We have to tip-toe into the cave and gently wake Soren from hibernation. Hansen hasn’t teed it up on the European Tour since missing the cut at The Masters and so makes a welcome return this week. The 2008 Ryder Cup star finished third in last years staging in Seville.

Quail Hollow Championship
Monday Apr 27 – Sunday May 3, 2009
Quail Hollow Club · Charlotte, N.C.

Rory Sabbatini 33/1
Known as the angry man of the tour but he hasn’t been to my club on a Sunday morning. Tore through the field last week climbing from eighth to finish second behind deserving winner Jerry Kelly. With top tens also to note from the Northern Trust and FBR events, this could be the breakthrough week for the South African. Tied for third in this event in 2007, he brought good from into the event that year also.

Jim Furyk 22/1
Jim has some major points to prove this week. Took home the spoils at the then entitled Wachovia Championship in 2006 having also tied for second the previous year. His best result in 2009 was a third at the CA Championships but also had a decent run at Augusta where we pointed to renewed confidence on the putting green. A regular top tenner here, does he deserve your tenner?

David Toms 40/1
Does he have the heart for it again this week? Nice to see the re-emergence of Toms this year. Tied fifth again last week at the Zurich, his third top five finish of the year. We’re going with form rather than performances on this course for Toms this week but the Quail Hollow Club has been kind in the past to good putters such as Ben Curtis and Steve Stricker

If you're free on Wednesday 29th April, you're welcome to join me on the Irish Examiner Four Lads (and Ladies) review to play the magnificent new Killeen Castle course in Co. Meath. Killeen Castle is a magnificent new Nicklaus design course and will be the venue for the 2011 Solheim Cup. Killeen Castle will be the focus of an upcoming Spindoctor article. I need two readers so just e-mail me at examinerspindoc@eircom.net with your contact details and I will pick the players in the fairest way humanly possible! Tee off will be in the morning (will confirm time later). Good Luck and get practising!
Under The Microscope: Darren Clarke

Birthday: 14/08/1968
Height: 6ft 2 1/2in
Weight: 14st
Birthplace: Dungannon, Northern Ireland
Turned Pro: 1990

Darren co-owns a private jet with best friend Lee Westwood, but they only use it when both are playing in the same event. A long haul round trip would set the pair back £60,000 so they mainly use it for European Tour events. The pilot has arguably the best job in the world on a six figure retainer, even though the downturn in the economy means he has to now do charters a couple of times a month!

In The Bag

Driver: Taylormade R9 with Aldila Voodoo XPP8. New in the bag but already a trusted weapon. The adjustable R9 head is not so much designed for distance as for accuracy.

Fairway wood: R9 fairway 13º with Aldila Voodoo DCC shafts. Clarke sometimes interchanges this with a 15º version

Irons: 2-PW Taylormade Burner Tour Preferred, x flex shafts and Lamkin grips. Brand new in Darren’s bag, he is still working on setting the lofts and lies to suit his game. The 2 iron gets switched for a 5-wood when the course dictates.

Wedges: Bob Vokey customized 54º (14º bounce) and 58º (14º bounce) wedges.

Scotty Cameron customized Studio Select Newport 2. Fitted with dark anti-glare shaft and embossed with the green shamrock and initials “DC”.
Utility Bag: Darren’s ball bag used be a crocodile’s ball bag!

Ball: Taylormade Tour Black with shamrock logo.

4 Lads In A Car: Seapoint
This weeks four lads offering was a celebrity version, hosted by Seapoint Links in Termonfeckin near Drogheda, Co. Louth. The event organized by my favourite golf channel, Setanta Golf, involved a fourball with their touring pro and living legend Darren Clarke.

Of course my presence there was purely fortuitous. Regular Examiner front-man Charlie Mulqueen had a bit of a bad back and I got promoted from lowly boot scrubber just for the day. The fact that I normally keep my third, fourth and fifth vertebrae in a jar of oil by my bed between Sundays was never going to stop me missing this opportunity. No sooner had I parked the car in front of the impressive clubhouse but I spotted the Clarke-mobile; a tiny black Porsche with the number plate “DC60”, in reverence to his stunning 60 at the K Club a few years back. It reminded me of the advertising slogan they never used- “Porsche. Too small to get laid in, but you’ll get laid the minute you jump out”!

After some getting to know you banter with DC and the other guys we boarded Seapoint’s first tee. We were joined by Liam Kelly of the Indo, who is that good, he’s the only writer in Ireland to be sponsored by Cleveland, and Shay Keenan of the Irish Times who fine tunes his links touch at The Island with the pilots. Faced with a par four slight dog leg first hole, I gave the drive my Mayo Minor Sunday best and nailed it (albeit slightly right). Darren took out his new R9 and lashed at it like a Taliban teacher; sending it easily over 300 yards. To give you an idea of how far pro’s hit the ball, compare our second shots; I had a full blooded wedge to ten feet while Darren had a little drop and stop lob wedge from some 50 yards closer which finished a foot from the hole!

That’s not to say that Clarke had it all his own way at Seapoint. At just over 7,100 yards it may not be in the monster category on paper, but when wind is added into the mix, it certainly makes some holes play longer than their billing. The 18 holes play out like a crossword. Though there are a number of generous par fours and fives that can be relatively simply solved, but there are also a couple of cryptic par threes that have the potential to leave you stumped. The first is the ninth, a 200 plus yarder with silage flanking both sides of the green. A five iron for DC, hybrids and woods for the rest of us, but no-one made par despite our best efforts at Mickelson flop shots. I imagine not many do. Next is the 17th, a real examination set for the members by course designers Des Smyth and Declan Brannigan. It’s as if they are testing you to see if you are actually fit to win the competition. If you do happen to make par or better on 17, the par five 18th provides a fun finish where a good drive and second shot wont be far from the green and a birdie opportunity.

As he tapped in for yet another birdie, Clarke told me he has spent a fair share of his time off tour in the home-gym getting ready for the next tour assault. A niggling shoulder muscle tear, the kind scrumhalves get, did curtail the exercise but is now all but healed. Home of course also meant quality time with sons Tyrone and Conor which mean everything to Darren. Even though he’s only 10, Tyrone starts boarding school in the next few weeks and Darren is already plotting to get on the right side of the Principal for visiting privileges!

As we completed the round, Darren spoke of his plans for next couple of weeks. Next week he returns to the Tour in Asia where he has won in the past. He spent a few days last week in Portrush getting some links practise in before his upcoming appearance at the Irish Open and the round at Seapoint provided the ideal sparring round needed in the build up.

Seapoint sits back to back with Baltray and while the latter may have more fame, both are excellent in a Bobby and Jack Charlton way. If you’re heading to the Irish Open in a couple of weeks and fancy getting in a round in the vicinity, €60 will get you out in Seapoint on a weekday. Check out the website www.seapointgolfclub.com for booking info. How did we all do? To keep the crossword analogy going Darren completed it with relative ease while the rest of us made a creditable attempts but had the inevitable few blanks!

Bloggy Underfoot- The Major Post Mortem

What a week Augusta was! Now that pockets of all the green jackets have been stuffed with moth-balls and stuck in the closet for another year, it’s time for the post-mortem. I’ve laid the Masters on the gurney, taken out its brain and dissected its vital organs to learn the lessons for the next three majors.

1. No Substitute for Experience

Though it may not be as evident in the next three majors, the Masters proved yet again, that no matter how skilled a player is, there is simply no substitute for experience. Those of us watching the 18th on TV on Friday night first watched Tiger and then Stewart Cink play away from the flag (up the hill) from the bunker on the right. There was a collective tightening of grips on pints when Rory McIlroy then aimed straight for the pin from the same bunker just a couple of minutes later. And we all know what happened next. All told, though Rory learned Augusta’s tricks the hard way, he proved he has the game to give this Major a right rattle next time.

2. Age Means Less…..Shots
Okay, most of us thought that Greg Norman’s second place finish at The Open last year could be explained away by the fact that the Aussie, though over 50, is a super-fit, superhuman, super golfer. The fact is that The Shark’s success was not just a flash in the pan. Advances in club and ball technology have become the Viagra that can keep older players up for longer, the leaderboard that is. Take the success of past winners Larry Mize and Sandy Lyle as proof of that. Throw in Kenny Perry and Angel Cabrera with a combined age of 87 and there can be no doubt that old is the new young. What next? A Perry at Turnberry or a Haas at Sawgrass!

3. The Tiger and Phil Show
The big two sure did put on a Sunday show. A new knee for Tiger and a new driver for Phil meant that both were within spitting distance of the leaders albeit briefly. Then something strange happened. Phil mis-clubs on the 12th and finds the water, then Tiger does his Woody Woodpecker impression on a tree on the last. When was the last time you saw either of these guys do something like that? Phil discusses every iron shot for seemingly ages with caddy Bones, and Tiger is the best 18th hole player that ever lived. Could it be that both took their eyes off the real prize and got embroiled in a bit of Sunday matchplay for the “World’s Best Player” title? Or was it something more serious, you know the thing that sounds like “critters” but starts with “j”. Anyway, irrespective of sparkly new drivers or brand new knees, both limped home.

4. No More Stuck in the Muds at Augusta
The days of Hootie and his blowfish are now long gone. New boss Billy Payne has dragged the Masters kicking and screaming into the 21st century. The course is more accessible to all with “birdie chances aplenty on the back nine” making a welcome return. Add to that a brilliant new tournament website and excellent TV coverage and the jackets are greener than ever in HD. And okay its sad to see the end of greats like Gary Player and bellies like Fuzzy Zoeller, but good for them to realise the public would rather remember them in their prime than watch them struggle to perform in a the era after their own.

With the Masters autopsy complete and the event neatly sutured back together, the theatre is being readied for the US Open at Bethpage on June 15th. There, no doubt even further drama will unfold as the old guard go “back to black”.

Dr. and The Medic: Low Running Chips

While hitting a chip and run you cant control the height of your chip.

The key to this swing is to hit it more like a putting stroke or almost sweeping motion to help keep it low.

You need to avoid hitting down on the ball with too steep of a swing. Set up with your trailing shoulder just a little lower than normal. Swing with just your trailing arm as you practice the shot to get the correct feel. Let your forward hand to hold the upper portion of your trailing arm as a practise drill. This will also help you keep the ball rolling low.

I Want One Of Those- V-Towel

Are you one of those golfers will spend a grand on irons and never bothers to clean them preferring instead to leave them sitting in your bag caked in mud? You then blame everything from your balls to your bad back whilst all the while remaining oblivious to the fact your irons have the equivalent of a mud-pack on their faces.
Forget searching deep in your bag for one of those tiny groove scrubbers, what you need is a V-Towel. Voted best new product at the 2008 PGA show in Orlando, the V-Towel is the all in one answer to on-course club cleaning. And best of all, it’s Irish!
The V-Towel has a looped, full detachable, mircofiber towel coupled with a nifty 270 degree cleaning bristle arc to keep golf clubs in optimum condition. You can attach and remove the V-towel in nanoseconds with their unique drop-and-lock system.
Brought to you by Vicarious Golf you can find the V-Towel in all good golf shops or online from

Tailored Shorts
Olazabal To Be Inducted
Two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal is to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame for 2009. The news seems to have spurred Olazabal onto good things on the course with a good showing at Augusta then an excellent top ten finish at the Verizon Heritage. Olazabal, now 43, comes into The Hall Of Fame with 23 international wins and six PGA Tour victories including two Masters wins in ’94 and’99. He is also one of the most successful Ryder Cup players ever with an 18-8-5 record. The Spaniards career of late has been blighted by rheumatism so it’s fantastic to see him back playing at his best.

Murray Mint
Veteran comedy actor and golf fan Bill Murray was up usual crazy antics while competing at the Pro-Am before the Champions Tour event at TPC Southwind. The star of Ghostbusters and Caddyshack pulled his tee shot on the ninth and hit a woman sitting in her garden. She was subsequently taken to hospital but later released. The PGA tour officials gave Murray some of his own comedy medicine by wearing hard hats on the first tee the following day. Before Murray teed off they made the following statement, “The PGA tour has issued a special gallery advisory today! At approximately 285 yards and further ‘Duck’!”

Monty Snaps
Poor old Colin Montgomerie got a taste of what it feels like to be Britney Spears in the first of the Volvo China Open in Beijing. First an over eager fan made the fatal error of snapping his camera as Monty was mid swing and received the dreaded scowl followed by ejection from the premises for his troubles. Later after Monty drove into a hazard, he let loose on a camerman repeating again and again, “Don’t film me”. The European Tour are said to be considering covering all Monty’s shots in future on radio only!

Sergio’s Masters Misery
It cant be easy to keep to keep your cool after walking off the 18th green in Augusta only to be confronted by TV reporters seeking to chat about your misery. And so it turned out for Sergio Garcia, who came into the tournament with his head not “in a beautiful place”. After a 74 on Sunday, Garcia told a Golf Channel reporter “I don’t like it, to tell you the truth,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair, and it’s just too tricky. Even when it’s dry, you still get mud balls in the middle of the fairway. It’s just too much of a guessing game.” And yes, the US media jumped onto it immediately. Garcia and his management company IMG had to move quickly to douse the flames with the following apology, “Following my final round at the Masters, I made comments in an interview that I regret and want to apologize for. Out of frustration, I blamed the golf course instead of putting the blame where it belongs, on myself. I didn’t get it done this week. Augusta National is one of the most iconic golf courses in the game and playing in the Masters each year is an honour. I apologize to the members of Augusta National and the fans who rightfully treasure this golf course.” Let’s hope Sergio can get back to his “iconic” best for the upcoming Players Championship.

Bet Your Balls-

Ballantine's Championship
Pinx GC
Jeju Island, South Korea

23 Apr 2009 - 26 Apr 2009

Graeme McDowell 16/1
Produced one of the shots of his career to win the inaugural Ballantine’s Champions in a thrilling sudden-death play-off in March 2008. Having seen Jeev Milkha Singh hit in to four feet on the third playoff hole, McDowell produced a stunning seven iron from 179 yards which finished within a foot of the hole. Finished a creditable tied 17th at the Masters on four under and will be keen to climb from 35th in the race to Dubai.

Paul McGinley 40/1
Nice to see Paul back on form last week in China. A poor third round saw him fall back the leaderboard but he finished with a superb 68 and tie for eighth. Though McDowell and Singh stole the show at last years Ballintines, McGinley actually finished third. He said afterwards “My memory of last year is that Graeme and Jeev ran away with the tournament. They turned it into a two-man shootout and everyone else was playing a different tournament, which I managed to win”! Another good week should be in store for the amicable Dub.

Mark Brown 66/1
Even though the field this week includes the likes of Els, Westwood, Stenson, Monty and Clarke, I’m pitching for the relatively unknown Kiwi Mark Brown to feature again this week. Finished two shots off the pace in China last week; very creditable given a second round 77. In March 2008 Brown captured the Johnnie Walker Classic in New Delhi one week after winning his maiden Asian Tour title when he claimed the SAIL Open. Lets hope his 2009 streak continues in Korea.

Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Monday Apr 20 – Sunday Apr 26, 2009
TPC Louisiana · Avondale, La.

Nick Watney 16/1
Nick Watney is having a super season. Now up to 35th in the official world rankings and fourth in the Fed-Ex points race. Watney has finished in the top-25 in eight of the nine events he has played this year, which includes a win at the Buick and a second to Phil Mickelson at the WGC CA Championship. Watney edged out Ken Duke here in 2007 to claim his first tour victory and should be fresh after a weeks rest.

Todd Hamilton 66/1
He may have only made four cuts in the 11 events he has played this season, but 2005 Claret Jug winner Todd Hamilton is a man in form this weather. He attributes his recent good showing which includes a top-20 at the Masters and a tied fourth last week, to a “five year cycle” in which he claims to have a run of form.

Tim Wilkinson 40/1
Another Kiwi Tim Wilkinson should be a decent each way look in New Orleans. The 2008 Q-school graduate cemented his card in this event last year with a third place finish behind Andres Romero and Peter Lonard. Wilkinson is also showing a bit of form going into the event with a tied sixth place finish last week at Hilton Head.
Under The Microscope: Masters Champion Angel Cabrera

Birthday: September 12th 1969
Height: 6 feet 0 inches
Weight: 15 stone
Birthplace: Cordoba, Argentina
Turned Pro: 1989

Hailing from Cordoba in Argentina, Cabrera is known as “El Pato” or “The Duck” in his homeland. Cabrera’s Masters win was his second major and fifth win on tour. Cabrera’s progression from club caddy to major champion is one of the great rags to riches stories of golf. His big break came thanks to Eduardo Romero who sponsored him in his early career. Cabrera’s two young sons are reported also to be excellent golfers and future tour professionals.
In The Bag

Driver: Rapture (7.5°) with45¼-inch Aldila ADX shaft

Fairway wood: Rapture V2 (13°) The shaft is 43 inches, and the swingweight is D-3.

Irons: Ping G10 2-iron. Cabrera took a Ping Rapture V2 hybrid club out of his bag in favour of a Ping G10 2-iron at the start of Masters week.
The 3-iron through pitching wedge are Ping S57 with Rifle 7.0 shafts. Lie angle is .75 degrees flat and all irons are a quarter of an inch longer than standard.
Wedges: 54 and 60 degree Ping Tour-W with 10 degrees of bounce and a True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shaft.

Cabrera elected to stick with a unique putter he put in the bag at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. It is a Ping i Series 1/2 Craz-E B, but his is 39-inches long and features a grip designed for a belly putter that extends almost halfway down the shaft. Cabrera says the large grip helps him properly balance the putter and enhances his feel on the greens
Since giving up the cigarettes, Cabrera now chews gum on the course. He stopped smoking for a month after an illness and noticed an increase in strength on the course thereafter. It was then he decided to kick the habit.

Ball: Pro V1x with a green dot on the number and a green line over the Pro V1x stamp on the side.

Bloggy Underfoot- The Masters Green Jacket Awards

Best Nickname Award
Lifelong wild west fan Shingo Katayama was christened “Shingo the Gringo” in my pub on Saturday night. He’s looking more like Speedy Gonzalez every year. What a performance in Augusta though!

The Hail Mary Award
Goes to Gary Player who fell onto one knee and bowed his head in prayer on the 18th green in Augusta. Our sources revealed why. Player apparently saw Rory Sabbatini waiting at the back of the green to hug him and asked God in all his goodness to intervene.

The Gastric Bypass Award
Yet again this was a fiercely contested category with bellies belonging to the likes of five time winner Fuzzy Zoeller duelling with newcomers like Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry for top spot. The winner however was never in doubt. Carrying the equivalent of a bowling ball under his shirt, the champion is Angel Cabrera’s large intestine! In the playoff the combined weight of the front row was 48 stone!

Got Dressed In The Dark Award
Luke Donald used his appearance at the Masters to prove to the world that green trousers are not just for Leprechauns and mad Priests who jump out in front of Olympic marathon runners. Luke’s brother and caddy, Christian, actually refused to walk beside him during the second round, choosing to fire his clubs to him from across the fairway.

The Colgate Award
You can get all the crowns, caps and whitening products you like but no-one will ever get a set of choppers like Stephen Ames. Authorities are still seeking his extradition to Ireland to face charges in connection with kidnapping of Shergar. Apparently Ames’ incisors are an exact match with the missing Derby winner.

4 Lads In A "Powerplay" Car

Up to now golf in Ireland was like a rich supply of oil, every County had a rich supply coursing through it. Lately since the big “R” kicked in, there are signs that the supply might be drying up. We need to protect the future of golf by investigating alternative forms of golfing energy now. One such source of renewable fun is Powerplay golf.

Powerplay golf was devised by the famous GB&I Walker Cup winning Captain of the 90's Peter McEvoy in the UK. The format resembles ordinary golf but is played over nine holes, thus conserving valuable energy! Each green has two flags. The normal flag is positioned in a regular easy position whilst the black Powerplay flag with the skull and crossbones is located in a more challenging position. If you imagine the normal flag as a regular lorry delivering your home heating oil, the black Powerplay flag is the equivalent of an oil tanker evading pirates off the Somali coast. Hence the skeletal image. Pretty tough.

As well as being a risk reward exercise there is a bit of strategy involved in the Powerplay format. You don’t have to go for the black flags every time, but you must use a set number of “Powerplays” in a round. To eliminate any sly dogs who might unwittingly (or mis-hittingly) end up close to a black flag and then claim vantage, you must nominate your flag on the tee-box; it’s kind of like Texas Hold’em for golfers. You get extra points for your net score on a Powerplay hole. The player with the most points at the end of nine holes is the winner.

The man charged with rolling out the Irish national Powerplay grid is Rob Hill. The fact that he shares his initials with Robin Hood is no coincidence, but unlike his forest dwelling, arrow slinging counterpart, Rob is more into “Gently tugging from the rich to share occasionally with the not so rich.” Rob has increased the base of courses offering Powerplay golf to venues such as Carton House, The Heritage and Mount Wolseley. Indeed many of the top courses in the country recently set up the Powerplay format to take part in the Barretstown Serious Fun Weekend in March which was highly successful.

The golfing tree hugger in me says we all owe it to ourselves to protect our golfing environment so my advice is to make the big switch and try out Powerplay golf. You can find more details on Irish events on www.roberthillconsulting.com or through the Ireland link www.Powerplay-golf.com. Don’t forget to drive with your “hybrid” and avoid the pirates!

Dr. and The Medic: Duffing Chips

You need to improve on your chipping and eliminate duffing.

Hinge your wrists on the backswing but remember to keep your wrists stiff at and after impact.

Set up with seventy percent of your weight on your front foot. Focus on what Phil Mickelson calls “hinge and hold”. Hinge your wrists on the backswing but keep your leading arm and wrist straight so that they form a straight line with the shaft of the club from impact to finish.

I Want One Of Those !
Daphne Headcover
Ditch your boring old headcover and go for something that best reflects you. http://www.daphnesheadcovers.com/ is a good old fashioned family run business in Arizona that manufacture hundreds of weird and wonderful driver covers. Alas founder and cuddly toy maker Daphne has passed on the company to daughter Jane Spicer who continues to put loving care into each creation. The Daphne promise is if your headcover gets ripped or damaged at any stage throughout its lifetime, they will repair it for free. Perfect for kids or big bald guys like me who are still kids inside. My Daphne Dragon is ugly but colourful and spouts mostly hot air. Just like me.

Tailored Shorts

John Daly at Augusta
It might have seemed like a bit of a practical joke but John Daly’s appearance at, or rather “near” the Masters had sad undertones. As the Masters got underway Daly was across the street from the entrance selling T-shirts and other memorabilia.
Daly now ranked 783rd has lost his sponsorship deals and is still serving a PGA Tour suspension. "I'm on the verge of bankruptcy with the bad economy and the loss of sponsors. I don't want to go that route," Daly said. His plan is to rejoin the European Tour in the Summer and to that end he is working with Phil Mickelson's former coach, Rick Smith and has undergone weight reduction surgery.

Sandy’s “Eureka Moment”
Sandy Lyle discovered what it is like to play great golf again at the Masters. So what was his secret? We can now reveal that it wasn’t his set-up, his swing or his putting. No, Sandy’s Eureka moment came during Wednesday’s par-3 competition, when, in the sweltering conditions, Lyle’s caddy suggested to him that he might actually play better if he took off his raincoat. Sandy, who hadn’t removed his waterproofs for the last twenty years, was reluctant at first, but finally gave in. “This new found freedom is wonderful”, Sandy is rumoured to have told friends. “It’s looking a bit grey though, I just hope it doesn’t rain”, he may or may not have added!

Bet Your Balls- Odds from paddypower.com
Volvo China Open
Beijing CBD International GC
Beijing, China

17 Apr 2008 - 20 Apr 2008

Damien McGrane 18/1
It was a long time in the making but this time last year, Meath’s finest, Damien McGrane lifted the Volvo China Open and a quarter of a million euro purse. He won by a whopping nine shots in atrocious Sunday conditions, so we reckon if he plays half as good this year, he’s in there with a chance. They regard tsunami like conditions as a “grand soft day” in Kells!

Markus Brier 28/1
Yes it’s that time of year again when we call on our Austrian marketing genius Markus Brier to win us a few quid. He’s got more patches than a room full of pirates, but Markus has form in China. Won the equivalent event in 2007, albeit on a different course.

Wen-chong Liang 40/1
Who do you pick from a field that’s arguably as devoid of big names as the government front bench? Try the Chinese baseball slugger Wen-chong Liang who will be the home favourite this week; he has won on tour in Singapore in 2007 on his way to capturing the Asian order of merit that year. This week is his annual trip to the ATM. Let’s hope it’s not a case of “insufficient funds”.

Verizon Heritage
Monday Apr 13 – Sunday Apr 19, 2009
Harbour Town Golf Links · Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Boo Weekley 28/1
The gun toting, tobacco chewing, deer guttin’ country boy owns this event. Big Boo has won at Harbour Town for the past two seasons. Christined Thomas Brent Weekley his parents called him after Yogi Bear's sidekick, Boo Boo Bear. Weekley’s story is by now the stuff of legend. Having failed turfgrass science at college he returned home and worked as a hydroblaster at the Monsanto chemical plant where he would be lowered into large ammonia tanks to clean them. The only bad smell he has to worry about now is the exhaust from the Met Life Blimp!

Aaron Baddeley 16/1
If you always associated “stack and tilt” with lap dancing then you’re on the wrong path completely. Aaron Baddeley or “Badds” as he’s known Down Under is probably the best known proponent of the alternative swing method. But before you all run off to check it out on youtube let me tell you that Baddeley won the Heritage in 2006 and looked for all the world like he was going to repeat the feat last year before Boo shot him in the ass. Will it be a case of turning the other cheek this year for Bible bashing Baddeley?

Davis Love 40/1
You have to go back as far as 1987 to find Davis Love’s first tour win, the “MCI Heritage Classic” as it was back then. That was DL3’s first of four wins at Harbour Town, spanning three decades. Hasn’t come close recently but signs of a return to something like his best were to be found last November when he won again at Disney. Long shot but there might be one last trick in this pony.