Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Different Game : Travelers Championship 2009

"These guys are playing a different game than the rest of us", that was my thought to myself as I watched Anthony Kim and Hunter Mahan make their way through the Traveler's championship this past Sunday in Cromwell,CT. By "the rest of us" of course I mean any amateur golfer with a normal handicap.

If you've never seen a PGA event live, I strongly recommend it. You have a lot of freedom as a spectator to wander around, follow any group of golfer's you want, or just find a spot (18th hole is popular) and watch everyone come through or finish.

As a golfer, its great to see these guys swing the club up close. You can often get within 6 feet of a player, the spectator crowds are spread out enough (18 holes, fairway's, tee boxes, greens, concession stands) that you can usually get a good view. You can get up close on the tee box pretty easily, or move down the fairway before they tee off and try to predict where it will land.

I followed Anthony Kim and Hunter Mahan most of the way through the course. Even though Kenny Perry had the lead, I was hoping Mahan (who's done very well on this course in the past) would mount a charge and we could have a dramatic finish. Also I wanted to see Kim play. Plus Perry and Goydos (his partner that day, and who was also in contention at the start of Sunday) have swings I'm not really trying to emulate. Perry has a funny way of taking the club back (from what I've heard its due to an injury earlier in his life) and Goydos has sort of a quick swing that I felt I couldn't learn much from.

I got to see Anthony Kim play some great shots from tough positions. Check out what he did on the 10th hole:

His tee shot went off to the right and landed in the rough. What the picture doesn't show is that there are trees lining that side of the hole. He had 2 options, 1 hit it straight (the way the yellow line looks between 1 and 2) which would mean going right through a small opening between a few trees, or try to "hit a cut" shot around a tree and get the ball to come back to the right. As Anthony put it to his caddy (yes I was that close), "I have 2 options and I don't like either of them". Then a few seconds later "what do you think of the cut?", Caddy: "I like the cut". And so that's what he did. His ball basically followed the red line I added to the picture, lands it just short of the green, then a chip and a put and makes par. Incredible.

The 13th was a similar situation:
Except this time he hit it to the left of the fairway off the tee. Again, shottracker doesn't show the trees he was faced with nor the line the ball actually flew. This time Anthony played a draw shot, making the ball go right to left. The red line I added shows the approximate actual ball path. Landed it just short of the green, chip and a put for birdie. Unbelieveable.

Anyway, Perry ends up winning, Mahan tied for second, Kim tied for 11th. All in all a nice day.