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Adam Scott vs. Greg Norman off the tee

Congratulations to Adam Scott, who yesterday won The Masters in a playoff over Angel Cabrera. It was his first major and the first Masters win for an Australian. It is party time in Australia and for all Aussie golfers, including Greg Norman. Norman of course was the guy that was supposed to win that green jacket for Austrailia. Norman finished second in 1986, 1987 and 1996, blowing a six shot lead in the final round to let Nick Faldo win his third title.

After Scott’s win yesterday, Norman said something that had people scratching their heads. He said, “I think he’s a better driver of the golf ball than I ever was. Nobody ever gives him that recognition.”

Brad Faxon tweeted that he “never played with a better driver than Greg!” I have heard that about Norman from a few places and I think he is generally considered one of all time.

Norman’s comment left me with two questions: 1) was Norman the best driver of the ball in his era? and 2) is Scott better than Norman was?

Technology differences make it difficult to directly compare the two. I thought I would look back at the PGA Tour stats to see how each player ranked in Total Driving, which is the sum of your driving accuracy and driving distance rankings on tour. Norman was known to hit it long and straight, which is a pretty good definition of a great driver of the golf ball.

Scott vs Norman

The above table for Adam Scott contradicts Norman’s statement. Scott generally hits the ball a long ways relative to the rest of the tour, but he is not accurate off the tee. In no way is Scott one of the best drivers of the ball in the game today. We are all prone to hyperbole in the thrill of victory, even the Great White Shark. I suspect that a few weeks a year, Scott combines distance and accuracy and is in contention to win.

Looking at Norman’s numbers, he certainly appears to have been one of the best drivers of the golf ball in his day. From 1988 through 1996, he was in the top four in Total driving seven of nine years. That is pretty darn good and pretty darn consistent.

For fun, I thought I would pull Jack Nicklaus’ numbers. Sadly, the PGA Tour website only has stats back until 1980. The following is Jack age 40 through 45.

Nicklaus

I suspect the 1960’s and 1970’s contained more of the same. I am not sure how often Brad Faxon has had the pleasure of playing with the Golden Bear, but Nicklaus was the best driver of the golf ball that he has played with.

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The Year in Music 2011

Rather than attempt yet another top 50 list of the best albums of the year, I thought I would walk through a year in music from my perspective. The albums I have bought and the concerts I have seen. I suppose albums is a bit of a misnomer. 2010 was the year that I kind of got into downloading albums; 2011 was the year I almost exclusively downloaded everything.

The year started off with an album that the Sports Juicette and I were really looking forward to. Somewhere along the line we found ‘Hang me out to dry’ by the Cold War Kids and fell in love with the band. Mid-January saw the release of their third studio album, ‘Mine is Yours’ . Some of the songs are among the best they have ever done, but overall the album lacked the quirkiness of their other work. Ms. Juicette had the opportunity to go to Vancouver and see them live in March. Really good show. Continue reading

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MLB Expands the Postseason and Waters Down their Product

On the day the Toronto Blue Jays unveiled their snazzy new version of their old logo, I thought I would check in on MLB’s announcement to move the Houston Astros over to the American League and add two additional wild card teams to the already bloated playoffs. With the change, 10 of MLB’s 30 teams will get to hang banners celebrating their trip to the postseason. Even if that trip is only for one day. Continue reading

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The Impact of Tiger Woods on Golf and Implications of his Fall from Relevance

The following exchange with a friend on Facebook last Friday got me thinking about golf in a post-Tiger world. 

Patrick – Tiger put me on to Golf! Can’t bear to see my hero struggle like this, yo sonny get the bird dog and my 12 bore shot gun, time to put his driver out of its misery! 

Jonathan – You popped a thought in my head. Will all the people who didn’t care about golf 15 years ago stop caring about golf when there is no more Tiger? 

Patrick – Although a lot younger back then, I didn’t care for the sport, but now do, I think viewership will decline and so will the money. More so that Americans aren’t doing well. Golf is looking for a savior and Tiger and Phil are both done! They need a draw! So to answer your question, I will play more than I watch although I am trying to get my kids to try the sport. 

Tiger’s impact on golf over the past fifteen years has been immense, which is still an understatement. He has brought millions of new fans to the game, which has brought many millions more in dollars to the sport. 

The legion of new the huge increase in interest in the game led to significant changes in media coverage of the sport. Prior to Tiger’s arrival on the PGA Tour, golf was rarely front page news outside of the four major tournaments each year. The Golf Channel was a small, fledging specialty network. Golf coverage on television was limited to 2-3 hours each Saturday and Sunday on CBS, ABC or NBC. 

Today, golf is front page news every time Tiger plays in a tournament. All four rounds of each tournament are televised, with the Golf Channel showing the first two rounds. Most weekends the Golf Channel adds an additional 90 minutes of coverage before the weekend network coverage. The Golf Channel also provides four round coverage of almost every European Tour event. Continue reading

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Europe Vacation 2011

We just got back from our trip to Europe a few days ago.  With the jetlag fully shaken off, I thought I would share a few tales from the trip.  Our tour took us to England, Switzerland and Italy.

England found its was on the agenda so we could catch up with K’s extended family and friends.  Switzerland was a chance to see former Cayman colleague and bar mate, Robbie O.   

We arrived in London on June 11th and immediately hopped on the tube to go and catch a train.  We were off to Matlock Bath, representing the first four hours of what would be over 24 hours on trains during the two weeks.  Awaiting us were Katherine’s aunt and uncle, Pauline and Bruce.  I also had my first chance to meet Katherine’s granny and uncle Andrew. 

 

The most interesting thing that I learned on the trip is that an English person will completely clean their plate, no matter how much food is on it.  It slowly dawned on me over our week in England, starting with our lunch with granny and uncle Andrew.  We ate at a pub near their house.  I had the roast pork dinner while Katherine had the roast beef.  We must have been the only ones who ordered it as they seemed to give us the whole pig and cow. 

Katherine made her typical little dent while I gave it an honest effort, getting through ¾’s of it.  Meanwhile, pint sized granny and rail thin uncle Andrew had polished their plates.  I didn’t think much of it, though Katherine commented that she was relieved granny didn’t give us a piece of her mind for not eating everything. 

Next stop was London, where we stayed with K’s friend Katie.  Technically we were in Colchester, about an hour away.  I guess Colchester was once the capital of England back in Roman times.  It is now a dreary, dreary place filled with people you wouldn’t want to cross in the middle of the night.  I exaggerate, but only slightly…

We met up with the other half of Katherine’s brain, Rachel.  Friends since they were in diapers, they are in their own little world when they are together.  After a couple of pints we went out for Italian.  I recall being impressed that Rachel absolutely licked her plate clean.  At that point the light bulb came on and I had my theory that English people always eat every morsel.  The war mentality remains strong I guess.  The night ended in a bit of embarrassment as we unsuccessfully attempted to pay for dinner and treat Rachel. 

The next day we met former Cayman colleague and still current friend Craig for lunch.  He too cleaned his plate, though that was no surprise if you know what I mean…  Our last meal of England was dinner with Katie, who is a skinny, nice young girl.  Gigantic pizzas were on the menu and of course Katie ate every bite.

We ended the trip by taking in the Kaiser Chiefs in concert at the Electric Ballroom in Camden Town.  Huge over there, the Chiefs playing that small of a venue was a treat.  There are a couple of hilarious videos of K and Katie rocking out during the show.  My ‘editor’ decided that they will remain in the private collection.

 

With England successfully visited, we flew to Zurich, spent a night there before heading down to Altendorf to visit with Robbie O, his wife Julie and their cute little girl Chloe.  The most common question we were asked during our stay was, “Do you love it?”*  I have to say that yes, we did love Switzerland.  If you could take the beauty and charm of Banff and apply it to an entire country, I think you would end up with Switzerland.

* The question was often asked by Chloe and related to just about anything and everything.  K and I still ask each other the question about random things all the time.  Eating a cracker?  Do you love it?  A bit of sun on your cheek?  Do you love it?

 

Our arrival in Zurich also brought us our first bit of really warm weather.  It was about 28c, but felt like 38c in our hotel room.  The silly place had windows that could swing wide open, but they installed vertical blinds that prevented them from opening more than a couple of inches. 

The clearance space needed was tantalizingly small, so I kept fiddling with the window, trying to force the thing open.   I eventually found a latch that allowed me to take the entire blind off the wall.  With that move, we finally had some air.  We also had a clear hear of the big church bells that went off every 15 minutes.  One chime at 15 minutes, two at 30 minutes, four at 45 minutes and a bunch of noise followed by a chime for every hour (11pm gets 11 chimes, etc.). 

After a restless night we quickly made our way down to Altendorf.  Not a church in sight, nor in earshot!  It really was beautiful and Robbie O’s townhouse was awesome.  Rob did a fantastic job of touring us around and cooking up some fantastic food.  The tenderloin steaks we had the first night were in the top three I have ever had.

 

We followed up that great meal with what was supposed to be a fantastic sausage party.  There was plenty of sausage at breakfast, followed by a trip to Luzerne to the Rathaus Brauerei to see some more sausage.  I went with Robbie’s suggestion which were a couple of white sausages in water, a pretzel and a beer.  I am more of a dark meat sausage kind of guy and I have to say I was lukewarm on the white sausage, which came to the table kind of lukewarm.

 

That evening I was feeling a bit nauseous and hit the hay early.  We booked a three hour train ride to Brienz, up in the Swiss Alps, the next morning.  I was still feeling queasy the next morning, but we pressed on.  After a beautiful train ride, we had just started touring around when I made the call to abort the mission and head back home.  Too bad that a bit of food poisoning put a damper on the end of our time in Switzerland.

 

The next morning we were off by train to Venice.  It was Venice that was the spark for the trip.  Three years ago my grandmother, Groovy Gert, gave all her grandkids a little inheritance before she passed.  I decided we would spend it on a trip and I asked her to tell us her favourite place out of all her world travels.  She quickly came back with Venice and that was that. 

Venice quite simply is unlike any other city I have ever been to.  First off, it is really old.  It was a world power back between 700 and 1200.  Some of the buildings are over 800 years old. 

 

Second off, it is this crazy collection of 150 of so small islands, connected with little bridges.  The Grand Canal is full of small boats, gondolas and the water buses that made getting around a little bit quicker.  It was fantastic to tour and get lost in a city without any cars. 

Getting sidetracked, I have to confess that we did not take a gondola ride.  They were silly expensive, but more importantly I kept seeing the gondoliers on their cell phones while they were touring their paying customers around.  If the days where they would sing to you while taking you through the winding canals ever existed, they are now long gone.  To get the experience, we did take a traghetto, which is a gondola used to take tourists across the Grand Canal.  Essentially a two minute ride for fifty cents.  Apparently you aren’t supposed to take pictures.

 

Getting back on track, the beauty and history of the churches and some of the squares were absolutely awe inspiring.  Perhaps Rome and Athens are even better (I have never been), but we were left speechless touring the Basilica Santa Maria Gloriosa del Frari, which isn’t even the most famous basilica in Venice.  It was grand on a scale that I never knew existed. 

The same can be said for the Piazzetta di San Marco, which is the most famous touristy bit of Venice.  It was crazy cool, even if we didn’t opt to wait in line for hours to get inside the basilica. 

 

Right beside the square is a classy watering hole called Harry’s Bar.  Famous writers like Orson Wells and Ernest Hemmingway used to frequent it.  Johnny Depp supposedly likes the place.  We thought we’d pop in for a beer, figuring it was a popular tourist spot given its description in the Lonely Planet guide.  Medium sized mistake.

The place is actually stuck in time, with really famous looking and rich clientele.  We in our shorts were quickly escorted upstairs to a small room without a view.  We had no view of the water and the important people had no view of us.  Sizing up the drink menu, we quickly established that they didn’t serve beer.  Just a bunch of whisky and gin based drinks that went for about €18 a pop. 

We made the decision to put the tail between our legs, scoot down the stairs and back out the front door without ordering.   To those who thought I got a bit of a burn on the trip, unfortunately it is just a bit of the residual embarrassment from the ordeal.

The next day it was sadly time to fly back home to Calgary.  We did exit in style, hiring a water taxi to take us to the airport.  They quite literally pick you up at your hotel and dock right at the airport.  It was a great way to say goodbye to a great city. 

 

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Milos Raonic – Canada Finally has a Tennis Star

It is an exciting time to be a tennis fan in Canada and it is about to get a whole lot better.  This past weekend in Memphis, we had Canadians in the men’s, ladies and doubles final.  Daniel Nestor added a 72nd career doubles title to go along with his 6 Grand Slam trophies and 2000 Olympic Gold Medal.  On the woman’s side, Rebecca Marino made her first career final before withdrawing due to injury after the first set.  With the finals appearance, she is now the #60 ranked woman in the world. 

The majority of the buzz over the weekend was reserved for 20 year old Thornhill, Ontario native, Milos Raonic, who lost a three set thriller against Andy Roddick.  Widely acknowledged as the best match of the year, it probably ranks somewhere in the top 5 matches I have ever watched.  A large part of what made it fascinating was the fact I was watching a Canadian play tennis as well as anyone in our country ever has. 

He should have wilted from the pressure and the fatigue multiple times.  He finally did appear to run out of gas in the third set, going down 4-1 and in danger of being broken for 5-1.  With a smirk that oozed confidence, he held serve before breaking Roddick to get back on serve.  A couple of loose shots at 5-6, followed by one of the greatest tennis shots ever, and Roddick was the champion.    Continue reading

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The Calgary Flames: A Tale of Three Seasons

With the Heritage Classic up next on Sunday for the Calgary Flames, I have found myself thinking about my least favourite team in the NHL.  Generally, my thoughts about the Flames consist of, “Flames suck”, followed by a lengthy daydream about the Edmonton Oilers.  In my daydreams, the Oilers always play like they did last night against Montreal.

The Flames have been nagging at me the past couple of weeks as they have gone from bottom feeders back in late December to a four way tie for sixth place in the Western Conference.  To shake things up, the Flames fired their GM, Craig Conroy retired and Alex Kotalik was jettisoned to the minors.  For the most part, the Flames are the same group of old and slow players they always were, but for some reason they are the hottest team in the league.  What gives?  Continue reading

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