If you are an achiever by nature, just like golf stars and top poker players are, then it’s easy to understand why leading players like Rory McIlory get frustrated when their swing leaves them in the lurch, or why the game’s foremost putters such as Luke Donald, Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods get upset when they don’t make the putt. Poker players, too, lose their cool when things don’t go their way. Just ask Phil Ivey and Brandon Adams.
The answer to the professionals’ lack of absolute top performance each time they step onto the links or touch the green felt can often be found in their emotional makeup; at the level that these gents compete, often only fractions divide them. All of them are talented individuals and on any given day it may be tough to predict the winner. Perseverance, a steely reserve and a never-say-die attitude often save the day.
GOLF AND POKER: SIMILARITIES
An interesting observation is the “close” relationship that exists between golf and poker. The similarities are not to be denied; in both cases the player has to heavily rely on skill, temperament and – often – experience. That is not to say that newcomers can’t be successful (of course they often are). However, the experienced player just has so much more to draw from. All professional golfers and poker players have a competitive edge that spectators can only admire.
If you want to compete, you need to be tough mentally as well as physically. Nothing can be left to chance. When going for glory on the greens, all the top players have to be in great shape. They have to walk many miles over a four-day spell in the big tournaments, and the unfit will not be there to lift the trophy. The same can be said for poker players; many hours of concentration are necessary to come out on top. It is a fact that, like the masters of the greens, those who rule on the green felt follow a strict exercise routine, and often a proper diet.
WELL-KNOWN GOLFERS WHO ENJOY GAMBLING
Anyone who can read knows the name Tiger Woods. Apart from Jack Nicklaus he has won the most majors in golf (an amazing total of 14) and is a true modern day icon. He may well be the best golfer ever to have stepped onto the fairway and mesmerized us all with his abilities on the greens of the world’s greatest golf courses. Few in the history of the game have had The Tiger’s talent or shown his resilience. After a bad spell following marital problems, it seems that his game is on the up again and it is not at all impossible that he may win many more of golf’s big tournaments. Aside of his near perfect swing or putt, Tiger is also an avid poker and blackjack player. A regular at the casino tables of Las Vegas, Woods is reported to have started playing soon after graduating from university. At first he placed small bets; of course later, given his confidence in his own abilities, The Tiger stepped it up a notch and began betting like a seasoned champion. Tiger also hosts his own poker tournament every year.
Another one of golf’s great characters, John Daly is often spotted at the Las Vegas gambling tables. He himself estimates that he must have lost around $55 mill. John is honest: “I should say I regret it. But I did it, I move on from it. I had a lot of fun doing it…I love the action. I love the adrenaline going in there.” It seems the rush is what often pushes these stars to win, not only in front of admiring crowds at the 18th during exciting finishes and play-offs; no, also in the world’s casinos where sometimes the financial stakes can be high. To be one of the top golfers in the game, a definite competitive edge is not negotiable. The same is true in the poker, blackjack or billiard room.
POKER PLAYERS ON THE FAIRWAYS AND GREENS
Not only do golfers like the tables – the men from the gambling rooms often enjoy stepping out to tee off. A fine example is the highest-earning tournament player of all time, Daniel Negreanu who is an avid golfer and plays as regularly as time permits. In his own words: “I’m addicted.” Daniel was one of almost 20 big poker stars to take part in the inaugural High Stakes Golf Tour event in 2007 which was organized by gambling legends Doyle Brunson and Dewey Tomko. Daniel has not let up and enjoys a day on the course with friends, other poker players or serious golfers.
Brunson, a naturally gifted athlete in his youth, started playing golf at 30 and it immediately became clear that he was a serious contender. Because of his competitive nature and belief in his own abilities, such as not folding under pressure (very important at the poker table) he often was a match for far more talented golfers.
Another well-known poker player often found on the golf course is Tom Schneider, twice winner of a WSOP bracelet. Tom loves the similarities between poker and golf because he believes there are betting opportunities on the golf course as there are on the green felt. Skills often applied in the poker room can easily be transferred to the fairway and greens. Because of its nature, as opposed to the ‘’fast’’ games, golf allows time to think between shots, just like one would do in the poker room. When it comes to planning and outsmarting the opponent, golf and poker go hand in hand for Tom.
Poker players and other gamblers tend to be very good at sensing stress in the body language or on the face of an opponent. Therefore they find it easier than most to capitalize on a situation and to take control whether they’re out on the golf course or in the poker room.
Not enough can be said about mental toughness when it comes to performance, endurance and showing verve. Not everybody with talent will hit the big time, either on the links or in the games room. Players with no financial support or sponsorships have to work so much harder to get to tournaments or to be allowed entry in top competitions; they very often have to pay their own way, airfare and hotel accommodation. Of course, once they make it, the choice of hotels and limousines seems to be just another of the perks.
Poker players’ fascination with golf has been well documented, and we know from social media that many of the world’s top golfers will never say no to a night on the green felt.
Nike Golf TW Vapor Speed Driver – click to view larger version
Who do you trust more, fish oil salesmen, politicians, or golf marketing? These “what’s in the bag?” articles and limited edition clubs setup like the pros are so funny to me. Now you can buy a club custom fit to someone else, who has swing characteristics completely unlike yours!
The latest is a promotion by Nike Golf, where you can buy the exact driver Tiger Woods is using. The Nike TW Vapor Speed is available for purchase today (June 1, 2015) and has the exact same specs as Tiger’s gamer driver. What bonehead would want this club, other than perhaps a collector? According to other marketing themes we as golfers should be getting a custom fit driver for our swings, right? So buying Tiger’s driver would be idiotic to say the least, unless of course we have the exact same build, height, weight, swing speed, technique, swing plane, takeaway, release, tempo, launch angle, grip, head dip…. I could go on forever.
Before you make that big decision to buy a club nobody in the world could probably hit, take a look at some of these numbers below. Tiger hasn’t played enough holes this season to qualify for the Tour stats apparently, since he isn’t even on the driving statistics listings on the Tour site for 2015. I’ve done some analysis for you.
Driving Distance: Tiger’s average driving distance right now is 297.1. That would be good enough for 26th place at this point on Tour.
Driving Accuracy: Tiger’s driving accuracy is 50.71%. That would put him at 199th on the PGA Tour in 2015.
Tiger has no ranking for total driving and it is not possible for me to calculate it. By my guesses, it would be near or at the bottom of the entire PGA Tour’s list.
If you love Tiger Woods and have $399 to spend for a driver you probably can’t hit, this one is for you.
While everyone is enjoying this week’s THE PLAYERS (always spell THE PLAYERS in ALL CAPS, it is what they do) Championship, I thought perhaps I’d share a quick link to my experience playing TPC Sawgrass. The highlight of the round was making birdie on the tough 14th. The lowlight was… well, the par-3 17th island green, which kicked my ass.
Why do my arms feel like rubber at this moment?
Here’s my full TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course review.
Jordan Spieth – 2015 Masters Champion
I say it every year. The Masters never disappoints. 2015 is no exception, though some were critical of the Sunday round. I agree that it was not a typical Masters Sunday, with many players “charging” and contending, swapping the lead. Because Jordan Spieth was so dominant the first three days and did not wilt in the final round, there were no Sunday charges to be had.
After Thursday’s 64 I predicted a golf media “premature Spiethgasm,” knowing the media was going to go all ga-ga over Spieth. With the downward direction in Tiger Woods’s game, it seems the media is trying to glom onto a new nipple. Now that Spieth finished the 2015 Masters off in a classy, multi-record-breaking fashion, the golf media now has my permission to enter their full-on Spiethgasm. Lock it on.
It was truly an impressive week. Spieth is the real deal, no doubt. I had the opportunity to cover Jordan when he was 16 years old and made the cut in a PGA Tour event, the Byron Nelson. Yes, 16 years old.
He’s not a bomber like Dustin Johnson, but long enough. He’s not a short game wizard like Phil Mickelson, but his short game is solid (up-and-down on 54th hole for example). I find it hard to pinpoint a signature part of Spieth’s game. I’m not sure what his strengths are. It would seem his game is so balanced, that his strength is a lack of weakness in any area. The only minor issues this past week which did cost him some strokes here and there, was the occasional blocked drive to the right.
Jordan’s world ranking is now #2, right behind Rory McIlory. I love how different the styles between these two is and look forward to a budding rivalry between them in the years to come.
It was slightly difficult to watch Tiger Woods this weekend. You could tell he was trying as hard as ever, and after two solid middle rounds we even saw a fist pump, like the old days. Also like the old days, we saw the whirly-bird driver flying out of his hands and heard on a national broadcast “oh my f***ing God,” when he duck-hooked a drive into the left trees on the par-5 13th.
Tiger looked pretty good to me. No back issues. Short game looked decent. The part of his game that looked bad was his driving, with the head dipping down drastically. When he does that bad things happen. Is Tiger “back?” I’m not sure he could ever be back to what he once was. Time will tell.
When Tiger hit that root in the final round and hurt his hand I was thinking to myself, “oh no, not another withdraw due to injury.” I’m glad he was able to “put the bone back in place,” or whatever it was he did.
I actually dreamed Saturday night that Phil won his 4th green jacket. He put on a good show, and perhaps might have won if Spieth wasn’t in the field. It was a great showing by Phil, with many entertaining shots. I was surprised how often he used putter off the greens this time around.
Maybe that dream was a premonition for 2016 or beyond.
I had a “feeling” Rory McIlory would not be in contention. He started out slow but showed that he could play Augusta National very well. But in the end, he didn’t have enough this week. I feel the self imposed pressure he has on himself to complete the career Grand Slam by winning the Masters will make it much more had to win at Augusta than it should be. No doubt he has the game to win there, but his mind might get in his way.
Charley Hoffman was a pleasant surprise this past week. He had the lead for a while and was right up there most of the weekend. Amazing what cutting off the mullet can do for one’s golf game.
Justin Rose was the closest threat to Spieth. The guy is a total stud. Fearless. I really like his game and his style. He’s gutsy.
Dustin Johnson set a Masters record with three eagles in one round. That’s impressive.
Jason Day and Adam Scott didn’t do close to as well as I thought they would.
Of course, it was nice to see the goodbye tour of Ben Crenshaw Friday.
Naturally, Augusta National looked as great as ever. It played a little easier than I thought. Perhaps they’ve accepted that they’re not a U.S. Open and it is okay for players to make birdies. That style of golf is more exciting for most “patrons.”
The second Jordan Spieth made the final, winning putt I couldn’t help but look forward to the 2016 Masters Tournament. Only 360 days to go!
Online Coverage at Masters.com
If you have not checked out the live coverage on Masters.com you are really missing out. It is fantastic.
AMEN CORNER: 10:45AM – 6:00PMEDT
MASTERS – ON THE RANGE: 11:05AM – 1:00PMEDT
HOLES. 15 AND 16: 11:45AM – 7:00PMEDT
FEATURED GROUP 11: 2:00PM – 7:30PMEDT
FEATURED GROUP 21: 2:00PM – 7:30PMEDT
MASTERS IN-DEPTH: 3:00PM – 7:30PMEDT
2:00 PM to 7:00 PM Sun, April 12, 2015.
Tee Times and Pairings
10:00 a.m. — Thongchai Jaidee (and marker Jeff Knox)
10:10 a.m. — Darren Clarke, Vijay Singh
10:20 a.m. — Jamie Donaldson, Graeme McDowell
10:30 a.m. — Erik Compton, Anirban Lahiri
10:40 a.m. — Jason Dufner, Jimmy Walker
10:50 a.m. — Mark O’Meara, Steve Stricker
11:00 a.m. — Keegan Bradley, Danny Willett
11:10 a.m. — Ryan Palmer, Matt Kuchar
11:20 a.m. — Chris Kirk, Geoff Ogilviy
11:30 a.m. — Morgan Hoffmann, John Senden
11:50 a.m. — Patrick Reed, Sangmoon Bae
12:00 p.m. — Webb Simpson, Seung-Yul Noh
12:10 p.m. — Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka
12:20 p.m. — Adam Scott, Lee Westwood
12:30 p.m. — Bernd Wiesberger, Bubba Watson
12:40 p.m. — Cameron Tringale, Rickie Fowler
12:50 p.m. — Angel Cabrera, Ernie Els
1:00 p.m. — Russell Henley, Charl Schwartzel
1:10 p.m. — Sergio Garcia, Ryan Moore
1:30 p.m. — Bill Haas, Hunter Mahan
1:40 p.m. — Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen
1:50 p.m. — Zach Johnson, Jonas Blixt
2:00 p.m. — Paul Casey, Ian Poulter
2:10 p.m. — Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama
2:20 p.m. — Kevin Streelman, Kevin Na
2:30 p.m. — Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy
2:40 p.m. — Phil Mickelson, Charley Hoffman
2:50 p.m. — Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose