Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Smoltz Trying To Win The Golfing Lottery

The former Brave, Red Sock and Cardinal is one of 9,052 golfers attempting to qualify for the U.S. Open.

Anyone with a handicap index of 1.4 or below can enter the tournament, which begins with 111 local qualifiers spread out across the U.S. with satellite locations in the U.K. and Japan as well.

If he is one of a handful of people who qualify from each site, he'll advance a 36 hole sectional qualifier and from there, the going really gets tough. He'd have to compete not only with the other top flight amateurs that made the previous cut, but non-exempted PGA tour professionals, club pros, college players and other excellent sticks all anxious to make it to the big stage.

Tiger Woods has called Smoltz the "best non-PGA Tour golfer" he's ever seen and has predicted that he could make a Senior PGA Tour when he turns 50. Right now, Smoltz sports a +2 handicap (as in two under par) with several rounds of 65 already this year. He once beat Annika Sorenstam in a fun match and has shot a scorching 63 (nine under par) at the Floridian Golf & Yatch Club in Palm City, Florida.

Smotlz also has a some features on this property any golfer would die for:
Smoltz’s backyard, however, looks like a mini country club replete with a couple of synthetic greens, nine teeing grounds and a 10,000-square-foot practice green. Smoltz is involved with Southwest Greens International, which builds synthetic-turf greens, tees and athletic fields, so his yard “basically [became] a showcase for the company.”

“It was designed for me to go to the next level,” said Smoltz, “and I have not utilized it the way I would like yet.”
Even with all the skill and advantages Smoltz has, it's still going to take a good deal of luck for him to make it. The final field of the U.S. Open is composed of 156 players, but the majority of those spots are occupied by exemptions granted to anyone who has won the tournament in the past ten years, any other major in the past three years, last year's top 30 from the PGA tour money list, the top 15 from the previous year's European Tour money list, the top 50 in the World Golf rankings among others. And most of the ones not taken by exemptions are won by tour pros in qualifying.

Last year, there were 15 amateurs in the field at the Open and it would be safe to assume that there will be a similar number this time around. So that's roughly 8,900 non-professionals (9,052 minus the Tour and club pros trying out) competing for 15 spots and the right to get their ass kicked by the best in the world at Pebble Beach in June. Even if you grant that Smoltz is in the top 15% of the field, that still gives him only a scant 1% chance of qualifying. And all it takes is one bad round along the way to knock you out of contention.

As the former dominant starter and closer said:
The one thing [in pitching] is you can get away with a lot of mistakes. In golf, you have to play your foul balls.

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