Friday, January 23

First U.S. Open in Northwest Highlights 2015 USGA Championship Schedule

WHEN I THINK OF USGA CHAMPIONSHIPS, the U.S. Open, U.S. Women's Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Amateur come to mind. But the USGA conducts a bunch of national championships, more than a dozen.

Below is the 2015 lineup, including two new amateur fourball championships.

2015 USGA Championship Schedule

U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, The Olympic Club, San Francisco, Calif., May 2-6

U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship, Bandon Dunes Resort, Bandon, Ore., May 9-13

U.S. Open, Chambers Bay, University Place, Wash., June 18-21
USGA notes: Chambers Bay will host the 115th U.S. Open on June 18-21 and become the third municipal course to host the championship. Owned by Pierce County, the links-style course is part of a 930-acre park and lies on a former gravel and sand quarry. Chambers Bay joins Bethpage State Park (Black Course), in Farmingdale, N.Y., and Torrey Pines Golf Course (South Course), in San Diego, Calif., on the list of municipal courses to host a U.S. Open.
U.S. Senior Open, Del Paso Country Club, Sacramento, Calif., June 25-28
USGA notes: The U.S. Senior Open will be contested in Northern California for the first time, from June 25-28. Del Paso Country Club, in Sacramento, will host its fifth USGA championship and first since the 1982 U.S. Women’s Open.
U.S. Women’s Open, Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club, July 9-12
USGA notes: Pennsylvania will host a U.S. Women’s Open for the ninth time when the 2015 championship is played at Lancaster Country Club from July 9-12. 
U.S. Girls’ Junior, Tulsa (Okla.) Country Club, July 20-25

U.S. Junior Amateur, Colleton River Plantation Club (Dye Course), Bluffton, S.C., July 20-25

U.S. Women’s Amateur, Portland (Ore.) Golf Club, Aug. 10-16

U.S. Amateur, Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club, Aug. 17-23
USGA notes: Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club will host the 115th U.S. Amateur from Aug. 17-23. The club becomes the 11th course to host the U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Amateur. Jim Furyk (2003) and Johnny Farrell (1928) won Opens at the club, which was established in 1915 and whose first president was pioneering college football coach Amos Alonzo Stagg. 
USGA Women’s State Team, Dalhousie (Mo.) Golf Club, Sept. 10-12

U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, Hillwood Country Club, Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 26-Oct. 1

U.S. Senior Amateur, Hidden Creek Golf Club, Egg Harbor Township, N.J., Sept. 26-Oct. 1

U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, Squire Creek Country Club, Choudrant, La., Oct. 3-8

U.S. Mid-Amateur, John’s Island Club, Vero Beach, Fla., Oct. 3-8

(International)
Walker Cup Match, Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club, Lancashire, England, Sept. 12-13

Thursday, January 22

Golf on TV: Humana Challenge, Mitsubishi Electric Championship, Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

The following edited content was supplied by Golf Channel in a news release.

Phil Mickelson will make his first professional start this week since the 2014 Ryder Cup, headlining the field at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. Golf Channel will carry live coverage of all four rounds of the event, and Patrick Reed – already having won in 2015 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions earlier this month – is in the field defending his 2014 title.

The Champions Tour begins its 2015 season at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai in Hawaii, with 2014 Charles Schwab Cup winner Bernhard Langer looking to capture the season-opener for the second consecutive year.

On the European Tour, Sergio Garcia defends at the Commerical Bank Qatar Masters, with Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose also headlining the field.

* * *

PGA TOUR

Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation
Dates: Jan. 22-25
Venue: Palmer Private Course, PGA West; Nicklaus Private Course, PGA West; La Quinta Country Club (La Quinta, Calif.)

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         3-7 p.m. (Live) / 7:30-11:30 p.m. (Replay)
Friday              3-7 p.m. (Live) / 10:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday          3-7 p.m. (Live) / 10:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (Replay)
Sunday            3-7 p.m. (Live) / 11 p.m.-3 a.m. (Replay)

Event Notes

Tournament format: Professionals will be paired with different amateur golfers in each of the first three days of the tournament, playing one round on each of the tournament course venues: Palmer Private Course, Nicklaus Private Course and La Quinta Country Club. The top-three gross and net amateurs from the first three rounds will qualify to play in Sunday’s final round at the Palmer Private Course.
    
Reed defends: Patrick Reed finished two shots ahead of Ryan Palmer to cap off a wire-to-wire victory after recording three consecutive rounds of 63 before closing with a final round 71.

Headlining the field: Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Keegan Bradley, Billy Horschel, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Jason Dufner and Bill Haas.

* * *

CHAMPIONS TOUR

Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai 
Dates: Jan. 23-25
Venue: Hualalai Resort Golf Club, Ka’upulehu-Kona, Hawaii

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Friday              7:30-10:30 p.m. (Live) / 2:30-4:30 a.m. (Saturday replay)
Saturday          7:30-10:30 p.m. (Live) / 3-6 a.m. (Sunday replay)
Sunday            7-10 p.m. (Live) / 4-6 a.m. (Monday replay)

Event Notes

Langer defends: Bernhard Langer finished three shots ahead of Fred Couples and Jeff Sluman to stretch his streak to eight consecutive seasons of winning at least one tournament.

Headlining the field: Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples, Tom Watson, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Davis Love III, Colin Montgomerie, Kenny Perry, Corey Pavin, Tom Lehman and Peter Jacobsen.

* * *

EUROPEAN TOUR

Commercial Bank Qatar Masters 
Dates: Jan. 21-24
Venue: Doha Golf Club, Doha, Qatar

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Wednesday     1:30-4:30 a.m.6 -8:30 a.m. (Live)
Thursday         1:30-4:30 a.m., 6-8:30 a.m. (Live)
Friday              4:30-8:30 a.m. (Live)
Saturday          4:30-8:30 a.m. (Live) / 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (Replay)

Event Notes

Garcia defends: Sergio Garcia made birdie on the third playoff hole to edge Mikko Ilonen for his 11th career European Tour win.
                                    
Headlining the field: Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, Charl Schwartzel, Stephen Gallacher, Matteo Manassero, Thorbjorn Olesen, Mikko Ilonen and Peter Uihlein.

Wednesday, January 21

Jack Nicklaus Turns 75

Jack Nicklaus in his North Palm Beach office in May 2013.
JACK NICKLAUS WAS BORN ON THIS day in 1940 in Upper Arlington, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. He took up golf in earnest at age 10, putting in long hours at Scioto Country Club, where Bobby Jones won the 1926 U.S. Open.

Compared to others, the game came easily to Nicklaus, and he won often at every level before experiencing his first prolonged slump in the late 1960s. Even then the man who would become known as the Golden Bear won golf tournaments, although he did have to endure a majors drought from the summer of 1967 to the summer of 1970.

The drought ended when Jack beat Doug Sanders in an 18-hole playoff to win the British Open at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland. It was his eighth major title. He would go on to win 18 major championships as a professional, with the last one, the 1986 Masters, being arguably the most dramatic and most memorable. Nicklaus slipped into the Green Jacket for a record sixth time at age 46.

I interviewed Jack at his North Palm Beach office in May 2013 for my book about the 1969 Ryder Cup, DRAW IN THE DUNES. The conversation strayed into several areas, including all those seconds in majors (19). Here's what he told me.
ME: When I think of your career, you played smart golf and didn't make as many mistakes. 
First professional check for $33.33 at the L.A. Open.
Nicklaus tied for 50th place.
JACK: That's probably why I finished second a lot, because I didn't make a lot of the dumb mistakes but somebody else just happened to play better that week, which is OK. I never had a problem with ever finishing second, if I had prepared properly and played the best I thought I could play, and somebody played better, then well done, that’s congratulations. But if I do something stupid, like I did at [Royal] Lytham, and bogeyed the last two holes to lose a tournament, or if I would have missed the putt [on the final hole] at the [1969] Ryder Cup, that would have been stupid. Those are the kind of things that really, really sit in your mind and you say, "Why would you ever do something like that?" Because you have total control over it, or at least you hope you have total control over yourself. That's what you're trying to do. 
Happy 75th birthday, Jack Nicklaus.

Tuesday, January 20

Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins (Conclusion)

Fred Hawkins often practiced with the most feared player on the circuit—Ben Hogan. “I played a number of practice rounds with [Hogan],” Hawkins told me. “[H]e’d always ask me to come down to Fort Worth a couple of days early so he’d get a little competition [and] practice that way.” In the continuation of this series, you'll learn about Hawkins and his Hogan stories. Read Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.

Fred Hawkins and Ben Hogan
at Colonial in 1959.
BEN HOGAN WAS TOUGH AND UNKNOWABLE. That’s the legend, part of the mystique.

“[Jimmy] Demaret probably knew him better than any of us,” Fred Hawkins said, “but I probably knew him as well as anybody outside of Demaret. But nobody ever knew him.

“I’ve always said he was the hardest man that I have ever known. If he told you he wasn’t going to cross street, there was nothing in the world to make him cross the street. At times he could be very gracious, he could speak well and organize his thoughts. Other times, he’d go right by you. He was never really nasty to anybody that I know of. He wasn’t that way. He was just uncommunicative. He stayed in his own little world.”

Hawkins offered an example of Hogan’s stubbornness, the legend’s treatment of rising star Gary Player.

“I used to argue with him about Gary Player,” Hawkins said. “Finished second to Tommy Bolt in the U.S. Open in 1958 at Tulsa. Gary, at that time, … had just come over [from South Africa], and Hogan knew how he played.

“Gary wasn’t signed with [a golf equipment company] at that time. Hogan talked to him because Gary was a big Hogan fan. He tried to pattern his own game after [Hogan] as so many people did. He asked Player to not sign with anybody else until he talked to him. Gary said he would do that.”

A long time went by, according to Hawkins. Months, maybe an entire year. Player eventually signed with First Flight.

“Gary said he tried to call Ben three or four times and couldn’t get him on the phone so he went ahead and signed,” Hawkins said. “But Hogan would never forgive him.

“I used to tell [Hogan], ‘God, how can you do that?’

“‘I don’t’ care,’ Hogan said. ‘He gave me his word he’d talk to me first and he didn’t do it.’

“And that was it,” Hawkins said, chuckling. “Nothing would ever make him change his mind.”

“How did Ben treat you?” I asked.

“He treated me fine,” Hawkins replied.

“You got along well with him, it sounds like.”

“Yeah, but not all things good.”

Hawkins told me about a time when he sought a club job in Los Angeles. He was in his early forties, about to leave the PGA Tour.

“It was a good job,” he said. “They said who could I give for a recommendation, and I named Hogan and somebody else.”

The club told Hawkins that would be great.

“I called [Hogan] on the phone and asked if he’d send a letter of recommendation. He said that’s not the way to do it. They call me and I’ll give you a good recommendation, but I’m not going to write one and send it to them. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be done.

“I said, OK.”

The Hogan recommendation never got to the club.

“I didn’t get the job,” Hawkins said, “which I wasn’t broken up about it. The next time I saw [Hogan], he said, ‘How’s that job going?’

“I said, ‘What job?’

“'That job out there in California.’

“I said, ‘I didn’t get it.

“[Hogan] just stopped and looked down at the ground.

“‘You didn’t want that job anyhow,’ he said.”

* * *

Fred Hawkins recalled Jimmy Demaret, Hogan’s frequent match-play partner on tour, as “such an entertaining and funny and witty guy.”

Demaret beat Hogan in an 18-hole playoff  just prior to Hogan’s February 1949 accident that nearly killed him. Later on, after Hogan recovered, Demaret quipped about it.

“They’d had a playoff in Phoenix and Hogan was on his way [to Fort Worth],” Hawkins said. “And Demaret said [Hogan] was so damned upset he went ahead and ran into a Greyhound bus.

“Jimmy Demaret was the most delightful guy to be around that I have ever seen. We used to get he and Phil Harris together. They could put on a show for hours.”

Other Installments:
Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 1
Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 2
Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 3
Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 4
Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 5

Monday, January 19

Nightmare in Abu Dhabi


A CENTURY AGO SIX-TIME BRITISH OPEN champion Harry Vardon may have said it best when he uttered, "Golf is master of us all." I expect Martin Kaymer would agree with Vardon's maxim, especially on this Monday.

The two-time major champion began yesterday's final round in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship with a six-shot lead. Kaymer's fourth title at Abu Dhabi Golf Club was all but assured; the only open question was the margin of victory.

The German's lead grew to 10 shots when he birdied three of the first four holes. With 14 holes to play and a 10-stroke lead, all it seemed Kaymer had to do was hold onto the golf club. Firing 64, 67 and 65 through the first three rounds and with a hot start on Sunday, Kaymer was in control of everything that mattered: himself, his game and the golf tournament.

Then, inexplicably, the man who was 23 under par for 58 holes played the final 14 in 6 over. And lost.

Kaymer finished third, two strokes behind winner Gary Stal, a 22-year-old Frenchman ranked 357th in the world, who stormed to the clubhouse with a 65. Closing with a 66, Rory McIlroy finished second. Kaymer's 75 was the worst final-round score in the field.

Kaymer admitted to being "a little shocked" afterward.

"Obviously, I didn't play as good as the other days," he said, "but I didn’t make many mistakes; a couple of bad shots cost me. It's difficult right after the round to say how I feel. It was definitely a very interesting day and one I need to reflect on."

Happening in broad daylight in Abu Dhabi, the collapse had to be the worst nightmare for Martin Kaymer.

Today I'm once again reminded that no lead is safe in golf. And, furthermore, that no golfer is master of this ancient game.

Friday, January 16

'Nicklaus: The Making of a Champion' to Air on Fox Sports This Sunday



A NEW JACK NICKLAUS DOCUMENTARY that coincides with Jack turning 75 will air on Fox Sports this Sunday at noon ET.

From the USGA, which, along with Ross Greenburg Productions, produced "Nicklaus: The Making of a Champion":
The documentary chronicles the life, career and legacy of Nicklaus, winner of a record 18 professional major championships, including four U.S. Opens, tied for the most all-time. His eight USGA championships include two U.S. Amateurs and two U.S. Senior Opens.
The film explores the completeness of Nicklaus’ storied career, emphasizing the values he formed growing up in Columbus, Ohio, and continues to embody.

"I believe a hallmark of my career is that I always tried to look ahead, be it the next tournament, next championship or next mountain to climb," Nicklaus said.

"But through the lens of my career-long association with the USGA, and the creative vision of Ross Greenburg and his team, I allowed myself the opportunity to reflect on some very special times in my life and share some wonderful moments and memories that I will forever cherish. I don’t think my career, my life, would be the same were it not for the USGA championships that helped shape me as a golfer and person, and I thank the USGA for wanting to share those stories."

Produced in partnership with 52-time Sports Emmy Award winner Ross Greenburg, "Nicklaus: The Making of a Champion" is narrated by accomplished actor and Emmy Award-winning narrator Peter Coyote, who has lent his voice to more than 125 films and documentaries, including the 2012 USGA documentary, "1962 U.S. Open: Jack’s First Major."

Thursday, January 15

Golf on TV: Sony Open in Hawaii and Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship

The following edited content was supplied by Golf Channel in a news release.

NBC Sports Group continues its coverage of the PGA TOUR on the big island this week with the Sony Open in Hawaii. Golf Channel will air all four rounds in primetime – beginning Thursday – and NBC will carry early, final round coverage on Sunday from 4-6 p.m. ETThis week’s event is the first full tournament field on the PGA TOUR in 2015.

World No. 1 Rory McIlroy and No. 2 Henrik Stenson headline the field at the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, with McIlroy making his first start since November. Golf Channel will air early-morning coverage during all four rounds, beginning on Thursday.

PGA TOUR

Sony Open in Hawaii
Dates: Jan. 15-18
Venue: Waialae Country Club, Honolulu, Hawaii

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         7-10:30 p.m. (Live) / 11 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (Replay)
Friday              7-10:30 p.m. (Live) / 11 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday          7-10:30 p.m. (Live) / 11 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (Replay)
Sunday            6-8 p.m. (Live) / 9 p.m.-1 a.m. (Replay)

Tournament Airtimes On NBC (Eastern):
Sunday            4-6 p.m. (Live)

Event Notes

50th anniversary of the event: This week will serve as the 50th edition of the event, with each being held at Waialae Country Club, just east of downtown Honolulu.

Walker defends: Jimmy Walker won by one stroke over Chris Kirk for his second victory of the 2013-14 PGA TOUR season.
        
Headlining the field: Jason Day, Jimmy Walker, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Hideki Matsuyama, Webb Simpson, Sang-Moon Bae, Luke Donald, Russell Henley and Chris Kirk.  

* * *

EUROPEAN TOUR

Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship
Dates: Jan. 15-18
Venue: Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         12:30-3:30 a.m., 5-8 a.m. (Live) / Noon-5:30 p.m. (Replay)
Friday              5-8 a.m. (Live), (Beginning of second round on tape delay, 2:30-5 a.m.)
Saturday          4-8 a.m. (Live) / 1:30-3 p.m. (Replay)
Sunday            3:30-8 a.m. (Live) / 10 a.m-Noon (Replay)

Event Notes

Larrazabal defends: Pablo Larrazabal edged Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson by one shot to earn his third career European Tour win.
                                 
Headlining the field: Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Martin Kaymer, Victor Dubuisson, Jamie Donaldson, Ernie Els, Charl Schwartzel and Darren Clarke.

Wednesday, January 14

Kenny Perry's One Goal for Return to PGA Tour

Kenny Perry (ben_lei/Flickr)
KENNY PERRY IS RETURNING to the PGA Tour in the 2015 season.

Golfweek's Alex Micelli reported:
Kenny Perry's last PGA Tour title came at the 2009 Travelers Championship. Perry, 54, is hoping that victory in Hartford, Conn., the 14th of his career, won't be his last. He has decided to take his one-time top-25 money exemption for full PGA Tour status in 2015. 
"I'm not trying to prove anything out here," Perry said from the practice putting green as he prepared for the Sony Open. "I do have one goal. If somehow I could get that lightning in a bottle for one week. If I could win, I would be the oldest guy ever to win."
Perry's plan is to tee it up in 18 PGA Tour events and seven or so on the Champions Tour, including the Champions Tour majors and other bigger events.