Tuesday, January 31

Hit It Pure Like Ernie Els

Day 101 without playing golf

I wouldn’t expect you to take swing advice from yours truly, a guy who doesn’t play golf. But how about a tip related to one of the sweetest swingers in the game -- Ernie Els?

Have you ever noticed how those smooth, rhythmic swings produce some of your longest, purest shots? Here’s a tip on Els swing that I ran across in PGA Tour Partners:

"As a young boy in South Africa, Ernie Els discovered the sponge balls he hit in his family garden went farther with a slower, rhythmic, partial swing than when he swung hard for a full shot. The ‘Big Easy’ swing was born.

"When you swing harder the ball spins more and flies higher, and your shot will be shorter. It’s better to take an extra club and make a more relaxed, rhythmic swing -- with a full shoulder turn -- to give yourself a better chance of catching the ball perfectly at impact."

Easy does it.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, January 30

Golfless Streak Hits 100 Days

Day 100 without playing golf

Well, I’m up to 100 days without playing golf. That’s not the kind of milestone you want to hit. Nonetheless, here I am.

I can assure you that the streak will definitely be broken in May, if not sooner. I’ve committed to playing in a two-man scramble at Blacksburg Country Club (Virginia). I played it in last year with a friend and we had a great time.

It shouldn’t be too tough for me to play more than last year. (I only played twice in 2005.) I already plan to play in two tournaments this year, and there may be some developments in the summertime that break things wide open for me in terms of golf. We shall see.

Until then, I remain

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, January 27

Golf Rule of the Week

Day 97 without playing golf

Q: In error, a referee authorized a player to infringe a Rule of Golf. Is the player absolved from penalty in such a case?

A: Yes. Under Rule 34-2, a referee's decision is final, whether or not the decision is correct.

Whew! Thank goodness for that.

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: USGA)

Thursday, January 26

Arriving Early, Real Early, at Torrey Pines

Day 96 without playing golf

Golf Nomad, who grew up in San Diego, wrote me and asked if Torrey Pines still has the custom of lining up golf bags by the starter’s window to determine the order of securing an early morning tee time.

I don’t know. I’ve been away for a long time.

But they used a system very similar to that back in the mid 1980s when I played Torrey. Let me tell you about it.

First of all, it was tough to get a tee time on the weekend. You could start calling on a certain day -- Monday, for instance -- to get a tee time for Saturday.

The phone line was constantly busy. In fact, it was virtually impossible to get through, especially if you didn’t have automatic redial, not a widespread phone feature at the time. (I told you it was a long time ago.)

My golf buddies and I gave up on that approach. But there was another way ...

The reserved tee times didn’t start until 7:30 or 8, which left anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half of daylight for people to tee off both the North and South courses.

The starter would arrive around 5:15 a.m. and take down the names of the groups that were already there. Then he would start sending them off at the crack of dawn. You would be surprised how many groups would already be out on both courses before the reserved tee time groups started going off.

But back to the early a.m. system.

It was an honor system. When you showed up, you would find the last person to arrive near the starter’s window. He would tell you what number he was –- 15th, for example –- and then he would be free to wander back to his car or the coffee shop (if it was open). Then you would wait for the next person to come along. And so on.

It worked surprisingly well. When the starter arrived, everyone (one representative of each group) lined up in perfect order and got their name down on the sheet.

Each person in our regular foursome would take a turn getting to Torrey early to claim our spot.

How early?

When it was my turn, I would leave the house at around 3:30 a.m. (usually after going to bed around midnight -- hey, it was Friday night) and arrive at Torrey at 4:15 a.m. I don’t think I ever cracked the top ten in the order. We’re talking some serious early morning golfers here.

One guy used to always pull his camper into the parking lot the night before. Not surprisingly, his group always went off first, probably on the South.

The coffee shop opened early –- I think around 4:30 –- and it would be jam-packed with guys stumbling around in search of some bad coffee and a stale donut. If you got there early enough, you grabbed a booth for you and your group where you could hang until it was light enough to go out and hit some putts.

The truth is, it was a lot of fun. The camaraderie and setting were great even when the golf suffered. I miss those days.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, January 25

I Miss Torrey Pines

Day 95 without playing golf

Long ago in what seems like another lifetime (when I actually played golf), I lived in San Diego. I completed college at San Diego State. I started my professional career at General Dynamics. And I played golf at Torrey Pines, site of this week’s Buick Invitational.

As muni golf goes, Torrey Pines is hard to beat. It’s 36 holes of generous fairways and large greens on bluffs overlooking miles of Pacific coastline. The North Course -- the track I usually played because it was easier to get on -- is the easier of the two courses. But it’s no pushover.

The South Course, which they’ve stretched out considerably since I played it, is long and difficult in spots. For example, number 12, a par four that plays into the wind toward the ocean, is a bear.

Breaking 80, a good day on any golf course for me, was an especially good score on the South Course. I think I did it just once, and that was a 75 on a calm day when the tees were up. I did produce some fairly low scores on the North Course, usually one really good nine and a mediocre nine.

However, the best part of playing Torrey was the gorgeous setting and being with my golf buddies. We played early on Saturday mornings, literally at the crack of dawn. We’d be off the tee at 6:30 or 7 and finished by 11.

Except for playing golf with my Dad growing up, I have no fonder golf memories.

The Armchair Golfer

P.S. I have some other Torrey stories that I hope to share. Although there’s one I’m afraid to tell because it sounds unbelievable, even though it’s true.

Tuesday, January 24

John Daly’s Longest Drives Are Off the Course

Day 94 without playing golf

John Daly is not big on flying, so he drives from tournament to tournament. In style, I might add. His wheels are actually an RV. But this ain’t your flatulent grandpa’s RV.

No, Daly’s RV is a Greyhound bus-sized Featherlite Prevost. It’s 45 feet long, weighs 20 tons and cost a cool $1.3 million.

"I don’t have to worry about packing, uncomfortable beds, I can watch what I want on TV and cook what I want to cook," Daly told Golf Today.

Envious? Me too. Check out some of the features:

 Three 42-inch flat screen televisions
 Two satellite dishes
 Large gas grill that can cook up to 20 steaks at a time
 Lots of mirrors (ceiling and floor to wall)
 Tiger-skin carpet and couch
 Three stereos with Bose speakers
 Full-size fridge with freezer and icemaker
 Stove and large microwave
 Washer and dryer

JD, if you’re reading this and need a new driver (of your RV), I’m available.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, January 23

The 6 Who Lead Tiger in All-time PGA Tour Wins

Day 93 without playing golf

Here's the answer to the weekend quiz:

7. Tiger Woods 46
6. Billy Casper 51
5. Byron Nelson 52
4. Arnold Palmer 62
3. Ben Hogan 64
2. Jack Nicklaus 73
1. Sam Snead 82

It's easy to forget Billy Casper, who in his heyday was quite an accomplished player. And, yes, Sam Snead (not Jack) owns the top spot.

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, January 21

Who Leads Tiger in All-time PGA Tour Wins?

Day 91 without playing golf

OK, here's a little weekend quiz.

Tiger Woods has 46 wins on the PGA Tour. No doubt, he's on an incredible pace, and won more tournaments in his 20s than anyone else.

Nonethess, there are six men who have won more on the PGA Tour (not counting the Champions Tour) than Tiger. How many can you name? Who is at the top of the list and how many events did he win?

Answers in the next day or two.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, January 20

Golf Rule of the Day

Day 90 without playing golf

Q: A practical joker removes the flagstick from the hole and sticks it into the putting green some distance from the hole. The players approaching the green are unaware of this action and they play towards the flagstick and not the hole. Do the players have the option to replay?

A: No. In equity (Rule 1-4), the players must accept the resultant advantage or disadvantage.

Chalk up another reason why golf isn't fair.

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: USGA)

Wednesday, January 18

Armchair Interview: 5 Questions for Luke Swilor, PGA Tour Hopeful

Day 88 without playing golf

Luke Swilor is a professional golfer whose dream is to play on the PGA Tour. Luke was the captain of his University of Utah golf team, and was an academic All-American (a combination of grades and scoring average). Luke learned the game from his father, a golf pro who has played the Nationwide Tour and in two PGA championships.

You can follow Luke’s progress at his blog: Luke Swilor’s Road to the Tour.

Armchair Golf Blog: What would a successful 2006 look like for Luke Swilor?

Luke Swilor: I think that as long as I continue to improve 2006 can be considered a success. The ultimate success this year would be ending up with a PGA Tour card at the end of the year.

I would also like to get some wins in some of the larger tournaments I play in (I've won a couple of pro-ams, but not yet a large, open type event). I would be a bit disappointed if I didn't reach these goals, but as long as I'm getting closer to reaching the big stage, I can look at the year as a success.

Armchair Golf Blog: What part (or parts) of your game needs the most attention in order for you to get to the next level?

Luke Swilor: I don't think there is one part of my game that is seriously lagging behind, but my short game could probably use the most work.

My shorter shots around the green are good, but I could still get the 30-50 yard pitches a bit closer to the hole. I figure if I could get one shot better each nine, I'd be on the Tour. The short game is probably the easiest spot to achieve that.

Every part of my game has been improving a great deal over the last couple of years. Last season I shot more low scores than I ever have, but I still need to be a bit more consistent.

Armchair Golf Blog: How is your 2006 schedule shaping up -- what mini-tours, tournaments and events might you be playing this year?

Luke Swilor: I haven't completely locked a schedule in stone, but I expect it to be much the same as last year. The summer months are a great opportunity to make a lot of money playing in state opens and other independent tournaments around the West.

There really isn't a need to play a lot of mini-tour golf in the summer if part of your goal is to make money. Many of the tournaments I plan on playing have much smaller entry fees ($200-500 compared to $900-1200 for mini-tours) with purses that are very similar. I will also be playing in some of the Dakotas Tour events, where I had some success last year.

It's a bit difficult to find places to play in the first few months of the year, so I will probably play in a few of the Spanos Tour events until the later part of spring.

Depending on how well I play, and more importantly how much money I have, the year should come to a close at Tour School. My schedule is all about preparing me (financially, as well as physically) for Tour School.

Armchair Golf Blog: How can golf bloggers help you?

Luke Swilor: I'm not really sure exactly what other bloggers can do to help me. I love the support and interaction I've had the last couple of months, and I hope that it will continue. It's pretty cool to know that somebody other than my mom is out there following my play.

Armchair Golf Blog: Anything else you would like to add?

Luke Swilor: Yeah. Get out and play some golf, will ya?

Follow Luke’s progress at Luke Swilor’s Road to the Tour. Also, stay tuned to the Armchair Golf Blog for future interviews and updates.

Monday, January 16

Langer Awarded Honorary OBE

Day 86 without playing golf

A little news from across the pond : Bernhard Langer was awarded an honorary OBE by the Queen of England.

(Please note the "E" -- this isn't some honor for being OB a lot. The Queen would have to give that to Seve.)

Now you're curious, aren't you? What the heck is an honorary OBE?

It's the honorary Officer of the Most Excellent Order (O) of the British (B) Empire (E). Langer got it for his "services to golf." Seems well deserved to me. For the record, Langer has won two Masters, 42 events on the European Tour, and has long been a fixture on the European Ryder Cup team.

Langer isn't the most exciting player, but he has been a of consistency and longevity. Plus, it's hard not to like a guy who would putt with a rake (and probably has) if that's what it took to conquer the yips.

Congratulations, Bernhard. Oh yeah, and God save the Queen.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday: Armchair interview with Luke Swilor, PGA Tour hopeful

Saturday, January 14

Wie Misses Cut, Keeps Chin Up

Day 84 without playing golf

OK, let’s give Michelle Wie some credit.

After posting a 79 that tied her with John Cook for last place after the first round of the Sony Open, Wie licked her wounds and came back to fire a 68 on Friday, a round that included seven birdies.

Yeah, Wie missed the cut. Again. Yeah, maybe she should forget teeing it up with the men for now. (But I don’t think she will.)

Still, you can’t ignore her gutsy 68. Nice comeback. The competitive fires are definitely burning in Michelle. She believes in herself, which in the long run will matter more than anything others say about her.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, January 13

Golf Rule of the Day

Day 83 without playing golf

Q: May a player have more than one caddie during a round? If so, may each caddie give the player advice?

A: A player may have more than one caddie during a round, provided he has only one at a time. He is entitled to receive advice from whoever is his caddie at the time -- see Definition of "Caddie."

For the "Rule of the Day," visit http://www.usga.org.

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: USGA)

Thursday, January 12

Wie Is Playing Like Me

Day 82 without playing golf

I just checked the leaderboard at the Sony Open, and Michelle Wie is leaking oil, big time. Wie is plus 8 after 10 holes, with three doubles.

Ouch!

Unless Michelle suddenly finds her game and rallies with a birdie barrage, she can kiss any chance of making the cut goodbye.

The people in Swoosh Land may be a tad restless tonight.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, January 11

Ernie Els Is Raring to Go

Day 81 without playing golf

"I'm raring to go," Ernie Els said on his Web site, as reported by sportinglife.com.

"I feel sharp. Physically I feel strong. And I feel really good about my golf swing."

Els, 36, figures he has another 10 good years ahead of him. His role model? Vijah Singh.

"… if you look at how well Vijay's been playing since he turned 40, winning majors, topping the PGA Tour money list, and all the rest of it, it kind of inspires me."

I’ll say this: Els’ swing is a piece of effortless beauty and he has the touch of a surgeon. If Ernie doesn’t lose interest or get hurt, I can see him staying competitive for a long, long time.

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, January 10

Calcavecchia: Wie Will Make a Cut But Never Win

Day 80 without playing golf

Could this be the week?

On Friday evening at the Sony Open in Hawaii, will Michelle Wie be the first woman since Zaharias in 1945 to make a cut on the PGA Tour?

Here's what Mark Calcavecchia told the Associated Press:

"She's going to make a cut eventually. She's never going to win, period. Maybe once she makes a cut, she'll forget about it. Should she play in Hawaii? Sure. I don't have a problem with her playing there. That's where she's from. I think she should try to win some LPGA tournaments first and go from there."

In some ways it doesn't seem like making a cut on Michelle's home turf should be that big a deal. She's talented and certainly capable.

But the media attention and pressure must be unimaginable, especially for a 16-year-old.

Even Tiger didn't face that when he was a junior in high school.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, January 9

Apology to Armchair Golf Blog Readers

Day 79 without playing golf

Whether you're a regular or first-time visitor to this blog, I'm sorry about any popups you may have encountered here. Believe me, they're not intended -- at least not by me!

I got spammed in my comments, too. Part of this murky online world, I guess. Thanks to Media Guru at Hooked on Golf Blog for the heads up.

Anyway, I'm working on the popup problem. If you have suggestions, please comment on this post or feel free to email me at armchairgolfer@hotmail.com.

Keep coming back, too. More good golf stuff ahead.

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, January 7

Johnny Miller, Of Course

Day 77 without playing golf

Anonymous and Dave got it right. It was Johnny Miller who said Tiger Woods has five good years left to bag more majors. After that, according to Miller, all bets are off.

Miller also said that Tiger is older when it comes to golf.

"Tiger was such a child prodigy. He's not 30 right now; he's at least 35 golf-wise," Miller told USA Today.

Read the whole story at www.usatoday.com/sports/golf/front.htm.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, January 5

Who Said This About Tiger?

Day 75 without playing golf

In an article about Tiger Woods and his golf longevity now that he has turned 30, a well-known golf personality said:

"Until 35, you're pretty bulletproof, but from 35 on it's like a bunch of fine china going down a dirt road on buckboard. You've just got to pray things don't break."

Who said it? (Sorry, this one isn’t multiple choice.)

The Armchair Golfer

P.S. Tiger is ahead in the Armchair Mini Poll at right. If you haven’t voted, please weigh in.

Wednesday, January 4

Golf Weather Returns – at Least for a Day or Two

Day 74 without playing golf

The mercury hit 51 degrees in the Blue Ridge Mountains today. The ice and snow have disappeared. The sun was shining.

It felt good. And for some (including me), it felt like golf weather.

My friend Eric headed out to Great Oaks Country Club for a possible round after our weekly prayer breakfast. I saw him on his way back into town around lunchtime. I think he must have played 18.

Good for Eric.

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, January 3

I've Played Kapalua's Plantation Course

Day 73 without playing golf

Until I play Pebble Beach (which I hope to do within the next few years), the Plantation Course at Kapalua -- site of this week's season-opening Mercedes Championship -- would probably rate as the top golfing experience of my lifetime.

I played it in 1992 on a springtime vacation to Maui. It was my first and only visit to Hawaii, and I enjoyed every second of it. I actually played the Plantation Course twice on the same day, completing 36 holes after my playing partner from LA explained that the second 18 was only $25. (Talk about a bargain.)

Words can't do justice to the surroundings. Let's just say it was the closest thing to golf paradise I've ever experienced. My golf was respectable -- if I remember correctly, I had an 85 and 82.

I also played Kaanapali on the vacation, a course the Seniors (er, I mean Champions Tour) plays.

Who else has played golf in paradise?

The Armchair Golfer