Thursday, April 27

2006 U.S. Open Application Facts

Day 187 without playing golf

Total Applications
8,881. Official number of accepted entries is 8,584.

Youngest
Ryan Simpson, 13, of Mechanicville, NY.

Oldest
Ordean Olson, 76, of Hollywood, FL.

Foreign Entries
361 applicants from 62 countries.

Sectional Qualifying Outside the U.S.
111 applicants chose one of the two foreign sectional qualifying sites of Surrey, England, and Sayama City, Japan.

Sites
Total of 110 local qualifying sites. 27 sites reached their maximum site capacity.

Entries Via the Web

First: Bobby Eldridge of Phoenix, AZ, less than eight minutes after the launch of Internet applications.

Last: Will Britt of Palm Beach Gardens, FL, submitted his entry online at 4:59:30 (30 seconds before the official deadline).

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: USGA)

Tuesday, April 25

How to Practice Like Ben Hogan

Day 185 without playing golf

Ben Hogan invented golf practice. OK, maybe Hogan didn't invent it, but he did for golf practice what Gary Player did for golf fitness.

I mention this because I gave Afternoons with Mr. Hogan by Jody Vasquez to my brother for his birthday.

It's a fascinating up-close look at Hogan's practice habits and ultra-private personality through the eyes of Vasquez, a former caddy at Shady Oaks Country Club who shagged balls for Hogan during his legendary practice sessions.

If any of us practiced like Ben Hogan, just how much better could we be?

I know, I know. Who has the time or inclination?

Unfortunately, I don't, which is why I am ...

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, April 24

21 Days Until Golf

Day 184 without playing golf

On May 15 I will snap my current golfless streak by playing in a two-man scramble at Blacksburg Country Club.

Last year my partner and I played well enough (69) to win a few prizes, including a new driver for me for closest to the hole on a par 3.

I had intended to try to shake some rust off my game by hitting a few balls and getting in a bit of short-game practice. So far it hasn't happened.

I have no expectations about how we'll play this year. My partner played college golf many moons ago, but rarely gets out. Ditto for me.

We'll have fun and try not to embarrass ourselves.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, April 21

Who Was Henry Picard?

Day 181 without playing golf

This week Larry Nelson and Henry Picard were voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Still mixing it up on the Champions Tour, Nelson has gotten most of the press.

But who was Henry Picard?

Picard was considered one of the finest players of the 1930s and early 1940s. He won 26 times on the PGA Tour, including eight wins in 1939. Picard also bagged two majors and played on a pair of Ryder Cup teams.

In 1938, Picard won The Masters, but his most stirring victory was a one-up win over Byron Nelson in the 1939 PGA. (The PGA was a match play event through 1957.)

Picard was also known as an accomplished teacher who was credited with helping Ben Hogan overcome his hook. He died in 1997.

Raise your glass to Henry Picard. He most certainly deserves it.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, April 19

Personal Musings on Fred Couples

Day 179 without playing golf

Having lived in Seattle for 16 years, I know a bit about native son Fred Couples.

Couples grew up in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle. Fred was no rich kid, far from it. His family was working class and lived either on or near Jefferson Park, a municipal golf course.

Couples honed his game on the city track, which I’ve played on a number of occasions with my brother-in-law. We used to play Jefferson after work until dark. Seattle is far enough north that you have light until almost 10 o’clock in the summertime.

Jefferson is a par 70, and I can only imagine that Boom-Boom must have shot dozens of rounds in the mid to low 60s (and probably some in the 50s).

Legend has it that Freddy could shape any shot and learned the game without formal lessons. No surprise there. Who could teach such an unorthodox, graceful, powerful move?

A good friend of mine who played golf at University of Washington competed against Couples at least once when Fred was at the University of Houston.

No big news flash, but my friend told me that Freddy was the most talented golfer he ever played against. Even though Couples was low-key, his length and shot making were downright intimidating, my friend said.

Obviously, Freddy’s extraordinary talent and feel age well as he still competes with the world’s best at 46.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, April 17

How to Survive Being Hit in the Goolies

Day 177 without playing golf

(This courtesy of The WORST-CASE SCENARIO Survival Handbook: Golf.)

"Goolies" is a Scottish term, used at St. Andrews and elsewhere, that refers to the "privates," or the groin area.

1. Lie down immediately.
Do not walk around. Cover your private parts to shield the area from further injury (and embarrassment). Clutching yourself will probably be your natural reaction to being hit by a club head or ball.

2. Apply a cold pack to the injured area to reduce swelling.
Use ice in a bag or cloth, or a cold can of soda or beer. This will help reduce the swelling and the pain.

3. Do not apply too much pressure.
Extreme pressure may cause more pain.

4. If the pain is significant and does not subside within a few minutes, inspect the injury.
Remove your pants to get a better look at the swelling and check for any irregularities.

5. If the pain lasts more than an hour, or if the area is significantly bruised, seek medical attention.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, April 13

Golf by the Numbers: Post Masters Edition

Day 173 without playing golf

357
Number of days until 2007 Masters

32
Number of days until I break my golfless streak

4
Number of Masters practice round tickets I’ll apply for (again)

2
Number of consecutive ugly sport coat weeks on Tour (The Masters and Verizon Heritage)

0
Number of Masters exemptions for David Duval

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, April 12

World Golf Ranking Turns 20

Day 172 without playing golf

This from USA Today:

"The World Golf Ranking turned 20 this month, and one thing hasn't changed. Fred Couples can still be found in the top 50.

"Bernhard Langer was No. 1 when the ranking made its debut the week before the 1986 Masters. He was followed by Seve Ballesteros, Sandy Lyle, Tom Watson and Mark O'Meara. All of them except Langer -- currently No. 57 -- are no longer in the top 200.

"Couples was No. 42 in the original ranking. He moved up to No. 21 this week.

"The ranking has been altered over the years. When it was launched 20 years ago, golfers were measured over three years, instead of the two-year period with gradual reductions in points every 13 weeks.

"Only a dozen players have been ranked No. 1 -- Langer, Ballesteros, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Couples, Nick Price, Tom Lehman, Els, David Duval, Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods.

"Woods has held the No. 1 ranking the longest at 385 weeks, and Lehman was at No. 1 for only one week."

The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, April 9

Masters Day 4: Lefty Learns How to Close

Day 169 without playing golf

We’ve all waited a long time for Phil to win majors. Today he looked like he’s getting the hang of it. Now Mickelson has two of those ugly green jackets and last year’s PGA, making it two consecutive majors.

Lefty was the smartest, most-controlled player on Augusta National. On Sunday, no doubt. Did you ever think you would live to see it?

Awesome supporting cast, too. For a while it seemed like any of about 10 guys could win, including some unheralded players like Tim Clark. I don’t think Clark is as tall as his putter, but he can certainly golf his ball.

In his words, Tiger putted like a spazz. Welcome to the human race, bud.

And Fred Couples putted like Fred Couples. Which is a real shame because Boom-Boom striped it all day long.

The Armchair Golfer

P.S. Monday is official Masters hangover day.

Saturday, April 8

Masters Day 3: Tiger Creeping Up Leaderboard

Day 168 without playing golf

Due to Saturday’s weather delay, there will be a lot of holes to play tomorrow. Everyone is in for an extra long Sunday of Masters pressure. One would think that plays right into you know who’s hands.

Tiger is out in 34 and just three shots off the lead with 27 holes to play. Great position.

But there are a lot of guys on the leaderboard who could make it interesting. Let’s hope they do. No, let’s pray they do. Amen.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, April 7

Masters Day 2: Experience Still Counts at Augusta

Day 167 without playing golf

What’s gotten in to the old guys?

Young old guy Fred Couples is in contention at 3 under after recording a 70 on Friday. And Gentle Ben isn’t just hanging around -- he’s in the thick of things at 1 under.

Even 68-year-old Charles Coody shot a feisty 74 after opening with an 89.

Meanwhile, Vijay falters, Chad rises, Phil cruises and Tiger lurks. Now we’ll see what the weekend brings.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, April 6

Masters Day 1: Crenshaw Fires an Impressive 71

Day 166 without playing golf

The leaderboard is shaping up nicely after the first round, including some of the names you would expect (Singh and Mickelson) and a couple of new ones (Oberholser and Ogilvy) for good measure. Tiger is right where he needs to be.

Somehow 54-year-old Ben Crenshaw got around the brutish Augusta National in 71. For all I know, he one-putted every green. Still, give Ben credit on a day when his peers like Tom Watson struggled just to break 80.

Crenshaw hasn’t made the cut at The Masters since 1997. If he can keep it around 75 tomorrow, he might just be playing on the weekend.

It could be Ben’s last weekend trip around Augusta.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, April 5

The 2016 Masters

Day 165 without playing golf

(Fast forward 10 years ...)

Today Tiger Woods was asked what he thought about Augusta National. Many in the golf world have hinted that the latest course changes were implemented to protect par and prevent Woods from collecting his 11th green jacket.

Tiger was diplomatic.

"Some say eliminating all the par fives was an unusual move. But hey, it's the same for everyone. I enjoy the challenge," he said with a grin.

Yeah, there's never been a championship course that has played to a par 67, noted the interviewer.

"Well, it's their tournament. I'm just honored to be able to win, er, play here," Woods said.

What about 13?

"It will certainly play a lot tougher as a par 3, but if I can cut the corner and hit my power draw, it shouldn't be a problem."

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, April 3

Waffle House May Hold Key to Masters Victory for Mickelson

Day 163 without playing golf

Forget that Lefty obliterated the field at the BellSouth Classic. Forget the two-driver strategy.

It's Masters week and I'm pulling out all the stops to get the inside scoop on Team Mickelson.

Two words: Waffle House.

This from Masters.org:

"Now for Mickelson's secret weapon as he prepares for the 2006 Masters. He finally revealed what the magic might be for him -- an early week visit to the local Waffle House to meet with Pelz and some of his short game staff for a pre-Masters breakfast.

'I like the Waffle House there. They have some pretty good breakfasts.'"

Belch. Oops, sorry Tiger. Must have been that Belgian waffle.

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, April 1

Golf Rule of the Week

Day 161 without playing golf

Q: A player purposely refuses to identify a ball as his. What can the opponent or fellow-competitor do in such a case?

A: An opponent or fellow-competitor has the right to be satisfied about the identification of a player's ball. If a player has dishonestly not identified his ball, the opponent or fellow-competitor may refer the dispute to the Committee - Rule 34-3. In such a case, the Committee would be justified in imposing a penalty of disqualification under Rule 33-7.

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: USGA)