Friday, May 30

Oops! Armchair Golf Misquotes Karl Marx

“The only antidote to mental suffering is to ban golf.”
(not said by) Karl Marx

Biographical note: Karl Marx was a 19th century philosopher, political economist and revolutionary.

This misquote brought to you by The Armchair Golfer. Getting it wrong for the love of the game.

Thursday, May 29

The Man Who Nicknamed Jack The Golden Bear

THEY CALLED HIM FAT JACK. Early in his career, a serious, heavy-set Jack Nicklaus was the villain, an object of open scorn on the PGA Tour, especially at Grand Slam events such as the 1962 U.S. Open at Oakmont.

Ten years older and the undisputed king of golf, the charismatic Arnold Palmer was universally adored, the people’s hero.

It didn’t stop the highly focused, methodical and talented Nicklaus from usurping Palmer’s throne to become the game’s top player by the mid 1960s.

By the time the 1967 U.S. Open was played at Baltusrol, Jack had a growing fan base and a new nickname coined by an Australian sportswriter named Don Lawrence. Referring to Jack’s blonde mane and hefty physique, “The Golden Bear” stuck.

“The notion of a growling bear sat well with Jack, who was self-conscious about his high-pitched voice,” writes Ian O’Connor in Arnie & Jack.

Jack’s Memorial Tournament began today in Dublin, Ohio. Matthew Goggin leads with a 65.

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, May 28

Peter Alliss vs. Nick Dougherty Verbal Smackdown

(Nick Dougherty)

LONGTIME BBC GOLF COMMENTATOR Peter Alliss thought scoring and complaining during last week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth were stinky, and said so. Tour pro and Englishman Nick Dougherty didn’t take kindly to the criticism.

Here are the blows they landed, as quoted by The Telegraph, in a classic old school vs. new school exchange.

Mr. New School, Nick Dougherty:

“I thought it was very sad. In fact, I thought it was disgusting,” he said about Alliss’s criticism.

“I wish we could have taken him out there and shown him how difficult it was. In October the greens are stunning but they’re seedy at this time of the year and make the putts wobble.”

Mr. Old School, Peter Alliss:

“Take him out and show him how hard it is? Christ Almighty.”

(Uh-oh. I think Dougherty might be in trouble.)

“I'm not here to do anything but to say what’s going on and they didn’t play well. I know precisely how hard it is. I won 21 tournaments and played in eight Ryder Cups.

“Everyone’s so bloody delicate now. They control spin, they control adrenalin. I've never heard so much twaddle. I always say golfers of 100 years ago were 10 times more skillful than this lot or me and my lot.

“They had hickory clubs, the bunkers weren’t raked, there were sheep on the course and a fellow cut the greens with a scythe. Yet still they went round St. Andrews in 73 or 74.

“I'm sorry Dougherty’s upset because he’s a nice lad, but he’ll get over it.”

I’ve got Alliss as the winner on my card. On style points, if nothing else.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, May 27

Ernie Els Wants Some Positive Vibes

(Pocketwiley/Flickr)

CAN'T SAY I BLAME Ernie Els for changing his mind about playing the Memorial, especially after missing the cut last week at the BMW PGA Championship. The Big Easy ballooned to a 75-73 for 148 at Wentworth of all places, his home course.

As for Jack's Memorial Tournament where top ten players are dropping like flies, first Els was in, then he was out, and now he's back in.

“Originally, this week was going to be a gap in my schedule, but I’ve changed my mind and decided to play in the Memorial,” Ernie said at his Web site.

“It’s one of my favourite tournaments of the year and I love Jack’s course, Muirfield Village. I figure it’ll be a good week to try to get back some positive vibes in my game.”

With the U.S. Open just around the corner, the Big Easy definitely needs to find something positive in his golf game. And in a hurry.

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, May 26

The High Wire Act That Is Phil Mickelson

(Honeyfield/Flickr)

AS SOMEBODY SAID, they don’t call him Phil the Thrill for nothing. Mickelson made an improbable (impossible for about anyone else) birdie on the final hole yesterday to walk off with the Crowne Plaza Invitational title at Colonial.

And the thing is, we could as easily be talking about how Lefty blew another tournament just when he had pulled even with Rod Pampling.

Pampling was leaking oil on the last three holes, hitting a succession of blocked tee shots. Phil was playing good if not stellar golf, and was poised to take advantage of Pampling’s wobbles until he stuck his tee in the ground on the 72nd hole.

Lefty’s tee shot landed in the trees way, way left. We’ve seen this before, and we’ll more than likely see it again. There may be no cure for it, just like there was no cure for the way, way right miss that Greg Norman used to hit at key moments in majors.

A phenomenal wedge and a giant dose of luck put Phil the Thrill just nine feet away from a winning birdie when all he said he hoped for was a 25-footer and a sure par that would get him into a playoff. He stalked it, stroked it and fist-pumped it right into the heart of the cup. Poor Rod Pampling.

You just never know with Phil. That’s what makes him so exciting to watch. But will he ever –- Butch Harmon or no Butch Harmon –- exorcise the way-left demons at winning time?

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, May 24

Phil Mickelson Carried Own Golf Bag

NO KIDDING. If I heard it correctly on the golf telecast today, Phil Mickelson carried his own golf bag in an unplanned recent round at Torrey Pines, site of next month's U.S. Open. It was part of the chatter about how Lefty is now in better shape.

Phil's caddie, Bones, will be carrying tomorrow when the world No. 2 tries to close out the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. Mickelson has the 54-hole lead, a shot ahead of Rod Pampling and Stephen Ames.

-The Armchair Golfer

Friday, May 23

A Brief History of Colonial Country Club

COLONIAL COUNTRY CLUB, the site of this week’s Crowne Plaza Invitational, ain’t what it used to be. Not by a long shot, or an average J.B. Holmes drive you might say.

The historic layout where Ben Hogan recorded five victories is less than 7000 yards and plays to a par 70. That’s pitch-and-putt length by current PGA Tour standards. Today’s bombers can drive over the doglegs and spin their short irons on the small greens. As John Hawkins said the other night on the Golf Channel, pros are hitting wedges into greens to which Hogan hit 4-irons.

Yet when Colonial first opened in the early 1940s and later began hosting the Colonial Invitational, it was considered one of the toughest courses anywhere. Texan Jackie Burke Jr. said, “If you’re told to just go out and shoot par on a golf course, Colonial is the last one you’d try it on.”

Not coincidentally, Colonial was built for a fade, Hogan’s trademark ball flight. Of Colonial’s 14 par-four holes, nine favored a controlled fade off the tee. “A straight ball will get you in more trouble at Colonial than any course I know,” Hogan once remarked.

One of the better players during Hogan’s heyday, 1951 winner Cary Middlecoff called Colonial the toughest par-70 in the world. This is how Middlecoff once described playing the 466-yard par-four 5th hole:

“First, I pull out two brand-new Wilson balls and throw them into the Trinity River. Then I throw up. Then I go ahead and hit my tee shot into the river.”

Phil Mickelson is the 36-hole leader at seven under.

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, May 22

Most Overrated PGA Tour Players

(Honeyfield/Flickr)

Golf.com (SI) has published their PGA Tour player version of “all hat, no herd.” Here’s their list of the most-overrated players of the last quarter century:


Colin Montgomerie
Chris DiMarco
Davis Love III
Tom Lehman
Charles Howell III
Stewart Cink

I’m sure we could come up with some others for the most-overrated list, but here’s my quick armchair analysis of their list.

I can’t argue with Monty. As much as he’s dominated the European Tour, Colin has accomplished zilch on American soil (except for in the Ryder Cup). Not only is he majorless, he’s 0 for the PGA Tour.

DiMarco has just three career wins and none in the last five years. Golf.com calls him mostly sizzle. OK, but I never thought of him as being great and not fulfilling expectations.

DLIII, on the other hand, is a deserving choice. I like him, sure, but in my heart I know he should have more than one major (’97 PGA) to go with his 19 tour wins. For years I expected Davis to win at Augusta.

Tom Lehman. Interesting pick. He was a late bloomer, a guy who came out on tour in his 30s and won a few tournaments, plus the British Open. Yeah, he threw away a U.S. Open or two, but I don’t think of Tom as overrated.

Howell and Cink are both underachievers (so far). Younger than Cink, Howell has more time to make some noise, but he disappeared last Sunday in Atlanta after having the lead.

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, May 21

Q&A: Tiger’s Left Knee Carries Weight of Golf World


Tiger's Left Knee in action. (Honeyfield/Flickr)

IN A RARE AND REVEALING INTERVIEW, Tiger Woods' Left Knee told ARMCHAIR GOLF about its recovery from a third surgery and the multiple pressures that come with supporting the world’s greatest golfer.

Q: First of all, how are you feeling?


LEFT KNEE:
I have my good days and bad days, but overall I think I’m getting stronger.

Q: This was your third surgery. Did the fist-pump celebration during the final round of last year’s PGA Championship exacerbate the problem?

LEFT KNEE: No comment.

Q: It really looked like Tiger was limping after that.


LEFT KNEE: I was told there wouldn’t be any fist-pump questions.

Q: Can you talk about Tiger’s swing and how it affects you?


LEFT KNEE:
Well, you’ve seen him. Tiger has the mother of all golf swings. The torque is absolutely incredible. It gives me a sharp twinge just thinking about it. No knee is designed for that.

Q: What’s the hardest part about being Tiger Woods’ Left Knee?


LEFT KNEE:
There’s the physical aspect, certainly, but there’s also the weight of everyone’s expectations. He’s playing for the record books and immortality. That’s a pressure very few knees ever experience. I also know that no matter how hard I train and how much pain I endure, I can be replaced.

Q: Does the fact that Tiger was just named fittest guy in America create added pressure?

LEFT KNEE:
Didn’t see it, but no.

Q: Do you ever wish you were just a normal left knee for, say, a claims adjuster or a florist?


LEFT KNEE: Sure. I think all knees of great athletes have moments when they dream of a normal life. Look at Mickey Mantle, Joe Namath, Larry Bird. The list of greats with highly pressured knees is very long. I’m not the first, nor will I be the last. But in the end you have to work with the person you’re given.

Q: How do you keep going? Where does your inspiration come from?


LEFT KNEE:
I take it a day at a time. Do the PT. Get my rest. I really hope Tiger is done with the running. That’s a killer. As far as inspiration, I look to the greats. In golf, all of us lower extremities pretty much worship Hogan. I mean, my God, his legs were totally mangled from that car accident and he came back and not only walked again but won six majors. It’s incredible (sniffling). Sorry, I promised myself I wouldn’t get emotional.

Q: It’s OK.

LEFT KNEE:
Are we about done?

Q: Yeah. One last question. When will you be back? At the Memorial or the U.S. Open?


LEFT KNEE:
Not sure. That’s Tiger’s call. But I hope Memorial.

Q: Why sooner?


LEFT KNEE:
It’s always great catching up with Jack’s hip. The right one, not the replacement.

Q: I see. Thanks for taking the time.


LEFT KNEE:
My pleasure.

Related:

Tiger's Left Knee Speaks on U.S. Open Prep

Tuesday, May 20

Women to Storm Golf Courses in June

(Glasson/Flickr)

“MOVE OVER, BOYS.”

So begins the news release announcing that June is Women’s Golf Month, sponsored by American Express. The announcement states that more than 68,000 women across the country have been introduced or re-introduced to the game over the past three years. So they’ve decided to turn Women’s Golf Week into Women’s Golf Month.

Participating golf facilities will offer free golf instruction to women 14 years of age and older. Other activities will include golf rules and etiquette seminars, club fitting and equipment demonstrations, golf apparel fashion shows, luncheons, and playing experiences and contests.

Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez and LPGA/PGA professional Suzy Whaley are serving as national spokeswomen.

For more info, visit Play Golf America.

-The Armchair Golfer

Monday, May 19

Breakfast of Golf Champions?



Gotta have the double order of hash browns.
–David Duval, on Waffle House

LAST FRIDAY my friend Golf Blogger posted about the AP story on David Duval grubbin’ at Waffle House.

“I had eggs, chicken, toast, grits and a double order of hash browns,” Duval told the AP. “Gotta have the double order of hash browns.”

As a Florida native and Georgia Tech grad, you would expect Duval to sidle up to a Waffle House counter. After all, Waffle Houses are thicker than fleas on a wet dog in the South. But what’s up with San Diego native Phil Mickelson and his Waffle House habit?

I’ve read Lefty also loves WH, especially during Masters week. In fact, Ian O’Connor once wrote that Phil left a waitress a $94 tip for his $6 Waffle House breakfast.

If you live up north, you’re not very likely to stumble across a Waffle House. The Onion once published a story that said the Mason-Dixon Line was renamed the IHOP-Waffle House Line. Don’t believe it, even though it makes perfect sense.

Anyway, I smell a breakfast trend among PGA Tour pros.

–The Armchair Golfer

Related:
Waffle House May Hold Key to Masters

A Rare Eagle for the Armchair Golfer

SAD TO SAY, but I’m in one of those phases during which I’m not playing much golf. In fact, until this week I had not been on a golf course since last fall. Projects, family life and yard work have kept me away.

This week, however, was “tournament” week. Each May I play in two charity events (both scrambles), and they always fall on the same week, one on Monday, the other Saturday.

So I brought my game out of hibernation, which was a lot of fun. I tried out my new (new to me, at least) Ping i3 blades. And also my new-to-me Ping Anser 4 putter. Overall, it was a great success; I hit more good shots than I expected and just thoroughly enjoyed being on the golf course.

One of the highlights was a rare eagle yesterday. An admission: I used a paid-for mulligan to have a second try at the putt, but all the shots were struck by yours truly. The hole was a 475-yard par-5, not reachable in two my playing partner told me since the wind was against us.

I’m not a long hitter by any means, but I teed my ball low and struck a low, solid drive into the stiff breeze. Then I hit a perfect 3-metal that landed on the front of the green and rolled about 15 feet above the hole. The downhill putt was wicked fast, one you try to just barely nudge on the right line and hope it goes in.

After missing it, I decided to use one of my two mulligans for the day. I wanted that eagle! I made a minor adjustment in my line and lightly tapped my ball. Would it take the break and roll into the cup? Yes, indeed.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, May 16

Paul Goydos to Become Tour’s First Personality Coach

ACCORDING TO SOURCES, Paul Goydos, the affable journeyman who finished second to Sergio Garcia at The Players Championship, will offer individualized instruction to PGA Tour players to help them develop and enhance their personalities.

Many golf observers have criticized the PGA Tour for being devoid of personality in recent years. Goydos, who this past week charmed the media and golf fans even in defeat, will set out to change the negative perception one Tour player at a time.

“In an age of swing coaches, short game gurus, golf psychologists, nutritionists, fitness instructors, sports agents, business managers, personal assistants –- did I miss any? –- the emergence of the personality coach is probably long overdue,” said a Tour insider.

“I think Paul Goydos is the right man for the job.”

Goydos will reportedly offer a range of services to include cliché avoidance, role play, quips and asides, case studies of past personality greats, fan interaction 101, mastering the media conference and carefree body language.

Goydos’ client list will be confidential, but “we’ll know who they are as they make personality gains,” said the Tour source. The 16-year veteran will continue to play Tour events in addition to coaching.

Asked if he could foresee a day on Tour when a “personality” trailer would be parked alongside the fitness trailer, the source said, “I don’t see why not. It would show the Tour’s commitment to personality and hopefully widen our fan base.”

−The Armchair Golfer


(This is an ARMCHAIR GOLF spoof.)

Thursday, May 15

‘The Caddie Who Played with Hickory’ by John Coyne

WHEN I BEGAN READING an advance copy of John Coyne’s The Caddie Who Played with Hickory a few weeks back, I’ll admit I was already a fan. In a nutshell, it’s a fictional story about how a teenage caddie comes to play the great Walter Hagen in Hagen’s final match with a prized set of hickory clubs. Getting to that match is an entertaining journey.

I had read Coyne’s first “caddie” story, The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan, a year ago and wrote at the time that I was skeptical about putting Hogan in a fictional story in a real place, Chicago’s Midlothian Country Club (also the setting for this new book). But Coyne’s storytelling skills (he’s authored more than 20 books, mostly novels) combined with his first-hand knowledge of country club life as a teenage caddie made the golf tale entertaining and believable.

For me, “Hickory” is even better: the story, the characters (more with more depth) and the little plot twists and surprises along the way. Plus, there’s the colorful Walter Hagen, a larger-than-life golf professional who out-earned Babe Ruth! My hunch is that Coyne is more comfortable in what’s looking like a “caddie” series.

I didn’t know much about the hickory era, but Coyne has a way of educating the reader without ever being tedious. That’s great for me because I enjoy learning about different eras and players. The bonus was getting a fun page-turner, with golf matches, a mysterious character and, instead of Hogan, the trail-blazing Hagen, the greatest hickory player of all time. Another legend, amateur Chick Evans, also makes an appearance in the climactic challenge match.

If you read the “Hogan” book and liked it, you'll want to read The Caddie Who Played with Hickory. If you’re new to John Coyne but enjoy golf history in the hands of a gifted storyteller, I highly recommend it. It’s a satisfying read.

-The Armchair Golfer

More John Coyne:
John Coyne Books (and blog)
2007 interview
2007 golf tidbits

Wednesday, May 14

Ochoa to Chair Sorenstam Retirement Party Committee


Lorena runs a few retirement party ideas by Annika.
(Gottwald/Flickr)


ACCORDING TO SOURCES, Lorena Ochoa, despite a heavy on- and off-course schedule, will oversee the retirement party of Annika Sorenstam. The news comes on the heels of yesterday’s blockbuster retirement announcement by Sorenstam.

“I feel strongly about giving back to my game, I mean, the game,” Ochoa said. “I’m anxious to give Annika the sendoff she deserves.”

While some are openly wondering why Annika will retire this season –- especially after three early-season wins –- Lorena isn’t one of them.

“I’ve always respected Annika’s decision-making on the golf course. I have no doubt that she’s also making the right call in this situation. She has my full support.”

However, there is a potential scheduling conflict. Ochoa would like to schedule the retirement party for June 9, two weeks before the U.S. Women’s Open. Yet Sorenstam has already said she plans to finish the 2008 LPGA season.

In related news, Paula Creamer will reportedly chair the decorations subcommittee.

-The Armchair Golfer

(This is an ARMCHAIR GOLF spoof.)

Tuesday, May 13

Q&A: Pat Perez

(Pat Perez Golf)

I WELCOME BACK PAT PEREZ TO ARMCHAIR GOLF. Currently ranked 58th in the world and 50th in FedEx Cup points, Double P is having another solid year on tour that includes two top tens and about $800,000 in earnings after 13 events.

That said, Pat is looking to kick it up a notch or two. Following is what he told me about his off-season, health, game and life on tour.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: What was the takeaway from 2007, your sixth season on tour?

PAT PEREZ: I got more comfortable being in the hunt, after six years. I actually learned to enjoy the thrill of the hunt when I was near the lead. Taking advantage of my opportunities. Closing things out. It’s a lot more fun that way instead of overthinking shots and letting everything get to you.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Any highlights from the off-season?

PAT PEREZ: It was a while back now, but no real highlights. Just gearing up for another season. The time flies by so quickly. Family and friends come out to Scottsdale to visit. It’s just time to decompress and catch up with the people I don’t get to see all year when I’m on the road.

Installed a new gym set up in my house as I was starting to work out with Joey Diovisalvi and I knew he was going to kick my ass. Had a small set up, but needed to revamp things so I took over one of my spare rooms and made it a full-on gym this time around.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: How’s the elbow?

PAT PEREZ: Elbow is better. Haven’t had any issue in a long time, thankfully.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: How’s your physical conditioning, in general?

PAT PEREZ: Better than it’s ever been. Seriously. Joey beats the hell out of me, in a good way. The guy is as intense as they come and is 1000% committed. He wants me in better shape than I even want myself, I’m sure. A lot of focus on stretching and staying limber –- but with the same intensity every time. Doesn't matter if I have to go early and we’re working at 4 a.m. or if it’s early evening after playing 18.

He’ll kill me if I get this wrong, but it’s sort of a “power training workout,” something like that. He designed a program for me to get the most out of my game. Building up strength to produce the best shots. A lot of bandwork, rotation, a lot of chest/back stuff, squats, quads and hamstrings, core training. He really focuses on the “fast twitch” muscles and building extra speed.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: This is the second straight year you’ve started strong at the Sony Open. Is it the course, the start of a new season, both?

PAT PEREZ: I’ve always liked the Sony, and after being home for a month in December I get cabin fever and am ready to get back out there and compete again. I like the course, but I also think it’s just a great way to kick off the season –- winter in Hawaii and back on tour competing again.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: How many events do you plan to play in 2008? Any favorites on the schedule?

PAT PEREZ: I’m going to play a ton. I played something like 27 last year and that should be the case again in 2008. I definitely dig the Buick (Torrey Pines), the British, PGA Championship and the Colonial. This year it’s all about the U.S. Open. I have to get in there. That’s the biggest of the bigs for me. Back home in San Diego, that’s my main goal in life right now.

I need to be top 50 by the Memorial and I’ll be in. I need to pull that off. Every week counts between now and then and I can’t imagine not playing that one. I’m also busting my ass to make the Ryder Cup team. That’s another long-time dream of mine and could be a reality if I get some things done. I need to play well in the majors this year, get higher in the points standings. A win would solidify it, but even without that I need to keep busting my ass out here every week. Every round counts.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: What would it mean to you to play the U.S. Open in your hometown (Torrey Pines)?

PAT PEREZ: Everything. Seriously.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: What are your working on?

PAT PEREZ: Trying to hit it straight, always.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: You’re a veteran who has now gone around the circuit several times, put in the practice and travel time, learned the courses, signed the autographs. What keeps you excited about the tour and the game?


PAT PEREZ: Being in the hunt. Playing in the big events. Trying to climb in the World Rankings and in the FedEx Cup points. I’m competitive in everything I do, so to get to “compete” at something for a living is intense. Being on the tour itself is exciting. I love the lifestyle, the doors it opens and the people you come across. I’m still amazed how many people love golf. Aside from the average fans, the actors, rock stars, pro athletes –- it’s crazy.

More Pat Perez here:
2007 interview, part 1
2007 interview, part 2

-The Armchair Golfer

(Special thanks to Chris Bello at Pat Perez Golf for coordinating this interview.)

Monday, May 12

Sorenstam Laps Field at Michelob ULTRA Open

THOSE TIRE TRACKS up the backs of LPGA Tour players at the Michelob ULTRA Open belonged to Annika Sorenstram.

Annika notched her third win of the season with a truly dominating performance. Rounds of 64, 66, 69 and 66 put Sorenstam at 19 under for a seven-shot victory over four players.

As crazed hoopster analyst Dick Vitale might say, “She’s back, baby!” With a vengeance.

Along with everyone else, Lorena Ochoa was choking on Sorenstam’s fumes, 12 shots back after a respectable but distant seven-under finish.

As my golf blogging friend Mulligan Stu of Waggle Room points out, it’s turning into a three-person tour. Ochoa, Sorenstam and Creamer have cleaned up with 10 victories in the first 12 events.

−The Armchair Golfer

Sergio Garcia Rolls Into Redemptionville


(Speedpics Flicks/Flickr)

IT WAS THE SEVEN FEET that Sergio Garcia conquered on the 72nd hole that won him one of the most-coveted trophies in golf, The Players Championship.

Garcia’s seven-foot par putt on the last green was struck with a smooth, decisive stroke, and from the time the ball left his regulation-length Titleist putter it rolled like it had no place else to go but the center of the cup. (Sort of the way a guy named Woods always seems to hole the mammoth putt when everything is on the line.)

It was exactly the kind of putt Garcia has failed to make on big occasions in the past. No, it wasn’t quite as huge as the lipout on the final green at Carnoustie last summer that would have won Sergio the British Open.

But Garcia had to sink the tester to complete a gritty up-and-down on the brutally difficult final hole at TPC Sawgrass and to have any chance to catch Paul Goydos, a long-time minor cast member on tour who nearly hijacked the “fifth” major.

Sure, Sergio golfed his ball with amazing precision around a stadium-course layout made even more sinister by gusting winds. But we knew that about the Spaniard. It still comes down to the flatstick. It always does, doesn’t it? (Just ask Tiger about this year’s Masters.)

Welcome to Redemptionville, Sergio Garcia. Enjoy your stay, but not too long. There’s another town calling your name and befitting of your talent –- Majorville.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, May 10

The ‘Old’ Players Championship

Kenny Perry (Fritsche/Flickr)


I DIDN’T GET the memo. No one told me they changed The Players Championship to The Old Players Championship.

You got your Kenny Perry, age 47. You got your Bernhard Langer, age 50. (Langer now hangs out on the Champions Tour.) And there’s your leader, Paul Goydos, the frisky colt of the trio at age 43. Yeah, Goydos, a journeyman, with extra emphasis on “journey.”

I loved Paul’s post-round interview with NBC’s Bob Costas.

Costas: Why do you wear your top button buttoned when it’s so hot here?
Goydos: Because I have no shoulders. It keeps my shirt on.
Costas: You’ve only won twice, both times from behind. Have you ever been the 54-hole leader?
Goydos: No, but I’ve only been on tour 16 years. (Rim shot.)

Goydos, ranked 169th in the world, got the best of Costas, but can he get the best of the field on Sunday? A win would be huge for the player who is making his way back from golf oblivion.

Sergio Garcia is lurking, just three back. As usual, he’s striping the ball, but the putts aren’t falling like they did in round one. They said on the telecast Sergio wants to putt like he did when he was a boy. Maybe he should try to putt like those old guys.

Langer looks like he’s sweeping the beach for valuables. Kenny Perry is nudging it nicely. Goydos, Mr. 11 One-putts, looks like he’s putting with a gardening tool.

On Sunday, the player who can keep his ball on the fairways and putt those nervy slick greens will walk off with the trophy. It might just be an old player at The Players Championship.

−The Armchair Golfer

Pat Perez Interview After The Players

A PAST GUEST of Armchair Golf, six-year PGA Tour player Pat Perez stops by early next week for a Q&A. The world No. 55 golfer is two over heading into the weekend at The Players Championship.

Next week Double P talks about why he has to get into the U.S. Open, his physical conditioning, what he’s working on, what keeps him revved up about playing the tour and more.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, May 9

The Players: Pass Ernie Els the Dynamite

“I think they should blow it up.”
−Ernie Els, on the 17th at TPC Sawgrass

ERNIE ELS HAD JUST birdied the 16th hole at TPC Sawgrass and stood at two under in his opening round at The Players Championship. Then he made a mess of Pete Dye’s revenge, the par-3 17th hole.

His wedge landed about seven yards short of the island green. His third shot narrowly escaped the water. Three putts later and the agony was over. Put him down for a triple-bogey 6.

The Big Easy was the Big Steam.

“I think they should blow it up,” Els was quoted as saying. “Everything you worked for in 4 1/2 hours, in one shot it's all gone.”

Ernie rebounded with a birdie on 18, one of the toughest finishing holes on the PGA Tour, and carded a respectable 72. He is even in today’s second round and should make the cut.

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, May 8

17th at TPC Sawgrass: ‘Most Terrifying Two Seconds’


(Russ Glasson/Flickr)

The ardent golfer would play Mount Everest
if somebody put a flagstick on top.

−Pete Dye

DO YOU EVER WATCH a golf telecast and secretly wish you could try your luck on a certain hole?

The par-3 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass brings out that desire in me. So does the par-3 12th hole at Augusta National. I’d just love to drop a few golf balls and take my swings on those challenging holes, preferably when no one was around.

I’d probably choke my guts out, but it would be SO MUCH FUN.

Last night I watched the Bruce Edwards Memorial Caddie Competition on the Golf Channel. To raise money, entertain the crowd and share a few laughs with their player bosses, caddies teed it up on the famous 17th hole with the island green.

The caddies tried their best to reach terra firma, but many if not most splashed down. I saw one cold shank his tee shot. Another hit a low liner that skipped across the water until it ricocheted off the railroad ties that border the green. Some had gorgeous golf swings, and the winner struck his shot to within two feet of the hole.

One former Tour caddie, Mike Collins, told Golfweek, “I was terrified. I couldn’t get my hands dry. It’s the most terrifying two seconds in a caddie’s life.”

I’d love to be that terrified, at least once.

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, May 7

What PGA Tour Players Really Think

(Pocketwiley/Flickr)

IF YOU CORNERED THEM outside of the media center and told them they would remain anonymous, what would PGA Tour players disclose?

You’re in luck. The results of the Seventh Annual PGA Tour Player Survey are in. SI polled 72 players. Following is some of what I gleaned at Golf.com.

About two-thirds of those surveyed believe Roger Clemens used steroids.

Seven percent have paid $750 for a belt. (I’m sure you can name one.)

Rather be paired with Tiger or Phil? Tiger by far, with 87 percent casting votes for Woods.

If forced to choose between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, more than half said they’d vote for Obama, although 31 percent answered, “I’d take a bullet.”

Half of those surveyed admitted they have played a Tour round with a hangover.

Half also think Tiger will win a grand slam.

Six percent said they know pro golfers who have used performance-enhancing drugs.

Caddies are the biggest gossipers on the PGA Tour, followed by Fred Funk’s wife, Sharon.

And finally ...

“Is your life as a professional golfer more or less fun than you thought it would be when you were in high school?” Seventy-six percent answered, “More.”

What a surprise.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, May 6

The Players: Phil Mickelson Ready to Defend


(C. O'Neal/Flickr)

CAN PHIL MICKELSON make some noise at TPC Sawgrass this week?

The defending champion doesn’t have Tiger Woods to contend with, not that El Tigre has had a lot of success at Ponte Vedra Beach. Both Phil and Tiger have won The Players Championship once.

Mickelson says he’s ready to go. From his Web site, following are a few Lefty sound bites on his tournament preparation.

“I'll usually take Monday off of a major. I'll play a practice round early Tuesday, and Wednesday I'll go off site and get work done on areas of my game that need improvement. It will be the same as I treat other majors.

“I have already done my normal major championship preparation work that I do for Augusta.

"I've done it now for TPC Sawgrass, so I don't feel as though I have to spend an inordinate amount of time getting ready to know the golf course.”

The Players always has a strong field, and this year is no exception with 49 of the top 50 players in the FedEx Cup standings. There is that one glaring absence, though.

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, May 5

In Search of David Duval

(Honeyfield/Flickr)

PEOPLE WONDER what happened to David Duval, who once held the world No. 1 ranking for 15 weeks. I know they wonder because their searches bring them to this blog for any Duval scraps they can find.

That was especially true this past week since Duval teed it up at the Wachovia Championship. I think many were curious to see how he’d do. Not well. He missed the cut with rounds of 79-73.

Langston Wertz Jr. of The Charlotte Observer reported the following:

“Friday in the second round of the Wachovia Championship, Duval showed flashes of the game he thought he had.

“After shooting a miserable 7-over 79 Thursday, Duval rolled through the back nine with a hot putter on Friday.

“Starting his round on the 10th tee, he birdied four of his first six holes and looked much like the guy who was once at the top of the golf world, making magazine covers and looking at Tiger Woods in his rear-view mirror.

“Duval strutted to the 18th green, the final hole on his front side, his familiar wrap-around shades poking from underneath a white cap. Duval slid a birdie putt past the hole but had gotten to 4-under for the day when he stepped onto the tee box at No. 3, his 12th hole of the day.

“It unraveled from there.”

I think it’s pretty clear that David’s golf game has hit rock bottom. The numbers tell the story. Duval has played in eight events this season and made no cuts. (He withdrew from the Northern Trust Open.) His 2008 earnings are a goose egg and he’s plummeted to No. 906 in the world rankings.

The former world No. 1 player who aspired to make the 2008 Ryder Cup team now must simply try to make a cut. He’s expected to play in the AT&T Classic in two weeks.

−The Armchair Golfer

DUVAL UPDATE:

2009 U.S. Open wrap-up: Glover won the trophy, Phil won the hearts and Duval won respect.

Sunday, May 4

Color the SemGroup Championship Pink

THIS WAS THE ONE that didn’t get away from Paula Creamer.

Creamer, or the “Pink Panther” as she’s known by fans, lost her two-stroke advantage on the 72nd hole when Juli Inkster rolled in a clutch mid-range birdie putt. Paula couldn’t convert her par putt after hitting her approach over the final green and for the second time in two weeks she found herself in a sudden-death playoff.

As Yogi Berra would say, it was déjà vu all over again. It wouldn’t have happened if Creamer could have done a better job of taking care of business down the stretch.

Once again the putter was the culprit. Creamer missed makeable short-range putts that would have padded her lead. Instead Paula left the door open for Inkster, who at age 47 was bidding to be the oldest-ever winner on the LPGA Tour.

But on the second playoff hole Creamer stroked her pink ball into the center of the cup for the winning birdie. No more weak putts and agonizing lip burners. It was sweet redemption for the 21-year-old pro.

Kudos to Creamer for coming back after a heartbreaking loss last week. She overcame adversity and a shaky putter to capture her sixth career title. Her next challenge is to win a major.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, May 3

The Young and the Restless: Kim and Creamer Lead

Anthony Kim

THEY'RE TWO of the brightest young stars in professional golf. And they’re leading their respective tour events heading into Sunday’s final rounds.

They’re Anthony Kim, 22, and winless on the PGA Tour, and Paula Creamer, 21, and already a five-time winner on the LPGA Tour.

Kim, or “AK,” as his friends call him, is primed for a breakout win. Everyone, it seems, has been raving about Anthony since he came out on tour last season. He’ll take a four-shot lead into the final round of the Wachovia Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Look for Kim to close it out unless, well, anything can happen in golf. But he definitely has the look. If not this week, soon.

Creamer, nicknamed the “Pink Panther” for her pink outfits and pink golf ball, has a two-shot lead over veteran Juli Inkster and is four clear of the rest of the field on a tough scoring week at the SemGroup Championship in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Paula will have to grind it out in Sunday’s final round, but after losing to Annika Sorenstam in a playoff last week she should be up to the challenge.

In her bid for a fifth straight win, Lorena Ochoa is eight back and will need a hot round and ton of help to extend her streak. Not likely.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, May 2

The Decline of Hale Irwin

“Don’t show me the money. Show me what you’ve won.”
−Hale Irwin

You’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who has squeezed more wins out of his God-given talent than Hale Irwin. Not the longest hitter or the most aesthetically pleasing swinger of a golf club, Irwin’s sheer competitiveness has propelled him to a Hall-of-Fame career.

Irwin racked up 20 PGA Tour wins, including three U.S. Opens, the last at the age of 45. His second career on the Champions Tour has been dominating. Hale has won 45 times since his 50th birthday, a record by a wide margin.

But now at age 62 his game has deserted him. Irwin has no top tens this year and is mourning the loss of his mother, who died in March. Hale withdrew from this week’s FedEx Kinko’s Classic, his first career WD not due to an injury.

“I’m having as little fun as I’ve ever had in golf,” Irwin was quoted as saying by columnist David Shedloski.

“I truly feel like there are only two things left for me to do, and that’s change it or not play. Right now, I can’t seem to be able to change it.”

Even Hale’s famous competitive fire is barely a flicker.

“I just don’t have a lot of fight in me right now. I could always draw on something, but nothing is working for me right now.”

That’s too bad, although it eventually happens to all the greats.

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, May 1

Family First: Juli Inkster’s Majors Streak to End


Juli Inkster (Eddie Honeyfield/Flickr)

Hall-of-Fame golfer Juli Inkster will miss next month’s McDonald’s LPGA Championship, ending a streak of competing in 56 consecutive majors.

The reason? Inkster’s youngest daughter, Cori, is graduating from junior high. Mom will be there. Golf can wait.

“You only graduate once, right?” Juli told the AP.

The last major Inkster missed was 14 years ago. She had a good reason for not showing up to the 1994 Kraft Nabisco Championship. She was giving birth to Cori on the day the tournament started.

Juli will also miss the Corning Classic to attend the high school graduation of her oldest daughter, Hayley.

Inkster has 31 LPGA Tour wins, including seven majors. Her last major victory was the 2002 U.S. Women’s Open. She is third on the LPGA career money list.

−The Armchair Golfer