Saturday, January 31

Oops! ARMCHAIR GOLF Misquotes Bob Dylan

“A lot of people can't stand golf but to me it's like breathing. I do it because I'm driven to do it.”
(not said by) Bob Dylan

Biographical note: Bob Dylan is a singer-songwriter, author and poet.


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

Friday, January 30

PGA Merchandise Show: Day Two

IT’S A NEW DAY at the PGA Merchandise Show. I conquered parking. I know my way around. And I have a plan. Here’s an outline of my activities:

9:00 a.m. – I arrive in the media room and set up on the back table. A few minutes later, AP golf writer Doug Ferguson plugs in beside me. Nearly every time you read an AP wire story about the PGA Tour on any Web site or in any newspaper, it came from Doug’s laptop. He’s the guy. We chitchatted about where we’re from, I-95 and the high price of wireless Internet in this media room ($24.95 a day!).

9:30 a.m. – I meet Tammy Boclair of Alday Communications, a Nashville-area PR and marketing firm that works with the PGA of America on golf initiatives such as Play Golf America and Get Golf Ready, a new program designed to introduce golf to new players.

10:30 a.m. – I stop by Booth #4994 to meet Casey Jones (Casey Jones Golf). Casey is a professional scoreboard artist who hand draws scores on scoreboards at PGA Tour events. Inside the ropes on a regular basis, Casey has unique access to Tour players and an up-close perspective on tournament golf. He has turned his artistic talent into a creative business venture, custom drawing oversized scorecards and other items to commemorate special events. One of his semi-regular playing companions in the Atlanta area is Stewart Cink, who fired a ho-hum 31 the last time the two played nine holes.

11:00 a.m. – Where’s Ian Poulter? I’m unable to locate the Fashion Gallery where Poulter is showcasing his new clothing line and holding a press conference. I turn back and begin the long walk to an event at the PGA Equipment Forum Stage.

11:15 a.m. – I walk by David Leadbetter, who is at the Golf Pride booth talking about grips. I overhear him say, “Putting is all about feel.” Indeed. I walk by Butch Harmon, who is doing a demo at the Momentus Golf booth. Butch is saying something about ball position in the stance. I walk by the Bridgestone booth where Paula Creamer is attracting a large crowd and a long line of autograph seekers. There’s no time for David, Butch, or Paula because I’m on my way to see my favorite golfer, Lorena Ochoa.

11:30 a.m.
– PING presents the “other” No. 1 player in the world, Lorena Ochoa. But first a VP talks a lot about their nFlight clubfitting system. (Please stop. Please bring out Lorena.) Finally, out walks a smiling Lorena for a demonstration and Q&A. As you can imagine, it’s crowded, but I had slipped into one of the last remaining front-row seats, pen and pad at the ready. (Look for my separate story on Lorena.)

12:30 p.m. – Lunch in the media room. I meet and talk with Kevin Sniffen, VP of The Hamilton Group, a public relations and marketing communications agency that represents golf and travel industry clients, including the Turning Stone Resort, site of a PGA Tour Fall Series event. I also meet Vince Matracco, the host of Golf Talk, a weekly radio show based in the Sacramento area. We talk a bit about the California governor’s golf tax proposal. Vince says he thinks it’s a trial balloon that isn’t going anywhere.

3:30 p.m.
– The difference between the men’s and women’s game is apparent. Women’s golf legend Nancy Lopez only draws about two-dozen people to the Fashion Gallery stage for an appearance, so she remains at the NancyLopezGolf booth. I wait in a short line, shake Nancy's hand, and thank her for her contributions to the game. I ask her for an interview at a later date. Sure, she says. I hope to bring that to you in the spring. (I also pick up autographs for my two daughters.)

4:00 p.m.
– I attend a special preview of Uneven Fairways, the Golf Channel’s new documentary on the Negro leagues of pro golf. It will air in mid February. Watch it; it’s a history lesson on the African American golf pioneers who made Tiger Woods possible.

5:20 p.m.
– While packing up, I meet Jeff Babineau, editor of Golfweek. I ask him how it’s going since he took over for Dave Seanor (fired over the “noose” cover controversy). Fine, he says. Jeff still enjoys reporting and writing, even though he also has editorial responsibilities.

More to come.

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, January 29

PGA Merchandise Show: Annika Sorenstam Takes Stage

WE ALL KNOW ABOUT the 72 wins, the 10 majors and the $23 million in career earnings, a Hall of Fame career that may or may not be over. It all went exactly as planned by Annika Sorenstam, the undisputed queen of golf. Well, no, actually it didn’t.

Presented by equipment sponsor Calloway and looking relaxed in a pink pullover and black slacks, Annika sat on stage today at the PGA Merchandise Show and recounted a career that was filled with surprises and accomplishments beyond her wildest dreams. I had a front-row seat.

Golf was her parents’ game, Annika said, so she followed them to the golf course, even though she would rather play soccer or tennis at a young age. But golf got under her skin (in a good way) because it was “so tough.” “That was the beauty of it,” she said. Plus she could practice without needing a partner.

Leaving Sweden to attend the University of Arizona in Tucson was a major adjustment, but Annika adapted and excelled at the college level. Maybe she could succeed at the pro game, although she didn’t know if she could win.

The first win “caught me by surprise,” Annika said. That initial title was the U.S. Women’s Open, a major victory that literally made her ill. Annika told how she had to retreat from the world for a few weeks until she could get a better handle on her success and the public adulation.

(In a later anecdote, Annika shared how her shyness caused her to intentionally three-putt to avoid winning tournaments. Why? She didn’t want to give a speech. One of her coaches noticed the trend, so the coach had first, second and third give speeches, which solved the problem.)

When asked about her friendship with Tiger Woods, Annika said, “I’m not sure how the texting got started.” The two have practiced together and got in the habit of texting each other when they won a major. “I think he’s kind of competitive,” she said, sparking audience laughter.

As for her current status, Annika said she is not using the “R” word, instead calling her break from the game “stepping away.” With that kind of talk, it sure sounds like she’ll be back.

More Tidbits

• “My drive is stronger than ever,” Annika said. She is channeling it into her academy, golf course design and other projects.
• When asked for her dream foursome, Annika didn’t specifically name anyone, saying it could be people from all walks of life who she would enjoy and learn from.
• She was once caught at an exhibition with dirty laundry in her golf bag.
• The USGA has made her the first female ambassador of the game.
• An Annika wine is in the works.
• A 54 is definitely possible, Annika said. She took the audience through her round of 59 on March 16, 2001. She was 12 under after 13 holes and rimmed out her putt for 58 on the final hole.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:

PGA Merchandise Show: Finding My Way
Top 10 Tips for PGA Merchandise Show

PGA Merchandise Show: Finding My Way

GOING TO A NEW EVENT can be a logistical challenge: flying on a bad weather day, missing a tight connection (in Atlanta, of course), figuring out how to get out of the rental car parking garage (lame, I know), and finding my hotel in Kissimmee at midnight. Stuff like that.

Nonetheless, after a long hike across a mammoth parking area at the Orange County Convention Center, I set foot in the 2009 PGA Merchandise Show at 10 a.m. The demise of golf − like the demise of everything − is being widely reported, but it’s not in evidence here.

Here’s an outline of my first day at the show:

10:30 a.m.
– After checking in at the media room, I head out onto the exhibition floor and wander aimlessly for 45 minutes. It’s like one of those giant Las Vegas casinos − it just keeps going and going and going.

11:15 a.m.
– I stop by Laser Link Golf and introduce myself to Walker Inman Jr., a former tour pro who works for the company. I’ve talked to Walker on the phone; he was one of Jack Fleck’s pals on tour in the mid 1950s. Walker was the first Augusta native to play in the Masters. His dad was in the same Georgia Tech fraternity as Bobby Jones. (Yeah, that Bobby Jones.) Walker can remember the first time he met Jones like it was yesterday, which was actually about 70 years ago.

12:00 p.m. – I introduce myself to Gary Van Sickle, senior golf writer for Sports Illustrated. We talk about the changing media landscape. He probably hates me because I’m a blogger. (I’m kidding.) Seriously, print is dying and, like many people, he wonders where it’s all heading.

1:15 p.m. – I have a front row seat at an hour-long forum with Annika Sorenstam. We all know this, but she is the genuine article. (I’ll write about the Annika time in a separate post.)

2:30 p.m.
– I’m a fly on the wall while several people chat up Jules Alexander, the famous golf photographer whose black and white shots of Ben Hogan are legendary. I finally get a chance to introduce myself and get his permission to run a photo with a story on him at the blog. The coolest 82-year-old cat you’ll meet.

3:15 p.m. – I’m back in the media room shooting the breeze with media people and Jeremy Friedman of the Golf Channel. The Golf Channel will preview Uneven Fairways, a documentary on the Negro leagues of pro golf, on Friday afternoon. It's golf history, a favorite subject of mine. Plus it's free popcorn and soft drinks. I’m there.

More to come.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:

Top 10 Tips for PGA Merchandise Show

Wednesday, January 28

Smile More and Pack Some Extra Underwear

By Jeff Goodman
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


TO HIS CREDIT, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem has made it clear to the players that they need to “step it up” in this time of economic downturn. Otherwise current sponsors will drop out of sight, thus making it harder to find a replacement sponsor. Most recently, U.S. Bank pulled their sponsorship from its yearly PGA event in Milwaukee (the Greater Milwaukee Open).

Golf columnist Jill Painter’s
heart is in the right place, mentioning that PGA Tour professionals need to do more in the promotion of their product as well as for those who provide the medium in which they play (sponsors, TV coverage, fans, etc.).

This argument is nothing new to the PGA Tour or its pundits for there are valid answers to this dilemma:

• Raise the minimum number of tournaments in which a professional must compete (currently at 15 events)
• Mandate that players must play each event every four years (same as LPGA)
• Sign more autographs
• Give more face time to TV and its sponsors
• Mention sponsors by name
• Be more sociable at pro-ams

Even though some professional golfers are cognizant of how dire the economic situation may be, the odds dictate that not every player on Tour will heed Finchem or Painter’s call. After all, some players may have prior engagements or are too busy with their own endorsements and side businesses that their time at specific Tour events gets sacrificed.

As a pundit, I am aware that I know little, if anything, about what a PGA Tour professional goes through on a day-to-day basis.

However, the idealist in me knows that the possession of a PGA Tour card is a privilege and not necessarily a right. Hopefully the pros know this too, for it may keep their purse money from dwindling.

Jeff “Goods” Goodman is a Chicago writer who blogs
about golf at In Between 18.

Tuesday, January 27

Top 10 Tips for PGA Merchandise Show

I WAS INCREDIBLY FORTUNATE in recent days to connect with Gail Billingsley, the former Director of Marketing for PGA Golf Exhibitions. Among other golf-related activities, Gail developed and launched the Golf Demo Day and worked on the development and launch of Play Golf America Days with PGA Magazine. Gail now serves as the Executive Director of the YMCA at Virginia Tech University.

I asked Gail for her advice as I made preparations to attend my first PGA Merchandise Show.

“Neil, you are truly in for a treat!” Gail wrote. “There is nothing in the world like the PGA Merchandise Show.”

Below, with Gail’s permission, I share her top 10 list for the show:

1. Wear comfortable shoes. No matter how ugly, wear the single most comfortable shoes that you can. There are over 12 miles of aisles at the PGA Merchandise Show and you will cover them more than once.

2. Go to Demo Day. If you can go to the Demo Day at Orange National prior to the show, do it! The atmosphere is very different than the show and people are very chatty out at the range. It can be cold in the morning, but there are fewer folks there then. You’ll get a rare chance to hit clubs from newer manufacturers that you’ll usually never get to touch − and many of them are sweeter than those of the major manufacturers, but they have less marketing power.

3. Take the shuttle. Parking is awful.

4. Meet Sherry Major. Make sure to introduce yourself to Sherry Major in the PR/Media Room. Give her a hug for me. Sherry is an incredible source of golf info throughout the year. But, at the show, she really knows what is hot and what is new.

5. Read the show magazine. The show magazine is well done and Rick is good about featuring smaller, up-and-coming companies. I would pick up a copy each day.

6. Have a plan. Biggest piece of advice − go with a plan. Seriously, or you will waste so much time, you won't know where the day goes. Two ways you can do that. Go online and check out the layout of the show. Divvy it up into different periods of the day. Carry a notebook or the show directory and make active notes. While I know you are media, not a buyer, one of the most consistent pieces of advice from the top buyers was disciplining themselves to have a “map” each morning of what they expected to cover, and spending at least an hour each night reviewing what they had seen and then revisiting key companies on the last day.

7. Visit range and accessory people. The range and golf course accessory folks at the show don't always get much attention, but when it comes down to it, their products can make or ruin a good game of golf. I played at a course once with no yardage markers, no ball washers, no benches, nothing that just made the game a bit more enjoyable. It was eye-opening.

8. Drink lots of water. The air in the Convention Center is very dry and dehydration is a real problem that most folks don't realize until they leave.

9. Eat at local dives. Ask locals about their favorite hangouts and go there ... unless you like the crush of people that comes with the “tourist” restaurants. We really used to have fun going to local dives. Some wonderful food.

10. Enjoy!

I leave tomorrow. I better get to work on that plan.

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, January 26

Phil Mickelson Comes Out of Hibernation


Wedge man Phil Mickelson returns to work this week.
(Jim Epler/Flickr)


WITH THE ARIZONA CARDINALS in the Super Bowl and the FBR Open at TPC Scottsdale, it’s sure to be a raucous weekend in the Phoenix area. World No. 4 Phil Mickelson is set to make his 2009 season debut in an FBR Open field that includes 99 of the top 125 players on the PGA Tour money list.

“Phil, of course, is our largest draw,” Phoenix Thunderbirds chairman John Felix told The Arizona Republic, “but we have a lot of other great players who will have a significant impact with our crowd.”

Lefty is a two-time winner of the event. Last year he lost to J.B. Holmes in a playoff.

So, what’s up with Phil carrying all those wedges (including five at Colonial, where he won)? Here’s how he explained it at Callaway Golf:

“My scoring takes place around the greens,” Lefty said, “so I want to have as many options as possible to tackle the different lies and the different shots that we encounter in some of these conditions.”

This will be Phil’s 20th appearance at the Phoenix-area tour stop, where he’s always been a fan favorite. We’ll soon find out if that fan love and those clever wedges translate to a strong season opener for the left-handed one.

Mickelson File
Turned pro: 1992
Birthplace: San Diego, CA
College: Arizona State University
World ranking: 4
PGA Tour wins: 34
Major wins: 3
Teacher: Butch Harmon
Equipment: Callaway

−The Armchair Golfer

Brought to you by The World of Golf and ARMCHAIR GOLF STORE.

Sunday, January 25

Getting to Know Pat Perez

CONGRATULATIONS TO PAT PEREZ for his first PGA Tour victory today at the Bob Hope Classic.

To learn more about Perez, here are links to his interviews with ARMCHAIR GOLF:

Pat Perez 2008 interview
Pat Perez 2007 interview (part 1)
Pat Perez 2007 interview (part 2)

−The Armchair Golfer

Anthony Kim Loses 2034 Bob Hope Classic on Final Hole

LOOKING FOR HIS FIRST WIN in four years, 48-year-old Anthony Kim made a disastrous five at the 90th hole of the 75th Bob Hope Classic. Kim’s untimely par, his first of the tournament, left him one shot shy of the 90-under-par total of first-time winner Lars Hanson, a 2033 Facebook Tour graduate.

“I knew I needed to get to 90,” said Kim, who made 89 consecutive birdies during the five-day event. “I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Hanson made a handful of pars, but was able to offset them with four eagles in the final round. The winning total was two shots off the tournament record of 268. The 92-under-par mark was set in 2031.

Flashback: Perez Wins 2009 Hope

“It’s a day I’d like to forget,” said 66-year-old Steve Stricker from his home in Wisconsin. “I blew a three or four shot lead in the final round.”

Stricker’s collapse opened the door for San Diego native Pat Perez to get his first PGA Tour win. Perez eagled the final hole − a big deal − which is now commonplace in tournament golf.

“Back in those days, shooting 30-some-odd under at the Hope was lights out,” remembered Stricker. “Now that wouldn’t make the cut.”

“We thought we were long hitters,” he added. “People will laugh, but 325 yards was considered bombing it. These kids today and their 450-yard drives. Good gracious!”

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, January 24

Birmingham (Ala.) Golfer Wins ‘First Off the Tee’ Drawing

CONGRATULATIONS TO SCOTT STONE, winner of the free drawing for First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers and Cheaters from Taft to Bush, a bestselling book on America’s golfing presidents by Don Van Natta Jr. Scott will receive an autographed copy of First Off the Tee (in hardcover), along with a personal note from the author.

(Note: Don’s next book, Wonder Girl, is a biography of Babe Didrikson Zaharias, a 20th-century phenom in three sports: golf, basketball and track and field.)

Meet the Winner

Scott is the CFO of a software company. He started a golf blog, Bushwood Country Club, last fall.

“I've been playing golf for about 15 years,” Scott wrote in an email.

“I started playing as a result of a mandatory corporate outing. My first tee shot went over the roof of a condo building and missed a lady walking her poodle by about three feet. I was immediately hooked on the game, and have played steadily since then. For most of the year, I get to play one to two times per week and am a 10 handicapper.”

Favorite golf memories:
Attending the 1999 Masters and 2008 Ryder Cup
Favorite golf courses: Shoal Creek Country Club (just down the street from my house) and the Lake Course at the Olympic Club
Favorite pro golfers: Hunter Mahan and Paula Creamer

Thanks to all who entered. There will be more free drawings in the near future, so keep coming back.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, January 23

Pat Perez Hunting for First Tour Win

LAST YEAR IN AN INTERVIEW AT ARMCHAIR GOLF, I asked Pat Perez what keeps him excited about the tour and game.

“Being in the hunt,” Perez said. “Playing the big events.”

In search of his first PGA Tour victory, the veteran is definitely in the hunt this week at the 50th Bob Hope Classic. Perez fired a record-setting 20-under total to grab the 36-hole lead. Perez and Tom Pernice Jr. are currently tied with the third round in progress.

“I’m competitive in everything I do, so to get to compete at something for a living is intense,” he told me.

Perez also said he enjoyed the circus atmosphere of the pro circuit.

“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.”

−The Armchair Golfer


(Photo: Pat Perez Golf)

Thursday, January 22

Obama Golf Watch: New President Hits 10 Balls

ARMCHAIR GOLF HAS LEARNED that President Barack Obama took a brief timeout from his many new official duties to get in a little practice on Tuesday. Just a little, but still.

And that’s a good thing, because even President Obama would probably agree that his game needs work, especially considering all the Golf Digest pieces that dissected his swing in the February issue. The 44th president was critiqued by swing experts Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter and Jim Flick.

(Maybe if the economy wasn’t in such an awful mess the President could have one of his new aides study those articles for him.)

Still, even if you’re the President of the United States, you have to work things out for yourself on the golf course. No sport more quickly reveals one’s flaws. It will take a lot more than 10 balls, but good for him for getting started.

By the way, the balls were “Inaugural” balls. I’m not sure who makes them.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo: J Lee/Flickr)

Wednesday, January 21

Q&A: Paula Creamer

Paula Creamer is all smiles. (LPGA Tour)

AS ANNIKA SORENSTAM RETIRES, there are still many bright spots for the LPGA Tour. The ebullient Paula Creamer is certainly one of them. The Pink Panther won four times in 2008 and contended in the majors with three top 10s. No. 3 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Paula answered questions from ARMCHAIR GOLF in a recent email exchange.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: What's your outlook for 2009? Are you making any significant changes?

PAULA CREAMER: I am really excited about this year. I'm working my tail off this off season and I hope the results will show it! I will be using a new TaylorMade driver, the Limited, and also a new Precept ball.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: How do you prepare for a new golf season?


PAULA CREAMER:
Practice, work out, proper nutrition, lots of work on my short game. In golf, that's really where the strokes come off the scorecard.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: What part of your game needs the most work?

PAULA CREAMER: I like to address all parts of my game, but I'm really concentrating a lot of time with my coach, David Whelan, on my short game and on the greens.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: How many events do you plan to play in 2009? Any favorites on the schedule?

PAULA CREAMER:
I will probably have my regular number of events, somewhere between 23 and 27. Any place where I've won previously is a definite favorite!

ARMCHAIR GOLF: You really looked like you were ready to break through and win a major last year, especially at the U.S. Women's Open. What did you learn that will help you get that first major win?

PAULA CREAMER:
I learned that round four of a major is really not too much different than rounds one through three. I didn't keep to my game plan in the '08 US Women's Open for the final round. That won't happen again!

ARMCHAIR GOLF: What do you think the LPGA Tour will be like without Annika?


PAULA CREAMER:
It will be strange not seeing her week in, week out, but I have a feeling she won't be retired forever. I think we'll be seeing her again at some point. The tour is deeper than ever and I think it will continue to move forward. When Nancy Lopez retired I assume people were concerned, but look how far the tour has come since.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: What will you miss most about her?


PAULA CREAMER:
I like her work ethic and her overall dedication to her game.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: What's it like living at Isleworth?


PAULA CREAMER:
I really enjoy what little time I have at home. The golf course and practice facilities are perfect – and so close to home!

ARMCHAIR GOLF: What's your best advice for amateur golfers?


PAULA CREAMER:
Practice your short game as much as the long game and don't get down on yourself if things go south. This game can drive anyone crazy at any level. Have fun!! After all, you're lucky in that you can talk trash with your buddies and get away with it.

SHORT SHOTS

Most trusted club in your bag:

PAULA CREAMER: All 14, thanks to TaylorMade!

Favorite sport other than golf:
PAULA CREAMER: Tennis, but the WTA has nothing to fear on my going pro in that sport.

Favorite sports teams:

PAULA CREAMER: San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Athletics and Boston Celtics.

Favorite new fashion or golf accessories:

PAULA CREAMER: Wow, great question but not a quick-answer item. The new Adidas apparel I'll be wearing looks great! I saw the full line when I visited the Adidas offices back in December. I'm also pleased with the way my 2009 Paula Creamer Collection of sunglasses came out. As always, Sundog did a terrific job with this year's line. I also have some special accessory pieces that I will unveil this year.

What frustrates you:
PAULA CREAMER: When people don't do simple things like say “please” and “thank you.” I mean, how hard is that?

What makes you smile:

PAULA CREAMER: Wow, what doesn't make me smile? I like to smile a lot.

−The Armchair Golfer

Special thanks to Jay Burton of IMG World for coordinating this interview. This Paula Creamer Q&A is brought to you by The World of Golf.

Tuesday, January 20

Stylin’ with Ian Poulter in Orlando


Ian Poulter plays through in London.
(Photo: Campbell-Bell)


IAN POULTER SHOWED ME a lot last year. After the cover story in which he said it will be just me and Tiger, the Englishman played his plaid pants off. I was impressed.

A nice finish at The Open Championship helped earn Poulter a much-debated Ryder Cup team captain’s pick from Nick Faldo. Then “Poults” tore it up at Valhalla, posting a 4-1-0 record for the European team.

I’m going to the PGA Merchandise Show next week in Orlando, and Ian’s people sent me an invitation:

“Join Ian Poulter as he hosts a fashion show to launch his next Ian Poulter Design Collection.”

Style is not in my tool kit. Like a lot of guys, I get by. Barely. Maybe I’ll join Ian. All I have to do is RSVP. There’s also this:

“We will also have a small amount of interview time with Ian in the afternoon….”

I’d love to ask Ian something about golf even though he’s there to talk about his new design collection. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

−The Armchair Golfer


GOLF BRIEFS


(As a service to readers, following are golf events, products, services and more. Endorsement is not implied.)

PGA Merchandise Show


Here's a little advance mention for all the folks who've emailed me.

The Wishbone Grip and Method, Booth #3789.
The True Ympact Swing Trainer, Booth #1788.
The g-glove golf club grip protector, Booth #2720.
Eyeline Golf Pendulum Putting Rod, Booth #2075.
The Mibrella UV golf umbrella, Booth #5485.
Paul Azinger will play Bionic Gloves and make a video appearance at the show, Room 312A.
GOLO Golf Dice Game, Booth #4277.
The Plane Perfect Golf Machine, Booth #1687.
Nif Tee Seat golf seat cover, Booth #3890.
PowerBilt’s Air Force Drivers, featuring Fuzzy Zoeller, Room 312C.
Graphite Design will host a long drive contest at Demo Day.
Strength and Conditioning Coach “Joey D” will be outside the PGA Tour Fitness Trailer, as well as Booths #4977 and #1988.
Pro Tee, Booth #3036.
Drivemate Pro, Booth #1395.
iGolf’s GPS Technology, Booth #3701.
AHEAD, Booth #5377.
Glove It, Booth #5557.
TrackMan, Booth #1594.
Vicarious Golf, Booth #2109.
Club Designer Jesse Ortiz will offer equipment demonstrations at Hitting Bay ETC40.
Quagmire Golf will be also be at the show.

Other Briefs


Mike Bruno is the creator of 5 Minutes to Tee-Time (www.5minutestotee-time.com), a golf warm-up aid.
John Reese has launched www.FreeGolfandMore.com.
The new Kodak Challenge (www.kodakchallenge.com) on the PGA Tour is underway.
Charlie King, a GOLF Magazine Top 100 Instructor, has written a book called “You’re NOT Lifting Your Head.” Free download at www.reynoldsgolfacademy.com.
Gimme Golf is launched at www.gimmegolf.com.
Par Bar (www.sunnyvalleybar.com) is a new nutrition bar for golfers.
Pat O’Brien, coach for Zach Johnson and Vaughn Taylor, has launched www.patobriengolf.com.
100 new products at www.bogeypro.com.
Free and affordable 2009 golf programs at www.playgolfamerica.com.
Devant has unveiled the 2009 Sir Christopher Hatton Golf Towel line at www.devantsporttowels.com.
Life coach Jim Fannin (www.jimfannin.com) is bullish on tour player Matthew Goggin.
The Cliffs at Keowee Springs, a Tom Fazio course, was named one of the top 10 best new private courses by GOLF Magazine.

Monday, January 19

Eisenhower Wins PGC in Sudden-Death Playoff

BY HOLING A 40-INCH PAR PUTT on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff, Dwight Eisenhower conquered his putting demons to upset top seed John F. Kennedy on Sunday in the Presidents Golf Championship (PGC) at Augusta National Golf Club. It was a redemptive stroke for Ike, who had three-putted the 18th hole to allow Kennedy to even the match and send it to extra holes.

“I thought I had lost it on the low side,” Eisenhower said of the match-clinching putt, “but it caught the edge and fell in, thankfully.”

JFK bunkered his approach on the 10th, the first playoff hole. The 35th president left his long bunker shot well short and his uphill 18-foot par putt stopped inches shy of the hole. Ike played his third shot from the depression in front of the sloping green, a nifty pitch and run that rolled to within throw-up range for the general, who backed away twice before nervously jabbing his Titleist into the cup.

How Ike Prevailed

Eisenhower was clearly the underdog, and many on hand were shocked that the match had gotten away from the youthful, athletic Kennedy, who had dominated his opponents in earlier matches.

Theories abounded. JFK was overconfident. He was tired. His chronically bad back ached from too much golf in recent days. Or, as one Kennedy aide suggested with a wink, JFK was distracted by the many attractive spectators in the large gallery.

Perhaps the most reasonable explanation for Eisenhower’s upset victory was that the old general knew the ground better than his opponent. A longtime member, Ike had recorded more than 100 rounds at Augusta National. The former Commander of Allied Forces knew his way around the former tree nursery. He also knew his own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of his opponent, and he put that knowledge to work.

“In match play, I really felt like I had a chance against him,” Eisenhower said, “especially here.”

Angry Loser


Kennedy shrugged off the defeat. “That’s golf,” he said. “What can you expect? Ike had a good day. He knows where to hit it around this place.”

Onlookers knew better. Under his smooth veneer, JFK was furious that the rival he had labeled “duffer-in-chief” and once called “that old asshole” had bested him. Sometimes the wrong man wins, Kennedy thought, whether in politics or golf.

Ike thought the same thing, and was glad it didn’t happen on Sunday.

TOURNAMENT RECAP


Final
#2 Eisenhower defeats #1 Kennedy, 1-up (19 holes)

Semifinals

#1 Kennedy defeats #13 Nixon, 10 and 8
#2 Eisenhower defeats #3 Ford, 3 and 1
Summary

Quarterfinals
#1 Kennedy defeats #8 Obama, (match score not disclosed)
#13 Nixon defeats #5 George H.W. Bush, 1-up
#2 Eisenhower defeats #7 Clinton, 9 and 7
#3 Ford defeats #6 George W. Bush, 4 and 3
Summary

Opening Matches
#1 Kennedy defeats #16 Grant, 10 and 8
#8 Obama defeats #9 Reagan, 1-up
#5 George H.W. Bush defeats #12 Wilson, 4 and 2
#13 Nixon defeats #4 Roosevelt, 2 and 1
#6 George W. Bush defeats #11 Taft, 5 and 4
#3 Ford defeats #14 Johnson, 6 and 5
#7 Clinton defeats #10 Harding, 1-up
#2 Eisenhower defeats #15 Coolidge, 9 and 7
Summary

Special Thanks

Special thanks to New York Times investigative reporter and bestselling author Don Van Natta for his expert commentary as the guest golf analyst. No one is better qualified. Don't miss your last chance to enter the free drawing (at above right) for an autographed copy of Don's book on America's golfing presidents, First Off the Tee.

−The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, January 18

Paul Casey Wins Abu Dhabi Championship


Later, ball. Paul Casey tees off at Torrey. (SD Dirk/Flickr)

PAUL CASEY SAW A SIX-SHOT LEAD evaporate to just one stroke at the Abu Dhabi Championship but hung on to edge Louis Oosthuizen and defending champion Martin Kaymer.

It was Casey’s first win in two years, hard to believe for a guy with so much talent. Casey said he has been concentrating a lot on majors and that it may have hurt him in regular events. I saw him at the Ryder Cup and expect him to be a top player for years to come. He’s only 31 and was recently married.

Here’s a snippet from the post-tournament media conference:

Q. How much is this win a weight off your shoulders and also how much of a boost is it to win so early in the new year?


PAUL CASEY: Well, it felt great two years ago to win so early and then I really didn't follow it up with anything. But it feels very different this time. As you said, a bit of a weight off my shoulders. It feels great. It feels like a payoff for all of the worrying I've put in, certainly recently, the past couple of months. It shows that marriage is clearly good for me.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, January 17

‘I Forgot,’ Now Starring Chad Campbell


Chad Campbell at the 2008 Ryder Cup. (Proforged/Flickr)

I HATE TO ADMIT IT, but sometimes I walk into a room and forget why I’m there. Chad Campbell flew from Texas to Hawaii to play in the Sony Open. Chad knew why he was there. Only one problem: He forgot to register for the tournament. So after playing a round of golf, Chad and his caddie caught a red-eye back to Texas.

Tadd Fujikawa tore it up today at Waialae Country Club, shooting a 62. The 18-year-old is currently tied for the third-round lead.

−The Armchair Golfer

Battle of the Presidential Golf Titans

Editor’s note: After 14 spirited and sometimes bizarre matches at Augusta National Golf Club, the final match of the first Presidents Golf Championship (PGC) will feature the tournament’s top two seeds, John F. Kennedy (1) and Dwight Eisenhower (2). Author of the bestselling book First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers and Cheaters from Taft to Bush (free drawing at right), Don Van Natta offers his commentary on the final match.

By Don Van Natta Jr.

Guest Golf Analyst

#1 JOHN F. KENNEDY VS. #2 DWIGHT EISENHOWER


A JFK-Ike match is a dream final, the ultimate test of the most bitter sports rivalry in presidential history. Like Yankees-Red Sox, Bears-Packers or Celtics-Knicks, it’s not enough for the PGC’s final combatants just to win. Each president wants to crush – no, humiliate – his opponent.

The bad blood between Kennedy and Eisenhower goes way back. JFK spent most of the ’50s ridiculing President Eisenhower’s love of golf. JFK was fond of calling Ike the nation’s “duffer-in-chief,” who spent more time trying to improve his golf score than trying to improve the lives of average Americans. Kennedy laughed out loud at the quip that Eisenhower had invented the 36-hole work week; it was literally true as Ike played 18 holes on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings at Burning Tree Country Club.

For his part, Eisenhower viewed Kennedy as a rich-boy hypocrite (Kennedy was a member of the Harvard golf team who loved the game as much as Ike). Ike believed JFK was too inexperienced to be president and too soft to beat him in a round of golf. Ike (as well as Nixon) did not appreciate the fact that JFK kept his love of golf hidden from the public; both men used to say that the White House press corps gave Kennedy a pass on golf because they were in love with him.

After Kennedy was sworn in as president, Ike visited him in Camp David, just a few short weeks after the Bay of Pigs debacle. Their visit was punctuated by long silences and frosty stares. Ike lectured Kennedy on the proper use of military might, a lecture that the younger man endured with silent fury. When it was over, Kennedy escorted Ike to a nearby heliport. Before Eisenhower departed, JFK suggested a golf game in the future. Ike agreed but after the former president had gone, JFK said he had no intention of ever playing golf with “that old asshole.”

But now, that long-postponed round
will occur in the first Presidents Golf Championship.

Kennedy, who breezed to the final
by easily beating Grant, Obama and Nixon, is the prohibitive favorite. Kennedy was never really tested, but Ike had to overcome a tougher road to get here, defeating Coolidge, Clinton and Ford. The smart money will be on JFK, but don’t underestimate the old general. Ike enjoys home-course advantage (Ike played more than 100 times at his home-course of Augusta National during his eight years in the White House), and he now knows just how to avoid the so-called Eisenhower Tree edging the 17th fairway (the lolly pine earned that nickname after Augusta’s elders rejected Ike’s official request to chop down the tree, which had bedeviled him for years).

The final, like most finals,
will come down to putting. Kennedy owns the advantage but rumors are flying that Ike has been practicing around the clock these past few days.

Results of the final match will be published on Monday, January 19.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
Kennedy and Eisenhower Advance to PGC Final
PGC Quarterfinals: Obama, Bushes and Clinton Eliminated
Nixon Upset Highlights Opening PGC Matches
Ulysses S. Grant Earns Final Spot in PGC Field
Presidents Golf Championship Adds Golf Analyst

Friday, January 16

Stolen 2009 Golf Predictions

Lorena Ochoa (dnkbdotcom/Flickr)








I’M WAY LATE to the predictions party, but I feel a certain obligation to post some anyway. Plus, there’s a distinct advantage. I can use the predictions of others instead of coming up with my own. Here we go.

1. Tiger Woods will make his return at the CA Championship at Doral.
From Bob Weeks at ScoreGolf. Sure, why not?

2. Michelle Wie will win on the LPGA Tour.
From Brandel Chamblee at the Golf Channel. (Just going along with others who have Wie on their prediction list.)

3. Phil Mickelson prediction goes here.

I’m still looking for one I like.

4. John Daly prediction goes here.

Ditto.

5. Due to cutbacks everywhere, “golf” will lose a letter in 2009 and will henceforth be known as “gof.”
Still trying to remember where I found this. There’s definitely some weird stuff on the Web. (OK, I'm fessing up: it's mine.)

6. Sergio Garcia will win a major.

Actually, I’m going out on a limb and calling this one my own. I’m going to make this prediction every year because some year it will come true.

7. Lorena Ochoa will get engaged.

(I wanted to get at least one right.)

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, January 15

Kennedy and Eisenhower Advance to PGC Final


JFK and Ike will square off in final. (Public Domain)

TOP SEEDS JOHN F. KENNEDY and Dwight Eisenhower will play for the title in the Presidents Golf Championship (PGC) at Augusta National Golf Club.

In semifinals action, No. 1 seed Kennedy easily defeated No. 13 seed Richard Nixon, the surprise player of the tournament with upsets of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and George H.W. Bush. No. 2 seed Eisenhower escaped with a win in the other semifinal when No. 3 seed Gerald Ford faltered after building a three-hole lead.

“I was fortunate to beat Ford,” Eisenhower admitted. “It was a tough match.”

Ike was asked if he had considered the possibility that his former vice president would upset Kennedy to gain a berth in the finals.

“No,” he replied. “Nixon loses to Kennedy, whether debates, elections, or golf. Now excuse me while I go practice my putting.”

EAGLE BRACKET

#1 Kennedy defeats #13 Nixon, 10 and 8

Summary: Tension enveloped the first tee like morning dew. John F. Kennedy was impassive, making Richard Nixon’s bravado seem more forced than ever. “Let’s see what you’ve got, Jack,” Nixon said while fidgeting with his head cover. Kennedy took his stance, addressed the Titlelist No. 1 marked with “JFK,” and made his smooth, athletic swing, sweeping the dimpled ball off its wooden peg to a lush green spot 250 yards down the 1st fairway. The match was over. Although he tried to hide it, it was written on Nixon’s face. For Nixon, the next three hours were a painful series of jerks and spasms while Kennedy played like a scout searching for hidden clues on Augusta’s expansive fairways and undulating greens. JFK knew his toughest match lay ahead. Nixon maintained his defiant posture when it was over. “I played better in the quarterfinals,” he said, a dark expression covering his face. Then he suddenly forced a smile, flashed his two-armed victory salute to no one in particular, and walked away.

FREEDOM BRACKET


#2 Eisenhower defeats #3 Ford, 3 and 1

Summary: There was a subdued quality to the day’s other semifinal. Both serious-minded men and intense competitors, Dwight Eisenhower and Gerald Ford went about their business on the golf course as if it were a cabinet meeting. For the first prolonged period during the matches, Ike’s putter completely deserted him. Meanwhile, Ford built a comfortable three-hole lead on the outward nine. Then things began to unravel at Amen Corner when Ford found the pond on 11 and Rae’s Creek on 12. Eisenhower caught Ford with a surprising birdie on the 13th hole, and by the time the pair reached the 16th tee Ike had a 1-up lead. Ford, who had never trailed in any of his matches, looked uncomfortable and indecisive. He chunked a delicate chip at 16 and sprayed his tee shot on 17 into the pines. Eisenhower closed out the match when he tapped in for par on the 17th green. The two men shook hands and Ike offered words of consolation. While gracious in defeat, Ford did not like to lose. He invited Ike to visit him in Palm Springs, where he knew he would have a much better chance to defeat the general.

The Final

Results of the final match will be published on Monday, January 19.

EAGLE BRACKET WINNER
#1 seed John F. Kennedy

versus

FREEDOM BRACKET WINNER
#2 seed Dwight Eisenhower

−The Armchair Golfer


Related:
PGC Quarterfinals: Obama, Bushes and Clinton Eliminated
Nixon Upset Highlights Opening PGC Matches
The Goods on Barak Obama's Golf Game
Ulysses S. Grant Earns Final Spot in PGC Field
Presidents Golf Championship Adds Golf Analyst

Wednesday, January 14

Next Week at ARMCHAIR GOLF: Paula Creamer


Coming soon: The Pink Panther. (Susanica/Flickr)

WORLD NO. 3 PAULA CREAMER will stop by ARMCHAIR GOLF next week (in a virtual sense, at least) for a Q&A.

Paula will check in on her 2009 season preparation, her schedule, an Annika-less tour, what she learned in 2008 that will help her in majors, life at Isleworth, advice for amateurs, her favorite new fashion and golf accessories, and more.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, January 13

PGC Quarterfinals: Obama, Bushes and Clinton Eliminated

Ike still in, Bush is out.
(Public Domain)






UNDER CLOUDY SKIES at Augusta National Golf Club, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower and Gerald Ford advanced to the semifinals of the Presidents Golf Championship (PGC).

For No. 13 seed Nixon, it was the second consecutive upset − this time at the expense of George H.W. Bush − although he now faces political nemesis and tournament top seed Kennedy in the semifinals. When asked for his thoughts about his next opponent, JFK declined to comment.

The other semifinal will pit No. 2 seed Dwight Eisenhower against No. 3 seed Gerald Ford. Summaries of the quarterfinal matches are below, followed by the upcoming semifinal matches.

EAGLE BRACKET


#1 Kennedy defeats #8 Obama, (match score not disclosed)

Summary: While Obama’s political skills may remind some of JFK, his inconsistent golf game was no match for Kennedy’s, especially at Augusta. It was over early, and, by mutual agreement, the final match score was not disclosed so as to not embarrass the president-elect. Not only did Obama show respect for Kennedy’s golf game, he praised JFK’s skillful oratory. The pair spent much of the match discussing Obama’s inauguration speech as the president-elect sought a few pointers.

#13 Nixon defeats #5 George H.W. Bush, 1-up

Summary: Long shot Richard Nixon once again showed his resiliency and resolve, coming from three holes down on Augusta’s inward nine to upset George H.W. Bush. The rally began at the par-5 13th hole, where Nixon noticeably slowed down his play, which clearly infuriated the fast-playing Bush. The comeback was completed on the final hole when a rattled Bush three-putted for a double bogey and Nixon slapped a 20-foot bogey putt that raced across the green and dove into the cup. When asked about gamesmanship, Nixon’s reply sounded like a warning. “My opponents should know I play to win.”

FREEDOM BRACKET

#2 Eisenhower defeats #7 Clinton, 9 and 7

Summary: Ike was on his game and decimated an overmatched Bill Clinton in the day’s second-to-the-last pairing. The general had his game face on and was impervious to Clinton’s charm and golfing eccentricities (even when Clinton gave himself a potential hole-winning putt). The one bright spot for Clinton was an improbable ace on the par-3 6th hole. It was the only hole he won. Despite the lopsided match score, Clinton insisted he shot an 85. He signed autographs and chatted with spectators before climbing into a waiting limousine.

#3 Ford defeats #6 George W. Bush, 4 and 3
Summary: With most of the spectators following the Ike-Clinton match directly in front of them, Gerald Ford and George W. Bush played an amiable, uneventful match in relative solitude. Whether looking ahead to his semifinal match with Eisenhower or easing up on his erratic opponent, Ford dropped some holes on the final nine, which made the match appear to be closer than it was.

Semfinal Matches


Results of the following matches will be published on Thursday.

EAGLE BRACKET
#1 Kennedy vs. #13 Nixon

FREEDOM BRACKET
#2 Eisenhower vs. #3 Ford

−The Armchair Golfer


Related:
Nixon Upset Highlights Opening PGC Matches
The Goods on Barak Obama's Golf Game
Ulysses S. Grant Earns Final Spot in PGC Field
Presidents Golf Championship Adds Golf Analyst

Monday, January 12

Best Wishes, Annika

HALL OF FAMER ANNIKA SORENSTAM married Mike McGee on Saturday in Orlando. McGee, the manager of Annika’s business brand since 2006, is the son of former PGA Tour player Jerry McGee.

One hundred twenty-five guests attended the wedding ceremony and reception at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club.

8 Wedding Photos

The newlyweds will go on a honeymoon ski trip. In early February, Annika will play in a skins game with Lorena Ochoa, Paula Creamer and Natalie Gulbis.

−The Armchair Golfer


(Photo: Keith Allison/Flickr)

Sunday, January 11

Presidents Golf Championship: Quarterfinals Preview

Bill Clinton is a heavy underdog.

EIGHT PRESIDENTS ARE STILL ALIVE in the first annual Presidents Golf Championship (PGC) at Augusta National Golf Club. Guest golf analyst Don Van Natta filed the following preview of the upcoming matches.


EAGLE BRACKET


#1 Kennedy vs. #8 Obama
This is the Charisma Quarter-Final. No president looked as cool and comfortable on the links as JFK. Obama, despite his odd choice of cargo pants while playing during his Hawaii vacation, is a very close second. Both Kennedy and Obama rely on jocular attempts to unnerve opponents. JFK loves needling his playing partners as a way to intimidate them to play worse; Obama also engages in a bit of playful trash-talking. But the similarities between their golfing styles end there. Kennedy’s deadly accurate game will overwhelm Obama, whose wobbly long irons will spoil any chance for the pre-inaugural upset.
Prediction: Kennedy

#5 George H.W. Bush vs. #13 Nixon

Nixon’s stunning upset of FDR — and his supreme confidence, afterward — will carry him past George Herbert Walker Bush. At Bush’s best, he is capable of shooting in the high 80s, but he has a tendency to get rattled by cocky opponents who he should defeat. The pressure will be on “41” not just to beat Nixon but to crush him. But I predict that Nixon’s way of glowering at an opponent (especially during short putts) will unnerve Bush just enough for the darkest of presidential golf dark horses to take another unlikely step toward the final.
Prediction: Nixon

FREEDOM BRACKET


#2 Eisenhower vs. #7 Clinton

This one will be fun, if only because it will be interesting to see if Clinton’s carefree, on-course demeanor disrupts the old general’s equilibrium. Ike’s deadly serious game (he concentrates laser-like on getting the ball to behave) is so different from Clinton’s chatty, Billigans-enhanced style. Of course, no Billigan-taking is permitted in the PGC, and I would be stunned if Clinton manages to topple the mighty Ike, even if Ike’s putter doesn’t always cooperate.
Prediction: Eisenhower

#3 Ford vs. #6 George W. Bush
With their close seedings, you’d think this match could go down to the wire. Think again. Ford is a formidable No. 3 seed, and Bush is a shaky No. 6 seed. Despite his reputation for hitting spectators with golf balls, Ford has a disciplined, razor-sharp approach to shot-making. Bush’s habit of taking unnecessary risks will do him in. This one won’t be close.
Prediction: Ford

Results on Tuesday

Come back on Tuesday for the results of these matches and the march toward the final, which will be played the day before Inauguration Day.

Win an Autographed Copy of First Off the Tee!

Sign up for a chance to win a free autographed copy of Don Van Natta’s First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers and Cheaters from Taft to Bush, a New York Times bestseller and Sports Illustrated book of the year. Entry is at right under the brown box.

−The Armchair Golfer


Related:
Nixon Upset Highlights Opening PGC Matches
The Goods on Barak Obama's Golf Game
Ulysses S. Grant Earns Final Spot in PGC Field
Presidents Golf Championship Adds Golf Analyst

Geoff Ogilvy Is a Cool Cat

AUSTRALIAN GEOFF OGILVY used to have composure problems. Used to. Nothing seemed to bother this slender cat as he slipped around the Plantation Course the past few days in Maui. This guy is as smooth as they come − especially, it seems, as a front-runner.

My cable was acting up, so I didn’t see much of the final-round action. But Ogilvy had the Mercedes-Benz Championship in his pocket on Saturday night after firing an eight-under-par 65 that separated him from the field. He went on to win by a comfortable six shots.

Ogilvy leaves Maui with an early-season win and $1.12 million. Geoff should be on everybody’s short list for winning another major. He has the game and the temperament.

−The Armchair Golfer


Related:
Ogilvy Defends Daly in Camera Incident

Saturday, January 10

Geoff Ogilvy Defends John Daly in Camera Incident

Geoff Ogilvy (Newton/Flickr)

I SAW THIS NOTE at ESPN Golf. Here’s what Geoff Ogilvy had to say about John Daly’s camera-breaking incident at the Australian Open:

“I think every player on the tour would have snapped putting up with what he was having to put up with. And there was a guy with a flash less than three feet from his face for 20 minutes just going bang, bang, bang, right in his face, trying to get him to snap, and he did. … The Australian Tour didn't even fine him because the guy wasn't even supposed to have a camera at the tournament. I don't blame him at all.”

Ogilvy is the current leader of the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship at Kapalua Resort in Maui, Hawaii.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, January 9

The New High-Def Golf Channel


(Photo courtesy of the Golf Channel)

WITH THE LAUNCH of its high definition (HD) channel, the Golf Channel is all spiffed up for the new golf year. Golf Channel HD and its standard definition channel will simulcast more than 100 tournaments in 2009.

“For the first time, Golf Channel HD viewers will be able to fully appreciate the stunning beauty of Hawaiian courses like at Kapalua and Turtle Bay or at Scotland's Loch Lomond,” Golf Channel President Page Thompson said in a statement.

This is great news for golf viewers. That guy in the above photo sure looks happy about it.

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, January 8

Nixon Upset Highlights Opening PGC Matches

ALL BUT ONE OF THE FAVORITES advanced in the opening matches of the first annual Presidents Golf Championship (PGC) at Augusta National Golf Club. In a stunning upset in the Eagle Bracket, No. 13 seed Richard Nixon defeated No. 4 seed Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

“No, I’m not surprised I won,” Nixon said. “People have counted me out before. I guess I showed them again.”

Top seeds John F. Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower cruised to victory on an overcast day at Augusta. Summaries of the opening matches are below, followed by a listing of the bracket semifinal matches.

EAGLE BRACKET


#1 Kennedy defeats #16 Grant, 10 and 8

Summary: Tournament favorite JFK closed out No. 16 seed Ulysses S. Grant in the minimum number of holes. Grant was clearly uncomfortable on the golf course and didn’t finish out on several holes. At one point during the match, a muttering, cigar-chomping Grant disappeared into the pines and forfeited several holes before reemerging on the 9th hole. Grant also attempted to “free” his caddie. When Kennedy was asked to comment about his opponent, he said, “Grant was a better president than people think.”

#8 Obama defeats #9 Reagan, 1-up

Summary: As expected, the Obama-Reagan match-up was a tight contest characterized by a lot of conceded putts. The two men enjoyed each others’ company and were heard laughing all the way around Augusta National. Tied when they reached the final hole, Reagan’s mental error on the 18th green cost him the match. After tapping in for his bogey, Reagan mistakenly gave Obama a 10-foot par putt.

#5 George H.W. Bush defeats #12 Wilson, 4 and 2
Summary: George H.W. Bush built a large early lead but faltered in the middle of the match as Wilson doggedly played on, winning several holes due mostly to Bush’s mistakes. The match was dormie when the pair arrived at the par-3 16th, where Wilson hit eight tee shots into the water and lost 4 and 2.

#13 Nixon defeats #4 Roosevelt, 2 and 1

Summary: In the most surprising match of the day, Richard Nixon wielded a hot putter at just the right moments to turn back the heavily favored FDR. Nixon’s usual highly erratic play did not hurt him in the match-play format. Roosevelt admitted his game was off and called Nixon “fortunate.” Buoyed by his opening win, Nixon said he liked his chances as he marched to the practice tee.

FREEDOM BRACKET


#6 George W. Bush defeats #11 Taft, 5 and 4

Summary: With George W. Bush’s late afternoon win over William Howard Taft, both Bushes advanced to the second round in their respective brackets, preserving the possibility of an all-Bush final. Yet, speaking on the condition of anonymity in the locker room, one president said the Bushes would soon fold. Even though Taft’s game was wild (he never found the fairway), the jovial president said he immensely enjoyed the atmosphere and would stick around until the conclusion of the tournament.

#3 Ford defeats #14 Johnson, 6 and 5

Summary: Gerald Ford breezed to a first-round victory over LBJ, who swore after every shot and bitterly complained about the difficulty of the golf course. Ford played well in what many considered to be a tune-up match and appeared to ease up when his lead grew to a sizable margin. Johnson held up play on several holes and, to the embarrassment of the Secret Service and a handful of spectators, relieved himself in Rae’s Creek. When the match was decided, LBJ shook Ford’s hand and reportedly told Ford to kick Kennedy’s ass if they met in the finals.

#7 Clinton defeats #10 Harding, 1-up

Summary: Bill Clinton narrowly escaped with a victory over an upset-minded Warren G. Harding. Hitting a flask as often as his driver, Harding played boldly while Clinton constantly argued with the match’s official scorekeeper. Clinton managed to prevail and also won most of the side bets. The two were last seen headed for the par-3 course where they planned to continue playing (and betting) until darkness forced them to the clubhouse for an all-night card game.

#2 Eisenhower defeats #15 Coolidge, 9 and 7

Summary: Never in doubt, Dwight Eisenhower’s one-sided match with Calvin Coolidge was a study in contrasts. Whereas Ike thoroughly enjoyed the game and Augusta National Golf Club, his golfing home turf, “Silent Cal” looked and played like a man in a chain gang. Eisenhower approached the match as a practice round, attempting shots that he felt he would need later in the tournament. When asked about his day at Augusta, Coolidge uttered four words before trudging to a waiting car. “A waste of time.”

Quarterfinal Matches

Results of the following matches will be available next Tuesday.

EAGLE BRACKET
#1 Kennedy vs. #8 Obama
#5 George H.W. Bush vs. #13 Nixon

FREEDOM BRACKET
#2 Eisenhower vs. #7 Clinton
#3 Ford vs. #6 George W. Bush

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
Preview of Opening Matches
The Goods on Barak Obama's Golf Game
Ulysses S. Grant Earns Final Spot in PGC Field
Presidents Golf Championship Adds Golf Analyst
America’s Golfing Presidents

Wednesday, January 7

Kim Surprised That Tiger Has Won 14 Majors

Anthony Kim practices his putting.
(Jeff Wallen/Flickr)








AT TUESDAY’S MERCEDES-BENZ CHAMPIONSHIP press conference, Anthony Kim said he didn’t realize Tiger Woods had won so many majors.

“I’m not a huge golf fan, so I don't know all the stats,” Kim said. “I really thought he had won about eight majors, and he told me he won 14. I didn't know that.”

Eight! Really?

A comment at Golf.com’s Press Tent suggested that the youthful AK was trying to downplay his knowledge of Tiger’s accomplishments. The commenter added that it’s just the kind of thing that motivates TW.

Well, I find that hard to believe. Kim is young and apparently not well versed on golf records. If he is somehow trying to get into Tiger’s head, two words: BIG MISTAKE.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, January 6

Presidents Golf Championship: Preview of Opening Matches

JFK is the favorite.

THE OPENING MATCHES of the first annual Presidents Golf Championship (PGC) will be played this week at Augusta National Golf Club. Always a difficult test, Augusta will be set up to play as benignly as possible for the field of 16 presidents.

Still, things could get very ugly around the former tree nursery. All highly competitive men, these are not tour professionals but rather an odd assortment of amateur, part-time golfers. I’ll bring you first-round results on Thursday, but today I have a special preview of the seedings and opening matches.

“John F. Kennedy ranks as the finest presidential golfer and this tournament’s favorite,” says PGC guest analyst Don Van Natta.

Author of First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers and Cheaters from Taft to Bush, Don offers his commentary and predictions for the eight opening matches below.

EAGLE BRACKET


#1 John F. Kennedy
#16 Ulysses S. Grant

Commentary: This is the most lopsided mismatch in presidential sports history. Grant was the first American president to hold a golf club, though his only attempt to play lasted three minutes. His first swing missed the ball by six inches, and he took a second whack, then a third, a fourth … but he never made contact. A member of the Harvard golf team, Kennedy’s game was a nearly effortless marvel. Despite a chronically bad back, Kennedy possessed a smooth swing, consistent control and a sharp-shooter’s short game. He rarely played a full 18 – instead he was a drive-by golfer, playing eight or 12 holes – but if he had, he would have averaged around 80.
Prediction: Kennedy

#8 Barack Obama
#9 Ronald Reagan

Commentary: Reagan-Obama is a dream match-up. Both men are charismatic leaders who view a golf course as a forum to swap stories, tell jokes and briefly escape the burdens of big-league politics. Although he was a much better golfer as a young man, Reagan shot in the high 90s, or even 100. Reagan played a memorable round in the autumn of 1983 at Augusta and was once given a putting lesson in the Oval Office by Ray Floyd. (It didn’t help much.) President-elect Obama played a few times in high school in Hawaii, and then didn’t touch the clubs for two decades. He picked up the game again in early 1997 in Chicago as a young state senator. A lefty, Obama shoots in the mid to high 90s.
Prediction: Obama

#5 George H.W. Bush
#12 Woodrow Wilson

Commentary: This is an interesting match because George H.W. Bush (or “41,” as his son, “43,” calls him) and Wilson have something in common: they played the game less for fun and more out of a sense of obligation. Despite being an inconsistent golfer with a very shaky putter, Bush has managed to put together a few decent rounds in the low 90s while playing at his home course of Cape Arundel Golf Club in Kennebunkport, Maine. Wilson played on doctor’s orders. Although he teed it up at least 1200 times, making him the most prolific golfer of all the American presidents, he was consistently awful, and once required 13 putts to hole out on a green.
Prediction: Bush

#4 Franklin Delano Roosevelt
#13 Richard Nixon

Commentary: Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) adored golf, playing often, and quite well, as a young man in Washington. Roosevelt played golf nearly every morning, and few men in the nation’s capital could hit the fall as far. In 1923, FDR’s polio forced him to give up his beloved game. In 1953, Vice President Nixon took up the game because he knew there were only two ways to connect with his boss, President Eisenhower – fishing or golf. His score was often enhanced by a liberal supply of mulligans and gimme putts. (Sam Snead once caught Nixon tossing his ball out of the woods and then pretending to have hit it.)
Prediction: FDR

FREEDOM BRACKET

#6 George W. Bush
#11 William Howard Taft

Commentary: Our current president plays his golf the way he plays his politics – by the gut, a “tin cup philosophy” that often gets him into big trouble. Like his father, “41,” President Bush rushes around the course in madcap fashion, trying to put the game out of its misery as quickly as possible. During his first term, he had a few legitimate scores in the low 90s, friends say. Taft’s mentor, Teddy Roosevelt, warned Taft that golf was “fatal” for a man seeking the White House. Taft ignored that advice and played often, and comically, during his one term in the White House. He rarely broke 100, and once blew off an appointment with a foreign dignitary to play golf.
Prediction: Bush

#3 Gerald Ford
#14 Lyndon Johnson

Commentary: Gerald Ford had trouble shaking the bad rap that he was an erratic, dangerous golfer (Bob Hope’s rapid-fire quips didn’t help). Ford earned this reputation because he was the most daring of all the presidential golfers, playing in pro-am tournaments while president. But he was a great athlete, a big boomer off the tee and pretty fair around the greens. At his best, he could shoot in the high 80s, which makes him a president to watch in this tourney. Johnson didn’t really care about golf at all. He played at the urging of his aide, Jack Valenti. LBJ routinely hit the ball 300 times a round; he believed you just keep hitting the ball until you got it right.
Prediction: Ford

#7 Bill Clinton
#10 Warren G. Harding

Commentary: This is the “let-the-good-times-roll” match. The 42nd president, Clinton is a liberal taker of “Billigans” – the do-over shots and gimme putts that are bestowed on him by willing playing partners smitten by the irresistible Clinton charm. Despite that, he’s long off the tee, hits a decent iron shot and owns a good putter (lessons from Dave Pelz have helped). Harding played golf during Prohibition. While drinking on the golf course, he bet on golf. He didn’t just bet on the front nine and the back nine; he had a bet on every swing. Harding lost many of those bets. He rarely shot lower than the mid-to-high 90s, but he never had a bad time.
Prediction: Clinton

#2 Dwight Eisenhower
#15 Calvin Coolidge

Commentary: Eisenhower would have been rated the best presidential golfer if he had only tamed his erratic putter. No one loved the game as much as Ike, whose high-profile embrace of golf literally made it cool. He often shot in the high 80s or low 90s. Coolidge was so apathetic about the game that when he vacated the White House in 1929, he left behind his golf clubs. He only played a handful of times as president, and he never played well or with good humor. “Silent Cal” said little about anything, including golf. But he did say, “I did not see the sense in chasing a little white ball around a field.”
Prediction: Eisenhower

Best of luck to all 16 presidents. Come back on Thursday for the results of the opening matches.

Win an Autographed Copy of First Off the Tee!

Sign up for a chance to win a free autographed copy of Don Van Natta’s First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers and Cheaters from Taft to Bush, a New York Times bestseller and Sports Illustrated book of the year. Entry is at right under the brown box.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
The Goods on Barak Obama's Golf Game
Ulysses S. Grant Earns Final Spot in PGC Field
Presidents Golf Championship Adds Golf Analyst
America’s Golfing Presidents

Monday, January 5

The Decline of American Golf

WRITTEN BY NEIL SAGEBIEL (that’s me, The Armchair Golfer), this piece appeared in the December 2008 issue of Golf Digest India.

The Decline of American Golf (pdf)

Based on research from the National Golf Foundation, I spell out, and give reasons for, American golf’s decline and provide a basic profile of the American golfer.

I also feature three golfers (two men and a woman) and their playing habits, touch on initiatives to promote the game, and reveal how many times I played in 2008. Any guesses?

−The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, January 4

Oops! ARMCHAIR GOLF Misquotes Jean-Paul Sartre

“As far as men go, it is not what they are that interests me, but what they can shoot.”
(not said by) Jean-Paul Sartre

Biographical note: Jean-Paul Sartre was a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist and screenwriter.

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