Thursday, April 30

2009 Quail Hollow Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2009 QUAIL HOLLOW CHAMPIONSHIP is underway at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Purse: $6.4 million
Winner’s share: $1.152 million
Defending champion: Anthony Kim

Inside the field
Inside the course

2009 Quail Hollow Championship Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

Twelve hours of TV coverage are on tap for the 2009 Quail Hollow Championship.

Thu, 4/30:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Fri, 5/1:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 5/2:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 5/3:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

PGA Tour radio coverage

−The Armchair Golfer

Whiskers: One Tiger Fan’s Return to Golf


Now that Tiger is back, so are casual golf fans. (Lauren/Flickr)

WHISKERS IS LIKE MANY casual golf fans. He’s only really interested in one player: Tiger Woods. Last year when TV golf ratings were plummeting, ARMCHAIR GOLF interviewed Whiskers to gain some insight on what it’s like to be a Tiger-only devotee.

Whiskers said Tiger’s season-ending injury meant no more golf viewing in 2008. Period.

Not even the Ryder Cup? “MEOW!” Whiskers exclaimed.

Whiskers explained that he would be spending more time outdoors, whether chasing birds or just prowling around the neighborhood.

But now it’s a new season, and the world’s No. 1 golfer is back. And guess what? So is Whiskers, who has tuned in for all four of Tiger’s 2009 events. He’ll be watching this week, too, as Tiger tees it up at Quail Hollow in Charlotte.

“Meow meow meow meow meow meow!” Whiskers said about Tiger’s winning putt at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in a phone interview on Tuesday.

Then, after the next question, the call ended abruptly.

“What about the Masters? What did you think of the Tiger-Phil pairing on Sunday?

“Whiskers? Hello?”

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, April 29

Jim McLean Golf Instruction: John Daly’s Power-Drive Drill

By Jim McLean
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


(Editor’s note: This is the third of a seven-part series on spring practice drills.)

Problem: The player fails to accelerate the club in the impact zone. He “pecks” at the ball.

Result:
The player’s drives lack power and he loses distance off the tee.

Goal: To discover a mental image that will help promote a tension-free swing, a longer flat spot (which is stressed at the Jim McLean Golf School) and added clubhead speed in the impact zone.

Practice procedure: When practicing, use this mental-image drill that John Andrisani shared with Jim after working on Grip It and Rip It!, a book he wrote with John Daly, the originator of the drill. Visualize a child’s toy gun cap taped to the back of the golf ball. Then each time you swing, try and hit the ball so solidly that the imaginary cap explodes. Take this with you to the golf course!

Next time: One-Ball Practice Drill

Jim McLean is the instruction editor for Golf Digest and the Golf Channel, and an author of numerous, top-selling golf instruction books. For a free intro DVD to his new Building Block Approach, visit Jim McLean Golf School.

Copyright © Jim McLean. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Tuesday, April 28

Q&A: Art Spander, PGA Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

SPORTSWRITER ART SPANDER HAS COVERED 120 major golf championships, including the last 42 Masters, in a career that spans nearly 50 years. Spander has also covered many other sports in stints with the United Press International (UPI), Santa Monica Outlook, San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner.

Earlier this month Spander was the recipient of the 2009 PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism at the Golf Writers Association of America’s Annual Spring Dinner in Augusta, Ga.

“To me, this is our profession’s hall of fame,” he said.

I emailed Art prior to the Masters and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about his more than four decades of watching and writing about the world’s best golfers.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: What’s your favorite major?


ART SPANDER: The British Open because of the history and tradition.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Of the 120 major championships you’ve covered, which ones stand out?

ART SPANDER: [Billy] Casper overcoming a seven-shot lead to beat Arnie at Olympic in ‘66. My first major. My first Masters was ‘67, Hogan’s last, and on Saturday he shot a 66, I believe. 1970 British, Nicklaus had not won a major since ‘67. He beat Doug Sanders in an 18-hole playoff at St. Andrews after Sanders had three-putted the 72nd hole. And, of course, Nicklaus’ ‘86 Masters, Johnny Miller’s ‘73 Open (I covered him from the time he played the ‘66 Open at his home course, Olympic, as an amateur) and Tiger’s ‘97 Masters.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Any memorable or favorite anecdotes from the golf course, locker room, or interview room?

ART SPANDER: In ‘86 in the old Quonset hut press center at Augusta, I was sitting at my desk on Sunday morning when Dan Jenkins came in and, looking at the leaderboard, just to start a conversation, asked “Which one of those guys has the least chance?” I agreed with him it was Nicklaus. Who, at age 46, came from behind to win the Masters?

ARMCHAIR GOLF: You’ve covered many sports. What about golf appeals to you as a reporter and sportswriter?

ART SPANDER: Golf is a social game. Also a lonely game, since it’s played (except on rare occasion) without teammates. People tend to talk about their games, looking as much for sympathy as recognition. Stories are everywhere. Each golf course differs from the others, leading to other material. “Remember the day at Pebble when Sam Snead hit a 3-iron to the 7th hole?” Also, golfers last longer, so you’re not always dealing with a new roster every year or two.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: You had the great fortune to work alongside Jim Murray. What was he like?

ART SPANDER: Jim was not only a brilliant writer, he was a nice guy, a humble guy. With his fame, Jim could have given us the Hollywood act – in fact, he wrote Hollywood for Time magazine in the early 1950s – but instead he was rather shy. The 1987 baseball All-Star game was in Oakland. Jim’s first wife, Gerry, died in 1984, and he was sort of unsettled and also having eye trouble. There was the usual pre-game party, this at the top of the Kaiser Center. My wife sort of took Jim under her wing, escorting him with me alongside. He looked across the room at an A’s rookie and said, “Isn’t that Mark McGwire? I’d love to meet him.” I told Jim, “He grew up reading you. You’re more famous than he is.” Finally, I took Jim over to Mark and introduced one to the other.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Any particular player interviews or stories that stand out?


ART SPANDER: After 48 years, and waiting outside locker rooms, clubhouses, by phones, in press centers, I’ve heard so many it’s hard to remember. But one I recall was the 1970 British, at St. Andrews, when Lee Trevino was going through his hole-by-hole, and he told what he did on the fifth and then on the seventh. The late Pat Ward Thomas in a classic British accent interjected, “Why, Lee, I believe you’ve missed the 6th hole,” to which Trevino without hesitation said, “No wonder I shot 68.”

Art Spander covers sports at ArtSpander.com and Real Clear Sports.

Monday, April 27

Another Corona for Lorena Ochoa

I DID NOT SEE A SINGLE SHOT. Nor did anyone else (except spectators), because the Corona Championship in Morelia, Mexico, was not televised. It’s evident to me that it was an incredible display of women’s professional golf.

Consider this: Suzann Pettersen recorded 21 birdies and two eagles. And Pettersen had just one bogey in 72 holes to finish at 24-under par. In second. Ouch.

Mexico native and women’s world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa bested Pettersen by a shot to successfully defend her title and notch her second win of the 2009 season. Ochoa now has 26 LPGA Tour victories.

Despite shooting 65, 65, 69 and 68 for a 25-under total of 267 (par was 73), Ochoa is not complacent when it comes to her golf game.

“I left a few strokes out there, but gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities,” said Ochoa, who I watched demo her PING golf clubs at the PGA Merchandise Show in January. “I will keep improving in the next tournaments. As I said before, I want to be number one for many more years.”

“Lorena Ochoa is just soooo good,” tweeted USA Today golf writer Steve DiMeglio. “If you get a chance, do whatever you can to go and see her play. It will be well worth the effort.”

If you want to see her soon, Lorena and all the ladies will be in Richmond, Virginia, next week to play the Michelob ULTRA Open at Kingsmill. And for those who will be nowhere near Richmond, you will be able to watch the women on TV.

Ochoa File

Turned pro: 2003
Birthplace: Guadalajara, Mexico
World ranking: 1
LPGA Tour wins: 26
Major wins: 2
Equipment: PING

−The Armchair Golfer

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

(Image: LPGA.com)

Sunday, April 26

Doug Ford Belongs in World Golf Hall of Fame

I DON’T HAVE A VOTE, but if I did I’d cast my ballot for Doug Ford to enter the World Golf Hall of Fame. Ford was again bypassed this year, although he did finish second in the voting, appearing on 46 percent of the ballots. Lanny Wadkins is the sole 2009 inductee.

“I’ll put my record up against just about anyone’s in the hall,” Ford recently told Randall Mell of GolfChannel.com.

“I think I have a hell of a record. I don’t know what they’re looking for. I don’t know what the knock on me is, but I’m just not that enthused about it anymore. If they don’t appreciate what I’ve done, I can’t do anything about it.”

Let’s look at Ford’s record. Nineteen PGA Tour wins. Two majors: the 1957 Masters, beating Sam Snead by three shots, and the 1955 PGA Championship, beating Cary Middlecoff in the final (when the PGA was a match-play event). Also four Ryder Cup teams.

Looks awfully good, doesn’t it?

As Mell notes (and I’ve added a few names), Ford played in the era of Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Cary Middlecoff, Arnold Palmer, Julius Boros, Tommy Bolt, Gene Littler and others. All winners and tough competitors. It was back in the day when you sometimes needed to win or finish high just to make enough money to get to the next event, as Bolt told me last year.

There are several players in the Hall who were elected with fewer wins or majors (or both) than Ford: Tom Kite (18 wins, one major), Tommy Bolt (15 wins, one major), Bob Charles (18 wins, one major), Gene Littler (29 wins, one major) and Chi Chi Rodriguez (eight wins, no majors).

“It’s a travesty Doug’s not in. Evidently, he alienated some people,” Bob Goalby said.

Probably so. Ford was known for his feisty personality. It’s part of what made him a great player.

The voting body consists of 200 journalists, historians and dignitaries. Hurry up, guys. Put Ford in. He’s 86. And he deserves it.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, April 25

King of Golf Cartoons: ‘Golf Instructor’


Copyright © Jerry King. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Are you self taught, or have you had formal golf instruction? Do you currently take lessons?

I was fortunate to start playing golf at age 12 and am primarily self taught, learning by imitation. I also give my dad a lot of credit for teaching me the fundamentals and knowing my swing better than anyone else. Dad would help me when I got off track, which usually meant losing the ball to the right.

As a junior golfer, I participated in group lessons with the local club pro and played some pro-junior tournaments. Those lessons helped me with my grip and provided swing thoughts about the takeaway, my shoulder turn and more that I still use to this day.

−The Armchair Golfer

Jerry King is an award-winning cartoonist whose credits and clients include Golf Digest, United States Golf Association and Disney. His golf cartoons are featured weekly at ARMCHAIR GOLF.

Friday, April 24

Book Excerpt: ‘Pops and Sunshine’ by Dave Andrews

Editor’s note: Pops and Sunshine is the story of a young player on the Duramed Futures Tour and her dream and struggle to earn her way onto the LPGA Tour. Following is an excerpt.

By Dave Andrews
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


LISA PLAYED AS WELL as she had the first day. She birdied the very first hole, rolling in a 20-foot putt. She birdied the fourth hole with another long putt. She bogeyed the sixth hole, after pushing her tee shot into a fairway bunker. But she birdied the very next hole, number seven, curling in a 30-foot breaking putt from the fringe of the green. She felt comfortable. The nerves of the second day’s round had disappeared. The “yips” were gone on the green. She trusted the lines Dave gave her. Her putting stroke was smooth. It was all working for her on the front side.

The problem was that Shelly was playing just as well. She matched Lisa’s birdie on the first hole. She birdied the third hole, to extend her lead to four shots. After Lisa birdied the seventh hole, Shelly matched her on the eighth. She chipped in from 20 yards off the green.

Lori Roberts was one over par after seven holes, dropping her five strokes behind Lisa, a full nine shots behind Shelly. No one else in the field had made a charge.

It had become a two-woman match at that point. Shelly was in command and she knew it. Everyone knew it. The big crowd around the ninth green applauded the threesome as they walked up the ninth fairway.

Shelly smiled. The leader board by the clubhouse showed her at 8 under par. Lisa was 4 under par. She was trailing Shelly by four shots with ten holes left to finish.

“Damn, the kid’s playing tough, but it’s not enough,” Tinker said, walking up the side of the fairway with Rob and Russ.

They had watched Shelly match her shot-for-shot on the first eight holes. They had all played enough golf to know that time was starting to run out.

“Did you slip that extra club in Shelly’s bag?” Russ asked Tinker, trying to break the somber mood.

“I wish I had now,” he said. But he wasn’t in a joking mood.

Rob said nothing. He looked at Lisa walking up the middle of the fairway, approaching the ninth green. She still had her head up. She even smiled at the crowd when they applauded the golfers.

“Look at her,” he said. “She’s got a lot of class.”

“She’s a peach, Robbie,” Tinker said. “She’s a real sweetheart. You’re a lucky guy.”

Rob looked up towards the green. He spotted John and Ted Bradley standing in the big crowd. He pointed them out to Tinker.

“That’s Ted Bradley up there,” Rob said. “Looks like I got him here for nothing. Damn it!”

Lisa got a break at that moment. Shelly bladed a chip shot, running the ball 50 feet past the pin, to the back edge of green. She would have to make that putt to save her par. She could be facing her first bogey of the front side.

Lisa was comfortably on the green, about 25 feet from the hole. She had a chance at another birdie. A two-stroke swing on this hole would make a huge difference going to the back nine. It would reduce Shelly’s lead to just two strokes.

“OK. Now we’re talkin,’” Tinker said, punching Rob in the shoulder. “It’s about time.” He turned to Russ. “They have paramedics out here? I think I might have a stroke.”

Russ laughed. “You old buzzard. Be quiet.”

Rob left them and walked around to the back of the green. He made his way through the crowd to John and Ted Bradley. He tapped John on the shoulder.

“This could be big,” he whispered.

Shelly and Lance were only a few feet in front of them, lining up her long putt. Lisa and Dave were behind her ball, reading her line.

“Hey, Robbie. She’s going to need some breaks,” John said quietly.

Ted Bradley leaned over. “Hi, Rob,” he whispered.

“I think I might have gotten you up here for nothing,” Rob whispered back.

“Let’s see what happens,” Bradley said.

Shelly got into position over her putt. She stroked the ball.

Rob was standing right behind her. He could tell when it was five feet from the cup that it was going to fall in. He put his hand over his eyes.

The roar of the crowd told him what he already knew was going to happen. Shelly had made an incredible putt, saving her par. The gallery applauded as she walked to the hole and picked her ball out of the cup. She smiled as she walked over to Lance. He patted her on the back as he took the putter from her. Dave had grimaced when Shelly’s putt dropped in the hole. Lisa’s expression hadn’t change. She walked up to her mark and replaced her ball on the ground.

“I think it’s straight,” she whispered to Dave. She was crouched behind her ball. Dave was standing over her.

“It’s dead straight,” he said confidently. “Put it in the middle of the cup.”

Tinker was still shaking his head over Shelly’s 50-foot putt to save par.

“Man, the kid can’t get a break, Russ,” he whispered.

Russ just shook his head. “Damn!” he said softly.

Lisa stood over her putt. She set her feet. She gave the line one last look. She stroked the ball. This time Dave knew it was in when it was five feet from the hole. He smiled as he watched it roll to the heart of the cup. He started toward the hole to replace the pin. The crowd roared when her ball dropped out of sight. Lisa pumped her fist and walked up to remove her ball from the cup.

Rob pumped his fist. “Yes!” he yelled amid the noise of the cheers and applause.

Ted Bradley smiled at his reaction. “That just showed me something, Robbie,” he said. “A lot of players would have had the wind taken out of their sails after Shelly’s bomb went in. She’s got guts.”

Rob grinned. “She’s incredible,” he said.

Lisa’s birdie had moved her to three strokes behind Shelly. There were nine holes left to play. The threesome made their way through the big crowd, on their way over to the tenth tee. Shelly and Lisa accepted the congratulations of several spectators. On the cart path, Lisa saw the little girl who had looked up at her in the Pro Shop the first day she had arrived at the course. She stopped and crouched down. Dave had to stop short behind Lisa. He almost tripped over her.

“Hi, Angie,” Lisa said, smiling. “Having fun today?”

The little girl beamed up at her. “I’m going to be a golfer,” she said. She was wearing another cute little outfit.

Lisa laughed. She was surprised she had remembered the little girl’s name.

“I’ll bet you’re going to be a real good golfer,” she said, patting her on the head.

The little girl’s mother was impressed. “That’s so nice of you,” she said, smiling warmly. “I hope you win today.”

Lisa stood up. “Thanks a lot. We’ll try.” She started for the tenth tee. Dave grinned at the mother and shrugged his shoulders. The mother laughed. “Good luck,” she yelled after him as he followed Lisa to the tee.

Dave caught up to Lisa in a few steps. “Who was the little girl?” he asked her, grinning. “I almost killed you when you stopped like that.”

“I saw her in the Pro Shop that morning when I first got here, right before I met you,” she said. “I thought it might have been a lucky omen, seeing her like that just then.”

Dave shook his head. “Amazing,” he thought.

Mary Stewart walked back to the satellite truck. Mitch was inside with Sally. They were logging shots of the tapes the camera crew had shot on the front side.

“We got both of those putts on 9,” Mitch said when he saw Mary walk in. “I’ll get the times codes if you want to use them in the piece.”

“I’ve got a feeling there’s going to be some bigger shots on the back nine. Can the crew follow them the whole way?” she asked.

Mitch nodded. “No problem.”

There was a short backup on the tenth tee. The group in front of them was playing slowly on that hole. Lisa had the honors, with her birdie. She was waggling her driver, staying loose. She still felt good and figured she would go down fighting, at least. Shelly was a few feet away. Lance was down at the ball washer next to the tee.

Shelly looked at Lisa. “Don’t think that birdie back there is going to help you, Nelson,” she said, just loud enough for Lisa to hear. “You haven’t got what it takes.”

Lisa looked at the big crowd gathering beside the tee. She smiled and walked over to Shelly.

“Listen, Steele,” she said, still with the smile on her face. “You’re probably going to win today, and you’re probably going on to the big tour next year.” Lisa’s smile disappeared. “But if you give me one more smart-ass comment out here today, I’ll smash this driver right over your damn head.” She smiled again, but her eyes were flashing. “And don’t think I won’t do it.” She stared hard into Shelly’s eyes, then she turned and walked back to the tee box.

Shelly was lost for words. People in the crowd who may have been watching probably thought they were sharing some pleasant small talk.

Dave was close enough to hear every word. “Wow!” he said quietly to himself. He never expected that display from the shy polite young woman he had come to know. He chuckled quietly as Lisa took more practice swings, trying to stay loose.

The tour official who was following their group nodded at Lisa. The tenth fairway was open. There were nine holes left.


Dave Andrews is the author of Pops and Sunshine, and a freelance golf writer and member of the Golf Writers Association of America. He spent 30 years in the television news industry.

Thursday, April 23

2009 Zurich Classic TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2009 ZURICH CLASSIC of New Orleans is underway at TPC Louisiana.

Purse: $6.2 million
Winner’s share: $1.116 million
Defending champion: Andres Romero

Approach shots
Inside the course

2009 Zurich Classic Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

Twelve hours of TV coverage are on tap for the 2009 Zurich Classic.

Thu, 4/23:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Fri, 4/24:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 4/25:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 4/26:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

PGA Tour radio coverage

−The Armchair Golfer

Jim McLean Instruction: Stretch-Your-Imagination Drill

By Jim McLean
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


(Editor’s note: This is the second of a seven-part series on spring practice drills.)

STRETCH-YOUR-IMAGINATION DRILL

Problem:
The player beats balls on the range, failing to get into an on-course mindset.

Result: When actually playing the course, he or she makes mental mistakes and lacks the imaginative power necessary to be a creative shot-maker.

Goal: To find a way to stir the imagination and become a more rounded shot-maker.

Practice procedure: When practicing drives, fairway-wood shots, medium irons, short irons, wedges, pitches chips, and putts, pretend that you are actually playing a shot on your home course. If you relate a practice shot to an actual course situation, you will feel more comfortable out on the course. Change your targets and shot shapes often!

Next time: John Daly’s Power-Drive Drill

Jim McLean is the instruction editor for Golf Digest and the Golf Channel, and an author of numerous, top-selling golf instruction books. For a free intro DVD to his new Building Block Approach, visit Jim McLean Golf School.

Copyright © Jim McLean. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Wednesday, April 22

Jill McGill’s LPGA Tour Diary: ‘Moving Forward’

By Jill McGill
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


(Editor’s note: This is a continuation of Jill’s recent report, Funk.)

ON SATURDAY ARMED WITH A FULL tank of gas and positive vibes from some really good shots hit in Phoenix, including some really nice chips, pitches and putts, we were off to the first major of the year.

Again, with stellar preparation I was ready to tee it up on Thursday. I had made six birdies and no bogeys in the pro-am and was pulling from the pictures and good-feeling shots going into the first round.

I had a solid performance
for the first time in a while at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. I scored even par, carding five birdies and five bogeys. For those of you who play a lot of golf and follow golf, you know the importance of getting birdies going. It is quite a confidence boost.

We enjoyed a very relaxing evening at a wonderful Italian restaurant with dear friends that recharged the batteries for Friday. Now that I’m going over the week’s events, I’m wondering if my tooth falling out on Friday morning was a foreshadowing of the day to come.

Caught in yet another wind storm reaching gusts of 60 M.P.H. was not playing in my favor. Ever the optimist, I figured at least half the field was on the course in the same conditions. However, admittedly so, as the round progressed I seriously questioned the decision to continue play. You be the judge:

1. A ball at rest for five to seven minutes moved from a 15-foot birdie putt to 10 yards short of the green.
2. Heavy signage on the back of the tee was blown over and endangered spectators and players.
3. A ball at rest replaced to putt was blown off the green into a hazard more then one time.
4. Numerous port-a-potties were blown over on the course.
5. The highway a few miles away was shut down.
6. The airport was shut down.
7. Palm fawns almost hit people.
8. Putting greens looked like war zones.

Fact or excuse?

I watched my playing partner shoot 4 over (it seemed like 4 under), and the eventual champion played in my wave. So, it definitely could be done.

Reflecting on the three weeks
, I’m choosing to take some middle ground. There were definitely some challenging elements. I definitely could have played better. But I can’t have a pity party.

The life of a professional athlete is about always moving forward. My goal is to maintain a positive attitude and visit a voodoo doll specialist to get my karma turned around.

This week:
Jill tees it up at the Corona Championship.

For more on Jill, visit JillMcGill.com.

Tuesday, April 21

Q&A: NBC’s Jimmy Roberts on ‘BREAKING THE SLUMP’

NBC SPORTSCASTER JIMMY ROBERTS has written his first book, BREAKING THE SLUMP: How Great Players Survive Their Darkest Moments in Golf − and What You Can Learn from Them.

Except for Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan, Jimmy interviewed everyone on his wish list, and the Table of Contents reads like a Who’s Who of golf, past and present. He even interviewed two presidents for the book.

With NBC since 2000, Jimmy is an award-winning sportscaster who has covered a variety of sports for three networks, including the Olympic Games and, of course, golf. He has the enviable and sometimes unenviable job of interviewing players as they come off the golf course.

He recently answered my questions in an e-mail exchange.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: How did this book come about?


JIMMY ROBERTS:
This book came about because my own golf game was miserable, and I had the realization that there are two types of golfers in the world: those who’ve had a slump and those who are going to have a slump. And if that was the case, why not go seek advice from the most successful people, not only in the game, but in other walks of life who love the game?

ARMCHAIR GOLF: How did you choose the players?

JIMMY ROBERTS: I made a wish list, and there were only two people I couldn’t get: Tiger and Michael Jordan. Asked both. Tiger − actually his representative − said no, because he has a deal in place with another publisher. Jordan said yes, but we seemed to have trouble making it work in terms of the time commitment that was necessary and the potential schedule.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Why do you think these great players were so forthcoming about such a difficult subject?

JIMMY ROBERTS: I think it was somewhat therapeutic. Also, each interview took at least an hour, so the subjects likely had a sense that they weren’t going to be in and out. They settled in and had a chance to think about the topic. I think it also wasn’t such a familiar and well tread topic to them. I’m not sure they had any pat answers. I’d like to think the answers were also the product of a good discussion, which always seems to yield the most worthy content.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: What was it like playing golf with Greg Norman?

JIMMY ROBERTS: Intimidating. But once we got to playing, I settled down. He couldn’t have been any nicer or less judgmental. No matter how badly I felt I was playing though, I took comfort in knowing that he’d seen swings a lot worse than mine in the many pro-ams in which he’s played. It helped that I’ve known Greg for a long time.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: As a golfer, what was your biggest takeaway from talking to the greats about slumps?


JIMMY ROBERTS:
If I had to pick one, it would be something Arnold Palmer told me: Slow down. What in life wouldn’t we do better if we just did it a little bit more deliberately? Leave it to Maltbie though to put that in plain English: “Your backswing’s just foreplay,” he told me. “Nobody ever hit the ball with their backswing. SLOW DOWN!”

ARMCHAIR GOLF: When you’re doing on-course interviews, what does “a good day at the office” look like? How about a “tough day”?

JIMMY ROBERTS:
A good day at the office is talking to a thoughtful player after an eventful day. Maybe a Briny Baird or a Paul Goydos. A tough day is talking to someone who hasn’t played well. I don’t enjoy rehashing someone else’s misery. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s a story.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: You’ve known Johnny Miller both as a player and broadcast colleague. He can be a bit of a lightning rod. What might people not “get” about Johnny?


JIMMY ROBERTS: That he’s one of the most caring, thoughtful and sensitive people you’ll ever meet. Example from the book: Johnny had a rough time as a player in the late 70’s. He was an inch from quitting competitive golf when he realized that would be a horrible example to set for his kids, or as he put it: “If I quit, I’d basically be saying to them: ‘If you encounter adversity, the way to handle it is to quit.’ Bad lesson.”

ARMCHAIR GOLF: What’s the current state of your golf game? Where and how often do you play?

JIMMY ROBERTS: The current state of my golf game is basically non existent. I have some back problems and I’m headed for surgery, so I haven’t played since the fall. Hopefully, if things go okay, I’ll be back playing at my home club (Westchester Country Club, in Harrison, NY) by mid summer.

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, April 20

The Mixed Bag of Verizon Heritage Winner Brian Gay

BRIAN GAY FLAT GOLFED his ball this past weekend at Harbour Town Golf Links. The tour veteran fired a record-setting 20-under total to win the Verizon Heritage by 10 shots. That makes two PGA Tour victories for the journeyman. And one ugly plaid jacket.

Harbour Town is a challenging track that features tight fairways, ample trees, sand and water, swirling sea breezes and small greens. In other words, you must own your swing and control your dimpled friend. Fairways and greens, as the cliché goes. No spray and pray.

Gay put on a clinic, with precision drives and green-seeking approach shots. He also drained his share of putts.

“Just another unbelievable day,” Brian said after closing with a 64, his best round of the week. “Yes, it’s a bit of a validation,” he added about his second win. Yep, with a capital “V.”

Gay has a mixed bag of clubs: TaylorMade driver; Mizuno hybrid, irons and putter; and Titleist Vokey wedges. He plays the Titleist Pro V1 ball. Not surprisingly, the hallmark of his game is accuracy. Gay is currently fourth in percentage (74.26) of drives in the fairway.

Gay File
Turned pro: 1994
Birthplace: Fort Worth, Texas
College: University of Florida
World ranking: 53
PGA Tour wins: 2
Equipment: Various

−The Armchair Golfer

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

Sunday, April 19

The Golf Space Turns 3

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE GOLF SPACE, the original golf social networking site, which turned 3 during Masters week. The site was conceived and built by Tony Korologos, the man behind the popular Hooked on Golf blog.

“The site is 100% free,” Tony says, “and I’m proud to say membership is over 4100 and visitors have hit the site over five million times since it opened during Masters week of 2006.”

Tony is also one of the original golf bloggers, or at least one of the few I knew of when I first ventured into the blogosphere. He has a lot of passion and generosity when it comes to playing and promoting the game.

GOLF BRIEFS


A bevy of golf products, services, destinations, events, news and more. Endorsement is not implied.

Christopher Obetz has edited a series of four golf instructional books for Universe Publishing, and is the leading authority and biographer of Anthony Ravielli, who painted all the portraits of the club champions of Augusta National. Ravielli’s timeless art illustrated golf technique for Golf Digest and Sports Illustrated for 40 years, as well as the seminal Five Lessons: The fundamentals of Golf by Ben Hogan.

Teaching golf professional Mat Gullo has published The 20th Hole, a stat and log book for golfers. More information at The20thHole.com.

John Daly has confirmed he will play in the Spanish Open at PGA Golf Catalunya, April 30 – May 3.

Nine OB Sports-managed golf courses were honored in Golfweek magazine’s Best Courses You Can Play, State-By-State Ranking for 2009.

Never-Search, Inc., publishers of golf course information, is offering daily webinar demonstrations of its patented Never-Search for Golf™ travel and trip planning software. The Never-Search webinars are held every weekday morning at 8 am PST, (11 am - EST). If the 8 am session is full, a second session is held again at 9 am PST.

Cybex International, Inc. was selected to outfit the PGA Tour’s mobile fitness and therapy centers with high-performance fitness equipment routinely used by the world’s best golfers.

The Antigua Group, Inc., a designers and marketer of genuine golf and sports apparel under its Antigua brand, has signed a three-year license agreement with the PGA Tour.

Dr. Robert Grober, founder and acting CEO of Sonic Golf Inc., will be one of three speakers at the 2009 Northeast PGA Instructors Conference, which will be held on Monday, April 20, at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, CT.

• Premiering April 20 at 9 p.m. ET in HD on the GOLF CHANNEL, Big Break Prince Edward Island will showcase six females and six males in a competition that test every phase of their games, course management and mental toughness.

George Lopez and Stewart Rahr present the Second Annual National Kidney Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic at Lakeside Golf Club at Toluca Lake, CA, on May 4.

Natalie Gulbis, a member of Team McGladrey, will be in attendance and speaking to golfers at the McGladrey Team Championship local qualifying event on May 5th at Two Rivers Country Club in Williamsburg, VA. The McGladrey Team Championship is the first nationwide amateur championship operated by the PGA of America, and was created in 2007 to provide a fun, competitive and professionally managed event to as many amateur participants as possible.

• The World Golf Hall of Fame has included Sonic Golf’s System-1 as a prominent part of an exhibit commemorating Vijay Singh's 2008 Fed Ex Cup victory.

RoboCup, a new ball return robot that was launched at the 2009 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, has announced first production deliveries for pre-orders since its title of “Best New Product” at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.

• The Boa Lacing System is a high-performance lacing system for golf footwear that’s being worn by various FootJoy athletes.

The Arizona Division of Horizon’s Golf Group was recognized by Rain Bird Golf for outstanding performance and sales.

Golf legend Neil Coles MBE and Mayor of Elmbridge, Cllr Nigel Cooper, were the guests of honour at Burhill Golf Club, Surrey, on Saturday April 4 to open the club’s new Short Game Academy.

Marriott Golf announced its second annual International Family Golf Festival program, a yearlong series of one day family golf events taking place at 31 leading Marriott Golf managed destinations throughout the world.

Annika Sorenstam will be writing a column for GolfChannel.com following all four LPGA majors and the Solheim Cup this season.

Kenyan girls will discover the gift of golf through EWGA Foundation’s Drive for Dreams. The 2009 club donation campaign will benefit Renee Powell’s Girls Golf Program.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, April 18

I Played in World’s Smallest Golf Tournament


(Jason Pearce/Flickr)

I DON’T USUALLY WRITE about my personal golf escapades, because as busy as I am writing about golf (and other things) I’m just not playing that much. Unfortunate, but true. Besides, ARMCHAIR GOLF has morphed into a blog that covers pro golf. I certainly don’t fall into that category.

Still, I do want to tell you that I broke out the clubs today to play in a scramble event. I was invited to join a friend’s group. I didn’t have to pay an entry fee or anything. Just show up, he said. That’s a no-brainer, even for me.

The occasion was the first annual chamber of commerce tournament for our small town. (And I do mean small.) We were supposed to play last October, but the weather was so bad they postponed the tournament until the spring (today). So, I showed up, and it was a gorgeous day, perfect for golf.

Now I have a new “small town” joke for you. Ready? Here goes:

“My town is small. How small? The chamber of commerce golf tournament only had three groups.”

Only it’s not a joke!

When I arrived at the club, I walked up to check in and asked if it was a shotgun start. A guy named Derrick said no, we were all going off No. 1, starting in about five minutes. There are three groups, he added.

I smiled. Only in my town. Hey, the game or tournament must go on. We played it. I told my friend Eric on the first tee we had a lock on third. We laughed.

How’d we do?

We played our butts off and won the thing. So what if the field was a little thin? And we took home some nice cash. Really. I’m still shaking my head.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, April 17

King of Golf Cartoons: ‘Cart Breakdown’


Copyright © Jerry King. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Times are tough, including for golf. Has it changed your playing habits? Are you going to wait a little longer before you buy any new golf equipment or take special golf vacations? As for me, I’m cutting back on golf-related travel this year.

−The Armchair Golfer

Jerry King is an award-winning cartoonist whose credits and clients include Golf Digest, United States Golf Association and Disney. His golf cartoons are featured weekly at ARMCHAIR GOLF.

Thursday, April 16

2009 Verizon Heritage TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2009 VERIZON HERITAGE is underway at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

Purse: $5.7 million
Winner’s share: $990,000
Defending champion: Boo Weekley

Inside the field
Inside the course

2009 Verizon Heritage Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

Twelve hours of TV coverage are on tap for the 2009 Verizon Heritage.

Thu, 4/16:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Fri, 4/17:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 4/18:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 4/19:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

PGA Tour radio coverage

−The Armchair Golfer

Jim McLean Instruction: Spring Practice Drills

By Jim McLean
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


(Editor’s note: This is the beginning of a series of seven spring practice drills.)

RING-OF-FIRE DRILL

Problem: The player experiences first-tee jitters and can’t take his or her mind off the trees, rough and water bordering the fairway.

Result: The player makes a nervous swing and hits a wayward opening tee shot.

Goal: Find a mental key that will help the player forget the surrounding trouble and focus on the fairway.

Practice procedure:
Here’s a drill I learned from mental coach Chuck Hogan. Each time you address the ball in practice, imagine a ring of fire a few feet in front of your ball. Now, just concentrate on hitting the ball through that big circle. Bring this image with you to the first tee and keep using it throughout the round.

Next time: Stretch-Your-Imagination Drill

Jim McLean is the instruction editor for Golf Digest and the Golf Channel, and an author of numerous, top-selling golf instruction books. For a free intro DVD to his new Building Block Approach, visit Jim McLean Golf School.

Copyright © Jim McLean. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Wednesday, April 15

Home on the Range: Where Expert Advice Abounds


(diskychick/Flickr)

By Heather Jones
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


I REMEMBER WHEN I FIRST starting golfing. I would hit the indoor range at O’Dark Thirty to practice. Why? I didn’t want to listen to the unsolicited advice of others, so I tried my best to avoid “expert hour.”

I have struggled with many things in my golfing career, but I have never been afraid to seek others’ guidance. By others, I mean teachers, not the Tour wannabes that I seem to attract like flies. I’ve actually checked my back before to see if someone had attached a sign reading, “Help Me!”

Most golfing tips come from well-intended, but ill-advised hackers. Clearly, you don’t need to be an expert to offer advice. Lucy Van Pelt proved that years ago while counseling Charlie Brown.

When I head to the range, I am usually working on something specific. Trying to modify a golf swing is no easy task. The smallest change can make the best players hit some funky shots. It takes time and patience to groove a new move.

There is nothing more frustrating than shanking a shot and having a fellow golfer stop to tell you what you are doing wrong. I have a strict “don’t tell if they don’t ask” policy. Even if someone asks me for help, I still feel uncomfortable offering my assistance. I think they are better off seeking guidance from a professional.

I used to think once I was a better player, others would keep their comments to themselves. That was wishful thinking. One day I was lucky enough to find another new mentor at the range. I politely dismissed myself and headed to the putting green—an excellent escape plan.

I ran into my friend, pro golfer Bob Sowards, by the bag drop. I laughed about my new “coach” and asked him how much longer I would have to endure these situations.

“Forever,” he said with a smile.

Bob told me he receives advice on the range all the time. I couldn’t believe it. Last time I checked, no one else at our course had ever played on the PGA Tour. What could anyone there possibly offer Bob?

Oh well, if Bob can take it, so can I.

Heather Jones writes about golf at her blog, Real Women Golf, and Fore Her magazine.

Tuesday, April 14

Jill McGill’s LPGA Tour Diary: Funk

By Jill McGill
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


HELLO TO ARMCHAIR GOLF FANS. My apologies for my four-week absence. I really don’t have a valid excuse other than frustration. I’ve been in a bit of a funk, but the rain today has forced me to the computer.

I’m not much of a writer. So to figure out how to express my feelings and emotions and try to put them to a keyboard is a bit of a challenge. So, now I will do my best to summarize my last three competitive weeks.

Crummy!

I think that about does it. What, you want more of an explanation? I can understand, so I will do my best in the following words to describe the downward spiral.

I actually wrote a blog from Mexico City and decided not to submit it. I think there is a fine line for people interpreting what is fact from excuse. Let’s just say I feel like my hard work and positive attitude are bound to pay off.

There are three facts/excuses that occurred in the last three weeks that proved to be very trying, and it seems as though I couldn’t overcome them.

The glamorous life of a tour pro had me arriving in Mexico City on Tuesday night around 6 p.m. While waiting for transportation for an hour, we contacted our rules officials to learn our pro-am shotgun times. I was informed I would be in the afternoon at 1:30. What a relief − I was going to be able to sleep in, work out, re-group.

Upon arrival at the hotel, I double checked the official tee time sheet posted in the lobby, and boy I was glad I did. I was actually slated to play in the morning at 7:30. Fast forward to Thursday at 7:15 a.m. and I’m searching for my cart (we’re allowed carts because of the terrain and the altitude of 8000 feet). I met by the rules official and asked what I’m doing there so early. Duh! I’m playing in the pro-am.

Long and short, my day started at 4 a.m. and ended at the course at 7 p.m. Yes, like I said let’s all have a pity party for me. I get it. Fact vs. excuse. I’m taking responsibility for not overcoming the exhausting day.

I did feel I made some progress with my game. I had worked with Randy Smith in Dallas the week before and was making some inroads. Four hundred dollars later with new plane tickets in our hands, my husband and I headed for the airport with our luggage and positive attitudes looking forward to Phoenix.

Luckily, Patrick’s friend (and our housing for the week) graciously and hospitably made us a wonderful dinner to relax after our four-hour plane ride and six-hour drive from LA to Phoenix.

Off Monday morning to play our new golf course and fine tune my progress with my game. For those of you curious about what a practice round entails, the key elements are observation, tedious notes about breaks and grain, and strategy. Even the most straightforward golf course requires a plan of attack.

With my practice, workouts,
check up with Stan Utley, and positive pro-am experience, I was ready to attack on Thursday. Instead I was met with a defeating wind.

Again, fact or excuse?

There are many girls who got the job done. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them. I still had great intentions of a turnaround the next day. I posted a 3-over par and that wasn’t good enough.

So, what to do when you are down the road two weeks in a row? There isn’t anything you can do but go and cheer on your husband’s alma mater, Oklahoma, in March Madness.

Next time:
The year’s first major

For more on Jill, visit JillMcGill.com and see her last report, Singapore, at ARMCHAIR GOLF.

Monday, April 13

An Angel Gets His Green Jacket

CONGRATULATIONS TO ANGEL CABRERA, winner of the 2009 Masters. In the most thrilling Sunday finish at Augusta National Golf Club in years, the Argentine veteran simply would not give up.

When Kenny Perry hit an 8-iron to within inches of the hole on the 16th, Angel coaxed in a slick, left-to-right birdie putt from behind the hole to stay within two shots of Perry’s lead.

“I told my caddie, you know, ‘It’s a birdie against a bogey, two holes left, I still have a good chance,’” Angel said.

After Perry made bogeys at 17 and 18, Cabrera needed a little magic from his putter to get into a sudden-death playoff with Perry and Chad Campbell.

“On 18, I knew it was a straight putt,” he said. “I just had to make a good roll.”

Angel was apparently done when he knocked his 3-metal into the woods right of the 18th fairway on the first playoff hole. Cabrera’s 4-iron shot caromed off a tree into the fairway, and he landed a wedge close enough for another nerve-jangling par save that kept him alive.

When Campbell exited after missing a four-foot par putt, Perry and Cabrera moved on to the 10th hole where the man nicknamed “El Pato” (The Duck) won the playoff with a routine par.

Afterwards, Cabrera remembered fellow countryman Roberto De Vicenzo, who lost the 1968 Masters when he signed an incorrect scorecard.

“First, De Vicenzo had bad luck. He had a bad moment. It’s not going to change what happened to him.” Then he added, “This win, to take back to Argentina, it’s going to help a lot with our game.”

Cabrera File

Turned pro: 1989
Birthplace: Cordoba, Argentina
World ranking: 18
International wins: 17
PGA Tour wins: 2
Major wins: 2
Equipment: PING

−The Armchair Golfer

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

Sunday, April 12

Last-Minute Housing Deals at Verizon Heritage

IF YOU’RE MAKING LAST-MINUTE plans to attend the Verizon Heritage this week, you can save 50 percent on seven homes and villas at Harbour Town Golf Links. Two are on the golf course.

Contact Kathryn Keith, Group Sales Director of Carolina Lowcountry Vacations, at KKeith@clvhhi.com. Mention ARMCHAIR GOLF to get the discount.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, April 11

Can Kenny Perry Continue Masters Magic?


Kenny Perry at the 2008 Ryder Cup. (Proforged/Flickr)

“BUT DAD HAS ALWAYS SAID, ‘You need to win that Green Jacket,’” Kenny Perry said, laughing, on Friday evening.

Tonight, the 48-year-old Kentuckian is just 18 holes away from completing another golf fairy tale, an encore to his magical 2008 Ryder Cup season. A victory on Sunday would also put Perry in the record books as the oldest Masters and major winner.

Perry shares the 54-hole lead of 11 under with U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera. Playing in the final pairing, Perry (70) was steady on Saturday while co-leader Chad Campbell (72) sputtered on the final holes.

Cabrera, who moved up the leaderboard with a 69, could pull off another final-round upset like he did when he edged Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk in the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont.

Only it wouldn’t really be an upset.

Cabrera is a streaky player who has proved himself on the majors stage. And a Cabrera victory would be sweet justice 41 years after fellow countryman Roberto DeVicenzo signed an incorrect Masters scorecard and lost in a playoff the following day to Bob Goalby.

The cast of pursuers is deep. Chad Campbell, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Rory Sabbatini, Tim Clark, Shingo Katayama and Todd Hamilton are within six or fewer shots of the lead. Plus, there are the four-unders, including Tiger and Phil Mickelson.

If Tiger or Phil somehow win another Green Jacket, two things will have happened. One, Tiger or Phil will have posted a final round in the mid 60s. Two, a bunch of players will have choked. I’m not seeing it. They’re too far back. I might add I’ve been wrong many times, especially when it comes to Mr. Woods.

Something under par in the final pairing of Perry and Cabrera should get it done. It won’t be easy, though. It never is.

One final thought: Keep an eye on Furyk.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, April 10

2009 Masters Round 2 Recap


(John Trainor/Flickr)

THE WIND KICKED UP on Friday at Augusta National Golf Club, but it didn’t blow away the chances of a toasty Anthony Kim, who posted a Masters record 11 birdies − and a few “others” − for a 65, low round of the day. AK went from “cut” to contention.

But what’s up with the old guy, Kenny Perry? Did someone forget to remind him that Magnolia Lane isn’t on his schedule? Watch out. Perry is playing all the majors this year. Kenny (67) caught leader Chad Campbell (70) at nine under.

There are plenty of lurkers. U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera is one stroke off the pace. Just back from obscurity, 2004 British Open champion Todd Hamilton is three back. Tim Clark is hanging around at five under. Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia and Rory Sabbatini are at four under.

And there are bunches of players at minus three and two, including Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington.

Gary Player and Fuzzy Zoeller strolled the grounds one last time, an emotional farewell for both Masters champions.

Saturday will be interesting.

MASTERS PRESS TENT


What they said on Friday.

Gary Player: All 36 holes, I got a standing ovation. I wish I had words to − I wish, as I had just mentioned, the vocabulary of Winston Churchill to say the correct thing, but it was a feast.

Anthony Kim: There was a sense of urgency last night when I was leaving the golf course. I knew I had to get off to a good start, and with the wind picking up, I didn't know what the score would be. And Chad was not helping with the ten-shot rule, because he was at 11 when I looked up.

Todd Hamilton:
My year has not been that great. Not counting this event, I made two out of nine cuts. But it wasn't to the point where I can lose all hope.

Chad Campbell: I felt good all day, and hopefully feel that way the next couple of days.

Kenny Perry:
But Dad has always said, “You need to win that Green Jacket.” He always calls me and tells me. (Laughter).

−The Armchair Golfer

Gas Station Owner Relishes Masters Appearance

MOST AMATEURS WHO PLAY in the Masters are rising young stars. This year four of the five Masters amateurs are ages 18 to 21.

And then there’s Steve Wilson.

Wilson is 39, a gas-station owner from Gautier, Mississippi, who makes po’ boy sandwiches for customers and happened to win the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship in September to earn a spot in the Masters field.

You might think Wilson is a fluke, but he can play, one of countless players who showed promise in his youth and eventually gave up on the dream when life intervened.

“He played on the mini- tours until I ran out of money,” Wilson’s father told the St. Petersburg Times. “I was a retired Air Force sergeant, so I couldn't afford to build him a green and a sand trap in the back yard like Phil Mickelson's dad did.”

Still, Wilson somehow made it to Augusta. There he was − all grins − in a Thursday threesome with Ian Poulter and former Masters champion Tom Watson.

Surely Wilson was hoping for better than a 79. On Friday, he improved to a 75. Wilson won’t make the cut, but that’s OK said his brother, Dave Wilson.

“If he never does anything more in golf after this, I think he'll be fine with this. This is enough.”

−The Armchair Golfer


(Photo: Trainor/Flickr)

Thursday, April 9

2009 Masters Round 1 Recap


(John Trainor/Flickr)

PERFECT WEATHER, SOFT CONDITIONS and pin placements that were generous by Augusta standards produced low scores and lots of roars on Day 1 at the 2009 Masters.

Chad Campbell opened with five consecutive birdies, a Masters record, en route to a 65 and the first-round lead. Jim Furyk hit all 18 greens in regulation and is one shot back at 66. Tiger Woods shot a 70 that left him a bit frustrated with his putting but well within striking distance.

And then there were the old guys, playing carefree golf like it was senior day at the local club.

Fifty-year-old Larry Mize fired a 67. Kenny Perry, who often skips Augusta, shot a 68. Greg Norman and Berhard Langer had 70s. Sandy Lyle shot a 72. Ben Crenshaw had 73.

I know what's going to happen. Australian Greg Norman and Augusta native Larry Mize will finish in a tie atop the leaderboard. On the 11th hole in a sudden-death playoff, Mize will chip in from well off the green to win the Green Jacket. Norman will be crushed.

Oh, wait a minute. That was 1987. Nevermind.

MASTERS PRESS TENT

What they said on Thursday.

Chad Campbell: Like I said before, all I'm trying to do out there is hit one shot at a time. I know it's kind of cliché, but it's really all you can do, especially out here.

Jim Furyk: You have to be patient, and you just have to gut it out and get the ball in the hole as best you can and not really worry about it too much.

Greg Norman: I just came here with the total objective was, play well here, play the best I could. It's only round one. I played well in round one.

Larry Mize: I did not imagine a 67. I came out hoping to play a good round.

Hunter Mahan: It was a perfect day, perfect day to score.

Padraig Harrington
: I would have taken it going out, so I am satisfied, yes. Thursday is all about staying in the tournament.

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, April 8

The Masters, Aussie Style


Greg Norman tees off as fellow Australian Aaron Baddeley looks on.
(Richard Carter/Flickr)

“In arguably the most sports-obsessed country in the world, this may go some way to explaining Australia’s exceedingly high expectations in world golf. If we’re going to get up at these ridiculous hours to watch, our golfers had better put on a good show.”

By Michael Green
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF

THE ALARM GOES OFF at 5 a.m., which is a lot earlier than usual for a Monday morning. The household stirs a little due to the slight disturbance, but I grab the doona (Australian for blanket), walk down the hall, switch on the TV and lay down on the couch.

I’ve still yet to open my eyes. The sounds of tinkling ivories soon come out of the TV and combined with shot after shot of flowering garden beds it’s almost enough to put me back to sleep. Thankfully, some golf is shown in between these images and my eyes begin to adjust to the picture.

The final round of the U.S. Masters is on TV. In Australia.

There’s a real skill to adjusting the volume to an audible level while keeping it low enough so the non-golf fans in the household aren’t disturbed. I have trouble speaking at that time of the day, and having to explain exactly what I’m doing in front of the TV so early would be near impossible.

This is the way I’ve experienced every U.S. Masters since I was a kid and the story would be very similar for many other Australian golf fans. All of the golf majors are experienced this way Down Under except for the British Open, which is a real test on a Sunday evening. The final round usually finishes around 4 a.m.

In arguably the most sports-obsessed country in the world, this may go some way to explaining Australia’s exceedingly high expectations in world golf. If we’re going to get up at these ridiculous hours to watch, our golfers had better put on a good show.

I’ve felt like I’ve wasted
many hours of sleep only to see many Australians tumble in the majors. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching any golf, but we all have our favourites and the Australians are mine.

You need two hands to count the number of times Greg Norman has been in contention at Augusta. That’s close to ten weeks of my life I’ve felt cheated by getting up to watch The Shark fall at the last hurdle, none more so than 1987 and 1996. School and university were major chores during those weeks. It’s a wonder I passed.

Greg Norman’s amazing shot at last year’s British Open was tough to take as he looked like he was winning for three and a half days, but it wasn’t quite as hard to take as the 2002 Open. Two Australians made the playoff and we still couldn’t win it.

Australians have usually played well at The Open, though. Peter Thomson won it five times, Norman won twice and Ian Baker-Finch chimed in with a win of his own as well. Wayne Grady and Steve Elkington grabbed a PGA Championship each in the 90’s but there’s a feeling that Australian golf has some even better results just around the corner.

Geoff Ogilvy’s win at Winged Foot
in the 2006 U.S. Open was considered a shock to most fans. Australians knew him as another great young golfer with plenty of potential, but the circumstances of his win left many still wondering how good he was. His WGC wins and early 2009 form have laid any doubt to rest, and many sleepy Australian eyes will be on him at the U.S. Masters.

Regular tour players such as Stuart Appleby and Robert Allenby are still playing good golf, but it’s the new brigade that may lead to some big wins.

Mathew Goggin has everyone excited after scraping into the field for his Masters debut. He’s becoming more consistent and has had a stellar start to the year.

Aaron Baddeley and Adam Scott are always on everyone’s list of “next Australian major winner,” and while they are not at Augusta this year players such as Jason Day and Nick Flanagan are still considered by many to be future stars.

James Nitties has been around a while and struck a rich vein of form to get on the tour this year and Brett Rumford continues to improve year after year in Europe. This list does go on and we’re hoping they can erase some bad memories in future major tournaments, particularly at the Masters.

We can say the bad memories
are in the past and something we’d rather forget. But these trials and tribulations have made Australian golf.

We’re a country that has always struggled with our identity. Isolated at the meeting point of some very large oceans on a piece of land almost the size of the continental United States – and with a population the same as New York – we’ve been punching above our weight in golf for many years and made a name for ourselves.

Those early morning heartbreaks still hurt, but with the likes of Ogilvy, Allenby, Goggin and even the old Shark showing some form, maybe those Monday mornings will soon be a little brighter.

I might even turn the TV up a bit. Let the rest of the house know what’s going on.

Michael Green writes about golf at Aussie Golfer, the
Australian golf blog.

Tuesday, April 7

5 Questions for Masters Champion Zach Johnson

“I think being a past champion helps because I know that I have had success here and am capable of playing well and winning.”
−Zach Johnson




(Editor’s note: This recent interview with Zach Johnson was provided courtesy of RSM McGladrey. Special thanks to Jake Rosen at Sports Media Challenge for sharing it with ARMCHAIR GOLF.)

1. With The Masters approaching, how is your preparation for a major different than a weekly tour stop?

ZACH JOHNSON: Playing in majors takes a lot more out of you. There is the added pressure and hype, and overall the week can be a grind. I try to make sure that I don’t overdo it the week of the tournament so that I am fresh come Thursday when the tournament begins. Because of this, I have found that it is best if I take off the preceding week and focus on practicing and getting some hard work done. With the Masters, this week I am home at Sea Island really concentrating on my wedges and putting which both need to be sharp to play well at Augusta National.

2. Many people would consider Amen Corner one of the most, if not the most difficult, three holes of Augusta National. Would you agree with that, or is there another part of the course you feel is most difficult?

ZACH JOHNSON: Well, over the years with the changes to the golf course, I consider the entire 18 holes to be pretty tough. No doubt, Amen Corner is a hard stretch of holes, with 11 in particular being extremely difficult. Number four from the back tees is quite challenging as well.

3. As a past champion of The Masters, does that put more pressure on you, or being that it is a major makes it pressure-packed regardless?

ZACH JOHNSON:
No, I don’t think so. If anything, I think being a past champion helps because I know that I have had success here and am capable of playing well and winning. Having those great experiences to fall back on helps with my mental preparation. To me pressure is a privilege, and typically if you are feeling pressure you are doing good things and in the hunt.

4. Outside of winning The Masters, do you have another favorite Masters moment?

ZACH JOHNSON:
I’ve have had so many great Masters’ moments in my short career that I feel truly blessed. If I had to pick one, I guess it would be the first year I had my Dad caddie for me in the Par Three Tournament. That was a lot of fun and really special.

5. How do you think Augusta National sets up for your game?

ZACH JOHNSON: I think Augusta National sets up well for my game, especially if it is playing firm and fast. If I drive it well and am sharp with my wedges and putting, I feel like I have a good chance to compete and do well. I love the golf course and really enjoy the challenge it brings.

−The Armchair Golfer

Get Your FREE 2009 Masters Tournament Guide!
I recently published a 44-page 2009 Masters Tournament Guide filled with need-to-know information, stories, interviews, humor and more. I’d like you to have one.

Monday, April 6

Q&A: Walker Inman Jr., First Augusta Native to Play in Masters


In 1956 Walker Inman Jr. made a memorable trip down
Magnolia Lane. (Pocketwiley/Flickr)

“He put his hand on my head, and he said, ‘Walker, are you going to be a golfer like your Daddy?’ I said, ‘No sir, Mr. Jones. I want to be a golfer like you.’”
−Walker Inman Jr.

Walker Inman Jr. was a 1950s PGA Tour pro and longtime club professional. This is an excerpt from my 2007 interview with Walker and a part of my free 44-page 2009 Masters Tournament Guide (link at bottom).

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I think I read that your father met Bobby Jones.


WALKER INMAN JR.: They were fraternity brothers at Georgia Tech together. When I was 7 or 8 years old, he took me over to the Masters and in those days that was the only place Jones played. They started the Masters in ‘34 and he invited a bunch of his friends to come play a tournament, and that’s how the Masters got started. It was an invitational tournament. Of course, all the best players in the world were his friends, so he invited them all to come play. That’s the only time Bob Jones played in front of the public – he retired in 1930 – in the Masters.

So my Daddy wanted me to go over there and watch him play. I’ve got movies of my Dad playing with him when he would come to town and play at the country club before Augusta National was even built. So my Dad takes me over there, and we watch him playing the 8th hole. I know exactly where he was standing when I first saw him. He said to my Dad, “Is this your son, Walker?” My Dad introduced me and he said say hello to Mr. Jones, and I did. He put his hand on my head, and he said, “Walker, are you going to be a golfer like your Daddy?” I said, “No sir, Mr. Jones. I want to be a golfer like you.” I can remember that just like it was today. He was swinging his fairway wood hitting pine cones. He said to my Dad if he could hit the golf ball as good as he can hit these pine cones, he could still win.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: How old did you say you were – 7?


WALKER INMAN JR.:
I was 7 or 8. I was born in ‘29, so that was about 1938. I guess I was about 9 years old.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Was your dad a pretty good player?

WALKER INMAN JR.: He was about a 3 handicap player. He played with Jones when they were in college together and that kind of thing. That’s where his friendship and golf came from that.

When I qualified for the Masters, he [Jones] welcomed me there and was very excited about having me play. I teed off the first hole − I was as nervous as a cat on a tin roof − finally hit the ball up the fairway, managed to hit a 6-iron in the middle of the green and holed about a 30-footer. And I thought, shoot, there’s nothing to this. I said, “This is easy. I thought this was going to be hard.”

Walk over to the second tee, and as I’m going through the ropes, there’s Mr. Roberts and Mr. Jones sitting on a golf cart on the side of the tee. Mr. Roberts comes over to me and says, “Walker, Mr. Jones and I are very happy to have an Augusta boy playing in our tournament for the first time, and Mr. Jones is a good friend of your Dad’s, and Mr. Jones would like to watch you play a few holes. Do you mind?”

Now all of a sudden my nervousness comes back and I got to perform for the best player that’s ever walked around. That was quite an experience. They drove the cart around nine holes and watched me play. I wish I had a picture of that, but no cameras on the golf course so I don’t have a picture.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: From what I read, you had a pretty good day that day and then it sounded like in that last round, they had weather like this year.

WALKER INMAN JR.:
The wind was blowing between 45-50 mph gusts.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: That must have been brutal.


WALKER INMAN JR.: You couldn’t stand up to putt.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: And on those greens – I can’t even imagine how you could play those greens.


WALKER INMAN JR.: Well, you couldn’t. And the greens in those days weren’t as fast as they are today because they didn’t have Bentgrass on them. But they still were fast because of the undulations. You couldn’t stand still the wind was blowing so hard. It made putting more difficult than hitting a full shot.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Well, I’m sure at that point in your career you thought you’d…


WALKER INMAN JR.: I thought I’d be there many more times, and of course it never happened any more.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: It’s a good thing you did get to play in the Masters, though.


WALKER INMAN JR.: That was kind of a goal of mine when I first turned pro. Get in the Masters and play in front of my hometown friends and I did it, so that’s a memory I’ll always have.

−The Armchair Golfer

Get Your FREE 2009 Masters Tournament Guide!
I recently published a 44-page 2009 Masters Tournament Guide filled with need-to-know information, stories, interviews, humor and more. I’d like you to have one.

Sunday, April 5

Lincicome Eagles Final Hole to Win First Major

Brittany Lincicome (OGA/Flickr)

“I CAN’T EVEN DESCRIBE IT. It’s surreal, really. I had not really played great all day,” Brittany Lincicome said after edging Kristy McPherson and Cristie Kerr at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage, California.

The 23-year-old Lincicome hit the shot of her life on the 72nd hole, a perfectly struck hybrid that set up a short eagle putt good for a one-shot victory in the year’s first LPGA major.

“My hands are shaking and my heart is racing,” Lincicome said.

“I'm trying to calm myself down by breathing or singing or whatever I can possibly do, and right when I hit it, it came off on the clubface exactly where we wanted to hit it and took the slope like I wanted it to and came really close, thank God.”

Casey Wins Shell Houston Open in Playoff


A nine-time winner on the European Tour and Ryder Cup veteran, Englishman Paul Casey got his first PGA Tour win by beating J.B. Holmes in a playoff at the Shell Houston Open. The win boosted Casey to No. 6 in the world rankings.

−The Armchair Golfer

Get Your FREE 2009 Masters Tournament Guide!
I recently published a 44-page 2009 Masters Tournament Guide filled with need-to-know information, stories, interviews, humor and more. I’d like you to have one.

Saturday, April 4

King of Golf Cartoons: ‘Psychiatrist’


Copyright © Jerry King. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Is there any game that produces more excuses and rationalizations than golf? I think not. Big Shooter is not alone.

Have you ever been in denial about any part of your golf game? Do you have any favorite excuses?

−The Armchair Golfer

Jerry King is an award-winning cartoonist whose credits and clients include Golf Digest, United States Golf Association and Disney. His golf cartoons are featured weekly at ARMCHAIR GOLF.