Wednesday, September 30

Jon Fitzgerald Finds Fulfillment on ‘The Back Nine’

NOT A CHANCE. That was my initial thought after receiving a copy of The Back Nine, a documentary about Jon Fitzgerald’s quest to become a tour pro. Jon, a 15 handicap who had turned 40, had the courage (or was it craziness?), determination and support to act on his dream. Within a year, his handicap dropped to 4 and he had some impressive showings in amateur tournaments.

But as this skeptical viewer soon found out, The Back Nine wasn’t really about whether or not Jon would ever tee it up on a professional tour. It was about Jon finding out just how good he could be. And there were also all the unpredictably wonderful life lessons along the way, including making meaningful new connections with his father and stepfather, and having a new appreciation for his role as a husband, father and provider.

Jon is a filmmaker and film festival director, and it shows in The Back Nine. Recently, while playing in a national amateur championship in Palm Springs, he took time out to answer my questions.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: What is the current state of your golf game?


JON FITZGERALD
: After finishing up post production on the movie, and then handling self distribution and marketing, my game went south a bit. I had got down to a 4 handicap and am closer to a 5 now. I am playing in Palm Springs for the Golf Channel’s Amateur Tour National Championship, and worked hard in the weeks leading up to it. I’m getting back to where I was, with a few new swing changes that should see me get closer to scratch sooner.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: How has this golf and tournament season gone for you?

JON FITZGERALD:
A bit ironic, since I’m making a movie about improving, yet the filmmaking process has actually hurt my game some. I did manage to play well enough over the season to qualify (finished second in my Los Angeles Tour) for the National Championships, being played here at PGA WEST.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: If you had to boil it down, what do you believe is the key to rapid improvement in golf?

JON FITZGERALD:
A combination of a better short game and stronger mental game. Dr Joe Parent (Zen Golf) and Katherine Roberts (Yoga For Golfers) really made a difference.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: What have been the most challenging aspects about your golf quest?


JON FITZGERALD: Working on my game while making the movie. I also have work in film production and family obligations that make the time for practice difficult.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: What has been the biggest surprise?

JON FITZGERALD: Probably the personal journey that this became outside of golf. I learned a lot about family and priorities, and life in general. Golf certainly is a great metaphor for life, and I see it more every time I play.

I have a greater understanding of the game and where to apply my time. They say it takes 10,000 hours to master anything, or 10 years for golfers to play at an expert level. I see now just how committed you have to be to make it happen.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: How are family life and work going?


JON FITZGERALD: My family is very supportive and we are starting a production company called Back Nine Studios, which has taken a lot of time but is very exciting.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Do you have any regrets?


JON FITZGERALD:
Not one. This has been an incredible journey and the adventure continues. I do hope to spend more time on my next visit to Scotland. Our trip was amazing, but too short.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Any final thoughts?


JON FITZGERALD:
Perhaps the most gratifying thing about this project is the effect the movie has had on golfers and non golfers, on an inspirational level. People seem to connect with the idea that it’s never to late to become what you wanted to be.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, September 29

It’s Time for the Fall Series Boys and Girls


The Black Rock Self Invitational Golf Tournament at Lucifer’s Anvil Golf Course in Black Rock Desert, Nevada. It’s not part of the Fall Series. Maybe next year. (DangerRanger/Flickr)

THE FALL SERIES KICKS OFF this week with the Turning Stone Resort Championship, which has the series’ largest purse at $6 million. The Fall Series is a little bit like Q-school—a bunch of cats trying to play their butts off to keep their cards. If you’re a diehard golf fan you might catch some of the action. Or maybe not.

Following are the five Fall Series events that will be played in October and November.

Turning Stone Resort Championship
JT Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
Frys.com Open
Viking Classic
Children's Miracle Network Classic

10 Notable Players Who Must Perform


Below are 10 players whose jobs are in some way on the line and need solid Fall Series play (and money) to bolster their position. (“Notable” was the PGA Tour’s word. If you disagree, I won’t bicker with you.)

Stuart Appleby
Peter Lonard
Brian Bateman
Eric Axley
Joe Ogilvie
Rocco Mediate
Cliff Kresge
Vaughn Taylor
Chris DiMarco
Nicolas Thompson

More on Fall Series at PGATour.com

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, September 28

PGA Tour Season Needs a Better Ending

(Editor’s note: Robert Bruce of Game Under Repair argues for a more dramatic, clear-cut conclusion to the PGA Tour season.)

Contributed by Robert Bruce
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


DOES THE PGA TOUR have an identity problem? Take this pop quiz:

1) Name the biggest event in the NFL.
2) Name the biggest event in Major League Baseball.
3) Name the biggest event in college football.
4) Bonus Question: Name the biggest event on the PGA Tour.

Numbers 1-3 are fairly easy, right?

But is there an easy answer to the bonus question? You have several options, don’t you?

There’s your problem. The PGA Tour doesn’t have a single, grandiose season-culminating event—at least one that produces the drama it should.

With all of the major sports, the season culminates with one grand spectacle: the Super Bowl, the World Series, the hypothetical college football national championship game. No brainers.

But golf?

In my opinion, the three biggest events—in no particular order—are the Masters, U.S. Open, and Ryder Cup. And the other issue: Excluding the biennial Ryder Cup, golf’s largest events take place long before the season is even close to ending.

Granted, the Tour is trying to ramp up the latter part of the season with the FedEx Cup Playoffs, culminating with this past week’s Tour Championship. But, even so, does the hype, the media presence, the vibe for the Tour Championship even come close to matching that of the Masters? Nope.

How do you fix this?

As I’ve mentioned at my blog, the PGA Tour needs to end its season in late August, right before football starts. They need to change the format of the Tour Championship to a match-play tournament with a 32-man field.

I’m a pretty ardent golf viewer, but even I quit watching golf when football starts up. It’s just a reality. But a Tiger Woods versus Sergio Garcia winner-take-all match in late August? Now that’s pressure. That’s drama. That’s something, I believe, casual fans would watch.

When your biggest event occurs in April—or maybe June, if you are partial to the U.S. Open—then you are just setting yourself up for a large cup of anticlimactic nothing.

I watched the Tour Championship, at least during the commercial breaks. After all, the event had its share of drama. But the Tour is missing an opportunity to amp up the drama even more.

Make the season shorter. Bring in match play. Make the Tour Championship more of a spectacle. Fans should be able to point to one event on the calendar as the end-all-be-all golf event of each season. Should it really be in April?

Could the Tour Championship ever equal the Super Bowl or the World Series in popularity? No way. But the PGA Tour can do better. Much better.

Robert Bruce is a full-time writer and part-time golf blogger in Nashville, Tennessee. Visit his golf blog at www.gameunderrepair.com.

Sunday, September 27

A Trophy Each for Tiger and Phil


Tim Finchem is all smiles with you know who. (Keith Allison/Flickr)

TIM FINCHEM MUST BE GLOATING somewhere tonight. The revamped FedEx Cup points system and playoffs run managed to put Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the game’s two most popular players, in today’s awards ceremony at East Lake in Atlanta.

The PGA Tour commissioner handed the FedEx Cup and $10 million to Tiger, his second cup win in three years. Meanwhile, Phil collected the Tour Championship trophy and $1 million and change after playing a near-flawless final round that left Tiger and company choking on his fumes.

Lefty’s back. At least he was this week. Phil’s final three trips around East Lake of 67, 66 and 65 were simply phenomenal. He channeled his old putting self, thanks to Dave Stockton. (And thanks also to his caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay. More on that in a moment.) Phil’s long game was pretty stellar, too.

With Tiger just two back of 54-hole leader Kenny Perry and playing in the final group, I thought he would catch and pass Perry to win both the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup. I fully expected Tiger to show everyone who’s still Sheriff on Tour with an emphatic finish to a season that didn’t include any major wins. Instead, Tiger looked listless in the final round. And poor Kenny. He had an awful day.

You have to make putts to win tournaments. While Tiger still holes more than his share, he didn’t have good putting weeks when it mattered most to him in 2009. Chasing Jack Nicklaus’ major wins record isn’t getting any easier.

‘Bones’ Idea’

Dave Stockton, the answer to Phil’s putting problems? Who came up with that? Yep, Bones.

Here’s what Lefty said in his post-round presser.

“I said, ‘Bones, for two years, I’ve been kind of floundering here not having the right direction. I want you to think about it.’

“He came back the next day, and he said, ‘I think you should call Dave Stockton. You guys putt the same. You’ve talked to him in the past and he had some great ideas.’”

There you go.

By the way, any of you who saw Stockton play on the PGA Tour or Senior Tour know the man can putt. If you have putting problems—and if you can corner Stockton in your hometown like Phil did—listen to what he tells you.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, September 26

King of Golf Cartoons: ‘Psychiatric Help’


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

Have you ever played with someone who blamed every bad shot on his or her clubs?

−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 regularly featured at ARMCHAIR GOLF.

Friday, September 25

Putting Lesson Helps Phil Mickelson


As good as it looks, this one didn’t go down.
(Goodwyn/Flickr)


PHIL MICKELSON HAS HAD his share of troubles off the course this season. On the course, the putter has been giving Lefty trouble for quite some time.

A putting lesson from Dave Stockton, who was in Phil’s hometown of San Diego last week for the Samsung World Championship, helped Phil run in some long ones today in round two of the Tour Championship. Mickelson drained putts of 22, 18, 23 and 17 feet en route to a 3-under 67 at East Lake.

“I have been struggling with the putter for two years almost, with an occasional good week here or there,” Mickelson said at PGATour.com.

“Now I feel like I’ve got the right track, the right direction that I want and I’ll continue to spend more time with [Stockton] as need be.”

Tiger Leads


Tiger Woods
shot a 68 to take the 36-hole lead at the Tour Championship. A win for Tiger will lock up his second FedEx Cup in three years. Padraig Harrington and Sean O’Hair are one shot back.

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, September 24

Math Plays Through in FedEx Cup


Help! Math will determine the FedEx Cup winner.
(Marvin/Flickr)


GOLF IS A SIMPLE GAME. The player with the fewest strokes wins. Hand him or her a shiny trophy and one of those oversized checks, snap some photos and everything’s good.

Unless it’s the FedEx Cup.

Then it’s a points race, sort of like NASCAR, I guess. And, from what I’ve been able to gather, a points race can’t be a simple game. It’s more like a math game, which is way over my head.

As we’ve learned, this is problematic. Two years ago Tiger Woods won. That seemed OK with everybody. Last year Vijay Singh won the FedEx Cup before the last event, the Tour Championship. That was all wrong, so the PGA Tour and mathematicians went back to the FedEx Cup chalkboard.

We won’t know until Sunday who will win the Cup this year, but I wonder if folks will question the legitimacy of the result because they don’t have a clue about the math. (Unless Tigers wins, of course.)

Maybe this weekend we’ll need a PGA Tour equivalent of Tim Russert, who explained the Electoral College with a mini whiteboard and markers during election night earlier this decade.

I’m not trying to be a rain cloud. I’m in the FedEx Cup camp. It does create some additional interest in pro golf. I’m all for that. It’s just unfortunate that it has a Jekyll and Hyde quality. As Globe and Mail columnist Lorne Rubenstein recently wrote, “The FedEx Cup is in its third year and the world’s best players are playing each of its four tournaments. That’s good.”

But there’s also Mr. Hyde, according to Rubenstein.

“The FedEx Cup is in its third year and hardly anybody, including the world’s best players, understands the points system, notwithstanding the tweaking that’s occurred since its inception. That’s bad.”

I don’t know if that can ever be fixed. I do know this: If golf is more complex than the fewest strokes wins, we’re probably all in trouble.

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, September 23

2009 Tour Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes



THE 2009 TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP, the FedEx Cup Playoffs finale, gets underway on Thursday at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia.

Purse: $7.5 million
Winner’s share: $1.35 million
Defending champion: Camilo Villegas

Player previews
How each player could win FedEx Cup
Despite flooding, East Lake OK
What the players are saying

2009 Tour Championship Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

More than 18 hours of TV coverage are on tap for the 2009 Tour Championship.

Thu, 9/24:
GOLF 1p - 6p ET

Fri, 9/25:
GOLF 1p - 6p ET

Sat, 9/26:

NBC 2p - 6p ET

Sun, 9/27:
NBC 1:30p - 6p ET

PGA Tour radio coverage

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
Math Plays Through in FedEx Cup
Putting Lesson Helps Phil Mickelson

Tuesday, September 22

Caddying for Arnold Palmer Before He Was a King

The iconic Palmer brought golf to the masses (and breakfast table).

Contributed by John Coyne
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


GOLF MAGAZINES THIS PAST month were filled with remembrances of Arnold Palmer on the occasion of his 80th birthday.

I read Boo Weekley’s account in the September 14, 2009 issue of Golf World about how Arnie said he always signed an autograph so people could read it. It reminded me of seeing Palmer at the PGA Championship at Congressional Country Club back in the ‘70s. Arnold was coming into the press room for an interview and was stopped by a 10-year-old for an autograph, and I watched as he carefully wrote out his full name for the young boy.

However, the best story I have heard lately comes from a former caddie at Tam O’Shanter Country Club in Chicago back in the last days of the famous World Championship staged in the ‘50s by George May. Researching a novel about Tam during those glory days of early golf tournaments in Chicago, I have been in touch with a number of former caddies who worked at Tam.

A Palmer Caddie from Yesteryear

The following account of Palmer comes from Ted Born, who lives and teaches today in Denver. Ted recalls his brief looping days with Arnie—before Palmer was Palmer.

Ted writes:

“In 1957, when the All American and World Championship tournaments were held during consecutive weeks, I was in a National Guard summer camp until the Sunday of the last round of the All American. I decided to bike out to Tam on Monday to see if I could get lucky. Freddie Seibel, the caddie master said yes, he had a bag for me and it was Arnold Palmer. He stressed that it was Arnold and not Johnny Palmer, who was also a touring professional during that era. Arnie had won a few tournaments to that point, but he really burst onto the radar the next year when he won his first Masters. I asked about Arnie’s caddie during the All American, did he get sick or injured? No, Freddie replied, Arnie had fired him. Why? I asked. Because he lacked enthusiasm, replied Freddie. Then and there I decided that I would be enthusiastic.

“I caddied practice rounds for Arnie on Tuesday and Wednesday before the start of the World’s and I will never forget the first drive I saw him hit. Arnie hit down on his drives so the ball took off like a 747. One hundred yards out it was 10-12 feet off the ground and rising!

“During the tournament, Arnie changed balls every three holes, using six new balls a round. After three holes the soft ball would go out of shape, so changing balls frequently was a must.

“I didn't read greens for Arnie, but gave him a lot of help with distance and club selection. In that regard, I distinctly remember my ‘mistake’ on the 71st hole, the uphill 17th. Arnie had about 145 yards to the pin with an out of bounds fence immediately back of the green. Arnie pulled a 7-iron out of the bag and asked me for confirmation. Granted, it was uphill, but this was 27-year-old Arnie, as strong as a bull! He already had the club in his hands so, of course, the caddie has to tell him how to hit it. I avowed that it was not a full 7 (it wasn’t). Arnie eased up on the 7, and when we saw the ball on the green short of the pin, Arnie turned around and gave me a ‘look.’ 72 holes and I had one mess-up.

“After the second round Arnie was at 140, and he was upset. I explained that 280 would probably win the tournament (and it did, Dick Mayer won, the same year he won the U.S. Open). Unfortunately, Arnie finished 74-71 for 285 and won $1,500. He paid me five percent, $75 for six days of work. Caddying for members, I would have made $120 during those six days. I found out later that Arnie always paid his caddie five percent, which is why he had trouble hanging on to a caddie later in his career.

“I remember meeting Winnie and their infant oldest daughter as I loaded his clubs into the trunk of the Cadillac he was driving at the time.

“I have been in contact with Arnie since. I sent him the number he had to wear on the back of his pants during the World’s. That was May’s idea, so the spectators could more easily identify the players. In return, Arnie sent me several autographed Cherry Hills scorecards, one for me and one for each of my four children. He also sent an autographed copy of his personally published book commemorating his win in the 1954 U.S. Amateur. He is a great guy. He is 80 this month and I hope he has many more years of golf ahead of him.”

Many have Arnie stories, but few had the opportunity to spend a week working for the man. That’s a caddie’s life.

John Coyne is the author of The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan and The Caddie Who Played with Hickory. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

Monday, September 21

2009 Tour Championship: East Lake Is Waterlogged

(Editor’s note: The below course report was filed before 15 inches of rain drenched the Atlanta area this past weekend, bringing East Lake to the saturation point. The course was closed today but the Tour Championship is still scheduled to begin on Thursday.)

Contributed by GCM NewsWeekly
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


DESPITE A COOL, RAINY summer in Atlanta, East Lake Golf Club’s bermudagrass greens should still play much firmer than the bentgrass greens at the first three FedEx Cup Playoffs events this year, according to course superintendent Ralph Kepple, who has prepped East Lake for this week’s season-ending Tour Championship.

“The greens won’t be as firm as last year,” Kepple said, “partly because it’s been so wet this summer and partly because they are a year older and therefore have a small layer of thatch under them now.

“The players are going to come through those first three events on greens that receive shots pretty well, and then they’re going to come here and these greens are going to be pretty firm.”

Kepple, who is in his 18th year as superintendent at East Lake, says the rough will be a healthy stand of bermudagrass, thanks in large part to more than nine inches of rain received in August. While the rough will be cut at 2 1/4 inches again as in the past, it will be much thicker this year.

No Major Changes


After completing a year-long renovation last year that was highlighted by replacing the bentgrass greens with bermudagrass prior to the Tour Championship, there have been no major changes made to East Lake this year.

Kepple switched to MiniVerde, an ultradwarf bermudagrass, because it is better suited for Georgia’s hot summers. It provides an excellent putting surface, and Kepple expects the greens to measure 12 feet on the Stimpmeter for the championship.

Nearby turfgrass students, area superintendents and assistant superintendents, as well as various vendors from around the region, will make up a group of 72 volunteers aiding Kepple’s staff of 27 during the tournament this week

For more information about East Lake and the Tour Championship from a golf course management perspective, visit GCSAA.org.


(Image: Dan Perry/Flickr)

Sunday, September 20

Hard Charging Spaniard Wins First European Tour Title

“I WAS SO FAR BACK I wasn’t thinking about winning. I just tried to play a shot at a time and today it worked out really, really good.”

That was Rafael Cabrera Bello talking after winning the Austrian Golf Open at Fontana Golf Club on the outskirts of Vienna, his first European Tour title.

And Cabrera Bello was exactly right. Why would he dare entertain any thoughts of winning? The Spaniard was eight shots back going into the final round. Speaking of eight, Cabrera Bello had also missed eight of his last 10 cuts. He wasn’t exactly a favorite to win—or even to play on the weekend.

So, what happened?

The 25-year-old shot a 60 in the final round. (He had an eagle putt for 59 on the 18th green.) Cabrera Bello humbled the course, the field—even himself—and was in a state of shock when the tournament ended and he realized he had won the thing.

“It’s just amazing—I played the best golf of my life and I can’t believe it,” he said.

The final-round 60 bested his previous lowest European Tour score of 64.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, September 19

King of Golf Cartoons: ‘Next Tee’


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

What is the most unusual golf course you have ever played?

−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 regularly featured at ARMCHAIR GOLF.

Friday, September 18

Man Intentionally Loses 3,000 Golf Balls in Desert


The scene of a bizarre golf act. (Tammy Green/Flickr)

GROWING UP PLAYING GOLF in the California desert, I hit my share of wayward shots into the sandy dirt, Joshua trees and tumbleweed. Some of my golf balls dove into gopher holes and many disappeared elsewhere in the desert landscapes that adjoined the fairways of my youth.

I lost countless Top-Flites, Maxflis, Titleists, Wilson Staffs and Golden Rams. Yes, Golden Rams. It was that long ago.

But I was no Douglas Jones.

Jones, a 57-year-old La Quinta, Calif., man, deposited an estimated 3,000 golf balls into Joshua Tree National Park over a year’s time. He was cited by park rangers a month ago for abandoning property, littering and feeding wildlife.

Joshua Tree National Park is not a golf course. It’s not like Bethpage State Park on Long Island where the U.S. Open was played. There’s no reason anyone should spot a Titleist Pro V1 in Joshua Tree National Park—unless someone in Indio hit a shot 20 miles off line.

Jones will soon be explaining his actions to a federal magistrate. According to the AP story, Jones said it was his way of honoring deceased golfers. I think he better take a mulligan on that explanation.

Another deeply troubling aspect to this story: Jones tossed the 3,000 golf balls into the national park. There were no clubs involved. He simply heaved the dimpled spheres into the desert.

What a waste. Besides facing a fine and possible jail time, Jones missed out on an incredible practice opportunity. He could be one heckuva of a sand player by now. But he threw away that chance.

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, September 17

2009 Samsung World Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2009 SAMSUNG WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP is underway at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California. Song-Hee Kim and Jiyai Shin share the first-round lead after carding 66s.

Purse: $1 million
Defending champion: Paula Creamer

Tournament preview
Final field
First-round notes and interviews

2009 Samsung World Championship Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

Eight hours of TV coverage are on tap for the 2009 Samsung World Championship.

Thu, Sep 17
8:30-10:30 PM ET
GOLF CHANNEL

Fri, Sep 18
8:30-10:30 PM ET
GOLF CHANNEL

Sat, Sep 19
1:30-3:30 PM ET
NBC

Sun, Sep 20

4:00-6:00 PM ET
NBC

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, September 16

Jim Ferree, Living Logo

JIM FERREE IS ABOUT AS NICE a pro as you’ll ever meet. Jim, along with Jack Fleck, was the pro in the group I joined today at the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn. (I rode around and caddied for Fleck—if you can call it that.)

Ferree is not exactly a household name. But if you followed the early days of the Senior Tour (before it was the Champions Tour), then you might recognize the North Carolina native who makes his home in Hilton Head, South Carolina. In fact, Jim was one of the handful of senior players to don knickers to add some flair to the fledgling 50-plus tour. That decision turned the sweet-swinging pro into a work of art.

“As our tour grew and became successful, commissioner Deane Beman thought we needed our own logo,” Jim wrote in Sports Illustrated.

“He wanted something similar to the regular Tour logo, but something that was also noticeably different. Voilà! The knickers. For some reason I was chosen as the model—I guess because Deane thought I looked good in plus fours.”

Jim won once on the PGA Tour (in 1958) and collected several wins on the senior and super senior circuit. He’s also a longtime teacher. One of his pupils was Rocco Mediate.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, September 15

An Unplanned Visit with Hall of Famer Billy Casper



IF BILLY CASPER HAD LOCATED his room sooner at the Crowne Plaza, I would not have had my chance and enjoyable encounter with him.

I’m at the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn, this week’s Champions Tour event. It’s pretty close to home, so I’m here hanging out with the legends—and meeting some of the Champions Tour players as well, most notably Fred Funk.

I had just left Jack Fleck when I ran into Mr. Casper, arguably the most underrated pro golfer of all time. Billy won 51 times on the PGA Tour, including three majors—two U.S. Opens and a Masters.

Billy and I had crossed paths at the front desk and engaged in small talk. Now he was looking for his room, and when he found it I offered to lug his heavy golf travel bag through the glass door and down the walkway to his room.

“Come on in,” Billy said, so I stepped inside and we talked for a little while. “Don’t go yet,” he added as I moved toward the door. He was reaching into his golf bag.

Meanwhile, I did something I’ve never done before. I started dialing my cell phone, explaining to Billy what I was doing. I was calling my 82-year-old dad in California, the person who got me started in golf and a knowledgeable fan about the era of Palmer, Nicklaus and Player. (And also the very deserving but less popular Casper.) I wanted to put the two of them on the phone.

Billy was totally cool about it. They talked for several minutes. My dad was thrilled, more excited than I would have guessed, which made me feel great. Then Billy signed two golf balls (that’s what he was reaching for in his bag), one for my dad and one for me. Both balls had the number “51,” signifying his total wins.

It’s pretty cool to hang out with a Hall of Famer. It’s even cooler to share the experience with your dad.

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, September 14

Egypt’s First Master Planned Community Features Pyramids and Golf


TPL’s Tim Lobb and Ross Perrett stand beside the quarry
that will influence the golf course design at New Giza.


I’VE NEVER BEEN TO Egypt, but if I were to put it on my travel wish list 2013 would be a good time to go. That’s when a master-planned community, including a new championship golf course, is scheduled to be completed within view of the Pyramids of Giza.

MGM Mirage plans to build a luxury hotel (to be called MGM Grand New Giza) at the Egyptian development of New Giza, alongside a golf course designed by Thomson Perrett & Lobb (TPL). The hotel and golf course will be part of a 1,500-acre development—Egypt’s first master-planned community—that will include elegant homes, lavish restaurants, shopping malls, sporting facilities, a hospital and a university.

“From the outset the client, TPL, and the whole design team have been committed to delivering a world-class project the whole of Egypt can be proud of,” said TPL’s Tim Lobb.

TPL’s New Giza design is set on hills overlooking the ancient Pyramids. The course descends into the bowels of an old quarry, utilizing the natural features to add drama to the holes design, routing and player experience.

Once completed, the New Giza Development will also feature 2,500 villas and townhouses—80 percent of which will enjoy views of Cairo and the Pyramids of Giza.

−The Armchair Golfer


(Brought to you by YourGolfTravel.com and the ARMCHAIR GOLF STORE.)

(Images provided by Landmark Media International Ltd.)

Sunday, September 13

Fat Lady Doesn’t Show as Tiger Cruises to Victory


Yogi Berra. His saying is funny, solid unless Tiger has big lead.
(Bari D/Flickr)


SORRY, YOGI. THIS ONE was over before it was over. The fat lady didn’t sing. She didn’t even show. She was probably watching U.S. Open tennis or the NFL.

Tiger Woods finished off the BMW Championship on Saturday night after fashioning a tidy little 62 at Cog Hill, which probably should be renamed Tiger Hill. He seems to like this track.

I didn’t even turn on the final round. Tiger blow a seven-shot lead? Yeah, right. I think a unanimous vote on healthcare reform is more likely.

For the record, Tiger shot 68, 67, 62 and 68 for a 19-under total of 265. It was a dominating performance. Marc Leishman and Jim Furyk tied for second eight shots back.

“Winning, that’s the ultimate goal,” Tiger said. “And to play as well as I have of late and not get the W’s has been a little bit frustrating, no doubt, because I’ve been so close. It’s just been a matter of making a couple putts here and there and I would have won the tournaments. That’s all the difference it was.”

Tiger has regained the lead in the FedEx Cup Playoffs. But under the revamped points system Tiger isn’t a lock to win the FedEx Cup going into the Tour Championship in Atlanta. Except that he probably is.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, September 12

Villegas Practices His Driving—in a BMW



CAMILO VILLEGAS, LAST YEAR’S BMW Championship winner, got in a little driving practice last night. Only he was using a different model: a speedy new BMW.

“PGA Tour pros had the opportunity to race new BMW around the track at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois,” wrote the publicist who sent me these pictures.

A cool perk, eh? It’s not often you get to legally race the courtesy cars.



On the course, Camilo is currently 1-over and hovering near the 30-player cutoff line for making it into the season-ending Tour Championship. Padraig Harrington, Marc Leishman and Tigers Woods are at the top of the leaderboard early in their third rounds.

−The Armchair Golfer


(Photos provided by BMW of North America)

Thursday, September 10

2009 BMW Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes


Camilo Villegas defends.
(nsaplayer/Flickr)


THE 2009 BMW CHAMPIONSHIP, the third of four FedEx Cup Playoffs events, is underway at Cog Hill in Chicago, Illinois.

Purse: $7.5 million
Winner’s share: $1.35 million
Defending champion: Camilo Villegas

Live report
Inside the course: new Cog Hill
Live FedEx Cup points projections
How the playoffs reset works

2009 BMW Championship Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

Thirteen hours of TV coverage are on tap for the 2009 BMW Championship.

Thu, 9/10:

GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Fri, 9/11:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 9/12:
NBC 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 9/13:

NBC 2p - 6p ET

PGA Tour radio coverage

−The Armchair Golfer

2009 P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship TV Schedule and Notes

THE 2009 P&G BEAUTY NW ARKANSAS CHAMPIONSHIP gets underway on Friday at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas.

Purse: $1.8 million
Defending champion: Seon Hwa Lee

Tournament preview
Tournament interviews
Final field

2009 P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

More than seven hours of TV coverage are on tap this weekend for the 2009 P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship.

Friday, Sep 11

12:30-2:30 PM ET GOLF CHANNEL

Saturday, Sep 12
1:00-4:00 PM ET GOLF CHANNEL

Sunday, Sep 13
1:00-4:00 PM ET GOLF CHANNEL

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, September 9

Making the Cut: LPGA Tour Stars Donate Hair


Christina Kim
(Allison/Flickr)


THIS IS NOT YOUR USUAL place for hair talk, but today I make an exception.

LPGA Tour players are teaming up with Pantene Beautiful Lengths to help provide wigs for women living with cancer. Even though I’ve been tongue-tied and generally inept with previous hair comments (I wonder if my wife will read this?), I can confidently say this particular hair event is terrific.

At a ponytail-cutting event today at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas, site of this week’s P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship, several LPGA Tour players and other volunteer hair donors will have eight inches of their hair snipped to create wigs for women who have lost hair due to cancer treatment.

Those expected to participate include Christina Kim, Paige Mackenzie, Carri Wood, Lisa Strom, Chella Choi, Vicky Hurst, Stacy Lewis, Heather Daly-Donofrio and others.

The tournament starts on Friday. Seon Hwa Lee is the defending champion.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Source: LPGA.com)

Tuesday, September 8

Hail to the King: Arnold Palmer Turns 80


(Image courtesy of GOLF CHANNEL)

THE KING OF GOLF, Arnold Palmer turns 80 on Thursday and GOLF CHANNEL will pay special tribute all this week to the man who took golf to television and later co-founded the GOLF CHANNEL cable network.

GOLF CHANNEL will have more than eight hours of programming to honor Palmer, who won 62 times on the PGA Tour, including seven major championships. Programming will include Top 10 Arnold Palmer Moments, Golf’s Heart and Soul: Arnold Palmer, and 1964 and 1960 Masters highlights. (Arnie won four Green Jackets, all in even years, from 1958 to 1964.)

“As a founding father of GOLF CHANNEL, Arnold Palmer’s contributions to the growth of the sport and our company are innumerous,” GOLF CHANNEL President Page Thompson said in a statement.

Definitely true. Whether it was mesmerizing a viewing audience in 1960 or having the seemingly crazy vision of a 24-hour golf cable channel, no one is more responsible for bringing televised golf into living rooms than Arnold Palmer.

More Arnold Love

GolfChannel.com will reexamine Arnold’s career achievements, including trivia, photography and tributes that feature a collection of the best Palmer stories published on the site.

Rex Hoggard writes about Palmer’s career from a player’s perspective while Randall Mell chronicles the camera’s love affair with Arnold and the role he played in expanding golf to television. In addition, Mercer Baggs highlights Palmer’s charitable efforts and his influence in the creation of the Arnold Palmer Hospitals.

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, September 7

How to Throw a Club by Top 100 Teacher Charlie King


Is Tiger hindered by his club-throwing technique?
(Keith Allison/Flickr)


A LOT HAS BEEN MADE of Tiger Woods’ club-throwing tantrum in the first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship, the second of four FedEx Cup Playoffs events.

While many are fixated on whether Tiger should or shouldn’t toss the offending Nike stick—and what it means for the PGA Tour, what Earl would think, and the future of sportsmanship—I believe there’s an underreported aspect of the story: club-throwing technique.

I bring you (and you too, Tiger, if you’re reading) Charlie King, a top 100 teacher from the Reynolds Golf Academy. King, the author of The New Rules of Golf Instruction, demonstrates the importance of a running start, a three-quarter backswing and proper release:

VIDEO: Club-throwing tips by top 100 teacher Charlie King

Look, Tiger is going to throw his clubs from time to time. We know that. A little instruction could go a long way. (And so could his club.)

Stricker Takes FedEx Cup Lead


Mr. September, Steve Stricker, birdied the last two holes at TPC Boston to win the Deutsche Bank Championship by a shot and bypass Tiger in the FedEx Cup points race. Tiger barely missed a top-10 finish, closing with an 8-under 63. This week the playoffs move to Cog Hill in Chicago for the BMW Championship.

−The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, September 6

ARMCHAIR GOLF Briefs


(Josh V-R/Flickr)

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

• The Folds of Honor Foundation announced it has awarded more than 360 scholarships to the children and spouses of military members killed or severely disabled in the line of duty, bringing to 550 the total number of scholarships awarded in two years since the creation of the Foundation. The scholarships can be used to attend two-year, four-year, post-college or vocational schools.

Alder Foods has teamed up with Nestlé and the Deutsche Bank Championship to raise money for the Fisher House Foundation and Fisher House Boston. Alder Foods and Nestlé recently launched the “Every Penny Counts” promotion at U.S. military commissaries worldwide. Through September 30, Nestlé will donate one cent from every Coffee-mate liquid creamer and Nesquik chilled ready-to-drink flavored milk sold at U.S. military commissaries to the Fisher House Foundation, which builds comfort homes for the families of wounded veterans to stay at while their relatives are undergoing treatment.

• The new St. Regis Punta Mita Resort, an official sponsor of the Riviera Nayarit Classic set to take place in Punta Mita, Mexico, September 28 through October 4, 2009, will welcome golf enthusiasts to the Resort with special Canadian Professional Golf Tour “Pro-Am VIP” packages.

• National University announced the opening of the National University Golf Academy, which will offer innovative golf programs that combine academics with golf instruction at the high school, associate’s and bachelor’s levels.

• Guests staying at the Aston Maui Kaanapali Villas or The Whaler on Kaanapali Beach can enjoy world-class golf together as a family with Kaanapali Golf Resort’s Juniors Play Free – Bring the Ohana program. The program offers one junior golfer, age seven to 17, a free round or ride when accompanied by a paying adult on the Kaanapali Kai Course. The offer is valid through Sept. 30, 2009. In addition, guests staying at either property are entitled to preferred green fees: $150 to play the Kaanapali Kai Course and $190 to play the Royal Kaanapali Course (non-guest green fees are $195 and $235, respectively).

Vista Valley Country Club will be the only San Diego venue for Tee it Up for the Troops’ (TIUFTT) National Day of Golf, scheduled for September 14, 2009 to raise money for wounded soldiers and their families.

• The Sports Club/LA has opened The Golf Academy by The Sports Club/LA, recognized as the most comprehensive indoor golf training facility in the world. The 6,000 square foot facility offers state-of-the-art golf training and teaching technology, along with top PGA and TPI certified golf teaching professionals and advanced golf specific fitness programs.

GOLF CHANNEL concluded its exclusive coverage of The Solheim Cup by garnering its highest rating ever (.93) for the final day of the LPGA’s biennial team event, tripling the Sunday rating from 2007 (.27) and far outpacing the Sunday rating in 2005 (.62), the last time the event was played on U.S. soil.

Southwest Section PGA announced that it has partnered with SolarMotion Laboratories, Inc. The Scottsdale-based company will be a Technology Sponsor of the SWSPGA. SolarMotion manufactures a state-of-the-art solar powered golf cart roof that is compatible and interchangeable with E-Z-GO, a leading supplier of golf, turf and utility vehicles throughout the world, Club Car, Inc. and Yamaha.

Big Break Disney Golf contestant Andrew Giuliani won the 94th Met Open Championship to join the likes of golf legends Walter Hagen, Byron Nelson and Gene Sarazen, as well as current PGA TOUR player Johnson Wagner, as a winner of the event.

ClubCorp announced that it is hosting the third annual ClubCorp Charity Classic in partnership with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). The event is the world’s largest multi-site charity golf and dining event, with participating clubs teeing up across the country from California to New York.

PGA Professional Brad Brewer of Shingle Creek Golf Club has signed with Zondervan to publish Mentored by the King, Arnold Palmer: Success Skills for Golf, Business and Life. Publication is slated for Fall 2010.

• Thursday, Sept. 10, Arnold Palmer will celebrate his 80th birthday, and GOLF CHANNEL will honor the occasion and say thank you to the man who brought a passion to the sport – as well as a channel devoted to the game – to mainstream America. Throughout the week, GOLF CHANNEL will air special programming on-air and online to pay tribute to the man simply known as “The King.”

• The history of a golf club Pete and Alice Dye refer to as their “firstborn” is captured in detail in a new book entitled Crooked Stick Golf Club: A story of the original masterpiece from America’s first couple of golf by Chris Withwein.

• LongHorn Steakhouse announced “Tee Off & Tunes with Darius Rucker” – a national sweepstakes giving guests a chance to win backstage access to a private Darius Rucker concert and VIP tickets to this year’s THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola.

GolfGym has teamed up with A Girls On-Course Survival Guide to Golf™ author Christina Ricci to offer an exclusive FREE “Shape up Your Game” promotion for women with the purchase of a GolfGym PowerSwing Trainer.

Atlanta Kitchen, Inc. is the Official Countertop of the Golf Club of Georgia.

MGM MIRAGE will build a luxury hotel at the Egyptian development of New Giza, alongside a spectacular new golf course designed by Thomson Perrett & Lobb.

• After sixteen months of transforming a former, twelve-acre fruit orchard into a playable golf course, Tony Ciabattoni and his Colombian wife Sandra Gonzalez have opened the first public golf facility in the city of Bucaramanga, Colombia. In fact, it is the only public golf course in the state of Santander, the sixth most populous state in Colombia, of which Bucaramanga is the capital.

Mayakoba Resort will unveil a state-of-the-art Jim McLean Golf Academy later this fall. The Mayakoba location will be the first and only Jim McLean Golf Academy in Mexico.

• The new “I’m Tired of Bogeys” bracelet is a fun golf accessory with a serious purpose because it raises money for charity. Half the sale ($5) of each bracelet goes to nonprofit Caddy For A Cure.

Graphite Design has introduced a new YSQ 45 gram Ultralight shaft.

• Designed specifically for golfers, QUIET PLEASE Bamboo Socks feature mid-foot ribbing that enhances blood circulation and supports the arch, keeping the feet invigorated.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, September 5

Patriot Golf Day 2009 Is on Labor Day Weekend


Yankee Johnny Damon (center), Major Dan Rooney (left) and wife, Major Ed Pulido (right) with wife and daughters.

PATRIOT GOLF DAY 2009 is on this Labor Day weekend, September 4 through 7.

Patriot Golf Day is the flagship fundraiser for the Folds of Honor Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides postsecondary educational scholarships for the children and spouses of military men and women disabled or killed while serving our nation. On this weekend, golfers across the country can add an extra dollar to their greens fees to fund Folds of Honor scholarships. The Patriot Golf Day campaign is jointly supported by The PGA of America and the United States Golf Association (USGA).

Mahan to Donate

PGA Tour player Hunter Mahan has partnered with the Folds of Honor Foundation to support military families. Mahan will donate a percentage of his winnings and wear the Folds of Honor logo on his hat during this weekend’s Deutsche Bank Championship to increase awareness for Patriot Golf Day.

Beginnings

The inaugural Patriot Golf Day in 2007 was started by Major Dan Rooney, Founder of the Folds of Honor Foundation, F-16 Pilot, PGA Professional, and USGA member. On Labor Day 2007 Rooney asked golfers to add $1 to their greens fees. His request resulted in donations of more than $1.1 million from more than 3,200 golf facilities.

2008 marked the second year of Patriot Golf Day and contributions were received from more than 3,800 golf facilities nationwide and resulted in donations of approximately $2 million. In the last two years, more than 550 postsecondary educational scholarships have been awarded through the Folds of Honor Foundation.

−The Armchair Golfer


(Source: PatriotGolfDay.com)

Friday, September 4

Kim Fires 62 at CN Canadian Women’s Open


Anna Rawson has been shopping for birdies
at the CN Canadian Women’s Open.
(FaceMePls/Flickr)


BIRDIE, BIRDIE, BIRDIE, BIRDIE, birdie, birdie. Ever started a round that way? Neither have I.

Six straight birdies filled the front-nine scorecard of Song-Hee Kim in today’s second round of the CN Canadian Women’s Open in Calgary, Alberta. Kim threw in a couple of pars, then birdied the final two holes to post a 7-under-par 28. She backed it up with a 34 for a sizzling 62 on the 6,427-yard par-71 layout, a tournament record.

How did she do it?

“I just try—I mean the first thing, I just try and hit the ball on the fairway,” Kim said, “and then the second thing, I just try and hit the pins, and then make a putt.”

Sounds easy enough.

Kim is tied for the lead with Suzann Pettersen at 9-under. Anna Rawson shot a 64 in the opening round, holding the tournament record for 24 hours.

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, September 3

2009 Deutsche Bank Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2009 DEUTSCHE BANK CHAMPIONSHIP, the second of four FedEx Cup Playoffs events, gets underway on Friday at TPC Boston in Boston, Massachusetts.

Purse: $7.5 million
Winner’s share: $1.35 million
Defending champion: Vijay Singh

Inside the field
Inside the course
Friday and Saturday tee times
TPC Boston records

2009 Deutsche Bank Championship Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

Thirteen hours of TV coverage are on tap for the 2009 Deutsche Bank Championship.

Fri, 9/4:

GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 9/5:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 9/6:
NBC 3p - 6p ET

Mon, 9/7:
NBC 2p - 6p ET

PGA Tour radio coverage

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, September 1

Jack Nicklaus, Honorary Masters Starter


(Pocketwiley/Flickr)

ARNIE AND JACK. They just go together. It’s their golf destiny. Now Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus will be seeing each other on the first tee at Augusta National Golf Club for the ceremonial opening shots at The Masters.

“Recently, I was invited by both Augusta National and Arnold to join him on the first tee,” Jack said, “and because he enthusiastically supported the invitation, it became an easy decision for me.”

Jack completely fooled me on this one. I never thought he would do this stuff—or at least not this soon. Because that’s what he told us, and he seemed adamant about it.

Look for them to make it a threesome in the near future. Joining Palmer and Nicklaus on the first tee, Gary Player.

−The Armchair Golfer