Friday, December 31

Old-Time Tour Pro Dragged Putter Behind Car

By John Derr
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


AT THE PGA CHAMPIONSHIP in Louisville, won by Jim Turnesa, the morning of the first round, I arrived at Big Springs Country Club in the car with Sam Snead. He parked in the first open parking space. As he got out he noticed the car parked beside him was the courtesy car assigned to Tommy Bolt, who arrived in the club parking lot at about the same time.

Snead said he’d have to move our car to another place, several rows over, because if Bolt lost, he would gun his speeding car when leaving the lot. Chances are he would spray gravel and rocks from the unpaved lot, on any cars parked near him, according to Snead. And he did.

At the same PGA championship at Big Springs when another one of the top players (I hesitate to name him, for I am not sure and he may still be around), I was standing in the parking lot when the caddy dropped the pro’s bag of clubs in the car trunk. The player opened the trunk, took out his putter and what looked like the belt from his trousers. He secured the belt around the putter shaft, then tied the putter, head down, on the bumper of his car and zoomed onto the street.

Sparks from the errant putter, as it bounced along, looked like a Fourth of July celebration. He raced down the road, after saying to no one in particular, “I guess that’ll take care of the little bastard.”

Sam and I were the only people within earshot, so I guess he was talking primarily to his putter, a farewell of sorts.

I wish I could positively recall the pro, but I wouldn’t want to pin it on the wrong man, though others may have done the same.

John Derr is an award-winning golf journalist who covered 62 Masters and the author of My Place at the Table. He lives in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

Wednesday, December 29

President Obama’s Dangerous Golf Obsession
















Editor’s note: President Obama is spending the holidays in Hawaii, where he is shooting hoops, snorkeling, hanging with the family and chasing the little white ball. The following piece from the ARMCHAIR GOLF archives was published almost exactly a year ago when a New Republic senior editor criticized the president’s golf habit. Clearly, the president has not taken her advice.

MICHELLE COTTLE’S COMMENTARY about President Obama’s “dangerous obsession with golf” has alerted me that I may be a hopeless golf addict who exhibits many undesirable attributes. And you might be in the same foursome with me, my friend.

Cottle is a senior editor for The New Republic. She has a problem—several, really—with 44’s affection for the small dimpled ball.

“Why would a leader vowing to shake up Washington—to alter the very nature of politics—sell his soul to a leisure activity that screams stodgy, hyperconventional Old Guard?” she asks.

By carefully reading her article, I learned several things about my favorite pastime and what it might say about you, me and the president of these United States. For instance, she outlines telltale signs of a “creeping golf addiction,” such as:

• Playing for more than a decade
• Playing for cash
• Fretting about form
• Goading others to leave work early for a round of golf
• Constantly looking to squeeze in a few holes

Where might it all lead? To dark, risky places, according to Cottle.

“In the popular imagination, golf is the stuff of corporate deal-cutting, congressional junkets, and country club exclusivity,” she writes.

(Clearly, my golf addiction has been short-changing me.)

There’s more.

“And, unless a president is very careful, a golf habit can easily be spun as evidence of unseemly character traits ranging from laziness to callousness to out-of-touch elitism.”

(I definitely think I have the laziness down. But my out-of-touch elitism needs work.)

For the president to revamp his image in the new year, Cottle says “he could start by ditching golf.” If she knew I liked golf as much as the president, she might say the same thing to me.

They say the first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem. I have a problem. I miss too many four-footers. Now excuse me while I groove my putting stroke in the den.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Roberto De Vido/Flickr)

Tuesday, December 28

The Golf Shot of the Year Was Struck in April



IT WAS A WEIRD YEAR in professional golf, to say the least. Tiger, rules controversies and much more. There were dramatic moments and shots, as always, but there’s one shot that rises above all the others in my mind. It was a shot for the ages, as my good friend Jim Nantz might say, that ill-advised 6-iron from the pine straw on Augusta’s 13th hole in the final round of the Masters.

Here’s what I wrote the day after Phil Mickelson won his third Green Jacket:
Phil is going for it. That shot (above) off the pine straw through the trees over the water on 13? A Phil special. Bones was against it. Butch was against it. Millions of fans were probably trying to talk some sense to Phil through their TVs. “Lay up, Phil. Just lay up.” Phil’s NOT laying up. The 207-yard 6-iron was a gutsy and brilliant play that turned things in his favor.
Interesting to see that I wrote “gutsy” and “brilliant.” It seemed like everyone was on Lefty’s bandwagon after he pulled off the seemingly impossible shot that helped win him another Masters. There are also the many times he has gambled and failed—and gotten blasted for it. That’s all-or-nothing Phil. When he succeeds, our jaws drop. When he fails, many say, “What a bonehead.”

This is the shot I’ll remember for a long time. It’s the one we’ll see dozens of times in the years to come.

−The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, December 26

Seattle, ‘Golf’s Golden Age’ and More

I’M IN SEATTLE FOR the holidays. We flew in on Christmas night from Charlotte, fortunate to avoid the snow storm that was bearing down on parts of the Southeast. My brother-in-law, our gracious host, has already gifted me with two things I can use: a Starbucks gift card (I really needed a strong cup of java this morning) and a golf history book titled Golf’s Golden Age: Robert T. Jones, Jr. and the Legendary Players of the ‘10s, ‘20s, and ‘30s.

Written by Museum and Archives Director Rand Jerris, the book is published by the USGA in partnership with National Geographic. It has the look and feel of a coffee table book, with mini profiles and classic photographs of the men who shaped amateur and professional golf in the early 20th century. So now I can brush up on Ted Ray, “Wild” Bill Melhorn, Denny Shute and many others.

On Thursday, this armchair golfer may see action on the course. We have a tee time at Chambers Bay, site of this year’s U.S. Amateur and the 2015 U.S. Open. My game could not be more rusty. I haven’t played since late summer. Nor do I have my clubs, or spikes, for that matter. I will play with a borrowed set of clubs and a pair of running shoes. It makes no difference. I will get to see the course so many people have been talking about.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, December 24

How the Grinch Stole a Golf Club Membership

(From the ARMCHAIR GOLF archives.)

THANKS TO AN ANONYMOUS TIP, I caught up with the Grinch after a recent round of golf. The Grinch, as it turns out, has been playing golf four days a week at what is normally his busiest time of year.

“So how are things in Whoville?” I asked.

“Rotten,” the Grinch snickered. “The Whos are really hurting. Christmas isn’t even worth stealing this year. Why do you think I’m playing golf? I had to find something to do.”

The Grinch has been teeing it up at an undisclosed location, a well-known private club that fears bad publicity if word gets out that the Grinch is a member.

“These fancy golf clubs are losing members faster than kids can unwrap their silly gifts,” the Grinch sneered. “Membership is hitting rock bottom—one in five private clubs could go under in a few years. They had to take me.”

And how does the Grinch know so much about the state of golf?

“I read about it in the Wall Street Journal. Free subscription.”

Actually, the Grinch doesn’t like golf.

“What a stupid game,” he said. “But it’s great for killing time, and I’ve got plenty of it. I do like driving the cart. I even drive it on the greens.

“They’re not going to do anything about it,” the Grinch added, chuckling. “I’m one of their only players now.”

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, December 23

The 7 Most Effective Ways to Quit Golf



I LIKE THIS GAME. I really do. I’m not an advocate of quitting, but I realize that some may need to take that drastic step. If you’re at a point where you need to end your relationship with golf, then it’s wise to seek professional help. Will Robins is a PGA member and experienced golf coach who can help you make a clean break from this bedeviling game. Godspeed.

Here’s a recap of the seven most effective ways to quit golf that are demonstrated in Robins’ video.

1. The bag toss.

2. The hit and run.

3. The shallow grave.

4. How to break a club.

5. Le cement de corden bleu.

6. Compton style.

7. Adding a little flare.

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, December 22

Brandel Chamblee No Longer ‘Gutless Lamb’

JOHNNY MILLER ISN’T THE ONLY golf talking head who has strong opinions. Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee is known to espouse his views on a range of golf topics, including the new swing and swing coach of Tiger Woods.

Chamblee recently sat for an interview with Golf Magazine’s Connell Barrett. In his opening, Barrett called Brandel the most underrated commentator in golf. Interview topics included Tiger (of course), golf’s next great player, and whether the Golf Channel analyst would consider joining a major network. (He’s been courted.)

Today, the magazine published follow-up questions from readers and Chamblee’s answers. A Canadian man asked how and when Chamblee’s transformation into an “opinionated, forceful personality” came about.

At the 2007 Masters, Brandel answered.

“I came off a show and thought, you gutless lamb, take a stand. The next day I did, and it felt more like me. More like when I'm home, in the kitchen with friends, laughing, arguing and yelling. That is what TV should be like.”

A woman asked if Chamblee thought Johnny Miller should apologize for his comment about Phil Mickelson’s chipping during the Ryder Cup. (If Phil couldn’t chip, he’d be selling used cars in San Diego.) The woman said she liked Johnny but thought he went over the line.

Brandel?

“I have to say that I applaud the effort made by Johnny to think of another way of saying how good Phil is around the greens. ...You can quote a statistic, you can describe the action, or you can exaggerate to make a point. ...TV is entertainment, after all, and like him or not Johnny is entertaining.”

Chamblee went on to say that Phil knows this and wouldn’t have hard feelings, “although he probably rolled his eyes.”

I think a lot of people roll their eyes at Johnny’s comments. Some turn down the sound. Occasionally, I cringe, but for the most part I get a kick out of Johnny’s unfiltered and sometimes goofball commentary. Chamblee is more polished and not far behind when it comes to having strong opinions.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, December 21

Brothers Molinari Are Augusta Bound

THIRTEEN PLAYERS HAVE QUALIFIED for the 2011 Masters based on their Official World Golf Ranking, including Italian brothers Francesco and Edoardo Molinari, both members of the winning European Ryder Cup team at Celtic Manor in Wales. The Masters invites players who are in the world top 50 at year’s end. Francesco is No. 15 and big brother Edoardo is No. 18. It will be Francesco’s first trip down Magnolia Lane. Edoardo has played at Augusta National twice, in 2006 and 2010, missing the cut on both occasions.

(Photo: Tiger practicing, patrons gawking. / Keith Allison, Flickr)


Rickie Fowler can also expect his first Masters invitation after finishing his rookie season on the PGA Tour ranked 28th in the world. Other players who have qualified are Robert Karlsson of Sweden (No. 17), Charl Schwartzel of South Africa (No. 34) and Ryo Ishikawa of Japan (No. 36). A total of 92 players are in. Additional players can qualify if they win an early-season PGA Tour event or slip into the top 50 by late March.

It’s only 105 days until Phil Mickelson defends his title. The 2011 Masters will be played April 7 through 10.

As AP reported, Tiger Woods will attempt to end his longest stretch without winning the Green Jacket or a major. By April, it will have been six years since Tiger’s last Masters title in 2005. Tiger has also come up empty in his last 10 majors.

The 2011 Masters field, so far


−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, December 20

Golf Digest’s 10 Best Golf States




























WHEN I THINK OF best golf states, I think of perpetual sunshine, warm temperatures and a year-round golf season. In other words, Hawaii, California, Arizona, Florida and South Carolina. But this list surprised me, and might surprise you as well.

Golf Digest ranked America’s 10 best golf states based on top public courses per capita. And here they are.

1. Hawaii
Comment: Of course.

2. South Carolina

Comment: I’m only five or six hours from Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head and Kiawah. That’s too far.

3. Nevada
Comment: Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe. Need I say more?

4. Michigan

Comment: Surprise! Michigan has more five-star courses than any other state.

5. Wisconsin
Comment: Home of Whistling Straits and 68 other four-star or higher courses.

6. Colorado
Comments: Not just ski resorts.

7. Vermont
Comment: Really? Yes, the second least-populous state in the union has good golf (per capita).

8. Nebraska
Comment: No need for Warren Buffet to leave his home state to tee it up.

9. Arizona
Comment: No surprise.

10. North Dakota
Comment: Seriously, Golf Digest? Yes. The season may be short but the green fees and people are known to be friendly.

Read more about the magazine’s 10 best golf states and view a slide show here.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: James Workman/Flickr)

Sunday, December 19

‘Tiger vs. Jack’ and Other Golf Titles

A QUICK LIST OF golf books that have landed in my mail and email boxes in recent days.

Tiger vs. Jack: Golf’s Greatest Rivalry
By Phil Capelle
A book devoted to the rivalry between Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, golf’s two all-time greatest players, including in-depth analysis of their games, records and the eras in which they competed. Capelle is the author of Capelle on Golf, a golf blog. More

Golf Sonnets

By James Long Hale
A small book that puts Shakespeare on the golf course, with 18 entertaining 14-line sonnets that convey the wonders and trauma of the ancient game. More

The Intelligent Golfer: How to Play a Civilized Game

By Scott Martin and Bryan Curtis
A book that teaches what someone needs to know to play golf—especially handling the social nuances and getting the most enjoyment from the game both on and off the course. More

Golf Style: Homes and Collections Inspired by the Course and the Clubhouse

By Vicky Moon
Advertised as the most comprehensive book for lovers of golf and its iconic style. Includes more than 500 photos and in-depth stories about characters, courses, clubhouses, traditions, innovations and historical moments. More

Mr. Hogan, The Man I Knew
By Kris Tschetter with Steve Eubanks
Kris Tschetter is an LPGA player who chronicles her amazing friendship with, and lessons learned from, the great Ben Hogan. More

Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet on Everything

By Kevin Cook
A biography of the colorful Alvin “Titanic” Thompson, a legendary gambler and con man. Thompson became an adept golfer who pocketed thousands on the golf course playing from both sides of the little white ball. More

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, December 17

The Golf Art of Steven Anthony Salerno




















“ART CELEBRATING THE GREATEST game ever played.” That’s the message in small print as the site of Steven Anthony Salerno loads. Steven granted me permission to “hang” a few samples of his limited edition golf prints at ARMCHAIR GOLF, a fitting way to end the week. He offers signed limited edition prints in a handful of categories: Bethpage series, Pebble, greatest golfers, golfscapes and more. All are printed on 100 percent cotton rag archival fine art paper with brilliant permanent pigment inks.

Salerno’s golf art has been featured on PGATour.com in the Player Spotlight feature section, including portrait images of tour players such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Mike Weir, Padraig Harrington and Camilo Villegas.

Steven can play the game, too. As a teen, he won the Vermont Junior Amateur Championship. As a young man, he worked as an assistant golf professional at The Yale Golf Club and Racebrook Country Club in Connecticut. Salerno is a graduate of Parsons School of Design in New York City.

Visit his online gallery at SASgolf.com.


















−The Armchair Golfer

(Images used with permission of Steven Anthony Salerno.)

Thursday, December 16

Golf Fix: 100th South African Open

IF YOU’RE A GOLF nut who can’t get enough golf on the tube, my tip is the 100th playing of the South African Open, this week’s event on the European Tour and Sunshine Tour. (The PGA and LPGA tours, of course, are idle. The Asian Tour is playing its season finale, the Black Mountain Masters, which is televised throughout Europe, Asia and Australia.)

Played at Durban Country Club, the South African Open field includes South African golf stars Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Tim Clark, Trevor Immelman and Louis Oosthizen, the current British Open champion. Thursday’s first round was delayed by heavy rain and will resume on Friday.

Dating back to 1903, the South African Open is one of the world’s oldest golf championships. (The oldest, of course, is the British Open, or The Open Championship, as non-Yanks call it.) Gary Player has won his homeland’s tournament 13 times. Player’s first victory came in 1956, the last in 1981. Fellow South African Bobby Locke won nine times from 1935 to 1955. Els has four South African Open titles. Goosen, Immelman and Clark have two wins apiece.

Els assessed his year and chance this week in his online diary.

“I came out of the blocks pretty fast and won twice in March during the Florida swing,” Ernie wrote, “but after the US Open my game went off the boil and it’s been a struggle to get things back on track. But, as I’ve said in my last few updates, during the last month or so there have been signs that the hard work I’ve put in has started to pay off. If I can roll the ball well on the greens this week, then I can finish the year on a high note and hopefully win my fifth national championship.”

2010 South African Open TV Schedule

All U.S. TV coverage is on Golf Channel.

Friday, 12/17
9:30 AM – 12:30 PM ET

Saturday, 12/18
9:30 AM – 12:30 PM ET

Sunday, 12/19
9:30 AM – 12:30 PM ET

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Harry Lime/Flickr)

Wednesday, December 15

Tiger’s Bad Luck With the Irish

MUCH WAS MADE OF Tiger Woods’ final-round stumble in the Chevron World Challenge. Graeme McDowell made up four shots on Tiger and went on to beat the tournament host on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff. Surrendering leads has rarely happened during Tiger’s long golf reign. As media reported, it was the first time the former World No. 1 lost a tournament after leading by three strokes or more heading into the final round.

(Photo: The man in the middle caught Tiger and won in a playoff four years ago.)


That sounded right to me. Then I got an email from a reader. Tom thought he remembered Tiger losing a three-shot lead in the final round of a November event in Asia a few years back. Yesterday he confirmed it.

The tournament was the 2006 Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Golf Tour. Tied for the 54-hole lead, Tiger had a three-stroke lead with six holes to play. Tiger shot a 34 on the incoming nine, but was caught by his playing partner, who carded a 31. The opponent birdied three of those final six holes and two of the last three, including the 18th. Then he beat Tiger in the playoff.

The man who caught and beat Tiger? Padraig Harrington.

So, it’s true, no one has chased down Tiger from three or more shots back with 18 to play. But another feisty competitor did make up a three-shot deficit on Tiger in a six-hole stretch—and he also happens to be Irish.

Hmmm.

“The moral of the story: Tiger better be careful playing Irishmen in offbeat tournaments,” Tom wrote.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: proforged/Flickr)

Tuesday, December 14

2010 Golf Year in Review




























−The Armchair Golfer

(Flickr image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; adapted: Keith Allison, Editor B)

Monday, December 13

Lee Westwood Isn’t Telling

THOSE WHO FOLLOW GOLF are familiar with the story of Lee Westwood. After rising to No. 4 in the world in 2000, Lee tumbled to No. 266 two years later. The last eight years have been the pick and shovel work of returning to the top of the golf mountain. At last, the 37-year-old Westwood arrived at the summit on October 31, replacing Tiger Woods as No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

How did Westwood do it? Or, as Rory McIlroy wondered, “How did you manage to turn your life around?” In an intriguing interview with Anna Kessel, Lee is emphatic.

“I was very, very ruthless and honest with myself,” he said. “And I would never, ever, tell anyone else what I did until I’ve finished my career.”

It’s in the vault. And I mean the vault. McIlroy doesn’t know. Westwood’s father, who was the first to congratulate Westwood on his No. 1 ranking, doesn’t know. How about his wife, Laurae? Certainly she knows. “No,” Westwood said. Nobody knows.

Lee explained that there aren’t many people who have been to golf oblivion and made it all the way back. The toughened golfer is not going to Mapquest it for anyone. He did say it might make for good book reading later on when he hangs up the sticks.

But why give it away now? Westwood asked. He’s still in the business of trying to beat the world’s best golfers 30 or so weeks a year. “Golf is a very ruthless and selfish sport.”

I think Lee may have dropped a few hints. Technique might be part of the equation, fitness another, but I would wager that the five-and-a-half inches between Westwood’s ears are where the turnaround started and what made him a resurgent force on the fairways.

−The Armchair Golfer

Visor tips to Ryan Ballengee and John Strege for pointing me to the guardian.co.uk story.

(Image: Eugene Goh/Flickr)

Saturday, December 11

‘Scotland’s Caddies’ on Cheating



THE ABOVE AMUSING CLIP on the subject of cheating is from Scotland’s Caddies, a new 69-minute documentary about caddies from St. Andrews, Gleneagles, Dornoch, Troon, Turnberry and other famous Scottish courses. Apparently, these bag-toting characters have more than a few tales to tell.

The film was made by Ron Colby, who collected footage of Scotland’s storied courses and colorful caddies during a month-long golf trip in 2009. Scottish courses, villages and pubs serve as the backdrop for yarn spinners such as Jimmie Kelly and William Cowan.

“Miraculously, filming just seemed to fall into place,” Colby said in the announcement. “The caddies themselves were very forthcoming, regaling us with jokes, insights on the game, and stories about celebrities who gave them bad tips.”

You can watch more clips here, and learn more about (or order) the documentary here.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, December 10

U.S. and UK Professors Team to Improve FedEx Cup

CAN THE FEDEX CUP be fixed? It’s a question that presumes the PGA Tour points race is flawed or lacking, which I believe is a widespread view. To be honest, I haven’t spent much time thinking about it. I accept the FedEx Cup for what it is.

I do know the PGA Tour has tinkered with the FedEx Cup structure over the years to both reward good season-long play and create an exciting playoff run that gives more than a few players a chance to take home the Cup and $10 million. How well the tour has achieved that balance is an ongoing debate.

Now I’ve learned from a recent email from the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) that academia is at work on a study to ratchet up the excitement in the FedEx Cup. They write:
With controversy stirring about the shortage in excitement generated by the PGA TOUR’s FedEx Cup, two professors on opposite sides of the Atlantic have come up with a provocative recommendation about changing the format to amplify the excitement in the Tour Championship.

“A Proposal for Redesign of the FedEx Cup Playoff Series on the PGA TOUR” by Nicholas G. Hall of Ohio State University and Chris N. Potts of the University of Southampton in the UK will appear next year in our professional association’s journal.
How about that? Ohio State and University of Southampton in a true bicontinental effort for the good of golf. I’m heartened. Maybe there is hope, after all.

I was told an advance copy of the study is available, and I’ve foolishly requested one. I say foolishly because it will surely be a scholastic tome with math in it, way over my head. I may have to assign it to one of you.

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, December 9

Anna Rawson Checks Out

ANNA RAWSON WILL TAKE a one-year break from golf, reported Beth Ann Baldry of Golfweek. In addition to hanging up the sticks for now, Rawson also thinks it may be time to leave modeling. The 29-year-old Australian who has been on 30 magazine covers feels like she’s “too old.”

Rawson finished 134th on the LPGA money list in 2010 and didn’t enter Q-School. She’s had one top 10 in three years on the tour. If she plays next season, it will be on sponsor exemptions. The USC grad is engaged and plans to explore business opportunities in 2011.

Rawson added that she’s “open to everything,” including a return to golf.

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, December 8

McDowell Refuses to Rub Salt in Tiger’s Wounds

Brian Keogh is a golf correspondent for The Irish Sun and a contributor to The Irish Times, Golf Digest Ireland and other golf publications. The following piece from Brian’s Irish Golf Desk is used with permission.

By Brian Keogh
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


GRAEME MCDOWELL DENTED TIGER WOODS’S battered reputation a little more with his play-off win over golf’s fallen idol in the Chevron World Challenge. But the Portrush star still ensured himself a place on the 14-time major winner’s Christmas card list when he insisted that it isn’t the end of an aura for the former world No 1. Only time will tell if he was being kind or prescient.

Woods had never before failed to win a professional tournament when leading by three shots or more entering the final round. But while McDowell came from four back to tie thanks to a dramatic 20 footer at the last and then claimed the title in sudden death by draining an almost identical 20 footer for another birdie, he reckons it won’t be long before Woods regains his mojo and the air of invincibility that made him golf’s ultimate predator.

Still pinching himself after a dream year that brought him his first major win at the US Open and a jump to a career high seventh in the world, McDowell said:

“I’m definitely a guy who says that golf needs Tiger Woods and we need him back winning tournaments. I think he can play his way back into having that mystique again. He used to appear invincible. Of course he’s made himself appear more human in the last 12 months. At the end of the day, we’re all humans and we all make mistakes and we all hit bad golf shots. But there’s something a bit special about his golf game, and I fully expect that mystique to return as the golf clubs start doing the talking again.”

McDowell’s win at the Chevron World Challenge was his fourth individual victory of the season following triumphs at Celtic Manor, Pebble Beach and Valderrama. He was also Europe’s solid gold hero in the Ryder Cup, where he secured the winning point with a gutsy victory over Hunter Mahan in the anchor singles.

Few expected McDowell to come from behind and deny Woods the victory he needed in Los Angeles to avoid the first winless season of his professional career. Tiger’s caddie Steve Williams certainly didn’t appear to think so as he cheekily took off his caddie’s bib as McDowell sized up the 20 foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole. As Williams shamelessly showed off his sponsor’s logo for the cameras once more, McDowell showed why he is a highly paid sportsman for something other than carrying a golf bag and reading double breaking putts. His 2010 season surpassed his wildest dreams, even if he did always believe that he was capable of doing something big in the game.

Reflecting on his two Tiger-killing birdies on the 18th, McDowell said: “They’re the kind of putts that you make them and you can’t really believe it afterwards. They were the stuff of dreams and 2010 has been the stuff of dreams. It’s been that kind of year. Not quite sure why.”

If McDowell was too modest to say why, we’ll do it for him. Hard work, self-belief, talent and sheer, blood-minded determination. That’s why.

Brian Keogh covers golf for The Irish Sun and contributes to a variety of golf publications. Pay him a visit at Irish Golf Desk.

(Image: Keith Allison/Flickr)

Tuesday, December 7

Q&A: Arnold Palmer

I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY to talk to Arnold Palmer the week before Thanksgiving. In a telephone interview (he was in warm Orlando and I was in chilly Virginia), we covered a handful of topics, including the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills. This year marked the 50th anniversary of Arnold’s famous (and lone) U.S. Open victory, considered to be one of the greatest ever played. Arnold charged by 20-year-old amateur Jack Nicklaus and 47-year-old Ben Hogan, who still had plenty of game but faltered on the final holes.

The 1954 U.S. Amateur champion, Arnold turned professional and joined the tour in 1955. His first of 62 PGA Tour wins came at the 1955 Canadian Open. Following is a portion of our conversation.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: When you came out as a rookie, who were the players that you really admired and looked up to?

ARNOLD PALMER: I think Nelson and Hogan and Middlecoff and Mangrum and Snead.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: There were a bunch of good players, weren’t there?

ARNOLD PALMER: Yes, there were.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I wonder if you remembered Harvie Ward?

ARNOLD PALMER: I played against Harvie in college. (Arnold attended Wake Forest University.)

ARMCHAIR GOLF: He was at North Carolina, wasn’t he?

ARNOLD PALMER: That’s right. The first time I played Harvie Ward, he shot 67 and I dusted him 5 and 4.

(Me laughing.)

ARMCHAIR GOLF: What kind of player was he, Arnold?

ARNOLD PALMER: He was a great player. He was a good friend and a great player.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: That’s what others have told me, too. And he continued to compete as an amateur but I’ve had people tell me that he was one of the best players in the world as an amateur in the mid 50s.

ARNOLD PALMER: That’s right.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I wanted to ask you what life on tour was like when you first came out. I talked to Rossie [Bob Rosburg] a couple of years ago before he passed. He said he traveled with you and there was a lot of camaraderie and it was just a whole different scene back then. Can you tell me a little bit of your impressions of life on tour back in the 50s?

ARNOLD PALMER: We drove everywhere, first thing. For the first year I was on tour, I pulled a trailer. That was interesting in itself, with my wife, going from the West coast to the East coast and then up to my home. My wife said to me, “I love you and I’ll do anything you want, but I’m not going to live in a trailer ever again.” (Chuckling.)

ARMCHAIR GOLF: It was not an easy thing to do, was it?

ARNOLD PALMER: No, it sure wasn’t. It was tough.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I look at purses where the total purse was 15, 20, 25 thousand dollars.

ARNOLD PALMER: Hell, there were only 15 money places on the tour. At every tournament, the max was 15. And 15th was $100. So, you think about that. And if you won and it was a pretty good tournament, you won $2,000.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: That was a different era, for sure. There was a nice celebration at Cherry Hills this past summer to celebrate the 50th anniversary of your [1960 U.S. Open] win there. Can you tell me what that was like for you?

ARNOLD PALMER: It was wonderful. I’m trying to think who all was there. Some of the guys that played in the Open were there. Cherry Hills did a wonderful job of putting on a big affair. The membership was sold out. We talked about the Open and some of things that happened. It was very nice.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: You probably remember quite a bit about that Open.

ARNOLD PALMER: I wouldn’t say I could give you all the details, but I remember some of things that happened. I thought I played pretty well for three rounds and nothing happened. I was just sort of in limbo. Then the last round, it all happened.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I’ve gone over that front nine you shot on the fourth round, where you birdied something like six out of the first seven holes. I know you shot 30 on the front nine of that final round.

ARNOLD PALMER: Right.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Do you remember when you reached that point where you thought I’m right in this and I can win it?

ARNOLD PALMER: In those days, I kind of played like I could win whatever, from anywhere. And I played a little bit that way.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Do you think you were a little bit more focused and a better player when you played from behind?

ARNOLD PALMER: Let’s just say I never ruled out the possibility of winning. Until it was figuratively impossible, I always thought I had a shot.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I think you were playing right behind Hogan and Nicklaus during that final round.

ARNOLD PALMER: Yeah, you’re right.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: You saw Hogan hit into the water on 17?

ARNOLD PALMER: I did. I was standing in the middle of the fairway when he hit into the water.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: And then you were probably thinking a couple of pars and you’d be in pretty good shape.

ARNOLD PALMER: I knew that I had a shot if I didn’t screw up the last two holes.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Did you like the golf course?

ARNOLD PALMER: Cherry Hills? Very much, yes.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: And 280 ended up winning the Open, after all, Arnold. You did it.

ARNOLD PALMER: Right. (Chuckling.)

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image courtesy of Golf Channel)

Monday, December 6

‘The Three Tenors’ of Graeme McDowell

THOSE THREE PUTTS THAT Graeme McDowell dropped at 17, 18 and 18 to beat Tiger Woods yesterday at the Chevron World Challenge were virtuosity, sort of like (sorry in advance) The Three Tenors.

By some odd coincidence, I tuned in to the final round of the Chevron World Challenge as Woods and McDowell reached the 14th hole. I wasn’t planning on watching golf, but my daughters had relinquished the TV in the living room and I took control of the remote.

Tiger had coughed up his four-shot lead and the pesky Irishman was not backing off an inch. This was kind of interesting, even if it was a silly season event. The more I watched, the more I realized there was nothing silly about the late-afternoon drama at Sherwood Country Club. Progress is progress, but, let’s face it, Tiger needed this win. He had a four-stroke lead heading into the final round. Four strokes. He’s Tiger Woods. It’s part of the brand. No choking on Sunday. I don’t care if it’s an 18-player event in December, it’s on NBC. People are watching. He needed to get it done. Instead, Tiger looked like he had been through the pressure cooker—and was cooked.

McDowell yanked his 8-iron on the par-3 17th and had such awful options that he deliberated forever. I grew impatient. C’mon, Graeme, make up your mind. I couldn’t believe he was considering dropping his ball on the 18th tee for a blind 40-yard pitch. Then he knocked the darn thing on 10 feet away. Tiger missed his birdie, and McDowell grinded over his bogey putt and sank it. I’ll call that one the “Jose Carreras.”

Tied, Tiger stuffed his approach shot on the 18th while McDowell pulled his iron and rolled to a stop 20 feet away. It’s over. Everybody knows it. We’ve seen this before. Stevie removed his caddie bib. But McDowell stalked the putt like his life depended on it. Then the ol’ boy rolled it in the heart, a “Placido Domingo.”

Hello! What’s this? Wow!

Tiger nudged in his three-footer and they headed back to the 18th tee. Up to this point, I could accept what happened. McDowell is tough. The man can make an important putt. As impressive as it was, it’s not inconceivable that he could hole a clutch putt on the final green, even against Tiger Woods.

But McDowell’s third putt, the “Luciano Pavarotti,” about put me over the edge. Three holes, three putts of 10, 20 and 25 feet to beat Tiger in a playoff. I admit it wasn’t the U.S. Open, nor was it the Ryder Cup, but those were still three of the best putts I’ve seen anyone drop in a long, long while. The look on Tiger’s face said it all.

−The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, December 5

Players Select Jim Furyk as 2010 POY



IN A VOTE BY PGA Tour players, Jim Furyk was awarded the 2010 PGA Tour Player of the Year. Others on the ballot included Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson, but Furyk was the clear choice in my mind. Jim’s victory at the Tour Championship sealed the deal. He also walked off with the FedEx Cup and its $10 million bonus. His two other wins came at the Transitions Championship and Verizon Heritage.

“The year just keeps getting better is all I can say,” Furyk told reporters at the Chevron World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, California. “I’m not sure I want 2010 to end at this point.”

In a year defined by Tiger Woods’s free-fall off and on the golf course, the 40-year-old Furyk had the best season of his 18-year career to rise above other contenders for the tour’s largest pot of gold (FedEx Cup) and top award. No one—not even Furyk himself, I expect—could have seen it coming. No knock on Jim, but I wouldn’t expect him to win POY again. The Tiger vacuum created unexpected opportunities this season for Furyk and other veteran players and rising stars. What happens in 2011 is anyone’s guess.

Rickie Fowler won PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, December 3

Ian Poulter Visits ‘Fat Booth’

IAN POULTER HAD SOME FUN yesterday with the Fat Booth application and posted links to the photos on Twitter. It got a little crazy. Fat pics of Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods, Colin Montgomerie, Camilo Villegas, Rory McIlroy, LeBron James, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson turned up. Poults couldn’t stop himself. He was laughing his fat head off.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Visor tip to Golf.com.)

Thursday, December 2

2010 LPGA Tour Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2010 LPGA TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP is underway at Grand Cypress Golf Club in Orlando, Florida. The first round was suspended due to darkness. Amy Yang and Seon Hwa Lee are the leaders in the clubhouse at 5-under 67.

Purse: $1.5 million
Defending champion: Anna Nordqvist

Tournament preview
Final field
Pairings
Interviews
The course

2010 LPGA Tour Championship Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

All TV coverage of the 2010 LPGA Tour Championship is on Golf Channel.

Fri, Dec 3
1:30 - 3:30 PM ET

Sat, Dec 4
7:30 - 9:30 PM ET

Sun, Dec 5
7:30 - 9:30 PM ET

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Keith Allison/Flickr)

Wednesday, December 1

An Outdated Glimpse of Kyle Stanley

KYLE STANLEY, AN ALL-AMERICAN at Clemson and Nationwide Tour player, leads the final stage of the PGA Tour Q-school after a first-round 65 at the Orange County Golf Center in Orlando, Florida. Stanley finished 35th on the Nationwide Tour money list and won the 2009 Ben Hogan Award, the most prestigious award in men’s college golf.

Every once in a while I get a call from my brother-in-law. “Hey, did you hear about Kyle Stanley?” He made the cut at the U.S. Open. He’s near the lead in Boise. Or something else.

It’s a topic because we used to watch Kyle run around on the lawn with his sister at Glendale Country Club in Bellevue, Washington. He might have been 10 years old. Kyle’s dad, Matt, was a friend of my father-in-law. There was a group of us that would gather for Memorial Day and Labor Day barbecues at the club. I wasn’t a member. I was strictly a guest eater and pretend son of Mel in the father-son tournament. It was an opportunity to pig out and make small talk with people I saw twice a year.

There was Kyle throwing ball out on the grass with his older sister. Every once in a while he’d make a breathless pit stop at our table to check in with mom and dad. That kid out on the lawn turned out to be a phenomenal golfer.

I saw Kyle at the 2009 Wyndham Championship in Greensboro pounding balls on a sweltering August afternoon. I had a fleeting thought of saying something to him but quickly reconsidered. He wouldn’t know me. What would I say? I used to eat ribs and corn on the cob with your dad on Memorial Day weekend ...

Funny, I got one of those “Kyle” messages exactly a month ago from another person who sat with us and the Stanleys in the Glendale dining room.

“Ever thought about looking into Kyle Stanley who is now on the Nationwide Tour?” Karen wrote in an email. “He is not winning but I see on Sunday reports that he hangs around the 10-30 spot. Big Ed loved Kyle.”

(Big Ed was my father-in-law. He died in 2006.)

I think Kyle Stanley is going to make it to the big show, the PGA Tour. I’m sure I’ll be hearing more about him. The kid can flat play.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, November 30

Will Allowing Cell Phones Increase Tour Attendance?

INEVITABLE. THAT SEEMS TO be the word when it comes to cell phones being allowed at PGA Tour events, perhaps as soon as the 2011 season. Cell phones were welcomed at the Wyndham Championship in August as part of a test run. From what I’ve read, the experiment was successful. No cell phone mishaps were reported.

Golf Channel has reported that there will be two more trials, one at this week’s Chevron World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, California. The other test venue will be the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in early 2011.

The reasoning, according to Golf Channel:
... the PGA Tour has been discussing the cell phone policy for several months and feels that, in today’s world, fans can become disconnected for long periods of time while on the golf course. Their hope is that allowing people to carry a cell phone while at a tournament will help grow attendance.
Cell phones, of course, must be silenced or set on vibrate. And a new policy allowing cell phones at PGA Tour events wouldn’t apply to the majors, which are governed by other bodies.

But would new cell phone guidelines add fans at tour events?

I’m not so sure about that. It will certainly remove an annoyance for current spectators and a potential obstacle to others who might wander out for an event. But a sudden uptick in attendance seems doubtful.

There are bound to be occasional cell phone incidents, and tour pros—especially those with rabbit ears—will likely claim to hear them go off, vibrate, etc. They’ll have to live with it because cell phones are here to stay. Keeping them off the golf course just isn’t realistic.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: KB35/Flickr)

Monday, November 29

Poulter Blunder Overshadows Karlsson Win

Editor’s note: Brian Keogh is a golf correspondent for The Irish Sun and a regular contributor to The Irish Times, Golf Digest Ireland and other golf publications. The following piece is excerpted from his blog, Irish Golf Desk. 

By Brian Keogh
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


IT WASN’T QUITE DECIDED by the flip of a coin, but it will feel that way to Ian Poulter after he bizarrely lost the Dubai World Championship to Robert Karlsson on the second play-off hole. The flamboyant Englishman potentially lost more than €416,000—€303,452 in event prize money plus another €113,000 from the Race to Dubai Bonus Pool—when he marked his ball and then dropped it onto his “lucky” marker.

The “coin”—a custom-made platinum token inscribed with the names of his children—flipped over. And as a result, Poulter was penalised a vital stroke under one of golf’s most arcane rules, effectively turning a thrilling finish to the European Tour season into a crushing anti-climax. Instead of sizing up a birdie putt of over 30 feet that would have force the Swede to hole his four footer for the win, Poulter was left putting for a par five. Understandably, he left it short, and with the pressure off Karlsson needed only one putt to claim the €910,349 top prize and his 11th European Tour title.

Germany’s Martin Kaymer claimed the Race to Dubai from Graeme McDowell and a bonus of $1.5m as he finished tied for 13th with the Ulsterman on six under par.

But the story of the week was completely overshadowed by Poulter’s mishap, which cost him the chance to continue his fight for back-to-back wins following his Hong Kong Open success. Had he beaten Karlsson he would have overtaken Lee Westwood and finished third in the final Race to Dubai standings.

“It’s a shame it’s just ended the way it has and it’s not a consolation for me that Robert holed the putt in any case,” Poulter said after a play-off that saw them brilliantly card matching birdie fours on the first extra hole. “It’s a strange rule because if I had dropped the ball on the middle of the marker and it had not moved there’s no penalty.

“But I should not drop my ball on it. It’s been my lucky marker since the start of the year and has got my kids’ names on. There are always positives, but right now I’m not seeing them.”

Poulter feared the worst after his faux pas and heard the bad news almost straight away when he called over Chief Referee Andy McFee and was informed that he was being penalised under Decision 20-1/15. Asked how frustrating it felt, he did little to hide his disgust as he lost 23 world ranking points and the chance to go to seventh in the world, instead of just eighth

“About 20 world ranking points, a lovely trophy and about $400,000—that much frustrating,” Poulter said.

At first, Rory McIlroy was sympathetic to Poulter’s plight as he informed the world on Twitter: “So gutted for @ianJamesPoulter !! What a crap rule! Still great playing for the last few weeks!” Minutes later, McIlroy tweeted again: “Poults may not have won the Dubai World Championship, but he could be in with a shout for tiddlywinks world championship!”

Ouch.

Karlsson was a worthy winner after a final round that saw him birdie the first two holes and then hole an eight iron from 172 yards for an eagle two at the third.

“These things happen in golf. It’s not the way you want to win,” Karlsson said. “The rules are there for a reason but some of them can be tough.”

Despite his failure to secure the top-three finish he needed to overhaul Kaymer in the Race to Dubai, McDowell was upbeat after closing with rounds of 69 and 68 to share 13th with his rival.

“Friday was the disappointing day for me because I lost my head, got impatient and got frustrated with myself,” he said. “To shoot seven under par and play as well as I have this weekend makes me very proud of what I’ve achieved this season. It was a nice way to finish.”

With Westwood finishing the year as world No. 1, McDowell now believes that he too has a chance to go on and become the best player in the world some day.

He said: “Of course, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think I could be world No. 1. I think a few years ago, Tiger Woods looked pretty untouchable, pretty invincible, and we were all playing for second really.

“Nowadays is a little different. When I look at one of my good friends and colleagues as the world’s No. 1 player, do I believe I can be world No. 1? Of course I do.”

Brian Keogh covers golf for The Irish Sun and contributes to a variety of golf publications. Pay him a visit at Irish Golf Desk.

(Image: Harry Lime/Flickr)

Saturday, November 27

Tiger Takes a Bow in Thailand
































TIGER WOODS, SHOWN ABOVE with Thailand’s best golfer, Thongchai Jaidee (far right), was treated like a rock star during his early November visit to Thailand for a one-day charity skins game that raised 2.2 million baht ($75,000) for flood victims. It was Tiger’s first visit to Thailand in 10 years.

Apparently, Tiger messed up the greeting with the Prime Minister.

“The Thai people adore Tiger Woods because of this family connection to the country,” said Mark Siegel, managing director of Golfasian Co. Ltd.

“However, they must have been a bit disappointed that he shook hands with the Prime Minister instead of returning his ‘wai,’ the traditional Thai greeting of palms pressed together with a head bow that is a sign of humility and respect. Not the stuff of international incident, but I bet Tiger heard it from his mom.”

Ranked 85th in the Official World Golf Ranking. Jaidee is two shots behind leader Ian Poulter heading into the final round of the Dubai World Championship.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo courtesy of Mandarin Media)

Friday, November 26

The Genius of Johnny Miller

HATE HIM OR LOVE HIM, Johnny Miller is a lightning rod in the television tower and was an immensely talented player who could match shots with the best players of his generation, including Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino.

In The Genius of Johnny, Jaime Diaz profiles Miller for Golf Digest (December issue). Here’s an interesting tidbit that I didn’t know (or had forgotten). John Miller was told by his agent, Ed Barner, to go by “Johnny” to promote his image. But he grew up being called “John” and signs his name without adding the “ny.”

I remember Johnny as a player who literally knocked down the flagsticks in the mid 1970s at PGA Tour stops such as Tucson, Phoenix and Palm Springs. Sometimes faulty, my memory served me well. Diaz reports that Johnny “did crazy-good things, like hitting the flag 10 times with iron shots while winning at Tucson.”

My favorite player was Jack Nicklaus, but Johnny Miller was the best iron player I ever saw. From January 1974 to January 1975, Miller won 10 times in a career that produced 25 PGA Tour victories, two of them majors, the 1973 U.S. Open and 1976 British Open. Johnny slumped after the mid 1970s blitz and has said he lost his desire to excel on tour as he and wife Linda raised six children.

Here’s what a couple of Johnny’s peers told Diaz.
Lanny Wadkins: “Johnny was the best I ever saw at hitting pure golf shots. I was very fortunate to play with a lot of the true greats: Jack and Trevino and Tiger, sure, but also Snead, Hogan and Nelson, who might have been past it, but not so you couldn’t see what they could do. But I can’t imagine that anyone in history has ever consistently hit the ball as solid and as close to the pin as Johnny did.”

Lee Trevino: “Johnny’s advantage was damn-near perfect mechanics. He had that extremely weak grip like Hogan, and he would set it going back and then just release it as hard as he could with total confidence. He didn’t have to re-route it or hold onto it or practice like hell, like most of the rest of us. Maybe because he grooved it so young, he was basically on automatic, where hitting the ball hard and straight and solid was actually easy. He got to a very rare place.”
Among others things, Johnny says one of his regrets is not winning the Masters, where he finished second three times. Wherever you stand on Johnny, Diaz’s profile is a worthwhile read. You’ll probably learn something you didn’t know about him.

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, November 24

Q&A: Errie Ball Turns 100

TALKING TO ERRIE BALL is like stepping into a time machine. Ball, who recently turned 100, was befriended by Bobby Jones at the 1930 British Open, the year Jones completed the Grand Slam. The Wales native came to America at Jones’s urging and took an assistant job at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. Jones later invited him to play in the first Masters in 1934. Ball is the only surviving player from that inaugural tournament at Augusta National.

(Photo: The first Masters, left to right: G. Sargent, Errie Ball, Charlie Yates, Bobby Jones. / Chicagolandgolf.com)

Errie Ball has seen and/or played with all the greats of the last 80 years, from Harry Vardon to Bobby Jones to Ben Hogan. I talked to Errie three years ago when he was only 97. He is a treasure. Following is an excerpt from our conversation.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: What was it like playing in that first Masters?

ERRIE BALL: The first Masters, they were having a lot of trouble getting it off to a good start. It was like a friendly deal. I didn’t feel too scared or nervous at all in the first one because it was more relaxed. Bob Jones made it that way. There was a lot of liquor floating around. Of course, in those days, I didn’t drink anyway. But it was more relaxing. When I played it again in 1957 it was a different story. It was really big time.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Bobby Jones was very instrumental in your coming to America and in your golf career.

ERRIE BALL: He was. I played in the British Open the year he won at Hoylake in England. Hoylake is my family’s course where they played, and they played Hoylake and my father played there. I played quite a bit at Hoylake. I think I played two British Opens on Hoylake. But the last time was about 1936.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Did you ever meet Harry Vardon?

ERRIE BALL: No. I saw him in the distance and watched him. My father was a good friend of Harry Vardon. He had a beautiful swing. I know that.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Some of the more recent golf stories that have been written like The Greatest Game Ever Played are helping people understand what a great champion he was. Most people barely know of Bobby Jones but Vardon was quite something.

ERRIE BALL: He was. It’s an entirely different game today compared to those days. They played all kinds of shots. There weren’t any 150-yard markers at all and they had to just play by sight.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Back in those early days, like you said, the pros made their own clubs. I think I read Ted Ray only carried seven or eight sticks on the golf course. So it wasn’t at all like it is now.

ERRIE BALL: You could take a five iron and play all kinds of shots with it. Go down the shaft, play the little chip shots, or shots into the wind. You could play several shots with it. It was called a mashie in those days.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I read you were the youngest person to compete in the British Open. In 1926, I read you were either 15 or 16 years old when you played in the British Open. Is that true?

ERRIE BALL: I’m not sure about that myself. The press wrote it up that I was the youngest, but I really actually don’t remember that. I know I played in it as a boy. I must have been about 16 or 17, something like that.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Was that in the ’26 Open or 1930?

ERRIE BALL: 1930. I played one time in the 20s in the Open, because Hoylake was fairly close to where I lived, where my family lived anyway, so we’d go over there and play.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: The first British Open you played in was 1930?

ERRIE BALL: That’s the one I remember the most. That’s the one Jones played in on the way to his Grand Slam.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Are you still playing golf?

ERRIE BALL: I’ve had a couple of operations, double bypass, which has taken me off the golf course and I haven’t really played 18 holes in two years. But I’ve hit a lot of balls on the practice tee and still give a few lessons. I’m feeling a lot better now but I think I’ll probably start playing soon.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, November 23

Player Caddies for Player on Ladies’ Legends Tour

MEAGHAN FRANCELLA IS A tour veteran who has won on the LPGA and Futures tours. But last week Francella was a caddie for 18-time LPGA Tour winner Meg Mallon at the ISPS Legends Tour Open Championship at Innisbrook Resort and Spa in Palm Harbor, Florida. It was an off week for Francella on the LPGA circuit, so she picked up her friend’s golf bag during the 45-and-older LPGA-member event. She probably would have felt more comfortable playing.

“I was pretty nervous on the first two holes because I didn’t want to get in the way,” Francella said at LPGA.com. “Meg doesn’t need much. She can hit all the shots and some of the shots she hits are unbelievable.”

(Photo: Meaghan Francella)

Besides helping a friend, Francella said she learned from watching the Hall of Famers, Solheim Cup captains and players, and other veterans in the legends field.

“She’s a really good player and should be a top-20 player on the LPGA Tour,” Mallon said about Francella. “Maybe this will be a great experience for her to watch these players this week.”

Francella has one win since joining the LPGA Tour in 2006 and is currently ranked 56th on the money list.

Thirteen-time LPGA Tour winner Rosie Jones won the 36-hole Legends Tour event with a 9-under total of 135.

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, November 22

Fla. Golfer Yells ‘Fore’ on Every Shot

WAYNE WRIGHT IS A 14 handicapper who, like a lot of seniors, is losing distance off the tee but makes up for it with a good short game. The 71-year-old retiree plays four times a week at a 45-hole public golf facility near his home in Sarasota, Florida. And, as of a week ago, Wright yells “fore” on every shot he hits.

The new on-course behavior stems from a lawsuit involving two doctors reported last week by various media. During an October 2002 round on a Long Island golf course, one of the doctors was blinded when struck by the other doctor’s golf ball. The blinded doctor filed a lawsuit against the other doctor for not shouting “fore.” The case is working its way through the court system.

In Sarasota, Wright’s deep baritone voice can be heard throughout the golf course as he warns fellow golfers on each swing of the club. The retired contracts administrator said it was awkward the first round—especially at the crowded first tee area—but is now used to it. He told a reporter that it has become as much a part of his routine as replacing a divot or fixing a ball mark.

Yet Wright did admit that repeated shouts of “fore” seem like overkill to the course’s other golfers and has had some unintended consequences. It began when the first of his three regular playing partners dropped out of his foursome five days ago.

“Wayne is a good player,” said Phil, who didn’t give his last name. “He hits a nice little fade down the ol’ fairway and has never hit nobody as long as I can remember. I hated to break up the group over it …. But other than that, Wayne’s a really, really great guy.”

Fred, the worst player in the foursome, was next to hang it up. He made it through three games with Wright before asking the starter to find him a new morning group.

“I promised Wayne I wouldn’t sue him no matter what happened on the golf course. I even offered to put it in writing if he would stop it.”

One person not surprised by the odd new approach on the golf course is Wright’s wife.

“Wayne has always erred on the side of caution,” she said. “That’s kind of been his motto ever since we’ve been together. Even though he’s retired, he still likes to review indemnification clauses in his spare time.”

Wright is down to one golf partner. The loud twosome has caused other morning groups to rearrange their tee times in an effort to avoid being within earshot of Wright. For now, the remaining golfer, a man named Felix, is sticking with Wright.

“The hardest part,” he said, “is when Wayne yells ‘fore’ on putts.”

−The Armchair Golfer

(This is an ARMCHAIR GOLF spoof.)

(Image: Dan Perry/ Flickr)

Saturday, November 20

Tom Watson Demonstrates Bobby Locke Putting Grip



SOUTH AFRICAN GOLF GREAT Bobby Locke was born on this day in 1917.* As Tom Watson says in the above video clip, many players thought Locke was the best putter of all time. Locke’s artistry on the greens helped him to become one of the greatest players of his day, winning the British Open four times from 1949 to 1957.

After playing exhibition matches with Locke in South Africa, Sam Snead suggested Locke come to America. Sam later said his fellow pros chided him because Locke was so proficient at collecting money from American tournament purses. Locke won 15 times on the PGA Tour and was victorious in nine South African Opens over a 20-year span. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1977.

Watson offers a few more tips on the putting grip (including the reverse overlap grip), as well as pointers on putting setup. Then he sinks a slippery 30 footer. Bobby Locke would be proud.

−The Armchair Golfer

*Today in Golf History is a daily feature of USGA.org (United States Golf Association).

Friday, November 19

Two Drawings for Monarchs House Stay in St. Andrews

THE MONARCHS HOUSE IN St. Andrews will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2011. They’re so proud (and rightly so) that they will draw two winners for a free weeklong stay at their lovely home at the Home of Golf.

The Monarchs House has seven comfortable bedrooms (beds fitted with Egyptian cotton sheets), all with modern private baths. The House also has a snug (small room) with SkyTV satellite and a historical selection of DVDs, a formal dining room and a drawing room. There’s also a replica of the Claret Jug on the foyer table as you enter the House.

The two one-week stays are each for up to eight guests. Two drawings will decide the winners: 1) for guests who stay at the Monarchs House in 2011 (they will be automatically entered); 2) for those who provide their email address and a comment about why they would like to visit St. Andrews.

Monarchs House drawings and contest information


“It’s a cracking prize with no strings attached,” said managing partner Mike DiCarlo in an email.

But you knew that. Find out more.

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, November 18

I Need Some Space, Tiger

JUST WHEN I FELT like I really didn’t know you, Tiger—and was OK with that—I don’t feel like I know you, but in a new way. I don’t know how anyone else feels, but in the last two days you’re coming on a little too strong for me. The whole reaching out thing has me off balance. It’s not you. It would be like you wearing a bucket hat and purple pants, or using a long putter, or hanging with Rory Sabbatini.

The op-ed piece in Newsweek. The Mike & Mike interview. The new Web site. I don’t know what to make of it. It’s disorienting.

Can we slow things down?

The three tweets about sent me over the edge. “The best part about phone interviews is getting to wear shorts.” C’mon Tiger. You don’t like to do interviews, period. That’s the you I’m used to. Try something like this: “I don’t like to do interviews, but if I have to do them I like to wear shorts.” That’s a tweet I could handle.

I need some space, Tiger. Things are moving way too fast. This flurry of communication is overwhelming.

But if it’s only a PR play, great. I’m hoping that’s all it is. Because then we can get back to normal.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Keith Allison/Flickr)

Wednesday, November 17

The Ladies Parity Golf Association (LPGA)

THERE ARE SIX LADIES vying for the Rolex Player of the Year, Vare Trophy (lowest scoring average) and the LPGA money title: Yani Tseng, Ai Miyazato, Cristie Kerr, Jiyai Shin, Suzanne Pettersen and Na Yeon Choi. The post-Annika, post-Lorena LPGA has a new and very crowded look at the top. That’s why I was thinking we could start calling it the Ladies Parity Golf Association. We know they’re pros, so why not use the “P” for something that fits today’s LPGA?

They’ll settle POY, the money title and other season-ending issues at the LPGA Tour Championship in two weeks at the Grand Cypress Golf Club in Orlando, Florida.

(Photo: Yani Tseng / Keith Allison, Flickr)


It’s been crazy since Lorena Ochoa retired in May. The top spot in the Rolex Rankings (women’s world No. 1, not to be confused with Rolex Player of the Year) has turned over nine times among three players—Miyazato, Shin and Kerr. Shin is the current No. 1 and holds a slim .49 edge over Pettersen. Kerr is third and Tseng fourth.

The money title has come down to Shin and Choi. In addition, Choi, with a 69.77 scoring average, has a .09 lead over Kerr in the Vare Trophy race.

If I counted correctly, there have been 15 winners in 25 events thus far. Miyazato, Tseng, Kerr, Shin and Choi have multiple wins this season. The LPGA is an extremely competitive tour these days. That’s a positive.

But is parity a good thing? Mega stars like Sorenstam, Ochoa and, for the men, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, have brought more exposure to professional golf, a minor sport that struggles for attention—and always will.

Parity can be good for core fans. I’m in favor of it. For me, dominance gets boring. But does parity make the LPGA a harder sell when it comes to attracting a larger following? Mike Whan might not say so, but I think it does.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, November 16

The Rules Geek: Bad Behavior Down Under?

Editor’s note: The Rules Geek is an occasional and potentially annoying feature at ARMCHAIR GOLF.

AN AUSSIE READER WRITES: Yesterday I was playing in a fourball matchplay event against an opponent well known for his gamesmanship. Talking loudly on the tee while you are preparing to hit is commonplace. At the first tee we identified our balls. I was hitting a Titleist 3 while he was hitting a Titleist 2. He made a big point of saying he always hits a 2 and never a 3.
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As the match progressed and his side fell behind, the antics increased. With my side leading 2 up with 3 to play we hit off the 16th tee, an uphill tee shot. I hit my shot and didn't see exactly where it finished although it was in the fairway. He hit his tee shot into a similar area. He was riding in a cart and raced to check which ball was which. He announced that my ball was the farthest from the pin.

I took this at face value and paced out my distance and took a couple of practice swings before addressing the ball. I decided to check the ball and found it was the Titleist 2 and then checked the ball about 10 metres farther ahead and it was my ball—the Titleist 3.

To say the least, I was not impressed by this turn of events. I advised him that the ball was his, trying to remain composed. He played his shot to the front of the green about 25 feet from the hole. I chunked my approach to about 50 metres out. I managed to play a career lob wedge to a tight pin over a bunker to less than a foot to halve the hole. My side managed to win the match at the next hole.

Does his announcement, after checking the ball, that the ball belonged to me constitute “wrong information” under 9-2b?
[The Rules Geek sez: Rule 9-2b Wrong Information pertains to two main issues: failure to inform about incurring a penalty and incorrect information about number of strokes taken.]
If it does, a challenge at that point would have ruled him out of the hole with his partner still alive. If I had played the shot, would I have infringed the “wrong ball” rule or under equity would I have been entitled to replay my shot?
[The Rules Geek sez: Rule 15-3A Wrong Ball, which pertains to match play, states, “If a player makes a stroke at a wrong ball, he loses the hole.” So it’s good that you checked the ball before hitting it.]
This incident raises so many questions but it also leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

A followup message from the reader: I have lodged a complaint about his behaviour with the Captain. I accept that wrong information does not apply to the circumstances outlined being largely applicable to the number of strokes taken. The applicability of the rules of etiquette are applicable however. Although the behaviour would be sufficient in my view to warrant disqualification, there was no match referee on hand to make such a judgement.
[The Rules Geek sez: A breach of etiquette must be serious to warrant disqualification. Does this player’s gamesmanship and annoying antics cross the threshold?]
The Rules Geek sez rules were made to be followed. Got a rules-related tip or story? Send it to The Rules Geek at armchairgolfer@gmail.com.

More Rules Geek:
Juli Inkster and the Donut DQ
Phil Mickelson and the Proper Drop
Abnormal Ground Conditions Aid Amateur
Hunter Mahan’s Driver Replacement

(Image: devburch/Flickr)

Monday, November 15

Jim Furyk Snags PGA Player of the Year Award

CONGRATULATIONS TO JIM FURYK for winning the PGA Player of the Year, an award given by the PGA of America. Furyk earned 60 points under the PGA’s points system. Matt Kuchar and Steve Stricker each collected 50 points. Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson tallied 46 and 42 points, respectively.

Furyk ended a three-year drought when he won the Transitions Championship in March. That was just the beginning for the 40-year-old. He went on to capture the Verizon Heritage in April and the season-ending Tour Championship, making it his first three-win season in 18 years on the PGA Tour. He also won the FedEx Cup and its $10 million payoff. It was a career year for Furyk, and the player of the year award caps it off.

Kuchar won the Vardon Trophy, which is given to the player who has the lowest adjusted scoring average and has played a minimum of 60 rounds. Kuchar had a 69.61 scoring average. Stricker was a close second at 69.66.

In 2009, Tiger Woods won both the PGA Player of the Year Award and Vardon Trophy.

Ben Hogan won the inaugural PGA Player of the Year Award in 1948. Harry Cooper was the first recipient of the Vardon Trophy (named for British great Harry Vardon) in 1937.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Keith Allison/Flickr)

Saturday, November 13

VIDEO: Rickie Fowler Four-Putts in Miniature Golf




U.S. RYDER CUP TEAM star Rickie Fowler got in some putting practice between rounds of this week’s Children’s Miracle Network Classic in Orlando, Florida, where he is currently 10 under par. Judging from the video, I don’t think it helped him. Fowler four-putted from five feet. Those mini-golf greens are tricky.

“You know what I’m doing?” Rickie said in the clip. “I’m saving it up for tomorrow.”

It looked like he really tried on the first putt. Then it sort of turns into hockey. We’ve all been there. (Well, I have.) I’m also guessing that Disney’s Fantasia putt-putt course plays tougher than it looks.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, November 12

The Official Golf Ball of Mesa, Arizona

WHITE, DIMPLED AND ROUND, it looks like any other golf ball. But it’s not. The Dixon Earth golf ball is advertised as the world’s first 100% “green” golf ball, which means if you hit it in a gopher hole it will decompose without hurting the environment. I’ve had a sleeve of Dixon Earth golf balls collecting dust in my upstairs den since last year when the company sent it to me.

But here’s something else I just learned about the ball that sports a “D” with a crown. (At least I think it’s a crown.) Ready?

Dixon Earth is the official golf ball of Mesa, Arizona.

I’ll bet you hadn’t heard that. It’s certainly a new idea for me. The official golf ball of a city of a half million people. That’s pretty clever.

This winter Mesa golf courses will be selling the city’s official golf ball in their pro shops. Customers will be able to recycle their used golf balls with Dixon Golf for credits toward the Earth golf ball, which is manufactured without heavy-metal pollutants such as zinc, tungsten, cobalt, or lead. Dixon Golf discards the harmful stuff from the used golf balls and recycles the remaining materials so they can be used in things like playground equipment and field turf.

(Did you know that more than two billion golf balls are sold each year? I had no idea. More than 300 million golf balls end up in landfills or are lost in the environment. I understand the lost part.)

“It is exciting to see Dixon Golf’s research, development and fulfillment operations grow in our community,” Mesa Mayor Scott Smith in a statement.

I think Mesa is on to something. Do you have an official golf ball, Scottsdale? What about you, Phoenix and Tucson? Hey, this doesn’t have to be limited to Arizona. Ahem, Las Vegas. How about it Palm Springs and San Diego? Where are your balls?

If you think about it, the official golf ball idea could spread to municipalities throughout America. Dixon Golf has a head start. Cross Mesa off the list.

Finally, I don’t know if there was an official Mesa ceremony to recognize the company’s eco-friendly golf ball. The press release didn’t say. Maybe the mayor gave Dixon Golf a giant tee to the city. (Go ahead and groan. I deserve it.)

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, November 11

2010 Lorena Ochoa Invitational TV Schedule and Tournament Notes




























THE 2010 LORENA OCHOA INVITATIONAL is underway at Guadalajara Country Club in Guadalajara, Mexico. Cristie Kerr is the first-round leader after firing a 64, a tournament record. Defending champion Michelle Wie withdrew due to two cysts near her spine and a bulging disc, according to Golfweek.

Purse: $1.1 million
Defending champion: Michelle Wie

Final field
Pairings
Interviews
Tournament website

2010 Lorena Ochoa Invitational Leaderboard


TV SCHEDULE

All TV coverage of the 2010 Lorena Ochoa Invitational is on Golf Channel.

Fri, Nov 12
4:00-6:30 PM ET

Sat, Nov 13
4:00-6:30 PM ET

Sun, Nov 14

4:00-6:30 PM ET

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Pablo Lancaster-Jones/Flickr)