Wednesday, June 30

Free Drawing for ‘THE OPEN: Golf’s Oldest Major’

THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP IS returning to St. Andrews this year, which also happens to be the 150th anniversary of golf’s oldest major. I have a special treat for you: a free drawing for a 304-page photographic history of the ancient golf championship.

Titled THE OPEN: Golf’s Oldest Major and published by Rizzoli, the book features black and white and color photographs from Getty Images. The rather sparse text is by Donald Steel, with a foreword by Arnold Palmer and afterword by Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of The R&A. This hardcover measures 12.3 x 9.4 x 1.4 inches and weighs 4.8 pounds. It’s hefty and gorgeous, a prized coffee table or sports den book for any armchair golf historian. (I love my review copy. I am not giving it up. The publisher is making another copy available for the drawing.)

Here are a couple of excerpts from the publisher’s news release:
THE OPEN: Golf’s Oldest Major revisits the history of the fourteen legendary links courses along the spectacular British coastline on which The Open has been played, with a chapter dedicated to each course highlighting the famous moments of victory, defeat, partnership, competition, and tradition that have come to define them.

The book brings together the classic images of the sport’s icons—from early stars such as Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones, and masters like Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus, to the exceptional talents of today, Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington.
OK, I must add three names not mentioned in the above publisher copy: Harry Vardon, Peter Thomson and Tom Watson. Because those three remarkable champions won the Claret Jug 16 times. (Vardon, 6; Thomson, 5; and Watson, 5.)

WANT TO GET IN ON THIS?

How to enter this free drawing: Just email your name and mailing address to armchairgolfer@gmail.com. I’ll blind draw the winner in a couple of weeks during the championship. Good luck!

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, June 29

Kenny Perry, Friend of Coal Miners

I’VE NEVER MET KENNY PERRY, so my impressions of him are from a distance. But I think of Kenny as a good guy, or a “good ol’ boy” as he might be referred to in his hometown of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and around Franklin, his current residence in the Bluegrass State. I just don’t get the feeling that Perry has a false bone in his body, which is endearing but has also irked folks at times.

James Kenneth Perry can play golf with the best players in the world. Otherwise he comes across as a pretty regular fella and family man, the kind of guy that has worked behind the counter at his Country Creek Golf Course without customers knowing it. I became a bigger Kenny Perry fan when he stuck to his schedule in 2008 and made the U.S. Ryder Cup team. He didn’t attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open. He didn’t enter the British Open. He did take serious heat.

So this week’s story about Perry is no surprise to me. Kenny will donate $2,000 for every birdie he makes at the inaugural Greenbrier Classic later this summer to the 29 families that lost loved ones in the recent West Virginia mining disaster.

“Kenny is from Kentucky, not far away,” said Greenbrier Resort chairman Jim Justice at Roanoke.com, “and he certainly knows the miners, how dedicated they are and what immense work they do. It’s a great gesture on Kenny’s part and we’re very proud to be a part of that.”

Hope your putter’s hot, Kenny.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
What to Do If You’re Kenny Perry’d
Stunner: R&A Moves British Open to Milwaukee

(Image: ben_lei/Flickr)

Monday, June 28

Kerr Pow!

2010 LPGA Championship Recap
Winner: Cristie Kerr
Score: 19 under, 269 (68, 66, 69, 66)
Quote: “It’s a dream performance.”
Fact: Shares same birthday with yours truly (October 12).
Thought: Watch out for CK in the U.S. Women’s Open.

THAT SOUND ON SUNDAY in Pittsford, New York, was the shattering of a tournament record. Cristie Kerr obliterated the competition to win the LPGA Championship by a record 12 shots. It was her second major title and 14th career win. Kerr’s four-day masterpiece left her nearly speechless. I can see why. Ginormous victory margins are unusual in golf, especially in majors.

Cristie carded 23 birdies and just four bogeys in 72 holes of major-championship golf. When I saw that she held an eight-shot lead going into the final round, I thought she might put it on cruise control on Sunday. After all, an even-par round would mean her closest pursuer would have to post a 64 just to tie. But there was zero let up. After reeling off six straight pars, Cristie birdied seven of the last 12 holes to shoot a final-round 66. The field had no chance. It was total domination.

Song-Hee Kim was runner-up at 7 under and Ai Miyazato and Jiyai Shin tied for third a very distant 14 shots back.

With the victory Kerr claimed the top spot in the women’s world golf rankings (Rolex Rankings). She displaced Miyazato who had been No. 1 for a week after winning the ShopRite LPGA Classic. Shin was the top golfer just two weeks ago. Cristie hopes to be queen of the mountain for awhile. “I’m there now,” she said, “but I have to prove I deserve to be there.”

There certainly was ample proof on Thursday through Sunday that Kerr can dominate against the best when her game is on.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, June 26

Q&A: Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee

Editor’s note: The following Q&A was provided to ARMCHAIR GOLF by Mandarin Media the week before the U.S. Open. Thongchai Jaidee finished in a tie for 47th.

Q: You are currently ranked No. 46 in the world, good enough to earn a U.S. Open spot at Pebble Beach. Is that a thrill or just another competitive opportunity?

THONGCHAI JAIDEE: As a professional golfer, I try to perform well in every tournament. But since the U.S. Open is one of the majors, every player tries harder to perform well—because the field is full of talented people.

Q: You have won 12 times on the Asian Tour; you competed in your second Masters this year, you were a quarterfinalist at the World Match Play in 2010, and you are slated for this week’s U.S. Open. What are the similarities between players in the U.S. and Europe, compared with Asian tour pros—and what separates them?

THONGCHAI JAIDEE: Looking at world golf generally, there aren’t many differences between each tour. This shouldn’t surprise anyone because players from the Asia-Pacific region, such as Y.E. Yang and Michael Campbell, have already won majors. Other leading players are performing well on the European Tour. The standard of play today is very high everywhere.

Q: You didn’t play golf until you were 16 years of age, and soon thereafter you entered the Royal Thai Army. Where did you learn the game?

THONGCHAI JAIDEE: The very first course, where I started my golfing life, was Jompol Por Golf Course located in the army camp in my home town. This is not unusual. Many army bases in Thailand include golf courses that are accessible to public play. My old house was right beside the course and my first contact with golf was serving as a caddie there at Jompol Por.

Q: Tell us about your golf foundation. What does it set out to accomplish?

THONGCHAI JAIDEE: The Thongchai Jaidee Foundation officially launched in 2009. My initial thought was that I wanted to support children, hoping to create new generations of Thai golfers. Who knows? We might find another Tiger Woods among those boys or girls. My intention is to give them knowledge of the game, a tool to earn their living perhaps. I’m hoping at the very least to assist in turning them away from drugs.


Thailand as a Golf Destination

Q: Thailand is by far the most popular golf destination for Asians, but North Americans and Europeans may not know much about it. In your view, what recommends golf in Thailand?

THONGCHAI JAIDEE: I recommend golf in Thailand for its year-round golfing, and for the numerous world-class golf courses. There are hundreds. Nevertheless, I believe the hospitality of Thai people is the one thing that will impress visitors most when they visit my country. Thailand offers so many relaxing activities—Thai massage, the world’s finest beaches and so many other tourist attractions—but it is Thai hospitality that makes the strongest impression.

Q: When you play golf in Thailand today, where do you prefer to play? What are your favorite Thai courses and why?

THONGCHAI JAIDEE: When I am home, I still practice at Jompol Por GC, and Narai Hill Golf and Country Club in Lopburi. These two courses are close to my home and make for easy access. But when I have more time, I will practice at Black Mountain Golf Club in Hua Hin, which I can highly recommend for beginners, serious golfers, even professionals. It is one of my favorite courses because it boasts a very challenging layout and championship-standard course conditions. Also, the way the wind blows up there, it prepares me well for the conditions I can expect when playing in Europe.

Q: Lopburi, your hometown, is a rather new area for golf in Thailand. What makes it special and do you recommend golfers visit this area of Thailand?

THONGCHAI JAIDEE: Well, it’s a bit early to consider Lopburi in the same breath as golf destinations like Hua Hin, Phuket, Rayong or Samui. These regions are home to some of the top resort courses in the world. But the courses here in Lopburi do offer a fine challenge to golfers who seek new venues. They are standard courses and well equipped with facilities.

Q: You surely play many pro-am tournaments alongside amateur players. Have many of them played golf in Thailand? What’s their impression of golf in your native country?

THONGCHAI JAIDEE: If I am playing a pro-am in Asia, most of them already know very well that Thailand is a wonderful golf destination. I would include some of those who play with me in European pro-ams, as well. Thailand has been promoted as the ultimate golf destination for golfers seeking championship-standard courses, offered at very reasonable prices. That describes Thai golf very well, in my opinion.

(Brought to you by YourGolfTravel.com.)

(Image courtesy of Mandarin Media)

Friday, June 25

Golf as Fountain of Youth

GOLF KEEPS YOU YOUNG, or at least younger. I’m convinced. Juli Inkster turned 50 on Thursday and shot a 71 in the opening round of the LPGA Championship. Still competing at a high level against players young enough to be her daughters, Juli is not the retiring kind—at least not yet. Said Juli, “I asked my kids, ‘Is 50 old?’ They say, ‘Well, yeah, but mom you don’t act 50.’” Current and former LPGA Tour players Natalie Gulbis, Morgan Pressel, Beth Daniel and Meg Mallon gave Juli an iPad for her birthday.

Fred Couples is also 50. Not only has Freddie lit up the Champions Tour, he led the Masters after 36 holes.

Tom Watson is 60. We all know about his golf exploits in the last year or so.

The oldest living major champion winner, Jack Fleck is 88 and still heads to the golf course nearly every day to hit balls and play a few or several holes.

Errie Ball, who played in his first British Open at age 15 in 1926, is 99 years young. The last I heard, Ball still gives lessons at the Willoughby Golf Club in Stuart, Florida. Errie was a good friend of Bobby Jones and is the last surviving player from the inaugural Masters. Ponder that.

So keep playing golf. It’s an elixir.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Keith Allison/Flickr)

Thursday, June 24

2010 LPGA Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes


Photo: Mika Miyazato at last year’s LPGA Championship.

THE 2010 LPGA CHAMPIONSHIP, the year’s second LPGA major, begins on Thursday at Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsford, New York.

Purse: $2.25 million
Defending champion: Anna Nordqvist

Tournament preview
Final field
Pairings
Pre-tournament interviews
Tournament website

2010 LPGA Championship Leaderboard

GOLF CHANNEL analyst Judy Rankin
Comments on field: “You have to mention Ai Miyazato as a favorite since she is having such a fabulous year. I wouldn’t say the long golf course here is favorable for Ai, but she simply is playing so well and her confidence is so high, she has to be a favorite. Suzann Pettersen is another favorite this week. She is second on the money list, and was fourth last week at the ShopRite LPGA Classic. I have to believe her game is in good order. The thick rough here and the long course will suit her kind of play. Any number of people might play well this week, as they have experience and success at this course.”

TV SCHEDULE

Ten hours of TV coverage are scheduled for the 2010 LPGA Championship.

Thurs, Jun 24
GOLF CHANNEL 12:30-2:30 PM ET

Fri, Jun 25
GOLF CHANNEL 12:30-2:30 PM ET

Sat, Jun 26
GOLF CHANNEL 4:00-7:00 PM ET

Sun, Jun 27
GOLF CHANNEL 4:00-7:00 PM ET

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Keith Allison/Flickr)

Wednesday, June 23

No Collateral Damage for Graeme McDowell














“I really stuck to my plan which was to stay patient, stay calm and really put some nice calm swings on it and not really get sucked in by what the rest of the guys were doing.”
−Graeme McDowell, 2010 U.S. Open champion

YOU HAVE TO STAY on task to win a U.S. Open. Play your own game and stick to your game plan, whatever that may be. Block out the distractions. Try very hard not to let the pressure overwhelm you. And also shake off the bad bounces, bad shots and bad holes. Graeme McDowell was able to do all those things well enough to outlast the other players and win the title.

One of the bigger challenges McDowell overcame early on was his pairing with Dustin Johnson. Poor Dustin imploded on the 2nd and 3rd holes. It was hard to watch. At the time, I wasn’t just thinking about Dustin. I was thinking about Graeme and how hard it could be to watch the disaster up close and wait out Johnson’s muffed shots, ball searches and more. It could have had an ill effect on McDowell, but the Irishman held his game and himself together while the talented 54-hole leader self-destructed and put up an 82.

Graeme McDowell has updated his website with photos and news following his U.S. Open win.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: heraldonline.com)

Monday, June 21

Nightmare on Pebble Beach Drive

THE BEST THING FOR me about this year’s U.S. Open was that I got to watch most of the final round with my dad. We live on opposite coasts so I don’t see him all that often. He lives in California; I live in Virginia. I can’t recall the last time I spent Father’s Day with him. My brother and sister-in-law were also here on Sunday afternoon when we arrived after the two-hour car trip from LAX, making it even more special.

Before I ramble on, let me congratulate Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell for his U.S. Open victory. If you watched it, you know there were many others who had a legitimate chance to win the trophy. Yet McDowell survived the weekend better than the rest. His long game was pretty darn steady and he kept big numbers off his card. He grudgingly took a few bogeys on the difficult Pebble setup but kept grinding. It’s been a long time coming for Europe to have another U.S. Open champion, a full four decades since Englishman Tony Jacklin won at Hazeltine. This year’s trend of European winners on the PGA Tour continues: Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood and now Graeme McDowell.

We officially set out on family vacation on late Saturday afternoon. We drove to Charlotte to spend the night since we had an early morning flight to L.A. Consequently, I missed much of the third-round coverage. I did watch some in the hotel room with the volume turned down and the lights off until my kids asked, “Dad, when are you going to turn off the TV?” (The glow of a TV screen in a dark hotel room can manage to distract tired kids.)

Early Sunday morning I picked up the Charlotte Observer at the airport and was both surprised and impressed by Dustin Johnson’s late spurt that propelled him to a 66 and three-shot lead. McDowell, too, was hanging tough, and Els, Mickelson and Woods were lurking. And there was that fellow named Gregory Havret, a Frenchman. Wasn’t he the guy who beat Lefty in a playoff? I wondered.

About five hours later we were in Southern California and on our way north to my parents’ house in Lancaster. I arrived just in time to see the leaders tee off. It became apparent early on the only movement on Sunday for all the leaders was backwards. Davis Love was one exception, shooting an even-par 71. No one else at the top of the leaderboard matched or bettered par. Ah, the final day at the U.S. Open.

So, except for one Graeme McDowell, Sunday at Pebble Beach was a nightmare in broad daylight, but mostly for Dustin Johnson who completely came undone on the opening nine. Johnson coughed up all of his lead on the 2nd hole and fell off the radar of serious contenders a few holes later, having self-inflicted too much psychological damage. As we watched, we asked ourselves, “How does a guy shoot 66 one day and 82 the next?” Of course, we knew the answer: U.S. Open pressure.

McDowell was just McDowelling along, nice and steady, hitting fairways and many of the greens, making pars. Ernie jumped into the lead and had as good a chance as anyone until a bad stretch at 9, 10 and 11 and too many putts that burnt the edge over the final holes. Phil was hanging around but made nothing on the greens. Tiger played another dismal front nine and his putting was what you would expect from his playing partner, Havret. For now, it’s certainly a different Tiger on Sunday at the majors. The putts aren’t falling. And it’s been that way for much of the last two years.

But how about Havret? A qualifier playing in his first U.S. Open, the Frenchman ranked 300-odd something in the world very nearly sneaked into a playoff. He performed admirably in the Tiger and U.S. Open vortex.

In the end, McDowell was the only man who could shoot even par in the U.S. Open. Just the way the USGA likes it. For everyone else who had a real chance to win, it was a nightmare on Pebble Beach Drive. And the memories may haunt them for a little or long while.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, June 18

WARNING: Leading U.S. Open Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

GRAEME MCDOWELL SHOT A 68 on Friday at Pebble Beach and is leading the U.S. Open by two shots. If the Irishman is trying to win the title, he sure is going about it in an odd way. Doesn’t he know that front runners not named Tiger Woods typically fade on the weekend.

Seriously, how many times in recent years has a 36-hole leader gone on to win the U.S. Open? I think Jim Furyk did in 2003. I believe Angel Cabrera also did in 2007, but he lost the lead after 54 holes and then came back. Graeme might want to consider that option.

The fact is, leading the U.S. Open is highly stressful and harmful to a person’s physical and mental health. Four out of five doctors who play golf would surely go along with me on this. There may even be a warning label on the U.S. Open application:
The most common side effects of the U.S. Open are headache, upset stomach (with occasional vomiting), loss of sleep and uncontrollable weeping. If side effects of the U.S. Open become severe, seek immediate medical attention. Discuss your mental fitness and golf ability with a professional to ensure the U.S. Open is right for you and that you are healthy enough for U.S. Open activity.
Graeme McDowell is a fine golfer. The recent winner of the Celtic Manor Wales Open is a robust 30-year-old who is ranked No. 37 in the world. But if McDowell actually wants to win the U.S. Open—and if he wants to still be 30 instead of 40 by Sunday evening—he might want to drop off the pace on Saturday. Just ask Mark Hensby. Or Ricky Barnes, who may not look it but is now 43 years old.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: skysports.com)

Thursday, June 17

U.S. Open Day 1: Pebble Beach is Brutalful

SPORTSCASTER DAN PATRICK ALWAYS poses the same question at the end of his syndicated sports radio talk show: “What did we learn today?”

That’s what I’m trying to figure out about the first day of the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Probably not a lot. Course hard. Players struggle. Scores high. Maybe I’ve watched too many of these things. I’ve certainly watched a bunch. But I’m still way way behind Dan Jenkins. I’ll have to live to about 100 to catch up with him.

“This is my 57th Open,” Jenkins wrote on Twitter, “and unless something starts happening soon, this might be the most boring first round ever.”

Was that it? Was I bored? Or was I lulled into a stupor by the postcard weather on the Monterey Peninsula? Pebble Beach is distractingly beautiful.

I must try, so here goes, a few things I learned today. Sort of.

I learned Tiger Woods can still hit a fairway with his driver. On the holes I watched Tiger, he actually controlled his golf ball quite well. Unfortunately, he’s 3-over par and carded no birdies. Tiger will probably say he didn’t get much out of his round. (He’s not alone.) If his swing holds together and he gets his putter going, it could be interesting. There are a lot of “ifs” on Thursday.

I learned the golf course will be a stubborn defender of par, just as you’d expect in a U.S. Open. I would have anticipated a few scores in the 60s in the first round, but it’s not happening. (OK, now Shaun Micheel, Paul Casey and Brendon de Jonge are on the board with 69s.) The last time I checked, the average score was about 75, or 4-over par.

I learned Pebble Beach is brutalful. That’s my new word for the course, a combination of brutal and beautiful.

I learned I like watching anybody (except those crazy celebs at the AT&T) play at Pebble Beach because it’s just so gorgeous. I mean, Tiger is getting ready to hit and I find myself watching the crashing waves and ocean spray in the background. Pebble’s scenic beauty can completely take me out of my spectator game. Surely I’ll care more about the outcome of the tournament in a couple of days. By Sunday, I hope to be tense. I need to have that feeling during a major or two.

I learned of an amateur named Hudson Swafford.

I learned Ryan Moore can make bogey on the par-3 17th from perched near the sign on the cliff-like 18th tee. My daughter, who has a flair for the dramatic, asked, “Would he die if he fell from there?”

No, but four rounds on hard, dry, wind-swept Pebble Beach in the U.S. Open might kill him and a few others. It’s only going to get harder.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Keith Allison/Flickr)

Wednesday, June 16

The Strange Disappearance of Bill Rogers

TODAY I WAS WATCHING highlights of the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, that Tom Watson caper where he stole Jack Nicklaus’s fifth Open title. Poor Jack. Tom had his number.

Anyway, I saw a name on a caddie bib flash across the screen: B. ROGERS. B. Rogers. Anybody remember Bill Rogers? You would have to be a certain age, or a student of golf history.

Bill Rogers played with Watson that Sunday at Pebble in 1982. In fact, Rogers led on the final day before falling into a tie for third. No one would have been shocked had he won, for Bill Rogers was the reigning British Open champion. He captured the title at Royal St. George’s at the age of 29. He went on to win four titles in 1981 and was awarded player of the year honors. And he was a member of the 1981 U.S. Ryder Cup team that trounced the Europeans 18½ to 9½, the most lopsided defeat in Cup history.

Everyone expected more big things from Rogers. From 1979 to 1982, he had three near misses at the U.S. Open: a second, a third and a fourth. He won the 1982 PGA Grand Slam of Golf. Then it was over. Beginning in 1983, he slowly vanished. After only making three cuts and winning a scant $5,000, 36-year-old Bill Rogers left the tour in 1988.

What happened?

Burnout preceded a loss of confidence. Rogers lost his desire. According to Lanny Wadkins, Rogers never liked the rigors of tour travel and missed his family back home in Texas. His rise in the golf world was steep and relatively fast. So was his fall.

“Starting in ’86,” Rogers told The Independent in 1993, “I hardly ever played a round of golf that I didn’t wish I was doing something else. That’s a miserable existence.”

Rogers took a job as director of golf at San Antonio Country Club. “Selling sweaters and giving lessons,” as The Independent called it, suited the former golf star. Rogers was content again. Since turning 50 in 2001, he has played in more than 50 events on the Champions Tour. He never regretted his decision to leave the tour, telling Art Stricklin, “I don’t think I was ever meant to be a lifer on the PGA Tour. I think I outsmarted the system by leaving when I did.”

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, June 15

2010 U.S. Open TV Schedule and Tournament Notes


























THE 2010 U.S. OPEN gets underway on Thursday at Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, California. Lucas Glover defends in an international field of 156 players.

Purse: $7.5 million
Winner’s share: $1.35 million
Defending champion: Lucas Glover

The field
Player bios
Groupings and tee times
Player interviews
Pebble Beach hole by hole (including fly-over video)
U.S. Open news
U.S. Open on Twitter
Photo gallery
Past winners
U.S. Open records



2010 U.S. Open Leaderboard
2010 U.S. Open hole-by-hole summary
2010 U.S. Open statistics

TV SCHEDULE

More than 30 hours of TV coverage are scheduled for the 2010 U.S. Open.

Thu, June 17
ESPN 1-3 PM ET
NBC 3-5 PM ET
ESPN 5-10 PM ET

Fri, June 18
ESPN 1-3 PM ET
NBC 3-5 PM ET
ESPN 5-10 PM ET

Sat, June 19
NBC 4:30-11 PM ET

Sun, June 20
NBC 3-9 PM ET

−The Armchair Golfer

(Images: Keith Allison/Flickr)

Monday, June 14

Kind of Blue: This One’s for You, Robert Garrigus



I DIDN’T SEE IT. I turned off the set when you were headed to the 71st hole and I was headed to dinner with the family. I thought you had it won, Robert Garrigus. I really did. You had just dropped that birdie putt at 16. You were up by three. Yep, I thought you had it. First win and all. Then I found out you didn’t.

You know, Memphis is the home of blues. Fitting, isn’t it? I figure you might have come away with a bad case of them. Real bad. I even started writing a blues song in your honor:

“Down in Memphis, I was standing on the last tee with a three-shot lead. I said down in Memphis I was standing on the last tee with a three-shot lead. That’s when my driver lost its senses and took a left-hand turn on me.”

I couldn’t finish it.

Instead, I have the above song dedication for you: eight minutes and 23 seconds of “So What” by Miles Davis, John Coltrane and company. It’s off that landmark album, Kind of Blue, which probably describes today’s mood. So sit back and listen to Miles and think about that check for $492,800. Hopefully, your head will be right in no time.

−The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, June 13

How Hot Is Too Hot for Golf?

IT’S 96 TODAY AT the St. Jude Classic in Memphis. Meanwhile, the heat index—that measurement some genius came up with that combines air temperature and relative humidity—is 110. People in Memphis and elsewhere knew when it was sticky hot and suffocating long before the heat index and “feels like” numbers came along.

Look at these tour players at TPC Southwind. They’re soaked with sweat, big dark patches ringing the seat of their pants. They look like they had an embarrassing accident. Sometimes I wonder how European players such as Swede Robert Karlsson and Englishman Lee Westwood acclimate to hot spots like muggy Memphis. I know they play worldwide, including places such as Dubai, but is there any place sweatier than the Home of the Blues?

My question to you is: How hot is too hot for golf? It’s summer now (or nearly so), golf season in North America, and the temperatures are rising. Is there a cutoff point for you, a temperature at which you say, “No, thanks. I’ll tee it up another day”?

(Photo: World’s tallest thermometer in Baker, California, a toasty hot town in the Mojave Desert. / tomspixels, Flickr)

It’s in the mid 90s across much of the Southeast and Southwest. Tomorrow the high in Phoenix will be 101. Does anyone play golf in Phoenix in the summer? Some must. But Phoenix golf, in particular, and Arizona golf, in general, are a much more comfortable activity in the winter months when highs are in the 60s and 70s rather than in June when the average high is 103 degrees and the record is a scorching 122.

This might sound like a variation of the “I walked five miles to school in the snow” story, but when I was growing up in California’s Mojave Desert I routinely played in 105-degree heat. And, yes, it was a dry heat. And, yes, that does make a difference. (But it’s still blistering hot.) It didn’t bother me as a teenager. I didn’t think anything of it. I spent summer days at the golf course and actually liked it when extreme heat cleared the course in the afternoon so my golf buddies and I could have the place to ourselves.

I don’t handle the heat as well now. I can play in it, but I find that my recovery period, especially if I walk, is much longer. It saps my energy. I’m not playing a lot of golf these days, but when I do I’m fortunate to live and tee it up in the Blue Ridge Mountains where the summertime temps rarely reach 90. That’s just fine with me.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Brought to you by ArizonaGolf.com.)

Saturday, June 12

Name the Player at the LPGA Championship





















THIS PLAYER IS TEEING off on the 9th hole at the 2009 McDonald’s LPGA Championship.

Who is she?

UPDATE: Yes, it’s Stacy Lewis, who was recently featured on a Fox Sports TV program called Athlete 360 (as CourtGolf mentioned in the comments). Lewis had corrective surgery for scoliosis in college and plays the LPGA Tour with titanium screws and a rod in her spine.

−The Armchair Golfer

Other “Name the Players”:
Name the Player Signing the Deal in 1971
Name the Player at TPC Sawgrass
Name the Player Based on the Shoes and Footwork

(Image: dnkbdotcom/Flickr)

Thursday, June 10

Paul Lawrie and the Eight-Putt Green

“I felt physically sick and it is without doubt the most bizarre thing I’ve ever done.”
−Paul Lawrie

PAUL LAWRIE IS A EUROPEAN TOUR professional and the 1999 British Open champion, the beneficiary of the collapse of Jean Van de Velde who Lawrie beat, along with Justin Leonard, in a four-hole playoff. Last week at the Wales Open Lawrie had a misadventure on the second green that he won’t soon forget. Playing the back nine first, the Scottish pro had just put the finishing touches on a 30 and was two shots off the lead. I’ll let Paul tell you what happened next.

“I went to the turn today in 30 (-5),” he wrote at his blog. “I played awesome and could have birdied every hole. At the par-5 second hole (my tenth) I made an 11. I was on the green in three and then eight putted.”

Timeout here. I can’t remember a tour pro taking eight putts. Paul Goydos recently took five putts on the par-4 seventh hole at The Players Championship. I saw it on tape and remember feeling slightly embarrassed for Goydos. Watching it, I could see how it happened. It was one of those devious hole locations. Still, it was nothing compared to Lawrie. Eight putts!

Here’s how Lawrie described it:

“The pin was right next to a large slope and I misjudged my first putt then spent the next five minutes going up and down the slope. I felt physically sick and it is without doubt the most bizarre thing I’ve ever done. Yet again this week I’ve played really good in spells and got nothing.”

It’s definitely a mind bender. Shoot a 30, threaten the lead and then eight-putt for an 11 and miss the stupid cut. I’ve never heard that one before. Instead, it reminds me of too many sad tales at the 19th hole. “I was playing out of my mind, a career round. Right, Fred (elbowing Fred)? Tell him! Then I eight-putted ….”

I just realized something. Both players who have recently suffered a sudden putting disaster (or SPD, as I’ll call it, because everything has an acronym these days) are named “Paul.” Uh-oh. Could it be some sort of bizarre epidemic striking the “Pauls” of the pro golf world?

Maybe someone should warn Paul Casey, Paul Stankowski and Paul Azinger before they’re afflicted with an SPD.

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, June 9

2010 LPGA State Farm Classic TV Schedule and Tournament Notes



















THE LADIES ARE BACK in action this week. Like a good LPGA partner, State Farm is there. (That was terrible, just awful. Sorry.) The 2010 LPGA State Farm Classic gets underway on Thursday at Panther Creek Country Club in Springfield, Illinois, beginning a five-week stretch of tournaments on the LPGA Tour. The event is celebrating its 35th anniversary.

Purse: $1.7 million
Defending champion: In-Kyung Kim

Final field
Pairings
Tournament preview
Pre-tournament interviews
Tournament website


2010 LPGA State Farm Classic Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

More than nine hours of TV coverage are on tap for the 2010 LPGA State Farm Classic.

Thurs, Jun 10

6:30-8:30 PM ET GOLF CHANNEL

Fri, Jun 11
6:30-8:30 PM ET GOLF CHANNEL

Sat, Jun 12
6:30-9:30 PM ET GOLF CHANNEL

Sun, Jun 13
7:00-9:30 PM ET GOLF CHANNEL

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Playadura/Flickr)

Tuesday, June 8

Monty, King of Qualifiers

WHETHER ABOUT THE U.S. OPEN or The Open Championship, there have been several qualifying stories in the last day or so. Some are inspirational. Some are heartbreakers. Normal fare for Open qualifying.

One stands out for me, though. If I had a Yonex visor like Colin Montgomerie, I’d tip it to ol’ Monty. He played like a madman to get into the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews. As Colin said, at his age (46) it may be his last chance to tee it up on the Old Course for an Open.

Montgomerie had a 36-hole qualifier at Sunningdale on Monday. After an opening round of 69, the European Ryder Cup captain needed a low number in the afternoon round to secure one of 10 spots available to a field of 96 European Tour players who had not received automatic berths. The old boy put up an 8-under 62, tying the course record. “My best round of golf in a long time,” Monty said after birdieing five of the last seven holes.

It must feel good to get the magic back, even if just for one round. Not that I would know. It will be Monty’s 21st consecutive appearance in The Open Championship.

U.S. Open Qualifying

Some of the notables who did or didn’t make it into the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

In
Tom Lehman
Davis Love III
Ben Curtis
Brian Davis
Stuart Appleby
David Frost
Erik Compton
Ty Tryon

Out
Justin Rose
Rickie Fowler
Tom Kite
J.B. Holmes
Rocco Mediate
The Haas family
Lee Janzen
Corey Pavin

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Steve Bailey/Flickr)

Monday, June 7

Justin Rose Can Win Jack

2010 Memorial Tournament Recap
Winner: Justin Rose
Score: 18 under, 270 (65, 69, 70, 66)
Quote: “Until you win over here, you don’t feel like you’ve really achieved all you want to in the game.”
Fact: Played with plastic club at 11 months old. Now plays TaylorMade.
Thought: Brits are on a serious roll.

SCRATCH JUSTIN ROSE OFF the list of Brits who haven’t won on the PGA Tour. Who’s next? I would say Lee Westwood, but I keep saying Lee will win in America (he won at New Orleans early in his career, as a commenter reminded me), or win a major, and it hasn’t happened. Close at the Masters and the Players, but no victory cigar. But the Brits (and South Africans, as my friend Mike says) are definitely trending on the PGA Tour. First, Ian Poulter, then Rory McIlroy, and now Justin Rose.

Rose just went out to Muirfield Village on Sunday and took it away from Rickie Fowler. Sure, Fowler helped him a lot by dunking one at the par-3 12th, but Justin charged home with birdies at 14 and 16 to post a 66 and have his “Jack” moment beside the 18th green. Even his 1-year-old boy broke out in applause.

Apparently, Mr. Nicklaus, as Rickie Fowler addressed the legend, is fond of the 29-year-old Englishman. “I just always liked his golf game,” Jack said in a joint press conference with Rose.

About Phil Mickelson’s 3-metal or whatever it was off the asphalt at the 15th, I was not surprised. Entertained, yes. Surprised, no. There is no shot that Phil won’t try. We know that. Besides, I’ll bet half of you have hit one off the pavement or cart path somewhere down the line. I have. You don’t want to catch it fat. Phil caught it perfect, but still made a double. And he would do it all over again.

Tiger Woods made the cut and finished in a tie for 19th. When you consider everything, that’s not bad. I have no idea what to expect from Tiger at Pebble in the U.S. Open. Not a win. But stranger things have happened, haven’t they?

Tour Notes

• European Tour: Graeme McDowell won the Wales Open.
• PGA Tour: Brian Gay defends this week at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis.
• LPGA Tour: The ladies tee it up at the LPGA State Farm Classic in Springfield, Illinois.

−The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, June 6

Western Canada’s Predator Ridge to Open Ridge Course

PREDATOR RIDGE IS A WESTERN CANADA golf resort located in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. It’s about 275 miles east of Vancouver, and roughly the same distance north of Spokane, Washington. And it’s apparently a golf destination with a lot more than golf going for it: wine country, trails, lakes, streams and, of course, winter sports such as downhill skiing and snowboarding. The resort itself, lodgings and amenities (salon, spa, pools, dining, etc.) definitely look upscale from my virtual vantage point.

There’s one top-rated golf course with another one set to open this summer. The Predator Course has hosted the Telus World Skins Games twice and is one of only two courses in Western Canada to be ranked in Score Magazine’s Canadian Top 25. It looks phenomenal. And I’m referring as much to the Canadian Rockies scenery as the course. Eye-popping.

In August Predator Ridge is opening a second 18 called The Ridge Course (photo). It’s designed by Doug Carrick, recognized as one of the top golf course architects in Canada. (Carrick has three of Score Magazine’s top five Canadian golf courses in his portfolio.) The new course is situated above Lake Okanagan in rugged forested terrain that includes natural features such as granite rock outcroppings. I don’t know this for sure, but I’m guessing this will be the top course of the two. The green fees are higher. That much I know.

Predator Ridge is currently offering a Bragging Rights Package. The pitch is that you get to play The Ridge Course before it opens to the public. The package includes two nights at the lodge and two rounds of golf, one at each course. They’re accepting bookings and limited tee times for July.

I’m not much of a braggart, but if I played there I’d probably have trouble keeping my mouth completely shut. You can’t fake stunning and I’d be shocked if the virgin course isn’t in exceptional condition. Unfortunately, I won’t be going but am glad to let you know about it, whether or not you’re a Canadian reader.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Brought to you by Predator Ridge. Image courtesy of Predator Ridge.)

Saturday, June 5

Sam Torrance Now and Then

I COMMEND ALL OF you who identified a youthful Sam Torrance signing an equipment deal in 1971 with John Letters. That was easier than I expected. (Next time I’ll try to remember to rename the photo so it won’t be a dead giveaway for those who click on the photo and see the player’s name in the URL.)

1971 deal-signing photo of Sam Torrance


I got the old and new photographs from Pure Sports Marketing and couldn’t resist running the early pics of Torrance. Sam, now 56, is back with golf equipment maker John Letters of Scotland.

Here are a few lines from the news release:
Nearly 40 years after signing his first professional contract with John Letters of Scotland, Ryder Cup legend and European Seniors Tour star Sam Torrance has rejoined the great Scottish equipment brand as he seeks to win his fourth Order of Merit and secure his first major.

“I’m back to my roots,” Torrance said. “The first contract I ever had was with John Letters and I signed that at the end of 1971.”

With over 43 professional wins, eight Ryder Cup appearances and victory as European Ryder Cup captain, Torrance epitomises Scottish Golf and the agreement sees two of Scotland’s most famous names join forces once again.
To break down those titles, 21 came on the European Tour and 11 on the European Seniors Tour, including last year’s Barbados Open.

Ryder Cup legend might sound like hyperbole to some on my side of the Atlantic. Sam’s record in eight Ryder Cup appearances and 28 matches was 7-15-6, but he made the winning putt for his team at The Belfry in 1985, the first win for Europe since 1957 (28 years). I figure ol’ Sam never has to buy another drink in Scotland for the rest of his years.

In 2002, Torrance captained his side to another victory, again at The Belfry, whipping the Americans in singles on the final day. Legend? I’d say so. Monty might want to keep Sam’s number handy.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, June 4

Name the Player Signing the Deal in 1971









































BECAUSE SOME OF YOU are so so sharp (ahem, Biffo), there will be no hints given for this “Name the Player” edition. Sorry. I really am. Not.

Hey, I think you can get this one. Really. And if you can’t, someone else will.

OK, you’re on your own.

−The Armchair Golfer

Other ones:
Name the Player at TPC Sawgrass
Name the Player Based on the Shoes and Footwork

Thursday, June 3

Zach Johnson, Golf and God





















Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Whiffling Straits, a golf blog authored by Mike Zimmerman. Read the entire post here.

By Mike Zimmerman
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


LET’S START WITH ZACH JOHNSON, who on Sunday won the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. Walking off the 18th green, he had this to say to CBS’s Peter Kostis:
I feel honored. They say everything’s big in Texas, but I know there’s one thing bigger and that’s my God. And I want to lift this up to Him and give Him the glory, because the peace and the talent that He’s given me I don’t deserve. But I’m very thankful.
I understand that you might not share Johnson’s beliefs, and even that you might not appreciate him proclaiming them after a victory. But I really don’t understand the hostility. Where’s the “tolerance” everybody always says you’re supposed to have?

I think at least part of it comes from a misunderstanding of how guys like Johnson “mix” golf and faith. There’s a scene in The Simpsons where Bart and Todd Flanders—son of the Simpsons’ annoying born-again Christian neighbor Ned—are about to square off in the finals of a miniature golf tournament. Homer spots Ned and his family praying before the match. “Hey, Flanders!” Homer says. “It’s no use praying. I already did the same thing and we can’t both win!” But then Flanders explains that he was actually praying that nobody would get hurt.

And that’s where I imagine a complaint lies. “Why would God care who wins a stupid golf tournament when there is so much suffering going on in the world?”

Another objection, I suspect, is the idea that Johnson thinks God might want him to win more than the other guy. I will acknowledge there are probably well-intending Christian athletes who believe that if they pray hard enough and sincerely enough that balls will bounce their way and victories will result. But I don’t think that Johnson fits that category, and he expressed as much in the press room after the tournament. When asked what it was like to play with good friend Ben Crane in the final round, he replied:
We’ve been good friends for years. Our families are good friends. We are both Christians, so we had a lot in common. Walking with him today [at] Colonial on Sunday was great. It was an honor because we’re so close. I pray for him and he prayed for me. I’m not saying that’s why we play well, but we pray for peace and contentment. I think there is a lot of truth to that.
Years ago I had what you might call a religious conversion: I recommitted my faith in Jesus Christ and made the practice of Christianity a central focus of my life. And an interesting thing happened (actually, a lot of interesting things happened, but only one of them had anything to do with golf): I suddenly started playing the best golf of my life. It wasn’t because I started going to church on Sunday. It wasn’t because God was guiding my shots or altering my swing. And it certainly wasn’t because I was praying to shoot lower scores (the thought never even occurred to me). It was happening because I was at peace: with God, with the world, with myself.

Call it religion if you want, call it spirituality if you prefer. I call it the focus of my life. And that doesn’t change—if I can help it—whether I’m off the course or on it.

And if others can’t appreciate that, then, well ... I’ll just pray that no one gets hurt.

Mike Zimmerman is a writer who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Visit his golf blog, Whiffling Straits.

(Image: Keith Allison/Flickr)

Wednesday, June 2

U.S. Open Special Exemptions Started with Ben Hogan

HOW DOES THE USGA determine who gets a special exemption into the U.S. Open? However the USGA championship committee wants to.

Each situation has a different set of circumstances. Tom Watson was granted a special exemption this year based on the strength of his 2009 British Open performance at Turnberry. Plus, old Tom has some compelling history at Pebble Beach, where he snatched the national crown from four-time U.S. Open champion Jack Nicklaus in 1982. (I wish I had a buck for every time I’ve seen Tom’s chip-in for birdie on 17. Jack must still have nightmares 28 years later.)

Watson is a former U.S. Open champion and eight-time major winner, a sentimental favorite who can also contend at the age of 60. That’s an ideal set of circumstances for granting a special exemption.

Awarded a special exemption today, three-time major winner Vijay Singh is a fuzzier choice for me. I’m not saying I’m opposed to it, but the injury-plagued Veej, still an everyday PGA Tour player, certainly caught a break from the USGA after falling out of the top 50 in the world golf rankings. The special exemption will allow Singh to bypass a 36-hole sectional qualifier. Those aren’t fun. And his consecutive majors streak is still alive at 63 and soon to be 64.

Ben Hogan was the first player to be granted a U.S. Open special exemption in 1966. Hogan was 53 and still a good player who had the twitches on the greens. A 36-hole qualifier was out of the question 17 years after a head-on collision with a Greyhound bus banged up Hogan so severely that walking was a minor miracle. In fact, Ben had not played a U.S. Open since 1961 when he teed it up at the Olympic Club in June of ’66. How’d the old warhorse do? He finished 12th.

There were no more U.S. Open special exemptions until 1977. Now they’re doled out on an annual basis.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Steve and Sara Emry/Flickr)

Tuesday, June 1

Tom on Tour: Dissecting Ben Curtis

The media fly. Tom drives. The media sleep in hotels. Tom sleeps in his car. The media sit in the media center. Tom walks the course. It’s the PGA Tour, seen and written differently. Following are a few observations about Ben Curtis from Tom’s e-book on the 2010 Shell Houston Open.

By Tom Collins
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


DUE TO THE LAYOUT of the course—which is a nice way of saying it’s a long walk to get to 89 percent of the holes here—I wanted to follow a group teeing off of the first hole and simply walk with that group for the duration. When I reviewed the tee sheet and the clock on the wall, the decision was relatively simple.

I didn’t want to deal with the crowds following Phil [Mickelson] and I didn’t want to watch the ridiculously slow pre-shot routine of Michael Allen, so that meant following the group in the middle of these two opposing forces: Will MacKenzie, Chez Reavie, and Ben Curtis. Although I’m familiar with Curtis after his stellar play last week at Bay Hill and his 2003 Open Championship win, I didn’t know anything about MacKenzie or Reavie—and that’s just the way I like it.

Later ...

Ben Curtis has a half-moon cookie swing. That’s the best way to describe it. The backswing and follow through are two different colors of the same baked good. Whereas his backswing is crisp and his wrists set themselves quickly to bring the club back to parallel, his follow through is more of a lazy, sweeping motion. His swing almost slows down as it progresses, and he finishes high, almost to help the ball into the air. Obviously, when his timing is on, he’s REALLY ON. You can’t win an Open Championship, besting the greatest players in the world, without a good swing.

Later ...

Watching each player warm up to tee off of the 8th, I couldn’t help but wonder about the look that’s always plastered on Curtis’ face. As a professional golfer, his eyes and facial expressions make him look like a super-nice guy, perhaps even a bit of a push-over. He always looks like he’s just waking up or squinting like the Godfather. If he were a hitman making contract kills, the look he has on his face right now would be the scariest thing I have ever seen in my life.

And later still ...

Ben Curtis made a par, but I almost fell asleep when I tried to watch him. He takes as much time over his putts as Jeff Maggert does for every shot. Come on Ben, there’s no coffee around here for 1,000 yards.

Tom Collins is a former caddie who is following the PGA Tour in 2010. Learn more about his original e-books at TheReluctantJamBoy.com.

(Image: Cmiked/Flickr)