Tuesday, May 31

A Quarter Century of World No. 1 Golfers

THE OFFICIAL WORLD GOLF RANKING (OWGR) debuted in 1986. Masters champion Bernhard Langer was the first world No. 1. Langer’s reign only lasted three weeks. Seve Ballesteros, who died three weeks ago, grabbed the top spot and held on to it for more than a year. Then Greg Norman was king of the hill for much of the 1990s.

Luke Donald will now take a turn at the top, thanks to his dramatic playoff win over former No. 1 Lee Westwood at the BMW PGA Championship. Donald is the 15th player to claim the No. 1 ranking.

Here are all 15, including the number of weeks they were on top:

Bernhard Langer, 3 weeks
Seve Ballesteros, 61 weeks
Greg Norman, 331 weeks
Nick Faldo, 97 weeks
Ian Woosnam, 50 weeks
Fred Couples, 16 weeks
Nick Price, 44 weeks
Tom Lehman, 1 week
Tiger Woods, 623 weeks
Ernie Els, 9 weeks
David Duval, 15 weeks
Vijay Singh, 32 weeks
Lee Westwood, 17 weeks
Martin Kaymer, 8 weeks
Luke Donald, took over yesterday (May 30, 2011)

Since the decline of Tiger Woods, it has been Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood and now Luke Donald. How long will Donald be No. 1 and who will displace him?

It might be Westwood again, especially if he can finally get the “major” monkey off his back. Of course, The Donald would also like to win his first major.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Source: Golf.com)

(Photo credit: Keith Allison, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Monday, May 30

Who Are Those Guys? Keegan Bradley Edition



IN “BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE Sundance Kid,” Butch (Paul Newman) and Sundance (Robert Redford) kept saying, “Who are those guys?” That line reminds me of the PGA Tour some weeks. Like last week, for instance.

Keegan Bradley beat Ryan Palmer in a sudden-death playoff to win the HP Byron Nelson Championship, his first PGA Tour victory. I didn’t see it, so I missed my chance to be filled in on Bradley’s bio by the CBS golf crew. I’m in total darkness. I know less about Bradley than I did about Gary Woodland, who won the Transitions Championship. I had at least heard of Woodland.

First of all, Bradley is to be congratulated. To win on the PGA Tour is a huge accomplishment under any circumstances. The 24-year-old Vermont native held it together down the stretch on a difficult golf course and beat a tour winner in a playoff. That says a lot. It has become a trend, too. Bradley is the sixth first-time winner on tour this year.

But, besides being young and from The Green Mountain State, who the heck is he? Well, he’s the nephew of LPGA Tour great Pat Bradley. I know that Bradley.

Keegan Bradley played golf at St. Johns University, not exactly a collegiate golf powerhouse. Apparently, he won his share of college tournaments. Last year he played on the Nationwide Tour, where he had a second and two thirds en route to a 14-place finish on the money list.

In his first full year on the PGA Tour, Bradley has three top tens in 16 starts. He drives it long. He’s a Boston Red Sox fan. He listed their World Series victory as his biggest thrill outside of golf. Ben Hogan and his father are in his dream foursome. And he accepts his phantom status. “Going under the radar is kind of my thing,” he said.

Bradley had done a great job of staying under the radar until yesterday’s big win on national television. Now it will be much tougher to sneak up on anyone, especially if he can keep mustering the game to close out wins on Sunday.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
Who Are Those Guys? Gary Woodland Edition

Sunday, May 29

Book Review: ‘The Caddie Who Won the Masters’

Editors note: Author and golf enthusiast Roland Merullo recently reviewed bestselling author John Coyne’s latest golf novel, The Caddie Won Won the Masters. To learn more about Coyne’s book, visit JohnCoyneBooks.com or Amazon.

By Roland Merullo
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


IN JOHN COYNE’S SPLENDID new golf novel, The Caddie Who Won the Masters, all of the action, from first page to last, takes place at Augusta National Golf Club, site of what is arguably the most famous golf tournament on earth. Because of this, and because of Coyne’s intricate knowledge of the golf course and Masters’ history, Augusta itself shares the spotlight as the book’s main character. For those of us lucky enough to have walked those hallowed grounds, it seems perfectly appropriate that the manicured fairways and slippery greens should leap out of the background of the story and take center stage.

The plot revolves around the other main character, Tim Alexander, an aging amateur who earns a Masters’ appearance by virtue of a victory in the United States Mid-Amateur Championship. Alexander’s relationship with the game is as complex as the undulations of Augusta’s notorious greens: a young phenom, he turned his back on golf in part because of a difficult relationship with a business-obsessed father. Instead of pursuing a golf career, he’s devoted his working life to teaching English at a Midwestern university.

For most golfers an invitation to the Masters is a great honor; for Tim, it’s a kind of torment. His wife is seriously ill, and leaving her to play in a tournament he believes he has no chance of winning only brings up and intensifies his troubled history with the game.

Coyne does a very good job of smoothly bringing together Augusta and Alexander as the main elements in a stew of golf suspense and personal turmoil. As he showed in his other books in the “Caddie” series, The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan, and The Caddie Who Played with Hickory, he demonstrates a knowledge of the game that would be the envy of most golf writers. His understanding of the intricacies of golf is top-shelf, and his command of Augusta history is particularly impressive.

He does a nice job, too, of weaving a list of golf gods into the story—from Clifford Roberts and Bob Jones, who brought the tournament to life, to Ben Hogan, Bobby Locke, Jimmy Demaret and Gene Sarazen, who were winners of the coveted green jacket. These ghosts of Augusta’s past are surreal, on the one hand, but we get enough of their personal story to make them all too human, as well, and Coyne uses them deftly to demonstrate that, behind every golf legend, there is a very human tale.

In fact, though I’m a golf fanatic, what I especially liked about The Caddie Who Won the Masters, was the way the human stories are interleaved with the shot-by-shot recounting of this imaginary tournament. One of Tim’s fellow amateurs, Charlie Smith, is particularly well drawn, and his personal predicament holds up a mirror to Alexander’s own past. I would have liked to see a bit more of Alexander’s wife, and of his children especially, but in order for the book to work as well as it does, Augusta National—with its history of heartbreak and triumph—had to occupy the spotlight.

Coyne is able to let his knowledge of the game and its history serve the story rather than overwhelm it—a trick many golf novelists struggle to accomplish. The novel moves quickly, with no wasted scenes and with just enough surprises to keep the reader pleasantly off balance. For golf aficionados and lovers of the game, it makes for a very enjoyable stroll down Magnolia Lane.

Roland Merullo has published nine novels and three books of non-fiction. He is a passionate golfer, a devoted father, and a lover of good food and wine. He lives in western Massachusetts with his wife, Amanda, and their two daughters. Pay him a visit at RolandMerullo.com.

Friday, May 27

Hale Irwin Wins 2036 MasterCard Championship

Editor’s note: In honor of 65-year-old Hale Irwin being in contention at the Senior PGA Championship, this is a look back at a post inspired by his 2007 win at the the MasterCard Championship. It was his 45th Champions Tour title. Irwin was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1992. I’m pretty certain he is going to play golf forever.

ON SUNDAY HALE IRWIN FIRED a final-round 68 to capture the 2036 MasterCard Championship by two strokes. It was a Champions Tour-record 73rd title for the ageless Irwin, and his first win since turning 90, making him the oldest competitor to win a golf tournament. (Or just about anything, for that matter.)

“I’ve lost about 10 yards off the tee,” Irwin said. “But my iron game is solid and the putts were dropping from everywhere this week.”

Irwin is also the oldest player to win the U.S. Open. He won his third national title in 1990 at 45, or half his current age. The tour veteran sank a 45-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole that tied him with journeyman Mike Donald. He beat Donald the following day in a playoff that went 19 holes at Medinah Country Club in the Chicago suburbs.

After sinking his final putt to clinch the MasterCard Championship in Hawaii, the jubilant Irwin ran along the ropes (actually he walked-jogged) slapping hands with the appreciative gallery.

“Winning never gets old,” he said.

−The Armchair Golfer

(This is an ARMCHAIR GOLF spoof.)

Thursday, May 26

2011 HP Byron Nelson Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2011 HP BYRON NELSON CHAMPIONSHIP is underway at TPC Four Seasons Resort in Irving, Texas. Five players, including Sergio Garcia, are tied for the lead after opening with 66. The first round is still in progress.

Purse: $6.5 million
Winner’s share: $1.17 million
Defending champion: Jason Day

2011 HP Byron Nelson Championship Leaderboard

Field
Course
Tee times
Interviews
Tournament overview
Tournament news
Tour report
HP Byron Nelson Championship website


TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2011 HP Byron Nelson Championship is on Golf Channel and CBS.

Thu, 5/26:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Fri, 5/27:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 5/28:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 5/29:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times


−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, May 25

Hit It Bubba Long (in Your Dreams)




“DON’T JUST HIT IT LONG. Hit it Bubba long.” That’s Bubba Watson talking in the above spot for Ping G15 and K15 drivers.

I understand. It’s marketing. But it still makes me smile. I can hit it Bubba long? Really?

Last time I checked (which was a few seconds ago), Bubba was averaging 311.7 yards per drive on the PGA Tour this season. That’s well above the average driving distance of your run-of-the-mill PGA Tour player. Which means most of Bubba’s fellow players can’t even hit it Bubba long.

(By the way, Bubba’s driving accuracy is virtually identical to the PGA Tour average: 60.03% vs. 60.20%. So Bubba is pretty darn straight while being Bubba long.)

I played golf with my dad in California using a borrowed set of clubs. Dad is a tinkerer, so he has assorted golf clubs, golf balls, a carry bag, the works, in his garage. It includes a respectable backup set of irons and several drivers and fairway metals. That’s what I use when I show up. There’s no need to lug my set through airports for a couple of nine-hole rounds.

Anyway, I hit the snot out of a Ping driver my dad no longer uses, a part of my makeshift borrowed set. I really killed it. In fact, I hit it straighter and farther than my own driver. To be honest, it was a better club than the piece of junk I carry in my bag. It was a Ping.

But I didn’t hit it Bubba long. Not even close.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, May 24

Ken Green to Play in This Week’s Senior PGA Championship

WHEN KEN GREEN TEES it up on Thursday at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, he will likely be the first amputee to play in the Senior PGA Championship. Green will be allowed to use a golf cart. The 53-year-old tour veteran was granted an exemption because he was a U.S. Ryder Cup team member in 1989.

“I’m really psyched about the opportunity to play in the championship, because it’s a wonderful venue and a wonderful championship,” Green said at PGA.com.

Good for Ken Green. The man has been through hell.

In June 2009 a right-front tire on Green’s RV blew out on a Mississippi interstate highway. Green and passengers tumbled down an embankment and struck a large oak tree, killing everyone except Green—his brother, his girl friend and his dog, a German Shepard that Green once rescued from an alligator attack in Florida. Not long after the former PGA Tour player lost his right leg below the knee and was fitted with a prosthetic limb. Green vowed that he would return to golf one day.

Then tragedy struck again in January 2010 when Green’s 21-year-old son was found dead in a dorm room at Southern Methodist University. An autopsy revealed that a combination of alcohol and prescription drugs was the cause of death.

Green’s golf comeback began about a year ago when he teamed with Mike Reid for a 26th-place tie at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf in Savannah, Georgia. He played in two more 2010 events and averaged just over 75 strokes per round. Not bad for an amputee competing on the Champions Tour, but certainly not the brash Ken Green who won five times on the PGA Tour.

The truth is, the scores and money totals don’t matter much now. Just playing again is a major victory for a man who has lost his son, girl friend, brother, dog and leg.

“I believe that my story may be good for someone who has suffered a similar fate,” Green said. “If I can serve as any encouragement to someone missing a limb or possibly a parent who may be able to bring a kid to the course, I feel my time will be well spent.”

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: Keith Allison, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Monday, May 23

Why David Toms Hits So Many Fairways and Greens

PETER KOSTIS I’M NOT. Kostis offered a swing analysis of David Toms during the final round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club. The CBS commentator drew two lines that demonstrated Toms’ unchanging posture during the address, back swing, down swing, follow through and finish. It was a thing of beauty.

I stumbled across the photo at right of Toms that was snapped at the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills. I don’t think we need Kostis. Take a good look at it: the footwork, weight shift, extension and especially the head position. Goodness gracious. It’s all there, isn’t it?

(By the way, look at the two guys whose heads are sticking out sideways toward the right-hand side of the photo. I got a kick out of them. They sure were determined to get a look at that velvety Toms action.)

David Toms has a well-earned reputation as a sweet ball striker. Not long—about eight yards below average—but real straight. Another thing about him: tempo. It never seems to change, whether he has a driver or wedge in his hands.

At Colonial, Toms was something like second in both fairways hit and greens in regulation. Throw in some made putts and you can see how the 44-year-old veteran carded those unfathomable back-to-back 62s. But then it got tough on the weekend. It almost always does when you’ve gone five years without a win. A big part of that was due to a tough golf course with weekend pin locations, as well as windy conditions.

This time, Toms slipped by Charlie Wi and hung on. “That just took a lot of guts,” he said.

There were tears of joy for the Toms family in Fort Worth instead of the heartbreak of a playoff loss to K.J. Choi in Florida. CBS pointed the camera at 13-year-old son Carter as he hugged his dad on the 18th green. That was the money shot.

Well, that and the hole out for eagle at the 11th.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: James Marvin Phelps, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Sunday, May 22

Former Military Site Is a Bustling, Sustainable Golf Mecca




















Would you play here? The East Course at Hong Kong’s 54-hole Kau Sai Chau golf facility.



THE JOCKEY CLUB KAU SAI CHAU Public Golf Course, a 54-hole Hong Kong golf facility, is billed as one of the busiest public golf courses in the world. After receiving the GEO Certified™ award from the Golf Environment Organization, it’s now also recognized as one of the most sustainably managed golf facilities on the planet.

Kau Sai Chau is the site of a former military firing range that was shelled repeatedly from 1930 to 1975. It opened in 1995 and features three 18-hole public golf courses that are now peppered continuously with golf shots instead of ammunition. Environmental innovations include a solar-hybrid ferry system that transports golfers to and from the island. Kau Sai Chau also boasts the world’s first fleet of solar-powered electric golf carts.

These and other sustainable features were funded by a Hong Kong charities trust that was concerned about the threats of global warming and climate change.

The North and South courses were designed by golf legend Gary Player. The East Course was designed by golf course architects Nelson & Haworth.

Head of Golf Operations Mike Carey said his club brings world-class golf to the Hong Kong public at “affordable levels.”

Gary Player said, “The popularity of this public facility demonstrates that with the right site and the right approach to golf development it’s possible to achieve outcomes that benefit people, the environment and the game of golf.”

I’d play there. Even though it’s walkable, I’d make an exception and ride so I could roll down the fairways in a solar-powered golf cart.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo: Courtesy of Landmark Media)

Friday, May 20

Sergio Garcia to Run for Office?


























DONALD TRUMP MIGHT NOT BE running for president, but apparently Spanish golf star Sergio Garcia is running for mayor. He must be judging from the above banner. Would you vote for him?

OK, so Garcia is not really running for mayor. The signage was instead a friendly way for his Fort Worth fan base to say howdy and welcome to Colonial Country Club and the Crowne Plaza Invitational. The banner greeted him just outside of the club’s gates.

Maybe it pepped up Garcia’s game. On Thursday he opened with a dandy 4-under 66. Friday wasn’t as good. Sergio carded five bogeys against two birdies for a 3-over 73.

Politics can’t be that much harder than golf, can it?

−The Armchair Golfer

(Visor tip to Alan Bastable)

(Photo: Courtesy of @CrownePlazaInv)

Thursday, May 19

Colonial Times: A Brief History of Hogan’s Alley

(Plucked and updated from the ARMCHAIR GOLF archives.)

COLONIAL COUNTRY CLUB, SITE of this week’s Crowne Plaza Invitational, ain’t what it used to be. Not by a long shot, or, you might say, a Bubba Watson drive.

The historic layout where Ben Hogan recorded five victories is 7204 yards and plays to a par of 70. That’s short by current PGA Tour standards. Today’s bombers can drive over the doglegs and spin their short irons on the small greens. Some pros hit wedges into greens to which Hogan hit 4-irons.

Yet when Colonial first opened in the early 1940s and later began hosting the Colonial Invitational, it was considered one of the toughest courses anywhere.

Texas native and Hall of Famer Jacke Burke Jr. once said, “If you’re told to just go out and shoot par on a golf course, Colonial is the last one you’d try it on.”

Colonial was the vision of business tycoon Marvin Leonard. Leonard thought Fort Worth should have a golf course with bentgrass greens, uncommon in the Texas heat and during an era when golf course agronomy was far more primitive. Designed by John Bredemus and Perry Maxwell, Colonial opened with about 100 members in 1936. In 1941, it hosted the first U.S. Open played west of the Mississippi River.

Not coincidentally, Colonial was built for a fade, Hogan’s trademark ball flight. Of Colonial’s 14 par-4 holes, nine favored a controlled fade off the tee. “A straight ball will get you in more trouble at Colonial than any course I know,” Hogan once remarked.

One of the better players during Hogan’s heyday, 1951 winner Cary Middlecoff called Colonial the toughest par-70 in the world. This is how Middlecoff once described playing the 466-yard par-4 5th hole:

“First, I pull out two brand-new Wilson balls and throw them into the Trinity River. Then I throw up. Then I go ahead and hit my tee shot into the river.”

Strong, fit and armed with modern golf weapons, Colonial doesn’t frighten today’s tour pros. David Toms and Chez Reavie share the clubhouse lead after posting 8-under 62s. The first round is still in progress.

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, May 18

A Comfortable Conversation with Stewart Cink (Conclusion)




FOLLOWING IS THE SECOND and concluding part of my recent interview with Stewart Cink. In Part 1, Cink talked about his own “Journey to Comfort,” which is the name of the Dove® Men + Care™ campaign that features him and Davis Love. He also discussed family life and his surprising fan base, including the Twitter explosion that resulted in 1.2 million followers.

Today Stewart talks about the state of his golf game, including his relatively new coach and swing changes, shares his feelings about the Ryder Cup, and weighs in on the current and future prospects for tour golf.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: You were talking earlier about numbers and statistics and results, and how they don’t really tell the whole story. I was wondering about the state of your game. I know you’re probably disappointed about another missed cut at the Masters. It looked like you played some good golf at Heritage. Where are things going for you right now?

STEWART CINK: The state of my game is sort of changing right now. I changed coaches at the end of last year. I worked with Butch Harmon for eight years. I’ve moved on to a new coach, Pat O’Brien. Both coaches have been great. Butch was excellent. We’re still good friends, but we just parted ways because we kind of reached a little bit of a plateau. Working with Pat O’Brien has been good, though, making a couple of little changes. So at times, very much like our very famous golfer Tiger Woods who’s making a lot of changes right now. It’s not easy to implement changes competitively when you’re on the golf course. I’m caught in between at times.

Currently, the state of my game is that I’m doing everything pretty well. I’m just not getting the ball up and down enough. That’s pretty evident in my statistics. I don’t really pay a lot of attention to stats, but I do know that if you’re outside about the top 150 in any statistical category, you’ve got a problem. There’s not always a clear definition between 100 and 30th, but way down the list there’s an issue there. So that’s where I’m working. And a missed cut at the Masters certainly hurts this year. It’s one of the most disappointing parts of my career, to be honest with you, is my performance at the Masters. I live in Georgia, I’ve wanted to be competitive there, and I’ve wanted to stroll up the 18th fairway looking at the Green Jacket, and I just haven’t been there. It just really works on me because the golf course ought to be one that really suits me, and I haven’t performed very well. Maybe just putting too much pressure on myself every year thinking about it. Every missed cut you think about it more, so you kind of just snowball.

I don’t really organize my career in a goal-setting way. I think that’s more in the results. Rewards and goals are sometimes easily confused. For me, I just try to be ready for every shot, get to the best state of my game with preparation and practice and doing the things that I believe are sound. I believe that that will end up with rewards in the form of better scores and better finishes. So I don’t really look at goals. But I know one thing, that I’m working really hard, I’m trying to get better, and stay competitive and get back to where I was when I was winning the British Open in 2009. But it’s a tough journey sometimes when you make that coaching change and you start changing things in your swing. It’s always a journey back to being comfortable in the heat of battle.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: You’ve been on five straight Ryder Cup teams. I figured it would mean a lot to play on another team, especially with your friend Davis as captain. Can you talk about that?

STEWART CINK: Yeah, it really would. I’ve been picked for three teams, and that means a lot to me. Being picked is almost the most satisfying way to join a team because the captain has a lot of guys to look at and picks you. I got picked by Hal Sutton. I got picked by Tom Lehman. And I got picked by Corey Pavin. Talk about a reinforcement of your self beliefs. Most media members who have asked me questions about being picked for the Ryder Cup have asked me if it feels like there’s more pressure. I promise you that the guy that qualifies 10th has a lot more pressure on him than the guy that gets picked. I’ve been there in both cases. But yeah, it would mean so much to me to be able to represent the United States again in the Ryder Cup, especially in the United States. In Louisville, winning on that team in 2008, was one of the very few top highlights of my career. Even though I didn’t have my best matches there—I did win a match and lost two—but that experience, being a part of a winning Ryder Cup team, was something I’ll never ever forget. It was awesome.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: We’ve seen a lot going on with the economy, a lot of change in golf. It’s been down. Now it’s coming back. We see changes at the top with the world rankings. From the Stewart Cink perspective, what’s the state of tour golf these days?

STEWART CINK: First of all, I think the tour lags behind the rest of the economy by a period of time that’s somewhere between 10 and 20 months. We’re in the same period that this dip in the economy was in about a year and a half ago. That’s because of contractual structures where companies are involved with a long-term deal that might not expire down the road for several years. When that time comes, they say the economy has hurt us. That’s when you see tournaments start struggling for sponsorships. The state of the game is good. It’s just difficult times right now because the FedEx Cup is really awesome, but it’s also caused prices to go up. Sponsorship prices are higher. The product is better, but it costs more. There are fewer companies out there that can pay, especially in the belt-tightening environment we’re in right now.

I think the tour is a little bit more of a streamlined organization than it was. We’re ready. We’re fighting hard. But it’s a tough fight. I don’t think they’re going to be able to escape losing a tournament or two over the next couple of years. I think the tour is going to come through it all right, but there will be scars. The game of golf is not going to change radically, but there have been some changes already that the players have noticed, and the fans probably won’t notice because it won’t impact golf on television or in person. We have to provide more value. The players have to interact more with the sponsors than ever before, which should have been happening forever anyway. Some of these younger players are realizing maybe I wasn’t born onto the planet with the right to play golf for $6 million a week. Maybe I have to go out and actually earn that. It’s probably a good thing for the health of the tour in the long-term sense.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Thanks, Stewart. I appreciate the chance to talk with you. I wish you all the best with your swing changes and everything else.

STEWART CINK: OK, thank you very much. I appreciate that.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
A Comfortable Conversation with Stewart Cink (Part 1)
A Comfortable Conversation with Davis Love III

Tuesday, May 17

A Comfortable Conversation with Stewart Cink




ABOUT TWO WEEKS AGO I HAD the opportunity to interview Stewart Cink as part of the Dove® Men + Care™ media outreach. Called “Journey to Comfort,” the ad campaign features Cink, Davis Love (who I also interviewed) and other athletes such as Magic Johnson and Bobby Hurley. Cink has six PGA Tour wins, including one major, the 2009 British Open. He also has played on five consecutive U.S. Ryder Cup teams.

Even with editing, the conversation runs considerably longer than what I normally post here, so I have split it into two parts. Today you’ll read about why Stewart wants to let fans get to know him, how Twitter has surprised him, and the importance and inherent difficulty of his family life.

Coming on Wednesday: The state of Stewart Cink’s golf game, the Ryder Cup and his take on the changing landscape of tour golf.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I saw on Twitter that you’ve had a lot of coffee today so you can’t practice your putting.

STEWART CINK: You’re right about that. A friend of mine who is a pastor just opened up a new church in the last couple of years. And their ministry is coffee. They get the coffee from all over the world. It’s really good stuff. He just brought me over to the place where they roast it. We roasted coffee, we ground coffee, we French pressed it, and we drank it. I’m pretty much finished practicing for the day now because as of about 11 o’clock this morning I was too buzzed on caffeine.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Is everyone from the Cink family and your extended family OK after all these tornadoes that hit the South?

STEWART CINK: Nobody from our family suffered any damage or injuries, thank goodness. Most of my family has moved out of Alabama. My wife’s brother and his family live between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. But they weren’t on the path of the tornado, luckily. It’s sad. It’s such an outburst of severe weather all at once that you just don’t really see on this kind of an unpredictable level.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Let’s talk a little bit about this campaign. I’ve seen the spots. They fit in well with the “journey to comfort” idea. People who look at you now and look at your success probably don’t think about what you went through in your college days. You talked about the challenges of being a husband, father, student and a college golfer, and how that forced you to mature. How do you see that maturing process continuing in your career and in your family life?

STEWART CINK: You’re right about how the Dove® Men + Care™ campaign really fits with me. There couldn’t be a better match as far as their campaign and the way my career and life have unfolded. My journey started back in college, like you said. I was a father, student, scholarship athlete. I was like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. I got out on the PGA Tour. Early on, it was about getting comfortable and figuring out who I was and what kind of golfer I needed to be and how I would be successful. Now I’ve been out there for 15 years and the journey’s become a lot more about … the journey to become comfortable in the heat of the battle. And different kinds of battles—Ryder Cup, major championships. I love talking about my journey. That’s what the campaign with Dove® Men + Care™ has enabled me to do, just share more of that with everybody and really let them know that I’ve gone through the same kind of struggles that everybody out there goes through. It’s part of my career that I really enjoy talking about, and my life, too. I like sharing it with people and I feel like I make a good connection with people when they understand that I’m comfortable with that.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: As a golf fan and someone who writes about golf, I appreciate that. I think that’s why you connect with fans. Obviously you’re a competitor, but you’re also real. You have a kind of transparency that we don’t often see in other professional golfers and athletes. That’s appealing.

STEWART CINK: I appreciate you mentioning that because that’s exactly my goal, to be transparent and to be a real person who’s more than statistics. I want to feel an emotional connection with fans more than just the kind of connection you get from a statistical rundown of a guy’s career. That’s what the campaign does. It’s all about being comfortable in your own skin. I don’t think I could be sharing all the information and private stuff that I do without being comfortable in my own skin.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Your wife and family are a big part of things for you. They’re certainly visible in this campaign. I wondered if you’d talk about how Lisa and your sons support this very competitive and demanding livelihood of yours.

STEWART CINK: It is demanding and it is competitive, for sure. It’s also a great job. I love what I do. I still love playing. I love competing. The negative side of it is I have to be away from home a lot. But that’s not unusual today with the way people travel around for work. A lot of people have to say goodbye to their families. They’re gone for a week or two, and they come back. That part, I think a lot of people can identify with. I think it’s more difficult on my marriage then it is on the kids because the kids were born into it. They have known nothing other than me traveling on the road for chunks of time. Then I reenter their lives two weeks down the road. My wife, on the other hand, was not born into that. It’s difficult on her because when I’m on the road she’s basically a single parent. I help her make decisions as much as I can, but I’m not there. That part of the job is difficult. They do a great job of supporting me and they accept the difficulties that come along with it because they also know and respect that I love it and that I have a special opportunity that I want to take advantage of.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: You’re up over 8,000 tweets and were one of the first tour players to jump on and embrace Twitter. What has surprised you about that platform, and what do you get out of it?

STEWART CINK: Let me answer the second part of your question first: What do I get out of it? I started Twitter because I wanted to establish a connection with my fan base, a fan base that I didn’t know existed. I wanted to establish a connection that was more of an emotional kind of connection and a real connection than a statistical kind of environment. Also, I didn’t feel like television coverage of golf tournaments was doing a very good job of translating a personality that I have. It’s arguable, I guess, whether I have one or not [chuckling]. I wanted Twitter to be able to provide a direct, unfiltered contact to my fan base. Unless you’re Tiger Woods or a few other guys, it’s hard to get your emotional self across through the camera lens and into the living room of the fan because most of us figured out the best way to play successful golf is to be emotionless. That translates as boring. No one really knows much about you. So I got started Twitter to break down that barrier. One of the things I’ve really tried to do with Twitter is to maintain a respect between me and my followers, and try to answer a lot of questions so that the relationship has been sort of like an open-mic Q&A.

That leads me into the first part of your question, which is what surprised me the most about it. I think it’s pretty obvious. What surprised me is that I have 1.2 million followers. My son, who was with me when I started Twitter—he kind of showed me the ropes—he thought I would probably end up with maybe 500 or so followers. I thought, 500 fans—that’s 500 more than I thought I had. So I’ll take them. As you know and I know, it quickly jumped past 500. I think it owes a lot to the transparency you mentioned earlier. I think my fan base out there, my followers on Twitter, they appreciate my willingness and candor. They like to hear a guy they see on TV is willing to share stuff about his personal life.

(To be continued.)

−The Armchair Golfer

Related: A Comfortable Conversation with Davis Love III

Monday, May 16

K.J. KO’s David Toms on Isle of Terror

SUNDAY’S DUEL AT THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP was going to turn out well. And it wasn’t. Let me explain.

I like David Toms. I’m a sucker for the quasi old guy who has been down and now has the chance to win a big one like The Players Championship. NBC had me all set up with the father-son story. Sappy, yes. I loved it. You got me, Dan Hicks. I would nod my head in approval if Toms won.

But I’m also a huge K.J. Choi fan. I like everything about him. I like the way he carries himself. I like how he turns up and grinds it out on tough golf courses. And I like the way he respects the game, the fans and his fellow players.

So, the Toms-Choi duel was going to turn out well for me. I was going to cheer either guy as he hoisted the enormous crystal trophy. But there was also the downside of watching one of them lose. I knew it would be worse if Toms lost—and that’s what happened.

The 17th at TPC Sawgrass is such a contrived golf hole. A short iron over water to an island green. Is it a wedge? Is it a little 9 iron? What’s the wind doing? Why did I wear white pants? Say what you will about Pete Dye’s signature hole, it’s always dramatic.

As we saw in the sudden-death playoff, it’s not over once your golf ball safely reaches the Isle of Terror. The green is as slippery as bacon grease. Choi eased his long birdie putt to within about two feet of the hole. Going for the win, Toms slid his putt three feet by. Knock it in, David. You’ve got this. Oh, man! NBC shows family. Son buries face in mom’s shoulder. K.J. taps in for the win. Sigh.

Turning back to regulation play, I’m not in the layup at 16 camp, like Johnny Miller and so many others. Toms had that shot in his bag. This wasn’t crazy Phil trying to thread the ball through a keyhole or carry it 350. Toms had about 240 yards to the green and could bail out left like so many others had. He just made a bad swing. Chalk it up to the pressure of the moment. A bad shot, not bad shot selection.

Toms went on to play the 18th like a champ. That birdie out of a sand divot was as clutch as you’ll ever see. Then that yanked three-footer. All you can do is shake your head and go get a hug from the family.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: James Marvin Phelps, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Saturday, May 14

2011 Players Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2011 PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP is underway at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Citing a re-injury to his left knee and Achilles tendon, Tiger Woods withdrew after completing nine holes in 42 strokes on Thursday.

Purse: $9.5 million
Winner’s share: $1.71 million
Defending champion: Tim Clark

2011 Players Championship Leaderboard

Field
Tee times
360-degree tour of Stadium Course
Interviews
Tournament overview
Tournament news
Tour report
LIVE @ 2011 Players Championship


TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2011 Players Championship is on Golf Channel and NBC.

Thursday, May 12, 1-7 p.m. - Golf Channel

Friday, May 13, 1-7 p.m. - Golf Channel

Saturday, May 14, 2-7 p.m. - NBC

Sunday, May 15, 2-7 p.m. - NBC

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times


−The Armchair Golfer

The World’s First Floating 18-Hole Golf Course




























THE WORLD’S FIRST FLOATING, solar-powered, zero-footprint 18-hole golf course is in development, and, if on schedule, will open in the island nation of Maldives in 2015. The Republic of Maldives is located in the Indian Ocean, about 400 miles southwest of Sri Lanka. It’s a chain of more than 1,000 islands; roughly 200 are inhabited. It sits about four feet above sea level. The nation’s highest point is just seven and a half feet above sea level.

Golf seems like an outlandish idea for a teeny island nation with a shortage of dry land. But it’s not far-fetched to the Dutch Docklands company. They’re the industry experts in floating technology who are developing a world-class golf facility that will be interconnected by underwater tunnels. It’s a $500 million project that will bring golf and new tourism opportunities to The Maldives.

The state-of-the-art golf course will not be constructed on the nation’s scarce acreage. Rather, the development will be a set of artificial floating islands. In other words, zero impact to the footprint of The Maldives. The project design includes sustainable features such as water cooling, sweet water collection floating on saltwater and use of floating solar blanket fields. The site is located five minutes from the airport and will include luxury accommodations that overlook the golf course and a reef.

In addition to Dutch Docklands, Waterstudio.NL and Troon Golf are on the development and management team.

Still four years away, you have plenty of time to build up your frequent flyer miles for that airline ticket to The Maldives.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Conceptual images courtesy of Waterstudio.NL)

Friday, May 13

‘Tiger Is Down, But Is He Out?’



(Video: Part 1 of a 2006 “60 Minutes” interview with Ed Bradley. Remember this guy?)


I GOT AN EMAIL from a friend today who asked the question: “Tiger is down, but is he out?”

It’s a great question. Perhaps the question. How would you answer it?

If only Tiger had stayed home this week. A hobbling nine holes, an ugly 42 and another WD at the Players. What does it all mean? The speculation is endless.

Tiger is down, no doubt. Maybe we won’t see him for a long while. But is he out? I don’t think so. At least not as in finished. Yes, the road back looks a lot longer. There are so many physical and mental issues that apparently need to be addressed. It’s like Tiger is lost in the tall pines to the right of the 11th fairway at Augusta National, a place he’s visited all too often. Will he play a brilliant recovery or will he scuff it? Will he ever get back to the fairway?

That guy talking to Ed Bradley, above, is gone. I’ll call him old Tiger. We last caught a glimpse of him at Torrey Pines in 2008. I’m convinced we’ll never see him again. If you watch and listen to him, I think you’ll agree. He sounds and looks nothing like the new Tiger.

The world belonged to old Tiger, but since that Ed Bradley interview it has been one huge loss after another: first the death of his father Earl, then his physical sturdiness (knee problems), then Y.E. Yang, then his wife, then his image and aura, and then, inevitably, his swagger, his game and his confidence.

Much of the last five years, especially the last two, has been about devastating loss for Tiger, both on and off the golf course.

This new Tiger is clearly not as good as the old Tiger, and never will be. No one has ever been as good as that guy. But can he be good enough to win again on the PGA Tour, win majors and chase Jack Nicklaus?

There’s no strong evidence right now to suggest that he can. If Tiger’s legs can carry him, I think it will come down to what’s inside him, that intense competitive fire. If he still has that, then he has a shot. I think it’s still in there.

−The Armchair Golfer

1,000 Mourners Pay Final Tribute to Seve Ballesteros

THEY GATHERED IN AND AROUND the church in Pedrena, a small fishing village in northern Spain. Among them were four European Ryder Cup captains: Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, Sam Torrance and Jose Maria Olazabal. Fellow Spanish golfer Miguel Angel Jimenez, somber and eyes hidden behind dark glasses on the overcast day, was also in attendance.

Seve’s ashes were carried by his eldest son in an urn, to be spread beneath a magnolia tree at the family home in a private ceremony. Yet Europe’s greatest golfer was still very much alive in the memories and hearts of those who attended the funeral. Children wore Seve-like navy blue outfits and clutched 3-irons, Seve’s lone club when he took up the game as a boy.

“With hard work he went from nothing to everything,” said Seve’s nephew Ivan Ballesteros, “realizing his dream to be the best and to be in the heart of the people.

“Rest my friend, rest Seve.”

−The Armchair Golfer

Photo slide show of Seve Ballesteros’s Funeral

Tuesday, May 10

My Near Ace at Blacksburg Country Club

I’VE WAITED A LONG time to make a second hole-in-one. How long? Since high school. My first and only ace was a 9-iron on a 140-yard par 3. It came on the day after golf season ended. Fortunately, I was not playing alone.

With a tiny bit of help from the golf gods, yesterday could have been my second. Really. (I know many of you have a story like this, and it will sound like the fish that got away. My apologies in advance.)

Perhaps not so surprising—I am “The Armchair Golfer,” after all—yesterday was my first round this year. I’m a decent player who, in this season of life, doesn’t play much golf. But yesterday was the Young Life tournament at Blacksburg Country Club. It’s an annual tradition, two-man teams that play captain’s choice (scramble) format. I always partner with my colleague and friend Walter, another former high school and college golfer who barely plays.

There were the typical team and hole prizes, including longest drive on various holes, longest putt and closest to the pin on all four par-3s. I’m not going to win the long drive. But I do have a history of closest-to-the-pin wins. One year I took home a new driver. That brings us to yesterday’s near-perfect shot.

On the par-3 15th, which was playing about 175, I struck a crisp 5-iron that flew straight at the flag. It looked great in the air, but was it the right distance? My playing partners talked to my ball while I stared silently, hopefully. The ball landed and stopped close to the hole.

I didn’t know how good it was until I got to the green. The ball nearly went in on the fly. The ball mark was an inch to the left of the cup. I sank the four-and-a-half-foot birdie putt. One of my playing partners marked me down on the closest-to-the-pin sheet and all agreed I had sewed up the victory on that hole. A small green surrounded by trouble, it isn’t an easy par 3. How was anyone going to hit it closer than me?

Hours later tournament organizers handed out the prizes at the banquet. I admit I was wondering what I would win. But they never called my name. Because a golfer who came along after me aced the 15th hole. It was the second hole-in-one in the 23-year history of the tournament. The guy wasn’t even at the banquet to pick up his prize. He and his pals were at large, celebrating the shot of the tournament.

As a team, Walter and I finished toward the bottom of the first flight. We won four gourmet burgers at Red Robin. Oh well.

Did I tell you about the bunker shot I nearly holed on the 3rd hole? It’s true. It lipped out. Nevermind. I think I’ve already told you enough.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Images: Courtesy of Blacksburg Country Club)

Monday, May 9

Doug ‘About Time’ Ford Enters World Golf Hall of Fame

DOUG FORD, 88, FINALLY HAS a spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame. And not a moment too soon. When told last year by PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem he was one of six 2011 inductees, Ford replied, “About time.”

I wholeheartedly agree.

Monday night was the big night. Friend and 1968 Masters champion Bob Goalby presented Ford during the induction ceremony at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Florida. Also enshrined were Ernie Els, Jock Hutchison, Jumbo Ozaki, the late CBS-TV pioneer Frank Chirkinian and former President George H.W. Bush.

Ford had been on the ballot before—and passed over. He expressed doubt about ever getting in and wondered why his record didn’t sway voters.

“I’ll put my record up against just about anyone’s in the Hall,” Ford told GolfChannel.com’s Randall Mell after being turned away in 2009. “I think I have a hell of a record. I don’t know what they’re looking for. I don’t know what the knock on me is, but I’m just not that enthused about it anymore. If they don’t appreciate what I’ve done, I can’t do anything about it.”

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

Awfully good, isn’t it?

Ford played in the era of Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Cary Middlecoff, Arnold Palmer, Julius Boros, Tommy Bolt, Gene Littler and others. All winners and tough competitors. It was back in the day when you sometimes needed to win or finish high just to make enough money to get to the next event, as Bolt told me before he died.

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

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

Probably so. Ford was known for his feisty personality. It’s part of what made him a great player. But now ruffled feathers don’t matter. The feisty Ford is in, a deserving and long overdue selection.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, May 7

Seve’s Brother: ‘What These Hands Have Done in the World’

Editor’s note: 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


IT WAS AN ALMOST sacred ritual. Wiping away the tears that streamed down his cheeks, Baldomero Ballesteros undressed his brother Severiano’s body with an almost maternal gentleness and dressed him in his Sunday uniform—the white shirt, the same navy blue sweater and navy blue slacks that he had habitually worn on the final day of his greatest triumphs.

The family had gathered around Seve’s bedside on Friday and cried silent, bitter tears.

“I held his hands and stroked them and thought: what these hands have done in the world,” the eldest of the Ballesteros brothers told the Spanish sports daily Marca.

“He knew he was dying and he did so with total integrity. More than a brother or a son or a father, a glory has left us.

“He said goodbye to everyone one by one. He clutched our hands, he whispered in our ears. I moved in very close and said: ‘I love you’. And Seve replied: ‘I love you too.’”

Baldomero believed that it was “best” to dress his beloved brother in the Sunday uniform that defined him as one of golf’s greats, one of the sport’s true legends.

“I thought it was best and everyone nodded in agreement,” he said.

Baldomero was asked by national and international sporting and political bodies how best to honour Seve after his death and the manner in which they could say their last goodbyes. But Seve himself had already told him how he wanted it to be: his wake, cremation and burial in the lands surrounding his home were to be conducted in absolute intimacy.

“He told us everything. There was to be just a funeral in the town church and nothing more. Everything else was to remain within the intimacy of the family. Seve is a village boy and we thought it was best. His funeral rites will be as simple as for any other neighbour. He will be sent on his way like anyone else. He was born here and he will remain here.”

Seve will be cremated in a secret location, as was his express wish and his ashes will remain on the lands of his Pedreña home.

The funeral will take place on Wednesday at one o’clock at the parish church of San Pedro de Pedreña and the family will then receive his mortal remains and respect his final wishes by burying his ashes under the cool green grass that gave him so much happiness, so much humanity and so much glory.

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

Friday, May 6

Condoleezza Rice Tees Off in Birmingham

FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE Condoleezza Rice wasted no time on the first tee at Shoal Creek during the pro-am at the Regions Tradition, the year’s first major on the Champions Tour. Forgoing a practice swing, Rice teed the ball and smacked it outside of the ropes. And off she went with Hall of Famer Tom Watson and her other playing partners.

Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News reported that Rice “looked nervous early.” Nervous or not, Rice appeared at times to be as serious and resolute about her golf game as she was about shaping the foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration.

Rice ignored Watson’s suggestion to tee off closer on the 2nd hole, later saying it’s harder to get the ball as high in the air from the shorter tees. She is her own person, off and on the golf course.

“I know at Stanford we used logic,” Rice said to Watson, a Stanford alum. “Today we’re going to use brute strength.”

It was the Birmingham native’s second pro-am at a golf course where she would not have been welcomed two decades ago. Rice became a Shoal Creek member in 2009. On Wednesday she marveled that the girl who couldn’t enter a Birmingham movie theater later became secretary of state.

Rice caught the golf bug in 2005 while vacationing in Atlanta. She likes to keep track of fairways hit, number of shots to the green and total putts to analyze how she can improve her scores.

On the 3rd hole, Rice took Watson’s advice to hit from the front tees. “It’s about time,” Tom kidded. The Shoal Creek member sent her drive right down the middle.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: NewsOne.com)

Thursday, May 5

2011 Wells Fargo Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2011 WELLS FARGO CHAMPIONSHIP is underway at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. Hyundai Tournament of Champions winner Jonathan Byrd and David Toms are the early leaders with 66s. The first round is still in progress.

Purse: $6.5 million
Winner’s share: $1.152 million
Defending champion: Rory McIlroy

2011 Wells Fargo Championship Leaderboard

Inside the field
Inside the course
Tee times
Interviews
Tournament overview
Tournament news
Tour report
Wells Fargo Championship website


TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2011 Wells Fargo Championship is on Golf Channel and CBS.

Thu, 5/5:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

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

Sat, 5/7:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 5/8:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times


−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, May 4

Drop Dead Gorgeous Golf Swings

JAIME DIAZ OF GOLF DIGEST pens a “My Five” series that ranks golf topics such as “Greatest Masters Performances,” “Best PGA Tour Courses,” “Golf’s Greatest Athletes” and “Best Match Players.” His most recent “My Five” edition caught my eye: “Golf’s Prettiest Swings.”

What players, past and present, possess the prettiest swings on the planet? (My apologies for the excessive alliteration.) Here’s Diaz’s list:

1. Sam Snead
No argument here. Snead would make everyone’s list. As quoted by Diaz, John Schlee summed it up: “Watching Sam Snead practice hitting golf balls is like watching a fish practice swimming.”

2. Al Geiberger
Mr. 59 focused on tempo.

3. Jerry Pate
1976 U.S. Open winner whose career was cut short by shoulder problems.

4. Payne Stewart
Yes, a pretty golf swing, but I’m surprised to see Payne in the top 5.

5. Steve Elkington
An exquisite swing. Elkington’s original teacher said, “Steve has the ability to swing the club in an almost musical way.”

Who Else?

So that’s Diaz’s top-5 list of pretty swings. It got me thinking about others. Legendary golf teacher Bob Toski said that Geiberger had the best tall-man swing. Maybe. But another tall man, Tom Weiskopf, also had an enviable golf swing. If Weiskopf could have putted better, he would have won at least one Green Jacket. (He finished as runner-up at the Masters four times.) And how about “The Big Easy,” Ernie Els?

Gene Littler rates a mention. Adam Scott. Mickey Wright. Tom Purtzer. Old-timey, Robert Tyre “Bobby” Jones Jr. And Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey. Wait—scratch that last one.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, May 3

A Comfortable Conversation with Davis Love III




LAST WEEK I HAD THE opportunity to interview Davis Love III as part of the Dove® Men + Care™ media outreach. Called “Journey to Comfort,” the ad campaign features Love, Stewart Cink and other athletes such as Magic Johnson and Bobby Hurley. We discussed the campaign, his mom, his golf game, the U.S. Open and his 2012 Ryder Cup captaincy.

Love has 20 PGA Tour titles, including one major, the 1997 PGA Championship. He also has played on six U.S. Ryder Cup teams and was an assistant captain for Corey Pavin’s 2010 squad.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I heard you had the stomach flu. How are you feeling?

DAVIS LOVE: I’m feeling better, practicing every day, getting ready for a big stretch—Charlotte, Players, Fort Worth, Memorial, all those good ones. I’m excited for the rest of the year.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Yeah, a bunch of good tournaments coming up. I’m going to get to your playing, but I wanted to ask about this campaign you’re working on. I’m old enough to remember the Dove soap ads growing up. You’ve had a lot of golf-related sponsors, but I’ll bet you could never have anticipated having someone like Dove as a sponsor. What has it been like for you?

DAVIS LOVE: It’s been great to be in national ads for a national brand that, as you said, we both grew up with. To be in a campaign like this that has other athletes … Joe Girardi and Bobby Hurley and Magic Johnson and Davis Love and Stewart Cink, it’s pretty amazing. The response has been incredible. So many people come up to me and say, “I’m comfortable in my own skin, too.” People are asking me which soap I like best. They’re saying I sure like that one [TV spot] about your mom. Not only is it brand building, it’s also telling my story. People know that my dad was a pro, that I got lessons from my dad. But my mom was such a big part of my golf life. It’s great to give her some credit and tell that story. It’s been a lot of fun. We’ve been good friends with the Cinks for a long time. It’s been fun to partner with them on this.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I think my favorite one [commercial] was with your mom. Of course, I knew about your father. A lot of people have heard about him. But you say that you got your talent from your mom. Obviously, she was a pretty good golfer herself. How would you say that she helped you in the game?

DAVIS LOVE: In reality, she was the one who taught us to compete, because she was the one who took us out on the course. My mom was a single-digit handicap for 50 years. She didn’t start playing golf until she was in her early 20s. She just picked up the clubs and immediately started playing well. She was very competitive. Not in a U.S. Amateur or tour pro sense, but just competitive with herself. She just wanted to play her best every single day. My dad was a great player and a great teacher, but we didn’t get to play nearly as much with our dad as we did with our mom. My dad was working at the shop, or practicing, or playing. When we were 10 years old, it was a fantasy to try to beat your mom. Not worried about beating your dad. Got to beat your mom first. She didn’t want to get beat by her kids or the ladies she played with. She drove us all over the Southeast to play in tournaments. She was the one to make it happen, for sure. Nice for her to get the credit she certainly deserves.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: It’s a nice story, especially with Mother’s Day coming up. I saw a couple of weeks ago you were concerned about your chipping. How’s your game right now, and what are you working on?

DAVIS LOVE: Right now I am working on chipping. I was chipping yesterday and my son walked up and said, “So how are you chipping?” I said, “That’s the problem. I’m thinking about my chipping, I’m talking about my chipping [chuckling], everybody’s concerned about my chipping.” Yes, I need to work on my short game. As Bob Rotella says, the scoring clubs is what I need to be working on. I can hit the ball plenty far, hit plenty of good shots. I know how to play. I just got to work on the scoring clubs, and that’s as much mental as it is physical. So it’s pre-shot routine, playing games, hitting bunker shots. Not just hitting 50 bunker shots. Trying to hole one to each hole, trying to chip some chips in, play some putting games. With my son or Brad Faxon, I just love to play this back and forth putting game. Practice is more practicing shots and playing games. Hitting high cuts instead of just standing there and smacking 7-irons.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Is all that work still fun for you?

DAVIS LOVE: It’s a lot of fun. I find myself lost in the practice, just like when I was a kid. Yesterday when I was on the range, the high school team was practicing, a little clinic of 10-year-olds, and the 47-year-old tour player that’s been doing it forever. I still love doing it, I still love the challenge, I still love competing. If you don’t go out and practice your chipping, you’re not going to be competitive. As I said, I’m looking forward to this next big stretch of tournaments. I’m excited about the year. I still have goals in my career that I haven’t reached. I’m not going to sit back and relax. I don’t like missing cuts. I don’t like not winning. The tough thing is to try not to work so hard that you’re trying too hard. Get the work done, be consistent with your work, be prepared when you get to the tournament, and then go play. That’s what’s been disappointing since the Florida Swing started. I just don’t feel like I’ve gotten to a tournament 100 percent prepared. So that’s my goal for Charlotte, Players, right on through the summer, getting ready for the U.S. Open. Just be prepared and go out and play and get your confidence back.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I was looking ahead to the U.S. Open. You had a nice finish there last year. You tied for sixth. I looked at 1997 to see how you did, and you had a top-20 finish at Congressional. How do you like Congressional, and how does it set up for your game?

DAVIS LOVE: I think it really sets up well. It’s a big, long, hard course. It looks like a major championship, whether you’re playing Tiger’s AT&T tournament or a major. I’ve always liked it. I’ve played there all the way back to ’86. Pebble has always set up well for me, and I played well there. I felt like at the Players and at the Open last year at Pebble I was right there, like Dustin Johnson and so many other guys. A double here, a double there—I could have won the tournament. I’m excited about Congressional. I’ve always enjoyed playing there and I feel like it suits my game. In the U.S. Open, it comes down to hitting fairways and making putts. That comes with confidence. I think I have the experience. Once I get near the lead, I do pretty good. I just got to get a little more consistent on the Thursday, Friday.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I have to ask you one Ryder Cup question. You’ve been a part of a lot of Ryder Cups and now you’re captain. What does the Ryder Cup mean to you, and what does it mean that it’s your turn to be at the helm?

DAVIS LOVE: It means a lot to me. It means a lot that six captains that I’ve played for, and then Corey that I was assistant for, have put so much into making those seven weeks of my golf career so incredible. I want to give these next 12 guys—who hopefully six or seven of them have played before—I want to give that back to them. I want it to be … an incredible week for the players. Of course, we want to win. But I think, whether win or lose the Ryder Cup or the President’s Cup, it’s still an incredible week for the players. I want to do everything I can to give that back to the game and to the Ryder Cup and to the players what was given to me by the Kites and the Crenshaws and Watsons, Curtis Strange.

I want the guys to feel like they’re a little bit more prepared for Friday this time than they were last time. It’s not a normal week. It’s a Super Bowl week. I want our Super Bowl week to at least have enough normalcy that we can feel like when we go to the first tee on Friday that we’re ready to play. I know what it feels like not to be prepared. I want these guys to feel like we’ve done everything we can to prepare. Let’s just go have fun and play and win this thing. Take a little pressure off of them. Let them just go have fun. I think we’ll do well.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I wish you all the best, Davis, with that, and also with this next stretch of golf. Thanks for taking the time. I appreciate it.

DAVIS LOVE: Thank you very much.

−The Armchair Golfer

Coming soon: Stewart Cink

Monday, May 2

Lee Westwood’s Reign in the Age of Parity

FOR LEE WESTWOOD, THE MAN who replaced Tiger Woods as the world’s top-ranked golfer, the “R” in OWGR (Official World Golf Ranking) could stand for “rankling” instead of “ranking.” The 38-year-old Englishman has resented persistent comments that he doesn’t deserve to sit atop the golf world because he has yet to win a major.

Commenting on the OWGR a week ago, John Feinstein wrote, “It is about blowing them up and starting over again.” Feinstein didn’t stop there. “The fact that Westwood—who has never won a major title—is ranked No. 1 would be reason alone to question the rankings.”

PGATour.com correspondent Melanie Hauser asked why Westwood should have to apologize for his top ranking. “This one just makes you want to scream.”

Golfweek’s Jim McCabe pointed out that three of the 12 players who preceded Westwood to the top spot were majorless. They were Ian Woosnam, Fred Couples and David Duval. They all won majors after being ranked No. 1.

I sympathize with Westwood. First, with some near misses, he could have bagged a major by now. Few if any would question his worthiness if he possessed a Claret Jug or Green Jacket. Second, the OWGR points system is not his brainchild. His three European Tour victories and high finishes in the last 18 months have put him on top. That’s not his fault, and the criticism is getting on his nerves.

I lean Feinstein’s way, preferring a No. 1 who wins majors and is clearly the world’s best golfer. But, as we know, winning majors and ascending to the top of a points system are two different things. Plus, dominance is out. Parity is in. These days, few players win multiple majors. World No. 1 could be a revolving door for months or years to come.

Meanwhile, Westwood won his second tournament in two weeks, the Ballantine’s Championship in Seoul, South Korea. “It’s always nice when you’re world No. 1 to show everybody why you’re in that position,” he said.

Touche, Lee. But I’m still waiting for your first major. And setting aside the No. 1 debate, I believe you are, too.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: Courtesy of Ballantine’s)

Sunday, May 1

Water for Golfers: 2,507 Gallons Per Round in Las Vegas

FAST COMPANY RECENTLY REPORTED that Las Vegas golf courses have a wicked thirst. “Fact: A single, 18-hole round of golf at a typical Las Vegas golf course requires 2,507 gallons of water.” It breaks down to 139 gallons of water per hole per golfer. In an 18-hole round, a Las Vegas foursome uses as much water as a typical U.S. family uses in a month.

Las Vegas, the driest city in the nation with 4.5 inches of rain annually, has 61 golf courses, three times the number in Orlando. (That surprised me.) Golf is an important attraction in a city that never sleeps and where the days are bathed in bright sunshine.

So, how does the parched desert city find enough water for its 61 golf courses and many other uses? By being one of the most “water-smart” cities in the nation.

Water-usage habits and patterns have changed dramatically over the last two decades. For example, it’s illegal to have a front lawn in the city. Desert landscaping prevails. It’s also illegal to spray water on a sidewalk or street. The city specifies the type of hose nozzle that can be used to wash vehicles. And so on.

“The Las Vegas metro area now collects, cleans, and recycles to Lake Mead 94 percent of all water that hits a drain anywhere in the city,” reported Fast Company. “Essentially, the only water that isn’t directly recycled back to the source is the water used outdoors.”

Like golf courses. But even they have made significant progress in the area of water conservation.

Take, for instance, Angel Park, a public course. In 1996 the course was dumping 644 million gallons of purified drinking water on its fairways and greens in a 12-month period. Now it uses 376 million gallons of water annually, a 40 percent reduction. And it’s re-use water from a wastewater treatment plant, not drinking water from Lake Mead. (Problem: Due to drought-like conditions, Lake Mead is more than half empty.)

As the article pointed out, desert golf courses are no shining example of sustainability. Nonetheless, Las Vegas has been able to implement water-conservation measures to support millions of fun-seeking visitors and a population that has tripled since 1990. And it includes turning large scruffy patches of desert into a lush golf oasis.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: Nevada Tourism Media Relations, Flickr, Creative Commons license)