Thursday, June 30

2011 AT&T National TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2011 AT&T National is underway at Aronimink Golf Club in Newton Square, Pennsylvania. Four players are on the board with 3-under 67s. The first round is still in progress.


Purse: $6.2 million
Winner’s share: $1.116 million
Defending champion: Justin Rose

2011 AT&T National Leaderboard

Field
Course
Tee times
Tournament overview
Tournament news
Tour report
Official program
AT&T National website


(Photo: Tiger Woods is hosting, but not playing.)



TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2011 AT&T National is on Golf Channel and CBS.

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

Fri, 7/1:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 7/2:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 7/3:
CBS 3p - 6:30p ET

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times


−The Armchair Golfer

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

Wednesday, June 29

Harrison Frazar Will Keep Playing

HARRISON FRAZAR WAS THROUGH. As John Feinstein writes in “A twist of fate” at GolfChannel.com, Frazar, playing with an 11-tournament medical exemption, had decided he would hang up the sticks this summer. A sports marketing job awaited him in Dallas.

“I had dinner with eight guys from the company last month after I missed the cut in New Orleans,” Frazar told Feinstein. “I really liked them and when they made the offer I said, ‘I’m there. I’m 99 percent sure I’m going to say yes. But I promised myself I’d play through the U.S. Open this year and I’m going to do that.’”

Then things happened. University of Texas teammate Justin Leonard saw a different Harrison Frazar in a practice round. Frazar seemed more relaxed, like his old self. He went on to qualify for the U.S. Open. But before heading to Congressional, there was a tournament to play in Memphis.

Frazar joined the PGA Tour in 1998 and was a top-100 player on the money list for nine straight years. Then, beginning in 2007, he dropped out of the top 125 and had to go back to Q-school to hang on to his card. Plagued by injuries and poor play the last two years, Frazar, who will be 40 in July, had had enough.

“In my mind, especially after I talked to those guys about the job, this was the end.”

Just as he was ready to set aside the clubs and slip into a suit, it all clicked in Memphis at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Frazar caught Robert Karlsson on Sunday and survived a three-hole sudden-death playoff to win his first PGA Tour title in 355 starts.

As Frazar explained to Feinstein, it was an answer to prayer.

“For a long time, Allison [Frazar’s wife] would pray to God to give me the peace to let me win,” he said. “Then she prayed that hard work would be rewarded. More recently she just asked him to please show me clearly what I’m supposed to do, whether I’m supposed to play golf or not play golf. I think the message I got is pretty clear.”

Frazar went on to finish in a tie for 22nd at the U.S. Open. With his victory in Memphis, he is exempt through 2013. The neckties will stay in the closet a while longer.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, June 28

20 Major Champions Under Age of 25

GOLF.COM PUBLISHED A PHOTO GALLERY of “Notable Major Champions Under the Age of 25.” I’ve included their list below, but in a different order, from youngest to oldest. I’ve also added each player’s majors total. Plus I’ve included a handful of players (at bottom) Golf.com didn’t list.

(I’m not sure why they didn’t mention Ernie Els, who I believe won his first U.S. Open at the age of 24.)

(Photo: Morgan Pressel.)

Many of the retired players on the list went on to win five or more majors. So obviously it’s good to win early. Maybe you’ll win often. Tseng is the quickest to four. McIlroy has one and a world of potential. But there’s no guarantee you’ll win many or any after the first. Just ask Jerry Pate, who won his first and last major, the U.S. Open, at the tender age of 22.




Young Tom Morris, 17, 1868 British Open
Total majors: 4

Morgan Pressel, 18, 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship
Total majors: 1

Yani Tseng, 19, 2008 LPGA Championship
Total majors: 4

Francis Ouimet, 20, 1913 U.S. Open
Total majors: 3 (includes amateur titles)

Gene Sarazen, 20, 1922 U.S. Open
Total majors: 7

Bobby Jones, 21, 1923 U.S. Open
Total majors: 13 (includes amateur titles)

Nancy Lopez, 21, 1978 LPGA Championship
Total majors: 3

Tiger Woods, 21, 1997 Masters
Total majors: 14

Se Ri Pak, 21, 1998 LPGA Championship
Total majors: 5

Jack Nicklaus, 22, 1962 U.S. Open
Total majors: 18

Seve Ballesteros, 22, 1979 British Open
Total majors: 5

Rory McIlroy, 22, 2011 U.S. Open
Total majors: 1

Gary Player, 23, 1959 British Open
Total majors: 9

Brittany Lincicome, 23, 2009 Kraft Nabisco Championship
Total majors: 1

Paula Creamer, 23, 2010 U.S. Women’s Open
Total majors: 1

Annika Sorenstam, 24, 1995 Women’s British Open
Total majors: 10

Others who won a major early: John McDermott (19), Jerry Pate (22), Johnny Goodman (23), Ernie Els (24). (Feel free to help with this list of others, which is probably incomplete.)

−The Armchair Golfer

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

Monday, June 27

Move Over, Rory; Here Comes Yani

RORY MCILROY IS THE record-smashing U.S. Open champion and perhaps the next Tiger Woods. Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington tagged his fellow Irishman as the player to challenge the majors record of Jack Nicklaus. Rory mania pretty much sucked all of the oxygen out of the golf world last week.

But it’s a new week, so here’s a new fact: McIlroy is only the second-best 22-year-old golfer in the world. Yani Tseng is the best. It ain’t even close.

Tseng collected her fourth major title at the Wegmans LPGA Championship on Sunday, a crushing 10-stroke victory that must be disturbing to the women who compete against her. The women’s top-ranked player, Tseng has racked up four majors faster than anyone in golf history, male or female. The Taiwanese superstar now has won three of the last six majors and a total of eight LPGA events since joining the tour in 2008.

In a wire-to-wire win, Tseng kept her foot on the accelerator, firing 67 and 66 on the weekend and missing the tournament record by a shot. Hitting 57 of 72 greens in regulation, she carded 27 birdies against six bogeys and one double. She averages 270 yards off the tee and can putt the eyes out of a chipmunk.

Oh my gosh. How in the world will the women slow this talent down?

“We knew she was going to be good,” said Cristie Kerr, last year’s LPGA Championship winner. “I didn’t know she would be this good. She is pretty dang good.”

I’ll say.

“Now I’m thinking about a grand slam,” Tseng mentioned.

Uh-oh.

−The Armchair Golfer

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

Saturday, June 25

2012 Ryder Cup Random Drawing for Tickets





















IT’S NOT TOO EARLY to be thinking about the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club near Chicago. The below email landed in my inbox this past week. I’m passing it along to you and invite you to click the below link to apply for Ryder Cup tickets.
Dear Neil,

The 2012 Ryder Cup will be one of the hottest and most sought after tickets in sports. And today, right now, you can register in the Official Random Draw for tickets to this prestigious event.

Simply click on the link below to complete a Random Draw Ticket Application to the most exclusive and riveting event in all of golf. And don’t forget to forward this email to all interested friends and family [only one registration per email address].

CLICK HERE TO ENTER RANDOM DRAW

The Official 2012 Ryder Cup Random Draw will continue through Friday, September 30, 2011, and you will be notified of your standing during October. Should you have any questions, please contact us at 1-800-PGA-Golf.

We wish you the best of luck and hope to see you there.

The 2012 Ryder Cup Team and Medinah Country Club
This is doable, by the way. I entered the drawing in 2007 and received tickets for the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla in Louisville. Good luck!

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, June 24

‘Feherty’ Premiere Sets Golf Channel Record

FEHERTY, HOSTED BY GOLF commentator and wiseacre David Feherty, debuted on Monday as the most-watched series premiere in the history of Golf Channel. The opening episode featured an interview with Hall of Famer Lee Trevino. I caught a bit of the replay last night. Trevino and Feherty are funny squared. Can you imagine having a cold one with those two characters?

The 12-part interview series continues on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET with actor Don Cheadle. Episodes with NBA Hall of Famer and hoops analyst Charles Barkley and golf legend Tom Watson are also coming soon.

Feherty’s self-deprecating humor is legendary, but the Northern Ireland native who is now a naturalized U.S. citizen could golf his ball. Feherty won five times on the European Tour and had three top tens in majors. His best finish in a major was a tie for fourth at the 1994 British Open. He also played on Europe’s Ryder Cup team in 1991.

Until he discovered his golf ability, Feherty wanted to be an opera singer. “I was always interested in music from a very early age,” he told Golf Channel. “But when I turned pro at age 17, I haven’t sung a note since. Now, I only sing to punish my children.”

Feherty retired from the tour in 1997 when CBS offered him a job as golf commentator. “I always enjoyed talking more than playing,” he said.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo: Courtesy of Golf Channel)

Thursday, June 23

Umbrella Man Returns to Caddie at Travelers Championship



(Plucked and updated from the ARMCHAIR GOLF archives.)

HE’S BACK. UMBRELLA MAN has a new bag this week at the 2011 Travelers Championship. It’s his second caddie appearance at TPC River Highlands.

“What have you been doing?”

Anyone who watched golf telecasts in 2009 probably heard Umbrella Man ask that question to the kiddos in Travelers’ TV spot. The friendly man wearing a gray three-piece suit and sporting a snappy bowler helped stranded circus performers cross a lake and offered two kids a ride on his umbrella when their bike broke down.

The whimsical commercial gave one PGA Tour player an idea as he waited out long weather delays at the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage.

“I could use a cheerful man like that on my bag,” he told ARMCHAIR GOLF. “I like the part when he and the kids fly away on his umbrella. That’s so cool.”

The player asked not to be named in case the new arrangement didn’t work out, although he admitted it would be hard to miss the pair on the course.

“He’s still learning how to read a yardage book and rake a bunker,” the player said. “But if we have buckets of rain, my little gray-suited friend has me covered in a big way.”

At the time, some readers expressed concern.

“I’ve always been a little afraid of Umbrella Man,” commented Bob. “There, I said it.”

“He seems like a nice man,” said Mike, “but I’ve always lived by the credo that I shouldn’t trust a well-dressed person with a massively huge umbrella.”

Perhaps Mike was right because the first caddie assignment didn’t end well. During the second round, Umbrella Man lost his grip on his giant red umbrella on the 7th tee. The falling umbrella knocked a player to the ground in the middle of his backswing. Sustaining a mild concussion, the player was unable to finish his round and withdrew from the tournament.

That was the first and last time Umbrella Man caddied—until this week. Things are going well thus far at this year’s championship, especially during Thursday’s six-hour rain delay. Umbrella Man has never been more popular.

−The Armchair Golfer

(This is an ARMCHAIR GOLF spoof.)

Wednesday, June 22

2011 Wegmans LPGA Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2011 WEGMANS LPGA CHAMPIONSHIP tees off on Thursday at Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsford, New York. The second longest-running tournament in LPGA history, the LPGA Championship began in 1955 and is the second of four majors on the ladies tour.

Cristie Kerr defends. Last year Kerr shot 19-under 269 for a record-setting 12-stroke victory. Kerr has three consecutive runner-up finishes coming in. Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng won the most recent tour event, the LPGA State Farm Classic.

Stacy Lewis (pictured at left), winner of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the year’s first major, shared her thoughts on Locust Hill.

“I like this course. I’ve played well here the last couple of years, too. Off the tee, you actually have to hit some shots left-to-right, a little bit of a fade. That sets up really well for me. This course is just all about fairways and greens. The simpler you keep it, the less you are in the rough. That’s what’s going to end up winning the golf tournament.”



Purse: $2.5 million
Winner’s share: $375,000
Defending champion: Cristie Kerr
Course: Locust Hill Country Club, Par 72, 6,506 yards

2011 Wegmans LPGA Championship Leaderboard

Tournament preview
Final field
Pairings
Interviews
Wegmans LPGA Championship website

TV SCHEDULE

All TV coverage of the 2011 Wegmans LPGA Championship is on Golf Channel.

Thu, June 23
12:30-2:30 PM

Fri, June 24
12:30-2:30 PM ET

Sat, June 25
4:00-7:00 PM ET

Sun, June 26
4:00-7:00 PM ET

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: dnkbdotcom, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Tuesday, June 21

Golf Cracks TIME Magazine’s Evil Sports List

GOLF IS GETTING A LOT attention this week. Rory McIlroy is on the cover of the June 27th issue of Sports Illustrated, which will be on newsstands tomorrow with the cover message, “Golf’s New Era.”

But that’s not all. TIME has placed the game of golf on its “Top 10 Evil Sports List.” Golf is ranked No. 6.

“The aftermath of the U.S. Open may be all rosy sweet, what with Rory McIlroy’s sensational victory, but don’t get too caught up,” writes Ishaan Tharoor. “Apart from being the sport of choice for scheming politicians and fat-cat businessmen, golf is quite frankly a waste of space. It devours the public commons, swallows up water—the preponderance of golf courses in arid places like the Arabian peninsula borders on the obscene—and indulges middle-class ennui the world over.”

OK, a couple of things. First, I’m guessing Tharoor doesn’t play golf and perhaps has never set foot on a golf course. That said, there can be a dark side to this game. As it’s written, “What good is it for a man to become a scratch golfer, yet forfeit his soul?”

Tharoor and TIME have me considering a new evil sport. Below golf on the list are poker, the hunt, American football and wife-carrying races (who knew?). But I’d probably want to take up something more evil than golf just to be daring. Here’s the top five: 1) Soccer, 2) Female Gymnastics, 3) Camel Racing, 4) Boxing, and 5) Bull Fighting.

Soccer involves too much running. Female gymnastics won’t work for obvious reasons. Boxing has too much punching. Bull fighting has too much blood. I guess that leaves camel racing.

Anybody have a camel I can borrow?

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, June 20

Champions Predict Greatness for Rory McIlroy

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


“CELTIC TIGER” RORY MCILROY roared to an incredible eight-shot US Open victory last night to give American golf the hero it badly needs. The 22-year old Holywood idol brushed aside all doubts about his ability to close when he fired a two under 69 to decimate the field with an amazing 16 under par total and smash the US Open scoring record of 272 held by the likes of Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.

It was a cool, calculated performance by the greatest talent to emerge in the game since Woods, and McIlroy, who broke multiple scoring records in Bethesda and jumped from eighth to world No 4, immediately set his sights on becoming a multiple major champion.

“Just to sit here, knowing that I’ve just won that trophy and following in the footsteps of one of my best friends, Graeme McDowell, last year at Pebble, you know, it’s a great feeling,” McIlroy said. “And I got my first Major Championship out of the way quite early on in my career, especially after what’s happened the last couple of months.

“It feels great. And just looking forward to putting myself in the picture for hopefully many more.”

Nicklaus Love

The hype surrounding McIlroy will increase to unprecedented levels over the coming months as the game looks to him to fill the void left by Woods over the past 18 months. And instead of Woods, Padraig Harrington reckons McIlroy has the talent and enough time to go on and beat Nicklaus’ record of 18 major wins.

The Golden Bear himself confessed last night that he is a huge fan of McIlroy’s, explaining: “I love his golf swing and I love his moxie and the way he walks like he is a little cocksure about himself. I think this kid is going to have a great career. I don’t think there is any question about it.

“He’s got all the components and a lot of people rooting for him. He’s a nice kid, he’s humble when he needs to be humble and he’s confident when he needs to be confident.”

Told that McIlroy was four months younger than he was when he won his first major, Nicklaus laughed and said: “Well, he’s ahead of my major pace.”

McIlroy’s win gave Northern Ireland back to back US Open wins, with the defending champion Graeme McDowell confessing: “The probability of two players from Northern Ireland winning back to back US Opens is lottery numbers or bigger than that. It’s just incredible.

“He’s an awesome player. He’s the best player I have ever seen. I didn’t have a chance to play with Tiger in his pomp but he’s the best I’ve ever seen, simple as that.”

It was a triumphal march from the moment he shook off his first tee jitters with a perfect three-wood down the middle, beamed a huge smile at manager Chubby Chandler and took his first steps towards a place in the history books with an opening birdie that ended the championship as a contest.

After flicking a wedge to just seven feet, the Irish prodigy stroked home the putt to go nine shots clear and set up Ireland’s fifth major win from the last 16 big ones. He got a massive roar from US fans as the putt dropped and is clearly what world and American golf has been crying out for since Woods, out injured, fell from grace and lost his game.

What Golf Needs

Even McIlroy’s new putting coach, two time major winner Dave Stockton, believes that the Ulsterman is now an all-American hero.

Stockton said: “He is what golf totally needs. He will be the sixth non-US winner in the last eight years and I’ve got to tell you that the American people love him so much that they are not going to care.”

McIlroy is also only the seventh wire-to-wire US Open winner in history and the first since Woods did it for the second time at Bethpage in New York in 2002. And with Woods out injured with knee and Achilles’ problems, McIlroy looks set to fill the power vacuum and hoover up the majors.

Harrington certainly believes that McIlroy could turn out to be the man who eventually breaks the Golden Bear’s major records.

Harrington said: “If you are going to talk about someone challenging Jack’s record, there’s your man.”

McDowell hit a 69 to finish on two under par and conclude a stout title defence and hand the title to his best pal.

Before his final round, McDowell said: “He’s potentially the next Tiger Woods. He’s that good. It’s great to see him out there fulfilling his potential.

“Will he achieve what Tiger was doing around 2000, 15 major championships to date or whatever he’s got? Can he be that good? Yeah, potentially. He’s got that potential. He’s got the full package as far as his golf game is concerned—if his putter behaves itself.

“Tiger was something very special. He had it all, the mental capacity, the short game, the putter. If Rory can add a couple of weapons to his arsenal, yeah, he can be as good.”

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

(Photo: Courtesy of Titleist.com)

Sunday, June 19

2011 U.S. Open: USGA Can’t Stop Low Scores

Editor’s note: I’m at Congressional Country Club this week covering the 2011 U.S. Open. Share your U.S. Open thoughts: Comment below or email me at armchairgolfer@gmail.com.

PLAYERS WHINING ABOUT THE U.S. Open setup is nothing new. It’s been going on for more than a half century. Horace Rawlins, winner of the inaugural U.S. Open in 1895, probably would have griped about the Newport Country Club had he not won. But the complaints at the 111th edition of the national championship are strangely different.

Congressional Country Club is way too easy. This is not a U.S. Open test, an unfair fight to the finish. Rather, it’s a different kind of bloodbath, a sea of red on the scoreboard resulting from an onslaught of birdies. As one person in the media center put it, the Blue Course is handing out birdies like they’re Halloween candy.

Defending champion Graeme McDowell admitted as much after his 69 on Saturday.

“I’ve been a little disappointed with the golf course the last couple of days,” McDowell said. “It wasn’t as firm and fast as I would like to have seen it. The storms on Thursday night really softened the place. So it’s not a true U.S. Open test out there, to be honest. There were some tough pins out there, no doubt. I’d like to see it tougher than it was.”

World No. 1 Luke Donald, who at 7 over for the championship is not exactly lighting it up, said the rough is not as difficult as at past U.S. Opens.

“It has that different feel,” Donald said of the course. “It almost feels like the Firestone or something.”

Firestone, as in the home of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Due to the rain and cooler temperatures this week, Congressional is playing much softer than expected. The greens are receptive to approach shots, and are not the rock-hard, dry, brownish putting surfaces seen at past U.S. Opens. Rory McIlroy and others are, in effect, playing darts.

The USGA said it can’t be helped.

“I think it’s the oppressive heat we had last week that started us off on this dynamic of weather that we’ve experienced,” said the USGA’s Tom O'Toole, “and then of course making sure that we maintain the health of those greens by hydrating them and raising the cut of our mowing, not rolling, and the number of times we’ve mowed and rolled. So we’ve done all those things to maintain the health of Congressional’s greens.”

In its previous three majors (two U.S. Opens and a PGA Championship), Congressional has yielded scores of 276, 278 and 281. The winning scores ranged from 4 under at the 1997 U.S. Open won by Ernie Els to 1 over at the 1976 PGA Championship won by Dave Stockton.

This week the winning 72-hole total will likely be much lower and could break the U.S. Open record of 272 set by Jack Nicklaus and tied by Lee Janzen, Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk. Rory McIlroy needs a 72 in the final round to eclipse the U.S. Open standard of Nicklaus and Woods, golf’s two greatest champions. But what McIlroy wants more than anything is his name on the large silver trophy.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
Rory McIlroy Extends U.S. Open Lead to 8 Shots
Comeback Award Goes to Marcel Siem
2011 U.S. Open TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

Saturday, June 18

Rory McIlroy Extends U.S. Open Lead to 8 Shots

Editor’s note: I’m at Congressional Country Club this week covering the 2011 U.S. Open. Share your U.S. Open thoughts: Comment below or email me at armchairgolfer@gmail.com.

THE CLOSEST PURSUERS BEGAN teeing off about an hour before 36-hole leader Rory McIlroy began his third round alongside Y.E. Yang at 3:50 p.m. McIlroy’s record-setting U.S. Open play over the first two days gave him a six-stroke advantage over Yang and a nine-shot cushion on six other players. The chase pack, if you could call it that, had a lot of ground to make up.

While Englishman Robert Rock and Spaniard Alvaro Quiros teed off on the 1st hole, Matt Kuchar and Sergio Garcia grooved their putting strokes on the practice green. Garcia worked on short ones, nudging three footers toward the cup using his claw grip. Kuchar, wielding a long putter, stuck a tee in the ground and stroked right-to-left breakers at it until departing for his 3:20 p.m. tee time with Kyung-Tae Kim.

The crowds on this overcast Saturday at the U.S. Open were large, enthusiastic and sometimes raucous. But not all were enthralled by the action. While Kuchar lined up his birdie putt at the 1st, one woman read a novel under a nearby tree. The book title: Suite Francaise, the bestseller by Irene Nemirovsky. The woman claimed to be a golf fan but quickly admitted she was “sort of” dragged to the event. She said she needed a reading break.

Moments later Zach Johnson arrived at the 1st green and sank a birdie to get to 2-under par. Johnson gave the stroke back at the long par-3 3rd when his hybrid fell short of the green and he failed to get up and down for par. Meanwhile, playing partner Brandt Snedeker got a sand-save par by sinking a slippery 10-foot putt.

Then along came the leader, Rory McIlroy. The Irishman flared his tee shot into the right-hand rough at the 466-yard par-4 3rd. A man in the gallery taunted McIlroy as he walked to his ball. “Go get that Green Jacket, Rory! Go get that Green Jacket!”

Yet there were far more cheers than jeers. From the other side of the fairway came this chant: “Let’s go, Rory!” Then clap, clap … clap-clap-clap. The boisterous cheer repeated as the 22-year-old walked to his golf ball. He may not be Tiger Woods, but young McIlroy does seem to be building an American fan base, slowly, surely.

McIlroy wisely took his medicine, punching his ball out of the rough and onto the 3rd fairway. He followed with a little wedge shot that skipped to within two feet of the hole, another smart par save, another hole closer to his goal. Bunkered at the 4th, he nearly holed his sand shot for a birdie.

Rory McIlroy was on his way. No one was going to catch him on this day. Nor was anyone going to close the gap.

When the round ended a few hours later, McIlroy had increased his lead to eight shots over Y.E. Yang by firing a 3-under 68, a record-setting performance on a soft and defenseless Congressional course. (There’s a lot of red on the scoreboard. There were a bushel full of rounds in the 60s on Saturday, including 65s by Jason Day and Lee Westwood. It doesn’t feel like a U.S. Open.)

At this U.S. Open, McIlroy is like a Ferrari among Volkswagens. Now he’s one day closer to taking the checkered flag.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
Comeback Award Goes to Marcel Siem
Y.E. Yang Is Hanging Around at 137
Rory McIlroy Beats Up ‘Neighborhood Bully’
2011 U.S. Open: 36-Hole Records and Other Notes
2011 U.S. Open TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

2011 U.S. Open: Comeback Award Goes to Marcel Siem

Editor’s note: I’m at Congressional Country Club this week covering the 2011 U.S. Open. Share your U.S. Open thoughts: Comment below or email me at armchairgolfer@gmail.com.

RORY MCILROY WASN’T THE only player to post a 66 in the second round of the U.S. Open. Tying McIlroy for low score on Friday was Marcel Siem, a 30-year-old German who plays on the European Tour. Siem looked like he was all but finished at Congressional Country Club after an opening 79. Pack your bags. Check for flights to Munich.

Siem’s opening round started badly. He hit a spectator (with his golf ball) and made a double bogey. Then he three-putted. He lost his confidence and said that playing in the U.S. Open was “pretty frightening.” But Siem did not give up. He told the Marriott staff to hold his room just in case. “It’s a nice balcony room,” he said.

Siem watched part of McIlroy’s second round on television and realized a good score was possible with the soft course conditions. Then he went out and did it. Siem recorded seven birdies and fired 33 on both nines for the 66 that rocketed him up the leaderboard. With his 13-shot improvement, he made the cut on the number, 146, 4-over par.

“That means a lot to me,” Siem said. “Everybody was always talking about U.S. Open, and … it was always a dream for me. So I’ve played a U.S. Open now, making the cut …. When I go back to the hotel and call my girlfriend and my parents, I think I’m going to be really, really happy.”

Siem is currently 1 under for his third round and 3 over for the tournament. He’ll be around all weekend, staying in that nice balcony room at the Marriott.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
Y.E. Yang Is Hanging Around at 137
2011 U.S. Open: Rory McIlroy Beats Up ‘Neighborhood Bully’
2011 U.S. Open: 36-Hole Records and Other Notes
2011 U.S. Open TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

2011 U.S. Open: 36-Hole Records and Other Notes

Editor’s note: I’m at Congressional Country Club this week covering the 2011 U.S. Open. Share your U.S. Open thoughts: Comment below or email me at armchairgolfer@gmail.com.

RORY MCILROY’S THURSDAY AND FRIDAY run at Congressional Country Club set or tied a handful of 36-hole U.S. Open records.

McIlroy’s 36-hole total of 131 (rounds of 65 and 66) is the lowest 36-hole score in U.S. Open history.

McIlroy is the first player to reach 13 under at the U.S. Open. He broke the previous record of 12 under par shared by Gil Morgan in 1992 and Tiger Woods in 2000.

McIlroy was the fifth person in U.S. Open history to reach double digits under par. He performed the feat in the fewest number of holes, 26.

McIlroy’s six-stroke cushion ties the largest 36-hole lead in U.S. Open history, which was set by Tiger Woods at Pebble Beach in 2000.

McIlroy, 22, is believed to be the youngest 36-hole leader in 97 years. Walter Hagen led the 1914 U.S. Open after the second round at the age of 21.

The Cut

The 36-hole cut was set at 146, a 4-over total on the par-71 championship layout. The low 60 players plus ties (including all within 10 shots of the lead) advance to the final two rounds.

Notable players who missed the cut include two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els, 2007 U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera, 2006 U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, 2003 U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk, Paul Casey, Stewart Cink, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Hunter Mahan, Adam Scott, Ian Poulter, Nick Watney, Trevor Immelman, David Toms, Francesco Molinari, Aaron Baddeley, Camilo Villegas, K.J. Choi and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Third Round Tee Times for Leaders

2:50 PM Brandt Jobe (-1), Ryan Palmer (-1)

3:00 PM Davis Love III (-1), Heath Slocum (-1)

3:10 PM Robert Rock (-1), Alvaro Quiros (-1)

3:20 PM Kyung-Tae Kim (-1), Matt Kuchar (-2)

3:30 PM Brandt Snedeker (-2), Zach Johnson (-2)

3:40 PM Sergio Garcia (-2), Robert Garrigus (-2)

3:50 PM Y.E. Yang (-5), Rory McIlroy (-11)

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
Y.E. Yang Is Hanging Around at 137
2011 U.S. Open: Rory McIlroy Beats Up ‘Neighborhood Bully’
2011 U.S. Open: A Rock and a Hard Place
2011 U.S. Open TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

Friday, June 17

Y.E. Yang Is Hanging Around at 137

Editor’s note: I’m at Congressional Country Club this week covering the 2011 U.S. Open. Share your U.S. Open thoughts: Comment below or email me at armchairgolfer@gmail.com.

WERE IT NOT FOR Rory McIlroy’s record-setting pace at the U.S. Open, Y.E. Yang might just be the talk of the tournament. The South Korean who slayed Tiger Woods at the 2009 PGA Championship backed up his opening 68 with a hard-earned 69. Yang has posted a 5-under total of 137 through 36 holes, six shots behind the streaking McIlroy and three shots clear of the rest of the field.

With birdies at the par-3 7th and par-4 9th, Yang went out in 34. I caught up with him at the 11th and watched as he pulled his approach shot on the 494-yard par 4 into the deep stuff left of the green. He was unable to salvage a par, but got the shot back at the 12th with a birdie from short range after an exquisite wedge shot. (Playing partners Ryo Ishikawa and Anthony Kim also birdied the 12th to make it three for three.)

Yang bogeyed again after pulling his tee shot at the par-3 13th. The pulls, it seemed, were a trend—at least on the back nine. After making par at the 14th, Yang yanked his tee shot into the tall rough on the long par-4 15th. He laid up, wedged on, and sank the putt for a scrappy par. He followed with his fourth birdie of the round at the par-5 16th and finished with two pars.

It looked like a round during which Yang didn’t have his best game and yet manufactured a good score, which is exactly what you need to do at the U.S. Open. Take away McIlroy and Yang would have a three-shot lead on six players at 2-under, or 140. Instead, Yang will try to keep McIlroy within sight as they tee off in the final pairing on Saturday afternoon.

Yang said he isn’t concerned about McIlroy at the moment, focusing instead on his own game and how to get around a rugged U.S. Open layout.

“I do have a strategy and that’s just to zone out everything around me and just play my game,” he said.

But he also doesn’t believe that McIlroy has an insurmountable lead. Yang cited last year’s Korean Open where he won after trailing by 10 shots.

“I know it’s sort of a different kind of level of golf tournament,” he said, “but still there are many amazing things that happen in golf.”

There’s a long way to go, 36 holes of pressure-filled U.S. Open golf. If McIlroy keeps playing like he did the first two days, no one will catch him. But if he runs into a rough patch, Yang might have the fortitude and game to rise to the top of the leaderboard. After all, he’s already taken down a Tiger.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
2011 U.S. Open: Rory McIlroy Beats Up ‘Neighborhood Bully’
2011 U.S. Open: A Rock and a Hard Place
2011 U.S. Open TV Schedule and Tournament Notes
2011 U.S. Open: A 16-Year-Old Player and Other Notes
2011 U.S. Open: ‘Big Blue’ Ready to Challenge Field of 156

(Photo: Courtesy of Ballantine’s)

2011 U.S. Open: Rory McIlroy Beats Up ‘Neighborhood Bully’

Editor’s note: I’m at Congressional Country Club this week covering the 2011 U.S. Open. Share your U.S. Open thoughts: Comment below or email me at armchairgolfer@gmail.com.

RORY MCILROY HAS POSTED some astonishing numbers at the midway point of the 111th U.S. Open Championship. McIlroy’s 65-66 for 131 sets a 36-hole record. He leads the tournament by a whopping eight shots.

“I don’t really know what to say,” McIlroy said. “It’s been two very, very good days of golf. I put myself in a great position going into the weekend.”

You’re not supposed to do this to U.S. Open courses. Not the Blue Course at Congressional Country Club, not any of them. U.S. Open courses are the biggest and baddest golf courses around. They’re the neighborhood bully, that cruel dude in school everyone feared because he made a sport of hurting people with his fists. The bully was an intimidator, an evil force to be respected and, if possible, avoided.

But on Friday afternoon as the enormity of McIlroy’s 36-hole tear sinks in, it’s as if young Rory sized up the Blue Course and said to himself, “I can take this bully.” On Thursday afternoon playing alongside Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, the Irish tour pro extracted six birdies from Congressional on his way to a bogey-free 6-under 65 and a three-shot lead.

In Friday’s second round, McIlroy picked up where he left off on a course that was softened by rain on Thursday night. He made two birdies and an eagle on the outward nine to card a 4-under 32. After a string of four consecutive pars, he reeled off three birdies in the next four holes to go 7 under for his round and 13 under for the tournament. No one had ever reached 13-under par in the 111-year history of the U.S. Open. Not even Tiger Woods.

The neighborhood bully was on the receiving end of a serious thumping, and the crowd loved it. They cheered and cheered and cheered. The young lad had knocked Congressional down, stomped all over it and taken all the lunch money it had stolen through the years. No doubt, our hero Rory would donate the recovered funds to the Haiti relief effort.

But just when we thought that big, bad Blue Course was down for the count, bloodied and completely humiliated, it reached out and tripped McIlroy on the way to the clubhouse celebration. Rory stumbled at the last hole, making a double bogey, the first blemish on his scorecard in two days.

The bully will be waiting for him tomorrow. You can count on it.

“I know more than probably anyone else what can happen,” McIlroy said. “So I’ve got to stay really focused and try and finish this thing off.“

To be continued.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
2011 U.S. Open: A Rock and a Hard Place
2011 U.S. Open: Day One Belongs to Rory McIlroy
2011 U.S. Open TV Schedule and Tournament Notes
2011 U.S. Open: A 16-Year-Old Player and Other Notes
2011 U.S. Open: ‘Big Blue’ Ready to Challenge Field of 156

2011 U.S. Open: A Rock and a Hard Place

Editor’s note: I’m at Congressional Country Club this week covering the 2011 U.S. Open. Share your U.S. Open thoughts: Comment below or email me at armchairgolfer@gmail.com.

SOME PEOPLE WOULD DO almost anything to play in the U.S. Open. For Robert Rock, winner of last week’s BMW Italian Open, it was a $14,000 trip he won’t soon forget.

Rock had visa paperwork problems in London. By the time that got sorted out, there were no direct flights to Washington, D.C. Instead, Rock boarded a flight to Newark, New Jersey, and then hired a driver for the trip down I-95 to Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland. Rock slept along the way and teed off at 2:19 p.m. on Thursday without the benefit of a practice round. He had never seen the Blue Course, except on TV.

No problem. Put him down for a 1-under 70.

How did the Englishman explain it? “I don’t know, really,” he said. “I’m playing okay at the moment.”

When asked how much sleep he got, Rock said, “Not a lot. I could do with some more, if you don't mind.”

Currently, Rock is even par for his second round and 1 under for the tournament.

Course Conditions

Now the “hard place” referred to in the above title, which is Congressional Country Club, although Rory McIlroy is making it look almost ridiculously easy at the moment.

Weather: About a quarter of an inch of rain fell Thursday night. A shower or storm is possible from noon to early afternoon. Highs in the mid 80s.

Green speeds: This morning’s green speeds averaged almost 14 feet on the USGA Stimpmeter, and are expected to slow down slightly to the mid 13s by midday.

Rough: The closer-in first cut of rough (3 ¼” and 3 ¾” on the long and short approach-shot holes) along the fairway was mowed late Thursday afternoon. The further-out longer second cut was not mowed.

Friday course yardage: 3,565 yards out; 3,769 yards in for 7,334 total yards.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
2011 U.S. Open: Day One Belongs to Rory McIlroy
2011 U.S. Open TV Schedule and Tournament Notes
2011 U.S. Open: A 16-Year-Old Player and Other Notes
2011 U.S. Open: ‘Big Blue’ Ready to Challenge Field of 156

2011 U.S. Open: Day 1 Belongs to Rory McIlroy

Editor’s note: I’m at Congressional Country Club this week covering the 2011 U.S. Open. Share your U.S. Open thoughts: Comment below or email me at armchairgolfer@gmail.com.

WHEN Y.E. YANG CAME HOME in 68 strokes earlier in the day, I thought the score might hold up for the first-round lead. But then along came Rory McIlroy who played what he termed “stress-free golf.” (I didn’t know there was such a thing at the U.S. Open.)

The supremely talented Irishman blitzed the difficult Blue Course, carding a 6-under 65 to take a three-stroke lead over Yang and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, who also posted a 68.

Here’s what McIlroy said in a “flash” interview immediately after his round.
Q. That was spectacular, six birdies, no bogeys. Talk about your experiences in this round.

RORY McILROY: Yeah, it was a good round of golf. I didn’t really put a foot wrong. The only mistake I made was missing the green on 14, and I held a nice sort of 15 footer for par there. Apart from that it was pretty much stress free golf. It was nice. I feel like I’m driving it well. I’m hitting my iron shots good, holing a few putts. So it’s a nice combination.

Q. Is the course set up perfectly for you?

RORY McILROY: When I got here last week on Wednesday, I felt like the golf course set up good for me. It sort of worked out that way.

Q. I don’t know if you ever get comfortable on a U.S. Open golf course, but you looked comfortable, did you feel that way?

RORY McILROY: I did, yeah, I felt very comfortable. I said this in the press conference Tuesday. It doesn’t feel like a typical U.S. Open, for some reason. The golf course is going to get harder and it’s going to get firmer and it’s going to get trickier, but I still feel that it’s very playable and fair. If you don’t hit a fairway, you’ve still got a chance to hit it on the green and give yourself a chance for birdie. I like the way they’ve set up the golf course this year.
Meanwhile, McIlroy’s playing partners in the marquee grouping struggled to post a good number. Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson shot 74 and 75, respectively. With a ball in the water at the challenging par-3 10th (his first hole of the day), Mickelson’s round and 41st birthday got off to a rocky start. Lefty made a double bogey and had to steady himself the rest of the way.

The boys had a huge gallery, as you might imagine. I followed along for a few holes, but it was difficult to get a good look at the action.

In addition to McIlroy, Yang and Schwartzel, six players broke 70 in scoring conditions made easier by overcast skies and relatively cool temperatures. British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and Sergio Garcia are among the group of players who are at 3-under par after 69s.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
2011 U.S. Open: ‘Big Blue’ Ready to Challenge Field of 156
2011 U.S. Open TV Schedule and Tournament Notes
2011 U.S. Open: A 16-Year-Old Player and Other Notes

Thursday, June 16

Y.E. Yang Takes Early Lead at Congressional

Editor’s note: I’m springing out of my armchair to spend the week at Congressional Country Club covering the 2011 U.S. Open. Share your U.S. Open thoughts: Comment below or email me at armchairgolfer@gmail.com.

THE 10TH IS A FRIGHTENING hole on Congressional’s Blue Course, a 218-yard par 3 that crosses a small lake. Few would choose to start their U.S. Open here, but many have no choice. For Y.E. Yang, the clubhouse leader after a 3-under 68, it was the perfect start. While others have nervously dunked their golf balls in the water (Phil Mickelson, for one), Yang smacked a 5-iron hybrid and watched it fly toward the green.

“It was a very straight, honest hit, and it landed quite well,” Yang said. The 2009 PGA Championship winner sank the putt for a birdie and was off to a round during which he birdied all four par 3s, a first in his career.

Carding five birdies and two bogeys, Yang put together nines of 3-under 33 and even-par 35 for his 68. The softer conditions resulting from overcast skies and cooler-than-normal temperatures helped the cause. It won’t get any easier, he said.

Yang believes his experience as a major winner can help him the rest of the way. “I know the feeling, and I know that it’s a little more of everything in a major than it is in other tournaments, so it’s easier for me to cope with that kind of pressure or expectations. It definitely has some kind of psychological advantage.”

Louis Oosthuizen and Ryan Palmer finished with 2-under 69s. A half-dozen players have completed play at 1-under 70, including defending champion Graeme McDowell, Stewart Cink and Davis Love III.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
2011 U.S. Open: ‘Big Blue’ Ready to Challenge Field of 156
2011 U.S. Open TV Schedule and Tournament Notes
2011 U.S. Open: Play the Groupings Name Game
2011 U.S. Open: A 16-Year-Old Player and Other Notes

2011 U.S. Open: A 16-Year-Old Player and Other Notes

Editor’s note: I’m springing out of my armchair to spend the week at Congressional Country Club covering the 2011 U.S. Open. Share your U.S. Open thoughts: Comment below or email me at armchairgolfer@gmail.com.

SOMETIMES BOYS PLAY LIKE MEN. That’s the case for Beau Hossler Jr., a 16-year-old rising junior in high school who is the youngest player in this year’s 156-man U.S. Open field. I saw Hossler on the practice putting green on Wednesday afternoon and did a double take. I couldn’t figure out why a kid was rolling putts on the green.

It turns out the kid from Rancho Santa Margarita, California, is quite a player. Hossler finished third in his Sectional Qualifier and got his driver’s license during the same week. Not a bad week at all for a teenager. Now he’s teeing it up on the national stage with the world’s best players.

“It’s an awesome layout and conditions are obviously very difficult,” Hossler said the other day. “But I feel like I can play this golf course.”

Hossler said the players have treated him well. A personal favorite is Phil Mickelson. The teen begins his U.S. Open adventure at 2:52 p.m. alongside Chris Wilson and David May.

Notes

The longest U.S. Open courses are:
2008: Torrey Pines Golf Course (South Course) 7,643 yards
2011: Congressional Country Club (Blue Course) 7,574 yards
2009: Bethpage State Park (Black Course) 7,426 yards
2006: Winged Foot Golf Club (West Course) 7,264 yards
(Source: USA Today via USOpen.com)

Morning green speeds averaged 13.5 on the USGA Stimpmeter, but they’re expected to slow down to the high 12’s in the middle of the day.

The 2011 U.S. Open is sold out. “The USGA is proud to reach this milestone at Congressional, in our nation’s capital,” USGA Executive Director Mike Davis said.

The sun is trying to break through. Today’s high is expected to be in the mid 70s. Thunderstorms are possible.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
2011 U.S. Open: ‘Big Blue’ Ready to Challenge Field of 156
2011 U.S. Open: Play the Groupings Name Game
2011 U.S. Open TV Schedule and Tournament Notes
Donald Would Swap No. 1 for Mickelson’s Record

Wednesday, June 15

2011 U.S. Open: ‘Big Blue’ Ready to Challenge Field of 156

Editor’s note: I’m springing out of my armchair to spend the week at Congressional Country Club covering the 2011 U.S. Open. Share your U.S. Open thoughts: Comment below or email me at armchairgolfer@gmail.com.


























“BIG BLUE” WAS A NICKNAME coined for IBM back in the 1960s and 1970s. This week the nickname fits the Blue Course at Congressional Country Club, site of the 111th U.S. Open Championship. It’s a big, hairy, manly golf course that will test the skills of 156 of the world’s best golfers when they tee off on Thursday.

I’ve read about Congressional, seen it on TV, and heard plenty of chatter about it today on the PGA Tour network while I was driving to Bethesda. But until a few hours ago I had never set foot on the championship layout. I arrived on site in the mid afternoon and a short while later hiked all 3,872 yards of the back nine, which plays to a par of 35.

It was a perfect afternoon, about 80 degrees. Following are my notes on the golf course and a few other stray thoughts on the eve of the championship.

No. 10 is a 213-yard par 3 that features the course’s largest lake, which fronts the green. I didn’t get a good look at this hole, but I’d say it’s far from an easy start to the back nine.

No. 11 is a 494-yard par 4. A pond guards the right side of the green. The hole was deserted, so I crossed the fairway and walked down the left side to get an up-close look at the graduated rough. The first cut is a few yards wide and not long at all, a collar of sorts. The second cut, which is five to seven yards wide, looks to be about three inches deep. The last cut is the nastier five-inch variety.

The rough didn’t look that bad to me—but then I don’t have to play out of it. Several players have praised the course setup, including the rough, so I figure it’s not as wicked as in the past. The gallery ropes are set far off the fairways, which means that crooked drives won’t benefit from relatively playable lies in trampled rough.

No. 12 is a 471-yard par 4, a tight driving hole that doglegs lefts. This one looked tough to my eye. Narrow and curving.

No. 13 is a 193-yard par 3 with a two-tiered green. It doesn’t appear to be that difficult from the tee. Yet when you reach the putting surface you can see the potential challenges. The pin locations will make all the difference. Many of the greens, in fact, are tiered and undulating. They’re only going to get harder and faster as the week progresses.

No. 14 is a 467-yard straightaway par 4. From the tee the fairway looks only slightly wider than a cart path. There are openings into some of the greens, like at the 14th, but it’s going to be difficult to bounce the ball in on many holes because of rather severe slopes.

No. 15 is a straightaway 490-yard par 4. The fairway looked generous compared to the 14th. Four fairway bunkers guard the right side.

No. 16 is a 579-yard reachable par 5. No. 17 is a 437-yard par 4, and where I caught up with Rory McIlroy and company. At least one player teed off with an iron.

“This is going to be a great finishing hole.”

That’s what I overheard one spectator say about the 18th. I agree. It’s a 523-yard par 4, much of it downhill on the approach shot. The drive doesn’t look that difficult. The second shot is another story. Club selection will be crucial because a small lake wraps around the left- and back-side of the green. I predict there will be lengthy player-caddie discussions on the 18th fairway as they stare down the hill at the smallish green.

The front side, which I haven’t walked yet, measures 3,702 yards and plays to a par of 36. The course totals: 7,574 yards, par 71. It’s the second longest U.S. Open course. Torrey Pines played slightly longer in 2008.

So who can win on “Big Blue”? Will it take a bomber like Dustin Johnson? Can a short hitter with a golden short game get it done?

I’ve heard some say world No. 1 Luke Donald (a short hitter) can’t win here. That’s true if he makes too many visits to the rough. But, whether a short or long hitter, I think the winner will have to be great on the greens this week. That’s always the case at the U.S. Open.

That guy will be easy to spot. He’ll be the one with the lowest score.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
2011 U.S. Open: Play the Groupings Name Game
2011 U.S. Open TV Schedule and Tournament Notes
Donald Would Swap No. 1 for Mickelson’s Record

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

Tuesday, June 14

Donald Would Swap No. 1 for Mickelson’s Record

Editor’s note: I’m springing out of my armchair to spend the week at Congressional Country Club covering the 2011 U.S. Open. Share your U.S. Open thoughts: Comment below or email me at armchairgolfer@gmail.com.

WORLD NO. 1 LUKE DONALD has a sensible perspective when it comes to the statistical ranking that says he’s the king of golf. The system rewards consistency, but it’s no substitute for wins, especially major wins. Donald arrives at this week’s U.S. Open still in search of his first major victory.

“Certainly being No. 1 is a great achievement,” Donald said, “but if you ask me if I would swap that for Phil’s record, sure, I would love to take his majors and the number of victories he’s had.

“But I’ll continue to feed off all the good things that have got me to No. 1,” he added, “and hopefully I can add to my victories, too.”

Other than a little more media attention and recognition from the public, Donald’s life hasn’t changed dramatically since he became No. 1 by defeating former top-ranked golfer Lee Westwood at the BMW PGA Championship. He’s been too busy to notice.

Well, Ralph Lauren called. And Greg Norman texted Donald. “Things like that don’t happen every day,” he admitted.

Donald likes the setup at Congressional, including the graduated rough, which he said is more manageable. The course plays long, but he doesn’t think only bombers have a chance to win. He’s ready to compete and hopes to contend on Sunday.

“I’ve been doing that a lot lately,” he noted, “and there’s no reason why I can’t do it this week.”

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
2011 U.S. Open: Play the Groupings Name Game
2011 U.S. Open TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

(Photo: Courtesy of Polo Ralph Lauren)

2011 U.S. Open TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

Editor’s note: I’m springing out of my armchair to spend the week at the 2011 U.S. Open. Beginning on Wednesday I’ll be at Congressional Country Club covering the year’s second major. Share your U.S. Open thoughts: Comment below or email me at armchairgolfer@gmail.com.

THE 2011 U.S. OPEN tees off on Thursday at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland. Ernie Els took home the trophy on the national championship’s most recent visit to Congressional in 1997. In 1964 Ken Venturi survived triple-digit heat to win at Congressional, the last U.S. Open to include two rounds (36 holes) on the final day.

Purse: $7.5 million
Winner’s share: $1.35 million
Defending champion: Graeme McDowell

2011 U.S. Open Leaderboard

Field
Course overview
Course tour
Tee times
U.S. Open history
U.S. Open news
Official U.S. Open website
2011 U.S. Open Spectator Guide (PDF)


TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2011 U.S. Open is on ESPN and NBC.

Thu, 6/16
10 AM-3 PM ET (ESPN)
3-5 PM ET (NBC)
5-7 PM ET (ESPN)

Fri, 6/17
10 AM-3 PM ET (ESPN)
3-5 PM ET (NBC)
5-7 PM ET (ESPN)

Sat, 6/18
2-8 PM ET (NBC)

Sun, 6/19
1:30-7:30 PM ET

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
2011 U.S. Open: Play the Groupings Name Game

2011 U.S. Open: Play the Groupings Name Game

Editor’s note: I’m springing out of my armchair to spend the week at the 2011 U.S. Open. Beginning on Wednesday I’ll be at Congressional Country Club covering the year’s second major. Share your U.S. Open thoughts: Comment below or email me at armchairgolfer@gmail.com.

I’VE BEEN STUDYING THE Thursday and Friday groupings and can’t help thinking one of these guys is going to win this thing. Seriously, though, I like the way the USGA puts together the 52 groupings. A lot of thought goes into them, whether it’s a marquee grouping or the lesser-known players.

Following are some of the groupings that stood out. Some I’ve named. Some, well, I need help, if you’re willing. (Also feel free to rename the ones I’ve named. I’m not saying they’re good names.)

Lawrence Welk (a one, and a two, and a three …)
Luke Donald, England; Lee Westwood, England; Martin Kaymer, Germany

Men of a Certain Age
Ernie Els, South Africa; Davis Love III, Sea Island, Ga.; Jim Furyk, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

How Swede It Is
Henrik Stenson, Sweden; Johan Edfors, Sweden; Fredrik Jacobson, Sweden

Three Amigos
Miguel Angel Jimenez, Spain; Sergio Garcia, Spain; Alvaro Quiros, Spain

M&M’s
Matteo Manassero, Italy; Francesco Molinari, Italy; Edoardo Molinari, Italy

Campbell’s Funky Soup
Fred Funk, Ponte Vedra, Fla.; A-David Chung, Fayetteville, N.C.; Michael Campbell, New Zealand

Southern Comfort
Jonathan Byrd, St. Simons Island, Ga.; Bill Haas, Greenville, S.C.; Webb Simpson, Charlotte, N.C.

Men of a Certain Age (Part 2)
Steve Stricker, Madison, Wis.; Retief Goosen, South Africa; David Toms, Shreveport, La.

Masters Class
Charl Schwartzel, South Africa; Trevor Immelman, South Africa; Zach Johnson, Cedar Rapids, Iowa


NAME THESE GROUPS
Your turn: I left the really hard ones for you.

Rickie Fowler, Murrieta, Calif.; Ian Poulter, England; Hunter Mahan, Colleyville, Texas
Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland; Dustin Johnson, Jupiter, Fla.; Phil Mickelson, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
Padraig Harrington, Ireland; Angel Cabrera, Argentina; Stewart Cink, Duluth, Ga.
Matt Kuchar, St. Simons Island, Ga.; Paul Casey, England; K.J. Choi, Korea
Graeme McDowell, Northern Ireland; A-Peter Uihlein, Orlando, Fla.; Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa
Ryo Ishikawa, Japan; Anthony Kim, Los Angeles, Calif.; Y.E. Yang, Korea


Bodog has Lee Westwood as the favorite at 11/1. World No. 1 Luke Donald is listed at 12/1. Phil Mickelson is 14/1 and Rory McIlroy is 16/1.

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, June 13

Celebrating ‘WONDER GIRL’ by Don Van Natta Jr.

WHEN A FRIEND PUBLISHES a golf-related book and you run a golf blog, you don’t attempt to write an unbiased review. You celebrate. So this is a celebration of WONDER GIRL: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias by New York Times bestselling author (and friend) Don Van Natta Jr.

The truth is, I’m not much of a review writer anyway. And I’m certainly biased when it comes to Don. If you knew him and his work like I do, you might be too. Even so, Don doesn’t need my praise when heavyweights like Tom Brokaw, Jeremy Schaap and James Dodson have unanimously declared WONDER GIRL to be the definitive account of the world’s greatest female athlete, “elegantly told, funny and tragic.”

“I haven’t enjoyed a sports biography this much in years,” noted Dodson, Ben Hogan’s biographer.

The reviews will roll in and they’ll be mostly good to great, as they should be, so I’ll tell you a bit about how I met Don and was lucky enough to converse with him when he was writing Babe’s story on weekends in the summer of 2009.

Meeting Don

Don is an accidental friend, another personal example of how the virtual world of blogging can lead to a real-world friendship. During the 2008 election season, I got the crazy idea to stage a fictitious match play tournament called the Presidents Golf Championship at ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG. Who better to have as a guest analyst than the bestselling author of First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers, and Cheaters from Taft to Bush? I had seen Don Van Natta’s byline on golf articles and knew about his presidential golf book.

Looking back on it now, I’m a bit surprised that I looked up the author and cold called him at his home on a Saturday morning to propose the guest analyst arrangement. Why would a bestselling author, New York Times investigative reporter and member of two Pulitzer Prize-winning teams want to have anything to do with me and my golf blog?

But I made that call and Don took it. He jumped on board and we held the tournament. It was fun. (Eisenhower upset Kennedy in the finals.) During that same time, Don’s feature on First Golfer Barack Obama appeared in Golf Digest. Since then, he has been a good friend and a generous mentor and adviser on my own writing projects.

Discovering Babe

In July 2009 I met Don at Fitzgerald’s 1928, an eatery and tavern in his former Glen Ridge, New Jersey, neighborhood. During a long, enjoyable dinner, he told me about the challenges of bringing the incomparable Babe Didrikson Zaharias to life on the page. He was striving for a folksy narrative voice that would match the bigger-than-life sports hero from little Beaumont, Texas. Later he shared early chapters with me and occasionally sent lengthy emails about his progress on the manuscript.

After reading early draft chapters, I knew this would be a special biography of an extraordinary female athlete (and golfer) who was a half century ahead of her time. I’ve since read the entire book. It’s outstanding.

Babe would probably fail as a fictional character. Who would believe that a one-woman track team could win a National AAU Championship? Or that anyone (man or woman) could excel in multiple sports, including basketball, track and field, softball, baseball, tennis and golf? Or that a woman could almost single-handedly launch a ladies professional golf tour (the LPGA) in the 1950s?

Babe did it all, won at all. She was the greatest—and told everyone she was the greatest—long before Cassius Clay (now Muhammad Ali) stepped out of a Louisville, Kentucky, gym and dazzled the world with his lightning fists and brash poetic pronouncements. Babe mowed down every foe in her path until stricken with cancer. And, as you would expect, she didn’t back down when faced with the deadly disease.

Don delivers a complete and heartfelt portrait of Babe. He doesn’t gloss over Babe’s personal flaws. He is, after all, a veteran investigative reporter. But he also has succeeded at crafting a warm, folksy narrative, just as he set out to do. WONDER GIRL lopes along as gracefully as young Babe running and hurdling the hedges in her Beaumont neighborhood.

Check out WONDER GIRL at AmazonLittle, Brown and Company (publisher), Barnes & Noble and Borders.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, June 11

U.S. Open: ‘The Mechanic’ to Tee Off With Spanish Comrades

THE THURSDAY AND FRIDAY groupings for next week’s U.S. Open are out. Miguel Angel Jimenez, nicknamed “The Mechanic” because of his interest in tinkering with sports cars (notably his red Ferrari), will tour Congressional Country Club with fellow Spanish pros Sergio Garcia and Alvaro Quiros. The trio representing golf in Spain will go off at 1:24 p.m. on Thursday and 7:44 a.m. on Friday.

(Note: There’s also an all-Italian grouping of Francesco Molinari, Matteo Manassero, and Edoardo Molinari that follows directly after the Spaniards. Two of them, of course, are brothers.)

Jimenez, an 18-time winner on the European Tour, including 11 titles since the age of 40, has had spotty results in nine U.S. Open appearances. His best finish was a tie for second in 2000 at Pebble Beach where Tiger Woods dominated the field. That was followed by a dry spell until 2008 at Torrey Pines when The Mechanic finished in a sixth-place tie. The last two years he missed the cut.

Jimenez resides in Malaga, a large coastal city on the Mediterranean Sea about 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of the Strait of Gibraltar. This glimmering stretch of coastline has become known as a golf resort destination. Golf Costa Del Sol stretches from Jimenez’s native Malaga to Sotogrande, and includes a number of top championship golf courses and resorts.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Brought to you by YourGolfTravel.com, the online destination for golf breaks uk.)

(Photo credit: Richard Carter, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Friday, June 10

Interviewer Makes Fred Couples, Others Sweat



DURWOOD FINCHER. REMEMBER THAT NAME.

For all the talk about the golf media, some good and a lot bad, here’s a man who knows how to put a tough question to PGA Tour players.

Watch Fred Couples squirm and sweat, Brandt Snedeker grin and chuckle, Lee Trevino nod and stutter, Charles Howell III bob and weave, and Nick Price just shake his head.

Anybody else ready to put Fincher on the course or in the booth? Can we assign him to interview Tiger Woods?

Televised golf and media conferences could become a lot more fun and entertaining.

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, June 9

When Is It Too Hot for Golf?

(Plucked and updated from the ARMCHAIR GOLF archives.)

THE MERCURY WILL REACH 93 today in Memphis, Tennessee, where PGA Tour players will sweat their way through the FedEx St. Jude Classic. The heat index—that measurement some weather guru came up with that combines air temperature and relative humidity—will hover near 100.

The good folks of Memphis and elsewhere (my hand is raised) know when it is sticky hot and suffocating without the benefit of the heat index and “feels like” numbers. Another way to quantify misery, I suppose.

The players at TPC Southwind will be soaked with sweat, some with big dark patches ringing the seat of their pants. (Some 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 toasty warm places such as Dubai, but is there any place sweatier than the Home of the Blues?

Heat Beatdown

My question is this: When is it 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. Too hot. I’ll tee it up another day”?

I played golf last Friday and the weather was perfect, about 80 degrees and relatively low humidity for early June. This week is a different story. It’s headed toward 90 today in my mountains, which is well above our normal high for late spring.

It’s also in the low and mid 90s across much of the Southeast and Northeast, including blistering June highs of 97 and 98 in Washington, DC, and New York City, respectively.

Tomorrow the high in Phoenix will be 100. You expect it to be a furnace there. Does anyone play golf in Phoenix in the summer? I suppose diehards do. I’ll bet the competition for early morning tee times in the summer months is fierce. Phoenix golf is 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 plenty 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 golf 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 often don’t reach 90. That’s just fine with me.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: mariana, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Wednesday, June 8

Cristie Kerr Defends at LPGA State Farm Classic

CRISTIE KERR WILL DEFEND the first of two consecutive titles this week when she tees off at Panther Creek Country Club on Thursday in the $1.7 million LPGA State Farm Classic. Last year Kerr scorched the Springfield, Illinois, course with a 22-under winning total. It included a 63 in the third round. She followed that performance with a record-setting 12-stroke victory at the Wegmans LPGA Championship (a major), which will be played in Pittsford, New York, in two weeks.

Kerr has posted two consecutive runner-up finishes and has five top-10 finishes in eight events this season. She is No. 4 in the Rolex Rankings.


Purse: $1.7 million
Defending champion: Cristie Kerr
Course: Panther Creek Country Club, Par 72, 6,746 yards

2011 LPGA State Farm Classic Leaderboard

Tournament preview
Final field
Pairings
LPGA State Farm Classic website


TV SCHEDULE

All TV coverage of the 2011 LPGA State Farm Classic is on Golf Channel.

Thu, Jun 09
6:30-8:30 PM ET

Fri, Jun 10
6:30-8:30 PM ET

Sat, Jun 11
6:30-9:30 PM ET

Sun, Jun 12
7:00-9:30 PM ET


−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: dnkbdotcom, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Tuesday, June 7

2011 U.S. Open: William Cauley In, Tiger Woods Out

A FRIEND ASKED ME last Friday at our local Lion’s Club tournament if I thought Tiger Woods would tee it up at Congressional. “I don’t know,” I said. “But I won’t be surprised if he doesn’t. Tiger isn’t right.”

I meant physically—the left knee and Achilles tendon. It’s one of multiple obstacles to regaining his form. A huge one. It seemed to me that Tiger would be smart to get healthy before playing more tournament golf, even if it meant missing the national championship.

Today Tiger announced at his website that he won’t play in this year’s U.S. Open.

“I am extremely disappointed that I won’t be playing in the U.S. Open. But it’s time for me to listen to my doctors and focus on the future. I was hopeful that I could play, but if I did, I risk further damage to my left leg. My knee and Achilles’ tendon are not fully healed.”

Tiger isn’t Superman anymore, if he ever was. He’s damaged goods. He can’t will his way around the golf course like he did at Torrey Pines in June 2008. This was the only sensible choice after the re-injury at the Masters and the forced 9-hole march at The Players Championship last month.

Tiger added that he hopes to play at his AT&T National Tournament, as well as the British Open and PGA Championship. The wait-and-see game continues.

U.S. Open Qualifying

Meanwhile, with Tiger out, a bunch of other players are in, such as the one noted in the headline—William Cauley. I picked Cauley’s name off the lengthy list of those who made it through Sectional Qualifying because he posted one of the lowest scores—132. And not just in Memphis, where he qualified, but anywhere.

Cauley tied for low man at Tunica National with 67-65 in a Sectional Qualifier that included many tour pros. One other thing stood out about Cauley: he’s an amateur.

Following are some notable (or known to me) names who are headed to Congressional.

Thomas Levet, France 66-71--137
Johan Edfors, Sweden 70-70--140
Sam Saunders, Orlando, Fla. 69-72--141
Kirk Triplett, Scottsdale, Ariz. 69-64--133
Fred Funk, Ponte Vedra, Fla. 67-68--135
Ty Tryon, Orlando, Fla. 71-64--135
Chez Reavie, Scottsdale, Ariz. 69-63--132
Brandt Jobe, Westlake, Texas 62-70--132
Robert Garrigus, Charleston, S.C. 67-66--133
Nicholas O'Hern, Australia 68-67--135
D.A. Points, Windermere, Fla. 68-68--136
John Senden, Flower Mound, Texas 68-68--136
Marc Turnesa, Jupiter, Fla. 69-67--136
Marc Leishman, Norfolk, Va. 68-68--136
Webb Simpson, Charlotte, N.C. 68-69--137
Tim Petrovic, Austin, Texas 69-68--137
William Cauley (a), Jacksonville, Fla. 67-65--132
Fredrik Jacobson, Hobe Sound, Fla. 67-67--134
Sergio Garcia, Spain 68-67--135
Brian Gay, Windermere, Fla. 68-67--135
Chad Campbell, Andrews, Texas 66-69--135
Briny Baird, Palm City, Fla. 68-67--135
Todd Hamilton, Cleveland, Ohio 67-68--135
Harrison Frazar, Dallas, Texas 72-64--136
Greg Chalmers, Colleyville, Texas 66-70--136

I was also going to list notable names that didn’t make it, but now I don’t have the desire or heart to do it.

I’m In

I’ll be at Congressional next week, my first U.S. Open as a credentialed media member. I’m not sure how I’ll cover the action. But I’ll definitely show up and post my dispatches from the year’s second major. I’ve been looking forward to it for quite a while and can’t believe it’s almost here. If you have any comments or suggestions, feel free to email me at armchairgolfer@gmail.com.

−The Armchair Golfer

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

Monday, June 6

Two Straight for Augusta State

THE JAGUARS OF AUGUSTA STATE have done it again, winning the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship by dusting off collegiate golf titans Oklahoma State and Georgia in the semifinals and finals this past weekend. The school of about 6,000 students is the first college to repeat as men’s golf champions since the University of Houston won consecutive titles in the mid 1980s.

The Jaguars compete against Division II schools in most sports. It’s an athletic program that has more women’s teams than men’s. But in golf little Augusta State has proven they can play with the big boys. Case in point: the vaunted Cowboys of Oklahoma State, the golf powerhouse in Stillwater, Oklahoma, that hosted this year’s NCAA finals. The Jags beat the Cowboys in the semis in front of a large Oklahoma State gallery. Then they whipped in-state rival Georgia in the finals.

The less-heralded Augusta State players were not intimidated. They stuck together. They found a way to win.

“Match play rewards the team that plays best under pressure,” Jaguars senior Mitchell Krywulycz said at Golfweek.com. “It doesn’t necessarily reward the best team, but every match is under the pump, all the time, every hole.”

Coach Josh Gregory, who left North Carolina State in 2002 to take the head job at Augusta State, said that winning doesn’t depend on big budgets, private planes and the number of scholarships. “If you can find a way to get players that believe,” Gregory said, “that’s all that counts.”

The Jaguars fairy-tale run is likely over. Gregory is leaving to take over as men’s golf coach at his alma mater, Southern Methodist University. Augusta State’s five best players are also leaving the Cinderella team—four of them seniors and one underclassman, Patrick Reed, who will turn pro.

A first-team All-American, Reed said it was sad they’ll now all go in different directions. But, in an important sense, he and his teammates will always be together as the Augusta State Jaguars go down in golf history.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, June 4

‘WONDER GIRL’ and Other Golf Titles

THE GOLF BOOKS HAVE BEEN piling up beside my armchair, as well as in my email inbox. So let’s run through some of them.

WONDER GIRL: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias
By Don Van Natta Jr.
A fresh, engaging biography of the greatest female athlete of all time who also was one of the original founders of the LPGA. Babe’s game and star power gave the women’s tour a fighting chance in the early days and later assured its place in golf. I have a personal connection with the author and will write more about this fine book in the coming days. More

GOLF LIST MANIA! The Most Authoritative and Opinionated Ranking of the Best and Worst of the Game
By Leonard Shapiro and Ed Sherman
Foreword by Jim Nantz. An entertaining and informative book of original golf lists about the players, events and moments that have shaped the game. Shapiro and Sherman are veteran sportswriters. More

Let There Be Pebble: A Middle-Handicapper’s year in America’s Garden of Golf
By Zachary Michael Jack
The author’s personal quest to experience all things Pebble Beach. Jack is a former newspaper sports editor who teaches literary sportswriting at an Illinois college. More

Freddie & Me: Life Lessons from Freddie Bennett, Augusta National’s Legendary Caddie Master
By Tripp Bowden
(Now in paperback.) A former Augusta National caddie recounts the invaluable life lessons he learned from the late Freddie Bennett, the fabled club’s legendary caddie master. More

How to Line Up Your Fourth Putt
By Bobby Rusher
A humorous guide to the game of golf. Also billed as 42 ways to improve your golf game without taking a lesson. More

THE ART OF THE SWING: Short Game Swing Sequencing Secrets That Will Improve Your Total Game in 30 Days
By Stan Utley
Short-game guru Stan Utley introduces groundbreaking new instructional methods. More

PLAY YOUR BEST GOLF NOW: Discover VISION54’s 8 Essential Playing Skills
By Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson
A holistic coaching method offered as a refreshing alternative to today’s other coaching methods. More

The Caddie Who Won The Masters
By John Coyne
A 49-year-old amateur’s “Field of Dreams” quest in the modern-day Masters Tournament at famed Augusta National. Review / Excerpt

−The Armchair Golfer