Wednesday, November 30

‘THE MATCH’ eBook and Other Golf Titles

GOLF BOOKS HAVE BEEN COLLECTING in my email inbox and elsewhere. Here’s a rundown.

THE MATCH: The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever
By Mark Frost
Hyperion was recently celebrating its 20th anniversary by promoting titles in ebook form, including this golf classic. More

Inside, Outside, and On the Ropes: Life Lessons from Q-School and The Majors
By Keith Gockenbach
The author grew up playing golf in Illinois and caddying for Bob Goalby and other pros in the PGA Tour’s Robinson Open. After a successful career in the chemical industry, he “retired” in 2004 to chase his dream of playing on the Champions Tour. More

The Golfer’s Diet: A Daily Plan for Par Performance
By Scott Kramer
A how-to nutrition guide that helps players learn in general terms what kinds of foods to eat before, during and after a round of golf to help achieve their peak performance. More

Golf - A Good Walk & Then Some: A Quintessential History of the Game
By John R. Jenchura
A narrative of 90-plus photographs and 64 chapters that covers the history of the game back to the Romans in 300 AD, tracing golf across the European continent to Scotland and the Atlantic Ocean to the United States. More

Everyday Golfer’s Guide to Shooting Lower Scores
By Mick Gyure
A book aimed at the novice golfer and written by a non-professional who can relate to the many challenges encountered by the beginner. More

The Bag Room
By Adam Fonseca
A brief memoir of the author’s experiences working over 10 years at a local country club. Written in the style of “Caddyshack,” The Bag Room is an insider’s account of country club life that many people don’t see. Fonseca blogs at ChicagoDuffer.com and Waggle Room. More

Broken Tees and Mended Hearts
By Judy Alvarez
A collection of stories that highlights how the game of golf can help those with disabilities and illnesses overcome adversity and gain a new lease on life. Alvarez is a PGA/LPGA professional and a member of Golf for Women magazine’s Top 50 Teachers.
More

Buddha Plays 18
By Edward Sarkis Balian
An informative and entertaining book that combines the art and science of good golf with the principles of Buddhist philosophy. More

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, November 29

Padraig Harrington Hopes for Hong Kong Surprise

By Brian Keogh
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


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 excerpt from Brian’s Irish Golf Desk is used with permission. 

Padraig Harrington needs a high finish.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON WILL BE KUNG-FU fighting for his short-term future in Hong Kong this week. The world No 81 knows he must finish in the top 6 if he’s to make the top-60 money winners who qualify for next week’s Dubai World Championship finale—a battle that will put 60th ranked Peter Lawrie in his crosshairs.

It’s an interesting challenge but his biggest worry is getting back into the world’s top 50 as soon as possible so he can contest all the World Golf Championships next season and give himself the best possible chance of earning his seventh Ryder Cup cap.

Gunning for his first win for 13 months, Harrington said: “It’s quite important to be in the top 50 in the world, certainly for the two World Golf Championships in February and March. Yes, I probably need a top six in Hong Kong to qualify for Dubai but I’m only thinking of winning because if you win, everything else takes care of itself.”

Harrington has every reason to be optimistic about his chances in Hong Kong. He’s only played there twice but won the event in 2003 and finished second to Miguel Angel Jimenez the following year.

He said: “It’s going to be my last event of the year unless I win €50,000 plus to get to Dubai. I’m very keen to stay out there playing but my whole season hardly comes down to this.

“If I win in Hong Kong or win the Dubai World Championship then you could say that both weeks had a bearing on my season. But other than that, no, my season is what it is.”

Harrington could be forced to change his early 2012 schedule if he fails to make the top 64 in the world before the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona from February 22-25 or the top 50 before the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March.

“At this moment I would be very positive,” Harrington said. “I am playing well so hopefully I won’t need to change anything.”

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

Friday, November 25

The Origin of the Teeing Ground

By Barry Ward
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


Copyright © Barry Ward. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

THERE WAS NO SUCH THING as “a teeing ground” until about 1875. Before then our golfing forebears teed up on the putting green, using a pinch of sand.

The first Rules of Golf, devised in 1744 by the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith (later to become The Honourable Company of Muirfield) stipulated that after holing out the ball should be teed up “within one club length of the hole.”

By 1828 this had become “no less than two club lengths and no more then four.” An appreciation of putting surfaces was evidently emerging—the first mechanical grass cutter was invented about this time—because this was later extended to “no less than four club lengths or more than six” and by about 1870 the distance stipulated was “no less than eight and no more than 12 club lengths.”

The formal teeing ground was first mentioned in 1875 and in 1882 the amended Rules of Golf referred to “the tee” rather than the distance from the hole.

In 1893 the teeing ground was accurately defined for the first time as “two marks in line at right angles to the course (the fairway) and two club lengths in depth.”

There was no mention of the proximity to the hole: the tee was placed a short distance from it and conveniently positioned for the next hole. Thus were the first steps taken towards golf course architecture, where the tee and its green became an entity.

It was a development that was to change the very nature of the game and have lasting implications.

Barry Ward is a veteran golf writer and the publisher/editor of www.posh-golf-travel.com, a guide to luxurious, family friendly golf resorts and destinations. He lives in golf-gorgeous Rutland, England.

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

Tuesday, November 22

How the Golf Ball Affects Foursomes Play

THE GOLF BALL CAN BE the most crucial piece of equipment at the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup. As Jennifer Gardner of Tour Van reported, “Some players struggle to use a ball other than their own.” For others, it’s no big deal.

At the recent Presidents Cup in Melbourne, partners on both the U.S. and International teams had to decide which ball to play in foursomes matches. In foursomes, of course, partners play alternate shots, hitting and putting the same golf ball until it’s holed.

Of the 22 foursome partnerships at the Presidents Cup, only five pair played the same golf ball. Those 10 players who already played the same ball fared well in foursomes competition, earning 3½ points.

Tiger Woods was among the group seemingly unaffected by the golf ball choice. “Now all of the golf balls are all hard and all going a long way,” Woods said. He noted that there wasn’t much difference between balls. With Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson as partners, Tiger posted a 1-1 record in foursomes.

Charl Schwartzel, Geoff Ogilvy’s partner, said he didn’t notice much difference between his Nike ball and Ogilvy’s Titleist. The two International team players experimented with both golf balls, and since Ogilvy struggled somewhat with his irons, Schwartzel said they would use Ogilvy’s ball. The pair halved their Thursday foursomes match against Americans Bill Haas and Nick Watney.

−The Armchair Golfer

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

Monday, November 21

Missed Opportunity for Internationals

THERE WERE MANY GOOD THINGS about the Presidents Cup. No, it’s not the Ryder Cup, but the event is growing in stature and importance. At least that’s my sense as a golf fan.

It’s competitive, too. The 19-15 result in favor of the Americans at Royal Melbourne could have been closer. Despite a four-point deficit, the International team kept it interesting for a long while on the final day. Their first four men out won their singles matches against the Americans. The singles session ended in a tie, 6-6, a good sign for the Internationals. The U.S. boys have a history of dominant singles play.

The foursomes were the downfall of the International team, as captain Greg Norman lamented. They got blitzed, and I’m not sure why. I wasn’t paying close enough attention. Apparently, Norman had some choice words for his team. He tried to light a fire, but they still had to hit the shots and roll in the putts, and they couldn’t quite get it done this time.

That has to be a disappointment, especially for an International team stacked with Australians playing a home game at Royal Melbourne Golf Club. All of the Aussies except Geoff Ogilvy posted losing records for the week. Norman surely expected a much better performance from the mates.

Meanwhile, the Americans played well overall. Some were downright inspired. Tiger Woods finally looks like he is on the way back. His ball striking was impressive and, as the week wore on, the putts started falling. It was sort of like old times. Tiger might have smiled more on the golf course in the last few days than in the last five years.

Freddie’s ultra-early captain’s pick came through. It’s now more obvious that Tiger has been putting a lot of work into his game. That slump-breaking win must be somewhere on the 2012 tournament calendar. Any predictions?

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, November 19

VIDEO: Ben Hogan Gets Untimely Caddie Advice



CADDIES HAVE BEEN IN THE NEWS a lot lately. Well, one in particular. Some caddies say the wrong thing. Some speak up at the wrong time. As I discovered, even the great Ben Hogan dealt with unsolicited and untimely caddie advice.

This caddie (for another player) dropped out of a tree to help Hogan with a pitch shot.

“This is a very fast green, Mr. Hogan. And you’re going to need a lot of backspin, so I suggest you use your wedge.”

“Well, if you don’t mind, I’ll use the 9-iron,” said Hogan.

“I just thought I’d mention it.”

Then, of course, Hogan flubs the pitch. Stupid caddie.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, November 18

Royal Melbourne Stars in Presidents Cup

Bubba Watson during practice at the Presidents Cup.
THE SCORE SHOWS THE AMERICANS are ahead of the Internationals 7-5 after two days of the Presidents Cup, but the real winner so far is Royal Melbourne Golf Club, as ESPN.com’s Bob Harig reported.

Designed by Alister MacKenzie, the man who teamed with Bobby Jones to create Augusta National and who also designed Cypress Point, Royal Melbourne has stood the test of time since it opened in 1931. On Friday the famed layout was even more treacherous due to winds that gusted up to 40 m.p.h.

“It’s carnage on a golf course like this today,” said Adam Scott of the International team. “Thank goodness it’s match play and we weren’t actually counting our strokes. It’s a great golf course when it can play fairly in conditions like this.”

I watched a portion of the Golf Channel telecast on Thursday night. Those Royal Melbourne greens looked impossible to me. I find it hard to believe that Matt Kuchar was able to make five birdies on his own ball. Kuchar teamed with Steve Stricker to beat Robert Allenby and Y.E. Yang 4 and 3.

Tiger Woods, this time partnering with Dustin Johnson, was on the losing end for the second straight day. Jason Day and Aaron Baddeley beat the Americans 1 up.

Play on Saturday will include five foursomes matches in the morning and five fourball matches in the afternoon. Sitting out the morning matches are Stricker and Nick Watney of the U.S. team and Yang and K.T. Kim of the International team. All four are required to play during the afternoon session.

Saturday Morning Foursomes

Match 1: Robert Allenby/Geoff Ogilvy (I) vs. Bubba Watson/Webb Simpson (US)
Match 2: Ernie Els/Ryo Ishikawa (I) vs. Bill Haas/Matt Kuchar (US)
Match 3: Retief Goosen/Charl Schwartzel (I) vs. Hunter Mahan/David Toms (US)
Match 4: Adam Scott/K.J. Choi (I) vs. Tiger Woods/Dustin Johnson (US)
Match 5: Aaron Baddeley/Jason Day (I) vs. Jim Furyk/Phil Mickelson (US)

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: Hone Morihana, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Thursday, November 17

2011 CME Group Titleholders TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

The LPGA’S 2011 SEASON CLOSES THIS WEEK with the inaugural CME Group Titleholders at Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando, Florida. The new season-ending tournament has a field of 66 players who qualified as top-three performers in 22 LPGA events this season.

Seven-time winner and Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng headlines the field. Others teeing it up beginning Thursday include Hee Kyung Seo, the 2011 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year, Michelle Wie, LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship winner and Rolex Rankings No. 8 Stacy Lewis, teen phenom and Navistar LPGA Classic winner Lexi Thompson, Rolex Rankings No. 3 Cristie Kerr, Brittany Lincicome, Juli Inkster, Natalie Gulbis and Beatriz Recari.

Purse: $1.5 million
Winner’s share: $500,000
Defending champion: (inaugural event)
Course: Grand Cypress Resort-North/South Course, Par 72, 6,518 yards

2011 CME Group Titleholders Leaderboard

Tournament preview
Pre-tournament notes and interviews
Final field
Pairings
CME Group Titleholders website


TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2011 CME Group Titleholders is on Golf Channel.

Thurs, Nov 17
1:30-4:00 PM ET

Fri, Nov 18
12:30-3:00 PM ET

Sat, Nov 19
1:30-4:00 PM ET

Sun, Nov 20

1:30-4:00 PM ET

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, November 16

Presidents Cup Flashback: Tiger Woods and Ernie Els




TIGER WOODS AND ERNIE ELS BATTLED in a three-hole playoff to decide the 2003 Presidents Cup, which had ended with the score knotted at 17-17. But the fierce competitors were unable to break the deadlock. So U.S. and International captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player agreed to share the Cup as darkness fell in South Africa. It is still the only tie in the relatively short history of the Presidents Cup.

Now grizzled veterans, Woods and Els are back for more, teeing it up at Royal Melbourne in Thursday’s opening foursomes matches. Teamed with Ryo Ishikawa, Els faces new American guns Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson. Woods is alongside the reliable Steve Stricker in a match against Adam Scott and K.J. Choi. It should be fun.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, November 15

David Graham Puts Off Heart Surgery to Attend Presidents Cup

David Graham has returned to Australia.
DAVID GRAHAM, THE 1981 U.S. OPEN CHAMPION and an eight-time winner on the PGA Tour, hasn’t been in his native Australia since 1994 when he won the Australian Skins Game. That was also the same year that Graham captained the International team in the first Presidents Cup. Now a bad heart can’t keep the Montana resident away from his homeland.

“They’re going to have to take a tomahawk to my chest,” Graham said on Tuesday at Royal Melbourne Golf Club. The retired tour player who hadn’t been Down Under in 17 years reached for tissue after tissue as tears leaked from his puffy eyes.

“This is an emotional thing for me,” he explained.

As Dave Shedloski reported at Local Knowledge, Graham, 65, is lucky to be alive. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 2004. He has survived thanks to experimental drugs. He was scheduled to undergo open-heart surgery on November 4 but decided to make his return to Australia—perhaps for the last time—to watch the ninth Presidents Cup.

The heart problem ended Graham’s competitive golf career. Cross-continental travel was not an option until recently. The Aussie set aside his golf clubs for five years. Now he occasionally plays nine holes with Arnold Palmer when both are in the Palm Springs area.

“It’s really cool,” Graham said. “We don't compete. We verbally compete. He hits it everywhere and I hit it everywhere, and we laugh at each other and give each other 10-foot putts. Then we go sit and have a glass of wine.”

There will be no 10-foot putts given this week at Royal Melbourne. Graham is glad that he’ll be there to see it.

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, November 14

2011 Presidents Cup TV Schedule and Event Notes

THE 2011 PRESIDENTS CUP GETS UNDERWAY on Thursday at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia. It’s a match-play competition that pits the International team captained by Greg Norman against the U.S. team captained by Fred Couples.

The Americans have won six of eight meetings. There has been one tie. But it should be noted that the U.S. team has never won outside of North America. The last time the Presidents Cup was played at Royal Melbourne in 1998 the Americans were routed 20½ to 11½.

Jason Day is making first appearance.
International team
U.S. team
Norman’s comments on International players
Couples’s comments on U.S. players
Power rankings
Tee times
Royal Melbourne Golf Club, hole by hole
Presidents Cup history
Past results
Presidents Cup glossary

2011 Presidents Cup Scoring


TV SCHEDULE

U.S. TV coverage of the 2011 Presidents Cup is
on Golf Channel and NBC.

Wednesday, November 16
Opening Ceremony
9 p.m.-2 a.m. (GOLF, live coverage)

Thursday, November 17
9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (GOLF, tape-delayed)
7:30 p.m.-2 a.m. (GOLF, live coverage

Friday, November 18
8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (GOLF, tape-delayed)
3 p.m.-2 a.m. (GOLF, live coverage)

Saturday, November 19
8 a.m.-4 p.m. (NBC, tape-delayed)
6:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (GOLF, live coverage)

Sunday, November 20
12-6 p.m. (NBC, tape-delayed)

−The Armchair Golfer

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

Sunday, November 13

Hunter Mahan to Serve Steak in Beverly Hills

HUNTER MAHAN & FRIENDS: MORTON’S CELEBRITY SERVER NIGHT will take place at Morton’s The Steakhouse in Beverly Hills on Monday, December 5, 2011, beginning at 7 p.m.

The evening will be hosted by Mahan, who along with other PGA Tour players and their celebrity friends will trade in their clubs for aprons and serve a lavish four-course dinner to guests. The event will include a live and silent auction, all to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association®.

“I have zero experience as a waiter so I know I have my work cut out for me,” said Mahan, “but I cannot wait to be a part of what I promise will be a memorable evening for everyone.”

Having lost his grandmother to the devastating disease in 2007, Mahan has been an Alzheimer’s Association Champion for several years. He regularly participates in activities that raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s disease and has donated a portion of his winnings to the association to support critical care, support and research programs.

Tickets are $250 and can be purchased by contacting Joanna Sanchez at 310-246-1501 or joanna_sanchez@mortons.com. Morton’s The Steakhouse is located at 435 S. La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills.

Friday, November 11

Pro Golfers Who Served in World War II

From the first days of World War II, players put away their sticks
and picked up rifles to defend America.
 

By John Coyne
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


Copyright © John Coyne. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Lloyd Mangrum won the 1946 U.S. Open.
WORLD WAR II WAS CALLED the last “good” war and Tom Brokaw wrote of the men and women who fought in it as, “America’s greatest generation.” They came of age during the Great Depression and served their country in World War II.

Many of this greatest generation were golf professionals. Herb Graffis, founder of Golfing magazine, in his history of the Professional Golf Association (PGA) writes how golf professionals served in combat during WW II, and did a hundred other volunteer jobs relating to golf to help the war effort. From the first days of World War II, players put away their sticks and picked up rifles to defend America.

They would not be the first players to fight in a war. At the outbreak of World War II, it is estimated 900 members of the PGA were veterans of World War I. By the end of WW II, 20 percent of the members of the PGA had served in the armed forces, another 15 percent in war production jobs. Eleven pros were killed in action, three more died while in the service.

PGA pros, throughout the war years, were involved in construction, equipping and operating practice putting greens, practice tees, courses and indoor nets at more than 62 armed services hospitals. Professionals and superintendents often got together and built small golf installations at hospitals, and the pros kept going back to instruct patients and maintain the golf playgrounds.

In addition to that work, tournament circuit prize money during the war was in government bonds. In 1945, prize money was approximately $500,000 in war bonds. That year exhibitions by PGA members raised over $100,000 for hospitals, the USO and the Red Cross. According to Graffis, “Those wartime tournaments and exhibitions had a great deal to do with establishing the pattern of today’s tournament circuits, since most of the events have hospitals, boys’ clubs, and other welfare operations as promoters and beneficiaries.”

Not to be overlooked was the celebrity drawing power of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby at golf events. In 1943, Hope and Crosby took to the road for six weeks of exhibition matches with pros and amateurs. Joining them on tour were Sam Byrd, Byron Nelson, Joe Kirkwood, Gene Sarazen, Harry Cooper, as well as early LPGA stars Louise Suggs, Patty Berg and Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Hope and Crosby started at the Dallas Country Club with a gallery of about 5,000 who bought $4.5 million in war bonds and an ambulance for the Red Cross. They finished at the Edgewater Golf Club in Chicago. Bob and Bing paid their own expenses through out the tour, and the PGA gave them money clips as tokens of appreciation. 

War Toll

The war took a toll on the PGA. By the end of 1945, dues-paying membership was down to 1,565. That was 570 fewer members than when hostilities began. When the war was over, there were 4,817 courses in the U.S. and roughly 2,250,000 golfers, but few of these players had ever been to a golf tournament.

But all of that was about to change. Lloyd Mangrum, while training for the D-Day landings, was offered the professional job at the army’s Fort Meade golf course, which would have kept him out of combat, but he declined and went to the front lines in Europe. He would receive from his combat tours two Purple Hearts, and was wounded a final time at the Battle of the Bulge. However, when he was discharged from the army, he immediately won the 1946 U.S. Open, the first Open held after the war.

Other name professionals who served in the army and were back on tour within days of being discharged from service were Tommy Bolt; Jack Fleck who was in the Navy and also part of the D-Day invasion; Herman Keiser; Ted Kroll, who earned three Purple Hearts, and was wounded four times; Ed “Porky” Oliver; and the great amateur Smiley Quick, who won the ’46 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship and then turned pro.

The golf professionals of the greatest generation were home from the war and back on the links. It was the start of the modern PGA Tour that we know today. 

John Coyne is a bestselling author whose latest book is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

Thursday, November 10

Study: Putting Better With Ben Curtis’s Putter

By Tom Jacobs
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


This article originally appeared at Miller-McCune and is used with permission.

GOLFERS: WANT TO PUTT LIKE a champion? It’ll help if you use a champion’s putter. That’s the key finding of a study published in the online journal PLoS One, which finds the “positive contagion” of a piece of sports equipment can substantially improve a player’s performance.

Forty-one undergraduates—all experienced golfers—took part in an experiment conducted by a research team led by University of Virginia psychologist Charles Lee. They were taken to an artificial putting mat, which was designed to mimic the speed of greens professional golfers play on.

Ben Curtis prepares to putt.
Half the golfers were told they’d be using a putter formerly used by professional golfer Ben Curtis, a veteran player on the PGA Tour. The researchers discussed this fact with each player for about 15 seconds, noting Curtis’s recent successes and asking, “Isn’t that cool?”

The other players were told nothing of the putter’s history.

Each participant viewed the hole from a distance of 2.13 meters. They then estimated the size of the hole by drawing a circle on a computer screen. “To promote accuracy, participants were encouraged to redraw the circle until they believed it matched the size of the golf hole,” the researchers write.

Each golfer then putted the ball 10 times, starting out from a place on the mat that increased the difficulty of sinking the ball.

Results and Explanations

The results: The players told they were using Curtis’s putter “perceived the golf hole to be bigger, and sank more puts” than the others. This occurred in spite of the fact there was no difference between the two groups in terms of golf experience or self-reported level of confidence.

Lee and his colleagues offer several possible explanations for their results.

“Previous research has shown that engaging in positive imagery before a sports competition is positively correlated with performance,” they note.

“Such imagery involves imagining oneself as having control over one’s situation, and engaging in a state of focus and mental toughness.”

Perhaps, they speculate, the mental image of Ben Curtis helped facilitate that enormously helpful mindset. Or perhaps a “placebo effect” could be in play. The researchers note that past research has found “positive contagion” can “lead one to impute more value to an object.” (A guitar played by Paul McCartney is worth more than one strummed by your brother-in-law.) Those who believed they were using Curtis’s putter may have “amended their perceived putting abilities” since they had such a valuable club in their hands.

The researchers can’t be certain that the perceived size of the hole played a role in the golfers’ better scores, although that seems intuitively correct.

“It is possible that a third variable could independently influence both perception and performance,” they write.

In any event, this research provides more evidence that golf is as much a mental game as a physical one, and that certain superstitious beliefs can become self-fulfilling prophecies—in a good way, in this case.

Tom Jacobs is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience at daily newspapers. He has served as a staff writer for The Los Angeles Daily News and the Santa Barbara News-Press. His work has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Ventura County Star.

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

Wednesday, November 9

Y.E. Yang Uses YouTube as Swing Coach

Y.E. Yang
HERE’S SOMETHING I DON’T EXPECT to read in this modern age of golf swing gurus. 2009 PGA champion Y.E. Yang got rid of his swing coach last season and now peruses YouTube for swing tips and insights. That’s what Yang, the man who beat Tiger Woods head to head to win his first major, told reporters on Wednesday in advance of the Singapore Open.

“I’ve researched quite a few players, tried to emulate some of the good things that I see on YouTube,” said the South Korean. “The swing plane, how I grab my club ... those are probably the biggest changes.

“I’ve put more focus on the technical aspects of my game whereas previously I’ve been more of a feel player.”

That’s fine, if it works for Yang. There’s no law about having a swing coach, or a golf shrink, for that matter, even though specialized golf instruction is now a fixture of tour culture. Old-time pros grunt or laugh when you mention swing coaches. Lee Trevino once said he wouldn’t take swing advice from anyone who couldn’t beat him.

There could be a problem, though. Yang is winless since the 2010 Korean Open and admits that his results have dropped off this season. But, for now, he’ll continue on without a coach because he is satisfied with his approach and progress.

I just hope I don’t see “YouTube” emblazoned on Yang’s golf bag, you know?

−The Armchair Golfer

Visor tip: Press Tent Blog

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

Tuesday, November 8

These Are Good Golf Times for Australia

In search of game in Australia.
THE EYES OF THE GOLF WORLD are turning to Sydney for the Emirates Australian Open and, next week, Melbourne for the Presidents Cup. As Mark Hayes wrote at Golf.com, this is a boon for Australia, a country with a rich golf history that has had few occasions in recent times to enjoy the world golf spotlight.

It used to be big guns Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player arrived Down Under every year for the Australian Open. Nicklaus called it the fifth major. That was long ago.

But the buzz is definitely back—at least for the next two weeks.

The country’s open championship tees off on Thursday with a marquee field of homegrown, American and international players, including: Geoff Ogilvy, Adam Scott, Jason Day, Aaron Baddeley, Stuart Appleby, Robert Allenby, John Senden, Greg Chalmers, Greg Norman, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Fred Couples and David Toms.

Of course, the event is headlined by the struggling former world No. 1 player, Tiger Woods. Woods is fresh off his latest public apology. This time he is on the receiving end. Steve Williams, Tiger’s former caddie, continued to clean up his mess on Tuesday in the aftermath of his boneheaded racial slur at Woods’s expense that was heard around the world and perhaps neighboring solar systems. Williams and Woods spoke face to face at a hotel gym and parted with a handshake.

“He did apologize,” Tiger said. “It was hurtful, certainly, but life goes forward.”

This is the first time Woods has turned up for the Australian Open since 1996. That November, Tiger was a skinny 20-year-old rookie on the PGA Tour. He finished fifth in Sydney. Six months later he won his first Green Jacket.

Now Woods is trying to repair his golf game and public image and prove he was a worthy captain’s pick for the U.S. Presidents Cup team. It starts at 12:10 p.m. on Thursday in a grouping with Day and Allenby.

Fans and media will be watching. The golf circus has come to Australia.

−The Armchair Golfer

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

Monday, November 7

Martin Kaymer, Man for Fall Seasons

Birdie man of Shanghai.
MARTIN KAYMER HADN’T WON A golf tournament since January. The German golf star who won four times in 2010 and ascended to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) has been choking on the dust of Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald much of the season.

In Shanghai at the WGC-HSBC Champions, Kaymer played the first 60 holes 11 under par. Then bam—nine birdies on the final 12 holes. He closed out the back nine with a stunning 29 for a final-round 63. Kaymer’s 20-under total was good for a three-shot victory over Fredrik Jacobson.

“It was the first time I have had a run of birdies like that since I shot a 59 on the EPD Tour in Germany in my first year as a professional,” Kaymer told reporters.

Win early, win late. Maybe it’s the Kaymer way. He won in September and October last year. Now he has bagged a huge one in November, his first WGC title and the first ever by a German. He also moved up two spots in the OWGR to No. 4.

Kaymer Notes

• 10th European Tour victory.

• Money total of €2,830,264 in The Race to Dubai.

• More than €2 million in earnings for third consecutive European Tour season.

• Multiple wins on European Tour for fourth consecutive season.

• Final round of 63 (-9) is the lowest final round for a winner in any WGC stroke-play event.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, November 5

Golf Voices from the Past: Frank Beard

I’M READING PRO: FRANK BEARD ON THE GOLF TOUR, Beard’s PGA Tour diary from the 1969 season that was edited by Dick Schaap. Beard was the leading money winner in 1969 ($175,223.93) and finished second to Dave Hill in the Vardon Trophy Standings with a 70.527 stroke average.

Here’s what Beard said about what it takes to be one of the world’s greatest golfers (he names Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Billy Casper) and making money on tour:
Frank Beard in 1967.
The number-one guys have to be almost totally self-centered. They have to possess an incredible burning for success. They’ve got to be willing to do anything within morally, civically, and socially acceptable bounds to win. I don’t mean they have to cheat, and I don’t mean they have to go out of their way to stomp on people. Not at all. But they do have to stomp on people who get in their way. They have to ignore their friends and their enemies and sometimes their families, and they have to concentrate entirely upon winning, upon being number one. There’s no other way to get to the top.

I’m sure I sound harsh, but I’m not really condemning them. They’ve got what we all want. They’ve got financial independence. They’ve got prestige. They’ve got power. I don’t know anybody who wouldn’t like to have his own airplane and his own secretaries and his own companies. There are many days I wish I had their drive, their singleness of purpose, their complete devotion to victory. I’m often tempted to try it, to push everything and everybody else out of the way and pursue nothing but success. But I just can’t do it. I don’t mean I’m too nice a guy. I mean it’s not my way. If I tried it, I’d fail. I couldn’t survive the constant intensity, the constant burning.

My approach, the one that works for me, is less grueling. Basically, I’m content just to make a good living playing golf. If I make $100,000 a year, I’m very happy. If I slump to sixty or fifty or forty thousand dollars, I’ll still be happy. I’ll be able to pay my expenses, pay my taxes, and put a little bit away.
It’s interesting how much Beard’s 40-year-old comments reminded me of today’s lucrative tour, where many if not most players are just satisfied to make a very good living. Tiger Woods aside, it seems there are fewer players than in Beard’s day with the burning desire to reach the top.

Beard won 11 times on the PGA Tour but no majors and played on the 1969 and 1971 U.S. Ryder Cup teams.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, November 4

Don’t Laugh—Pro Golfers of a Different Kind




THEY’RE POSTAL WORKERS, DENTISTS, criminal justice personnel and more, a cross section of America and beyond (like the Czech Republic). They’re also professional mini golfers.

Please don’t laugh.

“I think putt-putt is a sport,” says one.

“It’s highly skillful,” says another. “It’s a really technical sport.”

“We take it very seriously,” says Randy Reeves, a postal distribution clerk in Montgomery, Alabama. “I talk about how much fun I’m having. Sometimes if you see me on the course, you might not think I’m having so much fun because I made a bad putt.”

Dr. Brad Lebo: “When they give me a little bit of grief about being a professional miniature golfer, if it’s someone I know well, I say, ‘What have you been the national champion at?’

“My passion is playing professional putting tournaments,” Lebo adds. “If we played for larger purses, I may just go ahead and hang up my [dentist] drill.”

Reeves has won six figures in his career on the circuit, which includes as many as 50 events a year. Lebo has won about 80 titles, including three majors. Yes, there’s a U.S. Open and a Masters in professional mini golf.

It’s more than a summer outing or a hobby. The guys—and gals, too—love the game and competition. In fact, the 2011 U.S. Open champion is a 16-year-old girl from the Czech Republic.

Please don’t laugh.

The full story from The Daily.

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, November 3

My Brushes With Golf Pioneer Charlie Sifford




I was made for a tough life, because I’m a tough man. And in the end I won; I got a lot of black people playing golf. That’s good enough. If I had to do it over again, exactly the same way, I would.
−Charlie Sifford, Golf Digest, December 2006

CHARLIE SIFFORD WAS INDUCTED into the Southern California Golf Association Hall of Fame last week, generating many news reports and stories about the first African American to break the color barrier on the PGA Tour.

“I just wanted to play, and they couldn’t stop me, that’s all,” Sifford told one news outlet.

He won twice—at Hartford in 1967 and the L.A. Open in 1969 in a sudden-death playoff with Harold Henning—but never received an invitation to the Masters.

Because I have become acquainted with several golf legends in recent years and met up with them on the Great Grand Champions circuit, I have had several encounters with Sifford in Baltimore, Savannah and North Carolina.

In Hickory, for example, Charlie strolled into a hotel dining room and joined Jack Fleck and me for dinner. That was an interesting conversation. As self-advertised, Sifford is a tough man who sometimes uses tough language. He does not mince words.

Following is a Sifford anecdote from 2009.

***

We’re at the Holiday Inn Express yesterday outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, and Charlie Sifford can’t get into his room. There’s a problem with the key card. He heads down the hall toward the front desk.

I know how guarded these pros feel about their tools, even though Charlie didn’t play this day. He recently had open heart surgery.

“Thanks,” he said, knowing I’d keep an eye on his clubs until he returned.

Earlier Charlie and a dozen or so other legends had participated in a special pro-am prior to the Rex Hospital Open, this week’s Nationwide Tour event. I attended, spending time with the old pros. Afterward I headed back to the hotel with many of the legends. I was waiting for them when they gingerly stepped out of the van, a who’s who of 1950s and 1960s tour golf: Doug Ford, Billy Casper, Miller Barber, Sifford, Dow Finsterwald, Bob Goalby, Howie Johnson and Jack Fleck.

I had told Charlie how much I enjoyed Uneven Fairways, the Golf Channel documentary that featured him and other black players who faced the color barrier in golf. Charlie broke through when he became the first African American member of the PGA Tour in 1961. Now he’s in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Charlie returned with a new key and opened the door to Room 122. “I’ll get your clubs, Charlie.” I didn’t want this 86-year-old man who had just had major surgery to lift his clubs off the cart and place them in his room. I grabbed them and his shoes and set them down inside the door.

It was a small gesture—but also a privilege—to help this small, tough man who had endured so many threats and indignities throughout his career. I was grateful to have a few moments with the Jackie Robinson of golf.

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, November 2

New Assistant Captain John Cook Believes in Tiger

John Cook at the Senior Players Championship.
MICHAEL JORDAN IS OUT. John Cook is in. Jordan stepped down as assistant captain of the U.S. Presidents Cup team due to his front-office duties with the Charlotte Bobcats during the NBA lockout. Fred Couples replaced His Airness with Cook, longtime pal of Tiger Woods. Captain Couples said it was an easy call.

“I’m honored, I really am,” Cook said at PGATour.com. “I think I can help.”

“Certainly my relationship with Tiger probably was an issue that helped Fred make his decision, that we’re very close.”

Despite Tiger’s struggles to regain the form that led to 14 major wins in a little more than a decade, Cook remains a bullish supporter.

“I believe in what he’s doing … there’s not many people that believe in what he’s doing right now,” Cook said. “Maybe he’ll relax a little bit knowing he’s got a compadre there that really cares about him, genuinely, as a friend.”

The Presidents Cup begins in two weeks at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia.

−The Armchair Golfer

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

Tuesday, November 1

Sergio Garcia Makes Big Move in Race to Dubai

Editor’s note: Complimentary tickets to the 2011 Dubai World Championship are available at www.DubaiWorldChampionship.com.

By Alan Ewens

Sergio Garcia swats one on the 18th at the Earth Course.
REJUVENATED SERGIO GARCIA IS HOPING to keep his impressive run of form going to the end of the 2011 campaign as he targets a place in the top 15 in The Race to Dubai at the season ending Dubai World Championship presented by DP World. The Spaniard completed back-to-back successes for the first time on the European Tour with victory in last week’s Andalucía Masters, a week after also winning on home soil in the Castelló Masters, to move from 11th place to seventh in The Race to Dubai.

Now the 31 year-old is eyeing more success when he concludes his 2011 season at the third edition of the Dubai World Championship presented by DP World over the Earth course, Jumeirah Golf Estates from December 8-11.

Garcia, who currently leads the European Ryder Cup points list, has been in fine form in the latter part of the 2011, finishing in the top ten in both the US Open Championship and Open Championship and losing a play-off to Pablo Larrazabal in the BMW International Open, in addition to his two victories. Those performances have propelled him up The Race to Dubai standings—as well as up to 18th on the Official World Golf Ranking—and he is firmly on course to finish in the top 15 which earn a share of the US$ 7.5 million Bonus Pool at the conclusion of the Dubai World Championship.

Garcia said: “It’s great to have made such a big move in The Race to Dubai over the last two weeks. It’s amazing what two victories can do for you and to move from 23rd into the top ten in the space of seven days is very satisfying.

“I am playing well at the moment and it feels great to be back winning at the top level again. Hopefully I can keep this form going until the Dubai World Championship because that is a very important week for every European Tour player and it would be great to go there and try to win again.”

Donald Withdraws

Luke Donald’s withdrawal from this week’s WGC-HSBC Champions to be at the birth of his second child means his rivals have the chance to close the gap at the top of The Race to Dubai.

Englishman Donald has a €1,312,823 advantage over second placed Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, with Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, Germany’s Martin Kaymer and England’s Lee Westwood making up the top five. Denmark’s Anders Hansen is sixth with Garcia seventh and three-time winner in 2011 Thomas Björn in eighth.

(Photo: Alan Ewens, Dubai World Championship)