Saturday, March 31

An Adjustable Belly Putter Appears in Houston

PING Nome 405 Belly Putter
AT THE SHELL HOUSTON OPEN, where Jeff Maggert, British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and Brian Davis are fighting for the lead, PING staff players have gotten a first look at the new PING Nome 405 model, an adjustable belly putter. With the use of a a special tool, the Nome 405 can be adjusted in length from 37.5 to 46.5 inches. And, yes, it’s USGA-legal.

“With the popularity of belly putters,” said PING chairman and CEO John Solheim, “we saw a unique fitting opportunity because shaft length is so critical to performance.

“Adjustability is key because the standard 42-inch belly putter fits a narrow range of people. When the shaft is too long or too short, it alters your distance from the ball, your eye position, and the path of your stroke. Adjustability lets you experiment until your posture is comfortable and your eyes are over the ball, which helps you make a consistent stroke and solid impact.”

Hunter Mahan won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in February using a standard-length version of the Nome model.

In Houston, defending champion Phil Mickelson and PGA winner Keegan Bradley are in contention at 9 under. Steve Stricker and Mahan are another shot back.

Friday, March 30

Saying Goodbye to the Sunshine Boy

By Charles Prokop
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


Copyright © Charles Prokop. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

The Sunshine Boy headed south when temps dipped.
THE SUNSHINE BOY HAS PASSED away. He died several hours after suffering a heart attack on a Florida golf course, so he spent his last hours doing something he loved.

Sunshine was a regular member of our golf group when he was in town. He moved unpredictably between Texas and Florida, dodging hurricanes in Florida and cold (to him) Texas winters. If it was below 60 degrees in the mornings here, he was on his way to Florida.

He’d been having some health problems and was slowing down, but he always played golf. His drives and his steps got shorter, but his pace of play never slowed and he never slowed down his group. He could get out of his cart, hit the ball, and be going down the fairway again before you’d selected your club for your own shot. He’d hit it short but straight, keep doing that until he hit the green, and then putt well. Try playing a round with your 150-yard club, a wedge, and a putter and see how you do. That’s Sunshine golf.

I’ll remember him most for his attitude. Despite his health problems, he never complained. He might mutter about the medical system and trying to get information out of a doctor, but the only way he mentioned his health was in a joke. He never asked for sympathy, but appreciated help if it was offered casually.

There’s a par 3 at our course that requires a carry over a pond. Sunshine got to where he rarely carried the water, but he didn’t think it was fair to move up to where he could carry it. So he’d bang away and get wet nearly every time. Once his ball seemed to bounce off the water and onto the green, leading to a running joke about needing to let his trained turtles know when he was back in town so they’d get under his ball when it hit the water. I’ll always think of him on that tee.

If you’re looking for a way to handle aging, illness, and golf, you need to look no further than the Sunshine Boy. He’ll be missed.

Charles Prokop is a clinical psychologist who writes about golf at fairwaywords.

Thursday, March 29

2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

Mission Hills Country Club












THE 2012 KRAFT NABISCO CHAMPIONSHIP, the year’s first major on the LPGA Tour, is underway at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California. Australian Lindsey Wright is the early first-round leader after firing a 5-under 67. Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng is 1 under after three holes. Defending champion Stacy Lewis is even through five holes.

Purse: $2 million
Defending champion: Stacy Lewis
Course: Mission Hills Country Club, Dinah Shore Tournament Course, Par 72

2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship Leaderboard

Tournament overview
Final field
Pairings
Course information
Tournament news
Kraft Nabisco Championship website

TV SCHEDULE

All TV coverage of the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship is on Golf Channel.

Thu, Mar 29
12:00-3:00 PM ET
6:00-9:00 PM ET

Fri, Mar 30
12:00-3:00 PM ET
6:00-9:00 PM ET

Sat, Mar 31
4:30-8:30 PM ET

Sun, Apr 1
4:30-8:30 PM ET

(Photo: Courtesy of LPGA.com)

Wednesday, March 28

Tuesday, March 27

Tiger Woods Recognized by Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Woods in dictionary (Allison)
MERRIAM-WEBSTER, AN ENCYCLOPEDIA Britannica Company, today announced that Tiger Woods, the former No. 1 golfer in the world, has been officially added as the fourth entry in the definition of the word “back.” The surprising move by one of the world’s most respected dictionaries comes on the heels of Woods’s win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his first official victory in more than 30 months on the PGA Tour.

It’s highly unusual for a proper name to be used in a definition for a common word. Consequently, there was a swift negative reaction from some etymologists who suggested that Merriam-Webster was unduly influenced by the public outpouring of support and the titanic media onslaught that followed the golfer’s long-awaited win.

But the dictionary defended its action, saying in a statement, “We believe, along with everyone else, that Tiger is back. All we’ve done is to document that known fact, to say that ‘back’ is Tiger Woods.”

The dictionary added that, in recognition of Woods, “back” would soon be featured as word of the day at its popular website.

Following is the newly released definition by Merriam-Webster.
_____________________________________________________________

back noun \ˈbak\

Definition of BACK

1 a (1) : the rear part of the human body especially from the neck to the end of the spine (2) : the body considered as the wearer of clothes (3) : capacity for labor, effort, or endurance (4) : the back considered as the seat of one’s awareness of duty or failings (5) : the back considered as an area of vulnerability
b : the part of a lower animal (as a quadruped) corresponding to the human back
c : spinal column
d : spine 1c

2 a : the side or surface opposite the front or face : the rear part; also : the farther or reverse side
b : something at or on the back for support
c : a place away from the front

3: a position in some games (as football or soccer) behind the front line of players; also : a player in this position

4: Tiger Woods
_____________________________________________________________

A Merriam-Webster representative would not comment on the rumor that Woods would move up to the second definition of “back” if he wins the Masters in two weeks.

(This is an ARMCHAIR GOLF spoof.)

Monday, March 26

Tiger’s Drought-Ending Win by the Numbers

Tiger Woods
I DIDN’T SEE A SINGLE SHOT. While Tiger Woods was on his way to a five-shot victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his seventh win at Bay Hill, I was looking at colleges with my oldest daughter. I was unplugged: no golf, no March Madness, no computer, no email, no Tweets. Zip.

Hey, you know what? It was great. I saw “The Hunger Games” with my daughters, slept in, lounged around at Holiday Inn and ate too much. It was a family road trip weekend. Can’t beat that.

So, obviously, I’m extremely late to the Tiger Is Back Party. Woods finally put it together at a course and event where he has had enormous success. It was his 72nd PGA Tour victory, which puts him within one win of golf immortal Jack Nicklaus.

The numbers tell the story.

First, it had been 923 days and 26 events since Tiger’s last official win on the PGA Tour, the 2009 BMW Championship. Opening with 69 and 65, Woods posted four rounds under par on a Bay Hill layout that was playing especially tough on the weekend.

Four good rounds. That’s what had been missing. All facets of Tiger’s game needed to click, and they did in Orlando. Being so late to the party, there wasn’t much for me to see except game stories, a few highlights and the typical Tiger hyperbole ratcheted up a few notches. But I did look at his tournament stats at PGATour.com. They explain a lot about his 13-under romp:

Birdies: 1 (20 birdies)
Driving distance: 11 (294.6 yards)
Driving accuracy: T29 (64.3%)
Sand saves: T5 (75%)
Strokes gained putting: T1 (1.445)
Greens in regulation: T1 (79.2%)

“It’s not like winning a major championship or anything,” Tiger said. “But it certainly feels really good.”

The Masters tees off in two weeks, and, now, many expect Tiger Woods to win his fifth Green Jacket.

Friday, March 23

New Gary Player Book and Other Golf Titles

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

Gary Player: Golf's Ambassador from South Africa to Augusta
By John Boyette
A new book on Gary Player that draws on extensive interviews with Player, his family and other legendary golfers. Gary Player joins Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus this year as an honorary starter at the Masters. More

DREAM SHOT (eBook)
By Robert C.S. Downs
About one man’s lifelong love of golf and his quest to pass the PGA’s grueling Playing Ability Test in order to finally become a golf instructor. More

Arnold Palmer: A Personal Journey (eBook)
By Thomas Hauser
Never before available as an eBook, this edition includes new features such as exclusive photos from Palmer’s personal archives, a foreword by Golf Channel’s Commentator Rich Lerner and a new afterword by the author. More

Weight Training for Golf
By Kai Fusser
A book that contains descriptions and photographs of weight training, flexibility, and abdominal exercises used by golfers worldwide, including 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell and World Golf Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam. Also features year-round, golf-specific weight-training programs guaranteed to improve performance and get results. More

Mastering Golf’s Toughest Shots: The World’s Best Caddies Share Their Secrets of Success
By James Y. Bartlett and The Professional Caddies Association
A book that shows players of all levels how to think their way around the golf course, select appropriate targets for their golfing ability and how to execute makeable shots instead of gambling on unlikely ones. More

TWO GOOD ROUNDS: 19th Hole Stories from the World’s Greatest Golfers
By Elisa Gaudet
The author interviews over 30 famous golfers to find out about the 19th-hole celebrations that are so much a part of the golf lifestyle. More

THE UNSTOPPABLE GOLFER: Trusting Your Mind and Your Short Game to Achieve Greatness
By Dr. Bob Rotella
A book to help golfers master the challenging elements of the short game—chips, pitches, bunker shots and putts—through mental focus. More

The Magic Driver
By Jason T. Ross
A book for young readers. Justice is given a magic driver from a stranger after winning a local golf tournament. The driver soon whisks him and Gigi away to Thailand where the real adventure begins. More

Thursday, March 22

2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2012 ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL is underway at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida. Anthony Kim is the early first-round leader at 5 under after 14 holes. A group of six players that includes Tiger Woods, Nick Watney and K.J. Choi are tied for second at 3 under.

Palmer at Augusta in 1962.
Purse: $6 million
Winner’s share: $1.08 million
Defending champion: Martin Laird

Inside the field
Tee times
Inside the course
Player interviews
Tournament overview
Tour report
Tournament news
Arnold Palmer Invitational website

2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational is
on Golf Channel and NBC.

Thu, 3/22:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Fri, 3/23:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 3/24:
NBC 2:30p - 6p ET

Sun, 3/25:
NBC 2:30p - 6p ET

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times

Related:
My Interview With Arnold Palmer

Wednesday, March 21

My Interview With Arnold Palmer

Arnold Palmer
THERE HAVE BEEN MANY SURPRISES since I started this golf blog in 2005. I didn’t expect to write a golf book, but I have. And I never expected to interview Arnold Palmer, but I did thanks to the help of Rand Jerris of the USGA. I talked to Arnold in late 2010 for my book, THE LONGEST SHOT, about Jack Fleck’s historic upset of Ben Hogan at the 1955 U.S. Open.

I had 20 minutes to chat with Arnold about the 1955 U.S. Open (his third National Open and first as a pro), Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, life on the PGA Tour in the 1950s, Cherry Hills (where Palmer won his only U.S. Open) and anything else I could squeeze in. It went by quickly.

With the Arnold Palmer Invitational teeing off tomorrow, this seemed like the perfect time to share that memorable conversation.

I know that you played at Olympic in 1955. What do you remember about that?

ARNOLD PALMER: That was my first year on tour. I can’t give you too much detail. I did not play particularly well.

That was your third Open. You made the cut that year. You finished 21st. Do you remember anything about the course setup and what it was like that first time you went out to Olympic?

ARNOLD PALMER: Not really. Of course, I remember it pretty well from ‘66. And I didn’t find a lot of changes. The only thing I can recall is that it might have been a little bit longer in ‘66 than it was in ‘55. Other than that, I suppose the biggest problem was I didn’t do all the things that I thought I should do there.

Let’s talk about the two main characters of that Open. When I talked to the other players, they didn’t really know much at that time about Jack Fleck. Did you know who Jack Fleck was in ‘55?

ARNOLD PALMER: Yeah, I knew him. I had played golf with him a number of times prior to the Open.

What were your impressions of him and his golf game?

ARNOLD PALMER: All of us gave him credit for being a really good player, but being perfectly up front and honest about it, I didn’t know enough about him to really say that he was Open-winning golf. He was a great guy, good player and a friend, as a matter of fact. I think that if we were asked at the time, we probably would say that Hogan would have smothered him in the playoff.

That is the consensus that I’ve heard from talking to other players and everything I’ve read. It was pretty amazing. I know at that time Jack hadn’t won on tour. I think his highest finish was 8th, so he was still somewhat of an unknown as far as the public was concerned.

ARNOLD PALMER: Right.

Obviously, your career really took off. You won that year for the first time in Canada.

ARNOLD PALMER: That’s right.

At the end of my book [THE LONGEST SHOT] I talk about Cherry Hills. I know that in 1960 you had a tremendous year where you won the Masters and the Open. But you also won six other tournaments. In fact, Jack was in a playoff with you at the Insurance City Open along with Bill Collins. Do you remember anything about that?

ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I remember the playoff. I think I won on the second hole, didn’t I?

It went something like four holes. You did win. Bill Collins dropped out on the first hole, and then it was just you and Jack.

Let’s jump to Hogan. What stands out in your memory about him as a player?

ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I think we all respected his game. I was so fresh that I can’t really say too much about Hogan. He was a great player. That’s sort of the way it goes.

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

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

There were a bunch of good players.

ARNOLD PALMER: Yes, there were.

I wonder if you remembered Harvie Ward?

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

He was at North Carolina, wasn’t he?

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

(Me laughing.)

What kind of player was he, Arnold?

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

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

ARNOLD PALMER: That’s right.

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

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

It was not an easy thing to do, was it?

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

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

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

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

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

You probably remember quite a bit about that Open.

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

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

ARNOLD PALMER: Right.

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

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

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

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

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

ARNOLD PALMER: Yeah, you’re right.

You saw Hogan hit into the water on 17?

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

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

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

Did you like the golf course?

ARNOLD PALMER: Cherry Hills? Very much, yes.

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

ARNOLD PALMER: Right. (Chuckling.)

Neil Sagebiel (aka The Armchair Golfer) is the author of THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open, from St. Martin’s Press (Thomas Dunne Books). Learn more at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

(Photo: Courtesy of Golf Channel)

Tuesday, March 20

VIDEO: The Gospel According to Luke Donald



LUKE DONALD, BACK ON TOP of the golf world after his sudden-death playoff victory at the Transitions Championship, presents “The Iron Truth” on behalf of equipment sponsor Mizuno.

“Golf isn’t always about hitting it longer off the tee,” Luke says. “I’m living proof that in reality good iron play is where the game can be won.

“I was able to climb to No. 1 in the world not because I’m the longest off the tee, but because of precise iron play and a solid short game. The Iron Truth is quite obvious. If you want to improve your game, it starts with what you can do with your irons. End of story.”

Preach it, brother Luke. Can I get an amen?

Monday, March 19

Ernie Els Takes Stock and Moves On

Ernie Els finished T5 at the Transitions Championship. (cmiked)
ERNIE ELS NEEDED TWO pars for a closing 65 and 14-under total that would have won the Transitions Championship. Instead, The Big Easy stumbled home with two consecutive bogeys and a couple of short misses at 16 (for birdie) and 18 to lose a spot in a sudden-death playoff by a shot. Luke Donald won the four-man scrum with a birdie on the first playoff hole and is back on top of the golf world.

(Good thing Rory McIlroy got to the White House last week. The No. 1 ranking didn’t last long.)

If there is a better blogger than Els on tour, please point me to him. Ernie writes a weekly diary at ErnieEls.com and, as tour pros go, is pretty transparent. I wanted to read him today after his disappointing finish and uncomfortable post-round interview with Golf Channel’s Steve Sands.

There was no doubt that Els was burning mad when he came off the Copperhead course.
I’ve said throughout my career that whenever I tee it up I always play to win, so any time I get the opportunity to do that and don’t get the job done, obviously I’m disappointed and angry with myself. That pretty much summed up my emotions on Sunday evening. I was so hot I found it difficult to even think straight.
Ernie wrote that 12 under would have sounded great at the beginning of the week. “But that putt on 18,” he said, “it kind of leaves a nasty taste. I was trying to jam it in there and I just pulled it, simple as that.

“It’s a tough deal, but I have to take stock and try to see the positives. This was one of my best performances on the PGA Tour since 2010. I drove the ball well, topped the greens in regulation for the week and I was right up there in the number of birdies made. I made some nice putts, too.”

Just not late on Sunday, which must have been tough to watch. I confess that I didn’t see Els miss those short ones that could have won the tournament and put him in the Masters. I was watching March Madness.

Saturday, March 17

‘WONDER GIRL’ Wins USGA Herbert Warren Wind Book Award

By USGA

IN RECOGNITION OF ITS HIGH STANDARD of achievement in golf literature, WONDER GIRL: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias, written by Don Van Natta Jr., was named the recipient of the United States Golf Association’s Herbert Warren Wind Book Award for 2011.

“Babe Zaharias is among the most versatile and accomplished American athletes of all time; she rose from the Texas heartland to change the face of golf and the Olympics, breaking barriers on the playing fields and off,” said Robert Williams, director of the USGA Museum.

“Don Van Natta’s book is a deeply compelling account of Babe’s athleticism, courage and invincibility as she triumphed from the track to the tee and endured cancer to achieve a remarkable comeback victory at the 1954 U.S. Women’s Open.”

Comprehensively researched and beautifully written, Don Van Natta’s WONDER GIRL paints a vibrant portrait of early-20th-century America, while telling the extraordinary story of a heroic athlete who captured a nation’s heart. The brash, athletic and fearless Babe overcame biases of the time against female athletes to excel in golf, basketball, track and field, baseball, softball, tennis and bowling. She achieved All-American status in basketball and won two gold medals in track and field at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

As a champion golfer, Babe won 10 major championships, including three U.S. Women’s Open titles, was a founding member of the LPGA, and in 1938 became the first woman to play in a PGA Tour event. At the height of her fame, she was diagnosed with cancer, and was told by physicians that she would never return to competition. Fifteen months after major surgery, Babe won the 1954 U.S. Women's Open by 12 strokes.

“Winning this award is a huge honor for me, considering who the award is named after and all the past recipients,” added Van Natta. “Golf is such a great sport to cover. The game’s drama and emotion really lend themselves to the written word. I am humbled by the USGA’s recognition.”

Van Natta is a senior writer for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com, and spent 16 years as an investigative correspondent at The New York Times. He has been a member of three Pulitzer Prize-winning teams and is the author of First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers, and Cheaters from Taft to Bush.

Van Natta is donating a portion of his royalties from the sale of WONDER GIRL to the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Foundation in Beaumont, Texas, which Babe and her husband, George Zaharias, established in the last months of her life to support cancer clinics and treatment centers.

The award will be presented to Van Natta on April 4 in Augusta, Ga., at the 40th Golf Writers Association of America awards dinner during the week of the Masters Tournament.

Related:
Celebrating WONDER GIRL by Don Van Natta Jr.

Friday, March 16

2012 Transitions Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes




THE 2012 TRANSITIONS CHAMPIONSHIP is in the midst of the second round at Innisbrook Resort-Copperhead in Palm Harbor, Florida. Padraig Harrington opened with a course-record 61, the lowest round of his career. Currently 11 under, Harrington leads by four shots over Chris Couch, George McNeill, Luke Donald and Will Claxton.

Purse: $5.5 million
Winner’s share: $990,000
Defending champion: Gary Woodland

Inside the field
Tee times
Inside the course
Player interviews
Tournament overview
Tour report
Tournament news
Transitions Championship website

2012 Transitions Championship Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2012 Transitions Championship is on Golf Channel and NBC.

Fri, 3/16:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 3/17:
NBC 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 3/18:
NBC 3p - 6p ET

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times

(Image: Courtesy of PGATour.com)

Thursday, March 15

Top 10 Hardest Golf Courses in Ireland

By Kevin Markham
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


Copyright © Kevin Markham. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Scrabo Golf Club as seen from Scrabo Tower.
ANY GOLFER WHO HAS PLAYED an Irish links in a gale will know that it doesn’t get any tougher. Whether the wind’s behind you or head-on, reaching and staying on a green from 100 yards is a victory. And in a crosswind merely finding your tee shot is a luxury. Then there’s the issue of playing from the regular tees or from the tips. Many of Ireland’s new parkland courses add 700 yards plus to a round if you play from the championship tees.

But take the wind out of the equation and it’s not all links courses that fill the toughest 10 spots; take away the length and it’s not just the muscle parklands that cause nightmares. There are some courses on this island that were born to be difficult.

1. Rosapenna (Sandy Hills) in Co. Donegal is a links that requires everything in your bag and your brain. The difficulties of tight fairways, long rough and small greens are compounded by the constant movements in the land that fool the eye. 6,383 yards.

2. Royal County Down (Co. Down) is one of the most beautiful links courses on the planet, with an old school design that makes it both a natural and daunting test. There are numerous blind shots, which can leave you reeling, bearded bunkers and slippery greens. 6,881 yards.

3. Druid’s Heath (Co. Wicklow). A Pat Ruddy creation. The parkland Heath combines the difficulties of length with perspective—you won’t always see where you’ll be landing the ball or what’s waiting around the corner—and then throws in some devilish greens. The par four 12th is the hardest hole in the country. 6,833 yards.

4. Enniscrone (Co. Mayo). Big dunes create all kinds of thrilling challenges on one of Ireland’s best links. There are plenty of blind shots and tricky slopes, but you never want to be through the green. Never! 6,814 yards.

5. Headfort (New) in Co. Meath. An idyllic, rhythmic parkland where water on 12 holes can be extremely punishing if your aim or length is not perfect. There are some long carries too. 6,741 yards.

6. The European Club (Co. Wicklow). The Pat Ruddy designed links course is not for the fainthearted. Holes vary greatly in length but green approaches are always difficult and the rough can be brutal. Bunkers lined with railway sleepers don’t help! 6,720 yards.

7. Scrabo (Co. Down). A hillside, furze-drenched nightmare, but a thrilling one all the same. There’s rarely a lot of room, the furze is razor sharp and deep, and the greens small and hard. A great test and some of the best views anywhere. A par 72 of just 6,130 yards.

8. Dingle/Ceann Sibéal in Co. Kerry is so exposed to the Atlantic winds you may not be able to stand upright. It slides simply across a gentle hill and 11 holes are adorned—or cursed—by a vicious burn. The rough is terrifying and the routing means the wind hits you from every side. 6,477 yards.

9. Carton House (Montgomerie) in Co. Kildare. A low-lying inland links with subtle shapes that always fool the eye. The bunkering is gloriously deep and utterly lethal, putting a premium on position from the tee. 6,821 yards.

10. Carne (Co. Mayo). One of the newest links in Ireland, you won’t find dunes bigger and once you miss the fairway a level stance is nigh on impossible. Some stunningly shaped holes. The challenge here has nothing to do with length. 6,368 yards.

Kevin Markham is the author of Hooked: An Amateur’s Guide to the Golf Courses of Ireland and writes about Irish golf courses at his blog.

Related:
Top 10 Hardest Golf Courses in United States

Wednesday, March 14

Golf Channel Expands LPGA Coverage and Broadcast Team

Karrie Webb
GOLF CHANNEL’S U.S. COVERAGE OF THE 2012 LPGA Tour season starts on Thursday in Phoenix, Arizona, with the $1.5 million RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup. Karrie Webb is the defending champion. Live coverage airs on Thursday and Friday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. ET, followed by weekend coverage from 4-7 p.m. ET. The tournament coverage will include features on LPGA founding members and pioneers, Hall-of-Fame players and the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf Program.

Entering the third year of a 10-year partnership with the LPGA Tour, Golf Channel will continue many features of its telecasts. During opening rounds, the golf network will air “LPGA Unplugged,” during which two LPGA Tour players will discuss all aspects of golf, the tour and their everyday lives. On Friday telecasts, a player will join the network’s announcers as a player-analyst. Other telecast elements also will return, including profiles, interviewing players as they are walking the fairways (“Walk and Talks”), and weekly tips from players. Throughout the year, LPGA players will be “mic’d up” during early tournament rounds.

In addition, Golf Channel will expand its LPGA broadcast team.

Rich Lerner will join Terry Gannon and Tom Abbott as play-by-play hosts, with Kelly Tilghman joining the team as show host for the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the Wegmans LPGA Championship and the CME Group Titleholders.

Brandel Chamblee will serve as lead analyst this week for the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup. Matt Gogel and Curt Byrum will make guest appearances throughout the year as tower reporters. Hall-of-Famer Judy Rankin, Jane Crafter, Kay Cockerill, Val Skinner, Jerry Foltz and Phil Parkin will all return to Golf Channel’s LPGA broadcast team this season.

Golf Channel will broadcast 23 LPGA Tour events in 2012.

3/15-3/18 RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup LIVE
3/22-3/25 Kia Classic LIVE
3/29-4/1 KRAFT Nabisco Championship LIVE
4/18-4/21 LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf LIVE
4/26-4/29 Mobile Bay LPGA Classic LIVE
5/17-5/20 Sybase Match Play Championship TD/LIVE
6/1-6/3 ShopRite LPGA Classic LIVE
6/7-6/10 Wegmans LPGA Championship LIVE
6/21-6/24 Manulife Financial LPGA Classic LIVE
6/29-7/1 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship TD/LIVE
7/26-7/29 Evian Masters presented by Societe Generale TD/LIVE
8/17-8/19 Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola LIVE
8/23-8/26 CN Canadian Women’s Open TD/LIVE
9/6-9/9 Kingsmill Championship LIVE
9/20-9/23 Navistar LPGA Classic TD/LIVE
10/11-10/14 Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia TD
10/19-10/21 LPGA Hana Bank Championship TD
10/25-10/28 Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship TD
11/8-11/11 Lorena Ochoa Invitational LIVE
11/15-11/18 CME Group Titleholders LIVE

Number of events, schedule and times are subject to change.

Tuesday, March 13

My First Encounter With Jack Fleck in Savannah

(Editor’s note: Part 2 of an ongoing series about how I got to know Jack Fleck and wrote THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open. Read Part 1, Part 3 and Part 4.)

Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa (Allison)
DRESSED IN A SPORT COAT, golf shirt, dark slacks and polished loafers—normal attire for a 1950s era tour golf professional—Jack Fleck strolls into the sunlit concourse of the Savannah Hilton Head International Airport. A shade over six feet tall and still at his slender playing weight of 164 lbs., the 85-year-old Fleck does not look like a “giant killer.” But, as the saying goes, looks can be deceiving.

It’s April 2007, and I’ve driven 400 miles to coastal Georgia to meet “Jack the Giant Killer,” the title of a feature article penned by famed golf writer Herbert Warren Wind in the June 27, 1955, issue of Sports Illustrated. Jack earned the ominous title by defeating Ben Hogan, the Tiger Woods of his era, in the 1955 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. It was a classic David vs. Goliath battle: Fleck, the unknown municipal pro from Davenport, Iowa, pitted against the legendary Hogan, the four-time U.S. Open champion and nine-time major winner who had miraculously returned to golf after a near-fatal auto accident in one of sports’ greatest comebacks.

Like many golf fans, I knew that Fleck beat Hogan long before my six-hour car trip down I-95 to Savannah. It was a part of golf and sports lore, for Jack Fleck had been a poster boy for sports underdogs ever since he toppled the great Hogan at Olympic in a dramatic 18-hole playoff on June 19, 1955.

But as I came to find out not long before my first face-to-face meeting with Jack late that Saturday afternoon in Savannah, there was much more to the story than I knew from occasional magazine pieces or Fleck references whenever a long shot contended for or won a major golf championship. (In August 2009, Jack was repeatedly mentioned in the media in reference to Y.E. Yang’s stunning victory over Tiger Woods in the PGA Championship.)

One astonishing example was when NBC-TV, in only its third national golf telecast, declared Ben Hogan the winner of the championship and first five-time winner of the U.S. Open. Across the country, millions of golf fans were told Hogan had won as television coverage signed off from San Francisco.

It was golf’s version of “Dewey Defeats Truman,” the famous incorrect headline on the front page of the Chicago Tribune the morning after President Harry Truman won re-election in November 1948. As a national audience tuned out, thousands of spectators at the Olympic Club witnessed an incredible rally by the only man left on the golf course with a mathematical chance to catch Hogan.

We collect Jack’s luggage and Cobra golf clubs at baggage claim and I drive him to the Westin Savannah Harbor Resort and Spa, where he will compete in the Demaret Division of the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, an annual Champions Tour event. I shadow Jack as he enters the tournament locker room, makes small talk with other tour legends, slips on his golf shoes and heads out onto the lush fairways in the late afternoon to play a few practice holes.

Even as an octogenarian, Jack the Giant Killer is in excellent form. I had no idea a former tour pro could be so serious about his golf game at such an advanced age.

TO BE CONTINUED.

Read an excerpt: Chapter 1 of THE LONGEST SHOT
Take a look inside THE LONGEST SHOT

Neil Sagebiel (aka The Armchair Golfer) is the author of THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open, from St. Martin’s Press (Thomas Dunne Books). Learn more at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Monday, March 12

Misread Foils Comeback for Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson tried to emulate Tiger Woods at Doral on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of jpellgen)



I THOUGHT BUBBA WATSON HIT a good putt on the 18th green at Doral in Sunday’s final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship. The 54-hole leader, Bubba needed a birdie at the last hole to force a sudden-death playoff with Justin Rose, who picked up his fourth PGA Tour win and a check for about $1.4 million.

I believe NBC-TV commentator Johnny Miller said it was a right-edge putt. It wasn’t. In fact, Bubba must have played it outside of the hole. The pace looked perfect.

“We just didn't give enough,” Watson said about the nine-footer. “We thought it was not going to break as much and it broke about three inches too much.”

The approach shot to the 18th green was a thing of beauty. Bubba had to go for it, which fits his personality whether it’s the first hole on Thursday or the last hole on Sunday with a chance to win. I wondered if he might end up wet. After a long wait for Keegan Bradley, who was hacking it up the 1st fairway, Watson stepped in and swiped his golf ball out of the clumpy Bermuda.

“I had 191 out of the rough, no grass behind the ball so I could make solid contact with it and hit a pure 4 iron, a low bullet 4 iron,” he explained.

It was a gorgeous shot that gave him a chance until the birdie putt swung too far to the left. Give him credit, though. Bubba hung in there after botching the front nine. He said he was standing a little close to the golf ball and tried to fix it on the golf course like Tiger Woods did in his dominant years.

“I was proud of myself for fighting ... and never got down today,” Watson said. “Never got mad at myself. Just tried to figure it out. I’m trying to learn the game.”

Sunday, March 11

Ticket Options for 2012 U.S. Women’s Open

THE U.S. WOMEN’S OPEN RETURNS THIS SUMMER to Blackwolf Run on July 2 through 8. Tickets are available for golf fans and families who will have the opportunity to both celebrate Independence Day and watch the world’s finest women golfers.

Kohler Co. hosted its first major golf championship at Blackwolf Run in 1998 when the U.S. Women’s Open was won by Se Ri Pak in a sudden-death playoff against unheralded amateur Jenny Chuasiriporn.

TICKET OPTIONS

• Practice Ticket — $15
Provides access to the grounds at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wisconsin, during any one of the three practice-round days, Monday, July 2, through Wednesday, July 4.

• Championship Ticket — $45
Provides access to the grounds at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wisconsin, during any one of the four championship-round days, Thursday, July 5, through Sunday, July 8.

• Championship Badge — $150*
Best Value Ticket – weeklong access. Provides access to the grounds at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wisconsin, during all seven days, Monday, July 2, through Sunday, July 8.

• Limited Edition Tickets – Trophy Club
A limited number of guests will enjoy the championship from the heart of the action in the coveted Trophy Club. Located in the heart of all the finishing action of the 16th green, par-3 17th hole and 18th tee of the Original Championship Course at Blackwolf Run, Trophy Club patrons have two options available:

(1) Trophy Club Ticket — $90*
Provides access to the grounds and the Trophy Club at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wisconsin, during any one of the four championship-round days, Thursday, July 5, through Sunday, July 8. The Trophy Club is not open during any of preceding practice-round days, Monday, July 2, through Wednesday, July 4.

(2) Trophy Club Badge — $275*
Provides access to the grounds at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wisconsin, for all seven days, Monday, July 2, through Sunday, July 8, as well as access to the Trophy Club for all four championship-round days, Thursday, July 5, through Sunday, July 8.

To learn more about the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open, visit www.2012uswomensopen.com or www.usga.org.

*While supplies last.

Friday, March 9

Dr. Seuss Meets the Belly Putter

(Editor’s note: Dr. Seuss’ recent birthday sparked this ode to belly putting.)

By Charles Prokop
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


Copyright © Charles Prokop. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Would You Like to Belly Putt?

Would you like to belly putt?
Hold that stick against your gut?
Swing it here and swing it there?
Make that ball go anywhere?

Or would you like the sweeper best?
Lock that stick against your chest.
Let it swing, just go tick-tock.
You can putt just like a clock.

Is anchored putting here to stay?
What do you say, USGA?
Can we use these special clubs?
No more yips? No more flubs?

Keegan Bradley, Adam Scott,
Billy Haas, you made them hot.
It’s been there for oh so long,
But did you win and make it wrong?

It was once just for old farts,
Those whose games had come apart.
But now young guns use anchors too,
Can we blame it all on you?

I still swing my putter free,
It’s like my other clubs, you see.
But should I care how others hit?
Should I throw a hissy fit?

I’ve tried them all, I still can’t putt.
Guess I’ve got a ticklish gut.
So I’ll keep doing what I do.
And other folks? It’s up to you.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss, and please accept my deepest apologies.

Charles Prokop is a clinical psychologist who writes about golf at fairwaywords.

Thursday, March 8

2012 WGC-Cadillac Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2012 WGC-CADILLAC CHAMPIONSHIP IS UNDERWAY at TPC Blue Monster at Doral in Miami, Florida. Adam Scott is the clubhouse leader after a 66. Steve Stricker and Jason Dufner are at 5 under. Keegan Bradley, Kyle Stanley and Justin Rose are in a group of players with 69s. The first round is still in progress.

Purse: $8.5 million
Winner’s share: $1.4 million
Defending champion: Nick Watney

Field
Tee times
Course
Player interviews
Tournament overview
Tour report
Tournament news

2012 WGC-Cadillac Championship Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2012 WGC-Cadillac Championship is on Golf Channel and NBC.

Thurs, 3/8
1 – 6pm ET (GOLF)

Fri, 3/9
1 – 6pm ET (GOLF)

Sat, 3/10
2pm – 6pm ET (NBC)

Sun, 3/11
3pm – 7pm ET (NBC)

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times

Wednesday, March 7

Augusta Practice Outing for Phil, Dustin and Keegan

Keegan Bradley
REGULAR PRACTICE-ROUND BUDDIES of Phil Mickelson’s, Dustin Johnson and Keegan Bradley surely benefited from a Tuesday practice round at Augusta National Golf Club with Lefty, a three-time Masters champion. But especially Bradley, who will be making his first Masters appearance in a few weeks.

On Tuesday, Keegan tweeted:

“Great day at Augusta with @DJohnsonPGA and Phil. I have a lot more to learn about Augusta National. Really great day #worktodo”

Johnson will be making his fourth consecutive start at the Masters. His best finish was a T30 in 2009. Phil hasn’t missed a Masters since 1994. In addition to his three wins, Mickelson has a quartet of third-place finishes. He really likes the place.

I hope Keegan has the spitting reflex completely under control before he rolls down Magnolia Lane. The Masters men will not go for that. They are quite particular about, well, everything.

(Visor tip: Press Tent Blog)

Tuesday, March 6

‘The Big Miss’: 5 Revelations About Tiger Woods

GOLF DIGEST HAS PUBLISHED AN EXCERPT of The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods by Hank Haney with Jaime Diaz. This book is bound to be an interesting read, a peek into the cloaked world of the era’s greatest golfer.

Following are five revelations released last week. You can read the full book excerpt here. And you can listen to a podcast with Haney’s pen man, Diaz, here.

1. Tiger’s troublesome left knee affected his golf swing.
Haney says that trying to protect Tiger’s left knee while maintaining top swing performance was not simple.

Comment: This doesn’t surprise me at all, especially with the benefit of hindsight.

2. Tiger feared the driver.
Haney says that he realized Tiger wasn’t as fearless as he looked. That was certainly true with the driver. Tiger joked with Haney about being named Woods.

Comment: Several people have said through the years that Tiger is a head case with the driver. Someone once said he had driver yips. I believe anyone who watched him play on a regular basis would be able to tell he lacked confidence with the driver.

3. Catching Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 professional majors added pressure.
Haney: “Tiger’s actions indicated he believed he had less time to do it than everyone thought.”

Comment: You bet it added pressure, and still does.

4. Tiger’s extreme workouts that included parachute jumps, hand-to-hand combat exercises and four-mile runs wearing combat boots risked his left knee.

Comment: This is what I don’t understand about Tiger. Why do all that stuff? Obviously, he enjoyed the intensity and wanted a life outside of golf, but didn’t he realize he was risking his golf career? Or did he think he was indestructible?

5. Tiger was obsessed with the military.
Haney says that Tiger was thinking about becoming a Navy SEAL. “It was clear he had a plan.”

Comment: I guess this explains all the knee-obliterating workouts and answers my above questions.

Monday, March 5

Rory McIlroy Attains Golf’s Summit

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. 

RORY MCILROY WAS ON TOP OF THE WORLD last night after he held off a dramatic final-round charge from Tiger Woods to become Ireland’s first number one. The pride of Holywood fired a one under 69 to win by two shots on 12 under from Tom Gillis and Woods, who eagled the last to close with a stunning eight under 62—the lowest final round of his career—to set the target and heap the pressure on Ireland’s boy wonder.

McIlroy’s brilliant response was an incredible statement of intent from the 22-year-old, who validated his status as the best player in the world by becoming the second youngest No 1 since Woods soared to the top of the world rankings 15 years ago at the age of just 21.

With the greatest player of the modern era firing two eagles and four birdies to put him under severe pressure coming down the stretch, McIlroy proved that he’s the real deal with a sensational final-round performance characterised by some astounding short game skills.

Cradling the trophy, McIlroy said: “It was tough today, especially seeing Tiger make a charge and post 10 under. I knew par golf would probably be good enough today and that’s what I was trying to do.

“To shoot one under par in these conditions when you are going into the final round with a lead is just very nice, I was just glad to get the job done.”

Asked how it felt to be world No 1, he said: “It feels great. Knowing that I needed to go out today and play solid golf not just to win this tournament but to get to No 1 in the world and to be able to do it is very satisfying.”

McIlroy was under huge pressure following back-nine charges from Woods and Lee Westwood (63), but he responded brilliantly as the weather gods smiled on him and the severe winds died down as if to pay him their respects during the final two hours of play.

As Woods birdied the 17th and then holed an eight footer on the 18th for eagle and punched the air, McIlroy immediately responded to the huge roar by following a bogey at the 12th by holing an eight footer of his own for birdie at the 13th to go two clear on 12 under.

In trouble at the 14th, the Ulsterman holed a clutch four footer for par to remain two clear entering the dreaded Bear Trap stretch of holes from the 15th to the 17th that cost Padraig Harrington five shots as he crashed to a 79.

Even Jack Nicklaus feared for McIlroy, when he said: “I’d rather be in Tiger’s position than Rory’s.”

But the Irish star held firm, splashing out to six feet from sand left of the 15th before draining the putt to remain two ahead. After safely negotiating the 16th in regulation, he bunkered his tee shot at the 190-yard 17th but feathered his recovery to three and a half feet to save par before laying up at the last and securing victory with a par five.

Woods needed just 21 ranking events to climb to the top of the game at just 21 years, five months and 17 days in June 1997.

“It’s a testament to how consistent he’s been,” Woods said. “You can’t get to No. 1 in the world unless you’re consistent, and he’s won a few times here and there but he’s been very, very consistent. That’s what you have to do.”

Graeme McDowell fired a final round 69 to finish tied for eighth on five under and hailed his pal’s new-found belief in his putting and his rise to the top of the game.

“That’s the biggest difference in Rory’s game,” McDowell said.

“A couple years ago, yeah, he was probably a little question mark from inside six feet. His stroke was a little bit kind of lifty and across the line. The work he did with Dave Stockton I guess pre‑Congressional last year has made a huge amount of difference, and now he believes he’s a great putter. That was the missing link, because the rest of his game is all there.

“He’s the best player I’ve ever seen tee‑to‑green, period. I didn’t have a chance to play with Tiger early to mid 2000s when Tiger was the man, but Rory McIlroy is the best—he’s the best player I’ve ever seen. Like I say, as soon as he learned how to putt, he was going to be a dominating force, and you’re starting to see that now.”

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: Titleist.com)

Saturday, March 3

Wall Street Journal: 9 Golf Delusions

Should she keep her head down?
MOST OF US HAVE HEARD THOSE widely held truths and perceptions about the game of golf. The game belongs to the wealthy and privileged class. The golf course is where business people cut deals. Keep your head down! (Keep it still, too.) The main advantage the pros have over you and me is distance. And on and on.

“In Golf’s Biggest Delusions: Nine Things People Say About the Game That Aren’t True—and One That Is,” the Wall Street Journal’s John Paul Newport attempts to dispel these and other so-called myths.

Spoiler: The one that’s true is “drive for show, putt for dough.” (But you knew that, right?) Newport provides compelling statistical data from the PGA Tour to substantiate the old saw.

No disrespect to Hank Haney, but I will say that, for me, keeping the head down (and still) has been a helpful golf swing tip through the years, even though I understand that it isn’t meant to be too literal. (The head does move and does come up after impact.)

That’s all.

(Photo: gibsonsgolfer, Creative Commons license, Flickr)

Friday, March 2

2012 Honda Classic TV Schedule and Tournament Notes




THE 2012 HONDA CLASSIC IS IN PROGRESS at PGA National Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Tom Gillis currently leads at 8 under after shooting a 64 in the second round. First-round leader and U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love (6 under) is set to tee off at 1 p.m. ET. Vaughn Taylor is 5 under. A group of a dozen players that includes Rory McIlroy is at 4 under.

Purse: $5.7 million
Winner’s share: $1.026 million
Defending champion: Rory Sabbatini

Inside the field
Tee times
Inside the course
Player interviews
Tournament overview
Tour report
Tournament news
The Honda Classic website

2012 Honda Classic Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2012 Honda Classic is on Golf Channel and NBC.

Fri, 3/2:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 3/3:
NBC 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 3/4:
NBC 3p - 6p ET

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times

(Image: Courtesy of PGATour.com)

Thursday, March 1

Reliving Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan and the 1955 U.S. Open

(Editor’s note: Part 1 of an ongoing series about how I got to know Jack Fleck and wrote THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open. Read Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.)

Yours truly with 1955 U.S. Open champion Jack Fleck.
ON TUESDAY THE USGA PUBLISHED a story at its website about that amazing first U.S. Open played at San Francisco’s Olympic Club in 1955. (As you may know, the U.S. Open returns to the Olympic Club this June for the fifth time.) The USGA article made me realize that it’s time to tell you more about my somewhat accidental project. More on that in a moment, but first a quick review of one of the greatest upsets in sports history.

Jack Fleck, an unheralded club pro from Davenport, Iowa, beat Ben Hogan, a four-time U.S. Open champion and nine-time major winner, in a dramatic 18-hole playoff to win the 1955 U.S. Open. It was a stunning result, the greatest upset since amateur Francis Ouimet defeated British greats Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in an 18-hole playoff to win the 1913 U.S. Open. At the end of regulation play, Hogan was sitting in the players’ locker room—his record fifth Open all but assured—when the Iowan rallied with two birdies on the final four holes. Fleck sank a clutch birdie putt on the 18th green to tie Hogan and force a playoff the following day. The near-unanimous view was that Fleck had no chance in a head-to-head duel against the great Ben Hogan.

Jack Fleck is still around, still playing golf, and still talking about 1955. Now 90, Jack is the oldest living major champion. But I’ve known him since he was a younger man of 85.

It was about this time in 2007 that I picked up the phone and called Jack at his home in Fort Smith, Arkansas. A reader of this blog who shared my interest in golf history and Ben Hogan passed along the tip. You might want to talk to Jack Fleck, he suggested. That sounded interesting and fun to me. Little did I know that a first phone conversation would lead to many conversations, get-togethers at Champions Tour events where I caddied for Jack and ate in player dining rooms with other golf legends, and many more experiences that I could not have anticipated.

I got to know Jack and dug into his story. He got to know me. I wasn’t planning to write a book, but I realized that an incredible golf story still waiting to be fully told had arrived at my doorstep. I decided to give it a try. There have been plenty of twists and turns along the way, but I’ll save that for later.

Today, I wanted to begin by introducing (or reintroducing) this David-and-Goliath tale, which is now, at last, a book (see cover above and at right). Yes, I hope you’ll want to read it. Either way, I’ll be sharing more here in the weeks to come about the surprising adventure I’ve been on since that March day five years ago when I decided to call Jack Fleck.

TO BE CONTINUED.

Read an excerpt: Chapter 1 of THE LONGEST SHOT
Take a look inside THE LONGEST SHOT

Neil Sagebiel (aka The Armchair Golfer) is the author of THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open, from St. Martin’s Press (Thomas Dunne Books). Learn more at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

(Photo: Courtesy of George McDowell)