Sunday, April 29

Els on Dufner: Nice Swing and Shield

Jason Dufner breaks through. (Allison)
YOU KNEW ONE OF THESE TWO guys had to win the Zurich Classic. Would it be Jason Dufner, the player still looking for his first PGA Tour title? Or would it be the talented but tormented Ernie Els who hasn’t won on the PGA Tour in two years?

Both men had their chances in a sudden-death playoff, but it was Dufner who broke through with a second-chance birdie at the par-5 18th hole. It was the perfect early wedding gift for Dufner, who will tie the knot next weekend. Here’s what Els said about his impassive-looking playoff opponent.

“I don’t know how long he can keep it up, that wall, but he’s doing a good job so far (laughter). Kind of reminds me of myself back in the day. He’s a wonderful guy. I’ve played a lot of golf with Jason and [he] obviously came close to winning a major last year against Keegan [Bradley] and been close quite a few times.

“He’s got a wonderful golf swing and I think this will help him a lot. I think he’ll win quite a few others. He’s got a really sound golf swing and game. If he keeps that shield up, he’s got—you know, that’s a pretty good defensive mechanism he’s got there.”

Friday, April 27

Birds at War With Golfers

A coot picks at grass. (Morris)
I GREW UP PLAYING GOLF IN CALIFORNIA, so this story held special interest for me. More specifically, I played high-school golf tournaments in Tehachapi. I also played at Horse Thief Golf Club, the course mentioned in the article I just read. This from TehachapiNews.com:
Coots, a duck-like waterfowl, are at war with golfers. Coots mostly feed on plants and grasses and a golf course with its trimmed grass and water hazards makes a perfect place for them to live. Locally, a large flock or raft has set up camp at Horse Thief Golf Club in Stallion Springs.
Flocks are large, too. The article reports that an estimated 460,000 coots spend the winter in California and Nevada. I can’t say I blame them.

What are these black, duck-like birds doing?

They’re picking at and destroying the grass on the fairways and greens with their pointed beaks, and fouling the lakes and grassy areas with their droppings.
Golf course management in many locations have taken to chasing the birds with golf carts and dogs to prevent them from eating the grass. At Horse Thief, the birds have become so accustomed to the carts that the flock just separates to let the carts through, then goes right back to the business of munching on the grass.
The Migratory Bird Act protects coots. A permit can be obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to get rid of the birds. Not surprisingly, it takes months to process the paperwork. And then the permit only allows eradication of as few as 300 coots a year. At Horse Thief, that’s not nearly enough birdies.

(Visor tip: GCSAA Industry Spotlight)

Thursday, April 26

2012 Zurich Classic TV Schedule and Tournament Notes





THE 2012 ZURICH CLASSIC is underway at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, Louisiana. Ken Duke and Cameron Tringale are clubhouse leaders after shooting 65s. The first round is still in progress.

Purse: $6.4 million
Winner’s share: $1.152 million
Defending champion: Bubba Watson

2012 Zurich Classic Leaderboard

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

TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2012 Zurich Classic is on Golf Channel and CBS.

Thu, 4/26: GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Fri, 4/27: GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 4/28: CBS 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 4/29: CBS 3p - 6p ET

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times

(Image: Courtesy of PGATour.com)

Wednesday, April 25

One ‘Golden Bear’ on the Rocks, Please

WHY DID THIS TAKE SO LONG? The King, Arnold Palmer, has had his own drink for years. Now, at last, Jack Nicklaus will have his own drink. It will be called the “Golden Bear.”

Actually, Arizona Beverages is creating an entire line of lemonade drinks with Jack. There will be three refreshing flavors: regular lemonade with honey and ginseng, mango lemonade and strawberry lemonade.

The “Arnold Palmer,” of course, is a drink that’s half iced tea and half lemonade. And, as I just learned, a “John Daly” is an “Arnold Palmer” with vodka.

Beware of the John Daly drink. It can lead to mayhem on and off the golf course.

Tuesday, April 24

Paula Creamer Is Looking for More Distance

Paula Creamer (LPGA.com)
 PAULA CREAMER IS AFTER WHAT MOST amateur golfers want—more distance. In a story by Neal Reid at LPGA.com, Creamer talked about her work with coach David Whelan to overhaul her driver swing and tighten things up with the irons. Averaging 241 yards per drive last season, the Pink Panther ranked 113th in driving distance on the ladies tour.

“I tend to get flat and hit it on the way down and not on the way up,” Creamer said.

“I’ve really been trying to get some [added] distance with that. I feel like, because I’m 5-9 and a pretty strong girl, I should be able to hit it a lot farther than I do. I have a lot of wasted energy in my golf swing, and I’m just trying to be a little bit more efficient with it.

“That’s why I’m such a good iron player—I hit the ball on the way down and am consistent with that. But I lose 15-25 yards with the driver. You want to hit it on the way up, and that’s something I’ve never done. I’m trying to do it, but it’s such a big change.”

The swing changes haven’t been easy, but the 25-year-old Creamer thinks they will make her better in the long run. She said she will not stray from the strengths of her game—consistently hitting fairways and greens—which have enabled her to win nine times and earn $9 million on the LPGA Tour.

Other challenges she has faced are the recent death of her grandfather and a surgically repaired left thumb that’s still not quite right. Creamer called the thumb “good, but not great.” With all that’s gone on, she remains positive.

Which is exactly what you’d expect from Paula Creamer.

Monday, April 23

PGA Tour Special to Feature Young Guns




IT’S BEEN EVIDENT FOR SOME TIME that the PGA Tour is marketing its young talent, especially since Tiger Woods fell off his pedestal and has struggled to regain his dominant form. That marketing story continues with a PGA Tour-produced special titled PGA Tour 2012: Portraits presented by Mercedes-Benz  that features the new breed of players who are winning with regularity, including major championships. The special will air on Saturday, May 5, at 2 p.m. ET on CBS Sports.

From a PGA Tour staff report at PGATour.com:
[The special] takes a close look at these rising stars and what makes them successful both on and off of the golf course. They are the new breed of athlete: highly skilled, athletic, stylish and able to connect with the masses. In addition to showcasing their outstanding talent, the one-hour special offers unique insight into their busy lives off the golf course, showing how they escape golf and balance family with the numerous obligations as a one-man corporation.
The lineup of players will include:

• Bubba Watson - 2012 Masters Champion
• Webb Simpson - 2-time PGA Tour winner in 2011, second in the 2011 FedExCup standings
• Kyle Stanley - 2012 Waste Management Open champion
• Rory McIlroy - 2011 U.S. Open Champion, first in the Official World Golf Ranking
• Dustin Johnson - 5-time PGA Tour winner
• Hunter Mahan - 2-time PGA Tour winner in 2012
• Keegan Bradley - 2011 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year

This isn’t just marketing spin. With Tiger in decline, the PGA Tour actually has a good story to tell. As the tour reports, last year there were 16 winners who were 20-somethings, including six rookies, a record. And, this year, the beat goes on.

Saturday, April 21

ESPN.com’s Michael Collins Responds to Sean Foley


IN RESPONSE TO SEAN FOLEY’S CRITICISM of media treatment of Tiger Woods, Michael Collins of ESPN.com says you (Foley) do your job and I’ll do mine. (He says it nicely.) And he shares a few other thoughts.

I think Collins makes some sensible observations. Yes, Tiger gets “killed” in the media. The coverage is constant and over-the-top. But, all too often, Tiger does not help himself with regard to the media and in the public eye. If, as Foley said, Tiger is a “wonderful person” and a “good dude,” then he does a consistent job of hiding it from the rest of us.

What do you think?

Friday, April 20

Tour Pros Reveal Favorite Snacks

This old standby is still in the golf bag.
WHAT DO TOUR PROS SNACK ON when they’re out on the golf course grinding for a decent score?

Nuts, for one thing. And lots of other stuff, according to “What’s in My Belly” from Golf Digest. Here’s a sampling.

Bill Haas: Dried berries and nuts. Doesn’t go for the PB&J sandwich—too lazy to make one.  

Fredrik Jacobson: Venison jerky, made by his surfing buddy.

Adam Scott: Clif Bars.

Yani Tseng: Chocolate-covered almonds.

Aaron Baddeley: Also almonds, but of the Sesame Street variety.

Jim Furyk: Energy bars. Larabars are a favorite.

Steve Marino: Nunn tablets in water keep him energized.

Ben Crane: Back Nine Lytes (electrolyte) pills to stay hydrated.

Matt Kuchar: Unsalted almonds.

Brittany Lincicome: PB&J sandwiches, granola bars and bananas.

Ben Curtis: Peanut butter crackers, granola bars and Amino Vital.

Thursday, April 19

Yani Tseng Cracks TIME 100 List

Yani Tseng (Allison)
YANI TSENG IS MIGHTY INFLUENTIAL, according to Time magazine. Tseng, the Rolex Rankings No. 1 player (top female golfer on the planet), was named by the magazine as one of “the 100 most influential people in the world.” The list is comprised of “breakouts, pioneers, moguls, leaders and icons.”

Hall-of-Famer Annika Sorenstam penned the Tseng mini-profile for Time, which opened:
Golf is a game of numbers. Success is quantified statistically. On the current landscape of women’s golf, Yani Tseng’s dominance is unquestionable. At 23, she’s already won a career’s worth of tournaments and prize money. But even more impressive than her win total, scoring average and No. 1 world ranking is the way she wins.
The youthful Tseng has won 15 LPGA titles, including five majors, and is clearly golf’s most dominant player in the post-Tiger Woods era.

Others who made the TIME 100 List include Warren Buffet, Tim Tebow, Rihanna, Jeremy Lin, Claire Danes, Matt Lauer, Hillary Clinton, Stephen Colbert, Adele and, as you might guess, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

(Visor tip: Local Knowledge)

Wednesday, April 18

House Passes Bill Honoring Jack Nicklaus

(Editor’s note: Following is the April 16 press release from Congressman Joe Baca on awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to Jack Nicklaus. House of Representatives support of the bill was overwhelming, although four votes were cast against Jack. I can’t imagine why.)

Jack Nicklaus (memoflores)
Washington, DC – Today, the House of Representatives approved legislation introduced by Congressman Joe Baca (D-Rialto) that awards the Congressional Gold Medal to philanthropist and world famous golf professional Jack Nicklaus. The Jack Nicklaus Gold Medal Act, H.R. 4040, officially recognizes Nicklaus for his service to the nation in promoting excellence and good sportsmanship in golf, and was passed in the House by a 373 to 4 vote.

“Jack Nicklaus is a true humanitarian and a giant among golfers,” said Rep. Baca. “Through his dedication to helping others, his success in business and his prowess on the links—Mr. Nicklaus has grown his sport and served as an exemplary American. I thank my colleagues for joining me in support of this legislation granting Congressional recognition on the life and achievements of Jack Nicklaus.”

Rep. Baca continued, “When an individual can give back not only to his community, but also to the United States, and still achieve the greatness and professional success Jack Nicklaus has worked so diligently for throughout his lifetime, it speaks immeasurable volumes about his character.”

Through his charitable foundation, Jack Nicklaus has raised over $12 million to support pediatric health services for countless children in Florida and across the nation. He also serves as a spokesperson and trustee for the First Tee Program, which is dedicated to bringing the game of golf to children who would otherwise not be exposed to it. In addition, Mr. Nicklaus serves as Honorary Chair for the American Lake Veterans Golf Course in Tacoma, Washington, a course designed for the rehabilitation of wounded and disabled veterans.

“I truly believe that Jack Nicklaus is deserving of this honor,” concluded Rep. Baca. “But it’s not just about his success on the links—although as a competitive golfer myself I certainly respect his athletic talent and winning results. However, Jack also has contributed significantly to American society and culture, and has been a true champion for pediatric health services through his work in the Jack Nicklaus Foundation. He is an outstanding role model for America’s young people.”

Also known as the “Golden Bear,” Jack Nicklaus is not only a world famous golf professional, but also a highly successful business executive, a prominent advertising spokesman, and a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. He has been the recipient of countless honors including virtually every national award in golf, the 2005 Presidential Medal of Freedom, and Sports Illustrated’s award for Best Individual Male Athlete of the 20th Century.

Jack Nicklaus finished his professional golfing career with 73 official PGA Tour victories, including a record 18 major championship wins.

Tuesday, April 17

Stanford Graduate Michelle Wie

Michelle Wie drives at Siam Country Club. (brianewen)
THE GRADES ARE IN. MICHELLE WIE passed. In a video I watched at LPGA.com, Michelle called herself a recent Stanford grad. What do you think about that?

As a dad of two daughters, I’ve been thinking a lot about college. Our oldest is a junior in high school, so we’ve been traveling throughout Virginia this spring looking at schools, large and small, public and private. I’m bullish about college, and I hope (expect, really) my daughters to receive a better education than their dad got. (Not that there’s anything wrong with my bachelor’s degree.) Neither girl is a golf prodigy. Sadly, neither of them even play golf. But that’s OK—they have other talents and interests.

Wie, of course, didn’t have to go to college, but it had always been a goal of hers. Her degree is in communications.

“I’m so proud of myself for sticking with it,” she said a couple of weeks ago before the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Still only 22, Wie has two LPGA wins. She wants to win more and see how good she can be. It’s full speed ahead as she will now compete on the LPGA Tour on a full-time basis.

Monday, April 16

Heavier Approach Suits Carl Pettersson

Carl Pettersson cruised to a five-shot victory. (Allison)
CARL PETTERSSON IS HEAVY AND HAPPY rather than lean and mean. And it works beautifully for him. The native Swede who became a U.S. citizen in January picked up his fifth PGA Tour win on Sunday at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Pettersson fired a closing 69 for a five-shot victory over Zach Johnson.

Pettersson was a consistent top-30 money winner on the PGA Tour until he decided to try to take things up a notch. He looked in the mirror and saw Mr. Pudgy. Maybe getting in better shape would help him improve his game, he reasoned.

“I thought, well, I’ll get fit,” Pettersson said after winning the 2010 RBC Canadian Open. “So I actually lost 30 pounds, and my game completely left me.”

Don’t head off to the fridge just yet. There’s more.

“I guess the timing of the swing and everything was thrown out,” he added, “and I really struggled in ’09.”

That makes sense to me. It has happened to other players. Whether the swing, equipment, putting, mental game, or, in Pettersson’s case, fitness, there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer for this kooky game. Look for Carl in the buffet line rather than the fitness trailer.

“I’m not your typical Swede, as you know. I don’t have a 28-inch waist, and I don’t eat bananas at the turn, stuff like that.”

The workouts didn’t work out. But that’s OK because his game is just fine, earning him two PGA Tour titles in 21 months.

“You know, I’d love to be fitter,” he said, “but I’m not going to go down that road again.”

Saturday, April 14

Hit It, Alice


































THIS IS NOT YOUR NORMAL GOLF magazine cover. Alice Cooper rocks a recent issue of Arizona Golf Central Magazine.

The 64-year-old Cooper, whose real name is Vincent Damon Furnier, has a crazy love for golf. The rock star credits the game for helping him overcome alcohol addiction. As Cooper has said, he traded one addiction for another.

Cooper reportedly tees it up six days a week and has played to a two handicap. He also has appeared in commercials for Callaway golf equipment.

Friday, April 13

When to Avoid Swing Advice From a Jewelry Thief

TAKING SWING ADVICE IS ALWAYS RISKY. Even so, I can almost fathom accepting a few swing pointers from a convicted jewelry thief. After all, Frank Carrillo was a former pro golfer who had played events on the Canadian Tour before he turned to crime and landed in jail to serve a two-year sentence.

Yet, as much as I’m in favor of helpful golf instruction from anyone, it was not one of Jeff Donahue’s better ideas. You see, Donahue is a captain with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Captain Donahue took Carrillo to a hilltop golf course on Catalina Island after the inmate suggested he could help the officer with his golf game.

“I knew it was a crazy thing to say,” Carrillo told the Associated Press. “But the first thing he said was, `Maybe I need a few pointers.’”

(I can understand the captain’s dilemma. The urgent need to lower a mid-teens handicap could certainly disrupt normal prisoner protocol.)

In Captain Donahue’s defense, some of the other deputies didn’t think it was that big a deal. The ex golf pro who had been convicted for stealing cash and jewelry, including a World Series ring, had been transferred to Catalina Island from the Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles because of good behavior. (“It was like camp,” he said about Catalina.) One deputy claimed that a sheriff approved the golf outing. A sheriff’s department spokesman disputed that claim.

Now Captain Donahue, who heads the Catalina police force, is on medical leave. And his golf swing?

“[It’s] old school and risky,” said Carrillo, who wore his yellow jail jumpsuit to the golf course, “but he hits it every time.”

Thursday, April 12

2012 RBC Heritage TV Schedule and Tournament Notes




THE 2012 RBC HERITAGE is underway at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Purse: $5.7 million
Winner’s share: $1.026 million
Defending champion: Brandt Snedeker

2012 RBC Heritage Leaderboard

Inside the field
Tee times
Inside the course
Player interviews
Tournament overview
Tour report
Tournament news
RBC Heritage website

TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2012 RBC Heritage is on Golf Channel and CBS.

Thu, 4/12:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Fri, 4/13:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 4/14:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 4/15:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times

(Image: Courtesy of PGATour.com)

Wednesday, April 11

Uncovering Jack Fleck and an Upset for the Ages

(Editor’s note: Part 3 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 2 and Part 4.)

WHO WAS JACK FLECK? NOT THE CARICATURE of an underdog or answer to a sports trivia question, but rather the three-dimensional struggling golf pro from the Hawkeye state. And how in the world did Fleck take down Ben Hogan, a stoic, steel-willed man who thoroughly dominated major championship golf for a decade and is considered one of the all-time greats along with Harry Vardon, Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods?

Jack Fleck featured by Golf Digest.
These were the questions I began to ponder after I received an early 2007 email from a Hogan disciple named George McDowell. I had been writing my ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG for more than a year, and would occasionally mention Hogan because of my acute interest in golf history. I found that my blog, which covered professional golf and was growing in popularity, was a magnet for like-minded golf enthusiasts, including Hogan fans who would surface to write a comment or send an email.

I’m sure you know of Jack Fleck, McDowell wrote. You should give him a call; he lives in Arkansas. He likes to talk about golf and 1955. Maybe there’s a story for you.

Not long after, this odd golf pro from yesteryear, a subject of ancient magazine features and golf folklore, emerged in living form—first, in his plainspoken, Middle-American voice in a series of long telephone conversations, and then in person as I journeyed to Savannah and later to other Champions Tour events in Hickory and Raleigh, North Carolina, and Baltimore, Maryland.

I came to know Jack and what had been written about him, some of which he vehemently disagreed with. One thing Jack Fleck and Ben Hogan had in common: They didn’t have much use for the press. They both had an underlying belief that the scribes got it wrong more often than they got it right. More than 50 years later, he was still intent on explaining his monumental upset over Hogan, an unpopular win in his judgment.

Now hooked, I dug through magazine articles, golf books and newspaper archives. I visited the USGA in Far Hills, New Jersey, and combed the world’s largest golf archive. I talked to Fleck contemporaries who played at Olympic in ’55 and were the scrappy pro golf nomads of the 1940s and 1950s, an era when prize money was miniscule compared to today’s lucrative PGA Tour and during which players often ate in cafeterias and sometimes slept in their automobiles.

Jack’s extraordinary achievement—and the circumstances surrounding it—came into sharper focus. Sportswriters of the day hailed it as the greatest golf upset since amateur Francis Ouimet beat British professionals Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in the 1913 U.S. Open at Brookline, Massachusetts, which is the subject of Mark Frost’s excellent book The Greatest Game Ever Played that became a popular Disney feature film.

Jack even eclipsed President Dwight Eisenhower, an avid golfer himself, who happened to be in San Francisco for a United Nations meeting when Jack stunned Hogan. The Fleck headline leapfrogged the “Ike” headline atop the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle, and Jack was summoned by the Secret Service for a rendezvous and photographs with the Leader of the Free World.

More recently, in 2006, ESPN ranked Jack’s win as one of the top 10 upsets in the history of sports. Remove the team sport upsets and Fleck rises near the top of the list, alongside stunners such as Buster Douglas’s 1990 knockout of Mike Tyson for the heavyweight championship and thoroughbred Man O’ War’s only career loss to a 100-1 shot aptly named “Upset” in 1919.

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.

Tuesday, April 10

Gary Player Adjusts Driver for Masters Tee Shot

Gary Player (Allison)
THE GREATS ARE COMPETITIVE FOREVER, looking for any possible edge, more distance, more anything. Just ask Gary Player.

The Black Knight fiddled with his driver in anticipation of last Thursday’s ceremonial tee shot alongside fellow Masters winners and Hall of Famers Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Gary wanted to put his best hit forward to open the 2012 Masters. Maybe he could rifle his drive on “Tea Olive” past the Golden Bear.

Jack, of course, used a Nicklaus driver. Arnie and Gary wielded Callaway Razr Fit drivers. The South African was looking for more distance, so he worked with the Callaway people early during Masters week to perfect his driver setup. The end result was a setup with more loft to hit the ball higher and also included tweaks to the clubhead that would allow him to turn it over a bit and get some extra roll down the lush 1st fairway.

Apparently, Gary was pleased.

“Player’s caddy came to the truck Wednesday to confirm that the Black Knight was getting longer distance and wanted to get a Razr Fit 3-wood to match the driver,” said a Callaway spokesperson.

On Thursday morning, with Masters Chairman Billy Payne serving as master of ceremonies, Palmer stepped up first and knocked one down the middle. Player was next, and cracked a drive that had a nice little draw. Then Jack belted one that also found the fairway, making it three for three.

The Big 3 had come through once more.

(Visor tip: The Tour Van)

Monday, April 9

A Green Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson
THE 2012 MASTERS WILL BE REMEMBERED for two shots—Louis Oosthuizen’s 254-yard 4-iron hole-out on the par-5 2nd hole, a double eagle that vaulted the South African into the lead and Masters history books; and Bubba Watson’s curving pitching wedge from deep in the pines at the 10th hole that secured an unlikely par and a Green Jacket on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff.

A third shot will also linger in people’s memories, certainly Phil Mickelson’s. The tee shot that got away from Lefty at the par-3 4th hole resulted in a triple bogey and potentially cost him a fourth Masters title. You know that hurts.

“If I have a swing, I have a shot,” says Bubba, who dramatically illustrated his mantra late on Sunday evening with a towering wedge from the pine straw that hooked—what?—something like 40 yards.

“It looked like a curveball going to the right,” said Oosthuizen, who I thought would win the tournament. I sensed Louis, another one of those composed South Africans, would get it done and that Bubba might come undone. “That shot he [Watson] hit definitely won him the tournament,” commented the 2010 British Open champion.

It did and it didn’t. Bubba doesn’t even get into a sudden-death playoff without striking the shots, staying composed and making all those missable little putts. Somehow he did it. Somehow he held himself together. We knew he had the talent, but now Bubba has passed the most grueling of golf exams, winning the Masters and a first major. It was impressive.

The unflappable Oosthuizen looked like he was on a leisurely stroll to Butler Cabin, especially after Phil sent his long-iron shot into the bleachers. But even Louis, whose heart rate was of great interest to CBS golf analyst Nick Faldo, is human. That historic albatross at the 2nd hole messed with his mind.

“That was my first double-eagle ever,” he said, “so it was tough the next five holes to just get my head around it and just play the course.”

In the end, and to my surprise, Bubba has a Green Jacket. Louis has that albatross. Lee Westwood, unfortunately, has another near miss. I feel badly for him. He is the best player without a major. If he had putted a little better, he might have two or three by now.

What do we take from this Masters?

One obvious conclusion is that the current golf era is producing a lot of talented and resilient players who are capable of winning majors. With Watson’s victory, there have now been five first-time winners in the last six Masters. In addition, the last eight majors have been won by first-timers.

Who will be next?

Saturday, April 7

Getting to Know Masters Leader Peter Hanson

Peter Hanson
PETER HANSON IS THE 54-HOLE LEADER of the Masters. Hanson, a Swede who is ranked 25th in the Official World Golf Ranking, fired a 7-under 65 to post 9 under after three rounds at Augusta National Golf Club. He holds a one-stroke lead on Phil Mickelson, who also charged up the leaderboard on Saturday with a 66. The two leaders, who played together in the first two rounds, will tee off in Sunday’s final pairing.

This is Hanson’s second Masters. Last year he missed the cut. His best finish in 18 major championship appearances is a T7 in the 2011 U.S. Open won by Rory McIlroy. The 34-year-old Hanson has four wins on the European Tour and was a member of the 2010 European Ryder Cup team. His best finish on the PGA Tour is a T4 at the recent WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral.

Hanson admitted that he might not sleep well on the 54-hole lead but looks forward to contending on Sunday for the Green Jacket.

Friday, April 6

Skee-Ball Golf at the Masters


MAYBE YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THIS. Um, the skee-ball event. It’s not the famous Masters Par 3 Tournament. No Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player at this one. Rather, Rickie Fowler, Lexi Thompson and amateur Kelly Kraft.

Fred Couples and Jason Dufner, both 5 under, are the 36-hole leaders at the Masters. Five players named Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia and Louis Oosthuizen are one shot back.

The weather is supposed to be grand on the weekend. Soggy Augusta National Golf Club should dry out. Fasten your seat belts. Here we go.

(Visor tip: Devil Ball Golf)

Who Is Watching the 2012 Masters?

All eyes are on Augusta National. (Courtesy of miheco)
IF YOU’RE A SERIOUS GOLF fan, you’ll probably be spending many happy hours parked in front of the television set this Easter weekend. So will I. Can I ask you something? Who are you, male or female? And how old are you?

Just kidding, sort of. You don’t have to answer that, of course, but chances are you’re considerably older than the average sports fan, according to an item I read in Friday’s USA Today. More on that in a moment.

Not surprisingly, the Masters telecast is consistently the highest-rated golf telecast. There are many reasons why an enormous audience tunes into the year’s first major at Augusta National Golf Club. One of those reasons is the telecast. CBS has limited control. The men of the Masters call the shots, which means, among other things, there are far fewer commercials. I think everyone can agree that it’s a very good thing for golf viewing.

"By sports world standards, Augusta is autocratic," wrote Michael Hiestand in USA Today. "A decade ago, the tournament was aired without commercials to show the club didn’t even need sponsors."

In fact, CBS has had a series of one-year contracts ever since it started airing coverage of the Masters in 1956.

So, who are we, the collective golf fans watching the Masters? Based on last year’s viewership numbers, our average age is 56.4. That’s significantly higher than the average ages of 42.5 and 40.6 for the Super Bowl and NBA Finals, respectively.

As a group, we’re deeper into middle age. Our time is becoming more precious. Another reason why we can be thankful that we will watch much more golf and far fewer commercials on this first weekend in April.

Wednesday, April 4

The Tiger-Rory-Everybody Showdown at the 2012 Masters

The 2012 Masters tees off on Thursday. (John Trainor)
TIGER WOODS IS BACK IN FORM. The Masters scars of 22-year-old Rory McIlroy have only made the Northern Irishman tougher, better and more prepared to slip into his first Green Jacket. And, as we know, Augusta National is like the fountain of youth for 41-year-old Phil Mickelson. The magical place excites and energizes him. Lefty has won three of the last eight Masters. He is the only multiple winner from 2003 to the present.

But here’s a Masters fact: four of the last five winners have been first-timers. They are Zach Johnson (2007), Trevor Immelman (2008), Angel Cabrera (2009) and Charl Schwartzel (2011).

While the 76th Masters is shaping up as a potential Tiger-Rory showdown—with Mr. Mickelson lurking (can we wish for another Tiger-Phil pairing on the weekend ... please, please, golf gods?)—the small field is stacked with players who could steal the moment and visit Butler Cabin on Sunday evening.

Some of them might feel like comedian Rodney Dangerfield, who couldn’t get any respect.

“I think everybody in this room would have to be na├»ve to think it’s a two-horse race, wouldn’t they?” said Lee Westwood during his Tuesday media gathering at Augusta.

Westwood came excruciatingly close in 2010, finishing second to Mickelson.

“Well, I always felt like I could do it here,” Lee said. “I always felt like the golf course suits my game.”

There’s also World No. 1 Luke Donald. Despite being the top-ranked golfer coming into Masters week, Donald, who finished T4 last year, might feel like an invisible man.

“Obviously Tiger is always the guy that pushes the needle the most, and obviously Rory gets a lot of attention now,” said short-game wizard Donald. “But for me, that’s probably a good thing. I can kind of go about my business and just get on with things.”

There are plenty of other players who can contend if they “get on with things” and handle the final-round pressure like last year’s young guns. Keep an eye on Hunter Mahan, Jason Day, Keegan Bradley, Bill Haas, Justin Rose and Kyle Stanley, among others.

It may be no exaggeration to say anyone can win this thing. Well, Larry Mize can’t. But that’s only because Greg Norman isn’t in the field.

Tuesday, April 3

2012 Masters TV Schedule and Tournament Notes




HELLO, FRIENDS, AND WELCOME to the 2012 Masters. This is Jim Nan ... er, sorry. I got carried away. It’s Masters week, golf fans! Magnolia Lane, azaleas (um, not blooming), Amen Corner, pimento cheese sandwiches and Chuck Norris-style security.

MASTERS NEED TO KNOW

Purse: $8 million
Winner’s share: A bundle, but they’re really playing for the Green Jacket
Defending champion: Charl Schwartzel

2012 Masters Leaderboard

Masters field
Augusta National Golf Club
First and second round groupings and tee times
Masters photo gallery
Masters newsroom
Masters tournament information
Masters winners
Official Masters site

ARMCHAIR GOLF Masters Vault

Assorted past stories.

A Stunning New Episode of Masters Theater
The Roars of Augusta
13 Things We Still Know After the Masters
Errie Ball: Last Man Standing from First Masters
Q&A: Walker Inman Jr.: First Augusta Native to Play in Masters
Masters Food: A Tradition Unlike Any Other
Q&A: SI’s Jim Gorant on the Masters

TV SCHEDULE

Between GOLF CHANNEL, ESPN and CBS, a gazillion hours of TV coverage are scheduled for the 2012 Masters. If your TV is on, you’re bound to catch it.

Wed, April 4
ESPN 3-5 p.m. ET (tournament action)
GOLF CHANNEL:
Live From the Masters 12-1 p.m. ET (Billy Payne news conference)
Live From the Masters 6-8 p.m. ET

Thu, April 5
ESPN 3-7:30 p.m. ET (tournament action)
GOLF CHANNEL:
Live From the Masters 8 a.m.-3 p.m. ET
Live From the Masters 7:30-9:30 p.m. ET

Fri, April 6
ESPN 3-7:30 p.m. ET (tournament action)
GOLF CHANNEL:
Live From the Masters 8 a.m.-3 p.m. ET
Live From the Masters 7:30-9:30 p.m. ET

Sat, April 7
CBS 3:30-7 p.m. ET (tournament action)
GOLF CHANNEL:
Live From the Masters 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. ET
Live From the Masters 7-9 p.m. ET

Sun, April 8
CBS 2-7 p.m. ET (tournament action)
GOLF CHANNEL:
Live From the Masters 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. ET
Live From the Masters 7-9 p.m. ET

(Image: Courtesy of PGATour.com)

Monday, April 2

A Different Rory Returns to Augusta

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
RORY MCILROY WANTS TO LAY MORE than one bogey man to rest when he launches his quest for a first Masters green jacket at Augusta. The world No 2 believes he’s a completely different player to the kid who imploded under pressure in last year’s final round and was then shocked to walk off the 18th and see his ex-girlfriend waiting to greet him.

He wants to become a true American idol by winning the Masters and proving that his decision to dump manager Chubby Chandler last year—the man responsible for the girlfriend error—was a crucial step on the road to becoming his own man.

Believing his results have justified the move—three wins and eight top 10s from 11 starts since he left ISM—he told Golf.com’s Alan Bastable: “I felt like the path I was going down wasn’t the path I wanted to go down.”

Taking his future into his own hands was crucial and he felt he was becoming overly-influenced by Chandler and archrival Lee Westwood. He regrets taking their advice and giving up his US Tour card at the end of 2010 and then snubbing the Players Championship at Sawgrass.

It was the beginning of the end for his old manager and the start of a new era for the Holywood star who quickly announced a PGA Tour return in August.

Looking back on his Sawgrass snub, McIlroy said: “That’s another example of being involved with Chubby and ISM and maybe being led down the wrong path, or a path that I didn’t want to go down. It was something I sort of felt like I had to do.

“I think just spending a little bit of time around Chubby and Lee and hearing their view of the PGA Tour—obviously they’re very pro-European Tour—while I’ve always been one who wanted to play on the PGA Tour. Not playing Sawgrass was one of the decisions I look back on and regret a little bit.”

Growing up means taking responsibility for your decisions and McIlroy admits that his Masters meltdown taught him some valuable lessons. Realising he was in denial about his short putting, he went to short game guru Dave Stockton and won the US Open by eight shots just two months later.

Rory said: “It was definitely a defining moment. It could have been the crossroads of my career. I could have did what I did on Sunday at Augusta and let it affect me and let it get to me, and maybe gone into a slump or feel down or feel sorry for myself. But you know, I had enough good people around me not to let that happen and I was able to go down the right path and do the right things to put everything right and win the next major.”

The final piece of the puzzle will fall into place at Augusta on Thursday.

When McIlroy reaches that 10th tee in his opening round, everyone else will be thinking of last year’s disastrous triple bogey when his drive ricocheted off trees and finished 80 yards left of the fairway between some cabins. McIlroy admits there will be some intimidation but he’s already taken steps to ease the pressure by sneaking back to Augusta for a hush-hush practice round with caddie JP Fitzgerald last Wednesday.

He said: “Hopefully, this year, I won’t see those cabins quite so close up. I don’t look at it as revenge really. It would just be great to put myself in a position to win again, and if I can do that, it will be great to see if I can handle things a little bit better.”

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