Thursday, May 31

2012 Memorial Tournament TV Schedule and Notes



THE 2012 MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT begins today at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.

Purse: $6.2 million
Winner’s share: $1.16 million
Defending champion: Steve Stricker

2012 Memorial Tournament Leaderboard

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

TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2012 Memorial Tournament is on Golf Channel and CBS.

Thu, 5/31:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

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

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

Sun, 6/3:
CBS 2:30p - 6p ET

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times

(Image: Courtesy of PGATour.com)

Wednesday, May 30

Q&A: Bob Rosburg on the Olympic Club and 1955 U.S. Open

(Editor’s note: This is another in a series of stories and interviews about how I wrote THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open.)
 
TOMMY BOLT, BOB ROSBURG, SHELLEY MAYFIELD. They’re all gone now, but I had the pleasure of interviewing them, along with several other legends, as I researched and wrote THE LONGEST SHOT. All three men played in the 1955 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club. And all three were highly entertaining as they recounted that historic tournament and the early days on the PGA Tour.

In the fall of 2008, I twice called Rosburg at his home in Palm Springs and we talked at length about the 1955 U.S. Open and a range of other golf topics. Following is an excerpt from our conversation.

Bob Rosburg circa 1955.
What stands out in your memory about the 1955 U.S. Open?

BOB ROSBURG: Probably that the course played so hard. Being a member there, I didn’t think it would play quite so hard as it did. You just look at the scores, and it was unbelievable how tough the golf course was. It’s not long. It’s not the type of back breaker that so many courses are, but the Olympic Club has always stood up to be a great golf course. I thought it really played hard. It was the toughest rough I've ever seen there. You hit it in the rough and you didn’t have much chance. At the end, they couldn’t even move it out of the rough some of the times.

I knew you had a good finish there and after the first 18 on Saturday you were right in it.

BOB ROSBURG: I had a chance. I was just a couple of shots behind. Everybody said Hogan was tired. And Snead, I played the first two rounds with him and I said, “Sam, you got a great chance.” He shot 79, 69, or something like that. He said nobody can win the Open that’s missed as many putts as I have. He had a phobia about the Open and I think that’s why he never won.

I guess that’s one of the great heartbreak stories in the history of golf. Snead came close so many times.

BOB ROSBURG: That’s right.

I imagine growing up on that golf course, playing it as a junior, I can’t imagine there was another pro in the field who knew the course better than you did.

BOB ROSBURG: I wouldn’t think so. I played there a lot. My dad joined when I was about 10 or 11 years old, and I had played it that whole time. It was a great golf course. It was fun to play there. The juniors got treated pretty well. The members were nice. It was just a great place to be around.

Robert Trent Jones had done some modifications to the course before the Open. He changed a couple of holes around and added length. But from talking to the other fellows, they all said they had never seen rough like that before or since.

BOB ROSBURG: There’s no question about that. It was the toughest I've ever seen. I wasn’t around in ‘51 when they played at Oakland Hills where Hogan said it was the hardest place he had ever seen. Every other Open course I've played, yeah, they’ve had rough, not anything like the Olympic Club was.

You tied for low round of the tournament with your third-round 67. Tommy Bolt had a 67 in the first round to lead and Fleck shot a 67 in the last round. What do you remember about the third round? What did you have going?

BOB ROSBURG: I don’t remember a whole lot about it. I played with a fellow named Charlie Rotar who was just an average kind of a club pro. He didn’t play a lot on tour. He was a good player. We started out with about four people. By the time we got to 18, we had a pretty big gallery because people heard I was going real good. In fact, I bogeyed the last hole. I was 4 under going to 18, and 18 is not a really hard hole, but I managed to make a 5 there. It was a big thrill to get back into where I had a chance to win.

What were you, about 28?

BOB ROSBURG: Yeah, I was 28.

There’s a good picture of you in the June [1955] Sports Illustrated. It has a U.S. Open preview.

BOB ROSBURG: I think I remember that. It has pictures of a lot of young guys, doesn’t it?

They called you the Young Guard. And you were in there with [Arnold] Palmer and [Gene] Littler and [Mike] Souchak. Were you considered a favorite or someone people thought had a pretty good chance?

BOB ROSBURG: I think I was under the radar. I didn’t get a lot of publicity. It was sort of funny because I think everybody figured Littler was the favorite. Gene was a very good friend of mine. In fact, he stayed with us in Palo Alto at the time during the tournament. We rode to the course everyday. He couldn’t handle the rough. I played a practice round with him and he might have shot 85. He was shanking it out of the rough. I think he kind of lost his confidence.

But I think Littler was the favorite going in. Palmer hadn’t done a whole lot up until that time. And, of course, everybody thought Hogan was kind of finished. They were wrong. Bolt had a chance whenever he played. Tom was a great player when the course got real hard. When things are tough at a golf course, Tommy could be a driving force. And he played well. He had a chance.

But nobody thought anything about Fleck.

(Bob Rosburg died seven months later on May 14, 2009. He had 6 wins on the PGA Tour, including the 1959 PGA Championship, and played on the 1959 U.S. Ryder Cup team. He also served as an ABC on-course commentator for more than three decades.)

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, May 29

Rusty Rory Adds Memphis to US Open Prep

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 IS NOW FURIOUS with himself for not being better prepared for the BMW PGA at Wentworth. But he’s determined not to make the same mistake again and will now play, not one, but two warm-up events before his US Open defence at the Olympic Club.

Following the Memorial at Muirfield Village this week, the Ulsterman has decided to forego a planned trip to the Titleist Performance Insititute in California with his coach and trainer and take them instead to Memphis for the FedEx St Jude Classic.

The reason for the change is simple. He’s behind schedule with his preparations and needs to play competitive golf to get back on track after missing back-to-back cuts for the first time since 2010, when he bowed out early at the Shell Houston Open and the Masters. The world No 2 has played just nine events so far this year and while that’s just one fewer than Luke Donald, who deposed him as world No 1 on Sunday, it’s three fewer than world No 3 Lee Westwood—a significant number.

More significantly, McIlroy played just 10 competitive rounds in 73 days between the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral and the start of the BMW PGA, taking two weeks off before shooting rounds of 74 and 79. Having confessed that he took his eye off the ball, the Northern Ireland man is now playing catch up. But despite reports that he has run into the arms of his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki again for more R&R, he’s been working harder than ever.

While he did travel by Eurostar to see Wozniacki prepare for Rolland Garros in Paris on Sunday, he has not neglected his practice regime. Following a two-hour gym session with trainer Steve McGregor at Wentworth on Friday evening, he was on the range at 7:30 am at Wentworth on Saturday morning and put in a five-hour practice session before catching the train to Paris.

Schedule Conundrum

The truth is that McIlroy is still searching for an ideal schedule despite four and a half years in the professional ranks. In the past, he felt he played too much and fearing burnout, he declared at the Wells Fargo Championship that he wanted to play no more than 23 events a year. His plan was to ease his way into the summer with his batteries fully charged by playing a limited schedule either side of the Masters. In hindsight, he now realises that he could have added an extra event or two—the Shell Houston Open or Bay Hill, for example.

It’s too late to worry about all that now as he faces a race against time to get his game back in shape for three huge weeks in a row. Whether he will be fresh when he arrives in San Francisco is another matter given the grueling heat he will face in Memphis.

At the age of 23, McIlroy is trying to be his own man, listen to advice and get the perfect balance between his personal and professional life. So far, he’s got it just slightly wrong and while the US Open might come too soon, his rite of spring will stand to him in the future.

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

Monday, May 28

Luke Donald Back on Top of Golf World

Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF

Luke Donald (Allison)
LUKE DONALD ONCE AGAIN ESTABLISHED HIMSELF as world No. 1 golfer after winning the 58th BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club in Surrey, England. Having lost his world No. 1 rank to Rory McIlroy earlier this month, Donald now enters into his 46th week as the best player in the world. He shot 15-under par over the four rounds, winning by four shots over Paul Lawrie and Justin Rose. Taking home prize money of €750,000, Donald becomes only the third player to successfully defend the championship after Sir Nick Faldo (1980 and 1981) and Colin Montgomerie (1998, 1999, and 2000).

Lawrie and David Drysdale led after the first round, both scoring 6-under par. Eventual winner Donald was back in tied eighth on 4-under par but climbed up to tied second by the end of the second day. Englishman James Morrison was the clubhouse leader at the end of day two as he shot the round of the tournament, firing a 64. He made six birdies before sinking a 30-foot putt for an eagle on the 18th hole. However, Morrison’s efforts were in vain as his stunning second round was cancelled out by a lowly 81 in the following day’s play.

The cut was set at 2-over par, and notable absentees for the third day included McIlroy and 2011 British Open winner Darren Clarke. McIlroy shot a 74 and a 79 on the par-72 course to end 9-over par, three weeks before his US Open title defence. Clarke fared a little better, scoring a 71 and 77 therefore missing the cut by two shots.

Donald carded a solid 69 on the third day, and as others faded it left him alone at the top of the leaderboard. Justin Rose ended the day two shots behind and Lawrie was four shots adrift.

Donald was paired with Rose for the final round and was briefly caught by Rose four holes in, but Donald birdied holes 6, 7 and 10 to gain a three-shot lead. The gap then increased to five at the 16th when Donald made another birdie, while Rose bogeyed after hitting into a bunker. Donald finished on 15-under par whilst Rose and Lawrie were tied for second on 11-under par.

Donald, who made a total of one eagle, 20 birdies and seven bogeys over the four days, said, “I got the job done and I take a great amount of satisfaction. These victories are key to bringing that confidence into the majors.”

(Brought to you by Direct Golf UK, which recently ran a competition offering the golf opportunity of a lifetime. Entrants had a chance to play golf with BMW PGA Championship winner and world No. 1 Luke Donald.)

Sunday, May 27

Golfers: May Is Skin Cancer Awareness Month



MEN OVER 50 ARE AT A HIGHER RISK for developing skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The above public service announcement (PSA) from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) uses golf course hazards to illustrate that the missed hazard of a spot on a person’s skin could be a killer.

More than two million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year, including golfers (both men and women) without appropriate protection from the sun. Lack of protection can be not using enough sunscreen and/or not wearing protective clothing. There’s good news, though. The AAD says skin cancer is easily preventable and has a high cure rate when detected early.

The above PSA and the AAD encourage men and women to check their skin for skin cancer. To find out how, visit SpotSkinCancer.org.

Friday, May 25

VIDEO CLIP: ‘Follow the Sun: The Ben Hogan Story’



ITS COLONIAL WEEK ON THE PGA TOUR, so its only fitting to pay homage to Ben Hogan, a nine-time major winner who lived to dig golf balls out of the dirt. Hogan was a mythic figure who survived a head-on collision with a Greyhound bus on a foggy Texas highway and 16 months later limped through 72 holes and an 18-hole playoff against Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio to win the 1950 U.S. Open.

Hollywood noticed the miracle comeback and public adulation, and made the first feature film about a golfer, starring Glenn Ford as Hogan and Anne Baxter as Hogans wife, Valerie. Hogan was a technical adviser on the film and drove everybody nearly mad said his longtime golf partner Jimmy Demaret. He had good reasonFord wasnt much of a golfer. Follow the Sun came out in 1951 and received mostly favorable reviews.

Enjoy the short clip, in which Valerie cheerfully says, Hit em far and straight, dear.

The real-life Hogan did that. Did he ever.

Thursday, May 24

2012 Crowne Plaza Invitational TV Schedule and Tournament Notes



THE 2012 CROWNE PLAZA INVITATIONAL is underway at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. With the first round in progress, Zach Johnson is the early leader at 6 under through 15 holes.

Purse: $6.4 million
Winner’s share: $1.16 million
Defending champion: David Toms

2012 Crowne Plaza Invitational Leaderboard

Inside the field
Tee times
Inside the course
Player interviews
Tournament overview
Tour report
Tournament news
Crowne Plaza Invitational website

TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2012 Crowne Plaza Invitational is on Golf Channel and CBS.

Thu, 5/24:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Fri, 5/25:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 5/26:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 5/27:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times

(Image: Courtesy of PGATour.com)

Wednesday, May 23

Ernie Els Earns U.S. Open Exemption

By USGA

Ernie is in. (Flickr)
THE UNITED STATES GOLF ASSOCIATION (USGA) today announced that 24 additional golfers, including two-time champion Ernie Els, have earned full exemptions into the 2012 U.S. Open Championship, to be played June 14-17 at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif., bringing the number of fully exempt players to 77.

The exemptions were awarded to players who earned a place in the top 60 in the Official World Golf Ranking as of May 21. Els, who won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997, is ranked No. 44.

Those who earned full exemptions through the current Official World Golf Ranking are: Sang-Moon Bae, Thomas Bjorn, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Paul Casey, Nicolas Colsaerts, Ben Crane, Simon Dyson, Ernie Els, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño, Rickie Fowler, Anders Hansen, Ryo Ishikawa, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Zach Johnson, Robert Karlsson, K.T. Kim, Martin Laird, Francesco Molinari, Kevin Na, Carl Pettersson, Ian Poulter, Alvaro Quiros, Robert Rock and Kyle Stanley.

The number of fully exempt golfers may increase with the inclusion of the top 60 players from the Official World Golf Ranking as of June 11. The winner of this week’s European Tour BMW PGA Championship also earns an exemption.

The first sectional qualifier for the 2012 U.S. Open was held May 21 in Japan, where six spots in the 156-player field were determined. An additional international qualifier will be held in Surrey, England, on May 28. Sectional qualifying in the United States will take place at 11 sites on Monday, June 4.

A list of the 77 golfers fully exempt into the 2012 U.S. Open as of May 21.

Tuesday, May 22

‘THE LONGEST SHOT’ Releases Today

You’ve read my blog. Now I invite you to read my book.

Jack Fleck in May 2010.
Today’s official release of THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open is the culmination of a journey that began five years ago when I called Jack Fleck at his home in Fort Smith, Arkansas. I discovered a fascinating story and epic upset that had not been fully told. It was a story that, as a golf fan, I would love to read. But there was no book.

Facing the long odds of attracting a literary agent, getting a book deal from a major publisher and so much more, I began. Readers of this blog—that’s you!—have played an important role. The popularity of ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG helped convince major publishers to consider THE LONGEST SHOT.

Here, at last, is the book about Fleck’s extraordinary triumph and Hogan’s unexpected tragedy, from St. Martin’s Press (Thomas Dunne Books). With the U.S. Open returning to the Olympic Club in San Francisco where Fleck shocked the world 57 years ago, it could not be more timely.

Early reviews and praise:

“Sagebiel wrings every ounce of drama and poignancy out of this remarkable sporting event .... Great storytelling and great golf history.” –Booklist (starred review)

“Sagebiel honors the grand tradition of profound and poetic literature in golf.” –Ian O’Connor, New York Times bestselling author of Arnie & Jack

“The combination of a taut narrative and Sagebiel’s golf knowledge make the story accessible to general readers.” –Publishers Weekly

“Destined to become a classic of golf literature.” –Don Van Natta Jr., New York Times bestselling author of WONDER GIRL and First Off the Tee

Availability
 
THE LONGEST SHOT, in hardcover and ebook editions, is available at bookstores nationwide and online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, IndieBound, Powells and elsewhere. I hope you’ll pick up a copy for yourself, and/or one as a gift. Father’s Day is just around the corner, too.

If you’re attending this year’s U.S. Open, please come meet me on Monday, June 11, in the Merchandise Pavilion, where I’ll be doing a book signing from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

To learn more about the story behind THE LONGEST SHOT, or to read an excerpt, please see the links in the sidebar at right.

Monday, May 21

The Splendid Ballstriking of Jason Dufner

Jason Dufner (Allison)
JASON DUFNER HAS A NEW HABIT. It’s called winning. With his victory at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, Dufner won for the second time in less than a month. (And his career.) It took 164 PGA Tour events to get that first one at the Zurich Classic. Now he has two, thanks to that 25-foot birdie putt he sank on the final hole at TPC Four Seasons Resort in Irving, Texas. He edged journeyman Dicky Pride by a shot.

Putting aside, Dufner is striping the ball. As Sean Martin of Golfweek wrote:
Dufner’s putt on the 72nd hole gave him the win, but his ball-striking put him in position to take another trophy. He led the Nelson field in greens-in-regulation (58 of 72), was second in driving accuracy (42 of 56) and ninth in driving distance (316.6 yards).
The Auburn grad and newly married man leads the FedEx Cup points race. As Martin reported, Jason has led in 10 of his last 32 rounds and is two for four in closing out wins after sleeping on the 54-hole lead.

Dufner is also a poser. Maybe you’ve noticed. He holds that finish for what seems like forever while he stares at his golf ball zooming down the fairway. I sometimes wonder why he looks at his tee shots so long.

Because, you know, it’s down the middle. Again.

Saturday, May 19

Phil Mickelson’s Hybrid From 128 Yards



PHIL MICKELSON WAS IN TROUBLE on the 427-yard par-4 9th hole at TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas. Phil parked his tee shot behind some trees to the left of the fairway. Instead of playing it safe (not a Lefty trademark), he reached for a hybrid and punched a low one under and around the trees that ran up on the green 16 feet from the cup. And, yes, he made the putt for a birdie.

Mickelson went on to shoot 69 and is at 1 under at the midway point of the HP Byron Nelson Championship. Jason Dufner, 7 under after two rounds, leads by 1 stroke over Ryan Palmer, Chad Campbell, Matt Kuchar, Pat Perez, Dicky Pride and Marc Leishman.

Friday, May 18

The Hickok Belt Explained


AS YOU MAY HAVE ALREADY HEARD, there was a break-in and burglary at the United States Golf Association (USGA) in Far Hills, New Jersey, early on Wednesday morning. According to the Associated Press, several trophy cases in the USGA Museum were shattered with an ax. The burglary was apparently the work of one person, based on a review of the security video. Among the missing artifacts are the U.S. Amateur trophy and a replica of Ben Hogan’s Hickok Belt.

What was the Hickok Belt?

It wasn’t something the great Hogan wore to hold up his trousers.

Named for S. Rae Hickok, beginning in 1950 the Hickok Belt was awarded to the top U.S. professional athlete of the year, a tradition that continued until 1976. Hickok’s Rochester-based company made belts, and the jeweled award belt was created in his honor. It was made of alligator skin and featured a solid gold buckle, a four-carat diamond and 26 gem chips. When it was awarded to New York Yankees star Mickey Mantle in 1956, the Hickok Belt was valued at $10,000.

Ben Hogan was the first of three golfers to win the Hickok Belt. Hogan received the award for his 1953 season during which he completed what became known as the “Hogan Slam.” He won the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open, the greatest season in golf since Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam (both Opens and both Amateurs) in 1930. Hogan couldn’t compete in the 1953 PGA Championship since it was played around the same time he was at Carnoustie, his first and last appearance at the British Open.

The other two golfers to win the Hickok Belt were Arnold Palmer in 1960 and Lee Trevino in 1971.

Other sports stars who have been awarded the Hickok Belt include Rocky Marciano, Willie Mays, Roger Maris, Jim Brown, Joe Namath and Muhammad Ali. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax won it twice.

Beginning this year, the Hickok Belt is making a comeback.

(Visor tip: Geoff Shackelford)

Thursday, May 17

2012 HP Byron Nelson Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes


THE 2012 HP BYRON NELSON CHAMPIONSHIP is underway at TPC Four Seasons Resort in Irving, Texas. Ryan Palmer leads at 6 under. The first round is still in progress.

Purse: $6.5 million
Winner’s share: $1.17 million
Defending champion: Keegan Bradley

2012 HP Byron Nelson Championship Leaderboard

Inside the field
Tee times
Inside the course
Player interviews
Tournament overview
Tour report
Tournament news
HP Byron Nelson Championship website

TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2012 HP Byron Nelson Championship is on Golf Channel and CBS.

Thu, 5/17:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Fri, 5/18:
 GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 5/19:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 5/20:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times

(Image: Courtesy of PGATour.com)

Wednesday, May 16

Q&A: Tommy Bolt

(Editor’s note: This is another in a series of stories and interviews about how I wrote THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open.)
 
At left: Tommy Bolt.
TOMMY BOLT, BOB ROSBURG, SHELLEY MAYFIELD. They’re all gone now, but I had the pleasure of interviewing them, along with several other legends, as I researched and wrote THE LONGEST SHOT. All three men played in the 1955 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club. And all three were highly entertaining as they recounted that historic tournament and the early days on the PGA Tour.

I was lucky to even talk to Tommy Bolt, a Hall of Famer who led after the first and second rounds of the ’55 U.S. Open. They called him “Thunder Bolt” and other nicknames because of his legendary temper and club throwing. Tommy was not in good health in the spring of 2008. He was in a nursing home in Arkansas the first time I called and told me to try him again in a week or two. I called back, and although he didn’t feel well that day, at his wife’s urging, he took the phone. When we finished, he said he was glad we talked.

You had a pretty good tournament at Olympic. 

TOMMY BOLT: Oh yes I did. A better chance than any of them, really.

Tell me what you remember about Olympic. You shot 67 in the first round and you were leading the tournament. 

TOMMY BOLT: What did I finish?

You finished tied for third with Sam Snead. You led after the first round. 

TOMMY BOLT: I remember Fleck beating Hogan. I know that Fleck was playing good. It was really a championship course. Yes, it was. It was one of the best courses they ever played the Open on.

One of the stories I have read was that you were in the locker room and they thought Hogan had won. They were waiting for everybody to finish and Fleck was still out on the course. He birdied the last hole to tie Hogan. Do you remember that? 

TOMMY BOLT: Yes, I do. I remember that vividly.

Do you remember what happened in that locker room? I think you were cutting up with Hogan.  

TOMMY BOLT: I said you little SOB. I said something like that. We always cussed one another out. And we were jabbering all over the place. And Fleck shot 65 [67, actually] and tied Hogan and beat him in the playoff.

Tell me about your memories of Ben Hogan and what you thought of him. 

TOMMY BOLT: Oh boy. He was the greatest player I ever played with. As a golfer, he could out-concentrate anyone else. His concentration was better than anybody else. He just overpowered them with concentration. He kept his mind on what he was doing. That's how he beat everybody. His mind never left his business.

Somebody once asked you, who do you think is better Hogan or Nicklaus? And you said something like, “I’ve seen Nicklaus watch Hogan practice, but I’ve never seen Hogan watch Nicklaus practice.” 

TOMMY BOLT: I did say that one time (chuckling). I have said a lot of good things out there. I thought Nicklaus was a great player, but Hogan was just a little bit better than him.

What do you remember about Jack Fleck? 

TOMMY BOLT: Although he won the tournament and beat everybody, they were not really for it too much. The sportswriters didn’t like it too much.

Fleck wasn’t very well known before he beat Hogan. 

TOMMY BOLT: Nobody knew who he was. He had never won a caddies tournament.

Did you know who he was? 

TOMMY BOLT: No. It seems like I might have played with him in Iowa one time. He came from Iowa.  

What was it like for you to play the tour back in the 1950s, Tommy? What was pro golf like then for you? 

TOMMY BOLT: It was tough (chuckling). You had to win some money to get out of town. You didn't have a jillion dollars thrown at you. There wasn't that much money out there. It was a lot of fun, but it was a lot of pressure.

How are you doing [now]? 

TOMMY BOLT: I’m 92 years old. I’m fine. They haven’t put me in the grave yet.

It’s an honor for me to get to speak to you for a few minutes. 

TOMMY BOLT: I appreciate that.

Tommy Bolt died three months later on August 30, 2008. He had 14 wins on the PGA Tour, including the 1958 U.S. Open, and played on two U.S. Ryder Cup teams.

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, May 15

The Flawless Perspective of Kevin Na

Kevin Na (Allison)
PUT ME DOWN WITH THOSE WHO are sick of slow play on the PGA Tour. It seems so dumb, really. Why on God’s green fairways does it have to take so long to play a golf shot? I know they’re playing for a lot of money. Still ...

Which brings me to Kevin Na, the slow-play pro who was one decent round from winning The Players Championship. Na is slow with a twist. He is Charles Barkley’s hero. He waggles. He fidgets. He can’t pull the trigger. The guy leading The Players Championshp was getting heckled. Heckled, I tell you. I can’t ever remember that happening.

I don’t like Na’s pokiness and I half-shielded my eyes as he addressed the golf ball. But heckling that tortured soul while he’s trying to win the biggest tournament of his life is wrong.

Karen Crouse penned a fine piece about Na’s grace in in the New York Times. A snippet:
Golf is a mirror that reflects one’s character while magnifying flaws: impatience, anger, dishonesty, vanity, arrogance. For all the glitches in Na’s false starts, he impeccably handled the inevitable scrutiny and criticism that his preshot routine engendered. He did not blame his coach for his own discomfort, as some golfers do. He did not get defensive about his waggles, as Sergio García of Spain did when he was singled out for gripping and regripping his clubs during the 2002 United States Open at Bethpage Black.

To the contrary, Na vowed to do better.

“It’s going to take time, practice and tournaments,” he said, “and I’m going to try to take out the whole waggle. Honestly, it’s going to be a battle.”

For those who followed his round, there was a lesson in Na’s grace under the magnifying glass. His preshot routine may be a work in progress, but his perspective is flawless.
I may not like to watch Na. It’s golf's version of the “The King’s Speech.” But, considering his attitude and brutal honesty about his demons, I’ll be rooting for Kevin Na. Even if it takes him longer than it should to pull the trigger.

Monday, May 14

Matt Kuchar Stands Tall at Players Championship

Matt Kuchar shot 68, 68, 69 and 70 to win The Player’s Championship.  (Keith Allison)



“WHY ARE THEY BOOING HIM?” my wife asked while we watched the closing holes of The Players Championship. She was speaking about Matt Kuchar. Exactly. Why would anyone boo a player with a face that always seems to radiate pure joy? What’s not to like about the omni-pleasant 1997 U.S. Amateur champion?

“That’s not booing,” I answered. “They’re saying ‘Kooch, Kooch,’ his nickname.”

“Oh.”

Kooch slipped by a twitchy, fading Kevin Na, the 54-hole leader, and outlasted the charges of Martin Laird, Zach Johnson, Ben Curtis and Rickie Fowler to win The Players Championship by two shots. It’s the biggest win of Kuchar’s 12-year pro career. His other three wins came at the Honda Classic, Turning Stone Resort Championship and The Barclays.

“I’ve very happy with what I’ve become as a golfer,” Kooch said. “Like I said, to walk down that Tunnel of Champions and know I’m part of that, it’s just an incredible feeling. I’d love to have that feeling every week.”

If Kuchar looks tall on television, it’s because he is. I noticed it at last year’s U.S. Open at Congressional. I’m fairly tall myself—6 feet 4 inches—and I remember how tall Kuchar looked when I walked near him as I crossed a fairway. He is the same height. But, trim and genial, he is not physically imposing. He did, however, demonstrate a certain grind-it-out toughness with Sunday’s huge victory.

There have been some long dry spells in a career that began with such great promise. That’s history now. Kuchar is still only 33. Maybe things will take off from here.

After a T3 at this year’s Masters and the win at TPC Sawgrass, you have to figure Kooch will contend at the majors. He tied for 14th at the 1998 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club—as an amateur. That was a long time ago. The Open returns there next month.

Saturday, May 12

1,364 Women Enter U.S. Women’s Open

By USGA

THE UNITED STATES GOLF ASSOCIATION (USGA) has accepted a record 1,364 entries for the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open. Considered among the premier women’s golf events worldwide, the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open will be conducted July 5-8 at Blackwolf Run® in Kohler, Wis. The 1,364 entries surpassed the previous record of 1,296, set at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club in 2010. It is the ninth consecutive year the number of entries for the championship has exceeded 1,000.

The first to file an entry was Abby Newton, a 17-year-old amateur from Katy, Texas, who was one of 55 people to enter on March 5, the first day applications were available. The last to file was Canada’s Ashley Sholer, who submitted her entry five minutes before the deadline of 5 p.m. on May 2. Sholer’s entry was one of 69 received on the final day, and one of 16 received in the last hour.

The youngest entrant is 11-year-old Elizabeth Wang, of San Marino, Calif., who will turn 12 on May 22. The oldest is Bobbi Lancaster, 61, of Gold Canyon, Ariz.

Entries were received from 47 states (all except Alaska, Delaware and Maine) and 44 other countries. In addition to the USA, entries were received from: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales), Guatemala, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, the People’s Republic of China, Puerto Rico, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

Friday, May 11

Three Golf Quests

By Charles Prokop
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


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

(Courtesy of VancityAllie)
MOST OF US HAVE SET GOALS for our golf games, but some folks have gone at those goals with a vengeance and then written a book about it. I’ve read three of these over the past few years, and the main thing I’ve learned is that I don’t have the time, money, or drive to stick to that type of a project. It’s fun to read about how other people did it, though.

Tom Coyne decided to take a year and try to get good enough to make it through PGA Q School. His book, Paper Tiger, documents his attempt, including all his hours on the practice tee, tournament play, and physical conditioning. I won’t spoil the Q School part of the story for you, but Coyne did a pretty good job on his weight and handicap. He lost over 35 pounds and his handicap index went from 9.4 to +.4. The overwhelming impression I got is of a lot of very hard work, recounted in an entertaining way.

John Richardson approached the problem a little differently. He was an average golfer, meaning he was shooting around 100 most of the time, and decided to try to shoot a round of par golf within a year. He tells the tale in his book Dream On, so named because golfer Sam Torrance said “Dream on” when asked if such a feat was possible. Richardson’s quest is a bit more realistic than most, because he maintained his job and family life while he pursued the dream. The book reads like a very compressed tale of an average guy’s pursuit of a golf dream. Most of us dream of that great round, but most of us won’t throw ourselves at it like Richardson does.

My favorite of the three books is The Old Man And The Tee by Turk Pipkin. It’s less realistic for the average guy, because Pipkin had the time and money to travel the world to play golf and take lessons from folks like David Leadbetter and Dave Pelz. However, his goal was more realistic than making it through Q School. Pipkin wanted to take 10 strokes off his handicap, which started at a 16. A lot of the charm of the book is in Pipkin’s humor (he’s been a stand-up comic) and his random stories about things other than his golf quest. Besides lowering his handicap, Pipkin wanted to rediscover the joy of the golf he played with his late father, and his reflections on his father and the joys of golf that are unrelated to score give the book character.

I’m never going to try to play with the big boys, like Coyne tried to do, and I’m never going to work as hard at golf as did Richardson. My personal quest is to try and balance having fun at golf with playing well, and that’s a tough enough job for me. I wouldn’t mind trying to strike that balance by following the Pipkin program, but my other interests and my bank account rule that out. Playing with the guys a few times a week and trying to keep my handicap semi-respectable won’t make much of a book, but neither would the rest of my daily life.

Unless you count all the feral cats roaming around my property. I hear there’s a big market for cat stories, and they do entertain me on slow days.

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

Thursday, May 10

2012 Players Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes


THE 2012 PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP IS UNDERWAY at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Blake Adams is the clubhouse leader after shooting a 6-under 66. The first round is still in progress.

Purse: $9.5 million
Winner’s share: $1.71 million
Defending champion: K.J. Choi

2012 Players Championship Leaderboard

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

TV SCHEDULE

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

Thursday, May 10:
1-7 p.m. - Golf Channel

Friday, May 11:
1-7 p.m. - Golf Channel

Saturday, May 12:
12-2 p.m. - Golf Channel
2-7 p.m. - NBC

Sunday, May 13:
12-2 p.m. - Golf Channel
2-7 p.m. - NBC

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times

(Image: Courtesy of PGATour.com)

Wednesday, May 9

17th at TPC Sawgrass: ‘Most Terrifying Two Seconds’

The par-3 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, site of The Players Championship. (Perfectance)
 (From the ARMCHAIR GOLF archives.)

The ardent golfer would play Mount Everest if somebody put a flagstick on top."
−Pete Dye

 DO YOU EVER WATCH A GOLF TELECAST and secretly wish you could try your luck on a certain hole?

The par-3 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass brings out that desire in me. So does the par-3 12th hole at Augusta National. I’d just love to drop a few golf balls and take my swings on those challenging holes, preferably when no one was around.

I’d probably choke my guts out, but it would be SO MUCH FUN.

I recall watching the Bruce Edwards Memorial Caddie Competition on Golf Channel. To raise money, entertain the crowd and share a few laughs with their player bosses, caddies teed it up on the famous 17th hole with the island green.

The caddies tried their best to reach terra firma, but many splashed down. I saw one cold shank his tee shot. Another hit a low liner that skipped across the water until it ricocheted off the railroad ties that border the green. Some had gorgeous golf swings. The winner struck his shot to within two feet of the hole.

One former PGA Tour caddie told Golfweek, “I was terrified. I couldn’t get my hands dry. It’s the most terrifying two seconds in a caddie’s life.”

I’d love to be that terrified—at least once.

Tuesday, May 8

Watson and McIlroy Top Ryder Cup Points Standings

WITH SO MUCH GOLF SEASON STILL ahead, I tend to forget it’s a Ryder Cup year. The 2012 edition will be played on American soil at Medinah Country Club outside of Chicago.

I just had a look at the current points standings and thought I’d share them with you. There are interesting names on the list, a mixture of old and new, but many new. There’s still a long way to go until they unfurl the flags, play the anthems and tee it up at Medinah in September.

U.S. Ryder Cup Points Standings
 (As of May 7)

1. Bubba Watson - 4798.395
2. Phil Mickelson - 3793.749
3. Hunter Mahan - 3347.102
4. Keegan Bradley - 3111.492
5. Jason Dufner - 2855.087
6. Steve Stricker - 2291.245
7. Rickie Fowler - 2238.459
8. Tiger Woods - 2173.667
9. Brandt Snedeker - 2145.857
10. Bill Haas - 2106.071
11. Kyle Stanley - 2037.457
12. Johnson Wagner - 2027.401
13. Mark Wilson - 1998.593
14. Matt Kuchar - 1866.930
15. Kevin Na - 1573.287

Notes: The top eight players on the list make the team. U.S. captain Davis Love III will select four players to round out the 12-man team.

European Ryder Cup Points Standings
(As of May 7)

European list:
1. Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland) - 2584843.51
2. Peter Hanson (Sweden) - 1633004.93
3. Martin Kaymer (Germany) - 1587688.41
4. Justin Rose (England) - 1483613.23
5. Paul Lawrie (Scotland) - 1387723.60
6. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Spain) - 1268297.96
7. Sergio Garcia (Spain) - 1219822.68
8. Lee Westwood (England) - 1203446.04
9. Alvaro Quiros (Spain) - 1155967.13
10. Francesco Molinari (Italy) - 1075357.77

World list:
1. McIlroy - 340.83
2. Luke Donald (England) - 236.10
3. Westwood - 235.69
4. Rose - 216.07
5. Hanson - 151.77
6. Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland) - 149.09
7. Kaymer - 144.38
8. Garcia - 129.83
9. Lawrie - 123.81
10. Fernandez-Castano - 108.12

Notes: The top five players on the European points list make the team, as do the top five on the world points list not already qualified via the European points list. European captain Jose Maria Olazabal will select two players to round out the 12-man team.

(Source: Reuters.com)

Monday, May 7

Rickie Fowler Has New Glow

Rickie Fowler (Breikss)
WEARING HIS TRADEMARK ORANGE, RICKIE FOWLER always glows on Sunday. Every day, for that matter, since Puma dresses him in a variety of neon threads. But yesterday in Charlotte, North Carolina, young Fowler shined even brighter after picking up his first PGA Tour victory at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.

The Oklahoma State star (that’s why he wears orange on Sundays) birdied the first hole of a sudden-death playoff with top-ranked Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points. The maiden win was a long time coming. Well, it seemed that way.

“I definitely knew I was good enough,” Fowler said, “and it was just getting everything to come together and stay patient.” Rickie also mentioned that he was glad to silence the doubters “a little bit.”

Fowler is only 23. But in PGA Tour-hype years, he’s got to be 28, maybe 29. The kid has been a next big thing ever since he turned pro two and a half years ago. That’s a long time in this media age. In the olden days, they didn’t give you the money, the endorsements, the fancy slacks and the cat on your hat until you actually won something. Today, if you’re super talented and marketable, you get it all up front. Ca-ching.

The pressure follows—and grows—until you prove yourself with W’s. Rickie was surely feeling it, and perhaps hearing a few whispers. When will the kid with the flashy game and clothes win?

Sunday, May 6, 2012. That’s when.

Fowler did it in style. He struck that wedge right at the stick on 18 and sank the 4-footer to claim the title. He beat Rory. Not a bad way to break through.

They must be thrilled in Ponte Vedra. Perhaps heard around PGA Tour headquarters this morning:

“Knock, knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“Orange.”

“Orange who?”

“Orange you glad Rickie Fowler finally got his first PGA Tour win?”

Saturday, May 5

May Is Welcome to Golf Month

 By PGA of America

THE PGA OF AMERICA, GOLF DIGEST and Nike Golf have partnered to launch Welcome to Golf Month in May, a new Play Golf America program evolving from PGA Free Lesson Month. While free 10-minute lessons from PGA/LPGA Professionals are the foundation of Welcome to Golf Month, additional complimentary introductory programs, orientations and Get Golf Ready clinics are also part of the month-long promotion.

“Welcome to Golf Month is the perfect time to get out and give golf a try by taking a free 10-minute lesson or by participating in a free golf clinic,” said PGA of America President Allen Wronowski.

“We encourage golfers to bring their family and friends to the course to share in the experience and have a great time together.”

More than 1.1 million people have received free 10-minute lessons in May since 1998 when the PGA of America and Golf Digest introduced PGA Free Lesson Month, one of the most successful growth-of-the-game initiatives in the golf industry.

Every golfer who participates in Welcome to Golf Month is encouraged to enter the sweepstakes for a chance to win a two-day and two-night getaway and golf school at the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance in Port St. Lucie, Florida, or two sets of Nike golf clubs.

To learn more, visit PlayGolfAmerica.com.

Friday, May 4

VIDEO: Teeing Off With Justin Timberlake



NEW YORK TIMES GOLF COLUMNIST Bill Pennington talks small ball with Justin Timberlake, entertainer extraordinaire and Callaway creative ambassador. Two young women interrupt them—twice.

Thursday, May 3

2012 Wells Fargo Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes


THE 2012 WELLS FARGO CHAMPIONSHIP is underway at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. Five players are in the clubhouse at 6-under 66. The first round is still in progress.

Purse: $6.5 million
Winner’s share: $1.17 million
Defending champion: Lucas Glover

2012 Wells Fargo Championship Leaderboard

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

TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship is on Golf Channel and CBS.

Thu, 5/3:
GOLF 3p - 7p ET

Fri, 5/4:
GOLF 3p - 7p ET

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

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

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times

(Image: Courtesy of PGATour.com)

Wednesday, May 2

What Javier Ballesteros and Jack Nicklaus Have in Common

Javier Ballesteros
LAST WEEK JAVIER BALLESTEROS, THE ELDEST son of the late Seve Ballesteros, made his professional debut at the Alps Tour Barcelona Open. The tournament was played at the same golf course (Sant Cugat) where Javier’s father got started nearly four decades earlier.

Javier brought honor to the family name, opening with 65, followed by rounds of 73 and 68. He finished joint 12th.

“I dedicate it to my father,” said the 21-year-old Ballesteros, a law student at Madrid’s Complutense University. “I think he would be happy.”

Something rang a bell about that 12th-place finish, so I looked it up. Sure enough, golf immortal Jack Nicklaus finished in a tie for 12th in his first PGA Tour event, the 1958 Rubber City Open.

Young Jack (he was 18) was just one shot off the 36-hole lead. And he was an amateur, still about four years from turning professional. A year later, in 1959, Nicklaus won the U.S. Amateur. Then he won it again in 1961.

Tuesday, May 1

Why I Wrote a Book About Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan and the 1955 U.S. Open

Jack Fleck tees off at the Phoenix Open circa 1955. (Courtesy of Jack Fleck)
(Editor’s note: This is the final installment of a four-part 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 3.)

WHAT SURPRISED ME EARLY ON ABOUT Jack Fleck beating Ben Hogan at the 1955 U.S. Open, one of sports’ greatest upsets, is that it seemed to be missing from the pantheon of golf and sports literature. There was no book, save the one Jack Fleck himself penned, a 2002 self-published memoir.

The fullest treatment of Fleck’s upset in a book from a major publisher was contained in Ben Hogan: An American Life, a 2004 biography by James Dodson. Dodson devotes a chapter to Hogan’s crushing loss to Fleck, one of the major disappointments of Hogan’s career, for it denied the Texas pro a record fifth U.S. Open title. (To this day, Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones and Willie Anderson are tied in the record books with four U.S. Open wins. Tiger Woods has won three.)

My book, THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open, fills this surprising gap, tracing the implausible journey of the unheralded Iowa pro who, in his first of two make-or-break seasons, out-dueled the mighty Hogan on golf’s biggest stage. Readers will get a complete picture of Jack Fleck, everyman’s underdog, including his early struggles, personal demons and the surprising run-up to the titanic upset that sent shock waves through the sports world. Hogan had won four of the previous six U.S. Opens he had entered. Fleck’s best finish in two U.S. Opens was a tie for 52nd at Oakmont in 1953. Hogan wanted to make history. Fleck simply wanted to make it on the PGA Tour.

As I mentioned in Part 2, NBC-TV announced Hogan as the winner and first five-time U.S. Open champion when the network went off the air. But Fleck was still on the course, and the Iowa pro staged an astounding late charge on the brutal Olympic layout, recording birdies on two of the final four holes to tie Hogan and force a playoff. The following day Fleck shocked the world by beating the seemingly invincible Hogan in an 18-hole playoff, 69 to 72.

One man’s greatest triumph was the other man’s greatest tragedy. Hogan’s U.S. Open playoff loss to Fleck in June 1955 marked the end of what famed golf writer Herbert Warren Wind called “The Age of Hogan.” Although he contended on a few more occasions, Hogan never won another major golf championship.

THE LONGEST SHOT reveals the unusual connection between the two men—Hogan was Fleck’s idol—and how just weeks before the ‘55 Open Fleck met Hogan for the first time in Fort Worth at Hogan’s fledgling golf equipment company. That May Fleck became the first tour pro besides Hogan to play Hogan clubs. Then in an ironic twist the following month at Olympic, Fleck beat his idol to become the first pro to win with Hogan clubs.

THE LONGEST SHOT is also a story about the early PGA Tour—its meager purses, grass-challenged golf courses, Spartan facilities, rudimentary golf equipment, endless road trips, cafeterias and chuck wagons, and colorful and monochrome golf characters—a far cry from today’s lavish tour venues, multimillion-dollar purses and pampered, homogenous pros. It illuminates an era of pro golfers who competed for the love of the game and were friends off the course, traveling and caravanning together from tournament to tournament like circus performers.

As I considered books to emulate, Jeremy Schaap’s Cinderella Man: James Braddock, Max Baer, and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History came to mind, the Great Depression-era tale about Braddock’s improbable comeback and rise from the Hoboken, New Jersey, docks and government relief to a heavyweight title fight with the gargantuan Baer, a 10-to-1 favorite who had killed two men in the ring.

Braddock, like Fleck, was a historic “giant killer.” But whereas Braddock died more than 35 years ago and has been the subject of multiple books, pro golf’s “Cinderella Man,” Jack Fleck, was alive and still swinging, his full story still waiting to be told. And now it has been. I hope you’ll read it.

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.