Friday, August 31

2012 Deutsche Bank Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2012 DEUTSCHE BANK CHAMPIONSHIP, the second tournament of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, is underway at TPC Boston in Norton, Massachusetts. Tiger Woods and Jeff Overton are the current leaders after 7-under 64s. The first round is still in progress.

Purse: $8 million
Winner’s share: $1.44 million
Defending champion: Webb Simpson

2012 Deutsche Bank 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 Deutsche Bank Championship is on Golf Channel and NBC.
All times ET.

Fri, 8/31:
3-6 p.m. (GOLF)

Sat, 9/1:
3-6 p.m. (GOLF) 

Sun, 9/2:
1-3 p.m (GOLF)
3-6 p.m. (NBC) 

Mon, 9/3:
11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (GOLF)
2-6 p.m. (NBC)

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times

(Image: Courtesy of PGATour.com)

Thursday, August 30

Tiger’s Putting Problem

Tiger Woods (McAlpine)
GOOD (OR GREAT) PUTTING TYPICALLY WINS majors. Mediocre or poor putting, even when other parts of the game are strong, doesn’t get the job done. This, to me, is the main reason Tiger Woods hasn’t won a major since June of 2008. He has been in contention many times.

An article on Monday pointed to this fact, or at least highlighted Tiger’s difficulty with the flatstick this season. From Reuters:
The cold black-and-white of certain key statistics underlines the perplexing nature of Woods’ 2012 PGA Tour campaign.

On the plus side, he leads the money list with earnings of $4,989,158 and, perhaps most crucially of all, he tops the scoring averages with 69.02.

However, with the putter, he lies only 41st in strokes gained -- his performance relative to the rest of the tournament field. With putts between five and 10 feet, he languishes 79th in the PGA Tour charts and, from between 10 and 15 feet, he lies a staggering 145th.
It must be frustrating for Tiger: first in wins, first in money, and first in stroke average, but no majors. (Although I expect Tiger would call it progress, which, to be fair, it is compared to recent seasons.)

As Reuters said, “He just needs to get that putter, once a lethal weapon for him, firmly back on his side.”

And for four rounds. In the same week.

Wednesday, August 29

Paul Lawrie Moves Up in Race to Dubai

By Alan Ewens

Paul Lawrie in Qatar. (Doha Stadium Plus)
PAUL LAWRIE HAS TARGETED a career-best top five finish in The Race to Dubai after his superb victory at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles last week. The Ryder Cup player cruised to victory to become the first Scot to win three times on home soil after famously winning The Open Championship at Carnoustie in 1999 before triumphing at the 2001 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews.

His eighth European Tour victory earned the Aberdeen man €296,119 and moved him from 12th to seventh spot in The Race to Dubai, on €1,637,132, ahead of Nicolas Colsaerts, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood.

With 12 tournaments left to go before the end of season finale at the $8 million DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, Lawrie is now chasing the best finish of his career in The Race to Dubai and, having moved into the all-important top ten—who at the end of the season share a bonus pool of US$3.75 million—he believes he is in the right kind of form to achieve that.

He said: “My goal at the start of the season was to finish top five because the best I’ve ever done is sixth so that’s the main goal now and we have a few events now to hopefully try and achieve that.”

The 43 year old says that his second place finish at last year’s formerly-named Dubai World Championship was one of the main catalysts for his impressive form this year, so it’s no wonder he’s looking forward to returning to Jumeirah Golf Estates and challenging for the title over the Earth course in November.

“It’s been an unbelievable run since my second place finish in Dubai last year,” said Lawrie.

“I had a bit of a sticky spell last year. I didn’t play great and didn’t putt well and then to get that second in Dubai, and to nearly win amongst a field of that quality, was a huge boost to my confidence.

“I just kept going from then, week after week. My memories were that the course was really good. I putted very nicely, especially on the Sunday. I played really solid that week, my ball-striking was good and I was putting well. The greens were fantastic—if you hit it on line it goes in, so I enjoyed it.

“I'm looking forward to going back. Obviously it’s one of the last events of a long year. It’s a lovely tournament and I can’t wait to get there.”

Lawrie’s move to seventh place in The Race to Dubai was the major move at the top of the standings, currently led by World Number One Rory McIlroy who, like Lawrie, will be one of the key men in Jose Maria Olazabal’s European Ryder Cup team at Medinah Country Club next month.

Tuesday, August 28

Divots Eloquence at Royal Birkdale

Point made, but not nearly as poetic as the message that once graced a clubhouse wall at Royal Birkdale.


ROYAL BIRKDALE GOLF CLUB, WHICH WILL HOST the Senior Open Championship next year and the Ricoh Women’s Open in 2014, has been in existence since 1889. The storied links course in Southport, England, has held the (British) Amateur, the Curtis Cup, the Walker Cup, the Women’s Open, and the Open (British Open for us Yanks) eight times, if I counted correctly.

The course took its modern shape last century under the supervision of Hawtree and JH Taylor Ltd., a formidable duo. Hawtree was a well-respected golf course architect; Taylor was a five-time Open champion. They intelligently routed Birkdale’s 18 holes through the narrow valleys formed in and around the area’s many sand hills. The familiar white clubhouse opened in 1935.

Yet, as I was reading earlier today about Birkdale’s history, a message to golfers hung on one of the walls of the former clubhouse:

“As the earth is not meant to be carted away, the divots you cut in the course of your play should be neatly replaced by your caddie or you, with their roots to the earth and their blades to the blue.”

That might just be the most eloquent reminder to REPLACE DIVOTS in the history of the game.

Monday, August 27

15-Year-Old Amateur Ko KOs Lady Pros

Lydia Ko at Queen Sirikit Cup. (Singapore Sports)
FORGET THE RYDER CUP. FORGET The Barclays. Forget the FedEx Cup playoffs. Forget Tiger Woods. Forget anchoring. Forget Augusta National and its two new members. (Well, maybe not that.)

The golf story of the week and perhaps the year is a 15-year-old who won the CN Canadian Women’s Open. Fresh off a win at the U.S. Women’s Amateur, Lydia Ko of New Zealand humbled all but maybe two of the world’s best female tour pros at the Vancouver Golf Club on Sunday. Ko’s three-stroke victory was the first win by an amateur in a pro event since Joanne Carner did it in 1969.

Did I mention that Ko is 15? Yeah, I guess I did. That makes her a year younger than Lexi Thompson when Lexi got her first win. This is getting ridiculous. An amateur not old enough to drive beating all of the top professionals. Who else is dumbfounded?

“This is making me feel old,” said 24-year-old Jiyai Shin.

“It feels like you’re being beaten by a kid,” said 31-year-old Suzann Pettersen.

(That’s because you are.)

So, how did this happen, and how does Ko stay grounded after so much early success?

“I don’t know,” Ko said yesterday in Canada. “Maybe it came from my mom or dad or something. But I just try to stay relaxed, and I’m No. 1 in the world as an amateur, but I really don’t think about that. I just feel like I’m just an athlete playing or doing something that I really love.”

Sounds like there may be more trouble for all those old ladies on the LPGA Tour.

Saturday, August 25

PGA Partners With Sticks for Kids

THE PGA OF AMERICA HAS JOINED with Sticks for Kids, an outreach program that provides golf instruction and free use of junior clubs at golf facilities throughout the United States. Participating courses receive 10 sets of youth clubs and make them available to kids free of charge throughout the year. Sticks for Kids is based on the belief that every child—regardless of background—should have the opportunity to play golf.

Sticks for Kids will now partner at courses across America with The PGA Sports Academy, which recently won the 2012 Golf Digest Junior Golf Development Award.

“The Sticks for Kids program is a great way to share the game with children at little or no cost to them or their parents,” said PGA of America President Allen Wronowski.

“It’s important that The PGA of America support any program that makes clubs more accessible.”

Sticks for Kids is funded by the Golf Course Builders Association of America (GCBAA) Foundation. Since 1997, 560 Sticks for Kids grants have been awarded to golf courses, park and recreation communities and youth organizations. The program focuses on the rules of golf, etiquette, discipline, integrity, safety and environmental stewardship. Sticks for Kids has served more than 63,000 youth, and is available at 450 sites in all 50 states and on 17 international military bases.

Find out more at SticksForKids.org.

Friday, August 24

In Praise of Bethpage Red

Editor’s note: With Bethpage Black hosting The Barclays this week, it’s a good time to get reacquainted with Black’s low-profile neighbor. From the archives.

By A.J. Voelpel
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


WELCOME TO BETHPAGE STATE PARK, home to more doglegs than Cruella De Vil’s closet.

It is here, obviously, where you’ll find the famed Black course—a two-time host of our nation’s greatest championship. What you may not be aware of is that the Black, such a prominent collection of 18 holes, hangs storm clouds over a neighboring course that’s nearly as difficult. A par-70 track that annually hosts the Long Island Open. I’m talking cold blood and broken hearts … all things colored Bethpage Red.

It’s no coincidence that the intelligence over at Golf.com included the Red in their list of “America’s Most Underrated Golf Courses.” And there’s no denying the Red’s claim to fame; it dons arguably the most challenging starting hole from Queens to Montauk. The brutal opener even runs parallel to the 18th of the Black, like a pre-bout stare down. Little brother has never shied away from a fight.

The 471-yard par-4 demands a ruler-straight drive into the short grass, avoiding the gnarly fescue to the left and Jones Beach to the right. The second shot will be long, unless Bubba Watson snuck in a celebrity shot. From 100 yards out, the fairway begins to climb up a steep hill—which is generally reserved for sledding in the winter—and ends atop a vast green. Club-catching rough armors a surface that runs primarily back to front. Take a five and run, because the Red starts barking on the next tee.

Okay, deep breath: The par-4 2nd turns swiftly right to left, the 3rd and 5th (the only par-5 on the front) swiftly left to right, and then the 6th fairway nearly makes a u-turn, without signaling, to a newly tilted green. No. 9—the No. 1 handicapped hole—plays just under 466 from the tips, and also bends sharply to the left. The tendency on the tee is to go right. Do that and you’ll face another humbling approach.

Long Back Nine

Exhale. After going out in just under 3,400 yards, the (dare I say) “simple” part is over. Now quickly inhale once again! The back nine tends to make babies cry; five of the six par-4s extend over 462 yards from the back tees. The loner is the split-fairway, 400-yard par-4 13th. If the wind isn’t howling, it’s your best chance for a birdie.

Both No. 10 and 11 turn directly to the right. The 466-yard 14th cuts to the left and the 482-yard monster 15th rises uphill and turns to the right. The 560-yard par-5 16th turns 90 degrees to the right also. However, if you carry the corner (about 285 yards), you’ll chop the distance in half. The second shot is normally a layup, especially with the delicate, lumpy green.

Dizzy yet? Well the par-3 17th offers a break from length and angle and is only a buck 60ish, straightaway. Two large bunkers guard the front of a fairly accessible green. A two is absolutely within reason.

A few years back, the 18th tee box was extended some 50 yards, being mutated into a daunting finishing hole, much to the contrary of the its Black counterpart. A downhill tee shot must carry at least 260 to have a mid-iron approach in. The amphitheater setting around the giant green was mentioned as a potential replacement finisher to the Black for last year’s U.S. Open. The putting surface runs quickly back to front, left to right, so position is key for a two putt.

Tour Worthy

With the remarkable condition the park keeps the Red in, it’s only a matter of time before a PGA or LPGA tournament stops by for a visit. In the meantime, make a visit to Bethpage for yourself. Play the Black in the morning and follow it with a dance on the Red.

Then go to sleep and don’t wake up for the next six days.

A.J. Voelpel is an avid golfer and a writer/editor for the Metropolitan Golf Association.

Thursday, August 23

2012 Barclays TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2012 BARCLAYS, THE FIRST TOURNAMENT of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, is underway at Bethpage State Park (Black Course) in Farmingdale, New York. Padraig Harrington is the current leader after firing a 7-under 64. Nick Watney and Brian Harmon are in at 65. Wyndham Championship winner Sergio Garcia carded a 66. Tiger Woods shot a 68. Rory McIlroy had a 69. The first round is still in progress.

Purse: $8 million
Winner’s share: $1.44 million
Defending champion: Dustin Johnson

2012 Barclays Leaderboard

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

TV SCHEDULE

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

Thurs, 8/23
3:00-6:00PM GOLF

Fri, 8/24
3:00-6:00PM GOLF

Sat, 8/25
1:00-2:30PM GOLF
3:00-6:00PM CBS 

Sun, 8/26
12:00-1:30PM GOLF
2:00-6:00PM CBS

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times

(Image: Courtesy of PGATour.com)

Wednesday, August 22

Bubba Nears 300th 300-Yard Drive

BUBBA WATSON NEEDS ONLY FOUR DRIVES of 300 yards or longer at The Barclays this week to reach the target of 300 drives established for the “Bubba Long in Pink. Driven by PING” promotion. With his all-pink PING® G20® driver, Bubba has blasted 296 drives of 300 yards or farther, earning $300 from PING for each one. So far Bubba has raised $88,800 from the company as part of the promotion during PGA Tour-sanctioned events.

Bubba’s sticks. (TourProGolfClubs)
In January, Watson announced the formation of “Bubba & Friends Drive to a Million,” a campaign to raise $1 million for charity through his own efforts and the support of his partners and sponsors. In addition, PING contributed $250,000 from the sale of 5,000 pink G20 drivers inspired by Watson’s.

“It’s been a lot of fun this year knowing every drive over 300 yards carries a little extra incentive,” he said.

On the season, nearly 63 percent of Bubba’s drives have traveled 300-plus yards, the highest percentage on tour. He leads the tour in average driving distance at 315.9 yards.

The 300-Yard Drive Count

Farmers Insurance Open: 26
Waste Management Phoenix Open: 43
Northern Trust Open: 35
WGC-Cadillac Championship: 34
Arnold Palmer Invitational: 31
Zurich Classic of New Orleans: 36
The Memorial Tournament: 15
Travelers Championship: 31
WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: 45

I’m going to stick my neck out on this one. I say Bubba will reach his goal at Bethpage Black.

Tuesday, August 21

Irish Golf Author Reviews ‘THE LONGEST SHOT’

1955 U.S. Open champion Jack Fleck rides high in the streets of Davenport, Iowa.
THE FIRST REVIEW OF MY NEW BOOK from the eastern side of the Atlantic Ocean is in. (At least that I know of.) Kevin Markham, an Irish golf blogger and author of Hooked: An Amateur’s Guide to the Golf Courses of Ireland, has read and, thankfully, enjoyed THE LONGEST SHOT. (I know he actually read it because he sent occasional emails to update me on his progress.)

I didn’t know Kevin intended to write a review, so I’m doubly grateful for the time and effort he invested in this David vs. Goliath tale. You can read his complete review here. A few highlights:
The Longest Shot is the story of these two men’s paths to the Open and their ensuing battle (over an 18 hole play-off). Ben Hogan was looking to finish his remarkable career in style while Jack Fleck was looking to make a pro career a reality .… The story is one of grit and determination, on the part of both men, and anyone who swings a club will empathise with the mindset of Fleck as he tries to make a name for himself. Sagebiel gets under Fleck’s skin so that you can understand the man’s work ethic as well as his hopes and dreams. That is what is at the heart of this book... the battle at Olympic in San Francisco was the mere culmination of the man’s drive for success.
On the era and more:
The story is told in an easy style, comparing the two men in their very different golf worlds. It gives a taste of what pro golf involved in the 1950s, something that is almost unrecognisable from today’s ‘celebrity’ environment.
On wanting both men to win:
The other touch that the author brings to this inspiring tale is that at different times you find yourself rooting for each of the golfers involved. Nicely balanced, in other words.
I was glad to see Kevin’s above comment, which, coincidentally, also came up at a book club I attended last night. There were no villains in this drama. In fact, I feel that both men were tragic figures. Ben Hogan never won his fifth U.S. Open, and Jack Fleck was regarded as a fluke winner for decades.

UK Availability

For those of you in the United Kingdom, THE LONGEST SHOT is available on Amazon UK. Or you can pick it up at Amazon US.

Monday, August 20

Today Is Ladies Day at Augusta National

AUGUSTA NATIONAL GOLF CLUB HAS ADMITTED the first women in its 80-year history, the club announced today. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, a South Carolina financier, are the trailblazing ladies who will don green jackets when the club reopens in October.

“This is a joyous occasion,” said Augusta National chairman Billy Payne.

Pressure to welcome females at one of America’s most exclusive golf clubs had intensified in recent years. It took a long time, but another club barrier is finally broken.

“These accomplished women share our passion for the game of golf and both are well known and respected by our membership,” Payne said in a statement, as reported by the Associated Press.

“It will be a proud moment when we present Condoleezza and Darla their green jackets when the club opens this fall. This is a significant and positive time in our club's history and, on behalf of our membership, I wanted to take this opportunity to welcome them and all of our new members into the Augusta National family.”

Payne must be relieved. He might even be looking forward to next year’s Masters media conferences.

Two more women and they’ll have a foursome. And after that anything is possible, perhaps even a regular ladies day. Well, let’s not rush things.

Saturday, August 18

Michael Phelps: Out of the Pool and Onto the Course

The guy with a lot of potential is athletic, long and in search of his golf ball.
–Hank Haney

SWIMMING SUPERSTAR MICHAEL PHELPS, WINNER OF 22 Olympic medals, now wants to play the world’s greatest golf courses and improve his golf game. The Golf Channel’s Hank Haney is set to help Phelps shape up his game.

Michael Phelps (McCain)
In its fifth season, beginning in February, “The Haney Project” will chronicle Phelps’s efforts to improve his game from tee to green with the guidance of the famous swing coach and author of The Big Miss.

“As I enter this next chapter of my life,” Phelps said, “I think I will be able to shift my competitiveness to anything I put my mind to and golf is one of the things I want to focus on.

“If I have a goal of dropping a certain amount of shots, or working on my short game or putting, those things are going to keep me motivated and fire me up and keep me excited. I want to play all the world’s great golf courses, but I’d like to play them well. I’m excited about this project with Golf Channel and I’m looking forward to working with Hank and see what we can do together on the golf course.”

“He wants to win his club championship,” Haney told the Associated Press. “He wants to play golf so bad. He’ll be all right. It will take him a little while, but he should improve really fast. Michael has got such long arms. But it’s funny, because whenever anyone makes a comment that a guy has got a lot of potential, they’re always talking about one thing—he hits it a long way. The translation is he hits it everywhere.”

Haney is looking forward to the challenge, and is especially excited that Phelps is retired so “he’s going to practice a lot.”

My one tip to Phelps, the golfer: Stay out of the water.

Friday, August 17

Luke Donald: Happier at World No. 2?

Luke Donald (Allison)
RORY MCILROY’S VICTORY AT THE PGA CHAMPIONSHIP was a blessing. Not only did Rory win in record fashion and reaffirm his specialness, the lad from Northern Ireland knocked Luke Donald off the perch he’s held since late May. McIlroy took over the No. 1 ranking in the Official World Golf Ranking. Donald dropped to No. 2. Tiger Woods is No. 3.

If I’m Luke Donald, I’m thinking this isn’t such a bad thing. Frankly, it must be refreshing to take a break from the “You’re No. 1 in the world but haven’t won a major” line of inquiry and coverage. That has to get tedious.

The Official World Golf Ranking is a points system. That’s about as much as I know about it. (Well, I also know that OWGR is the acronym.) It’s not Luke Donald’s fault that he was No. 1 in the world ranking without a major. But it has put him on the defensive at times. People have questioned it. I’ve questioned it. Let’s face it, in golf (and in other areas of our lives) we don’t trust points systems. Players who win major tournaments and have their names engraved on ancient trophies—that we understand.

I’m OK with Luke no longer being No. 1. Maybe he feels the same way. He can skip that nagging question at upcoming media conferences. He’s the same good guy, the same good golfer. In fact, he’s won twice this year, once on the PGA Tour and once on the European Tour. The majors, though, have been a disappointment.

“You always gear your season up to peak at these events and I haven’t quite figured that out yet,” Donald said at the conclusion of the PGA.

Now Luke can take a breather, settle in as world No. 2, and look ahead to the Ryder Cup. Rory at No. 1 just feels right. Better him than another stint with, say, Lee Westwood. Because that would just be more of the same.

(Brought to you by Direct Golf UK, which not long ago ran a competition offering the golf opportunity of a lifetime. Entrants had a chance to play golf with Luke Donald.)

Thursday, August 16

2012 Wyndham Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes


THE 2012 WYNDHAM CHAMPIONSHIP IS UNDERWAY at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina. Past Wyndham winner Carl Pettersson is continuing the brand of golf that led to a T3 finish at the PGA Championship. Pettersson fired an 8-under 62 and currently leads by a shot over Tim Clark and David Mathis. The first round is still in progress. More low scores are expected.

Purse: $5.2 million
Winner’s share: $936,000
Defending champion: Webb Simpson

2012 Wyndham Championship Leaderboard

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

TV SCHEDULE

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

Thu, 8/16:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Fri, 8/17:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 8/18:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 8/19:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times

(Image: Courtesy of PGATour.com)

Wednesday, August 15

So Yeon Ryu’s 62 Leaves Others in Dust

So Yeon Ryu
IT RESEMBLED FASTEST HUMAN USAIN BOLT. So Yeon Ryu entered the final round of the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic in a tie for the lead with three others. Then, like Bolt who recently sprinted to more Olympic gold in London, Ryu ran away from the pack. The 22-year-old South Korean shot a 9-under 62 to win by seven strokes. The closing 62 tied the LPGA Tour record for lowest final round by a winner.

It was Ryu’s first official victory on the LPGA Tour. Her triumph at the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open didn’t count as an official win because she wasn’t an LPGA member at the time. Ryu put it all together in Ohio, hitting 12 of 14 fairways, hitting 17 of 18 greens in regulation and needing just 26 putts. Her total of nine birdies included six in a row from the 9th hole through the 14th hole.

Ryu is on her way to being named Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year. She currently leads Lexi Thompson by a comfortable margin in the points race. The women tee off at the Safeco Classic in Portland on Friday.

Lowest Final Rounds by a Winner
62 (-9), Mickey Wright, 1964 Tall City Open
62 (-7), Kathy Whitworth, 1968 Holiday Inn Classic
62 (-10), Juli Inkster, 2003 LPGA Corning Classic
62 (-10), Annika Sorenstam, 2006 State Farm Classic
62 (-9), So Yeon Ryu, 2012 Jamie Farr Toledo Classic

(Visor tip: Ward Clayton/LPGA.com)

Tuesday, August 14

Ben Hogan: What Players Told Me About the Legend

Ben Hogan (Cueto)
YESTERDAY WAS THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY of the birth of Ben Hogan in Stephenville, Texas. Hogan, as you probably have heard many times by now, was born the same year (1912) as Byron Nelson and Sam Snead, an amazing fact. And he and Byron came out of the same caddie yard at Glen Garden Golf and Country Club in Fort Worth, another amazing fact.

As I researched and wrote THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open, I had ample Hogan material to guide me, notably the modern Hogan biographies penned by Curt Sampson and James Dodson.

But I also had the distinct pleasure of talking to several players who knew, watched and played with Hogan. I asked each of them for their impressions about the Hawk. Following is a generous portion of their comments and anecdotes, many of which are not recorded in THE LONGEST SHOT.

Errie Ball: Hogan was like Tiger Woods today, No. 1 player in the world, and everybody looked up to him. Ben was a great player.

(Ball, 101, played in the first Masters in 1934 and was a friend of Bobby Jones.)

Dow Finsterwald: At that time [1955], whenever [Hogan] teed it up, he was certainly somebody who would have a marvelous chance to win. He just went all out for that type of tournament, the Open. His preparation was very thorough. Whereas a lot of guys would just come in and play two, maybe three, practice rounds, he’d go in a week ahead of time and do a lot of things in preparation…. I had played practice rounds and many matches prior to tournaments with Ben. I think the best description was he was a very private person. An example I try to give to exemplify that is we were invited to his home—maybe five or six players, Palmer, Souchak—to dinner at his home at Shady Oaks, which was in the late fifties. It was about a 4,000 square foot home, as I remember. He had one bedroom. One bedroom! He was always very courteous. If you asked him a question, he answered. I don’t recall him being much of a person to initiate conversation. He was a hard worker, as everyone knows. He hit a lot of golf balls, and [had a] great sense of concentration and keeping his mind on his work at hand.

(Finsterwald, 82, won 12 times on the PGA Tour, including the 1958 PGA Championship.)

Tommy Bolt: [Hogan] 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….I thought Nicklaus was a great player but Hogan was just a little bit better than him.

(Bolt, who died in 2008, is a Hall of Famer whose 14 PGA Tour wins included the 1958 U.S. Open.)

Walker Inman Jr.: I remember at Colonial [Hogan] said hello on the first tee and we got a game and we decided we’d play a $10 Nassau. And that’s the last thing he said until we got through. That was in a practice round, yeah. He was just down the fairway on the green, down the fairway on the green. I kept making putts and he’d just look over and shake his head. My buddy [Ernie Vossler] and I won $40 off he and Bryon Nelson, so we played pretty good that day.

(Inman, 82, was the first Augusta, Georgia, native to play in the Masters and served as head professional for 37 years at Scioto Country Club, where Jack Nicklaus learned the game.)

Bob Rosburg: Everybody thought Hogan was kind of finished [in 1955]. They were wrong. He didn’t play bad [in the playoff], but, in fact, he played pretty damn good. But Fleck played another great round.

(Rosburg, who died in 2009, won the 1959 PGA Championship and was an ABC on-course commentator for more than three decades.)

Mike Krak: I knew [Hogan]—he was one of [Henry] Picard’s best friends. I followed him quite a bit at Augusta with Picard. I watched him play a lot at Seminole here, but I was never fortunate enough to be paired with him….Picard told me that his exact words to Hogan were don’t leave the tour. Guys were trying to talk him into going home to shorten his swing. And Picard said don’t leave the tour. You have the best swing out here. If you run into a financial problem, let me know. I’ll take care of it. I’ll back you. [Hogan] thought the world of Picard. When he won the British Open, he called Pic from Scotland right after he won it.

(Krak, 80 something, played the PGA Tour in the 1950s and was Director of Golf at PGA National Golf Club.)

Arnold Palmer: Well, I think we all respected his game. I was so fresh [in 1955] that I can’t really say too much about Hogan. He was a great player. That’s sort of the way it goes.

(The King.)

Larry Tomasino: When [Hogan] was here at Red Run, I used to go watch him practice. He was just a great player. All the players loved to watch him because his swing was so strong for a little guy. He was smooth. I’ll put it that way there. He was a smooth swinger. They all jump at it today, I think. His rhythm was real good. Gardner Dickinson played with him, Freddie Wampler—they copied his swing. Everybody did, really, to tell you the truth. When he first started, Frank Walsh helped him. He couldn’t get away from a hook. Frank Walsh down at Biltmore down in Florida tried to help him get out of—that’s what I was told—the hook. He’d hook a wedge for Christ’s sake, they say.

(Tomasino, 80 something, was a Michigan club pro who played the PGA Tour part time during the 1950s. He played with Jack Fleck during the first two rounds of the 1955 U.S. Open.)

Fred Hawkins: We used to play these Nassaus. As I said, [Hogan] wasn’t really bearing down like he was in a tournament. He was trying hard, but he’s working on changes that we all make to see if it was going to work in the tournament for him. I probably beat him as much as he beat me in the practice rounds. But he had a number of things that I thought were unusual. One would be he would come in and say, “How did we come out?” I’d say, “Don’t give me that stuff. You know damn well how we came out.” One of his favorite sayings was one time he came in and he said, “What did you shoot—50 what?” “50! I had 66.” “Anybody make that many putts ought to be in the 50s.” It burned him up.

(Hawkins, 88, played on the PGA Tour from 1947 to 1965. He won twice and finished tied for second in the 1958 Masters, when Arnold Palmer won his first Green Jacket.)

I just realized I forgot Shelley Mayfield, who played a regular game with Hogan in the 1960s. He’s gone now, but he had great stories. I’ll share them another time.

Monday, August 13

Smiling Assassin McIlroy Impresses Woods

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 romped at Kiawah. (internetsense)
TIGER WOODS TRIED TO FIND HIS happy place at the US PGA and walked away with a frown. But when Rory McIlroy remembered to play golf like a kid and smile, he walked away with another record eight-shot win and a second major title.

Dave Stockton hasn’t just helped McIlroy with his putting; he’s also a pretty good motivator and psychologist. As the Holywood player explained:

“We had a chat last week in Akron and he just said to me, ‘You know, just go out and play with a smile on your face. Enjoy it. This is what you’ve always wanted to do since you were a little boy. There’s no point in getting frustrated out there or getting upset. Just go out and enjoy it.’ That’s the attitude that I had for the last couple weeks, and it definitely helped.”

Reflecting on the poor start to his third round that ultimately left him too far back to put McIlroy under any serious pressure, Woods said: “I came out with probably the wrong attitude yesterday. And I was too relaxed, and tried to enjoy it, and that’s not how I play. I play intense and full systems go. That cost me.”

Whatever it was that forced Woods to change the game face that has brought him 14 major victories so far, it backfired big time as he shot weekend rounds of 74-72 to McIlroy’s 67-66 (a 13-shot difference) to finish tied 11th, 11 shots behind the man who’s the biggest threat to his chances of overtaking Jack Nicklaus as the game’s most prolific major winner.

“I don’t know. I don’t know,” Woods replied when asked why he tried to smile his way to major No 15. “It was a bad move on my part.”

Padraig Harrington believes that the game has now changed for Tiger and he can no longer win majors with his B game if McIlroy hits the A grade. Even Woods conceded that the young Ulsterman is a special breed.

“He’s very good,” Woods said. “We all know the talent he has. He went through a little spell this year, and I think that was good for him. We all go through those spells in our careers, and you know, he’s got all the talent in the world to do what he’s doing. And this is the way that Rory can play. When he gets it going, it’s pretty impressive to watch.”

Keeping it going is McIlroy’s next task.

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

Saturday, August 11

Kiawah Green Fees Tip: Save 49% at The Ocean Course

Tiger Woods practicing at The Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, SC. (Matt Drobnik)


WOULD YOU LIKE TO CATCH A HUGE BREAK on the $343 non-guest rate at The Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, where Tiger Woods is struggling in third-round play of the PGA Championship (currently in a weather delay)?

There’s a way. You just need to take advantage of a little-known policy change.

When you do, you can nearly cut in half the regular rate to play Pete Dye’s treacherous Ocean Course. If you’ve been watching the PGA Championship, then you know just how tough this so-called links can play. In brisk winds, the PGA field averaged about 78 in the second round.

Today is a different story. Rory McIlroy is charging. Vijay Singh is hanging tough. Adam Scott is also surging. It should be a very interesting weekend.

For more details on how you can test your skills on The Ocean Course—and not be nearly as light in the wallet—visit Golf Vacation Insider. They’re the guys who know all the ins and outs and golf deals at many of America’s greatest and most-exclusive golf courses.

Friday, August 10

A Favorite Threesome During PGA Week

MANY THANKS TO JIM MARTIN, WHO SUBMITTED the above photo. That’s quite a threesome!

“I thought you’d get a kick out of the attached photo,” Jim said in an email, “your website, your book and Tiger Woods’ interview from Kiawah on Golf Channel tonight shot in my study at home here in Scottsdale.”

Jim is the Chief Digital Officer for Communication Links in Scottsdale. His firm provides marketing, public relations and digital media services to the golf industry, which includes several high-profile clients.

Jim said they just launched ILoveScottsdaleGolf.com, the golf site for the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee serves as the ambassador and spokesperson.

Thursday, August 9

2012 PGA Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes


THE 2012 PGA CHAMPIONSHIP IS UNDERWAY at Kiawah Island Resort (The Ocean Course) in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. The first round is in the books. Carl Pettersson leads at 6 under after a 66. Four players, including Rory McIlroy and Gary Woodland, trail by a shot after 67s. Tiger Woods shot a 69.

Purse: $8 million
Winner’s share: $1.445 million
Defending champion: Keegan Bradley

2012 PGA Championship Leaderboard
 
Field
Tee times
Course
Interviews
Tournament overview
The Live Report
Tournament news
Past winners

TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2012 PGA Championship is on TNT and CBS.

Friday, 8/11
1-7 pm ET, TNT

Saturday, 8/12
11 am-2 pm ET, TNT
2-7 pm ET, CBS

Sunday, 8/13
11 am-2 pm ET, TNT
2-7 pm ET, CBS

(Image: Courtesy of PGATour.com)

Wednesday, August 8

Sadly Missing at PGA Championship: Jim Huber

Jim Huber
AS YOU MIGHT RECALL, VETERAN BROADCASTER and essayist Jim Huber died suddenly in January at the age of 67. Huber spent most of his award-winning career at CNN/Sports Illustrated and Turner Sports. Jim loved golf, covering it for years with a soft-spoken grace befitting the game. He was a steady presence at TNT and PGA.com.

PGA.com’s coordinating producer John Kim has penned a tribute to Huber, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional.

In “Lessons from Jim: Huber’s wisdom lives on,” Kim writes, “As we start our coverage here from the season’s final major, we will all try to remember and emulate the class, style and grace that Jim defined so well for us for so many years.” Kim’s five lessons learned from his colleague are not all that surprising. You’ll recognize them. We know these things. What’s perhaps surprising is to see them all quietly exemplified by an unpretentious media personality.

Kim closes:
So as we cover this exciting tournament here at beautiful Kiawah Island, we are full of energy, excitement, pride and anticipation. But all of us here at PGA.com and the PGA of America also have a heavy heart. We will miss the insight, the talent and the dedication of Jim Huber. But even more, we miss our friend. There’s no way we’re as good this year as we were last year, but we’ll be fine and bring you the best coverage you've ever seen on the web. We learned quite a bit from our pal.
I also want to remind you about FOUR DAYS IN JULY, Jim’s fine book about Tom Watson’s near win at the 2009 Open Championship.

More Huber:
My Q&A with Jim Huber on FOUR DAYS IN JULY
The Sudden Departure of Jim Huber

Tuesday, August 7

3-Year-Old Boy Hones Game for Q-School

Editor’s note: A 10-year-old girl named Latanna Stone from Valrico, Florida, has qualified to play in the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Stone shot a career-best 70 in the qualifier and smashed the youngest competitor record by two years. Time to reintroduce you to this Arizona boy.

Courtesy of The Geary’s/Flickr
WHEN ALEXIS THOMPSON RECENTLY TURNED PRO to play on the LPGA Tour at the age of 15, some questioned whether she was too young for the rigors of tour life and openly wondered about the potentially damaging attention she might receive. But Thompson is a grizzled veteran compared to a 3-year-old Arizona boy who may enter the PGA Tour’s Qualifying School this fall.

The boy’s agent told ARMCHAIR GOLF in an email that his young client got an earlier start in golf than Tiger Woods and other golf prodigies. The boy began making arm movements in his mother’s womb that simulated a golf swing and has aspired to play on the PGA Tour since he was 1. That was when he watched Woods beat Rocco Mediate in a 19-hole playoff to win the U.S. Open.

“He’s that good,” the agent said, “and he has a great attitude. Nothing keeps him down for very long.”

One large roadblock that stands in the boy’s way is the PGA Tour’s age rule. A player can enter Q-School at any age but isn’t allowed to become a PGA Tour member until his 18th birthday.

“We’re looking at it and talking to Ponte Vedra,” the agent said. “That’s all I can say right now.”

Apparently, business opportunities are already available. Golf companies and mega brands are always on the lookout for the game’s new star players.

“Several potential sponsors are interested in signing him. He’s a great kid. He really is.”

For now, the boy’s parents and agent are guarding the boy’s identity should they decide to enroll him in preschool and forgo the Q-School bid until he’s 4.

(This is an ARMCHAIR GOLF spoof.)

Monday, August 6

Death of the Front-Runner?

Jim Furyk (Allison)
IT WAS UNCOMFORTABLE TO WATCH JIM FURYK lose the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on the 72nd hole after leading the tournament for the preceding 71 holes. Especially after what happened less than two months ago in the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club.

Sure, Keegan Bradley was clutch on the incoming nine, sinking crucial putts and putting a 64 on the board. Great stuff, no doubt. Still, it was Furyk’s tournament, right? That last hole was a train wreck.

I read in Brian Wacker’s Monday Backspin column that “only 11 of 34 leaders going into the final round have held on to win on the PGA Tour this season.” To borrow from a famous line in the classic movie “Cool Hand Luke,” “What we’ve got here is a failure to finish.”

So what’s the deal?

One pro told me, in effect, that a lot of today’s players just don’t know how to win. I often wonder if it’s the money. Many decent and even top players don’t need to do more than collect top-10 finishes to have a “good” year. Winning from the front is looking impossible right now. It sure hasn’t worked out well for the 54-hole leaders at the 2012 majors.

As for Furyk, I just feel bad for him. I expect he’s sort of devastated.

“To get that close and to know that I played more than good enough to win the golf tournament and not close the door is disappointing,” he said.

“It is a cruel game .… I’ve lost some tournaments in some pretty poor fashions, but I don’t think I’ve let one ever slip nearly as bad as this one. This was my worst effort to finish off an event.”

Saturday, August 4

Louis Oosthuizen: ‘The Ball Is Going a Mile’



HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HIT a 430-yard drive? “It felt really good,” said a grinning Louis Oosthuizen after completing this third round at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The South African nicknamed “Shrek” shot a 2-under 68 and is 1 shot off the lead set by Jim Furyk, who had an even-par 70.

After bombing his tee shot on the 648-yard par-5 16th hole, all Oosthuizen had left to the green was a 6-iron. Yep, a drive and a 6-iron. Pure craziness.

Everyone, it seems, is hitting the ball prodigious distances at Firestone this week. There have been two dozen drives over 400 yards. Bubba Watson is averaging 351 yards off the tee. Even short hitters like Furyk are moving it out there on the South Course’s hard, fast fairways.

Conditions are expected to drastically change on Sunday. Thunderstorms are in the forecast.

Friday, August 3

The Shotmaking Genius of Christy O’Connor Sr.

Christy O'Connor Sr.
LET’S START WITH THE MORAL of this story:

Do not try to show up a tour pro—or any golf professional. Ever.

Irish great Christy O’Connor Sr. was playing a game with members at Bundoran Golf Club on Donegal Bay. At the 13th hole, a 235-yard par 3, O’Connor struck an iron and watched his ball land on the faraway green. One of the other players did the same.

The man turned to O’Connor and asked what he hit.

“4-iron,” O’Connor replied.

“I played a 5,” said the man.

Another member of the group informed the prideful player that O’Connor could hit any club in his bag to the distant green. Then, taking the cue, O’Connor proceeded to hit a ball with every club—including his putter—and landed most of them on the putting surface.

O’Connor, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, was one of the great players to emerge from Ireland more than a half century before Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke would win golf’s most-coveted trophies. In a career that spanned four decades, O’Connor won 24 times on the European Tour and played on 10 consecutive Ryder Cup teams.

His nephew could play, too. Christy O’Connor Jr. was the only player to win the Senior British Open on his first try until 52-year-old Fred Couples performed the feat last week at Turnberry.

Thursday, August 2

2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational TV Schedule and Tournament Notes


THE 2012 WGC-BRIDGESTONE INVITATIONAL is underway at Firestone Country Club (South Course) in Akron, Ohio.

Purse: $8.5 million
Winner’s share: $1.4 million
Defending champion: Adam Scott

2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Leaderboard

Field
Tee times
Course
Interviews
Tournament overview
Tour report
Tournament news
World Golf Championships website

TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational is on Golf Channel and CBS.

Thu, 8/2
2-6 pm ET, GOLF

Fri, 8/3
2-6 pm ET, GOLF

Sat, 8/4
2-6 pm ET, CBS

Sun, 8/5
2-6 pm ET, CBS

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times

(Image: Courtesy of PGATour.com)

Wednesday, August 1

Austrian Wiesberger Ready for Firestone



“With Firestone this week and hopefully also the US PGA Championship coming up, I have a great chance of climbing even higher in The Race to Dubai .... I feel like I’m playing the best golf of my life—my confidence and expectations have never been higher.”
– Bernd Wiesberger, two-time winner this season on European Tour

By Alan Ewens

BERND WIESBERGER HAS TARGETED A PLACE in the top ten of The Race to Dubai—and a share of the $3.75 million Bonus Pool—after securing his second title of the season in thrilling fashion at last week’s Lyoness Open.

The €166,660 winner’s cheque moved Wiesberger up to 19th place in The Race to Dubai, with season earnings of €654,984, and guaranteed the Ballantine’s champion a place in the 60-man field for the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, which returns to the Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates from November 22-25.

It will be a debut appearance in the season-ending $8 million event for Wiesberger, who finished in 64th place in The 2011 Race to Dubai, having graduated from the Challenge Tour the previous year.

He said: “Winning your first tournament on The European Tour is always special but to win your national Open will take some beating, and the fact that it moves me into the top 100 of the World Ranking and the top 20 of The Race to Dubai is a huge bonus. I just missed out on playing in Dubai last year, so to know that I’ve already guaranteed my place in the field with almost half the season left is amazing.

“With Firestone this week and hopefully also the US PGA Championship coming up, I have a great chance of climbing even higher in The Race to Dubai—and maybe even into the top ten. It’s already been a great season, but hopefully I’m not finished yet and it’s going to get even better. I feel like I’m playing the best golf of my life—my confidence and expectations have never been higher.”

England’s Justin Rose, looking to end the season as Europe’s Number One for a second time after topping the Money List in 2007, remains the man to catch in The Race to Dubai with winnings of €1,836,334. The Englishman leads by €161,609 from Open Champion Ernie Els of South Africa, with in-form Italian Francesco Molinari currently in third on €1,633,853.

All three players will be in action at this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, where, with €1,131,130 up for grabs to the winner, it could be all change at the top as the cream of The European Tour target a place in the grand finale at the DP World Tour Championship.