Wednesday, April 30

Book Excerpt: 'The Magnificent Masters' By Gil Capps

Reprinted from The Magnificent Masters: Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Weiskopf, and the 1975 Cliffhanger at Augusta by Gil Capps by arrangement with Da Capo Press, a member of the Perseus Books group. Copyright © 2014 by Gil Capps.

The following excerpt is from the chapter titled NICKLAUS.

* * *

Available at Amazon / Barnes & Noble
SITTING AT HIS DESK at the Columbus Citizen-Journal later that same spring, sportswriter Kaye Kessler received a call from Jack Grout. Just a few months earlier, Kessler had written a story on Grout, who had just been hired as the new head golf professional at Scioto in December.

A native of Oklahoma, Grout had been a good player with more than a dozen top-ten finishes as a touring pro, although never an official win. He started his career in 1930 as an assistant pro under his brother at Glen Garden Golf and Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, the same club where Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson were learning the game as caddies and later as professionals. Grout moved on to Hershey Country Club in Pennsylvania, where he was an assistant to Henry Picard, the 1938 Masters champion. Now forty, Grout, tall with rimless glasses and jet black hair, was anxious to pass on his enthusiastic thoughts about the golf swing.

He wanted to let Kessler know that he was setting up a weekly, two-hour class every Friday morning for juniors. So Kessler and photographer Dick Garrett went out and took a picture of around thirty kids, mostly ages eight, nine, and ten. The picture ran, promoting the clinic without identifying any of the children.

A few months later, Grout again rang Kessler. Their first nine-hole tournament had concluded and one of the boys in the photo shot a 51 the first time ever playing nine holes. “I said, ‘You’re kidding me, I’m giving up golf’,” says Kessler. “Nine holes at Scioto, and he shoots 51?” So Kessler ventured back out to the club and wrote a little blurb about ten-year-old Jackie Nicklaus, who Grout had invited to the clinics after seeing him tag along with his father. Since then there isn’t a name that has filled the columns of that paper’s sports section more often.

By the end of his first year playing, Nicklaus, who supplemented the classes with a private lesson every couple of weeks, had shot 95 for 18 holes and recorded his first win in the club juvenile championship with a score of 121 for 18 holes. The next year, his best was an 81, and he had become the star pupil of the weekly classes. He was the teacher’s pet, for Grout saw something in Nicklaus he had seen in few others. The talent was present, but so was a blend of determination, commitment, and intellect. Through Nicklaus, Grout could impart the swing theories he had conjured up over the last two decades. He hammered it into Nicklaus using three main points.

Tuesday, April 29

Playing With Hogan: Shelley Mayfield, Part 2

Shelley Mayfield told me, "I played a lot of golf with Ben Hogan ... maybe more than anyone else." In this series, I share Mayfield's memories of Hogan as a golfer and a person. Along the way, I'll tell you about Mayfield and his long and rewarding life in golf. Read INTRODUCTION and Part 1.

Ben Hogan on SI cover in 1957.
SHELLEY MAYFIELD'S REGULAR GAME with Ben Hogan began around 1963. It came after Hogan called Mayfield about a job opening in Dallas.

"I went to Brook Hollow in 1963," Mayfield said. "Hogan was the one that recommended me, called me on the phone and said, 'I don't know how you're doing, Shelley, but I just want to let you know there's a nice club open in Dallas. It's a golf club, not a country club. It's one heck of a golf course. So, if you're interested, let me give you this name and you can call it.'

"And it just so happened to be that I was interested because I had this club in New York, Meadowbrook, which I really enjoyed."

Yet, as Mayfield recalled, there was at least one drawback to the otherwise enjoyable Meadowbrook job.

"I had gotten into the golf architectural business with Dick Wilson," he said, "and I spent the winters in Florida with him. I had to take my daughter, put her in school in New York, take her out, put her in school in Florida, take her out, put her back in school in New York, all in the same year. And that couldn't possibly work.

"I had to do something about it and I was in a big quandary about whether to go into the golf architectural business entirely, or find a 12-month job as a club professional. I really enjoyed club work, and particularly so at a golf club rather than a country club.

"So this was very enticing to me and I got in touch with the president of Brook Hollow, came down, had an interview. He later told me, 'You were the first man we interviewed and we didn't interview anyone else.'

"I had a wonderful relationship there for about 20 years. Great golf club. Alfred Tillinghast designed the course, great golf course, so it was a very happy union."

* * *

With Ben Hogan in Fort Worth and Shelley Mayfield in Dallas, the game was on.

"I was only 20 miles from Hogan and Shady Oaks and it was very easy for us to get together," Mayfield said. "He said, 'Get your best player, and I'll get my best player, and we'll have a match every couple of weeks.'

The hours of shotmaking passed quietly.

"We hardly even spoke to each other. Nobody hardly talked in the foursome. It was silent.

“We might say, 'Good shot.' Sure, something like that. But no conversation, no telling jokes, bantering around making conversation. It was a pretty silent game. But you played your best shot every shot, or it wouldn't be any fun. That's what made it fun, a very strong contest each time.

"[Hogan] once told me, 'Now, don't get to be playing with a bunch of 15 handicappers over there at the club. They'll make a 15 handicapper out of you. He said you got to keep good competition going at all times. A very straightforward man, very honest.”

A break from the matches began whenever there was a chill in the air.

"He only played in the summer when it was warm," Mayfield said. "It'd be late May or June before we'd start. Along about September or October we'd quit because his shoulder and knee hurt him in the cool weather. He either hung them up or he went to Florida, which he did a lot. He spent a lot of winters there at Seminole, and practiced and played.

"I stayed there at my club. It was a twelve-month job. But we had a very good relationship for a very long time."

Next time: Shelley Mayfield on his first game with Ben Hogan at Brook Hollow.

Other Installments:
Playing With Hogan (Introduction)
Playing With Hogan: Shelley Mayfield, Part 1

Monday, April 28

'Fearless' Ko Bags Third LPGA Title

Lydia Ko
IN A THREE-WAY DUEL at Lake Merced Golf Club, 17-year-old Lydia Ko of New Zealand defeated 54-hole leader Stacy Lewis and Jenny Shin to win the inaugural Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic. Young Ko has won three times on the LPGA Tour, although this was her first title as a professional.

Earlier in the week Ko was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World. I guess she had to win, right?

Whatever pressure Ko may have felt did not hurt her golf on Sunday. She closed with a 69 for a one-shot victory over Lewis, who fought to the 18th green, dropping the birdie she had to have when she teed off on the final hole.

One problem. Moments earlier Ko birdied after a delicate pitch from the short rough. It was over.

Ko is "fearless," remarked Shin, as is Lewis.

I saw the last 90 minutes of Swinging Skirts coverage on the Golf Channel. Located in Daly City just south of San Francisco, Lake Merced Golf Club is picturesque, and its terrain and trees reminded me of the nearby Olympic Club. It was fun to watch the conclusion in prime time in the East.

World No. 3 Lewis was gracious in defeat.

"Every time Lydia needed to hit a shot, she did...She made some pretty tough shots there, especially the last three holes. Really looked pretty easy. She definitely earned it out there today."

"I don't think I would have any better birthday week," said Ko, now second in the world rankings.

"I won here. I finally turned 17. I [had] been 16 for a long time...top 100 most influential people, I don't know what I've done to get there, but, yeah...it's just a really special week for me. I'm so honored to have all those titles."

A great week, to be sure. What can we expect now that Ko is 17? How many more wins?

"I've had a couple good finishes..." Lewis added. "The golf is there. Just got to keep putting myself [in contention] and giving myself chances."

Next up for the ladies is this week's North Texas LPGA Shootout in Irving, Texas.

Friday, April 25

VIDEO: How Stacy Lewis Overcame Scoliosis to Become a Champion Golfer



YOU MAY ALREADY KNOW THE STORY about Stacy Lewis, an LPGA Tour player, a two-time major winner and world No. 3 golfer (Rolex Rankings).

In this short video, Lewis talks about growing up with scoliosis, wearing a back brace for six and a half years and eventually having back surgery. She didn't let it stop her from becoming a champion golfer and now encouraging kids who face the same challenge.

"A lot of things you go through on the golf course," Lewis says, "they help you deal with things in life. It's taught me so much about myself, more than anything. I had the door slammed in my face so many times, and I still found a way to keep opening it. I can get through anything."

Lewis opened with a 69 at this week's Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in Daly City, California.

Thursday, April 24

Golf on TV: Zurich Classic, Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, Volvo China Open

By Golf Channel News

(The following edited content was supplied by Golf Channel in a news release.)

The LPGA Tour will stage its inaugural showing of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in primetime on Golf Channel from San Francisco, Calif. The event was previously a stop on the Taiwanese Tour schedule, and Swinging Skirts (a non-profit organization in Taiwan) will continue to serve as the title sponsor. The strong field includes nine of top 10 players in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings.

The PGA Tour is in Louisiana, as Billy Horschel defends at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

Henrik Stenson and Jason Dufner will headline the field at the European Tour's Volvo China Open.

ZURICH CLASSIC OF NEW ORLEANS
(PGA Tour)
Dates: April 24-27
Venue: TPC Louisiana, Avondale, La.

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday 3-6 p.m. (Live) / 9:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (Replay)
Friday 3-6 p.m. (Live) / 9:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday 1-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 9:30 p.m.-2 a.m. (Replay)
Sunday 1-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 9:30 p.m.-2 a.m. (Replay)

On CBS (Eastern):
Saturday 3-6 p.m.
Sunday 3-6 p.m.

Event Notes

Horschel Defends: Billy Horschel finished one shot ahead of D.A. Points in last year's event to capture his first career PGA Tour victory, holing a 27-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to seal the win.

Headlining the Field: Keegan Bradley, Ernie Els, Rickie Fowler, Billy Horschel, Patrick Reed, Justin Rose, Kevin Stadler, Vijay Singh, Matt Every, Padraig Harrington and Charles Howell III.

* * *

SWINGING SKIRTS LPGA CLASSIC
(LPGA Tour)
Dates: April 24-27
Venue: Lake Merced Golf Club, San Francisco, Calif.

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday 6:30-9:30 p.m. (Live)
Friday 6:30-9:30 p.m. (Live)
Saturday 6:30-9:30 p.m. (Live)
Sunday 7-9:30 p.m. (Live)

Event Notes

Swinging Skirts airing in primetime: The inaugural West Coast event will air in primetime on Golf Channel, with nine of the top-10 players in the Women’s Rolex World Golf Rankings in the field.

Headlining the Field: Inbee Park, Suzann Pettersen, Michelle Wie, Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, Na Yeon Choi, Jessica Korda, Lydia Ko, Karrie Webb, Anna Nordqvist and Ai Miyazato.

* * *

VOLVO CHINA OPEN
(European Tour)
Dates: April 24-27
Venue: Genzon Golf Club (A Course), Shenzhen, China

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Tape Delay)
Friday 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Tape Delay)
Saturday 6:30-10:30 a.m. (Tape Delay)
Sunday 6:30-10:30 a.m. (Tape Delay)

Event Notes

Rumford Defends: Brett Rumford won by four shots in 2013, earning his fifth areer European Tour win, and his second victory in as many weeks after a win in South Korea.

Headlining the Field: Henrik Stenson, Jason Dufner, Ian Poulter, Francesco Molinari, Peter Uihlein, Nicolas Colsaerts, Alvaro Quiros, Pablo Larrazabal, Ross Fisher and Brett Rumford.

Wednesday, April 23

Playing With Hogan: Shelley Mayfield, Part 1

Shelley Mayfield told me, "I played a lot of golf with Ben Hogan ... maybe more than anyone else." In this new series, I share Mayfield's memories of Hogan as a golfer and a person. Along the way, I'll tell you about Mayfield and his long and rewarding life in golf. Read INTRODUCTION.

Shelley Mayfield had a short but
successful career on the PGA Tour.
I ASKED SHELLEY MAYFIELD WHAT I asked all the other old-time tour players. Tell me about Ben Hogan. Tell me what he was like as a person, and what you thought of him as a golfer.

"I'm apt to be more of a rater of how they strike the ball from tee to green than I am as how well they putt or chip the ball," Mayfield said. "And I have never seen anybody better than Ben Hogan, from tee to green.

"I've seen some people pretty close. As a matter of fact, Claude Harmon was one of them—very seldom ever missed a fairway, and very seldom ever missed a green. Both of them, if they were in a bunker, you better look out, they might hole it. And if on the edge of the green, look out, they might chip it in the hole. So they were just beautiful players.

"They had their putting streaks, but Hogan, by far—not really by far—but a good head in front of any player I ever played with. And I played with Palmer, Nicklaus on back. Nicklaus was about the youngest one of the very good players.

"I played a lot of golf with Ben Hogan. An awful lot of golf. Maybe more than anybody else, I don't know.

"For years we played every other week, on three different courses there when I was pro at Brook Hollow at Dallas. He was over there at Shady Oaks in Fort Worth. We played Brook Hollow, Shady Oaks and Preston Trails in Dallas, which is a very fine golf course. We just took turns and played every couple of weeks. This went on for years—I don't know how many—12, 14, 15 years until Hogan got a little too old."

* * *

The youngest of three children, Shelley Mayfield was born on June 19, 1924, in Liberty Hill, Texas. Young Shelley was a star athlete in several sports at Seguin High School. One of them was golf, which he took up at the age of 14. Shelley and his teammates won multiple state championships under golf coach W.A. "Lefty" Stackhouse. Mayfield went on to win the Laredo City Championship and advance to the semifinals of the Mexican Amateur.

Turn pro, Shelley, said friends and supporters. He did in 1948. After a brief stint on the winter tour, famed teacher and pro Claude Harmon hired Mayfield as an assistant club professional at Winged Foot Golf Club. Shelley began learning the trade from one of the best. He would also work for Harmon at Seminole Golf Club in Florida.

Mayfield joined the full PGA Tour in 1953, and not long after he won his first of three official tour titles, the 1953 St. Paul Open. (More to come on his career as a tour and club pro.)

* * *

Shelly Mayfield's regular game with Ben Hogan began in the early 1960s. It came about after Hogan called Mayfield about a job opening in Dallas.

Next time: How Mayfield got a plum club job and began playing with Hogan.

Other Installments:
Playing With Hogan (Introduction)

Tuesday, April 22

New Series: Playing With Hogan

Shelley Mayfield told me, "I played a lot of golf with Ben Hogan ... maybe more than anyone else." In this new series, I'll share Mayfield's memories of Hogan as a golfer and a person. Along the way, I'll tell you about Mayfield and his long and rewarding life in golf.


Shelley Mayfield in 1963.
GOLF LEGEND BEN HOGAN DIED on July 25, 1997, in Fort Worth, Texas. Hogan was nineteen days shy of his 85th birthday. Three of the men who served as pallbearers at Hogan's funeral at University Christian Church were Hall of Fame golfers—Sam Snead, Ken Venturi and Tommy Bolt.

Another pallbearer with a distinguished golf career was not well known to the public, but he might have been the closest to Hogan, especially from the 1960s on. His name was Shelley Mayfield. This is a story about Mayfield's life in golf and his friendship with the enigmatic Ben Hogan.

* * *

I called Shelley Mayfield in November 2008. I don't remember how I found his phone number, but I'm glad I did.

Along with rising stars such as Arnold Palmer, Gene Littler, Mike Souchak, Bob Rosburg and Peter Thomson, Mayfield was featured as part of golf's "young guard" in a U.S. Open preview in the June 20, 1955 issue of Sports Illustrated. I wanted to get Mayfield's recollections of the 1955 U.S. Open for the book I was writing about one of sports' greatest upsets. I got a lot more.

This is what happens when you work on a book. You hope to strike gold, uncovering precious material for your story. Sometimes you do, and in the case of Mayfield, the veins ran in other directions. Not all of the "gold" fits and goes into the book, but you recognize its value and silently promise that you'll share it someday.

Mayfield was 84 when I talked to him. He lived on a ranch in Carrizo Springs, Texas, not far from the Mexican border. He liked to hunt and was surrounded by wildlife—deer, quail, turkeys and wild hogs. The Seguin, Texas, native spoke easily and with a respectful tone, as if we were old friends. He was a gentleman, saying "Yes, sir" in conversation with a man about half his age. He chuckled fairly often, amused about aspects of his life in golf and his friendship with Ben Hogan.

When we completed our two long telephone conversations, Mayfield asked me to send him a copy of my book when it came out. I said I would, but he died sixteen months later in March 2010.

THE LONGEST SHOT eventually published in May 2012 when the U.S. Open returned to the Olympic Club in San Francisco. Books can take a long time. Three golfers I interviewed—Mayfield was the third—died before I got the book out. The first to pass away was one of the other Hogan pallbearers—Tommy Bolt.

* * *

I asked Shelley Mayfield what I asked all the other old-time tour players. Tell me about Ben Hogan. Tell me what he was like as a person and what you thought of him as a golfer.

Next time I'll share what Mayfield told me about Hogan.

Monday, April 21

By the Numbers: Matt Kuchar's Torrid Month

Matt Kuchar won at Hilton Head. (Allison)
MATT KUCHAR THREE-PUTTED FROM four feet on the par-3 17th hole at Harbour Town Golf Links, but that didn't keep "Kooch" from winning the RBC Heritage. The hottest man in golf over the last month holed out his bunker shot on the final hole to wrap up a 7-under 64 in windy conditions and a 1-stroke victory over 54-hole leader Luke Donald.

I watched much of the coverage on Sunday and was aghast when Matt missed his four-foot birdie putt at 17, and then missed again for par, walking off with a bogey and tied with Donald. I thought, "Uh-oh. Here we go."

But Kuchar said he just shook it off and headed to 18, which "requires your full attention."

"It really feels awfully good," he said afterward. "I thought Houston I was in control. I thought that was a tournament I was going to win. But that didn't work out. I played some really good golf at Augusta last week, and I thought, 'This is where it's supposed to work out.'

"It's awfully sweet to have a chance. I kept wanting after things didn't work out in San Antonio, just give me another chance. Give me another chance. [It's] amazing to have four straight weeks of chances on four completely different golf courses. I take a lot of pride in playing good week in and week out. This has been some excellent play."

In his Monday Finish story at PGATour.com, D.J. Piehowski detailed some of the numbers during Kuchar's stretch of excellent play:

  • A scoring average of 69.6 in his last four starts.
  • Kuchar has earned $2.35 million and 1,038 FedEx Cup points in four weeks. The money works out to a little more than $2,100 per stroke.
  • Four consecutive top-5 finishes, a career first for Kuchar.
  • 72 birdies at the last four Tour stops, the equivalent of one birdie every four holes.
  • Kuchar has assured his sixth consecutive $2 million season.

Finally, Kuchar has eight top-10 finishes in 11 tournaments this season. That's very good playing. The RBC Heritage was his seventh PGA Tour title and moves him to No. 5 in the world golf rankings.

There's only one other thing he needs at this point. It starts with the letter M.

Friday, April 18

Happy Birthday: The Old White Course at The Greenbrier Is Turning 100

The 1st tee at Old White. (Courtesy of Gene via Flickr)
ON SATURDAY THE GREENBRIER WILL CELEBRATE the 100th anniversary of The Old White Golf Course. Designed by Charles Blair Macdonald and named for the Old White Hotel, the course opened in 1914. President Woodrow Wilson was among the first golfers to play Old White that long-ago April. Others who have graced its fairways include golf legends Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson.

Commemorative festivities get under way tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. Those on hand will include The Greenbrier's chairman Jim Justice, president Jeff Kmiec and historian Dr. Robert Conte, as well as Monte Ortel, executive director of The Greenbrier Classic.

After the presentation of the colors and the national anthem by the Greenbrier East High School Honor Guard and opening remarks, Jim Justice will hit a ceremonial ball from the first tee of Old White. Justice will swing a circa 1914 driver and hit a replica golf ball from the era.

The Greenbrier is located at 300 West Main Street in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

Hole-by-hole tour of Old White

Thursday, April 17

Golf on TV: RBC Heritage, LPGA LOTTE Championship, Greater Gwinnett Championship, Maybank Malaysian Open

By Golf Channel News

(The following edited content was supplied by Golf Channel in a news release.)

Golf Channel will feature the LPGA LOTTE Championship from Hawaii in primetime, with an impressive field headlined by Inbee Park. The PGA Tour shifts to South Carolina for the RBC Heritage. World Golf Hall-of-Famers Tom Watson and Nick Faldo are in the field, which also includes Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar and Jim Furyk. The Champions Tour is in Georgia, where Miguel Angel Jimenez will make his first-career start on the over-50 circuit. Louis Oosthuizen and Lee Westwood headline the European Tour's Maybank Malaysian Open.


RBC HERITAGE
(PGA Tour)
Dates: April 17-20
Venue: Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head, S.C.

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday 3-6 p.m. (Live) / 10:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. (Replay)
Friday 3-6 p.m. (Live) / 10:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday 1-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 10:30 p.m.-3 a.m. (Replay)
Sunday 1-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 7-11:30 p.m. (Replay)

On CBS (Eastern):
Saturday 3-6 p.m.
Sunday 3-6 p.m.

Event Notes

McDowell Defends: Graeme McDowell outlasted Webb Simpson on the first playoff hole last year to earn his first PGA Tour victory since winning the 2010 U.S. Open.

Headlining the Field: Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker, Ernie Els, Patrick Reed, Graeme McDowell, Jim Furyk, Jason Day, Harris English, Tom Watson and Nick Faldo.

* * *

LPGA LOTTE CHAMPIONSHIP
(LPGA Tour)
Dates: April 16-19
Venue: Ko Olina Golf Club, Oahu, Hawaii

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Wednesday 6:30-10:30 p.m. (Live) / 11 p.m.-2 a.m. (Replay)
Thursday 6:30-10:30 p.m. (Live)
Friday 6:30-10:30 p.m. (Live)
Saturday 6:30-10:30 p.m. (Live)

Event Notes

Tournament to be Featured in Primetime on Golf Channel: The LPGA LOTTE Championship began a day earlier than usual, with coverage airing Wednesday-Saturday in primetime.

Headlining the Field: Inbee Park, Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer, Lydia Ko, So Yeon Ryu, Anna Nordqvist, Lizette Salas, Ai Miyazato, Azahara Munoz and Cristie Kerr.

* * *

GREATER GWINNETT CHAMPIONSHIP
(Champions Tour)
Dates: April 18-20
Venue: TPC Sugarloaf, Duluth, Ga.

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Friday 12:30-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 2-4 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday 3-6 p.m. (Live) / 3:30-5:30 a.m. (Replay)
Sunday 3-6 p.m. (Live) / Midnight-3 a.m. (Replay)

Event Notes

Jimenez Makes Champions Tour Debut: Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez will make his Champions Tour debut this week, coming off a fourth place finish at the Masters.

Building Momentum: There are seven players in the field who competed in the Masters, including five of the record six players over the age of 50 that made the cut last week, including two top-10 finishes (Jimenez, 4th and Langer, T-8th).

Langer Defends: Bernhard Langer won by three shots over Tom Lehman and Tom Pernice Jr. last year, claiming his 18th-career Champion Tour victory in the inaugural showing of the event.

Headlining the Field: Miguel Angel Jimenez, Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer, Tom Lehman, Nick Price, Colin Montgomerie, Kerry Perry, Rocco Mediate, Mark O’Meara and John Cook.

* * *

MAYBANK MALAYSIAN OPEN
(European Tour)
Dates: April 17-20
Venue: Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club (West Course), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday 9 a.m.-1 p.m. (Tape Delay)
Friday 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Tape Delay)
Saturday 6:30-10:30 a.m. (Tape Delay)
Sunday 6:30-10:30 a.m. (Tape Delay)

Event Notes

Aphibarnrat Defends: Kiradech Aphibarnrat edged out Eduardo Molinari by one to capture his first-career European Tour win in last year's event.

Headlining the Field: Louis Oosthuizen, Lee Westwood, Matteo Manassero, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Francesco Molinari, Nicolas Colsaerts, Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

Wednesday, April 16

Bubba Miles Ahead in Ryder Cup Points Standings

FRESH OFF HIS SECOND MASTERS VICTORY, Bubba Watson is a long, long way in front in the U.S. Ryder Cup points race. Bubba's nearly 1,800-point lead on Jimmy Walker reminds me of his massive driving distance advantage, like the one he uncorked on Augusta's par-5 13th during the final round of the Masters.

"Way to go Bubba!!! Enjoy your victory," tweeted U.S. captain Tom Watson. "See you on the plane to Gleneagles."

The top nine players will automatically qualify for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Captain Watson has three discretionary picks. Watson said that one pick is reserved for Tiger Woods if Tiger is healthy and ready to play in September.

U.S. Ryder Cup Points Standings
(As of April 14)

1. Bubba WATSON - 6,258.984
2. Jimmy WALKER - 4,459.071
3. Dustin JOHNSON - 3,759.812
4. Jordan SPIETH - 3,437.864
5. Patrick REED - 3,023.091
6. Matt KUCHAR - 2,881.333
7. Jason DUFNER - 2,668.448
8. Phil MICKELSON - 2,662.862
9. Harris ENGLISH - 2,646.047
-------------------------------------
10. Zach JOHNSON - 2,584.519
11. Chris KIRK - 2,254.956
12. Webb SIMPSON - 2,214.857

The 2014 Ryder Cup (the 40th edition) will be played September 26-28 on the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles in Scotland.

Tuesday, April 15

Back Story: Tiger Not Only One Hurting

By John Christensen

Copyright © 2014 John Christensen. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Tiger Woods (Allison)
TIGER WOODS MAY RECOVER FROM his back injury and play more Masters, and he might even win more majors. But another important story after his recent surgery—the back story, if you will—is that Tiger's not the only one who's hurting.

Golfers are getting injured in unprecedented numbers—amateur and pro alike—and the culprit is the modern golf swing. That's the only possible conclusion based on information I found while researching my ebook about Mike Austin (Perfect Swing,Imperfect Lies: The Legacy of Golf's Longest Hitter).

Here's an excerpt from the book:
In 2008, a report published by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine cited a two-year study which found that 60 percent of golf professionals and 40 percent of amateurs sustained "either a traumatic or overuse injury while golfing." Low back pain was the most common injury by far, followed by those to the elbow, shoulder and wrist. The society also cited a PGA study, which found that one out of three golfers had low back problems that lasted for at least two weeks.

In August 2011, the PGA Tour posted an article on its website by Sean Cochran, who was identified as an expert in golf fitness. Cochran began this way: "Statistics indicate one out of every two golfers will incur a lower back injury at some point in their playing careers."

"Axial rotations" of hips and shoulders, Cochran writes, "load the musculature of the core." On the downswing, the hips and pelvis are subjected to "angular velocities" of 400 to 500 degrees per second while the velocities in the shoulders and back reach 1100 to 1200 degrees per second.
"Every time golfers swing," Cochran concluded, "they are subjecting their lower spine to eight times their body weight." No wonder injuries have reached epidemic proportions. Given those numbers, golf isn't a sport, it's Russian roulette, and it seems to have gone largely unnoticed.

I put together a list of Tour pros with significant injuries based solely on random remarks during telecasts or in online accounts and came up with 30 names. It ranged from older golfers like Fred Couples and Retief Goosen (backs) to younger players in their prime like Dustin Johnson and Ricky Fowler (also backs).

The modern swing winds the upper body against the stationary lower body to create all that velocity Cochran was talking about. But the classic, old-school swing of Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead and Bobby Jones allowed the front heel to rise and fall with the rotation and weight shift, taking pressure off the spine and pelvis and injuries were almost unheard of.

Austin was a journeyman range pro in 1974 when he hit a 515-yard drive with a persimmon driver and a gorgeous, old-school swing. Videos of his swing have been viewed on YouTube more than a million times, and the Golf Channel's Martin Hall featured him on his School of Golf show in April 2013. Hall praised Austin for being "years ahead of his time."

After the show, a golfer named Cyd posted the following on the network's website:

"I've had three back surgeries and I find the Mike Austin swing to be easy on my back. I can go out and hit hundreds of balls and suffer no back pain. With a conventional swing and the torque that is placed on my back, I cannot hit 100 balls and play a round in the same day. Not to mention that after hitting 100 balls using a conventional swing I can barely walk for a day. With the Mike Austin swing, I can practice and play. No problems!"

Fans of the Austin swing have hoped for years that players on the Tour would revive their careers using Austin's explosive and effortless swing. But they never dared dream it might be Tiger Woods—until now.

John Christensen is an author and award-winning freelance writer whose work has appeared in numerous books, magazines, newspapers and websites.

Monday, April 14

Bubba Golf: Green Jackets and Hash Browns


Bubba Watson, wife Angie and friends celebrate at Waffle House. (Courtesy @judahsmith)
WE KNEW BUBBA HAD ALL THE SHOTS, but this time, this Sunday, the new Lefty was in total control of his game even when the kid (Jordan Spieth) threw a haymaker at him on Augusta's front nine. Bubba took it, and countered with his own combination at holes 8 and 9, cruising to a 69 and a three-shot Masters victory, his second Green Jacket in three years.

None of the other closest challengers broke 70. Runners-up Spieth (72) and Jonas Blixt (71) were unable to mount a back-nine charge. Fifty-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez (71) finished solo fourth. Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler couldn't make it happen on Sunday. Their sluggish 74s landed them in a tie for fifth. Meanwhile, two-time champion Bernard Langer, also on the other side of 50, and Rory McIlroy posted closing 69s to share the eighth spot.

There was an odd tone to the final day.

Judging from the TV coverage and social media, the collective will of the golf universe seemed to be focused on young Spieth. If the sheer force of the media and golf populace could determine the outcome, the former University of Texas standout might today be the youngest Masters champion at age 20. It seemed preordained. At least that's the feeling I got listening to the early coverage. I was reminded that it had been exactly 17 years since Tiger Woods was the youngest player to slip on the Green Jacket, which was 17 years since Seve Ballesteros was the youngest, which was 17 years since Jack Nicklaus was the youngest.

No one told Bubba, who was totally uncooperative and apparently had no sense of history. The fact was, he was just too good, too steady, too smart. Yes, smart. Guile was a part of his arsenal. This was a new Bubba.

There was something odd about that front nine, although I readily admit hindsight is 20/20.

Spieth played some incredible shots and carded four birdies on the first seven holes to take a two-shot lead over the 2012 champion, and yet I didn't feel he was in control of his game. His hand was coming off the club; his misses with his driver and iron shots were going left. My sense was that he didn't have a swing problem, but rather was quick or out of sync with his timing because of the gravity of the situation. It was Sunday at the Masters. The pressure got to him long before he began talking to himself on the final nine.

Bubba took the kid's best punches early and never flinched. After Spieth holed a bunker shot for an improbable birdie at the long par-3 4th hole, Bubba cooly sank his five-footer for a matching two. When the 20-year-old stuffed his iron shot at the par-3 6th hole, Bubba rolled in his mid-range putt for birdie.

Who was this man from Bagdad?

A two-time champion, as it turned out. Bubba controlled his golf ball better than anyone and never stumbled on those frightening Augusta greens.

Spieth made the kind of mistakes you would expect from a 20-year-old, although veterans make them, too, don't they? He parred 8, was short of the green at 9, splashed down at 12. This wasn't his time, but he reminded us of players named Seve, Tiger and Rory. He showed us that he can win a Green Jacket, and nearly did before the young McIlroy.

"This one's a lot different," said Watson after slapping hands with the patrons, his son Caleb on his arm. "The first one, for me, it was almost like I lucked into it."

No, this wasn't luck.

By the way, that "17" number the talking heads were touting early on Sunday afternoon did have significance after all. Bubba Watson is the 17th player to win the Masters twice.

Friday, April 11

'ARNIE': Golf Channel Documentary Begins on Sunday



By Golf Channel Communications

GOLF CHANNEL'S PRIMETIME TELEVISION EVENT, "Arnie," begins with the questions: "How do you tell a story of a life that's larger than life? How do you find a way to put together all the memories, all the accomplishments, all the impact? And do what a story is supposed to do? And ensure it lasts forever? Someday—even decades—maybe centuries from now, they'll hear the name Arnold Palmer and they'll want to know everything."

"Arnie" showcases how the golfing legend revolutionized and transcended the game to become one of the most beloved figures in sports history. "Arnie," a three-night television event, will air on consecutive nights at 10 p.m. ET from Sunday, April 13, following Golf Channel's Live From the Masters, through Tuesday, April 15.

Golf Channel spent the last year traveling with Palmer, collecting interviews from more than 100 people, sifting through hundreds of hours of archived film—including hours of Palmer family video that has never been seen before—and shooting in locations around the world to create television's definitive story of the most influential man to ever pick up a golf club.

"ARNIE": 3-Part Golf Channel Event

Arnie & His Army
Sunday, April 13, 10 p.m. ET (following Live From the Masters)

Arnie & His Majors
Monday, April 14, 10 p.m. ET

Arnie & His Legacy
Tuesday, April 15, 10 p.m. ET

Unbelievable Putts at the Masters



ABSOLUTELY NO WORDS FOR THIS. Just watch the video.

Thursday, April 10

2014 Masters TV Schedule and Tournament Notes




IT’S THE MASTERS, PATRONS! Magnolias, azaleas, Amen Corner, pimento cheese sandwiches and Chuck Norris-style security.

MASTERS NEED TO KNOW

Purse: $8 million
Winner’s share: $1.44 million
Defending champion: Adam Scott

2014 Masters Leaderboard

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

Masters Talk

"At my first Masters, I got the feeling that if I didn't play well, I wouldn't go to heaven."
Dave Marr

"If the Masters offered no money at all, I would be here trying just as hard."

Ben Hogan

"I miss, I miss, I miss, I make."
Seve Ballesteros, explaining four-putt green at 16

"I've never been to heaven, and thinking back on my life, I probably won't get a chance to go. I guess winning the Masters is a close as I'm going to get."

Fuzzy Zoeller

"I told Hord Hardin I was getting too old to play in the Masters, but he kept saying, Gene, they don't want to see you play, they just want to see if you're still alive."
Gene Sarazen

"On the 15th hole I started thinking how I'd look in the Green Jacket. The next thing I know, they're giving it to Charley Coody."

Johnny Miller 

TV SCHEDULE

Between ESPN, CBS and GOLF CHANNEL, hours and hours of TV coverage are scheduled for the 2014 Masters. Just turn on your TV. (All times are ET.)

Note: Sky Sports has the UK coverage.

Thu, Apr 10
3-7:30 p.m. ESPN (tournament action)
8-11 p.m. ESPN (replay)
GOLF CHANNEL:
Live from the Masters 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
Live from the Masters 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Fri, Apr 11
3-7:30 p.m. ESPN (tournament action)
8-11 p.m. ESPN (replay)
GOLF CHANNEL:
Live from the Masters 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
Live from the Masters 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Sat, Apr 12
3-7 p.m. CBS (tournament action)
GOLF CHANNEL:
Live from the Masters 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Live from the Masters 7-9 p.m.

Sun, Apr 13
2-7 p.m. CBS (tournament action)
GOLF CHANNEL:
Live from the Masters 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Live from the Masters 7-10 p.m.

(Image courtesy of PGATour.com)

Wednesday, April 9

My 2014 Masters Preview

Rory McIlroy seems destined to win a Green Jacket. (internetsense)
I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S MASTERS EVE. I just got home from a trip to California and figured I better get up to speed fast when asked to go on the radio to preview the Masters.

Some things don't change. Augusta, for one. Pristine fairways and greens. Big, undulating, screaming-fast greens. But no Eisenhower tree in the 17th fairway. It's dead and gone. And no Tiger in the field. He's recovering from surgery. Woods's quest for a 15th major will have to wait.

So who can win on this slice of golf heaven? Who will win?

Throw a dart at the names. The Masters is wide open. That's the way it looks to me. New players are winning week in and week out on the PGA Tour. It's not that much different at Augusta. First-time Masters winners have won six of the last seven. Phil Mickelson is the only recent champion (2010) with multiple victories.

But Mickelson probably doesn't agree that the 2014 edition of the Masters is wide open. The other day he said the greens are at Masters speed, which, according to Lefty, means there are less than a dozen potential winners. Maybe. Or maybe Phil is playing mind games.

So, okay, maybe the Masters isn't utterly wide open. Former Masters champions Ben Crenshaw and Larry Mize won't slip into the Green Jacket again. But there are more than a Mickelson dozen who could make the trip to Butler Cabin on Sunday evening.

In advance of my radio segment at 4:06 p.m., I looked over the names on the odds list ... Adam Scott ... Rory McIlroy ... Phil Mickelson ... Jason Day ... Matt Kuchar ... Sergio Garcia ... Dustin Johnson ... Bubba Watson ... Henrik Stenson ... Justin Rose ... Brandt Snedeker ... and on and on and on and on.

My head started to spin. How do you handicap the Masters, or a major, for that matter?

I jotted down a few thoughts, a Masters criteria of sorts: Who's hungry? Who's playing well right now? Who's ready to win?

Nick Faldo put it another way. The three-time Masters winner said he likes guys with "mental strength." Who are Nick's mentally tough guys? Jason Day, Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed are three he named.

Here are my thoughts on a handful of players:

Adam Scott - I don't expect him to repeat. Too hard. Only three have done it. Their names are Nicklaus, Faldo and Woods.

Rory McIlroy - He's as good a pick as anyone because I think he will definitely win a Green Jacket. It's only a matter of time, or, perhaps, a matter of days.

Phil Mickelson - A three-time Masters winner who you can never count out as long as he's healthy. Keep an eye on Phil.

Matt Kuchar - Kooch might be more dangerous and more ready because he didn't win last week at Houston. Does he have the mental fortitude?

Jason Day - I like him, but I also think the long layoff because of the thumb is not in his favor.

Bubba Watson - Sort of like Phil. All things seem possible with Bubba, whether good or bad.

Dustin Johnson - A lot of people seem to like DJ, but he hasn't had good finishes at Augusta and I wonder about his putting.

I'm just scratching the surface. There are many other players, including up-and-comers such as Reed, Jordan Spieth, Harris English and more. It's an impossible business. Handicapping the Masters, that is. Picking a winner. A bunch of yakkity yak. The talking is about finished. The Masters starts early on Thursday morning.

I do know this: There are plenty of sublime ball-strikers in the Masters field, but the answers will ultimately come on the greens. The winner will have to putt well. Bet on it.

Shot 'Heard Around the World' Still Echoes at Masters

By John Coyne

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

Gene Sarazen
THE MASTERS IS THE ONE TOURNAMENT of the year that brings golf home to the masses. And much of it is because of Gene Sarazen, the second Masters held in 1935, and the "shot heard around the world."

Gene Sarazen is, in many ways, the most unlikely of golf heroes. In fact, his real name wasn't even Gene Sarazen. He was born Eugenio Saraceni, but changed it because, as he said, his real name sounded more like that of a violinist.

Gene Sarazen sounded like a golfer.

Sarazen came into golf, as did so many early professionals, from the caddie ranks. At the age of eight, the son of a struggling carpenter from Harrison, New York, he took a job caddying at Larchmont Country Club in Westchester. It was his way of helping the family make ends meet. He wasn't thinking about playing the game. As he said, "In those days only brokers and bankers played golf." Three years later he quit school and started caddying full time at the Apawamis Club in Rye, New York.

Then, at the age of 19, Sarazen turned professional and a year later won the U.S. Open held at the Oakmont Country Club, near Pittsburgh. He was the first professional to shoot 70 while winning an event.

Inventor of Sand Wedge

But he had problems as a player. He had no short game, especially out of bunkers. However, with a touch of creative genius, Sarazen solved that problem, and it is perhaps his greatest contribution to the game.

He invented the sand wedge. Watching the way planes lifted off the ground, he thought of welding solder onto the back of a club, building up the flange so it sat lower than the leading edge when soled. The flange, not the leading edge, would contact the sand first, and explode sand as the shot was played. He kept his invention secret going into the 1932 British Open at Prince's Golf Club and walked away with the championship.

Still, Sarazen had more in store for the golfing world.

Famous Shot

At the 1935 Masters, Sarazen was playing the 15th on the final round and trailing Craig Wood by three shots.

When he reached his drive on the par, 550-yard hole known as Firethorn, he saw he had a tight lie and pulled from his bag a newly designed four-wood, called a Turfinder, which had a hollow-back sole that enabled Sarazen to go down after the ball. He played the ball back in his stance and toed the head. And as he came down, he cut slightly across it to give the shot additional loft.

Of that fairway wood, Sarazen would later say, "From the minute I hit the ball there was a feeling in my system that it was going to be close. The ball went straight for the hole, about 235 yards away. It didn't carry the green. It carried short and rolled about 15 feet to the cup and in. The only way I could tell if it dropped or not was because 20 people around the green all jumped up and yelled like hell, and one of them was Bob Jones. He had walked back down from the clubhouse to see (Walter) Hagen and me finish."

The person who made the feat international news, and, in turn, announced this new tournament in Augusta, Georgia, as a major event, was Grantland Rice. The legendary sports writer described the 4-wood double-eagle the next day in his column as the "shot heard around the world."

Rice then went on to write: "A gallery of more than 2,000 was banked back of Sarazen and packed back of the green….the ball left the face of his spoon like a rifle shot. It never wavered from a direct line to the pin. As it struck the green, a loud shout went up, and then suddenly turned into a deafening reverberating roar as the ball spun along the way and finally disappeared into the cup for a double eagle."

Rice, according to Sarazen, missed the number of patrons (as they call spectators at the Masters) by 1,978. But that "shot" established Sarazen as the number-one player in the world and helped create the Masters.

Over the course of his career, Gene Sarazen would win 39 times on the PGA Tour, including the 1935 Masters, the U.S.Open twice, the British Open once, and the PGA Championship three times.

In 1973, to top off a long and brilliant career for this former caddie, Sarazen finished with a hole-in-one at the British Open at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England, proving with his life that golf wasn't just for brokers and bankers.

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

2014 Masters Odds: Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy at 10/1

HERE ARE THE LATEST MASTERS ODDS from Bovada.

Odds To Win The US Masters 2014 - Augusta, Georgia
Adam Scott 10/1
Rory McIlroy 10/1
Phil Mickelson 12/1
Jason Day 14/1
Matt Kuchar 18/1
Sergio Garcia 20/1
Dustin Johnson 22/1
Bubba Watson 25/1
Henrik Stenson 25/1
Zach Johnson 28/1
Justin Rose 30/1
Brandt Snedeker 33/1
Charl Schwartzel 33/1
Jordan Spieth 33/1
Keegan Bradley 33/1
Jason Dufner 40/1
Lee Westwood 40/1
Hunter Mahan 40/1
Angel Cabrera 50/1
Harris English 50/1
Ian Poulter 50/1
Luke Donald 50/1
Patrick Reed 50/1
Jimmy Walker 55/1
Graeme McDowell 60/1
Graham Delaet 66/1
Louis Oosthuizen 66/1
Rickie Fowler 66/1
Bill Haas 80/1
Gary Woodland 80/1
Hideki Matsuyama 80/1
Jim Furyk 80/1
Steve Stricker 80/1
Webb Simpson 80/1
K.J. Choi 100/1
Marc Leishman 100/1
Ryan Moore 100/1
Victor Dubuisson 100/1

The rest: Ernie Els 125/1 Francesco Molinari 125/1 Fred Couples 125/1 Jamie Donaldson 125/1 Nick Watney 125/1 Peter Hanson 125/1 Russell Henley 125/1 Thorbjorn Olesen 125/1 Billy Horschel 150/1 Martin Kaymer 150/1 Matt Every 150/1 Matt Jones 150/1 Matteo Manassero 150/1 Trevor Immelman 150/1 Branden Grace 200/1 Chris Kirk 200/1 Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano 200/1 John Senden 200/1 Kevin Streelman 200/1 Miguel Angel Jimenez 200/1 Stephen Gallacher 200/1 Thomas Bjorn 200/1 Bernhard Langer 250/1 Boo Weekley 250/1 Brendon De Jonge 250/1 Jonas Blixt 250/1 Joost Luiten 250/1 Scott Stallings 250/1 Stewart Cink 250/1 Tim Clark 250/1 David Lynn 300/1 John Huh 300/1 Kevin Stadler 300/1 Roberto Castro 300/1 Sang-Moon Bae 300/1 Thongchai Jaidee 300/1 Vijay Singh 300/1 Steven Bowditch 400/1 Yong-Eun Yang 400/1 D.A. Points 500/1 Darren Clarke 500/1 Ken Duke 500/1 Lucas Glover 500/1 Chang Woo Lee 750/1 Mike Weir 750/1 Derek Ernst 1000/1 Jordan Niebrugge 1000/1 Jose Maria Olazabal 1000/1 Mark O'Meara 1000/1 Matthew Fitzpatrick 1000/1 Oliver Goss 1000/1 Tom Watson 1000/1 Michael McCoy 1500/1 Garrick Porteous 2000/1 Sandy Lyle 3000/1 Ben Crenshaw 5000/1 Craig Stadler 5000/1 Ian Woosnam 5000/1 Larry Mize 5000/1

Monday, April 7

Lexi Thompson: 'It's Just a Dream Come True'

Lexi Thompson
LEXI THOMPSON BECAME THE SECOND-YOUNGEST major winner on Sunday by capturing the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California. Thompson shot a final-round 68 to win her first major by three shots over Michelle Wie.

"It was an amazing day," said the 19-year-old Thompson. "...[I]t was definitely what I've been practicing for, what I live for, to play under that pressure and to get a major win under my belt, especially the Kraft Nabisco. It's such a huge honor to win this tournament."

Thompson birdied the first hole and never looked back in a near-flawless round. She didn't have a bogey on her card.

"It's a great feeling," Thompson said.

"This was one of my goals coming into the year, to win a major. I've always seen myself winning a Kraft Nabisco. It's such a huge honor with all the history behind the tournament. It's just a dream come true."

In search of her first major and sharing the 54-hole lead with Thompson, Wie was surely disappointed but praised her younger opponent.

"[Lexi] played amazing today," Wie said. "She played probably the best I've ever seen her play. She hit the ball so well. She made everything. It was just hard to catch up to her all day today, but I'm really happy for her."

Friday, April 4

Coming Home to the Masters

The par-4 10th hole at Augusta National Golf Club. (gomattolson/Flickr)
By Charles Prokop

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

I LOOK FORWARD TO ALL THE MAJORS, but I do more than look forward to the Masters. Watching the Masters is an annual ritual, an emotional experience for me. I'll miss a day or more of other tournaments to play golf, take care of projects, or whatever. But I block out time to watch the Masters and don't let anything intrude. (Luckily, my wife understands and is fine with this.)

I've thought a lot about why I feel this way. It's just a golf tournament on TV. If I have something else to do, I'll walk away from most shows on TV without a second thought. I always prefer doing to watching. But for me, the Masters is more like doing than watching. It engages me in a way no other tournament does.

I've come to the conclusion that the Masters is like coming home. Not just coming home after a day or two, but coming home after a long time away.

The Masters is played on the same course year after year, and I think that has a lot to do with my feelings.

I come back to the same immaculate course every year at a time when nature is waking up and the season is full of promise. I come home to scenes that recall images of the beauty of past years and memories of former heroics and spectacular collapses. It doesn't matter that I've never really been there but go only in my TV-fed fantasy. It's still like I’m coming home.

My history may have something to do with how I feel about the Masters and coming home.

My wife and I have lived in our current house for 10 years, and that's longer than I've ever lived anywhere. By my best count I've had 23 addresses, not counting dorms and apartments as an undergraduate and the several years I traveled with no fixed address. I looked at Google Street View a while back and the house I was born in has been torn down and replaced with a much larger, upscale place. If I really wanted to go back home, I don't know where I'd go.

So Augusta, Georgia, in the spring is as good a place as any for me.

It's stunningly beautiful and full of tradition. It welcomes with open arms returning heroes and those looking for another chance. I can only imagine what it must feel like to drive down Magnolia Lane when you really belong.

I'll be happy returning to my Masters memories. Memories are all any of us can really come home to.

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

Wednesday, April 2

Tiger Still Eyeing Jack and Sam

Tiger Woods (Allison)
IT WAS THE LAST PARAGRAPH OF YESTERDAY'S otherwise distressing statement at TigerWoods.com. Tiger Woods is still focused on two golf milestones set by two golf legends.

"It's tough right now," Woods said, "but I'm absolutely optimistic about the future.

"There are a couple [of] records by two outstanding individuals and players that I hope one day to break. As I've said many times, Sam [Snead] and Jack [Nicklaus] reached their milestones over an entire career. I plan to have a lot of years left in mine."

The "absolutely optimistic" camp is growing smaller after Tiger had "a successful microdiscectomy for a pinched nerve that has been hurting him for several months." The surgery was performed by Dr. Charles Rich, a neurosurgeon in Park City, Utah.

"Out of Reach" said Sports Illustrated/Golf+Digitial about the chase to catch Jack Nicklaus. "What Now?" asked Golf Digest. "Can Tiger Still Catch Jack?" asked GolfChannel.com.

Woods will miss the Masters as he begins a healing and rehabilitation process that's intended to get him back into action this summer. We'll see about that. If all goes well, Tiger could begin chipping and putting in a few weeks.

The 14-time major winner had played in 19 consecutive Masters, slipping into the Green Jacket four times, but not since 2005. Another Masters will go by with no chance of a fifth victory and 15th major. Sore back or not, that has to hurt.

"I'd like to express my disappointment to the Augusta National membership, staff, volunteers and patrons that I will not be at the Masters," Woods said. "It's a week that's very special to me.

"I'd also like to thank the fans for their support and concern. It's very kind and greatly appreciated. This is frustrating, but it's something my doctors advised me to do for my immediate and long-term health."

As has been the case for several years, we're left with more questions than answers when it comes to Tiger Woods.

How will this latest injury and surgery affect Tiger's golf game and competitiveness?

When will Tiger return to tournament play?

When will Tiger win another major?

Will Tiger win another major?

Is Jack's record of 18 professional majors now out of reach for Tiger?

As Tiger sits at home, rests, heals and rehabs, the golf and sports media will be frantically churning out answers and opinions to fill a large and ongoing void.

Tuesday, April 1

A Close Friend's Tribute to Jack Fleck

Left to right: Ed Tallach, Jack Fleck and Andy Reistetter in 2010. (Courtesy of Andy Reistetter)
Jack Fleck was a loner. That's one facet of his story, especially during his years on the PGA Tour. He told me so. But Jack had at least one close friend during the last four decades, a man named Ed Tallach. On the eve of Jack's funeral a week ago, Ed sent an email to a handful of people. With his permission, I’m sharing a slightly edited version of Ed's message.

By Ed Tallach

Copyright © Ed Tallach. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

HAVING JACK FLECK AS A FRIEND and an associate has been a great highlight of my life. When I was a youngster and as an aspiring tournament golfer, I watched Jack play in the 1967 Illinois Open in the Chicago area where he was the pro at the prestigious Green Acres Country Club. He had taken club-pro jobs at that stage of his career that would allow him to compete on the tour on a part-time basis.

I moved to Arkansas in 1970. When I heard of his project of building a unique concept golf course in Magazine, Arkansas, I had to make the trip from my home in Hot Springs to possibly have a chance to meet a U.S. Open champion in person. We began a relationship that evolved into us working and traveling together since that initial meeting. I have had the distinct privilege of observing the admiration, respect and love the golf community has for this man, nationwide and also in the British Isles.

Jack's life differed from most celebrity athletes of his era in that his main interests were centered on health and fitness. He was a pioneer in this area.

Gary Player shared with me personally how Jack's life was an inspiration to him. After Player watched him hit balls at The Legends tournament last year , he turned to me and said, "He is the bionic man."

Jack Nicklaus, Player's partner in the event, asked Jack for his driver's license on the practice tee to prove he was actually 91 years of age.

Lee Trevino, who we have spent quality time with stated, "When I grow up, I want to be like Jack."

Jack's diet regime was very rigid, and when traveling was very difficult to maintain—sometimes, if I may add, to the point of extreme frustration for me. I can recall invitations to prominent celebrity functions that were turned down due to the menu. He was always quick to share with the wait staff, and, at times with restaurant management at some of the country's finest restaurants, the benefits of proper diet and how they could improve their offerings accordingly.

Jack was best known for his historic 1955 U.S. Open win over Ben Hogan. His other regular tour and senior tour accomplishments are rarely mentioned. He was the 1960 Phoenix Open champion, and in that same year lost twice in sudden-death playoffs. Arnold Palmer defeated him at the Insurance City Open in Hartford, Connecticut, and George Bayer chipped in to defeat him on the first playoff hole of the St. Petersburg Open in Florida.

But for you golf historians, the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills in Denver is heralded as the historic changing of the guard, with Arnold Palmer winning in a charge, a young Jack Nicklaus as an amateur finishing second and an aging Ben Hogan fading the last nine. The story should have included Jack, who tied for third. This part of the story was disclosed to all in attendance at the 50th anniversary celebration of this historic tournament that Jack and I attended in 2010. His last 18 holes during that 36-hole final included five three-putts, four of them in the last nine, once from 3 feet. He basically handed Palmer the title and let the young Nicklaus slip by him for second.

Jack's last regular tour win was the 1961 Bakersfield Open, and he added another major win to his resume with the 1979 Senior PGA Championship.

I will attest to Jack's faith and love of the Lord. He would emotionally share this with me on every trip we made, and he had the opportunity through his celebrity status to do the same on national stages both via television and the news media. His 1955 experience of the Lord speaking to him personally is legendary.

So, to his loving wife Carmen, son Craig, granddaughter Jennifer and his Hardscrabble Country Club family, I extend my sympathy for this great loss, but with confidence that Jack has been taken from us by the angels of the Lord to his well-deserved place in heaven.