Friday, August 29

Golf on TV: Deutsche Bank Championship, Portland Classic, Shaw Charity Classic, Italian Open

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

NBC Sports Group will provide tournament coverage of nearly 25 hours of the Deutsche Bank Championship from TPC Boston, which will contribute to the network’s more than 100 hours of live tournament and news programming of the final three FedExCup Playoffs events. Golf Channel will air early round Friday-Saturday coverage in addition to lead-in coverage on Sunday-Monday, while NBC will broadcast third and final round coverage on Sunday and Monday.

The LPGA Tour’s Portland Classic airs in primetime on Golf Channel, with Suzann Pettersen defending her 2013 title. Bernhard Langer headlines the field at the Shaw Charity Classic, the first of two consecutive events held in Canada on the Champions Tour. On the European Tour, the Italian Open will serve as the final opportunity for players to secure an automatic bid to compete on captain Paul McGinley’s European Ryder Cup team, with nine players earning a place on the team at week’s end.

DEUTSCHE BANK CHAMPIONSHIP
(PGA Tour)
Dates: Aug. 29-Sept. 1
Venue: TPC Boston, Norton, Mass.

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Friday 2:30-6:30 p.m. (Live) / 11:30 p.m.-3:30 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday 3-6:30 p.m. (Live) / 11:30 p.m.-3 a.m. (Replay)
Sunday 1-3 p.m. (Live) / 11:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m (Replay)
Monday 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live) / 8 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (Replay)

Tournament Airtimes On NBC (Eastern):
Sunday 3-6 p.m. (Live)
Monday 1:30-6 p.m. (Live)

Golf Channel Spotlight Coverage (Eastern):
Sunday 3-5 p.m. (Live)
Monday 1:30-5 p.m. (Live)

Event Notes

Friday start: Due to the holiday weekend with Labor Day falling on Monday, September 1, the Deutsche Bank Championship will begin on Friday, and conclude on Monday.

Stenson defends: Henrik Stenson finished two shots ahead of Steve Stricker for his third career PGA Tour victory in last year’s event, before eventually going on to win the 2013 FexExCup title and the $10 million prize.

Headlining the field: Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jim Furyk, Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth.

* * *

PORTLAND CLASSIC
(LPGA Tour)
Dates: August 28-31
Venue: Columbia Edgewater Country Club, Portland, Ore.

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

Event Notes

Pettersen defends: Suzann Pettersen won by two shots over Stacy Lewis for her 12th career LPGA Tour victory.

Headlining the field: Suzann Pettersen, Na Yeon Choi, Shanshan Feng, Anna Nordqvist, So Yeon Ryu, Ai Miyazato, Charley Hull, Mo Martin, Sandra Gal, Morgan Pressel and Marissa Steen.

* * *

SHAW CHARITY CLASSIC
(Champions Tour)
Dates: August 29-31
Venue: Canyon Meadows Golf & Country Club, Calgary, Canada

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Friday 9:30-11:30 p.m. (Tape Delay) / (Live streaming on Golf Live Extra)
Saturday 9:30-11:30 p.m. (Tape Delay) / (Live streaming on Golf Live Extra)
Sunday 9-11 p.m. (Tape Delay) / (Live streaming on Golf Live Extra)

Event Notes

Mediate defends: Rocco Mediate finished seven shots clear of the field for his second career Champions Tour win in last year’s event.

Headlining the field: Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples, Rocco Mediate, John Cook, Jay Haas, Tom Lehman, Corey Pavin, Brad Faxon and Woody Austin.

* * *

ITALIAN OPEN
(European Tour)
Dates: August 28-31
Venue: Circolo Golf, Torino, Italy

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday 5:30-7:30 a.m. / 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Live)
Friday 5:30-7:30 a.m. / 9:30 a.m.-Noon (Live)
Saturday 7-11 a.m. (Live) Sunday 7-11:30 a.m. (Live)

Event Notes

Last chance to qualify for European Ryder Cup team: This week marks the final opportunity for players to automatically qualify for the European Ryder Cup team. Nine players will earn an automatic place on the team at the conclusion of play on Sunday and captain Paul McGinley will select the final three members of his 12-man team on Tuesday, September 2, airing live on Golf Channel during Morning Drive, the network’s daily news and lifestyle program.

Quesne defends: Julien Quesne won by one shot over David Higgins and Steve Webster for his second career European Tour win.

Headlining the field: Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Darren Clarke, George Coetzee, Nicolas Colsaerts, Stephen Gallacher, Padraig Harrington, Joost Luiten, Matteo Manassero and Edoardo Molinari.

Thursday, August 28

Sean Foley, Tiger and Today's Golf Coaches

MOST OF US DON'T KNOW SEAN FOLEY, but I suppose it's easy to have opinions about him because he worked with Tiger Woods. And we've all had our fill of Tiger since the mid 1990s. There are a lot of Tiger experts.

I still don't understand why Tiger did such an extensive swing overhaul with Foley. I figure it had a lot to do with building something that would protect the knee. Tiger's line about getting better was, and is, tiresome. You don't get better at his age, especially after what he achieved from 2000 to 2008. No one has had a run like that.

Still, I don't think Foley is the bad guy, or to blame, for Tiger's decline. There have been many factors. As others have pointed out, Foley has some other thoroughbreds in the coaching stable. To name two, The Barclays winner Hunter Mahan and 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose. Those fellas have fine golf swings.

I like this snippet from Foley in a 2011 Golf Digest "My Shot."
THE IDEA that any teacher is so great, his method so perfect, that a player is suddenly going to never miss a shot, is crazy. I don't even think a terrific swing is the main goal. The great coaches--Vince Lombardi, John Wooden, Phil Jackson--are not remembered for how they drew up Xs and Os. Their players never talk about those things. What they remember are the good values they instilled, the strong work ethic and the productive approaches to life. My role to my guys, first and foremost, is to be part of their support system, to act out the things I believe in, and be there for them. That's every bit as important as what I do for their golf swings.
I think Foley is right on.

So, it makes me wonder about all the swing talk, the mechanics and such. It often seems to me that Tiger and other players get so focused on technical issues that they forget they're playing a game, swinging a club, walking a course. At a younger age, they just hit it, found it, hit it again. They swung the club with feel and athleticism. They played golf, not golf swing.

These golf and swing coaches ... aren't many of them enabling this nonsense? Foley included?

That's the way it often looks to me.

Wednesday, August 27

Stephen Ames Inducted Into Canadian Hall of Fame

Stephen Ames
STEPHEN AMES, A FOUR-TIME WINNER on the PGA Tour, was inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame on Tuesday, reported the Champions Tour. Ames is the 74th member.

"It's hitting home a little bit now for me. It is a real honor," Ames said at the Shaw Charity Classic, an event Ames helped start.

"It's the highlight of my career right now, an added trophy to the career that I've had, which is wonderful. At this stage right now, it's something to relish."

Ames is a citizen of Canada and Trinidad and Tobago, where he was born. He still has family there. Ames's grandmother was a golf champion of the twin island country.

"The Canadian Golf Hall of Fame seeks to recognize excellence as golfers, contributors and supporters of the game," said Ian Clarke of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame Selection Committee. "Stephen Ames has excelled on the biggest stage in our sport and it is fitting that he will be recognized for his respective accomplishments."

Ames turned 50 in April but has continued to play events on the PGA Tour, without much recent success. His four tour titles included the 2006 Players Championship, an impressive six-shot victory over runner-up Retief Goosen.

Tuesday, August 26

Dufner Is Done

JASON DUFNER IS OUT FOR THE REST of the FedEx Cup Playoffs after his withdrawal from the Deutsche Bank Championship, reported PGATour.com on Monday. Don't expect to see Dufner on the U.S. Ryder Cup team either. Tom Watson will announce his three captain's picks on September 2.

Jason Dufner is hurting. (Allison)
The 2013 PGA champion has been hampered by bulging disks in his neck. He received an epidural in order to play at Valhalla in the PGA Championship, but only completed 10 holes. The Auburn product was No. 74 in the FedEx Cup rankings.

"I'll play golf again when I'm healthy," Dufner said after withdrawing from the PGA Championship.

"That could be at The Barclays, that could be next year, that could be 2016. I refuse to be out here and not be healthy and not give myself a chance to be competitive."

It's looking like next year at the earliest.

Paul Casey and Graeme McDowell also dropped out of the second leg of the playoffs. McDowell became a father. "Happiest moment of my life hands down," he tweeted.

There are currently 94 players in the Deutsche Bank field. Seventy will advance to the BMW Championship at Cherry Hills in Englewood, Colorado, a Denver suburb.

Monday, August 25

Full Statement on Tiger Woods-Sean Foley Split

A coaching change for Tiger Woods. (Keith Allison)

















TIGER WOODS ANNOUNCED TODAY AT TIGERWOODS.COM that he and swing coach Sean Foley have ended their professional relationship that began in 2010.

"I'd like to thank Sean for his help as my coach and for his friendship," Woods said.

"Sean is one of the outstanding coaches in golf today, and I know he will continue to be successful with the players working with him. With my next tournament not until my World Challenge event at Isleworth in Orlando, this is the right time to end our professional relationship."

"My time spent with Tiger is one of the highlights of my career so far, and I am appreciative of the many experiences we shared together," Foley said.

"It was a lifelong ambition of mine to teach the best player of all time in our sport. I am both grateful for the things we had the opportunity to learn from one another, as well as the enduring friendship we have built. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him."

"Presently, I do not have a coach, and there is no timetable for hiring one," Woods said.

Friday, August 22

Jimmy Walker: 'The Sun Will Kill You'

THE FEDEX CUP PLAYOFFS, WHICH BEGAN on Thursday with The Barclays in Paramus, New Jersey, are critical for PGA Tour players looking to solidify their playing status, collect sizable checks, or be considered for one of Tom Watson's captain's picks for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. But as Jimmy Walker knows, their importance can be suddenly diminished with a recurrence of skin cancer.

Walker, 35, is ranked second in the standings behind Rory McIlroy. He recently spent time at home recovering from minor surgery rather than getting ready for the playoffs.

The New York Times' Zach Schonbrun wrote about Walker's other on-course challenge:
Walker has a new mission, though. It is about protection and awareness, and for a fair-skinned Oklahoman with a family history of skin cancer, those elements are essential. 
“I watched what Aron Price went through, and he had melanoma, and that was bad, really, really, scary bad,” Walker said after his even-par round. “He had that removed and he’s doing great, but we’ve all got to be diligent about what we wear. The sun will kill you.” 
Price, an Australian golfer, developed the disease in different spots on his shoulder in 2011. Likewise, Walker said, he had a spot on his lip removed in 2004. That served as a reality check, and he said he thought he had been conscientious about wearing skin protection since then. 
Apparently it was not enough. During the Bridgestone Invitational this month, a biopsy on a nodule just below his left eye returned positive for basal cell carcinoma, requiring minor surgery Aug. 11.
Walker said it's a genetics thing.

His sunscreen mantra? Reapply, reapply, reapply.

Thursday, August 21

A Fun Email From Amazon

Dear Readers,

The below email from Amazon landed in my inbox a week ago.

I'm really looking forward to the Ryder Cup. I'm also really looking forward to telling you more about my new Ryder Cup book that focuses on 1969, Jack Nicklaus, Tony Jacklin and more.

Stay tuned.

All the best,
Neil

Having trouble viewing this email? Click here to see this recommendation 
Coming Soon from Neil Sagebiel for YouAmazon.com
 
Draw in the Dunes: The 1969 Ryder Cup and the Finish That Shocked the World

Improve your recommendations
Draw in the Dunes: The 1969 Ryder Cup and the Finish That Shocked the World 
Neil Sagebiel 
Release date: September 9, 2014
  
Kindle Edition$11.04 

Hardcover$19.88  

 Learn more 
You've bought books from this author before, and you won't want to miss this new release.

Wednesday, August 20

Enter PGA's 'MyCaptainsPicks' Contest for Chance to Win Ryder Cup Trip



By PGA of America

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – To bring fans closer to the action in anticipation of the 40th playing of the Ryder Cup, the PGA of America is hosting a live event (Tuesday, Sept. 2, at 7 p.m.) where United States Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson will reveal his Captain’s Picks for the final three members of the 12-man team.

This decision will be the subject of great discussion over the next three weeks, and fans can join in the fun by entering the interactive “MyCaptainsPicks” contest with Captain Watson.

A first-of-its-kind social media engagement program, #mycaptainspicks simply asks sports fans to choose the three players they think Watson will pick to complete his 12-player team. Fans 18 and over can make their predictions on MyCaptainsPicks.com through Sept. 2. Visit RyderCup.com to also see picks from celebrities, as they share their passion for golf.

Fan entries with all three picks exactly matching Watson’s selections will be entered into a drawing for the grand prize of a once-in-a-lifetime trip for two to the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Scotland including:

  • Two 2014 Ryder Cup tickets for the climate-controlled Harris Pavilion (Sept. 23-28) 
  • Complimentary roundtrip airfare for two to Scotland
  • Five nights of accommodations at the Hilton Glasgow
  • A limited-edition United States Ryder Cup Team shirt
  • A round of golf at a premier golf course in Scotland
  • A new set of golf clubs from Adams Golf
  • A $50 per-person, per-day Ryder Cup food and beverage credit

Nine automatic berths on the U.S. Ryder Cup Team were secured following the conclusion of the 96th PGA Championship.

The Americans clinching a spot on the team that will compete against Europe in the 40th Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Perthshire, Scotland are: Five-time major champion Phil Mickelson, two-time Masters Champion Bubba Watson, 2003 U.S. Open Champion Jim Furyk, 2007 Masters Champion Zach Johnson, and PGA Tour stars Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed.

“I'm delighted with the nine players who have made the team,” said Watson.

“I believe that each player has the ability to play great golf and compete at the highest level in the Ryder Cup. The selection of the three Captain’s picks for the 40th Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Scotland is my focus the next few weeks. MyCaptainsPicks is a fun opportunity for fans to engage with the Ryder Cup in a style that’s unprecedented. I hope the winners have a great trip to the Ryder Cup!”

Fans may vote multiple times through Sept. 2 at 12 a.m. ET, but only their last entry will count towards the sweepstakes. The winner will be selected in a random drawing on Sept. 3.

The 40th Ryder Cup between the United States and Europe will be held at Gleneagles on the Jack Nicklaus designed-Centenary Course in Perthshire, Scotland, Sept. 26-28, 2014. NBC and Golf Channel will combine to broadcast the event live in its entirety in the United States for the first time ever from European soil.

Tuesday, August 19

Mark Broadie: Mastermind of Strokes Gained Revolution

By John Coyne

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

MARK BROADIE HAS WRITTEN A GOLF instructional book that won’t help you hit longer drives, improve your short game, or keep you from hitting truly awful shots. However, his new book, EVERY SHOT COUNTS: Using the Revolutionary Strokes Gained Approach to Improve Your Golf Performance and Strategy will change the way you play your game, and how you judge a player on the PGA Tour.

Mark Broadie is a college professor. Not only is he an academic, but he teaches courses in the Columbia Business School such as Derivatives, Security Pricing: Models and Computation. Yes, I know, geek classes.

Still, Mark doesn’t look like a geek. Meeting him in his campus office, he appears like a guy who is ready to slip out a back door to play a quick nine holes. Mark, by the way, plays to a 4 and has won both his club championship, and the senior championship, at his home course, Pelham Country Club in Westchester, New York, site of the 1923 PGA Championship when Gene Sarazen beat Walter Hagen.

What he has done, as a player and a professor, is to combine his scholarly research and his love of golf, to elevate golf statistics to a much higher and useful level.

He created Golfmetrics, a software application that captures and keeps golf shot data that quantifies the differences in shot patterns between players of different skill levels. Today, he is helping PGA Tour pros and amateurs alike dramatically improve their scores by studying how they play the game and learning what part of their game needs improvement, and why.

Mark Broadie’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed. He has been selected as a member of the USGA’s handicap research team, writes a monthly column for Golf Magazine, and blogs every Monday morning on www.pgatour.com about that week’s tournament, breaking down and assessing the PGA Tour’s Shot Link data that the tour collected by laser technology on every shot hit at the just-concluded tournament. And when he isn’t doing that, he’s advising tour pros’ coaches on their player’s shortcomings, based on the statistics he has harvested and evaluated.

Building a Golf Shot Database

What Mark Broadie has done for golf can be best explained by comparing it to the book (and movie) Moneyball written by financial guru Michael Lewis. Moneyball is about how the Oakland A’s built a winning baseball team using a sophisticated approach towards scouting and analyzing players. In other words, applying Wall Street tactics to the world of professional sports.

Mark Broadie
Mark, however, was seeking answers to help his own game, and the game all golfers play, when he began his research in 2001. He wanted to know what is the best way to play a shot? How does a player know when to go for the green or lay up? He wanted to know the answers to the endless decisions a player has to make in a round.

As Mark writes in his book, “I wanted to dissect the game to better understand golfers’ strategies and performance. A mountain of detailed golf shot data, I knew, would allow me to analyze different strategies and performance outcomes, to gain new insights on how best to play the game.”

With his academic background, and the knowledge he possessed from being a low handicap player, he began his research by using his computer program called Golfmetrics to collect, store, and analyze golf data. Using his home golf course, Pelham Country Club, as his research site, he enlisted friends and fellow members to collect data on their games. Players were asked to place an X in a page yardage book, containing an image of the hole, indicating where their ball landed. After the round, the data was entered into a computer.

In a few years, Mark had a Golfmetrics database that contained more than 100,000 shots from 200-plus golfers ranging in age from eight to 70-plus years. The golfers were LPGA Tour pros, club pros, college golfers and male and female amateur golfers with scores ranging from the 60s to the 140s. With this data, he writes, “I could start analyzing and studying golf performance, and trends started becoming apparent.”

“A Cave Filled With Treasure”

While most of his data was from amateurs, Mark knew he needed information about professional golfers to compare the play of amateurs and that of the pros. As he writes in EVERY SHOT COUNTS, “Unbeknownst to me, at the same time I was creating Golfmetrics, the PGA Tour was developing its own shot-level data collection system, called ShotLink.”

Between 2003 and 2012, the ShotLink database gathered information on more than 10 million shots. In a forward-looking undertaking the the PGA Tour wanted to update their scoring system as a way to improve fan experience at tournaments, and provide better information for the media.

“For a researcher like me,” says Mark, “having access to this data is like exploring a cave filled with treasure.”

With the data provided by the PGA Tour’s ShotLink system, he is collecting information on how golf is being played on the tour and that will allow the PGA Tour and the USGA to answer questions about golf performance and golf strategy which, as Mark writes, “couldn’t be answered a few years ago.”

The statistical answers Mark found when studying the data from his Golfmetrics and ShotLink, he presents in his book, EVERY SHOT COUNTS. They can help everyone’s game. Here are a few examples:

  • It is the long game that makes the biggest difference in scores between pros and amateurs.
  • Long hitters not only hit the ball farther, they have more consistent swings, so they’re more likely to play their next shot from the fairway.
  • Shots from 100 yards or less account for only 60 to 65 percent of all shots.
  • Eliminate putts from three and a half feet or less, and the figure drops to 41 to 47 percent.
  • Practicing putting and chipping provides the most benefit to anyone’s game.
  • Consistency improves a golf round more than any other factor. While the numbers tell the story (and the score) of everyone’s round, Mark also knows that players need to assess the unique circumstances of each shot, from the lie, to the wind, to the pin’s location.

“Numbers aren’t a substitute for the drama of the game,” Mark sums up, “but they can enhance the fan experience.”

Henry Cotton, who won three British Opens between 1934 and 1948, said famously, “Every shot counts.”

Mark Broadie has taken that to heart. At Pelham Country Club where he’s been club champ, he can play. At Columbia University Graduate School of Business where he teaches, he can count.

Now his new book EVERY SHOT COUNTS proves he can handle them both, like a pro.

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

Monday, August 18

Yang Defeats Connors to Win U.S. Amateur

Editor's note: A point of pride. The new U.S. Amateur champion attends my alma mater, San Diego State.

By USGA

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Gunn Yang, 20, of the Republic of Korea, defeated Corey Conners, of Canada, 2 and 1, in the 36-hole final match Sunday to win the 2014 U.S. Amateur Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club’s 7,208-yard, par-71 Highlands Course.

“I was just trying to make it to the match-play portion, really,” said Yang, a San Diego State University sophomore who had back surgery in May 2013.

“That was the goal, first of all. And then when I made it to the match play, I was like, maybe I can do this. I was just trying to go through by every single match, just trying to play my game and trying to see how it goes, and I got the trophy. So, I'm really excited and really happy about it.”

Yang, who grew up in Korea and played competitive amateur golf in Australia for five years, is the second Korean-born player to win the U.S. Amateur, joining Byeong-Hun “Ben” An, who claimed the title at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., in 2009.

Conners, 22, a recent graduate of Kent State University in Ohio who lost to eventual champion Matt Fitzpatrick in the 2013 semifinals, was vying to become the first Canadian winner since Gary Cowan in 1971. He was the first player since Patrick Cantlay in 2010 (semifinals) and 2011 (final) to advance to at least the semifinals in back-to-back years.

Yang, who was playing in his first U.S. Amateur after qualifying on July 21 at Hacienda Golf Club in La Habra Heights, Calif., held a 1-up lead through the morning 18 holes. He never trailed in the match.

“I haven't won a tournament for a long time, like maybe five or six years,” said Gunn.

“I was going through my injury, also. I was just trying to play my game. Obviously, it just popped in my head that if I beat Corey, then I win the trophy. But, I was just trying to concentrate and just trying to hit balls and just put it next to the hole and make the putt.”

Friday, August 15

Go Paddleboarding With Davis Love III

(Courtesy of Sea Island)
A LITTLE FRIDAY FUN HERE. Forget golf for a moment and consider paddleboarding with, yes, PGA champion and former Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III.

From the release:
On September 14, Sea Island resort in Georgia is giving locals and guests the rare and exciting opportunity to meet and go on a paddleboarding adventure with one of golf’s most celebrated champions, Davis Love III. 
Hosted by Davis Love III himself, the “Off the Dock with Davis” event will take place from 3-9 p.m., starting at Village Creek Landing on St. Simons Island and concluding at Sea Island’s Rainbow Island, where a luau-style party will await. Participants will be able to interact with one of the greatest golfers in the country in a serene setting devoid of balls and clubs. 
Tickets are $65 for adults and $25 for children, which includes live music, food and transportation from Sea Island to Village Creek. (Paddleboards will be available to rent.) This rain or shine event is open to the public but reservations are required and can be made by calling 1-855-572-4975 ext. 5111.
Maybe Davis will help you with your paddleboard grip and stroke.

Thursday, August 14

Tiger Woods's Full Ryder Cup Statement

(From TigerWoods.com)

Ailing Tiger (Allison)
I've been told by my doctors and trainer that my back muscles need to be rehabilitated and healed. They've advised me not to play or practice now. I was fortunate that my recent back injury was not related to my surgery and was muscular only.

I have already spoken to Tom [Watson] about the Ryder Cup, and while I greatly appreciate his thinking about me for a possible captain's pick, I took myself out of consideration. The U.S. team and the Ryder Cup mean too much to me not to be able to give it my best. I'll be cheering for the U.S. team. I think we have an outstanding squad going into the matches.

I plan to return to competition at my World Challenge tournament at Isleworth in Orlando, Florida, Dec. 1-7. It's an event that's important to me and my foundation, and it will be exciting to be playing again.

Wednesday, August 13

Bad Boy Bobby Locke (Conclusion): No Show

I asked John Coyne why he called Bobby Locke a "bad boy." Coyne said, "Locke wasn't liked on the PGA Tour. They blackballed him. Also, he was fired from his first pro job in Johannesburg." In this series, read how the South African golf legend made enemies by beating America's best. Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6.

By John Coyne

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

South African great Bobby Locke
WITH THE TELEPHONE NUMBER GARY PLAYER gave me while I was in South Africa in the winter of 1969, I called Bobby Locke and he answered the phone.

I explained who I was, and that I was traveling through Africa and Gary Player had given me his phone number. I told him my tale of being an 11-year-old who had seen him win the Chicago Victory Open in ’48 at Midlothian Country Club and that I’d like to meet him now and interview him for a golf magazine.

It took him a few minutes to pull all these references into focus, given the years, and the improbability of the phone call from an American stranger wanting to talk to him about a golf tournament that had taken place over twenty years before in the U.S. At the end, however, he seemed generally enthusiastic about meeting me, and I suggested his country club, given that he would be, I guessed, comfortable in those surroundings, and also I wanted to get an inside look at a South African golf course.

The next morning, I took a couple local buses to his club, arriving early and touring the residential streets of white Joburg.

What struck me immediately, having worked my way down the long west coast of Africa, by plane, train, buses, and hitchhiking, was just how wealthy this world was in the midst of those apartheid years. Wealthy and fortified. Every luxury home, even if not large nor situated on a large lot, was enclosed within a high stone or iron fence, displaying warnings about trespassing and displaying the name of the security firms guarding the property. South Africa in those years was an armed camp.

The club itself was not unlike most private ones in the U.S., with manicured lawns, grass tennis courts, a swimming pool, and a large and gracious club house dominating a slight rise. I wandered gravel paths through gardens of summer flowers with familiarity for such surroundings to find myself, as I expected, at the first tee.

It was a weekday midmorning and I stood in the shade and watched a few members waiting to play. Concentrated, I must say, more on the caddies than the members. The caddies were all African, and all dressed in white coveralls. They were chatty with each other, with the players. Clearly they were all of one world, at least on this golf course.

Then I went into the pro shop and introduced myself to an assistant pro and explained myself, and why I was at the club. I remember being greeted with great friendliness. Bobby Locke was a person of importance, and so was I, if I was there to meet him.

Victory Open Stories

What I had in my possession after all those years away from Midlothian was a handful of stories surrounding the last Chicago Victory Open. I had, I guessed, more fond memories than Locke, who reduced the great event in my life to a single photograph, and one or two lines, in his book, On Golf.

I was the youngest of three brothers who all caddied at Midlothian. I did know, and was friends with, Locke’s caddie in the Victory Open, Kenny Burke. Kenny was just a year or two older than me, and he had picked up Locke’s bag in the parking lot of the club when Locke arrived for a practice round.

The story in the caddie yard was that Locke wanted a little kid looping for him, not one of the men who hung around the caddie shack looking for a loop, or the few professionals who followed the sun, from one tournament to the next back in the days before a touring caddie became a personality and a wealthy man on the Tour. A little kid, it was rumored, wouldn’t cost him a lot of money. Locke won $2,000.00 for that ’48 Victory Open and Kenny Burke earned $75.00.

Locke had rounds of 65-65-70-66 for a total of 266. The 65s were course records, at the time, and the 266 was sixteen shots ahead of former tennis champion turned golf pro Ellsworth Vines’ 282. That score was, and still is, the largest margin of victory ever in any PGA tournament. Locke shares this record with J. Douglas Edgar and his win in the 1919 Canadian Open. The next closest is Tiger Wood’s fifteen-stroke win in the 2000 U.S. Open.

Our home pro, Jimmy Walkup, had 285 and tied for fifth place with touring pros George Fazio, Dick Metz and Jim Ferrier. Jimmy was an alumnus caddy of Glen Garden Country club in Fort Worth, Texas, better known for his fellow caddies, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan. The members had known about Jimmy’s background but this was the first opportunity they had to see him compete with the best in the country.

Midlothian was built in 1898 by H.J. Tweedie. It was carved out of farmland and had small, flat, postage stamp size greens. With the exception of No. 11, situated on a slight rise, these were greens one would dominate with a pitch and run approach. What I remember most clearly from following Locke for four rounds was his ability to get it close to the pin, giving himself makeable short putts.

There were no ropes holding the gallery, and the truth was, there was not much of a gallery. Spectators could get close to the players, which I was constantly trying to do, but Locke had two members working as marshals, and they flanked him as he walked down, always, the center of the fairway. Those were wonderful days of watching great golf. No gallery ropes, no cops in uniforms, no cheering, no "IN THE HOLE!" shouted from the stands. In fact, there were no stands.

On the weekend, I’d guess there were less than two thousand spectators following Locke in the final twosome, and most of them were members, and friends of members, and golfers from the Southside of Chicago. In those pre-television days, golf wasn’t a spectator sport.

John Coyne today.
I shared these stories and more about the Victory Open, Chicago, “no, it wasn’t as dangerous as the movies said,” and about Tam O’Shanter, a golf course I knew, as well as stories about the All American Tournament in which I had caddied, with the pro shop crew, and the pro who arrived and became curious at my presence. I was offered a soft drink and a chair and after a half hour, calls were made on my behalf to the front office to see if Bobby Locke was somewhere else in the clubhouse waiting for my arrival.

Excuses were then forthcoming from the pro, saying that Bobby hadn’t been well; the accident, etc. I nodded, agreeing. I understood. After a good hour or so I thanked everyone for their hospitality and said goodbye.

Bobby Locke never showed up.

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

Tuesday, August 12

Jack Nicklaus Wowed By Valhalla Drama

By Brian Keogh

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.

Jack Nicklaus
JACK NICKLAUS HAS BEEN A HUGE FAN of Rory McIlroy’s for quite some time but even the Golden Bear was bowled over by the Holywood star’s dramatic back nine comeback to win his fourth major at Valhalla on Sunday.

The 18-time major winner insisted last week that McIlroy had the game to win between 15 and 20 majors, if he had the inclination. And he saw nothing in the final round of the US PGA to dissuade him from that view as McIlroy came from three shots behind with nine holes to play to win by a stroke from Phil Mickelson. Nicklaus was hugely entertained by the great “theatre” of the final day that saw up to five players share the lead at one stage before McIlroy got back in the mix with that eagle three at the 10th and then put his foot on the accelerator over the closing holes.

“Fantastic,” Nicklaus said of the final round. “It was really a great tournament. It was great theatre. Great golf, actually. It was one of the best tournaments to watch—because of such good play—that I have seen in a long, long time.

“Henrik Stenson played fantastic… Phil Mickelson was unbelievable. Just pure guts and really great golf. And Rickie Fowler was simply terrific. He played well all the way down the stretch, until he couldn’t see at 18. No one could. So let’s just discount what happened at 18, because I just thought Rickie was terrific.

“Then Rory, who got three shots down, showed so much poise, confidence and determination coming down the stretch. The tee shots he hit today, wow. Early on, Rory was just playing along and couldn’t get anything going (2 over after six holes). All of a sudden, everybody else was getting something going. Then Rory got the right break at the 10th hole with a great shot—he made the right break at 10 with that second shot (to set up eagle). He was off and running from there.”

Nicklaus has become something of a mentor to McIlroy in recent years and sees no limits to the young Ulsterman’s potential.

“I think Rory is an unbelievable talent,” said the Golden Bear, who holds the all-time record with 18 majors. “It depends on what he feels his priorities are but I think he has the opportunity to win 15 or 20 majors if he wants to keep on playing.”

McIlroy has tried to flee from high expectations and said earlier in the week at Valhalla that his ambition was simply to get to four majors.

“If that’s Jack’s opinion of me, he has a high opinion of me. I’ve always said I’m on three, and I want to get to four. Hopefully I can get to four this week and then keep going from there,” he said.

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

Monday, August 11

'Rory's Glory'

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - "Rory's Glory." That was the headline on the cover of The Courier-Journal, the metro newspaper for Louisville and southern Indiana.

Rory McIlroy won the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club last night. It's his second PGA victory, his second consecutive major and his third consecutive win spanning the last month.

All things seem possible for the 25-year-old Northern Irishman after winning four majors so young, putting his name in the same sentence with golf greats Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

Rory won this one in a new way. He relinquished the lead early, as several able players charged up the leaderboard. Holding the solo lead on the back nine, Rickie Fowler looked as if he was poised to win his first major. Phil Mickelson also played inspired golf and held a share of the lead late in the day.

But Rory, at his best, is better than the rest. His length off the tee, his timely putting and his resoluteness were the difference on the back nine of a final round played in hurry-up mode.

I'm driving home from Louisville today. I had a great week at Valhalla, my first PGA Championship as a media member. In addition to Rory's performance, I'll remember the rain, sitting in on press conferences and talking to golf journalists and broadcasters. I'll remember the fans, too. They were into it.

Something special always seems to happen at Valhalla.

Sunday, August 10

PGA Notebook: Lowest Scoring Round in PGA History

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Notes via the PGA of America.

The scoring average for the third round was 69.57, easily the lowest single round in PGA Championship history.

18 players are within six shots of the lead heading into the final round.

Brooks Koepka had nine birdies today, matching Lee Westwood (Round 1) for the most in any single round this week.

Bernd Wiesberger and Hunter Mahan shot 65 in the third round to match the low score of the Championship--Kevin Chappell, Ryan Palmer, Lee Westwood in Round 1; Jason Day in Round 2.

Rickie Fowler has played 27 straight holes without a bogey.

Rory McIlroy one-putted nine of his last 12 holes on Saturday.

Kentuckian Kenny Perry turns 54 today; Perry shot his second consecutive 69 Saturday to get to 3-under par.

55 of the 74 players are under par through three rounds.

Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark made five straight birdies today, from holes 7-11.

There were 37 scores in the 60s in the third round, compared to 29 in the second round and 34 in the first round.

Eagles at No. 4

At the par-4 fourth hole, the PGA of America moved up the tees 70 yards from where they were on Friday. That reduction in yardage ramped up the excitement, as seven players made eagle 2 on the 292-yard hole. Among the seven were Kentuckians J.B. Holmes and Kenny Perry.

No. 4 was the easiest hole today, with a scoring average of 3.311. (No. 6 was the hardest hole in the third round--only one birdie was made in the round; scoring average of 4.338.)

Phil Mickelson on Valhalla Experience: 'Fans Have Been Sensational'

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - With family in the area and knowing the sports history and culture in southern Indiana and this part of Kentucky, I admit that I'm biased when I say Louisville is a great sports town. But at least one famous golfer agrees. That would be Phil Mickelson.

Despite heavy rains and a soggy and muddy Valhalla Golf Club along the edges where the gallery walks and watches, a sold-out PGA Championship has forged ahead with great golf and large, boisterous crowds. No one should be surprised. They love their sports around here, and that includes major championship golf.

As Mickelson observed after finishing his third round, nothing seems to dampen their spirits.

"It really is amazing when you look at the weather conditions and the challenges logistically to get here from a spectator's point of view, how many people have shown up to support this tournament," he said.

"Now they have done it every year from '96 and 2000 PGA and the '08 Ryder Cup. The fans have been sensational, and supporting us the way they did to that '08 victory. They were a huge part of our momentum. And they have been out here supporting the players equally as strong as they have in the past this week."

Mickelson was asked: "What does it do for you when you are in the midst of that kind of atmosphere?"

"It's great energy to have so many people and be so supportive not just of myself but all the players. They have been great."

Lefty will try to feed off that energy on Sunday, saying on Saturday evening that he needs to go low for a chance to win his second PGA championship and sixth major.

Saturday, August 9

Rory McIlroy Leads By a Nose at Top of Stretch

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Not far from Churchill Downs, along Shelbyville Road east of downtown, there's a horse race otherwise known as the PGA Championship. Firing a third-round 67 that included six birdies and two bogeys, favorite Rory McIlroy is ahead by a nose. But there are several strong contenders on McIlroy's heels.

"I'll take a win any way it comes," Rory said. "If that means having to scrap it out with a couple coming down the stretch or if I can give myself some sort of lead going down the back nine or whatever it is."

Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, a two-time winner on the European Tour, is one shot off McIlroy's 13-under total after an impressive 65. Rickie Fowler had a 67 and is two shots off the pace. Phil Mickelson (67) and Jason Day (69) are within striking distance at 10 under par.

"I didn't expect any of this really coming into this week," Wiesberger said, adding about the challenge that lay ahead on Sunday, "I know I have it in me. I can perform on the big stage."

After soaking rains in the morning at Valhalla Golf Club, the skies mostly cleared in the afternoon. Gentle breezes made the heavy humidity slightly more bearable for spectators.

I caught up with the leaders on the final nine, watching McIlroy and Day tee off on the par-3 14th hole. McIlroy was bunkered, but got up and down to save par. Day also parred, and the pair walked to the par-5 15th tied at 10 under.

Rory must have reached down for another gear. He birdied 15 and the long par-4 16th to edge back ahead of the pack. At 17, where I stood on a knoll near the green, Wiesberger nearly holed his approach shot. He tapped in for a birdie and was tied for the lead. Except for Ryan Palmer who made a bogey, Mickelson, Fowler, Mikko Ilonen and Jim Furyk all recorded pars on the 17th. Not along after, so did the final pairing of McIlroy and Day.

Mickelson, who birdied the par-5 finishing hole, is bullish about his chances.

"It's so fun for me to be back in the thick of it, have a chance, being in contention heading into Sunday," Mickelson said.

The final two players blasted their drives on the 18th, with McIlroy slightly ahead of the Aussie Day. Both men deposited their second shots into the bunker fronting the green. McIlroy got up and in for his birdie, while Day could do no better than par.

"I'm expecting to be more comfortable tomorrow than I have in the past two final rounds," Fowler said about his prospects to win his first major.

But he and the rest of the chasing pack will have to somehow run down that lead thoroughbred, McIlroy.

Golf Writer Bill Fields Bags 100th Major

Bill Fields
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Bill Fields remembers covering his first major golf championship. It was 30 years ago this month, the 1984 PGA Championship at Shoal Creek.

"I think I was lucky to get past that one," Fields said today during a PGA of America ceremony honoring him and golf photographer David Cannon for covering 100 majors. "Storm detection wasn't what it is now and we got caught out there on a Sunday in a very bad storm."

Fields and Cannon reminisced as colleagues, journalists and PGA officials listened and celebrated the two media veterans' many accomplishments and contributions to the sport.

Fields said he began covering the majors as a golf photographer before shifting to a golf writer. As a photographer, he recalled capturing Larry Mize when he won the 1987 Masters in a playoff with Greg Norman.

"That was fun," he said.

Fields also snapped a perfect image of T.C. Chen's tragic double hit at the 1985 U.S. Open.

From a writing standpoint, there have been so many stories through the years, a lot of late Sunday nights on deadline, but another thing that came to his mind was the opportunity to sit down and talk to legends like Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead.

"Our reporting lives were better for getting to do that," Fields said.

Afterward Fields and Cannon were on the other end of the lens as they stood with the PGA's Julius Mason for pictures. People in the room came forward to shake their hands and cake was served to mark the occasion, which was fitting in more ways than one because food is essential to covering golf and especially the majors.

2014 PGA Championship: Getting to Know Mikko Ilonen and Bernd Wiesberger

Mikko Ilonen
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - They aren't household names, at least not here in America, but Mikko Ilonen and Bernd Wiesberger are near the top of the leaderboard at the 96th PGA Championship.

Ilonen is tied for fourth with Ryan Palmer and Rickie Fowler at 7-under 135. Wiesberger is tied for seventh with Phil Mickleson at 6-under 136.

Who are these guys?

Let's start with Ilonen, 34, from Finland. He is ranked 54th in the world and has won four times on the European Tour. This is his second PGA Championship. Last year he missed the cut at Oak Hill.

And Wiesberger is a 28-year-old Austrian, who also plays on the European Tour. No wins yet for the 70th-ranked player. (CORRECTION: Wiesberger has two victories on the European Tour.) He has played in the previous two PGA Championships, missing the cut both times. This week has been a turning point of sorts.

Bernd Wiesberger
"I'm quite delighted with my play so far," Wiesberger said on Friday after his second consecutive 68.

Earlier majors had not gone well for the Austrian.

"It's my sixth one and only one [made] cut so far," he said, "so it's disappointing how I've played in the majors."

What has been the difference this time?

"I had good preparation coming into this week," Wiesberger said. "I had a couple weeks off and came here early and had a good look at the course."

Wiesberger will tee off with Mickelson at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. Ilonen will play with Fowler, starting at 2:40 p.m. Maybe the two lesser-known players will continue to quietly contend for the Wannamaker Trophy.

Friday, August 8

Vice Captain Stricker 'Very Happy' With 68 at PGA

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Named on Wednesday as a vice captain for the U.S. Ryder Cup team by skipper Tom Watson, Steve Stricker has mixed feelings about his new role.

Steve Stricker
"It's going to sting," Stricker said on Friday, "...when I'm over there as an assistant captain and watching the guys and wishing I was probably a part of the playing part of the team....Hopefully I can help out a little bit."

Stricker was still a player on Friday at the PGA Championship, and a good one. The PGA Tour and Ryder Cup veteran shot a 3-under 68 to go with his opening 69. Not only will Stricker play on the weekend, he is in contention, just four back of clubhouse leader Rory McIlroy.

"I'm very happy with [my round] and happy to be in and finished," he said about his slog through the morning rain and wet course conditions.

Starting on the back nine, Stricker made four birdies to card a 32. He struggled somewhat on the front nine, but still finished with a respectable 36, just one bogey on his card for the round. While a win could put him on the Ryder Cup team and also would be his first major victory, Stricker isn't thinking about those things.

"...I'm obviously trying to do the best I can this weekend," Stricker said, "but it hasn't really crossed my mind as a player just because I haven't played that much. I haven't played all that well this year and I'm just trying to have a good tournament here this week."

For now, he's more than safisfied with his 137 on a challenging PGA Championship golf course.

"All in all, [a] good two days and looking forward to the weekend."

Rory and Rain Dominate at PGA Championship

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - It was raining steadily when I caught up with Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer on the par-5 18th hole at Valhalla Golf Club. Bubba had drifted right off the tee. Kaymer and McIlroy were in the fairway, down the left-hand side, with Rory up ahead.

Bubba laid up. Kaymer hit into the bunker fronting the green.

Wearing a shirt and cap that matched the gray skies overhead, Rory swatted an iron that landed on the front of the green. A few moments later he firmly rapped his putt up the incline. The ball rolled into the cup for an eagle. That dramatic 3 produced a loud roar and gave McIlroy the outright lead at 8 under par through his first nine holes of the second round.

At the 1st hole, Watson again hit a wayward tee shot, this time in the trees to the left of the fairway. McIlroy was in perfect position, and wedged his approach shot to inside 10 feet. He rimmed out his birdie putt.

Rory dropped a shot at the 2nd, and parred the next four holes. Then a spurt that produced two birdies in the last three holes. He finished with a 67.

McIlroy, 9 under through 36 holes, is the clubhouse leader in the mid-afternoon on Friday.

Ryan Palmer Overcomes Rainy Day

The rain has stopped this afternoon, but the course was taking on a lot of water early. I spotted the squeegee crew this morning on the 10th tee.

When first-round co-leader Ryan Palmer began his second round early this morning, he said visibility was limited and the 10th green (he started on the back nine) had so much standing water that he was unable to putt.

"Ended up sitting up there for 45 minutes in the tower with the volunteers taking pictures of all the water," he said.

Palmer, 37, a three-time PGA Tour winner who is ranked 63rd in the world, is playing in his eighth PGA Championship. His best finish was a tie for 19th in 2010. He was pleased with his 1-under 70, which puts him at 7 under at the midpoint of the championship.

"I was glad to shoot under par," Palmer said. "That's all you could ask for today."

What's it like to be at the top of the leaderboard in the PGA Championship?

"The mind wanders when you get up there and see your name and you start thinking about it," Palmer said. "I've been very good to quickly correct myself and say, no, this shot, quit doing that and just go hit this one shot.

"All I can do is come out and keep doing what I've been doing. I have a pretty good track record when I've played well on Thursday and Friday coming into the weekend."

Scattered showers and storms are expected to continue into the weekend.

2014 PGA Championship: Friday Morning Notebook

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Includes notes via the PGA of America.

There was a rain delay early Friday morning at Valhalla Golf Club. Play resumed at 8:35 a.m. Tee times have been moved back about an hour. Stormy weather is expected throughout the day.

Valhalla measures 7,328 yards for the second round. Despite a wet golf course, lift, clean and place is not in effect at this point.

Ben Crane withdrew because of a back problem. He shot a 74 in the first round.

Round 1 Notes

A total of 53 players finished the opening round under par. By comparison, 51 players were under par after the first round in the 1996 PGA Championship at Valhalla; 21 were below par through one round of the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla.

Good scoring was on display in the first round, with those 53 rounds under par. Kevin Chappell (65), Jim Furyk (66), Chris Wood (66) and Shawn Stefani (68) were the only four who did not have a bogey or worse on their scorecards.

Four weeks before he turns 65, United States Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson parred the first 15 holes in the opening round. Watson, who won the 2011 Senior PGA Championship at Valhalla, made bogey at No. 16 but parred his final two holes for 72.

Entering this week, Watson ranked second in scoring average among those who have played 100-plus rounds in the PGA Championship – Jack Nicklaus, 71.37 scoring average (128 rounds); Watson: 71.72 scoring average (114 rounds).

Kentucky natives J.B. Holmes and Kenny Perry have gotten a lot of local love this week. Today, Holmes had six birdies and shot 3-under-par 69. He is tied for 11th. Perry, who received a special exemption to play in what is likely his final PGA Tour event, had three birdies but also four bogeys and is tied for 78th place after shooting 72.

Both Holmes and Perry represented the victorious United States Team in the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla.

Thursday, August 7

Lee Westwood Shares PGA Lead After a 65

Lee Westwood
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - On Thursday at Valhalla Golf Club, Englishman Lee Westwood shot his best score in the PGA Championship, a 6-under 65, which also happened to match his lowest score in any major. The round that began on the 10th hole included a double bogey on the par-4 1st, an oddity in an otherwise brilliant display. On an overcast morning outside of Louisville, Westwood collected nine birdies on his first trip around Valhalla and only needed 25 putts.

"I played well all day," Westwood said. "I got off to a nice, steady start. Hit a lot of good shots. Hit a lot of fairways. Putted very nicely and just really carried on from the final round last week."

Westwood shot a final-round 63 at last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He arrived at Valhalla feeling good about his game.

"That obviously gave me some confidence coming into this week," he said. "Just tried to sort of almost take it easy in the practice rounds. Played nine holes each day. Didn't want to drain myself, especially with the heat."

Except for the Englishman's game, it wasn't too hot today at Valhalla, with temperatures in the low 80s due to cloud cover. Rain is in the forecast, which could send scores lower.

Kevin Chappell, who said, "I guess I was in a good rhythm out there," also posted a 65. Chappell, 28, a UCLA product, is playing in his second PGA Championship. Last year he missed the cut at Oak Hill. His first round at Valhalla included six birdies and no bogeys.

"I think if you're driving it long and straight, any course plays to your game," Chappell said, "and that's the key to this golf course ... getting the ball in play and being able to attack these short holes."

Ryan Palmer, who was part of the afternoon wave, also finished with a 65.

Other select scores:

66 - Jim Furyk, Edoardo Molinari
68 - Ian Poulter
69 - Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson, Nick Watney, Jason Day, Jimmy Walker, Victor Dubuisson, Jamie Donaldson

Tiger Struggles

After an opening 3-over 74, Tiger Woods has some work to do if he wants to play on the weekend. A "dialed in" golf swing on the range went missing during his first round.

"Unfortunately, I didn't carry it to the golf course," Woods said.

Tiger also struggled with his speed on Valhalla's putting surfaces.

"I didn't get a putt to the hole."

Paired with Tiger, Phil Mickelson started poorly but finished strong, playing the last 10 holes in 4 under par.

"It's been a while since I felt like my game was to this point," Mickelson said after his 69.

Players are still on the golf course, including Rory McIlroy, who is at 4 under on the 16th hole.

Dufner Withdraws

Defending champion Jason Dufner pulled out after 10 holes because of neck problems. Dufner was 8 over par.

"I've been feeling pretty bad all week," Dufner said. "I felt bad last week. I haven't made a birdie in 45 holes and I'm just not able to play golf right now. I tried to do what I could to be able to compete some and give it a go, but it is just pointless."

2014 PGA Championship: Inside the Tiger-Phil Gallery

LOUISVILLE, Ky - That roar I heard as I walked along the 18th hole at Valhalla Golf Club was more than likely a Tiger Woods birdie at the 16th. I had set out to intercept the marquee grouping: Woods, Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington. They were playing Valhalla's back nine first, and then would head over to the 1st tee.

As the PGA of America might say, this was major. Tiger and Phil were playing together for the 32nd time. A lot of people would be following along. I was going to join the crowd.

But first I encountered the grouping of Adam Scott, Lee Westwood and Jordan Spieth. Westwood would go on to the early first-round lead, shooting a 6-under 65. Then I saw the 19th grouping--Jimmy Walker, Ian Poulter and Jason Day--on the 18th tee. All three players hit good tee shots on the finishing par 5.

Here they come. Tiger. Phil. Padraig.

What they're wearing: Tiger, purple over gray. Phil, white over black. Padraig, blue over white.

Being 6'4" helps, just a little. Yes, I'm media, but I don't have inside-the-ropes access like some do, so I'm one of the sardines in the large gallery.

A job I'd hate: MOBILE DEVICE POLICY ENFORCEMENT

That's what it says on the green bibs worn by volunteers who bark at gallery members as Tiger, Phil and Padraig made their way to the 18th tee. "Sir, put your phone away!" And more commands like that.

The three major winners teed off. In a fairway bunker, Tiger was unhappy. Flirting with the water down the right side, Padraig was worried. Phil was satisfied because he was in the fairway. Only Phil birdied the hole. Harrington was 1 under, but otherwise there wasn't much happening in this group.

At 7,338 yards, Valhalla is playing 100 yards shorter than its official yardage on Thursday. The 1st hole is 432 yards. Padraig and Phil split the fairway, but Tiger snapped his drive deep into the left-hand trees. More visible unhappiness.

Tiger was on his way to a 3-over 74. Harrington would card a 73. Mickelson was destined to be low man of the group with a 69.

"Tiger or Phil?"

While I was out there, I conducted an impromptu, random and very small survey. I asked golf fans, "Tiger or Phil?" Which one do they like best, or pull for, if they had to choose.

It's a simple question, really. One that almost anyone could answer, although a few people were mildly suspicious. "How are you going to use this information?" asked one man.

Tiger edged Phil in my poll, 12 to 8.

One person suggested that I do "Tiger or Rory?" Maybe I'll ask that tomorrow.

2014 PGA Championship: Thursday Morning Notebook

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Championship notes via the PGA of America.

PGA club professional Brian Norman, a native of Henderson, Kentucky, hit the first tee shot in the 96th PGA Championship, Thursday at 7:30 a.m. off the No. 1 tee. Norman, 32, is a PGA assistant professional at The Lakes at Castle Hills in The Colony, Texas.

Robert Karlsson of Sweden, who played for Europe in the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla, was first off the 10th tee, at 7:35 a.m.

Groups in the morning wave teed off on No. 1 from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., and off No. 10 from 7:35 a.m. to 9:35 a.m.

In the afternoon wave, groups start on No. 1 from 12:40 p.m. to 2:40 p.m., and on No. 10 from 12:45 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Matt Kuchar has withdrawn from the championship due to an injured back. First alternate John Huh took Kuchar's spot in the field.

The prize money for the 2014 PGA Championship is $10 million, the highest of any major golf championship. The winner will receive $1.8 million.

66 was the low score after the first round in each of the first two PGA Championships played at Valhalla. Kentuckian Kenny Perry led after 18 holes in 1996, and Tiger Woods and Scott Dunlap shared the lead in 2000.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have been paired 31 times on the PGA Tour. They made it 32 when they teed off with 2008 PGA Champion Padraig Harrington at 8:35 a.m. on No. 10.

Weather forecast: Plenty of clouds over Valhalla Golf Club, which will keep temperatures in the low 80s. Expect isolated showers late on Thursday, with increasing rain showers early Friday morning. Thunderstorms will become likely by Friday afternoon and continue through Saturday.

Wednesday, August 6

Tiger Arrives, Valhalla Awaits

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Valhalla, the name of the Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course that's hosting the 96th PGA Championship, comes from Norse mythology. According to Merriam-Webster, Valhalla is "the great hall where heroes slain in battle are received." Put another way, it's a place of honor, glory, even happiness.

Could this be why Tiger Woods appeared early this afternoon for a much ballyhooed practice round?

Woods, no doubt, is a golf hero. And he has, in a sense, been slain in battle, most recently when back spasms forced his withdrawal during the final round of last week's Bridgestone Invitational. He is now in Louisville and will tee it up with Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington at 8:35 a.m. for Thursday's first round.

When I arrived here this morning, Tiger's status was a mystery, and on many people's minds. Would he show up for the year's final major, his last slim hope to earn a spot on Tom Watson's U.S. Ryder Cup team?

Then, at about 1 p.m., there he was warming up on the range. A little more than an hour later he teed off with Steve Stricker, Davis Love and Harris English for nine holes of practice. Tiger swung his driver on the 1st tee with no apparent wincing, although he picked up his tee gingerly.

Tiger spoke briefly with the media. He explained that his recent back problem "is something totally different." Apparently, the spasms were not related to his back surgery.

"I'm not in any pain," he said. "That is the good part."

After the interview, Tiger put aside his sticks and walked the back nine to get a look at the rest of the golf course.

New Par of 71

For Tiger and the other 150-plus players in the field, Valhalla Golf Club will be a worthy test. The PGA-owned course has hosted the PGA Championship on two other occasions: in 1996 when Mark Brooks beat Kenny Perry in a playoff and in 2000 when Woods defeated Bob May, also in a playoff. This time Valhalla will play to a par of 71 instead of 72. The 2nd hole has been converted into a 500-yard par 4.

At 7,548 yards, Valhalla is not the longest championship course, but it will be plenty long enough. Sergio Garcia said this morning in a press conference that Valhalla favors long hitters, especially those who tend to hit it straight. Think Rory McIlroy. Hitting approach shots into Valhalla's undulating greens will not be as difficult for players who have shorter irons in their hands, or who are able to loft high shots at small target areas.

This afternoon I walked some holes on the back nine. The course is in immaculate condition. This may be the bluegrass state, but Valhalla is lush and green, with the fairways like smooth carpet and the rough looking stout but not exceedingly long.

Considering the '96 PGA, the '00 PGA and the '08 Ryder Cup, this rolling acreage on Shelbyville Road has produced a lot of drama. Beginning tomorrow, sold-out crowds will be on hand for what should be another exciting week in Louisville.

2014 PGA Championship: Sergio Garcia Is a Happy Man

Sergio is still looking
for his first major win.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The question came at the midpoint of the 30-minute press conference at the PGA Championship.

"Over the years, Irish golfers have frustrated you in the majors. Padraig twice, and more recently, Rory. If you're in contention on Sunday evening, would you rather there were no Irish guys anywhere near you on the leaderboard?"

Laughter erupted. Even the 34-year-old tour player sitting on the podium chuckled. It happened to be Sergio Garcia.

"That's an interesting point," Sergio said. "You know I wish I could blame it only on the Irish guys."

After coming onto the PGA Tour with so much talent and fanfare at the age of 19, Garcia is still looking for his first major victory more than 15 years later. Today, at Valhalla, his demeanor and words seemed to show that he is in a better place, with a more accepting attitude, about whatever failures and disappointments he has suffered in major championship golf.

"I've been close two or three times with Tiger and he's come out on top," he continued, "and, obviously ... with Padraig and then Rory lately. But no, it's just the way it is. You can look at it different ways."

Sergio is taking the positive view these days. It seems to be working. He is playing very well, nearly winning last week until a red-hot Rory McIlroy overtook him on Sunday. While Valhalla is not his favorite championship course, his fine long game and rejuvenated putting make him a contender.

Another question: "Are you happy because you're playing well or are you playing well because you're happy?"

"I think a bit of both," Sergio replied. "I feel like things around me are right where I want them to be, and that obviously puts me in a nicer situation when I go onto the golf course."

Maybe this week will finally be a "major" breakthrough in the career of Sergio Garcia. His name on the Wannamaker Trophy. That would make him even happier.

2014 PGA Championship: Louie Hits It Longest

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - My first drive to Valhalla Golf Club for the 2014 PGA Championship was better than expected. A kind person let me in on the Indiana side of the I-65 bridge that crosses the Ohio River. I then got on I-71 north and was pulling into Valhalla's main gate on Shelbyville Road much sooner than I expected.

That was a relief.

British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen had an even better drive at Valhalla on Tuesday. The South African won the long-drive competition with a poke of 340 yards.

If you haven't heard of the long-drive contest, that's because the PGA of America just brought it back to the PGA Championship festivities after a 30-year absence. It's a good year to bring it back, too. The first one held by the PGA was here in Louisville at Big Spring Country Club way back in 1952.

How it worked: Players' drives were measured on the par-5, 590-yard 10th hole. Drives had to land in the fairway to be counted.

You might wonder how the PGA Tour's longest hitter fared in the competition. Bubba Watson announced last weekend that he wouldn't participate. Instead, Bubba teed off with a 3-iron on the 10th.

As long as Louie hit it on Tuesday, Jack Nicklaus hit his even longer when he won the long-drive contest in 1963 at Dallas Athletic Club. Using a persimmon driver and a wound golf ball, Nicklaus drove one 341 yards, 17 inches.

"It was a great gallery favorite," Nicklaus said about the long-ball competition last Thursday.

Jack won a money clip. Fifty-one years later, so did Louis.

LONG DRIVE RESULTS

1. Louis Oosthuizen 340 yards

2. Jason Day 338 yards

3. Johan Kok 337 yards

4. Gary Woodland 330 yards

5. Rickie Fowler 328 yards

6. Keegan Bradley 326 yards

7. Danny Willett 322 yards

8. Adam Scott 320 yards

9. Sergio Garcia 320 yards

10. Scott Piercy 320 yards

Tuesday, August 5

PGA Championship Odds: Rory McIlroy 5/1 Favorite

AS THE ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTED, it took 78 years for a European player to win the PGA Championship. That man was Padraig Harrington at Oakland Hills in 2008.

This year, if another European player wins the season's final major, it will be the first time Europe has collected three of the four majors.

Will Rory McIlroy do it?

The Northern Irishman who has won his last two starts--the Open Championship and the WGC-Bridgestone Inviational--is the favorite at Valhalla.

Here are the 2014 PGA Championship odds courtesy of Bovada.

The PGA Championship 2014 - Outright Winner
Rory McIlroy 5/1
Adam Scott 12/1
Justin Rose 16/1
Sergio Garcia 16/1
Phil Mickelson 20/1
Rickie Fowler 20/1
Henrik Stenson 25/1
Keegan Bradley 28/1
Matt Kuchar 28/1
Tiger Woods 28/1
Bubba Watson 33/1
Jim Furyk 33/1
Charl Schwartzel 35/1
Jordan Spieth 35/1
Graeme McDowell 40/1
Martin Kaymer 40/1
Brandt Snedeker 50/1
Hideki Matsuyama 50/1
Jason Day 50/1
Jimmy Walker 50/1
Marc Leishman 50/1
Hunter Mahan 66/1
Jason Dufner 66/1
Lee Westwood 66/1
Ryan Moore 66/1
Zach Johnson 66/1
Angel Cabrera 80/1
Luke Donald 80/1
Patrick Reed 80/1
Steve Stricker 80/1
Victor Dubuisson 80/1
Webb Simpson 80/1

A Last-Minute Call to Caddie for Jack Nicklaus at '74 PGA

A 1974 MacGregor ad featuring Jack.
I ENJOYED AN ITEM FROM The Forecaddie at Golfweek.com about how heating and air conditioning salesman Jack Rickard got a last-minute call to caddie for Jack Nicklaus at the 1974 PGA Championship in Cleamons, North Carolina.

Rickard was supposed to carry for Buddy Allin at Tanglewood Park "until Allin fell off a ladder before the championship and withdrew. Rickard became first alternate until his phone rang that fateful morning."

Rickard, now 84, got a little excited when his phone rang and Jack Nicklaus was on the other end of the line.

"My wife said that I just screamed, 'Nicklaus!' (and) put on my shoes and ran out of the house," Rickard told Golfweek.com.

The North Carolina salesman trained for the PGA by putting bricks and two sets of clubs in an old golf bag and running up and down a hill in his neighborhood.

That Sunday Rickard had a front-row seat for Jack's final-round duel with Lee Trevino.

"Your man can't beat me," Trevino told the caddie. "No one can beat me today."

He was right. Lee edged Jack by a stroke.

Monday, August 4

2014 PGA Championship By the Numbers

This "by the numbers" was provided by the PGA of America.

Bone up. There will be a test at the end of the week.

3 Times the PGA Championship has now been held at Valhalla Golf Club

Times that Tiger Woods has won the PGA Championship

5 Record for most PGA Championship victories -- Walter Hagen and Jack Nicklaus

15 PGA Champions in the field for the 2014 PGA Championship

20 PGA Club Professionals in the field

21 Age of Jordan Spieth, youngest player in the field

23 Players in 2014 PGA Championship field who competed in the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla

24 Countries represented in the field

29 Major champions in the field

33 PGA Championship appearances by Tom Watson, ranking him third all-time (Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer have 37 each)

64 Age of Tom Watson, oldest player in the field

67 Players who have won the PGA Championship since 1916

71 Par at Valhalla Golf Club for the 2014 PGA Championship

72 Par at Valhalla Golf Club for the 1996 and 2000 PGA Championship

270 Winning 72-hole score in the 2000 PGA Championship (shot by both Tiger Woods and Bob May, with Woods prevailing in a playoff)

277 Winning 72-hole score in the 1996 PGA Championship (shot by both Mark Brooks and Kenny Perry, with Brooks prevailing in a playoff)

7,458 Official yardage of Valhalla Golf Club for the 2014 PGA Championship