Friday, July 31

Paul Dunne's Seven-Alarm Open Championship


WHAT WOULD IT BE LIKE to contend as an amateur at the Open Championship?

After watching Irishman Paul Dunne, 54-hole leader at the Old Course, we know something about that. But Dunne tells us much more about his experience in "Paul Dunne: Reflections on the weekend when my dreams became reality at British Open" published by the Irish Times.

Dunne's Open diary is an entertaining read. A snippet:
Thursday, July 16th –First Round I’d gone to bed at eight o’clock the night before. I never go to bed that early. I couldn’t get to sleep and it was probably half 10 before I slept. I’d a 6.43am tee time and had set seven alarms, to go off every two minutes, from 4am to 4.15m. I got up at a quarter past, and was the last one up. Everyone else in the house was up, afraid I would sleep in. I had a bowl of muesli and a yoghurt and was off [to] the course. I was ready.
(H/T John Coyne)

Thursday, July 30

Kim Leads Women's British Open, Ko 1 Back

ROUND ONE IS ALMOST in the books at the RICOH Women's British Open at Turnberry in Scotland. Scores are low. There were at least 20 rounds in the 60s.

South Korean Hyo Joo Kim leads after a 7-under 65. Teen sensation Lydia Ko of New Zealand is a shot off the pace with a 66, her best round in a major championship. American Cristie Kerr also opened with a 66.

World No. 1 Inbee Park shot a 69. Defending champion Mo Martin carded a 70.

TV SCHEDULE

All times Eastern.

Friday, July 31
ESPN2 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Saturday, August 1
ESPN2 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Sunday, August 2
ESPN2 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
ABC 5:00 - 6:00 p.m.

Wednesday, July 29

USGA: Play Nine Holes Today

Following is a USGA announcement about the second annual PLAY9 Day.

By USGA

FAR HILLS, N.J. (July 27, 2015) – The United States Golf Association (USGA), in partnership with American Express, invites golfers to participate in its second PLAY9 Day on Wednesday, July 29.

PLAY9 Day is an effort to rally golf industry stakeholders, facilities and golfers around the nine-hole round as a fun, quick and convenient way to enjoy the game.

Participants are encouraged to share photos, success stories and support of the program by using #Play9Golf via social media throughout the day. Fan posts will be featured on the USGA's official platforms.

The USGA recorded a 13 percent year-over-year increase in nine-hole rounds posted to its Golf Handicap and Information Network (GHIN®) in the months following the program's launch in 2014.

Nine-hole facilities comprise nearly 30 percent of courses in the U.S., and 90 percent of courses offer a nine-hole rate. According to the National Golf Foundation, the average nine-hole green fee in the United States is $22.

Among the many benefits of the nine-hole round:
  • It involves less of a time commitment than playing 18 holes, and is comparable with the time it takes to watch a movie, go out to dinner or attend a sporting event;
  • It can be less intimidating to newcomers as they learn the Rules, etiquette and fundamentals of the game;
  • It is family- and budget-friendly;
  • Nine-hole scores are eligible for Handicap purposes.
A USGA consumer study conducted by Sports & Leisure Research Group found that 60 percent of golfers see nine-hole rounds as an engaging way to introduce people to the game. Whether for new or experienced players, PLAY9 Day is designed to encourage everyone to find the time to play more of the game we all love.

Golf course operators can download a PLAY9 toolkit at www.usga.org/play9 that includes a user guide, posters, tent card and customizable cart plate.

Tuesday, July 28

My Golf Education in the California Desert


HOW, WHEN AND WHERE did you learn the game of golf? For me, it began more than 40 years ago in the California desert.

Located in Palmdale, a town of about 10,000 people in 1970, Desert Aire Golf Course was a flat, short, 9-hole public track with few distinguishing features, except for the Joshua trees that are native to the California high desert. Desert Aire was not a difficult course. Nor was it a course anyone was dying to play. It was, however, the course where I learned to play golf.

For that reason alone, I loved Desert Aire because it introduced me to the game of a lifetime. It was where I spent many summer days as a teen. It was also where I spent countless hours playing rounds with my dad and brother, my friends and golf teammates.

My Golf Education

How did I learn the game?

Mostly by playing, picking up tips from my dad and watching the pros on television. Like a lot of kids who loved sports, I pretended to be the players I saw on TV, copying their swings and their tempo.

We now live in an era of highly specialized golf instruction for all aspects of the game and all skill levels, from beginner to tour professional. There are numerous golf schools and golf academies all across the United States. And golf equipment has continued to advance, which is especially good for the amateur, although, like others, I'm concerned when technology threatens to make golf courses obsolete.

It was much different when I was growing up. I used real woods with small heads and forged irons made of steel or fiberglass shafts, always hand-me-down and used sets. 

I did have two advantages, though. I started playing when I was young. (There is no equivalent for starting young.) I also had regular access to a golf facility, a humble one, yes, but I didn't look down on Desert Aire. I was a happy kid who got to tee it up.

As best as I can remember, I never paid for a golf lesson. Nor did I ever take a private lesson from our head pro Red Simmons or assistant pro Ron O’Connor.

I did take group junior lessons. Ron would gather 15 or 20 of us on the driving range during the summer and teach us the fundamentals: grip, stance, setup and more. He talked to us, demonstrated and then lined us up to hit those red-striped range balls, taking a few moments to watch and instruct each boy. It was during one of those sessions that Ron refined my grip, the left hand in particular.

Somewhere along the way—maybe while playing with him—Red gave me a tip about the shoulder turn. (I still rely on that swing thought.)

In those early days, I practiced a lot. I had a little plastic shag bag of scuffed and cut golf balls that I hit to Desert Aire's lone practice green over and over and over again. I learned to hit off hardpan because that's all there was. I putted a lot. Like many kid golfers I was fearless on the greens.

Playing on Golf Teams

I made the high school golf team as a freshman. I was terrible. I fit right in. We finished eighth out of eight teams my first year.

I got better. I played three more years in high school and on a community college team. Because I learned to play the game at humble Desert Aire, I enjoyed the privilege of competing at private country clubs and public resort courses throughout California.

If you've ever spent time in the desert, then you can probably imagine that the wind blew hard at Desert Aire. I can assure you it did, especially in the afternoons. You had to hit the ball solidly and control its flight to have some success.

I recall an unfortunate motorist traveling along Ave. P, which bordered the 1st hole, a par 5. Red's strapping son smashed a tee shot that hooked into the street and struck the windshield of the oncoming car. The man parked his damaged vehicle in the gravel lot and stormed into the clubhouse where assistant pro Ron was working behind the counter.

"Somebody just hit a golf ball into my car and broke my windshield!" shouted the man. "What are you going to do about it?"

Ron replied, "I’m going to tell him to turn his left hand a little bit to the left to weaken his grip."


Sponsored by Bird Golf Academy.

Monday, July 27

Oh Happy Day in Canada



THIS TIME, THE PUTT GOT to the hole and dropped in.

Australian good guy Jason Day won a shootout at the RBC Canadian Open by sinking a 22-foot birdie putt on the final hole to beat Canadian David Hearn and American Bubba Watson by a shot. Day's fourth PGA Tour win was like salve after a close call at the Open Championship a week ago.

"It was disappointing," Day said about barely missing a playoff at St. Andrews.

"Even though I knew that I played great, I knew that I had to focus on this week. So when I actually had the same putt ... the same thing was going through my mind: 'Make sure you get it to the hole.'"

And he did, for his third consecutive birdie that gave him a 68 and 17-under total at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Ontario.

Day's triumph was Hearn's disappointment, the home-country favorite who began the round with a two-shot lead and shot a ho-hum 72.

"I got off to a great start," Hearn said, "and in the middle of the round I just struggled a bit with hitting the quality shots I had been hitting all week."

Sad fact: The last time a Canadian won the Canadian Open was 1954. Maybe an Australian victory is the next best thing.

Friday, July 24

Eight-Way Tie at Senior British Open


WEATHER IS A FACTOR AT ANOTHER Open Championship this week. The second round of the Senior British Open at Sunningdale Golf Club in Berkshire, England, was suspended on Friday afternoon due to heavy rain and flooding. Play is scheduled to resume on Saturday at 8 a.m.

"The plan will be to finish round two tomorrow and then start round three," said European Tour referee Dave Williams on EuropeanTour.com.

"All going well, we'll start round three as a two-tee start. We'll have probably have an hour or so of play left to then finish up on Sunday morning. Then we'll probably go with threeballs off one tee and finish when we're supposed to."

Eight men share the lead at 5 under par: Colin Montgomerie, Bart Bryant, Jeff Sluman, Lee Janzen, Bernhard Langer, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Marco Dawson and Michael Allen. Only Montgomerie and Bryant had begun their second rounds when play was suspended.

"I didn't feel totally comfortable with my swing," Langer said after opening with a 65, "but my putting was very good and I didn't make any major mistakes."

Langer is the defending champion. The German star won by 13 strokes last year in Wales.

Wednesday, July 22

What Golf and Ken Harrelson Gave Baseball

By John Coyne

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


WHY AND WHEN DID BASEBALL PLAYERS start wearing golf gloves in the batter's box?

Golfers, more than anyone else, might be the first to ask that question seeing, as they do, ball players tugging at their golf gloves as they approach the plate.

Famed baseball player Ken "Hawk" Harrelson
said golf was his favorite sport.
Some say it was Bobby Thomson of the Giants who wore a glove during spring training in 1949; others say it was Ted Williams in '53, when he came back to the Red Sox from Korea. Baseball historians also point out that Larry Doby, the first African-American player in the American league, wore a glove, but it seems that everyone agrees Ken Harrelson was the first baseball player to step into the batter's box during a game wearing a golf glove.

One account says he first used the glove on September 4, 1964, when he was with Kansas City and playing against the Yankees.

It seems Harrelson had played 36 holes that afternoon and arrived at the ballpark with a blister on his hand. He had not expected to play that night but found he was batting third in the lineup. According to Harrelson, in an article written by Scott Merkin, the Hawk remembered his golf glove was in his pants pocket, and he put it on to get some protection, then hit two homers that night against the Yankees.

Thus, the batting glove was unofficially born.

"From that day on, I never hit again without one," Harrelson said. 

Also according to Harrelson, the Yankees got back at him the next day.

"Mickey Mantle,” recalled Harrelson, "had the clubhouse guy go buy a couple of dozen red All-Star golf gloves because that was the color I was wearing. They all ran out onto the field wearing red golf gloves, and that's how the hitting glove got started."

Today Ken Harrelson is an announcer for White Sox games. It is his 31st season in the booth. Before the television gig, he played nine seasons with the Red Sox, Kansas City, Washington and Cleveland. his career ended in 1970 when he broke his leg.

Playing Pro Golf

Harrelson always says that of the sports he played, golf was his favorite and his best game. He played golf professionally for three and a half years after his baseball career, qualifying for and playing in the 1972 British Open (missing the cut by one shot) and winning some small non-tour events, before turning to the broadcast booth, first with the Red Sox and then Chicago.

I met him at the 1971 PGA Qualifying School, this former "rite of passage" for new players to the Tour, when I was researching and writing an instructional book based on the skills of young players.

That year the "Hawk" was one of 357 golfers who had paid an entry fee of $300 and then attempted to qualify for the Tour at one of three regional tryouts (Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Quincy, Illinois and Riverside, California). Seventy-five players survived and attended the school at the PGA National Golf Club, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

It was 108 holes of competition for those players and it was there that I met Harrelson as well as other young pros: Tom Watson, Lanny Wadkins, John Mahaffey, David Graham, all of whom had made the cut. This class of young professionals is considered the best ever to qualify for the PGA Tour.

Harrelson had an opening round of par in the tournament, but withdrew after shooting 75 and an 82. He would try three times to qualify, but never made it.

Being the Hawk

The photographer for my instructional book, Better Golf, published by Follett, happened to be Richard Raphael, who took the iconic photo of the Hawk in a Nehru jacket standing out in center field at Fenway Park. It appeared on the September 2, 1968 cover of Sports Illustrated.

Harrelson often in the late sixties wore Nehru jackets, multi-colored bell-bottom slacks and white cowboy boots. At the time he was one of the most colorful players in the majors, as well as among baseball's best golfers.

While he got his nickname "Hawk" from his famous nose when playing baseball, he also invented the "Hawk Walk" for the golf course. If he made a birdie, he would strut forward, arms stretched down, jaw jutting, to pluck his ball from the cup.

Harrelson wasn't the only golfer to show baseball how to hit a ball.

Also in Chicago, but across town at the Cubs' Wrigley Field, Sam Snead in 1951, showed the fans what a real golfer could do with a golf ball. Wrigley Field's 89-foot scoreboard deep in center was too far away from home plate and too high for any ball -- baseball or golf -- to clear the wall, even with a driver, or so thought the fans.

Sam Snead, however, was invited to try and hit a golf ball out of the park. And he did. He drove a golf ball over the scoreboard, clearing it, not with a driver, but a 2-iron. Now, of course, players like Bubba and Rory would need only a wedge, and, of course, they'd be wearing a glove.

John Coyne is a bestselling author of three golf novels and more than 20 other books. Pay him a visit at John Coyne Books.

Tuesday, July 21

New York Times: Jordan Spieth Leading New Youth Movement

IS WORLD NO. 1 RORY MCILROY an old 26? Maybe so with 21-year-old Jordan Spieth now leading the charge in golf.

Karen Crouse of the New York Times filed this story:
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — The bespectacled, white-haired journalist from The Surrey Advertiser, on hand to chronicle his 37th consecutive British Open, cocked his head and asked Jordan Spieth a question that cut through the crosswinds during the tournament as deftly as did one of Spieth’s crisp iron shots on the Old Course: 
When did golf become so youthful?
Rory McIlroy missed the Open Championship
due to an ankle injury.
And on Spieth possibly stealing McIlroy's throne:
Last summer, McIlroy was golf’s transcendent figure, with victories in the British Open and the P.G.A. Championship leaving him one Masters title from a career Grand Slam. Having taken the mantle from Woods, though, McIlroy, now 26, found Spieth, an avid basketball fan, battling him for it as if it were a jump ball. Spieth could have supplanted McIlroy at No. 1 with a victory Monday. His tie for fourth only delayed what appears inevitable. 
Once hailed as golf’s young gun, McIlroy must feel, suddenly, as if 26 is the new 36. Spieth, who turns 22 next week, is blazing a trail for the millennials. On Monday he battled rain, wind, a few golf ghosts, his putter and the Road Hole and came within a holed chip or a made 6-footer of joining Zach Johnson, Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff. Spieth’s play in the first three majors disinterred sepia-toned memories of Bobby Jones, who opened his successful Grand Slam bid in 1930 with a victory in the British Amateur at the Old Course.
Rory needs to get healthy and hurry back. For a lot of reasons.

Monday, July 20

Zach Johnson: 'I've Come a Long Way Since 2007'

MORE THAN EIGHT YEARS AFTER being no one's pick to win the Masters, Zach Johnson has won the Open Championship by shooting a final-round 66 and defeating 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and Australian Marc Leishman in a four-hole playoff at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland.

After it was over, Johnson said he was speechless.

He probably wasn't the only one at a loss for words after an Open that stretched over five days and produced incredible excitement during a Monday finish that saw so many players with a chance to clutch the Claret Jug, including Jordan Spieth, who fell one stroke short in his march to the elusive Grand Slam.

Johnson, 39, started birdie-birdie in the four-hole playoff and held on to edge Oosthuizen by a shot.

"I'm grateful. I'm humbled. I'm honored," an emotional Johnson told ESPN's Tom Rinaldi on the 18th green. "This is the birthplace of the game .... I'm just in awe right now."

He added: "I've come a long way since 2007."

Yes, he has.

As for his place in the game, Johnson now has 12 PGA Tour wins, including two majors. To win a major puts you in special company, but to win multiple majors says a lot more, especially in this era.

"Dreams have been realized, goals accomplished," Johnson said at the trophy presentation.

He thanked everyone -- the R&A, his caddie, his wife, the spectators, people back home -- and said the course played fantastic through a lot of adverse weather conditions.

"I had a peace about the day," Johnson said. "It was divine."

And then he took a victory lap along the edges of the Old Course, slapping hands with the people who witnessed another major victory from someone who seems like an unlikely champion but is actually an exceptionally determined and talented competitor.

Friday, July 17

VIDEO: Tom Watson on His Last Open Championship



TOM WATSON TALKS ABOUT HIS LAST Open Championship. He won his first of five Open titles in 1975 at Carnoustie in a playoff against Australian Jack Newton.

Watson also gives a primer on how to play the Old Course. Stay left. Don't "underplay" the wind. Be "spot on" with your long putting. The 65-year-old opened with a 4-over 76.

"I stunk up the joint the way I played," Watson said. "Too many 6s on the back nine ruined my day." 

Unless he does something heroic, today will be his last walk up 18.

Thursday, July 16

Sponsored: Paul McGinley Assumes New Captaincy



PAUL MCGINLEY KNOWS ALL ABOUT being a captain. The victorious European captain of the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles offers an inspirational glimpse into his personal story in a film entitled "Moment of Truth" (see above teaser).

McGinley has now assumed a new captaincy of a unique and virtual worldwide golf club.

Launched at the 2014 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, the Ballantine's Golf Club is a first-of-its-kind, online, global golf club that's open to all and delivers a lot of enticing benefits, such as:
  • Free membership
  • Exclusive content
  • Invitational events
  • Whiskey tastings
  • VIP hospitality and rewards
  • Member-only global tournament
  • More

"It is an honour to be the new Captain of the Ballantine's Golf Club," McGinley said. "I’m really excited to travel the world with Ballantine's Golf Club and getting involved with all the exclusive content and rewards available, meeting the members and playing alongside them."

McGinley's 'Shot Makers'

McGinley also knows about perseverance. Despite suffering a serious knee injury at the age of 17, the Irishman went on to a successful playing career and, after the triumph at Gleneagles, is widely regarded as one of the best modern Ryder Cup captains.

McGinley will bring his considerable experience to "Shot Makers" at www.ballantinesgolfclub.com and be the force behind other exclusive content. For example, he will offer swing and course management tips and share "Captain's Diary" updates about his life in golf.

"I am sure 2015-2016 is set to be a great year for the Club," McGinley added, "and I cannot wait as it grows from strength to strength."

This post is sponsored by Ballantine's Golf Club. The content was created by ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG.

Wednesday, July 15

The Indefatigable Ivor Robson: 'On the Tee ... '



HE HAS BEEN AROUND AS LONG as Tom Watson, but he's not retiring from the Open Championship. At least not yet. And apparently no one knows how old he is.

I'm talking about Ivor Robson, of course, the official starter at the Open Championship since 1975, the year Watson won the first of his five Open titles. Robson's understated flair has been heard throughout the British Isles every July since Gerald Ford was president and Arthur Ashe and Billie Jean King won the singles titles at Wimbledon.

Not only has the man been on the job a long time, he has taken a very serious approach to the business of sending off the world's best players. Every championship round, from first to last grouping, Robson never leaves his post, not even for a bathroom break.

How is that possible? Well, much like the world's best players, Ivor has a routine. 

"This job requires total and complete concentration," Robson told Rick Reilly in 1999.

"For that reason," Reilly wrote, "he doesn't touch a drop of liquid after 7 p.m. the night before. For instance, each night last week in Carnoustie, he would have a sandwich and a glass of mineral water and nothing more until the following night at 7 p.m. He loses 'about a stone [14 pounds]' each Open, he says, but it makes it very easy to eschew the [bathroom] all day."

A former Scottish tour player in the 1960s and 1970s, Robson said in '99 he "absolutely lived in fear of the first tee" and "hated having my name announced."

Now announcing at his 41st Open, Robson feels very much at home on the 1st tee, a famous voice that adds another unique quality to the world's oldest golf championship.

(H/T Brendan Mohler, Golf.com)

Tuesday, July 14

Q&A: The Weather Talks About The Open Championship

(From the archives. This originally published on July 14, 2010, the last time the Open Championship was played at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland.)

IN AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW, the Weather spoke to ARMCHAIR GOLF about Open Championship week, including some hints on what to expect the next four days at the Old Course.

Q: Thanks for doing this.

WEATHER: Sure.

Q: Everybody was talking about you today.

WEATHER: I’m used to it (chuckling). It’s raining sideways. I’ve heard that one since Old Tom was knocking wine-bottle corks through the streets of St. Andrews. The American press is particularly amusing. All that rot about this is what summer is like in Scotland.

Q. Does the talk bother you?

WEATHER: Not at all. I actually look forward to it. Mid July is always highlighted on my calendar, a very special week for me.

Q: Can you tell us which players are most flustered by you?

WEATHER: No, I’d rather not. It’s not sporting. Sorry.

Q: But you know who they are.

WEATHER: Oh, sure. I can always tell. Watch closely and you’ll see. The body language, the crazy shots, the slammed clubs. I really get into some players’ heads.

Q: This field is made up of 156 of the world’s top players. Wouldn’t you agree that most have played championship golf in all kinds of conditions?

WEATHER: Many of the players talk a great game. They talk about Open experience, their preparation, how they love links golf in a stiff breeze, playing the ball on the ground, the bounces, good and bad. It’s total rubbish. The truth is, I scare the FootJoys off them. They’re little boys who want their mums.

Q: I don’t know how to ask this.

WEATHER: Just go ahead.

Q: Do you have a strategy?

WEATHER: Not exactly. I show up and things develop from there. Some wind. Some rain. Nothing too complicated. I usually restrain myself somewhat. Most years, it could be a lot worse. At Carnoustie a few years back things got completely out of kilter. I admit it.

Q: Some like you, though. There are those who really thrive on you during Open week.

WEATHER: I do have my share of friends in the R&A. They are always glad to see me and tend to fret if I’m too calm. Most of the others who are fond of me don’t have to play.

Q: The forecast is calling for rain on Thursday, rain and wind on Friday, showers on Saturday, and showers on Sunday.

WEATHER: Weather forecasters. Now there’s a bunch.

Q: Are they wrong?

WEATHER: You’ll have to watch.

Q: Thanks for taking the time.

WEATHER: My pleasure. Enjoy the Open.

(This is an ARMCHAIR GOLF spoof.)

Monday, July 13

My Open Championship Prep

I PREPPED FOR THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP on the weekend, from my couch, in my living room. (I guess you could call me The Couch Golfer, but The Armchair Golfer sounds better. I'm going to stick with it.)

I watched parts of the Scottish Open, the U.S. Women's Open and the John Deere Classic. The results added fuel to what was already a highly anticipated Open Championship at the Old Course in St. Andrews.

Another win for Jordan Spieth.
(Image courtesy of AT&T)
Rickie Fowler charged to a win in Scotland, moving to No. 5 in the Official World Golf Ranking, a career high. Jordan Spieth won the John Deere Classic in a sudden-death playoff against journeyman Tom Gillis. Spieth already has four wins this season going into the British Open, the first time that's happened since Tiger Woods did it in 2000. The Woods comparisons continue, which says a lot.

Spieth, of course, will be gunning for the third leg of the Grand Slam this week at the Home of Golf. It seems highly improbable to me -- especially without much preparation or experience at St. Andrews -- but at this point I wouldn't rule out anything. The kid has more confidence right now than Titleist has golf balls.

In Gee Chun slipped past 54-hole leader Amy Yang to win the U.S. Women's Open by a stroke at Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania. Chun, 20, from South Korea, fired a 66 that included three consecutive birdies on 15, 16 and 17. Her 8-under total of 272 tied the U.S. Women's Open record held by Juli Inkster (1999) and Annika Sorenstam (1996).

With impressive victories at the Players Championship and Scottish Open this season, Fowler is beginning to fulfill the hype that has been as loud as his clothing. Even with world No. 1 Rory McIlroy sidelined and probably regretting his most recent kickabout, this Open will be great theater. A Spieth-Fowler showdown would be grand, but let's not forget other thoroughbreds: Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Patrick Reed, Louis Oosthuizen, Bubba Watson, Branden Grace, Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott. And there's the old warhorses: Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood, Ernie Els and, dare I say, the ancient five-time Open winner, Tom Watson, who nearly pulled off a miracle in 2009. This is Watson's farewell Open.

Beware of the surprise winner, too. It happens more often than expected. Think Darren Clarke, Todd Hamilton, Ben Curtis and Paul Lawrie.

If my schedule allows (and I think it will), I'll be tuned in for a lot of the coverage this week at St. Andrews. How about you?

Friday, July 10

Ben Hogan's Ticker-Tape Parade in New York City

The spot on a New York City sidewalk recognizing Ben Hogan's ticker-tape parade down Broadway.
(Image courtesy of John Coyne)
WITH THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP SET to tee off next week at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, it's a fitting time to recall Ben Hogan's ticker-tape parade down Broadway in New York City after winning the 1953 British Open at Carnoustie. It was Hogan's only appearance in the Open, and the year of the "Hogan Slam," in which he won the Masters and both Opens.

Hogan was one of only two golfers to get a ticker-tape parade in the Big Apple. Here's more from my book THE LONGEST SHOT:
(Ben Hogan Facebook)
On both sides of the Atlantic, superlatives rained down on Hogan like a Scottish storm. On his first try, he had not only won the world's oldest golf championship, he had captured the hearts of fans in golf's founding country. He would never go back. 
Upon his triumphant return to America, a smiling Ben Hogan dressed in a gray business suit and riding in an open Chrysler limousine was hailed by 150,000 people in a ticker-tape parade along Broadway in New York City. It was the first time an American golfer had traveled the famous parade route since 1930, when the conquering hero was an amateur named Bobby Jones.
Parades for golfers don't get any bigger.

Thursday, July 9

2015 U.S. Women's Open Fact Sheet

The U.S. Women's Open began today in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Following is select information from the "2015 U.S. Women's Open Fact Sheet" provided by the United States Golf Association (USGA).

SITE INFORMATION
July 9-12, 2015
Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club (lancastercc.com)
Twitter: @usopengolf, #USWomensOpen; facebook.com/USOPEN; instagram.com/USGA

PAR AND YARDAGE 
Lancaster Country Club will be set up at 6,483 yards and will play to a par of 35-35—70. (NOTE: yardages subject to change).

ARCHITECT 
Designed by William Flynn, the Old Course at Lancaster Country Club opened in 1920. A course restoration was completed in 2007, under the guidance of Ron Forse.

TELEVISION COVERAGE                          
Date                           Show                   Broadcast Hours (Local/EDT)         Network        
July 9 (Thursday)        First Round             2-7 p.m.                                       Fox Sports 1
July 9 (Thursday)        Wrap-Up Show        7-7:30 p.m.                                  Fox Sports 1
July 10 (Friday)           Second Round        2-7 p.m.                                       Fox Sports 1
July 10 (Friday)           Wrap-Up Show        7-7:30 p.m.                                  Fox Sports 1
July 11 (Saturday)       Third Round            2:30-6:30 p.m.                                   Fox
July 11 (Saturday)       Wrap-Up Show        6:30-7 p.m.                                  Fox Sports 1
July 12 (Sunday)         Fourth Round          2:30-6:30 p.m.                                   Fox
July 12 (Sunday)         Wrap-Up Show        6:30-7 p.m.                                  Fox Sports 1

CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD
The starting field of 156 golfers will be cut after 36 holes to the low 60 scorers and ties.

SCHEDULE OF PLAY         
Practice rounds will be played Monday, July 6, through Wednesday, July 8. Eighteen holes of stroke play are scheduled each day from Thursday, July 9, through Sunday, July 12.

If the championship is tied after four rounds, a three-hole aggregate playoff will take place immediately following the conclusion of the fourth round. If the playoff results in a tie, play will immediately continue hole by hole until a champion is determined.

2014 CHAMPION
Michelle Wie won the 69th U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2. It was her second career USGA championship victory, but first since she won the 2003 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links at age 13. The 24-year-old Wie played confidently throughout, including her 25-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole on Sunday after a double bogey on the previous hole narrowed her lead to one stroke. Wie finished with an even-par 70 and a 2-under-par 278 total, two strokes ahead of world No. 1 and fellow American Stacy Lewis, who matched the championship’s low round of 66 on Sunday and finished at even-par 280. 

WHAT THE WINNER RECEIVES
The champion will receive a gold medal, custody of the Harton S. Semple Trophy for the ensuing year and an exemption from qualifying for the next 10 U.S. Women’s Open Championships.

PURSE
The 2014 purse was $4 million; the winner earned $720,000.

HISTORY
This is the 70th U.S. Women’s Open Championship. The first U.S. Women’s Open, played at Spokane (Wash.) Country Club in 1946, was the only one conducted at match play. The Women’s Professional Golfers Association (WPGA) conducted the inaugural championship, won by Patty Berg. The WPGA conducted the Women’s Open until 1949, when the newly formed Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) took over operation of the championship. The LPGA ran the Women’s Open for four years but in 1953 asked the United States Golf Association to conduct the championship, which it has done ever since. 

The youngest winner of the U.S. Women’s Open is Inbee Park, who won the 2008 championship at the age of 19 years, 11 months, 18 days. Babe Didrikson Zaharias, who won the 1954 Women’s Open at age 43 years, 6 months, is the oldest winner.

ACTIVE CONSECUTIVE U.S. WOMEN’S OPEN APPEARANCES (through 2014)
Karrie Webb (19, 1996-2014), Se Ri Pak (18, 1997-2014), Cristie Kerr (17, 1998-2014), Angela Stanford (15, 2000-2014), Paula Creamer (12, 2003-2014), Candie Kung (12, 2003-2014), Suzann Pettersen (12, 2003-2014), Brittany Lincicome (11, 2004-2014)

Wednesday, July 8

A Novel Approach to Ben Hogan

By John Coyne

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


THROUGH THE YEARS, I’D SEEN BESTSELLER golf novels: Dan Jenkins’s Dead Solid Perfect about the pros on the PGA Tour; Steven Pressfield’s The Legend of Bagger Vance, a fictional account of a match involving Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen; but none about the player who dominated my childhood years: Ben Hogan. 

John Coyne's affection for Hogan
resulted in a popular novel
about the golf legend.
There are hundreds of stories about Ben Hogan. As a kid caddie I’d listened to club members swapping tales of Hogan’s intensity and mysterious ways of tournament play. And Hogan’s photos were constantly on the sports pages as he won one golf tournament after another. 

Still, it wasn’t until Mark Frost’s The Greatest Game Ever Played came out, and after those Little Red Books on golf instruction by Harvey Penick were published, that I decided to write a novel about golf myself. Perhaps it was Tiger Woods who finally made me do it. Everyone said Tiger would rewrite the record books, breaking all of Jack Nicklaus’s and Arnold Palmer’s records. But what about Ben Hogan? Why had his name slipped off the list of golf legends?

Homage to Childhood Hero

Someone had to bring back to life my childhood hero, and I wanted to do it by making Hogan a character in a novel.  And what a character, this “Wee Ice Man,” as Scottish golf fans lovingly called him when he played and won the British Open in 1953.

Hogan was, as the cliché goes, right out of central casting. A poor Texas boy, slight of stature, without a high-school education; he was raised by a single mother after his father committed suicide. Turning pro as a teenager, he failed three times to make it on the PGA tour, but in the 1940s he came roaring out of Texas to dominate professional golf. In 1946 he played in thirty-two events. He won 13 times, finished second in six, and finished third in three. Among the tournaments he won was his first major—the PGA Championship—and if he had made some putts on the final holes, he might also have won The Masters and the U.S. Open. A year later he led the tour again, winning seven times, and in 1948 he added ten more victories, including his second PGA Championship and his first U.S. Open. Eight months later he nearly lost his life.

In the winter of 1949, after a terrible automobile accident on a Texas highway, Hogan was told he might never walk again, but he did walk again and, with extraordinary determination, managed to return to golf 19 months later to win the U.S. Open, a victory that even today is called one of sport’s most inspiring performances. 

Hogan would go on to win the Masters, another U.S.Open, and the British Open within a span of twelve weeks, and when he returned from Great Britain in 1953, he became the first golfer since Bobby Jones to get a ticker-tape parade down lower Broadway in New York.

A movie of his life called Follow the Sun was made with Glenn Ford playing Ben, although Hogan was his own stand-in when it came to making the famous golf shots.

A Kid Caddie’s Story

So, in my small attempt to save Hogan from the dustbin of historyand fully engaging my golfing musesI typed a title into my Dell laptop in 2003: The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan. This novel, I decided, would be about a kid caddie growing up after the war as much as it would be about the great Ben Hogan. Then I wrote an opening sentence: Memories are magic.

But this book would not be just pages of nostalgia for “the good old days.” As a novelist, I knew I had to engage readers who did not play golf and the only Hogan they knew was called Hulk. I wove into the narrative a love affair between the young assistant golf professional and the daughter of the country club president, using my fictional exclusive club setting as a lens into the social fabric of Midwest society in the 1940s. With literary nods to John O’Hara and J.P. Marquand, both writers of the ‘40s who used golf as a way to comment on the social stratification of the age, I let the love affair between the beautiful young woman and the golf professional be the focal point of class and society of the times.

I let my caddie tell his own story from the vantage point of 40 years later when, now a retired university professor, he returns to the country club of his youth and recalls, for the assembled sons and daughters of the members he once knew, that time in America when life was simpler and heroes like Ben Hogan were truly great men, or so we wished to believe. 

But life was not simple, nor were men finer in those long-ago days, as the narrator remembers, and that, with plenty of golf in between, is the story I tell in The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan.

As a novelist, I abandoned the novels I had written previously, mysteries and novels of the occult. But had I?

In researching Ben Hogan’s life, I came across a story told about Al Geiberger, a gentle, soft-spoken golf professional who once played with Hogan in the final years of Hogan’s career. Asked what it was like to play with Hogan, all Geiberger could think of to say was “it was spooky.”

John Coyne is a bestselling author of three golf novels, including The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan, and more than 20 other books. Pay him a visit at John Coyne Books.

Tuesday, July 7

2015 Open Championship Odds: Jordan Spieth at 5/1

WILL JORDAN SPIETH WIN THE OPEN Championship, the third leg of the Grand Slam? It almost seems unthinkable, but so did the U.S. Open at maligned Chambers Bay until young Spieth persevered.

With Rory McIlroy hampered with an ankle injury, Bovada has now installed Spieth as the Open favorite at the Home of Golf, St. Andrews. Following are the current odds.

Odds To Win The Open Championship 2015 - St Andrews, Scotland
Jordan Spieth               5/1 
Rory McIlroy                 9/1 
Dustin Johnson             12/1 
Justin Rose                   16/1 
Adam Scott                  18/1 
Henrik Stenson              20/1 
Louis Oosthuizen           20/1 
Tiger Woods                 22/1 
Jason Day                    25/1 
Martin Kaymer               25/1 
Phil Mickelson               25/1 
Rickie Fowler                25/1 
Sergio Garcia                25/1 
Bubba Watson              28/1 
Paul Casey                   28/1 
Hideki Matsuyama         33/1 
Branden Grace              35/1 
Patrick Reed                 40/1 
Shane Lowry                 40/1 
Brandt Snedeker           50/1 
Brooks Koepka             50/1 
Charl Schwartzel            50/1 
Graeme McDowell         50/1 
Ian Poulter                    50/1 
Jimmy Walker               50/1 
Lee Westwood              50/1 
Luke Donald                 50/1 
Matt Kuchar                  50/1 
Bernd Wiesberger          66/1 
Billy Horschel                66/1 
Francesco Molinari        66/1 
Jim Furyk                      66/1 
Zach Johnson               66/1 
Danny Willett                 80/1 
Hunter Mahan                80/1 
Jamie Donaldson          80/1 
Jason Dufner                80/1 
JB Holmes                    80/1 
Keegan Bradley             80/1 
Victor Dubuisson          80/1 
Webb Simpson             80/1 
Angel Cabrera               100/1 
Chris Wood                   100/1 
Ernie Els                       100/1 
Gary Woodland             100/1 
Harris English                100/1 
Padraig Harrington        100/1 
Stephen Gallacher         100/1 

Monday, July 6

Shane Lowry on Rory's Injury: 'Not the End of the World'

World No. 1 Rory McIlroy via Instagram.
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.


Golf news from Brian Keogh's
Irish Golf Desk.
RORY MCILROY MIGHT MISS THE OPEN Championship and the US PGA but Irishman and world No. 46 Shane Lowry reckons the Holywood star should not be crucified for playing football with his mates. The Clara star, who was speaking at his announcement as the new brand ambassador for Heaton's Irish golfing apparel Kartel, heard the news on Saturday and reckons people should try and keep things in perspective.

Lowry said: "It's not ideal for him because he's wearing that boot and he's going to have everyone in the media on his back now. But should he be playing football? I don't know. He likes playing football, and he likes playing football with his mates. What's wrong with that?

"I mean, he's only 25 or 26. It's a case of, 'let's go out for a kickaround'; 'yeah, no problem'.

"People think because you're good at something you should just do that and focus on that, but that's not what life is about. Obviously his career's after suffering now because of it, but it's not the end of the world. No one's after dying."

McIlroy is a doubt for the Open after totally rupturing an ankle ligament playing football with friends.

The world No 1, 26, wrote on Instagram: "Total rupture of left ATFL (ankle ligament) and associated joint capsule damage in a soccer kickabout with friends. Continuing to assess extent of injury and treatment plan day by day. Rehab already started."

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