Wednesday, May 22

USGA: 26 Additional Players Exempt for 119th U.S. Open Championship

By USGA

LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. – The United States Golf Association (USGA) announced that 26 additional golfers, including 2003 U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk and U.S. Amateur champions Matthew Fitzpatrick and Byeong Hun An, have earned full exemptions into the 2019 U.S. Open Championship, to be played June 13-16 at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links. These exemptions bring the number of fully exempt players to 76.

All 26 exemptions were awarded to players who earned a place in the top 60 of the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) as of May 19. Furyk, who won the U.S. Open at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club and is a three-time runner-up (2006, 2007, 2016), is ranked No. 51. It will be Furyk’s 25th U.S. Open. Fitzpatrick, who is competing in his fifth U.S. Open, won the 2013 U.S. Amateur and is ranked No. 33. An, who claimed the 2009 U.S. Amateur, is ranked No. 57 and will play in his sixth U.S. Open.

The other players who earned full exemptions through the current Official World Golf Ranking are: Abraham Ancer, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Lucas Bjerregaard, Rafael Cabrera Bello, Branden Grace, Justin Harding, J.B. Holmes, Charles Howell III, Kevin Kisner, Haotong Li, Luke List, Shane Lowry, Keith Mitchell, Alex Noren, Thorbjorn Olesen, Louis Oosthuizen, Cheng Tsung Pan, Eddie Pepperell, Ian Poulter, Chez Reavie, Adam Scott, Brandt Snedeker and Matt Wallace. Reavie (2001) and Snedeker (2003) are past U.S. Amateur Public Links champions.

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Brooks Koepka Can See Double-Digit Major Wins in His Future

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AFTER RAINING ON BROOKS KOEPKA'S major victory parade yesterday, I was reminded of what he thinks.

Koepka made the following statements on May 14, or a few days before he won the PGA Championship, his fourth major win in the last eight played.

"I don't see why you can't get to double digits," Koepka said. "I think you keep doing what you're supposed to do, you play good, you peak at the right times. Like I said, I think sometimes the majors are the easiest ones to win. Half the people shoot themselves out of it, and mentally I know I can beat most of them, and then from there it's those guys left, who's going to play good and who can win."

Here's a more detailed breakdown of how Koepka views majors.

"One hundred and fifty-six in the field, so you figure at least 80 of them I'm just going to beat," Koepka said. "From there, about half of them won't play well from there, so you're down to about maybe 35. And then from 35, some of them just, pressure is going to get to them. It only leaves you with a few more, and you've just got to beat those guys."

"I think one of the big things that I've learned over the last few years is you don't need to win it, you don't have to try to go win it. Just hang around. If you hang around, good things are going to happen."

Hanging around is a good strategy. Always being in contention is the key to winning a LOT of majors.

I like Koepka's thinking, his confidence. If he makes it to double digits, he'll join an elite group: Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.

His present task is to win his fifth. Will it come at Pebble Beach next month?

I'd say all eyes will be on Koepka at the U.S. Open, but then there's Tiger, who always seems to suck all the oxygen out of the golf world. That might actually help Koepka.

Tuesday, May 21

How Long Will Brooks Koepka's Major Victory March Last?

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TWO DAYS AFTER BROOKS KOEPKA closed out his fourth major victory at the PGA Championship in what seems like a nanosecond (23 months), I'm here to remind us that golf is a fickle game.

There's no way to know how long Koepka's major victory march will last. He might have a few more in his pocket, whether they come fast or over several years. Or it could be over, as improbable as that might seem.

Remember Rory McIlroy? Remember Jordan Spieth?

Both young men were on the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. For Spieth, it was "JORDAN RULES" and "The Spieth Era Begins Now." Well, that era didn't last very long.

Sure, Rory and Jordan are far from done. But, no, they aren't the second coming of Tiger Woods, that special player who would dominate the game for a decade or more. Nor is Brooks Koepka, in my estimation. There's only one Tiger. There was only one Jack.

I like Koepka. I like his toughness. I like that big chip on his muscular shoulder. If he can win a third consecutive U.S. Open at Pebble Beach next month, he, too, will be on the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and probably on the cover of other major publications. It will be a monumental achievement.

But it's still a long majors road to 8 (Tom Watson), 9 (Ben Hogan and Gary Player), 11 (Walter Hagen), 15 (Tiger Woods) and 18 (Jack Nicklaus).

A lot can happen. Like those four consecutive bogeys late on Sunday. Because golf is a fickle game. That's why we love it and hate it ... and keep coming back for more.

Friday, May 17

Remembering Great Caddies, Including Old Tom Morris, During the PGA Championship

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By Mark Vigil

ALL CADDIES WATCHING THE PGA CHAMPIONSIP this weekend are encouraged to skip watching Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or one of the young guns. Rather, carefully study the actions and protocols of caddies like Joe LaCava and Mike "Fluff" Cowan, and recall the work of Jim "Bones" Mackay and Bruce Watson.

I offer this encouragement because today many loopers think they have deserved to be well paid because they toted a bag, scoped the yardage to the flag sticks and read a few putts.

This expectation would have Old Tom Morris rolling in his grave.

For those of you who have not heard of Old Tom Morris, he is the godfather of the modern golf game. He learned his craft at the heel of Alan Robertson, the Custodian of the Links at St. Andrews until he died in 1859.

Old Tom is a voice of authority on caddying. He grew from a 10-year-old toting hickory shaft clubs across the links above the St. Andrews Bay to become the trusted advisor and golfing consigliere for the captains and members of the R&A for over 35 years.

The keys to Old Tom's success were his ears. He was a good listener. By listening, in the moment, he would know what he needed to do to prepare his player for the next shot, be it a phrase, a confident smile, or steely silence.

Old Tom had a heart the size of Secretariat's, and it made him a sensitive soul. He felt the joys of the made putt for par on the Road Hole, and the pain and disappointment of the poor shot, causing a big score or a loss of a hole. And regardless of the emotions felt, he transitioned his player to focus on the next shot. He was an ally.

Old Tom earned the player's trust, enabling him to dispense honest assessments, like one's mother, speaking the hard, true words one needs to hear, like "You know better?"

Lastly, Old Tom was a first-class negotiator, and I bet he would be able to out-negotiate any modern day Goldman Sachs banker. This skill wisely deployed allowed him to lead his player to see the correct shot, to attack the right target line, and to select the proper club over his players objections.

So, all you caddies, if you want to become a true caddie and become like Old Tom Morris, a trusted advisor and golfing consigliere, watch today's professional caddies deploy their tools of the trade, which I call L.E.A.N—listen, empathize, ally, negotiate.

Mark Vigil is founder of Laurus Capital Advisors LLC, an advisory firm. He is also a passionate links golf enthusiast who has traveled extensively throughout Scotland seeking out links courses. He is currently writing a book entitled, Searching for the Spirit of Old Tom Morris.

Thursday, May 16

VIDEO: A.W. Tillinghast, Master Architect of Bethpage Black, Baltusrol and Many More



AS THE PGA CHAMPIONSHIP BEGINS, here is a look at A.W. Tillinghast, the man who created this year's championship course, Bethpage Black on Long Island.

Tillinghast was flamboyant in nearly every way, earning a million dollars designing golf courses across the United States in the Roaring Twenties. He outspent his vast earnings and was more or less broke when the Great Depression rocked the United States and the world.

The PGA of America gave Tillinghast a job that helped save himself and rejuvenate golf. The golf organization sent him around the country to help PGA pros improve their golf courses during a time when money was scarce. Driving a jalopy on primitive highways, Tillinghast visited more than 250 golf courses.

Jack Whitaker, the longtime CBS sports announcer, is the voice of Tillinghast in the video.

(H/T Geoff Shackelford)

Tuesday, May 14

2019 PGA Championship TV Times and Tournament Information



THE PGA IN MAY? I'm still not used to the idea. Nor will I be next year. I've been watching the PGA Championship in August since rocks were young.

I asked what others thought on Twitter.

"Good move," said one.

"Don't like," said another. "It means that the PGA Champ will never come to the courses in the midwest. Whistling Straits, Medinah, Oakland Hills, Hazeltine. It was 35 degrees last night here in Madison, WI, frost on the ground this morning."

The 2019 PGA Championship begins on Thursday at Bethpage Black, site of the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens.

The field has 156 players and is touted as the best field in major championship golf. The defending champion is Brooks Koepka. The winner will hoist the Wanamaker Trophy.

TV AND STREAMING COVERAGE

The PGA Championship will air on TNT and CBS. All times ET.

Thursday, May 16
TNT: 1:00 – 7:00 p.m.
'
Friday, May 17
TNT 1:00 – 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 18
TNT: 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
CBS: 2:00 - 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, May 19
TNT: 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
CBS: 2:00 - 7:00 p.m.

Live streaming PGA.com.

Friday, May 10

Heavenly Conversations: Bobby Jones Comforts Byron Nelson

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This week's PGA Tour event got me thinking about golf great Byron Nelson. So I searched this blog for all the Nelson articles. What follows is from April 2007.

"I'M DISAPPOINTED IN MY TOURNAMENT, Bobby. It wasn't the same this year."

"I know how you feel, Byron. It's hard when all that’s left of you down there is your name."

"All of the finest players showed up for my tournament last year. They came up to me and shook my hand."

"Last year you were alive, Byron."

"I guess it turned out well enough. I'm glad Scott Verplank won. I've known him since he was a junior. He's a great kid."

"That was special."

"Bobby, do all the changes to Augusta National and your tournament ever bother you?"

"Sure, but you get used to it. They mean well for the most part."

"You're still a gentleman, Bobby."

"So are you, Byron."

"By the way, Bobby, what's that sound?"

"That's Hogan hitting balls."

"Ben practices up here?"

"Some things never change, Byron."

Wednesday, May 8

Tiger Woods on Presidential Medal of Freedom: 'This Has Been an Unbelievable Experience'


TIGER WOODS WAS AWARDED the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Monday at the White House.

GolfChannel.com reported:
"This has been an unbelievable experience," said Woods, who then fought back tears as he thanked his family and all those who have supported him throughout the years.
"I’ve battled. I've tried to hang in there," Woods continued. "I've tried to come back and play the great game of golf again. I've been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to do it again …
"The amazing Masters experience I had a few weeks ago was certainly the highlight of what I've accomplished so far in my life on the golf course." 
Woods is the fourth golfer to be awarded the Medal of Freedom, joining Arnold Palmer (2004), Jack Nicklaus (2005) and Charlie Sifford (2014), the latter of whom Woods called “the grandfather that I never had” and named his son after. 
"To have been chosen as the next golfer after Charlie is truly remarkable," Woods said.

Monday, May 6

VIDEO: Max Homa Digs Out First PGA Tour Win at Wells Fargo Championship



MAX HOMA WON THE WELLS FARGO CHAMPIONSHIP by three shots by making clutch birdies on a rainy Sunday in Charlotte, North Carolina.

It was an unlikely maiden victory on the PGA Tour based on Homa's recent woes. In 2017 Homa made just two of 17 cuts.

"I used to say when I hit rock bottom I found a shovel and kept digging. I went to some low places and there would be times when I would wallow [in self pity] and honestly just hate my golf game, dislike what I was out there in what's supposed to be my favorite place in the world," Homa said.

Now the Cal product is exempt and will tee it up in next week's PGA Championship.

Thursday, May 2

Caddie Jim 'Bones' Mackay and the Fine Art of Bunker Raking

JIM "BONES" MACKAY was the longtime caddie of Phil Mickelson.

Here's Bones raking a bunker. The man obviously cares about his work. (Gary McCord provides the analysis.)

Mackay, who now works for Golf Channel, was inducted into the Caddie Hall of Fame in 2017.

Jack's 'Letter to His Younger Self'

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IF YOU'RE A JACK NICKLAUS FAN, or at least interested in golf history, you may enjoy Jack's "Letter to My Younger Self" that published a while back at THE PLAYERS' TRIBUNE.

In the letter there are details about his early life and career that I didn't know (or had forgotten). I wouldn't say I'm an authority on Jack Nicklaus, but I did study him pretty closely and collected extensive research in order to write my second book about the 1969 Ryder Cup.

The letter, written in first person, fills in around the edges of Jack's youth and more.

Nicklaus would tell you he had a strong work ethic similar to other golf greats such as Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. The following humorous anecdote from his letter speaks to that point:
The whole summer of 1950, you'll work. Bucket after bucket of balls, swing after swing, divot after divot. 
Then one day, there's going to be a bill in the mail. Dad will go grab it. Then he'll yell your name in that voice … that voice is trouble, you know it. He'll be holding a bill from Scioto. 
"Three hundred dollars, Jack?" 
At this moment, hold your ground, young man. 
You'll say this to him. "Dad, you told me you wanted me to learn how to play golf…." 
He'll say, "Yes, but $300 worth of range balls?" 
Now you got 'im. 
"I don't just want to learn the game. I want to be great at it."
Three hundred dollars was a LOT of money in 1950. And that had to be a LOT of range balls.

It wouldn't be long before Scioto pro Jack Grout would allow young Nicklaus to hit all the range balls he wanted without Charlie Nicklaus paying a dime.

As legend has it, no one pounded balls and dug it out of the dirt like Ben Hogan. He bloodied his hands in search of perfection. But I expect all the great ones — Nicklaus included — worked extremely hard to earn their greatness.

Talent can only take you so far.

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Monday, April 29

Graeme McDowell: 'There's Just No Way to Speed the Game Up'

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GRAEME MCDOWELL WAS RESPONDING to Edoardo Molinari, who tweeted about the glacial times on the European Tour.

McDowell called Molinari a nice kid, but said the Italian was flogging a pretty dead horse.

"Listen, golf courses are long, golf courses are hard, we're playing for a lot of money, it's a big business, it is what it is," McDowell said according to Golf Channel. "There’s just no way to speed the game up really. You can try these small percentiles, but at the end of the day it's very hard to get around a 7,600-yard golf course with tucked pins with a three-ball in less than 4:45, 5 hours. You can't do it."

Read the whole story.

Friday, April 26

Golf Swing Friday: Stella Walters (Age 6)


THIS IS STELLA WALTERS a month ago at Craigielaw Golf Club in East Lothian, Scotland.

Stella, who is 6, lists golf and skiing in her Twitter bio. If she skis like she hits irons, WATCH OUT.


Thursday, April 25

USGA: Brooks Koepka, Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell highlight champions exempt for 119th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach

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By USGA

LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. (April 25, 2019) – The United States Golf Association (USGA) has accepted a total of 9,125 entries for the 119th U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links. The U.S. Open will be held at the fabled course for the sixth time on June 13-16, 2019.

More than 9,000 U.S. Open entries were received for the eighth consecutive year and the 11th time overall. The USGA accepted entries for the 2019 U.S. Open from golfers in all 50 states, including 1,286 from California, as well as the District of Columbia and 77 foreign countries.

Pebble Beach Golf Links has hosted the U.S. Open in five consecutive decades and the 119th edition will be the 12th USGA championship to be conducted at the resort. In 1972, Jack Nicklaus won the third of his record-tying four U.S. Opens. Tom Watson and Tom Kite each holed celebrated final-round birdie chip-ins en route to winning their lone U.S. Open titles in 1982 and 1992, respectively. In 2000, Tiger Woods won the first of his three U.S. Opens with a historic 15-stroke triumph, and Graeme McDowell became the first European in 40 years to win the U.S. Open in 2010. Woods, who also won the 2002 and 2008 U.S. Opens, and McDowell are exempt into the 2019 championship.

Brooks Koepka, who became only the seventh player to win consecutive U.S. Opens with his victories in 2017 and 2018, leads the list of 50 players who are fully exempt into the field (see list below). Koepka will seek to become just the second man to win three consecutive U.S. Opens, joining Willie Anderson, who claimed the 1903, 1904 and 1905 championships.

The USGA has also awarded a special exemption into the 119th U.S. Open to two-time champion Ernie Els, of South Africa. Els, 49, won the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club and the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club, in Bethesda, Md. Els, who also received a special exemption last year, is one of 19 players to win multiple U.S. Opens and was the first international player to accomplish the feat since Alex Smith in 1910.

Joining Koepka, Woods, McDowell and Els are seven other U.S. Open champions who are fully exempt from having to qualify: Lucas Glover (2009), Dustin Johnson (2016), Martin Kaymer (2014), Rory McIlroy (2011), Justin Rose (2013), Webb Simpson (2012) and Jordan Spieth (2015).
To be eligible, a player must have a Handicap Index® not exceeding 1.4, or be a professional. Local qualifying, which will be played over 18 holes at 109 sites in the United States and one in Canada, will take place between April 29-May 13.

Sectional qualifying, played over 36 holes, will be conducted at eight U.S. sites in the states of California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New York, Ohio and Washington on Monday, June 3, and one site in Texas on Monday, May 20. For the 15th consecutive year, Japan and England will host international sectional qualifying, scheduled for May 27 and June 3, respectively. A sectional qualifier will be contested for the first time in Canada on June 3.

The number of fully exempt players will increase with the inclusion of the top 60 point leaders and ties from the Official World Golf Ranking®, as of May 20 and June 10. The winner of the PGA Championship (May 16-19) and any multiple winners of PGA Tour events that award a full-point allocation for the season-ending Tour Championship will also earn exemptions.

The list of the 50 golfers who are fully exempt into the 2019 U.S. Open (as of April 24):

Daniel BergerZach JohnsonJustin Rose
a-Devon BlingMartin KaymerXander Schauffele
Keegan BradleySi Woo KimWebb Simpson
Patrick CantlayPatton KizzireCameron Smith
Paul CaseyBrooks KoepkaJordan Spieth
Jason DayMatt KucharKyle Stanley
Bryson DeChambeauMarc LeishmanHenrik Stenson
Ernie ElsHideki MatsuyamaJustin Thomas
Tony FinauGraeme McDowella-Michael Thorbjornsen
Tommy FleetwoodRory McIlroyDavid Toms
Rickie FowlerPhil MickelsonJimmy Walker
Sergio GarciaFrancesco MolinariBubba Watson
Lucas GloverKevin NaDanny Willett
Tyrrell Hattona-Kevin O'ConnellAaron Wise
Billy HorschelJon RahmGary Woodland
a-Viktor Hovlanda-Jevon RebulaTiger Woods
Dustin JohnsonPatrick Reed
BOLD - U.S. Open champion
a-amateur

Tuesday, April 23

Goat Caddies Expand at Silvies Valley Ranch in Eastern Oregon

via The Golf Wire

SILVIES VALLEY RANCH, a 140,000 acre eco-resort featuring four stand-alone award-winning golf experiences will open for its second full golf season on May 1. Recognized by Golfweek, Golf Digest, GOLF Magazine and Golf Inc. for its creative approach to the golf experience, The Links at Silvies Valley Ranch intertwines amazing golf opportunities with the natural vegetation and expansive views of Frontier, Oregon.

The resort's 18-hole designs, Craddock and Hankins, which were named among the top four best new golf courses to open in 2018 by Golf Digest, have matured over the last year and are in prime condition to host avid and novice golfers alike.

New this year, the world famous Silvies Valley Ranch goat caddies will be available to assist players on both short courses at the property – McVeigh's Gauntlet, the 7-hole challenge course, named Best New Golf Experience by GOLF Magazine in 2018, and Chief Egan, the 9-hole par-3 course.

"The four courses at Silvies are shaping up nicely for our second full season of golf," said Sean Hoolehan, golf course superintendent.

"I'm grateful to work with an owner who respects the land and provides the opportunity to care for these award-winning courses in an ecological and sustainable way. We're looking forward to welcoming players from across the country to Silvies Valley Ranch this season."

Friday, April 19

2019 Golf Industry Report: Rounds Decline But Participation Base Stable

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By National Golf Foundation

(JUPITER, Fla.) – The National Golf Foundation (NGF), the only trade organization that works with every sector within the golf industry, has released its 2019 Golf Industry Report, a comprehensive state-of-the-industry overview.

The Golf Industry Report (GIR) compiles many of the game's key data points in a single publication and is intended to provide the most holistic view of the business of golf and the health of the game within the U.S. to stakeholders and the media. The GIR includes the latest NGF data on golf participation, engagement, rounds-played, latent demand, golf course supply and development, retail supply, golf equipment sales, and golf’s reach.

Golf's participation base remains stable, with an estimated 24.2 million people (ages 6+) who played golf on a course in 2018 — a slight increase from 23.8 million a year earlier.

Almost as many people play off-course forms of the game, with 23 million hitting golf balls with clubs at golf-entertainment facilities like Topgolf and Drive Shack, indoor simulators and driving ranges. With 9.3 million people exclusively playing golf off-course, the game's overall participant pool has increased 4% to 33.5 million.

There were 434 million rounds of golf played in 2018, a 4.8% year-over-year decline attributable in part to the third-wettest year on record nationally dating back to 1895 (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association).

Despite the negative weather impact on the nation's top outdoor, pay-to-play participation sport, there are 14.7 million people who didn't play golf last year but say they are "very interested" in playing golf on a course. This untapped demand helped contribute to the 2.6 million beginners who picked up the game in 2018.

The total U.S. golf course supply declined by 1.2%, with the opening of 12.5 new 18-hole equivalent golf courses and 198.5 course closures. Closures have outweighed new openings nationwide since 2006, an ongoing correction of supply and demand within the market that followed an unsustainable 20-year building boom during which more than 4,000 courses opened, boosting the U.S. supply by 44%. The U.S. remains the best-supplied golf market in the world with 14,613 facilities and 16,693 courses – more than 75% of which are open to all players, the highest public-to-private ratio in history.

Other 2018 highlights from the Golf Industry Report:

• Golf's total reach of about 107 million people in the U.S. is comprised of 33.5M total golf participants plus approximately 74M who watched and/or read about golf, but didn't play on or off course. This represents more than one-third of the U.S. population (age 6+) and is a 10% increase from 2017.

• Juniors (6-17) and young adults (18-34) comprise approximately 35% of all on-course golfers, with 2.5 million junior participants and 6.1 million young adults.

• There are 5.7 million women who played golf on a course in 2018. Women account for 23% of the on-course golfer base and 44% of off-course only play.

• Newcomers to golf are increasingly diverse: 31% are female, 26% are non-Caucasian and 62% are under the age of 35.

• The number of golfers age 65-and-over increased almost 17% to 4.2 million in 2018. This number should continue to increase as the balance of Baby Boomers cross this milestone.

• There are more than 20 million committed golfers who account for approximately 95% of all rounds-played and spending.

• Golfers played an average of 17.9 rounds in 2018.

• The average price paid for an 18-hole round at public golf facilities is $35.

Picture This With LPGA's Azahara Munoz



2018 LOTTE CHAMPIONSHIP RUNNER-UP Azahara Munoz tells about her native country of Spain.

The 2019 LOTTE Championship is being played at Ko Olina Golf Club in Oahu, Hawaii. Eun-Hee Ji is the 36-hole leader at 15 under. Coverage is on Golf Channel at 7 p.m. ET.

Wednesday, April 17

Golf Swing Wednesday: Tim Burke in World Long Drive Competition


THIS IS TIM BURKE COMPETING in the Open Division of the "Smash in the Sun" at the Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club.

Tuesday, April 16

From Pain to Joy: Reflections on Tiger Woods' 15th Major Victory

I WAS DRIVING EASTBOUND ON I-64 during the final round of the 2019 Masters. I had attended my aunt's funeral in southern Indiana. Now my wife and I were heading home to Virginia after a difficult and emotional week for our family.

Somewhere east of Louisville my cousin called.

"Hey, are you watching the Masters?"

My wife and I laughed. Yes, we are.

I had the live stream on my phone perched between us on the console. I could easily listen to Jim Nantz and others describe the action as the contenders navigated Amen Corner and the finishing holes. But it was hard to watch the Masters while I drove the interstate. I tried, though, stealing glances at a putt, a tee shot, a pitch. My wife kept telling me to watch the road. I am, I am, I said.

As Tiger Woods later said in Butler Cabin, the leaderboard flipped at the tricky par-3 12th hole when four of five players, including Brooks Koepka and Francesco Molinari, hit their tee shots into the water. Through patience and experience, Tiger jumped to the top of the leaderboard and went on to win his fifth Masters and 15th major championship.

For the first time Woods won a major by coming from behind, and his fifth Green Jacket represented the longest victory gap in Masters history. Tiger's comeback has astonished nearly everyone, including himself.

While I was eating a late lunch in Lexington, Kentucky, my brother-in-law phoned from Seattle. He expressed condolences and then mentioned the Masters. Yes, I knew what happened. Now the Internet is going to blow up, I joked.

Late that afternoon, after checking into a hotel, I was able to watch the last two hours of the encore broadcast of the final round. I saw the historic drama unfold shot by shot.

The images that stood out for me were at the finish, when Tiger tapped in on 18 and raised his arms and soon after beamed in Butler Cabin. His face said it all, covered with expressions of pure joy and an unabashed smile that reminded me of that 21-year-old kid who shook this same glorious ground in 1997.

Tiger has been carrying a lot of pain for a long time, and not only in his back or his knee or his Achilles tendon. Just like he was lauded like no other when he was on top of the world, he was kicked like no other when he was down.

Maybe Tiger will win more majors. Maybe he'll catch and pass Jack Nicklaus, who has 18.

Whatever happens, it's hard for me to imagine a more important and redemptive victory for Tiger Woods. Nearly everyone is cheering once again. The pain has turned to sheer joy.

Thursday, April 11

INFOGRAPHIC: 2019 Masters Tournament

I'VE BEEN ABSENT FOR AWHILE, away from home and taking a break from this blog. But now I'm back, and perhaps like you, I'm keeping an eye on the Masters.

Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau are the first-round leaders at 6-under 66. Phil Mickelson is one shot back after a scrambling 67. Scoring was impressive on a good weather day at Augusta National. 

Following is a Masters infographic courtesy of WalletHub.

 
Source: WalletHub

Saturday, March 30

PGATOUR.COM: 'When Kite Met Crenshaw'

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BEN CRENSHAW MET TOM KITE in Austin, Texas, when they were kids in the early 1960s. A long friendship and Hall of Fame careers followed.

Here's a short excerpt from Melanie Hauser's feature at PGATOUR.COM:
Ben and Charlie Crenshaw were headed across the parking lot at old Austin Country Club off Riverside Drive, ready to take on the back nine. They were dressed in T-shirts and cutoffs and had their well-worn golf bags – filled with collections of mismatched ladies and junior clubs – slung across their shoulders. 
It was the summer of '62. Ben was 10; Charlie was 11. They were inseparable back then, whether it was on the golf course, playing baseball or just hanging out. Two brothers, two best friends growing up in Austin in the '60s; two pretty good athletes just having fun and trying to get better. At whatever sport they were playing. 
Suddenly they saw a slightly older boy – dressed in slacks and a golf shirt -- carrying a new big red bag with a set of Wilson Staff clubs. He had red hair and glasses, brand-new golf shoes and a Texas drawl. His family had just moved down from Dallas and joined the club. 
His name was Tom Kite. 
"Y'all mind if I play the back nine with you?" he said. 
The Crenshaw boys sized him up and said sure, c'mon.

Thursday, March 28

VIDEO: Feet Together Swing Drill by Golf Channel Academy's Jill Finlan Scally



GOLF CHANNEL ACADEMY LEAD COACH Jill Finlan Scally demonstrates how full swings with feet together can help balance.

I like this drill and the idea behind it. I don't know about you, but for me this technique has been around (and something I've used) since I played junior golf decades ago. And not just how Jill presents it.

In the past, when I've struggled with various aspects of my swing, I've often narrowed my stance or brought my feet together to improve balance and tempo, shorten my golf swing and regain control.

Sometimes I've gone to a narrow stance mid-round as a desperate measure. Whether on course or during practice, this adjustment can lead to smoother swings and more solid golf shots.

Tuesday, March 26

VIDEO: David Feherty Explains Match Play or 'Theory of Feherativity'



MATCH PLAY, AS DAVID FEHERTY OPINES, is a different game within the game. Of course, he's right.

I like match play for the same reasons I like March Madness. Just about anything can happen on any given day, or over 18 holes. That's a big part of what makes sports so compelling. I certainly don't mind an upset and have been known to root for the underdog.

The WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play begins on Wednesday at Austin Country Club. The field of 64 features the top players in the world, including Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari, Brooks Koepka and Tiger Woods.

Golf Channel and NBC will provide live TV and streaming coverage.

Friday, March 22

USGA Names PGA Tour Player Jason Gore as Senior Director of Player Relations

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By USGA

LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. – Following an extensive search, the USGA has appointed longtime PGA Tour player and four-time U.S. Open competitor Jason Gore as its first senior director, Player Relations.

The appointment launches a comprehensive program aimed at sharing information and strengthening engagement with players in areas of importance to the USGA. These include initiatives to grow and advance the game, research critical to the game's health, and continuing to incorporate the players' perspective in its work to advance the sport.

Gore's primary role will be to interact with professional and elite amateur players across the game, particularly focusing on competitors in the USGA's Open and amateur championships.

He will lead a team of full-time staff dedicated to player relations, including Liz Fradkin, who assumed her player relations role last fall. Previously the manager of the USGA's Curtis Cup Team and a member of the U.S. Women's Amateur staff, Fradkin has already been a fixture at several LPGA Tour events.

They will be joined by Robert Zalzneck and Ali Kicklighter, who will manage USGA player services with an emphasis on onsite services at the USGA’s four Open championships.

"I have the utmost respect for the USGA and proudly tell everyone that my experience in the 1997 Walker Cup was the highlight of my golf career," said Gore, 44, who won the PGA Tour's 84 Lumber Classic in 2005 and played in Sunday's final pairing of the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. "I'm incredibly honored to have been invited to play this role and can’t wait to get started."

Tuesday, March 19

Who's the Greatest: Tiger or Jack?



I RAN ACROSS THIS CLIP from The Players Championship. Tiger Woods answered the question with good humor.

The career wins (major and other) of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, the two greatest players of their eras, are pretty similar overall and miles ahead of everyone else.

So, who's the GOAT? And what's your criteria?

(I know Tiger isn't finished. He might bag a few more wins.)

I've often noticed that one's answer to this question depends on their age. There's a generational bias.

Friday, March 15

Golf Swing Friday: 12-Year-Old 'Anthony B Golf'


THIS IS ANTHONY B GOLF. (That's his Twitter handle.) He's 12 and, according to his Twitter profile, has hidden disabilities: autism, dyspraxia and hypermobility.

During this practice session, Anthony was working on hitting up more on the ball with his driver.

By the way, that driver (on which he's choked down) is nearly as long/tall as Anthony!

Thursday, March 14

The Players Championship Odds: Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy Are Favorites

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THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP IS UNDERWAY at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.

At tee off, DJ and Rory were the favorites at 12/1. The pair are currently 1 and 2 strokes off the early lead of 5 under. There's a long way to go.

Odds to Win THE PLAYERS Championship
(Courtesy of Bovada)
Dustin Johnson             12/1
Rory McIlroy                 12/1     
Justin Thomas               16/1
Rickie Fowler                20/1     
Brooks Koepka             20/1
Francesco Molinari        20/1
Justin Rose                   20/1
Tiger Woods                 20/1
Tommy Fleetwood         25/1     
Xander Schauffele        25/1                 
Bryson DeChambeau     28/1     
Jon Rahm                     28/1
Jason Day                    33/1     
Sergio Garcia                33/1     
Adam Scott                  33/1     
Patrick Cantlay              40/1
Paul Casey                   40/1
Hideki Matsuyama         40/1     
Patrick Reed                 40/1     
Webb Simpson             40/1
Tony Finau                    50/1
Lucas Glover                 50/1     
Marc Leishman              50/1
Ian Poulter                    50/1
Jordan Spieth                50/1     
Henrik Stenson             50/1
Gary Woodland             50/1     
Matthew Fitzpatrick       66/1     
Billy Horschel                66/1
Si Woo Kim                   66/1
Luke List                       66/1     
Phil Mickelson               66/1
Louis Oosthuizen           66/1
Matt Wallace                 66/1     
Byeong Hun An             80/1     
Keegan Bradley            80/1     
Tyrrell Hatton                80/1     
Charles Howell III           80/1
Zach Johnson               80/1     
Kevin Kisner                  80/1
Jason Kokrak                80/1
Cameron Smith             80/1     
Bubba Watson              80/1     
Daniel Berger                100/1
Emiliano Grillo               100/1   
Adam Hadwin                100/1
Sungjae Im                   100/1
Charl Schwartzel           100/1

Tuesday, March 12

VIDEO: The Putting Blues of Jeff Maggert and Tiger Woods


NO MATTER HOW FAR THE GOLF BALL flies and rolls, no matter how long golf courses become, and no matter how modern golf equipment enables a jaw-dropping power game, success in golf still, in large part, comes down to putting.

Jeff Maggert (above), a tour professional who has won eight times on the PGA Tour and Champions Tour, five-putted from five feet on the final hole of his opening round at the Hoag Classic. He carded an ugly triple bogey at 18 and posted a 5-over 76.

While I was watching Maggert, I wanted to say, "Stop, take a breath, regroup."

But we've all been there, haven't we? Slapping the golf ball back and forth around the cup. The only difference is that someone in our friendly game probably would have said, "Pick it up, that's good," after the second miss.

There's a happy ending to Maggert's viral putting episode. The journeyman came back the next day and shot 63. He only needed 22 putts.

Speaking of putting, here's Tiger Woods working with putting coach Matt Killen at The Players Championship on Monday. Tiger has struggled on the greens, including too many three-putts.

Monday, March 11

VIDEO: Francesco Molinari Fires Closing 64 to Win Arnold Palmer Invitational



THE CLOSER. THAT MIGHT BE an apt nickname for reigning Open champion Francesco Molinari.

Molinari carded an 8-under 64 at Bay Hill on Sunday to finish 12 under in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. That was good enough for a two-shot victory over Matthew Fitzpatrick. Rafa Cabrera Bello, Tommy Fleetwood and Sungjae Im tied for third.

Molinari's third PGA Tour title included a lengthy putt on the final green that drew comparisons to Tiger Woods. (See above highlights.)

"The long game can take you only so far," Molinari said. "You can be in contention and have good finishes more often than other people. But when it comes to crunch time, you have to make the putts at the right time."

Next up is The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. And no, it's not the fifth major.

Friday, March 8

RIP Dan Jenkins, Legendary Sportswriter and Member of World Golf Hall of Fame


From the New York Times obituary:
Mr. Jenkins was among a cadre of Sports Illustrated writers — including Roy Blount Jr., Mark Kram and Frank Deford — recruited by André Laguerre, the managing editor who oversaw the magazine's emergence as a leader in literate, and occasionally literary, sports journalism as well as a powerhouse in the Time Inc. stable. Mr. Jenkins joined the magazine in 1962. 
A Texan with a good old boy’s pride in country common sense over urban sophistication, Mr. Jenkins brought a Southern wiseacre erudition to the pages of a magazine not exactly used to the arch or earthy or impolitic remark. Opinionated, more than occasionally snarky, he wrote with an open appreciation of athletes and coaches, bars, pretty women and chicken fried steak, replete with clever put-downs and outlandish metaphors. 
His main beats were golf and college football, sports he grew up with in Fort Worth.
The Times reported that Jenkins had dealt with heart and renal failure and recently broke his hip. He was 90.

Thursday, March 7

Golf Swing Thursday: Coach Lockey


I LIKE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS: The swing. The tempo. The sound. The quick reach for the tee. The "perfect" comment.

May we all hit it a little more like Coach Lockey this spring.

Tuesday, March 5

Eamon Lynch: Whining About New Rules Is Not Good Look for PGA Tour Players

THE USGA HAS BECOME A PUNCHING BAG through the years and for good reasons. But golf's elite players seem to get a pass on their reactions and childish behavior, most recently as it pertains to the new rules.

Why are players (seemingly) excused?

This isn't an aberration. Rather, it's the sports culture in which we live.

Eamon Lynch at Golfweek.com jumped into the topic with both feet:
It is golf’s most threadbare cliché to say that the game reflects life — the need to play it as it lies, handle bad breaks, conduct oneself honorably. This blather about character and grit has kept the sport's more indolent announcers and marketing executives employed for generations. But a more fitting allegory for this golf-as-life theme, at least in the professional ranks, may be our cry baby culture, the ceaseless bellyaching by those who break rules and then petulantly insist the rules are stupid anyway.... 
There’s clearly great fodder for debate in the new rules, from the wording to the rollout. The problem is that the time for debate was two years ago. In March 2017, the USGA announced a six-month feedback period during which anyone could offer input on the proposed revisions. More than 25,000 golfers did so. If Messrs. Scott, Thomas and Fowler had grave reservations, they had ample opportunity to register them. 
The new rules were made public in March 2018 — nine months before they took effect. USGA officials attended player meetings and held one-on-one conversations at tournaments in advance of the rollout. Despite that outreach, plenty of players are peddling a narrative that blames their own ignorance on the USGA. It's unsurprising. The blazers are the softest target in golf, portrayed as humorless scolds legislating all the fun out of the game.
I'm not saying the new rules are perfect, nor the rollout. But I do agree with Lynch's characterization of players as whiners and babies. I'm tired of it.

What if all parties, including golf's governing bodies, actually talked directly behind the scenes rather than airing their grievances and pettiness in the public arena?