Thursday, February 20

How Dr. George Franklin Grant's Small Improvement Revolutionized Golf



IMAGINE GOLF WITHOUT THE MODERN GOLF TEE.

That's the way it was until men such as Dr. George Franklin Grant (1846-1910) arrived on the scene in the late 19th century.

Dr. Grant was an African American who, in 1899, patented an improved wooden tee that "consisted of a wood cone with a rubber sleeve to support the ball," according to Wikipedia.

(Dr. Grant was also the first African American professor at Harvard and a Boston dentist.)

Now golf balls fly prodigious distances. But it wouldn't be so without a small improvement conceived more than a century ago.

More from the USGA:
Dr. George Grant and Evolution of the Golf Tee

Wednesday, February 19

Mickey Wright: 'Watching the Earth in Orbit With a Golf Club in My Hands'



BEN HOGAN AND BYRON NELSON said she had the best golf swing they ever saw. That would be Mickey Wright, who died on Monday.

For USGA.org, Lisa D Mickey wrote:
Mary Kathryn "Mickey" Wright, winner of 82 LPGA Tour events and 13 major championships, including a record-tying four U.S. Women's Opens, died from a heart attack on Feb. 17 in Port St. Lucie, Fla., three days after her 85th birthday.
Wright was regarded as one of the greatest golfers in the game's history. In a four-year span between 1961 and 1964, Wright won 44 tournaments, including eight major championships. She finished either first or second in more than half of the events she entered during this stretch. World Golf Hall of Fame member Tom Watson called it "the best run anybody has ever had in golf." 
Wright possessed a swing hailed by legends Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson as the greatest of all-time – male or female. It combined power, athleticism, rhythm and flowing grace, producing maximum clubhead speed and extension through impact. She was one of the longest hitters of her era, producing high, soaring fairway-wood and long-iron shots that separated her from her peers.
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"When I play my best golf, I feel as if I'm in a fog, standing back watching the earth in orbit with a golf club in my hands."
Mickey Wright
__________

Wright was among an impressive group of tour pros that hailed from San Diego, including Billy Casper, Phil Mickelson, Gene Littler and Craig Stadler.

Friday, February 14

Rory McIlroy Is Latest in Revolving Door of World No. 1 Players



RORY MCILROY RECENTLY MOVED TO NO. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, displacing Brooks Koepka, who held the top spot for 38 weeks. Neither McIlroy nor Koepka played during the week they swapped places.

In search of domination in men's golf, it's plain to see that parity rules. Sure, there have been a few perched at world No. 1 for a year or more. But by and large it's been a revolving door over the last decade.

This was apparent when I studied the Official World Golf Ranking, which highlights this era's No. 1 players and length of time in the top spot:

Rory McIlroy, 95 weeks
Dustin Johnson, 91 weeks
Luke Donald, 56 weeks
Jason Day, 51 weeks
Brooks Koepka, 38 weeks
Jordan Spieth, 26 weeks
Lee Westwood, 22 weeks
Justin Rose, 13 weeks
Adam Scott, 11 weeks
Martin Kaymer, 8 weeks
Justin Thomas, 4 weeks

That's a lot of folks, right?

And then there's Tiger Woods. 683 weeks. If my math is correct, that's more than 13 years at No. 1.

Good luck identifying that next dominant male tour pro. I've only seen two in my lifetime.

Harvey Penick's 'Magic Words' for Cutting 5 Strokes Off Your Score

"IMPROVEMENT COMES IN PLATEAUS," says golf legend Harvey Penick (1904-1995) in his classic golf instruction book, Harvey Penick's Little Red Book: Lessons and Teachings from a Lifetime in Golf.

Harvey Penick
It doesn't come stroke by stroke, he adds.

If you want to cut three or even five strokes from your game, Penick has some simple advice. Put the driver back in the bag. Stop pounding golf balls with the long clubs on the driving range.

"The short game. Those are the magic words," Penick says in his chapter titled "How to Knock Five Strokes Off Your Game."

"The higher your score, the faster you can lower it—with the short game."

Penick reminds golfers for the umpteenth time: about half the strokes in a round of golf come within 75 yards of the hole. He taught and observed amateur and pro golfers for seven decades. Penick says this about practice:

"If I ask an average golfer what percentage of his practice time he spends on his short game in comparison to hitting the longer shots, he'll probably tell me he gives the short game 10 or 20 percent. This is usually a fib.

"The average golfer will devote 15 minutes to stroking a few putts before he heads to the first tee, and that's about it for the short-game practice."

What should you do instead?

Penick says spend 90 percent of your practice time on chipping and putting.

"[I]f you want to knock five shots off your game in a hurry," Penick says, "leave your long clubs in your bag and head for the green."

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Harvey Penick was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2002. Penick coached hundreds of golfers, including Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Mickey Wright, Betsy Rawls and Kathy Whitworth. The annual teacher award presented by the Golf Teachers Association is called the Harvey Penick Award.

Sponsored by Bird Golf Academy. Bird Golf Schools provide the "Ultimate Golf Learning Experience"®.

Saturday, February 8

The Dean of Golf Photographers Receives a New PGA of America Award

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LEONARD KAMSLER. MAYBE YOU'VE NEVER HEARD THAT NAME.

Kamsler is a different kind of golf legend. A golf photographer whose "shots" were as pure as Ben Hogan's.

Peter Morrice of Golfworld wrote:
[T]he "Dean of Golf Photographers," as Kamsler has come to be known. From his first assignment for Golf Magazine in 1959 (shooting a caddie camp) to 40 straight years covering the Masters to sessions with the top players and personalities in the game over the past five decades, Kamsler always got the picture. On Tuesday [January 14], the PGA of America announced that Kamsler, 84, will receive its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award in Photojournalism.
Congratulations to Mr. Kamsler. Following is more of his work.

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Wednesday, February 5

50-Year-Old Ernie Els Excited About Rookie Status on Champions Tour

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THE BIG EASY IS READY for the Champions Tour (PGA Tour Champions). Hall of Famer Ernie Els has reached that magic age.

John Strege of Golfworld wrote:
Els already has turned 50 and has indicated he is eager to join his contemporaries on the senior tour. He [was] entered in the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, which start[ed] [on a] Thursday in Hawaii. 
"I've had a great time out here [on the PGA Tour]," Els said last June. "It's been quite a long time out here. And I'll still play some of the events that I'm the past champion of, but I think I'm going to transition well onto the other side and play some golf on the Champions Tour and go see some of my old friends."
(Els finished second in his debut, losing to Miguel Angel Jimenez in a playoff.)

Jim Furyk, who turns 50 in May, might not be far behind.
"If I'm competitive and I feel like I'm knocking on the door and having opportunities to win, I'd like to play some out here," Furyk said of the PGA Tour last year. "If that's not the case, I'll go to [the PGA Tour Champions] and see if I can be competitive out there.

Monday, February 3

Graeme McDowell Ends Long Winless Drought With Saudi International Victory

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By Brian Keogh
Brian Keogh contributes to major golf publications and runs Irish Golf Desk. Used with permission. GRAEME MCDOWELL SURGED BACK into the world's top 50 and the Ryder Cup reckoning when he closed with a gutsy level par 70 to win the Saudi International by two shots from Dustin Johnson on 12-under par. The 40-year old from Portrush had not won on the European Tour since 2014, but he showed all his trademark fighting qualities in blustery conditions to claim his 16th worldwide win, his 11th on the European Tour and a cheque for US$583,330. He is projected to leap from 104th to around 46th in the world, opening the door to all the World Golf Championships and the Majors. "It's special," he said. "I've been working hard the last year and a half. I said I wanted to be back up there one more time just to be out playing against these guys. The game of golf is in such great shape with so many great players in the world. It's so exciting to be a top player in the world and I want to be back up there again."

Webb Simpson Outduels Tony Finau in the Desert



IT'S TOUGH TO WIN ON TOUR.

Talented Tony Finau, who has won a lot of money but not a lot of tournaments, learned that lesson again on Sunday at the 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Finau had the lead, and it looked to me as if he had the tournament with two holes to play. But Webb Simpson had other ideas.

Simpson went birdie-birdie to tie at the end of regulation. Then, on the first playoff hole, the 2012 U.S. Open champion rolled in another birdie for the win. And that was that.

But Finau and Simpson are still the best of friends.

"I definitely didn't give him the tournament,'' Finau said. "Unfortunately, it's how the cookie crumbles. ... I love Webb."

"It's hard," Simpson said. "He is a great friend. Our wives are friends, and he's one of the best guys on tour."

Thursday, January 30

Facebook and PGA TOUR Forge Global Content Agreement

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA – The PGA TOUR announced an expansive agreement with Facebook to distribute daily highlight packages globally on Facebook Watch in 2020 starting at the Farmers Insurance Open.

The PGA TOUR will publish daily round recaps and player-specific highlights from more than 30 events, including THE PLAYERS Championship and FedExCup Playoffs.

These expanded highlights will feature content from the TOUR's core telecasts, along with content from PGA TOUR LIVE, the TOUR's OTT service featuring more than 1,200 hours of exclusive Featured Groups coverage in 2020.

"We're excited to expand our partnership with Facebook by delivering additional content for our fans," said Chris Wandell, Vice President Media Business Development at the PGA TOUR. "This is in response to our fans' appetite for additional coverage packaged in a way that is convenient for them to consume."

The TOUR will create a robust and timely highlights experience for PGA TOUR fans around the world on Facebook Watch. Fans can stay up to date with the latest highlights by following the PGA TOUR Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/PGATour. Content will be posted daily at the completion of each tournament round. As part of the agreement, the TOUR will also engage fans in its Facebook Group, The Gallery, with interactive elements such as Facebook Lives and Facebook Watch Parties.

Monday, January 20

Lee Westwood Claims 25th Win on European Tour, Proves 'That I've Still Got It'

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LEE WESTWOOD, 45, WON IN ABU DHABI on Sunday. That's 25 wins on the European Tour and 44 victories worldwide for the Englishman.

As Golfworld's John Huggan wrote, Westwood's resurgence began about 18 months ago. His focus changed around the same time his girlfriend Helen took over bag duties.

"I think it helps having all the responsibility and not listening to another opinion," Westwood said as quoted by Golfworld. "I've been out here 26 years. I ought to know how far it is, what club to hit, how to judge the wind and where not to miss greens. I feel like there is a lot more clarity to my head when I'm stood over the ball. There's only one opinion and it's mine. Even if I am wrong it is better to go with what I think rather than have a doubt in my mind."

Now the aging Westwood dreams of another Ryder Cup. As a player.

"I've been on losing Ryder Cup teams, and I've been on seven winning ones," he said.

"It's a big honor to represent Europe in the Ryder Cup. And I would love to play another as long as I'm good enough. I wouldn't want a pick, but if I qualified I would definitely play.

"So I'll be trying my hardest. But you can't control qualifying for a Ryder Cup team. I'll just be trying to do the small things right and it will lead on to the big things, like qualifying for the side. For now, it's just nice to come out and keep proving that I've still got it."

Happy 25th Birthday to GOLF Channel

By GOLF Channel Communications

ORLANDO, Fla.  – GOLF Channel celebrated its 25th anniversary on Friday, Jan. 17, when in 1995 it launched as the first single-sport cable network, co-founded by Arnold Palmer and cable entrepreneur Joe Gibbs. GOLF Channel has grown to become the tentpole of NBC Sports Group’s GOLF portfolio of businesses with more live tournament coverage than all other U.S. networks combined, and high-quality news, instruction and entertainment programming dedicated to showcasing the global sport of golf.

"Arnold Palmer was so proud of the role GOLF Channel plays in connecting the world to golf and we take great pride in carrying forward his legacy as we forge a path for the next quarter century," said Mike McCarley, president, GOLF, NBC Sports.

"A prime example of how much GOLF Channel has grown – from just 15 hours of live programming the network's first week 25 years ago to more than 100 live hours this week from three U.S. time zones and five countries. As we look ahead to 2020, GOLF Channel will be on the ground at all of the men's and women's major championships, The Players, Tokyo Olympics, FedExCup Playoffs, UL International Crown and Ryder Cup."

GOLF Channel has grown from 10,000 U.S. households in 1995 to reaching nearly 500 million golf fans around the globe in more than 70 countries and nine languages. Since joining the NBC Sports Group in 2011, GOLF Channel has been one of the fastest-growing cable networks in television (2011-2013) and in 2019, golf fans streamed nearly 1 billion minutes of live and VOD content.

Monday, January 13

Actor Don Cheadle's New Role: U.S. Open Brand Ambassador

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DON CHEADLE TO THE RESCUE. The award-winning actor has joined with the USGA to boost public golf.

From the news release:

LIBERTY CORNER, N.J – The United States Golf Association (USGA) has teamed up with Academy Award-nominated actor and United Nations Environment Program Global Goodwill Ambassador Don Cheadle in an effort to increase the value of public golf to golfers, courses and communities throughout America.

Cheadle, an avid golfer with a passion for the game, recognizes that the long-term viability of the sport depends on strengthening the health of public golf, while finding ways for the game to operate in a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly manner.

"Growing up, I used to play public courses with my father, and I have some great memories of those rounds," said Cheadle, a veteran of dozens of acclaimed movies and TV shows. "I want to make sure that future generations of golfers are able to have access to the same opportunities that I was able to benefit from."

Cheadle will also serve as a U.S. Open brand ambassador, lending his esteemed voice and stature to showcase what makes the championship truly special.

Monday, January 6

PHOTO: Jack Fleck Warming Up Before 18-Hole Playoff With Ben Hogan at the 1955 U.S. Open

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HERE'S A FAVORITE PICTURE of Jack Fleck (1921-2014), who I wrote about in my 2012 book THE LONGEST SHOT.

This is moments before the start of an 18-hole playoff with four-time U.S. Open champion Ben Hogan to decide the 1955 U.S. Open. During warm-up, Jack liked to hit a few shots with the short and long clubs, focusing on tempo.

One of the most remarkable things Jack told me in our seven-year relationship (that became a friendship) was that he wasn't afraid of playing Ben Hogan, head to head. I asked him about this on numerous occasions. If anything, it was an honor for Jack to face Hogan, because Hogan was his idol.

But, no, Jack wasn't nervous or afraid. He was a confident ball-striker and tended to play his best on tough golf courses.

For one week in June 1955, Fleck played sublime golf on a brutal, rough-infested layout, the Olympic Club in San Francisco. He even putted well (his persistent weakness).

The virtually unknown Fleck stunned the great Hogan (and the wider world) with a three-shot victory in that playoff, still one of the greatest upsets in golf and sports.

It changed Jack's life, a lot of it good and some bad. I had the privilege to learn all about it during multiple conversations over several years. Now, as the years fly by, it's sometimes hard to believe I had that incredible opportunity.