Saturday, July 26

Man Intentionally Loses 3,000 Golf Balls in Desert

(From the ARMCHAIR GOLF archives.)

The scene of a bizarre golf-related act.
(Tammy Green/Flickr)
GROWING UP PLAYING GOLF in the California desert, I hit my share of wayward shots into the sandy dirt, Joshua trees and tumbleweed. Some of my golf balls dove into gopher holes and many disappeared elsewhere in the desert landscapes that adjoined the fairways of my youth.

I lost countless Top-Flites, Maxflis, Titleists, Wilson Staffs and Golden Rams. Yes, Golden Rams. It was that long ago.

But I was no Douglas Jones.

Jones, a 57-year-old La Quinta, California, man, deposited an estimated 3,000 golf balls into Joshua Tree National Park over a year’s time. He was cited by park rangers a month ago for abandoning property, littering and feeding wildlife.

Joshua Tree National Park is not a golf course. It’s not like Bethpage State Park on Long Island where the U.S. Open was played. There’s no reason anyone should spot a Titleist Pro V1 in Joshua Tree National Park—unless someone in Indio hit a shot 20 miles off line.

Jones will soon be explaining his actions to a federal magistrate. According to an Associated Press story, Jones said it was his way of honoring deceased golfers. I think he better take a mulligan on that explanation.

Another troubling aspect to this story: Jones tossed the 3,000 golf balls into the national park. There were no clubs involved. He simply heaved the dimpled spheres into the desert.

What a waste. Besides facing a fine and possible jail time, Jones missed out on an incredible practice opportunity. He could be one heckuva of a sand player by now. But he threw away that chance.

Friday, July 25

Bernhard Langer Leads Senior British Open

BERNHARD LANGER FIRED AN OPENING 65 at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in Wales for a two-shot lead over Bob Tway in the Senior British Open.

"Six under is very satisfying," Langer said. "I played smart, some good, some great. I didn't make many mistakes and that's what it comes down to at the end."

Langer got off to a fast start with four birdies on the outgoing nine, good for a 31.

"I kept it out of the bunkers and out of the hay, and gave myself some opportunities," Langer added. "And I'm pleased with a birdie-birdie finish."

U.S. Senior Open winner Colin Montgomerie shot a 1-over 72.

Wednesday, July 23

U.S. Ryder Cup Standings: Tiger and Phil Not Automatic

TIGER WOODS AND PHIL MICKELSON are not shoo-ins for the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team, although Mickelson is a lot closer to the promised land than Woods. Lefty is 11th in the standings. Tiger is 70th.

The top nine players will automatically qualify for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Captain Tom Watson has three discretionary picks.

Woods would appear to need a minor miracle to make the team on points. Tiger needs at least a third-place finish at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship, according to Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press. Or he would need to be one of Captain Watson's three picks.

After completing the British Open, Tiger more or less said he felt he would be ready for the Ryder Cup and would pick himself. "I hope I'm on that team," he said.

Would you burn a pick on Tiger?

U.S. Ryder Cup Standings
(Through the 2014 British Open)

1. Bubba WATSON 6,828.138
2. Jimmy WALKER 5,510.205
3. Rickie FOWLER 5,403.253
4. Jim FURYK 5,259.594
5. Dustin JOHNSON 5,133.807
6. Jordan SPIETH 4,781.827
7. Matt KUCHAR 4,764.065
8. Jason DUFNER 3,516.345
9. Zach JOHNSON 3,450.894
10. Patrick REED 3,301.393
11. Phil MICKELSON 3,252.838
12. Brendon TODD 3,250.483
13. Chris KIRK 3,226.883
14. Ryan MOORE 3,118.872
15. Webb SIMPSON 3,086.070
16. Keegan BRADLEY 3,016.698
17. Harris ENGLISH 2,966.569
18. Kevin NA 2,878.818
19. Matt EVERY 2,471.806
20. Erik COMPTON 2,458.793

Tuesday, July 22

Bad Boy Bobby Locke, Part 5: Trouble at Home and Abroad

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

By John Coyne

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

FROM HIS FIRST DAYS AS A PROFESSIONAL, Bobby Locke had difficulty with the golfing establishment, on both sides of the ocean.

He turned pro in 1938 and immediately ran into trouble with professional golf associations. The South African Transvaal PGA turned him down for membership, saying that he had to be a professional for two years before being eligible. He applied to the British PGA and they turned him down, saying he had to be a professional for five years.

Golf legend Bobby Locke got sacked
after winning his first South African Open.
This was despite Locke winning tournaments in South Africa and Great Britain, and receiving money to play in exhibitions tours in Australia. Also, he took the professional position at the Maccauvlei Golf Club in 1939. (Today, Maccauvlei is the home club of Masters winner, Charl Schwartzel.)

Locke did not last long as the pro at Maccauvlei. He had just won his first South Africa Open held at Maccauvlei when he got the job, and immediately he ran into trouble. In the history of the club, written by member Derek Mocke, it appears that Locke was "forced out" of his position.

Mocke writes: "Problems immediately arose with regard to his appointment. On the 24th February 1940, the committee discussed the proposed arrangement that Locke had with African Theatres whereby he was proposing to tour the country giving a series of golfing demonstrations. The Chairman said that he was strongly opposed to such an arrangement being made by Locke during his period of service to the club, unless he did this during his leave periods. The committee further did not like Locke giving non-members lessons whilst playing with him on the course in preference to merely using the practice tee. In order to curb this, the club instituted a green fee of two shillings and six pence per round.

"At a special meeting hastily arranged and held on the 5th May 1940, Bobby Locke was questioned as to the terms of his employment. In his letter of appointment he was told that if he wanted to play in outside competitions he had to ask permission. Locke never applied for leave of absence but merely advised the Secretary when he had to fulfill his obligations. He also intimated that he proposed making a quick trip to America to play the US Open.

"Locke pleaded forgetfulness when questioned. It was said that Locke was using the Club to suit his own convenience and personal interest, and that the Club would not be used as a stepping stone for Locke to travel around the country, playing exhibition matches purely for his own benefit, at the Club's expense. Locke did not like the arrangement, and after eight months, resigned from the Club by letter to the committee dated 26th July 1940. The rest is history."

Derek Mocke joined Maccauvlei Golf Club years later, in 1967, and has been an active member ever since. He has held every office of the club, having been Captain, Chairman and President.

In 1982, the year of his captaincy, Dereck invited Bobby Locke to play with him at Maccauvlei. Locke arrived with his chaperone, Pine Pienaar, a retired Boeing pilot, who transported Locke everywhere he was invited to go. When they were on the 4th hole, Locke knocked his second just on the green. Walking down towards the green with him, Derek remarked that the putt should be in his compass. Next thing he felt was a mighty kick up his "backside."

"Not knowing what was going on," Derek wrote me, "I later asked Pine Pienaar why he kicked me. The only explanation that Pine could give me was that in his days that would have been an easy putt for him, and nowadays he feels frustrated as his putting touch has deserted him. At the prize giving that evening I mentioned the fact that Bobby had only 30 putts in his round, not bad for someone who felt his better days had deserted him."

Also at that evening's dinner celebrating Locke's return to Maccauvlei, Derek Mocke was to present to Bobby a "club tie" but when he went down to the pro shop to get one the pro told him Locke had already "nicked" one out of the shop without paying. (There was already a rumor in Joburg that Locke was a kleptomaniac.)

Back in the ballroom, another club tie was presented to the former club pro by Derek Mocke. Derek, having been told by his father that Locke loved playing the ukulele, had gotten an instrument from the local music shop and "after a few drinks," handed Bobby the ukulele and they were treated to a singing show.

It was, Derek writes, "an evening that I will never ever forget spending a day of golf and song with a South African legend."


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

Monday, July 21

Rory Sets Sights on Career Grand Slam

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.

RORY MCILROY DEDICATED THE OPEN to his mum Rosie but set his sights on the daddy of them all--completing the career Grand Slam at the Masters next year.

By carding a 71 to win by two shots from Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler at Hoylake, the Holywood star became only the third player after legends Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods to win three of the four majors by the age of 25. He also ended all speculation about his ability to prepare well and execute on a links course.

Now the little boy who used to wake his mother up by banging her on the head with a plastic club wants to go on and complete the set by winning the Masters next April. Not only that, he wants to take up the mantle of Tiger Woods and become golf’s next dominant player.

Dedicating his win to his mother, who saw him win a major for the first time. Rory said: “My mum hasn't been at the previous two major wins. It was just my dad. And it was just great to see her on the back of the 18th there and how much it meant to her. I was trying not to cry at the time because she was bawling her eyes out. The support of my parents has been incredible with the sacrifices that they made for me growing up.

“They're there for me at the worst of times, like this time last year after missing the cut at Muirfield, or the best of times walking off as the champion golfer of the year this year.”

The first wire to wire winner of the Open since Woods in 2005, McIlroy now looks set to become the game’s next dominant figure.

Winning a green jacket would make him that man and he's up for the challenge, declaring: “Golf is looking to someone to put their hand up and I want to be that person. I want be to be the guy that goes on and wins majors and wins majors regularly.

“I've had chances before to kick on as I did after my second major at Kiawah. I kicked on for another six months and played really well. I just want to think ahead and go forward and try and win as many tournaments and as many majors as I can, because I feel like there's a lot more left in me.”

As for Augusta, where he led by four shots going into the final round in 2011 but blew up with a closing 80, he said: “I've always been comfortable from tee to green at Augusta. And it's just taken me a few years to figure out the greens.

“I’ll be going into Augusta next year pretty confident.”

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

Friday, July 18

Open Leader Rory McIlroy By the Numbers

EXCEPT FOR A SLIGHT MISSTEP out of the gate on Friday, 36-hole Open leader Rory McIlory has played near-flawless golf.

McIlroy bogeyed the 1st hole of his second round. The Northern Irishman then played the next 17 holes in 7 under par to card his second consecutive 66 and open a 4-shot lead on American Dustin Johnson at the halfway point of the major championship at Hoylake.

So much for the Friday curse.

"My second rounds this year have been terrible and there isn't really any explanation," McIlroy said. "Hopefully I put it to bed today. It was just another solid a round of golf."

Rory by the numbers through two rounds:
  • 66-66-132 (-12)
  • 13 birdies (T1)
  • 16 fairways hit (57.14%)
  • 27 greens in regulation (75%)
  • 19 one putts (T2)

Thursday, July 17

Remembering Tony Lema 50 Years After Open Triumph

USING ARNOLD PALMER'S CADDIE AND PUTTER, and after playing just one full practice round, Tony Lema won the 1964 British Open at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland. It was his first appearance in golf's oldest major championship. Lema's 279 total was five shots better than runner-up Jack Nicklaus. He famously served champagne to the press after his victories, thus becoming "Champagne Tony."

Lema's career and life were cut short in the summer of 1966 when he and his wife died in a small plane crash on the way to an exhibition near Chicago. Lema had planned to give his fee to a charity that benefited kids. He was 32.

A native of Oakland, California, Tony Lema won 12 times on the PGA Tour, including the one major. According to the above Golf Channel profile, George Clooney is considering a movie project about Lema.

Wednesday, July 16

Freaky Fridays Are Messing With Rory's Head

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.

Rory McIlroy has never felt more prepared for The Open Championship but he admits his freaky Friday form is getting into his head. The former world No 1 has had seven nightmares this season when he’s shot 40 or more for nine holes.

But with six of those seven disasters coming on Friday--the most recent of them just last week when he followed an opening 64 in the Scottish Open with a horrific 78--he admits he’s got a major mental problem to tackle. Asked if his Friday scoring trend is starting to mess with his head, he said: “Yes, I think it is. And it’s a trend I’d like to stop this week.

“I think I just got it into my head and I may be putting a bit too much pressure on myself, going out on Fridays and trying to back up a score. I have no problem shooting a low one on Thursday, so there should be no reason I have any problem shooting a low one on Friday.

“As I say, I think I just got into my head and I need to go out and pretend like it's a Thursday again.”

McIlroy has the best first round record in golf, averaging 68.15 this year. But his second-round scoring average of 72.23 is one of the worst of anyone on the major tours.

Last week’s disaster in Scotland was not his first reverse of the year. He followed a 63 with a 78 in the Memorial Tournament and adding that 78 to his course record 64 just last week was not what he needed coming into The Open.

To put his performances in perspective, McIlroy is 51 under par in the first round this year, 19 under in the third round and 20 under on the final day. But in the second round he’s an eye-popping nine over par.

At a loss to explain how he can halt the freaky Friday syndrome, he said: “I don't know, but it's more going out and not thinking about it and really trying to get off it to a solid start. You’ve got to just play a few solid holes and get your round underway that way.

“So hopefully this week I can start to turn that second-round thing around and start shooting some better scores.”

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