Wednesday, April 27

Miguel Angel Jimenez Flushes an Iron Off Great Wall of China


THE MOST INTERESTING GOLFER in the world hit yesterday's most interesting golf shot in the world. Maybe the unusual scene gave Pete Dye some diabolical new design ideas.

Tuesday, April 26

FOX Sports Trumpets USGA Championship Broadcast Team


(This might be my favorite clip from the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.)

It's not too early to think about the U.S. Open coming to Oakmont Country Club in June. It should be a dandy. Carnage everywhere.

FOX Sports had a bumpy start as the USGA's new broadcast partner last year. Minus Greg Norman, they're back and trumpeting the 2016 broadcast team. This year should be better. Fingers crossed.

By FOX Sports

With the start of the 2016 USGA championship season less than one month away, FOX Sports announced its complete on-air roster, featuring the addition of several experienced contributors and highlighted by the addition of World Golf Hall of Famer and two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange as an on-course reporter and analyst.

In his new role for FOX Sports in 2016, Strange serves as an on-course reporter and analyst for the 116th U.S. Open Championship at Oakmont Country Club, the U.S. Senior Open at Scioto Country Club, the U.S. Amateur at Oakland Hills Country Club and the Men's Amateur Four-Ball at Winged Foot Golf Club.

When the U.S. Open returns to Oakmont for a record ninth time, special contributor Bob Ford also joins the broadcast, providing insights and analysis of the course throughout the championship. A name synonymous with Oakmont, Ford joined the club's staff in 1975 and became its head professional just four years later, a post he held until 2013 when he was elevated to director of golf.

Five-time Ryder Cup competitor and veteran golf commentator Ken Brown also joins FOX Sports' U.S. Open coverage this year. The final addition to FOX Sports' 2016 U.S. Open roster is Golf World editor-in-chief Jaime Diaz.

Play-by-play announcers Joe Buck and Shane O’Donoghue, analysts Mark Brooks, Jay Delsing, Brad Faxon, David Fay, Steve Flesch, Natalie Gulbis, Gil Hanse, Juli Inkster, Buddy Marucci and Scott McCarron, studio host Holly Sonders and interviewer Shane Bacon return to FOX Sports’ USGA broadcast  team in 2016. Azinger makes his FOX Sports debut on May 24 at the Men's Amateur Four-Ball.

Monday, April 25

Charley Hoffman: 'This Was My Hardest One'



CHARLEY HOFFMAN MADE A 9-FOOT birdie putt on the final hole to win the Valero Texas Open on Sunday.

The 39-year-old Hoffman closed with a 3-under 69 at TPC San Antonio for a one-stroke victory over Patrick Reed. Hoffman finished at 12-under 276 and earned $1,116,000 for his fourth PGA TOUR victory.

"This was my hardest one," Hoffman said after a vigorous fist-pump and drill-team leg kick when the winning putt fell at 18. "Grabbing that lead and holding on to it -- it's tough to keep the pedal down and give yourself birdie opportunities and win golf tournaments."


(Source: Valero Texas Open email)

Olympics Controversy

Adam Scott has dropped out. So has Vijay Singh. And also Louis Oosthuizen. Golf is returning to the Olympics after a very, very long absence, but these marquee players will not be in Rio de Janeiro, according to carefully worded statements.

I've been trying to decide what I think about this. My knee-jerk reaction: They should play; they should represent their countries. It's an honor and a privilege. I've also considered this: Who am I to say what Adam Scott should do? And, does it make any difference that they are professionals rather than amateurs?

I recall when the Olympics was only for amateur athletes, with a focus on sportsmanship while competing for medals, and about promoting goodwill between nations. How do pro athletes enter into the Olympics equation? I still wonder.

Brian Keogh, quoting European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley and others, has penned a thoughtful piece on the "anti-Olympics brigade." The old guard such as Johnny Miller and Jack Nicklaus think Scott's decision is regrettable. Read Keogh.

I cannot begin to fathom what it's like to be Adam Scott. Still, it's hard to understand why he can't carve out time for the Olympics, even if he'd rather not be bothered. Obviously, it doesn't come along often. It's an opportunity to be an ambassador for the sport and his country, a once-in-a-lifetime deal.

Why not play this one time instead of talking about his busy schedule?

I like Scott. I like the way he conducts himself. I don't understand his Olympics decision. I do understand it's his business. Hopefully, he'll understand the disappointment from his fans and countrymen.

Friday, April 22

Stolen in My Youth: Willie Mays, 'The Say Hey Kid'

(Another occasional off-golf-topic piece because, after thousands of golf stories, I want to share other stories. Thanks for reading.)

The coveted baseball card I once had.
THEY CALLED HIM "THE SAY HEY KID" when he broke into major league baseball with the New York Giants in 1951.

Willie Mays, 20, was perhaps the most complete player baseball had ever seen. Mays was a "five-tool player." He could hit, hit for power, run, throw and field.

My goodness, could Willie field. His official position was center field, but he roamed much of the outfield in the vast Polo Grounds.

When a teammate was once asked what position he played, he replied: "Me and Willie Mays play left field."

In the 1954 World Series, Mays made what is arguably the greatest catch in baseball history. The catch robbed Vic Wertz and the Cleveland Indians, which went on to lose the series to the underdog Giants.

People said it wasn't Mays's greatest catch, but it came in the Fall Classic and was televised at a time when the nation was becoming mesmerized by the small screen. Other people said the throw Mays made after chasing down Wertz's rocket was even greater than the catch.



As a boy growing up in Evansville, Indiana, in the 1960s, I was a proud owner of a Willie Mays baseball card. This was no small feat. Mays cards were a rare find. I was the only one of my neigborhood friends who possessed Mays, then of the San Francisco Giants. (The Giants franchise, along with the Dodgers, moved to the West Coast in the late 1950s.)

Each of us bought a box of 500 baseball cards. The top players such as Mays, Henry Aaron, Ernie Banks, Bob Gibson and Roberto Clemente were gold. You dug through your massive box of cards and hoped to get lucky.

My friends wanted to trade for my Willie Mays card. I wouldn't do it. It was the one baseball card that was off limits. Then one day Willie was gone. I looked everywhere but couldn't find him.

Not long after one of my buddies returned my Willie Mays card. He was sorry. It was wrong.

Such was the popularity of Mays. Kids and grownups loved him. I might have stolen Willie, too, if I had thought I could get away with it.

Thursday, April 21

Profile of Henry William 'Harry' Vardon (Conclusion)



Part two of two on golf legend Harry Vardon (1870-1937). Read Part 1.

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.


WE KNOW HARRY VARDON BEST for his overlapping grip. Some accounts have it first being used by Johnny Laidlay, a champion Scottish amateur player. J. H. Taylor also used it before Vardon, but it was Vardon, who played with the grip in 1890s, who popularized it.

The grip is the most common used one today, that and the interlock grip. As we know with the Vardon grip the right little finger overlaps the left index finger. The overlap grip takes the little finger of the right hand off the shaft. This has the effect of slightly weakening the right hand. Since most golfers are right-handed, the overlap grip tends to balance the strength of the hands so that they function as a unit during the swing. 

Vardon knew that the secret of the golf swing was in the hands. He would hit a series of identical drives, and on each drive he took a slightly different foot position, even though all the drives dropped within a few feet of the target. The consistency lay in his trained hands. He was so unerringly accurate that an apocryphal anecdote has been handed down that when he played a round in the afternoon, his ball would land in the divots he had taken in the morning's round. 

As the great English golf writer Bernard Darwin wrote, "He had a great influence, too, on methods of playing. When he first appeared his notably upright swing, thought so full of grace and rhythm, came as a shock to the orthodoxy of the time, but has long since been accepted."

In The Gist of Golf  Harry Vardon writes how he has no idea why "Isle of Jersey golfers" like himself, used the upright swing. "That compact manner of wielding the club which came as a shock to the people who for years had worshipped the longer and flatter method known as the St. Andrews swing."

Harry writes how his younger brother Tom, and other golfers from the island, "all drifted involuntarily into the habit of taking the club to the top of the swing by the shortest route, whereas the popular way before was to sweep the club back flat at the start and make a very full flourish of the swing. Why we hit upon the other way we do not know."

Never having had a golf lesson, and coming to the game late, Vardon never thought about the swing until his first golf professional job at Ripon, Yorkshire, when he was twenty-one and "began to study and learn golf in real earnest."

That said, it is now generally accepted the modern game we play today was started by Harry Vardon, and he was the best ever. Even Bernard Darwin admitted, "It is impossible to imagine anyone playing any better than Harry Vardon."

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

Wednesday, April 20

Profile of Henry William 'Harry' Vardon

Part one of two on golf legend Harry Vardon (1870-1937).

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.

HENRY WILLIAM "HARRY" VARDON, who is credited with giving golf the modern swing and the Vardon grip, published a book in 1922 entitled The Gist of Golf. I came across a reissue recently, published in 1999 by the Rutledge Hill Press of Nashville, Tennessee. For this printing, Rutledge added a useful Glossary to explain such names as "baffy," as well as "howk" and "foozling." Now, we all know golf is a difficult game, but so can be golf terminology.

"I'm the best and I'll thank you to remember that,"
Harry Vardon once said.
The book is a delightful collection of reminiscences as well as instructions on how to play the game with hickory clubs.

Vardon first tells how he got into the game as a young boy. He played then with homemade blackthorn sticks were the shafts and a piece of oak as the head. The two were fastened together by boring a hole in the head with a red-hot poker, inserting the blackthorn stick and tightening the joint with the aid of wedges. There were no iron clubs.

"Truth to tell," he writes, "I was not particularly keen on the game, and played very seldom."

He was much keener on going to the beach to collect seaweed which sold for a few pounds that he gave to his parents. He needed to earn money for his family of five brothers and two sisters. At the age of thirteen, he quit school and went to work for a doctor's service as a page-boy to help his family. 

For the next four years he didn't play any golf. Then at seventeen he went to work as a gardener for a man who did play and who gave Vardon a few of his old clubs which Vardon recalled were "very wonderful after the clumsy, homemade things that I had been using."

Vardon actually preferred other sports. He played cricket and football, and also ran. He won 10 prizes as a sprinter.

'Enormous Amount'

All of this changed when he heard his younger brother Tom, who had gone to England to become a professional golfer, had won second prize in a tournament at Musselburgh. The prize was worth 20 pounds. 

"It seemed an enormous amount to me," Vardon said, hearing the news. "I pondered long and intently over it. I knew that, little as I had played, I was as good as Tom. If he could win that vast fortune, why shouldn’t I?"

Vardon was twenty before he took up the game seriously and he would go onto become one of the "Great Triumvirate" with James Braid and John H. Taylor of Great Britain. They ruled the British Open in the early 20th century, winning 16 Opens among them. Vardon alone won six Opens between 1896 and 1914, a record that still stands.

Vardon came to the United States in 1900 for exhibitions sponsored by A.G. Spalding, a manufacturer of sporting goods. He was to play with Spalding's new guttie golf ball, the Vardon Flyer. Spalding offered Vardon a percentage of sales but Vardon accepted a flat fee of $10,000 for 10 months of work, with the chance to augment his income through side purses in matches and fees from $200 to $250 for each personal appearance. It was a wise decision. This was just about the time that the rubber ball was introduced and the gutta-percha period of golf came to an end.

Vardon's tour, however, was no failure. He won the U.S. Open while in America that year.

TO BE CONTINUED.

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, April 19

Report: UK Is Hole-in-One Capital of Golf World

Image courtesy of Sidereal/Flickr.
IF YOU LOVE GOLF DATA, then this is for you.

Hole19 has compiled data from over three million rounds of golf played around the world and found the UK to be the hole-in-one capital of the world. And also the worst when it comes to putting.

Key findings of Hole19's Global Golf Report include:
  • The pace of play globally shows no signs of speeding up with an average time per 18 hole round standing at four hours 15 minutes. 
  • In terms of fairways hit in regulation, golfers in India come out best with a respectable 60.2%. This is followed by: Morocco (58.8%), China (56.2%) and Vietnam (54.2%). 
  • Golfers in Finland boast the average lowest handicap (14.2) followed by fellow Nordic countries Sweden (15.9) and Iceland (16.1). 
  • Golfers in the UK rank much lower down with an average handicap of almost 20 (19.8). Although that is still way ahead of last placed China, which comes in at a maximum of 26. 
(Who knew Nordic golfers were so good? Even with such short seasons.)

Following is the complete news from Hole19.

London, 29th March 2016: When it comes to the most elusive achievement in golf, the UK performs better than any other country in the world. That's according to data compiled over three million rounds of golf by the GPS and scoring app, Hole19, which found the UK has achieved more hole-in-one's than any other country.

The Hole19 Global Golf Report, the first of its nature, has been compiled from users of the app between April 2014 and January 2016, spanning over 50 countries.

It found that, of the 6,400 hole in ones that have been recorded in this time, 15% have come from the UK. This puts the UK at the top of the league table with double that of its nearest rival Germany (7.5%). The other nations making up the top five are: Spain (4.7%), Australia (4.1%) and Ireland (4%).

The report, which will be released biannually, looks at the global state of the game when it comes to on-course performance. It includes stats and information on; popular courses, pace of play, scores, fairways and greens in regulation, handicaps and course length.

Unfortunately for the UK, the report also records information including average putts taken per round. The data found that the UK fares particularly poorly at this aspect of the game, coming in at 25th in the world with an average of 34.9 (putts per round). This is behind countries such as Thailand (34.1), Finland (34.6) and Turkey (34.8). When it comes to putting efficiency, Denmark comes out top with an average per round of 32.8 putts.

Commenting on the data, Anthony Douglas, founder, Hole19 Golf said: "Amazing things happen on the golf course everyday but, without the ability to record and track the stats, individual moments and insights get lost. That is why we compiled the Hole19 Global Golf Report - to connect the world of golf and tell the stories of people, countries and courses that make the game what it is. Sharing experiences is as much a part of the game as the clubs and it's vitally important players, regardless of geography or timezone, have a forum to do that."

Looking further afield, the data also found that the pace of play globally shows no signs of speeding up with an average time per 18 hole round standing at four hours 15 minutes. In terms of fairways hit in regulation, golfers in India come out best with a respectable 60.2%. This is followed by: Morocco (58.8%), China (56.2%) and Vietnam (54.2%). Golfers in Finland boast the average lowest handicap (14.2) followed by fellow Nordic countries Sweden (15.9) and Iceland (16.1). Golfers in the UK rank much lower down with an average handicap of almost 20 (19.8). 

Although that is still way ahead of last placed China, which comes in at a maximum of 26. 

While part of the pleasure of golf may be in the exercise and walking, when it comes to average round distance, think yourself fortunate you are not playing regularly in Mongolia where the average course length is 6,690m. This is ahead of Paraguay (6,077m) and Botswana (6,055m).

Hole19, which assists players on the golf course with GPS distances, hole map imagery, stat tracking, and more, has now amassed over 700,000 users around the world. Its team has mapped over 38,000 courses, which represents more than 95% of golf courses worldwide while it has users and courses in over 154 countries with the largest number of users coming from USA, UK, Germany, Canada and Sweden.

Hole19 is a free to download app and is available on iOS, Android, Apple Watch and Android Wear. For more information, please visit www.hole19golf.com.

Monday, April 18

SI Cover Story: 'Tired of Being Tiger Woods'

THIS MAY BE LIKE A PIECE of cheese that's been in the fridge a little too long, but I intended to get to it when it landed in my email on March 29.

Sports Illustrated published a cover story on Tiger Woods. They sent excerpts before it hit the newsstands. Here are a few.

Read the feature story on Tiger Woods.
PGA Tour player and Tiger pal Charles Howell III told an anecdote about a cage dive with great white sharks:
"We chummed the water for seven or eight hours, but there's not a shark to be seen. Tiger is bored out of his mind. He's wearing a wetsuit to dive into the cage in case any sharks come, and suddenly he just jumps into open water. He's decided to swim over to the island and get up close to the seals. The guys on the boat are going nuts, shouting for Tiger to come back, but he just keeps swimming, through all the chum ... After what seems like an eternity, he swims back and casually gets back on the boat… He's just different from normal people. Completely fearless."
Howell also had thoughts on Tiger's future in golf:  
"He's still Tiger Woods and he has an imprint to play great golf, and he will do it again… He just thinks differently from everybody else, which is why he was so great. If the guy were to get off his couch and show up at the Masters and win I would not be be surprised, because that’s who he is."
I'm only an observer, with no special insight, but I disagree with Howell. At this point, I'd be shocked if Tiger got off his couch and won any major. In a way, I don't think "Tiger" (the one who won 14 majors in about a decade) exists anymore. Physically, he's not the same. In addition, and more importantly, the confidence has evaporated. Can he get it back? I seriously doubt it. I'd be glad to be proved wrong.

Former swing coach Hank Haney mentioned Tiger's "indifference" to surpassing the 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus:
"That was a big wow. I finally understood he really doesn't give a s---. The media has always been so clueless on Tiger. They've always thought that beating Jack's record is the most important thing in his life. If that's your premise, and it's wrong, then all the assumptions you make after that are wrong too. It was obvious in the way his work ethic fell off and his attitude on the course that he had lost a lot of his desire. On some level he was just tired of being Tiger Woods."
While fascinating, Haney's comments didn't surprise me too much. I'd heard similar remarks a few years ago in the media center at a major championship. It was hearsay, but it went something like this: Tiger thought 14 majors was just fine and felt comfortable with his place in golf and golf history.

That surprised me at the time, but upon further thought it didn't, or at least not so much. In my view, Tiger has been the one who has encouraged everyone to believe he's in hot pursuit of Jack. And why not? There's been a lot at stake for him, including a ton of money, his very livelihood.

I hope I don't sound cynical, just realistic. My hunch is that it was (and is) in Tiger's interest to keep his legend alive for as long as he can, even when his game is all but gone.