Thursday, May 21

A Career First for Padraig Harrington

PADRAIG HARRINGTON IS A GAMER. I say that because Harrington had never withdrawn from a tournament in his 20-year career until today. His first WD came at the European Tour's flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club in Surrey, England.

Harrington hurting. (Davis/Flickr)
Harrington, 43, hurt his shoulder earlier this week in the gym. He teed it up in Thursday's opening round at Wentworth but only lasted two holes. He went par-bogey before walking off.

"I've never pulled out before, and I've had some pretty bad injuries at times," Harrington said on Wednesday. "If there's a physical way of me teeing it up, I will tee it up."

On Wednesday Harrington also said his injury was "like frozen shoulder" making it difficult to lift his arm.

The three-time major winner expects to be back in action next week at the Irish Open.

"It will be absolutely no issue whatsoever for the Irish Open. This is an injury that with a couple of physio sessions will be gone in about a week."

(H/T Ryan Lavner, Golf Central Blog)

Wednesday, May 20

Uncovering the Real Bobby Locke

By John Coyne

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


THE SERIES OF SHORT PIECES entitled "Bad Boy Bobby Locke" that I published on this blog last year has drawn the attention of players who remember one of the greats of the game. It has also drawn the attention of Locke's extended family, an aging relative who wants to, and rightly so, correct errors in the history of South Africa's first famous golfer and set (finally!) Bobby Locke's personal record straight.

John Coyne unravels
decades of fiction
about Bobby Locke.
This close family member has gone to original military service records of which I have received proper copies. Now we have, in a well-documented, yet to be published, article entitled, "Arthur D'Arcy (Bobby) Locke -- Second World War Record," covering the period 1939 to 1945. The report was written by Alfred Pratt, a relative who was raised in the Locke family household.

As Pratt writes in a brief introduction:
Arthur D'Arcy 'Bobby'  Locke was born on 20th November 1917 at Germiston in the Transvaal, South Africa. His parents were Charles James Locke, profession Gents Outfitter (Retail), and his mother Olive Locke, (nee Harrison) lifelong mother and housewife. His father was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and his mother in Cape Town. Her family originated in England and Ireland and the first of them, arrived in Cape Town in 1822.  Locke died in Johannesburg on 9th March 1987 after a short illness, spinal meningitis. He is generally acknowledged as one of the all-time 'Greats of Golf' and the finest putter of all up to and including his lifetime.
While all of these facts are not in question, Bobby Locke's personal history became tangled up and distorted over the years because of a series of misquotes, fabrications and enhancements -- by Locke himself and others. That inaccurate history sullies the real achievements by Locke on many golf courses around the world.

Alfred Pratt has cleared up the history, at least of Locke's war record that had him flying hundreds of dangerous missions, quoting exaggerated and erratic flying hours claims, in the Middle East and Europe, living in Egypt, and emerging as a heroic fighter and bomber pilot in WWII for the South African Air Force.

As Pratt wrote me, "It became obvious some years ago that the 'stories' of Bobby Locke and his heroic war service did not match certain known facts. For example, family members knew that he was posted to Port Elizabeth after his marriage in 1943 and well into 1944 and that he could not possibly have been in Egypt at the time as he claimed in 1943. We all knew that he did not suffer from shell-shock or any post operational stress disorder."

His taciturn behavior on the golf course was assumed in his calm, calculated methods of mental focus (one of his greatest strengths) and he never shifted his weight from left to right foot and back as "he was accustomed to in aiming his bomber and its load at hostile targets -- sinking his putts by using old flying habit methods"!  Furthermore, he could not have suffered anguish and guilt complex at the screams and moans of his dying victims bombed at Monte Cassino, an operation carried out, solely, by the U.S. Army Air Force at a time when he was still based in South Africa.

Researching Locke's War Record

Pratt, in 1993, began to set the record straight, and researched with Colonel Graham du Toit, an acknowledged military researcher and expert on the South African Air Force, the Locke war record obtained from the Department of Defense, Pretoria, South Africa. 

Pratt goes on to say, "The simple acid test was to obtain the facts from his SAAF service record and make direct comparisons with his own reports and the rumors generated amongst others."

According to Pratt's research, Locke's final posting as a freshly qualified co-pilot on twin engine Wellington Bombers was to Italy three days after hostilities had ceased on 8th May 1945. Locke only spent a few weeks with Number 31 Squadron (a four engine, Liberator equipped squadron) before being posted home for demobilization. He further exaggerated his total length of his SAAF service period against the proven facts.

Locke purposely omitted any mention of the problems, the employment he had at Macauvlei Country Club and the circumstances of his dismissal, as well as ignoring the episode completely from his book. He covered  the elapsed time in 1938 and from his return arrival from England in 1939 to late 1940 with a tissue of lies about his arrangements with Vereeniging Country Club and the dates covered, pretending that his arrangements went back further in time than they did.

Family members also knew that he was "slow" in joining up in the S.A. Forces when his fellow South Africans were volunteering in droves. Meanwhile, Locke was virtually unemployed with no tournaments or championships available to him except by going to America, which had been his plan while still employed at Macauvlei. He, belatedly, decided to sign up for the South African Air Force.

Locke's nephew concludes in his article -- which is perhaps the real reason he had gone to such lengths in his research on Bobby Locke -- that while his uncle was qualified to fly a variety of airplanes, and spent much of his time instructing other pilots to do the same, and did serve just under five years in the S.A.A.F, "his work in training others to fly warplanes is not questioned nor is his teaching effort being challenged or denigrated in the slightest. But in any reasonable view, heaping unfounded praises and acclamations on any undeserving individual in these circumstances constitutes an insult to those who gave their lives, heroically or not, the wounded and active combat personnel, sung and unsung in defense of their countries."

Historian Pratt's research and family knowledge was used by Craig Urquhart in his 2014 book entitled, The Kings of Swing: Behind the Scenes with South Africa's Golfing Greats.

Putter Mystery

Bobby Locke with his
famous flatstick.
While Bobby Locke's war record has been correctly documented by the careful and detailed research done by Alfred Pratt and Colonel Graham du Toit, what remains in mystery is, perhaps to golfers and golf fans, a much more interesting question: 

What happened to Locke's famous, success-earning, hickory shafted putter? 

It seems to have disappeared without a trace and been supplanted by a host of lookalikes and replicas all over the world. But did it?

TO BE CONTINUED.

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

Tuesday, May 19

Q&A: David Leadbetter on 'The A Swing'

GOLF INSTRUCTOR DAVID LEADBETTER has released his first book in a decade. It's called The A Swing: The Alternative Approach to Great Golf, published by St. Martin's Press and available in all the usual places where books are sold.

Recently, David answered my questions about the new swing approach outlined in the book. Special thanks to John Nicholas at St. Martin's Press and David's team for coordinating this Q&A (including transcribing the answers).

Q: You are a renowned golf instructor who has written many books and taught the golf swing to all levels of players for decades. What's different about this approach?

DAVID LEADBETTER: The A Swing is an evolution of my years of instructing, and with all our studies and research, we have found an easier way, essentially, to make a backswing. This is the most troublesome part of the golf swing for most golfers. The "A" in A Swing, stands for "Alternative" and relates to the backswing. It is different from the standard approach that has been taught for years. With all the test students we have used for the past two years in getting the A Swing ready to bring to the golfing public, the two words that are bandied about are "simple" and "natural."

Q: What are the most common swing problems for amateur golfers?

DAVID LEADBETTER: The most common swing faults are: a poor grip, lack of proper body motion, and poor movement with the arms and club on the backswing. This creates all sorts of problems down the line, whereby the club never comes into the ball consistently, resulting in loss of distance and accuracy.

Q: How about tour professionals?

DAVID LEADBETTER: The most common problems with tour professionals are all based around synchronization, whereby the arms, hands and club do not harmonize consistently with the rotary winding and unwinding motion of the body. Because they are such good athletes, have great hand-eye coordination and practice for hours, they are able to compensate and get the clubface squarely on the ball. However, this lack of sync can cause consistency issues at times and the A Swing is designed primarily to keep this sync issue under control.

Q: Please briefly describe the seven-minute practice plan in the book.

DAVID LEADBETTER: We know how in this day and age people do not have enough time to work on their golf games. Any time they have, they would rather spend playing than practicing or taking lessons. If you are going to improve, however, it is crucial to develop a feel for the mechanics. I've always believed that you can develop this feel and muscle-memory through repetition of the movement, without even hitting a ball. Therefore, we have designed six little swing exercises which, once one is used to them, take approximately seven minutes to complete. It is a case of doing these exercises in a series of 10 reps, and then moving on to the next one. These exercises cover the whole A Swing, and if done two to three times a week, will really develop the feel and awareness of the motion, whereby when you go out to play, you do not have to over think the swing, an important ingredient in playing good golf. We even offer a short training club that can be used indoors, can fit in a suitcase, and there's no question, if used on a regular basis, a golfer will see a big difference. The A Swing will come fairly easy. Our ethos is "minimal practice, maximum benefit."

Q: What would you say to someone who is skeptical about a seven-minute practice session without hitting a ball?

DAVID LEADBETTER: Obviously, there is a benefit to hitting golf balls to get feedback. But in many instances, hitting golf balls can be detrimental when changing one's technique from the standpoint of golfers assume good shot -- good swing, bad shot -- bad swing. Now we know this is not always the case. The ideal combination is to do the seven-minute program, and then to see the benefits of this practice, to hit balls to see the improvement in the strike and consistency of direction. Bottom line, it will be true to say that in any event some practice on a limited scale is better than none at all. We have tested this program with our volunteer students and without a shadow of a doubt, they have all benefited from it.

Q: Please give specific examples of the kind of improvement golfers can expect to see from using your methods.

DAVID LEADBETTER: Firstly, I'd like to say it's not a pure method, it's an approach, which means that although there is a model A Swing, whether you achieve the model or not, there will be great benefits as you work towards it. Therefore, there are various degrees of the A Swing, meaning the steepness of the backswing. i liken it to ordering spicy foods; the model is an extra hot version, but even if you get the mild version, there will be great improvement. 

The A Swing is all about efficiency and cutting out wasted motion on the backswing in order to make a more simple, repetitive downswing, which, after all, is where we should focus most of our attention.

Most people's backswings are far too complex to make the downswing powerful and consistent in any repetitive form. What we see from golfers using the methods, no question there is more distance as a result of not only increased clubhead speed, but just as importantly, the ball being struck out of the middle of the clubface and achieving an increase in the all-important ball speed.

But more than this, there has been a distinct improvement in accuracy because of the way, firstly, the arms sync up with the body, and secondly -- which affects the masses of players who swing over-the-top and across the ball, resulting in slices and pulls, etc. -- they are able to get the club on the proper plane coming down, the common denominator that all good ball strikers have in common.

If you look halfway down the downswing with a good player, the shaft lies on an angle that is parallel to the club as it lay at address. The masses of golfers at this halfway down point, have the club on a very steep angle, which is almost impossible to make good, solid contact with. The A Swing, very much like a batter in baseball, who has the ball up in air as he's waiting for the pitch, the bat then shallows onto the plane that the pitch is coming on. This concept is what the A Swing utilizes and we call it the V Plane -- steep going back, shallow coming down. The A Swing produces basically a gentle draw, which is what most of the world's golfers are seeking.

David Leadbetter is a well-known swing guru and author of The A Swing and other books. To learn more, visit The A Swing blog.

Postscript: "As you can probably tell, I am very excited about the A Swing," David also said. That was evident, and since his answers to my few questions were lengthy, I'm saving his final thoughts for later. Look for them in the near future.

Monday, May 18

Rory McIlroy: 'I Don't Feel Like My Game Has Ever Been in Better Shape'

By Brian Keogh

Brian Keogh is a golf correspondent for The Irish Sun and a contributor to The Irish Times, Golf Digest Ireland and other golf publications. The following excerpt from Brian’s Irish Golf Desk is used with permission.


Golf news from Brian Keogh's
Irish Golf Desk.
RORY MCILROY RACKED UP HIS 11th PGA Tour win with an impressive seven-shot victory in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow and admitted that a weight has been lifted since he went to the Masters seeking the career Grand Slam. While last night's win only puts him tied 86th on the list of all-time PGA Tour winners alongside the likes of Miller Barber and Al Geiberger, he at least matched Masters winners Zach Johnson and Adam Scott with 11 titles.

Getting that elusive green jacket is at the top of McIlroy's wish list and while he'll be looking to the US Open at Chamber's Bay, the Open at St Andrews and the US PGA at Whistling Straits before returning to Augusta National, he admitted in Charlotte that he's played like a man with a weight lifted from his shoulders since the Masters.

Sunday's win — he followed his course record 61 on Saturday with a 69 to finish with a record, 21-under par total — was his second since he failed to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National in April. Since finishing a career best fourth in the Masters, McIlroy has won the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Match Play, tied for eighth in The Players and now won his second title at Quail Hollow, five years after notching his maiden PGA Tour win at the venue.

"I'm not going to lie," McIlroy said of his post-Masters explosion and last night's seven-shot win over Patrick Rodgers and Webb Simpson.

"There was a lot of expectation going into Augusta, a lot of hype, lot of expectation that I put on myself.  It was a great opportunity to do something that very few players in this game have done.  

"I'll go back next year with the same opportunity. But, yeah, since then I guess it was a little bit of a weight lifted off the shoulders and free up and not think about it and just go on and play the rest of the season and play the way I know that I can play and that's why I'm excited about what's coming up with the three majors still to play and everything else."

McIlroy has now won three times this season, having claimed the Dubai Desert Classic, and he now has 17 official victories, including four majors and two WGCs, since he won for the first time in Dubai in February 2009.

"I don't feel like my game has ever been in better shape," he said after knocking five shots off the tournament scoring record and extending his lead over Jordan Spieth at the top of the world rankings to 4.46 points.

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, May 15

Golf With Parkinson's: Pat Maley and Dean Mills



The 16th annual CNI (Colorado Neurological Institute) Golf Classic will be played on Monday, June 1st at the Golf Club at Bear Dance in Larkspur, Colorado.

The 2014 tournament raised more than $48,000, and the committee hopes to raise even more this year. Without fundraisers such as the CNI Golf Classic, CNI would not be able to offer a resource center for individuals facing neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's, ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) and hearing disorders.

Tom Draayer and Dean Mills are co-chairing this year's event, two men who refuse to let Parkinson's get in the way of living their lives and making a difference in the lives of others. Also on the committee is Pat Maley, another determined person facing Parkinson's.

"When you have a disease that's incurable, you have a choice, I think," says Pat. "You either throw in the towel and you never get up and you don't push yourself or you continue your life as best you can."

Pat Maley. After experiencing some puzzling symptoms, Pat was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in l999. He continued working for Norgren until 2004 when he retired with a disability. Pat enjoys photography and reaching out to other Parkinson's patients. He is also a dedicated CNI volunteer, reviving the annual CNI Golf Classic and taking photos at events.

Dean Mills. Dean was first diagnosed with Parkinson's disease over 12 years ago. Since retiring from Morgan Stanley, Dean has volunteered at CNI and co-chaired the CNI Golf Classic, attracting golfers and donations. Dean stays active with his wife and two sons. They enjoy traveling, skiing, hunting and golfing. To Dean, "every day is a Saturday."

Thursday, May 14

Golf on TV: Wells Fargo Championship, Regions Tradition, Kingsmill Championship, Open de España

The following edited content was supplied by Golf Channel in a news release.

PGA TOUR

Wells Fargo Championship
Dates: May 14-17
Venue: Quail Hollow Club, Charlotte, N.C.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         3-7 p.m. (Live) / 11:30 p.m.-3:30 a.m. (Replay)
Friday              3-7 p.m. (Live) / 11:30 p.m.-3:30 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday          1-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (Replay)
Sunday            1-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (Replay)

Broadcast Notes

Holmes defends: J.B. Holmes won by one stroke over Jim Furyk for his third career PGA TOUR victory.

Headlining the field: Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Patrick Reed, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, J.B. Holmes, Hideki Matsuyama, Bill Haas and Webb Simpson.

* * *

CHAMPIONS TOUR

Regions Tradition
Dates: May 14-17
Venue: Shoal Creek Golf Club, Shoal Creek, Ala.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         12:30-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 3:30-5:30 a.m. (Friday replay)        
Friday              12:30-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 3:30-5:30 a.m. (Saturday replay)
Saturday          3-5 p.m. (Live) / 3:30-5:30 a.m. (Sunday replay)
Sunday            3-5 p.m. (Live) / 2:30-4:30 a.m. (Monday replay)

Broadcast Notes

First major: The Regions Tradition marks the first major of the Champions Tour season, and is the first of five majors to be contested on the tour in 2015.

Perry defends: Kenny Perry finished one shot ahead of Mark Calcavecchia for his sixth career Champions Tour win and third Champions Tour major.

Headlining the field: Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie, Tom Watson, Kenny Perry, Jesper Parnevik, Mark O’Meara, Ian Woosnam, John Cook, Tom Lehman, Fred Funk and Joe Durant.

* * *

LPGA TOUR

Kingsmill Championship
Dates: May 14-17
Venue: Kingsmill Resort (River Course), Williamsburg, Va.

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):          
Thursday         9-11 p.m. (Tape delay) / 4:30-6:30 p.m. (Live streaming on Golf Live Extra)
Friday              9-11 p.m. (Tape delay) / 4:30-6:30 p.m. (Live streaming on Golf Live Extra)
Saturday          5-7 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            5-7 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes

Salas defends: Lizette Salas finished four shots ahead of the field for her first career LPGA Tour win.

Headlining the field: Lydia Ko, Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis, Hyo-Joo Kim, Brittany Lincicome, So Yeon Ryu, Cristie Kerr, Suzann Pettersen, Michelle Wie, Lexi Thompson and Brooke Henderson and Charley Hull.

* * *

EUROPEAN TOUR

Open de España
Dates: May 14-17
Venue: Real Club de Golf El Prat, Terrassa, Spain

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         5:30-7:30 a.m. / 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Live)
Friday              5:30-7:30 a.m. / 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Live)
Saturday          7:30-11:30 a.m. (Live)
Sunday            7-11:30 a.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes

Jimenez defends: Miguel Angel Jimenez defeated Richard Green and Thomas Pieters on the first playoff hole to win his 21st career European Tour victory.

Headlining the field: Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Tommy Fleetwood, Alexander Levy, Matteo Manassero, Francesco Molinari, Andy Sullivan and Peter Uihlein.

Wednesday, May 13

The Caddie Suit That Might Cost PGA Tour Plenty

EARLIER THIS YEAR A GROUP of 80-plus caddies sued the PGA Tour for fees associated with caddie bibs. The caddies are required to wear bibs that include advertising but receive none of the money. Mainly, the caddies want a sliver of the pie for health insurance and retirement. (Caddies are employed by PGA Tour players rather than the tour itself.)

Caddie bibs sparked a $50 million lawsuit.
Golf World's Ron Sirak updated the caddies' crusade in a feature titled "Why They're Carrying On" that published Monday.
James Edmondson, who caddies for Ryan Palmer and is president of the [Association of Professional Tour Caddies (APTC)], created the organization in 2013. In its first meeting with the tour, in February 2014 at the Farmers Insurance Open, the APTC raised workplace issues such as parking, quality of food and simply having a place to clean up after a round. Things went reasonably well until the discussion turned to the bibs. 
"We said we wanted a small part of the bib for advertising to generate money to fund health care and a pension program," [Kenny] Harms says. According to Harms, Andy Pazder, chief of operations for the PGA Tour, told the caddies: "You have no right to the bib."
Sirak reported that the PGA Tour currently provides a $2,000 healthcare stipend for tour caddies who work a minimum of 15 events. That's better than nothing, but not nearly enough according to Harms.
"There are about 195 caddies who qualify for the stipend. We asked for $10,000 per caddie for health care and another $10,000 per caddie for a pension plan. That's about $4 million a year all in."
More than 80 caddies were initially named in the lawsuit filed in San Francisco. Now that number has more than doubled. They include Mike Hicks, Kenny Harms (Kevin Na), Paul Tesori (Webb Simpson), Jimmy Johnson (Steve Stricker), Damon Green (Zach Johnson) and James Edmondson (Ryan Palmer).

Sirak concluded:
The tour could give the APTC the $4 million a year it wants or potentially risk losing $50 million in court. The tour took the [Casey] Martin situation all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court before losing a costly battle both financially and in terms of its image.
The question is: Does it want to go down that road again?

Tuesday, May 12

VIDEO: Young Rickie Fowler Was Freddie Couples for Halloween



MANY OF US HAD IDOLS growing up.

For 7-year-old Rickie Fowler, it was Freddie Couples. Little Rickie watched his idol win the Players Championship in 1996. And long before he donned orange from head to toe, young Rickie dressed up as Freddie Couples for Halloween. That is true idol worship.

Now Fowler is a Players champion, winning a "pretty big one" and perhaps silencing those anonymous pros who voted him most overrated. At the Stadium Course on Sunday, Fowler's game was even louder than his clothing.