Wednesday, March 29

RIP Ken Still, Member of 1969 U.S. Ryder Cup Team



THE DEATH OF PGA TOUR PLAYER KEN STILL was reported a little more than a week ago. He was 82. A native of Tacoma, Washington, where he died of kidney failure, Still won three times on the PGA Tour and played on the 1969 U.S. Ryder Cup team captained by Sam Snead.

I wrote about that team and Ryder Cup in my 2014 book, DRAW IN THE DUNES: The 1969 Ryder Cup and the Finish That Shocked the World.

Still was one of 10 rookies on the '69 U.S. team. The other 11 team members were Dave Hill, Raymond Floyd, Miller Barber, Lee Trevino, Gene Littler, Billy Casper, Dale Douglass, Frank Beard, Dan Sikes, Tommy Aaron and Jack Nicklaus. A quirky character known for his friendliness, Still began a long friendship with the Golden Bear.

"Nicklaus had called Still during his final days," wrote Craig Smith in The Seattle Times, "and so had fellow golfers Raymond Floyd and Chi Chi Rodriguez and baseball legend Sandy Koufax."

When I spent time with Jack Nicklaus in 2013 for my book, he talked and laughed about Still. He told me that he and "Kenny" talked regularly on the phone.

Arnold Palmer was noticeably absent from the '69 team, in part because of Still's late-season victory that vaulted him up the points list and secured his spot on the squad. There were no captain's picks in those days for the Americans.

When I interviewed Ken Still in September 2012, he told me 1969 was the "best year of my life, as far as competitive golf goes."

Still won the Florida Citrus Open in March and the Greater Milwaukee Open in August. His last tour victory would come the following year in a playoff against Lee Trevino and Bert Yancey. Not too shabby.

I asked Still what stood out about the 1969 Ryder Cup, his one and only.

"The last thing to be on my mind was that I'd be on the Ryder Cup team," he said. "The competition was pretty stern, as it is today. It was such a positive part of my life."

Still also told me this, which I always remember:

"[It] was an honor to be on the team and represent the United States of America. It really was. I'll cherish it to the day I die. In fact, I may be buried in the dark blue [Ryder Cup] jacket."

I don't know if Ken Still was buried in the jacket, but I have no doubt that he cherished that Ryder Cup experience to the very end.

Tuesday, March 28

12-Year-Old Boy Uses His Golf Skills and Passion to Build a School in Jamaica

Some golf news to warm your heart. From a Food For The Poor press release.

Rafe at right.
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. – Rafe Cochran,12, has been making a name for himself in the golfing world for more than half of his life, competing in local, regional and international tournaments, and even hosting his own golf classic to help build homes in Haiti through Food For The Poor.

Now he’s turning his talents to Jamaica so that other children can have a better life. On April 22, the Palm Beach Day Academy sixth-grader will host the Second Annual Rafe Cochran Golf Classic, in West Palm Beach, Fla. Proceeds will build a school in Chester District, St. Ann, Jamaica.

“I am just truly honored that I had the chance to come here. I am excited to be able to help the young ones to build a pre-primary school,” said Rafe, who visited the school last week. “It was really fun just being with the kids, hearing what they have to say and just having fun with them.” 

Rafe and his parents, Jay and Diahann, visited Chester Primary and Infant School with Food For The Poor. The school needs repairs and is severely overcrowded because the 3-to-5 year-old students are sharing the school with elementary and middle school students. The Cochran family met with the teachers and spent time with the students. Rafe bonded with the boys his age, playing a game of soccer.

Rafe with school kids.
Rafe’s project will build a separate school building for the younger children. This will give the teachers separate and spacious classrooms with fewer distractions. The new infant department also will help improve the readiness levels of students entering primary school.

“I am hoping to come back and help with every block being built,” said Rafe. “Seeing the school for myself, I really realized just how needy they were.” 

“They have come here to see how they can help develop the educational system in Jamaica and we really appreciate this gesture. Rafe has such a dedicated heart to the poor and wants to improve people’s lives. This is really an inspiration to me,” said David Mair, Executive Director of Food For The Poor-Jamaica. “It was a pleasure meeting this young philanthropist who is already making a big difference in the lives of the less fortunate.”

Food For The Poor Executive Director Angel Aloma presented Rafe with the One For Change Award at the March 3 The One Event at the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach, for his past commitments to build homes in Haiti and to help build a school in Jamaica.

“Rafe was very deserving of the One For Change Award, he is a spirited young man who has a genuine desire to make a difference, which is very refreshing,” said Aloma. “Food For The Poor wants to express its sincere gratitude to Rafe and his family for all that they’re doing to help the less fortunate in Haiti and now Jamaica.” 

The tournament will start at 1 p.m. at the Mayacoo Lakes Country Club, 9697 Mayacoo Club Dr., West Palm Beach. Registration and a light lunch start at 11:30 a.m. on the day of the event.

For registration information for the Rafe Cochran Golf Classic please contact Kyra Poulos at 954-427-2222 ext. 6634 or at kyrap@foodforthepoor.com.

Monday, March 27

Dustin Johnson: 'I'm Proud of the Way I Played'



SO WHAT DO YOU THINK of this Johnson kid?

Sheesh. Dustin Johnson is owning it. What's "it"? I'd say everything in the golf world.

DJ won another World Golf Championship this past weekend, this time the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club. He knocked off Jon Rahm in the final, 1-up.

"I feel like I didn't really give him any holes except for 10," Johnson told Golf Channel. "It was tough out there. The greens got really fast. The wind was affecting all the putts. Jon played really well; I just didn't really give him anything."

Rahm was impressed, too. With Dustin Johnson.

"He's just a perfect, complete player," Rahm said (via USA Today).

DJ added: "I'm proud of the way I played. The way I stayed in there even though he made some birdies on the back nine… I just couldn't get any putts to drop, but I'm proud of the way I played."

Johnson's most recent victory widened his lead in the world rankings. He has amassed a 12.8 points average. Rory McIlroy is second at 9.01 and Jason Day registers 8.86. That's a huge gap for Dustin. I think he is going to be on top for a while.

"He seems to be consistently great," NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller said during the Sunday telecast.

"That's the thing you've got to be impressed with. He seems to just have it all the time. Rory McIlroy has got it, he doesn’t have it. It seems like it fluctuates a lot more. Of course, Jason Day has had his fluctuations too."

Wednesday, March 22

Golf on TV: WGC Dell Technologies Match Play, Kia Classic, Puerto Rico Open



From a Golf Channel press release.

ORLANDO, Fla. (March 21, 2017) – 64 of the top players in the world gather in Austin this week for golf’s version of a March bracket event with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. World No. 3 Jason Day will defend his 2016 title, alongside Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, with nearly 35 hours of live tournament coverage scheduled to air across Golf Channel and NBC. The LPGA Tour is in southern California for the Kia Classic, where world No. 1 Lydia Ko will defend among a field that includes every single player from the LPGA top-100 money list in 2016. And the PGA TOUR will stage the Puerto Rico Open, featuring a field led by Bryson DeChambeau, Ian Poulter and Andrew Johnston, along with former major champions, including Graeme McDowell, Angel Cabrera, Retief Goosen and Y.E. Yang.

PGA TOUR

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
Dates: March 22-26
Venue: Austin Country Club, Austin, Texas

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):
Wednesday     2-8 p.m. (Live) / 9 p.m.-3 a.m. (Replay)
Thursday         2-8 p.m. (Live) / 10:30 p.m.-4:30 a.m. (Replay)
Friday              2-8 p.m. (Live) / 10:30 p.m.-4:30 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday          10 a.m.-2 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-2 a.m. (Replay)
Sunday            10 a.m.-2 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-2 a.m. (Replay)

Tournament Airtimes on NBC (Eastern):
Saturday          2-6 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            3-7 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:
Event format: The 64-player field is divided into 16 four-player groups competing in a round-robin format over the first three days on Wednesday through Friday. The player in each group with the most points (1 point for a win, ½ point for a halved match) advances to single elimination match play with the Round of 16 and quarterfinals scheduled for Saturday and the semifinals and final scheduled for Sunday. The top-16 seeded players in Pool A are the top seeds of their respective groups and the rest of the players in each group were determined through a blind draw on Monday, March 20. Those other 48 players were randomly assigned to their group of four based on three pools: seeds 17-32 in Pool B, seeds 33-48 in Pool C, and seeds 49-64 in Pool D.
Day defends: Jason Day defeated Louis Oosthuizen 5&4 in the finals to claim his ninth career PGA TOUR win.
Headlining the field: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Sergio Garcia, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed, Tyrrell Hatten and Danny Willett.

LPGA TOUR

Kia Classic
Dates: March 23-26
Venue: Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club, Carlsbad, Calif.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         8:30-10:30 p.m. (Tape delay) / 7-9 p.m. (Live Streaming on Golf Channel Digital)
Friday              8:30-10:30 p.m. (Tape delay) / 7-9 p.m. (Live Streaming on Golf Channel Digital)
Saturday          5:30-9 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            5:30-9 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:
Ko defends: Lydia Ko finished four shots ahead of Inbee Park to earn her 11th LPGA victory.
Headlining the field: Lydia Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn, In Gee Chun, Shanshan Feng, So Yeon Ryu, Ha Na Jang, Inbee Park, Amy Yang, Lexi Thompson, Anna Nordqvist and Michelle Wie.

PGA TOUR

Puerto Rico Open
Dates: March 23-26
Venue: Coco Beach Golf & Country Club (Championship Course), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live) / 4:30-7 a.m. (Friday replay)
Friday              10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live) / 4:30-7 a.m. (Saturday replay)
Saturday          2-5:30 p.m. (Live) / 2-5 a.m. (Sunday replay)
Sunday            2:30-5:30 p.m. (Live) / 2-5 a.m. (Monday replay)

Broadcast Notes:
Headlining the field: Bryson DeChambeau, Andrew Johnston, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell, Thorbjorn Olesen, Retief Goosen, Angel Cabrera, K.J. Choi, Y.E. Yang and Sam Saunders.

Tuesday, March 21

Sports Economist Study: Second Shot Gamble Fails to Pay Off at Masters

The following press release comes from Wake Forest University. And I'm sure it will have no bearing on Phil Mickelson in the upcoming Masters.

That tee shot lost in the rough or hit in the water at Augusta is likely to be followed by a risky, aggressive second shot — a decision you might expect from a recreational golfer, not a pro. 

Research by Wake Forest University sports economist Todd McFall suggests that a faction of players beginning holes with penalty strokes will regularly take greater risks in their subsequent shots to avoid any additional strokes — a decision predicted by behavioral economics that can lead to disastrous consequences for golfers’ performances. 

"Our findings support the basic tenants of prospect theory  top players have a hard time sticking to their game plan, even after a setback," said McFall.

"When players try to do too much to compensate for a poor prior shot, we found it has few benefits and often sets them back even further. Even for top professionals, it's important to find a way to avoid making mental errors. Think about Zach Johnson's 2007 Masters win where he didn't try to reach a green with his second shot all week, yet birdied 11 of 16 holes. He never tried to overreach."

The study presents a rare glimpse into the decision-making patterns of professional golfers by using real data from more than 10 years of U.S. PGA Tour events. For this research, McFall had access to the PGA Tour's ShotLink database, which contains a record of every shot a professional player takes on the tour.

McFall studied golfers playing on par five holes, comparing the behaviors of players in three categories: those penalized for a lateral water hazard tee shot, those penalized for an out-of-bounds tee shot, and those with no penalties on their first shot. The data showed that golfers with an out-of-bounds penalty or a lateral water hazard penalty were much more likely to adapt riskier approaches compared with their non-penalized rivals.

"Loss aversion leads penalized golfers to violate not only basic economic principles regarding efficient decision making, but also golf orthodoxy, which is to play one shot at a time regardless of previous outcomes." McFall said. "The cost they suffer for this is inefficient performance and ultimately, higher scores."

Monday, March 20

Marc Leishman: 'Today was the Day'



AUSTRALIAN MARC LEISHMAN SHOT A 69 on Sunday to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational by one shot over Kevin Kisner and Charley Hoffman. Leishman's second PGA Tour title gives him a three-year exemption and also means he'll be back at the Masters.

"I've been playing well all year," Leishman told Golf Channel.

"I've been driving it better than I ever have. It's funny, this game's a lot easier out of the fairway. That's been probably the biggest difference. Then the putter. The putter has been amazing this year. The stats probably show that, especially this week. But I feel like all year it's been really close and I just haven't quite played how I wanted to on Sundays, but today was the day."

Leishman continued an Aussie streak at Arnie's place. Jason Day won at Bay Hill in 2016.

"Mr. Palmer was an awesome guy who I was lucky enough to meet a few times at this tournament. So obviously to honor him was huge," Leishman added.

"Another reason why it was so special this week is this is the first time I've won a tournament with my family here… It all came together, and to do it here, especially on a Presidents Cup year as well. I was outside those standings, so to get back inside those is really good. And I guess the Masters too; I wasn't in there. It's just an unbelievable day."

Friday, March 17

VIDEO: Cody Gribble: 'The Gator Looked Like He Needed Some Exercise'



CODY GRIBBLE HAD AN ALLIGATOR ENCOUNTER in the opening round of the 2017 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

"The gator looked like he needed some exercise," Gribble said. "If you think that's crazy, you should meet my father, Bill Gribble."

Thursday, March 16

Golf on TV: Arnold Palmer Invitational, Bank of Hope Founders Cup, Tucson Conquistadores Classic



From a Golf Channel press release.

ORLANDO, Fla. (March 14, 2017)  NBC Sports Group this week will celebrate Arnold Palmer’s legacy through a series of dedicated tributes and remembrances surrounding its coverage of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard from Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Fla. With nearly 50 live hours of on-site news and live tournament coverage across Golf Channel and NBC, the field includes four of the top-5 players in the world in Jason Day (No. 2), Rory McIlroy (No. 3), Hideki Matsuyama (No. 4) and Henrik Stenson (No. 5), along with Rickie Fowler (No. 9). The LPGA returns to the United States with the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in Arizona, featuring a strong field led by World Nos. 1 and 2, Lydia Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn. The PGA TOUR Champions also are in Arizona this week, with Bernhard Langer and Fred Couples leading the field at the Tucson Conquistadores Classic, along with Steve Stricker and Bob Estes, who are both set to make their PGA TOUR Champions debut.

PGA TOUR

Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard
Dates: March 16-19
Venue: Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Orlando, Fla.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         2-6 p.m. (Live) / 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. (Replay)
Friday              2-6 p.m. (Live) / 11:30 p.m.-3:30 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday          12:30-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-3 a.m. (Replay)
Sunday            12:30-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-3 a.m. (Replay)

Tournament Airtimes on NBC (Eastern):
Saturday          2:30-6 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            2:30-6 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:
Mike Tirico to serve as tournament host on Golf Channel, NBC: NBC Sports personality Mike Tirico will host live tournament coverage of the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Golf Channel and NBC, marking the first time Tirico will cover the event on-air after initially joining NBC Sports Group last summer ahead of The Open.
Day defends: Jason Day finished one stroke ahead of Kevin Chappell to earn his eighth PGA TOUR win.
Headlining the field: Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Zach Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen and Adam Hadwin.
                                                                                                                                         
NBC Sports Broadcast Team:
Host: Mike Tirico
Play by Play: Rich Lerner (Golf Channel) / Dan Hicks (NBC)
Analyst: Frank Nobilo (Golf Channel) / Johnny Miller (NBC)
Tower: Gary Koch / Peter Jacobsen / David Feherty / Steve Sands / Jimmy Roberts
On-Course: Roger Maltbie (Weekend only) / Mark Rolfing / Notah Begay
Interviews: Steve Sands / Todd Lewis (Golf Channel, Saturday-Sunday)
Essays: Jimmy Roberts (Weekend only)

* * *        

LPGA TOUR

Bank of Hope Founders Cup
Dates: March 16-19
Venue: Wildfire Golf Club, Phoenix, Ariz.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         6-9 p.m. (Live)
Friday              6-9 p.m. (Live)
Saturday          7-9 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            7-9 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:
Kim defends: Sei Young Kim finished five shots ahead of the field to claim her fourth LPGA victory.
Headlining the field: Lydia Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn, In Gee Chun, Ha Na Jang, Lexi Thompson, Amy Yang, Inbee Park, Sei Young Kim, Brooke Henderson and Brittany Lincicome.

* * *

PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS

Tucson Conquistadores Classic
Dates: March 17-19
Venue: Omni Tucson National Resort (Catalina Course), Tucson, Ariz.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):
Friday              9:30-11:30 p.m. (Tape delay) / 6-8 p.m. (Live Streaming on Golf Channel Digital)
Saturday          4:30-7 p.m. (Live) / 3-5 a.m. (Sunday replay)
Sunday            4:30-7 p.m. (Live) / 3-5 a.m. (Monday replay)

Broadcast Notes:
Stricker, Estes making PGA TOUR Champions debut: Steve Stricker and Bob Estes are both making their PGA TOUR Champions debut this week.
Austin defends: Woody Austin finished one shot ahead of Jim Carter to earn his first PGA TOUR Champions victory.                      
Headlining the field: Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples, Steve Stricker, Bob Estes, Jerry Kelly, Mark O’Meara, Tom Lehman, David Toms, Paul McGinley, Woody Austin and Lee Janzen.