Thursday, December 18 Gallery: Being Tiger in Younger Days

Tiger Woods in 2000.
TIGER WOODS TURNS 39 ON December 30. It seems like an old 39 to me, but I realize that 39 isn't that old. It's just that Tiger has been around forever, in a sense. He broke into the professional golf ranks at age 20, and it's not like we didn't know about him before that.

Tiger didn't play much golf in 2014, but that didn't stop the media mill from churning out copious material on the greatest golfer of this era. I've lost track of the comebacks from injuries, the swing coaches (four?), the controversies, the rumors, the uncomfortable press conferences and the "is what it is's."

But reminded me of the kid who picked up a golf club when he first started walking around in Cypress, California. Their photo gallery shows a Tiger that I can barely remember. He was young. He was skinny. And he had a big smile on his face much of the time.

Remember those days?

Since turning pro Tiger has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated 22 times. As the above SI cover said, he was "one cool cat."

Why kind of cat will he be at 39?

View the photo gallery of Tiger Woods in younger days.

Wednesday, December 17

2014 USGA Tribute to Payne Stewart

2014 was the year the U.S. Open returned to Pinehurst No. 2, evoking memories of the late Payne Stewart, who captured his second U.S. Open title at Pinehurst in 1999. The USGA selected Stewart as the recipient of the 2014 Bob Jones Award and produced the above profile, which features family members and fellow PGA Tour pros such as Paul Azinger and Peter Jacobsen.


Payne Stewart tragically passed away in an airplane accident on October 25, 1999. Earlier this year, the two-time U.S. Open champion was named the 2014 Bob Jones Award honoree. Presented annually since 1955, the Bob Jones Award is the USGA's highest honor, recognizing an individual who demonstrates the utmost spirit, personal character and respect for the game. Known for his passion for golf, sportsmanship and philanthropy, Payne Stewart won 11 professional events during an 18-year PGA Tour career.

Tuesday, December 16

Remembering Harry Vardon: The Isle of Jersey Caddie Who Mastered the Game

HARRY VARDON WON THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP a record six times. Only one other player has won a major golf championship six times. His name is Jack Nicklaus. There's the famous Vardon grip. Trophies that bear Vardon's name are awarded each year by the PGA Tour and European Tour.

Harry the Great
The influence of a man whose prime was a century ago lives on.

In a New York Times feature that published in July, Pulitzer Prize-winning sportswriter Dave Anderson asked, "Who knows how many more [Opens] Vardon might have won if, two weeks after his sixth, World War I had not been sparked by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. The Open would not be played again until 1920, when Vardon was 50."

The only major championships during the early 20th century were The Open Championship and the U.S. Open. That's just two cracks per year. Vardon won seven majors, including one U.S. Open in 1900. His last victory in the Open Championship came 100 years ago, in 1914. As Anderson reported, Vardon, by his own count, won 62 golf tournaments in a long career.

"I'm the best and I'll thank you to remember that," Vardon once said.

It's true. He was. Vardon is still one of the all-time greats.

Following is an excerpt from Anderson's story on Harry Vardon:
Vardon grew up as a caddie on the Isle of Jersey off the southern coast of England. He was to British golf at the turn of the last century what Bobby Jones would be to American golf in the Roaring Twenties. In the years after the first British Open in 1860 at Prestwick on Scotland’s western shore, Old Tom Morris and his son, Young Tom, from St. Andrews on the eastern shore, dominated the tournament, each winning four times. But in the 1890s, the handsome, trim Englishman named Vardon arrived. 
After winning the British Open in 1896 at Muirfield (in a 36-hole playoff with Taylor), in 1898 at Prestwick (as the first with four rounds in the 70s) and 1899 at Royal St. George’s (first prize paid 90 pounds), he sailed to the United States as golf’s first international ambassador. During his 1900 tour of 65 exhibition matches (he won 50, lost 13 and halved 2), he won that year’s United States Open while promoting a Spalding gutta-percha golf ball known as the Vardon Flyer.
Vardon also designed golf courses, coached youth and penned golf instruction articles and books. He died in 1937 at the age of 66.

Read the entire Times article.

Monday, December 15

Chalmers Outlasts Scott to Win Aussie PGA

Greg Chalmers
GREG CHALMERS PUT IN A LONG day at the office on Sunday. But it was a very good day for the 41-year-old western Australian.

Chalmers outlasted Wade Ormsby and Masters champion Adam Scott in a seven-hole playoff to win the Australian PGA Championship at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast. The southpaw also won the Aussie PGA title in 2011.

After ho-hum play that left him seven shots off the pace coming into Sunday, Chalmers got red hot on his final trip around Royal Pines. The veteran carded eight birdies, including one on the final hole that earned him a spot in the playoff, to post a 64.

Ormsby and Scott both shot 71 on the final 18. Ormsby dropped out of the playoff on the third extra hole.

''Just phenomenal, I'm worn out,'' Chalmers said. ''I was all over the place ... really excited and thrilled.''

Defending champion Scott lamented a lost opportunity.

''I didn't hit it close enough today to the hole,'' he said.

''It wasn't like I missed 10 footers today all day long. When you hit it outside 25 feet, there is almost the same chance you are going to three-putt as two-putt on tour. You have to hit it closer.''

Friday, December 12

Fox Sports Debuts Golf Coverage at Franklin Templeton Shootout

MOVE OVER CBS, NBC AND GOLF CHANNEL. Or at least make room.

With its mega deal to telecast the U.S. Open, Fox Sports is jumping into golf in a big way. A trial run begins this week with the network's coverage of the Franklin Templeton Shootout.

The AP's Greg Handel reported:
For the first time, Fox Sports is getting into the golf business. Norman will join Joe Buck in the broadcast booth. They also will work the U.S. Open this summer. 
Fox will employ 73 microphones, 24 cameras, 10 replay machines, seven broadcasters and five audio mixers for the tournament. 
"I come at this as a guy who just loves the game and loves to play and loves to be out with friends and try to get better at this game," Buck said. "I've been doing this for a long time now and I've gone from being the kid and trying to prove myself in baseball and football to somebody who's done it for a long time and I think I understand TV. 
"Greg knows the golf part of it I think together we'll make this thing work."
Norman called the broadcast opportunity "one of the top five things he has done in his life."

Thursday, December 11

PGA Tour Tweaks Playoffs Points

THE PGA TOUR ANNOUNCED A CHANGE to the points awarded during the FedEx Cup Playoffs. reported:
Beginning in 2015, The Barclays, Deutsche Bank Championship, BMW Championship and TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola will award 2,000 points for a victory (down from 2,500) with all other places being reduced by the same proportion. The intent, Finchem said, is to place a greater emphasis on season-long excellence while still maintaining the element of volatility and movement throughout the Playoffs. 
"Every year since the FedExCup was introduced in 2007, we have reviewed the points structure with the Player Advisory Council and four Player Directors who sit on the Policy Board," Finchem said. 
"We believe this slight modification will add greater significance to players having an outstanding season leading into the Playoffs, while still allowing for the excitement of volatility and movement during the Playoffs, particularly as players vie to make the final 30 for the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola."

Wednesday, December 10

My New Glasses From Golf Rx

Thanks Golf Rx for my new glasses.
AT LEFT ARE MY NEW GLASSES that were custom made by Golf Rx, a division of Sports Optical based in Denver, Colorado. They are everyday glasses that include transition lenses, although Golf Rx specializes in custom prescription sunglasses for golfers.

Optician and marketing director Kyle Ross initially reached out to me in September.

"We're a prescription lenscrafter in Denver, CO specializing in custom, handmade prescription golf eyewear," Kyle said in an email. "Long story short, crafting a prescription into curved, sport-format lenses is a delicate, highly-refined process and we do it quite well."

Kyle went on to say that his company would like to make a pair of glasses for me. That sounded great to me, so we got started.

Golf Rx has a wide range of choices,
including this style by Oakley.
Kyle asked me several questions about my preferences. As it turned out, I was more interested in a pair of everyday glasses rather than a pair of prescription sunglasses, whether Oakley, Mt. Falcon, Numa Optics or other frame choices (all available from Golf Rx).

After learning my preferences, Kyle shipped some frames for me to see, handle and try on. I made my selection, including lenses (progressive lenses with tinting). I provided my prescription, marked the lenses per Kyle's instructions and provided my pupillary distance (PD) measurement. It all went smoothly.

I'm not exaggerating when I say I really, really like my new glasses. The frames are lightweight and my eyes quickly adjusted to my new prescription and new progressive lenses. The world looks better to me today.

Sponsored by Golf Rx.

Tuesday, December 9

Remembering U.S. Open Champion Johnny McDermott

By John Coyne

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

Johnny McDermott
FOLLOWING HIS TWO U.S. OPEN WINS, Johnny McDermott, our first "homebred" U. S. Open winner, entered the 1914 British Open, but because of travel delays he arrived too late to tee off. Returning home to the States his ship, the Kaiser Wilhelm II, collided with an English ship and sank. He drifted in a lifeboat in the middle of the Atlantic for over 24 hours before being rescued.

When he did reach America, he learned he had been wiped out financially because of bad Wall Street investments and needed to take a job as the golf pro at the Atlantic City Country Club. He was then 23 years old and he quit playing tournament golf. Within a few years players couldn’t even recall his name or what he had won.

Still a young man, McDermott began to suffer mental breakdowns and his family had him committed to the Norristown Hospital in Pennsylvania. At the hospital, the administration did allow him to design and build a short 6-hole golf course on the grounds and McDermott played on it from time to time, and once, under supervision, he was allowed out of the mental hospital to play 18 holes. He went to a golf course on Staten Island and shot an amazing 70, several strokes under par. Then he returned to the mental institution and never played golf again.

Many years later, in 1971, again with attendants, he went to the U.S. Open Championship being played at the exclusive Merion Golf Club just north of Philadelphia. It was at this country club Johnny  McDermott grew up and where he learned the game.

However, at Merion because of his dress and appearance, he was ordered out of the golf shop and told not to go near the clubhouse where he had hoped to visit the players.

With his hospital attendants, he turned away and started to leave, to go back to the hospital, when Arnold Palmer, of all people, walking towards the first tee recognized the old man, this two-time U.S. Open Championship winner, and put his arms around Johnny McDermott. They talked golfer to golfer, champion to champion, and Palmer then arranged for McDermott to stay at the tournament as his special guest, with all clubhouse rights and privileges.

Two months later, a few days short of his 80th birthday, Johnny McDermott, America’s first great "homebred" professional, now only a fading footnote in the history of the USGA, died in his sleep at the mental hospital where he had spent much of his life.

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