Monday, July 27

Oh Happy Day in Canada



THIS TIME, THE PUTT GOT to the hole and dropped in.

Australian good guy Jason Day won a shootout at the RBC Canadian Open by sinking a 22-foot birdie putt on the final hole to beat Canadian David Hearn and American Bubba Watson by a shot. Day's fourth PGA Tour win was like salve after a close call at the Open Championship a week ago.

"It was disappointing," Day said about barely missing a playoff at St. Andrews.

"Even though I knew that I played great, I knew that I had to focus on this week. So when I actually had the same putt ... the same thing was going through my mind: 'Make sure you get it to the hole.'"

And he did, for his third consecutive birdie that gave him a 68 and 17-under total at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Ontario.

Day's triumph was Hearn's disappointment, the home-country favorite who began the round with a two-shot lead and shot a ho-hum 72.

"I got off to a great start," Hearn said, "and in the middle of the round I just struggled a bit with hitting the quality shots I had been hitting all week."

Sad fact: The last time a Canadian won the Canadian Open was 1954. Maybe an Australian victory is the next best thing.

Friday, July 24

Eight-Way Tie at Senior British Open


WEATHER IS A FACTOR AT ANOTHER Open Championship this week. The second round of the Senior British Open at Sunningdale Golf Club in Berkshire, England, was suspended on Friday afternoon due to heavy rain and flooding. Play is scheduled to resume on Saturday at 8 a.m.

"The plan will be to finish round two tomorrow and then start round three," said European Tour referee Dave Williams on EuropeanTour.com.

"All going well, we'll start round three as a two-tee start. We'll have probably have an hour or so of play left to then finish up on Sunday morning. Then we'll probably go with threeballs off one tee and finish when we're supposed to."

Eight men share the lead at 5 under par: Colin Montgomerie, Bart Bryant, Jeff Sluman, Lee Janzen, Bernhard Langer, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Marco Dawson and Michael Allen. Only Montgomerie and Bryant had begun their second rounds when play was suspended.

"I didn't feel totally comfortable with my swing," Langer said after opening with a 65, "but my putting was very good and I didn't make any major mistakes."

Langer is the defending champion. The German star won by 13 strokes last year in Wales.

Wednesday, July 22

What Golf and Ken Harrelson Gave Baseball

By John Coyne

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


WHY AND WHEN DID BASEBALL PLAYERS start wearing golf gloves in the batter's box?

Golfers, more than anyone else, might be the first to ask that question seeing, as they do, ball players tugging at their golf gloves as they approach the plate.

Famed baseball player Ken "Hawk" Harrelson
said golf was his favorite sport.
Some say it was Bobby Thomson of the Giants who wore a glove during spring training in 1949; others say it was Ted Williams in '53, when he came back to the Red Sox from Korea. Baseball historians also point out that Larry Doby, the first African-American player in the American league, wore a glove, but it seems that everyone agrees Ken Harrelson was the first baseball player to step into the batter's box during a game wearing a golf glove.

One account says he first used the glove on September 4, 1964, when he was with Kansas City and playing against the Yankees.

It seems Harrelson had played 36 holes that afternoon and arrived at the ballpark with a blister on his hand. He had not expected to play that night but found he was batting third in the lineup. According to Harrelson, in an article written by Scott Merkin, the Hawk remembered his golf glove was in his pants pocket, and he put it on to get some protection, then hit two homers that night against the Yankees.

Thus, the batting glove was unofficially born.

"From that day on, I never hit again without one," Harrelson said. 

Also according to Harrelson, the Yankees got back at him the next day.

"Mickey Mantle,” recalled Harrelson, "had the clubhouse guy go buy a couple of dozen red All-Star golf gloves because that was the color I was wearing. They all ran out onto the field wearing red golf gloves, and that's how the hitting glove got started."

Today Ken Harrelson is an announcer for White Sox games. It is his 31st season in the booth. Before the television gig, he played nine seasons with the Red Sox, Kansas City, Washington and Cleveland. his career ended in 1970 when he broke his leg.

Playing Pro Golf

Harrelson always says that of the sports he played, golf was his favorite and his best game. He played golf professionally for three and a half years after his baseball career, qualifying for and playing in the 1972 British Open (missing the cut by one shot) and winning some small non-tour events, before turning to the broadcast booth, first with the Red Sox and then Chicago.

I met him at the 1971 PGA Qualifying School, this former "rite of passage" for new players to the Tour, when I was researching and writing an instructional book based on the skills of young players.

That year the "Hawk" was one of 357 golfers who had paid an entry fee of $300 and then attempted to qualify for the Tour at one of three regional tryouts (Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Quincy, Illinois and Riverside, California). Seventy-five players survived and attended the school at the PGA National Golf Club, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

It was 108 holes of competition for those players and it was there that I met Harrelson as well as other young pros: Tom Watson, Lanny Wadkins, John Mahaffey, David Graham, all of whom had made the cut. This class of young professionals is considered the best ever to qualify for the PGA Tour.

Harrelson had an opening round of par in the tournament, but withdrew after shooting 75 and an 82. He would try three times to qualify, but never made it.

Being the Hawk

The photographer for my instructional book, Better Golf, published by Follett, happened to be Richard Raphael, who took the iconic photo of the Hawk in a Nehru jacket standing out in center field at Fenway Park. It appeared on the September 2, 1968 cover of Sports Illustrated.

Harrelson often in the late sixties wore Nehru jackets, multi-colored bell-bottom slacks and white cowboy boots. At the time he was one of the most colorful players in the majors, as well as among baseball's best golfers.

While he got his nickname "Hawk" from his famous nose when playing baseball, he also invented the "Hawk Walk" for the golf course. If he made a birdie, he would strut forward, arms stretched down, jaw jutting, to pluck his ball from the cup.

Harrelson wasn't the only golfer to show baseball how to hit a ball.

Also in Chicago, but across town at the Cubs' Wrigley Field, Sam Snead in 1951, showed the fans what a real golfer could do with a golf ball. Wrigley Field's 89-foot scoreboard deep in center was too far away from home plate and too high for any ball -- baseball or golf -- to clear the wall, even with a driver, or so thought the fans.

Sam Snead, however, was invited to try and hit a golf ball out of the park. And he did. He drove a golf ball over the scoreboard, clearing it, not with a driver, but a 2-iron. Now, of course, players like Bubba and Rory would need only a wedge, and, of course, they'd be wearing a glove.

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, July 21

New York Times: Jordan Spieth Leading New Youth Movement

IS WORLD NO. 1 RORY MCILROY an old 26? Maybe so with 21-year-old Jordan Spieth now leading the charge in golf.

Karen Crouse of the New York Times filed this story:
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — The bespectacled, white-haired journalist from The Surrey Advertiser, on hand to chronicle his 37th consecutive British Open, cocked his head and asked Jordan Spieth a question that cut through the crosswinds during the tournament as deftly as did one of Spieth’s crisp iron shots on the Old Course: 
When did golf become so youthful?
Rory McIlroy missed the Open Championship
due to an ankle injury.
And on Spieth possibly stealing McIlroy's throne:
Last summer, McIlroy was golf’s transcendent figure, with victories in the British Open and the P.G.A. Championship leaving him one Masters title from a career Grand Slam. Having taken the mantle from Woods, though, McIlroy, now 26, found Spieth, an avid basketball fan, battling him for it as if it were a jump ball. Spieth could have supplanted McIlroy at No. 1 with a victory Monday. His tie for fourth only delayed what appears inevitable. 
Once hailed as golf’s young gun, McIlroy must feel, suddenly, as if 26 is the new 36. Spieth, who turns 22 next week, is blazing a trail for the millennials. On Monday he battled rain, wind, a few golf ghosts, his putter and the Road Hole and came within a holed chip or a made 6-footer of joining Zach Johnson, Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff. Spieth’s play in the first three majors disinterred sepia-toned memories of Bobby Jones, who opened his successful Grand Slam bid in 1930 with a victory in the British Amateur at the Old Course.
Rory needs to get healthy and hurry back. For a lot of reasons.

Monday, July 20

Zach Johnson: 'I've Come a Long Way Since 2007'

MORE THAN EIGHT YEARS AFTER being no one's pick to win the Masters, Zach Johnson has won the Open Championship by shooting a final-round 66 and defeating 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and Australian Marc Leishman in a four-hole playoff at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland.

After it was over, Johnson said he was speechless.

He probably wasn't the only one at a loss for words after an Open that stretched over five days and produced incredible excitement during a Monday finish that saw so many players with a chance to clutch the Claret Jug, including Jordan Spieth, who fell one stroke short in his march to the elusive Grand Slam.

Johnson, 39, started birdie-birdie in the four-hole playoff and held on to edge Oosthuizen by a shot.

"I'm grateful. I'm humbled. I'm honored," an emotional Johnson told ESPN's Tom Rinaldi on the 18th green. "This is the birthplace of the game .... I'm just in awe right now."

He added: "I've come a long way since 2007."

Yes, he has.

As for his place in the game, Johnson now has 12 PGA Tour wins, including two majors. To win a major puts you in special company, but to win multiple majors says a lot more, especially in this era.

"Dreams have been realized, goals accomplished," Johnson said at the trophy presentation.

He thanked everyone -- the R&A, his caddie, his wife, the spectators, people back home -- and said the course played fantastic through a lot of adverse weather conditions.

"I had a peace about the day," Johnson said. "It was divine."

And then he took a victory lap along the edges of the Old Course, slapping hands with the people who witnessed another major victory from someone who seems like an unlikely champion but is actually an exceptionally determined and talented competitor.

Friday, July 17

VIDEO: Tom Watson on His Last Open Championship



TOM WATSON TALKS ABOUT HIS LAST Open Championship. He won his first of five Open titles in 1975 at Carnoustie in a playoff against Australian Jack Newton.

Watson also gives a primer on how to play the Old Course. Stay left. Don't "underplay" the wind. Be "spot on" with your long putting. The 65-year-old opened with a 4-over 76.

"I stunk up the joint the way I played," Watson said. "Too many 6s on the back nine ruined my day." 

Unless he does something heroic, today will be his last walk up 18.

Thursday, July 16

Sponsored: Paul McGinley Assumes New Captaincy



PAUL MCGINLEY KNOWS ALL ABOUT being a captain. The victorious European captain of the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles offers an inspirational glimpse into his personal story in a film entitled "Moment of Truth" (see above teaser).

McGinley has now assumed a new captaincy of a unique and virtual worldwide golf club.

Launched at the 2014 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, the Ballantine's Golf Club is a first-of-its-kind, online, global golf club that's open to all and delivers a lot of enticing benefits, such as:
  • Free membership
  • Exclusive content
  • Invitational events
  • Whiskey tastings
  • VIP hospitality and rewards
  • Member-only global tournament
  • More

"It is an honour to be the new Captain of the Ballantine's Golf Club," McGinley said. "I’m really excited to travel the world with Ballantine's Golf Club and getting involved with all the exclusive content and rewards available, meeting the members and playing alongside them."

McGinley's 'Shot Makers'

McGinley also knows about perseverance. Despite suffering a serious knee injury at the age of 17, the Irishman went on to a successful playing career and, after the triumph at Gleneagles, is widely regarded as one of the best modern Ryder Cup captains.

McGinley will bring his considerable experience to "Shot Makers" at www.ballantinesgolfclub.com and be the force behind other exclusive content. For example, he will offer swing and course management tips and share "Captain's Diary" updates about his life in golf.

"I am sure 2015-2016 is set to be a great year for the Club," McGinley added, "and I cannot wait as it grows from strength to strength."

This post is sponsored by Ballantine's Golf Club. The content was created by ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG.

Wednesday, July 15

The Indefatigable Ivor Robson: 'On the Tee ... '



HE HAS BEEN AROUND AS LONG as Tom Watson, but he's not retiring from the Open Championship. At least not yet. And apparently no one knows how old he is.

I'm talking about Ivor Robson, of course, the official starter at the Open Championship since 1975, the year Watson won the first of his five Open titles. Robson's understated flair has been heard throughout the British Isles every July since Gerald Ford was president and Arthur Ashe and Billie Jean King won the singles titles at Wimbledon.

Not only has the man been on the job a long time, he has taken a very serious approach to the business of sending off the world's best players. Every championship round, from first to last grouping, Robson never leaves his post, not even for a bathroom break.

How is that possible? Well, much like the world's best players, Ivor has a routine. 

"This job requires total and complete concentration," Robson told Rick Reilly in 1999.

"For that reason," Reilly wrote, "he doesn't touch a drop of liquid after 7 p.m. the night before. For instance, each night last week in Carnoustie, he would have a sandwich and a glass of mineral water and nothing more until the following night at 7 p.m. He loses 'about a stone [14 pounds]' each Open, he says, but it makes it very easy to eschew the [bathroom] all day."

A former Scottish tour player in the 1960s and 1970s, Robson said in '99 he "absolutely lived in fear of the first tee" and "hated having my name announced."

Now announcing at his 41st Open, Robson feels very much at home on the 1st tee, a famous voice that adds another unique quality to the world's oldest golf championship.

(H/T Brendan Mohler, Golf.com)