Wednesday, July 30

Rory McIlroy: 'Becoming a Champion at Charming Fans'

Rory
IT'S NOT JUST HIS GOLF. What also makes Rory McIlroy so appealing is his refreshing candor, as the New York Times' Karen Crouse wrote in "Becoming a Champion at Charming Fans":
In the autumn of Tiger Woods, what more could golf ask for than a marquee player like [Rory] McIlroy, who has Arnold Palmer’s aggression, Jack Nicklaus's competitiveness and Barbara Nicklaus's honesty? 
In his first news conference since leaving Hoylake, England, with the claret jug from the British Open riding shotgun in his Range Rover, McIlroy, 25, rolled down the windows to himself instead of using pat answers to erect a wall of tinted glass.
Among other non-pat answers, Rory offered this:

"I'm not afraid of my inconsistencies. It's something that I actually quite welcome, and I know that my good is very good and my bad can sometimes be very bad. At the end of the day, it all levels out."

Tuesday, July 29

Bad Boy Bobby Locke, Part 6: A Prickly Personality

I asked John Coyne why he called Bobby Locke a "bad boy." Coyne said, "Locke wasn't liked on the PGA Tour. They blackballed him. Also, he was fired from his first pro job in Johannesburg." In this series, read how the South African golf legend made enemies by beating America's best. Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.

By John Coyne

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

THE PERSONALITY OF BOBBY LOCKE that got the most attention off the course, and it comes through in his book, On Golf, was his prickliness with the pros and the press. While he was good friends with some, especially Sam Snead and Ed Oliver, he was not a happy tourist.

And he had good reason.

For example, Locke was asked about his winnings by the press and refused to discuss them. The next day the headline in the paper blasted him for refusing to discuss it. In his book, he writes: “The Americans are, of course, intensely interested in dollars; perhaps intensely is not quite a strong enough word.”

He also adds, when summing up his experiences in the U.S.: “There are people who regard me as off-hand, even surly, when I am playing golf. But golf is my business. When I am playing I must concentrate to the utmost.”

He was not, what you might call a generous person in personality or in behavior. In 1947, Time magazine wanted to feature Locke on its cover, but he turned them down because they wouldn’t pay him. Locke would only do interviews he got paid for; he typically charged $100.

I remember another incident when Locke played at Midlothian Country Club in the Victory Open in 1948. He was invited to stay at the home of a member, who happened to be British, and who thought, I guess, that it would be a nice gesture to invite the South African to his home. The man’s name was Bradshaw. Bradshaw’s son, John, then about fourteen, carried the score board for four rounds of the tournament in the Locke twosome. Afterwards, young John wanted an autograph and his father asked his houseguest for one. Locke agreed, and charged Bradshaw Sr. $5.

There might be a reason for that hostile attitude. He might have had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Locke never spoke about the 1,800 hours he spent in World War II flying a B-24 Liberator bomber in the Mediterranean, or if the memories of the damage that his bombs did to the monastery at Monte Cassino in Italy changed him. Nor did he ever display his aviator´s medals. He did come back from Europe a changed man, everyone said. In prewar days, he was tall and rangy; after 1945 he weighed over 200 pounds.

Car Accident and Gun Incident

In 1959 Locke was in a terrible automobile accident. He was traveling with Maurice Bodmer, the home professional at Cape Town’s Clovelly Golf Club, when he stopped at a railway crossing. There were two tracks and after a train passed, he started across and a second train from the opposite direction slammed into the rear of his car, throwing him out the back window. The accident ruined his eyesight and balance and gave him migraines. He never played top-flight tournament golf again.

Twenty years later, at the age of 61, he got into an argument with a laborer in a dispute over money and pulled a shotgun on the man. For that he received a three-month suspended prison sentence. That incident changed South Africa’s opinion of their first great golfer. Now all eyes shifted to Gary Player.

Locke´s fade-out from the public view was nearly complete.

Perhaps South Africa’s greatest golfer, and perhaps the game’s greatest putter, allegedly relying on assistance from benefactors, died of spinal meningitis at age 69 in 1987, totally forgotten by the golfing community. Tragically there was more sorrow for his family. He had married Mary Fenton from Rutland, Vermont, and she and their daughter Caroline, now alone and desperately poor, would follow him to his grave in 2000, drinking poison-laced champagne in a suicide pact.

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.

Saturday, July 26

Man Intentionally Loses 3,000 Golf Balls in Desert

(From the ARMCHAIR GOLF archives.)

The scene of a bizarre golf-related act.
(Tammy Green/Flickr)
GROWING UP PLAYING GOLF in the California desert, I hit my share of wayward shots into the sandy dirt, Joshua trees and tumbleweed. Some of my golf balls dove into gopher holes and many disappeared elsewhere in the desert landscapes that adjoined the fairways of my youth.

I lost countless Top-Flites, Maxflis, Titleists, Wilson Staffs and Golden Rams. Yes, Golden Rams. It was that long ago.

But I was no Douglas Jones.

Jones, a 57-year-old La Quinta, California, man, deposited an estimated 3,000 golf balls into Joshua Tree National Park over a year’s time. He was cited by park rangers a month ago for abandoning property, littering and feeding wildlife.

Joshua Tree National Park is not a golf course. It’s not like Bethpage State Park on Long Island where the U.S. Open was played. There’s no reason anyone should spot a Titleist Pro V1 in Joshua Tree National Park—unless someone in Indio hit a shot 20 miles off line.

Jones will soon be explaining his actions to a federal magistrate. According to an Associated Press story, Jones said it was his way of honoring deceased golfers. I think he better take a mulligan on that explanation.

Another troubling aspect to this story: Jones tossed the 3,000 golf balls into the national park. There were no clubs involved. He simply heaved the dimpled spheres into the desert.

What a waste. Besides facing a fine and possible jail time, Jones missed out on an incredible practice opportunity. He could be one heckuva of a sand player by now. But he threw away that chance.

Friday, July 25

Bernhard Langer Leads Senior British Open

BERNHARD LANGER FIRED AN OPENING 65 at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in Wales for a two-shot lead over Bob Tway in the Senior British Open.

"Six under is very satisfying," Langer said. "I played smart, some good, some great. I didn't make many mistakes and that's what it comes down to at the end."

Langer got off to a fast start with four birdies on the outgoing nine, good for a 31.

"I kept it out of the bunkers and out of the hay, and gave myself some opportunities," Langer added. "And I'm pleased with a birdie-birdie finish."

U.S. Senior Open winner Colin Montgomerie shot a 1-over 72.

Wednesday, July 23

U.S. Ryder Cup Standings: Tiger and Phil Not Automatic

TIGER WOODS AND PHIL MICKELSON are not shoo-ins for the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team, although Mickelson is a lot closer to the promised land than Woods. Lefty is 11th in the standings. Tiger is 70th.

The top nine players will automatically qualify for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Captain Tom Watson has three discretionary picks.

Woods would appear to need a minor miracle to make the team on points. Tiger needs at least a third-place finish at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship, according to Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press. Or he would need to be one of Captain Watson's three picks.

After completing the British Open, Tiger more or less said he felt he would be ready for the Ryder Cup and would pick himself. "I hope I'm on that team," he said.

Would you burn a pick on Tiger?

U.S. Ryder Cup Standings
(Through the 2014 British Open)

1. Bubba WATSON 6,828.138
2. Jimmy WALKER 5,510.205
3. Rickie FOWLER 5,403.253
4. Jim FURYK 5,259.594
5. Dustin JOHNSON 5,133.807
6. Jordan SPIETH 4,781.827
7. Matt KUCHAR 4,764.065
8. Jason DUFNER 3,516.345
9. Zach JOHNSON 3,450.894
-----------------------------------------
10. Patrick REED 3,301.393
11. Phil MICKELSON 3,252.838
12. Brendon TODD 3,250.483
13. Chris KIRK 3,226.883
14. Ryan MOORE 3,118.872
15. Webb SIMPSON 3,086.070
16. Keegan BRADLEY 3,016.698
17. Harris ENGLISH 2,966.569
18. Kevin NA 2,878.818
19. Matt EVERY 2,471.806
20. Erik COMPTON 2,458.793

Tuesday, July 22

Bad Boy Bobby Locke, Part 5: Trouble at Home and Abroad

I asked John Coyne why he called Bobby Locke a "bad boy." Coyne said, "Locke wasn't liked on the PGA Tour. They blackballed him. Also, he was fired from his first pro job in Johannesburg." In this series, read how the South African golf legend made enemies by beating America's best. Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

By John Coyne

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

FROM HIS FIRST DAYS AS A PROFESSIONAL, Bobby Locke had difficulty with the golfing establishment, on both sides of the ocean.

He turned pro in 1938 and immediately ran into trouble with professional golf associations. The South African Transvaal PGA turned him down for membership, saying that he had to be a professional for two years before being eligible. He applied to the British PGA and they turned him down, saying he had to be a professional for five years.

Golf legend Bobby Locke got sacked
after winning his first South African Open.
This was despite Locke winning tournaments in South Africa and Great Britain, and receiving money to play in exhibitions tours in Australia. Also, he took the professional position at the Maccauvlei Golf Club in 1939. (Today, Maccauvlei is the home club of Masters winner, Charl Schwartzel.)

Locke did not last long as the pro at Maccauvlei. He had just won his first South Africa Open held at Maccauvlei when he got the job, and immediately he ran into trouble. In the history of the club, written by member Derek Mocke, it appears that Locke was "forced out" of his position.

Mocke writes: "Problems immediately arose with regard to his appointment. On the 24th February 1940, the committee discussed the proposed arrangement that Locke had with African Theatres whereby he was proposing to tour the country giving a series of golfing demonstrations. The Chairman said that he was strongly opposed to such an arrangement being made by Locke during his period of service to the club, unless he did this during his leave periods. The committee further did not like Locke giving non-members lessons whilst playing with him on the course in preference to merely using the practice tee. In order to curb this, the club instituted a green fee of two shillings and six pence per round.

"At a special meeting hastily arranged and held on the 5th May 1940, Bobby Locke was questioned as to the terms of his employment. In his letter of appointment he was told that if he wanted to play in outside competitions he had to ask permission. Locke never applied for leave of absence but merely advised the Secretary when he had to fulfill his obligations. He also intimated that he proposed making a quick trip to America to play the US Open.

"Locke pleaded forgetfulness when questioned. It was said that Locke was using the Club to suit his own convenience and personal interest, and that the Club would not be used as a stepping stone for Locke to travel around the country, playing exhibition matches purely for his own benefit, at the Club's expense. Locke did not like the arrangement, and after eight months, resigned from the Club by letter to the committee dated 26th July 1940. The rest is history."

Derek Mocke joined Maccauvlei Golf Club years later, in 1967, and has been an active member ever since. He has held every office of the club, having been Captain, Chairman and President.

In 1982, the year of his captaincy, Dereck invited Bobby Locke to play with him at Maccauvlei. Locke arrived with his chaperone, Pine Pienaar, a retired Boeing pilot, who transported Locke everywhere he was invited to go. When they were on the 4th hole, Locke knocked his second just on the green. Walking down towards the green with him, Derek remarked that the putt should be in his compass. Next thing he felt was a mighty kick up his "backside."

"Not knowing what was going on," Derek wrote me, "I later asked Pine Pienaar why he kicked me. The only explanation that Pine could give me was that in his days that would have been an easy putt for him, and nowadays he feels frustrated as his putting touch has deserted him. At the prize giving that evening I mentioned the fact that Bobby had only 30 putts in his round, not bad for someone who felt his better days had deserted him."

Also at that evening's dinner celebrating Locke's return to Maccauvlei, Derek Mocke was to present to Bobby a "club tie" but when he went down to the pro shop to get one the pro told him Locke had already "nicked" one out of the shop without paying. (There was already a rumor in Joburg that Locke was a kleptomaniac.)

Back in the ballroom, another club tie was presented to the former club pro by Derek Mocke. Derek, having been told by his father that Locke loved playing the ukulele, had gotten an instrument from the local music shop and "after a few drinks," handed Bobby the ukulele and they were treated to a singing show.

It was, Derek writes, "an evening that I will never ever forget spending a day of golf and song with a South African legend."

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.

Monday, July 21

Rory Sets Sights on Career Grand Slam

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.

RORY MCILROY DEDICATED THE OPEN to his mum Rosie but set his sights on the daddy of them all--completing the career Grand Slam at the Masters next year.

By carding a 71 to win by two shots from Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler at Hoylake, the Holywood star became only the third player after legends Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods to win three of the four majors by the age of 25. He also ended all speculation about his ability to prepare well and execute on a links course.

Now the little boy who used to wake his mother up by banging her on the head with a plastic club wants to go on and complete the set by winning the Masters next April. Not only that, he wants to take up the mantle of Tiger Woods and become golf’s next dominant player.

Dedicating his win to his mother, who saw him win a major for the first time. Rory said: “My mum hasn't been at the previous two major wins. It was just my dad. And it was just great to see her on the back of the 18th there and how much it meant to her. I was trying not to cry at the time because she was bawling her eyes out. The support of my parents has been incredible with the sacrifices that they made for me growing up.

“They're there for me at the worst of times, like this time last year after missing the cut at Muirfield, or the best of times walking off as the champion golfer of the year this year.”

The first wire to wire winner of the Open since Woods in 2005, McIlroy now looks set to become the game’s next dominant figure.

Winning a green jacket would make him that man and he's up for the challenge, declaring: “Golf is looking to someone to put their hand up and I want to be that person. I want be to be the guy that goes on and wins majors and wins majors regularly.

“I've had chances before to kick on as I did after my second major at Kiawah. I kicked on for another six months and played really well. I just want to think ahead and go forward and try and win as many tournaments and as many majors as I can, because I feel like there's a lot more left in me.”

As for Augusta, where he led by four shots going into the final round in 2011 but blew up with a closing 80, he said: “I've always been comfortable from tee to green at Augusta. And it's just taken me a few years to figure out the greens.

“I’ll be going into Augusta next year pretty confident.”

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, July 18

Open Leader Rory McIlroy By the Numbers

EXCEPT FOR A SLIGHT MISSTEP out of the gate on Friday, 36-hole Open leader Rory McIlory has played near-flawless golf.

McIlroy bogeyed the 1st hole of his second round. The Northern Irishman then played the next 17 holes in 7 under par to card his second consecutive 66 and open a 4-shot lead on American Dustin Johnson at the halfway point of the major championship at Hoylake.

So much for the Friday curse.

"My second rounds this year have been terrible and there isn't really any explanation," McIlroy said. "Hopefully I put it to bed today. It was just another solid a round of golf."

Rory by the numbers through two rounds:
  • 66-66-132 (-12)
  • 13 birdies (T1)
  • 16 fairways hit (57.14%)
  • 27 greens in regulation (75%)
  • 19 one putts (T2)