Monday, April 20

Jim Furyk: 'This Is My Favorite Event'


MAYBE IT HAD TO HAPPEN this way.

Jim Furyk, who was 0 for 9 converting 54-hole leads into victories, charged hard on Sunday in the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links. The 44-year-old veteran posted a 63 for an 18-under total that put him in a sudden-death playoff with Kevin Kisner.

Then Furyk closed out his 17th PGA Tour win by sinking a 12-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole, the par-3 17th. He dropped his putter and punched the air. It had been 100 events and four and a half years between victories.

"[T]here was a lot of pent-up frustration," Furyk said.

Kisner also charged to the finish, shooting a 64, and then birdied the first playoff hole.

"I had a chance," Kisner said, "but man, I'm just proud of the way I handled it down the stretch."

Furyk won this same event five years ago. Narrow, short (by tour standards) and tricky, Harbour Town suits his game and attitude.

"I can't think of a more fitting place to kind of break that streak and get another win under my belt. This is my favorite event. I love being here. And outside of winning another major championship, this is the perfect place to do it."

Friday, April 17

Graeme McDowell: 'I Needed Something Like This'

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.
MASTERS CHAMPION JORDAN SPIETH MAY HAVE suffered an Augusta National hangover as he opened with a 74 but 2013 winner Graeme McDowell felt liberated at Hilton Head as a super 66 gave him a share of the first round lead in the RBC Heritage.

Struggling to find any kind of consistency this year and coming off another disappointing putting week at the Masters, where he was 52nd, McDowell drew on the positives of his win at Harbour Town Golf Links two years ago as made six birdies in a five under effort to grab a share of the first round lead with American Matt Every.

It wasn't just his putting form that pleased McDowell, who has fallen from 15th to 31st in the world since the end of last year and struggled to find his form since he tied for ninth in his season-opening event in Dubai in February.

The Portrush man has also found it tough to hit his reliable cut shot. But he welcomed its return was warmly as he would a  long-lost friend at tight and tricky Harbour Town, where the 35-year old is seeking his first Top-10 in his sixth PGA Tour start of the year.

He confessed that his putting was what pleased him most after another confidence-sapping week on the greens at Augusta National, where his hit-the-back-of-the-hole style does not pay off.

"The blade felt pretty hot," McDowell told Sky Sports.

"After how bad my speed was last week, I was really comfortable with my speed coming here. I blew everything through the break last week at Augusta but this week I am a lot more dialed in. The putter is hot so let’s hope it remains that way at the weekend."

Brian Keogh covers golf for The Irish Sun and contributes to a variety of golf publications. Pay him a visit at Irish Golf Desk.

Thursday, April 16

Golf on TV: RBC Heritage, Greater Gwinnett Championship, Shenzhen International

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

PGA TOUR

RBC Heritage
Dates: April 16-19
Venue: Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):           
Thursday         3-6 p.m. (Live) / 11 p.m.-2 a.m. (Replay)
Friday              3-6 p.m. (Live) / 11 p.m.-2 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday         1-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 11 p.m.-3:30 a.m. (Replay)
Sunday            1-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 7-11:30 p.m. (Replay)

Broadcast Notes

Spieth to compete for first time as major champion: Winner of last week’s Masters tournament, Jordan Spieth is in the field this week, having moved up to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking after last Sunday’s victory.

Kuchar defends: Matt Kuchar finished one shot ahead of Luke Donald for his seventh career PGA TOUR win.

Headlining the field: Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk, Billy Horschel, Ernie Els, Bill Haas, Zach Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Ian Poulter.

* * *

CHAMPIONS TOUR

Greater Gwinnett Championship
Dates: April 17-19
Venue: TPC Sugarloaf, Duluth, Ga.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):           
Friday              Noon-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 2-4:30 a.m. (Saturday replay)
Saturday         3-6 p.m. (Live) / 3:30-6 a.m. (Sunday replay)
Sunday            3-6 p.m. (Live) / 12:30-3 a.m. (Monday replay)

Broadcast Notes

Jimenez defends: Coming off a solo 4th place finish at the 2014 Masters, Miguel Angel Jimenez finished two shots clear of Bernhard Langer for his first career Champions Tour win.

Headlining the field: Miguel Angel Jimenez, Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie, Jesper Parnevik, Mark O’Meara, Corey Pavin, Peter Jacobsen, Jay Haas, Lee Janzen and Andy North.

* * *

EUROPEAN TOUR

Shenzhen International
Dates: April 16-19
Venue: Genzon Golf Club (A Course), Shenzhen, China

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):           
Thursday         6-10 a.m. (Tape delay)
Friday              6-10 a.m. (Tape delay)
Saturday         6-10 a.m. (Tape delay)
Sunday            6-10 a.m. (Tape delay)

Broadcast Notes

Watson: Bubba Watson is in the field this week, following his T-38 finish in trying to defend his 2014 Masters title last week.

Inaugural event: This week is the inaugural edition of the Shenzhen International, which is one of six new events on the 2015 Race to Dubai.

Headlining the field: Bubba Watson, Peter Uihlein, Alexander Levy, Ross Fisher, Tommy Fleetwood, Peter Hanson, Matteo Manassero, Alex Noren, Gary Stal and Andy Sullivan.

Wednesday, April 15

Golf Digest: 'Sports Illustrated Is Big on Proclaiming New Eras in Golf'

Jordan Spieth era.
IF YOU THINK GAS IS CHEAP these days, what about golf eras? They can begin with one Masters (or other major) win.

I've been trying to bite my tongue. But I give up after seeing Golf Digest's "Sports Illustrated is big on proclaiming new eras in golf." Sports Illustrated has put 2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth on its most recent cover with this headline and subhead:

JORDAN RULES
The Spieth Era Begins Now

Let me be clear about one thing. I vigorously applaud the historic win by Jordan Spieth. I'm also a fan. If this is the start of a Jordan Spieth era, GREAT. I just don't think we can answer that on Wednesday, April 15, 2015, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time.

I also understand this new-era stuff and instant hyperbolic coverage are part of the media culture in which we live. (Thank you, Internet.)

Getting back to Golf Digest's piece, it's laced with snark. I have one word for it: touché.

About the Spieth cover, Golf Digest's Sam Weinman writes: "It is indeed pretty cool, except this was the cover four years ago, after a 21-year-old Rory McIlroy won the U.S. Open."

Rory McIlroy era.

"Is the McIlroy era over?" Weinman asks. "He's only 25. Can you have two concurrent eras?"

Hmmm.

Tuesday, April 14

Michelle Wie Defends in Hawaii

THE LADIES TEE OFF ON WEDNESDAY in the Lotte Championship Presented by Hershey.

A recap of last year's event from LPGA.com:
In 2014, Honolulu native Michelle Wie shot a 5-under 67 in Saturday’s final round of the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf to clinch her third-career victory and first since the 2010 CN Canadian Women’s Open. The 24-year old started the day four shots behind third-round leader Angela Stanford and used six birdies and a bogey on the par 4 18th hole to snap a 79 event winless drought. Wie’s four-round total of 14-under par 274 bested Stanford by two shots.
TOURNAMENT DETAILS

Lotte Championship Presented by Hershey
Ko Olina Golf Club
Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii

Purse: $1.8 million
Defending champion: Michelle Wie

Format: 72-hole stroke play
Par: 72
Yardage: 6,383

TV Times
Golf Channel (all times Eastern)
April 15: 7 p.m. – 11 p.m.
April 16: 7 p.m. – 11 p.m.
April 17: 7 p.m. – 11 p.m.
April 18: 7 p.m. – 11 p.m.

Monday, April 13

The Masters Mindset of Jordan Spieth

JORDAN SPIETH HAS HIS GREEN JACKET. And on this Monday following the Masters, the superlatives about the 21-year-old are piling up as fast as those record 28 birdies he made over four rounds at Augusta National Golf Club.

In the mad rush by everyone to get to know this new phenom and to explain his rapid rise in the sport, there are already many fairly obvious reasons for his early success. There are no real weaknesses in his game. His short game and putting at Augusta and elsewhere have reminded us of the all-time greats. He is intensely committed and competitive. I could go on.

Instead, I will point to one particular thing I read this morning that highlights Spieth's mindset. After all, it's the space between the ears that always seems to separate the great ones from the good ones.

"We kept our head down," Spieth said (as quoted by Global Golf Post).

"We stayed focused. The way we did it was, the beginning of the day, I texted Michael (his caddie) this morning and said, 'Michael, I want us to get to 20 under. I want to get to 4 [under]. I want to be focused on that."

In his quest for the Green Jacket, Spieth was not content to idle, to hang on, to just make pars, after three record-setting days at the Masters. He was always out front -- sometimes way out front -- and seemingly never hit the brakes, or even tapped them. Spieth, in setting a target of 20 under, was intent on going where no man had ever gone at Augusta, not even Tiger Woods. 

He almost got there, becoming the first player to reach 19 under in the Masters. When it was all over, Spieth tied the tournament record of 18 under set by Woods, winning by four shots. He is the first Masters champion in nearly 40 years to lead wire-to-wire. The last one was Hall of Famer Raymond Floyd.

The world's best players chased Spieth for four days at Augusta. That should have bothered him. I suppose it did, at least a little. But it's telling that it didn't bother him a lot more. And when the challengers closed the gap, or when Spieth stumbled, the young man hit a shot or sank a putt that defied conventional wisdom about major championship golf. He was unshakable.

"I had a lot of moments today that were a little sticky for Jordan," said two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw, a fellow Texan who has mentored Spieth, "but I had never seen anyone handle such situations with such nerve. It is like he knows exactly where he is going."

Now it will be fun to see where Jordan Spieth goes from here.

Friday, April 10

Augusta National Seeks Trademark Protection for Famous Nantz Phrase

EVEN PEOPLE WITH LITTLE OR NO interest in golf have heard it: "A tradition unlike any other."

That little phrase, attributed to CBS announcer Jim Nantz, is about the Masters Tournament, of course. I'm guessing they will probably be the most remembered words that ever tumbled out of Nantz's mouth in a long broadcasting career covering multiple sports.

Augusta National Golf Club, which owns all things Masters related, including the CBS broadcast, wants to trademark the famous phrase. The club filed the requests last September, according to an ESPN report.
One trademark that would tie the mark to the Masters asserts that Augusta National's first use of it came in 1989. It is believed Nantz first used it leading up to his first Masters broadcast in 1986. 
The second trademark is to use the phrase on everything from shirts and pants to dresses, sleepwear and headwear.
How does Nantz feel about it?

His agent, Sandy Montag, told ESPN.com that it wasn't a problem. "It's the same language in every contract. Whatever work you do for the network is owned by the network, not you."

The club is currently selling a retro-style t-shirt that includes the phrase in the merchandise tent.

I wonder why the club doesn't just trademark Jim Nantz. That would cover a lot more bases. Can I get an "Amen [Corner®]"?

Thursday, April 9

Today Is 'Lee Elder Day' in Augusta

FORTY YEARS AGO THIS WEEK Lee Elder stayed in two houses in Augusta, Georgia. It wasn't exactly by choice. Whether they came in the mail, over the phone or by some other means, death threats chased Elder all the way to Magnolia Lane and the 1975 Masters.

How did he feel? "Scared to death," he said a few years ago.

At 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 10, 1975, Lee Elder was the first black man to tee off in the Masters Tournament, which began in 1934. After saying a silent prayer, he struck his opening shot in front of thousands of spectators lining both sides of the 1st fairway. The ball flew straight down the middle.

"How I accomplished that I do not know," Elder, 80, told CNN this week.

Somehow Elder got around in 74 that day, not bad for someone who was shaking so badly on the 1st tee that he wondered if he would be able to place his golf ball on the wooden tee.

Elder got his Masters invitation by winning the 1974 Monsanto Open in a sudden-death playoff against Peter Oosterhuis. It had been a long time coming, not just for Elder, but for anyone of his race. Charlie Sifford would have broken the color barrier years earlier had the qualification rules not changed.

Elder didn't make the cut in 1975, but he did make history. That's all that really mattered. That's what's remembered today, four decades later. Instead of carrying their bags or shining their shoes, Lee played golf alongside white men at Augusta National Golf Club as the world watched.

The house-jumping Elder lived to play in five more Masters. His best finish was 17th in 1979. That was the year he also became the first African American to earn a spot on a U.S. Ryder Cup team.

'Lee Elder Day'

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis has declared today (Thursday) "Lee Elder Day," as Tod Leonard reported in the San Diego Union-Tribune. Proclamations will be presented.

Elder is at the Masters this week with his wife Sharon. He likes to spend time at the big oak tree near the clubhouse. And he enjoys catching up with old friends. "I've had a lot of good times at Augusta," he told Leonard. "I really have."

Sometime today, instead of picking between two houses like he did forty years ago, Elder will head to The Lodge on Berckmann's Road. That's where he and his wife will attend a private celebration in his honor. Gary Player will be there. So will actor Chris Tucker, TV personality Steve Harvey, NFL great Marcus Allen and singer Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish, among others.

On this Thursday, Elder won't have to look over his shoulder or fret about the hardest tee shot of his life.

"The one thing I'm really happy about is that these guys want to do this," he told Leonard. "I really appreciate it."