Monday, April 30

Hot Tip: Chambers Bay Golf Links


Friday I got an email from “Savannah,” a caddie’s wife who I met in Savannah at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf two weeks ago. She told me half jokingly she could be a great source since her husband has caddied for years and has as many stories as Titleist has golf balls.

You can call me “Savannah,” she said at the time. Great, I said, as I handed her my email address.

Late last week Savannah was anxious to tell me about Chambers Bay, a new Robert Trent Jones II links-style course in Washington state’s Puget Sound set to open in June. Following is a portion of her email. (I’ll call her husband “Gil,” not his real name.)

“Yesterday Gil caddied at the new Chambers Bay Golf Course in Tacoma. It isn’t open yet so it was the FIRST time anyone played the course.”

“All the employees played for the experience and Gil got to caddy for the assistant pro. He said it is the most beautiful golf course he has ever seen. He has seen several, so that’s quite a statement. It’s located in University Place with a gorgeous view of Puget Sound. He also stated the elevation was absolutely astounding!”

“Gil will get to play the course for free if he caddies there occasionally, which thrilled him as it is very expensive. (Editor's note: up to $150/round.) He was so impressed with the course our entire dinner conversation revolved around it!”

Thanks for the tip, Savannah.

Judging from the Web site, Chambers Bay is beyond spectacular. It’s reminiscent of Scottish and Irish links courses and will play 7,600 yards from the tips.

Get ready to walk: There will be no carts. (The architects wanted the experience of playing Chambers Bay to be as authentic as possible.) However, there will be caddies for those who do not wish to tote their clubs.

The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, April 29

Overheard in Heaven: Bobby Jones Consoles Byron Nelson

“I’m disappointed in my tournament, Bobby. It wasn’t the same this year.”

“I know how you feel, Byron. It’s hard when all that’s left of you down there is your name.”

“All of the finest players showed up for my tournament last year. They came up to me and shook my hand.”

“Last year you were alive, Byron.”

“Well, I guess it turned out well enough. I’m glad Scott won. I’ve known him since he was a junior. He’s a great kid.”

“That was special.”

“Bobby, do all the changes to Augusta National and your tournament ever bother you?”

“Sure, but you get used to it. They mean well for the most part.”

“You’re still a gentleman, Bobby.”

“So are you, Byron.”

“By the way, Bobby, what’s that sound?”

“That’s Hogan hitting balls.”

“Ben practices up here?”

“Some things never change, Byron.”

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, April 28

Nelson Notebook: What Can Brown Do for You?

I was reminded of the UPS slogan -- What Can Brown Do for You? -- when I clicked on the EDS Byron Nelson Championship this afternoon. I quickly realized the Tour pros aren't playing on greens this week. Browns is more like it. OK, I might be exaggerating -- but not much.

I had read the course was in poor condition but wasn't prepared for the large patches of ugly brown on many of the greens. The commentators actually mentioned how players were attempting to fly their chips and pitches to miss the brown spots. Crazy.

Luke Donald leads going into the final round.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, April 26

Where I Sit: Lefty Dogged It

Phil Mickelson failed to play in the EDS Byron Nelson pro-am but still teed it up today in the opening round of the tournament. Normally players are disqualified if they miss the pro-am. But we're told Phil had extenuating circumstances.

Bad weather prevented Mickelson's private jet from making the one-hour flight to Dallas on Tuesday, so Phil spent the night in Little Rock, Ark. Lefty had a 7 a.m. tee time on Wednesday. He didn't arrive until 11 a.m.

“Phil was prepared to play in the afternoon. It wasn't his decision not to play,” Mickelson spokesman T.R. Reinman was quoted as saying.

PR at work.

Hold on. Phil did have lunch with the amateurs he was supposed to play with.

Nice try, but not good enough.

Well, I guess they should just be happy that Phil is in the field with so many other no-shows among the top players. Besides, pro-ams are torture.

Tell that to the amateurs who shelled out big money to have the golf experience of a lifetime playing with Phil Mickelson.

The PGA Tour decided Phil could play the tournament because bad weather didn't allow him to arrive in Dallas on Tuesday night. Stuart Appleby characterized it as a “very dodgy decision,” wondering how hard Mickelson tried to arrive early on Wednesday. Appleby makes a valid point.

Lefty dogged it and the PGA Tour let him off the hook. That's where I sit.

Where I Sit is an occasional commentary by The Armchair Golfer.

Wednesday, April 25

Correction: Morgan Pressel NOT Youngest Major Winner

When 18-year-old Morgan Pressel recently won the Kraft Nabisco Championship, I called her the youngest major winner ever.

“I'm no expert on golf history,” Dave wrote, “but I believe that Young Tom Morris won the 1868 British Open at age 17.”

I looked it up and, of course, Dave is right. That's Young Tom at left wearing the championship belt.

I also learned that Young Tom Morris won the British Open in 1869, 1870 and 1872. He was born in St. Andrews, Scotland, and died on Christmas Day at the tender age of 24.

So, Morgan Pressel is the youngest LPGA major winner and the youngest major winner in modern times.

As a side note, I fired the fact checker but when I realized that would shut down the ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG I hired him back. He's on probation.

Your feedback and comments are always welcome.

The Armchair Golfer

Oops! Armchair Golf Misquotes George Bush

“Read my lips: no automatic presses.”
(not said by) George H. W. Bush

Historical note:
George Herbert Walker Bush was the 41st President of the United States and is an avid golfer.

This misquote brought to you by The Armchair Golfer.
Getting it wrong for the love of the game.


Tuesday, April 24

When Will Tiger Woods Relinquish No. 1 World Golf Ranking?

It was only a matter of time before Lorena Ochoa replaced Annika Sorenstam at the top of the Women's World Golf Ranking. While Annika is nursing disk injuries in her back and neck, this week rising star Ochoa forged ahead of the dominant female golfer of this (or any) generation. Sorenstam hopes to return for the U.S. Women's Open in June.

This got me thinking, when will Tiger Woods be dethroned? Except for an interruption in 2004-05 courtesy of Vijay Singh, Tiger has held the top spot in the World Golf Ranking for a golf eternity, more than 440 weeks.

But nothing lasts forever.

So what year will Tiger be toppled? (And not just an interruption, but for good.) Will it be 2010? 2013? 2020? And who will knock him off his golf pedestal? Will it be someone we already know of or a complete newcomer?

Until Tiger finishes chasing down Jack Nicklaus's majors record, I don't see him giving ground to anyone. I expect Woods to be at the top for at least another six years. I have no clue who might replace him.

The Armchair Golfer


Monday, April 23

Virginia Tech Rallies to Win Share of ACC Golf Title

We need every bit of good news out of the “Orange and Maroon” we can get. So here’s some.

VT came charging back from five shots down in the final round yesterday to tie Georgia Tech for the Atlantic Coast Conference team crown. It was the Hokies' first ACC golf title.

“Winning was secondary this week; competing was first,” VT coach Jay Hardwick was quoted as saying.

“I was proud that my guys had the guts to tee it up. It gave them a chance to heal within themselves. ... It's special to take [the trophy] back to Blacksburg because of everything everybody's been through,” Hardwick added.

All right, ready for the chant? Here we go ...

Let’s go Hokies.

C’mon, louder!

Let’s go Hokies.

There, that’s better.

The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, April 22

First Round of the Year

With no good excuse as to why it took me so long to get out there, I finally played my first round of the year at Great Oaks Country Club on Saturday. And I wouldn’t have played this weekend had Skip Bishop not called me Friday night and invited me to join him.

Skip is the high school golf coach (current state champs) and the mayor of our small town. Even though I had a list of chores after spending four days this past week in Savannah at the Legends of Golf, my wonderful wife said go play. So I did.

I had no expectations. I just hoped to make some good swings and stay down on the ball. Keep it simple and see what happens.

What happened surprised me, at least on the front nine. I had 12 putts, including a chip-in for birdie and another near chip-in. (I don’t usually count putts or any of that stuff, but my short game was so surprising that I had to add them up.) I was out in 38.

Realistically, I knew it might not last. I didn’t drive the ball well at all. I didn’t know if I was going to hit it left or right. I was just trying to put it in play. (I was hurrying my swing.) I hit my irons fairly well for the first time out.

The back nine, which is easier from a scoring standpoint, turned out to be mediocre. I hit a super three metal over water to reach the par-5 13th in two. It was my best shot of the day. Then I three-putted for par. I wasted several more shots on the closing holes, which included a bogey-double finish. I shot 42 on the inward nine for an 80. I’ll take it.

Not that it mattered. It just felt good to be out on the course, walking around, swinging the club. I enjoyed the company, too. It was the perfect way to end a shockingly sad week here in Hokie land.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, April 20

We Are Virginia Tech

This has been a horrific week in my community as well as the entire nation. Today I wear the colors of our adopted local university as we mourn together.

My family moved to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia from Seattle nearly four years ago to retreat from urban life and raise our daughters. We have no regrets. This is still a wonderful area and we are proud to be part of the Hokie nation.

May God bless the families and friends of the victims. And you, too.

Excerpt from convocation at Virginia Tech, April 17, 2007

Through our blood and tears
Through all the sadness

We are the Hokies

We will prevail
We will prevail
We will prevail

We are Virginia Tech

-- Nikki Giovanni, poet and professor of English

Wednesday, April 18

Legends of Golf: I Ate Like a Tour Pro

The ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG has been silent the last few days, not by choice but because I've been on the road in Savannah with a laptop that has a faulty browser.

Nonetheless, I've been hot on the golf beat at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf at The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa in windy and chilly Savannah, Ga. This blogger was on the course (inside and outside the ropes), in the clubhouse, in the players' locker room and, yes, even in the players' dining room -- all places where golf fans and the media are not free to roam.

How? I'll get to that in a second. I may not be able to play like a Tour pro, but I ate like one. The food was good and the golf stories were great.

I planned this golf expedition a few weeks back after several phone conversations with my new friend, Jack Fleck. I wanted to meet in-person the man who upset the legendary Ben Hogan in the 1955 U.S. Open and determined that Savannah would offer an ideal opportunity.

Jack was playing in the 70-and-older Demaret Division best ball on Monday and Tuesday, so I tagged along as his personal guest -- complete with a PGA credential that gave me unique access to the stars of the game.

I drove to Savannah on Saturday and met Jack at the airport. We headed directly to the course where I caddied for Jack during a 9-hole practice session. Perhaps former Tour star Bobby Nichols, who I met later that evening in the Westin lobby, said it best about Jack's game. "I hope I can play like him when I'm 85."

Jack has a full, fluid swing that produces a lot of solid and surprisingly long shots -- although, ever the perfectionist, Jack seems rarely satisfied.

Jack's caddie didn't arrive until Sunday afternoon, so I went 18 holes with Jack and Howie Johnson, Jack's best-ball partner, in howling winds on Sunday morning. (These were the same conditions that suspended final-round play at nearby Harbour Town Golf Links in the Verizon Heritage.) Howie asked me for a tee on the first hole, which I didn't have. I confessed I wasn't a pro caddie. No big deal. I ended up caddieing for both of them as best I could while riding with Jack.

Here are some more highlights of my four days in Savannah:

*Dinner out two nights with Jack and his wife, Carmen
*A brief locker room interview with Hall of Famer Gene Littler
*Hanging out with Jack and Orville Moody (1969 U.S. Open champion) in the clubhouse as they swapped golf stories and needled each other relentlessly
*Lunch and conversation with three-time U.S. Ryder Cup player Johnny Pott and multiple Tour winner Tommy Jacobs
*Meeting and conversations with Bobby Nichols, Jim Colbert, Bob Goalby, Gay Brewer, Don January, Howie Johnson, Jimmy Powell, Charlie Sifford and more
*Meeting Tom Kite in the dining room yesterday (he was returning from the dessert table; I was heading for the door)
*Walking the course with a caddie's wife, now nicknamed "Savannah" as a new source of insider information (smile)
*Hearing several times, "Now don't write that in your blog"

I also saw a lot of Champions Tour players milling about such as Fuzzy Zoeller, Hubert Green, Jerry Pate, Bruce Devlin, Lou Graham and others. Obviously, it was great fun and an experience I would love to repeat.

The Armchair Golfer


Friday, April 13

Will Annika Return This Year?

Annika Sorernstam has 69 wins, 10 majors and a severely injured back that makes the future of the LPGA star a question mark. The ruptured and bulging disk problem is the first major injury in Sorenstam's 13-year career. Annika will see a neurosurgeon in Miami on Monday to determine her next move.

Sorenstam said she would be out of action at least a month, but it definitely could be a lot longer. And when Annika does return, will she be able to play at her former level?

I hope so. I'd hate to see Annika fade into LPGA history with a bad back, unable to close out a great career on her own terms.

The Armchair Golfer


Thursday, April 12

Going Low at Verizon Heritage and Elsewhere

Jerry Kelly opened with a 63 at the Verizon Heritage today at Harbour Town Golf Links. Kelly has a two-shot lead on Ernie Els. Following are the lowest rounds shot on the PGA Tour this year.

Brandt Snedeker / Buick Invitational

Mark Calcavecchia / PODS Championship Innisbrook Resort
Fred Funk / Mayakoba Golf Classic
Brent Geiberger / Mayakoba Golf Classic

Charlie Wi / Buick Invitational
Jeff Quinney / FBR Open
Jerry Kelly / Verizon Heritage
Fabrizio Zanotti / Mayakoba Golf Classic
John Rollins / FBR Open
Bernhard Langer / Bob Hope Chrysler Classic
Robert Allenby / Bob Hope Chrysler Classic
Charles Howell III / Sony Open Waialae CC
Paul Goydos / Sony Open
Luke Donald / Sony Open
Bob Tway / Mayakoba Golf Classic
Kevin Sutherland / AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Padraig Harrington / Nissan Open
Skip Kendall / Mayakoba Golf Classic

The Armchair Golfer


Wednesday, April 11

Armchair Golf Interview with Pat Perez, Part 2

This is the second and final part of my interview with PGA Tour player Pat Perez, who returns to action this week at the Verizon Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, S.C. Pat answered my questions during his recent break in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Armchair Golf: You and John Daly have the same coach. How did that come about?

Pat Perez: JD’s been a bud since my rookie year and I’ve been working with my coach since high school. They got to know each other over the years and in the off-season he decided to bring O aboard this season to work on some things.

Armchair Golf: What's it like hanging with JD?

Pat Perez: A lot of work.

Armchair Golf: With multiple top tens, you've played well in the majors. Do you think your game is particularly well suited for the majors? Do you do any special prep for them?

Pat Perez: You just have to be ready for hard conditions and you have to be much more patient in majors. A lot of times par is a good score. I get more frustrated in events like the Hope because something like 35 under wins and I’m somewhere around 2 under. I don’t get why everyone else is getting it done and I’m not.

I like it when 10 under wins instead of 30 under.

Armchair Golf: There are a bunch of new young guns on Tour. Who have you played with lately that looks like a rising star?

Pat Perez: Camilo (Villegas). I haven’t really played with many others. He has a good knowledge about the game and how to play, even though he went to Florida.

Armchair Golf: How do you like living in Scottsdale?

Pat Perez: I love it. The weather is great. Lots of young people around here. A great social setting. Great riding town (motorcycle).

Armchair Golf: Talk about your motorcycle. Been riding lately?

Pat Perez: Yeah. That’s pretty much what I do if I’m at home a few weeks. Especially when the weather is perfect. Once a week we get a small group out here and we roll out to Cave Creek, the Hideaway, Harold’s, the Road House, Dirty Dog. Take off around 3 p.m., and bar hop. Thing is you don’t even really drink, you just hang out front, chew the fat and check out everyone else’s bikes.

It’s fun to be on something going 60 mph and feeling free as a bird. A good way to unwind, decompress and think about nothing. Just take it all in.

Armchair Golf: What's the hot item at the Double P online store?

Pat Perez: Right now we’re just selling shirts. We have them in black or white. Up front is my ball/flames/clubs logo and on the back, “” They’ve been selling pretty well this past year. Part golf and part bikes with the fire and whatnot. There’s enough golf stuff out there. I wanted to do something different.

We’re going to roll out some other stuff in the coming year. I just really want to focus on playing right now. Once I get that first win, we’ll worry more about stuff like this.

Double P's Faves

Favorite Tour stops: San Diego. It’s always great to go back home. I also love Dallas. Vegas is fun, but that’s a tough place to stay focused.

Favorite course: Bay Hill is up there. Hilton Head is fun and I also love the Players at Sawgrass.

Favorite bands: The Cult. Iron Maiden. Godsmack. Metallica. Cinderella. Madonna.

Favorite food: Carne Asada burrito. Throw in three rolled with cheese and a gross of hot sauce and we’re in business.

(Special thanks to Chris Bello at Pat Perez Golf for coordinating this interview.)

The Armchair Golfer

More Double P here:
Pat Perez Golf
Pat Perez Blog
Pat Perez Online Store
Pat Perez at MySpace


Tuesday, April 10

Armchair Golf Interview with Pat Perez, Part 1

After taking a few weeks off, PGA Tour player Pat Perez returns to action this week at the Verizon Heritage in Hilton Head, S.C. Double P has made six cuts in nine events, with a couple of top 10 finishes. Pat answered my questions during his recent break in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Armchair Golf: Coming off a disappointing year with injuries, how did you prepare for this season?

Pat Perez: I tried to get the elbow solid, for sure. Working it, strength conditioning, stretching, all that. I spent the better part of last year with it only at 50 percent. When you sit around on the sidelines as long as I did, you have a ton of time to think.

I spent a lot of my off-season thinking about how I’d attack upcoming courses. I thought a lot about the strategy of certain courses. What kind of shots I wanted to play.

Since the Sony was first, I thought a lot about the winds in Hawaii. This was my sixth time playing out there, so I know the course and the conditions. I’ve seen that wind blow from all angles. I really thought a lot about what shots I’d hit and how I’d play the course after so much time off. Thankfully it paid off (finished 10th) and set the tone early on.

Armchair Golf: Last year you said you kept Advil in business. Are your elbows pain-free and 100 percent?

Pat Perez: I was feeling solid at the beginning of the season, but I’m sore now after eight straight weeks out there. It’s a tolerable pain, though. Not like last year. The pain is in a different area. It’s not as sharp.

I’ve rested a few weeks, will play at the Verizon and just warm up the engine each week. Once it gets going, I don’t feel anything out there. By then I’m focused on the course and my game.

Armchair Golf: You have two top 10 finishes at the Sony Open and Nissan Open and currently sit at No. 50 on the money list. Talk about your goal to finish in the top 30 this year and how you think you're doing.

Pat Perez: I need to keep doing what I’m doing. Top 30 is huge because it gets you into all the big events -- big money and more FedEx Cup points.

Your number one goal always goes back to winning. That first win gets me top 50 in the world. Secure the majors, get in all the smaller field stuff like the World Golf events.

Armchair Golf: How many events do you plan to play this year?

Pat Perez: At least 30. Might slow it down at some point, but who knows. Once you get that win, then you reassess your goals. You want to get into the top 30, then the top 10, top 5. For me, I think it’ll be harder to slow down once the first win comes.

Armchair Golf: The last couple of years you've had good success at the Honda Classic and TPC. What do you like about playing the Florida swing?

Pat Perez: I like the Bermuda grass. Those are great greens. Some of the best out there. That shaved Bermuda, it’s a perfect surface. It’s bent grass out here in Scottsdale. I’m used to that kind of stuff after living in the desert since 2002. The Florida courses, the desert courses -- I seem to putt well there.

Look at the other guys who live or train in Arizona -- Calc, Timmy Clark, Aaron Baddeley, they all putt well here and in Florida.

Editor’s note: Perez was the Q-School medalist in 2001 and shot a course record 60 in the opening round of last year’s Bob Hope.

Armchair Golf: How's your ball striking? What are you working on?

Pat Perez: Good. My coach (Michael Owen) and I are working on getting me to hit more on the inside of the ball.

Armchair Golf: How's your short game? What are you working on?

Pat Perez: Pretty good. We’re working on speed and line of my putting.

(To be continued. Tomorrow Double P talks about John Daly, the majors, riding time and more.)

The Armchair Golfer

More Double P here:
Pat Perez Golf
Pat Perez Blog
Pat Perez Online Store
Pat Perez at MySpace

Tomorrow: Pat Perez Interview, Part 2

Monday, April 9

Masters Notebook: Zach and Jack, Two Iowa Major Winners

Unheralded Iowa pros who have won majors isn't exactly a cottage industry, but the category doubled in the past 24 hours with Zach Johnson's unlikely victory at the 2007 Masters.

“I'm just a Midwest guy from Iowa,” said Johnson in Butler Cabin after his stirring come-from-behind victory.

Of course, Jack Fleck is the other Iowan who stunned the golf world when he beat Ben Hogan at the 1955 U.S. Open in San Francisco. Fleck's best finish at Augusta was 11th in 1962.

I talked to Jack Fleck on Friday. I was at the office wrapping up my work week. Jack was at home in Arkansas watching the Masters and describing the action to yours truly. Like everyone else, we discussed the brutally difficult conditions at Augusta National. The only mention of Zach Johnson came when Jack described Zach's frustrating missed putts from short range on one of the holes during his Friday round. Little did we know.

This morning when I got to the office I had a voice mail from Jack Fleck recorded Sunday evening.

“Neil, happy Easter. Zach Johnson, from Iowa, won the Masters.”

The Armchair Golfer

Tomorrow: Pat Perez Interview, Part 1
Double P talks about coming back from injuries, 2007 goals, John Daly and more.


Sunday, April 8

Masters Notebook: Zach Attack

On a day with comparatively benign conditions that produced something resembling Masters golf, the back-nine charge we were all expecting finally came.

Birdie. Birdie. Par. Birdie. Game over.

So far, so good. But here's where it gets really interesting because someone messed with the script. Big time.

The culprit was one Zach Johnson, your 2007 Masters champion. Mr. Final-Round-69, Lay-Up-On-The-Par-Fives, Come-From-Behind, Snatch-It-Away-From-Tiger Johnson.

Why not Zach Johnson in a Masters that was, to borrow a phrase from Jim Nantz, unlike any other? (Wait a minute! Was that Tiger hitting a desperate second shot into the water on 15? That's the other guys' role!)

Zach Johnson has officially replaced Chris DiMarco as the golf poster child for gritty overachiever. Today it earned him a green jacket.

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, April 7

Masters Notebook: They Stole Our Tournament

I want the Masters back. Give it back.

OK, we get it. No one will ever shoot 18 under again. But please. This is ridiculous.

The men who run this tournament control a lot. But they don't control the weather. And they've gone too far. Mix cold, windy weather with course alterations and diabolical greens and what you have is a golf freak show.

There's no joy at Augusta National. No roars. No fist pumps. No smiles. Above all, no birdies. It's like watching a funeral. This isn't the Masters.

I'll watch the U.S. Open in June when they play our national tournament at Oakmont. I'll accept that par is a good score and average rounds of 77.

But this weekend I want to watch the Masters. Give it back.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, April 6

Masters Notebook: Tiger and Friends Sound Like Me

This morning as I read Masters first-round coverage I could have sworn someone had overheard me on several occasions in the parking lot of Great Oaks Country Club.

Didn't I say this?

"It's hard. And when you start playing defensively, it plays harder. It's one shot after another where you're up against it. You're nervous on every shot."

(In this instance it was Steve Stricker.)

And haven't I said this:

"It was terrible on the front nine. It was a little windy and a little cold as well, and I wasn't comfortable on the greens, either."

(Actually, this was uttered by Ernie Els.)

I know I said this. This has me written all over it:

"I threw away a good round of golf."

(The lament of Tiger Woods.)

I wonder what words they'll take out of my mouth today.

The Armchair Golfer

This weekend: More Masters observations
Next week: Two-part interview with Pat Perez

(Photo: AP/Morry Gash)

Thursday, April 5

Masters Notebook: Couples' Cut Streak in Jeopardy

Fred Couples is the only Masters champion who has never missed a cut at Augusta National. I hope I can still say that Friday night.

Freddie has made 22 consecutive cuts at the Masters. If he can get it to the clubhouse under the cut line tomorrow, he'll tie Gary Player's record for consecutive cuts made. After an opening 76 on a tough scoring day at Augusta, Freddie has some work to do.

Couples' back troubles have limited him to just two competitive rounds this year. If it wasn't Masters week, Freddie would surely be home in Santa Barbara playing with the kids and watching Major League Baseball.

"This is probably the only tournament I'll play this year," he told the Associated Press.

The Masters has been special to the 47-year-old Couples, who came off the couch last year to contend until the final few holes. Let's hope Freddie has a good round tomorrow so he can play one more weekend at Augusta.

The Armchair Golfer


Wednesday, April 4

The Masters by 10s

Since it's the 10-year anniversary of Tiger's first green jacket, I thought it would be fitting to look back in 10-year increments and see what we find in the Masters scrapbook.

1997: Tiger Woods wins his first Masters in record-breaking fashion. Golf hasn't been the same since.

1987: Larry Mize stuns Greg Norman with a chip-in to win in a playoff. The Shark hasn't been the same since.

1977: Tom Watson wins the first of his two green jackets, on his way to dethroning Jack Nicklaus as the world's best golfer.

1967: After finishing third at the Masters in '66, Gay Brewer wins with 280, his only major among 11 tour victories.

1957: Doug Ford wins three times, including the Masters, and is named player of the year.

1947: Jimmy Demaret wins the second of his three Masters titles. Demaret becomes the first three-time Masters winner.

1937: Byron Nelson, the gentleman golfer, claims the first of his two green jackets.

Enjoy this year's Masters.

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, April 3

Next Week: Pat Perez Interview

Ward off the post-Masters blues right here next week. Pat Perez speaks up in a two-part interview on Tuesday and Wednesday. Stop by for my Q&A with the enemy of dull -- Double P.

The Armchair Golfer

Interview with John Derr, Recipient of Masters Major Achievement Award

Legendary golf reporter John Derr is among the inaugural recipients of the Masters Major Achievement Award to be presented Wednesday morning in the Press Building Interview Room at Augusta National Golf Club.

(Photo: John Derr interviewing Ben Hogan.)

John Derr covered his first Masters in 1935. Later he was the lead CBS-TV announcer at the Masters from 1958-73. Last month John answered my questions about the award and his Masters experiences.

Armchair Golf: Please tell me about the new Masters Major Achievement Award.

John Derr: As I understand it, the award recognizes those reporters who have written or spoken about the Masters for as many as 40 years. I covered 62. Some reporters may have covered more than 62, but believe me, they started young.

Mr. Roberts once asked why I had missed the 1934 tournament -- the first one. My answer: If there had been any child labor laws in North Carolina in 1935, I'd probably have missed that one, too.

Armchair Golf: OK, I thought you had covered them all. What has the Masters meant to you?

John Derr: No, I have not seen them all. Before closing shop I had missed three of the first 65 renewals, a lot of missed putts in 250 rounds.

Most unique were the two years when I was the reporter for the World TV network, into 132 countries. They told me we had 600 million viewers. That didn't bother me. If every one of my mistakes was heard by 600 million, it would have taken me a long time to apologize to each, though. But reporting it is always a thrill.

Armchair Golf: If you had to pick, what are your Masters highlights?

John Derr: Perhaps the '53 Masters, third round, Hogan and Oliver paired. They shot better ball of 60 that day. Palmer's trip across half of Georgia to par the third hole in an early win. Art Wall's streak of 3's on holes 4-5-6. Horton Smith's caddie catching a baby rabbit in the rough at the 5th hole, putting it in his bag and later telling Horton he knew he'd win. "If one rabbit foot is good luck, Mr. Horton you got four in your bag."

Armchair Golf: What was it like to cover the Masters in earlier days?

John Derr: Exacting, frustrating, very rewarding. I always felt fortunate to be there, seeing the play, and it was my pleasure to try to let others share my joy through my description. I was heard by many, but I always tried to put myself in the position of being a reporter for a "shut-in" who could not be there in person. I was telling him or her what was happening -- that one person.

My job was reporting it fairly and honestly, even though some of the golfers were especially good and close friends. As a reporter you must be neutral. You are no longer a cheering fan. Communications were critical in the early days, both for a writer and especially for a broadcaster early on. But we found a way to do it.

Armchair Golf: What is most striking to you about Augusta National?

John Derr: The beauty of the place. It's not the toughest course by any means, but a fair examination of the skills of every player. That was what it was for many years before some recent alterations were initiated. It is still one of the truly great venues for sports. I walked those Georgia hills for decades and was amazed how they grew in steepness as the years accumulated. Now I no longer walk that much but chase cobwebs with the few elders remaining from my era.

For years Lloyd Mangrum and I met on a bench outside the locker room and recalled the early days and did a thorough job of "character assassination" on some old acquaintances. Then one day I found no one to help me remember. So I don't sit there anymore.

Armchair Golf: Any other anecdotes you would like to share -- recollections of Bob Jones or Clifford Roberts, for instance?

John Derr: I save those for lectures, books and special appearances. My rates are reasonable. I make about 12-15 personal visits a year. Have putter, will travel -- but not too fast.

To learn more about John Derr's speaking engagements, contact me. (No, I am not Mr. Derr's agent or business manager, nor do I receive any remuneration.)

Masters Major Achievement Award Recipients

Horace Billings
Furman Bisher
John Derr
Dan Foster
Ron Green Sr.
Dan Jenkins
Kaye Kessler
David Kindred
Hubert Mizell
Dave Moffit
Edwin Pope
Nick Seitz
Art Spander
Al Wester

Tomorrow: Masters by 10s

The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, April 1

Masters Spectator Guide by Jason Kalin

Fred Couples and playing partners test Augusta's greens.

Welcome to Masters week at the ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG. Today Jason Kalin of shares his Masters experience and a few spectator tips.

Going to the Masters

I went down with a couple of buddies in 2004. We had a great time.

As far as having a full experience, get to Augusta National about an hour earlier than you think you should. That way you can avoid some longer lines and find some parking relatively close.

The nice thing about the practice rounds is that they’re never overly crowded thanks to the limited number of tickets.

Amen Corner: Number 12 tee and Number 11 green (left).

Be sure to hang around the par-3 16th hole for a while, especially for the Monday and Tuesday practice rounds. There’s a great tradition of the pros having to skip their shot across the large pond in front of the green. The crowd goes pretty crazy. In fact, I saw Darren Clarke skip it about 20 times on the pond. His ball rolled up over the bank and into the hole for a ridiculous 1.

Good spot to see approaches on 15 and tee shots on 16.

Also, be sure to plan your visit to the merchandise tent. It gets overwhelmingly crowded about an hour or so before the gates close, so do your shopping at least a couple hours beforehand.

Amen Corner: Number 13.

If You Go

I suggest flying into Columbia, South Carolina, as it’s a nice small airport that’s easy to get in and out of. Plus, it’s only an hour’s drive to Augusta.

In fact, I would suggest staying in or around the University of South Carolina area since there are usually a good number of decent hotels available even as it gets closer to April.

Stay an extra day or two to play some golf if you can. We played some great courses, all within a short driving distance.

Tomorrow: Interview with John Derr, an inaugural winner of the Masters Major Achievement Award

Wednesday: The Masters by 10s

-The Armchair Golfer

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Masters Green This Week

To fully immerse myself in the Masters, I've changed the colors of the ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG for the week. I hope you enjoy the temporary change of scenery.

The Armchair Golfer

Morgan Pressel Becomes Youngest Major Winner

Morgan Pressel posted a final round 69 and then watched as leader Suzann Pettersen faltered down the stretch in the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage, Calif. The 18-year-old Pressel broke into tears when Petterson left a birdie putt short on the final hole that would have tied the young challenger.

Pressel's Nabisco win is historic. She is the youngest ever -- male or female -- to win a professional major. Favorites Lorena Ochoa, Karrie Webb and Annika Sorenstam finished 10th, 20th and 31st, respectively.

The Armchair Golfer

(Photo: LPGA)