Monday, July 30

This Week: Q&A with Cristie Kerr

This week the Women’s British Open will be played at the home of golf, the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland. It’s truly a historic occasion, as it will be the first time women compete at St. Andrews.

I had the good fortune to catch up with Cristie Kerr while she was playing the Evian Masters in France this past weekend. (Kerr finished in a tie for 43rd.) Cristie answered my questions about what it’s like to be the U.S. Women’s Open champion and also assessed her chances at St. Andrews.

On Tuesday I'll post my Q&A with Cristie Kerr at Down the Middle. You can read it here on Wednesday.

The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, July 29

Chambers Bay Golf Course: The Rants


Not all the reviews of Chambers Bay Golf Course are rosy. Below are a pair of critical comments I've received.

(Below the rants you can link to rave reviews and also my original post on Chambers Bay.)

“Not impressed”

I am not impressed. I grew up in the British Isles playing links golf and Chambers is not links golf. (The last four holes would pass a links-style holes.)

I will have a hard time going back, not just because of the high prices but I am not really very impressed with the layout. There are too many blind shots with strange things in the middle of fairways. It seems as if too many greens are cut into a plateau, and the greens are way too contoured to be playing bump and run shots. I found that too many fairways had severe runs-offs, and if you did not hit the right side of the fairway you were in trouble.

The same with the greens -- huge but with only 2/3 of it usable. There are not too many places to put the pins.

“Way too tricked up”

I just played it as well and I agree. It's not a links course and it's way too tricked up. I will not be going back.

Rave reviews are here. My original post is here. Check out Chambers Bay here.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, July 27

Oops! Armchair Golf Misquotes Henry David Thoreau

“Golf is the only investment that never fails.”
(not said by) Henry David Thoreau

Historical note:
Henry David Thoreau was an American author, philosopher and naturalist.

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

Wednesday, July 25

Armchair Q&A: Chris Lewis, Author of 'The Scorecard Always Lies'

SI golf correspondent Chris Lewis spent 2006 shadowing the world’s best golfers and some of the lesser-known (but often quirky) Tour pros. The result is his new book, The Scorecard Always Lies: A Year Behind the Scenes on the PGA Tour.

After reading the book (yes, I recommend it), I caught up with Chris via email and he graciously answered my questions about what it’s like to follow Tiger, Phil and others around, on and off the golf course.

(This is going to take a few minutes, so get comfortable. But it’s worth it — promise.)

Armchair Golf: You say in the introduction the idea for the book came from hearing listeners to a sports talk show ask: What are these guys (PGA Tour players) really like? I’ll ask you a variation: What are these guys really like to hang out with?

Chris Lewis: Three days a week, the Tour is just like any other office, except with a lot of carefully-mown grass. On the range and in the locker room there’s a lot of water-cooler talk—people standing around talking about ballgames, TV, or whatever, and yes, trading a little gossip.

The players (and caddies and coaches and agents and wives and girlfriends) are pretty much like any other slice of the population: some are really social, some keep to themselves, some have equipment-trailer-sized egos, and most are pretty down-to-earth.

If they’re different (in a general sense) from “normal” people, the reason is (you guessed it) money. As a group, they worry a lot less about dough than the rest of us. You never have a conversation about how much somebody would like to go to Aruba some day, because if a Tour player wanted to go, he was probably there last week (in five-star accommodations).

I’ll never forget the first time I picked up a dinner tab (business expense, charged to the company) at a restaurant with a guy who’d won a million dollars the previous Sunday. That doesn’t happen much outside Tour circles, I’d guess.

Armchair Golf: Was it hard to get the players – especially the big names – to buy into the project and give you the access you needed?

Chris Lewis: You know, not really. I think all the players were aware that the Tour has been doing poor TV numbers compared to, say, five years ago, and that they could all benefit from some more revealing, humanizing press– even if that meant exposing a few warts.

Phil got it immediately. So did Tiger and Vijay, and pretty much everybody else.

I knew I was in good shape when the agents started nodding at me, agreeing that the project was a good idea. It made sense to everybody. I think everybody understood that the Tour in general could benefit from some in-depth, long-format attention.

Armchair Golf: Chris Couch’s emergency tattoo parlor visit and first PGA win just days later are pretty incredible. What were your favorite episodes from the book?

Chris Lewis: Well, you could probably tell from the book that on a personal level it was flying to the PGA Championship in Chicago with Geoff Ogilvy and Tim Clark. I’m not just saying that because it was a private plane – which, trust me, is a pretty sweet way to travel. In general, it was a really fun couple of hours. They’re both awesome guys – really open and unguarded.

The other two people on the plane – Richelle Baddeley and Tim’s girlfriend, Candace, were also very cool, in addition to being … well, you know.

Armchair Golf: Any big surprises as you reported this book? Did it change the way you think of Tour pros?

Chris Lewis: Not really. The book jacket mentions that I was on the road thirty weeks last year, but what it doesn’t say is that I was on the road with the Tour almost that many weeks every other year since about 2001, and plenty before that. So I had a lot of experience with the guys. I pretty much knew what I was dealing with.

Armchair Golf: You wrote that Tiger went on a six-mile run before playing the final round in last year’s British Open, which he won. What is your training regimen before reporting a final round of a major? How does it compare to other golf writers?

Chris Lewis: It’s the same with all us media guys: we sit around and eat free press room hot dogs ‘til our shirts run yellow with mustard!

Seriously, this is a pretty interesting question, in a way. Major Sundays are very different for daily writers and weekly writers. Newspaper guys don’t change their schedules much, because Sundays are like every other day—they have to file as soon as possible after the finish.

On the other hand, if you work for Sports Illustrated (as I did) or for another weekly, you know you’re going to be working deep into Sunday night. The only thing I could compare it to is cramming to take a final exam in the morning. So for us weekly guys, you try to stay up really late on Saturday, and sleep as late as you can on Sunday morning, so you can work late on Sunday.

Personally, my mission at the majors was always to do reporting legwork for Alan Shipnuck, SI’s lead golf writer. I would go out on Sunday afternoon and walk with the third- or fourth-to-last group, gradually falling back toward the leaders, and try to spot things on the golf course no one else saw. But more importantly, I’d talk to coaches and wives and moms and dads to get background on potential winners (you know, how they had spent their off-course time that week, that kind of thing). Then, after play, in the locker room, I’d try to do much the same thing, only with the players themselves.

Then there was the post-major ritual we called “trunking,” where I basically followed the winner through the toasts and trophy ceremonies all the way to his car trunk, trying to get a little scene or quote that no one else had, before he left the property. Then I’d go back to the hotel and type up all my notes for Alan, and hopefully get everything to him sometime before 10 or 11 p.m.

Armchair Golf: Can you share a funny story or anecdote that didn’t make it into the book?

Chris Lewis: Wow, there are so many. I could have written a chapter just on all the crazy little airport stories, from watching Mark Hensby’s girlfriend break necks in the airport lobby at DFW to Jim Mackay, Phil’s caddie, fast asleep, stretched out across three seats, at his gate in Columbus the morning after the Memorial while waiting for his plane to Hartford. (Flying to Hartford instead of New York was the pro move last year when you were heading to Winged Foot – Bones was on his way to meet Phil that morning for a practice round.)

But just one funny story? Hmm. Okay. We were in Akron last year, and Phil was playing with Aaron Baddeley. Their group comes off on Friday (I think it was Friday), and all the sudden, these Akron cops come over, grab Aaron’s caddie, Pete Bender, and drag him into a police car.

Pete, of course, has been around forever, and has seen it all – he used to caddie for Greg Norman, put in a bunch of years with Rocco Mediate, and so forth.

But now, after this round in Akron, the cops take him away, and he has no idea what’s going on. Turns out that years before, during a practice round in Maui (probably the last time Phil played the Mercedes), Pete had set a couple of snails down on the seat of Phil’s golf cart (they use carts during practice rounds there), and Phil of course sat on them. So years go by, and Phil never forgets.

Finally, last year in Akron, Pete winds up in the back of that squad car, and the cops tell him, “Mr. Bender, you’re here because of an outstanding warrant on a violation of a Hawaiian ordinance against cruelty to mollusks.”

Phil had set the whole thing up. He’s just standing there about fifty feet away, laughing his head off, while Pete’s in the police car scared out of his wits.

Armchair Golf: How does covering golf compare to other reporting you’ve done?

Chris Lewis: Tell you the truth, I’ve never really covered any other sport but golf. I’ve had little assignments here and there, from Kirk Gibson (ugh!) to Kobe Bryant (cool guy, but that was before Eagle County). But I can tell you, just on hearsay, that golf’s a pretty sweet gig.

If you write basketball, you’re going to be spending a few days every February in Minnesota, and that can’t be pleasant. But that doesn’t happen with golf. I’ve literally gone a whole season wearing long pants fewer than five times.

Don’t get me wrong – golf does have its drawbacks. You have weeks sometimes – especially after your magazine’s just hacked somebody to bits – where it seems like nobody will talk to you. Guys like Tiger, Vijay, and Phil are always tough gets, above all when they’re playing well, because everybody’s angling for their time.

I have to tell you, I’ve been amazed this year, doing some hard news stories (on things like Katrina relief and underage gambling) never to have to chase around or wait around for the people you really need to talk to. It’s nice when subjects and sources make themselves available to you basically whenever you want.

Armchair Golf: What’s next for you? Is there another book in the works?

Chris Lewis: Hey, slow down! I’m still recovering from writing this one!

You can learn more about The Scorecard Always Lies and read Chris’s take on pro golf at his blog.

Tuesday, July 24

Will Padraig Harrington Win More Majors?

Now that Padraig Harrington has a firm grasp on the Claret Jug and his first major, will he go on to win more majors?

I certainly think he can. Harrington has been a strong international player for a while now and he's only 35. Padraig showed a lot of grit with his British Open finish, especially the dramatic double on the 72nd hole.

Here's what Harrington told BBC SPORT:

“Once you've won a few events, everything is about winning a major and the whole of your career is judged on that.

“Winning the first one is the hardest part and there's a lot of pressure, hype and stress about doing it. So to finally cross that threshold is such a relief, and hopefully I can now go on and win a few of them.”

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday: Q&A with Chris Lewis, author of The Scorecard Always Lies

Monday, July 23

This Week: Q&A with Chris Lewis, Author of ‘The Scorecard Always Lies’

What’s it really like behind the scenes at the British Open?

We all get to see the drama unfold on the golf course, but where is Tiger staying, what’s he doing to kill time and why would he say things like “the golf seems pretty unimportant” before the final round of a major he’s leading?

SI golf correspondent Chris Lewis spent 2006 shadowing the world’s best players and some of the lesser-known (but often quirky) Tour pros to write his first book, The Scorecard Always Lies: A Year Behind the Scenes on the PGA Tour.

I love this kind of golf book. Lewis is a fly on the wall, and although there are some mistakes (the book was completed in half the normal time), he takes you on an entertaining journey inside the players’ lives, on and off the course.

Author Q&A

Tuesday I'll post my Q&A with Chris Lewis at Down the Middle. Wednesday you can read it here.

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, July 21

Sweet Dreams, Sergio

As I write this it's 3 a.m. in Carnoustie, Scotland. Sergio Garcia is fast asleep. (Hopefully.)

Garcia has a three-shot lead heading into the final round of the British Open. He has led wire-to-wire with rounds of 65, 71 and 68. Steve Stricker, who shot a record-tying 64 in the third round, is his nearest competitor. Everyone else is at least six shots back.

Tomorrow is the biggest day of Sergio's career. I identify Garcia's toughest opponent and offer a final-round game plan at Down the Middle.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, July 20

Peter Alliss’s Baby Weight and Other Burning Questions

It’s Open week and people are scouring the Web for all manner of Open golf-related facts. For example, someone stopped by here this morning wanting to know “how heavy was Peter Alliss as a baby?” (Peter Alliss is a BBC golf commentator and was a golf professional who won three British PGA Championships and played on eight Ryder Cup teams.)

Unfortunately, all they found at the ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG was a story about Alliss’s matchplay secrets and how he beat Arnold Palmer in the Ryder Cup.

Being the curious sort, I poked around for more information on Alliss. I did find a very recent Peter Alliss Q&A at BBC SPORT Golf. It covered some fairly interesting ground, but Alliss wasn’t asked about his weight.

So how heavy was Peter Alliss as a baby? I can’t say with any certainty. I’ll guess eight pounds. Please chime in if you know the answer or have an opinion.

I do know that Alliss has been a golf commentator for 46 years. He was a baby for about one year, although some might disagree. I grew up listening to Peter Alliss, and like him or not the Open wouldn’t be the same without him.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, July 18

A Brief History of the Claret Jug

Silver and shiny with the British Open winner’s name engraved on it, the Claret Jug is the most prized and recognizable trophy in all of golf.

And here’s something you might not know, especially if you live on the western side of the Atlantic. While it’s commonly known as the Claret Jug, its official name is The Golf Champion Trophy.

The Claret Jug replaced the Championship Belt in 1873. Tom Kidd was the first Open winner to receive the new trophy; however, Tom Morris Jr., the 1872 winner, was the first to have his name engraved on the Claret Jug.

Following the 1927 Open won by Bobby Jones at St. Andrews, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club decided to keep the Claret Jug and present future winners with a replica. Walter Hagen was the first to receive a replica Claret Jug in 1928, one of his four Open titles. Harry Vardon holds the record with six Open wins.

The original Claret Jug is on display at The Royal and Ancient Golf Clubhouse.

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: The Open Championship Official Website)

Monday, July 16

Seve Ballesteros Calls it a Career

Seve Ballesteros announced his retirement today at Carnoustie, the site of this week’s British Open. I’m sure it’s the right decision. Sadly, Seve has no game left and apparently no desire. But it’s still bittersweet to see a great one hang up his cleats.

“This has been the most difficult decision of my life,” Ballesteros told the press.

Here are a few of my random memories of Seve:

*Seeing him in person at the 1983 PGA Championship at Riviera in Los Angeles.

*Watching him hit the ball all over England and Scotland while winning three British Opens.

*After a “Nicklaus” roar in front of him, watching Seve’s chunky iron shot find the water at 15 in the final round of the 1986 Masters.

By the way, Ballesteros turned pro at 16 long before our modern-day teen wonders. That’s 34 years in professional golf. No wonder he’s burned out.

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, July 14

The Art of Business Golf

If you want to learn how to improve business while playing golf, Scot Duke can help.

Scot is the president and CEG (chief executive golfer) of Innovative Business Golf Solutions. He authors a business golf blog and offers a range of publications and consulting services. He recently alerted me that his book, How to Play Business Golf, is now available at a special reduced price.

Find out more here.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, July 12

The Real Reason Jean Van de Velde Lost at Carnoustie

Or is it “van de Velde”?

CBS Sportsline spelled it “van de Velde.” So did the PGA Tour and the BBC.

But a slew of others have it as “Van de Velde,” including, Sports Illustrated, Down the Middle (shameless plug) and ESPN. (Actually, ESPN has spelled it both ways.)

I find this confusion about his name troubling. More on that in a moment.

Jean Van de Velde, of course, is the French golfer who would have won the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie had he made a double bogey 6 (or better) on the final hole. He made 7 and lost in a playoff.

OK, back to the name. This from Wikipedia:

Every year, the winner’s name is engraved on the Claret Jug before it is presented to him. The BBC always shows the engraver poised to start work, and the commentators like to speculate about when he will be sure enough of the outcome to begin.

In the 1999 British Open Van de Velde stood on the tee at the 72nd hole with a three-shot lead. The engraver could have been at work -- if he knew how to spell the name. (Is it little “v” little “d”? Big “V” little “d”? Big “V” big “D”?)

I think I'm on to something here. With the confusion about the Frenchman’s name, there’s no way the R&A could hand him the Claret Jug. (I haven’t figured out how the R&A engineered his final-hole collapse, but they do have mysterious powers, sort of like Harry Potter.)

And now we’re told that Van de Velde (or van de Velde) has a mystery ailment and won’t return to Carnoustie next week. Am I the only one who finds that fishy?

There are crazier conspiracy theories. Then again, I’ve been in the sun a lot lately.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, July 9

Pat Perez Interview at Down the Middle

I just completed a Q&A with Pat Perez of the PGA Tour. Take a look at Down the Middle.

Here's a taste, especially of interest to amateur golfers (basically all of us):

Me: You play in a lot of pro-ams. What general advice would you give to amateur golfers?

Pat Perez: Have fun with it. If you’re not doing it for a living or to earn a check, don’t kill yourself out there. Some Wednesdays I’m out there playing with the suits and some of these guys are really trying to beat me. It can be pretty funny at times. But seriously, people just need to get out there and enjoy the experience of playing on a tournament-ready course and playing with Tour pros. Don’t worry about your score. Enjoy the day.

Read the entire Q&A here.

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, July 7

Chambers Bay Golf Course Gets Rave Reviews


You might want to put Chambers Bay Golf Course in Tacoma, Washington (near Seattle), on your gotta play list. Ever since I posted about it in April, I have been receiving rave reviews about the links-style course perched above Puget Sound.

(My original post is here. Check out Chambers Bay here.)

Following is what golfers and caddies are saying.

This course is absolutely incredible. I live just across from the main entrance of the new course and have watched the course develop. When it first started taking shape, I had difficult imagining the hole layouts. Now, I feel like I am looking at panoramic shots from the British Open. RT Jones II really went all out – there is nothing like this in the area. One thing you cannot get a sense of from the website pics is the significant elevation changes throughout the course and the monstrous size of some of the dunes. Honestly, though, this will be a once-a-year event for me – unless I cut a hole in the fence and play 2 thru 17 only ;-)
“Unlike any course I’ve ever seen”
The course is beautiful. I walked the loop around it today. It is going to be tough! Lots of elevation changes and narrow, narrow fairways. The soil off the fairways is very sandy and there are quite a few sandy waste areas. This is definitely unlike any course I've ever seen.
“Potential to be better than Bandon (Bandon Dunes)”
This course is so unique to the Pacific Northwest; it's hard to compare it to anything. It has the potential to be better than Bandon in Oregon and the fact that it isn't miles and miles from civilization like Bandon makes it even better. I had the chance to play it the other day and recommend saving up to play it yourself...just don't plan on doing it in the near future, it's booked solid for a long time.
“Definitely use caddies”
Another caddie and I caddied for two guests yesterday. I believe they had an excellent time. The other pair of golfers in the same group used their own push carts. They commented to me that next time they are at Chamber Bay, they will definitely use caddies. Now that is a nice compliment.
“World-class course”
I played Chambers Bay on Monday and came away totally impressed. Sure it's expensive, but this course is still a good value because it’s a world-class course. I've played all three Bandon Courses and Chambers reminds me of Pacific Dunes.

I can't wait to see how this beauty matures over the next 5-10 years. This place definitely should be considered for a U.S. Open as it can handle a huge crowd with excellent terracing for optimum viewing. Oh, it's a great challenging course as well.

My only complaint was the slow greens. I was told they were stimping 8 and I consistently left many putts short. Overall, I can't complain cuz it was fun and I did manage two birdies on the back nine!
“U.S. Open in the near future”
I played golf at Chambers Bay on 6/27/07. This course is amazing! The walk is very long though. This course will be receiving a U.S. Open in the near future. The Par 3's are amazing. The greens are still very young and slow but the undulating setup gives you a lot to think about when approaching a green. This will be the best links course in the U.S., period. $150 a round. Have fun. It’s worth it.
“Bring a camera”
Chambers Bay is a gorgeous course – bring a camera! It's not gorgeous like some you see with artificial landscaping everywhere – the sand dunes and grasses are meant to look indigenous and there is only one tree on the entire course. It's gorgeous because it's golf in its almost original form. In Scotland, links are the almost-treeless “links” between usable land and the coast and they are open to the public, just like Chambers Bay. The 9th hole, Olympus, is frequented by spectators on the public walking trail (and one of the best views on the course!). Many other holes see spectators peeking between the dunes from the walking trail.

I agree with the previous post that walkers move more quickly than cart golfers. We had two older, disabled golfers in carts recently who were in a foursome with two walkers and the carts definitely slow things down, as well as detract from the total golf experience of having a caddy. Sometimes the caddy isn't there exactly when you want because he is parking the cart!

Although you can spot golfers without caddies there, I anticipate that more and more golfers at Chambers Bay will use caddies as word gets out that it is a very long course with some serious elevation changes. Unless you are in excellent shape (Ironman, marathoner, Best Ranger competitor, etc.) you will be exhausted by hole 18 without one!

Greens fees are about $150 plus about $20 tax (a hefty Pierce County recreation tax is added), and caddies are $35 per bag. Don't forget as you plan your trip to Chambers Bay to calculate the customary generous tip for a deserving caddy!

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, July 5

Oops! Armchair Golf Misquotes Thomas Jefferson

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Golf.”
(not written by) Thomas Jefferson

Historical note:
Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States.

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

Monday, July 2

Golf Book Cracks New York Times Bestseller List

Maybe it’s been there for a while, but I just noticed it yesterday as I was perusing the books page of my Sunday newspaper.

Tales from Q School by John Feinstein is No. 10 on the New York Times bestseller list (nonfiction). As many of you probably already know, the book is an inside look at the 2005 PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. Feinstein calls Q-school the fifth major.

I haven’t read it (yet), but I think it’s cool when a golf book makes the bestseller list.

The Armchair Golfer