Sunday, September 30

Harry the Great

I’m reading The Greatest Game Ever Played, the book about Francis Ouimet’s upset of Harry Vardon and Ted Ray at the 1913 U.S. Open at Brookline, Massachusetts.

Author Mark Frost includes English golf great John Henry Taylor’s assessment of Harry Vardon. It really caught my attention.

Taylor lived until 1963. Having personally watched and evaluated every major player to come on the scene for over seven decades, including Hogan and Nicklaus, he never wavered in his admiration of Harry Vardon.

“Little did I guess when playing him at Ganton,” Taylor later wrote in his excellent autobiography, “that I was playing a man who would develop into -- in my solemn and considered judgement -- the finest and most finished golfer the game has ever produced.”

Granted, the equipment, courses and playing conditions were incredibly different. Still, I couldn’t help but be impressed.

Think about it. Besides playing alongside Vardon, Taylor also saw Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus (at least early in his career). After witnessing all their games, Vardon was still his man.

For the record, Harry Vardon won 62 tournaments, including six British Opens, which is still a record.

The Armchair Golfer

Down the Middle: Presidents Cup: Mike Weir, Canadian Hero

Friday, September 28

David Duval, Weekend Golfer

(Mark Kimmet/Flickr)

In case you haven’t heard, David Duval is back after a seven-month break. Duval is playing in the Viking Classic in Madison, Mississippi.

Good news for Duval fans, too. He’ll play the weekend after posting 72-69.

Duval stayed home this year due to his wife’s difficult pregnancy. Baby Sienna arrived last month and mother and daughter are doing well. Duval’s last event was the Nissan Open in February.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, September 26

Stricker and Mahan Lead Off for Americans in Presidents Cup

Steve Stricker is playing on his second Presidents Cup team.
(Brian Doyle/Flickr)

The seventh Presidents Cup begins Thursday at Royal Montreal in Canada. Steve Stricker and Hunter Mahan will strike the first shots for the Americans as they face the dynamic Aussie duo of Geoff Ogilvy and Adam Scott.

For a look at Stricker’s amazing comeback, head over to Down the Middle.

Thursday’s Foursome Matchups

Match 1: 1:15 p.m. -- Steve Stricker and Hunter Mahan, United States, vs. Geoff Ogilvy and Adam Scott, International.

Match 2: 1:25 p.m. -- Phil Mickelson and Woody Austin, United States, vs. Vijay Singh and Mike Weir, International.

Match 3: 1:35 p.m. -- Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson, United States, vs. Trevor Immelman and Rory Sabbatini, International.

Match 4: 1:45 p.m. -- Jim Furyk and David Toms, United States, vs. Ernie Els and Angel Cabrera, International.

Match 5: 1:55 p.m. -- Scott Verplank and Lucas Glover, United States. vs. Stuart Appleby and Retief Goosen, International.

Match 6: 2:05 p.m. -- Tiger Woods and Charles Howell III, United States, vs. K.J. Choi and Nick O'Hern, International.

The Armchair Golfer

Today at Down the Middle: What Will Steve Stricker Do for an Encore?

Monday, September 24

Jack Nicklaus Had Polio

(Gunnsteinn J/Flickr)

If I knew the Golden Bear had polio as a teen, I had forgotten. I read this over the weekend from a 2004 Golf Digest interview:

I had polio when I was 13. I started feeling stiff, my joints ached, and over a two-week period I lost my coordination and 20 pounds. The doctors thought I had the flu.

I played an exhibition with Patty Berg and shot 53 for nine holes — not very good for a kid with a plus-3 handicap.

My sister, Marilyn, was diagnosed at about the same time; the doctors deduced that she got it from me. Marilyn, who was 10, was unlucky. For a year she was unable to walk but eventually got 95 percent of her movement back.

I recovered after a few weeks, but I still may suffer from post-polio syndrome. My whole career, my joints have gotten awfully sore at times. Polio is just a memory now, but it was a horrible disease. I got it a year or two before Jonas Salk's polio vaccine was distributed.

The great ones seem to overcome all kinds of obstacles.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, September 20

Oops! Armchair Golf Misquotes Voltaire

"Golf is the salt of life."
(not said by) Voltaire

Biographical note:
Best known by the pen name Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet was a 16th century French author, deist and philosopher.

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

Wednesday, September 19

Drivers Used by the World's 10 Best Golfers

No. 10
K.J. Choi, South Korea
Driver: Nike SasQuatch Sumo2 (8.5°)
Average Drive Distance: 284.1 yards (T133)
Driving Accuracy: 64.71% (66th)
Total Driving Rank: T111

No. 9
Rory Sabbatini, South Africa
Driver: Nike SasQuatch Sumo
Average Drive Distance: 289.9 yards (T82)
Driving Accuracy: 59.14% (148th)
Total Driving Rank: 156th

No. 8
Sergio Garcia, Spain
Driver: TaylorMade r7 SuperQuad TP (8.5°)
Average Drive Distance: 294.2 yards (53rd)
Driving Accuracy: 56.28% (171st)
Total Driving Rank: 155th

No. 7
Padraig Harrington, Ireland
Driver: Wilson Dd6+ (7.5°)
Average Drive Distance: 293.2 yards (60th)
Driving Accuracy: 57.52% (158th)
Total Driving Rank: T146

No. 6
Adam Scott, Australia
Driver: Titleist Pro Titanium 907 D2 (8.5°)
Average Drive Distance: 300.9 yards (16th)
Driving Accuracy: 59.17% (146th)
Total Driving Rank: T49

No. 5
Steve Stricker, United States
Driver: Titleist Pro Titanium 905T (8.5°)
Average Drive Distance: 283.7 yards (138th)
Driving Accuracy: 63.73% (81st)
Total Driving Rank: T149

No. 4
Ernie Els, South Africa
Driver: Callaway FT-I (8.5°)
Average Drive Distance: 297.9 yards (30th)
Driving Accuracy: 56.99% (164th)
Total Driving Rank: T103

No. 3
Jim Furyk, United States
Driver: TaylorMade r7 SuperQuad TP (10.5°)
Average Drive Distance: 279.7 yards (T164)
Driving Accuracy: 74.37% (2nd)
Total Driving Rank: T58

No. 2
Phil Mickelson, United States
Driver: Callaway FT-5 Tour (8.5°)
Average Drive Distance: 298 yards (29th)
Driving Accuracy: 56.73% (167th)
Total Driving Rank: T105

No. 1
Tiger Woods, United States
Driver: Nike SasQuatch Tour 460 (8.5°)
Average Drive Distance: 302.4 yards (11th)
Driving Accuracy: 59.83% (T133)
Total Driving Rank: T31

(Note: Only Furyk, Stricker and Choi crack the top 100 in accuracy. Without a doubt, professional golf is a power game.)

The Armchair Golfer


Monday, September 17

Americans Victorious at Solheim Cup

Winning 8 of 12 singles matches, the United States retained the Solheim Cup with a 16-12 victory over the Europeans in rainy, cold and windy conditions at the Halmstad Golf Club in Halmstad, Sweden. It was the Americans first win on foreign soil since 1996.

“It was a brutal week,” assistant captain Beth Daniel told AP. “We had a young team. We told them every night that we were so proud. They never gave up. They never complained. No player ever came to us. No. They just kept saying, ‘We've got to go out and play and do the best we can.’”

The Europeans held a slim lead heading into Sunday's singles matches, but the Americans staged a strong rally. Especially impressive was Morgan Pressel, who defeated Annika Sorenstam 2 and 1 in Sorenstam's home country.

“None of us feel like losers,” European team member Laura Davies said. “We lost to a better team today.”

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, September 14

‘Ben Hogan’ Appearing in South Carolina

No, this isn’t one of those Elvis-type sightings.

“An Evening with Ben Hogan” will be presented on Saturday, September 22, at the Theatre of the Republic in Conway, South Carolina. Tickets are $16 in advance, $20 at the door. The box office number is 843-488-0821.

“An Evening with Ben Hogan” is a one-man show performed by George McDowell, a Hogan aficionado (and reader of this blog) who I’ve come to know over the last several months.

At one point in our correspondence, George sent me his bibliography of Ben Hogan. It rivals that of the Hogan biographies I’ve read. George has thoroughly researched his subject so he can bring Hogan and the golf legend's peculiarities alive on stage.

George’s Story

Ben Hogan is a fascinating, larger-than-life figure that captures the interest of so many golf fans. As I’ve blogged various stories and tidbits about Ben Hogan, many of you have contacted me with some interesting Hogan connection.

George was one of the first, and I think you’ll enjoy his story – how he got into golf and how he came to Ben Hogan and doing the show.

I took up golf at age 50, but the game interfered with my thriving law practice. Soon, the thriving law practice interfered with the game.

After a few snowy winters in Baltimore, I realized I could no longer tolerate months without being able to play. So I rented a house in Florida for the winter. I had to make money to afford maintaining two places, but a straight job would cut into the time I wanted to play golf.

I hit on the idea of doing the one-man-show. I could practice it and put it on at night, and it wouldn't interfere with golf in the daylight. I'm the same height, weight, and build as was Hogan, and I sort of look like him.

There are hundreds of country clubs around Tampa, and I put it on in a few. After a couple of shows, I began to feel that I really understood Hogan and what made him tick.

I used to translate ancient Greek texts, mostly mathematics, but some philosophy as well. To properly put in English what these very smart guys (Euclid, Archimedes, Plato, etc.) meant, it's necessary to fully immerse in what they are talking about.

For me, at least, more dogged and determined than smart or intuitive, I struggle with possible meanings, rattle them around in my head, even drink some beer at them, until a bright burst of crystal clarity comes, and I know for absolute certain I understand the concept under consideration. Then I try to add a little beauty and poetry to the words in English.

And this is what happened to me with Hogan. I've studied him so much, I understand the man.

I haven’t seen the show, but I hope to in the near future. If you live near or happen to be in the Myrtle Beach area, make plans to attend. And if you get a chance to meet George McDowell, tell him The Armchair Golfer sent you.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, September 12

Q&A: Paula Creamer, U.S. Solheim Cup Team Member

(Nicole Gottwald/Flickr)

The Solheim Cup, the Ryder Cup-type competition for women professionals, will tee off on Friday in Halmstad, Sweden. The three-day team competition pitting U.S. players against European players will feature foursomes, four-ball and singles matches.

Leading the Americans into action will be the ebullient Paula Creamer, the top points earner on the U.S. team. In Creamer's first Solheim Cup appearance as an LPGA Toour rookie in 2005, she posted an impressive 3-1-1 record in a U.S. victory.

Creamer won her third LPGA Tour title at the SBS Open at Turtle Bay in February, and is currently No. 7 in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings.

Last week Paula answered my questions about the current season and her plans and goals for the near future.

Armchair Golf: What are your 2007 highlights (so far)?

Paula Creamer: This year has been pretty good overall so far. I'm glad to have gotten back in the winner's circle -- and early on! I'm also pleased with the number of times I've put myself into contention this year. Of course, playing at the Old Course at St. Andrews for the Ricoh Women's British Open was a big highlight of the year so far.

Armchair Golf: Twenty years from now, what do you think will be your top memories from your first tournament at St. Andrews?

Paula Creamer: I think the fact that my 21st birthday fell on the Sunday (final round) will always remain with me as a terrific memory. The scoreboard at the 1st/18th hole had a happy birthday wish for me, which was special!

Armchair Golf: You had great success in your first Solheim Cup. What is your approach to match play and team competition?

Paula Creamer: I love team competitions, but more importantly, I love representing the USA! Even though we all have our individual matches, we are one as a team. That's pretty cool.

Armchair Golf: What part of your game needs the most attention right now? What are you working on?

Paula Creamer: Iím working a lot on my short game. Chipping and putting.

Armchair Golf: This is year three as a pro. What have you learned this year that you didn't learn in your rookie and sophomore seasons?

Paula Creamer: Iím getting a lot better with my time management now.

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

Paula Creamer: I don't know the exact number off the top of my head, but I think I have about eight or nine events left.

Armchair Golf: What are your plans for the off season?

Paula Creamer: Keeping myself fit, visiting some friends and family, getting my new home in order, working on my game.

Armchair Golf: Fill in the blank. Next year in golf I want to ...

Paula Creamer: WIN MAJORS!

Armchair Golf: Just to do some in-depth reporting on your favorite color, do you have any preferred shades of pink or do you like them equally?

Paula Creamer: Any shade of pink is fine with me! It's such a great color.

Armchair Golf: Any other comments?

Paula Creamer: GO USA!

Monday, September 10

Justin Rose Continues Climb

Playing yesterday in the shadow of Tiger Woods, Justin Rose had another solid finish at the BMW Championship.

As reported by BBC SPORT, the 27-year-old Rose is now Britain’s top golfer, climbing to No. 13 in the world rankings. Rose overtook Englishman Luke Donald who said he has been struggling with his game in recent weeks.

Padraig Harrington (7th) and Sergio Garcia (11th) are the only Europeans ahead of Rose in the world rankings.

Rose seems like he’s been around forever. That’s because, in a way, he has. Justin turned pro at 18 the day after making quite a splash at the 1998 British Open at Royal Birkdale. Rose finished fourth in that Open while playing as an amateur.

Now Rose appears to have the skills and maturity to win a major. And Harrington’s win at Carnoustie can only serve as encouragement.

Today at Down the Middle:
TW, the Ultimate Golfing Machine

Paula Creamer Q&A:
Tomorrow at Down the Middle. Here on Wednesday.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, September 6

Solheim Cup Preview

The Solheim Cup, the Ryder Cup type competition for women professionals, will be played next week in Halmstad, Sweden.

Early next week I will publish a Q&A with Paula Creamer, the top points earner on the U.S. team. Following are some particulars.

U.S. Solheim Cup Team:
Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Morgan Pressel, Juli Inkster, Stacy Prammanasudh, Pat Hurst, Natalie Gulbis, Brittany Lincicome, Angela Stanford,Sherri Steinhauer, Nicole Castrale and Laura Diaz. (Coach: Betsy King)

European Solheim Cup Team:
Gwladys Nocera, Trish Johnson, Bettina Hauert, Laura Davies, Becky Brewerton, Annika Sorenstam, Suzann Pettersen, Catriona Matthew, Sophie Gustafson, Maria Hjorth, Iben Tinning and Linda Wessberg. (Coach: Helen Alfredsson)

Halmstad Country Club
Par: 36-36, 72
Yardage: 6,615

Three-day competition – Friday and Saturday, four foursomes matches and four four-ball matches each day; Sunday, 12 singles matches

Defending champion: United States Team

Victory margin: Defeated the European Team 15 ½ to 12 ½

TV Times:
Golf Channel
Sept. 13 11 a.m.-12 p.m. (Opening ceremonies)
Sept. 14-15 2 a.m.-12 p.m.
Sept. 16 4-10 a.m.
(All times Eastern)

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, September 4

Gay Brewer Loved Augusta National

1967 Masters champion Gay Brewer once said, “If they've got an Augusta National in heaven, that's where I want to go.”

Perhaps Brewer, who died last Friday after a bout with lung cancer, is playing Amen Corner today. He was 75.

I was fortunate to meet Gay Brewer in April at the Legends of Golf in Savannah, Ga. The 11-time PGA Tour winner was sitting beside Bobby Nichols in the players’ dining room. I walked up and asked Brewer if I could shake the hand of a Masters champion.

Gay grasped my hand and then said I’ll tell you something you don’t know. What’s that? I asked. I was the one who broke the Masters win streak of the big boys, he related.

Brewer was referring to the seven-year run from 1960 to 1966 during which the Masters was won by the Big Three of golf: Arnold Palmer (three times), Jack Nicklaus (three times) and Gary Player (one time).

In 1967 Gay Brewer started a new string of Masters winners. Following Brewer’s victory with wins were Bob Goalby (1968), George Archer (1969), Billy Casper (1970) and Charles Coody (1971). Because of his fondness for Augusta National, it was fitting that the Masters was Brewer’s only major.

The Armchair Golfer