Sunday, October 31

‘Miracle at Merion’ and Other Titles

A HEADS UP ABOUT two recently published golf books and a popular instructional DVD that’s been out since April. (Note: These are not reviews.)

Miracle at Merion: The Inspiring Story of Ben Hogan’s Amazing Comeback and Victory at the 1950 U.S. Open
By David Barrett
Description from Amazon: Legendary sportswriter Red Smith characterized Ben Hogan’s comeback from a near-fatal automobile crash in February 1949 as “the most remarkable feat in the history of sports.” Nearly sixty years later, that statement still rings true. The crowning moment of Hogan’s comeback was his dramatic victory in the 1950 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club near Philadelphia, where his battered legs could barely carry him on the 36-hole final day. Miracle at Merion tells the stirring story of Hogan’s triumph over adversity—the rarely-performed surgery that saved his life, the months of rehabilitation when he couldn’t even hit a golf ball, his stunning return to competition at the Los Angeles Open, and, finally, the U.S. Open triumph that returned him to the pinnacle of the game.

Opur’s Blade (Novel)
By James Ross
Description from Amazon: After the first ball is struck on the driving range, head pro J Dub Schroeder realizes that he has a child prodigy in his midst. Soon thereafter the pro shop regulars assign a nickname to the teenager. To the locals the lad becomes known as Opur because of his propensity to sink putts with an old, worn-out putter that was gathering dust in the lost-and-found barrel.

Tom Watson Lessons of a Lifetime (DVD)
(A two DVD instruction set and 16-page booklet.)
Description from The two-DVD set’s approximately three hours of content provides the ultimate Tom Watson learning experience, covering all facets of the game—from the grip to full shots, to chipping, confident putting and effortless-looking drives, plus specialty shots including those required in strong wind conditions. Watson shares lessons learned from his childhood through competition, and gifts from the great teachers he has encountered.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, October 29

A Fresh Start for Bill Glasson

IF YOU HAD SEEN Bill Glasson back in the 1980s, you might have mistaken him for a skinny Charley Hoffman. Glasson had long, curly blond locks. Before joining the PGA Tour in 1983, he was a two-time All-American at Oral Roberts University.

I read at that the “dude never wore shoes when he played [golf]” while growing up in Fresno, California. Glasson looks more like a surfer than a golfer in a 1970s photo taken from a high-school yearbook.

Turning 50 at the end of April, Glasson is one of the lesser-known players who has joined the Champions Tour this season. Steve Lowery is another. Both are playing in this week’s AT&T Championship in San Antonio, Texas.

Glasson was a good player who won seven times in a 12-year span on the PGA Tour. His best finish in a major was a T-4 in the 1995 U.S. Open, and he amassed nearly $7 million in career winnings.

I wrote about Blake Adams’s medical troubles earlier this year, but Adams has nothing on Glasson. Bill had a respectable career despite enduring 19 surgeries on all parts of his body, including his elbow, sinuses, knee, lip, forearm and lower back. By the time he reached his 40s, physical problems limited his play on the PGA Tour.

Now he’s back on the second-chance circuit. In 11 Champions Tour events, Glasson has made 10 cuts (with two sixth-place finishes) and is 63rd on the money list.

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, October 28

‘Doc’ McDowell Eyes Kaymer in Race to Dubai

Editor’s note: Brian Keogh is a golf correspondent for The Irish Sun and a regular contributor to The Irish Times, Golf Digest Ireland and other golf publications. The following piece is excerpted from his blog, Irish Golf Desk. 

By Brian Keogh

GRAEME MCDOWELL WANTS TO become Dr. No for Martin Kaymer and deny the German in the race to become European No 1. The US Open champion and Ryder Cup hero will be rewarded with honorary doctorates by both Queen’s and the University of Ulster for becoming the first Ulsterman to win a major title since Fred Daly in 1947.

But Dr. GMac is not ready to rest on his laurels just yet and he’s gunning to crown a career year by snatching Race to Dubai glory from under Kaymer’s nose. Determined to slash the Dusseldorf hotshot’s massive €1 million euro lead at the top of the European money list in this week’s Andalucia Valderrama Masters, McDowell said: “It’s been an amazing year but it is important to finish it off on a strong note.

“I am playing the next seven weeks with the first five of them counting towards the Race to Dubai. Valderrama is a great place to get the ball rolling but it’s going to be tough to make up a million euro deficit on Martin. He has a chance to go to No. 1 in the world this week and he is always a tough guy to beat. But I will be giving it a run and getting the head down and trying to finish the season really strong from here.”

All eyes will be on Kaymer at Valderrama, where a top-two finish would see him replace Tiger Woods at the top of the world rankings and become the first German world No. 1 since Bernhard Langer. He’s bidding for his fourth tournament win on the spin after sandwiching victory in the US PGA between triumphs in the KLM Open and the Dunhill Links at St Andrews.

But while his win at the Home of Golf helped him move close to one million clear of McDowell at the top of the Race to Dubai standings, the Irish star refuses to give up the chase.

McDowell said: “It’s been a very special, special year but I will enjoy my Christmas dinner more if I can give these seven weeks everything, especially the first five leading up to the Dubai World Championship.”

He’s fully aware that catching Kaymer will be no easy matter with both men set to continue their head to head in next week’s HSBC Champions, the Singapore Open and the Hong Kong Open before the climaxing Dubai World Championship.

As for his honorary degrees, McDowell said: “It will make my Mum proud. She never got a chance to see me graduate from college, because I never did. It was always a dream of hers to go to a graduation ceremony so this is the next best thing.

“When honours like that come your way it’s a surreal feeling and you feel a bit humbled by them. It puts what you have achieved in perspective.”

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

Wednesday, October 27

5 Flat Out Scary Golf Shots

(From the ARMCHAIR GOLF archives.)

HALLOWEEN IS AROUND THE CORNER. But if you’re a golfer—especially a tour pro who plays the game for a living—it’s Halloween every day you tee it up. Because ghosts, goblins, haunted houses and Freddy Krueger are kid stuff compared to golf. Golf is sheer terror, a gruesome monster that will eat you alive.

Following are five of golf’s scariest shots. (Note: The fright factor is on a scale of 1 to 10.)

The opening tee shot
Butterflies are common on the first tee, even for tour pros. That’s why you see hooks, blocks and all manner of tee shots until the jitters wear off. (If they do.)
Fright factor: 7
(9 if it’s the Ryder Cup)

OB right
Right-handed golfers who play a natural draw can somehow hit a push-fade when there are OB stakes down the right-hand side of the fairway.
Fright factor: 7

Any shot over water
This one always amazes me. I think, “They’re pros. No problem.” Then splash. Last year I saw a journeyman dump a wedge shot in the drink while leading the Memorial. And it happens every year at the Masters. Someone hits it in the water when you least expect it.
Fright factor: 7
(10 if you’re leading in the final round of the Masters)

The three-footer
I have a theory: The more you hate three-footers, the more three-footers you’ll have. Actually, it’s probably a law. Careers are made or destroyed by the short putt. Sam Snead. Doug Sanders. Scott Hoch.
Fright factor: 8
(10 if it’s to win your first major)

The shank
“I think he shanked it.” You don’t want Johnny Miller saying that on TV after you hit a 4-iron from a perfect lie in the middle of the fairway. Once it happens, it’s in the back of your mind on every shot the rest of the way. Even on putts.
Fright factor: 10


Is there anything scarier than playing for your golf life?
Fright factor: 10

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Ungaio/Flickr)

Tuesday, October 26

Jack Nicklaus Has No Use for World Golf Ranking

JACK NICKLAUS THINKS THE OWGR (Official World Golf Ranking) is nonsense. The OWGR didn’t exist during Jack’s playing days. (Actually, it came into being in 1986, the year he won that improbable Masters, his last major.) The only math the Golden Bear cared about during his career was wins and majors. No one needed the OWGR to know who was the world’s best golfer in those days.

“I don’t think it [the OWGR] means anything,” Jack told Edgar Thompson of last week. “How could it mean a lot? Tiger [Woods] is No. 1 and hasn’t won a tournament all year.”

Hmmm. You know, Jack has a point.

“To me whoever is playing the best right now is the No. 1 player,” he said, “not a bunch of computer rankings.”

That sounds way too sensible. Give me a formula that churns out a points average to the second decimal point.

Whatever Jack thinks, Lee Westwood is set to replace Tiger atop the world golf ranking on Halloween. And Westy has yet to win a major. Another hmmm. I think Lee will be the first non-major winner to hold the top spot in the world. But it’s a story because Tiger has been No. 1 forever. King of the golf hill is now murkier and slightly more interesting.

I think the OWGR matters to the modern player. Some players may say it doesn’t, but I’m not buying it. I’ve never understood the math (or tried to). Here’s an explanation from the OWGR site, if you’re interested. I do think the OWGR serves a purpose, providing a way to compare players who compete in various events on a number of worldwide pro tours.

On the other hand, it’s silly arithmetic if you won 18 majors.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: memoflores/Flickr)

Monday, October 25

Jonathan Byrd Wanted to Go Home

IT WAS A 6-IRON from 196 yards, but he played it like it was 185. That was the shot Jonathan Byrd holed for the PGA Tour’s first walk-off ace. It came on the fourth hole of a sudden-death playoff against Martin Laird and Cameron Percy at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital for Children Open. It was Byrd’s fourth tour win, and the $756,000 winner’s check doubled his season’s earnings to put him in 52nd place on the money list. That is much, much safer than 117th, where Bryd started the week.

What did Byrd have to say about doing something no one has done in the history of the PGA Tour? How did he do it? It’s not like Byrd is a hole-in-one machine. He’s made just one ace in a tournament in his entire career. That’s only one more than me.

I checked the transcript of the post-round interview. There it was.

“The only thing in my mind is I kept thinking, ‘You know what, I want to keep playing,’” Byrd said.

Of course you did. You birdied three of the last four holes to get into the playoff. You haven’t won in three years. Was there anything else?

“I obviously want to win the golf tournament,” Byrd said, “but I haven’t seen my wife and my kids in two weeks and I’m going to miss the flight tonight and we’re going to be playing, so that doesn’t sound too good.”

OK. It was getting dark and you wanted to get off work and go home to see your family. What a way to punch the clock.

“It all worked out as good as it could have,” Bryd added.

I’ll say. There’s nothing like drawing an ace to win a Vegas jackpot.

−The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, October 24

Tee It Up in Gulf Shores and You Could Win $2,000

HERE’S A GREAT WAY to support the Gulf Coast after the economy-crippling oil spill earlier this year:
Travelers heading to the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area this fall will not only be able to take advantage of idyllic seasonal weather, but will also have a chance to go on a $2,000 golf, shopping and dining spree during their visit.

All groups booking a customized golf package via for travel between Nov. 16, 2010 and Feb. 28, 2011 will be entered to win the $2,000 destination credit prize to be used on dining, golf shop items, area attractions and more. Packages must be purchased by Nov. 15, 2010 and include a two-night minimum stay. The winner of the $2,000 destination credit will be randomly chosen on Nov. 15.

For more information, prize details or to book your package and be entered to win, visit
With midday temperatures averaging 70 to 80 degrees, the Gulf Shores area will enjoy ideal golf weather for the next few months.

Nine Courses at Golf Gulf Shores

Golf Gulf Shores features nine golf courses, numerous lodging options and plenty of outdoor activities on its 32-mile waterfront destination. Here’s a rundown on the nine golf courses:
Cotton Creek at Craft Farms – Arnold Palmer Signature Design with generous fairways lined by Southern Hardwoods, undulating greens and a championship test from 7,028 yards.

Cypress Bend at Craft Farms – The sister property to Cotton Creek, the Arnold Palmer Signature Design meanders through cord-grass accented lakes which come into play on nearly every hole.

Glenlakes Golf Club – Scottish-style links course designed by Von Hagge and known for its extensive bunkering and postage-stamp greens.

Kiva Dunes – A “Top 100 Course in America” by Golf Digest, the Jerry Pate design is the only beachfront resort course in Gulf Shores.

Peninsula Golf and Racquet Club – This 27-hole facility offers chilled apples on the tee. The 830-acre park includes 30 lakes and fairways surrounded by the Bon Secour Wildlife Preserve.

Rock Creek Golf Club – Boasting rolling terrain and fairways lined by pines, the Earl Stone design overlooks freshwater wetlands and the Rock Creek basin.

TimberCreek Golf Club – This 27-hole design was crafted by Earl Stone and feels like an inland Carolina course with fairways lined by loblolly pines, dogwoods and magnolias.

The Golf Club of the Wharf – Formerly known as the Gulf Shores Golf Club, this was the Gulf Shores’ first course. Opened it 1960, it was redesigned by Jay and Carter Morrish in 2005.
Why don’t we all meet there and play for a week or two? We could play all nine courses. Yeah, in my dreams.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Source: Buffalo Communications)

Saturday, October 23

‘My Place at the Table’ by John Derr

I’M CONVINCED THAT JOHN DERR has more golf (and other) stories than any person I’ve encountered. The 92-year-old sports commentator has included many of them in a new volume titled My Place at the Table: Stories of Golf and Life. The introduction is penned by bestselling author James Dodson.

I came to know John through a mutual acquaintance a few years ago. Since then he has shared a handful of his memories with me. Beginning in 1935, John covered 62 Masters as a print and broadcast journalist, including the first 16 that were covered by CBS-TV.

(Photo: John Derr interviews Ben Hogan
for CBS Radio.)

In 2007, John won the prestigious Masters Major Achievement Award. I asked him at the time what it was like to cover the Masters in those earlier days.

“Exacting, frustrating, very rewarding,” John said. “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.”

When John said that some of the golfers were his friends, he was referring to men like Ben Hogan and Sam Snead. John walked every step with Hogan at Carnoustie in 1953 when the golf legend won the only British Open he ever entered. “John Derr is one of the few people I would trust to get the story right and report it as it happened,” Hogan said. Snead commented that Derr “could be counted on to get to the heart of the story.”

If you glance at the list of people John knew and covered through the years, it reads like a who’s who of the 20th century. John covered far more than golf. His reporting and life travels allowed him to cross paths with—ready?—Babe Ruth, Bobby Jones, Albert Einstein, Byron Nelson, Grace Kelly, Presidents Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower, Joe DiMaggio, Billy Graham, Mahatma Gandhi, Babe Zaharias, Bing Crosby, Rocky Marciano, Edward Murrow, Jack Dempsey, Richard Nixon, Henry Ford and every important golfer from Jones to Woods not already mentioned.

I have to admit that it boggles my mind.

“Just color me lucky,” John writes in the prologue of My Place at the Table. His memory and pen are still agile. The 100 or so stories in the book are told with clarity and a kind of offhanded charm that make the reader feel like that “one person” who is privy to an amazing little tale.

Available from Pinehurst Shop

You can’t get this book anywhere, or at Amazon—at least not yet. My Place at the Table is available at the Old Sport Gallery & Bookshop in Pinehurst, North Carolina, where John resides and still enjoys a game of golf with friends. You can contact the shop at (910) 295-9775 or

More info:
Derr’s New Book Is By Far His Best (The Pilot)

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, October 21

Arnold Palmer Makes an Arnold Palmer

HAVE YOU SEEN THIS? Arnold Palmer pours himself an Arnold Palmer, the half-lemonade, half-iced-tee drink he invented. The caddie is right there, too, in case Arnie needs anything. ESPN talking heads Scott Van Pelt and Stuart Scott are starstruck.

I have Arnold Palmer on the brain. Today I visited the Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History at USGA headquarters in Far Hills, New Jersey. It was my second visit to the new museum, which opened two years ago. If you haven’t been and you’re in the area, it’s definitely worthwhile. You can also tour the USGA Test Center while on site. The USGA is located just 40 miles west of New York City.

I also had the pleasure of having lunch with USGA Museum and Communications Director Rand Jerris. Rand took me to an Italian restaurant in Liberty Corner. We talked about golf history (big surprise) and how neither of us play much golf since becoming dads. We agreed that a lot has changed since our fathers’ generation.

It’s a problem for golf. Whether family life or other hobbies and interests, fewer and fewer people are willing to allot the time needed to play a full round of golf or devote the long hours to learn the game. As much as I love golf, I’m definitely in that category. It’s not that I don’t like to play; I just have other things I need to do in my current stage of life.

Back to the museum for a moment to mention a new exhibit titled “Swing With the Stars: Golf and Hollywood” that runs through Jan. 31, 2011. The exhibit features golf-related movie posters and black-and-white photographs of famous Hollywood personalities. To coincide with the exhibit, the museum is also hosting screenings of “The Greatest Game Ever Played” and “The Legend of Bagger Vance.”

Josh Flitter, the young actor who played caddie Eddie Lowery in “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” will be at the museum on October 28 at 6:30 p.m. for a question and answer session, followed by a screening of the movie.

More information:
USGA Museum on Facebook
USGA Museum website
N.J.’s USGA Museum aims to be ‘the Cooperstown of golf’ (USA Today)
The New Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History (Britannica blog)

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, October 20

The Caddie Who Writes Golf Novels

ONE OF THE JOYS of having a golf blog is the opportunity to meet (whether online or in person) people who share a love for the game. I’ve been fortunate to connect with all types of folks in the golf world, including authors such as John Coyne. Occasionally, these new acquaintances become friends. That is certainly the case with John.

John wrote me an email a few years ago about Ben Hogan, and since then we’ve corresponded, talked on the phone and met up a few times at places such as the Masters, United States Golf Association and, last night, New York City. On a weeklong business trip, I came in from New Jersey and John traveled from his home in Westchester County. We met at the clock at Grand Central Station and headed to the Algonquin Hotel for a glass of wine, then on to a nearby Indian restaurant for a leisurely dinner.

(Photo: John Coyne)

I better explain the title of this piece. John is a longtime writer and novelist who started out in the horror genre, in which he enjoyed commercial success and cranked out more books than some people read. Yet in recent years he delved into one of his first loves: golf. There are few golf novelists, but that didn’t prevent him from starting a series of caddie novels: The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan and The Caddie Who Played with Hickory. Both were published by St. Martin’s Press (Thomas Dunne Books). Another caddie novel is on the way.

As a former caddie at Midlothian Country Club in Chicago, John knows his subject well. Both of his published novels are set at Midlothian, where John worked as a caddie for many years. I learned at dinner that John became the caddie master at Midlothian when he was 15 and oversaw 400 caddies. They ranged in age from young kids to old men. Imagine that!

John’s job at Midlothian gave him an indispensable education. First, he learned a lot about golf. Second, he observed the many differences between the privileged set and working class that are detectable in country club life. (John came from a working class family.) Third, his job at Midlothian allowed him to complete college.

Another thing I realize each time I encounter John is that we both share a deep appreciation of golf history. And, as he reminded me last night, so does his brother. The name Ed Furgol came up—his brother once caddied for Furgol—and we laughed. Who but the two of us (and maybe a handful of others) would remember or know of Ed Furgol?

It’s always good to have golf friends. But a golf friend who knows of Ed Furgol is a rare friend, indeed.

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, October 18

Matt Kuchar Wins Ryder Cup (in Ping Pong)

APPARENTLY, MATT KUCHAR, a Ryder Cup rookie on the American side, is the man to beat in Ping Pong. Kuchar whipped everybody on both the U.S. and European teams, according to Melanie Hauser’s Quick 18 column at Melanie quoted a Golfweek source:
Golfweek reports that the man of the Ryder Cup ping-pong matches was ... drumroll, please ... not one of the usual suspects. Not Tiger Woods. Not Phil Mickelson. It was Matt Kuchar. According to the magazine sources, Kuchar took Peter Hanson—and the team’s deep pockets—in a winner-take-all match. “The Euros had no idea just how great a player Matt Kuchar was,” said Golfweek’s source who was in the team room. “At one point, there were thousands of pounds on the table.”
Kuchar posted a 1-1-2 record in his first Ryder Cup. The Ping Pong victory wasn’t exactly a suitable consolation prize, but at least it sounds like Matt offset some of the week’s expenses.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Dustin Baxter/Flickr)

Sunday, October 17

Four Hole Outs Spur Win for Rocco Mediate

WHEN YOU’RE 47 AND haven’t won in eight years on the PGA Tour, you must wonder if you’ll ever have another chance. In fact, for Rocco Mediate, who won the Open on Sunday for his sixth tour title, the challenge has been even more basic. Rocco has been trying to piece together enough good golf to regain his tour playing privileges.

Until Rocco got his improbable win in California, he had only collected about $140,000 in 24 events this season. His prospects were not looking good. But one week like the one in San Martin can turn everything around.

Rocco had a hole out on each day of the tournament. On Thursday, he made a hole-in-one on the par-3 3rd hole. On Friday, he holed out from 160 yards on the par-4 4th hole. On Saturday, he holed out from 111 yards on the par-5 15th hole. And on Sunday, after struggling early in the round and then dropping a birdie putt on 16, he holed out from 116 yards on the 17th.

“I had a perfect number,” Rocco said. “And when I hit it, I went: ‘Oh, that’s got to be good, that would be nice.’ And when it went in, I thought: ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’”

Four hole outs for four eagles. And he won by a stroke.

I didn’t see any of it, but I’m happy for Rocco. It’s been a bumpy road for him since nearly beating Tiger Woods at the 2008 U.S. Open.

“I have a job again,” he said.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, October 16

Name the Player at the AT&T National

WELCOME TO ANOTHER EDITION of “Name the Player.” This player is a veteran who has never won on the PGA Tour. The photo was taken at the 2009 AT&T National. Does he look familiar? Any guesses?

−The Armchair Golfer

Other “Name the Players”:
Name the Player in Silhouette
Name the Player at the PGA Championship
Name the Old-Time Players
Name the Player Practicing in the Bunker
Name the Player Along on the Range
Name the Player at the LPGA Championship
Name the Player Signing the Deal in 1971
Name the Player at TPC Sawgrass
Name the Player Based on the Shoes and Footwork

(Image: CM/Flickr)

Thursday, October 14

Colin Montgomerie’s ‘Blather’

I JUST READ JIM MCCABE’S piece titled, “Monty misses mark on European dominance.”

I don’t think the Golfweek senior writer is a fan of Captain Monty. Far from it. He begins:
At first, it felt like an unusual, late-season hurricane moving up the coast. But, no, the warmth was coming in from Hong Kong, delivered by Colin Montgomerie, a specialist in hot air.
The Monty quote that set McCabe off? This one: “We have always bowed to America’s dominance. But now we don’t just have Lee Westwood but also Martin Kaymer coming up, as well.”

McCabe suggests that Colin should run the dominance statement by Tony Jacklin, Sam Torrance, Mark James, Bernard Gallacher, Bernhard Langer, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Sandy Lyle, Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal. He wants to remind Monty of 1985, 1987, 1989, 1995 and 1997, a stretch of five Ryder Cup wins for Europe in seven tries.

Lee Westwood ascending to No. 1 in the world ranking is a big deal, especially since he’s dethroning Tiger Woods. But guess what? Four Europeans (the same number as Americans) have held the top spot: Langer, Ballesteros, Woosnam and Faldo.

McCabe, in closing:
What is important is to brush aside Captain Monty’s blather about Europeans always bowing to American dominance and this changing-of-the-guard nonsense. It’s disrespectful to the dynamic Europeans who more than 20 years ago changed the face of world golf and made possible the opportunities and the riches that now flow to their countrymen.
Monty, he’s right. It’s expected that you would be walking on air after winning the Ryder Cup and considering the sensational year European players have had (two majors and a slew of other PGA Tour wins). But can you tone it down a smidge? It’s gotten a little too silly.

On the other hand, you served up a column for McCabe. For that, you are to be commended.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Monster/Flickr)

Wednesday, October 13

Tom Pernice Jr. Refuses to Act His Age

THE FALL IS WHEN the leaves turn and PGA Tour players (and wannabes) scramble to get in the top 125 on the official money list to secure their card for the coming season.

Tom Pernice Jr. is one of those lads. Only Pernice is no lad. He’s a fossil, age 51. At a time when most players his age would see dollars signs flashing in neon on the Champions Tour, Pernice is intent on playing with the flat bellies a while longer.

“I still think I can compete against the best in the world,” Pernice told Golfweek.

The 28-year veteran missed earning back his PGA Tour card at the 2009 Q School by a single shot. And get this: Pernice took a double on the last hole. That is nightmare material.

In the 2010 season, he’s played 20 events on the PGA Tour, earning $573,551, and eight events on the Champions Tour, banking $798,410. Add them together and it’s a very good year. But Tom needs more of the PGA Tour bucks. He currently sits at 138th on the PGA Tour money list, so he has work to do to get his card.

This week Pernice is in the field at the Open in San Martin, California, which has a purse of $5 million. This week’s Champions Tour event, the Administaff Small Business Classic in The Woodlands, Texas, has a $1.7 million payout. That’s a big difference. But it’s not about the money for Tom. He’s still determined to tee it up with the young guys.

“When I feel it’s time, then I’ll go,” he said. “As of now, I’m not ready to go yet.”

OK then.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, October 12

Paula Creamer Rocks The Price Is Right

WHAT IS PAULA CREAMER doing with Drew Carey? And did Drew call her Paula Kramer? It sure sounds like it to me.

The U.S. Women’s Open champion appeared on The Price Is Right. The show aired today. Paula sank a putt. Then a contestant sank a putt for a car. And the crowd went crazy! (The crowd always goes crazy on The Price Is Right.)

Paula later showcased TaylorMade and Addidas gear, custom club fitting, and a trip for two to Palm Springs. Wait, there’s more! Yes, a trip to Orlando to play golf and have lunch with Paula at Isleworth.

It was all good fun. Watch out, Drew Carey. I think Paula could steal your job if she wanted it.

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, October 11

Golf’s Left Vs. Right Debate

Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Whiffling Straits, a golf blog authored by Mike Zimmerman.

By Mike Zimmerman

FOUR-TIME MAJOR WINNER and perennial world No. 2 Phil “Lefty” Mickelson is right-handed. So is 2003 Masters champion Mike Weir. And so, for that matter, is tennis great Rafael Nadal. Yet each of these guys has succeeded wildly at their respective sports playing from the sinister side.

What’s up with that?

Ever since I was a kid first taking up the game of golf, I was taught that the left hand is, or should be, the dominant hand in a right-handed golf swing. “You’re using too much right hand!” was my dad’s most consistent piece of advice. “Let your left hand pull the club through; don’t push it through with your right.”

How can that be? I always wondered. I throw with my right hand. I write with my right hand. I hit my annoying younger brother with my right hand. Why wouldn’t I use my right hand more to swing a golf club?

And, assuming it’s true that I shouldn’t, wouldn’t it make sense for me, as a right-handed person, to play golf left-handed?

That thought has haunted me ever since. And so when “Phil the Thrill,” the right-handed lefty, first burst onto the scene by winning the U.S. Amateur and a boatload of college titles (not to mention a PGA victory) as a young amateur, I assumed he was a product of just such a theory. Surely, I thought, someone must have groomed him to play as a southpaw with an eye toward testing this theory—and hopes of turning him into a world-class player.

The truth, as it turns out, is more mundane—but at least as interesting. When Phil was first taking up the game as a wee lad in San Diego, California, he learned to swing a club by standing in front of his father and literally mirroring the elder Mickelson’s movements. At some point they tried to turn him around, to swing the club like a proper right-handed little boy. But Phil was a stubborn cuss, and he would have none of it. So a “lefty” he remained, albeit only on the golf course.

But did it make him a better golfer?

The Case of Mike Weir

Mike Weir, being from Canada, has a different story. Like most young boys in the Great White North, Weir’s first love was hockey. A natural right-hander, Weir found he could swing a hockey stick more easily with his left hand low. So that’s how he played. It probably didn’t hurt that in hockey it’s helpful to have left-handed shooters playing on the left side of the ice (hockey players, am I right in this?), putting left-handed players in greater demand.

When “Weirsy” took up golf later, it only made sense for him to swing from the “wrong” side of the ball—using a partial set of left-handed clubs handed down to him by a family friend. Good thing, too. If none had been available, he may have been forced to turn things around—and who knows where his golf may have led him then. To obscurity? Or to possibly even greater heights? The world will never know.

“Switch-hitting” the other way (lefties playing righty) is more common still. From what I've read, some 15 percent of the population at large is left-handed, only about 10 percent of golfers overall play that way. This is not likely due, however, to thinking they’ll have an advantage that way; it’s simply because there are a lot more right-handed clubs sitting around in basements and garages. Often, lefty boys and girls are forced to learn on whatever equipment they can find—which far more often than not is right-handed.

This may explain why natural lefties Greg Norman (world No. 1 for 331 weeks) and Curtis Strange (a back-to-back U.S. Open champion) play right-handed. (The plot thickens!)

So certain questions remain unanswered: What role, if any did “the big switch” play in the success of Mickelson and Weir? (Or Norman and Strange, on the other hand.) Would they, could they, have succeeded as righties? Given the success of these four great champions, is a golfer potentially better off learning to play from the opposite side?

What do you think? Is there a potential advantage to be had playing from the opposite side? And if so, would it have to be learned from the start or could an old dog potentially learn this new trick?

Mike Zimmerman is a writer who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Visit his golf blog, Whiffling Straits.

(Image: Little Zey, Uncle Rich/Flickr)

Sunday, October 10

Martin Kaymer’s Quiet Golf Takeover

MARTIN KAYMER IS A SOFT-spoken German with the skills and nerve of an international cat burglar. On Sunday, the 25-year-old was spotted slipping away from the Old Course with yet another piece of valuable hardware, his third trophy caper in 56 days. He is the first player since Tiger Woods in 2006 to win three consecutive titles on the European Tour.

While Lee Westwood is poised to take the No. 1 ranking away from Woods, Kaymer is sneaking up on both of them. His victory at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship moves him to No. 4 in the Official World Golf Ranking behind Woods, Westwood and Phil Mickelson.

At St. Andrews on Sunday in cold and blustery conditions that produced plenty of sock hats and occasional over-sized mittens to warm hands, Kaymer posted a clever 66 that featured a birdie-birdie finish to win by three strokes. On the 17th, the famous Road Hole, he rolled in a lengthy putt from off the back of the green for an improbable birdie three. Then, at 18, Kaymer struck his approach shot from the paved road that crosses the fairway. The ball stopped six feet from the hole and rolled into the cup on the next stroke.

The German golf star flashed a grin like he had just cracked a safe and slipped the diamonds into his satchel, which, in a way, he had. The win was worth €580,046.40 and raises his season money total to €3,134,447. Kaymer now leads Graeme McDowell in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai by a wide margin.

“It was always one of my dreams to win here at St. Andrews,” he said.

Sure, why not? Martin Kaymer is checking a lot of things off his list in recent days. First major. (Check.) First Ryder Cup. (Check.) First win at the Old Course. (Check.)

In addition to winning the PGA Championship in August and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship this weekend, Kaymer took the KLM Open in the Netherlands in September. Except for a thrashing in Ryder Cup singles at the hands of Dustin Johnson, it’s been a near-perfect two months for the Dusseldorf native.

At the moment, Kaymer is the world’s hottest player. Perhaps he’s also on his way to being the world’s top-ranked player.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, October 9

American Golf Census: Be Counted, Win Cool Prizes

THE NATIONAL GOLF FOUNDATION (NGF) has introduced the American Golf Census to count the country’s estimated 27 million golfers. According to NGF, the census will improve the industry’s marketing and promotional capabilities. In addition, the information from the census will help policymakers better understand how golf affects the lives of Americans in various demographic groups.

$100,000 Plus in Prizes

To induce golfers to participate in the two-minute census, NGF has created the largest sweepstakes in the history of golf—more than $100,000 in prizes. Prizes include equipment from Callaway, Nike Golf and TaylorMade; dream vacations to Pebble Beach, Pinehurst, Scotland and Ireland; and golf instruction at the ANNIKA Academy in Orlando, Florida.

Grand Prize Trips for Two

Following is a listing of grand prizes only. (There are also equipment prizes.)

3 Days at Pebble Beach
Play 2010 U.S Open venue Pebble Beach, plus Spyglass Hill. Includes airfare, lodging and ground transportation.

8 Days in Scotland
Play The Old Course in St. Andrews, site of the 2010 British Open. Plus four other rounds including Kingsbarns, Carnoustie and other great courses. Includes airfare, lodging and ground transportation.

8 Days in Ireland
Play some of the best links golf in the world including Ballybunion, Lahinch, Old Head and three other great courses in southwest Ireland. Includes airfare, lodging and ground transportation.

3 Days at Pinehurst
Play Donald Ross’s most famous course (No. 2), site of numerous major championships and the 2014 U.S Open. Includes airfare, lodging and ground transportation.

Weekend in Augusta, Georgia
Once in a lifetime trip to Augusta. Includes event tickets, airfare, lodging and ground transportation.

3 Day ANNIKA Academy
Play 9 holes with Annika, get instruction from her personal coaches, swing analysis, club fitting and deluxe gift package. Includes airfare, lodging and ground transportation.

Every golfer who takes the census is automatically entered into the sweepstakes.

This really is a no-brainer. Unless you just don’t have a minute or two to spare. I’m counted and entered.

About NGF

Founded in 1936 and based in Jupiter, Florida, NGF is the industry’s knowledge leader on the U.S. golf economy. The foundation provides independent and objective research (market intelligence, insights and trends) and resources to 4,000 member courses, clubs, associations, media and golf-related businesses.

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, October 7

Inspiring San Diegan Triumphs at World Blind Golf Championship

LAST YEAR AT AGE 19, Jeremy Poincenot went from 20/20 vision to legally blind in two months. Jeremy has a rare genetic disease called Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON). As you can imagine, it’s changed his life. But it hasn’t slowed him down.

A full-time college student, entrepreneur, surfer, cyclist and nationally ranked golfer from San Diego, Jeremy won the World Blind Golf Championship played in England last month. The field consisted of 60 legally blind golfers from around the world. (Watch the video to see how Jeremy, representing the United States, clinched the victory.)

Bike Ride and Marathon

Jeremy was just getting started.

Following his golf victory, he rode in the Cycling Under Reduced Eyesight (C.U.R.E.) bike ride, a four-day, 230-mile bike ride from Santa Barbara to San Diego. The goal of the bike ride was to raise awareness and funding for LHON research at USC’s Doheny Eye Institute.

Recently, Jeremy recruited a team for the San Diego VisionWalk in November. He also will be running for LHON research, an official charity of the January 2011 Carlsbad Marathon.

A nice dose of inspiration on a Thursday. If something looks too hard, try it anyway and see what happens.

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, October 6

Sea Island Mafia Invades McGladrey Classic

THE INAUGURAL MCGLADREY CLASSIC tees off on Thursday at the 7,055-yard par-70 Seaside Course at the Sea Island Resort in Sea Island, Georgia. This coastal golf community is also the known territory of the “Sea Island Mafia,” a a group of golf mobsters who will exert their local influence on the second event in the Fall Series.

They’ve been ID’d as follows: Davis Love III, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Jonathan Byrd and Chris Kirk. They’ve made this pleasant corner of Georgia’s Golden Coast their domain. Several of them are represented by an outfit called Crown Sports Management. Love is considered to be the Godfather. They are armed with clubs and dangerous on the golf course.

(Photo: Sea Island Godfather / Keith Allison, Flickr)

Actually, Love, a longtime Sea Island resident, is the host of this week’s event. (Love and others are known as the Sea Island Mafia. I didn’t make that up.)

“The St. Simons/Sea Island area has been home for Mark and me and our families for a long time, and we’re extremely happy to support the community that means so much to us,” Love said at Golf360.

One by one, several of Love’s peers migrated to Sea Island.

Wrote Stan Awtry at PGATOUR.COM: “...many of the TOUR’s best players make their home, or second home, at Sea Island—partially because it’s a nice place to live and partially because of the unequalled practice facilities at the Sea Island Learning Center.”

Three of them—Love, Johnson and Kuchar—hustled home from the Ryder Cup to participate. One thing’s certain. Sea Island will be a much more friendly and relaxed atmosphere.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, October 5

My Ryder Cup Lament

THE RYDER CUP HAD a thrilling finish. For the first time since 1991 at Kiawah, the Cup was decided by the final singles match. The Americans roared back from a three-point deficit, winning seven of 12 singles matches, but Europe hung on to reclaim golf’s most cherished trophy by a half point. Both teams played with imagination, skill and passion. Congratulations to Europe. Well played, USA. You nearly won with a team that many said had no chance.

(Photo: Blue skies were rare at Celtic Manor / lhourahane, Flickr)

The Ryder Cup is the Super Bowl of golf. Hence, everything is scrutinized and many aspects of the biennial event are ridiculed, which I find tiresome. But in the end, it’s not about the uniforms or the wives and girlfriends or which captain is the best quote or rain gear or what Johnny Miller said about Phil. Those are all just carnival sideshows.

Yesterday it was as clear as that bright blue sky over Celtic Manor what the Ryder Cup is about. It’s about Europe’s 12 best going against America’s 12 best. It’s about playing for country or continent in a team competition that ends in euphoria or tears.

It’s about crushing pressure under which a 21-year-old rookie can birdie four straight holes for a half point, an Irishman can sink the biggest putt of his life in front of adoring fans, and a hero from the 2008 Ryder Cup can stab a chip shot that broke his spirit and rendered him speechless. It’s about the competition, pure and simple. There’s nothing like the Ryder Cup, especially at its best, like yesterday.

But my problem is this: Yesterday was Monday. Yesterday was a work day.

It was the first Monday finish in the 83-year history of the Ryder Cup. More than two inches of rain fell on Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales, from Thursday afternoon to Sunday morning. Play was delayed and the format was changed to get in all the matches. No one can control the weather, but the powers that be do control the schedule.

As we now know, October is not a good month to stage any outdoor event in Wales. (This was the first Ryder Cup contested in October since Royal Birkdale in 1965.) It was a prolonged rain delay waiting to happen.

The BBC’s Iain Carter got to the crux of the problem:
On this side of the pond the European Tour runs the Ryder Cup and the professional schedule. In America it is different. The PGA Tour runs the schedule and a completely separate body, the PGA of America, administers the Ryder Cup.

The match is not the primary concern of the PGA Tour, which has now taken over September with its Fed Ex Cup play-off series. The PGA of America has been forced to let go the traditional weeks where Ryder Cups have been staged.
Hey, powerful golf people: Don’t mess up the Ryder Cup for all of us.

If you want to build goodwill for the game and cater to fans—fans who work on Mondays—preserve the Ryder Cup in as close to its original form as possible. Do everything you can to make sure that it ends on Sunday for the next 83 years. Samuel Ryder would appreciate that. You are using his name, after all, and talking up the wonderful traditions of the game and these matches. That, or find a corporate sponsor and call it the XYZ Cup.

Find a way to play the Ryder Cup in late September and/or where it’s highly unlikely to rain buckets. You’re smart people. You can figure it out and still make millions.

Imagine if many more golf fans—and perhaps a few casual fans who might have tuned in on Sunday—could have seen the greatest Ryder Cup in years.

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, October 4

Graeme McDowell Etches Name in Ryder Cup History

Editor’s note: Brian Keogh is a golf correspondent for The Irish Sun and a regular contributor to The Irish Times, Golf Digest Ireland and other golf publications. The following piece is excerpted from his blog, Irish Golf Desk. 

By Brian Keogh

GRAEME MCDOWELL BECAME THE fifth Irish player to clinch the winning Ryder Cup point for Europe with a sensational 3 and 1 victory over Hunter Mahan in the final singles match.

The Ulsterman provoked a mass invasion of the 17th green he described as “bananas” as the American crumbled under the pressure in the decisive game of a classic Ryder Cup.

(Photo: Captain Montgomerie / Welsh Assembly Government, Flickr)

Two down and needing to win the last two holes to help the USA retain the trophy, the Bridgestone Invitational winner came up 20 yards short of the green with his tee shot, fluffed his chip in front of him and then failed to convert a 30 footer for par after McDowell had putted up to five feet from the fringe right of the green. But like Christy O’Connor Jnr and Philip Walton, he didn’t have to hole out for victory as Mahan conceded defeat.

Despite not being comfortable with his game all week, the 31-year old from Portrush showed just why he is arguably the gutsiest golfer on the planet as he withstood incredible pressure coming down the stretch when it became clear that Europe’s Ryder Cup hopes rested on his shoulders. Three up with seven holes to play, he lost the 12th to a par and the 15th to Mahan’s sole birdie of the day before producing the goods with an incredible birdie from 18 feet at the 16th.

Rickie Fowler birdied the last four holes to come back from three down to halve his match with fellow rookie Edoardo Molinari and force McDowell to win his match to win back the Ryder Cup. And he did it in incredible style with a brilliant six iron to 18 feet at the 16th setting up a birdie that left Mahan needing to win the last two holes to give the USA a 14-14 tie that would have been good enough to see them retain the trophy.

His left to right putt tracked perfectly, falling into the hole on the last roll to crush Mahan’s will.

“That was absolutely amazing. That was bananas,” McDowell said. “The putt on the 16th was stuff I have dreamed about all my life.

“The US Open felt like a back nine with my dad at Royal Portrush compared to this. I was really nervous - there was so much pressure.

“The putt on 16 was massive, and these spectators are massive. I had to get the putt going on 16, and it was the biggest one I have hit in my life.”

Mahan was crushed by the defeat and barely capable of speech at the US team’s media conference.

“I’ve played with Graeme before. I don’t even know what day it was. But he didn’t miss a shot. I think it was alternate shot, and he played he played great today. Didn’t miss a shot. Hit a bunch of key putts, probably the last four or five holes, and you know, he … that birdie on 16, after I got it to one down, was huge. He played …. he just beat me today.”

Padraig Harrington, who lost 3 and 2 to Zach Johnson, could have found himself in McDowell’s position as he played at No 11. But he was delighted to finish on a winning team for the fourth time in six appearances.

“Every Ryder Cup’s the same,” Harrington said. “It’s phenomenal. There’s nothing like it in golf. That’s incredible.”

Montgomerie paid tribute to McDowell, saying: “Graeme McDowell was put there for a very good reason. He’s full of confidence and that showed. That birdie on 16 was quite unbelievable.

“I’m very proud. It’s a very proud moment for us all here in Europe. They all played to a man magnificently, they all gave 110 per cent and that’s all you can ask.”

McDowell added his name to the list of Irish Ryder Cup immortals at Celtic Manor.

1987 Muirfield Village, Ohio - Eamonn Darcy
1989 The Belfry - Christy O’Connor Jnr
1995 Oak Hill, New York - Philip Walton
2002 The Belfry - Paul McGinley
2010 Celtic Manor - Graeme McDowell

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

Saturday, October 2

Captain Pavin’s Inspiring Locker Room Speech (Clip)

AFTER A SATURDAY SESSION of foursomes matches that gave the U.S. Ryder Cup team a 6-4 advantage over the European squad, the Americans stumbled badly at the start of Session 3 and were down in all six matches when play was halted due to darkness.

The team needed a serious lift, and Captain Pavin gave it to them, delivering a motivational speech that had them so fired up they were running for the locker-room door.

“There’s a tradition in tournament play,” Pavin began, “to not talk about the next step until you’ve climbed the one in front of you.”

“Forget about the crowds ... their fancy rain suits, and remember what got you here. Focus on the fundamentals that we’ve gone over time and time again.

“And most important, don’t get caught up thinking about winning or losing the Cup. If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be, I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the match. In my book, we’re going to be winners.”

Then Zach started clapping, slowly. Then Stewart. And Bubba and Rickie. And suddenly the whole team and the assistant captains were all clapping, louder and faster.

“Alright,” Pavin shouted. “Let’s go! Let’s go! Let me hear it!”

Goose bumps.

Captain Pavin Addresses Media and Heckling Chant (Clip)
Captain Pavin’s Picks: ‘My Team Is on the Floor’ (Clip)

−The Armchair Golfer

(This is an ARMCHAIR GOLF spoof.)

Friday, October 1

Rain 1, Rain Gear 0

ALEX, AN ACQUAINTANCE FROM Surrey, England, sent me an email today. “Not much to write about the Ryder Cup today. Why on earth did they think Wales in October was a good idea?”

That was at 6:08 a.m. ET. I was still asleep. But when I got around to checking my email later (and also learned the Ryder Cup had been rain-delayed for several hours), Alex’s message made me wonder about Wales’ relationship with Mother Nature. Turns out from October to January, it’s a stormy one. October is the beginning of the rainiest period of the year.

(Photo: Grounds crew member / McLeod, Flickr)

Well, that’s kind of dumb. But there’s more to the story.

When Wales was awarded the Ryder Cup in 2001, there was no FedEx Cup. The matches were tentatively scheduled for mid September (like all Ryder Cups), but the FedEx Cup, now in its fourth year, moved the date of the Celtic Manor Ryder Cup back a couple of weeks.

Hello rain, goodbye U.S. rain gear.

Maybe a company named Sun Mountain shouldn’t supply rain gear. I know, I know. That was way too easy.

−The Armchair Golfer