Tuesday, November 30

Will Allowing Cell Phones Increase Tour Attendance?

INEVITABLE. THAT SEEMS TO be the word when it comes to cell phones being allowed at PGA Tour events, perhaps as soon as the 2011 season. Cell phones were welcomed at the Wyndham Championship in August as part of a test run. From what I’ve read, the experiment was successful. No cell phone mishaps were reported.

Golf Channel has reported that there will be two more trials, one at this week’s Chevron World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, California. The other test venue will be the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in early 2011.

The reasoning, according to Golf Channel:
... the PGA Tour has been discussing the cell phone policy for several months and feels that, in today’s world, fans can become disconnected for long periods of time while on the golf course. Their hope is that allowing people to carry a cell phone while at a tournament will help grow attendance.
Cell phones, of course, must be silenced or set on vibrate. And a new policy allowing cell phones at PGA Tour events wouldn’t apply to the majors, which are governed by other bodies.

But would new cell phone guidelines add fans at tour events?

I’m not so sure about that. It will certainly remove an annoyance for current spectators and a potential obstacle to others who might wander out for an event. But a sudden uptick in attendance seems doubtful.

There are bound to be occasional cell phone incidents, and tour pros—especially those with rabbit ears—will likely claim to hear them go off, vibrate, etc. They’ll have to live with it because cell phones are here to stay. Keeping them off the golf course just isn’t realistic.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: KB35/Flickr)

Monday, November 29

Poulter Blunder Overshadows Karlsson Win

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

IT WASN’T QUITE DECIDED by the flip of a coin, but it will feel that way to Ian Poulter after he bizarrely lost the Dubai World Championship to Robert Karlsson on the second play-off hole. The flamboyant Englishman potentially lost more than €416,000—€303,452 in event prize money plus another €113,000 from the Race to Dubai Bonus Pool—when he marked his ball and then dropped it onto his “lucky” marker.

The “coin”—a custom-made platinum token inscribed with the names of his children—flipped over. And as a result, Poulter was penalised a vital stroke under one of golf’s most arcane rules, effectively turning a thrilling finish to the European Tour season into a crushing anti-climax. Instead of sizing up a birdie putt of over 30 feet that would have force the Swede to hole his four footer for the win, Poulter was left putting for a par five. Understandably, he left it short, and with the pressure off Karlsson needed only one putt to claim the €910,349 top prize and his 11th European Tour title.

Germany’s Martin Kaymer claimed the Race to Dubai from Graeme McDowell and a bonus of $1.5m as he finished tied for 13th with the Ulsterman on six under par.

But the story of the week was completely overshadowed by Poulter’s mishap, which cost him the chance to continue his fight for back-to-back wins following his Hong Kong Open success. Had he beaten Karlsson he would have overtaken Lee Westwood and finished third in the final Race to Dubai standings.

“It’s a shame it’s just ended the way it has and it’s not a consolation for me that Robert holed the putt in any case,” Poulter said after a play-off that saw them brilliantly card matching birdie fours on the first extra hole. “It’s a strange rule because if I had dropped the ball on the middle of the marker and it had not moved there’s no penalty.

“But I should not drop my ball on it. It’s been my lucky marker since the start of the year and has got my kids’ names on. There are always positives, but right now I’m not seeing them.”

Poulter feared the worst after his faux pas and heard the bad news almost straight away when he called over Chief Referee Andy McFee and was informed that he was being penalised under Decision 20-1/15. Asked how frustrating it felt, he did little to hide his disgust as he lost 23 world ranking points and the chance to go to seventh in the world, instead of just eighth

“About 20 world ranking points, a lovely trophy and about $400,000—that much frustrating,” Poulter said.

At first, Rory McIlroy was sympathetic to Poulter’s plight as he informed the world on Twitter: “So gutted for @ianJamesPoulter !! What a crap rule! Still great playing for the last few weeks!” Minutes later, McIlroy tweeted again: “Poults may not have won the Dubai World Championship, but he could be in with a shout for tiddlywinks world championship!”


Karlsson was a worthy winner after a final round that saw him birdie the first two holes and then hole an eight iron from 172 yards for an eagle two at the third.

“These things happen in golf. It’s not the way you want to win,” Karlsson said. “The rules are there for a reason but some of them can be tough.”

Despite his failure to secure the top-three finish he needed to overhaul Kaymer in the Race to Dubai, McDowell was upbeat after closing with rounds of 69 and 68 to share 13th with his rival.

“Friday was the disappointing day for me because I lost my head, got impatient and got frustrated with myself,” he said. “To shoot seven under par and play as well as I have this weekend makes me very proud of what I’ve achieved this season. It was a nice way to finish.”

With Westwood finishing the year as world No. 1, McDowell now believes that he too has a chance to go on and become the best player in the world some day.

He said: “Of course, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think I could be world No. 1. I think a few years ago, Tiger Woods looked pretty untouchable, pretty invincible, and we were all playing for second really.

“Nowadays is a little different. When I look at one of my good friends and colleagues as the world’s No. 1 player, do I believe I can be world No. 1? Of course I do.”

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

(Image: Harry Lime/Flickr)

Saturday, November 27

Tiger Takes a Bow in Thailand

TIGER WOODS, SHOWN ABOVE with Thailand’s best golfer, Thongchai Jaidee (far right), was treated like a rock star during his early November visit to Thailand for a one-day charity skins game that raised 2.2 million baht ($75,000) for flood victims. It was Tiger’s first visit to Thailand in 10 years.

Apparently, Tiger messed up the greeting with the Prime Minister.

“The Thai people adore Tiger Woods because of this family connection to the country,” said Mark Siegel, managing director of Golfasian Co. Ltd.

“However, they must have been a bit disappointed that he shook hands with the Prime Minister instead of returning his ‘wai,’ the traditional Thai greeting of palms pressed together with a head bow that is a sign of humility and respect. Not the stuff of international incident, but I bet Tiger heard it from his mom.”

Ranked 85th in the Official World Golf Ranking. Jaidee is two shots behind leader Ian Poulter heading into the final round of the Dubai World Championship.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo courtesy of Mandarin Media)

Friday, November 26

The Genius of Johnny Miller

HATE HIM OR LOVE HIM, Johnny Miller is a lightning rod in the television tower and was an immensely talented player who could match shots with the best players of his generation, including Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino.

In The Genius of Johnny, Jaime Diaz profiles Miller for Golf Digest (December issue). Here’s an interesting tidbit that I didn’t know (or had forgotten). John Miller was told by his agent, Ed Barner, to go by “Johnny” to promote his image. But he grew up being called “John” and signs his name without adding the “ny.”

I remember Johnny as a player who literally knocked down the flagsticks in the mid 1970s at PGA Tour stops such as Tucson, Phoenix and Palm Springs. Sometimes faulty, my memory served me well. Diaz reports that Johnny “did crazy-good things, like hitting the flag 10 times with iron shots while winning at Tucson.”

My favorite player was Jack Nicklaus, but Johnny Miller was the best iron player I ever saw. From January 1974 to January 1975, Miller won 10 times in a career that produced 25 PGA Tour victories, two of them majors, the 1973 U.S. Open and 1976 British Open. Johnny slumped after the mid 1970s blitz and has said he lost his desire to excel on tour as he and wife Linda raised six children.

Here’s what a couple of Johnny’s peers told Diaz.
Lanny Wadkins: “Johnny was the best I ever saw at hitting pure golf shots. I was very fortunate to play with a lot of the true greats: Jack and Trevino and Tiger, sure, but also Snead, Hogan and Nelson, who might have been past it, but not so you couldn’t see what they could do. But I can’t imagine that anyone in history has ever consistently hit the ball as solid and as close to the pin as Johnny did.”

Lee Trevino: “Johnny’s advantage was damn-near perfect mechanics. He had that extremely weak grip like Hogan, and he would set it going back and then just release it as hard as he could with total confidence. He didn’t have to re-route it or hold onto it or practice like hell, like most of the rest of us. Maybe because he grooved it so young, he was basically on automatic, where hitting the ball hard and straight and solid was actually easy. He got to a very rare place.”
Among others things, Johnny says one of his regrets is not winning the Masters, where he finished second three times. Wherever you stand on Johnny, Diaz’s profile is a worthwhile read. You’ll probably learn something you didn’t know about him.

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, November 24

Q&A: Errie Ball Turns 100

TALKING TO ERRIE BALL is like stepping into a time machine. Ball, who recently turned 100, was befriended by Bobby Jones at the 1930 British Open, the year Jones completed the Grand Slam. The Wales native came to America at Jones’s urging and took an assistant job at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. Jones later invited him to play in the first Masters in 1934. Ball is the only surviving player from that inaugural tournament at Augusta National.

(Photo: The first Masters, left to right: G. Sargent, Errie Ball, Charlie Yates, Bobby Jones. / Chicagolandgolf.com)

Errie Ball has seen and/or played with all the greats of the last 80 years, from Harry Vardon to Bobby Jones to Ben Hogan. I talked to Errie three years ago when he was only 97. He is a treasure. Following is an excerpt from our conversation.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: What was it like playing in that first Masters?

ERRIE BALL: The first Masters, they were having a lot of trouble getting it off to a good start. It was like a friendly deal. I didn’t feel too scared or nervous at all in the first one because it was more relaxed. Bob Jones made it that way. There was a lot of liquor floating around. Of course, in those days, I didn’t drink anyway. But it was more relaxing. When I played it again in 1957 it was a different story. It was really big time.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Bobby Jones was very instrumental in your coming to America and in your golf career.

ERRIE BALL: He was. I played in the British Open the year he won at Hoylake in England. Hoylake is my family’s course where they played, and they played Hoylake and my father played there. I played quite a bit at Hoylake. I think I played two British Opens on Hoylake. But the last time was about 1936.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Did you ever meet Harry Vardon?

ERRIE BALL: No. I saw him in the distance and watched him. My father was a good friend of Harry Vardon. He had a beautiful swing. I know that.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Some of the more recent golf stories that have been written like The Greatest Game Ever Played are helping people understand what a great champion he was. Most people barely know of Bobby Jones but Vardon was quite something.

ERRIE BALL: He was. It’s an entirely different game today compared to those days. They played all kinds of shots. There weren’t any 150-yard markers at all and they had to just play by sight.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Back in those early days, like you said, the pros made their own clubs. I think I read Ted Ray only carried seven or eight sticks on the golf course. So it wasn’t at all like it is now.

ERRIE BALL: You could take a five iron and play all kinds of shots with it. Go down the shaft, play the little chip shots, or shots into the wind. You could play several shots with it. It was called a mashie in those days.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I read you were the youngest person to compete in the British Open. In 1926, I read you were either 15 or 16 years old when you played in the British Open. Is that true?

ERRIE BALL: I’m not sure about that myself. The press wrote it up that I was the youngest, but I really actually don’t remember that. I know I played in it as a boy. I must have been about 16 or 17, something like that.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Was that in the ’26 Open or 1930?

ERRIE BALL: 1930. I played one time in the 20s in the Open, because Hoylake was fairly close to where I lived, where my family lived anyway, so we’d go over there and play.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: The first British Open you played in was 1930?

ERRIE BALL: That’s the one I remember the most. That’s the one Jones played in on the way to his Grand Slam.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Are you still playing golf?

ERRIE BALL: I’ve had a couple of operations, double bypass, which has taken me off the golf course and I haven’t really played 18 holes in two years. But I’ve hit a lot of balls on the practice tee and still give a few lessons. I’m feeling a lot better now but I think I’ll probably start playing soon.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, November 23

Player Caddies for Player on Ladies’ Legends Tour

MEAGHAN FRANCELLA IS A tour veteran who has won on the LPGA and Futures tours. But last week Francella was a caddie for 18-time LPGA Tour winner Meg Mallon at the ISPS Legends Tour Open Championship at Innisbrook Resort and Spa in Palm Harbor, Florida. It was an off week for Francella on the LPGA circuit, so she picked up her friend’s golf bag during the 45-and-older LPGA-member event. She probably would have felt more comfortable playing.

“I was pretty nervous on the first two holes because I didn’t want to get in the way,” Francella said at LPGA.com. “Meg doesn’t need much. She can hit all the shots and some of the shots she hits are unbelievable.”

(Photo: Meaghan Francella)

Besides helping a friend, Francella said she learned from watching the Hall of Famers, Solheim Cup captains and players, and other veterans in the legends field.

“She’s a really good player and should be a top-20 player on the LPGA Tour,” Mallon said about Francella. “Maybe this will be a great experience for her to watch these players this week.”

Francella has one win since joining the LPGA Tour in 2006 and is currently ranked 56th on the money list.

Thirteen-time LPGA Tour winner Rosie Jones won the 36-hole Legends Tour event with a 9-under total of 135.

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, November 22

Fla. Golfer Yells ‘Fore’ on Every Shot

WAYNE WRIGHT IS A 14 handicapper who, like a lot of seniors, is losing distance off the tee but makes up for it with a good short game. The 71-year-old retiree plays four times a week at a 45-hole public golf facility near his home in Sarasota, Florida. And, as of a week ago, Wright yells “fore” on every shot he hits.

The new on-course behavior stems from a lawsuit involving two doctors reported last week by various media. During an October 2002 round on a Long Island golf course, one of the doctors was blinded when struck by the other doctor’s golf ball. The blinded doctor filed a lawsuit against the other doctor for not shouting “fore.” The case is working its way through the court system.

In Sarasota, Wright’s deep baritone voice can be heard throughout the golf course as he warns fellow golfers on each swing of the club. The retired contracts administrator said it was awkward the first round—especially at the crowded first tee area—but is now used to it. He told a reporter that it has become as much a part of his routine as replacing a divot or fixing a ball mark.

Yet Wright did admit that repeated shouts of “fore” seem like overkill to the course’s other golfers and has had some unintended consequences. It began when the first of his three regular playing partners dropped out of his foursome five days ago.

“Wayne is a good player,” said Phil, who didn’t give his last name. “He hits a nice little fade down the ol’ fairway and has never hit nobody as long as I can remember. I hated to break up the group over it …. But other than that, Wayne’s a really, really great guy.”

Fred, the worst player in the foursome, was next to hang it up. He made it through three games with Wright before asking the starter to find him a new morning group.

“I promised Wayne I wouldn’t sue him no matter what happened on the golf course. I even offered to put it in writing if he would stop it.”

One person not surprised by the odd new approach on the golf course is Wright’s wife.

“Wayne has always erred on the side of caution,” she said. “That’s kind of been his motto ever since we’ve been together. Even though he’s retired, he still likes to review indemnification clauses in his spare time.”

Wright is down to one golf partner. The loud twosome has caused other morning groups to rearrange their tee times in an effort to avoid being within earshot of Wright. For now, the remaining golfer, a man named Felix, is sticking with Wright.

“The hardest part,” he said, “is when Wayne yells ‘fore’ on putts.”

−The Armchair Golfer

(This is an ARMCHAIR GOLF spoof.)

(Image: Dan Perry/ Flickr)

Saturday, November 20

Tom Watson Demonstrates Bobby Locke Putting Grip

SOUTH AFRICAN GOLF GREAT Bobby Locke was born on this day in 1917.* As Tom Watson says in the above video clip, many players thought Locke was the best putter of all time. Locke’s artistry on the greens helped him to become one of the greatest players of his day, winning the British Open four times from 1949 to 1957.

After playing exhibition matches with Locke in South Africa, Sam Snead suggested Locke come to America. Sam later said his fellow pros chided him because Locke was so proficient at collecting money from American tournament purses. Locke won 15 times on the PGA Tour and was victorious in nine South African Opens over a 20-year span. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1977.

Watson offers a few more tips on the putting grip (including the reverse overlap grip), as well as pointers on putting setup. Then he sinks a slippery 30 footer. Bobby Locke would be proud.

−The Armchair Golfer

*Today in Golf History is a daily feature of USGA.org (United States Golf Association).

Friday, November 19

Two Drawings for Monarchs House Stay in St. Andrews

THE MONARCHS HOUSE IN St. Andrews will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2011. They’re so proud (and rightly so) that they will draw two winners for a free weeklong stay at their lovely home at the Home of Golf.

The Monarchs House has seven comfortable bedrooms (beds fitted with Egyptian cotton sheets), all with modern private baths. The House also has a snug (small room) with SkyTV satellite and a historical selection of DVDs, a formal dining room and a drawing room. There’s also a replica of the Claret Jug on the foyer table as you enter the House.

The two one-week stays are each for up to eight guests. Two drawings will decide the winners: 1) for guests who stay at the Monarchs House in 2011 (they will be automatically entered); 2) for those who provide their email address and a comment about why they would like to visit St. Andrews.

Monarchs House drawings and contest information

“It’s a cracking prize with no strings attached,” said managing partner Mike DiCarlo in an email.

But you knew that. Find out more.

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, November 18

I Need Some Space, Tiger

JUST WHEN I FELT like I really didn’t know you, Tiger—and was OK with that—I don’t feel like I know you, but in a new way. I don’t know how anyone else feels, but in the last two days you’re coming on a little too strong for me. The whole reaching out thing has me off balance. It’s not you. It would be like you wearing a bucket hat and purple pants, or using a long putter, or hanging with Rory Sabbatini.

The op-ed piece in Newsweek. The Mike & Mike interview. The new Web site. I don’t know what to make of it. It’s disorienting.

Can we slow things down?

The three tweets about sent me over the edge. “The best part about phone interviews is getting to wear shorts.” C’mon Tiger. You don’t like to do interviews, period. That’s the you I’m used to. Try something like this: “I don’t like to do interviews, but if I have to do them I like to wear shorts.” That’s a tweet I could handle.

I need some space, Tiger. Things are moving way too fast. This flurry of communication is overwhelming.

But if it’s only a PR play, great. I’m hoping that’s all it is. Because then we can get back to normal.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Keith Allison/Flickr)

Wednesday, November 17

The Ladies Parity Golf Association (LPGA)

THERE ARE SIX LADIES vying for the Rolex Player of the Year, Vare Trophy (lowest scoring average) and the LPGA money title: Yani Tseng, Ai Miyazato, Cristie Kerr, Jiyai Shin, Suzanne Pettersen and Na Yeon Choi. The post-Annika, post-Lorena LPGA has a new and very crowded look at the top. That’s why I was thinking we could start calling it the Ladies Parity Golf Association. We know they’re pros, so why not use the “P” for something that fits today’s LPGA?

They’ll settle POY, the money title and other season-ending issues at the LPGA Tour Championship in two weeks at the Grand Cypress Golf Club in Orlando, Florida.

(Photo: Yani Tseng / Keith Allison, Flickr)

It’s been crazy since Lorena Ochoa retired in May. The top spot in the Rolex Rankings (women’s world No. 1, not to be confused with Rolex Player of the Year) has turned over nine times among three players—Miyazato, Shin and Kerr. Shin is the current No. 1 and holds a slim .49 edge over Pettersen. Kerr is third and Tseng fourth.

The money title has come down to Shin and Choi. In addition, Choi, with a 69.77 scoring average, has a .09 lead over Kerr in the Vare Trophy race.

If I counted correctly, there have been 15 winners in 25 events thus far. Miyazato, Tseng, Kerr, Shin and Choi have multiple wins this season. The LPGA is an extremely competitive tour these days. That’s a positive.

But is parity a good thing? Mega stars like Sorenstam, Ochoa and, for the men, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, have brought more exposure to professional golf, a minor sport that struggles for attention—and always will.

Parity can be good for core fans. I’m in favor of it. For me, dominance gets boring. But does parity make the LPGA a harder sell when it comes to attracting a larger following? Mike Whan might not say so, but I think it does.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, November 16

The Rules Geek: Bad Behavior Down Under?

Editor’s note: The Rules Geek is an occasional and potentially annoying feature at ARMCHAIR GOLF.

AN AUSSIE READER WRITES: Yesterday I was playing in a fourball matchplay event against an opponent well known for his gamesmanship. Talking loudly on the tee while you are preparing to hit is commonplace. At the first tee we identified our balls. I was hitting a Titleist 3 while he was hitting a Titleist 2. He made a big point of saying he always hits a 2 and never a 3.
As the match progressed and his side fell behind, the antics increased. With my side leading 2 up with 3 to play we hit off the 16th tee, an uphill tee shot. I hit my shot and didn't see exactly where it finished although it was in the fairway. He hit his tee shot into a similar area. He was riding in a cart and raced to check which ball was which. He announced that my ball was the farthest from the pin.

I took this at face value and paced out my distance and took a couple of practice swings before addressing the ball. I decided to check the ball and found it was the Titleist 2 and then checked the ball about 10 metres farther ahead and it was my ball—the Titleist 3.

To say the least, I was not impressed by this turn of events. I advised him that the ball was his, trying to remain composed. He played his shot to the front of the green about 25 feet from the hole. I chunked my approach to about 50 metres out. I managed to play a career lob wedge to a tight pin over a bunker to less than a foot to halve the hole. My side managed to win the match at the next hole.

Does his announcement, after checking the ball, that the ball belonged to me constitute “wrong information” under 9-2b?
[The Rules Geek sez: Rule 9-2b Wrong Information pertains to two main issues: failure to inform about incurring a penalty and incorrect information about number of strokes taken.]
If it does, a challenge at that point would have ruled him out of the hole with his partner still alive. If I had played the shot, would I have infringed the “wrong ball” rule or under equity would I have been entitled to replay my shot?
[The Rules Geek sez: Rule 15-3A Wrong Ball, which pertains to match play, states, “If a player makes a stroke at a wrong ball, he loses the hole.” So it’s good that you checked the ball before hitting it.]
This incident raises so many questions but it also leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

A followup message from the reader: I have lodged a complaint about his behaviour with the Captain. I accept that wrong information does not apply to the circumstances outlined being largely applicable to the number of strokes taken. The applicability of the rules of etiquette are applicable however. Although the behaviour would be sufficient in my view to warrant disqualification, there was no match referee on hand to make such a judgement.
[The Rules Geek sez: A breach of etiquette must be serious to warrant disqualification. Does this player’s gamesmanship and annoying antics cross the threshold?]
The Rules Geek sez rules were made to be followed. Got a rules-related tip or story? Send it to The Rules Geek at armchairgolfer@gmail.com.

More Rules Geek:
Juli Inkster and the Donut DQ
Phil Mickelson and the Proper Drop
Abnormal Ground Conditions Aid Amateur
Hunter Mahan’s Driver Replacement

(Image: devburch/Flickr)

Monday, November 15

Jim Furyk Snags PGA Player of the Year Award

CONGRATULATIONS TO JIM FURYK for winning the PGA Player of the Year, an award given by the PGA of America. Furyk earned 60 points under the PGA’s points system. Matt Kuchar and Steve Stricker each collected 50 points. Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson tallied 46 and 42 points, respectively.

Furyk ended a three-year drought when he won the Transitions Championship in March. That was just the beginning for the 40-year-old. He went on to capture the Verizon Heritage in April and the season-ending Tour Championship, making it his first three-win season in 18 years on the PGA Tour. He also won the FedEx Cup and its $10 million payoff. It was a career year for Furyk, and the player of the year award caps it off.

Kuchar won the Vardon Trophy, which is given to the player who has the lowest adjusted scoring average and has played a minimum of 60 rounds. Kuchar had a 69.61 scoring average. Stricker was a close second at 69.66.

In 2009, Tiger Woods won both the PGA Player of the Year Award and Vardon Trophy.

Ben Hogan won the inaugural PGA Player of the Year Award in 1948. Harry Cooper was the first recipient of the Vardon Trophy (named for British great Harry Vardon) in 1937.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Keith Allison/Flickr)

Saturday, November 13

VIDEO: Rickie Fowler Four-Putts in Miniature Golf

U.S. RYDER CUP TEAM star Rickie Fowler got in some putting practice between rounds of this week’s Children’s Miracle Network Classic in Orlando, Florida, where he is currently 10 under par. Judging from the video, I don’t think it helped him. Fowler four-putted from five feet. Those mini-golf greens are tricky.

“You know what I’m doing?” Rickie said in the clip. “I’m saving it up for tomorrow.”

It looked like he really tried on the first putt. Then it sort of turns into hockey. We’ve all been there. (Well, I have.) I’m also guessing that Disney’s Fantasia putt-putt course plays tougher than it looks.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, November 12

The Official Golf Ball of Mesa, Arizona

WHITE, DIMPLED AND ROUND, it looks like any other golf ball. But it’s not. The Dixon Earth golf ball is advertised as the world’s first 100% “green” golf ball, which means if you hit it in a gopher hole it will decompose without hurting the environment. I’ve had a sleeve of Dixon Earth golf balls collecting dust in my upstairs den since last year when the company sent it to me.

But here’s something else I just learned about the ball that sports a “D” with a crown. (At least I think it’s a crown.) Ready?

Dixon Earth is the official golf ball of Mesa, Arizona.

I’ll bet you hadn’t heard that. It’s certainly a new idea for me. The official golf ball of a city of a half million people. That’s pretty clever.

This winter Mesa golf courses will be selling the city’s official golf ball in their pro shops. Customers will be able to recycle their used golf balls with Dixon Golf for credits toward the Earth golf ball, which is manufactured without heavy-metal pollutants such as zinc, tungsten, cobalt, or lead. Dixon Golf discards the harmful stuff from the used golf balls and recycles the remaining materials so they can be used in things like playground equipment and field turf.

(Did you know that more than two billion golf balls are sold each year? I had no idea. More than 300 million golf balls end up in landfills or are lost in the environment. I understand the lost part.)

“It is exciting to see Dixon Golf’s research, development and fulfillment operations grow in our community,” Mesa Mayor Scott Smith in a statement.

I think Mesa is on to something. Do you have an official golf ball, Scottsdale? What about you, Phoenix and Tucson? Hey, this doesn’t have to be limited to Arizona. Ahem, Las Vegas. How about it Palm Springs and San Diego? Where are your balls?

If you think about it, the official golf ball idea could spread to municipalities throughout America. Dixon Golf has a head start. Cross Mesa off the list.

Finally, I don’t know if there was an official Mesa ceremony to recognize the company’s eco-friendly golf ball. The press release didn’t say. Maybe the mayor gave Dixon Golf a giant tee to the city. (Go ahead and groan. I deserve it.)

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, November 11

2010 Lorena Ochoa Invitational TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2010 LORENA OCHOA INVITATIONAL is underway at Guadalajara Country Club in Guadalajara, Mexico. Cristie Kerr is the first-round leader after firing a 64, a tournament record. Defending champion Michelle Wie withdrew due to two cysts near her spine and a bulging disc, according to Golfweek.

Purse: $1.1 million
Defending champion: Michelle Wie

Final field
Tournament website

2010 Lorena Ochoa Invitational Leaderboard


All TV coverage of the 2010 Lorena Ochoa Invitational is on Golf Channel.

Fri, Nov 12
4:00-6:30 PM ET

Sat, Nov 13
4:00-6:30 PM ET

Sun, Nov 14

4:00-6:30 PM ET

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Pablo Lancaster-Jones/Flickr)

Wednesday, November 10

Zach Johnson’s Caddie on Champions Tour Quest

HERE’S SOMETHING I’VE NOTICED. Besides being good at caddying, caddies are good at playing. Damon Green has that dual identity. Green spends most of his time on the golf course as Zach Johnson’s caddie. Not a bad gig.

But Green is also a player. After tying for 12th at the first stage Q-school qualifier in Orlando, Florida, Zach’s bag man is headed to the Champions Tour Q-school final stage next week at TPC Eagle Trace in Coral Springs. Green will compete in a field of 70 for five exempt spots on the 2011 Champions Tour. Seven more players will earn conditional playing status.

Green was leading the first stage going into the last round until, in his words, he “played like a caddie.” He shot 77 in windy conditions after solid rounds of 69, 70 and 67.

What happens if Damon gets his card? Is it goodbye, Zach, hello Bernhard, Freddie and the Champions Tour?

Not exactly. Green will still work for the 2007 Masters champion and play the Champions Tour when his employer’s schedule allows it.

“I’m still a caddie,” Green told Global Golf Post. Yeah, a caddie who can play a pretty sweet game of golf.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: gomattolson/Flickr)

Tuesday, November 9

Graeme McDowell in Four-Way Dubai Dogfight

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 RECKONS THE Race to Dubai has become a four-way dogfight following Francesco Molinari’s wire-to-wire win in Shanghai. The Ulsterman goes into this week’s megabucks Barclays Singapore Open €531,806 adrift of German ace Martin Kaymer in the battle to become Europe’s No. 1.

But with Molinari seeing off Lee Westwood in the WGC-HSBC Champions to go fourth behind in the world No. 1 in the money list, McDowell knows he’s got a battle on his hands. Disappointed to finish in the pack in the WGC event in China, he’s hoping for better against Kaymer and the in-form Italian in this week’s $6m (€4.3m) battle at Serapong Golf Club.

A poor 34th last week, McDowell groaned: “World Golf Championships are massive events and unfortunately I didn’t take advantage of that with a good week in Shanghai. I hoped to catch Martin a bit more but it wasn’t to be. And with the excellent performances from Francesco and Lee we have a real race on our hands.”

The top four in the Race to Dubai are separated by just €1m with an incredible €11.5m in prize money up for grabs at the last three events in Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai. The winner of the season-ending Dubai World Championship will take home more than €800,000. But with the runner up set to pocket over €550,000, McDowell knows he will have to cut Kaymer’s half a million euro lead in half over the next two weeks.

GMac said: “There is still a lot of money to play for so anything can happen. All I can do is try and play my best and if that means I still have a shot at winning the Order of Merit, great. I want to get to the Dubai World Championship knowing that if I were to win that tournament I can also win the Race—that’s the chance I want to give myself.”

While Westwood is resting this week, McDowell will be keeping a close eye on playing partner and world No. 14 Molinari. But there are other big fish looking to gobble up the €713,165 top prize with Masters winner Phil Mickelson and defending champion Ian Poulter also teeing it up.

Ireland has 10 men in action with Padraig Harrington gunning for his second win in the space of a month after ending his two-year drought in Malaysia just three weeks ago.

Harrington said: “The form is good. I’m looking to win. If I hole the putts, I’ll be competing on Sunday.”

The Race to Dubai - Top 4

1. Martin Kaymer €3,207,229

2. Graeme McDowell €2,675,423

3. Lee Westwood €2,362,143

4. Francesco Molinari €2,201,614

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

Monday, November 8

How Pete Dye’s Dog Killed Herb Kohler’s Sheep

Editor’s note: This tale originates with Monte Burke at Forbes.com. Visor tip to John Strege at Local Knowledge.

HERB KOHLER LOVED HIS black-face sheep that wandered Whistling Straits, the Wisconsin golf course that hosted the 2010 PGA Championship won by Martin Kaymer in a sudden-death playoff against Bubba Watson. (And, of course, the home of the bunker controversy that ruined Dustin Johnson’s bid for his first major.)

The sheep made the Kohler property on the edge of Lake Michigan seem more like Scotland. They also provided photo-ops for golfers. They even trimmed the rough.

(Photo: The black-face sheep of Whistling Straits /
Dan Perry, Flickr)

In advance of the 2004 PGA Championship, famed course designer Pete Dye was summoned to Whistling Straits to build an ambulance road. Dye brought along one of his Belgian shepherds for company as he mapped the road. It was a habit of his. Apparently, Pete loved his dogs. But a problem arose.

“I wasn’t paying attention to my dog,” Dye told Monte Burke. “And the next thing I know, that dog is chasing the sheep.”

Desperate to escape the canine, one of the sheep plunged into Lake Michigan. The dog jumped in after it! The sheep swam out farther. The shepherd followed.

“I ran down and jumped into the lake and grabbed the dog, but by that time, the sheep had gone upside down,” Dye said.


Steve Friedlander, general manager of Kohler’s golf courses, descended a hill and made a beeline for the course architect. You are in big trouble, he told Dye. Dye: I know. I’ll tell Mr. Kohler. But that wasn’t what Friedlander meant. An editor for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was playing the course and saw the entire dog-sheep episode.

Dye trailed the editor and approached him on the 14th. He asked the editor not to make a big story about what he saw, otherwise Dye could write the following day’s headline: “Herb Kohler shot Pete Dye.”

The editor smiled and returned to his mediocre golf game. The anecdote ran as a small item the next day, and Dye surely breathed a sigh of relief.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, November 6

Bill Pennington: 9 Ways to Putt

ARE YOU AN EXPERIMENTAL player? When you’ve struggled with your putting, have you tried a different technique or switched putters?

I’ve always been a decent-to-good putter who has never made a drastic change in terms of technique or equipment. The only thing I’ve tried on the below list was left hand low at a time when I was twitchy on the short ones. I can’t say it helped much. I only made the change for a round or two before abandoning it.

A friend of mine who was an accomplished collegiate golfer went to the long putter in his mid 30s and never looked back. I’ve tried one on the practice green just for kicks and felt like I was swinging a heavy broom.

I’m always surprised when I see a veteran tour player doing something new. I think, “Wow, what’s that guy doing using the claw grip? He used to be so good.”

Shaky 47-year-old Johnny Miller putted with his eyes closed at times when he won his last PGA Tour event at Pebble Beach in 1994. That sounds odd, but then I read that people with the yips have rapid eye movements, which interferes with brain/muscle control. That would be a good reason to take the eyes out of the equation, especially on knee-knockers.

Here are nine ways to putt shown in the video:

1. Lefty.
2. Belly putter. (Fred Couples)
3. Left hand low. (A lot of players)
4. The claw. (Mark O’Meara)
5. Eyes closed. (Johnny Miller)
6. Listen for it to go in.
7. Side saddle. (K.J. Choi)
8. Long putter. (Rocco Mediate)
9. Look at the hole.

How many have you tried? Was it thought out or an act of desperation? As mentioned in the video, whatever technique you use, it’s all about feel and confidence.

−The Armchair Golfer

On Par with Bill Pennington is a video feature of the New York Times.

Friday, November 5

Ian Poulter Debuts White Driver

COLORFUL ENGLISHMAN IAN POULTER has put a white driver in his golf bag. The novel stick is a Cobra Limited Edition ZL Driver. There will only be 500 ZL Drivers, each white in color and marked with a production serial number.

The driver has an adjustable hosel, and when Cobra (now owned by PUMA) says white, they mean 100 percent white. The club features an all-white Fujikura’s Motore Speeder shaft and an all-white Golf Pride Tour Wrap 2G grip. It retails for $625.

Poulter tweeted this to his 1,047,970 followers: “Played lovely today game is in great shape for the weekend. I hope you all like my New Cobra Limited Edition White ZL driver. It’s awesome”

Ian is playing in the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, where he’s carded a pair of 70s. He’s tied for ninth at the halfway point along with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington, Robert Allenby, Nick Watney and a few others.

2010 WGC-HSBC Champions TV schedule

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, November 4

2010 WGC-HSBC Champions TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2010 WGC-HSBC CHAMPIONS is underway at Sheshan Golf Club in Shanghai, China. Francesco Molinari is the first-round leader after shooting a 65. Lee Westwood trails by one after a 66. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson opened with 68 and 69, respectively.

Purse: $7 million
Winner’s share: $1.2 million
Defending champion: Phil Mickelson

The field
Tee times
The course
Tournament news
Photo gallery

2010 WGC-HSBC Champions Leaderboard


All TV coverage on Golf Channel.

Thur, 11/4
12am – 4am ET (live)

Fri, 11/5
8am – 12pm ET (replay)
11pm – 4am ET (live)

Sat, 11/6
7am – 12pm ET (replay)
11pm – 4am ET (live)

Sun, 11/7
7am – 12pm ET (replay)

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, November 3

Bam! Driving the Pyramids

PHOTOS OF RORY MCILROY AT the pyramids at Giza circulated a couple of weeks ago during the Egyptian Open. This one is my favorite. Young Rory has launched a drive that looks like it will split the pyramids (if it draws just a bit).

“Three years ago, I would never have dreamt I’d be able to do something like this,” Rory said. “It’s just really cool.”

Mark Tullo of Chile (and also a product of North Carolina State University) won the Egyptian Open by a stroke to secure full playing privileges on the European Tour for the 2011 season.

−The Armchair Golfer

Get great TV in your clubhouse with Direct TV Business.

(Image courtesy of Alan Ewens on behalf of Egyptian Open)

Tuesday, November 2

Afternoon Tea With Gary Player

SINCE GARY PLAYER TURNED 75 on Monday, I thought I should share a story about the Hall of Famer and one of the Big Three along with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

The problem is, I don’t have a Gary Player story. I haven’t met golf’s first globetrotter. I have seen him play on a few occasions. Author friend John Coyne had a terrific Player story, though. He told it to me when we attended the 2008 Masters and watched Player walk up one of Augusta’s fairways.

It’s 1969. You’re traveling through South Africa and decide to pick up the phone book and find the listing for Gary Player. There it is. You call and the South African golf great and five-time major winner (at that time) invites you over for tea. No kidding, that’s how it happened.

Here’s the story in John’s words:
I interviewed Gary years ago at his home in South Africa when I was visiting all the countries I hadn’t seen when I was with the Peace Corps. Gary invited me to his farm for tea one Sunday afternoon.

His father was there, a retired mine worker, as well as his step-mother. Gary’s wife was playing in a golf tournament. She, too, was a fine player, a South African women’s champ.

Gary had designed his ranch home so that each room was a collection of items he had picked up from around the world. For example, he had a Western Room full of saddles, horse gear, and wild west paintings from America. There was a Spanish Room, as well as an Asia Room.

In the doorways of his kids’ rooms he had a bar installed so that his boys (Vivienne and Gary have six children) could do one or two chin-ups entering and leaving their bedrooms. It is not for nothing that Gary is nicknamed Mr. Fitness. (He is also called the Black Knight for his history of always wearing black when playing tournaments.)

Gary was a poor kid who lost his mother when he was 8 or so, and started to play golf at 14 when his father took out a loan to buy him a set of golf clubs that he could play with. His father worked in the gold mines of South Africa. Gary had a brother who is a famous environmentalist.

Gary only finished secondary school and then turned pro. His father wrote a letter to Bobby Jones more than 50 years ago asking him to invite young Gary to the Masters, saying how great his son was, and it worked!

When I visited Gary back in 1969, he kept talking about the “winds of change” coming to South Africa as he led me around the farm and introduced me to his African workers, all of whom he knew by name. I was there, of course, during the apartheid years. It took over 20 years before apartheid finally ended in South Africa.
Player later said his views about apartheid began to change as he traveled the world. Nonetheless, many assumed that he supported the system. He had said so in his book in the mid 1960s.

At the 1969 PGA Championship in Dayton, Ohio, someone threw water in Player’s face. At the 1971 U.S. Open at Merion, he received death threats. That same year, Player invited Lee Elder to play in the South African PGA Championship in Johannesburg. It was the first integrated golf tournament in South Africa’s history.

In 2004, Charlie Sifford, the first black man inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, asked Player to handle the introduction. In his speech, Sifford called Player “my man forever.” A product of a racist system, it seems to me that Player had a genuine conversion.

Gary Player was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974. He has 165 professional wins, including 24 PGA Tour victories and nine majors.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Images: Keith Allison/Flickr)

Monday, November 1

Rod Spittle, a Win for Obscurity

ROD SPITTLE WON THE AT&T Championship this past weekend the same way Bernhard Langer and Fred Couples win Champions Tour events. Spittle shot the lowest score, a 12-under total of 201 that tied him with multiple-winner Jeff Sluman. Then he dispatched Sluman on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff.

But, if you’re like me, you’re asking two things: 1) Who in the name of Allen Doyle is Rod Spittle? 2) And what on God’s green fairways is Spittle doing winning a Champions Tour event?

Spittle, 55, had no status on the Champions Tour, which meant he had to play in Monday qualifiers to try to grab one of the three or four available spots in the small fields loaded with former PGA Tour stars. They used to call Monday qualifiers “rabbits.” Spittle has been a rabbit for five years. He has made it into five tournaments this season.

Thanks to the unlikeliest of wins, Spittle now has a one-year exemption on the Champions Tour. He also received a check for $262,500.

A native of Ontario, Canada, and lifelong amateur who played collegiate golf for Ohio State, Spittle left a sales and marketing career in corporate insurance to turn professional at the age of 49. His wife also quit her job, the couple sold the house, and they hit the road to, well, not glory and riches.

The Spittles did have some financial backers, but it was still a risky proposition, a choice the two-time Canadian amateur champion figured he had hundred-guessed.

Spittle’s best year was 2007 when he won $325,000. Last season was a big fat goose egg.

“We just kept plugging away,” he said.

The stability of a regular income gone, the plan didn’t make much financial sense. That’s the nature of some dreams. Today, Spittle is glad he didn’t have the good sense to give up.

−The Armchair Golfer