Monday, January 31

The High School Golf Swing of Bubba Watson

A Bubba Watson original at the season opener in Hawaii.

CBS’S PETER KOSTIS DOES A good job on swing analyses. Whereas other golf talking heads sound like they’re blowing smoke, Kostis, as I’ve written, hypnotizes me. He just sounds believable.

But, as I learned yesterday watching the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open, even Kostis struggles to put Bubba Watson’s swing into words. I sympathize. Bubba’s action defies explanation. It just works. Watson had all the shots in his bag this past weekend as he cruised to his second career victory at Torrey Pines.

Not long before Kostis and crew took a slo-mo look at Bubba, Kostis analyzed the swing of Bob Hope Classic winner Jhonattan Vegas. Vegas contended to the very end on Sunday before dumping his second shot into the pond that fronts the 18th green. Vegas’ swing looks like it’s out of a golf instruction book. Kostis drew two lines and a triangle, explaining how Vegas was on plane and returned the club to the same position and angle as at address. Or something like that. The point is, Johnny’s swing is near perfection. Kostis was like a college anatomy professor explaining how and why it works.

After Bubba launched a 363-yard drive on the par-5 13th, Kostis took a swing-vision gander at the lefty from Bagdad, Florida. I can’t remember much of what he said. I just remember thinking he was at a loss for words. Bubba is unconventional, to say the least. It’s fairly easy to see at full speed. He has an open stance and a big loopy swing with a follow through that always has me wondering where the ball is going. In slow motion, it’s crazy. On the backswing—dare I say the longest backswing on tour?—the clubhead is pointing at the ground. And on the downswing, just before impact, Bubba is up on the toes of both feet!

I think I figured out why Bubba can’t be explained with lines and triangles and such. He has a high school golf swing. It’s not a knock. It means he’s untouched, intuitive and creative. He’s never had a lesson or a swing coach. He says he never will.

A high school golf swing is long, natural, athletic. I saw lots of them when I played for Palmdale High in California. They’re raw, loopy, wristy and powerful. High school golfers who advance in the game usually shorten and refine their swings as they grow and mature. They adopt “positions” and shed the untamed golf swings of their youth. (I used to have a backswing as long as John Daly—when I was 14. Now I can’t turn past parallel.)

Bubba is self taught, unchanged. He’s refined a one-of-a-kind swing that busts 350-yard drives and curves shots 30 yards to the left or right.

“I’ll never change from that,” he told SI’s Farrell Evans last year. “I’ll keep playing golf the way I know how to play it and hopefully that will keep me on tour.”

I think Bubba is going to be around for a while.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, January 29

Hank and Rush

AGAINST MY BETTER JUDGMENT, I watched the premiere episode (a repeat) of The Haney Project Rush Limbaugh. It was my first look at the new season. To my surprise, I got a small bang out of it.

A digression: I said against my better judgment because The Haney Project is not my brand of cereal. Nothing against Hank. I just don’t go in for that type of golf programming. I mostly stick to tournament coverage. I did watch a few of the Charles Barkley episodes. Charles is so unfiltered and the most bizarre ex-basketball golfer who ever lived. I passed on Ray Romano.

Hank and Rush were not appointment TV. It came on after Friday’s coverage of the Farmers Insurance Open and I didn’t change the channel. (The Haney Project Rush Limbaugh airs on Golf Channel on Tuesdays at 9pm ET.)

The first episode could be summed up this way: Rush has zero confidence in his golf abilities. He is also suspicious of instructors. Nothing has ever worked for him. He is clueless and freely admits it.

Rush is said to be an 18 handicap. His golf pals, one of which is former Kansas City Royals baseball star George Brett, thinks Rush has it in him to be a 9 or 10. This is what friends are for—to see your potential or to be totally delusional. It’s a very fine line. If Rush is an 18, then I’m a scratch golfer.

But I agreed with Hank’s diagnosis of Rush the golfer. Rush has something to work with. His swing wasn’t bad. In Rush’s words, he was striping it on the range. (Don’t we all?) I could see him as a legit 18 in short order. From there, who knows?

By the way, Brett, who bats left, has a sweet golf swing. Don’t play him for money.

Hank thinks he can fix Rush. He wants to work on Limbaugh’s head. Good luck with that. I’m telling you, there’s not a positive golf thought in there. Not one. Godspeed, Hank.

During the episode, Rush said golf is the only thing about which he thinks everybody knows more than he does.

Thank you, Golf. My love for you is reaffirmed.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, January 28

New Mexico Golfer Wins Limited Edition Print of Ben Hogan

CHIP BECKNER OF ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico, is the lucky winner of the drawing for the Steven Anthony Salerno limited edition print of Ben Hogan shown at right. The golf artist graciously offered to give away the print at ARMCHAIR GOLF to celebrate the introduction of his Arnold Palmer and Seve Ballesteros limited edition prints, which you can preview at his online gallery.

Chip will receive the Hogan print, numbered and signed by Steven, along with a Certificate of Authenticity. I asked Chip to share his thoughts on winning, Hogan and his golf habits:
Woohoo! I’m excited to win this beautiful and inspiring print. I’ll be proud to hang it over my dresser or in the living room where I can see it daily and be reminded of it’s message. Steven Anthony Salerno really captures the movement and spirit of the player and the game in an artful way.

Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson have always been larger than life figures to me. They were near the age of 50 when I was born, so they were already legends. I can remember men debating who was the best of the three. I take each on his own merits: Ben for his incredible drive and determination, Sam for his outstanding athleticism, and Byron, my favorite, for his winning streak and for being such a gentleman.

I played golf all through my teenage years and well into my twenties. But, career and a family put an end to time for golf. I took a hiatus for twenty-two years or so. Three years ago, I took the game back up and am really enjoying it. I belong to two men’s clubs and play in plenty of tournaments.

Thank you, Steven, for this awesome prize. I will cherish it.
And I’d like to thank all the readers who entered the drawing and regularly pass by this way. Keep coming back!

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, January 27

2011 Farmers Insurance Open TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2011 FARMERS INSURANCE OPEN is underway at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are making their 2011 debuts on the PGA Tour. It’s early in the first round. Three players lead at 4 under.

Purse: $5.8 million
Winner’s share: $954,000
Defending champion: Ben Crane

Inside the field
Inside the courses
Tee times
Tournament overview
Tournament news
Farmers Insurance Open website

2011 Farmers Insurance Open Leaderboard


TV coverage of the 2011 Farmers Insurance Open is on Golf Channel and CBS.

Thu, 1/27:

GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Fri, 1/28:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 1/29:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 1/30:
CBS 3p - 6:30p ET

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, January 26

Kerr and Creamer Voice Serious Concerns About New Event

LPGA STARS CRISTIE KERR and Paula Creamer have serious concerns about the inaugural RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, according to Randall Mell of Neither player has committed to play in the new event that honors the LPGA’s 13 founders.

The tournament will be played on March 18-20 in Phoenix, the first of 13 U.S. events on the 2011 LPGA schedule. A projected $500,000 of the “mock” $1.3 million purse will go to the LPGA Foundation. Except for receiving a stipend for tournament-related expenses, the ladies will play for free. The women’s “mock” winnings from the imaginary purse will count on the official money list.

Playing gratis doesn’t bother Creamer. She likes the concept and the cause. What Paula told Mell she is “having a difficult time with” is why the new title sponsor can’t donate the entire mock purse amount to the LPGA charity.

“If we were able to have $1.3 million in real money sitting there, and donate it back, I would be the first one to sign up for this event,” she said.

Creamer was also concerned about how the format looks to existing title sponsors that offer real purse money.

Kerr said the new tournament went from an idea to a 2011 event too quickly without adequate player input. “It’s turned what was an opportunity into an obligation.”

She gave LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan credit for a good concept, but was undecided about her involvement based on concerns about the format. Other uncommitted players include Michelle Wie, Suzann Pettersen and Morgan Pressel.

Those committed to teeing it up in Phoenix include Jiyai Shin, Ai Mazato, Juli Inkster, Brittany Lincicome, Angela Stanford and Christina Kim.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: Pablo Lancaster-Jones, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Tuesday, January 25

Will Tiger Regain His Dominant Form?

WILL TIGER WOODS EVER BE the same? That’s a burning question as Tiger begins his 16th season on the PGA Tour this week at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. It has been nearly 500 days since Tiger last won on the PGA Tour. It has been two and a half years since he won his 14th major at the same course where he begins his 2011 campaign.

The boys are not afraid of Tiger. They give him respect, as they should, but they believe he is beatable. The boys are very good. And there are more of them. This will make Tiger’s latest comeback harder.

I expect Tiger to groove his new Sean Foley swing, especially with the irons. I’m in the wait-and-see camp when it comes to his driver. Even when Tiger’s swing was at its best through the years, he hit far too many crazy-wild drives. They appeared out of nowhere. I think he’s a head case when it comes to the driver. Foley can’t solve that.

My hunch is that Tiger will not reach the same dizzying heights in golf. He’ll still win, but not as much.

Will he catch and pass the majors record of Jack Nicklaus?

I’d put that at even money. I won’t be shocked either way. I’m leaning toward no. I just don’t see Tiger being as dominant. That’s not a knock, especially when you consider the run he’s had.

One of Tiger’s short-term problems is regaining his confidence. Winning breeds winning. Not winning breeds frustration and despair. Whatever you point to as the reasons—and there are plenty—Tiger hasn’t won in a long while. It has eroded his confidence. He is human, after all.

Finally, I’ve noticed for nearly three years that Tiger doesn’t have the same magic on the greens. I’m speaking primarily of the majors. I think I first detected it at the 2008 Masters. Except for his epic playoff victory at the U.S. Open that same year, Tiger’s putter has been suspect at recent majors.

Last year, I was aghast when Tiger complained about the greens at Pebble Beach. Can you imagine the 2000 Tiger griping? That kid rolled in everything on Pebble’s crusty putting surfaces.

Indeed, the putter may be Tiger’s biggest long-term problem. He wouldn’t be alone. All the greats eventually lost their mastery of the greens, except for the man Tiger is chasing. Nicklaus putted exceptionally well throughout his long career. Tiger will need to regain his clutch putting touch if he hopes to overtake Jack.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: Keith Allison, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Monday, January 24

It’s Martian Kaymer−McIlroy

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

By Brian Keogh

RORY MCILOY HAILED MARTIN KAYMER as an extraterrestrial after he was left powerless to prevent his German rival from romping to an eight-stroke victory in the Abu Dhabi Championship. The Ulster ace, 21, was Kaymer’s nearest challenger entering the final round but instead of mounting a challenge to the 26-year old from Dusseldorf, McIlroy finished up even further behind as he carded a 69 to a 66 by the reigning US PGA champion who leapfrogs Tiger Woods to become the new world No 2.

Putting Kaymer’s brilliant performance in perspective, McIlroy told his Twitter followers: “Martin was on a different planet all week!”

Both men birdied the second but the contest ended quickly when McIlroy took four to find the third green and did well to make a bogey five as Kaymer birdied to extend his lead to seven strokes. Another McIlroy bogey at the fifth allowed Kaymer to move eight strokes in front and cruise to his third victory in Abu Dhabi in the last four years.

“Martin’s just incredible, up to world number two and deservedly so,” McIlroy said. “He’s playing some great golf and he was in total control of his golf ball out there today. Didn’t make a bogey and he’s only made one bogey all week. It was very impressive. He’s a class act, he really is.”

Out in 34 thanks to those birdies at the second and third, the German star picked up further shots at the 10th, 13th, 16th and 18th to set a tournament scoring record of 24 under par.

“I am very happy especially the way I played golf today, and actually the last four days as I made only one bogey the entire week,” Kaymer said.

“The most important thing for me today was that I have fun, and if I have fun, then I play good golf. I played with Rory today and we definitely had a lot of fun on the golf course.”

Graeme McDowell finished a distant joint third with Retief Goosen (64), ten strokes adrift of Kaymer on 14-under par, to secure solo fourth place in the world rankings behind Lee Westwood, Kaymer and Woods.

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, January 22

Was Harrington DQ a Result of Online Job Scam?

ACCORDING TO AN ANONYMOUS source, ARMCHAIR GOLF has learned that an online job scam may be contributing to the rash of rules violations reported by television viewers. A few weeks ago, Camilo Villegas was disqualified at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. Padraig Harrington is the latest victim. The Irishman was disqualified on Friday at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

Some observers have thought these frequent rules incidents were coincidental. But ARMCHAIR GOLF has learned that something more sinister may be afoot, an online job scam that has armchair rules officials glued to their television sets. Work-at-home scams are nothing new. Yet, with unemployment rates at a 30-year high, people are much more susceptible to questionable money-making ploys.

The source tipped off ARMCHAIR GOLF to one of the latest scams that is apparently landing in email in boxes around the globe:
Join one of the fastest-growing work-from-home opportunities. Become an independent golf rules official and make hundreds of dollars per month watching golf on television. You will be recognized as an expert on the Rules of Golf and uphold the honor of the game by reporting rules violations to tour officials and other governing golf bodies. No experience necessary. Get started today! (URL withheld.)
“I’ve seen these work-from-home deals before and knew it was probably too good to be true,” the source said after not receiving a payout for reporting a violation.

“But when you’ve run out of work options like I had, you’ll try just about anything. Now I feel guilty about what I did. I’ve stopped watching golf completely.”

Apparently, tour players aren’t the only victims in these rules-obsessed times. So are innocent golf fans with too much time on their hands.

−The Armchair Golfer

(This is an ARMCHAIR GOLF spoof.)

(Photo credit: cmiked, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Thursday, January 20

2011 Bob Hope Classic TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2011 BOB HOPE CLASSIC got underway on Wednesday, a five round, 90-hole event played in La Quinta, California, on four golf courses: PGA West (Palmer Course), PGA West (Nicklaus Course), La Quinta Country Club and Silver Rock Resort. With the second round in progress, Jhonattan Vegas, a former University of Texas golfer from Venezuela, leads at 14 under.

Purse: $5 million
Winner’s share: $900,000
Defending champion: Bill Haas

Inside the field
Inside the courses
Tee times
Tournament overview
Tournament news
The celebrities

2011 Bob Hope Classic Leaderboard


TV coverage of the 2011 Bob Hope Classic is on Golf Channel.

Thu, 1/20:

GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Fri, 1/21:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 1/22:
GOLF 4p - 7p ET

Sun, 1/23:
GOLF 4p - 7p ET

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, January 19

Win a Salerno Limited Edition Print of Ben Hogan

GOLF ARTIST STEVEN ANTHONY SALERNO is celebrating the introduction of two new limited edition golf art prints by giving away one of his Ben Hogan prints (shown at right) at ARMCHAIR GOLF.

The print is a stylized, graphic expression of Hogan hitting practice balls. As you can probably see, there’s artistic text that reads: Q: how did hogan win? A: practice & guts. The winner of a random drawing (see entry details below) will receive the print, numbered and signed by Steven, along with a Certificate of Authenticity.

Two New Limited Edition Prints

“The King” is an image of golf legend Arnold Palmer in his distinctive putting stance. The original art was drawn using oil crayons on paper combined with digital wood-grain effects, all to suggest the strength of character and working-class beginnings of the player.

“Seve” is a swing portrait of Hall of Famer Severiano Ballesteros, featuring the singular Spanish star at the top of his powerful backswing. The background theme is in red, to reflect Seve’s unique passion for the game and for life. The original art was painted with gouache on paper.

Steven Anthony Salerno golf art prints are printed on 100% cotton, acid-free archival fine art papers using vivid, permanent pigment inks. Both new prints are available in different sizes. To preview these two new prints, and to see Salerno’s complete online gallery, visit

(The drawing is now closed. A winner has been selected. Keep reading ARMCHAIR GOLF for more chances to win cool prizes.)
To enter the drawing for the Ben Hogan print, send an email to that includes your name and mailing address. I’ll notify you if you’re the winner, and Steven will sign, package and ship your limited edition print. Good luck!

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, January 18

Golf Digest’s Tarde to Receive PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism

JERRY TARDE, THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF of Golf Digest, is the winner of the 2011 PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism. Tarde, who will pick up the award at the Golf Writers Association of America annual dinner in Augusta during Masters week, is the first editor to receive the honor.

“We are long overdue to raise a toast to editors, those individuals who have toiled for generations to make writers look that much better,” said PGA of America President Allen Wronowski.

Tarde has been a fixture at Golf Digest since an internship that began in 1977, or 33 years and seven months, according to his Linkedin profile. He told the PGA of America that he decided he wanted to be the editor of Golf Digest at the age of 16. In 1984, at the youthful age of 28, Tarde achieved his goal and has been a working editor ever since.

“I’m just an editor,” he said, “one of the guys back in the office who screws up good copy and sticks headlines on stories that writers have to apologize for. Occasionally we get it right.”

Tarde is the 22nd recipient of the award and the fifth connected to Golf Digest, which has a circulation of 1.65 million readers.

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, January 17

Olazabal Is Right Man for Ryder Cup Job

I’M A LONGTIME ADMIRER of Jose Maria Olazabal, who is being reported as Europe’s next Ryder Cup captain, according to various media outlets. The official announcement is expected on Tuesday at the Abu Dhabi Championship.

If Olazabal’s captaincy in any way mirrors his play in seven Ryder Cup appearances, Europe is in very capable hands. Olazabal was Seve Ballesteros’ other half of the most successful partnership in Cup history. Beginning in 1987, I watched Seve and Ollie beat the spikes off America’s best. The pair only lost twice in 15 matches. I didn’t like it one bit. But I always respected Jose Maria’s game. His driving could be suspect, but his iron game, chipping and putting were a thing of beauty. I’ve always thought of him as one of golf’s toughest competitors.

Olazabal also later formed a successful Ryder Cup partnership with Sergio Garcia. (If Garcia had Ollie’s grit, he’d have bagged a few majors by now.)

Now 44 and plagued in recent years by injuries, the two-time Masters winner is primed for the captaincy. He was a vice captain for European captains Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie at the last two Ryder Cups. His record as a player and experience as a vice captain have earned him a ton of respect in the locker room.

“When Jose Maria conducts a team talk or motivational talk, everyone listens,” Lee Westwood was quoted as saying by BBC Sport.

At the helm when Europe lost at Valhalla, Nick Faldo said competing on American soil presents additional challenges. (The 2012 Ryder Cup will be played at Medinah in Chicago.) Home-field advantage and course setup are huge factors.

“I think you need a big captain when you go to the States,” Faldo said.

Olazabal is the right man for the job.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: Richard Carter, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Saturday, January 15

Kidney Removal Won’t Stop Benn Barham

BENN BARHAM IS A 34-YEAR-OLD Englishman who has played 140 events on the European Tour since 2005 and has two career victories on the Challenge Tour. Today, Barham is just glad to be practicing again. The tour pro from Kent underwent surgery late last year to have a kidney removed after cancer was detected in the organ.

Barham missed out on Q-school and will compete on the Challenge Tour to try to earn his way back onto the European Tour. He won’t mind after a medical crisis that threatened to end his career.

“There was no guarantee I was going to be able to play competitive golf again,” he said at

“They cut in and were pulling apart muscles to get to my kidney, so you have to look at every possibility. I was chatting to one of the physios and said ‘I hope to be playing golf again soon’, and she said ‘You should be able to play’. I thought ‘Should? That’s not an option’. It then sunk in that I might not be able to play again. It was quite harrowing at the time.”

Barham said he is recovering his golf form. He has been hitting balls at a covered range and, while not yet 100 percent, is headed in the right direction. He also has played two full rounds, increasing his overall fitness. His goal is to be a better player than he was with both kidneys.

Money has been a problem. Barham has been without an income for four or five months, calling it “tough.” It’s another reason why he needs to get back out there. He hopes to get into some European Tour events early this season. If that doesn’t happen, his first appearance will be at the Barclays Kenya Open on the Challenge Tour in late March.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, January 14

Name the 3 in Step Players

“NAME THE PLAYER” IS BACK with a three-player edition. Who are these three in-step players? Do they look familiar? I expect at least one or two do.

The photo was snapped at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. I confess that I can only identify two of them, so I need your help. Good luck.

−The Armchair Golfer

Other “Name the Players”:
Name the Player at the AT&T National
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

(Photo credit: cf, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Thursday, January 13

2011 Sony Open TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2011 SONY OPEN is in a weather delay and will begin on Friday at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii. Ryan Palmer defends.

Purse: $5.5 million
Winner’s share: $990,000
Defending champion: Ryan Palmer

Inside the field
Tee times
Inside the course
Player interviews
Tournament overview
Tournament news

2011 Sony Open Leaderboard


TV coverage of the 2011 Sony Open is on Golf Channel.

Thu, 1/13:
GOLF 7p - 10:30p ET

Fri, 1/14:
GOLF 7p - 10:30p ET

Sat, 1/15:
GOLF 7p - 10:30p ET

Sun, 1/16:
GOLF 7p - 10p ET

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, January 12

VIDEO: Commish Mike Whan Introduces LPGA Founders Cup

I CAN TELL THAT LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan is a marketing guy. I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s a good thing, actually. The commish is a good pitch man, just what these challenging economic times call for—especially for the ladies tour.

In the video, Whan introduces the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, an inaugural event that pays tribute to the 13 women who founded the LPGA Tour. The tournament will be played on March 18-20 in Phoenix, the new season’s first LPGA stop in the United States. There are a total of 25 events on the 2011 schedule. A dozen are overseas.

I like the concept of the founders tournament. Whan sells it well. The part that’s stirred debate is the charity aspect of the event. The entire $1.3 million purse will go to the LPGA Foundation and the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program. In other words, the ladies will play for free. Apparently, they will receive money for travel and other tournament-related expenses, such as lodging, meals and paying their caddies.

This might be a bad idea, as some have suggested. You shouldn’t give away the product, the argument goes. It devalues the ladies game.

But, like a true marketing guy, Whan is willing to try something new, to test it, and see how it works. Whether or not it works, you always learn from doing a marketing experiment. I don’t think it will do harm to the women’s game.

The ladies need events and domestic title sponsors. This adds one to the schedule. They’ve always played for less money. At this one tournament, they’ll take it to the extreme.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, January 11

The Rules Geek: Camilo Villegas and the Divot DQ

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

CAMILO VILLEGAS UNKNOWINGLY BREACHED Rule 23-1 during the first round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and was disqualified the following day for signing an incorrect scorecard. Had Villegas known the rule and called a two-stroke penalty on himself, he would have played another day at the Plantation Course. Actually, had he been aware of the rule he probably wouldn’t have violated it to begin with.

The three-time PGA Tour winner flicked away loose pieces of grass as his golf ball rolled down a slope toward him and his divot on the 15th hole. That’s a no-no.

Rule 23. Loose Impediments. 23-1. Relief reads, in part, “When a ball is in motion, a loose impediment that might influence the movement of the ball must not be removed.”

A short while later, Villegas signed for a 72. It should have been a 74. The infraction was tweeted to Golf Channel and the PGA Tour by a TV viewer. After seeing what he did, Villegas accepted the disqualification as gracefully as could be expected.

“While it is obviously a disappointing way to start the season,” he said in a statement, “the rules are the rules, and when something like this happens, it’s important to me that you’re respectful of the game and the people involved.”

The TV viewer faced a backlash as is often the case, noted PGA Tour rules official Jon Brendle. But the The Rules Geek has to ask: Why don’t the players have a better handle on the rules?

Veteran Rocco Mediate said on a scale of 1 to 10, players are about a “5” when it comes to knowing the rules. “And that’s being nice,” he said.

That doesn’t cut it. Don’t cry about TV viewers, players. Read The Rules of Golf. Read a few pages each night and you’ll be through the book in a few weeks. Also, don’t forget to read those local rules sheets.

The Rules Geek sez rules were made to be followed. Got a rules-related tip or story? Send it to The Rules Geek at

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

(Photo credit: pattoncito, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Monday, January 10

The Byrd Man of Kapalua

ALTHOUGH I CONFESS I was mostly watching the NFL playoffs, I’m inclined to say it was a solid start to the PGA Tour season. The Hyundai Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort had an exciting finish and its share of side drama. Jonathan Byrd outlasted Robert Garrigus in a sudden-death playoff to take the season opener. It was Byrd’s fifth and most prestigious win, coming in a winners-only field.

After being in jeopardy of losing his PGA Tour card late in the 2010 season, Byrd has won two consecutive starts, both of them in playoffs. Talk about breathing new life into your game and career. Byrd has banked some serious coin and jumped 63 places in the world ranking to No. 58. I don’t think he’ll be sweating his card this year.

“I’m pretty overwhelmed,” the 32-year-old former Clemson University golfer said.

Garrigus blew a long putt by the cup on the second playoff hole and rimmed out the come-backer, which was definitely in the “throw-up” range. Nonetheless the gregarious Garrigus is not down on himself. He likes his start to the 2011 campaign.

“It’s not that big a deal,” said the man who last season shook off a collapse in Memphis and won the Children’s Miracle Network Classic. “I get a nice check [$635,000] and I get to go next week and relax and have some fun.”

Makes sense to me.

I still can’t get over Robert’s putter. It’s 28.5 inches. It looks like he stole it from a kid’s starter set. But, hey, whatever gets the ball in the cup. He made 26 birdies and two eagles, and ranked 11th on the greens. Not a bad week at all.

The opener also had enough subplots to keep it from being a tropical yawner with Tiger and Phil absent. Defending champion Geoff Ogilvy had a freak injury to his right-index finger that forced him to withdraw. Camilo Villegas had a rules infraction that got him DQ’d the day after it went down. Graeme McDowell tore it up on the final 18 and nearly caught Byrd and Garrigus at the finish, signing for a 62.

And Dustin Johnson and Natalie Gulbis are sweet on each other, I read.

A new tour season is underway, golf fans. As they say in those Bud Light spots, “Here we go.”

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, January 8

Report: Early Prison Release Expected for Jim Thorpe

LAST APRIL CHAMPIONS TOUR player Jim Thorpe entered a minimum-security Federal Prison Camp located on Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, to serve a one-year sentence for failing to pay more than $2 million in income taxes.

The winner of 13 Champions Tour and three PGA Tour titles had pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to pay income taxes. In addition to the prison sentence, the 61-year-old Thorpe was also sentenced to two years of supervised release and 200 hours of community service. He also must attempt to repay the owed taxes.

Golfweek’s Jeff Rude reported earlier this week that Thorpe expects to be released early, possibly this month, according to Thorpe’s pastor, Keith Wilkins of Crossings Community Church in Lake Mary, Florida.

Thorpe has been suspended from the Champions Tour since last February. He plans to resume his tournament golf career once he’s released from prison.

Born in Roxboro, North Carolina, the ninth of 12 kids whose father was a golf course superintendant, Thorpe attended Morgan State University on a football scholarship. The running back turned golf pro in 1972 and earned nearly $2 million in 459 events on the PGA Tour before joining the 50-and-older tour in 2000.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: Ted Van Pelt, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Friday, January 7

Golf Channel’s PGA TOUR Kickoff Sweepstakes

Editor’s note: If you’re going to be watching golf anyway, maybe you can win one of the following prizes from your friends at Golf Channel. Like a Hyundai Equus. Or an iPad. There are worst ways to spend your time.

By Golf Channel

Golf Channel is giving viewers the opportunity to win one of three 2011 Hyundai Equus and other valuable prizes by tuning in to the tournament telecasts of the first three PGA TOUR events: the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the Sony Open in Hawaii and the Bob Hope Classic.

Golf Channel’s PGA TOUR Kickoff Sweepstakes runs through Jan. 24. Golf fans can win prizes by watching for a unique entry code each day during the network’s live tournament coverage and entering online at PGA TOUR Kickoff Sweepstakes or also via text messaging. Viewers can see the unique codes during the Hyundai Tournament of Champions from Jan. 6-9, Sony Open in Hawaii from Jan. 13-16, and Bob Hope Classic from Jan. 19-23.

All entrants are eligible to win daily prizes during the sweepstakes, including an iPad, a Golf Channel prize pack and a $100 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift card. At the conclusion of each of the first three PGA TOUR events, one lucky winner will be the recipient of a 2011 Hyundai Equus. Entrants each day are eligible for the daily prize and that week’s grand prize car drawing.

Complete information, including sweepstakes rules, tournament airtimes and interactive features, is available at PGA TOUR Kickoff Sweepstakes.

Thursday, January 6

2011 Hyundai Tournament of Champions TV Schedule and Notes

THE 2011 HYUNDAI TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS is underway at the Plantation Course at Kapalua in Maui, Hawaii. Back-to-back winner Geoff Ogilvy is out. Ogilvy tripped on coral in knee-high water and injured his right index finger, requiring 12 stitches, according to Kelly Tilghman of Golf Channel.

Purse: $5.6 million
Winner’s share: $1.12 million
Defending champion: Geoff Ogilvy

Inside the field
Tee times
Inside the course
Course stats
Tournament overview
Tournament news

2011 Hyundai Tournament of Champions Leaderboard


TV coverage of the 2011 Hyundai Tournament of Champions is on Golf Channel.

Thu, 1/6:
GOLF 5:30p - 10p ET

Fri, 1/7:
GOLF 5:30p - 10p ET

Sat, 1/8:
GOLF 5:30p - 10p ET

Sun, 1/9:
GOLF 6p - 10p ET

PGA Tour radio coverage

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, January 5

Rocco Is Loving Life and First Tattoo

OF THE 34 WINNERS set to tee off Thursday at the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Rocco Mediate may be the most grateful. The Roc Man’s PGA Tour status was in serious doubt until he pulled off a surprising Fall Series win at the Open, his sixth career victory and first title in eight long years.

Now he’s in Kapalua with a new attitude and new tattoo, his first, an “R,” “N” and “M” on his right bicep. The letters are the initials of his three sons, Rocco, Nikko and Marco. A photograph of his tattoo will appear in the March issue of Golf Digest.

“I’m 48 and got cooler,” Mediate told the magazine’s Dave Shedloski.

It wasn’t impulsive. Rocco had been thinking about it for a while. He wanted the tattoo to mean something. So now he has his boys on his arm.

Being able to play in a winners-only event means something, too. Mediate is the oldest player in the field. During the slump and injuries that followed his epic playoff duel with Tiger Woods at the 2008 U.S. Open, Rocco must have wondered if he would have any more big moments on the PGA Tour. Then along came that special week in San Jose.

“Everything is getting better,” he said, including his troublesome back. “… And it’s pretty cool. I still think I can compete out here.”

−The Armchair Golfer

Visor tip to Dave Shedloski at Local Knowledge

(Photo credit: Keith Allison, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Tuesday, January 4

Rory’s New Year Message to Tiger

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

By Brian Keogh

RORY MCILROY’S HOMESICKNESS STAYED at bay just long enough to allow the former PGA Tour member to spend the New Year in New York.

The 21-year old Ulster star said last year that one of the reasons he was giving up his card was because he often felt lonely in the US. Fortunately, he had Ulster rugby centre Darren Cave for company as he took in the New York Knicks’ victory over the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

Watching the game from the front rows, a la Spike Lee, McIlroy was dragged out for two minutes to talk to “Mobile Boost Celebrity Front Row” about being 21, the Ryder Cup, his hair and Tiger.

As an “outspoken” individual, he was asked for a “message” for Woods. Careful not to say anything too controversial following the furor over his post-US PGA comments, McIlroy said: “I think he is going to come back and do well next year, so, um, bring it, bring it.”

As for his own plans for 2011, McIlroy hopes he will be standing in Madison Square Garden in a year’s time as “hopefully, a major winner.”

McIlroy and Woods are likely to meet up at the $2.5m Omega Dubai Desert Classic from February 10-13.

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, January 3

‘Morning Drive’ Debuts on Golf Channel

“MORNING DRIVE,” A WEEKDAY SHOW covering the world of golf, teed off early this morning on Golf Channel. The show will air Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and is hosted by Erik Kuselias and Gary Williams. Kuselias came from ESPN; Williams was a sports show host on Sirius Satellite Radio.

Holly Sonders (above) was also recently added to the on-air team. Sonders’ broadcast experience includes stints as a news and sports reporter in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Columbus, Ohio. She was a four-year member of the Michigan State University Women’s Golf Team and helped the Lady Spartans win a Big Ten Championship.

The lineup for today’s premiere:

Today’s Topics
- 2011 Season Begins
- Aloha Champions
- NFL Playoff Set
- First Day of Stock Trading
- Obama in Hawaii

Business Report
- First Day of Stock Trading
- IRS Postpones Tax Filings for 50 Million
- Proctor & Gamble Postpones Tiger Advertising Campaign

Interview Schedule
7:45 a.m. - Tim Rosaforte
8:15 a.m. - Next Instructor Search Winner, Martin Hall
8:30 a.m. - Arnold Palmer

I didn’t see the first show, but there were a number of positive tweets. SI’s Gary VanSickle was not impressed, although he admitted that it might be a “rash judgment.”

“Morning Drive” on Web

“Morning Drive” on Twitter

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo courtesy of Golf Channel)

Sunday, January 2

Martin Kaymer’s Golf Wish for 2011

MARTIN KAYMER HAS WON a major, the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits where he defeated Bubba Watson in a playoff. Kaymer was also closing in on World No. 1 until he cooled off at the end of the 2010 season. Now what does he want? What’s on the German golf star’s wish list for the 2011 season?

A hole-in-one. Wait, a hole-in-one? Yes, a hole-in-one.

If you’re like me, you were expecting something else. I was surprised, to say the least. That’s like my daughters asking for a pair of socks for Christmas. It’s something, but not exactly ambitious.

There’s a pretty good reason, though. Are you sitting down? Martin Kaymer has never made a hole-in-one. I find that shocking. No wonder he wants one. Imagine ascending to No. 1 golfer in the world—without a hole-in-one. People would say you’re undeserving. “He’s not worthy,” they’d say. I’m joking a little. Lee Westwood gets it.

But here’s what I wonder: How does a player of Kaymer’s caliber not have a hole-in-one? Not even in practice?

“I’ve never made one in my life …” he said.

Wow. He’s playing catch up with me, of all people. I have one. It was a long time ago. I’ll spare you that story.

Kaymer said he has other goals, too. He’d like to win another major this year, preferably the British Open. He’d like to establish himself as the best player in Europe and someday rise to the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking. He figured he wasn’t quite ready for No. 1 at the end of last season.

But that first hole-in-one would be sweet. It doesn’t seem like a lot to ask.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: blakehall, Flickr, Creative Commons license)