Wednesday, February 29

Free Tickets Available for Sybase Match Play Championship

Suzann Pettersen (dnkbdotcom)
THE SYBASE MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP announced that golf fans can receive complimentary tickets to the event through participating in the tournament’s SMS ticket promotion. Enabled by Sybase’s mobile messaging services, the promotion is designed to ease access to tickets in advance of the tournament.

The Sybase Match Play Championship is the only match play competition on the LPGA Tour. The event returns to Hamilton Farm Golf Club in Gladstone, New Jersey, on May 14 through 20.

Beginning today through May 13, you can text the word “LPGA” to 792273 (“SYBASE”) to receive two free daily tickets to the match play championship. You’ll receive a message with a promotional code valid for two free daily tickets to be redeemed at

If interested, don’t delay too long. Quantities of free tickets are limited.

Suzann Pettersen is the defending champion of the $1.5 million Sybase Match Play Championship. Last year Pettersen defeated Cristie Kerr 1 up in the final match.

Tuesday, February 28

Top 10 Hardest Golf Courses in United States

Mower races at Oakmont. Not really. (Courtesy of John E Kaminski)

IF YOU LIKE YOUR GOLF EXTREMELY TOUGH and have special connections, then here is a list of brutally difficult tracks for you to play. Keep score if you dare, and let us know how you do. senior editor Joe Passov published his list of “Top 10 Toughest Courses in the U.S.” on Monday. Passov writes, “Jack Nicklaus was once asked to rate a handful of classic courses on a scale of difficulty from 1 to 10. He rated Augusta National, Oak Hill, St. Andrews and Seminole all 8s. Baltusrol and Pebble Beach merited a 10. How about Winged Foot? ‘11,’ responded Nicklaus. ‘Maybe 12.’”

Of the above courses mentioned by Nicklaus, only Winged Foot made the following list. (Not sure how Jack overlooked Oakmont.)

1. Whistling Straits
Haven, Wisconsin

2. Oakmont Country Club
Oakmont, Pennsylvania
(See my “Oakmont Is Cage Fighting in Fashionable Clothing”)

3. Pine Valley Golf Club
Pine Valley, New Jersey

4. Kiawah Island Golf Resort (Ocean)
Kiawah Island, South Carolina

5. TPC Sawgrass (PLAYERS Stadium)
Ponte Vedra, Florida

6. Bethpage State Park (Black Course)
Farmingdale, New York

7. PGA West (TPC Stadium)
La Quinta, California

8. Winged Foot Golf Club (West)
Mamaroneck, New York

9. Spyglass Hill Golf Course
Pebble Beach, California

10. Wolf Creek Golf Club
Mesquite, Nevada

Top 10 ‘Green’ Golf Courses in United States

Monday, February 27

How I Picked Hunter Mahan to Win (Last Tuesday)

Hunter Mahan beat Rory McIlroy in the finals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. (Keith Allison)

IT WAS A JOKE, REALLY. Last Tuesday in my post, “Welcome to Bracketville, Population 64,” I explained how I don’t fill out the Bobby Jones, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Sam Snead brackets (although maybe I will next year).

How do you do that? I wondered. How could you pick the winner?

I quoted Geoff Shackelford, who wrote, “Who knows which player slept poorly? Got yelled at by his wife? Is thinking about firing his agent? Had a slight stomach reaction to the Chipotle he ate at the airport? Or all of the above, plus he secretly hates desert golf more than he lets on and can’t wait to get home so he can vegetate in front of his Playstation for two weeks?”

Then, just to be silly, I ended with this:

“My pick is Hunter Mahan.”

Well, as you probably know, My Pick beat Zach Johnson, Y.E Yang, Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar, Mark Wilson and Rory McIlroy to win the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at Dove Mountain outside of Tucson.

I guess I can answer my own question about picking the winner of a 64-player world match play championship. How do you do it? Pure luck.

I had a 1 in 64 chance. Actually, I suppose a better than 1 in 64 chance since I stayed away from the low seeds who were unlikely to survive six rounds of match play pressure against higher-ranked competition. Still, the odds against me picking the winner were as long as a Dustin Johnson drive.

I did give my pick some thought. (Perhaps 5 or 10 minutes of thought.) I looked at the brackets and assessed the path to the final. I picked Mahan because I thought he was good in match play. Hunter also had decent finishes in his first three 2012 events in San Diego (6th), Pebble Beach (15th) and Los Angeles (24th). Maybe he was ready to break out. What I didn’t know was that he put a new PING putter in his bag last week that helped him make a gazillion birdies.

Please don’t ask me who is going to win the Honda Classic. How could I possibly know that?

My pick is … just kidding.

Saturday, February 25

Top 10 ‘Green’ Golf Courses in United States

Pebble Beach Golf Links is ranked No. 9. (Courtesy of Timothy K Hamilton)

WITH EARTH DAY AROUND THE CORNER, published its list of top 10 environmentally friendly golf courses in these United States. Audubon International and Cornell University turfgrass expert Frank Rossi helped make the picks. There are 663 golf courses (about four percent of all U.S. courses) that are certified by Audubon International for their habitat friendly practices.

You have probably heard of at least a few of the following golf courses that made the list. Some have hosted PGA Tour and LPGA events, as well as major amateur tournaments.

1. Vinyard Golf Club (Edgartown, Massachusetts)
America’s only true organic course.

2. North Shore Country Club (Glenview, Illinois)
Serves as research facility to find new ways to fight grass disease.

3. Chambers Bay (University Place, Washington)
Only Audubon International Certified Silver Signature Sanctuary course in Pacific Northwest.

4. Mohonk Golf Course (New Paltz, New York)
Composting and recycling program has reduced landfill waste by 50 percent.

5. Saucon Valley Country Club (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania)
Winner: 2008 Environmental Leaders in Golf National Private and Overall

6. Old Collier Golf Club (Naples, Florida)
First Audubon Certified Gold Signature Sanctuary course.

7. Westchester Country Club (Rye, New York)
Winner: 2009 Metropolitan Golf Association Club Environmental Award

8. Stone Creek Golf Club (Oregon City, Oregon)
Winner: 2008 Environmental Leaders in Golf National Public Award

9. Pebble Beach Golf Links (Pebble Beach, California)
Hosted first golf environmental summit in 1995.

10. Sebonack Golf Club (Southampton, New York)
Has plan to use solar-powered golf carts.

Friday, February 24

Hunter Mahan From Downtown Tucson

THIS IS THE PGA TOUR EQUIVALENT of a three-point shot. In his match against Steve Stricker at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Hunter Mahan steps up to a 53-foot birdie putt at the par-3 12th hole. Watch what happens.

Mahan went on to beat Stricks 4 and 3 to advance to the quarterfinals. Lee Westwood, Matt Kuchar, Mark Wilson, Martin Laird and Peter Hanson also won their matches. Two games are still in progress. Rory McIlroy is 3 up on Miguel Angel Jimenez. Sang-Moon Bae and John Senden are all square with five holes to play.

Thursday, February 23

Rory McIlroy: Tiger Still the Best Player

By Brian Keogh

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 excerpt from Brian’s Irish Golf Desk is used with permission. 

RORY MCILROY BELIEVES THAT TIGER Woods will still be the best player in the world even if he goes on to win the WGC-Accenture Match Play and takes over from Luke Donald as world No 1. Donald’s 5 and 4 defeat to Ernie Els means that world No 2 McIlroy and No 3 Lee Westwood have a chance of moving to the top of the rankings if they lift the trophy here on Sunday.

“I always dreamed about becoming the best player in the world,” McIlroy said. “But there’s a difference between the best player in the world and being ranked the top of the rankings. I would still say Tiger Woods is the best player in the world, but he’s not No. 1 in the world.

“It would be an incredible achievement, a great honour to add my name to the list of players that have been No. 1 in the world. I’ve always dreamed about it and I didn’t think it would come so fast, at 22. It shows if you work hard and dedicate yourself, in the end great things can happen.”

McIlroy must beat Denmark’s Anders Hansen in today’s second round to keep his boyhood dream alive and he will need to improve on his performance against South African George Coetzee if he is to have a chance.

“It’s always nice to get past the first one,” McIlroy said. “I struggled to finish it off.”

As for the world No 1 chase, he said: “To be honest, I came in here yesterday and talked about if I play well and just win matches that will take care of itself. But obviously it’s another incentive waking up each morning and knowing that if you win your match at the end of that day, at the end of the week you could be World No.1.”

McIlroy cannot face Woods until Sunday’s semi-finals but the American was fortunate to escape with a one hole victory over Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez CastaƱo. Woods will now face compatriot Nick Watney, who hammered an out-of-sorts Darren Clarke by 5 and 4.

The top seeds endured their worst day in the event since it began in 1999 with just 17 of the top 32 winning their opening matches. Three of the number one seeds made it through, however, with Donald’s heavy defeat to Els the only shock.

Westwood beat Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts 3 and 1 while Germany’s Martin Kaymer had a 4 and 2 win over Australian Greg Chalmers.

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, February 22

Gary Player, Match Play Legend

Gary Player at the 2010 Masters (Keith Allison)
I RECENTLY HAD THE OPPORTUNITY to talk to Tony Jacklin, a Ryder Cup standout as both a player and a captain, and also a two-time major winner. Jacklin won the 1969 British Open and 1970 U.S. Open. As our conversation turned to match play, he mentioned two names, Seve Ballesteros and Gary Player.

“I think of the great match players, looking back, were the guys with the great short games,” Jacklin said. “Ballesteros was a great match player. Gary Player, great match player. Because he was never out of it.”

Player was a five-time World Match Play champion and two-time Presidents Cup captain. Although the South African beat Jack Nicklaus 6 and 4 and 5 and 4 in the World Match Play, he said “my most significant match was against Tony Lema, no question.”

Memorable match play victory:
Player came back from seven down after 19 holes to defeat Tony Lema at the first extra hole in the World Match Play semi-finals in 1965.

Said Player: “There was a dentist from Australia walking behind us on the 5th and I heard him say: ‘Let’s go and watch somebody else, this match is over.’ I said to him: ‘Sir, this match is not over yet.’ He wrote to me 15 years later saying, ‘I’ll never forget that.’”

Notable quote:
“My opponents knew I was a bull terrier and I was never going to give up. The only time I have doubts is when I shake hands and I’ve lost.”

Player’s match play pointers:
• Have patience but also be aggressive
• Body language is hugely important—let your opponent know you’re going to be trying whether you’re up or down
• Stay cool
• Be immune to gamesmanship
• Never give up

Tuesday, February 21

Welcome to Bracketville, Population 64

THE 2012 WGC-ACCENTURE MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP begins on Wednesday in the Arizona desert not far from Tucson. Sixty-four of the world’s finest golfers tee it up at Dove Mountain. By Sunday afternoon, it will be Lonesome Dove, with only one man left standing after six grueling matches.

Who will that man be?

Last year it was Luke Donald, who is now No. 1 in the world. Donald is an ideal match player when you think about it. He putts like a dream. He could get it up and down from out of a cactus. So what if he isn’t the best driver of the golf ball? Neither was Seve.

I like the match play. It’s full of surprises. I don’t care if the marquee players lose early. May the best man on that day win. I guess I’m a contrarion. But I don’t fill out the Bobby Jones, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Sam Snead brackets.

[2012 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship brackets]

Seriously, how do you do that? And how do you pick a winner?

I like what Geoff Shackelford said. “Predictions in golf are utterly useless.”

Especially in Bracketville.

As Geoff explained ...
Who knows which player slept poorly? Got yelled at by his wife? Is thinking about firing his agent? Had a slight stomach reaction to the Chipotle he ate at the airport? Or all of the above, plus he secretly hates desert golf more than he lets on and can’t wait to get home so he can vegetate in front of his Playstation for two weeks?
My pick is Hunter Mahan.

Monday, February 20

Johnny Miller Dusts Off the ‘Reverse C’

I CAN’T REMEMBER THE LAST TIME someone mentioned the “Reverse C.” Maybe you’ve never heard of it. It’s definitely old school.

Well, old school is in session with Johnny Miller. In the first of a series for Golf Magazine, Johnny explains why a Reverse C finish can result in straighter shots. He also introduces a drill that helps control the clubhead at impact.

Throughout the series, Miller will talk about 12 golf legends and the swing keys and signature moves that made them great.

As I wrote here, in his heyday Johnny Miller was the best iron player I ever saw. Of course, I never saw Ben Hogan.

Sunday, February 19

Haas Slips by Mickelson and Bradley in L.A.

Bill Haas
IT WAS THE FEDEX CUP CHAMPION, the PGA champion and the people’s champion in a sudden-death playoff to decide the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club. Bill Haas, who waited on the driving range after posting a 7-under total, was joined in overtime by PGA winner Keegan Bradley and crowd favorite Phil Mickelson when the latter two sank clutch birdie putts on the 18th green, a difficult par-4 hole that yielded few 3s on Sunday.

The three players returned to the 18th tee to begin the playoff. Three pars and it was on to the 10th hole, a drivable par 4 that can deliver as much drama as Downton Abbey. Mickelson and Bradley hit their drives short and right, Lefty in the rough and Keegan in the bunker. Haas smashed his tee ball long and left. The defending FedEx Cup champion played a safe pitch to the heart of the green. Phil’s flop shot from the kikuyu grass was long and trickled into a bunker. Bradley played a terrific shot from the sand that stopped on the back fringe.

Then the dagger—Haas drained his 45-foot birdie putt. Lefty’s bunker shot that he had to hole came out weakly. Bradley misfired from medium range, and it was over. That sneaky Haas kid (actually, he’s 29) won his fourth PGA Tour title.

“I didn’t think he was going to make that one,” Bradley said. “I should have known, though, because he’s a great putter and a great player.”

Maybe Phil missed Tiger. Lefty couldn’t summon the magic on the greens that propelled him to victory a week ago at Pebble Beach. But he did make that unlikely 27-footer at the 72nd hole to get into the playoff. Bradley was also up to the moment. He is a young player who welcomes the pressure.

It was great stuff as I watched snow fall outside my window. I miss California the most in February. Thank goodness I can watch the PGA Tour.

Saturday, February 18

David Feherty Tries Bull Fighting

DAVID FEHERTY GOES ONE ON ONE with a bull. Will blood flow? Who will prevail, man or beast?

Golf’s biggest clown is clad in a bright blue matador costume. And pink stockings. He clutches and waves a small red cape. There’s a surprise ending.

You can tune in for more ridiculous moments in an all-new season of “Feherty.” It premieres on Monday, February 27, at 10 p.m. ET on Golf Channel.

Friday, February 17

Ian Poulter, ‘Overachiever’

Ian Poulter (Allison)
IAN POULTER, FLASHY RYDER CUPPER but majorless, is actually a major overachiever, wrote Golfweek’s Alistair Tait earlier this week. I had forgotten about Poulter’s humble golf beginnings, if I ever knew them. I honestly can’t remember.

Tait’s reporting on Robert Rock’s new deal with Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi sparked an overachiever list.

“Rock’s transformation from one-time driving-range pro to world star got me thinking about what a massive overachiever he is,” Tait wrote, “and wondering who else in Europe goes under that tag. Not surprisingly, it got me pondering the underachievers too.”

Poulter topped the overachiever list. Tait on the man from Hitchin:
The dapper Englishman turned professional when he was a 4-handicapper. He had no amateur record to speak of because his parents couldn’t afford to finance summers playing the amateur circuit. He served as an assistant professional for years, selling chocolate bars, tees and balls to handicap golfers. He’s reached the top through self-confidence and a sheer desire to win, going from complete nobody to one of the game’s most recognized players.
Can you imagine turning pro as a 4?

Rounding out Tait’s top five European overachievers are Rock, Damien McGrane, Paul McGinley and Christian Cevaer.

Tait also lists his top five European underachievers. You can read it here.

Thursday, February 16

2012 Northern Trust Open TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2012 NORTHERN TRUST OPEN is underway at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California. Phil Mickelson is the clubhouse leader at 5 under after a 66. Play was suspended due to darkness with 30 players still on the course. All players have completed at least 12 holes. Play resumes on Friday at 7 a.m. PT.

Purse: $6.6 million
Winner’s share: $1.17 million
Defending champion: Aaron Baddeley

Inside the field
Tee times
Inside the course
Player interviews
Tournament overview
Tour report
Tournament news
Northern Trust Open website

2012 Northern Trust Open Leaderboard


TV coverage of the 2012 Northern Trust Open is on Golf Channel and CBS.

Thu, 2/16:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Fri, 2/17:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 2/18:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 2/19:
CBS 3p - 6:30p ET

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times

(Image: Courtesy of

Wednesday, February 15

These Old Guys Are Good

I’M GOING TO CALL THIS ONE. Best up-and-down on tour during the 2012 season. Yes, the entire season. No one will top this. (Or no one will top this on the Champions Tour.) Take a minute to watch and see. It’s worth it. I promise.

What do you think?

Congratulations to Corey Pavin for his first Champions Tour victory at the Allianz Championship. Pavin beat Peter Senior on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff. Good thing he made that par from out of a small crater.

Pavin’s average driving distance is 256.2 yards. That’s 65th on the old guys tour. Not impressive at all. He has been a short hitter ever since, well, forever. Since his UCLA days, and probably before that. His ball flight is so low that squirrels duck. OK, I exaggerate, but not much. What’s impressive is his greens in regulation percentage (74.07), his stroke average (69.17) and that short game, including his old-school Bullseye putter.

Want to get better at golf?

Stop looking for that extra 15 yards. Instead, practice your short game.

(Visor tip: Devil Ball Golf)

Tuesday, February 14

New USGA Exhibit Honors Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis and Althea Gibson


Joe Louis, Althea Gibson and Jackie Robinson. (Courtesy of USGA)
THE UNITED STATES GOLF ASSOCIATION is honoring the accomplishments in the game of golf of three transcendent African-American athletes—Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis and Althea Gibson—with a special exhibit at the USGA Museum. Opening Feb. 17, 2012, and running through the end of July, “American Champions and Barrier Breakers” celebrates the lives, athletic achievements and important legacies of these American icons. Featuring artifacts, documents and photographs, the exhibit also highlights some of the numerous contributions that African Americans have made to golf.

Curated by Susan Wasser, assistant manager of operations at the USGA Museum, the exhibit is part of the USGA’s ongoing commitment to attracting a diverse audience to the game.

Very few athletes endured as many obstacles as Robinson, who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier when he debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. The Hall of Fame second baseman helped open the door for other great black ballplayers such as Willie Mays, Bob Gibson and Hank Aaron, who called Robinson his “personal hero.” After retiring from baseball, Robinson became a competitive player among the great African-American golfers of his era and was a tireless advocate for equal opportunity in the game of golf.

Robinson played frequently with Louis, one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time. Louis left an indelible stamp on golf as the first African American to play in a PGA Tour event, the 1952 San Diego Open.

Louis also provided financial support to several African-American golfers, including many players on the United Golfers Association (UGA) Tour. His golf legacy continues with his son’s involvement as chief executive officer of The First Tee. Joe Louis Barrow Jr. heads this charitable organization dedicated to providing young people of all backgrounds “educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf.”

Althea Gibson won 11 Grand Slam tennis titles—five singles and six doubles—between 1956 and 1958 and ascended to the world’s No. 1 ranking in 1957. The first African-American woman to win Wimbledon, Gibson also became the first African American to join the LPGA Tour, in 1964. She enjoyed a successful career that included a runner-up finish in the 1970 Len Immke Buick Open and 11 USGA championship appearances. She set an example for future generations of female athletes.

Artifacts featured in “American Champions and Barrier Breakers” include Gibson’s golf bag, clubs and scorecard; Louis’ contestant badge from the 1949 UGA National Championship; and Robinson’s head cover, which is branded with his uniform number, 42.

Free One-Day Symposium

In conjunction with the opening of the exhibit, the USGA Museum will host a one-day symposium on Saturday, Feb. 18, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The symposium will feature presentations by Barrow; Renee Powell, the second African American to play on the LPGA Tour; Dr. Calvin Sinnette, author of “Forbidden Fairways;” Bill Wright, the first African American to win a USGA championship, the 1959 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship; and Dr. Yohuru Williams, Chief Historian, Vice President for Public Education & Research for the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

The symposium is free and open to the public. To register, contact the Museum receptionist at (908) 234-2300 ext. 1057 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, or email

Monday, February 13

Phil on Fire

Phil Mickelson (Courtesy of Ed via Flickr)
WE ALREADY KNEW PHIL MICKELSON likes playing the West Coast Swing, where he has won with regularity throughout his 20-year PGA Tour career. And we already knew that he is especially fond of the Monterey Peninsula, where Lefty has now won four times after his brilliant closing 64 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

But did any longtime observer of this game ever think Phil Mickelson would own Tiger Woods on Sunday?

I didn’t see it coming. Then again, the last few years have dished out more surprises than Adele has Grammys.’s Senior Golf Columnist Steve Elling may have said it best. “Being a complete adrenaline junkie,” Elling wrote, “playing with Woods is like sticking his [Mickelson’s] tongue in a light socket.”

Phil is 8-3-1 against Tiger in their last dozen head-to-head duels. As Elling reported, the turnaround came in 2007 when Butch Harmon, Tiger’s former swing coach, let Phil in on Tiger’s mind games. Things haven’t been the same since.

Mickelson took charge early in the final round at Pebble. He made three birdies and an eagle in the first six holes and never looked back. Third-round leader Charlie Wi, in search of his first PGA Tour win, stumbled out of the gate with a double bogey at the 1st hole and carded a 3-over 39 on the opening nine. Wi fought back with four birdies, but it was too late.

The par-3 12th hole told Sunday’s story. Tiger willed a bunker shot into the hole for a birdie. Fist pump. Low five with amateur partner Tony Romo. Then Phil dropped a 30-footer for a heroic par. Game, set and match to Mickelson.

Sunday’s victory was No. 40 for the 41-year-old. Nice symmetry. The aging arthritic golfer still has game and perhaps a few more wins in him. Nothing makes you feel young like seeing the ball go in the hole.

“I just feel like I’m putting like I did when I was a kid,” Lefty said, “without the thoughts and the mind clutter.”

It’s just the opposite for Tiger, at least on Sundays. His final-round 75 included numerous short misses. Forget the swing. He needs to clean up the putting. For all the talk about his long game, it was the immaculate putting that propelled Tiger’s assault on the record books. Now it may be the thing that keeps him out of them.

Saturday, February 11

Clint Eastwood Heads to Back9

CLINT EASTWOOD HAS JOINED FORCES with the Back9Network, a golf lifestyle network. Eastwood, a founding shareholder of the network, will serve as creative board chairman.

“I reckon I’m right popular,” Eastwood said.

(No, sorry. That was in “The Outlaw Josey Wales.”)

In his new role, the 81-year-old film legend will meet with Back9 executives once per quarter to review programming and casting choices for the network, which is currently in talks with distributors and is slated to launch later this spring.

“It was natural to seek his advice,” said Back9’s chief executive James Bosworth, who was an assistant pro at Pebble Beach in the mid-1990’s when he first met Eastwood.

“There’s no better guy to go to for a golf media company.”

No, there’s not. Clint is the ultimate go-to guy. They better not mess with him either.

Friday, February 10

2012 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is being played at Pebble Beach Golf Links, Monterey Peninsula Country Club and Spyglass Hill Golf Course in Pebble Beach, California. Charlie Wi is the 36-hole leader at 12 under after a 61 and 69. Wi holds a three-shot lead over Dustin Johnson.

Purse: $6.4 million
Winner’s share: $1.134 million
Defending champion: D.A. Points

Inside the field
Tee times
Inside the courses
Player interviews
Tournament overview
Tour report
Tournament news
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am website

2012 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Leaderboard


TV coverage of the 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is on Golf Channel and CBS.

Fri, 2/10:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 2/11:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 2/12:
CBS 3p - 6:30p ET

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times

(Image: Courtesy of

Thursday, February 9

Rory Silences His Inner Seve

By Brian Keogh

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 excerpt from Brian’s Irish Golf Desk is used with permission. 

Rory McIlroy at Memorial Tournament. (Courtesy of Ed)
RORY MCILROY ADMITS HE MUST resist the urge to play like Seve Ballesteros if he’s to continue his relentless rise in the world rankings. Maturing in leaps and bounds, the swashbuckling world No 2 loves being the showman with a silky swing. But he knows taking on the hero shot at the wrong time is a recipe for disaster if he’s to close the gap on world No 1 Luke Donald.

Believing maturity is the key to winning his second Dubai Desert Classic this week, Rors said: “Looking back at last year, there were a couple of times where I took on a shot where I shouldn’t have. Like third hole at the US PGA, where I hit the tree root.

“You’re trying to visualize the shot that will only come off one time out of 20 and you’re sort of thinking about what would Seve do. Maybe you can take it on if you really need to make a par or birdie to win but you don’t really need to be doing it on the third hole of the tournament.”

McIlroy jarred his wrist attempting a Seve-style escape from trees in the first round of the US PGA in Atlanta and ended up in the hospital. He played for the rest of the week with heavy strapping on his arm and trailed home 64th behind champion Keegan Bradley.

Since then the 22-year old US Open champion has changed his game plan to play more like Jack Nicklaus than the late, great Spaniard. And it’s worked like a dream as he’s racked up two wins and six top-10’s in 10 starts since that US PGA boob.

Brimming with confidence, McIlroy has not doubt that he has grown up quickly over the past year and matured as a golfer.

He said: “I feel like I’ve definitely matured a lot this past year as a golfer and probably just as a person as well. I think if you mature as a person, it shows in your golf game as well, and I feel like I can play more controlled golf when I need to.

“When you’re not playing as well, you need to know your limitations. When you’re 100 percent, you can take on shots. But whenever your aim is slightly off, you need to just reel it back in a little bit and play the percentages a bit more.”

His goal is to become like Tiger Woods in his prime and win with his “B” game.

In Abu Dhabi he drove the ball poorly by his high standards yet still managed to clinch second place behind Robert Rock in an event where he was docked two strokes for ilegally brushing sand off his line when just off the ninth green on Friday.

And as Woods bids to win his first US Tour title for more than two years in this week’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am, McIlroy will be going for his fifth win in the same time frame. Fans will expect fireworks with McIlroy playing alongside Dubai specialist Alvaro Quiros and Abu Dhabi winner Rock. McIlroy wants to make up for last year when he opened with a 65 and added a 68 but then faded to 10th with weekend rounds of 75 and 74.

All has changed since then, of course, with the demons of Augusta exorcised by that historic eight-stroke US Open triumph and an end-of-season gold run that brought two wins and a rash of top 5 finishes that saw him briefly reach world No 2 before ending the year ranked third behind Donald and Lee Westwood.

“Hopefully this is another week where I can be near the top of the leaderboard again.”

His next start will come in the US, where the WGC-Accenture Match Play will signal a run of American events culminating in his eagerly awaited return to Augusta National.

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, February 8

69 Drives of 300 Yards or Longer—and Counting

The PING® G20™ driver
BUBBA WATSON AND HIS PINK PING® G20™ driver got heated up in Arizona. His 43 drives of 300 yards or longer at the Waste Management Phoenix Open outdistanced his previous week’s total at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he hit 26. To date, he has raised $30,700 from equipment sponsor PING as part of his effort to raise $1 million for charities this PGA Tour season.

In addition to a $10,000 upfront contribution, PING is supporting “Bubba & Friends Drive to a Million” by donating $300 for every drive he hits 300 yards or more (up to 300 drives) in 2012. PING’s fundraising event is called, “Bubba Long in Pink. Driven by PING.” All funds raised will go to Phoenix-area charities, chosen by PING with Bubba’s support.

On the season, more than 63 percent of Watson’s drives have traveled 300-plus yards, the highest percentage on tour of anyone who has played at least 12 rounds. He next competes at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club, February 16-19.

Tuesday, February 7

LPGA Tour Season Kicks Off in Australia

The 2012 LPGA Tour season starts on Thursday with the inaugural ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia. It’s the first time in its long history that Royal Melbourne will host women pros. One hundred fifty-six players will compete for a $1.1 million purse. Six of the top 10 players in the Rolex Rankings are in the field, including No. 1 Yani Tseng, No. 7 Jiyai Shin, No. 9 Stacy Lewis and No. 10 Brittany Lincicome.

Tseng was asked about her goals for 2012 at

“I think my new goal is to get stronger,” she said. “I want my swing to be more consistent. Maybe I can improve my mental status.”

It could be hard to improve on a 2011 season that included 12 worldwide victories, seven of them on the LPGA Tour. But Tseng is a huge talent who could rack up dozens of wins if she continues to improve and doesn’t lose her focus.

Purse: $1.1 million
Defending champion: Inaugural event
Course: Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Par 73, 6,505 yards

Tournament preview
Final field
ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open website


TV coverage of the 2012 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open is on Golf Channel.

Thu, Feb 9
12:30-2:30 PM ET

Fri, Feb 10
12:30-2:30 PM ET

Sat, Feb 11
10:00-12:30 PM ET

Sun, Feb 12
10:00-12:30 PM ET

(Image: Courtesy of

Monday, February 6

Comeback Kyle

Kyle Stanley cashes in after last week's bad check.
IF YOU CAN’T WIN FROM SIX shots ahead, how about winning from eight shots behind? Kyle Stanley did just that on Sunday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. Stanley’s 65 got him to the house with a 15-under total for a one-shot victory over Ben Crane.

Watching Stanley rebound from his devastating collapse at the Farmers Insurance Open a week ago was a far more satisfying Super Bowl pregame than anything I could have watched on NBC or ESPN.

Yet one man’s redemption was another man’s tragedy. Spencer Levin entered the final round with a comfortable six-stroke lead, on his way to a first PGA Tour win. Sound familiar? After an early birdie, it began to unravel for Levin with bogeys at the 4th and 6th holes, and then two more at 11 and 12. A double bogey at the par-5 15th hole and the psychological damage had been done.

“It’s almost like you’re kind of wanting the holes to run out real quick,” Levin said about holding a big lead.

Stanley could relate after his Torrey Pines nightmare. He choked up when the win was official, thanking his mom and dad (who I mentioned this past week) for all they had done for him. Overcome, he cut it short, saying, “I’m speechless.” I can’t say I know Matt and Michelle (Kyle’s parents) well, but my wife and I did get to hang out with them during our Glendale days in Bellevue, Washington. We both agreed that Michelle may be the sweetest person on the planet.

You can’t help but notice that Kyle Stanley is solid in a lot of ways. As a player, sure. Hopefully, this is the first of many wins. But he’s also a solid person, well grounded, with a strong family and good people around him. That’s what you need more than a good short game, because the PGA Tour (and life) are full of crazy ups and downs.

So does this mean Spencer Levin wins this week at Pebble?

Sunday, February 5

Shankopotomis and Other Hilarious Golf Commercials

“Frank, it was on the cart path. Why don’t you try reading the rules, Shankopotomis.”

Who can forget that?

It’s Super Bowl Sunday, and while I don’t know if this year’s crop of ads will include any memorable ones, Golf Digest has a slideshow of more than two dozen humorous golf commercials, including a few oldies but goodies such as the Lite Beer Open.

Friday, February 3

3 Reasons Why I Like Golf

By Charles Prokop

Copyright © Charles Prokop. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

AFTER MUCH HEAD SCRATCHING, NAVEL GAZING, and creative napping, I’ve come up with my reasons to like golf. These reasons apply solely to me. Any resemblance to the reasons of others is purely coincidental, although not necessarily impossible.

I mentally thumbed through my recollections of golf experiences, looking for the most pleasant memories. Three types of events stood out: rare perfectly struck shots; fun and companionship with golf buddies; and losing myself in the beauty of nature or the experience of the game. I’ll call those achievement experiences, social rewards, and spiritual immersion.

1. Achievement experiences.

Golf gives me something to work on. It’s something I know I can never master, but I can expect those rare flashes of brilliance. Golf will always challenge me, but it won’t be impossible for me improve. It’s a challenge that will last a lifetime, and I can keep at it for a very long time. Golf is a complex skill and I’ll need to change my game as I age and find new ways to play, but as long as I stay in reasonable physical shape I can participate. Few other sports, if any, offer the possibility of such a long playing career.

2. Social rewards.

Golf provides me with a structure for social interaction. I’m not very good at small talk; I need to have something going on. Golf gives me that thing to organize friendships around. The people I’ve played golf with throughout my life have been among my best friends, and now that I’m retired and don’t meet people at work, I meet new friends on the golf course.

3. Spiritual immersion.

I can lose myself in the game. Some of my moments of deepest peace, of meditative calm, have come in the midst of rounds of golf. Sometimes it’s becoming lost in the beauty of a fairway at sunset, feeling the grass and the air cooling as the sun goes down. Sometimes it’s standing on the first tee at dawn, hearing the birds awakening in the trees. At other times it’s becoming completely immersed in the rhythm of the round itself, thinking only about the next shot and seeing nothing but the ball and the target. It’s a legal altered state of consciousness with no negative side effects.

Golf seldom gives me all three of these things in one round. In fact, it’s hard to get the social interaction and the spiritual immersion simultaneously because one is outer directed and one is inner directed. But I can choose what I need and play alone or with friends, depending upon my goals.

And on those rare occasions where all three come together, where I’m playing well with good friends and that feeling of peace overcomes me, it’s heaven.

Charles Prokop is a clinical psychologist who writes about golf at fairwaywords.

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

Thursday, February 2

2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2012 WASTE MANAGEMENT PHOENIX OPEN is underway at TPC Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Arizona. Webb Simpson is the early leader after firing a 65. Derek Lamely and Jarrod Lyle posted 66s. The first round is still in progress.

Purse: $6.1 million
Winner’s share: $1.098 million
Defending champion: Mark Wilson

Inside the field
Tee times
Inside the courses
Player interviews
Tournament overview
Tour report
Tournament news
Waste Management Phoenix Open website

2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open Leaderboard


TV coverage of the 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open is on Golf Channel and CBS.

Thu, 2/2:
GOLF 4p - 7p ET

Fri, 2/3:
GOLF 4p - 7p ET

Sat, 2/4:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 2/5:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times

(Image: Courtesy of

Wednesday, February 1

Super Bowl Hype: Golf Digest’s Top 10 Gridiron Golfers

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo studies more than film.
I GUESS I’VE SOLD OUT, a golf cog in the Super Bowl hype machine. In case you haven’t heard, it’s Super Bowl week. The New York Giants play the New England Patriots in Naptown on Sunday. I’m for the Giants. Something like 11 million pounds of potato chips will be consumed during the game. (I read that in Parade.)

Anyway, let’s get to the Golf Digest list, shall we? These are the top 10 NFLers (and four bonus players) with an affinity for the small ball. Three of them, by the way, are playing in The Big Game.

1. Tony Romo.
The Dallas Cowboys quarterback has been as low as a plus 3.3 handicap. That’s real good.

2. Peyton Manning.
The injured Colts QB is a 4.6 handicap. My cousin has played with him in fundraisers. Sometimes I kid him about getting us a game with Peyton.

3. Ben Roethlisberger.
Pittsburgh’s “Big Ben” is also a tough customer on the golf course. His handicap index has been as low as .4.

4. Aaron Rodgers.
The Green Bay Packers quarterback is a respectable single-digit-handicap golfer.

5. Tom Brady.
Has a “decent” golf game. I hope he loses on Sunday.

6. Drew Brees.
The New Orleans QB shot a 102 in the U.S. Open challenge at Pebble Beach.

7. Eli Manning.
A 7.1 handicapper, I hope the Giants quarterback is holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night.

8. Matthew Stafford.
Detroit Lions QB. Golf game unknown.

9. Sam Bradford.
St. Louis Rams player who is a scratch or better golfer.

10. Matt Schaub.
The Houston Texans quarterback is listed as a 7 handicap.


Wes Welker. Much better pass catcher than golfer.

Mark Ingram. New Orleans Saints running back who once shot a 69. In the 8th grade. Boom!

Jay Cutler. A 12 handicap. Let’s move on.

Tim Tebow. Please. Have you seen this guy’s swing? Holy … nevermind.

−The Armchair Golfer

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