Tuesday, December 30

2014 Rewind: European Dominance and Culture of Blame

(The following post originally published on September 29, 2014.)

EUROPE HAS WON YET ANOTHER RYDER CUP. The final score was Europe 16 1/2, United States 11 1/2. The Europeans have now won three in a row, six of seven and eight of 10.

"No team embodies togetherness quite like Europe," wrote Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press.

So very true.

Judging from the press conference afterward, Ferguson could also have written no team embodies blame and bitterness quite like the United States. It was personified by none other than Phil Mickelson.

I will not defend the captaincy of Tom Watson. He may be out of date. He may not have been very communicative in this modern sports era of collaborative coaching. He did it his autocratic way, and he and his team came away from Gleneagles with a loss. The blame is now raining down on Watson like a Scottish storm.

But this U.S. team, with Watson at the helm, has something in common with 10 other American squads since 1985. A defeat. One could say that it hasn't made much difference who the captain is for the Americans. The result has been the same.

The one fairly recent exception was 2008, when U.S. captain Paul Azinger introduced the pod system and the United States won at Valhalla. Mickelson would have us believe that Azinger was the difference, that the pod system was a stroke of genius. Maybe so. But also this: maybe the Europeans didn't play quite as well that year. And, of course, the Ryder Cup was in Louisville, Kentucky.

Which matters more: the players or the captains?

Maybe the answer is not clear cut, but I go back to the Ferguson quote: "No team embodies togetherness quite like Europe."

Whether for Captain McGinley or Captain Montgomerie or [insert name], the Europeans are great players who play for each other and overcome adversity. They fight back in matches to get a half point when all seems lost. They love to win for their countries and their continent. Perhaps more than anything, they absolutely love to beat America.

By and large, in recent years, I have not seen that same resolve and fire from the American players. Is that entirely Watson's and the other U.S. captains' fault?

American skipper Davis Love III was absolutely brilliant heading into Sunday at Medinah in 2012. Ahead 10-6, the Americans were on their way to victory. And then they lost, an epic collapse.

Was that Love's fault, as Mickelson inferred yesterday? Is it all about pods?

No team embodies togetherness quite like Europe. No team embodies blame quite like the United States. This is one takeaway from the 2014 Ryder Cup.

This also could be why Team USA will continue to lose until there's a change of attitude. Regardless of the captain, it seems abundantly clear that the U.S. team needs to perform better under Ryder Cup pressure if it's going to beat the Europeans.

I suggest this to American players: You don't like your captain's philosophy or management style? Understood. Go out and win your point anyway. You are playing for pride. You are playing for your teammates. You are playing for your country.

And when it's over, whether you win or lose, don't gloat and don't blame.

Monday, December 29

Jiménez Ambivalent About 2016 Ryder Cup Captaincy

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.

Golf news from Brian Keogh's
Irish Golf Desk.
DARREN CLARKE HAS BEEN THE ODDS on favourite for the 2016 European Ryder Cup captaincy for some time now but it appears that his biggest rival for the job, Miguel Angel Jiménez, has all but ruled himself out of the running.

Speaking to Spanish golf portal Ten-Golf.com, Big Mig is plainly worried that he would be accepting that he's finished as a competitive force if he were to spend the next two years preparing to captain Europe. While he turns 51 this day week, January 5, he made it clear in a year-ending interview that he still feels highly competitive and wants to concentrate on winning that elusive major having racked up there Top-5s and nine Top-10s so far.

Fourth in the Masters last year — his fourth Top-10 at Augusta National since 1992 — world No 40 Jiménez believes he cannot afford to dilute his efforts when he's still a contender for major honours.

"I see myself in the mix," Jiménez told Ten-golf when asked about the 2016 captaincy. "But what happens is that if you dedicate yourself to being captain your game is possibly going to deteriorate because there is so much to do. And I want to compete."

Smiling, he added: "So I do [want to be captain] and I don't..."

With Thomas Bjorn indicating the day after the Ryder Cup win at Gleneagles that he also wants to concentrate on playing again, it would appear that the European captaincy race is all over bar the shouting. A decision, which is in the hands of the three immediate past captains in Colin Montgomerie, José María Olazábal and Paul McGinley with the help of Players Committee representative David Howell and CEO George O'Grady, is expected early in the New Year.

Although a decision could well come before the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, which begins on January 15, the three past captains have yet to meet to discuss the issue, making a post Desert Swing announcement more likely.

The 2016 Ryder Cup will be played at Hazeltine in Minnesota.

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

Friday, December 26

2014 Rewind: 'The Big Wiesy' Finally Delivers

Michelle Wie (Allison)
MICHELLE WIE MIGHT BE THE OLDEST 24-year-old in the history of the world. OK, I say that facetiously, but my oh my has she been through a lot during an amateur and professional golf career that seemingly spans her whole life.

She was the second coming of Tiger Woods, oozing with talent and equipped with a golf swing that so closely resembled Ernie Els's action that, at 14, she was dubbed "The Big Wiesy."

We have all lived through a long decade of ups and downs (too many of them downs, many might say) of Wie's golf career. Then, at last, came a major breakthrough on Sunday evening at the home of American golf.

Perhaps a bit like the man whose fist-thrusting statue graces Pinehurst No. 2, Wie persevered on Sunday for a redemptive victory at the U.S. Women's Open, the biggest prize in golf for the player often thought of as the biggest unfulfilled talent in golf.

Perseverance could be Michelle's middle name. It took her 38 majors and 11 appearances in the Open to claim a trophy that matched her huge ambition and talent.

She did it by fixing the biggest flaw in her often jaw-dropping game. Her putting at Pinehurst was exceptional. Wie had no three-putts in 72 holes. That's how you win the Open.

Wednesday, December 24

PGA Tour's Top 10 Shots of 2014

WATCH THE ABOVE TOP 10 SHOTS of 2014, according to PGATour.com, "featuring clutch approaches, incredible hole-outs and amazing recovery shots from players like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy."

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 23

A Personal Encounter With a Gracious Tom Watson

Joe Nathan had two encounters with golf legend Tom Watson, one long ago and one in recent years. He told me the following story in an email and then granted permission to share it here.

By Joe Nathan

A signed hat and memorable moments with Tom Watson.
WHEN I WAS ABOUT 14, in the 1960's, I caddied for Tom Watson in an obscure tournament in Wichita, Kansas, where I grew up. Watson made it to the semifinals (it was a match-play tournament) and lost 1 up. He was having trouble sinking any putt over five feet.  As I recall, the other guy made one birdie and beat him.

A few years ago I was at a Champions Tour event in the Minneapolis-St Paul area, where I now live. It was a week or two after Watson led the British Open, but lost in the last few holes. He had kept his commitment to play in the tournament here.

I hoped to just say hi to Watson but of course he was surrounded by huge crowds. At the end of the tournament, I was walking off the course and saw the courtesy cars with several players' names. The car with Watson's name was still there so I decided to wait for a few minutes. Ten minutes later he walked toward the car, alone.

I walked up and said, "Excuse me, Mr. Watson.  I caddied you for you in Wichita, Kansas, about 40 years ago. I think it was the ... tournament. Would you please sign my hat?"

He smiled graciously.

"I remember," he said. "I lost 1 up in the semis. Could not make a putt that day. And the name of the tournament was the ... tournament."

He was right about the name, and I was wrong. Then he graciously took my hat and signed. We talked for a few minutes. I asked him a question about the remarkable chip at Pebble Beach after saying I suppose you have heard this question a 1000 times but could you please just tell me about it.

Again, he smiled and said, "Yes, lots of people have asked about it, but it's one of the favorite shots of my career. As I looked at it, I thought that I just might be able to sink it. Thanks for asking."

I am a nobody, but Tom Watson spent perhaps five or six minutes with me. He was so gracious.

Joe Nathan, an educator and newspaper columnist, loves golf. He caddied as a kid and has broken 80 once in his life.

Monday, December 22

2014 Rewind: Green Jackets and Hash Browns

Bubba Watson, wife Angie and friends celebrate Masters victory at Waffle House. (Image @judahsmith)
WE KNEW BUBBA WATSON HAD ALL THE SHOTS, but this time, this Sunday in April, the new Lefty was in total control of his game even when the kid (Jordan Spieth) threw a haymaker at him on Augusta's front nine. Bubba took it, and countered with his own combination at holes 8 and 9, cruising to a 69 and a three-shot Masters victory, his second Green Jacket in three years.

None of the other closest challengers broke 70. Runners-up Spieth (72) and Jonas Blixt (71) were unable to mount a back-nine charge. Fifty-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez (71) finished solo fourth. Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler couldn't make it happen on Sunday. Their sluggish 74s landed them in a tie for fifth. Meanwhile, two-time champion Bernard Langer, also on the other side of 50, and Rory McIlroy posted closing 69s to share the eighth spot.

Thursday, December 18

Golf Channel to Re-Air Year's Biggest Events and Moments

By Golf Channel Communications

Rory McIlroy winning the Open Championship wire-to-wire. Paula Creamer’s dramatic 75-foot eagle-winning putt at the HSBC Women’s Champions. Team Europe dominating Team U.S.A. in the Ryder Cup matches. Billy Horschel winning two of four FedExCup Playoff events en-route to winning the $10 million season-long FedExCup. Golf Channel will showcase these storylines and more when the network airs some of the most compelling golf of 2014 during the final two weeks of December. In addition, Golf Channel will feature its original programming from 2014, highlighted by the critically acclaimed Arnie and Payne on Christmas and New Years’ Day.

Programming Schedule (all times Eastern)

Saturday, Dec. 20
3-4 p.m., NBC                        RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship Finals

Sunday, Dec. 21
Noon-2 p.m., Golf Channel    RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship Finals

Monday, Dec. 22
Noon-2 p.m.                            HSBC Women’s Champions Final Round
2-6 p.m.                                   WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Final Round
7-11 p.m.                                 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship – Finals

Tuesday, Dec. 23
Noon-2 p.m.                            JTBC Founders Cup Final Round
2-6 p.m.                                   The Barclays Final Round
7-11 p.m.                                 WGC-Cadillac Championship Final Round

Wednesday, Dec. 24
Noon-2 p.m.                            LPGA LOTTE Championship Final Round
2-6 p.m.                                   Drive, Chip and Putt Championship National Finals

Thursday, Dec. 25
7-8 p.m.                                   Payne
8-11 p.m.                                 Arnie

Friday, Dec. 26
9 a.m.-6 p.m.                           Ryder Cup, Day 1
7-11 p.m.                                 Deutsche Bank Championship Final Round

Saturday, Dec. 27
9 a.m.-6 p.m.                           Ryder Cup, Day 2
7-11 p.m.                                 BMW Championship Final Round

Sunday, Dec. 28
11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.               Ryder Cup, Final Day
5:30-6 p.m.                              Golf Central Special: Post Ryder Cup Press Conference
7-11 p.m.                                 TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, Final Round

Monday, Dec. 29
7-11 p.m.                                 U.S. Open Final Round

Tuesday, Dec. 30
7-9 p.m.                                   U.S. Senior Open Final Round
9-11 p.m.                                 U.S. Women’s Open Final Round

Wednesday, Dec. 31
7-11 p.m.                                 Kraft Nabisco Championship Final Round

Thursday, Jan. 1
7-8 p.m. (Noon-1 p.m.)           Payne
8-11 p.m. (9 a.m.-Noon)         Arnie

Friday, Jan. 2
2-4 p.m.                                   Regions Tradition Final Round
4-6 p.m.                                   Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship Final Round
7-11 p.m.                                 Open Championship Final Round

Saturday, Jan. 3
2-4 p.m.                                   Evian Championship Final Round
4-6 p.m.                                   Senior PGA Championship Final Round
7-11 p.m.                                 PGA Championship Final Round

Sunday, Jan. 4
2-6 p.m.                                   Wegmans LPGA Championship Final Round
7-9:30 p.m.                              PGA Grand Slam of Golf Day 1

MondayJan. 5
7-11 p.m.                                 PGA Grand Slam of Golf Final Day

Golf.com Gallery: Being Tiger in Younger Days

Tiger Woods in 2000.
TIGER WOODS TURNS 39 ON December 30. It seems like an old 39 to me, but I realize that 39 isn't that old. It's just that Tiger has been around forever, in a sense. He broke into the professional golf ranks at age 20, and it's not like we didn't know about him before that.

Tiger didn't play much golf in 2014, but that didn't stop the media mill from churning out copious material on the greatest golfer of this era. I've lost track of the comebacks from injuries, the swing coaches (four?), the controversies, the rumors, the uncomfortable press conferences and the "is what it is's."

But Golf.com reminded me of the kid who picked up a golf club when he first started walking around in Cypress, California. Their photo gallery shows a Tiger that I can barely remember. He was young. He was skinny. And he had a big smile on his face much of the time.

Remember those days?

Since turning pro Tiger has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated 22 times. As the above SI cover said, he was "one cool cat."

Why kind of cat will he be at 39?

View the Golf.com photo gallery of Tiger Woods in younger days.

Wednesday, December 17

2014 USGA Tribute to Payne Stewart

2014 was the year the U.S. Open returned to Pinehurst No. 2, evoking memories of the late Payne Stewart, who captured his second U.S. Open title at Pinehurst in 1999. The USGA selected Stewart as the recipient of the 2014 Bob Jones Award and produced the above profile, which features family members and fellow PGA Tour pros such as Paul Azinger and Peter Jacobsen.


Payne Stewart tragically passed away in an airplane accident on October 25, 1999. Earlier this year, the two-time U.S. Open champion was named the 2014 Bob Jones Award honoree. Presented annually since 1955, the Bob Jones Award is the USGA's highest honor, recognizing an individual who demonstrates the utmost spirit, personal character and respect for the game. Known for his passion for golf, sportsmanship and philanthropy, Payne Stewart won 11 professional events during an 18-year PGA Tour career.

Tuesday, December 16

Remembering Harry Vardon: The Isle of Jersey Caddie Who Mastered the Game

HARRY VARDON WON THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP a record six times. Only one other player has won a major golf championship six times. His name is Jack Nicklaus. There's the famous Vardon grip. Trophies that bear Vardon's name are awarded each year by the PGA Tour and European Tour.

Harry the Great
The influence of a man whose prime was a century ago lives on.

In a New York Times feature that published in July, Pulitzer Prize-winning sportswriter Dave Anderson asked, "Who knows how many more [Opens] Vardon might have won if, two weeks after his sixth, World War I had not been sparked by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. The Open would not be played again until 1920, when Vardon was 50."

The only major championships during the early 20th century were The Open Championship and the U.S. Open. That's just two cracks per year. Vardon won seven majors, including one U.S. Open in 1900. His last victory in the Open Championship came 100 years ago, in 1914. As Anderson reported, Vardon, by his own count, won 62 golf tournaments in a long career.

"I'm the best and I'll thank you to remember that," Vardon once said.

It's true. He was. Vardon is still one of the all-time greats.

Following is an excerpt from Anderson's story on Harry Vardon:
Vardon grew up as a caddie on the Isle of Jersey off the southern coast of England. He was to British golf at the turn of the last century what Bobby Jones would be to American golf in the Roaring Twenties. In the years after the first British Open in 1860 at Prestwick on Scotland’s western shore, Old Tom Morris and his son, Young Tom, from St. Andrews on the eastern shore, dominated the tournament, each winning four times. But in the 1890s, the handsome, trim Englishman named Vardon arrived. 
After winning the British Open in 1896 at Muirfield (in a 36-hole playoff with Taylor), in 1898 at Prestwick (as the first with four rounds in the 70s) and 1899 at Royal St. George’s (first prize paid 90 pounds), he sailed to the United States as golf’s first international ambassador. During his 1900 tour of 65 exhibition matches (he won 50, lost 13 and halved 2), he won that year’s United States Open while promoting a Spalding gutta-percha golf ball known as the Vardon Flyer.
Vardon also designed golf courses, coached youth and penned golf instruction articles and books. He died in 1937 at the age of 66.

Read the entire Times article.

Monday, December 15

Chalmers Outlasts Scott to Win Aussie PGA

Greg Chalmers
GREG CHALMERS PUT IN A LONG day at the office on Sunday. But it was a very good day for the 41-year-old western Australian.

Chalmers outlasted Wade Ormsby and Masters champion Adam Scott in a seven-hole playoff to win the Australian PGA Championship at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast. The southpaw also won the Aussie PGA title in 2011.

After ho-hum play that left him seven shots off the pace coming into Sunday, Chalmers got red hot on his final trip around Royal Pines. The veteran carded eight birdies, including one on the final hole that earned him a spot in the playoff, to post a 64.

Ormsby and Scott both shot 71 on the final 18. Ormsby dropped out of the playoff on the third extra hole.

''Just phenomenal, I'm worn out,'' Chalmers said. ''I was all over the place ... really excited and thrilled.''

Defending champion Scott lamented a lost opportunity.

''I didn't hit it close enough today to the hole,'' he said.

''It wasn't like I missed 10 footers today all day long. When you hit it outside 25 feet, there is almost the same chance you are going to three-putt as two-putt on tour. You have to hit it closer.''

Friday, December 12

Fox Sports Debuts Golf Coverage at Franklin Templeton Shootout

MOVE OVER CBS, NBC AND GOLF CHANNEL. Or at least make room.

With its mega deal to telecast the U.S. Open, Fox Sports is jumping into golf in a big way. A trial run begins this week with the network's coverage of the Franklin Templeton Shootout.

The AP's Greg Handel reported:
For the first time, Fox Sports is getting into the golf business. Norman will join Joe Buck in the broadcast booth. They also will work the U.S. Open this summer. 
Fox will employ 73 microphones, 24 cameras, 10 replay machines, seven broadcasters and five audio mixers for the tournament. 
"I come at this as a guy who just loves the game and loves to play and loves to be out with friends and try to get better at this game," Buck said. "I've been doing this for a long time now and I've gone from being the kid and trying to prove myself in baseball and football to somebody who's done it for a long time and I think I understand TV. 
"Greg knows the golf part of it I think together we'll make this thing work."
Norman called the broadcast opportunity "one of the top five things he has done in his life."

Thursday, December 11

PGA Tour Tweaks Playoffs Points

THE PGA TOUR ANNOUNCED A CHANGE to the points awarded during the FedEx Cup Playoffs. PGATour.com reported:
Beginning in 2015, The Barclays, Deutsche Bank Championship, BMW Championship and TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola will award 2,000 points for a victory (down from 2,500) with all other places being reduced by the same proportion. The intent, Finchem said, is to place a greater emphasis on season-long excellence while still maintaining the element of volatility and movement throughout the Playoffs. 
"Every year since the FedExCup was introduced in 2007, we have reviewed the points structure with the Player Advisory Council and four Player Directors who sit on the Policy Board," Finchem said. 
"We believe this slight modification will add greater significance to players having an outstanding season leading into the Playoffs, while still allowing for the excitement of volatility and movement during the Playoffs, particularly as players vie to make the final 30 for the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola."

Wednesday, December 10

My New Glasses From Golf Rx

Thanks Golf Rx for my new glasses.
AT LEFT ARE MY NEW GLASSES that were custom made by Golf Rx, a division of Sports Optical based in Denver, Colorado. They are everyday glasses that include transition lenses, although Golf Rx specializes in custom prescription sunglasses for golfers.

Optician and marketing director Kyle Ross initially reached out to me in September.

"We're a prescription lenscrafter in Denver, CO specializing in custom, handmade prescription golf eyewear," Kyle said in an email. "Long story short, crafting a prescription into curved, sport-format lenses is a delicate, highly-refined process and we do it quite well."

Kyle went on to say that his company would like to make a pair of glasses for me. That sounded great to me, so we got started.

Golf Rx has a wide range of choices,
including this style by Oakley.
Kyle asked me several questions about my preferences. As it turned out, I was more interested in a pair of everyday glasses rather than a pair of prescription sunglasses, whether Oakley, Mt. Falcon, Numa Optics or other frame choices (all available from Golf Rx).

After learning my preferences, Kyle shipped some frames for me to see, handle and try on. I made my selection, including lenses (progressive lenses with tinting). I provided my prescription, marked the lenses per Kyle's instructions and provided my pupillary distance (PD) measurement. It all went smoothly.

I'm not exaggerating when I say I really, really like my new glasses. The frames are lightweight and my eyes quickly adjusted to my new prescription and new progressive lenses. The world looks better to me today.

Sponsored by Golf Rx.

Tuesday, December 9

Remembering U.S. Open Champion Johnny McDermott

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Johnny McDermott
FOLLOWING HIS TWO U.S. OPEN WINS, Johnny McDermott, our first "homebred" U. S. Open winner, entered the 1914 British Open, but because of travel delays he arrived too late to tee off. Returning home to the States his ship, the Kaiser Wilhelm II, collided with an English ship and sank. He drifted in a lifeboat in the middle of the Atlantic for over 24 hours before being rescued.

When he did reach America, he learned he had been wiped out financially because of bad Wall Street investments and needed to take a job as the golf pro at the Atlantic City Country Club. He was then 23 years old and he quit playing tournament golf. Within a few years players couldn’t even recall his name or what he had won.

Still a young man, McDermott began to suffer mental breakdowns and his family had him committed to the Norristown Hospital in Pennsylvania. At the hospital, the administration did allow him to design and build a short 6-hole golf course on the grounds and McDermott played on it from time to time, and once, under supervision, he was allowed out of the mental hospital to play 18 holes. He went to a golf course on Staten Island and shot an amazing 70, several strokes under par. Then he returned to the mental institution and never played golf again.

Many years later, in 1971, again with attendants, he went to the U.S. Open Championship being played at the exclusive Merion Golf Club just north of Philadelphia. It was at this country club Johnny  McDermott grew up and where he learned the game.

However, at Merion because of his dress and appearance, he was ordered out of the golf shop and told not to go near the clubhouse where he had hoped to visit the players.

With his hospital attendants, he turned away and started to leave, to go back to the hospital, when Arnold Palmer, of all people, walking towards the first tee recognized the old man, this two-time U.S. Open Championship winner, and put his arms around Johnny McDermott. They talked golfer to golfer, champion to champion, and Palmer then arranged for McDermott to stay at the tournament as his special guest, with all clubhouse rights and privileges.

Two months later, a few days short of his 80th birthday, Johnny McDermott, America’s first great "homebred" professional, now only a fading footnote in the history of the USGA, died in his sleep at the mental hospital where he had spent much of his life.

John Coyne is a bestselling author whose latest golf novel is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

Monday, December 8

Keegan Bradley on Short Putter: 'It's a Good Surprise'

Keegan Bradley
JORDAN SPIETH DEMOLISHED THE FIELD in the Hero World Challenge, making it two wins in two weeks in two hemispheres. Spieth posted an insane 26-under total to win by 10 strokes.

Meanwhile, 2011 PGA champion Keegan Bradley swapped out his belly putter for a 40-inch Scotty Cameron Futura X5 Dual Balance putter. The anchoring ban goes into effect in about a year, so Bradley is getting ready for the inevitable.

Judging from last week at Isleworth, everything might work out just fine with Bradley's switch to a conventional putter. Bradley recorded 24 birdies on "tough" greens to shoot 16 under and finish tied for third.

"This was one of the biggest tournaments of my career ... to show myself that that putter is not an issue," Bradley said. "Actually, it was probably the best I’ve putted all year. It’s a good surprise."

As well as he putted, Bradley couldn't keep up with a blazing hot Jordan Spieth.

"I wanted to go over there and tackle him, break his putter," Bradley said after Spieth sank an eagle putt on Sunday.

"He was pretty much unbeatable this week."

(H/T Ryan Lavner, Golf Central Blog)

Friday, December 5

Luke Donald's 63 Includes a Baboon

LUKE DONALD WAS IN TOP FORM at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City, South Africa, on Friday. Donald grabbed the 36-hole lead after a second-round 63 that included nine birdies, nine pars and one baboon.

As shown in the above video, the baboon loped across the fairway, startling Donald. Meanwhile, his caddie, Johnnie, was nonplussed.

"The fact that my caddy Johnnie didn't even flinch, makes my reaction look even more pathetic!!" Donald tweeted.

Later, Donald added: "Couple of things happened to me that haven't happened in a while....one I shot 63, and two I let a baboon play thru on the course."

(H/T Geoff Shackelford)

Thursday, December 4

Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 5

Fred Hawkins often practiced with the most feared player on the circuit—Ben Hogan. “I played a number of practice rounds with [Hogan],” Hawkins told me. “[H]e’d always ask me to come down to Fort Worth a couple of days early so he’d get a little competition [and] practice that way.” In the continuation of this series, you'll learn about Hawkins and his Hogan stories. Read Part 1Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

Fred Hawkins and Ben Hogan
at Colonial in 1959.
BEN HOGAN DIDN'T LIKE TO LOSE, even in practice, but it happened fairly often in his games with Fred Hawkins.

“We used to play these Nassaus,” Hawkins said. “As I said, [Hogan] wasn’t really bearing down like he was in a tournament. He was trying hard, but he’s working on changes that we all make to see if it was going to work in the tournament for him.

 “I probably beat him as much as he beat me in the practice rounds. But he had a number of things that I thought were unusual.

“He would come in and say, ‘How did we come out?’

“I’d say, ‘Don’t give me that stuff. You know damn well how we came out.’

“One of his favorite sayings was ‘What did you shoot—50?’

“‘What? 50!’ I’d say. ‘I had 66.’

“[Hogan would say], ‘Anybody make that many putts ought to be in the 50s.’

 “It burned him up.”

* * *

Fred Hawkins told me about a practice round during which he and Billy Casper opposed Ben Hogan and Dow Finsterwald prior to the Goodall Palm Beach Round Robin at Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle, New York.

“Hogan was playing perfect,” Hawkins said. “Casper and I were not hitting the ball good. We were all over the place but we’re making every putt.”

The four men reached the par-4 15th hole.

“Hogan knocked his way down in the fairway. One of us went right, the other left. Then we criscrossed, neither one of us on the green.”

Hogan knocked his approach shot onto the green 25 feet from the hole. He’s laying two. Meanwhile, Hawkins and Casper are hitting their third shots from off the green.

“We pitched on not very well, both just outside of [Hogan].”

Hawkins and Casper were both putting for par. They went before Hogan.

“We both made it,” Hawkins said, “and he three-putted.”

Hogan was steaming.

“When we were going to the next tee, he said, ‘You guys ever lose that putting stroke I’ll be buying a hot dog from you.’”

As Hawkins remembered it, he and Casper both shot 65 or 66. Hogan had a 70. Finsterwald was around in 71.

“[Hogan] was livid,” Hawkins said. “As far as his long game was, he was playing beautiful, but he didn’t putt well at all.”

Next time: Ben Hogan, tough and unknowable.

Other Installments:

Wednesday, December 3

A Congressional Gold Medal for the Golden Bear

Amateur Jack Nicklaus in 1960.
JACK NICKLAUS IS ON HIS WAY to the Congressional Gold Medal. The following news is excerpted from Nicklaus.com:
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) announced that their legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the “Golden Bear,” Ohio native Jack Nicklaus, in recognition of his service to the nation in promoting excellence, good sportsmanship, and philanthropy passed the U.S. Senate. For over two centuries, Congress has awarded gold medals as an expression of public appreciation for the contributions of its most distinguished citizens. The legislation now heads to the President’s desk for signature. 
“I had the fortunate pleasure in 2012 to attend and participate in Arnold’s Congressional Gold Medal ceremony, and I witnessed how special and meaningful it was to him,” Nicklaus said. 
“I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to experience that, as well, and to be a part of a very special group of past recipients. The game of golf has been an incredible gift to my family and me. It not only gave me a livelihood, but it provided Barbara and me with a vehicle to give back and to impact other lives, especially those of children and families in need. To our leaders in both the House and the Senate who supported this extremely kind gesture, I offer my most sincere and heartfelt appreciation. God bless America.” 
The Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom are the highest awards bestowed on a United States civilian. Nicklaus was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. He and Arnold Palmer are the only golfers in history to receive both honors.

Tuesday, December 2

Myrtle Beach Golf: Challenging, Breathtaking, Fulfilling

The 18th hole at Caledonia. (Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday)
WHETHER YOU'VE BEEN TO MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina, or simply know it by reputation, chances are you think of it as a vast golf oasis and vacation land that has every kind of golf experience and family fun imaginable at an affordable price. It's true. That viewpoint is as take-dead-aim accurate as Bubba Watson's final-hole bunker shot in Shanghai last month.

But did you know that Myrtle Beach golf can also be sneaky tough, endlessly breathtaking and uniquely fulfilling for all stripes of aspiring golfers?

Fact: According to Golf Digest, Myrtle Beach has 71 four-star golf courses. 71! That's nearly as many four-star layouts as Pinehurst, Las Vegas and San Diego COMBINED.

Fact: In the last seven years, 13 Myrtle Beach-area golf courses have been ranked among the nation's top 100 public courses by either Golf Digest or Golf Magazine.

Fact: Myrtle Beach was voted Best Golf Destination by readers of USA Today and 10 Best, beating out Pinehurst, Kiawah Island and Sea Island, to name a few.

Following, in alphabetical order, are five Myrtle Beach-area golf courses that measure up to the esteemed layouts of other golf destinations.

Equal parts art and architecture, Caledonia meanders through live oak trees draped in Spanish moss and along the Waccamaw Neck. The 18th hole, which plays across water to a green that rests in the shadow of an antebellum-style clubhouse, is one of the best in the game.

Dunes Club
This classic Robert Trent Jones Sr. design helped put Myrtle Beach on the golf map. The Dunes Club is a consensus top-100 layout that has hosted six Senior PGA Tour Championships, the U.S. Women's Open, the finals of PGA Tour Q-School and, most recently, the PGA Professional National Championship.

Arguably the prettiest golf course in Myrtle Beach and among the most aesthetically pleasing layouts on the entire East Coast. Tidewater offers views of Cherry Grove, the Intracoastal Waterway and even a distant view of the Atlantic Ocean.

TPC Myrtle Beach
TPC Myrtle Beach is one of Golf Digest’s 100 Greatest Public Courses and has hosted the Senior PGA Tour Championship. From the locker room to the finishing par-5 hole, this is a PGA Tour-quality experience in every respect.

True Blue
True Blue is located less than a mile from sister course Caledonia. Although completely different, True Blue is every bit as memorable. Think big: huge fairways, greens, waste bunkers and challenge. Also big recognition: True Blue is currently ranked 77th on Golf Magazine’s list of the Top 100 You Can Play.

So the next time you're planning a golf trip or vacation, think Myrtle Beach for yet another reason--the home to some of the best public golf courses in America.