Thursday, February 26

Golf on TV: The Honda Classic, Honda LPGA Thailand, Joburg Open

The following edited content was supplied by Golf Channel in a news release.

The PGA TOUR kicks off the Florida Swing this week. The field includes 16 of the top-25 players in the world, including World No. 1 Rory McIlroy making his 2015 PGA TOUR debut.

The LPGA Tour continues the international stretch of its 2015 schedule, with nine of the top-10 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings in the field for the Honda LPGA Thailand. And the European Tour stages the first of three consecutive events in South Africa with the Joburg Open.

* * *


The Honda Classic
Dates: Feb. 26-March 1
Venue: PGA National Resort & Spa (Champion Course), Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):          
Thursday         2-6 p.m. (Live) / 9 p.m.-1 a.m. (Replay)
Friday              2-6 p.m. (Live) / 9 p.m.-1 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday         1-3 p.m. (Live) / 3-5 p.m. (Live, Spotlight Coverage) / 7 p.m.-Midnight (Replay)
Sunday            1-3 p.m. (Live) / 3-5 p.m. (Live, Spotlight Coverage) / 7 p.m.-Midnight (Replay)

Tournament Airtimes on NBC (Eastern):
Saturday          3-6 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            3-6 p.m. (Live)

Event Notes

Henley defends: Russell Henley defeated Rory McIlroy, Russell Knox and Ryan Palmer with a birdie on the first playoff hole for his second career PGA TOUR win.

Headlining the field: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Billy Horschel, Patrick Reed and Russell Henley.

* * *


Honda LPGA Thailand 
Dates: Feb. 26-March 1
Venue: Siam Country Club Pattaya (Old Course), Chonburi, Thailand

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         1-5 a.m. (Live) / 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (Replay)
Friday              1-5 a.m. (Live) / 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (Replay)
Saturday          1-5 a.m. (Live)
Sunday            1-5 a.m. (Live)

Event Notes

Nordqvist defends: Anna Nordqvist finished two shots ahead of Inbee Park for her third career LPGA Tour victory.

Headlining the field: Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis, Shanshan Feng, Michelle Wie, Suzann Pettersen, So Yeon Ryu, Hyo Joo Kim, Karrie Webb, Lexi Thompson and Anna Nordqvist.

* * *


Joburg Open
Dates: Feb. 26-March 1
Venue: Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club (East & West Courses), Gauteng, South Africa

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         7-9 a.m. (Live) / 5-7 a.m. (Tape delay)
Friday              7-9 a.m. (Live) / 5-7 a.m. (Tape delay)
Saturday          5:30-9:30 a.m. (Live)
Sunday            5-9:30 a.m. (Live)

Event Notes

Coetzee defends: George Coetzee won by three shots for his first career European Tour win.

Headlining the field: Darren Clarke, George Coetzee, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Edoardo Molinari, S.S.P. Chawrasia, Andy Sullivan, Gregory Bourdy, Alex Noren and David Horsey.

Wednesday, February 25

Will Love Cure My Ryder Cup Fatigue?

I HAVE RYDER CUP FATIGUE. To be honest, I don't feel like talking about it. At least not about the US of A. But I do feel obligated. That's because the PGA of America's ballyhooed 11-member task force, after just two meetings, has announced its choice for U.S. Ryder Cup captain in 2016.

Davis Love III will get another turn
as U.S. Ryder Cup captain. (Edelman)
Davis Love III.

OK, fine. No, really, I'm OK with this selection.

I felt that Love did a great job in 2012. He was considered to be positively brilliant until his squad coughed up a commanding 10-6 lead on Sunday at Medinah.

Was that Love's fault? Um, no.

Love is a solid choice for 2016. A "company" man, so to speak, AND a players' captain. It should help the U.S. captain and his team that next time is a home game, but don't count on it. For a very long time, Europe has been better, period. That might continue. And yes, the U.S. players must play better if they want to win. The captain can only do so much.

Will they throw Davis under the team bus if the United States loses at Hazeltine in 2016?

Probably. I'm afraid so. That's what always seems to happen. It makes me sad.

For now, though, a new captain has been selected and all is well in Palm Beach Gardens. Maybe we can all finally move on from that U.S. loss five months ago. Please?

Tuesday, February 24

No Doubt About Lydia Ko

THERE WERE MILD RESERVATIONS THREE WEEKS ago when Lydia Ko achieved No. 1 status in the women's game. Just 17 years old, the New Zealander ascended to the top spot in the Rolex Rankings after a runner-up finish at the Coates Golf Championship in Ocala, Florida.

Lydia Ko
None of Ko's peers questioned her game or that Ko was more than capable of ruling the ladies circuit. But some openly wondered about the current points system and if it rewarded Ko too soon.

That small debate is now moot. Ko is for real. She has not let her foot off the accelerator.

This past weekend the teen solidified her ranking with a victory at the Women's Australia Open at Royal Melbourne Golf Club. It was her sixth title on the LPGA Tour. Watch out.

As the Australian media (via Geoff Shackelford) noted, Ko hit 64 of 72 greens in regulation, tops in the field. This is especially noteworthy at Royal Melbourne, home to elevated and contoured putting surfaces, and also one of the great courses on the planet.

Ko seems to take it all in stride. Again, she is 17. And she is confident. Youth and confidence can be a formidable combination.

"I didn't really know how I would play and how I would react to becoming world No. 1, and I always wondered that," Ko said at

"Sometimes I got close and I was still world No. 2, 3 or 4, and then after Ocala (the Coates Golf Championship) I couldn't pull off the win but then I became world No.1. I played average in the first two days in the Bahamas but then I fired back.

"It's good to know that just from my confidence that I can still play good and not really think about the world rankings."

Yes, that's good to know for Ko. Perhaps not so good for her competitors.

There's no doubt about it: Ko is good, very good, maybe even great. Time will tell.

Monday, February 23

Riviera Roughs Up Field, Hahn Wins Northern Trust Open in Playoff

MAN, THAT RIVIERA IS a tough track.

Hogan's Alley, as it has been called through the years, is a dark alley of sorts, the kind of scary alley you don't want to get caught in late on a Sunday when you're trying to get home with a win.

That was certainly the case yesterday in overcast, rainy, breezy Pacific Palisades, situated a short distance from the Pacific Ocean.

James Hahn
A player named James Hahn survived the Riviera gauntlet better than the others, outlasting Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey in a sudden-death playoff. It was the first PGA Tour title for Hahn, who came to Los Angeles ranked 297th in the world and left with a career-changing victory and ranked No. 86.

Riviera may have stolen Hahn's lunch money, but it mugged 54-hole leader Retief Goosen and roughed up other golfers who had legitimate chances to win on a gray Sunday in L.A. Names such as Johnson, Jim Furyk, Graham DeLaet, Sergio Garcia, Jordan Spieth and Sang-Moon Bae struggled over the closing holes.

The only moves were backwards. There was talk from the CBS towers of possible birdies, like on the 17th, a reachable par-5 with two big pokes. But it was just talk. As it turned out, for many contenders, that deceptively difficult 17th was a bogey hole not a birdie hole.

So was the 18th, one of the best finishing holes on the circuit.

In a TV interview immediately following the playoff, Hahn was humbled by his achievement.

"I never would have thought I would win this tournament," he said, paying homage to the name golfers he had beaten.

That seems about right at Riviera. The unheralded player wins, the name players only come close and a classic golf course is the master of them all.

Thursday, February 19

Golf on TV: Northern Trust Open, ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open, Hero Indian Open

The following edited content was supplied by Golf Channel in a news release.

The PGA TOUR shifts to Southern California this week with 2014 Northern Trust Open winner Bubba Watson defending at Riviera Country Club.

The LPGA Tour returns with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, as 41-time LPGA Tour winner and Australia native Karrie Webb will try to defend in her home country in an event she has won on five previous occasions. And, the European Tour will co-sanction the Hero Indian Open for the first time ever this week.

* * *


Northern Trust Open
Dates: Feb. 19-22
Venue: Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades, Calif.

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):          
Thursday         5-8 p.m. (Live) / 8:30-11:30 p.m. (Replay)
Friday              5-8 p.m. (Live) / 8:30-11:30 p.m. (Replay)
Saturday         1-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 6:30-9 p.m. (Replay)
Sunday            1-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 7:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (Replay)

Saturday: 3-6 p.m.
Sunday: 3-6 p.m.

Event Notes

Watson defends: Bubba Watson finished two shots ahead of Dustin Johnson to earn his fifth career PGA TOUR victory.

Headlining the field: Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Sergio Garcia, Jordan Spieth, Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Hideki Matsuyama, Fred Couples and Davis Love III.

* * *


ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open
Dates: Feb. 18-21
Venue: Royal Melbourne Golf Club (Composite Course), Melbourne, Australia

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):          
Wednesday     11 p.m.-2 a.m. (Live) / 1:30-4:30 p.m. (Thursday replay)
Thursday         11:30 p.m.-2 a.m. (Live) / 1:30-4:30 p.m. (Friday replay)
Friday              11:30 p.m.-2 a.m. (Live) / 3-6 p.m. (Saturday replay)
Saturday          9 p.m.-2 a.m. (Live) / 3-6:30 p.m. (Sunday replay)

Event Notes

Webb defends: Karrie Webb won by one stroke over Chella Choi for her 40th career LPGA Tour win, and it was her fifth time winning her national open championship.

Headlining the field: Lydia Ko, Na Yeon Choi, So Yeon Ryu, Jessica Korda, Shanshan Feng, Karrie Webb, Charley Hull, Ai Miyazato, Chella Choi, Minjee Lee and Cheyenne Woods.

* * *


Hero Indian Open
Dates: Feb. 19-22
Venue: Delhi Golf Club (Lodhi Course), New Delhi, India

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):          
Thursday         9 a.m.-1 p.m. (Tape delay)
Friday              5-7 a.m., 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Tape delay)
Saturday          5:30-9:30 a.m. (Tape delay)
Sunday            5:30-10 a.m. (Tape delay)

Event Notes

Tournament being played as official European Tour event for first time: This is the 51st edition of the Hero Indian Open, but the first time that it will be contested as an official European Tour event. It is co-sanctioned by both the European Tour and Asian Tour, and marks the first European Tour event in India since the 2013 Avantha Masters.

Headlining the field: Miguel Angel Jimenez, Arjun Atwal, Anirban Lahiri, Jeev Milkha Singh, Siddikur Rahman, Daniel Chopra, S.S. P. Chawrasia and Jyoti Randhawa.

Wednesday, February 18

Darren Clarke Picked as 2016 European Ryder Cup Captain

Darren Clarke (zrim)
DARREN CLARKE WILL BE THE NEXT European Ryder Cup captain. Clarke will lead the 12-man squad in the fall of 2016 at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. reported:
The 2011 Open Champion becomes the first Northern Irishman to lead Europe against the United States, having played in the biennial contest five times, featuring on the winning side on four occasions. He was also a vice captain under Colin Montgomerie and José María Olazábal in the European wins in  2010 and 2012 respectively, and succeeds Irishman Paul McGinley, who captained Europe to a 16 ½-11 ½ triumph at Gleneagles last September. 
Clarke takes the reins for the 41st Ryder Cup with the aim of leading Europe to a record fourth consecutive victory in the biennial contest. 
The 46 year old was chosen by a five man selection panel consisting of those three most recent European Ryder Cup Captains - McGinley, Olazábal and Montgomerie – as well as the Chief Executive of The European Tour, George O’Grady, and European Tour Tournament Committee member David Howell, which met at Wentworth Club today (Wednesday February 18). 
Clarke said: "I am naturally extremely proud to be selected as European Ryder Cup captain for 2016. The Ryder Cup has been a massive part of my life and my career, so to have the chance to lead Europe next year is a huge honour. 
"I am lucky to have played and worked under some fantastic captains in my seven Ryder Cups to date, and I look forward to the challenge of trying to follow in their footsteps and help Europe to a fourth consecutive Ryder Cup victory at Hazeltine next year."

Tuesday, February 17

Morgan Pressel to Receive Charlie Bartlett Award

Morgan Pressel (
MORGAN PRESSEL IS BEING RECOGNIZED for her foundation's work to raise awareness about and fight breast cancer.

Following are major portions of the announcement at
HOUSTON (February 16, 2015) – There were obstacles, no doubt, to turning professional at the age of 17, even before she had graduated high school. But what often got overlooked about Morgan Pressel is that she had been faced with an even greater challenge a few years earlier – the death of her mother, Kathryn Krickstein, from breast cancer. 
With two wins and more than $5.8 million in prize money, the 26-year-old Pressel has clearly handled the professional golf thing. But it’s the other side of the story – her growth as a person and her commitment to her mother’s memory – that has won her a legion of supporters. 
Now it has also won her an honor from the Golf Writers Association of America (GWAA), the Charlie Bartlett Award presented by Aberdeen Asset Management. Given to a playing professional for unselfish contributions to the betterment of society, the award pays tribute to Pressel for the charitable efforts she has made through the Morgan Pressel Foundation to heighten breast cancer awareness and fight the insidious disease. 
"Carrying out the mission of the Morgan Pressel Foundation is a team effort, and an honor like this would not be possible without the hard work of many, especially my family and my community at St. Andrews Country Club (in Boca Raton, Fla.)," Pressel said. 
In six years, the foundation has raised more than $3.4 million and the efforts have been felt in her hometown area, Palm Beach County. The Kathryn Krickstein Mammovan became a reality a few years ago, working out of Boca Raton Regional Hospital. It travels throughout the county to provide affordable breast exams and care to those who otherwise might not be able to afford it.
Pressel will receive the award at the GWAA Annual Awards Dinner on April 8 in Augusta, Georgia.

Monday, February 16

First Win in 413 Starts for Lee Janzen

Lee Janzen
LEE JANZEN IS A TWO-TIME U.S. OPEN CHAMPION, winning the silver trophy in 1993 and 1998, but it had been more than 400 tournaments and 16 years since the tour veteran had notched a victory.

That changed yesterday at the ACE Group Classic in Naples, Florida.

Janzen faced an 8-foot birdie putt on the final hole to force a sudden-death playoff with Bart Bryant.

"I was like, 'I have to make birdie here to get in a playoff,'" Janzen said, "or I make a par and I don't and I'll just go back to the drawing board and work harder on my putting because I had some putts I could have made that would have made a difference. But there was a peace that, to me, it didn't matter whether I won or not."

Janzen sank the putt and then won the playoff on the first hole (the 18th) when Bryant hit a weak drive and deposited his second shot in the water.

A Florida Southern College product along with Rocco Mediate, Janzen said he stopped caring what others thought about his golf game.

"I work on my game in a certain way so I'm going to do the best I can on every shot and I don't need to worry about what people think, whether I hit a good shot or a bad shot. I used to have a terrible temper and threw clubs and carried on.

"That was really the breakthrough was to realize I was only doing that because I was too worried about what other people thought about my golf game, so I felt like I had to get mad to show them that I was better than that, which was just ridiculous."

Janzen, just 50, can now look ahead to possibly more titles on the second-chance circuit otherwise known as the Champions Tour.

Friday, February 13

Relaxing Self-Imposed Standards in Golf and Life

By Charles Prokop

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

Not one of us ever grows up to be what he intended to be. Not one of us fulfills his own expectations, Travis. We are all our own children, in that sense. At some point, somewhere, we have to stop making demands.
From The Green Ripper, one of the Travis McGee mysteries by John D. MacDonald

* * *

(Courtesy of  klavr)
RONFUCIUS AND I HAD JUST FINISHED playing our usual mediocre rounds yesterday and were bemoaning how our games had deteriorated. Neither of us has played much recently, partly because of weather and partly because of other demands on our time, and we’re just not popping out those nice rounds with regularity. On the other hand, the weather has warmed up nicely and we had a good time needling and laughing our way around the course.

I’ve always been at risk for making life harder than it has to be by trying to live up to self-imposed standards. I can get caught up in how well I’m playing golf or if I’m keeping some project of my own on schedule when no one else cares and it really doesn’t make any difference. In short, I tend to forget the standards are self-imposed, and if I don’t like them, I can change them. I can stop making demands.

Back when I was getting paid for my time, I suppose that made a little sense. No one was telling me what to do from moment to moment, and if I didn’t set a personal schedule and personal goals I was at risk for not accomplishing anything. Eventually that would be noticed and I’d suffer in terms of raises or promotions.

Those self-imposed standards had the risk of sucking the joy out my job, but at least they led to financial rewards and career advancement. Applying those standards to my golf game or my piddly-squat projects risks sucking the joy without any payback. I suspect that means I’d be better off letting some things slide a bit.

I bet no one would notice.

Having a good time needling and laughing my way around the golf course and daily life may not be such a bad standard to impose on myself, anyway. I suspect that Meyer, the voice of wisdom in the quote at the top of this post, would agree.

It’s a nice afternoon and the roof of the carport I’ve built still has a few courses of shingles to go. But the roof doesn’t leak and there’s no rain in the forecast anyway.

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

Thursday, February 12

Tiger Woods: 'I'll Be Back'

TIGER WOODS ANNOUNCED ANOTHER BREAK from tournament golf on Tuesday.

Tiger says his game "need(s) a lot of work." (Keith Allison)
Tiger's statement from
The last two weeks have been very disappointing to me, especially Torrey, because I never want to withdraw. Unfortunately, lately injuries have made that happen too often. 
This latest injury is not related to my previous surgery. I am having daily physical therapy and I am feeling better every day. 
Right now, I need a lot of work on my game, and to still spend time with the people that are important to me. My play, and scores, are not acceptable for tournament golf. Like I've said, I enter a tournament to compete at the highest level, and when I think I'm ready, I'll be back. Next week I will practice at Medalist and at home getting ready for the rest of the year. I am committed to getting back to the pinnacle of my game. I'd like to play The Honda Classic -- it's a tournament in my hometown and it's important to me -- but I won't be there unless my game is tournament-ready. That's not fair to anyone. I do, however, expect to be playing again very soon.

Wednesday, February 11

The Crosby: When Golf Went Big Time

By John Coyne

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

STARE DOWN THE LONG FAIRWAY of professional golf history and ask yourself this question: what made professional golf such a big time business?

Most players might say, "When television met Arnold Palmer."

All of us would agree that the matchup between TV and "The King" made golf a great spectator sport. Who can forget those black-and-white television images of Palmer coming out of the pack late on a Sunday afternoon, hitching his pants as he charged down the final fairways, a cigarette clinched in his lips? He made us all feel that we too could break par on our next round, if only we could master the way Palmer hitched up his slacks.

Birth of the Crosby

Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. (USGA Museum)
I will, however, raise my hand in favor of another golfer who had a great deal to make golf what it is today. This player was an amateur who in the summer of 1934 staged a friendly golf outing for a group of friends on a 12-hole golf course near Lake Tahoe, California, then a year later moved his event to near San Diego, The new golf course site was Rancho Santa and next he added "Pro-Am" to the title and then in 1937 officially created the first celebrity pro-am tournament, naming it after himself, the Bing Crosby Rancho Santa Fe Pro-Am.

Crosby would write in Dwayne Netland's book about his tournament, "In the early thirties ... I joined a golf club called Lakeside. A very good course indeed, located out in North Hollywood. The membership was composed almost entirely of fellas in the entertainment business ... I was struck by the idea of putting together a pro-am competition where the Lakeside members ... could partner fifty or sixty invited professionals in a best ball event ... At that time I had a home and a small ranch down in San Diego County, near a nice golf course called Rancho Santa Fe, in the same region where I was involved in building and maintaining a race track known as Del Mar."

The 1937 event was only 18-holes and the winner received $500. Sam Snead won. When Bing presented the winner's check to him, Snead, fresh out of West Virginia, asked, "If it's all the same to you, I'd rather have the cash."

A year later, with the tournament lengthened to 36-holes, Snead won again. The tournament continued to be played in Southern California through 1942. Then, after the war in '47, it was resumed as a 54-hole event, but played farther up the California coast near Monterey.

Today the same tournament is 72 holes, but is no longer named after its founder. It is now the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the current purse of $6.8 million, a long way from $500. (I wonder if Sam would still want his winnings in cash.)

The tournament was nicknamed the "Crosby Clambake" and was in the fifties and early sixties the first big tournament of golf's winter season. This was before the pros discovered Hawaii.

Spectators and TV fans could always count on California rainy February bad weather and movie stars hacking up the course. All the stars wanted to play the Crosby. Jack Lemmon said he would rather make the cut at the Crosby than win an Oscar. Over the years the same celebrities teamed up with their favorite pros to play at least two rounds of the pro-am. They included Bob Hope, Clint Eastwood, Bill Murray, Kevin Costner, Steve Young, George Lopez, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Carson Daly and Jim Backus, who did make the 36-hole cut in 1964.

Herb Graffis, former editor and founder of Golfing magazine, writes in his extraordinary history of the PGA, that "Crosby established the celebrity pro-amateur tournament in his characteristically casual way.… he made golf the sport that made the greatest financial contribution to a multitude of worthy causes."

 According to Graffis, Crosby did three things that made tournament golf big business.

"He introduced the celebrity pro-am tournament as a preliminary instead of the tired and dull shot-making demonstration called a clinic. He got a lot of colorful hams as an added attraction, and as expected, they brought into the paid-admission category fans who have the idea that golf is fun. And by giving the proceeds to charity on a good, sound tax-exempt basis and tipping other show business people off on how to get under the tent for publicity and stooping for millions in charity, Crosby really established tournament golf."

And for that, Graffis added, "he got no credit from the professionals."

Life in Golf

Crosby first played golf as a 12-year old caddie growing up in Spokane, Washington, where he earned 50 cents carrying a bag for 18-holes. When he left the caddie ranks, he stopped playing and only picked up the game again in 1930 with some fellow cast members in Hollywood during the filming of "The King of Jazz."

As an adult he played to a two-handicap and competed in both the British and U.S. Amateur championships, and was also the five-time club champion at his home course, Lakeside Golf Club.

Later, Crosby and Jimmy Demaret launched the Legends of Golf Tournament at the Onion Creek Club in Austin, Texas, which sparked interest in the Senior PGA Tour. One of his sons, Nathaniel, would grow up to win the 1981 U.S. Amateur at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.

Bing played his last round in the fall of 1977. While in England on a singing tour with Rosemary Clooney, he took time off to fly to Spain. There, on the 14th of October, he played eighteen at La Moraleja Golf Course near Madrid with partner, World Cup champion Manuel Piñero; their opponents were club president Cesar de Zulueta and golf professional Valentin Barrios.

According to Barrios, Crosby was in good spirits throughout the day, and was photographed several times during the round. At the ninth hole, construction workers building a house nearby recognized him, and when asked for a song, Crosby sang "Strangers in the Night."

Crosby, who by then had a 13 handicap, shot 85, and with his partner won the match by one stroke.

As they headed to the clubhouse, Crosby remarked, "That was a great game of golf, fellas," and then suffered a massive heart attack and collapsed on the lawn. He died only a short chip shot from the clubhouse entrance.

It was the end of the Crosby Clambake. While his family continued the tournament for a few years, they had a falling out with AT&T, which took over the tournament and became the title sponsor in 1986. Bing Crosby was the first to have a celebrity tournament, but others followed and now all have faded away.

Celebrities are listed in alphabetical order:
Glen Campbell Los Angeles Open, 1971-83
Bing Crosby Professional-Amateur, 1937-1985
Sammy Davis Jr., Greater Hartford Open, 1973-1988
Joe Garagiola, Tucson Open, 1977-83
The Gatlin Brothers, Southwest Golf Classic, 1988
Jackie Gleason,Inverrary Classic, 1972-80
Bob Hope, Chrysler Classic, 1965-2012
Dean Martin, Tucson Open, 1972-75
Ed McMahon, Jaycees Quad Cities Open, 1975-79
Frank Sinatra, Palm Spring, 1963

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

Monday, February 9

My Interview With Billy Casper

BILLY CASPER, ONE OF GOLF'S all-time greats, died late last week surrounded by family at his home in Springville, Utah. Casper's Hall of Fame career has been well documented in the last few days. He was the equal of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, especially in the 1960s when he won as many tournaments as anyone. But he didn't receive the acclaim for a variety of reasons.

Casper made the cover
of Sports Illustrated after
winning the 1970 Masters.
Billy won 51 times on the PGA Tour, including three majors. One of those major titles was the 1966 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, the scene of Arnold Palmer's epic collapse and Casper's amazing rally and subsequent playoff victory. In addition, to this day, no American player has won more Ryder Cup points than Billy Casper.

I had the good fortune to have several encounters with Billy over the last several years. Today I want to share major portions of my interview with him in August 2012. I used much of the below material for my book about the 1969 Ryder Cup, DRAW IN THE DUNES.

* * *

Q: I read that you had joined the British PGA and you considered the British your friends. How did that come about?

BILLY CASPER: I didn’t play in the British Open early on because I wouldn’t give up the time to go play because I felt I would be losing money. I could stay in the U.S. and win a substantial amount of money for the two weeks I felt you need to go over there and play. That was my decision I made early on in my career. As I look back on it, I love the conditions over there, love the way they play golf, and I possibly could have won a British Open early on in my career. Anyhow, that was sort of the reason I wanted to join the British PGA is because I did later on in my life go over and play more golf in Britain. But that was after I’d been successful in the U.S..

Q: How did you feel about playing in the Ryder Cup?

BILLY CASPER: I felt like it was the greatest experience I ever had playing professional golf because it was totally something different. You know you could come out and play medal play week in and week out and maybe once in a while play a match-play tournament which occurred later on. But to represent a team, to represent your country, and to represent a captain, that was something totally new and different. It was something I wanted to play in as many as I could possibly play.

Q: What was Captain Snead like?

BILLY CASPER: Sam was good. The captain that really stood out was Hogan. Hogan took command, and ... he was just absolutely a force that you admired and enjoyed being part of his team. The other captains weren’t as powerful or as strong, but yet each one brought something, too, that the others didn’t bring. And to play for [Jackie] Burke and Jay Hebert, just to mention of couple of those, Palmer—I played for Palmer twice—Jerry Barber. Jerry Barber was a neat captain also.

Q: It was different back then, wasn’t it?

BILLY CASPER: It really was. We had a camaraderie because many of us traveled together as the tour was beginning, and Arnold and I played on our first Ryder Cup in 1961 at Lytham & St. Annes. Jerry Barber was the playing captain. It wasn’t long after that that they stopped using a playing captain and had a non-playing captain. [Byron] Nelson was such a gentleman. He was so impressive. I really hadn’t had a relationship with Nelson down through the years mainly because there wasn’t any way, you know. I didn’t win the Masters until '70, to where I could really have an opportunity to have a relationship with Nelson. He was so impressive that I named one of my sons after him.

Q: That’s quite an honor when you do that.

BILLY CASPER: That’s right, he was a great gentleman. Each one of them were very special people. Hogan probably brought course management and a desire to win and compete into the game. Snead was more flamboyant. He was more natural. He was more fun, [a] giving guy. Nelson was just such a gentleman in every way that he conducted himself. Not that all of them weren’t gentlemen—they all were gentlemen. But he might have been like Venturi said, the top gentleman in the game.

Q. What was your approach to match play? What was your mindset and how would you go into a Ryder Cup and prepare to play?

BILLY CASPER: When I was growing up, I caddied. And then later on, I could play at a club. In my high school years I played for quarters. A quarter Nassau. And If I won four ways, will then I could buy a new Spalding Dot to play with the next day (chuckling). I was learning competition very early in my life. You played match play that way, and that’s what you played when you played on the Ryder Cup team. I had enjoyed playing match play all my life because of that. I think it helped me when I did start playing match play, when I started representing my country. I always liked it when I had one person that I had to worry about. I really felt that I had the advantage. When I got in a playoff, that became match play in my mind, a sudden-death playoff, and I felt I had the advantage.

Q. Did you feel any different sense of pressure or responsibility playing in the Ryder Cup?

BILLY CASPER: I loved the pressure. I was the type of individual, the more pressure I had, the better I liked it. I loved to be where I could win.

Q: Were you a scoreboard watcher, Billy?

BILLY CASPER: No. I trained myself not to look at the scoreboard. I knew if I was making proper decisions and playing well and putting well, that I would win. Or I would be right there at the end. I remember two incidents very distinctly. One was the San Diego Open in 1966. The last day ... the wind blew from the east which is uncommon that it blows all day that way. I started four shots behind in the final round. I shot 32 out, and I birdied 10 and 14. And 14 was normally a drive and a wedge and I hit a drive and a 4-iron and I made birdie. I birdied 15, parred 16, birdied 17 and walked to the 18th tee. I said to my friend, who worked with the FBI, "How do I stand?" He said, "You have a four-shot lead." And the other tournament that I played where I didn’t know ... where I stood in the tournament, was at Indianapolis. I started the final round one shot ahead of George Bayer, and two shots ahead of Jerry Steelsmith. Steelsmith shot 63, Bayer shot 64. As I walk off the green at 17, I was 7 under par. I said how do I stand to my caddie. And he said you need to make birdie on this hole to win the tournament. It was a five par. I knocked it on in two and made birdie and won the tournament. I shot 64, Bayer shot 64 and Steelsmith shot 63. And yet they didn’t win.

Q: Was that the Speedway Open?

BILLY CASPER: Yeah, that was one of the years at the Speedway. This is the way I played. I couldn’t change what other players were doing. So what do you want to watch the board for? I wasn’t like Palmer. Palmer liked to watch the board. I just wanted to be in total control of myself. And I used all my energy for myself, not anyone outside. That was my thinking.

Q: It worked well for you.

BILLY CASPER: Yes, it did.

Q: You won a lot of golf tournaments. Billy. Tell me, what do you remember back in 1969 about Royal Birkdale?

BILLY CASPER: Royal Birkdale was a great championship, a great golf course to play on. It’s very interesting, we watch Peter Alliss a lot on television now on as a British commentator. He and I had many, many battles. I think of all the battles we’ve had down through the years—he may be one up on me (chuckling).

Q: He was a good player, wasn’t he?

BILLY CASPER: He really was a good player.