Tuesday, March 31

The Man Who Made the Masters, Part 2

This is the second part of a series on Clifford Roberts, the co-founder of Augusta National Golf Club and the chairman of the Masters Tournament from 1934 to 1976. Read Part 1.

By John Coyne

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

CLIFFORD ROBERTS WAS BORN IN MORNING SUN, Iowa, in 1894 and reared in small towns in Iowa and Texas. He never attended college and didn’t graduate from high school. He left in the ninth grade after a fight with the principal.

His family life was troubled; his father couldn’t keep a job; his mother was suicidal. And yet Roberts became one of the most iconic figures in the world of golf.

At the age of 19, Roberts, a traveling salesman of men's suits, was on the road in the Midwest when he heard his mother had taken her own life. "It was a tragic event," writes Steve Eubanks in his book about the Masters, "that in hindsight offers a glimpse into Roberts's own mysterious psyche."

Eubanks would quote psychologist Wayne Wilson that "many children of suicidal depressed parents, become great negotiators and businessmen."

That was certainly true of Clifford Roberts.

Boy Wonder and Ladies Man

After his army tour, Roberts sold oil leases in East Texas, making $50,000 in oil speculation by the time he was 27. In 1921 he bought a partnership in Reynolds and Company and earned the epithet, "The Boy Wonder of Wall Street."

Roberts was also a ladies man, marrying three times, and famous for leaving his wives for months on end as he attended to his affairs (romantic and otherwise) in Augusta. He spent four months a year in Georgia while his current wife was back at their apartment in Manhattan.

Not much is known about his affairs, except for the woman he met in France while serving in the army. Her name was Suzanne Verdet. He saw her often in Paris when he was living, working and making his mark on Wall Street. In 1928, visiting her, she managed to have him stay one extra day with her. The plane he would have taken back to London crashed into the English Channel, killing all on board.

Roberts never married Suzanne Verdet. He never moved her to America. And he never forgot her.

Years later when Verdet needed round-the-clock care, Roberts took care of all of her expenses; and he continued to take care of her after his own death. She was also remembered in his will.

One True Love

In my novel The Caddie Who Won the Masters, there's a scene where Roberts, as a fictional ghost living on Augusta, has an encounter with the protagonist of the book, a middle-aged golfer who comes to the Masters in hopes of being the first amateur to win the tournament, one of Bobby Jones's great wishes.

Frank Stranahan (USGA)
The main character of my novel reminds Roberts of what he did to Frank Stranahan, the young, good-looking and wealthy amateur at the 1948 Masters. Roberts had established a rule in 1948 that no player could play more than one ball during a practice round. Stranahan, playing alone, thought the rule didn't apply to him since he was a single. Roberts, however, called Stranahan out, pulled him off the course, and rescinded his invitation to play in the Masters. The rumor, however, was that Stranahan had taken a sudden romantic interest in one of the women working at Augusta National, an employee Roberts also had his eye on, and Roberts wanted to get rid of any competition for her affections.

But looking back at his life, it wasn't women who captured Roberts's attention and love. It was Augusta National. He devoted his whole life to making the golf course and the Masters Tournament a success. As Byron Nelson said, ''This place was his bride.''

John Coyne is a bestselling author of three golf novels and more than 20 other books. Pay him a visit at John Coyne Books.

Monday, March 30

No Place Like Home for Jimmy Walker

JIMMY WALKER WON THE VALERO TEXAS OPEN on Sunday at tough TPC San Antonio. Walker, who makes his home in San Antonio, held off fellow Texan Jordan Spieth, whose runner-up finish vaulted him to No. 4 in the world rankings. Walker finished with a 70 and an 11-under total.

"You can feel the support. You can feel the love from friends and family and fans," Walker told Golf Channel's Steve Sands. "It's cool. It just doesn't happen very often winning in your hometown."

Spieth, who finished four shots back, tried to be the reason it didn't happen for Walker on Sunday.

"The golf course wasn't giving up much; sometimes it's hard to make pars," Walker said.

"I felt like I was leaking a little oil there and I wasn't putting very good. And then I finally smoothed out the putting stroke a little bit and got it back to where it was the first couple of days and started making some."

Then he added, "But Jordan [Spieth], holy cow. I'm having nightmares about that guy."

Walker, 36, has five PGA Tour victories in the last year and a half, and finds himself inside the world top 10 for the first time in his career. He is playing in Houston this week but also is looking ahead to Augusta with great anticipation.

"All of this just keeps adding momentum and confidence," Walker said. "I'm excited to go [to the Masters]. I've been looking forward to it, and I'm going to head over [to Augusta National] tomorrow and take a look at it again."

Before his most recent victory Walker was listed as 33/1 for a Green Jacket, just ahead of Tiger (will he play?) Woods.

Friday, March 27

VIDEO: Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony for Jack Nicklaus

ONLY SEVEN ATHLETES HAVE BEEN AWARDED the Congressional Gold Medal, including three golfers: Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and, on Tuesday, Jack Nicklaus.

As the Washington Post reported, "The award honors those 'who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement.'"

That certainly fits the Golden Bear.

The above video is the entire ceremony, nearly 90 minutes long. There are several speeches, but the ones to skip to are Jack's at 1:06 and son Jackie's at 32:00.

Thursday, March 26

Golf on TV: Valero Texas Open, Kia Classic, Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic, Trophee Hassan II

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

The PGA TOUR shifts to the Lone Star State for the Valero Texas Open, the first of two events remaining before the Masters.

The LPGA Tour stages the final event prior to its first major of the season with the Kia Classic in Southern California, as Lydia Ko leads a strong field that includes 18 of the top-20 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.

Miguel Angel Jimenez will try for his third straight Champions Tour win in as many starts on U.S. soil this week, as he joins Fred Couples and Colin Montgomerie at the Mississippi Gulf  Resort Classic. And the European Tour is in Morocco, as Alejandro Canizares defends at the Trophee Hassan II.

* * *


Valero Texas Open
Dates: March 26-29
Venue: TPC San Antonio (AT&T Oaks Course), San Antonio, Texas

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):           
Thursday         3-6 p.m. (Live) / 9:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (Replay)
Friday              3-6 p.m. (Live) / 9:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday         1-3 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-3 a.m. (Replay)
Sunday            1-3 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-3 a.m. (Replay)

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

Broadcast Notes

Final opportunity to qualify for the Masters via the top-50: This week serves as the final opportunity for players to qualify for the Masters via the top-50 in the Official World Golf Ranking. The only remaining category in which a player can qualify outside of receiving a special invitation is by winning next week’s Shell Houston Open.

Bowditch defends: Steven Bowditch finished one shot ahead of Will MacKenzie and Daniel Summerhays for his first career PGA TOUR victory.

Headlining the field: Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Jim Furyk, Billy Horschel, Martin Kaymer, Matt Kuchar, Davis Love III, Matt Every and Graeme McDowell.

* * *


Kia Classic
Dates: March 26-29
Venue: Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club, Carlsbad, Calif.

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

Broadcast Notes

Nordqvist defends: Anna Nordqvist won by one stroke over Lizette Salas for her fourth career LPGA Tour win.

Headlining the field: Lydia Ko, Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis, Hyo-Joo Kim, Shanshan Feng, So Yeon Ryu, Suzann Pettersen, Michelle Wie, Karrie Webb, Lexi Thompson and Cheyenne Woods.

* * *


Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic presented by C Spire
Dates: March 27-29
Venue: Fallen Oak Golf Club, Biloxi, Miss.

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Friday              Noon-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 12:30-2:30 a.m. (Saturday replay)
Saturday          3-6 p.m. (Live) / 4-6 a.m. (Sunday replay)
Sunday            3-6 p.m. (Live) / 5-7 a.m. (Monday replay)

Broadcast Notes

Maggert defends: Jeff Maggert won by two shots over Billy Andrade to become the 17th player to win in their Champions Tour debut.

Headlining the field: Miguel Angel Jimenez, Fred Couples, Colin Montgomerie, Jesper Parnevik, Jay Haas, Tom Lehman, Corey Pavin, Kenny Perry, Bart Bryant and Jeff Maggert.

* * *


Trophee Hassan II
Dates: March 26-29
Venue: Golf du Palais Royal, Agadir, Morocco

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         7-9 a.m. / 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live)
Friday              7-9 a.m. / 10:30 a.m.-Noon (Live)
Saturday          9 a.m.-1 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            9 a.m.-1 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes

Canizares defends: Alejandro Canizares finished five strokes clear of the field for his second career European Tour victory.

Headlining the field: Matteo Manassero, Marcel Siem, Jose Maria Olazabal, George Coetzee, Ross Fisher, Tommy Fleetwood, Pablo Larrazabal, Oliver Wilson and Alejandro Canizares.

Wednesday, March 25

The Man Who Made the Masters

This is the first in a series on Clifford Roberts, the co-founder of Augusta National Golf Club and the chairman of the Masters Tournament from 1934 to 1976.

By John Coyne

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

FROM THE HILLSIDE AT AUGUSTA NATIONAL one looks into a natural amphitheater and across a landscape of interlacing fairways and greens, golden sand and blue-green stately pines. The old Berckman’s nursery fills smooth valleys and soft hills to the far edges of Amen Corner with a maze of color: azalea, dogwood, and redbud. In so many ways, this ancient acreage and southern plantation club house still has the look, code and culture of those antebellum times.

It is, also, a very modern golf course, as architect Robert Trent Jones defined it in The Complete Golfer. Jones wrote, "The Augusta National is the epitome of the type of course which appeals most keenly to the American taste, the meadowland course. From tee to green there is nothing but closely cropped green turf. These broad expanses of fairway, punctuated with pines and dotted with flashes of white sand, give Augusta a clean, sprightly appearance."

A Hacker and a Legend

Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts.
The happenstance of life that has brought into creation Augusta National and the Masters Tournament began at the Vanderbilt Hotel in New York City, through a mutual friendship with Walton H. Marshall, who operated the hotel, plus a chain of other hotels that included the Bon Air Vanderbilt Hotel in Augusta, Georgia. Marshall was a close friend of two unlikely golfers. A hacker named Clifford Roberts and America’s greatest amateur, Bobby Jones.

Successful Wall Street mogul Clifford Roberts lived in New York and wintered in Augusta which, at the time, was a favorite resort for northerners, being just 137 feet above sea level. Roberts, years earlier, as a lowly private in the U.S. Army, had gone through basic training at a base near Augusta, and served his country in World War I.

Roberts was also a fan of Bobby Jones and it was only a matter of time before their two worlds connected at the Vanderbilt. However, Roberts writes in his book, The Story of the Augusta National Golf Club, that he first met Bobby Jones in 1926 while watching the finals of the 1926 USGA Amateur Championship at Baltusrol Country Club in New Jersey.

Soon after the Vanderbilt introduction Jones and Roberts became fast friends and golf partners in Augusta, where Roberts was there as a snowbird and Jones drove from his home in Atlanta, both to play golf. When Jones expressed a desire to find a course where he could play without attracting a crowd of spectators, Roberts came up with a plan where they might build a course—one of Jones’s cherished ambitions now that he had retired from competitive golf and was working as a lawyer in Georgia.

It so happened that Fruitlands Nurseries on the south side of Augusta was for sale. The 365 acres of the former Berckmans farm was priced at $70,000 and Roberts pulled together a small group of wealthy New York businessmen (and players) to buy the property. Jones hired the famous golf architect, Dr. Alister Mackenzie to design the course. The deal was done in 1931.

First Visit

Years later, Bobby Jones would write, "I shall never forget my first visit to the property. The long lane of magnolias through which we approached was beautiful. The old manor house with its cupola and walls of masonry two feet thick was charming .... [When] I walked out on the grass terrace under the big trees behind the house and looked down over the property, the experience was unforgettable. It seemed that this land had been lying here for years waiting for someone to lay a golf course upon it. Indeed, it even looked as though it already were a golf course ....”

The first years were difficult as the club came into being at the height of the Depression. The first Masters was played in 1934, two years after the course was finished. In those early years Roberts had to hit up the members to cover expenses and tournament prizes. 

Quickly, however, Augusta National and the Masters found its way into the consciousness of all golfers. Gene Sarazen’s double eagle in its second year, and sports writer and Augusta member Grantland Rice’s captivated summation of the double-eagle as "The Shot Heard Around the World" promoted this first major of the year. Played in April, the tournament filled the sports pages of every newspaper while the country waited for the opening of the baseball season.

Chairman Roberts

As chairman of Augusta National and the Masters Tournament, Roberts was keenly aware and considerate of his "patrons" as he referred to spectators. Augusta National led the way in providing physical facilities to help the public watch the tournament. Roberts was the first to install the over-under par system of scorekeeping, gallery ropes and grandstands, pairings of twosomes rather than threesomes and complimentary pairing sheets. He also used his power to reduce both the chatter and the commercial breaks on Masters broadcasts for later television viewers.

In fact, while Roberts, and in turn Augusta National, were receiving negative criticism for their closed society and were a symbol of what was wrong with private golf clubs, Roberts, especially, was being praised for having the ability to push corporations like CBS around, forcing the network to obey the club’s ideals of propriety and anti-commercialism. Golf fans of all stripes responded to Robert’s emphasis on the history, tradition and values Augusta National placed on the Masters Tournament and the game of golf.

It was Clifford Roberts, in fact, through his long tenure as chairman of the Masters Tournament who made Augusta National what it is today and changed so dramatically the stature of professional golf in America.

John Coyne is a bestselling author of three golf novels and more than 20 other books. Pay him a visit at John Coyne Books.

Tuesday, March 24

South Korean Ladies Dominate Ladies Tour

"THE LPGA OUGHT TO THINK ABOUT setting up a satellite office in Seoul," wrote GolfChannel.com's Randall Mell on Sunday night. "South Koreans are looking determined to own this year in women's golf."

I hadn't thought about it, but Mell is right, serving up the plain facts a la Joe Friday: "South Koreans or South Korean-born players have won all six LPGA events staged this year."

Hyo Joo Kim
The most recent winner was Hyo Joo Kim at the JTBC Founders Cup in Phoenix. Kim fired a 67 in the final round to beat American Stacy Lewis by three shots. Kim is 19, "part of a gifted wave of young South Koreans," Mell reported.

"They're fearless," Lewis said.


As Mell wrote, Kim already has a major victory, the 2014 Evian Championship, which she won as a member of the Korean LPGA Tour. That title paved the way for LPGA membership. Kim understands her competition.

"I have known these players since we played the Korean ladies tour," Kim said.

"I know how good they can be. In fact, everyone on the LPGA is really good, otherwise they wouldn't be here. I'm just trying to find my place."

It's evident there's a place for Kim. After this past week's win, that place is No. 4 in the women's world rankings.

Monday, March 23

Matt 'Back-to-Back' Every

Matt Every
MATT EVERY LIKES BAY HILL. With a sparkling 66 including a dramatic birdie on the final green, Every clinched his second PGA Tour win and second consecutive victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He is the third repeat champion at Arnie's place.

Meanwhile, 54-hole leader Henrik Stenson groused about being put on the clock for slow play in the final round. Two 3-putt greens on the closing holes hurt the Swede, who finished second.

"I wasn't in the right frame of mind on a few of those putts, and it cost me," Stenson said.

The winner, whose middle name is "King" according to Wikipedia, struck the ball well at Bay Hill, hitting 41 fairways and 58 greens over the four days.

"I was driving it really good this week and my irons were spot on ... I kind of had a feeling," Every said. "I was shaking some of those putts in late. The one on 18 [was] straight downhill. That's what you want under pressure."

He added, "A lot of friends and family out here this week, and their support was awesome."

Rory McIlroy, who will try to complete the career grand slam with a win at the Masters next month, shot 70 in the final round and finished in a tie for eleventh.

Tiger Woods, the player with the most victories at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, was a no-show at Bay Hill this past week, which didn't escape the notice of the newest back-to-back champion.

"I actually told him, 'Don't worry, man, I'll hold it down for you until you get it back.'"

Friday, March 20

Good Times in Charlottesville

THAT'S ME AT FAR RIGHT with fellow sports authors Fred Bowen and Ran Henry at the Virginia Festival of the Book. Our Thursday panel was entitled "Wide World of Sports: Fact, Fiction and Poetry." Phil Raisor was also on the panel.

Thanks to moderator Peter Hedlund and all those who attended.

Accepting the Shot

By Charles Prokop

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

I RECENTLY FINISHED READING The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. The book is about a guy on a walking mission in England, nothing about golf, but I was struck by a line near the end.

"If we can’t be open, Maureen thought, if we can’t accept what we don’t know, there really is no hope."

Maureen is Harold Fry’s wife. It struck me that Maureen’s attitude applies to many aspects of life, golf included.

I know that my life as it is now has little in common with the life I thought I was preparing myself for in graduate school, or even for most of my career. If I had spent all my time trying to force things into that planned mold, I don’t think I’d be nearly as happy as I am now. I might even be dead. When I gave up and accepted where things were going even though I wasn’t sure where they were going to, things worked better for me.

I certainly don’t know where my next golf shot is going, or how the round is going to turn out. But I do know that fighting where it’s going and moaning about it after it happens only does two things. It makes my swing get stiff and choppy as I try to control an uncontrollable ball and it wrecks my enjoyment of the round. My head starts to jerk, I hang on and don’t release, and awful things happen.

Getting to admitting that I don’t know where that ball will go, feeling OK with that, and committing to hitting it with all my might can be tough.

I wonder if Maureen would like to make a little money as a caddie?

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

Wednesday, March 18

My Author Appearance at Virginia Festival of the Book

I WILL BE AT THE VIRGINIA Festival of the Book on Thursday, March 19 (tomorrow), in Charlottesville. I will be on a panel with three other sports authors, talking about my most recent book, DRAW IN THE DUNES: The 1969 Ryder Cup and the Finish That Shocked the World.

I attended last year and spoke about my first book, THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf's Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open. I had a great time.

I have finalized my reading selection. I am going to read a short section that illustrates how team members feel about playing in the Ryder Cup, especially at the opening ceremony and right before they tee off. It will include an anecdote about U.S. foursomes partners Raymond Floyd and Miller Barber, and how Barber, who was supposed to hit first (the opening shot of the 1969 Ryder Cup), couldn't do it. (Portions of pages 128-131.)

If you are in the area, I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, March 17

Ben Hogan's Early Years as a Teaching Pro at Century Country Club

By John Coyne

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

IN 1938, CENTURY COUNTRY CLUB of Westchester County, then one of the prominent Jewish country clubs in the county, went searching for a professional golfer to work as the teaching assistant to Dan Mackie, the club’s home pro.

Ben Hogan practicing at
Century Country Club.
(Image: Jules Alexander
via John Coyne)
Someone mentioned Ben Hogan, who was playing on the fledgling PGA tour, as a possibility. Hogan was playing in California and it was decided to check out Hogan through Frederick Hellman, brother of former member Marco “Mickey” Hellman, of the Wells Fargo Bank.

In February 1938, Ted Low wrote Hellman thanking him for his help, and saying, “I received your telegram saying that you had seen Ben Hogan and that he made a nice appearance.”

Hogan was hired and went back east to take over as the teaching pro at the club. His salary was $500 a year, plus food and lodging.

Hogan himself would admit he was not a gifted teacher of the game. In his classic book, Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf written with Herbert Warren Wind and published first in 1957, a book that still sells nearly 100,000 paperback copies a year, Hogan would write, “I didn’t and don’t have the ideal temperament for teaching,” In this book he also would write, “Quite early in my career when I was serving as the professional at the Century Country Club in Purchase, N.Y., I did a great deal of teaching.”

And when he wasn’t teaching, he was practicing.

“He lived on the practice range,” says Nelson Long, the club’s long-time head pro. “We had a member here who passed away a few years ago but remembered Hogan from his time at the club. He said that whenever Hogan played with a member, however, he had the habit of looking away when the member swung, so as not to be influenced by a bad swing.”

Hogan did, however, draw on his time at Century, in writing Five Lessons. He writes, “There was a young businessman at my club, Fred Ehrman, who had this ability to learn, and we did a very satisfying job together. He was a 90-shooter in April. Five months later he was playing in the 70s and won the club championship.”

It was while giving lessons at Century that Hogan began to develop his understanding of the dynamics of the golf swing, which, he said, he fully understood by 1946, his first great year on the PGA tour. “Beginning in 1946,” Hogan writes in Five Lessons, “I was able to win some of the big championships, and being able to win was the proof I needed that what I felt was correct was indeed correct.”

In 1940 Dan Mackie was pensioned off at Century Country Club and Hogan became the head pro. He would stay, however, only that summer.  In the years before and after World War II, and into the 1960s, pros at northern clubs only worked from April to the end of October.

Would anyone surpass Hogan’s ability?

In 1940, Hogan wrote, “It is my conviction that in the years ahead there will be many changes in style and form, just as there have been in the past. We never come anywhere near reaching perfection—there is always something left to improve.”

Well, also came the Big Bertha drivers, the Pro V1 golf balls, and, of course, Nicklaus and Tiger.

John Coyne is a bestselling author of three golf novels and more than 20 other books. Pay him a visit at John Coyne Books.

Monday, March 16

Jordan Spieth: 'I Guess It Was My Day'

The highlights of a thrilling conclusion to the Valspar Championship.

JORDAN SPIETH WON THE VALSPAR CHAMPIONSHIP at always tough Innisbrook (Copperhead Course) in Palm Harbor, Florida. Spieth sealed his second PGA Tour victory by sinking a long birdie putt on the third hole of a sudden-death playoff with Patrick Reed and Sean O'Hair.

The final holes and playoff were as good as it gets for a regular tour event. The Spieth-Reed-O'Hair drama delivered in a big way. 

"It was a crazy back nine being three down with six to play," Spieth told Golf Channel's Steve Sands. 

"That was the best [caddie] Michael and I have ever done together. Just the scrambling coming in; those par saves coming in. That putt [on the final green] was just luck. If that doesn’t hit the hole, I have a four-foot slider. I guess it was my day."

Spieth and Reed fought hard, even when their shotmaking was far from stellar.

"Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth are two of the most confident guys out here," said NBC golf announcer Dan Hicks. "It just exudes. They are going to get it done. And they have proved that today."

Third-round leader Ryan Moore missed the playoff by two shots.

"This will sting," said NBC golf analyst Gary Koch. "The position he was in early in the back nine, it looked like he was in control."

Friday, March 13

Tiger Woods: 'I Hope to Be Ready for the Masters'

Tiger reclaimed world No. 1 with his victory at the 2013 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

TIGER WOODS ANNOUNCED THAT HE WILL SKIP the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament he has won eight times, including in 2013. "I will continue to work hard preparing for Augusta," Tiger said. 

His full statement from TigerWoods.com:
I spoke to Arnold today and told him that I will not play in his tournament this year. I'm sorry I won't be in Orlando next week, but I know it will be a really successful event. 
I've put in a lot of time and work on my game and I'm making strides, but like I've said, I won't return to the PGA TOUR until my game is tournament ready and I can compete at the highest level.
I hope to be ready for the Masters, and I will continue to work hard preparing for Augusta.
I want to thank everyone again for their support.

Adam Scott on Putter Switch: 'No Big Deal'

REMEMBER THAT NOISY ARGUMENT THE GOLF WORLD had about anchoring the putter? How could we forget? It has now mostly faded into silence as the 2016 ban is less than a year ago.

One interesting development is how well some of the anchor men are transitioning to the short putter, including those young and relatively young major winners: Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Adam Scott.

ESPN Golf's Bob Harig talked about the issue in his Birdies & Bogeys column entitled "Anchor ban might go smoother than thought." One recent example is Adam Scott, who sank 90 percent of his putts from 10 feet and in with the short stick at last week's WGC-Cadillac Championship. The 2013 Masters champion had just one 3-putt for the week.

[Spoof from archives: God puts long putter in bag]

"It's been feeling good," Scott said. "I've enjoyed doing it. It's no big deal. Don't forget, I did it this way for a long time."

No big deal. Huh. How about that?

Added Scott: "I can think back to some really good memories putting with a short one and making some really important putts."

Bradley and Simpson also seem to be doing OK after moving away from their belly putters. As Harig mentioned, Simpson intentionally broke his belly putter over his knee so he wouldn't use it again. His wife prevented him from throwing the putter away because it had been such an important part of Simpson's success. The broken putter now has a spot in the golfer's trophy case.

Even Carl Pettersson, who had been anchoring since 1997, seems to be surviving the change.

"It has gone better than I expected," Pettersson said. "I feel relatively comfortable."

He is far from giddy, though.

"But I still think it's a bad rule."

Thursday, March 12

Golf on TV: Valspar Championship and Tshwane Open

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

The PGA TOUR Florida Swing continues on Florida’s Gulf Coast this week with the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club. Five of the top-10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking are in the field, including Henrik Stenson (No. 3) and Adam Scott (No. 4).

The European Tour concludes the South Africa stretch of its tournament schedule this week with the Tshwane Open, as Ross Fisher defends.

* * *


Valspar Championship
Dates: March 12-15
Venue: Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club (Copperhead Course), Palm Harbor, Fla.

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):          
Thursday         3-6 p.m. (Live) / 7-10 p.m. (Replay)
Friday              3-6 p.m. (Live) / 7-10 p.m. (Replay)
Saturday         1-3 p.m. (Live) / 7 p.m.-Midnight (Replay)
Sunday            1-3 p.m. (Live) / 7 p.m.-Midnight (Replay)

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

Broadcast Notes

Senden defends: John Senden finished one stroke ahead of Kevin Na for his second PGA TOUR victory.

Headlining the field: Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Patrick Reed, Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth, Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar, Lee Westwod, Brandt Snedeker, Justin Thomas and John Senden.

* * *


Tshwane Open
Dates: March 12-15
Venue: Pretoria Country Club, Waterkloof, South Africa

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):          
Thursday         4:30-6:30 a.m. (Live) / 8:30-11:30 a.m. (Live)
Friday              6:30-8:30 a.m. (Tape Delay) / 8:30-11:30 a.m. (Live)
Saturday          6:30-10:30 a.m. (Live)
Sunday            6-10:30 a.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes

New venue: This is the first time that the Tshwane Open will be contested at Pretoria Country Club. The previous two editions of the event were held at Copperleaf Golf & Country Estate.

Fisher defends: Ross Fisher won by three shots over Danie van Tonder and Michael Hoey for his fifth career European Tour victory.

Headlining the field: Darren Clarke, Mattero Manassero, Edoardo Molinari, George Coetzee, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Andy Sullivan, Oliver Wilson, David Howell and Ross Fisher.

The Best Golf Course in England

The 18th hole at Royal Birkdale with the distinctive clubhouse in the background. (RoyalBirkdale.com)
ROYAL BIRKDALE GOLF CLUB, SITE OF nine Open Championships, six Women's British Opens and two Ryder Cups, is the best golf course in England, according to Golf Monthly magazine (as reported by a sponsored story in The Telegraph).

This does not surprise me. I'll get back to that in a moment.

Golf Monthly also ranked Royal Birkdale as the fifth best golf course in all of the United Kingdom and Ireland. That's impressive when you consider the many famed links courses in that part of the golf world.

There have been numerous great moments at Birkdale, but, according to the Telegraph story, one stands out.

"Perhaps the most famous single golfing moment on an English course took place at Royal Birkdale in Southport in 1969. Britain's Tony Jacklin had a putt of a little more than two feet on the 18th green which, if he'd missed, would have given the Americans victory in the Ryder Cup. Jack Nicklaus, his opponent and the greatest player of all time, never gave him the chance. In one of the most generous and fair-minded gestures in any sport, Nicklaus conceded the putt and the pair halved their match and the Cup."

Of course, that famous moment along with the entire 1969 Ryder Cup staged at Royal Birkdale is the subject of my recent book, DRAW IN THE DUNES, for which Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin graciously contributed their memories in sit-down interviews. They also contributed a foreword for the book.

I also talked to their 1969 teammates, and two in particular sang the praises of Royal Birkdale.

Great Britain's Brian Huggett said, "Royal Birkdale is the best tournament venue in our country. Along with having a magnificent links course, playing between the avenues of sand dunes was very special."

"Royal Birkdale was a great golf course to play on," affirmed Hall of Famer Billy Casper, who died on February 7.

In addition to the massive dunes and proximity to the Irish Sea, Royal Birkdale is known for its white, art-deco-style clubhouse that was built in the 1930s. The Open Championship will return there in 2017.

Can you imagine playing Royal Birkdale?

Or maybe you are one of the lucky ones who has tread the same fairways as greats such as Jack Nicklaus, Tony Jacklin, Arnold Palmer, Peter Thomson, Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros and Tiger Woods.

If someday you do play Royal Birkdale, perhaps you can reprise that famous 1969 concession on the 18th green. It was only a 2-foot putt, after all. And yet players on both sides told me it was missable under the circumstances. After 31 matches over three days, the entire Ryder Cup hung in the balance.

They didn't have to convince me it was missable. I've flubbed many 2-footers under the most benign circumstances. Maybe you have too.