Saturday, December 30 'So You Think You're a Golf Fan? Take Our 2017 Trivia Test'

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Masters champion Sergio Garcia was a first-time major winner in 2017.

GOLF.COM HATCHED 11 MULTIPLE-CHOICE QUESTIONS to test our knowledge about the year in golf. I follow the pro game pretty closely and found myself guessing on many of the questions.

If you get all 11, or even nine or 10 correct, you're the ultimate golf fan.

Take the quiz

Friday, December 22

Teaching Ben Hogan How to Play Golf

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By John Coyne

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

RECENTLY I HAVE BEEN READING The Kingdom of Golf in America by Richard J. Moss published in 2013. The book traces the ups and downs, ins and outs, of the growth of golf in America. While Moss writes about many issues, from race, gender, technology, suburbanization and the transformation of the South that shaped the nation and golf, he pauses from time to time to focus on key players in the long history of the game. One of them, of course, is Ben Hogan.

Moss writes about Hogan's development as a person and a player. He points out two key elements of his game that were improved by taking the advice of his wife Valerie, and of his friend, Henry Picard.

Valerie Hogan early in the 1930s, according to Moss, suggested that Ben overcome his jumpy nerves by practicing to the point where he could hit important shots without thinking, without anxiety. She also suggested that Ben would make more putts if he simply hit the ball closer to the hole. This last bit of advice has become, as Moss points out, "an arcane part of American golf talk."

It was Henry Picard, Moss writes, who in 1939 told Ben to weaken his grip and learn to fade the ball. Moss writes, "Hogan and others have suggested that during this period he learned some 'secret' and that it was this secret that led to his success."

A Cure for Hogan's Duck Hook

In 1990, while researching my instructional book, Playing with the Pros: Golf Lessons from the Senior Tour, I had a chance to talk with Lighthorse Harry Cooper at Westchester Country Club in New York where, at the age of 86, Cooper was still giving lessons. Besides being nicknamed "Lighthorse" by Damon Runyon because of how fast he played, he was also nicknamed "Clothesline" by other pros because of how straight he always hit his shots.

Cooper told me that afternoon at Westchester Country Club how in 1937, the year he won the New Orleans Open, he gave one of his first lessons as a pro to Ben Hogan.

"As I recall," Harry said, "I was playing a round at City Park with Ben and every green had a bunker in front, so you have to play shots with backspin to the green. Well, Ben was duck-hooking everything. He couldn't get the ball off the ground, and he asked me to come over and help him."

So Ben and Harry walked across the railroad tracks—that was where the practice area was located then at City Park—and Cooper watched Hogan hit balls for a while. Harry said, "That's when I saw what he was doing wrong. He was letting go of the club at the top of his swing and then regripping. It's a little thing, but the minute you let go and then regrip, it shuts the face of the club. Can't help but shut the face, and that was what Ben was doing. I finally got him hitting the ball, getting it up in the air and keeping it flying and hitting it straight."

Hogan's Big Four

Cooper's advice to Hogan came two years ahead of Picard's suggestion, but whichever is true, Moss points out in his golf book Hogan did change four aspects of his game between 1935 and 1939.

  • He weakened his grip to cut down on his hooks.
  • He learned to fade the ball.
  • He overcame his anxiety by intense practice.
  • He devoted entire morning to a single type of shot. The afternoons were devoted to a different type of shot.

In 1938 Hogan had his best year on tour. He finished 13th on the money list, earning $4,794. He would go on to say that was the turning point in his career; he was on the tour to stay.

Thanks to Henry Picard and Harry Cooper, and his own determination, Ben Hogan would also go on to become the greatest golfer of his time.

Or maybe it was the love of his life, Valerie Hogan, who made all the difference in her husband's life when she told Ben, "just hit the ball closer to the hole."

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, December 19

Jack Nicklaus at 77: 'I Don't Miss on 18'

JACK NICKLAUS PLAYED WITH HIS GRANDSON Gary "GT" Nicklaus at the 2017 PNC Father/Son Challenge in Orlando. And even though Jack rarely plays golf these days, he finished by holing a birdie putt on the final green.

"I don't miss on 18," Jack told GT.

"The Golden Bear is still doing classic Golden Bear things on the golf course," wrote Golf Channel.

Some things never change.

Friday, December 15

Phil Blackmar: Respect for the Journeyman

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WRITING AT HIS BLOG (and also having the piece appear at, Phil Blackmar, 60, makes a compelling case for the journeyman on the PGA Tour. Blackmar, who is 6 feet 7 inches, played 15 years on the PGA Tour and picked up three victories. He also won once on the Champions Tour.

Blackmar first quotes Teddy Roosevelt: "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood."

Blackmar then writes:
It's really hard to get to the tour, and even if you're lucky enough to earn a ticket to the show, the line of players trying to take that ticket away from you and use it for themselves is seemingly endless. We evaluate careers on money and wins but how should the career of a player who didn't win often or at all but was able to play the tour for a long time be measured? Should a piece of respect be reserved for the player who plays 10, 15 or 20 years on tour?
If your answer wasn't already yes, it probably will be if you read Blackmar's comprehensive analysis.

First, he writes about how difficult it is to get on the PGA Tour. (Hint: The odds are very long.) Then he writes about how difficult it is to stay on the PGA Tour. And he uses data.

Finally, Blackmar writes that he's "proud to be journeyman #123." It's a ranking based on number of career starts since 1980.

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Who is No. 1? I won't give it away.

Read Blackmar if you have a few minutes. It's an interesting piece.

Thursday, December 14

VIDEO: ESPN's Bob Harig Chats With Tiger Woods

THE ABOVE INTERVIEW IS FROM the Hero World Challenge, after Tiger Woods carded a final-round 68 to finish in a tie for ninth.

I just watched this clip for the first time and wanted to share. It reminded me that Tiger doesn't just have a new golf swing; he has a new demeanor. I see it in his facial expressions and body language. I hear it in his voice.

It doesn't hurt that he's talking to Bob Harig, who I expect Tiger respects. (Bob is a good one in my book. Fair, tough when it's called for, but never mean or nasty.)

Obviously, Tiger has softened with age and after all he's been through. The intimidation factor is gone. And he has a completely different relationship with the next generation of tour players (like Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler). Listen to him. Tiger talks about them with affection.

Can you imagine him ever talking that way about Phil Mickelson or Ernie Els?

Tuesday, December 12

USGA and R&A End Viewer Call-Ins

THE USGA AND The R&A have officially put the kibosh on viewer call-ins beginning on January 1. And not a moment too soon, according to almost everybody.

Following is a portion of yesterday's joint news release that outlines new "video review protocols."
FAR HILLS, N.J. USA and ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND -  A working group led by the USGA and The R&A has unanimously agreed to adopt a new set of protocols for video review when applying the Rules of Golf.
The group, consisting of the PGA TOUR, LPGA, PGA European Tour, Ladies European Tour and The PGA of America, as well as the governing bodies, will implement the following measures from January 1, 2018:
  • Assign one or more officials to monitor the video broadcast of a competition to help identify and resolve Rules issues as they arise
  • Discontinue any steps to facilitate or consider viewer call-ins as part of the Rules decision process
In addition, the USGA and The R&A have approved the adoption of a Local Rule, available from January 1, to eliminate the additional two-stroke penalty for failing to include a penalty on the score card when the player was unaware of the penalty. All of the organizations represented on the working group will introduce the Local Rule for 2018, and this score card penalty will be permanently removed when the modernized Rules of Golf take effect on January 1, 2019.
Tour players like Lexi Thompson enthusiastically welcomed these changes.

"I am thankful that no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future," she said on Instagram.

Saturday, December 9

Tiger Woods Jumps 531 Spots in Official World Golf Ranking

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BY NEARLY EVERY MEASURE, TIGER WOODS had a successful initial return from his fourth back surgery and long layoff from tournament golf. Tiger's play at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas surprised virtually everyone, probably even himself.

The unofficial event with an 18-man field also provided world-ranking points. Woods benefited in a big way, as MORNING READ reported:
Tiger Woods climbed [531 spots] in Monday’s updated Official World Golf Ranking after he tied for ninth in the Hero World Challenge. The unofficial PGA Tour event, which awarded OWGR points, marked the first competition for Woods since he withdrew after one round from a European Tour event in Dubai in early February and then underwent spinal fusion surgery in April. He had fallen to No. 1,199 entering last week’s event and now stands at No. 668. Woods was No. 1 as recently as May 2014, after his five-victory season in 2013. He holds the record for most weeks at No. 1 in the 31-year history of the OWGR, with 683.
 Tiger turns 42 on December 30. What will 2018 bring?

Thursday, December 7

Golf on TV: QBE Shark Shootout and Joburg Open

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From a Golf Channel press release.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Twelve two-person teams will convene in South Florida at the QBE Shark Shootout, airing Friday to Sunday on Golf Channel and NBC. The duo of Harris English and Matt Kuchar (defending champions) will look to win the event for the third time in the past five years. The European Tour is in South Africa for the Joburg Open, where Louis Oosthuizen headlines the field in his home country, as the tournament serves as the second event in the 2018 Open Qualifying Series.

QBE Shark Shootout
Dates: Dec. 8-10
Venue: Tiburon Golf Club (Gold Course), Naples, Fla.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)
Friday              1:30-4:30 p.m. (Live) / 5-8 p.m. (Replay)
Saturday          1:30-4:30 p.m. (Live) / 5-8 p.m. (Replay)
Sunday            1-2 p.m. (Live) / 5-8 p.m. (Replay)

Tournament Airtimes on NBC (Eastern)
Sunday            2-4 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:
Event format: The field is made up of 12 two-person teams. The competition includes a scramble format (Friday), modified alternate shot (Saturday) and better ball (Sunday).
English/Kuchar defend: Harris English and Matt Kuchar finished one stroke ahead of Jerry Kelly/Steve Stricker to win the event for the second time in four years as a duo.
Teams: Harris English/Matt Kuchar, Charley Hoffman/Zach Johnson, Tony Finau/Lexi Thompson, Jason Dufner/Billy Horschel, Russell Henley/Kyle Stanley, Keegan Bradley/Brendan Steele, Brandt Snedeker/Bubba Watson, Kevin Chappell/Kevin Kisner, Daniel Berger/Gary Woodland, Brian Harman/Pat Perez, Sean O’Hair/Steve Stricker, Shane Lowry/Graeme McDowell.


Joburg Open
Dates: Dec. 7-10
Venue: Randpark Golf Club (Firethorn & Bushwillow Courses), Johannesburg, South Africa

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):
Friday              9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. (Tape delay) / 3:30-5:30 & 7-9 a.m. (Streaming on Golf Channel Digital)
Saturday          9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. (Tape delay) / 4:30-9 a.m. (Streaming on Golf Channel Digital)
Sunday            4:30-9 a.m. (Live) / 2-4 p.m. (Replay)

Broadcast notes:
Fichardt defends: Darren Fichardt finished one shot ahead of Paul Waring and Stuart Manley to claim his fifth European Tour win.
Headlining the field: Louis Oosthuizen, Darren Fichardt, Dylan Frittelli, George Coetzee, Thomas Aiken, Sam Horsfield, Alfie Plant, Haydn Porteous and Dean Burmester.

GOLF CHANNEL VIDEO: 'Keep Omelette in Your Pan to Improve Backswing'

THIS TIP COMES FROM MICHAEL BREED, host of The Golf Fix on Golf Channel.

Has TV golf instruction jumped the shark?

Tuesday, December 5

VIDEO: Reborn Through Golf: The Inspiring Story of Young Lester Bell Jr.

DOING RESEARCH ON VARIOUS GOLF TOPICS, I ran across the story of Lester Bell Jr. (above). The video is dated, from 2013, but the story is ongoing. (I found the below clip from 2016.)

Golf as a game, and the people in golf, can inspire and transform lives. This is one of those stories. And it takes place at historic Cedar Crest in Dallas, Texas, which hosted the 1927 PGA Championship won by Walter Hagen.

Maybe you have eight minutes to enjoy this true story of a desperate kid who is saved by a game played right across the street from his dilapidated apartment.

#ThxPGAPro - Ira McGraw Jr./Lester Bell Jr. from PGA of America on Vimeo.

Friday, December 1

Hoffman Leads Hero, Tiger Within Striking Distance

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CHARLEY HOFFMAN LEADS THE HERO World Challenge at the halfway point after a 63 on Friday that gave him a 12-under total and 3-shot lead over Jordan Spieth and first-round leader Tommy Fleetwood.

Tiger Woods is the story, though. His solid play that produced a 69 and 68 put him in contention at 7 under and in a fifth-place tie. Everyone is impressed by Tiger's form at this early juncture as he continues to play without back pain.

"I proved that the surgery was successful, the rehab has been fantastic," Woods told Golf Channel. "Now I have a chance to go out there and play competitive golf again.

"I'm just getting back so I have a long way to go. That is going to take time. A lot more practice, a lot more training and more tournaments."

Hoffman's second round included 12 birdies.

"I got the ball to the hole and the balls were going in, which was nice," he said. "On 17, I was able to make a bunker shot which capped off the day… If I keep making putts I am usually in contention on Sunday. So putter feels great, the game is in a pretty good spot."

Hoffman added, "It is pretty special to be out here and to see Tiger making birdies and eagles and hopefully in contention on Sunday."