Saturday, March 30

PGATOUR.COM: 'When Kite Met Crenshaw'

Embed from Getty Images

BEN CRENSHAW MET TOM KITE in Austin, Texas, when they were kids in the early 1960s. A long friendship and Hall of Fame careers followed.

Here's a short excerpt from Melanie Hauser's feature at PGATOUR.COM:
Ben and Charlie Crenshaw were headed across the parking lot at old Austin Country Club off Riverside Drive, ready to take on the back nine. They were dressed in T-shirts and cutoffs and had their well-worn golf bags – filled with collections of mismatched ladies and junior clubs – slung across their shoulders. 
It was the summer of '62. Ben was 10; Charlie was 11. They were inseparable back then, whether it was on the golf course, playing baseball or just hanging out. Two brothers, two best friends growing up in Austin in the '60s; two pretty good athletes just having fun and trying to get better. At whatever sport they were playing. 
Suddenly they saw a slightly older boy – dressed in slacks and a golf shirt -- carrying a new big red bag with a set of Wilson Staff clubs. He had red hair and glasses, brand-new golf shoes and a Texas drawl. His family had just moved down from Dallas and joined the club. 
His name was Tom Kite. 
"Y'all mind if I play the back nine with you?" he said. 
The Crenshaw boys sized him up and said sure, c'mon.

Thursday, March 28

VIDEO: Feet Together Swing Drill by Golf Channel Academy's Jill Finlan Scally

GOLF CHANNEL ACADEMY LEAD COACH Jill Finlan Scally demonstrates how full swings with feet together can help balance.

I like this drill and the idea behind it. I don't know about you, but for me this technique has been around (and something I've used) since I played junior golf decades ago. And not just how Jill presents it.

In the past, when I've struggled with various aspects of my swing, I've often narrowed my stance or brought my feet together to improve balance and tempo, shorten my golf swing and regain control.

Sometimes I've gone to a narrow stance mid-round as a desperate measure. Whether on course or during practice, this adjustment can lead to smoother swings and more solid golf shots.

Tuesday, March 26

VIDEO: David Feherty Explains Match Play or 'Theory of Feherativity'

MATCH PLAY, AS DAVID FEHERTY OPINES, is a different game within the game. Of course, he's right.

I like match play for the same reasons I like March Madness. Just about anything can happen on any given day, or over 18 holes. That's a big part of what makes sports so compelling. I certainly don't mind an upset and have been known to root for the underdog.

The WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play begins on Wednesday at Austin Country Club. The field of 64 features the top players in the world, including Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari, Brooks Koepka and Tiger Woods.

Golf Channel and NBC will provide live TV and streaming coverage.

Friday, March 22

USGA Names PGA Tour Player Jason Gore as Senior Director of Player Relations

Embed from Getty Images


LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. – Following an extensive search, the USGA has appointed longtime PGA Tour player and four-time U.S. Open competitor Jason Gore as its first senior director, Player Relations.

The appointment launches a comprehensive program aimed at sharing information and strengthening engagement with players in areas of importance to the USGA. These include initiatives to grow and advance the game, research critical to the game's health, and continuing to incorporate the players' perspective in its work to advance the sport.

Gore's primary role will be to interact with professional and elite amateur players across the game, particularly focusing on competitors in the USGA's Open and amateur championships.

He will lead a team of full-time staff dedicated to player relations, including Liz Fradkin, who assumed her player relations role last fall. Previously the manager of the USGA's Curtis Cup Team and a member of the U.S. Women's Amateur staff, Fradkin has already been a fixture at several LPGA Tour events.

They will be joined by Robert Zalzneck and Ali Kicklighter, who will manage USGA player services with an emphasis on onsite services at the USGA’s four Open championships.

"I have the utmost respect for the USGA and proudly tell everyone that my experience in the 1997 Walker Cup was the highlight of my golf career," said Gore, 44, who won the PGA Tour's 84 Lumber Classic in 2005 and played in Sunday's final pairing of the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. "I'm incredibly honored to have been invited to play this role and can’t wait to get started."

Tuesday, March 19

Who's the Greatest: Tiger or Jack?

I RAN ACROSS THIS CLIP from The Players Championship. Tiger Woods answered the question with good humor.

The career wins (major and other) of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, the two greatest players of their eras, are pretty similar overall and miles ahead of everyone else.

So, who's the GOAT? And what's your criteria?

(I know Tiger isn't finished. He might bag a few more wins.)

I've often noticed that one's answer to this question depends on their age. There's a generational bias.

Friday, March 15

Golf Swing Friday: 12-Year-Old 'Anthony B Golf'

THIS IS ANTHONY B GOLF. (That's his Twitter handle.) He's 12 and, according to his Twitter profile, has hidden disabilities: autism, dyspraxia and hypermobility.

During this practice session, Anthony was working on hitting up more on the ball with his driver.

By the way, that driver (on which he's choked down) is nearly as long/tall as Anthony!

Thursday, March 14

The Players Championship Odds: Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy Are Favorites

Embed from Getty Images


At tee off, DJ and Rory were the favorites at 12/1. The pair are currently 1 and 2 strokes off the early lead of 5 under. There's a long way to go.

Odds to Win THE PLAYERS Championship
(Courtesy of Bovada)
Dustin Johnson             12/1
Rory McIlroy                 12/1     
Justin Thomas               16/1
Rickie Fowler                20/1     
Brooks Koepka             20/1
Francesco Molinari        20/1
Justin Rose                   20/1
Tiger Woods                 20/1
Tommy Fleetwood         25/1     
Xander Schauffele        25/1                 
Bryson DeChambeau     28/1     
Jon Rahm                     28/1
Jason Day                    33/1     
Sergio Garcia                33/1     
Adam Scott                  33/1     
Patrick Cantlay              40/1
Paul Casey                   40/1
Hideki Matsuyama         40/1     
Patrick Reed                 40/1     
Webb Simpson             40/1
Tony Finau                    50/1
Lucas Glover                 50/1     
Marc Leishman              50/1
Ian Poulter                    50/1
Jordan Spieth                50/1     
Henrik Stenson             50/1
Gary Woodland             50/1     
Matthew Fitzpatrick       66/1     
Billy Horschel                66/1
Si Woo Kim                   66/1
Luke List                       66/1     
Phil Mickelson               66/1
Louis Oosthuizen           66/1
Matt Wallace                 66/1     
Byeong Hun An             80/1     
Keegan Bradley            80/1     
Tyrrell Hatton                80/1     
Charles Howell III           80/1
Zach Johnson               80/1     
Kevin Kisner                  80/1
Jason Kokrak                80/1
Cameron Smith             80/1     
Bubba Watson              80/1     
Daniel Berger                100/1
Emiliano Grillo               100/1   
Adam Hadwin                100/1
Sungjae Im                   100/1
Charl Schwartzel           100/1

Tuesday, March 12

VIDEO: The Putting Blues of Jeff Maggert and Tiger Woods

NO MATTER HOW FAR THE GOLF BALL flies and rolls, no matter how long golf courses become, and no matter how modern golf equipment enables a jaw-dropping power game, success in golf still, in large part, comes down to putting.

Jeff Maggert (above), a tour professional who has won eight times on the PGA Tour and Champions Tour, five-putted from five feet on the final hole of his opening round at the Hoag Classic. He carded an ugly triple bogey at 18 and posted a 5-over 76.

While I was watching Maggert, I wanted to say, "Stop, take a breath, regroup."

But we've all been there, haven't we? Slapping the golf ball back and forth around the cup. The only difference is that someone in our friendly game probably would have said, "Pick it up, that's good," after the second miss.

There's a happy ending to Maggert's viral putting episode. The journeyman came back the next day and shot 63. He only needed 22 putts.

Speaking of putting, here's Tiger Woods working with putting coach Matt Killen at The Players Championship on Monday. Tiger has struggled on the greens, including too many three-putts.

Monday, March 11

VIDEO: Francesco Molinari Fires Closing 64 to Win Arnold Palmer Invitational

THE CLOSER. THAT MIGHT BE an apt nickname for reigning Open champion Francesco Molinari.

Molinari carded an 8-under 64 at Bay Hill on Sunday to finish 12 under in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. That was good enough for a two-shot victory over Matthew Fitzpatrick. Rafa Cabrera Bello, Tommy Fleetwood and Sungjae Im tied for third.

Molinari's third PGA Tour title included a lengthy putt on the final green that drew comparisons to Tiger Woods. (See above highlights.)

"The long game can take you only so far," Molinari said. "You can be in contention and have good finishes more often than other people. But when it comes to crunch time, you have to make the putts at the right time."

Next up is The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. And no, it's not the fifth major.

Friday, March 8

RIP Dan Jenkins, Legendary Sportswriter and Member of World Golf Hall of Fame

From the New York Times obituary:
Mr. Jenkins was among a cadre of Sports Illustrated writers — including Roy Blount Jr., Mark Kram and Frank Deford — recruited by André Laguerre, the managing editor who oversaw the magazine's emergence as a leader in literate, and occasionally literary, sports journalism as well as a powerhouse in the Time Inc. stable. Mr. Jenkins joined the magazine in 1962. 
A Texan with a good old boy’s pride in country common sense over urban sophistication, Mr. Jenkins brought a Southern wiseacre erudition to the pages of a magazine not exactly used to the arch or earthy or impolitic remark. Opinionated, more than occasionally snarky, he wrote with an open appreciation of athletes and coaches, bars, pretty women and chicken fried steak, replete with clever put-downs and outlandish metaphors. 
His main beats were golf and college football, sports he grew up with in Fort Worth.
The Times reported that Jenkins had dealt with heart and renal failure and recently broke his hip. He was 90.

Thursday, March 7

Golf Swing Thursday: Coach Lockey

I LIKE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS: The swing. The tempo. The sound. The quick reach for the tee. The "perfect" comment.

May we all hit it a little more like Coach Lockey this spring.

Tuesday, March 5

Eamon Lynch: Whining About New Rules Is Not Good Look for PGA Tour Players

THE USGA HAS BECOME A PUNCHING BAG through the years and for good reasons. But golf's elite players seem to get a pass on their reactions and childish behavior, most recently as it pertains to the new rules.

Why are players (seemingly) excused?

This isn't an aberration. Rather, it's the sports culture in which we live.

Eamon Lynch at jumped into the topic with both feet:
It is golf’s most threadbare cliché to say that the game reflects life — the need to play it as it lies, handle bad breaks, conduct oneself honorably. This blather about character and grit has kept the sport's more indolent announcers and marketing executives employed for generations. But a more fitting allegory for this golf-as-life theme, at least in the professional ranks, may be our cry baby culture, the ceaseless bellyaching by those who break rules and then petulantly insist the rules are stupid anyway.... 
There’s clearly great fodder for debate in the new rules, from the wording to the rollout. The problem is that the time for debate was two years ago. In March 2017, the USGA announced a six-month feedback period during which anyone could offer input on the proposed revisions. More than 25,000 golfers did so. If Messrs. Scott, Thomas and Fowler had grave reservations, they had ample opportunity to register them. 
The new rules were made public in March 2018 — nine months before they took effect. USGA officials attended player meetings and held one-on-one conversations at tournaments in advance of the rollout. Despite that outreach, plenty of players are peddling a narrative that blames their own ignorance on the USGA. It's unsurprising. The blazers are the softest target in golf, portrayed as humorless scolds legislating all the fun out of the game.
I'm not saying the new rules are perfect, nor the rollout. But I do agree with Lynch's characterization of players as whiners and babies. I'm tired of it.

What if all parties, including golf's governing bodies, actually talked directly behind the scenes rather than airing their grievances and pettiness in the public arena?

Saturday, March 2

Lee Elder Makes USGA History as Bob Jones Award Recipient

Embed from Getty Images


LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. – The USGA will honor Lee Elder with its highest honor, the Bob Jones Award, in a ceremony on June 12, 2019, during the week of the 119th U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links. Elder is the first African American to receive the prestigious award.

Presented annually since 1955, the Bob Jones Award recognizes an individual who demonstrates the spirit, personal character and respect for the game exhibited by Jones, winner of nine USGA championships.

"Lee's perseverance, positive attitude, and generous spirit personifies the ideals that the Bob Jones Award represents," said Mike Davis, USGA CEO. "His grace and humility demonstrate his extraordinary character, and his work at the community level has paved the way for generations of future golfers. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to honor his incredible sportsmanship in the game."

After bursting onto the PGA Tour in 1968 by tying Jack Nicklaus and extending him to a five-hole playoff at the American Golf Classic, Robert Lee Elder used his new-found fame to introduce disadvantaged youths to the game through various development programs.

Most notably, Elder managed the desegregated Langston Golf Course in Washington, D.C., where he hosted after-school programs aimed at educating youngsters about the game, while also giving them a safe place to spend their afternoons. In 1974, Elder created the Lee Elder Scholarship Fund, which offers financial aid to low-income young men and women to attend college.

A pioneering force in the game, Elder overcame personal tragedy and discrimination to become the first African American to play in the Masters Tournament, as well as the first African American to earn a spot on a Ryder Cup Team, serving as an inspiration to countless players who sought to break the color barrier.

Embed from Getty Images

"It’s a great honor to receive this award and be recognized in the same vein as Mr. Jones, who did so much for golf, and many others that I've admired who have positively impacted the game," said Elder. "I felt that by setting the right example and serving as a mentor, I would have the ability to leave a lasting impression on people. Even if I could only reach a few of them, I wanted to give all youngsters a chance to learn the game and be a part of it."

Born the youngest of 10 children in Dallas in 1934, Robert Lee Elder was orphaned at age 9 after his father was killed in action during World War II and his mother, overcome with grief, died three months later. Their deaths forced Elder to interrupt his schooling, and he found work at a nearby golf course, sparking his interest in and cultivating his love for the game. He began practicing in his off hours with a borrowed club and developed his skills further after he began to caddie. At age 12, Elder was sent to live with an aunt in Los Angeles, where his affinity for the game grew through jobs in pro shops and locker rooms, in addition to continuing his work as a caddie.

Elder's competitive career began in 1950 at an amateur event conducted by the United Golf Association (UGA), which provided competitive opportunities for African American players. After a stint traveling with famous golf hustler Titanic Thompson and two years in the Army, Elder played professionally, quickly establishing himself as the top player on the UGA circuit with wins in 18 of 22 tournaments in 1966. He easily qualified for the PGA Tour in 1967 and went on to finish his career with four PGA Tour wins and eight PGA Tour Champions wins.

Elder stared down discrimination throughout his career, most notably by accepting Gary Player's invitation to play in the South African PGA Championship in 1971, in the hope that a desegregated event would help end apartheid policies in South Africa. Elder also declined an invitation to the Masters that was based on growing legislative pressure rather than his own merit, and instead earned his spot with his first PGA Tour win at the Monsanto Open in 1974.