Thursday, May 30

Floyd County and Virginia Tech Grad Amanda Hollandsworth Tees Off in 2019 U.S. Women's Open

HERE'S A HEARTWARMING STORY from my neck of the woods.

Amanda Hollandworth hails from tiny Floyd, Virginia, where she and her older sister Jessica grew up playing golf, dominating the region and state during their high school days. They went on to play at Virginia Tech (Amanda) and University of Maryland (Jessica).

Now Amanda is playing in her first U.S. Women's Open at the Country Club of Charleston. Jessica, the women's golf coach at James Madison University, is Amanda's caddie this week.

"Amanda Hollandsworth is living proof that even if you're from a small town, your dreams can be as big as you dare," said NBC affiliate WSLS Roanoke.

"I just got goosebumps in 100 degree weather," Amanda said, "just thinking about how much support I have behind me. And if, for some reason, this doesn't work out the way it's supposed to, I know I'm still going to have that support. It's not golf that defines who I am to the community."

Tuesday, May 28

VIDEO: Fun-Loving Kevin Na Walks In Winner at Colonial

HERE'S KEVIN NA WALKING IN the winning putt at Colonial on Sunday.

I've noticed there's been a LOT of recent chatter and clips related to Na's trademark move when the ball is rolling into the cup. Honestly, it may be the only thing he does quickly on a golf course.

Congratulations to Na for collecting his third PGA Tour victory at the Charles Schwab Challenge. And for gifting his caddie with a vintage automobile (1973 Challenger).


USGA Announces Largest Purses Among All Major Championships


LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. – The United States Golf Association (USGA) announced that it will increase the purse for both the 119th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links and the 74th U.S. Women's Open at the Country Club of Charleston by $500,000, furthering its commitment to provide competitors with an unmatched championship experience.

The purse for the 2019 U.S. Open will be $12.5 million, making it the largest of all major championships. This year's U.S. Women's Open purse will total $5.5 million, positioning it as the largest in women's golf and ensuring that its champion – provided that she is a professional – will receive $1 million for the first time.

The announcement builds on substantial investments the USGA has made in all of its Open championships. Along with the debut of the U.S. Senior Women's Open in 2018, which provides the largest purse in senior women's golf at $1 million, the organization hosts the U.S. Senior Open, which also leads its demographic with $4 million in total prize money.

The USGA also provides a portion of the purse to all professionals who miss the cut at all four Opens. Amateurs in the field, a number that nears 30 in this week's U.S. Women's Open, receive reimbursement for travel expenses incurred during the championship week.

Friday, May 24

June 7 Release: 'LOOPERS: The Caddie's Long Walk,' Narrated by Bill Murray

GRAVITAS VENTURES WILL RELEASE the golf documentary LOOPERS: THE CADDIE'S LONG WALK in theaters on June 7th. The film is narrated by actor and former caddie Bill Murray (Ghostbusters, Lost in Translation) and was directed by Jason Baffa.

The film includes interviews with World Golf Hall of Famers Nick Faldo, Tom Watson, Ben Crenshaw, Lee Trevino, Curtis Strange and former Masters Tournament and U.S. Open champion Fuzzy Zoeller.

Professional caddies who participated in the film include Steve Williams (Tiger Woods' former caddie), Carl Jackson (Crenshaw), Fanny Sunesson (Faldo), Pete Bender (Greg Norman and others), Michael Greller (Jordan Spieth) and Jariah "Jerry" Beard (Zoeller at the 1979 Masters). Longtime golf journalists Rick Reilly, Michael Collins and Ward Clayton are also interviewed.

Centuries old and enjoyed by tens of millions of people worldwide, golf is seen by many as more than a sport. Yet what do we know about the other person on the course? The man or woman behind the player carrying the bag.

In a narrative never before covered in any feature length documentary, LOOPERS: THE CADDIE'S LONG WALK explores the incredible personal bond that a golfer and a caddie develop through hours of time together.

Wednesday, May 22

USGA: 26 Additional Players Exempt for 119th U.S. Open Championship


LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. – The United States Golf Association (USGA) announced that 26 additional golfers, including 2003 U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk and U.S. Amateur champions Matthew Fitzpatrick and Byeong Hun An, have earned full exemptions into the 2019 U.S. Open Championship, to be played June 13-16 at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links. These exemptions bring the number of fully exempt players to 76.

All 26 exemptions were awarded to players who earned a place in the top 60 of the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) as of May 19. Furyk, who won the U.S. Open at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club and is a three-time runner-up (2006, 2007, 2016), is ranked No. 51. It will be Furyk’s 25th U.S. Open. Fitzpatrick, who is competing in his fifth U.S. Open, won the 2013 U.S. Amateur and is ranked No. 33. An, who claimed the 2009 U.S. Amateur, is ranked No. 57 and will play in his sixth U.S. Open.

The other players who earned full exemptions through the current Official World Golf Ranking are: Abraham Ancer, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Lucas Bjerregaard, Rafael Cabrera Bello, Branden Grace, Justin Harding, J.B. Holmes, Charles Howell III, Kevin Kisner, Haotong Li, Luke List, Shane Lowry, Keith Mitchell, Alex Noren, Thorbjorn Olesen, Louis Oosthuizen, Cheng Tsung Pan, Eddie Pepperell, Ian Poulter, Chez Reavie, Adam Scott, Brandt Snedeker and Matt Wallace. Reavie (2001) and Snedeker (2003) are past U.S. Amateur Public Links champions.

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Brooks Koepka Can See Double-Digit Major Wins in His Future

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AFTER RAINING ON BROOKS KOEPKA'S major victory parade yesterday, I was reminded of what he thinks.

Koepka made the following statements on May 14, or a few days before he won the PGA Championship, his fourth major win in the last eight played.

"I don't see why you can't get to double digits," Koepka said. "I think you keep doing what you're supposed to do, you play good, you peak at the right times. Like I said, I think sometimes the majors are the easiest ones to win. Half the people shoot themselves out of it, and mentally I know I can beat most of them, and then from there it's those guys left, who's going to play good and who can win."

Here's a more detailed breakdown of how Koepka views majors.

"One hundred and fifty-six in the field, so you figure at least 80 of them I'm just going to beat," Koepka said. "From there, about half of them won't play well from there, so you're down to about maybe 35. And then from 35, some of them just, pressure is going to get to them. It only leaves you with a few more, and you've just got to beat those guys."

"I think one of the big things that I've learned over the last few years is you don't need to win it, you don't have to try to go win it. Just hang around. If you hang around, good things are going to happen."

Hanging around is a good strategy. Always being in contention is the key to winning a LOT of majors.

I like Koepka's thinking, his confidence. If he makes it to double digits, he'll join an elite group: Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.

His present task is to win his fifth. Will it come at Pebble Beach next month?

I'd say all eyes will be on Koepka at the U.S. Open, but then there's Tiger, who always seems to suck all the oxygen out of the golf world. That might actually help Koepka.

Tuesday, May 21

How Long Will Brooks Koepka's Major Victory March Last?

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TWO DAYS AFTER BROOKS KOEPKA closed out his fourth major victory at the PGA Championship in what seems like a nanosecond (23 months), I'm here to remind us that golf is a fickle game.

There's no way to know how long Koepka's major victory march will last. He might have a few more in his pocket, whether they come fast or over several years. Or it could be over, as improbable as that might seem.

Remember Rory McIlroy? Remember Jordan Spieth?

Both young men were on the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. For Spieth, it was "JORDAN RULES" and "The Spieth Era Begins Now." Well, that era didn't last very long.

Sure, Rory and Jordan are far from done. But, no, they aren't the second coming of Tiger Woods, that special player who would dominate the game for a decade or more. Nor is Brooks Koepka, in my estimation. There's only one Tiger. There was only one Jack.

I like Koepka. I like his toughness. I like that big chip on his muscular shoulder. If he can win a third consecutive U.S. Open at Pebble Beach next month, he, too, will be on the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and probably on the cover of other major publications. It will be a monumental achievement.

But it's still a long majors road to 8 (Tom Watson), 9 (Ben Hogan and Gary Player), 11 (Walter Hagen), 15 (Tiger Woods) and 18 (Jack Nicklaus).

A lot can happen. Like those four consecutive bogeys late on Sunday. Because golf is a fickle game. That's why we love it and hate it ... and keep coming back for more.

Friday, May 17

Remembering Great Caddies, Including Old Tom Morris, During the PGA Championship

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By Mark Vigil

ALL CADDIES WATCHING THE PGA CHAMPIONSIP this weekend are encouraged to skip watching Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or one of the young guns. Rather, carefully study the actions and protocols of caddies like Joe LaCava and Mike "Fluff" Cowan, and recall the work of Jim "Bones" Mackay and Bruce Watson.

I offer this encouragement because today many loopers think they have deserved to be well paid because they toted a bag, scoped the yardage to the flag sticks and read a few putts.

This expectation would have Old Tom Morris rolling in his grave.

For those of you who have not heard of Old Tom Morris, he is the godfather of the modern golf game. He learned his craft at the heel of Alan Robertson, the Custodian of the Links at St. Andrews until he died in 1859.

Old Tom is a voice of authority on caddying. He grew from a 10-year-old toting hickory shaft clubs across the links above the St. Andrews Bay to become the trusted advisor and golfing consigliere for the captains and members of the R&A for over 35 years.

The keys to Old Tom's success were his ears. He was a good listener. By listening, in the moment, he would know what he needed to do to prepare his player for the next shot, be it a phrase, a confident smile, or steely silence.

Old Tom had a heart the size of Secretariat's, and it made him a sensitive soul. He felt the joys of the made putt for par on the Road Hole, and the pain and disappointment of the poor shot, causing a big score or a loss of a hole. And regardless of the emotions felt, he transitioned his player to focus on the next shot. He was an ally.

Old Tom earned the player's trust, enabling him to dispense honest assessments, like one's mother, speaking the hard, true words one needs to hear, like "You know better?"

Lastly, Old Tom was a first-class negotiator, and I bet he would be able to out-negotiate any modern day Goldman Sachs banker. This skill wisely deployed allowed him to lead his player to see the correct shot, to attack the right target line, and to select the proper club over his players objections.

So, all you caddies, if you want to become a true caddie and become like Old Tom Morris, a trusted advisor and golfing consigliere, watch today's professional caddies deploy their tools of the trade, which I call L.E.A.N—listen, empathize, ally, negotiate.

Mark Vigil is founder of Laurus Capital Advisors LLC, an advisory firm. He is also a passionate links golf enthusiast who has traveled extensively throughout Scotland seeking out links courses. He is currently writing a book entitled, Searching for the Spirit of Old Tom Morris.

Thursday, May 16

VIDEO: A.W. Tillinghast, Master Architect of Bethpage Black, Baltusrol and Many More

AS THE PGA CHAMPIONSHIP BEGINS, here is a look at A.W. Tillinghast, the man who created this year's championship course, Bethpage Black on Long Island.

Tillinghast was flamboyant in nearly every way, earning a million dollars designing golf courses across the United States in the Roaring Twenties. He outspent his vast earnings and was more or less broke when the Great Depression rocked the United States and the world.

The PGA of America gave Tillinghast a job that helped save himself and rejuvenate golf. The golf organization sent him around the country to help PGA pros improve their golf courses during a time when money was scarce. Driving a jalopy on primitive highways, Tillinghast visited more than 250 golf courses.

Jack Whitaker, the longtime CBS sports announcer, is the voice of Tillinghast in the video.

(H/T Geoff Shackelford)

Tuesday, May 14

2019 PGA Championship TV Times and Tournament Information

THE PGA IN MAY? I'm still not used to the idea. Nor will I be next year. I've been watching the PGA Championship in August since rocks were young.

I asked what others thought on Twitter.

"Good move," said one.

"Don't like," said another. "It means that the PGA Champ will never come to the courses in the midwest. Whistling Straits, Medinah, Oakland Hills, Hazeltine. It was 35 degrees last night here in Madison, WI, frost on the ground this morning."

The 2019 PGA Championship begins on Thursday at Bethpage Black, site of the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens.

The field has 156 players and is touted as the best field in major championship golf. The defending champion is Brooks Koepka. The winner will hoist the Wanamaker Trophy.


The PGA Championship will air on TNT and CBS. All times ET.

Thursday, May 16
TNT: 1:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Friday, May 17
TNT 1:00 – 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 18
TNT: 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
CBS: 2:00 - 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, May 19
TNT: 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
CBS: 2:00 - 7:00 p.m.

Live streaming

Friday, May 10

Heavenly Conversations: Bobby Jones Comforts Byron Nelson

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This week's PGA Tour event got me thinking about golf great Byron Nelson. So I searched this blog for all the Nelson articles. What follows is from April 2007.

"I'M DISAPPOINTED IN MY TOURNAMENT, Bobby. It wasn't the same this year."

"I know how you feel, Byron. It's hard when all that’s left of you down there is your name."

"All of the finest players showed up for my tournament last year. They came up to me and shook my hand."

"Last year you were alive, Byron."

"I guess it turned out well enough. I'm glad Scott Verplank won. I've known him since he was a junior. He's a great kid."

"That was special."

"Bobby, do all the changes to Augusta National and your tournament ever bother you?"

"Sure, but you get used to it. They mean well for the most part."

"You're still a gentleman, Bobby."

"So are you, Byron."

"By the way, Bobby, what's that sound?"

"That's Hogan hitting balls."

"Ben practices up here?"

"Some things never change, Byron."

Wednesday, May 8

Tiger Woods on Presidential Medal of Freedom: 'This Has Been an Unbelievable Experience'

TIGER WOODS WAS AWARDED the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Monday at the White House. reported:
"This has been an unbelievable experience," said Woods, who then fought back tears as he thanked his family and all those who have supported him throughout the years.
"I’ve battled. I've tried to hang in there," Woods continued. "I've tried to come back and play the great game of golf again. I've been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to do it again …
"The amazing Masters experience I had a few weeks ago was certainly the highlight of what I've accomplished so far in my life on the golf course." 
Woods is the fourth golfer to be awarded the Medal of Freedom, joining Arnold Palmer (2004), Jack Nicklaus (2005) and Charlie Sifford (2014), the latter of whom Woods called “the grandfather that I never had” and named his son after. 
"To have been chosen as the next golfer after Charlie is truly remarkable," Woods said.

Monday, May 6

VIDEO: Max Homa Digs Out First PGA Tour Win at Wells Fargo Championship

MAX HOMA WON THE WELLS FARGO CHAMPIONSHIP by three shots by making clutch birdies on a rainy Sunday in Charlotte, North Carolina.

It was an unlikely maiden victory on the PGA Tour based on Homa's recent woes. In 2017 Homa made just two of 17 cuts.

"I used to say when I hit rock bottom I found a shovel and kept digging. I went to some low places and there would be times when I would wallow [in self pity] and honestly just hate my golf game, dislike what I was out there in what's supposed to be my favorite place in the world," Homa said.

Now the Cal product is exempt and will tee it up in next week's PGA Championship.

Thursday, May 2

Caddie Jim 'Bones' Mackay and the Fine Art of Bunker Raking

JIM "BONES" MACKAY was the longtime caddie of Phil Mickelson.

Here's Bones raking a bunker. The man obviously cares about his work. (Gary McCord provides the analysis.)

Mackay, who now works for Golf Channel, was inducted into the Caddie Hall of Fame in 2017.

Jack's 'Letter to His Younger Self'

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IF YOU'RE A JACK NICKLAUS FAN, or at least interested in golf history, you may enjoy Jack's "Letter to My Younger Self" that published a while back at THE PLAYERS' TRIBUNE.

In the letter there are details about his early life and career that I didn't know (or had forgotten). I wouldn't say I'm an authority on Jack Nicklaus, but I did study him pretty closely and collected extensive research in order to write my second book about the 1969 Ryder Cup.

The letter, written in first person, fills in around the edges of Jack's youth and more.

Nicklaus would tell you he had a strong work ethic similar to other golf greats such as Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. The following humorous anecdote from his letter speaks to that point:
The whole summer of 1950, you'll work. Bucket after bucket of balls, swing after swing, divot after divot. 
Then one day, there's going to be a bill in the mail. Dad will go grab it. Then he'll yell your name in that voice … that voice is trouble, you know it. He'll be holding a bill from Scioto. 
"Three hundred dollars, Jack?" 
At this moment, hold your ground, young man. 
You'll say this to him. "Dad, you told me you wanted me to learn how to play golf…." 
He'll say, "Yes, but $300 worth of range balls?" 
Now you got 'im. 
"I don't just want to learn the game. I want to be great at it."
Three hundred dollars was a LOT of money in 1950. And that had to be a LOT of range balls.

It wouldn't be long before Scioto pro Jack Grout would allow young Nicklaus to hit all the range balls he wanted without Charlie Nicklaus paying a dime.

As legend has it, no one pounded balls and dug it out of the dirt like Ben Hogan. He bloodied his hands in search of perfection. But I expect all the great ones — Nicklaus included — worked extremely hard to earn their greatness.

Talent can only take you so far.

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