Thursday, April 30

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Resuming Major Sports: 'Safety [Is] Everything'

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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, THE DIRECTOR of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 and the point man on the coronavirus task force, loves sports like many of the rest of us.

Dr. Fauci played basketball and baseball growing up. He still runs at the age of 79. A baseball fan, the Brooklyn-born doctor said he roots for the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees.

But as a public health expert Dr. Fauci urged caution as the country eases through the first wave of the pandemic.

"Safety," Dr. Fauci said in a New York Times interview, "for the players and for the fans, trumps everything. If you can't guarantee safety, then unfortunately you're going to have to bite the bullet and say, 'We may have to go without this sport for this season.'"

"Broad access" to testing will be required for major sports to resume, according to Dr. Fauci. Manufacturers have made progress. They still have a ways to go before America can play ball.

He added: "If we let our desire to prematurely get back to normal, we can only get ourselves right back in the same hole we were in a few weeks ago."

Wednesday, April 29

The Match, Part 2: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson Renew Rivalry, With Peyton Manning and Tom Brady Alongside

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By Jacob Smalley

Jacob Smalley is an avid golfer and a junior at Ohio University.

IN LATE 2018 THE GOLF WORLD was fixated on a pay-per-view golf match between two of the most popular players of all time. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson squared off at Shadow Creek Golf Course.

Jacob Smalley
The winner, Phil Mickelson, took home the $9 million purse.

Now there is a rematch brewing, and it might be our best bet for live golf during the pandemic.

The event is called The Match: Champions for Charity, and, in addition to Tiger and Phil, will feature football greats Peyton Manning (paired with Tiger) and Tom Brady (paired with Phil). All donations and fundraising from the event will benefit COVID-19 relief efforts.

The match will air live on TNT and is expected to be played in May, coming before the restart of the PGA Tour in June. Social distancing and group limits will still be in place. But there won't be a need for spectators for this charity match because everyone can watch from the comfort of home.

I think another Tiger versus Phil match is exactly what sports fans need at this time. Everyone has been cooped up in their homes and there have been no live sports in weeks. With two legendary quarterbacks added into the mix, I think this event will exceed expectations.

What are your thoughts about a rematch between these two golf legends?

Saturday, April 25

PGA TOUR VIDEO: Golf's Version of Field Goals

I ALWAYS ENJOY WATCHING a good recovery shot. Here are a bunch of them from the best players in the world.

Do you ever try to thread a shot between two trees (or other objects)?

It ain't easy. (Unless you're these guys.)

I'll try it on occasion. Once I line up to hit the shot, I try to forget the small window and just keep my head down.

Friday, April 24

That Time in 1948 Jack Fleck Won the Baker Park Labor Day Tournament and $200 in Kewanee, Illinois

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I STILL RECEIVE GOOGLE ALERTS about Jack Fleck, who I befriended in 2007 and wrote about in THE LONGEST SHOT, which published in May 2012. Jack won the 1955 U.S. Open in an 18-hole playoff against Ben Hogan, pulling off one of the greatest upsets in golf or any sport.

Jack died in 2014 at the age of 92 in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Jack Fleck in 2010.
Occasionally, I learn something new about Jack, some small anecdote that didn't materialize in my extensive research and countless hours of conversations with him.

While not particularly important or newsworthy, I'll admit these tidbits are interesting to me, another point on the golf path of an obscure tour pro who seemingly came out of nowhere to win the National Open.

This item appeared in today's Star Courier of Kewanee, Illinois:
The [Baker Park] Labor Day tournament is still a major attraction every Hog Days. In 1948, it was the fourth time it had been held. 
In 1948, [Jack] Fleck was a 27-year-old golf pro at a Davenport, Iowa, municipal golf course who was competing for the second time in the Baker Park tourney. He shot rounds of 66 and 69 (135 total) to beat second place by five shots. 
His 66 tied the course record that had been set two months earlier by Kewanee's Don Sckrabulis. Schrabulis was in the junior class at Kewanee High School and he would later capture the high school state championship and win his share of local tournaments before becoming a golf club professional. 
For defeating 11 other professional golfers, Fleck won a prize of $200.
I knew Jack honed his game in small tournaments all over the Midwest. I'm sure he shot more low scores and won more small events than I'll ever know.

Wednesday, April 22

My 3 Biggest Lessons in Year One of Golf

By Jake Small

Jake Small (a pseudonym) is an avid golfer and a junior at a midwestern university.

GOLF IS A SPORT WITH a pretty steep learning curve, and that leads to a ton of lessons.

I started to avidly play golf in my teenage years. What a great challenge! I am so happy I stuck with the game and became a student of it to this day. I could go on and on about all of the lessons I have learned through golf, but I have narrowed it down to three.

1. Ask for Help

The first huge lesson was that it's okay to ask for help. Being a bull-headed 14-year-old, I figured that I could just hit hundreds of balls on the driving range and eventually something would click. I was right to some extent. I mean, there was really nowhere to go but up and to improve.

But after a while, I eventually hit a plateau and needed an expert's opinion. After receiving tips and feedback from a local club pro, I was set on the right path. The situation was even a life lesson for me because it showed me that asking for help is the easiest way to improve at something.

2. Consistency

Another incredible thing I learned is that consistency is a key to success in golf and everything in life.

Consistency can mean many things in relation to golf, but I am talking about the pre-shot routine. Too many golfers walk up to the ball and do something different every time. Sometimes they will take two practice swings, and other times they will just waggle their club and proceed to hit the golf ball.

After watching professionals, it struck me that they do the same thing every time to increase focus and get in the zone before a shot. I always overlooked this aspect of the game. Remaining consistent in your routines will improve your concentration and help you improve in the long run.

3. Stay Positive

Staying positive at all times was the biggest takeaway during my first year of golf.

At the end of the day, we are enjoying nature, being social with friends, and playing an incredible game. Competitively, there are going to be bad days. It is inevitable. But I (and you) can always choose to enjoy the game no matter the score or outcome.

Just having fun is actually a great way to improve scores because positive thoughts can translate to better scores.  I noticed that when I was relaxed and not putting so much pressure on myself to play well, I actually played my best!

Our minds are our greatest asset and our greatest liability. Once I fully realized that truth, it raised my golf game to new heights.

Fast forward to today, and I am still a student of golf who is trying to learn as much as possible.

Saturday, April 18

Doug Sanders, 'Blessed to Have the Career I Had,' Dies at 86

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DOUG SANDERS MIGHT BE IN the World Golf Hall of Fame had he made that 30-inch par putt to win the 1970 British Open at the Old Course in St. Andrews. Instead, Sanders lost to Jack Nicklaus the following day in an 18-hole playoff when the Golden Bear sank a birdie putt on the final hole.

Sanders died a week ago. He was 86.

Known for his colorful attire and lifestyle, it's easy to overlook Sanders' body of work over a long career. He won 20 times on the PGA Tour from 1956 to 1972. Those victories included the Canadian Open (as an amateur), the Colonial, Western Open, Doral and the Bob Hope. Sanders finished runner-up in four majors and was in the top 10 154 times.

I met Sanders on the Grand Champions circuit a dozen years ago. Yes, he was a character, always ready with a comment or story.

Sanders grew up poor in Georgia and taught himself the game. His swing was short and flat. The joke was that he could make his full swing in a phone booth. But that fast, jerky swing, and his deft touch around the greens, made Sanders a lot of money and a near-great player on the PGA Tour.

"My agent later told me that putt [to win the British Open] cost me millions," Sanders told Garry Smits in 2016. "But I can't complain. I've been blessed to have the career I had."

Thursday, April 16

What the 2020 PGA Tour and Major Championship Schedule Could Look Like

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By Jacob Smalley

Jacob Smalley is an avid golfer and a junior at Ohio University.

I THINK IT IS SAFE TO SAY that people involved with planning major championships and PGA Tour events are very stressed at the moment. The coronavirus pandemic leaves a lot of question marks for tournaments and there is no end in sight.

Jacob Smalley
But there is some promising news regarding the 2020 Masters Tournament and the U.S. Open. According to a statement from the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, the Masters is rescheduled for mid-November (November 12-15).

Other promising news for players and fans is that the U.S. Open (which will not be played in June) is rescheduled to September 17-20. The beautiful Winged Foot Golf Club in New York is the host venue and hopefully it will be as entertaining as Pebble Beach last year.

The unfortunate news is that the 2020 Open Championship will not be rescheduled, and Royal St. Georges will have to wait another year to host the prestigious tourney. The following year, in 2022, the tournament will be at St. Andrews for the 150th anniversary.

So, what about the other tournaments that have been postponed due to the virus such as THE PLAYERS Championship, Wells Fargo Championship and others?

Unfortunately, it looks like all are canceled rather than postponed for a later date. In a perfect world it would be spectacular to make up all of the tournaments later in the year, but it is just not feasible.

A look on the bright side is a packed and incredible schedule if golf tournaments are allowed to be staged later in the year, including:

August - PGA Championship
September - U.S. Open, Ryder Cup
November - The Masters

Of course, there are also other events such as the BMW Championship and Tour Championship to keep golf fans entertained.

All we can do at the moment is do our part to defeat the virus and perhaps we will soon enjoy a memorable end to 2020 with a full schedule of golf tournaments.

Wednesday, April 15

National Golf Foundation: 48% of Golf Courses Remain Open

JUPITER, FL – The National Golf Foundation's latest nationwide poll of golf facilities indicates that approximately 48% of courses are currently allowing play amid the coronavirus pandemic, with significant regional differences.

The NGF's special webpage,, is dedicated to continuing research on the effects of the coronavirus on golf and features the latest data and information on course operational status, government orders, consumer sentiment, and more.

NGF's ongoing national tracking of golf facilities is more robust than ever, providing an overview of course openings and temporary closures through the most nationally-representative sample in the industry.

"Numbers this high continue to blow some people away," NGF President and CEO Joe Beditz said. "Let's not forget that golf exists in abundance outside of city centers, and that many of those locales do not have government restrictions in place."

Also new this week is an updated map detailing the significant regional differences in golf operations as well as open/closed breakouts for several states, including golf-rich locales like Arizona, North Carolina and South Carolina. These surveys involve contacting every facility within those states in a single day to assess their operational status.

Saturday, April 11

The Villages in Central Florida: Where Golf Is an 'Essential Activity'

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THE VILLAGES  "RENOWNED AS AN ACTIVE-LIFESTYLE COMMUNITY," wrote Steve Trivett for MORNING READ  has shut down social activites due to the coronavirus.

The music has stopped in more ways than one.

There's no swimming, no tennis, no pickleball, no bowling, no softball. The 93 recreation centers are more or less idle, deserted.

Yet one activity remains. Trivett reported:
Because of the widening coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a "stay at home" order effective April 3. After the North Florida Section of the PGA of America sought a clarification of the order, golf was considered to be an "essential activity," and courses were allowed to remain open, provided that federal social-distancing guidelines are followed.
Thus, this golf-obsessed community remains open for play, and that seems to be fine with just about everybody.
The Villages features 12 championship courses, 41 nine-hole executive courses, an 18-hole walking-only pitch-and-putt course and an 18-hole walking-only grass putting course. All remain open for Villages residents, an estimated one-third of whom are regular golfers, even though many golf courses elsewhere in Florida and nationwide have closed because of local or state edicts or by self-regulation.
"We are still operating," said Gordy Carlson, the head professional at Orange Blossom Hills Country Club, the oldest championship course in The Villages.
"We have found things we needed to change to make playing golf safe for our residents, and right now we are doing what we can to allow people to play the game they love to play."
Tee times are spaced further apart to avoid crowding on the dozens of courses at The Villages. Golf course bars and restaurants are closed. Still, stir-crazy golf enthusiasts are flocking to the fairways, Trivett added.

At the Villages, golf is a way of life that apparently never stops, not even during a global pandemic.

Thursday, April 9

Tiger Woods: 'Masters Champions Dinner Quarantine Style. Nothing Better Than Being With Family'

LIKE EVERYTHING IN LIFE RIGHT NOW, the Masters has to wait, along with all the Masters festivities such as the Champions Dinner, where 2019 champion Tiger Woods planned to serve fajitas, sushi and milkshakes.

But that didn't stop Tiger from having his own family-style celebration. In the above photo, Tiger is flanked by girlfriend Erica Herman and his children, Sam and Charlie.

The 2020 Masters has been rescheduled to November. That will be a weird and wonderful time to hold the Masters. Wonderful because if it happens, that means life will be getting back to normal. And because the Masters is still the Masters.

Be safe and well, everybody.

Tuesday, April 7

R&A Statement: No Open Championship in 2020; The Open Returns in 2021 at Royal St. George's


The R&A has decided to cancel The Open in 2020 due to the current Covid-19 pandemic. The Championship will next be played at Royal St George's in 2021.

The Open was due to be played in Kent from 12-19 July but it has been necessary to cancel the Championship based on guidance from the UK Government, the health authorities, public services and The R&A’s advisers. This is the first time since the Second World War that golf's original Championship, first played in 1860, has been cancelled.

The 149th Open will be played at Royal St George's from 11-18 July 2021.

The 150th Open will be played at St Andrews from 10-17 July 2022.

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, "Our absolute priority is to protect the health and safety of the fans, players, officials, volunteers and staff involved in The Open. We care deeply about this historic Championship and have made this decision with a heavy heart. We appreciate that this will be disappointing for a great many people around the world but we have to act responsibly during this pandemic and it is the right thing to do.

"I can assure everyone that we have explored every option for playing The Open this year but it is not going to be possible.

"There are many different considerations that go into organising a major sporting event of this scale. We rely on the support of the emergency services, local authorities and a range of other organisations to stage the Championship and it would be unreasonable to place any additional demands on them when they have far more urgent priorities to deal with.

"In recent weeks we have been working closely with those organisations as well as Royal St George's, St Andrews Links Trust and the other golf bodies to resolve the remaining external factors and have done so as soon as we possibly could. We are grateful to all of them for their assistance and co-operation throughout this process.

"Most of all I would like to thank our fans around the world and all of our partners for their support and understanding. At a difficult time like this we have to recognise that sport must stand aside to let people focus on keeping themselves and their families healthy and safe. We are committed to supporting our community in the weeks and months ahead and will do everything in our power to help golf come through this crisis."

Wednesday, April 1

First Set of Golf Clubs: Recalling Lloyd Mangrum Irons, Lady Ben Hogans and More

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST SET of golf clubs?

I've spent part of the morning trying to answer that question for myself.

I started playing golf at the age of 12 at Desert Aire Golf Course, a public 9-hole course in Palmdale, California.

Lloyd Mangrum Golfcraft Irons
I'm pretty certain my first full set of golf clubs included a used set of Lloyd Mangrum irons. They had black shafts made of glass. After doing some research, I've determined the model name was Golfcraft (see photo).

The irons were castoffs from somebody my dad knew. I played with them during my first two years of high school. Then I acquired a used set of Wilson Staff irons. They were blades, of course. I loved them.

My woods? That was a mixed bag as I went through adolescence. They included Hagens, Hogans and MacGregor Tourneys.

To be honest, I've rarely owned new golf equipment, playing mostly with used woods, irons and putters for decades. My current set includes Adams woods (from my brother) and a used set of Ping i3 irons. It's never been more convenient to find used golf clubs at online golf stores such as Golf Avenue.

A few years ago Julie Crichton, a writer and avid golf fan, told me about her first set of golf clubs. They were Hogans.

Julie's brother had reminded her one day when they talked on the phone.

A set of Ben Hogan
Princess clubs
"He began to tease me," Julie said. "'Sister, your first set of clubs were Lady Ben Hogan Princesses in a baby-blue bag.'"

They were hand-me-downs from her grandmother.

"I adored the Lady Ben Hogans and used them well past their prime into the '80s," Julie said, "though, of course I had them all regripped and replaced the miserable blade putter with a Bullseye."

At that time, Julie still had the clubs stored in a closet as a keepsake.

She added, "My grandmother did, after all, win a few Emporia Country Club ladies championships with them back when the greens were sand."

A reader named Peter commented, "Modern super fancy golf clubs may be high qualityquality and super game improvementbut nothing is better than clubs which remind us of people we appreciated."

I couldn't agree more. I still have some vintage golf clubs in storage. I just can't part with them.

Sponsored by Golf Avenue.