Tuesday, September 30

Golf Show to Help Build Homes in New Orleans

(Incognita Nom de Plume/Flickr)

IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH GOLF. It has everything to do with compassion for those devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

When the Golf Industry Show participants assemble this winter in New Orleans, they’ll arrive a few days early to help Habitat of Humanity build homes in some of the most devastated areas of the Big Easy.

“This is the first time the Golf Industry Show has been back to New Orleans since Katrina and we are excited to join our partnering organizations to help the people of this great city,” Mark Woodward, CEO of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), said in a statement.

I like it. To find out more about the conference, go here.

Golf Briefs

(As a service to readers, golf events, products, services and more. Endorsement not implied.)
EyeLine Golf’s Pendulum Putting Rod was recently featured in Golfweek magazine … QLinkProducts.com has special Ryder Cup bracelets and many other products … LasVegasGolfAdventures.com has great deals on golf and lodging … SeeItGolf.com has released a new putting visualization aid with tour pro Aaron Baddeley … Kiawah Island Golf Resort has been named one of the top “green” golf resorts by Golf Inc. and Golf magazines … RSM McGladrey and LPGA player Natalie Gulbis have announced the finalists for the “Who’s Behind Your Success?” Essay Contest.
Submit a golf brief

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, September 29

FedEx Cup Doesn't Deliver

FEDEX CUP, MEET THE TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP. TOUR Championship, meet the FedEx Cup. You two need each other. Badly. Otherwise we’re going to have to change Yogi Berra’s famous saying from “It ain’t over till it’s over” to “It’s over before it’s over.”

That’s exactly the way the FedEx Cup Playoffs ended. All Vijay Singh had to do was show up. Except for dividing up the loot, the TOUR Championship didn’t matter.

It’s like awarding the Super Bowl trophy to one of the conference champions. It would turn the Super Bowl into the Pro Bowl. I’m not a huge football fan, but I know that wouldn’t be good.

As Robert mentioned in a recent comment at this blog, perhaps a match-play format in the TOUR Championship is the way to go. Play the three stroke-play events to whittle the field to 32. Then the winner of the TOUR Championship takes home all the marbles.

I’m just throwing out ideas. Oh yeah. Nice win, Spiderman.

−The Armchair Golfer


Related:
FedEx Cup Is Better Than Warm Bucket of Spit

Sunday, September 28

Lucky 7 for Lorena Ochoa

(clippedpixel/Flickr)

LORENA OCHOA PREVAILED in a sudden-death playoff against Candie Kung and Cristie Kerr to capture the Navistar LPGA Classic, Ochoa’s seventh win of the season and 24th career LPGA title. It was Lorena’s first win in seven starts after beginning the year with six victories in nine events.

“I think especially this one is going to be a good one for me,” Ochoa said. “I had a slow summer, and I'm just trying to come back ... and it's an important win for my career.”

Anything else memorable about the week?

“Uh-huh, a lot of great cooks. They made nice omelettes and the hospitality's been great.”

She’s such an appreciative person. But I agree, a good omelette is memorable. This week Lorena defends at the Samsung World Championship in San Francisco.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, September 27

Golf Classic: Watson and Nicklaus at 1977 Open Championship

I STUMBLED ACROSS THIS VIDEO yesterday when I was searching for something else. The 1977 Open Championship at Turnberry − known as the “Duel in the Sun” − was one of the greatest head-to-head battles in major championship history.

Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus were paired for the final 36 holes and both shot two rounds in the mid 60s as they vied for the Claret Jug. Only one shot separated Watson and the Golden Bear at the end.

This video shows the climactic 72nd hole of the championship. Said the British commentator, “I’ve never seen anything better ...”



The 59-year-old Watson will undergo hip replacement surgery on October 2 in Santa Monica, Calif. More here.

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, September 25

My Conversation with Tommy Bolt

1958 U.S. OPEN CHAMPION TOMMY BOLT DIED IN AUGUST. The colorful 15-time PGA Tour winner was 92. Not long before, in May, I called Tommy at his home in Cherokee Village, Ark. His health and memory were failing, but we had an enjoyable 10-minute conversation.

I asked Tommy about Ben Hogan, Jack Fleck (who I talk to fairly often) and life on the PGA Tour in the 1950s. The following excerpt is six and a half minutes in length. I hope you enjoy it. As you’ll hear, Tommy was a character to the very end.



−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
U.S. Open Champion Tommy Bolt Dies

2008 TOUR Championship TV Schedule and Notes

Vijay Singh

NINETEEN HOURS OF TV COVERAGE are scheduled for the TOUR Championship this week at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Ga. It’s the last of four events of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Tune in to the Golf Channel on Thursday and Friday, and NBC on Sunday and Monday.

Thursday: 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET on Golf Channel
Friday: 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET on Golf Channel
Saturday: 12 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC
Sunday: 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET on NBC

Satellite Radio

The PGA Tour Network on XM Satellite Radio will air 38 hours of coverage of the TOUR Championship:

Thursday: 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET
Friday: 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET
Sunday: 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. ET

(Note: You can listen to the coverage at PGATour.com.)

Tournament Notes


Defending champion Tiger Woods is sidelined with a knee injury. The purse is $7 million, with $1.26 million to the winner. The par-70 East Lake Golf Club measures 7,300 yards. Zach Johnson holds the competitive course record of 60. This event is considered to be a victory lap for Vijay Singh, who has a wide lead in the FedEx Cup.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, September 23

What to Do If You’re Kenny Perry'd

Kenny Perry

YOU DECIDED TO PASS UP A PROMOTION. You went back to school − or maybe you dropped out. You moved to (fill in the blank). You married him (or her). You took up hang gliding.

Whatever you’ve done or haven’t done, if you’ve lived any number of years, then you most certainly have been second-guessed, even third-guessed.

But if, rather, you’ve been incessantly questioned and sometimes mocked by people who hardly know you and what you’re all about, then you’ve been Kenny Perry’d.

The namesake of the term, “Kenny Perry’d,” is a professional golfer from Franklin, Ky. Kenny Perry, 47, was in the twilight of his PGA Tour career when he set a goal to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team for the 2008 Ryder Cup matches to be played in his home state of Kentucky. Making the team would mean everything to him, and so he set his sights and schedule accordingly.

Perry probably told his wife and may have mentioned it to his caddie. If he told his kids, they probably forgot it five minutes later. Ranked about 100th in the world and all but forgotten, no one paid any attention to the man.

But then Perry won. The Kentuckian took the Memorial, Jack Nicklaus’ tournament. All of a sudden people noticed Perry, and the media weighed in. What’s this? Kenny Perry isn’t putting himself through a 36-hole qualifier the day after his Memorial win in order to earn a spot in the U.S. Open?

So Perry shared his goal and explained his plan to the golf masses, which only made matters worse. Many rejected his explanation and urged the naive pro to take a different approach.

But Perry trudged on, focusing on his Ryder Cup goal, sticking to his schedule. Two more wins, normally a crowning achievement for a player of Perry’s age, only compounded the problem.

Now the hottest player on the planet, Perry committed the cardinal sin of not entering The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. Instead, he played, as scheduled, in Milwaukee. No matter how often he repeated his goal and plan, Perry was hit by a tsunami of criticism.

Some said he was just plain foolish. Others said his plan would backfire. By skipping majors, Perry would be less ready for the Ryder Cup matches. Perry would choke like a dog.

Kenny Perry made the U.S. Ryder Cup team and posted a 2-1-1 record. His clutch Sunday singles victory helped his team win the Ryder Cup for the first time in nine years.

Perry’s wife, dad, kids and caddie were there at the end to embrace the 48-year-old golfer as tears streamed down his face. He achieved his goal. His career was complete.

If you have a goal that others don’t understand − or worse − that draws the ire of many, remember Kenny Perry, a humble yet resolute man. He knew what he wanted to do and was able to do it.

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, September 22

Finger Pointers Take Dead Aim at Nick Faldo


Justin Rose and Nick Faldo at the 2007 Open.
(Steven Newton/Flickr)


NICK FALDO LOST THE RYDER CUP. Nick Faldo. Europe’s captain. Great player, lousy coach. Really, really horrendous. Atrocious. Bad, very bad. You get the drift.

I’m pretty darn certain of this because of the British press reports that are piling up faster than Ryder Cup merchandise sales. “Faldo Folly” and “Captain Calamity” were two of today’s headlines, according to the AP.

“Nick Faldo, not the crowd, was America's 13th Man,” reported the Daily Mail. The Times of London said, “Faldo inspired chaos.”

Did The Telegraph join in? Yes. Yes, they did.

Faldo was “about to pay the price of a lifetime of self serving, of devotion to the cult of the individual.”

And I thought Americans were sore losers.

There is a bright side. At least Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington won’t have to take responsibility for their goose eggs in the win column.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, September 20

My Silly Ryder Cup Team Nicknames

I BLAME THIS ON WATCHING 11 hours of Ryder Cup coverage, which put me in a state of golf delirium. There. That’s my disclaimer for these silly team nicknames I came up with.

Mac and The Mechanic
Graeme McDowell and Miguel Angel Jimenez

Wild Things
Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim

English Tee Time

Ian Poulter and Justin Rose

Ryder Rednecks

Boo Weekley and J.B. Holmes

How Swede It Is

Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson

Texas Hole ‘Em

Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan

−The Armchair Golfer


More Ryder Cup coverage:
37th Ryder Cup Actually Lives Up to Hype
2008 Ryder Cup: European Fans Have Passion
2008 Ryder Cup: J.B. Holmes Is a Rock Star
2008 Ryder Cup: Super Bowl of Golf

37th Ryder Cup Actually Lives Up to Hype

Captain's pick Ian Poulter
(Steven Newton/Flickr)


IT’S RARE WHEN A MAJOR SPORTING EVENT lives up to the hype, but the 37th Ryder Cup has achieved that seemingly impossible standard − and it’s only Saturday night.

I have a Ryder Cup hangover. I watched nearly all 11 hours of the Saturday coverage. That’s a lot, even for me.

If you saw any of it, especially the afternoon four-ball matches, then you know it was riveting stuff. Instead of players throwing up all over themselves, I saw players on both teams stuffing approach shots and rolling in putts like they were, well, Tiger Woods.

Somehow the U.S. team is hanging on to a 9-7 lead despite the European team throwing and landing a giant haymaker in the afternoon matches. Robert Karlsson, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell made about a month’s worth of putts in a single afternoon.

The Americans were staggered but managed to stay on their feet and make a few of their own. The most dramatic was Steve Stricker’s 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to secure a half point in a match Stricker and Ben Curtis were expected to lose.

Last night everyone was questioning Nick Faldo’s sanity. Today he’s a genius, thanks largely to the captain’s pick of captain’s picks, Ian Poulter. As it turns out, the flap about sitting down Sergio Garcia was overblown. Garcia reportedly wanted to sit out on Saturday morning.

The Ryder Cup will be decided by Sunday’s singles matches. What more could anyone ask?

−The Armchair Golfer


More Ryder Cup coverage:
2008 Ryder Cup: European Fans Have Passion
2008 Ryder Cup: J.B. Holmes Is a Rock Star
2008 Ryder Cup: Super Bowl of Golf

2008 Ryder Cup: U.S. Retains Lead

THE EUROPEAN RYDER CUP TEAM, playing without Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood, made up a point on the United States in Saturday’s morning foursomes matches. The score after the third session was United States 7, Europe 5. It takes 14 1/2 points to win the Ryder Cup.

After being four up, the U.S. team of Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim imploded, losing to Henrik Stenson and Oliver Wilson. Americans Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell also lost a point to Europe’s Ian Poulter and Justin Rose.

The U.S. duo of Jim Furyk and Kenny Perry knocked off Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson. And in the morning’s best match, Europe's Graeme McDowell and Miguel Angel Jimenez scratched out a halve against Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan.

Despite making about every putt he has looked at, Leonard will sit out the afternoon four-ball matches. Mickelson will play with Hunter Mahan while Kim sits, a good call on Captain Paul Azinger’s part after Phil and A.K. lost their fire. Garcia and Westwood are back on the course for afternoon four-balls.

−The Armchair Golfer


More Ryder Cup coverage:
2008 Ryder Cup: Faldo Sits Down Garcia
2008 Ryder Cup: European Fans Have Passion
2008 Ryder Cup: J.B. Holmes Is a Rock Star
2008 Ryder Cup: Super Bowl of Golf

Friday, September 19

2008 Ryder Cup: Faldo Sits Down Garcia

Sergio Garcia (Steven Newton/Flickr)

HAS NICK FALDO LOST HIS HEAD? That’s what at least one British writer wondered out loud on the Golf Channel after Faldo left Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood off the lineup card for Saturday’s opening matches.

Times golf correspondent John Hopkins said the media room was buzzing. I guess there’s a plausible explanation for sitting Westwood, who managed two halves in his Friday matches. The Englishman recently had tonsillitis and may have endurance issues.

But Garcia? Super Ryder Cup Man?

I missed all but the first two hours of Friday’s matches.

I was en route from Louisville to Virginia as the U.S. team came alive to take a first-day lead of 5 1/2 to 2 1/2. It’s been a long time since the United States has led a Ryder Cup.

American fans are surely gleeful, but this thing is far from over. The stars and stripes boys better show up with their swords sharp on Saturday. Mr. Momentum is a fickle fellow.

−The Armchair Golfer

More Ryder Cup coverage:
2008 Ryder Cup: European Fans Have Passion
2008 Ryder Cup: J.B. Holmes Is a Rock Star
2008 Ryder Cup: Super Bowl of Golf
2008 Ryder Cup TV Schedule

Thursday, September 18

2008 Ryder Cup: European Fans Have Passion

ON WEDNESDAY AT VALHALLA I CHATTED UP some European fans from the UK. Judging from their accents, they were English.

They take their Ryder Cup seriously. One fellow has been to every Ryder Cup since Valderama in 1997 (six in a row). He has been a part of Europe’s dominating run. He is used to seeing his side win.

“How do you think the Americans will do?” he asked.

“I have no idea,” I admitted. “They have a lot of rookies with no bad history, so maybe that will help.”

I asked him about the Ian Poulter pick and how it played in the UK. Many questioned Faldo’s snub of the resurgent Darren Clarke, a solid Ryder Cup performer. He shrugged it off. Poulter is very popular in England, of course, and my counterpart was English.

There were two things on which we agreed. If Europe loses, Faldo, rightly or wrongly, will be criticized for his picks and failed captaincy. That’s the nature of the Ryder Cup.

We also agreed that the Ryder Cup would greatly benefit if the matches are close and exciting after two consecutive blowouts.

−The Armchair Golfer


More Ryder Cup coverage:
2008 Ryder Cup: J.B. Holmes Is a Rock Star
2008 Ryder Cup: Super Bowl of Golf
2008 Ryder Cup: Rendezvous with a Childhood Friend
2008 Ryder Cup TV Schedule

2008 Ryder Cup: Foursomes Underway

THE TALKING IS OVER. The Ryder Cup is underway on a beautiful morning in Louisville. All four foursomes matches are deep into the opening round.

The Europeans got off to a good start. The Americans looked shaky. Big-time butterflies. So much for being loose and having fun. This is the Ryder Cup. It shows.

Hunter Mahan hit a big pull on his approach shot from the middle of the fairway on No. 1. The Leonard-Mahan team bogeyed the first two holes to go two down, but rebounded with two birdies to square the match.

Padraig Harrington hit an uncharacteristic tee shot on the first par-3, going way right into a hazard. After taking two hacks at the ball, the Harrington-Karlsson team conceded the hole to the Mickelson-Kim team.

Chad Campbell was struggling. I mean, really struggling.

Currently, both teams are up in two matches, a dead heat at the moment. It’s a roller coaster. And the ride doesn’t end until Sunday evening.

−The Armchair Golfer

More Ryder Cup coverage:
2008 Ryder Cup: European Fans Have Passion
2008 Ryder Cup: J.B. Holmes Is a Rock Star
2008 Ryder Cup: Super Bowl of Golf
2008 Ryder Cup TV Schedule

2008 Ryder Cup: Bridge to Somewhere

OK, HERE’S SOMETHING I CAN’T REMEMBER seeing at a professional golf tournament: a bridge between the practice range and putting green.

That’s right, the PGA of America constructed a green bridge-like overpass so the 24 U.S. and European Ryder Cup players can easily navigate their way OVER the throngs at Valhalla Golf Club. They walk up a flight of steps, cross about a 10-foot section and descend on the other side.

I’ve read that there are an estimated 40,000 spectators at Valhalla this week for the Ryder Cup. That makes the spectator to player ratio 40,000: 24. Hence the bridge.

Many of the spectators were still able to collect autographs as the players, coaches and gurus (Butch Harmon) made their way up and across the bridge.

−The Armchair Golfer


More Ryder Cup coverage:
2008 Ryder Cup: J.B. Holmes Is a Rock Star
2008 Ryder Cup: Super Bowl of Golf
2008 Ryder Cup: Rendezvous with a Childhood Friend
2008 Ryder Cup TV Schedule

2008 Ryder Cup: J.B. Holmes Is a Rock Star

J.B. Holmes

J.B. HOLMES IS THE CROWD FAVORITE at Valhalla this week. At least that’s my snap judgment after attending a Ryder Cup practice session on Wednesday. Chants of “J.B.!” filled the air from the time the Kentucky bomber stepped onto the practice tee.

Kenny Perry, another Kentucky-native Ryder Cupper, is also hugely popular. Don’t be at all surprised if the two Kentucky boys team up in tomorrow’s opening match. U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Paul Azinger wants to set the tone early and figures some Holmes-Perry style Kentucky thunder will shake things up at Valhalla. I can’t fault his logic.

I saw the three groupings of Americans open their practice sessions. As if on cue, J.B. nearly holed his second shot on the par-4 1st hole. His short-iron shot covered the flag and spun its way to within six inches of the cup. The fans were in a tizzy. Just wait until the weekend.

To get a feel for Valhalla, my friend, Doug, and I walked the back nine in reverse until we intercepted the European team.

The 18th hole is a reachable par-5 that will have dramatic implications for matches that go the distance. Near the 18th tee we encountered Mike Tirico and Andy North of ESPN scouting the course. “Hey, Andy.” North won three times on the PGA Tour, including two U.S. Opens.

The 16th and 17th holes are long par-4s that will put a premium on good driving. Almost all of the players we saw had trouble with club selection on their second shots at the 16th hole. The par-4 measures a lengthy 511 yards and will be a brute, especially for the shorter hitters.

In general, the Valhalla course setup is just as advertised. The rough is negligible. The landing areas about 300 yards away from the tees are pretty generous. The greens are smaller than I expected, and many are tiered. The approach shots will make the difference between possible birdies and grinding for pars.

The greens are fast, but not as speedy as at the U.S. Open. He who makes the most putts wins. The Ryder Cup will be won or lost on Valhalla’s undulating bent-grass greens.

−The Armchair Golfer


More Ryder Cup coverage:
2008 Ryder Cup: Super Bowl of Golf
2008 Ryder Cup: Rendezvous with a Childhood Friend
2008 Ryder Cup TV Schedule
2008 Ryder Cup Report

Wednesday, September 17

2008 Ryder Cup: Super Bowl of Golf

So much for the no autograph policy.

IT WAS PITCH BLACK when Doug and I left the house for the Ryder Cup. We merged onto I-65 and traveled across the Kennedy Bridge into downtown Louisville. About 10 minutes later we rolled into the Kentucky Exposition Center, where we boarded a large tour bus for Valhalla Golf Club.

I read somewhere that the Ryder Cup is the Super Bowl of Golf. That’s exactly what it looked like when our bus dropped us off at the main gate. I’ve been to many golf tournaments, including the Masters and two PGAs. I’ve seen the hospitality tents, media centers and merchandise areas. But the Ryder Cup is a major golf event on steroids, the circus of circuses.

The irony of being at the Super Bowl of Golf is that we didn’t see much golf. That’s what I expected, though. It was a practice day, and with just 24 players on the course and a gazillion spectators marching around Valhalla, actually watching golf was a significant challenge.

However, it didn’t spoil our day. Sure, you want to see the players. But you also must go at least once to the Ryder Cup to soak up the Super Bowl atmosphere, mix it up a little with the European fans, and get an in-person look at the golf course so you’ll have a good handle on what the players are facing on Saturday and Sunday when they’re trying not to choke their guts out.

I’ll have more tomorrow on my day at the Ryder Cup, including some player tidbits and my thoughts on Valhalla.

−The Armchair Golfer


More Ryder Cup coverage:
2008 Ryder Cup: Rendezvous with a Childhood Friend
2008 Ryder Cup TV Schedule
2008 Ryder Cup: Valhalla Golf Club Preview
2008 Ryder Cup Report

Monday, September 15

2008 Ryder Cup: Rendezvous with a Childhood Friend


Hole No. 6 at Helfrich Golf Course.

I RECENTLY BROKE A 17-YEAR SILENCE with a childhood friend. I invited him to the Ryder Cup. I had an extra ticket and knew Doug lived just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Louisville.

My family moved from my childhood home of Evansville, Ind., to California when I was 12 years old. Since then I’ve seen Doug about three times. When we were growing up in Evansville, Doug and I and our brothers constantly played sports: baseball, football and Indiana’s obsession, basketball.

Later, Doug and I separately took up golf. We competed for our high school golf teams in Indiana and California. When I was in my 20s, we played once at Helfrich Golf Course in Evansville. Doug was very good. He was also hard on himself.

Recently, I called Doug. “You’ll never guess who this is,” I said. And, soon after, “Would you be interested in going to the Ryder Cup?”

Doug will head east on I-64 from Evansville. I will head west on I-64 from Virginia. We will rendezvous in Jeffersonville, Ind., just opposite of Louisville, on Tuesday night for supper at my aunt’s house. Then we will make the short trek to Valhalla early on Wednesday morning.

We’ll certainly enjoy the Ryder Cup. We’ll also enjoy catching up on life. A lot has happened since we were 12.

−The Armchair Golfer


More Ryder Cup coverage:
2008 Ryder Cup TV Schedule
2008 Ryder Cup: Valhalla Golf Club Preview
2008 Ryder Cup Report

Sunday, September 14

2008 Ryder Cup: Wind Storm at Valhalla

A WIND STORM SWEPT THROUGH LOUISVILLE this afternoon and blew down trees and a TV tower at Valhalla Golf Club, site of this week’s Ryder Cup matches. It’s not expected to affect the event, though.

“We got tree limbs, but we’ll take care of it,” course superintendent Mark Wilson was quoted as saying in the Courier-Journal. “We’ll wait for the wind storm to get over and take care of business. I’m pretty confident that by Tuesday you won’t know anything about it.”

The Courier-Journal is the hometown paper of Louisville, Kentucky, where the Ryder Cup will be played. They have an extensive 2008 Ryder Cup section here.

For their article on the Ryder Cup fan experience that features comments from me, go here.

I head to Louisville on Tuesday and will be at Valhalla on Wednesday.

−The Armchair Golfer

More Ryder Cup coverage:
2008 Ryder Cup TV Schedule
2008 Ryder Cup: Valhalla Golf Club Preview
2008 Ryder Cup Report
Q&A: Daniel Wexler on 2008 Ryder Cup

Saturday, September 13

ARMCHAIR GOLF Briefs

(Annais/Flickr)

(As a service to readers, following are golf events, products, services and more. Endorsement is not implied.)

Tony Ciabattoni
is building a public golf facility for kids in Columbia, South America. To learn more, visit therighttoplay.com.

Kiran Kanwar
is a Class A teaching pro member of the LPGA, PGA (UK) and PGA of India, as well as a columnist for Golf Digest India. I met her at the BMW Championship in St. Louis and we had an enjoyable chat between bites in the media center lunch room.

American Express invites 2008 Ryder Cup spectators to practice like the pros at a state-of-the-art PGA Learning Center at Valhalla Golf Club, site of next week’s Ryder Cup. The center includes video swing and motion analysis, complimentary golf lessons and PGA clinics.

Briefly
Transitions® Lenses are the official eyewear of the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour … WideAsleep has announced Fairway 1.0 for iPhone and iPod Touch … Jeremy Kaufman provides golf course information for several states at LocalGolfConditions.com … golf course designer Denis Griffiths has purchased Old Union Golf Course in Blairsville, Georgia … Orlando’s Shingle Creek Golf Club was awarded a four-star rating by Golf Digest … Verterra Sport has launched Green Golf Apparel … SHANO has introduced the Gargoyle Collection of luxury .925 sterling silver golf accessories … the Folds of Honor Foundation has awarded approximately 200 scholarships for 2008.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, September 12

2008 Ryder Cup: Will Azinger’s Order of Play Gambit Work?

SOMEWHERE U.S. RYDER CUP CAPTAIN Paul Azinger must have a checklist. Four captain’s picks. Check. Favorable Valhalla setup. Check. Lucky coin (or some other good luck charm). Check.

And at least one more thing: order of play. Zinger has changed it. Instead of opening with fourball matches, the 2008 Ryder Cup will open with foursomes.

Definitions may be in order.

Fourball is a match in which each member of the two-man teams plays his own ball. The team whose player has the lowest score on the hole wins the hole. In the case of a tie, the hole is halved.

Foursomes
, also known as alternate shot, is a match in which two two-man teams play against each other. Each team plays just one ball. The players hit alternate shots with their teammates until the ball is holed. Lowest score wins the hole. In the case of a tie, the hole is halved.

This year will mark the first time the Ryder Cup matches will open with foursomes since 1999, the last U.S. victory. Foursomes will be played on Friday and Saturday morning, followed by afternoon fourball matches.

As about anyone who can spell golf knows, the Americans got thumped in the last two Ryder Cups. Both opened with fourball. Azinger hopes the change in order of play will give his team an advantage.

Will it? Maybe. But if I were Azinger, I would make sure to hang on to my good luck charm. I think he will need that as much as anything.

−The Armchair Golfer


More Ryder Cup coverage:
2008 Ryder Cup TV Schedule
2008 Ryder Cup: Valhalla Golf Club Preview
2008 Ryder Cup: Valhalla Is Ready
2008 Ryder Cup Report
Q&A: Daniel Wexler on 2008 Ryder Cup
2008 U.S. Ryder Cup Team Takes Shape
2008 Ryder Cup Tickets Arrive

Thursday, September 11

2008 Ryder Cup: Valhalla Golf Club Preview


Valhalla's layout and routing, as shown on its scorecard.
(Dan Perry/Flickr)


VALHALLA GOLF CLUB IS A 7,496-YARD, par-71 championship layout designed by Jack Nicklaus. Valhalla is the No. 1-ranked golf course in Kentucky and a perennial top 100 course in America, according to various golf publications.

Valhalla gets its name from Norse mythology. According to the myth, “Valhalla” is a great hall were Vikings souls feasted and celebrated with the gods.

Valhalla has been the host site for two major championships, the 1996 and 2000 PGA Championships, won by Mark Brooks and Tiger Woods, respectively. It also hosted the 2004 Senior PGA Championship won by Hale Irwin. The competitive course record of 63 is held by Jose Maria Olazabal, who carded the eight-under-par round in the 2000 PGA Championship.

The front nine has a links-style layout, whereas the back nine is more traditional. There are a total of 42 sand bunkers, ample trees and a shallow creek that comes into play on four holes on the back nine.

The greens, tees and fairways are a combination of bent-grass strains. The primary rough is Kentucky bluegrass. The secondary rough is fescue. The slick greens are tiered and sectioned to allow for many pin locations.

The signature hole is a short par-4, the 352-yard 13th. The tee shot must find a small landing area, followed by an approach to an island green.

We’ll soon find out which Ryder Cup team – the Americans or Europeans – will do the feasting and celebrating at Valhalla.

−The Armchair Golfer


More Ryder Cup coverage:
2008 Ryder Cup TV Schedule
2008 Ryder Cup: Valhalla Is Ready
2008 Ryder Cup Report
Q&A: Daniel Wexler on 2008 Ryder Cup
2008 U.S. Ryder Cup Team Takes Shape
2008 Ryder Cup Tickets Arrive

Wednesday, September 10

2008 Ryder Cup TV Schedule

THIRTY HOURS OF TV COVERAGE are scheduled for the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky. Following is United States and international television coverage, according to the 2008 Spectator Guide and RyderCup.com.

2008 Ryder Cup TV Schedule (U.S.)

Thursday, September 18

ESPN 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
ESPNEWS 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. (Opening Ceremony)

Friday, September 19
ESPN 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Saturday, September 20
NBC 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Sunday, September 21

NBC 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
NBC 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. (Closing Ceremony)

2008 Ryder Cup TV Coverage (International)

SKY SPORTS (UK)
Exclusively live coverage of the 2008 Ryder Cup matches.

TSN (CANADA)
Ryder Cup (all rounds), Sept. 19 to 21.

−The Armchair Golfer

More Ryder Cup coverage:
2008 Ryder Cup: European Fans Have Passion
2008 Ryder Cup: J.B. Holmes Is a Rock Star
2008 Ryder Cup: Super Bowl of Golf
2008 Ryder Cup: Will Azinger's Order of Play Gambit Work?
2008 Ryder Cup: Valhalla Is Ready
2008 Ryder Cup Report

2008 Ryder Cup: Valhalla Is Ready

IF THE AMERICANS DON’T WIN the 2008 Ryder Cup, it won’t be because U.S. Captain Paul Azinger didn’t do everything within his power to give his side every possible advantage. That includes the setup of Valhalla Golf Club, the Ryder Cup venue in Louisville, Kentucky.

I’m in the Louisville area this week − not because of the Ryder Cup, but, sadly, due to a death in my family. I will go home tomorrow and return in five days.

But I can tell you that the local media are already buzzing about the big golf event of the year. In fact, when I entered the state on its eastern border near Ashland, a large brown highway sign along I-64 declared, “Welcome to Kentucky, Home of the 2008 Ryder Cup.”

The big subject in yesterday’s Courier-Journal was the golf course and how Captain Azinger has guided the setup to give his young bombers an advantage over Nick Faldo’s European squad. That setup includes sensible rough, relatively generous landing areas 300 yards from the tee, and speedy greens.

“I’m tired of playing in 5-inch rough, personally. So I think a bomber is probably going to like the course,” Azinger was quoted as saying.

“Europe has done a great job of exploiting an advantage on us for a long time,” Zinger added. “I am looking for anything I can get. This is the first time that we have done this, and it might be just a perception thing. But If I can get a perceived advantage, then I am going to hunt it down.”

Mark Wilson is the golf course superintendent of Valhalla, a Jack Nicklaus-designed layout. As you might imagine, the course is in superb condition.

“The greens are great, not only from a speed standpoint, but they’re so clean,” Wilson said in a statement.

“When we had the opportunity to regrass we also had the opportunity to change years of soil makeup. Everything we changed was a good thing and made it better for us to grow grass.”

While the rough along the fairways is not as penal as past Ryder Cup setups, the grass around the greens is reportedly long and thick. And the greens are running at 12 feet on the stimpmeter. That’s quicker than two years ago at the K Club where the Europeans demolished the Americans 18½ to 9½.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
2008 Ryder Cup Report
2008 BMW Championship: Hunter Mahan Talks Ryder Cup
Q&A: Daniel Wexler on 2008 Ryder Cup
2008 U.S. Ryder Cup Team Takes Shape
2008 Ryder Cup Tickets Arrive

Sunday, September 7

2008 BMW Championship: Victory for Villegas

Camilo Villegas

TWO THINGS WE NOW KNOW. One, Vijay Singh is your FedEx Cup winner. Veej just has to wait three weeks to bank the $10 million. Two, we know when Camilo Villegas, the 26-year-old Columbian heartthrob, will claim his first PGA Tour title. That would be today at the BMW Championship.

Villegas posted four rounds in the 60s to shoot 15-under par at Bellerive Country Club, good for a two-shot margin over Dudley Hart. It was an impressive breakout performance for the pro called Spiderman because of his twister-style putt-reading technique.

I saw it coming as I witnessed Camilo’s Friday media interview after he took the first-round lead with a 65. Villegas was oozing with confidence. You could tell he couldn’t wait to get back on the golf course, even if he did have a 36-hole hike ahead of him.

OK, I fibbed. I didn’t see it coming at all. I believe young guns such as Villegas will win. I just never would predict it. I have to see it. Villegas has flirted with winning in the past and disappeared in the final round.

But seeing and hearing Camilo this week convinced me that he is a confident and positive player. And tonight, after clutching his first PGA Tour trophy, his confidence is higher than ever.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, September 6

2008 U.S. Ryder Cup Team: Captain Paul’s Picks

SO WHAT DO YOU THINK? About a week has passed since Paul Azinger announced his four captain’s picks for the 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team. They are Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan, J.B. Holmes and Chad Campbell.

All Ryder Cup rookies, I think Stricker, Mahan and Holmes are pretty solid picks. I still don’t get the Campbell pick. I know he has Ryder Cup experience, but Chad has won just one match in two appearances. He has six top-ten finishes in 2008.

“ … I thought Chad had a little bit of experience, and the fact that Chad played really well this past tournament helped him,” Azinger said. “Chad also is a terrific ball striker tee to green, and when I narrowed my list down to three or four players, his name came up a lot. That was important to me.”

The eight players who qualified on points are:

1. Phil Mickelson (5,342.500)
2. Stewart Cink 4,952.665)
3. Kenny Perry (4,480.700)
4. Jim Furyk (4,423.892)
5. Anthony Kim (4,035.296)
6. Justin Leonard (3,379.274)
7. Ben Curtis (3,120.061)
8. Boo Weekley (2,785.095)

Ryder Cup Chatter


I sat in on a player interview with Steve Stricker yesterday at the BMW Championship. He said he feels a lot looser this week after learning he made the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

“I was gearing up all year for this,” Stricker said. “It was the No. 1 goal for me to start the year, and I would imagine if I wouldn’t have been picked it would have been a big disappointment. But I don’t have to think that way.”

Stricker shot a 66 in the first round and is one shot behind tournament leader Camilo Villegas.

Note: Chad Campbell withdrew from the BMW Championship on Saturday because his pregnant wife started to have contractions. It will be the couple’s first child.

−The Armchair Golfer


Related:
2008 Ryder Cup Report
2008 BMW Championship: Hunter Mahan Talks Ryder Cup
Q&A: Daniel Wexler on 2008 Ryder Cup
2008 U.S. Ryder Cup Team Takes Shape
2008 Ryder Cup Tickets Arrive

2008 BMW Championship: Evans Scholars Foundation

CHICK EVANS WAS A GOLF GREAT of the early 20th century. A lifelong amateur, Evans was the first player to win the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open in the same year, 1916. Evans went on to play in 50 consecutive U.S. Amateurs and started a college scholarship fund for caddies. His legacy lives on.

Named after the golf legend, the Evans Scholars Foundation has grown into the nation’s largest privately funded scholarship program. It's the sole charity beneficiary of the BMW Championship and received $2.4 million in proceeds from last year's tournament.

Whereas most automotive sponsors give a vehicle to a player who scores a hole-in-one, BMW will award a full Evans scholarship in the name of any player who aces the 16th hole at Bellerive Country Club during the championship.

−The Armchair Golfer


Related:
2008 BMW Championship: ‘Tell Sergio He’s Cute’
2008 BMW Championship Live Leaderboard
2008 BMW Championship TV Schedule
2008 BMW Championship: New Parking and Shuttle Plan

Friday, September 5

2008 BMW Championship: ‘Tell Sergio He’s Cute’

Sergio Garcia (Reed Jones/Flickr)

“IF YOU SEE SERGIO, tell him he’s cute,” said my 12-year-old daughter before I departed for the BMW Championship. “I’m pretty sure he knows that,” I told her.

I just saw Sergio. He was in the left-hand rough on the 9th, his finishing hole in today’s opening round. I didn’t tell Sergio that he was cute, but I did watch him negotiate a wet, trampled lie.

Garcia lifted his short iron shot out of the tangled grass toward the elevated green. The tightly packed gallery cheered. “Nice shot, Sergio!” As one guy noted, they weren’t applauding around the green.

Sergio's shot was short, but he chipped up and nudged in a three-footer to save par. The Spaniard carded a two-under 68. In the same group, FedEx Cup leader Vijay Singh shot an even-par 70. Mike Weir had a 69.

Bellerive Country Club is in excellent condition considering the four-plus inches of rain it received on Thursday. A good drainage system and a hard-working crew that pulled an all-nighter deserve ample credit.

Villegas Leads
Camilo Villegas fired a five-under 65 to take the first-round lead. Steve Stricker, Kenny Perry, Tim Herron, Andres Romero and Stuart Appleby are one shot back after shooting 66s.

−The Armchair Golfer


Related:
2008 BMW Championship Live Leaderboard
2008 BMW Championship TV Schedule
2008 BMW Championship: New Parking and Shuttle Plan
2008 BMW Championship: Gustav Is Early Leader

2008 BMW Championship Live Leaderboard

Final results:

1 Camilo Villegas (-15)
2 Dudley Hart (-13)
T3 Anthony Kim (-12)
T3. Jim Furyk (-12)
T5 Stephen Ames (-11)
T5 K.J. Choi (-11)
T5 D.J. Trahan (-11)

Tournament comments are welcome.

−The Armchair Golfer


Related:
2008 BMW Championship: New Parking and Shuttle Plan
2008 BMW Championship TV Schedule
2008 BMW Championship: Hunter Mahan Talks Ryder Cup
2008 BMW Championship: Gustav Is Early Leader

2008 BMW Championship: New Parking and Shuttle Plan

THE REMNANTS OF GUSTAV ARE GONE, but they sure made a mess of Bellerive Country Club and the surrounding area yesterday.

“The public and volunteer parking area at Hunter Farms off Ladue Road is impassable,” a statement said, “and now must be closed for Friday’s opening round of the BMW Championship at Bellerive Country Club.”

Following is the new plan for Friday and beyond.

Golf Schedule
Gates Open at 10 a.m. First tee time at 10:41 a.m.

Parking

Parking will be provided free of charge for volunteers and golf fans at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater (Riverport) and the adjacent Harrah’s St. Louis Casino and Hotel, located on the Earth City Expressway just south of Interstate 70.

Shuttles

Shuttles from public and volunteer parking will begin running at 8 a.m. for volunteers and at 9:30 a.m. for golf fans. Shuttles will run continuously throughout the day. Shuttles will be provided free of charge. Golf is expected to conclude on Friday at approximately 5 p.m.

Drop-Off

Fans taking the public and volunteer shuttles will be dropped off at the corner of North Mason Road and Ladue Road, and will enter Bellerive Country Club nearby. The will call window will be relocated to the new entrance for Friday’s first round. Fans will pick up the return shuttles at the point of drop-off.

Tickets for First Round on Friday

Only grounds passes and hospitality passes dated Friday, Sept. 5, will be honored on Friday. Tickets from Thursday’s postponed round will be honored either on Saturday or Sunday.

Miscellaneous

Personal or private transportation to the BMW Championship on Friday is discouraged. There is no drop-off area for private transportation. There is no public parking available in the vicinity of the golf course or in the nearby neighborhoods. Only vehicles with the appropriate permits will be allowed to park near the club on Friday, with strict enforcement from traffic officials. Carpooling is highly encouraged by fans who park at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater and Harrah’s.

Weekend

Information on parking for Saturday’s second and third rounds, and Sunday’s final round, will be provided sometime after play begins on Friday.

−The Armchair Golfer


Related:
2008 BMW Championship: Hunter Mahan Talks Ryder Cup
2008 BMW Championship: Gustav Is Early Leader
2008 BMW Championship TV Schedule
2008 FedEx Cup Standings Through Deutsche Bank Championship
FedEx Cup Is Better Than Warm Bucket of Spit

Thursday, September 4

2008 BMW Championship: Hunter Mahan Talks Ryder Cup


Hunter Mahan has Presidents Cup experience.
(Reel Memories/Flickr)


AFTER THE FIRST ROUND of the 2008 BMW Championship was officially postponed this morning, Hunter Mahan made an appearance in the media center. Many of the questions centered on his Ryder Cup selection.

A captain’s pick and Ryder Cup rookie, Mahan said you can’t really prepare for the pressure of the Ryder Cup if you haven’t played in one. You just have to go out and have fun.

Hunter is looking forward to the challenge, and noted that his 2007 Presidents Cup experience will help, although he admitted it’s not the Ryder Cup. It means much more to win the Ryder Cup, he said.

But it’s still golf, Mahan added, and he’ll focus on just trying to play his best without putting too much pressure on himself.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
2008 BMW Championship: Gustav Is Early Leader
2008 BMW Championship TV Schedule
2008 FedEx Cup Standings Through Deutsche Bank Championship
FedEx Cup Is Better Than Warm Bucket of Spit

2008 BMW Championship: Gustav Is Early Leader

AS I SIT IN THE MEDIA CENTER at the 2008 BMW Championship, the remnants of Gustav pound overhead. Will the heavy duty canvas hold? I think so.

But Padraig Harrington, Jerry Kelly and Scott Verplank will not be hitting the opening shots of this third leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs at 10:40 a.m. Nor will any of the other 70 qualifiers record any strokes today at St. Louis’ Bellerive Country Club.

Gustav is giving all those pretty new BMWs a hard-spray car wash. Several inches of rain are expected to fall throughout the day. They’ll plan to play 36 tomorrow, although I’m not sure what this deluge will do to Bellerive.

UPDATE:
They plan to play 18 on Friday, 36 on Saturday, and 18 on Sunday. After Thursday's deluge, the course needs some work.

−The Armchair Golfer


Related:
2008 BMW Championship TV Schedule
2008 FedEx Cup Standings Through Deutsche Bank Championship
FedEx Cup Is Better Than Warm Bucket of Spit

Wednesday, September 3

2008 BMW Championship TV Schedule

FIFTEEN-PLUS HOURS OF TV COVERAGE are scheduled for the BMW Championship this week at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Missouri. It’s the third of four events of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Tune in to the Golf Channel on Thursday and Friday and NBC on Saturday and Sunday.

Thursday: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET on Golf Channel
Friday: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET on Golf Channel
Saturday: 12 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC
Sunday: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET on NBC

UPDATE:
According to tournament officials, NBC will begin its Saturday broadcast at 11:30 a.m. followed by Golf Channel coverage.

Satellite Radio


The PGA Tour Network on XM Satellite Radio will air 60 hours of coverage of the BMW Championship:

Thursday: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET
Friday: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET
Saturday: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET
Sunday: 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. ET

(Note: You can listen to the coverage at PGATour.com.)

I’m here in St. Louis, so I plan to bring you plenty of tournament notes and perspective. Stay tuned.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
2008 BMW Championship Live Leaderboard
2008 BMW Championship: New Parking and Shuttle Plan
2008 BMW Championship: Hunter Mahan Talks Ryder Cup
2008 BMW Championship: Gustav Is Early Leader

U.S. Open Champion Tommy Bolt Dies

“HOW ARE YOU DOING, TOMMY?” I asked in late May.

I called Tommy Bolt at his home in Arkansas and was told he was in a local nursing home. We had a brief conversation, and Tommy asked me to call back in a couple of weeks. He didn’t feel like talking that day.

Three weeks later we had a longer phone conversation. It was a delight. Bolt is a character, to say the least. His memory was failing, but he remembered enough to talk about his U.S. Open win, the PGA Tour in the old days and Ben Hogan.

Tommy died within the last few days. He was 92.

Tommy “Thunder” Bolt was a 15-time winner on the PGA Tour, including the 1958 U.S. Open at Southern Hills. Bolt had 13 top tens in majors.

I will review my tape and notes and bring you the Bolt interview later, probably after the Ryder Cup.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, September 2

2008 FedEx Cup Standings Through Deutsche Bank Championship


VIJAY SINGH IS ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY your 2008 FedEx Cup leader. Here are the 2008 FedEx Cup Standings through the Deutsche Bank Championship, the second of four playoffs events.



1. Vijay Singh 120,500
2. Sergio Garcia 108,275
3. Mike Weir 106,965
4. Justin Leonard 105,388
5. Jim Furyk 104,230
6. Kevin Sutherland 104,065
7. Anthony Kim 104,019
8. Phil Mickelson 103,951
9. Kenny Perry 103,714
10. Ben Curtis 103,264
11. Stewart Cink 103,074
12. K.J. Choi 103,021
13. Steve Stricker 102,906
14. Chad Campbell 102,812
15. Carl Pettersson 102,524

Movers: There wasn’t dramatic movement this week among the top 15, more of a re-shuffling. Mike Weir made one of the biggest moves, from No. 18 to No. 3. Steve Stricker and Chad Campbell moved into the top 15.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
Vijay Singh: The Power of Positive Putting

Vijay Singh: The Power of Positive Putting

(Gordons/Flickr)

TWO WINS IN A ROW and three wins in the last month. Yes, indeed. “Vijay” does mean victory.

Singh carded a blistering 63 in yesterday’s final round to run away with the Deutsche Bank Championship in Norton, Massachusetts. And he opened a wide lead in the 2008 FedEx Cup points race.

It was win No. 34 for the Fijian and No. 22 since turning 40. Always a solid ball striker, the hot streak can be credited to a dramatic reversal of fortunes with the putter. On Monday, Vijay rolled in about a mile of putts to separate himself from the pack.

In the post-tournament media conference, Singh explained how the putting turnaround began in Akron at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

“So winning that, making the last putt at Akron told me a lot, told me that I needed to change some kind of an attitude or change my putting style,” Vijay said. “If I kept doing that, I don't think I would have − I could make it anymore. It was hard just putting.

“So I went back home and just a good attitude change. I spoke to some psychologist that was trying to help me. Deep down it has to come from me. I mean, whatever they can tell me, it works briefly, but it has to come from inside of me, and that was the biggest thing.”

Now it’s onto the BMW Championship in St. Louis for the third leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs. I'll be there tomorrow.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
2008 FedEx Cup Standings Through Deutsche Bank Championship