Saturday, February 27

Win a Trip for Two to The Players Championship



















IF YOU’RE INTERESTED in attending the 2010 Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and taking your shot at that crazy island green at the par-3 17th hole, then listen up. The Players JELD-WEN Golf Sweepstakes is open for entries through April 6, 2010.

One grand prize winner will receive the ultimate golf tournament package:

• Airfare for two
• Ground transportation
• Three nights of lodging at the Sawgrass Marriott
• $300 hotel meal voucher
• Three days of Hospitality Passes for two at The Players; includes access to the JELD WEN hospitality chalets at holes 9, 13, 17 and 18 with complimentary food and beverages as well as prime viewing of all the action
• Dates are May 7 through 10

Wait. There’s more. On the Monday following the tournament, the winner will be treated to 18 holes at The Players Stadium Course.

Enter the sweepstakes here. And practice your short irons just in case you get lucky and win.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: nsaplayer/Flickr)

Friday, February 26

By the Time I Get to the Phoenix Open



BY THE TIME I GET to Phoenix and the Phoenix Open I’ll be, um, retiring? As I mentioned to a fellow golf blogger, I’ve never been to the tournament.

The event has been around forever and through several name changes, most recently called the FBR Open and now the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Before that it was simply the Phoenix Open and Phoenix Open Invitational, except for in 1950 when they called it the Ben Hogan Open. I’m guessing that was because of Hogan’s near-fatal car accident that occurred shortly after he departed the 1949 Phoenix Open.

In 1967, Glen Campbell sang “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” a Jimmy Webb song that reached number three on the pop charts. In the opening, Glen sang, “By the time I get to Phoenix, she’ll be rising. She’ll find the note I left hanging on her door.” When I go to Phoenix, I won’t sing about it. (People will be glad about that.) And I seriously doubt that I’ll leave a note, although that would be kind of cool. “Hey, y’all. Gone out for a while. Went to Phoenix Open. Turn off the burner if I forgot to.” Maybe, instead, I’ll just tweet and update my Facebook status.

Oh, and by the way, Glen is a golf nut. In fact, he hosted his own PGA Tour event, the Glen Campbell Los Angeles Open from 1971 to 1983. Absolutely true. And Glen never lost a guitar because he always put his name on it. OK, I’m not as certain about that, but it could be true. Check out the neck on his guitar.

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, February 25

2010 Waste Management Phoenix Open TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

UPDATE:
Click here for 2011 Waste Management Phoenix Open TV schedule and tournament info


THE 2010 WASTE MANAGEMENT PHOENIX OPEN is underway. The current leader is Camilo Villegas, who blistered TPC Scottsdale, well known among Phoenix golf courses, with a first-round 62.

Purse: $6 million
Winner’s share: $1.08 million
Defending champion: Kenny Perry

Inside the field
Inside the course
Tee times
Full tournament news
The live report
What players said

2010 Waste Management Phoenix Open Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

Fourteen hours of TV coverage are on tap for the 2010 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Thu, 2/25:
GOLF 4p - 8p ET

Fri, 2/26:

GOLF 4p - 8p ET

Sat, 2/27:
GOLF 4p - 7p ET

Sun, 2/28:
GOLF 4p - 7p ET

PGA Tour radio coverage

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, February 24

Golf Pet Peeve: The Drunken Wedding Party

Robert Bruce of Game Under Repair has something he needs to get off his chest. Maybe you can relate.

By Robert Bruce
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


NOTHING IRKS ME MORE than a drunk person on a golf course. The only thing worse is 15 drunk 20-something hackers on a golf course the day before a wedding. The Friday golf outing before a wedding has become, in some circles, as much a part of the wedding weekend as the rehearsal dinner and reception.

It’s a great idea: The groom takes all of his groomsmen, plus a few other friends and family members, out for an 18-hole round on the day before the wedding. The point, of course, is to have a little fun and get his mind off the life-changing event less than 24 hours away.

But here’s the problem. Within this group of a dozen or so testosterone-filled males, you might have one or two guys who actually know a minimal amount of golf etiquette. The rest of this crew is like a bunch of Gomer Pyles in a five-star restaurant—totally out of their element. Usually, this golf outing takes place on a fairly nice, pricey golf course. The result? Fifteen drunk guys on a $100-dollar-a-round track.

Case in point: A few weeks ago, my father-in-law was playing on a course in Florida. It was just a nice, casual round with a relative. On the first tee, the cart girl was practically attacked by several guys looking to load up on Jack and Jim. Within a few holes, the guys were driving over tee boxes, spinning out in fairways, and ramming carts into trees. Redneck alert! By the 12th hole, the group was thrown off the course—and hopefully banned from playing there in the future.

If you’re on a goat track public course, then go for it. Party away. But if you’re on an extremely nice course—and, in this case, next to an extremely nice hotel—then have some common decency. As I’ve said, very few things piss me off more than drunk people on the golf course. I encountered plenty of these fellows when I worked as a cart guy during college. I’m not a fan.

I’ll admit, my other golf pet peeves just annoy me. This one makes me downright angry. A round of golf takes an investment of time and money. Nothing can make you feel like you wasted that time and money like a bunch of wedding-party drunks. At least save the shenanigans for Saturday night.

Robert Bruce is a full-time writer and part-time golf blogger in Nashville, Tennessee. Visit his golf blog at www.gameunderrepair.com.

(Image: gfpeck/Flickr)

Tuesday, February 23

Reader Sends Proof of Prize Photo































“GOT YOUR PACKAGE YESTERDAY,” wrote JW Blair. “I will put it up in my office at the house with my other collectibles and send you a photo that you can use to let everyone know you really do award those prizes.”

Thanks to JW for the above photo. Displayed with his impressive major championship flag collection is a Pinehurst scorecard autographed by Natalie Gulbis and Zach Johnson that JW won in a free drawing. During the holidays, ARMCHAIR GOLF gave away golf books, DVDs, accessories and more.

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, February 22

Poulter Wins All-English Match Play Final

2010 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship Recap
Winner: Ian Poulter
Score: 4 and 2 over Paul Casey in 36-hole final
Quote: “It’s been a long time coming.”
Fact: Moved up to No. 5 in Official World Golf Rankings.
Thought: Is a major in Poulter’s future?

YOU KNEW HE HAD game. Ian Poulter sold me at the 2008 Ryder Cup when as a controversial captain’s pick he pretty much outplayed everyone on either team. On Sunday “Poults” broke out in an even bigger way with his first win on American soil (actually, on American sand, the Sonoran Desert), a 4 and 2 victory over fellow Englishman Paul Casey in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

The color pink hasn’t had a better day on the golf course in quite some time. Which got me thinking: If Paula Creamer is the Pink Panther, can we call Ian the Pink Poulter? Probably not, I suppose. Too limiting. It’s just one fave in his rainbow-hued wardrobe.

I didn’t see much of the 36-hole match, but I did watch most of the final holes. Casey cut Poulter’s four-hole lead in half early on the final nine. Just when I thought it might get interesting, the Pink Poulter converted some exquisite par saves to stall Casey’s comeback. I guess that’s the way he played all week. About his short game, Poulter said, “The last 12 months, it’s been up there with the best of them.”

Poulter has won nine times on the European Tour, including the Barclays Singapore Open last November. But Sunday’s victory was by far the biggest moment of his career, and vaulted him to number five in the world rankings.

It was the second year in a row that Casey lost in the finals. Last year he ran into a match-play buzzsaw named Geoff Ogilvy. “He [Poulter] did a fantastic job of making putts and keeping the ball in play,” Casey said, “and he kept the pressure on.” Finishing second again must sting, but reaching the finals two years in a row is an impressive accomplishment. Don’t be surprised if Casey someday wins one of these. In the meantime, a runner-up check for $850,000 is a nice way to pad the bankroll, no?

Tour Notes

• LPGA Tour: Ai Miyazato won the season opener in Thailand.
• PGA Tour: Cameron Beckman took the Mayakoba Golf Classic.
• Champions Tour: Bernhard Langer won the Allianz Championship.
• ARMCHAIR GOLF plans to attend the Puerto Rico Open in March.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, February 20

Tiger’s Public Apology: Check It Off the List

IT TOOK TIGER WOODS 84 days to get to the lectern, but on Friday he arrived at PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, looked into the camera, and told the world he was sorry for his transgressions. It was a public apology smorgasbord. I only watched it once, and I admit I didn’t read the transcript, but I’m pretty sure Tiger apologized to just about everyone who somehow may have felt wronged by his off- or on-course behavior.

Tiger didn’t say when he would return to golf, which is what many people wanted to know. Nor did he take questions.

As I’ve already written, I didn’t feel as if Tiger owed me an apology for the infidelity in his personal life. That’s a private family matter. In fact, in his reaction piece, Ryan Ballengee of Waggle Room expressed many of the sentiments I feel.

The public apology finally made—something it seems the entire world has been demanding for weeks—it fell predictably short for many. My theory: Many of those who are dissatisfied with the apology are angry at Tiger, consider haranguing to be a sport, or are simply critics. Others are OK with the apology.

Following is a breakdown of issues surrounding the apology, including some thoughts on people’s dissatisfaction.

The words were on the mark.
The words were mostly on the mark, but he should not have said (fill in the blank).

Overall, I think Tiger said what needed saying. He took responsibility for his actions and said he’s not above the rules. He said it’s hard to admit that he needs help. He could have left out a few things, saved them for another day, but the words, by and large, were on target.

It was staged and contrived.
It was too scripted.

This one makes me chuckle. Of course it was staged, contrived and scripted. Most public apologies are. They are unnatural and awkward. No one wants to make them. They are not spontaneous, even on Oprah. In rare instances are they off the cuff.

He was sincere.
He wasn’t sincere.

No one except Tiger knows. Many didn’t like the way Tiger looked, read, or failed to emote. Actually, I think we saw the same Tiger we’ve seen in the past. He’s not a super-expressive guy. Here’s the thing: A robotic Tiger could actually be sincere. A sincere looking and acting Tiger could actually be insincere. We don’t really know, do we? The words are a start. The deeds are what ultimately count.

The timing was bad.
The media, players, fans and others are mad.

As I mentioned above, I think anger is at the root of many people’s dissatisfaction with Tiger. Many people feel let down. America doesn’t like phonies and hypocrites. Tiger’s family man image didn’t square with what we now know. The media have long been dissatisfied with their relationship with World No. 1. And it took Tiger a long time to get to the lectern. For some, nothing Tiger does—Friday’s apology included—is going to cut it right now.

That said, he did make the apology. As Tiger might say about a mediocre round, he did what he needed to do. The public apology that people have been so forcefully demanding is now made. Check it off the list.

Now, can we all move on?

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Keith Allison/Flickr)

Friday, February 19

Tiger Woods: ‘I Have Let You Down’

Breaking sports news video. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL highlights and more.


AFTER NEARLY THREE MONTHS of seclusion following a minor car accident and revelations about extramarital affairs, Tiger Woods made a 13-minute public statement on Friday at PGA Tour headquarters. A small gathering of family, friends, tour officials and reporters were on hand. Tiger did not take questions.

Read the full transcript

I do hope to make some comments in the next day or two. In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment.

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, February 18

Play Golf Free (While Having Suit Pressed)






























IN TOUGH TIMES SUCH as these, free golf is an attractive offer. Although this place has an unusual dress code (ties required, trousers optional), these gentlemen appear to be enjoying themselves. Another plus: apparently fivesomes are permitted.

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, February 17

The Ladies Are Back


















THE LPGA SEASON GETS underway tomorrow at the Honda PTT LPGA Thailand. Forty-nine of the top 50 on the 2009 LPGA money list will tee it up at Siam Country Club outside of Bangkok, Thailand. World No. 1 Lorena Ochoa is the defending champion.

Although last year was tumultuous for the LPGA Tour, a new season and new commissioner had three of the LPGA’s biggest stars in a sunny mood as they sat for a press conference on Tuesday.

Asked about LPGA commish Michael Whan and new sponsor announcements in recent weeks, Ochoa said, “We are all happy with the new commissioner. We’re going in the right direction.” Paula Creamer said, “His vision for our Tour is where it should be.” Michelle Wie made it unanimous. “I’ve talked to Mike Whan and he’s awesome. He sends e-mails to us and keeps in touch. He wants to know what we’re thinking as players.”

What the players think definitely matters. Just ask ex-LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens. It’s early, but so far Whan’s collaborative style is winning the players and a few new sponsors.

The three players also talked about their prospects as the season begins. Creamer, who suffered last year with a mysterious ailment, said she feels the best she has in a long time. Wie said she and other players are gunning for Ochoa’s top spot. Lorena said she is just trying to concentrate on her own game and not be concerned about all the great talent chasing her, including last year’s rookie of the year, Jiyai Shin.

Whether they’re in for another bumpy season or not, look for the ladies to hang tough. The LPGA has survived since 1950 when a group of 13 women that included Babe Zaharias, Louise Suggs and Betty Jameson founded the ladies tour. They’ll be celebrating their 60th anniversary all year, which will include historic snapshots at LPGA.com.

Borrowing a phrase from Spock, who might be a commissioner candidate if Whan doesn’t work out, may the LPGA live long and prosper.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Images: Lancaster-Jones, Allison /Flickr)

Tuesday, February 16

Whiskers Predicts Tiger’s Return

THERE AREN’T MANY Tiger Woods fans who are more devoted than Whiskers. In fact, it’s fair to say that Whiskers is the most extreme case of Tiger worship. It’s a simple explanation. Whiskers always watches golf when Tiger is playing. And, as ARMCHAIR GOLF has learned in prior interviews, Whiskers never watches golf when Tiger isn’t playing. Not even the Ryder Cup.

With the revelations about Tiger and his indefinite leave from the game, it was a long and disturbing off-season for Whiskers. In a recent telephone interview with ARMCHAIR GOLF, Whiskers answered questions about Tiger’s return to the game. Unfortunately, it didn’t end well. 



Q: What did you think about Johnny Miller’s recent comments on Tiger?

WHISKERS: Meow meow meow meow meow. 

Q: Well then, who do you listen to?

WHISKERS: Meow. 

Q: Fair enough. Let me ask you the question that’s on everyone’s mind. When do you think Tiger will return to golf?

WHISKERS: Meow meow meow. 

Q: No, that won’t happen. The Accenture Match Play is this week. Tiger’s not entered, although he did play in it last year. He lost to Tim Clark.

WHISKERS: Meow. 

Q: Phoenix?

WHISKERS: Meow. 

Q: Well, that’s next week, and Tiger hasn’t played there since 2001. Maybe another try?

WHISKERS: Meow meow. 

Q: Um, sorry, Whiskers, but I really don’t think he’ll be at the Honda Classic either.

WHISKERS: Meow meow meow meow, meow meow? 

Q: Yes, you’re absolutely right. I did ask you for your prediction, it’s just …

WHISKERS: Meow meow meow meow. 

Q: The Puerto Rico Open! Are you just reading down the list of tour events? Whiskers? Hello? 

−The Armchair Golfer

(This is an ARMCHAIR GOLF spoof.)

(Image: Lauryn/Flickr)

Monday, February 15

Tom on Tour: AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

The media fly. Tom drives. The media sleep in hotels. Tom sleeps in his car. The media sit in the media center. Tom walks the course. It’s the PGA Tour, seen and written differently. Following is an excerpt from Tom’s e-book on the 2010 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

By Tom Collins
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


(Note: Last week at the Northern Trust Open Tom added a “Tim Clark’s Posse” t-shirt to his wardrobe. The following occurred on Sunday at Pebble.)

OUT OF NOWHERE, a girl with blonde hair and sunglasses approached me from the right.
“So you’re a member of Tim Clark’s Posse?”

“Yeah. I was at Riviera last week, and I met this guy Billy—”

“Yeah, Billy! He sent me a picture with his little girl standing next to Tim’s bag. It was so cute. Oh, I’m sorry…I’m Candace, Tim’s wife.”

“Oh, wow. Really nice to meet you. I’m Tom.” We shook hands.

“I love that you’re wearing that shirt. You’re the first person I’ve seen with it on this year. I need to get a picture of us together. Um, excuse me, sir?”

The volunteer in front of us turned, confused.

“Yeah?”

“Could you take a picture of us?”

“Well…I don’t know…I don’t really want that camera taken away from you…or me to be kicked out.”

“Oh, well don’t worry about it. Come on, Tom. Um…oh! I see another member of the posse over there. He won’t care.”

She introduced me to a guy standing near us named Gabe, who also had a PGA Tour lanyard on. After the photo, we walked up to the green together. I gave her my card.

“Hey, do you think you could e-mail me that photo? I promise not to spam you.”

“Oh, no problem.”

“So you’re headed to the Accenture next week?”

“Yep. And depending on how far Tim gets, we may or may not be headed to Phoenix.”

“Anything I should know about Tucson or Phoenix before I go?”

“Um…well, the weather is just like this, but it really does get cold at night, so bring a jacket. And people in Phoenix party hard.”

“Yeah…I promised myself that for just one of the days in Phoenix, I’d park myself in the grandstand on 16 and drink all day.”

“Definitely go for it. You and 50,000 others will be doing the same thing.”

Tom Collins is a former caddie who is following the PGA Tour in 2010. Learn more about his original e-books at TheReluctantJamBoy.com.

Saturday, February 13

Common Courses: Balboa Park Golf Course

They’re not Pebble, Bandon, Kiawah, or Pinehurst. Common courses are the modest 9- and 18-hole munis and semi-private clubs that most golfers play. Following is another installment in an occasional series.

THE LONGER I’VE BEEN away from San Diego, the more I appreciate the decade I lived there. John Steinbeck, the famous author, once made a distinction between weather and climate. He said he preferred weather. San Diego has climate, and it’s terrific for any outdoor activity. Like golf.

Besides Torrey Pines, Balboa Park Golf Course was one of my golf hangouts. It’s old, originally built in 1915. William Park Bell, a prominent California course architect, was involved in its design. Playing to a par of 72 and about 6,300 yards, Balboa is short. But I never considered it a pushover. It snakes through little canyons and climbs onto miniature plateaus. It’s a tight little stinker, with some ridiculously tiny greens. Accuracy, not length, is required at Balboa, called a “devilish little course” by one reviewer. I can’t disagree.

I loved Balboa. For me, it was a walk-up course. I didn’t have a regular group. I would arrive in the mid to late afternoon and, once I got on, play until dark. Through the canyons and up and down the sloping terrain, Balboa could be a vigorous walk, but not too tough for me when I was in my mid 20s. I once walked 18 at Balboa on the same day I ran a half marathon. Ah, youth.

Along with Torrey, Balboa hosts the San Diego City Amateur. If you want to set the course record at Balboa, it will take something in the 50s. And you’ll have to beat a man named Snead. Yes, that Snead.

When enlisted man Sam Snead was stationed in San Diego with the U.S. Navy, he posted a 60 at Balboa. (That was in 1943.) I’m sure it should have been a 59. Sam must have missed a makeable putt somewhere.

−The Armchair Golfer

More:
Desert Aire Golf Course

(Image: Greenskeeper.org)

Friday, February 12

Bush and Clinton Thank PGA Tour and Golf Fans



IF YOU’RE ABLE, please lend your support to the Haiti recovery effort. Thanks.

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, February 11

2010 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am TV Schedule and Tournament Notes














UPDATE:
Click here for 2011 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am TV schedule and tournament info

THE 2010 AT&T PEBBLE BEACH NATIONAL PRO-AM is underway on the Monterey Peninsula in Northern California. Defending champion Dustin Johnson is the first-round leader.

Purse: $6.1 million
Winner’s share: $1.08 million
Defending champion: Dustin Johnson

Inside the field
Inside the courses
Tee times
Full tournament news
The live report
What players said

2010 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

More than 12 hours of TV coverage are on tap for the 2010 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Thu, 2/11:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET 

Fri, 2/12:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET 

Sat, 2/13:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 2/14:
CBS 3p - 6:30p ET

PGA Tour radio coverage

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: swang168/Flickr)

Wednesday, February 10

BANNED: The Schenectady Mallet, Walter Travis and the R&A

By John Coyne
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


THE RUSH OF NEWS around the new grooves regulations by the USGA reminded me of another club that was banned from golf competition more than a century ago. The culprit was a New Yorker, Arthur Franklin Knight, a name not many people know today. What Franklin Knight did for the game is a story mostly lost in the pages of golf history.

Knight was an engineer and a golfer, and he combined his knowledge, talents and interest into designing clubs for the new golf age. In doing so, he changed the way the game is played. Based on his knowledge and research in physics (and the human mind), he came to the conclusion that a player’s greatest handicap was not the golf course or his nerves, but the erratic properties of the clubs.

Birth of Center-Shafted Putter


Knight re-invented golf by redesigning clubs, beginning with the putter. Working with iron clubheads and hickory shafts of various lengths, he had by 1902 come up with a center-shafted, mallet-style putter. Knight affixed the shaft to the middle of the putter blade, giving the club a natural pendulum-like motion and a center of gravity at the exact point of impact.

He called his putter the “Schenectady Mallet,” naming it after the town where he lived and where he worked as an employee of General Electric.

By 1903, Knight had an exclusive patent to his center-shafted putter and began to sell it. He made a small fortune. Then in 1904 one of the game’s great amateur golfers, Walter Travis, who had already won three U.S. Amateurs, but was in a putting slump, used the putter for the first time.

The story, as told in Peter F. Stevens’ book Links Lore, is that a member of the Apawamis Club in Rye, New York, a man named Phillips, was watching Travis’ poor putting during a round and suggested Travis try the Schenectady Mallet. Travis, according to another writer, George B. Kirsch, in his recently published Golf in America, had used the putter in the 1904 U.S. Open after he became discouraged by his poor putting. When Travis picked up the Schenectady Mallet, his magical touch on the greens returned and he went on to win the British Amateur, the first American to do so.

Stevens writes, “Knight’s club had helped Travis to become the first American to win the prestigious tournament, and Travis helped Knight’s reputation as America’s preeminent club designer.”

R&A Ban


The R&A, perhaps furious that an American had won their tournament, refused to recognize the mallet as a legitimate putter and in 1910 imposed a ban on the putter. The ban lasted until 1952. The USGA, however, thrilled by Travis’ win, recognized the unorthodox club with Knight’s center-shafted design, a design that would become the prototype for countless putters.

George Kirsch, however, points out in his book that Travis never again was able to use the putter successful. Still, in 1920, Travis designed a modified version named after him and manufactured by the Spalding company.

Meanwhile, Knight continued to design clubs, irons, drivers, as well as more putters. He was certain that the shaft was the key to all great golf and he came up with what he called “steel tubing.” Knight was replacing hickory with modern steel. By 1910, Knight had a patent for a seamless steel club, but it would take another two decades for steel-shafted clubs to come into vogue, first in America and then England. By then he wasn’t around to profit from his design or see the results of steel shafts.

Following the Schenectady Mallet and steel tubing has come persimmon, titanium, graphite, adjustable hosels, hybrids, and now putters with white ice urethane and elastomer inserts. And Arthur Franklin Knight, who turned hickory shafts into test tubes, did not live long enough to see golf change from a game to a science.

John Coyne is the author of The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan and The Caddie Who Played with Hickory. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

Tuesday, February 9

Tom on Tour: Northern Trust Open

The media fly. Tom drives. The media sleep in hotels. Tom sleeps in his car. The media sit in the media center. Tom walks the course. It’s the PGA Tour, seen and written differently. Following is an excerpt from Tom’s e-book on the 2010 Northern Trust Open.

By Tom Collins
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


WATCHING THE PRO-AM on Wednesday, I learned to duck quickly. I learned that some of the amateur participants had to spend $35,000 just to play. And I learned that there are actually people assigned to this tournament specifically to maintain the ropes around the golf course.

After one amateur took down three stakes just to clear a path through the trees, this young angry man drove up in a cart that read “Ropes Operator.” I can only imagine what was going through his head. “Aw, these gosh darn amateurs! They’re messing up everything!”

Then I found myself in a press conference with Corey Pavin. At first, I just thought that because Corey was playing this week, the media wanted some insights into his plans for the Ryder Cup. I had no idea that this would be the press conference where he would name his assistant captains. Corey carried his daughter up with him while he read from a prepared statement, and whenever his daughter interrupted him with a noise, Corey offered her the microphone, which seemed to silence her instantly.

I had no idea that Corey’s wife, Lisa, was sitting behind me until Corey started to acknowledge her, saying that he’s leaning pretty significantly on her right now. Doing what, I wasn’t really sure. I’m not knocking either of them—but like Corey said, the team won’t really start to materialize until May, so there isn’t a lot he can do right now to prepare, other than carefully watching every player in the field.

Then Pavin started announcing his assistant captain selections, of which he made four, so that each assistant could watch each match in its entirety on Thursday and Friday, to ensure that he knew who to pair up and select for the weekend. He selected Tom Lehman, Jeff Sluman, Davis Love III and Paul Goydos. After the introduction, Love and Goydos walked up from the back of the room to join in the discussion and to answer questions.

I don’t know what it was about that moment that gave me such a rush. The other golf writers asked their obligatory “strategy” questions for the Ryder Cup, and I just sat there, reveling in the idea that this was ground zero. It felt great knowing that in a few minutes word would disseminate from this room to all points on the globe via the Internet, and I was sitting right there on the front lines.

Plus, now I get cupcakes. That’s right: Lisa made red velvet cupcakes with that special cream cheese frosting and the phrase “USA 2010” to pass out to members of the media. As soon as the box was opened, I grabbed the first one. I felt like a piece of crap after doing so, however, because a professional photographer ran over after fighting through the crowd to snap a couple of shots of the spread. Now there was one missing.

Well, you know what? You snooze, you lose, photographer-lady.

I think the most important thing to remember from that press conference—other than how good the cupcakes were—was how well thought out Pavin’s selections were.

Tom Collins is a former caddie who is following the PGA Tour in 2010. Learn more about his original e-books at TheReluctantJamBoy.com.

Monday, February 8

Jimenez Outduels Westwood in the Desert

2010 Omega Dubai Desert Classic Recap
Winner: Miguel Angel Jimenez
Score: 11 under, 277 (70, 67, 68, 72)
Quote: “Like a good wine, with age, I get better and better.”
Fact: Favorite Cuban cigars are Partagas and Cohiba.
Thought: A good short game cures many ills.

I THOUGHT LEE WESTWOOD had it. I really did. Westwood birdied the final hole to tie Miguel Angel Jimenez and force a playoff at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. He then ripped a drive down the 18th fairway while the shorter-hitting Spaniard poked his tee ball into the rough and had to lay up on the par-5.

Jimenez barely cleared the water fronting the 18th green with his third, a wedge, while Westwood chipped on. Westwood misfired on his birdie and the crafty Spaniard got it up and down. The two men and their caddies hopped onto golf carts and rode back to the 18th tee for another go.

OK, I knew Jimenez would win. The Golf Channel had delayed coverage. I had already seen a tweet from an Aussie friend announcing the results. But I wanted to see how it happened.

It happened because Jimenez is a resourceful player with a clever short game, including a reliable putter. And because Westwood couldn’t birdie the reachable 18th hole on two consecutive tries in the playoff. The Englishman must be kicking himself.

On their second trip down 18, Jimenez again found himself in trouble, bunkered behind the green in three shots. He came out long and had to hole a medium-range putt to stay alive. The unflappable 46-year-old ran it in. On the third playoff hole, the long par-4 9th, both players missed the green. Westwood failed to get up and in for his par. Jimenez rapped home a four-footer for the win. Three playoff holes, three one-putts, one victory cigar.

“I have been coming to Dubai for many years and had a few chances to win and now I have it,” Jimenez said about his 16th European Tour title. He has won nine times since turning 40.

Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee finished alone in third, missing a short birdie putt on the final hole to miss the playoff by a shot.

Tour Notes

· Tom Watson finished in a tie for eighth at Dubai.
· PGA Tour: Steve Stricker won the Northern Trust Open.
· The PGA Tour heads to the Monterey Peninsula for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
· The LPGA Tour season begins in two weeks in Thailand.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Perez/Flickr)

Saturday, February 6

Rookie Chris Wilson Has a Lot to Learn


















The short par-3 7th hole at Pebble Beach.

CHRIS WILSON, A NORTHWESTERN GRAD and former Big Ten champion who earned his PGA Tour card at Q-School in December, is writing a weekly diary at GolfWeek.com. His most recent installment addresses the steep learning curve, especially when it comes to the golf courses on the PGA Tour.

It’s something that’s easy to forget or completely overlook as a golf fan. You figure if a guy earned a card, he must be great with the sticks. These guys are good, right? Enter a few tournaments and ka-ching, ka-ching.

As the rookie points out, it’s far from that simple. There are many adjustments to playing on the PGA Tour: the level of competition, the travel and more. But let’s get back to the courses, which is what Wilson mentioned. At the Bob Hope Classic, Farmers Insurance Open (where he missed the cut) and next week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Wilson had (and will have) a total of nine courses to learn.

Nine courses. For three events!

Granted, most weeks on Tour there’s only one course to face. For Wilson, whether it’s one, two, three, or four, they’re all new to him. Maybe it’s not such an easy way to earn your supper after all. You can see why many pros have to play the circuit for years before they get comfortable.

“There is a lot of cramming into a short amount of time,” Wilson wrote. He’s not complaining, though. “It is a great problem to have because nothing beats being on the PGA Tour!”

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: ghz/Flickr)

Friday, February 5

Mickelson-Waffle House Deal Off the Table


















PHIL MICKELSON WILL NOT buy 105 bankrupt Nashville-area Waffle Houses. A chain of Southeast eateries, Waffle House is the world’s leading server of waffles (nearly 500 million and counting) and dishes up a darn respectable quantity of T-bone steaks (10,000 per day) and grits (3.2 million pounds a year, enough to fill 86 semi trucks).

As far as I know, the failed bid had absolutely nothing to do with a disagreement over waffle pattern or grooves. That’s the extent of my statement. I will make no further comments on the matter. Unless I need to apologize.

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, February 4

2010 Northern Trust Open TV Schedule and Tournament Notes





















UPDATE:
Click here for 2011 Northern Trust Open TV schedule and tournament info

THE 2010 NORTHERN TRUST OPEN is underway at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California. Dustin Johnson is the first-round leader.

Purse: $6.4 million
Winner’s share: $1.152 million
Defending champion: Phil Mickelson

Inside the field
Inside the course
Tee times
Full tournament news
The live report

2010 Northern Trust Open Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

More than 12 hours of TV coverage are on tap for the 2010 Northern Trust Open.

Thu, 2/4:
GOLF 5p - 8p ET

Fri, 2/5:
GOLF 5p - 8p ET

Sat, 2/6:
NBC 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 2/7:
NBC 2:30p - 6p ET

PGA Tour radio coverage

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Dan Perry/Flickr)

Wednesday, February 3

The Los Angeles Open and ‘Little Hogan’

THE NORTHERN TRUST OPEN was formerly the Los Angeles Open, and has been played on a variety of golf courses in the L.A. area during its 84-year history. Back in the Hogan-Snead-Nelson era, Los Angeles was the first stop on the winter tour. The pros arrived in early January to play for one of the better purses on the circuit, around $15,000 to $20,000.

(Photo: Do you know this Purdue star?)

Riviera Country Club, of course, is the tournament’s current home, as it was from 1945 to 1953. Riviera was where Ben Hogan won three times in 17 months: the 1947 and 1948 Los Angeles Opens and 1948 U.S. Open. That’s when Riviera became known as Hogan’s Alley. Hogan also won in 1942 at Hillcrest Country Club.

Some players held Hogan in such high esteem that they copied him. Gardner Dickinson was one such player. He patterned his swing after Hogan, dressed like him, and even dangled a cigarette from his lips in the same manner as his idol. He also named one of his sons Ben.

Another Hogan imitator was a player named Fred Wampler, a Purdue University grad and NCAA champion who turned pro in 1950. At 5’8” and 150 lbs., Wampler was the same size as Bantam Ben and became known as “Little Hogan” because he modeled his game after the Texas legend.

I was reminded of Wampler recently while listening to an interview I conducted with Larry Tomasino, a Michigan club pro who played the winter circuit in the 1950s.

“Have you heard of Freddie Wampler?” Tomasino asked. “He copied his [Hogan’s] swing. Everybody did really, to tell you the truth.”

In 1954, “Little Hogan” won the Los Angeles Open at Fox Hills Country Club in what is now Culver City, California. It was his only win in seven years on the PGA Tour. I also learned that Wampler and yours truly have some personal history in common. We were both born in Bedford, Indiana.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Brought to you by YourGolfTravel.com and ARMCHAIR GOLF STORE.)

Tuesday, February 2

The Return of Rocco

ROCCO MEDIATE RETURNED to Torrey Pines last week for the first time since his epic duel with Tiger Woods at the 2008 U.S. Open. Rocco made the cut in the Farmers Insurance Open and finished at 1-under with rounds of 69-71-74-73.

Mediate also made noise, among the handful of Tour pros who openly criticized Phil Mickelson’s choice of wedges in light of the new groove rules. The Roc Man’s words were not as inflammatory as those of Scott McCarron, who essentially called Lefty a cheater, but they still stung.

“I don’t like it at all, not one bit,” Rocco said. “It’s against the spirit of the rule. We have to get rid of those clubs, because they’re square grooves. What else can you say?”

Phil isn’t cheating. Despite their square grooves, the ancient Ping Eye2s he slipped into his bag are legal because the company won a lawsuit against the PGA Tour 20 years ago. No rule broken. Just many restless spirits.

So, maybe Phil is trying to make a point. As World No. 2 and such a widely popular player, he has the clout and fan “capital” to pull it off. But I can’t criticize the players (except McCarron’s poor choice of words) who are hot about it. They’re entitled to question Phil on his choice to play the only club exempted from the new groove edict. He’d be naive not to expect some heat.

Coincidentally, Rocco is now working with Phil’s new putting coach, Dave Stockton.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: The Gordons/Flickr)

Monday, February 1

Ben Crane Reacts Positively to News That He Won

2010 Farmers Insurance Open Recap
Winner: Ben Crane
Score: 13 under, 265 (65, 71, 69, 70)
Quote: “I had no idea really what was going on.”
Fact: Sensitive to his slow-play image.
Thought: Thinking in golf is overrated.

THE BIG JOKE ABOUT Ben Crane is that he’s Mr. Slow Play. I can’t say I know much else about Crane, except that he’s a good putter. He’s trying to pick up the pace, and in the meantime winning doesn’t hurt.

“I need to play ready golf,” Crane said on Sunday after winning his third PGA Tour title. “I’ve been too slow in the past, and it’s bothered me. I’m working on being ready when it’s my turn to play.”

Crane was ready at Torrey South, grinding out a two-under 70 and playing steady down the stretch when no one mounted a serious charge. It might have helped that he was oblivious. Crane didn’t know he won until his playing partner, Ryuji Imada, broke the news after Crane retrieved his Titleist from the cup on the final green.

What? I won? Cool!

Australian Michael Sim, who finished in a tie for second with Marc Leishman and Brandt Snedeker, took some heat for laying up on the par-5 finishing hole when he needed a birdie to tie Crane. It seemed apparent to just about everyone except Sim that he could reach the putting surface with his second shot. But Sim didn’t like his yardage and was hesitant to pull the trigger.

“I had to hit it flush,” Sim said, “and I wasn’t swinging that well and just decided to lay up to a comfortable number.”

I accept it. He’s the one who has to play the shot. If he isn’t comfortable, it’s probably not going to turn out well. You have to be totally committed.

On to L.A. where Phil Mickelson defends at the Northern Trust Open.

Tour Notes

• The PGA Tour heads 100 miles north to Riviera in Pacific Palisades for the Northern Trust Open.
• New groove rules drive a wedge between Phil Mickelson and Scott McCarron.
• John Daly did not retire from golf, despite saying he was “done.”
• European Tour: Robert Karlsson won the Qatar Masters.

−The Armchair Golfer