Wednesday, March 31

Congrats to Juli Inkster, Patty Berg Award Winner

I’VE ALWAYS LIKED JULI Inkster. I think it’s because she comes across as a real person with a life outside of golf (not that others don’t have a life) and at the same time is hyper competitive and exudes a fun spirit on the golf course.

Inkster was named the 2010 recipient of the Patty Berg Award, given in honor of the LPGA founder (one of 13) and Hall of Famer. The award is given to individuals who exemplify diplomacy, sportsmanship and goodwill, and make lasting contributions to the game of golf. Check, check, check and check. Inkster is more than deserving.

“She [Berg] always demonstrated what being a professional is all about,” Juli said at LPGA.com. “She gave so much of herself to the LPGA. Receiving this award with Patty’s name on it, and thinking of all the special individuals before me who have received it, leaves me truly humbled.”

Inkster has had a tremendous career in golf. She entered both the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame and World Golf Hall of Fame in 1999, which was the same year she became only the second woman in LPGA history to complete the modern-day LPGA Career Grand Slam. Early on, Inkster won three consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateur titles. Um, that’s dominant. She never slowed down after turning professional, collecting more than 30 victories, including seven majors. She also played on eight U.S. Solheim Cup teams.

I’d love to see Inkster win again, but if it doesn’t happen she will still have a room full of trophies and awards to admire. Congrats, Juli, on adding another one.

First 2010 LPGA Major

The Kraft Nabisco Championship, the year’s first major, tees off on Thursday in Rancho Mirage, California. Brittany Lincicome is the defending champion. The field is deep, which should produce a lot of excitement like last year when Lincicome eagled the final hole to win her first major. Visit LPGA.com and Mostly Harmless for previews and predictions.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Harry Limey/Flickr)

Tuesday, March 30

Golf Pet Peeve: The Golf Ball Finder Guy

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


WHAT IS IT CALLED? You’ve seen it: the long skinny rod with the three-pronged or circular attachment on the end. It sticks out of some golfers’ golf bags like an awkward 13-year-old at a middle-school dance. I call this device the “golf ball picker upper,” but it could probably be better known as the “six-hour round of golf detector.”

When you see one of these strange machinations in a playing partner’s bag, then you only need to do one thing: run! Run like the wind. Run like Usain Bolt being chased by a cheetah. Run.

The man who owns this device is the Golf Ball Finder Guy. And he has one mission on the golf course: finding golf balls. Whether it’s a beaten up and bruised Titleist Balata, circa 1995, a brand new Pro V1, or a Top Flite XL with the Dingleberry Family Reunion logo on its side, the Golf Ball Finder Guy loves to search for golf balls.

Behind a tree? He’ll find it. Plugged into a muddy bank? He’ll find it. In a yard? He’ll find it. In a groundhog’s hole? He’ll find it. In fact, the only ball the Golf Ball Finder Guy doesn’t care about is the one he is currently playing. He treats every lost golf ball as if he is an archeologist digging for a Mayan relic.

Pace of play? Score? Camaraderie? All of these things are nuisances to the Golf Ball Finder Guy. You’re on the green, waiting. He’s somewhere in the shrubs adjacent to the fairway, giddy about finding the Titleist DT 90 with the AT&T logo. He will ruin your score, your patience, and your reputation—once everyone at your course or club realizes you were in the group that played a six-hour round and had the crazy guy who was always in the woods.

So, next time you see this guy on the first tee—just run. Don’t wait around. Don’t ask questions. Don’t hesitate. Run and never look back.

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

(Image: Sameli/Flickr)

Monday, March 29

Great Shots: Johnston’s Spade Mashie at 1929 U.S. Amateur

EVERYBODY WHO LOVES GOLF loves to hear about or see a great golf shot. There’s no video clip or YouTube for what I’m about to tell you. I wish there was. I read the anecdote last week in Michael Blaine’s fine book The King of Swings, the story of Johnny Goodman’s impressive career that culminated with Goodman winning the 1933 U.S. Open, the last amateur to do so. Then I read a longer account of the shot recently penned by the USGA’s Rand Jerris.

This little golf tale takes place in 1929, the year the stock market crashed and during an era in golf when the amateur was revered and the professional was often shunned. Some had lost interest in that last U.S. Amateur of the Roaring Twenties when the 19-year-old Goodman stunned the legendary Bobby Jones in their opening match at Pebble Beach. The colossal upset put Goodman on the map, although he lost his second match after lunch on the same day he defeated Jones.

Not to worry. What transpired later that week was one of the most dramatic moments in the championship’s history.

Harrison “Jimmy” Johnston arrived at Pebble’s 18th hole one down to Dr. Oscar Willing at the midpoint of their 36-hole final match. Johnston drove his ball safely onto the 18th fairway. The most difficult shot out of the way, he then blundered badly, hooking his second shot over the cliff and onto the beach. Johnston played a provisional ball and was ready to move on when his caddie came running through the gallery and informed him that his original ball might be playable on the beach.

(Photo courtesy of USGA Museum)

“I found my ball resting securely among the small pebbles below the seawall,” Johnston said. “When I took my stance to play the shot, a wave swished up behind me and buried my feet six inches in the water. But when the wave receded, the ball was still there!”

Before the next wave arrived, Johnston calmly struck his golf ball with a Spalding Kro-Flite spade mashie, the equivalent of a modern-day 7-iron. The ball cleared the seawall and landed on the edge of the 18th green. Johnston halved the par-5 hole and rallied in the afternoon round for a 4 and 3 victory to claim the U.S. Amateur title. He was later honored with a ticker-tape parade in his hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota.

−The Armchair Golfer

More:
USGA story and photos of Johnston’s Spalding Kro-Flite spade mashie

Sunday, March 28

Fred Couples Is New Boss of Champions Tour

I’M STILL TRYING TO get my mind around Fred Couples being 50 and eligible to play on the Champions Tour. Meanwhile, Freddie is absolutely loving it. Shooting 21 under (for 54 holes) is fun. Winning is fun. Collecting about a million for a month’s worth of work is fun.

Couples won his third tournament in four starts on Sunday at The Cap Cana Championship in the Dominican Republic. (What a gorgeous golf course and setting. I watched some of the tournament on Saturday and was ready to check airfares.) He put together a 62 in the final round and nipped Corey Pavin (68, 63, 66) by two shots. Fred had a 67 and 66 in the first two rounds.

“I had a great stretch of golf in 1992,” Couples told the AP, “but I must say that these four weeks on the Champions Tour I’m not missing many shots.”

We’ve seen this before. Some of the 50-year-olds come out as rookies and manhandle the golf courses and competition. Players like Loren Roberts, Jay Haas and Bernhard Langer come to mind. There are a bunch of new “youngsters” out there—Couples, Pavin, Russ Cochran, Tom Pernice Jr., Tommy Armour III, Bob Tway and others. Not all will win a lot, but they’ll enjoy the gravy train. Even though the purses are smaller it’s still very good money on the second-chance tour.

Fred will be playing against the flat bellies the next two weeks at the Shell Houston Open and Masters.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Erik Anestad/Flickr)

Friday, March 26

King of Golf Cartoons: ‘13 Million Range Balls’



























Copyright © Jerry King. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

I NEVER SPENT LONG hours on the driving range. Sure, I hit my share of practice balls growing up, but I mainly learned the game by playing the golf course and working on my short game: pitching, chipping, putting. I took up golf when I was 12 years old and spent summer days playing 18 or more holes on our local 9-hole muni. Sometimes I played two or more balls if no one was around, especially in the late afternoon.

If I did hit range balls it was usually before high-school matches to loosen up and get some idea how I might hit it that day, at least starting out. I remember my dad giving me some good advice. Since I could be erratic off the tee, he advised me to play the shot the way it was going on a particular day. If the tee ball was fading, aim down the left and let it work back to the right. Don’t fight it. Same idea if I happened to be drawing the ball. My ball never moved a lot, but, depending on my timing, it could move some in either direction. So the advice definitely came in handy and saved me strokes on tournament days.

Had I started the game later in life, I imagine I would have hit many more range balls than I did as a teen. But if, like Big Shooter, I had to pound 13 million range balls just to cut two shots off my game, I would learn to live with my handicap index.

−The Armchair Golfer

Jerry King is an award-winning cartoonist whose credits and clients include Golf Digest, United States Golf Association and Disney. His golf cartoons are a regular feature at ARMCHAIR GOLF.

Thursday, March 25

2010 Kia Classic TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2010 KIA CLASSIC is underway at La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, California. Na On Min is the current leader at 6 under.

Purse: $1.7 million
Defending champion: Inaugural event

Final field
Pairings
Tournament interviews
Complete tournament info

2010 Kia Classic Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

More than eight hours of TV coverage are on tap for the 2010 Kia Classic.

Thurs, Mar 25
Golf Channel 6:30-8:30 PM ET

Fri, Mar 26
Golf Channel 6:30-8:30 PM ET

Sat, Mar 27
Golf Channel 6:30-9:00 PM ET

Sun, Mar 28
Golf Channel 7:00-9:00 PM ET

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, March 24

The Rules Geek: Abnormal Ground Conditions Aid Amateur

Editor’s note: The Rules Geek may be an occasional and annoying feature at ARMCHAIR GOLF. Well see how it goes.

“I RECENTLY USED THE Rules of Golf in my favor while playing in an amateur tournament,” John Patota, The Pinehurst Golfer, told The Rules Geek.

“My ball had hit the green, bounced off the back, and landed in a hole about the size of a soda can. I was about to take an unplayable lie with a one-stroke penalty when the thought came to me: ‘This hole could have been made by a burrowing animal under the definitions of the Rules of Golf.’”

Let’s have a look at the rule, shall we?

Rule 25-1 Abnormal Ground Conditions says “interference by an abnormal ground condition occurs when a ball lies in or touches the condition or when the condition interferes with the player’s stance or the area of his intended swing.”

Back to John’s situation. “Sure enough, with a little more observation it was clear only some kind of animal could have made the hole. My playing competitor agreed, and I proceeded under Rule 25, Abnormal Ground Conditions, without a penalty.”

John took a free drop within one club length of, and not nearer the hole than, the nearest point of relief.

“That was the first time I can remember that knowing the Rules of Golf actually helped me,” he concluded.

This situation reminded The Rules Geek of Sergio Garcia’s burrowing animal ruling in a playoff against Vijay Singh at The Barclays in 2008. A television audience watched for several minutes as Garcia pleaded his case to PGA Tour official Slugger White. At the time, the Garcia ruling struck some golf fans as quite charitable. Singh went on to win, otherwise the ruling would have spurred more debate.

The Rules Geek salutes John for knowing the rules and calling over his playing competitor to confirm the ruling.

The Rules Geek sez rules were made to be followed. Got a rules-related tip or story? Send it to The Rules Geek at armchairgolfer@gmail.com.

Related:
Hunter Mahan’s Driver Replacement

(Image: Old Shoe Woman/Flickr)

Tuesday, March 23

Dietary Changes Turn It Around for Jim Furyk



SOMETIMES IT TAKES TIME to see results, but no one grinds harder or stays more committed to what he’s doing than Jim Furyk. Not long after his last PGA Tour victory at the 2007 Canadian Open, Jim got some pregame-meal advice from former Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis.

Jim cut out the eggs (too much cholesterol), the pancakes (not good) and the bacon (bad for you, real bad). Although he didn’t see immediate results, he stayed with it and stayed hungry. On Sunday at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Florida, it finally paid off.

Congratulations to that lean mean golfing machine, Jim Furyk, for winning the 2010 Transitions Championship.

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, March 22

Economic Theory as an Explanation for Tiger Phenomenon

MAYBE ECONOMIC THEORY CAN shed some light on the Tiger Woods situation. Even though I never felt entirely comfortable with the subject, I did get a degree in economics from San Diego State. I admit I don’t remember much, but I do recall that our textbooks were jammed with graphs used to explain relationships between things such as unemployment and inflation, demand and price, guns (military spending) and butter (school lunches).

Maybe a graph can explain the relationship between Tiger Woods and the world.

Since the day after Thanksgiving (and even before), I’ve noticed an inverse relationship between Tiger and those who take an interest in his on- and off-course activities. Tiger is in scarce supply—consider him to be “X” on the graph, the horizontal axis. The media, fans, everybody are “Y,” the vertical axis, and have provided enough chatter to fill the solar system. As Tiger went into seclusion and said nothing, the world was compelled to say more and more and more—it’s the way inverse relationships work. Logic would dictate that more Tiger was needed to achieve some sort of equilibrium.

That’s where it breaks down, unfortunately. Here’s why. More Tiger hasn’t seemed to help. Even as he’s begun to say more—for example, his 13-minute public apology and Sunday’s dueling five-minute speed interviews—we appear to be no closer to any kind of equilibrium, and the world is still incessantly chattering away. (Thanks a lot, economics.)

Just to give it the old college try, one more graph.

For the longest time, people wanted Tiger to talk about his problems, to come clean. (More Tiger.) Now that he’s talking (at least some), it’s not doing a thing for many of those same people who wanted to hear from him. In fact, for them and others, the more he talks, the less he says. That, my friends, reminds me of the law of diminishing returns.

Tiger doesn’t want to talk. (We know this.) And when he talks, he doesn’t want to reveal much. (We know this.) Can anyone be surprised anymore?

By the way, Tiger also studied economics, at Stanford. I doubt that he could have ever imagined that his personal scarcity would create so much demand.

−The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, March 21

Ever Heard of Stiggy Hodgson?

STIGGY HODGSON IS 19 YEARS OLD and has 19 holes-in-one. If my math is correct, that’s one per year. From Chester, England, Hodgson is the world’s No. 12 ranked amateur. His nickname is “Mighty Mouse,” and you can say it to his face—he likes it. I read about Stiggy at Global Golf Post, the new online golf magazine that covers the pro and amateur games.

Last year Hodgson was a Walker Cupper and had some high finishes in important amateur events in Great Britain. He first broke 70 when he was a fourth-grader and has shot a 61. He plays with Callaway woods and Wilson irons. Perhaps surprising, his favorite golf course is in America—Pine Valley. His biggest fear is OB and he immensely enjoys Indian cuisine. (So I have at least two things in common with Stiggy.)

I guess Hodgson’s game does have at least one weak point. Stiggy says he needs work on his long-iron play. (I didn’t know modern players even hit long irons anymore.)

His advice for you and me: Do 90 percent of your practice from 100 yards and in. (Practice?)

I like his name. It’s memorable. Maybe we’ll be hearing it more in the future.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, March 20

Tom on Tour: A Chat With Robert Karlsson

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 WGC-CA Championship.

By Tom Collins
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


DESPITE HIS SIZE, I HAD some trouble keeping an eye on Robert Karlsson when he walked out of the scoring room because of the cluster of media people standing between us. Then Karlsson made his way over to the railing, just left of where I was standing, to sign autographs. Well, that was nice of him. For a moment, it looked like he was going to make a left and head in towards the clubhouse, meaning I’d have to hustle around one of the hospitality tents and find some way of cornering him inside. But for now, that challenge was averted.

There were only a few autographs he had to sign, and I was fortunate that after he finished signing, he continued to walk right along the railing and right in front of me, making my task of shouting at him unnecessary.

“Hey, Robert? You met a golf writer friend of mine a couple days ago. An old Scottish writer—”

“Oh yeah.”

“Well, his back was bothering him, so he had to go, but he passed along some questions he wanted me to ask you. You have a minute?”

“Sure.”

Bob wanted to know all sorts of things, like how Robert felt after winning the Qatar Masters (“Great”) or if he was playing in the Scottish Open prior to the Open Championship in July (“Nope”), and I had to think that the anticipation of heavy rains made Robert a little more concise with his answers than he normally might be, since Bob had indicated that this man was nice and liked to talk. But the two questions and answers that interested me the most dealt with his eye injury and golf in Sweden.

Q: How is the left eye feeling? How’s the recovery going?

A: It’s feeling good. I have regular check-ups every two weeks, and it feels fine.

Q: When you were having problems with your eye, how did it affect your game? Was it painful?

A: No, no pain. Just depth perception. It was frustrating because I could never tell if the ball was sitting up or down. I had to look at the side of the ball just so I would know what to do with it.

Q: With how well the Swedes dominate winter sports, why do you think golf is so strong? What I mean to say is, what is it about the Swedish system that produces so many fine players?

A: Well, actually I think it’s for a reason not very many people consider. It’s the great weather. Yes, it can get very cold there, but the weather in the summer is perfect, so you don’t ever have to worry about a bad day on the golf course. Just quality golf. You see so many young kids from Sweden who are very fit, not only because of all the winter sports but also all of the quality golf they’re able to play in the summer.

Despite trying to get inside and off the course because of the impending rain, Karlsson seemed thoughtful and relaxed when he answered the questions, which really meant a lot.

I also noticed, before I left, that because of the steak fajitas today, I had two or three huge black pieces of something sticking out of my teeth. So I guess I should also thank Robert Karlsson for not laughing in my face.

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

Thursday, March 18

2010 Transitions Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2010 TRANSITIONS CHAMPIONSHIP is underway at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Tampa Bay, Florida. Garrett Willis is the current leader at 6 under.

Purse: $5.4 million
Winner’s share: $972,000
Defending champion: Retief Goosen

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

2010 Transitions Championship Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

Twelve hours of TV coverage are on tap for the 2010 Transitions Championship.

Thu, 3/18:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Fri, 3/19:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 3/20:
NBC 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 3/21:
NBC 3p - 6p ET

PGA Tour radio coverage

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, March 17

Something Green for St. Patrick’s Day





















GREEN CLOTHING, GREEN BEER … how about green golf balls? The above shot is of green putt-putt golf balls. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, y’all.

One thing is certain about St. Patrick, whose life is somewhat of a mystery. The patron saint of Ireland didn’t play golf. He couldn’t have—he was born more than 700 years too soon for the game, or at least the modern version of the game, believed to originate in Scotland around the 12th century.

But even had golf been around, St. Patrick might have avoided the game. Because it can be hard to be a great golfer and also be a saint.

–The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Anderson Silva/Flickr)

Tuesday, March 16

Definition Update: ‘Indefinite’ Means Until the Masters

TIGER WOODS HASN’T MISSED a Masters in 16 years. There are no DNPs beside his name dating back to 1995 when he first qualified to play at Augusta National as a 19-year-old amateur and freshman golfer for the Stanford Cardinal. In other words, Tiger has never missed the Masters. And he won’t miss the 2010 edition either, as he announced today.

“The Masters is where I won my first major,” Tiger said at his Web site, “and I view this tournament with great respect. After a long and necessary time away from the game, I feel like I’m ready to start my season at Augusta.”

Long time away from the game? Really? You sure made it sound like it could be a lot longer.

December 11: “I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf.”

February 19: “I do plan to return to golf one day, I just don’t know when that day will be.”

In a saga with more twists than Chubby Checker, this may be the first unsurprising thing to happen. If you were rooting hard for Tiger’s Masters return, then you probably should thank CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz. Nantz said in a Golf Magazine interview the Masters would be fine without Tiger. That sealed it. Put his name down. Get his locker ready.

Tiger and the Masters, the Masters and Tiger. They just go together, you know? OK, I’m going to say it. Tiger will never miss a Masters. NEVER. I know I’m sticking my neck way out, but what could possibly stop him now? Whatever you can possibly think up, I’m going to say Tiger could overcome it and appear at Augusta National in mid April. And the April after that and that and that and that.

One final thought. Watch Tiger win it. Wouldn’t that just be the end-all of end-alls? The world would swoon at the sight of Woods slipping into his fifth Green Jacket. Who knows? He might even take Ari Fleisher off retainer.

–The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Keith Allison/Flickr)

Monday, March 15

Ernie Els Kicks Blue Monster Where It Hurts

2010 WGC-CA Championship Recap
Winner: Ernie Els
Score: 18 under, 270 (68, 66, 70, 66)
Quote: “I just felt different today.”
Fact: First name is Theodore.
Thought: Legit chance at Augusta if Ernie keeps his head straight.


ERNIE ELS CLOSED OUT a golf tournament on Sunday. His 66 in the final round of the WGC-CA Championship at Doral was statement golf. The Big Easy didn’t plunk one into the water on the 18th hole, nor did he back into a win. It was an impressive display from a talented player who has had his share of struggles.

“The wind was blowing and I hit solid shots,” Ernie said. “Charl [Schwartzel] came at me all day. I had to come up with the goods.”

The win vaults the tall South African from 20th to eighth in the world rankings as he sets his sights on Magnolia Lane and maybe, just maybe, a long-awaited Green Jacket. Yet Els will not swagger after putting up two 66s and an 18-under total at the feared Blue Monster.

“Two years ago when I won,” he said, “I got all carried away and thought I was going to win Augusta. This time, I just want to take it in.”

So, what does this win mean?

It means Ernie is still very competitive at age 40, his first win after reaching that milestone, and his first world golf championship title against an elite field—minus Tiger Woods, of course.

It means Ernie will head into Augusta National and Masters week with confidence. And confidence is huge. I heard Jason Gore talking about the “c” word just the other day on Golf Channel. Confidence is the intangible that Els and all players need to win a major—or any tournament.

There’s one other possibility. The win means basically nothing. It might only mean that Ernie put it all together for four rounds in Miami. My sense is that it’s something more than a great week against a great field. We’ll see if Theodore Ernest Els can build on his success over the next few weeks and the balance of the season.

–The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, March 13

Gusty Breezes and Missed Putts at Puerto Rico Open



























(Photos courtesy of Rob Hayashida of Golf Views)

ARMCHAIR GOLF is in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, for the Puerto Rico Open.

RORY SABBATINI TYPIFIED PLAYERS I watched on a windy Saturday at the Puerto Rico Open. Putts didn’t drop for the South African and the frustration showed. In fact, of the several groups I watched, I didn’t see any player hole a putt of more than a few feet on the grainy, undulating greens. And on a few occasions, I saw players miss short par putts.

It’s only the third year for this PGA Tour stop, and I imagine the players are still learning the subtleties of the Tom Kite-designed course, including the apparently tricky putting surfaces.





























Sabbatini, who opened with a forgettable 77, was paired with Mark Calcavecchia (68) and 2008 Puerto Rico Open champion Greg Kraft (72). Course designer and Champions Tour player Tom Kite shot a respectable 73 on the lengthy layout. John Daly posted a 69. With preferred lies in play, I expect the tournament record of 14-under par to fall.

Cejka’s Break

What are players doing on their breaks between the first and second rounds? Hanging out at the resort mostly, except for Alex Cejka, who completed his opening round of 67 early on Saturday.

“I’m going to fly home and see my kids and come back tonight,” he said.

–The Armchair Golfer

Related:
Skip Kendall Is the Early Leader in Puerto Rico
How to Blow Dry Trump International with a Helicopter
It’s Raining Cats, Dogs and Iguanas at the Puerto Rico Open
Opening Media Conference and More Chi Chi Rodriguez
Chi Chi Rodriguez: Puerto Rico’s Golf Ambassador

Skip Kendall Is the Early Leader in Puerto Rico

ARMCHAIR GOLF is in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, for the Puerto Rico Open.

SKIP KENDALL IS A SHORT hitter on a long, waterlogged golf course, but it didn’t hinder him in the first round of the Puerto Rico Open. Kendall posted a 65 in a round that took 48 hours to complete due to weather delays caused by more than six inches of rain at Trump International Golf Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.

Kendall’s round began at 7:06 a.m. on Thursday. He played one hole, the 10th, holing a 7-iron from 159 yards for an eagle before the downpour halted play. About 24 hours later, Kendall played one more hole and made birdie. Again, play was suspended. At that rate, it would take more than two weeks to complete 18 holes. Skip took the weather delay in stride.

“We’ve been through this drill enough to realize you can’t control the weather,” Kendall said on Friday. “So you just have to deal with it the best you can here.”

Ranked 121st in driving distance on the PGA Tour, Kendall faced a wet Trump International layout that at over 7,500 yards is one of the longest tracks on tour. So far, the veteran has been able to keep up and was pleasantly surprised by the course setup and conditions when play resumed at 4:35 p.m. on Friday.

“Some of the tees were put forward a little bit, so that obviously helps someone like me. And it really wasn’t overly long at all.”

Kendall’s best finish this season is a tie for fourth at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico. He has won three times on the Nationwide Tour.

With the first round still in progress on Saturday, a Monday or Tuesday tournament finish is probable. The Trump International course record in tournament play is 64, which could fall this week since tournament officials have allowed preferred lies due to the soggy conditions.

–The Armchair Golfer

Related:
How to Blow Dry Trump International with a Helicopter
It’s Raining Cats, Dogs and Iguanas at the Puerto Rico Open
Opening Media Conference and More Chi Chi Rodriguez
Chi Chi Rodriguez: Puerto Rico’s Golf Ambassador

Friday, March 12

How to Blow Dry Trump International with a Helicopter




























(Photos courtesy of Rob Hayashida of Golf Views)

ARMCHAIR GOLF is in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, for the Puerto Rico Open.

I’VE SEEN A LOT of things on a golf course. Today I saw something new: a helicopter used as a giant blow dryer on a rain-deluged championship layout.

Desperate measures were in order for the Trump International Golf Club at the 2010 Puerto Rico Open. The championship layout had taken on more than six inches of rain in the last 24 hours, and a tournament that was scheduled to start at 7 a.m. on Thursday was still delayed at noon on Friday. A grounds crew armed with squeegees and pumps and working through the night could only do so much.

The loud whirr of the propellers signaled that the operation was underway. The helicopter started on the 1st hole, just as a golfer would. After flying a short distance along the fairway, it dropped down to just a few feet above the surface, hovering in place with its propellers rotating at high speed. Occasionally, men who dared to get close seemed to be directing the pilot as nearby palm trees swayed in the helicopter’s wake. It was a strange sight.

No word on the model of the helicopter, which belongs to Jorge Diaz, owner of the property. (Is there a preferred fairway-drying model?) I expect it worked fine, an important piece of equipment during this very soggy week at the Puerto Rico Open.

Players Emerge

Professional golfers are a bit like reptiles. However, instead of sunning themselves on rocks after torrential rain, they emerge from their hotel rooms and the players’ dining room to sun themselves on the practice tee and putting green, working out the kinks after a long weather delay. First-round play will resume at 4:35 p.m. on Friday.

–The Armchair Golfer

Related:
It’s Raining Cats, Dogs and Iguanas at the Puerto Rico Open
Opening Media Conference and More Chi Chi Rodriguez
Chi Chi Rodriguez: Puerto Rico’s Golf Ambassador

Thursday, March 11

It’s Raining Cats, Dogs and Iguanas at the Puerto Rico Open




















(Photo courtesy of Rob Hayashida of Golf Views)

ARMCHAIR GOLF is in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, for the Puerto Rico Open.

THE AVERAGE RAINFALL in Puerto Rico in March is about an inch. My question is, “Which March?” It’s raining cats, dogs and iguanas in Rio Grande, site of the 2010 Puerto Rico Open. Six inches of rain have fallen today as of 2 p.m. As torrents of rain continue to fall, play has been suspended until 7:15 a.m. on Friday. The plan is to play 18 on Friday, 18 on Saturday, and 36 on Sunday.

A frontal boundary—that’s weather talk I’ve picked up—has stalled over the area. The weather forecast calls for a 30 percent chance of showers on Friday. The weather is supposed to improve thereafter. But I can’t help but wonder if the weatherman is running scared now. I would be.

A few early groups teed off before the first round was suspended, playing one or two holes. Skip Kendall is the leader at 2 under. Kendall holed a 7-iron from 159 yards for a deuce on the par-4 10th. Nice start, Skip. Only 71 holes to go.

Unfortunately, I have not seen much of the golf course yet due to the weather conditions. But, at 7,526 yards, I can tell you Trump International is one of the longest tracks on the PGA Tour. In the media room, a few of us wondered how well the course will drain and dry out. Regardless, an already lengthy course has become even longer as a result of the heavy precipitation.

It’s been a rainy season on the PGA Tour. There were eight 2009 events during which preferred lies were played. There have already been five in 2010. In addition, the Puerto Rico Open is the sixth tournament this season to have a suspension of play. And it’s only March.

Pass the umbrellas, raingear and bucket hats. It’s a wet one.

Notes

On Thursday afternoon a group of media types including yours truly had an informal sit-down with Jaime Lopez Diaz, Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. Following are a few things he told us.

• The biggest challenge is building awareness about Puerto Rico as a golf and vacation destination among so much regional and worldwide competition.

• Puerto Rico has the largest economy in the Caribbean.

• About 90,000 spectators attended the 2009 Puerto Rico Open.

• There are 23 golf courses on the island; 17 are championship caliber.

• Those that come for golf or sun and sand find out there’s a lot more: culture, history, U.S.-equivalent infrastructure, accessibility, bilingual society.

–The Armchair Golfer

Related:
Opening Media Conference and More Chi Chi Rodriguez
Chi Chi Rodriguez: Puerto Rico’s Golf Ambassador

Wednesday, March 10

Opening Media Conference and More Chi Chi Rodriguez

(Photo courtesy of Rob Hayashida of Golf Views)

ARMCHAIR GOLF is in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, for the Puerto Rico Open.

IT HAS BEEN TOO many years since my high school Spanish, so I cannot share many of the particulars of Tuesday’s opening media conference at the Puerto Rico Open because it was conducted mostly in the native language. There was a parade of speakers who made brief comments to open the tournament, including Chi Chi Rodriguez, defending champion Michael Bradley, a PGA Tour representative and various Puerto Rican dignitaries and tourism officials.

But I definitely got the gist of their remarks. All those associated with staging the Puerto Rico Open and showcasing the island as a friendly tourist and golf destination are absolutely thrilled to be on the PGA Tour schedule. Smiles and gratitude require no translation. Hosting the Puerto Rico Open is a huge deal, sort of like a Super Bowl for the island, and something I would not grasp if not on the scene.

Chi Chi and the Shot

Although I didn’t have anything set up, I was hoping to meet Chi Chi and talk to him for a few minutes. I got my chance when Steve Ellis, a writer on assignment for The Golfer, pulled Rodriguez aside for an interview. I asked Steve if I could tag along and the three of us walked outside and stood in the warm sun.

Chi Chi, 74, looked immaculate in a striped white shirt, royal blue slacks and his signature Panama hat. He slipped on a leather jacket and stood in the 80-degree heat as cool as a Polar bear. Steve was incredulous, commenting to me a few times later, “How can he be wearing that jacket?”

The interview began with Chi Chi describing the best shot of his career, a 6-iron from the rough on the 72nd hole of the 1991 U.S. Senior Open that set up a tap-in birdie. It tied him with Jack Nicklaus and forced an 18-hole playoff that he lost to the Golden Bear the following day. The career shot at Oakland Hills came back to me as Chi Chi described it. He had 185 yards and needed to hit a low hook, curving the ball about 50 yards. The ball landed on the right-hand side of the green (or apron) and spun 90 degrees left, rolling across the green until it stopped about a foot from the hole. Steve told me that, up in the booth, Johnny Miller called it the greatest shot he’d ever witnessed.

Not sure about that, but let’s just say it was a stunning golf shot at a tense moment in a major championship. (I wish I could share a video clip, but my search for one was unsuccessful.)

Steve asked, “How did you do it? How did you hit that shot?”

“I did it in my mind,” Chi Chi said. In other words, he visualized the shot and then stepped up and swatted the thing out of the rough. He was not particularly surprised by the result, except, perhaps, that the ball finished so close to the hole. Chi Chi was a shotmaker of the highest order who curved the ball left or right, hit it low or lower, and deftly spun the ball out of a variety of grasses and lies. It was the way golf was played in the days that preceded the power era.

To emphasize his mind control ability, Chi Chi also claimed that he could change traffic signals from red to green. Steve and I chuckled, but Chi Chi barely cracked a smile. Maybe so.

I asked Chi Chi what he remembered about his first PGA Tour victory at the 1963 Denver Open. The tournament was played at the Denver Country Club, and Chi Chi had a two-shot lead as he teed his ball on the final hole and unleashed a 300-yard-plus drive in the mile-high Colorado air.

Chi Chi laughed as he recalled that his playing partner Dave Hill said he was stupid for hitting a driver on the last hole with a slim lead. You should hit an iron, Hill told Rodriguez. Chi Chi shrugged it off, saying he knew he could fit his ball in the fairway. That kind of confidence in his abilities led to seven more wins on the PGA Tour.

Notes

Tuesday was a full day. Following are more of the day’s activities.

• Special breakfast that included a presentation on the Gran Melia Golf Resort Puerto Rico, followed by a guided tour of the property.

• Afternoon outing at Rio Mar Country Club, including lunch, time with the head pro, Rafael (a great guy), practice range time and golf until rain forced us from the course.

–The Armchair Golfer

Related:
Chi Chi Rodriguez: Puerto Rico’s Golf Ambassador

Monday, March 8

Chi Chi Rodriguez: Puerto Rico’s Golf Ambassador

ARMCHAIR GOLF is in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, for the Puerto Rico Open.

IF YOU CAREFULLY SCANNED PGA Tour scores from the early 1960s, you could spot one of the very few Hispanic names: Juan Rodriguez. (Another would be Roberto de Vicenzo, the great Argentine player.) I’m not sure when Juan became popularly known as “Chi Chi,” but that young man from humble beginnings in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, would become an accomplished and colorful player on the PGA Tour and roving golf ambassador for his small island nation.

Chi Chi won eight times on the PGA Tour and notched 22 victories on the Champions Tour. His first title came at the 1963 Denver Open when he was 28 years old. One of my most vivid memories of Rodriguez was watching him duel Jack Nicklaus in an 18-hole playoff at the 1991 U.S. Senior Open at Oakland Hills. Jack won with a 65; Chi Chi shot a very respectable 69. Rodriguez was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1992.

I doubt if there’s a day that goes by that he doesn’t consider himself extremely fortunate. Golf provided a path for Rodriguez that he could have never imagined as a boy who fashioned a makeshift golf club from the branch of a guava tree.

“It means everything to me,” Chi Chi told PGATour.com a year ago. “Through golf I made everything I have in life.”

Rodriguez has long been known for his flair, including his trademark Panama hat, rainbow attire and sword antics with his putter when his golf ball dropped into the cup. Many know of Chi Chi as an aging champion, but here’s a peek at the Puerto Rican golfer in his early days on tour:

Early days: SI photo of Juan “Chi Chi” Rodriguez

Puerto Rico’s golf ambassador is especially proud the PGA Tour has come to his homeland. “It’s a dream come true,” he said. “This will be a big step for Puerto Rico.”

Latin American Players in Puerto Rico Open

Following are some of the Latin American players scheduled to play this week at Trump International Golf Course.

Rafael Campos, a San Juan native who plays on the Virginia Commonwealth golf team, will be competing in his third Puerto Rico Open.

Max Alverio, an Aibonito native, is a University of Alabama graduate playing in his second Puerto Rico Open.

Erick Morales, a Dorado native, caddied in the two previous Puerto Rico Opens. He qualified to play this year by winning the Chapter Open Qualifier in a playoff.

Julio Animal Santos Polanco, making his first appearance in Puerto Rico, is considered to be the first Dominican-born player to compete on the PGA Tour.

Daniel Barbetti of Argentina, the Venezuela Open champion, will make his first PGA Tour start this week.

Cesar Costilla, also of Argentina and winner of the Visa Open de Argentina, will play in his inaugural PGA Tour event.

Argentine and two-time PGA Tour winner Jose Coceres hopes for a good showing at Trump International after a series of injuries.

–The Armchair Golfer

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

Sunday, March 7

Greetings from the Puerto Rico Open

I AM PLEASED TO be writing from Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, tonight. ARMCHAIR GOLF is attending the 2010 Puerto Rico Open this week as the guest of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. Played opposite of the WGC-CA Championship at Doral, this is the third year the PGA Tour has teed it up in Puerto Rico. Michael Bradley is the defending champion.

The tournament venue is the Trump International Golf Course, a Tom Kite design (Tom will be here). The championship course is a part of the vast Gran Melia Resort, my accommodations for the week. I must say, this is the perfect respite after such a long, cold, icy winter.

So check back for PGA Tour golf from near old San Juan, served up fresh and hopefully tasty. Lastly, congratulations to Camilo Villegas for his win at the Honda Classic.

–The Armchair Golfer

Friday, March 5

2010 Honda Classic TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

UPDATE:
Click here for 2011 Honda Classic TV schedule and tournament info

THE 2010 HONDA CLASSIC is being played at PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Camilo Villegas and Anthony Kim share the 36-hole lead.

Purse: $5.6 million
Winner’s share: $1.008 million
Defending champion: Y.E. Yang

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

2010 Honda Classic Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

Six hours of weekend TV coverage are on tap for the 2010 Honda Classic.

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

Sun, 3/7:
NBC 3p - 6p ET

PGA Tour radio coverage

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, March 4

Good one. Good one. Good one.


















KIRK TRIPLETT IS WORKING on something. Only he and his caddie know for sure. Actually, I’m going to say that his caddie doesn’t know. He’s working the towel. That’s what he does.

If you’ve ever watched Tour pros beat balls, you know that after the initial excitement wears off it’s pretty boring. Pick any guy out there and watch them hit for a while. You’ll see what I mean. Here’s what’s going through my mind as I watch them go through the bag—the wedges, the irons, the metals—and slowly dismantle that perfectly stacked pyramid of shiny white golf balls on the practice tee:

“Good one. Good one. Good one. Good one. Good one.” (Player pauses to stare at something or chuckle with caddie.) “Good one. Good one. Good one.”

They might be working on something. They might just be warming up. They might be showing off. I have no idea. All I’ve got is “Good one. Good one. Good one.”

I have a suspicion that I’m not the only one who is unable to detect the subtleties of range work. A couple of Tour pros, Charles Howell III and J.B. Holmes, recently spotted Tiger on the Isleworth practice tee. Holmes said, “It looks like he’s hitting it pretty good.” Howell said, “Seriously, he seemed like he was hitting it the same as he ever did.”

I totally understand that because, one, he’s Tiger Woods, but also because I come to the same conclusion every time I watch players swing the clubs on the range. Maybe I’ll switch things up and use J.B.’s line.

“It looks like he’s hitting it pretty good.” (Next guy.) “It looks like he’s hitting it pretty good.” (Next guy.) “It looks like he’s hitting it pretty good.” (Next guy …

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: RGlasson/Flickr)

Wednesday, March 3

The Rules Geek: Hunter Mahan’s Driver Replacement

Editor’s note: The Rules Geek may be an occasional and annoying feature at ARMCHAIR GOLF. Well see how it goes.

HUNTER MAHAN FIRED A 65 in the final round and cruised to a one-stroke victory over Ricky Fowler at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. In addition to the alcohol-fueled enthusiasm of Phoenix fans, Mahan’s round featured a driver malfunction on the second hole.

“I looked down at it, and it had a little crack in it,” Mahan said, “and I was able to take it out of play.”

Correct.

Rule 4-3 Damaged Clubs: Repair and Replacement allows a player to replace a club that “is damaged in the normal course of play.”

Mahan exercised the replacement option, but, of course, there’s a caveat: “The replacement of a club must not unduly delay play and must not be made by borrowing any club selected for play by any other person playing on the course.”

That’s where Mahan’s girl friend, Kandi, came in. Kandi had the keys to Mahan’s courtesy car and, with the help of a cart-driving rules official, hustled out to the parking lot to retrieve Mahan’s backup driver, a Ping Rapture V2.

“I got it before the next tee shot,” Mahan said, “which was nice, because the next hole is a par-5. I really didn’t want to hit a 3-wood off the par-5.”

No sir. No you did not. But you didn’t have to thanks to Rule 4-3. (And Kandi.) The Rules Geek salutes Hunter Mahan for knowing the rules, and his girlfriend Kandi for helping him to play by them.

The Rules Geek sez rules were made to be followed. Got a rules-related tip or story? Send it to The Rules Geek at armchairgolfer@gmail.com.

(Image: Chase McAlpine/Flickr)

Tuesday, March 2

Did You Know Laura Davies Has 73 Wins?





















I HAD NO IDEA. By closing with a 69 to win the New Zealand Open on Sunday, 46-year-old English golfer Laura Davies collected her 73rd worldwide title. Wow. Where have I been? I’m guessing trophy room rather than trophy case.

I knew Davies was one of the top women golfers for a lengthy stretch in the 1980s and 1990s, but she has never stopped winning golf tournaments since she got her first victory at the 1985 Belgian Ladies’ Open. In her quarter century as a professional, the long-hitting Davies has played all over the world. Here’s how her wins break down:

LPGA Tour: 20
Ladies European Tour: 39
LPGA of Japan Tour: 6
Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour: 6
Ladies Asian Golf Tour: 2

To my surprise, 15 of Davies’ 73 wins have been in the 2000s. Four wins are majors. She may not be the dominant player she once was—especially on the LPGA Tour—but she just keeps winning. Davies has also won the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit seven times, a record. I’d say it’s a Hall of Fame career.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: dnkbdotcom/Flickr)

Monday, March 1

Caddie Greg Rita, 1956-2010

IMAGINE BEING ON THE BAG for Curtis Strange, John Daly, David Duval, Mark O’Meara, Scott Hoch and Gil Morgan. One word comes to mind: intense.

Greg Rita, who died Saturday on his 54th birthday after a two and a half year battle with brain cancer, strode the fairways with those and other players in a PGA Tour career that spanned more than three decades.

Nicknamed “Boats,” Rita looped for Strange when he won consecutive U.S. Opens in 1988 and 1989, the first repeat winner in 40 years. And he was the bag man when Big John was presented the Claret Jug at St. Andrews in 1995. Rita was inducted into the Professional Caddies Association Hall of Fame in 2000.

In his 2nd Annual David Feherty Golden Ferrets, Feherty conferred ferret status on Rita and wrote, “It’s not the same without you. And we don’t care if part of your brain is missing. (In fact, to be a caddie it’s almost a prerequisite.) So get your ass back out here. We miss you. We love you.”

The caddie fought hard. “If there’s a way, I’ve got the will to get through this,” Rita said in 2008. He is survived by his wife and 4-year-old son. He will be greatly missed by fellow caddies, players and others throughout the golf world.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: nsaplayer/Flickr)