Monday, May 31

Remembering Those Who Made Ultimate Sacrifice



















MEMORIAL DAY IS A NATIONAL holiday in America. My kids are out of school today. I could be off work, and I am, sort of, even though I’m catching up on a few work-related tasks. It’s easy to think of Memorial Day as the unofficial start of summer, a long weekend for outdoor fun and cookouts, as they’re called in the South.

But it’s always good for me to be reminded about the true reason for Memorial Day: to honor and remember United States military personnel who died in service to this country. That’s bravery. That’s sacrifice.

I got an early reminder two weeks ago when I was in Fort Smith, Arkansas, visiting 1955 U.S. Open champion Jack Fleck. I stayed at a downtown hotel and on one of my walks I discovered the nearby national military cemetery. It was a gorgeous evening. The gates were open so I entered the manicured grounds with the hundreds of small, white gravestones. I don’t know why. I was just drawn to the quiet and solemnity of the military cemetery and stopped at times to read the markers. I didn’t have deep thoughts, except that I remembered my uncle who served as a medic in Vietnam and died two years ago at the age of 63, his body riddled with cancer.

I have no clue what it’s like to fight for my country, but I realize there are so many (including a few in my family) who know exactly what it means to fight and also so many who fought and died in foreign wars. I was fortunate to grow up during peacetime. I’m thankful for those who performed their military duties and made the ultimate sacrifice. Their loss was my gain.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
Pro Golfers Who Served in WW II

(Image: Adam Bartlett/Flickr)

Saturday, May 29

Common Courses: Mangrove Bay 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.

WHEN I’M IN ST. PETERSBURG, Florida, visiting our friends Aly, Sheila and Christina and want to play golf, I head out to Mangrove Bay Golf Course, a 15-minute drive from downtown situated near Tampa Bay. My Mangrove Bay excursions have worked out well for Aly because when I show up on family vacation he has a built-in excuse to play. Aly is a highly infrequent golfer.

Mangrove Bay is a municipal facility that has modest green and cart fees by Florida standards. Although the course gets a lot of play, it never has seemed beat up to me. (Bermuda grass is tough.) In fact, it has always been in good condition, especially for a public course. Measuring 6,779 yards (that must be from the tips), the par-72 layout is sufficiently challenging without being overly difficult. My kind of track. I’ve played it several times, often with borrowed clubs, and probably shot 80 to 85. And I’ve played it in August (yes, August) on suffocating 90-degree afternoons. Because I have no sense.

I remember once racing off the course with Aly due to one of those sudden Florida thunderstorms. It was just as well. Air conditioning revived our bodies and spirits.

Mangrove Bay has more than its share of retirees tooling around in their golf carts. I can almost see myself there in about 20 years. I could skip playing in August and other blast-furnace months. It would be a good course to retire on: not too hard, not too expensive, close enough to everything. That is, if I retired in St. Pete.

When I looked up Mangrove Bay I was surprised to learn that Golf Digest had given the course three stars in a “Best Places to Play” issue and Golf for Women magazine once ranked it as a top 100 women-friendly golf course. Maybe Mangrove Bay is not as common as I thought, a muni gem on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Player comments

Comments about Mangrove Bay from GolfLink.com:

“Some members of the pro shop are rude. Bob the starter is great, however.”

“As a relatively new golfer, this course offered some challenges but was also forgiving. The fairways were very well maintained.”

“An easy course, but very well maintained and excellent value.”

“Played this course last Monday and had a blast! I was a walk-on and was paired with a local named Charlie and two gentlemen from England who currently reside in the area. The course was immaculate, and very enjoyable to play.”

And a final comment from a 2.8 handicapper:

“If you play the back tees it will challenge every shot in your bag and has holes that will test your decision-making. Great course for the amount of rounds that are played each year.”

−The Armchair Golfer

More common courses:
Balboa Park Golf Course
Desert Aire Golf Course

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

(Image: golf.tampabay.com)

Thursday, May 27

2010 Crowne Plaza Invitational TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2010 CROWNE PLAZA INVITATIONAL is underway at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. Jeff Overton, Jason Bohn and Blake Adams share the first-round lead at 7 under.

Purse: $6.2 million
Winner’s share: $1.116 million
Defending champion: Steve Stricker

The field
The course
Tee times
The live report
Tournament news
Tournament website

2010 Crowne Plaza Invitational Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

Nine hours of weekend TV coverage are on tap for the 2010 Crowne Plaza Invitational.

Fri, 5/28:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 5/29:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 5/30:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

PGA Tour radio coverage

−The Armchair Golfer

Calling in Sick to the Senior PGA Championship

THEY’RE PLAYING THE SENIOR PGA Championship this week near Denver and I was just noticing all the fellas who won’t be teeing it up for mostly health and injury reasons. At the risk of picking on the old guys (because I realize younger players also drop out each week at PGA Tour events), here’s the list of no-shows for the year’s first Champions Tour major:

Paul Azinger - flu
Hal Sutton – hip
Peter Jacobsen – illness
Jerry Pate – knees
Scott Hoch – wrist
Craig Stadler – medical reasons
Mark McCumber – back
Tom Pernice, Jr. – playing on PGA Tour this week

(Photo: Paul Azinger withdrew from Senior PGA / supergolfdude via Flickr)

So, Pernice is the only one playing elsewhere. Everyone else would need a note from their mother if they were skipping school. If you consider how much tournament golf those 50-something guys have played through the years, you can imagine the buildup of nagging aches, pains and injuries and why their bodies are wearing out. It’s not like the golf swing is a natural motion. It puts ridiculous stress on the back. Hands, wrists, shoulders, knees and hips are also vulnerable.

Years of travel, tossing around clubs and luggage, riding long hours in wheeled and winged vehicles, and sleeping on strange mattresses take a toll. Playing the tour looks glamorous, right? I guess it can be. It can also be drudgery—tough on bodies and relationships.

“Don’t ever get old,” muttered an aching Ben Hogan as he withdrew from the 1971 Houston Open, his final tour appearance. Fine, but that was before there was a Champions Tour with generous purses and a high-tech fitness trailer at every stop. Still, I can see Ben’s point.

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, May 26

Opinions Wanted: The Back 9 Network Survey

GOLF INDUSTRY VETERAN DENNIS ALLEN and a team of others are launching something called the Back 9 Network and want input from golf fans. In other words, folks like you.

In a recent email, Dennis shared a brief excerpt from the business plan:
The Back 9 Network will become the premier lifestyle and entertainment multimedia network for golf fans globally. We will be different from the competition by focusing on the intrinsic story of the sport and by examining the players and the world in which golf resides. This attention to the details will reward viewers with an interesting and unique experience, one that is entertaining and at the same time informative. In short, the Back 9 Network will provide a fresh lens to view all the drama in the world of golf, from the back nine of Augusta to emotional stories about golfer’s lives.
The network’s content and programming will be available “anywhere, anytime and through any device.”

One thing Dennis made clear is that it’s a collaborative endeavor. Back 9 wants to hear from golf fans to shape its programming and inform its decisions. If you want to jump in with your thoughts and can spare five minutes, take the survey.

Take the Back 9 Network survey

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, May 25

Golf Was Last Resort for Blake Adams

I GUESS WHEN YOU exhaust all your other sports options—and bust up your body in the process—you can always turn to golf. That’s been the case for Blake Adams.

Adams is the cat who played in the final group with winner Jason Day at the HP Byron Nelson Championship and finished in a tie for second. He’s a 34-year-old rookie on the PGA Tour who competed in seemingly every sport but golf until his body wouldn’t let him. He became a golf professional at the ripe old age of 25.

“I was better at football, baseball, basketball growing up,” Adams said at the Byron Nelson, “and golf was something I did in the summertime and something that I always had some success at but it just wasn’t my sport. But after you tear your rotator cuff twice your baseball career is pretty much done, and football, too.”

Not that golf is easy for Blake. The man has a thick medical file. “I wake up like I’m 80 … I creak and crack,” he said.

Adams has the arthritis of a 60-year-old. Plus three bone spurs, a bulging disk in his back and a cyst. There’s more. He was also told he needs new hips. He has broken his left ankle and nearly every finger on his left hand. I’ve surely missed a few things. Did I mention he’s 34? Goodness gracious.

SI’s Gary Van Sickle called Adams “Tin Cup” and wrote that “he lives in a small town in south Georgia where he practices by hitting balls on a dirt road and shagging them himself with the help of his Labrador retriever.” I like that. (Hey, I wonder if his Lab is that blind, three-legged dog named Lucky.)

The rookie is just glad to be playing on the PGA Tour and cashing checks like the fat one from the Byron Nelson. About his health woes, Blake said, “I don’t know what’s next, but we’ll just fight through it whatever happens.”

I’m sure he will. And if golf doesn’t work out, there’s always billiards.

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, May 24

Yes, He Khan: Journeyman Captures BMW PGA Championship

2010 BMW PGA Championship Recap
Winner: Simon Khan
Score: 6 under, 278 (72, 69, 71, 66)
Quote: “This means everything.”
Fact: Introduced to golf by grandfather.
Thought: Might be only player who likes new 18th hole.

SIMON KHAN LOST HIS TOUR card last year and wasn’t exactly setting European Tour courses ablaze thus far in the 2010 season. Khan’s best finish was a tie for 27th two weeks ago. Before that, the Englishman was sputtering along with finishes such as 56th, 93rd and 105th.

That all changed at Wentworth Club on Sunday when Khan posted a 5-under 66 to win the prestigious BMW PGA Championship by a shot over Fredrik Andersson Hed and Luke Donald, who stumbled with a double bogey at the 17th. A birdie and par on the last two holes, both par 5s, would have earned Donald the title. He shrugged it off afterward. Still, it must sting, right? Luke?

Meanwhile, Khan, a mostly invisible player of late (he was a last-minute entry at Wentworth), rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th green that turned out to be the clincher. Welcome to the math of Khan. From a best 2010 check of 7,360 euros to 750,000 euros. From 471st to 106th in the world rankings. From Q-school late last year to a a five-year exemption on the European Tour, including an automatic entry into the Open Championship. Even a Ryder Cup spot is now possible for the 37-year-old from Essex. A little Sinatra seems appropriate: “Blue skies smilin’ at me. Nothing but blue skies do I see.”

By the way, Khan’s charge was also the largest final-day comeback in the history of the tournament. Simon, who had one other European Tour win in 2004, was seven shots back entering the final round. Well done, sir.

Once again, it demonstrates one good week can change everything. Yes, it Khan.

Tour Notes

• PGA Tour: Australian Jason Day won the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
• LPGA Tour: Sun Young Yoo captured the Sybase Match Play Championship by beating Angela Stanford 3 and 1.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, May 22

Maui Golf Is Mesmerizing

IT WAS 18 YEARS AGO to the month that I made my first trip to the Hawaiian Islands. Maui, to be exact. Here’s how it happened. One gray winter day in Seattle I came home from my job at Boeing and said to my wife, “Let’s go to Hawaii. Right now.” (Seattle winters can do that to a person.)

So we went, but not until early May, which was perfect. As I remember it, the weather was relatively mild by Hawaii standards. Of course, I took my golf clubs. I didn’t really care how much it would cost. I had to play.


(Photo: Royal Ka’anapali at Ka’anapali Golf Resort /
courtesy of Steve & Alicia/Flickr)



I can’t tell you a lot about Hawaii golf. I can tell you a bit about Maui, though, which is where we spent nine blissful days sipping Kona coffee, eating fresh pineapple and homemade banana bread by the pool every morning, and tripping around the island in a small red convertible. It was before kids, a lifetime ago.

I only played golf two of those days, a break from sightseeing in Lahaina, on the road to Hana, at a nearby rainforest, and atop Haleakala. The first course I played was Royal Ka’anapali, a Robert Trent Jones Sr. design the seniors have frequented as a Champions Tour stop. I remember it was windy and I didn’t play very well. The layout wasn’t overly difficult, a good resort course for all levels. Green fees were $90. That was a lot in 1992. I didn’t care. I had to play golf. It was part of the Maui experience.

Kapalua Resort was my second and final golf outing. I teed it up at the Plantation Course, site of the season-opening SBS Championship. Words can’t do justice to the surroundings. I can still recall looking out across the sloping course and sparkling blue waters to the nearby island of Molokai. It was mesmerizing, one of my best all-time golf memories. The green fees were $125. I felt like a big shot. Then I found out I could play a second 18 for just $25, so I went 36 that day. My game was respectable. I shot in the low 80s. The experience was bucket-list material.

I know there are many more Hawaii golf courses, and I hope to get back. I’d definitely return to Maui, but now that I live on the East Coast the Caribbean is also a likely golf destination.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Brought to you by HawaiiGolf.com.)

Friday, May 21

Name the Player at TPC Sawgrass


























NOTE THE PUTTER. NOTE the non-flashy attire. Who is this player?

This may not be an easy one so I will give you a couple of hints. Think American. Think veteran. The photo was snapped at TPC Sawgrass during the 2009 Players Championship.

OK, now you’re on your own.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: nsaplayer/Flickr)

2010 HP Byron Nelson Championship TV Schedule and Notes

THE 2010 HP BYRON NELSON CHAMPIONSHIP is in progress at TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas in Irving, Texas. Steve Elkington is the current leader at 8 under.

Purse: $6.5 million
Winner’s share: $1.17 million
Defending champion: Rory Sabbatini

The field
The course
Tee times
The live report
Tournament news
Tournament website

2010 HP Byron Nelson Championship Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

Nine hours of weekend TV coverage are on tap for the 2010 HP Byron Nelson Championship.

Fri, 5/21:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 5/22:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 5/23:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

PGA Tour radio coverage

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, May 20

Golf Digest’s 75 Best Rivalries





















GOLF DIGEST HAS PUBLISHED “Best Rivalries in Golf,” the magazine’s top 75 ranking of the game’s most intense and enduring grudge matches. I can’t argue with Nicklaus vs. Palmer at No. 1 on the list. There was a nine-year stretch from 1958 to 1966 during which Arnold and Jack captured seven Masters. Actually, Nicklaus appears in at least five of the rivalries. Besides Arnie, Jack’s other listed rivals include Tom Watson, Tiger Woods, Lee Trevino and Tom Weiskopf.

Sam Snead vs. Ben Hogan is a solid pick, as is Bobby Jones vs. Walter Hagen. I’m not buying Mickelson vs. Woods at No. 4. Tiger has had no true rival to this point. (Tiger vs. Field?) That’s bound to change. And perhaps soon.

The rankings are an interesting walk through golf history and include non-player rivalries that have impacted the game. Courses, issues, architects, countries, grasses, continents, swing coaches, college programs, magazines, baseball players, equipment and even years (1953 vs. 2000) are pitted against each other.

Take a look here.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Keith Allison/Flickr)

Wednesday, May 19

53 Minutes Not a Good Night’s Sleep for Darren Clarke

HEY DARREN CLARKE. YOU might want to stick around next time to make sure you actually missed the cut. I featured Clarke in my recent “Name the Player” post. That might become a regular thing.

But back to the anticipated missed cut. A few weeks ago, Darren left the Spanish Open after completing two rounds at level (even) par. (The expected cut line was one under.) Back in England, Clarke tried to catch a flight from Gatwick when he was surprised with the news that he had indeed qualified for the final two rounds. Unfortunately, the Irishman missed the flight because of a traffic mess.

What to do? Hire a private jet, of course. Darren chartered a plane at the Oxford airport and lifted off for Malaga at 2 in the morning. A two-hour drive to Seville followed the flight. Then the colorful tour pro tucked himself in for exactly 53 minutes of sleep before rising and heading to Real Golf Club de Seville for his 7:35 a.m. tee time. (I feel a deep yawn coming on.)

After shooting an even-par 72, Clarke said he felt “pretty tired” at times during his round. No kidding. Me? I could barely fill my coffee cup after 53 minutes of rest.

But I don’t envy your 72 after less than an hour in dreamland, sir. (I think I just told a fib.) Instead, I admire you for your professionalism. You made it back and finished the tournament in 30th place, including that final-round 69. Just figure you’re going to make the cut next time and you’ll get a much better night’s sleep—no matter what happens.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: rgusick/Flickr)

Tuesday, May 18

Golf Pet Peeve: The Wannabe Golf Instructor

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


RIGHT OFF THE CLUB, you know it’s going to be a bad shot. The ball starts left, continues hooking left, and disappears into the thick woods 15 yards left of the fairway. You’re frustrated, maybe even a little pissed. This hook has been driving you crazy.

As you reach down to pick up your tee, you hear a voice behind you: “Know what you did wrong there, don’t you? Your stance is too narrow, and you’re not keeping your head down. And that grip of yours. Look at that grip.”

Meet The Wannabe Golf Instructor.

I think there are two unwritten rules in golf instruction: First, never give unsolicited advice. Second, never EVER give unsolicited advice to a better golfer. But The Wannabe Golf Instructor scoffs at such unwritten rules. The Wannabe Golf Instructor knows just enough about golf to make him dangerous.

His own golf swing has more flaws than Tim Tebow’s throwing motion, but he watches the Golf Channel religiously, making him the self-appointed mouthpiece of all things related to golf swing instruction. He’s a close relative to the The Golf Channel Guy. He has a library of Hank Haney, Butch Harmon, and David Leadbetter instructional videos. His swing is mechanical and slow. His scores suck. He putts like a bull in a china store. And, yeah, that probably doesn’t make much sense.

The Wannabe Golf Instructor has zero self-awareness. None. The Wannabe Golf Instructor offers unsolicited golf instruction at every opportunity. Even though he averages a 98, he will freely offer poor advice to a 10 handicap on the driving range. He will sit in the bar and analyze Ernie Els’ shoulder turn and Justin Leonard’s putting stroke.

You’ll nod your head and act like you’re listening. That is, until he tells breaks down your swing after that nasty hook on the 4th hole. Then, you might just have to tell The Wannabe Golf Instructor to shut up. Good luck with that.

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

(Image: klavr/Flickr)

Saturday, May 15

Bobby Clampett Is Back (as a Player)

IT’S HARD FOR ME to believe that Bobby Clampett is now playing on the Champions Tour. But it’s true. There’s his name at the top of the leaderboard after two rounds of the Regions Charity Classic in Hoover, Alabama. Clampett, who turned 50 in April, has put together rounds of 65 and 64 for a 15-under total of 129. He leads Dan Forsman by one shot. Forsman’s 62 on Saturday set the course record.

Clampett is best known for his nearly two-decade career as a golf commentator for CBS and TNT, but I also remember him as the next big thing when he came out of Brigham Young University in 1980. Bobby was a three-time All-American and two-time Collegiate Golfer of the Year. He was also low amateur at the U.S. Open and Masters during his college years. Clampett was destined for greatness, or so it seemed.

It didn’t work out. The player turned commentator won just once on the PGA Tour at the 1982 Southern Open. Bobby led the 1982 British Open after two rounds and then struggled mightily over the last 36 holes to finish in a tie for 10th. He had lots of seconds and thirds in his PGA Tour career and won more than $1 million (when purses were much smaller) but never really fulfilled his promise. What I remember—and I might have this wrong—is that Clampett lost both his game and himself and could never get his head right again.

Not that he hasn’t played since those earlier tour days. I’ve read that Bobby has teed it up on the Nationwide Tour and qualified for a PGA Tour event in 2008. Maybe the Champions Tour will serve as a rebirth for his game, another opportunity on the second-chance tour, just as it has been for so many others. One more good round and he’ll have his first tour win in 28 years.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, May 14

Name the Player Based on the Shoes and Footwork





















NOTE THE SHOES. NOTE the footwork. You can even note the snazzy britches, if you like. Who is the player?

I know this is not an easy assignment so I will give you a couple of hints that may or may not be helpful. The player is not an American. Nor is it Ian Poulter. (But the footwork tells you that, right?)

The photo was snapped on the practice range at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: rgusick/Flickr)

Thursday, May 13

Golf Is a Game


















I SPENT MOST OF TODAY at Hardscrabble Country Club in Fort Smith, Arkansas. It was a good day, the kind of day that reminded me that golf is a game. I know I’m stating the obvious and may sound plain dumb. But after the last six months of mostly writing about the pros and peripheral issues it has been easy to lose sight of that simple joyous fact.

What brought it back for me was watching young golfers pound balls on the practice tee at Hardscrabble. They ranged from high school to college age. They were good. Their swings were loose and free and powerful. They were playing the game even while practicing. There was enthusiasm and abandon in their whole approach. They didn’t even have to think about it. It was fun to watch and thoroughly refreshing.

Youth instinctively know how to play. Adults easily lose it because so much else can (and does) get in the way. Golf is most definitely a game. I’m glad I was reminded of that today.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: ScruffDog/Flickr)

Wednesday, May 12

15-Year-Old Alexis Thompson Will Turn Pro in June

TEENAGER ALEXIS THOMPSON has lined up a summer job: professional golf. Thompson will make her pro debut on the LPGA Tour when she tees it up in mid June at the ShopRite LPGA Classic in New Jersey. Before she arrives in New Jersey, she’ll play on the U.S. Curtis Cup team in the June matches against Great Britain and Ireland in Manchester, Massachusetts.

“She thinks she’s ready,” said her father, Scott Thompson, at SunSentinel.com. “She tells me all the time at dinner, 'I’m ready, Dad, let me go.'”

Alexis will be a younger pro than Michelle Wie, who was one week shy of her 16th birthday when she entered the professional ranks.

The golf prodigy is used to firsts. In 2007 at age 12, Thompson was the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. She also played in the championship in 2008 and 2009, and was ranked as the No. 1 female amateur last year.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
Alexis Thompson Still Tops News About 14-Year-Olds

Tuesday, May 11

Tiger’s Swing Challenge: In Search of More Fairways

HANK HANEY HAS RESIGNED as swing coach for Tiger Woods. I won’t pretend to know anything about Tiger’s swing and what he should and shouldn’t do in regards to a coach. There are plenty of would-be experts on that subject. But I do know the fairway is there for a reason, and throughout his career Tiger hasn’t spent as much time in it as he would like.

Missed fairways have put tremendous pressure on other parts of Tiger’s game—which admittedly are brilliant, like his recovery play and putting—but it’s reasonable to expect that those skills will fade over time. His putting, even pre-scandal, has been suspect in recent majors. Almost all of the great ones who’ve played the game have eventually lost their touch and nerve on the greens.

Whether it’s a tweak or a rebuild, I think Tiger needs a swing that will put his ball in play much more often. That’s the bottom line. It will be increasingly important as he ages as a player. The putts will not always drop. And those miraculous recoveries and short-game Rembrandts depend on consistently making the five, eight and 10 footers.

A lot has changed in golf over the years: equipment, courses, swing gurus, mental coaches and more. But for all that’s changed, the game is still simple: get the ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible. And to do that, especially in the majors, it still comes down to that old adage, “fairways and greens.”

There’s this story about Hogan. Ben was complaining within earshot of his wife, Valerie, about not making more birdies. His challenge at that stage of his career was the putter. What was Valerie’s response? She suggested that her husband hit his iron shots closer to the hole. I love that. (And I think he followed her advice.)

Tiger has won 71 times, including 14 majors, with a persistently wild driver. Which is amazing, just crazy. Some have said he has the driver yips. Maybe so. Now it’s time to fix the tee ball. At 34, and with all the young guns coming along, I don’t think hitting it all over the ball yard is a sustainable strategy for winning a record-setting number of majors.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Gordons/Flickr)

Monday, May 10

Erica Blasberg, 1984-2010

LPGA PLAYER ERICA BLASBERG has died of unknown causes, according to the tour and Blasberg’s agent as reported by several media outlets. She was 25. Erica was a collegiate star at the University of Arizona who joined the LPGA Tour in 2004. Her best year on tour was in 2008.

My sincere condolences to her family and friends, including her pal and sometimes caddie Shane Bacon, who wrote this remembrance at Devil Ball Golf.

“Erica was a beautiful person,” Shane wrote, “and that has nothing to do with her always talked-about looks. She loved to smile, laugh and poke fun at the friends around her. It was good natured, and making Erica laugh meant you accomplished something.”

−The Armchair Golfer

Video: Tiger Talks About His Neck Injury



TIGER WOODS WITHDREW FROM the Players Championship on Sunday due to a neck injury. (But you knew that.) Today, Tiger talked about the injury and what it means for his immediate future.

Humor alert: Tiger gets a good laugh and a round of applause in response to his comments about what he hopes for in his golf game. I won’t spoil it for you.

By the way, I’ve noticed there’s a lot of anger in the world, and most of it seems to be directed at Tiger Woods. The neck injury and WD apparently triggered another wave, at least from the media. The soap opera continues.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, May 8

The Brits Are Coming



















Jerry Kelly had harsh words about the “spongy” condition of the greens at TPC Sawgrass. (nsaplayer/Flickr)

LEE WESTWOOD WILL WIN the Players Championship on Sunday. He’s leading, he’s playing well, he’s more due than the rent.

But here’s another theory. The Brits are on a roll. Englishman Ian Poulter won earlier this year at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Englishman Brian Davis very nearly won at the Verizon Heritage. Then, last week, Irishman Rory McIlroy broke through at the Quail Hollow Championship. Here we go. Tomorrow it’s Westwood’s turn. Next week at the Valero Texas Open, Englishman Greg Owen will win. The following week, Davis will return to win the Byron Nelson.

I don’t have a pick yet for the Crowne Plaza Invitational. Stay tuned.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, May 7

2010 Players Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes




























THE 2010 PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP is underway at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Lee Westwood is the current leader at 12 under.

Purse: $9.5 million
Winner’s share: $1.71 million
Defending champion: Henrik Stenson

The field
The course
Tee times
The live report
Tournament news
Past winners

2010 Players Championship Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

Sixteen hours of weekend TV coverage are on tap for the 2010 Players Championship.

Friday, May 7, 1-7 p.m. ET - GOLF CHANNEL

Saturday, May 8, 2-7 p.m. ET - NBC

Sunday, May 9, 2-7 p.m. ET - NBC

PGA Tour radio coverage

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: nsaplayer/Flickr)

Thursday, May 6

Why I Didn’t Golf in Hilton Head

IMAGINE BEING ON HILTON HEAD without your golf clubs. That was the predicament I found myself in a couple of years ago as I returned home from a family vacation in Florida. The trip included a short unplanned stop on the South Carolina island.

I have to admit that Hilton Head golf had me drooling. “Gee,” I said with emphasis as we drove onto the island, “they sure have a lot of golf courses here.”

Of course, I already knew that, just as I knew before we left that golf might not happen on the trip. So I didn’t take my clubs. (Well, actually I did bring my putter, golf shoes, two sleeves of golf balls and my golf glove on the chance that I might play with my friend in St. Petersburg, or elsewhere. In that case, I could have borrowed or rented clubs.)

Frankly, when I go on vacation with my wife, two daughters and their personal effects it can be difficult to find room in the vehicle for golf clubs. I’m not complaining, although I would have liked to play one round on the island. (I have managed to live with the deep psychological pain of many missed golf opportunities.)

I heard from some readers when I returned home and blogged “Golfless in Hilton Head.”

“You must love to torture yourself by driving through there with no chance to play,” wrote one. (Not really.) “Oh man, that must be painful.” (Yes.) And: “Next time, try to go out with golfers only.” (That’s an idea.)

Alas, while there, I didn’t check out any Hilton Head tee times. But I did drive a little more slowly on the wide boulevards that passed the nearby fairways and golf resorts. And I definitely want to go back, whether I play, watch the Verizon Heritage, or both. It’s only five hours away.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Matt Schilder/Flickr)

(Brought to you by HiltonHeadGolf.com)

Wednesday, May 5

I’ll Miss Vince
























ANYTHING I COULD POSSIBLY think of to say about Vince Spence, who passed away this week, has already been said so well by so many others. (For a Ryan Ballengee post that includes comments and links to other remembrances, visit Waggle Room.) Vince authored One-Eyed Golfer and made many friends in a short period of time. He loved golf and wrote about it with enthusiasm and self-deprecating wit. He was a generous soul who reached out to me and many others who shared his passion for the game.

Not only did Vince run a blog, he formed a church (photo above). To my knowledge, it was the only joint golf-blog golf-church enterprise. Running a golf church was obviously part of his calling, but I doubt that it was ever easy. Especially forgiving Tiger Woods. (I think he may have lost a few parishioners on that one, even though I believe forgiveness was a central tenet of the One-Eyed Golfer faith.)

God bless you, Vince. Thanks for shaking things up and being so doggone irrepressible and fun.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, May 4

Video: The Players Championship Memorable Moments



“BE THE RIGHT CLUB. Be the right club today!”

That was Hal Sutton talking to his approach shot (3:07 mark) on the final hole of the 2000 Players Championship when he held off Tiger Woods. Whatever you think of Hal, that has to be one of the coolest ball-in-air comments ever. In fact, I may use it the next time I hit a 5-iron that covers the stick. Only I can’t do it with that Shreveport, Louisiana, accent.

This is a fun highlights package. It begins in 1982 with Jerry Pate stiffing his orange golf ball on the 72nd hole to win and then—you’ll have to watch it to believe it—Pate tosses then commissioner Deane Beman, the brainchild of The Players Championship, into the drink—sport coat, tie, wire rims and all. Jerry’s not through. Next he throws course designer Pete Dye into the water. Then JP makes his famous dive.

A bunch more clips: There’s Greg Norman torching TPC Sawgrass, Fred Couples making an improbable eagle on 16 and birdie on 17, and Craig Perks (remember him?) incredibly holing out on the final three holes to win his one and only PGA Tour event in 2002. And there’s also 48-year-old Fred Funk shaking his head and saying in 2005, “I can’t believe I won this thing. I just can’t believe it.”

The Players Championship is one of those tournaments that I tire of the hype. The fifth major. How many years have I heard that? Too many. But I have to admit that the tournament itself often exceeds my expectations. There’s been a lot of excitement over the years. And a lot of sweaty palms and wet golf balls.

Who will win this year?

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, May 3

The Rules Geek: Phil Mickelson and the Proper Drop

Editor’s note: The Rules Geek is an occasional and potentially annoying feature at ARMCHAIR GOLF.

ONE OF THE MOST common rules situations on the PGA Tour and other tours is the drop without penalty. It happened on Sunday at the Quail Hollow Championship. Phil Mickelson got relief on the 15th hole when his errant drive came to rest near a cart path. The tour official was summoned and the dropping and re-dropping began. The interaction between player, tour official and caddie is a well-choreographed little dance and always seems to take longer than necessary.

It’s a free drop. Seems easy enough. But who can take the drop and what is the proper technique? Let’s have a look at the rule, shall we?

Rule 20-2. Dropping and Re-Dropping a. By Whom and How states “A ball to be dropped by the Rules must be dropped by the player himself. He must stand erect, hold the ball at shoulder height and arm’s length and drop it. If the ball is dropped by any other person or in any other manner and the error is not corrected as provided in Rule 20-6, (THE FOLLOWING PART IS PRINTED IN RED) the player incurs a penalty of one stroke.”

(Interestingly to the Rules Geek, Rule 20. Lifting, Dropping and Placing; Playing from Wrong Place is one of the most detailed and lengthy rules, taking up seven pages in The Rules of Golf.)

It’s odd to think that improper technique could cost a player a stroke, but that’s the rule. Phil dropped with his left arm extended, and on television it appeared that he used proper technique on each of his drops. (Bones even asked the tour official if it was OK to pick up the ball when it rolled away each time. Pros and their caddies take absolutely no chances on a possible rules misstep.)

After completing the drop (he eventually placed the ball and that’s another issue), Phil launched his second shot with a utility club and nearly reached the green 265 yards away. He went on to finish second to Rory McIlroy.

The Rules Geek salutes all players who stand erect and hold the golf ball at shoulder height and arm’s length when dropping and re-dropping.

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.

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(Image: Sheldon and Marci/Flickr)

Sunday, May 2

America the Birdieful: Rory McIlroy Romps at Quail Hollow

Editor’s note: Brian Keogh is a golf correspondent for The Irish Sun and a regular contributor to The Irish Times, Golf Digest Ireland and other golf publications. The following piece is excerpted from his blog, Irish Golf Desk. 

By Brian Keogh
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


RORY MCILROY ANSWERED HIS CRITICS in emphatic fashion when he closed with an incredible run of six successive threes to win the Quail Hollow Championship by four shots from Phil Mickelson—smashing the course record by two with a scintillating, bogey-free 10 under par 62 to secure his maiden PGA Tour victory in grandstand fashion on 15 under par.

The Holywood star, who does not turn 21 until Wednesday, became the youngest winner on the PGA Tour since world No. 1 Tiger Woods claimed the Walt Disney World/Oldsmobile Classic at age 20 years, nine months and 20 days in 1996.

Flabbergasted that he had played the last 36 holes in 16 under par, McIlroy said: “I just got in a zone and didn’t realise that I was going eight, nine, 10 under. I just knew that I got my nose in front and I was just trying to stay there.”

Asked if he’d dreamt of such a day as a youngster, he said: “I did. Ever since I was 10 or 11 years old I wanted to be a professional golfer. It’s been a crazy run to up this point and I am just delighted to get here and get my first win in the US on a course like this is really special.”

As for his closing 62, which featured 12 threes, he said: “It’s ridiculous. I shot 61 around Portrush when I was 16 in the North of Ireland and it felt pretty similar today. I was just seeing my shots and hitting it and seeing the line of putts really well and everything was going in. It was one of those days where everything went right.”

Congratulated by Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and Jim Furyk at the finish, McIlroy beamed: “I just said to Westwood: ‘That’s how you finish off a golf tournament! Padraig said, ‘That was some bit of stuff.’ I appreciate the guys that stayed around to see me in. It means a lot.”

Tied with the lead with Angel Cabrera heading down the stretch, McIlroy was six under for the day when he birdied the 14th to go two clear of a chasing pack that included the Argentinian and Masters champion Phil Mickelson. But the best was yet to come as he spectacularly eagled the par-five 15th to go three clear, birdied the 16th from four feet, lipped out with a 54-foot birdie try at the dangerous par three 17th and then capped a remarkable performance by draining a long bomb from 42 feet for a roof-raising birdie at the 18th.

Weekend Turnaround

Just three weeks after threatening to take time out to sort out his head after missing the cut at the Masters, McIlroy stormed home in 30 blows to underline just why players like Woods, Ernie Els and Geoff Ogilvy have hailed him as a world No. 1 in waiting.

After missing the cut in his last two starts, his season changed utterly on Friday when he eagled the par five seventh, his 16th, to make the cut on the one over par mark. After that he was off and running and no one could live with him.

He fired a six under par 66 on Saturday to scorch up the leaderboard and go into the final round just four strokes behind overnight leader Billy Mayfair on five under par. But in the final round he was simply unbeatable as he tore Quail Hollow to shreds with one of the greatest final round performances ever seen on the PGA Tour.

He birdied the fourth from 10 feet and then moved into top gear with a hat-trick of birdies from the seventh, surging to the top of the leaderboard alongside two-time major winner Angel Cabrera on nine under par. He failed to birdied the par-five 10th and Cabrera, who was playing in the group behind, took advantage there to edge a stroke clear. But McIlroy had the bit between his teeth and after a 142-yard wedge to three feet gave him a birdie at the 11th and a share of lead with the Argentinian, he found an even higher gear. After a par four at the 12th, he finished with an incredible run of six successive threes to complete a victory for the ages.

Cabrera missed a four foot birdie chance on the 11th and then fluffed a delicate chip at the 12th and bogeyed to leave McIlroy alone at the top. McIlroy then drove into the greenside bunker at the 284-yard, par four 14th, splashed out to ten feet and rolled in the putt with a clenched fist salute to go two clear of Cabrera, Brendan de Jonge, Bo Van Pelt and Mickelson on 11 under. His lead was reduced to just one shot moments later when Cabrera birdied the driveable 14th but McIlroy responded with one of the shots of the season at the par-five 15th. After a 325 yard drive, he rifled a 207-yard five iron at the pin and watched as the ball took the slope and rolled up to just three and a half feet, setting up a facile eagle three which put him three clear on 13 under. But there was more to come. At the 16th he drove into a fairway bunker but clipped a perfect 167-yard seven iron to four feet and rolled the putt home.

For a while it looked as though Harrington would set a formidable clubhouse target when he birdied the sixth, eagled the par-five seventh and then racked up three birdies on the trot at the 13th, 14th and 15th to get to eight under par. But the Dubliner, who was seven strokes behind Mayfair starting the day, failed to get up and down for par at the treacherous 16th and 17th, carding a 68 that eventually left him tied for seventh on six under par.

Harrington: ‘It’s a Big Deal’

Harrington was one fo the first to slap McIlroy on the back as he walked off the 18th. But as he waited to see if McIlroy could close the deal, Harrington said: “I think it means a lot for him. We can talk about European golf afterwards, but it’s a big deal for him to come over here and start winning over here.

“He wasn’t contending, wasn’t winning, and if he can get across the line it makes it a lot easier for him going forward, and I think it could make a big difference to his career.

“It’s a lot of pressure on him, a lot of focus on the home, and it’s putting him under enormous pressure to deliver, and obviously every week that he doesn’t deliver, it’s getting on him. But you know, if he can win here, it eases it all off.”

Brian Keogh covers golf for The Irish Sun and contributes to a variety of golf publications. Pay him a visit at Irish Golf Desk.

(Image: nsaplayer/Flickr)

Saturday, May 1

Backswing Watchers

“SO, THAT’S WHAT MY backswing looks like.” This is PGA Tour player Kevin Na taking what might have been an admiring look at his backswing on the practice range at TPC River Highlands, the site of the Travelers Championship. Or maybe not. Maybe, instead, Na was thinking, “What is going on here?” Or: “Where’s my swing coach?” Or: “I’m definitely firing that guy.”

Are you a backswing watcher? I’m not talking about watching the backswings of others. No, I’m talking about watching your own backswing. Taking it back slow and studying your shoulders, arms, right elbow, hands, wrists, trajectory. Checking your position at the top. Wondering about your swing plane. All that swing mechanics stuff.

A friend of mine who was a collegiate golfer was a backswing watcher. Russ could really stripe the ball. When he was hitting the ball well with his woods and irons, he would hit it high with a pretty little draw. When he wasn’t hitting it well (for him), that pretty little draw turned into a hook or a pull hook. And as Lee Trevino once said, “You can talk to a fade but a hook won’t listen.” I played as Russ’s partner in tournaments over the years, and he’d check his backswing a lot. I marveled at this, thinking I could never get that focused on my mechanics without it messing with my mind. I had a pretty good idea what Russ was doing. He was trying to get a little more upright on the backswing. If he could get the club in the right slot, the rest would take care of itself. At least that was the plan.

I remember Nick Faldo being a backswing watcher. Sir Nick always seemed like he was fidgeting with his swing between shots. Many other players are backswing watchers. I think some are rehearsing, some are correcting and some are probably completely stumped and trying to figure out how they’re going to get to the clubhouse with that mess of a golf swing.

I’m not a backswing watcher. I don’t want to see it or over-think it because I’m predominately a feel player rather than a technical player. I usually focus on a swing key or two and go from there. When my ball is flying in the wrong direction or I’m not striking it solid, I’m decent—not great, but decent—at self-correcting. Sometimes it’s my takeaway and sometimes it might be something as simple as shortening up my backswing. But I don’t watch it. That would be too scary.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: RGlasson/Flickr)