Friday, December 31

Old-Time Tour Pro Dragged Putter Behind Car

By John Derr
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


AT THE PGA CHAMPIONSHIP in Louisville, won by Jim Turnesa, the morning of the first round, I arrived at Big Springs Country Club in the car with Sam Snead. He parked in the first open parking space. As he got out he noticed the car parked beside him was the courtesy car assigned to Tommy Bolt, who arrived in the club parking lot at about the same time.

Snead said he’d have to move our car to another place, several rows over, because if Bolt lost, he would gun his speeding car when leaving the lot. Chances are he would spray gravel and rocks from the unpaved lot, on any cars parked near him, according to Snead. And he did.

At the same PGA championship at Big Springs when another one of the top players (I hesitate to name him, for I am not sure and he may still be around), I was standing in the parking lot when the caddy dropped the pro’s bag of clubs in the car trunk. The player opened the trunk, took out his putter and what looked like the belt from his trousers. He secured the belt around the putter shaft, then tied the putter, head down, on the bumper of his car and zoomed onto the street.

Sparks from the errant putter, as it bounced along, looked like a Fourth of July celebration. He raced down the road, after saying to no one in particular, “I guess that’ll take care of the little bastard.”

Sam and I were the only people within earshot, so I guess he was talking primarily to his putter, a farewell of sorts.

I wish I could positively recall the pro, but I wouldn’t want to pin it on the wrong man, though others may have done the same.

John Derr is an award-winning golf journalist who covered 62 Masters and the author of My Place at the Table. He lives in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

Wednesday, December 29

President Obama’s Dangerous Golf Obsession
















Editor’s note: President Obama is spending the holidays in Hawaii, where he is shooting hoops, snorkeling, hanging with the family and chasing the little white ball. The following piece from the ARMCHAIR GOLF archives was published almost exactly a year ago when a New Republic senior editor criticized the president’s golf habit. Clearly, the president has not taken her advice.

MICHELLE COTTLE’S COMMENTARY about President Obama’s “dangerous obsession with golf” has alerted me that I may be a hopeless golf addict who exhibits many undesirable attributes. And you might be in the same foursome with me, my friend.

Cottle is a senior editor for The New Republic. She has a problem—several, really—with 44’s affection for the small dimpled ball.

“Why would a leader vowing to shake up Washington—to alter the very nature of politics—sell his soul to a leisure activity that screams stodgy, hyperconventional Old Guard?” she asks.

By carefully reading her article, I learned several things about my favorite pastime and what it might say about you, me and the president of these United States. For instance, she outlines telltale signs of a “creeping golf addiction,” such as:

• Playing for more than a decade
• Playing for cash
• Fretting about form
• Goading others to leave work early for a round of golf
• Constantly looking to squeeze in a few holes

Where might it all lead? To dark, risky places, according to Cottle.

“In the popular imagination, golf is the stuff of corporate deal-cutting, congressional junkets, and country club exclusivity,” she writes.

(Clearly, my golf addiction has been short-changing me.)

There’s more.

“And, unless a president is very careful, a golf habit can easily be spun as evidence of unseemly character traits ranging from laziness to callousness to out-of-touch elitism.”

(I definitely think I have the laziness down. But my out-of-touch elitism needs work.)

For the president to revamp his image in the new year, Cottle says “he could start by ditching golf.” If she knew I liked golf as much as the president, she might say the same thing to me.

They say the first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem. I have a problem. I miss too many four-footers. Now excuse me while I groove my putting stroke in the den.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Roberto De Vido/Flickr)

Tuesday, December 28

The Golf Shot of the Year Was Struck in April



IT WAS A WEIRD YEAR in professional golf, to say the least. Tiger, rules controversies and much more. There were dramatic moments and shots, as always, but there’s one shot that rises above all the others in my mind. It was a shot for the ages, as my good friend Jim Nantz might say, that ill-advised 6-iron from the pine straw on Augusta’s 13th hole in the final round of the Masters.

Here’s what I wrote the day after Phil Mickelson won his third Green Jacket:
Phil is going for it. That shot (above) off the pine straw through the trees over the water on 13? A Phil special. Bones was against it. Butch was against it. Millions of fans were probably trying to talk some sense to Phil through their TVs. “Lay up, Phil. Just lay up.” Phil’s NOT laying up. The 207-yard 6-iron was a gutsy and brilliant play that turned things in his favor.
Interesting to see that I wrote “gutsy” and “brilliant.” It seemed like everyone was on Lefty’s bandwagon after he pulled off the seemingly impossible shot that helped win him another Masters. There are also the many times he has gambled and failed—and gotten blasted for it. That’s all-or-nothing Phil. When he succeeds, our jaws drop. When he fails, many say, “What a bonehead.”

This is the shot I’ll remember for a long time. It’s the one we’ll see dozens of times in the years to come.

−The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, December 26

Seattle, ‘Golf’s Golden Age’ and More

I’M IN SEATTLE FOR the holidays. We flew in on Christmas night from Charlotte, fortunate to avoid the snow storm that was bearing down on parts of the Southeast. My brother-in-law, our gracious host, has already gifted me with two things I can use: a Starbucks gift card (I really needed a strong cup of java this morning) and a golf history book titled Golf’s Golden Age: Robert T. Jones, Jr. and the Legendary Players of the ‘10s, ‘20s, and ‘30s.

Written by Museum and Archives Director Rand Jerris, the book is published by the USGA in partnership with National Geographic. It has the look and feel of a coffee table book, with mini profiles and classic photographs of the men who shaped amateur and professional golf in the early 20th century. So now I can brush up on Ted Ray, “Wild” Bill Melhorn, Denny Shute and many others.

On Thursday, this armchair golfer may see action on the course. We have a tee time at Chambers Bay, site of this year’s U.S. Amateur and the 2015 U.S. Open. My game could not be more rusty. I haven’t played since late summer. Nor do I have my clubs, or spikes, for that matter. I will play with a borrowed set of clubs and a pair of running shoes. It makes no difference. I will get to see the course so many people have been talking about.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, December 24

How the Grinch Stole a Golf Club Membership

(From the ARMCHAIR GOLF archives.)

THANKS TO AN ANONYMOUS TIP, I caught up with the Grinch after a recent round of golf. The Grinch, as it turns out, has been playing golf four days a week at what is normally his busiest time of year.

“So how are things in Whoville?” I asked.

“Rotten,” the Grinch snickered. “The Whos are really hurting. Christmas isn’t even worth stealing this year. Why do you think I’m playing golf? I had to find something to do.”

The Grinch has been teeing it up at an undisclosed location, a well-known private club that fears bad publicity if word gets out that the Grinch is a member.

“These fancy golf clubs are losing members faster than kids can unwrap their silly gifts,” the Grinch sneered. “Membership is hitting rock bottom—one in five private clubs could go under in a few years. They had to take me.”

And how does the Grinch know so much about the state of golf?

“I read about it in the Wall Street Journal. Free subscription.”

Actually, the Grinch doesn’t like golf.

“What a stupid game,” he said. “But it’s great for killing time, and I’ve got plenty of it. I do like driving the cart. I even drive it on the greens.

“They’re not going to do anything about it,” the Grinch added, chuckling. “I’m one of their only players now.”

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, December 23

The 7 Most Effective Ways to Quit Golf



I LIKE THIS GAME. I really do. I’m not an advocate of quitting, but I realize that some may need to take that drastic step. If you’re at a point where you need to end your relationship with golf, then it’s wise to seek professional help. Will Robins is a PGA member and experienced golf coach who can help you make a clean break from this bedeviling game. Godspeed.

Here’s a recap of the seven most effective ways to quit golf that are demonstrated in Robins’ video.

1. The bag toss.

2. The hit and run.

3. The shallow grave.

4. How to break a club.

5. Le cement de corden bleu.

6. Compton style.

7. Adding a little flare.

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, December 22

Brandel Chamblee No Longer ‘Gutless Lamb’

JOHNNY MILLER ISN’T THE ONLY golf talking head who has strong opinions. Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee is known to espouse his views on a range of golf topics, including the new swing and swing coach of Tiger Woods.

Chamblee recently sat for an interview with Golf Magazine’s Connell Barrett. In his opening, Barrett called Brandel the most underrated commentator in golf. Interview topics included Tiger (of course), golf’s next great player, and whether the Golf Channel analyst would consider joining a major network. (He’s been courted.)

Today, the magazine published follow-up questions from readers and Chamblee’s answers. A Canadian man asked how and when Chamblee’s transformation into an “opinionated, forceful personality” came about.

At the 2007 Masters, Brandel answered.

“I came off a show and thought, you gutless lamb, take a stand. The next day I did, and it felt more like me. More like when I'm home, in the kitchen with friends, laughing, arguing and yelling. That is what TV should be like.”

A woman asked if Chamblee thought Johnny Miller should apologize for his comment about Phil Mickelson’s chipping during the Ryder Cup. (If Phil couldn’t chip, he’d be selling used cars in San Diego.) The woman said she liked Johnny but thought he went over the line.

Brandel?

“I have to say that I applaud the effort made by Johnny to think of another way of saying how good Phil is around the greens. ...You can quote a statistic, you can describe the action, or you can exaggerate to make a point. ...TV is entertainment, after all, and like him or not Johnny is entertaining.”

Chamblee went on to say that Phil knows this and wouldn’t have hard feelings, “although he probably rolled his eyes.”

I think a lot of people roll their eyes at Johnny’s comments. Some turn down the sound. Occasionally, I cringe, but for the most part I get a kick out of Johnny’s unfiltered and sometimes goofball commentary. Chamblee is more polished and not far behind when it comes to having strong opinions.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, December 21

Brothers Molinari Are Augusta Bound

THIRTEEN PLAYERS HAVE QUALIFIED for the 2011 Masters based on their Official World Golf Ranking, including Italian brothers Francesco and Edoardo Molinari, both members of the winning European Ryder Cup team at Celtic Manor in Wales. The Masters invites players who are in the world top 50 at year’s end. Francesco is No. 15 and big brother Edoardo is No. 18. It will be Francesco’s first trip down Magnolia Lane. Edoardo has played at Augusta National twice, in 2006 and 2010, missing the cut on both occasions.

(Photo: Tiger practicing, patrons gawking. / Keith Allison, Flickr)


Rickie Fowler can also expect his first Masters invitation after finishing his rookie season on the PGA Tour ranked 28th in the world. Other players who have qualified are Robert Karlsson of Sweden (No. 17), Charl Schwartzel of South Africa (No. 34) and Ryo Ishikawa of Japan (No. 36). A total of 92 players are in. Additional players can qualify if they win an early-season PGA Tour event or slip into the top 50 by late March.

It’s only 105 days until Phil Mickelson defends his title. The 2011 Masters will be played April 7 through 10.

As AP reported, Tiger Woods will attempt to end his longest stretch without winning the Green Jacket or a major. By April, it will have been six years since Tiger’s last Masters title in 2005. Tiger has also come up empty in his last 10 majors.

The 2011 Masters field, so far


−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, December 20

Golf Digest’s 10 Best Golf States




























WHEN I THINK OF best golf states, I think of perpetual sunshine, warm temperatures and a year-round golf season. In other words, Hawaii, California, Arizona, Florida and South Carolina. But this list surprised me, and might surprise you as well.

Golf Digest ranked America’s 10 best golf states based on top public courses per capita. And here they are.

1. Hawaii
Comment: Of course.

2. South Carolina

Comment: I’m only five or six hours from Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head and Kiawah. That’s too far.

3. Nevada
Comment: Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe. Need I say more?

4. Michigan

Comment: Surprise! Michigan has more five-star courses than any other state.

5. Wisconsin
Comment: Home of Whistling Straits and 68 other four-star or higher courses.

6. Colorado
Comments: Not just ski resorts.

7. Vermont
Comment: Really? Yes, the second least-populous state in the union has good golf (per capita).

8. Nebraska
Comment: No need for Warren Buffet to leave his home state to tee it up.

9. Arizona
Comment: No surprise.

10. North Dakota
Comment: Seriously, Golf Digest? Yes. The season may be short but the green fees and people are known to be friendly.

Read more about the magazine’s 10 best golf states and view a slide show here.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: James Workman/Flickr)

Sunday, December 19

‘Tiger vs. Jack’ and Other Golf Titles

A QUICK LIST OF golf books that have landed in my mail and email boxes in recent days.

Tiger vs. Jack: Golf’s Greatest Rivalry
By Phil Capelle
A book devoted to the rivalry between Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, golf’s two all-time greatest players, including in-depth analysis of their games, records and the eras in which they competed. Capelle is the author of Capelle on Golf, a golf blog. More

Golf Sonnets

By James Long Hale
A small book that puts Shakespeare on the golf course, with 18 entertaining 14-line sonnets that convey the wonders and trauma of the ancient game. More

The Intelligent Golfer: How to Play a Civilized Game

By Scott Martin and Bryan Curtis
A book that teaches what someone needs to know to play golf—especially handling the social nuances and getting the most enjoyment from the game both on and off the course. More

Golf Style: Homes and Collections Inspired by the Course and the Clubhouse

By Vicky Moon
Advertised as the most comprehensive book for lovers of golf and its iconic style. Includes more than 500 photos and in-depth stories about characters, courses, clubhouses, traditions, innovations and historical moments. More

Mr. Hogan, The Man I Knew
By Kris Tschetter with Steve Eubanks
Kris Tschetter is an LPGA player who chronicles her amazing friendship with, and lessons learned from, the great Ben Hogan. More

Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet on Everything

By Kevin Cook
A biography of the colorful Alvin “Titanic” Thompson, a legendary gambler and con man. Thompson became an adept golfer who pocketed thousands on the golf course playing from both sides of the little white ball. More

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, December 17

The Golf Art of Steven Anthony Salerno




















“ART CELEBRATING THE GREATEST game ever played.” That’s the message in small print as the site of Steven Anthony Salerno loads. Steven granted me permission to “hang” a few samples of his limited edition golf prints at ARMCHAIR GOLF, a fitting way to end the week. He offers signed limited edition prints in a handful of categories: Bethpage series, Pebble, greatest golfers, golfscapes and more. All are printed on 100 percent cotton rag archival fine art paper with brilliant permanent pigment inks.

Salerno’s golf art has been featured on PGATour.com in the Player Spotlight feature section, including portrait images of tour players such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Mike Weir, Padraig Harrington and Camilo Villegas.

Steven can play the game, too. As a teen, he won the Vermont Junior Amateur Championship. As a young man, he worked as an assistant golf professional at The Yale Golf Club and Racebrook Country Club in Connecticut. Salerno is a graduate of Parsons School of Design in New York City.

Visit his online gallery at SASgolf.com.


















−The Armchair Golfer

(Images used with permission of Steven Anthony Salerno.)

Thursday, December 16

Golf Fix: 100th South African Open

IF YOU’RE A GOLF nut who can’t get enough golf on the tube, my tip is the 100th playing of the South African Open, this week’s event on the European Tour and Sunshine Tour. (The PGA and LPGA tours, of course, are idle. The Asian Tour is playing its season finale, the Black Mountain Masters, which is televised throughout Europe, Asia and Australia.)

Played at Durban Country Club, the South African Open field includes South African golf stars Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Tim Clark, Trevor Immelman and Louis Oosthizen, the current British Open champion. Thursday’s first round was delayed by heavy rain and will resume on Friday.

Dating back to 1903, the South African Open is one of the world’s oldest golf championships. (The oldest, of course, is the British Open, or The Open Championship, as non-Yanks call it.) Gary Player has won his homeland’s tournament 13 times. Player’s first victory came in 1956, the last in 1981. Fellow South African Bobby Locke won nine times from 1935 to 1955. Els has four South African Open titles. Goosen, Immelman and Clark have two wins apiece.

Els assessed his year and chance this week in his online diary.

“I came out of the blocks pretty fast and won twice in March during the Florida swing,” Ernie wrote, “but after the US Open my game went off the boil and it’s been a struggle to get things back on track. But, as I’ve said in my last few updates, during the last month or so there have been signs that the hard work I’ve put in has started to pay off. If I can roll the ball well on the greens this week, then I can finish the year on a high note and hopefully win my fifth national championship.”

2010 South African Open TV Schedule

All U.S. TV coverage is on Golf Channel.

Friday, 12/17
9:30 AM – 12:30 PM ET

Saturday, 12/18
9:30 AM – 12:30 PM ET

Sunday, 12/19
9:30 AM – 12:30 PM ET

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Harry Lime/Flickr)

Wednesday, December 15

Tiger’s Bad Luck With the Irish

MUCH WAS MADE OF Tiger Woods’ final-round stumble in the Chevron World Challenge. Graeme McDowell made up four shots on Tiger and went on to beat the tournament host on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff. Surrendering leads has rarely happened during Tiger’s long golf reign. As media reported, it was the first time the former World No. 1 lost a tournament after leading by three strokes or more heading into the final round.

(Photo: The man in the middle caught Tiger and won in a playoff four years ago.)


That sounded right to me. Then I got an email from a reader. Tom thought he remembered Tiger losing a three-shot lead in the final round of a November event in Asia a few years back. Yesterday he confirmed it.

The tournament was the 2006 Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Golf Tour. Tied for the 54-hole lead, Tiger had a three-stroke lead with six holes to play. Tiger shot a 34 on the incoming nine, but was caught by his playing partner, who carded a 31. The opponent birdied three of those final six holes and two of the last three, including the 18th. Then he beat Tiger in the playoff.

The man who caught and beat Tiger? Padraig Harrington.

So, it’s true, no one has chased down Tiger from three or more shots back with 18 to play. But another feisty competitor did make up a three-shot deficit on Tiger in a six-hole stretch—and he also happens to be Irish.

Hmmm.

“The moral of the story: Tiger better be careful playing Irishmen in offbeat tournaments,” Tom wrote.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: proforged/Flickr)

Tuesday, December 14

2010 Golf Year in Review




























−The Armchair Golfer

(Flickr image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; adapted: Keith Allison, Editor B)

Monday, December 13

Lee Westwood Isn’t Telling

THOSE WHO FOLLOW GOLF are familiar with the story of Lee Westwood. After rising to No. 4 in the world in 2000, Lee tumbled to No. 266 two years later. The last eight years have been the pick and shovel work of returning to the top of the golf mountain. At last, the 37-year-old Westwood arrived at the summit on October 31, replacing Tiger Woods as No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

How did Westwood do it? Or, as Rory McIlroy wondered, “How did you manage to turn your life around?” In an intriguing interview with Anna Kessel, Lee is emphatic.

“I was very, very ruthless and honest with myself,” he said. “And I would never, ever, tell anyone else what I did until I’ve finished my career.”

It’s in the vault. And I mean the vault. McIlroy doesn’t know. Westwood’s father, who was the first to congratulate Westwood on his No. 1 ranking, doesn’t know. How about his wife, Laurae? Certainly she knows. “No,” Westwood said. Nobody knows.

Lee explained that there aren’t many people who have been to golf oblivion and made it all the way back. The toughened golfer is not going to Mapquest it for anyone. He did say it might make for good book reading later on when he hangs up the sticks.

But why give it away now? Westwood asked. He’s still in the business of trying to beat the world’s best golfers 30 or so weeks a year. “Golf is a very ruthless and selfish sport.”

I think Lee may have dropped a few hints. Technique might be part of the equation, fitness another, but I would wager that the five-and-a-half inches between Westwood’s ears are where the turnaround started and what made him a resurgent force on the fairways.

−The Armchair Golfer

Visor tips to Ryan Ballengee and John Strege for pointing me to the guardian.co.uk story.

(Image: Eugene Goh/Flickr)

Saturday, December 11

‘Scotland’s Caddies’ on Cheating



THE ABOVE AMUSING CLIP on the subject of cheating is from Scotland’s Caddies, a new 69-minute documentary about caddies from St. Andrews, Gleneagles, Dornoch, Troon, Turnberry and other famous Scottish courses. Apparently, these bag-toting characters have more than a few tales to tell.

The film was made by Ron Colby, who collected footage of Scotland’s storied courses and colorful caddies during a month-long golf trip in 2009. Scottish courses, villages and pubs serve as the backdrop for yarn spinners such as Jimmie Kelly and William Cowan.

“Miraculously, filming just seemed to fall into place,” Colby said in the announcement. “The caddies themselves were very forthcoming, regaling us with jokes, insights on the game, and stories about celebrities who gave them bad tips.”

You can watch more clips here, and learn more about (or order) the documentary here.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, December 10

U.S. and UK Professors Team to Improve FedEx Cup

CAN THE FEDEX CUP be fixed? It’s a question that presumes the PGA Tour points race is flawed or lacking, which I believe is a widespread view. To be honest, I haven’t spent much time thinking about it. I accept the FedEx Cup for what it is.

I do know the PGA Tour has tinkered with the FedEx Cup structure over the years to both reward good season-long play and create an exciting playoff run that gives more than a few players a chance to take home the Cup and $10 million. How well the tour has achieved that balance is an ongoing debate.

Now I’ve learned from a recent email from the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) that academia is at work on a study to ratchet up the excitement in the FedEx Cup. They write:
With controversy stirring about the shortage in excitement generated by the PGA TOUR’s FedEx Cup, two professors on opposite sides of the Atlantic have come up with a provocative recommendation about changing the format to amplify the excitement in the Tour Championship.

“A Proposal for Redesign of the FedEx Cup Playoff Series on the PGA TOUR” by Nicholas G. Hall of Ohio State University and Chris N. Potts of the University of Southampton in the UK will appear next year in our professional association’s journal.
How about that? Ohio State and University of Southampton in a true bicontinental effort for the good of golf. I’m heartened. Maybe there is hope, after all.

I was told an advance copy of the study is available, and I’ve foolishly requested one. I say foolishly because it will surely be a scholastic tome with math in it, way over my head. I may have to assign it to one of you.

−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, December 9

Anna Rawson Checks Out

ANNA RAWSON WILL TAKE a one-year break from golf, reported Beth Ann Baldry of Golfweek. In addition to hanging up the sticks for now, Rawson also thinks it may be time to leave modeling. The 29-year-old Australian who has been on 30 magazine covers feels like she’s “too old.”

Rawson finished 134th on the LPGA money list in 2010 and didn’t enter Q-School. She’s had one top 10 in three years on the tour. If she plays next season, it will be on sponsor exemptions. The USC grad is engaged and plans to explore business opportunities in 2011.

Rawson added that she’s “open to everything,” including a return to golf.

−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, December 8

McDowell Refuses to Rub Salt in Tiger’s Wounds

Brian Keogh is a golf correspondent for The Irish Sun and a contributor to The Irish Times, Golf Digest Ireland and other golf publications. The following piece from Brian’s Irish Golf Desk is used with permission.

By Brian Keogh
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


GRAEME MCDOWELL DENTED TIGER WOODS’S battered reputation a little more with his play-off win over golf’s fallen idol in the Chevron World Challenge. But the Portrush star still ensured himself a place on the 14-time major winner’s Christmas card list when he insisted that it isn’t the end of an aura for the former world No 1. Only time will tell if he was being kind or prescient.

Woods had never before failed to win a professional tournament when leading by three shots or more entering the final round. But while McDowell came from four back to tie thanks to a dramatic 20 footer at the last and then claimed the title in sudden death by draining an almost identical 20 footer for another birdie, he reckons it won’t be long before Woods regains his mojo and the air of invincibility that made him golf’s ultimate predator.

Still pinching himself after a dream year that brought him his first major win at the US Open and a jump to a career high seventh in the world, McDowell said:

“I’m definitely a guy who says that golf needs Tiger Woods and we need him back winning tournaments. I think he can play his way back into having that mystique again. He used to appear invincible. Of course he’s made himself appear more human in the last 12 months. At the end of the day, we’re all humans and we all make mistakes and we all hit bad golf shots. But there’s something a bit special about his golf game, and I fully expect that mystique to return as the golf clubs start doing the talking again.”

McDowell’s win at the Chevron World Challenge was his fourth individual victory of the season following triumphs at Celtic Manor, Pebble Beach and Valderrama. He was also Europe’s solid gold hero in the Ryder Cup, where he secured the winning point with a gutsy victory over Hunter Mahan in the anchor singles.

Few expected McDowell to come from behind and deny Woods the victory he needed in Los Angeles to avoid the first winless season of his professional career. Tiger’s caddie Steve Williams certainly didn’t appear to think so as he cheekily took off his caddie’s bib as McDowell sized up the 20 foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole. As Williams shamelessly showed off his sponsor’s logo for the cameras once more, McDowell showed why he is a highly paid sportsman for something other than carrying a golf bag and reading double breaking putts. His 2010 season surpassed his wildest dreams, even if he did always believe that he was capable of doing something big in the game.

Reflecting on his two Tiger-killing birdies on the 18th, McDowell said: “They’re the kind of putts that you make them and you can’t really believe it afterwards. They were the stuff of dreams and 2010 has been the stuff of dreams. It’s been that kind of year. Not quite sure why.”

If McDowell was too modest to say why, we’ll do it for him. Hard work, self-belief, talent and sheer, blood-minded determination. That’s why.

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: Keith Allison/Flickr)

Tuesday, December 7

Q&A: Arnold Palmer

I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY to talk to Arnold Palmer the week before Thanksgiving. In a telephone interview (he was in warm Orlando and I was in chilly Virginia), we covered a handful of topics, including the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills. This year marked the 50th anniversary of Arnold’s famous (and lone) U.S. Open victory, considered to be one of the greatest ever played. Arnold charged by 20-year-old amateur Jack Nicklaus and 47-year-old Ben Hogan, who still had plenty of game but faltered on the final holes.

The 1954 U.S. Amateur champion, Arnold turned professional and joined the tour in 1955. His first of 62 PGA Tour wins came at the 1955 Canadian Open. Following is a portion of our conversation.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: When you came out as a rookie, who were the players that you really admired and looked up to?

ARNOLD PALMER: I think Nelson and Hogan and Middlecoff and Mangrum and Snead.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: There were a bunch of good players, weren’t there?

ARNOLD PALMER: Yes, there were.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I wonder if you remembered Harvie Ward?

ARNOLD PALMER: I played against Harvie in college. (Arnold attended Wake Forest University.)

ARMCHAIR GOLF: He was at North Carolina, wasn’t he?

ARNOLD PALMER: That’s right. The first time I played Harvie Ward, he shot 67 and I dusted him 5 and 4.

(Me laughing.)

ARMCHAIR GOLF: What kind of player was he, Arnold?

ARNOLD PALMER: He was a great player. He was a good friend and a great player.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: That’s what others have told me, too. And he continued to compete as an amateur but I’ve had people tell me that he was one of the best players in the world as an amateur in the mid 50s.

ARNOLD PALMER: That’s right.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I wanted to ask you what life on tour was like when you first came out. I talked to Rossie [Bob Rosburg] a couple of years ago before he passed. He said he traveled with you and there was a lot of camaraderie and it was just a whole different scene back then. Can you tell me a little bit of your impressions of life on tour back in the 50s?

ARNOLD PALMER: We drove everywhere, first thing. For the first year I was on tour, I pulled a trailer. That was interesting in itself, with my wife, going from the West coast to the East coast and then up to my home. My wife said to me, “I love you and I’ll do anything you want, but I’m not going to live in a trailer ever again.” (Chuckling.)

ARMCHAIR GOLF: It was not an easy thing to do, was it?

ARNOLD PALMER: No, it sure wasn’t. It was tough.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I look at purses where the total purse was 15, 20, 25 thousand dollars.

ARNOLD PALMER: Hell, there were only 15 money places on the tour. At every tournament, the max was 15. And 15th was $100. So, you think about that. And if you won and it was a pretty good tournament, you won $2,000.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: That was a different era, for sure. There was a nice celebration at Cherry Hills this past summer to celebrate the 50th anniversary of your [1960 U.S. Open] win there. Can you tell me what that was like for you?

ARNOLD PALMER: It was wonderful. I’m trying to think who all was there. Some of the guys that played in the Open were there. Cherry Hills did a wonderful job of putting on a big affair. The membership was sold out. We talked about the Open and some of things that happened. It was very nice.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: You probably remember quite a bit about that Open.

ARNOLD PALMER: I wouldn’t say I could give you all the details, but I remember some of things that happened. I thought I played pretty well for three rounds and nothing happened. I was just sort of in limbo. Then the last round, it all happened.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I’ve gone over that front nine you shot on the fourth round, where you birdied something like six out of the first seven holes. I know you shot 30 on the front nine of that final round.

ARNOLD PALMER: Right.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Do you remember when you reached that point where you thought I’m right in this and I can win it?

ARNOLD PALMER: In those days, I kind of played like I could win whatever, from anywhere. And I played a little bit that way.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Do you think you were a little bit more focused and a better player when you played from behind?

ARNOLD PALMER: Let’s just say I never ruled out the possibility of winning. Until it was figuratively impossible, I always thought I had a shot.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I think you were playing right behind Hogan and Nicklaus during that final round.

ARNOLD PALMER: Yeah, you’re right.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: You saw Hogan hit into the water on 17?

ARNOLD PALMER: I did. I was standing in the middle of the fairway when he hit into the water.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: And then you were probably thinking a couple of pars and you’d be in pretty good shape.

ARNOLD PALMER: I knew that I had a shot if I didn’t screw up the last two holes.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Did you like the golf course?

ARNOLD PALMER: Cherry Hills? Very much, yes.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: And 280 ended up winning the Open, after all, Arnold. You did it.

ARNOLD PALMER: Right. (Chuckling.)

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image courtesy of Golf Channel)

Monday, December 6

‘The Three Tenors’ of Graeme McDowell

THOSE THREE PUTTS THAT Graeme McDowell dropped at 17, 18 and 18 to beat Tiger Woods yesterday at the Chevron World Challenge were virtuosity, sort of like (sorry in advance) The Three Tenors.

By some odd coincidence, I tuned in to the final round of the Chevron World Challenge as Woods and McDowell reached the 14th hole. I wasn’t planning on watching golf, but my daughters had relinquished the TV in the living room and I took control of the remote.

Tiger had coughed up his four-shot lead and the pesky Irishman was not backing off an inch. This was kind of interesting, even if it was a silly season event. The more I watched, the more I realized there was nothing silly about the late-afternoon drama at Sherwood Country Club. Progress is progress, but, let’s face it, Tiger needed this win. He had a four-stroke lead heading into the final round. Four strokes. He’s Tiger Woods. It’s part of the brand. No choking on Sunday. I don’t care if it’s an 18-player event in December, it’s on NBC. People are watching. He needed to get it done. Instead, Tiger looked like he had been through the pressure cooker—and was cooked.

McDowell yanked his 8-iron on the par-3 17th and had such awful options that he deliberated forever. I grew impatient. C’mon, Graeme, make up your mind. I couldn’t believe he was considering dropping his ball on the 18th tee for a blind 40-yard pitch. Then he knocked the darn thing on 10 feet away. Tiger missed his birdie, and McDowell grinded over his bogey putt and sank it. I’ll call that one the “Jose Carreras.”

Tied, Tiger stuffed his approach shot on the 18th while McDowell pulled his iron and rolled to a stop 20 feet away. It’s over. Everybody knows it. We’ve seen this before. Stevie removed his caddie bib. But McDowell stalked the putt like his life depended on it. Then the ol’ boy rolled it in the heart, a “Placido Domingo.”

Hello! What’s this? Wow!

Tiger nudged in his three-footer and they headed back to the 18th tee. Up to this point, I could accept what happened. McDowell is tough. The man can make an important putt. As impressive as it was, it’s not inconceivable that he could hole a clutch putt on the final green, even against Tiger Woods.

But McDowell’s third putt, the “Luciano Pavarotti,” about put me over the edge. Three holes, three putts of 10, 20 and 25 feet to beat Tiger in a playoff. I admit it wasn’t the U.S. Open, nor was it the Ryder Cup, but those were still three of the best putts I’ve seen anyone drop in a long, long while. The look on Tiger’s face said it all.

−The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, December 5

Players Select Jim Furyk as 2010 POY



IN A VOTE BY PGA Tour players, Jim Furyk was awarded the 2010 PGA Tour Player of the Year. Others on the ballot included Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson, but Furyk was the clear choice in my mind. Jim’s victory at the Tour Championship sealed the deal. He also walked off with the FedEx Cup and its $10 million bonus. His two other wins came at the Transitions Championship and Verizon Heritage.

“The year just keeps getting better is all I can say,” Furyk told reporters at the Chevron World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, California. “I’m not sure I want 2010 to end at this point.”

In a year defined by Tiger Woods’s free-fall off and on the golf course, the 40-year-old Furyk had the best season of his 18-year career to rise above other contenders for the tour’s largest pot of gold (FedEx Cup) and top award. No one—not even Furyk himself, I expect—could have seen it coming. No knock on Jim, but I wouldn’t expect him to win POY again. The Tiger vacuum created unexpected opportunities this season for Furyk and other veteran players and rising stars. What happens in 2011 is anyone’s guess.

Rickie Fowler won PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, December 3

Ian Poulter Visits ‘Fat Booth’

IAN POULTER HAD SOME FUN yesterday with the Fat Booth application and posted links to the photos on Twitter. It got a little crazy. Fat pics of Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods, Colin Montgomerie, Camilo Villegas, Rory McIlroy, LeBron James, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson turned up. Poults couldn’t stop himself. He was laughing his fat head off.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Visor tip to Golf.com.)

Thursday, December 2

2010 LPGA Tour Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2010 LPGA TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP is underway at Grand Cypress Golf Club in Orlando, Florida. The first round was suspended due to darkness. Amy Yang and Seon Hwa Lee are the leaders in the clubhouse at 5-under 67.

Purse: $1.5 million
Defending champion: Anna Nordqvist

Tournament preview
Final field
Pairings
Interviews
The course

2010 LPGA Tour Championship Leaderboard

TV SCHEDULE

All TV coverage of the 2010 LPGA Tour Championship is on Golf Channel.

Fri, Dec 3
1:30 - 3:30 PM ET

Sat, Dec 4
7:30 - 9:30 PM ET

Sun, Dec 5
7:30 - 9:30 PM ET

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Keith Allison/Flickr)

Wednesday, December 1

An Outdated Glimpse of Kyle Stanley

KYLE STANLEY, AN ALL-AMERICAN at Clemson and Nationwide Tour player, leads the final stage of the PGA Tour Q-school after a first-round 65 at the Orange County Golf Center in Orlando, Florida. Stanley finished 35th on the Nationwide Tour money list and won the 2009 Ben Hogan Award, the most prestigious award in men’s college golf.

Every once in a while I get a call from my brother-in-law. “Hey, did you hear about Kyle Stanley?” He made the cut at the U.S. Open. He’s near the lead in Boise. Or something else.

It’s a topic because we used to watch Kyle run around on the lawn with his sister at Glendale Country Club in Bellevue, Washington. He might have been 10 years old. Kyle’s dad, Matt, was a friend of my father-in-law. There was a group of us that would gather for Memorial Day and Labor Day barbecues at the club. I wasn’t a member. I was strictly a guest eater and pretend son of Mel in the father-son tournament. It was an opportunity to pig out and make small talk with people I saw twice a year.

There was Kyle throwing ball out on the grass with his older sister. Every once in a while he’d make a breathless pit stop at our table to check in with mom and dad. That kid out on the lawn turned out to be a phenomenal golfer.

I saw Kyle at the 2009 Wyndham Championship in Greensboro pounding balls on a sweltering August afternoon. I had a fleeting thought of saying something to him but quickly reconsidered. He wouldn’t know me. What would I say? I used to eat ribs and corn on the cob with your dad on Memorial Day weekend ...

Funny, I got one of those “Kyle” messages exactly a month ago from another person who sat with us and the Stanleys in the Glendale dining room.

“Ever thought about looking into Kyle Stanley who is now on the Nationwide Tour?” Karen wrote in an email. “He is not winning but I see on Sunday reports that he hangs around the 10-30 spot. Big Ed loved Kyle.”

(Big Ed was my father-in-law. He died in 2006.)

I think Kyle Stanley is going to make it to the big show, the PGA Tour. I’m sure I’ll be hearing more about him. The kid can flat play.

−The Armchair Golfer