Friday, April 29

8,300 Golfers from 67 Countries Enter 2011 U.S. Open

THE USGA REPORTED TODAY that 8,300 golfers have submitted entries for the 2011 U.S. Open Championship, which is returning to Congressional Country Club near Washington, D.C., where Ernie Els won the second of his two U.S. Open titles in 1997. The year’s second major will be played June 16-19.

All entrants are professionals or amateurs with a USGA Handicap Index no higher than 1.4. Sixty-five are fully exempt, including nine past champions: Graeme McDowell (2010), Angel Cabrera (2007), Michael Campbell (2005), Ernie Els (1994, 1997), Jim Furyk (2003), Lucas Glover (2009), Retief Goosen (2001, 2004), Geoff Ogilvy (2006) and Tiger Woods (2000, 2002, 2008).

Entries poured in from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and 66 other countries. More than 700 applicants listed foreign addresses. The USGA accepted online entries for the first time. Amateur Herbie Aikens submitted the first entry on March 2. Hawaiian Kevin Hayashi barely beat the 5 p.m. EDT deadline, transmitting his entry with only 15 seconds to spare.

An 18-hole local qualifier will take place at 111 sites on May 6-19. A 36-hole sectional qualifier will follow at two international sites (May 23 in Japan and May 30 in England) and 11 U.S. sites on June 6.

The number of exemptions has increased. It includes the top 50 players from the Official World Golf Ranking, the top 10 money leaders on the 2011 PGA Tour and the top five money leaders on the 2011 European PGA Tour. (The cutoff date is May 23.) Other exemptions include the winner of the 2011 Players Championship and any multiple winner of official PGA Tour co-sponsored events between June 20, 2010, and June 12, 2011.

There will only be one winner. Any early predictions?

More info about the 2011 U.S. Open


−The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, April 28

2011 Zurich Classic TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2011 ZURICH CLASSIC IS UNDERWAY at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, Louisiana. Joe Durant is the early leader with a 67. The first round is still in progress.

Purse: $6.4 million
Winner’s share: $1.116 million
Defending champion: Jason Bohn


2011 Zurich Classic Leaderboard


Inside the field
Inside the course
Tee times
Interviews
Tournament overview
Tournament news
Tour report
Zurich Classic website



TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2011 Zurich Classic is on Golf Channel and CBS.

Thu, 4/28:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Fri, 4/29:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 4/30:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 5/1:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times


−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, April 27

Exclusive Injury Interview with Tiger’s Left Knee

BREAKING A 20-MONTH SILENCE, Tiger’s Left Knee granted an exclusive interview to ARMCHAIR GOLF to discuss his recent injury at the Masters. He spoke to me by phone from his home in Jupiter, Florida.

Q: Thanks for doing this. It’s been a long time.

LEFT KNEE: Yes, it has.

Q: Sorry about the injury.

LEFT KNEE: Things happen.

Q: Like the 17th at Augusta National.

LEFT KNEE: Yeah.

Q: Did you see it coming?

LEFT KNEE: I saw the ball, I saw the pine needles and I saw the tree limb. I thought somebody could get hurt.

Q: So you have a Grade 1 mild medial collateral ligament sprain.

LEFT KNEE: What?

Q: Your injury. It was described as a Grade 1 mild medial collateral ligament sprain.

LEFT KNEE: That’s doctor gibberish. I’m not feeling mild.

Q: They called it a minor injury.

LEFT KNEE: Minor? Really? Well, you know what Bill Walton said about minor surgery, don’t you?

Q: What?

LEFT KNEE: He said the only minor surgery is surgery performed on somebody else. Minor injury—yeah, right. Not after what I’ve been through.

Q: How’s the Achilles tendon?

LEFT KNEE: He’s sore. It’s tough, you know, with two of us injured on the same side.

Q: The treatment is cold-water therapy and soft-tissue treatment. Is that right?

LEFT KNEE: Yeah, a lot of couch time. Been watching the NBA Playoffs. Damn Lakers.

Q: Can I ask you one swing question?

LEFT KNEE: Go ahead.

Q: What do you think of Sean Foley?

LEFT KNEE: I’d like to break his video camera.

Q: Thanks for taking the time.

LEFT KNEE: You got it.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
Exclusive Post-PGA Interview with Tiger’s Left Knee
Exclusive Interview with Tiger’s Left Knee

(This is an ARMCHAIR GOLF spoof. Image courtesy of McAlpine/Flickr.)

Tuesday, April 26

Ray Ainsley’s Historic 19 at Cherry Hills

WHEN I HEARD ABOUT Kevin Na’s 16 in the first round of the Valero Texas Open two weeks ago, I thought of Ray Ainsley. Ainsley holds the record for the highest single-hole score in the history of the U.S. Open: 19.

It occurred in 1938 at Cherry Hills Country Club outside of Denver, the first National Open played west of the Mississippi River. Ralph Guldahl was in the midst of a four-year tear during which he won three consecutive Western Opens, two consecutive U.S. Opens and a Masters. Guldahl was cruising to a six-stroke victory as the field played the customary 36 holes on the final day.

The lanky Texan strolled along the par-71 layout without a hair out of place. Guldahl, you see, was a compulsive hair comber. It was his way of easing tension. “On an important shot,” he said, “I try to steady my nerves. That comb has saved me many a stabbed putt.”

(Photo: Ralph Guldahl. While Guldahl won the Open, Ray Ainsley won notoriety.)


Yet it was Ainsley, a club pro from Ojai, California, who may be best remembered from that first U.S. Open played in the West—and for all the wrong reasons. He dunked his approach shot into a creek that bordered the green on the par-4 16th. You can probably see what’s coming. The club pro was determined to hit out of the creek. There was a problem. The ball was completely submerged in water.

According to a Cherry Hills historical account, Ainsley attacked the ball like a “wild man.” This went on for 30 minutes. That’s right, half an hour.

You might be asking yourself, “Why didn’t the goofball simply take a drop?” Because he forgot that he could take relief from a water hazard. “I thought I had to play the ball as it lay all the time,” Ainsley later told a rules official.

Bud McKinney, Ainsley’s playing partner, said that once during the tragic ordeal scorekeeper Red Anderson laughed so hard he fell to the ground. At that point, Ainsley had taken nine swings at the waterlogged ball. On a few occasions, the ball made it to the bank, only to roll back in the water. Spectators screamed, “There it is! There it is!” when the ball crawled upon dry land. But it wouldn’t stay.

The water was flowing, too, so by the time Ainsley finally hit the ball out of the creek on his 17th stroke he had lost 75 yards in distance. He pitched onto the green and one-putted for a 19, although some thought he took a 21 or a 23. Ainsley finished his round with a 96.

It has been nearly 75 years since Ray Ainsley splashed down in that creek on the 16th at Cherry Hills. He still desperately needs someone to make a 20. But I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon.

−The Armchair Golfer

Monday, April 25

Hoping for More Heritage

I’M AMONG THOSE WHO HOPE The Heritage can attract a title sponsor so it can stay on the PGA Tour schedule for its 44th year and beyond. I admit to being nostalgic. I’ve watched the tournament for a long time and know many of the holes and landmarks at Harbour Town Golf Links, even though I’ve never attended the event or played the golf course.

I even have some love for those loud Tartan sport coats that no one would be caught wearing outside of the club entrance gate. Here’s a partial list of the men in plaid:

Plaid Jackets
Davis Love 5
Hale Irwin 3
Johnny Miller 2
Hubert Green 2
Tom Watson 2
Fuzzy Zoeller 2
Payne Stewart 2
Stewart Cink 2

Opening in 1969, Harbour Town is old-school Pete Dye, with tight fairways, overhanging trees, sand, water and small greens. It’s certainly not a grip it and rip it layout. So it’s no surprise that straight hitters with stellar short games have excelled there. Winner Brian Gay overwhelmed the field in 2009 with his 20-under total, but no one else bettered 10 under. That’s Harbour Town. Posted by Brandt Snedeker and Luke Donald, yesterday’s winning score was 12 under, a testimony to the course’s difficulty.

Was it the last Heritage? As AP reported, there were rumors of a “Sunday surprise,” a new corporate sponsor to rescue the event as the sun set on the 2011 tournament. It didn’t happen.

“We will not be making any announcement regarding a new title sponsor today,” tournament director Steve Wilmot said on Sunday, “but the sponsorship search continues in earnest …. The efforts of the Foundation and the PGA Tour will continue with the care that The Heritage name and tradition deserves.”

If it was the last Heritage, then it was a fitting finish. Donald and Snedeker went three extra holes. They matched birdies on the par-4 18th and pars on the par-3 17th. Then Luke of Arabia failed to get up and down from a bunker after so many spectacular sand saves, and “Sneds” slipped on the Tartan coat. I hope he’s not the last man to wear plaid.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: danperry.com, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Saturday, April 23

Three Congressmen Take to the Golf Course
































THE PEOPLE HAVE LONG been dissatisfied with Congress, but that hasn’t discouraged its Members from escaping to a golf course to chop away at the small ball. Here we have evidence from 1926 during the Calvin Coolidge administration. (Coolidge, by the way, was a lousy golfer. Real Clear Sports ranked him No. 1 on their list of Top 10 Least Athletic Presidents.)

The above three Congressmen (names not disclosed) are enjoying a round at Chevy Chase Club in Maryland, not far from Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. I like the fellow on the far left. There’s something about his equipment, attire and demeanor that tells me he lightened the wallets of his playing partners.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Public Domain, Library of Congress)

Friday, April 22

Davis Love’s Journey to Comfort




























DAVIS LOVE SAYS “I’M definitely comfortable in my own skin.” But probably not as much this week. More on that in a moment.

The above line is the slogan for the Dove Men + Care Journey to Comfort campaign. Love and Stewart Cink recently became the first golfers showcased in the ad campaign. Basketballers Magic Johnson, Bobby Hurley and John Thompson II kicked off the spots during March Madness. Love and Cink were filmed and photographed in their own homes. The golfers’ wives and children also participated.

The journey hasn’t been comfortable for Love this week at The Heritage in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Golf writer Dave Shedloski reported on Twitter that Davis has the stomach flu. After putting a belly putter in his bag, the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup captain shot rounds of 76 and 73 and will miss the cut.

−The Armchair Golfer

Related:
Behind the Scenes With Stewart Cink at Dove Men Shoot

(Image: Courtesy of Edelman)

Thursday, April 21

2011 Heritage TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2011 HERITAGE IS UNDERWAY at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Garrett Willis is the early leader after posting a 7-under 64. The first round is still in progress.



Purse: $5.7 million
Winner’s share: $1.026 million
Defending champion: Jim Furyk




2011 Heritage Leaderboard


Inside the field
Inside the course
Tee times
Interviews
Tournament overview
Tournament news
Tour report
Heritage website


TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2011 Heritage is on Golf Channel and CBS.

Thu, 4/21:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Fri, 4/22:
GOLF 3p - 6p ET

Sat, 4/23:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

Sun, 4/24:
CBS 3p - 6p ET

SIRIUS-XM broadcast times


−The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, April 20

LPGA Tour: ‘Ladies Who Will Eat Your Lunch’



“Ladies who will eat your lunch,” as Paul Creamer refers to the women’s tour in the above clip, are drawing larger numbers. LPGA.com reports an increase in TV ratings, attendance and website traffic through the first five events of the 2011 season.

Total television viewership is 20 percent higher than like events on cable in 2010. Like events televised on Golf Channel have seen a 32 percent bump in viewership. The Kraft Nabisco Championship drew the most viewers for rounds 1 and 2 since 18 and 17 years ago, respectively. Overall website traffic during the year’s first major was up 52 percent. In addition, attendance has increased by eight percent through the first four events.

“We know it’s early,” said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan, “but we feel that the Tour’s popularity is on the rise and we will do all we can to maintain this momentum throughout the season.”

The ladies are back in action next week at the Avnet LPGA Classic in Mobile, Alabama. Se Ri Pak is the defending champion.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, April 19

The Rules Geek: Decision 33-7/4.5 Overhauled for Video Age

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

THE DAYS WERE NUMBERED for Decision 33-7/4-5. Armchair rules officials glued to their high-def TV screens have for some time been emailing and tweeting rules violations, banishing tour pros such as Camilo Villegas and Padraig Harrington to DQ Land for turning in scores they thought were correct, only to later learn they made a boo-boo.

It had all gotten rather silly. The way things were going, half the tournament fields might have been sent home by year’s end for rules infractions. Thankfully, The R&A and USGA stepped in to rework the decision about disqualification. This from their statement:
This revision to Decision 33-7/4.5 addresses the situation where a player is not aware he has breached a Rule because of facts that he did not know and could not reasonably have discovered prior to returning his score card. Under this revised decision and at the discretion of the Committee, the player still receives the penalty associated with the breach of the underlying Rule, but is not disqualified.
As for ignorance of the Rules, The R&A and USGA will still have none of it, a stance that makes the Rules Geek a proud card-carrying member of those august bodies:
In revising the decision, The R&A and the USGA confirm that the disqualification penalty still applies for score card breaches that arise from ignorance of the Rules of Golf. As such, this decision reinforces that it is still the responsibility of the player to know the Rules, while recognizing that there may be some rare situations where it is reasonable that a player is unaware of the factual circumstances of a breach.
You can read the new language for Decision 33-7/4-5 here. I think we can all rest better now.

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.

More Rules Geek:
Camilo Villegas and the Divot DQ
Bad Behavior Down Under?
Juli Inkster and the Donut DQ
Phil Mickelson and the Proper Drop
Abnormal Ground Conditions Aid Amateur
Hunter Mahan’s Driver Replacement

(Photo credit: westy48, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Monday, April 18

Rory McIlroy Spotted ‘House Hunting’

WHATEVER YOU MAKE OF Rory McIlroy’s Sunday back-nine collapse at Augusta, the Irish lad certainly has a healthy sense of humor about his Masters misadventures. Accompanied by the photograph at right, Rory tweeted this on Sunday:

“Apparently I was spotted house hunting last week..... LOL!!!”

Now that’s funny. Of course, the image documents Rory’s unfolding disaster at the par-4 10th where he eventually walked away with a triple-bogey seven.

The Irish star again had difficulty closing out a win this past weekend at the Malaysia Open.

Leading on Saturday night and facing 27 holes on Sunday due to weather-related delays, Rory was overtaken by Italian phenom Matteo Manassero, who notched his second win in just 25 starts on the European Tour. Manassero closed with a 68 to finish at 16 under and edge Gregory Bourdy by a shot. The Italian teenager will turn 18 on Tuesday.

A three-putt double bogey at the 15th was costly as McIlroy completed his third round one stroke off the lead. Then a fourth-round rally that included three birdies in four holes on the back nine stalled at the 72nd hole when Rory carded a bogey. He shot a 69 and finished alone in third.

“I’m proud of the way I picked up myself from last week,” he remarked to the media.

Today, Rory was en route to his Northern Ireland home for two weeks of R and R.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Visor tip to Mike Walker at Golf.com’s Press Tent.)

(Image: Courtesy of @McIloryRory)

Saturday, April 16

The Collector Edition Golf Folio



















WHEREAS THERE ARE ONLY 10 Luxury Edition Golf Folios that will command a minimum of $48,000, artists Paul Skellet and Simon Weitzman have also created a Collector Edition Golf Folio that is within the reach of many golf enthusiasts. Featuring 18 chapters and 320 pages of fine golf art and editorial, the Collector Edition is offered as a limited edition of 2,100.

The Collector Edition is available for the pre-order price of £350/$562. The discounted price ends in July 2011.

Collector Edition Specifications
Limited Edition: 2,100
Signed and numbered by: Artists
Size: 28cm (w) x 33cm (h)
Paper: 170gsm archive art paper
Pages: 320 pages plus a pocket page containing an exclusive, limited edition print only available to owners of the Collector Edition
Binding: Bound in leather and gold blocked
Box: Leather and Silk Slipcase
Extras to order: Personalisation of binding
Published price: £395/$630 USD

As contemporary artists, Weitzman and Skellett have exhibited in London, Scotland, Paris and Tokyo. Their work will appear on the U.S. West Coast later this year. They have backgrounds in TV series direction, commercial direction, animation, leisure brand design and fine art. Credits include BBC, ITV, HBO, Disney, Virgin, Aston Martin and Jools Holland.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Courtesy of Wonderland Publications)

Friday, April 15

On My Golf Bucket List: Scotland and The Old Course

TODAY I WAS REMINDED OF my golf bucket list when my wife told me that her brother is heading to Ireland this August for a golf trip. A few years ago he went to Scotland. He brought me back a cap from Royal Troon. I still have it. I still long to go.

There are several things I’ve been able to cross off my golf bucket list. I’ve been to many golf tournaments and a handful of majors. In 2008 I finally made it to Augusta National Golf Club for the Masters. I was also fortunate to attend the Ryder Cup at Valhalla in Louisville.

What’s left?

I’ve always wanted to play Pebble Beach, as I mentioned not long ago. I don’t know if or when that will happen at this point. I’m no longer in the West Coast neighborhood and the green fees are five Benjamin Franklins. But here’s a big one: I want to attend The Open Championship. I also want to set foot on the Home of Golf, St. Andrews, the Old Course. It’s on my golf bucket list. I need to get there.

(Photo: The Road Hole at St. Andrews / courtesy of Melvyn Morrow)

I know golf in Scotland is like a pilgrimage. It’s something a golfer should do at least once in a lifetime, if at all possible. I could happily tour all of Scotland’s fabled links if I had enough time and money. But it seems to me that St. Andrews is the destination for those interested in a serious golfing holiday. After all, it’s where this crazy game began.

My dad went to Scotland and St. Andrews in the 1980s. He bought me a cap. As I mentioned, my brother-in-law went a few years ago. He bought me a cap.

I DON’T NEED ANY MORE CAPS.

I need to see the Road Hole with my own eyes. I need to walk across the Swilken Bridge toward the Valley of Sin. I need to hack my way out of one of those insane pot bunkers and play a Miguel Angel Jimenez carom shot. If you have played and watched golf much of your life like l have, then you’re nodding your head. This makes perfect sense to you.

I expect to accomplish this goal.

The Old Course isn’t always love at first sight. The great Bobby Jones was not impressed the first time he saw St. Andrews. Nor was Sam Snead. Scott Hoch called it “the biggest piece of mess I’ve ever seen.” A few years ago, a former tour and club pro told me, “I felt like Bobby Jones the first time he saw it. Thought it was a cow pasture.”

Yet, the Old Course won over Bobby Jones, and Bobby Jones won over the Scots, returning again and again and winning three Claret Jugs.

As for me, I’ll be glad if I can just go once. When I do, maybe I’ll buy someone a cap.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Brought to you by YourGolfTravel.com, the online destination for golf breaks uk.)

Thursday, April 14

Behind the Scenes With Stewart Cink at Dove Men Shoot




























“MY NAME IS STEWART CINK, and I’m definitely comfortable in my own skin.”

That’s the tagline for the Dove Men + Care Journey to Comfort campaign. Cink and Davis Love recently became the first golfers to be showcased in the ad campaign, which featured basketball men Magic Johnson, Bobby Hurley and John Thompson II during March Madness.

The spots featuring Cink and Love were shot in the players’ homes. A photo of Stewart and wife Lisa follows.






























−The Armchair Golfer

(Images: Courtesy of Edelman)

Wednesday, April 13

Golf Goes to Washington



TODAY IS NATIONAL GOLF DAY, a day when leaders of the U.S. golf industry go to Capitol Hill to speak with a unified voice about the importance of the game, not just as a pastime but as a major industry.

The World Golf Foundation coordinated the day’s agenda, according to the foundation’s website. Golf’s movers and shakers from organizations such as the PGA of America, World Golf Foundation, Club Managers Association of America, National Golf Course Owners Association and Golf Course Superintendents Association of America carried an important message to Members of Congress:

“Golf is good for the country. And what’s good for the people is good for the president. Let him play. Lord knows his game needs a lot of work.”

Well, not exactly. In fact, that’s a complete fabrication. Although golf and the golf industry really are good for the country, as it turns out. According to the World Golf Foundation:
  • Golf provides two million jobs
  • Golf creates $61 billion in annual wages
  • The U.S. golf economy totals more than $76 billion
Golf’s $76 billion impact exceeds newspaper publishing, performing arts and spectator sports, and the motion picture and video industry. I didn’t know that. Thank you, National Golf Day.

It was an exciting and inspiring time for golf in the nation’s capitol. I’ve included the above YouTube highlights so you can share in the celebration. Enjoy.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, April 12

Rory McIlroy and the 900 Pound Putting Gorilla

Editor’s note: 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


RORY MCILROY’S BACK ROOM TEAM needs to wake up and face the fact that he needs help with his putting. The Holywood star’s manager Chubby Chandler confessed after the Masters disaster that McIlroy had a problem, but then said he didn’t know what it was. Odd.

Perhaps he’s nervous about adding fuel to an already raging bonfire after watching the 21-year old rack up a three-putt and a four-putt under severe pressure and miss more than half a dozen putts inside seven feet in the final round alone. Augusta National brutally exposes even the tiniest weakness and McIlroy’s putting, which is brilliant when he is in brimming with confidence, is hit and miss when the squeeze is on.

Instead of addressing that, Chandler spoke about McIlroy’s need to find a way of playing enough golf to learn how to win without burning himself out, which is ironic considering the moves made to reduce the youngster’s schedule this year.

Asked how McIlroy could recover from such a massive meltdown, Chandler said: “He is a smart lad, isn’t he? He knows there is a problem. But it is not an insolvable problem.”

So what’s the problem then?

“I don’t know what the problem is,” Chandler said as he dashed off to keep up with newly crowned Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, the latest client in his ISM stable to win a major. “I don’t know.”

What Chandler does know is that McIlroy is still a young man with lots to learn. But how much has been done to improve his short putting? The youngster has built several greens at his home practice facility near Belfast and worked with biomechanics expert Dr Paul Hurrion. But how diligently he has applied himself to the grueling monotony of practice putting drills is another story. Word is he found the grind a little boring when he was working intensively with Hurrion a couple of years ago.

The good news is that he has time on his side, as Chandler pointed out on Sunday night.

“It is just part of growing up,” he said. “He is just 21, don’t forget that. If he was in America he would still be at college. We are all thinking that he should have won the Masters. And he is No 9 in the world and we are all thinking he is underachieving. It is scary but that is how good he is.”

Having given up his PGA Tour card, ostensibly because the 15-event minimum forces McIlroy to play too often, Chandler instead believes that his golden goose will learn to win by playing and contending more often. But that doesn’t add up when it was decided last year to urge McIlroy not to retain PGA Tour membership and play just 23 events this year instead of the usual 30.

Playing less will take the pressure of the Holywood star’s body (he suffered back problems at the start of last year). But what he really needs is help with his pressure putting after a series of final day reverses when leading after 54 holes in his first three and a half years as a pro.

Chandler said: “The problem with Rory is that he doesn’t play a lot so you don’t get that much practice at winning. And that’s the balance now.

“How many times you should play to do that and yet stay fresh and focused? Because he came in here great, didn’t he. He was fresh every day. But you have got to learn to do certain things on the golf course.”

Putting apart, McIlroy made several strategic mistakes in the final round and paid the price for a pull-hook under pressure, taking seven at the 10th to kiss the green jacket goodbye. He is green as a professional but it was his form on the greens that really let him down on Sunday afternoon.

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

Monday, April 11

A Stunning New Episode of Masters Theater

“TO ME, GOLF IS GREAT THEATER.” Those were the words of Frank Chirkinian, the legendary CBS-TV golf producer who recently died after a long fight with lung cancer. Chirkinian, considered to be the father of televised golf, explained that he never thought of himself as a golf or sports producer. The golf course was the setting for drama, tragedy and triumph. Above all, it was theater.

Can you imagine what Chirkinian would have thought about this most recent Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club?

Like a lot of golf fans, I’m still trying to process what I saw take place yesterday amid the pines and azaleas, through Amen Corner, and on those last four holes. I wholeheartedly agree with Chirkinian. The Masters is certainly “great theater.” I’ve been spellbound by it for three decades. I remember 1986 and so many others. But I’d never seen this episode. Not even close. This one had everything, and it was mesmerizing.

The mind tries to pick a winner. Who has the lead. Who has the look. Who still has enough birdie opportunities and nerve on the way to the clubhouse. But yesterday it was impossible to identify the 2011 Masters champion. I couldn’t even narrow it down to two or three. This was by far the largest cast of Sunday contenders on Masters Theater.

Who would wear the Green Jacket?

It was Rory. It was Tiger. It was Rory. It was Angel Cabrera, K.J. Choi and Charl Schwartzel. It was Tiger. It was Geoff Ogilvy. Bo Van Pelt? No. It was Adam Scott. Definitely Adam Scott. Wait, maybe Jason Day. No no no no! It’s Schwartzel. Yeah, that quiet skinny guy who sinks every five-footer. (And chips in for birdie and holes out for eagle.) For the love of Jimmy Demaret, that 26-year-old birdied the last four holes to win the Masters!

Who had done that? Exactly no one in the 75-year history of Bobby Jones’s invitational.

Those four Schwartzel birdies, especially the final three that were medium-range putts, were stupendous.

Charl “Don’t Add ‘es’” Schwartzel didn’t lose any sleep on Saturday night like young Rory McIlroy. As Phil Mickelson said, it’s pretty difficult to sleep on a 54-hole Masters lead. It’s even more difficult to play with a four-shot lead. Poor Rory.

McIlroy’s implosion was probably the least surprising aspect of Masters Theater. Tiger’s charge was amazing and tragic. But nor was it the most surprising thing. What surprised me the most about the 2011 Masters was the number of players who struck quality shots down the stretch, who played their fancy white pants off to win the Green Jacket, even after Tiger set off explosions all over the grounds.

That was incredible stuff. It was good for golf. Most of all, it was great theater.

−The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, April 9

Rory McIlroy in Command at Augusta

RORY MCILROY WILL TAKE A four-shot lead into the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. McIlroy fashioned a solid 70 on Saturday while his closest pursuers failed to mount a charge. Patient and poised, McIlroy birdied three of the final six holes to put himself in position to not only win his first major, but to do it in dominating style with a wire-to-wire romp through the world-famous former nursery.

But it’s not over.

The Irish phenom must survive a pressure-filled Sunday to earn his spot along the game’s greatest champions at America’s most exclusive golf club. Those who hope to have something to say about the outcome include the quartet at 8 under that trail McIlroy’s 12-under total. They are 2009 Masters champion Angel Cabrera, Charl Schwartzel, K.J. Choi and Jason Day.

Adam Scott and Luke Donald are another shot back at 7 under. Bo Van Pelt is alone in eighth at 6 under.

Carding a 74, Tiger Woods lost all the momentum from his exciting Friday charge up the leaderboard. His putting woes continued after the flash of the old Tiger. Whereas the putter used to save Tiger time and again, now it’s the most troublesome club in the bag. This isn’t new. I first noticed putting problems on Sunday’s back nine in 2008 when Trevor Immelman won. It happens to all the greats.

Keep an eye on that Cabrera character, especially if McIlroy stumbles on the way to Butler Cabin. Angel slipped into Kenny Perry’s Green Jacket two years ago and swiped the U.S. Open trophy from Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk at Oakmont in 2007.

But Rory will do it if his mind is right on Sunday. I don’t know how he could look more ready.

−The Armchair Golfer

Friday, April 8

Tiger Crashes Masters Leaderboard

THE PUTTS WENT IN. After a sluggish start that included three bogeys in the first seven holes, Tiger Woods sank seven birdies in the last 11 holes en route to a 66 that moved him to within three shots of Rory McIlroy’s lead. Tiger’s touch on the glassy Augusta greens was back, like at 11 where he coaxed in a ticklish par-saver. His tee shots were still shaky at times, but many of his approach shots were on target, like at 18 where he carved his ball around the pines to set up a finishing birdie.

The look was also back as Tiger marched through the back nine and up the leaderboard late on Friday. On Saturday he’ll be paired with K.J. Choi, who posted a 70. The two played all four rounds together at last year’s Masters. They enjoy each others’ company.

Playing with leader McIlroy, Aussie Jason Day fired a brilliant 64, the day’s best round. Day is 8 under, two off McIlroy’s lead. Rory continued to stripe the ball, although the putts didn’t fall like they did on Thursday when he shot a 65. Rickie Fowler, the third musketeer, carded a 69 to keep himself in the hunt at 5 under.

After his second 69, Geoff Ogilvy is at 6 under along with first round co-leader Alvaro Quiros. Ricky Barnes, Fred Couples and Lee Westwood are tied with Fowler. Couples posted an age-defying 68. Freddie loves Augusta. It’s a crazy love. Phil Mickelson shot an even-par 72, and at 2 under has a lot of work to do on Saturday if he wants to crash the party.

The third round will be intriguing, for it’s a test. Will Tiger continue to hit good approach shots and hole putts? I think he can, especially at Augusta. On the other hand, Tiger hasn’t put together back-to-back rounds in a while. The pins will be tougher to get to; the greens will be harder and faster.

I’m also curious to see how the young bucks respond. For all the talk about Tiger’s intimidation factor being a thing of the past, I wonder if McIlroy and Day will have the twitches. My hunch is that Day will struggle. The Masters pressure might just beat him silly. Rory is a little more battle tested. But will he putt like Sergio Garcia?

As Rickie Fowler says, game on.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: Gary Hisanaga, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Thursday, April 7

McIlroy and Quiros Lead Masters, Fowler to Wear White on Friday

THE 75TH MASTERS IS underway, golf fans, er, patrons. It was an especially gorgeous day at Augusta National, warm and no wind to speak of, a day for scoring. The field charged out of the gate like 2-year-olds at the Kentucky Derby. They’re all bunched up as they enter the first turn and it’s way too early to sort it all out.

But we know the horses leading the pack, a couple of strong thoroughbreds: Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Spain’s Alvaro Quiros.

Rory McIlroy, grouped with Rickie Fowler and Jason Day, set the early pace with a 7-under 65. Fowler had a 70. Day carded a 72. Quiros, playing alongside fellow power rangers Jhonattan Vegas and Gary Woodland in the day’s last grouping, matched McIlroy’s 65. Previously, Quiros’ best trip around Augusta National was 75.

I enjoyed watching Quiros, Woodland and Vegas blister the back nine. Woodland salvaged a 69 by playing the last six holes six under par.

With 67s, Y.E. Yang and K.J. Choi are two behind the leaders. Matt Kuchar and Ricky Barnes fired 68s. Phil Mickelson and Tigers Woods had 70 and 71, respectively. World No. 1 Martin Kaymer stumbled to a 78.

The weather is supposed to be perfect on the weekend. The course will play firmer and faster as Sunday approaches.

Y’all know this isn’t a golf fashion blog, but the folks at COBRA-PUMA GOLF contacted me as they sometimes do. They wanted me to know what Rickie Fowler would be wearing all four days at the Masters.

Who am I to withhold this information from you?

So Rickie will slip into white with a blue-striped pattern on Friday, a green-striped polo with white pants on Saturday and his trademark all orange on Sunday. It might be the only thing I can say with any certainty about this year’s Masters.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Courtesy of COBRA-PUMA GOLF)

Wednesday, April 6

Book Excerpt: ‘The Caddie Who Won The Masters’

Editor’s note: Three years ago I asked author friend John Coyne if he would be interested in going to the Masters. His response was an enthusiastic yes. He flew south from New York City, I picked him up in Charlotte, and off we went to Augusta, two longtime golf fans making their first pilgrimage to America’s famed cathedral of golf. For John, it was that and something more—research for the third novel in his popular “caddie” series. Today, I’m pleased to offer an excerpt from his just-released golf tale,The Caddie Who Won The Masters.

By John Coyne
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


Copyright © 2011 John Coyne. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

A PLAYER NEVER WINS the Masters on his own, as those of us who follow golf know well enough. But in all honesty, when I look back at my week in Georgia, I don’t know which one of those golfing legends helped me the most. Of course, my caddie played a part—that young kid who showed up out of nowhere to carry my bag. And certainly Kerry had more than her share of influence on how it all turned out.

Golf writers pointed to what occurred on the third round at Amen Corner, saying that was the turning point. Yet the truth is, so much more had happened to me before that afternoon out there at the far end of Augusta National that I can’t say my eagle on 15 was the decisive moment. Even though it was there—on the back side in the third round—were my game turned around in the fading sunlight of moving day, as Saturdays on tour are called, and I came into contention.

In retrospect I know that what transpired up in the Crow’s Nest of the clubhouse before the tournament was more important than any shot I made at Augusta National.

So when I put into place the bits and pieces of my time in Georgia, as if they were some sort of mythological mystery, all I can say for certain is that my life began to subtly shift the moment I stepped off the Washington Avenue bus at the front gate of Augusta National Golf Club on the Sunday afternoon before the opening round. I realize now I wasn’t in control of my own destiny that week, but, of course, others who have played the Masters have also said as much.

I do know that on that first day I looked more like a forty-year-old caddie than a player, standing there at the bus stop with a suitcase in one hand and my clubs slung over my shoulder. I was a wrinkled, unshaven mess, wearing baggy pants, beat-up New Balances and a golf cap jerked down on my uncombed, thick, salt-and-pepper hair. Anyone who was watching—though no one was—would’ve taken me for one of those old-time loopers who travel from club to club hoping to grab a bag and earn a few bucks to buy another bottle of booze. What separated me from the caddie yard were my sticks. One glance in my bag would have told any player that even if I wasn’t first class, at least the clubs were.

I stepped across the wide street and said hello to the uniformed Securitas guards standing in front of the white-brick gatehouse. I told them my name—Timothy Jack Alexander—and that I had come to play.

Cars filled with players, officials, reporters, and members of Augusta National were slipping by me at the entrance. The cars slowed, the people inside presented credentials, then they were waved ahead. The sleek automobiles rode smoothly under the speckled sunlight filtering through the canopy of those ancient magnolia trees that stretch from the gates up the famous drive to the white-columned plantation manor house.

I showed the guard my invitation. Every year, the winner of the U.S. Mid-Amateur is offered a chance to play in the Masters, and having won the tournament, this was my year. The letter was signed by Billy Payne himself, the chairman of Augusta National.

Next the guard wanted me to prove that I was really Timothy Jack Alexander. I showed him my Southern Illinois University faculty ID, with the mug shot of me looking as if I had just played thirty-six holes on a hot August afternoon.

“Would you like a lift to the clubhouse, sir?” he offered, comprehending now that I wasn’t a crazy old guy trying to crash the gates.

I shook my head, saying I wanted to walk onto the famous Augusta golf course. It was for sentimental reasons, I explained, but still the guard frowned. Who’d ever heard of a Masters qualifier wanting to walk down Magnolia Lane?

I thanked the guard, swung my bag onto my shoulder and, on foot, followed the limousines through the iron gates of Augusta National, the citadel of golf in America. I knew it was the home of legends. What I never dreamed was what the legends would mean to me.

Bestselling author John Coyne has written more than 25 books of fiction and nonfiction. To learn more about John’s new golf novel, The Caddie Who Won the Masters, visit JohnCoyneBooks.com or Amazon.

Tuesday, April 5

2011 Masters TV Schedule and Tournament Notes































HELLO, FRIENDS, AND WELCOME to the 2011 Masters. This is Jim Nan ... er, sorry. I got carried away. It’s Masters week, golf fans! Magnolia Lane, azaleas, Amen Corner, pimento cheese sandwiches and Chuck Norris-style security.

MASTERS NEED TO KNOW

Purse: $7.5 million
Winner’s share: A bundle, but they’re really playing for the Green Jacket
Defending champion: Phil Mickelson

2011 Masters Leaderboard

Masters field
Augusta National Golf Club
First and second round tee times
Masters photo gallery
Masters newsroom
Masters tournament information
Masters winners
Official Masters site

ARMCHAIR GOLF Masters Vault

Assorted past stories.

The Roars of Augusta
13 Things We Still Know After the Masters
Errie Ball: Last Man Standing from First Masters
Q&A: Walker Inman Jr.: First Augusta Native to Play in Masters
Masters Food: A Tradition Unlike Any Other
Q&A: SI’s Jim Gorant on the Masters

TV SCHEDULE

Between Golf Channel, ESPN and CBS, roughly a gazillion hours of TV coverage are scheduled for the 2011 Masters. If your TV is on, you’re bound to catch it.

Wed, April 6
ESPN 3-5 PM ET
GOLF 6-8 PM ET

Thu, April 7
ESPN 3-7:30 PM ET
GOLF 8 AM-3 PM and 7:30-9:30 PM ET
Sirius/XM 2-8 PM ET

Fri, April 8
ESPN 3-7:30 PM ET
GOLF 8 AM-3 PM and 7:30-9:30 PM ET
Sirius/XM 2-8 PM ET

Sat, April 9
CBS 3:30-7 PM ET
GOLF 12:30-3:30 PM and 7-9 PM ET
Sirius/XM 2-7 PM ET

Sun, April 10
CBS 2-7 PM ET
GOLF 12:30-3:30 PM and 7-9 PM ET
Sirius/XM 2-7 PM ET

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: Keith Allison, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Monday, April 4

It’s 5 a.m.: Watching the Masters Down Under

(From the ARMCHAIR GOLF archives.)

“In arguably the most sports-obsessed country in the world, this may go some way to explaining Australia’s exceedingly high expectations in world golf. If we’re going to get up at these ridiculous hours to watch, our golfers had better put on a good show.”

By Michael Green
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


THE ALARM GOES OFF at 5 a.m., which is a lot earlier than usual for a Monday morning. The household stirs a little due to the slight disturbance, but I grab the doona (Australian for blanket), walk down the hall, switch on the TV and lay down on the couch.

I’ve still yet to open my eyes. The sounds of tinkling ivories soon come out of the TV and combined with shot after shot of flowering garden beds it’s almost enough to put me back to sleep. Thankfully, some golf is shown in between these images and my eyes begin to adjust to the picture.

The final round of the U.S. Masters is on TV. In Australia.

There’s a real skill to adjusting the volume to an audible level while keeping it low enough so the non-golf fans in the household aren’t disturbed. I have trouble speaking at that time of the day, and having to explain exactly what I’m doing in front of the TV so early would be near impossible.

This is the way I’ve experienced every U.S. Masters since I was a kid and the story would be very similar for many other Australian golf fans. All of the golf majors are experienced this way Down Under except for the British Open, which is a real test on a Sunday evening. The final round usually finishes around 4 a.m.

In arguably the most sports-obsessed country in the world, this may go some way to explaining Australia’s exceedingly high expectations in world golf. If we’re going to get up at these ridiculous hours to watch, our golfers had better put on a good show.

I’ve felt like I’ve wasted
many hours of sleep only to see many Australians tumble in the majors. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching any golf, but we all have our favourites and the Australians are mine.

You need two hands to count the number of times Greg Norman has been in contention at Augusta. That’s close to ten weeks of my life I’ve felt cheated by getting up to watch The Shark fall at the last hurdle, none more so than 1987 and 1996. School and university were major chores during those weeks. It’s a wonder I passed.

Greg Norman’s amazing shot at the 2008 British Open was tough to take as he looked like he was winning for three and a half days, but it wasn’t quite as hard to take as the 2002 Open. Two Australians made the playoff and we still couldn’t win it.

Australians have usually played well at The Open, though. Peter Thomson won it five times, Norman won twice and Ian Baker-Finch chimed in with a win of his own as well. Wayne Grady and Steve Elkington grabbed a PGA Championship each in the 90’s but there’s a feeling that Australian golf has some even better results just around the corner.

Geoff Ogilvy’s win at Winged Foot
in the 2006 U.S. Open was considered a shock to most fans. Australians knew him as another great young golfer with plenty of potential, but the circumstances of his win left many still wondering how good he was. His WGC wins and early 2009 form have laid any doubt to rest, and many sleepy Australian eyes will be on him at the U.S. Masters.

Regular tour players such as Stuart Appleby and Robert Allenby are still playing good golf, but it’s the new brigade that may lead to some big wins. Aaron Baddeley and Adam Scott are always on everyone’s list of “next Australian major winner,” and players such as Jason Day are still considered by many to be future stars.

This list does go on and we’re hoping they can erase some bad memories in future major tournaments, particularly at the Masters.

We can say the bad memories
are in the past and something we’d rather forget. But these trials and tribulations have made Australian golf.

We’re a country that has always struggled with our identity. Isolated at the meeting point of some very large oceans on a piece of land almost the size of the continental United States—and with a population the same as New York—we’ve been punching above our weight in golf for many years and made a name for ourselves.

Those early morning heartbreaks still hurt, but with the likes of Ogilvy, Allenby, Goggin and even the old Shark showing some form, maybe those Monday mornings will soon be a little brighter.

I might even turn the TV up a bit. Let the rest of the house know what’s going on.

Michael Green writes about golf at Aussie Golfer.

Saturday, April 2

The $48,000 Luxury Golf Folio



















THIS ISN’T FOR EVERYONE. In fact, there are only 10 Luxury Edition Golf Folios created by artists Paul Skellett and Simon Weitzman. Based on the design of a 14th century medieval Bible, the Golf Folio is called “an epic body of artwork celebrating the game, the terrain and where it’s all going.” It can be yours for as little as $48,000.

With contributions from winning Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie and more than 50 other golf course architects, golf coaches, other industry professionals and celebrities from various creative fields, the Golf Folio features 140 fine art pieces contained in 18 chapters. It’s bound in 400-year-old Russia Hide that was pulled out of black silt during a marine salvage operation.

Luxury Edition Specifications
Limited Edition: 10
Signed and numbered by: Artists and Colin Montgomerie
Size: 1.1 metre (w) x 0.4 metre (h) x 8cm (d)
Weight: 37.5 kilos/82.67 lbs.
Paper: 315gsm archive art paper
Pages: 140 pages hand torn edges
Binding: Bound in Russia Hide leather (400 years old)
Box: Oak slipcase
Extras to order: Personalisation of binding and content
Price: Starting at £30,000/$48,000

For the bargain hunters, there are 2,100 Collector Editions with 320 pieces of fine art available for the pre-order price of £350/$562.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Courtesy of Wonderland Publications)

Friday, April 1

New Putting Drill Has Tiger Ready for Masters






























I KNOW THIS WILL arouse suspicion since today is April Fool’s Day. But I don’t consider it any more far-fetched than the daily hullabaloo about Tiger Woods’ swing. The original source is The Onion, America’s Finest News Source.

The putting drill is pretty simple. You putt a large baby into its diaper. It can be a baby boy or a baby girl (pictured). It really doesn’t matter. Make sure the baby is face up and the diaper is clean.

Devised by an unnamed putting guru, there are a few key ideas behind the novel drill:

1. It prevents your putting stroke from breaking down. The drill forces you to use the big muscles and follow through toward the target.

2. If you can get a baby rolling smoothly, then you can stroke any golf ball and master any putting surface with ease.

3. It builds confidence.

For Tiger, it’s all about the process, and this drill is restoring the kind of putting confidence that helped him win four Green Jackets. Don’t be surprised if next week at Augusta National you hear Tiger say, “Get in there, baby!”

You’ll know why.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Courtesy of The Onion)