Wednesday, October 31

2012 WGC-HSBC Champions TV Schedule and Tournament Notes



THE 2012 WGC-HSBC CHAMPIONS BEGINS ON THURSDAY at Mission Hills Golf Club in Olazabal, Guangdong, China. The elite field will not include the worlds top two players. Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods will take a break after their high-profile Monday exhibition.

Purse: $7 million
Winner’s share: $1.2 million
Defending champion: Martin Kaymer

2012 WGC-HSBC Champions Leaderboard

Field
Tee times
Course
Tournament overview
Tour report
Tournament news

TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2012 WGC-HSBC Champions is on Golf Channel.

Wed, 10/31
11 pm - 4 am ET

Thu, 11/1
11 pm - 4 am ET
11 am - 4 pm ET

Fri, 11/2
11 pm - 4 am ET
11 am - 4 pm ET

Sat, 11/3
8 pm - 1 am ET
11 am - 4 pm ET

(Image: Courtesy of PGATour.com)

Tuesday, October 30

Free Ticket Offer for LPGA Tour Finale

THE CME GROUP TITLEHOLDERS, THE SEASON’S concluding event on the LPGA Tour, and Subway announced a free ticket offer for the Southwest Florida community where the tournament is played. Subway restaurants (118 to be exact) in four counties are offering a buy one, get one free promotion for weekly tickets to the LPGA finale at the TwinEagles Club. The top female players return to Naples to tee it up at the newly-constructed Eagle course on November 12-18.

“By partnering with Subway, we’re giving even more families and fans access to the CME Group Titleholders, which will showcase some of the best players and athletes in the world,” Tournament Director Lesley Baker said in a statement.

“Beginning now, anyone who visits an area Subway restaurant will receive a voucher for a buy one, get one weekly ticket and can scan a QR code to redeem the offer online or at the PGA Tour Superstore in Naples.”

Vouchers will be available at Subway restaurants in Collier, Glades, Lee and Hendry counties beginning on Wednesday, October 31.

The tournament field will include the winners and top finishers from each LPGA Tour event. Notable players are Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng and top-ranked American and the No. 2 player in the world, Stacy Lewis. Tseng and Lewis have both won three times this season. Other strong entrants are two-time winners Ai Miyazato and Jiyai Shin.

Monday, October 29

Rory Beats Tiger in China Exhibition

By Brian Keogh
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF

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 excerpt from Brian’s Irish Golf Desk is used with permission.

Rory McIlroy
RORY MCILROY SHOT A FIVE-UNDER 67 to beat Tiger Woods by one stroke in a head-to-head, 18-hole exhibition match at the Jinsha Lake Golf Club in central China on Monday. Dubbed the Duel at Jinsha Lake, the world No 1 is reported to have earned a $1m appearance fee with world No 2 Woods picking up $2m.

McIlroy took an early lead with two birdies on the first three holes and held on to beat Woods, who had two bogeys to go along with his six birdies for the day in a four-under 68.

McIlroy travelled to Zhengzhou, an industrial city in China’s Henan province, after finishing second to Peter Hanson in the European Tour’s BMW Masters at Shanghai, while Woods tied for fourth behind Nick Watney in the PGA Tour’s CIMB Classic in Malaysia. McIlroy and Woods have opted not to compete in this week’s WGC-HSBC Champions at Mission Hills.

The Holywood star will travel to Bulgaria to watch his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki compete before resuming his bid for thE European Tour’s Race to Dubai in Singapore next week. McIlroy says he is thriving on the pressure of being world number one and reckons he will be “hard to beat” if he brings his “A game” to the star-studded US$6 million Barclays Singapore Open.

“The status (of being world number one) adds pressure but it’s one that I thrive on. People expect me to play well, and I expect myself to play better,” McIlroy said.

“I know that I can be hard to beat when I am at my best, so I go into every tournament knowing that if I play well then I have a good chance of winning. I will always feel that way no matter what my ranking.”

McIlroy has enjoyed an outstanding season highlighted by his runaway eight-stroke victory at the US PGA Championship and is in pole position to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai with winnings of €3,407,300. He has already sewn up the PGA Tour money list with earnings of US$8,047,952 and is looking to match the feat of Luke Donald who won the money titles on both sides of the Atlantic last season.

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

Friday, October 26

Meet the Metropolitan Hickory Society



TIRED OF THE ANCHORING CONTROVERSY? Want to roll back the modern, juiced-up golf ball? Missing the true spirit of the game?

Two words: hickory golf.

As Brian Schuman says in the video, “It’s finding the essence of the game in a 100-year-old piece of wood.”

It looks like a lot of fun to me. And, if nothing else, you’ll look great in knickers and argyle socks, right? The clothes are fantastic.

(Visor tip: Kevin Markham)

Thursday, October 25

Psychologist: Greg Norman Didn’t Choke at 1996 Masters

“This wasn’t a choke. It was a weak link under pressure.”
Rick Jensen, on Greg Norman’s collapse at the 1996 Masters

JAMES ACHENBACH OF GOLF WEEK RECENTLY heard sports psychologist Rick Jensen speak at the 2012 World Golf Fitness Summit, a gathering of about 600 golf and health-and-fitness professionals. Achenbach came away with a new take on Greg Norman’s tragic stumble at the 1996 Masters. Norman headed into the final round with a six-shot lead that he frittered away, eventually losing the Green Jacket to Nick Faldo. I remember it well. It was hard to watch.

Achenbach writes:
This is the story of a conversation between golfer Greg Norman and sports psychologist Rick Jensen .... Even though this story has not been circulated in public, I don’t believe I am divulging any secrets here.

It is the story of April 14, 1996, when Norman took a six-stroke lead into the final round of the Masters. The Australian shot 78. It was a monumental collapse by Norman, and the word choke seems permanently attached to any recollection of that day.

And yet, Jensen wonders, are we missing part of this story? His conclusion: Yes, we are.
Jensen goes on to tell what really happened to Norman at Augusta. It started before Norman got there. As the story goes, his ball striking was awful. He tried to get help from Butch Harmon before going to the Masters but Harmon said there wasn’t time to fiddle with his golf swing.

“Use your course management. Use your short game,” Butch said.

Something worked for three rounds. Norman said he was aiming away from pins and hitting the ball so crooked that his misses landed close to the hole.

The Shark didn’t sleep on Saturday night because, as he told Jensen, “I’m probably the only guy in the world who thinks, ‘I don’t know if I can hold it.’”

Those fears were realized the next day. Read the full story.

Wednesday, October 24

Podcast, Part 2: Hogan, Fleck, 1955 U.S. Open, More

FRED GREENE OF GOLF SMARTER, one of the top golf podcasts, has uploaded Part 2 of our conversation about topics related to my book, THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open, which published in May (Thomas Dunne Books-St. Martin’s Press).

LINKS:
Part 2: Golf Smarter podcast with Neil Sagebiel, author of THE LONGEST SHOT
Part 1: Golf Smarter podcast with Neil Sagebiel, author of THE LONGEST SHOT

In Part 1, I provide a sketch of Hogan and Fleck—both of whom you discover in depth in THE LONGEST SHOT. I tell about the economics of the early PGA Tour and more. In both Part 1 and Part 2, I also talk about the legends I interviewed and how I was able to reconstruct the 1955 U.S. Open. We also discuss the role of television in 1955 and I describe Fleck’s amazing rally in the final round that stunned the fans, the press and Hogan, who thought he’d won his record fifth U.S. Open and was waiting the last hour in the locker room for it to be official.

If you’re at all curious about the guy behind this blog and the book (that’s me!), I hope you’ll give it a listen. Part 1 is free. Part 2 is for members only, but you can become a member for just $15, which entitles you to all of Fred’s episodes.

I also encourage you to pick up THE LONGEST SHOT for yourself or as a gift. It’s available in hardcover and ebook versions, Kindle or Nook. Please see links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble and more in the sidebar to the right.

Tuesday, October 23

DP World Champ Alvaro Quiros Battling Swing Changes

Alvaro Quiros is determined to return to Dubai in late November. (Alan Ewens)


By Alan Ewens

REIGNING CHAMPION ALVARO QUIROS VISITED DUBAI on Sunday and declared himself “100% committed” to defending his crown when the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai is staged on the Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates from 22-25 November. Quiros was at Jumeirah Golf Estates to host a special golf clinic for title sponsor DP World before jetting off to compete in the BMW Masters and the HSBC Champions in China.

Ten months ago, Quiros won the $8 million tournament in stunning style but recent swing changes have seen a slump in the Spaniard’s form meaning he is still not a certainty for the 60-strong field next month.

“It’s been a frustrating year so it’s great to be back at a place which has so many good memories for me,” said Quiros, currently ranked 73 in The European Tour’s Race to Dubai. “I made some changes to my swing because while I knew I had the game to win tournaments, I was looking for more consistency—more top ten finishes—to take me to the next level.

“Unfortunately, it has taken me a long time to bring everything together and the longer it went on the less confidence I had. But it’s slowly coming back and now I just need to be more confident on the course.”

With time running out, Quiros knows he needs two good tournaments if he is to qualify for the DP World Tour Championship and defend his title at the Earth course.

“I’m 100% committed to being back here next month,” he said. “I didn’t know until today that I am the most successful player in the event’s history, which is very special and gives me an extra incentive. I know I have something to fight for.”

Three of the Spanish star’s six European Tour victories have come in the Middle East with wins in the Commercialbank Qatar Masters, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and the DP World Tour Championship.

Monday, October 22

VIDEO: Tommy Gainey’s Putt for 59



TOMMY GAINEY WON HIS FIRST PGA TOUR event on Sunday in his unique style. Gainey tore up the Seaside Course, firing a record 10-under 60, to capture the McGladrey Classic in Sea Island, Georgia. The man nicknamed “Two Gloves” carded eight birdies and an eagle for nines of 31 and 29. Gainey had two chances to become the sixth man to shoot 59 on tour, but he could only manage pars at the 17th and 18th.

“Actually, I wasn’t thinking about 59,” Gainey said. “All I did all day was just try to make birdies and a lot of birdies because when you’re seven shots back, your chances of winning a PGA Tour tournament, especially with the leaders, Davis Love III and Jim Furyk, it don’t bide in your favor, man.”

Gainey is unconventional, to say the least. And I’m not just talking about the black gloves he wears on both hands at all times. He’s the first Golf Channel “Big Break” alum to win on the PGA Tour. He wasn’t a college standout and played minor tours to work his way up to the big time, something that seemed highly improbable for a young man who used to wrap insulation around water heaters for $8.25 an hour.

Now Gainey is a winner. Now, with his $720,000 check, he’s made some serious money this season, rising to 56th on the PGA Tour money list.

“It feels like I’m in a dream,” Two Gloves said. “I’m just waiting for somebody to slap me up side the head or pinch me or something to wake me up.”

David Toms and Furyk tied for second. Tournament host and 54-hole co-leader Love finished in a tie for fourth.

Friday, October 19

Artist Turns Golf Bags Into Works of Art

By John Coyne
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF

Copyright © John Coyne. All rights reserved.

Charles McGill and his golf bag art.
IN 1996, YOUNG ARTIST CHARLES MCGILL was working at a golf pro shop on 49th and Madison Avenue in New York City when one day while straightening up golf bags he thought it would be “cool” if he could combine a vintage recording of Malcolm X with one of the very opulent and durable-looking golf bags.

“I thought the contrast would be interesting,” McGill says today. “That was the very first thought of the possibility of using a golf bag as an object or subject in my art.”

Although not the typical artist motif, McGill has found that a golf bag reveals more than its original function suggests. It is a contextually powerful object that is ripe with its own significant baggage. His interest in the golf bag as an artistic object was fostered by his interest in the game itself.

“I love golf,” says McGill, who received his BFA from School of Visual Arts in New York City, and his MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. “I love to play it and watch it on television. I was even thinking about turning pro at one point so that I could be a teaching pro.”

Working in Rye, New York, in the Apprentice Program at Westchester Country Club as a young man, he was greatly influenced by the membership.

“I was able to see how members were as people as opposed to what I imagined or assume rich members to be and how they might act. I think a lot of people think members of country clubs are snooty with an aversion to anyone who isn’t white or rich or privileged. That wasn’t my experience. I met some of the nicest and most generous people I’ve ever encountered. And they were consistently pleasant. They were often grounded in faith and lived by it.”

Today, many of his golf objects are displayed in country clubs. Robert Rubin, who built The Bridge Country Club in Bridgehampton, New York, was one of the first country club owners to feature McGill’s work. An avid collector of contemporary art, Rubin came across McGill’s golf bag constructions and according to McGill, “it was a match made in artist/patron heaven. The club house at the Bridge Club is a perfect setting for my work and Mr. Rubin even made me an honorary member of the club which is great because I can’t afford that kind of cabbage.”

McGill’s talent for golf art also goes beyond golf bags. In 2005 he illustrated Tom Patri’s The Six-Spoke Approach to Golf published by Lyons Press in 2005. These pen-and-ink drawings show his skill not only as an artist, but also as one who loves the game.

Today, McGill lives in Peekskill, New York, and teaches art at Norwalk Community College in Norwalk, Connecticut.

John Coyne is a bestselling author whose latest book is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

Thursday, October 18

Podcast: Talking Ben Hogan, Jack Fleck, 1950s Tour, Greatest Upset

FRED GREENE HOSTS GOLF SMARTER, one of the top golf podcasts on the Internet. Beginning in 2005, Fred has done more than 300 episodes with all types of golf gurus—instructors, architects, mental coaches and more—as well as writers and authors such as yours truly.

On Monday (published on Tuesday), Fred and I had a free-ranging conversation about topics related to my book, THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open, which published in May (Thomas Dunne Books-St. Martin’s Press). I can tell you that doing a podcast is quite different than those 10-minute radio segments. Fred threw out a question or a thought and told me to run with it.

LINKS:
Golf Smarter podcast with Neil Sagebiel, author of THE LONGEST SHOT
Golf Smarter via iTunes

I provide a sketch of Hogan and Fleck—both of whom you discover (or perhaps in the case of Hogan, rediscover) in depth in THE LONGEST SHOT. I tell about the economics of the early PGA Tour, including a recent anecdote I heard about Doug Sanders. I also talk about the legends I interviewed for the book and how I was able to reconstruct the dramatic 1955 U.S. Open, which was the first of five Opens played at the Olympic Club. And more!

If you’re a regular or occasional reader of this blog or if you’ve already read THE LONGEST SHOT and are even slightly curious about the guy behind both the blog and the book, I hope you’ll give it a listen. It’s free—at least the first 30 minutes. (Fred also offers premium content for a very reasonable subscription fee.)

I also encourage you to pick up THE LONGEST SHOT for yourself or as a gift. It’s available in hardcover and ebook versions, Kindle or Nook. Please see links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble and more in the sidebar to the right.

Wednesday, October 17

Boo Weekley Fighting for PGA Tour Card

Boo Weekley (Allison)
GOLF CHANNEL’S RANDALL MELL FILED A STORY today on Boo Weekley. The 39-year-old former Ryder Cupper is No. 121 on the PGA Tour money list as he tees it up this week at The McGladrey Classic in Sea Island, Georgia. The top 125 earn full playing privileges.

Weekley has entered the majority of his 24 events this season on sponsor exemptions after losing his PGA Tour card last year and not making it through the grueling Q-school. He has a legitimate shot at getting his card backif he can hang on to his spot. In addition to playing this week, Weekley is in the field (thanks to a sponsor exemption) for the season-ending Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic in November.

As Mell reported and Weekley was quoted, the pride of Milton, Florida, has been playing hurt for quite some time. Boo had a third shoulder surgery at the beginning of the season. If that weren’t enough, another injury, as Mell wrote, “has literally been a pain in the rear.”

Not knowing a delicate way to put it, the plainspoken golfer informed the media, “I had cysts in my rectum.” So that was another two surgeries to get rid of the cysts. Not fun stuff. Still, Weekley makes no excuses.

“It’s embarrassing. How is that? Just the way I’ve been playing the last two years. I don’t care if I’ve been hurt or not.”

His confidence is shot.

“My big thing right now is I have no self esteem on the golf course. Ever since I came back from that hiney surgery, that is how I’ve felt.”

Weekley said he will feel much better if he can reclaim his card. It looks like it will take the McGladrey and also a Miracle.

Tuesday, October 16

3 Old Chicago Guys and Pal’s Ashes Go On 5,500 Mile Golf Journey



By Golf Channel

THREE CHICAGO BUDDIES, ALONG WITH THE ASHES of their friend, set out on the adventure of a lifetime, driving over 5,500 miles to play one last round of golf in honor of their deceased friend in the Arctic Circle.

Our Longest Drive, a six-part series premiering tonight (10/16/12) at 10:30 p.m. ET, follows Vic Zast, Dan Johnson, Jim Thompson and Mike Allen (whose ashes are along for the ride in a cherry wood box) as these past-retirement-age friends trek in a RV on a highly unusual golf trip. Each man shares a love for the game of golf, each other, and embraces a common goal to honor Mike with this journey. More info

Our Longest Drive (Premiere)
Airtime: Tuesday, 10:30-11 p.m.
Starring: Vic Zast, Dan Johnson, Jim Thompson and Mike Allen

Monday, October 15

Who Are Those Guys? Jonas Blixt Edition



Editor’s note: In “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” Butch (Paul Newman) and Sundance (Robert Redford) kept saying, “Who are those guys?” That line reminds me of the PGA Tour some weeks.

Meet Jonas Blixt
IF YOU WATCHED THE FRYS.COM OPEN this past weekend, then you probably know far more than I do about Jonas Blixt. Blixt, a PGA Tour rookie, won in his 19th start by firing a final-round 68 to edge Tim Petrovic and Jason Kokrak by a shot. A native Swede who attended Florida State and lives in the Jacksonville area, Blixt is the third rookie to win on tour this season. The others are “Who Are Those Guys?” (WATG) Ted Potter Jr. (The Greenbrier Classic) and John Huh (Mayakoba Golf Classic).

“The weird part,” Blixt said about his victory, “is I’ve been working on some stuff with my swing, and I wasn’t feeling completely 100 percent about my swing.”

(Then he knows how a lot of us feel.)

“I just told myself, ‘Just give it a good hit every time and see what happens. Just focus. You can’t do anything better than your best.’ That’s what I did on every shot.”

Blixt came from behind. John Mallinger held the 54-hole lead but faded to a fourth-place finish after a 72. Finishing third last week in Las Vegas, Blixt was obviously playing pretty well coming into the event. He said his family was with him in San Martin so “I’ve barely touched a golf club after a round, which is really weird for me.”

Family time—can’t beat it.

So, here’s what his PGA Tour profile says: Jonas Blixt loves hockey and played for his state hockey team in Sweden. He loves competing and trying new things. His favorite golf course is Kingston Heath in Melbourne, Australia. He wants to play Augusta (he’ll get an invite now) and prefers his mom’s cooking. And his first car was a Ford Mustang.

Blixt has five top-10 finishes in his 19 starts, including two thirds to go along with his win. He has earned $2.2 million and is No. 75 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

More WATG:
Ted Potter Jr. and Troy Kelly
Scott Stallings
Gary Woodland
Keegan Bradley

Thursday, October 11

The Well-Traveled Lee Elder

Lee Elder at Riviera early this week. (Matter, Inc.) 
LIFE DOES NOT SLOW DOWN AT 78 if your name is Lee Elder. Or so it seems. Elder, of course, is a golf and PGA Tour pioneer, the first black to play in the Masters. It is closing in on 40 years since Lee teed it up at Augusta National. He recently said he was “scared to death”—death threats poured in by mail and phone—so he stayed in two different houses in Augusta that mid-April week in 1975, just in case.

I sat next to the trailblazer at breakfast yesterday at the Greater Hickory Classic. I was surprised to see him there, actually, because just the night before while checking email I found a photo of him (at right) playing in an event in Los Angeles. But Lee had hopped on a plane and flown to Charlotte late on Tuesday night to play in the Great Grand Champions pro-am on Wednesday morning at Rock Barn in Conover.

As I said to him, chuckling, Lee Elder has been everywhere in recent weeks. He was at the Ryder Cup in Chicago and then traveled to the USGA headquarters in New Jersey to speak to youth and others and to collaborate with USGA museum staff on an exhibit that recognizes the contributions of African Americans. He also worked with a writer to do research on a book about his life in golf.

From there, it was back to Southern California for the Hilton HHonors Celebrity Golf Series at Riviera Country Club benefiting the City of Hope. And then, North Carolina, where I got to chat with him as he ate an omelette, one small sausage patty and a generous serving of fruit.

Lee no longer has to worry about getting to and from Augusta alive, but he was concerned about getting to Richmond, Virginia, from Charlotte without having to fly through Atlanta or New York City. That was his one question for me, and I didn’t have a good answer for him. There should be a way, I said, but maybe not on Delta.

After his one day at the Greater Hickory Classic, he was on his way to Williamsburg (via Richmond) to be the keynote speaker at a golf symposium. That’s where Lee Elder is today. He has traveled such a long time and distance to get there and to other places in the golf world, opening a few doors for others along the way.

Wednesday, October 10

Caddie and Other Stories in Hickory

HANG AROUND A GOLF TOURNAMENT FOR a couple of days and you’re bound to hear jokes, stories, rumors and more. I was at the Greater Hickory Classic the last two days with no particular agenda other than to visit Jack Fleck and try to interview a couple of players for a new project.

I don’t spend a lot of time at tournaments—it doesn’t fit into my life—but when I do it’s fun to hear the chatter from writers, photographers, fans, tour officials, players, volunteers and the occasional celebrity. (Former NFL quarterback Joe Theismann was shoulder to shoulder with me in the buffet line at last night’s pairings party).

Today, among other conversations, I talked to a veteran caddie who drove up from Florida looking for a bag this week. He explained how tough it is getting work on the Champions Tour compared to the older days. (He got started in the 1970s and has worked on both the PGA and Champions tours for the last four decades.)

It’s hard, yes, but bag toting is good work if you can get it. My caddie acquaintance said he misses it now that he has been somewhat forced into retirement. There are fewer spots, he explained, since so many players bring out spouses, siblings, other family members and friends to carry their bags. That makes it harder on the guys with experience who could definitely use the work.

This caddie was out in the parking lot with four or five others at the beginning of the week hoping for a bag. He got promised one if the pro made it through the Tuesday qualifier. (Qualifying is another story.) He told me how players often don’t use caddies in the qualifiers. If they don’t make it through the qualifier, they don’t want to think the caddie had something to do with it. If they do qualify, they know they did it on their own—figuring their own yardages, reading their putts, making all the decisions.

So the caddie didn’t go out. He waited to see if his player got into the field. The player just missed, losing out on the last spot in a two-hole playoff.

I asked the caddie what was next—would he head back to Florida?

Not yet, he said. He would wait around one more day just in case a player might need an experienced caddie to step in at the last moment.

Monday, October 8

Tiger Woods Apologizes to Ryder Cup Rookies

Tiger Woods endured another disappointing Ryder Cup. (Allison)

















AFTER THE COMPLETION OF THE RECENT Ryder Cup that saw the Americans blow a 10-6 lead on the final day and lose the Cup to the Europeans, Tiger Woods took aside the U.S. team’s rookies—Keegan Bradley, Jason Duffner, Brandt Snedeker and Webb Simpson—for a private chat. Behind closed doors the 14-time major champion told the boys he was sorry he didn’t earn more points.

GolfChannel.com reported:
Appearing on “Morning Drive,” Rosaforte revealed, “Brandt shared with me (at his fundraiser in Memphis) that Tiger got all the rookies in a room, closed the door and personally apologized to everyone for not doing more, for not getting the points he needed to get to get a U.S. victory. For people who don’t think Woods really cares, whenever that turn or that pivot occurred in his career, it has fully turned.”
 Tiger was 0-3-1 at Medinah. His overall Ryder Cup record is 13-17-3.

Friday, October 5

Sir Henry Cotton and Lotus Golf Shoes

I RAN ACROSS THIS VINTAGE GOLF SHOES ad yesterday as I was doing research. Lotus Golf Shoes apparently were among the best spikes made in the 1950s and 1960s (and perhaps beyond). Lotus supplied golf shoes to the Great Britain and Ireland Ryder Cup team.

To brush up on the distinguished man in the ad, Sir Henry Cotton was a gifted player, certainly the best English golfer of his generation, I dare say. Cotton, wrote one Brit, was what used to be known as dapper, incredibly well turned-out. He was also said to have a passion for champagne and Rolls Royces.

In one nine-year stretch in the 1930s, Cotton never finished out of the top 10 in the Open Championship. During that span, he won twice and had two third-place finishes. He won his third Open in 1948 and finished his career with 17 professional wins and later earned a spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Thursday, October 4

Battle of the Sexes: Paul Creamer vs. Gary McCord

IN 1973, A RECORD TV AUDIENCE WATCHED top female tennis player Billie Jean King defeat iconic chauvinist Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes. Nearly 40 years later, the stage will move from the tennis court to the golf course as LPGA star Paula Creamer takes on CBS Sports commentator Gary McCord in golf's Battle of the Sexes on October 6-7, 2012, at Forsgate Country Club in Monroe Township, New Jersey.

Golf Channel star David Feherty will provide color and analysis of the match that will feature Creamer and McCord hitting from the same tees on the Banks Course for a purse of $10,000.

When I heard I was playing Paula, said McCord. I thought of advice my dear mom gave me when I was a kid. She told me to always play nice especially with girls….I never listened to mom. Beating Paula will be fun and another win in my already memorable career.

McCord has had a long career on both the PGA and Champions Tours, and while he may have faced the likes of The Golden Bear and The Shark, he has never teed off against The Pink Panther.

Im playing against Gary McCord? said Creamer, an 11-time professional tour winner and 2010 U.S. Women's Open champion. You mean the CBS golf commentator? I didnt even realize he played golf! Wow…you learn something new every day.

For more information about the battle, call (732) 656-8911 or visit www.forsgatecc.com.

(Source: LPGA.com)

Wednesday, October 3

Sampson: Choking in the Ryder Cup

By Curt Sampson
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF

Copyright © Curt Sampson. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

FOR THOSE WHO ENJOY WATCHING SOMEONE else’s disaster, we now approach a golden age. This past week the biennial competition between all-star teams of golf professionals called the Ryder Cup took place. Since it became competitive in 1985—that is, when Team Europe won after a long and boring losing streak—the Cup has overflowed with examples of gracelessness under pressure.

Recently I made myself expert in the amazingly efficient ways the Ryder Cup can make the world’s best golfers dissolve like after dinner mints. My test case was the 1991 edition of the exhibition, nicknamed then The War by the Shore—which is, not coincidentally, the name of my new book. Until now, no Ryder Cup has been as purely agonizing for its participants. Reviewing that collection of missed putts, hopeless swings, and weeping—even from the winners—I wondered how high the stakes must be for elite athletes to forget skills they’d practiced to the point of instinct.

“Mostly I remember fear,” recalls John Garrity, who covered the War by the Shore for Sports Illustrated. “I had seen nervous golfers before but nothing like the boys of Kiawah Island. Even the best players approached with resentment and anxiety. Nobody wanted to be the goat.”

Why that particular Ryder Cup was so fraught had to do with a sudden, shocking US losing streak; the contentious personalities involved (Mr. Azinger, meet Mr. Ballesteros); the overlay of uber-patriotism in the aftermath of the Gulf War; and the hardest course in the world, a field of play designed to magnify mistakes. But as we recall the whys, we should not miss a chance to contemplate the whats.

The symptoms of choking, of course, are not confined to the neck. The word evokes images of food blockage and nooses, and that’s pretty much the feeling—but not all of it. Lungs that have done nothing more strenuous that walk from here to there heave like they’ve just run an 880 in a track meet with peckish wolves. The wildly beating heart is as a just-caught fish flopping on the dock. The mouth is dry, arid even, while hands suddenly sweat like Nixon during Watergate. The gastro-intestinal tract…well, I don’t want to talk about the gastro-intestinal tract.

Tennis reminds us of another failing body part with a delightful metaphor. Players so overcome by nervousness that they are unable to hit the final shot to win a match are said to have “cement elbow.”

Head, hands, heart, elbow: whatever cruel jokes the rest of the body plays, the real center of tension is in the center of the skull.

As I searched for meaning in the episodes of shocking failure in the ’91 Ryder Cup, I came upon David Eagleton, the neuro-anatomy professor who wrote Incognito: The Secret Life of the Brain. I read and have kept re-reading Chapter 5, entitled “The Brain is a Team of Rivals.” In this theory, a mind-boggling number of neural pathways—I just think of them as voices—compete to have their way. They do not co-operate, and there is no wise arbiter evaluating the competing claims. If the stakes are high enough, if the fear is real enough, and the voices loud enough, randomness prevails.

Neural chaos reigned during the excruciatingly entertaining war by the Kiawah Island shore in September 1991. We saw something similar this past weekend. Performers we perceive as immune from pressure hear voices.

Curt Sampson is a bestselling author whose new book is The War on the Shore: The Incomparable Drama of the 1991 Ryder Cup. Learn more about Curt and his books at curtsampson.com.

Tuesday, October 2

McGinley and Clarke Vie for 2014 Captaincy

By Brian Keogh
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF

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 excerpt from Brian’s Irish Golf Desk is used with permission.

Paul McGinley
PAUL MCGINLEY AND DARREN CLARKE WILL have to battle it out for the 2014 Ryder Cup captaincy in Scotland. But if world No 1 Rory McIlroy had his way, he’d give Clarke the job in America in 2016, indirectly backing McGinley to take over from Jose Maria Olazabal at Gleneagles in two years’ time.

McIlroy said: “I’ve always said I think Clarkey would be a great captain over here in America. I think the crowds really love him here and I think he would be great, so maybe save Darren for 2016. And then for the captain next time around there are a lot of guys who have a chance to do it. Whoever ends up doing it would be a great captain.

“Paul was fantastic at the Seve Trophy and he was a fantastic vice captain. As Jose Maria said, all the vice captains this week have all got their own opinions but collectively they are very knowledgeable.”

Clarke has made no secret of the fact that he’d take the job at Gleneagles if it came his way. But McGinley is prepared to take his chances when it goes to a vote of the Players Committee in Dubai in January with Chairman Thomas Bjorn, Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and 2010 skipper Colin Montgomerie also in the frame.

All five are on the Committee and McGinley said: “It’s not up to me, it’s up to other people. I’ll just wait and see what happens. I’ve done five Ryder Cups now, three as a player and two as a vice-captain and I certainly have enjoyed them. I’m on the committee and obviously won’t be at that meeting. Anybody whose being considered for the captaincy will not be.”

Given his pedigree, McGinley must be regarded as the best man for the job in Scotland following two winning vice-captaincies at Medinah and Celtic Manor as well as two stints as the winning captain of the Seve Trophy team.

Like Chicago hero Ian Poulter, the Ryder Cup and team play have been the highlight of his career. And he’d dearly love the chance to put his vast experience into practice in Scotland in 2014.

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, October 1

2012 Ryder Cup: That Dreaded Five-Letter Word

EUROPE ORCHESTRATED THE GREATEST COMEBACK in Ryder Cup history on Sunday at Medinah, erasing a 10-4 deficit (at one point on Saturday) to retain the Cup by a winning score of 14½ to 13½. They won 10½ of a possible 14 points in the last two Saturday fourball matches and 12 Sunday singles matches. The European team dominated singles play, drumming the Yanks 8½ to 3½. It was amazing. It was inspiring. It was also a gift.

As I heard more than one commentator say, the Europeans needed help to complete one of the greatest and most stirring comebacks the game has ever seen. They got plenty of it. While Rory McIlroy arrived an hour later than planned, nearly missing his tee time, one might wonder if the U.S team showed up at all.

If your name wasn’t Johnson or Jason, it was a horrible day to be one of America’s twelve. A few others also battled. Phil Mickelson didn’t lose so much as Justin Rose won, sinking three consecutive putts on holes 16 through 18, the last two for birdies. That was a turning point of multiple turning points. The other U.S. players … I don’t know what to say. It was hard to watch.

I’m not here to pile on. I’m certainly not angry. It was great theater. I like the European players, even though I was rooting for the United States. If you were sitting in my living room and we were talking afterward, I would say it: The U.S. choked. “Choke” is a dreaded five-letter word often avoided in the sports lexicon, especially by players, but also by the media. What you hear instead are wordy, tortured explanations about monumental failures.

Do you ever wonder what is said in private? I do.

I got emails from friends, who wrote: “Talk about Americans choking!” And “very sad to watch the U.S. team implode yesterday.”

European team member Sergio Garcia said this at the team media conference:
We needed to put the American team in a situation where we wanted to see how they felt with a bit more pressure on. Obviously everything was going their way throughout the whole week. You know, they were making the putts, they were getting the good breaks here and there …. Obviously a lot of the matches were won because some of my teammates played amazing and some others, you know, we took the possibility or the opening that they gave us …. So we wanted to see how they would react and see if they could hold it; and it was a combination of playing great and maybe then that little bit of pressure getting to them.
Good answer, Sergio, something I would hope to say in your position. We know exactly what you said—in code, that is.

I badly wanted to see Jim Furyk make those putts that mattered so much. I wanted him to redeem a season of nightmare finishes. I was afraid to watch, honestly. I was relieved when Steve Stricker salvaged his par with an 8-footer on the final green. It set up Martin Kaymer’s gutsy Cup clincher. And I was glad to see Kaymer stroke home the winner, especially 21 years after fellow German Bernard Langer hit a pretty good putt on the final green at Kiawah that rimmed out.

An ESPN SN poll asks, “Which is more true of Sunday’s Ryder Cup outcome? Europe won it (or) the United States lost it.” With more than 53,000 votes cast, 77 percent say America lost it.

The blame begins for the United States. Bad captain’s picks. Bad lineup. They should have played Bradley and Mickelson on Saturday afternoon. Choose your reason, but it doesn’t really matter. The US of A should have won the Ryder Cup anyway. They more or less had it won as early as Saturday—with those guys, with that captain. But they gave it back.