Thursday, February 28

2013 Honda Classic TV Schedule and Tournament Notes



THE 2013 HONDA CLASSIC is underway at PGA National Champions Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Branden Grace and Graham DeLaet are the early leaders at 5-under 65. Tiger Woods shot an even-par 70. The first round is still in progress.

Purse: $6 million
Winner’s share: $1.026 million
Defending champion: Rory McIlroy

2013 Honda Classic Leaderboard

The field
Tee times
The course
Tournament overview
Tour report

TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2013 Honda Classic is on Golf Channel and NBC.

Thu, Feb 28
3:00-6:00p GOLF

Fri, Mar 1
3:00-6:00p GOLF

Sat, Mar 2
1:00-3:00p GOLF
3:00-6:00p NBC

Sun, Mar 3
1:00-3:00p GOLF
3:00-6:00p NBC

SIRIUS-XM PGA Tour broadcast times

Wednesday, February 27

Althea Gibson: Tennis and Golf Pioneer



ALTHEA GIBSON BROKE THE COLOR BARRIER in both tennis and golf, although she is best remembered as the top-ranked U.S. tennis player who won 11 Grand Slam tennis titles, five in singles and six in doubles. In singles, Gibson won the French Open in 1956, and Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 1957 and 1958. She was named Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press in 1957 and 1958.

She also apparently made some good money in an era when it was scarce in sports, especially if you were a black woman.

"Gibson is known for playing a set of matches before the famed Harlem Globetrotter basketball games that netted her a reported $100,000 during one year," says AltheaGibson.com.

In 1964 Gibson became the first African American to join the LPGA Tour. Her golf career included a runner-up finish in the 1970 Len Immke Buick Open and 11 USGA championship appearances. She retired from professional golf in 1978.

Gibson's 1958 autobiography was titled I Always Wanted to Be Somebody. She surely was.

Gibson went on to become the New Jersey Commissioner of Athletics. A native of South Carolina, she died in New Jersey in 2003 at the age of 76.

Tuesday, February 26

10 Practical Rules for 18 Handicappers

Editor's note: I get emails. Following is one (slightly edited) that I received about three weeks ago from David Savage of Collingswood, New Jersey. "Use this any way you see fit," David wrote. "I worry that the USGA and R&A are losing touch with public course players." So, here's David. And please don't tell The Rules Geek.


Do you play by the Rules?
By David Savage
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF

Most of the Rules of Golf, as I read them, function very well for high-level competitionvery skilled players, caddies, rules committee personnel who are readily available, prize money and ranking at stake, and more.

However, there should be a separate set of Rules for us 18 handicappers who play infrequently. These suggestions are practical and help speed up play. We do many of them already.

1. No stroke and distance for lost ball. Do you really want to slow up everyone’s Saturday morning? Drop/place nearby and keep playing.

2. Two club lengths (even better 10 yards) for all other drops. And don’t dropplace the ball.

3. Repair all damage to the green before and after you putt. Heaven knows no one else repairs the greens.

4. Lift and clean whenever necessary. We hit plenty of bad shots using clean golf balls, much less dirty ones.

5. Replace the ball when you feel like it. We all putt with a new ball and play with a different one.

6. If you can move itmove it. Obstructions and Loose Impediments anywhere they occur.

7. Play when ready. No waiting for the farthest from the green/hole to play.

8. Advice. Take it anywhere and from anyone you can get it!

9. Use rangefinders and GPS all the time. Many courses have no (or hidden) distance markers.

10. Anything else that makes sense.

EXAMPLE: A player drives deeply into a stand of trees and the ball may be lost. If he hits a provisional, it will likely end up close to the same spot. Instead, after the first drive, go to where the ball entered the trees, look quickly, if not found, or if it is unplayable, drop or place one near where the original ball entered and keep playing, one stroke penalty. Think about the delay of returning to the tee where two foursomes are waiting, and hitting another drive (probably into the trees again).

Club pros do a great job of helping us amateurs play better and understand the Rules. But until I have a single-digit handicap and am playing in regional tournaments, make golf more fun, play faster and get more people interested in the game.

Monday, February 25

VIDEO: Geoff Shackelford on PGA Tour Opposition to Anchoring Ban



Worth watching: The Morning Drive segment with Geoff Shackelford covers the PGA Tour's opposition to anchoring ban and related issues.

IF YOU SAW FINAL-ROUND COVERAGE of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship (won by Matt Kuchar), then you may have also seen PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem announce the tour's position on the proposed anchoring ban by the USGA and The R&A. Finchem, sitting in the NBC tower with Dan Hicks and Johnny Miller, explained why the tour opposes the ban, a stance that has been forwarded to the USGA within the organization's 90-day comment period.
TIM FINCHEM: ... We did give the USGA our position last week and our Board and our Player Advisory Council concluded that we should be opposed to it, which we articulated. But also I've read some things that would indicate that we're kind of at war with the USGA over this thing, and I just wanted to clarify that we're very supportive of the USGA. We hold them in high regard. We were asked for our opinion, and we feel strongly that going down that road would be a mistake. 
You know, this is a very subjective thing. Twenty-five to thirty years ago you look at anchoring, long putters, everybody has an opinion, the USGA approved it twice. Our view isI think if there's one thing that would prevail across a lot of players and a lot of board members is that it's been around for a generation, and the game of golf has done quite well. So unless you have a compelling reason to change it, you shouldn't, and the USGA has indicated there is no performance advantage to using anchoring. 
So on that basis, and given the fallout that occurs with amateurs and the fallout that occurs with players like Webb and Keegan and others who have grown up with the process, there are negatives. 
Our players from day one have sort of saidand we have players that want to see the ban, too, but again, it's a subjective decision. But most players are saying, listen, without a significant upside and no competitive advantage, let's don't do it.
I've noticed there's a fair amount of surprise about the PGA Tour's position. Being the dignified game that golf is, the governing bodies usually play nice and get along.

But perhaps the PGA Tour's stance is not that surprising. The tour is trying to protect its own commercial interests, which include the rising star players who have grown up using an anchored stroke. Yet, as pointed out on Morning Drive (above), those tour players are still a fairly small minority. (Only about 15 percent of tour players use an anchored stroke.)

From a philosophical standpoint, I'm against anchoring. But the USGA and The R&A waited a quarter century too long to address this situation. They now have a 90-day comment period on a proposed ban. What about the nearly three decades they allowed the long putter and anchored stroke?

Push back should be expected. I wonder what will happen now.

Friday, February 22

The Rules Geek: Snow and Ice on the Golf Course

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

(Courtesy of The Massie Boy)
AS MANY OF YOU KNOW, THE OPENING round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship was suspended on Wednesday due to the unusual occurrence of snow in the Tuscon area. If you have ever encountered (or wondered about) snow or ice in the course of play, today the USGA published an explanation of options, according to the Rules of Golf.

"The Rules of Golf define snow and natural ice, other than frost, as either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player," wrote Mike Charrie, USGA Rules of Golf Associate.

The player needs to determine his or her best option: moving the snow or ice, or taking relief at the nearest point of relief.

Option 1, Rule 23-1:
USGA's Charrie: If a player wishes to remove the snow and natural ice, he would simply deem it as a loose impediment, and proceed under Rule 23-1 (Loose Impediments). Under this Rule, he is entitled to lift, move or remove the loose impediment(s) as he sees fit, as long as his ball does not move. This option would be beneficial to the player if he likes the lie of his ball, his line of play and distance to the hole (particularly on the putting green). However, if the ball and the snow or natural ice lie in the same bunker or water hazard, the player cannot move or remove the snow and ice without penalty.
Option 2, Rule 25-1:
USGA's Charrie: If a player has interference as defined by Rule 25-1 (Abnormal Ground Conditions), and he wishes to take relief from the snow and natural ice, he could simply deem it as casual water and proceed under this Rule. The player would determine his nearest point of relief, lift his ball and drop it within one club-length of his nearest point of relief, no closer to the hole, as described in Rule 25-1b. This option could be beneficial to the player if he does not like the position of his ball for the next stroke. Taking relief may give the player a better angle to the hole or a better line of play.
The Rules Geek realizes that most people don't play golf in snow or ice, or get caught in a freak winter storm while knocking it about. But if it happens to you, now you know the rules.

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:
Keegan Bradley Isn't a Cheater
Decision 33-7/4.5 Overhauled for Video Age
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

Thursday, February 21

No. 3 Seeds Dufner and Schwartzel Fall at Match Play

Early exit for Jason Dufner. (Allison)
IT'S EARLY, VERY EARLY, BUT A PAIR of No. 3 seeds have fallen at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at wintry Dove Mountain near Tucson, Arizona. In the Bobby Jones bracket, Russell Henley knocked out Charl Schwartzel, 1-up. And in the Gary Player bracket, Richard Sterne sent Jason Dufner packing, also by a 1-up margin.

Sterne opened a big lead and then had trouble closing out Dufner.

"Match play is a strange game and it showed today," Sterne said at PGATour.com. "I was 4 up and then suddenly I was struggling to finish the match off. That just shows you a few birdies at the right time for somebody else can put a lot of pressure on."

Two days ago I picked Dufner to win it all. I thought Jason might be under the radar a bit, and I couldn't help but think about how impressive he was at the Ryder Cup. Last year I picked the winner, Hunter Mahan, BEFORE THE MATCHES STARTED. Yes, I was lucky. Not this year, though.

From the Bobby Jones bracket, other first-round winners are Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk and Jason Day, who ran away from Zach Johnson, winning 6 and 5. Hard to believe that margin since Johnson is such a solid match player, but anything can happen.

Defending champion Mahan also won his opener in the Gary Player bracket. Tim Clark, Ian Poulter, Bo Van Pelt and Thorbjorn Olesen won their matches in the Sam Snead bracket. Justin Rose, Nicolas Colsaerts, Sergio Garcia and Matt Kuchar advanced in the Ben Hogan bracket.

Most of the 32 matches are still in progress.

Wednesday, February 20

Accenture Match Play Brings Out Inner Golf Geek

THE OPENING ROUND OF THE WGC-ACCENTURE Match Play Championship has been suspended due to snow. No, what? Yes, snow. Really? Really really.

The PGA Tour reported: "The decision was made at 3:05 p.m. ET with approximately an inch of snow on the ground. All but 10 matches had gotten under way but none were finished. Play will resume on Thursday. No start time has been determined yet."

If you're a golf geek, a match-play geek, a bracketologist, then the first day of the world's mightiest 64 golfers in the Arizona desert is your brand of stimulant. I'm of that ilk, although I'm not sure how much I'll actually see early on (because I'm supposed to be working on projects).

The Accenture Match Play isn't March Madness (nothing is), but it certainly can be compelling, at least from a golf standpoint. There's a ton of pressure on those high seeds in the early rounds, just like during March Madness.

Johnny Miller was asked about it yesterday in a media conference call. He gave an enthusiastic golf-geek response.

Q. What's it like, especially on Wednesday ... when you have 32 matches? Johnny, talk about that day and how exciting that day is to cover.

JOHNNY MILLER: I think it's just totally off the charts. Let's put it this way: Not too often in the middle of the week I'm going to be watching for several hours. Normally I wait until things progress, and focus in and listen to Brandel and keep up to speed.

But that first day is just off the charts great if you're a golf nut. If you look at matches tomorrow, Charles Howell against Tiger, that is no gimmie right there, I'll tell you that.

And then you have guys like Stricker and Stenson, and Watney and Toms. Els has to go against Jacobson, who is hot as can be right now; he's probably going to get jumped again. Then Furyk and Ryan Moore. That's a toss up, right? And Tim Scott and Adam Scott; Mahan against Manassero is no gimmie.

So you have a lot of the guys that you're talking about; Schwartzel versus Henley; if Henley putts anything like he did at Sony, I don't know what the odds are there. Schwartzel did not putt that great in L.A.

These are all things that if you're a golf nut, those are the matches when I went through them are ones that I think could go as if you call it upsets, guys that could get dumped that are seeds. Anybody can win in one day. You can't guarantee anything. But I'm looking forward to seeing those matches tomorrow all day long. That's a long day of a lot of fun stuff. (END)

Anybody can win in one day. You can't guarantee anything.

I think that pretty much sums it up, and is why this match-play scrum is worth watching.

Tuesday, February 19

Welcome to Bracketville, Population 64

Hunter Mahan defends his title this week at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. (Allison)



THE 2013 WGC-ACCENTURE MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP begins on Wednesday in the Arizona desert not far from Tucson. Sixty-four of the world’s finest golfers tee it up at Dove Mountain. By Sunday afternoon, it will be Lonesome Dove, with only one man left standing after six grueling matches.

Who will that man be?

Last year it was Hunter Mahan, who dispatched Rory McIlroy in the final. The year before it was Luke Donald, who not long after rose to No. 1 in the world. Donald is an ideal match player when you think about it. He putts like a dream. He could get it up and down from out of a cactus.

I like the match play. It’s full of surprises. I don’t care if the marquee players lose early. May the best man on that day win. I guess I’m a contrarion. But I don’t fill out the Bobby Jones, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Sam Snead brackets.

[2013 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship brackets]

Seriously, how do you do that? And how do you pick a winner?

I like what Geoff Shackelford said last year. “Predictions in golf are utterly useless.”

Especially in Bracketville.

As Geoff explained:
Who knows which player slept poorly? Got yelled at by his wife? Is thinking about firing his agent? Had a slight stomach reaction to the Chipotle he ate at the airport? Or all of the above, plus he secretly hates desert golf more than he lets on and can’t wait to get home so he can vegetate in front of his Playstation for two weeks?
My pick is Jason Dufner.

Monday, February 18

John Merrick: 'Dream Come True'

John Merrick
LONG BEACH RESIDENT AND UCLA GOLF product John Merrick won his first PGA Tour event close to home on a golf course that he used to play in college. Merrick outlasted Charlie Beljan in a two-hole sudden-death playoff to capture the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club.

Merrick was emotional, happy and relieved to get that first victory in front of a hometown crowd. The slender, 30-year-old tour player talked about how he held it together late on Sunday.

" ... I was just trying to do one shot at a time," Merrick said. "My caddie and I were talking, my heart was racing out there for sure, I was nervous. I was just trying to grind it out and be tough and do the best that I could and ... whatever happened, just move forward and try your best.

"To win a tournament in front of family and friends and in your hometown with people shouting out 'Bruins' and 'Long Beach,' to win a tournament in front of them, on the PGA Tour with this field and all the past champions and this golf course .... I can't even describe it. It's a dream come true."

Merrick's first PGA Tour win was five years in the making. He's had three top tens in majors, his best finishes a T6 at both the 2008 U.S. Open (Torrey Pines) and 2009 Masters.

"You can't force it," Merrick said. "You obviously want to win, but I think it just happens. You play well and you add them up at the end and sometimes you win and sometimes you don't. I try to just kind of take the pressure off myself and play. But for my career ... it has not sunk in yet. I know that I'm going to get in the Masters and Maui. It's just icing on the cake. I can't wait."

Runner-up Beljan was not a big fan of Riviera's 10th hole, a short par 4 with a tiny, diabolical putting surface. That's where the rangy 28-year-old missed a tricky four footer that would have extended the playoff.

"I think you could play here 10,000 times and still not know how to play No. 10," Beljan said.

"I just find it tough that we go to No. 10 .... I'm not knocking it, but it's just a tough hole to have a playoff on. We might as well go and put a windmill out there and hit some putts."

I'm guessing Beljan would have felt much better about the 10th had things gone differently for him. In fact, he probably would have felt like the winner, Merrick, who laughed when told by a reporter about Beljan's windmill comment.

Friday, February 15

Introducing Dino's Brand Golf Balls



FORGET TITLEIST, CALLAWAY, BRIDGESTONE, NIKE, Srixon, Maxfli and all those other golf balls. Try Dino's Brand Golf Balls. That's right, Dino's. The golf ball that comes 13 to a dozen. Think about it.

Thursday, February 14

Riviera: Greats Who've Won There (and Two Who Haven't)

RIVIERA COUNTRY CLUB OFTEN APPEARS NEAR the top of best-courses lists. The 1926 George Thomas design and routing make Riviera the rare classic that's still a great test of golf for the modern player.

The site of this week's Northern Trust Open, Riviera is called "Hogan's Alley" because Ben Hogan won there three times in 1947 and 1948, collecting two L.A. Opens and winning a U.S. Open, his first of four national titles. He nearly won there again in 1950 after coming back from a near-fatal collision with a Greyhound bus on a foggy west Texas highway.

Who has won at Riviera? A lot of name players, actually.

The 18th hole at Riviera Country Club. (Dedhed972)
Riviera Winners
Byron Nelson
Ben Hogan
Sam Snead
Tom Watson
Johnny Miller
Hale Irwin
Ben Crenshaw
Nick Faldo
Fred Couples
Corey Pavin
Davis Love III
Ernie Els
Phil Mickelson

and ...

Riviera Non-Winners
Jack Nicklaus
Tiger Woods

Nicklaus came close. One example: He finished runner-up to Hal Sutton at the 1983 PGA Championship. The Golden Bear closed with a 66 but lost by a shot.

Tiger's chances of winning at Riviera are nil because he avoids the place like trouble-left.

As Karen Crouse wrote yesterday in the New York Times:
Before the tour stop at Torrey Pines, Woods was asked what it would take for him to play Riviera again. “I don’t know,” he said. “We’ll just see.”

What is Woods waiting for, a freakish storm to fell all the trees that place a premium on driving accuracy? A pesticide attack on the Kikuyu grass that swallows bump-and-run shots?

It is as if Woods has developed a fear of Riviera’s eucalyptus-lined fairways, postage-stamp-sized greens and catcher’s-mitt-shaped traps, and is avoiding his phobia rather than confronting it.
I wish Tiger would play Riviera once more so The Logo, Jerry West, could quit his public groveling. It's unbecoming. Frankly, I don't care. Should Tiger? I guess his answer is, “I don’t know. We’ll just see.”

Matt Kuchar is the first-round leader of the Northern Trust Open after firing a bogey-free 64.

Wednesday, February 13

Pebble Beach: Dinner With Johnny Miller (Conclusion)

Editor’s note: I was at Pebble Beach in December for the 2012 Lexus Champions for Charity as a guest of Lexus. This is another installment in an ongoing series.

Johnny Miller at Pebble Beach in December. (Lexus)
I’M LONG OVERDUE IN GETTING BACK to my time spent with NBC lead golf analyst Johnny Miller at Pebble Beach two months ago. Miller, along with Peter Jacobsen and Nick Watney, was on the scene for the annual Lexus charity event. All three are sponsored by Lexus. And I had the opportunity to eat and talk with all three. Peter is hilarious, Nick is quiet and thoughtful, and Johnny is Johnny.

On Saturday night in the grand ballroom of The Inn at Spanish Bay, I was seated next to Johnny for the final banquet and awards ceremony. As I wrote in mid December, Johnny was on my left, my wife was on my right, and Peter was next to Johnny. We talked, ate dinner and talked some more, until it was time for Peter and Johnny to hand out the awards and pose for pictures with the winners. Those were a fun two hours.

(Read my first Pebble Beach post on Johnny Miller)

I’m coming back to this topic so I could share more about my dinner conversation with Johnny. Think about it: You have 90 or more minutes of golf and other talk with Johnny Miller. That was my opportunity, another in a series of surprising experiences I’ve had since I started this blog many years ago.

It wasn’t an interview situation, so no recorder or note taking. Just conversation. I remember scribbling notes about the evening in my pocket-size notebook the next morning in the San Jose airport as we waited for our flight home. Now I’ll attempt to spill out a few more contents of that tiny Mead notebook.

We talked a fair amount about putting—Johnny’s putting, actually—and not so much about the long putter and anchoring brouhaha.

I’m old enough to recall Johnny’s career, including his prime. Some of you may remember that he used a Bulls Eye putter, as did a lot of pros. It was his favorite model, and he said he was going back to it, even though he seldom plays golf these days. Johnny got the yips fairly early in his career, around the time he won the 1976 British Open, his second and final major victory. Not surprisingly, he said it’s difficult to play the tour when you struggle with the flatstick, which was certainly the case for him.

Sun City and Pebble Beach: Adventures in Putting

We talked about two quirky putting times in Johnny’s career when he got sudden inspiration—a voice in his mind, whatever you might call it—to try something unusual in the heat of competition.

One of those times was in 1981 against Seve Ballesteros at the Million Dollar Challenge in Sun City, South Africa. Johnny found himself in a sudden-death playoff against Seve, with big money at stake, a $340,000 difference between first and second place. Remember, it’s 1981. That was a lot of dough.

Seve seemingly had Johnny beat on the first playoff hole after pitching his ball to tap-in distance. Johnny was just off the back edge of the green with a 25-or-so footer, a putt no one makes under those or most any other circumstances. Then it got a little weird. Something—someone?—told Johnny to close his eyes. He hit the putt with eyes shut and knocked it in to extend a playoff that he won eight holes later.

Another instance, a story you may have heard, was when Johnny won at Pebble Beach in 1987 using a 46-inch putter. He gripped the makeshift putter in a normal fashion but braced it against his left arm. At the 15th hole on Sunday, he was struck with a sudden thought to look at the hole instead of the ball while putting. It was nutty, something he had never done in his life, but he was in the habit of listening to these strange inspirations that occurred on a few occasions in his career. One fear—that he might actually miss the golf ball with his stroke! He didn’t. Instead, the ball rolled into the cup and he went on to win.

We talked about the 1975 Masters, one of the greatest Masters in my opinion. Jack Nicklaus won, of course, but some of you may remember that Johnny and Tom Weiskopf had great chances. It was a shootout.

Johnny’s father, a 75 to 80 shooter, got him started in the game and was a very positive influence. Johnny told me that he worked hard at learning how to shape shots when he got on the tour, like the old-time pros, hitting it high and low, practicing baby fades and draws. (For some reason, I thought of Johnny as a straight ball hitter, but his repertoire of shots would explain how he hit the ball so close to the hole in his heyday.)

NBC Hot Seat

Johnny still enjoys doing commentary, but will hang it up in a few years. He talked about something he called the full circle of commentary, part of his evolution as an analyst. I interpreted what he said as an effort through the years to add understanding, or context, to his frequent blunt comments. He won’t avoid calling a bad shot when he sees one. Now, as Johnny told me, he doesn’t just say that a player hit an ugly snap hook, but also offers context, tells why the player may have hit the shot in that situation, perhaps adds another comment, follows up.

Johnny realizes he still rankles people, including the pros he covers. A couple of nights earlier at the Beach Club, he acknowledged that he has to take “arrows” from the players but feels that viewers want to know what he really thinks and what’s going on out there. That got a round of applause.

There. On the subject of Johnny Miller, I’ve emptied my notebook, for the most part. I had looked forward to meeting and talking to Johnny in the weeks leading up to my trip to Pebble Beach. It worked out great.

Tuesday, February 12

FINAL: Eisenhower Beats JFK in Sudden-Death Playoff

From the ARMCHAIR GOLF archives.

The happy First Golfer.
BY HOLING A 40-INCH PAR PUTT on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff, Dwight Eisenhower conquered his putting demons to upset top seed John F. Kennedy in the Presidents Golf Championship at Augusta National Golf Club. It was a redemptive stroke for Ike, who had three-putted the 18th hole to allow Kennedy to even the match and send it to extra holes.

“I thought I had lost it on the low side,” Eisenhower said of the match-clinching putt, “but it caught the edge and fell in, thankfully.”

JFK bunkered his approach on the 10th, the first playoff hole. The 35th president left his long bunker shot well short and his uphill 18-foot par putt stopped inches shy of the hole. Ike played his third shot from the depression in front of the sloping green, a nifty pitch and run that rolled to within throw-up range for the general, who backed away twice before nervously jabbing his Titleist into the cup.

How Ike Prevailed

Eisenhower was clearly the underdog, and many on hand were shocked that the match had gotten away from the youthful, athletic Kennedy, who had dominated his opponents in earlier matches.

Theories abounded. JFK was overconfident. He was tired. His chronically bad back ached from too much golf in recent days. Or, as one Kennedy aide suggested with a wink, JFK was distracted by the many attractive spectators in the large gallery.

Perhaps the most reasonable explanation for Eisenhower’s upset victory was that the old general knew the ground better than his opponent. A longtime member, Ike had recorded more than 100 rounds at Augusta National. The former Commander of Allied Forces knew his way around the former tree nursery. He also knew his own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of his opponent, and he put that knowledge to work.

“In match play, I really felt like I had a chance against him,” Eisenhower said, “especially here.”

Angry Loser

Kennedy shrugged off the defeat. “That’s golf,” he said. “What can you expect? Ike had a good day. He knows where to hit it around this place.”

Onlookers knew better. Under his smooth veneer, JFK was furious that the rival he had labeled “duffer-in-chief” and once called “that old asshole” had bested him. Sometimes the wrong man wins, Kennedy thought, whether in politics or golf.

Ike thought the same thing, and was glad it didn’t happen on Sunday.

TOURNAMENT RECAP

Final
#2 Eisenhower defeats #1 Kennedy, 1-up (19 holes)

Semifinals
#1 Kennedy defeats #13 Nixon, 10 and 8
#2 Eisenhower defeats #3 Ford, 3 and 1

Quarterfinals
#1 Kennedy defeats #8 Obama, (match score not disclosed)
#13 Nixon defeats #5 George H.W. Bush, 1-up
#2 Eisenhower defeats #7 Clinton, 9 and 7
#3 Ford defeats #6 George W. Bush, 4 and 3

Opening Matches
#1 Kennedy defeats #16 Grant, 10 and 8
#8 Obama defeats #9 Reagan, 1-up
#5 George H.W. Bush defeats #12 Wilson, 4 and 2
#13 Nixon defeats #4 Roosevelt, 2 and 1
#6 George W. Bush defeats #11 Taft, 5 and 4
#3 Ford defeats #14 Johnson, 6 and 5
#7 Clinton defeats #10 Harding, 1-up
#2 Eisenhower defeats #15 Coolidge, 9 and 7

Monday, February 11

Closing 65 Propels Snedeker to 5th Tour Win

Brandt Snedeker (Allison)
BRANDT SNEDEKER FELT IT WAS JUST a matter of time before he won. He was coming off two consecutive runner-up finishes and five top-three finishes in his last eight starts. Why wait any longer? Why put off the seemingly inevitable?

So Snedeker, the co-leader with James Hahn after 54 holes of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, played on Sunday like a man on fire. He was 5 under after the first seven holes on a stunning Pebble Beach day and went on to shoot a 65 for a two-shot win over Chris Kirk. Sneds now has five PGA Tour victories.

"I definitely didn't want to do anything but win today," Snedeker said. "I was out there for one purpose and one purpose only, and I was extremely focused all day. I did a great job of staying patient and I did a great job of playing the golf course the way you're supposed to play it."

The pressure of the 54-hole lead and winning didn't phase the Nashville native.

"I felt like I had nothing to lose," he said.

"I've gotten off to a great start this year. I had not won yet but I had complete faith I was going to, whether it was today or next week or the week after. I was very calm today. I was not jumpy at all. I had [the] same feeling I had at East Lake. I just had a good feeling that today was going to be my day."

With the win, Snedeker moves to No. 4 in the Official World Golf Ranking and is atop the FedEx Cup Standings. He looks forward to contending at the majors, including the Masters in April.

"I know that if I play the way I played the last three weeks that there's very few people in the world that can beat me, and I will relish that challenge being there Sunday trying to beat the best player in the world or whoever it may be down the back nine at Augusta. That's something I look forward to instead of dreading maybe four years ago."

Mediate Wins Debut

It's good to be young again.

Powered by a course-record 61 in the second round, new 50-year-old Rocco Mediate won the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton, Florida, his Champions Tour debut.

"I'm ecstatic," Rocco said. "I have been saying all week it's never easy."

Tom Pernice Jr. and Bernhard Langer tied for second.

Friday, February 8

Rory’s Secret Weapon (or How to Handle Nerves on the Golf Course)

By Jon Wortmann
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF

Copyright © Jon Wortmann. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

MOST OF US DON’T REALIZE THAT WE have an alarm in our brain. Technically called the amygdala, when the alarm senses something could be wrong, it prepares the body for action by flooding our systems with adrenaline.

A little adrenaline on the course can be a good thing. It wakes you up. It makes sure you aren’t late for your tee time. It makes sure you focus on hitting the shots you know you can execute. Too much adrenaline, however, and we feel nervous. We tighten up. Tight golfers spray the ball everywhere and miss putts by a mile.

That’s exactly what happened to Rory McIlroy at the Masters in 2011. When he hooked his drive on the 10th hole, a drive so poor the commentators had never seen anyone’s ball land where his finished, it was because he didn’t know how to manage his brain. The pressure of Sunday at a major and his desire to do what no Irishman has done before caused him to completely melt down.

But a few months later at the U.S. Open, he won. What did he learn to do that every golfer must master to manage nerves on the course?

Managing the alarm in your brain during a round has three crucial steps that must be applied to every shot.

1. Do ALL your thinking behind the ball. We’ve been taught in golf not to think, but that’s entirely wrong. The place to think is with the ball in between you and the hole. Think about wind, lie, club, flight, your target and how far you want the ball to travel. Decide what shot you’re going to hit behind the ball.

2. Focus on one thought. Research has shown your brain can’t think about more than one thing or your alarm will fire. That’s fine behind the ball, but once you’ve thought through the situation and decided what shot you’re going to hit, chose one thought to focus on before beginning your ritual. Rory focused on humming at the U.S. Open. Once he’d chosen his shot, he’d walk to the ball humming, his tune at Congressional was Adele, and that allowed him to win instead of collapsing. Tiger and Freddy visualize the shot before beginning their ritual. Nick Price focuses entirely on a very specific target. Choose one thought that focuses your brain on what you can control.

3. Use a consistent ritual. Your pre-shot routine is the entire three-step process I’m describing. Your ritual is what you do once you’ve thought through a shot and focused on one thing. The ritual relaxes you because your brain knows your going through the same motions you’ve used thousands of times before to hit your best shots. Your ritual may be different for tee shots, fairway shots, chips and putts, but the key is to make sure it’s consistent and takes about the same amount of time. If it takes longer or changes, your alarm will fire thinking something is wrong.

Here’s what managing the brain’s alarm looks like in competition.

After a mediocre 75 in the second round at Kiawah during the 2012 PGA Championship, the next day Rory hit into a tree on the third hole. He had just birdied the first two holes to get back in contention when his drive on the short par four plugged. Not in soft fairway, not in the sand: in a dead tree branch and he had to take an unplayable lie.

His alarm had to be blaring. He hit a great drive down the middle. He was making a run at the lead. But instead of letting his alarm overwhelm his brain and body with adrenaline, he thought through the situation. He decided to take a drop to a comfortable wedge distance. With a pleasant tune in his head, he went through his ritual and knocked it stiff. He made the putt for par and went on to win his second major.

This is what the best golfers do tournament-by-tournament and hole-by-hole to harness the power of their brains. It was Rory’s alarm that stopped him from winning the Masters and his ability to think behind the ball, focus on one thought, and use a consistent ritual that let him win the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship. Learn to use your brain like Rory and you’ll have your best moments on the course, too.

Jon Wortmann is the co-author of the new book Hijacked by Your Brain: How to Free Yourself When Stress Takes Over.

Thursday, February 7

2013 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am TV Schedule and Tournament Notes



THE 2013 AT&T PEBBLE BEACH NATIONAL PRO-AM is being played at Pebble Beach Golf Links, Monterey Peninsula Country Club and Spyglass Hill Golf Course in Pebble Beach, California. The first round is in progress.

Purse: $6.5 million
Winner’s share: $1.152 million
Defending champion: Phil Mickelson

2013 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Leaderboard

The field
Tee times
The course
Tournament overview
Tour report

TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2013 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is on Golf Channel and CBS.

Thu, Feb 7
3:00-6:00p GOLF

Fri, Feb 8
3:00-6:00p GOLF

Sat, Feb 9
1:00-2:30p GOLF
3:00-6:00p CBS

Sun, Feb 10
1:00-2:30p GOLF
3:00-6:30p CBS

SIRIUS-XM PGA Tour broadcast times

Wednesday, February 6

My ‘THE LONGEST SHOT’ Named a Top 10 Sports Book in 2012

From Booklist ONLINE.
THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open, the first book by Neil Sagebiel (yours truly), was selected as one of the Top 10 Sports Books of 2012 by Booklist, the well-regarded book-review magazine of the American Library Association.

“The story of unheralded Jack Fleck’s triumph over the great Ben Hogan in the 1955 U.S. Open golf championship is one of sports’ greatest upset stories,” said Booklist, “and Sagebiel tells it superbly, wringing every ounce of poignancy and drama out of the action.”

(Read Top 10 Sports Books 2012 at Booklist ONLINE)

THE LONGEST SHOT was the only golf book to make an exclusive list that included The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, Dream Team by Jack McCallum and Over Time by Frank Deford.

THE LONGEST SHOT is the inspirational story of how virtual unknown Jack Fleck beat four-time Open champion Ben Hogan in an 18-hole playoff to win the 1955 U.S. Open, one of the greatest upsets in the history of sports. It’s available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, all the usual places. (See links in right-hand sidebar.)

How do I feel? In a word, terrific!

Getting my first book published was difficult, to say the least. There were a lot of no’s along the way. But it was also extremely rewarding. On one thing I never wavered: This was a great story. That kept me going.

If you are a media outlet and would like a review copy, please email me at armchairgolfer@gmail.com or contact my publisher.

And yes, I’m available for interviews, book groups, book talks and more.

Tuesday, February 5

Kennedy and Eisenhower Advance to Match-Play Final

From the ARMCHAIR GOLF archives.

TOP SEEDS JOHN F. KENNEDY AND DWIGHT EISENHOWER will play for the title in the Presidents Golf Championship at Augusta National Golf Club.

JFK and Ike will meet in final. (Public Domain)
In semifinals action, No. 1 seed Kennedy easily defeated No. 13 seed Richard Nixon, the surprise player of the tournament with upsets of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and George H.W. Bush. No. 2 seed Eisenhower escaped with a win in the other semifinal when No. 3 seed Gerald Ford faltered after building a three-hole lead.

“I was fortunate to beat Ford,” Eisenhower admitted. “It was a tough match.”

(Last week: Obama, Bushes and Clinton Eliminated)

Ike was asked if he had considered the possibility that his former vice president would upset Kennedy to gain a berth in the finals.

“No,” Eisenhower replied. “Nixon loses to Kennedy, whether debates, elections, or golf. Now excuse me while I go practice my putting.”

EAGLE BRACKET

#1 Kennedy defeats #13 Nixon, 10 and 8
Tension enveloped the first tee like morning dew. John F. Kennedy was impassive, making Richard Nixon’s bravado seem more forced than ever. “Let’s see what you’ve got, Jack,” Nixon said while fidgeting with his head cover. Kennedy took his stance, addressed the Titlelist No. 1 marked with “JFK,” and made his smooth, athletic swing, sweeping the dimpled ball off its wooden peg to a lush green spot 250 yards down the 1st fairway. The match was over. Although he tried to hide it, it was written on Nixon’s face. For Nixon, the next three hours were a painful series of jerks and spasms while Kennedy played like a scout searching for hidden clues on Augusta’s expansive fairways and undulating greens. JFK knew his toughest match lay ahead. Nixon maintained his defiant posture when it was over. “I played better in the quarterfinals,” he said, a dark expression covering his face. Then he suddenly forced a smile, flashed his two-armed victory salute to no one in particular, and walked away.

FREEDOM BRACKET

#2 Eisenhower defeats #3 Ford, 3 and 1
There was a subdued quality to the day’s other semifinal. Both serious-minded men and intense competitors, Dwight Eisenhower and Gerald Ford went about their business on the golf course as if it were a cabinet meeting. For the first prolonged period during the matches, Ike’s putter completely deserted him. Meanwhile, Ford built a comfortable three-hole lead on the outward nine. Then things began to unravel at Amen Corner when Ford found the pond on 11 and Rae’s Creek on 12. Eisenhower caught Ford with a surprising birdie on the 13th hole, and by the time the pair reached the 16th tee Ike had a 1-up lead. Ford, who had never trailed in any of his matches, looked uncomfortable and indecisive. He chunked a delicate chip at 16 and sprayed his tee shot on 17 into the pines. Eisenhower closed out the match when he tapped in for par on the 17th green. The two men shook hands and Ike offered words of consolation. While gracious in defeat, Ford did not like to lose. Ford invited Ike to visit him in Palm Springs, where he knew he would have a much better chance to defeat the general.

The Final

Results of the final match will be published next Tuesday.

EAGLE BRACKET WINNER
#1 seed John F. Kennedy

versus

FREEDOM BRACKET WINNER
#2 seed Dwight Eisenhower

Monday, February 4

Phil Mickelson Nearly Wins His Age

A guy and Phil Mickelson. (Little Zey)
PHIL MICKELSON RAN AWAY WITH the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Lefty's wire-to-wire victory began with a 60 and he never let off the gas, finishing at 28 under par, four shots clear of runner-up Brandt Snedeker.

I'm not a numbers geek, but I can't help but notice the symmetry between Phil's career wins and age. The latest one gives the 42-year-old San Diego native a total of 41 titles on the PGA Tour. In golf, people talk about shooting your age, an accomplishment that comes late in life if at all. Mickelson, though, has nearly won his age. He only needs one more and sounds confident about his chances.

"I think that sets up the tone for the rest of the year," Lefty said, "because I really started to play well. But for me, the rest of the year took a turn on Tuesday when I got my new driver. It just changed my whole deal.

"The fact that this club is so easy to hit now, I think it's going to change the rest of the year for me. I really do. My iron play has always been the strength of my game, and it was certainly good this week, but to drive it as easily as I did in play and to have the misses be so much less is going to set up for a very good year, I believe."

Except for the years 1992, 1999 and 2003, Phil has won at least one PGA Tour event each year since 1991.

Friday, February 1

The King and His New Golf Channel Studio

Arnold Palmer cuts the ribbon on Studio AP.
From Golf Channel Press Release

ARNOLD PALMER CUT THE RIBBON TUESDAY at Golf Channel studios to christen Morning Drive’s new set as “Studio AP” in his honor. Palmer co-founded Golf Channel with cable television entrepreneur Joe Gibbs in 1995 and has been involved ever since, including starting his day with Morning Drive. In addition to revealing the new state-of-the-art studio, Palmer introduced a new autograph board that will be signed by every guest who visits Morning Drive.

“Arnold Palmer is not only Golf Channel’s co-founder, but also now one of Morning Drive’s most loyal viewers, so we are proud to be naming Morning Drive’s new studio after him,” said Mike McCarley, Golf Channel President.

Morning Drive's Gary Williams and Holly Sonders with AP.
Morning Drive’s new studio features four dedicated sets: a main anchor desk, an interview area, a product demonstration area and a news update desk. The new home is nearly four times larger than the show’s original studio. Panoramic, high-definition video backdrops throughout the studio will make viewers feel like the Morning Drive cast is broadcasting from just inside the picture windows of their local clubhouse.

Morning Drive will re-launch on Feb. 4 with a new format, a new cast of co-hosts and a seven-days-a-week schedule. Joining Morning Drive regulars Gary Williams, Damon Hack and Holly Sonders is Golf Channel analyst Charlie Rymer. Several other regular contributors and guest hosts include longtime Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman, Emmy Award-winning sports broadcaster Ahmad Rashad, 11-time PGA TOUR winner John Cook, Hall-of-Famer Annika Sorenstam, former Golf Digest travel editor Matt Ginella and host of Top 10 and GolfNow Lauren Thompson.