Friday, March 29

Book Excerpt: 'An American Caddie in St. Andrews'

Reprinted from An American Caddie in St. Andrews by Oliver Horovitz by arrangement with Gotham Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Copyright © 2013 by Oliver Horovitz.

PROLOGUE

“Please welcome your 2003 graduates!”

Available at Amazon / Barnes & Noble
The raspy voice of our principal, Stanley Teitel, booms into the loudspeaker. Jack Welch, our class day speaker, takes a seat, having just finished his speech. I’m pretty sure he’s the CEO of General Electric. I know he just talked about GE washing machines, a lot. It’s 10:12 a.m., June 25. I’m onstage at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City, trumpet on my lap, facing three thousand fellow Stuyvesant High School students, parents, and teachers, all assembled for our graduation ceremony. It’s ridiculously hot. My cell phone vibrates, signaling a call that could define my life. I’m waiting to hear from Harvard College’s admission office. I’ve been on their waiting list for the past three months, and they’re supposed to let me know today if I’ve been admitted. As the orchestra strikes up a rousing march, I exit stage left, semi-discreetly, and take the call. It’s Sally Champagne, Harvard’s admissions officer. The news is good. I’ve been moved off their wait list: I’m in. But Sally Champagne keeps talking. There’s a small catch: All class of 2007 spots have been filled. I’ve been accepted for the following year. I need to take a gap year, which is a euphemism for killing 365 consecutive days. But how?

I stumble back to my third-trumpet seat. Dr. Raymond Wheeler taps his baton and scowls at me to pay attention. Trumpet touches lips. We play “Pomp and Circumstance March No. 4” and there is no doubt whatsoever that high school is ending.

I strain, unsuccessfully, to hit my high E-flat and catch Dr. Wheeler wincing as if his firstborn child has just been hit by a truck. It’s no good. I can’t concentrate; my immediate future’s playing out alongside Edward Elgar’s overture. Measure thirty-two arrives, giving me a nine-bar rest. While resting, I tear through coming-year options. After I rule out 1) waiting tables, 2) chopping wood, 3) chopping tables, an idea hits me: a year at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, where I’d also applied. I’ve been going to St. Andrews since I was a little kid, to play golf with my family and to visit my mother’s uncle Ken Hayward, who lives four hundred yards from the Old Course’s first tee.

As soon as I get home from graduation, I call the University of St. Andrews. I discover that they have a special freshman-year-abroad program. I call Harvard to see if I can do it. Harvard says it’s okay, if I don’t matriculate for transfer credit. I also discover that the University of St. Andrews has a 70/30 girl-to-boy ratio. I’m also a 1.8-handicap golf junkie. This is all sounding good.

• • •

“First place goes to Duncan Montgomery!”

Everyone around me applauds. Several bang on tables. Others scream, “Montayyyyyyy!” at inappropriate volumes. Duncan Montgomery, a third-year student from Edinburgh, waves cheerfully from his seat.

It’s a warm Wednesday night in mid-May, and I’m near the end of my gap year in St. Andrews, Scotland. I’m at the weekly meeting for the University of St. Andrews golf team. True to British university form, the team is entirely student run (no adults, no coaches) and meets once a week, at a pub called the Gin House. It also contains, this year, twenty-five students with handicaps of 2 or better. Results are being announced now from the weekly club medal on the Old Course, from which team standings are determined. The winning student this week (“Montayyyyyy!”), currently necking a pint of Tennent’s lager, has casually shot a 5-under 67. Last weekend, facing a match against Clark University (visiting from the States), the club captain, a party animal from Northern England, showed up on the first tee at nine a.m., sleepless, disheveled, and still in a tuxedo from the night before. He rubbed his eyes, hit his opening drive 280 down the middle, and won his match 6 and 5.

I’m sitting at the crowded team table in the back of the Gin House, beside Michael Choong, a posh Chinese-English third-year student from Wimbledon, and Richard Hooper, a six- foot-three Welsh fourth-year student who last week broke his putter in anger against a tree on the third hole of a match against the University of Stirling and had to subsequently putt with his 4-iron (he shot 68). I lean back in my chair, think about my own relatively puny score of 75, and roll up my sleeves for the ensuing drinking games. It’s going to be a messy night.

Thus far, my gap year in St. Andrews has been unthinkably wonderful. With my £105 student links ticket, I’ve been allowed unlimited play on St. Andrews’s six golf courses. I play a round virtually every day on the Old Course and have dinner at least once a week with my dapper, plaid-tie-wearing uncle Ken. My classes are superb. I read English with Robert Crawford, the good great poet, who has us imitating Wordsworth and Keats. I also study modern history and international relations, taught by brilliantly eccentric old Scottish guys with big ears and impenetrable brogues. I have my first serious girlfriend. I try haggis. I meet kids from all over the world, and together we discover St. Andrews’s thirty-one pubs (the highest per capita pub population in the UK).

Maybe because of its age (nearly six hundred years old), or maybe just because it’s in Scotland, ancient arcane traditions abound at the University of St. Andrews. And I’ve tried to take part in them all. There’s the bimonthly Pier Walk, for which hundreds of students don ceremonial red academic robes and walk down the harbor pier in pitch-darkness, every third student holding a candle for (totally inadequate) illumination. There’s the May Dip, held on May 1, when all seven thousand students stay up through the night attending various parties, then charge into the North Sea at five a.m., totally naked (while a choir sings hymns and bagpipers play from the rocks). And there’s Raisin Weekend, an Animal House–esque weekend in November “supervised” by every first-year student’s “academic parents” (all third- or fourth-year students), involving obscene levels of drinking and culminating in a nine a.m. sixteen-hundred-person shaving foam fight in St. Salvator’s Quad. There’s also the student charity fashion shows, at which ultracool European students dressed to the nines sit at tables stocked with champagne. And the notorious May Ball, held in a gigantic converted farmhouse outside St. Andrews. Here, the VIP “Gold Ticket” gets you a limo ride . . . to the helicopter, which sweeps you along the coast and touches down on the farm, where bumper cars, a Ferris wheel, and chocolate fountains await.

There’s another quirk to the University of St. Andrews. For the last three years, Prince William has been a student here—bringing fame, fortune, and gloriously high numbers of girl applicants to the university. Protecting its prized possession, the university has a special agreement with the royal family: Any student attempting to sell photographs of William to the British tabloids will find him or herself promptly expelled from school. Uncle Ken lives across the street from William’s flat, exchanges pleasantries with him daily, doesn’t ask for autographs or photo ops.

But my most important discovery—by far— is that everyone at the University of St. Andrews seems to play golf. Including very cute girls. For the first time in my life, my golf playing is an asset, as cool (perhaps) as being a quarterback on an American college football team. In St. Andrews, golf runs alongside life. This is not a small deal.

By this point in May, it has become clear to me: I do not want this gap year to end. As glasses clink and club captain Benny Kelly announces upcoming matches, I ask kids at my table what students do for paid work during vacation. Amazingly, I learn that many of my golf team friends stay on in St. Andrews over the summer to caddie on the Old Course. I’m told that caddies earn fifty pounds a round or more, and can, on a good day, loop two rounds a day. The exchange rate for the dollar is terrible, so fifty pounds translates to nearly $100— hell of a lot more than the $35 a round I’d been earning caddying at Bass Rocks Golf Club in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where my family lives during the summer months. Over pints of Belhaven Best, my friends also tell me hilarious stories of tourist golfers and famously gruff old Old Course caddies. It all sounds good.

I fill out the forms, buy official Old Course caddie rain gear, sign up for the official Old Course caddie training program, change the date of my flight home to America, and find cheap student digs for the summer.

I’m good to go—which is to say, I’m ready to stay.

Thursday, March 28

2013 Shell Houston Open TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2013 SHELL HOUSTON OPEN is underway at Redstone GC Tournament Course in Humble, Texas. D.A. Points is the clubhouse leader with a 64. The first round is still in progress.

Purse: $6.2 million
Winner’s share: $1.08 million
Defending champion: Hunter Mahan

2013 Shell Houston Open Leaderboard

The field
Tee times
The course
Tournament overview
Tournament news
Tour report

TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2013 Shell Houston Open is on Golf Channel and NBC. All times ET.

Thu, Mar 28
4:00-7:00p GOLF

Fri, Mar 29
4:00-7:00p GOLF

Sat, Mar 30
1:00-3:00p GOLF
3:00-6:00p NBC

Sun, Mar 31
1:00-3:00p GOLF
3:00-6:00p NBC

SIRIUS-XM PGA Tour broadcast times

Wednesday, March 27

Rory and That So-Called Miami Muni



THE STORY CHARMED THE AVERAGE GOLF JOE. There was Rory McIlroy in shorts and a pink shirt pounding balls on a driving range at a Miami-area municipal golf course late last week. Just like one of us!

McIlroy was in Miami to watch his girl friend, Caroline Wozniacki, play in a tennis tournament. He wanted to slip away for some practice and stopped at the local muni because it was the closest golf facility.

"It was nice. The turf was OK. People left me alone. It was fine," Rory said about Crandon Golf Key Biscayne.

What do you think of when you hear muni?

I think of the flat, 9-hole, grass-challenged course I grew up on in the California desert. I think of mats, both on the driving range and as winter tees on the course. I think of striped range balls and unraked traps. I think of sketchy snack bars and broken ball washers. I have a deep affection for those well-worn muni tracks because they are my golf heritage.

As far as I can tell, there's not much about Crandon Golf, the site of Rory's humble practice session, that says muni to me. Well, it's public. I'll grant it that.

According to its website, Crandon Golf is a championship 18-hole golf course on the "island paradise" of Key Biscayne, surrounded by water, mangroves and lush tropical foliage. It's made a top 10 list in Golfweek and was selected as one of America's 75 upscale courses by Golf Digest. Crandon Golf is the only course on Biscayne Bay.

You can play Crandon Golf as a guest for $225. If you're a south Florida resident, it will only cost you $125. Miami-Dade resident? Even better: $85. If you're of a certain economic class (like me), you might opt for the twilight rate, which is merely $50.

Some muni, huh?

Rory might have taken it down a few notches with his visit to Crandon Golf, but I'm only reminded that his muni is not my muni. I can't be fooled. When it comes to golf, Rory and I have absolutely nothing in common.

Tuesday, March 26

Bubba's Green Jacket Is in the Bag

Bubba Watson
THE START OF THE 2013 MASTERS is in 16 days, and Bubba Watson, almost a year removed from his first Green Jacket and first major victory, might still find it hard to believe that he's the defending champion. Last month during a pre-Masters teleconference, Bubba was asked for his dominant thought when he watches replays of last year's Masters telecast.

"Yeah, that I won," he was quoted as saying at Masters.com. "I actually won it."

There's little doubt that Watson has the kind of reverence for the Green Jacket that would make Augusta National Golf Club Chairman Billy Payne beam with pride. Bubba's Green Jacket hangs safely in the back of the closet of his Scottsdale home.

"It's been sitting in that garment bag," Watson said. "I haven't taken it out. I don't let anybody see it or take pictures of it out of respect for the tournament and out of respect for the members of Augusta National."

He means it. NO ONE.

"None of my friends have seen it. None of my friends have taken photos of it.

"I put it in the back. I know it's there just because I don't want anybody to steal that thing, but I know it's there. But no, I don't look at it. I don't ever see it. I can see the corner of it because it's with my jackets, so I can see the corner of the green garment bag so I know it's there at all times."

The garment bag will come out of the closet soon as Bubba, wife Angie and son Caleb will journey to Augusta.

"I can't wait to get back there .... it'll be a blast for our family."

Monday, March 25

Tiger Woods Reclaims No. 1 Ranking



TIGER WOODS WON THE ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL for the eighth time on Monday and reclaimed the No. 1 ranking he lost in October 2010 after his personal life and golf game imploded. Woods shot a 2-under 70 in the weather-delayed final round to win by 2 strokes over Justin Rose.

"I play well here, and that's as simple as it gets," Tiger said after wrapping up his 77th PGA Tour title. Woods is now within five of the career wins record owned by Sam Snead.

Tiger is definitely back in terms of winning. He already has three wins this season and a total of six victories since he broke his slump almost exactly a year ago at Bay Hill.

[ONE YEAR AGO: Tiger Woods Recognized by Merriam-Webster Dictionary]

No one is playing better right now than Tiger Woods. His new command of his golf game has people buzzing about the old Tiger, that guy who not only racked up tour wins but also regularly collected majors.

The Masters, always a ratings winner, is guaranteed an even bigger ratings bonanza as all eyes will be locked on Tiger as he attempts to break a nearly five-year majors drought.

Can Woods win at Augusta? Of course. He's won there four times, but not since 2005.

Will he win the Masters in three weeks? A lot will depend on the putter.

Friday, March 22

The Sod Tale of Lafayette Municipal Golf Course

The Lafayette driving range reopened earlier this week. (City of Lafayette)




THE LAFAYETTE MUNICIPAL GOLF COURSE in Lafayette, Indiana, officially closed on March 1 due to the cost associated with flooding from the Wabash River. The golf course will be preserved as a park space, and parts of the property such as the driving range will remain open until June 1 for locals to use to practice their games.

For many golfers, the closure is certainly sad news. For others, though, it's sod news. Some are eyeing the defunct golf facility for an entirely different reason.

"We've been approached by a couple of area golf courses that are interested in purchasing the sod on our greens," parks superintendent Ted Bumbleburg told the Journal and Courier.

"It may be an opportunity to make some money."

Before any sod harvesters get too excited, the 9th, 18th and practice putting greens ARE NOT FOR SALE. Those will remain for local residents to practice their putting. (Who doesn't need to work on his or her putting stroke?)

Nonetheless, a lot of healthy bentgrass turf will be available.

"That leaves 16 greens, each with roughly 4,600 square feet of sod to be harvested," said the article. "Purchasers will be responsible for removing and transporting the sod."

The parks department plans to replace the sold sod. (Try saying "sold sod" five times fast.) They'll reseed with rye or Kentucky bluegrass.

That ends this sad and sod tale.

Thursday, March 21

2013 Arnold Palmer Invitational TV Schedule and Tournament Notes



THE 2013 ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL is underway at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida. Justin Rose is the first-round leader after firing a 7-under 65. Defending champion Tiger Woods had a 69.

Purse: $6.2 million
Winner’s share: $1.08 million
Defending champion: Tiger Woods

2013 Arnold Palmer Invitational Leaderboard

The field
Tee times
The course
Tournament overview
Tour report

TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2013 Arnold Palmer Invitational is on Golf Channel and NBC.

Thu, Mar 21
3:00-6:00p GOLF

Fri, Mar 22
3:00-6:00p GOLF

Sat, Mar 23
12:30-2:30p GOLF
2:30-6:00p NBC

Sun, Mar 24
12:30-2:30p GOLF
2:30-6:00p NBC

SIRIUS-XM PGA Tour broadcast times

Wednesday, March 20

Captain Watson Hopes Porridge Is Just Right

Tom Watson
THE PORRIDGE IS TOO HOT. The porridge is too cold. The porridge is just right!

Maybe the story about Goldilocks and the three bears suggests why U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson announced today that he will reduce the number of wildcard picks from four to three.

Two weren't enough picks. Heading into 2014 at Gleneagles, four are too many picks. Will three be just right?

It was Paul Azinger who increased the U.S. captain's picks from two to four in 2008. That U.S. team won at Valhalla near Louisville. But it has been all Europe since then, with wins at Celtic Manor in 2010 and Medinah in 2012. In fact, Europe has won seven of nine Ryder Cups dating back to 1995.

A lot is made of the captain's picks. Perhaps too much. Of course, some of the picks haven't worked out well. (Picked players face enormous pressure.) Frankly, the wildcard picks have arguably become the most critical aspect of the captaincy.

"There's not a lot of method in my madness," Watson said in announcing the change, "but I think the players ought to have another shot of getting on the team by merit.

"I ran it by three or four recent captains. We had long conversations about it and all of them said it was a good decision."

So Captain Watson will be playing "traditional poker." He can only draw three. What do you think?

Tuesday, March 19

Is Boo Back?

Boo Weekley
REMEMBER BOO WEEKLEY? IT LOOKS LIKE he's got the sticks working nicely again. While Kevin Streelman went about winning the Tampa Bay Championship, his first PGA Tour victory in 153 starts, Weekley vaulted up the leaderboard with a final-round 63 to finish second.

There are a lot of 63s on the tour these days, but not at the ridiculous Copperhead Course. "What a round by Boo Weekley," tweeted Hunter Mahan. "-8 on that track is filthy!"

At GOLF.com, Gary Van Sickle tells why Boo is one-of-a-kind and good for the game.
He is Boo Weekley, American character and golf folk hero. He’s Jed Clampett meets Larry the Cable Guy. He’s funny when he wants to be and sometimes even when he doesn’t. When he shot a remarkable 63 here Sunday at Innisbrook and was in danger of maybe winning the Tampa Bay Championship, it was a beautiful reminder that, hey, golf misses Boo Weekley. He’s as honest and straightforward as a stick of beef jerky and possibly the most polite man on the PGA Tour, even at age 39. No one uses “Sir” with more regularity or authenticity than Boo. You have to like him. It’s pretty much a rule.
So, is Boo back? Van Sickle thinks so.
Boo is back. He’s not back with a victory, which would’ve been sweet. When he posted his 63, the leaders were only on the seventh hole. As it turned out, Kevin Streelman birdied two of the last six holes to edge past Boo and win by two.
He pretended to be slightly miffed that his good play messed up his plans. Boo was going to finish the TBC fourth round early, then drive over to Orlando and do some fishing at Bay Hill. The 63 put him in the lead, so he was going to have to wait around to see if he might be in a playoff. So, no fishing. Asked if he was going to wait, he broke into a grin and replied, “Oh, I’ll wait.”
Since being slowed down by injuries and surgery in 2009, Weekley has gone mostly missing. But he's been working with a swing coach and his ball striking is reminiscent of those good 'ol 2008 days. Remember Valhalla?

Boo sounds hopeful. “I’m gettin’ there. Maybe a couple more showins’ and I’ll believe even more. Maybe I’ll be tryin’ that Ryder Cup out again, you never know.”

Monday, March 18

Stacy Lewis Reaches Golf Summit

"I couldn't have dreamed that the kid who grew up wearing a back brace
is the No. 1 player in the world."
–Stacy Lewis

STACY LEWIS WON ANOTHER GOLF TOURNAMENT and ascended to No. 1 on Sunday. Trailing 54-leader Ai Miyazato by four shots heading into the final round, Lewis fired a blistering 64 to win the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup by three strokes. Lewis earned $225,000 for her second victory this season and fifth title in about nine months. Lewis donated $50,000 of her winnings to the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program, the charitable cause of the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup.

Stacy Lewis
From LPGA.com:
Stacy Lewis, the woman who spent nearly seven years in a back brace and had surgery to insert a rod and screws on her spine to overcome scoliosis, is now the No. 1 player on the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings. Following her victory at yesterday's RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, Lewis unseats Yani Tseng, who had spent the previous 109 weeks as No. 1.
"I'm having a blast on the golf course, and to be No. 1 in the world, it's what everybody out here on Tour is working for," Lewis said.
Seventh No. 1 Player

Lewis is the seventh player to sit atop the Rolex Rankings:

Annika Sorenstam - 60 weeks
Lorena Ochoa - 158 weeks
Jiyai Shin - 26 weeks
Ai Miyazato - 11 weeks
Cristie Kerr - 5 weeks
Yani Tseng - 109 weeks
Stacy Lewis - ?

Friday, March 15

That Terrible Sinking Feeling on the Golf Course

LAST NIGHT I READ REPORTS ABOUT the St. Louis-area man who was swallowed by a sinkhole on the 14th hole of the Annbriar Golf Club. I was aware of the story, but I hadn't actually read up on it. Since a sports radio show was going to have me on and identified the sinkhole golfer as a possible topic, I thought I better know what happened.

It's an unsettling story on many levels. Mark Mihal, a 43-year-old mortgage broker, was out with his buddies, the first golf game of the season as I understand it. Mihal is a good player, carrying a 6 handicap. He was just 1 over as he came to the par-5 14th hole. He positioned his second shot in the fairway, about 100 yards from the green.

His golf ball was in an odd-looking depression, but, according to Mihal, "it didn't look unstable." He walked over to take a look and down he went, an 18-foot free fall that injured his shoulder but could have been a lot worse. A ladder was retrieved and they got him out of the hole 20 minutes later.

"It was absolutely crazy," Mihal said.

Sinkholes Everywhere

Sinkholes, apparently, are pretty common in southwest Illinois, just across the river from St. Louis. The region is "riddled" with them, according to the geochemist quoted in the story. There are 15,000 and counting. Remind me not to play golf there. Or go there.

We've all had that sinking feeling on the golf course. A good round gone bad. A bad round gone worse.

But what about Mihal? The man was golfing his ball and having some laughs with the fellows. HIS BALL WAS IN THE FAIRWAY. Isn't that supposed to be safe? Fairways and greens, right folks? Not fairways, sinkholes, ladders and greens.

Mihal might not return to Annbriar, even though he's played about two dozen rounds there.

"It's a great course. I love the course," Mihal said. "But I would have a tough time probably walking down that hole again."

No kidding. Golf is hard enough.

Thursday, March 14

Shawn Stefani Leads in Chilly Tampa Bay

THEY'RE WEARING SWEATERS IN PALM HARBOR, FLORIDA. Right now, with the first round of the Tampa Bay Championship nearly complete, the temperature is in the mid 50s. It's supposed to warm up on the weekend.

Shawn Stefani opened with a 65.
Lamar University product Shawn Stefani is the first-round leader after firing a 6-under 65 on the challenging Copperhead Course at the Innisbrook Resort. Brian Harmon, in with a 67, trails by two. Three more players are another shot back.

Stefani turned pro in 2005 and won twice last year on the Web.com Tour. Now the Texas native is trying to make it on the PGA Tour. Stefani has made three cuts in six starts this season. His best finish was a T39 at last week's Puerto Rico Open, where his 10-under total included a 65 in the second round. He has collected a little more than $35,000 in earnings this season.

According to the bio at his website, Stefani is a passionate deer hunter. Hunting in Iowa is on his bucket list. He also would like to skydive and drive a NASCAR race car.

Who would fill out Stefani's dream foursome? Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Bobby Jones.

Tomorrow Stefani will be teeing it up with Brad Fritsch and Andy Pope. After a 65, he should make the cut and be playing on the weekend. Better yet, maybe the deer hunter can set his sights on his best finish on the PGA Tour.

Wednesday, March 13

Sobel's Gem on 'Next Nicklaus' Eddie Pearce

Eddie Pearce
A WORTHWHILE LONG READ: JASON SOBEL'S "Eddie Pearce: The fast life and hard times of 'The Next Nicklaus.'"

If you lived through the 1970s and were a golf fan, then you probably remember there were more next Jack Nicklauses than Tiger Woods Sunday red shirts. Eddie Pearce was one of them, maybe the most talented of them all.

Sobel writes:
You see, Eddie [Pearce] was a golfer. Well, not just a golfer. The golfer. Sports Illustrated once deemed him "The Next Nicklaus." His buddies agreed with the magazine -- and his buddies knew a thing or two about talent. 
"I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone with as much talent as him," says Ben Crenshaw, himself a two-time Masters champion. 
"Eddie had such a gorgeous, powerful swing. He could just hit the most beautiful shots you’ve ever seen."
"Eddie had as much talent as anybody I’d ever seen," agrees Lanny Wadkins, Pearce's teammate at Wake Forest and a 21-time PGA Tour winner. 
"This was a guy who was going to win frequently and win majors," maintains accomplished amateur Vinny Giles, who also served as his manager. "He was going to be one of the best players in the game."
As Sobel adds, "It never happened." As he quotes Wadkins, "[Pearce] was the can’t-miss kid who missed."

So who exactly was Eddie Pearce, what kind of player was he, and why didn't he make it?

Read the whole story.

Tuesday, March 12

Up on the Roof at RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup



PAIGE MACKENZIE, AMANDA BLUMENHERST AND WENDY WARD hit shots from the roof of the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa during the February media day for the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup.

Who do you think hit the 200-yard shot closest to the hole? Did any of the three make a birdie?

The RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, the first U.S. event of the 2013 LPGA season, starts on Thursday. World No. 1 Yani Tseng defends her title in the $1.5 million event played on the par-72 Wildfire Golf Club in Phoenix, Arizona. Also in the 144-player field are the winners of the season's first three LPGA events: Stacy Lewis, Jiyai Shin and Inbee Park.

The tournament celebrates the 13 founders of the LPGA Tour. One third of the purse ($500,000) will be donated to the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf Program.

Monday, March 11

PGA Tour Considering Steve Stricker Ban

Steve Stricker: banned man?
THE PGA TOUR, WHICH RECENTLY OPPOSED the anchoring ban proposed by the USGA and the R&A, is considering a ban of tour veteran Steve Stricker, according to a tour insider who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Although fond of Stricker because he’s such a nice guy, many PGA Tour players have felt the Wisconsin native has had an unfair competitive advantage on the greens for years. Stricker is considered to be one of the best putters on the planet. He joined the PGA Tour in 1994 and has 12 victories on the circuit.

While Stricker had been allowed to compete unhindered on tour for nearly two decades, the players now realize the danger posed to their livelihoods—and the game of golf itself—if the genial man from Madison continues to ply his exceptional putting trade. The player revolt that very well may spark a ban came to a head this past week at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in Miami.

The view that’s gaining momentum is that Stricker’s putting techniques, mindset and thoughts can easily spread to other players he likes. Case in point: 14-time major winner Tiger Woods, who on Sunday won the WGC-Cadillac Championship, his 76th victory on the PGA Tour. Woods received putting help from Stricker prior to the WGC event and then pretty much made every putt he looked at. In the privacy of the locker room, several players cried, “Unfair!”

It’s common knowledge that Woods’ dominant run was stalled by several factors: a knee injury, personal problems and another swing overhaul. But perhaps even more damaging was the loss of his putting touch. With Stricker helping one of the all-time greats with his putting, many on tour feel their professions are threatened. Some are rumored to be considering lawsuits.

Woods himself seemed to admit that Stricker is a difference-maker, and would likely be opposed to a Stricker ban.

“Whatever he says, I’m going to do,” Tiger said. “He’s one of the best putters that’s ever lived.”

Tiger only needed 100 putts over the four rounds en route to his win at the TPC Blue Monster. Woods and Stricker finished 1-2 in the event.

An emergency meeting of the 16-member PGA Tour Player Advisory Council and tour commissioner Tim Finchem is said to be scheduled in the coming days.

The Stricker ban could be implemented as early as next season. A 90-day comment period is expected, after which the Stricker ban would go into effect anyway. Whether or not the Stricker ban would extend to the Champions Tour is an open question. Stricker will turn 50 on February 23, 2017.

(This is an ARMCHAIR GOLF spoof.)

Friday, March 8

PGA.com: 9 Best Golf Jokes

(Courtesy of Boston Public Library)


















THERE'S NOTHING LIKE A GOOD JOKE. And if it's a good golf joke, even better. PGA.com solicited golf humor at its PGA.com Facebook Nation page. "What's your best golf joke?" they asked. Then they published the best (clean) golf jokes at PGA.com.

Here's one of their nine best golf jokes:
Four old men went into the pro shop after playing 18 holes of golf. 
The pro asked, "Did you guys have a good game today?" 
The first old guy said, "Yes, I had three riders today." 
The second old guy said, "I had the most riders ever. I had five." 
The third old guy said, "I had seven riders, the same as last time." 
The last old man said, "I beat my old record. I had 12 riders today." 
After they went into the locker room, another golfer who had heard the old guys talking about their game went to the pro and said, "I've been playing golf for a long time and thought I knew all the terminology of the game, but what's a rider?" 
The pro said, "A rider is when you hit the ball far enough to actually get in the golf cart and ride to it." 
(Submitted to PGA.com by Howard P. Curtis)
Read all nine PGA.com golf jokes.

Thursday, March 7

2013 WGC-Cadillac Championship TV Schedule and Tournament Notes

THE 2013 WGC-CADILLAC CHAMPIONSHIP is underway at TPC Blue Monster at Doral in Miami, Florida.

Purse: $8.75 million
Winner’s share: $1.4 million
Defending champion: Justin Rose

2013 WGC-Cadillac Championship Leaderboard

The field
Tee times
The course
Tournament overview
Tour report

TV SCHEDULE

TV coverage of the 2013 WGC-Cadillac Championship is on Golf Channel and NBC.

Thu, 3/7
2-6p ET GOLF

Fri, 3/8
2-6p ET GOLF

Sat, 3/9
12-2p ET GOLF
2-6p ET NBC

Sun, 3/10
12-2p ET GOLF
2-6p ET NBC

SIRIUS-XM PGA Tour broadcast times

Wednesday, March 6

Rory McIlroy: 'No Excuse for Quitting'

Rory McIlroy
RORY MCILROY MET WITH THE MEDIA today at Doral in Miami for the first time since his walkoff last Friday at the Honda Classic.

"It was a mistake," Rory McIlroy said about his abrupt withdrawal during last week's second round. The world No. 1 was 7-over par through eight holes. He was headed for another missed cut.

"Everyone makes mistakes. I'm learning from them. Some people have the pleasure of making their mistakes in private. Most of my mistakes are in the public eye."

Besides an aching wisdom tooth, Rory said his head wasn't right.

"I wasn't in a good place with my golf game. My head was all over the place. I realized pretty quickly that it wasn't the right thing to do. No matter how bad I was playing, I should have stayed out there.

"There's no excuse for quitting and it doesn't set a good example for the kids watching me. It wasn't good for a whole lot of reasons, for the tournaments, the people coming out watching me. I feel like I let a lot of people down with what I did last week. For that, I am very sorry.

"I learned that when the tough gets going, I've got to stick in there a bit more and I've got to grind it out."

Rory also said there's no problem with his Nike equipment or his tennis-star girlfriend. His swing, however, has given him fits lately. He's working on it.

McIlroy will be grouped with Tiger Woods and Luke Donald in the first two rounds of the WGC-Cadillac Championship, which begins on Thursday at TPC Blue Monster.

"It's not life or death out there," he added. "It's only a game. I had sort of forgotten that this year. I've got to remember I started to play golf because I love it. I've got four rounds, thankfully. I haven't been enjoying it because I've been putting so much pressure on myself. I have to go out there and enjoy myself."

Tuesday, March 5

Stacy Lewis Is Moving Up

Stacy Lewis (LPGA.com)
WITH HER VICTORY LAST WEEK AT THE HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore, Stacy Lewis collected her fourth LPGA Tour win since last June. Ward Clayton noted at LPGA.com that Lewis' most recent title signals her best career start. Previously, none of her five wins had come earlier than April.

The 2012 Rolex Women's Player of the Year is still clicking after winning three times last season, including in September and November. Lewis began her 2013 campaign with a T3 at the Honda LPGA Thailand, where she fired a career-best 63 in the opening round. She leads the tour with 58 birdies.

Lewis is now ranked No. 3 in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings. But her sights are set on No. 1, the spot Yani Tseng has held for two years.

"There's really no timetable on what I'm going to be able to do and how long I'm going to be able to play because there's nobody else doing this with a rod and five screws in their back," Lewis said.

"It's really kind of an unknown, and I think that's one thing that kind of helps me go play every week and makes me work hard is that I need to take advantage of the time that I have right now. There's no guarantee how long my back holds up, so I'm thankful for the time that I have and it makes me just go work hard every day."

Tseng recently admitted her struggle with occupying the No. 1 ranking.

"It's tough and it's very lonely," Tseng told the Associated Press. "No one knows how do you feel. Everybody wants to be in your shoes, but no one knows how tough is that.

"The first year, when I was world No. 1, I feel good. But every month, everybody keeps building the expectations on me, and that's lots of pressure."

Monday, March 4

Rory McIlroy to Explain Walkoff, Toothache

By Brian Keogh

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 WILL OPEN UP ABOUT his surprising Honda Classic withdrawal and confess that severe pain and frustration with his game got the better of him in Palm Beach Gardens.

World No. 1 Rory McIlroy.
According to a friend, who was speaking on condition on anonymity, the world number one will speak honestly about his implosion when he gives a media conference on Tuesday morning ahead of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral in Miami.

McIlroy spent Friday night with his family at his Florida home and practiced at the Bear’s Club on Saturday with his coach Michael Bannon in a bid to get his game back in the rails. The two-time major winner is also likely to have his wisdom teeth removed after the event at the TPC Blue Monster.
According to his friend, McIlroy fully accepts the criticism he received in the media following his surprising decision to walk in after the red mist descended when he was seven over par for his second round at PGA National’s Champions Course on Friday. He will also confirm that he was in severe pain.
McIlroy had been taking pain-killers for his dental problem and the PGA Tour will be receiving a letter from his dentist in Belfast within days justifying his decision to walk off after completing just eight holes of Friday’s second round when he was seven over par for the day.

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, March 1

Interview: Billy Casper Didn't Watch Leaderboards

Billy Casper focused on his own game.
LAST SUMMER I INTERVIEWED BILLY Casper, whose Hall-of-Fame career included 51 PGA Tour wins (three of them majors), eight Ryder Cup appearances and five Vardon Trophies. No American, by the way, has won more Ryder Cup points than Casper.

I thought the following was interesting. A man who had won so often and achieved so much success on the golf course never watched the leaderboard.

Q: Were you a scoreboard watcher, Billy?

BILLY CASPER: No, no. I trained myself not to look at the scoreboard. I knew if I was making proper decisions and playing well and putting well, that I would win. Or I would be right there at the end. I remember two incidents very distinctly.

One was the San Diego Open in 1966. The last day was very cold, and the wind blew from the east which is uncommon that it blows all day that way. I started four shots behind in the final round. I shot 32 out, and I birdied 10 and 14. And 14 was normally a drive and a wedge and I hit a drive and a 4-iron and I made birdie. I birdied 15, parred 16, birdied 17 and walked to the 18th tee. I said to my friend who was with me, who worked with the FBI, How do I stand? He said you have a four-shot lead.

And the other tournament that I played where I didn’t know what I was doing, which, you know, where you stood in the tournament, was at Indianapolis. I started the final round one shot ahead of George Bayer, and two shots ahead of Jerry Steelsmith. Steelsmith shot 63, Bayer shot 64. As I walk off the green at 17, I was 7-under par. I said how do I stand to my caddie. And he said you need to make birdie on this hole to win the tournament. It was a five par. I knocked it on in two and made birdie and won the tournament. I shot 64, Bayer shot 64 and Steelsmith shot 63. And yet they didn’t win.

Q: Was that the Speedway Open?

BILLY CASPER: Yeah, that was one of the years at the Speedway. This is the way I played. I couldn’t change what other players were doing. So what do you want to watch the board for? I wasn’t like Palmer. Palmer liked to watch the board. I just wanted to be in total control of myself. And I used all my energy for myself, not anyone outside. That was my thinking.

Q: It worked well for you.

BILLY CASPER: Yes, it did.