Thursday, December 20, 2007

Naked lady tees (no!) and other gifts

Golf and Christmas can be a dangerous combination.

The problem, other than convincing the family a leisurely 18 would be a wonderful way to spend Christmas afternoon, is gifts.

Not the ones you’re giving.

The ones you might get.

It’s probably too late in the game for many golfers, but in the spirit of public service, here’s a short list of dos and don’ts you may want to subltly give to your significant other, your aunt or your wife’s mom to let them know what a golfer wants and, more importantly, doesn’t want.


-- Anything with an Augusta National logo on it because it can only be bought on the property there and they don’t sell anything cheesey;

-- Golf balls, preferably Titlelists. It may seem like a cliche gift but golfers love finding a dozen or two under the tree. It’s like payback for all those we’ve lost under other trees;

-- Shirts that look like something Fred Couples might wear. I’d say shirts like Tiger wears but most of us don’t have the abs or the biceps to look good in some of his form-fitting stuff;

-- Tickets to the Wachovia Championship;

-- A surprise weekend trip to the Verizon Heritage at Hilton Head;

-- An HDTV, the better to see how Phil Mickelson plays shots around the green;

-- A DVD of the 1986 Masters. No matter how many times you watch it - and we all know Jack wins - it still gives you a tingle.


-- Golf balls that aren’t white;

-- Any kind of score-keeping doo-dad;

-- Golf sandals;

-- Anything with John Daly’s logo on it;

-- Iron covers;

-- An 11-wood;

-- Sweaters with golfers on the front, the back or anywhere;

-- Naked lady tees (sorry, I couldn’t resist a ‘Caddyshack’ reference).

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sabbatini off Tiger's Christmas card list

Surely, Rory Sabbatini didn’t just pack his swagger, his family and his $170,000 last-place check from Tiger Woods and the Target World Challenge and fly away to Maui a day early without saying thank you and offering an explanation.

Surely, Sabbatini is smarter than that.

Then again …

It’s still unclear exactly why the mouth that Rory-ed became the first person in the history of Tiger’s pre-Christmas bash to withdraw – reports ranged from shin splints (hmmmm) to a desire to get to Maui early – but it looks worse than the belt buckles Sabbatini likes to wear.

In case you missed it, Sabbatini was in last place in the 16-player field with one round remaining when he bolted California for Hawaii without, if reports from the scene are accurate, telling the host how much he appreciated the chance to pay for Christmas and then some.

As Fred Couples told reporters, Sabbatini is messing with the wrong guy.

Sabbatini picked at Tiger all season – it started here at the Wachovia Championship – jabbering about this and that like a man desperate to be taken seriously. He never beat Tiger when it mattered, though Sabbatini had an otherwise outstanding season.

It’s one thing to challenge a guy. Sports are about competition and if you don’t believe you can beat a guy, you won’t.

But it’s something else to get invited to the guy’s private party, show up, eat his shrimp, drive his courtesy car, take his money and leave without finishing the tournament. Sabbatini’s agent said his guy had been bothered by shin splints and that’s why he withdrew.

“Sure he did … and Roger Clemens’ agent said he didn’t do steroids,” Couples was quoted as saying.

If Sabbatini’s shins were hurting him – everybody who believes that one raise your hand – he should have at least had the class to make sure his host understood the situation. That’s what most of us would do, I hope.

At the very least, maybe Sabbatini will donate the $170,000 he left town with to somebody who needs it more than he does.

Tiger – and the rest of us – would appreciate it.

And Rory can make other plans for mid-December next year.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

There's been a Tiger Woods sighting ....

We interrupt this run-up to Christmas and run-down of the Carolina Panthers to point out that Tiger Woods is playing golf this weekend.

It's been nearly three months since we saw Woods on the golf course, back-slapping new American hero Woody Austin at the Presidents Cup. Since then, he says he hasn't done much. He hasn't been skiing yet but he's been on his boat and went to the Floyd Mayweather fight last weekend.

Tiger's been busy being a dad, hitting golf balls once in a while, and now he's back -- briefly -- to play in the Target World Challenge he hosts as a fund-raiser for his foundation.

Woods' real golf season won't start until sometime in January -- he's playing typically coy about his early-season schedule -- but the chatter has already begun about whether 2008 is the year he wins the true Grand Slam. I like his chances.

Recently, Woods raised some eyebrows when he said if he were the ruler of golf, he'd have us all playing persimmon drivers and balata balls again. He'd make shot-making and skill priorities again.

Wouldn't it be fun to see players step back in time -- just 15 years -- to see how good they would be with older equipment?

We know who'd win -- Tiger, of course.

In the meantime, it'll be fun to see him playing golf again -- modern equipment and all.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Payne opens Masters to next generation

When Augusta National chairman Billy Payne says he wants to inspire the next generation of golfers, he has a nice source of inspiration -- the Masters Tournament.

Payne and the club announced Thursday that beginning next April, accredited patrons will be allowed to bring a youngster between the ages of 8 and 16 to the Masters tournament rounds for free.

That doesn't mean if you're using someone's Masters credential for a day that you can bring your son or daughter. Only the person whose name is on the badge application can bring one child with them each day and the tournament will have a way of verifying who the badges belong to.

So, no, there won't be 25,000 kids roaming the property during the tournament.

Still, it's another nice touch by Payne, who has made so many good moves in his still-young tenure as club chairman. The intent, Payne said in a statement, is to expose youngsters to golf and the Masters. There's no better way than letting them see it in person.

Payne has been aggressive in his efforts to bring golf to more people, particularly to young people and the international audience. He sees it as a way to follow through on the vision of Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, whose spirits still guide the club.

As part of that initiative, the popular par-3 tournament played on Wednesdays before the tournament begins will be televised by ESPN, the new cable partner for the Masters. The telecast will air from 3 to 5 p.m. on Wednesday and give viewers a sense of the fun that has made the par-3 event an integral part of the Masters experience.

"These initiatives are important first steps and a great kickoff to our ongoing mission of growing the game," Payne said.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Two Gloves has firm grip on tour card

When the 2008 PGA Tour season begins next month -- you'll recognize it when you see the palm trees and Stuart Appleby at Kapalua again -- you may find yourself with a new favorite player.

Tommy 'Two Gloves' Gainey, who made his living playing mini-tour golf when he wasn't working in a South Carolina mill, made it through the tour qualifying school this week, punching his ticket to places like Pebble Beach, Phoenix and the same locker room where Tiger Woods changes his shoes.

Gainey won one of those 'Big Break' shows on The Golf Channel a while back, introducing himself to those of us who spend a little too much time watching golf.

He has a touch of Boo Weekley about him in that he's a natural. He wears two gloves when he plays -- hence the nickname -- and he can really play. Just ask the guys who've played mini-tour golf against him through the years.

Now Gainey gets to prove it to the world.

He's only played in one PGA Tour event in his life -- the Wachovia Championship last May -- and he already had a gallery following him.

Now he's the pride of Bishopville, S.C., and maybe, just maybe, a new star on the PGA Tour.