Monday, March 31, 2008

No (Davis) Love for the Masters?

Davis Love III has one more week -- this week -- to qualify to play in the Masters.

All he has to do is win the Shell Houston Open.

In other words, it looks like Love's streak of 70 consecutive starts in major championships will end unless he can duplicate his 1995 magic when he won in New Orleans the week before the Masters to qualify at the last minute.

Love isn't the only familiar name who is outside the Masters looking in.

Chris DiMarco, who has three career top-10s at Augusta National and pushed Tiger Woods to extra holes in 2005, is already out. His game has disappeared and DiMarco isn't playing in Houston this week, meaning there's no chance he'll be at the Masters.

Lucas Glover also needs to win this week not just to get in the Masters but to jump start a lousy season. Glover, who many expected would be a part of this Ryder Cup team, has had a flat start this year. At Bay Hill, Glover said he needed one good round when the putts started falling to change his attitude and get things going. He shot 66 there but nothing changed.

Tom Lehman and Chad Campbell are also going to miss the Masters if they don't win this week.

On the other side, there's Peter Lonard, who didn't realize when he made a 5-foot par putt on the 72nd hole at New Orleans Sunday that it got him in the Masters. The putt gave Lonard just enough world ranking points to crack the top 50, which comes with a Masters invitation if you're in that exclusive club as of March 30.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Charlotte golf history gathers

A sizeable portion of Charlotte’s golf history was gathered Tuesday at Cedarwood Country Club, where organizers of the new City Amateur championship held a kickoff event that brought together 18 former city champions.

Bill Williamson, winner of the first City Am 50 years ago, was there along with former winners David Strawn, Skip Dunaway, Johnny Elam, Joe Jaspers, Xan Law, Don Littlejohn and others.

Photos were taken, stories were told and the original trophy – now 50 years old – was named for former Observer columnist and golf writer Ron Green Sr.

Though entries won’t be accepted until June 1, there appears to be great interest in the reborn event, which will be played at Cedarwood, Carmel Country Club and Charlotte Country Club Aug. 15-17.

Qualifiers will be held at Pine Island, Skybrook and Charlotte Golf Links.
For tournament information, visit

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spring's most unwelcome golf holes

I was driving past Providence Country Club Monday afternoon when I noticed the single most undeniable sign that the spring golf season has arrived.

They were aerating the greens.

The putting surface had disappeared under a layer of little plugs pulled from the ground. Then, after the plugs had been moved away, the once slick, green surface was covered by enough sand to make you wonder if it’s a penalty to ground your putter on the green.

The weather forecast for later this week is as sweet as Stephen Curry’s jump shot and all around the area greens are being aerated. Bummer.

That means for the two weeks after the aeration is complete the greens will be slower than lines at the DMV and just about as pretty.

It’s a necessary evil – like going to the dentist – but there’s never a good time to have the greens punched.

It doesn’t mean golfers will quit playing. Some will take a break or find someplace where the aeration calendar is set differently, but eventually the lure overwhelms us all and we go back out there, thinking the greens won’t be too bad.

We’ll be wrong, of course, but golfers – despite our tendency to think the golf gods have it in for us – keep a curious optimism. How else you explain the guy who’s just chopped his drive 125 yards waiting for the green to clear 240 yards away before hitting his next shot?

One good thing about playing on recently aerated greens – it’s easier to explain away your three-putts.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Woods with 12 straight? Here's how...

I’ve long contended that the most unbreakable record in sports is Byron Nelson’s streak of 11 consecutive PGA Tour victories set in 1945. It may not last the summer.

Was there any real doubt Sunday afternoon as Tiger stood over the 24-foot birdie putt to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational that he was going to make it? Arnie himself was standing behind the green and told the person he was standing with that Tiger was going do what Tiger seems to always do.

Johnny Miller hinted at it on television when he pointed out that Tiger had not made a putt longer than 18 feet all week and – boom – there it was. What we’re seeing is the essence of greatness. I didn’t think we’d ever see another run that came close to Tiger’s roll in 2000 and 2001 but this one may soon be as good. Tiger says he’s a better player now than then.

Want to argue with him? He’s won five tour events in a row and seven straight worldwide. Run the numbers out and he’s won nine of his last 10 tour starts. Not bad.

So where does he go from here? He’s the obvious favorite at the World Golf Championship at Doral this week, where he only wins when he tees it up. That’s No. 6.

Two weeks off and it’s the Masters. He hasn’t won there since 2005. Make it No. 7. Then two weeks off and he’s here for the Wachovia Championship. Who’s going to beat him? That’s No. 8. It gets dicey at No. 9.

You get the sense that Tiger doesn’t love The Players Championship, certainly not the way commissioner Tim Finchem wants him to love it. He’s won there, so it’s checked off his to-do list, but if you’re looking for a likely place he won’t win, the Stadium Course jumps out. But, the way he’s playing and to play this idea out, let’s give him No. 9.

Then it’s off to the Memorial where he can win No. 10 in front of Jack Nicklaus. Where does he get the record-tying No. 11? The U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Count it.

I know it strains the imagination – even by Tiger standards – to think he could win 11 straight but he’s nearly halfway there. And if he got that far, what about No. 12? His tournament – the AT&T Classic – in Washington on Fourth of July weekend. Still think it can’t happen?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Another sad chapter to John Daly story

The John Daly story, which has become a series of increasingly sad chapters seemingly headed for an even sadder ending, took another twist Wednesday morning at Bay Hill when Big John missed his pro-am tee time for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Unless there are extenuating circumstances that excuse Daly’s absence from the first tee – that seems unlikely given his track record – he’s disqualified this week and in an even deeper mess than he’d already found himself for various misdeed including reports of a drunken weekend in Tampa just days ago.

Daly’s self-destructive tendencies appear to be in full flower – again.

That’s too bad.

But it’s not surprising.

And it’s become almost impossible to feel sorry for the guy.

Butch Harmon, who took on Daly as a student late last year, essentially fired Daly this week and ripped him in the process.

Harmon told Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press that Daly needs to “show me golf is the most important thing in his life … and the most important thing in his life is getting drunk.”

There were already reports that Daly was a mess at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic earlier this year and now there are reports – and video evidence – of Daly getting hammered at a hospitality tent adjacent to Innisbrook last week after he missed the cut in the PODS Championship there.

On Friday, Daly ducked into the Hooters Owl Nest tent during a rain delay and emerged later with Tampa Bay Bucs coach Jon Gruden as his caddie. After missing the cut – something Daly does well these days if he makes it through 36 holes – he showed up Saturday at the Hooters tent again and spent his day drinking.

There is even a video showing Daly being Daly.

On a professional level, Daly is sure to get whacked pretty hard by the PGA Tour, though commissioner Tim Finchem declined to discuss specifics Wednesday until he’s had an opportunity to talk with Daly. A sledgehammer – and an extended vacation from the tour – would work nicely.

Daly is an embarrassment to himself and the PGA Tour.

On a personal level, he needs help. That’s been obvious for years.

What used to be endearing – there was a time when Daly’s flaws made him a blue-collar hero – has become ugly.

It’s hard to believe his story has a happy ending.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Palmer still picture-perfect in players' eyes

The fact that most of the best golfers in the world are at Bay Hill this week for the Arnold Palmer Invitational is, more than anything, a testament to the enduring affection they have for the host.

He roams the premises at Bay Hill, signs autographs and handles the tricky business of being a legend beautifully.

This little moment underscores what Palmer still means to the game and the people who play it:

After playing in a Monday pro-am he’d previously committed to, Sean O’Hair – who was just hours removed from winning the PODS Championship – asked if he could have his photo taken with Palmer.

Naturally, Palmer obliged.

“I think Mr. Palmer is … he brought the sport to what it is with the popularity of it, with what he achieved,” O’Hair said. “Basically, he was like Superman in golf. I kind of look at him like that.

“When I talked to him (Monday), I couldn’t tell you one thing he said. I can’t. But I just was in such awe of his presence. And you look into his eyes and it’s like, I don’t know, he’s just still got it in his eyes.

“You think of what he’s experienced and how cool it would be to experience the things he’s done. It’s amazing. I just kind of wanted a picture so I could show my grandkids one day.”

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Isenhour birdies hawk

If police and eyewitness reports are true, Salisbury native Tripp Isenhour recently took out a hawk from a distance of about 75 yards with a well-placed golf shot when the bird refused to obey what amounted to a ‘Hush, y’all’ warning while he was taping a television show.

Know what the show is called?
‘Shoot Like A Pro.’

Truth again goes 1-up on fiction.
The incident happened in mid-December at Grand Cypress Golf Course in Orlando and Isenhour apparently got irked because the red-shouldered hawk kept forcing him to re-shoot scenes because it was doing whatever hawks do when they make noise. Eyewitnesses say Isenhour started firing golf balls at the bird 300 yards away but it wasn’t until the bird came closer, supposedly 75 yards, that Isenhour dropped it.

Now the law has charged the 39-year old with cruelty to animals and killing a migratory bird. If he’s found guilty, Isenhour could face 14 months in jail and $1,500 in fines.

Even worse, PETA will be on his case. As it should.
And I can’t imagine much worse than having PETA on your case.

If you’re not familiar with Isenhour, it’s probably because you’re not from Salisbury or Georgia Tech where he was an All-American in 1990. Isenhour was good enough to win twice on the Nationwide Tour in 2006 and earn himself a spot on the PGA Tour last year.

But he made just 14 cuts in 32 starts and wound up back on the Nationwide Tour this year.

Now he’s in a mess of trouble. If Isenhour did what he’s alleged to have done, the obvious question is why.

There’s no excuse.
But he probably knows that.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Slow play a problem at all levels

Near the end of his most recent newsletter, Tiger Woods raised the subject of slow play, suggesting that something serious be done about it on the PGA Tour.

Woods allowed that it’s a difficult subject and when a group falls behind the time clock, it’s probably not fair to penalize everyone when it’s typically one player’s fault.

Tiger conveniently left it to our imagination whether he was pointing a finger at J.B. Holmes, who not only nearly beat Woods in the first round of the recent Match Play Championship but nearly drove us all batty watching his fidgety and maddeningly prolonged pre-shot routine.

If that wasn’t Tiger’s intention, it should have been.

And he’s right, slow play continues to be a problem. Unfortunately, that’s nothing new. What would be new would be a more serious crackdown that resulted in quicker, more hard-hitting penalties than the various warnings and bad time citations now handed out on tour.

There’s nothing much more fun than hanging around a tee waiting 10 minutes for the group in front to clear out. Or, if you’re a spectator, watching a group of guys wait for the group in front to clear out.

One of the reasons cited in a recent New York Times story about the declining numbers of active golfers is the amount of time it takes to play 18 holes. Golf should never be a five-hour game but that’s what it’s become in too many places.

Adam Scott, who keeps getting mentioned as the game’s next great player, chimed in over the weekend, endorsing Woods’ suggestion for more severe penalties for clock chewers. Maybe if top players make enough noise, something more will happen.

Sadly, pace of play has become a problem at all levels. There’s no reason for double-digit handicappers to be pacing off yardage from sprinkler heads. They’re not good enough for it to matter, consistently.

The simple solution would be to have 100, 150 and 200-yard markers in the middle of fairways and on carth paths. That’s enough.

Speaking of cart paths, the worst words in golf today are ‘Carts On Path.’ That guarantees you’ll need a meal or a massage or both to get through 18 holes because it will take so long.

By the way, have you ever seen a course offer reduce rates for carts when they have to stay on the paths? Seems only fair.

Anyway, the point is Tiger has a point about slow play. Do I have the solution?

Not right now.

I need some time to work on it.

Is slow play a problem where you play? What should be done about it? Let us know in the comments section below.