Monday, March 16, 2009

Golf's version of March Madness

Now that Phil Mickelson is feeling better and before you fill out your NCAA tournament bracket, let’s take a quick tour around The Front Nine:


Gerald Henderson chose basketball but he could have chosen golf.

Henderson, a first-team All-ACC player at Duke this season, was a scratch player when he was 14 before devoting most of his time and attention to basketball.

“(Golf) was my sport. Basketball was just something I did in the winter,” said Henderson, who grew up in the Philadelphia area.

“We lived on a golf course and I had some good times.”

In 10th grade, Henderson said he decided to pursue basketball rather than golf because it’s where his heart was. He played high school golf and his school’s home course was Merion Golf Club, considered one of the world’s finest layouts.

“We played the West Course, not the (more famous) East Course, though I got over there a few times,” Henderson said.

Henderson hasn’t played golf in more than a year, in part because of off-season writs surgery. His father, former NBA player Gerald Henderson, brought his son’s golf clubs to him prior to Duke’s regular-season finale against North Carolina.

When the Blue Devils’ basketball season is over, Henderson intends to get back on the golf course.

In the meantime, he keeps an eye on the professional game.

“I watch what Tiger’s doing,” Henderson said.


The new golf course at N.C. State – Lonnie Poole Golf Course – is expected to open later this spring, adding another top-notch college course to the Triangle area.

Designed by Arnold Palmer who used N.C. State grads Erik Larsen and Brandon Johnson from his staff extensively in the process, the course will be open to the public.

It’s located new N.C. State’s centennial campus and the alumni center.

The course was sodded and is being allowed to grow in before being opened for play.

One of the features is the 18th hole, which has been named for former Wolfpack quarterback Roman Gabriel. It’s No. 18 for No. 18, something friends did to honor Gabriel.


Phil Mickelson has returned at just the right time.

It was barely a month ago that some of us were questioning whether Lefty would get his game back to its former level. Consider the question answered.

With two wins already, Mickelson is nipping at Tiger’s spot atop the world rankings and has us imagining a Phil-Tiger showdown at the Masters.

Nobody makes golf more fun to watch the Mickelson. Tiger makes it more awe inspiring. Phil makes it spectacular and unpredictable.

Watching Mickelson at Doral was more fun than watching the NCAA tournament bracket be unveiled.


Speaking of Mickleson, NBC’s Johnny Miller said Sunday that when Mickelson is hitting it long and straight, he’s the best player in the world.

Not sure I can agree with that one.


When asked by reporters at Doral if 19-year old Rory McIlroy has the goods to be No. 1 in the world someday, the world’s No. 1 player said yes, though he hopes it takes him a while.

“The guy’s a talent,” Woods said. “We can all see it, the way he hits the golf ball, the way he putts, the way he can chip, get up and down.

“He has the composure. He has all the components to be the best in the world, there’s no doubt.”


The presence of 18-year old Danny Lee to the Quail Hollow Championship field is an exciting addition, giving the Charlotte tournament one of the three teenaged stars this spring.

Lee, who has enormous potential and the fearlessness of a youngster, brings an aggressive attitude to the golf course. Like most young players, he can bomb it off the tee but he has great touch and a putting stroke that’s magic.

Winning the U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst last summer was one thing. Winning the Johnnie Walker Classic on the European Tour this year was something else – convincing evidence he’s the real deal.


It’s a good thing that Michelle Wie cut ties with the William Morris Agency last week and will sign with IMG.

That means she’s about golf more than about being a star.

She can do both but IMG’s track record with Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam, Arnold Palmer and others tells you it knows what it’s doing.

Wie and her family need good, strong guidance – and they need to listen to it. If they do, she may come close to being all we thought she would be.


Players with the most PGA Tour victories in events that Tiger Woods has played:

Tiger Woods 65

Phil Mickelson 12

Vijay Singh 12

Ernie Els 8


“Shirt, trousers, socks, shoes, hat, the lot was off…I’ll probably take that to my grave with me.” – Henrik Stenson on his decision to strip down to his underwear to hit a shot from a muddy lie Thursday at Doral.