Let’s take a swing through this week’s Back Nine:
1. SAME GAME, NEW NAME
What was once known as the Tarheel Tour is now officially the eGolf Professional Tour.
The successful and growing mini-tour based in Charlotte has expanded beyond its North Carolina base and now has a 19-tournament schedule that stretches from Savannah, Ga., to Charlottesville, Va.
The 2009 eGolf Professional Tour has total prize money of more than $4.5 million. This week’s event – the Savannah Quarters Championship – has a $300,000 purse with the winner collecting $50,000.
The growth of the tour continues to attract top-level talent. Among the PGA Tour players who have played on the Charlotte-based tour are Will MacKenzie, Jason Bohn, Steve Marino and Tommy ‘Two Gloves’ Gainey.
2. A NEW NO. 1
Despite an abundance of criticism surrounding the changes made in recent years, Augusta National has ascended to the No. 1 spot in Golf Digest’s new ‘America’s Greatest Golf Courses’ list which is being released April 6.
Considered the most prestigious rankings by many, Augusta National becomes only the third course to hold the No. 1 spot in the past 25 years, replacing Pine Valley, which slipped to No. 2.
The rest of the list includes Shinnecock Hills at No. 3, followed by Cypress Point, Oakmont, Pebble Beach (the other No. 1 course in the last 25 years), Merion (East), Winged Foot (West), Fishers Island and Seminole.
The results for some area courses were discouraging. Pinehurst No. 2 slipped to No. 32, down 13 spots from the 2007 rankings) and Grandfather Country Club fell 33 spots to 98th.
Quail Hollow did not make the list.
3. “ARE THOSE NEW SHORTS?”
Some tour caddies will wear microphones this week as part of a test with NBC Sports, which is working with the PGA Tour on the possibility of using mics to listen in on player-caddie discussions in the future.
None of what is picked up this week will be broadcast.
It’s fun to eavesdrop when Tiger Woods and Steve Williams are debating club and shot selections but the conversations are always picked up using parabolic microphones.
If the sound quality works with the individual microphones, it’s possible we’ll get more inside what’s happening on the course. Some players and caddies, of course, won’t be comfortable with it and I’m guessing they would given the option of wearing a microphone or not.
4. WHAT RECESSION?
If you still have the money to spend and want to add a little something extra to Masters week, you can make the drive down to the Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Ga., where they have some special events planned next week.
The best may be a dinner on Wednesday night where, for $235 per person, you can dine with Scotty Cameron, the Jack Nicklaus of putter design, wine artist Thomas Arvid and Larry McGuire, the vice president of Far Niente wines.
Or, for the same $235, you can buy one of Scotty Cameron’s putters. At least most of one.
5. EVEN MORE OF THE MASTERS
If you want more of the Masters than the standard television coverage gives you next week, find a computer and immerse yourself.
There will be three elements to ‘Masters Live’ during tournament days, adding to what television provides.
‘Amen Corner Live’ will provide live streaming video of action on holes 11, 12 and 13, ‘Masters Extra’ will provide an hour of streaming video before network television coverage begins (on ESPN Thursday and Friday, CBS Saturday and Sunday), and ’15 & 16 Live’ will offer streaming video from those holes each day.
The extras will be available at www.CBSSports.com and www.masters.com
6. THE PICK
With eight of the top 10 players in the world rankings teeing it up in the Shell Houston Open this week, it’s one of the strongest fields of the year.
Aside from Phil Mickelson, attention will focus on Davis Love III and Charles Howell III as they try to win their way into the Masters. The same goes for defending champion and Charlotte resident Johnson Wagner.
I’m picking Robert Allenby, who’s bound to hole a few putts eventually.
7. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
I’m trying to figure out if Golfsmith’s new ad campaign – promising to refund the money on any TaylorMade drivers purchased between now and April 11 if Sergio Garcia wins the Masters – is a backhanded shot at Sergio.
I’m sure it’s just a ploy to sell more TaylorMade drivers, including the popular new R9, but considering Sergio’s much-discussed 0-for-majors records, it strikes an amusing note.
And I’m on record saying it’s not the Masters that Sergio wins this year – it’s the U.S. Open at Bethpage. But I’m not offering any refunds.
8. SWING THOUGHTS
-- The big television ratings Tiger Woods supplied with his Bay Hill victory Sunday were no surprise. What was interesting is how many people told me they turned away from the North Carolina-Oklahoma basketball game to watch the golf instead.
-- The LPGA Tour could use a big bang winner at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the season’s first major, this week. But I’m not sure Michelle Wie is ready to deliver that just yet.
-- Some clubs get all worked up about where their course falls in ratings lists. That’s an ego thing. I don’t have to see Quail Hollow or Charlotte Country Club in a list to know how good they are.
9. THE LAST WORD
“I have gotten a mulligan in life. The proof is that I am alive and I can do many things, that I can talk, that I can think perfectly. If I think about it objectively, I have been lucky. This is the truth.” – Seve Ballesteros, in an interview with The Times of London, about his battle with a brain tumor.
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
Let’s take a swing through this week’s Back Nine: