It's time for the weekly 'Front Nine:'
1. GAME ON
When Tiger Woods won at Bay Hill Sunday night, saving everyone from the dreaded Monday morning playoff, he put the last major piece in place for the Masters.
Now the question isn’t whether he’s ready to win. It’s will he win?
Woods will go to Augusta as the clear favorite. Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington have reason to be optimistic but Woods’ victory vanquished any doubts about his place atop the game.
When it gets this close to the Masters, interest always increases but when Tiger won at Bay Hill, the needle spiked.
2. WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
What do Alvaro Quiros, Prayad Marksaeng, Mathew Goggin and Louis Oosthuiszen have in common?
They each qualified to play in the Masters last week while Davis Love III didn’t.
Love has been up front about his desire and effort play his way back into the Masters and he was maddeningly close to making it.
The top 50 players in the world rankings after Sunday’s action earned spots if they weren’t already in and Love entered last week ranked 47th. His problems started when he missed the cut at Bay Hill. On Sunday, all Love could do was watch and hope players ranked in front of him messed up.
It almost happened. When Hunter Mahan five-putted – yes, five-putted – the 16th green, Love was close to staying inside the top 50. But when Pat Perez escaped Bay Hill’s 18th hole without a disaster, Love was out of the top 50.
There’s still a way for him to qualify for Augusta – win the Shell Houston Open this week.
3. DOES THIS COUNT AS ANOTHER APPEARANCE?
Working under the radar, Tiger Woods recently hosted CEOs from 10 companies that sponsor PGA Tour events for breakfast and a clinic at his home club, Isleworth, in Orlando.
Woods did it at the request of tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who is working to stabilize sponsorship deals in this tough economy.
The world’s No. 1 player told reporters at Bay Hill that he understands the challenges facing the tour right now and was willing to help.
The names of the 10 CEOs have been kept private.
4. THE FIRST MAJOR
The LPGA gets the major championships started this week with the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Over the past 14 majors played, there have been 13 different winners with only Lorena Ochoa doubling up.
Jiyai Shin, an emerging superstar, should be the favorite this week but Karrie Webb’s victory Sunday put her on the ‘players to watch list’ along with Ochoa, Yani Tseng, Suzann Pettersen and, of course, the impossible to ignore Michelle Wie.
5. CHIP SHOTS
Tickets sales for the Quail Hollow Championship are moving well at the new kiosk in SouthPark, according to a tournament spokesman. Tickets are still available for all tournament days…
There’s a nice story on Tom Weiskopf in the most recent ‘Golf World’ magazine with the near-great one talking about his potential, his temper and his drinking…
Who would you not want to have to make a putt for you? Tyler Aldridge. He ranks 200th on tour in putts per greens in regulation. He averages 1.975 putts per green in regulation. Vijay Singh, by the way, ranks 182nd…
6. A NINER IN CHARGE
Darin Spease, a senior associate athletic director at UNCC, is the chairman of the 2009 NCAA men’s golf committee.
When the national championship tournament rolls around, Spease’s 49ers may be left out unless they win the Atlantic-10 title. Under interim coach Adam Pry, who replaced Jamie Green after his departure to Duke, the 49ers have remained ranked among the top 50 while playing a schedule ranked the toughest in the country.
7. WORKING IT OUT
The Golf Studio at NorthStone opened recently giving players another high-quality place to work on their games.
Open to NorthStone members and the public, the Huntersville facility features natural-grass tees, heated practice bays, an interior putting green for bad weather days and a variety of other amenities.
Julee Sovesky is the director of instruction and there will be a junior golf kickoff event Saturday, May 2 at 10 a.m. For more information, visit www.thegolfstudioatnorthstone.com.
8. THE LIST
Of Tiger Woods’ 66 PGA Tour victories, 12 have come in Florida. Half of those have come at Bay Hill. Here’s a list of Woods’ wins in the Sunshine State:
6: Arnold Palmer Invitational (2000-03, 2008-09)
2: Funai Children’s Miracle Network Classic (1996, 1999)
2: Ford Championship at Doral (2005-06)
1: The Players Championship (2001)
1: WGC-CA Championship (2007)
9. THE LAST WORD
“It’s not like it’s The Tiger Show and we’re just out there to watch him. We’re trying to win golf tournaments and he just happens to be that good.” – Sean O’Hair on his feelings watching Tiger Woods beating him on the 72nd hole in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Monday, March 30, 2009
It's time for the weekly 'Front Nine:'
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Just two weeks before the Masters begins and four weeks before the Quail Hollow Championship gets started, let’s take a tour of this week’s Back Nine:
1. FROST AND THE SNOWMAN Charles Frost, an assistant pro at the Quail Hollow Club, recently ventured into that rare spot where the thought of shooting 59 – at Quail Hollow – crossed his mind.
Not for long, but for a moment.
Frost was playing the member tees at Quail – called the ‘three birds’ and measuring a tad over 6,300 yards – when he went low.
He shot 6-under par 30 on the front side then kept making birdies. By the time Frost reached the par-4 16th hole, the start of the so-called ‘Green Mile,’ he was 10-under par. Simple math – but hard golf – told him three birdies could get him to 59.
His sand wedge approach shot into the 16th green hit the flagstick and stopped 15 feet from the hole. Frost missed the birdie putt and knew then breaking 60 was officially unrealistic.
Still, he birdied the watery par-3 17th to get to 11-under with one hole – the treacherous 18th hole – remaining.
“It was fun, a lot of fun,” Frost said. “But the last hole wasn’t much fun.”
Needing a par to shoot 61, Frost instead produced the full David Toms. Remember when Toms won the inaugural Wachovia Championship despite making an eight on the last hole?
Frost made an eight to turn 61 into 65.
“It’s still not bad,” Frost said.
What happened on 18?
“A comedy of errors,” he said.
It started with a tee shot in the creek, which he tried to play out. He splashed his second across the fairway into the trees, pitched back into the edge of the creek and, well, it added up to eight.
The good news?
Frost had already shot 61 at Quail Hollow once before, the course record from the member tees.
2. SPEAKING OF QUAIL HOLLOW Charlotte’s annual PGA Tour stop may be missing a title sponsor’s name this year but it won’t be lacking for grass.
Club and tournament officials went heavy with the rye overseed and there should be enough of the green stuff to making hitting fairways a priority.
Sorry to get agro-technical on you but here’s what they mean: Rather than put 100 pounds of seed per acre on the course, this year they put 450 pounds of seed per acre.
That translates into a lot of broccoli.
3. MAYBE NEXT WEEK While talking at Quail Hollow Championship media day this week about a three-week stretch of tournament golf he hoped would ignite his season, Anthony Kim said he felt close to a breakthrough week.
It won’t be this week.
After leaving Charlotte Monday, Kim began feeling badly in Orlando and was admitted Tuesday to a local hospital where he was treated for dehydration. He withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week.
4. A NEW VINTAGE Among Luke Donald’s various ventures is his own wine label, which recently released its first chardonnay.
Donald takes an active role in creating the wines, made in conjunction with the Terlato Wine Group. A claret was released last year followed by this year’s chardonnay, patterned after white burgundies Donald likes.
It retails for $30 a bottle and, having sampled it, the chardonnay is a nice addition to Donald’s already impressive portfolio.
5. GIVE FLUFF A DAY OFF If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to caddie for a professional golfer, here’s your chance to find out.
The highest bidder will win the opportunity to caddie for Jim Furyk in the Wednesday pro-am at the Quail Hollow Championship through an on-line auction. It also means Furyk's regular caddie, Mike 'Fluff' Cowan gets the day off.
All proceeds from the auction will go to charities, including the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund and the Wounded Warrior Project.
To participate in the auction, go to www.caddyforacure.com for details.
6. MARK YOUR CALENDARS If you want to play in the second Charlotte City Amateur, entries will open on May 4.
It’s worth giving it a try because of where it will be played – Aug. 14 at Carolina Golf Club, Aug. 15 at Myers Park and Aug. 16 at Quail Hollow.
Qualifiers will be held July 13 and 27 at Pine Island Country Club. For more information, visit www.charlottecityam.com.
The event donated $7,500 to The First Tee of Charlotte from last year’s event.
7. THE PICK
With only 11 of the top 25 players in the latest world rankings accepting Arnie’s invitation to play at Bay Hill this week, the field isn’t as strong as it has been.
However, it does include one Tiger Woods, which makes it a superior field.
Who’s the pick this week?
It’s a long shot but he’s more than overdue and desperately wants to get in the Masters – Charles Howell III.
8. SWING THOUGHTS
-- This being the time of year when courses aerate their greens, shouldn’t they also reduce greens fees while you’re putting on sand and through a million little holes?
-- If you’ve ever thought about wearing a white belt, here’s the only rule you need to remember: It shouldn’t sag in the front when you’re wearing it. In other words, if you’re bigger than a 32-inch waist, don’t even think about it.
9. THE LAST WORD
“I’m not that smart, so I just let my business people take care of whatever business needs to be taken care of. I know that at one of the tournaments this year we didn’t have courtesy carts, and I’m sure that will be the case, because from what I hear from people a lot smarter than me, the car industry is really having a tough time right now.” – Anthony Kim when asked if he’s noticed any effects from the recession while playing on the PGA Tour this year.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to play in the Wednesday pro-am at the Quail Hollow Championship – just you, another amateur and a PGA Tour player – here’s your chance to find out.
A Child’s Place has arranged an on-line auction for two spots in the April 29 pro-am at the Quail Hollow Club.
The spots, which are not typically available through public sale, were provided through an anonymous donor to assist the non-profit organization.
The two pro-am packages are being auctioned separately on eBay. One auction will end at 7 p.m. Saturday while the other will conclude at 7 p.m. Sunday.
The money raised will go to A Child’s Place, a local non-profit organization that aids homeless children.
To participate in the auction, go to eBay then search the keywords ‘Quail Hollow Pro-Am.’
Monday, March 23, 2009
Before the PGA Tour tees off at Arnie’s place and during a break in the NCAA tournament, let’s take a tour of The Front Nine.
1. SERGIO, CAMILLO COMMIT
The field for the Quail Hollow Championship continues to improve with Sergio Garcia, Camilo Villegas and Robert Karlsson the latest top players to add their names to the official commitment list.
With the three latest additions, the tournament – April 27-May 3 at the Quail Hollow Club – has 10 of the top 20 players in the latest world rankings.
Others include Padraig Harrington, Jim Furyk, defending champion Anthony Kim, Paul Casey, Steve Stricker, Stewart Cink and Adam Scott.
Tournament officials expect other top-20 players to officially commit in the coming days. Tiger Woods is not expected to announce whether he will play until perhaps the Friday before the event begins.
2. ONE STOP SHOPPING
To give ticket-buyers another option, the Quail Hollow Championship will have a kiosk open in SouthPark Mall starting today, offering tickets in a variety of packages.
It’s the first time the tournament has had a kiosk in the mall. The kiosk will be open from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturdays and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday.
The tournament has been a sellout in each of its first six years and is expected to be sold out again this year.
“The economy has affected us some,” said Kym Hougham, executive director of the tournament. “We’ve seen a change in our buying patterns.
“We felt we needed to do something different, plus people can save $10 on the shipping. We’re not going to put our heads in the sand and think everything is fine.
“By the time the tournament comes around, we’ll all be pleasantly happy.”
3. THE NEXT SHARK ATTACK
For all the anticipation surrounding Tiger Woods’ return to Augusta National in two weeks, there will also be a swirl of attention around Greg Norman’s return to the Masters, where his heart was broken so many times.
Norman hasn’t played in the Masters since 2002, before several substantial changes were made to the course. He played a practice round at Augusta National last Wednesday and during a conference call with reporters on Friday, Norman spoke about the dramatic differences in the course he played seven years ago and the one he’ll play in two weeks.
“I can tell you the golf course is 7,700 yards since I last played it…so there is a dramatic difference to the golf course. I was absolutely shocked to tell you the truth,” Norman said.
“You hear about the changes. You don’t really see them on television. These younger players have nothing to relate to what happened 20 years ago. They just sit back and play it, okay, this is the way it’s always been.
“But there’s phenomenal changes, right from the very first hole. The tee is now back where the old putting green was when I was played there. So the thought of driving over the bunker on the first hole is gone.
“I had 176 yards into the green (last week)…back in the old days it was 120 yards. So there’s 50 years just on the first tee shot alone.”
4. ANNIKA, THE MOM
In case you’ve haven’t heard, Annika Sorenstam announced last week that she and husband David McGee are expecting their first child later this year.
One of the reasons Sorenstam cited for stepping away from competitive golf after last year was her desire to start a family.
5. WHO SAYS HE WAITS UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE?
For all the carping Tiger Woods gets for waiting until virtually the last minute to commit to PGA Tour events he plays in, he’s eight months ahead in committing to play in the Australian Masters this year.
But it has created a controversy.
According to published reports, Woods will receive a $3 million appearance to play in the event outside Melbourne.
The tricky part is one-half of the $3 million comes from taxpayer dollars.
6. ALMOST NEW AGAIN
The par-5 18th hole at Wild Dunes’ Links Course near Charleston, one of the Carolinas’ most recognizable holes for two decades, is close to being whole again.
The hole was lost to beach erosion last year but has been rebuilt with design work by original architect Tom Fazio. It has been grassed and, if the weather cooperates, the 500-yard ocean-side hole could be back in play before June.
7. STAYING YOUNG
Pinehurst Resort and U.S. Kids Golf have extended their relationship through 2013, meaning the popular U.S. Kids Golf World Championship will continue to be played at the resort the next five years.
The tournament annually draws more than 1,000 players from more than 40 different counties each August.
A teen championship and a parent-child tournament will be included in the agreement, which Pinehurst officials hope will enhance the role of youth golf.
8. THE LIST
Golfweek magazine’s list of the top 10 courses available for public play in North Carolina:
1. Pinehurst No. 2
2. Pine Needles
3. Linville Golf Club
4. Leopard's Chase
5. Tobacco Road
6. Mid Pines
7. Pinehurst No. 4
8. Pinehurst No. 8
9. Southern Pines Elks
10. River's Edge
9. THE LAST WORD
“(I’m) doing pretty well considering I had a leg amputation.” – Fred Funk, on rumors he lost his leg due to complications from a staph infection related to knee surgery last year. Funk kept both legs but spent weeks dealing with the infection that hospitalized him for a time.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Now that the Tavistock Cup is behind us and Arnie’s event at Bay Hill is just a week away, let’s go around The Back Nine.
1. THE NUMBERS GAME
If you’re wondering how Phil Mickelson has been able to close the gap on No. 1 Tiger Woods in the world golf rankings, there are two factors at work.
Mickelson, obviously, has played very well the past month, winning twice. But Woods is paying the price for missing eight months of competition.
In the computer formula that spits out the rankings, Woods is losing the points he accumulated two years ago (the rankings are based on a two-year window) and doesn’t have many new numbers to add.
That’s why, after being No. 1 since 2005, Woods’ spot is in jeopardy.
2. A NICE TOUCH
Anthony Kim, the defending champion of the Quail Hollow Championship, is scheduled to be in town Monday for media day in advance of this year’s event.
It’s a generous gesture on Kim’s part because many players don’t attend media days. David Toms and Joey Sindelar made it back to Charlotte for media days but other champions have used video or phone hook-ups rather than make the trip.
I’m guessing Kim knows that electric blue blazer he won last May is now officially out of style.
3. PINE NEEDLES UPDATE
General manager Kelly Miller said the damage to the Pine Needles clubhouse from a fire Sunday evening could have been far worse than it was.
While it has caused some major inconveniences, it shouldn’t be long before the resort is fully functional again.
They’re serving dinner for guests at the nearby reception center and across the street at Mid-Pines Resort. There is also a temporary pro shop.
Miller said all the clothing in the shop will have to be replaced because of smoke and water damage.
4. THE PICK
It’s another week on a hard layout – the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook for the Transitions Championship in Tampa.
With consecutive top-10 finishes, I like Jim Furyk, who’s more than overdue to win again.
For the record, last’s week pick – Ernie Els – finished T20 at Doral.
5. A NEW PEBBLE BEACH
According to an Associated Press story this week, the PGA Tour and tournament officials are considering possible changes to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
The potential changes include reducing the field from 180 teams to possibly removing Poppy Hills – the least popular course – from the rotation.
Pace of play has been a huge problem at the Pebble Beach event, often taking six hours to complete a round. Cutting the field to 144 players would ease the congestion.
The story suggested Cypress Point, once part of the tournament rotation, could return now that it meets tour standards for minority membership.
That would be a spectacular improvement.
6. SWING THOUGHTS
-- Watching Nick Watney battle Phil Mickelson on Sunday at Doral offered a glimpse into why swing coach Butch Harmon decided to keep Watney among the small group of tour players he coaches. There’s something about Watney that makes me think he’s going to be around for a while.
-- Sorry, but I just couldn’t get interested in the Tavistock Cup.
-- Teenager Tadd Fujikawa may be answering questions about whether he can play the tour. He’s made three cuts in a row.
7. A NEW MANN IN TOWN
Jan Mann will take over the North Carolina women’s golf program at the end of this season, becoming only the third coach in the program’s 34-year history.
Mann was head coach at UNC Wilmington from 1994 through 2002 then went to Virginia where she started the women’s program and took it to three NCAA tournaments in four years.
She’ll replace Sally Austin, who is stepping down after 16 years.
8. DENT HONORED
The Humble Hackers Golfers Limited, a Charlotte-based group, will give Jim Dent a lifetime achievement award March 28 at the Clanton Park Pavilion.
The public is invited to attend the event – 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. – with several speakers scheduled to participate.
9. THE LAST WORD
“Golf is assuredly a mystifying game. It would seem that if a person has hit a golf ball correctly a thousand times, he should be able to duplicate the performance at will. But this is certainly not the case.” – Bobby Jones in the introduction of the 2009 Masters media guide.
Monday, March 16, 2009
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:
1. HE CAN DUNK…AND PUTT, TOO
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.
2. THE WOLF TRACK
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.
3. PERFECT TIMING
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.
4. DID HE SAY THAT?
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.
5. A ROYAL BLESSING
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.”
6. KID AT PLAY
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.
7. THE BIG IMG-SIE
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.
8. THE LIST
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
9. THE LAST WORD
“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.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Danny Lee, the 18-year old sensation who won the 2008 U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst and the European Tour’s Johnnie Walker Classic earlier this year, has accepted an exemption into the Quail Hollow Championship, tournament director Kym Hougham said Thursday.
Lee is considered one of the emerging young stars in golf, a reputation that was enhanced by his European Tour victory in Thailand.
After playing in the Masters, where he will draw significant attention along with 17-year old Ryo Ishakawa and 19-year old Rory McIlroy, Lee is expected to turn pro, making his visit to Quail Hollow one of his first events as a professional.
-- Ron Green Jr.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Let’s take a run around the mid-week Back Nine:
1. A NEW NO. 1?
To borrow a line I heard someone say on The Golf Channel this week, how can a guy who’s a lousy putter and never won a major championship be the No. 1-ranked player in the world?
Computer math, mostly.
If second-ranked Sergio Garcia wins the WGC-CA Championship this week at Doral and His Greatness, Mr. Woods, finishes a Tim Herron-like 27th or worse, Sergio assumes Tiger’s throne.
That, of course, involves two significant assumptions, the larger guess being that Tiger might finish 27th or worse. Don’t count on it.
Even if Garcia moves to No. 1 on based on the numbers, we all know who No. 1 really is.
That’s not meant as a knock on Garcia, whom I’ve been a believer in for years. I still think he’ll win multiple majors and his play last year was evidence of his continuing development.
But Tiger is the king of this jungle.
2. THE WGC EFFECT
The best thing about the World Golf Championship events is easy – Tiger Woods usually wins them.
Tiger has won 12 of them.
But he’s only played in 19 of them.
Aside from the obvious reason that he’s just better than everyone else, he also wins because he loves playing against the best competition and he likes playing top-notch courses, such as Doral and Firestone.
The suits who created the WGC did so to create more play among the best golfers in the world. They’ve done that but they’ve also had the extraordinary good fortune of having Tiger there to hoist the trophies.
It makes a difference.
3. BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
Tiger Woods has always made it a habit of waiting until the last minute to officially commit to tournaments he plays in, leaving tournament directors and fans to wait and wonder if he’ll show up in their neighborhood.
He did it again last week, waiting until late Friday afternoon before announcing he will play at Doral this week.
Why does he do it that way?
He just does. That’s essentially what he said when asked about it Wednesday.
At least he’s consistent.
Other than majors, Tiger almost never announces in advance where he’ll play next. Just ask Quail Hollow Championship executive director Kym Hougham, who’s been through before and likely will go through it again later next month.
It would help tournaments sell tickets if Tiger made his announcement earlier but if you’re going to see Tiger, you’re going whether you find out three weeks before or three days before that he’s coming.
4. THE PICK
The top 50 players in the world are in the WGC-CA Championship at Doral this week.
So who’s the pick?
I know, almost no one trusts Ernie to win any more but he’s played fairly well recently. He now calls south Florida home and he needs a big moment. Maybe this is it.
5. SWING THOUGHTS
-- Now that springtime is teasing us, I can hear the sound of greens being aerated. That means two weeks or more of putting on bumpy, sandy greens, hoping your ball hits the right little holes before finding the big hole.
-- Anthony Kim has been awfully quiet this year. He took some time off recently, saying he needed to let some little injuries get better. It will be interesting to see how he plays from here through the Masters.
-- If you’re counting, the Masters starts 28 days from Thursday.
6. BACK TO THE FUTURE
On Thursday, Pine Lakes Country Club – the one that started it all at Myrtle Beach – will reopen after a 20-month, $10-million renovation intended to bring the golf course and its elegant clubhouse back to their former glories.
Pine Lakes opened in 1927, the first golf resort along the Grand Strand, and it occupied a special place in the golf-rich area for years. It also happens to be where Sports Illustrated magazine was created.
Course architect Craig Schreiner was brought in to supervise the course renovation. He kept the essence of the original front nine while creating a new second nine.
Also Thursday, the inaugural class will be inducted into the Myrtle Beach Golf Hall of Fame, which will be housed on site at Pine Lakes.
The inductees include Cecil Brandon, Clay Brittain Jr., Carolyn Cudone, Jimmy D’Angelo, Gen. James Hackler and Robert White.
If you’ve ever played in the Myrtle Beach area, you owe them a tip of the cap.
7. SLOW STARTERS
Taking a look at the PGA Tour money list to this point (I know they want me to use FedEx Cup points instead but I’m old school), there are a handful of names lower than they should be.
Masters champion Trevor Immelman is 124th on the list, British Open and PGA Champion Padraig Harrington is 129th, Justin Rose is 163rd and Brandt Snedeker is way down at 189th.
If things don’t change soon, some of these guys are going to have some ‘splaining to do.
8. LOVE IT
Davis Love III, chasing a spot in this year’s Masters, made it into this week’s WGC-CA Championship at the last minute when he moved to 50th in the World Golf Rankings after his tie for 13th last week at the Honda Classic.
Had Love been ranked 51st, he would not have qualified for the WGC event.
How close did he come?
Brett Quigley missed a six-foot putt on the 18th hole on Sunday, dropping down the scoreboard, allowing Love to pick up just enough points to jump to 50th.
9. THE LAST WORD
“I think that being No. 1 in the world is great, but I would rather win a major. It’s just the way I feel. If I had to choose between the two, I would rather take both.” – Sergio Garcia to reporters at Doral on Tuesday.
Monday, March 09, 2009
A quick run through what we call 'The Front Nine' each Monday morning:
1. The New Look
Kym Hougham, tournament director for the Wach … I mean Quail Hollow Championship, will spend a few days at Doral this week where the PGA Tour’s best and brightest are gathered for the WGC-CA Championship.
Hougham is there to answer questions players may have about Charlotte’s PGA Tour stop, which is only seven weeks away.
He got a special order of shirts with the new tournament logo so the re-branding process can get an immediate visual boost while Hougham works the practice range talking to players.
His message is simple – the name has changed but the tournament hasn’t.
Hougham said he’s already heard from at least a dozen players, all of whom said they like the new name.
Tournament organizers made it clear last week that they intend for the tournament to keep the Quail Hollow Championship name in the future.
It’s possible the name could include a “Presented By…” addendum in the future but that remains to be seen. What they don’t want to happen for the name to keep changing, something that diminishes a tournament’s image.
Players and fans shouldn’t notice anything different other than the new navy and copper logo. What will disappear will be corporate events related to the tournament, such as private dinner parties with clients and players and a big block party held at Phillips Place.
2. On Second Thought
Nice work by GolfDigest.com’s Ron Sirak who talked with Barney Frank, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, who eased off his initially stinging criticism of financial institutions sponsoring golf tournaments.
“No one is saying they shouldn’t sponsor golf tournaments and honor existing contracts,” Frank told Golf World. “It’s the spending on luxury hotels and limousines they should not be doing.”
Frank said he doesn’t see the overall benefit in such marketing but he won’t oppose it quite as vociferously as he did Northern Trust’s involvement in the Los Angeles tournament.
3. The Comeback, Stroke-Play Version
Tiger Woods’ performance this week at the WGC-CA Championship at Doral will be a better indicator of where he is in his comeback than the Match Play Championship two weeks ago.
This is four rounds of stroke-play and, no, making the cut shouldn’t be an issue.
Woods has won three times in six professional starts at Doral and never been out of the top 10.
He’s had two weeks to work on the rusty spots that showed themselves in Tucson, putting another coat of polish on his game. If he’s a factor on the weekend, we’ll know he’s almost there.
4. The List
Putting is a huge part of the challenge at Quail Hollow. Need proof?
Here are the most three-putted holes on the 2008 PGA Tour (the number of three-putts during the tournament is in parentheses).
1. Oakland Hills (PGA), No. 13 (67)
2. Quail Hollow Club, No. 12 (44). That's Anthony Kim lining up a putt at No. 12 at right.
3. Quail Hollow Club, No. 1 (43)
5. All For The Low, Low Price Of…
While there’s no doubt the recession is hitting everywhere, even around the Masters where corporate entertaining will be down along with the cost of previously over-priced rental houses, tickets still aren’t going cheap.
At least not according to the man who called me recently wondering if I could help him sell four Masters badges he owns.
Turns out the man is asking $3,000 apiece for the badges. Good luck.
6. The New Kids On The Block
If you want to get a look at 19-year-old star Rory McIlroy (above) and don’t have tickets to the Masters, he’ll be playing in the Verizon Heritage at Hilton Head the next week.
It’s possible that 18-year old Danny Lee will make his professional debut there, as well.
7. Chip Shots
Mini-tour season is coming alive in the area. The egolf Tarheel Tour kicks off its 2009 season with the $220,000 FairwayStyles.com Open in Bluffton, S.C., while the Hooters Tour makes a visit to the area with the I-40 Hooters Tour Open at Rock Barn in Conover…
The Country Club of North Carolina will host the 2010 U.S. Girls Junior Championship. The club previously hosted the 1980 U.S. Amateur championship won by Hal Sutton.
8. Building On A Trend
Did Y.E. Yang’s victory in the Honda Classic on Sunday signal the onset of a heightened presence of Koreans on the men’s professional scene similar to what has happened on the LPGA Tour?
Probably not but it reinforced the fact that, while we may not know much about him, Yang is a world-class player. The 37-year old beat Tiger Woods to win a tournament in China in 2006 and his victory on the PGA Tour immediately raised his profile here while vaulting him to 33rd in the world rankings.
It was also further evidence of the strong golf training in Korea, which has produced many of the top women’s players. On the same day Yang was winning, Ji-Yai Shin was pulling in another LPGA trophy.
Asked by reporters why Korean men, whose role model has been K.J. Choi, haven’t been as successful as females, Yang pointed to the mandatory two years of military service for men.
9. The Last Word
“I feel very relieved. All the pressure is off my shoulders…What I did when I clapped all of the fans after I won, I did that out of pure emotions. I felt like they were supporting me and I just wanted to thank them.” – Y.E. Yang on his spontaneous high-fiving with fans after his win at the Honda Classic.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Now that the snow has melted and there are rumors of a 70-degree weekend around here, it’s time to follow Monday’s Front Nine with the Back Nine.
1. Tiger Tracks
If you’ve wondered how involved Tiger Woods is with his golf course design at High Carolina, here’s an example:
Recently, Woods phoned Jim Anthony, the man who hired him, and asked if he had some time to look around the property. Woods jetted in a couple of days later and did a walk-around, focusing on a redesign planned for the ninth hole.
"He's been on the property numerous times," Anthony said of Woods. "He's been on the land as much as any architect we've worked with at this point in time."
The routing has undergone 28 versions in an effort to maximize the spectacular setting, Anthony said.
One of the High Carolina features (it’s not scheduled to open until 2011 with a reported $150,000 initiation fee) is that all 18 holes will have some southern exposure, allowing for more golf during colder months.
2. The Florida Swing
It’s not just about getting ready for the Masters anymore.
OK, it’s still a lot about that but the four-week swing from down where Jack lives up to Arnie’s tournament at Bay Hill has become more interesting in recent years.
The events are played on difficult courses with generally good fields, The best field comes next week at the WGC-CA Championship at Doral where all the big-timers, including Tiger, are expected to tee it up.
Among the things to watch:
-- How Tiger does at Doral and, presumably, Bay Hill;
-- If Geoff Ogilvy can successfully defend his title at Doral;
-- Whether Davis Love III can play his way into the Masters over the next two weeks;
-- And, how much discussion there is about the Masters.
3. How’d The U.S. Win The Ryder Cup?
Take a look at the latest World Golf Rankings and you’ll notice something missing – Americans.
Of the top 40 players, only 10 are American born.
4. At Least He Made One Bogey
How well did Geoff Ogilvy play in winning the Accenture Match Play Championship last weekend?
He played his last 56 holes 25-under par. That included 22 birdies, two eagles and a lone, lonesome bogey.
5. The Changing Landscape
While in Pinehurst recently for the Carolinas Golf Association’s centennial dinner, I talked with USGA executive director David Fay about a variety of subjects.
At the time, California government officials were still considering a ‘golf tax’ to help with its budget problems, an idea that has since gone away.
Still, Fay lamented the game’s image as a rich-person’s game.
“It does trouble me that in some quarters golf is almost being picked on,” Fay said.
“I’d like to believe George Strait, ‘they have an image that time is bound to see through’ as far as golf. It isn’t what it was.
“Seventy percent of golf rounds are played on public facilities. That’s the figure the NGF and PGA of America use. The profile of American golf has changed dramatically.
“Will it change further? It probably will.
“There will still be a place for the traditional country club. I think it’s going to be more Darwinian and I don’t mean Bernard. Those clubs are going to have to be more amenable with their pricing and how they position themselves.”
6. This Week’s Pick
It’s the Honda Classic at PGA National, a tough lay-out defined by the three-hole ‘Bear Trap’ on the back nine.
The winner: Camilo Villegas.
7. Swing Thoughts
-- Will any of us around here remember how to swing a club while wearing just one layer of clothing?
-- Playing desert golf courses would be fun – for a round or two.
-- It’s about time for Charlotte resident Johnson Wagner to have another big week.
8. The New Look
The logo for the newly renamed Quail Hollow Championship -- formerly the Wachovia Championship -- will be unveiled on Thursday at, appropriately enough, Quail Hollow.
Word is it's strikingly different from the old logo, which means the logo-conscious will be required to update their wardrobes and/or headwear.
9. The Last Word
“Depends on how many beers.” – Brenda Calcavecchia when asked by a reporter what kind of caddie her husband, Mark, is when she plays.
Monday, March 02, 2009
Now that we’re all snowed out of golf around here for a while, here’s a Monday morning look at what’s happening in the game. We’ll call it the Front Nine.
1. The West Coast Verdict
So what did we learn during the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing?
We learned that Geoff Ogilvy (above) will be on the short list of pre-tournament favorites at the Masters, Phil Mickelson is as perplexing as ever and Kenny Perry isn’t about to retire.
Despite winning a U.S. Open and two previous World Golf Championship events, Ogilvy has managed to operate just outside the glare of the spotlight. No more.
Ogilvy doesn’t scare and has a game that, while not spectacular-looking, seemingly has no weaknesses. When the subject turns to the game’s best players, he’s one of the subjects.
Mickelson’s west coast performance was schizophrenic, even in his victory in Los Angeles, a pattern that will likely continue.
Otherwise, the west coast swing felt like it usually does – nice to look at from afar while feeling it’s a prelude to bigger moments soon to come.
2. It’s Like Daytona, Only Different
If there’s a problem with the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship it’s that the best day is often the first day.
That’s when there are 32 matches and all the stars are there. The very nature of the event means culling the field, which means cutting out stars as it moves along.
NASCAR starts its season with its biggest race and, unless the Match Play gets Tiger against Phil or Sergio against Padraig Harrington in the finals, it’s difficult to maintain the excitement of the first day throughout the week.
3. Next Time, He’ll Stay Longer
Tiger Woods’ return to the PGA Tour lasted two days – 32 holes to be precise – and felt like a disappointment because he was expected to show up like Superman, win the tournament, save the tour, solve the financial crisis, bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan.
Or something like that.
Woods didn’t win but he left feeling encouraged about his game, understanding he has to knock a little competitive rust off. He’ll play at Doral in two weeks then at Bay Hill but his eyes are focused on the Masters.
Nice to have him back.
4. She’s Still The Man
In case you missed it – which can happen the way the LPGA’s international schedule is – Lorena Ochoa won her first event of the year in Thailand, running down back-pedaling Paula Creamer.
So, nothing has really changed – except Ochoa is engaged to be married. And we all know what marriage did to Tiger’s game.
5. Caddies Will Still Get Valet Parking
The name change of Charlotte’s PGA Tour event – to the Quail Hollow Championship from the Wachovia Championship – means a rush for organizers to change logos and signs before the event arrives in late April but it doesn’t mean the experience will change.
The top players are still going to come (Tiger won’t say yes or no until much closer to tournament time), the course will be superb and the special touches won’t suffer.
Will things be scaled back in places? Absolutely.
Private dinners for big clients with tour players as guest speakers will probably go away as will other corporate-related entertainment events.
But the golf tournament will be just fine.
6. The Miracle Worker
If you get the chance, check out the first episode of ‘The Haney Project, Charles Barkley’ tonight on The Golf Channel if for nothing else than to hear Haney describe a typical practice day for Tiger.
It’ll make you feel bad about feeling good that you hit two bags of balls on the range last week.
7. The Shark’s Suggestion
Greg Norman was quoted recently saying the PGA Tour should roll back prize money by up to 20 percent in light of the on-going financial crisis.
Of course, it didn’t take long for someone to wonder if Norman planned to cut the price of his clothes and wine by 20 percent.
There’s merit to what Norman said, though. Given the PGA Tour’s commitment to charity, it would be a nice move to take 20 percent of the purse money and give it to charity.
It would do two things – help the perception of the tour and help the charities.
8. The No-Bailout Classic
The tour comes east now, starting the Florida swing at the Honda Classic where the talk may center on how to putt Bermuda greens rather than the use of bailout money.
Two players worth keeping an eye on this week – Tadd Fujikawa and heart transplant recipient Erik Compton.
9. The Last Word
“To the airport.” – Tiger Woods, when asked where he was going after losing to Tim Clark.