Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ban on anchoring announced, begins 2016

As expected, the USGA and R&A announced Wednesday that anchored strokes will no longer be allowed in golf effective Jan. 1, 2016.
The 20-word rule change means the end of anchoring belly putters and long putters to the body in the way PGA Tour players Adam Scott, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley and others have done.
The rule does not outlaw the use of long putters, only prohibits how they are used.
“We believe a player should hold the club away from his body and swing it freely,” USGA executive director Mike Davis said.
The rules change came as a result of what Davis called a growing “advocacy” among players and instructors for the use of anchored putting strokes. Through 2010, Davis said approximately six percent of PGA Tour players used anchored putting strokes. That percentage jumped to 15 percent in 2012.
“For years, it was seen as a last resort,” Davis said. “We are seeing that golfers no longer see it as a stroke of last resort.”
Simpson, who won the U.S. Open using a belly putter last June, said this week that he plans to make the switch to a traditional putter in the future. He said expected the rules change and has been using a regular-length putter when he’s playing with his friends at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

End of belly and long putters coming Wednesday?

The USGA and R & A have scheduled an international media teleconference for Wednesday morning when they're expected to announce that anchoring putters -- or any other club -- to your body will no longer be allowed under the rules of golf, effective 2016.

The hints and rumors have been out there for a while that the days of Webb Simpson sticking the grip end of a putter into his navel or Adam Scott resting one end of his broomstick putter against his sternum are coming to an end.

The teleconference is expected to make it quasi-official. It will become officially official next year when both of golf's ruling parties hold their official meetings and then the ban will go into effect in 2016.

It seems unlikely there would be a global teleconference to announce the rules aren't changing.

Rules changes in golf -- like presidential elections -- happen only every four years. Golf doesn't like to rush into things, though it has fast-tracked the expected anchoring ban since officials said a year ago they didn't see it as a big problem.

Then Keegan Bradley and Simpson and Ernie Els won majors using their particular versions of anchored putters. Els has longed believed anchored putting should be banned but made the switch himself, saying half-jokingly that he would continue to cheat as long as it was allowed.

When approximately 30 percent of the players in the Open Championship last summer were anchoring putters, the old guard went into action even before 14-year old Guan Tianlang won the Asia-Pacific Amateur and a spot in the Masters using a belly putter.

Too bad they didn't do something about the golf ball and/or modern drivers, which have done more damage to the game than anchored putting might ever do. Instead, they are "modernizing" the Old Course, a shiver-inducing thought that more aggressive action against technology could have prevented.

If a ban on anchoring is enacted, there will come threats of lawsuits. However, if reports are accurate, belly putters and long putters are not being outlawed in golf. They can be used but they may not be anchored against the body.

A ban would not put an asterisk beside the majors won by Simpson and others. They won playing by the rules just as Bobby Jones won some of his major championships using clubs that were later deemed illegal.

Putting is a dark science which explains the curious implements and methods used by golfers tortured by the act of rolling a ball into a hole. It has driven men mad and will continue to do so.

I've always believed if you could putt with a push broom then do it. But I also think putting should require a stroke similar to what a full shot does. Anchoring a putter is a way to eliminate unwanted movement -- the kind nerves cause, particularly under pressure.

Defenders of anchored putting point out that no player in the top 10 in strokes gained putting on the PGA Tour uses an anchored putter, arguing that if it's so great, everyone would do it. It's a fair point. It's not for everyone.

But there has been a sense that young players are learning the game with anchored putters, Tianlang's milestone victory being a dramatic example. Within a generation, the fundamentals of putting could change.

With a ban on anchoring coming, that won't happen.

Now, if they could just do something to eliminate the 200-yard 7-iron.

Monday, November 26, 2012

McIlroy does it with style

   Of all the many gifts Rory McIlroy possesses, style may be his most endearing.
   The walk, the smile, the swing.
   And the way he can finish a golf tournament.
   McIlroy ended his 2012 season Sunday in Dubai with five straight birdies to win the Dubai World Championship, capping a season that included five victories including the PGA Championship and the money title on both the European and PGA Tours.
   When he holed his final birdie putt Sunday, McIlroy stood in the sunshine with his arms spread, soaking in the moment. He earned it and he has a way of pulling us in to him.
   McIlroy is the new face of golf. He's the best player in the world and there's no reason to think he won't remain there for a long time to come. The Masters is five months away and he'll be the player to beat when the azaleas bloom again.
   In 2012, McIlroy made the leap that the great ones make and he did it with style.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wells Fargo Championship donates $1.3 million to local charities

   The Wells Fargo Championship has announced it donated $1.3 million to area charities this year, bringing its cumulative total to $14.8 million donated since the tournament's inception in 2003.
   Charlotte's Teach For America chapter received $600,000 from Champions For Education, the non-profit organization that manages and operates the Wells Fargo Championship.
   Other donations were made to Levine's Children's Hospital, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg YMCA, The First Tee of Charlotte and other organizations that provided support to the tournament.
   "The positive impact we are able to make in Charlotte and around the region is a direct result of the efforts of people who are willing to share their time and energy," Kym Hougham, executive director of the Wells Fargo Championship, said in a statement.
   "With the support of Wells Fargo, our corporate partners, volunteers and loyal fans, we are humbled by the positive impact we can have on Charlotte-area organizations and nonprofits."

TGA Premier Junior Golf aimed at young golfers

  One of the enduring challenges for golf is bringing young people into the game.
   Champ Detamore is working to get more kids involved in the Charlotte area.
   Detamore oversees the local TGA Premier Junior Golf chapter, a national program designed to bring golf to kids at schools, churches and other organizations. His group works at more than 50 area sites, including a summer program at the Harris YMCA and a program at Camp Thunderbird next summer, Detamore said.
   It's targeted at kindergarten to eighth grade kids and while it's different from the national First Tee initiative, the overall goal is similar -- increasing the number of youngsters who play.
   "We're the entry level," said Detamore, director of the local program.
   Locally, Detamore said the TGA program has reached more than 8,000 youngsters. It's not free -- registration is $99 for a six-week session -- but Detamore feels the programs are making progress.
   "We've made a lot of progress, Detamore said. "The First Tee is primarily facility-based. We go to where the students are and eliminate the transportation barrier. We get them at their schools and bridge the gap to the golf course."
   For more information on the TGA programs, visit

Monday, November 12, 2012

Carmel CC to honor college-bound golfers

 Seven junior golfers from Carmel Country Club will be honored by the club next week after earning college scholarships.
  Davis and Austin Morrision will attend William and Mary, Andy Simmons will attend Davidson, Philip Oweida will attend High Point University, William Rainey will attend the College of Charleston, Keegan Hoff will attend Richmond and Davis Bateman will attend North Carolina.
   Bateman is the 2012 Joe Cheves Junior champion as well as NCISAA state champion; Davis Morrision is an HP scholastic All-American; Austin Morrison played for the U.S. team in the North American Cup; Andy Simmons was named south Charlotte player of the year; Oweida won the 2011 Golf Pride Tarheel Junior; Rainey was a three-time all-conference golfer; and, Hoff had four top-10 finishes in 2012.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Masters field will include 14-year old champion

 Think about what you were doing when you were 14 years old.
   Could you have handled playing in the Masters?
   Guan Tianlang, a 14-year old, won the Asia-Pacific Amateur championship Sunday and with it a spot in the 2013 Masters. 
    Tianlang will be the youngest player ever to tee it up in the Masters, almost two years younger than Matteo Manassero was when he played as a 16-year old in 2010.
   Playing in Chonburi, Thailand, the Chinese teenager made a five-foot putt on the 72nd hole to seal his one-stroke victory, adding to his already impressive accomplishments. Tianlang was already the youngest winner of the China Amateur Open and the youngest player to ever compete in a European Tour event.
   When Masters officials took the lead in creating the Asia-Pacific Amateur, they did it with the intent of expanding golf's popularity in the Pacific Rim. Tianlang's victory and the subsequent attention that will come with his participation in the Masters next spring no doubt put a big smile on the face of Augusta National chairman Billy Payne.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Cheers to the Pine Crest Inn turning 100

PINEHURST -- They're going to raise a glass this evening in honor of the Pine Crest Inn, where glasses, voices and spirits have been raised for a century now.
   The Inn opened for business on Nov. 1, 1913 and the owners, guests and golf romantics will spend the next year celebrating a place that would have a plaque in the World Golf Hall of Fame if the shrine included a corner for pork chops, cold beer and good times.
   There's a program tonight featuring remarks by the mayor, a historian and assorted other guests. There's also been talk of a small parade in front of the gray stone building but nothing fancy because one of the Pine Crest's great charms is its lack of pretension.
   If you've ever made a golf trip to Pinehurst, chances are you're familiar with the Pine Crest. It sits tucked a wedge shot away from the village's main street, down a soft sloping road, framed by old trees and gravel parking lots that fill up every evening when the golf is done and the recovery begins.
    Its entrance -- a dark green awning that leads guests from the street to the long front porch filled with white rocking chairs, couches and an orange cat named Marmaduke -- is as recognizable to many as photos of the 18th hole at Pebble Beach. 
   Step inside and it's not much different than it was 100 years ago when Mrs. E.C. Bliss of Edgewood, R.I., opened the Pine Crest. The ceilings are low, the floors are gently uneven in spots and the stairway to the second floor creaks.
    The Pine Crest Inn is not ultra-modern or part of a chain or terribly expensive. Instead, it's comfortable like your own den. It's a place where people running the place know their guests names and they take pride in making them feel at ease.
   The carpet is soft like a fluffy lie in a fairway and the lobby area is filled with glass cases stuffed with fading mementoes of days and people gone by. A bulletin board holds dozens of snapshots pinned to the wall, most of them showing groups of golfers with laughter in their eyes sitting around dinner tables in the restaurant.
   This is where Payne Stewart came on the Sunday night before he won the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 one week later. He scrawled his autograph on a bathroom wall that evening and before it faded away completely, a copy of Stewart's signature was made and now sits framed not far from the front desk.
  Arnold Palmer has stayed at the Pine Crest. So has Jack Nicklaus, who stayed there in 1985 when his son, Jack II, won the North and South Amateur, a week the Golden Bear calls "one of the highlights of my life."
   The Pine Crest is a place where history lives. Legendary course designer Donald Ross, the first professional at Pinehurst Country Club, purchased the Inn in 1921, added the east wing and owned it until his death in 1948.
   It was later purchased by New York hotelier Carl Moser then the Barrett family, which still owns the Pine Crest, bought it in 1961.
   A painting of Ross hangs above the fireplace in the lobby where he can watch guests attempt to chip golf balls into the fireplace. A pro named Lionel Callaway gave lessons in the lobby many years ago and now there's a plywood board covered in artificial turf that sits in front of the fireplace, a hole in the center the target.
   A handful of clubs lean against a column in the lobby and there are golf balls on the floor near the fireplace. There are varying stories about who's made the most consecutive chip shots, the numbers often influenced by how much time the storyteller has spent in Mr. B's bar just off the lobby. 
   Peter Barrett, one of the owners, says he held the record of 22 in a row until a red-headed left-hander playing in the North and South junior made 23 last year.
   The restaurant is known for its 22-ounce pork chop, created by chef Carl Jackson years ago. It's as big as a Sunday roast and as much a part of the village life as the chancel bells that ring on the hour. 
   At night, the bar comes alive and on weekends there is music in the lobby, the crowd and the noise often spilling onto the porch and into the darkness. John Maginnes, the former PGA Tour player turned golf commentator, calls the Pine Crest bar his favorite place to have a beer in North America and he's not alone.
   For a century, golfers have come to the Pine Crest for a bed and breakfast and the feeling that comes with being there. 
   It's in the gentle give in the old floors and the sound of golf talk in the lobby. It's the thump of another chip shot being pitched toward the fireplace and the smell of dinner drifting out of the dining room. It's seeing the cat curled up on a front porch couch in the afternoon and it's bumping into an old friend in the bar.
   It's a place worth celebrating.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Payne Stewart, 13 years later

   It was 13 years ago today, Oct. 25, 1999, that Payne Stewart died.
   It's still a sad thought.
   That June we saw Stewart win the U.S. Open in the misty gloom at Pinehurst, punching his fist into the air after making his par putt on the 18th green then framing Phil Mickelson's face in his hands and telling him how great it was Mickelson was about to become a father for the first time.
  That September, we saw Stewart spraying champagne on balcony of the clubhouse at The Country Club after the American team's dramatic rally to win the Ryder Cup. His teammates tell stories of him playing the piano and partying in his red, white and blue pajamas deep into that evening.
   And then Stewart was gone.
   Too soon.
   He would have been a Ryder Cup captain one year, perhaps this year, and maybe the European rally wouldn't have happened like it did at Medinah. If it had, Stewart would have still reveled in what the Ryder Cup represented.
   They built a statue honoring Stewart and it sits behind the 18th green at Pinehurst No. 2, reminding us of the man and the moment.
   Neither will soon be forgotten.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Diamond Creek has new owner

   Diamond Creek Golf Club, which sits just outside Banner Elk amid a cluster of top-shelf private golf clubs, has been sold.
   Houston businessman Dan Friedkin, a club member, announced Thursday he has purchased the club from Florida businessman H. Wayne Huizenga, who founded the club in 2003 with golf professional John McNeely.
   Diamond Creek, part of a private, gated community, was designed by Tom Fazio and is popular with Charlotte area golfers.
   "We are thrilled to announce the purchase and I am grateful to Wayne for founding this exceptional club and laying a robust foundation for its growth. As stewards of the club, we will invest in Diamond Creek, seeking to create the ultimate exclusive golf retreat for our distinguished membership," Friedken said in a statement.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Phil takes a shot at $1 million

If you haven't seen video of Phil Mickelson's 100-yard shot for a potential $1-million charity prize last night, there's a link below.
Not to blow the drama but if you're thinking he hit the bull's eye, well...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Halftime show: Mickelson hits shot for $1 million

  Phil Mickelson is the halftime entertainment tonight during the San Diego Chargers-Denver Broncos game and he may win $1 million for charity tonight.
   Mickelson will hit a 100-yard shot at halftime toward targets with a variety of prizes to be awarded by his sponsor KPMG. Depending on which target Mickelson hits -- he's really good with a wedge -- it could be worth $1 million or 400,000 books.
   The shot will be from one end zone in Qualcomm Stadium to the opposite end zone and you can believe Mickelson will make it fun to watch.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Time to shake up US Ryder Cup captaincy

Given the events of last Sunday -- and almost every other Ryder Cup played over the past 20 years -- it seems a fair time to reconsider how the PGA of America chooses the American captain.
That's not to suggest Davis Love III was responsible for the Europeans' dramatic victory. Point that finger at Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer and the others who played the golf that gave Europe its most dramatic victory.
Love had a plan, stuck with it and for two of the three days, it worked beautifully. Then Europe found its heartbeat and its putting stroke and everything changed.
Now the question is who will captain the U.S. team in Gleneagles, Scotland in two years.
If you follow the general outline, do the math and factor in the personalities, David Toms' name keeps popping up. He won a major and a handful of other events, has Ryder Cup experience and is a well-regarded gentleman.
There's a feeling it's Toms turn just as it was Corey Pavin's turn two years ago.
But the PGA of America should shake it up. Nothing against Toms but if another crushing loss isn't reason enough to step at least gently outside the box, what is?
The popular choice to be the next captain is Fred Couples, who has led the U.S. to two Presidents Cup victories and will captain a third team next fall when the matches are played at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
Couples should get the job.
Why would being Presidents Cup captain disqualify him? It shouldn't.
Most people, including Couples, will be surprised if he gets the Ryder Cup call. It's as if you can do one or the other, the Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup. Couples would be the first to tell you the Presidents Cup isn't on the same level as the Ryder Cup, though PGA Tour officials don't like to hear that.
But he's doing something right.
Others have suggested the PGA of America make a dramatic move and break with the unofficial formula for selecting a captain. It's worth considering.
It's not too late to ask Larry Nelson to be captain. He got shafted out of it before and while he's not a contemporary of today's PGA Tour players, he would have their respect. He could also hire younger assistants to help him.
Or bring back Paul Azinger. He'd love to do it again and he'd do it well.
Someone suggested Butch Harmon. Interesting idea.
That's what the PGA of America needs -- interesting ideas. It's time to change the formula.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ryder Cup: The good, the bad, the ugly

   A few observations from the Ryder Cup while European fans are still singing 'Ole, Ole, Ole' outside the media center here at Medinah:
   -- It was impossible not to feel good for European captain Jose Maria Olazabal, who doesn't show much outward emotion but simmers inside. It was apparent how badly he wanted to win the Cup for Europe and to pay one last tribute to Seve Ballesteros. He got it in the most unlikely way.
  -- U.S. captain Davis Love III stuck to his plan of not playing any one more than four matches. It worked beautifully for two days. Sunday, however, was a disaster.
   "I'm sure there are a lot of great plans that sound really good the night before a game starts and then there's a fumble or a turnover or something happens and it doesn't work," Love said. "What happened (Sunday) is they played a little better than us."
   Yes, they did. The problem was the Americans needed to make them play even better and they didn't do it.
   -- What were the odds Sunday morning of Martin Kaymer scoring the Cup-clinching point? 
   No one would have taken those odds.
  -- Five players scored three points for the U.S. team: Phil Mickelson, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson and Dustin Johnson. Only Dustin Johnson won every match he played.
   Ian Poulter was the only unbeaten European, going 4-0. Of course he did.
   Tiger Woods won half a point. Steve Stricker got blanked.
   -- It was awkward having Woods and Francesco Molinari finish their singles match after the Ryder Cup had been decided. There was an enormous greenside celebration going on while they were playing the 18th hole. Finally, Woods conceded a putt to Molinari that made the final match a draw. It changed the final score from 14-14 to 14 1/2 to 13 1/2. At that point, Woods said, the final score didn't matter.
   He was right.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Sunday pairings -- how they came to be

There's no great science that goes into setting the singles pairing for Sunday at the Ryder Cup.
   Or, if there is, it's strictly classified.
   U.S. captain Davis Love III said he and his four assistant captains sat down on the porch at Medinah early Saturday evening and put 12 guys in order after getting input from the seven or eight who hadn't already returned to the team hotel.
   Look at the American lineup and it makes sense.
   Bubba Watson then Webb Simpson then Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson.
   Bubba likes to play fast. Webb likes to be near Bubba. Bradley has been brilliant and Mickelson has too.
   Steve Stricker goes 11th and Tiger Woods goes last in case it comes down to that, which is almost certainly won't. Love said he wanted stability at the back of the lineup. Tiger against Francesco Molinari looks pretty stable.
   On the other side, Europe's Jose Maria Olazabal did the only thing he could do -- he front-loaded his lineup. Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose got out first. If Europe doesn't win early, it has no chance to win at all. That's what captain Ben Crenshaw taught everyone at Brookline, Mass., 13 years ago.
   The early matches look intriguing. Watson and Donald couldn't be more different personalities. Simpson gets Poulter's fire. Bradley and McIlroy has become the match we thought Woods-McIlroy would be when the week began.
   If the Americans continue to play as they have, they'll win the Ryder Cup comfortably. That's what I expect will happen Sunday.
  12:03 p.m.: Bubba Watson-Luke Donald
  12:14: Webb Simpson-Ian Poulter
  12:25: Keegan Bradley-Rory McIlroy
  12:36: Phil Mickelson-Justin Rose
  12:47: Brandt Snedeker-Paul Lawrie
  12:58: Dustin Johnson-Nicolas Colsaerts
   1:09: Zach Johnson-Graeme McDowell
   1:20: Jim Furyk-Sergio Garcia
   1:31: Jason Dufner-Peter Hanson
   1:42: Matt Kuchar-Lee Westwood
   1:53: Steve Stricker-Martin Kaymer
   2:04: Tiger Woods-Francesco Molinari

Mickelson/Bradley help U.S. extend lead

  With another spectacular performance by Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, the U.S. team moved out to a dominating 8-4 lead after the morning session of the Ryder Cup Saturday at Medinah.
   With a strong afternoon in the four-ball matches, the American side could set itself up to close out Ryder Cup early in singles on Sunday. Captain Davis Love III decided to rest the Mickelson-Bradley pairing in the afternoon, sticking to his plan of not having any golfers play in all five sessions.
   The Mickelson-Bradley pairing, which won both matches Friday, crushed the Lee Westwood-Luke Donald team 7&6 in foursomes play, setting the tone in the morning.
   "We've had so much fun," Bradley said. "The crowd has provided so much energy and it's brought out our best golf."
   The U.S. also picked up foursomes victories from Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson 2&1 over Nicolas Colsaets and Sergio Garcia and a 1-up victory by Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker over Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.
   The lone American loss was suffered by Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson, who fell 1-up to Ian Poulter and Justin Rose. Simpson had a nine-foot birdie putt on the 18th green to square the match but missed.
   The afternoon four-ball pairings are:
   Dustin Johnson/Matt Kuchar vs. Nicolas Colsaerts/Paul Lawrie
   Bubba Watson/Webb Simpson vs. Justin Rose/Francesco Molinari
   Tiger Woods/Steve Stricker vs. Sergio Garcia/Luke Donald
   Jason Dufner/Luke Donald vs. Rory McIlroy/Ian Poulter.

Friday, September 28, 2012

On the first tee at the Ryder Cup

   It was chilly enough to see your breath this morning on the first tee at Medinah but with the Ryder Cup starting, it was the hottest place in golf.
  Framed by steep, overstuffed grandstands, the Ryder Cup began as only it can -- with photo ops, singing and nerves.
   Before the first players had arrived at the tee, American fans were singing 'America, the Beautiful' and European fans were answering with 'Ole, Ole, Ole.' Shortly before Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker made the walk over from the practice putting green, a worker was tossing American flags to fans. It was too early to say whether the fact many of the flags were accidentally dropped on the ground was a good or bad omen for the home side.
   When it came time for Graeme McDowell to hit the opening tee shot, the place went dead silent but for the distant whistle of a train. Then the noise returned.
   When Ryder Cup rookie Keegan Bradley ripped his tee shot down the middle, he waited a beat for teammate Phil Mickelson to catch up to him and they slapped hands.
   Before the final match began, Michael Jordan arrived on the tee, shaking hands, posing for pictures and being Michael Jordan in Chicago.
   Europe's Ian Poulter arrived at the tee with black and lime-colored shoes to match the team outfit for the day. After hitting his tee shot on the opening hole, Poulter snatched his tee from the ground like a theatrical rip.
   Tiger Woods followed with a big hook that left his partner, Steve Stricker, in trouble. 
   It was just past 8 a.m. on a cool fall morning in Chicago. A beautiful start.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Who wins this Ryder Cup?

 Now that Justin Timberlake's unfortunate recitation of a golf poem at the opening ceremony is behind us, we can get on with the Ryder Cup.
   I'm saying the U.S. wins this time.
   If you've ever seen my NFL predictions or studied my choice of stocks, you understand this isn't exactly a ringing endorsement. Still, I think the Americans are going to win the Ryder Cup.
   It's happened. 
   Maybe you remember 2008 and 1999. From there, it gets a little fuzzy.
   Six months ago, I'd have told you the European team was a heavy favorite. They haven't gotten worse. In fact, Martin Kaymer has shown signs of having rediscovered a bit of his lost magic in recent weeks.
   But the American side has filled in nicely. Tiger is ready. Brandt Snedeker is coming off an $11-million weekend. Jason Dufner has great hair.
   This is my fifth Ryder Cup and for the longest time I wondered if I'd ever see the U.S. win. We got beat in England, got waxed at Oakland Hills and got double-waxed at the K Club in Ireland. Then Paul Azinger put the pieces together four years ago at Valhalla where I finally saw an American champagne celebration.
   I didn't go to Wales so that one can't be blamed on me.
   I see Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. I see Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia. I see Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter and all the other Europeans. 
   But I see this Ryder Cup 15-13 for the U.S.

Kuchar U.S. team leader -- in table tennis

  The first official golf balls won't be in the air at the Ryder Cup until 8:20 a.m. Charlotte time Friday but ping pong balls have been clattering around the U.S. team room as usual.
   There are three tables, part of what has become an American Ryder Cup tradition, and it sounds as if there's a clear winner among the U.S. players.
   Matt Kuchar.
   "I think it's clear that Matt Kuchar is the best," Webb Simpson said. "Phil Mickelson is not quite ready to admit it. I think he's in denial. But he's pretty good."
   Kuchar proclaimed himself the best.  He called himself a "one or two handicap" in table tennis. That doesn't make him world class but it makes him good enough at Medinah.
   "On our team, I'd be the best player," Kuchar said.
   Here's Simpson's take on his teammates' ping-pong talents:
   "I think I've seen about everybody play now and everybody is really good. Zach (Johnson) is really good. Tiger is good. Bubba (Watson) thinks he's good but he just plays defense. He doesn't hit any winners or anything and once he starts hitting those defensive shots, I start laughing and he beats me."
   Simpson said his table tennis claim to fame is beating Mickelson at the Presidents Cup in Australia last year.
  "After I beat him, he said my serve was illegal," Simpson said. "Then he beat me the next five times."

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Azinger: 'I see a different Tiger Woods'

I had the chance recently to talk with Paul Azinger, captain of the victorious 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team, about what he sees looking at the matches this week at Medinah.

Here's some of what Azinger, who will be part of ESPN's television crew, had to say.

On Phil MIckelson: "Phil Mickelson has always been worth at least a point a day in the team room. He's phenomenal."

On Tiger Woods: "Tiger is more reserved. Tiger's Ryder Cup record (13-14-2) is better than people think.

"I didn't have Tiger on my team. I would have loved to have Tiger in a small group. I would have put him with Boo (Weekley), J.B. (Holmes) and Kenny Perry. He'd have been in the redneck pool. What's important is to get Tiger with guys he not only gets along with but he can be an encourager, too.

On the Tiger-Rory McIlroy relationship: "It's a surprising turn of events. McIlroy said some things Tiger could have gotten mad about. I think Tiger has made a career out of wanting players to be uncomfortable with him. I think the only guy I can think of who was comfortable with Tiger and didn't change who he was Rocco Mediate. Rocco idolized him and laughed at how good he is, in his face, like, 'Oh my god, I can't believe you hit that shot. His personality didn't change head to head against Tiger.

"Tiger shows up in character. He's playing a part. When he gets out of his car in the parking lot he's a pro golfer in part. He's wearing a shirt the color of blood for a reason. He lets people know those are his power colors. He plays the role hard.

"He made a comment (at the PGA Championship) that he tried to be happy go lucky out there. What happened? That's a big change in his personality. Maybe he's looking at his life differently.

"If ever a guy has been a threat to Tiger's legacy and could rob him of a championship, it's Rory. It's a big turn of events. I see a different Tiger Woods from the one who relished in his ability to intimidate."

Monday, September 24, 2012

Celebrating Brandt Snedeker

Before moving on to the Ryder Cup, let's take another moment to celebrate Brandt Snedeker.
Not just for winning the Tour Championship and the $10-million FedEx Cup bonus but for being Brandt Snedeker. If you're still getting comfortable with Snedeker as a world-class player, here's a suggestion -- be a fan.
He does many things well.
He plays fast, which is a beautiful thing.
He talks fast and he doesn't hide his emotions. What you see is what you get, including the floppy blond hair that looks like an old-style mop.
And he gets the big picture.
When he said Sunday evening, "Of anybody that I know, I do not need $11 million," it was so refreshing to hear.
He called winning the $10-million bonus prize "crazy talk" and explained why he could use the money to help others.
"One thing my dad did really well with me is whatever you buy in your life, you need to make sure you can pay for it," Snedeker said. "Don't ever go into debt to do anything and that's what I've done my whole life.
"This obviously give me a little more freedom to do some more stuff like that."
And when Snedeker said, "I really think we can make a difference and help a lot of people out in Nashville and Tennessee and the surrounding areas," you knew he meant it.
Well played, on so many levels.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why Fred Couples is a Hall of Famer

 If you've ever watched Fred Couples swing a golf club or just walk down a fairway, you probably smiled when you heard the news that he will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame next May.
   Couples has that effect on people.
   He has that hard to define but impossible to deny quality that makes him the coolest guy in any room. It's the look. It's the swing. It's the smile.
   It's almost accidentally natural. 
   Couples is 52 years old now, two decades past his PGA Tour prime, and he'd still be on the tee with Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson if someone put together golf's favorite foursome.
   That's why he's going into the Hall of Fame and I'm all right with that.
   It's not the Hall of Achievement. 
   If that's all it was, Couples' 15 PGA Tour wins, which included one Masters and two Players Championships, may not rise to the level of acceptance. It was a very good career and for a time he was the best player in the world. 
   "I don't consider myself to be a great player but I'm a good player," Couples said Wednesday when the announcement was made.
   He left us feeling he should have won more and Couples probably feels some of that himself. But he had back that went out more than the mailman and it changed his career. Since turning 50, Couples hasn't finished outside the top 15 at the Masters, which speaks to his talent, his longevity and, if you were at Augusta or watching on television, his enduring popularity.
  Couples is like no one else, another reason he's beloved.
   His induction surprised many, who considered him a borderline Hall of Famer. It was a surprise that he went in before Davis Love III, who has 20 wins and a resume that at least matches Couples' otherwise. 
   Ken Venturi, whose playing and broadcasting careers taken together should be enough to earn him a spot, is still not in (he tied Love for second with 38 percent of the votes) and MacDonald Smith, who won 24 times in the early days of professional golf, may never get in.
   Couples was the only player elected in this year's balloting and he received only 51 percent of the vote, below the 65 percent threshold generally required for induction. But the bylaws state that if no one receives 65 percent of the vote, the highest vote getter goes in. Welcome, Freddie.
   As a matter of full disclosure, I voted for Love and Venturi this year.
   Halls of Fame are peculiar things. There's a clinical side to who gets in based solely on numbers. But sports aren't just about numbers.
   They're about feelings and personalities, too.
   Nothing against Mark O'Meara, who won two majors, 16 PGA Tour events and a U.S. Amateur, but he didn't reach beyond the scorecard the way Couples did and still does. O'Meara was a professional golfer. Couples was that and more.
   There's a worthy argument to be made about basing Hall of Fame induction solely on achievement but it denies an essential part of why we watch and why we care.
   Fred Couples proves it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rory and Tiger: Ryder Cup preview?

When Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods tee it up together Thursday in the first round of the Tour Championship at East Lake, it will be another chapter in their buddies series that has developed in this FedEx Cup playoff.

   Rory jokes about Tiger going bald.
   Tiger jokes about Rory being short.
   They both shake their head about Greg Norman’s comments that Tiger is intimidated by Rory. Tiger may be many things. Intimidated on the golf course is not one of them.
   Ideally, they’ll duel through the weekend at East Lake for the FedEx Cup prize but eyes are already being cast toward the Ryder Cup next weekend at Medinah outside Chicago, imagining the possibility of a McIlroy-Woods Sunday singles match.
   It’s what everybody wants – even Rory and Tiger.
   “That would be fun,” Woods said Wednesday when asked about it.
   McIlroy said the same.
   “I'm not going to sit here and lie and say I wouldn't enjoy it, because I would,” McIlroy said in Atlanta.
   If this were the Presidents Cup, their match could be arranged. Captains set the pairings one by one against the other captain.
  In the Ryder Cup, it’s blind draw. U.S. captain Davis Love III will put 12 names in order in an envelope and European captain Jose Maria Olazabal will do the same.
   That means Woods and McIlroy will have to be slotted into the same spots in a blind draw.
   Maybe Love and Olazabal will send emissaries with messages to the other side that they plan to put their stars in, say, the fifth singles match on Sunday.
   Not likely.
   The Ryder Cup will be spectacular regardless. But Tiger and Rory head to head on Sunday with the Cup in the balance?
   What a sweet thought.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Chiquita Classic to become playoff event

  The new Chiquita Classic golf tournament, which will be played at the Club at Longview for the first time next week, is already making a big move.
   The tour event will be part of the tour's new four-event playoff series beginning in 2013 which will determine which players earn PGA Tour privileges the following season.
   The event will debut Sept. 27-30 at Longview and next year will move into its new role as part of a reorganized conclusion to the developmental tour's season.
  “With the introduction of this new qualifying process and four Finals events in 2013, the Tour is about to embark on the most exciting era in its 23-year history,"PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement.
  “The Tour will clearly become the pathway to the PGA TOUR, with season-long performance serving as the benchmark for securing one’s TOUR card. The Tour season promises to end in a very heightened fashion next September and we are thrilled to include the Chiquita Classic as a Tour finals event.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Rory and Tiger feels right

It's been interesting to see how Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy seem to have taken to each other. Through the years, Woods has kept most of his rivals at a distance with a few exceptions, such as Steve Stricker. With McIlroy, it's different.

It's obvious Woods likes McIlroy and admires his game. One of the best things about the FedEx Cup playoffs is the way it's put Woods and McIlroy together so often, a pairing that will continue at the Tour Championship next week at East Lake in Atlanta.

Woods' self-motivation is well known but McIlroy's brilliance comes at an ideal time for Woods, who will no doubt use the challenge to continue pushing himself. Woods has played his golf in a bubble, churning on his own intensity, staring down everyone else.

In McIlroy's case, Woods has shown a warmth rarely seen in the competitive realm. It complements both of them.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Happy 83rd birthday Arnie

 This Sept. 10 being Arnold Palmer's 83rd birthday, take a moment today to raise a glass -- whether it's an Arnold Palmer or something more, uh, substantial -- to the man who remains the face and heart of golf.
   We long ago came to grips with the fact Arnie can't play like he once did and we made our peace with it long before he did.
   He's Arnie. 
   Not to diminish the green jackets he won or the way he won the 1960 U.S. Open or all the other things he did playing the game, his greatest achievement was just being Arnie. He remains the model across all sports for the way an athlete should deal with his adoring public. 
   No entourages.
   Just wink and a smile. 
   Perhaps no one has enjoyed the spotlight more than Palmer has and perhaps we've never enjoyed anyone in the spotlight as much as we've enjoyed him. 
   Have one on us, Arnie. Our pleasure.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Love adds Stricker, Furyk, Johnson and Snedeker

    In the weeks leading up to Monday’s announcement, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III said he wanted to use his four captain’s picks to find a hot player, good putters and experience.
   His four picks – Dustin Johnson, Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker and Steve Stricker – checked each of Captain Love’s designated boxes.
   It meant leaving off Hunter Mahan, who finished ninth in points and won twice this year, Rickie Fowler, whose game went as flat as his cap brim over the summer and Nick Watney, who I probably would have given the spot over Furyk.
   In announcing his four choices, Love called this “the deepest, strongest year of earning points” he can remember which made narrowing his choices more difficult.
   If one of the four flames out against the Europeans at Medinah next month, it will be easy to say Love made a mistake but at the moment, it’s hard to argue with his choices.
    Stricker was a lock because he’s one of the world’s best putters, a perfect partner for Tiger Woods and the kind of guy Love and others want in the team room. When it comes to team chemistry, he’s a huge asset.
   Picking Snedeker was a good move because he’s playing well, he can putt with his eyes closed and it’s his time to be on a Ryder Cup team. Snedeker has quietly become a top-level player and his enthusiasm should be a nice addition to a team with low-key personalities such as Jason Dufner, Johnson, Furyk and Woods.
   Johnson played his way onto the team over the last month after missing a big early chunk of the season due to an injury. Imagine Johnson and Bubba Watson paired in alternate shot, just for the pure awe aspect of the shots they might hit together.
   If there’s a rap on Johnson, it’s that he’s not a great putter. But he’s too talented to leave off.
   Furyk stumbled home in the U.S. Open and the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, kicking away big wins that raised questions about whether Love would choose him.  But Furyk has been on almost as many U.S. teams as red, white and blue and figures to be a calm presence in a tense event.
   But he’s 8-15-4 in his Ryder Cup career and Love will likely sit him in four-ball (best ball) competition where he’s a dreadful 1-8-1.
    Love answered one set of questions Monday. Bigger questions await at Medinah.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Beaten by a man with a broken leg...

I learned long ago that golf has a mind -- and a warped sense of humor -- of its own.

That's why an otherwise beautiful tee shot can stop in a divot, why your opponent's skulled 7-iron can skip across the water like Captain Sullenberger hit it and why kids want to dress like Rickie Fowler.

If you play, you understand. If you don't play, don't start. You'll have more fun piercing your tongue.

That brings me to my latest slapdown.

Playing in the Cedarwood club championship over the weekend, I got beat by a man with a broken leg.

Both days.

I know, Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open on a broken leg. He was playing the Barclays last weekend, I checked.

The only guy I beat got DQ'd because he signed an incorrect scorecard.

I think he's the only guy I beat. I wisely grabbed a beer after the round and didn't glance at the scoreboard or anyone else before slinking away, pretending I had somewhere to be -- and it wasn't the practice tee.

Let me make it clear that I have great admiration for the man who beat me on one good leg. He has a rod in his bad leg, parts of it have come loose and he now has a stress fracture in his thigh bone. When he makes a full swing and tweaks his leg the wrong way, it looks like it hurts worse than a Rosie O'Donnell monologue.

But he loves golf and keeps playing through it, kicking my butt in the process.

There's something inspiring about his willingness to keep playing but let's not make it about him. Let's talk about me.

I could tell you I was 1-over par through seven holes and facing an easy approach shot into the par-5 eighth green Sunday, thinking I might be able to backdoor my way into second place in the net division after another in a long history of poor starts in the club championship.

But then I'd have to tell you that three holes later I was 10-over par and relieved that both of my Titleists missed every vehicle moving on Highway 51 after my tee shots at the easy 10th hole turned right of Sean Hannity on their way off the property.

You might think that seeing a man with a broken leg grinding away would push me to keep grinding, too. You might be wrong.

A three-hole stretch of double-bogey, triple-bogey, quadruple-bogey kills your incentive. Let's see sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella put a happy face on that scorecard.

I finished and, after briefly considering donating my clubs to a nearby pond and bailing out of an October trip to Bandon Dunes, I wondered why I'd expected anything different. If nearly 50 years of playing golf have taught me anything, it's not to bet on myself when you have to putt 'em out.

My only regret?

I should have bought the man with the broken leg a beer.

Monday, August 27, 2012

What does Ko's win say about the LPGA Tour?

Fifteen-year old Lydia Ko, who won the LPGA Tour's Canadian Open on Sunday, wasn't born when Tiger Woods won the 1997 Masters.

Make you feel old?

Make you wish you could hit it and putt it like the kids these days?

Ko became the youngest player in LPGA history to win a tournament, breaking the record set last year by Lexi Thompson. Ko was brilliant, making seven birdies on Sunday, to pull away from Jiyai Shin and Stacy Lewis, two of the tour's best players.

Afterward, she talked about wanting to buy a dog and her goal of attending Stanford, both of which she may eventually get though she couldn't take her $300,000 winner's check because she's still an amateur.

Ko's victory raised an interesting question:

What does it say about the LPGA Tour?

It's a tour in desperate need of a jolt of relevance and Ko's victory at least pulled some of the attention away from Nick Watney's victory in the Barclays and the musical chairs being played for the final four spots on Davis Love III's U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Without a dominant player at the moment - Yani Tseng's sterling game has dulled slightly - the LPGA needs someone or something to bring it into focus. Maybe it's Ko.

She recently won the U.S. Amateur and now she's an LPGA Tour winner. It says everything about her potential and perhaps too much about the LPGA Tour at the moment.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Augusta National does the right thing

  The news Monday that Augusta National Golf Club has its first two female members -- former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Darla Moore of Lake City, S.C. -- was both overdue and inevitable.
   Still, it's good to have the issue resolved.
   Did it take longer than it should have?
   Yes, but Augusta National moves at its own pace. We may never know for sure but my sense is the club might have added female members before now had Martha Burk's public attacks a few years ago not slowed the process. The club wasn't going to be bullied into action.
   However, the issue wasn't going to go away until female members were admitted. For all the progressive initiatives pushed by chairman Billy Payne in its stated quest to 'grow the game,' the message was flattened by the reality that Augusta National hadn't fully opened its doors to women.
   Hundreds of rounds of golf are reportedly played by women each year at Augusta National but until now, there were no female members.
   Payne was pushed in his pre-tournament interview in April on the membership issue and said, as other chairmen have, that club matters would remain private. It became more awkward because Virginia Rometty had become CEO of IBM. Her four male predecessors had been Augusta National members.
   Payne is a smart man who no doubt understood the conundrum of pushing global growth at a club with a restricted membership. With Rice and Moore now having their own green jackets, Payne and the club can push forward rather than play defense against the perpetual questions.
   It was important enough that the club made a public announcement of the new members, Payne calling it "a joyous occasion." 
   Augusta National is a unique place. The club reportedly has about 300 members and they are rich and powerful people. The club has positioned itself to be a powerful force in golf and it has the opportunity to be an example. 
    It became a better one on Monday.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Coore, Crenshaw give No. 2 another look

   Recently, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw stopped by Pinehurst to take a look at their restoration project at No. 2, which has been open for more than a year now.
  With both the men's and women's U.S. Opens less than two years away, they're looking closely at the width of fairways and the amount of growth in the sandy natural areas.
   Here's a link to what they had to say about No. 2:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Rocky River, Verdict Ridge open with new greens

   Two area courses that made the conversion from bent grass to bermuda grass greens earlier this summer are ready to reopen.
   Rocky River Golf Club in Concord is scheduled to reopen Aug. 20 and will offer special rates the first week after its reopening.
   Verdict Ridge Golf & Country Club in Denver will reopen to the public Aug. 25.
   Both courses are among a large group of area courses that made the transition to more heat-tolerant putting surfaces this month. The Wyndham Championship being played this week at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro made a similar move and is hosting the PGA Tour less than 12 weeks after making the change.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Feherty weighs in on Rory: 'No. 1 in the universe'

   David Feherty, the brilliant golf announcer and social commentator, walked the final round of the PGA Championship with Rory McIlroy and was blown away by what he saw.
   Here's a portion of what Feherty told a handful of reporters standing outside the Ocean Course clubhouse after the championship:
   "This was better (than McIroy's U.S. Open performance at Congressional in 2011). Congressional didn't have the disaster potential on every single hole. Out here you hit one loose shot, you're not talking about a one-shot swing or two-shot swing. You could lose three or four. He never gave anybody even the vaguest whiff on the breeze. No, he was locked up so tight
   "He made every single putt that mattered and when he missed a green, he missed it in the right place. It was perfect under the severest of pressure. He did what all great players can do. He played the best possible golf as if it had the least possible consequence. That's what great players do. They make it seem like it doesn't matter when it matters more than anything else to them.
   "I think it's the greatest round of golf I've seen and I've seen Tiger Woods play a lot of great rounds of golf but that was something special."
   Asked about McIlroy regaining the world No. 1 ranking, Feherty said;
   "He's No. 1 in the universe right now, not No. 1 in the world. It's not close. Tiger's not where he was. People keep asking is Tiger Woods back? Back where? Yeah, he's back. He's won three times this year. He's not back where he was at the turn of the century. I think it will be another century before anybody gets there. It's an unreasonable standard to hold anybody to. 
   "The way (McIlroy) swings the club and the way he thinks about the game of golf and his attitude on the course, both good and bad, I've never seen anybody more evenly balanced and more beautifully suited to play golf for a living. He looks like a slightly less energetic Tom Watson."

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Observations from the PGA Championship

  A few observations while waiting for the PGA Championship to resume Sunday morning:
 -- It's likely the players who will finish their third rounds Sunday morning will have a big advantage in terms of playing conditions over those who got their third rounds in before the storm. The course will be softer and the wind is forecast to be down, setting up lower scoring and a chance for the leaders to separate themselves a little more.
   -- Unless something changes Sunday, Tiger Woods' weekend struggles in major championships this year has become a problem. He hasn't broken par on the weekend in the four majors and he played himself backward and virtually out of contention on Saturday. 
   A pulled birdie putt at the third hole from short range seemed to frustrate Woods who followed with consecutive bogeys. Someone cracked he was in danger of running out of gloves because he had to sign so many for spectators he hit Saturday.
    -- Given the challenges with weather during August, particularly thunderstorms in the southeast, it's interesting that the lineup of PGA Championship sites through 2018 doesn't include a west coast venue. The PGA hasn't been played out west since visiting Sahalee near Seattle in 1998. Torrey Pines, some pointed out, is nice this time of year.
  -- Another PGA question: Knowing there was a better than good chance of afternoon thunderstorms Saturday, why didn't they start players earlier in the third round? The PGA Tour does it routinely.
   There's an argument to be made for televising the event live but showing a slightly taped-delayed version beats showing highlights from the 2009 PGA Championship -- unless you're Y.E. Yang.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Simpson looking ahead, not back after PGA

  Webb Simpson got the weekend off after missing the cut in the PGA Championship but he left the Ocean Course feeling better about his even-par 72 on Friday than he fat 79 on Thursday.
    "I look back on that first nine holes (a 6-over 42 on Thursday) and it's kind of what got me," Simpson said. "But the course played really hard (Friday). I feel good. I hit it good and finally got the putter going. It's just one of those deals where I got off to a bad start."
   Simpson plans to take a couple of days off at home with his wife, son and new daughter then defend his championship at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro next week.
   "It's kind of good to get this under my belt before the playoffs. Hopefully, I'll play a little better next week," Simpson said.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Simpson 'disappointed' with rough start at PGA

   U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson opened with a 7-over par 79 that left him "disappointed" in his first competitive round in a month.
   Simpson shot 6-over par 42 on the front nine with a double bogey on the third hole and four bogeys in his last five holes before making the turn.
  "I was rustier than I thought I'd be," said Simpson, who took a month off for the birth of his daughter last month. "I didn't hit a bad shot on No. 1 and make bogey. At No. 3, I thought my wedge shot would be 10 feet, went over the green and I made double. Just kind of rusty stuff from there."
   Simpson had three 3-putts on the back nine.
  "It's a tough way to get back into it but I'm glad I got the first round under my belt. I'm not quite out of it," Simpson said.
   "As hard as I worked at home, I didn't expect to come out here and struggle so much. I hit it really good today. Just stupid mistakes and couldn't get anything going. Seemed like every time I'd make a birdie, I'd make a mistake the next hole.
  "I didn't feel nerves this morning like I thought I would. That's a dangerous place because I felt like I was floating out here."
   The Charlotte-based players were led by Brendan de Jonge and Martin Laird, who opened with 71s while Robert Karlsson had 74 and Johnson Wagner shot 75. Pinehurst teaching pro Kelly Mitchum shot 76.

Ocean Course isn't easy -- getting there

   The Ocean Course is beautiful.
   It is also remote.
   As in a long way from anything but a few really big, really nice houses owned by what I assume are very rich people.
   Playing the Ocean Course, even as a resort guest when it's not in PGA Championship trim, is a challenge.
   So is getting there.
   What's that old adage, no one wants to hear about the delivery, they just want to see the baby?
   No one wants to hear about the challenge of getting to the Ocean Course. They want to see how Phil and Rory and Dustin handle what can be a beast of a golf course if the wind kicks up.
   But getting to the PGA Championship isn't easy for anyone.
   Even if you have your yacht moored at a nearby marina, it's a 25-minute drive in among the live oaks, lagoons and poster-pretty golf holes on other resort courses.
   If you're staying in Charleston, it was a one-hour, 40-minute shuttle bus ride to the Ocean Course Thursday morning. Generally, it's been about an hour. It's a substantial ride if no one is on the road, which tends not to be the case in mornings and when a major championship is being played nearby.
   Navigating the course can be a test because it's laid out essentially with nine holes in one direction and the other nine running parallel the other way. Four miles end to end. It's about a half-mile from the ninth green to the 10th tee. 
   It's not easy. But major championships aren't supposed to be easy.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

What do players think of the Ocean Course?

So what do the players think about the Ocean Course?
   They think it's long. 
    "A big golf course," Rory McIlroy said.
   "A big ballpark," Tiger Woods said.
   "They're going to make us work," Bubba Watson said.
   Officially, the Ocean Course measures 7,676 yards but it won't play its full length during the PGA Championship. Set-up man Kerry Haigh plans to move tees depending on the wind, which is predicted to kick up, particularly Friday and Saturday afternoon, gusting to 30 miles per hour.
   The par-4 12th hole, listed at 412 yards, will play 305 or thereabouts at least one day, tempting players to try to drive the green.
   There's a lot of target golf involved in playing the Pete Dye design, plotting your way around the course from spot to spot. It's not a subtle course. The penalty for a poor shot is generally severe.
   "A lot of it is visual," Woods said. "There's a lot more room out there, whether it's on the fairways or the greens, than you think. He just makes you look the other way. He's a masterful designer in that way.
   "If you play conservatively, he gives you a lot more room but also you're far away from the green all the time."
   What does the Ocean Course remind players of?
   Whistling Straits, another Dye design, where Martin Kaymer won the PGA Championship two years ago.
  "It's very similar to Whistling Straits," McIlroy said.