Monday, February 27, 2012

A garage sale, First Tee style

  Looking to pick up some golf equipment and make a contribution to The First Tee of Charlotte?

   You can do both Saturday at a garage sale being held at the First Tee facility adjacent to the Charles Sifford Golf Course at Revolution Park. The sale runs from 8:30 a.m. until noon and all sales must be made in cash.

   There will be sets of clubs, individual clubs and other golf equipment.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Haney: "Maybe (Tiger) will learn something"

The Golf Channel premieres new seasons of 'The Haney Project' and 'Feherty' starting at 9 p.m., Monday, stacking Hank Haney and David Feherty back to back on a weekly basis.

Haney will work with four celebrities this time -- chef Mario Batali, actress/model Angie Everhart, singer Adam Levine and retired boxer Sugar Ray Leonard -- while Feherty's interview-based show expands to one hour with Michelle Wie and Sergio Garcia among the early guests.

On a conference call, Haney said he expects former client Tiger Woods might learn something if he reads Haney's upcoming book, 'The Big Miss,' about his time with the former world No. 1.

"(Tiger) said he wasn't going to read it but he reads everything," Haney said on the call. "So if he does read it, maybe he'll learn something...

"I think it would be insightful. Hopefully it is. I know that it's fair and honest...There's going to be quite a few things that I think people look and say, wow, I didn't know that or that's surprising or interesting."

Feherty said he's hopeful Woods will sit for an interview on his show.

"I would not rule out Tiger Woods," Feherty said. "He hasn't said no."

What would Feherty ask Woods?

"I'm tired of the whole TMZ notion that people are entitled to private details of people in the public vew of their lives," Feherty said. "It just doesn't interest me.

"I'm more interested, to be honest with you, does he feel like a human being in that at any time has he been so anxious about whether or not he's going to regain any kind of form...Is it possible for him to reach that level again? Not just him, anybody else for that matter. Have we seen the 500-year flood?"

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

FedEx Cup Playoffs extended through 2017

   The FedEx Cup playoffs aren't going anywhere.

   The PGA Tour announced today that it has reached an agreement with FedEx to extend the season-ending series of events for five years, taking it through 2017. The initial agreement was scheduled to end after this year but there had been indications that FedEx and the tour were making progress on an extension.

   FedEx will continue to sponsor the $35-million 'playoffs' with the winner taking home a $10-million bonus. Since its inception five years ago, the four-event season-ending playoffs have given the PGA Tour a higher profile conclusion to its season as playing fields gradually diminish until 30 players are left for the Tour Championship.

   The FedEx Cup champions have been Tiger Woods (twice), Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk and Bill Haas.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Want to caddie for Natalie Gulbis?

   Now that you've seen Natalie Gulbis on the golf course and as a body paint model in the new Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition -- it's okay to admit you checked her out online if you're not a magazine subscriber -- here's your chance to caddie for her.

   Yep, caddie one round for Natalie Gulbis in an LPGA tour event this year.

   It's a silent auction item up for bid Saturday night as part of fund-raising dinner being put on by the Palisades Episcopal School. Talk about good timing.

   "It's been really fun for us," said Karin Hughes, head of the five-year old school.

   Thanks for a sports marketing connection, Hughes and the school got the go-ahead from Gulbis to auction off one round as her caddie. It didn't hurt that the school announced the auction item at the same time Gulbis was making her Swimsuit Edition debut.

   If you'd rather caddie for Davis Love III, that's available at the auction, too. It's still golf but, well, different.

   Not willing to take your chances on winning the silent auction?

   Hughes said the Gulbis item can be bought in advance by anyone willing to pay $8,000 up front. If you're interested in the details, visit

Photos: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images (top) and Andrew Yates/AFP/Getty Images (bottom).

Monday, February 20, 2012

On Phil the Thrill, Rory's return and spitting

   Observations on the PGA Tour season as the West Coast swing concludes and it's bracket-buster time in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship:

  -- The season could hardly have started better. There was the Kyle Stanley saga (both good and bad), Mickelson against Woods at Pebble Beach, Phil and Keegan Bradley making 72nd hole birdies at Riviera to force a playoff and Bill Haas beating them both.

   Local favorite Johnson Wagner and his mustache earned player of the month honors in January, splitting his $50,000 award between The First Tee and the Levine Children's Hospital.

   Mickelson has been exceptional, reminding us of both the fun of watching him play golf and his star power. He generates an energy among fans and television viewers that only one other player can and, so far, Tiger hasn't been able to win.

   -- Woods will win soon. Maybe not the Match Play or Honda but it's going to happen. There's a reason he's still the betting favorite at the Masters, though Phil should be primed for Augusta.

  -- Keegan Bradley's pre-shot routine makes me nervous. He fidgets too much and he needs to stop with the spitting before every shot. It's like watching Jim Furyk line up a putt, something I try not to do.

  -- Rory McIlroy returns to the PGA Tour this week at the Match Play. That's excellent news.

  -- Watching Dustin Johnson play is both mesmerizing and maddening. It's almost comical how far he can hit the ball and how easy he makes it appear. Next time someone says golfers aren't athletes, tell them to watch DJ.

   But tell them not to model their wedge game on Johnson's. If and when he gets it dialed in from 120 yards and in, no one may beat him. Until then, he'll continue to be alternately brilliant and very average.

  -- Sergio Garcia's 64 Sunday at Riviera was another reminder that he can still get it done. He's 32 now and without a major championship. Garcia often seems to be his own worst enemy but I still think he wins a big one at some point.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Natalie Gulbis gets her body paint on

I post this out of, uh, duty just to let golf fans and anyone else who might stumble this way know that LPGA star Natalie Gulbis is on display in this year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, now available at a computer or magazine rack near you.

Based on my quick study of Gulbis' 10-photo online portfolio, there's not a golf club to be seen but that apparently isn't the reason she's in the swimsuit edition.

In fact, she's not even wearing a bikini. Gulbis is wearing body paint that looks like a bikini. Having painted a room or two myself, I couldn't help wondering if they put that blue tape on Gulbis before they began painting her, uh, pretend bikini.

The good news for golfers is Gulbis is included in the magazine as part of an athletes in body paint section, which should answer once and for all the eternal question are golfers athletes.

Check out the 10-photo slideshow on

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bubba, General Lee to go racing -- kind of

   Bubba Watson is getting his NASCAR on.

   Watson will serve as honorary race official and drive his recently purchased 'General Lee' in a parade lap prior to the Subway Fresh Fit 500 race at Phoenix International Raceway on March 4.

   In January, Watson bought the orange Dodge Charger made famous by cousins Bo and Luke Duke in 'The Dukes of Hazzard' and he recently drove his new toy to the Waste Management Phoenix Open where he was competing. Needless to say, Watson's car attracted plenty of attention.

   Watson, known for his unconventional style and enormous length off the tee, lives half the year in Scottsdale, Az., He and his wife, Angie, spend the other half of the year in Lexington, N.C.

   "There are a lot of similarities between the individual challenges and the level of concentration needed to succeed in both golf and NASCAR," Watson said in a statement.

   Watson isn't known for backing off on the golf course. He may be the same way behind the wheel of the General Lee.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Phil does it; Tiger doesn't

Waiting for the old Tiger Woods to show up - we're still waiting, by the way - the old Phil Mickelson returned Sunday at Pebble Beach in California.

It was supposed to be the Sunday when golf got Tiger all the way back, all fist pumps and red shirts on the edge of Carmel Bay. Instead, Woods added to his recent habit of playing three strong days and finishing with a whimper, and it was Mickelson who showed us what we've been missing.

It's nice to have Mickelson, 41, back, smiling and slashing, making those early-season questions about whether sunset was approaching seem as silly as they were. Obviously, Mickelson hasn't been winning as often as he did in years past, but Sunday was his 40th victory and serves as more than a hint that he has more days like it in his future.

For all the attention that has been devoted to Woods' attempt to recapture his former glory, there had been a growing suspicion that Mickelson might have lost, if not his edge, at least a measure of his intensity. But with his wife, Amy, on site and paired with Woods in the final round, Mickelson was back. He's always played golf in neon, and he did it again at Pebble Beach, turning a gray day bright.

The Masters, two months away, got a little more interesting with what Mickelson did at Pebble Beach. As for Woods, the final round was a huge disappointment. He went backward on a day when he always seemed to go the other way.

If his new swing looked OK, his body language again looked like a man fighting to contain his frustration. He missed fairways, he missed greens and he missed putts. More than anything, Woods missed an opportunity.

He'll have more, but he'll also have the scar tissue of another disappointing finish. Still, Woods is trending the right way, especially when you consider where his game has - or hasn't - been the past year or two.

For a guy who shut more doors than Master Lock, Woods is learning to do it again. It's the hardest part of tournament golf. His inability to close out his past two Sunday rounds should only remind us of how good he was because days like this Sunday never happened.

Sunday's final round at Pebble Beach was a reminder of how special Woods and Mickelson have been over the past 15 years or so. Like (Harry) Vardon and (Ted) Ray, (Ben) Hogan and (Sam) Snead and (Jack) Nicklaus and (Arnold) Palmer, they're this generation's defining pair. They arrived together on the first tee Sunday looking to recapture what they've had.

Mickelson did it. For Tiger, the quest continues.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Tiger: Ban belly putters -- and he's right

   I'm getting the sense that the future of belly putters and long putters may not be as secure as the clubs tucked into the navels of Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Bill Haas and others.

   Tiger Woods became the latest to chime on the subject of whether the longer than standard putters should be banned today when he said during his pre-tournament press conference at Pebble Beach that he thinks the clubs should be outlawed and he's spoken to Peter Dawson, head man at the Royal & Ancient, about it more than once.

   Woods solution is sensible -- create a rule that requires the putter be no longer than the shortest club in your bag. That solves the dilemma created by players anchoring putters against their bodies.

  "I believe (putting) is the art of controlling the body and club and swinging the pendelum. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to that," Woods said in his press conference.

   The subject is under review. USGA executive director Mike Davis said so last week at the organization's annual meeting. He didn't say there would be a change in the rules coming (few things move at such a glacial pace as changes in golf's rules) but he opened the door on it. There have also been published reports suggesting the Royal & Ancient is looking into whether anchoring putters against the body helps players in the wind and rain.

   Without diminishing what Simpson or Bradley or Fred Couples have done with the unconventional blade, I fall in line with Woods and others who think the game is better without belly or long putters. And I'm a guy who can three-putt from three feet -- and have.

   I've heard the dissenters point to Billy Casper and others who anchored their hands against their thighs when they putted. Change that, too, then. In no other stroke does a player anchor the club against their body. Putting shouldn't be different.

   I've also heard the argument that if belly putters were that great, everyone would use them. Obviously, everybody doesn't use them but more and more players are. Ernie Els swore he'd never use one but now he has one in his bag. Even Phil Mickelson gave it a try.

   The game changes. The ball goes forever now. Shafts, space-age materials in driver heads and computer fitting are in danger of tilting the game too far toward science and too far from skill. It may be too late to pull back on that one.

   But belly putters and long putters. It's not too late -- yet.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Kyle Stanley, from ridiculous to sublime

   The Waste Management Phoenix Open isn't necessarily the place you expect a Hallmark Channel movie to come to life.

   But that's what Kyle Stanley's victory felt like Sunday, one week removed from his gut-wrenching loss at San Diego. It had all the elements -- failure, disappointment, tears, redemption and more tears -- all in the space of eight days and a few hundred miles.

   Golf, perhaps more than any other sport given its solitary nature, has a way of getting personal and Stanley's story touches both ends of the emotional spectrum. His loss at San Diego was brutal. It was sudden and cruel, leaving him no place to hide.

   He handled it with grace and, a week later, answered any questions about how tough he might be. Most people around the game thought Stanley would come back but few, if any, expected it to happen one week later.
   "It's a pretty cool story," Ben Crane said afterward.

   The coolest one this season.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Want to buy Phil Mickelson's house?

Always wanted to live like Phil Mickelson?

Now, you can live where Mickelson lives -- if you have an extra $7.09 million you can drop on a house in Rancho Santa Fe near San Diego.

According to Market Watch, Phil and Amy Mickelson have put their five-bedroom house up for sale but, as you might expect, it's no ordinary home. It's perched on nearly five acres and it's actually three houses.

The main house, reports say, is 9,500 square feet with five bedrooms. There are also two guest houses as well as a pool and a private putting green.

There's no indication where the Mickelson are going if the house sells. They're doing just fine, though, as Mickelson's recent offer to rebuild Torrey Pines' North Course for free suggests. There have also been encouraging reports after Mickelson's daughter, Sophia, recently dealt with a health scare.