Monday, August 29, 2011

Carolinas Golf House coming to Pine Needles

   The Carolinas is getting its own version of the USGA's Golf House.

   The Carolinas Golf Association has announced plans to build Carolinas Golf House adjacent to the Pine Needles Resort in Southern Pines.

   The facility will serve as headquarters for the Carolinas Golf Association as well as a museum devoted to the history of the game in the two states. Its location will allow the organization to host events at Pine Needles. The CGA offices have been located in Seven Lakes for 20 years but have outgrown the facility.

   "We have talked for years about building this," CGA president Walter Todd said in a release. "We have wanted a way to display the history of the game in the Carolinas. Now we will be able to portray accurately the ideals and traditions of golf."

Friday, August 26, 2011

Picking Tiger Woods: Was it the right thing?

   So captain Fred Couples picked Tiger Woods as one of his two wild-card choices to be on the U.S. Presidents Cup team in Australia this fall.

   I like it.

   It's not necessarily the popular thing, based on some immediate reaction, but Couples picked the guy who's been the best player on the planet for most of the last 12 to 15 years and who seems to want to be on the team, an interesting twist given Tiger's supposed lack of interest in team events through the years.

   The knee jerk reaction is to ask why Couples picked Woods -- currently 28th in points -- over No. 11 Jim Furyk and No. 12 Rickie Fowler, the first two non-qualifiers at this point given Woods lack of competition and recent poor form.

   Couples can still pick one of them. If the captain is expected to automatically adds Nos. 11 and 12 to the team, then why give him two picks?

    Furyk hasn't exactly set the world on fire this year and Fowler, of whom I'm a big fan, still hasn't won a tournament and hasn't threatened in many recently. Fowler was great at the end of the Ryder Cup last year and he'd be the other pick if I were making it.
   There are plenty of others who have a strong case, including recent PGA champion Keegan Bradley, who has won twice this year. Maybe Couples picks him over Fowler. Phil Mickelson publicly lobbied for Bradley this week, saying it would be okay to pick Tiger for the team but not before adding Bradley.

   Couples knew he would take a hit for picking Woods but he did it anyway. He has apparently convinced Tiger to add a fall series event to his schedule to help sharpen his game prior to heading to Australia and it's worth remembering that just four tournament starts ago, Woods had a share of the lead on the back nine at Augusta on Sunday.

   Granted, that was in April and recently Woods' game has looked as disheveled as ever. That's why Couples pushed for Tiger to add an event this fall, which sounds likely.

   Did Couples pick Woods because of the player he used to be?

   Sure he did. He didn't pick him because he got extra work on his sand game at the PGA Championship in Atlanta and is fresh because he got that weekend and the FedEx Cup playoffs off. He picked Tiger because he's Tiger. If you're picking a team and have the chance to have Tiger, it's tough to leave him off no matter how scattered his game looked in Atlanta.

   It's a gamble, no question, if it blows up on Couples like Lanny Wadkins' pick of Curtis Strange for the Ryder Cup team. That was the Ryder Cup, which is a far bigger deal than the Presidents Cup and, if nothing else, the Woods' pick will make the PGA Tour's Ryder Cup knockoff a bit more compelling.

   Obviously, there are fundamental issues Woods needs to work through in his swing but he also needs to play, now more than ever. Like him or not, Tiger needs some good vibes on the golf course. Playing alongside his buddy Steve Stricker, an almost certain pairing, will be perfect for Tiger.

  Couples' pick means a deserving player, probably a young one, gets left off. It happens almost every time one of these teams is picked.  He could have left Tiger off but he chose not to do that.

  It's strange to think that's not necessarily the popular pick. We'll find out if it was the right one.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Playing Whistling Straits with Martin Kaymer

   When Charlotte's John Pappas, a 52-year old commercial real estate executive, received an email a month ago informing him he'd won a BMW-sponsored contest to play golf with 2010 PGA champion Martin Kaymer at Whistling Straits on the one-year anniversary of Kaymer's playoff victory there, he didn't take it seriously at first.

   Pappas had forgotten he'd entered the sweepstakes from which three amateurs were chosen to play with Kaymer. He doesn't typically enter contests but he had put his name in this one just for kicks and when an email from BMW's golf agency arrived, Pappas was "leery" about it.

   An email and a phone call later, Pappas was set for one of the great golf adventures of his life.

   He was flown to Chicago where he met the other winners -- one from Germany, the other from England -- and they played 18 holes at Cog Hill on Aug. 14. Afterward, they were whisked to Whistling Straits north of Milwaukee where they had dinner with Kaymer at the American Club.

   The next day, the three amateurs played a best-ball match against Kaymer using their handicaps. They broke even after the amateurs good-naturedly penalized Kaymer for carrying 15 clubs. It was Kaymer's first visit to the course since his dramatic victory there.

   They arrived on a good day. Pappas said LPGA Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez and speaker of the house John Boehner were also at Whistling Straits and stopped to visit with the group.

   "(Kaymer) was quite a nice guy and, as you would imagine, his golf game was incredible," said Pappas, a Charlotte Country Club member. "It was great to watch someone like that play from up close. He was so professional and willing to help in any way.

  "But he really wanted to win the match. He was grinding a little at the end."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Iceland Man Cometh To The PGA Tour

Olafur Loftsson is making a bit of history this week by becoming the first Iceland-born golfer to play in a PGA Tour event, having earned a spot in the Wyndham Championship field with his victory last weekend at the Cardinal Amateur.

Loftsson is a rising senior on the Charlotte 49ers golf team, another in a long line of very good players in the program.

The obvious question is how much golf there is in Iceland. The answer, Lofsson said, is more than most of us think. There are 60 to 70 courses, most of them links-style, in Iceland and they're busy five to six months a year.

"It's the second-most popular sport in Iceland behind soccer and it's growing very fast," Loftsson said in a pre-tournament press conference. "A lot of the population plays golf. It's very popular for youngsters now and we're seeing a lot of potential players rising these days."

Loftsson said a couple of television crews made the journey from Iceland to document his week on the PGA Tour.

"Very tanned. You can recognize them by their skin color," Loftsson joked.

Because it stays light almost around the clock during mid-summer in Iceland, Loftsson said he's played as many as 64 holes in a day.

"I love playing golf adn to be able to play golf 24/7 in Iceland late in June, on a good day it's calm outside and you can play all day long so why wouldn't you," Loftsson said.

"I usually take the opportunity to use the good days when they come in Iceland."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wyndham Championship Catches Big Name Break

When the Wyndham Championship settled into its spot following the PGA Championship and in the week before the FedEx Cup playoffs begin, the date came with obvious challenges. Most of the top players figured to take the week off to prep for the playoff push, such as it is.

The hope was that the race to finish inside the top 125 would create a bit of drama, something that hasn't really happened. This year, however, the Wyndham Championship hit it big with several top names making late commitments in an effort to assure their place in the playoffs.

That's why Ernie Els, at No. 126 in the points, is playing Greensboro this week. The same goes for Padraig Harrington, No. 130, rescheduled a planned vacation, and it's why Angel Cabrera, No. 150, is at Sedgefield.

As Els said on his blog this week, "This really is a last chance saloon, as they say."

Toss in Anthony Kim, Ian Poulter, Jim Furyk, Paul Casey and Davis Love III and Greensboro has one of the most attractive fields it has had in many years.

Like other years, it figures to be one of the lower scoring events on tour this year.

"You have to make a lot of birdies," Charles Howell III. "That's not the end of the world."

Monday, August 15, 2011

VIDEO: Ron Jr. on Keegan Bradley's PGA win

Ron Green Jr. on Keegan Bradley's surprising PGA win. Who is this guy, and how did he come to win the PGA Championship? (Hint, he had help from Jason Dufner):

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Five Things The PGA Championship Showed Us

Five things the PGA Championship showed us:

1. Americans Can Still Win Majors

No one figured it would fall to Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner to salvage American pride in the majors but they did with Bradley ending a run of six straight international winners in the majors. Two other Americans finished in the top 10 -- David Toms and Scott Verplank.

If you had those guys as your top four Americans, you're not telling the truth.

2. Keegan Bradley Is A Star

Winning a major championship doesn't guarantee stardom but Bradley has the extra something that draws fans to him. The way he fought, the way he reacted and the way he handled himself Sunday was exceptional.

Bradley is a good tough course player and he established himself as one of the faces of the new generation of American players.

3. Luke Donald Is Always There

We knew that before the PGA Championship but he tied for eighth, another in a string of strong performances by the world's No.1 ranked player.

Like everybody in the field except Bradley, Donald can think back on a couple of disasters that cost him a chance to win. Like so many others, he came to despise the 18th hole, or at least the scores he made there. The way he's going, Donald may hold on to No. 1 for a while.

4. Tiger Isn't Close

He says he's getting closer but his results don't suggest it. Twenty bunkers. Almost two sleeves of Nikes in the water. No wonder he wasn't around for the weekend.

The next time we'll see him play is at the Australian Open in a couple of months. I expect he'll be better there. How could he not be?

5. The Playoffs Start In Two Weeks

I repeat, the playoffs start in two weeks. The PGA Tour playoffs. The FedEx Cup thing.

Okay, then, the Masters is only eight months away.

McIlroy: See You At The Match Play Next Year

We've seen the last of Rory McIlroy on this side of the Atlantic until late February if the U.S. Open champion sticks to the schedule he has mapped out. After that, however, we may see him plenty if he takes up membership on the PGA Tour next year as he plans.

In the meantime, McIlroy will stay busy on the European Tour through the end of the year.

After finishing the PGA Championship Sunday at 11-over, which included a triple bogey at the par-4 third hole which he failed to par during the tournament (three bogeys and a triple), McIlroy said what his body language showed.

"To be honest, I'm glad to be done," McIlroy said.

McIlroy said his right wrist is getting better, the swelling in his damaged tendon having gone down to the point there's no real concern long-term. He plans to take a couple of weeks off, relax and get ready for the season-ending stretch on the European Tour.

By winning the U.S. Open in the dominating fashion he did, McIlroy took the expected jump in his career. He's now arguably the game's most popular player and has another year of wisdom to call on down the road.

"I feel comfortable in these events and the win this year in the U.S. Open will give me a lot of confidence going into them next year," McIlroy said Sunday.

He plans to wait until later to go house-hunting in south Florida, setting up an American base by the time he makes his planned return to the PGA Tour at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in February in Arizona.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

VIDEO: Ron Green Jr. on Day 1 of the PGA

Ron Green Jr. on Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy, along with highlights from Day 1 of the PGA Championship:

PGA Championship Becoming A Part Of The Carolinas

   Among the decorations greeting guests to the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club are several banners celebrating future sites of the year's final major championship.

   One reads, 2012 Kiawah Island. Another reads, 2017 Quail Hollow.

   Pretty cool if you live in the Carolinas and you're into golf. And that doesn't count the dual U.S. Opens coming to Pinehurst in 2014.

   A year from now, Kiawah Island's Ocean Course will be on the world stage again, 21 years after its stunning debut at the 1991 Ryder Cup matches. It's a different course now, some of its wild edges tamed but it's still one of the most dramatic settings in golf. If the wind blows -- and since it's likely to be over 90 degreees each day it had better blow -- it could be a supreme test.

   Kiawah officials have had great success selling the championship. They've already sold 94 percent of the tickets and expect to be sold out once they reopn the registration list Sunday evening to fill the final six percent of tickets. They made the wise move of reducing spectator capacity to 30,000 per day, well below the gallery size at most majors.

   Corporate support has been extremely strong and there's every reason to believe the championship will be a big success.

   Six years from now, it will be at Quail Hollow. It's a long time but not that long. Officials from the Wells Fargo Championship have been in Atlanta this week getting the lay of the land, studying the infrastructure that will be required. It's a substantially larger than what a regular tour event requires.

   There are changes coming to Quail Hollow for the PGA. There will be bermuda grass on the greens by then and there will likely be some tweaks made to the layout.

   There's also the inevitable question about the future of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow. That's a decision to be made down the road.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Poulter, Kim Add Names To Greensboro Field

   Ian Poulter, Anthony Kim and Louis Oosthuizen are the latest top players to commit to the Wyndham Championship next week in Greensboro.
   They add their names to a field that includes Paul Casey, David Toms, Davis Love III, Brandt Snedeker, John Daly, Lucas Glover and others.


Sunday, August 07, 2011

Tiger and Stevie: Leaving A Scar

   I'll give Steve Williams the benefit of the doubt that he didn't intend to upstage his new boss, Adam Scott, in the hours after Scott won the World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational but it happened anyway.

   It was inevitable given the timing of it all, Williams being on Scott's bag at Firestone of all places where his former boss, Tiger Woods, had won seven times before with Stevie on the bag and Tiger finishing in the middle of the pack in his first tournament in more than three months.

   For Scott, it was an impressive victory, the kind we thought there might be more of by now. For years, he's been the model of the modern golf swing but his short game and putting, a bugaboo to many, had kept him from winning as often as he might have. Amazingly, Scott switched to the long putter and the hole keeps getting in the way of his 12-footers.

   This win should be about him but it turned into Stevie against Tiger and no one won.

   Williams said it was the best week of his 33-year caddie life and maybe it was but there were some pretty sweet weeks in those 11 or so years he was carrying the bag for Tiger. Pebble Beach. St. Andrews. Torrey Pines.

    Scars leave numb spots and maybe that's what happened with Williams.

   That's not to say Woods didn't help create the strange scenario that has unfolded. We all know what the last 20 months have been like and that would strain the closest relationships.

   Maybe Tiger truly believed it was time to make a break with Stevie. Or, maybe he was irked because Williams picked up Scott's bag at the U.S. Open and stayed with it, wondering if and when Woods was coming back.

   Nothing's simple in Tiger's life anymore, at least not looking in from the outside.

   It's understandable that Williams would feel a sense of joy and vindication with Scott's victory. He took the split from Woods hard. Most of us would.

    Maybe it took something like this to make the split permanent. Maybe it meant leaving a scar.


Thursday, August 04, 2011

Rory: 'I Love Quail Hollow'

   It looks as if we're going to be seeing more of Rory McIlroy on the PGA Tour next year which is a very good thing on a number of levels, not the least of which is it probably assures his return to the Wells Fargo Championship.

   McIlroy said this week he's "leaning towards" rejoining the PGA Tour which requires him to play 15 events, something he chose not to do this season in part because he didn't care for the FedEx Cup playoffs at the end of the season.

   What McIlroy does like -- and what appears to be the trump card in his decision process -- is playing places like Quail Hollow Club.

   "I feel as if my game really suits playing courses over here. I love Quail Hollow, Memorial, Akron. You play Match Play, Honda, Doral, Masters," McIlroy said Wednesday prior to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
   "You have your favorite events, and most of my favorite events seem to be on this side of the pond. And my game suits it over here. I'm very comfortable over here.

   "I'd like to give it a go again and obviously last more than one year and really see how it goes."


Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Haven't We Been Here Before?

   Haven't we been here before?

   Haven't we waited and wondered about what we'll see from Tiger Woods when he returns from another long absence?

   As the t-shirt says, been there, done that.

   Still, when Woods and Darren Clarke tee off together at 1:40 p.m. Thursday, they'll have golf's attention -- and the attention of plenty of others. It's because he's Tiger and things change when he plays.

    Even if you don't like Tiger, aren't you a little curious about how he plays? About how his swing looks? About whether he holes any putts?

   I am.

    There's already been a veritable tabloid frenzy about whether he put his trusty Scotty Cameron putter back in play -- he did. Other guys change putters and they have to tell somebody for anyone other than their caddie to notice. Not Tiger.

   He's breaking out some new Nike shoes this week and an email came screaming across cyberspace explaining what the new shoes are all about. Because Tiger's wearing them. Stewart Cink could have them on and nobody would notice.

   For more than a decade, golf was Tiger's world. Now it's Rory's and Phil's and Darren's and, at least some of it still belongs to Tiger.

    We can find out now how much of it he can reclaim.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Wyndham, Greensboro Extend Partnership Through 2016

   The future just got brighter for the PGA Tour event in Greensboro.

   Officials announced today that Wyndham Worldwide has extended its sponsorship of the event through 2016, solidifying the tournament that has taken on a new life since returning to Sedgefield Country Club three years ago.

    “We are proud to extend our agreement with our wonderful partners at Wyndham Worldwide,”  Bobby Long, Piedmont Triad Charitable Foundation Board of Directors chairman said in a statement.
  “On behalf of the entire region, we are very appreciative of Wyndham Worldwide’s continued support and the stability it provides our PGA TOUR event. Steve Holmes, Franz Hanning, Geoff Ballotti, Eric Danziger and the many wonderful people from Wyndham Worldwide are such fun to work with and have become great friends. We couldn't ask for better partners in our quest to make the Wyndham Championship A++ in every way.”

   The 2011 event will be played Aug. 15-21 with Arjun Atwal defending his championship. Another solid field, including Vijay Singh, Lucas Glover, Paul Casey and others is lined up.