Tuesday, July 31, 2012

If golf were in the Olympics this year...

   If golf were in these Olympics (it returns to the Games in 2016) the United States would have four players in competition -- Tiger Woods, Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson and Jason Dufner.
   No Phil Mickelson.
   The way the selection process is set, players will be chosen based on their world ranking on a certain date. The two top-ranked players for each competing country will qualify. If a country has four players among the top 15 in the world, it will be allowed to enter four players.
   That's not likely to change.
   What should change is the Olympic format. Right now, it calls for a 72-hole stroke-play tournament just like almost every other golf tournament.  So much for imagination or creativity. As others have suggested, how about two-man team play or something else? 
   Since they still haven't started building the Olympic course in Rio, it's not too late to tinker with the format.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Kiawah ready for its PGA moment next week

  It's been seven years since Kiawah Island Golf Resort learned it would host the 2012 PGA Championship and more than three years since championship director Brett Sterba set up shop to begin putting the physical pieces together at the Ocean Course.
   On Monday, it all comes to life.
   "After all the years of waiting for this, for it to be here next week is exciting," resort president Roger Warren said. "The major stuff is done. We're just putting the finishing touches on things now. We'll be ready."
   Each PGA Championship has its logistical challenges and this one is no exception. 
   Ticket sales were limited so that no more than 30,000 people will be on site during tournament rounds. With no public parking within the resort and very limited roads leading into Kiawah Island, the traffic plan received high priority and officials are optimistic it will limit congestion near the resort.
   The Ocean Course is a dramatic setting, framed by the Atlantic Ocean. It has challenging spots for spectators to walk among the dunes that line most holes but special viewing areas have been created with large gathering spots for fans. 
    Warren said officials anticipate 10,000 fans for practice rounds Monday, 15,000 on Tuesday and around 20,000 on Wednesday. Somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000 are expected each day beginning Thursday.
   "The thing I'm looking forward to is the reaction of people when they arrive at the course and see the scope of the effort that has been put forth," Warren said.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Simpson 'so thankful' for Willow Grace

  Webb Simpson and his wife, Dowd, are parents of a daughter, Willow Grace, who arrived Saturday.
   "We are so thankful," Simpson said in a short message Sunday morning.
   Willow Grace is the couple's second child. They have a one-year old son, James.
   With both mother and daughter doing well, Simpson plans to return to the PGA Tour in another week when he tees it up at the PGA Championship at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bobby Jones used clubs that were later outlawed

  While the discussion continues about whether the R&A and USGA will ban the anchoring of long putters in the future – there seems to be a growing sense that they’ll be outlawed in 2016 – such a change wouldn’t require asterisks by major winners who used belly putters.
   Peter Dawson, the R&A boss, pointed out in his Monday press conference that Bobby Jones won some of his major championships using concave-faced clubs that were later deemed to be illegal.
   There’s no asterisk next to Jones’ achievements.
   It would and should be the same for any players who win majors with anchored putters now if the rules are changed in the future.
   According to Martin Dempster’s story in the Scotsman this week, 16 of the 156 players in the Open Championship used belly putters while 27 players used long putters.
   No wonder the issue is getting a serious look for golf’s ruling bodies.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Is decision near on belly and long putters?

  Is a decision looming on the legality of the long and belly putters?
  It sounds like it.
  During his post-Open Championship press conference Monday, R&A chief executive Peter Dawson explained that his organization and the USGA are giving the subject a long, serious look. Not coincidentally, the question was raised again after belly putter-wielding Ernie Els won the Open after long-putter whiz Adam Scott kicked it away over the final holes.
   You had to wonder what the R&A suits were thinking watching Scott, Els and others putt with sticks that don't fit the traditional version of what a putter should be.
   Perhaps the belly putter is slightly more tolerable to the game's ruling elders than the broomstick-style that has helped Scott so much but the notion of seeing a new generation of youngsters growing up with putters stuck in their bellies or sternums must be disconcerting to the traditionalists.
   If you ask me, you shouldn't be able to anchor a club to your body during a stroke whether you're doing it like Scott does it, like Els does it, like Bernhard Langer used to do it and like any other putting-afflicted soul does battle on the greens. It doesn't mean I'm right, only that I think golfers should be required to make a stroke, not use a pendulum.
   That's not to discredit in any way the major championship victories of Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson or Ernie Els. If belly putting or long putting is so great, everyone would do it. They don't. 
   It's not a cure-all. But it's a growing trend and while the argument can be made it's already too far down the line to draw it back now, it bears examination.
   "Anchoring is what we're looking at, method of stroke, and it's all about putting around a fixed pivot point, whether that fixed pivot point is in your belly or under your chin or on your chest," Dawson told reporters Monday. "I don't distinguish between the two. It's a matter of stroke issue."
  Don't expect an immediate announcement but perhaps something later this year.
  And if you've abandoned the short putter for a belly or long putter, keep a short putter around just in case. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sims shoots 59 in eGolf event

 Michael Sims of Bermuda cracked perhaps golf's most dramatic barrier Thursday, shooting a 12-under par 59 in the second round of the Southern Open at the Country Club of Salisbury.
   Sims, who played four years on the Web.com (formerly Nationwide) tour, became the first player to break 60 in competition on the Charlotte-based eGolf Professional Tour.
   He birdied his first eight holes Thursday on his way to an 8-under par 27 on the front side of the Donald Ross-designed course. Sims made four putts of 10 feet or longer among his eight opening birdies.
   "What's cool is that the 27 on the front nine is my lowest (score) by two," Sims said. "I shot 29 on this tour a few years ago."
  A birdie at the 10th pushed Sims to 9-under par. After four consecutive pars, Sims birdied the par-5 15th, holed a 22-foot birdie putt at the 16th and had a tap-in birdie at the 17th. He parred the finishing hole to post 59.
   Sims said he had forgotten the par was 71 and thought he had shot 60 when he missed a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 18
   "I hit that birdie putt and left it a few inches short and thought, 'You have to be kidding me,'" Sims said. "When the other guys in the group congratulated me, I remembered that it was par-71. Pretty surreal feeling."
   Sims, who shot 71 in the first round, will enter the final round of the Southern Open Friday trailing 36-hole leader Drew Weaver by one stroke.
-- Ron Green Jr.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Charlotte version of the Tavistock Cup?

   Jeff Conyers has an idea.
   He wants to create a Charlotte version of the Tavistock Cup, the early-spring shootout among touring pros representing their respective golf clubs in the Orlando, Fla., area.
   It would be different here. It wouldn't involve tour players unless, say, Johnson Wagner wanted to play for Quail Hollow or Robert Karlsson got involved for Longview, but the idea is to bring together teams representing 15 golf clubs in the Charlotte area.
   Each team would have a foursome, perhaps two foursomes, and there would be a one-day tournament for what would be called the Shepherd's Cup.
   In addition to the golf aspect, the event would be a fund-raiser for the Shepherd's Center, a non-profit organization that provides for seniors, helping empower them in a variety of ways.
   The organization hosts a one-day captain's choice event at Olde Sycamore to raise funds for the group. Last year, 14 foursomes participated.
   Watching The Tavistock Cup, which originally pitted the pros from Isleworth against those at Lake Nona in Orlando, got Conyers thinking about creating something like that here.
   It's a good idea.
   There are interclub matches among various clubs during the year but this would, ideally, bring all the clubs together one time. It would also allow for other foursomes to participate.
   Conyers said he's already received the support of some club pros in the area and he's attempting to reach out to every local club to assess the interest level.
  If you're interested, contact Jeff Conyers at 704-321-0490 or via email at jeff@InsureEd.com. 

Monday, July 09, 2012

Bunker shots: Phil, Webb and Half Moon Bay

   Splashing out a few bunker shots:
   -- Did you ever think you'd see Phil Mickelson post seven straight over-par rounds on the PGA Tour?
   That's where his game is now as he heads across the Atlantic to play the Scottish Open this week before the Open Championship next week. He shot 79 in his one full round at The Memorial, wasn't a factor at the U.S. Open and flamed out in two days at the Greenbrier.
   He said his game isn't that far off but the results suggest otherwise.
   -- Peter Williamson, who won the North and South Amateur at Pinehurst over the weekend, doesn't have the big amateur profile of some other players but he's getting there.
   Williamson was a three-time Ivy League champion at Dartmouth, was medalist in the expanded 54-hole qualifier at Pinehurst and never trailed in his finals victory over Clemson's Thomas Bradshaw.
  -- It was surprising to see Webb Simpson come unglued on the back nine Sunday. With nine holes to go, it looked like Simpson was on his way to a second victory then he shot a fat 40 coming in, falling quickly out of contention in a tournament where he was the only leader with a victory on his resume.
   Talking to reporters afterward, Simpson, who had gone 59 consecutive holes without a bogey, said, "It's just the nature of the game. You go from not making any mistakes all week to making them all on the back nine."
   He'll learn from it and be fine, I expect.
   Simpson doesn't plan to play again until the WGC event at Firestone next month while he and wife, Dowd, await the birth of their second child later this month.
  -- While on the West Coast last month, I got a chance to play the spectacularly attractive Half Moon Bay Ocean Course.
   It's one of the prettiest golf courses I've ever been on and, if you're in the San Francisco area, it's worth the short drive south to Half Moon Bay. The views, from almost every hole, are tremendous and they did a nice job designing wide fairways and accessible greens to keep resort play moving.
   Even if you don't play well, the experience is enough to make you smile.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Dottie Pepper finally gets her chance

   Meg Mallon got it right by making Dottie Pepper one of her assistant captains for the 2013 Solheim Cup at Colorado Golf Club.
   And, hopefully, it will lead to Pepper getting the chance to captain the U.S. Solheim Cup team somewhere down the road.
   It would probably have happened by now had Pepper, who played at Furman, not been caught calling the American team "choking dogs" when she thought her microphone was off during the 2007 matches. She's always been brutally honest and fiesty and it came back to bite her, even if she thought her comments wouldn't be heard by anyone without a television headset on.
   "I had kind of made good with it a long time ago that, hey, I screwed up. The guy on the switch screwed up. We all screwed up. And that if that was the way it was going to be, that was the way it was going to be. I couldn't change that," Pepper said in a press conference announcing her appointment.
   Some people felt the comment killed Pepper's chance of ever being part of a Solheim Cup team but, fortunately, it didn't.
   If you remember Pepper, you recall how her emotion practically glowed in the international competition. She was criticized for her exuberance but that's her nature.
   She'll be a terrific addition to Mallon's team. They compliment each other, Mallon calling herself a broad brush person while Pepper is good with logistics. It's also a necessary step in setting Pepper up to captain the team down the road, maybe in 2015.
    Wouldn't that be fun?

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Andy Griffith leaves us memories and reruns

   When my eight-year old nephew saw an image of Andy Griffith on the computer screen today, he stopped and said, "Hey, Andy Griffith."
   What other 86-year old entertainer would an eight-year old recognize?
   It speaks in a small way to who Andy Griffith was, not just to my boomer generation, but to seemingly every generation that will be celebrating the Fourth of July on Wednesday. He was Andy Taylor, the great American sheriff and moralist.
   Andy Taylor was a television creation but what made him enduring is how much we wanted him to be real. Andy Griffith was real and, though most of us knew him only through the characters he played, I hope he was something like the sheriff who didn't carry a gun.
   When the news came that Andy -- if you're born in North Carolina, you're born on a first-name basis with Mr. Griffith -- had passed away in Manteo, I felt it. Maybe you did, too.
   He had that kind of effect on many of us.
    'The Andy Griffith Show' went off the air more than 50 years ago but it has lived on through syndication, the rare television show that can be shared by three generations. It was about Barney Fife and Opie, Ernest T. Bass and Aunt Bea, Helen Crump and Thelma Lou.
    At its heart, though, it was about Andy.
   Andy Griffith did many things in his career but he is best remembered for being the sheriff of an imaginary town where most of the trouble was caused by Barney. Andy Taylor wasn't perfect but he set a nearly perfect example for Opie and the rest of us. It was simple but it felt right.
   Think about this: How rare is it to come across an 'Andy Griffith' episode you don't remember?
   Barney's side car?
   Aunt Bea's pickles?
   The goat that ate dynamite?
   Seen it, seen it, seen it.
   Miss Crump, I think I luv you...
   You can probably hear it.
   Andy Griffith gave us that and more.
   To borrow a line from perhaps the best episode of 'The Andy Griffith Show,' a lot of hearts feel empty today.
   But don't our memories seem nice and full.


Monday, July 02, 2012

Linville: Playing mountain music

   There is an everlasting charm to Linville.
   If you've been there, whether to take the edge off the summer heat, spend a night at the Eseeola Lodge or just driving through to look at the October leaves, you probably know what I'm talking about. It's just a small mountain town at the foot of Grandfather Mountain, the kind of place you could drive through without noticing but if you've been there, chances are you brought a piece of it home with you.
   Linville was missing its traditional summer softness this past weekend, the thermometer nudging 90. A Charlotte resident, who's had a summer home in Linville for 25 years, said Thursday was the first time he'd turned the air-conditioner on in the evening in all those years.
   Still, there was a freshness in the unseasonably warm mountain air. The flowers, whether in a professionally landscaped garden or growing wild on a hillside, were spectacular. If I were a gardener -- I have the withered skeletons of potted plants to prove I'm not -- I could list the various types of flowers that were in bloom. Instead, think of the best colors in Crayola's 64-crayon box and most of them were on display either in window boxes, little gardens or just off the side of the road.
   The wedding party ducking into the Eseeola Lodge Saturday afternoon couldn't have found a Hollywood set better as a backdrop for their big occasion. The little stream out front. The mountains on both sides. The scent of summer in the air.
    When people ask me my favorite golf courses in North Carolina, I always include Linville Golf Club. I've been fortunate enough to play there a handful of times and spent Saturday afternoon there with Appalachian State football coach Jerry Moore, Harris Prevost and my dad. It's the kind of course you'd like to play every day and those are more rare than you might imagine.
   Moore is one of the region's great natural resources and he fits the North Carolina mountains like a good sweater. Prevost is the Tiger Woods of finding golf balls. He once found 100 on the 11th hole at Grandfather Golf and Country Club, a testament to high handicappers, his tenacity and his refusal to ever pay for a Titleist. He was one shy of a finding a dozen Saturday -- and that doesn't count the two times he fished my Titleist 1 out of two different creeks.
   My dad still tells the story of playing at Linville decades ago and seeing two guys in his group hit it inside five feet on the first hole. Beat that, one said to him. So he did. He holed his second shot for an eagle.
   Late Saturday afternoon, we drove through Banner Elk, climbed a curvy road up the hill at the Elk River Club and found ourselves looking across the mountains from the deck of Max Muhleman's house. Muhleman is the man who convinced George Shinn and David Stern that NBA basketball could work in Charlotte and then did the same with Jerry Richardson and Paul Tagliabue bringing the NFL to Charlotte.
   Besides earning Muhleman the everlasting appreciation of Charlotte sport fans, it earned him a commanding view across the golf course below and the mountainside in the distance. He deserves a statue outside one of our arenas but the view from his deck will do.
   That evening, a big moon hung over Grandfather Mountain in the distance, its light a summer night's blanket.
   On Sunday morning, the skirl of bagpipes could be heard coming from a church.
   Another day, another chorus of mountain music.