Monday, December 17, 2007

Rory Takes A Walk

Rory “The Mouth That Roared” Sabbatini is in the news again and it’s not good. Sabbatini, who has a penchant for feasting on his foot (“Tiger is more beatable than he’s ever been”) withdrew from Tiger’s Target World Challenge before the final round Sunday. He failed to inform his host or tournament organizers and apparently got an early start to Hawaii where he spends the holidays. Tournament director Greg McLaughlin petitioned the PGA Tour to without one-fourth of the $170,000 that Sabbatini earned as the last place finisher in the 16-man field at the event and rightly so. Woods apparently was not amused by Sabbatini’s flimsy excuse – shin splints – and other pros properly roasted him for ducking out of the event. Common courtesy dictates that if you accept the invitation to a special event with guaranteed money, you should at least finish the tournament. Remember the uproar after Michelle Wie cited a phantom injury and left the tournament hosted by Annika Sorenstam this summer? Sabbatini has now firmly established himself as the number once scoundrel on the tour.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Isao Aoki.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

PGA Tour Releases Drug Policy

Perhaps it was just a coincidence but on the same day that former Sen. George Mitchell released his long-awaited report on steroid use in major league baseball, the PGA Tour sent players copies of its anti-doping policies and procedures. The Tour had previously announced that drug testing will start this summer. Predictably, players interviewed at the Tiger Woods Target World Challenge had not read the 41-page document. Several players, including Woods, made inane statements about how “thick” the handbook was, suggesting it would be beyond their comprehension to read anything more difficult than a scorecard or a pin sheet. The booklet contains a list of prohibited substances that fall under 10 categories, ranging from anabolic steroids to human growth hormones (HGH), which were a focus of the Mitchell report on baseball. The banned substances also include narcotics to beta blockers. Unlike baseball, which apparently told players about “random” tests in advance, the PGA Tour can test players any time and any where without notice, event at non-tournament sites. In fairness, Woods and other pros said they are in favor of drug testing. The LPGA Tour also will start drug testing this year. Until the first tests are conducted, right now golf is perhaps the only major sport devoid of questions about drug use. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Lon Hinkle.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Q-School Notes

The most gut wrenching tournament of the year, the PGA Tour’s Qualifying School, concluded this week as 166 professionals attempted to win privileges for the 2007 season. Q-School always has more than its share of triumphs and heartaches and this year was no different.

Veteran Frank Lickliter opened the six-round event with back-to-back rounds of 62 to finish first. Veterans Duffy Waldorf, a former Q-School medalist, and Jim McGovern also won their cards. Tommy Gainey, a Golf Channel Big Break winner, will take his unique swing and nickname (“Two Gloves” because he wears golf gloves on both hands) to the Big Show next year. The feel good story of the week had to be Todd Demsey, a former Nationwide Tour player who played with Phil Mickelson at Arizona State. Demsey recovered from two operations to remove a tumor in his brain.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Mac O’Grady.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

FedEx Changes

The PGA Tour announced that there will be two-week break in the FedEx Cup playoff schedule, allowing players to take time off prior to the Ryder Cup. Commissioner Tim Finchem said that following the first three playoff tournaments, there will be break so players can rest for the Ryder Cup, which will be played in Louisville. The Tour Championship will be played the week after the Ryder Cup. Top players complained that this year’s schedule included too many tournaments in a row and several players, including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and K.J. Choi, sat out at least one tournament.

Finchem also announced that there will be no change in the way FedEx points are distributed but did not rule out changes when the Tour Policy Board meets in February.

The Tour’s drug testing program will be phased into the PGA Tour, the Nationwide Tour and the Champions Tour over the next two years. Players will receive information about the program and will be required to attend a meeting in January to learn how it will be administered. Testing is due to begin on July 1 on the PGA Tour. Testing on the Nationwide Tour will begin late next year and on the Champions Tour in 2009.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Steve Spray.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Sam Woods Holds Club

Tiger Woods reports that his four-month-old daughter Sam has held a golf club for the first time. "She can grab things now and has held a golf club in her hands," he said. "I didn't start swinging a club until I was 11 months, so she's got seven months until that happens." One question: overlapping or interlocking grip?

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Betsy King.

Rules Changes

The USGA and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club issued a number of amendments to the Rules of Golf. Under the changes, players will be allowed to lift a ball in a bunker or a water hazard for identification purposes. However, playing the wrong ball from a hazard or bunker will result in a two-stroke penalty. The rules bodies also reduced the penalty for the accidental deflection of a ball by a player, his partner or either of their caddies or equipment to one stroke in both stroke play and match play. The previous penalty was two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in match play. In the 2003 Masters, Jeff Maggert was leading the tournament when his shot from a fairway bunker on the third hole hit the lip and struck him in the chest. Maggert was assessed two strokes and make a triple bogey on the hole, losing the lead which he never regained. Visit the USGA web site at for more information.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Dan Sikes.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Daylight Savings Ending

I hate the end of daylight savings time. For golfers, the prospect of gaining an extra hour of sleep for one night is totally negated by the loss of extra sunlight every single day until next spring.

I hate losing an hour of daylight, especially during the fall when it’s great to play afternoon golf. I like wearing long pants and a sleeveless windbreaker or a sweater to ward off the cool, crisp air. The red and yellow leaves on the trees sparkle in the sun and by the end of the day the long dark shadows envelop the course, making the bunkers look deeper and more foreboding.

The mythic leaf rule comes into play. Actually, the USGA does allow courses to invoke a local rule making leaf piles or areas covered with leaves temporary ground under repair thus negating the penalty for a lost ball.

But once daylight savings ends, I have to change my whole schedule. Even if I’m lucky enough to play in four hours, I have to tee off no later than 1:30 p.m. to finish in the light. In the coming weeks, darkness creeps across the golf course earlier and earlier.

What is the point of going off daylight savings time anyway? (The grammatical term is daylight saving time without the “s” but daylight savings sounds better.) Yes, I know all about the kids leaving for school in the daylight. But isn’t that offset by the fact that it is likely to be pitch dark when they come home? One of the original theories of daylight savings was that it reduced energy costs. I’m not sure about that except that I have less energy when it gets dark at 5 p.m., or worse yet, 4:30 p.m. in January.

I suppose it could be worse. Arizona, Hawaii and the portion of Indiana in the Eastern time zone never goes on daylight savings time in the first place so they don’t experience the glory of finishing 18 holes of golf about 9 p.m. in the middle of summer.

Former Philadelphia golf pro Benjamin Franklin first conceived daylight savings time in the early 1700s as a means to allow the Founding Fathers time to squeeze in a few more holes after a long day of drafting the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. But it wasn’t until World War I that the concept was formerly adopted in the United States. Alas, in a country with more farmers than golfers, daylight savings was not popular and Congress overrode President Woodrow Wilson’s veto (5-handicap) to repeal the law.

It took a second world war to revive daylight savings and President Richard Nixon (18-handicap) signed the law making it standard across the country from the first Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October. Today, more than 70 nations (almost all of which have golf courses) observe daylight savings time. Jordan is always on daylight savings time.

By the way, I know some of you are still confused on which way to set your clocks. When I was a cub reporter in Texas covering shooting and car wrecks, a woman called the newspaper and asked me how she should set her clock. I repeated the maxim: spring forward, fall back. “Do I have to set my alarm back, too?” she asked. “Uh, only if you want to get up an hour earlier.” “Do I have to stay up until 2 a.m. to set the clock back?” “Well, I wouldn’t risk it if I were you. Space aliens have been known to snatch up people who try to get a head start!”

Farmers, I’m told, hate daylight savings time because they have to get up at daybreak to do their chores regardless of what the clock says. I think it’s time to organize all those farmers who play golf and all golfers to push our political candidates to support all daylight savings time all the time. I have the perfect slogan: “Golfers Unite For More Daylight!” I could get elected on that platform.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to David Frost.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Rich Get Richer and Other Notes

Catching up on news from the world of golf.

As if he needs more money, Tiger Woods signed an endorsement deal with Gatorade worth a reported $100 million. Woods makes an estimated $1 billion in endorsements.

Like a rat leaving a sinking ship, Michelle Wie’s agent Greg Nared announced that he has left the teen prodigy. Nared’s announcement comes on the heels of Wie’s next-to-last finish at the Samsung World Championship with rounds of 79-79-77-71. Could she possibly do us all a favor and just disappear?

It’s hard to get excited about the PGA Tour now that the Presidents Cup is over. Dallas native Justin Leonard won the Valero Texas Open and somebody named George McNeill won a tournament called the Frys.Com Open in Las Vegas. This week, the tour plays the Fry’s Electronic Open in Scottsdale, Arizona. What is Fry’s anyway?

Is anyone watching the PGA Grand Slam of Golf being played in Bermuda? I saw three minutes of it on TNT while looking for the baseball game. Hardly a compelling event with Padrig Harrington, Zach Johnson, Angel Cabrera, and Jim Furyk, who is filling in for Tiger Woods.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Bruce Crampton.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

U.S. Wins Presidents Cup

Just as Mr. Fairway predicted, the U.S. team won the Presidents Cup 19.5-14.5, marking the first time in 25 years of team golf competition that the Americans have won on foreign soil. The stars of the U.S. team were David Toms, Scott Verplank and Woody Austin, who will forever be immortalized by his “Sea Hunt” performance. For the Internationals, Canadian Mike Weir delivered 3.5 points, including a stunning victory over Tiger Woods in singles play on Sunday. Weir was a sentimental choice by International Captain Gary Player but the former Masters champion delivered. Perhaps fittingly enough, bad boy Rory Sabbatini managed only .5 points.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to George Knudson.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Woody Gets Wet

You have to love Woody Austin at the Presidents Cup. On Thursday, he makes a ton of putts, including one on the 18th hole to halve his match with Phil Mickelson against Vijay Singh and Mike Weir. On Friday, he makes eight birdies, including three in a row at the end of the round to salvage another halve against Trevor Immelman and Rory Sabbatini. Those birdies came after he literally took a dive in the pond next to the 14th hole attempting to hit a ball out of a water hazard. He failed to extricate the ball, lost his balance and plunged face first into the water. The underdog U.S. team leads 7-5 going into the Saturday matches.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Len Mattaice.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Presidents Cup Preview

The Presidents Cup starts today in Montreal. Although the United States team includes the top four players in the world rankings – Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker – the International team includes nine of the next top 15 ranked players.
The International team only has two first-time players, Rory “The Mouth” Sabbatini and former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, compared to four U.S. rookies – Masters champ Zach Johnson, Woody Austin, Hunter Mahan and Lucas Glover. Stricker is playing in his first Presidents Cup since 1996.

Captain Gary Player’s team would appear to have the advantage, especially when you consider the fact that American professionals have not won team competition on foreign soil since the 1993 Ryder Cup at the Belfry in England. The U.S. team lost by nine points in Australia in 1998. But I am going against the odds and will pick the U.S. team in a close match.
One other interesting tidbit. The last time the pros played at Royal Montreal was in the 2001 Canadian Open. Scott Verplank won that tournament and only four other President Cup players finished in the top 25 at the event – K.J. Choi was T-8, Stricker was T-18, Stuart Appleby was T-23, and Woods was T-23.
Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Mason Rudolph.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

David Who?

Guess who’s playing in a PGA Tour event this week? No, not Michelle Wie. It’s golf’s newest mystery man, David Duval, who will tee it up for the first time since he missed the cut at the Nissan Open in February. Duval, once the number one player in the world, has disappeared from the Tour. This year, he’s only played in six events, all in January and February, missing two cuts. His best finish was a T-36 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am where he won $35,345 of his season winnings of $61,067. Duval has spent much of the year at home in Colorado with his family.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to David Duval.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Wiebe, Congressional and Drugs

Catching up on recent developments in the world of golf one at a time.

1. Mark Wiebe becomes the first player to win his inaugural Champions Tour event on a sponsor’s exemption. Several golfers have won tournaments in their first attempt, including brothers Lanny and Bobby Wadkins, but until Sunday, no one had who got into the tournament on a sponsor’s exemption had won on his first try. Wiebe’s win automatically qualifies him for events the rest of this year and next year.

2. Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., announced it will forego the 2009 U.S. Amateur in order to renovate the greens on its Blue Course. Is it a coincidence that the announcement comes a couple months after Tiger Woods complained about the speed of those greens during his inaugural AT&T National played there this summer? I don’t think so. Congressional is due to host the U.S. Open in 2011.

3. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem quietly announced the Tour will implement a drug testing, probably next spring. Details are still being worked out but with other professional sports taking initiatives, golf risked being left behind unless it also started testing.

Finally, the Presidents Cup will be played this weekend in Montreal. On paper, the international team is favored because it has more top players competing. But don’t count out the U.S. too quickly.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Brent Geiberger.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Surprise, Tiger Wins Fed Ex Cup

Here’s a shocker: Tiger Woods wins the Fed Ex Cup. His impressive victory in the Tour Championship only confirmed what we already knew – that he is the best player on earth. He finished the playoffs at an astonishing 75 strokes under par. The real question is who in golf is in a position to challenge his dominance? Someone might get hot in an event here and there but over the course of a year, Tiger is going to dominate. At this point, it looks like a given that he will easily surpass Jack Nicklaus’s 18 majors as well as Sam Snead’s 82 PGA Tour victories (he currently has 61, which is one behind Arnold Palmer and three behind Ben Hogan).

The real story of the Fed Ex Cup has to be Steve Stricker, who held on and finished second despite a middle-of-the-pack finish at the Tour Championship. Has anyone ever come as far back as Stricker has in the past two years? It’s been a remarkable turnaround for the Wisconsin native. By the way, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stricker paired with Woods at the Presidents Cup. They played the first two rounds of the last two tournaments together, appear to be comfortable with each other and they share the same agent.

Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem has some decisions to make about the Fed Ex Cup before next year. Players want to see a change in the schedule, perhaps two weeks on, a week off, and then the final two weeks. The point system may need some adjustments as well. Tiger and Phil each skipped an event and finished in the top five in the overall standings. Overall, I give the inaugural Fed Ex Cup a B-.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Tommy Aaron.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fed Ex Finale

The much ballyhooed FedEx Cup final tees off Thursday at East Lake C.C. in Atlanta with a couple interesting story lines. First, a hot summer apparently fried some of the greens which may be in questionable condition for the tournament. But it’s hard to sympathize with pros competing for a $7 million purse complaining about the greens.

Despite the Tour’s best efforts to hype the inaugural FedEx Cup, the reality is that only five players -- Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Rory Sabbatini and K.J. Choi – have a chance to win the overall title. Woods, the number one player in the world, and Stricker, who has bounced back from near oblivion, control their own destiny. If either Woods or Stricker win, they take the cup. Mickelson can win the tournament but lose the cup if Woods finishes alone in second place. While Choi and Sabbatini are mathematically eligible to win the cup, they need a lot of help such as Woods finishing 14th or 22nd respectively. In other words, don’t look for them in the winner’s circle.

Mr. Fairway is cheering for Stricker, his fellow Badger, to take top honors.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Bobby Nichols.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Finchem Must Fix Fed Ex Cup

Phil Mickelson’s decision not to play in this weeks PGA Tour event in Chicago underscores the problem of the much hyped Fed Ex Cup playoffs. How can tour commissioner Tim Finchem expect fans to get excited about the playoffs when the tour’s best players – Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els -- don’t think twice about sitting out an event? Finchem is living in a fantasy world if he thinks golf fans really care whether or not John Mallinger, Steve Flesch, Bo Van Pelt or Will Mackenzie advance to the next round. Woods was “too tired” to play The Barclays and Els wanted to see his kids off to school in London. Mickelson also complained about the schedule and said he wanted to spend time with his family. He also took a shot at Finchem saying he had made some recommendations, presumably on the schedule, that were ignored. Finchem has some work to do next season if he wants the Fed Ex Cup to be taken seriously. The tour likes to draw comparisons, phony as they are, to NASCAR’s season ending championship. But I don’t see top NASCAR drivers sitting home for a week. If the Fed Ex Cup is going to succeed, Finchem must find a way to tweak the schedule. Why not start the playoffs earlier and put a one week break in the schedule after the first two events? Also, there must be a points penalty for not playing. It’s ludicrous that Mickelson can skip the BMW in Chicago and still go into the Tour Championship as the overall points leader. Finally, the attitude of the top players underscores the fact that they really don’t care about the $10 million annuity for winning the Fed Ex Cup and they really don’t care about the money from each of the events. Face it, they don’t need the money. Viewers this weekend can expect to hear a lot of breathless speculation about whether or not Tim Clark or Arron Oberhosler will make the top 30 and qualify for the final event.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Bob Gilder.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Mickelson Wins, Disses Finchem

Phil Mickelson won the Deutsche Bank Championship and moved to the top of the Fed Ex Cup point standings Sunday. It was pretty impressive victory for Mickelson, who historically does not play well in the late summer or fall. He held off Tiger Woods at the end, in part because he had only 23 putts for his round and did not miss a putt of under five feet the entire week. For a while, it looked like shades of last year’s U.S. Open when Mickelson took a huge gamble going for the green on the 12th hole and hit it in a hazard for a double bogey. But his short game wizardry saved him, especially on the last hole when he hit a great pitch from deep rough behind the green for an easy birdie.

In a post-round interview with NBC-TV, Mickelson hinted that he will not play in next week’s tournament in Chicago, noting that his kids start school on Wednesday and one of his daughters has her first soccer game next weekend. He said he owed it to the tour to play but said he tour commissioner Tim Finchem did not follow through on some suggestions Mickelson had. He did not elaborate. Interestingly enough, it was Tiger who skipped The Barclays event last week. The Tiger-Phil pairing made for great drama on Sunday and after both of them birdied the 17th hole, Johnny Miller said, “If you don’t like this, go watch tennis.”

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Deane Beaman.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Stricker Wins The Barclays

I’m not fully bought in to the hype about the Fed Ex Cup playoffs, but Steve Stricker’s victory in The Barclays this weekend was high drama. Sticker, who had not won a tournament since 2001, birdied four of the last five holes – and the last three in a row – to beat K.J. Choi by two shots. The win caps a fantastic comeback for the Wisconsin golfer who lost his card two years ago and relied on sponsors exemptions to stay on tour. A solid year earned Sticker comeback player of the year honors and he followed it up with a two second-place finishes this year and six top ten finishes before his victory on Sunday. Ironically, Stricker had a chance to win the inaugural AT&T National at Congressional in July until Choi holed a bunker shot on the 17th hole to win. It looked like Choi was going to be his nemesis again after bombing in putts from 46 and 48 feet on the back nine but Stricker responded with birdies of his own to seal the win. Now Stricker sits atop the Fed Ex Cup points list, displacing Tiger Woods who was too tired to play in Westchester. Tiger will be back for next weekend’s tournament in Boston and so will Steve Sticker.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to David Ogrin.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Fed Ex Cup Hype

The hype machine for the PGA Tour’s Fed Ex cup is going full speed in advance of the first tournament in the series this weekend in New York. But there are a few problems. First, Tiger Woods is skipping the Barclays Open event because he is “tired” after his PGA Championship victory. Commissioner Tim Finchem was on the telecast of the Wyndham Championship this weekend expressing his disappointment that Tiger is sitting out the Barclays. The reality is that if Tiger isn’t playing, the tournament is not going to draw TV ratings. The other reality is that Tiger is so far ahead in Fed Ex points that skipping the Barclays will do little to damage his chances of winning. Check out the Fed Ex hype on the tour’s web site…flashy new color scheme, a printable cheat sheet on the formats and formulas, etc. But there is not indication that golf fans care about the Fed Ex Cup and you have to wonder how much the players care. Phil Mickelson pointed out that the $10 million first prize, touted by the tour as the biggest payday in sports, isn’t real money. It’s an annuity that the winner can collect in the future. Mickelson suggested the tour follow the example of the World Series of Poker and put the cash on the first tee of the final tournament. As my old uncle used to say, “You can put lipstick on a pig but you can’t hide the ugly.”

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Rik Massengale.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Nicklaus Picks Youth

Give President’s Cup captain Jack Nicklaus a thumbs up for selecting youngsters Lucas Glover and Hunter Mahan to round out the U.S. team. Nicklaus opted for youth over experience, passing up Chris DiMarco, who clinched the 2005 cup at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va., and Davis Love III. DiMarco spent much of last year battling injuries and frankly has only one top 10 finish this year. Love has only three top 10 finishes in 2007 compared to five for Mahan and three for Glover. But Glover also has nine finishes in the top 25 this year compared to four for Love and five for DiMarco. Gary Player, captain of the international team, selected Canadian Mike Weir and Nick O’Hern of Australia. Weir was a sentimental pick as the President’s Cup will be contested in Montreal.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Bob Brue.

Tiger Tames Tulsa

Ho hum is right. Tiger Woods won the PGA Championship in Tulsa. He survived the summer heat and no one was able to apply any pressure on him in the final round. If there is anyone out there who doubts he will break Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 majors, I have bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you. Tiger put on another dazzling display of his skills to win his 13th major by two strokes over Wood Austin. He also kept his streak of never losing a major when he holds the 54-hole lead in tact. Say goodbye to Stephen “9-8” Ames who once again had visions of challenging Tiger but bogeyed the first hole en route to a 76 and was not heard from again. Austin, the former bank teller who once bent his putter on his own head, tried to mount a charge but he was too far back. Give him credit for finishing second and winning a spot on the President’s Cup team. If only he could find a new haberdasher.

Mr. Fairway would be remiss if he didn’t comment on the Boo Weekley-Sergio Garcia scorecard fiasco. Weekley may have proven that he’s not smarter than a fifth grader when he recorded and incorrect score for his fellow competitor, but the ultimate blames falls on Garcia who overlooked the mistake, signed the incorrect scorecard and got himself DQ’d. Not much sympathy here for either one of them.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Bob May.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

PGA Championship, Ho Hum

I know it's a major, but I’m having a hard time getting excited about the PGA Championship. Among the four majors, the PGA gets the least respect. Everyone looks forward to the Masters because it is the official start of the golf season and most fans are familiar with Augusta National because they see it on television year after the year. The U.S. Open is always fun to watch because the USGA typically makes the course so hard that the best players in the world often struggle to survive. The British Open is played on quaint links courses where the weather can be dicey even in July. After the British Open, the PGA is an after thought. The only thing that distinguishes it from the other majors is the large number of club professionals who make it into the field, thus watering it down. They really have no chance to win the tournament and it’s news when any of them make the cut. Over the years, the PGA has treated fans to exciting finishes, notably Bob Tway and Paul Azinger, and given rise to stars like John Daly. But many times the winners are one hit wonders like Mark Brooks, Steve Elkington, Jeff Sluman, David Toms or Shaun Micheel. One bit of trivia: the PGA is only major that Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson never won.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Wayne Grady.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Sorry Sabbatini

Note to Rory Sabbatini: Shut up, already. The cocky South African who declared that Tiger Woods was “beatable” got his head handed to him at the Bridgestone Invitational this weekend. Let’s see, Tiger shot 65, Rory shot 74. Tiger wins by eight strokes and is the only player in the field not to record a double bogey during the week. Put Rory in the same category as Stephen Ames and Vijay Singh’s caddie. Lesson learned. I doubt Sabbatini learned his lesson but his comments – and the ultimate result – might be instructive to anyone else on the tour thinking about tugging on Superman’s cape.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Hal Sutton.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

British Open Notes

Just when it looked like another Carnoustie meltdown (can you say Padrig Van de Velde?), Sergio Garcia’s putting woes resurfaced giving Harrington his first major. Poor Sergio. This was his best chance to win that elusive first major and he couldn’t close the deal, even with the belly putter.

But Open week also was marked by a couple other noteworthy events. First, Seve Ballesteros announced his retirement from competitive golf. Love him or hate him – and I loved him – Seve is one of the outstanding players in the last 20 years. I once followed him years ago at the Kemper Open when it was played at Congressional Country Club. I swear he didn’t hit a fairway on the back nine off the tee. Not only did he miss, but he missed badly. He put on an incredible display of shotmaking and imagination, hitting low hooks and fades from under the trees and shot a remarkable -2. Simply astounding. But in recent years his skills deteriorated and it was sad to watch a great player struggle, reminiscent of seeing Johnny Unitas and Willie Mays at the end of their careers. Farewell to Seve and thanks for the memories.

Meanwhile, Gary Player grabbed headlines with allegations that he knows of professional golfers who are taking performance enhancing drugs. Player is so well-respected in the game that his comments must be given serious consideration. My problem is that he failed to name names, which is not surprising, and failed to offer up any other specifics. His comments put him in the spotlight, which he has never shunned, but did little to convince me that they were based on fact. It’s inevitable that the PGA Tour is going to have to institute a drug testing policy sooner rather than later. But that’s the world we live in today and Tim Finchem needs to make drug testing a priority, just as the LPGA has done.

Finally, former Open champion John Daly made a brief appearance on top of the leaderboard before fading into oblivion. But he did have the best quote of the tournament when he said his diet of “caffeine, plus nicotine equals protein.”

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Richie Karl.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Driving With Mr. Mickelson

It looks like Phil Mickelson is rounding into major tournament form, but not in a good way. I watched him blow the Scottish Open yesterday when held the lead three times on the back nine only to lose in a playoff. Guess what cost him the victory? A wayward driver, just like the U.S. Open a year ago at Winged Foot. Mickelson stood on the 18th tee with a one shot lead over Frenchman Gregory Havret and proceeded to drive it in the heavy rough between two bunkers. He made bogey and went back to the 18th hole for a playoff. Hitting first, Mickelson this time hit his drive into the reeds near the water on the left side of the hole. He gouged the ball back to the fairway, hit his third over the green and made another bogey. Havret got up and down from a greenside bunker for the win. It looks to my untrained eye that all the hype of Butch Harmon tightening Mickelson’s swing, especially with the driver, has taken yet.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Jean Van de Velde.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Fujikawa Turns Pro

Tadd Fujikawa, the 16-year-old who wowed the golf world with his performance at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January (T-20), turned professional yesterday. He will make his professional debut will be at the PGA Tour's Reno-Tahoe Open, Aug. 2 to 5. The pint sized high school student was the second youngest person every to make the cut in a PGA Tour event. Although he qualified for the 2006 U.S. Open, he failed to advance to this year’s tournament at Oakmont. The golf world was all gaga over his performance at the Sony. Nick Faldo gushed that “you have the game to play out here as of right now.” As the Brits would say, “Rubbish.” Those in the Fujikawa camp insist this is about the young man pursuing his dream and being able to pay for instruction. I wonder if he has been hanging around fellow Hawaiian Michelle Wie too long. My view is that this is a mistake.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Ty Tryon.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Boring Inventors

Have you seen the Golf Channel’s latest schlock show, “Fore Invntors Only?” It’s a cross between “American Idol” and “Mr. Wizard.” The premise is that a panel of three judges – aging PGA Tour pro Fulton Allem, golf instructor Bill Harmon and “Golf for Women” senior editor Stina Sternberg judge presentations by inventors of golf items. The judges will critique the 103 inventors competing in the series and pare the finals down to five finalists. Viewers will vote for a winner, who will see his or her invention sold at Golfsmith stores for one year, receive an infomercial and $50,000 of advertising on the Golf Channel.

The judges approved several goofy inventions that I doubt many real golfers would purchase. For example, one guy had a golf bag that included a small, canvas fold out seat attached to it. Another guy had an electronic timer that beeped in one-minute intervals so players could keep track of the time elapsed while searching for lost balls. At least they didn’t approve the guy who came up with a notched tee that broke in half at impact and could be re-used on par three holes. They did approve an innovative golf travel bag with an extra set of fold out wheels as well as a device that allows players to check their stance and ball position. Of course, there are the usual nut jobs but their entertainment value is limited. The other problem with the show is that none of the panelists are very compelling personalities and the unctuous Vince Cellini, host of the “Big Break” shows interviews the contestants back stage.

Hitting range balls while wondering what ever happened to Bob Lunn.

Friday, July 6, 2007

AT&T National

Mr. Fairway attended the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. this week. Here are some random observations:

--Marshals were instructed to make every effort to accommodate children and service personnel. On Friday at the par three 7th, a marshal gave more than a dozen kids in the gallery a special viewing spot at the back of tee so they could watch Tiger close up. The marshal started bringing kids to the spot several groups before Tiger reached the hole.
--The new par three 10th hole is a nice addition that allows the old 17th hole to become a spectacular finishing hole. The 11th is no pushover. One forgettable pro hit his bunker shot into the pond in front of the green and had to go back across to the drop area.
--Two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen continues to struggle, shooting 73-75 to miss the cut. He bladed a shot from heavy rough into the water on No. 6 and made a DB.
--John Daly continues to be a gallery favorite but he doesn’t look like he’s having any fun. Hard to smile when you have a public fight with your wife and you shoot 74-77.
--If you have a chance to attend a PGA event, pay attention to pace the pros putt on their putts. Unless they have a severe downhill putt, the ball almost always is rolling at perfect speed around the hole.
--I also enjoy watching the tempo of their swings and their balance. The ball sounds different coming off the club face when they hit it.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Tom Shaw.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Sands of Time

One of the great annoyances at the golf courses I play, whether they are private clubs or public facilities, are the clods who leave their sandy footprints on the green. You’ve seen them too -- great big Foot Joy prints leading from the bunker to the hole. Nothing looks worse than a long trail of sandy footprints across the green, especially if you have to putt through them. You don’t have to be Kit Carson to figure out where these careless, inconsiderate goofballs have been walking. If you are guilty of leaving tracks on the green, here’s a tip: After you step out of the bunker, take two seconds to know the sand off the bottoms of your shoes. Bang your wedge against the soles of your shoes once or twice and that will do it. If you see someone making tracks, call them on it. It took me a few months but I finally retrained one of my regular playing partners to knock the sand off his shoes when he exits a bunker. Now he’s a convert and points it out to other offenders. I hope you will do the same.

Hitting range balls while wondering what ever happened to Sandy Lyle.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Crisite Kerr Wins U.S. Women's Open

Congratulations to Cristie Kerr on her U.S. Women's Open victory. Kerr fought off Lorena Ochoa in the final round for the victory. Kerr reshaped herself several years ago, losing 60-plus pounds and it's nice to see her in the victory circle. Pictured at the top is Cristie before her weight loss and the new-look champion. Hard to believe it's the same golfer.
Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Jan Stephenson.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Gator Bait

The Associated Press reports that a golfer in Venice, Fla., was pulled into a pond by a one-eyed, 11-foot alligator. The golfer was reaching into the pond to retrieve a golf ball when the gator grabbed his right arm and jerked him into the water. The golfer managed to use his left arm to strike the reptile until it let him loose. Florida wildlife officers later trapped and killed the alligator. Want proof this guy is an idiot? The pond has a sign that says “Beware of Alligator.” Serves him right for trying to fish out a $3 golf ball.

Hitting range balls while wonder whatever happened to Steve Melnyk.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Heavenly Win for Angel Cabrera

Tiger’s record of never winning a major championship when he trails the 54-hole leader continued Sunday when he failed to overcome Angel Cabrera at the U.S. Open. Tiger’s undoing probably came when he tried to drive the short 17th hole and hit his ball into the deep rough left of the green. He made par and then needed to birdie the difficult 18th hole to force a playoff. One again, he failed to hit the fairway, gouged a short iron to the back of the green and missed the birdie putt. Unlike his round Saturday when he his 17 greens, Tiger only hit 11 greens on Sunday.

Other U.S. Open notes:

Sadly, Aaron Baddeley succumbed to the pressure of trying to win his first major by opening with a triple bogey 7 and shot 80 for the final round.
My major complaint with NBC’s coverage was the lack of leader boards and overall field scores throughout the telecast. It’s OK to show the abbreviated leader board but they should run at least the first two full pages before they break for commercial. Also, they should run the crawl with updated scores for everyone in the field at least once per hour.
The USGA needs to invest in some new ads. The kid making the hole in one is cute, but it’s old. Likewise, let’s ditch the stupid ad about the guys waiting out the rainstorm to play and the one with foursome that shows up at dawn, one of whom is wearing pajamas. How many more years must we endure those things?
Bubba Watson, you win the worst visor award for that sea green number with the red lettering. What’s with the pink shaft on your driver? Very un-Bubba like, I think.
The short par fours and the long par three – all around 300 yards – were quite entertaining, albeit a tad on the ridiculous side, especially the par three.
I guess NBC was so confident that Tiger would win – the best story – that they forget to do some research on Cabrera. Viewers learned very little information about him during the telecast.
Jim Furyk might have won his second U.S. Open had he made a better decision on the 17th hole and not tried to drive the green. He left the ball in the deep rough and could only manage a par.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Bob Rosburg.

Friday, June 15, 2007

U.S. Open Notes

Random thoughts on the U.S. Open:

  • Chris Berman is unbearable on golf telecasts. Watching the early rounds on ESPN is painful as "Boomer" extends his overbearing style, which is OK for football, to golf. For example, his penchant for catchy nicknames falls flat. Nobody calls Jeff Sluman "Seattle Sluman" and nobody with any sense calls NBC commentator Roger "Choclate" Maltbie. Blessedly, he will be off the air this weekend.
  • It is getting painful to watch Jim Furyk. How many times can he back away from a putt or shot in the fairway? It's getting worse than watching Sergio Garcia milk the club. By the way, who told Furyk that those new golf shirts are attractive? I don't care how much they are paying me, I'm not wearing those shirts.
  • How goofy is it to have the putting green an extension of the 9th green? Steve Elkington's shot ran through the regular green onto the putting green leaving him with a 100-foot birdie putt. Curt Byrum actually had a ball roll into a cup on the putting green in the first round. He was given a free drop from ground under repair and made his par.
  • Phil Mickelson's wrist looks more severely injured than he is letting on. He was letting go of the club on some shots in an effort to protect the wrist. He is one swing away in deep rough from endagnering his chance to compete in the British Open. But he may not make the cut, which would give me two extra days of rest.
  • I hope there is no more rain for the duration of the tournament. I can't wait to watch all the train wrecks on those greens this week.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happaned to Jack Fleck.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Miller Time

The U.S. Open returns to Oakmont in Pittsburgh this week, scene of what might be the most incredible 18 holes ever played in a major championship. That would be Johnny Miller’s final round 63 in 1973 that propelled him to victory. Golf magazines, newspapers and television are full of stories about Miller’s round, especially because he returns to Oakmont as the lead analyst for NBC-TV, which will broadcast the tournament. So how good was Miller’s round? First, it remains the lowest final round score in a U.S. Open. Miller started his Sunday round six shots behind the leaders. Second, Miller, who was 26, unbelievably hit all 18 greens in regulation and his average distance from the hole was nine feet. Third, his round could have been even lower as he lipped out two putts and had one three-putt. Miller had a reputation of going low and making birdies in bunches. At Oakmont, he birdied the first four holes from distances of five feet, six inches, 18 feet and two inches. Pretty good start. He shot 32 on the front side and then birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 13. His last birdie came on No. 15. One interesting anecdote was that the USGA prevented players from using their tour caddies so Miller and others paced off their own yardages. On Sunday, Miller arrived at the course only to find that he left his yardage book back at the house he was renting for a week. His wife went back to retrieve it and didn’t get it to him until the back nine. The USGA extracted its revenge for Miller’s low round the following year at Winged Foot where Hale Irwin won with a score of +7.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to John Schlee.

He Said, She Said

Not only does John Daly’s wife dispute his allegation that she attacked him with a steak knife last week, she contends that he assaulted her and scratched his own face to cover up his story. In court papers filed in Memphis, Sherrie Daly said the former PGA and British Open champion who is struggling on the golf course, was drinking heavily during the St. Jude Championship in Memphis last Thursday night. She said she woke up to see him making sexually offensive gestures and remarks before sexually assaulting her, causing unspecified injuries. She took her son by their marriage and another son to a neighbor’s house after calling 911. Daly denied his fourth wife’s allegations.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Grier Jones.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Pettersen Wins McDonalds

Congratulations to Suzann Pettersen for winning the McDonald’s LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock in Maryland. The 26-year-old from Norway won her first major by on stroke over Karrie Webb with a nifty 67 on Sunday, including a 32 on the back. It was the second win of the year and the second of her career. Earlier this year, she blew a four-stroke lead with four holes to go in losing the Kraft Nabisco Championship by two shots. On a side note, Michelle Wie finished last in the field by a whopping 10 shots with weekend rounds of 83-7.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Hillary Lunke.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Daly Alleges Attack by Wife

The bizarre saga of John Daly continues. Daly alleged that his wife tried to stab him this morning with a steak knife. Daly, playing in his hometown of Memphis, showed up on TV with what looked like long fingernail scratches on his left cheek. Daly called police at 6 a.m. to report the incident, which occurred sometime after he and his wife argued a local restaurant last night. Daly has a home on the golf course that is the venue for the Sanford St. Jude Championship. In a statement issued by the PGA Tour, Daly said he is concerned for the well being of his children. No charges had been filed late Friday. Sherrie Miller Daly is his fourth wife, who was convicted and served time in jail as part of a conspiracy to by and sell drugs and money laundering. Daly, who lost his exempt status and is playing on sponsor exemptions, has won $106,808 this year with his best finish T-22 at the Nissan Open in February.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Bob E. Smith.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Not at Oakmont

The USGA conducted sectional qualifying for spots in the U.S. Open yesterday. The list of pros who failed to qualify reads like a who’s who in golf. Former U.S. Open champions Steve Jones (1996), Corey Pavin (1995) and Larry Nelson (1983) won’t be teeing it up at Oakmont in two weeks. Neither will former major winners Mark Calcavecchia, Tom Lehman, Mark O’Meara, Bob Tway, John Daly, and Mark Brooks. Others who will be sitting home watching on television include: Rocco Mediate, Jesper Parnevik, John Cook, Brad Faxon, Billy Andrade, Matt Kuchar, Chip, Beck, Len Mattaice, Kevin Stadler, Steve Flesch, Robert Gamez, Skip Kendall, Troy Matteson, Charley Hoffman, Mark Wilson, Frank Lickliter, Duffy Waldorf, Bob May, Briny Baird, Dan Forsman, Jeff Maggert, Dicky Pride, Hank Kuehne, and Tommy Armour III.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Lou Graham.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Tiger Tops Fortune List

Fortune magazine's annual list of the highest paid athletes is out. It’s no surprise that Tiger Woods repeats as the top earner with $111, 941,827. According to the magazine, Woods racked up $11,941,827 in on-course winnings and received a cool $100 million in endorsement income. Phil Mickelson is number three on the Fortune list with $4,256,505 in winnings and $47 million in endorsements for a total of $51,256,505. Mickelson slipped from number two last year. Our favorite woman golfer, Michelle Wie, is the next highest rated golfer on the list with total income of $20,235,224. Wie, who has yet to win a tournament as a professional and is quickly becoming the Anna Kournikova of golf (but not as attractive as the tennis player) racked up $19.5 million in endorsements. Vijay Singh is on the list of world athletes, but would rank 39th on the list of U.S. athletes, earned $16,411,026 in winnings and endorsements.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Mike Souchak.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Wie Intrigue

So it turns out that perhaps there was more to Michelle Wie’s WD from the Ginn Tribute on Thursday than just an injured wrist. An obscure LPGA Tour rule bans non-tour members who shoot a score of 88 or higher from competing in sanctioned tournaments for a year. Wie, who is not a member of the LPGA tour because she is not old enough, was plus-14 when she quit her round after the 16th hole. Bogeys on 17 and 18 would have given her a score of 88 and a year-long ban. No sponsor exemptions into LPGA tournaments. Hmmm. Interestingly enough, her agent was seen on his cell phone during the course of the round and conferring with her. To make matters worse, her father came under suspicion of violating the rules that cover advice. One of her playing partners warned her father about giving advice. Did she quit because her wrist hurt or because her agent figured out that two more bad holes would jeopardize her tournament schedule for a year?

By the way, MacKinzie “Mac” Kline, the 15-year-old with a heart condition who was allowed to use a cart in the tournament, shot 86 Thursay.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Carol Ann Creed.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Mickelson, Wie on DL

Two of the brightest stars in professional golf are on the disabled list, at least temporatily. Phil Mickelson and Michelle Wie withdrew from their respective tournaments mid-round on Thursday because of wrist injuries. Mickelson, playing the Memorial, quit after 11 holes, plus-2 at the time. Wie, playing the Ginn Tribute, pulled her WD after 16 holes, plus-14 at the time, including a quintuple bogey on a par five.

Mickelson told reporters he didn’t think the injury was serious, but he has to be concerned about his ability to prepare for the U.S. Open in two weeks. He said he may have aggravated his left wrist hitting balls out of the deep rough at Oakmont.

Wie, who had not played a tournament since January, suffered wrist injuries early this year. She played with bandages on both wrists.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Bill Glasson.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tiger Talks

Mr. Fairway attended the AT&T National media day at Congressional Country Club on May 29. Tiger Woods, recovering from a bout with strep throat, held a news conference. Here are some random highlights:

Tiger was unequivocal in his desire that his tournament continue to be played at Congressional after its inaugural two-year run. However, the club is committed to hosting the U.S. Amateur in 2009 and the U.S. Open in 2011 so his event will certainly have to be played elsewhere those two years. Asked if he would consider having the tournament at the soon-to-be remodeled TPC Avenel course down the road, Tiger said he would but quickly added that Congressional is the most desirable venue because of its history and because it is a classic course that the pros love. The betting here is that it will not be back at Congressional.

Tiger will play in the AT&T National if possible. His expectant wife will be home in Florida. He drew laughs when asked what he would do if he got the word on the 18th hole of the final round. “Well, I’ll have to play real quick won’t I?” he said. “Real quick. A three will win.”

Tiger acknowledged that many top players, including Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, will not play in the tournament. He said his is recruiting other players including Jim Furyk, Darren Clarke, Charles Howell III, but added that many players already have set schedules in place that they can’t change. Adam Scott, Davis Love, Steve Stricker, Fred Funk and Stuart Appleby also will play. Vijay Singh has not decided yet, Woods said.

He is receiving suggestions for baby names and people have not been shy about sharing their experiences with childbirth. “Everyone has stories,” he said, “sometimes a little more grotesque than I prefer.”

He has no political ambitions. Someone asked if he was interested in running for president, he replied, “Hell no. No. No. No. No. No. Next.”

Tiger believes that three-four hours of sleep a night are plenty.

Is it fair to win your own tournament? “Yes. Always.”

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Ken Venturi.

Friday, May 25, 2007

10 Aces? Yeah, Right

Have you read about the 46-year-old woman from California who claims to have made 10 holes-in-one this year? Jacqueline Gagne, an 8-handicapper, says she has recorded 10 aces between Jan. 23 and May 2, most of them at her home courses at Mission Hills Country Club. That happens to be one less than Tiger Woods career total. She also claims to have legitimate witnesses to her astounding feats. Pardon me if I’m a bit suspicious. Making a hole-in-one is one part skill and five parts luck. Are you telling me that she has been that lucky 10 times in the span of four months? Hmmm. I say hook her and her witnesses up to a lie detector.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Barry Jaekel.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Golfer's Tan

It’s not even June 1 and my golfer tan is already in full bloom. Admit it, you have one, too. Your legs are tan from just above the knees and all the way down to your ankles, where there is a distinct line marked by your anklets. What, you don’t wear anklets with your golf shoes? Are you kidding me? Any sock longer than an anklet is so out. Get with the program. At least my legs don’t look like out of bounds stakes any more. Anyway, your arms are nice and tan but there is one minor problem – the hand on which you wear your golf glove is not tan. Even if you take the glove off to putt, that hand will always be several shades lighter than the opposite hand. That is the telltale sign of a golfer. The back of your neck is tan as is the front of your neck, forming a nice V that matches the opening of your golf shirt. I’m sorry, but I cannot get into buttoning the top button on my golf shirt. Looks too nerdy for me. So this is the look from now until Mr. Fairway goes to the beach at the end of July. Then he suffers the indignity of being un-tan – and sunburned – over the parts of the body. But the golf tan is a sure sign that the summer season is upon us.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Kel Nagle.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bully For Phil

Phil Mickelson gets it. As my senior managing editor suggested after Mickelson’s victory at The Players, Phil is becoming one of the more likable pros on the tour. Why? Because unlike many of the drones who follow the sun and chase the millions of dollars each week, Phil actually engages with the fans. Did you see him trading high fives and smiles during the Saturday and Sunday rounds? Did you see him handing golf balls to little kids in the gallery? Do you recall any other pros doing the same? I don’t. Most of the time, the tour pros look like they just visited the proctologist. Forget about acknowledging the fans save for a rudimentary tip of the cap here or a little wave there. Mickelson is accused in some circles of being a phony, putting on a fake smile. But the reality is that Phil comes from the Arnold Palmer school – he interacts with the galleries, hands out balls and gloves, and, gasp! Signs autographs. It’s refreshing and Phil’s fellow pros would do well to follow his lead.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Bobby Cole.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Shut Up Already

Could golf fans be more unoriginal? Here’s my latest pet peeve: the idiots at PGA Tour golf tournaments who yell, “IN THE HOLE!” the moment a player hits any shot short of a putt. What are these morons thinking? That if a shot miraculously does go in that they claim credit for calling the shot? Get real. The nitwits used to holler, “You da man,” but apparently that became passé. Now it’s “in the hole.” Well, that saying can’t become passé fast enough as far as I’m concerned. Please, if you go to a tournament, shut up already.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Steve Bull.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Wie Not Entered in U.S. Open

Here’s a headline for you: Michelle Wie is not entered in this year’s U.S. Open at Oakmont. To which, I say, "Halleluiah!" It’s unclear whether she chose not to enter the men’s tournament because she has not sufficiently recovered from the wrist injury that has prevented her from playing much golf this season or because she finally wised up and has decided to devote her efforts to women’s events. In any case, at least golf fans and the media won’t be consumed by her trials and tribulations. You will recall last year that she made it through local qualifying and then received tons of coverage at the sectional qualifying event at Canoe Brook in New Jersey. People forget that she never really was a threat to make the final field as she finished five shots short. Meanwhile, her fellow Hawaiian, Tad Fujikawa, did make it into the tournament by winning the sectional stage in, of all places, Hawaii. Wie is exempt for qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Open, which will be held at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C. starting June 28. Wie is exempt by virtue of her high finish in the tournament last year.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Jane Blalock.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Byron Who?

Scott Verplank’s win at the Byron Nelson was heartwarming to see given that he is a Dallas native who developed a friendship with Lord Byron as a young amateur. It’s a nice story. What’s less of a nice story are the large number of top tour players who stayed away from the tournament in droves. Pardon me for my cynicism, but I couldn’t help but wonder how many of the stars figured that once Nelson had passed away, they no long felt any obligation to play at his tournament. Give Phil Mickelsen credit for showing up and making a point to greet Nelson’s widow, Peggy, after his round on Sunday. Yes, the pros grumble about the courses used for the event and yes, the greens were not really up to tournament standards. But the young money grubbers who in previous years made it a big deal to greet Byron Nelson at his tournament were conspicuous by their absence. Wonder if they will be so callous as to skip the Bay Hill Invitational and the Memorial when Palmer and Nicklaus leave the world.

Hitting range balls while wonder whatever happened to Don January.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hold 'Em Golf

I received an interesting tournament invitation in the mail the other day for an event that combines golf and poker. It’s billed as the “Texas Hold 'Em of Golf” and is designed to entice medium to high handicappers to compete for a $750,000 pot. The buy-in is only $10,000 with a field limited to 180 players. According to an outline of the rules, players will have to ante up before teeing off on a hole and after the tee shots, they can raise, call, check or fold on each and every shot. When a player loses all of his chips he is eliminated. First prize is $250,000. The fun starts May 14 at The Mirage in Las Vegas (where else) and will be televised by NBC. My guess is that this will be the biggest collection of sandbaggers since Lawrence of Arabia. In case you’re wondering, Mr. Fairway has a prior commitment and will not be able to enter. But his winning strategy would be to go all-in on hitting a driver into the final fairway, of course.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Bo Wininger.

Phil and Butch

So Phil Mickelson is going to work with Butch Harmon. Interesting. Maybe Butch can do for Phil what he did for Tiger. As my buddy the managing editor said, the first thing Butch needs to do is remind Phil not to take the club past parallel on his backswing. For my money, it sounds like Phil is lost and wandering in the wilderness of blown majors. Maybe Butch can fix his head as well as his swing. Until Mickelson changes his mentality, he can forget about adding another major to his portfolio. I’m waiting for his new instructional series that is sure to be entitled “Swing Thoughts of Our Lives.” Good luck to you, Phil. By the way, did you ask Butch to sign a pre-nuptial agreement?

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to George Burns.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Strange Yes, Green No

Curtis Strange and Hubert Green will inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Strange, who won back-to-back U.S. Opens in 1988 and 1989 along with 17 other PGA Tour wins, was elected outright. He also played on five Ryder Cup teams and was captain of the 2002 team. Certainly Strange’s credentials make him worthy of the honor.

Green, however, is a different story. Green was selected in the veteran’s category, which like the baseball Hall of Fame, is reserved for players who can’t make it on their own. Green won one U.S. Open in 1977 and a PGA championship in 1985. He also compiled 19 PGA Tour titles and played on three Ryder Cup teams. Green also is remembered for playing the final round of the 1977 U.S. Open after a death threat had been called in against him. I don't think that qualifies you for the Hall of Fame.

Strange dominated the golf world when he at the peak of his game. He should have won a Masters. Strange was voted Player of the Year three times by the Golf Writers Association of America and he won at least one tournament seven consecutive years. He was the first player to win consecutive U.S. Opens since Ben Hogan in 1950 and 1951. That’s Hall of Fame material. Green, on the other hand, was never a dominant player, although he did win three tour events in 1974 and 1976 (four if you count the Disney team championship). Strange won 70 percent of the vote while Green garnered only 52 percent. Strange earned his spot, but Green belongs in the Hall of the Very Good.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Kermit Zarley.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Boo to Masters

Boo Weekley chipped in for pars on the 17th and 18th holes in Monday’s delayed final round of the Verizon Heritage to win his first PGA Tour event and earn a trip to the 2008 Masters. Weekley, who missed a short putt last month at the Honda Classic and lost in a Monday playoff to Mark Wilson, came out of the pack to shoot a three under par 68 to beat Ernie Els by one stroke. High winds at Harbor Town on Sunday forced cancellation of the final round on Sunday. Els, who bogeyed the 17th hole when he hit is tee shot in a hazard, hit a miracle shot on the 18th hole that nearly forced a playoff. Els was 150 yards from the final green and needed to hole out to tie Weekley. With strong winds blowing off the sound, Els hit a shot that covered the flag and stopped one foot away from the hole. Weekley, the tobacco chewing redneck from the Florida panhandle, becomes the first beneficiary of the new rule imposed by the Masters to invite all PGA Tour tournament winners to prestigious tournament. The question will be whether Boo dares spit his chewing tobacco on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Kenny Knox.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Super Grip Rip-Off

As a Wisconsin native who competed against Andy North in high school, I have always had the ultimate respect for the two-time U.S. Open Champion. Because he only won one other PGA Tour event in his career, North’s U.S. Open victories are often viewed as some kind of flukes. The reality is that North suffered numerous injuries during his career that affected his performance. I also believe North is an excellent, if understated, golf broadcaster and was disappointed that neither CBS or NBC picked him up when ABC gave up televised golf.

So as much as I like Andy North, I was disturbed to see him hosting an infommercial on the Golf Channel for a product called the SuperStroke, which is an oversized putter grip that claims it will cure yips, shave four strokes off your game, add 100 yards to your drives and improve your sex life. Okay, I exaggerated on the last two claims.

But here is Andy, along with noted golf instructors Randy Smith and Rick Tock praising the SuperStroke as the end all cure to your putting woes. Come on, it’s just a grip for crying out loud. In one of the more laughable infommercials I have ever seen, proponents of the SuperStroke claim (with straight faces) that “the large surface area brings more of the grip into contact with the hands, inhibiting breakdown of the wrists and encouraging use of the preferred arm-and-shoulders putting motion. Scientific tests have shown that the SuperStroke requires up to 32% less grip tension and represents a significant improvement over conventional narrow putter grips. The SuperStroke’s size encourages use of a 'soft hands' technique and ensures a smooth and fluid putting stroke.”

This is almost as bad the golf glove that claims it will increase your driving distance because its patented design keeps your left wrist firm. Yep, and I have some land in Florida I’d like to sell you. I wonder how long it took to get footage of Andy North spouting this with a straight face.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Don Iverson.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Cashing In

Masters champion Zach Johnson is well-positioned to cash in on his victory. Rick Horrow, chairman of the sports marketing and consulting company Horrow Sports Ventures, predicts that Johnson could parlay his win at Augusta into endorsements worth between $5 million and $10 million. The pro from Iowa already has five sponsors, including Titleist, Bayer, clothing manufacturer Dunning Golf, professional services firm RSM McGladrey, and Aegon USA, an international financial services company based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The possibilities for the fresh-faced Johnson might be limitless. For example, a recent article in GolfWeek indicated that former U.S. Open champ Jim Furyk earns an estimated $10 million a year from various endorsements. For example, Furyk commands $25 million over five years from his equipment company, Srixon, for his hat, bag, glove, irons and ball. He gets another $25,000 a year for wearing Ahead hats and $500,000 a year from Marquis Jet for wearing its logo on the side of the hat. Chiliwear Apparel pays him $500,000 a year plus royalties for his shirts; Johnny Walker Collection gives him $666,666 a year to put its logo on the back of his neck; and he gets $1.2 million a year from Exelon for wearing its logo on his chest and sleeve. Throw in $30,000 a year for his shoe deal with Adidas and the fees he receives as a spokesman for Aleve, American Express, Electronic Arts, Furyk Golf Design, and Golf Magazine and you have a walking, talking, golfing conglomerate. No wonder pro golfers look more and more like NASCAR drivers every week.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to R.H. Sikes.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Reflections on the Masters

The 2007 Masters is in the books and it will be remembered as a great tournament for a variety of reasons, including the high scores, the frigid, windy conditions, the victory by little-known Zach Johnson and the inability of Tiger Woods to claim victory after holding the lead during the final round.

I guarantee you that none of the experts picked Johnson, who won with the highest total score in 40-plus years, to win the green jacket. The 31-year-old Iowan has only one PGA Tour victory to his credit but he tore up the tour and earned a spot on the last Ryder Cup team. Give him credit for a gutsy performance.

As for Woods, he is kicking himself for making bogeys on No. 17 and No. 18 in the first and third rounds. But as my old uncle said, “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a very merry Christmas.” In other words, every player out there left shots on the golf course over the four days of play. Retief Goosen looked like he was going to win until he failed to make birdies on the two par fives on the back side. He might be kicking himself for not going for the greens in two. Rory Sabbatini made a phenomenal eagle at No. 8 and then faded down the stretch. Jerry Kelly missed a very makeable eagle putt and Justin Rose could not sustain his brief charge. Stuart Appleby, playing with Woods, hung tough until he rinsed his tee shot on the short par three and took a five. Finally, defending champion Phil Mickelson made triple bogey on the first hole and then blew an eight-foot birdie putt on No. 6 at least six feet past the hole to eliminate any chance he had.

Now it will be interesting to see how Zach Johnson responds to his victory. Will the win at Augusta propel him to greater heights or will he become the next Orville Moody, the unknown who won a major and then disappeared.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Doug Ford.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Congressional To Host Tiger's Tournament

The votes are in and the membership at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. overwhelmingly approved a proposal to host the new Tiger Woods tournament July 5-8 as well as the 2008 tournament. That’s good news for Tiger and good news for Washington, D.C. golf fans who hoped the prestigious club would agree to be the site for the new AT&T National. Club members approved the request with 91 percent of the vote. The tour offered Congressional $2.5 million to stage the event.

Congressional was the site of the 1964 and 1997 U.S. Opens and is scheduled to host the 2009 U.S. Amateur and the 2011 U.S. Open. However, the PGA Tour will have to find a different tournament site after 2008, possibly the Robert Trent Jones Club in Gainesville, Va. (site of three previous Presidents Cup events) or the TPC at Avenel, which hosted previous tour events and will undergo extensive renovation this summer.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Leonard Thompson.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Arnold Palmer, Honorary Starter

The Masters has some of the best traditions in golf. The winner receives a green jacket from last year’s victor. The reigning U.S. Amateur champion is always paired with the defending champion. Players who make eagles in the tournament receive crystal goblets and vases. The par-three tournament is a tradition all its own. Finally, there is the tradition of past champions and greats serving as honorary starters and hitting the ceremonial first drive to open the tournament on Thursday morning.

This week, Arnold Palmer agreed to be the tournament’s honorary starter. At 77, Palmer’s days of competitive golf are long gone. But the four-time winner of the Masters is much beloved by Augusta National’s patrons, who were out in force to see him hit a gentle draw down the left side of the first fairway.

It was heartwarming to see Palmer swinging a club at the Masters but it must have bittersweet for the man whose hard charging rounds at Augusta helped increase the popularity of the game. But there he was, basking in the adulation of his fans and golf fans everywhere. Here’s hoping it was not a one-time event.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Bunky Henry.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Masters Picks

I have a standing bet on the Masters every year with a couple friends. We play for really big stakes – a sleeve of Titleist Pro V-1 golf balls. We each select 10 players in the Masters field and at the end of the tournament, the person whose team takes home the most prize money wins. What usually happens is that we each pick the same five or six top players such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and the outcome depends on our eighth, ninth and tenth selections. The strategy is to make sure you have the winner and then pick players who will make the cut and finish high in the money. Because the fairways are wide and the course is long, the premium is on putting. Johnny Miller once called the Masters the biggest putting contest in the world. Here is my lineup for the 2007 Masters:

Tiger Woods – Duh, he’s the best player in the world and has four green jackets.
Phil Mickelson – The defending champion who also won in 2004. Needs to avoid a U.S. Open blowup.
Vijay Singh – Has not won at Augusta since 2000 but was T-8 last year and has six top 10 finishes in 13 starts.
Davis Love – Long hitter who has the all-around game to win. Also has six top-10 finishes at Augusta and two top-10s on Tour this year.
Retief Goosen – Former U.S. Open champion was T-3 each of the last two years at Augusta. Ranks 21st in putting average and putts per round on tour this year.
Ernie Els – Great record – six top-10s – and fully recovered from knee surgery. He is first in putting average and first in putts per round on tour.
Arron Oberholser – Finished T-14 in first Masters last year. Could break out in 2007. Finished 9th at Houston last week.
Aaron Baddeley – Young gun has never made a cut at Augusta but his game is on the rise. Is 8th in putting average and 9th in putts per round. Won the FBR Open and has two other top ten finishes this year.
Adam Scott -- Won the Shell Houston Open last week and was T-27 and T-33 in last two Masters.
Steve Stricker – First appearance in five years. Played well in majors last year and one of the leading putters on the PGA Tour ranking 10th in putting average and fourth in putts per round. Also a sentimental favorite as a fellow Wisconsin native.

I had a hard time leaving Jose Maria Olazabal and Fred Couples off the list. Both aging vets always play well at Augusta but Freddy’s back is hurting and I think the young guns will supplant the Spaniard.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Roberto de Vincenzo.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Congrats Morgan Pressel

Finally, an American woman wins an LPGA tournament. Congratulations to Morgan Pressel for her victory in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, one of the majors on the women’s tour. Nice to see the fresh-faced 18-year-old jumping into the greenside lake to celebrate the win. Too often, the LPGA leaderboard looks like a cross between the Seoul telephone directory and a Scandinavia Air passenger list. And what does it say about women’s golf when one of their biggest tournaments is sponsored by a cheese and crackers company? Can you imagine the men competing for the coveted Midas Muffler Jiffy Lube Championship? Oops, I forgot about the FedEx Cup. Never mind.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Laura Baugh.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Champions Dinner

One of the endearing traditions at the Masters is that the defending champion picks out – and pays for – the menu at the Wednesday evening champions dinner. The tradition began in 1952 at a suggestion by Ben Hogan. Phil Mickelsen’s feast this week will include southern fried chicken, baby back ribs, beef brisket and smoked sausage. Dessert will be vanilla ice cream. Attendees also can order off the regular club menu, as many of them did when Sandy Lyle served haggis, mashed potatoes and mashed turnips in 1989. Ben Crenshaw replaces the late Byron Nelson as host of the dinner.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Rex Baxter.

Masters Previews

I can never read too much about my favorite tournament of the year, the Masters. I subscribe to several golf publications and I always look forward to the Masters issues. For the past several years, Sports Illustrated has sent its Golf Plus subscribers a very nice, informative separate magazine devoted almost entirely to the Masters. This year’s edition includes the pick of an anonymous PGA Tour pro to win the tournament – Aaron Baddeley – and a profile on Billy Payne, the new chairman of Augusta National. There is a feature on sportswriter O.B. Keeler, who chronicled Bobby Jones, a trivia contest and a look at Masters rookies.

GolfWorld weighs in with a retrospective on Ben Hogan’s final Masters in 1967 as well as the requisite profile of Billy Payne. There is a nice little sidebar that speculates on the birth of the green jacket – Jones may have taken the idea from a novel by English writer G.K. Chesterton. The magazine also has its own Masters trivia section as well as a look at the town of Augusta outside the tournament grounds. Did you know that one of the city’s major businesses is golf cart manufacturer E-Z-Go?

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Billy Joe Patton.

Masters Week

The best week in golf starts tomorrow when the Masters becomes the center of the golf universe. I believe that the Masters is the most popular tournament among golf enthusiasts and non-golfers alike. First, the Masters marks the coming of spring. The blooming dogwoods and azaleas framing the rich green hues of the Augusta National course gives golfers in cold weather climes hope that spring is on its way. Second, the fact that the Masters is played on the same course every year gives it a familiarity to golf fans who know virtually every hole even if they have never attended the tournament in person. Finally, the Masters always seems to provide a sense of drama on Sunday afternoon. Whether it is Curtis Strange, Tom Weiskopf, Scott Hoch, Ed Sneed or Greg Norman imploding or Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Phil Mickelsen or Tiger Woods hitting miraculous shots that result in victory, golf fans can almost always count on an exciting finish. So, golf fans, get ready for the best week in golf.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Bob Goalby.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Pinehurst Spring Trip

Mr. Fairway just returned from his second annual spring golf trip to Pinehurst, N.C. where he and his buddies, John, Steve and Robert played 72 holes over three days. The weather was spectacular – sunshine every day with temperatures in the low 80s – and the golf was wonderful. Although we did not stay at the fabled Pinehurst Resort or play any of its courses, there is no shortage of affordable, world class golf courses to choose from in the sandhills region of the Tar Heel State.

Our group made arrangements with Tin Cup Golf and Travel . If you are considering a golf trip to Pinehurst, I recommend you touch base with the nice folks at Tin Cup. The total cost came to $480 per person, which included greens fees, carts, breakfast, and a well-appointed two-bedroom, two-bath condo on one of the Pinehurst Resort courses.

We left Northern Virginia at 5:30 a.m. on Friday morning and had a 1 p.m. tee time at the Mid-Pines Inn & Golf Club. Mid-Pines is a classic Donald Ross design featuring small undulating greens and narrow fairways. Mid-Pines, which has hosted the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur, is lovely course and a nice test. The $10 lunch buffet was a bargain and I loved looking at the black and white photos of golfers and tournaments from the 1930s and ‘40s in the clubhouse.

On Saturday, we played 36-holes at the Foxfire Resort, which has two 18-hole courses. I gained an appreciation for the difficulty of hitting off pine straw, which is unavoidable if you play golf anywhere around Pinehurst. Pine straw is particularly challenging for medium length pitch shots where you have to make sure to strike the ball first lest your wedge digs under the pine needles and the ball moves only 10 feet. Our group suffered sunburn on Saturday, an avoidable circumstance when you are outside all day with eight legs that resemble out of bounds stakes.

We saved the best for last on Sunday morning when we played the Magnolia course at Pinewild Country Club. Pinewild’s greens are huge – easily a one-or-two club difference from front to back pin locations. A recent renovation stretched the course to 7,446 yards from the championship tees, which we wisely did not play. Pinewild has been a qualifying site for U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur qualifying.

We have two restaurant recommendations: Shuckers Oyster Bar in Southern Pines for delicious, inexpensive seafood and The JFR Barn, also in Southern Pines, for steaks. We ate eggs and pancakes every morning at the Track Café, a quaint little restaurant on the grounds of a local harness track.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Rod Curl.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sergio Garcia's Great Expectoration

Sergio Garcia, the swashbuckling Spaniard who until Saturday’s third round of the World Golf Championships-CA Championship at Doral, was his failure to fulfill his expectations, now is known for his great expectoration.

After three-putting the 13th green, Garcia spit into the cup. A slow-motion replay clearly showed him spitting into the cup. He admitted the dastardly act in a post-round interview on NBC-TV but dismissed it saying his gob went directly into the middle of the bottom of the cup and therefore would not bother a player taking his ball out of the hole. “Don't worry," Garcia said. "It wasn't going to affect anybody." Wrong. Garcia spitting into the cup may be the vilest act witnessed on tour since John Daly got into a parking lot fight with the father of fellow competitor some years ago.

Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem should fine AND suspend Garcia for conduct unbecoming of a professional. But don’t be surprised if we never hear about the incident again because fines against tour players are never made public. Here is a chance for Finchem to take a very public stand and let Garcia and the rest of the players know that he will not tolerate such behavior. As my buddy Robert said after watching the replay on TV, “Garcia should be made to wear that yellow patent leather belt for the rest of the year.” That would be a good start.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Terry Dill.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


My USGA newsletter arrived in the mail this week and it included an interesting little article about the record number of former professional golfers who were approved as reinstated amateurs last year. A total of 881 former pros were granted amateur status which makes them eligible to compete in events such as the U.S. Amateur, the Mid-Amateur and the Senior Amateur. The USGA noted that 2006 was the fifth consecutive year that the number of pros turning amateur had increased. “More and more professionals are finding it worthwhile to complete the one-or two-year reinstatement process in order to take full advantage of the many competitive opportunities in amateur golf,” said Tony Zirpoli of the USGA.

Here’s my take. The USGA is far too lenient in allowing former pros to become reborn amateurs. I can understand the benefit of allowing someone who technically became a professional by accepting a $50,000 hole-in-one prize to regain his or her amateur status. However, in some instances, these former pros competed on mini-tours and at one time in their life they thought they possessed the skills to earn money from the game. If they were good enough to turn pro with the thought of playing competitive golf at the highest levels, then I believe they should forever be considered a professional. When they enter amateur events, they have a huge advantage in both skill and experience over the true amateur who never went pro. It’s a flat out sham. Instead of bragging about it, the USGA should tighten the requirements for reinstatement of these shamateurs.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Chris Patton.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Tiger Takes a Bath

In between NCAA basketball games on Sunday, I switched over to the Arnold Palmer Invitational just in time to see Tiger Woods hit his ball in the water on both the 17th and 18th holes. What an astounding sight to see the World’s Greatest Golfer rinsing his tee shot on the par 3 17th hole and then hitting his third shot on No. 18 into the drink as well. Tiger finished double bogey, triple bogey to shoot a Mr. Fairway-like 43 on the back and 76 for the round. That was his highest tournament round since a 76 at the Memorial in 2003. He finished T-22 ending a streak of 13 top 10 finishes.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Forrest Fezler.

Boo's $50,000 Rules Lesson

Boo Weekley’s two-stroke penalty for illegally tending the flagstick during Saturday’s third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational ended up costing him $52,250. Weekley finished the tournament with a one over par score of 281 worth $96,250. Had he known the rules and avoided the two-stroke penalty, he would have shot a 1-under 279 and earned $148,500. Hey, Boo, spend a buck and buy a rules book!

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to T.C. Chen.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Another Boo Boo-Boo

Boo Weekley, the good ol’ boy who blew the Honda Classic a couple weeks ago when he missed a three-foot putt on the final hole of regulation, screwed up again today at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Weekley incurred a two-stroke penalty on the second hole when he illegally tended the flagstick for fellow competitor Tom Johnson. In fairness to Boo, he thought he was saving Johnson from a penalty but it turned his own 67 into a 69. Johnson was on the front of the green 85 feet from the hole and forgot to ask his caddie to tend the flag. After he hit his chip – from the green’s surface – it started running toward the unattended flagstick. Weekley knew Johnson would be assessed a two-stroke penalty if his ball hit the flagstick so he ran over and pulled the pin out of the hole.

That was a big oops! Rule 17-2 states that “If an opponent or his caddie or a fellow-competitor or his caddie in stroke play, without the player’s authority or prior knowledge, attends, removes or holds up the flagstick during the stroke or while the ball is in motion, and the act might influence the movement of the ball, the opponent or fellow-competitor incurs the applicable penalty” which in this case is two strokes.

As luck would have it, a spectator who knew the rules mentioned it to an official, who questioned Weekley and Johnson after the round and assessed the penalty. The penalty dropped Weekley from a tie for 10th place to a tie for 21st place. Maybe Boo can find someone to read the rules to him.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Marty Fleckman.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Groovy, Groovy

Here we go again. Our friends at the USGA and the Royal & Ancient have issued their proposed ruling on square grooves. It’s been more than a decade since the USGA tried to ban the controversial U-shaped or square grooves only to be sued by Ping founder Karsten Solheim who forced the blue blazer crowd to back down.

Now the USGA is making another run at the technology advancements. Published reports suggest that golf’s governing bodies want to reduce groove volume by 50 percent; reduce the sharpness of the edge of the groove; impose new guidelines for clubs manufactured after 2010; and grandfather clubs used by regular golfers for at least 10 years. The USGA plans to accept comments until Aug. 1 and then issue a ruling within three to six months.

Why does this matter? The best explanation I’ve seen equates the grooves on a golf club to the tread on an automobile tire. On the tire, the wider and deeper the tread, the more water it can channel away thus improving the tire’s grip on the road. On a golf club, the shape, depth and sharpness of the groove increases the club’s “grip” on the ball, thereby increasing spin and making it easier for a player to control the flight of the shot and impart backspin. Give that technology to tour pros and they can hit shots out of long rough – the equivalent of water for a tire -- that don’t fly, but spin and stop.

Here’s the question the club manufacturers are asking: how do you cut back on the technological advancements to golf clubs? Is it fair to require golfers to purchase new clubs that meet updated USGA specifications? Tour pros get their clubs free, but everyday golfers would be forced to make a decision whether or not to buy new irons that comply with the new standards – unless the USGA grants an exemption. It will be interesting to see what the USGA comes up with and how the golf companies respond.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Homero Blancas.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Masters Caddie Carl Jackson

I know the Masters tournament is still a few weeks away, but this is the time of year I start getting fired up about it. Both Golf and Golf Digest have previews of the tournament in their current issues.

Golf Digest has an interesting article on Augusta National caddie Carl Jackson, who was on the bag for Ben Crenshaw’s victories in 1984 and 1995. Jackson holds the unofficial record for caddieing in the Masters, starting as 14-year-old in 1961.

He has some great tales about his experiences with legendary players. Jackson is not shy about taking credit for Crenshaw winning his two green jackets and to hear him tell it, Crenshaw would have won another title – as would have Bruce Devlin and Gary Player – if they had heeded his advice on club selection during their final rounds. Good stuff.

By the way, check out the cool aerial views of Augusta National in Golf Digest.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Art Wall.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gary McCord is a Wild and Crazy Guy

If you like CBS golf announcer Gary McCord – I like him a lot – then you should check out the interview with him in the current issue of Golf magazine. McCord was unceremoniously banned from broadcasting the Masters in 1994 after he said that the greens were so fast the club must have “used bikini wax” on them and that the bumpy terrain looked “like body bags.” The stuffed shirts who run Augusta National were apoplectic and told CBS that McCord was not welcome back. He hasn’t been there since and doesn’t mind.

In the interview, McCord asserts that incident propelled his broadcasting career and led to numerous corporate golf outings, not mention a role in the movie “Tin Cup.” He said he would not go back to the Masters even if the ban were rescinded. McCord apparently still holds a grudge against Tom Watson, who wrote tournament officials a letter after his comments suggesting he be punished.

McCord said the bikini wax comment was premeditated as he searched for a metaphor to describe how slick Augusta’s greens were playing. He rejected “they use Nair on them,” “they use electrolysis on them” and “they pluck them.” He also confesses that he wrote the body bags line in advance as he does other lines he utters during the course of his broadcasts.

And one bit of trivia that helps explain McCord’s wackiness is that he went to high school with the original wild and crazy guy, Steve Martin, who inspired him to develop his own unique personality.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Steve Melnyk.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Annika Back on Track

Annika Sorenstam played her first tournament of the year losing a playoff to Meghan Francella in the Master Card Classic in Mexico City. Sorenstam, who often skips the opening tournaments on the LPGA Tour, has a history of getting off to a strong start. For example, in each of the past three years, Sorenstam won the first tournament of the year that she entered. Looks like she is ready to challenge Lorena Ochoa for honors as the best player on the LPGA Tour.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Kris Tschetter.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Calcavecchia Wins the PODS

It’s always nice to see old guys like Mark Calcavecchia win on the PGA Tour. Calcavecchia, 46, won Sunday even though he bogeyed the last two holes. The bogey on the 18th gave young gun Heath Slocum a chance to two-putt to force a playoff. Slocum missed his four-footer and Calc had the title. Interesting side note is that Slocum was a high school teammate of Boo Weekley, who missed a short putt on the 72nd hole at the Honda Classic last week to win the tournament outright. Weekley lost in a four-man playoff to Mark Wilson.

Calcavecchia has had and up and down career. He is known as a streaky player who can get hot and shoot very low scores. He won the 1989 British Open when he beat Wayne Grady and Greg Norman in the first multi-playoff hole sudden death format. But Calcavecchia also is known for his famous choke job in the 1997 “War by the Shore” Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island. He was four holes up on Colin Montgomerie with four holes to play and needed only to tie any of them to win the match. After losing the 15th and 16th holes, Calcavecchia shanked a 3-iron on the par 3 17th hole and then lost the 18th hole to halve the match. Luckily for him, Bernhard Langer missed a short putt on the final hole to give the Americans the victory.

So congrats to Calcavecchia for hanging on for the victory. He also looks to stand an excellent chance of getting back to the Masters. But Mark, the gray-streaked goatee looks horrible.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Ted Tryba.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Yes to Global Warming

I don’t know about you, but I’m all in favor of global warming. Honestly, if global warming means warmer temperatures during traditionally a cold month, that’s a good thing because I can play golf without dressing like an Eskimo. Over the Christmas holidays, I went to San Francisco and Maui and played three rounds of golf. I returned to Northern Virginia and played 10 rounds of golf between Dec. 26 and Jan. 7. The temperatures ranged from the high 50s to the low 70s and some of my buddies at Paradise Valley were even wearing shorts.

This weekend, Paradise Valley held its annual Icebreaker tournament. It’s called the Icebreaker because the weather should be pretty chilly, if not down right cold. But each of the past two years, competitors in the Icebreaker have been greeted by balmy temperatures in the upper 60s and low 70s. Last year, 25 percent of the field wore shorts. I didn’t see anyone in shorts yesterday but the high was 67 degrees – for an Icebreaker tournament. Earlier in the week, we still had patches of ice and snow on the ground. If this is the result of global warming, then I embrace it. It might be tough on the polar bears and they have my sympathy. But the polar bears aren’t playing golf. So to Al Gore, the Chicken Little of environmental issues, I say, “Turn it up another 10 degrees.”

By the way, Mr. Fairway’s team won the Icebreaker tournament with a score of -33 (two best balls net from foursomes of an A, B, C and D player). In his first serious round of the year, Mr. Fairway hit 11 or 14 fairways.

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Willie Wood.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

In Praise of Daylight Savings Time

As a golfer, I absolutely love daylight savings time. More daylight at the end of the day means more daylight for after work practice sessions or a chance to squeeze in a few holes after dinner. While the doomsayers complain about the possibility that the nation’s electronic time stamping systems will be screwed up because Congress mandated the nation go on daylight savings time three weeks early this year, I say, “Hooey!” That’s the same crowd that predicted the End of The World a.k.a. Y-2K. Remember that? I was working for a small technology company whose initial are IBM and we had a gigantic flurry of activity in the months leading up to 1-1-00. But guess what? Nothing happened and nothing will happen at 2 a.m. Sunday morning when we set our clocks ahead.

Here’s a true story I tell every year about daylight savings time. When I was a reporter in Fort Worth, Texas in the mid-70s, I answered the city desk phone on the Saturday night before daylight savings time. A woman asked if she was supposed to set her clock ahead or back when she went to bed that night. I repeated the mantra: “Spring forward, clocks ahead; fall back, clocks back.” She found that most helpful and then asked, “Do I set my alarm ahead an hour, too?” “Only if you want to get up an hour later.”

Anyway, I love daylight savings time. Farmers apparently hate it but my response to that is, hey, I’m not a farmer. The best part about it this year is that Congress also extended daylight savings time three weeks later into November. All of which means only one thing: more golf!

Hitting range balls while wondering whatever happened to Calvin Peete.