Friday, December 22

Matchplay Secrets: Jim Gallagher Jr.

Today’s final matchplay installment features Jim Gallagher Jr. whose one Ryder Cup appearance was at The Belfry in 1993. In his only career singles match, Gallagher went head to head with European great Seve Ballesteros.

Memorable matchplay victory:
Gallagher stunned Ballesteros with a 3 and 2 victory in Ryder Cup singles. "I was nervous, no question, but there was more pressure on him than me, while I was probably twice as motivated to try to beat such a great player." The U.S. retained the Cup by a slim 15-13 margin.

Notable quote:
"If you show too much of a weakness, a good opponent is going to eat that up and destroy you."

Gallagher's matchplay pointers:
• You can beat anybody on any given day, even Tiger Woods
• I'm better if I play smart but aggressive
• Try to get off to a quick start and get up early -- it takes the pressure off
• Body language is huge -- if a guy does something different in his routine, you know he's nervous
• If an opponent won't look you in the eyes, you might have him
• If an opponent is staring you down, be careful -- he's not scared

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: BBC Golf)

Thursday, December 21

Matchplay Secrets: Gary Player

Today’s matchplay installment features Gary Player, one of the top matchplay competitors of the modern era. Player is a five-time World Match Play champion and two-time President Cup's captain.

Although the South African beat Jack Nicklaus 6 and 4 and 5 and 4 in World Match Play, he said "my most significant match was against Tony Lema, no question."

Memorable matchplay victory:
Player came back from seven down after 19 holes to defeat Tony Lema at the first extra hole in the World Match Play semi-finals in 1965.

Said Player: "There was a dentist from Australia walking behind us on the 5th and I heard him say: 'Let's go and watch somebody else, this match is over.' I said to him: 'Sir, this match is not over yet.' He wrote to me 15 years later saying, 'I'll never forget that.'"

Notable quote:
"My opponents knew I was a bull terrier and I was never going to give up. The only time I have doubts is when I shake hands and I've lost."

Player's matchplay pointers:
• Have patience but also be aggressive
• Body language is hugely important -- let your opponent know you're going to be trying whether you're up or down
• Stay cool
• Be immune to gamesmanship
• Never give up

Tomorrow: Jim Gallagher (beat Seve Ballesteros in Ryder Cup singles as rookie)

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: BBC Golf)

Wednesday, December 20

Matchplay Secrets: Sandy Lyle

Today’s matchplay installment features Sandy Lyle, who played on the European Ryder Cup Team from 1979-1987 and appeared in five World Match Play finals.

Memorable matchplay victory:
Lyle came back from six down after 18 to defeat Nick Faldo 2 and 1 in the first round of the World Match Play in 1982. (Lyle won the event in 1988, again beating Faldo.)

Quote:
“I couldn’t see a way back because he (Faldo) was one of the big names and playing well, but it turned out he was vulnerable. It just shows that even a player like Faldo can lose their momentum and get into a kamikaze dive, and once that happens it’s difficult to pull out.”

Lyle’s matchplay pointers:
• Go out nice and steady and do not take too many risks early on to save losing holes to par
• Assess your opponent to see if he’s nervous or not playing quite as well, and adjust strategy accordingly
• Get a few up and be on your way -- but don’t let cracks develop
• If you get three or four down, stick at it and look ahead to holes where you can use your strengths

Note:
Down six holes after 18, Lyle used the lunchtime break to change putters and ultimately change the momentum in his 1982 World Match Play victory over Faldo.

Still to come:
Thursday: Gary Player (five-time World Match Play Champion)
Friday: Jim Gallagher (beat Seve Ballesteros in Ryder Cup singles as rookie)

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: BBC Golf)

Tuesday, December 19

Matchplay Secrets: Peter Alliss

This week the Armchair Golf Blog features a series on matchplay. Today, golf commentator Peter Alliss reveals the approach that helped him beat a golf legend.

Memorable matchplay victory:
Alliss defeated Arnold Palmer in Ryder Cup singles in 1963. Two years earlier Alliss halved his Ryder Cup singles match with Palmer. Few went head to head with Arnie in his prime without losing.

Quote:
"Beating Palmer was terrific. I was so frightened. He was in a much better state than me at the time because he was driving well but I was very conscious he wasn't going to beat me and I didn't collapse. I kept the ball in play and he made mistakes."

Alliss' matchplay pointers:
• Always play the man, not the course
• Find the fairway, hit the green -- don't be too ambitious
• Try never to lose holes to par, especially par 3s
• If you're down, keep going -- don't crash, bang, wallop and fire away and make more mistakes
• Keep your car on the track
• Don't give up and don't do stupid things

Still to come:
Wednesday: Sandy Lyle (rallied from six down to defeat Nick Faldo)
Thursday: Gary Player (five-time World Match Play Champion)
Friday: Jim Gallagher (beat Seve Ballesteros in Ryder Cup singles as rookie)

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: BBC Golf)

Sunday, December 17

This Week: Matchplay Secrets of Tour Pros

I ran across some interesting material on matchplay at BBC Golf. It spotlighted several players and their approach, including their greatest matchplay successes.

Matchplay, of course, is where the lowest score on each hole wins. It's all about winning holes and tactics definitely matter. As amateurs, most of us have had a taste of matchplay, going mano a mano with an opponent.

But what's it like for the big boys? Are they nervous? Do they use gamesmanship? What's their strategy?

Following is the lineup:

Tuesday: Peter Alliss (unbeaten against Arnold Palmer in Ryder Cup)
Wednesday: Sandy Lyle (rallied from six down to defeat Nick Faldo)
Thursday: Gary Player (five-time World Match Play Champion)
Friday: Jim Gallagher (beat Seve Ballesteros in Ryder Cup singles as rookie)

Tee it up here tomorrow.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, December 15

Your Musings on Golf Clubs: How a Ping Hater Became a Ping Lover

This week Armchair Golf Blog readers weigh in on golf clubs. Following is Howard's story:

"I owned and had played a set of graphite shafted component irons that my father (a clubmaker) had put together for me to my own custom specifications. While my driving was fine, I noticed that my iron play was holding me back from scoring well; my shots just were not accurate enough. I determined to seek and test other irons to see if they would make a difference."

Consulting Golf Club Test Results

"I began to research products. One of my main sources was the well done Golf Magazine club tests. I highly recommend that you reference these test results (available on their Web site). You can narrow down your search by looking for the characteristics you seek in your new clubs. You can save a LOT of time starting with these test results."

Participating at Demo Days

"I then went to the 'demo days' for each of the manufacturers I was interested in and hit as many different sets of each manufacturers' clubs as I could. I believe that trying clubs before you purchase them is vital.

"Hitting shots changed my entire perception of which club I thought I wanted. The clubs that pleased my eye most (and that I would have purchased without actually hitting shots) turned out to hit weak pop ups. I also thought I wanted graphite shafts (my prior set of irons had graphite shafts) for the performance and smoother feel. But hitting both graphite and steel shafts proved to me that steel shafted irons have a much tighter dispersion. When I hit shots with steel shafted irons, you could put a bushel basket over them. With graphite shafts, it would have taken a large tarpaulin to cover them. Significant and surprising difference."

Ping I5s Are Automatic

"Finally, my swing and physical dimensions require custom tailoring of irons (2 degrees flat lie and plus 1 inch length and mid-size grips). For every manufacturer except Ping, this presented problems. Customizing their irons is routine for Ping.

"In the end, I bought Ping I5s. The G5s and S58s worked fine but the I5s had just the right mix of distance, eye appeal and workability to suit me. I matched them with three Ping Tour wedges. I just received them and will play with them for the first time next week. Thus far on the practice range, I cannot say enough good things about the Ping I5s. They are 'automatic.'

"My advice is to go straight to a Ping demo day. If you like any of the Ping s, your search is over. Order them and enjoy them."

Epilogue

"For no good reason, I was formerly a 'Ping' hater. When the Eye 2 Ping products first came out years and years ago, I couldn't afford them and was jealous of poorly skilled golfers who could buy a better golf game. Now that I, too, can afford Ping irons, I am no longer jealous! Count me among the Ping believers."

Special thanks to Howard, Luke Swilor, Anonymous and Lancer for their input for this week's series on golf clubs.

To everyone else, thanks for reading and feel free to share your experiences in the comments section or by emailing me at armchairgolfer@hotmail.com.


The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, December 14

Your Musings on Golf Clubs: Advice from Tour Hopeful Luke Swilor

This week Armchair Golf Blog readers weigh in on golf clubs. Today's thoughts come from Luke Swilor, a former All-American at University of Utah and currently a mini-tour pro who is chasing his dream to play on the PGA Tour.

Luke's advice for beginners:

"It depends on how much you want to spend. The name brand clubs ARE much better than knock-offs, but as a beginner you don't really need an expensive set to learn with. You probably wouldn't notice a whole lot of difference. Once you get hooked you'll want to get a better set, but a lot of used sets will do for now.

"Used name brand clubs would be a good place to start. For your irons, you probably want 'cavity backs' or some other oversize variation. Blades are less forgiving."

Luke's advice for yours truly:

"Sounds like you have some idea what you're looking for. Hit some sets. You'll be able to tell right off if you like the look and feel of a club. Fitting really will help, as long as the person fitting you is competent.

"Other than that, most of the clubs these days are very good. I think the name brands are better than any type of knock-off. Titleist always makes good sets."

Tomorrow: How a Ping hater became a Ping lover

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, December 13

Your Musings on Golf Clubs: Personalized Club Fittings

This week Armchair Golf Blog readers weigh in on golf clubs. This from "Anonymous":

"Go to two or three personalized club fittings and get a variety of opinions. Yes, they're trying to sell you clubs, but you're in the market! Anyway, a club fitting can tell you the most important things you should be looking for in a new set of irons.

"First, pay attention to the lie angle of the clubheads. I'm tall myself, with short arms, so my lie angle has turned out to be about three degrees upright from standard, which can vary slightly between manufacturers. I found out (through three fittings) that my standard clubs were too flat, leading me to catch the toe in the ground rather than the whole leading edge of the face.

"Next you need to find out what shafts you should use. This is part metrics (for the tall player, likely an inch longer than standard) and part swing speed. The faster your swing, the stiffer shafts you need to maintain control of the clubhead path. Again, this is something you need from a professional fitting, where they can actually measure how fast you swing the club.

"Finally, make sure you get grips that actually fit the size of your hands. Too thick will block your hands; too thin and you lose control in the grip.

"It doesn't really matter what brand you go with, as long as it fits your unique body type."

Still to come ...

Thursday: Tour hopeful Luke Swilor's expert advice
Friday: How a Ping hater became a Ping lover

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, December 12

Your Musings on Golf Clubs: 'Lancer' Quotes Lee Trevino

This week Armchair Golf Blog readers weigh in on golf clubs. This from "Lancer":

"Lee Trevino once said that sometimes it's the Indian and not the arrow. In other words, it's you and not the clubs, contrary to what the club makers would have you believe. That said, I would look closely at Calloway because I believe they've done more to change the game over the past 15 years than any other club maker."

Still to come ...

Wednesday: "Anonymous" on personalized club fittings
Thursday: Tour hopeful Luke Swilor's expert advice
Friday: How a Ping hater became a Ping lover

The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, December 10

This Week: Your Musings on Golf Clubs

Recently I posted about my golf clubs situation and how I'm going to start searching for a new set. I may take up to a year -- I'm in no hurry and I have no idea what I might get.

Anyway, I asked for your input and got some good, thoughtful responses that I will share with you this week:

Tuesday: "Lancer" quotes Lee Trevino
Wednesday: "Anonymous" on personalized club fittings
Thursday: Tour hopeful Luke Swilor's expert advice
Friday: How a Ping hater became a Ping lover

Come on back.

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, December 5

Did the USGA Sell Out?

The USGA has inked a sponsorship deal with its first-ever corporate partner, credit card titan American Express.

Will the organization that zealously guards the integrity of the game and lays down strict renumeration rules for amateurs become the American Express USGA or get slap happy with the American Express logo? Not according to the USGA press release and story I read at PGA.com.

Tiger Woods is apparently in favor of the deal.

"It's a tremendous opportunity," Tiger was quoted as saying. "This is two enormous brands coming together to help golf."

Officials said fans likely won't notice "the partnership" while viewing USGA events. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, December 4

Bad Ernie, Bad Sergio

Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia threw golf clubs at the Sun City Challenge over the weekend. Both were fined the Sunshine Tour maximum of 1,000 rand for the offense. That's $138.

"Both players handed over the cash immediately," reported Reuters, "which will be donated to the South African Golf Development Board."

I threw my golf clubs in the basement for the winter. My fine was 0 rand, which converts to $0.

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, November 21

3 Golf Things I'm Thankful for

1. Golf club membership.
This was the year I joined Great Oaks Country Club after being on the waiting list for a year and a half. My years of golf drought have ended.

2. Living in the Tiger Woods era.
Rob at Bad Golf mentioned this a while back in a comment to one of my posts. He said we ought to be grateful that we're witnessing what very well may be the greatest golfer ever. I haven't always given Tiger his due, probably because I grew up in the Nicklaus era. Jack was my idol. But I'd be a fool to deny Tiger's total tion of the golf world and assault on the record books. "Tiger, you da man!"

3. The Ryder Cup.
Despite the Americans not being very competitive since the 20th century, the Ryder Cup has become the Super Bowl of golf. It's not about the money or the individual. It's about team and how to choke less than your opponent. They're playing to win a trophy. I like that.

Finally, since it's Thanksgiving week I thought it would be fitting to inaugurate the Turkey Award.

Turkey Award: Phil Mickelson
Phil: About the family thing -- I get it. But you're a major winner now. Can't you come out and play the PGA Grand Slam? There's only one "Lefty," and it's not Mike Weir. You could have brought the family and made it a vacation (or an extension of the vacation you're already on). Somewhere Tim Finchem is gnashing his teeth. Again.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, November 20

Golf Aberration: Tiger Woods Loses Lead and Playoff

What's this? Tiger Woods loses a three-shot lead in the final round of the Dunlop Phoenix and loses the playoff? Am I dreaming? Can someone splash some cold water on my face?

The giant slayer was none other than Irishman Padraig Harrington. And it wasn't even March 17.

"The fact that I've beaten Tiger in a playoff makes me no different a golfer than when I came here this week," Harrington told the Associated Press. "It may change what people think about me, but in my own eyes I'm the same golfer."

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, November 15

Let the Golf Clubs Search Begin

After 19 years with the same set of irons, it's time (boy is it ever!) for me to invest in some new golf equipment.

I am in no hurry. My dad, who follows golf club technology pretty closely, told me to take up to a year. I just might.

Now that I've joined a club and am starting to play semi-regularly again, getting new sticks definitely makes sense. I already bought some new golf shoes for my birthday. My pair of Nikes had been around since the early 90s. I know. That's pathetic.

Some of you are quite expert in this area, so please chime in on equipment preferences and why.

I'm a tall guy (6'4") with short arms, so I've always played with irons that are an inch over. I'll probably get fitted instead of buying off the shelf. As far as brand and club style, I'm a blank slate.

I'm a decent golfer, shooting in the high 70s and low 80s most of the time. I played numbers two and three on my high school and community college golf teams. I sure wouldn't mind getting my game back. For me, that would be a single-digit handicap in the 5-7 range. (I probably play to about a 10 now.) Physically, I'm in pretty good shape. No big limitations.

If you have any suggestions or thoughts, please comment or feel free to email me at armchairgolfer@hotmail.com.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, November 13

Grades for Top 10 Golfers in World Ranking

SI.com golf columnist Alan Shipnuck has issued the following year-end grades for the world's top ten players:

1. Tiger Woods: A-plus
2. Jim Furyk: A-minus
3. Phil Mickelson: B
4. Adam Scott: B-minus
5. Vijay Singh: C
6. Retief Goosen: D
7. Luke Donald: B-plus
8. Ernie Els: F
9. Sergio Garcia: D-minus
10. Geoff Ogilvy: A

More here.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, November 10

Golf Rule of the Week: Can You Play Out of a Clubhouse Window?

Q: A competitor hit a ball into a clubhouse which was not out of bounds and had not been declared an integral part of the course. In order to play it out, he opened a window, claiming that it was a movable (or partially movable) obstruction. Was this permissible?

A: Yes. The clubhouse was an immovable obstruction. However, any part of it designed to be movable, such as a window or door, may be moved to any position if this can be done without undue delay. The same principle would apply if the clubhouse had been declared an integral part of the course.

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: USGA)

Wednesday, November 8

John Daly: 'Nothing Has Gone Right'

John Daly has more new song material.

Daly's wife has left him after doing time for a federal conviction, he injured his back, hip and pinky, and he took a free fall down the Tour money list. No reports on whether Daly's dog has died.

"It's been a tough one, with injuries and everything else going on," Daly told the Associated Press. "It's tough to play the game of golf when your family is not with you, and the injuries. It's one of those years when nothing has gone right."

JD has lost his exempt status on Tour but can look forward to one early season start: the Nissan Open has granted Daly a spot in the field at Riviera.

What does it all mean? "It's just going to make me play harder," John said.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, November 6

A Rave from a Reader

Who doesn't like to get some positive feedback? Especially on a Monday.

A gentleman named Bob wrote me to say this:

"Just wanted you to know that I recently ordered three personalized golf gloves from mygolfgloves.com (from a link provided by your site) and both the gloves and the service were superb. I highly recommend them and the service they provide.

"Let me also add that I enjoy your blog and check it daily. I sometimes comment under the screen name 'Lancer.'"

Thanks, Bob! And thanks to all of you who read this blog. I appreciate you.

If you ever want to write me without commenting (publicly) on a blog post, email me at armchairgolfer@hotmail.com. Feel free to send along your comments and suggestions, including suggested topics.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, November 3

Golf Blogger Debuts Golf Blog Search Engine

Golf Blogger has created a golf blog search engine that searches 40 top golf blogs. The Armchair Golf Blog is proud to have made the list.

"It works just like a regular search engine," writes Golf Blogger. "In fact, it runs on Google. But it searches only the 40 golf blogs that I have elected to include in the system." (Although he is open to suggestions.)

I tried it out and can vouch for its effectiveness. For example, I typed "Henry Picard," a PGA Tour pro of yesteryear I blogged about earlier this year, and up popped nine results that included the Armchair Golf Blog and Golf Blogger.

Check it out here.

The Armchair Golfer

P.S. If you want to limit your search to the Armchair Golf Blog, scroll down to the bottom right-hand side of this blog and enter your search item.

Wednesday, November 1

How to Shoot Par and Get Waxed in the Club Championship

I played golf today with a guy who told me about the club championship this past summer. I knew who won but I didn't know the details.

The young guy who won the club championship just graduated college and nearly qualified for the U.S. Open. (He was first alternate.) He plans to turn pro and is looking for sponsors.

His opponent in the club championship final was a middle-aged guy who played #1 for Clemson. The final was 36 holes. (Everything is scratch, no strokes given.)

"Clemson" shot even par in the opening round, a tidy 72. He was 11 down. That's right, you read 11 DOWN.

"Young guy who plans to turn pro" fired an opening round 61. It was over about six holes into the second 18.

I think if "young guy" decides to play next year we should just hand him the trophy.

The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, October 29

New Meaning to Being in the Hunt

Play in the Chrysler Championship in Palm Harbor, FL, was interrupted on Friday by a, well, manhunt.

"Never had a manhunt out here," Brian Gay was quoted as saying. Gay was preparing to hit his drive when police appeared on the third tee. He let them go through.

The officers had guns drawn as they pursued a pair of juveniles accused of burglarizing a nearby house.

On Sunday, K.J. Choi cruised to a four-stroke victory with a closing 67. Meanwhile, journeyman Paul Goydos vaulted from 160th to 97th on the money list by tying for second place with Brett Wetterich.

The $466,400 paycheck was the largest of Goydos’ career and means he won’t have to return to Q-school. Sweet.

Finally, Ernie Els played his way into next week’s Tour Championship with spectacular par saves on the last two holes to salvage a closing round of 72.

"I’ll be the happiest guy there," the Big Easy said of making the elite Tour Championship field.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, October 27

Faldo Speaks About Sitting in CBS Hot Seat

Forget the Champions Tour. Nick Faldo will be announcing rather than playing golf.

Earlier this month Nick Faldo was named the lead golf analyst for CBS, replacing Lanny Wadkins. SI's Michael Bamberger recently quizzed the newest accent to CBS golf coverage.

Faldo talks about the CBS crew, his resemblance to Harrison Ford, and sheds light on the British slang term, "cat's lick." He also reveals who he thinks is today's best golf announcer. Yes, Johnny Miller.

How will Nick be different from Johnny Miller?

"Johnny's great, but I'll do it my way," Faldo told SI. "I think of it not as a golf broadcast but as entertainment, for three to five hours. I need to make sure I'm quick, informative, serious when that's what's called for, funny when that's the right tone. I'd like to offer a bit of instruction. You have to be sharp, and you have to be entertaining. Simple as that."

Read the Q&A here.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, October 23

Road to Louisville: 2008 Ryder Cup

It’s never too early to plan to attend a titanic golf event. And America needs our help. You might say it’s our patriotic duty. Who else wants to go to the next Ryder Cup matches?

The battle will take place on American soil, in Louisville, Kentucky, which is somewhat centrally located.

Here’s the deal for me: I have family in the area. My dad’s hometown -- Jeffersonville, Indiana -- is directly across the Ohio River. That’s right, I’ve got a place to stay. Several places, in fact.

Are you in?

Step one is to apply for tickets. You can fill out an online form or fax your information. Ticket information will be sent in early 2007, followed by a random drawing next fall.

More info here.

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, October 17

Golf Mandatory at Chinese University

Communism ain't what it used to be.

At Xiamen University in China's southeastern Fujian province, students majoring in management, law, economics and software engineering are required to take a course in golf. You read that right.

"Golf is not only good exercise, but will teach students communication skills and benefit their future careers," the China Daily newspaper quoted the university's president Zhu Chongshi as saying.

More here:
Chinese university makes "elitist" golf compulsory

I had to cut class to play golf when I was in college, which made it considerably harder to get my degree in Economics.

But college credit for golf -- now there's an idea that can bring our two nations closer together.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, October 13

'Gray Lady' Takes on Michelle Wie

An article in The New York Times by golf writer Damon Hack does a post mortem on Michelle Wie's first year in professional golf.

With all that happened Wie’s first year -- firing a caddie, nearly winning a major, missing cuts playing against the men -- Hack points out how Wie’s career thus far resembles "Groundhog Day."

"She turned 17 on Wednesday but will start her second year in the same way she began the first: as a talented prodigy still looking for her first victory beneath the never-ending glare of the news media."

Wie states she wouldn’t change a thing. Ah, the optimism of youth.

Read the full article here:
Wie Has a Lot to Learn as a Pro (Including How to Win)

By the way, you gotta love a golf writer named "Hack."

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, October 11

Floyd County Wins State High School Golf Title

I live in a county of 14,000 people. The county seat, Floyd, is home to a mere 440 souls. And the entire county has just one stoplight and no four-lane roads. Think Mayberry.

(I joke that when my family moved from Seattle to Floyd three years ago the town's population grew by one percent.)

So, as you can imagine, high school sports are a big deal here.

Today, Floyd County High School and the community have something to be proud of -- another state high school golf championship (Group A). It's the third state title in seven years, not quite a dynasty but certainly a strong golf tradition.

Soon there will be another black and gold state championship banner hanging in the old gymnasium.

The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, October 8

Love Captures Greensboro Title

Davis Love fired a final round 66 to win the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro by two shots.

Davis has been in contention several times -- including at the majors -- but it had been three long years since his last victory. A nice ending to what has been a rather disappointing season for the 42-year-old Love who failed to make his seventh consecutive Ryder Cup team.

Does Davis have another major title in him?

I'd say probably not. Love is like Fred Couples, an excellent ball striker who can play his way into contention but can't close it out on Sunday.

I'd love to see it though (no pun intended).

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, October 4

Europeans Putt Well

In case you were still wondering, the Europeans putt well. This was reported by the Associated Press:

"For those who think the Europeans only make putts during the Ryder Cup, consider the following week at the American Express Championship.

"The 11 players from Europe's team accounted for 176 birdies and eagles, while the 10 U.S. Ryder Cup players had 150 subpar holes."

The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, October 1

Things Back to Normal in Pro Golf

Now that we have that weird Ryder Cup thing out of the way, we can get back to our regular scheduled golf programming.

Namely, Tiger Woods beating the field into submission -- this time by eight shots in another wire-to-wire, take-no-prisoners victory at the WGC in England.

No offense, Tiger, but I’m bored. Can you take some time off like Phil, play the final round left-handed (like Phil), or pretend it’s the Ryder Cup every week just to make it a bit more interesting?

You’re making it look way too easy, man. All the so-called competition want their mommies. No fair!

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, September 27

Byron Nelson: Golf, Stew and Decency

Golf great Byron Nelson, who died Tuesday at age 94, once said, “I don’t know very much. I know a little bit about golf. I know how to make a stew. And I know how to be a decent man.”

Obviously, Nelson was also unfailingly modest.

Probably best known in the modern golf era for his 11 consecutive PGA Tour victories, Nelson arguably had the most-consistent golf swing of all time.

When the USGA built a robot in 1975 to test golf clubs and golf balls for conformity to standards, they patterned it after Nelson's swing and named it "Iron Byron." (The original Iron Byron is on display in the USGA museum.)

“I did not ever dream, in my wildest imagination, there would be as much money or that people would hit the ball so far,” Nelson said in recent years. “I only won $182,000 in my whole life."

The Armchair Golfer

Source: Times Online

Tuesday, September 26

Are Americans Sore Losers?

From the American media to anyone with a passing interest in U.S. golf, people are hacked off. Three straight Ryder Cup losses. Unthinkable!

Let's list all the excuses and round up all the possible parties to blame. Let's change the competition somehow, the team selection process, or maybe the venue, so the good ol' USA can win again.

(Remember when this happened in international basketball? If only America could play its NBA stars in the Olympics ...)

Europe, Australia, South Africa and other countries have produced excellent golfers. Many have honed their games at American universities and now compete regularly on the PGA Tour. Golf is a worldwide game and American supremacy (minus Tiger) is a thing of the past.

As some have already said, it will take better American players who are completely dedicated to winning the Ryder Cup. Otherwise it will be more of the same.

Winning is no longer an American birthright -- at least not in golf.

The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, September 24

Why Europe Won

For the American side, the second-guessing about the Ryder Cup will be endless. Tiger Woods can’t lead or win in a team setting. Tom Lehman was too rah-rah. Phil Mickelson didn’t show up. And on and on.

But forget about the U.S. for a minute. Here are a few simple reasons why Europe won the cup for the third consecutive time.

1. Europe fielded a better team.
Their best team ever, many said before the matches began.

2. Europe played well.
When the better team plays well, they usually win. Americans might be disappointed about the results, but they shouldn’t be surprised.

3. Europe is a true team.
The European players do “team” better. Even if they lost they would be at the local pub downing a few pints. They're in it together -- always have been, always will be.

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, September 23

Pillow Fight to Set Tone for Singles Matches

Down 10-6 going into Sunday’s singles matches, U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Lehman remained upbeat. While many were wondering about Lehman’s Sunday lineup, Captain Tom was organizing a pillow fight on the eve of the critical singles matches.

“We’re continuing to bond,” Lehman said. “The pillow fight is another opportunity for us to have some fun and unwind together after a frustrating day at the K Club. We’ll be OK.”

After the pillow fight, the Americans planned to roast marshmallows before turning in for the night.

"I like our chances tomorrow," Lehman added. "This team is really coming together."

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, September 22

Splash Down Instead of Smack Down

Tiger Woods hit it in the water on the first hole. Jim Furyk hit it in the water on the last hole.

In between they played just good enough to break even in their two opening day matches, winning a point and losing a point.

Funny game, golf. You team up the two highest-ranked players in the world. You match up power and consistency. You put together complementary personalities. You think they should be unbeatable and set the tone for the American team.

Ah, but this is the Ryder Cup. An alternate reality where Sergio wins points the way Tiger wins majors.

Go figure.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, September 21

Miller: USA Will Win Ryder Cup

NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller has spoken.

"This might be their weakest team ever, at least on paper," Miller told the Associated Press. "But they've still got enough good players that if they play clutch golf and come together as a team, they can win. And I believe they will."

Part of Miller's rationale is that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are both due to have a good Ryder Cup. And that Tiger wants to wipe away the one big blemish on his career thus far.

Although Johnny predicted a U.S. victory, he didn't give American golf a free pass.

"Seven of the top 30 in the world are Americans. That's unfathomable," Miller said. "I can't believe the state of the game in America. ... It's like you've got 12 guys -- three of them are firing a 50-millimeter cannon and nine guys are BB guns. The bottom line is, the U.S. has got to step it up."

Step up time begins on Friday morning with Mr. Woods and Mr. Furyk.

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, September 19

Captain Camaraderie

They're singing college fight songs. They're playing skins games with rotating partners. They're signing autographs (even though there's a no-autograph policy) -- all in the name of fun.

Is there anything that Tom Lehman -- who I now officially dub "Captain Camaraderie" -- isn't doing to turn the U.S. Ryder Cup team into best buds? I think not.

Will this translate to sinking clutch putts and earning Ryder Cup points? I think so. Or not.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, September 14

Does Coach K Hold the Key to Victory at the K Club?

Tom Lehman is looking outside the golf world for Ryder Cup advice, turning to Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.
.
"Coach K told me, 'Just follow your gut,'" Tom was quoted as saying.

I could have told him that. (No offense, Coach K.)

Lehman has also sought advice from legendary basketball coach John Wooden.

Coach Wooden told Lehman to run a 2-2-1 full-court press from the get-go. Lehman reminded the Wizard of Westwood the Ryder Cup is a golf competition. But the UCLA great didn't budge, noting his record 10 NCAA championships.

(OK, Coach Wooden didn't really say that. But Lehman did seek his advice.)

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, September 8

Woosnam and Bjorn: Poor Communications Skills on Display

Thomas Bjorn issued an apology for blasting European Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam's handling of captain's picks. Bjorn was fined by the European Tour.

"Having had a day to reflect on my comments, I would like to apologize for the hurtful and personal nature of my remarks to European captain Ian Woosnam," Bjorn told the Associated Press.

I'm guessing Bjorn had a legitimate beef with Woosie. Not simply on the merits of Woosie's picks, but on the way the affected players were told.

"He never called me," Bjorn was quoted as saying. "He came into the bar at the hotel and gave me 20 seconds about Lee having won twice at The K Club. In a bar. That kind of sums it up."

A long and powerful ball striker, Captain Woosnam comes up short on communications skills. And Bjorn gets bad marks for his public rant.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, September 7

Newspaper Takes Woods to the Woodshed

I ran across this today at si.com and attributed to the Washington Post:

"At the '04 Ryder Cup, nobody was more responsible for the U.S. rout than Woods in his disastrous partnership with Phil Mickelson. The rivals, ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the world, tried to pretend to be friends, but lost both their matches on the first day, dooming the U.S. team from the start. Their icy non-chemistry, through the fault of neither, soured the team."

Well, there you go, Tiger -- more bulletin board material. Please use it.

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, September 5

The Greenbrier

On the way home from a Labor Day weekend getaway, the family and I stopped off at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

The smell of heavy coin was in the air. What a place!

Take a look.

I saw Tom Watson's parking spot -- Tom is the golf professional emeritus of The Greenbrier. The spot was empty, so no chance of going 18 with Tom. Maybe next time.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, August 30

Like Tiger, Hallberg Hit the Roof -- But Saved Par!

You won't believe this. The following is an excerpt from a recent AP story:

"On the roof: Gary Hallberg made one of the wackiest pars on the PGA Tour, a story he relives a couple of times a year. It came up again last week when Tiger Woods hit a 9-iron that went onto and over the clubhouse roof at Firestone.

"Hallberg once hit a shot that stayed on the roof -- and he played it from there in the 1982 Bob Hope Classic.

"'I had an uphill lie on the 16th hole at Indian Wells,' Hallberg said. 'I had 150 yards to the hole, took a smooth 7-iron and got a flyer. I thought, Oh, geez, that's out of here.'

"Hallberg still hasn't seen Woods' shot, but his reaction was similar. He thought it was out-of-bounds.

"'The clubhouse wasn't out-of-bounds,' he said in a telephone interview Sunday night. 'My drop would have been in the rocks, or I could take an unplayable (lie) and go back to the fairway. The rules official said, Or you could play it. And he was chuckling.'

"Hallberg decided to check out his lie on the roof, so he found the club manager, who was working at a barbecue for guests. They got a ladder, climbed onto the roof and saw the ball in a bed of gravel and tar.

"'There were two palm trees between me and the green,' Hallberg said. 'I had 60 or 70 yards, and I hit it about 30 feet past the hole. I missed every putt that day. But I made that one.'

"Hallberg said the gallery went crazy when he climbed onto the roof. And when he made the putt?

"'It was the biggest roar I had ever heard for me,' he said."

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, August 25

Tiger Woods to Replace Pluto as Planet?

In the wake of Pluto's demotion at the General Assembly of the 2006 International Astronomical Union, a new planet may be emerging: Tiger Woods.

With planetary definitions in flux, the case for Woods is being made by some astronomers.

"Tiger Woods is one of the biggest forces in our solar system," one astronomer said. "Just look at the profound effect he has on other bodies." The astronomer also cited Tiger's 51 PGA Tour wins, including 12 majors by age 30.

Yet other astronomers argue that making Tiger Woods a planet is premature.

"Let's see how he does in the Ryder Cup," another astronomer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Woods could not be reached for comment.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, August 24

Fast Round at Great Oaks

Last Friday afternoon I achieved a golfing first. I got around my home course in less than two and a half hours -- on foot.

I didn't set out to make it a speedy round, but with no one in front of me and starting on the back side, I decided to play briskly. My motivation was to get in a full round, even though I was supposed to be at a friend's house for dinner around 6.

Often when playing by myself I'll hit some extra shots, but not this time. I played the first nine in a surprising hour and five minutes. "Wow!" I thought. "I can get this in if I hustle." The second nine is longer. Still, I made it around in an hour and 15 minutes. Whew!

Oh yeah, I shot a 79. Not bad, considering I had a couple of doubles.

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, August 22

Overheard on Tour: Scott Verplank

"I'm so pumped. I don't know how you can have a better event than the Ryder Cup. I told Tom I was put on Earth to play in things like this."

--Scott Verplank, after being selected as one of two captain's picks for the U.S. team

Source: Associated Press

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, August 17

Tribute to Big Ed Schaefers

I've been absent for a while, due largely to the passing of my father-in-law, Big Ed Schaefers. (We just returned from Seattle early in the week.)

Ed was an avid golfer, and a good one, too. He carried a single-digit handicap most of his life and won his men's club championship (low gross). I didn't play with Ed until he was well into his 60s, but he could still shoot in the 70s, hitting his baby fade and putting like a demon.

In 1998 when the PGA came to the Seattle area (Sahalee), Ed bought a week-long pass and let me use it for the opening round. It was my second "major" and my first in-person look at Tiger Woods.

If there are tee times in heaven, Ed certainly has one and is giving his playing partners fits.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, July 27

Pavin Cards a 26, Sets Nine-hole Record

Corey Pavin hit only two fairways in regulation but still managed to birdie eight holes to fire a PGA record 26 on the front nine at the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee. He needed just 10 putts.

Corey recorded one birdie on the back, coming in with a 35 for a sizzling 61. Pavin said he couldn't help but think about shooting 59 after his record-breaking front nine.

CP has missed eight of 16 cuts this year, but I'm going out on a limb to predict he'll make the cut this week at Milwaukee's Brown Deer Park Golf Course. Go Bruins!

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, July 24

British Open Notebook: Was Tiger the Only One Crying?

Overcome with emotion, Tiger Woods cried on caddie Steve Williams' shoulder after holing out on the 18th to win his second consecutive British Open and eleventh professional major.

It was a rare emotional display for Tiger after a brilliant victory. This one was for his dad Earl, who died in May. I don't mind seeing Tiger's human side, do you?

Hats off to Chris DiMarco for another gutsy performance and providing some much needed drama as the field, once again, fell away.

But getting back to Tiger, was he the only one crying? Maybe not.

Although we may not get to view it publicly, others had reasons to bawl their heads off -- Sergio (can't get r done), Ernie ("Tiger knows how to win these things ..."), Jim Furyk (close at both Opens, but no cigar), Colin (I missed the cut) and Phil (dang, how did I lose at Winged Foot?!?!).

If they're crying -- when they're crying -- they're not crying happy tears. I wouldn't be either, especially now that Tiger's back.

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, July 22

British Open Notebook: Time for Els to Step Up

Yesterday Ernie Els matched Tiger's 65 after Woods had posted 12 under at the halfway mark of the British Open. Els teed off eight shots back and played a masterful round to enter round three just one off the pace.

Let's see what Ernie can do playing with Tiger today in the final pairing. It's been a long road back for Els after his knee surgery.

Can Ernie meet the challenge of playing in the pressure cooker with Tiger? It will be fun to watch.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, July 19

Woods-Faldo Fight Odds at 25-1

As probably everyone knows by now, Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo are paired in the first two rounds of the British Open starting tomorrow.

Apparently Tiger is still miffed by comments Faldo made about his swing during the 2005 Buick Invitational. Woods doesn't abide swing criticism. Faldo doesn't care, says he's just doing his job.

According to an article I just read at seattletimes.com, maybe they'll settle their differences mano-a-mano:

"British bookmaking company William Hill is offering 6-4 odds they will not shake hands on the first tee Thursday, and 25-1 odds Woods and Faldo will come to blows at some point during the first round. Those odds started at 100-1."

If I'm Faldo, I'd bite his ear. But I guess in a sense he already has.

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, July 18

British: Hoylake ... Huh?

The British Open returns to the Royal Liverpool Golf Club at Hoylake after a, er, 39-year absence. The last British Open winner here was Roberto De Vicenzo who is 159 years old. Actually, he's only 80 something.

(There's a nice piece on De Vicenzo in the July issue of Golf Digest. The guy could flat play -- even Hogan said so.)

I know nothing about this course and have no idea who will capture the Claret Jug. Which, in fact, should make it a very entertaining British Open to watch.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, July 17

Golf as Fitness

Since I joined the golf club, not only have I been playing more golf but I've been getting some great exercise. Namely, walking the golf course.

Great Oaks Country Club is a particularly hilly layout in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia. Although most people opt to ride, I walk every sweaty step toting my clubs. I love it!

Of course, I want to play well. But I also view my time on the course as a hike and therapy. My legs are stronger and I've shed several pounds, even though I was reasonably trim before.

Call me old-fashioned, but I think it's a shame more people don't walk. It's good exercise and provides a more natural rhythm to the game.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, July 12

Golf Withdrawl

Any of you who have been following this blog for a while know I had played very little golf up until recently when I joined the local club.

Now after not playing for just nine days, I'm going through golf withdrawl.

Crazy!

I'm sure some of you can relate. Once golf gets back into your system, you need it to balance everything out.

I hope to get back out on the links this weekend when my wife returns from Seattle. Don't get me wrong -- I love the Mr. Mom thing. But it's about time for Mr. Golf to re-emerge.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, July 6

Overheard on Tour: Fred Funk

"I've gone from being the oldest old dog to being the youngest old dog."
--Fred Funk on making his debut at the U.S. Senior Open

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, June 30

Should Mickelson and Montgomerie Bunk Together?

Monty dropped out of the French Open this week due to fatigue.

This from the Associated Press:

"Montgomerie pulled out because he is exhausted following his loss at the U.S. Open earlier this month, French Open spokeswoman Stephanie Joyeux said Wednesday.

"The 43-year-old Montgomerie had been scheduled to take part in the 100th anniversary French Open in his eighth straight week of play."

Also citing fatigue, Phil has been dropping out of events, too.

Maybe Lefty and Monty should sleep it off together. Bunk beds. They could flip for the top bunk. Just a thought.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, June 28

Overheard on Tour: Colin Montgomerie

"There's no way I would swap my eight European Order of Merit titles for one major win. My consistency is one of my best attributes and I think my career certainly reflects that."
--Colin Montgomerie

(From a Golf Magazine interview before the U.S. Open.)

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, June 26

I'm 3 of 100 on America's Greatest Public Courses

How many of America's 100 Greatest Public Courses have you played?

Alas, I've only played three. But at least I'm not shut out.

They're listed here at GolfDigest.com.

I've Played:
#74: Kapalua Plantation (Kapalua, HI)
#89: Torrey Pines (La Jolla, CA)
#99: Semiahmoo (Blaine, WA)

Spectated on:
#13: The Homestead (Hot Springs, VA)

Drive-bys:
#1: Pebble Beach (Pebble Beach, CA)
#2: Pinehurst No. 2 (Pinehurst, NC)
#9: Spyglass Hill (Pebble Beach, CA)
#62: The Links at Spanish Bay (Pebble Beach, CA)

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, June 23

I'll Take Four Masters Tickets, Please

I received my Masters Tournament Practice Rounds Ticket Application in the mail recently. Maybe 2007 will be my year.

If I'm lucky enough to be randomly selected for tickets, I'm calling my dad in California. Probably my brother, too. That makes three -- who else wants to go?

The Armchair Golfer

P.S. I'm only 306 miles from Augusta. What a road trip that would be.

Monday, June 19

U.S. Open Leftovers

75 Holes Played Since Membership

OK, it’s Monday night and I’m late to the game. Last night I was going to make my final post on the U.S. Open but I backed off more times than Jim Furyk. I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I felt kinda numb and disoriented after watching that train wreck of a finish.

Meanwhile, today bloggers and MSM have been pecking away about the U.S. Open like vultures going after a fresh carcass. I want a piece of whatever is left, so here goes.

Phil Mickelson
Question Phil’s decision-making on 18 all you want, but in the end the law of averages caught up with him. Johnny was right. You just can’t miss all those fairways on Sunday and win the U.S. Open. The golf gods won’t allow it. Not even for Phil, who they like.

Colin Montgomerie
Middle of 18th fairway, 170 yards, perfect setup for Monty’s fade. Clank. Double bogey. I guarantee Monty will lose more sleep over this than Phil.

Ian Poulter
Sorry, but pink isn’t a winning color at the U.S. Open. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

Jim Furyk
I would have bet Jim was going to drop that par putt on 18, which would have gotten him into a playoff. Furyk is clutch, but this time it didn’t happen.

Kenneth Ferrie
Superman belt buckle wasn’t enough. Nice try, though.

Geoff Ogilvy
The truth is, this guy hit it better than anyone the last two days. And he converted clutch pars on 17 (chip in) and 18 (up and down) when it counted. Give him credit. He’s got some serious game.

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, June 17

U.S. Open Day 3: Mickelson in Perfect Position

68 Holes Played Since Membership

Can Phil win three straight majors, including his first U.S. Open?

Well, he's right where he wants to be -- tied for the lead and playing in the last group on Sunday.

Whoever wins tomorrow will be keeping it on the short grass and have nerves of steel on those bumpy greens. It will be fun to watch.

Happy Father's Day!

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, June 16

U.S. Open Day 2: ‘Greens Are Poor’

Darren Clarke shot 72 on Friday and made the cut at 145, just six shots off the lead. Not that he’s happy. He’s rather disgruntled, actually.

"The greens are poor, basically," Clarke told the Associated Press. "They are poa greens, and they are very poor."

Darren, tell us how you really feel.

"They are jumping about, and with the combination of slope and the speed, it makes it very tough to hole putts on," he added.

Still, Clarke is in the hunt. What will it take for him to win?

"Just hole some putts, but I don't know how I'm going to do that."

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, June 15

U.S. Open Day 1: Stricker Rallies to Card 70

Steve Stricker, a former Tour star who has toiled in obscurity, made a courageous comeback Thursday to post an even-par 70, just one stroke off the pace set by Colin Montgomerie.

Stricker started his round bogey, bogey, double-bogey, and had to sink a long par putt on the fourth hole to stop the hemorrhaging. He then carded five birdies on the final 14 holes.

"You know you are just thinking about breaking 80 at that point," Stricker said.

Only competing in six Tour events last year, Stricker hopes to earn back full-time playing privileges.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, June 14

Heeeeeeeeeere's Johnny!!

NBC has signed golf analyst Johnny Miller to a long-term deal. Miller will do 14 events next year, up from nine this year.

Here are a few Johnny quotes as reported by USA Today sports television writer Michael Hiestand.

On the NBC crew ...

"It's a joy to work with these guys. If I have to take a pee, I know they can do without me."

On Michelle Wie's attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open ...

"If you're good enough to get in, I don't care if you're an orangutan."

On Wie's chance to win on the men's tour ...

"Wie (along with Adam Scott) has one of the two best swings in golf. With hot putting, she could win on the men's tour -- no doubt."

On Winged Foot's greens ...

"They're crazy. The first is the weirdest green in history for an opening hole. These greens will flat-out bite you."

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, June 13

U.S. Open: A Tough Crown to Defend

49 Holes Played Since Membership

You might not want to pick Michael Campbell as your 2006 U.S. Open winner.

Since 1991, only Tiger Woods and Retief Goosen have finished better than 40th in trying to defend their Open crowns.

Goosen finished tied for 11th in 2005 after holding the three-stroke lead after 54 holes. Tiger finished 12th in 2001 after winning in 2000. He was tied for 20th in 2003 after winning in 2002.

This makes the consecutive U.S. Open victories by Curtis Strange in 1988-89 all the more impressive. Curtis was the first to repeat since Ben Hogan in 1950-51.

The Armchair Golfer

Source: USGA

Thursday, June 8

Nike Ball Goes Far

31 Holes Played Since Membership

I had never played a Nike golf ball until a few weeks ago when I got a complimentary sleeve for playing in a scramble.

The other evening when I played a few holes, I hit two balls off the ninth tee -- one a Nike and one a Maxfli (I think). It seemed like I hit them about the same, but the Nike ball was a good 20 to 25 yards ahead of the other ball.

Can that be right?

I know it's not very scientific, but the Nike ball seems to have a lot of juice.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, June 5

Good ‘Ol Boy Carl Pettersson Bags Memorial

Day 2 without playing golf

"I guess I'm not your typical Swede. I'm 30 pounds overweight, and I don't wear crazy clothes," Carl Pettersson told USA Today after winning Jack’s tournament by two shots.

Yeah, definitely not your typical Swede.

Carl also claims to eat grits, dip snuff and listen to country music. Don’t doubt it for a minute. He played junior college golf in Alabama and college golf at North Carolina State.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, May 31

What I Recieved in the Mail That Will Change My Life

Day 2 without playing golf

What, exactly, did I get in the mail last Saturday that will change my life, at least in terms of golf?

An invitation to Great Oaks Country Club.

Yes, indeedy! We (my family) had been on the waiting list for a year and a half and were hoping that our invitation would arrive in time for summer.

Obviously, there is a God. This is just one more thing to be thankful for.

Excuse me while I do a few cartwheels. On second thought, I better not stupidly injure myself and remove myself from golf action.

Great Oaks is not a fancy country club. In fact, it's more "country" than "club," which is why folks in our income bracket can swing a membership. But it's a fine track, with plenty of undulating tree-lined terrain and excellent greens.

The beauty of this is that it works great for the whole family. There's a pool for the wife and kids, and my oldest daughter (who is 10) wants to take up golf.

As George emphatically said in a "Seinfeld" episode, "I'm back, baby!"

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, May 29

Things Are About to Change

Day 9 without playing golf

When I started this blog late last summer, I hadn’t played much golf for a number of years. (Like 10 years.)

Kids, work and family life had turned me into an armchair golfer -- someone who, at best, might catch a little golf on TV and play a few times a year. Being a family man -- and someone who had the good fortune of playing a lot when I was young -- I accepted this. It was a different season in my life, a season that didn't include much golf. Plus, I always figured I would get back to playing this great game again.

Well, I got something in the mail on Saturday, and things are about to change. The timing couldn’t be better. And I look forward to telling you more. Come on back.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, May 26

Only Four Club Pros in History of Winged Foot

Day 6 without playing golf

Winged Foot, the site of next month’s U.S. Open Championship, has had just four club pros in its 83-year history.

Current club pro Tom Nieporte succeeded the legendary Claude Harmon in 1978. The 77-year-old Nieporte knew he had landed his dream job. And after 28 years, he’s in no hurry to step aside -- especially since Winged Foot is hosting this year’s national championship.

“It’s going to be a tremendous Open championship,” Nieporte said at USGA.com. “The course is as good as I’ve seen it.”

The other two Winged Foot club pros were Mike Brady and Craig Wood, who won The Masters in 1941.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, May 24

Overheard on Tour

Day 4 without playing golf

"There's no way you can inspire somebody unless you're truly inspired yourself. Nobody loves the Ryder Cup more than I do. I promise you, nobody loves it more."
--Tom Lehman, U.S. Ryder Cup Captain

(Source: Associated Press, May 23)

The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, May 21

Lumpy Proud to Wear Plaid

Day 1 without playing golf

"This winning thing isn't that easy," Tim Herron told the Associated Press.

The Tour player known as "Lumpy" surrendered his lead only to sink a nine-foot par putt on the 72nd hole to force a playoff at the Colonial.

Herron's birdie on the second playoff hole secured the victory over Richard Johnson. It was Tim's first win since Bay Hill in 1999. Lumpy collected $1.08 million and an ugly red plaid jacket for his trip around Hogan's Alley. He couldn't be happier.

In a side note, David Duval shot four rounds of par or better at Colonial, finishing at five under with a final round 68. It was the first time in two years Duval completed a tournament with four rounds of par or better.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, May 19

Another Sad Tale of the Golf Deprived

Day 4 without playing golf

As I say in my profile, "I know there are others like me -- the golf deprived." One of those may surprise you. It's none other than Rich at Eat Golf.

It seems that Rich has had a very long layoff. How long? Approaching 200 days. He's definitely in the big leagues of the golf deprived.

Here's what Rich relayed to me in a recent email:

"October is my biggest golf month. So I took a break for a few weeks after the 'Calabash' at Calabasas CC and then got in work mode. The next thing I know a couple months went by and then a couple more. And then I hurt my left arm and could not make a full backswing.

"I've been going to the range sometimes just to practice chipping and putting (which I can do pain free) and usually try to hit just one ball with a full swing but just can't do it.

"I've been exercising the arm and it is almost good enough to swing again. Yesterday I did a full push up. So I'll be back soon!"

Hope so, Rich. In the meantime, keep blogging.

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, May 16

Day 205: Golf, At Last

Day 1 without playing golf

The weather was cool with a threat of rain, but the conditions were agreeable to me. After 204 days without golf action I wasn’t about to complain.

My partner, Walter, and I had teamed up last year in the Young Life Tournament at Blacksburg CC and fared pretty well. I had no expectations this year.

Like me, Walter, a former collegiate golfer at East Carolina, hadn’t played since last fall. If you haven’t played in a long time and decide to tee it up in a tournament, at least make sure it’s a scramble.

Surprisingly, my swing was pretty reliable early on. I hit some golf shots, including a two-iron that covered the flag on a 200-yard par three, although we didn’t hole the 10-footer for birdie.

In the middle of the round I got wild with the driver. I had a serious case of the “rights.” I was blocking the ball big time and couldn’t get it corrected. My irons were not particularly stellar either. Meanwhile, we were on a par parade.

I got my swing back, and starting on 13 we caught fire. (At least for a couple of hackers who don’t play much.) Walter knocked a wedge to two feet on the par five. Birdie.

On 14, I drove it down the middle and then knocked a five iron to 10 feet. I drained it for another birdie. On 15, a par three, I hit a four iron to 9 feet. Walter holed it -- birdie. On 16, my drive and 9 iron put us 12 feet away. That’s right, another birdie. Four in a row.

Hey, this game is fun. I should play more.

We were four under going into the final hole, a par five. Another birdie was conceivable but two poor drives doomed us. We ended up with a six-foot left-to-right breaker for par. We both missed and carded a 69.

It was a lucky break. The cutoff for the second flight was 69, so we tied for first, good for four free golf passes to Hanging Rock CC in Salem. I also won closest to the pin on 15, picking up a couple of gift certificates.

It won’t be a long layoff. I play in another tournament on Saturday. I go 204 days without golf and will now play twice in one week. Go figure.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, May 15

Unexpected Golf News Roundup

Day 0 without playing golf

You never know what will happen in golf. Not really.

This past weekend Annika Sorenstam missed her first cut since 2002 at the Michelob Ultra Open in Williamsburg, VA.

Raymond Floyd shot his age, no small feat when you’re 63 and still knocking around on the Champions Tour. He fell one stroke short, though, losing to Bobby Wadkins in the Boeing Championship in Destin, FL.

"I can't remember playing a round of golf where I really never missed a golf shot," Floyd was quoted as saying.

Me neither, Ray.

And in perhaps the most surprising golf news, I halted my golfless streak at 204 days, playing in a two-man scramble at Blacksburg Country Club (Virginia).

How did I do after such a ridiculously long layoff? I’ll report soon. Come back.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, May 12

Golf Rule of the Week

Day 202 without playing golf

Q: A competitor accidentally causes his ball to move after he has addressed it in breach of Rule 18-2b. He is unsure whether the ball must be replaced or played from its new position. He announces that he will invoke Rule 3-3, places a second ball on the spot from which the original ball was moved and states that he wishes the second ball to count if the Rules permit. He plays the second ball first and then plays the original ball. Is the competitor’s procedure correct in terms of the order in which the balls were played?

A: Yes. Rule 3-3 does not require the original ball to be played first and, therefore, the competitor’s procedure was acceptable.

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: USGA)

Thursday, May 11

Overheard on Tour

Day 201 without playing golf

"Fuzzy Zoeller keeps saying I'll never make it to 50. But if he did, I think I will."
--John Daly

(Source: Golf World)

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, May 9

The Golf Gods Smiled on John Daly

Day 199 without playing golf

Recently I posted about Fred Couples and mentioned his amazing golf giftedness.

Today I think about JD as his new book, John Daly: My Life In and Out of the Rough, comes out. John, now 40, has more talent in his pinkie finger than most foursomes.

John Saraceno at USA Today related an anecdote from the book about a Daly encounter with Tiger:

"Indeed, Daly's book includes an anecdote about the time he was in the clubhouse enjoying a beer and Mr. Woods strolled past en route to one of his workout sessions.

"'Hey, man, don't you ever get tired of (exercising)?' Daly asked. 'Come and have a few beers.'

"'If I had your talent,' deadpanned Tiger, 'I wouldn't have to work out.'"

Tiger might have meant every word. John Sadie, Daly's former Arkansas teammate, was quoted as saying "Daly has more talent than Tiger and anyone else out there."

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, May 4

How Mickelson’s Caddie Became ‘Bones’

Day 194 without playing golf

A Golf World story published in March tells how Phil Mickelson’s caddie Jim Mackay got the nickname “Bones.”

While in Paris working for Larry Mize, Mackay went to a group dinner. It was 1990.

“Back then, I was thin. Really thin, maybe 150,” Mackay told the magazine. “Freddie (Couples) wanted me to pass the salt or something, but he didn’t know who I was. So he just called out ‘Bones.’ It stuck. Did it ever stick.”

If there’s a guy on Tour who likes caddying better, I don’t know who it would be.

But then toting Phil’s sticks isn’t such a bad gig. I’m sure many of us would gladly trade places with Bones, if only for a season.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, May 3

Earl Woods Dies

Day 193 without playing golf

The man who helped turn Tiger into a household name died Wednesday at his Southern California home after a lengthy battle with prostate cancer.

Earl Woods once told Golf Digest “my purpose in raising Tiger was not to raise a golfer. I wanted to raise a good person.” He did both.

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, May 2

Wachovia Championship: Here I (Don't) Come

Day 192 without playing golf

Gotta work, otherwise I'd be tempted to take a spin down I-77 to the Wachovia Championship in Charlotte, NC, this week. It's just a two and a half hour drive from my mountain abode.

With the exception of Tiger, all the big boys will be there: Phil, Ernie, Vijay and Retief. Unfortunately, I won't.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, May 1

Ballesteros at British?

Day 191 without playing golf

This won't keep you awake tonight, but there's news that Seve Ballesteros might play in the British Open this July at Hoylake.

"A realistic possibility," Seve was quoted as saying last week.

Ballesteros, 49, has been bothered by back and knee problems in recent years, the AP story said. (Not to mention various problems with his golf game.)

The British Open entry deadline is June 1.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, April 27

2006 U.S. Open Application Facts

Day 187 without playing golf

Total Applications
8,881. Official number of accepted entries is 8,584.

Youngest
Ryan Simpson, 13, of Mechanicville, NY.

Oldest
Ordean Olson, 76, of Hollywood, FL.

Foreign Entries
361 applicants from 62 countries.

Sectional Qualifying Outside the U.S.
111 applicants chose one of the two foreign sectional qualifying sites of Surrey, England, and Sayama City, Japan.

Sites
Total of 110 local qualifying sites. 27 sites reached their maximum site capacity.

Entries Via the Web

First: Bobby Eldridge of Phoenix, AZ, less than eight minutes after the launch of Internet applications.

Last: Will Britt of Palm Beach Gardens, FL, submitted his entry online at 4:59:30 (30 seconds before the official deadline).

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: USGA)

Tuesday, April 25

How to Practice Like Ben Hogan

Day 185 without playing golf

Ben Hogan invented golf practice. OK, maybe Hogan didn't invent it, but he did for golf practice what Gary Player did for golf fitness.

I mention this because I gave Afternoons with Mr. Hogan by Jody Vasquez to my brother for his birthday.

It's a fascinating up-close look at Hogan's practice habits and ultra-private personality through the eyes of Vasquez, a former caddy at Shady Oaks Country Club who shagged balls for Hogan during his legendary practice sessions.

If any of us practiced like Ben Hogan, just how much better could we be?

I know, I know. Who has the time or inclination?

Unfortunately, I don't, which is why I am ...

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, April 24

21 Days Until Golf

Day 184 without playing golf

On May 15 I will snap my current golfless streak by playing in a two-man scramble at Blacksburg Country Club.

Last year my partner and I played well enough (69) to win a few prizes, including a new driver for me for closest to the hole on a par 3.

I had intended to try to shake some rust off my game by hitting a few balls and getting in a bit of short-game practice. So far it hasn't happened.

I have no expectations about how we'll play this year. My partner played college golf many moons ago, but rarely gets out. Ditto for me.

We'll have fun and try not to embarrass ourselves.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, April 21

Who Was Henry Picard?

Day 181 without playing golf

This week Larry Nelson and Henry Picard were voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Still mixing it up on the Champions Tour, Nelson has gotten most of the press.

But who was Henry Picard?

Picard was considered one of the finest players of the 1930s and early 1940s. He won 26 times on the PGA Tour, including eight wins in 1939. Picard also bagged two majors and played on a pair of Ryder Cup teams.

In 1938, Picard won The Masters, but his most stirring victory was a one-up win over Byron Nelson in the 1939 PGA. (The PGA was a match play event through 1957.)

Picard was also known as an accomplished teacher who was credited with helping Ben Hogan overcome his hook. He died in 1997.

Raise your glass to Henry Picard. He most certainly deserves it.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, April 19

Personal Musings on Fred Couples

Day 179 without playing golf

Having lived in Seattle for 16 years, I know a bit about native son Fred Couples.

Couples grew up in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle. Fred was no rich kid, far from it. His family was working class and lived either on or near Jefferson Park, a municipal golf course.

Couples honed his game on the city track, which I’ve played on a number of occasions with my brother-in-law. We used to play Jefferson after work until dark. Seattle is far enough north that you have light until almost 10 o’clock in the summertime.

Jefferson is a par 70, and I can only imagine that Boom-Boom must have shot dozens of rounds in the mid to low 60s (and probably some in the 50s).

Legend has it that Freddy could shape any shot and learned the game without formal lessons. No surprise there. Who could teach such an unorthodox, graceful, powerful move?

A good friend of mine who played golf at University of Washington competed against Couples at least once when Fred was at the University of Houston.

No big news flash, but my friend told me that Freddy was the most talented golfer he ever played against. Even though Couples was low-key, his length and shot making were downright intimidating, my friend said.

Obviously, Freddy’s extraordinary talent and feel age well as he still competes with the world’s best at 46.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, April 17

How to Survive Being Hit in the Goolies

Day 177 without playing golf

(This courtesy of The WORST-CASE SCENARIO Survival Handbook: Golf.)

"Goolies" is a Scottish term, used at St. Andrews and elsewhere, that refers to the "privates," or the groin area.

1. Lie down immediately.
Do not walk around. Cover your private parts to shield the area from further injury (and embarrassment). Clutching yourself will probably be your natural reaction to being hit by a club head or ball.

2. Apply a cold pack to the injured area to reduce swelling.
Use ice in a bag or cloth, or a cold can of soda or beer. This will help reduce the swelling and the pain.

3. Do not apply too much pressure.
Extreme pressure may cause more pain.

4. If the pain is significant and does not subside within a few minutes, inspect the injury.
Remove your pants to get a better look at the swelling and check for any irregularities.

5. If the pain lasts more than an hour, or if the area is significantly bruised, seek medical attention.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, April 13

Golf by the Numbers: Post Masters Edition

Day 173 without playing golf

357
Number of days until 2007 Masters

32
Number of days until I break my golfless streak

4
Number of Masters practice round tickets I’ll apply for (again)

2
Number of consecutive ugly sport coat weeks on Tour (The Masters and Verizon Heritage)

0
Number of Masters exemptions for David Duval

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, April 12

World Golf Ranking Turns 20

Day 172 without playing golf

This from USA Today:

"The World Golf Ranking turned 20 this month, and one thing hasn't changed. Fred Couples can still be found in the top 50.

"Bernhard Langer was No. 1 when the ranking made its debut the week before the 1986 Masters. He was followed by Seve Ballesteros, Sandy Lyle, Tom Watson and Mark O'Meara. All of them except Langer -- currently No. 57 -- are no longer in the top 200.

"Couples was No. 42 in the original ranking. He moved up to No. 21 this week.

"The ranking has been altered over the years. When it was launched 20 years ago, golfers were measured over three years, instead of the two-year period with gradual reductions in points every 13 weeks.

"Only a dozen players have been ranked No. 1 -- Langer, Ballesteros, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Couples, Nick Price, Tom Lehman, Els, David Duval, Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods.

"Woods has held the No. 1 ranking the longest at 385 weeks, and Lehman was at No. 1 for only one week."

The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, April 9

Masters Day 4: Lefty Learns How to Close

Day 169 without playing golf

We’ve all waited a long time for Phil to win majors. Today he looked like he’s getting the hang of it. Now Mickelson has two of those ugly green jackets and last year’s PGA, making it two consecutive majors.

Lefty was the smartest, most-controlled player on Augusta National. On Sunday, no doubt. Did you ever think you would live to see it?

Awesome supporting cast, too. For a while it seemed like any of about 10 guys could win, including some unheralded players like Tim Clark. I don’t think Clark is as tall as his putter, but he can certainly golf his ball.

In his words, Tiger putted like a spazz. Welcome to the human race, bud.

And Fred Couples putted like Fred Couples. Which is a real shame because Boom-Boom striped it all day long.

The Armchair Golfer

P.S. Monday is official Masters hangover day.

Saturday, April 8

Masters Day 3: Tiger Creeping Up Leaderboard

Day 168 without playing golf

Due to Saturday’s weather delay, there will be a lot of holes to play tomorrow. Everyone is in for an extra long Sunday of Masters pressure. One would think that plays right into you know who’s hands.

Tiger is out in 34 and just three shots off the lead with 27 holes to play. Great position.

But there are a lot of guys on the leaderboard who could make it interesting. Let’s hope they do. No, let’s pray they do. Amen.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, April 7

Masters Day 2: Experience Still Counts at Augusta

Day 167 without playing golf

What’s gotten in to the old guys?

Young old guy Fred Couples is in contention at 3 under after recording a 70 on Friday. And Gentle Ben isn’t just hanging around -- he’s in the thick of things at 1 under.

Even 68-year-old Charles Coody shot a feisty 74 after opening with an 89.

Meanwhile, Vijay falters, Chad rises, Phil cruises and Tiger lurks. Now we’ll see what the weekend brings.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, April 6

Masters Day 1: Crenshaw Fires an Impressive 71

Day 166 without playing golf

The leaderboard is shaping up nicely after the first round, including some of the names you would expect (Singh and Mickelson) and a couple of new ones (Oberholser and Ogilvy) for good measure. Tiger is right where he needs to be.

Somehow 54-year-old Ben Crenshaw got around the brutish Augusta National in 71. For all I know, he one-putted every green. Still, give Ben credit on a day when his peers like Tom Watson struggled just to break 80.

Crenshaw hasn’t made the cut at The Masters since 1997. If he can keep it around 75 tomorrow, he might just be playing on the weekend.

It could be Ben’s last weekend trip around Augusta.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, April 5

The 2016 Masters

Day 165 without playing golf

(Fast forward 10 years ...)

Today Tiger Woods was asked what he thought about Augusta National. Many in the golf world have hinted that the latest course changes were implemented to protect par and prevent Woods from collecting his 11th green jacket.

Tiger was diplomatic.

"Some say eliminating all the par fives was an unusual move. But hey, it's the same for everyone. I enjoy the challenge," he said with a grin.

Yeah, there's never been a championship course that has played to a par 67, noted the interviewer.

"Well, it's their tournament. I'm just honored to be able to win, er, play here," Woods said.

What about 13?

"It will certainly play a lot tougher as a par 3, but if I can cut the corner and hit my power draw, it shouldn't be a problem."

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, April 3

Waffle House May Hold Key to Masters Victory for Mickelson

Day 163 without playing golf

Forget that Lefty obliterated the field at the BellSouth Classic. Forget the two-driver strategy.

It's Masters week and I'm pulling out all the stops to get the inside scoop on Team Mickelson.

Two words: Waffle House.

This from Masters.org:

"Now for Mickelson's secret weapon as he prepares for the 2006 Masters. He finally revealed what the magic might be for him -- an early week visit to the local Waffle House to meet with Pelz and some of his short game staff for a pre-Masters breakfast.

'I like the Waffle House there. They have some pretty good breakfasts.'"

Belch. Oops, sorry Tiger. Must have been that Belgian waffle.

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, April 1

Golf Rule of the Week

Day 161 without playing golf

Q: A player purposely refuses to identify a ball as his. What can the opponent or fellow-competitor do in such a case?

A: An opponent or fellow-competitor has the right to be satisfied about the identification of a player's ball. If a player has dishonestly not identified his ball, the opponent or fellow-competitor may refer the dispute to the Committee - Rule 34-3. In such a case, the Committee would be justified in imposing a penalty of disqualification under Rule 33-7.

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: USGA)

Thursday, March 30

New Golf Site: TheGolfSpace.com

Day 159 without playing golf

Tony Korologos (aka Mediaguru and publisher of the highly popular Hooked On Golf Blog) has pioneered a new online golf concept: TheGolfSpace.com.

Think of it as the golf equivalent of myspace. Network with your favorite people -- golfers!

You can include personal profiles, business profiles, photos, golf information and much more. It's all free. If you're a golf enthusiast, hustle over there, take the tour and sign up.

Here's how Tony said it came about:

"A little less than two months ago I was driving down the street when this new Web site idea hit me. The thought blew me away so bad I almost drove off the road. The idea: Build a networking site like myspace for golf. I couldn't get home fast enough..."

Notice he said two months ago? Tony went from concept to launch in very little time (and apparently with very little sleep). Check it out.

The Armchair Golfer

P.S. Read more about TheGolfSpace.com at Hooked On Golf Blog.

Tuesday, March 28

Between Shots: Tiger on 60 Minutes

Day 157 without playing golf

I was reading the Houston Chronicle online today and they were bemoaning Ed Bradley's 60 Minutes interview with Tiger Woods. "Bradley tosses Tiger some softballs," they wrote.

Softballs? It was more like tee ball.

I didn't care. I was just interested in seeing golf's main man away from "the office." Just seeing Tiger wear something different than his Nike uniform was interesting to me.

Tiger might have got his nickname from his dad, but he got his killer instinct from his mom. She said you have to kill your opponent. Yes, she used the word "kill." Remind you of anybody?

Bradley asked Tiger what happened when he crossed his mom growing up. Tiger said, let's just say it was hard to sit down.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, March 27

Ames Lets Clubs Do the Talking

Day 156 without playing golf

No need to talk about Tiger like he did at La Costa several weeks ago. This weekend, Stephen Ames let his clubs do the talking. Boy did they talk. Ames just did the grinning -- all the way around that demon TPC Sawgrass layout.

Ames' final round 67 was nothing short of splendid. Winning by six, the guy was other-worldly. Meanwhile, the rest of the field coughed and wheezed its way to a final round stroke average of 75.

Ames put the 9 and 8 WGC debacle in his rear view mirror. That ca-ching, ca-ching sound is his $1.4 million paycheck. He also bagged some big-time exemptions.

At the trophy ceremony, Ames said he was going to Disney World on a family vacation. I guess.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, March 22

Anatomy of the Yips

Day 151 without playing golf

I didn't see much of the Bay Hill Invitational last weekend. I was too busy watching March Madness with my cousins in Indiana.

But I did see Greg Owen gag on the 17th green. He missed that three-footer for par and then tried to slam dunk the two-foot come backer.

Shocking.

I always hate to see it, even if I'm rooting against the person who does it. It makes me feel uneasy.

Although I don't play much golf any more, I can relate to standing over those short ones when you have a brain cramp, sweaty palms, dry throat, etc., etc. We've all been there, haven't we?

Play golf a bit and you soon realize you have to learn how to pull the trigger even when your insides are churning.

On the greens, I always wonder if it's better to finish out before you think too much about those short putts, or to slow down, mark and go through a routine. I still don't know the answer.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, March 17

Golf Rule of the Week

Day 146 without playing golf

Q: If a ball is covered by sand in a bunker, may a clubhead be used in searching?

A: Yes.

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: USGA)

Wednesday, March 15

Golf by the Numbers: Pre Masters Edition

Day 144 without playing golf

137
Estimated number of times CBS will call Augusta National rough "first cut"

46
Age at which Jack Nicklaus won his sixth green jacket

29
Estimated number of times Bobby Jones has rolled over in his grave due to course changes

4
Number of Masters practice round tickets I applied for

1
Number of favorites to win this year's Masters

0
Number of Masters practice round tickets I got

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, March 14

Masters Madness

Day 143 without playing golf

I don't know about you, but the only thing I'm really looking forward to right now in golf is The Masters. Sure, The Players Championship can have some drama. But let's face it, everything is a warm-up until The Masters.

Should the field just concede to Tiger now? Will someone -- anyone -- rise up and challenge Mr. Woods? I hope so. Golf is pretty boring when one guy after another swerves into the ditch when Tiger is in the rearview mirror.

As great as Jack was, there were several fellows (Trevino, Miller, Watson) who had the Titleists to take him on. I'm so ready to see someone challenge Tiger on the big stages in golf.

Maybe this year, maybe this April. Let's hope.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, March 9

The Lady Bombers

Day 138 without playing golf

Note to David Toms: Don’t look now, but the ladies are gaining on you. Check out these driving averages from the 2006 LPGA Tour statistics:

Karin Sjodin: 295.3
Natalie Tucker: 290.7
Brittany Lang: 287.8
Sophie Gustafson: 281.8
Brittany Lincicome: 280.2
Minea Blomqvist: 280.2

"There's no doubt in my mind swing speeds are increasing," David Leadbetter, who coaches Wie and several others on both tours, told USA Today.

"Certainly with the equipment nowadays they can go at the ball a lot harder without fear of going that much off line.

"There's a lot more emphasis placed on torsion and coil and leverage. Basically, the women are being taught very much along the same lines as the men," Leadbetter said.

"You don't have to consider strength as a factor so much. These girls are working out like fiends. It's a trend that's going to continue."

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, March 8

Between Shots: Toms Peers Into the Future and Sees Yellow Pants

Day 137 without playing golf

“You know, I kept looking at Villegas out there in those yellow pants, about 340 yards down the middle, in front of me every hole,” said David Toms.

“I said to Calcavecchia, ‘Man, that’s the future of our tour.’ These young guys are just bombing it out there and having fun playing golf in front of all these people. More power to them. I wish I could do it.”

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: Golf World, February 10, 2006)

Saturday, March 4

Singing the 'I Only Hit It 290' Blues at the Blue Monster

Day 133 without playing golf

There's unrest in the locker room at Doral. The course is set up for the super power hitters. And some players are reacting like they got sand kicked in their faces.

This excerpt from USA Today:

Exhibit A this week: Doral Resort and Spa's No. 18, a hole that used to epitomize the Blue Monster course and annually rank high on the PGA Tour's list of 50 toughest. With the tee box pushed way back, many players find the landing area unattainable where the water pinches the fairway at the point where the dogleg turns left.

"I just don't think it's fair," said Toms, who shot 6-under-par 66 and was two strokes behind first-round leader Tiger Woods and one behind Villegas. "Why do I have to hit into whatever that little fairway is and a third of the field can just hit it as hard as they want to?"


Joining Toms lament, Lee Janzen noted that this is a weekly issue on Tour. Again, USA Today:

Toms and Lee Janzen said Thursday that locker room chatter has increased on the issue of holes being big-hitter friendly. Janzen broke out his yardage book and showed 289 yards to the water's edge, meaning about a 305-yard carry to a landing area that's at least three times wider.

"Just another example," said Janzen, who opened with an even-par 72. "We see it week after week. The guys who hit it 290 -- and that's not chopped liver -- are getting penalized for not being able to hit it 320."


"Drive for show, putt for dough"? How about, "Drive to survive, putt to thrive"?

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, March 3

Golf Rule of the Week

Day 132 without playing golf

Q: A and B are playing a match on a handicap basis. B has the honor at the first hole. Both players score 5's at the 1st hole but A receives a handicap stroke and therefore has a net 4. Does A take the honor at the 2nd hole?

A: Yes. See Rules 2-1 and 10-1a.

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, February 28

Golf by the Numbers: WGC Accenture Match Play Championship Edition

Day 129 without playing golf

0
Number of times Stephen Ames should open mouth before going head to head with Tiger Woods

1
Number of times yours truly has caddied at La Costa in Carlsbad, California

10
Number of holes it took Tiger to close out Stephen Ames in opening match

38
Number of spots Geoff Ogilvy rose on the money list after winning the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship

2461
Number of miles yours truly now lives from La Costa

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, February 25

Tough Golf Days for Bill Clinton

Day 126 without playing golf

The former leader of the free world is apparently taking his lumps in golf.

First I read in Mulligan Stew's blog that Tiger Woods called Bill Clinton a wuss for not wanting to play the tips when the two recently got together to open Tiger's new learning center.

Now I read that Bill can't even get on a course in Melbourne, Australia, because they're too busy with the weekly men's club tournament. Sheeeeesh.

Mr. Former President, I feel your golf pain.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, February 22

The Bubba Factor

Day 123 without playing golf

There's long and there's Bubba Watson long. Check out Bubba's numbers, courtesy of Ping.

Bubba's Numbers
Ball speed: 194 mph
Clubhead speed: 126 mph
Launch angle: 15.5 degrees
Spin rate: 1865 rpm
Carry distance: 360 yards
Hang time: 8.05 seconds
Smash factor: 1.54

And he putts like a fiend, too. Is anyone absolutely certain this guy is human?

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, February 20

The Joy of 50

Day 121 without playing golf

Some people join AARP when they turn 50.

Some get a colonoscopy.

Loren Roberts just wins and wins and wins.

Roberts recorded his third straight Champions Tour victory at the ACE Group Classic in Naples, Florida, this past weekend. It put him in the history books -- no one has ever opened the season on the old boys circuit with three consecutive wins.

Roberts out lasted Hale Irwin and others to grab the trophy. Now it's on to Tampa for this frisky 50-year-old rookie.

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, February 18

Golf Rule of the Week

Day 119 without playing golf

Q: A player's ball is lying against a root. He makes a stroke and the ball pops up into the air. In disgust, he swings at it on the way down, but misses. Was the swing in disgust a stroke?

A: No. Such an instinctive swing in anger is not a stroke. Nor should the player be considered to have taken action to influence the movement of the ball in breach of Rule 1-2. However, if the player had struck the ball accidentally while it was in motion, he would have incurred a penalty of loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play - Rule 19-2a and -2b.

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: USGA)

Thursday, February 16

My Unbelievable Torrey Pines Story

Day 117 without playing golf

Some of you have asked that I write about my unbelievable Torrey Pines story. At the risk of being golf's version of James Frey, here goes.

All of us at one time or another have played until dark. I was out one day after work with two or three golf buddies on Torrey's South Course when we ran out of daylight. We were in the middle of the back nine, so we just started walking in.

The sky was clear and there was a full moon. You could see your shadow in the moonlight.

When we got to the 18th -- the par five you've probably seen on TV with the pond in front -- I decided to tee it up just for yucks. I made my swing, it felt good, and we continued to walk in.

I wasn't going to look too hard for the ball -- after all, it was dark -- but there it was right in the middle of the fairway.

I pulled my three wood, aimed a bit right to avoid the pond, and took my swing. Again, it felt good, but I had no idea where it went.

Admittedly, this was a difficult shot to execute in the daylight with the pond in full view. I normally bailed out right. In this particular situation, I had no such concerns. I just kept my head down and made a smooth swing. We kept walking.

I walked on the line that I hoped my ball had traveled, but I had no expectation of finding it. There it was! It was on the fringe in two, a first for me. Now I'm definitely playing out.

I could barely make out the flag, so I walked on to the middle of the green to gauge slope and distance. I returned to my bag and pulled my 8-iron. I aimed right, knowing the chip would swing left. It was a total guess in the dark, but I hit a solid chip.

You've surely guessed by now what happened. I chipped in for eagle. I eagled #18 on Torrey South in the moonlight!

I had witnesses (or did I?). I thought about calling at least one of them who I haven't talked to in years to verify this account. After all, I don't want to end up on Oprah trying to defend this unbelievable story.

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, February 14

Champions Tour: Roberts Goes for Third Straight Win

Day 115 without playing golf

Loren Roberts will try to make history this week when he tees it up in the ACE Group Classic in Naples, Florida. If he wins, Roberts will be the first player to win the opening three events of the season on the Champions Tour.

Roberts won the first two events in Hawaii, the MasterCard Championship and Turtle Bay Championship. The “Boss of the Moss” has already recorded $515,000 in earnings.

A guy who can still compete on the PGA Tour, look for Loren to do some serious damage this year on the good old boys circuit.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, February 13

Golf by the Numbers

Day 114 without playing golf

1
Number of missing "a's" in Arron (Oberholser)

1
Number of extra "r's" in Arron (Oberholser)

6
Inches of snow in the Blue Ridge Mountains

7
Weeks until the 2006 Masters

114
Consecutive golfless days for yours truly

972,000
Number on the Pebble Beach paycheck with the missing "a"
and extra "r"

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, February 11

Golf Rule of the Week

Day 112 without playing golf

Q: A player finds his ball in high rough after a two-minute search, leaves the area to get a club and, when he returns, is unable to find the ball. Is he allowed three minutes or five minutes to find his ball?

A: Three minutes.

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: USGA)

Thursday, February 9

The PGA’s New Crop of Long Hitters

Day 110 without playing golf

J.B. Holmes is just one of a dozen new long hitters on the PGA Tour. More than half of the 22 players who are averaging over 300 yards are fresh out of Q school or come from the Nationwide Tour.

"It's better to have a wedge in the rough than a 7-iron in the middle of the fairway," Holmes told USA Today. "That's just the way it's going now."

It’s hard to fault Holmes’ logic, especially after he cruised to a seven-stroke victory in the FBR Open last weekend. With six for six sand saves and just 108 putts, Holmes' short game was as deft as his drives were long.

The 300 Club

The new kids on the tee block:

1. Bubba Watson / 324.9 yards / Nationwide Tour
2. J.B. Holmes / 313.5 / Q school
3. Camillo Villegas / 311.8 / Nationwide Tour
6. Robert Garrigus / 308.6 / Q school
8. Steven Bowditch / 305.9 / Nationwide Tour
10. Will MacKenzie / 303.4 / Q school
14. Rober Tambellini / 302.5 / Nationwide Tour
17. Jeff Gove / 301.5 / Nationwide Tour
19. Jon Mills / 300.8 / Nationwide Tour
20. Bubba Dickerson / 300.6 / Q school
21. Chris Couch / 300.1 / Nationwide Tour
22. Henry Bjornstad / 300.0 / Q school

Hubba Bubba! Two Bubbas in the top twenty. How about that?

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: USA Today)

Tuesday, February 7

The Case for Custom Fit Clubs

Day 108 without playing golf

A Golf World survey last year found that 68 percent of golfers use custom-fit golf clubs.

The other 32 percent who play with off-the-rack clubs may be at a disadvantage -- at least according to the world’s best golfer.

“I think the ultimate key is to have the golf clubs fit you, not you fit the club,” Tiger Woods was quoted as saying in a November issue of Golf World. “I stress that to the juniors and amateurs I give clinics to, or when they ask me in pro-ams. You got to get a club that fits.”

I have to admit that I was a little surprised by the data: more than two in three amateurs have been custom-fit for clubs. Whoa.

I wish I could say I have new custom-fit clubs, but I’m playing with ancient off-the-shelf equipment. And the truth is, it doesn’t really matter until I start playing more.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, February 3

Golf Rule of the Week

Day 104 without playing golf

Q: A player's ball embeds in the side of a hole. All of the ball is below the level of the lip of the hole. What is the ruling?

A: The ball should be considered holed even though all of the ball is not within the circumference of the hole as required by the Definition of "Holed."

I'm OK with that. How about you?

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: USGA)

Thursday, February 2

How I Play on Those Rare Occasions When I Play

Day 103 without playing golf

"Just curious, but what kind of game do you have after laying off so long?"

Well, since you (Lancer) asked a couple of days ago, I'll answer. Maybe some of the rest of you are curious, too. If not, I'll keep it short.

For a guy who in the last three or four years has only teed it up about a half dozen times, I play OK. At least half those rounds have been in tournaments.

You see, despite now being The Armchair Golfer, I played a lot of golf growing up. That's what I did in the summertime during my teens.

I gave up baseball as a freshman in high school and played varsity golf all four years. Don't be too impressed -- those first couple of years our golf team wasn't too swift. I also played some college golf.

So when I do get out on the links, I have an idea about what I'm doing and how to play the game. I have a swing that works fairly well even when I haven't played. I can usually get the ball rolling smoothly on the greens and drop a few putts, although it might take a few holes.

But a hundred yards and in, pitching and chipping, and anything that takes some feel (other than putting), forget it. Can't do it well or consistently when I haven't played. Maybe you can relate.

The Armchair Golfer