Sunday, December 30

Oops! Armchair Golf Misquotes Neil Armstrong




“In much of society, golf means to investigate something you do not know or understand.”
(not said by) Neil Armstrong






Biographical note: Neil Armstrong is a former American astronaut and the first person to have set foot on the moon.

This misquote brought to you by The Armchair Golfer.
Getting it wrong for the love of the game.

Friday, December 28

Armchair Golf Year in Review

I didn't wear a jumpsuit like these pro caddies when I looped for Orville Moody this year. (Glasson/Flickr)






Not too bad a year for this golf blogger. I made many new golf connections, including other golf bloggers and writers and several Tour pros -- men, women and a handful of legends.

I was invited to cover golf for MVN (Most Valuable Network) in the spring and started Down the Middle.

At the time, I didn’t know how I’d write for the ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG and Down the Middle (plus a book, plus my clients). Seven months later, I still wonder.

Legendary Connections

My colleague Walter introduced me to his family friend John Derr, who happens to be a legendary golf broadcaster. John shared some great stories about Sam Snead and Ben Hogan that I published here. That led to other new golf connections, including my friend and Ben Hogan aficionado George who passed me along to Jack Fleck, the famous underdog who beat Hogan in an 18-hole playoff to win the 1955 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.

Jack and I now talk often, and I enjoyed getting out on the Champions Tour this year to meet him and many other golf legends such as Dow Finsterwald, Bobby Nichols, Billy Casper, Doug Sanders, Fred Hawkins, Gene Littler, Don January, Lee Elder, Charlie Sifford, Howie Johnson, Orville Moody, Bob Goalby, Gay Brewer and Doug Ford.

Voices of the Game

I was fortunate to interview some PGA Tour and LPGA Tour pros, including Pat Perez (twice), U.S. Women’s Open champion Cristie Kerr, U.S. Solheim Cup team member Paula Creamer, Jack Fleck and Fred Hawkins. I also interviewed two authors, Chris Lewis (The Scorecard Always Lies) and John Coyne (The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan).

Plus, I did a Q&A with Rand Jerris of the USGA, who, along with other USGA staff, was quite helpful when I spent a couple of days in May at USGA headquarters in Far Hills, New Jersey.

Augusta and Ryder Cup Bound

I won two lotteries for dream golf tickets. I am the proud recipient of four Monday practice round tickets for the 2008 Masters. Stepping onto Augusta National for the first time will be a life highlight. I also was awarded a pair of practice round tickets to the Ryder Cup in Louisville. I better go to that, too.

I did play some golf this year, mostly in the summer, mostly on my home course, Great Oaks Country Club. Worst round: 86. Best round: 75.

Many thanks to you for reading the ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG. I started this blog on a lark a couple of years ago. It’s been more fun and surprising then I ever could have imagined. I’m going to stick around a while longer and see what happens next.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, December 26

Golf Tales for Christmas

I got one golf-related gift for Christmas: a little golf book authored by Don Wade called “And Then Jack Said to Arnie …” The subtitle is “A Collection of the Greatest True Golf Stores of All Time.”

And when I say little I mean teeny tiny. This hardcover measures about two inches by three inches. It’s not much bigger than a cell phone.

This book has been around since the 1990s, but the miniature version came out a few years ago. It’s a good gift for anybody who can’t get enough golf and likes a story.

My mini version has stories about Augusta National, Winston Churchill, Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, Howard Hughes, Bing Crosby, Jack Lemmon, Byron Nelson, Lee Trevino, Willie Nelson and a few more.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, December 24

Armchair Golf: Christmas Edition

I rarely stray off topic, but since it’s Christmas Eve I thought I would offer some advice that could come in handy, especially tonight.

Following are some tips on how to fend off a charging reindeer:

Stand your ground.
(Most reindeer will run around a standing person.)

Watch for front-leg kicking.
(Agitated reindeer tend to kick out with front hooves.)

Watch for antler display.
(Males typically display antlers before goring.)

Back up slowly.
(Don’t make sudden movements.)

Don’t raise your arms over your head.
(Bulls can interpret this as a challenge.)

If the reindeer attempts to gore you, grab its antlers.
(Try to steer it away from you.)

Move to the side quickly as you release the antlers.
(Maybe the reindeer will simply move away.)

Call for help.
(But not too loudly.)

Merry Christmas!

The Armchair Golfer

Source: The WORST-CASE SCENARIO Survival Handbook: Holidays

Saturday, December 22

Lorena Ochoa: The Best Dame Athlete, Period



Lorena Ochoa is not just the best female golfer. She is also the best women's athlete of 2007, according to The Associated Press.

No argument here.

Lorena Ochoa won her second straight AP Female Athlete of the Year award in a landslide, collecting 71 votes. Tennis star Justine Henin was a distant second with 18 votes.

"My main goal is to maintain myself as the No. 1," Ochoa said in an email to the AP. “Therefore, I can promise to keep improving.”

"I have a lot of respect for Lorena. I think she’s a fantastic player," Annika Sorenstam, the player Ochoa dethroned, told the AP. "She deserves to be No. 1. She’s playing consistent every week. She’s playing as good as anybody can play.”

Besides Ochoa, other consecutive award winners in women’s golf are Sorenstam, Kathy Whitworth, Mickey Wright and Babe Zaharias.

The Armchair Golfer

2007 Golf Quiz Knocks Me Off My Armchair

“Maybe you thought you were paying attention to golf in 2007,” writes Golf.com columnist Gary Van Sickle, “but this Killer Year-End Quiz says you probably weren’t.

“You’ve got a good chance to go low with this Quiz -- as in, not get many correct. Go ahead and test your memory, if you dare … ”

OK, Gary, I accept the challenge. I keep up with golf. Kinda.

(A short while later...)

You were right, Gary. I’m glad I didn’t have you in middle school. It was tougher than winning the U.S. Open with my wife ready to give birth at any second. Out of the first 14 questions, I only got half right. There are many more questions, but I gave up (for now) because I have to get out into the Christmas shopping madness.

Who else wants to try? If you get more than 10 of the first 14 questions correct, you may want to check yourself into Golfaholics Anonymous.

Take the Killer Year-End Quiz

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, December 20

‘A Disorderly Compendium of Golf’

The title of this post is actually the title of a book by Lorne Rubenstein and Jeff Neuman that my brother-in-law gave me for my birthday, along with a volume of golf short stories edited by William Hallberg called Perfect Lies.

A Disorderly Compendium of Golf is a random collection of anecdotes, trivia, rules, tricks, nicknames, history, quotes and more. As the authors write in the introduction, “We … share a fascination for the minutiae of the game.”

Examples?

How about Three-Hanky Golf, touching vignettes that would make the biggest golf sourpuss wail like a newborn, or the Ten Most Memorable Lines from Caddyshack (“I tell you, this steak still has marks from where the jockey was hittin’ it”), or Famous Collapses in Majors (Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, etc., etc.), or How to Rake a Bunker Like a Professional Caddie (which I attempted this fall during an outing with Orville Moody), or What Nobody Ever Tells You About Augusta National and Beyond the Green Jacket.

And, one of my favorites, Most Famous Shots by Club, including honorable mentions.

You get the idea. Not just any minutiae, but a goldmine of golf minutiae. Stuff you don’t know or haven’t heard, and some you have but don’t mind revisiting.

I know of Lorne Rubenstein, an author of eight books and a golf columnist for The Globe and Mail of Canada. I will try to reach Mr. Rubenstein to see if he will grant a Q&A. He sounds like my kind of golf guy.

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, December 18

Is Annika Sorenstam on Her Way Back?

(N Gottwald/Flickr)

Annika Sorenstam capped a tough year with a victory this past weekend at the Dubai Ladies Masters, avoiding her first winless season since 1993.

In 2007 Sorenstam lost her world No. 1 ranking to Lorena Ochoa and ruptured a disk in her neck that sidelined her for two months. Now that she’s healthy, Annika has one thing in mind.

“I want to get back to the top and this is definitely extra motivation to work hard and be ready for 2008,” she was quoted as saying by the BBC.

And at her blog, Annika wrote, “It was so great to be in contention again. I had almost forgotten how much I love the feeling of coming down the stretch and battling for the trophy.

“My adrenalin was flowing and I could feel the butterflies in my stomach. I finally got a win and it was a nice way to end the season. I am excited for 2008, because my motivation is back!”

I think it will take every ounce of motivation she has to reclaim the top spot in women’s golf. The competition on the ladies circuit is not backing down. Annika has her work cut out for her.

The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, December 16

Jim Furyk Tries to Read Drug Policy on Blackberry

The PGA Tour will adopt a drug policy and random testing in 2008. The times we live in. Sheesh.

Jim Furyk shouldn’t have any problems. He takes prescriptions for allergies, and when his neck acts up he pops an Alleve.

Still, Jim thought it would be a good idea to read the new policy, so he pulled it up on his Blackberry.

“It was like 41 pages,” Furyk told the AP. “I got to page two on the Blackberry and realized there were 39 more pages to go. Forty-one pages of that? I don’t think I can do it.

“I may read if it I feel it’s necessary. For me, the idea is to make sure we can go to the workshops and have all the people in place to help us out.”

The policy manual lists 10 categories of prohibited substances that include anabolic steroids, human growth hormones, narcotics and beta blockers.

According to the story I read a couple of days ago, Tiger was about midway through the manual. Zach Johnson hadn’t read a word -- he sent it to his trainer for review. There’s a mandatory drug policy meeting for players in January. Random testing will begin July 8.

The sad thing is at some point -- I don’t know when -- a Tour player will fail. (I guess it’s already happened overseas with an Italian golfer, I believe.) If we don’t think it could happen in golf, we’re probably naïve.

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, December 15

Golf Privileges for a Good Cause

I just found this in my email inbox. Maybe it’s an option for you or a golfer on your gift list.

Dear A.G. (if I can be so familiar),

I’m helping the American Lung Association spread the word about their 2008 Golf Privilege Card, and I’m hoping you might mention this on your blog.

The Golf Privilege Card offers discounts on greens fees, pro shop purchases and golf outings. And proceeds from the card go into the American Lung Association’s fight against asthma, tuberculosis and all lung-related diseases. It's a great last-minute gift for all concerned.

The national map showing where cards are available is here.

Thanks very much for your consideration, and happy holidays.

Nancy Purcell

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, December 13

Tiger Woods’ Protégé

(Delores Knowles/Flickr)

Imagine you’re a 17-year-old blasting balls out of a sand trap and a guy walks up to you and says, “What are you trying to do with this bunker shot?”

Oh yeah, and the guy is Tiger Woods.

That’s what happened three years ago to Corey Carroll, an aspiring pro who attends Rollins College and recently failed to advance in the first stage of qualifying school. I read about it in a new Golf Digest profile on Tiger Woods penned by Jaime Diaz.

The two have become friends, with Tiger in the mentor role.

“The context of our friendship is a mutual admiration of work ethic,” Carroll told Diaz. “We practice together and work out together, talk about the methods of different players, just anything golf.”

Tiger said Carroll knows how to work hard, which is the toughest part. Now Carroll just needs to keep learning new stuff and see how far it takes him.

Diaz suggests that, by mentoring, Tiger “might be consciously or unconsciously finding another way to emulate his father.” Whatever Tiger's motivation, I think it’s neat the world No. 1 would approach a young golfer in a bunker and befriend him.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, December 10

Ernie Els Describes Dunhill Collapse

Ernie Els imploded on the 72nd hole at the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
(Flickr photo)



Ernie Els had played beautifully all week. On the last hole, a par five, his ball was in the middle of the fairway, 190 yards from the green. A comfortable six iron, he said. And a comfortable two-shot lead. Make his birdie (or par) and get out of there. It was a mere formality.

Then things went terribly wrong for the Big Easy. Here are excerpts from the account Ernie posted today at his Web site:
To be honest with you, yesterday is about the most disappointed I’ve ever felt walking off a golf course. I was gutted. But hey, let’s keep things in proportion. This is sport. It’s not like anyone died out there. I just have to take it on the chin and move on.

I had a two-shot lead playing the last and bombed a great drive down the middle of the fairway. I’m sure some people today might say I should have laid-up short of the water, but hey, I had only about 190 to the front edge and for me that’s just a comfortable 6-iron. I really didn’t feel like it was a lay-up situation. Like I said, people will disagree, but it’s easy to be smart and make judgments after the event. I went with what I felt was the right shot at the time.

I just didn’t get all of that 6-iron. Then on the pitch shot I got a bit quick with the hands and pulled it a fraction, so it went a few yards longer through the air than it should have…into the water again. Anyway, you know the rest. It was horrible, but it’s history. It shouldn’t happen, but it does. If you look back over the years, some of the best players in the world have thrown away tournaments on the last few holes.

Really, what more can you say?
Well, he’s right, of course. Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer come to mind. So do Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson.

At least it wasn’t a major Ernie threw away. That would be far worse. Still, it's highly disturbing.

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, December 8

Oops! Armchair Golf Misquotes Norman Mailer


“The function of golf is to raise suffering to a higher level.”

(not said by) Norman Mailer






Biographical note: Norman Mailer was an American novelist, journalist, playwright, screenwriter and film director. He died in November.

This misquote brought to you by The Armchair Golfer.
Getting it wrong for the love of the game.

Thursday, December 6

2007 Putt of the Year


Sergio Garcia came close at Carnoustie.
(Brian Doyle/Flickr)


Golf Central is running an online poll to determine the putt of the year.

And the nominees are...

• Zach Johnson's birdie on the 15th hole during the first round of The Barclays
• Tiger Woods' 70-footer on the ninth hole during the first round of the TOUR Championship
• Tiger Woods' birdie on the eighth hole during the last round of the PGA Championship
• Tadd Fujikawa's eagle on the 18th hole during the second round of the Sony Open
• Padraig Harrington's double bogey to force a playoff at the British Open

OK, I have a confession. I don’t remember much about any of these. There’s an obvious reason: I didn’t see all of them. The ones I did see apparently weren’t that memorable, or else senility is setting in, or a little of both.

Here's my nomination for putt of the year, with a twist...

It’s a putt that didn’t drop. Had it gone in, it would have changed everything for one talented but tortured young player.

• Sergio Garcia’s eight-foot par putt on the 72nd green to win the British Open

Garcia’s effort burned the edge. Heading into 2008 Sergio still has the “Never Won a Major” monkey riding his back.

Watch video clips of Golf Central’s putt of the year nominees here.

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, December 4

Tiger Woods’ Only Non-Nike Golf Club


Tiger Woods tests a green at Augusta National.
(Flickr photo)


Tiger Woods is in south Florida this week talking up Nike golf clubs. But the most important club in Tiger’s bag doesn’t have a swoosh. It’s his beloved putter, a Scotty Cameron. In fact, it’s the only non-Nike club in Woods’ arsenal.

Tiger does have a backup putter that’s a Nike model, but it hasn’t helped him win 12 majors. I don’t expect the Nike putter will see much action.

Setting aside the Scotty Cameron would be like benching Tom Brady. It's not happening.

The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, December 2

Bob Charles, 71, Makes Cut in New Zealand Open


Bob Charles at Turnberry for the 2006 Senior British Open.
(Flickr photo)


In 1963, Bob Charles, an earlier "Lefty," won the British Open.

On Friday, at age 71, Charles fired a second-round 68 to make the cut in the New Zealand Open.

How's that for longevity?

"Although officials could not confirm it yesterday, it's thought Sir Bob's effort to make the cut at 71 years of age is either a European Tour or even world record," the New Zealand Herald reported.

Bravo.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, November 29

A Conversation with Ben Hogan's Practice Partner


(Fred Hawkins, center, played on the 1957 U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Also pictured are Doug Ford and Ed Furgol.)

I met Fred Hawkins this year at Grand Champions events on the Champions Tour. Fred played on the PGA Tour from the mid 1940s to the mid 1960s. He won twice and had 19 runner-up finishes, including a second-place tie in the 1958 Masters won by Arnold Palmer, the first of Arnold’s four green jackets.

Fred finished fourth on the 1956 money list (earning about $25,000) and played on the 1957 U.S. Ryder Cup team.

We covered a range of topics in an October telephone interview. Following are excerpts about Ben Hogan.


ARMCHAIR GOLF: Let’s talk a little bit about Hogan. You played a lot of golf with him, I imagine.

FRED HAWKINS: Yes, I played a number of practice rounds with him because I lived in El Paso at that time [1950s] when he wasn’t playing very often. And he’d always ask me to come down to Fort Worth a couple of days early so he’d get a little competition, practice that way. And we’d play a $5 Nassau, a normal game back in those days. It doesn’t sound like much now, but it was a pretty good game.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I guess it doesn’t matter what you’re playing Ben Hogan for. It’s a good game, right?

FRED HAWKINS: It’s a good game. I beat him a lot of times. He liked to have some competition before the tournament. I don’t know how much you know about golf, but nobody gets their game going a certain way and says now I have it. I’m playing this way from now on. That doesn’t happen, if you really know anything about golf.

The top players are making continuous adjustments. They may get it for a few days or weeks, and hold on to it even a little longer than that, where everything is working nice. And all of a sudden, nothing is working out right. You’re still trying to do the same things, but you’re not.

That’s why some of these coaches are quite an advantage to the modern-day players. We never had them. But Hogan was always trying out something different. It sounds stupid to say that for a guy of his caliber, but that’s just the nature of the game. Everybody is making adjustments all the time.

As much change as there’s been with the equipment in golf -- the clubs and the ball -- there’s probably been just as huge an improvement in the condition of the courses. Outside of playing occasionally good courses for the National Open, but even their fairways weren’t like they are today at all.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: That’s what others have told me too, Fred. They said it was inconsistent. Sometimes you would have a fluffy flyer lie, and another place in the fairway you might have a bare lie. You really had to play the game with feel.

FRED HAWKINS: I was going to tell you a couple of anecdotes [about Hogan]. We used to play these Nassaus. As I said, he wasn’t really bearing down like he was in a tournament. He was trying hard, but he’s working on changes that we all make to see if it was going to work in the tournament for him. I probably beat him as much as he beat me in the practice rounds.

But he had a number of things that I thought were unusual. One would be he would come in and say, “How did we come out?” I’d say, “Don’t give me that stuff. You know damn well how we came out.” One of his favorite sayings was, “What did you shoot –- 50 what?” “50! I had 66.” “Anybody that makes that many putts ought to be in the 50s.” It burned him up.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I found out you were in a playoff with Hogan at the 1959 Colonial, the last time he won on Tour.

FRED HAWKINS: That’s right. It was an 18-hole playoff the next day. And the wind blew about 40 miles per hour. He shot 69; I shot 73, which is a pretty good score. But he said it was the best round he ever played under those conditions.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I know it played tough because I’ve read some about that tournament. I think that year you both shot five over for 72 holes. I figured it must have been playing pretty tough.

FRED HAWKINS: It was always very narrow. It wasn’t all that long. Of course, courses weren’t all that long. You had to stay straight. Some of the greens were protected by trees on each side and so on.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Everything I read about Hogan -- even from the guys supposedly closest to him like Demaret -- they said Ben kept to himself and he worked on his game. What did you think he was like, just being around him?

FRED HAWKINS: Demaret probably knew him better than any of us, but I probably knew him as well as anybody outside of Demaret. But nobody ever knew him. I’ve always said he was the hardest man that I have ever known. If he told you he wasn’t going to cross the street, there was nothing in the world to make him cross the street.

At times he could be very gracious, he could speak well, and organize his thoughts. Other times, he’d go right by you. He was never really nasty to anybody that I know of. He wasn’t that way; he was just uncommunicative. He stayed in his own little world.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: How did Ben treat you?

FRED HAWKINS: He treated me fine.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: You got along well with him, it sounds like.

FRED HAWKINS: Yeah, but not all things good. I’ll tell you something he did to me. When I was getting ready to leave the regular Tour – I was in my early 40s – I applied for a job with a club in Los Angeles. It was a good job. They said who could I give for a recommendation, and I named Hogan and somebody else. Well, that would be wonderful if you could do that.

I called him [Ben] and asked if he’d send a letter of recommendation. He said that’s not the way to do it. They call me and I’ll give you a good recommendation, but I’m not going to write one and send it to them. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be done. I said OK. They didn’t call him or get the recommendation; I didn’t get the job, but I wasn’t broken up about it.

The next time I saw Ben he said, “How’s that job going?” I said, “What job?” “That job out there in California.” I said, “I didn’t get it.”

He just stopped and looked down at the ground. “You didn’t want that job anyhow,” he said.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I don’t want to forget to ask you this: Did they used to call you the Hawk, too?

FRED HAWKINS: Some of the guys called me that, but the name really belonged to Hogan. Some of the others almost took exception that they were calling me that. He was like a hawk, you know. He was waiting for prey or something.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: He had several nicknames and I know The Hawk was probably one of the most popular.

FRED HAWKINS: He was The Hawk, with his talons always ready.

Fred Hawkins plays Grand Champions events on the Champions Tour. He lives in Sebring, Florida.

Wednesday, November 28

Jack Nicklaus to Youth: Don’t Just Play Golf


Sergio Garcia and Greg Norman watch Jack Nicklaus tee off.
(Gunnsteinn Jónsson/Flickr)


In a story published yesterday at Golf.com, Jack Nicklaus said that specializing in golf at a young age is idiotic.

“To play all the sports is great,” Jack was quoted as saying. “I played everything. My dad played everything. Golf to me was just another sport until I was about 19. When I won the National Amateur at 19, I finally said, ‘Hmm, I must be a little better than I think I am.’”

Added Nicklaus: “Eventually, if you want to specialize in something, that's fine. But go out and enjoy, and be happy to be able to play other things.”

The Armchair Golfer

Tomorrow: Interview with Fred Hawkins, who talks about competing with Ben Hogan.

Monday, November 26

A $650,000 Putt

I didn’t see it, but Stephen Ames walked off with most of the dough when he sank a seven-footer on the final hole of the Skins Game. The putt was worth $650,000 and by dropping it Ames won the silly season event for the second consecutive year.

“You kind of let the other guys beat themselves up and then you sneak in there when you need to,” he was quoted as saying.

The “other guys” were Fred Couples, Zach Johnson and Brett Wetterich. Couples won $325,000, another nice pay day for a guy who hasn’t competed since the Masters because of chronic back problems. (Freddie has collected $4.2 million in 14 Skins Game appearances.) Zach and Brett were shut out. Ouch.

The Skins Game isn’t what it used to be. Still, a putt for $650,000 is mind boggling to me. Visors off to Ames for knocking it in.

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, November 24

Searching for a Putter on Black Friday

I ventured out into the post-Thanksgiving shopping madness yesterday. I went because my wife and two daughters were intent on shopping. I was the chauffeur. This is what I do to spend more family time. I did something really smart this time: I brought a book.

While they were looking for jeans at Penneys, I visited Dick's Sporting Goods to see what they had in the way of putters.

(A digression here: My 20-year-old Slotline putter broke this summer. Since then I've been using a friend's classic Bullseye putter, and although it's a good stand-in, it's no long-term solution. Plus, it's too short. I'm tall with short arms. I need at least a 35-inch putter.)

Back to Dick's. I have no idea what I want, so I was just doing research. (It's actually easier for me to determine what I don't want.) Dick's didn't have a big selection, but I did knock a few putts around with a couple of putters that felt pretty good -- a new Taylormade model and a Nike putter. They also had some Odyssey putters, although I didn't test them.

I wasn't there long. Young kids kept coming up to hit putts so I didn't linger. Another store didn't have anything worth trying.

I came away thinking I would check eBay. I poked around this morning, but instead of finding a putter I bid on a used set of Ping irons (inch over). I'm so overdue for a new (or newer) set of irons it's ridiculous.

The putter search will continue. I have a new strategy. One, I think I might try to pick something up online, perhaps off eBay. Two, instead of investing in one putter, I'm leaning toward getting two. I'd have a backup putter for when my putting is shoddy (too often), plus an extra for when visitors come and want to play golf.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, November 21

I'm Thankful for Eric

Why? Because Eric is the friend who made me play golf today, the day before Thanksgiving.

OK, OK. Eric didn’t make me. But he did twist my arm. Really. Smiling, he walked up, grabbed my arm, and twisted.

I hadn’t played a round of any kind since mid September. Pitiful. No good excuse. I’ve just been jamming hard on some projects and golf -- at least the playing variety -- has not been a priority. It should be, but sometimes I just let it go when I’m trying to make my time count in other areas.

So we went out this morning and played nine holes. It was great, terrific, fantastic. I don’t know how much I miss the game until I play it.

Happy Thanksgiving.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, November 19

Lorena Ochoa: Million Dollar Woman

(N Gottwald/Flickr)




Lorena Ochoa won the ADT Championship on Sunday with an unlikely birdie on the final hole. The two-shot victory over Natalie Gulbis earned the women’s No. 1 golfer a $1 million first prize.


That’s eight wins and more than $4.3 million for Ochoa in 2007, tying her with Annika Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez for most wins in a season and obliterating the money mark set by Sorenstam five years ago.

Welcome to the reign of Lorena.

The Armchair Golfer

More on Lorena Ochoa at Down the Middle.

Friday, November 16

Oops! Armchair Golf Misquotes Sigmund Freud


“These golfers have turned away from outer reality; it is for this reason that they are more aware than we of inner reality and can reveal to us things which without them would remain impenetrable.”

(not said by) Sigmund Freud


Biographical note: Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist.

This misquote brought to you by The Armchair Golfer.
Getting it wrong for the love of the game.

Wednesday, November 14

Hall Inductee Curtis Strange Glad to Make Team

(vgsgolfer.com/Flickr)


Upon entering the World Golf Hall of Fame earlier this week, Curtis Strange said something that many who have played this game can probably relate to:


“I have been extremely lucky and blessed to play golf. I love this game, and sometimes I hate it. It frustrates us and excites us at the same time. I’ve gone to bed many nights questioning my ability and you wake up the next morning and can’t wait to play.”

The first time I saw Curtis Strange in person was in the mid 1980s at the Tournament of Champions at La Costa outside of San Diego, California. I was leaving as he was approaching the resort course on the opposite side of a driveway. We made eye contact and I noticed that his head turned slightly away and his pace quickened.

I got the impression Curtis thought I might approach him with some kind of request, an autograph or something. I’m no predatorial golf fan, nor an autograph hound, and I continued on my way.

A few years later Strange was the first Tour pro to win $1 million in a single season. Curtis also won two consecutive U.S. Opens in 1988 and 1989, a remarkable achievement, the first back-to-back national champion since Ben Hogan in 1950 and 1951. One came in an 18-hole playoff against Nick Faldo.

Strange won a total of 17 events on Tour. He had some Ryder Cup successes -- and a few failures, too.

The new Hall inductee offered a fitting summation of his place in golf:

“I understand I won’t be in the starting rotation on this team, but I will be on the team. That’s enough for me.”

The Armchair Golfer

At Down the Middle: Hubert Green Induction
.

Monday, November 12

Paula Creamer: The Power of Pink

Creamer in black. (N Gottwald/Flickr)

A good year got even better for Paula Creamer this past weekend with her dominating win at the LPGA’s Tournament of Champions in Mobile, Alabama. Creamer cruised to an eight-shot victory, firing a final-round 68 for a 20-under total of 268.

The only question in Paula’s mind seemed to be if she could win with the pink ball. The answer was an emphatic yes.

“All of my other tournaments that I won have been with the white ball. So, this was a little added pressure I put on myself with that, but I’m glad I won with my pink ball,” Creamer told the press.

It’s been a solid year for Paula, who won early at the SBS Open in Hawaii and is now finishing strong with a late-season win. Creamer has risen to third on the money list and No. 6 in the women’s world rankings.

In an August email interview with the ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG, Paula said her goal for 2008 is to “WIN MAJORS!” (The caps were hers.)

The 21-year-old star is proving she is capable, no matter the ball color.

The Armchair Golfer

Go to Paula Creamer Q&A

Friday, November 9

All-time Best Dressed Golfers

Golf.com posted another one of its galleries. This one is the all-time best dressed golfers. It's a good list in my fashion-challenged opinion, although it doesn't include any women.

There's a mix of modern-day players and old-time pros. Check out the gallery here.

Here's the list with comments from yours truly.

10. Camilo Villegas
Brazilian pretty boy with fashionable duds.

9. Jesper Parnevik
Colorful, tight-fitting attire on a walking two iron.

8. Ian Poulter
About anything goes. Wild patterns and colors.

7. Davis Love
Ralph Lauren on a Southern gentleman.

6. Payne Stewart
Plus fours and a tam-o-shanter.

5. Teddy Rhodes
Hipster style influenced by jazz greats.

4. Doug Sanders
Peacock of the fairways.

3. Ben Hogan
Impeccable tailoring.

2. Jimmy Demaret
They called him "Sunny Jim" for his personality, but his clothes were bright, too.

1. Walter Hagen
Plus fours, two-toned shoes and a chauffeur-driven limousine distinguished The Haig.

The Armchair Golfer

Go to Best Dressed Gallery

Wednesday, November 7

Love Hurts

Speaking of putting (previous post), someone who really struggled on the greens this year was Davis Love. I read the other day that Love was ranked 195th out of 196 on Tour in putting. That’s dismal.

It was just the beginning of Davis’s problems. He had quite an off year that saw him drop to 51st in the world rankings. To add injury to insult, in late September Love tore tendons in his left ankle when he stepped in a hole. Not good.

At age 43, I wonder how competitive Love will be until he’s eligible for the Champions Tour in 2014. Davis has always been a fine ball-striker, so it’s hard to dismiss him.

But that ankle will have to heal well and he’ll need some semblance of a touch on the greens.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, November 5

Practice Your Putting


(Russ Glasson/Flickr)

See the guy above practicing his putting? That’s Mathias Gronberg, European and PGA Tour professional.

After the season’s final official money tournament on the PGA Tour, Gronberg slipped into the No. 125 spot on the money list with $785,180. Which means he keeps his PGA Tour card. Which means he can enter PGA Tour events next season.

Yesterday Gronberg finished in a tie for 37th at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. “I did not play very well, but I managed to grind it out,” Gronberg said on his Web site.

All Gronberg’s time on the practice putting green evidently paid off.

Now, go practice your putting. I’ll practice mine, too. (As soon as I find a new putter I like.)

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, November 2

3,000 Golf Quotations

A few weeks ago Skyhorse Publishing sent me a review copy of The Gigantic Book of Golf Quotations.

Selfishly, I was glad to add it to my golf library. I love quote books, in general, and golf quote books, in particular. This one might just be the granddaddy of them all.

The title is not hyperbole. This puppy is gigantic, with 3,000-plus quotes ranging from the golf pioneers to modern-day players, celebrities and various observers of the game. It has the heft of a hardback collegiate dictionary. Arnold Palmer penned the foreword. Jim Apfelbaum wrote the chapter introductions.

The quotes are broken out across 21 chapters that each focus on a subject area such as competition, history, instruction and more. You can also locate quotes by using the “Those Quoted” index. That’s my usual method.

For example, just when you think you’ve heard all of Yogi Berra’s quotes, there are more. At least two are golf related. Here’s one:

One time I was complaining that my shot was going to wind up in the water. So my friend Kevin Carroll told me that I should think positive. So I told him okay, I was positive my shot was going to wind up in the water.

−Yogi Berra

There are plenty of wise, inspiring and thought-provoking quotes, too. If you’re a golf book person, put The Gigantic Book of Golf Quotations on your buy list.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, October 31

‘Keep Your Job’ Week on the PGA Tour

(Russ Glasson/Flickr)

Today may be Halloween -- Boo! -- but this whole week is scary for certain PGA Tour pros. It’s “Keep Your Job” Week on the PGA Tour. Or for the glass-half-empty types, “Lose Your Job” Week.

The top 125 on the money list after this week’s Children’s Miracle Network Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, will keep their Tour cards. The rest will spend the winter wondering where and when they’ll play next year.

At No. 125 on the money list, Ted Purdy is the final week’s Bubble Boy. Purdy has racked up more than three-quarters of a million in earnings this year. A lot, but not quite enough. Ted’s job is in jeopardy. He blames himself.

“Never was I worried about keeping my card until the last couple of weeks. I’ve played my way into this situation,” Purdy told the scribblers.

Hopefully, Ted can hang on. Of course, if he does it will mean some other Tour pro will not be playing the top circuit next year.

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, October 29

I’m Going to the Ryder Cup

The notification came in the mail on Saturday. By random drawing, I was awarded two daily grounds tickets for the Wednesday practice round at the 37th Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky.

It wasn’t my first choice. I applied for two week-long tickets. I didn’t even remember my backup selection. I’m not complaining, though. It’s the Ryder Cup, after all.

I guess I’d be a fool not to go. One of the reasons I applied for the random drawing is because I have family I can stay with in nearby Jeffersonville, Indiana. Maybe I can come up with some extra tickets. I’d love to see at least one day of the actual competition.

I like the trip, too. It’s a scenic drive across I-64 from my Virginia home to Louisville. Lush Virginia and West Virginia mountains followed by the foothills of eastern Kentucky and the rolling bluegrass and horse farms surrounding Lexington.

I’ve won the golf lottery twice in the last few months. First, it was four practice round tickets to the Masters at Augusta National. And now a pair of practice round tickets to the Ryder Cup at Valhalla.

I like the way 2008 is shaping up.

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, October 27

Luke Swilor's Q School Diary: Stage 1, Day 4

(Photo courtesy of Luke Swilor)




Canadian Tour player Luke Swilor's second PGA Tour Q School run ended yesterday at Stage 1 at Dayton Valley Country Club in Dayton, Nevada. Following is Luke's final diary entry.



Stage 1, Day 4

The weather starting the day was perfect to make a comeback: cold and windy. I was feeling good about the day, and I hit two good shots into 10 (my first). Missing the six-foot birdie putt was a sign of things to come.

I then hit a good drive on the par-five 11th, but failed to make birdie. Bogey, bogey, double on the next three pretty much took me out of the game.

I tried to keep my chin up the rest of the way in. After such a bad stretch of holes, that can be tough, especially realizing what was lost. I managed to play decent on the front nine, but still ended with a 76.

The other scores showed just how perfect a day it was to make up ground. The qualifying number actually came down two shots, and ended up at -5.

The opportunity was there, but I didn't take it.

So here we are. It really is crushing to go home after a week like this. Really tough. There are a lot of good players who go home every year with this same feeling.

Getting over this can only make me tougher, but still...

Next year.

−Luke Swilor

More Luke Swilor:
Q School Preview
My May interview with Luke
Luke on the Canadian Tour
His blog, Luke Swilor's Road to the Tour

Friday, October 26

Luke Swilor's Q School Diary: Stage 1, Day 3

(Photo courtesy of Luke Swilor)




Canadian Tour player Luke Swilor has begun his second PGA Tour Q School run with Stage 1 at Dayton Valley Country Club in Dayton, Nevada. Follow along as Luke provides his diary entries.



Stage 1, Day 3

I didn’t play bad today. I didn’t play all that good, either. EVERY hard shot I had, I hit good. It was some of the easier shots I messed up. You’re not going to score well if you mess up the easy ones.

A bad drive on 10 (my first) cost me a bogey. I came back, though, and made birdie on 11 and 12. Nice. I floundered around for a bit after that. Hitting solid shots, nothing special, but solid. I wasn’t making anything, but in control.

Then out of nowhere I three putted on 2 (my 11th). Back to even. Next I made par on the easy par-5 3rd. I got a bit of a bad break on my drive, and I couldn’t get up and down. Missed opportunity. Then I failed to get up and down from the fringe on 6.

At this point, I’m starting to get really nervous. I don’t really know why, but I did. I haven’t been too nervous on the course this week, which is a bit odd, but once the tournament was beginning to look out of grasp, I felt it. The final three holes on the front nine are tough, and I’m about to knock myself out of Tour School.

The pressure seemed to bring my game around. I made a good birdie on the tough 7th, then hit two great shots onto the par-5 8th green. I missed the 12 foot putt, but made another birdie. I hit four very solid shots on the tough 9th as well, for a solid par. And a saved round. 71, -1, -2 for the tournament.

Well, I thought I had saved it. Scores were LOW today, though, so I’ve left myself in a tough position. The qualifying number actually moved to -7 today. The weather is supposed to get worse tomorrow, which should push scores up. Still, the number is now going to fall from -7 to -9 (most likely -8). So I have to shoot a very good round to have a chance.

I need birdies, and less mistakes. I’ve learned a lot this week. I may expand upon this later, but in this type of situation you tend to learn more than during a normal tournament. I don’t think I learned as much last year. I have a tough task tomorrow, but I feel like I’m ready for it. My game is better than it has been the last two months, so I’m ready to shoot a good score.

−Luke Swilor

More Luke Swilor:
Q School Preview
My May interview with Luke
Luke on the Canadian Tour
His blog, Luke Swilor's Road to the Tour

Thursday, October 25

Luke Swilor's Q School Diary: Stage 1, Day 2

(Photo courtesy of Luke Swilor)




Canadian Tour player Luke Swilor has begun his second PGA Tour Q School run with Stage 1 at Dayton Valley Country Club in Dayton, Nevada. Follow along as Luke provides his diary entries.



Stage 1, Day 2

My ball striking definitely came around today. There are still some issues, mainly with my 3-wood tee shots, but I’m now back to hitting some great iron shots. A lot of them, actually.

So I had the ball close to the hole quite often. I didn’t make any putts though. After three straight birdies on my front nine, I missed a short putt for par after a great chip. I didn’t hit a good putt, and I really wish I had that shot back.

On my back nine, I gave myself quite a few chances. I only converted one. I was hitting solid putts, but my reads were just a fraction off. Pretty frustrating to finally start hitting it good, and not being able to take advantage.

I made a really good up and down on 9 to end up with a -2 70. That leaves me at -1 after two days, with the qualifying number sitting at -4. So the final number is looking to be -7 or -8. The way I’ve started hitting the ball, that number is by no means too far off.

One more thing. I need to take advantage of the par 5’s the next two days. All four are reachable, but I’m only -1 on them with just one birdie. That is a leak I can’t afford anymore.

−Luke Swilor

More Luke Swilor:
Q School Preview
My May interview with Luke
Luke on the Canadian Tour
His blog, Luke Swilor's Road to the Tour

Wednesday, October 24

Luke Swilor's Q School Diary: Stage 1, Day 1

(Photo courtesy of Luke Swilor)




Canadian Tour player Luke Swilor has begun his second PGA Tour Q School run with Stage 1 at Dayton Valley Country Club in Dayton, Nevada. Follow along as Luke provides his diary entries.



Stage 1, Day 1

It was a tough night before the first round. I felt fine until about 2 am. I woke up, and all the sudden I felt the weight of this tournament. Everything is scarier at night, so it is a bad time to start thinking about the biggest tournament of the year. I managed to get back to sleep, but the morning was more of the same. I left to go to the course 30 minutes early just to be safe. What a kook.

Once I got to the course, I started to feel comfortable again. The golf course has always been the place where I've been most at ease. The pressure on the first tee was there, but it helped get me focused more than anything.

I got off to a solid start, but I never gave myself any chances at birdie. I didn't hit it good enough, so I had way too many 25-foot birdie putts. When I missed a green, my short game was solid. That is a very good sign. I had a lot of putts melt across the edge, too. A couple of those go in, and I shoot a good score. I was able to avoid big mistakes, but I never put myself in a position to get any shots back. So, it was a 73 today. 70 was the “qualifying number” today, but there's a lot of golf left.

My ball striking has not been very good lately. I'm getting closer to fixing that, though, so I think my scores will come down as the week progresses. Every session on the range gets me closer to the groove I'm looking to get in. I'm not worried right now; I just need to make some birdies.

Based on today, the qualifying number would be 280, -8. It's way to early to tell, but I see the number falling anywhere from -5 to -9. The weather is supposed to stay pretty good, but if that changes scores will go up. As long as I start to play the golf I'm supposed to be playing, I'll be just fine.

Ready to fight it out.

−Luke Swilor

More Luke Swilor:
Q School Preview
My May interview with Luke
Luke on the Canadian Tour
His blog, Luke Swilor's Road to the Tour

Monday, October 22

Luke Swilor's Q School Diary: Stage 1 Eve

(Photo courtesy of Luke Swilor)



Canadian Tour player Luke Swilor begins his second PGA Tour Q School run tomorrow with Stage 1 at Dayton Valley Country Club in Dayton, Nevada. Follow along as Luke provides his diary entries.



Stage 1 Eve

It’s that time of year again. Make or break. Last year was my first year of Tour School. I played solid golf, eight straight rounds of par-or-better golf, but ended up missing the number by one at first stage.

Bummer.

This year, I go into the tournament in a bit of a slump (similar to last year, actually). After finishing up on the Canadian Tour, I just don’t think I’ve played enough golf. Scoring has become more difficult than it usually is for me, and my results have shown that. I’ve been working hard, though, and I’m looking forward to a good week.

The course (Dayton Valley CC) fits me well. The elevation and turf are the same as Salt Lake, so there is no adjustment to be made. The greens are hard and fast, just how I like it. They’re pure, too. Hit a good putt and it goes in. No worries. My putting stroke is always a little smoother when the greens are this good.

I played very good in practice round number one. Much better than I’ve been playing. I had control of the ball, something that’s been missing. So far so good.

Tour School brings out some strange feelings in the best of us. We’ll see about this year, but I was shocked with the amount of pressure I felt last year. It sneaks up on you, too. Starting with the “Pre-qualifier,” I felt fine all week…until the night before the first round. The magnitude of the tournament came up on me out of the blue. It got hard to sleep. By the time I got to the first tee, it was a shake-a-thon. The pressure kept ramping up all the way through the final putt of the fourth round. I made it through, and I only had 14 more rounds to go. Wow.

The first stage was very similar. Same tournament eve blast of emotions, same first tee jitters. The only difference is that I was coming from behind the last day instead of trying to hold my position. Still, the world was on my shoulders, and it was a serious grind until the last putt. My twenty-foot birdie putt on the last hole was good enough to fall one man short of advancing. ONE MAN. One missed shot from just one of the six guys who finished one in front of me, and I’m in.

Crushing, really, but a few less mistakes from me and I advance (okay, one less mistake).

How will I feel this year?

I don’t know. The stakes are the same. Sure, I’ve been here before, but I haven’t been back again. This year I know what it’s all about. But is that a blessing or a curse? I tend to think that the experience will dull the emotions, especially early on in the week. In my eyes it’s definitely good to have one try under my belt, but I haven’t been here a second time, so we will have to see.

One thing I am sure of is that I am extremely excited, and extremely motivated. Golf tends to turn around very quickly, often at unexpected times. I’m looking forward to a turnaround this week. Everything will change if I get hot now.

−Luke Swilor

More Luke Swilor:
Q School Preview
My May interview with Luke
Luke on the Canadian Tour
His blog, Luke Swilor's Road to the Tour

Sunday, October 21

Oops! Armchair Golf Misquotes Jane Austen

“To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon golf is the most perfect refreshment.”
(not said by) Jane Austen

Biographical note: Jane Austen was an English novelist.

This misquote brought to you by The Armchair Golfer.
Getting it wrong for the love of the game.

Wednesday, October 17

Coming Soon: Luke Swilor’s Q School Diary

(Photo courtesy of Luke Swilor)



Beginning next Monday on the eve of his first stage, Canadian Tour player Luke Swilor will contribute his daily observations as he starts the juggernaut known as the PGA Tour Q (Qualifying) School.


John Feinstein, author of Tales from Q School, refers to it as the fifth major. Indeed it is. In fact, you have to qualify in the “fifth” major to get your PGA Tour card in hopes that someday you’ll have the chance to play in the other four majors.

A hearty thanks to Luke for agreeing to chronicle his “Quest for the Card” here.

Two Stages Plus Finals

I didn’t exaggerate when I called it a juggernaut. To get your card, you have to survive two stages and a six-round (108 holes) finals tournament. Some also have to make it through a pre-qualifier. Hundreds enter Q School. Only 40 get PGA Tour cards.

As an exempt Canadian Tour player, Luke bypassed the pre-qualifier. His first stage will be at Dayton Valley Country Club next Tuesday through Friday (October 23-26).

“I went there last year, and the course fits my game,” Luke said in an email. “It’s similar conditions to Salt Lake.”

A University of Utah grad, Luke hails from Sandy, Utah. Last year Luke missed getting to the second stage by a single shot. He carded his best score in the final round, a 69.

This year’s second stage of Q School will take place at six locations on November 14-17. The finals are in Winter Gardens, Florida, on November 28 through December 3.

But first stage first. That’s the way Luke will be playing it. Follow him here, beginning Monday.

More Luke Swilor:
My May interview with Luke
Luke on the Canadian Tour
His blog, Luke Swilor's Road to the Tour

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, October 16

More Golf Tidbits from Author John Coyne

Not long ago I published a Q&A with John Coyne, author of The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan. You can read it here.

John provided thorough and interesting answers, so I did what any content-greedy golf blogger would do -- I saved some. Below are two more of John’s responses.

Plus, you can read about four of his favorite golfers at Down the Middle.

Armchair Golf: What are your favorite golf events?

JOHN COYNE: The Masters, of course, though I have never been to the tournament. And the Westchester, which I go to every year. It is played near where I live in Westchester County, New York.

But I guess the British Open is my favorite all-time golf tournament. It all started there in Great Britain. Here’s an odd and interesting fact. Years ago when I first visited Scotland -- this would have been in 1964 -- I ended up in a cemetery outside of Edinburgh. (Not sure why now.) But walking around I saw dozens of headstones with images of golfers, comments about the deceased’s love of the game. The Scots love the game so much that they take it with them to the grave.

Armchair Golf: Do you play golf? How is your game?

JOHN COYNE: Yes, I do play, not well. I have never joined a country club but play on some wonderful public courses in Westchester and Columbia counties in New York State. I play to a 7 when the going is good. When I was younger I had it down to around a plus 2 and thought at one time -- this was when I was still in school -- of turning pro, but I didn’t have the personality for dealing with members. I wasn’t the best player in the family. I had an older brother Jim who played on the Western Michigan University golf team. He could have been a pro. He was good and he had the right temperament.

For four of John’s favorite golfers, head to Down the Middle. (See how many you recognize, especially if you're under the age of 50.)

Sometime in the near future I’ll have a preview of John’s next golf novel.

The Armchair Golfer

Sunday, October 14

Ernie Els Wins Seventh World Match Play Title

Ernie cruises. (Brian Doyle/Flickr)


Do you have a favorite course, a track where you always play well and expect to win?

Me neither.

But Ernie Els does. It’s Wentworth, not far from his London home.

On Sunday the Big Easy won World Match Play title No. 7 at Wentworth by putting a 6 and 4 hurt on U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera. (It was a 36-hole final.)

“I wish I could move Wentworth around the world with me," Els was quoted as saying by BBC Sport. "It's absolutely a dream come true. In my wildest dreams, I would not have dreamt I could win it seven times.”

If you read Ernie’s blog earlier in the week, then you knew he liked his chances. An excerpt:
Everyone knows this is one of my favourite weeks of the year, the HSBC World Match Play at Wentworth – a home game, so to speak.

As I was saying earlier in this report, I’m driving the ball great and my game is in good shape. Obviously, I always feel very comfortable on this golf course and if I can just get the putter working then I’ve got a great chance to win my seventh match play title.
Cabrera walked away with a fat second-place check and is still on a U.S. Open high.

“2007 has been a great year for me,” he said. “Winning the U.S. Open has changed my life.”

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, October 12

John Cook Joins Champions Tour

“I went to bed September 4, 1992, and I was old and washed up. I woke up a rookie. What could be better?”
−Raymond Floyd

It’s hard to believe John Cook, an 11-time PGA Tour winner and a top 30 career money winner, turned 50 on October 2. But it’s true, which means he’s the newest rookie on the old guys circuit.

Cook will make his Champions Tour debut this week at the Administaff Small Business Classic at the Augusta Pines Golf Course in Texas. Cook said he still has a lot to prove after a “nice” career that didn’t include any majors.

Like Mark O’Meara, Cook is a longtime buddy of Tiger Woods. Cook was one of the veteran players Woods sought out early on in his pro career.

Tiger will be watching Cook’s progress, Cook said. When asked by AP if there would be texting with Tiger during Champions Tour events, Cook said, “Guaranteed, definitely.”

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, October 10

Going to the Masters: ESPN and Me

The first two rounds of the 2008 Masters will be televised by ESPN. The USA Network had covered the opening 36 holes for the past 25 years.

(Maybe they just got tired of the theme music.)

“With the worldwide reach of ESPN, and their demonstrated leadership in new media, we think ESPN is uniquely positioned to showcase the Masters and golf to new audiences,” Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said in a statement.

Mike Tirico will host the ESPN telecast. The Masters will be April 7 through 13.

Hey, Mike, Wait for Me!

In other Masters news that you won’t read elsewhere, I’m going.

YES!

And after only four short years in the practice round lottery. I do feel lucky. I got my notification in the mail a few weeks ago –- four practice round tickets for Monday. Anyone else want to go?

If my Ryder Cup ticket application is also accepted, 2008 might be the perfect golf year.

The Armchair Golfer

Get Your FREE 2009 Masters Tournament Guide!
I recently published a 44-page 2009 Masters Tournament Guide filled with need-to-know information, stories, interviews, humor and more. I’d like you to have one. Just sign up for your free guide at above right (under the brown box) and I’ll rush it to your email inbox.

Monday, October 8

Grand Slam Comparison: PGA vs. Denny’s



Now that the Presidents Cup is over, there’s not a lot to look forward to in professional golf. But that won’t stop the staff at the ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG from trying, really trying.


The men will play the Frys.com Open this week in Las Vegas. The women will tee it up at the Samsung World Championship at Palm Desert.

Next week is the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda. Tiger Woods will not play, which got me wondering …

Which grand slam are you hungrier for?

PGA Grand Slam of Golf
Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Angel Cabrera and Padraig Harrington.

Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast
Buttermilk pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage. Two of each.

It’s a tough choice, I know. I had many Denny’s Grand Slams while in college. I love golf, but my stomach loves cholesterol, too.

The Armchair Golfer

At Down the Middle: Major League Baseball Players Who Are Scratch Golfers

Saturday, October 6

Lee Trevino Unretires

The Merry Mex has apparently ended a retirement that was shorter than his backswing. I'm good with that. I've been feeling a little guilty about not writing my Trevino tribute piece. Now I have more time.

This from Richard Oliver of the Express-News in San Antonio:

World Hall of Fame golfer Lee Trevino, who earlier this year told reporters in Boston that this month's AT&T Championship at Oak Hills would be his last competitive tournament, apparently has had second thoughts.

A Champions Tour official confirmed Wednesday that Trevino, who lives in the Dallas area, has decided to continue playing beyond this season.

The legendary player, who has a large contingent of friends in San Antonio, is still scheduled to play at the AT&T on Oct. 19-21.

It's a hard game to play. It's also a hard game to walk away from. (Or ride away from if you use a cart.)

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, October 4

Oops! Armchair Golf Misquotes Carl Sagan


“It is far better to grasp golf as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”
(not said by) Carl Sagan



Biographical note: Carl Sagan was an American astronomer and astrochemist.

This misquote brought to you by The Armchair Golfer.
Getting it wrong for the love of the game.

Tuesday, October 2

Going 18 with Orville Moody

This year I’ve attended Champions Tour events where the Grand Champions play – the 70 and older golf legends who played the PGA Tour in the 50s, 60s and 70s. It’s taken me to Savannah, Hickory (North Carolina) and Baltimore.

It began when I became acquainted with Jack Fleck, the man who upset Ben Hogan in the 1955 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. This past weekend I was at the Baltimore Country Club East Course where the Senior Players Championship will be played beginning on Thursday.

It was good golf times as usual, including riding shotgun with Orville Moody. Read about it at Down the Middle.

The Armchair Golfer

UPDATE 8-08-08:

Riding Shotgun with Orville Moody

Sunday, September 30

Harry the Great

I’m reading The Greatest Game Ever Played, the book about Francis Ouimet’s upset of Harry Vardon and Ted Ray at the 1913 U.S. Open at Brookline, Massachusetts.

Author Mark Frost includes English golf great John Henry Taylor’s assessment of Harry Vardon. It really caught my attention.

Taylor lived until 1963. Having personally watched and evaluated every major player to come on the scene for over seven decades, including Hogan and Nicklaus, he never wavered in his admiration of Harry Vardon.

“Little did I guess when playing him at Ganton,” Taylor later wrote in his excellent autobiography, “that I was playing a man who would develop into -- in my solemn and considered judgement -- the finest and most finished golfer the game has ever produced.”

Granted, the equipment, courses and playing conditions were incredibly different. Still, I couldn’t help but be impressed.

Think about it. Besides playing alongside Vardon, Taylor also saw Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus (at least early in his career). After witnessing all their games, Vardon was still his man.

For the record, Harry Vardon won 62 tournaments, including six British Opens, which is still a record.

The Armchair Golfer

Down the Middle: Presidents Cup: Mike Weir, Canadian Hero

Friday, September 28

David Duval, Weekend Golfer

(Mark Kimmet/Flickr)

In case you haven’t heard, David Duval is back after a seven-month break. Duval is playing in the Viking Classic in Madison, Mississippi.

Good news for Duval fans, too. He’ll play the weekend after posting 72-69.

Duval stayed home this year due to his wife’s difficult pregnancy. Baby Sienna arrived last month and mother and daughter are doing well. Duval’s last event was the Nissan Open in February.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, September 26

Stricker and Mahan Lead Off for Americans in Presidents Cup

Steve Stricker is playing on his second Presidents Cup team.
(Brian Doyle/Flickr)









The seventh Presidents Cup begins Thursday at Royal Montreal in Canada. Steve Stricker and Hunter Mahan will strike the first shots for the Americans as they face the dynamic Aussie duo of Geoff Ogilvy and Adam Scott.

For a look at Stricker’s amazing comeback, head over to Down the Middle.

Thursday’s Foursome Matchups

Match 1: 1:15 p.m. -- Steve Stricker and Hunter Mahan, United States, vs. Geoff Ogilvy and Adam Scott, International.

Match 2: 1:25 p.m. -- Phil Mickelson and Woody Austin, United States, vs. Vijay Singh and Mike Weir, International.

Match 3: 1:35 p.m. -- Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson, United States, vs. Trevor Immelman and Rory Sabbatini, International.

Match 4: 1:45 p.m. -- Jim Furyk and David Toms, United States, vs. Ernie Els and Angel Cabrera, International.

Match 5: 1:55 p.m. -- Scott Verplank and Lucas Glover, United States. vs. Stuart Appleby and Retief Goosen, International.

Match 6: 2:05 p.m. -- Tiger Woods and Charles Howell III, United States, vs. K.J. Choi and Nick O'Hern, International.

The Armchair Golfer

Today at Down the Middle: What Will Steve Stricker Do for an Encore?

Monday, September 24

Jack Nicklaus Had Polio

(Gunnsteinn J/Flickr)

If I knew the Golden Bear had polio as a teen, I had forgotten. I read this over the weekend from a 2004 Golf Digest interview:

I had polio when I was 13. I started feeling stiff, my joints ached, and over a two-week period I lost my coordination and 20 pounds. The doctors thought I had the flu.

I played an exhibition with Patty Berg and shot 53 for nine holes — not very good for a kid with a plus-3 handicap.

My sister, Marilyn, was diagnosed at about the same time; the doctors deduced that she got it from me. Marilyn, who was 10, was unlucky. For a year she was unable to walk but eventually got 95 percent of her movement back.

I recovered after a few weeks, but I still may suffer from post-polio syndrome. My whole career, my joints have gotten awfully sore at times. Polio is just a memory now, but it was a horrible disease. I got it a year or two before Jonas Salk's polio vaccine was distributed.

The great ones seem to overcome all kinds of obstacles.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, September 20

Oops! Armchair Golf Misquotes Voltaire



"Golf is the salt of life."
(not said by) Voltaire


Biographical note:
Best known by the pen name Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet was a 16th century French author, deist and philosopher.


This misquote brought to you by The Armchair Golfer.
Getting it wrong for the love of the game.

Wednesday, September 19

Drivers Used by the World's 10 Best Golfers

No. 10
K.J. Choi, South Korea
Driver: Nike SasQuatch Sumo2 (8.5°)
Average Drive Distance: 284.1 yards (T133)
Driving Accuracy: 64.71% (66th)
Total Driving Rank: T111

No. 9
Rory Sabbatini, South Africa
Driver: Nike SasQuatch Sumo
Average Drive Distance: 289.9 yards (T82)
Driving Accuracy: 59.14% (148th)
Total Driving Rank: 156th

No. 8
Sergio Garcia, Spain
Driver: TaylorMade r7 SuperQuad TP (8.5°)
Average Drive Distance: 294.2 yards (53rd)
Driving Accuracy: 56.28% (171st)
Total Driving Rank: 155th

No. 7
Padraig Harrington, Ireland
Driver: Wilson Dd6+ (7.5°)
Average Drive Distance: 293.2 yards (60th)
Driving Accuracy: 57.52% (158th)
Total Driving Rank: T146

No. 6
Adam Scott, Australia
Driver: Titleist Pro Titanium 907 D2 (8.5°)
Average Drive Distance: 300.9 yards (16th)
Driving Accuracy: 59.17% (146th)
Total Driving Rank: T49

No. 5
Steve Stricker, United States
Driver: Titleist Pro Titanium 905T (8.5°)
Average Drive Distance: 283.7 yards (138th)
Driving Accuracy: 63.73% (81st)
Total Driving Rank: T149

No. 4
Ernie Els, South Africa
Driver: Callaway FT-I (8.5°)
Average Drive Distance: 297.9 yards (30th)
Driving Accuracy: 56.99% (164th)
Total Driving Rank: T103

No. 3
Jim Furyk, United States
Driver: TaylorMade r7 SuperQuad TP (10.5°)
Average Drive Distance: 279.7 yards (T164)
Driving Accuracy: 74.37% (2nd)
Total Driving Rank: T58

No. 2
Phil Mickelson, United States
Driver: Callaway FT-5 Tour (8.5°)
Average Drive Distance: 298 yards (29th)
Driving Accuracy: 56.73% (167th)
Total Driving Rank: T105

No. 1
Tiger Woods, United States
Driver: Nike SasQuatch Tour 460 (8.5°)
Average Drive Distance: 302.4 yards (11th)
Driving Accuracy: 59.83% (T133)
Total Driving Rank: T31

(Note: Only Furyk, Stricker and Choi crack the top 100 in accuracy. Without a doubt, professional golf is a power game.)

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: Golf.com)

Monday, September 17

Americans Victorious at Solheim Cup

Winning 8 of 12 singles matches, the United States retained the Solheim Cup with a 16-12 victory over the Europeans in rainy, cold and windy conditions at the Halmstad Golf Club in Halmstad, Sweden. It was the Americans first win on foreign soil since 1996.

“It was a brutal week,” assistant captain Beth Daniel told AP. “We had a young team. We told them every night that we were so proud. They never gave up. They never complained. No player ever came to us. No. They just kept saying, ‘We've got to go out and play and do the best we can.’”

The Europeans held a slim lead heading into Sunday's singles matches, but the Americans staged a strong rally. Especially impressive was Morgan Pressel, who defeated Annika Sorenstam 2 and 1 in Sorenstam's home country.

“None of us feel like losers,” European team member Laura Davies said. “We lost to a better team today.”

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, September 14

‘Ben Hogan’ Appearing in South Carolina

No, this isn’t one of those Elvis-type sightings.

“An Evening with Ben Hogan” will be presented on Saturday, September 22, at the Theatre of the Republic in Conway, South Carolina. Tickets are $16 in advance, $20 at the door. The box office number is 843-488-0821.

“An Evening with Ben Hogan” is a one-man show performed by George McDowell, a Hogan aficionado (and reader of this blog) who I’ve come to know over the last several months.

At one point in our correspondence, George sent me his bibliography of Ben Hogan. It rivals that of the Hogan biographies I’ve read. George has thoroughly researched his subject so he can bring Hogan and the golf legend's peculiarities alive on stage.

George’s Story

Ben Hogan is a fascinating, larger-than-life figure that captures the interest of so many golf fans. As I’ve blogged various stories and tidbits about Ben Hogan, many of you have contacted me with some interesting Hogan connection.

George was one of the first, and I think you’ll enjoy his story – how he got into golf and how he came to Ben Hogan and doing the show.

I took up golf at age 50, but the game interfered with my thriving law practice. Soon, the thriving law practice interfered with the game.

After a few snowy winters in Baltimore, I realized I could no longer tolerate months without being able to play. So I rented a house in Florida for the winter. I had to make money to afford maintaining two places, but a straight job would cut into the time I wanted to play golf.

I hit on the idea of doing the one-man-show. I could practice it and put it on at night, and it wouldn't interfere with golf in the daylight. I'm the same height, weight, and build as was Hogan, and I sort of look like him.

There are hundreds of country clubs around Tampa, and I put it on in a few. After a couple of shows, I began to feel that I really understood Hogan and what made him tick.

I used to translate ancient Greek texts, mostly mathematics, but some philosophy as well. To properly put in English what these very smart guys (Euclid, Archimedes, Plato, etc.) meant, it's necessary to fully immerse in what they are talking about.

For me, at least, more dogged and determined than smart or intuitive, I struggle with possible meanings, rattle them around in my head, even drink some beer at them, until a bright burst of crystal clarity comes, and I know for absolute certain I understand the concept under consideration. Then I try to add a little beauty and poetry to the words in English.

And this is what happened to me with Hogan. I've studied him so much, I understand the man.

I haven’t seen the show, but I hope to in the near future. If you live near or happen to be in the Myrtle Beach area, make plans to attend. And if you get a chance to meet George McDowell, tell him The Armchair Golfer sent you.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, September 12

Q&A: Paula Creamer, U.S. Solheim Cup Team Member

(Nicole Gottwald/Flickr)





The Solheim Cup, the Ryder Cup-type competition for women professionals, will tee off on Friday in Halmstad, Sweden. The three-day team competition pitting U.S. players against European players will feature foursomes, four-ball and singles matches.

Leading the Americans into action will be the ebullient Paula Creamer, the top points earner on the U.S. team. In Creamer's first Solheim Cup appearance as an LPGA Toour rookie in 2005, she posted an impressive 3-1-1 record in a U.S. victory.

Creamer won her third LPGA Tour title at the SBS Open at Turtle Bay in February, and is currently No. 7 in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings.

Last week Paula answered my questions about the current season and her plans and goals for the near future.

Armchair Golf: What are your 2007 highlights (so far)?

Paula Creamer: This year has been pretty good overall so far. I'm glad to have gotten back in the winner's circle -- and early on! I'm also pleased with the number of times I've put myself into contention this year. Of course, playing at the Old Course at St. Andrews for the Ricoh Women's British Open was a big highlight of the year so far.

Armchair Golf: Twenty years from now, what do you think will be your top memories from your first tournament at St. Andrews?

Paula Creamer: I think the fact that my 21st birthday fell on the Sunday (final round) will always remain with me as a terrific memory. The scoreboard at the 1st/18th hole had a happy birthday wish for me, which was special!

Armchair Golf: You had great success in your first Solheim Cup. What is your approach to match play and team competition?

Paula Creamer: I love team competitions, but more importantly, I love representing the USA! Even though we all have our individual matches, we are one as a team. That's pretty cool.

Armchair Golf: What part of your game needs the most attention right now? What are you working on?

Paula Creamer: Iím working a lot on my short game. Chipping and putting.

Armchair Golf: This is year three as a pro. What have you learned this year that you didn't learn in your rookie and sophomore seasons?

Paula Creamer: Iím getting a lot better with my time management now.

Armchair Golf: How many more events do you plan to play this year?

Paula Creamer: I don't know the exact number off the top of my head, but I think I have about eight or nine events left.

Armchair Golf: What are your plans for the off season?

Paula Creamer: Keeping myself fit, visiting some friends and family, getting my new home in order, working on my game.

Armchair Golf: Fill in the blank. Next year in golf I want to ...

Paula Creamer: WIN MAJORS!

Armchair Golf: Just to do some in-depth reporting on your favorite color, do you have any preferred shades of pink or do you like them equally?

Paula Creamer: Any shade of pink is fine with me! It's such a great color.

Armchair Golf: Any other comments?

Paula Creamer: GO USA!

Monday, September 10

Justin Rose Continues Climb

Playing yesterday in the shadow of Tiger Woods, Justin Rose had another solid finish at the BMW Championship.

As reported by BBC SPORT, the 27-year-old Rose is now Britain’s top golfer, climbing to No. 13 in the world rankings. Rose overtook Englishman Luke Donald who said he has been struggling with his game in recent weeks.

Padraig Harrington (7th) and Sergio Garcia (11th) are the only Europeans ahead of Rose in the world rankings.

Rose seems like he’s been around forever. That’s because, in a way, he has. Justin turned pro at 18 the day after making quite a splash at the 1998 British Open at Royal Birkdale. Rose finished fourth in that Open while playing as an amateur.

Now Rose appears to have the skills and maturity to win a major. And Harrington’s win at Carnoustie can only serve as encouragement.

Today at Down the Middle:
TW, the Ultimate Golfing Machine

Paula Creamer Q&A:
Tomorrow at Down the Middle. Here on Wednesday.

The Armchair Golfer