Tom Watson is back again. The best story of the year in golf is still searching for his first win of the year at The Champions Tour final event, The Charles Schwab Cup Championship. Watson had a great 64 in the second round but John Cook bested him by two strokes and leads Watson by three shots going into the third round. Last week’s winner Phil Blackmar is also tied for second place.
by Jeff Skinner
It doesn’t get much better than playing a round of golf on a crisp, clear fall day. I was lucky enough to get in eighteen holes on a great course under a bright blue sky with the temperature unseasonably warm. I almost felt guilty, almost.
The day got even better when I came home and found my weekly copy of Golf Week in the mailbox. Oh, for the simple pleasures of life. Relaxing with the Golf Channel on and a golf magazine in my hands is another simple pleasure I relish. In this week’s magazine I came across an article by Evan Rothman that divulged one of the secrets of the pros.
We are all amazed at how the pros can hit a golf ball but have you ever wondered how they look so good doing it? I know these guys get all their shirts and hats and gear from their sponsors but what about their pants?
This past June I was at the Travelers Championship in Connecticut. On Sunday for the final round I spent most of the day following the leaders around the course. It was pretty hot and sticky and I was feeling the heat. Play was backed up on the last few holes and Kenny Perry and Paul Goydos were forced to wait on fifteen. I stood over with some other press trying to grab some shade and I notice how cool and collected Perry looks. He and Goydos are chatting away and I notice their pant bottoms. OK, I know, but we were waiting there for awhile. Anyway, I see a little slit at the bottom of their slacks. It allows the pants to fall down over their shoes and keeps the crease nice and smooth and I think to myself, “Wow, these guys think of everything.”
Evan Rothman has found the guy who tailors many of the PGA Tour Pros pants. His name is Rickey Lamitie and he has his own company that does a lot of business for the pros. All his work is custom and he offers so many options it’s unbelievable, including an option for the pants bottom called “the golf slit.” Oh yea, the pants go for $295-$395. I guess when you bring home a few million a year you can spring for some high class threads. They do make those guys look great.
Times are tough all over and golf course managers aren’t afraid to try something to and save a few bucks. Such is the case at Kensington Golf Course in Canfield, Ohio. They have brought in a herd of goats to use as an “all natural maintenance crew.” The goats wander the course eating all the foliage they can. It saves the course from having to cut it down with weed whackers. The goats don’t graze on the fairways or greens only on the naturalized area of the course.
It’s a good deal for both the goats and the course. The players like it too. It is reminiscent of the old days when sheep would roam the links of Scotland, grazing to their hearts content; long before gas powered mowers did their job.
by Jeff Skinner
After three years of arguments, debate, politicking, protests and I’m sure plenty of backroom dealing, Donald Trump begins work today on his controversial golf course on the picturesque sand dunes north of Aberdeen, Scotland. Trump, in his usual outrageous style has said he is determined to build “the greatest golf course in the world.”
Trump has been trying for three years to get the approvals needed to begin building Trump International Golf Links, “a world class golf destination” but was met with protests and the plan was originally rejected by the local community. After Trump pulled out all the stops and dealt with the Scottish National government he miraculously won approval for the plan. It’s amazing what a little cash and maybe a few promises of a vacation home or two will get you. If you think Trump isn’t a powerful force, think again. He got the Scottish Government to approve this plan when others thought it was dead.
The resort itself appears to be huge: 1500 total housing units, consisting of 950 vacation homes, 36 villas and a 450 room hotel and two championship golf courses. Trump now owns eight courses and always promotes each as “the greatest.” He is never shy about promoting himself or his projects. He has taken a different tact in dealing with the Scots to some extent. Trump Sr. has been using his son, Donald Trump Jr. as the front man for this project. Maybe The Donald thought Junior would generate less anti-Trump sentiment than he would. Whatever the reason, it has worked and Trump has started planting grasses and taking measures to stabilize the dunes before the major work can begin.
For all of Trump’s bravado and flash, he has a chance to do something few developers have. He is able to build a true links golf course on a beautiful piece of traditional Scottish links land. There aren’t many people that have that opportunity. It will be interesting to see if Trump and his designers can keep to the true spirit of links golf. Forget the million dollar waterfalls and the over maintained parkland style of your other courses Mr. Trump. Keep the bulldozer work to a minimum and bring in a herd of sheep or two, flatten out a few spots, plant a few holes and stand back and let the land dictate the course. Please, let there be no imported marble walkways or thirty foot waterfall feature, and keep the golf carts in New Jersey.
by Jeff Skinner
Never underestimate the power of the press, or the web, or television. Just ask President Obama. After I read the New York Times article that compared The White House to a “frat house” I figured it wouldn’t be long before Obama’s people put together some kind of damage control. The President has been taking a little heat for his habit of playing basketball with the guys. And I do mean the guys. Some are criticizing Obama for not including women in his basketball games. In the words of Rocco Mediate, “Are you kidding me?”
I have the feeling that these people calling for women to be included in these games are probably the same ones who picketed with Martha Burke at The Masters in 2003. We all know how that turned out. Now give me a break, please! If anyone has a problem with Barack Obama and his “boys club” they are way off base.
He has appointed women to many high profile positions, Hillary Clinton is his Secretary of State, he just named Sonia Sotomayor to The Supreme Court and according to the Times “there is a 50-50 gender split among White House employees.”
Give him a break. Can’t a guy just play some hoops? I guess not, when you are the leader of the free world everything comes with a price.
So, the Obama Damage Control Team goes to work and they come up with a plan to include a female in Barack’s next athletic outing which meant a new addition to The President’s Sunday golf foursome. On Sunday, chief domestic policy advisor, Melody Barnes joined The President for his round. It was the first time that a women had been included the Presidential Foursome.
As if the he isn’t taking enough heat for the economy, the wars, unemployment and health care, he has to worry about who he shoots hoops with and his playing partners on the golf course. We should be content with the fact that he loves to play golf and plays by the rules. According to those in the know, Obama plays by the rules and doesn’t take liberties on the course like Bill Clinton did. It says a little about this character that he’s a legit golfer.
Being the highest profile person on earth has its drawbacks and having to appease every possible constituency is one of them. Sorry, Mr. President, you are spending too much time with the boys, better get more females involved. After all, they did get you elected so the least you could do is play some golf with a few of them.
It’s time we stopped trying to read something into everything. It’s just a guy shooting some hoops and it just may be a guy that likes to play some golf with some friends. So he happens to be The President, can we just let him play some golf.
by Jeff Skinner
A very busy weekend…
Pressure Packed Card Game: There was plenty of pressure on the professional golfers that call The Nationwide Tour home this weekend. The Tour Championship is the final tour stop and the last chance to move up the money list into the top twenty five and earn a PGA Tour Card. Matt Every began this week at forty nine on the money list. He knew he would have to have a great finish to avoid coming back to the Nationwide Tour again next season. With scores of 70-63-67-67 he did better just that. Every cruised to a three stroke win over the tour’s leading money winner, and PGA Tour Card holder, Michael Sim. Every, a veteran of The Golf Channel’s Big Break, had failed to get through Q-School the past two years, but will not have to worry about that this year. He’ll be teeing it up with the big boys on The PGA Tour.
The only other player to move into the top twenty five and earn his card was Steve Wheatcroft. With his third place finish he moved up from thirty first to twentieth on the money list. Sadly, for each player that moves into the top twenty five there is another player that is bumped out. That unfortunate distinction fell on Brian Stuard, he fell to twenty sixth and Alistair Presnell, who fell to twenty eighth.
In the “feel good” news section this week is Fran Quinn. He is the forty four year old dedicated professional who has been playing the minor league tours for years. He was on the PGA Tour briefly in 1992 but has failed to ever make it back. This year was going to be different. Quinn came into the Tour Championship at number twenty on the money list and needed to play solid golf to secure his card. Then he gets sick. A urinary tract infection hit Quinn and almost cost him the card. After spending Saturday night in a hospital getting intravenous antibiotics, he hung on and played well enough to land at twenty five on the money list and grabs the last PGA Tour Card. Welcome back to the big show Mr. Quinn.
PGA Tour Card for Matteson: On the PGA Tour young Rickie Fowler might be playing the “what if” game. What if he didn’t bogey his final hole? He would have shot seven under 63 for the day, finished at nineteen under and been one stroke clear of Troy Matteson and Jamie Lovemark and won the Frys.com Open for his first professional win. But, it was not to be. Even with Matteson stumbling down the stretch with bogies on the last two holes, he hung on to win the playoff and his second PGA Tournament. Matteson needed this win. He was 131st on the PGA Tour money list and in danger of losing his playing privileges for 2010. You have to give him some credit; he is a real hard worker. This was his thirtieth tournament of the year and his first top ten. His winner’s check of $900,000 puts him just shy of $1.5 million and seventy eighth on the money list and he gets another two year exemption on the tour.
LPGA Ladies in Japan: This week Stacy Lewis and Paula Creamer decided to jet off to Asia to play in the Masters GC Ladies in Miki, Japan. The LPGA’s Asian swing starts this week in South Korea, so they figured they would get a jump on adjusting to the jet lag and play a little meaningful golf. It paid off for Lewis as she played well enough to finish in a tie for seventh place. With the LPGA’s schedule getting smaller next season we’ll see more players making the effort to play tournaments in Asia and Europe.
Jonzon Gets His Card: At the European Tour’s Castello Masters, Michael Jonzon of Sweden looked to have the tournament in the bag after a five under, thirty one on the front nine and a three stroke lead. His back nine wasn’t so friendly. After a double bogey on fifteen and a bogey on seventeen he lost three strokes to the field and fell into a three way tie going into eighteen with Martin Kaymer and Christian Nilsson. With the tournament on the line, Jonzon steadied himself and rolled in his birdie putt on the last to get to -20 and claim his first victory in twelve years. Jonzon needed a top two finish to keep his European Tour card, after this win he is all set.
Champions Card for Blackmar: It’s not only the young golfers looking to secure a tour card and ensure that they have a place to play next year. On the Champions Tour at The AT&T Championship, Phil Blackmar’s one stroke win earned him his first Champion’s Tour title, $255,000, a two year exemption and the last spot in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. Nice way to finish Phil.
There is so much exciting golf happening this weekend it is difficult to keep up on all that is going on. I’ve been surfin the web for all the news I can get on all these tournaments throughout the world.
Good news, bad news for some big family names at the first stage of Q-School. Gary Nicklaus, Sam Saunders (Arnie’s grandson), Danny Lee and Tadd Fujikawa all failed to advance to the second round. Jay Haas Jr. made it through to second stage and will try and join his brother Bill on the big tour. Of course, he is Jay Haas of the Champion’s Tour son and his uncle is Jerry Haas, coach of the men’s golf team at Wake Forest. Now that’s a golfing family. One of last year’s best stories on the PGA Tour was Erik Compton. You remember him; he had two heart transplants and was trying to earn his way onto the PGA Tour. He is trying again this year and he made it through to the second phase of qualifying by taking medalist honors at his section by seven strokes.
At the European Tour’s Castello Masters at the Club de Campo del Mediterraneo, yea, it is in Spain, Michael Jonzon (no, it is not misspelled) has a one stroke lead over Martin Kaymer and tournament host Sergio Garcia. This is Sergio’s home course and his dad is the pro there. Talk about a home field advantage. Sergio should be giving strokes to the field.
On the other side of the world, in Japan, our two favorite LPGA golfers are playing in The Masters Ladies of the Japan LPGA. Stacy Lewis and Paula Creamer are Twittering their hearts out from Japan while they try and pocket some major yen with the LPGA on a break. Stacy is T12 and Paula is T33 in the third round. Check out the live scoring on the JLPGA website, just click on “Realtime Scoring” in the upper right corner.
Troy Matteson set a PGA Tour record by shooting back to back 61’s and took a three stroke lead at the Frys.com Open. Two 61’s, are you kidding me? Matteson started the week at 131st on the money list. He is looking like a lock to keep his card. Chris Stroud started at 125th on the money list and is tied for second with Webb Simpson and Tim Clark. Could this be Tim Clarks’ first PGA Tour win?
At The Champions Tour AT&T Championship in San Antonio, Texas, Andy Bean and Russ Cochran are tied for the lead at eight under. Jay Haas, third in Charles Schwab Cup points is one stroke back and points leader Bernhard Langer is tied for ninth and four strokes back.
At the most important tournament of the week, The Nationwide Tour Championship, Matt Every of Big Break fame is playing his best golf at the right time. He has a one stroke lead over Michael Sim but more importantly, he is projected to move from 49th on the money list to 10th and is all but guaranteed his PGA Tour card. Forty-four year old minor tour veteran Fran Quinn has slipped back from #20 on the money list. We are pulling for this guy! Projections courtesy of Golfweek.
PROJECTED MONEY LIST THROUGH 54 HOLES
- 23. Vance Veazey, $196,713
- 24. Fran Quinn, $193,017
- 25. Fabian Gomez, $187,308
- 26. Craig Bowden, $183,608
- 27. Brian Stuard, $181,253
WHO’S PROJECTED TO MOVE INTO THE TOP 25
- Matt Every, from 49th to 10th
- Steve Wheatcroft, from 31st to 18th
- Fabian Gomez, from 30th to 25th
WHO’S PROJECTED TO MOVE OUT OF THE TOP 25
- Craig Bowden, from 24th to 26th
- Brian Stuard, from 23rd to 27th
- Alistair Presnell, from 25th to 28th
One more subject to cover. Today is the tenth anniversary of the death of Payne Stewart. It’s amazing to think that it has been that long already. When Payne died he left his wife, Tracy and two young children. Chelsea and Aaron Stewart are now young adults making their way in the world. See how close they have stayed to Payne’s world in this piece we published earlier this year.
This game is easy. Just ask Nicholas Thompson. You remember him, he’s Alexis Thompson’s big brother. At The Frys.com Open on Saturday he scores the rarely seen “Double Eagle” when he holes his 261 yard second shot on the par five eleventh hole. It gets better. Two holes later he Aces the 200 yard par three thirteenth. Some guys have all the luck.
by Jeff Skinner
One of the best things to happen to golf over the years has been The Golf Channel. When Arnold Palmer and company plunked down some cash in 1995 to start a television channel whose only subject was golf, many thought it wouldn’t last. Well, it has done more than just hang around. It has flourished and become the number one media outlet for golf news and information.
The Golf Channel covers all the tours in one way or another but one of the most enjoyable features of The Golf Channel is its coverage of The European Tour. The coverage of the PGA Tour, The Champions Tour, The Nationwide Tour and The LPGA gives us the opportunity to see as much golf as we could possibly want but it is The European Tour coverage that is my favorite.
On most occasions The Golf Channel is showing whatever television feed it can get from Europe, so they can’t give us all the technological tricks that they use on their own telecasts but that does not detract from the broadcast. The locations throughout Europe are so exotic and varied that each one seems more interesting than the last.
The fans at the European tournaments look to be slightly more laid back then the American fans at PGA Tour events. They seem to be there to enjoy the food, drink, and friends and maybe appreciate a little good golf along the way. They acknowledge good play and I have yet to hear any yell, “Get in the hole” at any player, ever.
The European telecasts concentrate on golfers making golf shots and rarely do they linger on a player who is not prepared to play a shot. We get more shots per minute and that’s always good. The quality of the golf on the tour is excellent. There are many good golfers that do not make the PGA Tour their home and the Golf Channel telecasts allows us to see them on some of the best courses in the world.
There is no Johnny Miller or Nick Faldo on these telecasts, thank goodness. The announcing team maintains an understated style that lets the golf speak for itself. The gem of the team is the esteemed Renton Laidlaw. With his unassuming style, sly humor and Scottish accent he can make the ugliest of shanks sound like one hit dead center.
I don’t want to disparage the other Golf Channel telecasts of the tours, I love the coverage with all the bells and whistles. It’s great to have all those technological gadgets but there is something to be said for the low key presentation of the European Tour telecasts. The pure joy of kicking back, early in the morning with a cup of tea and this month’s golf magazine with the European tournament of the week playing on The Golf Channel is one guilty pleasure I truly enjoy. Make some time to give the European Tour a watch in the morning on the weekend, or better yet during the early rounds on Thursday or Friday if you can. Don’t feel guilty about watching more golf. We deserve it.