So you think you have some tough holes on your course. Take a look at what a course in California has to deal with. It isn’t pretty.
by Jeff Skinner
The PGA Tour’s Fall Series has a tough task: going head to head with the NFL on Sunday afternoons. It’s pretty tough to attract any viewers while the boys of the NFL are conducting their business. Late Sunday afternoon the boys of the PGA Tour gave those diehard PGA Tour fans their money’s worth when Jonathan Byrd aced the fourth playoff hole to win the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital for Children Open. Byrd beat Martin Laird and Cameron Percy in the waning daylight when his shot on the 204 yard17th found the bottom of the cup. It was to be the last hole of the day as darkness would have stopped play from continuing. Percy and Laird both had chances to match Byrd’s ace but both felt the pressure and found the water. It was too dark for Byrd to see his ball go in and he had to ask if it went in.
by Jeff Skinner
It is often said that golf is a game that can’t be won, only played. This Sunday the game gave us a little taste of how it can be both. Two golfers on two continents, a generation apart showed why golf is indeed the greatest game. Italian sensation, Matteo Manassero became the youngest winner in the history of the European Tour when he won the Castello Masters by four strokes. Manassero is only 17 years old, 17 years and 188 days to be exact and he breaks the record previously held by Danny Lee when he won in 2008. He also became the youngest player ever to earn his European Tour playing Card besting his hero, Severino Ballesteros by 12 days.
Manassero played like a skilled veteran as he came from two strokes back at the start of the round. He strung together three birdies from the 13th hole through the 15th to win pulling away. His poise and composure made him look like he had been through all this before. “It’s just fantastic,” he said. “I always try to work for this moment and now I’ve done it it’s unbelievable, it’s a special moment…I couldn’t really imagine being a winner in my first year and I just tried to keep my card - but I’m a winner already!…I made some great shots coming in and some good putts, so from 12 to 15 is probably the period where I made the most of this tournament…I was very nervous. I was a bit nervous at the beginning, then I got more relaxed then at the end I was obviously very nervous even though I had a good cushion.”
Half a world and a whole generation away at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia an oldie but goodie showed that you don’t have to be a “youngster” to play great golf. Fifty year old, LPGA Hall of Fame Member, Juli Inkster was prepped to become the oldest winner ever on the LPGA Tour. She had birdied four holes on the back nine to take at the lead at the time. She then bogeyed 18 for the first time in the tournament while winner Jimin Kang birdied it for the win. It was a good day overall for the veteran of 27 years on tour and would have been her 32nd career victory. She has talked of retiring and looks forward to a Solheim Cup captaincy but she can still play and loves what she is doing. “I really enjoy what I do,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to compete.”
Professional athletes in other sports have a narrow window of time to make their mark and earn their living. Golf allows players from different generations to play and compete at the game they love so much. Where else can you get the jubilant youthfulness of a seventeen year old Manassero who is playing men old enough to be his father and the craftiness of a wily veteran like Inkster who is playing girls young enough to be her daughter? It only happens in golf, the game for a lifetime.
by Jeff Skinner
Quick, name the celebrities that have their names attached to a PGA Tour event. If you had to stop and think for a minute you are out of touch with the PGA Tour. Only the late, great Bob Hope and the young, hip Justin Timberlake have their names atop the marquee on the PGA Tour. Yes, Wayne Gretzky hosts a Nationwide Tour but on the PGA Tour their remains only those two.
It didn’t use to be that way. During the 70’s and 80’s there were dozens of tournaments that had a big time celebrity host. Even Champions Tour events had a bunch of stars hosting, of course back then we called it The Senior Tour. The culture was different on the tour than it is today. Event organizers and the tour thought it was good business to get a big name to host the tournament and it was.
The celebrity host would bring dozens of their friends for the Pro-Am and with those stars came more fans to the tournament. It started with Bing Crosby and his little “Clambake” at Pebble Beach and when the practice really took hold in the seventies the PGA tournament list looked like a prime time variety show, remember those. Glen Campbell, Jackie Gleason, Dean Martin, Ed McMahon, Danny Thomas, Andy Williams, Sammy Davis Jr. and Johnny Mathis all hosted events during the celebrity golden years. Heck, even Joe Garagiola and The Gatlin Brothers were hosts of events. It was the cool thing to do back then: spend a week at a course with your friends, invite a bunch of popular celebs, get The Tour to stage a tournament and you had the formula for one heck of a weeklong party.
Old Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra even took the plunge and hosted an event in Las Vegas, just like Justin Timberlake. JT is cast in the same mold as Sinatra. He’s a talented singer, one of the biggest names of his time and he has other interests besides singing. JT loves his golf, he has his own course in Tennessee, he’s a bit of an entrepreneur and he even likes to act, much like Sinatra. Timberlake played the Napster founder in the film “The Social Network” and he was good. Timberlake likes to pay homage to the old Rat Packers and Sinatra and can be seen wearing the retro fedora and skinny tie during his concerts. His presence on The PGA Tour is refreshing and maybe will bring a few new, younger fans to golf.
The fact that there are so few celebrity names attached to PGA events is a reflection of the times. Not these current times, but the late eighties when the tour realized that there were corporations out there that were willing to pony up big bucks to have their name on a tour event. The tour got the sponsor money up front and there wasn’t enough room on the marquee for a sponsor and a corporation. So, gone were Sammy and Deano and Sinatra and Campbell and in came Honda, A.T.&T. and Sony and so on. It was a different time for sure but the tour certainly acknowledges the power of a young, hip star to attract a new group of fans. With corporations more reluctant to sign up for sponsorships lately maybe it might be time to go retro and get a few stars to headline a tour stop. Can you see “The Lady Ga Ga Facebook Open” happening? Why not? If Joe Garagiola can, why can’t Ga Ga?
by Jeff Skinner
It doesn’t have the appeal that it used to or even the weather but The PGA Grand Slam of Golf is a good deal for the four players, no matter who they are. It seems the PGA can’t get the participation of all the major champs, Phil will probably never play there again, so the PGA invites players that they think played well in this year’s majors. It worked out fairly well for Ernie Els and David Toms. They might not have won a major this season but they pocketed a hefty check while spending a few days on windblown Bermuda.
Els bested Toms by a stroke to earn a first place payout of $600,000 while Toms pocketed $300,000. The major champs that showed up, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell each took home $225,000. That’s not a bad haul for a few days of silly season golf.
by Jeff Skinner
There isn’t a golfer alive that doesn’t want to hit it longer. We all have seen what length can do for the pros and we all would kill for a few more yards. Golf Magazine has called its November issue “The Power Issue” and has a bunch of tips and articles to help all of us pound it a few yards further down the pipe. One of the more interesting pieces is written by Cameron Morfit and profiles Long Drive Champion Jamie Sadlowski. The title says it all: “Super Freak”. This kid’s swing is scary and he hits a ball harder and further than anyone alive and he is only 22 years old. He’s not the Hulk either; he is only five foot eleven and 168 pounds. But he swings faster than anyone. His ball speed has been measured at 194 mph, that’s 60 mph greater than the PGA Tour Pros. His clubhead moves at 134 mph at impact, that’s faster than Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson. He uses a 7.5 degree, 48 inch Adams custom driver and goes through a bunch of them. His pitching wedge goes 180 yards and he even can drill a 300 yard drive with his putter. Yes… his putter. I told you he was scary. Check out the video and article at Golf.com.
by Jeff Skinner
We all think that those Monday Night Football announcers have the life. They get to travel all over the country to call the games and get paid for something that any of us would do for free. Well, maybe for a little less anyway. But what do they do before kickoff? Play golf of course. Mike Tirico and Ron Jaworski spent a little time taking on the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course, not a bad perk for a pair of guys that had breezed into Jacksonville to call the Monday Night game between the Jags and Titans.
Tirico and Jaws have quite a golf pedigree. Tirico hosts all the golf on ESPN and Jaws owns and operates a few golf courses. These guys are my new heroes.