by Jeff Skinner
Each year Jack Nicklaus and his Memorial Tournament honor an individual for their life contributions to the game of golf. This year’s honoree is Jack’s long time friend and rival Tom Watson. Together they gave us some of the greatest memories in the history of the game.
Larry Dorman calls them the “golf’s last true rivalry” and indeed he is right. No rivalry today comes close to Jack & Tom. Whether you’re considering the sheer volume of major championships or the depth of their character there are few challengers to Nicklaus and Watson.
From The Memorial’s capsule on Watson:In a career filled with highlights, two of his most memorable major championship victories came in tightly fought head-to-head battles with Nicklaus. In 1977 at Turnberry, Scotland, Watson bested Nicklaus in the famous “Duel in the Sun.” The two men were paired together for the final 36 holes, and Watson edged Nicklaus by shooting 65-65 to the Golden Bear’s 65-66 to win by one stroke. Watson clipped Nicklaus yet again in the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links. With Nicklaus the leader in the clubhouse, Watson orchestrated one of the most memorable shots in major championship history by chipping in for birdie from ankle-high rough on the par-3 17th hole en route to his only national title.
Throughout his career, Watson has been a respected sportsman and ambassador for the sport. He received the USGA’s prestigious Bob Jones Award for distinguished sportsmanship in 1987, and he was elected to the PGA World Golf Hall of Fame the following year. In recognition of his role not only as a champion, but also as an ambassador and devoted caretaker of the game of golf, Watson was selected to the Memorial Tournament’s Captains Club in 2009.
FORT WORTH, Texas — Zach Johnson won a tournament for the first time in two years when he claimed the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial title on Sunday, pulling ahead of the field when Jason Dufner faltered.
Johnson was assessed a two-stroke penalty for failing to replace his ball to its original position after marking it on the 18th hole. That left him with a 2-over 72 and a one-stroke victory.
“I’m going to focus on the positives, because I hit a really solid putt and it’s a good thing I made it,” Johnson said. “No harm, no foul. It was my fault.”
Johnson moved his original ball mark out of the line of Dufner’s putt on the 18th green. But he forgot to move it back before his final 5-foot putt.
Even with the penalty assessed before signing his scorecard, Johnson’s 12-under 268 total was enough to edge Dufner, who closed with a 74.
by Jeff Skinner
Check out Steve Elling’s profile of the enigmatic Ben Hogan. He covers nine defining moments in Hogan’s life.
“The following isn’t a ranking or any remote semblance of the most obvious episodes or issues Hogan faced in his life. After all, Hollywood covered many of those in the 1951 movie about the guy called Follow the Sun. But in the years that have passed since his death, more details about his life have been divulged, some of them downright fascinating.
What made him tick? Complicated question for an impossibly complicated man. If you think Tiger Woods has some crazy internal wiring, Hogan has had experts theorizing about his life and times for six decades.
To the Internet crowd, that’s ancient history, but it shouldn’t be forgotten. Here are nine defining Hogan moments –- both personally and professionally, for Hogan and his fans –- which is one for each major championship he won.
Forged in family fire
Decades passed before the details of Hogan’s shocking, pitiable childhood became fully known, and it was easy to understand why Ben almost never spoke of his father’s suicide, even to his closest friends. Hogan’s wife, Valerie, didn’t learn of the incident until well after they were married, from another family member, in fact. Hogan was 9 when his father, a blacksmith, shot himself with a .38 in the family home. Some have theorized Ben found the body, though that remains muddled. At any rate, as the youngest of three kids, and a boy who idolized his dad, the development surely shook Ben to the core. Indeed, some believe it shaped Hogan’s life in ways he could never understand, much less control.”
From AP Sports:
GLADSTONE, N.J. (AP) Azahara Munoz beat Candie Kung 2 and 1 on Sunday to win the Sybase Match Play Championship, a title that was set up when Morgan Pressel was penalized for slow play while in control of their semifinal match.
It was the first LPGA Tour win for Munoz, but this one is going to be shrouded in controversy. It also will put more focus on pace of play in golf.
Pressel appeared to take a 3-up lead with a par at the 12th hole at the Hamilton Farm Golf Club. But before she could tee off on No. 13, tour official Doug Brecht informed her that she had violated the tour’s pace of play rule and lost the hole, dropping her lead to 1-up and changing momentum. Munoz, a former Arizona State star from Spain, then rallied to beat Pressel 2 and 1.
IRVING, Texas — It took Jason Dufner 164 starts on the PGA TOUR to win his first title. It took him two more starts to win his second one. Dufner survived a tough start to make the most important putt of the day, a 25-1/2 footer for birdie at the 18th hole to claim the HP Byron Nelson Championship in a Sunday shootout at the TPC Four Seasons Resort.
By making birdie on the final hole, Dufner finished at 11 under and avoided a playoff with Dicky Pride, who had poured in a similar putt for par at the 18th to finish at 10 under. “I’ve been in a couple of playoffs,” Dufner said. “Really didn’t want to get in another one.”
Pride was looking for his first TOUR win in nearly 18 years. Had he won, he would’ve set a PGA TOUR record for most time between wins. Instead, Dufner gets his second in the last month, having claimed the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in a playoff.
“Jason made a great putt,” Pride said. “He’s a really good player.”
Dufner bogeyed two of his first three holes, but immediately bounced back with two birdies en route to shooting a 3-under 67.
by Jeff Skinner
Every time a match play event rolls around we hear how the pros, the media and the fans love the excitement of head to head competition and that there should be more of it on the tours. At the same time we hear that television will never approve of an increase in match play events because they are afraid all of their big draws will be out of the tournament too early. The Sybase Match Play Championship is an example of a network’s worst fears realized.
Last year the final match at Sybase pitted two of the most gritty match play competitors anywhere in golf. Suzann Pettersen and Cristie Kerr battled to the eighteenth hole in the championship match and the fans got all they could ask for. This year both Pettersen and Kerr have been sent packing due to major upsets in the first two rounds.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been exciting golf and gripping matches. On the contrary, there has been plenty of great golf but most of it has resulted in the bigger names and the higher draws heading home early. Pettersen, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome, Ai Miyazto and Michelle Wie were all sent home on day one.
Day two saw much of the same as Cristie Kerr, Natalie Gulbis and Karrie Webb were all defeated. Gulbis had been a big story on day one as she battled back from a 4-0 deficit.
The 62nd seed, young Jodi Ewart continued her amazing run one day after she dispatched Pettersen. Ewart took down another match play stalwart in 30th seeded Sophie Gustafson. Sixth seeded Stacy Lewis kept up her solid play as she defeated Sandra Gal 4 & 3. World number one Yani Tseng found her putting stroke and moved on with a defeat of Katie Futcher. In another big upset 37th seeded Vicky Hurst ousted Kerr in nineteen holes. And 26th seeded Anna Nordqvist topped seventh seed Jiyai Shin.
For the casual fan there might not be many “familiar” players left but to any golf fan that is interested in good golf the stage is set for an exciting weekend. There is a good mix of seasoned veterans and young players looking to make a big name for themselves on Saturday.
Na Yeon Choi (2) vs Morgan Pressel (15). Pressel is as gritty as they come but Choi has three top tens this year already.
Amy Yang (10) vs Anna Nordqvist (26). This match looks even but Nordqvist is on a roll after knocking off seventh seeded Shin.
So Yeon Ryu (13) vs Katherine Hull (36). Even though Ryu is the current U. S. Open Champion these are the kind of matches that strike fear into the hearts of the networks.
Angela Stanford vs Vicky Hurst (37). Unfortunately there will be one less American after this match. Hurst has to be flying high after taking out Kerr bur she has yet to win on tour. Stanford has five wins on tour and her experience may be her biggest advantage.
Yani Tseng (1) vs Candie Kung (49). Yani Tseng is a machine; it’s hard not to expect her to win every time she tees it up.
Karine Icher (40) vs Julieta Granada (41). Both players have completed an upset victory to earn their way here.
Azahara Munoz (19) vs Jodi Ewart (62). Munoz took out Karrie Webb today but the story of this tournament in Ewart. Taking out Pettersen and Gustafson has to give the youngster plenty of confidence. But a 62nd seed? Cinderella is at the ball.
Stacy Lewis (6) vs Sun Young Yoo (11). Lewis is the best American golfer right now, despite Kerr sitting ahead of her in the Rolex Rankings. She has a win already this season and would love to face Tseng in the final.
by Jeff Skinner
The Golf Channel has been busy adding new programming recently and a few of their new shows are certainly worth watching. Down the Stretch and On the Range offer viewers the behind the scenes access that golf fans rarely get to see.
But there have been some issues with their early morning flagship program, The Morning Drive that may result in some frightening changes.
The past month we’ve seen a revolving door of co-hosts sitting opposite mainstay Gary Williams and rumor has it that these substitute hosts are auditioning for a full time gig in that seat.
It appears that Erik Kuselias has been ‘reassigned’ to NBC Sports Talk for whatever reason. Click here for Stephanie Wei’s report on the back-story. Erik won’t be missed by knowledgeable Morning Drive viewers. He lacked any real golf chops and was at best average with his golf knowledge. Half of what he said was fed to him by Golf Channel staffers. He was probably given the chair because of his experience of substitute hosting ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning Show before his contract wasn’t renewed. Click here for Deadspin’s take on his departure. Kuselias’ self-important attitude wore down even the most ardent Morning Drive fans.
So now The Golf Channel is left with an empty co-host chair to fill and while most of the potential candidates are interesting there is one in particular that scares me.
Click here and take a look at Geoff Shackelford’s (tongue in cheek) poll to see which hosts you would like to see sitting across from Williams. Here’s my take on his list of would be Morning Drivers.
Jerry Foltz has been great sitting in and certainly has the golfing chops that Kuselias lacked. I love John Hawkins and his rebel attitude but you’ll never get him to sit still for two hours. Tim Rosaforte has more access than anyone in the game but he would be on his phones all morning getting his inside scoops. “Big Timer” Charlie Rymer brings his down home humor with him wherever he shows up on the Golf Channel and he may be a good fit. Former ESPN writer, Jason Sobel is very good but he may be better suited to reporting than hosting. Then there’s Jimmy Roberts, ouch.
This past week we have been subjected to Roberts and his Napoleon Complex as he has been opposite Williams all week and I for one have had enough. In fact, day one was too much for me.
Roberts may have some skills other than being pretentious but I fail to see them. During NBC’s golf telecasts I force myself to endure his vignettes and his updates but a steady diet of Roberts would cause me to lose my morning oatmeal.
I am hoping that Roberts would deem a permanent seat on Morning Drive a demotion of sorts and opt to continue his other duties. After all, how could NBC ever survive without him?
Jerry Foltz gets my vote for filling the empty seat. He and Williams already have a natural “buddy-like” rapport and that would put two very knowledgeable and personable hosts behind the Morning Drive desk. Send Jimmy Roberts back to the mother ship, NBC needs him, Morning Drive doesn’t.