Sunday, August 26, 2012

Trending: Quick Takes on Golf's Progress

I would've picked Tina Fey and Karen O, but at least Augusta National finally invited a couple of women to join its august membership roles. Naturally, Condi Rice and Darla Moore accepted on the spot.

My brief take on the week's big news story, and a few other interesting golf trends, is now up for your reading pleasure right here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How Predictable: Most of My 2012 Calls Were Wrong

So back in January I decided to forecast the 2012 golf season, gazing into my crystal Titleist and coming up with... Well, not much to be proud of. I did get a few things right, though. An assessment of my prognosticational prowess is now featured at

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Advantage: McIroy

So Team A-Game kinda went down in flames over the weekend at Kiawah Island. I'm not sure Secretariat could have kept pace with the blossoming thoroughbred named Rory McIlroy.

It was another command performance by the 23-year-old Northern Irishman, who added an 8-shot PGA Championship victory to his 2011 U.S. Open win of the same margin and, hopefully, ended titillating speculation that his girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, is bad for his game. For now, I'm holding off on the obvious Tiger Woods comparisons. But they're certainly worth exploring.

As for Woods himself, it was deja vu all over again at the Ocean Course. Two solid rounds and a spot at or near the top of the leaderboard, followed by a weekend of mediocrity. In a rare and welcome bit of candor, Tiger admitted to pressing in the majors this year -- exactly as I and many others suspected. Granted, it was pretty obvious...

The majors are over, the Ryder Cup coming up. And we may soon hear from the USGA and R&A on the future legality of anchored putters. How long can Webb Simpson, Ernie Els, Adam Scott and Keegan Bradley hold their collective breath?

If long wands are banned, McIlroy gains further advantage over his peers. Just what the young fella needs.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Team A-Game Dominating at Kiawah

Is it too early to gloat about picking Vijay Singh as one of my five pre-tourney favorites at the PGA Championship? I think not.

On Friday, Singh posted a 3-under-par 69 that looked better and better as scores went higher and higher on Kiawah Island's brutal, wind-raked Ocean Course. By day's end, Singh's was the only round in the 60s on a day when two golfers, both club pros, failed to break 90. The average score was 78.11.

Vijay's tied for the lead at 4-under with Tiger Woods, another of my picks (admittedly, not exactly a wild card). I've also got Graeme McDowell (T11 at even par) and Louis Oosthuizen (T56 at +5). My No. 1 choice, Matt Kuchar, is gone with the wind after an 82 -- crushing my preseason prediction of a major victory for Kooch this year.

Can Vijay pull it off? Sure he can. But I don't think he will. Tiger's putting brilliantly and if he sharpens up his irons just a touch, that long-awaited 15th major is in the bag.

Enjoy the weekend.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A-Game All-Stars in Good Shape At PGA

So how did Team A-Game do on day one of the PGA Championship? Well, I'm a pretty happy captain.

Leading the charge is Graeme McDowell, tied for sixth with a 4-under-par 68 (2 behind leader Carl Pettersson). Then come Tiger Woods (T14, 69), Louis Oosthuizen (T25, 70) and Vijay Singh (T32, 71). Matt Kuchar (T45, 72) -- my pre-tourney favorite -- brings up the rear, but he's far from out of it with three rounds remaining.

A big storm blew across Kiawah Island's Ocean Course in the wee small hours this morning, and today's forecast is for occasional storms and more wind. Hopefully we'll see somewhat less benign conditions than yesterday.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Kuchar, Woods Lead Pre-PGA Picks

Without further delay, my picks for the 2012 PGA Championship, now just hours away at Kiawah Island's rain-soaked Ocean Course:
  1. Matt Kuchar -- Sticking with my prediction of a major for Kooch this year. It helps that he lives, plays and practices just down the coast at Sea Island.
  2. Tiger Woods -- He'll need a minimum of two good putting rounds and better wedge play, but otherwise he's clicking on all cylinders.
  3. Graeme McDowell -- Contended in the last two majors, and the closer he gets to the sea, the better he plays. You can't much closer than Kiawah.
  4. Louis Oosthuizen -- A fine player in fine form. What's not to like?
  5. Vijay Singh -- Call it a hunch, based on solid recent play and a previous PGA win on a similar Pete Dye course (2004, Whistling Straits). I'm not a big Vijay fan, but it would be cool to see a 49-year-old win a major.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Livin' the Dream, But Not at Augusta

The 10 golf courses on my personal bucket list do not include Augusta National. Read my new piece at to find out which tracks made the cut.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cabot Links, Trump International Make Grand Entrances

The eighth at Cabot Links. Wow. Just, wow.
New golf course openings have slowed to a trickle, but a pair of super-high-profile unveilings took place in recent weeks. Better yet, both are honest-to-Old-Tom seaside links.

Cabot Links in Nova Scotia has been pre-billed as the "Bandon Dunes of the East," thanks to its locale and the involvement of Bandon visionary Mike Keiser (along with GolfClubAtlas impresario Ben Cowan-Dewar). Visit the Cabot Links website for all the info, and don't miss the hole-by-hole tour.

Then there's Trump International Golf Links near Aberdeen, Scotland. One of the most publicized and controversial courses ever built -- go figure -- it's garnered near-universal acclaim from reviewers, even those who are biased against the buffoon who owns it.

So I admit to a small personal distaste for the Donald, spelled out in more detail in this piece at

At least the guy loves his golf.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Open Championship: Wild Finish Raises Many Questions

Sure, I blew it by predicting Adam Scott to win heading into Sunday's final round of the Open Championship. But let's not dwell on that. What's really important is that I picked Ernie Els among my five favorites heading into the tournament.

What a finish, huh? Like most majors, this one left us pondering What It All Means:

Will Scott ever recover from his historic collapse? 

Was this Ernie's last hurrah, or is the Big Easy on the verge of a Vijay-like renaissance in his 40s? 

Will Tiger Woods' putter, of all things, prevent him from eclipsing Jack Nicklaus' majors record? 

After missing the cut, does Elliott Saltman have what it takes to win another ham?

Ah, the mysteries of golf. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Open Championship: Scott will Finish it Off

Just wanted to get this on the record before the final groups tee off at Royal Lytham & St. Annes: Adam Scott will hold on to win his first major title. The time signature below confirms that I made this call prior to Scott's Sunday tee time of 9:30 a.m. EDT.

It won't be easy. The wind is (finally) up and forecast to grow stronger as the day wears on. I expect Graeme McDowell, who starts four shots back, to be Scott's strongest challenger. As for Tiger Woods, his history when trailing in majors is well documented, and not good. With a five-shot gap to overcome, I see Tiger pressing to make something happen, which usually sends him in the wrong direction.

So there you have it. I'm on the record -- for better or worse.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Open Championship: Woods Gambling on Conservative Strategy

If something seems familiar about Tiger Woods' play through 36 holes of the 2012 Open Championship, you must have watched the first two rounds of last month's U.S. Open.

Tiger shared the halfway lead at the Olympic Club after two days of methodical golf, hitting a variety of irons and fairway woods from the tees and quarantining his driver like it was infected with a flesh-eating virus. Fast forward to Royal Lytham & St. Anne's, where Woods is again content to lay back, avoid trouble and sacrifice potential birdie opps for guaranteed pars. He's hit driver just three times in 28 chances, mixing in a 3-wood here and there but mostly sticking with his trusty long-iron stinger.

Ironically, Woods' conservative strategy may be quite a gamble.

Woods heads into the weekend alone in third place, four behind leader Brandt Snedeker and three back of Adam Scott. But he's conceded each of them four shots on Lytham's two par 5s; Tiger is even par on those holes, Snedeker and Scott both -4.

I have a hunch Tiger will again play it safe on Saturday, with a goal of keeping in contact with the leaders while banking on tougher conditions Sunday. The forecast calls for the wind to finally kick up, which would seem to play right into Woods' hands.

With 36 holes remaining, give me Tiger to win. I don't see a repeat of his sloppy weekend play at Olympic. But if he fails to keep pace with the safety-first approach, Woods may wish he'd exercised a little less caution -- and discipline.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Open Championship: Will Faster Greens Boost Tiger?

Round one is in the books, round two underway at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's, where docile weather has everyone -- except the players and patrons -- a little bummed.

With a few notable exceptions (cough, Lee Westwood, cough), the cream is rising to the top. And here's a note to file away: the greens were double-cut this morning and despite heavy overnight rains, are running faster on the Stimpmeter than Thursday by a fair margin -- 11.2 to 10.5. Tiger Woods is a notoriously poor putter on slower greens, and it showed yesterday. If he duplicates his first round ballstriking, look out.

All for now. Enjoy the Open.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Open Championship: Tiger vs. Guy Who Won a Ham

The Open Championship gets underway in less than 24 hours at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's, which sounds more like a brand of English tea than a golf course. But I digress.

My 5 faves to win:

Tiger Woods: It's time
Padraig Harrington: Back on form
Ernie Els: Slow-ish greens will help
Matt Kuchar: Because I picked him to win a major this year
Martin Kaymer: Looking more like his 2010 self

And because the Open never fails to produce a leader or two from out of left field, my picks to fill that role:

Sandy Lyle: Better than you realize at age 53
David Duval: Won here in 2001, type who thrives on good vibes
Elliott Saltman: Because I need an excuse to link to this


Friday, July 13, 2012

If Golf Courses were Rock Albums

Sand Hills Golf Club
Golf courses have been compared to novels, paintings, and other forms of artistic expression. For me, they're more like rock albums -- each hole is a different song, there's an ebb and flow to the sequencing, and various influences can be teased out if you pay attention hard enough.

Some courses are punk, others folk or art rock. Some are nothing more than great ear candy -- or eye candy, in this case -- while others make an impact the reverberates across the entire medium.

I'll revisit this theme from time to time, beginning with installment No. 1: Sand Hills Golf Club (Mullen, Neb.) as Nirvana's Nevermind. Coming soon.

P.S. I realize I'm dating myself by using the term "album." Look it up, whipper-snappers.

What a Wonder-ful World

If you, like me, wonder why golf course beverage carts aren't stocked with real beer, or why you love this bleeping game so much, join the club. And read my new piece at

Monday, July 9, 2012

All These Guys are Good

Further proof of the fine line separating golf's very best from the rest: Ted Potter Jr.'s playoff victory over Troy Kelly at the Greenbrier Classic.

Potter entered the event at No. 218 in the World Golf Ranking. Kelly was 464th. Meanwhile, the No. 4-ranked player, Tiger Woods, missed the cut, as did No. 16 Phil Mickelson. Webb Simpson, ranked fifth after his U.S. Open triumph, faltered down the stretch to finish T7 at the Greenbrier. Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson were non-factors.

Meanwhile, someone named Charlie Beljan (pronounced "Belgian") nearly stole the show with a pair of spectacular Sunday pitch shots. He finished T3 -- not bad for a guy without enough points to even register on the world rankings.

There's a lot to be drawn from the results, but my bottom line is this: Any 2-handicapper who thinks he's even remotely close to being Tour caliber is fooling himself. Badly. Start playing every round from 7,300 yards and knock another eight shots off your handicap, and you might have a chance to break through in a Monday qualifier.

Seriously, they're that much better than you.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Greenbrier Classic: Closeup on Woods, Macdonald

I admit, I've only caught small portions of the PGA Tour's Greenbrier Classic the past two years. I'll probably be a little more engaged this go-round thanks to the presence of one E.T. Woods, making his West Virginia debut and fresh off his third victory of the season.

Aside from further scrutinizing Tiger as he preps for the Open Championship, I'm eager to get a better look at the golf course. Now called the Old White TPC, it was designed by Charles Blair Macdonald and Seth Raynor back in 1914. If you're not familiar with Macdonald, he essentially invented the role of professional golf course architect in the United States. Raynor was his prize pupil and went on to design scores of classics under his own name.

BTW, if Woods wins this weekend it'll be career victory number 75. To put that in perspective, go to your memory bank and withdraw what you saved from his very first win, the 1997 Masters. Doesn't seem like very long ago, does it?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

It Takes a Village...

The approach to No. 11 at the Village Golf Club.
Another new course review up at, this one of the underrated Village Golf Club in Royal Palm Beach, Fla. Overshadowed by high-end neighbor Madison Green GC, the Village more than holds its own with a nice, natural layout featuring some terrific holes -- most notably the Pinehurst-like 12th. Play it if you're in the neighborhood.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Course Review: West Palm Beach GC

With two rounds at West Palm Beach Golf Course under my belt, I felt qualified to review it for

Bottom line: If you can't get on Seminole -- and who can? -- West Palm Beach GC might be the closest thing to a real links-golf experience in these parts. It's firm, sandy, wind-swept, water hazard-free and, best of all, lots of fun.

No. 7 at West Palm Beach GC is a dynamite par 3.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Stein

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

About That Tiger Prediction...

I was looking and feeling pretty good after two rounds of the U.S. Open. In fact, I was all but certain my pre-tourney pick, Tiger Woods, was headed for major win No. 15 given his surgical dissection of the Olympic Club on Thursday and Friday.

But a funny thing happened on the way to victory lane. Tiger lost his mojo. I'm now more convinced than ever that his issues are strictly mental/emotional, not swing-related. Through two rounds, Woods simply looked too in-command of his action, in control of all the old shots and trajectories, to suddenly go south with his technique.

No, I contend he's still battling self-doubt, a foe he never wrestled before the world found out what a rotten person he'd been off the course. In golf -- and in life -- opponents don't come any bigger or badder.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I'll Take Tiger to Win the U.S. Open

I predicted a major for Matt Kuchar this year and I'm sticking with it. But it won't happen this week. While I like Kuchar to contend at Olympic, I think he's got a better chance to win the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in August.

I also like Zach Johnson, Jason Dufner, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Justin Rose.

But if I had to pick one guy to win, I'd go with -- surprise! -- Tiger Woods. I know he flamed out at the Masters after winning at Bay Hill, but something seemed different in Tiger's Memorial victory. Not only was the old magic back, but Tiger showed exquisite control of his ball from tee to green. That's the key to winning any Open, and especially one at tight, twisting Olympic. It's reminiscent of Southern Hills, where Woods walked away with the 2007 PGA.

BTW -- I reserve the right to alter my picks until 7:15 a.m. PDT on Thursday, when the first ball is struck.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Friday, June 1, 2012

Mickelson Drained by Back-Breaking Schedule

I've grown to like Phil Mickelson more and more over the years, in large part due to his candor. But Lefty may have been a bit too honest in explaining his withdrawal from the Memorial after a first-round 79.

"I think mentally I'm a little fatigued," he said, and I have no problem with that. It's how Phil became so wrung out that's a little tough for us average Joes to relate to.

The Memorial was Mickelson's fourth tournament in a five-week stretch, which is punishing enough in itself, right? On top of that, Phil spent the off week touring France and Italy to celebrate wife Amy's 40th birthday.

We should all be so worn out.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Golf Loses a Gentleman: John Harbottle III

I was heartbroken to learn of the recent passing of golf course designer John Harbottle III at age 53. I got to know John during my days in Washington state, even played a round with him at his home course, Tacoma Country & Golf Club.

John was a terrific architect, evidenced by his work at the Olympic Course at Gold Mountain (Bremerton, Wash.), Palouse Ridge GC (Pullman, Wash.), BanBury GC (Eagle, Idaho) and Stevinson Ranch (Stevinson, Calif.), plus high-profile renovations on LA Country Club's North Course and Stanford University.

While I can't claim to have known him well, I think it's safe to say John was as passionate about his family as he was about golf -- and he was passionate about golf.

Click here for a complete list of Harbottle's original designs and renovations. Play one and all if you get a chance. You won't be disappointed.

Sneak Peek: The Bear's Club

Ever wonder what it's like to play where the pros play on their off days -- you know, when they can choose any course they want? I won the lottery, if you will, with a recent invite to play Jack Nicklaus' very own Bear's Club in Jupiter, Fla., where members include Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els, Keegan Bradley, Michelle Wie and, for good measure, Michael Jordan.

Read my firsthand account at

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Quick Q&A: The Players Championship

Who do you like to win? Lee Westwood

How about a darkhorse? Does Ben Crane count? How about Mark Wilson? If not, give me Charles Howell III.

How will Tiger Woods do? Make the cut by a shot, struggle on Saturday, surge up the leaderboard with a solid Sunday and get everyone’s hopes up heading to the U.S. Open.

Will the Players ever become a major? No idea. How’s that for a cop-out? It would be much easier to say yes or no if there were an official path to major-hood. (In which case I’d vote yes.) Since there’s not, I expect we’ll be asking this question forever. So I guess that’s a no.

Have you ever played TPC Sawgrass? Why yes, thanks for asking.

How did you do on 17? I remember it like it was yesterday. Pin in the front, decent wind from the left and slightly into. Distance: 126. Club: 8-iron. Shot: Perfectly executed (if I do say so myself) knockdown landing on the slope past the flag, trickling back down to 8 feet, hole high. The putt: Lipped out on the low side. Score: par.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Which Path Will Fowler Follow?

OK, so my man Ryan Moore (see previous post) couldn't pull out a win at the Wells Fargo. A final-round 74, on a day when Quail Hollow finally toughened up, did him in.

There was good news, though, if you've been jonesing to see a few young American golfers rise to the global challenge. Rickie Fowler not only won his first PGA Tour event, he beat Rory McIlroy (and D.A. Points) in a playoff to do it. AND he grabbed this win outright with a sensational, bloodless birdie on the first playoff hole, Quail Hollow's insanely difficult 18th.

Fowler's not the first wunderkind to make this event his maiden Tour victory. There was Anthony Kim in 2008, then McIlroy two years ago. Which begs the question: Whose path is Fowler more likely to follow? The one that Kim has traveled to near-oblivion (he WD'd from the Wells Fargo after an opening 74), or that of McIlroy, now back atop the world rankings at age 23 (same as Fowler)?

The latter, or at least something similar, seems more likely.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Rooting for Ryan

While the hometown crowd will be strongly in Webb Simpson's corner, with plenty of others pulling for Rory McIlroy, I'll be rooting for Ryan Moore to win today at the Wells Fargo.

I had the good fortune to cover Moore's incredible 2004 sweep of golf's major amateur championships -- the NCAA, U.S. Publinx, Western Am and U.S. Amateur, plus the Sahalee Players for good measure -- as editor of Golf Washington Magazine. I interviewed Ryan on several occasions and got to know his parents a little too. Great folks.

I like to think I'd be a fan of Moore's even without that experience. He's a little different from most tour pros, in a good way. For one thing, he dresses differently, right down to his TRUE Linkswear shoes (which are fantastic, I can tell you), and generally gives off a more laid-back vibe than his peers.

Bring it home, Ryan.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Yippee! Trump Gets His Open

Huzzah for Donald Trump! His Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., was chosen to host the 2017 U.S. Women's Open, a huge feather in the cap of golf's would-be king.

I have little to add to the conversation other than this: I can't stand Donald Trump. His lone redeeming quality, in mind my, is his passion for golf. And he ruins that by making absurd pronouncements, one after another, about his own properties.

Speaking of which, here's an interesting take on the new Trump International Scotland by Darius Oliver at Planet Golf. Spoiler alert: Darius hints that Donald's insistence on building picturesque signature holes caused architect Martin Hawtree to sacrifice sound design principles. Style over substance from the Donald? Go figure.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Random Thoughts on the Zurich Classic

I really like Jason Dufner, who won his first PGA Tour event Sunday in a playoff with Ernie Els. But I swear, poor Jason looks like a deer in headlights in every picture.

I was torn between rooting for Dufner, a player -- as stated previously -- I really like, and pulling for Els to end his two-year drought. Loss aside, Els is consistently contending again. Those 40-something nerves aren't doing him any favors in the clutch, though.

By the way, one knock against the belly putter is that it takes nerves out of the equation. You sure about that?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Sad Tale of Sugarloaf Mountain

My piece on Sugarloaf Mountain Golf Club, the struggling Coore/Crenshaw gem outside Orlando, is now up at Read it and try not to weep.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Can Tiger Play by Feel Alone?

I think everyone agrees with Butch Harmon's assessment that Tiger Woods needs to forget mechanics and get back to playing by feel. But I question whether Woods is capable of ignoring technique in his current state. It seems that his new, Sean Foley-constructed action is so different from Tiger's previous swing(s) that he couldn't get out of his head if he tried.

Here's another question: If Tiger did manage to banish all swing thoughts, which swing would emerge? The Harmon swing? The Hank Haney swing? Foley's? Some mutant hybrid of all three?

If Tiger were inclined to take Harmon's advice, he might be best served by an extended break from the game. A couple months off could clear his clouded mind and allow Woods to do what comes naturally.

Whatever that may be.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bubba the Bender

I was as awed as anybody by Bubba Watson's hook from the woods on Augusta National's 10th hole in his Masters playoff victory. I do wonder, though: If Bubba were right-handed, could he have pulled it off? It's tough to make a slice curve as much as a hook, and the ball certainly would have stopped more abruptly on the green. Just thinking out loud...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

When Good Courses Go Bad

Played the Coore/Crenshaw-designed Sugarloaf Mountain GC outside Orlando last weekend. Sad to see such a great layout in such lousy condition. Sign o' the times, as they say. I'd still recommend playing it, though, especially if you're interested in course architecture. More in a future post...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Blog test... 1... 2... 3... Is this thing on?