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.