Golf Buzz

January 27, 2015 - 10:13am
mark.aumann's picture
Sean Foley
Montana Pritchard/PGA of America
Not everyone can get a golf lesson from Sean Foley, but your local PGA Professional has the tools and expertise to help your game.

So somebody has given you golf lessons as a holiday gift. Now it's time to use that gift wisely.

Rodd Slater, PGA Professional at Two Rivers Golf Course in Dakota Dunes, S.D., suggests a three-step approach to anyone planning on taking golf lessons. In his words, here's how you achieve success:

1. Ascertain your goal

"Every player has different visions of the game and different goals for themselves. Some are purely social. Some are beginners. Some are really competitive players. So that person needs to have a conversation with their PGA Professional, and that Professional needs to ascertain what the goal of the player is -- and coach to that."

GET GOLF LESSONS: Find a PGA Professional near you

2. Manage your expectations

"What I've found with my students, the process is very slow, and there are ups and downs, even to the point where the player won't remember how poorly they struck the ball a year ago. They'll only remember what they did yesterday, or in that round.

"And sometimes you can raise expectations, so you're not holding them back. You might say, 'Hey, you've got a lot of talent. You're far better than what you think you can. And if we do these simple things, you can get there.'"

GET GOLF READY: Learn the basics of the game

3. Plan the process

"If a competitive player has a high goal, one lesson is probably not going to be enough to take them to their goal, so you have to lay out a plan or process to achieve that.

"The beginner or social player might only take one lesson to help them reach their goal of getting the ball in the air. There are a lot of ladies who just want to spend time on the golf course with their friends and family and their main purpose is to see the ball fly. They don't care about the score. So you might schedule one lesson and be done.

"It's basically goal assessment. What do you want to achieve? And go from there."



Ryan Palmer
A young fan named Ryder receives Ryan Palmer's hat Sunday at the Humana Challenge.

Your mother was right. Politeness matters.

A young fan named Ryder was at the Humana Challenge at La Quinta, Calif., on Sunday about the time Ryan Palmer was on his way to the clubhouse. Palmer spotted him -- and gave him the cap off his head after his round.

ONE HAPPY KID: Boy dances after Rory McIlroy hands him a ball

That was a pretty cool gesture, but what happened after that is even more amazing.

Ryder went on Twitter to send a thank you:



And as you can see, Palmer responded.



The Real Ryder Lee is probably the envy of his school today. And Ryan Palmer has at least one new fan.

January 26, 2015 - 2:08pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Pat Perez, Danny Lee
Danny Lee was looking for a place to stay this week for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, so Pat Perez hooked him up... sort of.

If you follow Pat Perez on social media, it's pretty easy to see that he's one of those guys that would be a lot of fun to hang out with on and off the course.

That's probably what fellow PGA Tour pro Danny Lee was thinking when trying to sort out his accommodations for this week's Waste Management Open.

RELATED: Woods makes '15 debut at WM Phoenix Open | Woods in debuts

Perez, who lives in Scottsdale, just shared this 15-second video on Facebook, showing Lee's reaction when Perez told him he'd be sleeping on the floor in the family room.



Love Perez saying, "It's you. You said you wanted a place to stay, you didn't say you wanted a bed," while pointing at the blankets on the floor.

We're not going to accuse Lee of being spoiled for wanting a bed to sleep in, but let's just say we wouldn't be complaining about sleeping on the floor in Pat Perez's family room. Did you see that practice green and entertainment center?

Fantastic prank... even if Perez only had him going for three minutes.

January 26, 2015 - 12:51pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Tiger Woods
USA Today Sports Images
In 18 years on the PGA Tour, Tiger Woods has finished in the top 10 of his season debut on 14 occasions.

For the first time since 2001, Tiger Woods is teeing it up this week at TPC Scottsdale in the Waste Management Phoenix Open. It will be his 2014-15 PGA Tour season debut and his first official PGA Tour start since a missed cut last August at the PGA Championship.

Woods played just seven times in 2014, missing most of the season due to injury.

RELATED: Woods confirms 2015 PGA Tour season will begin at Phoenix Open

As a rookie in 1997, Woods tied for 18th at the Phoenix Open, providing one of his all-time career highlights with this hole-in-one on the famous par-3 16th:

This week marks the first time Woods has made the trip to Phoenix to start his PGA Tour season. After a run of years at Kapalua in the late 90s and early 2000s, Woods traditionally didn't start his season until the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

A third-place finish in 1999 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open is the best finish Woods has had in three tries at the tournament. That year provided this memorable situation, when fans moved a huge boulder -- ruled a loose impediment by officials -- opening up a shot for Woods:

Where Woods starts is a calculated move, obviously, and as history shows, he's pretty darned good in his season debut. Since 1997 -- his first full season on the PGA Tour -- Woods has won his first start of the season on seven occasions, most recently at the 2013 Farmers Insurance Open.

Fourteen times -- out of 18 -- Woods has finished in the top 10 at his first start of the season.

The worst finish in a season debut for Woods came last year at the Farmers Insurance Open. He tied for 80th and, as we know, the season was plagued by injury.

Here's a breakdown of Tiger's finishes in his PGA Tour season debuts since 1997 ("P" before finish indicates a playoff win):

1997: Mercedes Championships, P1
1998: Mercedes Championships, T2
1999: Mercedes Championships, T5
2000: Mercedes Championships, P1
2001: Mercedes Championships, T8
2002: Mercedes Championships, T10
2003: Buick Invitational, 1
2004: Mercedes Championships, T4
2005: Mercedes Championships, T3
2006: Buick Invitational, P1
2007: Buick Invitational, 1
2008: Buick Invitational, 1
2009: World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, T17
2010: Masters Tournament, T4
2011: Farmers Insurance Open, T44*
2012: AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, T15
2013: Farmers Insurance Open, 1
2014: Farmers Insurance Open, T80**
2015: Waste Management Phoenix Open, ??

* Only nine events played in 2011
** Only seven events played in 2014 

January 26, 2015 - 11:21am
Posted by:
Carroll Rogers, For
mark.aumann's picture
John Smoltz
Baseball Hall of Famer John Smoltz is as competitive on the golf course as he was on the mound.

For newly-elected Baseball Hall of Famer John Smoltz, golf has always been a part of the equation. He first took up the game to kill time while pitching in Class A Lakeland (Fla.) with the Detroit Tigers organization. He used golf as an outlet for his competitive nature and high-energy personality as he developed into one of baseball’s great pitchers after being traded to the Atlanta Braves.

A long driver with a self-taught swing, Smoltz became both a scratch golfer -- he estimates he’s now a 1-handicapper -- and the ringleader of a golf-crazed Braves pitching staff.

SWING ANALYSIS: What makes John Smoltz's swing so great

Smoltz was well-known around the Braves’ clubhouse for his little black book of golf contacts. He had a knack for both the tough shot and the tough get, orchestrating tee times on the road for his fellow Braves and eventual fellow-Hall-of-Fame pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.

“The great thing for us with him was when the wheels were going down on the plane wherever you were going on a road trip, it was ‘All right, Smoltzie, where are we playing and what time do we need to be in the lobby?’” Glavine said. “And he had it all handled. It was phenomenal.”

The trio played courses like Pebble Beach, Oakmont, Merion and Pine Valley. Smoltz got them on at Olympic Club, at Riviera, Shinnecock Hills and Cypress Point.

“He knew two weeks in advance what the golf schedule was,” Maddux said recently of the guy he calls one of his all-time favorite teammates. “That was the impressive thing because most guys wouldn’t do that. ‘We’ll wait and call the day of, or the day before.’”

The decorum was no accident. Smoltz inherited an address book of contacts from veteran Braves who taught him how to handle himself on exclusive golf courses -- Rick Mahler and Jerry Royster -- and he spent years adding to it. Smoltz called clubs, talked to pros and built relationships that have helped him create “an army” of people around golf he’s gotten to know and enjoy.

“What I learned to do was just call up the clubs and get the pro’s name and ask the pro ‘What are your rules? How does this work?'” Smoltz said. “And in the early part of my career, not literally but figuratively, I couldn’t get past the ‘Hi, I’m John Smoltz of the Atlanta Braves,’ click - because we lost 100 games every year. I just worked my way into finding different people, and they would point me to different people, and you’d inevitably get one or two guys that know like 60 people each.”

HALL OF FAME SWINGS: Ten baseball greats who excel at golf

Smoltz said he learned golf etiquette the hard way. He was a rookie pitcher on a trip to the West Coast when Mahler invited him to play at San Francisco Club, when he tried to pull a practical joke.

“I had an exploding golf ball on the first tee, and he didn’t know it,” Smoltz said. “Nobody knew it. I knew it was going to be funny. And so I asked the caddies and everyone standing around ‘How far is the trap way down there?’ And they said, ‘You can’t reach the trap.’ I said ‘Well, watch me, because I can crush a golf ball,’ and I almost started giggling…

“I swung and the ball exploded and nobody said a word. Nobody laughed. And Rick was embarrassed. We were walking down the fairway and I turned to Rick and I said ‘This place is a joke. You can have it.’ And he goes, ‘Listen, don’t utter those words ever again and just be glad that we may come back one day.’ I then realized how awesome this place was and what I had done. And from that point on I started to learn etiquette, what to do and what not to do.”

That little black book, which actually turned into several little black books, is now scattered through the contacts of Smoltz’s phone. He typed in all the numbers himself over plane trips and down time. It’s all the better now for backing them up and for always having them handy.

“I don’t know how many (contacts) you’re allowed in your phone but I’m pushing the limit,” Smoltz said.

HALL OF FAME ROTATION: Like Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine bitten by golf bug

And yes Maddux and Glavine still don’t mind getting Smoltz’s help for tee times from time to time. Now they want to see what kind of pull Smoltz has overseas. The three of them always talked about playing golf together in Scotland and Ireland when they retired. They’re making plans to take a trip to one or the other or both in April if their schedules permit.

Smoltz estimates he’s played 75 of the top 100 courses in the U.S. but the only place he’s played outside the United States is in the Bahamas.

Here are some other fun facts and tall tales about Smoltz in golf.


Smoltz said he has had eight holes in one. Eight! His favorite one was at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas. He hit driver on No. 11, a par 4 with an elevated green.

“It was a shot you’re not really supposed to try,” Smoltz said. “There was no room for error. To give you a perspective, it was in a practice round and then the next day of the tournament, I tried it again and I made a 7.”


Smoltz has played Augusta National a handful of times, including once with Tiger Woods, but his most vivid memory of playing there is his first time when he played with fellow Braves pitcher Charlie Leibrandt.

“After the ‘91 World Series, we were folk heroes and everyone thought we won, and it was just crazy the way it all went down,” Smoltz said. “We played Augusta in ‘Caddyshack’ rain, coming down so hard that the caddies looked at us and said ‘What are you guys doing?’ We said, ‘We don’t know if we are ever going to get back. We’re playing as long as they don’t kick us off.’”


Comedian Jeff Foxworthy and fellow Atlanta resident is a close friend of Smoltz’s. Their kids attended the same school and they are in the same men’s bible study group. Foxworthy loves to tell the story of how Smoltz finally talked him into playing golf together.

“I remember the first time he wanted to play golf with me, and I’m like ‘No, you play with Tiger, I’m not playing with you.’ And we go over to Golf Club of Georgia and the first hole is a par 5, and I hit my drive about 205 yards. But it’s in the middle. I can see it. I’m happy. He steps up and hits his like 340 yards, just like a rocket launch, and as we were walking back to the cart he said ‘Hey, did you hear they’re going to be building a new mall over here?’ I’m like ‘No, where would they put it?’ He said, ‘Somewhere between your ball and my ball.’ And I’m like ‘Oh my gosh, this is going to be a long, long day.’” 

January 26, 2015 - 8:37am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Bill Haas
Bill Haas won the Humana Challenge Sunday (left) thanks to a clutch shot down the stretch -- something he's done before (right, at the 2011 Tour Championship).

Did you see the shot Bill Haas hit on the final hole at PGA West yesterday? It helped him save par and secure a one-shot victory, the sixth of his career on the PGA Tour and his second in the Humana Challenge.

In case you missed it, here's the shot:

That shot would be remarkable under any circumstances, but especially with the tournament on the line.

RELATED: Haas wins Humana Challenge | Final leaderboard | Winners' bags

It reminded me of another more extraordinary shot Haas pulled off in the 2011 Tour Championship at East Lake on his way to winning that tournament and, ultimately, the FedExCup.

Playing the 17th hole -- the second hole of a playoff with Hunter Mahan -- Haas's second shot sailed left of the green and settled just on the bank of the lake. It looked like his hopes of winning were nothing more than ripples in the water.

The ball was half-submerged -- just enough to give most golfers false hope that they might be able to pull off a miracle shot.

But, that's precisely what Haas did. Playing it like a bunker shot, Haas popped the ball out of the water -- with spin -- and got it to settle 2 feet from the hole to set up a par when most of the world's best players probably would have been delighted just to get the ball on the green.

Haas won the tournament on the next hole.

Sunday's shot at the Humana Challenge may not have been as impressive as that one at East Lake in 2011, but the level of difficulty (particularly when you consider the circumstances) had to be just as high.

I mean, come on, when he told his caddie: "I could whiff it, you know?" did you really think he'd execute the shot as well as he did?

That was impressive stuff.