Golf Buzz

June 4, 2014 - 11:31am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Payne Stewart
Getty Images
Payne Stewart celebrates his incredible win in the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 over a then major-less Phil Mickelson.

If you've got a little over 12 minutes to spare today, you need to do yourself a favor and watch this "Nine for IX" short directed by ESPN's Hannah Storm, entitled, "Love & Payne."

The story is about the late Payne Stewart, who died in a plane accident just four months after winning the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst 15 years ago. The 2014 U.S. Open returns to Pinehurst next week.

RELATED: Remembering Payne Stewart 14 years after his death

Often times, people are sensationalized in death. This short film doesn't do that. It's well-documented that Stewart wasn't always the nicest guy early in his career and came off many times as cocky.

However, has Stewart's widow Tracey notes, along with Stewart's good friends Peter Jacobsen, Roger Maltbie and caddie Mike Hicks, Payne reached the point in his life where he found peace. He was working toward becoming a better person and that was apparent in his on and off-course demeanor.

This story -- even in less than 15 minutes -- encapsules who Payne Stewart was... all of him.

 

 

Very well done. He'll be on the minds of many next week.

June 4, 2014 - 10:08am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Dustin Johnson
USA Today Sports Images
Dustin Johnson won the St. Jude Classic in 2012 and tied for 10th in 2013.

The PGA Tour is in Memphis this week for the St. Jude Classic at TPC Southwind -- the final tune up before the second major championship of the year, next week's U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.

While many stars elect to sit out the week prior to a major, that isn't the case for players like Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Lee Westwood who are all teeing it up in Memphis.

RELATED: St. Jude Classic tee times | Mickelson gets first look at revamped Pinehurst

Since a massive renovation after the 2004 St. Jude Classic, TPC Southwind has routinely played as one of the more difficult courses on the PGA Tour, so it's not a bad place to get ready for the U.S. Open.

With that, here are five players to keep an eye on this week.

5. Harris English
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Won the OHL Classic at Mayakoba
Reason to watch: English returns this week to the site of his first PGA Tour win. He'll be feeling some good vibes playing for the first time on Tour as a "defending champion." He's enjoyed a solid season so far with six top-10 finishes in 18 starts, including that victory early on in Mexico. Also among those 18 starts are three missed cuts -- all of which have come in three of his last five starts. Familiarity with a place where he's had past (recent) success will pay dividends for English this week.

4. David Toms
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
T4 at the Puerto Rico Open presented by seepuertorico.com
Reason to watch: Toms and TPC Southwind go together like peanut butter and jelly. He's finished in the top four there on six occasions over the course of his career, including back-to-back victories in 2003-04. The course changed dramatically after the '04 tournament, a renovation that made it much more difficult. Even so, Toms was runner up in 2005, third in 2007 and tie for second in 2009. Lately Toms hasn't had quite that kind of success in Memphis, but coming off a tie for fifth at Colonial in his last start -- his next-best finish this season -- look for him to recapture some of that old magic at TPC Southwind this week.

3. Paul Casey
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
T11 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Reason to watch: At one point in time not all that long ago (2009), Paul Casey was the No. 3-ranked player in the world. Currently, he's No. 84, but on the rise (He missed a lot of time over the last few years nursing various injuries). Though he hasn't yet cracked the top-10 in 10 starts this season, Casey has finished in the top 25 six times, including a T13 last week at Memorial, where he opened with a pair of 66s. A quick look at his stats for the season shows that Casey's difficulty has been putting together four rounds. Perhaps that changes this week in Memphis.

2. Phil Mickelson
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
T11 at the Wells Fargo Championship
Reason to watch: Mickelson is off to his slowest start in 22 years on the PGA Tour. Through 13 events, he still has yet to finish among the top 10. It's crazy. This week might be just what the doctor ordered for Mickelson. He tied for second in Memphis a year ago and went on to finished in a tie for second in the U.S. Open the following week. Well, next week is the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 -- the site of the first of six runner-up finishes at the national championship over the course of Mickelson's career. It's the only major he's missing to complete the career grand slam. He's got to find something in his game and he'd better find it fast.

1. Dustin Johnson
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Won the WGC-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: After a red-hot start to the season in which he began with six, top-10 finishes in his first eight appearances -- highlighted by a win in China -- Johnson has, understandably, cooled off a touch. But, expect him to get hot this week in Memphis, where he won in 2012 and tied for 10th a year ago. TPC Southwind suits his game. And with eight Tour wins at 29 years old, majors should be on Johnson's mind. If he plays well this week, it could go a long way toward carrying him into next week.

PGA Tour Grill
Courtesy of HMSHost
Officials from the PGA Tour, HMSHost and the San Diego Airport Authority cut the ribbon to open the PGA Tour Grill.

Most of us golf travelers are familiar with the PGA Tour Shops that populate various airports across the country. Now, though, they're getting some company – the PGA Tour Grill.

Yes, the PGA Tour Grill opened Tuesday in Terminal 2 West of the San Diego International Airport, and there are indications that others will follow in the future.

The eatery is a partnership between the PGA Tour and HMSHost, which operates, among other things, a variety of airport restaurants – another new project of theirs is Sammy's Beach Bar & Grill in conjunction with rock star Sammy Hagar in the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

GOLF BUZZ: Jordan Spieth re-creates his John Deere Classic-winning bunker shot

The PGA Tour Grill's clubhouse-style seating area is decked out with flat-screen TVs that carry feature live tournament action from around the globe, highlights and other programming from the Golf Channel. It also features iPads loaded with golf tips as well as health information on the menu items.

And speaking of the menu, the restaurant "focuses on providing a healthy menu fit for active lifestyles," according to the announcement from HMSHost. The menu includes dishes like Shrimp & Mahi Ceviche and Vegetarian Crispy Kale, Avocado & Hummus, as well as salads like the Power Salad, with quinoa, garbanzos, edamame, fresh herbs, champagne vinaigrette, sunflower seeds, grilled red pepper, butter lettuce and red grapes.

These, the announcement said, "are creations not typically found in an airport and make travelers feel like they are sitting on the patio overlooking the 18th green, not in one of the nation's busiest airports."

 

June 3, 2014 - 1:28pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Arnold Palmer
USA Today Sports Images
Can you imagine receiving a letter in the mail from Arnold Palmer? That's what happened for a recent high school graduate.

As of right now, Adam Marcoulier is the clubhouse leader for brother-of-the-year honors.

Golf Digest writer John Strege shared the story of Adam Marcoulier's high school graduation gift to his younger brother, 18-year-old Nate of Leominster, Mass., an avid golfer.

Writes Strege:

On April 22, a few days after watching the Golf Channel documentary "Arnie," Adam, 21, a keen golfer himself, wrote a letter to Palmer on behalf of Nate, asking if he "could possibly write Nate a letter wishing him good luck in college and providing him some advice along the way."

He could not have known that he would get so prompt a response from a man who receives thousands of requests annually, eventually responding to all of them. The letter he sent to Nate was dated May 23, one month later.

Here's the tweet Nate sent out of the letter from Palmer, along with a heartfelt shoutout to brother, Adam:

And here's the advice Palmer doled out:

- Courtesy and respect are timeless principles, as well as good manners.
- Knowing when to speak is just as important as knowing what you say.
- Know how how to win by following the rules.
- Know the importance of when and how to say thank you.
- Never underestimate the importance of a good education.

Has the game ever known a better ambassador than the King?

No way. 

June 3, 2014 - 9:11am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Landon Michelson
USA Today Sports Images
Landon Michelson, a 22-year-old amateur, looked to have locked up at least a playoff for a spot at a 36-hole U.S. Open sectional qualifier on Monday. However, his dreams were dashed due to an error on his scorecard.

This one is going to hurt.

GolfChannel.com's Will Gray has the unfortunate story of 22-year-old amateur Landon Michelson, who seemed to have qualified for the U.S. Open yesterday.

However, that dream of heading to Pinehurst was quickly turned into a nightmare.

Michelson shot 1-under 71 in both rounds at his sectional qualifier at Quail Valley Golf Club in Vero Beach, Fla. As Gray explained, "He'd broken par both rounds, and at worst looked to be facing a 2-for-1 playoff for a spot in his first U.S. Open."

RELATED: U.S. Open qualifier results | Mickelson gets a look at revamped Pinehurst

Michelson -- ecstatic over his play -- made one big mistake. He didn't pay close enough attention to his scorecard before signing it. Michelson's playing partner inadvertently put Michelson down for a par on the 11th hole in the second round. Michelson actually had a three-putt bogey on the hole.

Michelson signed for a 70 instead of a 71 and was disqualified.

"I'm pretty devastated," Michelson told GolfChannel.com. "Just so frustrating."

From Gray's report:

Michelson, who arrived at the course at 6 a.m. as the first alternate and got into the field only after PGA Tour winner Fredrik Jacobson withdrew, was one of only eight players to break par during the morning wave. He began the second round tied for fifth among a field of 55 players with four spots at Pinehurst up for grabs.

An eagle on the par-5 14th vaulted Michelson into contention. When he finished the day at 2-under 142, he was tied for fourth place with veteran Aron Price and was preparing for a possible playoff, with Price playing the difficult finishing hole two groups behind.

Michelson's caddie Chris Ingham, wrote Gray, began to get congratulatory phone calls even though the U.S. Open spot wasn't yet locked up. Then, Ingham and Michelson noticed that the leaderboard showed Michelson's two-round score listed as 141, not 142.

Michelson had missed the error when he signed his scorecard and was forced to report the oversight to officials, leading to his disqualification.

"Today was one of the first rounds I've ever been like, super focused," Michelson said. "I didn't even know what I was at, to be honest with you. The guy (in scoring) told me I shot 70 and I was like, 'Yeah, sounds right.' Looking over it, Chris and I went over it and it was a 71."

Tough, tough break. 

Phil Mickelson at Pinehurst
Pinehurst Resort via YouTube
"It's so fun to play and it's strategic," Phil Mickelson said after his round at Pinehurst No. 2 on Monday.

While hundreds of players were trying to qualify their way into the U.S. Open on Monday, Phil Mickelson spent the day checking out the No. 2 Course at Pinehurst.

After his scouting mission, Mickelson seemed quite pleased with what he saw of the renovated layout.

"I think everybody loves … what [course designers Ben] Crenshaw and [Bill] Coore did here," Mickelson said in a brief video interview with the Pinehurst Resort . "They're the best at what they do, and they took a real gem from Donald Ross and they left the greatness of it, which are the greens, and restored the shotmaking value that was originally intended. 

GOLF BUZZ VIDEO: Gary Player calls his shot at Pinehurst

"It's so fun to play and it's strategic," he explained. "You have so many decisions you can make off the tee, what club you hit. And around the greens, so much skill and touch is involved with your short game, which is to salvage shots, as opposed to the 'hit-it-and-hope' out of the thick, heavy rough."

Even though No. 2 looks much different from other U.S. Open courses, Mickelson doesn't expect this U.S. Open to be much different from its predecessors.

"The challenge is still hitting the fairways and still recovering shots out of the rough and salvaging pars," he said. "The greens are so penalizing that if you're not in the fairways, getting the ball onto the surface is almost impossible. You've got to be in the fairway to have a realistic chance of controlling your shot and keeping it on the green."

Here's the entire interview: