Golf Buzz

September 10, 2014 - 9:17am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Rickie Fowler
USA Today Sports Images
The only thing Rickie Fowler hasn't done this year is win. Does that change this week at East Lake?

The PGA Tour season finale -- the Tour Championship -- tees off Thursday at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

The top 29 players on the FedExCup points list (it would be 30, but Dustin Johnson is not playing) will be battling not only for the tournament, but for the $10 million prize that comes along with winning the FedExCup.

Who will be hoisting the hardware come Sunday evening? Here are five players we suggest you keep a close eye on.

RELATED: Tour Championship tee times | FedExCup volatility | September reader photos

5. Chris Kirk
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Won the McGladrey Classic and the Deutsche Bank Championship
Reason to watch: Kirk is in the driver's seat this week, entering the Tour Championship in the No. 1 spot on the FedExCup points list. In case you hadn't heard, folks in Atlanta are crazy about their Georgia Bulldogs... and Kirk is a Georgia Bulldog. The crowd will be pulling for him and he might just have a big enough chip on his shoulder about missing out on a Ryder Cup Captain's Pick to pull through this week.

4. Billy Horschel
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Won the BMW Championship Championship
Reason to watch: Talk about resilience. Less than a week removed from a shot that cost him a chance to win the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston, Horschel bounced back to win the BMW Championship at Cherry Hills on Sunday. Until recently, it had been a rather forgettable season for the Florida Gator. Now, it's looking unforgettable. It's incredible what a difference a couple of good weeks at the right time can make on the PGA Tour.

3. Rory McIlroy
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Won the Open Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship
Reason to watch: There's no denying the fact that McIlory has been the hottest player on the planet these last couple of months. A win at the Tour Championship would be the cherry on top for a spectacular season. Surely that's the way McIlroy would like to cap it off. He tied for eighth last week despite having a four-putt twice in two days on the same hole. Look for him to bounce back at East Lake. Like everyone else, McIlroy has got to be drained from all the competitive rounds lately, but this is it -- and then he has a little break before the Ryder Cup.

2. Jim Furyk
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Second at the Wells Fargo Championship, Players Championship and RBC Canadian Open
Reason to watch: The only way Furyk's season could possibly be any better is with a victory. That's the only thing missing. In 20 starts, he hasn't missed a cut. Ten of those have yielded top-10 finishes and 17 have resulted in top-25 finishes. That's stout. Furyk, who won the Tour Championship and the FedExCup in 2010, enters this week after a tie for fourth at Cherry Hills.

1. Rickie Fowler
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
T2 at the U.S. Open and Open Championship
Reason to watch: Six times in his last seven starts, Fowler has finished among the top 10, including a tie for fourth last week at the BMW Championship. Like Furyk, something's got to give for Fowler. He continually puts himself in a position to win. Eventually it's got to happen, right? 

September 10, 2014 - 8:17am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Arnold Palmer
PGA Media Archive
Today, Arnold Palmer turns 85 years old. If you've ever been lucky enough to meet the King, chances are you have a memorable story -- like our T.J. Auclair.

Today marks the 85th birthday of one of the most treasured professional athletes the world has ever known -- "The King," Mr. Arnold Palmer.

A seven-time major champion with 62 PGA Tour victories (good for fifth all time), there may be no other superstar more approachable, friendly and welcoming than Palmer. There will never be another Arnold Palmer.

Throughout his life, Palmer has followed a simple rule: treat others the way you'd like to be treated. When he greets fans, he looks them in the eyes. His handshake is firm. And his signature? Perfect penmanship so there's no doubt who you got it from.

RELATED: Graduation gift from the King | A special call from Arnie | Arnie Q&A

If you've been around professional golf long enough, chances are you have an Arnold Palmer story. I've been lucky enough to have a few personal encounters with the King. My favorite, however, came early in the week at the 2009 Masters.

During the practice rounds, I would take a stroll around the grounds to snap photos. After one such stroll, I walked back through the clubhouse with a fellow writer. It's certainly not a "thing" when you're a writer to ask a player to stop and take a picture with you.

However, after walking through the Augusta National clubhouse, I noticed Mr. Palmer walking in -- wearing his green jacket. I immediately turned to my friend and said, "I know we shouldn't, but how can we not ask the King to take a picture with us? He's wearing his green jacket!"

I excitedly approached Palmer and said hello. He looked right at me, smiled, extended his hand and said hello right back. When I asked, he said he'd be more than happy to take a picture. So we did.

Months later, I had the photo blown up into a 16x20. At the urging of another friend, I wrote a letter to Palmer's longtime assistant, Doc Giffin, at Bay Hill and sent along the photo. I said, "I've never asked for an autograph while on the job, but this photo is special to me. Would it be possible to have Mr. Palmer sign it?"

This was in November of 2009. Giffin got right back to me and said it would be no problem at all. Months went by and -- in all honesty -- I had forgotten I'd even sent the photo down to Bay Hill.

Then, on Monday, March 15, 2010 -- my 30th birthday -- a surprise package arrived in the mail. It was the photo with Palmer's perfectly legible signature. The photo hangs right above the desk we're I'm writing this. I have a lot of treasured golf-related items I've collected through the years, but nothing tops this photo with Palmer.

MORE: When I think Arnold Palmer, I think... | Palmer & Kate Upton | Special gift to GMac

Why?

Well, aside from the fact that he's the King, Palmer was always my great, great Uncle Manny's favorite player. "Uncle" as we called him, taught my dad, my brother and me how to play golf. Through junior high and high school, I played golf with Uncle every day in the summers... even well into his 80s.

He passed away in 2003, a little more than a month shy of his 88th birthday. Every time I look at this photo with Palmer, it reminds me of all the unbelievable times I had on the course with Uncle, my dad and my brother. For a long time, my dream foursome also happened to be my daily foursome.

And over those cherished rounds, we heard a lot about Arnold Palmer.

I wish Uncle could have seen this picture. He'd love it.

Happy 85th birthday, Mr. Palmer. 

Phil Mickelson
Getty Images
Phil Mickelson's bid to buy the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club involves a significant upgrade to the facilities.
Phil Mickelson is teaming up with San Diego Union-Tribune Publisher "Papa" Doug Manchester to buy the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club north of San Diego and south of Mickelson's home in Rancho Santa Fe. The club's 400 members are expected to approve the sale during their annual meeting tonight, according to the Union-Tribune.
 
Neither side has disclosed the sale's terms and conditions. The club includes three courses, tennis courts and a clubhouse situated on 377 acres of land leased by the city of San Diego. 
 
"We are excited to have two such prominent community leaders and successful club owners partner to make the ongoing investment in facilities, programming and execution necessary for FRCC to maintain its position as one of the premier country clubs in San Diego on a long-term, sustainable basis," FRCC Board President Mike Kendall wrote in an email to members that was obtained by the Union-Tribune.
 
Former Board President Louis Ferrero told the newspaper that Mickelson and Manchester got involved after the club discussed selling to another buyer. Manchester and Mickelson offered a more ambitious improvement plan that includes upgrading the golf and tennis facilities and building swimming pools and a full-scale health club, he added.
 
The club property was the site of the equestrian events during the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. The Olympics helped sell homes and attract golf club members and, since then, the club and other investors have offered to buy the property from the city. The city never sold, though, and the club operates under a lease that extends to 2044.
 
Minjee Lee and Matthew Pavlick
YouTube
Minjee Lee turned professional in a fun video in which she takes on Australian Rules Football star Matthew Pavlick.
A little less than a year ago, 16-year-old Lydia Ko announced her decision to turn professional a very fun video in which she played a lighthearted round with one of her heroes and friends, New Zealand rugby star Izzy Dagg.
 
And now comes golf's latest southern hemisphere superstar-to-be – 18-year-old Minjee Lee of Australia. And like Ko, she revealed her intentions in a fun video in which she turns professional so she can accept her winnings from some on-course bets with Matthew Pavlick, captain of the Fremantle Dockers team in the Australian Football League.
 
The Perth native – her parents moved to Australia from South Korea about 20 years ago – took up golf at the age of 10. She has grown up at the Royal Fremantle Golf Club, and spent the last four years in the High Performance program of Golf Australia, which provides comprehensive athletic training for promising young players.
 
She made her first international impact in the summer of 2012, when she became the first Australian to win the U.S. Junior Girls' Championship. Since then, she has won back-to-back Australian Women's Amateur Championships as well as a professional tournament Down Under.
 
She tied for 24th at the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship – her first start in a major – last spring, then tied for 22nd at the U.S. Women's Open over the summer. Just last week, she led her three-member team to victory in the Women's World Amateur Team Championship in Japan, and heads into the professional ranks as the world's No. 1-ranked female amateur.
 
"I'm excited about making the move to the pro ranks and everything that comes with that," she said. "Finishing my amateur career as the world No. 1 is a real honor."
 
Lee will make her professional debut this week at the Evian Championship in France, the LPGA Tour's newest major. There's no official word yet on her schedule going forward, but she has signed with IMG and indications are that she will try her luck at LPGA Tour Q-School later this year.
 
 
Joost Luiten and Miguel Angel Jimenez
KLM Airlines (left) and Joost Luiten (right) via Twitter
Miguel Angel Jimenez took a close look at Joost Luiten's in-flight putting stroke before the two players faced off in a lighthearted rematch of their 2013 duel in the KLM Open.
Last year's KLM Open in Holland went down as one of the most popular editions in the tournament's history as Joost Luiten edged Miguel Angel Jimenez in sudden death to become its first Dutch winner in a decade.
 
On Monday, Luiten and Jimenez held a rematch, though it was significantly more low-key and lighthearted than their final-round battle a year ago. The two convened at Kennemer Golf and Country Club, began their day with Jimenez's now-famous stretching routine and even took a few pre-match selfies. They then played seven holes, with Jimenez coming out on top this time – though both players pulled fans out of the enthusiastic gallery to take their final few putts.
 
"The match today was very nice and it showed the people watching that golf can be fun," Jimenez told EuropeanTour.com. "Today there were some jokes and we put the smiles on people's faces again."
 
 
Luiten agreed with Jimenez's take on the day.
 
"It was good fun. There were a lot of people there for a Monday and we both enjoyed playing in front of them. It's always good to show people what we do," he said. "I tried some of Miguel's stretching, too, although it's more like dancing. Maybe next time I won't do that on the first tee."
 
Before their on-course showdown, Luiten and Jimenez also participated in KLM's Champions' Flight, with Luiten flying to Geneva, Switzerland, to pick up Jimenez and the other players coming in from the Omega European Masters to Amsterdam. And while they were in the air, Luiten and Jimenez even staged a little putt-off.
 
Neither Luiten nor Jimenez made the European Ryder Cup team this go-round, but Jimenez – who has played on four teams – will serve as a vice captain later this month in Scotland.  
 
"Joost is 28 years old and I played my first Ryder Cup at 35 years old, so he has plenty of time," said Jimenez, who is now 50. "He has a good character and I think he will definitely play in the Ryder Cup."
 
TPC Sawgrass
TPC Sawgrass
TPC Sawgrass's time-lapse video shows sunset at the club.

The worst thing about a greenskeeper's job? It makes for a very long day, especially in the summer: On the course before dawn, leave after dusk. It's a hot, sweaty, dirty, hands-on occupation.

The best thing about a greenskeeper's job? The views, especially if you work at someplace like TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Just to prove their point, the folks at the course posted a time-lapse video, showing what happens there during a typical summer day, from the time the carts get rolled into place until the time the lights start to come on inside the clubhouse.

 

 

Two thoughts.

One, the geese that photobomb the shot around the 1:19 mark are awesome.

Two, it wouldn't have been a real Northeast Florida summer afternoon without massive black clouds rolling in and a daily thunderstorm.