November 13, 2012 - 3:34pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Matt Kuchar at the UBS Hong Kong Open
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Matt Kuchar launched a ball out over the Hong Kong skyline as part of his warm-up for the UBS Hong Kong Open.

The PGA Tour closed up its official ship for the year on Sunday at the Children’s Miracle Network Hopsitals Classic at Disney World. Charlie Beljan struck a blow for all of us anxiety-ridden golfers by winning the trophy despite suffering from severe symptoms of what he called a panic attack for the final three rounds. And Tim "Lumpy" Herron struck a blow for all of us not-so-svelte-anymore golfers by rallying to secure his playing privileges for 2013 by squeaking into the top 125 on the final money list.

Seriously, I cannot imagine how Beljan actually won. If he was feeling anywhere near as shaken-up as he looked on Friday – and judging from his comments afterward, he was – his second-round 64 has to be one of the greatest displays of mental golf I’ve ever seen.

Beljan’s amazing victory would be an appropriate way to close out the year in golf – except that the year is nowhere near being finished. In fact, this is one of the busiest weeks on the global golf calendar.

--On Monday, Justin Rose and Peter Hanson held off their Ryder Cup rivals Dustin Johnson and Keegan Bradley to win the Tyco Golf Skills Challenge at the Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla. That event will be televised Dec. 29-30 on NBC.

--Today, three-member teams from the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour and Champions Tour are battling it out in the Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge at Rio Secco Golf Club out near Las Vegas. That event will be televised Dec. 10 on the Golf Channel.

--Also, today is the beginning of the Champions Tour Q-School finals at TPC Eagle Trace in Coral Springs, Fla. The four-day event concludes Friday, and the field of 78 includes one major champion – 1996 U.S. Open winner Steve Jones – and a bunch of familiar names, including Bobby Clampett, Bruce Vaughan, David Peoples, Esteban Toledo, Anders Forsbrand, Jeff Brehaut and John Inman. Also competing are putting guru Stan Utley and longtime loopers Damon Green (Zach Johnson’s caddie) and Lance Ten Broeck (Jesper Parnevik’s caddie).

PGA Club Professionals are also well-represented in the field, with 2008 PGA Professional Player of the Year Sonny Skinner of Georgia, two-time Senior PGA Professional National Championship winner Kirk Hanefeld of Massachusetts, and three-time PGA Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year Chris Starkjohann of California leading the charge.

Speaking of PGA Club Professionals, Tim Thelen of Texas is carving out quite a career for himself on the European Senior Tour. Last weekend, Thelen won the Fubon Senior Open in Taiwan by five strokes for his third victory of the season. That ensured him a top-four finish on the money list and a spot in the 2013 U.S. Senior Open, and made him the first American to win three times in a season since John Grace in 2000.

Thelen was a college teammate of Colin Montgomerie at Houston Baptist, then spent a couple decades establishing himself among his fellow club professionals. He twice won the PGA Professional National Championship, then qualified for the 2011 European Senior Tour by winning Q-School. He finished 24th on the money list to retain his card for this season. What a tremendous "second career" for a well-deserving guy.

Also on tap this week are:

--The CME Group Titleholders in Naples, Fla., which is the season-ending event on the LPGA Tour. This is the second year for the curtain-dropper, and its first at the TwinEagles Club. Stacy Lewis locked up the Player of the Year award last week at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, but she and Inbee Park are in an almost dead heat for the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. Park has a big lead in the money race, but Lewis could catch her if she wins and Park finishes poorly.

--The UBS Hong Kong Open is the next-to-last event on the European Tour schedule, with only the season-ending DP World Championship in Dubai remaining. Rory McIlroy clinched the money title last week at the Barclays Singapore Open, but the field is still very strong. McIlroy is playing, and will be joined by the likes of Matt Kuchar, John Daly, Padraig Harrington, Y.E. Yang, Paul Lawrie, Paul Casey, Jose Maria Olazabal and last week’s winner, Matteo Manassero. 

--The Australian Masters kicks off the southern hemisphere’s summer season at spectacular Kingston Heath in Melbourne. Ian Poulter, Europe’s catalyst at the Ryder Cup and who also recently won the WGC-HSBC Champions, is the defending champion. He’s joined in the field by Graeme McDowell and an Australian contingent that includes Adam Scott, Robert Allenby and Stuart Appleby. Kingston Heath, one of Australia’s great Sandbelt courses, is widely considered among the top 20 or 30 courses in the world.

--The South African Open is the world’s second-oldest national championship, behind only the British Open, and is by far the biggest event on southern Africa’s Sunshine Tour. The 102nd edition will include Charl Schwartzel, Martin Kaymer, Henrik Stenson, Branden Grace and two-time champion Tim Clark, among others. Veteran Hennie Otto is the defending champion, and the event will be staged at Serengeti Golf & Wildlife Estate for the second straight year.

All four of these events will be televised on the Golf Channel, and you can see the TV schedule here. And, of course, PGA.com will provide coverage of all of them as well.

 

November 12, 2012 - 4:16pm
Posted by:
Steve Eubanks
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Hugh Robertson
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UK Minister of Sport Hugh Robertson weighed in on the public-private debate regarding women members in the R&A and clubs that host major championships.

 

In a country that has a minister of everything, it’s no surprise that the UK Minister of Sport – yes, they have a Sports Czar in Jolly Ole England – has weighed in on the private/public debate when it comes to golf and major championships.  

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Minister Hugh Robertson said, “It is increasingly anachronistic not to allow women to be members. The defence (SIC) of the Royal and Ancient is that it is a private club and so has the right to do what it wants. That is legally correct and I have no quarrel when it is acting as a private club. However, I believe that when a private club fulfills a public function, such as staging a major event, then there is a different slant…I think this issue should be addressed. Let's get on with providing equality of opportunity across all sports.”  

Not only is the R&A a male-only club, the host course for the Open next year, Muirfield, is famously men-only. And while pressure might force the R&A to act, no amount of political bluster will budge the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.  

“It's not our decision where the Open is,” Muirfield secretary Alastair Brown told Press Association Sport on Monday after the Times story ran. “It's the decision of the R&A. It's their competition and they ask us. Augusta (National) is a totally different situation. They own their event (the Masters). We are fully compliant with the Equality Act. Women have played here since 1891. I've given this reply several times and that is our stance.”  

He didn’t have to say, “Don’t ask again.”  

 
November 12, 2012 - 12:29pm
Posted by:
Steve Eubanks
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Kris Tschetter
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Kris Tschetter returned to the LPGA Legends Tour in Innisbrook, Fla., after struggling with a serious infection from a cat bite.

 

Charlie Beljan wasn’t the only player to overcome serious illness or injury to compete last week.

Kris Tschetter made her return to the LPGA Legends Tour at the ISPS Handa Legends Tour Open at Innisbrook. And while she didn’t play great – 4-over and a tie for 18th, nine shots behind winner Laura Davies – Tschetter was happy to be playing at all.

Over the summer Tschetter suffered a serious infection after being bitten on the finger by a cat. She underwent two surgeries and a long stint of intravenous antibiotic therapy. Had that treatment not worked, she could have lost her hand.

“It was my cat,” he said. “We’d gotten a new dog, and I was the holding the cat when the dog came up and scared him.

“It turns out that 85% of cat bites result in infection, but only five percent of dogs bites do,” she said. “It never got to the point where I thought I was going to lose my hand, but that was certainly one of the possibilities if the surgeries and antibiotics hadn’t worked.”   

 
November 11, 2012 - 7:51pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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The PGA of America
Patriot Golf Day has evolved into a multi-day fundraising effort nationwide every Labor Day weekend.

We all think about – and thank – our men and women in uniform on Veterans’ Day, but the golf industry does a commendable job of supporting the military throughout the year, and you can help out at any time – including now.

Here are a few great golf organizations that support our military, and I encourage you to check them out:

--Patriot Golf Day stages golf fundraisers nationwide over the Labor Day holiday weekend, and you can participate either by playing or volunteering to help out. If you’re not sure about it, just know that the Patriot Golf Day campaign is jointly supported by The PGA of America and the U.S. Golf Association.

--The Folds of Honor Foundation is funded primarily through the proceeds from Patriot Golf Day, but you can make a donation year-round. Folds of Honor is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides college scholarships for the children and spouses of military men and women disabled or killed while serving our great nation.

--The Salute Military Golf Association is another 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and it provides golf equipment, lessons and access to courses nationwide for wounded servicemen and women. Since ts creation in 2007, its volunteer golf professionals have given, free of charge, hundreds of lessons and clinics to our wounded warriors.

--Birdies for the Brave was created by Phil and Amy Mickelson to support troops injured in combat, and it is now a part of PGA Tour Charities. Golf courses nationwide stage a variety of fundraising events that have raised millions of dollars for military homefront groups that serve the specialized needs of wounded warriors and military families. Birdies for the Brave fundraising events provide golfers the chance to participate in golf tournaments on top courses nationwide.

--Tee It Up For the Troops helps wounded warriors get out on the course and uses golf events to raise money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, an independent non-profit thar provides financial support for the families of military personnel lost in service to our nation, and for severely wounded military personnel and veterans.

I also want to note that there are many other groups and events nationwide that also support this effort. And while they’re not charitable organizations, many of golf’s most prominent equipment companies – Bridgestone, Callaway, Cleveland, Ping and TaylorMade, among them – donate a lot of golf clubs, balls and other gear, and work diligently to promote many of these great causes with no regard for credit or publicity.

Thanks to everyone who serves our country, and thanks to everyone who does so much to help them out.

 

November 9, 2012 - 11:29pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in CNN interview
Sports illustrated
For the first time, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy agreed to a joint TV interview.

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have shared golf's biggest stage for the last couple of years, and have played together several times in recent weeks. But until recently, they had never sat down for a joint interview.

They did just that before their 'Duel at Lake Jinsha' exhibition in China on Oct. 29. For its "Living Golf" program, CNN interviewed the game's top two players, who discussed everything from McIlroy's respect for Woods as a youngster to the current state of their competitive relationship.

"We have a lot in common. Granted there's an age difference there, but I had a huge difference with my other good friend, Mark O’Meara," Woods told CNN's Shane O'Donoghue. "I think our relationship will certainly grow over the years, but our competitiveness, I don't think that's going to change."

McIlroy has long admitted that Woods was his golf hero when he was growing up in Northern Ireland, and a video clip from a few years ago interspersed into the interview demonstrates his knowledge of Woods' life and career.

"Getting the chance to know him, getting the chance to compete against him is is something that I always dreamed of," said McIlroy. "To get to spend time with him and to hang around him is something I find pretty cool."

The full interview can be seen on "Living Golf," which airs on CNN International Saturday, Nov. 10 at 5:00 p.m. ET, then re-airs on Sunday, Nov. 11 at 12:30 p.m. ET; Saturday, Nov. 17 at 12:30 p.m. ET; and Sunday, Nov. 18 at 5:00 p.m. ET.

Here's a link to the lengthy clip from the interview, just to whet your appetite:

--Woods and McIlroy discuss their 'bromance'

November 9, 2012 - 8:25pm
john.holmes's picture
James Bond's golf game in 'Goldfinger'
James Bond questions Goldfinger's golf ball in the crucial moment of their golf match.

It’s Friday, which means the new James Bond movie, "Skyfall," is now showing at a theater near you. As far as I know, this one doesn’t have any golf scenes, but the release of every new Bond film automatically reminds me of "Goldfinger," the 1964 film in which our hero Bond plays the villainous Auric Goldfinger in one of the great golf matches ever filmed.

You can see the match in this clip on YouTube, though the quality isn’t much. The video’s grainy, and it sounds like the ocean is roaring in the background the entire time. But watching it again still made me smile.

Bond and Goldfinger meet up at what is supposed to be the famous Royal St. George’s, but the scene was actually filmed at Stoke Park Club, which is also where Goldfinger's manservant/caddie Oddjob decapitated a statue with his lethal hat.

Goldfinger shows up in a sweater, tie and pair of natty plus-fours, and wields a classic Bullseye putter. Bond is wearing a tall fedora-looking hat that I still can’t believe actually stayed on his head when he swung.

Goldfinger and Oddjob begin the shenanigans right away, as Goldfinger hits a drive way left into the rough. As everyone searches for the ball, Bond reminds Goldfinger that his five minutes are almost up – and at that moment, Oddjob drops a ball down his pants leg and announces triumphantly that he’s found the ball.

"If that's his original ball, I'm Arnold Palmer," Bond’s caddie says. Then Bond confirms that he knows Goldfinger is cheating – because, Bond says, he’s standing on Goldfinger's ball, and lifts up his shoe to show it to the caddie.

Interestingly, in the "Goldfinger" novel, author Ian Fleming had Bond’s caddie stand on the ball. For the film, producer Harry Saltzman had Bond stand on it because he thought it would give the Bond character a bit more of an edge.

Anyway, Bond pockets Goldfinger’s ball and acts like nothing’s wrong.

The match proceeds until the 17th green, where Goldfinger putts out and Bond picks his ball out of the cup – and switches the ball Goldfinger had been playing with the original one. He tosses the original ball to Goldfinger, who doesn’t notice the switch and again displays his evilness by teeing off first on the 18th tee despite not having the honor.

After they putt out and Goldfinger thinks he's won, Bond looks at Goldfinger’s ball.

Bond: "You play a Slazinger 1, don't you?"

Goldfinger replies: "Yes, why?"

Bond: "This is a Slazinger 7."

And then, pointing at his own ball, Bond adds: "Here's my Penfold Hearts. You must have played the wrong ball somewhere on the 18th fairway. We are playing strict rules, so I'm afraid you lose the hole and the match."

Goldfinger, of course, disgustedly slams his ball on the green and storms off.

Fleming played as a 9-handicap, and that is also the handicap to which Bond played. Interestingly, though, Sean Connery, who played Bond in "Goldfinger" and several other early Bond films, didn’t play much golf, despite growing up near a golf course in Scotland.

"It wasn’t until I was taught enough golf to look as though I could outwit the accomplished golfer Gert Frobe [who played Goldfinger] in 'Goldfinger' that I got the bug. I began to take lessons on a course near Pinewood film studios and was immediately hooked on the game," Connery wrote in his 2008 autobiography, which was excerpted by the Telegraph newspaper in England. "Soon it would nearly take over my life.

"I began to see golf as a metaphor for living, for in golf you are basically on your own, competing against yourself and always trying to do better. If you cheat, you will be the loser, because you are cheating yourself," he added. "When Ian Fleming portrayed Auric Goldfinger as a smooth cheater, James Bond had no regrets when he switched his golf balls, since to be cheated is the just reward of the cheater."

One final note: The movie’s release sparked a huge demand for Penfold golf balls, and not just in England. Penfold, which dates back to the 1920s, still exists primarily as a maker of high-end golf apparel, but it still offers its Hearts golf balls.


 

James Bond is back, and reminds us of golf