Friday, May 29, 2009

Please Tell Me There's Video Of This...

From the Dallas Morning News comes this story out of Colonial, an article that has the strangest opening paragraph I've read in quite a while...

FORT WORTH – Colleyville's Chad Campbell was forced to withdraw seven holes into his round after suffering a strained left calf muscle while playing a bunker shot with an awkward stance. He also appeared to faint into the arms of playing partners Rory Sabbatini and Mike Weir.

Great. Just when Tiger Woods was making inroads convincing sports fans that golfers were tough. According to the article, both the injury and the fainting took place on the 17th green. Frankly, it's a good thing Chad Campbell is a fast player or Rory wouldn't have been around to catch him.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Not Everyone Digging Cink's Tweets...

As you've learned at this point, sometimes I completely make up my posts, other times I don't have to. Case in point, tonight while spending time on Stewart Cink's Twitter page, I found this message from one of Cink's supposed 250,185 fans:

Apparently not everyone is enthralled with Cink's musings. And it does raise a legitimate question I've been dwelling on the last few days -- how in the world does Stewart Cink have over 250,000 Twitter followers? I mean, seriously. He is indeed one of the Tour's true gentlemen, a good player, a loving husband and father, but still..... 250,000 people?!

Let me offer up some comparisons:

The Jonas Brothers, America's teenage pop sensation... 206,806 fans.
Lauren Conrad, star of MTV's The Hills..... 217,185 fans
Eminem... 101,191 fans
Barack Obama...1,265,970 fans.

Fine, he's not more popular than Barack Obama, but he is one-fifth as popular as Barack Obama, which still seems baffling. Is it possible that thousands of Twitterers like "Zarrahmoon" are following Cink against their will? That this is all a scheme hatched in Ponte Vedra to trick non-golfers into thinking that golf is cool? Crazier things have happened. Or should I say, happening...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Cink To Miss Remainder of Season to Concentrate on Twitter

Duluth, GA - After weeks of speculation, PGA Tour golfer Stewart Cink made it official early Tuesday, announcing that he would not be returning to the PGA Tour in 2009, citing a desire to devote more time to his popular Twitter account. Cink first broke the news to his 237,000 followers "about 3 hours ago." Limited to just 140 characters, Cink has been able to provide only piecemeal details about the decision:

"stewartcink Now have over a quarter million fans.I'm clearly one of earth's most popular humans.No need for golf.Anyone want used set of Nike blades?"

Cink quickly found a taker, then spent the following forty-five minutes wondering what to do next. He briefly considered traveling to Israel to broker lasting peace, but ultimately decided to "wash the Tundra."

While most pros and the Tour itself has been supportive of Cink's and other pros Twittering, close friends admit that the whole thing is taking its toll on Cink's family, with whom he now only communicates by way of tweets. Cink denies the charge, but a look into his tweet archives reveals such status updates as:

"stewartcink Be right down, Lisa.", "stewartcink Pass the mayonnaise" and "stewartcink Don't talk to your mother that way."

Others say that the decision couldn't come at a better time for the 36-year-old, who for weeks has been getting less and less out of his golf game, mostly due to the fact that he refuses to put down his iPhone to swing.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Home, Home on the Range...

Due to some family drama, it has been 22 days since I last hit a golf ball. But I escaped today for 45 minutes to test the swing and survey the damage.

I've written about the Rancho Park driving range before, a double-decker mats only haunt in West LA. The location of the range is so ideal that it can get away with being the dumpiest driving range in Los Angeles.

In one cruel move, 4 years ago someone hung a full-color sketch of a proposed new and improved driving range, complete with target greens, sand traps, and actual flags. It was exciting for the first 2 years until it became obvious the sketch was not a "coming soon!" sort of thing, but more of a "we could only afford the drawing" sort of thing.

Despite the above picture, the Rancho Park range does not have grass. Those are actually occasionally mowed weeds which disappear 35 yards out where the hard packed dirt takes over. There are no yardage signs to tell you how far you've hit any shot. And if you ignore the rules and hit a wood from the top deck, the starter near the first tee makes a point of yelling at you over the loudspeaker for all to hear.

I snapped this picture with my phone because it captures Rancho's most famous attribute. The design of the range is so poor that every few hours hundreds and hundreds of balls have become wedged in and around and under the net lining both sides. And the only way to extricate the balls is by hand. So a few times a day, the two guys who work the range put on batting cage helmets, grab rakes and the coup de grace, slip on their mattress backpacks. You can see one of those guys in the center of the picture. He may have golf's most dangerous job.

Rancho is also home to various swing coaches, some of whom are legit, others... not so much. I watched a guy in flip flops give a lesson today who thoroughly confused his student when he said that the launch angle for one of Tiger Woods' drives is "45 degrees." (ShotLink has Tiger launching at just 7.96.) As the poor guy went off to buy another bucket of balls and see if he could give his 10-degree driver an extra 35-degrees of lift, it was time to focus back on my own game.

Nearly every shot felt terrible, but that's irrelevant at Rancho, where few of the balls are made by companies that even exist anymore. Ultra... Molitors... Hogans... every bucket a 15-year jump backwards in technology. But, miracle of miracles, they did go straight (except for the cracked ones) and the white layer of dust they left near the center of the clubface told me that three weeks off isn't always such a bad thing for a golf swing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

BEWARE: Doctors Who Like Golf!

Golf has found itself in the cross hairs of politics this year as Washington's power brokers look for easy targets in an economic mess that they -- in no small part -- helped cause. Back in January, Chrysler decided to leave its name off the name of the Bob Hope Classic despite still sponsoring the event. In February, Northern Trust came under fire for using bailout funds to help entertain guests at the Northern Trust Open. (Doesn't wooing current and potential clients doesn't count as money well spent? Apparently not.)

But the issue became personal this week when I checked my mail and found the following letter from Dr. Patrick Dillon, a local dentist...

What's Your Dentist's Handicap?

Dear Neighbor: Do you feel your dentist is working harder on his golf game than your smile? Modern dentistry is quicker and more comfortable than ever. And you don't have to be a millionaire to have a million dollar smile. If that is not your experience, then your current dentist may have some handicaps that have nothing to do with his golf game....

It went on from there, with Dr. Dillon listing various attributes that describe his dental practice -- attributes that apparently don't apply to dentists who play golf. Things like:

-"An honest assessment of your current dental health"
-"Gentle and comfortable dental care"
-"painless injections"
-"A friendly staff"

Wow, so not only do golfing dentists take pleasure in my pain, they also hire a mean staff?! The good news is now I know, and the next time I go to a dentist where I'm treated rudely and then put in an unnecessarily large amount of pain, I am not coming back. I'm heading to Dr. Dillon, where I can assume that Wednesday afternoons appointments are always available.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Valero Texas Open: Thursday

Two things jumped out at me today:

First is the latest ShotLink description that made me chuckle, this one from Stephen Ames on the 14th hole at La Cantera Golf Club:

"The unknown..." Sounds like the writing staff from Lost is volunteering down in San Antonio this week.

Second is this first round stat:

Dusting Johnson averaged 334.5 yards? That's 21 yards longer than Tour leader Bubba Watson has averaged all season. At a course that stretches out to less than 7,000 yards, Johnson isn't bombing and gouging, he's bombing and chipping, which makes his 4-over-par first round even more remarkable.

Q: How Big of a Blowout Was Wednesday's Lakers Game?

A: A photographer had time to take this picture of Phil and Amy Mickelson making out. In a world where celebs are happy if their marriages last as long as a Jimmy Roberts monologue, I won't criticize the occasional PDA from a couple married as long as they have. But oh Phil... the lounge-lizard ball-bearing necklace?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

THE PLAYERS: View From a Faux Leather Hospital Chair

As I've written many times, after a 2008 of golf-watching that saw me long a few hundred miles, I've taken great pleasure in watching as much as I could in 2009 from the comfort of my couch. And since the Sunday coverage traditionally aligns with my kids' afternoon naps, I can place my full attention on our TV, Tivo remote in hand, as sedentary as can be.

But this week was different.

To catch you up to speed, last Sunday my two kids spent the entire day vomiting and wandering around the house expressionless -- kind of like Retief Goosen. Occasionally they would crash on the ground for twenty-minute naps, then wake up to vomit again.

Late in the afternoon, after Sean O'Hair sealed his Quail Hollow victory, my 3-year-old son's temp had risen to 103+ and I noticed him staring off into space. When I put him in the bath to cool him down, he stretched out on his stomach with his mouth hovering 1/4 inch above the water like the stock shots of alligators NBC inserts during the Honda Classic.

At that point my wife and I decided to take the kids to the ER. It would be pricey, but the last thing I wanted was for the first fatal case of swine flu in CA case to be traced back to a family of West LA boneheads who failed to see the telltale signs.

While they were busy entering the kids' info into their computer, I noticed my wife was looking pale. And then, just like that, she joined the vomit parade. I grabbed a mask and strapped it on, knowing that my health had just become our family's last line of defense.

The doctors got to treating the kids, doing various things they are thankfully too young to remember. Meanwhile, my wife only got worse. Normally, we might have just had her ride things out, but she's 30 weeks pregnant. The nurses gave her a once over and decided to send her upstairs where labor and delivery could take a look.

After eventually passing the kids off to my sister-in-law, I headed upstairs where my wife broke the news that her flu had caused her to start having contractions, two and a half months before our baby was due.

I'll spare you the details, but my wife has spent the last 7 days in the hospital. Every few hours, she's treated to a different medication, all designed to keep the kid from coming out for as long as possible. Thirty weeks is definitely safer than the more critical 24-26 weeks, but if he arrives tomorrow he'll spend a few months with an IV and a feeding tube. And I was worried about the $200 ER charge.

The reality is that no one has any real idea when our son (Luke Palmer) will arrive. It could be an hour from now, it could be in July. And because doctors can't say, my wife can't leave. She's not even allowed to get out of bed.

Bob, that's terrible, but this has nothing to do with golf...

Alright, alright! All this to say, I traded in my couch and Tivo this week (and perhaps for many weeks to come) for a stiff leather chair and a TV that is smaller than the monitor on my laptop.

It must have been the poor quality of the picture, because I could have sworn that Tiger Woods played his worst round in the last pairing on a Sunday in a decade... That with two hours left to go in the coverage, it was clear he didn't have it and wouldn't find it... That a course setup which drew raves from the players resulted in zero memorable shots. Zero.

My hat is off to Henrik Stenson, a player long overdue to win a big one in the States. He showed an impressive degree of calm and precision -- not to mention a 3-wood that bounced and rolled its way to over 300 yards a number of times off the tee.

It just didn't make for much good drama or excitement on Sunday afternoon. But perhaps that's okay. Until further notice, I've got enough of both right here in LA.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

PLAYERS: Sunday AM Headlines

Local Bird Uses Poulter's Hair As Nest

Glare from Tiger During Breakfast Shrinks Cejka's Lead By Two

Kevin Na Found Cold, Dehydrated After Getting Lost Inside TPC Clubhouse

Friday, May 8, 2009

PGA Tour Unveils Lap-Band Sponsorship

Desperate to both please sponsors and make the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass even harder, the PGA Tour used Friday at The Players Championship to promote their new multi-million dollar deal with Lap-Band, the adjustable gastric banding system recently used by John Daly.

Under the watchful eye of both doctors and Tim Finchem, volunteers spent much of Thursday night wrapping the walkway to the 17th green in the white silicon band. While lawyers for Lap-Band promise the procedure is safe and minimally evasive, greenskeepers at TPC Sawgrass remain worried the band is cutting off critical nutrients to the island green.

Either way, by late afternoon the 4000-square foot green had already lost 200 square feet, enough to send Bubba Watson's mediocre approach into the drink en route to a double-bogey 5.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

PLAYERS: Michael Campbell On Fire!

No, literally, he might be on fire. Or at least some other condition requiring immediate medical attention. Through his first 8 holes of the Players Championship, he currently stands at 9-OVER PAR. With every passing week, he's pulling away from the competition in the Worst Major Winner of the Decade Award. It was down to Campbell and Todd Hamilton for a while there, but Hamilton's good play at the Masters and for the last month should end the debate.

Campbell, who is not allowed full-time PGA Tour membership because he failed to play the required 15 events as a Tour member in 2003, only played 6 Tour events last year and missed the cut 4 times. So far this season he is 0 for 2, and will be 0 for 3 come tomorrow afternoon. In two years, 12 of his 20 official rounds have been scores of 75 or higher, with 4 rounds in the 80's.

Painful stuff for a guy who looked cool as could be when he held off Tiger Woods to win the 2005 U.S. Open by 2 shots.

4pm Update: Campbell hit the 9th green in regulation. He two-putted from 20 feet, shot a 45 and never made it to the 10th tee. WD.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

THE PLAYERS: But Seriously, Folks...

I've always held that Phil Mickelson is good for a laugh, (and I'm not talking about laughing at him, I mean with him). Perhaps it was the white belt or the Sunday charge at Quail Hollow, but Phil was in fine form today for his pre-tourney interview at The Players Championship.

First this...

Q. Just curious, Phil, if you had to describe this course in one word, what would it be?
PHIL MICKELSON: Interesting.

Q. Can you elaborate on that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I thought it was one word

Then this...

Q. From the playing with Tiger at the Masters, it had been more than a year since you played together. I don't count the U.S. Open, because you didn't have driver in the bag the first two days.


But nothing beats...

Q. What is the club in your bag you would not think about playing this course without?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, putter.

Q. What's an indispensable club on this course?

Q. But that's true of any course, isn't it?

At which point he thanked the crowd and reminded everyone to tip their waiters.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sean O'Hair Almost Ready to Pick Club on 17th Tee

Nearly ten hours after stepping on the tee at Quail Hollow's 17th hole, officials report that Sean O'Hair is almost ready to select a club. Sean defended his deliberate play, pointing out that since he arrived at the 225-yard par 3, the wind has changed direction and speed 473 times. "474," O'Hair's caddy added, throwing yet another tuft of grass onto the air. O'Hair appeared ready to pull a club several different times, with choices ranging from a 5-iron to a "high, fading putter." But each time, something would make him think twice -- a sudden gust, a drop in humidity... nightfall.

Tour officials have talked of possibly penalizing O'Hair for slow play, but say they have warned him and that as long as he plays his shot before greenskeepers move the hole location for a Monday member-guest, he'll still be okay.

The pairings behind O'Hair have long since played through, and O'Hair's original playing partner has already checked into his hotel in Jacksonville for next week's Players Championship. O'Hair is considered one of the early favorites... if he can finish his final round in Charlotte.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

QUAIL HOLLOW: George and Tiger, Together Again...

When I was writing Follow the Roar last summer, I had the chance to chat with George McNeill, the 33-year-old currently tied for 2nd at Quail Hollow and paired with Tiger Woods for Sunday's final round. George's unconventional route to the PGA Tour is documented well by Bob Harig here, but my reason for talking to George was because of a moment I witnessed when the two were paired for Tiger Woods' opening two rounds of the 2008 season back at Torrey Pines.

At the time McNeill hadn't played with Tiger since they were in college and George said it was "professional courtesy" on his part to approach Tiger on the putting green and re-introduce himself. As I write in the book, George stuck out his hand... as Tiger just stared blankly back. It was painful to watch, but to McNeill's credit, he kept it out there and calmly reminded Tiger of who he was. The pieces fell into place and Tiger finally lifted his hand and shook back.

McNeill reflected on those two rounds together -- the only time they've been paired professionally -- and said that he wasn't trying to play with any different mindset than he normally would. Of course that didn't stop his buddies from calling him ahead of time and giving plenty of advice, the best being: "If you get going bad, don't get discouraged, pay attention."

McNeill shot 72-72 those first two days, which put him in the top-20 heading into the weekend. Not bad, except that Tiger shot 67-65, besting McNeill by 12. As promised, George was paying attention. The difference between he and Tiger? "Short game." Tiger's putting is, simply, "phenomenal... and his pitching is pretty good as well." But through three rounds this week, McNeill's got the edge over Tiger in Greens in Regulation, Fairways Hit, and Scrambling.

Should be fun to see if the former club pro from Florida can give Tiger a good fight at Quail Hollow. If he can pull it off, it's safe to say that George McNeill will never again have to remind Tiger Woods of how they know each other.

Friday, May 1, 2009

QUAIL HOLLOW: Friday -- Good Start!

Thanks ShotLink for the following description of Tiger's opening tee shot on Friday:

"289 yds to other."

We've all been there. Hope the guys at Nike didn't trash Tiger's old Diamana driver shaft. He may be looking for it later today.

2PM UPDATE: ShotLink's description of Tiger's drive on #4:

"345 yds to dirt outline."

One thing's for sure, fans are getting some good Tiger face time today.

How Do You Fit the Game's Best?

Great piece here from for all the golf technology nerds out there. But if you're not, here's what you need to know first. A lot of players tinker with their equipment weekly, but not Woods. In fact he was still using a steel-shafted driver well into his career when nearly everyone else had made the jump to graphite.

But from the article comes this bit of news:

"On Thursday morning [Tiger's] Nike SQ Dymo 380 driver was outfitted with an 85-gram Oban Mach 4 prototype shaft... On Wednesday, during his practice round... the world's No. 1 player had an 89-gram Aldila Voodoo XPP8 prototype shaft."

Two shaft changes in two days? Tiger confirmed in his press conference yesterday that he had a new shaft but that it was the same weight as his old shaft. According to the article, not true. The shaft Tiger had on Thursday is 2 grams heavier than his old shaft, and as light as 2 grams is to you and me, not sure why he wouldn't specify the difference. After all, this is the same guy who (according to Tiger lore) was once sent a batch of Nike drivers and returned them saying that he preferred the heavier one best. The engineers thought they were all the same. Turns out they were different, but it was by such a small amount most deemed it imperceptible.

Back to the article:

"Tiger had been off for nine months," [Nike Tour Field Manager] Nichols said. "So there were several shafts out there that he had not had an opportunity to test."

Sure, but Tiger has been hitting drivers for five months. Why now? The only answer that makes sense is that Tiger truly is swinging at full speed for the first time. It's the same reason no one ever test drives a Porsche on a street with speed bumps.