Monday, August 31, 2009

Golf In Fire Country...

Thought you'd appreciate these shots from my morning round here in L.A., about 20 miles as the crow flies from the year's big brushfire. Most of the front nine felt like I was playing golf inside Miguel Angel Jimenez' moustache.And you thought air quality was bad on a regular day in L.A.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back From Vegas

So I went to Las Vegas last weekend. First time in 4 years. At age 21, I gambled believing I would win big. At 28, I gambled hoping I'd win big. And now at age 32, I gambled knowing I'd lose big so I bet small.

At my most pathetic I was wedged between two old women at the penny slots who were explaining to me the subtleties of a Star Wars slot machine. When women with perms are telling you about Star Wars, it's time to move on.

So I did. In just 48 hours, my two friends and I managed to play 72 holes at 3 different locations, using coupons, online deals and slight of hand to pull off one of the cheapest golf trips in history.

When it was all over, I walked away with two enduring memories, one golf-related and one purely comedic.

The golf highlight came on the Wolf Course of the Paiute Golf Resort, a Pete Dye design twenty minutes NW of Vegas. I haven't had the chance to play much golf this summer, but it all came together on Saturday morning when I managed a sweet little 77 in the wind. As you can see from the picture (taken from Paiute's Sun Course), this place is about as close as you're going to get to playing golf on the edge of the world. If you're someone like me whose hands get a little sweaty on holes lined with condos where children splash blissfully unaware in swimming pools, head to Paiute.

The Wolf Course was also the location of the non-golf highlight. The 15th hole there is an island green par-3 and my buddy Matt had just one-bounced his approach into the water. We got all the way to the green when we remembered that legally he needed to go back to the drop area and play from there rather than dropping where it bounced into the water. This meant Matt had to get back in the cart and drive to the tee where the threesome behind us was waiting impatiently.

While Matt took out his rangefinder to get the yardage, the guys behind us started to moan about the wait. This is when I usually put my head down and pretend to be invisible. But my other friend James, a stocky former pitcher who's never afraid of a confrontation, walks toward the front of the green, looks them in the eyes, and yells back, "Oh shut up!" A back and forth ensued across the manmade lake, during which I realized that because I was standing on an island green, if these guys came after us, I'd have nowhere to run. After all, that is my normal M.O. in the face of conflict.

Things remained tense until James assured the largest member of the group that no matter how slowly we played, he'd still get his lunch. They backed down. Nevertheless, I picked up my pace the rest of the way in and we never saw them again.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Press Corps Picks on Tiger

Yikes. I stumbled on this while reading today's White House "press gaggle" aboard Air Force One...

MR. BURTON (DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY): There isn't a lot scheduled for this week. You can bet there's going to be some golf playing, maybe a little swimming, but a lot of time spent with his family.

Q Any time spent with Tiger Woods?

MR. BURTON: I think that's a bad rumor. I don't even know that he's going to be here this week. But no, there's -- nothing like that is on the schedule. There's no plan for that. But certainly Tiger Woods is a good golfer, and it's fun to play with him, I hear. Unless you're in a tournament and he's beating you -- probably by a lot.

Q Not always. (Laughter.)

MR. BURTON: That was Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times who said that. (Laughter.)

Ouch. Ever think you'd see the day when Tiger Woods would be the butt of jokes? And by reporters, no less! And some said that one little loss at Hazeltine wouldn't change anything...

Wie's Parents Released from House Arrest After Solheim Victory

Palo Alto, CA -- B.J. and Bo Wie were reunited with 19-year-old daughter Michelle today after spending the weekend being electronically monitored from their home, thousands of miles from the LPGA's Solheim Cup in Chicago.

According to reports, the duo, clad in Nike apparel, were ushered into their Northen California residence Thursday night by LPGA officials, only to emerge Sunday afternoon when American victory was secure.

Witnesses say B.J. and Bo appeared hungry and disoriented, while Tour officials insisted they were well cared for and were even allowed to watch "some" of the golf coverage, albeit on tape delay. However, they were not allowed the use of a telephone, email, or computer for fear that one or both might try to contact Michelle and offer in-round advice, which besides being illegal during tournament play, might increase Michelle's risk of exacerbating an old wrist injury caused in part by excessive text messaging.

Without her parents in attendance, Wie managed a team-leading 3-0-1 record for the week.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My Intimate Moment with Tiger Woods

Here's the nice feature that European Tour Weekly did with me at last week's PGA Championship. Watch me run! Watch me... watch! And watch me have an intimate conversation with Tiger Woods.


Also, I wrote a piece for that went up yesterday on their site about the odd (or not so odd) correlation between the Dow Jones and the career highs and lows of Tiger Woods. Enjoy!

And finally, in the off chance you haven't pieced all these events together, Follow the Roar hit bookshelves in paperback this week. The new version includes some great review quotes, a more affordable price tag and an epilogue about my adventures at the 2009 Accenture Match Play, where Tiger made his return to action after eight months off. Pick up a copy today.

Next week, it's back to all satirical golf news, (almost) all the time...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Catch Me on the PGA Tour Radio Network Wednesday Morning

I'll be popping into Sirius XM's Making the Turn with Peter Kessler at 10:45EST this morning. Tune in!

What Does Sunday's Defeat Really Mean to Golf?

Check out Jay Busbee's great Devil Ball golf blog today for a piece I wrote about the significance of Tiger's loss to Y.E. Yang on Sunday.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: "A Bad Day at the Wrong Time"

Wow wow wow wow wow!

So falls the giant.

But let's just call this post my "I told you so" edition. Why?

#1: I posted a few days back that one of the big determining factors of the week would be how players can get themselves out of Hazeltine's deep greenside rough. Yang avoided it all day on Sunday. But it knocked Tiger down on 17 and then buried him on 18.

#2: I liked Y.E. Yang going into this week. Really. He finished 5th at the Buick Open and followed it up with a 69-66 on the weekend at Bridgestone, second only to TW. And since my wife could only fake being impressed by this, here's a screen grab of my fantasy team for the week. When Yang found himself in the final group heading into Sunday's final round, I was baffled that none of the talking heads were talking seriously about Yang as a threat. There was only one name on the first page of the leaderboard who could say they had held off a charging Tiger to win an event in the last three years. And it wasn't Padraig Harrington. It was Y.E. Yang at the 2006 HSBC Champions in Shanghai. Never heard of it? Doesn't matter. Any win with Tiger in close pursuit needs to be taken seriously.

And perhaps more than anything, today should be a reminder to everyone that Tiger is human. And in turn, how much more we should be in awe of the fact he has won 14 majors by age 33. Fields are getting deeper, fairways are getting tighter and courses are getting longer. The stretch from 14 majors to 18 may well prove to be even tougher than getting from 1 to 14.

Friday, August 14, 2009

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: Saturday Headlines

Kjeldsen Caught Carrying Too Many Consonants In Surname

Rich Beem Post-Round Celebration Deemed Inappropriate After 5-over 76

Tee Shot on 633-yard par-5 Ignores Plea to Get in the Hole

Thursday, August 13, 2009

PGA CHAMP: The Big Test...

After following Tiger, Bubba and Watney around Tuesday, it would seem that the week's x-factor will be how players are able to excavate themselves from greenside rough. As you can see above, all three players are within three feet of the green. And you can't see a single ball and only the tops of their shoes.

Players all week have been working on this shot, dropping the club into the grass and hoping the ball pops out. Look for this week's winner to either hit a lot of greens in regulation or chip-in a time or two when it appeared he was doomed.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Seen Around Hazeltine, Pt. III

After seeing everything else there was to see at Hazeltine, it was off to the PGA Performance Center Presented by Mercedes-Benz. I'm always a sucker for these corporate tents disguised as must-see golf attractions, but I was holding out hope that this one might be the exception.

It started out great, showing fans The Evolution of the Golf Ball, including an actual featherie. Cool.
From there it was on to The Evolution of the Driver. Interesting.
And then naturally came The Evolution of the E-Class Emblem. Wait, what?


Question: How many players, caddies, swing coaches, mental coaches, fitness gurus, and equipment reps does it take to play a practice round at Hazeltine?

Answer: 14!

PGA CHAMP: Seen Around Hazeltine, Pt. II

One of the traditions here at the PGA is to name corporate tents after past champions on that specific course, which leads to, ah yes, the Rich Beem Village... It sounds like the worst new housing development name ever. And yes, alcohol is served there.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

PGA CHAMP: Seen Around Hazeltine, Part I

Strangest thing inside the media tent, you ask? Behold!

In between the tent's front door and the golf writers' stalls you'll find this -- a creepy glassed-in massage room where all your fellow scribes can watch you be rubbed down.
I apologize, it's a "therapeutic room," which seems to insinuate that you can spend time in there without actually getting a massage. And why not since those chairs do look comfy? Thankfully, someone recognizes how cheap writers can be, allowing customers to pay by the minute. Word is the PGA has hired John Paramor to keep track of the time.

PGA CHAMP: Tuesday at Hazeltine

A week ago, I didn't know I'd be at Hazeltine. I was actually supposed to be at my hometown county fair, eating fried food and convincing my son the ride we were about to get on was safe. But then came the opportunity to come to Minnesota for a few days to film a piece for European Tour Weekly, the European Tour's weekly news mag show which airs in 21 countries around the globe.

This is my first major since the 2008 U.S. Open, and as the picture on the left shows, these Minnesotans take their golf very seriously (on a Tuesday!). Believe it or not, Minnesota has the highest golfer per capita rate of any state in the union. (Keep that piece of trivia in your brain the next time your foursome is stuck behind a fivesome).

We were out early and followed Woods, Bubba Watson and Nick Watney around for the morning as they navigated a course that is so long that the entire group, even Bubba, laid up on #3, a 633-yard par 5. This should go without saying, but Tiger looked thoroughly at ease, acting as if Thursday couldn't come fast enough.

As usual, Bubba was constantly trying to shape shots. And as Nick Watney learned, a guy who moves the ball that much can be hard to compliment:

Watney: Nice shot.
Bubba: Nah, that wasn't good.
Watney: Really? With the fade?
Bubba: It was supposed to draw.
Watney: Oh.

I can't say Hazeltine is the most memorable golf course you're ever going to see, but there are some nice elevation changes, and the 402-yard par-4 16th along Lake Hazeltine (right) will end more than a handful of players' chances to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday.

But enough about all that serious stuff, on to the fun stuff...

PGA Champ: Tuesday

I'm finally back to the computer after a 13-hour day of activity at Hazeltine. I'll be posting more tonight and over the next 24 hours. Until then, just thought I'd share these shots from just before and just after sunrise this morning. Once again, Tiger rewards the early risers...
More shots and thoughts to come.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Off To Hazeltine!

With Follow the Roar coming out in paperback next week, I'm doing some cool PR, the most exciting of which takes me to Hazeltine for a few days this week. Keep checking back for exclusive news, photos, etc. from Minnesota, the Land of Lakes!

Is Minnesota the Land of Lakes? It might be Michigan...

Yes, expect more insightful analysis like this as the week unfolds!

Friday, August 7, 2009

You Know It's a Recession When...

We've all been there. You're walking into the golf shop, desperate for new golf balls, when you suddenly realize your socks are thinning. If only you could solve both needs at once. And then, out of the mist appears this...

Yes, apparently Precept believes that the tipping point between you purchasing a dozen of their balls or not is two free pairs of socks. But not just any old socks, "athletic golf socks," which are obviously superior to non-athletic golf socks. I guess this is like realtors in LA who throw in flat-screen TV's to sell a house.

I just feel bad for Pinnacle, which was about to announce their new "Buy a Dozen Pinnacle Golds, get a pair of Tighty-Whities" promotion.

WGC Bridgestone: Let Me Get This Straight...

If Sergio wins the Masters, you get a free driver, but if he nails you on the head off the tee, all you get is a golf ball? Well, I guess witnessing him winning the Masters would be the rarer feat...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Catch Me on Sirius XM Radio Thursday Morning...

Make sure to tune in at 9AM EST to hear me on Playing Thru with TJ Rives on Sirius XM's PGA TOUR Network. I'll be talking about all things Tiger of course. Though I'll be ready as always to discuss Michael Letzig or Brendon de Jonge if I must...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

BUICK OPEN: Stevie Williams Steps on a Duck

Unfortunately, the Tour keeps taking down the YouTube clips of someone (Stevie remains the best guess) adding some excitement to the 18th hole at Warwick Hills. Search and you will find. Somehow I don't suppose will be taking that video and posting it on their site.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Tiger Makes Birdie From Chrysler Expressway

World number one Tiger Woods grinded his way to a third-round 65 on Saturday at the Buick Open, a round which included birdies from various exotic locales including an up and down from the HOV lane on Detroit's Chrysler Expressway.

Tiger's blocked his drive at the 538-yard 15th, his ball coming to rest on the southbound side of Michigan's busiest freeway. When rules officials were unable to locate any out of bounds stakes, the ball was deemed in play. "Well the lie was good, which was nice," Tiger later explained. "It was sitting on top of a recently filled pothole which was technically ground under repair, but I looked at it and realized it might help me catch it higher on the clubface, so I played it as it lied."

Caddy Steve Williams dutifully paced off the 294 yards back to the green, dodging 6 lanes of oncoming traffic in the process. From there, it was just a textbook 3-wood over the highway, trees, courtesy tents and clubhouse. The shot ended up four feet from the cup.