Category Archives: Golf

In praise of Pebble Beach and Phil Mickelson

Pebble Beach is one of those special places  that all Americans, at least anyone who has ever picked up a golf club, should visit. I’ve had the good fortune to stop by the course a couple of times, and my wife and I were in the galleries during the third round of the tournament in 1997.

Phil Mickelson ran away with the lead today, leaving Tiger Woods and the rest of the field to wither in the wind whipping off the Pacific Coast. The AT&T National Pro-Am is the old Bing Crosby “clambake,” and its traditions are as rich and deep as those of the Pebble Beach itself.

The year we attended, I got to watch a number of celebrities on the course. Bill Murray was paired with Mark Grace, the Chicago Cubs first baseman, who faded a tee shot off the fairway nearly at our feet. I believe it was on the 16th hole.

Even better, I turned around at one point to look behind me and find none other than Mr. October, Reggie Jackson.

It’s fitting that one of my greatest days ever on a golf course involved baseball players, not to mention not having to a take a single, tortured swing.



Tiger Woods fires his caddy, and that’s OK with me

A few weeks ago Tiger Woods dumped longtime caddy Steve Williams, and as someone who spent six summers caddying I have a bit of perspective to offer on that.

I’d categorize the response of the media and the public to Tiger’s decision as mostly negative. It would be easy to join the majority here. Really, how could the golfer dump a guy who’s been so loyal and integral to his success for so long?

But I’m going to file a minority opinion. Tiger has the right to choose his own caddy. After the wretched stretch he’s been through, Tiger probably wants to make as a clean a break as he can with his past, a shake-up to get his game going again.

That’s unfortunate for Williams, but he’s landed well with Adam Scott.

During six summers caddying during my teens, I lugged bags and gave distance estimates for everyone from regional club pros at tournaments to weekend duffers whose game was my destiny, too. A caddy can’t make a golfer swing the club a certain way or fade a shot as recommended, but he plays a role in the golfer’s success.

Giving the golfer accurate information is important, as is following all the proper etiquette in handling the flagstick around the green.  Caddies must adapt to the personalities of the golfers. If the golfer’s a talker, you can probably talk back. If he’s taciturn, keep your mouth shut.

One of the best runs I had came in caddying for a golfer who was reasonably good but surprised everyone by making a serious bid for the women’s club championship. Round after round, I think she genuinely looked forward to taking on each match with me alongside. I felt the same way.

She made it to the semi-finals before losing to the top-ranked player, the defending club champion who had won many times. I suppose I got a decent tip after it was over — $50 probably, big money for a teenager in the mid-70s — but what has stuck with me was the sense of teamwork that we established on the course.

Tiger has trashed many relationships by his behavior, and it’s not for me to  judge. I hope he finds a caddy who will help him re-establish his confidence, if not his groove.


A tip of the Jumeirah cap to Rory McIlroy, U.S. Open champion

No single blogger could add any lustre to what Rory McIlroy accomplished over these past four days in winning the U.S. Open championship. But I’ll venture a few words about his sponsor.

About eight holes into the final round today I got curious about the “Jumeirah” scrawled across the crown of McIlroy’s cap. That I had to look up this high-end hotelier and resort company on Google is a pretty good tip-off that I don’t travel in luxury. I’m usually ready to pounce on the automatic waffle machine during the free breakfast at Holiday Inn Select.

With its logo plastered across McIlroy’s cap and shirts as in the photo from the company’s website above, Jumeirah has scored some major marketing points. Next time I’m in Dubai, I’ll consider staying with them.

If only.

For the 2011 U.S. Open golf championship, a Capitol cap

The U.S. Capitol stands proudly over the U.S. Open logo on my new cap that arrived a few days ago from the United States Golf Association. The 2011 championship will be played June 13-19 at one of the game’s great courses, Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.

The cap is sharp in patriotic red, white and blue. I particularly like the strip of red piping in front of the brim. The cap makes a nice addition to my collection. As the sun shines here in central California, I’ll be wearing it today to get into the mood for some golf. It’s time to flex those rusty swing muscles on the range.

An $11 million shot measured against some of the greatest careers in golf

Jim Furyk won the astonishing total of $11 million by winning the Tour Championship and wrapping up the FedEx Cup title over the weekend.

That’s a huge payout, and I got an interesting perspective on it while listening to ESPN Radio briefly on my way to work this morning. A sidekick was asking the host (I thought it was Colin Cowherd, but I can’t pin it down from his show summary) to compare Furyk’s paycheck with the career PGA earnings of some of the game’s greatest golfers.

Tom Watson, one of the premier names of late 20th century golf who has continued to make noise sporadically in recent years, earned $10.8 million. You’ll find Watson ranked 92 on an ESPN-compiled list of the top 20 PGA money-winners.

Who won’t you find? Jack Nicklaus — the greatest of all so far. He earned $5.7 million, according to his website.

Neither Nicklaus nor Watson is anywhere near the poverty line, of course, and they piled up millions in endorsements and, in the Golden Bear’s case, golf equipment and other enterprises.

While the game has stayed pretty much the same, the money sponsors pour into it has not.

Oosthuizen wins the British Open (silence the vuvuzelas, please)

Congratulations to Louis Oosthuizen on winning the British Open today. I turned on the TV this morning and was shocked to see he was still far out front of everyone else early in his final round.

One of the images that will stick with me was of a woman in the gallery holding up a small South African flag as she watched Oosthuizen play. Under that Ping cap, he was steady to spectacular the past few days at St. Andrew’s, as dominating a performer in a major championship as any.

This has been a grand summer (winter, actually) for South Africa. First a terrific World Cup, and now a South African champion holding the claret jug.

Well played, South Africa. Well played.

Don’t bother Tiger Woods, officer. He’s sleeping.

Before the Tiger Woods story erupted this Thanksgiving weekend, I’d been ruminating on the differences between elite athletes and us mere men and women. Highly paid pro athletes like Woods in golf or Alex Rodriguez in baseball or LeBron James in basketball exist on a plane at which most of us mortals can only gawk or to which at best we can only aspire.

Hardly a week goes by when some pro isn’t whining about his wretched lot and demanding to be traded from a team that doesn’t sufficiently suck up to his skills and whims. Last year Jay Cutler could no longer stomach the Denver Broncos and by continual harangues orchestrated his way to the Chicago Bears.

Whining about your misfortune seems almost a requirement in the NBA, where a decade ago we had the famous case of Latrell Sprewell trying to strangle coach P.J. Carlissimo of the Golden State Warriors. Sprewell was dealt to the New York Knicks and kept playing. The Warriors, in fact, seem to have more than their share of the tempermental. Chris Webber famously bullied his way off the team in the mid-90s, and this year Stephen Jackson wanted out and got it.

It’s the same in baseball and football, where top college players have turned up their noses at some NFL franchises even before the draft.

Could any of us get away with this kind of behavior in our workplaces or communities?

“Sorry, boss, I don’t want to work evenings.”

“Either I decide my own assignments or you’re going to have to put me in a better job at a better location.”

“I’m sorry, officer, but my husband is asleep and isn’t available to answer your questions about how at 2:30 in the morning he ran over the fire hydrant and crashed into the neighbors’ tree.”

This is the point at which I’d normally conclude by saying “Give me a break.” But I’m not eligible for such. I don’t make enough money.

Early look at the 2010 Pebble Beach U.S. Open golf caps

The U.S. Golf Association is offering early sales on 2010 U.S. Open merchandise, including a number of caps trumpeting the tournament at fabled Pebble Beach Golf Links.

The major tournaments for 2009 are behind us, but it’s not too early to think about the great drama that awaits next year. For any golfer or golf fan, a visit to Pebble Beach is on the “must” list. I’ve been to the course a couple of times, stopping in the pro shop and ambling around the grounds on a few brief visits. I also attended the AT&T Pro Am there for the third round of the tournament  in 1997, and it was a memorable day.

Pebble’s ocean-side setting is even more dramatic in person than it is on those sweeping panoramas shown on television. If you can arrange a trip for the ’10 Open running from June 14-20, book it. But even if you can’t make the tournament, a trip to Pebble on the spectacular Monterey Peninsula at any time is advised and encouraged.

Tip o’ the visor to PGA champion Y.E. Yang

Y.E. Yang holds the PGA Championship trophyThe final round of the PGA championship was a thriller today as Y.E. Yang of South Korea out-dueled Tiger Woods to win by three strokes. While Woods couldn’t get his putts to drop, Yang was steady and struck a couple of brilliant shots. He chipped in for an eagle on the 14th hole at Hazeltine to take the lead for good and he also whacked a hybrid 3-iron on his approach at 18 to set up a birdie.

Yang was wearing a Taylor Made visor rather than a golf cap, which matters not a whit to me. Congratulations to the champion – and condolences to Tiger Woods, the best golfer of this generation. He was defeated by a worthy opponent.

Emerging cap style at the U.S. Open

If Ricky Barnes can hang on to win the U.S. Open, it’s a good bet his unusual golf cap will gain some sales. Even if he fades on Monday — assuming the weather holds up at Bethpage Black — he’ll have gained some fans, as will his Wilson Staff cap.

I strained while watching him on TV this afternoon to figure out what’s written on the right side of the cap. It’s, which takes you to a site for Verve, “The Official Energy Drink of Ricky Barnes.” (I’ve lived half a century without consuming reconstituted mangosteen juice, so I think I’ll pass on the Verve.)

I follow pro golf to some degree, and I have to admit that Barnes didn’t register until he vaulted into the Open lead a few days ago. I’ve been impressed with how at ease he is in media interviews. Bob Costas on TV and somebody for ESPN radio were both pressing Barnes about how he’s coping with the rain delays, the course conditions and the general pressure of the Open.  Barnes has good-naturedly shrugged off the questions and said he’s getting enough sleep and relaxing with family living near the course.

Monday finishes for major golf championships are rare. If it’s a close finish, you can be sure millions of man (and woman) hours of productivity will be lost on the job as the leaders approach the final holes.