Posted on: March 4, 2008 5:09 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2008 11:04 am

Stop me if you've heard this one before

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Think this won't generate some commentary next week?

The greens at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, one of the biggest events in the regular PGA Tour season, have been completely replanted at the 11th hour because of damage from an unknown organic source.

The root structure of the greens was so meager and the surface grass was so sparse, club officials three weeks ago elected to remove the sod in the affected sections, replace the sand base, then re-seed the greens with winter rye grass, a PGA Tour official said Tuesday.

The root of the crisis, if you will, remains unclear. The tournament begins March 13.

"It stumped a lot of people," said tour rules official Jon Brendle, who took a first-hand look at the ailing Bay Hill Club & Lodge greens on Monday. "They brought in a lot of people to look at the problem and they didn’t have a clue."

Emergency surgery or not, Brendle said the greens have grown in nicely and should present better surfaces than those seen at some of the West Coast stops, like ever-bumpy Pebble Beach, he said.

"I can tell you they have come a long way in 2 1/2 weeks," he said. "I mean, it's fixed for the tournament."

But since there's no summer Bermuda grass underneath, it won’t be such a hot place to play for the members after the tour leaves town, to be sure. Rye grass is a winter strain that dies in the heat and is replaced by the native summer Bermuda, which at Bay Hill, typically stars growing back in ... right about this time of year.

Daniel Chopra, a Bay Hill member and resident, was asked to describe the shape of the greens and quipped, "Like fairways."

If there's any rain, the greens could be extremely soft. The putting surfaces have been a major issue at Bay Hill in the recent past. Six years ago, owner and namesake Arnold Palmer resodded the greens and they were so firm, a handful of top players began skipping the event.

The buzz among tour players at this week's PODS Championship is that the Bay Hill greens were so damaged that the tour considered moving the tournament to an alternate site, though Brendle said that possibility had not been discussed with him.

There’s a formal PGA Tour notice hanging this week in the Innisbrook locker room about Bay Hill, explaining the massive mouth-to-mouth they have given the greens. The second paragraph reads as such: “On a more positive note, the overseeding of the tees, fairways and rough has excellent density and uniformity, and is holding up quite well to the high volume of winter play.” So the greens are in such sketchy shape that a formal tour advisory was issued to players, but the course is still open to resort and membership play? Yikes.


Category: Golf
Posted on: February 28, 2008 11:17 am
Edited on: February 28, 2008 11:18 am

Hey, didn't you used to be ...?

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- We're not intentionally picking on this duo, but when J.J. Henry and Chris DiMarco were paired in the first round of the Honda Classic, a light bulb went on overhead.

Both players were members of the U.S. Ryder Cup team in 2006, and it's been months since either did anything notable, which illustrates how fast and fleeting a guy's game can desert him on the PGA Tour.

Upon closer inspection, their particulars are even more head-scratching than we first envisioned.

Since the pair finished play in the Ryder Cup almost 18 months ago, they have amassed a total of three top-10 finishes between them. DiMarco, who made the U.S. team based almost solely on his runner-up finish to Tiger Woods at the British Open in 2006, finished fourth at the Bridgestone Invitational in 2007. Otherwise, it's been mostly lean and leaner.

Henry has been slightly better, posting top-10s in 2007 at the Mercedes Championship, a limited-field event with 33 players, and at the Texas Open, a Fall Series tour stop with a weak field.

As for this year, both players have missed three of five cuts and neither has finished better than 50th. It's not looking much better this week for DiMarco, either. He dunked two balls in the water on the 15th and shot 41 on his front nine. At this point, he's not eligible for any of the four major championships.




Category: Golf
Posted on: February 27, 2008 4:07 pm

A word to the unwise

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Somewhere in the mists of time, a guy with a gift for gab offered this assessment as it relates to picking fights with the baddest dude in the bar:

"Don’t poke the bear."

The same could be said of a certain Tiger. Over the past year, a handful of people have seemingly been rather loose-lipped about the state of their game when compared to Tiger Woods, and the aftermath has been predictable: carnage.

Last spring, Rory Sabbatini said Woods at the time looked "as beatable as ever." Unproven rookie Jason Day said in the offseason that he plans to unseat Woods as the No. 1 player in the game. Most recently, Ian Poulter was quoted as saying that if he ever plays to his potential, he and Woods would rank 1-2 in the world.

Woody Austin, last year at the PGA Championship, insisted that he outplayed Woods in the second round, despite the fact that Tiger shot a 63 to tie the all-time low score in a major championship and beat him by seven shots. Woods, who needs no help in finding additional fuel for his considerable fire, has whipped them all at virtually every turn, so why do they keep lining up to make these proclamations?

We went to a source to find out.

"Why?" Austin said Wednesday. "See, that's just it. It depends on the way you listen to what somebody says. I understand your job as a journalist or your job as a media guy is to make things sensational or to make them more than average so that people will pick up the paper and go, 'Ohh, that sounds interesting.'

"But just because you mention his name is not calling him out. It's not challenging him."

Sabbatini came closest to throwing down the gauntlet, actually, and has been paying for expressing his opinions ever since. Woods has become a sacrosanct figure whose halo must not be tarnished, as Sabbatini pointed out.

It's called deification.

"At the time, if you look at the way (Woods) was playing, (Rory) didn't say anything that wasn't true," Austin said of Sabbatini's statement last spring. "That's just like I was told that I called him out at the PGA. I never said anything.

"All I talked about was the way my round two and his round two were perceived. I never talked about him as far as what he was doing. I only talked about why I was upset with my round, and it came out like I challenged him, because I said I played better than him.

"I was talking about my round of golf. I wasn't talking about him. But just by mentioning his name and mentioning his round of golf, all of a sudden it now becomes this whirlwind. Like I said, that's the problem you have, and it makes it hard for guys to even talk about (Woods). That's why if you ask certain questions, guys are pretty hesitant to say anything.

"I honestly don't know about the article with Ian Poulter, and I'm sure it was probably very innocent, if what he said is true and he just wanted to be No. 2. But for what happened after it came out, he probably went through hell for three days. And he didn't say anything bad, but I bet he went through hell for three days."

Come the next tournament with Woods in the field, it might be hellacious for four days, actually. Here's an idea for all the would-be Woodses. From now on, all players must be as effusive as possible regarding Woods. Obviously, taking thinly veiled shots at him, if not critiquing his game, hasn't worked, so maybe pumping him up will cause his head to swell. Maybe he'll slack off, get fat or turn to mush.


Category: Golf
Posted on: February 24, 2008 7:43 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2008 10:57 pm

Faldo: Open mouth, insert spiked foot

MARANA, Ariz. -- Another month, another head-shaking Golf Channel gaffe.

Network analyst Nick Faldo on Sunday denigrated his former equipment manufacturer, Nike, during the live telecast of the Accenture Match Play Championship final between Tiger Woods and Stewart Cink, two Nike endorsers.

During the morning session of the 36-hole final, Golf Channel play-by-play analyst Kelly Tilghman noted on the air that it was an all-Nike final. That, in itself, sounded like a free plug, since Tilghman last December emceed a Nike outing for Woods in South Florida.

But Faldo, who also works for CBS Sports, went a step farther on the conflict-of-interest front. A few weeks after signing a new endorsement deal with TaylorMade, he launched into a lengthy discourse about the superiority of the TaylorMade golf ball, and noted how only certain players with high skill levels should bother using the Nike ball, lest it fall out of the sky. Faldo once endorsed the Nike line.

Faldo, a six-time major champion, later issued what amounted to an on-air apology for his lack of good judgment. The network did likewise, issuing a statement that wasn't attributed to any particular party, calling the Faldo comments inappropriate.

"Nick Faldo is one of the best in the business because of his experience and insight, and viewers enjoy that," the network statement read. "But his opinions do not always reflect those of the Golf Channel. In this particular instance -- although he referenced published research -- using the Golf Channel in this context was not appropriate. Nick realized this and set the record straight with our viewers in a timely manner."

A Nike spokesperson said the company was surprised that Faldo would take such a stance, but otherwise took the high road. 

"We were disappointed in Nick Faldo’s comments, especially given the fact that he referenced golf product that was totally unrelated to what was happening during the competition itself," Nike spokesperson Beth Gast said Sunday night. "These comments were all the more inappropriate having come just days after he signed with TaylorMade-adidas. He has apologized on air and we consider this isolated incident as closed."

At the PGA Tour's season opener in January, Tilghman made an ill-advised attempt at humor in a remark about lynching Woods, during live banter with Faldo. She was suspended for two weeks and the incident generaled national headlines and sustained outcry among minority-rights advocates.



Category: Golf
Posted on: February 22, 2008 1:04 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2008 1:06 pm

Boo: I love Daisy Duke

MARANA, Ariz. -- File this under stuff you can't possibly make up.

Homespun Boo Weekley's global popularity tour continues to pick up both steam and more fans this week, as evidenced by the roar he generated Friday morning on the practice range, which was as loud as anything heard all week on the actual golf course.

While Weekley warmed up for this third-round match, ever-staid Colin Montgomerie walked onto the range and nearly fell over laughing when he noticed that Weekley was sporting a camouflage-colored hat. That was only the first ripple of hilarity. Trailing along a few feet behind Monty was Tiger Woods.

As Woods crossed the range on the way to the putting green, Weekley intercepted him and said hello. As Woods exited the practice tee, Weekley yelled to him, apropos of nothing, "Hey, you ever watch Dukes of Hazzard?"

Woods, like the 1,000 or so fans watching in the grandstands, broke out in a huge, bewildered gut laugh.

Like we said yesterday, pray to the golf gods that U.S. captain Paul  Azinger finds a spot for this guy on the Ryder Cup team, because we can use all the entertainment we can get in light of the whippings we've been receiving from the Euros lately. While we're at it, let's find a place for loose-lipped Americans Woody Austin and Mark Calcavecchia, too.

If we're going to get creamed again, let's at least enjoy the walk and the talk, right?




Category: Golf
Posted on: February 21, 2008 1:42 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2008 2:28 pm

Just another 'W' among many for Woods

MARANA, Ariz. -- OK, so total recall is not one of Tiger Woods' many gifts.

Woods was walking across the driving range before his second-round tilt in the Accenture Match Play Championship on Thursday when he ambled past Arron Oberholser, his foe for the day.

A day earlier, Oberholser had recalled in vivid detail the last time he had played in the same group with Woods, back at a college tournament in suburban Los Angeles when Woods was a sophomore at Stanford and Oberholser was a junior at San Jose State. Woods said it didn't ring familiar.

"But you won," Oberholser said.

"Still don't remember," Woods said with a shrug, palms up.

Hey, just another win among hundreds, right?

Oberholser couldn't stop Woods back then, finishing third in the aforementioned college event, and whether he has what it takes to derail him Thursday looked debatable. Oberholser, playing in his first tournament of the  year, has been sidelined with a bursitis issue in his right shoulder and was grimacing at times as he hit balls on the practice tee.

In other words, Obverholser has played one competitive round all year and is facing a guy who has won four straight worldwide starts. Oberholser said that at one point during his layoff, his shoulder went numb because of a nerve issue. But he insisted he felt OK as he warmed up.

"No, not a problem," he said gamely.

Category: Golf
Posted on: February 21, 2008 1:02 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2008 1:04 pm

Eldrick, is that really you?

MARANA, Ariz. -- At least it was a fresh idea.
Radio listeners on Thursday in Tucson were teased for hours by the morning drive-time team on KFMA, which had promised an exclusive, live interview with Tiger Woods.
Of course, the rock station's listeners had no clue that Woods hasn't done a radio spot in eons. The dude purported to be Woods called in around 8:30 a.m., and it was immediately clear that it was all a big goof and that listeners had been duped. The caller was actually a member of the morning crew, and he had a voice that was roughly an octave higher than a pubescent girl.
But it was a funny bit. The fake Eldrick asked the show's host, a guy named Frank, if he wanted to hear a "Tiger fun fact." Why not?
"My wife is so hot, she doesn’t get morning breath," the fake Tiger said.
In talking about his comeback victory over J.B. Holmes in the first round, the faux Woods whispered into the phone, "I have a secret. I was trying to make it close." The bogus T.W. said he sandbagged early just to make it interesting. "Do you think that I, Tiger Woods, would actuallly hit my first shot out of bounds unless it was on purpose?" At least it made the huge morning commute from Tucson to the remote host course -- a drive of at least 20 miles for most fans -- more enjoyable.
Category: Golf
Posted on: February 19, 2008 5:56 pm

Unbeaten, untied and unbelievable

MARANA, Ariz. -- You think he's hard to beat now?

Tiger Woods has been openly answering questions all year about the feasibility of winning the Grand Slam, and on Tuesday at the Accenture Match Play Championship, the theoretical and heretical stakes were raised another notch.

What about going undefeated? He's already 2-0 worldwide this year, after all.

Been there, done that, Woods said.

"I've had one perfect season, but it's been a while," he said, smiling. "When I was 11, I won 36 tournaments that year."

Back in 1987, Woods was playing the fertile Southern California junior circuit, where tournaments were staged nearly every summer day in some locale. His mom dutifully drove him around the region, sometimes rising as early as 4 a.m. to make an early tee time in Redlands, San Bernardino or another far-off site. She walked every round with him.

"My mom was incredible that way," he said. "She kept score and still has a lot of scorecards from there."

So his victorious reign can be documented, though it's doubtful it can be repeated.

"I peaked at 11," Woods cracked.

Category: Golf
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