Friday, March 16, 2007

O'Hair makes cut

Sean O'Hair, mired in the worst patch of his young career, will play the weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

O'Hair, 24, from West Chester, added a second round of even par 70 Friday to his first round 66, giving him a 4-under par total, tied for 9th in mid-afternoon.

That's a step in the right direction for O'Hair, who had missed five of six cuts this year heading into Bay Hill. Before this week, his best finish of the year was T-56 at the Nissan Open.

Mickelson on Mickelson

I'd hit driver again.

No question.

Put me on the 18th hole at Winged Foot, needing par to win, and I'm doing exactly what I tried to do last June: carve a baby slice and chase it down the fairway to set up an iron to the green, two-putt for my first U.S. Open and my third straight major.

And so begins a l-o-n-g piece in ESPN: The Magazine headlined "Failure Fuels Me." Good stuff. Lefty answers his critics, apologizes to no and pretty much vows to keep on keepin' on.

If you're a fan of Mickelson -- or of golf, for that matter -- it's must-see stuff, chock full of some of the most candid comments you're likely to hear from Mickelson or anybody else in this day and age.

For example:

People say it all the time: I take too many risks, and it costs me titles. I've been hearing for years that I have to change my style in order to win. Well, let me ask this: Are Johnny Miller, Lanny Wadkins, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Lee Trevino, Davis Love and Fred Couples great players? Of course they are. Those are some of the game's most heralded names. And somehow, I've won more PGA Tour events than any of them. So I have to wonder: Shouldn't my game be emulated more than criticized? Should I change my style and win less? Or should more players try to do what I do and maybe win more? Just throwing it out there.

You go, girl! -- er, ah, Phil.

For the whole thing, click here.

What it's like to be Tiger

Imagine if everywhere you went, people were calling your name and shoving something in front of your face, demanding you sign it. Welcome to Tiger Woods' world.

In the Orlando Sentinel, columnist David Whitley offers a peek into that world at the Arnold Palmer Invitational:

He glides past a woman holding a poster. She says it's the fourth straight year he ignored her."He was so rude," she said. "He just walked right by."

For the rest of the column, click here.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Leonard languishing

If you think Sean O'Hair is struggling, he's on top of the world compared to the slump in which Justin Leonard finds himself mired

So far this year, the 1997 British Open champ and one-time Ryder Cup star has missed six straight cuts and plummeted to 210th in the World Golf Rankings. He hasn't qualified to play in any of this year's majors. Very unfamiliar territory for the Dallas native, who recently dumped swing coach Butch Harmon in favor of his old coach, Randy Smith.

For more details, here's a good story on Leonard's predicament in the Dallas Morning News.

New Golf Galaxy store

Not to promote one chain of golf stores over any other, but Golf Galaxy is opening a new store in Langhorne tomorrow, its fourth in the Philadelphia area.

Until they sent me a press kit the other day, I was unaware that Golf Galaxy, the retail giant, had expanded beyond the original local outlet in Berywn, off Rt. 202, in the western suburbs. Turns out they have quietly added storefronts in Mt. Laurel, N.J. , in the east, and Christiana, DE., in the south.

At tomorrow's grand opening, Golf Galaxy is offering free swing analysis and giveaways.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Beatin' that first bucket

When the thermometer outside the window of my home office hit 75 degrees at noon today, I couldn't resist the temptation any longer.

I slammed my laptop closed, stuffed my pasty white legs into a pair of shorts and tossed my clubs into the trunk. I didn't have time to play 18, but I sure had time to bang a jumbo bucket. In no time at all I was at the Golf Zone in Horsham, making all kinds of horrible creaking sounds and grunting noises as I tried to get limber after a long winter's sloth. Other than taking a few swats at an indoor range, I hadn't touched a club since my last round of the season in late November in Florida.

I wasn't the only one with the same idea. The Golf Zone was doing a brisk lunchtime business. By my intitial count, there were 15 guys hitting balls. More guys were arriving by the minute. I bowed in reverence to the fella who had his twin sons, who were maybe a year old, parked in a double-seater baby stroller next to his mat, watching their Dad beat balls.

Naturally, I hit the ball great. I'd excited about that, except that I always hit that first bucket or two of the season great. Sometimes, the greatness even extends into my first actual round of the season. But along about that second or third round, the doubt starts to creep back into my mind and into my swing. This ain't my first rodeo. By then, it's only a matter of time before I'm sailing tee shots two fairways over.

Not to get all doomsday about it, but my guess is it'll happen next week in Miami, when I try to sneak in a round while I'm covering the WGC-CA Championship. Wish me luck.

2008 U.S. Open tix on sale

This just in from the USGA...


Far Hills, N.J. (3/14/07) – USGA Members have the chance to buy week-long ticket packages for the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, Calif., before they go on sale to the general public, the United States Golf Association (USGA) has announced. The 2008 Championship will be played from June 9-15.

Ticket applications are available online at Weekly grounds packages are $400 each. An upscale Trophy Club package for the week is $595.

The deadline for Members to submit a ticket application is 5 p.m. (EDT) on Tuesday, April 15. After that time, a random drawing will be conducted from among submitted Member applications. All Members will be notified of their status before the general public sale begins in June. Members who have been unsuccessful in their bid to purchase tickets in advance may re-submit an application for the general public sale random drawing in August.

The U.S. Open has sold out for the past 21 years and it undoubtedly will sell out again for 2008, since this will be the first time the Open will be played at Torrey Pines.

The U.S. Open is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pine Valley slips to No. 2

In addition to the state-by-state rankings of courses you can play, the latest issue of Golfweek offers its ranking of the top modern and classic courses.

Among the classics (before 1960), for the second consecutive year, perennial No. 1 Pine Valley plays bridesmaid to top-ranked Cypress Point in California. From history, I know the folks at Pine Valley tend to shrug these things off. Ho-hum, we're still Pine Valley.

In other developments, Merion (East), which has had tons of publicity in the past couple of years because of the 2005 U.S. Amateur and the 2013 U.S. Open, has crept up the rankings from 7th to 4th place this year, behind only Cypress, the Valley and Shinnecock Hills on Long Island.

Oakmont, outside Pittsburgh, host of this year's Open, holds steady at No. 6.

The biggest shocker in this year's rankings is Augusta National, host of the Masters, in virtual free-fall, dropping from No. 3 last year down to 10th. Wonder what that's about?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Golfweek's Top Courses

Golfweek's latest ranking of Best Courses is out and it's clear to me I've got some work to do and some golf courses to play.

Of the magazine's Top 10 courses open to the public in Pennsylvania, I have not played half of them -- and I'm a course rater for Golfweek, for crying out loud.
Chief among the courses whose pro shop doorways I have yet to darken are No. 1, Olde Stonewall, out in in Ellwood City, and No. 2., Nemacolin Woodlands (Mystic Rock Course) in Farmington, way out west.

I also haven't played No. 4, Great Bear, a Jack Nicklaus design up in the Poconos in East Stroudsburg; No. 7, Wren Dale, out west in Hummelstown; and No. 10., The Links at Gettysburg.

Of the courses on the list I have played, I'm not exactly down with where Golfweek ranks them. I do like where No. 3, the Golf Course at Glen Mills, ranks. I'm also a big fan of Hershey Country Club (Old Course), in 5th.

Personally, I'm a big fan of No. 6 on the list, the Club at Morgan Hill, in Easton, a Kelly Blake Moran layout that has escaped the notice of many golfers in Philadelphia. From the people I've talked to who've played it, Morgan Hill, hilly and quirky, is one of those courses that golfers tend to really like or dismiss.
I'm definitely not a huge fan of No. 8-ranked Lederach, in Harleysville, another Moran course, that I found a little over the top. But Lederach has now been recognized by two magazines, so I'm going to return to in the spring for another look.
I also believe No. 9 Raven's Claw, in Limerick, Ed Shearon's best work to date, is a good course that is only going to get better as it matures.
That brings us to Golfweek's ranking of New Jersey courses you can play. For my money, it's a better bunch of coures than Pennsylvania's.
For starters, Atlantic City Country Club, ranked No. 1, is a true treat, even if the prime-time, in-season rate ($206) is enough to gag most golfers.
As for the rest:
No. 2, Ballyowen. Haven't played it.
3. Pine Barrens. I'm fine with it being on the list, but not this high.
4. Twisted Dune. Love it, or loved it the last time I played three years ago. Unique course.
5. Sand Barrens. More visually intimidating than it really is.
6. Neshanic Valley. Haven't played it.
7. Pine Hill. One of my fave modern courses around Philadelphia. Should be higher on the list.
8. Blue Heron Pines (East). It's closed to make way for a residential development, so it shouldn't even be on the list. But the fact that is is closed is a crime against golf.
9. Royce Books (East). Terrific course that gets little attention in Philadelphia.
10. Vineyards at Renault Winery. Getting better with age.