Snead’s swing: The sweetest thing

first_imgSam Snead doesn’t get the credit he deserves. It’s a curious statement, but true. Lost tribes in Brazil know Jack Nicklaus won a record 18 major championships, but poll patrons at a PGA Tour event and see how many can tell you of Snead’s record haul of 82 Tour titles. Snead won seven major championships, but most conversations focus on his four U.S. Open runner-up showings. He captured three green jackets, yet there are no bridges or architectural features named in his honor at Augusta National. And when you talk about golf’s greatest swings, it’s Hogan, Hogan, Hogan. Even Byron Nelson has a swing machine named in his honor – Iron Byron – by the U.S. Golf Association. Ben Hogan is revered for his swing, because he “found it in the dirt.” Hogan worked to perfect his mechanics. Snead was a natural and therefore not worthy of as much praise, or some might think. It’s true that Snead was gifted athletically. Instructor Jim McLean, who worked with Snead on the video “Sam Snead: Swing for a Lifetime,” once asked NBA legend Jerry West to name the greatest athlete he had ever seen or played with. “I thought he might say Michael Jordan. Maybe Wilt Chamberlain, since he played with him. Maybe Jim Brown or maybe even himself. He said Sam Snead. He said Sam was the best basketball player, best baseball player, best football player, best at track and field in the state of West Virginia. He could do anything,” McLean relayed. But to refer to Sam’s ability to hit a golf ball as little more than an innate gift is a discredit to a man who worked diligently to get the most out of what God gave him. “When he wasn’t playing on Tour, he was back at The Greenbrier practicing. I don’t think he ever went longer than a week or two without playing golf,” said Snead protégé Del Snyder, who worked 19 years for Snead at The Greenbrier, starting in 1955. “He’d hit balls and have someone chase them down. He’d then find someone to play with and go out for 18 holes, and if his swing wasn’t what he wanted it to be, he’d go right back to the range and hit balls again.” “Sam hated it when you called him a natural,” said William Campbell, a World Golf Hall of Fame member who first met Snead in 1936, “because he worked really hard. You couldn’t last and be competitive for as long as he was without hard work.” Records give credence to Campbell’s logic. Snead is the oldest player to win on Tour (52 years, 10 months, 8 days). He shot 60, at age 60, in the 1972 PGA. He finished third two years later at 62. He shot his age (67) in the second round of the 1979 Quad Cities Open – then shot 66 in the final round. At age 71, he shot 60 at the Lower Cascades in his home of Hot Springs, Va. Hogan said, “Sam Snead doesn’t know a thing about hitting a golf ball. He just does it better than anyone else.” Hogan was right: Snead did do it better than anyone else. And Hogan was wrong: Sam did know what he was doing. “Sam was very knowledgeable about the golf swing,” McLean said. “He was a player, not a teacher, but if you gave him a little bit of time he would really explain what he was doing.” “I’ve hit two million practice shots,” Snead once said, “so I ought to know what I’m doing.” Growing up, Snead would get off the school bus and run directly to the neighboring Homestead resort, where he would assemble hickory-shafted clubs. He’d have to cut each one precisely, making sure that the various clubs had similar flexibility. “It was hard work, but it helped Sam get a feel for the club,” Campbell said. “As a professional, he was a human testing machine for the Wilson (Sporting Goods) company. Every time they’d come out with a new set of clubs, they’d bring it to Sam to get his feedback.” Snead relied on feel and didn’t complicate his mechanics. But there’s a difference between ignorance and simplicity. He wrote several instruction books and, according to Jack, pros such as Nick Faldo, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh wanted to work with his father. Faldo even made a trip in the mid-’90s to The Greenbrier, where Sam served in various capacities for roughly 50 years, for some one-on-one time. “He loved to teach people,” Jack said. “He’d see people hitting balls at The Greenbrier and he’d walk on over and help them out, for hours sometimes. Never charged a thing. Think about that, what a thrill it must have been for someone to have Sam Snead helping them with their game.” Snead didn’t do everything pro bono, but if you wanted to learn from the best, all you had to do was ask. Unfortunately, few professionals took advantage of his wealth of knowledge. “I’ve heard from other people that Sam was a little bit disappointed that we – the generation below him – didn’t seek him out for more advice because he had so much to offer,” said Curtis Strange, who met Snead as a 6-year-old, when his father was head pro at The Greenbrier. “Sam was my hero. Everything I did growing up was related to Sam. ‘Did Sam do this? Did Sam do that?’ You know, with the golf swing. I thought the world of him.” Fuzzy Zoeller was 14 when he first met Snead. They played several rounds together and spent lots of time in each other’s company on Augusta National grounds after Zoeller won the ’79 Masters. “The talent that man had to hit the golf ball, to hit all the different shots – little hooks and little cuts. You go and see these kids today, they just whale away and they don’t care where it goes. The art that man had was outstanding,” Zoeller said. “He was graceful,” said two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw, “just incredible to watch.” Snead’s tempo can be attributed to learning the game by fashioning his first set of clubs from broken buggy whips. Hitting a golf ball with a club head attached to such a flexible shaft, you develop classic timing – or you smash your shin. “His swing was poetry in motion,” McLean said. “Doing the video, we had some of the legends take part: Nicklaus, Player, Trevino, Watson. And they all talked about the same thing, it was that tempo, that rhythm, the gracefulness of Snead. Jack (Nicklaus) said that he always played better when he played with Sam because his swing would become smoother.” Jack Snead noted that while his father’s swing produced great power, it centered on a soft touch. “Let me see your arm,” he said, placing a very delicate grip on my wrist. “Feel how light that is? That’s how Dad gripped the club – you could pull it right out of his hands – and he hit it over 300 yards with persimmon. He would put lead weight on the back of his clubs, too. He wanted the weight of the club to take it back, not his hands.” Jack also pointed out that his father played a couple of musical instruments, including the trumpet, and “swung with a waltzing tune in his head. Dah dah dah dah – dah dah – dah dah. Three times longer to take it back as it comes down.” By contrast, Hogan’s swing was a full second quicker. Snead wouldn’t even watch Hogan hit a ball for fear it would disturb his own rhythm. Tiger Woods once said, “Only two players have ever truly owned their swings: Moe Norman and Ben Hogan.” But even Hogan knew who owned the sweetest swing. “Ben once said Sam had the greatest, purest swing he’d ever seen,” said Campbell. “That was high praise.”last_img read more

I Think, Therefore I Am

first_imgLOS ANGELES – Butch Harmon didn’t transform Jimmy Walker’s swing during this marvelous run of victories. More than anything, he transformed Walker’s thinking. He turned him into a badass. “Butch tells Jimmy `You’re a badass!’” says Erin Walker, Jimmy’s wife. “Butch tells him `You’re the man!’ Butch tells him these things all the time. “When you hear from the best coach who’s ever lived that you’re a badass, you have to believe it. I think that’s where this confidence is coming from.” OK, if you know Walker, you know he isn’t a you-know-what, not in the conventional sense. Between the ropes, though, Harmon is getting Walker to believe things about himself he never believed before. His work with Harmon is the largest factor in the 35-year-old Walker suddenly emerging as a force on the PGA Tour. Harmon is a significant reason Walker will tee it up Thursday at the Northern Trust Open with a chance to win for the fourth time in this 2013-14 season. Video: Walker discusses hot start from Riviera Northern Trust Open: Articles, videos and photos That’s what the confidant closest to Walker believes. “What’s different now?” Erin says. “It’s got to be Butch Harmon. He’s the reason. Butch didn’t have to change a lot in Jimmy’s swing. He had a good foundation from his old coach. I think it’s just the confidence Jimmy’s getting from having Butch Harmon want him in his stable of players, from being able to call Butch Harmon whenever he wants, to have Butch Harmon standing on the range with him. That’s really the only difference from Jimmy now and Jimmy three years ago.” Walker says he gets a lot of blunt direction from Harmon. “He sends me motivational texts,” Walker says. “He’s a pretty to-the-point guy. I like that about him. He says it’s all about winning.” Walker was a talented young prospect coming out of Baylor. He won twice on the Nationwide Tour in ’04, winning the tour’s money title and Player of the Year award. He would go on to battle neck and shoulder injuries and fail to reach the promise so many saw in his swing and game. Back in 2012, Walker sought out Harmon, asking for help. That first year, Harmon didn’t have room for Walker in his four-player stable. Harmon told Walker he would work with him at his school in Las Vegas, but he couldn’t work with Walker at tournaments. A little less than a year watching the potential in Walker, Harmon decided to take Walker under his wing as a full-fledged stable member early in the spring of 2013. Given Harmon’s status as the No. 1 teacher in the game, it was a bit surprising to see him take on an aging, winless player. What did Harmon see? “I saw tremendous talent,” Harmon said. “But I wasn’t sure how good he believed he was.” So Harmon went to work on more than Walker’s swing. “Jimmy needed to believe in himself more than anything,” Harmon said. “We worked on his swing, but it was important to get through to him how good he really was.” Harmon got Walker to believing that when he stepped inside the ropes, he could kick some butt. “We’re not drinking any magic potion,” Erin said. “Jimmy’s just confident, and confidence goes a long ways. He feels validated winning. That does amazing things for your golf and confidence.” Harmon mixes a little tough love with that back-slapping encouragement and bravado. With Walker glowing after the 2013 PGA Tour season, Harmon challenged him. Walker had just finished his best year on Tour, finishing a career-best 28th on the money list. That wasn’t good enough for Harmon. “We didn’t win,” Harmon told Walker flatly. “That’s what we want. That’s why we play golf. It’s all about winning.” Walker went out and won his first start of the new 2013-14 season. “You got to know when to kick a guy in the butt, you got to know when to give him a hug,” Harmon said. “You got to know when to give a guy some space, and you got to know when to make him laugh. I treat every player different. Jimmy needed to believe in himself more than anything.” These days, Walker is radiating with belief.last_img

Rose wins Quicken Loans in playoff over Stefani

first_imgBETHESDA, Md. – Justin Rose has won enough times on the strongest golf courses to appreciate how one mistake can make a difference. He got away with one Sunday at Congressional to win the Quicken Loans National. Shawn Stefani did not. With the poise and the putting touch of a U.S. Open champion, Rose atoned for a 4-iron he hit into the water on the 18th hole to make a 15-foot bogey putt that got him into a playoff and gave him new life. On the 18th hole in the playoff, Stefani hit the same type of shot that rolled into the same pond left of the green. There are no second chances in a sudden-death playoff. Rose won with a par on the first extra hole for his first victory since the U.S. Open last summer at Merion. This one required about as much work, with Congressional far more difficult and unrelenting than when it hosted a soggy U.S. Open three years ago. ”Congressional got its reputation back after the U.S. Open,” Rose said. ”I really enjoy this type of golf and this type of test. I think it tested all of us. I’m delighted.” Quicken Loans National: Articles, videos and photos The Englishman was far from delighted after thinking he had thrown this one away. Tied for the lead as he played the 18th, Rose tried to squeeze a 4-iron through a tiny gap in the trees from 209 yards away, playing toward the right side of the green for a chance at par. Instead, he turned it over and realized when he jogged toward the fairway that it was headed for the water. His caddie, Mark Fulcher, told Rose that Stefani had just made bogey behind them on the 17th. ”Everything else was forgotten at that point,” Rose said. ”I wiped the slate clean and just focused on my putt on 18. An amazing feeling in any sort of championship when you make a putt like that. That means something. That’s special. ”And then the playoff, it was just up to me to not do what I did the first time around.” He left that to Stefani, who had drilled his tee shot in regulation and narrowly missed a 20-foot birdie putt for his first PGA Tour victory. In the playoff, Stefani pulled his tee shot in the trees and got relief from grandstands blocking his view of the green. He chose a 6-iron to punch it around the trees. ”The grass closed the club down,” Stefani said, ”and it went left into the water. I was trying to play it down the right side and have a chance at a putt, two putts for a par. That’s the way it goes. It was great to have a chance to win.” Both closed with a 1-under 70 and finished at 4-under 280 on a course that looked like a U.S. Open, and played like one the way so many contenders – seven players had at least a share of the lead at one point – tumbled down the leaderboard. Only six players broke par in the final round. And it was only the second time this year that the winning score was higher than the 36-hole lead (6 under). That also happened at Torrey Pines, which like Congressional, previously hosted a U.S. Open. No one crashed harder than Patrick Reed, who had a two-shot lead to start the final round, still had a two-shot lead at the turn and didn’t even finish in the top 10. He made back-to-back double bogeys, shot 41 on the back and closed with a 77 to tie for 11th. ”This definitely burns and definitely gets me more fired up for more events coming up,” Reed said. Even though he got a reprieve with the clutch bogey putt, Rose looked like a U.S. Open champion the way he put himself into position. He hit 5-iron to 5 feet for one of only four birdies on the 11th hole Sunday. Staring at potential bogey from deep rough on the 14th, he boldly hit 3-wood up the hill and between the deep bunkers to the middle of the green. It was a par, but Rose called the 3-wood his ”shot of the day.” And before his blunder on the 18th, he holed an 8-foot sliding par putt on the 17th. ”I felt like all aspects of my game were tested this week, and it’s really nice to win in that fashion,” Rose said. Stefani, whose only major experience was at Merion last year, plodded along like a U.S. Open veteran with one par after another. He joined Rose in the lead with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th. So many others fell back. Brendon Todd was tied for the lead until a double bogey in the water on the 10th. Marc Leishman three-putted for bogey on No. 7 and made bogey on the easiest par 4 at Congressional. Brendan Steele made a late rally, only to take on too much from the rough on the 18th and find the water for double bogey. This was the first British Open qualifier on the PGA Tour – the leading four players not already exempt from the top 12 at Congressional get into Royal Liverpool next month. Stefani earned one spot as the runner-up. Charley Hoffman (69) and Ben Martin (71) each birdied two of the last three holes to tie for third. Steele got the last spot with a 71 that put him in a three-way tie for third with Andres Romero and Todd, who already is exempt. Steele earned the spot over Romero because he has a higher world ranking. Romero closed with a 68, the low score in a final round when the scoring average was 73.7.last_img read more

Notes: How long is long enough on Tour?

first_imgSCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Tim Clark was wrong about one thing. He’s not the shortest hitter on the PGA Tour. Justin Leonard earned that distinction last season on the PGA Tour by finishing at No. 177 in measured drives at an average of 270.3 yards. Clark was three spots better at 272.2 yards. Either way, he quit worrying about driving distance a long time ago, realizing he can make up for it with other parts of his game. But it led to a question: How long is long? And when is it long enough? Russell Knox has the reputation of being on the short side, even though he feels he can get it out there far enough. Knox was at No. 120 in driving distance last year. He believes there are three categories of length. ”Guys that are a little short. Everyone else. And guys who bomb it,” Knox said. ”And there’s probably 10 guys who bomb it.” There were 25 players who averaged 300 yards off the tee last year, though that group included Charles Howell III and Lucas Glover. They are power players, but probably not in the same ”bombers” class as Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Gary Woodland or Rory McIlroy. ”I played with Bubba a couple of years ago and I almost cried,” Knox said. ”I was like, if this guy hits it straight, I might as well try to caddie for him. But the reality is, distance is maybe 10 percent of golf. If those guys hit it so much further than me, there’s obviously part of my game that is better than theirs or I’d never beat them. I need to focus on those parts.” Knox might be too stingy by saying there are only about 10 guys in the A-plus power group. He also thinks there are no more than 10 players who are seriously short. ”Most guys that are short have been out here a long time,” he said. ”They’re absolutely geniuses. They have great short games. They’re great putters.” Clark referred to players like Adam Scott who could be in the A-plus group if he wanted to except that Scott tries to play more under control. ”There’s a lot more real bombers than we think,” Clark said. ”If you’re just looking at the stats, it doesn’t give a true picture of how long these guys are. … That’s almost as big of a group as the medium guys.” One ”medium guy” might be Russell Henley, who was No. 61 in driving distance last year. Henley said there were five levels of power on the PGA Tour, and he put himself somewhere around the middle because the smashers – Watson, Johnson, Holmes – ”are probably two levels above me.” Henley offered this definition of his driving distance: ”When you’re short, it puts pressure on your drive because you’ve got to hit the fairway. I need to hit the fairway, but it’s not the end of the world if I don’t.” Henley already has two of the 10 drives that have been measured at 400 yards or more this year, all of them at Kapalua. One of them was on the 17th hole, all the way to the bottom. He still made par. MOVING ON: Phil Mickelson is more interested in the next decade or two in the Ryder Cup, not what happened the last time in Gleneagles. Mickelson made his first public appearance last week since he spoke openly in the closing press conference at Gleneagles about the lack of a communication between U.S. captain Tom Watson and the team. Mickelson is part of a Ryder Cup task force geared toward creating a model. It already has met once, with another meeting expected next week. Would this open dialogue have occurred had Mickelson not spoken up after the loss to Europe in September? ”I just think there’s a lot of great input. I’m excited about what we’re doing moving forward,” Mickelson said last week. ”How we got there, doesn’t matter. We’re there now and we’re going to make it a really great experience for the next generation of players as they go through the next decade or two.” Watson, too, is ready to move on. He played the Champions Tour opener last week in Hawaii and was excited to see two Ryder Cup players, Patrick Reed and Jimmy Walker, win the Hawaii events. ”I’m proud of Jimmy and Patrick, and the way they played at the Ryder Cup,” Watson said. ”I’m proud of the way all the players played on the Ryder Cup team. They gave it their best shot. The other team just played better is the bottom line. It was a great event for the Europeans. It was not a great event for us, although we had our moments.” When asked if it was time to move on, Watson replied, ”Sure. Because there’s nothing we can do about it now.” SPIETH DEAL: One new deal, one long-term renewal. Jordan Spieth has made quite an impression since the end of the last PGA Tour season, all very quietly. First was the deal with AT&T, significant because the Dallas-based telecommunications firm not only is one of the strongest corporate partners on the PGA Tour, but because it has not signed any golfer to a personal endorsement since it cut ties with Tiger Woods in 2009. The deal shows a lot of trust in the 21-year-old Spieth. And then last week, Under Armour announced a comprehensive, 10-year extension with Spieth. Spieth first signed with Under Armour in 2013 when he turned pro and is the first golfer to be outfitted head-to-toe in Under Armour gear. The company plans international marketing with Spieth, and he is involved in a golf shoe that is to debut in the spring. BASEBALL FEAT: Rob Manfred took over Sunday as commissioner of MLB, and during a guest appearance on the league’s network he was asked his greatest athletic achievement. After taking a mulligan (he played two years of tennis at Le Moyne College), Manfred said he has made a hole-in-one – twice, on the same hole. Manfred said he used a 6-iron to ace the third hole at Sleepy Hollow. ”And the next year I was older, used a 5-iron,” he said. DIVOTS: Juli Inkster has selected Wendy Ward to be one of her assistant captains at the Solheim Cup in Germany this year. … Frank Nobilo is joining CBS Sports as a golf analyst. Peter Oosterhuis announced last week he was retiring. Nobilo will continue his work at Golf Channel. … The USGA has selected James R. Hansen for its Herbert Warren Wind Book Award. Hansen wrote ”A Difficult Par: Robert Trent Jones Sr. and the Making of Modern Golf.” STAT OF THE WEEK: Starting with the final round at Kapalua, the low scores in each of the last nine rounds on the PGA Tour have been 62, 62, 62, 62, 63, 63, 61, 63 and 63. FINAL WORD: ”I lost a few world ranking points, a trophy and some money. But I can handle all of those three things.” – Martin Kaymer, on losing a 10-shot lead with 13 holes to play in Abu Dhabi.last_img read more

Anchoring’s Aftermath

first_imgORLANDO, Fla. – The army of anchorers has all but disbanded. The belly and broom have essentially gone belly up with the Jan. 1 ban still eight months away. All that’s left are three major winners relearning how to play with a putter that isn’t pressed against their sternum or stomach. To the casual fan, this wouldn’t seem like a huge deal – they’re PGA Tour players! – but the early returns have suggested otherwise: • Adam Scott snapped a streak of 45 consecutive made cuts after a cover-your-eyes week in Tampa. • Keegan Bradley ranked 29th last year in putting. So far this season, he’s 148th. • Webb Simpson has never ranked worse than 58th on the greens (including 34th a year ago). Today, he’s 92nd. Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, videos and photos This (way-too-early) data from the marquee names would imply that anchoring helps, that the transition is more significant than originally thought, and that’s bad news with the start of major season now only 21 days away. Indeed, the new normal is an uncomfortable one for the former anchorers, which is why rounds such as Thursday’s at Bay Hill can represent a significant step. All three players shot 69 or better in the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. “Every round that we play is so big for us,” Bradley said, “because it’s another round under our belt that we haven’t had. This is new for all of us.” For his many gifts, Scott has never been a particularly strong putter, with or without the broomstick. Only three times since 2004 has he been ranked inside the top 100 in putting. When he switched to the broom-handled putter in spring 2011, the most notable difference was not that he consistently poured in more birdie putts, but that his poor putting days weren’t as bad. That led to him racking up six top-five finishes in majors since 2011, the most of any player over that span. After messing around with the short putter during a long offseason, Scott started auspiciously over the first two rounds at Doral. He faded over the weekend (T-4) and had a rough two days in Tampa, leading to his first early exit in 45 events. Entering this week, he had missed 17 times inside 10 feet over his last four rounds and lost a whopping 7.9 strokes to the field. Worse, he admitted that he wasn’t “married” to the short stick, meaning he was still flirting with the idea of switching back. Indecisiveness typically doesn’t play well at Augusta. Scott appears to have settled on a unique approach in which he uses a conventional grip for longer putts on slower greens, and the claw grip for putts from inside, say, 30 feet. The longest birdie putt he made Thursday was an 8-foot, 11-inch putt on No. 9, his final hole of the day. Three of his four birdies during an opening 68 were from inside 3 feet. That’s not uncommon this week on a course that has slower, bumpier and spottier greens than usual. “[The greens] are not exactly what I was hoping for to test my stroke at the moment,” Scott conceded. Bradley, meanwhile, switched to the shorter putter at the World Challenge event in December, and after a high finish there he declared it was one of the “biggest tournaments of my career.” Hyperbolic, perhaps, but it only underscores how fragile a player’s confidence can be on the greens. Four months later, Bradley described his putting performance as “kind of boring, middle of the road,” which is also one way to describe his results – only one top-15 in six 2015 starts. Bradley has transitioned from a 46 1/4-inch putter to one that is about 39 inches – still longer than a conventional short putter – but has a long, thick grip that is similar to his belly model. His new putter is more upright, which puts his eyes more directly over the ball. “It’s very awkward, very different,” he said of the switch. “I’ve given up thousands of rounds, thousands of hours to these guys out here, so I’m gaining some of those back as we speak.” Simpson is starting from square one, too. Earlier this year he snapped his belly putter – the same club that helped him win the 2012 U.S. Open – over his knee so he wouldn’t be tempted to use it again. At times this season he probably wished he had some superglue, because in 15 tournament rounds he is 92nd on Tour in putting. He lost nearly 1.5 strokes on the greens on Thursday, too, even during an opening 69. “I’m having some good days, some bad days, similar to the belly putter,” he shrugged. For the past year and a half, the anchoring brigade said it would wait as long as possible before changing – you know, to make hay while they could. Yet today, it’s rare to see a long putter on the PGA Tour, and the ban doesn’t take effect until the first day of 2016. “Waiting until the last minute, it was a situation where it was almost like I was forced into doing something, like it was my last resort,” Simpson said. In a few years we’ll know how much anchoring truly mattered. For now, there’s only one option: Adapt.last_img read more

Spieth comes close to perfection

first_imgSHEBOYGAN, Wis. – The pursuit of the Greatest Major Season Ever isn’t supposed to be easy. “There’s a reason I have a receding hairline,” Jordan Spieth said, “and it’s because of that kind of pressure building up and that kind of stress. As much of a thrill as it is, it can wear you down.” He emptied the tank Sunday at Whistling Straits.  With one final chance to stamp his major season as the best of all time, Spieth embraced the moment and put on a memorable show at this PGA Championship – crouching and kneeling, begging and pleading, spinning and marching, swiping and fist-pumping, barking and cheering. It just wasn’t enough. Spotting one of the hottest players in the world a two-shot lead, Spieth could only watch in awe as Jason Day buried five years of frustration with a near-flawless 67 to bully his way into the major winner’s circle. “By far the best loss I’ve ever had,” Spieth said. Spieth lost to the lowest score ever shot in a major, 20-under 268. His own 17-under total is the best score in a major (relation to par) by a non-winner or playoff participant. Big picture, Spieth’s 54-under par cumulative score in the majors is the best all time, eclipsing by one Tiger Woods’ epic 2000 season. His 1,090 strokes in the majors are the fewest ever, five less than Woods’ gold standard. And he is the third player since 1960 to finish in the top-4 in all four majors in a season. Historic by any measure.  But it wasn’t until after the round that Spieth learned of the greatest consolation prize of all: His solo second was enough to overtake Rory McIlroy and ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Ranking, one of his lifelong goals.  “That will never be taken away from me now,” he said. Neither will one of the two best major seasons of the modern era.    This week there was considerable debate on where a three-major haul by Spieth would rank in the pantheon of all-time great seasons. It’s all a moot point now, of course, because Spieth fell short of earning the hat trick, and thus his major season will be slotted behind Woods in 2000 and Ben Hogan in 1953. But the conversation was interesting, and it served as a reminder of how close the 22-year-old came to reshaping our perception of major greatness. So while it’s easy to mourn what could have been, it’s worth celebrating one of the most impressive stretches of golf we’ve ever seen.   There was the runaway, record-breaking victory at the Masters. There was the taut finish at the U.S. Open, where Spieth was fortunate not only to avoid a loss, but also a playoff, after Dustin Johnson’s three-putt from 12 feet.  And then there was the gut-wrenching conclusion to the Open Championship, where Spieth had a tie for the lead after 70 holes and kicked away a chance to win. No one in the modern era – not Palmer, not Nicklaus, not Woods – has come closer to winning the third leg of the Grand Slam. All told, Spieth came within four measly shots of the single-season Slam. Only Nicklaus in 1975 (three) was closer. “You only get four (majors) a year,” Spieth said, “and to have an opportunity to win all of them is so cool.” Thing is, Spieth could very easily have mailed it in after St. Andrews. He could have showed up at the PGA, punched the clock, recorded another top 10 and been content with his two-major campaign. But his focus shifted to the winning this major, to making the most of this glorious year, the moment his last gasp from the Valley of Sin veered left of the cup. When he returned home to Dallas, he took only two days off and got back to work with swing coach Cameron McCormick. After a rusty start at Firestone, he closed with 66 and back-doored a top 10. “In our conversations where he confides in me, there was no letdown at all,” McCormick said. “Of course he would have loved to get into the playoff and win that tournament. That’s obvious. But there’s still a lot to play for.” Here he smiled. “Jordan is also very good at revising goals once he checks off a box, and he’s set some further goals for the rest of the season.” The PGA was next on Spieth’s list, and with a victory he could have become the first player to sweep all three American majors in the same season. His bid got off to a slow start, but a 71 in tough conditions kept him in touch with the leaders. No surprise there – he never trailed by more than five strokes after any major round this season. After his putter heated up, Spieth soared into contention with rounds of 67-65 and stirred hopes of even more history. With a back-nine 30 Saturday, he earned a spot in another final group, trailing the star-crossed Day by two. No player has put himself in position to break through more often recently than Day, but the Aussie showed the kind of audacity Sunday that had been lacking in his other close calls. Wailing away on his driver, he birdied four of his first seven holes to create some separation. The turning point in the final round came on No. 11, a reachable par 5 of 555 yards. Day belted a drive that practically waved at Spieth’s ball on the way by, bounded down the hill and settled 382 yards away. Walking up to their tee shots, Spieth whirled around and yelled, “Holy s—! You’ve gotta be kidding me!” Day smiled and flexed his bicep. A few moments later, he launched a wedge onto the green for an easy birdie, and when Spieth’s weak attempt from 6 feet peeled away at the cup, Day had regained his four-shot advantage. “It was a stripe show,” Spieth said. “It was really a clinic to watch.” Day got up and down out from the sand on 12. He stuffed an approach out of a deep fairway bunker to 10 feet on 14, then poured in the birdie putt. And after he gave back a shot on 15, he ripped a 4-iron to 20 feet on the par-5 16th to set up a stress-free birdie. “Each time he stood and took it back, I had hope,” Spieth said. “And each time after it came off the face, the hope was lost.” Spieth tried everything. He talked to his ball. Listened to pep talks from caddie Michael Greller. Made a few of the best up-and-downs of his life. Tried to will his ball into the cup. “To be honest,” Day said, “the kid just doesn’t go away.” But nothing worked, not this time.  Spieth’s goal at the start of the day was to shoot 68. That’s exactly what he signed for – and lost by three. Ever gracious in defeat, Spieth unabashedly praised his fellow competitor down the stretch. When Day made an unlikely birdie on 14, Spieth waited for him by the next tee and said, “I mean, wow, that’s impressive right there.” When Day nestled his long lag putt on 17 to within tap-in range, Spieth locked eyes and gave him a thumbs up. And when it was all over, when Day sobbed in his caddie’s arms and his young family spilled out onto the green, Spieth stood and applauded.   Later, while waiting in the scoring trailer, Spieth looked at Day and told him, “There was nothing I could do.” That helps explain why a legitimate run at the single-season Grand Slam only comes around every decade or two. It requires exquisite golf, yes, but also mental toughness, good fortune and timing. So much has to align, and in the end Spieth was four shots from perfection, from the Greatest Major Season Ever. “I’m tired right now,” he said. “I left it all out there.”last_img read more

Woods gives us reason to be excited

first_imgPALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Listen to what Tiger Woods said Sunday after finishing the Honda Classic. Forget his even-par 70. Forget his 12th-place finish, his best in a PGA Tour event in 30 months. Forget his 128 mph swing speed, which ranks him ahead of so many of the fastest, strongest and longest young players in the game today. Forget all of that and listen to what he said leaving here . . . “The last couple days, it felt easy to play tournament golf,” Woods said. That’s the real story here this week. That is the giant stride Woods made here this week. It’s the giant dose of hope he created with the Masters six weeks away. It’s the giant promise he generated in reawakening the possibility that he really may not be done making history. It felt “easy” to play tournament golf again. There’s a mountain of achievement in those words, because this game has looked so damn hard and painful for him to play for so long. What we saw this week was encouraging, but what we didn’t see was almost as encouraging. No wincing in discomfort. No doubling over in pain, no limping. In just his third PGA Tour start after his fourth back surgery, a fusion that left a lot of us thinking we might never see him play again, Woods is way, way ahead of even his own schedule. Listen . . . “I didn’t really know what to expect,” Woods said of coming back this year. “My expectations have gone up.” So have everyone else’s. Full-field scores from the Honda Classic Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos There was something special in this week’s performance that will make too many of us rush too far ahead, but that was the story this week. Tiger speeded things up. He dramatically changed the narrative around him with his unexpected run into contention. He made those six weeks until the Masters suddenly seem like enough time to get himself ready to compete for a green jacket again. That seems crazy given where he was a few short months ago, but listen . . . “I’m just building towards April,” Woods said. “I’m trying to get myself ready for that, and I feel like I’m right on track for that.” Tiger got himself on track on an extremely penal golf course at PGA National, in blustery winds that magnified misses and exposed imprecise ball striking. Woods didn’t win this week, but he finished third in driving distance at 319 yards per drive. His driver may not be perfect, but it’s no longer a liability. It’s a weapon again. His iron play got a whole lot better this week. He was first in proximity to the hole this week. Yeah, nobody hit it closer. He was 10th in hitting greens in regulation. He hit 14 greens in regulation Sunday, most in a round since he tied for 10th at the Wyndham Championship in the summer of 2015. His 12th-place finish overall here, by the way, was his best since then. The short game’s still looking good. He was T-11 in scrambling. His putter didn’t allow him to take advantage of all those improvements. He was 18th in strokes gained putting. Mostly, Woods got beat by the Bear Trap this week. He dumped a shot in the water Sunday at the 15th, cutting his shot too much into the wind there. It was his second rinsed shot there this week, leading to his second double bogey there. Woods was 8 over through the Bear Trap’s trio of holes (Nos. 15-17) for the week. He was 8 under everywhere else. After missing the cut at the Genesis Open last week, where he was so wild off the tee and with his iron play, the question this week was whether he could simply make the cut. He didn’t win this week, but he changed the nature of the questions about what may lie ahead for him. Listen . . . “I know it’s been a long time, but I remember how to do this,” Woods said. Joey LaCava, Woods’ caddie, knows how the expectations will change now. “I see strides, good positive things going forward,” LaCava said. “I didn’t want to panic when he didn’t play well at LA last week, and I don’t want to get ahead of myself here, but it’s nice to see him moving forward. I think he hit the ball better every day this week. LaCava said Woods seemed to get tired in the middle of Sunday’s round. He said being gym fit and golf fit walking 72 holes are different things. It’s another area where Woods can get better. Mostly, LaCava liked how Woods reacted with his name climbing the leaderboard going into the weekend. “It’s nice to see him get the juices flowing and get amped up a little bit and hit the ball farther,” LaCava said. “You can see a difference in mentality. Woods could feel it. Just listen . . . “I had control of my game,” he said. There’s so much promise in those words.last_img read more

Monday Scramble: Rise and ready to shine

first_imgThe Masters awaits, Ian Poulter claims the final spot in the field, the LPGA’s first major is played in the dark and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble: The Masters is always the most-anticipated major – partly because of the timing in the schedule, but mostly because it’s the freakin’ Masters – and yet this year it feels even bigger. Tiger Woods has a legitimate chance to win for the first time in five years. Phil Mickelson snapped his winless drought last month. Nearly all of the top 15 players in the world have either contended or taken a title this year. All of the pieces are in place for an epic Masters and the continuation of what has already been an intriguing year in golf, with so many top players in form. Below is a list of my top 10 favorites, and that list could have gone another 10 or 15 deep. We’ve been waiting eight months for this event, and with the current state of the game, there’s almost no way it disappoints. 1. Here is one man’s list of the top 10 favorites for the Masters: 1. Justin Thomas: No round in the 60s in eight career rounds at Augusta, but never has he arrived at the year’s first major in such good form. Has all of the tools to make a run at the green jacket. 2. Justin Rose: Last year’s runner-up was his fifth top-10 at the Masters, and he’s finished in the top 10 in 13 of his past 16 starts worldwide. 3. Phil Mickelson: Looks great all throughout the bag, like it’s 2004 all over again. 4. Rory McIlroy: Was his lights-out putting at Bay Hill the start of another run or just an aberration? Here’s hoping it’s the former, because his sublime ball-striking should put him in the mix to finally complete the career Grand Slam. 5. Dustin Johnson: The clear favorite a year ago, DJ isn’t nearly as sharp but he still should factor. As always.  6. Bubba Watson: Arrives here with a pair of titles this season, but a word of caution: His two wins here (in 2012 and ’14) are the only times he’s played well at Augusta. 7. Jordan Spieth: His putting (especially inside 10 feet) is a serious concern, but no one has played this course better over the past few years than Spieth. 8. Jason Day: Cooled since February, but his driving-putting combo makes him a threat each spring. 9. Tiger Woods: Perhaps a more realistic view than those in Vegas. It’s easy to see him contending and in the mix come Sunday, but for him to actually win is another matter entirely. 10. Paul Casey: For those in Masters pools, the Englishman is a trendy (and deserving) pick given his course record and career-best form.    2. All eyes, as usual, will be on Woods this week. For those quick to dismiss Woods’ prospects this week, keep in mind that in his past 18 appearances here, he has finished worse than 22nd only once. He’s always in the mix – even after injury, layoff, scandal, swing change and chip yips. How will he fare this year? Well, his power has returned. His short game has been shored up. And the limited field works in his favor, since he realistically has to beat only about 30 guys. It’d be a surprise if Woods was NOT in the last couple of groups on Sunday. 3. One player who undoubtedly benefits from Woods’ return to relevance is McIlroy. Each year he seems overwhelmed by expectations to finally nab a green jacket. Though he’s had four consecutive top-10 finishes, he’s only had a legitimate chance in one of those starts, in 2016. McIlroy’s relative struggles with injury and inconsistency has been well-documented over the past few years, but he might finally be on the upswing. Over the weekend at Bay Hill, he was flawless, bashing drives, stiffing iron shots and leading the field in putting. It looked familiar, of course – he’s blown away the field in half of his four majors – but we hadn’t seen that level of dominance in four years. McIlroy has a history of riding a wave of confidence, and now he comes into the Masters like a tsunami. 4. Save for Woods, no one’s play this year has been as scrutinized as Spieth’s. It’s a testament to his talent and record that his three top-10s this season actually rates as a disappointment. The Houston Open offers plenty of reasons for optimism, though. Over four days he led the field in strokes gained-tee to green, returning to the type of ball-striking excellence that defined his 2017 season. His putter? It’s still a work in progress, but he showed an ability, at times, to get hot, even if the stats weren’t pretty. (Of the 75 players who played all four rounds, he was 69th on the greens.) Augusta isn’t the place to find your stroke, not with its undulating, lightning-quick greens, but Spieth has showed up here in worse form and still managed to put himself in position to win. His position through 54 holes since 2014: T1-1-1-T4. A quick start Thursday will help Spieth avoid waging a mental war with himself. 5. Don’t expect to see the same windy conditions that recently have added to the challenge at the Masters. This week’s forecast calls for moderate temperatures in the mid-70s, with winds topping out at 10 mph. There is some rain in the forecast, on Wednesday and Saturday, but as of this writing it’s not expected to cause any problems. The past two years, at least early, have seen cold temperatures and windy conditions. The 36-hole leader the past two years has been at 4 under. 6. In one of the most improbable stories of the year, Ian Poulter snagged the final Masters spot with a drought-busting victory in Houston. After an opening 73, Poulter sat 123rd among the 144-man field. He literally began packing his bags in anticipation of a missed cut. Then his putter – the same one he wielded during a star-making performance at the 2012 Ryder Cup – caught fire and he shot rounds of 64-65-67. It added up to his first stroke-play victory in the U.S., and his first win anywhere since 2012. It was also the biggest four-round turnaround on Tour in 35 years. “There’s life in the old dog yet,” he said. 7. Poulter has no shortage of detractors because of his brash attitude and antagonistic play, but even his harshest critics had to be impressed with his resolve over the past year. After all, last spring he thought he’d lost his PGA Tour card. He was set to return to Europe and try to climb his way back up the world rankings, but he was bailed out by a mathematical error in the Tour offices. Given new life, he finished second at The Players.   Then last week, he complained that he received misinformation from media members who mistakenly said that he was in the Masters after winning his match at the WGC-Match Play. Instead, he needed to win his afternoon match that day, too, and he got throttled. The top 50 players in the world earned an invitation, and he wound up 51st. His only way into Augusta was to win Houston. “It was hard work, and it takes a lot of mental strength to be able to do that,” he said. “Disappointment kicks in at some stage. But you know what? At times you have to dig deep. When you want something bad enough, then you have to go right down to the bottom and grab hold of what you can to come back up.” 8. Beau Hossler came up short in the Houston playoff, losing on the first extra hole, but he should take plenty of confidence from his career-best finish on Tour. The 23-year-old has had an auspicious rookie year, putting himself in contention early and often but with little to show for it. After averaging under 70 for the first two rounds on Tour this season, he ranked 175th in final-round scoring average (72.82). He hadn’t yet learned how to finish strong on the game’s biggest stage. That all changed Sunday in Houston, where he shot a bogey-free 67, ripped off four birdies in a row on the back nine and struck what he thought was the winning putt on the final hole of regulation, only for the ball to slide by the edge. He made a mess of the playoff hole to clear the way for Poulter. “I said yesterday I wanted to beat these guys at their best,” Hossler said, “and I think I saw Ian’s best today.” 9. The LPGA got incredibly lucky Sunday that the three playoff participants didn’t blow their shot at a major with a fluke miss in the dark at the ANA Inspiration. Inbee Park and Pernilla Lindberg battled through the night until officials mercifully deemed it too dark to continue. It was one of the most captivating (and absurd) moments in the tour’s long history. On the fourth extra hole, officials brought floodlights onto the 18th green that allowed the players to finish. Park somehow sank a 5-footer to extend. Lindberg finally won, on the eighth playoff hole, with the sun shining Monday morning. Anyone who has ever appeared on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” knows how grueling the early wakeup calls can be. Now Steve Stricker understands, too. Hoping to chat with him after a red-hot start to the PGA Tour Champions season, producers teased all show that Stricker would appear for a two-way live hit from the Golf Club of Houston range. But the show came and went, with no Stricker appearance. So what happened? Don’t blame you there, Stricks. This week’s award winners …  Coming Soon to the PGA Tour: Sam Burns. The reigning NCAA Player of the Year has made some noise on the big tour this year, but he closed with three consecutive rounds of 65 to win his first Web.com Tour event and essentially wrap up his Tour card for next season. Now he can focus on earning special temporary status and playing the rest of the season in the big leagues.   Welcome Back (However Briefly): Ty Tryon. The former teen star, who has disappeared from golf over the past decade, resurfaced last week after Monday qualifying for the Web event. He missed the cut with rounds of 74-73, but hey, this scribe would much rather see him tee it up than another athlete-turned-golfer. College Stud, Part 1: Albane Valenzuela. The Stanford sophomore shined at the ANA, sitting in a tie for 12th entering the final round – the best 54-hole position by an amateur in tournament history. Alas, she slumped to a 79 in the final round and slid to 59th.  College Stud, Part 2: Norman Xiong. The Oregon sophomore won two events in one week, including the stacked Goodwin by six shots, in which he beat top-ranked Justin Suh of USC by a whopping 21 strokes.   Be Still My Heart: Drive, Chip and Putt Championship. All the feels for this photo: Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Rafa Cabrera Bello. A popular one-and-done pick, considering his good form of late (T-3 in Mexico) and course history in Houston (fourth in 2016). Instead, he somehow shot a 77 in the second round and headed off early to Augusta. Sigh.last_img read more

Scott spends week getting to know Portrush

first_imgPORTRUSH, Northern Ireland – Adam Scott already has spent seven days at Royal Portrush, three of them with Darren Clarke, and the advice was invaluable to the end. They stood off the 18th green Sunday as Scott listened intently to a former Open champion whose game was forged on these links. How the course plays in different wind directions? Whether it’s worth hitting driver down the steep hill on the 17th? No, this was where to spend the next few days away from the course, with the Bushmills Distillery the leading option. ”I’ve seen enough now,” Scott said. ”I feel ready.” What he saw was better than he imagined. Royal Portrush hasn’t hosted golf’s oldest championship since 1951 and has a mystique except for the few who know it well. Clarke is on that list, having made Portrush his adopted home. Graeme McDowell is the only player who was raised in Portrush. Rory McIlroy is famous for the course record he set (61) at the North of Ireland Amateur when he was 16. It’s not usual for Scott to show up at The Open a full week ahead of time, as he did at Carnoustie a year ago. ”I was a bit surprised, my first look, at how demanding a golf course it is,” Scott said. ”Sometimes on a links you can get away with wide shots. Here, you don’t. It’s so penal off the tee, no matter what you hit. If you start spraying it, there’s going to be reloading a lot. If the wind doesn’t blow, there will be less of that. It is a very, very strong golf course.” The strength of this Open might be the support. For the first time in 159 years of this championship, tickets for the competition days had to be purchased in advance (and since then, the same ”all ticket” policy applies to Tuesday and Wednesday practice rounds). Tickets were even sold on Sunday, a rarity, and several grandstands along the back nine were filled. Full-field tee times from the 148th Open Championship Full coverage of the 148th Open Championship The largest crowd in the morning made it clear that Tiger Woods was on site. Woods, who has not played since June 16 at the U.S. Open, arrived Sunday morning and played 18 holes with Patrick Reed. ”Where’s Tiger?” one fan asked a marshal, and he was told to find the big gallery across the way at the 17th. Scott says Clarke gave him more than he could have wanted. He asked for a practice round, just to see how Clarke approached these links, and wound up playing three times with him. ”He’s gone out of his way to spend way too much time with me,” Scott said. ”I love watching how he plays the links he grew up on, to see what he thinks and how he navigates. He’s been incredibly helpful. It’s nice to have a good level of comfort to go play the tournament.” The advantage of playing so much so early was seeing at least three different wind directions. ”This is not the wind we will see,” Clarke said as they walked up to the 16th tee, a ferocious par 3 known as ”Calamity Corner,” and the name fits. It is 236 yards on the card, with a steep drop to the right of the green that can send a golf ball 50 feet below the green unless the thick grass holds it up. Scott hit 4-iron with a wee breeze at his back. He saw the traditional wind earlier in the week. He hit 3-wood. Clarke introduced him to the ”Bobby Lockes,” a swale to the left of the green. Into a strong wind in the 1951 Open, Locke aimed left of the green all four fourds toward a walkway into the swale, and all four times got up-and-down for par. Clarke says he once had to smash driver when the wind was up. That begged the question: When it was blowing 40 mph in the rain, what was he doing out there? ”In my younger days, I would be playing,” he said. ”Now I would be at the bar.” Some three dozen players were playing on Sunday, some who missed the cut at the Scottish Open (Rickie Fowler, Kevin Kisner, Jimmy Walker). Others were coming over from Scotland later Sunday, or from the John Deere Classic in Illinois on Monday morning. On this day, with a blue sky and blue Atlantic Ocean and a lovely shade of green, it was ideal. ”I haven’t played the tournament yet, so you might want to ask again later Sunday,” Scott said. ”But Muirfield is my favorite Open venue, and this is right up there as far as the quality of the golf course. The other thing it has going for it is it’s spectacular. There’s more elevation. You see the ocean, the dunes. Often you come into a links, you drive in and you don’t see anything but flat. Here, it’s a spectacular course.”last_img read more

Finally! Discovery Institute Press Books in Audio Versions

first_imgEvolution Finally! Discovery Institute Press Books in Audio VersionsDavid [email protected]_klinghofferJune 25, 2019, 12:18 PM Share Requesting a (Partial) Retraction from Darrel Falk and BioLogos Email Print Google+ Linkedin Twitter Share Email Print Google+ Linkedin Twitter Share Recommended “A Summary of the Evidence for Intelligent Design”: The Study Guide A Physician Describes How Behe Changed His MindLife’s Origin — A “Mystery” Made AccessibleCodes Are Not Products of PhysicsIxnay on the Ambriancay PlosionexhayDesign Triangulation: My Thanksgiving Gift to All Origin of Life: Brian Miller Distills a Debate Between Dave Farina and James Tour Congratulations to Science Magazine for an Honest Portrayal of Darwin’s Descent of Man We’ve had many requests for audiobook versions of titles from the Discovery Institute Press backlist. These requests have been met with a mix of sympathy — we want them too! — and guilt at keeping you waiting. But as of today, there’s excellent news: the first titles from DI Press on audio are here, available on Amazon: Michael Denton’s Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis, and Tom Bethell’s Darwin’s House of Cards: A Journalist’s Odyssey Through the Darwin Debates. These are both important and enjoyable books. Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis helped turn Ben Shapiro, one of the smartest commentators out there, to Darwin skepticism. (Listen to Shapiro’s remarks here.) Literary critic A.N. Wilson recognized it in the London Spectator as a “best book” of 2016, calling it a “truly great book” and saying, of the argument Denton makes, that “It is hard to see how anyone…could not be persuaded.”Darwin’s House of Cards won the 2017 “Book of the Year” award in the Origins category from World Magazine, whose editor, Marvin Olasky, praised it as a “gusty and gutsy look at a dogma edging beyond its sell-by date.” Bethell is a wonderful journalist who has seen it all. His book, an eyewitness account, may offer the single most accessible introduction to the Darwin debate.You can get these two books via Audible or on an MP3 CD. Listen to Denton and Bethell on your commute, while you jog, or anywhere you happen to be and want to be stimulated and uplifted. Of course, there are already audio versions available of books by Discovery Institute star authors, including Stephen Meyer, Michael Behe, Douglas Axe, and others. Today’s releases are, though, the first from DI Press itself.This represents a bit of a test. We will measure the demand for DI Press books in audio formats and decide whether to press forward with more titles. Personally, I’m confident that these books will be very popular in their audio versions!Photo credit: Henry Be via Unsplash. TagsA.N. WilsonAudibleaudiobooksbacklistbiologyDarwin’s House of CardsDarwinismDiscovery Institute PressDouglas AxeevolutionEvolution: Still a Theory in CrisisjournalismLondon SpectatorMarvin OlaskyMichael BeheMichael DentonMP3 CDStephen MeyerTom Bethell,Trending Jane Goodall Meets the God Hypothesislast_img read more