Every now and then something happens that
should make us all proud of the game we love and the character golf seeks to
instill in those who play it.One
of those things happened over the weekend, when a 24-year-old pro from
Tennessee who had played his way into the U.S. Open via a 36-hole qualifier, DQed
himself five days after the fact, citing a guilty conscience.
Jason Millard, a mini-tour rabbit with one
start on the PGA Tour this year (missed the cut at the Honda Classic), had shot
68-68 last Monday at the sectional qualifier at Colonial Country Club in
Memphis.It was enough to get him
into his first Open, the biggest opportunity ever for the former standout from
Middle Tennessee State.
But there was a problem.Millard could not get it out of
his mind that he thinks he might have accidently grounded his club as he stood
over a shot in the bunker of the 18th at Colonial, his 27th
hole of the day.
At the time, Millard consulted a rules official
on the scene, who advised him that the decision whether to call a penalty on
himself was his and his alone to make.Nobody else saw it.It was
Millard didn’t call the penalty and went on to
qualify for Pinehurst by one shot.But for five days, it kept eating away at him.
pretty sure I grounded my club in the bunker," Millard told the USGA,
Jason Sobel wrote for GolfChannel.com. "I didn't see anything for sure,
but I felt something and I saw a small indentation. It happened so fast, I
really don't know 100 percent but deep down, I believe I did.
couldn't find peace about it. For five days, I practiced and I couldn't get it
off my mind."
Millard did the only thing he could do, if he wanted to live with himself.
whole thing is enough to give me hope for humanity, especially for golfers.Golf takes a lot of heat these days
about being in decline, or being the extravagant province of rich, self-important
country club types who too often adhere to the life principle of winning-at-all-cost.
certainly is that side to golf, and it is neither pretty nor good for the
future of golf.But as long as
there are people in the game like Jason Millard, who will do the right thing in
golf and in life, there is hope.
I was about to tee off with my usual foursome
this morning when one of the guys, Tim, said to me, "Hey, you haven’t updated
your blog in quite a while.What’s
What’s the matter?What’s
This, after he and his partner in golfing crime,
Stan, took $20 off me and my partner, Jack, on Saturday.And they would take another $20 off of
us today.And why?Because I stunk.
How can I even think about writing an
intelligent blog post about golf when I am wandering so hopelessly lost in the
dense, dark forest of golf?You
know, even when you are playing your best golf, they say you never "own" the
game;you can only "rent" it.Right now I couldn’t rent it with a
Platinum Amex card.
Strangely, this all comes after a couple of
months of me driving the ball straight and solid.But now, inexplicably, I have entered
into another dimension of suckedness.I hit tee shots sideways.Fat.Smother hooks.I pop them up.Today, I even topped one, which I never
Tim was only too happy to pull out his iPhone
to videotape my driver swing to show me where it was all going wrong.I use the term "swing" loosely, when in
fact we are talking about a move that has devolved into more of a spastic
lunge, or some kind of seizure, than an actual pass at the ball.
Of course, what’s wrong is all in my head,
which leads to it getting into my swing.For some reason, I can’t swing through the ball; I quit at impact.I’m trying to guide it.If they could hook me up and do some
kind of brain scan during my tee shots, I’m sure it would look like an
For a time today, I left the driver in my bag
and went with my good, reliable friend the 3-wood, until that rotten bastard
betrayed me, too.
A couple of times, after I hit tee shots that
went so far off line that I almost collapsed in a heap, I would look at Tim and
Jack and Stan and they would be standing there stone-faced, pity written all
over their faces, like those monkeys that see on evil, hear no evil, speak no
evil.Once, all three of them
averted their eyes rather than bust out laughing.
Most baffling of all, just when I am sapped of
all self-confidence and filled with self-loathing, I’ll crush one right now the
middle.Where did that come
from?Why can’t I do that every
The thing is, I’ve come to understand that
these bouts of driver yips come and go, although lately they’ve been coming
more than going.And once they
come, they stay too long, like a mooching relative.
I could take a lesson, I suppose, but why
bother?Like the last time the
driver yips barged uninvited into my life, they stayed until they were ready to
go.I can spend hours on the range
pounding balls -- one straight rocket after another.What’s the problem?I ask myself.I’ve got this thing figured out now.
But somewhere in the walk from the range to the
first tee, the stomach starts to churn and the demons in the back of my head
start whispering, "Psssst,
Joe, we’re still h-e-r-e."
It’s barely spring time but
Joe Bausch, intrepid photographer and Chronicler in Chief of the Bausch
Collection of golf course photo galleries is a it again.
So far this early season,
Joe, who doubles as a chemistry professor at Villanova University, has added four
more courses, raising the total number of galleries in the Bausch Collection 192.More courses are on the way.The latest additions are:
nBubba Watson is better than
we suspected, even after his first Masters win two years ago.He is also getting better, evolving from
a one-dimensional, hot-headed long-bomber into a much more complete player.He went about finishing off the Masters
(and Jordan Spieth) yesterday like a cold-blooded
nIf there is such a thing as
horses for courses, Bubba Watson has found his track in Augusta National.He could win the Masters two or three
more times before he’s finished.
nNo adult male should be named
is also better than we suspected, even if we already suspected he was very,
very good, if not the second-coming of Tiger Woods.
nWhich was more impressive,
that the 20-year-old Spieth played his way into a
share of the lead going into Sunday – in his first Masters, no less
--or the incredible poise and
maturity that he showed through out the week, most notably after Sunday’s
nThat said, you knew Spieth was toast late in the front nine – the first
time he slammed his club in the ground after a lousy approach shot.You know that Bubba saw that, and you
know that Bubba knew then that the Masters was his to lose.To his credit, Spieth
did not do a full Sunday meltdown (see Rory McIlroy,
2011).He held it together to shoot
sounds like something you’d call an iPhone app.
nNot having Phil and Tiger
around on the weekend wasn’t as bad as most of us initially feared.
nThat Masters theme song with
those tinkling piano keys has seemed so charming for so long.Why is it starting to get a little
nThe guy who comes away the
most disappointed in himself could very well be Matt Kuchar.If he is going to start winning majors,
his time is now.But he fizzled
again on Sunday, shooting 74.Afterward, the always jovial Kuchar looked
like he’d been hit by a bus.
nIt’s hard to know what to
like more about Miguel Angel Jimenez, his warm-up routine or his ponytail.
nEven more cloying than the
tinkling piano keys is this absurd business of referring to Masters "patrons."
nWhy, why, why does Rickie
Fowler insist on pulling his hat down over his ears?
nOn Golf Channel last night,
they pointed out that since 2003, six of 11 Masters winners have been
left-handed (Weir 2003;Phil 2004,
2006, 2010; Bubba 2112, 2114).Has
Augusta National become a lefty’s layout? they asked. Intriguing question.
nThere is nothing like the
Masters to remind you that the big-screen, high-def
TV is the greatest invention since, what, penicillin? The internet? The beer
nDid you even realize that
Stewart Cink (T-14) and Darren Clarke (T-44) had made
nAmong the 50-somethings, Fred
Couples (T-21) gets all the love and TV time but Bernhard Langer (T-8) deserves
nIt’s time for Joe T. Ford,
the former Augusta National chairman who does those "Welcome to the Masters...."
lead-ins to step aside.Sorry to
say it, but the drawling Arkansas native embodies the stereotypical image of
Augusta National’s members – old, white, rich.
nIn all candor, I never did
get excited about that Drive Chip & Putt contest Augusta National hosted
last Sunday.I felt guilty every
time they re-ran the highlights.
nDid you freakin’
believe Bubba’s tee shot at the 13th on Sunday?
nDuring the opening ceremonies
Thursday morning, it was impossible not to notice that Arnold Palmer is walking
with a pronounced limp these days.Looks like a bum hip to me.As a guy with two titanium hips, I can’t help but wonder what kind of
pain he might be in, and what kind of choices he might be facing at the age of
nNo. 14 is a better hole than
it appears on TV.I have played
Augusta National twice and I know that for a fact.It may have the most unforgiving green
on the course.
looks like the box Kevin Stadler came in.
nI wish I didn’t believe that
Tiger had won his last Masters.
And we’re off...This being April 1, up here in the Northeast, the 2014 golf season is
It’s a little nippy outside as
I write this, but the Weather Channel insists it will be clear and just shy of
60 degrees by late afternoon.If
you can’t sneak away for an afternoon round, maybe you can stop off at a
driving range on the way home from work to hit a large bucket.
This day – this spring
-- has been long in coming.I’ve
lived in Philadelphiafor 32 years
and I cannot remember a winter that was so nasty, so relentless and so unforgiving.Of course, maybe that’s because I’m
suddenly tiptoeing around the ice on twin titanium hips.
I like to think of myself as
a glass-half-full kind of guy, however, so I believe that as miserable as the
winter has been, the spring an summer will be our big reward. They will be glorious, at least they will
if there is any justice in the universe.
I cannot wait to truly break
in the new set of irons I bought at the end of last season, or the new 5-wood I
ordered off the internet out of boredom and frustration, or the matching hybrid
I added to the bag in late February, just because I liked his brother the
5-wood so much.
In my last blog three weeks
ago, I mentioned that the forecast looked good enough for the coming weekend and
I was going to try to get in the first round of the year.Three golf buddies and I did, at
Scotland Run GC, in South Jersey, where the weather was perfect and the course
was brown and dormant but otherwise terrific.I had played Scotland Run in several
years and I’d forgotten what a great layout it is.A nod of respect to architect Stephen
I even shot a video of the
round, which I posted under Latest Videos.If you missed it, check it out:
Nothing gets a golfer’s
juices flowing like the Masters.I miss going.I miss
spending all week in Augusta, walking the golf course for hours, hanging for
hours at certain spots (Amen Corner, behind the 6th green, 15th
green), visiting with friends in the media center and, last but not least,
eating lunch with my old colleague Bill Lyon on the balcony of the clubhouse.
"I’ll have the club sandwich
on toasted white bread, please, and the peach cobbler with vanilla ice
cream.And a glass of iced tea." I
could repeat that line in my sleep, and probably do.
I haven’t returned to cover
the Masters since 2008, after I left the Philadelphia Inquirer.But as a member of the Golf Writers
Association of America, I am entitled to go to the Masters for a day mid-week,
on Wednesday, to attend the GWAA annual meeting that morning in the media
center.After that, I’m free to
spend the day on the golf course, which truly is one of the greatest pleasures
in any golfing life.That night,
there’s the annual GWAA dinner and awards banquet, where the food is so-so but
the company can’t be beat.
Okay I’ve just talked myself
into going next year.
Masters, Part II
This could be the first
Masters in more than 15 years in which neither Tiger Woods nor Phil Mickelson
is a factor.
Phil seems to be stuck in
the mud.So far this year, the
three-time Masters champ has finished T-19th, 14th, W/D, T-42nd,
T-19th, CUT, T-16th and W/D.That last W/D, just last week at
the Valero Texas Open, was prompted by a back muscle he strained while hitting
a shot.It did not sound encouraging
for the coming season, and surely not for the Masters.
Tiger, a four-time Masters winner,
is faring no better.In his limited
schedule so far, he has finished T-80th, W/D, and T-25th.Tiger is so battled scarred that he
pulled out of Bay Hill, one of his favorite tournaments, before it ever
started.He says it’s unclear whether
he’ll be good to go in Augusta, but my expectations are nil.
Bottom line is, we could be
witnessing one of the most important changing-of-the-guards we’ve seen in a
Sean O’Hair watch
West Chester’s Sean O’Hair
continues to struggle through his own bad patch.
The 2005 PGA Rookie of the
Year had to re-earn his PGA Tour card for this season and, so far, the results
are at best mixed. His missed
four cuts in his first five starts, although he did manage a nice T-5th
during that period at the Franklin Templeton Shootout.
Since February, O’Hair has
been all over the place again.He
finished T-56th at Pebble Beach, missed the cut at The Honda.There was one bright spot, at Bay Hill,
where he shot 69-67 on the weekend, to finish T-10th.But then he missed the cut last week in
First, I walked around
outside in shirtsleeves, which I wasn’t sure was ever going to happen
again.Gawd, I hated this
winter.Second, my golf buddy Tim
texted me with news that the forecast for Saturday at the Jersey Shore is 60
degrees and was I interested in making the trip down for the first official
round of the year?
Uh, yes, I was.
(Regular readers of this
space might recall that technically, my first rounds of the year were in late
January during a weeklong golf trip to the Dominica Republic.But I would submit that those rounds
don’t really count because they were played in a far-away, warm place, which
anybody knows is violation of what constitutes an official first round of the
It clearly states in the Official Unwritten Rules of Golf Handbook that
a first round of the year must be played, if not at your regular course or
club, at least on a course in the same climate.In other words, a round in Florida or
the Dominican Republic doesn’t count, but a round in Philadelphia, or, say,
Chicago, would count.You can look
it up.It’s in the same chapter of Unwritten Rules that addresses whether
shouting M’fugga at the top of your
lungs is inappropriate while playing with your grandmother or children under
the age of 6, and whether a cute cart girl can reasonably expect a tip if she
insists on wearing long pants and a windbreaker after Masters week.)
So, weather permitting, and
South Jersey being close enough, Tim, Jack, Lou and I will get our first rounds
of the year in on Saturday.The ground might be a little squishy, and I might wear a pullover, but
that’s okay.It will still be an
early start to a horrible, horrible winter.
Like you, I am wondering
what to make of Tiger’s horrid start to the season.The World Golf Rankings tell us he
still has a firm grip on No. 1 in the world and yet, at this point, it’s not
entirely clear that I couldn’t take him mano-a-mano, no strokes, loser buys the
hotdogs and beer.
Seriously, Tiger misses the
three-day cut at Torrey Pines, where he has been consistently winning since he
was 6 years old.He shoots 65 on
Saturday at the Honda, then WDs on Sunday with a bad back.Then, this past weekend at the WGC
tournament at Doral, just when he had put in himself in striking position on
Saturday, Tiger shoots a 78 on Sunday that was so ugly and pathetic that he had
become irrelevant by early in the back nine.So much for my theory that this was
going to be the year he won his fifth green jacket and jump-started his pursuit
of Jack Nickluas’ record of 18 majors.
Of course, as dazed and
confused as we are by Tiger’s travails, imagine how he feels.Once amazing and invincible, he’s now
either.He’s still capable of
breaking bad from time to time, on in brief spurts, but not on an ongoing or
regular basis.It’s impossible to
know what to expect from him anymore.
Somewhere, Nicklaus is
breathing a little easier and doing his best to keep the sh- -eating grin off
his face.About 10 years ago,
when Tiger was in the midst of stream-rolling golf and, it appeared, Jack’s
record, I found myself having lunch with the Golden Bear, just me and Jack, at
his club in Florida.I asked him if
he wanted Tiger to break his record.
He looked at me for a moment
and said, "Well, no..."He would
prefer that Tiger not break his record but, hey, it was out of his hands.He wasn't going to be a poor sport about
it but he also wasn’t going to lie about it.
Now, with each passing day,
Jack’s record looks safer and safer.
Red and Blackand
Reed all over
In the past day or so, since
Patrick Reed won the WGC-Cadillac and declared himself a legit Top 5 player in the
world, there has been a bit of a backlash against him for being arrogant little
pipsqueak.I say, give the kid a
The way he is playing right
now, young Reed has a right to feel like he’s a Top 5 player.And the only way he can become a Top 5 player
is by thinking like one.Trust me,
the range at any PGA Tour event is crawling with guys who think they ought to
be talked about in the same breath with Tiger, Phil, Snead and Hogan.There was a time when I thought it was
arrogance and self-absorption, until I came to understand that it was way these
guys pump themselves up.They don't
have coaches or teammates to give them pep talks.They have only themselves, their wives
and their caddies to convince them they have what it takes.
Season two of In Play with
Jimmy Roberts on Golf Channel kicks off tonight at 10 p.m. with a look
at architect Gil Hanse and his
struggles to build the golf course for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
"It’s the opportunity of a
lifetime," says Hanse, who based in
As segment makes clear, the project
is also the headache of a lifetime.
Everything Hanse ever learned about designing and
building courses went right out the window in Rio, where he has fought all
manner of delays beyond his control, from environmental restrictions to local political
in-fighting to disputes over who owns the land.
At one point, the segment shows
a handful of workers clearing the land with chain saws and machetes
because...well, because you have to use what equipment is available.Last year, when his invoices were going unpaid
for months, Hanse had to threaten shut
down the project and go home, if the money didn’t start flowing.
Now, all 18 holes have been
laid out and shaped, but it’s still a race against the clock to get the course
grown in and ready to host a pre-Olympics event, as is required of all Olympics
venues, from ski slopes to volleyball courts.
There are also segments on
the history of golf in the Olympics, a sit-down interview with NASCAR’s Jimmie
Johnson on how golf has helped his racing career, and a look at burn victim
Michael LaBrie’s passion for golf.