In all my time covering golf
tournaments, one guy I never could figure out was Vijay Singh.
Actually, I never much cared
for him.I admired his talent,
work ethic and longevity, but I didn’t admire the guy.
Even at the height of Singh’s
career, when he won back-to-back money titles in 2003-’04 and had every reason
to be all smiles, he wasn’t.Or at
least he wasn’t around the media.
Singh’s relationship with the scribbler’s was so prickly
that whenever his name would rise to the top of a leaderboard, you could almost
hear a collective sigh bordering on a groan go up in the media center.Why? Because it meant we’d have to deal
Dealing with Vijay was
not fun.He’d arrive in the media
center, looking sullen and disinterested, like he’d been dragged there kicking
and screaming by a media official.He’d settle into his chair with all the anticipation of a man about to
undergo a root canal.
Then the questions would
start?Usually, they weren’t hard,
awkward, probing questions -- just basic stuff.How do you feel going into the final round tomorrow holding
the lead?What’s it going to take
to close the deal?Worried about Tiger lurkingtwo shots
More often than not, Vijay would
respond in a tone so indifferent it just oozed contempt for the question and
the questioner.Sometimes, he’d
glare at the questioner.If the
question came from a prominent writer he particularly didn’t like, Vijay would
just pretend he didn’t hear it.
I never could understand why
he maintained such an arm’s-length relationship with the media.Other players didn’t, not even Tiger.
Funny thing is, if Vijay had made
even a half-hearted attempt at pretending to get along with the media, he could
have skated by on a smile and a song.As it was, because he seemed to be so deliberately disagreeable, few in
the media liked him and few were inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.
From time to time, you’d
hear from another player that the media had Vijay all wrong.He was a good guy, generous and
popular with the other players, they’d say.Which, in my mind, only further begged the question of why
he didn’t show that side of himself to the media?It would have taken so little effort to soothe the
relationship and win them over.
Over time I concluded that Vijay
either didn’t care about his relationship with the media or, if he did, he
wasn’t about to show it.So he
just kept on doing what he did.
Given all this, I have to
credit when credit is due.On
Sunday at the Presidents
Cup, he did a very sportsmanlike thing.In his singles match against Lucas Glover, on the 18th
hole, he conceded a 7-foot birdie putt that halved the match for the American.
At that point, the halve didn’t matter. Tiger had already won the match that clinched the victory for the U.S. six
What the concession did do
was enable Glover,
Open champion who was having a frustrating week, to salvage a shred of
dignity by earning ½ point.If Glover
had missed the putt, he would have gone 0-4 and been the only American to
get skunked for the week.
True to form, afterward, Vijay
claimed he didn’t realize the concession was for the halve, and that Glover
would have made the putt anyway.
was great. It was a good gesture," Glover said. "I'm not sure he knew what
the score was, because he came up afterward and said, 'I didn't know that was
for a halve. I thought I was 1 up.'"
I don’t know about you but I
pretty much lost interest in all the FedEx
Cup playoff tweaking sometime during the Bush Administration.
Watching the Tour Championship Sunday afternoon, as Tiger, Phil, Sean, Stricker, Paddy and Kenny Perry battled down the homestretch, what was not to like
about the prospect of one of those guys finding himself standing over a $10 million putt on the 72nd
Talk about a putt with a pucker factor....
Too bad it didn’t come to
that.Still, it was fun to listen
to the boys in the booth scrambling to keep track of the various changing
scenarios and outcomes as Tiger and
cast jockeyed for position.Compare that to last year, when Vijay
Singh showed up at East Lake needing
only to maintain a pulse for four days to win the FedEx Cup. I’ll take Sunday’s melodrama any day.
Although Tiger didn’t win a major this year, and
he didn’t win the Tour Championship,
it’s hard to argue that he didn’t deserve to lay claim to another FedEx Cup.It is, after all, mule-headed to argue that he didn’t have
the best year or that he isn’t the best player in the game – certainly of
his era, maybe of all time.
If there is any
disappointment, it is that somebody didn’t break out of the pack the steal the FedEx Cup out from under Tiger’s nose.Sean O’Hair, the
homeboy, would have been a good candidate, and he made a good run Sunday as he
continues to distinguish himself as one of today’s handful of elite
players.And it would have been a
storybook ending for the father of three young kids to take home the $10 mil.But it didn’t happen.
My guess is, after the
thrill ride at East Lake on Sunday,
and after having the two best players in the game standing side-by-side at the
awards ceremony, the PGA Tour is
done tweaking the format for a while.
If you’re a golfer in the Philadelphia
area, one of the best possible things that can happen to you is to get to play
a course designed by William S. Flynn.
Anybody who belongs to a
club with a Flynn-designed
course or who has played a Flynn needs no introduction to the great architect.Although he was born in Massachusetts
in 1890, Flynn
spent most of his adult life in Philadelphia and it was here that he truly
left his mark.Unless, of course,
you want to talk about Flynn’s masterpiece, Shinnecock Hills on Long Island, host offour U.S. Opens, most recently in 2004.
Closer to home, Flynn, who
died in 1945 at the age of 54, left his imprint on the golfing landscape in the
forms of some of the area’s finest courses: Philadelphia Country Club is a Flynn,
as are Huntingdon
Valley Country Club, Manufacturers Golf & Country Club, Green Valley Country Club, Concord Country
Country Club, Lehigh Country Club, Lancaster Country Club, Atlantic City Country Club, Lancaster
Country Club, Harrisburg Country Club, Philmont Country Club and Rolling Green Golf Club.And although Hugh Wilson is generally credited with
East Course, Flynn also had a major hand in the course as we know it today.
So respected is Flynn that
that there are two separate tournaments are held each year in his honor, the Flynn Cup
and the Flynn
Unfortunately for public
courses tend to be private.Still,
with the quantity and quality of his work, it is safe to say that Flynn has
provided more golfers with enjoyable, challenging rounds than any other two
architects combined. It is also safe to say that the clubs with Flynns
are indeed proud of their courses and show them off at every opportunity.
This week, that club was Rolling Green
Golf Club in Springfield, Delaware County.First opened in 1926, when Flynn was
doing some of his best work, Rolling Green has just undergone an extensive renovation.
Like so many Flynn
Green is a classic.Built long
before the days of massive earth moving, at 6,917 yards, par 71, it looks and
feels as natural as a walk in a green, leafy the park.Nothing feels forced or
artificial.Every hole fits the
Working from old photos and
club archives, Forse Design, which specializes in
restorations, picked up where an earlier tree removal project left off,
focusing on increasing and revitalizing bunkers and green complexes.
It was good to take in another
final match of the Crump Cup on Sunday and, as
always, the golf was
incidental to the stroll around Pine Valley.
Certainly, some very good
golf was played by the finalists, Gene Elliott from West Des Moines, Iowa, and Skip Berkmeyer
from St. Louis, Mo, who eventually won 1-up by sinking a 15-foot birdie putt on
the final hole.
But, make no mistake, the
star of the day was the ultra-private, almost mystical golf course.
"This place is
unbelievable," an acquaintance said me as we walked a few holes together.This from a man who isn’t even a
golfer.He’d heard some colleagues
at the office talking about the Crump Cup and Pine Valley and decided to check the
We were among a gallery of
perhaps 200, a smallish turnout by Crump Cup final match standards.The weather could not have been more
ideal, and the course could not have been in better condition, but the match
was competing against the Eagles at home against the Saints and the division-leading Phillies on
the road in Atlanta.
Given the mystic surrounding
and the unlikely chance that most hacks will ever get a chance to play a round
there, it’s easy to expect that the gallery would be filled by hard-core
golfers who simply want to see the place in person.Those people were there, easy to spot in with the logos of
their home club or favorite course.
But this year, like years
past, the Crump
Cup final curiously attracted is share of people who don’t look at all like
golfers or average golf fans.They
came in gym pants, various team jerseys, tank tops and a couple sported arms
full of tattoos.One young kid had
For Crump Cup repeat visitors, the day is a
chance to marvel at the golf course and check for subtle changes from past years,
maybe the occasional new tee.Or
to try to imagine how they’d play a certain shot, a particular hole or the
I chatted briefly with Pine Valley
Gordon Brewer, who couldn’t have been more cordial, and with Charley Raudenbush,
the director of golf and general manager.After the match, they invited me inside the clubhouse to attend the
awards ceremony, where the drinks were generous and the hors d’oeuvres
tasty.The shrimp were as big as a
fat man’s finger.
The winner, Berkmeyer,
was humble and gracious in victory, insisting that had the match gone another
two holes that Elliott
would likely have won. Berkmeyer
thanked his caddie for all the good reads and the Pine Valley staff for their usual
hospitality.He made a particular
effort to thank Brewer, for whom this was his final Crump Cup as president.After more than a decade at the helm, Brewer will
step down next year.
Being the manly place it is,
Valley clubhouse is filled with dark wood and heavy, dark leather chairs
and sofas.Everything is
understated, from the simple scorecard to the tables in the grill room.
The walls are covered with
golf-related art work that tends to run toward photos and maps of the course,
framed scorecards of legendary rounds and a glass case full of hickory-shafted
clubs from a bygone era.One wall
is dominated by a large oil painting of Brewer’s predecessor as president, Ernie Ransome.
Upstairs, the locker room is equally simple and understated, much like Merion’s.
As I made my way back to my
car, the sun was setting, casting a glimmering light across the 18th, from
the distant tee to the green.What
a view, what a hole, what a place.
It turned out to be exactly
what you’d expect from the name, with one additional pleasant surprise.In addition to articles, interviews and
posts promoting the virtues and health benefits of walking golf courses, it has
a state-by-state list of courses rated by their walkability.
Just like MyPhillyGolf.com, TheWalkingGolfer
is a work-in-progress.They’ve
got a long way to go before they’ve ranked every course in every state.Not surprisingly, to finish the job,
they’re seeking raters from among their readers/walkers.
Courses are given a
color-coded rating on their scale of walkability:
- Course is Walking Only and/or an easy walk for
- Course is a manageable walk for most golfers
- Course is a tough walk for any golfer
- Course is essentially unwalkable
- Motorized Carts Only
From what I saw, the ratings
are pretty much on the mark.To
wit: White Clay Creek in Delaware is
indeed unwalkable.So are Pine Hill in South Jersey, Morgan
Hill in Easton and Iron Valley
If walkability is a major
factor in whether you’ll play a course, TheWalkingGolfer
is worth checking out.
Moments after the U.S.
victory was sealed in the 42nd Walker Cup Match Sunday at Merion Golf Club, Mike Davis rolled up in his golf cart,
walkie-talkie still attached to his ear, another championship under his belt.
Davis, senior director of rules and competition for the U.S. Golf Association, is the man who
set up Merion’s
East Course for the Walker Cup and the man who will do the same for the U.S. Open
in 2013.If anything other than lousy weather
goes wrong, or if the golfers tear up the course, it’s usually on Davis.
His No. 1 takeaway from the Walker Cup?
"This is a national treasure
in the world of golf and to expose it to the world, I feel good about that,"
Fair enough, but did he
learn anything from the Walker Cup that will be useful in four years for the Open?
"Refinements," said Davis. "You
learn the greens more, you learn the fairway contours and widths, grass
heights, the way the grass is mowed.They are little things but I probably have 14 pages of notes."
"Take the 3rd
hole," said Davis."I didn’t get it right this afternoon
with that back left hole location."
No. 3 at Merion is a
tough uphill par 3.Most days, it
plays anywhere from 168 to 181 yards, into a deep, sloped green.On Saturday, as an experiment for the Open, Davis
actually used a nearby tee for the 6th hole for No. 3, making it play
as a 278-yard par 3.On Sunday, he
returned the tees to the rear of the regular tee box, but introduced a tricky,
back left hole location.He
learned a lesson.
"It’s a neat hole location,
but you’ve got to hit 7 or 8 iron to it, and today they were hitting mostly 6
irons," said Davis."That’s a little too much for that
For some fans at the Walker Cup,
where crowds ranged from 4,000 to 6,000 each day, one question they came away
with is whether Merion can accommodate upwards of 10 times that for the Open.Not Davis.
"First of all, it’s not 10 times,"
he said. "And believe it or not, there is a lot of room for grandstands.We will have some challenges moving
crowds, but you can seat crowds on the course.It will work, it will absolutely work."
If anything, added Davis, Merion has
better potential for viewing than some other Open venues, such as Winged Foot."All the greens sit up in the air
there, and there are trees around every one of them and we can’t get
grandstands around many of them," said Davis.
Still, Davis noted that Merion will be a "small Open," with
maybe 25,000 spectators each day.But they knew that before they picked it for ’13.
Fact is, said Davis, the Walker Cup
only confirmed his impressions from the 2005 U.S. Amateur, that Merion remains a viable and worthy
venue for its fifth Open.
But after the heavy rains
that soaked the course on Friday of Walker Cup week, he did come away with one
concern for the Open.
"If I have a fear, it’s four
days of wet conditions, where they are throwing darts, but I feel that way at
said Davis.A bunch of rain and it
won’t play like Merion should play.But I’m telling you, if we get firm conditions, this course will be an
reason for the nod of respect has nothing to do with the fact that the course
is a 1931 Donald Ross design that
underwent a major restoration back in 2004, or that it was in better condition
than I’ve ever seen it.
what so pleasantly surprised me during a round early this week was that we
played behind a threesome of kids – boys, maybe 11 or 12 – who were not only unaccompanied by an adult, they
never once held us up.
was pulling a cart and the other two had their bags slung over their shoulders.
(See photo) All three were smartly dressed, in golf shoes and tucked golf shirts,
like they meant business.And talk
about meaning business, I watched from afar and they all had pretty fair
I credit whoever taught those kids the game,
the etiquette and the respect for golf.Second, give credit to Jeffersonville GC for being unafraid to
send out three youngsters alone, without some adult hovering over them,
makes me smile about that whole scene is that I was once of those boys, except
the shirt wasn’t tucked.Me and my
buddies, turned loose on a golf course, which in my case was a little
small-town, sad-sack, nine-hole country club in eastern North Carolina.
of the biggest problems with golf in America
these days, if you ask me, is you don’t see enough of those kids out playing
golf by themselves -- the golf-equivalent of kids playing sandlot baseball.