Sports Outside the Beltway

13-time PGA Tour winner Dave Hill dead at 74

My interest in golf began in the late 70′s. As I recall now, my weekly golf watching began with the 1978 Masters which was won by Gary Player after he shot a final round 64.

Naturally enough as my interest in following the golf tour grew, I wanted to read about it also. In 1979 shortly before I enlisted in the Navy I bought a book. It was titled Teed Off and it was written by Dave Hill. Hill, whose productive PGA career ran before I began following the sport, gave his opinions in Teed Off on everything from golf course design to some players think sex helps them play better golf. I loved the book and recently bought a new copy of it because the old one I had was falling apart.

Hill was a controversial player.(In Teed Off he claimed or joked that the PGA used to allow fan banners until ones were seen with the words ‘Hill’s Angels’ on them) He’ll never be forgotten for his 80 acres of corn and a few cows wisecrack about Hazeltine National Golf Club in 1970. Less remembered but more important, was Dave Hill filing an anti-trust lawsuit against the PGA Tour in 1971. He said there were two sets of rules, one for the stars and one for everyone else. It’s still true today. Tiger Woods defaces a green at a US Open and does he get fined or penalized? Of course not. Hill’s lawsuit I think did bring about changes but they are behind the scenes. The fines and suspensions handed down to players and why used to be public. Now the PGA Tour doesn’t discuss the matter as seen with their suspension of Jonathan Kaye a decade ago. Did he just attach a badge to his pants zipper or do much more? The Tour won’t talk about it.

Back to Hill. He was outspoken and controversial(Age didn’t seem to mellow him. He got in a fist fight with JC Snead when both of them were playing the Seniors Tour. 20 years prior to that Tour officials had to prevent Hill from having a go at Chi Chi Rodriguez too.) but he was also a talented golfer who won a Vardon Trophy and one of the best shotmakers of his day. RIP Dave.


Dave Hill, whose golf skills combined with a sharp tongue made him Jackson’s most famous athlete, died Tuesday at age 74.

Hill, recognized as one of the top shotmakers on the PGA Tour in the 1960s and ’70s, had suffered from emphysema for several years, according to his brother and fellow PGA Tour player Mike.


NBC’s idiotic golf coverage or where in the world is YE Yang?

Rory McIlroy has a 10-shot lead at the moment in the 2011 U.S. Open. South Korean YE Yang is tied for second. NBC, who is televising this year’s U.S. Open, acts like Yang isn’t even playing in the tournament.

On the 3rd hole we see Yang’s tee shot but nothing else. When he was putting for birdie, NBC showed a short piece on former Open winners.

On the 5th hole, none of Yang’s putts are shown.

The 6th hole after McIlroy tees off, you’d think NBC would show Yang’s tee. Nope, they don’t. Instead we get a fluff piece on McIlroy.

There was an earlier lapse in NBC’s coverage of Yang on either the 1st or 2nd hole but I didn’t take notes.

Hardcore LPGA followers have been noting for a long time the way Korean golfers are covered on television. Or call it lack of coverage. Just a month ago NBC had no problem telling us David Toms had a very poor record at The Players Championship while he dueled KJ Choi. NBC didn’t mention that Choi’s record at the TPC of Sawgrass is even worse.

Yang just made birdie at the 6th hole to pull to nine shots behind. NBC also issued an apology for editing out part of the pledge of allallegiance in a opening segment of today’s broadcasts.


Breakdowns- Martin Kaymer wins the PGA Championship

The German golfer made a 18 to 24-inch putt for bogey on the third playoff hole to defeat Bubba Watson. This was Kaymer’s first ever victory in the United States.

Before Kaymer’s win today, he had six career wins on the European circuit and two top ten finishes in major championships. His win wasn’t something out of the blue. A lot of people would have had him in their top 50 picks or even top 25 this week.

What will have people talking about this PGA won’t be Kaymer’s win but what happened to Dustin Johnson at the 72nd hole. Johnson was -12 for the tournament and one shot ahead of Kaymer and Watson when he hit his final tee shot.

Johnson, a long and wild driver, hit his tee shot into the gallery to the right of the fairway. His ball ended up on a sandy piece of ground where members of the gallery had been walking all week instead of in the deep rough. He played his 2nd shot and eventually missed a seven-foot par putt. A three-way looked to be in the making.

But not so fast.

The sandy piece of ground was actually a bunker and while preparing to hit his 2nd shot, Dustin Johnson grounded his club in the bunker. That’s a two-stroke penalty.

Here’s the local rule or supplementary rules in question. These were posted in the clubhouse and player’s locker room-

1. Bunkers: All areas of the course that were designed and built as sand bunkers will be played as bunkers (hazards), whether or not they have been raked. This will mean that many bunkers positioned outside of the ropes, as well as some areas of bunkers inside the ropes, close to the rope line, will likely include numerous footprints, heel prints and tire tracks during the play of the Championship. Such irregularities of surface are a part of the game and no free relief will be available from these conditions.

Note 1: The sand area in front, left and behind No. 5 green in the later water hazard is NOT a bunker (do not move stones).

Note 2: Where necessary, blue dots define the margin of a bunker.

The sand area wasn’t raked and had footprints in it.

After his round was over, Johnson conferred with rules officials. He was assessed a two-stroke penalty and fell from a tie for first to tie for 5th.

2010 has been a heartbreaking year for Johnson. He led the U.S. Open going into the final round before shooting a final round 82. Will he be able to mentally recover from his two disasters. Off the top of my head the last time a golfer had these kind of chances to win a major in one year and come up dramatically short twice, is Mike Reid in 1989. Radar never won another PGA Tour event after nearly winning the 89 Masters and PGA Championship.

The bunker Johnson hit it into has already been labeled ‘Dustin’s Dustbin’ by Jason Sobel of ESPN. Today’s 18th hole finish has also been compared to Robert DeVicenzo’s incorrect scorecard signing at the 1968 Masters. A golf historian like myself, will also recall Jackie Pung being disqualified at the 1957 U.S. Women’s Open after signing for an incorrect score. Otherwise Pung would have won.

How about Mark Roe’s disqualification at the 2003 British Open? It happened after the 3rd round after he and his playing partner Jesper Parnevik signed for the right scores but on the wrong scorecards. If not for the DQ, Roe would have opened the final round two or three* out of the lead.

My opinion- Johnson broke the rule inadvertently, but the penalty is legitimate. A player needs to be aware of where he is on the golf course. What happened is unfortunate, but the rule about grounding clubs in a hazard has a purpose. Bunkers and water are there to penalize a golfer either with a penalty or a more difficult shot than if he had placed it on the fairway or green.

A couple of people think Johnson got screwed. First Jason Sobel writes-

What I hate about this is the inconsistency of it. If Johnson had the same situation take place on his third hole of the second round, chances are no cameras would have picked it up and/or cared, so DJ would have unknowingly kept going without assessing himself a stroke.

It’s not fair. It’s just not.

No Jason it would have been unfair if Johnson got away with a rules violation and went on to win the tournament. He broke the rule. Do you understand the concepts of integrity and honesty?

Ryan at Waggleroom screams in a headline that Johnson got screwed. I already said he didn’t but will take aim at something else that blogger wrote-

Where were the blue dots for Dustin Johnson? There didn’t appear any on TV.

Oh Ryan they were probably wiped out by all the people in the gallery who walked through the area. Every golfer in the field had to play without the dots, not just Johnson.

Other notes-

Bubba Watson played the final playoff hole disastrously but almost got away with it. He hit his 2nd shot in the water, then his next(and 4th) shot in the sand trap. Needing a miracle bogey holeout from the bunker, Watson nearly got it. His blast hit the flagstick but didn’t go in the hole.

1995 PGA Champion Steve Elkington pulled into a tie for the lead but played the last two holes bogey-bogey to finish tied with Dustin Johnson and Jason Duffner for 5th. Elk who is 47 years old and hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since 1999, comes up with strong PGA finishes even if he doesn’t do much else in that particular year. Like in 2005 when he finished second to Phil Mickelson.

Nick Watney had a three shot lead going into today before shooting a final round 81. He made double bogey on the opening hole and never recovered.

Zach Johnson and Rory Mcilroy also had legit chances to win today. The finale of this year’s PGA reminded me some of the 1996 version when 3rd round leader Russ Cochran also came apart on Sunday and at least six people(Steve Elkington being one of them.) had legit chances to win it on the back nine. That year’s tournament went to a playoff, which was won by Mark Brooks over Kenny Perry. Like Bubba Watson, Perry butchered the 18th hole in the playoff.

As Bubba Watson putted for birdie on the 2nd playoff hole, CBS had its on screen log right over where the hole was. I really hate obstructions placed on the screen by broadcasters when live sports action is taking place.

*- I’ve read conflicting reports about how close Roe was to the lead after 54 holes. The article I link to says three shots, but I’ve found another that said two.

Update- Here’s a video of Johnson’s golf ball in the sand.

Two interesting things

1 An official is standing near the golf ball when the video starts. Where did they go as Johnson went about playing the shot like it wasn’t in a bunker? Mark Wilson of the PGA explains what happened, including who the official was. I still hold to the opinion Johnson was at fault for not being aware. He had ample opportunity to know the rules, and to ask for a ruling if he was unsure.

2 CBS Announncer describes the location as being in one of ‘those thousand plus bunkers’. Nantz and company then got amnesia after Johnson played his shot and stayed that way as the ruling was made.

former USGA Executive Director, Frank Hannigan is very critical of CBS-

Another sin on CBS was not having a bona fide rules official in the booth to speak for the committee immediately. The USGA has the now familiar bow-tied image of its David Fay in the main TV booth. Had the Johnson sadness happened at a US Open the world would have known about it instantly. Moreover, in the USGA mode of operations Fay might very well have interceded by warning a rules official on the spot by radio that Johnson should be warned he is in a bunker.

Nick Faldo hemmed and hawed, not willing to tell Nantz, Feherty and Co. to get on with it. I saw Faldo win six majors. I have no doubt that in the same position Faldo would have sought out an official and asked “What is this thing I am standing in?”

The stakes were high and Johnson didn’t ask for help. It is his own darn fault.

Hat tip- Geoff Shackelford


Royal Birkdale and Taiwanese golfers or Yani Tseng and Mr. Lu

Yani Tseng from Taiwan leads the Women’s British at Royal Birkdale by four shots with 36 holes to play. Should she win, Tseng would already have amassed three of the four major championships in Women’s professional golf.Yani Tseng

I won’t be conceding the tournament to Tseng quite. Just two years ago, Lorena Ochoa was on a roll and was leading the LPGA Championship by one shot after 36 holes. One golf scribe at the time was all but ready to crown Ochoa at that point. Ochoa ultimately finished third, to Yani Tseng.

Royal Birkdale is an interesting place for Tseng to be going for her third major. Thirty-nine years ago, or 1971 to be precise, the Open Championship was played at Birkdale. It was won by Lee Trevino. The golfer who finished second by one shot that week was Lu Liang Huan. Lu, who is still alive today at age 75, is from Taiwan just like Yani Tseng.

Lu, or as Open Championship fans in 1971 nicknamed him Mr. Lu, was an obscure golfer to even knowledgeable golf people at the time. His three career wins were all in Asia before the 1971 Open Championship.

Mr. Lu’s obscurity didn’t prevent him from being a fan favorite that week in 1971. He didn’t speak much English, but through tips of his straw cap and smiles to the gallery, he had many people in England and through television cheering for him that week.

A week after the 1971 Open Championship, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club issued an invitation to Mr. Lu. It said- “come back to this country as often as you like and we hope you’ll bring more fine golfers from the Far East.”

Many fine golfers have come to the United Kingdom and the United States since then. Unfortunately, the attitude of people has regressed since then. Asian golfers, even Asian American golfers, are seen as a threat by the media and or fans. No one was bothered by Mr. Lu’s poor English in 1971, so I have trouble understanding the attitude of some people today. Trevino and Mr. Lu

I wasn’t following pro golf in 1971. At the time I was ten-years-old and more interested in New York Mets baseball. What I learned about the 1971 Open Championship is through media accounts at the time. Even these are hard to find.

What I do know about that Open Championship is-

1 Trevino and Mr. Lu were paired together for the last 18 holes.
2 Lee Trevino made double bogey at 17
3 Mr. Lu and Trevino both made closing birdies on 18
4 As he played 18, an errant golf shot of Mr. Lu’s struck a person in the gallery injuring the woman. After the Open Championship, Mr. Lu paid for the woman and her husband to visit Taiwan.

Mr. Lu never again seriously contended for a Major Championship. He did however win the French Open the following week and in 1972 partnered with Hsieh Min-Nan to win the World Cup. When his professional career was over, Mr. Lu had at least twenty professional wins to his credit but he is probably still best remembered for his runner-up finish at the 1971 Open Championship.

So far as I know, Mr. Lu is still alive today at age seventy-four.


Tiger Woods misses cut at Quail Hollow Championship

He was 17 shots behind the leader after 36 holes. From ESPN-

For just the sixth time in his PGA Tour career, Tiger Woods has failed to qualify for the weekend rounds of a tournament.APTOPIX Quail Hollow Golf

Woods shot his second-worst round as a professional on Friday, a 7-over 79 during the second round of the Quail Hollow Championship, to miss the 36-hole cut by a whopping eight strokes.

Billy Mayfair birdied his final hole for a 4-under 68 and was the 36-hole leader at 8-under 136. He had a one-shot lead over two-time major champion Angel Cabrera, who played in Woods’ group. J.P. Hayes matched the Quail Hollow record with a 64 that put him in the group at 6-under 138 along with Masters champion Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Paul Goydos.

Playing in just his second tournament since returning from a self-imposed leave after disclosures of marital infidelity, Woods’ difficulties are understandable and yet still surprising given his tie for fourth at the Masters — where he broke par all four rounds — three weeks ago.

“I didn’t play well,” Woods said. “More importantly my short game wasn’t very good.”

Woods put himself in a bind by shooting an opening-round 74 and then compounded matters by being unable to take advantage of three birdies on the front side Friday because he also made three bogeys.

When he bogeyed the first three holes on the back nine — including the par-5 10th, which he would have expected to birdie — it was unfamiliar territory.

I never felt the length of Tiger’s break from golf would affect his game but the off the course distractions could. Still, one really bad tournament isn’t sufficient basis to form a conclusion.

Update- Golf Observer’s Sal Johnson has a good take on Tiger’s current situation.


PGA Tour’s Doral tournament in need of a new sponsor

CA, who has been affiliated with the tournament since 2007, is officially out. From the Miami Herald-

As expected, CA has decided not to renew its title sponsorship of the World Golf Championships-CA Championship, the latest incarnation of the yearly PGA Tour event at the TPC Blue Monster at Doral Resort & Spa.

“There is a tremendous amount of interest in the World Golf Championships — the great fields, global exposure, incredible venues — and we will move forward in securing a new title sponsor for the CA Championship,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement.

“We are confident we will be at TPC Blue Monster at Doral next year.”

Before it became a WGC event sponsored by CA in 2007, the title sponsors were Ford (2003-06), Genuity (2001-02), Ryder (1987-2000) and Eastern Airlines (1970-86).

I don’t think finding a new sponsor will prove too hard. Doral has hosted a PGA Tour event since 1962 and is a popular stop with tour players. Some company will step in.


Tiger Woods to return at The Masters

When he plays at Augusta it will be his first tournament action in almost five months. From ESPN-

Tiger Woods will make his highly anticipated return to competitive golf at the Masters.

The world’s No. 1-ranked player, who has never missed the year’s first major as a professional, announced in a statement Tuesday that Augusta National Golf Club will be the site of his comeback.

“The Masters is where I won my first major and I view this tournament with great respect. After a long and necessary time away from the game, I feel like I’m ready to start my season at Augusta,” Woods said in a statement.

“The major championships have always been a special focus in my career and, as a professional, I think Augusta is where I need to be, even though it’s been a while since I last played.”

The Masters is scheduled for April 8-11, with the first and second rounds airing on ESPN beginning at 4 p.m. ET.

Woods last played on Nov. 15, when he won the Australian Masters in Melbourne for his 82nd career victory. His world then unraveled less than two weeks later; he was involved in a one-car crash outside his Florida home that required a hospital visit and let to a series of revelations about his personal life that included a later admission of multiple affairs.

I always felt The Masters was the most likely place for Woods return but didn’tmake a fool out of myself like much of the golf media and bloggers waste bandwith by speculating on it. You’re going to hear countless descriptions of the Masters being a media circus, but its really going to be and here’s why. One- Woods is conservative with the media and will remain so and Two- The Masters has always been taken a low key approach even when controversy swirled around it(The no women members scandal of a few years back). The 2010 Masters will be the same, Woods will not answer personal questions but the media will give you THEIR version of the answers nevertheless.


Farmers Insurance to sponsor San Diego Open through 2014

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson usually make this tournament their first of the year.AP-

Farmers Insurance has signed a four-year agreement to be the title sponsor at Torrey Pines for the next four years.

The company stepped in at the last minute this year — 10 days before the opening round — to give one of the more popular PGA Tour events on the West Coast a sponsor.

The tour announced the new deal Monday with the Farmers Insurance Open. The purse will be $5.8 million next year, which is $500,000 more than when Buick was last the title sponsor.

San Diego has turned into one of the top tour stops, though that could be fleeting. Player tastes change, as can be seen with tournaments like Pebble Beach and the Bob Hope that once upon a time drew top fields but not now. Ten years from now San Diego could be like the Sony Open. In the meantime, Farmers made a good pickup.


Smoking- Camilio Villegas wins the Honda Classic

It was his third ever PGA Tour victory. From AP-

Camilo Villegas’ week started with one celebration, then ended with another.

Villegas shot a final-round 68 to win the Honda Classic by five shots Sunday over Anthony Kim, giving the Colombian his third PGA Tour victory.Honda Classic

He finished at 13-under 267, the lowest 72-hole score since the Honda moved to PGA National in 2007, four shots better than Y.E. Yang’s winning total a year ago.

And Villegas made it look easy most of the way, too, capping his day with a 20-footer for birdie, then raising both hands skyward.


Fortunately for Villegas, no one made much of a run.

He missed short par putts on 11 and 12, three-putted from 50 feet on the par-3 15th for another bogey, but never lost control of the lead and ended up pocketing the $1.008 million winner’s share. The outcome, if any doubt actually existed, was sealed when Villegas’ approach from 184 yards on the par-4 16th stopped 15 feet from the pin, setting up a routine par.

Honestly I think the AP writer is being unfair to Villegas with his above comment in bold. So he had a couple of hiccups. Look what JB Holmes and Nathan Green did coming in. Green particularly on the 17th hole. Bogeys on a few holes weren’t a big deal in this tournament. Its total disasters that knocked people down the leaderboard.

Villegas played great golf on the weekend and didn’t get burned any where on the course with the possible exception of his eyes. Some nuts decided Saturday would be a good day to do a controlled burn 15 miles from PGA National. You have 70 play professional golfers and tens of thousands of people trying to breath you bunch of dumbasses.

Golf Observer’s Sal Johnson is a semi prophet this weekend. He said to look out for a player with Florida ties but didn’t name Villegas. Who has a home in Jupiter and went to the University of Florida.


Tiger Woods- No set time for his return to golf

From his public statement* today-

As for coming back to the PGA Tour, the world’s No. 1 player said “I do plan to return to golf one day. I just don’t know when that day will be. I don’t rule out it will be this year.

So we can expect many more columns written by sports writers saying they know when Woods will be back. One absolutely certain Australian writer had Woods playing in Tuscon this week.

Woods will play again and I think it will be by summer of this year. That’s an opinion only.

Tiger’s wife Elin wasn’t there today. Woods mother was, and IMHO she looked to be in a lot of pain from what her son did.

I haven’t commented much on the Woods scandal. Mainly because it has gotten over saturation from the media, golf bloggers, and more importantly what’s been written has been so pathetically wrong time and time again, I don’t want to throw myself into that cesspool. Woods was dumb on so many levels. How he thought would never learn about his deeds or not possibly care is beyond me.

*- While there were members of the press permitted to be there when Woods gave his statement, the golfer took no questions. That makes it not a press conference IMHO. Yes and I’ve been to golf press conferences.


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